Tag Archives: history

Scone Chronicles – 38 – Tea in the Garden

We had tea and cake in the garden this afternoon. As Julia had gone to the trouble of baking banana bread I thought this called for a revival of the Scone Chronicles.

She has been working away in the garden all lockdown and the patio is looking like the sort of place you might find a new species of beetle. Or even a lost tribe.

As you can see, we also had Battenberg, though that came from the shop. Life really is too short to make your own Battenberg. We’ve had Battenberg nearly every week since the start of lockdown, which is one of the brighter spots of the last couple of months.It’s a very reliable cake, and usually cheap. Other budget cakes can be a bit hit and miss, while other, pricier, cakes can be be covered in calories and three or four times more expensive. There is a case to be made which suggests Battenberg is an aid to dieting, but that might be pushing it a bit, even for me.

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Banana Bread and Battenberg

The banana bread was excellent – moist, tasty and light without being soggy or crumbling. Fortunately we still have some left. This is the advantage of afternoon tea at home – plenty of chance for second helpings. I won’t recommend it too heartily as I don’t want to have to queue for a table next time I’m here. It is possible for venues to become too popular and I don’t like crowds.

It’s back to work tomorrow. However, the good news is that I have two days off after that.

As I sit and think, it occurs to me that about 68 years ago my parents were married in the time of sugar rationing. I’m now, despite the recent shortages from panic buying, able to buy more sugar than is good for me. History can be a strange thing.

Later we had banana bread for supper with a nice cup of tea. It was slightly drier than when we had last eaten it, but still good. We have enough left for a couple of good slices, but will probably butter them.

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Is it just me. or does the position of dried fruit and plate decoration make this slice look like a face?

 

Silver, Survival and Salvage

Here, at last, is the information on the Gibraltar £20 coin I mentioned a few days ago.

There is a tradition in Numismatic circles for collecting coins from shipwrecks, indeed we had a talk on this subject just a few weeks ago at the Numismatic Society of Nottinghamshire. Sadly, I had one of my senior moments and completely forgot about it, even though I had intended going. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of shipwreck and treasure and it’s a collecting field that has always interested me. However, you can’t collect everything.

There has also been a fascination for collecting relics of ships. It is still possible, if you go round antique centres, to pick up small barrels and oddments like paper knives made from the deck timber of ships like the Warspite, Iron Duke and Ajax. Copper from Nelson’s Victory has also been used to make souvenirs, such as this copper fob from the British and Foreign which we currently have for sale on eBay.

Despite the photos, it’s only about an inch across.

 

More recently, I bought some key rings made from the bronze of the Queen Mary’s propellers, and also have some copper cash coins from the Admiral Gardner, which sunk on the Goodwin Sands in 1809.

This year, I have seen mementoes made from the silver recovered from the SS Gairsoppa.

The Gairsoppa, originally built as the War Roebuck, was completed in 1919 by Palmers of Jarrow, just in time to miss the Great War, and was named after the city of Gerusoppa in the state of Mysore. She had one touch of drama in her career in the Merchant Fleet, with just one touch of adventure when she ran aground  at Fulta Point on the South Eastern coast of India in 1930.

Palmers closed in 1933 after a long struggle to stay in business during the depression, and the unemployment this caused precipitated the Jarrow March.

In early 1941, whilst carrying a cargo of pig iron, tea and silver, she joined a convoy at Freetown, Sierra Leone to complete a voyage from India to the UK. Running short of fuel, she had to reduce speed, drop out of the convoy and head for Ireland to take on coal. On 16 February 1941, she was spotted by a Focke-Wulf Condor aircraft and was attacked by U-101 later that day, being sunk by a torpedo attack.

There were 82 men on board. Only one lifeboat launched successfully and out of the six men on board three died in the next two weeks. The boat capsized on the fourteenth day and the Lizard lifeboat was only able to rescue one survivor, Second Officer R. H. Ayres.

Sunk by submarine, fourteen days in an open boat, five men dying before rescue…

I can write the facts, but I can’t come up with anything that remotely does justice to the experience. While writing this post I found this item on an on-line forum – amazing to read the words of the man in question. His account doesn’t match up with the Wiki entry, but I suspect it’s more accurate.

The researcher who contacted him did a fine job, as modesty could have prevented us ever knowing the full story.

The eleven British casualties are recorded on theTower Hill Memorial, or, in two cases, on  a headstone in the cemetery at Landewednack. The seventy one Indian seamen are commemorated on the Chittagong War Memorial.

The epic nature of the story does not end there, because in 2011 an American salvage company located the wreck and, under licence from the British Government, began lifting the silver. So far they have recovered 61 tonnes, or just over half of the 110 tonnes known to be on board. At 15,000 feet deep (half a mile deeper than the RMS Titanic) this is the record for a salvage operation.

Of course, if the ship didn’t contain silver this would be considered plundering, piracy or desecration of a war grave. It’s amazing how a mountain of silver can make the moral compass swing.

In 2014 the Royal Mint struck 20,000 Quarter Ounce Britannias, using some of the silver.

The Gibraltar Mint followed up in 2016 with a specially made £20 coin, featuring a seafarer design and containing Gairsoppa silver.

The title of the coin is taken from a John Masefield  poem, For All Seafarers. It isn’t, in my opinion, one of his best, but it does make a number of telling points.

For all Seafarers

Even in peace, scant quiet is at sea;
In war, each revolution of the screw,
Each breath of air that blows the colours free.
May be the last life movement known to you.

Death, thrusting up or down, may disunite
Spirit from body, purpose from the hull,
With thunder, bringing leaving of the light,
With lightning letting nothingness annul.

No rock, no danger, bears a warning sign,
No lighthouse scatters welcome through the dark;
Above the sea, the bomb ; afloat, the mine;
Beneath, the gangs of the torpedo-shark.

Year after year, with insufficient guard,
Often with, none, you have adventured thus:
Some, reaching harbour, maimed and battle-scarred,
Some, never more, returning, lost to us.

But, if you ‘scape, tomorrow, you will steer
To peril once again, to bring us bread,
To dare again, beneath the sky off ear,
The moon-moved graveyard of your brothers dead.

You were salvation to the army lost,
Trapped, but for you, upon the Dunkirk beach;
Death barred the way to Russia, but you crosst;
To Crete and Malta, but you succoured each.

Unrecognised, you put us in your debt;
Unthanked, you enter, or escape, the grave;
Whether your land remember or forget
You saved the land, or died to try to save.

John Masefield

An Interesting King

The coin is a 1 Fils of King Ghazi I of Iraq. Dated 1938 it is uncirculated and still has traces of its original lustre.

King Ghazi was king for only six years but he seems to have packed a lot in – wanting to annexe Kuwait, conducting an affair with a palace servant, having suspected Nazi sympathies and, finally, dying in a car crash which may have been organised by his Prime Minister.

All this sounds very familiar.

Fils is singular, though some coin dealers write 1 Fil. The plural is fulus but in the west we stick to using fils. Unfortunately it’s also French for “son” so you need to be quite precise in your search terms. In French it’s both singular and plural.

The coin is available on eBay for £25, though lower grades are available much cheaper. That’s a good thing about coin collecting – it encompasses all budgets. You can buy some very interesting coins for a pound or two if condition isn’t important. We did that yesterday, selling a coin of Louis XVI like this one, from 1792, to a young collector. It was very worn, but it was £1 and think of all that history!

Small Cars and Wine Gums

I’ve put some really interesting stuff on eBay today, but as I left my camera at the shop I won’t be talking about that until tomorrow.

The man from the car repairers called today, dropped off a car and took mine away. As part of the process we had to fill in a sheet detailing all the blemishes on my bodywork. Two wheel centres missing, crumpled wing, damaged door, mystery paint transfer, mis-matched mirror shrouds, scuffs on the back bumper from dragging heavy loads out of the boot…

And there are a few minor marks too.

That is before we actually got round to the dinged wheel arch, scratches and paint transfer from the minor accident last week.

This is the car of a man who really needs to get a grip on his driving and the care of his car.

I might add that to my list.

I’ve done everything on the list and the two new haibun are now resting a while until I start the re-writing process.  The results of my car emptying are currently stacked in the house. I found four pairs of cheap reading glasses, which sort of makes up for the pair I lost last week.

I also found eight pens, two pairs of scissors, a bag of salt and  half a packet of wine gums. The wine gums are only slightly fluffy and soon cleaned up when I started sucking them, so all in all it wasn’t a bad day.

The courtesy car is a SEAT. I don’t know what model, but I do know I need Vaseline to get in and out. It’s a bit of a snug fit. Add that to a manual handbrake. a petrol engine and a clutch with a biting point that requires me to put my knee up to ear level when changing gear and you have a car that I’m not altogether familiar with. I also have a problem with feet which are bigger than the space allowed by the car designer.

Due to my generous proportions and a small door aperture I had to exit the vehicle by using a technique that looks a little like limbo dancing. Once I have enough of my lower parts out of the car I put my hand on the top of my head to compress my stiff neck and get my head out. With head and legs out I hook my elbows round the door frame and extract my body in the manner of a wine waiter brandishing one of those corkscrews with the two wings.

I may start adding sound effects tomorrow,

Fortunately it’s only for a week.

The top coin is a 1724 Guinea of George I, from the days when coins were better and monarchs were, quite frankly, uglier. In that year Jack Sheppard the highwayman was hanged and Longman, Britain’s oldest surviving publisher, was founded.

The Medallion Collection

It’s a very modest collection, which was, partly, my intention when I started it.

The idea was to buy a medallion relating to every year of the 20th Century, and to do so with discrimination and economy. (Before you ask, that’s 1900-2000 because I can’t be bothered to argue about when a century begins and ends).

I’ve collected a number of things in my life but I’ve never really made a sustained effort, or had sufficient cash. Not that I’m pleading poverty, just that my eyes are bigger than my wallet. Once I’ve bought a few things I start getting ambitious.

Look at this one – linking piers and medallions. What better for a man who likes piers and medallions? It’s nearly 200 years old and it isn’t expensive in collecting terms. However, I can’t see Julia being too happy to find we were on baked potatoes and beans until the end of the month because I’d blown the housekeeping. She’s very patient with me, but even she has her limits.

The first medal celebrates the life of Dr Kwame Nkrumah. I presume it was made in 1972 to commemorate his death. It doesn’t have a pier on it, but it does have a map of Africa and some interesting history behind it.

He was 63 when he died, just two years older than me. In that time he had achieved independence for Ghana and established a fame that still endures. That doesn’t leave me with much time for achieving something as I’ve loafed away my first 61 years and all I have to show for it is a small collection of  medallions.

The second one marks the Cambridge University Press’s move away from hot metal to digital printing.

I like medals made from re-used metal. I have one made from the copper of the Foudroyant )one of Nelson’s old ships) and one made from the lead of Selby Abbey. The Selby Abbey one was sold to raise funds for rebuilding the fire-damaged abbey. I really must find them…

It’s interesting to hold something in your hand and think that it used to be something else, though I suppose all metal was once something else, even if it was just ore.

This isn’t an elegant medal but it marks the end of an era. It was £6, including a box and explanatory leaflet.

I aim to spend around £5 on a medallion, which allows me to complete the century for around £500 and lets me buy something regularly. A collection needs regular additions. Or an addict requires a regular fix, depending on how you view collectors.

Looks like I missed the midnight deadline. I remember thinking it was 11.40 and time was pressing. Then I woke up at 12.10 sitting in the computer chair. I left it another eight hours before posting, as my ability to edit improves greatly after sleep.

 

Crossing Off Another Day

I have packed parcels, as usual. I have drunk coffee, despite my preference for tea (because I am offered coffee and am too lazy to make my own drinks). And I have eaten my sandwiches.
It has not been a day of high excitement or great drama. We have been using the internet as a displacement activity, and to inform ourselves so we now know that Doctor Ferdinand Porsche was chauffeur to Archduke Franz Ferdinand during his National Service. This reminds me that although I know the names of the Archduke and the assassin, the name of the 1914 chauffeur seems to be absent from the records.
I also now know that Nickola Tesla was a Serbian, liked pigeons, liked walking and didn’t like paying his bills.
I then moved on to eBay, selling gold-plated coins with pictures stuck on the back.
They are not quality coins, but if you buy them from us they are reasonably priced. Buy them from the manufacturer and they will cost you a lot more.
I’m seriously thinking of  applying for a job copywriting for the manufacturers, using words like sumptuous and avoiding words like value for money. Today I managed to get the word “skullduggery” in, so sumptuous should be easy.
That’s why I’m going to be nice about the makers of crap coins. Well, maybe not nice, but possibly neutral. If they find the blog I don’t want to put them off by being honest about the expensive tawdry garbage they market so aggressively.
I finished off the day with coins which have been made into jewellery. The best bit is this 1676 Half Crown.
Half crown of Charles II

Half crown of Charles II

It’s not the prettiest coin, it’s been made into a brooch, and someone has started to make a hole at the top, but it has seen some history in its life.

When it was minted Charles had only been back on the throne 16 years and Cromwell’s head was still on a spike above Westminster Hall. It probably circulated during some of the wars with Holland, Monmouth’s Rebellion and the South Sea Bubble. It might have been handled by Prince Rupert, Sir Isaac Newton or Sir Henry Morgan.

You never know, it might even have still been in circulation when America declared its independence.

That’s a lot of history for one small coin.

Storms and Stuff

It’s very windy this morning, though according to the weather forecast it isn’t a storm. As I lack formal training I can’t actually tell the difference.

Julia’s brother rang us last night to tell us. He’d been in the park next to the mosque shooting in New Zealand yesterday and heard the gunfire.

I wasn’t worried because I’d forgotten he was there. Julia wasn’t worried either, because she hadn’t realised how close to the shooting he was. Now she’s worried. I’m not. Over the years I’ve allowed her to do the worrying. She has more compassion than I do.

Time for work now, but I thought I’d share my brief connection to history.

There is, I feel an irony to the situation where an Australian gunman tries to draw attention to the perils of immigration  in New Zealand. I’m sure the Maori and Aborigines are already aware of the perils of uncontrolled immigration.

As for Trump’s wall, which is in the news again, well if I wasn’t going to work I’d feel compelled to mention that he really should give Texas back to Mexico…