Category Archives: Places

J-Fest 2022

This year’s J-FEST was in a field a few miles from Abingdon. The field looked flat but was still bumpy by wheelchair. Organisers had laid tracks across and around the side of the field to help.

On the main stage were some excellent local bands. In addition there were signers to translate the lyrics and dance out the rhythm.

There was a wheelchair dancing stage nearby.

The J-Fest is a music festival accessible to all. There were lots of stalls, and activities, including people painting murals. A lot of people there knew Jodi and Jodi’s mum and friends organised the festival in Jodi’s memory.

Do you know where we went on holiday?

We have been away on holiday and it felt like a home away from home with a road called Back Street, and a shop called Mostly Books.

People spoke English with a standard accent, but a lot of the road signs and business names were in what looked like French. They turned out to be a dialect of Norman (like William the Conqueror), that very few people spoke anymore.

With our morning cup of tea we could eat Gâche (pronounced “Gosh”), a bread made with fruit.

A lot of people sold surplus produce they had grown or things they had made from a box by their front gate. Money was put into an honesty box.

Post boxes and telephone boxes were a lot like ours in the UK but a different colour: post boxes were blue and telephone boxes yellow.

This place was occupied by the Germans during World War II for five years.

Until recently a lot of tomatoes were grown here but the local small holders could not compete with Dutch tomatoes and so the many green houses that were common place have decayed and been knocked down. Some remain and grow tomatoes for local consumption or produce early flowers or are about to fall down. The place also has cows that produce rich milk that gets used on the island. It also used to be exported but not so much anymore.

Do you know where we went on holiday?


We parked the car in the village of Zennor. The car park honesty box asked for £1 which we paid happily. We then walked past the Tinners Arms and the Church of St Senara along a path to the coastal path.

On reaching the coastal path we could have gone towards Lands End or towards St Ives, and I said out loud ‘Which way now?’.

A young man said ‘Go that way. The views are amazing.’

So we went that way. The views were amazing all the way to St Ives 6 miles away to the east. We didn’t want to walk all that way and turned back to try the unknown way.

The path followed a high contour on the sloping hills. The path then descended by steps to a wooden bridge over a stream then climbed back up again to the high contour path.

At one point I noticed a smaller path leading downwards through bracken. I hoped it would go down to the sandy bay we could see below.

Judith did not like the idea as much but humoured me. The path got boggy, then steep, and stung her.

It finally took us down, over boulders, to the sandy bay.

What a beach! I paddled. I clambered over rocks and gazed at rock pools. I swam in the sea. Apart from something stinging my big toe the swim was wonderful.

Judith did not enjoy the climb back. Afterwards she said it was the worst part of the holiday. The views had been among the best. Her favourite place was Tate St Ives.

St Ives

We drove from Penzance to St Ives on the 3rd day of our Cornwall holiday. I parked the car in the St Ives RFC car park and caught a bus down.

We had tickets to Tate St Ives at 12:30, and had 2 hours to explore before then.

At the exhibition we waited a short while for social distance reasons. Then sanitised our hands and ambled round from gallery to gallery wearing our face coverings.

Judith raved about lots of pictures. There were pictures by St Ives artists like Ben Nicolson and Barbara Hepworth, and also works by international masters like Matisse, Picasso, Mondrian.

Alfred Wallis had been a seaman, and ice cream seller. He started painting in his retirement. The simplicity and charm of his paintings influenced other St Ives artists.

The cafe had sea views and views over the cascading roof tops and terraces of St Ives. The cafe was also next to the shop where you could get 5 postcards for the price of 6.

The beach was now more crowded but socially well distanced.

We wandered through narrow crowded shopping streets. Large signs asked people to keep to the left and socially distance. Not everybody did.

Cars drove through, creating a more immediate danger. One came very close to my sandalled feet and toes. Somebody said ‘You were lucky!’

We got on the bus back. But just as it was about to set off more and more people got on. This did not seem very good given the day’s news that the second Covid-19 wave was sweeping the country. We had postponed the Portugal holiday. Now it looked like the replacement holiday was helping to spread the virus.

Back in Penzance I took some pictures of waves slapping up against the promenade wall.


We began the walk through the churchyard of St Lawrence’s Church in Lechlade-on-Thames. There is a plaque to say that this is called ‘Shelley’s Walk‘ after the poet wrote ‘A Summer Evening Churchyard‘ here.

The walk then followed a tree lined path beside a steam or ditch. The air was crowded with small flies and midges – a sign that Spring had arrived. Birds sang and could enjoy the easy pickings .

We crossed a wooden footbridge beside a screen of poplars.

Then followed the Thames Path back through St John’s Lock, the highest lock on the River Thames, where a statue of Father Thames lay with a plastic paddle.

The ground was soft and the driest place to walk was near the bank of the River Thames where we passed several fishermen. The spire of St Lawrences could be seen across the even land.

I wondered whether it was the same St Lawrence that I knew from Caterham Surrey but realised I didn’t know much about him either. From wikipedia I discovered Saint Lawrence (d. 258), the Christian martyr, after whom all others are named; Saint Laurence of Canterbury (d. 619), second Archbishop of Canterbury, and more.

We walked under the footpath arch of the Halfpenny Bridge, so called because until the town’s people protested and got their way, a half penny was charged for going over the bridge.

Larger barges and river craft do not usually go much further beyond this point.

We walked through a couple more fields than crossed the Thames by a wooden bridge, and headed back to Lechlade over a path called ‘The Seven Styles Walk‘ – here were no styles, just open gates separating small fields.

Back in Lechlade I took a picture of the Christmas Shop. It is open all year round, but was closed when we went by. The business first started in 1985, selling traditional German Christmas products.  Christmas all year round has become an eccentricity of Lechlade.

In town, we went inside St Lawrence’s Church where there was an interesting painting ‘Presented to Brigadier John Cooper by the congregation in gratitude for his ministry – August 2010’. 

We visited the Londis store where there were plenty of toilet rolls available. Abingdon has run out due to Coronavirus panic buying so this was a relief.

We also had some excellent soup and sourdough bread at Lynwood & Co, and then drove home.

Faringdon and Folly

Faringdon seems a normal and very pleasant market town until …

you approach the Pump House where there is a stone diving helmet and some words that when you first read them do not make sense … ‘a man who never has an occasional flash’  … ‘of’  … ‘silliness’ … ‘Mistrust’.

But start at the right place and you get ‘Mistrust a man who never has an occasional flash of silliness.’

In the Pump House is an exhibition about Lord Berners who lived in Faringdon House.

He was a composer , painter, and author. Besides writing an opera and five ballets , he composed the film music to “The Halfway House ” in 1944. As an artist he staged at least three exhibitions in various London galleries. His writings included First childhood, The Camel, The Girls of Radcliff Hall, Far From the Madding War, Percy Wallingford and Mr. Pidger, Count Omega, The Romance of a Nose and A Distant Prospect. To his parties were invited many famous people we still know of to this day, such as Igor Stravinsky, Salvador Dalí, and H. G. Wells.

The museum has displays to remember how he dyed pigeons at his house in Faringdon in vibrant colours and entertained Penelope Betjeman’s horse Moti to tea and painted its portrait.

As well as being a composer, painter, and author, he also built the last ever major folly tower in 1935.

He built the folly tower on the hill overlooking Faringdon.

He liked silly notices and there is a notice ‘Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.’
Nearby is a piano. The keys no longer play after a long time out in all weather. Lord Berners had a small clavichord keyboard in his Rolls-Royce.

When you look about you can see that Lord Berners continues to influence the people in the town in the number of dyed pigeons and silly notices.

John Ruskin’s 200th Birthday Celebration

There were children from Coniston C of E Primary School singing, and reading poetry. There were also children from the John Ruskin School, Coniston performing on brass instruments. They had a day of Ruskin Celebration and church was one part of it.

Rather than be buried in Westminster Abbey John Ruskin chose St Andrew’s Church, Coniston. He lived beside Lake Coniston.

After the service, some of the congregation gathered round the wonderful Ruskin Cross for a prayer and to lay some flowers.

A lot of his ideas are still very relevant today. Speaking at the service, a lady from the Ruskin Museum in Coniston  traced back some of the twentieth centuries great achievements to Ruskin’s social reforming ideas: the founding of universal education, the minimum wage, the NHS and welfare state. As an art critic and painter he taught many people how to see and appreciate nature and art.

“The highest reward for a person’s toil is not what they get for it, but what they become by it.”  John Ruskin.

Berlin – first visit

Between the 11th and 18th of December we were staying in Berlin.

We saw many reminders of Berlin’s turbulent recent history. The facade of the Anhalter Bahnhof  (railway station) has been left as it was after WWII bombing. The rest of the building has been demolished. From here 9,600 Jews were transported from 1941 to 1945.

A Holocaust Memorial has been created on land near the old Berlin wall. The memorial is made up of a grid of concrete blocks of different heights. In the centre they tower over you and it is bleak and disorienting to walk through.

Most of the Berlin Wall, constructed by East Germany to stop citizens going to the west, has been removed. The East Side Gallery, painted by many invited international artists, is the largest section of Berlin Wall still standing. This picture depicts Leonid Brezhnev (USSR Leader) and Erich Honecker (East German Leader) greeting each other with a fraternal kiss. It reads ‘Mein Gott, hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben’, which in English means ‘My God, help me survive this deadly love’.

There are also bits of the wall to be purchased in various sizes. That these have become tourist gifts does nothing to remove from some people’s memory how threatening it felt at one time with the border guards and spies. People were shot trying to cross the wall or swim the River Spree.

The most famous Berlin landmark is the Brandenburg Gate. The wall ran down there too cutting it off in no man’s land.
Even the Reichstag was off limits until reunification, when by a small majority it was decided to move parliament back from Bonn to Berlin. The Reichstag interior was rebuilt and a dome added. The dome has a spiral walkway that gives views down into the chamber and out across the city. This is now the place were the German Government meet.

During the visit I was reading Leaving Berlin, a novel which tells of the start of the cold war and the competing Russian, American and fledgling East German agents and informers.  I finished the book on the return trip from Berlin Tegel to Gatwick Airport.

Death of a South Nutfield Lad

On the war memorial in top Nutfield are many familiar village names and the words “Lest we Forget” our men of Nutfield.

On the 1st of November 1918 (one hundred years ago) the Surrey Mirror carried this piece… ‘Death of a South Nutfield Lad

“It is with much .sorrow we record the death of Pte. Albert Edward Joiner (“Bert”), aged 19 years, late East Yorks Regt., second and dearly loved son of Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Joiner, 29, Trindles Road. South Nutfield, who was killed in action in France on the night of Sept. 3rd, by a machine gun bullet. It was a relief to know he did not suffer any pain, as was killed instantaneously.

Showing a keen interest in gardening he entered the gardens at Nutfield Priory shortly after leaving school, and stayed there until the time of joining the Colours.

Pte. A. E. Joiner was a member of the Nutfield C.L.B., a very persevering boy, possessed of a very cheerful disposition, refined, and was greatly beloved by all who knew him.

On joining in May, 1917. he was placed at Dover in training battalion, from there he went to Bridlington, in Yorkshire, at that time being the East Riding Yeomanry. In February he was sent to Ireland, where he remained until July, and was then drafted to France, and afterwards transferred to the East Yorks Regt.

Mr. and Mrs. Joiner have received many letters of condolence and sympathy, for which they and all members of the family are deeply grateful. The Chaplain from the deceased’s battalion wrote: “Bv the time this letter gets to you you will have heard the sad news of your boy. Pte. A. E. Joiner. He was killed by a machine gun bullet on the night Sept. 3rd. and the next day we buried him in a British cemetery. We put flowers on his grave, and intend to erect a cross. The news will have come as a cruel blow to you. May God help you to bear it. You must always be proud of your boy. He died bravely doing his duty. Now he is away from the hardship and horror of war, and, I know, would not have you grieve too much for him. His comrades join with me in this sincere expression of sympathy with you.

Thanks to the and Surrey Mirror for this tribute. All Rights reserved

St Lawrence’s Hospital / Caterham Asylum

Not much of the former hospital of St Lawrence’s now remains. A plaque has been put up by The Bourne Society on what was the main gate post.

Beyond that is the new housing on the ground of the former hospital. The road names off St Lawrence Way remember people associated with the hospital: Deacon, Straw, Danvers, Gwynne, Bunce, Drew, Pye, Marcuse. Joey Deacon was well known beyond the hospital.

Beyond the housing the land dips away to an open area, and a tree covered walk in the valley – Green Lane, and beyond that is Surrey National Golf Club.

Old postcards show how the front entrance looked when the building was big enough to house 1,500 and more people from the Metropolitan area of London, and when the hospital was the largest employer in Caterham.

The postcard was written by the mum of Bessie to an aunt saying – this is one of the views of the place where Bessie stays, and she hopes you will write to her.

What has been kept as a screen for the new estate are high trees, the fence and gate posts – once intended to keep people in and now to keep them out.

The admin block was attractive (seen in this 1923 picture by G Aschinger).

Beyond that there was the male side and the female side with the utility corridor connecting them, off which came the kitchen, the pharmacy, the laundry, the swimming pool, recreation hall, tailors shop, dentist, and everything needed to keep a hospital community going.

It was a large hospital built to keep the cost per patient down and had no great architectural merit. The grounds were extensive. It was bulldozed rather than converted, when the era of Victorian Mental Hospitals ended in the 1990s. The residents were rehoused in smaller units by the 1990s Lifecare NHS Trust.