Thursday, 31 January 2013

Exeter hosts National Dialect Day 2013

A cross-post from the Devon History Society: I've just been in correspondence with Bill Murray about this year's National Dialect Day. The weekend event - the fifth - will be hosted in Exeter.

From the site:
Devon is delighted to be hosting National Dialect Day 2013

Now in its fifth year, the National Dialect Day, actually a whole weekend (!), will take place in the glorious county of Devon at the Barnfield Theatre in historic Exeter. We are looking forward to celebrating the diversity of our regional dialects on the 18th, 19th and 20th of October 2013. We hope that you will want to join us and will put these dates in your diary straight away!

And there’s a chance to win prizes! Have a look at the Competitions pages to see how you can win yourself (and your dialect) a trophy.

We’d love to hear from you in the run-up to National Dialect Day 2013 and there are opportunities for you to comment in lots of different ways on the site, please join in.

The competitions, whose entry details are on the site, are for the performance of a fie-minute piece - prose, poetry or song or a combination - in three categories: Devon dialect performed by the piece’s author, English region dialect performed by the piece’s author, and English region dialect piece from any source, modern or historic.
See National Dialect Day 2013 for ongoing details.

- Ray

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Orthanc bought for £1

It's interesting to skim YouTube currently for oddments that didn't make it into the The Lord of the Rings film triology for editorial or timing reasons. One (above) is the death of Saruman. Motivation-wise, it sticks to the book - Saruman finally taunting his sidekick Gríma Wormtongue beyond endurance - but in the book it happened in the Scouring of Shire chapter, when Frodo and Sam return to find the Shire industrialised by Saruman.

Perrott's Folly -
GNU Free Documentation License

This ties in with newspaper reports yesterday about the sale of a Georgian folly in Birmingham - Bought for £1, the mysterious tower that inspired JRR Tolkien ("Charity needs £1m to turn Perrott's Folly, said to have inspired author, into centre for Birmingham community" - Maev Kennedy, Guardian, 29th January) and It doesn't look much like Mordor: The 100ft Midlands tower which was Tolkien's unlikely inspiration (Steve Nolan, Daily Mail, 29th January). The Mail piece has more pictures, though it gets Orthanc confused with Sauron's Dark Tower (Barad-dûr).

Both articles mention how this, and a second tower - the Italianate Edgbaston Waterworks tower (see Flickr) - were in sight of JRR Tolkien's childhood home, and they echo a general "it is said" set of anecdotes about their being the inspiration for the towers in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien never was terribly forthcoming about his inspirations, and such identifications can be far too pat, but in this case it doesn't seem too unlikely.

The tower was built by John Perrott in 1758; the precise reason is unknown, and it was being called Perrott's Folly as early as the 1830s:
At a considerable distance to the left is seen a tall tower, commonly called the Monument. This is built of brick, is seven stories high, and was never made of any use, except in the capacity of pigeon-houses. It was erected in 1758, by John Perrott, Esq. whose name it partially bears, with an appropriate satirical adjunct—Perrott's Folly
- page 109, The Picture of Birmingham, Drake, 1831
Speculations continued thereafter:
I have heard a vague statement that our Monument, popularly known as " Perrott's Folly," was erected by a gentleman of that name, in order that his daughter might see the then frequent meets of hounds at Rotton Park, and the excitement of the chase round by Smethwick woods. So lately as sixty years ago it was not uncommon for the hounds to meet at Rotton Park, and I believe advertisements of the fact still exist in the old files of the Gazette. It is, however, more probable that the Monument was erected for a very different purpose, for in his description of Birmingham in 1818, Mr. Charles Pye speaks of it as "an observatory, lofty brick building seven stories high, which bears the name of the Monument . . . erected by John Perrott, Esq., about the year 1758". I do not remember any further account in print. The building was once let with the adjoining house (occupied in 1818 by John Guest, Esq.) but is now detached, and rises from a small plot of lawn. The door is massive oak, well studded with nails, a flight of  solid oak steps spiral fashion, in the staircase tower leads from room to room ; each room is well lighted and in good condition, with ornaments on the ceilings, and good oak fittings around. The upper room commands a very fine view on a clear day. The brickwork is (i.e.  in 1864) good and sound, and the Monument will remain for many generations yet, if left undisturbed by "improvements".
- 'ESTE', The Midland Antiquary - Volumes 3-4 - Page 42, 1884
See the Perrott's Folly website for further background; and Two Towers previously, in which I commented on various towers and on the engineering issues of Tolkien having giant towers in a tectonically active area.

- Ray

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Spammers' name blindness

I just had a Russian spam offering this:
Let's try our chance to be together? I am a sweet  and friendly Lady and my dream in life is to meet the favorite man for me. Thousands of miles dividing us, but this isn't an obstacle to my love... I want to be a loving wife, mother, keeper of the family hearth. My eyes are always shine. I am womanly, romantic, smiling and active. My favorite man should be attractive, kind and faithful. I hope that, we'll necessarily find each other.
The alleged name of the spammer: Alderman R Jacobs. Isn't the delightful image dispelled by the thought of the portly Johnsonesque elderly man evoked by the name?

- Ray

Monday, 28 January 2013

Klaus Nomi sings Purcell

Stream of consciousness takes you in odd directions. What with the recent weather, I just bought a new body warmer, which due to the padding is somewhat higher and wider in the shoulders than I like - so much so that it reminds me of Alex's description of his gang clothing in A Clockwork Orange ...
We wore waisty jackets without lapels but with these very big built-up shoulders ('pletchoes' we called them) which were a kind of mockery of having real shoulders like that.
...and also of the stage costume of the late Klaus Nomi, a German countertenor with a weird Expressionist / punk / camp stage presentation - one reviewer called him "a Weimar version of Mickey Mouse" - and a remarkable vocal range that he used to tackle material from classical opera to covers of 1930s songs and pop across various decades (he had scarcely crossed my mind since I saw him in the early 1980s on BBC2's The Old Grey Whistle Test).

The above video was the one that immediately struck me: The Cold Song (aka What Power Art Thou?) - a countertenor staple now (though originally written for bass) from Purcell and Dryden's semi-opera King Arthur. A creepy, strongly chromatic and melancholy aria, it's sung by a supernatural character, the Cold Genius, when Cupid attempts to rouse him:
What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow?
See'st thou not how stiff and wondrous old
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I can scarcely move or draw my breath?
Let me, let me freeze again to death.
I'd never heard of this work, but as described in the Wikipedia article King Arthur (opera), it seems a bit strange. In part, this is down to the 17th century format of "semi-opera", a kind of musical where not all the characters sing (in the case of King Arthur, only supernatural ones and secondary characters do). It's also an 'everything but the kitchen sink' affair, not based on conventional Arthurian legend but about "Arthur's endeavours to recover his fiancée, the blind Cornish Princess Emmeline, who has been abducted by his arch-enemy, the Saxon King Oswald of Kent" with various supernatural characters from mixed mythoi: Germanic gods and goddesses, Cupid and Venus, and invented ones. There's also a deal of musical and literary borrowing. Dryden's libretto - see King Arthur - or The British Worthy at OperaGlass, has been considered by a number of musical scholars to be a political allegory, in its original form a commentary on the Exclusion Crisis during the reign of Charles II.

Here's a nice video of its Passacaille section from the film England, My England - The Story of Henry Purcell, giving an idea of what its sumptuous production as a 'Restoration spectacular' costing £3000 and "excellently adorned with scenes and machines", might have looked like.

- Ray

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Chieftain o' the pudding-race

I completely forgot Friday was Burns Night; I like haggis a lot, and it's the one solid excuse in the year to eat it. As luck would have it, however - presumably down to the recent cold weather - I managed to bag a wild one perching in next door's fig tree.

A couple of haggis snippets. Firstly, it's worth reposting the haggis section from Ronald Wright's excellent A Scientific Romance, in the archaeologist protagonist David Lambert, via the HG Wells time machine, travels to 2500AD, and finds the only remaining occupants of a post-apocalyptic Britain to be a tribe of feudal and devoutly religious black Scots, who have an annual mystery play that conflates Christ's passion with Scottish tradition. Their iconography contains a white blond Jesus, whose role Lambert is conscripted to play.
On stage was a table spread with bread, jugs of palm toddy (a new one on me; antique Scotch wasn't the only tipple), and a central plate containing a dark trussed object like a Christmas pudding in bondage. The crowd swarmed at the edge of the platform: wild, eager, fanatical faces, a dark flood from the streets.

In my nervousness, suppressed but not banished by draughts of usquebaugh, my lines deserted me. My eyes flew around in panic, alighted on the crowning ornament of the board. Not a Christmas pud. Nor, exactly, a paschal lamb. It was a haggis - the first - the first I'd seen in Nessie - and Burns came to my rescue. I got to my feet, beamed on the crowd with what I hoped was an expression of
Christly gemütlichkeit, summoned the best stage Scots I could, and stretched out my hand to the blob of dubious meat:

Fair fa' your honest sonsie face,
Great Chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak' your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.
This verse leads me to QI, and a nice translation anecdote.

The first stanza of Address to a Haggis is very well-known, but the poem's not often quoted in its entirety. Here it is:
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch; And then,
O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
 how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!
In case anyone's still unclear what goes into haggis, a classic recipe (the first known to appear in print) is in Susanna MacIver's 1787 Cookery and Pastry.
A Good Scotch Haggies.
Make the haggies-bag perfectly clean; parboil the draught; boil the liver very well, so as it will grate; dry the meal before before the fire; mince the draught and a pretty large piece of beef very small; grate about half of the liver; mince plenty of the suet and some onions small; mix all these materials very well together, with a handful or two of the dried meal: spread them on the table, and season them properly with salt and mixed spices; take any of the scrapes of beef that is left from mincing, and some of the water that boiled the draught, and make about a choppen of good stock of it; then put all the haggies-meat into the bag, and that broath in it: then sew up the bag; but be fare to- put out all the wind before you sew it quite close. If you think the bag is thin, you may put it in a cloth. If it is a large haggies, it will take at least two hours boiling.
- pages 72-73, Cookery and Pastry, 1787
The "haggies-bag" is the stomach, the "draught" offal - typically heart and lungs. Some modern haggis doesn't follow Mrs MacIver's use of beef meat, and uses offal alone, but the MacSween one, which I prefer and recommend, does.

Contrary to many claims, the origin of the name "haggis" is unknown. The OED says:
Etymology:  Derivation unknown. The analogy of most terms of cookery suggests a French source; but no corresp. French word or form has been found. The conjecture that it represents French hachis ‘hash’, with assimilation to hag, hack, to chop, has apparently no basis of fact; French hachis is not known so early, and the earlier forms of the English word are more remote from it. Whether the word is connected with hag vb. [to cut, hew, chop], evidence does not show.
It's never even been especially Scottish a concept, except in recent tradition. Aristophanes' comedy The Clouds contains an account of an accident Strepsiades, the elderly Athenian protagonist, has with a haggis-like pudding that burst because he hasn't left a steam vent.
Streps. The devil they do! why now the murder's out:
So was I serv'd with a damn'd paunch, I broil'd
On Jove's day last, just such a scurvy trick;
Because, forsooth, not dreaming of your thunder,
I never thought to give the rascal vent,
Bounce! goes the bag, and covers me all over
With filth and ordure till my eyes struck fire.
- Ray

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Glue some gears on it ...

Just glue some gears on it and call it steampunk;
That's the trendy fashion nowadays!
A copper-painted chunk of some 1980s junk
Will fetch a pretty penny on eBay!
- Reginald Pikedevant
A few days ago Felix Grant sent me a clipping from the Independent on Sunday, Steampunk! Introducing Britain's latest fashion craze ("The retro-futuristic blend of Victoriana and sci-fi is the next big thing to hit the high streets, forecasters say"), and Time magazine just covered the same topic: Will Steampunk Really Be the Next Big Fashion Trend?.  Both articles draw on the same IBM news release based on its "Social Sentiment Index": IBM Social Sentiment Index Predicts New Retail Trend in the Making ("Analytics points to the 'Birth of a Trend,' steampunk aesthetic to pervade pop culture in 2013").

I immediately thought of Reginald Pikedevant's song (above), inspired by the category Not Remotely Steampunk on Regretsy, a site devoted to documenting examples of naff art from Etsy, a marketplace for "handmade and vintage items".

I do rather like the idea of steampunk becoming a fashion, but I agree with RP that studding retro clothing with non-functional gears is not what appeals to me about its possibilities; I want geeky retro-styled hardware that's functional. For example: for some years - despite varifocal glasses - I've been using a folding lorgnette to get higher magnification. It would be nice if steampunk glasses with a tidily-incorporated loupe become mainstream fashionable.

- Ray

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Swann songs on Devon history

A cross-post relating to an e-mail received via one of my other hats, as site maintainer for the Devon History Society:

inner artwork for How Does Your Land Lie?
The South Devon based songwriter Nicky Swann sent me an e-mail about the award nomination of her song Because of You, inspired  by the life of the Victorian theatre architect Frank Matcham. I recognised his name through a general interest in Victoriana and Edwardiana; he designed classic venues including the  Hackney Empire, the London Coliseum, the London Palladium, and the Victoria Palace. I didn't know, however, that he was born in Newton Abbot.

Because of You is just one of the songs on Nicky Swann's second album How Does Your Land Lie? to draw on themes from Devon history, particularly relating to her home town of Newton Abbot.

The Album Lyrics & History page at her site describes the historical inspirations for the songs, which lead in a lot of interesting directions. They include the role of Devon sailors in the Newfoundland cod fishing industry; the life of Frank Matcham, born in 1854 in Newton Abbot; the salvage diver John Lethbridge, born in Newton Abbot in 1675; the tragic story of the suicide Kitty Jay; the rope in the Newton Abbot Museum collection, made in the 1920s from the hair of Maude Albrighten; the work of John William Ley, campaigner for workhouse reform (the lyrics to this song, Union Babies, are adapted from a poem he read as part of a 1905-6 paper The Boarding-Out of Pauper Children); the Luftwaffe attack on Newton Abbot Railway Station on 20th August 1940; the late artist David Stuttard; the story of Thomas Campion and his hanging as alleged ringleader of the Ilsington Bread Riots of 1795; Newton Abbot's horse racing history; and a celebration of the traditional malthouse Tucker's Maltings.

An acoustic singer-songwriter, Nicky Swann won the Best Acoustic Act category of the South West Music Awards 2011. See for more information and track samples. The song Because of You is excellent - you can hear it on SoundCloud) - and has been nominated Best Original Song in the 2013 Spiral Earth Awards: visit here if you'd like to vote for it.

- Ray

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The "Salt Pot"

Base of Old Lighthouse on St Catherine's Hill
© Copyright Bob Embleton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
I like strange and distinctive places. So further to Edward Edwards - troubled library pioneer, I just checked out online the location of Edwards' apparently self-inflicted exposure on the downs near Niton, Isle of Wight.  As described in the 1902 Greenwood biography:
The days and nights were getting cold, and he had a fire constantly in his room, which he kept so closely that there was some difficulty in getting him out of it when it had to be tidied. One day early in November, 1885, Edwards said to Mr. and Mrs. Harrison "I am going to Freshwater and may not be back for several days". Nothing was thought of this at the time, as he had often gone away on the top of one of the coaches, and remained away a few days. For some days afterwards nothing more was heard of him, till word was brought that he had been found in a perishing condition on St. Catherine's Down, and was being brought home in a cart. By-and-by the cart drew near, and in it, covered with clean straw to screen him from the curious eyes of the children on their way to school, was Edward Edwards, utterly broken down, with eyes looking wild and streaming with tears, but conscious of all that was going on around him. They lifted him out as gently as if he had been a monarch, dressed in purple and fine linen, and put him to bed at once. There he lay for a full fortnight, nursed with the tenderest care, fed and tended like a child, and during night and day his nurses had to apply all necessary remedies to restore animation to his almost frozen limbs. Edward Edwards had been found in what is known as the Round Tower on the Down. He had been out on the Down without food for three nights and days in inclement weather, and a bitterly cold winter was that of 1885-6. The Round Tower is roofless, and in it he was found, lying on the ground, by a shepherd who was taking provender for the sheep. His hands were stained with dirt, and he had manifestly gripped the earth in an agony of spirit, while crying for death to come and release him from his misery and troubles. During the night the sheep on the Down make for the Round Tower for shelter, and Edwards had been kept warm by them, as his clothes showed. They had evidently kept him warm enough to preserve his life.
- Edward Edwards, the chief pioneer of municipal public libraries, Thomas Greenwood, 1902, Internet Archive ID edwardedwardschi00greeiala

View Larger Map

This structure appears in accounts under various names - including the Salt Pot, the Salt Cellar, the Salt Shaker, and Mustard Pot - all reflecting its relationship to an adjacent structure known as the Pepperpot (St Catherine's Oratory, a mediaeval lighthouse). The Salt Pot was also intended as a lighthouse, but not completed ...
Almost adjoining stands the shell of a lighthouse erected in 1785 by the Trinity Board ; but discontinued when it was discovered, as might at the outset have been surmised, that the mists so often gathering about the crown of the hill would render it of little service.
- page 192, Lighthouses and Lightships, William Henry Davenport Adams, 1870
... and superseded by the present St Catherine's Lighthouse.

undated topographical postcard
The Salt Pot appears in old photos (e.g. above) in much the same state as when Edwards took refuge in it. But it's now enclosed and inaccessible due to the building of a radio installation inside and around it (according to Keeper's Log, journal of the United States Lighthouse Society, a radar installation dating from 1952).There are a number of Flickr images, such as this one; the photographer comments on how it "inexplicably" houses radio equipment. When there was a whole down to build on, it does seem rather strange, by modern standards of conservation, for a heritage structure to be commandeered in this way.

View looking northward from the top of Gore Cliff, May 2012
St Catherine's Oratory (aka Pepperpot), left; "Salt Pot" by mast, right
We were in viewing distance in May 2012 - see The road more travelled ... - but it was a monstrously hot day, and the detour up the hill didn't appeal. Next time maybe.

Check out also Stories descriptive of the Isle of Wight:  there's a slight thematic connection, in that one of these inspirational stories, The Children of St Catherine's Chantry, features a group of children sheltering from a storm inside St Catherine's Oratory.

- Ray

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Edward Edwards - troubled library pioneer

Small world. Lily at The Topsham Bookshop asked if I could help with identifying the authorship of an anonymous 19th-century volume about the Exmouth area (Devonshire. Containing historical, biographical and descriptive notices of Exmouth & its neighbourhood. Pub: S Drayton & Sons, Exeter, 1868?). A bit of correlation of variant titles found it to be by the librarian and writer Edward Edwards (1812-1886) - a name I already knew vaguely for its Isle of Wight connections: Edwards died in poverty in Niton.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Buckinghamshire Railway

Department of geeky poetry (found while Googling something else): Charles Whitehall's 1849 The Buckinghamshire Railway.
The Author of this little work
A Gardener has been
Most of his life-time has been spent
'Mongst flowers and shrubs so green.

My age now more than sixty is,
And work of late was short;
Thus for some other employment,
To rhyme I did resort.

First I wrote "The Beauties of Stowe,"
With very great success;
Then the Travels of our good Queen,
Indeed they were no less.

And something new this winter did
Across my mind prevail,
To describe the wond'rous benefits
Derived from Steam and Rail.

The Cuttings and Embankments all,
On this, the great Bucks Line;
The Bridges and the Viaducts
Of masonry so fine.

The advantages of travelling,
And great contrast between
The old stage coach, and post-horses,
As on the rail is seen.

And if this meets encouragement,
Which is my expectation,
I'll try and full description give
Of Wolverton's Grand Station.

- Charles Whitehall, Gawcott
NOW to describe the great Bucks Line,
I think I'll have a try,
And tell you how the work went on,
Through hills both hard and high;
The embankments stout, and viaducts
The valleys for to cross;
The numerous yards of earth brought there,
Removed by man and horse.
This Line had long time talked of been,
And in Forty-seven began,
Mr. Dixon, the head Engineer
Drew out the final plan.
Then the Surveyor did set to
His level for to gain,
And in good earnest persevered—
George Burnell drew his chain!
Then the Contractors soon appear'd,
Each man his ground to take;
The trees were fell'd, the hedges grubb'd,
Way for the rails to make.
John Tompkins did the first peg drive,
When they did first survey,
And is working for the Company now, 
Read on ...

As poetry it ain't great - but I suspect there's a deal of good historical material in there. I haven't been able to find his other works The Queen's Travels and Thoughts in Rhyme on the Beauties of Stowe, and Other Poems, on Various Occasions, but Robert Arnold Aubin's 1936 Topographical poetry in XVIII-century England says of the latter:
Uneducated genius continued to produce — as late as 1844 Charles Whitehall sang the beauties of Stowe in execrable doggerel.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The serpent that once corrupted man

Where's my card? 'Miss Sapphire — Poses with a Python'. Now don't get the wrong idea — it's right artistic. Costume-wise, I never wear less than the full three tassels, and between shows I am at that python with the Dettox and a damp cloth even if he haven't been nowhere.
Never watch Blade Runner — The Director's Cut after seeing Victoria Wood's sketch The Library (see 15:27).

- Ray

Thursday, 10 January 2013

F Hamilton Jackson's Dean Maitland illustrations

I just found a very inexpensive copy of the Kegan Paul, Trench & Trübner illustrated edition - 1897, I think - of Maxwell Gray's The Silence of Dean Maitland, and thought the illustrations, by Frederick Hamilton Jackson (1848-1923), might be of interest/amusement. I've no doubt of FH Jackson's credentials and general competence as an artist (see Wikipedia) but some of these illustrations are distinctly strange in proportions and style. He has done his homework, however, and some of the locations are identifiable. The Internet Archive has a number of books by him. Also out of interest - an example of the general Victorian small world - Jackson married a Fanny Boole, a niece of the mathematician George Boole.

title page

part 1

Alma, looking down to 'Chalkburne' (Carisbrooke)

Alma and Maitland, the guy who'll get her pregnant

Mark Anthony, the cat, gets cute

Him again

Lilian, the protagonist's sister, does a bit of horse-whispering

Cyril Maitland preaches

Lilian and Everard, who'll take the rap for Maitland's crime

OMG - Maitland feels guilty

At the pub - Ben Lee's murder is reported

The guilty Maitland swoons

Villagers at the pub

A very girly Maitland christens his own son

'Malbourne' - recognisably Calbourne

part 2

'Chalkburne' - this is identifiably Carisbrooke Church

Alma and her baby

Ingram tries it on with Lilian, while her boyfriend is in prison

Everard escapes Portsmouth

Everard escaped

probably Winkle Street, Calbourne

part 3

'Belminster' - the picture shows the Bishop's House, Winchester Cathedral

Everard meets young Everard

Maitland is confronted by his illegitimate son

Maitland (left) is freaked to see Everard (right)

Maitland, knowing the game's up, takes leave of his family

Lilian, the falsely-accused Everard's girlfriend

Lilian and Everard dig the garden

Everard contemplates the dead Maitland


Happy ending

The End

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Bright start

Best wishes for 2013 to all my readers. After a rainy Christmas, 2013 started with a bright clear morning and a high tide on the Estuary: conditions that make those perfect picture-postcard Topsham river scenes.

I'll start the year with a news update and general apology for neglecting friends, colleagues and other regular weblog correspondents. As you may or may not know, in late 2012 I was diagnosed with cancer of unknown primary (see It ain't that kind for the details) and have been pretty exhausted a lot of the time from the three-weekly chemotherapy sessions. Although we're not talking about a cure - this treatment is aimed at remission - the good news is that it's so far working as hoped. Next week I have the last session (for now), and I'm still otherwise fine health-wise (it's all going on in obscure lymph nodes I didn't even know existed, and only shows up on scans). So, with due caution, it's looking like "game on" for 2013. Have a good year! I certainly intend to have one.

- Ray
click any image to enlarge