Thursday, December 11, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Captain Arthur Brian Rabone
So I consulted my brother's genealogy of the family, and found that he was a captain in the 6th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and had died in France on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Somme offensive by the British and the French. I believe that the Battle of the Somme is considered to have been one of the most wasteful of the war in terms of massive casualties for a very small gain in territory. The bodies of many were never recovered, and there is a cemetery, and a memorial to the missing soldiers, at Thiepval in the Somme. It is the work of the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. The sixteen pillars are engraved with the names of 73,367 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell during the First Battle of the Somme between July and November 1916 and who have no known grave. Our records say that Brian (as he was known) was buried at Thiepval. He was 29 and had been married two years. He left no children.
Thiepval Memorial and cemetery
And that is where his story becomes my story. Because Brian Rabone was an only child, and left no children of his own, when his mother, already widowed, came to dispose of her personal estate, she chose to leave it to her three sisters. One of those was my grandmother, and her investments have eventually come down to me through both my mother and my mother's unmarried sister. Without that inheritance, my family's life, and my own, would have been very different. My great aunt died in 1938, which is why, in 1939, my father was able to give up trying to sell cars in Birmingham, which he hated, and become semi-retired. We moved to a country smallholding near Worcester, where he was able to work hard, and happily, raising fruit and vegetables for market.
My great aunt Mary Maude Rabone
My great uncle by marriage Arthur J Rabone
In 1949, at the age of 21, I was given my first holding of shares in John Rabone & Sons, makers of rules, tape measures and spirit levels. When I eventually came to sell these shares in 1972, as a member of the family I was able to keep the original share certificate as a souvenir. Also out of sentiment, and as a frequenter of antique markets, I have added considerably over the years to the one or two Rabone rules and measures that I already had in my possession. The collection has now passed to my son. So my inheritance has enabled me not only to indulge my own interests, such as collecting, but also to live comfortably on my own for the last 23 years.
Like so many family firms John Rabone & Sons eventually merged with another, becoming Rabone Chesterman in 1963, and finally being taken over by Stanley in 1990. Below is a picture of the original Birmingham works, taken from a price list and catalogue dated 1878.
I reflect often on how my great aunt's great sorrow has meant comfort and support for my family. But this year, in the context of the commemorative TV programmes, and with the additional information I have found, I feel that I have come a little closer to this cousin who died before I was born, and to whom I owe so much.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
I have had about 100 visits from French speaking countries in the past 10 weeks, so I am going to take a chance on posting something in French (sort of). I found this in a folder of souvenirs which I keep at the back of my filing cabinet (real not virtual). I probably put it together when I was in France as an au pair in the 1940s. I have found one mistake in the French which I have put right, I hope. Maybe someone will find others.
Menu du Jour
Sole en Voyage
Entrecôte Chef de Gare
Poulet au Guichet
Bombe à la Consigne
Compôte de Billets
[Service non compris]
I offer this rough translation for those who need it:
Sole on a journey
Chicken in the ticket office
Left luggage pudding
Compote of tickets
Cheeses off the rails
[Picture by Jack Pickard ]
Sunday, November 30, 2008
When I began creating the slideshow, it was intended to be a Christmas greeting to post a bit later on, but the seasonal templates offered by the host company did not work for me, and the Celebration one caught my fancy. Suddenly it struck me: here I was sitting at my computer late in the evening, at the end of a damp, dark, depressing day in November, typical of my birthdays, and wishing it to be over. I had been out briefly to buy some batteries for the microlights on my mini Christmas tree, but that was all. It was not a day for doing things, and that is the sad truth of it.
The night before I had eaten a birthday supper with my son and his family in the village, and another son who was visiting. But the only bright spot in this day had been a brief visit from a friend, who brought me pots of special jam and marmalade which she had made herself. Two of my sons had not remembered at all. Not exactly a celebration in style, I am afraid, but it is a sad fact of life, I fear, that while our generation continues struggling to remember the birthdays of children and grandchildren, they in their turn tend to forget, struggling, as they often have to, to live their own lives.
So why not end the day by turning my slideshow into a birthday one instead, and celebrate my own life? I am so glad I did. The messages I have received here have done much to offset the drearyness of yesterday. And after all, I had a celebration in style last year, for my 80th - I shouldn't be greedy.
[You will find full length pictures of some of the video shots in my post on Dressing Up.]
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
"Have you heard about the new high speed Stanna Stair Lift?
It's guaranteed to get you there before you forget what you went up for. "
A friend heard this on the radio this morning and passed it on to my Growing Old Disgracefully email group. Another member responded with the following animation, suggesting that it is more appropriate to our organisation than the joke on the radio. I have to agree. [It's not new, but it's still funny.]
And here's another chairlift cartoon I am rather fond of. I think it came from The Oldie Magazine originally. If so, I hope they will consider themselves acknowledged hereby.
PLEASE HAVE THE COURTESY NOT TO LEAVE COMMERCIALS FOR VIAGRA AND SIMILAR DRUGS ON MY BLOG - THANKYOU
Friday, November 21, 2008
Would you want to walk amongst the band of thugs below? Probably not. Nor do I, to be honest, well not in public, although I have to tell you that all three are pictures of my much loved eldest son who lives in Sydney, Australia.
For the past two years he has grown a 'mo' or moustache in November in aid of charity, and thinks to encourage me to donate by sending me these pictures, which have been taken of him by his loving but uncritical son. Of course I have donated - who could resist?!
His younger brother observed that he probably chose this expression in an attempt to look cool.
The charity he supports is The Movember Foundation, which describes itself as follows:
The UK branch supports The Prostate Cancer Charity, and the Australian Branch supports the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, and also Beyond Blue, the national depression initiative for men. There are also branches in Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain and the United States.
And here is Peter, who took all the 'Mo' pictures, and who, his proud Dad tells me, has already won a number of school photo competition classes, up against all age groups in the school. Please Peter, wait a few years before you grow a moustache too.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Do you love anyone - or possibly hate them - enough to buy them one of these for Christmas? The catalogue description reads:
Jagshemash! Please to be making sexy time with fully-licensed one piece bathing suit I use to cover my khram in hit movie-film. Make funny ha-ha joke for all occasion. One size fit all even if you like big can of Pepsi. I like, you like. High five!
Just in case you are wondering what sort of catalogue I shop from, let me tell you that this one was sent to me unsolicited by Firebox.com, from whom I recently bought a Flip Video. There are also some reasonable toys and gimmicks in it as well, and I may actually buy something from it for my 7-year-old grandson.
As for what this fellow's 'khram' may be, I am none too sure: A ship called the HMS Khram was apparently sunk deliberately off Bamboo Island, Pattaya, Thailand, in 2003, for the purpose of making a man-made reef and underwater conservation park for divers and enthusiasts. Elsewhere on the web I have found a reference to a "Buddiiskii Khram" or Buddhist Temple. That figures, I suppose!
My youngest son who is visiting has just looked over my shoulder and said: "Oh yes, that's Sacha Baron Cohen the actor; he played a character called Borat Sagdiyev". A bit more research and I find from the Internet Movie Database that he actually wore this costume in one of his movies, and there are pictures to prove it. And I had thought it had been digitally superimposed on the photograph for the purposes of the catalogue! I must say it doesn't look very secure - but then I don't suppose the average female bikini top is either. Come to think of it, we don't see the back - maybe the shoulder straps go down the back to a sort of g-string between the legs?
Oh well, back to the mail order catalogues.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
For episodes 1, 2 and 3 read here, here and here.
For the first time this weekend I have been able to try getting into my son's van with the folding stool I sent for some months ago. I was not very optimistic, but - wonder of wonders - it works !!!
Previously, with only the built-in step of the van to help me, I had found it impossible to make the push up from the ground and the simultaneous twist to get my body on the seat facing forward. But you can see that the top of the stool is level with the van step. This means that with the first step of the stool I can get easily up to the right level . Then, with the stool top and the van step making one level area, there is room for me to turn forward and then slide sideways onto the seat. I did not even feel the need of grab handles to help, though I was glad to have my son standing behind me to catch me if necessary. I also found it advisable to come down backwards.
The stool, which cost about £20, is quite sturdy, although it is necessary to make sure it is properly open at the sides, and will not suddenly fold in again, before getting on to it. It folds up very neatly and being of plastic does not weigh much. It will live in my son's van, so that it is always there when I need it. I shan't mind if he gives somebody else's mum a ride in the van, either.
I am one happy granny tonight!
Monday, November 10, 2008
British people are familiar with sight of the London Cenotaph in Whitehall, the focus of the annual ceremony to remember those who were killed serving their country. For a brief moment yesterday I was watching the ceremony on TV, when suddenly the camera focussed in close on the words engraved on the side, below the stone wreath. If I had been asked, I don't believe I would have known what they were, but now I feel I shall not forget them.
THE GLORIOUS DEAD
What, I ask myself, is 'glorious' about dying on the battlefields, or on the home fronts, of wars which are not of your making or choosing. True, many will distinguish themselves with acts of great courage, but the context of their deaths remains the same.
I hear echoes of British jingoism in the words, chosen by Rudyard Kipling ,a year or two after the end of the 1914-1918 war. I feel that it is time to let go of the notion that such deaths are glorious. The words seem designed to conceal the horrendous and wasteful realities of war - indeed, perhaps they were.
I am not suggesting for a moment that we should not remember and honour those who died. And I suppose that at least as long as there are veterans still surviving of the two great world wars, remembrance ceremonies will continue.
But I can't help thinking to myself that a more appropriate inscription would be:
THE WASTED DEAD
Sunday, November 09, 2008
I recently went with friends to an exhibition of photographs with the above title. We were intrigued by the concept of 'clothes for dying', and wanted to find out more. The photographer was Margareta Kern, a young woman from Bosnia-Herzegovina, who now lives and works in London. On a return visit to see her mother, she learns for the first time of the relatively unknown and rather private custom among women of her country, of preparing special clothes in which to be buried. She is so moved and at the same time so curious about practice, that she decides to turn it into a photographic series.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Well, there is no more publicity in the pipeline just now, and although things seem rather flat after all the excitement, I am really quite relieved to be able to get back to normal and get on with things which need doing.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Gill's first video ~
Gill's second video ~
Simbo's video ~
The videos were taken with a Flip Video, a handy little gadget the size of a compact camera, which has its own USB connection to download your pictures into your computer, and its own editing software built in. It sells at around £100 at the moment. I have one, but am not very proficient with it yet.
Oh dear! it's another one of those days. The snow has finally disappeared here in my part of Hertfordshire, but ...
Dark and drear, dark and drear,
Will the sun never reappear?
Murk and muck, murk and muck,
That's the weather with which we're stuck.
Ghastly gloom, ghastly gloom,
Leaves us all with a sense of doom!
Saturday, November 01, 2008
My Silver Surfer Award brought me another interview in addition to the one for TV. This was a phone interview with a local Hertfordshire radio station, and I did it on Wednesday afternoon following the showing of the TV programme, so that was quite an exciting day for me.
Getting wise, I had prepared a prompt sheet for myself, with the answers I wanted to give to the most likely questions I would be asked. That worked well, and I actually got in two mentions of Digital Unite, who organised the awards, and who had not been referred to once in the TV programme, much to their annoyance and mine. I was told that the phone interview would be edited and would be broadcast the following day in one or more of their newscasts, which happened every hour on the hour .
You can imagine how I was glued to my radio all day Thursday, with an audio tape in the slot ready to record. But the day went by until late afternoon, when I received an email saying that my bit would not be done till the next day, as they had had too much local news to fit it in. So Friday was another day's listening to a station I would not normally tune in to; but of course there is nothing so compelling as the possibility of hearing one's own voice. But it was another wasted day, and I am left wondering if they are holding it over the weekend, or if it has got away altogether.
As I sat around waiting for the hourly newscasts, I looked for the website of the radio station, to see if I could find out the time of their last newscast of the day. What I did find was that they had put my story and picture up on their news page, with a link to my blog. So I have got my bit of publicity anyway, even if I don't get to hear my interview.
I wrote here about my garden clearance, and how it had revealed a strange plant in my neighbour's garden, which I have since tentatively identified as an echium pininana.
The weight of the sudden and unexpected snowfall which we experienced last Tuesday seems to have been too much for the poor thing, which now droops it's head in shame or sorrow, or perhaps mere weakness.
Another candidate for the blue pill would seem to be this rather sad candle, which has sat too long on the windowsill of my utility room, which catches a good blast of sunshine throughout the days of summer - or the days when the sun does actually shine!
I am indebted to Lee for the information that Viagra can be helpful in restoring droopy plants.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Portcullis House, where the Silver Surfer Awards ceremony was held, is the relatively new building on the Parliament Campus where the Members of Parliament have their offices. It is connected to the Houses of Parliament by an underground tunnel. There is plenty about it on the web if you are interested, and this website in particular will give you information about its design.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Jenny and Hume from BBC2 Working Lunch, who interviewed and filmed me for Wednesday's programme.
If you miss it, go to the same website page and click on BBC iPlayer in the big box underneath the thumbnails. This lists the programmes that have been recorded in alphabetical order, and you will need to go to page 3. Then scroll down to Working Lunch and click on it, and the recording should be there in front of you. It may take a while, of course, for them to get today's programme up there in the iPlayer.
UPDATE :: I have had two comments from overseas that the BBC programmes are not available outside the UK. Sorry, chaps, and I thought I was being so clever. Nothing else to show you at present. Don't lose hope!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
"Today I have a team from the BBC2 Working Lunch programme in my house, interviewing me and taking photographs. It is rather nervewracking, but it seems to be going OK. We have done quite a long interview - well it seemed long to me - and now they are taking pictures from all angles doing all sorts of things. I am always nervous when people are watching me, whether it is typing or driving a car or whatever, and I think this is the most difficult part of the whole thing. As those who know me will not need telling, I do not have any difficulty about talking!!!! They will not let me stop typing enough enought!!!
Do not teach your grandmother to suck eggs. Not techedy gramyum eggery suckery. O dear what can the matter be two old ladies got stuck in the lavatory they've been there a month on Saturday, nobody knew they were there."
The cameraman, with his camera almost resting on my shoulder, was particularly delighted with the first lot of exclamation marks. "Ooh! Can you do that again?" he said. "Just delete the last few words and type them again, so I can film the exclamation marks coming up".
Miraculously, my fingers worked more surely than they usually do these days, and did not produce gobbledy-gook. Any appearance of gobbledy-gookiness in the second paragraph of my text is due to my father's sense of humour when repeating old sayings and rhymes to his children.
The BBC team (of two) was here for two hours. The programme, in which my bit will be about one and a half minutes, goes out Wednesday (tomorrow) on BBC2 at 1.30 pm. I hope eventually to have a digital recording of it to put here on my blog.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
So, it seemed worth looking to see what else was coming up. Oh my! another nostalgic winner for me. This year is the 30th anniversary of the time when Saturday Night Fever was heading the charts in the UK, and last night's programme included much of the film music, with a personal visit from Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees to sing one of the numbers. I searched through my stash of old vinyls and came up with my treasured double album, which I have just been able to fit onto my scanner.
Now Saturday Night Fever is intimately bound up with a time in my life when I took on a new challenge - namely to learn to dance properly. I have always loved social dancing, but the opportunity did not come up very often, and anyway, my husband didn't do more than kind of hop round the floor in a rather jerky way. So I signed up at a local dance school for lessons in Ballroom and Latin American, and began to work my way through the medals: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Since my husband was not interested in learning, I always had to dance with an instructor, and never got any practice between lessons, but I enjoyed myself and did make progress.
Then John Travolta burst upon the dance scene, and the man who ran the dance school took himself off to London to learn the dances from the film, so that he could teach them in his classes. Now disco dancing was something else again for me. I loved the freedom of moving entirely by myself, and putting all the energy and feeling into it that I wanted to. It was liberation to music, and to achieve that at 50 was quite something! Remember this is 30 years ago, and solo dancing was not universal as it is today. (An added bonus was that the disco dancing strengthened my rather weak knee joints amazingly, an effect which didn't last unfortunately after I stopped dancing.)
I kept it up for about three years, achieving Bronze, Silver and Gold in Ballroom, Latin and Disco, but then my aunt became seriously ill and I no longer had time for it. After she died I had a hysterectomy, and by the time I got over that, which was not soon, I wasn't thinking of dancing any more. But that's the way it goes, isn't it? However, I had developed a love of all kinds of dancing as an art form to watch, and have derived a great deal of pleasure from it over the years. And the music of Saturday Night Fever continues to stir me whenever I hear it.
Oh yes! and my husband was very good at Scottish Country Dancing, and together we worked our way up to Gold Medals for that too.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Portcullis House, Westminster, where the ceremony took place
Photographs by Sheila Joynes, and video by Stephen Bell, to both of whom my grateful and loving thanks for all their support and encouragement