Edith

Amongst a donation last week was a book which is called ‘The Place Names of Warwickshire’. The spine has that printed on it and ‘English Place Names Society XIII’ and the crest for Cambridge Press.

I put it to one side as it seemed arcane enough to be worth checking out and – as my frequent reader will know – arcane often equals value one way or another.

A couple of days later it was in a small pile of books I needed to check out and so I opened it to get the publications date etc etc.

Imagine my surprise when I found there was no printed book but the hand-written life story of Edith Chadwick Holmes. At least I think that is what her name is, as the handwriting is hard to decipher.

The first entry is January 6th 1941 and she says she is writing it ‘Just because I have nine grandchildren who like most children just xxx for true stories and are ever curious to hear past histories & habits of their grown up relatives. I am daring enough to write about myself on this, my seventieth birthday, it seems a big age written down & quite startling (?) Now then, the big question is, shall I think backwards into the past or start right from the beginning. I suppose it is right and proper to start once upon a time a baby girl was born on the Epiphany 1871.’

And the last entry is January 30th 1956 which starts, ‘Here I am now age 85 & am wondering if it is worthwhile adding to this account of my simple life, but I hate to leave anything unfinished. It is too wet and cold for gardening so xxx where I left off.’

The final words in the book are ‘and then on to my dear Chad’s death in 1921.’

In the back of the book there is a sort of fixed envelope which would I think, should, if the book had been really printed, have had a map for the place names of Warwickshire.

In it I found some small pages of a notebook written by Edith and starting to tell of her sailing to Durban.

There are also some notes in a different hand, titled Mother’s Story and starting ‘Dad died 27th March 1921’ and I presume is more of the story, retold to Edith’s son or daughter.

If I had the time, I would work my way through the book and notes and transcribe them but I think that is a job for someone researching the family history.

So, I have been looking to find some trace of Edith Chadwick Holmes and I started with the Mormon site – free and very good in the past.

But nothing.

Her parents were Frank and Jane Sophia Fagg of Canterbury, but I cannot find them either.

I presume her beloved Chad was a nickname based on Chadwick Holmes, but I am not sure.

I am not sure either,from glancing though the book,  that Edith’s life was extraordinary but I love the sound of her voice and would like very much to have someone cherish it.

But who, and where, and how? Again, I am not sure I will do the work and it maybe that Edith sits on a shelf in Oxfam until someone picks her up and has the interest and determination to tell her story.

I will have another go at looking for her in the records – not just now though because I have to make supper.

(Just in case you are interested, I am told that sometimes publishers would print and bind a book with blank pages and send to the prospective author and ask him (usually) to fill in the pages. It was an inducement to get the book done. And the book was written and it was published.)

Whipplesnaith and French cooking

Two curious books have arrived in Oxfam this week – neither is worth a fortune, or indeed much at all, but both provided a diversion from the endless filling of re-cycling sacks with books unwanted by their owners, or I am afraid, us.

That was my daily lot this week – and very dispiriting it is at times. Even with the satisfaction of getting to the end of a mound of black sacks and boxes and seeing the floor and walls again, there is that slight sense of resentment of spending my morning saving some others from the trip to the dump they should have taken with all those dog-eared misery memoirs and 365 ways to dry flowers in a microwave.

Our Antiquarian Book Expert (later to be referred to as ABE) came in this week and the shop was shut. I let him in and at the same time saw the boot opening of a car hovering outside and glimpsed the boxes and books.

Despite my urging him to get inside quick and under cover of darkness in the shop, steal quietly upstairs and let the book owners find another end to the spring cleaning, he insisted we should let them in.

I know was right, you should never turn away a donation but he was going to look at old and interesting books for an hour and I was going to be left with those boxes and I knew that what was more, someone was arriving with 25 boxes the next day – part shipment of their threatened 50 boxes – so any more were not that welcome.

We did let them in and ABE leant over one or two books and said, ‘ Nothing much here then.’

Mmm, well I could have told him that.

To be fair, he did offer to come in the next day and help sort but I am a darn sight quicker than he is and had those boxes dispatched in very short order.

And, of course, right at the bottom of the last box, there was a little treasure. A French cookery book from the early 1800s which I think will be worth about £100.

Back to Whipplesnaith.

If you went to Cambridge and spent your nights climbing around building rooftops, then you will of course know all about Whipplesnaith who wrote The Night Climbers of Cambridge.

Whipplesnaith was the pseudonym for Noel H. Symington, a recent graduate of the University. He worked with as many as 15 other students to create this incredible record in the autumn of 1936. Many climbed, some were camera-men, all helped silently lug the apparatus around in the dead of night.’

I had never heard of it but it is apparently a classic in the world of building and urban climbers and also there is still a thriving tradition of Cambridge night climbing. There is a twitter account for those still at it @whipplesnaith.

Our copy is a first edition and has the name J H Parry Jones on the flyleaf with the Greek beta sign and then the letter N C which I guess might mean Night Climbers.

So, for no good reason except curiosity, I want to try and find out whether J H Parry Jones was one of Noel Symington’s colleagues. If anyone knows, do get in touch.

Beepalaces and book sorting

As a diligent reader, you may have remembered that I have been volunteered to run the bookstall at the village festivities in May.

This coincided with the fact that we can no longer send our culled books onto another shop – it has closed.

I am going to forgo the brackets – because I over used them in the last blog – but I will explain.

In order to keep the shelves in an Oxfam bookshop looking fresh and interesting, we cull those that have been around for a while.

Should anyone want to understand this system in detail, let me know and I can provide you with the details…..

Anyway, because we currently have no other shop to send our books to, we have to put them in sacks for re-cycling.

And this came to my attention just as I was volunteered to run the aforementioned bookstall. It doesn’t take Sherlock to work out how this might work.

Yes, indeed, the culled books are currently stacked high in our garage, waiting to be sold to an unsuspecting public in Deepest Sussex and, hopefully, Oxfam and the village will get a 50/50 split on the proceeds.

Stalwarts who have been involved in the bookstall before me, have come to my aid and said they would help, and saying that I might need all the help I could get, and today, a newish friend turned up to sort out what was in the garage.

The sun shined on us and we hefted books and put them in various categories and chatted about this and that.

A successful London businessman, he has ‘retired’ down here and got involved in the most fascinating small business.

He helps a company which is making beepalaces.

Now, I put aside all thoughts of books and their interest when I first heard about beepalaces.

Did you know that most bees do not live in hives? Nor me.

Did you know that there are about 250 types of solitary bee in the UK who don’t make honey or have much of a sting? Nor me

Did you know that an acre of apple orchard needs only 250 solitary bees to pollinate it compared to up to 20,000 honey bees? Nor me.

As I sit here writing this, the sun is setting and very nice it looks too, and by chance, one of those very nice chances, a bee is gently wandering around outside the window looking for something useful to do. I now suspect it is not going home to a hive of thousands of others, but to a solitary bed.

Not least in thanks for the book hefting, and because it is so interesting, we will be buying a solitary beepalace for our garden.

I have to say that our purchases of bird boxes have gone completely unremarked by our bird, but we live in hope.

I also have to say, we have noticed that we don’t have that many bees in the garden but thought it was because bees are in crisis.

Looking at the beepalace website, I think we might have to grow a whole load of new things. Perhaps my newish friend will advise.

http://www.beepalace.com

Decorators

We had the decorators in Oxfam last week and I could (easily) bore you with how as the only childless volunteer, I went in on Mother’s Day (with the best beloved) to help the ever-patient Oxfam manager get all the books off all the shelves.

I could further (very extensively) bore you with getting them back on the shelves (a much longer and back-breaking business) with a rally of other volunteers on Thursday. (Sorry for all the brackets, but don’t you think ‘rally’ is a good collective noun for volunteers?)

Suffice it to say, that we re-opened on Friday with pretty much all in place, a new table display, a window display and all in all ship-shape and Bristol fashion.

But although the door into the shop had been painted, the door to the upstairs and the one to the back where the books are ‘dumped’ were not, and distinctly shabby they look.

On Monday I was snuffling around the shop (seeing as it is a time for brackets, I will mention this is my third cold in as many months and not welcome) when I saw a man outside looking very intently at the windows and signage.

He came in and introduced himself as the Oxfam building inspector come to check that the ‘works’ had been done.

I said how pleased we were with the newly painted walls and although no customer had walked into the shop saying “ Blimey, what a great re-decoration,” we felt the place looked fresher.

I said that it really didn’t matter that the skirting boards had not been painted, as not many customers were likely to notice those.

But, I said, the doors do look really shabby and let the side down rather. I said (rather disingenuously) that I didn’t know whether the fault lay with the decorators. (I had asked the man still there on Thursday and he had said they were told not to paint the doors.)

I would like to say the man didn’t feel browbeaten, but he did concede defeat and rang the contractors to say, paint the doors, do it when the shop is shut, and do it soon.

Thank you.

(Not much to the outside world but to the small universe that is the Oxfam shop in Petersfield, that means a lot and by the way, despite being only open for two days last week, we took more than £1,000.)

(End of brackets.)

Omelettes

Six young lambs have appeared in our back field today and despite the morning’s gloom – more the effect of living north of the Downs than any solar eclipse – Spring seems to be springing.

One of the gauges of this is the fact that we – the women – will be walking down to the pub tonight with dogs though I suspect a head torch might be required – or walking very fast.

In the height of the summer we – the women involved – also walk back, slightly looser footed and rather giggly and at least one of the men, not mine I hasten to add, views this as rather louche and unbecoming. (Though he has not said anything of the sort since he got the clear and unrestrained message to wind his neck in on the subject.)

Anyway, Spring also means an end to comforting, warming casseroles and stews which have sat in the Aga for hours and provide rib-sticking comfort food.

Even I, a casserole fan, and one who really rather likes a proper winter, must give in to the warming weather and lighter nights and go in search of something appropriate to cook.

I was thinking of my favourite summer meal which is omelette, chips and salad and I remembered the best time I ate it.

Not in a Provençale restaurant, though I have had good ones there, nor in Paris in July when all sensible Parisians are on holiday and you have to search to find a decent bistro still open.

No, this memorable time was in Sussex many years ago before I had any idea I would end up here.

My oldest friend and I had decided to do a walking holiday along the South Downs Way and had secured the good offices of a chap to carry our rucksacks from one B&B to another whilst we strolled along the chalk paths by day.

Our first day we got dropped at the start of the Seven Sisters. It was pouring with rain and howling a gale. My best friend was shouting to the taxi driver to come back and take her home but her words got lost in the wind.

So we set out. As any reader of a previous blog of mine will recall, I am pretty useless at map reading, so she kept it in her hands.

Actually you cannot really go wrong, just keep walking along the path away from where you started and hope, in our case, not to get blown over the cliffs.

After what seemed like hours and hours and hours ( and was indeed hours and hours and hours) we turned inland along a path – trudging, cold, drenched, hoods up and quiet.

At one point my best friend turned round to say something to me and found I had been beamed up by aliens.

Behind her, as far as the path stretched, there was no sign of me at all. She stopped, a little alarmed at the loss of someone she had been best friends with since the first day at university.

She turned slowly all the way round scanning the rainswept fields.

Meanwhile, I had stopped too and was on her left hand side. As she turned slowly to the right, I followed her round wondering what she was looking at.

So we did this little comedy basic of her going nearly 360 degrees before she realised I was standing next to her.

How we laughed. Mind you given the day, we were easily pleased by anything which was not rain or wind.

So, having been reunited we discussed how bloody hungry we were and luckily, god sent, there was a sign to a National Trust Café.

(On later walks my best friend would frog march me at breakneck speed to get to a National Trust Café where they had a cake she had had her eye on, but on this occasion we just wanted warmth and somewhere dry.)

Along the last mile or so to this café, I had decided as this was my summer holiday, my tradition dictated I should have omelette, chips and salad.

Needless to say this was not listed on the menu but as I dripped on their floor and looked for all the world as if I had walked many miles in appalling weather conditions, I begged.

I explained this was my summer holiday, and on every summer holiday etc etc.

The waitress hesitated, went into the kitchen and then came back and said did we want cheese and ham or just cheese omelettes?

Maps

I like maps but I have the same attitude to them as I have with many (most) things – a quick glance, an overall impression, not too hot on the detail.

Once he and I, living in Brussels, decided to fly to Nice, take a bus to the Italian border and walk through the ‘hills’ to his friends’ home in a small village ‘nearby’ called St Jeannet.

I got out the map the night before we went and plotted a few day’s journey with backpacks and said it would be easy to find somewhere to stay at along the way, day by day – there were lots of little hamlets and villages we could easily reach.

On the first day we did the flight, did the bus (gawping at Monaco, albeit briefly from the bus window) and got off just before the border.

There we made our mistake – we sat down and had a splendid French lunch. Now, when you have backpacks with all your belonging for several days and a reasonable way to go, this was not such a smart move.

But hey ho, we had looked at the map – or at least I had – and I knew it was only a few kilometres and the weather was lovely.

I had not looked at the contours on the map – or at least not looked closely.

We trotted down and crawled up no end of ‘hills’ to our destination for the night which was St Agnes.

At last we saw the sign which told us we were there. But, oh so sadly, we were not. The sign for St Agnes is about two kilometres downhill from the real village – which at that stage, felt like a very long way to walk uphill.

Anyway we got there and found somewhere to stay. It was very, very good to take those backpacks and boots off and pad upstairs, yes upstairs, to have something to eat.

Suffice it to say, the next morning when I woke and drew back the curtains, the cloud level was below our window sill.

(Remind me some other time, dear reader, to tell you of the lunch on the beach with French ladies of a certain age, Him sleeping in Renoir’s bed and other stuff from this adventure, but now back to maps.)

So, back to maps.

The best beloved had found out that Ordnance Survey can now produce a real, paper map for you, based on your home.

I don’t know how it works exactly, but today one arrived.

It looks like a proper Ordnance Survey map, and indeed is, but the cover picture is one we took. It has West Harting, Navel of the World, as its title. How cool is that?

Of course, I opened it, gave it a quick glance, saw that our house was on the fold, told Him how brilliant it was, and it is.

And of course and will hand it over to Him for a closer look because I don’t do that.

3 girls & 3 boys

Three teenage boys have been brought back from Turkey apparently on their way to join ISIS – and they were promptly arrested ‘on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts.’

Three teenage girls who travelled through Turkey to Syria were told (via our media) they were not in any trouble as they hadn’t done anything wrong.

Neither had the boys – they hadn’t got that far.

So what they needed was to be told they were not in trouble, to go home to Mum and Dad. Someone sensible should have explained what it would mean to go into a situation like ISIS and Syria and to say, ‘We understand why you want to go there, but wait and think about it, and we really don’t want you to die, so go home.’

And then they, one of the boys, might say,’ Hang on a minute, you, the British authority, have been saying Assad is brutal, nasty and he needs to be got rid of, but thousands of people have died, and hundreds of thousands have lost their homes, been ‘displaced’, and you have still done not much, so I went to make a difference. I went to stand up for people who are suffering. I know ISIS are not the best of people, but you aren’t either. You are all talk, and then not much action, and now not even any action.’

And then they, one of the boys, says,’ What about that man who went to fight with the Peshmerga. No one said he should have been brought home and arrested. He was fighting Assad but fighting with people you like at the moment. Who knows who you will like next week. After all, Assad is now, not exactly a friend, but not top of the wanted list.’

And the sensible person would say,’ It is all complicated. The world is complicated and foreign affairs are more than complicated. But, there are better ways to change the world than fighting for ISIS. Stay home, and fight for this government, your government to change. Not, I have to say, to be even more Islamic or to adopt Sharia law because we don’t have that here – and if you really, really want that then you need to go live somewhere where that is the deal. But why not stay here and fight for a foreign policy which is not so fickle and not so full of hypocrisy.

And then one of the boys would say,’Why are the girls who left a couple of weeks ago told they are not in trouble if they come home. Why is it said they were groomed online but  we are presumed to have sought out radicalisation? I did get stuff online but everyone does, and those girls must have.’

And the sensible person would say,’ Well it is probably because we think they will just be cooking and cleaning and there to be married off for sex, because that is how we think of women in any Muslim society, let alone a ‘radical state’. We think they are victims, but we think you are not. You are going to end up like Jihadi John. And that might be where we really divide because if you do think Jihadi John is a good person, we really do have to divide.’

And then one of the boys would say,’ What about all the stuff you do behind closed doors. Guantanamo Bay, all the renditions and all the rest.’

And he would say,’ How come it is described as a war crime to bulldoze some ancient sites but not a war crime for hundreds of thousands of people to be bombed out of their homes and have their children killed?’

And the sensible person would say,’ Quite right. No one should be beheaded, no one should be spirited away, children in Syria and Palestine should not be killed, ancient sites are important, but so are people, and we should all be much nicer across the world. But we are not, and all I want for you is to take you home and hope, really hope, that you will change the world. You might be surprised to find that there are people here,including middle aged white women living in the countryside who would want you to help change things, and not get killed.