Thursday, 31 July 2014

An unusual church in Brook.

I was recently treated to a fascinating visit of Brook church, near Ashford in Kent, by a very knowledgeable friend, David Eaves. The building is early Norman, dating from circa 1100 AD, and is constructed in a mixture of what I would call 'rough flint' i.e. it had not been knapped, and local stone with some quoins in Caen stone from France and some portions in Quarr stone from the Isle of Wight.

St Mary's Church, Brook, Kent.
The massive tower houses a secret. Halfway up it there is a chapel. You can see the window just below the clock. The chapel has a view directly onto the nave below. This layout is apparently common on the Continent, particularly in Germany, and can also be found in some large cathedrals in England but is very rare in a village church.

A small portion of the pattern
of mediaeval floor tiles.

At the eastern end of the church, the floor is laid in a pattern of mediaeval tiles. The usual fate these decorative patterns is at some time during their life to be taken up, shuffled and then relaid at random during some restoration work or other. The tiles at Brook have remained in their place since the 1300s. They were manufactured at Tyler Hill in Canterbury.

Happy face.

If you look at the section illustrated above, in the top left hand corner you can see this individual tile depicting a happy face.

Sad face.

Except that if you happen to be facing eastwards, the chap does not look so happy.

I sometimes have days like that.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Enid Blyton and me

As I drove along Ledborough Lane in Beaconsfield on Sunday, on the way to my nephew's wedding in nearby Penn, I was reminded of a revelation made to me by my mother, in that same lane, many years earlier. 
"Enid Blyton used to live along here. You were born in her house."
Once I had overcome the shock that any sensitive author would experience, that of discovering that he was linked to the creator of Noddy, I had reflected further and realised that now the previous thirty eight years of my life were at last beginning to make sense.
So on Sunday, I looked for a blue plaque on the house but found none. Naturally I would have expected it to feature the famous author who had been born there rather than the one who had merely lived there.

So here is a picture of the wedding cake, instead.

Richard and Louise's wedding cake. Baked by their Aunt Margaret.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Thank Goodness foreigners speak English.

Canterbury Cathedral seen
from Duke's Meadow
Cycling back from fish & chips at Sandwich with MyMateJohn today, I caught up with Katrin and Lisa, two Flemish speaking ladies from Belgium. They are on a five day cycling tour to London. Fully equipped with GPS they are accurately following the Sustrans route to London. To save them the bother of peering at the little screen, we accompanied them to Canterbury, taking them via Duke's Meadow for the classic view of the cathedral.

The 1945 OS map showing the
Canterbury & Whitstable Rly.

Then on to the Crab & Winkle Way which is the old trackbed of the first fully steam hauled passenger railway in the world, which opened in 1830 between the port of Whitstable and the city of Canterbury.  

When we arrived at the Winding Pond, I told them the truth. It seemed only fair. Although the line was the first fully steam hauled passenger railway in the world and the Stephensons, (George and Robert) built the locomotive Invicta to haul the trains, it was not powerful enough to get them up the hill out of Whitstable so a stationary steam engine was installed in Clowes Wood and provided with a long cable with which it hauled the trains up the slope. The Winding Pond was dug to provide water for the boiler of the engine.

Katrin and Lisa at the Winding Pond in Clowes Wood.

Thank Goodness foreigners speak English. 
I could never have explained all that in Flemish.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Syracuse University and Lockerbie

Many of you will remember the horror of Pan Am flight 103 being blown up by a terrorist bomb over the town of Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988. At that time I was working as an immigration officer at the seaport of Dover in England. I think it was a Saturday afternoon when we stamped the passports of a group of American students from Syracuse University who had been studying in Europe and were now on their way to Heathrow Airport to take a plane back to the States. They would be home for Christmas. I recall joking with them. But they did not get home for Christmas; they boarded Pan Am flight 103.

You can read the account of our paths crossing in my book, Neither Civil nor Servant - Twenty-four years in the Immigration Service.

Not all of my book is funny.