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Wednesday, 20 February 2019

It's the little things

I've found a new favourite  short read.  It's an occasional column in The Guardian called, The Joy of Small Things.  It's very occasional: only seventeen articles have appeared since the column first appeared in October but Oh! I feel inspired!

I'm a great lover of simple pleasures.  A few years ago I wrote a post about a lovely book called just that - Simple Pleasures.  It's a book which is never far from me.  It's got more than its fair share of coffee splashes and pencilled notes.  As I said then, it's not so much that I have the same simple pleasures as the writers of that book but rather that they help me to appreciate the sources of joy in my own life.  

One of the pleasures featured in the Guardian column is the joy of a new dressing gown.  I maybe ought to be ashamed of my dressing gown.  It's at least fifteen years old. It's a towelling robe but in some places the fabric has worn out and there are holes.  A few years ago I dyed it and really it needs the same treatment again and it may even get that treatment for it is an old friend.  I love it!  While I am wearing it I am at leisure: fashion and looking good are far from my mind and I am at peace.  It has seen me through happy Christmas mornings when I open my presents and days when I am trying to shake off a cold.  Ir wraps me when I am fresh out of the shower and getting ready to go out and it envelopes me in my armchair when sleep eludes me in the middle of the night.  I keep looking at rather more respectable new robes but I love this old friend.

I'm sitting in this tatty garment as I type this.  I hope you feel as happy and contented as I do.  

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Bouncing Bombs and Chilling Words

A prototype bouncing bomb

I hadn't meant my last post to be a teaser - honest Marcia!  Bouncing bombs are part of British history and as a Lincolnshire lass, they are especially part of my history as the Dambuster Raid was launched from my county.

Even before the Second World War started the Ruhr Valley in Germany had been identified as a "desirable" target for attacks.  It was at the heart of German industry and its dams were especially important in the supply of hydro-electric power and water for the canal transport system and steel making as well as for drinking water.  The dams would be a difficult target as they were very well defended so a specialist weapon was needed and Operation Chastise was conceived. 

Barnes Wallis was an eminent engineer and he started work to design a bomb which would avoid the underwater anti-torpedo defences and explode against the wall of the dam - a difficult problem as suitable bombs would be too heavy for any aircraft at the time.  He worked at the problem and came up with a bomb which would "bounce" along the water and eventually hit the dams.  A special group of pilots and other servicemen was formed with personnel from Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as the UK.   The "Dam Buster" raid was on the night of 16th - 17th May 1943 and resulted in the deaths of about 1600 people, the destruction of two hydroelectric power stations and considerable damage to the German war effort.

And the chilling words?  This is part of a speech made by Field Marshall Montgomery at Woodhall Spa.  "We are doing to the Germans in Europe the same as we have done to the Italians in Sicily and Italy.  We are softening them up by bombing: after that we will go in and kill them.  It will be quite simple."  They may have been appropriate in 1944 but they chill my heart today.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Woodhall Spa

Let's get one thing straight.  I'm a Travelodge fan.  Or failing that Days Inn or Premier Inn.  Whatever - my first search for accommodation is at the budget end of the scale. However, I rather enjoy staying in a "good" hotel.  I like having my meals cooked and my room serviced.  I like wandering down to the bar for a sherry or the lounge for morning coffee.  It's just that my bank balance doesn't have quite the same tastes as I do.

But many rather nice hotels have very good deals in February.  The meals are still a bit on the pricey side but the accommodation is a bargain.  It gives me something to look forward to in the dullest months of the year too!

Prototype bouncing bomb
So this week I have had a few days at Woodhall Spa.  This is a lovely village in the depths of Lincolnshire.  It first became popular in the Victorian period when "beneficial" waters were found by accident when coal was being sought.  Railways, hotels and golf courses were built over the years and  by the Edwardian period Woodhall Spa was a very fashionable place.   Baroness Von Eckhardstein decided to build a holiday home there in her "pet wood" so the house became Petwood.  There she entertained royalty, stars of stage and screen, sportsmen and women and the great and good of her day.

Woodhall Spa again became famous in the Second World War when two of its large hotels were requisitioned as messes for officers from the nearby airfields.  Most famously the Petwood housed officers of 617 squadron as they trained for the Dambuster raids.  

Woodhall is famous locally for the Kinema in the Woods, the last cinema in England to use back projection.  There's still an organ played during the interval of the film and an usherette still sells ice creams in the auditorium.  Sadly, I didn't get to the Kinema this visit.  

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Rather big for Brownies!

Sixty years ago I thought Brownies were wonderful!  I joined 1st Old Brumby Brownies when I was seven and became first a gnome and then an elf.  I was an enthusiastic Brownie until I "flew up" to Guides and eventually I went to Rangers before becoming a leader myself.

There was one thing I didn't like about Brownies though.  I didn't like sewing badges on my tunic.  This wasn't a minor dislike in our household as Mother insisted that all badges had to be unpicked and sewn on again each time my tunic was washed.  Most Brownies' mums in those days did the sewing (and left the badges on when the garment was washed) but as soon as I turned nine I had to do my own.

Move on sixty years and I feel as though I am back in the Brownies again as I have been sewing badges on a Brownie blanket.  They take far more badges these days than we did sixty years ago!  In this case not only couldn't the Brownie do it for herself, her mum didn't feel up to the task either and as she's a busy teacher I was happy to help.

So out came my pins, needles, thread and thimble and here's the result.    It's all too rare an occurrence these days for me to feel I have anything practical to offer so doing this for a lovely little girl was a pleasure.

I was told that I could stitch them on in any order I liked.  Although I enjoyed doing the sewing I'm hoping that's true as I really don't want to have to unpick them and start all over again.