The Campbells are coming – have been . . .

The Campbells are comin, Oho! Oho!
The Campbells are comin, Oho! Oho!
The Campbells are comin to bonie Lochleven,
The Campbells are comin Oho! Oho!

Well, the Campbells have been this week, but not to fight any battles on this soil.

When we moved in here thee was a summerhouse in a corner of the garden. Us, being who we are, and Scottish weather being what it is, we never used it as a summerhouse (afternoon teas, strawberries and cream) but as a general store for things we could not find homes for elsewhere. It has dome well in this role, although it was showing signs of age when we arrived. Six years later it had become positively decrepit and bits of it began to fall off or out. So, in came (at our request) Andrew Campbell of Kirkcudbright, plus assistants and between them they demolished the whole thing and carted it away in short order. This left an octagonal concrete base on which one of the men placed our garden bench – which was my father’s retirement gift after 40 years with the Employers Limited Liability Assurance Company Ltd.

Then, it was the turn of the potting shed – seldom used for potting, let it be said – and in reality more of another junk room. One side has sloping glazing to let the light in and this, facing south gets sun and rain in quantity throughout the year and simple began to fall apart. In came a joiner and in little more than a morning’s work replaced the whole glazed area. And then two of them gave the whole shed a coat of preservative, so hopefully it will last a bit longer yet.

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St. Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station, CWGC

St. Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station near Loos. A Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

No doubt, dear reader, you will have read something of the First World War. You may even have visited the Western Front, or at least that part of it held by British and Commonwealth (“Empire” in those days) Forces and made use of some of the excellent guides and maps available before you arrived on site. My son came with me on a Battlefield Tour when he was in his twenties, and at some point in the trip he said, “Every young man should visit this place”, and he think he was probably right, but its no good going there unless you know why you are going and what it is you are going to see. And you cannot possibly do the whole length in one go, you need to concentrate on a portion, or a particular event. When you have seen your bit, recollect that when you reach the British eastern end, the front continues eastwards in French hands (its their country after all) all the way to the Vosges Mountains and the border with Switzerland.

Even if you have read it up a bit there still come times when the reality of that War strikes you all over again. Tonight I was looking at Instagram and there was a post abou this particular cemetery, so I looked it up on the CWGC web site, and this is what I found . . .


The cemetery is located in the vicinity of Haisnes, which lies between the towns of Lens and La Bassee in the Pas-de-Calais. Although the Cemetery lies in open farmland, there are neighbouring towns of Vermelles, Loos-en-Gohelle and Hulluch. The Cemetery can be reached from the D947, Lens to La Bassee road, and a CWGC signpost is visible on this road. The Cemetery is on the D39, Hulluch to Vermelles road.


The village was reached, or nearly reached, by the 9th (Scottish) and 7th Divisions on the 25th September 1915, the first day of the Battle of Loos; and parts of the commune were the scene of desperate fighting in the Actions of the Hohenzollern Redoubt (13th-15th October, 1915). No further advance was made in this sector until October 1918, when the enemy withdrew his line. “St. Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station” was established, during the Battle of Loos, and the cemetery named from it is at the same place. The cemetery was made after the Armistice, by the concentration of graves from the battlefield of Loos; the great majority of the graves are those of men who fell in September and October 1915. The only defined burial ground from which graves were brought to this cemetery was:- LOOS COMMUNAL CEMETERY, on the South-West side of the town, in which nine soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried in February 1916, and which was subsequently ruined by artillery fire. There are now nearly 2,000, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this cemetery. Of these, over two-thirds are unidentified and Special Memorials are erected to 23 soldiers from the United Kingdom, known or believed to be buried among them. Six other special memorials record the names of soldiers from the United Kingdom, buried in Loos Communal Cemetery, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. The cemetery covers an area of 6,097 square metres and is enclosed by a low rubble wall. There was at one time a French cemetery of 800 graves on the opposite side of the road; but in 1922 these graves were removed to Notre Dame-de-Lorette French National Cemetery.

The bold print is my doing – about 1300 of those buried are “unknown soldiers”. They died, some will have been buried, others would have remained where they fell, and when they were subsequently collected up and brought in to be given a decent burial there was no way of telling who they were. Even today, along the front, farmers uncover the remains of yet more soldiers and they are buried in a CWGC Cemetery somewhere. And sometimes unknown soldiers are identified (DNA analysis helps here) and a new headstone is made and erected over their grave. Reflect that there are several memorials to soldiers who have no known grave, the most well known of which is the Menin Gate at Ypres, or Ieper, “Wipers” as the British soldier knew it.

The Menin Gate.
Click on the pic for details.
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Hercules – no ! – not that Hercules . . .

The DH66 – the “Hercules”

I found the two upper pictures while browsing through the pages of that curious web site called “Pinterest”. There are many aircraft photos there, but often taken to show the complete aircraft in flight or on the ground. Photos of the aircraft in detail are less common. I am no expert on 1920s and 1930s aeroplanes, but a bit of research suggests that this aircraft is one of the De Havilland DH 66, known as the “Hercules” – “a British 1920s seven-passenger, trimotor airliner built by de Havilland Aircraft Company.” It would be interesting to know where these photos were taken, and who the people taking part are. One would assume that the gentleman unveiling the name might be some notability of the time with possibly his wife looking on.

The port engine is well shown, a Bristol Jupiter, 9 cylinder, 420 HP.

This aircraft came to a sad end it appears – Wikipedia – “With the fatal loss of the City of Jerusalem in September 1929 . . .”, but no further details.

On the side of the aircraft just below the cockpit is a venturi. These were used to drive air-driven instruments such as direction indicators, turn and slip indicators, and artificial horizons, but I’m not sure that aircraft of this period were yet equipped with the latter. Below that there is a larger cylindrical object which could be a wind driven generator, but otherwise its purpose is unknown to me.

NB. The types of horizon and directional indicator shown in this diagram are a bit later than the era of air driven instruments.

There seem to be quite a few cable control runs decorating the fuselage side which surprises me, as by this time one would have thought that considerations of icing and drag would have made manufacturers put them inside the fuselage out of harms way. However, given that the prototype first flew on 30th September 1926 the design philosophy would date from the era beforehand and might well have included “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The top photo also shows the port main landing wheel and its wonderful spoked construction.

The DH66 at first glance is easily confused (by me, at any rate) with the Armstrong Whitworth “Argosy”, but the latter has, I think, a longer nose in front of the wing, and a biplane style tailplane which the DH66 doesn’t.

Armstrong Whitworth “Argosy”, first flew c.1926.
Same aircraft as above but somewhat clearer. The photo says it is licenceable, but I can find no details of to whom it might be attributed.
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They also serve . . .

Great excitement yesterday morning. An email arrived from a builder who had given us and estimate for a job (which we had accepted) to ask if we still wanted the job doing ? We replied instantly, “Yes”, and he has said he should be able to fit us in in the next two or three weeks.

Then, today, a phone call from a Joiner to say that they had some spare time today and they might come to start removing our old summerhouse. “Good”, we said, and hurriedly got washed and dressed and breakfasted. We began , we are still waiting !to move a few things around rather ineffectually and then sat down to wait. And as at the time of writing, early afternoon, we are still waiting.

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Well, we waited, until we heard shouting. The Joiner and his men were already at work and were calling in the back door to say so. They emptied the summer house of its accumulated junk and then got on with demolishing it. I thought it would fall to pieces, but it clung together in places and had to be knocked about and attacked with electric screwdrivers to get it into manageable pieces. We found that it was standing on an octagonal base made of slabs cut to shape. The men swept this clear and put our garden seat on it, and it looks quite tidy. The surrounds are very wet from the rain and dew dripping from the unguttered roof and it will be interesting to see how they dry out now that the source of the wet has been removed and they are open to sun and wind.

So now we await their return to repair the potting shed which should then be in good shape for the winter and for a few more years after we have passed on.

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In Better Days . . .

The Hemicycle of the European Parliament. 29th and 30th November 2005.

We had a Lib Dem Member of the European Parliament, Fiona Hall by name, and she was in my opinion, very good.

Fiona Hall MEP

She organised trips to Brussels to see the European Parliament and the European Commission buildings. At the latter a young Belgian man gave us a short, sharp, lecture on the European Union, what it was and how it worked, and for us ignorant Brits, kept in the dark by our own Parliament (nothing changed there then) it was a revelation, and made us (well . . .me, anyway) realise just how easy it would have been for, say, the BBC to have done informational programmes putting everyone in the picture. I wouldn’t mind betting that someone, somewhere in or outside of the BBC also had that idea, but on airing his or her thoughts got firmly sat on. At all events, when the 2016 referendum came along there were very few informed voices to present the case for our continued participation and our membership ceased. There are hints in our current news reports that there is beginning to be a realisation among even Brexiteers that maybe we have lost more than we have gained. Professor Chris Grey writes about this in his blog and he must be one of the few people in the UK who really understands the reality of both EU Membership and of our leaving of it. I suspect that very few of our current crop of MPs at Westminster have even a fraction of his knowledge and understanding, and so do not, and cannot, influence our future in this respect, very much at all.

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Before Laptops . . .

16th October 2005

Back in the day – my wee office when we lived in Stockton-on-Tees. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church and an old Crockfords on the right and a computer and keyboard of a long forgotten (by me) make hooked up to the telephone by a modem, no doubt. But it was good enough to enable internet surfing, and we organised many a foreign trip using it. We got rid of so many books when we downsized – many to Book Aid – and, as I half expected – quite few of then I regret letting go.

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The Day It All Went Wrong . . .

There we were, the 10th of August, making our way to Grasmere in the Lake District, minding our own businesses, when the car quietly died and by a stroke of singular good luck we were just approaching a lay-by into which I coasted.

We were near Thirlmere and the King’s Head Inn (“PH” on map above) to which I managed to walk. I did this because where we had stopped there was no mobile phone coverage. The pub allowed me to phone and I called whoever was on our car insurance at the time. The transporter arrived remarkably quickly I thought, winched the car on to its back and with us all sitting in the cab took us back to Stockton and we dropped the car off at the garage.

The driver simply unlashed the car, took the bakes off and rolled it back to the wall, where we left it and put the keys through the letter box.

Damage to valves caused by slippage of drive belt 10ag05

When examined it was found that the camshaft drive belt had worn its teeth away in places due to slippage, presumably, and the valves had hit the pistons. The valves were in poor shape, but the pistons were evidently undamaged. The car was repaired – very expensive as I recollect – and we we eventually sold it privately as by that time we did not need two cars. The driver dropped us off at home, but would not stop for a break, and set off back home immediately.

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Life goes on . . .

I haven’t written a lot in here lately because in all truth, there isn’t a lot to write about. Day follows day in endless regularity, but little happens during those days to distinguish one from another. If and when we do go put it is usually to the health centre, the dentist or, our most frequent call, the KBT Pharmacy in St Mary’s Street.

KBT Pharmacy with green and white striped awning. Their white ‘Dacia’ used for deliveries, is parked outside Cavers the Estate Agents.

The Pharmacy do a good job in keeping us supplied with our prescribed medicines, but it is also evident that they have to scratch around a lot in order to do so. Quite why thus should be I do not now as few of the drugs are made abroad, so “Brexit” cannot be blamed. Whether, perhaps, some of the substances pharmaceutical firms require come from overseas I also do not know, but that might explain their apparent difficulties. The Pharmacist, Mrs. Soenaid Anderson, lives quite near us, but we seldom see her, nor do we make that awful mistake of going and banging on her door if something doesn’t seem to be right. She has a daughter with Type 1 Diabetes and between them they raise money (they are both runners) for the diabetic charity JDRF.

My OH continues to suffer from post-Herpetic neuralgia, but for much of the time she carries on and gives little sign of distress, but particularly when she first gets up, and during the day when she sits down she lets out that “Ooooph” sound which tells you all your need to know. I try to help her as much as I can in the sense of trying to limit her need to move around, but in reality there is little I can do.

I too plod on. My walker is in use almost all the time, except for those occasions when it gets in the way a bit, and then I recourse to a walking stick. Two sticks are better for getting about, but with a stick in each hand you cannot carry things. I bought a second walker, which I admit I have not used nearly so much, but which comes onto its own if we need to go out and I need to get out of the car and go somewhere.

I hasten to add that this is not a photo of me – I am not that handsome !

It is only a walker, but has a seat – which is why I got his model – and it does have pockets at the front for a few small packages.

Gardening wise we are very lucky in that our next door neighbour is a gardener and he comes in and keeps us tidy – he weeds, but he also prunes and keeps the bigger bushes like Buddleia in check. Getting rid of the garden rubbish is a bit of a problem as we no longer compost and it all has to go into the wheelie bin and be collected fortnightly, but by dint of good management he never gets too much at any one time and so far he has managed very well. His recent pruning of the Buddleia has however rather dented that reputation and he has a collection of stems which will have to go in the bin a bit at a time.

We are well served when it comes to tradesmen. Our window cleaner, Robert McConnell, does more than just clean windows. He and his son cleaned all our white plastic soffits etc last week, and he advertises that he will take away and dispose of rubbish. We have an electrician, Stuart Ross and his very tall, fireman son, Mitchell, just around the corner, and a very good plumber and heating engineer in the town,J Kerr. Local shops provide tradesmen also, so for instance we recently needed a minor carpet repair and Gowans of Castle Douglas came and did the job with very little delay. Builders and such we find more problematical. We have a job outstanding for which a local builder has given us a price which we have accepted – but no sign of any action. Similarly there is a joiner and builder in the town who has undertaken to do some work for us – but not appeared as yet. The local Council turned up trumps when we applied for them to come to the house and take our wheelie bins away – we are a short distance from the actual street along which they go. I was just in the act of towing a wheelie bin to the end of our road, when the inspector turned up and found me in the act. He was a very nice chap, and was instantly horrified at what I was doing and pointed out that he didn’t want me falling over, and would feel partly responsible if I did. So he instantly made the decision that our bins would be collected, and with one minor exception on the very first day, collected they have been.

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Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war, 3 Sep 1939

At 11am on 3 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain announced in a radio broadcast that the country was at war . . . and I and my parents were listening intently, and apprehensively, half knowing what we were going to hear . . .

Declaration of war: Chamberlain’s radio broadcast, 3 September 1939, 11am

“I am speaking to you from the cabinet room at 10 Downing Street. This morning the British ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final note stating that unless we heard from them by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.

You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed. Yet I cannot believe that there is anything more, or anything different, that I could have done and that would have been more successful. Up to the very last it would have been quite possible to have arranged a peaceful and honourable settlement between Germany and Poland. But Hitler would not have it. He had evidently made up his mind to attack Poland whatever happened, and although he now says he put forward reasonable proposals which were rejected by the Poles, that is not a true statement. The proposals were never shown to the Poles, nor to us, and though they were announced in the German broadcast on Thursday night, Hitler did not wait to hear comments on them, but ordered his troops to cross the Polish frontier the next morning.

His action shows convincingly that there is no chance of expecting that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force.

We have a clear conscience. We have done all that any country could do to establish peace. But the situation in which no word given by Germany’s ruler could be trusted, and no people or country could feel itself safe, had become intolerable. And now that we have resolved to finish it, I know that you will all play your part with calmness and courage.”

And it was to last, in Europe, 5 years, 8 months, 5 days excluding the end date.

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The Private Car and its Owner/Driver . . .

Clyno 13 HP Tourer of 1925 – owned by Roy Surman.

Feeling a bit grumpy – don’t tell me you never fell grumpy, ‘cos I won’t believe you – I penned a letter as follows to the Guardian newspaper . . .

Reference :

“I would like to suggest to John Harris, and possibly to you too, Mr. Editor, that one or both of you put a few grains of coarse building sand in your shoes at bedtime one night soon, and then go about your business for as many days following as you can manage using only the buses or other forms of public transport. Then, put together another article describing life for the elderly and those in bad health.

Those of us who use the private car are not “addicted to asphalt, petrol and zooming from A to B with as little obstruction as possible”, we are simply trying to get to the Doctor, the Pharmacy, the Dentist or other necessary ports of call. Sometimes I get a referral to the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, a 50 mile round trip. trip. We are no longer able to walk the distances required from the car park to the Reception Desk, so we go by taxi – another private car, which puts us down at the door and where with a bit of luck we can attract the attention of a volunteer with a wheelie chair. This taxying costs us £75 to £80 – so we are effectually back to the days of ‘private medicine’.

Our neighbours, of the same age group as ourselves, are in the same boat as we are and use their car 3 or 4 times a week. Our other neighbour, and elderly gentleman living on his own, owns a car, but that car has not moved for several weeks so he has reached the ‘stay where you are’ condition.

Public transport is fine for the young, the fit, and the healthy. Once you move outside those parameters you need transport that starts from where you are, and which gets you to where you need to be – public transport ceases to be of any use.

All best wishes . . .”

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