£xcluded Voices – True Stories of social injustice during COVID-19

As almost everyone reading this will know. I’m of of 3 million in the UK who has gone through the entirety of the Coronavirus epidemic with not a single penny of help even though in my case, it is both illegal for me to work and I’m recommended to stay at home alone (shielding) due to health reasons.

Around a month ago I had an idea of compiling accounts of other members who are similarly excluded from any help and support (ExcludedUK) so that whatever the government says and senior Labour figures ignore, we won’t be airbrushed out of history. And so £xcluded Voices was born.

Within a week 150 accounts had flooded in to my inbox from people in all walks of life, all of them entirely tragic and heartbreaking and totally avoidable if only the government AND the people of the country cared about others.

£xcluded Voices is in a way, the book the government don’t want you to read and I’m hoping that in a few years or even decades time, the events in this book will be read and studied in much the same way that people today read letters from WW1 soldiers, Suffragettes or in other parts of the world, civil rights leaders.

I love history and I love social history; both come up in my books and especially my tours so in a way this seemed like the perfect book for me to write.

Most discriminations that we have in this world are relics of prejudices and biases centuries or even millennia old. Slowly but surely these are being both eliminated legally and whittled away culturally and politically. We are fortunate to live in a land and a time where being treated negatively because of our sex, race, age, beliefs (if any) or any impairments is increasingly legally and morally wrong.

In the spring of 2020 as the world fell under the horrors of Covid 19 and life as we know it came to an and, hopefully only temporarily so, the British government announced what they would like to call an “Unprecedented” series of support packages when understandably, if belatedly it was mandated the society had to hunker down. The announced support was very generous to many, though not world-beating or in any measure the best.

Billionaire Chancellor Rishi Sunak famously announced that “No-one will be left behind… or without hope”. And why would anyone be left behind? Who on earth would deliberately choose to abandon anyone in the worst health pandemic in the country for over a century?

And yet that is exactly what proceeded to happen and the government decided to something almost without parallel and initiate a new form of official discrimination. 3 million people, possibly more, were told they were criminals, fraudsters, too difficult to help. In a time when it with be rightfully abhorrent to discriminate against 3 million people due to their sex or race, religious beliefs or any other number of long-since taboo factors, the government went out of its way to discriminate against people solely due to their chosen, entirely legal and in my case, actually encouraged by the government, method of earning a living.

Imagine going through the entire pandemic with all the worries of ill-health, death, worries for the future but on top of that be unable and often legally not allowed to work but not receiving any government support whatsoever whilst repeatedly throughout 2020 and into 2021 the very same groups the compose the majority of society were helped time after time after time.

If such a series of events were to happen in a far-off country there would be widespread outrage and condemnation by government and opposition alike and yet here we are, over a year later since the first virus cases hit the U.K. and nothing has changed.

The government narrative would like you to believe that everyone has been helped. Billionaire Chancellor Rishi Sunak famously announced that “No-one will be left behind… or without hope”. Yet the 3 million members of the club that no-one wants to join, say differently.

A Christmas letter from the daughter of an Excluded lady

It’s not what the government would want you to know or indeed large sections of the media and even Sir Keir Starmer gives it less attention than I give to the weather forecasts in Timbuktu. It is the story of ever worsening, poverty, debt, homelessness, discrimination, persecution and suicides. £xcluded Voices is a compilation of accounts of what may well be the last great state act of deliberate discrimination and it’s told by the normal, every day people that were once known as ‘the back-bone of the economy’.

Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Oliver Dowden and many more might label us as fraudsters or even deny our existence but history will tell a different story. One day people will look back at this less-known but deliberately enacted government policy disaster of the Coronavirus epidemic and wonder how it could happen in the 3rd decade of 21st Century Britain. It is to the eternal shame of everyone who decided to ruin 3 million lives and those others who were so well supported by the state but chose to look the other way.

£xcluded Voices is available in Kindle format for £2.99 from Amazon UK, $5.63 from Amazon.com and all over Amazon stores around the world.

£xcluded Voices is also out worldwide in Paperback including Amazon UK  and Amazon.com 

Last but not least, if you’re an Apple freak then Secret Gardens of the City of London will shortly be out on the Apple Store / iBooks along with other top retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords and more.

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The monument to Admiral Collingwood

Everyone knows of the famous Battle of Trafalgar and the great old HMS Victory which you can visit with Ye Olde England Tours when life gets back to normal.  I think it is perhaps the best day out!  Trafalgar Square is of course known around the world along with Nelsons Column which I take so many tourists to.

Less well known if not totally overlooked is the monument to Admiral Collingwood who was actually the man who completed the historic victory at Trafalgar. Though you can see memorials to him in Greenwich and St Pauls Cathedral, his monument is 300 miles north.

Standing overlooking the River Tyne at Tynemouth is the imposing Collingwood Monument but who was he exactly and why the memorial to such an important figure in a rather out of the way place to get to?

Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood, lived from 26th September 1748 to 7th March 1810. He was born in Newcastle and was a son of a Newcastle merchant. At the age of twelve, he went to sea as a volunteer on board the frigate HMS Shannon under the command of his uncle Captain (later Admiral) Richard Braithwaite.

Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood (26 September 1748 – 7 March 1810)

Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood (26 September 1748 – 7 March 1810)

In June 1775 he fought at the battle of Bunker Hill during the siege of Boston, and on the same day was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. Collingwood served alongside Nelson two years later, and in 1779 succeeded him as captain of HMS Badger.

The career Collingwood had quite a lot in common with that of Nelson.  Both worked their way up the naval hierarchy during the 1780s and 1790s. Collingwood was promoted to vice-admiral in 1804, and at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805 was second in command of the British fleet under Admiral Nelson. While Nelson was on board HMS Victory at the head of one half of the fleet that day, Collingwood was on board HMS Royal Sovereign, which was the first British ship to engage. After Nelson was fatally wounded, Collingwood took command of the British fleet as they defeated their French and Spanish counterparts. On 9 November 1805 Collingwood was raised to the peerage as Baron Collingwood, of Caldburne and Hethpool in the County of Northumberland.

Collingwood became Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet in 1805. His health subsequently declined, and Collingwood died on 7 March 1810 while en route back to England for medical leave. He was laid to rest besides his close friend Nelson in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral. Collingwood is by far the less well known of the two, but in many eyes he was as accomplished a naval commander as Nelson, and he is very well remembered in NorthEast England.  Partly this is due to the gigantic not least Collingwood Monument, built here in the 1840’s.

The Collingwood Monument

The Collingwood Monument Photo by the rather cryptically named C23C

Funded by public subscription, this Grade II* Listed monument was sculpted in marble and sandstone by John Graham Lough and stands on top of a pedestal designed by well-known, local architect John Dobson. The position of the monument marks Collingwood’s family connection with nearby North Shields and allows the statue to be seen from the sea and the river. The four cannons flanking the steps came from the flagship Royal Sovereign and were added in 1848.

The monument is over 100 feet tall with the statue of Collingwood himself being 23ft in height. It looks even more imposing however due to it standing on land which sharply rises from the River Tyne. The steps up the front of the monument are flanked by four cannons from HMS Royal Sovereign.

A small information plaque is built into the monument.

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There is so much else to see in and around Tynemouth, I very much recommend it to people visiting the area.

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Colonel Blood – The man who stole the Crown Jewels and lived to tell the tale!

The Crown Jewels have long been in one of the most secure locations in the world.  Without giving too much away they are stored being bomb proof glass in rooms with over 100 hidden cameras and hi-tech security measures and all of this is inside what is effectively a giant walk-in stainless steel vault which is houses within the Jewel Tower which in turn is deep inside the Tower of London.  

If all this and the famous Beefeaters aren’t enough to deter you then perhaps the 22 strong Tower Guard, an official detachment active soldiers in the British Army might be enough to make you look elsewhere if you have ambitions of a massive heist.

Things were quite so hi-tech in the the 17th century when one of the most audacious rogues in history had a cunning plan.  His  was Colonel Blood, known as the ‘Man who stole the Crown Jewels’.

Thomas Blood was an Irishman, born in County Meath in 1618, the son of a prosperous blacksmith. He came from a good family, his grandfather who lived in Kilnaboy Castle was a Member of Parliament.

The English Civil War broke out in 1642 and Thomas Blood came to England to fight for King  Charles I, but when it became likely that he had joined what would eventually be the losing team, Blood joined the Roundheads under the banner of Oliver Cromwell.

When Charles I was defeated in 1653 Blood was made a Justice of the Peace and was granted a large estate, but when Charles II returned to the throne in 1660 Blood fled to Ireland with his wife and son.

In Ireland he joined a plot with the disgruntled Cromwellians and attempted to seize Dublin Castle and take the Governor, Lord Ormonde prisoner. This plot failed and with a price on his head, Thomas Blood fled to Holland.  

Despite being one of the most wanted men in England, Colonel Blood  returned under a false identity and became a doctor in Romford, near London and went by the name of Ayloffe but he was unable to keep out of mischief and soon became involved in an attempt to kidnap Lord Ormonde in 1670.  He only just escaped capture but whereas anyone else might decide to keep a low profile and look for a career change, Thomas Blood was so obsessed with his campaign against the monarchy that he decided to steal the Crown Jewels.

The Crown Jewels were kept at the Tower of London in a basement protected by a large metal grille. The Keeper of the Jewels was Talbot Edwards who lived with his family on the floor above the basement.

Tower of London Poppies

Blood swept land and seas of red. 888,246 poppies to remember each of our WW1 dead. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence.

One day in 1671 Colonel Blood, disguised himself as a ‘parson’ (a religious cleric) went to see the Crown Jewels and became friendly with Edwards.  It was all part of a very well thought out deceit and he would  return at a later date with his wife. As the visitors were leaving, Mrs. Blood had a violent stomach-ache and was taken to Edward’s apartment to rest. The grateful ‘Parson Blood’ returned a few days later with 4 pairs of white gloves for Mrs. Edwards in appreciation of her kindness to his wife.

The Edwards family and ‘Parson Blood’ became close friends and met frequently. Edwards had a pretty daughter and was delighted when ‘Parson Blood’ proposed a meeting between his wealthy nephew and Edward’s daughter.

On 9th May 1671, ‘Parson Blood’ arrived at 7am. with his ‘nephew’ and two other men. While the ‘nephew’ was getting to know Edward’s daughter the others in the party expressed a desire to see the Crown Jewels.

As they were all the best of friends, Edwards led the way downstairs and unlocked the door to the room where they were kept. At that moment Blood knocked him unconscious with a mallet and stabbed him with a sword in the stomach.

Colonel Blood stealing the regalia from the Tower

The grille was removed from in front of the jewels and the crown, orb and sceptre were taken out. The crown was flattened with the mallet and stuffed into a bag, and the orb stuffed down Blood’s breeches. The sceptre was too long to go into the bag so Blood’s brother-in-law, a man by the name of  Hunt, tried to saw it in half!

At that point Edwards regained consciousness and began to shout “Murder, Treason!”. Blood and his accomplices dropped the sceptre and attempted to get away but Blood was arrested as he tried to leave the Tower by the Iron-Gate having unsuccessfully trying to shoot one of the guards.

In custody Blood refused to answer questions, instead repeating stubbornly, “I’ll answer to none but the King himself”.    

Blood knew that the King had a reputation for liking bold scoundrels and reckoned that his considerable Irish charm would save his neck as it had done several times before in his life.

Blood was taken to the Palace where he was questioned by King Charles, Prince Rupert, The Duke of York and other members of the royal family. King Charles was amused at Blood’s audacity when Blood told him that the Crown Jewels were not worth the £100,000 they were valued at, but only £6,000!

Not only did Colonel Blood admit to his crime but to endear himself to the king  he even admitted that he once planned to snipe Charles with a musket while the king was bathing in a river. He lost his nerve, he claimed, after finding himself “in awe of His Majesty.” Asked what he would do if given his freedom, he replied only that he “would endeavor to deserve it, Sire!”

Jubilee and Munin, Ravens, Tower of London.

Jubilee and Munin, Ravens, Tower of London.

 

Colonel Blood must truly have been full of charisma as he was not only pardoned, to the disgust of Lord Ormonde, but was given Irish lands worth £500 a year! 

Edwards who recovered from his wounds, was rewarded by the King and lived to a ripe old age, recounting his part in the story of the theft of the Jewels to all the visitors to the Tower.

Blood became a familiar figure around London and made frequent appearances at Court and and became something of a spy and enforcer for high society.

In 1679 Blood’s incredible  luck ran out. He quarrelled with his former patron the Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham demanded £10,000 for some insulting remarks Blood had made about his character but before the matter was settled, Colonel Blood died on the 24th August 1680. 

By the time he died in 1680, infirm and deeply in debt, his reputation for duplicity was so well established that the authorities exhumed his corpse to make sure he hadn’t faked his own death in order to escape paying that £10,000! The famed scoundrel was then reburied under a headstone that supposedly read: “Here lies the man who boldly hath run through more villainies than England ever knew.”

The Crown Jewels have never been stolen since that day, no one has had the brazen courage or indeed the gift of the gab to even try it but there is an interesting addendum to the tale of this grand rogue.

Blood’s crimes were serious enough to have earned him a traitor’s death.  Just why the king would make such an extraordinary concession has long been debated. Many early accounts claimed Charles was simply amused by Blood’s brutish demeanor and fascinating life story, but the truth is likely far more complex.

The Colonel had a history of cloak-and-dagger dealings, and he’s suspected of having worked as a hired agent for the Duke of Buckingham, one of the chief intriguers of Charles II’s court. With this in mind, it’s possible that the Tower heist was an inside job and that the Duke pulled some strings on his behalf. Some scholars even believe the cash-strapped Charles II was in on the scam and planned to pocket part of the loot and buy replacement regalia using public funds.  The problem is, he didn’t take in to account that the guards at the tower might be able to stop the whole robbery in its tracks.

There are no real records of what the King and Colonel Blood spoke about and putting the Colonel on trial would not only be extremely disloyal but would allow the Colonel to tell the world of who really was behind it all.

The inscription on his grave read:

Here lies the man who boldly hath run through
More villainies than England ever knew;
And ne’er to any friend he had was true.
Here let him then by all unpitied lie,
And let’s rejoice his time was come to die.

The crown jewels that we see today as fantastic as they are, almost pale into insignificance compared to how they once were. Read all about what happened to them with that miscreant Bad King John The Lost Treasures of Bad King John (plus other treasures both found and missing).

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My new book cover and blurb for my £xcluded Voices book.

I thought I would share the book cover for my upcoming new book. Everyone reading this will know I am one of the 3 million #ExcludedUK and tomorrow sees me start my 55th week of having no income or government support and whilst Shielding alone too.

So rather than write a history book dealing with the past, I thought I’d compile a history book all about the present and have a collection of accounts of people who to varying degrees are going through a similar situation to me, where the Coronavirus is absolutely the least of our problems.

More about that another time but for now here is the front cover and a bit of an introduction to the book as it will appear on the book product pages online.

Most discriminations that we have in this world are relics of prejudices and biases centuries or even millennia old. In the UK, we are fortunate to live in a time where being treated negatively because of our sex, race, age, beliefs (if any) or any impairments is increasingly legally and morally wrong.

However, in the spring of 2020 as the world fell under the horrors of COVID-19, life, as we knew it, came to an end. The British government announced a series of support packages – described as, “Unprecedented” and although support was very generous to many, it was not world-beating or in any measure the best. Billionaire Chancellor Rishi Sunak famously announced that, “No-one will be left behind… or without hope”. Yet that is exactly what proceeded to happen to some three million UK tax payers.

In a time when it be rightfully abhorrent to discriminate against anyone due to their sex or race, religious beliefs or any other number of long-since taboo factors, the UK government went out of its way to discriminate against people solely due to their chosen, entirely legal and in my case, actually encouraged by the government, method of earning a living.

Imagine going through the entire pandemic with all the worries of ill-health, death, worries for the future but on top of that, be unable and often legally not allowed to work but not receiving any government support whatsoever. Whilst, at the same time, others were helped time after time after time. If such a series of events were to happen in a far-off country there would be widespread outrage and condemnation by governments and opposition alike and yet here we are, over a year later since the first virus cases hit the UK – and nothing has changed.

The government narrative would like you to believe that everyone has been helped. Yet the three million members of the club that no-one wanted to join, say differently – we tell the stories of ever worsening, poverty, debt, homelessness, discrimination, persecution and suicides. £xcluded Voices is a compilation of accounts of what may well be the last great state act of deliberate discrimination. It’s told by the normal, everyday people that were once known as ‘the back-bone of the British economy’.

Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Oliver Dowden, Keir Starmer and many more might label us as fraudsters or even deny our existence, but history will tell a different story. One day people will look back at this less-known but deliberately enacted government policy disaster of the Coronavirus epidemic and wonder how it could happen in the third decade of 21st Century Britain. It is to the eternal shame of everyone who decided to ruin three million lives and also those others who were so well supported by the state they chose to look the other way.

Posted in Life, Politics, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Legend of Mary Overie

Everyone knows of that famous old miser Ebenezer Scrooge in the the literature of Charles Dickens but right in the heart of one the most Dickensian feeling part of Central London there is a story that predates Ebenezer by 1,000 years and is largely unknown by everyone except for a few hardy visitors to explore the nooks and crannies around Southwark.

Legend suggests that before the construction of a replacement London Bridge in the tenth century a ferry existed here. Ferrying passengers across the River Thames was a lucrative trade. John Overs who, with his watermen and apprentices, kept the “traverse ferrie over the Thames”, made such a good living that he was able to acquire a considerable estate on the south bank of the river.

John Overs, a notorious miser, devised a plan to save money. He would feign death believing that his family and servants would fast out of respect and thereby save a day’s provisions. However, when he carried out the plan, the servants were so overjoyed at his death that they began to feast and make merry. In a rage the old man leapt out of bed to the horror of his servants, one of whom picked up a broken oar and “thinking to kill the Devil at the first blow, actually struck out his brains”.

The ferryman’s distressed daughter Mary sent for her lover, who in haste to claim the inheritance fell from his horse and broke his neck. Mary was so overcome by these misfortunes that she devoted her inheritance to founding a convent into which she retreated.

This became the priory of Saint Mary Overie, Mary having been made a saint on account of her charity. During the Reformation the church of St Mary Overie was renamed St Saviour’s Church. In 1905 it became Southwark Cathedral and the collegiate church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie.

You can visit this and many other fascinating places with Ye Olde England Tours.

Posted in history, London, Travel, Ye Olde England Tours | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Three special letters

It’s hard to believe that I am now in my second year of being Excluded without work, pay or any government support whatsoever.  I’m actually working on a new book which like most of mine, is totally unique and I think will cause quite a stir, now and in the future.  More of that another time.

I thought I would share a little bit of insight of what living with no income or support for over a year is like.

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This first letter is from a tourist who I had the pleasure of taking round on a walk almost 2 years ago. I still remember them very well; they were staying in a nice hotel in Covent Garden and it was a perfectly beautiful summers day.

If you can’t read the photo, they write that they enjoyed a tour with me and they are very sorry that my government has forgotten me. They enclosed their left over Pound Notes from their holiday to help me out because as they point out, I’ve likely more use for them than they do in Tennessee. How kind and lovely of them.

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The letter above is one that a little girl wrote at Christmas.  Like me, her mother hasn’t had any income or government support for a year.  Isn’t it lovely that the little girl cares so much about her mother and yet sad that at the age of 10, she has to worry about such adult problems as having no money.  Something that is entirely avoidable except for the fact the government has deliberately chosen to discriminate against 3 million people.

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Finally look what came to my front door on Sunday.  An ExcludedUK member who lives about 5 miles away surprised me with this.  If these message wasn’t kind enough, look what was under the lid!

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What a kind gesture to bring me a ready cooked and free of charge Lamb Shanks for Sunday Dinner.  It’s nice to know people appreciate my campaigning on behalf of ExcludedUK but wouldn’t it just be nicer and more fair if I could buy my own food and the mother of the little girl be treated just like everyone else.

Isn’t incredible that both this meal and the donation from Tennessee were each more help in one day than I’ve received from the government in over a year.  Something can’t be right about that?

I often feel like I will soon be asked to stitch a Star of David badge on my coat whenever I go outside rather like in Nazi Germany.

Posted in Life, Opinion, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Walking in a winter wonderland!

I don’t know about you but I love snow, especially when I don’t have to drive in it. The sad thing is that London doesn’t get a great deal of snow any more. It used to even in the 1980’s but the weather isn’t the same any more which on a personal level is super annoying to me as my early years were spent in Newcastle which is renowned for its rather climate and the way residents go out partying in the snow at night where the skimpiest of clothing and I remember going to school by sledge quite often.

So after most of the rest of the U.K. had been enjoying snow for a month or so, finally London got a piece of the action last weekend and where I lived, with a slight break for a few hours in the afternoon, it pretty much snowed from before 10am to 10pm, particularly hard in the morning and when I went out for a rather epic 4 hour walk around lunch time, the snow was already a good bit higher than my ankles.

I know lots of people like to play and enjoy the snow after it has fallen but I really like being out in it when its falling, even if it is colder and a bit hard work. Generally you have it all to yourself . This time it lasted for 3 days which is a far cry from the weeks it would stay when I was little but by modern London standards, it’s pretty good.

I didn’t intend to go walking for 4 hours but it snowed so hard, at times it was hard to see anything but I liked it and I even went exploring which was a bit crazy but on the other hand, it’s hard to catch coronavirus in a blizzard with no-one around so I thought I’d make the most of it. Who knows when such snow will return here? Maybe never.

A snowy trail

A snowy trail


Boudicca Pond

Boudicca Pond in the snow

You can see what quite a few of these places looked like in the Spring when I blogged about them at the start of the Coronavirus outbreak.  

Brewery Pond and one of my favourite spots on it.

Brewery Pond and one of my favourite spots on it.


Caesars Pond

Caesars Pond in the snow

One of the places I wanted to visit was Grim’s Dyke.  I’ve written a few posts about this ancient place and you can an almost replica photo of the one below from the spring in this blog post.

Grims Dyke Snow

Grimsdyke in the snow


Grims Dyke Snow 2

More Grimsdyke in the snow

I knew that there was a sizeable lake 10-15 minutes walk along Grim’s Dyke.  I may well have visited there once when I was 15, I do like to go exploring.  For some reason, with the whole place to myself I thought I would go and find it.

Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest idea to go off exploring in the woods in the snow with all manner of hidden dips and gulleys but my pigeon sense of direction managed to find it.

My new lake in the snow

My new lake!

It’s actually quite renowned for its fishing and the photo above is taken from a wooden jetty which is one of the points people fish during competitions in the summer. As you can see the lake is largely frozen and snow is even beginning to rest on top after just a short while, something I can’t imagine happens very often now.   It was quite a magical moment just watching and listening to the snow.

Stanmore Hill in the snow

Stanmore Hill looking down to London

I made a loop back towards civilisation, which wasn’t easy as my footsteps had been covered by fresh snow and of course everything looks different when its all hidden away by a white blanket and all you can hear is snow.

The photo above looks down towards London 500 feet below with the house on the right behind the wall belonging to one of the movers and shakers in the iconic Fortnum and Masons Department Store in London a century or two ago .

Further down the hill is the home of Edward Adrian Wilson who played such a role in biological studies in Antarctica and died on the doomed mission of Captain Scott.  Though I had plenty of snow in my beard, I’m sure he would have given anything to only be walking around in -5 degrees.

London bus snow

A London bus!

As you can see my plan to enjoy the falling snow all on my own pretty much paid off, the London bus about the only moving thing around.

Common Road in the snow

The photo above is of Common Road which I came across after walking through the back of the Bentley Priory and past the old WW2 Pillbox.  One the left of the roads are the woods that I last blogged about in December Getting up to mischief in some old woods.  Normally this road is extremely busy.  I find it interesting that during the summer so many people complained that it was essential to break lockdown rules to get fresh air and exercise and yet for some reason when it is freezing cold, only me who is Shielding and obeys all the rules, still goes out.  Funny that!

St Peters Church Bushey Heath in Snow

St Peters Church in the snow

Another mile or so and yet another lake and I was back in my village with one of our village churches.  This is reputed to be the highest spot at this latitude between the Rocky Mountains in North America and the Urals deep into Russia.  You can see another view of the church in the spring at A look at my local Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association… Trough 

The Rutts Snow

And finally I was home and if you like the look of this snowy old street, you can see what it looked like back in the Victorian days. Bushey Heath now and then – Photos of my street from 130 years ago

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Remembering Captain Tom and putting the boot into sycophants

 I just wanted to do a little post to say how sorry I am to hear of the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore who captured the hearts of much of the world in 2020 after he started out to raise £1,000 to help NHS related charities by walking 100 laps of his garden in time for his 100th birthday and who ended up raising more than £32 million.

I wrote two posts about him in the spring and summer.

Coronavirus 19 – Social Distancing with 99 year old Captain Tom Moore and his multi-million pound fundraiser

A special knighthood at Windsor Castle

Born and raised as a tough Yorkshire man it is hard for people today in Britain and indeed around the world to remember that back in the 1920’s, a quarter of the British population struggled to feed themselves. Young Tom was surrounded by long lines at soup kitchens, and classmates suffering from rickets and tuberculosis.

That wasn’t going to stop him however and even by the age of 12 he was showing he had an extra bit of backbone when he bought an old motorbike in a barn, stripping back and restoring it.   He went on to serve in WW2, going off to Burma to face the then unstoppable Japanese as part of what later became known as the Forgotten Army and working with the motorbike dispatch teams before then returning just before the end of the war to train men on how to drive tanks.   He must have loved his machines and military life as he stayed in the Army for many years after the war.

In later years he also saw off skin cancer and was treated by the NHS for a broken hip which no doubt steeled his resolve to do his epic fundraising event.

The final year of his life was legendary.  Receiving the salute of his old regiment and being made an honorary Colonel, having a Spitfire flypast on his 100th birthday. Being knighted by the Queen and teaming up with singer Michael Ball to become the oldest Number 1 chart topper with his cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone.  He was even presented with a WWE World Champion Belt!

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He was selfless, brave and resolute and his qualities epitomised much of the country and inspired the world.   He even enjoyed an holiday in the Caribbean at Christmas after British Airways paid for his flights but a few weeks ago contracted Pneumonia which stopped him receiving the Coronavirus vaccine and sadly over the weekend was taken to hospital having also positive with the virus and died surrounded by his loving family.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Moore “embodied the triumph of the human spirit.”

“Captain Sir Tom Moore was a hero in the truest sense of the word,” Johnson said in a video statement. “He became not just a national inspiration but a beacon of hope for the world.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron called Moore a “great British hero” in a statement on Twitter.

“Captain Sir Tom Moore has been an inspiration – lighting up what has been such a dark year for so many,” Cameron said. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and with all those who have so sadly lost a loved one due to this terrible virus.”

Across the pond, the White House joined those honouring Moore’s memory saying on Twitter.he “inspired millions through his life and his actions.”  

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Personally I’m actually a bit sickened by these responses, it’s not great seeing ignoble politicians from across the UK and even the world grovelling about how wonderful Captain Tom was.  He was very best of us and yet so often they are the very worst.

Instead of espousing his spirit and ideals, why not actually just follow in his foot steps and be decent people instead of lying & self-serving at every opportunity.

I can’t say I will get to 100 but being a decent person, putting others first etc really isn’t that hard and shouldn’t be unusual.

People like Boris Johnson, Sir Keir Starmer, Nicola Sturgeon are just sycophants, trying to ingratiate themselves into the popular mood for their own advantage.  None of their behaviour nor many overseas come anywhere close to Captain Tom.  In fact they’re almost the opposite.

Actions speak louder than words so maybe for example Boris for example could answer questions truthfully.  Perhaps Sir Keir could stop flip-flopping with the tide depending on what he thinks people want to hear and just do what is right or at least what he believes in.  Maybe Nicola could sometimes stop blaming people in London and admit sometimes, she is wrong.

None of them are even worthy of licking his boots. I’m so sick of living in a world where  public figures are without any merit.

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A national clap for Captain Sir Tom Moore will be held at 6pm tonight.

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An account of when my house was almost hit by a Nazi rocket in WW2

Over the last week or two I have been reading old magazines of histories and memories of my village, rather similar to some of the ones I write myself. A lady by the name of Mollie Thomas strikes particularly close to home as though in her 80’s, writes about her time growing up here in the 1930’s. She writes about the man who would light the gas lamp just near my house, the cows in the field. Playing in the woods and commons, everyone having to get off the bus if it was full and couldn’t get up the hill (the bus still only just makes it) and all sorts of mischief.

Anyway I remember in the summer finding this structure under my back garden and wondering if it was an air-raid shelter… I will investigate one day 🙂 but she wrote an account of when an actual V1 rocket hit and damaged her house.

It literally must have either just cleared my roof or passed over the back garden.She used the same bus as me and the same bus stop and I remember moaning minnie (the air raid siren) though luckily it was mostly mothballed by the 80’s.

It’s a fascinating little read and I’ve found 4 more V1 and V2 hits in the village so will go and poke my nose around once I have found the exact spots. I love the comment at the end about the Cricket Pitch, no excuse for that 🙂

For those that don’t know V1 rockets were known as doodlebugs and buzz bombs. If you could hear them you were ok and nobody bothered about them but as soon as they ran out of fuel you’d hear the chugging and they would literally drop out of the sky in seconds so everyone knew what that meant!

“I remember the flying-bomb incident very well: perhaps it is one of my most vivid wartime memories, although the night abomber crashed on Bentley Priory when my father was on duty with the Air Ministry Constabulary, comes a close second.We did not know whether or not he had survived until his shift ended the following morning and he came cycling down the lane on his rickety old bike, wanting his breakfast.

To return to the flying-bomb: I was in the Lower VIth at Watford Girls’ Grammar School, and we had been dismissed after the mid-morning Assembly, as was the custom at the start of a half-term holiday. Several of us boarded a 142 bus in the High Street, all very cheerful at the prospect of a few days freedom. Some got off at Melbourne Road in Bushey, and I got off at Windmill Lane in Bushey Heath and walked down The Rutts.There was no air raid alert at the time and one certainly could not have missed the sound of Moaning Minnie, which was on the roof of Bushey Police Station. But as I walked down The Rutts and turned into the lane by the Guide Hut where our cottage was, I was aware of an unmistakeable noise, and as I looked up, I saw the flying bomb.

I still get the 142 bus and alight at Windmill Lane just like Molly would do 80 years ago!

The chugging suddenly stopped: I knew what that meant!I was still too far from our cottage to reach it safely, and in any case I knew the door would be locked as my mother would be out at work. I threw myself and my satchel into the hedge, covered my head with my hands and waited. I cannot adequately describe what happened next, but the memory never leaves me. At last I got up, dusted myself down, rescued my satchel and school beret and staggered towards our cottage.I found the key in its usual place, went indoors and crawled into the Morrison shelter which had dominated our front room for several months.

A typical Morrison Shelter, designed to offer just a measure of protection should your home be hit by a WW2 bomb or rocket. Definitely less re-assuring than an Anderson Shelter, I’d say.

After the pandemonium, silence, and I became aware that pictures and ornaments had fallen from walls and shelves. I did not know that a bedroom ceiling had also fallen down. At last my mother came home.We looked at each other and asked the same question: ‘Are you all right? ’Then she began to cook the dinner and I unpacked my satchel.That was war; we were safe, and life went on: no time for histrionics. Sadly my father had died of cancer in a London hospital a few weeks earlier, during a flying bomb raid. And my friends in Bushey? They were furious that their cricket pitch had been utterly destroyed”.

This account was taken from https://busheymuseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Journal-16-2019.pdf and if you click the link you can read lots more about some other memories which people have where I live.

There is every chance that others including my own were also affected by this blast but sadly only Mollie is now around to remember those terrible yet incredible days.

The child hood home of Mollie is the house with the four chimney pots. I don’t think the large house in between was around back then.

Anyway I can see Mollies old house and the roof that was damaged right from my writing desk and now you can see it too.

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Coronavirus Diary 72: Being a Good Samaritan to the living and having a hot drink with the dead.

One of the things I really miss about being Excluded and not able to work as well as Shielding alone is being able to help people. I really really miss it. I know I still help lots of people from my chair but like everything in life, things are different if you do them in person.

A week or two ago I had a particularly miserable day having sat in a freezing house for too many days in a row I went out for a walk to warm up and about 3 miles out met a homeless man who was sheltering under one of those modern and rather useless bus stops with a roof and a back wall and that was it. He only had an old mauve blanket and it was well below zero, his face was a deeper shade of purple than his blanket. I don’t have much to give away to anyone these days but gave him my old coat as I felt so sorry for him. I’ve been generously gifted a second hand coat and indeed a new one so had been trying to give this to a charity shop though the two I visited said it was too tattered for them.

My walks sometimes go to muddy or messy places and I wouldn’t risk even a donated coat out there lol and sometimes you just want to feel comfy in your old things even if they are falling apart. It totally made his day and honestly only me and a homeless person would be seen dead in that coat. It meant though that I had to walk 4 miles back without a coat (I’m not going to ruin my walk after 2 days of newspaper interviews) by not finishing the route.

By chance a lady in a car had seen what I’d done and a mile or or so down the road offered me a lift but off course my mask was in the coat pocked so instead she got me a free Costa Hot Chocolate. I went and sat on my favourite bench in an old cemetery. All was icy and it was still about -2 but the bench was dry and in the sun it actually felt warmer than at home and I mused what a crappy old time it is to put it mildly. I must have sat there for an hour, I almost got up part way through as the shadow of a tall stone cross moved across and made my legs and feet cold but it moved after 20 minutes.

You have to be sat someone a long time for a grave stone shadow to move across a bench. I thought how horrible the world is when I would give away my coat whilst all those people on furlough let the guy freeze and I chatted away to Johnny and Alison. I’ve chatted to them a lot and remember having a drink with Johnny on May 1st as he died on May 1st 1752. I didn’t think I’d still be coming here for Alison’s anniversary on the 9th February 1756 but I shall.

I don’t really know anything about Johnny and Alison except she was faithful. I imagine him being a farmer or a blacksmith whilst she is always dressed in a pinny and has an old fashioned broom and saying how Johnny deserves to be paid more…. I’m quite into it but I realise I have spent more time with them this last year than everyone else alive on this planet put together.

That’s a bit sad isn’t it out of 7 or 8 billion people to have spent more time with 2 people who died 270 years ago. As much as I think of them, I wonder what they’d make of me coming to them.

I couldn’t really be bothered to get up in the end as I was bizarrely comfy but I realised I must have been there for ages as my boots had totally defrosted the ground and were now in an cm of mud and the bench was rocking as I had melted the soil under one of the legs. Also the half of me that wasn’t in the sun was freezing and I had a long walk home in just my top. I kept thinking out of what I own and apart from my falling apart home, I think it would be hard pushed to value all my belongings at more than £3-£4k (I’m a very low maintenance sort of person lol) and I gave that man my old £30 Asda coat so maybe 1% of my ‘estate’.

Yet someone like Rishi Sunak the government chancellor whose family has hundreds of billions of pounds can’t see fit to give me £30 out of the taxes I’ve paid. It’s only a guess but 1% of Rishi’s money would likely be countless 10’s of millions and he would notice its loss a lot less than me in the ice with no coat or way of affording a replacement.

I’m going for another walk now and look forward to some kindly multi-millionaire stopping their limo sorting me out not for any particular reason but just because they can and hopefully when I get back I will be able to send you £10k each on Paypal!

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