Monday 29 May 2017

Will Sidney's War - October 1918

Whilst looking through Will's things I came across this letter, dated 1 September 1919, enclosing Will's preliminary issue of the British War Medal Riband and, whilst the timing is a little out of synch with my posts, I really wanted to include it ...
We now pick up Will's story in October 1918, where he is still in the 29th Stationary Hospital in Turin. Will has been in this hospital since 8 September, when he transferred from the 38th Stationary Hospital in Genoa, where he had been since 26 May.

He is still suffering with problems with his neck and has now been in hospital for about six months ...
Other than telling us that he wishes that he was with Ethel, Will doesn't have much to say during these first few days in October, though he does write of the weekly concert "A better OC", where he plays the part of  'Old Bill' and is also involved in singing, comedy conversations and an impersonation of the London Music Hall artist 'Harry Weldon'.
There seems to be some better news for Will the following week ...
"6 Sunday & 7 Monday - Still in hospital"
"8 Tuesday - Marked out for Base Depot. Left Turin for Arquata"
"9 Wednesday - Transferred to Arquata Base Depot. Got a Med Board. No News."
"10 Thursday - Went before a MB, Got B111. Can't move my arm nor shoulder."
"11 Friday - Writ to Ethel & home. Wishing I was @ home."
"12 Saturday - Nothing doing. Drew kit. Takes me all my time to write." 
It seems being marked B111 (which I assume to be a B3) would indicate that whilst Will has been assessed as being free from serious organic diseases, able to stand service on lines of communication in France, or in garrisons in the tropics, he is only suitable for sedentary work.

 "13 Sunday & 14 Monday - Still down @ Arquata Base Camp. Nothing to do all day but mope about."
"15 Tuesday - Same as above. No letters from anybody."
"16 - 19 Wednesday - Saturday - Thinking of my own darling Ethel, wishing I was with her. It is very miserable down here. About a dozen houses in a tinpot of a village. Reg & ordinary letter from Darling Ethel. God bless her. I would like to kiss her for what she is doing (thinking of her loved one)."
 "20-23 - Still @ Vaje Camp. I am as miserable as still nothing to do all day & my shoulder causing a lot of pain. An abscess is forming on the top of the whole wound."
"24 Thursday - Admitted into 51st B Sta & hot forment on to my neck."
"25 Friday - Still in Dock. My neck sore & painful."
"26 Saturday - My neck better of the abscess. Waiting to be sent out of Dock. Thinking of Darling Ethel."
 "27 Sunday - Discharged out of hospital to Vaje Camp, Arquata."
"28-30 - Drawing kit etc. Answered Ethel's loving letter & one to Cousin Annie & Ma. Answered another letter to Ethel, got one from her"
This is the last entry in Will's diary for 1918.

You can find out what happens to Will in November of 1918 in my next post.

Monday 22 May 2017

Beautiful Britain - A Caching Trail, Anglesey

Image result for geocaching logoIt was Martin's birthday whilst we were on holiday in Anglesey and, as it's been an absolute age since we've done a Geocaching trail and, the weather had taken a turn for the worst, we decided to have an afternoon of drive bys. This normally involves me navigating with the GPS and Martin jumping in and out of the car, hunting for caches in the rain.

I'd got a route of 20 planned, but we had a late start and only managed 8 in the end.

One of the things we love about Geocaching is how it takes you off the beaten track and takes you to places and shows you things that you wouldn't even normally know are there.

We started off with 'An Aspiring Cache', which was a cache by a pretty little church, not that far from where we were staying.

Our hearts sank as we arrived at GZ, as we saw a white van parked exactly opposite where we needed to be, with a ladder leant up against a nearby telegraph pole. It looked like we were going to be thwarted at our first stop.

We had a walk up the road, trying to look inconspicuous 😀but as we were under the watchful eye of the workman, who was taking a break in his van, even though we spotted what we were looking for, we felt too obvious to pick it up and returned to the car.

We sat for a minute and got lucky. The workman came out of the van and headed for his ladder, giving Martin just the chance he needed to nip in for a swift pick up for our first find of the day.
From there we crawled along, following plenty of game birds, just the kind of road that we like to explore ... narrow, with grass growing along the middle of it.

We were heading for a cache called 'A View to Thrill'. Even on a wet, grey and miserable day like today the view was pretty decent, though we could easily see how spectacular it would be on a bright clear day.

It was then on to 'St Eilians Seat', another pretty little church high above the coast, with the best views to be had, both of the church and the coast, from the back of the churchyard.

We carried on along the coast, heading for Amlwych Port, where there were a couple of Earth caches on the cards.

An Earth cache is a special geological location that people can visit to learn about a unique feature of the Earth. Earth cache descriptions include a set of interesting information about the location and typically, to claim the Earth cache as a find, you have to provide answers to questions by looking around the location.

Because of the significance of the local area as a result of copper being discovered in large quantities on the nearby Parys Mountain in 1768, Amlwch is a great place to locate an Earth cache. When in full swing the mine employed 1500 men and women, and Amlwch grew enormously. The mountain supplied copper throughout the World and, as a result, Amlwch became very famous.
As well as looking for the information that we needed for the 'Anglesey Rock Clock' cache, which involved us finding different types of rock on the clock and answering a number of questions, we had a really good wander around the old harbour, which is well worth a look.

Then it was hunting for more information about to complete another Earth cache ... 'Geomon Home - Port Amlwych'

From there we made our way a bit further along the coast for 'Now you sea me', another lovely viewpoint on a clear day, but a bit dull and grey today.
We finished up at 'Cemaes Bay Geology Garden', which had us a bit stumped as we needed to have done a bit of homework first. It was still fascinating though. A short geology trail has been set up and different types of rocks are on display for you to learn their types and formation through information boards at the site and along the coast.Whilst this was pretty fascinating, it was absolutely chucking it down and we just didn't have the inclination to put the effort in for this one I'm afraid 😩

Cold, wet and hungry we decided we would call it a day on the caching front and headed for the South Stack Lighthouse, where, after braving the wind and the rain for a couple of very misty photos, we made good use of the facilities, fueling on paninis and cake, before headed for home.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Beautiful Britain - Beaumaris, Anglesey

This week's post takes us back to our week's holiday on the Isle of Anglesey and our visit to the very lovely Beaumaris.

We had called into Beaumaris, very briefly, early on in our week's stay on the island and I had been particularly taken with the pastel coloured houses. We were really looking forward to spending a bit more time here, having a good look round and trying to get some good photos for the album.

We'd had a few days of wet weather and we'd been waiting for it to pick up a bit for our return visit and we got lucky on the last day of our holiday.

We were blessed with a little bit of blue sky, though it was very windy, but best of all it wasn't raining.

We parked up on the front at the castle end of the town and headed out for a good wander.

Whilst we didn't actually visit the castle we did have a good walk around the perimeter. There are some real good photo opportunities to be had from outside and we made the most of poking the camera through the railings.
We then had a wander up the main street, which has a few little shops worth a mooch. I was particularly fond of Janet Bell's Gallery, which was basically a little shop dedicated to all things Hygge, which is something I am fast becoming fascinated with.

At the opposite end of the town I managed to snag a few shots of the pastel coloured houses, which looked really pretty in the afternoon sunshine.
Even on a dull day, there are great views from this end of town, back over the Strait to the pier, against the backdrop of the Snowdonian mountains, which was next on our agenda.
It was very very breezy on the pier but the views over to Snowdonia and back across the town were well worth bracing ourselves against the wind for.

It was then back into town for a visit to the Beau tea rooms, which were a real treat.
It's only a small place, with just five tables, but it's really cosy, full of vintage bits and pieces, good food, good service and the best orange drizzle cake I've tasted.
We would both definitely recommend a stop off here if you are over this way.

That was about it for our visit. We really liked Beaumaris. We spent a good three hours here, but it could easily be a day out if you fit in a visit to the castle and the gaol. So, if you're over this way add it to the list places you definitely need to visit.

We did manage to fit a bit of a detour off the beaten track in on our way back to Cochwillan Cottage, in search of a Geocache, which was, quite literally, at the end of the road ...

Monday 8 May 2017

In the Garden - April

Back at the end of March I let you know that we were planning on some serious garden renovations this year.

Well the time for these to start is fast approaching and we have the landscapers in from next week.

There were an awful lot of bits and pieces that we needed to do in preparation for them coming ... so once our family BBQ on Easter Sunday was out of the way it was time to get cracking.

We have spent a fair amount of time, and energy, getting ready over the last couple of weeks and we are actually progressing fairly well so I thought it was time for a bit of an update.

So ... What have we been up to?

The top patio ....

Looked like this in my last post ...
Currently looks like this ...
The plans for this patio are for it to be extended down a bit further into the garden and fully repaved with a colourful Indian sandstone. We are also having a new brick planter built along the back wall of the house.

It might not look like it but there has been lots of progress ...
  • We have had a really good tidy up and the majority of stuff has been shifted, either put away or temporarily re homed until the work has been finished
  • The arbour has been moved out of the way but is still awaiting it's new paint job
  • The lilac has been replanted in the border, with us having removed both the plum and the apple trees
  • We have also managed to pass on some of these slabs, which will be finding a new home as a shed base in the garden of my nephew's new home
  • The render repairs to the house have now all been completed and we have a full repaint on the cards for later this week, which should spruce us up no end.

The lower patio

Looked like this when you last saw it ...
It is currently looking like this ...
The plans down here are purely for it to be repaved.

We've pretty much cleared this area and the fence down the whole of this side of the garden has been painted, as has the shed and one of the raised beds. We've also managed to find a new home for a whole load of concrete slabs.

The strawberry bed ...

Was looking in need of some TLC when you last saw it ...
I am pleased to say it has had a good tidy up and now just needs painting ...

The greenhouse area ...

Before ...
... and currently ...
All cleared and ready for repaving.

The bottom corner ...

This corner is the spot in the garden that sees the last of the afternoon sun and the plans are for some additional paving to be put in down here, along with a new wooden pergola with some trellising. It should be a lovely spot to sit to catch the last of the sun.

We've done a fair amount of work in this border. We've taken out two fruit trees, replanted the lilac here and just generally moved pretty much all of the plants around. A bit of a reorganisation was long overdue as some of what had been planted had either died off or outgrown it's original spot.
This is how it is looking at the moment ...

Behind the shed

This area just keeps ending up getting used as a bit of a dumping ground ...
This area will remain as a storage area and we are planning on extending the paving a bit, to make Martin's beer shed access a bit easier.

We are still debating on whether to perhaps screen it off with either trellis or a hedge of cordon fruit trees.
It is currently being used as a temporary storage area for the BBQ and the bench, but we have done a lot of work here.

We have repainted the shed and removed the compost bin. We managed to fill about ten bags with compost which have been put to good use.

We've also managed to move the water butt a bit more out of the way. So once the garden works are done this will be a really useful space for storing out of season pots.

So, we've just got a week to go before work starts on earnest.

Before then we have a bit more tidying up to do and a few more bits and pieces to move or to dispose of then it will be all systems go.

I'm kind of excited and dreading it a bit all at the same time.  I'll keep you posted 😟 (Worried face!)

Tuesday 2 May 2017

On our Doorstep - National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas

We are lucky enough to live fairly close to the National Memorial Arboretum, but have only ever visited once, probably about 10 years ago. It's somewhere we have been saying for ages we'd like to revisit but have never quite got round to it.

Sunday was the day that we finally made the effort to put that right. There was a Spring Craft and Vintage fair on, which sounded like an added benefit so off we went.

Entry to the Arboretum is free, though there is a daily £3 parking charge. It was pretty busy on Sunday and the main car park was full, but there is plenty of additional parking, just a short walk further up the road.

The first memorial we came across was the 1940 Dunkirk Veteren's Association Memorial. This is just through the main gate on the right.
The main entrance hall had changed quite a bit since we last visited and you now enter the Arboretum via the new Remembrance Centre, which is a pretty huge affair, housing a number of temporary exhibitions and a substantial restaurant area, which we were planning on trying out once we'd had a good wander around.

We started off with a visit to the Vintage Fair, which didn't take us long and, whilst there were a few stalls selling some really nice bits and pieces, we didn't find anything to take our fancy.
We didn't really plan on fully exploring the rest of the site today but did have a really good walk, starting by going up through The Armed Forces Memorial, which honours those members of the Armed Forces who have been killed on duty, or as a result of terrorist action, and those who died while deployed on designated operations.

We were heading for the the Shot at Dawn memorial, which is situated on the Easterly edge of the site. We meandered along paths and through woodland ...
... passing numerous memorials along the way ...
The 'Shot at Dawn' memorial is fronted by a statue by Andy Decomyn. The statue is modelled on Private Herbert Burden, of the 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusliers, who was shot at Ypres in 1915, aged 17.
Being at the most Easterly point of the site, the statue is the first thing to be touched by the sun at the break of dawn each morning.

Standing behind the statue is a post marked with name of each of the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were short for desertion or cowardice during WW1.
In 2006 posthumous royal pardons were granted for all 306 'deserters' and an arboretum volunteer told us the story of one of the men remembered here who had survived both Gallipoli and the Somme but, having been sent home for recovery following injuries, just couldn't face being posted again.

We had visited this memorial before and found it so peaceful, yet shocking, and we really wanted to have another look and see if we could get some good photos.

It is just humbling to see the number of posts, denoting all of the soldiers that ended up being remembered here, some as young as 17 years old.
 It is a really good place for contemplation and reflection and, having seen lots of images and information over the years about the horrors of war, it's easy to understand why some of these soldiers just really could not face any more.
We resumed our wander, passing more memorials at every turn, they are just everywhere, representing all sorts of organisations and all giving pause for thought.
There is such an array of different types of sculpture, and the Arboretum is laid out in such a way that there is something of interest to look at in every direction.
After having a wander along the memorial gardens by the river we decided it was time for a breather so made our way back to the restaurant for a bit of a sit in the sun and very welcome refreshments.
We spent a good three hours on our visit, but we by no means explored everywhere and there was still lots more to see. We could easily have stayed longer.

It's somewhere that is definitely worth a visit, even if it's a bit of a trip to get there. We are so very lucky to have it so close.