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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

If you go down to the woods today. Sway Treacle Mining

There is no doubt about it, I live in a pretty strange part of the world. Don't get me wrong, I love it here, I've lived here since I was a small boy. The New Forest is a beautiful part of the U.K. and as a result it has attracted over the years some pretty wonderful people. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a house in the forest and Alice Liddle (Alice in Wonderland) is buried in Lyndhurst Churchyard. But there are stranger stories that I have heard which definitely need further investigation. Sway Treacle Mines is one such tale.
Each time I've heard the tale told, the listener usually has a peculiar grin which is then followed by a strange chicken-like-laughter known as chuckling (if you've never heard a chicken laugh you need to get here soon!) I must confess that the first time I heard the tale I suffered the same symptoms. However, since receiving a mysterious phone call last Sunday I fear that my laughter may have been a little premature.
The phone call was from a Mr Tate, a resident of Sway for many years. He asked me to meet him at a secret location, where, he said 'the truth of the myth would be proved'.
I met Mr Tate late last Monday, just before dusk outside of Setthorns enclosure. He then led me to the secret location, about a mile into the enclosure, he then turned and led me to a small bush like shrub and beckoned me closer. 'This is it!' He explained. 'This is the key to the story. This is the missing plant of the Forest - the treacaldii suagardii'!
Not being an expert on such matters, I enquired why nobody else had ever mentioned the existence of such a plant. Mr Tate explained that the plant name had been removed from all records during the eighteenth century. The reason for this was because of the conspiracy set up by the sugar importers. The plant has a very sweet flavour and a natural stickiness, the sugar importers feared that if such a plant were to become widespread, then obviously their business would suffer.
When I asked Mr Tate how he had come to know of such a plant, he admitted that he had been searching for it constantly for the last 50 years. He'd come to know of it's existence from his grandfather, a My Llyle, who had sworn him to secrecy during his lifetime.
I took a closer look at this amazing plant and discovered that it was, in fact, slowly but surely dying. Mr Tate said that this was probably due to the light - the opening in the tree cover had only recently occured and the extra light was not helping the rare plants survival.
The myth of the treacle mines themselves was explained: A few members of the New Forest community started to dig holes within the woods, the holes would then be covered and camouflaged and the forbidden plant grown within them. A rare blend of black market treacle followed which was richly sought after.
Unfortunately, the black market treacle smugglers were to come to a sticky end! The sugar importers employed a group of men known as the 'trafia', their job was to seek out and destroy all 'mines' and their plants. Needless to say, they were very successful and the 'treacaldii sugardii' was not seen or heard of again, until now of course.
Mr Tate and myself took the precaution of removing this last plant from the forest floor to protect it from prying eyes and heavy feet. I hope that Mr Tate will have success in propagating further plants and, who knows, there could well be treacle mines in Sway once more.
Sway is a wonderful place. I'm going to show you around it here today. This picture on the right was taken in Setthorns and this one here is taken at Longslade bottom.
I got a little nostalgic today as I reseached this piece and I thought you might like this vid I made, sorry about the wind noise...


video

Sunday, 12 June 2011

New Forest 'Yeti' Discovered

Today I had 'Yeti' another slight Victor Meldrew Moment. I was in Tesco's buying some broccoli and realised that I was going to pay, by weight, for the stalk that I was going to cut off and throw away. What's the point of that I ask you?......Can you guess what I did before purchase?...I don't believe it!
My anger puts me in mind of 'Yeti another abominable tale'.......there's a pun there , trust me...! Quite a few years ago now I was carefully propping up the bar in a popular New Forest hostelry when I happened to bump into that elusive character, - Mr Tate. 'The very man!' says he. 'Why?' I asked,' has our treacle plant matured so soon?' 'Oh no,' said Tatie, ' but there are some strange 'appenings goin on 'ereabouts. It's all to do with some strange animal sightings.' The plot thickened.

I've heard of similar strange happenings on Exmoor in Somerset, where many people have reported the sightings of a large cat-like creature roaming the moors and sometimes damaging property. There are similar stories from Scotland and Yorkshire of large 'cats'.
Many folk believe that the cats could be a remnant from prehistoric times. Could it just be possible that these wild cats are still roaming free in modern Britain? And what has been sighted here in the New Forest? Is this the New Forest 'Yeti', yet again?
According to Tatie, several of his friends had spotted the Yeti walking home from the pub one night. (Sorry I'll re-phrase that last sentence) Taties friends were walking home from the pub one night when they spotted the Yeti ( I think I liked it better the first time around. I wonder what it drinks?) . I asked Tatie the obvious question; ' were your friends in an inebriated state, and if so, can we be sure that it wasn't pink elephants they were seeing?' After several seconds thought, Tatie informed me that they were all totally plastered! I rest my case!
Not being one to let sleeping dogs lie I decided to continue with my investigation. Tatie pointed out his friends at the other end of the room, trying to hold the bar still with a gentle leaning action. As we approached them I realised that they were probably in a similar state of intoxication as on the night in question. Determining this state is not easy as most foresters believe that if you can lie on the floor without holding on, you're not drunk!
Several drinks and lengthy conversations later, I found that I was none the wiser about the mystery. However, my old instinct told me that there was something amiss. If I used the information that I had gleaned from Taties' friends I should be looking for a seven foot hairy midget with two heads, eight feet and big ears. There was only one answer to my dilemma and consequently I instigated a fresh search for the thing,....after closing time of course!
In my book, seeing is believing and anyone who has ever seen four men doing the conga whilst looking for the New Forest Yeti certainly wouldn't believe it! After about half a mile or so the much talked about Yeti appeared, right on cue. Taties friends disappeared into the undergrowth shouting and screaming . Tatie and I were totally bewildered as we stood before the seven foot hairy midget with two heads, eight feet and big ears....because it looked remarkably like two small donkeys!
In the cool light of day (and sobriety!) the explanation becomes obvious . What we had come across in the dark was a pair of New Forest donkeys! As Tatie pointed out 'at one time there were hundreds of 'em'. They were bred specifically for the Forest, they were smaller than normal donkeys. Why were they smaller you may well ask? The answer is easy. They bred these small donkeys for use in the nearby treacle mines, didn't they?

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The New Forest has some pretty unique inhabitants, here I'm talking about the animals. The Forest is 900 years old, created by King William the First in 1079 as his private hunting ground, it's around 141,000 acres and the animals who graze here have all the rights. They are owned by foresters who are allowed to graze them here (it's called forest rights and controlled by the Verderers and their court) When you travel through the New Forest on the roads you have to remember that the ponies, donkeys, cows and pigs (the pigs are put out in the autumn to eat the acorns, the acorns kill New Forest ponies if they eat them but not the pigs, it's called pannage. and the right goes back for many hundreds of years) always have the right of way. You have to stop for them as they roam around grazing. In 2009 113 mares(41 killed) and 46 foals(24 killed) were injured in road accidents. More are actually killed by local people driving too fast than tourists.


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Thursday, 9 June 2011

Gathering Nuts in Sway

Sorry, I've had another Victor Meldrew moment today (please check out this link, it's the Honda song!) whilst driving across the forest; I spotted some rubbish that some ******* had fly tipped onto our beautiful forest....and it made me so angry. I stopped and took these pictures because I really couldn't believe it! In the picture with the ponies you can just see the rubbish behind them, this is their home, how could someone do this? My story continues because whilst I was out of the car getting these pics, a Police car arrived in the car park and the officer was taking a great deal of interest in my car (well, Lyn's car actually, before the exhaust fell off yesterday!) As I walked back to the car he turned and approached me. (Seriously, he looked like he was about 12 years old!)
"Are those valuables on your seat Sir? Looks like a camera case?" I opened the car and showed him my glasses case which was empty (I think he was really looking for sweeties!) Joking aside, he was making a serious point about car park thefts in the forest and valuables not being left on display tempting thieves. It was ideal really because he left it open for me to rant on about the fly tipping episode in front of us. I felt a lot better afterwards, he just got into his little panda car and zoomed off. I digress, please read on..
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Fact is often stranger than fiction, so I am told. This could possibly be one of the reasons why I am unearthing strange facts which appear to be fictitious. On a recent expedition to the local library I was fortunate enough to make an accidental discovery, it was a long forgotten recipe for a very rare cookie!
I made the discovery whilst delving into 'Peakes' reference book of commercial 'cookies'. The 'So-So' or 'Suggestive' cookies were actually manufactured here in the New Forest area. In fact they were made in the old part of Sway.
Sway has certainly been put on the map recently but I think that the credit that Sway is now receiving is long overdue. A few hundred and more years ago, Sway was a central part of the Forest's industries and crafts, during that period many tales emerged that are confusingly re-told today. I believe, what I have discovered here is a link with the old Sway story of the 'biscuit quarries'.
The 'cookie' or biscuit that I have come across has even been given a special section in the names section of 'Peakes'. Apparently, it originally got it's name from a reaction of a well respected cookie freak, a certain Mr Fren. When he was asked for his opinion of the Sway biscuit he simply said that it was, "So-So" and the name was born. It's second name 'suggestive' , was a nick name used by the people of Sway when they accidentally discovered that the 'So-So' cookie was quite an acceptable aphrodisiac.
It is thought that the reason for the biscuit having this particular quality is largely due to one local ingredient, the Sway nut. Now it's simply a myth but once there were vast quantities of these nuts around Sway (there are still a few people who believe that Sway may still has some nuts today). The nut was supposed to have been found deep underground and could only have been commercially available if quarried.
The most likey location for the quarry would have been behind the old ale house known locally as the Three Horseshoes in Pitmore Lane. In some of the old documents there are a few hints of the 'Sway nuts', in this area. The nuts were a little like monkey nuts in shape except that on 'Sway nuts' the shell was also regarded as part of the nut itself.
The men who quarried the nuts became known locally as 'Sway nutters' and were always well respected by others in the local community. The nuts were usually transported to the bakery which, in those days, was situated in 'Back lane', Sway. It was here that the ancient recipe was used to make the cookies. Obviously another prime ingredient in the cookies were the leaves of the sugardii treacaldii (Treacle plant), which enhanced the final flavour.
When the secondary properties of the Sway cookies became widely known the local people found it hard to meet the rising demand, ( and the baking powder shortage didn't help)! During the 1850's the cookies were being exported around the world. Eventually the quarry dried up around 1865 and the cookie faded away.
As I said at the beginning, fact is stranger than fiction, who would have believed that a small New Forest village such as 'Sway' could have contributed so much to the countries economy? Who indeed...?


Recipe for Sway 'suggestive' Cookies
To make 18 cookies:- Ingredients;
4oz Plain Flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4oz semolina
4oz butter
4oz sugardii treacadii
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of milk
3oz Sway nuts
Bake for 20 25 minutes at 375F
Enjoy !

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Ze Mad Professor

I was wondering how many of you had managed to make my 'So So or suggestive cookies' from my last post? It's a great cookie recipe.
There I was wondering what I should blog about next as Lyn drove us back from our daughters; as we approached our little village we were stopped by the three way traffic lights that we have had to suffer for the last three weeks and I noticed that Gas company ( it was their hole!) had finished their roadworks but left the signals, signs and barriers in place over the weekend( and still in place today) . Victor Meldrew came over me again! What's the point of traffic lights and barriers when there is no hole? There was a hole and it was reported that that some Gas workers had actually been seen working there ( Though neither Lyn nor I have ever seen seen anyone working here in the last three weeks!) . Please zoom in on the picture and you will see that they have finished their works and refilled the hole and re-tarmacked it and replaced the white lines! But still the traffic lights, barriers and inconvenience. I don't believe it. (it must be good because Lyn stole it and put it on her blog! That's her in the little black car coming around the obstruction!)

I thought that as my blog has been up and running for three weeks I should pay homage to my initial thoughts, the 'Treacle Mines' ....! But with a new Twist, 'Ze Mad Professatory'.




If you go down to the woods today. Sway Treacle Mining

There is no doubt about it, I live in a pretty strange part of the world. Don't get me wrong, I love it here, I've lived here since I was a small boy. The New Forest is a beautiful part of the U.K. and as a result it has attracted over the years some pretty wonderful people. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had a house in the forest and Alice Liddle (Alice in Wonderland) is buried in Lyndhurst Churchyard. But there are stranger stories that I have heard which definitely need further investigation. Sway Treacle Mines is one such tale.
Each time I've heard the tale told, the listener usually has a peculiar grin which is then followed by a strange chicken-like-laughter known as chuckling (if you've never heard a chicken laugh you need to get here soon!) I must confess that the first time I heard the tale I suffered the same symptoms. However, since receiving a mysterious phone call last Sunday I fear that my laughter may have been a little premature.
The phone call was from a Mr Tate, a resident of Sway for many years. He asked me to meet him at a secret location, where, he said 'the truth of the myth would be proved'.
I met Mr Tate late last Monday, just before dusk outside of Setthorns enclosure. He then led me to the secret location, about a mile into the enclosure, he then turned and led me to a small bush like shrub and beckoned me closer. 'This is it!' He explained. 'This is the key to the story. This is the missing plant of the Forest - the treacaldii suagardii'!
Not being an expert on such matters, I enquired why nobody else had ever mentioned the existence of such a plant. Mr Tate explained that the plant name had been removed from all records during the eighteenth century. The reason for this was because of the conspiracy set up by the sugar importers. The plant has a very sweet flavour and a natural stickiness, the sugar importers feared that if such a plant were to become widespread, then obviously their business would suffer.
When I asked Mr Tate how he had come to know of such a plant, he admitted that he had been searching for it constantly for the last 50 years. He'd come to know of it's existence from his grandfather, a My Llyle, who had sworn him to secrecy during his lifetime.
I took a closer look at this amazing plant and discovered that it was, in fact, slowly but surely dying. Mr Tate said that this was probably due to the light - the opening in the tree cover had only recently occurred and the extra light was not helping the rare plants survival.
The myth of the treacle mines themselves was explained: A few members of the New Forest community started to dig holes within the woods, the holes would then be covered and camouflaged and the forbidden plant grown within them. A rare blend of black market treacle followed which was richly sought after.
Unfortunately, the black market treacle smugglers were to come to a sticky end! The sugar importers employed a group of men known as the 'trafia', their job was to seek out and destroy all 'mines' and their plants. Needless to say, they were very successful and the 'treacaldii sugardii' was not seen or heard of again, until now of course.
Mr Tate and myself took the precaution of removing this last plant from the forest floor to protect it from prying eyes and heavy feet. I hope that Mr Tate will have success in propagating further plants and, who knows, there could well be treacle mines in Sway once more.
Sway is a wonderful place. I'm going to show you around it here today, This picture on the right was taken in Setthorns and this one here is taken at Longslade bottom.




Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Made in Sway

Hey, this was not really a Victor moment but I did get quite annoyed at the health and safety implications when I first saw this sign. It is new and stating the bleeding obvious! Yep It's water and the ducks and swans were quite happy with it as their habitat of choice. We are all 90% water, it needs qualifying; -Deep water! Smelly water! Radioactive Water! Salt Water! Water to walk on! Wet Water! Sticky Water! Drinking Water! Bottled Water! Heavy Water! Sparkling Water! What's wrong with our water? I'm going to filter everything from now on!
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Check out Lyn here assembling her Ikea shelf.......There is hope for us all...

I recently came across this old New Forest map that includes some of the areas around Sway as they were. It really is quite interesting.
I've received quite a few defamatory comments about the infamous 'Sway Treacle Mines'. As far as I can make out there seems to be some doubt about the existence of the 'mines'. I'm quite concerned that so many people can doubt the truth of such a claim. The seed of doubt has even spread to my local watering hole where I am now met with glib remarks such as "Twaddle....Mines twern't at Setthorns anyhow, they were in the caves behind Sway Docks!" This is usually followed by shrieks of mirth and merriment from the surrounding entourage and further cravings for treacles sandwiches. However, joking aside, it has occurred to me that even these spurious remarks may indeed, have some truth.Many myths and legends are expanded with the 'telling' through many generations Perhaps there were caves? And perhaps they were behind Sway docks?It could be argued that now the location of the caves is known then perhaps the location of the so-called docks is nearby. The shot to the left is coming down to the lake from the northern shores near the treacle mines.
Could it be possible that in the past, Wooton stream was actually a river?Could the original course of this river have run up around Yew Tree bottom and into Longslade bottom? If this was the case then Longslade would have made a magnificent harbour area and would probably had docks at some stage. Admittedly this would have been before the treacle mines, -but you must agree, - it is possible. If this was the case then the course of Avon water would've run right past the sight of the treacle mines. The docks may have been cut out directly behind the caves to make them harder to find.
Even in Elizabethan times it was rumoured that the Queen had ordered certain sites (docks) 'to be made ready' for the building of ships to defend the realm against the forthcoming Armada. The location of these sights was kept secret , nothing was recorded for fear of Spanish spy's. In fact, the threat of espionage was so great that even Elizabeth herself was never told of the locations!
If you take Bucklers Hard and it's shipbuilding as an example, it is easy to see how inland shipbuilding came about. Bucklers Hard was probably a later version of Sway docks. After all the forest's trees were sought after for this purpose. Sway would've been an ideal location.
Another peculiar thing is Sway Tower which is a well known landmark and point of reference but how many people would've ever questioned the wisdom of building a lighthouse inland. I know that it doesn't look like a lighthouse but that was because of the planning delays (yes, even in those days)! It was originally conceived in 1586 but nobody was prepared to allow such a 'Monstrosity' to be built in Sway and the whole project was shelved. Of course, when it was built the waters had receded and Mr Peterson took the credit.
There is is even an obscure reference to the possibility of 'Shipbuilding in Sway' in JAY's nautical almanac. The almanac mentions a warship named 'Hinclelslea' making way down the Avon water in 1588 to defeat the approaching Armada.

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Thursday, 12 May 2011

Sway Towers over the World


My Victor Meldrew moment today! That annoying advert currently running on UK TV which tag lines the phrase 'Wake up Happy!'( It's an online Hotel booking chain) Please leave him alone, whats he done that the others didn't have a hand in, I refer to Bashful, Doc, Dopey Grumpy, Sleepy & Sneezy...Leave Happy Alone!!
Lets start again... Today I'm still in love with Sway, after yesterday my faith has been renewed in this beautiful forest village. Lyn and I live just a few miles away from it and it has a very famous claim to fame in these modern times. I am referring to Sway Tower, the tallest non re-in forced concrete structure in the world, it is 220ft tall.
Locally it has been claimed as the eighth wonder of the world. It can only be Sway Tower. Rumour has it that the architect of the tower had gained his experience building over 50 churches, and he is certainly responsible for one of the finest Renaissance Cathedrals in Europe, St Paul's in London. Sir Christopher Wren was born in 1632 and was originally an astronomer. Of course many people are aware that Sway Tower was actually built by Mr Peterson between 1879 and 1885. There were actually two towers built, the smallest is here on the right.
There are many legends about the 220ft high tower and the most well known says that Peterson had the tower built as a tomb in which he would be buried, some say at the top and others say at the bottom. Not so well known is the story of Mr Peterson's assistant, a certain Sir Christopher Wren ( mathematicians please note he would have been a sprightly 247 years young at this time!) Legend has it that Peterson consulted Wren on numerous occasions during the tower building using the services of a medium! Without his help Peterson's Tower would probably have fallen years ago because the foundations were amended by Wren when he found them unsuitable for supporting the structure. Who Knows? Perhaps the dome at the top of the tower is a hint from the mysterious architect?
I just think that Peterson's idea for this folly, building it with walls over 2 feet thick out of concrete in the 1880's is the mark of an innovator who deserves recognition for all the tall concrete structures that have followed. He may have been a little eccentric and devout but it's people like Peterson who pushed out human boundaries. When Sway Tower was completed in 1885 it was the tallest concrete structure in the world! It still remains the tallest un re-inforced concrete structure in the world today. Built 126 years ago and it's still standing !


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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Another Phegnominal Tale


Today I had another weird moment, it was really a League of Gentlemen Royston Vasey Moment when I spotted a sign about gravel, not just any gravel; Local gravel....! It appears that we now have to fear gravel rustling! The sign clearly reads ' Local Gravel for Local People'. I'm really not sure that all my gravel is entirely local, shock horror, I may be harbouring foreign gravel! How about you ? Is this an offense? How can I tell where the Gravel has come from? It's all very worrying.
I haven't posted for a few days now but I think I can be absolved after my shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) experience. Yep, Lyn cooked Pancakes, take a look at the two vids at the end of this post.
The mysteries of the universe are unfolding before me and questions are being asked.The interesting ones are the more challenging, historical questions. Who were the Treacle thieves of Sway? Who pulled the plug out of Longslade lake? Invariably, whilst struggling to find the answers to these questions I have uncovered more hidden treasures.
On Sunday whilst exploring the inner sanctum of Wilverly Inclosure I happened to come across another 'cave'.My immediate reaction was to check for the Illustrious 'treacldii sugaraldii' (treacle plant), but it soon became evident that this cave had a different occupier.
The cave was neatly hidden beneath a large oak and it's two foot entrance was obscured by brushwood. Unfortunately I was not able to squeeze into this entrance but I could see that there were other entrances within the small cave. The most peculiar thing was the abundance of footprints around the entrance. These were not animal prints as you would expect but small child prints.
This fascinating find could give some credibility to another little known Forest legend. The original Forest dwellers were thought to have been 'little people' , in fact many real Foresters are still convinced of their existence.
Names such as 'Pixie Field' and 'Pixie Mead' were quite common around the area a hundred years ago. Odder than that was the large barrow on Beaulieu Common which was locally known as 'Pixie's Cave' , a place feared by many local inhabitants.
There are many rumours about these' little people', a lot of which are conflicting. I gather that they are shy, timid people. They range in height from 12 - 18 inches but their most phegnomenal attribute is their incredible lifespan which is usually around 400 years!
The 'little people ' are hard working , earthy characters who worship only mother nature herself. Being strict vegetarians , they love and care for all animals.
They are mainly active during the twilight hours and are easily recognised by their bright red caps. These caps form an intricate part of their uniform and require regular grooming. Their physiology is similar to ours but for certain differences, they have greater speed and strength. This is probably why they have always eluded capture by us mere mortals!
The best time to 'capture' one of the 'little people' is after a nights entertaining. This is when they are most vulnerable, if there is one thing that they love, it's a good party. The demon drink plays a large part in their lives, along with their well known love of 'pipe smoking'.
Always remember that our failure to capture these sprites of the earth has caused us to immortalize them in a more concrete fashion. How many people do you know with Gnomes in their gardens? Fishing Gnomes, pipe smoking Gnomes, or even drinking Gnomes?
I believe that the best way to catch one of 'little people' is by gate crashing one of their parties. New Forest Gnomes are reported to be very hospitable. I know where to look and I know when to look. Their impish ways and my curiosity should make an entertaining tale. Oh,to be in England when the sun shines again! Who needs Leprechauns anyway?
I'm off down the road for a Guinness now! Check out these Pics here ......

This is Lyn and Me drinking Guiness.... in the.... Guiness factory at St James's Gate, Dublin......sheer Guiness genius.......I told her it was a new Irish craft shop! And it was, they stamped your hand after every drink! Happy St Patricks day to everyone.




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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Metal Mickey fights back...

WOW! Who would have thought that anyone would bother to read my inane scribblings...? And I've even got some followers, thank you all very,very much for that, I really do appreciate it. I'll try to keep my rants short and sweet in the future.
Today, my Victor Meldrew moment was in Tesco's car park. Did my shopping, no problem but when I got back to the car... some lovely considerate person had decided to park so close to me that I couldn't get into the drivers seat without going on a very fast diet! I know I need to lose a few pounds but this was ridiculous. I had to climb across the passenger seat in the end. I did check the top of the car to make sure that there wasn't a giant arrow pointing down at it with a big sign above saying 'this one.' There wasn't. I just don't believe it.
Have you ever woken up in the middle of a dream to find that you've not really been dreaming? It seems to give an odd feeling of deja-vu.
I recently had this experience when I was pulled from my slumbers by Lyn. I sub-consciously believed she was talking to a machine called 'Mickey'.
'C'mon Mickey', she shouted: 'Work properly'. In a sleep hazed state I stumbled into the kitchen to find her holding this conversation with the washing machine which had casually been named 'Metal Mickey'.
In our household this is not unusual (those of you who follow her blog will know what I mean! You can check it out here.) !
I suppose I should have realised there was something amiss when we started dating. The streaks of insanity were blossoming even at that early stage.
Lyn quickly named our first car, a Morris (jelly mould) Minor, Alfred. Ever since then our vehicles have received their very own personalised names.
Lyn's motorcycles were called fantastic names such as Benjamin (Benjy for short) - an aging Honda 50 and then Rory - a slightly faster Honda 175.
My bikes always seemed to receive rather more bland names like 'Bill' - not much inspiration there - and of course 'Ben'. An old Austin we once owned was promptly named 'Bertsie', when I asked the reason for this name she simply told me: 'Because it looks like a Bertsie'!
Lyn's particular brand of logic- what logic? - Has eluded me ever since....
From Lyn's point of view and after many years of naming vehicles it was a totally logical step to take - I am referring to her latest craze of naming domestic appliances.
There are probably many other people out there with a similar affliction. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any cure so my advice is simple - humour them - if you dare?
'What's the matter with Mickey'? I enquired sleepily.
' The silly old thing won't spin', she replied. 'I think he's been talking to Tommy the tumble dryer'.
It transpired that Lyn believed Mickey was taking industrial action because of fears he may be made redundant. What we have here in laymans terms is a strike!
It was certainly true that we had contemplated putting Mickey 'out to grass' after many years of useful service and rust was starting to slow him down.
My beloved continued her grovelling conversation with Mickey. 'Don't you worry we'll find you a nice new home'.
I had already decided on Mickeys fate. It was the jealous streak in me that decided on a short trip down to the tip! There must be many machines who have found a happy home down there !
I was certainly not going to let this heap of tin and bolts drag my dearest away from me... especially at 2am in the morning!
It was at this point that Mickey attacked me without any provocation. He flung his door wide open which hit me hard in the shin and then spewed his remaining water all over my foot.
I retaliated immediately and kicked the door shut again. At this point Lyn took umbrage, 'If you two are going to fight then I'm going back to bed', and off she went.
As I dried my foot I felt a little peckish, I opened Freddie the fridge and attacked a small piece of cheese, I took a seat in front of Mickey and tried to out stare the one-eyed monster.
It felt like an hour or more before they built up enough courage for the assault. Tommy crept up slowly behind me and Mickey came head on.
Freddie rammed into my side whilst Tommy pushed me into Mickey's doorway..
I panicked and kicked to try and free my head from Mickey's mouth but I was stuck firm....
'Wake up.....John..... wake up'! Screamed Lyn.
'What? What's happening...?' I queried. Lyn just burst into a fit of laughter at my question.
'For goodness sake', I shouted: 'Get this bedside cabinet off my head - will you'?
'Hey, what was that under the bed that I put my foot in......?'



Wednesday, 13 April 2011

New Forest Grockle Hunting


Sorry I haven't posted for some time but I've been a little busy building Lyn's new craft room, check out her blog for details. That's left her old craft room free so I thought I'd use it as my little den, well somewhere to write really (I've been working off the coffee table). Just writing these blogs has re-ignited my passion, I scribbled many years ago for a local paper and the county mag of the time and I did a few pieces for the classic motorcycles magazine (yes, I was a long hairy biker at one stage!) and I just stopped, don't really know why but I do vividly remember writing about a character that I just couldn't get right and I became really involved with him, I guess I took the easy route and walked away but now with the passing of time I feel more confident about starting again (at the time of course, I also had a couple of lovely children demanding attention and they were always going to win), so I'm going to have another go before I really do turn into my Nemesis, Victor Meldrew....... Have a look at my den building efforts so far, I've made the desk and shelves from an old wardrobe that eldest daughter left behind ( waste not, want not in these hard economic times) and I'm quite happy with the result. The desk top is actually the two doors, shortened. The front is the back of the wardrobe turned round, the end support is one of the sides, the L shelf adjoining the desk top is the floor of the wardrobe and on the left wall (you may not see it all) are two wall shelves, the smaller one is the remains of the doors and the higher one is the whole of one side cut down to shelf size. Enough of my excuses, on with the business of the day.
With the Easter holidays looming on the horizon, it would seem to be an ideal opportunity to educate everyone on the ancient art of 'Grockling'. This ritual certainly dates back to the Victorian times or even earlier. An ancient song titled 'A Grockling we will go...', gives some indication about the duration of the annual migratory habit. Those who are unfamiliar with this ancient practice may need some guidance on 'Grockling'. Well look no further, here it is!
In the west country they are lovingly referred to as 'Emmets', an Emmet being the Cornish word for a large ant. They received this title because of their amazing technique for marching into holiday resorts in armies and completely infesting all of the local shops and streets. Further east, theses same creatures have a different name, here they are called 'Piles'. Why 'Piles'? Good question and from what I have gathered through a local yokel of the vicinity, a rough translation would be; 'because they come out in bunches and they're a pain in the ........nether regions!
Here in the New Forest and surrounding areas we call them 'Grockles', - or 'Grocks' for short. Nobody is quite sure how this term entered our local dialect although I have discovered that it first originated on the Isle of Wight. In recent years the term 'Grockle' has been understood, by a great many people, to refer to particular section or group of people. They are, of course, our much welcomed holiday maker or visitor and as Easter approaches I've already spotted a few (saw a tall lad with tats and no shirt on wandering in our mecca, Lyndhurst, about a week ago).
'Grockle' hunting can be quite a rewarding hobby. Some of their habits can be irritating but easily spotted. When in the Forest they like to drive at 20 - 25 mph (the New Forest pretty much has a max speed of 40mph everywhere these days, except in built up areas where it's usually 30mph) , each of the cars occupants likes to maintain a glassy stare out of the windows and the driver tends to swerve erratically to maintain his illusion of reality. When the first pony is spotted (the ponies wander all over the forest including the roads and always have right of way over vehicles) the driver will automatically hit the brakes, regardless of the traffic backed up behind him/her and all of the occupants will jump out of the car, cameras in hand, to worry the life out of the poor thing (parents seem to like their kids to touch and feed them which is against forest bylaws because it teaches the ponies that unknown people will feed them and when they don't get fed they will kick. Many visitors are injured each season by ponies)
Real 'Grockles', as opposed to weekenders, have many distinctive features which will help the initiate 'Grockler' to identify them. True 'Grocks' have their own uniform; flip-flops or sandals, shorts that they wouldn't dream of wearing if they were at home and a short sleeved shirt with some obnoxious comment emblazoned across it.To complete the uniform they like to wear sunglasses (even when it's raining) and a peculiar naff hat. The finishing touch is done with hands, they are happily occupied carrying either ice cream or fish and chips and frequently both!
The female attire is often more practical, perhaps new high heeled shoes (ideal for forest walks), new striped dress, new white cardigan and, of course, an enormous new handbag. The handbag is essential for carrying the 'Grockling' kit; sun tan lotion, after sun lotion and artificial sun tan lotion (in case the first two don't work)!
The like and dislikes of the 'Grockle' are worth pondering. They do seem to like queueing, it doesn't matter what for? It's the actual queueing that excites them most. As a word of warning, never stop and talk to a friend in the high street because you may find 'Grocks' queueing behind you! They also like to talk aloud, especially about their dislikes. They dislike our 'heavy air' (whatever that is?), they dislike our property prices but worst of all they dislike our ale. This is indeed sacriledge in my view!
On the other hand I have to admit that I do have a small amout of admiration for 'Grockling' . I believe that it is now a traditional British way of life. I, for one, am always pleased to meet 'grockles' because we have so much in common. What do we have in common? Well for two or three weeks of the year, I am also a 'Grockle, Emmet or Pile'! How about you ? Now........where are my Bermuda shorts and loud Hawaiian shirt?