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28 December 2013
Christmas at the castle

This year Rosemary and I headed in different directions for Christmas, she to her daughter's in Sheffield and me to Tw's in Birmingham.

Tw lives in
Weoley Castle and the baronial hall was overflowing with good cheer and guests over the festive season. I arrived on the 23rd joining Iain, Nicky and Sasha already resident.

Sasha just has to try on the colander

of course Iain can't be left out of something that is this much fun

a brace of partridge defly stuffed into a brace of pheasant by tw

DjSasha on the decks





apple pie

the gnomes get into the festive spirit

Next day we walk down to Weoley Castle

Well fenced in so it can't escape

Then over to Honda and Vicky's

to see their new house

In the evening to The Bell at Harbourne but escaped before the carols. Veggie stir fry [with steam]

Christmas day, time to try out our pressies. Tw starts his gps data logger

Cj sets the time on his phone by reference to his new pocket sundial

We trace the line of the Dudley Number 2 canal

All the way to tw's back door

We construct our traditional xmas pizza



20 December 2013
Christmas is not just for gnomes

Christmas is not just for gnomes

Down to London for the last Cheesists meeting of the year. Also an opportunity to visit another of the London Shh, Small historic houses. This time it was to Hampstead and the Freud Museum in Maresfield Gardens.

It may just have been the season, but this was the busiest of the houses I have visited and had lots to see. Freud and his family lived there for the last year of his life after he had escaped from Nazi occupied Austria in 1938.

What was remarkable was that not only had he been able to leave but that his entire library, collection of antiquities and furniture was also shipped to London. This was all re-assembled in its new home just as it had been in Vienna. Including his psychoanalytic couch.

Including his psychoanalytic couch [museum photograph].

After Freud's death, the house continued to be occupied by his daughter Anna where she continued with her father's practice. Often working on her loom or knitting while her patients regaled her with their musings. The house became a museum on her death in 1982.

It was interesting to see 'footage' on 16mm film of Freud with his grandchildren including Lucian Freud.

The Freud Museum at 20 Maresfield Gardens


Still a bit early to head off to meet The Cheesistsat Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese so got off the tube at Bond Street and walked down Oxford Street through the Christmas shopping crowds.

Met up with Tom

Soon joined by my cousins Peter and Ian and nephew Michael

11 December 2013
Murmuration II

Thomas came over for the weekend and we had a good session in the workshop making christmas presents, went to a performance of the Messiah by Eboracum Baroque in University Church of St. Mary AND we went over to Otmoor Nature reserve to experience the starling murmuration.

Eboracum Baroque is a small group of young [less than 25 years] singers and musicians. Although small in number, they made up for this with their youth so produced a tremendous sound and the small size of the troupe led to precise timing.

By contrast the starlings were a multitudinous troupe and darkened the sky as they passed over. There was a large audience for this too and one small boy was heard to remark to his mother; 'Oh mummy! look at the darlings'. Summed it up rather well I thought.

Of course we had lots of discussion about the shapes and coherence of the flock. [err murmuration] Deciding that human brains joined things up whether they were associated or not but marvelled at the spectacle whatever. A little science here and here and here.

RSPB Otmoor Nature reserve


The sun sets

The first starlings arrive

Joined by more









4 December 2013

Last time I was in London, I stayed over an extra day to do more of my London Shh, Small historic houses project. This involved going over to Hammersmith to see the William Morris house [only open on Thursdays] and the Emery Walker house at 7 Hammersmith Terrace [only open on, mostly, Saturdays].

Hammersmith suspension bridge

The Blue Anchor

Emery Walker house at 7 Hammersmith Terrace

Low water so lots of mud



William Morris house

William Morris society in the coach house

One of William Morris's Albion presses. But not this one.

Moored back at Greenford

30 November 2013
Rustic entertainments

Paul and Ali, ever my mentors in activities alcoholic and secular took me with them to the pre-christmas open day up at the XT brewery. Just the thing to lighten these dark November days. As we are old hands at this we came well wrapped up as for an assault on the North face which made it all the more enjoyable.

Rather predictably, I went for my winter favourite, XT FOUR. This is 3.8% ABV and a 'mellow amber beer with a special Belgian malt and a fruity mix of American and European hops. Very addictive, and our flagship beer.'

Paul settled for the XT 25 their XMAS Ale at 4.7% ABV, 'A festive rosey red ale, with English Golding and New Zealand Wakatau hops for a top to bottom winter warmer. Uses a very slow cold fermentation technique in the German Altbier tradition

Ali likes something a bit hoppy so she had XT XPA at 5.9% ABV, 'An American IPA brewed with crisp, clean extra pale malts and more hop additions than any of our other beers. Plus a cooler, slower fermentation for a really special hop forward flavour.'

We garnered lunch on locally produced sausages from Orchard View farm.



Locally produced sausages from Orchard View farm

and this one is for a person with a gnomic obsession

On our way home, we stopped off at The Pointer Butchers up in Brill village. Excellent meat and game locally sourced.

To round off the afternoon, we headed for Otmoor RSPB nature reserve to watch the murmeration of starlings as they came in to roost in the reedbeds.



By now we were ready for a final brew before heading home. This meant the Abingdon Arms in Beckley and Brakspear's beers. This is a favourite watering hole with us as we usually stop in here on our way home from concerts in Oxford.

One of the things I particularly like about this pub is that their gents toilet is outside. In fact, it is in the small white building to the right of the pub that you can see in the youtube sequence on their homepage. This knowledge just might provide some innocent amusement to those with the leisure to watch this exciting clip.

26 November 2013
Updikean Philosophy

As you know I am a great fan of John Updike, who gets quoted throughout these pages, well here is another one from his novel Couples. Which could be an allegory for the whole novel. Piet's daughter Ruth wakes him in the night to tell him that their pet hamster is not in his cage and that she is too afraid to look. Piet goes downstairs to find the dead hamster with 'the dairy cat watching at a distance, both cowardly and righteous, behind the rungs of the kitchen chair.'

Piet goes downstairs to find the dead hamster

'The adventure was easy to imagine. Ruth, feeling that her pet needed more room for running, suspecting cruelty in the endless strenuousness of the wheel, not believing with her growing mind that any creature might have wits too dim to resent such captivity, had improvised around his tiny cage a larger cage of window screens she had found stacked in the attic waiting for summer. She had tied the frames together with string and Piet had never kept his promise to make her a stronger cage.'

Later his wife Angela called him at work:

'I called to ask you to meet Ruth after school and drive to the pet shop in Lacetown for a new hamster. I think we should do it instantly'

Magic. The new hamster by sleight of hand would become the old one, the one mouldering nose-down underneath the scilla.

The old one mouldering nose-down

A religion of genteel pretence. The idea of a hamster persists, eternal. Plato. Piet was an Aristotelian. He said he couldn't possibly do it.'

cjl0165 cjl0168
The new hamster by sleight of hand becomes the old one


25 November 2013
Newtown Rocksteady


Our friend Gareth tells us that he has just released his first music video.

Very good it is too. You can watch it here, download it here and read all about here in the Wairarapa Times-Age.

Thats 'im with the beard and the trombone.

17 November 2013
Why Ruskin?


Our friend Jim has just left for the States. He has an interesting website dedicated to John Ruskin and I have linked to it from the Interactive topics on this site.

One of these days I will try to unpack the nest of coincidences that resulted in John Ruskin leading me to the United States and my first degree at the State University of New York, College at Cortland.

That story is mostly about Van Burd, my mentor, friend and paradigm for living sanely in a mad world.

I referred to the start of my journey to the States in these pages a long time ago, when this site was mostly a cookbook. Searching for a recipe for Stuffing, still gets you a story about the sea voyage to New York.

16 November 2013
Christmas presents

About this time last year, we reported that Santa was busy in his workshop making Christmas presents. Well he is at it again. Like last year, what he is making is a secret but we can reveal what he made last year.

He did give a hint which was that more was taken away than remained and that they were made with green oak. Last year's presents were rustic bowls.

Rustic bowls

Turning the green oak was great fun but the workshop suffered somewhat as the humidity level shot right up and all his tools went rusty. This was the first outing for the new bowl turning chuck bought from Axminster Tools. Using it, only one bowl blank went flying past his head which was a big improvement on his former rather shaky bowl holding methods.

Green oak streamers

This year features the new chuck again but using seasoned oak bought from Good Timber. You will have to wait until next year to find out just what he made.

15 November 2013

This is what the Newburyport Daily News had to say about Sarah's award.



Newburyport High School teachers Sarah Leadbeater and Spencer Wolf were honored recently as "Teachers of the Year." Leadbeater was named Masstech Teacher of the Year and Wolf was recognized as the state's German Educator of the Year.

Sarah Leadbeater and Spencer Wolf        Bryan Eaton/Staff Photo

November 15, 2013
NHS teachers earn statewide accolades

By Greg Phipps Correspondent

NEWBURYPORT - Newburyport High School technology instructor Sarah Leadbeater and German Language teacher Spencer Wolf recently earned statewide recognition for their efforts in the classroom.

Leadbeater, in her ninth year teaching at Newburyport High, was presented with the Massachusetts Technology Education/Engineering Collaborative award for outstanding educational leadership in the promotion of technology and engineering. A graduate of Syracuse University with a degree in industrial design, Leadbeater teaches classes that include Computer Aided Design (CAD), web design, robotics, and industrial design.

'My classes are predominantly hands-on, and involve my students working on a variety of projects while I bounce back and forth around the room, answering questions and helping them individually with whatever problems arise,' she said. 'Over the years, I've also been involved with a number of special projects and competitions.'

Among those competitions was a robotic sailing contest held last year, for which a team of her students prepared for several months.

'They had an amazing week at the competition,' Leadbeater said. 'We even managed to take second place overall in the one meter competition, despite the tragic, but hilarious, sinking of our boat during one of the final events. In the past five years, Leadbeater has also advised students competing in the Real World Design Challenge, where students must solve an aviation problem.

'We've won the state competition twice and actually took second place nationally our first year,' she said.

Currently working to earn a master's degree in digital media from Northeastern University, Leadbeater, who's been teaching for 11 years, said she didn't initially set out to become a teacher but she's done a lot of learning herself since entering the profession.

'I had an opportunity to teach at New Hampton (NH) School while a permanent staff member was on sabbatical,' she said. 'I had so much fun that I went and took the state teacher exam on a whim. The best part about teaching is the energy and enthusiasm of my students. When they get passionate about something, their enthusiasm is contagious. There are so many things I can point to and say that I only learned how to do it because I had a student whose enthusiasm pushed me to do so.'

8 November 2013
Massachusetts Technology Education/Engineering Collaborative [MassTEC].

Teacher of the Year award

We are very pleased to be able to record here that Sarah is the recipient of this year's MassTEC Teacher of the Year award. She has done some remarkable things with her students, earlier this year they designed a joysick for a disabled student and more lately they were sailing their one metre autonomous [robotic] sailboat across Boston harbour. Or more properly, they were letting it sail itself across Boston Harbour.

Massachusetts Technology Education/Engineering Collaborative Teacher of the Year

Here is what others had to say about her:

From Charlie Corley, DTE Award Chairman
MassTEC Teacher of the Year Award

At the most recent MassTEC conference Sarah Leadbeater, a Newburyport High School teacher received the MassTEC Teacher of the Year award. Sarah started teaching in Newburyport in 2005 and for the past eight years she has been creating a top of the line technology/engineering program; from developing new courses, to getting students excited about the field of engineering she's been doing it all. As her department head stated in her letter of support 'Sarah goes above and beyond to help her students gain real world technology experience both in and out of the classroom. Her gentle encouragement has proven to be extremely effective as a motivator for the kids. They work hard, learn a lot, and go on to apply what they have learned in college and beyond.'

Outside the classroom she has coached a Real World Design team and is presently working on developing The RoboSail Competition with other technology/engineering teachers.

This competition is open to anyone who would like to participate.

Again, congratulations to Sarah for receiving the MassTEC Teacher of the Year award.

From Newburyport High School website

MassTEC conference of technology teachers at Fitchburg State University honored NHS teacher, Sarah Leadbeater, with the MassTech teacher of the year award for the state of Massachusetts, on Monday, October 21, 2013. Sarah brought two NHS students to the conference to promote and explain their Sailboat project and competition (robotic sailboat) to other teachers in the state. Congratulations, Sarah!!


From MassTEC Express November 2013 Volume 5 Issue 2
Newburyport High School Presents at MassTEC Conference

Two Newburyport students joined over 200 technology-engineering educators at the annual conference of the Massachusetts Technology Education/ Engineering Collaborative. The MassTEC 2013 Conference,'Technology/Engineering: Today's Future', was held at Fitchburg State University.

NHS junior, Mark Landergan, and sophomore, Alec Reduker, were two of only three student presenters. They joined their technology-engineering teacher, Sarah Leadbeater, to discuss the educational experience they and their fellow team members gained by participating in Sailbot last June. The weeklong International Sailbot Regatta hosted by Olin College was held in Gloucester Harbor.

The NHS team joined 5 other high school and 9 university teams.

The challenge was to design and build a robotic model sailboat, which could sail autonomously in traditional race events. The boat needed to be engineered to take in information about wind, location, and bearing, make decisions about sail trim and course and then generate control signals for on-board servo motors to control the rudder and sails.

The Newburyport Education Foundation underwrote the cost of participating and local businessman, David Simkins of Rhumb Line Yacht Sales, coached the NHS team on the science of sailing.

The NHS team finished second behind the team from Albermarle High School (VA) in the one-meter class. Landergan and Reduker spoke with enthusiasm about the knowledge and skills they acquired from this engineering and science challenge. They answered technical questions raised by attendees and encouraged teachers to start teams in their schools to participate in a new regatta event planned for the spring.

RoBoSail 2014 is a similar competition to Sailbot being planned by a group of area teachers. The venue for this regional regatta has yet to be identified, but this new event will be for high school age students.

Teams of students will be challenged to design and build a boat up to one meter in length, which can sail autonomously. Race events will be based on

traditional sailing races and tasks, such as sailing a marked course or maintaining a lookout station. Teams will need to learn and apply the science of sailing, the strategy of navigation, and the technology involved in controlling a robotic device.

The intent is to foster the development of knowledge, skills, and interest in engineering and science in a fun, engaging way. RoboSail 2014 is seeking both a venue and events sponsors.

To learn more, contact Sarah Leadbeater at Newburyport High School (978-465-4440) or email:



  16 October 2013

The Cheesists at the Cheese

This trip gave me a chance to make progress on some outstanding bits of essential boat maintenance as well as fit in a visit to John Wesley's house and catch up with Per and Marit at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

John Wesley's house turned out to be far more interesting than I had expected. Wesley lived the last eleven years of his life in this house and after his death, in 1791, his followers kept it much as it was when he was alive. This meant that it contained his furniture and fittings and so gave a period and a personal feel to the building.

I liked his drawing room very much with its long cased clock and electrostatic generator. The latter used to 'relieve' his parishioner's headaches and visions.

My favourite exhibit though was the case containing a set of decorated 'trenchers' that Wesley had given as a wedding present. The trenchers are wooden disks about 15 cm in diameter, painted with a floral motif with a paragraph of [indecipherable to me] writing on them. The curators had thoughtfully transcribed the words which were elucidated in a photocopied sheet. Unfortunately, there seems to be no other record of what the disks say so I can only paraphrase the first one from memory.

If ye be a young man, then ye be too young, if old then you should know better. For young women will not be changed and old women are good for nought.

The others continued in the same misogynist vein.

John Wesley's house


John Wesley's statue

Having looked round the house I decided that it was still a bit too early to repair immediately to the Cheshire Cheese so set off to walk to The Strand as there were some things I wanted from the Maplin store there. [Seems I stop there with almost the same regularity that takes me to the pub].

On the way there I passed the Ted Baker shop on Cheapside. Was somewhat amused to find the manekins sporting animal headresses and overjoyed to see a posh knob wearing a badger's head. What more suitable candidate for the badger cull could one imagine?


After doing my bit of shopping, it was time to progress to the cheese, just a short walk down The Strand and on into Fleet Street. Least that is what I thought, except when I went outside what should I see but.....

Along The Strand

NOT The Cheshire Cheese

So this was just a little bit confusing, first of all it wasn't where I expected it to be and also, I had never noticed that it had its name so prominently painted on its front. Still perhaps this could not be seen from street level AND my sense of direction is notoriously bad.

It soon became evident that this was not our Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese but another masquerading imposter. This brought back the shades of our previous visit to the Blue Posts, when Joerg had gone to the other pub with the same name, and with Germanic precision had demanded of us as to just why anyone would name two pubs in the same area with the same name. Ahh! well.

When I related the tale of the badger and other heads to Per and Marit in [the real] Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Per was quick to tell us off a famous Norwegian pop band, Ylvis, and their music video.

I was so impressed with the video, I just had to go back the next day and get better pics of the store. Of course they are playing Ivo and Sj's invented game: Ivo, Ivo what noise does a ..... make.

Ted Baker on Cheapside



Our next Central Line meeting will be Bond Street station on Wednesday 13 October at The Pontefract Castle 73 Wigmore St London, Greater London W1U 1QB. Meeting as usual from 1800.

A bonus if you can make is to join Terry and I at a performance at the South Bank Centre on 26 October, Let freedom ring, a tribute to Martin Luther King. Tickets are still available from the Southbank Centre.

Afterwards we are planning on a pint at The Ship and Shovel.

  14 October 2013

The Cheesists reach Oxford Circus

This was a very convenient station stop to continue my parallel project of visiting some of the London Shh, Small historic houses: 'the lives and legacies of famous London residents through their homes.'

The Handel house at 25 Brook Street is close by and was an interesting visit, being the 18 century London house where Handel lived between 1723 and his death in 1759. The house is furnished with period furniture and has three modern replicas of contemporary harpsicords. The museum occupies the house next door number 23 as well. What was rather good about this was that Jimi Hendrix and his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, had rented an upstairs flat here in the summer of 1968.

The house was well equipped with volunteers to explain the exhibits and direct ones steps through the house. The first room had an introductory video in which a worthy explains how the music of Handel's messiah invokes colours in her brain. I got as far as grey and then moved on to the next room. 'Did you watch the video in the first room?' demanded its denison, 'Oh yes I lied, colourfully'

Then on to the pub on Berwick Street which was just a few meters away from where Cristina works at Calzedonia on Oxford Street. A good cheesist evening at the Blue Posts though we all agreed that the pub had been named after the wrong colour, brown seemingly predominating everywhere. The carpet, the tables, the walls, the paintwork, the tiles, even the beer. Can't imagine what it must have been like when smoking was still allowed in pubs.

Handel's house 25 Brook Street

Our station stop

Oxford Circus

The Blue Posts






Or should it be the Brown Posts

Sociable other customers

Calzedonia, Oxford Street

Our next meeting is by way of a bonus meeting will actually be at The Cheshire Cheese for a change!!

Per and Marrit will be joining us from Norway so it will be good to see those who can make it at 1700 at The Cheshire Cheese on Wednesday 16 October.

It is also a chance for me to fit in another of the historic houses so I will be at the John Wesley house, 49 City Road, EC1Y 1AU at 1500.

Note the earlier times as the house closes at 1600.

John Wesley House

  4 October 2013

In London with Alex

The day after our cheesists meeting, I met up with Alex at King's Place on the Regents canal. Alex had been there for a planning meeting for The Guardian's cartoon and art family day. She has been one of its facilitators since its inception.

Then we set off to the Garden Museum as Alex was thinkig that she might put some of her work in their Christmas exhibition. I remembered going there when I was working, as the Further Education Development agency offices were close by. In those days I decided that my collection of rusty and non-functioning lawn mowers was rather better than theirs so I was looking forward to finding a much improved collection there. Alas I was to be disappointed.

On the way there we were passed by one of the London DUCK tour 'ducks' and obviously put the hex on it as it burst into flames on the river outside parliament the very next day. It is sad to relate that the place where they broke down was very close to where I also had a mechanical failure on Cribbit a few years ago myself.

They did have a few nice gnomes though


Alex sits by Captain Bligh's tomb

The commemoration stone to the founders of the museum,

After the museum, Alex and I strolled along the South bank and this gave me the idea that we would sample the wares at the Ship and Shovel public house. I had discovered this place on my first attempt to view the Franklin house and became more determined to go there with each abortive attempt to view the house. So this was my big chance, the attraction being that it is a Badger brewery pub and although I am great fan of their bottled beer, I had never tried it on draught. Very good it was too, both the Badger and the Fursty Ferret brews.

The Ship and Shovel

By then it was time for a bite to eat which we found on the nearby Villiers street at Fratelli Bufala which just hit the spot before we walked to the Ritz to pick Peter up after his gig.

Past the blue cock again


What could be better for tw than a 'make your own cheese kit' alas the shop was closed

  2 October 2013
Cheesists on the Central Line

Finally managed to gain entrance to the Benjamin Franklin House. This turned out to be a 'theatrical experience' in the empty and dark house. We walked from room to room in the gloom with the daughter of the house from Franklin's time and heard stories of the man from her and projected on the walls of the various rooms.

After the house, a walk, via Trafalgar Square, to our Cheesists meeting at The Tottenham next to Tottenham Street station. Settled in for a pleasant evening fueled by beer from Truman's Brewery. UK Gold and US Pale, both very acceptable brews.

The blue cock in Trafalgar square, anticipating our next station stop

The Tottenham

The view from the pub, Centre Point and the tube and cross rail building works


Mike espouses on the CE European quality mark

When the C and the E are far enough apart for the circles of which they are apart not to touch, then the symbol stands for European Community conformity, if they are closer together then it stands for China Export

Heading for home



Heading for home

Tied up on my new mooring

Our next meeting, will be at at Jason's suggestion of the Blue Posts on the corner of Berwick and Broadwick streets on Wednesday 9 October at 1800.

Do read the rather malicious review in the link above.

The Blue Posts

For those who can join us earlier, meet at the Handel House Museum, 25 Brook Street, W1K 4HB at 1600.

The Handel House

  15 September 2013

Motorscape Banger Rally: Day 7, Sopron to Prague, approximately 245 miles

Three eggs for us to-day and the end of the journey for our teams in Prague.

The official 'end of rally' pic

  13 September 2013

Motorscape Banger Rally: Day 6, Venice to Sopron in Hungary, approximately 345 miles

Three eggs for us to-day but no pics posted of our teams so we will have to make do with this one which shows Jez and Jo from the Burbage Boozers red MGB Roadster at the top of the Vršic Pass. It is the highest mountain pass in Slovenia, with a series of 48 hairpin bends, all of which are numbered.

MGB Roadster at the top of the Vršic Pass

  12 September 2013

Motorscape Banger Rally: Day 5, Bergamo to Venice

Two eggs for us to-day and not much on the rally front either, it being a light day of only two and a half hours driving. Suffice it to say that our intrepid team arrived safely in Venice and will carry on to Sopron in Hungary tomorow and then onto their final destination of Prague the day after.

Raise a glass to the 5-day contestants and winners

Is this a hint for what they really wanted for their fancy dress?

  11 September 2013

Motorscape Banger Rally: Day 4, Feldkirch to Bergamo

Four eggs for us to-day and a nice bacon and egg pie for our evening meal. The rally continues, crossing the Alps into Italy with the evening stop in Bergamo. It would seem that the rarefied air of the Alps has affected competitors and cars as the pics show. Tomorrow, the teams head to Noventa di Piave in Italy (via Venice and the Supercar Museums)

Altitude sickness? More pics on the motorscape rally blog

Errr.. that is the road down there

But not much of a drop to the side

Follow them on the motorscape rally blog

Downhill from now on. Follow them all on the motorscape rally blog

but will going down be any better than going up? We ask


Skip to Day 3

  10 September 2013
Cheesists on the Central Line

At last a Cheesist evening, this time at the Princess Louise at Holborn. Still no luck in my attempts to visit the Benjamin Franklin House as they phoned me late Wednesday afternoon to say that 'due to technical reasons' they were unable to run that day's tour of the house. I have re-booked it for Wednesday 25 September at 1615 so will try again.

The Princess Louise turned out to be a very interesting pub, sadly our pics are pathetic as I am camera-less at the moment, my shockproof and waterproof one succumbing to rampant battery consumption and my non-waterproof one finally giving in to its hard treatment on Snowdon of a few years ago.

Moored by the Black Horse at Greenford in the bright september sunshine


The Princess Louise


Interior, mahogany, plate glass mirrors and entwined hop plants and flowers on the tiles

Some cheesists

The gents is a listed Grade 2 feature

This week the word 'selfie' was officially listed as a new word and entered into the on-line Oxford dictionary

Heading for home

Our next meeting, will be at The Tottenham on Wednesday 25 September 2013 at 1800 and for those who can join us earlier, at the Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven St, WC2N 5NF at 1600. Please book the house tour beforehand yourself if you are able to come to this.

The Tottenham
from Beer in the Evening

Benjamin Franklin House

  10 September 2013

Motorscape Banger Rally: Day 3, Koblenz to Feldkirch

Only ONE egg for us to-day but the Welchs' have arrived in Feldirch, Austria.

Along the banks of the Rhine. Follow them on the motorscape rally blog

Along the banks of the Rhine. Follow them on the motorscape rally blog

The first casualty on the rally. Deemed 'un-safe' by German police and sent to the great car crusher in the sky.
Follow the motorscape rally blog

  9 September 2013

The Motorscape Banger Rally continues apace with our teams reaching Koblenz in Germany to-day. AND another 4 eggs for us.

David and Anne. Follow them on the motorscape rally blog

Aaron and Philip. Follow them on the motorscape rally blog


  8 September 2013

We are looking after David and Anne's chickens for them while they are away on the Motorscape Banger Rally. Our day has probably been quieter than theirs, but we did come home clutching four nice warm eggs which made their way very easily into a souffle for this evening's meal.

David and Anne. Follow them on the motorscape rally blog

Aaron and Philip. Follow them on the motorscape rally blog

  10 July 2013
Cheesists on the Central Line

As planned, our station stop was at Chancery Lane again and our hostelery Ye Olde Mitre.

Ye Olde Mitre

The pub was very successful but not so the visit to the house, as it can only be viewed by going on a guided tour. The last is at 1615 and was already fully booked by the time I got there. Not to mind though as we will try again next time but if you are going, please do as I will do and book ahead for the 1615 tour.

Benjamin Franklin's House, last tour time posted on the door

Of course, not having a house tour meant that I was somewhat ahead on my timing for the pub. This despite an expensive diversion to Maplins, where I bought a replacement multimeter for the one that decided to jump fatally into Cribbit's oily bilge.

Travellers in the UK soon notice that the further North they go the size of the head of foam on a glass of beer increases. My dad, Cheshire born and bred as he was, regarded Southern pints of flat beer with disapprobation. To him they were 'as flat as a fluke', a good Cheshire expression epitomising flatness. A Yorkshire colleague at Newham, once remarked about another colleague that she was 'not as far through as a kipper', which could be another euphemism for flatness.

Of course publicans would much rather sell foam than beer hence their happiness to oblige should this be your desire.

A friendly message for refugees from the North





Our next meeting, suggested by Mike is The Princess Louise on Wednesday 4 September 2013 at 1800 and for those who can join us earlier, at the Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven St, WC2N 5NF at 1600. Please book the house tour beforehand yourself if you are able to come to this.

Benjamin Franklin House

Princess Louise
a Sam Smith pub

  18 June 2013
Visit to
Rousham gardens with Terry and Margaret

We had a very enjoyable visit to Rousham House and gardens. Descriptions of which are far better served by the links than anything I could write. Other than to say how remarkable it was that it had remained so unchanged for such a long time, other than the fake castle facade bolted onto the front elevation of the house in Victorian times. At least they had cultivated the garden areas long enough to eliminate weed seeds, something they might like to come and try for me on the allotment.

We arrive with the rest of the tradesmen, at the back of the house

Replica lead statues in their niches

Entry gate to the gardens

Contemplation by the pool



An ancient espalier apple tree, still productive

Through the box hedge



Inside the dovecote, unusually with 'doves'

Just don't open your mouth too wide Terry


The Victorian facade on the front of Rousham House

Statue of Pan, lichen encrusted on the front but with a perfectly polished bum, irresistable to every passer by


Venus observed by Pan

The valley dedicated to the sensual




Rosemary looks thoughtful about Apollo and his attributes


Vista with trees

Terry discovers the stone 'drip', protecting the plinth from rain for 300 years



The old school house, here we met Mark Mills who kindly gave us a copy of his book 'The Savage Garden', inspired by Rousham

Turk's cap lilly

Mullein moth caterpillar


Rousham church and dovecote

Terry meets Imelda


Links for this post:

 The official Rousham website.
 Wiki entry, about the house.
 Garden visit account of the garden
 Ben Pentreath, another account of a visit with rather better pics than mine.
 Mullein moth
 Mark Mills official website
 Review of Savage Garden at Good reads

  14 June 2013
Cheesists on the Central Line


As planned, I went to Samuel Johnson's house as pre-cursor to our cheesist evening. This turned out to be much better than I had expected and kept me well occupied for well over an hour. Lots to see and some interesting insights into mid-eighteenth century life.

I liked the garret where Sam's dictionary was assembled. The trip down the many staircases illuminated other aspects of his life. He seems to have known everyone, though there were nowhere near as many people 'to know' in those days.

A facsimile of the dictionary was availabe for the public to thumb through. Some of the 'gems' were printed out on cards for the idle [like me] and of those this one particularly pleased me. It is the definition of a network and it gets it beyond right without a single mention of wifi, protocol or asynchronous transfer mode.

Network n.s. Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections.

To translate:
In the form of a network or having a network of parts: a reticulate leaf
To cross or become crossed so as to form an X;
Plural of interstice, an intervening space, esp. a small or narrow one.

In the gift shop, I discovered London Shh..., this is a project to promote visits to the homes of famous London residents and to offer a limited edition 'goodie bag' to those who visit five of the featured houses before 31 December 2013. So that sets the pre-drinks entertainment for the next few cheesists evenings.

house-01 house-02.3 house_03 House-4

house-05.3 house-06.2 keats-house-homepg wesley-house-homepg

After Dr.Johnson's house, the plan was to go and view the Golden Boy of Pye corner. Trouble was I had forgotten exactly where this was to be found and the museum curator was no more knowledgeable than me. However, a random walk towards Chancery Lane turned up a W.H.Smiths and a quick perusal of their 'local' section turned up a book Walking London's Statues by Rupert Hill, which set its location in Giltspur Street so off I went. The statue is opposite Barts hospital and almost covered in scaffolding but there it was.

Golden Boy of Pye corner

Almost hidden behind the scaffolding next door

This statue commemorates the place where the spread of the Great Fire ended.

Sam Pepys's description of the fire.

By now it was time for our rendezvous at the Cittie of Yorke


It was very good to be back in Sam Smith land with an excellent pint of bitter in my hand. This slipped down rather well and then I noticed the etching at the bottom of the glass.

The etching at the bottom of the glass, manufactured by Arcoroc and craftily mirror imaged

I knew from an Oxford Sci-bar talk about brewing that lager glasses are usually etched inside to provide nucleation surfaces for bubbles. This ensures that when the lager is poured into the glass bubbles are released and a good head is formed. This is the first time I had noticed a similar system for beer glasses. My dad always used to rant about flat southern beer, 'as flat as a fluke' he would say. It is noticable though that the further north you go in Britain, the size of the beer head increases proportionately with distance north. I have also noticed that even in London now, beers have suddenly sprouted heads, a very desirable feature for this Cheshire man. It is also beloved of publicans as their pint glasses now contain less beer and more foam. It was only when I started buying 500ml bottles of beer and pouring them into pint glasses that I realised that I had been buying beer in metric volumes all my life. I now call such short measures, 'metric pints'. It was only in doing this mark-up that I realised another feature of some beer glasses that had completely passed me by. Perhaps I don't drink in tough enough pubs, but some glasses are made of safety glass to prevent their use as weapons.

Allan soon arrived and the cheesist evening began. Our first agenda item being to decide where to meet next time. As we didn't want to knock the Central Line off too quickly we settled on a repeat of Chancery Lane station so that we could go to Allan's suggestion of Ye Olde Mitre in Ely Court, between Hatton Garden and Ely Place.

Our next meeting will be at Ye Olde Mitre on Wednesday 3 July 2013 at 1800 and for those who can join us earlier, at the Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven St, WC2N 5NF at 1600.

  10 June 2013

The persuader

One of the first things I did, when I got the workshop set up at Catslide shortly after we moved there in 2006, was to make a large mallet for persuading things like fence posts into the ground. Trouble was that I was somewhat short of raw materials at that stage BUT that we had just taken delivery of a pick-up truck full of logs for burning. I rescued one of these from the log-pile. It wasn't ideal for this application though as it was a little bit short and worse it was an ash log.

Some maintain that the reason ash is so named is that it is the perfect wood for burning. This extends from its excellent burning qualities to the ease with which it can be split. Of course this latter property makes it somewhat less desirable as the timber for a mallet head where the one property you do not want is ease of splitting.

Logs to burn, one of dad's caligraphies

Well the mallet has given good service for 7 years but has finally shrunk and split beyond use so a new head was called for. This time I was better prepared as I had recently acquired a nice holly log from Terry. So a new head was turned and fitted to the original haft.

Turned, bound and now being drilled for its handle

Compared with the original

Ready for assembly

Resting on the log from which it was made

  2 June 2013

Walnut bowl

Tw came down in order to make a wedding present for his friend Rich's nuptials next weekend. Now it just so happened that Roger had given me a nice bit of walnut the other week so this seemed ideal raw material for the turning of a wedding present.

Apparently, when tw has made other things for his friends, they have often asked him, 'What did it look like before it was turned?' so he thought that this time he would record the process so he could show them. Trouble was he forgot about his intention until the corners had been cut off the block!

The lump with its corners cut off

Mounted on a faceplate in the lathe

The first rough cuts

Turned to its exterior shape

The dove-tailed base fits in the bowl turning chuck

Turned round and mounted in the chuck

The inside is hollowed out

All that removed wood has to go somewhere

Mostlly over the turner

Finish with carnauba wax




I'm trying to convince him to fill it with roasted almonds, but no doubt he has ideas of his own.

  14 May 2013

Cheesists on the Central Line

As planned, our last station stop was at Bank Station and the Jamaica Wine House our meeting place. Jason and I met beforehand though to climb the Monument to the great fire of London and to take a stroll through the labyrinth of narrow streets that still follow the medieval pattern even though overlain with modern buildings.

The front of the monument

Jason waiting by the entrance

At the start of the 311 stairs

On the stairs

We reach the top

The Shard


We start the descent, but NOT the fast way



The area round the Monument is fascinating, with narrow streets and alleyways.

Popular with me are the Sam Pepys walks covered by Glyn Thomas being City of London, Westminster and Greenwich.

The highlight of our walk for Jason being the hungry mice to be found at the bottom of Philpot Lane. Apparently, they were immortalised by the builders as they had been plagued by mice during the construction of the building.

The hungry mice on Philpot Lane

We assemble at The Jamaica Wine House


The pub was packed with city gents, I've not been in a place with such a gender inbalance since Bob and I went [by mistake] into a gay bar in Madrid

The Cheesists

Our next station stop will be Chancery Lane station on Wednesday 12 June at 1800 at the Cittie of Yorke pub.

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Cittie of Yorke [without]
                                 Cittie of Yorke [within]

For those who can join us earlier, we will be assembling at Samuel Johnson's house at 1600. We have passed this venue so many times on our customary route to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese that I thoght it was high time we actually went there and took a tour of the house. They claim that Dr. Johnson wrote his dictionary in this house but we Cheesists know better as we have seen the copy of the dictionary in the Cheshire Cheese and know damn well that he wrote it there. After the visit to the house the plan is to walk to the Cittie of Yorke via a slight detour to see the Golden Boy of Pye corner. This statue commemorates the place where the spread of the Great Fire ended. The right thing to do after our visit to the place where the fire started last time.

Sam Pepys's description of the fire.

  19 May 2013

Birthday celebrations

This weekend has been Rosemary's birthday. It was also her friend Alison's 60th and we were invited to her decade celebration party which was held at Leicestershire Tennis club.

Alison and Rosemary have known each other since they were babies and spent a lot of time together when they were growing up and beyond.

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Mum, Nick, Francis, Alison, Isabel. Rosemary trusted enough to take the pic

Rosemary and Alison on a family holiday at Aberdovey beach

alisonand ral1
Rosemary and Alison party on at Alison's 60th

I was tasked with making a suitable present for Alison's birthday. Now Alison is very religious so a gift was needed with the right ambiance to meet the occasion and her religious predilection. I decided to make her a bowl, but as I did not have a large enough piece of the one true cross, I sought out another piece of consecrated wood. About 25 years ago, when we lived in North Wales, I bought a huge beam of pitch pine from Susan Snodgrass's reclaim yard near Wrexham . Over the years I have made some nice things with it but it is very difficult to turn. It needs very sharp tools and it produces a very fragrant and sticky saw dust when it is machined. I felt that this piece of timber was perfect for the job in hand, creating resonances for both Alison and I, in her case because it came from a Welsh chapel, for me because it came from a demolished Welsh chapel.

Consecrated pitch pine beam [remains of]

The finished bowl. Oranges are not the only fruit.

A bowl I made about 20 years ago showing how the wood matures

I turned this bowl centred exactly on the centre of the trunk from which the wood was cut. I left the bit in the centre as you could see the grain of the wood like contours on a map. Then I remembered a quote in which one of John Updike's female characters makes a remark about 'that little bit of maleness that is contained in all of us' but then oranges are not the only fruit.

Oranges are not the only fruit

We stayed at The Regency Hotel, which was in easy walking distance of the venue and of central Leicester.

Warm sunday morning sunshine

The hotel is on London Road and so Rosemary and Nick were full of the fact that Nick had been born in a private nursing home on London Road and that every time they had passed the place the family would point it out. They were convinced that the hotel was the very place that Nick had had his nativity.

He was born into this world naked

Just to be sure

Then Rosemary recalled that the building had been made of white brick and she remembered it as being 'long', not like the hotel at all. Then off we set to walk into Leicester and there, practically next door......

Nick's place of naissance, now St Bennetts care home, all ready to take him in again

but not just yet


Looks like he might take Amanda with him too

On to down-town Leicester

and then to the fair




On to the next attraction, only Nick brave enough to take it on

Safely landed and checking in

Rosemary takes on the white knuckle duck catching game



and wins a major prize

Perhaps they will do better kicking footballs through [small] holes


or maybe not

  4 May 2013

Cheesists on the Central Line

Our last station stop on the Central Line was on the 6th of May at the Lord Aberconway close to Liverpool Street Station.

Lord Aberconway

The Cheesists

Within but without the Cheesists

When I was working, we had a group of students who were ardent Liverpool United football fans. When asked why they supported a team that was so far away, they replied incredulously that Liverpool was not that far way. "Liverpool Street innit".

Our new recruit to the Cheesists, Joerg on his maiden outing.

As usual,others got drawn into the special experience it is to be a Cheesist.

The regulars look well drawn in too.

Joerg settling in well.

The smokers assemble outside for their comfort break.

This is what happens if you stand on your head in the street outside the Lord Aberconwy.

Our next station stop will Bank station on Wednesday 22 May at 1800 at the Jamaica Wine House.

Jamaica Wine House

For those who can join us earlier, we will be assembling at The Monument to the fire of London at 1630 before ascending the 311 steps to its viewing platform. We then stagger to the Jamaica Wine House in time to meet the less fortunate who are not let out until later


  4 April 2013

Cheesists on the Central Line

Our last station stop on the Central Line was on the 6th of March at the Wentworth Arms behind Mile End station.

Mile End station

When I was working, I often did the 'Mile End shuffle' as I used to call it. This is a very convenient station to make the switch from the Central Line to the District Line as all you have to do is shuffle across the dividing platform. I used to do this rather a lot but what delights were waiting above ground were never revealed unto me.

Shuffle across the platform as recorded in this pic by Diamond Geezer a favourite London blogger

Team GB doing the shuffle on their way to the games at Mile End station

Wentworth Arms from flickr on a better day than we experienced

The Central Line cheesists at the Wentwortht

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Tom and Chris

After the pub we went in search of something to eat. This proved to be rather difficult as apart from a varied selection of NOT Kentucky fried chicken establishments there didn't appear to be much else. However, we did find a decent enough place for a curry, though all atempts to find it on the internet have failed, so I'm afraid there is no link...there was no beer either but the food was good.

Our next station stop will near Liverpool Street station on Wednesday 24 April at 1800 at the Lord Aberconway.

  6 March 2013

Sj's latest little project is to organise a version of 'The Game' which was originally written by Team Snout and produced in the Portland, Oregon area in August 2012. The Boston version is called 'Wartron' and will be run over the weekend of 29-30 June 2013. So if you are likely to be in the Boston area then and would like a challenge, sign up for a 'qualifying round' here! GOOD LUCK!


  23 February 2013

Over the winter a gnomic presence has appeared in the garden to oversee the horny goatweed

  22 February 2013, updated 10 March

I always enjoy hearing about SJ's student centred learning activities and as this latest one was picked up by the local media, we can share it here. One of her students, Cameron Toye, does not have full use of his right hand and was finding it difficult to play video games. So here was a perfect industrial design problem: Build a device to enable him to compete on a level playing field with his peers.

The student design team came up with an interface combining a hand operated joystick and foot activated pressure pads.

hand operated joystick

foot activated pressure pads

Follow the link to read what the local press, the Newburyport News made of the project when they sent their reporter round to see industrial design and Cameron in action.

Cameron and Andreas demonstrate the modified controller as reported by the Newburyport News

  10 February 2013

The diary of Samuel Pepys

Regular readers will know of my enjoyment of things Pepysian and of my daily morning read of his diary which was published in 'real time' from January 2003 until May 2012. It was a sad day for me when the diary came to an end and my morning drafts were never the same again without a few words from Sam. After about a month of cold turkey, I started reading the diary again, from the begining and by about October I had caught up to the current date and was happily reading along.

Then in January, I discovered that Phil Gifford, who was responsible for the first on line version, was evidently suffering from the same withdrawal symptons as me and had re-started the diary from the beginning.

So this is a good opportunity to join Sam for his morning draft and follow him as London goes through the turmoil of finding its way following the death of Oliver Cromwell and Sam goes through the daily machinations needed to establishe him as an up and coming man about town.

Sam has also taken me to some interesting places that I might not have been to without his influence in London, Cambridge, Huntington and Lincolnshire. My thanks are due to my friends Margaret, Terry, Pat, Joan and Jim who have aided and abbetted me in search of things Pepysian.

There is much to see in London and most of it is covered by Glyn Thomas in the form of three walks around the City of London, Westminster and Greenwich. Pat and I have done all three.

The City, Monument to the fire London

cock inn
Westminster, The Cock

Greenwich, view from the Trafalgar Tavern

Margaret and Terry live near Cambridge and have taken me to Magdalene College, Hinchingbrooke House and Pepys house in Brampton. We may even have imbibed at several of the ancient coaching inns that are still to be found on the road between London and Cambridge.

Pepys library
Pepys library at Magdalene College

hitchinbrook house
Hinchingbrooke House

brampton house
Pepys house in Brampton

Pepys went to Magdalene College in Cambridge and visited Cambridge regularly. His library was bequeathed to the College in 1724. The books in the library are arranged by size, from No. 1 (the smallest) to No. 3,000 (the largest). This rather eccentric library cataloguing system is still practiced by Rosemary to-day. She doesn't go to quite the trouble that Pepys did though as he raised the smaller books so that their tops would all be in line with the larger ones.

pepys library
Pepys library

Isaac Newton was a contemporary of Pepys and fellow member of the Royal Society. In fact, Newton's Principia Mathematica was published under the imprint of Samuel Pepys as president of the Royal Society.

Principia mathematica
Newton's Principia Mathematica

Joan and I visited Newton's Lincolnshire manor house.

Newton's manor
Newton's Lincolnshire manor house

I serendipitously discovered that Sam had lived in what is now Gordon's wine bar on Villiers Street when I met up with Jim at the start of his 'Ruskin's Old Road' trip of 2011.

Yes, reading Pepys diary can take you to all sorts of unexpected places!


Gordon's Wine Bar

Links for this post

These are the top-level links, links in the text go to more focussed locations.
 Pepys Diary on-line
 Wikipedia entry about Samuel Pepys
Pepys info, Duncan Grey's pages about Pepys
 Pepys walks
 Magdaline College
 Wikipedia entry about Cambridge
 Hinchinbrooke House
 Pepys house in Brampton
 Wikipedia entry about Cambridge
 Wikipedia entry about Newton's Principia Mathematica
 Royal Society
 Woolsthorpe Manor
 Gordon's wine bar
 Ruskin's old road

  7 February 2013

Cheesists on the Central Line

We finally managed to have the first of our Central Line meetings last night at Wetherspoon's Golden Grove pub in Stratford.
I had also hoped to be making a cribBlog entry as well as the plan had been to move the boat down to Perivale to charge her batteries. As it turned out, the engine wouldn't start and the domestic battery was absolutely flat. No water and no lights either so decided I would stay in a hotel in Stratford overnight and return at leisure in the morning.

Meeting at The Golden Grove

Tom told us about a new sign that had appeared at the Abbey Road DLR station. Apparently, tourists had been arriving there and asking where to find the zebra crossing from the cover of the Beatles album.

Abbey Road DLR station

Day tripper looking for the Beatles Abbey Road?

Of course Tom's reason for being at this station are a little more prosiac as he uses this station, opened especially for his benefit, to go to the Abbey Lane sewage pumping station.

There are two pumping stations near here, clearly visible from nearby West Ham station, the earlier one of the two looking more like a Victorian place of worship is also known as 'the cathedral of sewage'.

The other, now converted to educational purposes, is the home of our old friends, Alpha Building Services Engineering Ltd. They deliver vocational and apprenticeship training under its vaulted roofs. Two great beam engines that used to pump the sewage can still be seen there next to their training workshops.

After 'The Grove' we repaired to the Hemalaya Restaurant



Hemalaya Restaurant

Our next Central Line station stop will be at Mile End station on Wednesday 6 March at 1800. The venue, researched by Tom will be the Wentworth Arms, just behind the station. The clincher in deciding on this one for Tom, had to be this quote from one of its reviewers: 'Another great sunday afternoon spent at the Wentworth. Real people and West Ham supporters to a man (and woman).'

Wentworth Arms from flickr

  1 February 2013

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesists [Again]

Our best laid plans for our 9 January jaunt to Stratford fell through with the falling of the snow and the freezing of the canal. SO we are about to try again for next Wednesday 6 February. Meeting at the Wetherspoon's Golden Grove at 1800 and then a meal at the Hemalaya Restaurant nearby afterwards. Hopefully the weather will have improved by then.

  9 January 2013

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesists

Ye Olde Cheshie Cheese pub
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

London based entries in theBlog have often been written after one of our Cheshire Cheese evenings. This entry is about our plans for the coming year and an invitation to join us at our first meeting of 2013 which will be in Stratford at the Wetherspoon's Golden Grove pub on Wednesday 23 january from 1800 onwards.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesists are a divers group who meet irregularly in London for philosophical transactions and a quiet beer or two. Our usual base is the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub on Fleet Street near to Chancery Lane tube station. We chose this venue as it is equidistant between Stratford and Greenford stations on the Central Line and therefore 'mutually inconvenient' for Tom and I.

Regular readers will recognise it as my lunchtime stop on my walk home from Newham College on April 1 2008 when I retired.

We've been meeting there since I retired in 2008 and before that we used to meet in Statford after our weekly work based learning meetings, the only thing that made these meetings bearable. We periodically change the venue to suit various whims.

To kick off our 2013 season I have a small proposal based on this piece from the Guardian which celebrates 150 years of the tube and in particular the Central Line. The Guardian has chosen 16 stations on the Central Line and the proposal is that we pick them off one by one travelling westwards ending at Greenford. We won't do all of them and may even slip in an extra one or two, a standing agenda item will be to choose the next station and pub.

There are no fixed rules to our meetings but we usually aim to arrive around 1800 and if no one joins me [this has happened only once] I abandon hope of company around 1930.

There is no need to reply but if you do, I will keep you on the circulation list, if you don't I will quietly drop you after a few silences. If you would like to bring others with you that is fine. If you send me their e-mail addresses I'll add them to the throng. You can contact me by e-mail at:

Non London residents are welcome to stay on board Cribbit, just let me know.

It will be good to see you if you can make it.

NEXT meeting: The next meeting will be in Stratford at the Wetherspoon's Golden Grove pub on Wednesday 23 january from 1800 onwards

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