Author Archives: Liz

A Birthday Spent In A Welsh Cemetery

Sad Reading, Burial Plot For Four,Rocking Dog

Sad Reading, Burial Plot For Four

No, I really didn’t mind spending part of my birthday in a cemetery… honest! I was so pleased to be laying my last poppy for “The Remember Me Project”. Of course I could decide that I want to head to Basra, Baku, Beersheba, The Gaza Strip, and Gallipoli… but that’s perhaps for another day.

My brain has been pretty tangled trying to seek out Driver John Noble Winters grave. Born in Winterbourne, Gloucestershire on 12th April 1881 he was one of a large family born to Frank and Eleanor Winter. In the 1901 Census he is 19 and living in Wales. He is boarding with the Britton family. William Britton, originally from Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire is an underground colliery haulier and I suspect may have secured John Winter his job at the mine as a coal hewer (miner).

By the 1911 census John, 29 is married to local Ystrad girl Louisa (nee Parsons) 33. From the census he has been married for 8 years. The household consists of John, Louisa and three children, Charles Henry 7, Emily Eva 4 and Elizabeth Mary 1. They were living in Ystrad, Glamorganshire. John was still working as a coal miner hewer.

As a miner John would have been in a reserved occupation, however mining was incredibly tough and many miners relished the prospect of enlisting. I know that John Winter enlisted at Pentre but at present I do not know when this occurred. He served with the Royal Field Artillery (Service No W5046). At some point he was wounded in France and was shipped back to the UK. Again, it requires more investigation as to how long he was back in the UK before he died.

He died on 17th April 1916 at the Woolwich Military Hospital (Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects (Entry 275813) and was transported back to Wales for burial. He was buried on the 21st April 1916 in Trealaw Cemetery. The plot had already been purchased when John was interred. His son Francis (Oct 1910-Oct 1910) and daughter Ann Ellen (Apr 1914-Apr 1914) had already been buried in the plot (Plot 0387) Later, another daughter Emily Eva would join her father and siblings in the same plot (July 1906- Dec 1921)

With a rough outline of John Winters family life and somewhat sketchy military details it was time to seek out his grave. Somehow I managed to arrive at a different cemetery (Glyntaff) but  the mistake proved to be a godsend! The cemetery has an office which holds all the records for all the cemeteries in the area. The lovely Nadine was really helpful and bought out huge burial registers and I was able to see the Winter entries. She also then very kindly printed out plans of Trealaw cemetery and warned me that it was huge!

We travelled a few miles and we arrived in Trealaw the longest town in the Rhonnda. Nadine you were right – the cemetery was enormous and we needed your plans. In fact the cemetery is roughly a mile long end to end. A real whistle stop tour, the headstones in the cemetery tell the story of mining disasters, lung disease, child mortality, Italian ice cream and war. There are 158 WW1 and WW2 Commonwealth graves in the cemetery, John Winters grave being one of them.

Using the plan I was able to locate Driver Winters’ grave on a steep grassy hillside in the right hand corner of the cemetery. His grave (Plot 0387) had views over to an opposing hillside dotted with sheep and scars of quarrying and mining. It was somehow reminiscent of “How Green Was My Valley”. Behind the headstone the hillside continued and interrupted by a Scots pine which seemed stunted by harsh winters and chill winds blowing through the valley.

I laid my 45th poppy and thought about John Winter lying there in his adopted homeland with three of his children. We seem to think a war grave is just that, but in this case it tells a story of the harsh realities of fleeting fatherhood and child mortality. A life beyond the battlefield.

It was now time to find Johns wife Louisa and a grown up son who are buried in the same cemetery. According to Nadines’ plans they were to be found at the opposite end of the cemetery (yes literally a mile away!) On this one I had to use my best orienteering skills to locate the grave. I somehow wished that the numbers of the plot areas were clearly marked. You had to judge the areas by the shape and tiers of graves whilst comparing the plan. I think I found Louisa’s burial place (Plot D1314), an unmarked grassy “bed”. Louisa died in December 1949 at the age of 72 years (buried 29th December 1949). Her son Charles Henry Winter who died in Chipping Sodbury is also interred there and died in January 1946 (buried 11 January 1946). I felt so sad stood thinking of Louisa, two wars, widowhood, the grime of mining, and more than anything the loss of her children. Apart from the four offspring in the two graves another child Elizabeth Ann died aged 2 days in 1909 and is in an unmarked plot in the cemetery. I wonder how Louisa felt about her “lot”, a very hard life. I laid a poppy for Louisa and family, she was so near and yet so far from the grave of her husband and infant children. It was very poignant.

I am hopeful that this giant jigsaw of piecing together census’s, military records, local archives (Parish magazine reporting John Nobles death) etc… is accurate. Little discrepancy’s with age and records with no mention of his middle name have made this a difficult search.

Please contact me if you know different.

Plots and plans continue for my creation of a WW1 Flower Show table which will be “unveiled” at Frenchay Flower Show on 14th July. I’ll be there with the lovely Sally Stanley and her Parcels of Comfort exhibit.

 

 

John's Wife & Son,Rocking Dog

John’s Wife & Son

Burial Tome,Rocking Dog

Burial Tome

Cross Of Sacrifice,Rocking Dog

Cross Of Sacrifice

On Home Soil,Rocking Dog

On Home Soil

Cross For John,Rocking Dog

Cross For John

Green Valley,Rocking Dog

Green Valley

Scots Pine,Rocking Dog

Scots Pine

So Near..Yet So Far,Rocking Dog

So Near..Yet So Far

Welcome Colour,Rocking Dog

Welcome Colour

The Week That Was, Life’s Rich Tapestry

Kaffe Fassett's Rich Tapestry,Rocking Dog

Kaffe Fassett’s Rich Tapestry

Life has been a rich tapestry of differing threads since my last post. There has been a trip to Bath and a lovely meet up with son, daughter in law and sparkling new little Freddie. Apart from the delight of a new baby to cuddle, how rewarding it is to watch your children parent. After coffee and cake and a well meaning mother in law .. “you need to rest”, (I really wasn’t asking for a Victorian six week lying in period…honest!) I took my leave. “Makery” Roman blind instructions picked up, I chanced upon Kaffe Fassett and Candace Bahouth’s exhibition “A Celebration of Flowers” at the Victoria Art Gallery. It was spectacularly colourful and temptingly tactile. There was patchwork, mad mosaic, needlepoint and painting. Eye poppingly inspirational.

I finished my second Rocking Dog patchwork quilt of the year earlier in the week and it will be shortly leaving the kennel to grace and warm another bed. The blind is indeed next in the queue and then a back up of other makes ranging from quilts, a certain wedding coat and Rocking Dog prototypes. The unused overlocker is looking forlorn and needs some dedicated time to make it feel loved and needed. It really is the elephant in the workroom!

The weekend was glorious so with Andyman away playing his flaming bagpipes on the Isle of Man a friend and I spontaneously took ourselves to The Pig near Bath. We had a relaxing afternoon in the garden eating wood fired flatbread and posh choc ice. It was one of those blissful English summer days and was completed by the inevitable meander around the delightful kitchen garden.

A large mountain of ironing, admin’ and a half hearted attempt at cleaning were the more mundane bits of the week, a domestic tapestry!

Flowers were picked for a bright 88 year old neighbour and somehow we ended up reading snake poems by DH Lawrence and Sylvia Plath. We also talked about the frustrations of age related failing faculties. Unfortunately I know you won’t be reading this Molly, but you are AMAZING! Interested and Interesting, together with being a fount of knowledge on “Time-Team”!

Stem ginger scones were baked and given. How delicious they are served with apricot conserve and clotted cream. Not much else to report on the cooking front.

I have been trying to tie up my WW1 Flower Show table for 14th July. My brain is rather full. I know i’m slightly barking as i’m signing present day forms etc.. with a 1918 date. Oops! This week I have been researching eggs and how they were collected for wounded soldiers. There was a National Campaign set up by Frederick Carl, editor of “Poultry World” who classed eggs as as a superfood for the wounded. Even pre-war many families kept a few hens, but now the campaign encouraged hen owners to donate an egg or two for ailing soldiers. Children in particular were encouraged to get involved with the egg campaign and the eggs were often collected together on school premises. In November 1914 a target of 20,000 eggs a week was set to send to the wounded in Boulogne. By August 1915 over a million eggs were received for overseas. This figure didn’t include those eggs that had been sent directly to local hospitals. In the course of the war 32 million eggs had been sent to hospitals in France and Belgium.

Many of the eggs arrived with the soldiers complete with decoration, patriotic messages and names & addresses. This sometimes led to pen pal correspondence and even a wedding! I started researching eggs because in the local parish magazines of the Great War period there were poultry husbandry meetings held at the village hall. I wanted to ascertain the relevance and importance of such meetings.

So indeed there will be a display of WW1 inspired decorated eggs on my Flower Show table.

Today I am visiting my last soldiers grave in Trealaw Cemetery the Rhondda, Wales. Driver John Noble Winter of the Royal Field Artillery died from wounds 17th April 1916. Born in Winterbourne, Gloucestershire by the 1901 census he is 19 years old and working as a coal hewer. Untangling a short life is a brain boggling investigative tapestry. Later today The Remember Me Project will have laid the last poppy on British soil and number 45 of the 53 Whiteshill Memorial names. We Will Remember Them.

I hope your weekend is filled with threads of wonderful things, creating your own rich and diverse life tapestry.

Love Rocking Dog x

PS. Our bath, yes that old chestnut, is on its way! Currently it is out in the ocean after a port of call in Kuwait. Rather like Parcel Force you can track its movements using Vessel Finder, very exotic! It will eventually head up the Suez Canal, it’s taking provenance to the extreme… but then I always love a good story!

Mad Mosaic,Rocking Dog

Mad Mosaic

Kaffe's Patches,Rocking Dog

Kaffe’s Patches

My Patches,Rocking Dog

My Patches

Food Tapestry,Rocking Dog

Food Tapestry

Posh Choc' Ice,Rocking Dog

Posh Choc’ Ice

On Its Way!,Rocking Dog

On Its Way!

Flower Gift,Rocking Dog

Flower Gift

Bakers Dozen,Rocking Dog

Bakers Dozen

Baked Gift,Rocking Dog

Baked Gift

Flower Show,Rocking Dog

Flower Show

Egg Research,Rocking Dog

Egg Research

Brain Space,Rocking Dog

Brain Space

Out With May, In With June!

A New Baby In The Ferguson Fold,Rocking Dog

A New Baby In The Ferguson Fold

May came and went in the wink of an eye! It’s been busy. We are joyous to have welcomed another little Ferguson into the family last week. Another sweet little grandson has bounced into our lives. Newborn babies are scrunched up balls of scrumminess! Thank you to all the wonderful staff at the Royal United Hospital, Bath. The care was inspiring.

There have been spring bunnies aplenty this May. A bunny blind waits to be sewn on my work bench for the scrunched up little ball. I have lost my “Makery” instructions and feel rather lost. Like a well used recipe (Nigella’s Chocolate Brownie for instance) I somehow still feel I need the printed instructions in front of me, a metaphorical comfort blanket! Another bunny came in the form of Eric, a therapy pet who came along to Young Carer’s together with his three Chihuahua “siblings”. I loved the session, what could be more relaxing than stroking a super huge rabbit! As for the bunny field it is full of sweet smelling clover, buttercups, wild sorrel, moon daisies and grasses. Truly beautiful, and enhanced by the pair of swallows that arrive late afternoon which dart so expertly over the sun baked flora.

There was another rabbit to spot in Montpelier when Andyman and I ventured to Geo Jones for bathroom fittings (yawn!) Nearby Picton Street is vibrant and buzzy with some jazzy murals, cafes and one or two nice little shops. It’s an area of Bristol i’d like to spend more time discovering.

There have been great seasonal eats during May with the arrival of British asparagus and continued crops of rhubarb in the garden. How wonderful to see Jersey Royals in the shops again… what could be more delicious!

There has been a quilt that has left the kennel, one that is underway and another which waits for another day. When I was waiting for news of the new babe I tried to distract myself with cutting patchwork squares… it turns out rather badly. The truth be known i’d have rather been in that delivery room knowing what was going on. Once a midwife, always a midwife! I’ll somehow try to cobble and make good my ragged patchwork squares when the time comes… at least it’s the quilt i’m planning for our bed!

Thank you to the lovely electrician who arrived on the same day as the baby. Phew! he didn’t run a mile when he saw the copper lights made by an eccentric Italian chef. We have light in parts of the house that hasn’t seen the light of day for a long time. Yay! progress in our crumbly home.

A considerable amount of my time has been taken up with my “Remember Me Project”. There have been the Gloucestershire graves visited, tidied, poppy laid and photographed. There has been ongoing online research, a visit to Frenchay Museum and a recording done for a radio programme. I am now trying to focus on getting my WW1 Flower Show table organised and created. I have been researching fruit cakes which were especially popular to send out to soldiers in the trenches. There was an official recipe released by the government so that families could bake an economical cake for their loved ones. The recipe contained no eggs and relied on the reaction between vinegar and baking soda to make it rise. It’s been fascinating especially all the facts i’ve learnt about the home front in my local area. More information about the Rocking Dog Flower Show Table will turn up in a future post.

So with May now away.. what does June hold? Perhaps our bath will arrive after its long sea voyage from India, the sun may shine all month, there’ll be gooseberries to pick, babies to cuddle, a soldiers grave to visit in Wales and hopefully guests eating around our table. Oh yes….. there’s the small matter of a concert to go to. My girls are taking me to see Beyonce and Jayzee…..now that wasn’t on my 60 by 60 list! I’m sure it will be great fun.

I hope the month of June brings you many very happy and sunny moments.

Love Rocking Dog x

One Quilt Done,Rocking Dog

One Quilt Done

Another Underway,Rocking Dog

Another Underway

One For Another Day,Rocking Dog

One For Another Day

Bunny Blind,Rocking Dog

Bunny Blind

 Therapeutic Bunny,Rocking Dog

Therapeutic Bunny

& Bunny Field,Rocking Dog

& Bunny Field

Regal Rabbit,Rocking Dog

Regal Rabbit

Whizzy Mural,Rocking Dog

Whizzy Mural

& A Batty One!,Rocking Dog

& A Batty One!

Asparagus Season!,Rocking Dog

Asparagus Season!

Rhubarb Anyone?,Rocking Dog

Rhubarb Anyone?

A Good Tart,Rocking Dog

A Good Tart

Research Of The Brave,Rocking Dog

Research Of The Brave

Not Trench Cake,Rocking Dog

Not Trench Cake

Remember Me,Rocking Dog

Remember Me

The Remember Me Project, Closer To Home

Please Remember Me, Rocking Dog

Please Remember Me

Rocking Dog has been quietly working away on The Remember Me Project researching all the WW1 names on the Whiteshill Memorial, Hambrook. In between looking at museum archives, Ancestry, local history books and The Commonwealth War Graves Commission site I have also been out and about!

There have been graves to visit in three local churchyards. Real Live Rocking Dog has accompanied me on these trips and watched me lay six more poppy crosses.

All Saints Church, Winterbourne was my first port of call to visit two graves. The first I found easily, that of George Fitz Worlock. A Guardsman in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards he died on 19th November 1914 at Manchester Royal Infirmary from wounds he sustained at Ypres.

Between 1914-1918 520 beds at the Manchester Royal Infirmary were allocated to the War Office. Over 10,000 service personnel were treated during this period. Incidentally in 1918 a centre was opened at the hospital specifically to deal with Venereal Disease. The centre treated more than 837 people in the year it opened. I do not know how many of these were servicemen but Venereal Disease was a sizeable problem in troops serving abroad. In 1918 there were over 60,000 admissions for VD in France and Flanders but only 74,711 admissions of the well publicised Trench Foot for the entirety of the war in France and Flanders. Many soldiers risked the brothels knowing that a case of Syphilis or Gonorrhoea could excuse them from the front line.

Guardsman George Fitz Worlock (14198) was repatriated to England with his injuries and disembarked on 6th October 1914. He died little more than a month later on the 19th November 1914. He was buried in the churchyard not far from the place where he lived with his wife Lottie (nee Malpass). They had married in Bristol on 7th December 1913. It was poignant to see that Lottie shared the same grave plot and had remained a widow until she died in July 1971 at the age of 86. George had enlisted with the Grenadier Guards in January 1909. Prior to this he is listed as being a carter. As a professional soldier he would have been one of the first expected to fight for King and Country. I am presuming that a family dealing with a serviceman’s death on home soil could choose whether they wanted a Portland Stone Commonwealth war grave headstone or at their own expense a headstone of their choosing. The Worlock family chose an imposing Celtic style cross in local Pennant stone. When I laid my poppy there were drifts of cow parsley and a border planted with wallflowers, marigolds, and a silvery leaved curry plant. Mature holly trees, a cherry and other native trees provided nesting for sweet singing birds.

The other grave in this churchyard proved more difficult to find. I was helped to locate the grave by a really helpful church warden. On the top tier and far corner of the cemetery I found the grave of Eynon George Rice Bowen. A Captain in the Remounts he died on 26th March 1916  aged 52. Interestingly he does not appear on the Commonwealth Graves Commission site. Details of his death are fairly sketchy but I have recently stumbled upon an archive which will be useful in researching his life. Not only did he serve in the Great War but the Boer War too. The Army Remount Service was the body responsible for the purchase and training of horses and mules as remounts for the British Army. A large depot existed in Shirehampton, near Bristol which dealt with animals being shipped from overseas (predominantly USA and Canada)

In the Frenchay Parish magazine of March 1916 it states:- Alterations to Frenchay Roll of Honour. Captain Eynon GR Bowen whose serious illness we all deeply deplore, and for whom our prayers are asked, is of the Remounts not of the ASC (Army Service Corps). In April’s Parish Magazine Captain Eynon GR Bowen’s burial is reported. Just 5 months later his son Lieut. Eynon George Arthur Bowen is killed, shot down by German ace Oswald Boelcke (the flier who trained the Red Baron).

Father and son are both commemorated on the Whiteshill Memorial. Meanwhile Eynon Bowen senior is laid to rest at All Saints, Winterbourne Down and Eynon Bowen junior is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, France. The grave in Winterbourne mentions Eynon Bowen junior and it is also the resting place of Georgina Catherine Bowen, the wife of Eynon George Rice who died on 15th December 1945 aged 82. Mrs Bowen was a very active member of the community serving on a number of wartime committees. Their daughter Dorothea was a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment and provided nursing care at Cleve Hill Hospital.

Eynon GR Bowen’s grave sits in a beautiful spot with far reaching views to Bristol, and over less distant fields to the family home “Harcombes”, Hambrook. When I came to lay my poppy there was wild lilac, bluebells, buttercups and a leafy canopy. Only the sound of birdsong broke the silence of this beautiful pastoral setting.

One grave needed to be visited in St Peter’s Churchyard, Frampton Cotterell. Gunner John Stuart Rymer (120959) served with the Royal Garrison Artillery and actually died a long time after WW1 had ended  (3rd October 1921). His inclusion on the memorial is a little bit of an anomaly. The War Graves Commission only commemorate those who have died during the designated war years whilst in Commonwealth military service or of causes attributable to service. Death in service included not only those killed in combat but other causes such as those who died in training accidents, air raids and due to disease such as the 1918 flu pandemic. In the case of WW1 the period of consideration was 4th August 1914 to 31st August 1921. Gunner Rymer’s death fell outside this criteria. He does not feature on the Commonwealth Graves Commission site.

In the Parish magazine of October 1921 it states that John Rymer died for his country as a result of wounds received during the Great War.

A pupil of Bristol Grammar School between 1907-1912 there is a little film on the Schools site about a visit to John Rymer’s grave. He is to be found in the churchyard in a grouping of three almost identical crosses. One is a grave for John, another for his brother Arthur (who died aged 30 in 1930) and the third cross is for their mother Emily who died in 1906. According to records their father John who died in 1928 is also buried in the plot. One mystery is as to where John’s second wife is buried (he married Emily’s sister Kate)

The local circuit was completed with a visit to St John The Baptist Church in Frenchay. I know this church well, it was where I was christened, confirmed  and married. Added to which there were numerous nativities, harvest festivals, plays at the church that both myself and …..much later our children took part in. I was here to visit three graves in the churchyard.

Private Frank George Amos (204205) served with the 7th Worcesters Reserve Battalion (transferred to 526th Area Employment Company, Labour Corps). He died on December 17th 1918 aged 29yrs. He was the son of Albert (d. 1915) and Emily (d.1919) who ran The Crown public house in Hambrook. It is unclear why Frank and his brother Frederick are commemorated on the Winterbourne Down panel of the Whiteshill memorial and yet the Amos family burials are at Frenchay. The Amos brothers are also named on the war memorial at All Saints Church Winterbourne Down. Franks brother Frederick was killed in action in 1917 aged 21 and we visited his grave at Faubourg D’amiens Cemetery, Arras last year.

Franks resting place is to be found in a shady spot in the churchyard with drifts of cow parsley, brambles, baby blue eyes and a canopy of mature trees. Frank lies in the plot with his mother and father. Meanwhile his brother Frederick is also commemorated on the grave.

A Portland stone Commonwealth grave was found in a different part of the graveyard. This grave belongs to Driver Arthur George Criddle (18245) who served with the Royal Field Artillery (A Bty 109th Brigade). Arthur died at home on 28th August 1917 (though there are some discrepancies with the date of death) aged 23 years. In November 1915 the Frenchay parish magazine reports that Arthur is in hospital, and in September 1916 he has been discharged and given an Army pension. He died after a very long illness  and many people attended his funeral on 2nd September 1917. One of a large family, another of the Criddle brothers (William Ewart) died in February 1917 in Mesopotamia (now Iraq)

Finally there was the grave of a Royal Flying Corps officer to find. With views over Frenchay Common Captain Harry Wadlow’s grave enjoys a lovely spot. Harry was accidentally killed on May 1st 1917 whilst flying near Dartford, Kent. A past pupil of Bristol Grammar School he was a brilliant sportsman. He joined the Army Service Corps after leaving school in 1914 and in September 1916 the Frenchay parish magazine reported that Harry had transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He began a course of flying instruction in a de Havilland DH2. These aircraft were constructed of wood, fabric and wire, it had a maximum speed of 86mph and was fitted with a machine gun.

Harry was an only child, his mother Laura had died when he was six. His father, Henry Wadlow was headmaster at Frenchay School. The school was closed on the day of Harry’s funeral (May 7th) so that the children could attend and he was buried with full military honours. Harry was laid to rest in the same plot as his mother.

So, this completes the poppy laying for The Remember Me Project in England. 44 graves/memorials of the 53 inscribed names have now been visited. Wales is my next port of call to visit the grave of a miner who left the valleys for the front.

One Of Brothers,Rocking Dog

One Of Brothers

Commonwealth Grave,Rocking Dog

Commonwealth Grave

An Amos Brother,Rocking Dog

An Amos Brother

Poppy For Harry,Rocking Dog

Poppy For Harry

Common Views,Rocking Dog

Common Views

Worlock Grave,Rocking Dog

Worlock Grave

1921 Casualty,Rocking Dog

1921 Casualty

Mother & Sons,Rocking Dog

Mother & Sons

Home View,Rocking Dog

Home View

Yay! Well Hello May. The Year Is Simply Galloping By.

May Blooms. Douglas In Amongst The Pretty Weeds!,Rocking Dog

May Blooms. Douglas In Amongst The Pretty Weeds!

I know, my posts are evermore sporadic, whatever happened to my daily Rocking Dog blogs of times gone by?! Perhaps it’s because sometimes it’s too difficult to blog speak, a falling out of like (for I never did love) with Facebook, a busy life and well …does it really matter if I don’t blog. Nearing 450 posts is it time to hang up my blogging finger I wonder. However I am not going to be gloomy, let’s celebrate the month of May. How wonderful the blossom is this spring, skies are blue and birdsong increasingly deliciously evident.

There have been plenty of opportunities to get out and about in the last couple of weeks. Recently we hosted a German creative, Bea Winkel. Bea is on a years stay in the UK, mainly cat sitting whilst staying in peoples homes around the country. OK, we don’t have a cat but I thought it would be good to host a stranger. For four days we talked Angela Merkel, Brexit, healthcare, old age, food and lots more besides. I also showed Bea a diverse Bristol. There was the harbour with its shipping container eateries (can recommend Sholay Indian Kitchen), the SS Great Britain, and Swoon for the most divine ice cream. Less touristy, we did St Werburgh’s City Farm and Feed Bristol. There was a trip to beautiful quintessentially English Tetbury and some good walks with Real Live Rocking Dog. On one walk we dropped RLRD at Sam’s Woof Wash for a radical haircut (can heartily recommend Sam for all your… oops your dogs pampering needs). Bea also accompanied me to see my lovely neighbour who was having a spot of respite at a swish and expensive care facility. In Germany if an elderly family member can’t fund their own care their children are legally obliged to fund the care. One of the highlights of Bea’s visit was a drop in to one of my favourite houses in Hambrook, it’s like a mini stately home and has the most hospitable and gorgeous owners. Apart from the interesting chat we loved the friendly hen eating grapes on the window sill! We spent one morning discussing Bea’s colouring/recipe pages which encourage children to eat a diverse range of fruit and vegetables. It’s an interesting concept. I however feel I rather burst Bea’s balloon when I told her that the average Brit’ does not eat pumpkin. Pumpkins are for lanterns and the pulpy unloved flesh gets thrown away in most households. I then rather guiltily said that my first taste of pumpkin was when I was 40 and visiting New Zealand. It was served in roasted wedges and was rather delicious! After four days it was time for Bea to head off to her next feline stop in Leeds. It was an interesting four days and I look forward to seeing her “take” on Bristol on a future colouring page.

Beds were stripped and there was a quick turnaround with Sorrel, Pete and little Douglas coming to stay. There was time to photograph beloved boy in the sunshine and amongst the flowers. It’s true what they say, never work with children or animals, they never stay in the same place for long! Doug’ definitely wanted to remove himself from my weedy albeit pretty patch! We celebrated a first birthday with the two extended families and friends. There was cake, lots of pies, fizz, millions of cups of tea and a lovely busy little children. It was fun especially as Doug’ loves a good Mexican Wave!

The weekend came to an end, there was a mad cleaning blitz and admin’ tasks on Monday. Meanwhile Tuesday arrived spectacularly sunny. It was time to put on some walking boots and head out with a friend on a route chosen by her (we democratically take it in turns). This walk took us around the Tortworth Estate, Gloucestershire and its piece de resistance is the Tortworth Chestnut which claims to be one of the oldest trees in the country. What a lovely walk, and again so quintessentially English. There was a sweep of verdant green meadowland, trees cloaked in blossom and a church which could so easily be the setting for a Pride and Prejudice wedding. Beside the church we examined the Tortworth Chestnut. It’s not the prettiest tree I grant you, but it had the most beautiful inscribed plaque on a latched wooden gate.

This Tree supposed to be six hundred years old
1st January 1800
May Man still Guard thy Venerable Form
From the Rude Blasts and Tempestuous Storm
Still mayest thou Flourish through Succeeding Time
And Last, Long Last the Wonder of the Clime

This questionably old tree was selected in 2002 by the Tree Council as one of fifty Great British trees to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Tree marvelled at, we completed our walk and enjoyed lunch in the Tortworth Estate farm shop cafe. It was great to blow away the cobwebs and walk 13,000 steps! Thanks Karen.

It’s hard having been nice for two entire weeks so the remainder of the week I have been quiet. My deafness has returned and it feels as if I am in a giant zorb! It’s exhausting and frustrating to be in social situations even though I think i’ve perfected lip reading! The tv is too loud for any other human beings and i’m sure The Archers at full pelt is unbearably unpleasant! I have used this anti-social time to continue researching “my” soldiers for “The Remember Me Project” and have made good progress on the spring quilt for youngest daughter. The planning of the bathroom is still work in progress, but today we received a video of our copper bateau bath made and now awaiting polishing and its nickel lining. We may have the work done by Christmas!

Next week there’s a blind waiting to be made for a little grandchild’s room (we don’t know what variety it is) who is due to put in an appearance in the next couple of weeks. Exciting times!

So, the bank holiday weekend beckons with the promise of wonderful sunshine. Whatever you are doing I hope it’s lovely, spent with family and friends whilst eating delicious things. Monday for me will be a walk to the Winterbourne Down Village Carnival (listen out for the bagpipers and drummers) and then onto Redland May Fair. What treasures await I wonder!

Love Rocking Dog aka Liz x

Frank Sinatra Hat!,Rocking Dog

Frank Sinatra Hat!

Last Year,Rocking Dog

Last Year

Cake To Celebrate,Rocking Dog

Cake To Celebrate

Brunel's Masterpiece,Rocking Dog

Brunel’s Masterpiece

Feed Bristol,Rocking Dog

Feed Bristol

Eat Pumpkin!,Rocking Dog

Eat Pumpkin!

That Old Chestnut!,Rocking Dog

That Old Chestnut!

New Blossom,Rocking Dog

New Blossom

Spring Quilt,Rocking Dog

Spring Quilt

Research Continues,Rocking Dog

Research Continues

That Old Chestnut!,Rocking Dog

That Old Chestnut!

Yay! It's Redland Fair,Rocking Dog

Yay! It’s Redland Fair

Let’s Try Again! The Rocking Dog Huddle This Wednesday.

Oh You Pretty Things,Rocking Dog

Oh You Pretty Things

For many reasons including heavy snow (sorry, ANY excuse for that link!) the Rocking Dog creative Huddle has not managed to well…. huddle this year. This Wednesday come hail, blizzards and tornado’s the doors of the kennel will be open. Gentle chat, creative bimbling, cake eating and a glass of bubbly awaits huddlers old and new to celebrate the new, now old year! Arrive at 7pm and head out into the snow drifts at 9pm. As ever donations go into the jolly tea pot for “Fine Cell Work” a great charity who teach and support prison inmates to embroider and sew.

Knitting, crocheting, sewing, just bring what you fancy. How about letting out, taking in (I wish!), hemming, pinning and patching. Make do and mend by keeping the skill of darning from disappearing. How much i’d covet a piece of Celia Pym’s darned loveliness! If you come empty handed don’t despair. If you are amenable, I have a quilt in need of about 100 vintage buttons to be securely anchored to it.

I do hope you will come, I can’t promise we won’t talk politics, sex or religion, but whatever the conversation it will be fun.

Love the everso friendly Rocking Dog x

I'm Quite Friendly!,Rocking Dog

I’m Quite Friendly!

There's Always Cake,Rocking Dog

There’s Always Cake

Knit....Rocking Dog

Knit….

....Sew.....,Rocking Dog

….Sew…..

Make Do & Mend!, Rocking Dog

Make Do & Mend!

Button Volunteers Needed!,Rocking Dog

Button Volunteers Needed!

The Remember Me Project, France & Belgium 2018 Continued.

The One We Missed,Rocking Dog

The One We Missed

Day one of The Remember Me Project in France saw us visit eleven cemeteries over a couple of hundred miles. We also popped into a twelfth cemetery on behalf of my lovely neighbour Molly. Her uncle had been killed very close to the end of the war and is buried at Anneux British Cemetery. We popped into the roadside cemetery to pay our respects and lay a poppy for Sgt Arthur Walter Rich who died on 28th September 1918 aged 20years.

Driving towards our accommodation for the night there was the awful realisation that I had missed out one of the cemeteries, oops! Though over an hours drive away and adding to the already long journey to Switzerland Andy offered to retrace our footsteps in the morning. We spent the night in a place called Cagnoncles and then ventured out early the following morning to head to the missed out cemetery, Villers Bretonneux Military Cemetery. We arrived there so early I had to climb over a low gate to lay my poppy for Pte Thomas Richardson. He was serving with 2nd/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment when he was killed in action on 31st March 1918. The cemetery is impressive as it also “houses” the Australian National Memorial. The cemetery and memorial is set on a hill with far reaching views over the French countryside. The cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and incorporates some impressive entrance buildings. The cemetery and memorial were created after the Armistice when graves were brought in from small burial grounds and from the battlefields. The cemetery itself is planted with symmetrically aligned trees and a beech hedge, it felt very peaceful and the views astounding. Over 2,000 servicemen are laid to rest here including two New Zealand pilots from WW2. A new museum, The Sir John Monash Centre is due to open here very shortly.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit the impressive Australian Memorial. It commemorates nearly 11,000 Australian servicemen with no known grave, their names being inscribed on walls surrounding the tower. The tower can be climbed, although in windy weather entry to the tower is restricted. On 25th April each year an Anzac Day dawn service takes place by the memorial.

We then re-tracked back to our pre-planned course and headed back towards St Quentin to visit Grand-Seraucourt British Cemetery. We were here to visit the grave of Pte Henry George Harmer who served with 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. He died aged 19yrs on 21st March 1918. Originally he had been buried elsewhere but was laid to rest (identified by his identification disc) at Grand Seraucourt British Cemetery. The cemetery was set up from a country lane in view of fields and a large hay barn. Henry’s grave was planted with succulents and herbaceous plants, lots of colour to look forward to. At the entrance to the cemetery there was an impressive bank of deep pink heather.

We then journeyed for nearly 2 hours to La Ferte-sous-Jouarre 66km from Paris. We were here to visit the memorial in the town which commemorates 3,740 Officers and men who served with the British Expeditionary Force. These were men who died (many dying at the Battle of Mons) between August and October 1914 with no known grave. Sgt Charles Blair Godwin had a very short war. He left England with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers as part of 4th Division on August 22nd 1914 and was dead by 26th August 1914. The report of his death states Sgt Godwin’s Coy (B Coy) was heavily engaged in the Battle of Le Cateau on August 26th covering the retirement of other troops. Orders to retire themselves never reached them, and by the evening they were closely surrounded by enemy. An attempt to break through with the bayonet was made, and Godwin fell fighting in this charge. Charles Godwin lived in Frenchay with his family in a large house called Woodfield. According to the 1901 census the family employed four live in servants. Now partitioned into two homes, one of them is Lake House. Our daughter and now son in law were lucky enough to be offered the garden for their wedding reception by friends who live there now. In the 1901 census Charles is 16 and an army Student. He attended Marlborough College from 1898-1900 and the college holds much information and photographs on the ex-pupils who served and died for their country.

The La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial is impressive and under extensive restoration.It was designed by George Hartley Goldsmith who was initially assistant draughtsman to Sir Edwin Lutyens before going on to be an architect in his own right. He designed 67 cemeteries including the co-design of Villers Brettoneux Military Cemetery & Memorial. Thankfully, I was able to find Sgt Godwin’s name and took photographs through the barrier. A poppy cross was left by the War Stone in his honour.

The cemetery dash was over this side of the trip. Switzerland and beyond!

Our journey home saw us visit the very last of our Whiteshill Memorial WW1 names, (at least the ones in France and Belgium). Before departing for the Euro Tunnel we headed to Ypres. We needed to find Edward Lewis’s name in amongst the 55,000 inscriptions on the Menin Gate. William (Edward) was born on 20th December 1895 in Winterbourne. In the 1911 census Edward is 15yrs and an assistant gardener. He is living with his mother Annie and stepfather Edwin together with six siblings/step siblings. A mere 4 years later Edward has been killed whilst serving with the North Somerset Yeomanry. We found his name high up on a panel on the memorial. He was watching down on the cobbled road which cars now rattle through. It is likely that Edward would have marched the same road out onto the battlefields. It is an incredibly moving monument and one evidently well visited. Poppy wreath’s covered steps and staircases. Wreaths from schools, universities, regiments, countries, industries and individuals each regaling how these servicemen will never be forgotten.

Between October 1914 and September 1918 hundreds of thousands of troops marched through the Menin Gate and the town of Ypres to the battlefields of Flanders. The Menin Gate Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Flanders. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and based on a concept of Triumphal Arch and central hall. It was built between 1923-27 and includes the inscription written by Rudyard Kipling “To the Armies of the British Empire who stood here from 1914-1918 and to those of their dead who have no known grave”

After placing a poppy for Edward at the bottom of the panel (Bay 5 Stone L) where he is commemorated I had a little stroll in Ypres. It is difficult to comprehend that most of the town is less than 100 years old. It was completely destroyed in WW1 and much thought was given to leave the town as it was to signify the destruction of war and act as a poignant memorial. However in the event it was decided to completely rebuild the town exactly as it was. Therefore the Cathedral, Cloth Hall and other important buildings were built to look identical to their shelled predecessors. Cobbled roads and railway tracks were relaid. A place of pilgrimage from the earliest post war days, Ypres is buzzy and offers cafe’s, places to stay, shops and historic tours. I definitely would love to return to Ypres and I want to be there to hear the Last Post which is bugled every evening at 8pm at the Menin Gate. The Last Post has been sounded there since 1928 and only in WW2 was this nightly ceremony interrupted. For the duration The Last Post was played at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. Ypres was occupied by the Germans from 20th May 1940 until 6th September 1944 and the evening the Allies took back the city was the night that The Last Post sounded again despite heavy fighting outside the city boundaries.

So, with Pte Edward Lewis’s poppy finally laid, my pilgrimage to France and Belgium was complete. 38 poppies laid in/at 32 cemeteries/memorials over approximately 5 days. It has been an amazing privilege to pay homage to these local heroes, many of them teenagers. I have been in awe of the beauty and individuality of the cemeteries and memorials I visited. They each had a very special unique feel and most enjoyed the beauty of life going on outside the boundaries of cemetery walls and hedges. I particularly loved the cemeteries with working farms, allotments and busy little towns going on around them. Without exception the cemeteries were beautifully kept with thoughtful seasonal planting, trees and with a nod to nature. I will always remember the New Zealanders’ lament at Hooge and the noisy cockerel at Ribecourt.

Special thanks must go to Andy for driving hundreds of miles to facilitate this project. Sometimes the atmosphere was fraught with wrong turns, mud, traffic, an inaccurate sat’-nav’ and even more inaccurate and perfectly hopeless navigator! I really appreciate you helping me with this journey, and I know for a fact you’d rather be following your team around Europe rather than following WW1 ghosts. Thank you from the bottom of my rusty old heart! Thanks too to Real Live Rocking Dog for being Sooo patient. PS. I just daren’t bring up the subject of all those WW2 names on the memorial.

So. The big question now is what to do with all this information, research, photographs etc.. I am keen to do something really meaningful for the community with it. We will indeed Remember Them.

……………………………..

As the weekend stretches out in front of us I am thinking of servicemen and women who are currently serving for our country in somewhat uncertain times.

Thanks for getting to the end of this rather long post.

Liz aka Rocking Dog x

Australian Memorial,Rocking Dog

Australian Memorial

Striking Entrance,Rocking Dog

Striking Entrance

Poppy For Henry,Rocking Dog

Poppy For Henry

La Ferte sous Jouarre,Rocking Dog

La Ferte sous Jouarre

Charles Blair Godwin,Rocking Dog

Charles Blair Godwin

Poppy For Sgt Godwin,Rocking Dog

Poppy For Sgt Godwin

Menin Gate, Ypres,Rocking Dog

Menin Gate, Ypres

54,000 Names,Rocking Dog

54,000 Names

Not Forgotten,Rocking Dog

Not Forgotten

8pm Invite,Rocking Dog

8pm Invite

Life Continues, Ypres,Rocking Dog

Life Continues, Ypres

Sign, Ypres. Rocking Dog

Sign, Ypres.

The Remember Me Project, France & Belgium Spring 2018

SO Many Names. Pozieres. Rocking Dog

SO Many Names. Pozieres. Rocking Dog

Sometimes I have to try and remember why I started this project. One or two folk have exclaimed “what do you want to do that for?” Thankfully they have been in the minority. Overwhelmingly people have been supportive and interested in my desire to try and lay poppies on as many graves/memorials of those WW1 names commemorated on my local War Memorial. Frankly there have indeed been times when Andy and I have thought “what are we doing?”. These transient feelings are more often than not to do with the Sat’-nav’ which has inconsiderately taken us off piste! Hundreds of miles have been travelled between the cemeteries in France and Belgium and many frustrated sighs and much map crumpling done. Narrow muddy tracks have been navigated, many turns in the road have been taken and much incoherent schoolgirl French has been spoken. There has been rain, wind, biting cold (and indeed pleasant sunshine) to endure. We have never lost sight of the fact that soldiers stood sleeping in wet lice infested uniforms for nights upon end against wet and muddy trench walls. The noise of shells, machine guns, dying men, braying horses and the silent but palpable fear of their fellow soldiers. Inadequate rations, wet trench foot ravaged feet, rats, shell-shock, noxious gas, the fear of “going over the top” enter our minds. It is moments when I imagine the war torn French and Belgian landscape of 100 years ago that I know why I am committed to my pilgrimage to those fallen local men.

This trip saw us travelling to Calais via The Shuttle. We then drove to Dieppe where we spent the night before visiting our first cemetery. Pte Leonard George Player of the 3rd Base Remount Department, Army Service Corps is buried in the Janval Cemetery, Dieppe. The port of Dieppe was used by Commonwealth Forces as a minor base from Dec 1914 onwards for the passage of small arms ammunition, flour and forage. A hospital was stationed in the town from Jan 1915 until May 1919. The Commonwealth graves form part of the larger communal cemetery. Belgian and French military graves are also sited within the walls of Janval. High weathered brick walls, freshly dug earth, spring bulbs and sunshine greeted us. The noisy cry of seagulls reminded us that we were close to the port. Aged 23, Pte Player died on 19th January 1916. His father paid for the inscription “He Is Not Dead, But Sleeping”. As I left the cemetery I became aware of a large slate plaque on a brick building at the entrance. It commemorates the talented painter Gwen John. Up until fairly recently it was slightly hazy as to where she was buried. Ffion Hague has been instrumental in researching and commemorating John’s life and death.

Our next cemetery stop was an hours drive away, close to the beautiful city of Rouen. Through a rather macabre set of black French tombs we reached the Commonwealth graves. I was here to visit the grave of Pte Francis Henry Goodman, 21st Australian Infantry at Bois Guillaume Communal Cemetery. Francis was born in Winterbourne and it seems he went to Australia at the age of 25yrs with his older brother Frederick. In the 1901 Census 17 year old Francis is listed as a stone mason whilst 20 year old Frederick’s occupation is carpenter. Francis died of wounds in France on 20th October 1918 aged 35yrs. Most of the CW casualties buried in the cemetery came from No 8 General hospital quartered in a large country house in Bois Guillaume. Frederick paid for the inscription on his brothers grave “A Painful Shock A Blow Severe To Part With One We Loved So Dear”.

We then travelled for nearly two hours to the Somme. Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery saw us lay a poppy for Pte Herbert George Goodfield who served with the Somerset Light Infantry (7th Battalion). He died from wounds on 31st August 1916. It is very possible that Herbert was bought in from the battlefield to Bronfay Farm where there was a large dressing station. It was a very peaceful cemetery which had views of fields, clumps of woodland and farm buildings. The grass was studded with daisies and spring flowers were beginning to burgeon.

A few minutes drive later we were at Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension to lay a poppy for Bombadier William John Mauler. A soldier with D Battery, 59th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, William died aged 20 on 10th November 1916. In the Parish magazine it said the following ” On Friday November 17th the sad news reached Frenchay that Bombadier William Mauler of the RFA had been killed in France on the 10th of that month. A gas shell fell on the edge of his dug-out about 4am and filled it with gas before he could get his gas-helmet on etc…” The inscription on his grave reads ” He Died For Freedom And Honour”

After another momentary drive we found ourselves at Forceville. In a lovely cemetery accessed by a grassy path we came to pay our respects to 2nd Lieut Jack Kilby. His grave was to one side of the Cross of Sacrifice and was planted with lavender, pinks and thyme. Kilby was one of the original members of 12th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment (Bristol’s Own) volunteering in September 1914. He went onto gain his commission in the 3rd Worcesters in June 1915. When he was fatally wounded by a German shell he was with 10th Bn Gloucester Regt attached to 7th Trench Mortar Battery. Aged 27yrs he left a widow Minnie (nee Luton) and he requested that no one should wear black mourning clothes should he die. By all accounts he was a brilliant sportsman and was captain of the village cricket team. His inscription reads “For England And The Honour Of Bristol’s Name”

After 15 minutes in the car we arrived at the imposing Thiepval Memorial.The memorial commemorates more than 72,000 men of British and South African Forces who died in the same sector before 20th March 1918 and who have no known grave. The majority of those commemorated died during the Somme Offensive of 1916. It is the largest Commonwealth Memorial to the missing in the world. High up on one of the panels I found Sgt Bert Knapp’s name. He died aged 22 on the 1st July 1916 whilst serving with 7th Bn Bedfordshire Regt. On two sides the memorial is bordered by mature Beech trees. Beneath their canopy drifts of snowdrops and daffodils were coming into bloom. Perched on a hill the memorial commanded views over beautiful French countryside.

Another short drive brought us to Pozieres. A cemetery and memorial, it is completely enclosed on three sides and somehow seemed to contain the sky. The fourth wall is pillared and looks out onto the road and fields beyond. The memorial stands in a cemetery of largely Australian graves. However, no Australian names appear on the memorial. The Australian officers and soldiers with no known grave are commemorated at Villers Bretonneux. I was here to see three of the 14,000 + names on the memorial. Gunner Herbert Clifford (Royal Horse & RFA), Cpl Alfred Flux (RFA) and Rifleman Benjamin Smith (7th Bn Rifle Brigade) all died on 21st March 1918. Three poppy crosses were carefully placed.

Further down the road we visited Warlencourt Cemetery. The cemetery was made late in 1919 when graves were brought in from small cemeteries and the battlefields of Warlencourt and le Sars. Pte Tom Biggs and Pte George Ernest Lloyd both of 6th Bn Gloucester Regt were killed on 5th November 1916. One grave separates their resting places. The cemetery is within view of the town of Warlencourt and has open views of fields and farms. The cemetery is planted with ornamental cherry trees.

There were still more cemeteries to go! We travelled for 15 minutes along the road to Queens Cemetery Bucquoy. Able Seaman Percy C Thompsons grave appears to have recently been replaced. It is white, its inscription and badge crisp. Percy had been serving with the Royal Naval Division Lewis gun section (Anson Battalion). He was killed in fighting on the Ancre, France on February 17th 1917. The cemetery had views of the town of Bucquoy, together with fields, wind farm, water tower and woodland.

As light was fading we dashed from Queens the 38 minute drive to Ribecourt British Cemetery. Able Seaman Thomas Adams of the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve was killed in action on 7th March 1918 and was subsequently buried in the little cemetery at Ribecourt. Unfortunately, the cemetery was later shelled and a special memorial “grave” states- T. Adams RNVR, Hood Battn, RND. 17th March 1918. Known to be buried in this cemetery. “Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out”. The cemetery is set up high on a country road just outside the little town. Across the road was a little orchard, farm buildings and a very noisy cockerel!

Our final port of call was a visit to Pte Herbert John Greens grave in Unicorn Cemetery Vendhuile. He was serving with 8th Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 17th September 1918. Aged 22yrs he left behind a widow Agnes (nee Amos). His inscription read “Death Cannot Divide”. The cemetery is situated down from a motorway. It is planted with espalier trees to provide a screen and there was underplanting of beautiful clumps of tete de tete.

Day one completed…..but wait we’ve missed a cemetery out. That’s a story for another day!

Poignant Poppies,Rocking Dog

Poignant Poppies

Sunny Plot, Dieppe, Rocking Dog

Sunny Plot, Dieppe

Chance Find,Rocking Dog

Chance Find

Side By Side,Rocking Dog

Side By Side

A Grave Between,Rocking Dog

A Grave Between

One Of Brothers,Rocking Dog

One Of Brothers

Thiepval,Rocking Dog

Thiepval

One Of Thousands,Rocking Dog

One Of Thousands

Striking Entrance,Rocking Dog

Striking Entrance

Heavy Sacrifice, Forceville,Rocking Dog

Heavy Sacrifice, Forceville

Fresh Stone,Rocking Dog

Fresh Stone

Replacement Stone,Rocking Dog

Replacement Stone

Gosh! It’s Been A While.

Setting The Scene,Rocking Dog

Setting The Scene

Gosh! It REALLY has been a while since Rocking Dog blogged. We have been fortunate in having the opportunity to spend an extended break in Umbria. The beauty of having super quick wifi is that work things can be dealt with across the miles.

We started our trip with visiting more cemeteries for The Remember Me Project. By the end of our break a total of 38 poppies had been laid in near enough the same amount of cemeteries across France and Belgium. This figure includes the cemeteries visited in October last year. A dedicated post regarding my latest poppy laying trip will pop up on the Rocking Dog site in the next few days.

Eventually we left the Somme and headed close to the Swiss border for an overnight stop. The spectacular trip through Switzerland followed and finally after a bit of white knuckle driving through northern Italy we reached Umbria. The sun doesn’t always shine in Italy. We had rain, we had wind, there was the cold and the odd luxurious sunny day. Most nights we were grateful for the newly installed wood burning stove. With temperatures hitting in excess of 40 degrees in the summer affecting grape and olive harvests the Umbrian folk have now had to endure an uncharacteristically cold winter. Thick snow and temperatures dropping well into the minus’s, they have needed their famous down filled puffa jackets!

In November we had grass seed sown but unfortunately it has shown no desire to germinate and grow. The sowing will be repeated next week and hopefully with the warmth of an Italian spring we will soon have verdant green pasture. Fingers crossed! It is too early to tell whether there will be a good harvest of olives late October, but we are ever hopeful. We love the whole process of producing olive oil from our trees. There were weather weary shrubs to replace and new herbs to dig in, there were 15 barrow loads of pruning to put on the bonfire and jolly geraniums to pot up. Constructive time spent outside.

I was sad to have lost a very lovely friend somewhat unexpectedly and did lots of contemplative walking and lots of contemplative sewing. It’s taken so much of my life to realise that sewing really does soothe my sad soul. Beloved Bernina really is truly therapeutic. Can I ask what soothes your soul?

Flying back to Bristol for my friends Celebration of Life service, Andy was left to host ancestors of the farmhouse we now own a tiny part of. From New York, they were apparently lovely and really enthusiastic about the area and their kinfolks former home. We hope they’ll return and stop for longer next time. I’m sure they are going to be pretty busy as they have sold their home and are converting an old yellow school bus for a unique mobile home.

As ever there was gorgeous food to eat, starry skies to be amazed by and the odd Aperol Spritz to partake in by the lake. It is often the most simple things that give the most pleasure. I love the ancient olive tree just outside one of our bedroom windows. As dawn arrives, the tree fills with chirpy and busy little birds. They enjoy the olives which escaped the rakes of the late autumn harvesting. Such a perfect view and I absolutely know that we are truly lucky.

Back in UK there are sewing projects to finish, ongoing research for The Remember Me Project and a job to apply for. The garden of the damp woodland variety needs to be tackled and the dusty, crumbly house needs to be dealt with. Friends need to be loved and cared for, and the nest got ready for another little grandchild. Volunteering for Young Carer’s will restart and yes, there are really lovely things to come home for … just not the dusting!

Hope you have a good week. Love Rocking Dog x

PS Many thanks to Cliff at the British Legion, Frampton Cotterell for the box of poppy crosses. The box is sadly empty- each cross represented one young local soldier who fell or who died of wounds during the Great War.

Roman Rugby,Rocking Dog

Roman Rugby

Letting In The Sun,Rocking Dog

Letting In The Sun

Contemplative Walking,Rocking Dog

Contemplative Walking

Choppy Lake,Rocking Dog

Choppy Lake

Calm Lake,Rocking Dog

Calm Lake

Social Lake,Rocking Dog

Social Lake

Cake,Rocking Dog

Cake

Pasta....,Rocking Dog

Pasta….

& Projects,Rocking Dog

& Projects

 

Snow, Cake, Siena & Unexpected DNA!

Gilded Siena,Rocking Dog

Gilded Siena

Sorry it’s been so long since Rocking Dog signed on. A week of coughing and the lack of sleep that came with that didn’t really make me feel much like talking either verbally or in the form of written words. At one point I looked across at Real Live Rocking Dog and thought “boy, your breathing’s a bit laboured” however after a while I realised it was indeed me that was the one breathing heavily!

Before Cough (BC) Andyman together with youngest daughter headed out to Umbria for a very cheeky little break. Though cold, the valley was embellished with the dazzling spectacle that is Mimosa. Birds were busily enjoying the olives that had escaped the olive oil bottle and the countryside as ever looked verdantly beautiful. The following morning Liv’ and I planned to head to Rome. We awoke to snow and the hills looked as if they had been magically dusted with icing sugar. It really was quite surreal seeing olive trees with a cloak of snow, especially with robins in residence!

Alas our train to Rome was cancelled so we decided to take the next available bus or train to destination unknown. We ended up on a bus heading to the beautiful city of Siena. The warm bus wiggled through snow covered medieval hilltop towns and past vineyards, ploughed fields and olive groves. In just over an hour we arrived at the bottom of the city. In years gone by these Italian hilltop towns would have needed an arduous and lengthy walk to reach their summits. Recently most cities have become inventive with their transport plans and there are lifts, escalators, funiculars and the like. On this occasion we used a series of steep escalators to reach the architectural delights of Siena. We had a really gorgeous time simply wandering. The Palio where the famous bareback horse races takes place annually (July 2nd and Aug 16th 2018) was joyfully devoid of the throb of summer tourists. If you are in Siena at any point the Complex of Santa Maria della Scala is worth a visit. It houses several museums and is the site of one of Europe’s first hospitals. The frescoes were wonderful and I loved the thought that patients had such amazing art to gaze at from their beds.  I particularly loved the starry ceiling in the First Aid Room.

Cake, delicious wine, pasta, wood fired pizza and friendly folk made this whistle-stop trip to Umbria and Tuscany very pleasurable.

After Cough (AC)- it’s been difficult trying to shake off this irritable ailment. Real Live Rocking Dog has not been loving the snow so like me has been enjoying curling up beside the wood-burner. Trying to do something slightly constructive I baked a cake using new season Rhubarb from the garden, delicious! There have been bathroom planning decisions to be made, and cupboards to de-hoard. I have been contemplating cutting the fabric for my new summer coat… maybe this week. Pattern matching, I can’t decide whether it’s a pleasurable challenge or acutely sadistically stressful!

There have also been soldiers to research ready for our return to the Commonwealth War Cemeteries in France later this month. This week there will be poppy crosses to collect and route planning to organise. Eighteen soldiers graves/memorials will be visited in fifteen different cemeteries over the course of two days. Our travels will take us to Dieppe and Rouen before heading up to a cluster of cemeteries on the Somme. There is a solitary cemetery to visit just East of Paris where we will pay our respects to a soldier whose family lived in a house where really good friends of ours now live. On our route home we will head to the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres where we will lay our last poppy cross in France. Together with the cemeteries we are hoping to visit some manmade caves under a church at Bouzincourt. During a Time Team episode in 2010 some WW1 graffiti was discovered. One name belongs to a soldier, Alfred Flux who lived in our village. Alfred wrote his name and details onto into the stone in 1916. Serving with the Royal Field Artillery he was to later die in March 1918. Having no known grave he is commemorated at Pozieres. On our return home there will be the lengthy job of collating all the information and archiving photographs.

Now for the DNA news. As you may already know my girls thoughtfully bought me an Ancestry DNA kit for Christmas. In January I sent off my phial of spit and waited patiently. I received an e.mail whilst in the supermarket on Wednesday telling me my results were in. Mother in Law promptly posted home with her bags of cakes, drive home done, bags dropped on the kitchen table, computer turned on…let the show begin!  The results were given in the form of a wheel of cheese and imagine my surprise that the largest percentage of my DNA is Scandinavian! Not a whiff of the French Huegenots that I expected. Roughly a quarter of the cheese wheel was Northern English and another quarter paid homage to my Celtic roots (Irish/Welsh Scottish). I always suspected I had red and white gingham running through my veins! The only slightly sad bit of this is that because my Mum and Dad are both dead I can’t ascertain easily who was the Viking in the family. Was it my Dad who was Scottish or my Mums long line Yorkshire family? Anyway I am loving being Scandi’ and there’s even an 8% wedge of Iberian Peninsula in there for good measure!

Anyway I must away now I have got to put the Elk Casserole on and get fitted for my Scandinavian traditional costume!

Have a great week and I hope the big thaw is well underway wherever you are. Stay cosy!

Liz aka Rocking Dog x

Before The Snow,Rocking Dog

Before The Snow

First Aid Room,Rocking Dog

First Aid Room

Coffee & Cake,Rocking Dog

Coffee & Cake

Snow & Metal,Rocking Dog

Snow & Metal

Snow Patrol,Rocking Dog

Snow Patrol

Monochrome Morning,Rocking Dog

Monochrome Morning

Stockholm,Rocking Dog

Stockholm

Penchant For Gingham!, Rocking Dog

Penchant For Gingham!

Scandi' Inspired Creativity,Rocking Dog

Scandi’ Inspired Creativity

Bake A Cake,Rocking Dog

Bake A Cake

Sew A New Coat,Rocking Dog

Sew A New Coat

Next Trip,Rocking Dog

Next Trip