Monthly Archives: September 2012

Keeping Promises

A ring at the doorbell, followed by the tap-tap of Jackson’s feet on the tiled front entry preceded Jackson’s knock on the door of the morning room.  “There is a gentleman here to see you madam” she said.  Well it was very early and Maisie Benton-Smythe, the  Countess of Waverley, was certainly not expecting anyone.  Taking a look at the proffered card, Maisie quickly ascertained that this was not a gentleman known to her.  What to do?  She was alone in the house except for Jackson, the parlour maid and Higgins the chauffeur.  Should she receive this stranger or send him away?  Or Jackson could deal with him and suggest he return at a more convenient and agreed time. which  would give Maisie time to find out who he was and in fact, whether she wished to receive him.

Indeed, he could not be a gentleman – no gentleman would call unannounced on a lady early in the morning.  So it was decided.  Jackson would send the man on his way suggesting that he write a note for madam stating his business and requesting a time to call upon her.

With Jackson despatched to pass the message to the gentleman, Maisie took herself off to the window to watch him depart  She was surprised to see a late-model sports car parked at the kerb and soon after  she saw a swarthy gentleman in a Panama hat climb into the driver’s seat.  Who could this be she wondered.

An excited call to Juliet Drummond (her very best friend) with a demand that Juliet hurry around to the house without delay.  Over cups of coffee the two friends discussed this “gentleman”.  Had either of them seen him before?  No they didn’t think they had.  How had he found where Maisie lived and what could his business be with her?  A quick call to Imogen (Lady Carruthers) meant that she would join the other two in trying to determine who this gent could be.

Imogen, it was, who thought she had seen this gentleman at the restaurant when they were having lunch on the day that they retrieved the bonnets.  But who was he and how had he discovered where Maisie lived.  The three women were very worried that he might be a stalker, with evil intentions.  The telephone was lifted again to call Juliet’s brother, Charles Spencer,  who happened to be a Member of Parliament and as such had acquaintances (if not friends) in all sorts of occupations.  One such was the Head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Walter Burke.  Charles promised to contact his friend and to report back as soon as possible.

Where is this story going?  I don’t know so please watch this space.  I am having fun with these ladies and their adventures.  I hope you are too.

And “the swarthy gentleman in the Panama hat seen lurking in the department store and later driving past Masie’s in a late model sports car” is an invention of Thomas Stazyk.  Thanks Thomas.

Related posts –Found at Last, The Bonnets, Part 2, Part 3, Lost, In Search of the Bonnets and  Hats, Hats on Again, New Hats, The Beach



It’s In The News Today


“Some day, when I’m awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight.”

It’s on all the news media today, Legendary singer Andy Williams has died at the age of 84.  I first came across this singer way back in the late 1960s when we were living in Montreal.  Each week, with my two small children, I settled down to watch “The Andy Williams Show”.  Williams has been described as one of the gentlemen of the music world, the last great crooner and has been credited with helping the Osmonds become known, in particular helping the two youngest Osmonds, Donnie and Marie become household names.

He had many hits but my favourite is “The Way You Look Tonight”.  Click here to listen to him singing this on YouTube.

There has been many obits written about the man.  My comment to add to these is ‘Sail safely across your Moon River Mr Williams.  And thank you for all the happy hours and great memories.”

And what else is making the news?

  • The UK Daily Telegraph Newspaper tells us that a Hong Kong property magnate and father Cecil Chao Sze-tsung offers $HK 500 million  to anyone who can ‘woo’ his lesbian daughter.  “I don’t care whether he is rich or poor” said Mr Chao “The important thing is that he is generous and kind-hearted”.  The queue forms here! and
  • Interpol is on the lookout for a 15-year-old girl who has absconded with her maths teacher.  The pair (he is more than twice her age) was last seen boarding a ferry to Calais earlier this week.  No reward has been offered by this family but a heartfelt plea from her parents for her to come home.
  • In New Zealand – an avalanche has been reported on the Remarkables Ski Field near Queenstown in the south Island.  Details are sketchy at present as the report was only received some 1.5 hours ago.
  • A 68-year-old woman who police allege was part of a multi-million dollar drug syndicate has pleaded guilty to cannabis and money laundering charges.
  • The internet mogul Kim Dotcom has been all over the news here for the past few days.  Today the Prime Minister apologised to him for what he has described as “basic errors” by the Government Communications and Security Bureau.  Apparently the GCSB has no mandate and in fact,  is expressly forbidden to spy on NZ citizens and Mr Dotcom has permanent residency status here.  The US is attempting to have Mr Dotcom extradited to answer a long list of piracy accusations against he and others.
  • From the Calgary Herald we learn that a Victoria, BC teenager who has raised more than $C 1 million for children’s charities requires surgery for a medical condition that is causing her spine to deteriorate.  The surgery available in Canada is likely to leave her paralyzed but the Province refuses to pay for her a second opinion from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where experimental surgery is being undertaken.  Hard decisions have to be made.

Aren’t we lucky to live in an age when we can read newspapers from around the world and marvel at how crazy this world is?

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
John Lennon 1940-1980


Castles in the Air?


I really am a frustrated Real Estate Agent who loves to find different buildings for sale around the world.

Several months ago while browsing, or as my sister calls it noodling, around the internet I came across a water tower for sale in the village of Burton Green some 8 miles from Coventry.  I wrote a blog about it and remembered it today when I came across the British Water Tower Appreciation Society’s blog giving notice of the AGM to be held on Monday 24th September 2012 at 7.30 pm.

British Water Tower Appreciation Society Logo

According to the notice the formal business was to be followed by “virtual tour around North Norfolk’s water towers, including photographs of several that are no longer standing. Many that you will not have seen and that will not be published due to security or copyright.”

And again today, I had some time to  spare and I browsed around the internet for any other properties of interest, for sale or otherwise.  And I came across Caerlaverock Castle.

Our friends at Wikipedia tell us:

Caerlaverock Castle is a moated triangular castle, built in the 13th century, in the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve area at the Solway Firth, south of Dumfries in the southwest of Scotland.
In the Middle Ages it was owned by the Maxwell family. Today, the castle is in the care of Historic Scotland and is a tourist attraction and popular wedding venue. It is protected as a scheduled monument and as a category A listed building.

So then I wondered whether there were other triangular castles or buildings around the world and I found

  • Butrint’s Triangular Fortress on the bank of the Vivari Channel. Built sometime after 1490, the fort principally served to protect Butrint’s valuable fisheries; however, the fort’s defences span the technologies of arrows and gunpowder. Based on an uncommon design, with only few equivalents throughout medieval Europe, its form may in part have been dictated by the shape of the island upon which it was constructed.
  • Wewelsburg  is  located in the northeast of Westphalia, Germany, in the village of Wewelsburg  in the Alme Valley. The castle has the outline of a triangle (aerial photo). After 1934 it was used by the SS under Heinrich Himmler and was to be expanded to the central SS-cult-site.   After 1941 plans were developed to enlarge it to the so-called “Center of the World”.  Legend suggests that during the 17th century the castle held thousands of accused witches who were tortured and executed within its walls.
  • Longford Castle is located on the banks of the River Avon south of Salisbury, Wiltshire, England and dates back to the 16th century.  The main building had several floors and was triangular with a round tower in each corner; the three towers representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. There was a chapel, kitchen area, several lounge and sitting rooms, as well as bedrooms. Fresh cold water was pumped to various floors and there were water closets operated with rainwater. And in the grounds were a park, fruit garden and kitchen garden.

And this set me off on another tangent that of the remains of the many and varied castles around the UK, and particularly Scotland, but that will have to wait for another day.

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I
can unlock the door remains to be seen.”
From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1832-1888


Spring Fever

I’m as restless as a willow in a windstorm,
I’m as jumpy as a puppet on a string,
I’d say that I had spring fever,
But I know it isn’t spring.
I’m as starry eyed and gravely discontented,
Like a nightingale without a song to sing.
Oh, why should I have spring fever,
When it isn’t even spring?
Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II (1945)

Last year around this time I wrote about the arrival of the Godwits in the South Island – click here to read it again.

Godwits en route

They really do herald Spring in our part of the world.  And they are so predictable.  Each year after spending the summer in Alaska they spend the early autumn in in the mudflats there fattening up for the long flight south.  This in readiness for their long flight to New Zealand , a distance of approximately 11,000 kms.

U.S. Geological Survey Biologist Bob Gill has been following these tiny birds and noting their habits for several years and he poses the question how, while weighing less than 500 grams (approx 1lb) can these tiny birds store enough fuel to fly non stop over these vast distances.

So with the profusion of tulips at the Botanic Gardens yesterday, the Godwits and clocks being moved forward for Daylight Saving on Sunday we can really say that Spring is here.

“It’s spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  ”
Mark Twain

Tulip Time at The Botanic Gardens

It has been a perfect Spring weekend – sunshine, warmth and little wind. In Wellington we are very fortunate to have not only the bush and the Town Belt in which to wander but also The Botanic Gardens. Today we took ourselves off to the Gardens to ooh and ah over the magnificent display of tulips.  Words are not necessary…

TulipsYellow tulips

The Gardens were teeming with people; young couples, older couples and definitely old couples, families with children all sizes and ages and dogs of every breed and some unknown breeds.

No time To WaveGoodbye

If you have read any of my posts you will know that I am a Londoner, and although I haven’t lived in that fascinating city for some 50 plus years I still think of it as home.

I was born shortly before the Second World War broke out and have described how I grew up during the bombing by the Luftwaffe, thinking this was how all people lived.  And it wasn’t until many, many years later while talking to a German Pastor over coffee, that I realised that there were also German children growing up under the same conditions.

Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about evacuation but mainly about those children who were sent to Australia without their parents’ knowledge or consent – Oranges and Sunshine .  A plan that while made with good intentions (?) went horribly wrong.

Because we lived in the East End of London and the Docks were the target of the bombing, many children were evacuated to the country out of harms way.  But Mother decided we would all stay together; I think she didn’t trust strangers to look after her three precious daughters.  We did go to stay with an aunt in Nottinghamshire for a short time, but the aunt wasn’t Mother’s favourite person and we three were miserable so the stay was very short.

The plan was to evacuate the  school aged  children (without their mothers)  from the East End of London and areas around the docks in Liverpool and Glasgow and while it was made with good intentions it went horribly wrong in places. Mothers with children under school age, children and expectant mothers were  encouraged to evacuate.  Official figures put the number of evacuees at:

  • Schoolchildren (827,000) and their teachers
  • Mothers with children under five (524,000)
  • Pregnant women (12,000)
  • Some disabled people

Some of the evacuees had a great time, but of course, many were homesick and ran  back home.  Most hadn’t been away from their homes at all and many had never seen grass or cows.  It must have been a rude awakening.  And some were very badly treated.  They were used as unpaid household and farm help and many were kept in deplorable conditions.

The decision to evacuate was made by politicians and people who had no concept of how many children lived in the poorer areas of the land.  These decision makers were used to sending their own children (or at least their sons) away to boarding school at the age of 6 or 7 and they had no idea that this would be a totally foreign concept to most of the population.  But the decision was made.

Book cover

My very tattered copy.

In 1990 on a sunny afternoon in Toronto we were invited to accompany our hosts to a party on a launch.  Here we met Ben Wicks, a journalist now a Canadian  who had been evacuated when he was 12  and had decided to write about not only his own experiences but also those of other evacuees.  He posted advertisements in papers in the UK, Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa asking for those who had been evacuated to contact him.  He had an overwhelming response.

The book brings history to life as told by the people who lived this experiment and makes compelling reading.  The twins who were sent to separate houses, the boy who slept under the stairs and had to have the fire lit and the kettle boiling for breakfast before the family rose in the morning and even then he only had what was left after the family had eaten, the brother and sister taken to a farm and who slept with the animals in the barn; and then there were those who were treated beautifully.  The two brothers who were treated as the two sons the couple never had and with whom the brothers kept in contact for many years, and the young girl who was given piano lessons.  One of the famous people who was evacuated is Sir Michael Caine  (aka Maurice Micklewhte).  Sir Michael’s  family lived in Southwark, South London, and he was evacuated when he was six and remembers being one of the “filthy kids from London with funny accents.”

In the book this greatest movement of people that Britain ever experienced is recalled  in interviews Ben Wicks conducted with those evacuees who made themselves known to him.  And Wicks noted that an important repercussion to the evacuation  was heightened political awareness of the injustices of the British class  system.



Clapping hands

Note – This is Blog No 501.  Worthy of applause? Now for tonight’s blog.

Tonight we went to the movies.  Yes again.  The choice of movies at our local bijoux theatre was good – The Wish, Your Sister’s Sister, On The Road and more, and we chose Hysteria.

It is described as a romp through London in the late 1800s when Hysteria was a catch-all phrase for many women’s problems.  Click here to see the trailer.

I thought it was all terribly ‘tongue in cheek’ until I looked up our good friends at Wikipedia.  Here we learn “hysteria was a once-common medical diagnosis, made exclusively in women, which is today no longer recognized by modern medical authorities as a medical disorder. Its diagnosis and treatment were routine for many hundreds of years in Western Europe.”

It appears that there really was a Dr (Joseph) Mortimer Granville who invented the electro-mechanical vibrator as a means to achieve this ‘paroxysm” in his female patients without his (the doctor) having to stand for up to an hour administering the ‘pelvic massage’.  There had been an earlier invention by an American physician,  a steam-powered vibrator called ‘The Manipulator’ .  Granville’s invention was rapidly followed by other contraptions none of which could be manipulated away from the doctor’s surgery.

Sears catalogue advertising vibrator

A 1918 Sears, Roebuck and Co. ad with several models of vibrators. via Wikipedia

Then along came electricity giving the ability to use vibrators in one’s own home, then of course, came all sorts of battery operated toys including vibrators.  And if we are to believe all we are told millions of vibrators reside in homes around the world.  But no,  I won’t ask if you have one.

Yet More on the Bonnets

A few days ago I wrote about Promises to Keep and was reminded that several of my posts ended in To Be Continued..and in fact they never had been continued.  So I am making a concerted effort to make good and keep those promises made.

Today I shall start with the continuing saga of The Bonnets.  In case you don’t know this saga started in June when Sallyann of Photographic Memories wrote a post about some bonnets left in a taxi cab and suggested that I might come up with the answer to why they were there.

Bonnets in taxi

Photo thanks to Sallyann at Photographic Memories.
Click on the picture to go to Sallyann’s post.

If you are interested in reading this saga, the links will appear at the foot of this post.

Caroline Fortescue (more usually known as Daisie) borrowed a couple of her grandmother’s hats to go to a 1950s party with her friend Charlotte.  Of course, her grandmother Maisie was delighted to lend the girls a couple of hats and she and her two best friends Juliet and Imogen entered into the spirit and produced some hats of their own for the girls to choose which they preferred.

The party was a success (?) but when the girls awoke the next day the bonnets were missing and they had to confess to Maisie et al.  Another string of adventures followed while the bonnets were located but as is usually the case with Maisie and friends involved, all didn’t go smoothly.  In recovering the bonnets the two ladies stopped off for a light lunch before which they indulged in some shopping during which they each bought a new hat.  And you’ve guessed it, the new hats to which the two ladies had treated themselves were lost during the course of the day.

So now the story continues…Thomas   Stazyk commented after the last post “Yes . . . and what about that swarthy gentleman in the Panama hat seen lurking in the department store and later driving past Maisie’s in a late model sports car?” So that takes the story off in yet another direction.

After her two friends left, Maisie sat pondering the question of where were the new hats?  She remembered she and Juliet had them at lunch and was sure that they had taken them to the lost property office.  She recalled placing the bag containing the hats at her feet while she filled out the required form to take away the bonnets but had no recollection of what happened after that.  So the very next morning she called the lost property office and having spoken to the same very helpful young woman, found that the hats were indeed just where they had left them the day before.  Maisie thought to herself that any cleaner working for her would be instantly dismissed if she/he didn’t see such a large parcel on the floor when completing the evening cleaning tasks.

Anyway, so the bonnets were found and could be returned to their rightful owners.  Juliet was called as was Imogen.  Neither lady wished to upset their friend again in leaving her out of the adventure.  Then having agreed where to meet,  all three sallied forth yet again to recover their new hats and have a light luncheon before returning home.  And the swarthy gentleman?  Well that really does have to be the subject of yet another post.

Related Posts

Promises To Keep

Do you know Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”?

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely,  dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

 Robert Frost American Poet 1874 – 196

I first discovered Frost many years ago when we were discussing/dissecting The Road Not Taken in an English lesson at school so many, many years ago and then years later I rediscovered him at University.  Everybody knows the first two lines of that poem – “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both….” but there are many others to be discovered and enjoyed

I was thinking today about the blogs that I had written and ended with the words To be continued.. that haven’t been continued and I thought that I had promises to keep.  Then this poem sprung to mind.  I couldn’t remember all the words but our friends at Wikipedia supplied the second and third verses.

So thank you Wikipedia.  I shall now make good on those promises to complete the various unfinished stories.  So as they say, Watch This Space. Free images

And now
As the water cascades and tumbles
over the rocks in it’s rush
down to join the river
so my thoughts tumble around my brain
looking for an outlet
or a safe place to stop.
Judith Baxter, blogger, writer and friend
1938 –


Saturday Again..

OK so it’s Saturday again.  Where did this week go?  Must have been  having fun!

Six word Saturday button

If you want to play along either click on the above image or go to


A couple of days ago  I wrote about a very simple pleasure bestowed on me by two little girls and I thought how lucky I am to live where I do, rather than in a retirement village surrounded only by other ‘oldies’.

So to Saturday.  Today started out as grey and very windy so as is my wont, I stayed in bed with my book having been brought breakfast –  juice, coffee and toast  – until well into the day.  When I did surface the wind was blowing and I thought it would be a stay at home day.

However, shortly after lunch I finished my book “The Dying Light” by Henry Porter and thought we should sally forth to the supermarket to buy whatever we needed for dinner.  While I had been reading about intrigue in the highest echelons of British politics, Prime Minister et al, my friend had been reading the daily newspaper and discovered there was a new (?) lookout on the hills above Wellington.  So we decided that we would try the walk to the lookout and then go to the supermarket.

By the time we worked out where we were going, the day had changed completely,  the sun was shining, the wind had dropped and it had become an almost perfect Spring day.

We found the new lookout Te Ahumairangi and marvelled at the sight of the city spread in its glory in front of us.

We also found this great place to walk Lotte without her lead.  She was really excited as she rarely is off the lead when out of the house.  On the walk we met several people exercising their dogs, so Lotte has a whole lot of new friends to meet on her walks in future because we will certainly be going back to this area of the town belt.

I have written before about how lucky we are in this capital city to have the town belt and how so many of the citizens fail to take advantage of the peace and serenity that it offers us in this busy world that we inhabit.  We certainly appreciated it today – the wind was absent for a short time and the sun shone.


My rainbow

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