Whittlesey Wordsmiths

Lattersey Nature Reserve Whittlesey the walkway in Autumn

The walkway at Lattersey Nature reserve the beauty of this scene constantly changes with the seasons

Whittlesey Wordsmiths are fortunate to have within their ranks, two published authors, winners of fiction writing prizes, a very able editor/ proof-reader  and a talented biographer.

Set up under the Whittlesey U3A umbrella this local group meets monthly at the Scaldgate Centre in Whittlesey. Meetings are held every first Thursday of the month from 11am, anyone is able to attend a free taster session but will need to join the U3A to become a member of the group, the fee is £3 per meeting to cover venue costs.

At recent meetings we have been fortunate to have had presentations by two local authors on the intricacies of publishing a book, both in print and online. The talks were informal, informative and very instructive. Thank you Stephen Oliver and Stuart Roberts. Like many commonplace objects that successfully manage their function, we ignore the container, giving it little or no regard but delight only in its contents. In the same way that we ignore the jar the jam arrives in, caring little for its design, construction and functionality, so it is with a book. We care little for the printing unless the quality is so bad it makes reading difficult, little for the binding (unlike Samuel Pepys) but only on the written words within.

Publication, its details, fonts, layout, sizes, printing, copyright and a myriad other things, though only covered briefly, were for most of us a completely new field.

A current project is to produce a collection of work by the Wordsmiths in time for Christmas, these talks were a help in focussing attention on the job ahead. The content is being assembled with ease from the increasing pool of talent, that is the group. The hard work will probably be assembling it into a finished product, not the filling but the container.

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Delivering the News

A version of this article was published in Best of British Magazine in their Past Remembered section. A first for me, being paid for something written by myself.

 

I was about or just under thirteen years old when starting my first newspaper round in Huntingdon – a morning round, using a Pashley small front-wheel large-basket trades bike. A Sunday round was added next, in a different part of town. At that time there was competition for paper rounds, even waiting lists. My evening round was the most interesting. The morning and Sunday rounds I delivered for a newsagent but the evening round was my first taste of self-employment.

An older lad leaving school gave me the round. The papers were bought direct from a wholesaler and sold to the public. In 1964 the gross profit per paper was one penny – the old penny: large and 240 to the pound.

The wholesaler used an office at a garage and taxi company’s in Ferrar’s Road. It was situated in the back corner of a rectangular cobbled yard, the house at the front was the garage owners’. There were workshops down one side of the yard, a high wall along the opposite side. The back of the yard, away from the house, had more buildings and an arch with a driveway underneath leading to lock up single garages rented to the public.

The office contained a desk, a typewriter and chair, two largish tables, two more chairs, a telephone, tea-making facilities, also a large machine for printing Stop Press onto the papers. The evening papers sold by my wholesaler were London papers – The Evening News and The Standard. He was also the local wholesaler for a few magazines, one of which was Private Eye, a good read even then.

After finishing school, dropping my things at home, and collecting the trades bike, it was off to the wholesalers. There I collected about a dozen papers before cycling to the railway station. In the station I sold papers to waiting passengers – at first on the platform nearest the ticket office then, crossing the footbridge to the northbound platform, to commuters waiting there. When the express train from London arrived – I can’t remember whether, at that point, they were still steam or early diesels – the papers were collected from the guard’s carriage. The two bundles were carried back over the bridge – Evening News on my right shoulder, Evening Standards in my left hand – heaved into the basket of my bike, and I would be off.

There was a steepish hill out of the station to George Street but after that it was downhill leaving George Street, to use a short cut down cobbled Royal Oak Passage to the High Street. The passage had a central gutter then with an iron drain about halfway along. One day the bike’s front wheel caught in the drain, catapulting me over the handlebars. The bike stood on its end, the heavy papers pinning the basket to the ground.

Royal Oak Passage Huntingdon

Royal Oak Passage as it is now the central gutter and drain have both gone

Once through the passageway, my journey would continue up the High Street to the wholesaler’s delivering the papers to the office.

Premises in Ferrars Road Huntingdon.

P Cumberland DN The wholesalers were in the far right-hand corner of the outbuildings painted white. The house at the front belonged to the owner of the garage.

The Stop Press news would be received by telephone and transcribed in shorthand by the wholesaler’s secretary, the garage owner’s wife. The news was typed up onto a Roneo stencil, a narrow strip that looked like carbon paper perforated at one end. The stencil was loaded onto a drum at one end of the Stop Press machine, the papers placed onto a shelf at the other end then fed onto a conveyer by hand. The conveyer  passed papers under the rotating drum, which printed the news updates onto each paper in turn.

As soon as a dozen papers were printed. I would take them to a nearby factory – The Silent Channel – this company made rubber mouldings and also the guide channels for vehicle windows, cycling around the factory to sell as many as papers as possible before returning to the wholesalers to collect the rest of my papers. The other distributor at the wholesalers had driven off by then in his Austin A30, delivering papers to local newsagents.

Pashley trades bike

Pashley Trade’s Bike

The basket would be reloaded then I would head for the home of my assistant Stephen. His was the original round acquired from my predecessor. When he had his papers it was off again, next stop French’s offices and hostel. French’s were building London overspill estates, enlarging Huntingdon. After selling papers around their premises I delivered my own round, looking out for new prospective customers at the same time. A small John Bull printing set enabled me to produce advertising cards for evening paper delivery services, posted through the letter boxes of new arrivals, followed up with a call, which often gained new customers. The business was given to Stephen when I left school aged fifteen keeping a Sunday round on for a few years afterwards. I have a Sunday paper round now, have had for fifteen years or so, but in a different town. I am probably now the oldest paper boy in the Fens

Moon River

For many years I have loved the song Moon River, vaguely aware that it was connected with the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I was browsing the DVDs at a local charity shop looking for Funeral in Berlin when I found a copy of Breakfast at Tiffanys. I bought it and watched it tonight for the first time. Those of us who grew up during the sixties, well me at least, always associate that time, that decade with hope and a feeling that things were improving, would continue to improve.

Breakfast at Tiffanys has that feeling about it. A journey leading the two main characters, played by Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, away from dependency on those who sought to buy their souls to a hopeful better future. A film like all good films for me, with a happy ending. Most of us if not all us want happy endings, not always for ourselves but more importantly for those we love and care for.  A journey with our own Moon River perhaps.

 

All time Lowe a review

All Time LoweAll Time Lowe. Written by Stuart Roberts

I had the privilege of reading the first novel by a locally based author and a request for my thoughts.
It is always difficult to invite criticism of your work, knowing that from personal experience. Whilst my work involved selling products I had designed and made, writing a book is equally as difficult. No one should underestimate the mental and emotional effort required together with dogged determination to turn an idea into a finished written work.
Stuart’s first book, a supernatural thriller, is a damn good read, in fact, it is a really very damn good read, I consumed it in less than a day finding it difficult to put down. Most of my reading is either detective fiction or espionage thrillers so was unsure whether something that wasn’t within those genres would work for me. The story centres around two men from different backgrounds thrown together by circumstances into, for them the alien environment of a mental health ward. The edgy story twists and turns before reaching a nail-biting conclusion.
I look forward to seeing more work from this very talented man and hope a second novel is underway.

I have had an email asking me to put a link in my post from someone who would like to get a copy, so for them and anyone else interested.

All time Lowe a review

 

And a link to his website

https://stuartrobertswrite.wixsite.com/mysite-1

 

 

More Sunsets

Probably the two most obvious features of the Fens leaving aside their flatness are the skies and water. Although everywhere has sky, like the seas and oceans the Fens have an abundance of sky. When as we so often are, blessed with a spectacular sunset, it is as if some one has painted an ever-changing vast canvass for us to view. These sunsets were photographed between August and October this year.

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Sunset over Whittlesey

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Orton Mere

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Orton Mere

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Kings Dyke

 

The following shots were from North Bank all taken the same evening the hot air balloon was descending as it came into land intending to land in what light remained. The photos were taken over a distance of approximately one and a half miles and a time peiod of about fifteen minutes.

 

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U3A Walking Group Houghton Trip


 

We travelled to Houghton Mill by car, thank you to our chauffeurs. On arrival the group gathered together in the car park, the weather was fine remnants of the early mist were diminishing fast under the strengthening sun.

Ready for the off

Ready for the off

The current mill at Houghton on the river Great Ouse was built in the seventeenth century, with improvements made in the nineteenth century, it is now owned by the National Trust and in working order. When I was a lad it was disused as a mill and used as a Youth Hostel. There was mention of a mill on the site as early as the Doomsday Book, one was originally built in 963AD

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Houghton Mill

 

We walked through the mill, (the footpath passes though the building itself), crossed the bridges and set off across Hemingford meadow towards Hemingford Abbotts, it was dry under foot with little wind. the group crossed the bridge into Hemingford Abbots then walked along Common Lane into the centre of the village. There are many attractive old cottages remaining together with a thatched pub, the Axe and Compass.

Axe and Compass

The Axe and Compass

When I was a young lad, I left school at fifteen and started working at a garage in Hemingford as an apprentice mechanic. Although I left the garage close on fifty years ago a lot of the village is familiar, though changed from how I remember it. we followed the footpaths to the river then walked along the bank until reaching Hemingford Grey. I used to know a man who lived in River Cottage at Hemingford Grey. He was a customer of the garage where I worked and a friend of the owner, he had been a prisoner of war by the Japanese. At the age I was then, his experiences didn’t interest me as much as they would now, the one thing I recall him saying was the commander of the prison camp, believed he must be intelligent, believing he came from Cambridge rather than living close to it.

St James Church Hemingford Grey

St. James Church Hemingford Grey

St. James church in Hemingford Grey was approached walking along a path beside the river, it is in a beautiful position. We walked past it and after a while walking through Hemingford Grey village passed some picturesque lakes, formed I would imagine from disused gravel workings carrying on further we found ourselves back on the open meadow.

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A view of the lake

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Back on the Meadow

We continued across the meadow until we reached the outskirts of St Ives at the Dolphin Hotel passing through its grounds onto London Road. Leaving the hotel behind crossing the historic town bridge into the town. The bridge is noted for its’ old chapel in the centre, the chapel is now single storey, I have seen old photographs of it having three storeys, the upper two, which had been added to the original, were removed in the thirties.

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A view from the bridge

Entering the centre of St Ives, I was surprised at how prosperous the town now looked. It seems an influx of people commuting to Cambridge has brought more wealth to the town and provided the money for things to improve. We carried on through St. Ives passing the Nelsons Head pub, which featured in my misspent youth. An acquaintance of mine owned a very elderly Humber Hawk car which had lost reverse gear, a three point turn necessitated the passengers disembarking and providing the reverse push. The chap was showing off to a young lady who worked at the pub one night and in the process managed to crash into a bollard, as a result the passenger side headlight pointed skyward and to the left. As he drove along, the headlight that side, shone into upstairs bedroom windows.

St Ives

The walking group sightseeing in St. Ives

We carried on along the Waits beside the river, then through All Saints churchyard continuing on past the bridge to Holt Island, then onto the Thicket, the footpath to Houghton.

Chinese Bridge St Ives 2

The bridge to Holt Island

The Thicket is a pleasant wood lined walk to Houghton passing through the nature reserve. We re-entered Houghton passing some really picturesque buildings en route, this is one.

Thatched cottage at Houghton

This cottage wouldn’t be out of place on a chocolate box.

Continuing back into the centre of the village past the Three Horseshoes on the right and to the left a statue of Potto Brown.

Three Horseshoes

The Three Horseshoes

Potto Brown

Statue of Potto Brown

I had seen Potto Browns’ statue on visits to the village in the past but paid little attention to it, I didn’t know who he was and couldn’t read the inscription, so with the aid of Google did a bit of research. The tenant of Houghton mill during the nineteenth century and a philanthropist, founding many local schools, a chapel, also allotments amongst other things for the poor. There are more details for him on Wikipedia and the St Ives.org website, under oddities.

We completed our walk by returning to the Mill for a well earned cuppa at the National Trust cafe. All in all an excellent walk, together for me and one or two others, originating from this part of Cambridgeshire, a trip down memory lane. My thanks to the organisers and to the weather.

 

 

 

 

U3A Visit to the Royal Institute

U3A visit to the Royal Institute.

 

Three of us from Whittlesey U3A visited the R. I. in London Jeff Moreland his wife Jackie and myself. We travelled from Whittlesey to Peterborough by bus, (unfortunately too early in the morning to use our bus passes). We then walked from the bus to train station and after a wait onto a train to London, Kings Cross.

Whilst on the train we discussed the complexity of ordering train tickets online and the difficulties of navigating the pricing structures. We all agreed that a Nationalised rail service might well be a return to sanity.

On arrival at Kings Cross we tried the House of Illustration, my idea,  in Granary Square. It was about a ten minute walk, probably not so long when you know the way, we weren’t impressed with the current exhibitions, just two of the three galleries were open.

We then made our way back to Kings Cross to try the underground to Green Park, again the ticketing proved a bit of a head ache until Jeff and Jackie found they could use their contactless debit cards to pay at the barriers. Before they had been made aware of this they were quoted £25 one way. In a rare moment of forward planning I had bought myself an Oyster Card on the same day I bought my train ticket. Jeff had sorted out the line we needed and we were quickly at Green Park. We walked to Albermarle Street, found the RI and had a quick “recce”. The cafe was a bit crowded but after a quick look round we found a pub for a sandwich and a cuppa. The Ritz was close by but we decided against mixing with the riff raff, it can attract.

The Faraday Museum in the basement of the Royal Institute is very interesting and well worth a visit there is a lift down to the cafe which is also in the basement.

The lecture hall in the RI is very cosy and although the Christmas lectures on television give an insight into its’ intimacy, they also give an impression of more space than then really is, particularly in the demonstration area.

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The Lecture Theatre at the RI

Following an introduction by Pam Jones, (Chairman of The Third Age Trust) the lectures started.

The lectures were varied and interesting the programme started with Alison Fairbrass  with her lecture; New technology for monitoring London’s wildlife.

Alison’s area of interest centred on the movement of bats, monitoring them acoustically using specialist sound recording devices and software. She mentioned the problems of collecting large amounts of data, then being able to analyse the information and understand the results. There was a lively question and answer session at the end.

The lecture was very interesting but as the theatre was warm and stuffy I nearly dozed off at one point. During the tea break following the second lecture, we discussed what it would have been like attending lectures at the RI in an earlier time. In years gone by, nearly everyone smoked, probably mainly pipes at that, with the theatre lit only with candles and oil lamps, it would have made the warm and stuffy we experienced seem like a breath of fresh air.

The second lecture was given by Chiara Ambrosio with the title; What does art have to do with science?

The lecturer had a strangely strong Italian accent for someone who claimed to be born and raised in Oxford, it did cross my mind that Ms. Ambrosio was actually Italian and this could possibly be a ruse to ensure she is able to remain in the UK after Brexit. The lecture explored the historic relationship between art and science. How art was used to represent scientific thought and how often artistic interpretation had taken precedent over accuracy. In the question and answer session literature was touched on as being part of the arts, science fiction was mentioned, I have heard it described elsewhere as science prediction, rather than science fiction.

After tea and biscuits we had the last lecture, I noticed that there were empty seats after the break that had previously been occupied. It would be interesting to find out why.

This lecture was delivered by Chris Darby, the subject Cryptography. Mr. Darby explained the nature of encryption, how it was used to protect information or data and how it could be circumvented. As with all the lecture subjects that afternoon, they were just the briefest of glimpses into subjects of great interest and depth. This particular subject probably touched more of us directly, more immediately then any of the others, our data and privacy are now at greater risk from theft and misuse than ever before.

There was a closing speech from Pam Jones and we extricated ourselves from the rather snug seating.  Walked back to Green park station and made our way back on the now more crowded and cosy underground to Kings Cross.

We decided to eat at Kings Cross as we had a long wait for the train,  Jeff managed to locate a pie and pasty outlet, a noted area of interest for him. After demolishing the pasties Jeff and I had a walk round outside, leaving Jackie to guard the bags.

We had  a look at St. Pancras station, the view inside is stunning, the sheer size of the arched canopy is awe inspiring.

St Pancras Station

St. Pancras Station

Dominating the platform just through the entrance is a huge bronze statue of a soldier embracing his wife or girlfriend in an act of farewell. It is a beautiful work of art, easily accessible and not requiring any interpretation, it captures perfectly for me at least  the sadness and poignancy of the moment of parting.

St Pancras Statue

 The statue at St Pancras

We returned to Kings Cross and rejoined Jackie. I had a little bit of a look round the station and saw an item of real interest Platform 9¾.

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Platform 9¾

There was quite a queue at Platform 9¾ I didn’t actually see anyone make it through the wall though.

We caught the 7.10 train back to Peterborough, the announcement board left a lot to be desired the platform number was only posted a few minutes before the train was due to depart, leading to a rush for the train which left swiftly how the really disabled would have coped is anyone’s guess. This just reinforced our collective view of the shambolic state of our railways, (steps off soap box). We arrived back at Peterborough and were chauffeured back to Whittlesey by my daughter Naomi. All in all a great day out with excellent company.

 

 

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