June 2012

Olympic Torch in Ilchester, SomersetLast week I went to see the Olympic Flame pass through my neighbouring village of Ilchester. The long build up to this event felt like an anti-climax as the flame passed by taking only a few seconds as it continued on its journey wending through the length and breath of Britain. I found it unfortunate that the cavalcade of vehicles accompanying the torch bearers obscured approaching views of the torch until the last moment. It was a pity that apart from one person from Yeovil, none of the torch bearers were local people.

I am certainly not opposed to the Olympic Games but I have been and still am dubious at the games being held in the UK at the present time, possibly because the hosting area of Newham is so well known to me. In a sense the reshaping of the area covered by the Olympic Park leaves me with a sense of fond childhood and adolescent memories being physically expunged. I recognise there is a counter argument that the Olympics also brings regeneration to an area but to me this is often followed by a form of re-gentrification which normally entails more wealthier people displacing the less affluent.

Apart from friends who live in Newham, I also have many friends living close to Weymouth, which is a venue for the sailing arm of the Olympics. Be it my friends in London or in south Dorset, many of them feel their feathers have been ruffled by Olympic preparations.

Weymouth is a prosperous holiday town with the holiday trade making a significant contribution to the local economy. This year some hoteliers abandoned their normal bread and butter holiday trade hopeful of attracting lucrative corporate bookings for the Olympic sailing events, much of which has so far failed to materialise. It remains to be seen how much of the holiday trade is deterred from going to Weymouth this year but the much increased parking charges and other possible street restrictions are unlikely to prove an incentive. If Weymouth does lose much of this important trade, it may well prove difficult to get it back again.

St Michaels and All Angels, Hughenden Vally, BuckinghamshireI recently went to the marriage of the son of one of my close friends. I have known the groom since he was a baby and now he has just turned 30 years of age and the joint owner of a growing and successful web company. How the years seemed to have flown by. The marriage was held at the brides family church known as St Michaels and All Angels, the local parish church of Hughenden just north of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.  This attractive church set in the Hughenden Valley owned by the National Trust was originally built in the year 1135. This is an area previously unknown to myself but one which I found quite pleasant. The wedding breakfast was held at a nearbySt Michaels and All Angels, Hughenden Vally, Buckinghamshire Elizabethan country house known as Hampden House which itself has a long history with one wing dating back to the 14th century. The Hampden family after which the property is named are recorded as owning the land from before the Norman conquest. I always find it fascinating whenever the opportunity arises to look at the local history of places I have visited. Britain is certainly rich is such historical treasures and knowledge.

Matthew & Vikki

May 2012

Traditionally the first of May is considered the first day of early summer. It is also considered the ‘”workers day” when many trade unions and other labour organisations around the world hold rallies and the like. Although a beautiful sunny day at the moment, my own particular world has drastically shrunken on a temporary basis due to lashing rain and howling winds lasting for two days. The consequence of this wet and windy display of natures tempest is the roads to my village are now under water from the adjacent River Yeo overflowing, thereby effectively cutting us off from civilisation. If I followed the same stance of a now famous and arrogant newspaper headline in the 1950’s which reported thick fog closed of cross channel ferries, leaving Europe cut off from Britain. I should have perhaps said the world is cut off from my village.

The local river overflowing is not however an unusual occurrence, it is something that frequently happens after prolonged rainfall causes the river to swell. The lane leading to my village is narrow with several sharp and blind bends. There is also a long dip in the lane on one of the bends where the flooding occurs. The local council once erected a depth gauge on the grass verge to assist motorists in judging the depth of the water, unfortunately the depth indicator is barely visible due to overgrown foliage and due to the bend in the lane, motorist needs to be in the deepest part of the flooded roadway before they can see it. It always reminds me of the cartoon of the sign saying danger quicksand that cannot be read until a person is already sinking in a quicksand pit.

A friend of mine long since gone told me when she was a small girl many years ago, her father who lived in a different unnamed village, would allegedly send one of her small brothers with a wooden box to a similar flooded roadway, who would then stand on the submerged box at the roadside waiting for an uninformed driver to come along. The driver on trying to decide the depth of the water would see a small boy in wellington boots with water lapping round his ankles. Having made a judgement it was safe to proceed the driver would soon find themself stranded at which time the boy would run home to inform his father of the stranded vehicle. His father would then tow the car out of the flood using his tractor for a five pound fee. I have no idea if this was a tall yarn or not but I did find it amusing at the time.

Since Roman times, local farmers relied on the river flooding as a method of fertilising their fields from deposited silt enriching their fields. Somerset is well known for the Somerset Levels, an area of land that flooded in the winter months leaving locations like Glastonbury magically arising from the waters. Hence the name “Isle” in the Isle of Avalon where Glastonbury stands. Somerset also takes its name from the lands governed from Somerton, the local ancient town which lays claim to be the one time capitol of Wessex. Somerton in turn takes it name from the Summer Lands which is how Somerset was once described.

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