Monday, 31 March 2014

Wild at Heart

A repost of a story, Wild at Heart, that might be of interest; a few years back this was a non-winning entry to the Kenneth Grahame Society's Wind in the Willows short story competition, whose brief was to write a prequel, sequel or countertext to The Wind in the Willows. I'm reposting because I find I posted it to a hosted file, then cleverly changed the server configuration so that the file was inaccessible.

Right: spoof cover for The Wind in the Willows inspired by a Slate magazine piece on lurid covers for classics.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Newport: research visit and Little London

On Wednesday I went to the Isle of Wight Record Office, partly to deposit a copy of A Wren-like Note, partly to check out a few topographical oddments for ongoing articles. I was particularly interested to locate an image of Bonchurch I'd seen referenced to the 1864 The History and Topography of the Isle of Wight, by WH Davenport Adams. As I've mentioned - see Brannon on Bonchurch and ... in the Isle of Wight #1 - Bonchurch was the scene of an 1840s boom that transformed wooded landslip into a landscape of up-market villas.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Locked in the bastion

View Larger Map

I had a short wander around Gosport town centre on Tuesday, including a visit to the Number 1 Bastion (also called, locally, Trinity Bastion or Vicar's Bank), part of Gosport's fortifications remaining from the days when the town and its associated military installations served a major role in the infrastructure of Portsmouth Harbour as a naval base.

Friday, 28 March 2014


It's rather neat that when you know a location intimately, even by historical records, small details acquire significance. such as a stream of grubby water in the gutter.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Gribble, gribble, the pier was a mess

We've just been down to the Isle of Wight for a few days. The first day was rather 'stay near the tea shop' weather, but we went to Yarmouth and saw its Gribble sculpture. This was installed by the public art firm Eccleston George as part of the project to renovate the wooden Yarmouth Pier, which had suffered damaged by the teredo worm (not actually a worm, but a bivalve mollusc) and gribbles (wood-boring marine isopods of the family Limnoriidae).

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Me in "Oldport"
1000 today! I'm not that old; this is the thousandth post to JSBlog. Not counting a few backdated puzzle solutions, the first real posts were towards the end of 2006, and I began posting regularly in 2008. And to think I worried at first about running out of ideas...

- Ray

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Railway cake

One of my early memories is going with my grandparents to visit their friends at a small Scottish village called Ballinluig. I don't recall much more than a road, a bridge over a river (I now know it to be the Tummel) that braided between banks of pebbles that sparkled with mica (being a geeky child, I knew that detail even then), and a railway line with a little overhanging kiosk that sold cellophane-wrapped squares of yellow cherry Genoa cake - it might have been made by McVitie's - that Clare and I have come to call Railway Cake.

I don't wildly like cake in general, but Railway Cake still exists, not much changed, although the makers vary. It may not be terribly wholesome; I suspect its intensely sweet stickiness derives from glucose syrup. But it's so distinctive. The trolley vendor always sells it on the Exeter-Salisbury train, about half an hour into the journey, when we're going down to visit my Dad - at this instant of writing, we're somewhere between Honiton and Axminster. It has become one of the rituals of our trips to the Isle of Wight, and is always a bit of a Proustian moment.

- Ray

Monday, 24 March 2014

... and the mysterious "Monopole"

Further to the previous post, I wonder who was "Monopole" who wrote Shanklin Spa: A Guide to the Town and the Isle of Wight?

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Shanklin Spa ...

The Royal Spa Hotel and seafront, Shanklin, 1928 - EPW024578
Further to The Sandrock Chalybeate Spring, I just found a very nice guidebook relating to a similar venture to revive an old Isle of Wight spa.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Sandrock Chalybeate Spring

Another example where John Ptak's blog Ptak Science Books category - "History of Blank, Missing and Empty Things" - is applicable: the Sandrock Chalybeate Spring, Isle of Wight.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

It ain't that kind: 18 months on

As some readers will know, in September 2012 I was diagnosed with cancer of unknown primary. A progress report:

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Pigot's Coloured Views


These seven luscious aqua-tint illustrations (click to enlarge) come from Google Books: Pigot's coloured views. The Isle of Wight: illustr. in a series of views engr. from the drawings of F. Calvert. (Pigot James and co, Frederick Calvert, artist, Percy Roberts, engraver, London, 1837).

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Mysterious superwhatevers #5

They've thinned out lately, but here's a small new crop of "mysterious superwhatevers", weird plants and animals used as minimally relevant teasers for health product ads (this batch mostly appears as part of crass monetizing of local newspaper sites).

Firstly, we have "One weird trick to relieve joint pain". This one's a stock photo of the massive fruit of Kigelia - the Sausage Tree ("The fresh fruit is poisonous and strongly purgative; fruit are prepared for consumption by drying, roasting or fermentation ... The tree is widely grown as an ornamental tree in tropical regions for its decorative flowers and unusual fruit. Planting sites should be selected carefully, as the falling fruit can cause serious injury to people, and damage vehicles parked under the trees").

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Firing Gatherer

Following on from The Linhay on the Downs, here's another Henry Williamson story hacked out of Google Books snippet view, the 1927 The Firing Gatherer. First published in the magazine Time and Tide, it later appeared alongside The Linhay on the Downs in a 1929 limited edition hardback, then in Williamson's 1930 The Village Book. Williamson is best known as the author of Tarka the Otter, but his output was considerably more varied than nature stories.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Green Man sighting

I rather like beer pump logos. They're an excellent little artform, and on occasion they completely transcend what they are - fairly throwaway advertising artwork - and become truly inspired miniatures. This is an example worth of Arcimboldo.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Parson's Tunnel and The Ocean Sleuth

The Parson from Lea Mount - 4th March 2013
I think Network Rail are missing a trick; a lot of people (me included) would be very happy to pay £10 to don a hard hat and walk through the Brunel tunnels on the currently unused South Devon Main Line between Dawlish and Teignmouth. However, we'll have to make do with a fictional account in the 1915 crime thriller The Ocean Sleuth.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Otterton to Budleigh

Another mild day, bright yet hazy: Clare and I went for the very gentle walk down the River Otter from Otterton to Budleigh Salterton, encountering a mathematican, some birds, and a painter.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sea Lawn Gap: déjà vu at Dawlish

Sea Lawn Terrace, Dawlish, 4th March - click to enlarge
The Exeter Express & Echo just featured a report - Dawlish historian: Damage to rail line could have been prevented if Brunel's original plans were followed - on the 'Sea Lawn Gap' and its role in February's disastrous damage to the South Devon Main Line at Dawlish. But a look in news archives finds the incident is a repeat of one nearly 150 years ago, at the same location, and for the same reason - a historical decision that has repeatedly come back to bite.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Exmouth Battery exposed

It was a beautiful and mild afternoon yesterday, so we went for a shop and a potter in Exmouth. It was a good excuse to check out a spot mentioned in the Exmouth Journal on Tuesday February 18th: Storms reveal Napoleonic sea defences on beach. As the news item explains, the recent weather heavily eroded the sand dunes along Exmouth seafront, exposing masonry that was part of the old Exmouth Artillery Battery, an gun emplacement dating from the early 1860s.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Review: Prehistoric Wessex - Towards a Deep Map

I've just finished reading (and properly digesting) a superb book, Prehistoric Wessex: Towards a Deep Map (University of Pennsylvania Libraries, 2013, ISBN 978-0-615-76673-7). It's not a book in the usual sense, but the catalogue for an exhibition at Penn Libraries a year ago - Prehistoric Wessex: Towards a Deep Map - curated by David Platt (who kindly organised me a copy), Kathryn Schaeffer, and Jon Shaw. It is, however, a superior catalogue, copiously illustrated with images from the Penn Libraries Rare Book & Manuscript and other collections, that transcends the format to become a highly readable reference work in its own right - and itself literally a 'map' to its topic, one that encourages and frames further reading.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Book link purge

Annie T. Benthall's painting of Dawlish Warren in
Eden Phillpotts' 1920 A West Country Pilgrimage.
I tend to accumulate bookmarks to far more Internet Archive books than I can write about. Time for a bookmark purge; they may be of interest to others.

Monday, 3 March 2014

A cryptic postcard unlocked

I had a minor Bletchley Park moment yesterday. John McConnell uploaded this postcard image (reproduced here by kind permission) to the Gosport Area Facebook group.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Coleridge, Pixies' Parlour, and invented tradition

facing p59, The Story of a Devonshire House, 1905

The Western Morning News just had an interesting illustrated feature - Celebrating a cave’s link to Ottery St Mary's most famous son - Samuel Taylor Coleridge - referring to "Pixies' Parlour", a sandstone cave in the river cliffs of the Otter, a little south of Ottery St Mary.