Thursday 7th January 2021
I've always wondered what it would feel like to be 82 years old - today I've stopped wondering - I know how it feels.
To celebrate I took a walk down Memory Lane, Oxshott. I started at No 36 Little Heath Lane, it used to be called The Brambles, where my great grandparents and grandparents lived. I tried to imagine what it was like for my great grandfather John and my grandfather Jack who both made bricks in The Brickfield from about 1880. Despite working all hours, they both managed to produce enough fruit, veg and chickens to keep their families going for the whole year.
I then strolled up Little Heath Lane past No 30 where Mr Horitz used to live, past Links Green Way which used to be a cart track into the field. The Barn in the corner of the field had a hayloft which was really out of bounds but Joy, Leila and Flicky didn't seem to care.
Also, out of bounds was the pear trees in the orchard a bit further up but a shirt full of juicy pears was too much to resist, except when a swarm of angry wasps found their way down your trousers!
On up past all the cottages built by John Early Cook for his 'brickies' up to Brown's Corner. Brown's Shop was a hive of activity. Jack was busily slicing bacon while Maud sliced chunks of cheese with her wire cheese cutter and served customers with everything they needed - if they had enough coupons in their Ration Books that is. There were three prams parked outside his grocery shop. Meanwhile Vi in the sweet shop round the corner would be serving Liquorice Allsorts, R White's Lemonade, blocks of Walls Ice Cream and 5 Woodbines if you told her they were for your Dad!
On past a wooden shack under a tree where I used to collect newspapers and deliver them around the village for George Ackerman on cold and frosty mornings before I went to school. The shack used to belong to Ernie Neal the Cobbler.
Next to George's shack were a pair of cottages. Ted, Lester and Freda were just off to school and old Charlie and his wife waved from their front garden. Between the cottages and the level crossing was the entrance to the Brickfield. There was nobody on the gate so I wandered in. The small row of admin offices on the right piled high with dusty ledgers seemed empty. Opposite was the largest of the buildings which was the brick firing kilns with the towering chimney next to it. The coal trucks were being unloaded behind. Then came the conveyor belt to transport the dried bricks into the kiln. They had to be dried for a couple of weeks otherwise they would explode, final drying would take place in the kiln, you could tell when there was no more moisture in the bricks when the chimney stopped 'steaming', the temperature could then be racked up to 1800F (980C). Row upon row of drying bricks were racked alongside the moulding shed. Inside the moulding shed my great grandfather looked at me, handed me a brick mould full of clay and said ‘here you are son take this out to the drying rack and be quick about it’. I did as I was told and ran off past more machinery and cottages down to the clay pit. The lumbering hinged arm continuous bucket scrapers were busy gouging out clay, they had already gone down two levels and were starting on a third when suddenly the whole pit filled with water leaving the diggers submerged transforming itself into a tranquil lake complete with benches and picnic tables..
I emerged back onto the road just in time to see a free wheeling coal truck rolling across the road into the brickfield on the third rail track, the guy hanging on to the back with his other hand on the brake smiled. The large wooden gate across the road pivoted on its hinges which were buried into a concrete post - the post and hinges are still there. I waved at Bill in his signal box furiously winding the crossing gates open, the chunky steel gate stops popping up out of the road just in time.
On to Aylings Corner covered in a liberal coating of cow dung which is now the junction of Blundel Lane and Oxdowne Close. I stopped under the gas lamp, looked in my paper bag and read somebody's Eagle. On along Blundel Lane to No 27 where I lived from 1947 to 1966. The powerful beam from the searchlight a couple of fields away bounced around in the clouds searching for enemy aircraft. I took the dog up to Poly Apes to check if we had a rabbit for lunch, how could I? Back up the new section of Blundel Lane, which I remember used to be a field full of cows, the smell from the smoke stack on the fish and chip van parked opposite No 9 on a Friday night was teasing - if you could find it in the smog. On up to the start of Steels Lane arriving at Little Heath Farm Cottages with an outside toilet where I was born in 1939 - not in the toilet!. I looked into the front garden just as the bomb landed in the deckchair (see below). It was 4am on April 1st 1944, the blast demolished the cottages trapping my mother and I for hours in the rubble, we were probably given up for dead. My father and the family next door amazingly also survived without a scratch. The cottages are now rebuilt and have the same name.
On up past Banjo Hussey's junk yard, next door, where I bought a few bits of bike and put them together to make a whole bike, I called it an ASP (all spare parts), my mates had AJS's, BSA's and BMW's. On past the entrance to The Oxshott Sports Club remembering all the characters in the Cricket, Bowls and Tennis Clubs, not forgetting the yearly mesmerising Oxshott Fete. I popped in to watch Percy with his pipe bowling his ball, Cyril taking out the opposition with his slow left arm round the wicket spin, the girls cracking hockey sticks and the archers on the far side trying to hit the bulls eye.
A glance into The Withies next door where we used to live for a short while in 1945/6. On up to the Village Hall, now disappeared into the church car park, where we used to hold Whist Drives and borrow books from the Library Room round the back. We also danced around the hall to the strains of Tommy's windup gramophone at The Old Tyme Dance Club on a Monday night. On past the Church where I used to be in the choir. A long pause at The Oxshott (Mens) Club opposite the church where I spent many a happy year round the snooker table with the curtains tightly closed on a lovely summer evening.
Carrying on up Oakshade Road past Potters Croft, The Pottery Studio hiding in the orchard run by the Wren family - it was The News Chronicle for them. A glance over to Trenchard and Arlidge at the top of Oakshade Road which morphed into Geoff Osman's electrical shop where I took my grandparents glass lead/acid accumulator to be charged up so they could listen to Tommy Handley on the radio (no electricity in The Brambles). I collected the accumulator, hooked the handle over the handlebars of my ASP and cycled back to The Brambles. On to the High Street, trying to avoid memories of The Vic. Ginger the horse emerged from the bakery dragging his wagon with Bert and Pete aboard delivering bread around the village.
I arrived at The Royal Kent School (now the filling station) where I learnt to read and write despite many visits to the bomb shelter on the green opposite. Also opposite the school was the Air Raid Siren on top of a tall post and next to that was the telephone box, I opened the heavy door, inserted tuppence, dialled Akela and pressed button A to earn my communications badge to sew onto my cubs uniform. On down Steels Lane to the junction of Holtwood Road where there was another bomb shelter.
Today, standing proud opposite where the bomb shelter used to be, is The Oxshott Village Sign.
Thanks for the memories.
Me, Dad (Reg) and the deckchair!
The 'Brickies'. Probably c1910 not 1915.
Today's invention is a cheap as chips picture frame made from 2 sheets of clear perspex sheet from www.theplasticman.co.uk (they cut it to your dimensions) and 4 (or even 2 will do) black plastic slide binders from Amazon or Ebay. And Bob's your Uncle! Total cost for one A4 frame £3.44. Not only that you can have a picture front and back so that you can flip it at a moment's notice Lady Mary! My Spitfire is roughly A3 size and has only two binders, one sheet of perspex and a hardboard back but still effective don't you think? If you are really clever you could mitre the corners as well.
Monday 29th March 2021
Dear Mr/Ms Sholley,
Some 30 plus years ago my mother-in-law bought a 'Sholley' and used it constantly. She died some 20 years ago and it's languished in my shed ever since. I dismissed it as an 'old person's' vehicle and was about to consign it to the dump.
However, I'm now 82 years old, a retired engineer and although still (fortunately) very active I am beginning to consider giving up driving and looking at a 'different' way of life.
I extracted the 'Sholley', dusted it down and was pleasantly surprised to find it still worked, looked good and I was impressed with the design.
So, apart from a few spots of tarnished chrome I will reluctantly admit that I'm quite looking forward to 'driving' it.
It still has a tartan 'tonneau' cover but it is somewhat bulky and restricts the folding when hanging from the supermarket trolley - another clever feature. So, a new 'top down' life for the 'Sholley' beckons!
Saturday 3rd April 2021
Dear Reader, (There's only one so that's all right then)
On top of my garage roof I've got a wind speed and direction indicator, a cockerel weather vane, an Airfix 747 Jumbo in Air New Zealand livery and an Airfix Spitfire, all spinning in the wind. This morning a blue tit landed on the 747 and took a spin to New Zealand and back. You'll have to take my word for it!
Love and a hug,
Wednesday 7th April 2021
One of the first songs I learnt when I picked up a guitar around 1957 was ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’ written by Pete Seeger. There are a million versions out there but this one by Pete Seeger himself is the best and for me very moving.
Around that time John, Dave, Tony and I called ourselves The Fairway Four but it soon got changed to The Clancy Brothers (not the Clancy Brothers, The Foley Brothers - thanks Tony - senior moment!) when an Irish pub landlord asked us to do a regular spot. We never made a record but it could happen!
You can click or copy this to sing along. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1y2SIIeqy34
Saturday 9th April 2021
I've just been informed by John that, sadly, Dave passed away last year. Dave was a whizz on the 5 string banjo so lets hear it again for Dave.
Thursday 15th April 2021
Dear Lady Mary,
If you want my opinion, which you probably don't, the answer to the climate problem and the pollution problem is blindingly obvious. There's too many of us. Even Sir David Attenborough tells us that we are the intruders, so how does that make you feel? Guilty or not guilty?
Definitely guilty but surely Adam and Eve or Natural Selection can take some of the blame so don't feel too bad.
Somewhere along the line a 'grand plan' will reveal itself and everything will be lovely. Promise.
In the meantime, I've got a few birthday and get well soon cards to draw.
Hope you have too.
Cordially and affectionately yours,
Tuesday 20th April 2021
Yesterday I took Mustard for a walk in the wood, not any old well-trodden wood, but a remote wood in The Surrey Hills where my great, great, grandfather William Jones used to roam.
According to the Abinger 1841 census he was listed as a 'Scavenger' in the 'Profession' column, he had obviously graduated from a 'Pauper' status!
The primeval deciduous wood at this time of year is a magical place, and without getting too carried away, the uninterrupted light flooding through the canopy from a hazy blue sky gives rise to a cosy green glow from the barely born leaves, a glossy green sheen from a carpet of pregnant bluebells and an earthy brown aroma from yet another layer of rotting, bouncy vegetation.
And apart from the occasional tweet from a Chaffinch and the crack of a twig from a Deer - silence.
Monday 10th May 2021
Tuesday 11th May 2021
I'm very relieved to hear that you don't read my blog or emails. Which, I realise is a contradiction in terms but I can understand that you have better things to do. All I can say is that you will be missing out on some stimulating stories and the chance to own a Victorian Smokers Table which will transport you back to your childhood and would be a shrewd investment.
You have been awarded one hug from
Bob (which, I agree, is not much to write home about but there you go)
Saturday 15th May 2021
Still raining and I've added a few more cards to my collection click HERE if you've nothing better to do!
Tuesday 18th May 2021
Happy Birthday Tim and there might be an interesting story tomorrow! So watch this space.
Wednesday 19th May 2021
If I told you that I took a young lady up to London to see The Queen yesterday you probably wouldn't believe me, would you?
Well, I did take a young lady up to London but it wasn't to see The Queen it was to see Mark Smith, The King of Medals at Baldwins Auctioneers in The Strand. Mark, as you probably know, is the medal specialist on 'The Antiques Roadshow' and his enthusiasm for medals, especially WW1 medals is infectious.
The young lady in question is a great deal younger than me and has a fine collection of Medals and Coins which she would like to pass on to the highest bidder and for some reason asked me to accompany her.
Perhaps she had heard that I used to commute to London and that I was familiar with the walk across many river bridges, including the Hungerford Bridge and knew that the 139 bus goes door to door if it's raining. Or perhaps it was something else.
Either way the pair donned their masks clambered aboard the 10.26 from Cobham, hit Waterloo and set off at a smart pace across Hungerford Bridge. Via many flights of steps, down along the Embankment, past The Savoy and arrived at No 399, The Strand at the allotted time.
Pleased with their achievements so far Mark introduced himself and enthusiastically valued the Medals and agreed to enter them into a forthcoming auction. He suggested that we would be better off visiting a bullion dealer across the road with the coins, which we did and came out with 'loads-a-money'.
To celebrate we chose The Wellington on the corner of The Strand, next door to The Lyceum where we used to dance 60 years ago.
Another brisk walk back over Waterloo Bridge (despite a Guinness or two!) arriving at Platform 4 with seconds to spare. Easy, peasy.
PS I plan to start commuting again soon, or is it the Guinness talking?
Saturday 22nd May 2021
OK Sam, the above story is not that interesting but I think you might find that THIS is very interesting and also I've decided that if I get pregnant I'm going to call it Astra Zenica Jones which has quite a nice ring to it, don't you think?
Well, better than Pfizer BioNTech Jones anyway!
Sunday 23rd May 2021
Happy 115th Birthday Mum.
Monday 24th May 2021
Today, just for the record, it's wet cold, grey, miserable and windy but I've sold the Victorian Smokers Table on Ebay so not all bad. And if you need a need a touch of amazing Lady Mary try this :- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3v9unphfi0
Friday 12th February 2021
And just in case you need a fluffy friend to keep you company during lockdown I could recommend Sean (pronounced Shorn) the sheep who will keep you company, doesn't need feeding, doesn't need to be taken for a walk, will not run up any vets bills and has amazing healing powers. You can buy him for £35 at Dunelm.
Sunday 14th February
Be my Valentine Lady Mary? Love from Anonymous.
Wednesday 17th February 2021
In case you hadn't noticed after 26 years THIS page has finally turned into something useful - I hope.
Saturday 20th February 2021
I've just been diagnosed with a hyperkeratotic actinic keratosis on my right helical rim which in plain English means that the Ambre Solaire I used on my right ear in 1962 on the beach at St Tropez was c**p. It's been treated with a few squirts of Cryogenic Liquid Nitrogen made in pipes by Air Products PLC. The pipes are supported by brackets designed by yours truly so just thought I'd mention it! Don and I went on The Blue Train to St Tropez for 10 days in 1962 which cost £25 including travel, meals and accomodation - just thought I'd mention it! And I stood next to Brigitte Bardot in the queue for la crème glacée - just thought I'd mention it!
Sunday 21st February
My last effort with charcoal you may remember was My Favourite Bird - Except One. My effort today isn't!
Wednesday 24th February 2021
Bearing in mind the stunning, dramatic, 'out of this world' pictures of Perseverance landing on Mars yesterday I would like to congratulate all those involved with the project at NASA. It reminds me of when Chic and I finalised our design for our Anti Gravity Machine, the prototype punched a hole in my garage roof and disappeared into the cosmos back in 1970. Perhaps Perseverance might find it!
Saturday 27th February 2021
If, like me, you have an interest in drawing and painting I expect you are fascinated, intrigued, impressed, blown away and at the same time bored to tears with Bob's paintings. I don't mean me, I mean Bob Ross who paints happy clouds, happy skies, happy trees, happy hills and happy shacks on BBC4 most evenings. And yet, like beans on toast, I have to have more! I don't wish to tarnish the memory of lovely Bob but much as I admire his happy programmes I have found that the best way to get more joy from 'The Joy of Painting' is to record them and watch them at fast, forward pace - deep joy. Sorry Bob but your trees are not always happy trees because regularly beating the hell out of your 2-inch brush surely must mean a very unhappy brush – hence unhappy trees?
Tuesday 2nd March 2021
What a coincidence? I've just started to write yet another story about when I learnt to fly at Fairoaks Airfield and what do you know a film called 'Reunion at Fairborough' on Sony Movies tonight starring Bob Mitchum and Deborah Kerr about a bunch of Yankee veterans revisiting their old flames and their war time airfield which was filmed on location at Fairoaks Airfield. Very nostalgic don't you think? Especially the dancing to Glenn Miller's music. The film was made in 1965 and I started to fly in 1965 and I have a lot of memories from 1965. Thanks for the memories. xxx.
Wednesday 3rd March 2021
What a grey day so I have written another story which you can find HERE.
Thursday 4th March 2021
What a grey day so I have written another story which you can find HERE.
Wednesday 10th March 2021
What a grey day so I have drawn a few pictures which you can find HERE.
Friday 12th March 2021
Dear Reader, (There's only one so that's all right then.)
Your 'Heading for the Rocks' is a bit scary, all we can hope for is that the helmsman can manage to find the sandy bit but with no wind in the sails it looks unlikely. Also, sending out a 'Mayday' to the vessel on the horizon is also unlikely as it seems to me that radio hasn't been invented yet. So, definitely plenty of frantic action and panic going on but fortunately only 'imaginary'. And plenty of soul, as always.
Saturday 13th March 2021
Mustard came for a visit yesterday.
He's grown a bit!
It's extremely frustrating when you are b*****y old, can't go anywhere, can't do anything, can't see anyone but have loads of energy to do anything and everything don't you think Lady Mary?
Or is it the Guinness talking?
Tuesday 16th March 2021
I don't suppose you've noticed yet but FEDORA has a new website with rather a nice picture on the front page!
And a picture in The Gallery is worth looking at as well! Bottom right.
I don't suppose you've noticed yet but there is an offer you can't refuse HERE.
Thursday 18th March 2021
Today I took off from Fairoaks in my Learjet, flew to Ibiza and lounged on the beach at Cala Martina with a Café con leche and a glass of Fundador. Or is it the Guinness talking again?
Friday 19th March 2021
I've decided to quit dreaming about what might have been or what might be so it's back to the NOW. I think I might have mentioned this before but if you say NOW every time you breathe in and every time you breathe out you won't have much time to think about anything else. It's best to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Unless you're on Zoom or driving of course.
Talking of Zoom, I joined the AGM on Zoom for the The Cobham Heritage Trust recently and I have to say I'm full of admiration for all those who volunteer and keep an eye on all the local issues for the rest of us. The relentless pressure to build houses everywhere is a bit of a nightmare and is always top of the agenda so I would urge all those faceless planners and developers intent on profit who constantly draw up plans and pretty pictures to show us how lovely it could be, to pause, breathe deeply and stop destroying our NOW. It's been destroyed enough already. I would suggest that all 'planners' and ‘developers’ should be made to live in their 'virtual worlds' and leave our NOW alone. Thank you, on behalf of the planet.
Sunday 21st March 2021
NOW, is a good time to order your personalised Easter cards, Congratulations cards, New Arrival cards, Wish You Were Here cards, Christmas cards, Birthday cards, Get Well Soon cards, Good Luck cards, Sorry For Your Loss cards and Lovely To Know You cards. Open NOW.
Tuesday 23rd March 2021
I suppose what you are going to say is that if I were young again and looking for a house in Cobham what would I do? Simple, get together with a few friends, buy one (or two) of those palatial, grandiose mansions on the hill that nobody lives in (and there are plenty), rename the place Downton Abbey, create a new Dynasty with a rotating Lord and Lady of The Manor, Lady Mary, Edith, Sybil, Cousin Matthew upstairs and downstairs maids, butler, footmen, cook, chauffeur, stable lads and gardeners. What's the problem? We might need a few Yurts in the garden for visitors. Either that or off to New Zealand - again!
That one is quite a LONG STORY.
Saturday 27th March 2021
Looking out your window
From your cosy room at night
A half a Moon is hanging there
But something isn't right
Half a Moon in sunlight
Or in a sea of stars
She's been there for ever
Along with dusky Mars
They have witnessed everything
And will witness our demise
Unless we learn to harness
Sunlight, wind and tide.
Wednesday 26th May 2021
Yesterday a couple of 80 plus year olds were seen jumping on a train at Cobham to Clapham Junction, they then ran across the bridge for the train to Shoreditch High Street (which is supposed to be Overground but don’t be fooled, most of it is Underground). They then slid down the handrail at Shoreditch Station and were treated to a memorable and colourful conducted tour around Spitalfields Market via Brick Lane, a few goody shops, inviting pubs, bars, restaurants and witnessed a mind-boggling panoply of life that can only exist in the East End.
They even took a picture of a couple of dudes hanging about in a doorway not far from No. Eleven and a Half Fournier Street which should have been No. 13 obviously. And all that was on a Tuesday. Apparently, the weekends are a touch more vibrant!
They then skipped up and down the steps back to Cobham and died happy. Or was it a dream?
PS Yesterday I also discovered JENIKYA's BLOG which will tell you all about No. Eleven and a Half Fournier Street and a million other things in the area including pink burgers!
Much more interesting than Bob's Blog.
But an even more interesting blog about Spitalfields can be found
Sunday 30th May 2021
Today, I feel very inadequate, why? Because I'm unable to produce a long and interesting blog every day like The Gentle Author does in his 'Spitalfields Life' blog above. Having said that a blog every day about Cobham might be a bit of a challenge except if it's about dogs, cats, coffee shops, estate agents and Chelsea Tractors.
But nevertheless, I might carry on on on PAGE 27 one day. Too many on's Sam, sorry.