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Boo!

weirdlondon

Here’s a bit o’ fun that came across my FB today: an interactive map of spooky London stuff. Hauntings, disasters, unsolved murders. It’s worth clicking around – some of the short items have links to longer articles. Very interesting, if you like that sort of thing.

Where we used to live, near Crystal Palace, is off the map. That is, the map isn’t there, but there are still markers in the general area. Looks like we’re all clear. Nobody’s dug up the bodies in the back garden yet.

They’ve gotten the data from a variety of sources, many of them worth checking in their own right. Like the Paranormal Database and Mysterious Britain (which appears to be down for maintenance at the moment).

I love a good ghost story. Not sure why; I’m not a believer. I’m as psychic as a potato. I guess maybe in the back of my mind, if one inexplicable thing is possible, they all are.

September 14, 2017 — 9:00 pm
Comments: 9

What’s this? What’s this?

tools

One of the particular pleasures of this show (the one we went to over the weekend) are the old tools. Several long rows of vendors selling old carpentry tools, car parts, gas cans, garden seats. Bunch of rusty junk, but often cheap and lots of fun.

The farm tools, like the ones above, are particularly interesting. They tend to be regional, locally manufactured (perhaps even by a village blacksmith) and intended for a very particular job. Like…I dunno…prying ant nests out of fields whole (that is a real tool I saw once, though I don’t see an example there).

Problem is, with many of these tools, nobody has the slightest idea what they were intended to do. The old boys have died out. We often ask, we sometimes get an answer, but more often not.

See if you can figure any of these out. Don’t try it from the little version: here’s a color pic (about a meg). The handles often provide the best clue.

There won’t be a quiz later, though. Just to break the suspense, I only know what a couple of these things were for.

September 13, 2017 — 9:24 pm
Comments: 21

I’m a steamroller, baby

steamroller

Not just one steamroller. I bet there were ten, at least. Great big things.

We stood and watched them pass and the earth — I swear — dipped under a couple of them, like a fat man moved across a wood floor. This is solid ground that has been passed over by these things dozens of times, and they still left tracks.

This was the last country show of our season. Weather was predicted to be rainy, so some of the exhibitors ducked out at the last minute. That’s kind of worrying, to be honest. When these events decline, even for perfectly explicable reasons, sometimes it causes a chain reaction of decline. Several of our favorite events have vanished in the last few years, and several more have shrunk.

Expecting a big blow tonight. Not Irma-sized, obviously, but chilly and miserable. We’ve had fires at night for a week. September, huh! Glad everyone from Florida is still with us…!

September 12, 2017 — 8:38 pm
Comments: 12

Sure, that looks safe

bullet

This is the last public three-day weekend before Christmas and it was blazing hot. What passes for it here, anyway. There were five flower festivals, a circus and a blacksmith demonstration. We managed to do…most of them.

Just one fete today. The moment I set foot on the field, the band struck up the Star Spangled Banner. Seriously, this happened. I felt like the President.

(Aside: have you heard Bill Clinton’s Hail to the Chief lyrics? It goes, “Hail to the Chief, he’s the Chief and he needs hailing.” Good one, Bubbah).

It was the usual: brass band, cake stall, junk stall, produce, plants, splat the rat, tombola, book stall. Dog show. They’re big on dog shows, or what they call “fun dog shows” (to distinguish them from serious formal dog shows, I guess).

Three old guys were there with an old tractor, an American jeep and a machine gun. They were the only people who brought chairs, so I asked to sit in one and we chatted.

Then they asked me to watch their stuff while they went across to the pub. I thought they’d never come back, but finally one old boy did. Lit up like a Christmas tree. He decided I must have a cartridge as a thank you. This wasn’t entirely right, as the machine gun belonged to one of the other old boys, but I couldn’t resist a souvenir.

When fingers didn’t work, he tried the knife. When the knife didn’t work, he got out a hammer. Thank god they’re dummy rounds.

Yes, I got my souvenir eventually, and nobody lost an eye

August 28, 2017 — 8:07 pm
Comments: 22

bucket o’ crabs

crabs

This, if you can’t tell, is a bucket of crabs.

I was done early today, so we lit out for a nature reserve at the seaside. There, we met a dour woman catching crabs. It was an older couple with their granddaughter, but clearly only grandma was into it. And boy, was she into it.

She had a crabbing net (an open-topped wire basket on a string, for those who, like me, grew up a thousand miles from the sea) baited with rotten chicken. She’d go to the edge of the pier and play it down into the water until it touched bottom, let it rest a couple of minutes, and haul it up again. She had two or three of the little pinch-monsters in there every time (plus a few shrimps).

She let them go in the end. At least, she said she was gunna, so we could watch with clear conscience. I could never stand watching food struggle to escape.

After that, we went to a cafe for a sandwich. It was sunny and fine. The end.

p.s. First time I ever saw the ocean, I was nine. I’ll never forget my dad showing us the right was to pick up a crab. He scooched it up from the back, gave an almighty howl and flung it out to sea as far as ever he could. We thought he was clowning around, but no – he was bleeding freely from the hole it pinched in his thumb. Heh heh.

August 16, 2017 — 9:34 pm
Comments: 11

Paging Argentium G. Tiger…!

silverband

Argentium G. Tiger, please go to the white courtesy phone. Someone you (presumably) know is looking for you and, believe it or not, your most recent internet presence with this nick is a comment on this blog. Drop me a line and I’ll give you the deets.

By contrast to the ploughing match I posted about yesterday, here is the house band from the poshest of posh fetes.

How posh? That ain’t a brass band, son, it’s a silver band. Yes, it’s a thing.

They’re very good, actually. It’s particularly amusing when they break into an enthusiastic version of the Time Warp or sech like.

August 15, 2017 — 9:22 pm
Comments: 17

A lady! Driving a tractor!

plough

And she probably has one of those fru-fru British accents and everything.

Ploughing match. We were told that’s her tractor and nobody else is allowed to touch it.

We managed one fete, one country fair and two parties this weekend, because our lives are just that exciting. You?

August 14, 2017 — 8:49 pm
Comments: 16

Mmmm…fresh weasel!

owl

Weather in Britain is a crap shoot, emphasis on the ‘crap’, but there’s one fete that always has lovely weather. We joke that the local witches must sacrifice small children to ensure it.

Looks like they couldn’t catch one this year. It was okay in the morning. It was lovely, in fact. And the moment we stepped out the front door, it was like someone twisted the spigot.

We went anyway. We got soaked. I felt especially bad for the booksellers, whose wares likewise got soaked.

At one particularly violent point, we ducked under the marquee of an owl rescue. They are local, we see them regularly, but I couldn’t resist giving this sweet barn owl a skritchie. She gave me a nibble in return. I was assured it was affection, but I wouldn’t like to know just how hard she could bite down if she tried.

I’d love one, but I don’t think the chickens would thank me. Also, no barn.

July 31, 2017 — 10:15 pm
Comments: 16

A conversation with Rudyard Kipling’s chikkens

kiplings

The whole flock right there. Nothing much to say for themselves, actually. I don’t know if they kept chickens in Kipling’s day, but the mill was already there — meaning grain — so probably.

I can identify a Buff Orpington and a Light Sussex. The rest are just…you know…chickens.

We did a field trip to Bateman’s (Kipling’s place) last Friday on the idea that when the weather is nice, we’ll pack sammiches and go. It’s how you have to approach an English Summer.

It has been thoroughly miserable ever since. Damp, overcast and nighttime temps in the fifties. We have the heat on tonight. IN JULY.

I sometimes wonder how much more traction they might have gotten in Britain if they stuck with their original idea and threatened us with global cooling instead.

July 24, 2017 — 9:32 pm
Comments: 13

Oooo…stovetop still!

still

I’ve always wanted one of these little beaten copper stovetop stills. Impractical, but fun. My dad had one that he’d use to turn a bottle of cheap wine into a thimblefull of cheap brandy for the edification of guests.

They are, of course, grievously illegal in the States. They’re mildly illegal here, but still too risky for a nimmigrant who suffers residency at the pleasure of HM’s government.

This one was at a food fair went to over the weekend (of a Food Fayre, or a Fud Faire, or whatever). It was not operational, but it was at the booth of an artisanal ginmaker, so all was not lost.

It was artisanal everything there. Artisanal cookies, artisanal sausages, artisanal goat cheese and artisanal couch cushions (seriously — somebody had a handmade couch cushion in Scottish linen with the design of a hedgehog that was to die for. £75).

And that’s the thing — lovely stuff, but a good three to five times more expensive than it should be. Which is why these little artisanal shops flicker in and out of business regularly. Fun Saturday, though.

July 13, 2017 — 9:56 pm
Comments: 32