Saturday 31 October 2009

Paranormal mysteries in The Potteries Urban Area

The next book on my list of reviews is Paranormal Stoke-on-Trent by Matt Hicks and Terri Setterington (£9.99 History Press ISBN 978-0-7524-4885-5).

This contains a few areas of Staffordshire that have become vaguely known to me recently as my eldest daughter and her fiancé have moved into the vicinity, so it was with some interest that I have read of a few sightings and unexplained happenings in her own town, and those adjacent to her.

The village of Alton, with its well-known adventure park Alton Towers, is about 15 miles from Stoke-on-Trent, and this is the first entry in the book. During the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, what had once been a modest hunting lodge had been transformed by two successive Earls of Shrewsbury into a palatial home with spectacular gardens. Alton Towers was supposedly the largest private residence in Europe during the Victorian era and members of the public were occasionally allowed into its confines to wander the glades and grottos. However, a dispute within the Shrewsbury family meant that the estate was eventually sold.

You can now join in ghost tours most weekends around the dark corridors of the ruinous Gothic-revival pile and not surprisingly, there are several different kinds of paranormal activity reported there.

The next time you and your family decide to go for a day out to Alton Towers to take advantage of its stomach churning rides that defy the laws of gravity, take note that you may well have company that you were not expecting sitting beside you.

This is a book that will appeal to those who have an interest in the paranormal – those people living in the area themselves may well have heard of most of the entries, but it would be an informative addition to their bookshelves nevertheless.

Happy Birthday

As you will know, Paul Vella is one of the CFZ's UK Regional Representatives and, guess what, it is his birthday today.


Slightly askew Hallowe'en special

Due to an oversight in changing dates on my blog (if you want something done right, do it yourself as my mother always says - men d'oh) continuity has gone askew and my intended own blog Hallowe'en special has been relegated to the 27th October. My OCD is now screeching in true banshee style and I find myself having to request that you please use these links in a vain attempt to keep the order correct. 

Funnily enough my stars for today warned me that: "You are easy to get riled up even on quiet days, but your temper is legendary on days like today! It's a good time for you to get some time for yourself, if only to calm done between flare-ups." Hmmm, is that after I go on a Freddy Kruger style killing spree?

Five senses of the Moor at Midnight
Monsters Abound

Anyway, Happy Hallowe'en

Friday 30 October 2009

Spoon Menace

I noticed a little news story on Ananova which made me smile.

A normal day in a branch of a bank in Lublin, Poland was shattered when a robber tried to steal the cash. The staff and customers threw themselves to the floor in terror when he pulled out a 'gun' and demanded the money with the immortal phrase "This is a stick up". It was only when they noticed that the 'weapon' the ginger-haired crook was brandishing before them was, in fact, a piece of stainless steel cutlery - namely a spoon - that they relaxed.

He left empty-handed, of course, but presumably a bit red in the cheeks from embarrassment at the laughter that followed him.

Police spokeswoman, Renata Laszczka-Rusek, said: "It's a weird one but he broke the law and we want to find him."

Here are four suggestions for his strange actions:

1. He pulled out the wrong thing from his jacket - the spoon may have been left over from his picnic lunch and the real 'gun' was in his other pocket, or
2. He had recently watched the Monty Python sketch about self-defence against fresh fruit, and having no fruit available (or pointy stick) selected the piece of cutlery instead, or
3. He had lost his fork, or
4. He was a little bit crazy

Tuesday 27 October 2009

The Five Senses of a Moor at Midnight

With your eyes, picture a moor at midnight – the moon affording the only light as it hangs motionless to the human eye in the cloudless, dark autumn sky. The creature that lopes silently through the darkness picks its path carefully over the damp scrub as it makes its solitary journey to its destination, its hot breath spouting forth from flared nostrils in unison with its silent breathing. Its dark form treads purposefully and it knows exactly who will see the terror of its eyes, and feel the fatal grasp of its gaping maw.

With your ears, hear the rhythmic marching of a thousand feet and the sound of low voices singing into the night as figures make their way across the desolate land, shielded by the shadows of the barrows. It soon becomes apparent, as the figures move out of the shadows and into the pale light of the moon, that this is an army of men. Does it march to victory or to death? Banners flutter in silhouette against the dark sky, and the ashen light catches the muddied metal of the helms, the bosses on shields and the cold metal of swords slung across strong, upright backs.

With your nose, smell the ancient scent of wood smoke as it billows across the scrubland from the campfires in the distance, the glow from their hearts slowly growing as they gather heat. Smell the food as it reaches your senses and causes your taste buds to salivate with expectation. Forsooth, an army marches on its stomach, whether to glory or beyond.

With your hands, touch the moss covered stones on the grave that lies in isolation at the crossroads, and trace your fingers across the ancient inscription etched upon them. Feel the cold metal of the gibbet cage as it swings to and fro and creaks in the cool night air, whilst its occupant sits slumped inside its confines, legs hanging lifeless through the bars. Feel the iciness of the taut skin across the feet as they dangle in death, the cloth of the shoes that once protected them hanging in tatters; muddied and faded through time.

With your tongue, taste the salt on the air as the breeze moves inland from the sea. Hear the faint screams carried with it become louder as it brings the sound closer to your ears. Hear the mournful groan of smashing timber and the toll of the ship’s bell as she is taken into her watery grave, her hull and spirit broken by the rocks.

Sunrise will bring tomorrow and tomorrow there will be nothing left of the night before; the moor will return to normal.

This was no trick or treat, this was but the moor living her past through your senses.

This was All Hallows' Eve.

Monsters abound

Giz us a sarnie

On Sunday Jon, Biggles and I set off for a Sunday jaunt into Cornwall which culminated in a walk in the fresh air along the coast. The afternoon was not without one or two brushes with nature of the sort that don’t usually occur in one’s everyday travels.


At one point, while driving through one of those natural arbours where the tree boughs shake hands with each other overhead something appeared from our left and seemed to come straight for the car. At first, I thought it was an owl as it was gliding so low. It was not until it banked sharply upwards to its left that I realised it was a buzzard. It cocked its head and with a stare from its right eye it soared upwards and off through the trees into the fields next to us.

Next came our encounter with a herring gull. Not at all surprising, perhaps, as we were so near the coast. However, at the time of meeting we were just outside the town of Helston and parked in a local store’s supermarket eating our lunch. We were munching away, minding our business, when a herring gull came along and plonked itself on the bonnet of the car. Jon and I had to suffer its stares whilst we consumed our sandwiches, whilst Biggles was too involved in eating his sausages to even notice it was there. It gawped at us as we gawped at it, until something spooked it, and it flew off to join the congregation of other birds that were making their way here, there and everywhere.

Gnarled tree trunks can often form shapes in our minds – quite often faces. On our way home down one of the tree lined lanes I spotted a tree trunk ahead that seemed to take on one of these strange shapes, so much so that I stopped the car. To our advantage, there was a passing place opposite to where I had braked to a sudden halt so we could use the excuse of letting oncoming traffic pass while Jon took a couple of photographs. To us both this tree trunk looks just like a monk standing with his arms crossed, his head veiled by his large cowl. Unfortunately, as so often happens when trying to post photos on the blog, things do not always come out as clear as you would like but if you look on the right side of the road just beyond what looks like the telegraph pole you can- hopefully - make out a figure.

The clocks, of course, changed at the weekend so most of our journey home was in darkness, the car’s headlights picking up the shapes of the autumn leaves as they fluttered downward on to the rain dampened road.

Snakes and Ladders

The 22-year-old Norwegian recently stopped by Customs officials after arriving back in Norway by ferry from Denmark obviously did not suffer from Arachnophobia, Ophidiophobia or even Herpetophobia.
The officials hopefully did not either.

To begin with, they were in for a smallish surprise after discovering a tarantula in his bag. However, it quickly became evident that he was smuggling animals due the fact that his whole body seemed to be in constant motion. They decided to give the young man a full body search, and their suspicions were confirmed when they found 14 stockings taped around his torso – each one containing a royal python. Not only that - when he dropped his pants they found 10 cans strapped to his legs, each of these containing an albino leopard gecko.

The man is in custody and the reptiles have been handed over to a security firm until the Norwegian authorities have decided what to do with them.

This is, of course, a very serious matter – the smuggling of animals is wrong on every level. However, snakes in stockings wriggling about, causing a hole, then a run (the bane of every woman who dons a pair of hose) does perhaps lead into at least one irresistible pun. Hence the title of this blog.

Monday 26 October 2009

Monster travel - 60s style

I see that a man from Taunton has created a 'psychedelic hearse to offer funky funerals to the hippy generation'.  A lot of those folks who were sharing love and peace in the heady days of flower power are getting on a bit now, and - planning ahead - he reckons they wouldn't want their last journey to be taken in the back of a boring black hearse.  He adds that it could also be used for transporting such things as surf boards for the 'beach bum' generation or even for festival goers to use on their annual wet weekends.

But I reckon the CFZ should buy it. Just think of all those tripods and other special filming equipment you could get in the back for those so-called specially staged monster sightings that we have been accused of - we could even fit in a model of Nessie!

Sunday 25 October 2009

Everybody's gone surfin'

I found this while undertaking my daily trawl through the news. This is one clever dog.

Usually, the most excitement dogs get on a beach is to chase a stick into the sea and bring it back again. But golden retriever Ricochet loves nothing more than proving she's a new-wave pet.

Rip Curl Ricki, as she's known, has been teaching a quadriplegic teenager how to tandem surf.

Patrick Ivison suffered a spinal cord injury when he was run over at only 14 months old. But the 15-year-old is now able to surf using an adaptive surfboard which is built for two people.

He said of Ricochet: 'She acts as that second person. She knows how to balance, too. She leans back and turns the board and it's pretty cool to watch.'

They never surf alone and always have a support team of family and friends to keep the teen from getting in trouble in the waters off San Diego.

But if they do end up in the soup, 19-month-old Ricochet never leaves his side, her owner Judy Fridono said. 'It's like she was born to surf with him. She just seems to know what to do and where to stand.'

Ricochet, a Surfin' for Paws-abilities surfer dog, has helped raise £5,000 towards the teenager's physiotherapy costs by being entered in surf dog contests.

'Surfing is the most extreme thing I've ever done and taken to the next level. It's my action sport,' added Patrick, who has some movement in his left side.

OK, Biggles ..... let's try again.....Fetch! Erm, no you are supposed to bring the ball back.

Rodent airways

A tiny stowaway grounded a flight bound for Heathrow at JFK Airport, New York last weekend. After a mouse was seen scampering through the cabin before take-off, the pilot decided that serious problems could be caused by the little rodent gnawing through wires (we all know the little scamps love to do such things). He therefore requested a replacement plane, an action that - in turn - caused the three hundred passengers a wait of around three hours before they could continue their journey.

I wonder how long the little creature had been on the Delta Airways plane, and where it had boarded? It was probably just minding its own business and looking for tiny morsels dropped by passengers after eating their delicious in-flight meals, but you never know it may well have had inside information that in a recent poll, Heathrow - for the second year running - had come out as the worst airport in the world, and was just trying to delay the horrors that awaited the passengers.

On yer bike?

A warm reception awaits?

Friday 23 October 2009

Down in the tube station at midnight

Many people dislike the London Underground and avoid it where possible, while many use it as a means to get to and from work every day. Some people find it scary, and some people have no thoughts one way or the other. I am very fond of it - the smell, the vibration under your feet, the sound of trains rumbling in the distance, and the whoosh of warm air that precedes the oncoming train. The older stations with their Victorian architecture and white tiles hold a fascination of a bygone London never to return. The dark tunnels invite you into their gaping mouths and you can’t help but marvel at the daring of those who used to go in and clean them every night. ‘Fluffers’ or ‘Fluffies’ as they were called were workers who used to clean up the dust, human hair and skin cells that had accumulated over the day - a disgusting notion somewhat and one of those things that you never really think about. Nowadays, the work is carried out by tunnel cleaning trains, but just imagine what it must have been like to walk those subterranean tunnels, especially if you had recently watched a film such as Quatermass and the Pit.

In my youth, I travelled to London often, it being easy access from where I grew up in Uxbridge. Hop on a Metropolitan train and you could go straight to Baker Street, or use one of the tinier sized Piccadilly trains and you could get to Rayner’s Lane and change there.

Many a Friday or Saturday night I was one of the last few passengers on the way out of the capital on the last train, often sitting in a carriage on my lonesome, or perhaps with one other person. My friend used to leave the train at Eastcote where she used to live, a few stops away from the end of the line at Uxbridge. In those days, I never gave travelling on my own so late at night a second thought, and was completely oblivious to anything going on around me as I sat in my solitary splendour with ears ringing from the gig I had just attended, with a purchased poster or t-shirt carefully nestled in my lap. Interspersed with moments of gazing out at the darkness, and probably with my feet (naughtily) up on the seat opposite, I would absent-mindedly twiddle my 70s garb of beads, bells and bangles with one hand and occasionally read, and re-read, the over-priced programme I had forked out for. (These gig souvenirs never really did tell you anything you didn’t already know and, apart from a few new photographs, were usually full of adverts. However, they were a must, and I have kept all of mine, and they are still nice to flick through occasionally even now.) The occasional waft of patchouli that had been dabbed on my wrists, behind my ears (and elsewhere perhaps but I am not letting on) earlier in the evening would occasionally waft towards my nostrils – I love that scent. It is not so easy to find these days in its true pungent, thick form but can be found on-line if you really search it out, but you are apt to be palmed off with some thin, less potent form, which is nowhere as good as the original.

However, my whole point of this really is to lead into the fact that I have been reviewing a book by David Brandon & Alan Brooke called Haunted London Underground (History Press ISBN 978-0-7524-4746-9 £9.99) . There was no entry for Uxbridge, but it did surprise me to note that there was one for Ickenham – one of those stations called at on my oft-weekly excursions. Ickenham is the home of Vyners Grammar School, my old secondary school. A certain drummer I went out with used to live there too, but that is by the by. I am not sure if it would have affected me back then to know that the station was haunted, but probably not. The paranormal has been a subject that has interested me for as long as I can remember and, although I had never seen it myself, my mother had experienced a ‘visit from the past’ when we first moved into our house in Uxbridge.

There are stations mentioned in the book that have experienced mysterious occurrences that cause me no surprise whatsoever. I did not realise until reading the book, however, just how many old burial sites had to be disturbed in order to build the tunnel system that runs under the busy metropolis, so many of these being plague pits into the bargain. The most recent burial ground was excavated between 1991 and 1998 when the Jubilee Line was being extended. Cross Bones Graveyard was once unconsecrated ground used in medieval times for prostitutes or Winchester Geese as they were known. Interestingly this name stems from the fact they used to live and work from dwellings owned by the Bishop of Winchester! By the 18th Century it had become known as a paupers’ burial ground and was closed in 1853. Up to 15,000 people have been buried there.

The first entry in the book is Aldgate. This part of London is well-known in history especially to those who follow the case of the unsolved murders of the notorious Jack the Ripper. His fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, met her gruesome and untimely death near the station. It is also located near the site of one of the biggest plague pits in London - St Botolph’s Church stands next door and it was here that over 1,000 victims of the plague were buried in the space of only 2 weeks. Aldgate, although part of the underground network, is one of those stations that are above ground, but - not surprisingly - unexplained activity has been recorded there.

Marble Arch station stands close to the spot where around 50,000 people met their deaths during the period between the 12th Century and 1783. Tyburn was situated nearby, along with the accompanying burial pits. It has been reported that people living in the residences that overlook Hyde Park, where the notorious scaffold once stood, have heard the sound of cheering and jeering, along with large crowds seen milling around, dressed it would seem in the clothes of the 18th Century. These are usually seen in the morning, vanish quickly, and are followed by mist.

It is a very interesting book and explains the building of the underground system, each station mentioned having a brief history to explain how it came into existence. There are also two short chapters on closed railway stations and defunct underground stations, together with a chapter regarding those used in film, tv and literature.

Some of the stories do cause you to shiver though, especially those involving the train drivers who sit in the tunnels, on their own in their cabs - with the train empty of passengers - waiting for the ‘go’ light, when they hear doors opening and shutting in the carriages behind them. Now that is scary.....

A good read for anyone interested in the subject, with the interesting additional history behind the building of the London Underground itself.

Thursday 22 October 2009

The wonders of a well placed full stop

So do 'Sunday afternoon drivers' according to my mother

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Biggles in an adventure with precipitation

Biggles has placed himself in a rather odd situation. He has yet to go outside for his morning tour around the bushes (to put it delicately) and it is already gone 11.00 am. Remember, this is a border collie we are talking about here - a naturally energetic, outside, go get ‘em kind of dog. So what is the reason for him walking around the house with a slightly desperate look on his face? Simple - it is raining....not men.... not even cats and dogs (although the former of this last pair would usually stir some kind of doggy excitement)...just a continuous downfall of the wet stuff. Yes, the intrepid hero does not want to get his feet wet.

I wonder how long he can hold off the inevitable. And no, I am not going to escort him around the shrubbery with an umbrella before anyone suggests that I do. What would Shep have said? Definitely no Blue Peter badge for Biggles methinks.

Telephone line

I am slightly befuddled this morning. Jon and I had a ‘phone call last night – well on the cusp of last night and this morning really to be more precise. Dear Tony Shiels telephoned to have a chat - a chat which lasted until around 4.30 am! I have to admit that, just before the call ended, I dozed off a bit on the sofa with Biggles curled up beside me, but when it became time to ‘climb the wooden hills to Bedfordshire’ I did not think it worth going to bed so have been up all night ‘surfing the net’ for interesting things. You know how it ends up. One link leads to another, and before you know it you are reading about something completely unrelated to what you started out researching.

I began looking for something witty for this blog which took me to a story about a woman in Australia who, when asked by her husband to choose between him and her pet crocodile, settled for the latter - a decision which culminated in her divorcing her other half. Then there was the chap in Germany who got his trousers caught in a train carriage door after mooning at the train in response to his being thrown off for not having a ticket. Then I found myself reading about Percy the cat who regularly catches the miniature North Bay Railway train to go visit the Sea Life Centre in Scarborough to watch the fish and penguins. And so it went on.....and I never really found anything particularly witty in the end.

What of our chat with Tony? It was four and a half hours very nicely spent thank you.... it is always lovely to speak to him, no matter what time of day or night.

Friday 16 October 2009

Ground control to Major Tom

"A lump of metal which smashed through the roof of a house is believed to have come from space, the RAF has said.

The 4lb object was investigated by the RAF Flight Safety Branch after it landed in the loft of Peter and Mair Welton's home in Forester Way, Hull, in July this year.

The branch has now identified it as space debris and said this was the only incident of its kind investigated by the RAF in the last five years.

The metal was reported to the RAF as it was initially thought it may have fallen off an aircraft.

But the investigation found the debris had not come from a plane and was more likely to have fallen to earth from space - although it is unknown what the metal was from.

An RAF spokeswoman said: "In the last five years the RAF has become involved in only one incident involving suspected space debris.

"If requested the RAF will investigate incidents of space debris but they do not have a standing remit to do so." "

Hmmm – it is unknown from whence the metal originated. To my mind, this does leave a rather pertinent question. What exactly is up there? How does it get to be up there? Is it jettisoned by some passing Challenger or lobbed from here? Surely if it is something that has become unattached from some piece of scientific apparatus then someone, somewhere, should be rather concerned that a part of it has broken free and is floating around? Or has this throwaway society broadened its horizons to such an extent that if one of its expensive pieces of apparatus ‘breaks’ in space then “that’s OK we can build another”?

I would just like to know what may fall from space one day and hit me on the head whilst taking a gentle amble up to the village shop that is all, and whom my dependants can sue for lack of suitable health and safety precautions. Or is space outside the jurisdiction of such things?

Thursday 15 October 2009

Feeling Good?

Where did you get that hat?

The ZSL (Zoological Society of London) was very excited and pleased at the birth recently of this baby Victoria crowned pigeon.

The pigeon (named after Queen Victoria) is native to New Guinea, and the recent addition was part of a European programme to breed a "reserve population" in the event that that the species ever went extinct in the wild.

Apart from the outstanding millinery on display here, just look at that eye-liner on the youngster.

However, by the look on his face, I am not sure this young white-crested laughing thrush is impressed :

Tuesday 13 October 2009

I'm sitting in the railway station

OK yes too much of this could get boring, but I could not let this day in 1958 go without mention. A certain family by the surname Brown found a bear at Paddington railway station in London in the first of a series of books that was published on 13th October in that year.

Michael Bond created Paddington Bear and many a child has grown up hearing about his adventures since then - including stories of him having a sticky situation with some pastries in the station buffet, or causing chaos on the London Underground, or getting lost in a large department store. I, of course, met my own ‘Paddington Bear’ at the same station and we have had many adventures of our own, many of which I will record in some future publication. However, Jon does not wear a bush hat, red wellington boots or have a label attached to his lapel. Hmm correction, he has adorned one of those things once, but that is a different story. He may have had a few sticky situations with pastries at some time or other too – we all know Jon does like his pastries.

Anyway Happy Birthday, Paddington Bear!

Oh I have just noticed that Margaret Thatcher and Paul Simon share their birthday with the bear from darkest Peru. One is a gifted songwriter and musician, the other, well .........

Monday 12 October 2009

12th October 1915

From time to time I like to look back at those 'what happened on this day' pages you find on the internet. Today's date brought a vague connection with me via my daughters. Firstly, the hospital in Peterborough where Shosh was admitted to have grommets put into her ears is named after this particular woman, and secondly Stamford High School, where both Shosh and Olivia spent their secondary education, has her name as one of the four in their house system. Each of their houses is named after famous women renowned for their courage, talent and great determination to succeed - Anderson, Beale, Eliot and Cavell. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) was the first female doctor in Britain and a committed feminist. Dorothea Beale (1865-1915) was one of the first students at Queen’s College for Women and their first woman Mathematics Tutor - she later became the Vice-President of the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage. George Eliot (1819-1880), born Mary Ann Evans, was a successful author of eight hugely popular novels, and was the highest paid Victorian novelist and an idol of her time. Edith Cavell (1865-1915) trained as a nurse at the London Hospital and became the first Matron of the Berkendael Medical Institute in Brussels.

It is the latter of these four women about whom this posting is written today. Edith Cavell was born on 4th December 1865 near Norwich, and became known as one of those women throughout history who tirelessly helped others without regard for her own safety.

During the First World War, after the German occupation of Brussels, she helped 200 soldiers escape to Holland and was arrested on 3rd August 1915 charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. She was held in St Gilles prison for 10 weeks, the last few weeks in solitary confinement and was court-martialled for treason. She was executed on this day, 12th October, 1915 at the age of 49. After the war, her body brought back to England for a memorial service at Westminster Abbey and then to Norwich, to finally be laid to rest at on May 19, 1919, near the memorial that had been unveiled in October 1918 by Queen Alexandra in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral.

The night before her execution, she told the Reverend Stirling Gahan, the Anglican chaplain who had been allowed to see her, "Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone." Her final words to the German prison chaplain, Paul Le Seur, were recorded as, "Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country."

Saturday 10 October 2009

Great sorcery

As you will know, I met Tony Shiels for the first time in the middle of September when Jon, Max and I went to Ireland. I had heard much about the man from Jon and had spoken to him on the telephone a couple of times before then, but I was still not really sure who he was until I came face to face with him. It was a bit like meeting your future father-in-law for the first time – you are a trifle scared and build up a mental picture of what you think he is going to be like. Over the days before the intended rendezvous, you imagine all sorts of misfortune and, of course, you subconsciously add a few thoughts of general scariness into the picture. Hopefully, when you finally meet, the scary parts you had imagined will dwindle and you will get on famously.

Therefore, as we made our way from Woolsery to Killarney all sorts of thoughts were racing through my head. Was the ex-Wizard of the Western World going to be like Saruman, or like Gandalf? He was neither really I guess (well how could he be? They are fictional characters – aren’t they?) – just a normal, kindly gentleman of senior years who is a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Something of a cliché, but, yes, it was as if I had known him all my life. He has a brain like a sponge, which soaks up and remembers all sorts of things, he is an extremely talented artist and is as sharp as a needle. His perception holds no bounds - he picks up on things that you thought were well hidden in the deepest recesses of your memory – and comes out with statements here and there about things personal to you that make you think “how on earth did you know that?” In short, he is an outstanding character and one for whom you cannot but develop a great fondness.

It is well documented in books and articles that Tony Shiels and his family have been known in the circles of wizardry and witchcraft, and photos of his daughter, Kate, skyclad have been in some of these publications. Now, many of you will have gathered by now that I verge on the side of feminism and regard females who, as Jon would say, ‘get their kit off for photos’, as ‘letting the side down’. However, Tony has sent me some pictures from his scrapbook to post on my blog and also asked that I add one or two others of his specific choice with full permission of those concerned, namely the magnificent Kate and Jools. Perhaps the old bugger is suggesting that I re-examine my feminism, I don’t know, but as Tony has asked me to do it, then I shall do as he asks, with pleasure and without question.

So, OK, I think that I can get round the feministic quandary in which he has placed me relatively easily – after all there is a difference between art and ancient ritual, and page 3 titillation. Yes, photography is an art form, but when used with regard to the ubiquitous page 3 and the like, to me, it is not. Pictures of women, from a ritual point of view - that is, photographed or painted skyclad - again is not for titillation purposes. These show woman as a basic, primal symbol of power and strength.

Tony has introduced me to the surrealist artwork of Leonora Carrington, for example, whose early feminist paintings ‘interpreted woman as the centre of creativity and nature’, and there is of course the famous Botticelli’s Venus, although she does use her flowing auburn hair to guard much of her sensibilities. To me, the strength of motherhood is depicted in all her glory with the famous ‘Botticelli belly’, these are not women with glamorous, botox-filled, computer-enhanced looks and hourglass figures – they are a vision of real women.

When you think about it in very basic terms, I suppose you could say that we human beings only really started wearing clothing to protect our bodies and to keep warm after we lost our thick body hair. Perhaps that was the mistake –perhaps we should all go around naked (well in the warm months at any rate – perhaps in the winter we should be allowed at least a modicum of material to save the goosepimples), then perhaps there would be a diminishing chance for the money-spinning titillation that goes on today. It would be a pretty weird sight to see cities and towns full of jiggling flesh on a day to day basis, though, I do admit, and tube trains full to bursting on a busy Monday morning commute do not really bear (or should that be bare) thinking about.

Below are pictures of Tony and Kate, Tony outside Lytham Hall (May 2005) and his photo of, as he puts it himself, ‘something in the Ribble estuary’ (April 2006) :

And here are Kate and Jools doing some magick:

After our lake adventures in Ireland a lot of things were said on a certain website about Tony and our (the CFZ’s) relationship with him. I cannot comment on the Tony Shiels of the past, only the one of the present whom I have come to know. I regard all those who seemed to enjoy insulting him as ignorant bullies that hide underneath their cloaks of anonymity, stained with the yellow streak of cowardice. However, the more they are worn, the more threadbare they become and soon even cloaks become transparent. I have held back my response to their malevolence purely because I was away without internet connection for five days helping my eldest daughter and her fiancé move house. Upon my return, I notice that the rats have returned to their holes for the time being, and all has gone quiet. Therefore, I shall let it rest for now. Mind you, I am girding my loins for another bout after I post this blog, but I do have a pair of very sharp scissors that cut through material as cleanly as a hot knife does through butter.

But then I am the female of the species, and I have power and strength beyond the capabilities of man and I even have the Botticelli belly to prove it.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Today was rather exciting.... we received some hair and chewed rattan samples, which were obtained on the recent expedition to Sumatra, through the post from Adam Davies for us to forward on to Lars Thomas to have analysed. It was Graham's and my task to take some photos of the samples. At first this seemed to be a task that bordered on the doubtful due to the fact that not only were the hairs quite small, but both items would obviously have to be photographed through the plastic bags they were contained in to avoid DNA contamination. However, upon looking at the photos taken, they did actually come out rather well, so we now have a permanent photographic record of them.

Anyway, these will be passed on to our good friend Lars in Denmark so that they can have their DNA analysed. Adam is sending his half of the samples to Professor Todd Disotell. We are keeping our fingers crossed for the outcome.

This whole process has been delayed, of course, by the hospitalisation of Adam with an unknown tropical disease. However, he is back at home and is well on the way to a full recovery after being really unwell.

Thursday 8 October 2009

A Tale of Two Cranfords

Yesterday I was dispatched to take some photos just outside Woolsery for an article that Jon has written for Paranormal magazine. Just as you are coming into the village, you pass a white house on a bend in the road after crossing a bridge that spans a small stream. The location is known as Cranford and the house used to be a mushroom farm. However, I was there to take photos of the bridge, stream and surrounding wooded areas where there have been a few ghostly goings on and odd activities in the past. I shall be going back there tonight at dusk to take some more pictures. Intrepid eh?

Mind you, this is not the only Cranford I know, and whilst I am sure there are many places in this country called Cranford, the other with which I am familiar is in Middlesex, near Hayes. My first husband used to live in Hayes when I first knew him, which is a few miles from where I used to live in Uxbridge. Tony Hancock is buried in St Dunstan’s churchyard, Cranford I believe, but that is all by the by. There is a story about Cranford, Hayes that jingles a few dull bells in my head though. Something to do with the ghost of Dick Turpin – I think he may have prowled the Heath at nearby Hounslow at some point, but I do remember hearing something about him being seen in Cranford Woods (Cranford Park). However, the only reference I can find to any ghostly sightings around that area is of a grey lady.

Anyway, I will not be looking for our Mr Turpin tonight, but will be relying on my sixth sense just in case something else occurs.

A few months back Shosh, Gav and I were out with the Biggles at Powler’s Piece, a couple of miles from Woolsery. We were walking down one of the wide rides – all was quiet; there was not even much birdsong. At one point, I had the strangest sensation that something or someone was walking behind me and I turned around quickly expecting to see perhaps another dog walker, or a creature running across the path. But there was nothing there. The oddest thing, though, was that just as I turned, Shosh (who was walking to my right - Gav was between us) turned around too. When I asked her why, she said she had felt as if someone was walking behind her. Hmmm – neither of us had heard anything and neither of us had seen anything either as we turned, but both of us had had that unnerving sensation of being approached silently from behind. Yes it could well have been an animal running across the path and it may have gone from sight before we turned, but that sort of thing goes on all the time – things go on behind you as you walk along - but you don’t get that eerie sense of foreboding.