Through The Ages

In this life as we know it, for millions of years there have been many changes, both here on Earth and in the much wider world. We cannot possibly fathom just how big everything is, or even how small. In my blog post last week I mentioned how I had seen the question “Why does modern science classify humans as animals, even though humans are clearly distinct and different from animals in many ways?” I responded appropriately as we most definitely are defined as human animals. As with all living things, we are born, we grow and we pass away. Many species care for their young. Some young are literally ‘kicked out’ when they reach a certain age and must fend for themselves. Others may stay with their families through several generations. There are those creatures in the world whose sole purpose is to bring the next generation into being and once that is done, they pass away. With some living things such as trees, if a major fire occurs then Nature ensures that the trees begin to grow once more. Some living things cannot survive under water for any length of time, whilst others spend their whole lives deep in the depths, coping with amazing pressures. For birds, the sky is not just an empty airspace, it is a place where they live, feed and mate. We had a few days of extremely hot weather recently, we did as much as we could to cope. I did very little except eat, sleep and take in fluids regularly. Happily it all settled down again and things went back to what is regarded as a more ‘normal’ state of affairs here in the UK. But a few years ago I was unable to use my car and there were some trees in the car park so I parked the car under one of them. A clever idea I thought, to park it there in the shade! Except it was a lime tree, and I soon discovered my mistake, because sap falls from lime trees during the summer months as a by-product of aphids feeding on the trees. As the sap is sticky, it isn’t a good thing to have on a car! But the tree did do well as a sunshade. Where I am living now there are many trees and in the recent heat they made the areas around them cooler than elsewhere. But it then took a while for that heat to dissipate from inside the building. This world continues to rotate and it is changing all the time, just as the living things upon it do as best they can, coping with the changes. I have said how many species no longer exist on Earth now, some through climate change, some through human intervention and some simply through natural evolution. Just from the hills and valleys in this country alone we can see how, very many years ago, ice covered much of the Earth. But in time all things change. For example, geologists have deduced that at one time there existed a natural dam that separated the North Sea from the English Channel, but this dam was catastrophically ruptured hundreds of thousands of years later in a two-stage process, ultimately setting Britain’s insular environment in stone. These scientists base their conclusions on a line of deep plunge pools (basins excavated by intense waterfalls) and a network of channels cut in the sea floor south-west of the ridge line. They believe that they were first formed some 450,000 years ago as a lake of glacial melt water to the north-east in the North Sea basin (the depression where the North Sea sits today, some of which was dry land back then) spilled over into what is today the English Channel. As well as that I have written previously about the Fen country, East Anglia and how all that was drained. I am glad that was done, as without them we wouldn’t have Hunstanton, Skegness, Cromer, all places like that! Mind you, I still have vivid memories of going on a school trip to Blakeney Point – we went there by boat and that was fine, but we had to trudge back through the muddy marshes – and guess who slipped over! I wasn’t the only one, but that is a ‘been there, done that’ for me – not again! It was, without doubt, an experience. I don’t think my dear mother was too happy seeing the state of me and my muddy clothes when I got home…

It can be hard to visualise some changes, yet they occur all the time. I like watching a few tv programmes, not all that many but I definitely do have ‘regular’ ones which pique my interest. ‘Homes under the Hammer’ is one of them and a good number of the properties that are up for auction aren’t in too bad a state of repair. But sadly some are really bad and at best are stripped back to bare brick and rebuilt, whilst a few are razed to the ground, cleared and built from scratch. So it amazes me how some people leave their homes, though I do realise some folk may not get a choice if they sadly pass away. These days it seems folk are going a fair distance to buy a property and this is often due to the relative costs of buying say, a three- bed house in South Wales as compared to a one-bed flat in South London. I appreciate it all depends on the condition, location, what the new owner has planned to do, like update and sell on or simply rent the place. The presenters on the tv programme are very keen to see that a purchaser has always done the ‘right’ thing, like viewing the property beforehand and they often stress the real importance of reading the legal pack on the property first. Sadly quite a few folk do not do their homework and find themselves faced with unexpected sellers fees! But on the other hand, others do quite well, bringing a place up to a good, modern standard. They have often given much thought to what they are doing and the results show that! I also like watching the tv show ‘Pointless’. In each episode four teams of two contestants attempt to find correct but obscure answers to four rounds of general knowledge questions, with the winning team then eligible to compete for the show’s cash jackpot which starts at £1,000. All questions used on the show are factual in nature, and are asked of a panel of a hundred individuals in a pre-conducted public survey. A correct answer scores one point for each survey subject who gave it, and the objective is to achieve as low a score as possible. ‘Pointless’ answers, which are the correct responses not given by anyone surveyed, score zero points and are the most desirable. Every pointless answer given during the main game increases the jackpot by £250, and the team that reaches the final round has three chances to win it by giving one such answer. Episodes are usually shown every weekday around 5:15pm and the game lasts forty-five minutes. In the final round of each episode, should a team fail to win the jackpot it is carried forward to the next one and a further £1,000 added to the jackpot. This means that a jackpot can rise and as of May 2022, the highest recorded jackpot won on the show was £24,750 which was won on 8 March 2013.

When I was a great deal younger we did not spend our time with computer games, they simply did not exist then. Many children played together in the street, also for a few years we lived in a cul-de-sac and in any case not every family had a car, also those that did usually parked theirs either in their garage or on the driveway. These garages were often made of asbestos, quite often with a corrugated iron roof. We always knew when one of our neighbours was off to work on his big 500cc motorbike, because of the loud ‘thump thump’ noise as it was started up! I recall buying sweet cigarettes which had a red tip on, so it looked like they were lit. We would ’smoke’ them and after a few ‘puffs’ we would eat them! They were probably on sale at the same time Superman was beating up Nick O’Teen on television advertisements on ITV! There were little cards in the sweets which we exchanged, there were Green Shield stamps to collect and I was given the honour of sticking these stamps in books, keeping a count of them, these were a British sales promotion scheme that rewarded shoppers with stamps that could be used to buy gifts from a catalogue or from any affiliated retailer. The scheme was introduced in 1958 by a Richard Tompkins, who had noticed the success of the long-established Sperry & Hutchinson Green Stamps in America. For just a few years, the scheme was so widely adopted that it was referenced in rock songs. But it suffered when Tesco ceased to use it as part of a price-cutting policy that became standard nationwide. To retain business, Green Shield allowed customers to buy gifts from the catalogue with a mix of stamps and cash, but soon the catalogue became cash-only, and the operation was re-branded as Argos. Stamps were withdrawn altogether in 1991 and the company entered voluntary liquidation in 2002. Michael Flanders makes reference to them in the opening patter to the Flanders and Swann song ‘Sounding Brass’ where he says, “We now turn to number two on your song sheets. Don’t strain your eyes trying to read them though, because I shall be telling you exactly what comes next. In any case, these rather fanciful titles that we print on the programmes bear no relation to what we’re going to sing. It’s a dead waste of a shilling, is what I say. You don’t even get green stamps. Well worth collecting, those stamps”. He then turns quickly to his colleague, the pianist Donald Swann and says “My goodness, you know that really is a very nice suit!” We would often sit on the kerb by the side of the road and play our games such as ‘Jacks’, a simple game using simple pieces. This game, or a variation of it, has been played for more than two thousand years. In texts left behind by the Greek philosopher, Sophocles, there is mention of the game being played around the time of the Trojan War, roughly 1190 B.C. and children across the world play some variation of the game even today. Modern Jacks evolved from a game that originally used pebbles or sheep knucklebones. The name derives from ‘chackstones’, meaning ‘stones to be tossed’. The knuckle, wrist, or ankle bones (astragals) of goats, sheep, or other animals have also been used in play. Such objects have been found in prehistoric caves in Kiev, Ukraine, and pictures of the game are depicted on jars from ancient Greece. Later, a wooden ball was substituted for one of the rocks or bones and the game became known as Five Stones. Eventually, a rubber ball was used in place of the wooden one. The knucklebones were replaced by small metal ‘jacks’, whose shape is said to resemble the original sheep knucklebones that were used and this gradual evolution has resulted in the modern game that is played today. Nowadays the game has one rubber ball and five 6-pronged metal jacks and is played by scattering the jacks on a flat surface. The ball is bounced using one hand and whilst the ball is in the air, a jack is picked up with the same hand. On the next bounce, two jacks are picked up, and so on. If that player misses, then it is the other player’s turn.


We also played the usual games like Cowboys and Indians, Hide and Seek and Tag, some of the girls played Hopscotch and Skipping, though after a while things could get noisy and we would be told, either by our parents or a neighbour, to quieten down as we were too noisy and this was often because a neighbour was sleeping as they were on a night shift. We also had other hobbies like stamp-collecting and quieter occupations like reading. I became interested in putting together Airfix kits, first with small aircraft and later larger models of sailing ships, using black cotton for the rigging. I even had one of the Saturn V rocket. The basic kits of aircraft like the World War I Sopwith Camel and the World War II Spitfire were all in 1/72 scale, but I was bought a Saturn V rocket which was 1/144 scale but was still large, and a few sailing ships like Endeavour and HMS Victory which were around 1/180 scale I think. These ships took ages to complete but had pride of place at home. As I grew older I moved away from such things but a couple of friends carried on with them, mainly of aircraft as they were now working in the RAF. But they took the skill to a much higher level as scale aircraft modellers, still putting the kits together but reading up on the aircraft they were putting together, making them as authentic as possible. I have seen how they created dioramas of battle scenes, with a great deal of intricate work. When I was at school there was a small brass band and I joined. I learned to play the cornet and later bought my own trumpet. There were around five of us in the brass band, we played for various school events, mainly at our school but we were invited to other local schools to play for them. On leaving school I joined a small orchestra which was good experience, I was also singing in a couple of choirs by then too. I even joined a local brass band, quite a large one, but I found that was too much so left playing the trumpet and carried on singing in choirs, which meant I went to quite a few famous places!

Peterborough Orchestra.
(I am right at the back, in a shirt and tie!)

At work we had begun using computers, then a while later Sir Clive Sinclair began producing the small ‘home’ computer which I have mentioned in a previous blog post. So my first home computer was a Sinclair ZX81, which had just 1k of RAM memory and no hard drive storage. No screen, either – you connected it to a television and tuned a channel to it. I have said in an earlier writing about storing and retrieving data, it was fun though and I learned much. As the years passed, computers improved and I eventually bought what was a ‘proper’ computer, although nothing like what we have available nowadays. I did play different computer games, some which were quite easy and others, like role-playing ones, were relatively difficult and one could spend hours and hours on them! My job changed and I became a Trainer, then later ran my own small business where I was kept busy with teaching others the basics of computers and photography as well as then sharing photos with others. Now I am retired and smile when I wake up of a morning with just an occasional ache in my muscles, perhaps because the day before I had sat in a draught by an open window because of the hot weather. Why do I smile? Because as a youngster I would see my parents and grandparents take their time to move some mornings and I’d wonder why. I am now at the age they were and realise. So much has changed in these relatively short years! Things change all the time and often we don’t notice, but they do. But if we take care of ourselves and have a positive attitude, we can often live longer. Yes, in time we return to our base, “From dust we were formed and to dust we return”. It is a simple fact of life. But much of it is up to us. The other day I saw some lovely words:

Do not regret growing old, it’s a privilege denied to many.
Growing old with beauty is growing old with heart,
No remorse, no regret, no checking the time,
Go forward, stop being afraid.
Because with every age, happiness is attached.
Ageing beautifully is growing old with your body,
Keeping it healthy inside and beautiful outside.
Never surrender to any effort.
Age has nothing to do with death.
Ageing gracefully is a boost
To those who feel lost in the bush,
Who no longer believes that life can be sweet
And that there is always someone to the rescue.
Ageing gracefully is all about ageing positively.
Do not weep over memories of old times.
Be proud to have white hair,
Because, to be happy, we still have time.
Ageing gracefully is ageing gracefully,
Know how to give without expecting anything in return;
For wherever we are, at the dawn of the day,
Someone to tell hello.
Growing old beautifully is growing old with hope;
Being pleased with yourself by going to bed at night.
And when the time for not receiving comes,
Deep down it is just a goodbye.
~ Felix Leclerc (1914 – 1988)

This week…
Here in this excellent Care Home, the Senior Carer approached an inmate and said to them in a fairly loud voice “We’ve got you a new hearing aid” and the inmate replied, with absolutely impeccable timing, “What???”.
Forgive me, I had to suppress a smile.

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Life In A Care Home

I have been residing in this particular Care Home for over two years now. When I arrived it was from another Care Home and before that I’d been in hospitals for a few months, as I recovered from a heart issue as well as getting Covid-19, which I contracted whilst in hospital. It was clear from my health and mobility issues that I simply could not manage living on my own any more, as I had previously been in an attic flat where the building had no lift, just stairs and a handrail on only one side. I soon noticed that many of the inmates in this Care Home had dementia, there were some worse than others and I saw how it affected them in so many ways. Before this I’d had very little experience in such matters, as my only previous knowledge had come from a lovely lady I had known in Whittlesey and whose character was at one time very bubbly and outgoing, but she changed so very much and near the end of her life she didn’t recognise me at one visit but would then scold me for not visiting her the next. But I was only a teenager then. My time here has brought back those memories and I wondered if in fact dementia is classed as a mental illness that can be cured? The answer I found was that Dementia is the name given for problems with mental abilities caused by gradual changes and damage in the brain. It is rare in people under 65 years of age and whilst it does affect mental health, in itself it is not classified as a mental illness because it is a disorder of the brain which causes memory loss and trouble with communicating. Our brain is a control centre and it controls everything we do, say and think. When the brain is unwell or damaged, we have problems with all our actions which then includes remembering, speaking, understanding and learning new skills. As a result, it seems that at present there is no certain way to prevent all types of dementia, but researchers are still investigating how the condition develops. However, there is good evidence that living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing dementia as we grow older, as well as helping to prevent cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks, which are themselves risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, the latter being a common type of dementia caused by reduced blood flow to the brain. It is estimated to affect around 150,000 people in the UK. During my time here I have been allowed, in fact encouraged, to do as much for myself as possible but also know that help will always be provided when asked for or clearly needed. We are all different, we may be ‘classified’ as humans but each and every one of us is different. We are clearly individuals. I saw a question online recently, asking “Why does modern science classify humans as animals, even though humans are clearly distinct and different from animals in many ways?” But we are, because humans can move on their own so they are classified as being in the animal kingdom. Further, humans belong to the animal phylum known as chordates because we have a backbone. The human animal has hair and milk glands, so we are placed in the class of mammals. Within the mammal class, humans are placed in the primate order. Unlike plants and algae, which produce their own nutrients, animals are heterotrophic, feeding on organic material and digesting it internally. That’s enough biology, I think! I found a further reply to this ‘animal’ question, which included a picture of two skeletons that at first glance one could easily imagine were of a fat man and a skinny one as, except for their proportions, the similarity was clear. However the skeleton of the ‘fat’ man is actually that of a gorilla. It was also pointed out that gorilla and human DNA are 98% identical.

Human and Gorilla skeletons.

But back to the world of Care Homes. Here we have around thirty ‘inmates’ as I like to call us and naturally, each and every one of us is different. We all go through the day in our very different ways, creating new memories and I think back to 2020 when I was in hospital after my last heart problem. I have vivid memories of that time, at first not knowing quite where I was or even who I was. For all I knew I might have died! Then I saw a television on the wall and was pretty certain that I was still ‘me’, I was still human and still on Earth. I am also reminded of the time back in January 2016 when I had my teeth out and was given Temazepam, it took me a few hours to recover from taking that and starting to recognise the world around me once more. To this day I have no real memory of the few hours which passed as I was having my teeth removed! But I suddenly found myself back in my flat and I heard a friend of mine who had been with me and got me safely home chuckle and say “Oh, you’re back with us again now are you?”. He is a good friend. I have heard about folk getting ‘high’ on drugs, also of people drinking so much alcohol that they lose the memory of where they are or what they are doing so I don’t know how folk who take drugs on a regular basis can possibly manage. I guess it is why some folk turn to theft in order to fund the habit. I have needed regular medication for very many years now to control my epilepsy and later my heart, but even those are carefully monitored. We are born, we grow, we develop individual characteristics. I have seen how identical twins each have their own personalities, despite being brought up together. That individuality remains but our personalities can alter as this does depend on our interaction with others. For example someone with a strong personality might become a narcissist and attempt to ’take over’ the behaviour, actions, thinking and ideas of another person, getting them to do what they might not otherwise do. Alternatively there may be someone who decides to live by themselves and to have minimal contact with others. A great many will have a personality whereby they want to be the centre of attention, or perhaps know everything about everyone, even simply having to be ‘right’, or never willing to accept change. Equally there will be some, perhaps a bit like me, who prefer a quiet life, to read, to learn, share and hope to teach others of things they might not otherwise have known. I see many different people here and am learning how they are needing, some more than others, help in their daily lives, even in just the simplest of things. I have more of an idea now of the levels of dementia and I have detailed just a little of the basics below. So the staff here in this Care Home have to be quite alert to the ways and habits of each and every one of us. They really have to be. A little while ago I heard a ‘new’ inmate say “Does anybody know why we can’t go out?”, whilst another time an inmate felt they had no money and thought they had to pay for the food being served. They were told it was already paid for and not to worry. Then later I saw another inmate being led back from an adjacent care home on the same site. We share the same lovely garden. So whether that inmate was just exploring, was lost or looking for a way out, I have no idea. I will detail more on here later with regard to the effects of dementia.

When I was moved to this care home in July 2020, it was in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic and all the staff were very careful to ensure that us inmates were all kept isolated as far as possible. In any case I had transferred from another care home, so mine was a mandatory fourteen-day isolation even though I had been given the ‘all-clear’. That suited me, it gave me time to adjust to my new surroundings, for which I was grateful. I was then able to mix with the other folk here, but because we were kept isolated as much as possible and not allowed to leave the building on our own, it felt like we were in prison, albeit for our own good as much as anything else. Hence the reason for me humorously naming this blog as I have! But I have seen how dementia affects the people here and so was determined not to ‘lose’ myself. I began writing, something a good friend had suggested when I was busy with my photography work. This weekly blog has been going for over two years now and I am enjoying the work as it keeps my mind active, I am learning all the time and my blog posts seem to be recalling past memories for some. So I began to refer to the others residing in this care home as inmates, not in a detrimental way but as a bit of gentle fun. But I did have to change the title of my blog from “Diary Of An Inmate” to “Diary Of A Care Home Inmate”, as some readers thought I really was in a prison, which I most definitely am not! But the inmates here have to be kept a close eye on and carers notice if one isn’t where they are expected to be. I tend to stay in my room here, going to the tv room and walking up and down, sometimes going to the dining room for lunch then sitting in the gardens if the weather is fine. But with temperatures becoming so high recently I have had to adapt and find cooler areas to sit. This heat has been almost too much for me, but happily there are electric fans strategically placed and things have begun to cool down.

As I have said, dementia is a brain condition, our brain is a control centre and it determines absolutely everything we do, say and think. When the brain is not well we have problems with all our actions, doing basic things like eating, drinking, remembering things, speaking, understanding and learning new skills. That has become very clear to me here as I see the people around me who have dementia. However, it seems that there are specific stages of dementia which are commonly assigned, based on symptoms. My research has also shown that it can be quite helpful for Carers to know how symptoms change over these stages. I have learned that health professionals often discuss dementia in terms of the stages which refer to how far a person’s dementia or Alzheimer’s disease has progressed and defining these stages helps physicians determine best treatments as it aids communication between doctors and caregivers. Dementia is generally considered in three stages, these being mild (or ‘early’), moderate (or ‘middle’) and severe (or ‘late’). But a more specific stage of dementia is commonly assigned based on symptoms. It can also be helpful to know how symptoms change over the stages, as Alzheimer’s and similar diseases can cause dramatic swings in mood and behaviour, because the activities a person is physically able to do will change as their level of dementia progresses. This causes stress for friends and relatives, but knowing what is coming can help prepare for social, medical, and personal needs. So rather than simply using ‘early stage’, ‘middle-stage’ and ‘late-stage’ dementia as descriptors, there are scales that provide a more comprehensive description and these scales help better understand the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease based on how well a person thinks (cognitive decline) and functions (physical abilities). I found a few different websites on all this, one which said that these scales are known as the Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia (GDS), the Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST), and the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR). I believe these are American terms, but I think the ideas are all basically the same. Of the ones I have mentioned, the most commonly used scale is often referred to simply as GDS. It is divided into seven stages based on the amount of cognitive decline and this test is most relevant for people who have Alzheimer’s disease because some other types of dementia do not always include memory loss. Those in Stages 1 to 3 do not typically exhibit enough symptoms for a dementia diagnosis, so by the time a diagnosis has been made a dementia patient is typically in stage 4 or beyond. Stage 4 is considered ‘Early Dementia’, stages 5 and 6 are considered ‘Middle Dementia’ and stage 7 is considered ‘Late Dementia’. So Stage 1 displays no cognitive decline, the brain has normal function and no memory loss so there is, quite naturally, no expected duration. Stage 2 displays very mild cognitive decline where names are forgotten and familiar objects are misplaced, but symptoms are not easily evident to loved ones or doctors. There is no known expected duration at this level. Those in Stage 3 display mild cognitive decline with increased forgetfulness, slight difficulty concentrating, decreased work performance, a difficulty finding right words, they get lost more frequently and it is at this stage that loved ones begin to notice. The average duration of this stage is between two and seven years. In Stage 4, early-stage dementia, they display a moderate cognitive decline with difficulty in concentrating, forgetting recent events, an inability to manage finances and an inability to travel alone to new places. They have difficulty completing tasks, they are in denial about symptoms, they have socialisation problems and withdraw from friends or family. It is at this point a physician can detect cognitive problems. The average duration of this stage is two years. At Stage 5, moderately severe cognitive decline, they display major memory deficiencies, they need assistance with basics like dressing, bathing, etc., they forget details like their address or phone number, they do not know the time or date, or even where they are and the average duration of this stage is one and a half years. In Stage 6, which is severe cognitive decline (Middle Dementia) they cannot carry out basics without help, they forget the names of family members, of recent events and of major events in past. They have difficulty counting down from 10, they suffer from incontinence (loss of bladder control) and they have difficulty speaking. There can be personality and emotional changes, delusions, compulsions and anxiety. An average duration of this stage is two and a half years. Then in Stage 7, this being very severe cognitive decline (Late Dementia), they cannot speak or communicate, they require help with most activities, there is a loss of motor skills and they cannot walk. The average duration of this stage is one and a half to two and a half years.

There is also the Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST) which is another scale that describes the stages of dementia and like the GDS Scale, FAST is a seven-stage system but based more on one’s level of functioning and ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) than on cognitive decline. It should perhaps be noted that a person may be at a different stage cognitively (GDS stage) than functionally (FAST stage). FAST also has seven stages, where Stage 1 (normal adult) has no functional decline, Stage 2 (normal older adult) has personal awareness of some functional decline, Stage 3 (Early Alzheimer’s) displays noticeable deficits in demanding job situations, Stage 4 (Mild Alzheimer’s) requires assistance in complicated tasks such as handling finances, travelling, planning parties, etc., Stage 5 (Moderate Alzheimer’s) requires assistance in choosing proper clothing, Stage 6 (Moderately Severe Alzheimer’s) requires assistance with dressing, bathing, and toileting and experiences urinary and fecal incontinence whilst in Stage 7 (Severe Alzheimer’s) their speech ability declines to about a half-dozen intelligible words. There is also a progressive loss of ability to walk, to sit up, to smile, and to hold head up. I have also found that there is the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale, which uses a five-point system based on cognitive (thinking) abilities and how well a person functions. This scale is widely used in dementia research, not as a tool for communication between medical professionals, patients, and their families.

I have found all of the information detailed regarding GDS, FAST and CDR directly from the Internet via the Dementia Care Central website. As you might expect, there are other websites but it seems that the descriptors are pretty much the same. Whilst I hope you find all this useful, it is not my intention or my place to offer advice on such matters, merely to share what I have found in my research. I believe that any further information should be directed to a healthcare professional, as there is advice available from them on caring for someone and which is based on a person’s stage of dementia, including technology, that can help each individual and their carers, also which types of assisted living homes, if required, are most appropriate. I know I have learned much during my time here.

This week…
An American, a French man, a Spaniard and a German were all attending an ‘online’ Zoom meeting. The supervisor asked them, “Can you all see me ok?” To which they answered,
“Yes” “Oui” “Si” “Ja”

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A Little More Lambeth…

There really is so much in just this borough of London, and as I was born here I had to mention these places to you! I was very young when we moved up to Whittlesey, near Peterborough and that was primarily for the health of my dear mother, not to mention me as I was less than a year old at the time. We still had family in London, so we visited as often as possible or they came up to see us. They would talk about various places and I did get to see some of the following locations, but not all. Some areas have changed quite a bit since I left there in 1953, but others have not. So I hope you find the following just as interesting as I have in learning about them.

Brixton market.

Brixton Market comprises a street market in the centre of Brixton and the adjacent covered market areas in nearby Reliance Arcade, Market Row and Granville Arcade which was recently rebranded as ‘Brixton Village’. The market sells a wide range of foods and goods but is best known for its African and Caribbean produce, which reflect the diverse community of Brixton and surrounding areas of Lambeth. The Street Market is managed by the London Borough of Lambeth, the covered arcades have always been in private ownership although substantial public funding was provided for their refurbishment under the Brixton Challenge grant scheme. The Market began on Atlantic Road in the 1870s and subsequently spread to Brixton Road which had a very wide footway. Brixton then was a rapidly expanding London railway suburb with newly opening shops, including the first London branch of David Greig at 54-58 Atlantic Road in 1870, and London’s first purpose-built department store, Bon Marché, on Brixton Road in 1877. The market was a popular attraction, with shoppers being entertained by street musicians. Electric Avenue, which is now part of the street market, was built in the 1880s and was one of the first streets to have electric light. Glazed iron canopies covered the footpath, but these were significantly damaged by World War II bombs, and finally removed in the 1980s. The song ‘Electric Avenue’ was written by Eddy Grant in 1983 and referring to this area of the market. In 2016, Electric Avenue was refurbished with funding from the Mayor of London’s High Street Fund, Lambeth Council, Transport for London and the Heritage Lottery fund to include an illuminated sign celebrating the area’s history. The Station Road street market is open on weekdays for street food and general stalls, and there are colourful themed markets on Saturdays, such as a flea market and makers’ market.

Brixton Windmill.

Who would expect to find an over 200-year old, 15 metre high windmill in Brixton? The windmill was built in 1816 when the area was open fields and it was leased to the Ashby family the following year. They were millers producing stoneground wholemeal flour and the mill became known as Ashby’s Mill for the whole of its working life. During the 1850s, as the sprawling metropolis of London reached Brixton, the cornfields surrounding the mill were replaced by houses. As a result, much of the wind necessary for turning the sails was prevented from reaching the mill. In 1862 the Ashby family decided to move their business to a watermill on the River Wandle. The sails were removed from the windmill and it was used for storage. The family’s lease on the watermill ran out in 1902, so at this point Joshua Ashby decided to return the milling business to Brixton. He installed another set of millstones in the windmill, first powered by steam and later by gas, so that he could grind flour without wind power but he closed the business in 1934, as industrially produced bread had become the norm. He died a year later, and the mill became derelict. Then in 1957 London County Council (LCC) bought the land, the windmill and the associated buildings. They decided to turn the 2.5 acres of land into a public open space named Windmill Gardens and by the early 1960s the bakery, outbuildings, Mill House and Mill Cottage had all been demolished to make space for the public gardens. Then in 1964, over four months the windmill was restored. New sails were made from imported pine timber and much of the wind-driven equipment installed inside the mill was brought from a derelict windmill in Lincolnshire. The windmill opened to the public at Easter 1968 and for several years it was open each weekend during the summer. Lambeth Council took ownership in 1971, but over the next thirty years the windmill fell into a cycle of restoration and refurbishment followed sadly by vandalism and neglect. Then in 2002 the windmill was placed on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk register. The following year, several local residents formed the Friends of Windmill Gardens and started campaigning for the windmill to be restored. It was in 2010 that the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant to Lambeth Council and the Friends of Windmill Gardens to restore the windmill. Work began in October and took several months to complete. The sails, cap and tower were all restored, and the 1902 millstones were converted to run on electrical power and the windmill finally reopened to the public with a celebratory parade and festival, attended by up to 2,000 people, in May 2011. Volunteers from Friends of Windmill Gardens opened the mill for guided tours at least once a month during the summer, and initiated an education programme for local schoolchildren. The Friends of Windmill Gardens won the Museums and Heritage Award for restoring an industrial building and they started grinding flour in 2014, training volunteer millers. The flour is now sold on open days and also through local retailers. They celebrated its bicentenary in 2016 with a series of special events, including the first Brixton Beer & Bread Festival, an open-air film night, and the first annual Windmill Lecture. Back in 2015 the Friends had run a high-profile campaign to build an education centre in Windmill Gardens.  A year later, Lambeth Council approved plans for the construction of an education centre and planning permission was granted in March 2017. In summer 2018 the Friends ran a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to kit out the building and after several delays, construction work started in December 2018. The Brixton Windmill Centre was finally completed in July 2020 and the Friends signed the lease and moved in.

Clapham Picturehouse.

In 1910 the Electric Picture Palace opened on the site of former stables in Venn Street, Clapham. This was followed in 1919 with plans for a much grander venue, The Coliseum, with an entrance directly onto Clapham High Street. Unfortunately the company ran into financial difficulties and the cinema never opened. However, the façade of the 1919 rebuild survived and can still be seen on the corner of Clapham High Street and Venn Street.  The site was turned into a snooker hall and remained so until 1992, when the three-screen Clapham Picturehouse opened – the first new-build venue in the group. The opening coincided with a resurgence of cinema, and the Picturehouse quickly became a cultural and social landmark in the area. In 2003 a fourth screen was added and the bar was extended. Today Venn Street and the Picturehouse are at the heart of a bright, bustling and vibrant Clapham community.

Streatham Space Project.

Now for a more modern item. Streatham Space Project is not perhaps what its name suggests, but is a Theatre, Music & Comedy venue, aiming to bring the best live performance to South London. Set up by a team of Streatham-based arts professionals in June 2018, they say that their aim is to use live events to reach the different corners of their neighbourhood and bring people together. They have hosted events with artists like David Harewood, Kae Tempest, David Baddiel & Dane Baptiste, hosted events based in Ghanaian, Polish & Yoruba culture, offered support for artists at the beginning of their career and hosted charitable organisations like Age UK, Institute of Imagination and The Prince’s Trust. To date they’ve had over 30,000 visitors through their doors to rehearse, to film, to celebrate, or to experience live theatre, music, comedy or art. However in March 2020 they closed temporarily for public events and from May to June they operated as a depot for packages to be delivered to vulnerable people in their area, whilst streaming hip-hop, spoken word and storytelling content for their audiences. Autumn 2020 saw some socially distanced Theatre and Music and following another period working on filming, rehearsing and R&D with some incredible creatives in our space (ITV, BBC, theatre and education companies) they invited live audiences back from the summer of 2021. The main theatre space has room for an audience of 120 and there’s a second room that’s used for smaller performances, workshops, etc. The bar and café is a nice area with local artists’ work on the walls and live music some days too.

Sea Life London Aquarium Shark Walk.
Photo by pawopa3336/ Deposit Photos.

The Sea Life London Aquarium is located on the ground floor of County Hall on the South Bank near the London Eye. It opened in March 1997 as the London Aquarium and hosts about one million visitors each year. In 2005, the aquarium displayed three robotic Fish created by the computer science department at the University of Essex. The fish were designed to be autonomous, swimming around and avoiding obstacles like real fish. Their creator claimed that he was trying to combine “the speed of tuna, the acceleration of a pike and the navigating skills of an eel.” In April 2008 the aquarium was purchased by Merlin Entertainments for an undisclosed sum. The facility was closed for a £5 million refurbishment, which was completed in April 2009. The additions included a new underwater tunnel, Shark Walk, a revamped Pacific Ocean tank and a complete rerouting of the exhibit. The attraction officially became a Sea Life Centre when it reopened in April 2009. Then in May 2011, the aquarium opened a new penguin exhibit with ten gentoo penguins transferred from the Edinburgh Zoo. In 2015, the aquarium was moved to a different location in County Hall due to the opening of Shrek’s Adventure! London. The aquarium includes two classrooms themed around the conservation campaigns which the zoo supports, which host up to 40,000 schoolchildren each year and are open to the public when not in use by the education program. It is involved in several breeding programs including the Cuban crocodile, seahorses, jellyfish and one I had never heard of before, the butterfly splitfin, a bony fish which was formerly found throughout the Ameca River in Mexico. The species was only ever found in an area about 10 miles (15km) in diameter. Rated as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a remnant population of the species has been found to persist in El Rincón waterpark near the town of Ameca. It may also exist in a feral state in the United States as individuals apparently derived from escaped or introduced captive stock were met with in southeastern Nevada. It was a popular fish for some time among aquarists, but hobbyist stocks have declined recently, thus placing its survival in jeopardy. Work continues at the aquarium with many conservation organisations including the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, Save Our Seas and the Shark Trust.

The London Dungeon.
Photo by claudiocaridi.libero.it2/Deposit Photos.

London is known worldwide for its centuries of history and a fair bit of that history is also quite dark and gruesome. The London Dungeon recreates various gory and macabre historical events in a gallows humour style with the use of live actors and special effects. Due to its dark side The London Dungeons are suitable for older children and adults, all of whom are guided through 19 live shows and 2 thrilling rides, where they learn about everything from The Plague to Jack The Ripper. Here you will meet frightening historical figures, getting face to face with some of the grisliest criminals of London’s past such as Sweeney Todd, Guy Fawkes and, of course, Jack the Ripper. Visitors can go on the ‘Tyrant’s’ boat ride enabling you to follow in the footsteps of one of Henry VIII’s many victims, by going on a boat ride to the Tower of London to meet your fate – just as political prisoners did during his reign of terror. You can also learn about London’s Great Plague, stepping back in time to perhaps the most frightening and deadly era in which to live in London – the time of the Black Death. You can also feel the horror of Jack the Ripper, walking the same dark alleys where he once preyed on his hapless victims. One item not for the faint-hearted is taking a spine-chilling stroll past the grisly torture chamber and there is also the nerve-wracking ‘Drop Dead’ Drop Ride, where you can get your photo taken during the ‘Sudden Drop’ as this ride plummets you eight metres into the pits of darkness. After that, you can make merry in a Victorian pub, because once you’ve finished exploring the Dungeons, there is an atmospheric Tavern which awaits you at the end of your adventure. Have a few drinks at this 19th-century Victorian pub and meet some East-end Victorian characters, such as the loud landlady and landlord. Gather round the ‘old Joanna’ for an authentic pub singalong. Play some card games – but watch out for card sharps and listen to spooky stories as you sit at the tables.

A little about the history of the site. The London Dungeon first opened in 1974 under the railway arches of Tooley Street, near London Bridge. It was originally a waxwork exhibition of gory history with models of Boadicea and Thomas a Becket. Then in the 1990s the exhibition was owned by the Kunick Leisure Group. It evolved to feature walkthrough theatrical shows, such as Jack the Ripper and the Great Fire of London. In 1992 the London Dungeon attraction was acquired by Vardon Attractions (later Merlin Entertainments) headed by Nick Varney. The Dungeon was rebranded as an interactive horror attraction. In 2011, workers at the museum were surprised to discover that one of the skeletons on display at the original London Dungeon was a genuine human skeleton, not a model as they assumed. The human remains had been on display since the attraction first opened. Then in 2013, the London Dungeon moved to the County Hall South Bank. When it departed its first home, many props (model rats, axes, instruments of torture) were sold at a car boot sale in nearby Pimlico. The new building was designed by architect Ralph Knott and was influenced by Baroque-style art and is located directly opposite the Houses of Parliament – the same buildings Guy Fawkes tried to blow up with gunpowder in 1605. The move brought the opportunity to reinvigorate the Dungeon and lots of new and exciting things to do, but rebuilding the house of horrors took an entire year and a budget of £20 million! The London Dungeon uses professionally trained and highly skilled make-up artists to design the wounds, bruises, and blisters to look authentically gruesome whenever a new personality is brought into the famous attraction, but it doesn’t contain any spiritual characters as many believe. Elements of the tour are regularly updated and refreshed, but you won’t see a ghost. You might sit in on a spooky séance, but the London Dungeon is all about the truth. The place caters those with disabilities, there is limited access for wheelchair users with one person using a wheelchair permitted to enter per hour. It is therefore advisable to book in advance. The place is a 90 to 110-minute walking experience, and guests will need to stand for most of it, also priority seating cannot be guaranteed. For people with autism and other neuro-diverse conditions, the London Dungeon is not a scare attraction or a horror maze. It is specifically designed to be a highly sensory experience with dark spaces, loud noises, flashing/strobe lights, pungent smells and jump scares. Staff can identify the Hidden Disabilities sunflower lanyards and ear defenders are available. Please seek help from a member of the team at any point during the tour if you feel the need.

The Young Vic Theatre.
Photo by BasPhoto/Deposit Photos.

In the period after World War II, a Young Vic Company was formed in 1946 by director George Devine as an offshoot of the Old Vic Theatre School for the purpose of performing classic plays for audiences aged nine to fifteen.
This was discontinued in 1948 when Devine and the entire faculty resigned from the Old Vic, but in 1969 Frank Dunlop became founder-director of The Young Vic theatre with ‘Scapino’, his free adaptation of Molière’s The Cheats of Scapin, presented at the new venue as a National Theatre production, opening on 11 September 1970 and starring Jim Dale in the title role with designs by Carl Toms (decor) and Maria Björnson (costumes). Initially part of the National Theatre, the Young Vic Theatre became an independent body in 1974. In the words of Laurence Olivier, then director of the National Theatre, “Here we think to develop plays for young audiences, an experimental workshop for authors, actors and producers.” The aim was to create an accessible theatre which offered high quality at low cost in an informal environment. The aim was to appeal to young audiences, but this time not specifically to children. So the Young Vic continues to be an important theatre for aspiring young performers and directors.

The Royal National Theatre.

The Royal National Theatre in London, commonly known as the National Theatre, is one of the United Kingdom’s three most prominent publicly funded performing arts venues, alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House. Internationally, it is known as the National Theatre of Great Britain. Since it was founded in 1963 by Laurence Olivier, many well-known actors have performed here. Until 1976, the company was based at The Old Vic theatre in Waterloo. The current building is located next to the Thames in the South Bank area of central London. In addition to performances at their building, the National Theatre tour their productions at theatres across the United Kingdom. The theatre has also transferred numerous productions to Broadway and toured some as far as China, Australia and New Zealand. However, touring productions to European cities was suspended in February 2021 over concerns about uncertainty over work permits, additional costs and delays because of Brexit. Permission to add the “Royal” prefix to the name of the theatre was given in 1988, but the full title is rarely used. The theatre presents a varied programme, including Shakespeare, other international classic drama, and new plays by contemporary playwrights. Each auditorium in the theatre can run up to three shows in repertoire, thus further widening the number of plays which can be put on during any one season. In June 2009, the theatre began ‘National Theatre Live’, a programme of simulcasts of live productions to cinemas, first in the United Kingdom and then internationally. The programme began with a production of Phèdre, which was screened live in seventy cinemas across the UK. Their productions have since been broadcast to over 2,500 venues in 60 countries around the world. In November 2020, ‘National Theatre at Home’ was announced. It is a video on demand streaming service, specifically created for National Theatre Live recordings. Videos of plays are added every month, and can be “rented” for temporary viewing, or unlimited recordings can be watched through a monthly or yearly subscription programme. The National Theatre is now world-renowned and stages a diverse range of performances within its three auditoriums. Since its opening night in 1963, it has put on world-class plays with world-class actors. It continues to support and encourage emerging talent from all backgrounds. From the gallery level, the Sherling Backstage Walkway provides visitors with behind the scene views down on to the production workshops. Theatre tours also show you around areas previously graced by the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier, letting you in on the secrets behind staging a show. All these things, just in the borough of Lambeth. I hope to detail more about different areas of London in the future.

This week:
I am in a lovely Care Home, so for a change and as a bit of fun here is a Yorkshire guide to just a few medical terms…

Bacteria – Back door to cafeteria.
Benign – What you be after you be eight.
Cat scan – Searching for kitty.
Cauterise – Made eye contact with her.
Fester – Quicker than someone else.
Fibula – A small lie.
Impotent – Well known.
Labour pain – Getting hurt at work.
Medical staff – A Doctor’s cane.
Nitrates – Higher rates of pay for night working.
Node – I knew it.
Outpatient – A person who has fainted.
Post-operative – A letter carrier.
Recovery room – Place to do upholstery.
Secretion – Hide something.
Tablet – A small table.

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It Really Is Cricket!

Not everyone finds the game of cricket a quiet, peaceful, relaxing game to watch. But, as with so many things, the more you delve into it, the more you find that its history is quite interesting. So I shall try to share just a little of it here without boring you! The game is played between two teams of eleven players each, on a field at the centre of which is a 22-yard, or 20-metre, pitch. (This length is the equivalent to a chain, an Imperial measurement which comes from the ‘Surveyors’ Chain’ invented by the mathematician Edmund Gunter (1581-1626), hence it is also known as ‘Gunter’s Chain’.) There is a wicket at each end of the pitch, each wicket comprising of two horizontal bails balanced on three vertical stumps. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, the bowler, bowls the ball from one end of the pitch towards the wicket at the other end in an over-the shoulder throw, with an ‘over’ being completed once they have legally done this six times. The batting side has one player at each end of the pitch, with the player at the opposite end of the pitch from the bowler aiming to strike the bowled ball with a bat. The batting side scores runs when the two batters physically run and swap ends of the pitch one or more times, each swap of ends counting as a run. But if the ball reaches the boundary of the field, that scores four runs and if the ball is hit by the batter so the ball goes over the boundary without touching the ground, that scores six runs. If the bowler bowls the ball to the batter unfairly, this results in one run. The fielding side’s aim is to prevent run-scoring and dismiss each batter so they are ‘out’, and are said to have ‘lost their wicket’. Means of dismissal include being bowled, when the bowled ball hits the stumps and dislodges the bails, and by the fielding side either catching a hit ball before it touches the ground, or hitting a wicket with the ball before a batter can cross the crease line in front of the wicket to complete a run. When ten batters have been dismissed, the innings ends and the teams swap roles. The result in the game may be a win for one of the two teams playing, or a tie. In the case of a limited overs game, it can also end with no result if the game cannot be finished on time (usually due to weather or bad light), and in other forms of cricket, a draw may be possible. Whichever of these results applies, and how the result is expressed, is governed by Law 16 of the laws of cricket. The game is adjudicated by two umpires, aided by a third umpire, as well as a match referee in international matches.

Typical play in ‘limited overs’ game.

In cricket the highest governing body is the International Cricket Council, or ICC. It is a no-contact sport, although being hit with a cricket ball can be painful if it lands in a ‘sensitive’ place, so appropriate padding is almost always worn! There are eleven players per side, with substitutes permitted in some circumstances. The sport is not a mixed-sex, there are separate competitions. There is a huge glossary of cricket terms which would be far too much to include here, I recommend that following the link Glossary of cricket terms would be ideal if wanted. The game itself is known worldwide, but is most popular in the Commonwealth, British territories and in South Asia. Forms of cricket range from Twenty20, with each team batting for a single innings of twenty overs and the game generally lasting three hours, to Test matches which are played over five days. Traditionally cricketers play in all-white kit, but in Twenty20 cricket they wear club or team colours. The ball is a hard, solid spheroid made of compressed leather with a slightly raised sewn seam enclosing a cork core layered with tightly wound string. The governing body of the game has over 100 members, twelve of whom are full members who play Test matches. The game’s rules, the Laws of Cricket, are maintained by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in London. Women’s cricket, which is organised and played separately, has also achieved international standard. Overall, the most successful side playing International cricket to date is Australia who have won seven One Day International trophies, including five World Cups, more than any other country and has been the top-rated Test side more than any other country.

Cricket has quite a long history dating back to 1598. There is a deposition in the records of a legal case at Guildford, Surrey regarding usage of a parcel of land where a coroner testified that he had played cricket on the land when he was a boy in about 1550. His testimony is confirmation that the sport was being played by the middle of the 16th century, but its true origin is unknown. All that can be said with a fair degree of certainty is that its beginning was earlier than 1550, probably somewhere in south-east England within the counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Cricket can only be played on relatively short grass, especially as the ball was delivered along the ground until the 1760s, so forest clearings and land where sheep had grazed would have been suitable places to play. The sparse information available about the early years suggests that it may have been a children’s game in the 16th century, but by 1611 it had become an adult pastime. The earliest known organised match was played in that year, when other significant references to the sport are dated. From 1611 to 1725, fewer than thirty matches are known to have been organised between recognised teams. Similarly, only a limited number of players, teams and venues of the period have been recorded. The earliest matches played by English parish teams are examples of village cricket and although village matches are now considered minor in status, the early matches are significant in cricket’s history simply because they are known. There were no newspaper reports of matches until the end of the seventeenth century and so the primary sources are court records and private diaries, hence games were rarely recorded. During the reign of Charles I, the gentry took an increased interest as patrons and occasionally as players. A big attraction for them was the opportunity that the game offered for gambling and this escalated in the years following the Restoration when cricket in London and the south-eastern counties of England evolved into a popular social activity. English colonists introduced cricket to the West Indies, also North America but in the United States it is a sport played at the amateur, club, intercollegiate and international competition levels with little popularity, with 200,000 players (less than 1% of the population) across the country. Meanwhile the sailors and traders of the East India Company had taken it to the Indian subcontinent and in the early 18th century more information about cricket became available as the growing newspaper industry took an interest. The sport began to spread throughout England as the century went on and by 1725, significant patrons were forming teams of county strength in Kent and Sussex. Cricket was attracting large crowds and the matches were social occasions at which gambling and alcoholic drinks were additional attractions. The first definite mention of cricket in Kent is deduced from a 1640 court case which recorded a ‘cricketing’ of the Weald and the Upland versus the Chalk Hill at Chevening “about thirty years since”, around 1610. This is the earliest known village cricket match and the earliest known organised match in Kent, in England and in the world. In 1624, a fatality occurred following a match on Saturday, 28 August, at Horsted Keynes in Sussex when a fielder was struck on the head by the batsman who was trying to hit the ball a second time to avoid being caught. The fielder, who died thirteen days later at home is thus the earliest recorded cricketing fatality. The matter was recorded in a coroner’s court which returned a verdict of death by misadventure. When the first Laws of Cricket were encoded in 1744, it was illegal to hit the ball twice and a batsman breaking the rule was to be given out. Interestingly the first definite mention of cricket in Sussex was in 1611 and relates to some ecclesiastical court records stating that two parishioners of Sidlesham had failed to attend church on Easter Sunday because they were playing cricket. They were fined twelve old pennies, a shilling, each (which was quite a bit of money in those days!) and made to do penance and it also meant confessing their guilt to the whole church congregation the following Sunday. This case is the first of several 17th century cricket references until the Restoration in 1660, arising from Puritan disapproval of recreational activity, especially on Sundays. Puritan interference had become enough of a problem by 1617 for King James I to issue the Declaration of Sports which listed the sports and recreations that were permitted on Sundays. Cricket is not mentioned. Initially the declaration was effective in Lancashire only, partly as a reaction to the Puritan suppression there of certain activities which were pursued by the Roman Catholic gentry. In 1618, the declaration was issued nationally and then reissued by King Charles I in 1633. The declaration had limited success until the Civil War began in 1642. The Puritans were by then in control of Parliament which closed the theatres and issued sanctions against other recreational activities but there was no mention of cricket except when individual players were accused of ‘breaking the Sabbath’. The ‘Declaration of Sports’ manuscript was publicly burned by order of the Puritan Parliament in 1643. In 1622, several parishioners of Boxgrove, near Chichester, were prosecuted for playing cricket in a churchyard one Sunday. There were three reasons for the prosecution. One was that it contravened a local bye-law, another reflected concern about church windows which may or may not have been broken and the third was that “a little childe had like to have her braines beaten out with a cricket batt”! The latter reason was because the rules at the time allowed the batsman to hit the ball twice and so fielding near the batsman was very hazardous, as the incidents involving two people would drastically confirm. Years later, in 1628, an ecclesiastical case related to a game near Chichester being played on a Sunday. One of the defendants argued that he had not played during evening prayer time but only before and after. It did him no good as he was fined the statutory shilling and ordered to do penance. There are further references before the Civil War as in a 1636 court case concerning a tithe dispute, a witness testified that he played cricket “in the Parke” at West Horsley in Surrey. Another ecclesiastical case recorded parishioners of Midhurst, Sussex, playing cricket during evening prayer on a Sunday and in 1640, Puritan clerics at both Maidstone and Harbledown, near Canterbury, denounced cricket as “profane”, especially if played on Sunday. Despite stating that players must not “break the Sabbath”, references to the game of cricket at that time suggest that it was approved and that Cromwell himself had been a player as a young man. As the Puritans were now firmly in power, Cromwell’s Protectorate having been established the previous year, the penalty was doubled to two shillings. The defendants were charged with “breaking the Sabbath”, not with playing cricket. Similarly, when Cromwell’s commissioners banned sport in Ireland two years later on the grounds of “unlawful assembly”, there is no evidence that the ban included cricket, which had probably not reached Ireland by that time. Puritan prejudice did not survive the Restoration. In 1671, a man was charged with playing cricket on the Sabbath and was exonerated. This was clear evidence that attitudes had changed.

Around this time there were the beginnings of cricket’s social division between amateurs and professionals, from which the annual Gentlemen v Players contest ultimately evolved and this can be traced to the reign of King Charles I. In 1629, a curate in Kent was prosecuted by an archdeacon’s court for playing cricket on Sunday evening after prayers. He claimed that several of his fellow players were ‘persons of repute and fashion’. This statement is the first evidence of cricket achieving popularity among the gentry, who introduced large-scale gambling into cricket and some of these gamblers subsequently became patrons by forming select teams that would improve their chances of winning. The game had long been recognised as a sport that bridged the class divide but, in time, the cricketing gentlemen came to be called ‘amateurs’, to emphasise the distinction between themselves and the professionals who belonged to the lower social classes, mostly to the working class. So ‘amateur’ status had a special meaning in English cricket and the amateur in this context was not merely someone who played cricket in his spare time but a particular type of first-class cricketer who existed officially until 1962, when the distinction between amateurs and professionals was abolished and all first-class players became nominally professional. In terms of remuneration, amateurs claimed expenses for playing, whilst professionals were paid a salary or fee. Amateur cricket was an extension of the game played in schools, universities and other centres of education, both as a curricular and extracurricular activity. The schools and universities formed the ‘production line’ that created nearly all the top-class amateur players. The earliest reference to cricket at Oxford University is dated 1673 where the author of a pamphlet concerning music tuition had a criticism of a rival who had boasted of being a graduate of Trinity College, Oxford, saying “He shews but a slender sign of his University education, where he seems to have spent his time rather in the more laudable Exercises of Trap and Cricket, than in any sound Reading”. But research seems to show that cricket was a normal activity at Oxford for some time before that author had written his pamphlet. The earliest reference to cricket being played at Cambridge University is dated 1710. It has been a little difficult to determine more of this period due to the Licensing of the Press Act 1662 which imposed stringent controls on the newspaper industry meaning that sports, including cricket, were not reported. The few surviving references have been found in official records, such as court cases, or in private letters and diaries. The Restoration of the monarchy in England in 1660 was immediately followed by the reopening of the theatres and sanctions imposed by the Puritans on sports were also lifted and it is likely that the Restoration was the crucial factor in leading to the social acceptance of the game. Although there are only scattered references to the game in the time of King Charles II, it is clear that its popularity was increasing and that the game was expanding. The Restoration was effectively completed during the spring of 1660 and, in the general euphoria which both accompanied and followed these historic events, gambling on cricket and other sports was freely pursued. The nobility adopted cricket as one of their main sports along with horse racing and prize-fighting. Under their patronage, the first teams representing several parishes and even whole counties were formed and the period saw the first ‘great matches’ as cricket evolved into a major sport. A significant aspect of this evolution was the introduction of professionalism, as the nobility returned to London after the Restoration. They were keen to develop cricket and brought with them some of the local experts from village cricket whom they now employed as professional players. However, the Gaming Act 1664 was passed by the Cavalier Parliament to try to curb some of the post-Restoration excesses, including gambling on cricket, and it limited stakes to £100. That was equivalent to about £16,000 in present-day terms. It is known that cricket could attract stakes of fifty guineas by 1697 and it was funded by gambling throughout the following century. There was a significant development at Maidstone in 1668 when the quarter sessions made a ruling that Customs and Excise could not claim excise duty on alcoholic drinks sold at a ‘kricketing’. It was further ruled that a match promoter had the right to sell ale to spectators, presumably after obtaining the necessary licence. This dealt a massive blow to Puritan morality and it could have been the beginnings of the long-term relationship between sport and alcohol.

Censorship had already been relaxed following the Bill of Rights 1689 and in 1695, Parliament decided against a renewal of the 1662 Licensing Act and so cleared the way for a free press on the Act’s expiry in 1696. It was from this time that cricket matters could be reported in the newspapers, but it would be a very long time before the newspaper industry adapted sufficiently to provide frequent, let alone comprehensive, reports. After the decision of the English government in 1695 to allow freedom of the press by deciding not to renew the Licensing of the Press Act which had inhibited the scope of publications, it was possible for sporting events to be reported. But these were sparse in the early newspapers, although trivia tended to make good copy and large wagers between rival patrons were given coverage. Cricket was becoming well and truly established, with certain dedicated grounds becoming synonymous with the game, the main ones for men’s international cricket being ‘Old Trafford’ in Stretford, near Manchester, ‘Trent Bridge’ in West Bridgford, near Nottingham, ‘Headingley’ in Leeds, ‘Edgbaston’ in Birmingham, ‘The Oval’ in Kennington, London and ‘Lord’s’ in St John’s Wood, London.

The Artillery Ground.

One site I would also like to mention is The Artillery Ground in Finsbury, as it is an open space originally set aside for archery and later known also as a cricket venue. Today it is used for military exercises, rugby and football matches. It belongs to the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), whose headquarters overlook the grounds in Armoury House. The London Cricket Club was to become chiefly associated with the Artillery Ground and the sport was first mentioned at this venue was first mentioned in 1725, when the minutes of the HAC referred to a note concerning “the abuse done to the herbage of the ground by the cricket players”. The Artillery Ground became the feature venue for cricket in the mid-18th century.

There is much that can be written about the rules and equipment of cricket, from its earliest times to the present day but I shall not share them here. In fact I could also go on about the laws and gameplay, our culture and influence of the game on everyday life, especially the English language, with various phrases such as “that’s not cricket” (that’s unfair), “had a good innings“ (lived a long life) and “sticky wicket” a metaphor used to describe a difficult circumstance. That one originated as a term for difficult batting conditions in cricket, caused by a damp and soft pitch. Also in England, a number of association football clubs owe their origins to cricketers who sought to play football as a means of keeping fit during the winter months. The history of the game and its links to modern life are intriguing.

This week…
Earlier this week I saw a ‘sponsored’ item on Facebook about a person having a conversation “in broken/pigeon English”… I am utterly speechless. I guess in some places, proof-reading simply isn’t done any more.

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More About The London Borough of Lambeth

There really is so much to see and learn about in London and this is just one borough of it, so I should be kept busy for quite a while. I’ll not be attempting to share all of it in one go though as that is impossible and potentially boring to some, so here are just a few more to be going on with.

Part of Lambeth Palace and the Tudor gatehouse (from inside), with the river on the right.

One place which you may have heard of before is Lambeth Palace. This is a medieval riverside palace and is the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It isn’t open every day, but you can book a guided tour to see the Crypt, Chapel and Great Hall or go to one of the monthly garden open days in the summer. It is situated in north Lambeth, on the south bank of the River Thames, some 400 yards (370 metres) south-east of the Palace of Westminster which houses Parliament on the opposite bank. Although the original residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury was in his ‘episcopal see’ of Canterbury in Kent, a site originally called the Manor of Lambeth or Lambeth House was acquired by the Diocese around 1200AD and this has served as the Archbishop’s London residence ever since. An ‘episcopal see’ is, in a practical use of the phrase, the area of a bishop’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Phrases concerning actions occurring within or outside an ‘episcopal see’ are indicative of the geographical significance of the term, making it synonymous with diocese. The site is bounded by Lambeth Palace Road to the west and Lambeth Road to the south, but unlike all other surrounding land it is excluded from the parish of North Lambeth. The garden park is listed and resembles Archbishop’s Park, a neighbouring public park, but it was a larger area with a notable orchard until the early 19th century. The south bank of the Thames along this reach, not part of historic London, developed slowly because the land was low and sodden, so was called Lambeth Marsh as far downriver as the present Blackfriars Road. What I didn’t previously know was that the name Lambeth embodies ’hithe’ as a landing on the river, also a landing place or small port for ships or boats. So it stands to reason that Archbishops came and went by water. This place has a history though, as in the Peasants Revolt of 1381, the Palace was attacked, also the oldest remaining part of Lambeth Palace is the chapel, which was built in the Early English Gothic architectural style. Lollards Tower, which retains evidence of its use as a prison in the 17th century, dates from 1435 to 1440. The front is an early Tudor brick gatehouse built by Cardinal John Morton and completed in 1495. Also, Cardinal Pole lay in state in the palace for 40 days after he died there in 1558. It is said that the fig tree in the palace courtyard is possibly grown from a slip taken from one of the ‘White Marseille’ fig trees here for centuries and reputedly planted by Cardinal Pole. In 1786, there were three ancient figs, two of them ‘nailed against the wall’ and still noted in 1826 as being ‘ traditionally reported to have been planted by Cardinal Pole, and fixed against that part of the palace believed to have been founded by him’. On the south side of the building, in a small private garden, is another tree of the same kind and age and by 1882 their place had been taken by several massive offshoots. The orchard of the medieval period has rather given way to an adjoining public park and built-up roads of housing and offices, but the palace gardens were listed grade II in October 1987. Sadly the Great Hall was completely ransacked, including the building material, by Cromwellian troops during the English Civil War and after the Restoration it was completely rebuilt by archbishop William Juxon in 1663 with a late Gothic ‘hammerbeam’ roof. This choice of roof was evocative, as it reflected the High-Church Anglican continuity with the Old Faith, which was fitting as the brother of King Charles II was an avowed Catholic and so served as a visual statement that the Interregnum (literally meaning ‘between reign’ in Latin and which was the period between the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649 and the arrival of his son Charles II in London on 29 May 1660 which marked the start of the Restoration) was over. During the Interregnum, England was under various forms of republican government and as with some Gothic details on University buildings of the same date, it is debated among architectural historians whether this is ‘Gothic survival’ or an early work of the ‘Gothic Revival’! The diarist Samuel Pepys recognised it as ‘a new old-fashioned hall’. The building is listed in the highest category, Grade I, for its architecture as its front gatehouse with its tall, crenellated gatehouse resembles the one at Hampton Court Palace, which is also of the Tudor period. However Morton’s Gatehouse was at its very start in the 1490s, rather than in the same generation as Cardinal Wolsey’s wider, similarly partially stone-dressed deep red brick façade. Whilst this is the most public-facing part, it is not the oldest because at the north-west corner, the Water Tower or Lollards’ Tower mentioned above is made of Kentish Ragstone with ‘ashlar quoins’ and a brick turret which is much older. What this has taught me is that Ashlar is finely dressed (cut or worked) stone, either as an individual stone that has been worked until squared, or a structure built from such stones, also quoins are corners. New construction was added to the building in 1834 by Edward Blore (1787–1879), (who later rebuilt much of Buckingham Palace in neo-Gothic style) and it fronts a spacious quadrangle. The buildings form the home of the Archbishop, who is an ex officio member of the House of Lords and is regarded as the ‘first among equals’ in the Anglican Communion.

A view in Brockwell Park, with Herne Hill’s two residential tower blocks visible and the London Shard further in the background.

As a lad I would often hear of my parents and other members of the family talk about Brockwell Park. This large south London park has excellent views of the central London skyline from Brockwell Hall. I can imagine them just taking a stroll among the ornamental ponds and formal flower beds. The park is a 50.8 hectare (125.53 acre) park located south of Brixton, commands views of the city of London skyline and hosts almost 4 million annual visits. Whilst competing against multiple demands from a broad range of other interests, the entirety of Brockwell Park is a ’Site of Importance for Nature Conservation’ of Grade I Borough Importance, with mature trees including ancient oaks, substantial lawn areas set to meadow, and a series of lakes. As well as adding to the landscape value, these support a variety of birds, and bats including Pipistrelles, with frequent visits from rarer species like Daubentons, Noctule, Leisler’s and Serotine bat. The Park is listed for its heritage value on The National Heritage List for England. Noted for its nineteenth-century layout as a gracious public park, the clock-tower, water garden, designed walled garden and other monuments, the park provides a pleasant exploration with links to its eighteenth-century agricultural past in the hedge lines and mature oak trees. The model village houses which are outside the walled garden were originally donated to London County Council (LCC) by Edgar Wilson in 1943. Also the Rockwell Lido, a Grade II listed Art Deco building near the top of the park, is an open-air swimming pool popular with swimmers and bathers. Its attached café/restaurant is also popular. Other amenities in Brockwell Park include tennis courts, a bowling green, a BMX track and a miniature railway. In 1901, the LCC acquired a further 43 acres of land north of the original park and in the 1920s, there were 13 cricket pitches in the park, which attracted crowds of up to 1,500. During World War I it is recorded that Brockwell Park grazed a large flock of sheep, then during World War II three sites in the Park were set aside for wartime food production in the form of ‘Pig Clubs’, built of timber and bricks salvaged from bombed houses. Pig swill for this purpose was collected from local homes. Also, each July the free Lambeth Country Show is held here.

The Royal Festival Hall.

Built in 1951 as part of the festival of Britain, the Royal Festival Hall is a 2,700-seat concert, dance and talks venue within the Southbank Centre. It has been a Grade I listed building since 1981 and was the first post-war building to become so protected. The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are resident in the hall. The place was built as part of the Festival of Britain for London County Council, later the Greater London Council (GLC) and was officially opened on 3 May 1951. When the GLC was abolished in 1986, the Festival Hall was taken over by the Arts Council and managed together with the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery, eventually becoming an independent arts organisation in 1998 as the Southbank Centre. The complex includes several reception rooms, bars and restaurants and the Clore Ballroom, accommodating up to 440 for a seated dinner. A large head and shoulders bust of Nelson Mandela, created in 1985 by Ian Walters, stands on the walkway between the hall and Hungerford Bridge approach viaduct. Originally made in glass-fibre, the bust was repeatedly vandalised until re-cast in bronze. A 1948 sketch of the building depicts the design of the concert hall as an egg in a box but the strength of the design was the arrangement of interior space, the central staircase seems to have an almost ceremonial feel and moves elegantly through the different levels of light and air. There was concern that whilst the scale of the project demanded a monumental building, it should not ape the triumphal classicism of many earlier public buildings as the wide open foyers, with bars and restaurants, were intended to be meeting places for all and there were to be no separate bars for different classes of patron. Because these public spaces were built around the auditorium, they also had the effect of insulating the Hall from the noise of the adjacent railway bridge. Something I have to mention here is the 7,866 pipe organ which was built between 1950 and 1954 by Harrison & Harrison in Durham, to the specification of the London County Council ’s consultant, Ralph Downes, who also supervised the tonal finishing. It was designed as a well-balanced classical instrument embracing a number of rich and varied ensembles which alone or in combination could equal the dynamic scale of any orchestra or choral grouping, in addition to coping with the entire solo repertoire. The design principles enshrined in its construction gave rise to a whole new school of organ building, known as the English Organ Reform Movement, influencing in the UK alone the cathedral organs of Coventry and Blackburn, also the concert hall organs of the Fairfield Halls in Croydon and the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. There are also innumerable organs in other countries which have been influenced by it. However, the design of the organ in its housing made maintenance difficult, and by 2000 it had become unusable. It was consequently completely removed before restoration of the Hall itself began in 2005, and after restoration and updating by Harrison & Harrison, a third of the organ was reinstalled. The remainder was reinstalled between 2012 and 2013, and voicing completed in 2014.

The Oval cricket ground.
Photo by ESPA/Deposit Photos.

I had to include this. The Oval has been the home ground of Surrey County Cricket Club since it opened in 1845 and every year the final Test match of the English season is traditionally played here as it is a 23,000-seater stadium. It is the the birthplace of The Ashes and at present is known, for sponsorship reasons, as the ‘Kia Oval’. It is a recognised International cricket ground and has been the home ground of Surrey County Cricket Club since it was opened in 1845. It was the first ground in England to host international Test cricket in September 1880. In addition to cricket, The Oval has hosted a number of other historically significant sporting events as in1870, it staged England’s first international football match, versus Scotland. Two years later it hosted the first FA Cup final, as well as those between 1874 and 1892. In 1876, it held both the England v. Wales and England v. Scotland rugby international matches and, in 1877, rugby’s first varsity match. It also hosted the final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.

The clock by the Members’ entrance to the pavilion.

The Oval is built on part of the former Kennington Common. Cricket matches were played on the common throughout the early 18th century and the earliest recorded match was the London v Dartford match in June 1724. However, as the common was also used regularly for public executions of those convicted at the Surrey Assizes, by the 1740s cricket matches had moved away to the Artillery Ground. Kennington Common was eventually enclosed in the mid-19th century under a scheme sponsored by the royal family but by 1844 the site of the Kennington Oval was a cabbage patch and market garden owned by the Duchy of Cornwall who were willing to lease the land for the purpose of a cricket ground and on 10 March 1845 the first lease, which the club later assumed, was issued to Mr. William Houghton (the then president of the progenitor, Montpelier Cricket Club) by the Otter Trustees who held the land from the Duchy ‘to convert it into a subscription cricket ground’, for 31 years at a rent of £120 per annum plus taxes amounting to £20. The original contract for turfing The Oval cost £300, the 10,000 grass turfs came from Tooting Common and were laid in the spring of 1845, allowing for the first cricket match to be played in May 1845. Hence, Surrey County Cricket Club (SCCC) was established. The popularity of the ground was immediate and the strength of the SCCC grew. In 1868, 20,000 spectators gathered at The Oval for the first game of the 1868 Aboriginal cricket tour of England, the first tour of England by any foreign side. On 3 May 1875 the club acquired the remainder of the leasehold for a further term of 31 years from the Otter Trustees for the sum of £2,800. Thanks to C.W. Alcock, the Secretary of Surrey from 1872 to 1907, the first Test match in England was played at The Oval in 1880 between England and Australia. Consequently The Oval became the second ground to stage a Test, after Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Then in 1882, Australia won the Test by seven runs within two days and The Sporting Times printed a mocking obituary notice for English cricket, which led to the creation of the Ashes trophy which is still contested whenever England plays Australia. Surrey’s ground is also noted as having the first artificial lighting at a sports arena in the form of gas-lamps, dating to 1889. The famous gas-holders just outside the ground were built around 1853. With the gas-holders long disused, there was much speculation as to whether they should be demolished, however many believed they were an integral part of The Oval’s urban landscape and so were retained and in 2016 the main gas-holder was given official protected status as a historically important industrial structure. The ground has also retained traditional names, for example the north-western end of The Oval is traditionally known as the ‘Vauxhall End’, as it is nearer to the district of Vauxhall and its railway station, whilst the opposite end (south-east) is known as the ‘Pavilion End’ because it is the location of the Members’ Pavilion. There has been a large amount of redevelopment over the years, including the redevelopment of the Vauxhall End by demolishing the outdated north stands and creating in their place a single four-tier grandstand. In January 2007 Surrey CCC announced major plans to increase capacity of the ground, but these plans were delayed by objections raised by the Health & Safety Executive as the ground is close to a gasometer. Planning permission was eventually granted, but financial difficulties meant that this development did not proceed. In 2009, four masts of semi-permanent telescopic floodlights were installed for use in evening matches and these were especially designed to comply with strict residential planning regulations to lessen their visual impact and any light overspill to residents, as well as to improve the game experience within the ground by reducing excess glare affecting all concerned. Further development has meant adding extra seating as well as a new stand and a major project will mean that a planned £50m long-term redevelopment of the ground by Surrey County Cricket Club will see The Oval transformed into the largest cricket stadium in the western hemisphere, with a capacity of 40,000.

These are just a few of the sights and sounds to be found in London and I plan to share more of these in the future.

This week… on a lighter note!
The basics of the game of cricket, as explained to a foreigner…
I’ll share more detail another time!

The Rules Of Cricket.

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