Friday 30 September 2016

Trains: Films with Railway Connections, Exbury Gardens and Britain’s Great Little Railways …

Our Under Ground Theatre puts on a season of 4 films with railway connections presented by a railway enthusiast … we are lucky in Eastbourne … 

The Underground's poster for these films

... the town is relatively small yet large enough to accommodate people with lots of interesting ideas.  We have other theatres, cinemas and event arenas … The Under Ground puts on a variety of smaller and select events …

We were also probably the first ‘seaside town’ … in June 1780, the children of George III (1738 – 1820) spent their summer holiday at the Round House, near where the pier is today … the sea encroached and ‘pinched it back’!  One of those children would become father to Queen Victoria.  I’ll publish a post fairly soon on Eastbourne’s beginnings …

Brief Encounter (1946) B/W 86 minutes:

David Lean’s magnificent film version of a short story by Noel Coward, starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard … being filmed just north of Lancaster in north-west England.

Mike at a Bit About Britain – wrote a post on Carnforth Station – the locals and public insisted the iconic stop be refurbished: now a wonderful Heritage Centre for the film.  See links to his ‘Brief Encounter’ post, and to the main Heritage Centre’s site …

I had never seen the whole film … but was delighted to enjoy a 30 minute portion of the film - the romantic weepie bit made in 1945 … when necessity was the mother of invention … and when filming  no-one yet had invented the term ‘health and safety’ … somewhat superfluous just after the War.

The Titfield Thunderbolt (1952) Colour 84 minutes:

Why didn’t or haven’t they changed the name of this film … like Titty in Swallows and Amazons?!

London and Manchester Railway 57
Lion    (LMR 57 Lion)  in 1980
A wonderful very British Ealing Comedy Film about the community of Titfield trying to save their railway by running it themselves, but the rival bus company sets out to sabotage the venture.

Filmed near Bath, but was inspired after the restoration of the narrow gauge Talylyn Railway in Wales – the world’s first heritage railway run by volunteers.

The train featured in the film is ‘LMR 57 Lion’, an engine built in 1838 – the year of Queen Victoria’s Coronation.

Oh Mr Porter! (1937) 85 minutes B/W: 

This pre-War film stars Will Hay and is regarded as one of his best and funniest films.  It was mainly set in Ireland (but filmed here in Hampshire).

William Porter, an inept railway worker, who due to family connections – is given the job of stationmaster at a remote and ramshackle rural Northern Irish railway station in the (fictitious) town of Buggleskelly, situated on the border with the then Irish Free State.

He is inept … yet manages to discover all sorts of strange railway practices and a gang of gun-runners – beats them all … much to the staggered amazement of the powers that be and his family.

The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery (1966) Colour 93 minutes.

Ronald Searle drew the first St Trinian cartoons … but in 1941 had to fulfil his military career.  I hadn’t realised Searle started off his satirical school drawings to ‘amuse’ two daughters of some friends he visited … he also couldn’t understand their desire to return to a boarding school!

The film was made after the actual Great Train Robbery of 1963 and parodied the technocratic ideas of the Harold Wilson government and its support of the comprehensive school system.  This is the fourth film in a series of five St Trinian’s films.

It is a hair-raising fast-moving series of events … totally off- the planet in comedic terms … just so much hilarity – one is ‘bursting one’s seams’ with joy …

The book issued with some
of Searle's St Trinian's illustrations
There are three trains involved – with all the farce that could be mustered when three trains starred in a film – the line used was the Longmoor Military Railway … which was a British Military Railway in Hampshire, built by the Royal Engineers in 1903 in order to train soldiers on railway construction and operations.

When they were filming these farcical scenes – there were the odd ‘disasters’ … including one when an engine derailed – the actors, film crew etc had ‘heart attacks’ – the Army, who had been fully co-operating, said ‘no worries’ … just lifted the engine back into place – common practise in the theatre of war.

Change of size now … to Little Railways … Sherry Ellis from GoneGarden.blogspot … writes about gardens and up pops Exbury Gardens with its miniature railway … with connections to the Rothschilds who have and had much influence on British culture … their bequests to the British Museum, the Natural History Museum at Tring, now part of the main London NHM, other estates and gardens … 

"Naomi" with three carriages
at Exbury Gardens central

TheExbury Steam Railway (at the gardens) that goes on a journey across the pond in Summer Lane Garden, along the top of the rock gardens and into the American Garden.  It was built in 2000 – 2001 as an additional attraction to the gardens. 

The narrow gauge tender tank locos were built specially by the Exmoor Steam Railway in Somerset.  Both are members of Britain’s Great Little Railways organisation.

It does look as though it has been
set up beautifully ... I really wouldn't mind
being the train driver here!

Four films … links to railways, renovated stations, interesting challenging links – the Great Train Robbery in 1963, when over pounds 2.6 million (equivalent to about pounds 49 million today) was stolen from the train.

Britain's Great Little Railways … sound fun to know about and at some stage travel on … while Exbury Gardens looks to be beautiful with a fascinating history …

Exbury Gardens

Perhaps you’ll be inspired to check out one or two or more of the films, visit Exbury or one of Britain's Great Little Railways … miniature versions ... and  I hope have time to visit Sherryover at her blog ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday 25 September 2016

Bran Tub # 4: The Prosthetic Nose of Tycho Brahe …

Now how did I come to this … well none other than through that wonderful trilogy of books I’ve been mentioning by Patrick Leigh Fermor: that classic memoir of a journey across pre War Europe – which encompasses history intertwined with science and other disclipines.

Tycho Brahe with
his nose in situ

Who on earth was Tycho Brahe?  Fermor introduces him via discussions about Emperor Rudolf II, who had made Prague his capital and filled it with treasures.

The Tychonic Cosmological model
(can be found in Wiki) 

The Emperor deeply versed in astronomical studies had invited Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601) to his Court … the great astronomer arrived noseless from a duel in Denmark; he then continued to  live in Prague until his death of the plague.

Just a bit of background:

Brahe and Kepler in Prague
Rudolf (1552 – 1612) was Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia and Archduke of Austria … he was a member of the House of Hapsburg.

After Brahe died, Kepler was summoned to continue Brahe’s work on the planets, remaining until the Emperor’s death in 1612.

Albrecht von Wallenstein became supreme commander of the armies of the Hapsburg Monarchy and thus very influential and powerful.  Wallenstein inherited Kepler from Rudolf

Further background:

Engraving of the Mural Quadrant from
Brahe's book: "Astronomiae
Instauratae Mechanica" (1598)
This was in Denmark at Uraniborg -
which Tycho Brahe left after an
argument with the Danish King 
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543): Renaissance mathematician and astronomer, who formulated a model of the universe that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the centre of the universe.

Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601): astronomer, astrologer and alchemist – he was the last of the naked eye astronomers.  He admired Copernicus but was unable to reconcile Copernican theory with the basic laws of Aristotelian physics, that he considered foundational.

Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630): mathematician, astronomer and astrologer.  Later in his life he became an assistant to Tycho Brahe … additionally he did fundamental work in the field of optics.

A replica of "the nose"
Now I had really get back to Prosthetic Noses … Brahe’s real one was lost, when he was 20, in a duel with one of his cousins – they were later reconciled – but his cousin’s swipe in the dark took off the bridge of his nose.

Brahe was studying at the University of Rostock – his injuries were taken care of and was able to live with his ‘false’ nose.  It was said to be made of silver and gold, kept in place with paste (flour or starch) or glue.

Archduke Rudolf ... note the
Hapsburg chin
As you’d expect (us humans being quizzy people) his body has been exhumed twice, once in 1901 and again in 2010, to examine the circumstances of his death and to identify the material from which his nose was made.

The conclusion was that his death was most likely caused by a burst bladder – an infection from the plague.  While the artificial nose was more than likely to have been made of brass …

The first of Patrick Leigh Fermor's books
The nose is the principal element of our physiognomy … so its symbolic value as an expression of our character has demanded, from very ancient times, reconstructive surgery or application of prosthesis to be sought.

Tycho Brahe’s nose has led me to many places … something completely different today … but as you might expect – it led me to other interesting ideas!

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s books – this is the first of the trilogy … 

There’s some interesting information on ‘Amputation of the Nose throughout History’ in this Italian article… it is a fascinating read – and could well be inspirationally used in a few of your books.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Blessing of the Animals ...

Off to Church we went … with two horses – something different to do when farming family visit from Vancouver Island … the dog had to stay behind … 


... there’d have been too much barking and general kerfuffle … after all we don’t want to upset the congregation, visitors or rattle the village any more than necessary?!

Being blessed - a friend's pony

The Service was on the village green, known as the Tye, in front of the Church … there were lots of hymns or songs, four readings with prayers, and the Blessing of the Animals … 

St Andrew's Church on the Tye

... the Vicar visited each and every critter there: mostly dogs, three ponies and I expect a cage or two with some little critters as Lenny would say in it …

At a friend's house post having a carriage ride

As an aside: apparently the hymn “Morning Has Broken” was written in Alfriston in 1931 by Eleanor Farjeon … probably better known and to a broader audience through Cat Stevens’ recording - with the same title.

Cara wanted to play - one
boy wanted to zizz!

The family were entertained with carriage riding, horse and pony grooming, dog outings, walking to see the Long Man of Wilmington … lunches and suppers … some slept!

Extended table - with
fun Beachy Head mats

It was a lovely relaxed time … dinner and lunches were served, left-overs eaten and added to … 

Fresh from the tree in
the garden

... mulberries, by the squishy squashy ‘millions’, were used … 

Aga meringues

.... home-made Aga meringues – this is how they should be … 

Feeding the boy!

... the kids made sandwiches of whatever they chose … a goodly mix!

Fresh Salmon on offer, along
with Pork Pie, Cheeses, salads etc 

one evening Roast Lamb, another Salmon, et al ...

Henney's Dry Cider

...a local wine from West Sussex, Cider brought up from Frome in Somerset … more wine and champers – sadly I was driving!

Aaah - siblings!

Lots of nattering and catching up was done … even with your sibling!

A place to relax in the pergola
out of the full sun ... 
Well that was an easy post … lots of photos, bits of information, some captions … Bank Holiday 2016 remembered …

Ripening grapes

The family had last visited in March thirteen years ago – on an incredibly hot day – so hot – we moved lunch outside – my mother was up from Penzance, Cornwall … another fun day … It was Mother's Day - March 30th 2003.

Before we went down ... 

… the weather was the same this year … but it was a bank holiday … though this time we went to Church … to Bless the Animals – we hadn’t done that on their last visit … and the ponies weren’t around … dogs and cat were …

That’s it … it is incredibly hot – as I write this at the beginning of the month … 
The Prayer for all Creatures

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 15 September 2016

Herbs, Spices and Herbalists – part 3: Cloves …

Seeing as we’re nearing Autumn … with plenty of apples to be found … there are many herbs or spices I could choose from … but the clove came to mind – the aromatic flower bud that in fact I’d associate with Christmas – oranges stuck with cloves for a perfumed pomander ball, bread sauce made with a clove studded onion, or pierced into the baking ham …

Roast Pork with apple sauce

… or at this time of year apple sauce with cloves … delicious with roast pork, or cold sliced pork …

Clove bud flowering

The evergreen tree of the myrtle family is native to the Spice Islands and the Philippines, but now is grown elsewhere … Sumatra, West Indies, Sri Lanka, India and even Brazil. 

Mauritius - centre of air travel ...
as it was a stopping off point for those
early discoverers or seafarers

Pierre Poivre (1719 – 1786) was a French horticulturalist, who worked as a missionary in China and Vietnam … who is remembered for introducing the clove and nutmeg plants to Mauritius and Reunion.  

Very early Oil of Cloves
bottle found in Coventry

The Persians, Arabians and Egyptians spread these little aromatic buds around the Mediterranean ports … until in 1511 the Portuguese discovered the plants for themselves … the Dutch soon gained monopoly of the trade.  However in 1797 Sir Joseph Banks introduced the clove to Britain.

It seems the oldest medicinal use was in China where it was reported that they were used for various ailments as early as 240 BC.  A Chinese leader in the Han Dynasty required those who addressed him to chew cloves to freshen their breath.

Bread Sauce with cloves - (they
need to be removed before eating)

More recently archaeologists have found cloves in a ceramic vessel in Syria, with evidence that dates the find to about 1720BC. 

Medicinally however cloves are used for flatulence, for most liver, stomach ailments, as a stimulant for nerves - amongst other 'sufferances'.  Clove oil is a tried and trusted friend for troublesome toothaches.  Each culture has its own uses for the clove …

Dried Cloves

As I mentioned for culinary purposes many a dish is not complete without the addition of these highly scented little brown ‘nails’ (cloves) derived from the Latin clavus.

Pickling Spices with cloves centre stage

Marinades, curries, pickles – all use cloves … while in Pickwick Papers, Dickens describes a mulled claret and clove-scented punch as being part of the traditional Christmas fare.

Almost ready for picking and drying

The dry, unopened flower bud can be used to flavour a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes …. used whole or ground to impart a strong sweet but spicy and peppery flavour – which does need to be used in moderation to avoid over seasoning.

The Moluccas - Spice Islands
situated in South East Asia - forming an
archipelago within Indonesia

So those ‘nails’ from the Moluccas (Spice Islands) give fragrance to so many recipes – far too many to write about … while offering healing remedies for anyone interested in traditional routes … 

Ham studded with cloves

It's a little early for Apple Day (often 21st October) ... but the fruits are nearly ripe (especially here in the south) ... and so I look forward to a few delicious meals using cloves ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories