Images and thoughts on my daily travels.
As the hedgerows become black with an abundance of blackberries why not experiment with this excess by producing a pleasurable drink to be enjoyed in the depths of winter.
Blackberry Wine Recipe / makes around 15litres
- A large bucket or bowl with a secure lid
- A large plastic/metal spoon
- Something to strain the liquid through e.g funnel with an integral filter, sieves, muslin material
- A glass/plastic demijohn
- A thermometer
- Empty bottles
Make sure all equipment has been sufficiently sterilised.
4.5litres boiling water
2tsp pectic enzyme
Yeast nutrient (follow instructions on the packet)
1tsp wine nutrient
1. Gently wash your fruit and carefully remove any bits of stem, leaves and bugs.
2. Place the blackberries in the bucket/bowl and mash with a potato masher or rolling pin
3. Pour over the water, stir and wait for the temperature to dip below 21 degrees.
4. Stir in the pectic enzyme, cover and leave for at least 8 hours or overnight.
4. Add in the yeast nutrient and yeast, loosely cover and leave in a warm place for 4 – 7 days. You should stir the mixture daily.
5. Once the initial process of fermentation has slowed (bubbles of Carbon Dioxide rising to the surface causing the mixture to go frothy) strain the liquid off the fruit.
6. Place the sugar in the demijohn. In stages pour the fermented liquid through your straining equipment and int the demijohn. To ensure the sugar has dissolved evenly swirl the demijohn regularly as the liquid passes through.
7. Top the demijohn up with remaining liquid or water and insert an airlock. A cotton wool bung, covered with cling film and secured with an elastic band works well. Leave in a warm place.
8. Every so often take the wine off any sediment that has collected at the bottom of the demijohn until you are happy with the flavour. Pour into your bottles and enjoy.
* Don’t forget that blackberries are never to be picked in late October for then the devil spits on them.
* This article was updated on September 11th 2014.
* © Wwwmaksim68 | Dreamstime.com – Blackberries. Berries. Photo
By the old canal, Aylesbury November 24th 2020
Exquisitely Ugly Bletchley November 6th 2020
All Images Appledene Photographics/RJC
Bletchley Today November 4th 2020
Jesus Is Coming October 22nd 2020
I don’t travel much these Covid 19 days. Today I went to Bletchley and Buckingham, In Bletchley Queensway it looked very dull and dreary. It’s a pain getting in there while the massive railway rebuilding works are going on.
Strolling down Queensway, I noticed queues for all the banks. An exotically dressed African woman wafted up to me handing out a leaflet. heavily accented she assured me that ‘Jesus is coming. ‘
Covid mania is rife, black looks for me as I was seen maskless in the shopping arcade. On my way there, I passed ‘Plucky’ the busker. We had a pleasant chat about our times performing folk. I told him of the night I was performing back in 2011 in Bradwell, with my friend, fellow musician and song writing partner , Christine.
That was the night, singing with my heavily accented Irish tones, I started singing ‘The Green Fields of France’ by Eric Bogle. Christine was doing a great job with the lead guitar. I was doing the easy rythmn guitar, so I could focus on vocals and moody intonation. It was a Sunday night.
I was just starting the first verse when I noticed a mature gent wearing an Aaran jumper make for the door. I thought I must be sounding very bad . Then the grey haired fellow turned, walking with purpose to the stage area. I was expecting serious criticism. Now some people look Irish. He did. the most I can say about my Irishness is that my poor old grandfather came here to England because Ireland was even worse in 1919.
The man did not heckle. He cocked his old ear, watching and listening with the hint of a sad old smile on his wrinkled face.
As I finished, he made his approach. His opening line was ‘What part of Ireland are you from ?’. I said, ‘I am not Irish, I am English.’ ‘No you are not. You are Irish. From somewhere south of Dublin I think.’
‘Alright’ I said. ‘Yes. I am an Irishman pretending to be English.’ This made the man cock his head like a little Budgie bird. He frowned, then said in a wonderful poetic soft Southern Irish accent, paused thoughtfully, then he said ‘Now what would you want to be doing that for ? ‘ When I took a break, he introduced Christine and Ito his sister, telling me how he had been to the U.S to seek his fortune before coming ‘home’ to England.
Bletchley is a very poor town. It grew around the railway and brickworks. Buckingham, the county town by contrast is predominantly posh. Both places attract me for their chairity shops. You can tell much about a place by what they throw away. My interest is books, though I did buy two good classical guitars recently, under priced because the people did not know their value. I do because I have played, teaching others, for years and used to build them.
I visited three charity shops in Buckingham today, being very surprised to find the British Heart Foundation shop on Market Hill is closing down,
The member of staff on duty today told me that she was told of a leaking roof. It was in the lease that the tenant had to pay for repairs. The landlord apparently told British Heart Foundation that they would not be able to afford a repair. So goodness knows what is wrong with it. Whatever, the landlord has told them to go. That is a shame. People will lose their jobs. Landlords are under terrible pressure because of Covid crazy lockdown. Just a few doors up ‘The Duke’s Music’ has gone.
It seems that all those wealthy affluent African and other affluent foreign students at Buckingham’s Private University use their posh BMWs and Mercs to shop out of town, only coming back to park them along the narrow olde worlde streets where even a two up two down terace will cost you £300,000.
The Isle of Wight Photographed in 2003 by R.J Cook who was flying out to the Pyrenees on a rock climbing assignment.
Portsmouth, The Point May 2005
My mother with me in Old Portsmouth in May 2005. She loved the city and neighbouring Isle of Wight, which she also enjoyed visiting. Sheand my eldest son took turns accomanying me when researching my 3 books on the city and the Isle of Wight. Image Appledene Photographics/RJC
Ramblings September 20th 2020
Fire at my house September 13th 2020
The fire brigade were called , all the way from Buckingham,to deal with my smouldering bonfire this evening- at a neighbours behest.
Image Appledene Photographics/RJC
It Might Have Been Spring by R.J Cook – First Published in Buckinhamshire Countryside November 2003. Posted Here September 12th 2020
As seasoned walker Martin Blane commented, ‘it might have been spring, when we parked by Quainton’s ample village green. Finishing touches were being made for Bonfire Night celebrations in this very traditional looking village. The local church is called Holy Cross and St Mary, a reference to the remains of an old stone cross similar to others set up by the Knight’s Hospitallers in places owned by their order. They had a hospice here.
We were off for a walk in Quainton’s attractive and bumpy little hills, on the first Saturday morning of November. Only a hint of brown and russet in the prolific leaves and an absence of bird song suggested it was nearly Christmas. As we made our way to open country, an Arriva bus squeezed between the parked cars and 4 x 4s that reminded us we were among 21st century village life. A postman disembarked from a white van to make his deliveries. Without his red van and Royal Mail logo, he wasn’t quite Postman Pat, but I did see a black and white cat along the wayside.
Quainton is a mix of ancient and modern. It has its share of thatched bulging cottages, rich retreats, and revamped period council houses. Many monuments have been laid here, including one to Charles 1st secretary Sir Richard Winwood who endowed gabled almshouses near the 14th century church, in 1687. The Dormer family is also remembered. Bucks. George Lipscomb’s father,sailor and surgeon James was entombed in the churchyard. George, lawyer, doctor, soldier and author, was born in a cottage on the green. This man’s historical mission almost bankrupted him and he died in a London garret, saved by charity from a pauper’s grave.
A mile away is Quainton Railway Centre a reminder of the Great Central Railway and another by gone age. Though the church has a wealth of history packed inside, the most obvious of all is the old windmill, a marker for anyone who might lose their way on the variety of paths leading up to commanding height, from which Martin and I could scan the Bucks countryside for miles around. Among the sights, we saw North Marston idyllic in the east and Winslow, with its distinctive Hall and St Lawrence Church, ever bigger in the north. Away on the skyline we saw the whiteness of Mursley Water Tower and beyond the horizon lay the pulsating city of Milton Keynes.
Once away from the little lanes and into the hills, there was only the mobile phone mast to mark the differences so many decades have made to rural ways. Martin is now 86, a keen cyclist and member of Swan Wheelers before the war, his passion for walking began during wartime RAF service in India, with walks in the Himalayan foothills. Though Quainton has no Everest, there are some taxing little slopes and some well-fed cattle to admire, slumbering through their short lives in the sunshine.
Going back toward the village in the afternoon, smoke was curling up from the little chimney pots, and I saw affluent villagers enjoying the rural idyll, some chopping logs
Various Ramblings Posted September 12th 2020
Portsmouth July 13th 2020
Havant Sept 2017
More Comment to come. All pictures Appledene copyright, all 2017 images from the period corrupt police date their surveilance of my remote home, based on allegations that I was working for my son Kieran as a ‘gay escort’ in a fantasy escort agency. They refuse to explain or disclose anything, having me labelled as mentally ill with the excuse of needing to keep me under constant surveilance because they are protecting my ex brother in law, the criminal liar Chief Constable and Police Furearms lead Simon Chesterman, along with members of his family and police colleagues .
They had primed their source, refusing to investigate her. I had just been writing this up, when the page crashed. I will write more later.
The police are a despicable disorganisation, rotting from the head down. I am tired of hearing that the cowardly corrupt police pick only on blacks. They pick on the vulnerable for their own fun and aggrandisement. They do not care who they lie about and harm as long as their is something in it for them and perceive their victims are weak. They run away from obvious danger… Britain’s establishment are smug, supercilious, patronising, self righteous, arrogant, and stink like the rotting fish they are.
Ramblings September 2017
Portsmouth June 26th 2020
Portsmouth June 18th 2020
The weather was dreadful yesterday, but urgent work as a writer and journaist forced me back on the road down to Portsmouth and Southsea. My old home land of Portsea Isalnd never ceases to fascinate and entertain me. It is the most densely populated areas of England and one of the poorest. I know it well.
My first stop in the city is always Sainsbury’s, for oe of their excellent three meal deals. The store isbuilt on the site of the old Royal Portsmouth Hospital where I had my first ever operation, with a few wonderful weeks on the wards to recuperate. Those were the days of a two pint a day Guiness ration and we were allowed to smoke in our beds. I ahd nowhere more interesting to be, so enjoyed myself and the company of other patients, the nurses and my pretty lady visitors from my workplace.
The Natural World At The Bottom Of My Drive May 8th 2020
Portsmouth Lockdown March 25th 2020
Near Cheltenham Yesterday Posted March 17th 2020
Rained Nearly Every Day Since Saturday September 2019 Posted March 14th 2020
Nothing much to report on my weekly trip to Salisbury, Exeter, Dorchester, Weymouth and Poole except that it rained and the wind blew. The warehouse supervisor at Poole Tesco, and I chatted about the Corona Virus. He had to collect his daughter from school because they thought she had it because of a cough.
The holiday camps in Weymouth fear a business collapse from the virus and bad weather. I saw a lot of sad people holidaying in the gloom. Dark clouds hung heavy over the Weymouthsurrounding hills as I drove away.
Salisbury had been my first drop, at 3.30 a.m. Always think of the Skirpals, what became of them and why. First went there back in 1974 with my only ever true love, Portsmouth’s Helen Thurston, and my first car- a Hillman Minx VLU174G I remember them both, but loved her much more.
As for Exeter, well it is a long way to go, but worth it with two big pallets. On the way back, I pulled over at Southampton servisces, falling asleep. Then back up the motorway, on to the mad A34, and a hold up because of a crash. Saturday is always bad for crashes because it is the only day some drivers come out.
As for the A34, horrible road. Once passed a crash where a woman in a little car had been decapitated by the ramps of a break down truck she ran into the back of. That is how quickly and suddenly life ends. There are many lessons from life on the road, which sees more deaths than Corona Virus ever will, but gets very little attention. Robert Cook
Portsmouth Return Posted January 17th 2020
I was back in Portsmouth yesterday, where it is a joy to be. Few people realise it is an island city, being which gives it a certain character and an interesting history- about which I have written two books and co authored another to date.
Yesterday’s weather was, as usual rather unpleasant. Eating lunch and watching the rough waves on the Solent was still relaxing. The outbound Isle of Wight Hovercraft was struggling on its way, under very grey skies. The ferry, looking top heavy, was heavier and more majestic on its way in.
By this time, I had spent time browsing in Charity shops and Waterstones in Commercial Road, also looking at the site where the Tricorn used to be- and the memory in mind of re development plan from Centros Miller in this curious story part told in my co authored book on Tricorn.
Waterstones had an interesting display of books on strong feisty women. Greta’s memoir, in hardback was piled high and half price at £7. It is basically a collection of photographs of the young gurning Greta, looking as scarey as the climate crisis her image is meant to decribe and portend.
Eveen more frightening are the other books by the Clinton women and Michelle Obama and the sex war that will never end till all men in the west kow tow.
Talking of kow towing takes my mind east and to the image of Kim Yong Un, or whatever his name is. There was some light relief in a volume called ‘Choose you Apocalypse.’
Hopefully Waterstones will soon have a display of my new book on Portsmouth which will be as brilliant and successful as my last ones- I hope. Robert Cook
Three car crash at Mursley Drayton Parslow road junction, just outside speed limit Posted January 7th 2020
Don’t blindly follow Sat Nav if in a truck Posted January 4th 2020
My progress between Cricket St Thomas in Somerset, this morning, to Dorchester was, impeded by the unfortunate fellow who drove his car transporter up a steep narrow road onto the busy A30 near Crewkerne. The long low vehicle bottomed out on the slope.
This he managed to block both sides of the carriageway. I had to back up, and go via Yeovil to make my final delivery this morning. The driver could not speak any English. Robert Cook
Hardy Country December 23rd 2019
I was up and out on the road early again yesterday, passing through creepy Salisbury, down near to Exeter and back across to Dorchester in Dorset, then on to Poole.
On winter’s day the back road from Creukerne to Dorchester can be awkward because I am aways driving into the low sun. Not so with all the rain we have at the moment. On my way up to Poole, I passed the sign to the Tolpuddle Maryrs Museum at Tolpuddle.
Two Dorsetshire farm labourers – the Lovelace brothers- had been transported to Australia for forming a union ( called an Assciation back then ) in 1827. They were spied on, then reported by local grovelling toadying worthises.
The Tory Government of the day- only rich men could vote – held trade unions illegal because they got rich off the backs of workers, who were also forced to go abroad and die in their Imperial wars for them. Apart from yechnology very little has changed- though political experts try to make us think it has, and for the better. At least life span was shorter, so the suffering less drawn out in the good old days.
In youth I was a great fan and reader of Thimas Hardy novels. I especially enjoyed ‘Jude the Obscure’ and ‘Tess of the d’Ubervilles’. The air of gloom and doom still lingers over Dorset. It is almost as awful as West Mercia and its interesting police force.
Anyway it was an uneventful day, though a man in Salisbury told me there was much more to the Skirpal incident than meets the eye. He said that the restaurant where the Russians went before their poisoning had a secret room. He knew because he had heard people talking from behind the walls when he was delivering There was much more he dare not tell me. Strange world we live in. Robert Cook
A Foreign Country Posted December 22nd 2019
It was very cold on Mermaid Quay on Cardiff Bay when I arrived there at 5 a.m yesterday morning. Raining, dark and damp, but Cardiff Bay was still an inspiring place to be. So much amazing history there. Years ago this was a busy port. The bay was nicknamed ‘Tiger Bay’, legend for its influx of exotic sailors. John and Hayley Mills starred in a 1960s black and white film set here, called ‘Tiger Bay.’
Cardiff is the national capital and county town of Glamorgan. Until Roman conquest, Cardiff was part of the territory of an iron age tribe called Silures that flourished. Their territory included the areas that would become known as Breconshire, Monmouthshire and Glamorgan.
The local River Taff, where the Romans built their first settlement aside its’ mouth, is the origin of the Welsh peoples’ nickname ‘Taffy.’ The word Welsh’ means foreigner and we still use the non PC phrase ‘to welsh on a deal.’
Norman invader and King William the Conqueror started his slaves building the castle keep in 1081. It was built within the walls of the old Roman fort. Cardiff Castle has been at the heart of the city ever since.
The castle was substantially altered and extended during the Victorian period by John Crichton-Stuart and the architect William Burges. Original Roman work can, however, still be distinguished in the wall facings.
It is still a city of relatively small population of under 400,000 but has been developing and modernising during recent decades, notably as home to the devolved Welsh National Assembly.
I sampled the city’s nightclubs back in late 2007, after watching Welsh National hero boxer Jow Calzaghe at the Millenium Centre win the middle weight world title.
Earlier that evening, I had great fun, with the Welsh flag tied around my neck and flowing like a cloak while I dnaced and held court in several pubs, enjoying a hard drinking session with rival Danish supporters. As the evining wore on, glass glasses were replaced by plastic ones through fear of violence breaking out,
I digress, Cardiff’s wider urban area has a population of 479,000 nd it is the most popular tourist destination in Wales. The BBC have a stronghold there, even using the city as a location for filming the revived ‘Dr Who’ series. Robert Cook
Manchester Crime and Government Posted December 20th
Before George and Robert Stephenson’s railway was extended to Manchester, the city- a mere village at the start of the Industrial Revolution, was far away from us southerners. The horrible lingering dampness of this place in the Pennines proved very suitable to the cotton spinning factories on which the revolution thrived.
After the Napoleonic Wars- when the landowning classes thrived thanks to the punitive corn laws, causing hunger and misery for the labouring classes- the self appointed hero of Waterloo, Wellington ,became Tory Prime Minister by choice of this elite.
The Duke of Wellinngton, whose home address was Number 1 , London, thought it fair to send the militia to shoot people protesting against high corn prices due to a ban on cheaper imports. That was the Peterloo Massacre at St Petersfields Manchester.
It was not just the Irish starving at the time, but they were brought over to keep labour costs low, and profits high. Manchester was the centre of all this, so important that a canal was eventually dug out to the Atlantic Port of Liverpool- the Manchester Ship Canal.
The first time I ever read the word Manchester was a six year old reading where my favourite Co-op fig roll biscuits were made. The Co-op started in Rochdale Lancashire, near Manchester, as a workers combine to ensure good cheap food rather than the expensive adulterated rubbish produced by the Capitalist classes for the lower orders.
The next time I heard of Manchester I was still a boy, watching the new soap opera ‘Coronation St’ set in a backstreet of Manchester terraced houses. I watched it at a friend’s birthday party in 1960. There were only three of us at the party, running out of amusements we sat down to watch it on a black and white TV.
My friend’s home was also in a terrace, so was mine. We also had a black and white TV. The set was big, the screen quite small. It was near our front room window, a window on the world and a window on the street, next to each other.
The road was a main route to London, always busy. So was the pavement, bustling with busy body women, shrieking children and stoic men- their haven being the pub just up the road at the bottom of the school hill.
Much of life was black and white in those days. We all knew our place. The illusion of Britain’s Imperial greatness lurked like a wounded monster, caught on newsreels reporting in denial. Then came the illusion of the 1960s, places like Manchester were losing their terraces, high rise reservations for the surplus working classes grew like weeds from the rubble. Bright young northerner headed south for fame and fortune. And so we have what we have today.
It took me nearly four hour to get there in my truck limited to 55 mph for economy. A chunk of the motorway near Stafford wasis being converted to what they call SMART motorway, which means getting rid of the hard shoulder refuge. This was another great David Cameron idea to improve traffic flow on the cheap, to hell with actual safety.
Trucking through Manchester, I saw remnants of the old city, and gaudy emblems of the new. It is what it is. This is the Northern Powerhouse. The roads were noticeably quiet, making my job much easier. That is always a good thing for me. Job done, back I went, down to the not so sunny south where the rich folk, and my new Tory MP are pledged to block the HS2 rail project because they like having a nice view, peace, quiet, security etc, all paid for and provided at the expense of the low order masses. The spirit of Peterloo lives on in diverse Britain, which is about as diverse in reality as it was in the nineteenth century. Divide and rule is the key to successful crime and government. Robert Cook Search for:
- Latosha Beaurepaire on More of Milton Keynes: Building on the Vision
- Robert Cook on More of Milton Keynes: Building on the Vision
- Dane Eaton on More of Milton Keynes: Building on the Vision
- Esther Jankowski on More of Milton Keynes: Building on the Vision
- Weldon Sumsuma on More of Milton Keynes: Building on the Vision
Copyright 2019 | MH Newsdesk lite by M
What is Watford ? Posted December 17th 2019
What is Watford ?
The name of this town, just north of London, reeks of dullness, like so much of the area. I took a small load there this morning, cutting through the smug bourgeois Bucks County Town of Aylesbury. Aylesbury has been over expanded with no serious attention to infrastructure. There are no many publci servants in Aylesbury, they have a town centre car park all to themselves.
As usual, it took me over an hour to cross the sprawl this morning, before I could enjoy the relative freedom of the A41, heading south toward the terrible M25 and Watford beyond.
This place has a notable rail junction, massive shopping centre and a luxury hotel fit for VIPs. It was chosen as the venue for the recent NATO 70th birthday summit, where high flown folk and hangers on flaunted themselves for the media. They never give up congratulating themselves for fighting the Russian menace.
On my way into town I passed grand houses, glimpsed through hedges, large forecourts resting places for the BMWs and Mercs. At the football ground I pondered the statue of the teams late and illustrious manager, Graham Taylor. He would be sad to see his team heading for relegation from the Premier League. Watford is also home to the Harry Potter studio and museum, which is expensive to visit.
Hoping that the traffic on the M25 had subsided, I went back along it, then on to the M40, through driving rain. Robert Cook
Breakdown March 6th 2019
Breakdowns can mean long waits. First the fitter comes out to tell you what you already knew. On this occasion I had taken refuge in the truck stop near Northampton. I had been on a fairly local run, coming back down the M1 from Tesco’s huge site at Daventry. At first I was indignant when I Stobart lorry hooted me.
I was in the inside lane flat out at 50 mph. When I checked the dash I saw the warning lights. I limped into the truck stop smoke coming out of the bonnet. The fitter confirmed that the turbo had blown and belt broke.
So I settled in for the long wait for a breakdown truck. While I sat there, cold and trying to read in failing light. I noticed there was no fence between me and the M1. It had rotted and collapsed years ago. What a wonderful spot to commit suicide if you felt that way.
My reverie was disturbed by a lot of revving and shouting. So I left my truck to watch a British registered Class One Truck trying to reverse into a vacant slot in the truck line.
This truck stop is way to small with little room for manouvre. A group of East European truckers were doing their best to guide the English driver. The young woman was getting nowhere, so she climbed down looking very stressed, until the other drivers advsied and comforted her. Eventually she made it.
A short while after, me still taking the air, another Class One roared in at speed. The driver spun it across the gap, banged into reverse, slotting it into the tight space with accuracy and finesse.
The person who stepped down from this Polish regsitered truck was the smallest trucker I had ever seen. I watched the diminjutive figure in scruffy jeans, colourful top and raven long hair walk along the truck and trailer side, doing various checks before hurrying back and up into the high cab. I watched in amazement as this person flipped down the vanity mirror, then touched up her make up, gave me a demonic smile, pushed back her hair, then into gear and away as fast as she had arrived.
West Mercia Today November 11th 2019
I was in one of my least favourite parts of Britain today, West Mercia. Even before the region’s very corrupt police force set about destroying mine and my son’s lives eleven years ago, I did not like it there. It is borderland with Wales, so there was much fighting and death during Norman Times. That is why places like Ludlow had Castles.
Easy Day November 8th 2019
There has been little of interest or excitement in my driving work this week. Frost and fog on the way to work was a bit of a niggle.
On my way back up country it was nice to see a bit of sunshine over Sussex, but on to the M25 and Surrey clouds gathered, the sky was grey and gloom was nigh.
The M23 is nearing completion of what the authorities euphemistically call conversion to SMART motorway status. One gets a false sense of security in a truck, but I would hate to break down on there in a car.
Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire Today October 31st 2019
I was back in this area for the second time this week, but there is rarely anything worth photograohing. It is commuter land, so lots of traffic jams and road accidents. The landscape is littered with large houses and secure estates.
However, today I decided to park up my truck near the ruins at Virginia Water, in the neighbourhood of Runneyemede where Magna Carta was signed so long ago, giving rise to the myth that England is a free country. As with the referendum, it was not long before the King of the day reneged on the deal.
Goodbye to all that October 28th 2019
Today was a sad day for me. I will not be going to my favourite resttaurant in Charlotte Street W1 anymore. My job there is over, so I said goodbye to my friend Chef Alberto.
This morning I drove into London when the sun was just rising over Ealing. The traffic was very heavy, but the weather looked promising in spite of the cold.
I have done this run into London more times than I can remember and will miss it, and all the people I have met, the sights and the traffic.
Tomorrow I will be on the road at 2 am, to new places, but as for London, it is goodbye to all that. Robert Cook
Driving and Driving Rain Again October 27th 2019
Taking a break from the road, enjoying coffee on the patio outside one of Prince William Yard’s excellent restaurants last Wednesday, the sky was blue and the sun was shining.
Friday was gloomy again, dark heavy rain filled clouds hung over the South Downs as I headed back from Brighton at 10.45. Having spotted a peculiar accident on the A23- involving a car hanging from a bankside near Hicksted- I saw the northbound traffic getting worse. So I headed for Portsmouth and the A34. The M23 and M25 can’t cope at the best of times.
My destination was Bicester 10 miles north of Oxford. Here two major roads, the A34 and M40 junction at a large roundabout which is awful most eveinings, let alone Fridays.
So, aware from trafic news, I knew there were major problems just north of Oxford. That is why I cut through the country back roads via a pretty little rich persons’ Archers sort of village named Islip. There I would go on to the A41 and beat the traffic.
Unfortunately a Class One truck driver chose the same route to head south from the A41. I found the village road tight but know the area. There was no chance with a class one truck.
As my picture shows, the driver got stuck trying to turn around. He told me he had hoped to use another road to skirt the village but the road closed signs did no show until it was too late. That is cheapskate Britain which has allowed too many roads to go into decline for too long, while traffic has grown massively.
Yesterday was another awful day on the road. My run was out in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. The roads around the latter were deep in water in some places, the wind and rain driving. I had nine drops and got absolutely drenched to the bone.
Royal William Yard October 24th 2019
I was back down in Exter and Plymouth yesterday, stopping for a break and coffee at the Royal William Yard, the ex naval victualing yard. Plymouth has a distinguised naval history, Sir Francis Drake famously having his bowls game interrupted by news of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
World War two hit the locals hard, so much of the place is new, though relics remain.
This is the former Cooperage Building at Royal William Yard, with a fully functioning red phone box of Sir Gilbert Scott’s design. RJC
Green Fields of France October 20th 2019
Alan Leonard Lewis VC’s statue outside Wildwood Cafe in Hereford – simply entitled ‘ A Hertfordshire Man. I look in wonder on this statue when I go there at least once a week and wonder why he bothered for the nasty police state Britain has become. I will look at him again in the early hours tomorrow, and wonder. Image RJC October 2019
I have the utmost respect for Britains front line fighters but a lot of contempt for rather too many of the officer class. I have even more contempt for lying corrupt police officers who wear medal ribbons and badges for their fallen. The police have no right to such boasting.
For me the most beautiful anti war song I have ever heard is Eric Bogle’s’The Green Fields of France.’ I have performed it many times. Here are a few of the lines:
‘Well how do you do young Willie McBride,
Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?
I’ve been workin’ all day in the warm summer sun
and I’m nearly done.
I see by you gravestone you were only 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916.
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean,
Or young Willie McBride was it slow and obscene?
Did they beat the drum slowly
as they lowered you down?
did they play the fifes lowly
did the band play ‘The flowers of the forest?
By the way, Trump has offered the Kurds a share in Eastern Syria’s oil revenue. Do you really believe the Syrian war has been about democracy? Do you need a brain?
Around South Buckinghamshire October 19th 2019
Work took me around South Bucks yesterday. The area exudes wealth and snobbery. Coming from the north of this county, I have never liked this typical manifestation of the home counties, where they call London ‘Town.’
Fittingly, I first visited South Bucks with my mum, sister and Alsatian dog in the cab of my late father’s brick lorr back in the 1950s. There was a lot of building going on back then. Compared to North Bucks, the sun always seemed to be shining on this land of gated homes, expensive dress shops, antique shops expensive cars. Even today, one just does not see rough sleepers or beggars. Robert Cook Posted October 20th 2019
London to Brighton October 11th 2019 Posted October 20th 2019
For a while I have had to go down to London and on to Brighton on Fridays. It is rather a challenege getting into Central London, unloading and on to Brighton- in the tiem available. Easier on a van without the tacho to worry about. The M25 and M23 are always congealed, so my preference is usually to return via the M27, A3 and A34, though they tend to be sticky.
For some time now I have seena strangely dressed man of obvious non British origin- hope that point is not offensive- on the central reservation of Marylebone Road as one comes of Westway.
He approaches drivers stuck in the heavy traffic asking to wash their windscreens for money. I didn’t like to offend him by letting him see me take his picture so I took his image in my rear view mirror.
London October 17th 2019
London October 14th 2019
Last Week October 13th 2019
Portsmouth My Island In The Sun October 10th 2019
I was back in Portsmouth yesterday, where the sun always shines for me. I was there with colleague Charles Close to research a new book on the city. The place reminds me of my mispent younger days, and two women who made me believe in romantic love. I also met my ex wife there, but that is another story. Marriage these days, in my view, is a good way to kill romance.
Like my marriage Portsmouth seems to have withered a bit, in spite of its many glamorouse towering new buildings- I worked in one of the city’s first smoke glass office blocks, Zurich House which is now a block of luxury flats.. That however may be just me that has withered. Maybe I am looking back like the old folk I remember from when I was young. They were always going on about the good old days.
Whatever, there have been many changes since the 1970s for sure. There was a lot more work for ordinary folk. Sailors were not afraid to go out and about in uniform. These ‘Jolly Tars’ had their favourite night club, ‘Joanna’s‘ near the South Parade pier. I recall the little dark blue Bedford CA vans waiting outside after midnight, with the Provost- Navy police- waiting menacingly inside, ready to loom out onto the road, brandishing truncheons, starch white belts around their smart uniform waits, ready to arrest the drunken ones disgorging onto the pavement.
I recall it because I was there in the 1970s, prefering the more sophistcated ‘Nero’s’ night club next door. Back up in Havant Tax Office, I had repsonsibility for the two clubs’. tax liabilities. The parent company was fittingly called ‘Pleasurama.’ Amusingly, both adjoing clubs were demolished in the year of my divorce- I met my ex wife in Nero’s in June 1976.
As the northern quarter has declined, bright new buildings, the Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays and luxury apartments have risen near the waterfront offering another world to those who can afford it. Old buildings have been converted into flats for a growing student population, forcing housing prices higher and higher.
Portsmouth was the birthplace of Charles Dickens, his first home is preserved. Fittingly, Portsmouth’s story is also ‘ tale of two cities.’
London a city of wonderful diversity- October 8th 2019
I made my second trip into Central London this week, slightly concerned about the traffic due to environmental protestors.
What have they done to the rain? October 6th 2019
I have spent too many hours on the road this week, with little time for photography. Driving in the rain is challenging. This week I have seen rain everywhere, from Lincoln, the Midlands, to Mid Wales, Gloucesterhire, Central London to Brighton. Years of poor maintenance and neglected drainage makes the roads very unsafe.
No one is perfect at driving. The ones who think they are can make winter driving all the more dangerous. I dread to think what the winter will be like. A couple of years ago I was driving all the way to Hereford, via Cheltenham and back, through snowdrifts.
The best that can be said about that sort of experience is to quote from Dr Johnson: ‘Fear Concentrates the mind.’ Meanwhile it goes on raining, posing the question why so much? What have they done to the rain? Ask little Greta, she might know.
Rambling Away Again October 1st 2019
I have been on the road again. Had over two weeks off working on my new books and doing my Certificate of Professioanl Competence for HGV driving. Same ex police Inspector. Learned a lot from him and he had some good vidoes, real hooror stories, like a woman who went to recue a tanker driver because she was a nurse. Didn’t realise what she thought was water was flouric acid which absorbs water. Firts her shoes disappeared, then the resy of her. Life on the road is dangerous. i went back last Friday.
Yesterday I was around Birmingham and the Cotswolds. Not good weather for photographs. Saw a couple of castles on my way. Castles remind me that this country has always been a very violent place. My first castle visit was in Studley. It is now the much improved site of a lusury hotel. My final Castle viewing was in the pleasant little town of Kennilworth, near Warwick.
The whole area, from here to Warwick, Bosworth Field and Leicester was a very violent place during the Wars of the aRoses, leading to the death of England’s much maligned last warrior King after betrayal by the Earl of Warwick.. So began the rise of the Tudor’s beginning with Henry VII;
Swanbourne Station September 17th 2019.
The old Swanbourne Station on Thomas Brassey’s Oxford-Cambridge Railway line is due for demolition. The line was closed, not by Dr Beeching as many like to say. it was closed by Labour Feminist icon Barbara Castle, Minister of Transport in 1967, the year they started buillding the new London overspill town of Milton Keynes- Milton is still not officially a city. Labour intellectual and Oxford don ridiculed Castle in his diaries, saying taht she knew nothing about transport and could not even drive.
I knew Mick Waters from schooldays, last seeing him a few months ago walking a local farmers dogs. a gentler man you couldn’t hope to meet. I will miss him. his joyous outlook and friendship.
His lifelong home was also home to bats in the roof. The plan is to build a replica of the station adjacent to the re opened line when it is realligned to the west. They hope to move the bats into the roof of the new station.
There were fears that the new Oxford Cambridge Expressway which is to follow the old rail line as far as possible, would cut through this beautifull part of North Bucks. Latest news is that it will not, passing through Shipton south of Winslow, joining the leighton Buzzard by pass and then on to the outskirts of Bletchley. Robert Cook September 29th 2019
Bletchley Town, a place past its best – September 21st 2019
I am a frequent visitor to Bletchley. It is an interesting place with a particularly evocative town centre. As a youth it was very bright on a Saturday afternoon with sharply dressed young men and girls stalking along Queensway in mini skirts and high heels. These days it is redolent with decay and lack of hope or direction- anomie for the socilogically minded. Street sweepers are either in short supply or lazy.
This afternoon I visited Bletchley Tesco. Shopping done, I went back to my car. Parked next to mine was eighty three year old David and his fifty five year son. Both had severe medicaal problems. Age had not dimmed David’s wits or memories of a hard life.
David apologised for smoking, explaining it was a habit from army days. Joining as a non smoker, he said when his platoon took its first smoke break he was a non smoker, but joined in so as to be as one with the rest. ‘It was a slippery slope. We were given a hefty weekly ration of cigarettes. ‘ No doubt the authorities knew being in Malaysia was going to kill men one way or another and nerves needed to be steadied. So much for the privileges of being a man.
David returned to England, marriage, a son and work as a chippy. When building work dried up, David began a 15 year stint collecting trolleys together in Bletchely Tesco car Park. The flambuoayant military style baseball cap he was wearing today, was found, by him perched on a pillar in the car park.
David looked sadly at the world around him, with his son ,who like him has severe health problems, lamenting all the trees that have been removed for more parking spaces.
I wanted to take his picture but he protested it was better for him to keep a low profile. That is just another aspect of the world of fear we now live in, a wolrd based on elite greed, hopelssness, skimping and afraid of other people. So I bid them both a fond farewell as they limped off, holding on to each other and bound for Tesco phramacy before it closed at 4 pm on the dot.
At least sheep can’t see the slaughter coming. August 27th 2019
Men not at work August 27th 2019
Gloucestershire Today August 24th 2019
I am lucky that my current work frequently takes me into Gloucestershire. Some years ago, with Andrew Shouler, I wrote the pictorial Francis Frith history volume ‘The Cotswolds in Living Memory.’
My first literary experience of the Cotswolds was Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie’ which we were reading as part of our school English Literature course. It was so evocative and moving that I read it twice. My teacher was a wonderfully inspirational teacher, her name was Mrs Horner -though no one in town ever saw her husband.
At the end of my run, I head back along towards Oxford, stopping at my favourite lay by. Today I was lucky enough to meet wood carver Jacob Spore who’s work and home is pictuered below. Though born in Cheltenham, he says, poetically ‘ I don’t really come from anywhere. Jacob can be contacted on facebook at Crazy Crafts Co.
Jacob pictured at home today. Robert Cook August 24th 2019
Tractors August 18th Marsh Gibbon
First vehicle- apart from the petrol driven go kart I built aged 14- ws a Massey Ferguson 35 tractor when I was 13 and working on Shipton farm. Winslow. As a country boy I love tractors. So when I was driving back from work a few days ago, I was delighted by this sight of an historic tractor convoy parked up in Marsh Gibbon, Bucks.
Dangerous Dagenham July 28th 2019
I don’t know whether Dagenham is dangerous, but it looks like it might be. First time I heard of it was seeing and hearing the Dagenham Girl Pipers on the old 405 line black and white TV. Next time was going on a school trip to the Ford factory, which I visited again as a school teacher from Spencer Park Boy’s School in South London- that definitely was dangerous.
So this morning I had to go to Dagenham Dock, quite early. Been before, first time on a rainy windswept night. Today it was just very grey. On my way, I saw a queue of European big double decker coaches near the 406 flyover, parked with curtains and big trailers, loading or unloading people, they looked like weary workers.
Maybe they were holiday makers. They were young enough looking to find a good time somewhere, even here maybe.
But the strangest thing was on a roundabout. I saw it just before I turned into the dock (Choate) road, was the thing pictured below. Maybe it is a local art form. It ceratinly looks expensive and probably sums the place up.
Is this Dagenham’s idea of sculputure? It is on a roundabout at the entrance to Dagenham Dock. Even the ubiquitous cyclist looks puzzled by it. Robert Cook July 28th 2019
Still, some good things have come from Dagenham, apart from the cars and tractors. There was Dudley Moore, Sandie Shaw, Terry Venables and Alf Ramsey to name a few of my favourites. Dagenham is exquisetly ugly in my view.
Cliveden on the Bucks Berks border July 20th 2019
Off the top of my head, I believe Cliveden was in Bucks until vote hingry Tories had the boundaries redrawn to manipulate Britain’s undemocracy. No matter.
Anyway, I happened to have to visit the old stately home this Saturday and what a marvel it is.
Now an upper crust hotel, the publcity material boasts: ‘
‘With a history of unapologetic debauchery, our Grade I listed stately home’s most heinous of scandals shook the British parliament and played out on these very grounds.
The year was 1961. While the Cold War was slowly chilling British politics, Cliveden House was engulfed in a sultry summer of sweltering heat. Cooling off in the now famous outdoor pool, was Christine Keeler, a nineteen year old mistress of a suspected Russian spy.
Attending a hot mid summer’s party hosted by the then owner Lord Astor, the young woman was one of a few exclusive guests enjoying the luxurious celebrations held within Cliveden House’s magnificent gardens. Also in attendance was John Profumo, an up-and-coming Conservative Secretary of State for War and husband of well-known actress, Valerie Hobson.
Profumo and Keeler embarked on an illicit affair following their chance meeting at Cliveden House; an affair which was to force his resignation, irrevocably damage the Prime Minister’s reputation, and impact on the course of British politics forever.’
50 years has passed since that fateful meeting which was to alter Britain’s political landscape. Discover the scurrilous secrets of the time with our Profumo Affair Break and find out all about how the political establishment finally thaw out.’
Christine Keeler was 19 at the time of her affair with John Profumo. Effectively she was pimped by Dr Stephen Ward, who may have been linked to MI5, but we will never know because he apparently took an overdose rather than face trial. Keeler went to jail and Profumo turned to charity work. As the old song goes, ‘It’s the rich what gets the pleasure, it’s the poor what gets the blame.’ Still at least politicians had te decency to resign in those days.
Female Equality in Politics, Nancy Astor first woman MP, contrast with Keeler.
Nancy Astor was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons.
She was viewed by some as Adolf Hitler’s woman in Britain, and after the war became known as the ‘Member for Berlin’.
Some went so far as to claim that she had hypnotic powers.
After marrying Waldorf Astor she moved into the Buckinghamshire pile of Cliveden.
A right-wing, upper class group of intellectuals that came to be known as the ‘Cliveden Set’ formed around her and developed their own form of fascism whilst supporting the appeasement campaign of Neville Chamberlain. Although Nancy herself said she supported German rearmament there is some dispute as to how deep the Nazi affiliations went with her and her Cliveden coterie.
Lady Astor plays golf with Edward VIII, the Nazi Traitor King of England at Walton Heath, Surrey, England
Nancy and Waldorf used Cliveden for entertaining on a lavish scale. The combination of the house, its setting and leisure facilities offered on the estate—boating on the Thames, horse riding, tennis, swimming, croquet and fishing—made Cliveden a destination for film stars, politicians, world-leaders, writers and artists. The heyday of entertaining at Cliveden was between the two World Wars when the Astors held regular weekend house parties. Guests at the time included: Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Amy Johnson, F.D. Roosevelt, H.H. Asquith, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), A.J. Balfour and the writers Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and Edith Wharton. The tradition of high-profile guests visiting the house continues to this day, largely due to the house’s conversion into a hotel.
The Astors ceased to live at Cliveden in 1968, shortly after the Profumo Affair and Bill Astor’s death.
Comment Interestingly to me, Popular Feminist Princess Meghan Matkle stayed at Cliveden the night before her wedding to popular Prince Harry.
Plymouth Tuesday July 16th 2019
As some of my followers- I have some regulars, they know who they are- I get to travel a lot. On Tuesday I visited Exeter, Plymouth and a little place called Coombe in Devon.
Plymouth’s distinguished naval history goes back to Sir Francis Drake, cicumnavigation, raiding Cadiz and the Spanish Armada. For some odd reason there is a large model of Drake’s ‘Golden Hind’ poking out of the Grovesnor Casino in the city centre.
Plymouth like near coastal neighbour Portsmouth was heavily bombed during the last World War. It was a prime strategic target. Rebuilding brought typically hopeful bright shop and office styling in the centre. Such was the damage, a lot of the old has gone. The 1950s, 60s and 70 rebuilds are strikingly different. As for the 21st century, it is something rather different as the above picture shows.
In the 1950s and 60s, concrete was seen as maleable, rather than something from which to make jails. As the city grew, car park space had to go vertical. ( See Tricorn, The Life and Death of a Sixties Icon by Celia Clark and Robert Cook ). These car parks offer a quick exit for sad and hopeless young men like the one pictured above, in Plymouth City Centre.
Life is not so bad for the rich, as these luxury yachts, tied up in Royal William Yard attest. Modern technology and rolling wars make the rich richer, while the rest get poorer and less secure.
An old GWR signal gantry relic is an odd gateway to this new supermarket site in Exeter.
It is easy to romanticise the past, but not doing that is no reason to forgoe criticism of the selfish elite dominated present.
When I was a boy, back in the 1950s, I didn’t realise I was poor. The only travelling I did, with my family, was ten miles on the bus to Aylesbury, or trips in my father’s brick lorry. The closest I got to the South West Peninsula was by reading Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ stories. I travelled far and wide in my mind and could read before I went to school.
As a former schoolteacher, I know that our multi cultural education system is more interested in politically correct brainwashing than it is in lieracy and numeracy. It is about closing minds. The looney left of the 1980s has been replaced by something far more insidious and far more dangerous.
All Images Copyright www.robertcookofnorthbucks and Appledene Publishing.
London Pride July 14th 2019 by Robert Cook
I was in London again today, travelling over a wide area. It is always interesting, always on the move. My parents and sister were born there, I lived, worked and studied there for a while. I loved and hated the place.
Today I went on loving and hating it. As I went about my business, I noticed many banners across streets declaring a big no to discrimination and prejudice, proclaiming London as a place for everyone. Maybe so, but how much money and status you have will decide your experience. Age and ethnicity will be key related factors.
London is a far more complex place than it was in my parents day and when I lived there. Multi culture includes life in the gutter, being a victim of knife crime and the sex trade. There is also the reality of slave labour. However, spin doctors don’t want to talk about this.
On my travels I saw plenty of police vehicles and a few marked crime scenes like this one in Bermondsey.
London has always been a haven for crime, even during the hyped up nostalgia days of the Blitz. Poverty and ignorance breeds crime, but so does power mania, exploitation and arrogance of the ruling classes. The picture below was taken by me, this morning in Clink Street. The phrase being put ‘in clink’ was a synonym for prison when I was a boy. This tall old edifice in a very grim street was intended to strike fear in the oppressed underclasses, just as modern prisons and court rooms do today.
Yesterday, June 3rd when the Sheeple were protesting about Trump in the London bubble, all my troubles did not seem so far away, but my destination did as I approached gridlock going south from Watford on the M25.
Today, June 4th, I went to an obscure place near Oakham in Rutland. nearly there, I saw this amazing railway viaduct. My thoughts went back to the 19th century engineer who designed it, the political morons who closed the line in the 1960s, and the men who built and died building it.