Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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The Forgotten Army

Remembering VJ Day

When you go home don’t worry about what to tell your loved ones and friends about service in Asia. No one will know where you were, or where it is if you do. You are, and will remain “The Forgotten Army.” ― attributed to General Slim.

My Mum often told me how hard it was for her, when everyone was celebrating VE Day, not because she wasn’t of course delighted, but because her sweetheart, my Dad was serving in Burma, with the Royal Engineers, and for him the war was not over. So remembering VJ Day is a matter of importance for me.

He’s on the right in the foreground of this photo.

Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 3

 

This is the letter she sent to Dad, on hearing the news he was coming home, in November 1945, Marian was his older sister.

VJ letter home

The letter arrived too late for Dad, he was on a ship home by the time it arrived. It was sent safely back to blighty,  to his sisters address. I think Mum would be cross with me for posting her letter on the World Wide Web, but then  again she wouldn’t want anyone to forget either.

Dad used to tell just a few war stories, the same ones often!  But  I’m pretty sure they were what he considered palatable,  we never got to hear the full story, he came close once, to telling my brother, but stopped when he became tearful, and he had nightmare throughout the rest of his life.

Fourteenth Army

Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 2Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 3Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 4Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 5Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 6Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 7Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 8Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  Engineers 9Burma Fourteenth Army Royal  EngineersBurma 

My Dad died eighteen years ago, when Joe was just a few weeks old and Tom was two years old, so sadly they have no memory of him. Joe got his A Level exam results on Thursday, and of course it was one of those moments that you want to phone mum and dad and tell them the news:  looking at these photos, maybe it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Joe has chosen to do a degree in civil engineering…  As they say around here ‘what’s in the tree comes out in the branches’.


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Thirty days wild. June 25th

The best thing that you can do for nature is too make it part of your life. That’s why we’re asking thousands of people to make room for nature in their everyday lives this June. Please spread the word amongst friends, colleagues and family and get them to sign up, too! After all, all our lives are better if they’re a bit wild… ‘

I’ve signed up to 30 Days Wild with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust,  with the aim of blogging each day, a little bit of the nature of my world.

I thought this a wall must have been a labour of love, such small slender stones, its not far from a quarry, maybe it was made with ‘free spoil’ that were too small for other tasks? I must take this blog on an away day to the National Stone Centre, its near Wirksworth

drystone wall 2


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Thirty Days Wild. June 6th

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_06

‘The best thing that you can do for nature is to make it part of your life. That’s why we’re asking thousands of people to make room for nature in their everyday lives this June. Please spread the word amongst friends, colleagues and family and get them to sign up, too! After all, all our lives are better if they’re a bit wild… ‘

 

I’ve signed up to 30 Days Wild with the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust,  with the aim of blogging each day, a little bit of the nature of my world.

 

more than 97% of meadows had been destroyed in England since the 1930s

 

DW30 meadow

Freddy the farmer, told me there  were once corncrakes in this field.


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Anniversaries

This week is my blogs eighth birthday, fancy that, eight years ehh? A long time in the blogosphere I suppose?

This week also saw the hundredth anniversary of my fathers birth, now that really is a long time ago.

 

As a teenager I remember being amused by a waitress telling Dad he had ‘laughing eyes’, it wasn’t something I saw in him then, but I can see it here…

Dad baby

His mum died of TB when he was seven, he was raised (and indulged, so my Mum said!) By  maiden aunts, post the First World War, there were a lot of Maiden aunts.

 

Blanche Marian Joseph Ford 002

He didn’t like school at all, reading and writing did not come easy for him; but as an adult he could read an engine like a book ( he’s on the back row, eighth from the left)

 

 school 1926

He was one of the first Scouts of a Group that still runs  in the village to this day, his hat was so big they he to pack it with newspaper to stop it falling in his eyes.

 

Dad 1926 scouts

Turning heads as a young man, clock the girl on the far right, on a grand day out.

Dad 1932

And off to war…

 

Joseph Ford, off to war

After service in Burma, in the Royal Engineers, home to love.

Mum Dad

Dad died, eighteen years ago, when Joe was just a few weeks old.


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Fortunate Finds

I’ve been squirreling away any little pieces of old crockery that have emerged during the building work (much to the amusement of some of the builders). I’ve had a fancy for a couple of decades now (you can’t rush these things) to make some sort of mosaic from the bits I’ve found…

Whilst most of it has been  Victorian blue and white pottery plus quite a lot of earthenware; some pieces stood, out as looking earlier.

slipware

I did a bit of rummaging around (AKA research)and found this delightful blog (which is sadly ‘resting’  as it is full of fascinating posts to be enjoyed) which would suggest it is indeed from the 17th or 18th century.

If I see our local museum is having a finds day, I’ll take them along and see what I can find out (they do write an interesting blog).

 

I’ve mentioned before that it is quite tricky to know just how old our house is. However a neighbour made a chance discovery, that a map of this area, from 1606 (yes sixteen hundred and six) rests in the National Archives at Kew.

He ordered a copy. It is delightful. I was so excited to see it, it was far more decorative and detailed than I imagined.

Map 1606

The detail, the trees, the gates and the fields (the boundaries of which we can still recognise) are carefully included. We can’t be sure our house is represented, as some of the detail doesn’t quite match up, but there were certainly homesteads nearby at that time. Maybe that is where the pottery out of ‘trench one’ came from. Who knows?

Map 1606 2

 

I think maps from this time must be quite scarce , apparently that this one survives results from the area, albeit in Derbyshire being part of the Duchy of Lancaster,  the map was drawn up in a land dispute, and forms part of their archives.

It has certainly whetted my appetite to try and find out more, when the dust settles.


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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red; a different view

 

 

After yesterdays post, a little background information, on both the installation and the Tower of London.

 

The poppies were planted by  teams of volunteers,

 Poppies Tower of London Vols 2

It must have been an operation planned with military precision.

Poppies Tower of London setting out

It would have been an overwhelming task without a master plan.

Poppies Tower of London setting out 3

(and surely packing them all up again is going to be harder?

Poppies Tower of London box

Although that warm fuzzy glow, of feeling part of something special, is the thing that keeps volunteers coming back for more

Poppies Tower of London setting out 2

My favourite shot form our day (29th August) is poppies with shadows. War casts very long shadows.

Poppies Tower of London shadow

There was something about the mottling  effect of the shadows that reminded me of the solar eclipse in the UK, in 1998, another event I found more emotional than I anticipated.

It was quite early in the installations development when we visited, whilst I’d read about it in the press, there wasn’t the wall to wall coverage there has been in the media this week. So a gripe for us at the time was that there weren’t enough information boards

Poppies Tower of London mechanics 2

Some might call it a theatrical event rather than artistic installation, the weeping window has caught the public imagination.

Poppies Tower of London weeping window

However I did think a bit of ‘set dressing’ might have been in order, when I sold flowers for a living, including poppies, we never let the viewer see the mechanics of our arrangements. I thought the scaffolding pole, lump of timber and blob of foam holding the cascade in place could have benefited from being hidden by a couple of yards of fabric and some cable ties.

Poppies Tower of London mechanics

But working in a place as ancient, historic and protected as this, must come with scores of problems. You can’t go around damaging or changing the fabric of such a place, well not these days, you could in the past.

Poppies Tower of London walls_

We found it both moving and reverential,  but there were, if you looked very closely, little witticisms to be found. What I thought was a can of Coke on a window ledge, turned out to be (when seen with the aid of a long lens) a Beefeater cookie jar, placed just for fun.

Poppies Tower of London little beefeater

Beefeater or Yeoman Warders as they are more properly known, do have something of a sense of fun, see below (and be careful if you are drinking tea whilst watching, you’ll splutter it all over the keyboard).

 

 


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Remembering So Many Losses

WWI

From the family photo album, the boy was their son, he died in 1917 in  an accident when a hay cart ran away. 

 

In the summer we visited the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower of London, for overseas readers, it is 888,246 ceramic poppies, each poppy representing a British fatality during the First World War. Designed by Tom Piper and  Derbyshire artist, Paul Cummins, it is an art work that has provoked debate. Which is no bad thing.

tower of London_

Visiting with friends we found it very moving. Our ‘haven’t seen you for ages’ chatter stopped and we all fell quiet.

One life one poppy, hard to comprehend, but we must.

Poppies Tower of London

 

The concept of poppies, being symbolic of the loss of life in the First World War or any other conflict, has deep meaning for me.

As a child we had very elderly neighbours, who lived in a large rambling house at the corner of the lane, my mum used to go each morning and ‘light the fires’ and make them a hot drink  for them. I can remember going with mum on winter mornings, probably in the Christmas holidays, for the thing I remember most distinctly was  how bone gnawingly cold and dark their home was,   that and their Christmas tree, it was a sparse  dour affair, made of  material like thin green bottle brushes it had no  ornaments, just red poppies, in memory of their son who was killed in the World War Two. (I wrote about it on this blog, in 2007)

 

 

One life, one poppy, one life, one poppy, if this art work can make that more tangible to our generation , during this the centenary of World War One,  I think it is working. If the poppies could be white, how nice that would be. As for the glorification of war? No sorry, it wasn’t what our visit said to me. It said what a grievous event it was..

 

When we got home, I went online and ordered a poppy, the monies raised going  top of our to Services charities. It will be sent to us once the installation has been dismantled. It may or may not get here in time for Christmas. If it does, it will be going at the top of our Christmas tree.

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