Sunday, 30 December 2012

Rotten Weather for Dogs and Fishermen.

The photo shows little Maxi the dachshund, wading through a big puddles!  This scene just about sums up the weather in the Devizes area.  The town itself stands on top of a hill, and does not flood, but at the bottom of the hill it is another story.  I took a 3.5 mile walk on Sunday morning with S and Maxi, going down the road side of Caen Hill, and then walking back up on the towpath beside the flight of locks.  At the bottom the path was flooded, and whilst we were able to wade through, Maxi was soon under water to tummy level, as her legs are only 4 inches long.  (10.16 cm)

We walked past the trees we planted a few weeks ago, but had to guess at which ones were ours.    I think mine are the first four, from the left in the front row.  Since our planting session, the whole field has been filled with saplings, although the ones at the very bottom of the field are now under water.

It's nice weather for fish too.  The canal is kept at a constant level with the use of overspill weirs,  although these have water flooding over the top to fill the pounds below.   These brave fishermen at the bottom of the flight,  have given up the television and the warmth of their homes,  to stand for hours in the rain on a Sunday morning,  trying to catch fish they will immediately throw back into the canal! 

Brave souls man a narrowboat in the top of the lock, on their way down to the bottom of the 16 locks.  The towpath was very muddy and slippery, which makes this activity somewhat dangerous.  The flight closes on January 2nd for essential maintenance,  so many narrowboats will be making the descent today and on New Year's Day to avoid being moored in Devizes for a few weeks.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Signs of Spring in Devizes.

I eventually got out of my front door at 2.15pm this afternoon, after hours and hours of torrential rain had kept me shut up in the warmth of Chantry Court.   Words cannot describe just how awful it is, it rains all day,  day in day out!  Today I imagined what southern Ireland must look like, where in some places it rains for 364 days of the year, and the country is so green that it is named, "The Emerald Isle."   The grass here is becoming very green, and this afternoon I also noticed these green catkins hanging from a willow tree.   Should these be emerging at this time of the year?  I think they are too early, but then it is very mild here at 9c. 

The towpath was as muddy as usual, which meant that I had to take extra care when walking under the bridges and stepping too near the canal edge.   The sun eventually emerged for 20 minutes or so, and then promptly disappeared again, hopefully to reappear tomorrow, if the cloud clears and it stops raining.  I walked about 2.5 miles today, and hopefully tomorrow I can do my "Caen Hill Circular," a walk of about 4.5 miles.

I walked home past the "Crammer," the pond on "The Green," an open space in the middle of Devizes, which is used for the circus when it comes to town, and also for festive funfairs and social gatherings.    The sun was setting at this point, and the swans were too busy preening themselves to notice me as I walked by.  The two ducks seem to be heading off somewhere to the left of the photo, maybe they think it is spring, and are into ducking production!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas Lunch for 70 at the Nursteed Centre.

Three lady reindeer sit and wait for the arrival of our 30 guests for lunch at the "Nursteed Centre" on Christmas morning.   Many volunteers had spent Christmas Eve preparing the room with decorations, and laid the tables with crackers and festive centre pieces of holly, ivy and Christmassy flowers.

 One of the many cakes especially made for the occasion by friends of organiser.  We were inundated with donated gifts of food and drink from local businesses, which included crackers, drink and enough mince pies to feed an army.   After the lunch a singer and her partner on the guitar played and sang for the guests.

After coffee and mince pies, a session of bingo followed, and once again all the prizes were donated by local businesses.  It was a wonderful day, if exhausting for we helpers, and everyone went home at 4.30pm having enjoyed a special Christmas Day.  We might do it again in 2013. (after a good rest!)

Monday, 24 December 2012

"Happy Christmas" from Vicki in Devizes where, just for a change, it is raining!

I wish you all, wherever you may be, a very Happy Christmas Day.   
                       This is posted on Christmas Day, the blog has got the date wrong!

Please don't eat too many sprouts, as they can be bad for you!    This morning at 11am I shall be at the "Nursteed Centre" in Devizes, where I'm helping at a Christmas lunch for those elderly people who would ohterwise have spent Christmas Day alone in their homes.  I'm a "table mate" meaning I will sit at table with five ladies and gentlemen, help serve their meals, and generally make the day happy for them.   After lunch there will be music, and later a Bingo session.  The occasion finishes at 4pm, when everyone will be taken home on the local mini bus,  which is specially fitted out for carrying the elderly and disabled,  and loaned by "PHAB."

We have all been very impressed by the generosity of local businesses, who have donated all the food and drink, for the two chefs and to the many local people who will give their services to make the day a happy one.  Thank you everyone.

Handbell Ringing in Potterne Church

We played at the carol service in Potterne Church last night, and very nice it sounded too!   We played a selection of well know carols, together with "The Skater's Waltz" which we played without a single mistake, and also "The Little Drummer Boy," which with  its  top notes  played alone, give the piece a very Chrismassy tinkle.  To the left is Mike holding bells F and G, while I hold A and B, the lower notes and big bells of course.  There is a knack to ringing, one of which is to get the bell the right way up in the correct hand.  The other is to make a quickish flick of the wrist when lifting the bell, so that the striker hits the side of the bell crisply. An ablility to count to 3 or 4 also helps,  as each of our notes is marked in a colour, and much concentration is needed to come in at the right place.  If you have nothing to play from the start until you reach  bar 49, you have to count every previous bar up to that point.   Being busy, with a note in every bar, does make life a lot easier!

My three bells are A, A# and B, and sound the bass line of any melody.  Below you can see a detail of the striker, a felt covered clanger, that strikes the side of the bell when correctly struck.  We all make mistakes, the funniest being having your bells in the wrong hands, when, of course, the music sounds really comical!

These bells were cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, and our four octave set were very expensive, and very heavy to carry!   Last night we had to carry our equipment from the village hall to the church, and we all trudged, heavily ladened across a main road,  to set our tables and bells in the church, ready for playing from 5pm until  6pm when the service started.   It is great fun playing handbells with such a lovely group of people.  I can recommend giving it a try to anyone reading this blog.

"Potterne Handbells Ringers" wait to start playing.   I stand between Celia, back right, and Mike standing second from right.  I made a couple of videoclips of our playing, which I hope to post later, that's if I can get the sound to work.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Puddle-Jumping on Salisbury Plain.

I´m back blog writing after a few days of feeling a little under par,  with the tummy bug that is doing the rounds.  The weather has been dreadful, with so much rain, that it has been difficult to get out and about to take photos and tell you tales about my life in the backwoods of Wiltshire!   I rang the bellplates on Tuesday afternoon for the ladies here in Chantry Court.  We rang quite well, and all were able to recognise the carols in spite of us making a few mistakes!  I started to feel unwell on Tuesday late afternoon, which lasted until Wednesday evening, but on Thursday morning I was up with the lark, and feeling fairly bonny again.   I met the "Coffee Girls" in the "Black Swan" where we drank coffee and chatted.  Afterwards they went off to a Christmas meal in "The Elm Tree," and I came home to my German group's Christmas party with Glühwein,  mince pies with cream and some tasty, nutty German biscuits.   A glowing time was had by all.  

Now for this morning's puddle jumping over Salisbury Plain,  with a threatening sky overhead.   We took the bus to Foxley Corner, and  walked up to Redhorn Hill, and were glad to see that the red flags on the army firing range were not flying!    We prefer to walk without the sound of guns firing and with helicopters overhead!     We walked along the hill top towards a path that led down into Easterton, where we waited for a bus to take us back to Devizes.   The bus was very late, as it had come from Bath, and at Christmas time,  Bath is so congested with traffic that it is a complete  "No Go Area."   The driver was not a happy man, being stuck in a traffic jam for hours is nobodys´  idea of fun!    We arrived back to Devizes at 1pm,  where J and B had lunch in "Wetherspoons" and S and I went our separate ways home for lunch  and an afternoon snooze.

Yet more puddles.  The weather here in the west country is atrocious, with constant rain falling on flooded fields and swollen rivers.   More heavy rain is forecast for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and I feel so sorry the those households, that are being flooded for the third or fourth time this year.    Thank goodness I live three floors up in a block of flats.

Monday, 17 December 2012

"Blue Frog Flicking" in "The Silk Mercer."

"Kenavon Venture" left the Wharf again at 11am on Sunday morning on its 2nd Santa Cruise of the season  with 34 passengers on board.  The boat was off to collect Santa Claus from the London Road Bridge,  and bring him back to the wharf with his sack full of goodies for the children.   The  adults on board enjoyed mulled wine with a couple of mince pies each, and the children drank squash and nibbled biscuits.   A good time was had by all, so I'm told!   Today I ticked off committment no.10 from my list of "Christmas Things I have to Perform."   I belong to two handbell groups and sing in a choir, so come, Christmas the going gets a bit on the busy side.  We rang the bells at the U3A Art Appreciation's Christmas bash this morning, but I left early in order to get to "The Silk Mercer" for Christmas lunch no. 2.   Lunch no. 1 was last week at "The Castle" with the residents of Chantry Court.

This Wednesday evening Christmas dinner no. 3 will be consumed in "The Well" in Bulkington by the Potterne Handbell ringers, and with a bit of luck, this will be my last celebration of the year!   This Tuesday afternoon I ring the bells at Chantry Court, and then again for the last time in 2012, at a Christmas carol service in Potterne Church on Sunday 23rd December.     I shall be glad when it is all over for another year!

This little blue frog fell out of a cracker as we pulled them over our Christmas lunch at  "The Silk Mercer."   If you press the tab on his back,  you can make him jump into the air, and much fun was had by the adults at the table, as we tried to get him to jump into a beer glass.   We all had a go, and only Celia seemed to master the art of, "Blue Frog Flicking."  We had all been drinking, so our hand/eye coordination left much to be desired.  I for one, after  a pint of Thatcher's  "Autumn Gold" cider could not get the frog to leap into the glass!   Little things please little minds at Christmas over a pint!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The First "Santa Cruise" of 2012

Here he is again, this time Santa is waiting to climb aboard a boat full of families with excited children, to give out the Christmas presents from his great big sack.   Every year the K&Avon Canal Trust runs a series of Santa Cruises in the two weeks before Christmas, and they are always very popular.   This morning "Kenavon Venture" left Devizes Wharf at 11am, and cruised up the canal to the point on the bank where Santa would appear.  There was much excitement and jollity on board, as the children drank squash and ate Christmas biscuits, and the mummies and daddies drank mulled  wine and ate yet more mince pies.  

The boat is passing under London Road bridge here on her return journey with Santa onboard giving out the presents.   The trip is meant for families with grannies and grandads, but sometimes adults without children buy tickets, and that's for a trip back down memory lane!   The boat arrived back at the wharf at 12 noon, where Santa enjoyed a mug of mulled wine, before he took off again on his reindeer sleigh!

Good old Santa Claus!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Singing in Edington Priory.

Dauntsey's Choir sang in Edington Priory last night, at a carol service given by  the "Friends of HMP Erlestoke."  The prison is situated just a mile from this beautiful building, and during the service, the Governor and an inmate gave a talk about the prison population in GB, and the problems faced by many prisoners, when they are eventually released back into the community.  The photo shows the Priory on a snowy day, as I could not take a photo last night in the dark!  The Priory, built and completed in 1361 by William of Edington, Bishop of Winchester, is an example of the architectural  transition from the medieval decorated to the perpendicular style.  In 1539 it was dissolved by King Henry VIII, and although little remains of the monastery buildings, the church has survived over the centuries with minimal alterations.

We sang many traditional carols accompanied by the "Bratton Silver Band."  The choir sat behind the band, and it was interesting to watch the tuba players preparing for a note with an enormous intake of breath.  A young lady on the timpani was kept busy all evening with little taps on the triangle, assorted muffled drum rolls and clashes on the cymbals.

We sang without accompaniment and by candlelight three works,  part of "Wachet Auf," from a cantata by JS Bach, "O Little one Sweet," an old German tune harmonised by JS Bach, and "Past Three O'Clock" a lively carol, with much accent on the final "K" of clock.   The congregation must have been able to hear a clock ticking away!  Many of the congregation gave readings from the scriptures, and a lively poem called "King John's Christmas" by A.A Milne, was read by HM Lord Lieutenant for Wiltshire.  It was a wonderful occasion, and after the service we ate yet more mince pies and drank more mulled wine.

The above photo shows the wonderfully decorated ceiling in the nave, with the hammerbeam roof painted with dark red patterns upon a cream background.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Busy Days are here Again!

On Monday afterday we met in the Melksham Methodist Church at 2pm, to play the bellplates for the "Lady's Monday Club," a group of very nice ladies who made very nice mince pies and good strong English tea.  We did the same again on Tuesday afternoon at Don and Jean's, and again that evening, when we played carols for the "Seend Gardening Club's" annual Christmas get together! It has been one endless round of mince pie eating (with a bit of bell ringing thrown in for good measure.) Not just this week unfortunately, but last week too.  My poor digestive system doesn't know what time of day it is!  The photo above shows Melksham United Methodist Church, a splendid statement of a building built in 1872, with towering Doric columns at the main entrance.  One of our bellringers plays the organ for services here, and it can be seen in the centre of the photo.  The building has been renovated recently, and has a light, bright, airy atmosphere.

These are bellplates, a cheaper way of making the sound of handbells ringing.  The plate is held by the handle, and with an upward motion, the donger hits the plate and produces the sound.  On each handle is named the sound of the bell, G6 is nearest in the photo, with a D6 and C5 also shown.  A number 6 refers to a sound below middle C, and number five refers to sounds above the C.  The smaller the plate, the higher the sound will be.  A four octave set of bellpates costs around £1000.  

With the "Potterne Handbellringers" we play on cast bronze bells which cost around £30,000 for a peel of four octaves.   That is too high a price to pay for most groups, so the invention of a cheaper method of producing the sound of a bell, made it possible for groups to spring up around the world. 

The "Seend Singers" sang Christmas carols during the evening, and here the three tenors can be seen sitting and waiting for their next performance.  Our specially marked music rests on our music stands.  Each of us plays two bells, and our notes are marked in red and green.   Red for the right-handed bell, and green for the left.  This, of course, causes confusion and hilarity at times, when the wrong bell is rung in the wrong hand.  Hahaha! 

The words of the carols were projected onto a screen, so that the 75 guests, singers, bellringers and poetry readers could sing along with the choir.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Carol Singing at Devizes Wharf

The evening was still and dark, but the candles shone brightly for the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust's annual Christmas carol service at Devizes Wharf.   Conducted by Rev. Susan Rodd from Marlborough,  grandparents and  families with children and restless dogs stood on the wharfside and sang many popular carols.   After the service branch members of the K&A Trust served mulled wine, orange juice and tea to the singers, together with some very tasty miniature mince pies.    It was a lovely evening, and thoroughly enjoyed by all the children present.

Devizes Town Band played the carols beneath a very conveniently placed street light.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

In a Country Churchyard cooking Hot dogs and Burgers

Jackie and Linda were busy last night cooking the hot dogs and burgers at the Christmas fair at Potterne Church.  Every year the Potterne Handbellringers, which includes me,  man the stall to raise money for our activities throughout the year, and we did a roaring trade last night in the cold weather.    There was a very strong wind blowing, and at times we thought our little marquee would lift off into the air!   

The churchyard trees are decorated with festive lights every year, which gives the area a magical atmosphere.   These photos were taken on my mobile phone, and are a little fuzzy, but are clear enough to give you an impression of the occasion.   It is a good place in which to buy little Christmas gifts, wine and other delicacies.

There were many small charity and raffle stalls inside the 13th century church, and above the medieval font can be seen to the middle left.  Local school children sang Christmas carols during the evening, and a happy time was had by all.  I arrived home late smelling strongly of grilled hotdogs and burgers, so this morning the washing machine will be working overtime!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

"Swan Lake" and Handbell Ringing.

The swans were out late on Wednesday evening performing "Swan Lake" on the "Crammer" pond.   I was walking home at 9.45pm from our handbell ringing evening at "Crammer Court," a group of very plush residential flats for the elderly.   We played a number of Christmas carols, and many of the residents joined in for a good "sing up."  Two ladies held some little bells, and joined in with a lively accompaniment.   After playing, we always invite people from the audience to come up and have a try.  Last night one brave lady offered to play  "Good King Wenceslas" with us, and she did really well.   Ringing is not easy!

There are nine of us in the group, although Terry who plays the three lowest sounding bells was missing last, as he is on holiday in France somewhere!   To the right stands Mike, and I stand between him and Celia who can be seen in the middle of the photo.  To the left stands Doreen, Tony, Jackie and Rachel.   The highest sounding bells are played by Linda, who is to the left, out of the photo.   We are wearing our  bright red "Potterne Handbell Ringers" sweat shirts, with white polo shirts underneath. 
Celia is holding bells C and D in the photo, with C# and D# lying on the table.  Handbells are not easy to play, with the sound being produced with an upward motion of the wrists, the makes the hammer hit the side of the bell.   A great deal of concentration is needed so that we don't get lost!   We all have to count the bars or sing along with the music as we did last night, and attempt to play in the correct bell at the right time!   We all get lost from time to time, or pick up the wrong bell in the wrong hand, and then the music is completely out of tune!   We all laugh at our mistakes, which is about all we can do really.   Handbell ringing is great fun!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Advent of the Advent Calendar

My cheery Christmas candles are back in the window, shining out, so that friends passing by below in their cars can wave and feel cheery too!   Busy days are here again, (just for a change) and yesterday was no exception with my Geology group in the morning, where we talked about earthquakes in Italy, and the imprisoning of six scientists who failed to predict the lastest major earthquake in L'Aquila.  Their imprisonment has sent shock waves around the world of scientific earthquake prediction, which is not an exact science.   More news about the case can be read on the following site:

BBC News - L'Aquila quake: Italy scientists guilty of manslaughter


Our usual group leader was away on grandchild care duties, so most of the morning was spent in a general discussion about tectonics plates, and their creation of the world's landscape.   Some members brought in fossils for handling and discussion, and we summised about how these fossils came to be created.    G had brought in a thin piece of sandstone with the impressions of ancient raindrops imprinted on its suface.   The eons of time that it takes to create these objects, is so difficult to comprehend.
In the afternoon our writing group celebrated Christmas, during which we ate mince pies topped with cream, drank tea and read our stories entitled "A Christmas Card."  I was not happy with my effort, which I had dashed up early that morning, because I'd left it to the last moment.  It is not easy to write a well rounded story in under 1000 words and in only half an hour!

The Advent Christmas tree is hanging on the wall again, a handsewn woolly tree, with 24 individually embroidered fir cones, each with a different Christmas cross stitched scene.   One cone is turned over each day until Christmas Day, and the little angel, who used to sit atop the tree, seems to be lost at the moment.  A gold star now tops the tree, to shine out on Christmas Day!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Tree Planting near Rowde.


I did my bit for the English countryside on Sunday morning, and planted at least six little trees, mostly  sweet chestnut and larch.  I had a quick lesson in tree planting from one of the helpers, who showed me how to cut a T shape in the ground, ease up the soil and then push the roots into the earth and bed down the tree.  The sapling was then covered in a green sheaf to protect it from nibbling rabbits, deer and inclement weather, which in turn was supported by a wooden stake.   Two of my trees can be seen above left in the photo.  I shall keep in touch with my saplings, and hopefully visit them in the years to come and say, "ahh I planted those trees" possibly from the comfort of my wheelchair!

Here a stack of green plastic tubes await their trees, and a couple of planters can be seen between the pliles to the right.  The morning tree planting was organised by the "Canal & River Trust," the newly formed charity that has taken over the care of English rivers and canals from British Waterways.   Much of the work is done by volunteers, and this morning's planting encouraged a few families to come out with their children and plant for England.  I enjoyed the little contribultion I made.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

All Pretty for Christmas in Devizes.

Santa has arrived in Devizes, and on Friday evening he switched on the Christmas lights to a great "ahhhh ohhhhh" from the crowds who had gathered in the Market Place to welcome in the festive season.  Santa appears in his bright red coat and long white beard every year on the balcony of "The Bear Hotel." I like to stand underneath,  so that I can take some good photos of him doing his bit!  This year a radio station had positioned its loudspeakers in that very spot, and I had to take photos whilst simultaneously blocking one ear with a finger!   It was not very nice for the old eardrums I'm afraid.  Fortunately this year, I didn't get stuck underneath the snow machine.  A couple of years back, several of us became wedged under the machine  in a "wall of human flesh,"  and when we finally managed to get out, we were covered from head to toe with white stuff.  We knew then that winter had really arrived.  

This one handed photo, (the other hand was over my ear) is a little blurred, but shows the Christmas tree in all her glory.  The lights change colour every few seconds, here they are green/blue, but turn alternately to red/orange and white.

The fireworks went off with a bang and much screaming!

The lantern parade this year was bigger than ever, with hundreds of children and adults walking the half mile from the town centre to the Wharf, where they collected Santa and brought him back to the Market Place to light the lights.   These two white horses were particulary beautiful, and so well made.  Wiltshire is famous for its white horses, which are carved into the chalk hillsides outside many towns.  Devizes has a famous "Millenium White Horse," cut into Roundway Down in year 2000.   Every year white horses feature somewhere in the parade.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

From Horton Bridge to Coate, and back to Devizes beside the Canal.

I'm back after paying my monthly subscription of £1.89 (includes tax) to Google.  I must not post so many photos, which will be difficult, as I like my pretty pictures!  These two come from a walk I did a week ago.  There was a lot of sky above us that day, and we enjoyed the 4.5 mile walk back over puddly and muddy ground back to "The Silk Mercer" in Devizes for a good lunch and a pint.

Two swans accompanied us along the towpath.