fascinating people


Yesterday morning I had a nice lie in and didn’t get up until just after 6am.

I sat in the garden with my coffee for a while before I decided it was too lovely a morning to waste and I should head out with my camera. Now usually I would head to the Common or a lake or something like that, but I fancied a bit of a change and as it was Good Friday, I thought an empty town centre would make a nice change so I headed to nearby Camberley.

I parked the car just off a main road and walked around the corner and saw this little dog tied to a bicycle outside a newsagents and then, in a service area usually confined to parking for Smart cars shrink-wrapped with the McChina Wok Away logo, I spotted an old London Routemaster bus.

So I had to go and investigate. There was a man in a hat  standing next to it.

“Hello,” I said, “I like your bus.”


The owner was a guy called Chris, who lives in Worthing and works in Camberley and he was waiting for his mate so he could park his Lambretta in the back of his bus (as you do) and head off for a car rally.

I took his photo and Tweeted it to our live blog team so they could put it up on our website.

Chris has owned buses before but this one is special. The chassis number is RM1955. The number 955 is significant to him because it was his father’s Air Force number. The first time Chris saw the bus, his father had just died. So he bought the bus.

I chatted to him until his friend turned up and then went to take a photo of the war memorial.


I took close ups of the names too for our First World War project at work.

I did have a walk along the river on the way home.

This morning I headed off in a different direction to do a bit of research for a feature I am planning to write. I went to the neighbouring village of Hartley Wintney to follow a trail through the village and beyond.


It’s a pretty little place and I found parts of it I had never seen before.

I had no idea, for example, that the village had planted a Millennium Orchard.


The board lists all the different variety of trees. There must be about 40 different varieties of apple, a dozen or so nut trees, various berries – I thought it was a lovely idea.


I also added another war memorial to my collection. I shall collate all the names from it at a later date.

I was standing by the pond on the village green, wondering whether I have the time to start a village green project, when an elderly man came up and started talking about the young Egyptian ducklings. Good grief, could he talk :)

Within five minutes I knew he had moved to the village from neighbouring Odiham as a teenager and, apart from eight years living in London, had spent the rest of his life in the village (he’s nearly 81). He’d like to move back to Odiham but his daughter wouldn’t be able to visit him there, so he’s now stuck in Hartley Wintney till he dies. And that, apparently, is the fault of the Conservative government and inflation (both of these are also responsible for the fact there are now only two pubs in the village instead of seven). He’s not a big fan of the Conservative Party, in fact, he would go as far as to say the only good Tory is a dead Tory. He’s also very pleased David Cameron got stung by a jellyfish because he probably deserved it.

It was a very entertaining chat (albeit a little one-sided).

When I finally extracted myself from our deep and meaningful conversation, I decided I deserved a coffee and grabbed one from a little artisan bakery with tables outside.

I was sitting there enjoying the sunshine when an elderly lady and an equally elderly dog stopped by the table. She looked a little flustered.

I smiled at her.

“Now I am in a muddle,” she said.

“Why, what’s the matter?” I replied.

“Well I want some bread,” she said, “But I can’t take Rosie in there.”

“Would you like me to look after your dog?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “And my shopping.”

And that’s how I ended up with an old lady’s shopping and a random dog sitting outside a cafe in Hartley Wintney.


I have to say the dog was very cute though :)


I’ve been away for a while. Well, technically not away, just busy.

Very, very busy. Lots going on. 

Didn’t even get to see Man for five whole weeks. Longest time not seeing him in the almost four years I’ve known him.

Finally this weekend I got to go to Nottingham for the weekend :) woo hoo.

And how better to celebrate than a road trip? We chose to go to Southwell to see the Minster and then went on to Newark to see the parish church there and visit the market (and have a late lunch).

Then yesterday we took the bus into the city centre, went and saw some tentacle porn at the Nottingham Contemporary (yes really) and sat eating bread, olives and humus watching some friendly neighbourhood drunks cause chaos.

But rather than tell you about the places we visited, I thought I might tell you about some of the people we met over the weekend … because, quite frankly, they were as mad as a box of frogs :)

In Southwell I decided that I really ought to get the prescription I had been carrying around in my handbag for a while (a couple of weeks to be honest) so we popped into the pharmacy and found …

461b… the comedy chemists assistants :)

They were having a chaotic day. The barcodes weren’t working for them, the chemist had locked herself in a room and the orders were stacking up and they couldn’t find anything. And they laughed and joked their way through the chaos and certainly made me smile. They spotted the camera around my neck and decided I was paparazzi.

Tomorrow I’m going to email this photo to them from my work account, which signs me off as group deputy editor – then they really will think I’m paparazzi :)

We stopped a little further down the street for a drink in this pub.

462bThe Saracen’s Head.

There was an older guy behind the bar, in his 60s I would guess. Extremely well spoken.

The conversation went like this.

Me: I’d like a lemonade please.

Man: Lemonade’s off.

Me: Um ok, I’ll have an apple juice.

Man (perfectly straight face): That’s off too. We only have water.

Me: Great, well I’ll stick with the lemonade then and a pint of bitter please.

Man (giving me the lemonade and attempting to pour a pint): Oh great, the bar manager hasn’t put those little thingies on the end. That gets right on my tits. I’ll have another go. Oh bollocks. That’s not going to work. I’ll have to go and find him, the bastard.

Man goes off and returns with a younger guy who decides the barrel is empty and says he will go and change it and bring the pint outside.

Man (giving Man the dregs in the glass): Here, you might as well have this bit for free. That will be £23.72.

Without a word I handed him a ten pound note. Without a word he gave me £4.50 change. 

It was possibly the most bizarre service I have ever received in a pub.

On to Newark and we were wandering around the market square when we heard a busker and went to listen. Turns out we’d seen him before. We ran into him a couple of years ago in Lincoln.

Here he is, he’s quite distinctive and he was wearing the same hat.

483bBusking in Newark, September 2013.

buskerBusker in Lincoln, October 2011.

He’s a nice guy and a really good busker and it was great to see him again.

Yesterday we got the bus into town. It’s actually cheaper than parking the car. We had a mooch about, went to see the Aquatopia exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary which included tentacle porn – Katsushika Hokusai’s Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife from 1853, which is basically a woman being pleasured by an octopus or two. It’s actually quite brilliant, as are many other of the exhibits (although some are just weird).

We caught the bus back home and for the second time this weekend, someone wanted me to take their photo.

565bIt was the bus driver.

This is him striking a pose. I’m not sure what pose it is, but it is definitely a pose and it made me smile.

See, mad as a box of frogs… we do have a habit of attracting them :)





625bAt the church of St Mary the Virgin in Morpeth, Northumberland, there is a grave I wanted to see so on day 2 of our sojourn there, Man and I trundled up the church path to find it.

The day of our visit was about three weeks after the 100th anniversary of the death of the grave’s incumbent and the evidence of the memorials left to her were still on the grave.

Emily Wilding Davison was a suffragette and a militant one at that. She was arrested a number of times, force fed on numerous occasions and once physically attacked a man she believed to be David Lloyd George – he wasn’t.

She took the Suffragettes’ motto ‘Deeds not Words’ to the limit and, acting on her own initiative, was not averse to the odd spot of violence or arson if it got the message across.

On the night of the 1911 census, she hid herself in a cupboard in St Mary’s Undercroft at the Palace of Westminster so she could legitimately give her address for the census as the Houses of Parliament.

She was a woman with a cause.

But she is most famous for the way in which she died.

622bOn June 4 1913 she threw herself in front of Anmer, King George V’s horse, at the Derby at Epsom. She was trampled by the horse and died of her injuries four days later. Some believe she was trying to commit suicide, others that she was trying to pin a suffragette banner on the bridle of the horse so when Anmer crossed the line he would be flying the colours.

Either way, she died for a cause she believed passionately in and, whether you agree with her methods or not, she had a hand in gaining women’s suffrage in Britain.

I don’t believe in Women’s Rights per say. I believe everyone has rights and everyone should be treated fairly and with equal respect and, because of this, the suffragettes were among my first heroes when I was a kid.

620bEmily’s funeral was held in London and her body then carried by train to her family home in Morpeth where she is buried in the family grave.

619bWhen we visited, the grave, as I said, still had tributes to her from the centenary anniversary. There were ribbons of purple, silver and green and cartoons and facsimiles of suffragette literature.

619bWe met a sweet old lady on the way in to the churchyard. She was obviously an ardent fan. She told us how packed the church had been for the memorial service and how she’d had to stand outside while the service was relayed on an amplifier to the gathered throng outside.

“Even the vicar conducting the service was a woman,” she announced proudly before turning to Man and proclaiming “It was a bad day for your lot”.

That made me laugh.

For me women’s rights, gay rights, religious rights, whatever rights are never about the them and us, it’s always just about equality and unity. Others feel differently, I know.

There was a fading card stuck to the side of Emily Wilding Davison’s grave. It said simply “Emily, thank you.”







In August last year I wrote a post called In Memory of Adam about the fundraising efforts of the daughter of a friend of mine in memory of her childhood sweetheart and husband of just nine months who was killed serving in Afghanistan.

Amy was, and still is, raising money for her charity Adam’s Hoofing Hut. The money raised through a wide variety of fundraising activities is to finance a beach hut in Mudeford, Dorset, for soldiers and their families to use. It was a place very special to Adam’s family and to Amy; Adam proposed to her in one of these beach huts.

Well last week, she picked up the keys to Adam’s Hut. In a very short space of time she and her friends and family have raised the money needed to buy the hut. An incredible achievement.

But the fundraising doesn’t stop here.

They plan to build a purpose-built hut on the site they have bought and so the work continues.

Last night a local pub staged Party in the Car Park and hundreds of people turned out to enjoy some live music and raise more cash.

090bThe event was held last year too. The musicians play on a truck loaned by a local haulage firm. The pub closes off its car park so the event can take over and they have a great line-up of musicians.

114bThis is Dani B on stage, a local up and coming artist.

107bJohn James Newman is another local guy. He featured on the tv series The Voice last year but got knocked out in the knock out rounds. The guy on the right is David Julien. He made it on to the live finals of The Voice 2012. Both are great singers and they supported Party in the Car Park last year as well.

070bJohn James had a special guest on stage last night … his dad.

What was lovely about last night is the way people have come together to support Amy and her and Adam’s families in their bid to provide a lasting memorial to Marine Adam Brown. It is a cause very dear to their hearts and has been adopted by our little community in a way I haven’t seen for years.

Amy is an amazing young woman and I believe that Adam would be as proud of her and the work she has done as she so obviously is of him.






We met an amazing lady yesterday at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire. This is Mistress Sue, guide, re-enactor, Tudor musician and all round interesting lady.

The weatherman tried to con us at the weekend by saying the weather was going to be lovely on Saturday but soggy on Sunday. He lied.

So once we had had breakfast and realised  it was going to be another lovely day, we decided to look for a castle from my Fifty before Fifty list (I’ve got to get up a gear, there are only two and a half years to go).

We chose Tutbury, just over the border into Staffordshire and, I’m ashamed to say, not somewhere I had ever heard of.


But this castle has a long and riotous history. There have been settlements here since the Stone Age but the first recording of a castle here was in 1071. It was one of the ‘ new builds’ given to friends of the Norman invasion to keep down subversives.

It’s mostly ruinous now but you can still climb :)

005bAnd when you do you get views like this. This is the river Dove, meandering it’s way across the countryside. You can still see the channel cut through the fields so the river fed the castle moat.

025bGraffiti up the stairwell of the tower. I actually find graffiti quite interesting. There’s a bit of social history here. The earliest ones I could find at quick glance were from the 1830s.

Now Tutbury belonged to the de Ferrers family and is now owned by the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here no less than four times. In fact it was at Tutbury that she became involved in the plot that was eventually to lead to her execution.

This castle was once a seat of power in medieval England. John of Gaunt lived here and it has been attacked and rebuilt many times.


But if you want to know more about it, head inside where Sue, sitting quietly in the Great Hall can give you quite a shock when you get to the top of the stairs :).

Dressed as a 14th century housekeeper, she will wax lyrical about the history of this enigmatic place. She told us about the history and the artifacts, which included an executioner’s sword that she allowed us to hold, and this amazing Venetian doctor’s plague mask (straight out of Assassin’s Creed).

017bShe told us tales of ghosts, which include a soldier on the ramparts, a white lady in the window and, of course, Mary Queen of Scots.

Sue takes part in re-enactments with her husband Dan. They also visit schools to educate youngsters about history and are in a group of period musicians with songs and stories of medieval life. Her husband plays a wide range of medieval pipes, bagpipes and recorders. She played us some of the music. It was beautifully haunting.

Her group is called Merrie Din and you can find out more about them at their website here.

027bTutbury is a fascinating place and a variety of events are held there throughout the year – ghostly goings on a specialty. And, if you do ever visit, make sure you have a chat with Sue, a lovely, fascinating lady with a wealth of knowledge. She also gave us a list of not to be missed places to visit in Northumberland, where we are planning a longer road trip :).

It’s nearing the end of my week off, yesterday was a beautiful spring day and so Man and I drew up a pretty ambitious list of eight Churches Conservation Trust Churches to go and look at. I’ll tell you about those in due course.

We headed for remote areas of Lincolnshire and successfully ticked off four of the eight churches when things started going pear-shaped.

We arrived in the next village we were looking for from an odd direction.

Come on, it looks as though it is still a working church doesn't it?

Come on, it looks as though it is still a working church doesn’t it?

There is a lovely church in the middle of the village. I say “It can’t be that one, it still looks in use,” and we drive down a road that was just  a little lane, believing it to head towards a chapel we could see about a mile before we arrived at the village.

We were wrong. Okay, okay I was wrong :)

We drove for about half a mile down this lane as it got less and less road like and became a dirt track (seriously, I was throwing up dust clouds behind me). Eventually, maybe after about half a mile or so we came to a junction.

We could see a farm in the distance ahead of us and one to our left. I wanted to go straight ahead but then we noticed a woman in front of the farm to our left waving at us. We headed towards her instead.

When we got there, I lowered the window and was about to ask if she knew the location of the church when this little old lady dissolved into floods of tears.

I stopped the car and we tried to ascertain what was wrong. She was pretty incoherent and it took a while but we worked out her name was Rosemary and she used to live on the farm. She said she had got a lift from home to the village and walked the half mile to the farm and her husband was meant to be coming to pick her up and he hadn’t turned up and she didn’t know what to do.

She said she had come out to the farm to feed the pigs. Well, having a quick scout around, there were certainly animals there but no people. There was an extremely old and run down pre-fab building that Rosemary said was an office and a place to make a cup of tea when they were there working.

She had expected the door to be open, she said, but it wasn’t. There was a dilapidated old caravan covered in moss and lichen that obviously wasn’t in use, but there was new light machinery in some of the sheds and a lorry that looked like it was in working order. There were just no people and Rosemary was still confused and crying.

We asked her if there was anyone we could call for her and she said she wasn’t very good at phone numbers. She started pulling bits of paper out of her handbag and one had a mobile phone number on the back of it. I tried to call it but there was no answer.

Rosemary sat in the drivers seat of my car and we tried to get some more information out of her.

She said she was waiting for her husband who was coming to pick her up. He was working somewhere in the fields, she said … at least she thought he was. To be honest by this stage, I wasn’t convinced poor Rosemary had a husband.

Maybe we should take her home. I offered but Rosemary said she lived a long way away near Lincoln and she wasn’t quite sure of the address. I tried to call the mobile number on her piece of paper again – still no answer.

By this time poor Rosemary had been crying on and off for about half an hour, she was getting more and more confused, we appeared to be on an abandoned farm in the middle of nowhere and no one had arrived, driven past, even been seen on the horizon so we decided to call the police.

We called the non-emergency number and told the guy what had happened and that we weren’t at all sure what to do with this confused old lady we had stumbled across.

He said he’d send an officer out immediately. We told Rosemary that a policeman was on his way to help her and she got more upset. Kept saying that she was a stupid old woman and she’d ‘get a pasting’ when she got home.

Then she said she had to get something from the dilapidated pre-fab. I helped her walk over there (and suddenly wondered how she’d managed to walk to the farm as she was so unsteady on her feet).

The pre-fab that she had said was locked was, in fact, open and in she went. She refused to let me go in with her saying the dog would escape … and there was a lot of barking inside.

I sort of hovered by the front door not quite sure what to do and just as I was beginning to get worried, Rosemary reappeared again.

She went and sat back in my car. She told us she had lived on the farm for 17 years before moving to Lincoln and said again she had got a lift and walked to the village because the animals needed feeding. She said her husband was 60 (Rosemary appeared much older than that) and was working in the fields. He would be back to pick her up but she wasn’t sure whether that was meant to be at 5.30pm or 7.30pm or maybe not at all (it was about 4.30pm). She kept saying she was a stupid old woman and everyone would be cross with her and then bursting into tears again. And that she had expected to find someone at the farm when she had arrived.

About 20 minutes after I had called the police we saw a car in the distance and a four by four drove towards us. A man, bit older than me I suppose, looked at us with a ‘who on earth are you’ look.

It was Rosemary’s son. Two minutes later the policeman appeared too.

It turns out Rosemary doesn’t live in Lincoln, she lives in the old pre-fab on the farm. Her husband wasn’t working on the farm, he had gone to Lincoln, and he wasn’t coming to pick her up and take her home, she was already home. Her son had just driven out to check on her.

He decided to check on her because this wasn’t the first time Rosemary had decided to go on a little adventure: in fact the last time she had made it all the way to the village at 10.30pm, quite an achievement along a dirt track that’s not lit in the middle of nowhere with deep ditches either side of it.

I’m just glad we didn’t stuff Rosemary in the car and drive off with her as we had thought about doing. You can imagine the scenario, son would have turned up, reported her missing, we would have to explain how two strangers ended up on a remote private road, kidnapped a random old lady and driven her to a town miles and miles away.

Poor Rosemary. It wasn’t the fact that she had dementia that worried me, it was the fact she was so upset. My grandmother had dementia but was perfectly happy about it.  She was always smiling and thought it was funny when she couldn’t remember anything or got things mixed up.  Rosemary was just very confused and upset.

I suppose if we hadn’t have chanced upon her, in that hour she could have wandered off, fallen in one of those roadside ditches or hurt herself some other way.

Oh, and the church we sailed past with me saying it was still in use turned out to be the one we were looking for after all :)

Walking through Greenwich on Sunday morning we were stopped by this guy.

Would we mind waiting, he said, just for a few minute while a film crew filmed the next scene.

Of course we wouldn’t, in fact we’d like to watch.

So we leaned on some railings and tried to figure out what was going on.

They were filming a film called Thursday Morning and had been on location there for about a fortnight.

This guy was a production assistant – which was a bit of a shame really cos I quite fancied meeting a key grip, a dolly grip or a best boy, nice enigmatic terms from film credits.

The film appears to have been written by, directed by and stars someone called Anthony Eggert and (a relative?) Johnene Eggert. Hmmm.

We saw a bus with a crushed bike underneath it, a car in an accident and a stunt man being hauled upwards and backwards on ropes by two blokes. All very technical.

Now some people didn’t like being stopped while they were going about their Sunday morning business. Others, like Man and I and a friendly, neighbourhood leaf blower, thought it all highly entertaining.

During a break in the filming, when people were allowed to walk through again, he fired up his leafblower to get on with his work.

Within ten seconds Mr Production Assistant had a call on his radio yelling for him to ‘turn the damn thing off!’ :)

But Londoners are resourceful and he wasn’t to be outdone.

He disappeared behind the fence, returned with Plan B and merrily carried on with his job.

He was the friendliest leaf sweeper in London and he made me smile.

A little further on our travels and we came across another flamboyant Londoner and I couldn’t resist having my photo taken with him – for a charitable fee, of course. He was collecting money for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.

This is me and my new friend The Pearly King. His taxi was amazing.

We sampled Spanish doughnuts in the market (well, I did any way) and they appeared to be bits of bread, soaked in sweet milk and fried and then covered in sugar. Hugely calorific but absolutely delicious.

And this guy was standing on a street corner giving people free hot chocolate, and not just any old hot chocolate, this was thick, gooey, indulgent, sweet, amazingly gorgeous hot chocolate. Lovely.

And these people are some of the reasons I like exploring new places and chatting to new people.

You can always find someone who is going to either teach you something or put a huge smile on your face.

Especially in a city like London.