Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Poor Parched Park


Thanks for calling in.

If you are a regular popper-in, you might be wondering what has been happening at the Park recently. Truth be told, it has been too hot of an afternoon to go and see.  

I made it there last week at last to find the Student Open on inside the Arts Centre.

Maris Roles Sew-a-Road above

Linda Jones stained glass

Lots of inspiring items to see from this year's students.  Outside the grounds look so dry with hardly any plants flowering.

The grass seems to have revealed previous garden layouts.

The lone swan and Egyptian geese are still doing well and there were plenty of people fishing round the lake.


Monday, 13 August 2018



Thanks for popping in.

If you go down to the shops today, you're sure of a big Safari surprise!  Bracknell has been taken over by Lego animals until 14th August to entertain all the schoolchildren now on their summer holidays.  They certainly amused me!

Here's Zelma the adult zebra which took 6 adults 268 hours to make.  What a great job to have.  Bright Bricks is the Company that produces the models for all sorts of different events.

There were plenty of barriers around the animals with Do Not Climb signs!

Gorman the silverback gorilla took 4 people 480 hours to make.

All over the town, people were enjoying the fun.

Earl Grey the elephant took 6 people 1,600 hours.

Even in Princess Square, the animals were lurking, these next to the woodland posters which looked rather good and somewhat camouflaged.

Waldo the warthog took 4 people 89 hours.

Smaller models were hidden within the shops as part of a safari hunt for prizes and free craft workshops had also been arranged for the children.  Fantastic fun from Bracknell Forest Council.

I wonder how many bricks they used for each model.


Friday, 10 August 2018

Another Chair


Thanks for popping in.

A few posts ago I showed you some crazy colourful crochet squares.  I've used it to jolly up an old bedroom chair.  Soon there will be no chairs in our house that aren't covered in some sort of crochet!

I got the idea from this post by Shesewsrainbows which even gives a layout plan with all the crochet instructions.  I used Stylecraft Special DK from my stash and thoroughly enjoyed choosing the colour placement combinations.  After a while I also made up the pattern to fit the chair - it's so easy to do as all the squares are either made from 12, 10, 8, 6, 4 or 2 rounds of close-fitting double crochet which can be fitted together like a jigsaw.  I found it easier to sew the squares together as I went along using the yarn end used to crochet the squares.

The burst of colour has given that corner of the room a boost.


Thursday, 9 August 2018



Thanks for popping in.

I've been to another talk, all about whodunnits!  Did you know the word whodunnit was coined in 1936 in the Variety Magazine when a writer was running out of space for his article!

Whodunnirs crop up in allsorts of forms from books to theatre and film to games and puzzles.

In the Lyceum Theatre in London in 1888, US Actor Richard Mansfield starred in a shocking, very darkly lit, quiet, eerie adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's book Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, thought to be the first whodunnit in the theatre.  Interestingly, they began their play with Mr Hyde first.  Women fainted during the performance and, even when going home, the audience was thoroughly spooked by the play eyeing people suspiciously.  The set used uplighters and downlighters for the first time, alongside grotesque make-up. Nothing had been seen like it before.

The biggest whodunnit of all time was Jack the Ripper also in 1888 which was thought to be influenced by the Jekyll and Hyde play so the show was cancelled.  There were 5 or 6 suspects for the Ripper murders, at one of the murders a beautiful shawl was lying there, covered in blood.  One of the policemen thought he would take it home for his wife, who was a dressmaker.  However, unsurprisingly, she didn't want to use it and it was parcelled up, put away and eventually passed down from one person to another until, recently, it appeared for sale at an auction.  The buyer went to each of the descendants of the suspects for a sample of their DNA, checked the DNA database, set up in 1993, and Aaron Kosminski, a barber,  was identified as the Ripper but errors were made in the analysis so it wouldn't have stood up in court.

Of the whodunnit games, the best known is Cluedo.  Anthony E. Pratt invented Murder, a game he used to take into the air raid shelters during WW2 which proved popular down there so he approached toy company Waddingtons who took up the idea.  They changed the name to Cluedo and filed for patent in 1944,  officially launching the game in 1949. Pratt received £5,000 in 1952 for the overseas rights to selling the game abroad thereby missing out financially when it was really popular.  The lead piping in the game used to be made of lead and many people became ill.

There are many, many crime writers.  Books started to become exciting when Enid Blyton (1897-1968), who also wrote under the name Mary Pollack, started writing children's books.  She was a Pianist and Teacher, her first book was written in 1922 - Child Whispers but by 1942, her books were full of adventure like Five on Treasure Island.  In 2008 she was voted best loved author, beating Jane Austen, Shakespeare and J.K. Rowling.

Other early notable adventure books were Nancy Drew 1930 in the US, The Hardy Boys, Biggles in 1932 and Dick Barton on the radio during 1946-51.

The Three Apples, written in Arabic, is the earliest known crime story told by Sheherezade in the Arabian nights.

The earliest crime novel was written by Steen Bilcher, a Dane.  Mark Twain later found himself in court when he used his novel and just changed the names.

Edgar Allen Poe was the first to write detective books as we know them today which gave clues to work out whodunnit, like his book written in 1841 The Murder in the Rue Morgue.

Arthur Conan Doyle led a fantastic life.  He was born in 1859 in Edinburgh to an alcoholic father.  Luckily, at the age of 9,  wealthy relations took him away to be educated privately. He studied medicine, became a ship's surgeon travelling to the Arctic Circle, then a ship's doctor travelling to Africa, which he didn't enjoy as much.  After he qualified he went to Dorset with a partner from medical school but broke up and headed to Portsmouth where he wrote Sherlock Holmes.  He went to the Boer war, believed in the occult and fairies and the King loved his books so much he knighted him to keep him writing.  A Study in Scarlet was his first book in 1886.  He originally wanted to call his famous characters Sheridan Hope and Ormond Staker.

Meanwhile, historically, prisoners were being fingerprinted in 1896 and the records were put in a database by 1901.

Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers were writing in the 1940s.

Anthony Horowitz, born 1955, decided early that he would become a crime writer. At 13 his Mum bought him a skull to inspire him.  In 2011 he wrote a new Sherlock Holmes novel to follow on from those written by Conan Doyle.  He writes the Alex rider novels as well as for many TV shows.  He's written 21 episodes of the TV series Foyle - despite a few complaints of anachronisms like the name Samantha wasn't invented until 1952 and there are too many railings, which would have been melted down during the War, it is very well liked.  His wife produced it.  He's also written 11 episodes of Poirot and 6 episodes of Midsomer Murders although Caroline Graham wrote the original books and planned them all out before starting to write,

Ann Cleeves wrote Vera and plots it as she goes along.  She also writes Shetland.

Private and intense Rodney David Wingfield hated writing books, he much preferred writing radio plays.  Jack Frost first appeared as a radio play in 1977 but he had to continue his advenures in book form.  He was so private that he even put a photo of Kenneth Williams on the dust cover instead of his own photo.  Whilst he liked David Jason as an actor, he wasn't his idea of what Frost looked like.

Peter James writes about crime in Brighton.  He goes on the night shift with the police so his stories are authentic. His mother Cornelia was glovemaker to the Queen and now his sister carries this on. He owns the rights to Biggles.

The most talked about crime story on TV was Broadchurch written by Chris Chibnall who has written the new Dr Who series due out shortly.

Notes from the talk

What a lot of whodunnits!


Wednesday, 8 August 2018



Thanks for popping in.

Here's a couple of books for you!

Instances of the Number 3 by Salley Vickers was a good read particularly following the Author's talk at the Library recently.

Published by Harper Collins, here's the blurb from their website: 

Bridget Hansome and Frances Slater have only one thing in common. And that's Peter Hansome, who has died suddenly. Without their husband or lover, the women find that before they can rebuild their lives they must look to themselves and unravel mysteries that they had never before even suspected. So begins an unlikely alliance between wife and mistress and a voyage of discovery that is as comic as it is profound.

There's romance, apparitions, psychology, mystery. 

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks

Typical Jeeves and Wooster shenanigans but written by a different Author.


Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Chilworth Gunpowder Mills


Thanks for popping in.

Following on from my previous post, we've polished off the snacks and are heading downhill to Chilworth.  It's fairly steep but not too bad.  We passed a pillbox on the North Downs Way where it joins the Downs Link path into the village, more information here.

Also spotted was this rather exuberant fungi. Would it be a chicken of the woods?  I'm not sure.

Eventually winding along the path, you reach the site of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills which have been there since 1626.  Imagine that.  Nowadays the Trail takes you through the Middle Works, operational between 1626 and 1920.  The Upper and Lower Works are now on private land but you can appreciate just what a sizeable operation this was in its day.

In 1909 there were 300 male and 6 female workers there that came from nearby villages.  Each morning they would be checked to see if they were carrying anything that might cause a spark and they had to hang their pipes in a tree til the end of the day.  They wore brimless hats to stop the gunpowder going in their hair so there wouldn't be any explosions at home when they sat by the fire!

The whole area was man-made including the intricate waterways but now the wildlife has taken over, there are bats and drive too.  Picnic tables have been provided for visitors.  Some of the buildings are still there like the Steam Incorporating Mills.  You can see the gear room and blast proof walls.  There's a really informative leaflet that just brings the place to life.

Traditional black gunpowder was made there with modern explosives like cordite made towards the end of the work's operation.  Gunpowder is made from 75% saltpetre, 15% charcoal and 10% sulphur.  It was mixed in the Incorporating Mill, moisture removed in the Press House, granulated in the Corning House, dried in the Stove and then packed into barrels and shipped off down the River Wey Navigations to the Thames or to Portsmouth.  It was used for military and sporting purposes and blasting in mines.  At the Prismatic Press House the powder was pressed into hexagonal prisms for use in large guns.

Worn milestones were placed on their side as protection from accidental blasts.

You can just make out a wharf below where punts would load or unload materials.

Chilworth itself is a relatively modern village with an old pub, the Percy's Arms, Childbirth Manor plus another church, not many old houses as building was not considered safe near the Gunpowder Mills.

That visit fired up the imagination!  Hope you enjoyed it.

22,000 steps


Monday, 6 August 2018

St Martha's Hill


Thanks for calling in.

It's always interesting to explore somewhere new and this week we thought we'd visit Chilworth, a small village in the Surrey Hills, not far from Guildford.  As the trains only go once every two hours, we had a mad rush to get to the station with Mr CK having to run halfway there to catch me up as he was watering the tomatoes.  It was a tad annoying that the train had been cancelled.  A new plan had to be hatched.  We decided to get the train to Guildford half an hour later and walk the rest of the way.

We've often walked along the towpath of the River Wey Navigations in Guildford. It's so beautiful.

This time though we crossed the bridge to pick up the North Downs Way through Shalford Water Meadows, resplendent in all its wildness .

This long distance footpath is well signposted and easy to follow.  It is 156 miles long running from Farnham to Canterbury in Kent and the stretch we used also incorporated the Pilgrims Way, an ancient track running between Winchester to Canterbury.  We could just imagine all the people through the years making this historic pilgrimage.

Fortunately, for such a hot day, we were mainly in the shade of  the 200 acre Chantry Wood with glorious views over the farmland on the left.  Apparently the Wood is awash with bluebells in the Spring.  How fantastic!

Coming out of the Wood, the path heads up St Martha's Hill.  Although we'd been heading uphill since we left Guildford, the gradient increased at this point and we were glad when St Martha's Church appeared, as we knew we were at the top!  Apparently it's the 18th highest hill in the county.

The church is only accessible by foot and is the only one actually on the Pilgrims Way.  There used to be a 12th Century church there until it fell into ruins but the present one dates from 1850.

The walk up is definitely worth it as you can see for miles over the woods and countryside in eight different counties.

The inside of the church is quite plain and small but it incorporates what was left of the previous church, which was badly wrecked by a gunpowder explosion, in a sympathetic way.  In old documents, St Martha's Hill is often written as Martyrs Hill and could refer to martyrs that met their death on the hill.  There are only three churches called St Martha's in the country.

At Christmas time, the church is lit up and can be seen for miles around.  How wonderful is that!

If you'd like more information on the church, here's the website.

Time for a picnic is a shady spot before going back down the hill.

Chicken and sweetcorn sandwiches and an M&S chocolate bircher! Yum!

I'll let you know more about the gunpowder next time.