SUMMER 2014 NEWSLETTER EXTRACTS
'The Fateful Year- England 1914' by Mark Bostridge
With so much being printed about the outbreak of war, it is gratifying to find that Mark Bostridge gives as much space to the first seven months of 1914 as the final five months of that year.
Although Britain was at peace with Europe until 4th August 1914, she was not at peace with herself and Bostridge reminds us in some detail of the problems at home in this period. The Suffragettes' campaign provided headlines as great as the opposition to the Government's attempt to provide Home Rule for Ireland and the risk of civil war in that island. Industrial unrest was endemic and in the midst of these problems the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey sought solace in fly-fishing near his Hampshire retreat, the Prime Minister wrote his daily thoughts to his muse (and probable mistress) Venetia Stanley and the poet Edward Thomas recounted the stopping of his train at Adlestrop.
This is a very well written and illustrated account of how in England, rather than Britain aircraft development as well as literary successes were placing us firmly ahead of other industrialised nations, but ends with the initial period of the Great War.
I thoroughly recommend you obtain a copy not just for your enjoyment, but for future reference.
THE MARVELLOUS MOLECULE; DNA.
I realise that the words Desoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA for short) are a total 'switch off' to many people but a little time spent delving into DNA will really enlighten your world!
I well remember as a sixth former at Dorchester in 1963 struggling to work out how Darwin's evolution, Mendel's inheritance studies with peas, the details of cell division and the replication of chromosomes all fitted together. Fortunately in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick, researchers at Cambridge University, had worked out the structure and basic function of DNA, the famous 'double helix' using X-ray data from Rosalind Franklin.
Equally fortunately our Biology teacher, Mr 'Prickles' Hawthorne, was a relatively recent Biology graduate who had, of course, learnt about the newly elucidated double helix. Naturally at the time we pupils did not recognise his youthfulness (all teachers were old!) nor was the currency of what he so enthusiastically able to teach us. As time passed the elegance of DNA and the realisation that a relatively simple mechanism could explain and integrate all the puzzles I had struggled with, left me with a pleasure that still remains.
Naturally, our Forum Newsletter is not the vehicle for a primer in Molecular Biology, but I will try and offer you a few nuggets of information that might elicit some interest in future editions!
Nowt’s Same Terday
Ah wor off dahn to t’ships when it occurred ter me
Things wer farther off then they used ter be
The Corner o’t street, its twice as far
An it used ter be flat but its uphill nah.
A’ve gi’en ower runnin when a’ve a bus to cop
They set off faster these days an’ leave me at stop.
An’ goin’ upstairs, theve med steps that steep
Nah ah lig on t’settee fer me afternoon sleep.
When ah reed t’newspapers, it fair mak’s me squint
Nah ‘at the’re using a lot smaller print.
An’ folk all speak that quiet terday
Ah c’n ‘ardly ‘ear wot they’ve got to say.
Ah’m lucky, ah’ve t’same figure ah’ve allus ‘ed
Tho’ most o’ mi friends ‘ev a middle aged spread
But they mek cloathes that skimpy ah’ve ter get t’next size
Especially round t’waist, an t’’ps an t’thighs.
Summers get shorter an’ winters get cowder
An folks at my age all seem a lot owder
Wen wi’ meet i’ t’street they can’t think o’ mi name
Ah reckon the’s onny me at still stays the same.
This is the poem which Dennis Dyson included in his talk and with which most of us can identify some of our own failings!
An elderly couple had dinner at another couple’s house and after eating the wives went into the kitchen.
The two gentlemen were talking and one said, ’Last night we went to a new restaurant and the food was really good. I would recommend it highly.’ The other man said, ’What was the name of the restaurant?’
The first man thought and thought and finally said, ’What is the name of that flower you give someone you love? You know the one that is red and has thorns?’
‘Do you mean a rose?’
‘Yes that’s the one, ’replied the man. He turned towards the kitchen and shouted, ’Rose, what’s the name of that restaurant we went to last night?’
Exeter Street Quiz
Streets roads etc taken from the address list for members
1. Ponderous oak
2. Golfers beware
3. Bovine meadow crossing
4. Capital thoroughfare
5. Golfers aim with a garden implement
6. Heavy horses here
7. Cavalry patrol
8. Last resting place for one of Robin Hood’s men
9. Maybe rival football goes on here
10. Hope and Glory kept in here
11. Could be terracotta or plastic
12. Good pickings here in Autumn
13. Ronnie’s place
14. The goat may get you here
15. Watered down honey drink
16. Welsh Saint’s rise
17. Does a president live here?
18. Donovan’s 1968 hit
19. Famous cotton company
20. Oxford College
21. End of cricket ground
Ordeal by Fire
Some fires are worrying at the time but just an amusing incident to look back on; others are shocking and the stuff of nightmares. I offer you one of each.
On the first occasion in a dry summer I had accumulated a very large pile of dead branches at the bottom of our Isle of Wight garden - in my bonfire area - and it seemed a good idea at the time to get rid of most of these. No problem in setting it alight, and the fire seemed well confined, some distance from the fence and a large leafy tree, the proud possession of my neighbour. Unfortunately the fire didn’t see it that way, and as it took hold it leapt the gap, increasing rapidly in volume and ferocity. Some containing action was clearly necessary, and I was thankful that my hose was just up the garden. However to my horror the hose proved to be seriously and stubbornly twisted round the reel and reluctant to be unravelled. At this point another of my neighbours, seeing the flames and fearing the worst, took it on himself to phone the Fire Brigade. Assuming I was still in charge, I eventually succeeded in freeing the hose, and was able to start battle with the flames, which were leaping up both the fence and the tree in an alarming manner. After a while I was relieved to see that I was winning. But to my surprise I then heard the unmistakeable nee-nah of a fire engine, followed closely by the heavy tread of several firemen in full outfit with massive fire hose approaching at speed down the garden path. My efforts to limit the embarrassment by explaining that it was now under control were swept aside by men with a duty to perform, who proceeded to drench the remaining flames and the whole area around with hundreds of gallons of water, to the amusement of my neighbours who by then were enjoying a free side-show.I didn’t speak to any of them at the time (too red-faced), but the owner of the once proud tree was really good about it afterwards, remarking only ‘ autumn seems to have come early this year!’ Bless him!
The second episode was rather more sinister. Returning home to Lapford by car one evening in rapidly fading light I experienced the coughing and spluttering of an unwell engine. A small lay-by just before Bury Bends seemed the only sensible choice – I clearly wasn’t going to make it much further. Once having died the engine wouldn’t restart, and there was nothing amiss under the bonnet as far as I could see. Something persuaded me to look underneath the car, and there I saw to my surprise a flame which appeared to be coming from a point under the passenger seat. My first thought was to fan out the flame, - but with what? Then my car fire extinguisher came to mind. To locate it in the boot was difficult. To read the instructions in fading light even more so, but eventually it came to life, and produced a small jet of liquid, which disappointingly had no effect on the flame whatsoever (partly my fault for not getting close enough, but then I was not keen on crawling any further under the car in the circumstances). – and which petered out all too quickly. Noting that during this time the flame had clearly moved towards the rear of the car (and therefore in the direction of the fuel tank), I decided to grab anything I could i.e. my brief case, move away quickly, and summon the Fire Brigade. Fortunately a Good Samaritan stopped, and took me the mile and a half to my home. It took no more that five to ten minutes to phone for help, and return to the site with Zena in her car to see what had happened. Well before reaching the spot we could see a wall of flames up. The petrol tank had clearly exploded and the car was a raging inferno. There is little more to say, except that the fire officer who called at our home after extinguishing the blaze to get further details was able to take a rather more detached view of what had happened. Spotting a curry meal in preparation he commented ‘you won’t be wanting that too hot tonight then!’ My subsequent efforts at my local garage to establish the cause met with the disturbingly vague response ‘ could be the catalytic converter; that sometimes happens’. I hope never again to me. Keith Worters
'NORTH TAWTON SCHOOL 1864-2014-AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY' BY ALAN PARKINSON
This recently published illustrated history is the sixth community or school history book which I have written and had published since 2006. The first four were hard-back books written or commissioned before I retired from my post at a London university at the end of 2010. The other two community history publications are smaller in scale and are in paperback form .The first was an oral history project which looked at the recollections of North Tawton residents and evacuee 'incomers' to the town during World War Two. My most recent project is this illustrated history of North Tawton School, which dates back some 150 years.
School history is an increasingly popular branch of social history and in focusing on the evolution of one of the most important institutions of a small West Devon market town like North Tawton, one can provide a more thorough understanding of that wider community's development over several generations. For an historian, there are a number of vital documents requiring consultation during the research of a school's history. The key ones are school registers, log-books, the minutes of School Managers'[Governors'] meetings, inspection reports, parish records, newspaper reports,old photos and pupils' reports, not to mention the oral testimony of former staff and pupils. Apart from revealing an accurate account of school life over a long period, such sources encourage the reader to empathise with the pupils and teachers who walked the corridors of a familiar school building over 100 years before. For instance,whilst researching the school's history at the new Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter, I discovered fascinating correspondence between the school's head master James Pierce and his managers dating back to December 1883. This related to the reprimanding of a school monitor for failing to do sufficient preparation and failing to explain the meaning of the words 'pagan' and 'mohammedanism' to pupils. This and the monitor's 'brusque, impudent manner' resulted in the young man being ordered off the premises and his subsequent resignation. Teachers and pupils can also provide humorous insights into school life in the past. One former teacher, who had spent his early teaching career in east London, was somewhat surprised to discover the 'different ways' of pupils when he moved to his new school in North Tawton during the 1960s. Asking children to bring in 'specimens' to share with their classmates, he was more than a little surprised when one boy opened up a sack to reveal the head of a fox! Alan Parkinson's book is priced at £5-if you would like a copy contact him on 01837880497 or on email@example.com He hopes to give a talk on this book to Forum members later this year.