Saturday, December 25, 2010

Here's a toast. A Happy Christmas to all of us.

... happy Christmas, to all of you at home!

and a Happy New Year to all guests at the cottage, past, present and future!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snow! Ah, real snow. Proper snow at last!...part two

As promised, here are some photos of Romney Marsh in the snow. This is the kind of snow that we all like - enough to make the place look pretty but not enough to impede the ability to go and have a look at it!

Much like the snow in the Doctor Who Christmas specials - not too deep, crisp and even!

Perhaps in future, once we have the Weather Control Machine as featured in "The Moonbase", and again in "The Seeds of Death", we can get it just perfect for Christmas!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow! Ah, real snow. Proper snow at last!...part one

Despite the weather we managed to get down to Lydd at the are some photos of the Tardis in the snow!

Tomorrow, I'll post some photos of Romney Marsh in snow.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"What's this pub called?" - The Star Inn, St. Mary in the Marsh

What more appropriate pub for Christmas than The Star Inn at St. Mary in the Marsh?

Built in 1476, this is a cozy pub serving local Shepherd Neame ales.

At one time Noel Coward lived in the converted stable next door and wrote his first great critically successful play, "The Vortex", there.

A drawing on the wall tells the legend of the Pot-Bellied Pig of St. Mary In The Marsh, which appears only on Christmas Eve and only to certain people (rather like Pink Elephants one assumes).

Across from the pub is the church. The spire is 15th century but the oldest parts of the present church date from 1133 and was built by the Normans on top of an old wooden Saxon church.  

Like many Marsh churches it is built on a mound to to avoid flooding but the mound was originally a Celtic burial ground, a  Ciric or Circa, raised above ground level, to keep the dead dry.

The original name of the area was Siwold's Circa - meaning the burial ground on the wooded(Wold) island(Ie) but the later christians changed the name to remove its pagan history.

Inside the church  is a plaque commemorating Edith Nesbit, author of "The Railway Children", who lived at St. Mary's Bay and is buried in the churchyard. Her grave is marked by a wooden rail mounted on two posts.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In your dreams, I'll still be there

Had a strange dream last night, I was directing an episode of Doctor Who starring the third and fifth Doctor!

It was set on Burgh Island and had a similar plot to "And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie which was set on an fictional version of Burgh Island.

The story did of course feature the Sea Devils!

Jon and Peter were charming.

Quite peculiar, really, given that Jon Pertwee died in 1996, unless there was some very clever CGI, this two doctor story would be quite impossible to make!

But then in our dreams people never die - mine often feature my late brother and parents.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This one here, for instance...plays soothing music.

I have put an extra little item of interest, for visitors, in the Apple Barn bedroom.

This typewriter has been in the family for over 60 years - my father brought it back from Germany with him after doing his national service there.

By coincidence it is almost exactly the same model used on the eleventh doctor's tardis console!

Guests are advised not to touch any of the keys - in case it makes the Apple Barn dematerialise!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Can't you sound more like a Dalek?

More Dalek fun for Christmas!

Perhaps one of the first parodies from Doctor Who was a song released the first Christmas after The Daleks was initially broadcast. The British Go-Go's best-selling Christmas novelty single makes them sound more like K9, and was originally released as one of the many products fueling Dalekmania.

and here is another fine example of Dalek mayhem at Christmas - rudolf's last stand:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I find this place delightful

Whilst visiting Dungeness make sure you look out for Derek Jarman's famous garden at Prospect Cottage. A brilliant and greatly loved artist and film maker who, against all odds, made a breathtakingly beautiful garden in the most inhospitable of places – the flat, bleak, often desolate expanse of shingle overlooked by the nuclear power station.

Derek Jarman is probably most well known for his work on pop videos and the films Jubilee and Caravaggio but he was also a stage designer, diarist and artist.

The house is built in tarred timber. The garden was created in the latter years of his life, in the shadow of Dungeness nuclear power station. It has a complex geometrical plan, magical stone circles and beautiful and bizarre sculptures. It was made using local materials and has been the subject of several books. At this time, Jarman also began painting again.

Raised wooden text on the side of the cottage is the first stanza and the last five lines of the last stanza of John Donne's poem, The Sun Rising.

BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,
        Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ?
        Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
        Late school-boys and sour prentices,
    Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
    Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus ;
    Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
    To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.

There is a moving article on The Guardian website by Howard Sooley about Derek and the garden. He also contributed photographs to Derek Jarman's last book about the creation of the garden.

Friday, December 10, 2010

what's a tree like you doing in a place like this?

We have gone for a minimalist Christmas tree for the cottage - but it does look pretty with all the lights going through different colours!

At the base of the tree, of course, is the Fourth Doctor and K9 coming out of the tardis to have a look!

Here, is a little video I found on YouTube of a dalek attacking a Christmas tree!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without one of my plum puddings

If you fancy getting in the mood for Christmas with a Doctor Who related audio or book, here are a couple of suggestions:

Chimes at Midnight written by Rob Shearman

Shearman wrote the television episode 'Dalek' for the first series of the new version of Doctor Who in 2005. Before that, however, he wrote several audio plays for Big Finish , The Holy Terror, The Chimes of Midnight and Jubilee all winning best audio drama in the Doctor Who Magazine polls of their respective years.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring...

But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight.

Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where even the victims don't stay dead. Time is running out.

And time itself might well be the killer...

This is a very atmospheric piece that starts, seemingly, as a 'whodunnit' but soon develops into a rather ghostly and creepy tale which leads the Doctor and his companion into questioning their own sanity. A perfect Christmas winter tale for the fireside!
You can purchase it here:

The Big Finish Short Trips were a collection of short story anthologies published by Big Finish beginning with the collection Short Trips: Zodiac in December 2002 and ending with the loss of their license in 2009.

During this time they published four books each December with a Christmas theme. These were:
Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury
Short Trips: The History of Christmas
Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas
Short Trips: Christmas Around the World 

 All a splendid read with a glass of mulled wine!

Sadly, because they are no longer in print they can be ridiculously expensive on Amazon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What if there’s nothing, just the motorway with the cars going round and round and round and round, never stopping, forever.

I was intending to pop down to the cottage for a meeting with the chimney sweep - best to get it sorted out before the winter really starts, I thought!

I set off on Tuesday thinking that, although snow was predicted, it did not seem as if it would amount too much.

Eight hours later, when I finally got back home, I bitterly regretted my naivety.

It was the dramatic change in the traffic situation that really caught me out. Until I hit the M25 the journey was taking no longer than usual and the snow seemed no more than a flurry.

As soon as I got onto the M25, however, it was clear that the motorway was at a standstill and that there was no way I was going to get to Lydd. If I could have turned around then all would have been fine - however, jack-knifed lorries and the sheer volume of traffic at every junction made this virtually impossible. I spent the next 6 hours crawling along the M25 until I finally managed to slip and slide my way off and on again to the M25 going back to London!

Perhaps if I had got self-replicating fuel, muscle stimulants for exercise, a chemical toilet out the back, and been able to recycle all waste products as food I could have survived indefinitely!

The morale of this, I suppose, is not to take Britain's normally mild climate for granted and also the importance of holiday insurance - if the cottage had been booked this week I doubt if visitors would have made it - even with four wheel drive!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You've redecorated in here, haven't you? Hmm. I don't like it.

Until a couple of years ago most of my time was spent in front of a computer screen, however, over the last couple of years I seem to have swapped the mouse for a brush.

This has been due to the sad vagaries of fate. My younger brother Paul lived alone in the old family home in Worthing. When he died, in 2008, my other brothers and I decided that we would renovate the house. This was partly for economic reasons and partly a wish to restore it to it's former glory - the way we remembered it from our childhood.

The recession had just hit, estate agents were pessimistic - because of the poor state of the property market in general, and the house itself.

We felt that it was being undervalued - structurally it was sound, it just needed a bit of TLC.

I had less work, and quite fancied doing something a bit more physical - in the end, a bit more physical than I had bargained for!

My brother, David, was a staunch socialist and all the decorating we were doing brought to mind The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. We joked that at least we were not being robbed of the fruits of our labour!

Happily, he saw the house finished. By the Spring of last year, it looked fantastic and we were all very proud. Sadly, he did not get to enjoy the fruits of his labour - he died before it was sold.

My last memory of David is looking up from laying the kitchen flooring to say goodbye. In his typical gesture of farewell, he raised his hand slightly and waved - looking around the freshly painted hall with seeming satisfaction.

I know that he would have liked the cottage in Lydd. My second year of decorating!

This time, however, working alone - for the most part. In Worthing, one of the aspects we enjoyed was deciding on the colour schemes - so inevitably, down in Lydd, I would imagine David's reaction to my handiwork. I tend to have mixed feelings about decorating now - the result always gives a feeling of accomplishment but the work, itself, brings bittersweet memories.

A great deal, in no small measure, of the interior design of the cottage is down to my partner, Julie. We hope that we have made it a cosy place to stay. Part of the reason we chose this particular property is because the separate Apple Barn provided the perfect place to keep all David's Doctor Who 'stuff'.

The cottage, apart from a few books, is a 'Doctor Who' free zone! so even if you are not a fan of the programme you should have a nice relaxing stay.

The key objective with the cottage was to keep it an uncluttered space - streamlined, but with plenty of personal touches to make it a home from home.
Certainly, whenever we stay there we come back feeling refreshed.

Next year, will be the third year of decorating! - our own house has not had any TLC for a number of years - and so it goes, holding back the ravages of time!
If only houses could be like the Tardis - it never seems to age or get dirty. Perhaps a sub-function of the Architectural Reconfiguration system is a self cleaning and decorating function? or perhaps when the Tardis is looking a bit worse for wear the doctor justs changes the "Desktop Theme"?

Clearly, however, regeneration effects the Doctor's interior design opinions. The Second Doctor was not impressed with the changes made by the Third Doctor:

The Second Doctor: Ah, Thank You. I was wondering where I left that. [He picks up his recorder and tries to play a tune] You haven't been trying to play this have you? [To the Third Doctor's TARDIS] Oh, I see you've been doing the TARDIS up a bit. Hmm, I don't like it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Books! The best weapons in the world!

Leonard Malcolm Saville (1901-1982) was a popular author who wrote over ninety books for children and was born in 1901 in Hastings, Sussex. He was a contemporary of Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton and is most commonly remembered for his Lone Pine adventure series.  Malcolm Saville wrote a mixture of fiction and non-fiction placing particular emphasis on real places, wildlife, mystery and family values; all these meant a great deal to him.

It was not until 1942, when Malcolm Saville was forty-one years old, with four children of his own, that he wrote his first book. "Mystery at Witchend" is an adventure story set in wartime Britain, centring round a group of spies who had set up their base in a cottage on the lonely Long Mynd in Shropshire. The spies are eventually exposed by a group of children who meet up and form a secret club at the base of a lonely pine tree on the side of the Long Mynd. And so the 'Lone Pine Club' was born, whose members were to share twenty adventures over the next thirty five years.

Being born in Hastings and living for part of his life in Winchelsea in knew the area well and set a number of the Lone Pine stories in Rye and the surrounding area.

The first of these was the "Gay Dolphin Adventure" (1945), in which the bookish Jonathan Warrender and his cousin Penny are first introduced.  

Many of these stories are out of print, but some have been reprinted and there is a copy of the sixth Lone Pine adventure, "The Elusive Grasshopper", in the cottage for visitors to read, if they wish.

This is the description of the story...

"The twins walked into a wide and spacious hall. On the table was a little bell with a ticket inviting visitors to ring for attention. Mary rang boldly. Seconds later they were facing the hated Miss Ballinger. She recognised the twins at once. As Valerie came in, a cigarette smouldering as usual between her painted lips, Miss Ballinger said: "These children remind me of twins we met once before. We'd like to help them, wouldn't we?" There was a horrid, silky menace in her voice as she spoke . . . "

Lydd also features, briefly, in the story. 

Maslcolm Saville also wrote a guidebook about Rye titled "Portrait of Rye". A perfect introduction to the Sussex town which was so familiar to the Lone Piners, it provides a fascinating insight into the magic of this old-world town and is ideal background reading to the series.  

You can find out more about the author here and here.

The Malcolm Saville Society will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the publication of "The Elusive Grasshopper" their annual gathering next year.  


Monday, November 15, 2010

Best thing about Bonfire Night, toffee apples.

Rye – ‘The Fifth’
Remember, Remember the Fifth of November
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot
There is no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.
A stick ands a stake, for George’s sake,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
If you don’t give us one, We’ll steal ‘em all.
So oller boys, oller boys, make the bells ring
Blow up the Sluice and
God Save the King!

On the second Saturday after November 5 the "Bonfire Boys" stage their annual torch-lit parade through the streets of Rye. This is followed by a "gurt 'normous bonfire" where the chosen "effigy" of the year is ceremoniously blown-up, and a spectacular firework display. 
This event typically attracts over 10,000 visitors to the town, and results in the town's roads, and the main roads to London, Hastings and Ashford, being clogged up and closed to traffic from the early evening onwards.

I was not able to get along there myself this year, but here are some photos taken by Dan Skinner in 2006 which should give you some idea of the event.

According to the Rye and District Bonfire Society bonfire started as a direct result of the activities of a group of conspirators who sought to overthrow the Protestant King James 1st and establish a Catholic monarchy on the English throne. These conspirators were led by Catsby and were almost successful in their attempt to blow up King and Parliament on November 5th 1605 with 36 barrels of gunpowder stored in the cellar of the House of Commons. One of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was caught in the act and King and Parliament were saved.
King James decreed that his lucky escape should be celebrated in perpetuity. The commonest form of celebration in those days was to light bonfires and set off fireworks. It happened for virtually any celebration and this was just one of many fire festivals held during Stuart times.

It is interesting, however, to read what the famous author of children's books, Malcolm Saville, had to say on the celebrations in his book Rye Royal. One of the teenage protaganists, Penny Warrender says “There’s nothing like the Rye Fawkes Celebrations in all England. There’s a procession and torches and bands and tableaux and fancy dress and a fantastic fireworks display on the Salts down there by the river, and then a bonfire as high as a house. And there’s the boat, Jon. That old hulk at the bottom of the fire. Of course they have to burn it there because it’s too big to be hoisted up. What a fire that’s going to be…I’ll always love Rye, Jon. Not just because it’s old but because things like this make us remember that Ryers have been doing it for hundreds and hundreds of years right here where we’re standing…No! That’s stupid because the sea came up the walls and where we’re standing now would have been covered by the waves once.”

However, the fictional bookshop owner, Mr Royal, suggests that the ceremony might have more pagan roots: “Nothing to do with poor Guy Fawkes, Jonathan. I’m sure of that. Nobody in Rye would have cared about the Gunpowder Plot and at that time the sea was right up to the walls. Either of you ever read Frazer’s Golden Bough? I’m not surprised, but if you’re interested in magic and old customs you should have a shot at it one day. Anyway, Frazer tells us that way. Way back when our distant ancestors were fire-worshippers it was customary to celebrate such rites three times a year, Spring, Midsummer and the beginning of November. So there you are. We’re all going pagan tonight and worshipping fire!"

I'll write more about Malcom Saville and his connections to the area in a future blog.

Doctor Who has had a few adventures on bonfire night - in this halloween story and in Gareth Robert's The Plotters.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"What's this pub called?" - The Red Lion, Snargate

If you love a traditional pub, you cannot visit Romney Marsh without a trip to The Red Lion in Snargate.

Nestling beneath the big blue skies of Romney Marsh it would make the perfect location for a Doctor Who story set in the 40's or 50's - for entering the Red Lion is like entering a time warp. It is a pub where time really has stood still.

You can sit and listen to the ticking of the ancient clock, and you'll soon be transported back to the 1940s. The garden to the side is wonderful to sit in on a summers day, complete with chickens and other fowl.

If you do intend to pay a visit, however, remember that the hours it opens are traditional too!

The Red Lion has been in the same family for nearly a century. Known locally as Doris's, after its legendary and long-serving landlady Doris Jemison, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday. Doris and daughter Kate keep a truly traditional English public house, complete with games such as nine men's morris, toad in the hole, dominoes and darts. The walls are decorated with a series of original World War II posters, and other memorabilia, documenting Doris's role in the women's land army.

The building itself is believed to date back to 1540, but unlike many old pubs of a similar age, the inside has not been modified and there are a series of 3 inter-connecting rooms.

Not surprisingly, the pub features in CAMRA's National Inventory of unspoilt Heritage Pubs.

There is a set of three handpumps on the bar-counter, but they have not been used for many years. All beers are served direct from casks kept stillaged behind the bar. Local beers feature prominently on the menu, with Maidstone brewer's Goachers being a favourite.

Apart from crisps and pickled eggs, there's no food, but they're happy for you to bring your own to eat in the garden.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Somewhere on the south east coast, I should imagine

Dungeness, ten minutes drive from the cottage, was used as the location for the third story of Season 8 of Doctor Who - The Claws of Axos.

It was the first story written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who stayed with the series until the end of the 1970s.

The Axons land on Earth, desperately in need of fuel. They propose to exchange the miracle substance they call Axonite for some much needed energy. Axonite is a "thinking" molecule that can replicate any substance... or so they claim. As it turns out, the ship is a single organism called Axos whose purpose is to feed itself by draining all energy through the Axonite (which is just a part of itself), including the energy of every life form on Earth. The deception about the Axonite's beneficial properties was to facilitate the distribution of Axonite across the globe.

Here is a trailer for the story:

The line “freak weather conditions” was added into the script of episode 1 to explain the shifts in weather between filming (which goes from snowy to sunny from take to take).

A number of locations in Dungeness were used for different parts of the story. Dungeness Power Station is called the Nuton Power Complex and apparently provides power for the whole of Britain!

Dungeness Beach is where we are first introduced to the tramp, Pigbin Josh.

Dungeness Road is the landing site of the Axons spacecraft and DengeMarsh Road is used for various other scenes.

The Master gives some useful, somewhat sardonic, advice on how to survive a nuclear blast:

"You could take the usual precautions...sticky tape on the windows, that sort of thing."

Well worth watching the story and then taking a trip out to Dungeness to spot the locations.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Funny church, this, isn't it? - St Dunstan, Snargate

St Dunstan's was built at the end of the twelfth century and from 1817 to 1821 the Rector of Snargate was Richard Harris Barham, best known as Thomas Ingoldsby, Esq., eponymous author of The Ingoldsby Legends.

On the north wall is a wall painting of a ship of about the year 1500.  It was discovered under a layer of whitewash.  A local tradition maintains that the painting of a ship on the north wall opposite the main door of a marsh church meant that the church was a safe place to hide smuggled goods and it was frequently used for storing contraband (Braham claimed he could find it on a dark night from the smell of tobacco).

Snargate's most surprising claim to fame in the late 19th century, is that it was home to an important artist. Harold Gilman, sometimes called the English Van Gogh, was a British Impressionist and a member of the Camden Town Group. He grew up at Snargate Rectory, where his father was Rector. 

Snargate takes its name from the "snare-gate", or sluice-gate, which was put up here to control the waterway from Appledore to Romney. The gate can still be seen between the church and "The Red Lion" pub.

I will write more about "The Red Lion", in another occasional series I will doing on the pubs of the Marsh.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Funny church, this, isn't it? - All Saints, Lydd

Just across from the cottage, off Coronation square, is the church of All Saints.

It was built in the thirteenth century when Lydd was at the height of its prosperity.

It is the longest church in Kent - at 199ft it is of cathedral sized proportions and is therefore distinguished as the "Cathedral of the Marsh".

In the north-west corner, the remains of a small fourth or fifth century Romano British or Saxon basilica has been taken into the thirteenth century church, which establishes Lydd's existence as before 740 AD and makes this the oldest masonry on the Marsh.

In the north-east chapel there is a fourteenth century tomb with the sculpted figure of a recumbent knight.

In 1940 the chancel of the church was destroyed by a direct hit from a bomb; the attack occurred at 4:07 PM on the 15th of October, which is when the church clock stopped. Additional bombing attacks in 1944 caused further damage, and painstaking repairs were made using the original bricks. Thus the masonry at Lydd spans a period of over 1500 years.

The church's impressive graveyard features the final resting places of Lt. Thomas Edgar, who was Captain Cook's companion on his round-the-world voyage, and Samuel Finn, who commanded the battery at Dungeness in the early 19th century. Many smugglers' graves can be found here as well.  

On Sunday mornings visitors to the cottage will be awaken by the Call to worship chimes from the bell tower - constructed by Thomas Stanley, a senior mason at Canterbury Cathedral, between 1442 and 1446.

You can also enjoy the bells on one evening of the week when the bellringers practice.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Could it be this pestiferous Doctor?

The Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn is the smuggler hero of a series of novels by Russell Thorndike. The first book, Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh was published in 1915. The story idea came from smuggling in the 18th century Romney Marsh, where brandy and tobacco were brought in at night by boat from France to avoid high tax. 

A tall, slender, charismatic man with a commanding presence, Dr. Syn was a man who would have succeeded in any career.  Syn was a brilliant scholar and rousing preacher as well as being one of the finest swordsmen, riders, and seamen in all of England.  Unfortunately, Christopher's promising career was cut short when he was betrayed in love and left his calling to pursue a quest for vengeance across the world.
Years later Syn would return to the little town of Dymchurch-Under-the-Wall, seeking to resume the quiet life of a country parson, but his past would not let him go.  Learning that many of his parishioners were involved in smuggling, Syn resolved to protect them from the agents of the King's Revenue.  Assuming the masked identity of the Scarecrow, Syn led the smugglers in a series of adventures.

Three film adaptations have been made of Dr. Syn's exploits - Doctor Syn (1937), Captain Clegg (1962) and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963). The 1963 version was produced by Walt Disney and starred Patrick McGoohan of Danger Man/Secret Agent and The Prisoner fame in the title role.

Here is the opening sequence from the Walt Disney series along with an excerpt from one of the episodes.

I am hoping to have all 3 film versions in the Cottage - but the Disney version is not available at the moment and is therefore rather expensive to buy second hand!

The book is in the cottage, however, and it is a good read on a dark windswept night when you can imagine the scarecrow engaging in smuggling activities against the crown!

Of course, Doctor Who had it's own tale set in these times - The Smugglers broadcast in 1966.

The tapes have been wiped but you can see the photonovel here:

While staying at the cottage why not pop along to the Ship Inn at Dymchurch, as featured in the book. It has one of the largest (if not the largest) collections of Dr Syn related memorabilia in the world.