Wednesday, 12 May 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 11th & 12th May, 2021

Now it's light when I get up I'm back into my summer routine, taking a wander around the garden whatever the weather to check what's popped up overnight. Tuesday morning was no exception and I saw that my petunias weren't far from flowering and an old hebe already had. After my Wii Fit workout, I caught up with blog comments until Jon got up. The previous evening he'd spotted something strange on Frank's face and, after some research, discovered it was a tick. Lacking the confidence to remove it ourselves he called the vet and managed to get an appointment. We were supposed to be going on a National Trust visit which I cancelled and rebooked for later in the week.

While Jon and Frank were out I ignored the rain and thinned out the crocosmia and Oriental poppies in the border replanting them elsewhere. Just as the lads returned the rain became torrential and a deafening clap of thunder had me joining them indoors. The vet had managed to remove Frank's tick, check his ridiculously thick fur for more (thankfully, not) and give him a liberal dowsing of tick deterrent. After a bowl of chicken, Jon was all but forgiven.


After our lunchtime noodles, we did a tip run, taking four of the five sacks of garden waste we'd filled last week, then spent the remainder of the afternoon in the garden. Jon built more wigwams and planted out his Greek beans, sweetcorn, courgettes and cucumbers while I potted up sempervivums and more nasturtiums. 












We'd grown a cerinthe major from a seed we collected on a walk last summer which I popped into the border before planting the geraniums Jon had managed to divide.


How fabulous is the limestone corbel we unearthed a few weeks ago? Some of Stonecroft's skirting boards are limestone, I bet this came from an old fireplace back when the house was a terrace of three farm labourer's cottages.


Whilst tea was being prepared I did a little more ancestry research and discovered another interesting relative, Jon's great-great uncle, Richard Hartshorne. Richard was born in Walsall in 1883 and was employed as a pikeman in the local coal mine. In September 1903 he married Eliza "Lizzie" Skitt, who worked as a warehouse girl in a Walsall iron foundry and they had four children. Despite mining being a reserved occupation and Richard being exempted from military service, he enlisted in the British Army in January 1915 joining the South Staffordshire Regiment. He saw two and a half years of active service and was killed in action in the trenches on the night of 21st October 2017. He is buried at the Philosophe British Cemetery in Mazingarbe, France.

Richard Hartshorne (1883 - 1917)

Am I alone in thinking that Richard wouldn't look out of place in Peaky Blinders?

Eliza "Lizzie" Hartshorne (1885 -1956) 

An extract from this war diary records Richard's death.

Night: 20/21st    Trenches: HULLOCH     9pm - 2.30am

2nd Lieut. Jukes and Webb and 15 other ranks patrolled into the enemy's front trench, but not realising their advantage, failed to make the best of it. 2nd Lieut. Lindop on patrol further south failed to find a gap, and lost Sgt Hartshorne - killed -  a good and plucky NCO., who is a loss to the battalion.

Wouldn't that make a great plot for a thriller...an excess of free time due to lockdown leads the protagonist to develop a passion for genealogy. On discovering their heroic ancestor was killed due to the ineptitude of a superior officer they decide to trace his family tree and avenge his death by hunting down and punishing his surviving family. I've obviously been reading too many crime novels!


Tea was pizza and salad and the evening was spent watching Waking The Dead although I was nodding off by 9pm. I was in bed by 10pm, tucked up with Stephen and my latest read. 


Glorious sunshine greeted me when I got up on Wednesday morning. Frank and I went for an inspection of the garden before my Wii Fit Workout. I sprayed the houseplants in the lounge and joined Jon for breakfast. There was much excitement as we'd decided that today was the day we'd go proper charity shopping - driving to a nearby town with a profusion of high street chazzas - as opposed to popping into the clearance shop in Walsall. 

Jon had received a text to confirm that the bench I'd ordered at the weekend was out for delivery so I posed for an outfit photo while we waited. Keen to wear the copal beads I'd found on Sunday's charity shop expedition I wore a 1960s Dagina Indian block printed cotton maxi dress (eBay, 2018) to pick up the yellow. I'd not worn this vintage suede jacket since End of The Road Festival in 2018 and, the smell of damp was dreadful but I figured that everyone would be wearing masks so they might not notice.

The bench was delivered bang on the estimated delivery time so off we went. We'd not been to our favourite charity shopping town since March 2020 (I'd tell you where it is but then I'd have to kill you) so didn't know what to expect. To our delight, the free car parks were virtually empty and, even though mask-wearing is only mandatory inside, just like in Walsall, almost everyone opts to wear them in the street. We've been spoilt with the supermarket-sized charity shop we normally visit and were wary of how busy shops would be but there was a strict limit on customers so it was absolutely fine. There were hand sanitising stations in each shop we visited and we didn't encounter a single non-mask wearing shopper. 

Having only my own wardrobe and the Kinky Shed to play in for over a year it's easy to forget how poor quality most modern clothes, shoes and bags are. We managed to find a few gems amongst the dross - 1970s reversible suede & leather jacket, 1980s gents leisure shirt, 1980s Nightingales crinkle cotton sundress, Adidas Originals Firebird Rose trackie top, 1980s wool felt fedora, 1960s beaded shopper, 1970s emerald green cocktail dress, 1970s cotton velvet waistcoat, 1950s London-made waistcoat and a Santelli Francesca, Italian-made straw hat with the tags attached which was sold at Anthropologie for, no doubt, a hideously over-inflated price.


Back at home, I bunged everything in the wash and we had a bowl of noodles. We changed into our gardening gear, filled the car with garden waste and deposited it at the council tip then spent the rest of the day in the garden. I edged the lawn, Jon erected the new bench (FSC certified, the eucalyptus wood is from an environmentally responsible supply). Yes, we do machine wash leather and suede!


Jon mowed the lawn. I know it's No Mow May but our garden been no-mow since September 2020. He's left plenty of clumps of grass where wildflowers grow in abundance so hopefully, we haven't upset too many creepy crawlies & pollinators, although if it gets rid of any lingering ticks we'll all be happy!


After tea; sweet potato chips, a three-cheese melt and mushy peas for me, fish, chips & mushy peas for Jon, we took a bottle of beer outside and sat on the new bench in the evening sunshine. It's The Great British Sewing Bee & rum later and tomorrow we're off on a National Trust visit, ticks permitting!

Cheers & see you soon. 

Monday, 10 May 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 9th & 10th May, 2021

A torrential downpour on Sunday morning woke me at just after 5am and half an hour later I'd abandoned trying to go back to sleep and had a wander around the garden in the drizzle instead. After emptying the bins and spritzing the seedlings I made tea, took it back to bed and read until 8am. This book's a gripping read, a British We Need To Talk About Kevin.


We had poached eggs on toast for breakfast. We couldn't concentrate on The Andrew Marr Show so, after I'd painted my nails (in Barry M's Japalpeno), we had a rummage to see what we could donate to the charity shop filling a bag with two towels, a pair of desert boots, a pack of blank computer discs, a packet of hair slides, a couple of sarongs and four books. 

The second outing in a fortnight for my Dilli Grey dress (via eBay), worn with charity shopped velvet boots & necklace and my artisan-made metallic tote bag from Jaipur, made from recycled leather.


The charity shop had just opened when we arrived and, after handing over our donations, spent about 40 minutes browsing. There was a huge queue outside the Holiday Hypermarket, after 16 weeks of travel being illegal, the restrictions are to ease from 17th May and bookings have gone into overdrive.

What did we find in the chazza? A grisly Victorian crime novel set in the Black Country (for me!) and a 1960s gents raincoat, 1980s denim jacket, vintage military shirt and snazzy dinner jacket which are all destined for the stockroom. I've been searching for some affordable & bastard massive copal tribal beads for years, I can't believe I found a set for 50p. The 1970s tiered cotton slip will be perfect under my sheer Indian cotton dresses, my vintage nylon slips can go back to the charity shop next week. As you know, Jon collects vintage watches so when I spotted this 1980s Citizen Digi-Ana I soon grabbed it. I was amazed to discover that they're rather desirable and often sell for a few hundred quid - this cost £1!


After the early morning rain, it had turned out to be pleasantly warm and sunny. We had our lunchtime noodles, got changed into our gardening gear and continued with our clearing. We filled the brown garden waste bin and four builder's sacks(which we'll take to the council tip at some point) this week. After a good raking Jon created a border using logs, leaving several piles for any visiting creature to use as a home.

Using the rocks from the old rockery I'd dismantled a few weeks ago I created a border on the pond side of the path. The bluebells usually annoy me but they've been beautiful this year. 


Tea was a Greek feast with Jon's homemade tzatziki and feta and watermelon salad. Later we watched more of Johnny Vegas's Glamping programme and a couple of episodes of Waking The Dead.

On Monday I slapped on some conditioner, did my Wii Fit workout and washed my hair. I wrapped the weekend eBay sales and had just about managed to catch up with blog comments before Jon got up. Richard arrived with the post, which included a new Maybelline lip ink for me. I've not worn red lipstick since a brief flirtation with it in the 1980s and after finding it on eBay for a third of the retail price, thought I'd give it another try. 

I love discovering new combinations with my vintage block prints. The Alpnani tunic and Third Eye wraparound are perfect together (well, they are in my eyes and that's all that matters!)

Jon whizzed round to the post office whilst I rolled up my sleeves and cracked on with the garden. The weather was ridiculous and I had to keep downing tools and running inside to shelter from the torrential rain.


In the end, I managed to pot up my Black Velvet nasturtiums, planted out last year's strawberries, moved a couple of clematises, attached a couple of cornices bought from a car boot sale donkey's years ago to the wall, scrubbed out some of my makeshift planters and filled a chimney pot. Jon made me a planter from a couple of drawers we'd rescued from a 1930s dressing table which I planted with nasturtiums which he positioned on the top of the coal house roof.


This shed is earmarked for demolition but, in the meantime, I drew up a plan to prettify the space surrounding it. The rain stopped play but hopefully, we can get stuck in later in the week.


There was nothing else for it but to have a look at the family tree and to continue cross-referencing the names on my inherited family tree with Ancestry.com. As mentioned previously, Andrew (the gardener) and Harriet Chapman, my 4 x great-grandparents, had nine children. James Robison Chapman emigrated to Australia in 1849 and my 3 x great-grandfather, Robert Chapman (b.1808), was an architect who lived in Staffordshire all his life. Robert had seven children, Sarah, Robert, John, Andrew, Lucy, Eleanor and Constance. I thought I'd look at the life of Andrew Edward Chapman (b.12th May 1856) and guess what? 29 years after his uncle's epic voyage, in 1878, at the tender age of 21, Andrew arrived in Queensland on the Aberdeen-built ship, Southesk (pictured below). I was able to access the immigration documents and discovered that he'd taken advantage of the assisted immigration programme, which was subsidised by the Australian government for those with useful occupations. His voyage, as a single man, would have cost £4 but sadly, couldn't access any information about his occupation once he arrived in Australia.


In 1885 Andrew married Margaret McKenzie, who was born in Hampshire in 1859 and had immigrated to Australia with her parents as a child. Andrew died on 24th June 1921 and Margaret less than eight weeks later and are both buried in Balmoral Cemetery. 

Queensland, C.1880


With both James and Andrew immigrating (so far), I can safely say that wanderlust is in my DNA. I'm so excited about the prospect of some overseas travel later in the year that I ordered all my holiday toiletries last week, also delivered today.


Tea was halloumi with roast veg accompanied by Bojo's press conference and a large glass of wine. Jon had a panic earlier as he thought we'd got no bread for tomorrow's National Trust trip sandwiches but he found some lurking in the freezer. The pigeons enjoyed last week's leftover chilli bread.


Oh, look...we've got a double rainbow!


I'm off to watch the final Johnny Vegas programme and more of Waking The Dead, we're on series nine now.

See you soon!

Saturday, 8 May 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 7th & 8th May, 2021

It was gloriously sunny when I got up on Friday morning so I did a load of washing and pegged it out on the line before booking next week's National Trust trip and doing my Wii Fit workout. I'd had a flurry of eBay sales overnight which I'd wrapped in readiness for the post office run. After breakfast, Jon stripped and changed the bed as the weather forecast was terrible for Saturday so it would our only chance to line-dry the bedding. 

The MyHermes driver arrived with a skirt I'd bought from eBay less than 24 hours ago and I decided to throw caution to the wind and wear it immediately. It's the second skirt I'd bought on eBay this week! I know I didn't need another vintage Indian cotton block printed midi skirt with a quilted hem but this exactly matched the waistcoat Liz bought me for Xmas and what're the chances of that happening?


The other skirt was waiting for me when I got back from Attingham. It'll be perfect for Greece...when I get there!

We'd had a bit of a disaster when we got home from our trip to Attingham on Thursday, the glass from Gilbert's headlamp fell out and cracked into a million pieces. Jon ordered a (costly) replacement and needed some specialist screws to attach it so, after he'd dropped the eBay parcels off, we had a drive up the road to B&Q, the DIY superstore. Needless to say, I couldn't resist a browse around the garden department and couldn't resist a scabious reduced to half price and a tray of alyssum for £1.15. 


Back at home, we had a bowl of noodles before changing into our gardening gear. Whilst wandering Attingham's woodland I'd spotted this pack of wildflower seeds tied to a tree. At the bottom of our lawn where our garden becomes wild and woody I decided to clear a space and sow my seeds, so I dug the ground over and scattered them, planting my new scabious in the middle. Jon made wigwams with the bamboo sticks we'd salvaged from the plants we'd dug up and we planted out the sweet peas we'd grown from seed. He used some of our stash of logs to edge the border.

A couple of days ago I was leafing through the fabulous book, Garden People (which I wrote about HERE) and spotted a Cotswold stone trough very similar to one we'd unearthed from the undergrowth years ago.

We managed to manoeuvre it onto our sack truck and drag it down to the area I'd cleared to make way for the compost bin. I filled it with compost and planted it out with alpines. 

While Jon continued repositioning logs, I planted my alyssums around the stepping stones and in the rockery that borders the path, I gave everything a thorough watering and retired to the bench for a mug of tea.

After a salad and flatbread we continued watching the wonderful Johnny Vegas: Carry On Glamping, Waking the Dead and Gardener's World, accompanied by a few rum and colas.

On Saturday the torrential rain woke us up at 5am although we soon went back to sleep. The lads generously allowed Jon to stay in bed until 6.45am & after he'd seen to them he returned with mugs of tea and we lay and read until 8.30am. I cleaned the lounge while Jon made sausage sandwiches. After stripping off my nail paint I watered the houseplants, spent a lazy couple of hours on the internet and ended up buying a garden bench, as you do!

Richard delivered a book reader Elizabeth mentioned when she'd left on my blog the other day. It sounded right up my street and I was really pleased to track down a secondhand copy for 88p.


By the time I'd had a rummage through my suitcases and swapped a few dresses in my wardrobe for a couple of others the rain was starting to ease off so we grabbed our jackets and dashed outside. Jon had a pile of junk useful things that will come in handy one day, which he spent a couple of hours sorting out and moving else. Meanwhile, I emptied the window boxes and planting the cyclamens, miniature goldcrests and ivy elsewhere in the garden. I planted the window boxes with geraniums and planted the rest in terracotta pots. 



We'd just about managed to finish our tasks before the rain returned so we scuttled back inside for a posh coffee and a couple of biscuits.

Thanks so much to everyone for your suggestions and thoughts on my Australian branch of the family. Amanda managed to find James' probate notice and told me that his son was a politician. An internet search led me to find his photo and to confirm this. James Chapman was born in Melbourne in 1855 and in 1922 was elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council as an independent member for Hobart. He died in office in 1925. On his Ancestry.com page, someone had uploaded a photo of his headstone also inscribed with the words And Loved Son, Norman Morris Chapman, master mariner and airman, born 28th November 1899, killed in air accident Queensland, 3rd October 1934.

Norman working on his Gipsy Moth, 1931 (SOURCE)

It turns out that my fourth cousin was one of the pioneer pilots of Australian aviation! 

Norman began his working life at sea at the age of 14 as a cadet officer working his way up to becoming a ship's officer in passenger and cargo vessels on the Australian coast and on overseas missions.  In 1925 he took up flying, leaving his seagoing career to fly a single-engine aeroplane purchased by his older brother Geoffrey. In 1926 the plane crashed near Victoria, killing Geoffrey but leaving Norman only slightly injured. After the tragedy, Norman returned to the sea but due to the Depression, desk officer's jobs were in short supply so, with the help of his father-in-law, purchased a De Havilland Gipsy Moth (see photo above) and became well-known for his joy-riding missions between Tasmania and Victoria.

Norman, in the foreground, 1933 (SOURCE)

In the early 1930s, he joined Matthews Aviation and was one of the pilots responsible for pioneering the Bass Strait air service between Australia and Tasmania. Flying his own aircraft, he achieved the distinction of landing on ice at the edge of the Great Lake in Tasmania. It is also believed he achieved the first landing on Tasmania's rugged West Coast. In May 1934 he joined Qantas, at that time still a domestic airline. Based in Queensland, his duties included carrying mail and passengers between the company’s ports in western Queensland, and supporting the Aerial Medical Service (later renamed the Flying Doctor Service).

How amazing is this photo?

Norman in 1933 by George Matthews (SOURCE)

On 3 October 1934 the Qantas DH-50 aircraft Atalanta he was piloting crashed near Winton in Queensland while en route from Longreach on an early morning flight killing Norman and his two passengers instantly. He left a widow, Ella, and two young sons, Geoffrey and James.


It's pizza and salad for tea. Later we'll be drinking rum and watching the TV & anticipating tomorrow morning's charity shop rummage.


Cheers and see you soon!


PS Thanks for the hilarious eCard, Catmac. xxx