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Author Topic: Cars, Trains, Guns and things  (Read 4003 times)

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Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #49 on: January 28, 2018, 09:26:16 »
Well thank you kind sir, but there is no chance of me writing a book, I found this hard enough.

There may be another instalment of all those things that I forgot to mention, but I have yet to remember them :)


Well put Sir. I also have the problem that many of those I should include are still very much alive and there could be trouble for some. Not legal but social trouble along the lines of the Navy Toast 'To our Wives and Girlfriends, may they never meet....'.

Sentinel S4.

A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline JohnWalker

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #48 on: January 27, 2018, 18:08:57 »
Thank you Filmer01.  I've thoroughly enjoyed your writings much of which I can identify with.

JW

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #47 on: January 27, 2018, 13:51:02 »
Well thank you kind sir, but there is no chance of me writing a book, I found this hard enough.

There may be another instalment of all those things that I forgot to mention, but I have yet to remember them :)
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Offline lordraglan

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #46 on: January 26, 2018, 23:25:37 »
Filmer01, Your style of writing is beautiful - Keep doing this and seriously consider writing a book about your adventures - I would buy it.

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #45 on: January 19, 2018, 17:45:11 »
Other Things

Music

I have a vague memory of an early music lesson (aged 6ish) where we had a large sheet of symbols on the wall in the Hall of the Camp School in Rainham, and the appropriate drum, cymbal, triangle or other noise making thing to bang or shake were meant to be hit at the moment indicated. I always got the triangle, but really, really, wanted the drum. I have great sympathy for Baldrick in the opening credits of Blackadder 4.

My mother was a competent pianist and there was always a piano in the house, only superseded by an electronic organ when she moved back to Rainham to a small bungalow. Although I never learned to play I knew the keys.

At Barrow Grove school I learnt to play the recorder, and although I only ever played the descant recorder, once we had progressed other pupils were playing ones with lower registers. My first introduction to playing in harmony. I learnt to read music – crudely, but I could get by.

I joined the Church Choir at Newington, and although not a particularly strong voice, I could sing quite well. I went to a couple of RSCM (Royal School of Church Music) day courses in Canterbury, then on a week long residential course at their then headquarters at Addington Palace in Croydon. This took place during the first week of January 1963, so leisure activities consisted mainly of digging our way out to the road and snowball fights.

I went to another in the summer, that I remember best for a group of us sight-reading (singing something without any practice) the Hallelujah Chorus, just for fun.

Weddings were a useful source of income. Half a crown a time, sometimes twice some Saturdays, was very welcome boost to my pocket money.

Fashions in church matters in the 60s were best demonstrated by the binding of the couples hands in the wedding service (as in Princess Margaret's service) and, of course, the dropping of the "obey" promise. At Christmas the service of carols and lessons from Kings College was on the radio, then TV and copied everywhere. Inevitably this meant the unaccompanied singing of the first verse of  "Once in Royal David's City" by a single voice, from the back of the church before the whole choir began singing, now with the organ, as they walked in procession slowly up the aisle to their places.

Lance did the solos, but on the day he had flu. I get really nervous and self conscious, so not me then. However there was nobody else that I could con into doing it, so after a rather faltering start it was, as they say, alright on the night.

I occasionally played the recorder both as part of the choir, and soloist.

Because our choir was regularly involved in courses we were invited to send two choristers to the RSCM Festival. This was held at St Paul's Cathedral, and as I was now Head Chorister, I went with Lance, my Second. It was very inspiring, and not a little daunting, but with nearly 300 voices it was impressive, especially the echo! I still have my Order of Service and all the music.

Shortly afterwards my voice began to break and my choristers career as a treble was over.

When I first joined the choir, the organ was located in the South Chapel, which meant that the organist could see the choir through a mirror and even then only through some tracery, very unsatisfactory. Shortly after that the organ was rebuilt, and this time the console was sited remotely between the pews and the choir. Much better as the organist could then see directly what was happening in the chancel and could conduct the choir better. I made a scale model of this part of the organ that did well in both the school model competition and one in Rainham.

While the organ was in bits across the pews we all tried blowing the large wooden bass pipes and generally being a nuisance. I cannot recall the company of organ builders, but they must have been asked to remove the Sheerness Dockyard Church organ, and the choir went to "help" by carrying pipes out to the van. To us it was just a day out with sandwiches and lemonade.

I kept in touch with the organist and choirmaster as he was the builder of the steam locos, and who was teaching me basic metalwork to maintain his and then start to build my own. After a dispute with the then Vicar, he had resigned from Newington and was now organist at St Bartholomew's at Herne Bay. The catch was there was no proper organ.

An old tracker action (purely mechanical) organ was dismantled and removed from Hollingbourne church by professional organ builders, we were simply the labourers. Although the bellows had long ago been fed from an electric blower, the wooden hand pump lever was still in situ and could be used. On the panelling next to it was a carefully carved image of a WW2 fighter.

The organ was taken to Herne Bay and its rebuilding was started into the organ loft above the chancel of this 20th Century church. The plan was to rebuild it as an electro-mechanical instrument. Every Saturday I picked Graham up in my Morris Minor and we went and spent the day working on the organ. Some pieces he could work on at home such as building pneumatic servos to operate the stops (ranks of pipes, each with a different sound). Some old wooden parts had paper gaskets between them with copperplate handwriting on it, recycling is not new!

There was now a basic organ that could be used. I was merrily sitting on top of the thing inserting pipes, wearing a boiler suit, hat, scarf and gloves because of the dust, when I glanced down the church. People! In response to my question as why they were there, Graham replied that there was a wedding at 3pm, but that was ages yet. No, his watch had stopped, it was five to three, so I took a bow off the top of the organ, and positioned myself next to the instrument. What we had not refitted were the servos for the stops, so I became them for the day. With an agreed code, I worked the few available stops (sliding boards that opened up that rank of pipes to air from the bellows if the key was pressed) while Graham played. It all seemed to go alright, he got paid, and I got a work out.

Tuning the beast was boring but very satisfying at the same time. The older pipes were tuned by expanding (belling out) their mouths to effectively shorten them, or closing them to make them longer. With soft lead alloy pipes this is relatively easy but also easy to crack the lead. Later pipes have sliding end pieces, much simpler. As the pipes had been moved, stored in the church, then moved up into the organ loft, atmospherics meant many were out of tune when first assembled. The first rank had been tuned from a single pipe, that was itself tuned to a tuning fork. Once that rank was stable it became easier. When two identical notes are not quite correctly tuned there will be beats (pulses of sound as the two frequencies clash), and tuning by ear is to remove these beats. Very time consuming.

I left him to it when I went off to University, I have not been back, I really must.

I continued singing in the school choir, some major works were attempted, but by far the most enjoyable (on many levels) were the Gilbert & Sullivan operas that we did with the nearby Girls school. The great attraction was that all the rehearsals and performances were at the Girls school. Rehearsals started in the autumn term, then soloists were chosen who did even more rehearsal. By mid way through the spring term we could sing it all, from memory. By Easter we were on stage and starting to get the theatrical bits sorted. Once exams were passed in the summer much time was spent just getting it right, again and again.

The sets were designed and painted by the girls art classes. A couple of all day run throughs during the summer holidays, then at the start of the autumn term it was performed. The costumes were hired, we did a full dress rehearsal. after a few minor checks, then performed to a paying audience for three or four nights. I did four productions. The Mikado (chorus), Ruddigore (Old Adam), Iolanthe (Lord Mount Ararat) and Pirates of Penzance (Sergeant of Police). The last one meant me missing a couple of days of the University Freshers Week to come back and perform.

I have not sung in public since.

Music is still important, but I listen when the fancy takes me, to what I fancy listening to at the time. This could be Bach Toccata and Fugue in d minor on an organ, or the Sky version. Glenn Miller, some serious opera or Rock Music and any and everything in between.

Odds and Sods (various memories)

Going to our neighbours to watch a flickering little TV set with a magnifying glass device over the screen, and having to draw the heavy curtains at my Grandparent's house so we could watch Bill and Ben. 

The joy when walking back home from school and realising that there was a TV aerial on the chimney of OUR house – 1957?

My Grandfather telling me about Trojan cars with solid tyres getting stuck in the tram lines – mind you he told me about quite a few things that Mr Google leads me to disbelieve!

Pre school age, sitting on the back doorstep with my mother sharing a pomegranate – as the daughter of a greengrocer she had eaten them as a special treat.

Waiting for "Listen with Mother" to come on the radio, with its distinctive "pinky-pong, pinky-pong" theme.

Watching the moon landing with my grandfather who was born 19years before the Wright Brothers hopped along in a biplane, and not expecting anything like that sort of advance in my lifetime, what else would we do?

The two most popular shows in the Students Union TV room (circa1970) – The Magic Roundabout, and Star Trek, the latter to various (mostly amusing) comments, especially to the line "lock onto his co-ordinates".

Working on my Morris Minor one sunny day and hearing the roar of aero engines, looked up to see many Spitfires and Hurricanes as the filming of The Battle of Britain went on overhead. Followed by going indoors to tell my mother, when the noise started again, "they're back" I cried, and a very solemn mother replied, "those aren't ours". A quick dash outside, and no they were not.

Later living near Headcorn we saw many historic aircraft, I think that we must have been under some flight path that they used. We were also treated to the annual visit by a WW2 fighter to display over the old Headcorn airfield (Egerton Forstal) in their tribute to the fallen. They would sometimes turn over us to return for another pass – that spine tingling engine noise...

I was frequently mocked for running out into the garden because of some aero engine noise, especially if I thought it was a Merlin. I rushed out because there was more than one and was rewarded by my only glimpse of a flying Mosquito, possibly my favourite aeroplane.

We went to Duxford as a family, I had my 35mm camera, and used a whole 36exposures, hoping to relive the visit with my sons once the pictures were developed. I had spent the whole day snapping away and the film had never engaged, not a single picture. I do love digital!

Watching the Lancaster from the Battle of Britain flight heave itself around at very (to me) low level over the field behind our house as it turned for another run at Headcorn was impressive, even to my eldest son who is not really a plane person.

I am not good at heights (or boats for that matter) but gladly followed as a chase vehicle while my wife and her friend went up in a small hot air balloon from Headcorn, following them over past Staplehurst, and watching in awe of his control while the pilot kept it just a few feet off the ground while they got the farmer's permission to land.

This was not a commercial flight, the two brothers (both very practical farmers) who owned the balloon were well known to Sally's friend and they liked to have three or four people with them as ballast. A few weeks later and late on a Saturday Sally had a phone call, did she want to go up again tomorrow? And would I go as well, as the friend was otherwise busy. With some bravado I said yes, then spent a sleepless night regretting it. 6am at Headcorn and we took off in the misty dawn. Very impressive and enjoyable, and home for a late breakfast. Our pilot had heavily annotated maps (where to avoid because of angry farmers, livestock and temporary hazards such as cranes, spring to mind) a GPS to confirm his position, radio to the chase car with trailer, and another to the aerodrome.

We often saw the larger balloons, some even landed in the field behind us, but I was never tempted again.
Illegitimus nil carborundum

Offline Mike S

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #44 on: December 29, 2017, 23:00:47 »
I can remember when I lived in Rochester 1956 -1961 seeing the Night Ferry passing through at approximately 7 am when I was doing my paper round. BB or WC piloted by an L1. Just loved to see this with the Wagon Lits Coaches. It was just so different to the normal Electric Suburban Units or the Steam  hauled Express trains.

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #43 on: December 29, 2017, 22:43:50 »
The Night Ferry certainly had the Wagon Lit cars, also a big head board as well. I think the Arrow left Victoria at 10am for Dover, hence my question. If you saw the train in the morning it was probably the Night Ferry, almost always hauled by a Bullied in later years (even when the `Britannias' were on the Arrow). The Merchant Navy class did not often need a pilot (extra loco at the front) but they normally put an L or L1 on the front of a West Country/Battle of Britain class.

Very much enjoying your writing, and stopping on a down grade with slippery rail is certainly a black art. I am a regular Driver on a very private line (a little bigger than the 31/2" but not by a huge amount) and have got used to stopping with only the tender brakes. One of our locos has a six wheel tender the other a bogie tender. However a third loco that visits has a steam brake and oh the luxury of that. I believe that next season we should have the steam brake working on one of ours and the vacuum brake on the other. I know well the gut churning feeling when the brakes bite and the wheels pick up and slide....... We have a turntable and pit at the end of the line, ground level...... 'nuff said... For the last runs this year we were visited by a society and we managed to get the steam brake working for the day, makes one hell of a difference.

S4.
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #42 on: December 29, 2017, 17:43:44 »
S4, I have had no contact with Bantam Cock's builder for over 40years. When I last knew him he was building a 5inch GWR 0-6-0 saddle tank to the Speedy design. I never saw it finished. There was a brake on the front bogie of the passenger truck, which had the driver's weight over it, but precious little effect! Stopping distances at Mote Park coming down the bank with a couple of loaded carriages, were a black art. Because of my age I only drove on quiet days, but on busy days there were many others leaving oil and water all over the track, just where you needed to stop.

I think that the Golden Arrow must have used the north line for a while, although possibly not daily, it was certainly kitted out with the insignia, and being on a high embankment only 150feet away, clearly visible. Unfortunately I cannot remember exactly when this was, but I would think early 1960s. Were there any major trackworks on the SER line then, there certainly had been on "our" line, that might have needed a reroute?

On the other hand the ageing brain may be confusing the occasional appearance of the Golden Arrow with the regular Night Ferry. Would that be hauling blue(?) "Wagon Lit" coaches?

Peterchall pedantic? Heaven forbid - merely a seeker of truth and accuracy  :)
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Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #41 on: December 27, 2017, 21:22:06 »
Very interesting Filmer01. What happened to Bantam Cock? Looks like it was a good loco, good fun stopping small stuff sans brakes, try it on the 9 inch gauge with a four cylinder King (almost my favourite) or a four cylinder Lord Nelson (my favourite) five cars on a down grade with only a tender hand brake... You soon learn loco handling and stopping distances. Would that have been the Night Ferry rather than the Arrow on the Up first thing? The Arrow was mainly routed via the former SER main through Ashford, whilst the Night Ferry was almost always routed over the former LCDR main, often the Bullied would be piloted by either an L or L1 4-4-0 (very occasionally a D1 or an E1 if Dover were short).

Damn, I'm becoming Peterchall! Sorry for being a bit pedantic, I have thoroughly enjoyed your writing so far.

Regards, S4.
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #40 on: December 27, 2017, 17:56:59 »
Conan, we felled our only pear tree for the same reason. However the huge cherry plum tree that importantly had my tree house in it (actually not a house, just a platform) produced a couple of hundredweight every other year. Squashed fruit under the tree attracted wasps for miles around. I still cannot face a cherry plum, we had them every way a 1950s cook could think of, and some.
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Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #39 on: December 27, 2017, 17:50:57 »
filmer01. It strikes me that whatever you did for a living was wasted when you could have been a horticulturist. Talk about GREEN fingers; 100 cu's from one plant, etc., etc. A lot of people would have given their eye teeth for that sort of success.

But what I didn't say was how many times they all died! But seriously, we lived opposite a garden centre and these were the plants (in pots, never had any success with seed) that we picked up from the display. I found a photo of a whiteboard that I kept score on the next year (I had forgotten that) - only 98!

After that it all went downhill, very fast.
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Offline conan

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #38 on: December 26, 2017, 19:58:03 »
Ahh, that took me back to my childhood. My parents also had a large garden and small orchard and I can remember harvesting the apples, pears and plums in the autumn, the apples being individually wrapped in newspaper and stored in wooden crates, the plums were bottled in Kilner Jars and the pears (only one tree) were eaten, given away or made into wine as they wouldn't keep. Lord, I hated picking pears, they were full of drunken wasps :)
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Offline Dave Smith

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #37 on: December 26, 2017, 18:00:21 »
filmer01. It strikes me that whatever you did for a living was wasted when you could have been a horticulturist. Talk about GREEN fingers; 100 cu's from one plant, etc., etc. A lot of people would have given their eye teeth for that sort of success.

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #36 on: December 26, 2017, 14:18:28 »
The Good Life

I grew up in a family that grew fruit and veg in the garden, and without a freezer (or even a fridge until the 60s) it was eaten seasonally or stored in the shed, bottled, pickled or made into jam. The smell of apples sat in trays in the shed roof is still with me today. It did mingle with the slightly "off" smell from the  silver paper, milk bottle tops and pie dishes, among other things that had been collected for the Guide Dogs for the Blind, that my mother did with the Townswomen's Guild (think WI but less Jerusalem).

I helped in the garden, partially out of interest, but once Dad was ill it became a necessity, certainly after he died. Therefore by my late teens, I had a reasonable idea about how to do things, and the techniques used.

Once I was away at University my mother soldiered on but after my Grandfather died (it was his house that the family lived in) she moved to a small bungalow back in Rainham. This had a small garden that she could easily manage.

I ended up, aged 22, living in a rented house in Culverstone, near Meopham. This I sublet to a variety of interesting characters over the next five years. One of these characters made the mistake of "hiding" his tall, green plants in the field. Unfortunately in summer 1976 the field died back to brown, leaving his well-tended, 6ft high plants very obvious. Good evening Officer.

Eventually we had a stable group, and we decided to grow some veg, and also kept a dozen chickens in one of the three Nissan huts in our large field.

Another of the huts was used as a temporary stable for a young horse that belonged to a local barmaid and girlfriend of a local (Pete) with whom we were good friends. It had a name, but because it was of Irish origin Pete would talk to it in a (bad) fake Irish accent and kept calling it Seamus. In a fairly short time the horse became known only as Seamus.

I got roped into helping get hay off the fields and into their barn, borrowing a dropside Transit from work. No problem until the next time when I was shown how to use a pitchfork to load bales onto a trailer. Lets just say that it is harder than it looks until you get the knack of it. I developed hay fever which has returned every year since.

When I bought my first house it had a small, terraced garden in which my dog reigned supreme, so nothing fancy grew. However, my girlfriend had bought a horse and this was kept as cheaply as possible in various locations around Snodland, then later on some ground just down the road with the other young horse she had now acquired.

Once we were living in the same house, the question of where to live next was starting to be asked. I had gone from needing a lodger to help pay the bills when I first bought the house, to seeing my wages rise as responsibility at work increased. She had worked in a pub to fund the animals (there was also her dog, and two cats...) but she also had an increasingly responsible job for SEGAS and for a brief period we were comfortable, even putting the horses into a livery.

After a few false starts we eventually found a small semi-detached cottage with an acre and a bit of grass and a few outbuildings. We cursed all those people who had bought these small houses, then extended the house out of our price range. What did we do ten years later? Oops.

The underlying soil was clay, such that when we first dug one border it was with a pickaxe. However over the years the application of well rotted manure, in industrial quantities, changed that completely.

Pete came down and gave us a hand. He had abandoned being an electrician and pump engineer and was now a self-employed gardening contractor. We cleared the field of brambles (with a chain saw!), ran a cultivator over the veg patch, and shifted some bulky feed bins in the back of his Standard Atlas pick up (remember them?). Then he emigrated to Australia to join the rest of his family.

We grew our own again.

Then parenthood. Our son was allergic to cows milk, and in 1981 alternatives did not fill the supermarket shelves. Sally's answer was typical, she brought home a goat. Unfortunately its name was the same as my business partner's wife-oh well, life goes on. Mandy was an Anglo-Nubian goat, a browser. Hedges are seen by most animals as a barrier, not to her – Lunch!

In order for goats (and cows) to produce milk they regularly need to have offspring to feed. Taking the goat to the billy was something that I never did, but I have driven with two goats in the back of a van, and they look out the back window like any other animal, the following vehicle's driver's expressions were "interesting".

Although I muttered about the effect that The Good Life as a TV programme had had on my wife in her formative years, we were able to do a more sensible version. More raised beds for vegetables, a fruit garden, a few chickens and more goats. We were able, and occasionally did, put a meal on the table that was completely ours, with wine (we don't talk about the parsnip...) except for the flour used to thicken the gravy.

Billy goat kids were never pets. What's that one's name? Was answered by "Freezer", and that's where they went, via an abattoir, as soon as they had horns and started to smell like a billy. We reckoned that they had a good life, well looked after, well fed and outside playing every day. They make a wonderful curry. The nanny kids were either reared on to replace or increase our herd, or sometimes sold on, but not to anyone we did not know.

Careful cross breeding had got Sally a herd of 12 milking nannies, all hand milked, and she was producing various milk products, soft cheese and yoghurt which we sold to my work colleagues and at the gate.

Sally was approached by a local farmer who was breeding a flock of expensive sheep. He had a couple of rejected lambs. These need colostrum which is in the early milk produced when the lamb, or goat is only up to a few days old. There was some available from one of her nannies, and we fed these little lambs until they were able to graze. Goat milk freezes well so it was straightforward to keep any excess early milk for future use. The farmer also happened to be butcher, so when happy, well fed lambs were given back to him ready to increase his flock, we were paid in meat, usually beef as we had pork.

What a good idea it was to keep a couple of pigs, I was told, get piglets, fatten them for a few weeks then off to the butcher and pork chops arrive. Now my idea of a piglet was about a foot to 18 inches long, how big could that get in 3 months? However... When they arrived they were already the size that I thought they would be at the end.

Anyway they hoovered up the surplus milk, and the ullage from the local pub, and the swill from the school kitchen and anything else put in their way.

They then had to be persuaded to board one of the company Astra vans. Getting one in is tricky, two nigh on impossible, but they went in eventually. They were taken to a local butcher where a swift and humane end was assured. The meat was excellent.

We did this a couple more times, asking for help to load them usually got refused the second time as the locals got wise. One piglet escaped when still small and a neighbour, not in the first flush of youth, lent a hand. I was at work, but by all accounts (and there were many witnesses) he got hold of a hind leg thinking that was that, until he was pulled, at some speed, through the adjacent brambles. To his credit he did not let go and the piglet was recaptured.

During this time the goats were often to be seen being walked up the road to other fields, just take the lead goat, and the others follow. There was even a registered herd name.

However, rules change and this semi-commercial milk production became impossible under new hygiene regulations. A while later the butcher stopped slaughtering as he found the new rules less humane in his environment.

Our last goat was kept as a pet, and when it died was buried (without full military honours) in the field. It needed a big hole!

We still kept growing our own.

During all this we had chickens, which, everytime I was left in charge, would be prey to the fox. So on one occasion when my wife was away I agreed to take a friends older hens as he wanted commercial production which is only from young birds, we were not so pressured. I went and picked them up (in a firm's Astra van, again) and was amused to watch in the mirror as they leaned into bends as I drove. So instead of there being fewer chickens there were twenty more.

Once we had got back to a sensible number of hens, we had a cockerel. He grew quite large, and was a splendid example who looked like many of those on a pub sign. He was called Rambo. Now what you should never do was get between Rambo and his ladies, or he would attack you. This is not to be taken lightly as he had large, sharp spurs and beak. Going to feed the chickens armed with a large plastic shovel was a wise precaution.

One evening we had forgotten to shut the birds away and after a commotion we found a couple of hens dead, and Rambo lying on his side, very still. While I was racing about with a powerful torch and shotgun, Rambo suddenly shook himself, jumped up and was back on guard. Cue "I say, I say, I say boy" impressions. Closer examination showed his spurs covered in blood, not his, he had attacked the fox. He was never quite the same after that, and with "Son of Rambo" who was smaller and more user-friendly the pair protected their flock for some time.

We eventually got some ducks instead of replacing the hens. These we could let wander the garden, being less destructive (no digging or dustbaths) yet still producing eggs.

Visitors were often startled by the other garden occupants, free range Guinea Pigs. They were surprisingly effective mowers, and their speed across the lawns was quite amazing. If you didn't expect them they usually made you jump, and immediately think rat! They also grew quite large, maybe almost twice as big as the average, caged, pig.

We concentrated more on growing higher value crops, and those that only taste as good a few minutes after picking. A greenhouse helped, and in it we grew the usual array of tomatoes and cucumbers, but also very early and very late peas. I started to count the cucumbers, growing over 90 from one plant, and over a hundred the next year. All visitors were given their obligatory cucumber, or two...

About six butternut squash seeds germinated, were potted on then put into the veg patch. The triffids then took over and shortly everyone had a squash to go with their cucumber. I took both to the local pub when visiting (regularly of course, got to keep up with local events) and they even raffled one as it was an "interesting" shape. A few more pounds in the charity box.

We continued in this way for a few more years, then moved, downsizing pending my retirement. Our new house came with a strip of land, long neglected, that has now sprouted a garage, many raised beds and fruit trees, some trained onto horizontal wires.

After we moved, Sally's ageing horse spent a couple of years stabled at her sister's then when they retired, he was moved to a field just up the road from us. She started growing veg there, using the readily available source of manure to help it all along. Sadly at 32 years old, the horse died, but we continue to have an "allotment" on the field that adds to our ability to grow our own. We also have free access to the adjacent small orchard of a wide selection of apples, mostly old varieties that are very tasty but would never be seen in a supermarket.

There is something most pleasing about popping out to the garden to pick fruit or veg for breakfast or dinner and knowing that it is both organic and as fresh as possible. Long may it continue.
Illegitimus nil carborundum

Offline filmer01

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Re: Cars, Trains, Guns and things
« Reply #35 on: November 26, 2017, 18:30:00 »
Guns, Part 2

As my firearm certificate renewal got ever closer, I contacted one of the organisers of the local pistol league, thinking to maybe just do a bit of pistol rather than the full-on everything that I had done a year or two before.

As it happened, his club were off to Bisley that weekend, so, slightly reluctantly, I went. A few rounds at 600yds and I was hooked again, so I became a member of the Maidstone Home Guard (1944) Rifle Club.

Ightham was also a club that came from the old Home Guard, practising and competing against each other. Early on in my time at Ightham the armoury was behind a shop in Ightham Village, where it had been since WW2. They even had their own version of Private Pike, who had shot as a lad in the Home Guard and still shot into the 1980s.

When the Home Guard was stood down in 1944, many of the units continued to shoot and became the basis for rifle clubs post war.

Maidstone HG shot indoors on a narrow 25m range at the Grammar School. Pistol was accommodated with a trestle erected at 20yds. Regular fullbore rifle at Bisley, and pistol at Stone Lodge resumed, but at a lower level, more casual shooting and just a few competitions.

A year or two later and the club secretary resigned, having ceased to be a regular shooter some while before. The Secretary usually holds the club firearm certificate and has responsibility therefore for the weapons and ammunition, although club officers can transport them and supervise their use. Reluctantly I agreed to fill the vacant position. I therefore found room for another, substantial, gun cabinet and various weapons.

I had earlier sold my Browning .22 pistol and upgraded to a Unique DES69, a French pistol designed for Olympic Standard Pistol. During my time with Maidstone I also acquired a Smith & Wesson Model 52. This was a 38special semi auto, designed specifically as a target weapon it would only chamber wadcutter (flat nosed, seated flush to the case) ammunition. This worked best with slightly more powerful loads than the revolver, there being some energy lost in operating the mechanism.

Lastly I bought a Colt .45ACP Gold Cup semi auto. This was a target version of the famous military sidearm. It also required me to have additional reloading equipment to suit the different calibre. More fun with infinite variations of bullet, including fully jacketed, and slower burning powders.

With these additions, as well as the club weapons, the local police firearms liaison “suggested” that I should have a decent alarm system to supplement our two German Shepherds. All the shooting gear (guns and ammo in steel boxes with serious locks) was in a small cupboard, which itself had a slightly reinforced door and a quality deadlock. It now had its own dedicated alarm circuit.

The .357 Magnum revolver remained my favourite for its simplicity and accuracy. Shooting at Stone Lodge one evening, I was just starting to pack up when I realised that I needed to shoot one more competition card. With a tad of bad grace, grumbling away as everybody else was getting ready to leave I put up the card.

I had already put away my spotting scope, and to save time just left the bench flap (like a pub bar flap) up and shot the first five. With the naked eye there were nines, an eight and a seven - rubbish. It was late, I was tired, shooting in the dark under lights, so I just reloaded and fired the last five almost casually.

Immediately I finished I started to pack up and someone else went and retrieved the card. When I was asked to sign it, I said just mark it and record it and lets get home. Then Andy suggested that I look again, and he witnessed it. Hmm that seven was an eight, the eight was a nine, and the rest were tens!

97 out of 100 my best pistol score ever – I still have the card somewhere, it used to live in a clip frame in my office, but the glass got broken. I also have the first rifle 100 that I shot, an external postal competition card, returned by the marker as a memento.

In the box of bits and pieces handed over from the previous secretary were a couple of journals. One detailed the early years of the Maidstone area small bore rifle society from the start of the first world war. The gentleman writing this was resident at Somerfield Terrace, now part of the Somerfield Hospital. The intention was to provide basic skill at arms before entry into the services and many additional ranges appeared, often attached to Pubs either physically or as homes for their teams. The usual give away is a long, low building. The two hobbies really should not meet.

A mention was made of shooting in the upper floor of what is now the Carriage Museum, and I have often thought to see if any evidence survives.

The records continue into the inter war period, with full bore rifle shooting taking place in an old quarry at Tovil. The advent of the Home Guard effectively took over the sport.

Post war there were Rifle clubs all over the place, in Maidstone there were clubs shooting at various Paper Mills, Rootes, Tilling-Stevens, Haynes and many others.

I also became a member of GEC Rifle & Pistol Club, but although I rarely shot in their indoor range, I was a mid-week regular on the outdoor range. This was behind the main hanger of Rochester Airport, and accessed past Medway Aeronautical Preservation Society’s wonderful sheds. The range was 50m small bore rifle, shot from a covered slab of concrete – think bike shed without the racks. Very strange sensation to be halfway through a competition card and a plane, or the Air Ambulance would take off just above the sand bullet stop brick support wall in clear view above the barrel. Another one for the excuses list…

Excavated at a lower level was the 20m pistol range, for small and full bore pistols, complete with turning targets. As one was above the other, either rifle or pistol could be shot, but not together!

A constant theme had always been the occasional Fun Shoot, where no official competition took place. I have previously mentioned the disc breaking, and we did a pistol version, just once as the discs were about the size of a Polo Mint, and nobody could hit the darned things. We had shot our .22 rifles at 200yds at Bisley one cold winter afternoon and found them to be surprisingly accurate.

Another winter at Bisley saw Maidstone with an array of unusual weapons that we all had a try at. A Brown Bess Musket, hugely long and unwieldy, a couple of muzzle loading, black powder, Enfield 1853 pattern 0.577” rifles, that were surprisingly accurate, but slow to load. As well as a couple of 0.303 Lee-Enfield variants, an early one, still my favourite, and a WW2 number 5 Jungle Carbine that was, shall we say, best at short range.

Previously we had been using the Gallery Ranges at Stone (I think our usual turning target bay had stopped turning) so there were other shooters mixed in with our lot. I had finished my card and was idly watching someone I had never met before shooting a flint lock pistol.  Realising my interest he showed me the piece, and after the targets were changed suggested that I might like to shoot it. Damn right I would! He loaded it, explaining his actions as he went, then went through the drill if it didn’t fire. No flash, just re-cock the gun and try again. If it happens again the flint needed adjusting. A flash but not firing (literally a flash in the pan), hold aim and wait in case there is a hang fire. If not, then the flash hole needed pricking out (to enable the flash from the pan to travel to the main charge) and the pan primed again.

So I held this thing, with a grip like holding a walking stick, pulled the flint back to full cock (from the “safe” position of half cock) and squeezed the immensely heavy trigger. Click! Nothing happened. Recock it, try again, a flash, no bang, so I stood there for about 10 seconds holding aim, then he poked about a bit and reprimed the pan, and I tried again. A flash. Ah I thought here we go again, then with some delay a gentle woosh turned into a long steady push on my arm totally different from our usual sharp recoil, as it fired. The owner’s efforts had scattered shot holes around the target, I took great pride in hitting a Nine, thanked him and gave him the gun back. How on earth did we gain an Empire with weapons that tricky?

I had a “slot” on my licence for a while that enabled me to buy a Black Powder pistol, but I never did. possibly put off by the gent at GEC who turned up, put on a disposable overall and gloves (with hood, as seen in all forensic investigations) shot his replica Colt pistol, then stripped off the overall and gloves into the bin and went home to an hour of gun cleaning. John Wayne never had that problem in any film that I saw!

We once met a group of four young men from Gloucester who had decided the night before to come to Bisley to try each others guns, and literally had a Cortina boot full of just about everything. Full bore semi-auto rifles were still permitted, but to our amazement one of them produced a Bren gun. He had just bought it and this was the first chance he had to shoot it. When questioned as to how he had got this on his licence it seems that he simply listed it as a self loading rifle made by the Brno small arms company of Czechoslovakia. We were astounded.

As the afternoon went on we continued chatting, and were offered a go with the Bren. It had the top mounted box magazine, and the simple instruction was to hang onto it as the action made it “walk” forward. It was rumoured to be very nice to shoot, and our brief encounter confirmed that, with good accuracy at 300yds.

When we had finished, the owner showed us how good he was with it, then pointed out the catch that in military use gave fully automatic fire, which I believe also had a 3shot position. Either way, to demonstrate that it was disabled he flipped it over, took aim and fired. Luckily the range was by now fairly empty and nobody else appeared to have realised that it had just gone, briefly, full auto. It was hastily put back in its case and carted off to the car.

At Ightham, because of the shoulder to shoulder league, we knew many of the other local clubs, and on one occasion were invited to try some of the local TA equipment. This was literally enlightening with light intensifying telescopic sights we were shooting at targets in virtual darkness. They extended an invitation to a few clubs for their open day shoot at Milton Ranges. We were firing .22 training anti-tank guns, and the old 7.62 SLR rifles, the actions of which sound terribly tinny when wearing ear defenders.

There was a “closest to the middle” competition onto a blank target at 200yds with the marker waving an arrow on a stick to show the fall of shot. The unkind tried to shoot the arrow, and were quickly dissuaded. With only minutes to go I held first place and our rifle captain second, but a TA Sergeant had to wrest some glory from the civvies and just managed to win at the very end.

A falling plate competition was the team event, where each rifle club, police and service unit had four or five shooters, each with a randomly allocated SLR with a full magazine. Against the clock who could knock over the metal targets scattered across the range quickest, two teams at a time. The trouble was the SLRs sights were all over the place and by the time you had worked out where to aim you had to be economical with the ammunition. If only we had taken our old bolt action rifles we could have shown them how to do it with ease. The Met Police won.

Highlight of our year was the Pistol AD event (so called as it was Pistol 92, Pistol 93 etc.). This was held over a weekend at Bisley with huge numbers of competitions, exhibitions and what I can only describe as a shooting oriented cross between a boot fair and serious professional stalls, all set up on the half acre green space at the centre of the camp. If it was legal you could buy it, and although a pistol meet, the offerings covered every aspect of shooting.

However, many of us felt that there was becoming too great a move towards the “practical” disciplines, mainly pistol. At their worst they were almost like playing cowboys and indians with real guns – an exaggeration of course, but a bit too quick draw and moving about for my, Olympic based, tastes. However, when on a range, keeping your pistol with you in a holster was more about ensuring that no one else could pick it up, than playing Dirty Harry. One range officer was moaning about this as a “yoof” thing to one of our more senior members, who, as we got onto the firing point, removed his 38special revolver from his shoulder holster…

However, after the horrors of Dunblane the writing was on the wall. I will not dwell on the arguments for or against the pistol ban, it happened, it was politicians and civil servants taking what I saw as the easy route, and at a stroke many people lost a sport, a hobby and for others also a livelihood. Those included the leather worker who made pistol belts and holsters through all aspects of range operation, gunshops etc., mostly small, specialist businesses.

The consequence of the ban was the hand-in.

Pistols were either surrendered for a generic (low) fixed fee, or against a suitable gunsmith’s valuation. There was a tariff for just about anything to do with the sport. Being organised by civil servants, probably with no knowledge of which they wrote, the other eligible items were full of anomalies. The simple concept was sound, if it could be used for other things or aspects of shooting, then it was not eligible. However with reloading equipment, unless it was “pistol specific” it was not included. The problem was that reloading rifle ammunition was a very niche hobby compared to the relatively huge numbers who reloaded pistol, and most of us preferred the safety and “feel” of stronger equipment which was capable of loading both.

In common with many others, a group of us went for a last blast, shooting anything and everything that we had, trying each others guns and attempting to use up our ammunition.

Some moved their guns to continental clubs rather than surrender them, and a regular Eurostar trip kept them happy. This did not appeal to me. Others faced a dilemma over historically significant or special weapons. Hand them in and argue for their value, have them de-activated (ruining them for what they were, and their value) or sell them, probably through a dealer to a collector abroad to keep them used and appreciated.

The actual hand-in was quite well organised. I went at the appointed time to one of the old Police Houses behind Maidstone HQ, and met two of the familiar firearms personnel. I had two because of the quantity of equipment that was involved with the club and my personal items. I went in my wife’s Land Rover 90 Station Wagon, the rear of which was filled to window level.

I handed in pistols, holsters, speed loaders for revolvers, magazines for the semi-autos, empty cases, bullets, reloading consumables and much more. I kept my pistol belts, very thick (7mm) leather, lined and with sturdy brass buckles, they were intended to be worn over your normal belt and clipped to it, but with a couple of extra holes drilled through them they still hold my jeans up very effectively.

I subsequently had a serious spat with the Home Office who tried to cherry pick what to agree to accept and for how much. I had ended up travelling a fair distance to a dealer who was prepared to value my guns. The Unique was the problem as they were uncommon. It was valued at £710, but the Home Office wanted to give me the basic £150, while agreeing to the other valuations. A few letters later and slowly increasing offers, I was awarded the full amount. However my reloading gear was rejected, despite having adaptations specifically for pistol loading. Again a few more letters and I was partially successful as I got a simple reloading press with a fixed 38special case holder accepted for the basic compensation – which was more than I paid for it.

My main reloading equipment was sold for a fraction of its worth to one of those going the continental route.

The aftermath was quite strange. I was seriously annoyed at what had gone on, a little lost without some of my sports and hobbies, but understanding of the concerns that prompted it all.

A year or so later and I had a health issue that prevented me from shooting prone rifle for a while, and I resigned as Secretary, donated my .22 rifle to the club and sold the Enfield and my rather nice shooting jacket to another club member.

I kept my firearms certificate open with a .22 semi automatic rifle for vermin shooting, but I’m not much of a hunter and eventually that was sold and in 2015, after 38years I did not renew my certificate.

 
Illegitimus nil carborundum

 

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