Saturday, July 05, 2003
MESSAGE FROM HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN
Thursday, July 03, 2003
The achievement of the couple sitting in the centre of this, my whole family portrait, will be acknowledged by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 on July 17th this year.
On July 17th, 1943, my mother and father were married in Blenheim Baptist
Church in Leeds. It was wartime Britain , the future uncertain and yet to be won ; Mum in traditional white wedding dress and Dad in his itchy serge battledress uniform. ( To this day he is embarrassed that the photo studio hand tinted the black and white wedding photographs to give the illusion of colour that made it look as though he was wearing make-up!) This joyful portrait was a family gathering last year to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday and we will all be gathering again at the Portland Heights Hotel down on the Dorset coast on the 19th July for the joyful celebration of their 60th Wedding Anniversary.
It was King George V who, in 1917, began the tradition of sending messages of congratulations to those of his subjects celebrating their one hundredth birthdays and Diamond (sixtieth) Wedding anniversaries. This custom has been continued by subsequent reigning monarchs.
Originally Royal congratulatory messages were sent as telegrams by the Royal Mail's Inland Telegram Service. When the telegram service was discontinued in 1982 it was replaced by a telemessage sent by British Telecom. This telemessage was incorporated inside a card, with the Royal Coat of Arms on the front and a picture of the Royal Mail Coach inside.
The design of the card was changed in 1990 to include one of four designs of royal residences: Windsor Castle, Caernarvon Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse or Killyleagh - depending on whether the celebrant lived in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The artists were chosen locally by the regional Arts Councils and were all approved by The Queen.
Her Majesty now sends congratulatory messages for Diamond, sixty-fifth and Platinum (seventieth) Wedding anniversaries and every year thereafter, and for the one hundredth and one hundred and fifth birthdays and every year thereafter. In 1999 the telemessage was replaced by a card. It now shows a photograph of The Queen taken at Sandringham and contains a printed insert which has the Royal Coat of Arms, a personal greeting from Her Majesty and an electronic facsimile of her signature.These cards are sent by special delivery through the Royal Mail and arrive, when possible, on the day of the anniversary.
In effect, Mum amd Dad will get their message of congratulations at home on 17th July and not at the reception on the 19th. The protocol is for the post-person to deliver the message personally at the celebrants home address on the day of the anniversary, unless, I imagine, there are exceptional circumstances. Whilst most people in Britain are aware of this royal courtesy, few know how the process actually works. In "Cool Britainnia" these days, Buckingham Palace is on line at the official web site of the BRITISH MONARCHY and it is now possible to download the application form for royal recognition of these landmark anniversaries and birthdays in PDD format. This area of the web site gives extensive details too of the history and processes of this custom. Alternatively, subjects can phone Buck House and be put through to "Aniversaries", a section of the Royal Household, where requests can't be made but are processed. They link you to one of the regional Register offices , in my case at Southport. Here they will do a search for confirmation of the official registration of a birth or marriage for a small fee (£3)They then send your details and request to Buck House who then acknowledge in writing on official Buckingham Palace stationery that the message is to be sent. You are asked to phone the given number of the Annerversaries Officer at the Private Secretary's office if their are any changes in circumstance.
I should add that this well-oiled adminstrative process cannot be activated by the celebrants themselves. It has to be requested by a member of their family.
Whatever a person thinks privately about the political anomily of a modern democracy with the apparent contradiction of having a constitutional monarch as the head of state, it is , I feel, important to respect the feelings of those to whom a message from Her Majesty is a most welcome priviledge. Invariably, these messages are cherished by loyal subjects and their arrival at their home is an "icing on the cake" joyful event. I'd say that all recipients too, are guaranteed to make it into their local newspapers as celebrities for the day.
Whatever my personal feelings about The Queen, (note the traditional etiquette of capital letters when referring to Her Majesty) she has been a part of my life since I attended the celebration of her Coronation, at the age of three years, sitting on Dad's shoulders, on Plymouth Hoe watching the fireworks display in her honour. It is a vivid memory. I have watched her children grow up and seen the trials and tribulations that beset a modern Royal Family. But yet, there is also that sense of continuity, tradition and history that this Lady embodies. I would like to think that the royal message at milestone anniversaries, is a State acknowledgement for loyal couples and individuals for their contribution to the stability and continuity of our increasingly fragmented society. I adore my parents and feel humbled at their having remained together for all these years and been there for us too and setting such an unselfish parental model to follow. Bless you Mum and Dad and many congratulations and "Long may you both reign"
johncoxon 11:32 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
THE A2 "MUTT" US ARMY JEEP
Sunday, June 29, 2003
Click on these text hyperlinks to photographs of details of the A2 "Mutt " US Army military Jeep. (These are quite high resolution pictures and if you are on dial up might take a while to load.) This posting is duplicated over at my photo-log at MY PHOTOGRAPHS and there is more background information there under the pictures and details too of the actual background history of this particular and very special example of this vehicle.
JERRY ( PETROL) CAN
TYRE AND SUSPENSION SPRING
GEAR AND 4X SHIFT STICKS
johncoxon 11:47 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
WHAT IS A WEED ?
I already had some thoughts about the humble, much underrated dandelion posted elsewhere here on April 16th,( where you will need to scroll down past the first entry of that day), DANDELION but, around our tiny back garden I have a number of plants that are technically weeds. But here they are welcome and growing happily. They were free and are adding colour with their predominantly purple or blueish flower heads and their variegated foliage, and they are perennial.
I heard that a weed is simply a flower in the wrong place and such things are usually unwanted and unwelcome by conventional gardeners as an ugly intrusion. Calling someone a "weed" is a derogatory term, in England, for someone undersized and not strong. Real weeds seem the very opposite, and they are real opportunists too. They are a remarkable plant group, highly successful. They are the things that always outlast our best intentions and appear as if by magic when people get lazy or are no longer fit enough to routinely maintain their gardens. They are also nature's way of carpeting over the ugliness of human debris and places we lay waste. Maybe it is because they are synonymous with dereliction and decay and of perpetuity when we are mere mortals, that weeds have such a negative fan base.
Here is a shot of one tall and prolific weed ( or at least I believe it is a weed) that graces our garden in abundance and adds its interesting linear structure to the range of colours and leaf textures in its immediate vicinity. I have no idea what it is called, sadly. But I think it is lovely.
The story of its liberation was where two years ago, I was out walking the two dogs in the early morning. I was going through an unhappy divorce settlement and very short of money. Equally, I was anxious to stock Angela's back yard and turn it into a lovely garden for her just after I'd moved in with her. I'd brought some of my favourite plants from the ex-matrimonial home. My ex-wife had no love of the garden I'd made for us there and those plants were at risk from neglect if they stayed. I was walking towards the open land at the rear of the nearby houses down a rough track between hedgerows. Here lazy people dump a whole range of rubbish because it is out of sight. In a pile of builders rubble was this perfect tall 'weed' with just four elegant stems and crowned with beautiful purple flowers. ( I carried a trowel and a rucksack with a few plastic bags for collecting purposes at this time.) I potted it up back at the house and later transferred it to its present place. I water and feed all the plants in the garden (tomato food is excellent for this )and now the plant rewards us with a spectacular annual display of its beauty.
This second plant is a weed, and came from the same lane as the first, It is a sort of relative of the stinging nettle and has the same way of multiplying by sending out a network of new roots, but it doesnt sting you.
It has wonderful variegated leaf colours. To contain its enthusiasm for proliferation I have three or four specimens in various large terra- cotta pots. This one has some way to go before it reaches its usual scale and beauty, but it is , like the others, very healthy and worth waiting for.
The final example escaped from one of my pots and started a new life on the edge of our small patch of grass, nestling between the edging stones and the large wooden planter I made. I wanted to show its flowers but to it side, there is a wonderful surge of variegated green foliage that blends in so harmoniously with its surroundings. Again, I am not sure what the name of this weed is.
Finally, at the bottom of the garden is another wild guest in our garden, now some ten feet high but something I 'imported' to remind me everyday of my links with the place I collected it. I am involved in Town Twinning and international exchanges with a town called Saint Ouen, which used to be the docklands of Paris. I have many friends there and they feel like part of my family. I love France and the French. I am bilingual as a result of these friendships. (Very few residents of the town know any English or at least want to speak it!) My friend Andrew , also a town twinner is a celebrity in that town. A legend. He married a lovely local girl called Sylvie and they live half a mile from me.
Andrew and I went for long weekend to Saint Ouen a few years back to make arrangements for an educational exchange and stayed at the Hotel Campanile, overlooking the River Seine at the Quai de Saint Ouen. The all concreted banks of the Seine ( not at its most majestic as is more usual ,in this part of town I should add ) here, are steep slopping, with a water level footpath. Everywhere on the banking there are somewhat untidy looking wild buddleia shrubs with stunning purple flowers ; no doubt originally water borne like the willows that line some of our rivers, but softening up the harsh concrete greys. In every crack in the concrete were tiny offspring and I liberated four of them. They travelled home in a careful package of wet toilet tissue in a throw away hotel water beaker. I rinsed all the original soil from the roots when I got home and flushed it. The laws here on importing live plants prohibit bringing native soil into the country.
When I left the matrimonial home I took two of the now thriving plants with me. One I planted in Andrew?s garden, the other in my new home. I cut it back each autumn as it is inclined to throw out branches in random directions and can look really untidy if you don't prune it back. But each year, back it comes even healthier and currently it is in full bloom. It is a difficult plant to photograph I found. It has a rich purple hue in its lilac-like flower heads and in daylight that can be bleached to various non-descript pinks by the camera and that belies the real colour. It feels good to have this little part of France in my own back yard.
reading on Buddleias:-
BOTANY SITE basic alphabetically indexed botanical information site.
BUTTERFLIES for copious number of great photographs of butterflies, insects that this plant attracts, hence one its names is butterfly bush.
johncoxon 1:11 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
Our Heritage under threat
As you travel down the M62 Motorway, west, in the direction of Liverpool, you can still see low-domed aircraft hangars from the Second World War at the once vast RAF Burtonwood, but not for much longer it seems.
A developer has bought all the land for a cool £90 million and intends, I hear, to tear down every remaining reminder of our regional and international wartime heritage in this remarkable place. A tragedy in my view.
RAF Burtonwood had a huge Amercian and greatly valued presence in the Second World War and, later, in 1966, when France left Nato, an ungrateful Charles De Gaulle ordered the American Army out of France. That left our allies with a huge logistical problem. Where to put all that huge amount of vital equipment? That problem was solved at RAF Burtonwood , which had amongst other attractions, as a solution, a mile long warehouse called 'Header House' and a railway link. It was the ideal place to store the vast amounts of US military equipment needed to support the US army in Britain and Europe. (It was, for example , vital during the Berlin Airlift.)
Now the Willy's jeep is my all time favourite vehicle and I have dreamed of owning one since I was a child. Today I visited the unique national treasurehouse of Burtonwood Heritage Centre, based, but not for much longer it seems, at that huge warehouse the Americans used, and packed with photographs and lovingly collected memorabilia of that welcome US presence on our soil.
The very last US commander of that facility, one Ltc. Col. Brian Lobdell, had the grace to present the Burtonwood Heritage Centre with the very last jeep remaining on the site ( actually not technically the 1940's version I so love, but it's lovely variant, the A2 " Mut" ), and the one he used to drive around in I guess, although he also used a bike I hear. I got to sit in it and took copious detailed shots of it for a future entry when I am less pressed with school administrative work.
You will be astounded by the original photographs I managed to photograph, showing the base during the war years, Bob Hope's visit, rows and rows of army equipment and guys working on Second World War US military aircraft. I just can't believe that this historic building is going to be smashed to the ground, along with those evocative low-domed aircraft hangars that still grace the local landscape, and that the Heritage Centre, maintained by hard-working volunteer enthusiasts, will have no where to go. This is intolerble. One of the hangars the developers intend to tear down would be the obvious and appropriate choice for a relocation.
This is vandalism and short-sightedness on a grand scale on the part of the county's planners and developers. Greedy wealthy developers rape the land without putting anything back, when they could so easily afford to preserve this historic site and indeed actively support it. It would be a touristic draw to the area and erasing it seems complete folly. Where else would such philistine destruction be tolerated ?
More soon. I am not going to sit down and say nothing. There are a few letters to write on this one. I feel passionately that this is a heritage site and should be protected for prosperity.
johncoxon 1:00 AM - [Link] - Comments ()