Friday, 7 November 2008

On Remembrance Sunday, Thank You!

Private John Robert Lowerson

This is a photo of my uncle Jack, a young lad of about sixteen when this photograph was taken. He looks so young, just a boy really and like so many he gave his life for us all.

Sadly, millions of families all over the world have one. A photograph of a dearly loved dad, husband, son, brother or boyfriend who went away to war and never came back. Nowadays it can be a mother, wife, daughter, sister or girlfriend.

My Uncle Jack was my Nanna's big brother, only a year older than she was and only 16 when he went to France to fight. He was killed on 1 July 1916 and he was only 18 years old. What a waste!

This is his memorial on the War Graves Commission website.

Here are some of the historical details about the events of that day and its consequences, extracted from the War Graves Commission website:
On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance.

Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained.

At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.
Sadly Uncle Jack doesn't have a grave, he was one of thousands of men whose bodies were never recovered. His name is on the Thiepval Memorial which commemorates all those missing in the Battle of the Somme. It has over 72,000 names of the men and officers of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916.

The memorial was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932. Every year a major ceremony is held at the Thiepval Memorial to commemorate those who were killed. I've never visited the Memorial but maybe I should and take my grandson Nathan to see it.

I remember my Mam telling me how close my Nanna and her brother had been as there was only a year between them. He wrote to her very often after he left for France. Sadly I don't have any of the letters he wrote but I do have his Bible. It was presented to him by his Sunday School Teacher in May 1911 and Jack recorded the details himself in the front of it. His Bible was given to my Mam in 1933 when she was 11 years old. It's a bit tatty now, it's nearly a hundred years old, the print is so tiny I can hardly read it but I value it so much.

When I was learning history at school they never taught us about the World Wars and I don't know why. It's ninety years since the end of The Great War as they called it. I don't know what was great about it! Nowadays thankfully they do cover modern history in the schools and the sacrifices that people made so that we can live in freedom. Children are now encouraged by the schools to wear their poppies. The poppies are sold by the British Legion to aid men and women who are serving today, as well as ex-Services and their dependants. So we wear our poppies with pride.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1915)

Canadian poet John McCrae was a medical officer in both the Boer War and World War I. In 1918 McCrae died at the age of 46, in the way most men died during that war, not from a bullet or bomb, but from disease: pneumonia, in his case.

Seaham Cenotaph

We might not agree with the wars that are fought but it's important that our children do learn about what happened. It's also important they never forget what people have done for us and sadly are still doing today.

This morning, Remembrance Sunday, there is a ceremony of remembrance in Trafalgar Square and there will be other ceremonies throughout the country. On Tuesday, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month there will be another major remembrance ceremony in Trafalgar Square and two minutes silence will be held there and throughout the country.

Yes, we will remember them. How could we forget?

Skywatch Friday - 7 November 2008

The Ultimate!

This is another one of the pictures I took at Lightwater Valley, Ripon, North Yorkshire.

It was such a beautiful day, chilly but so sunny. When I took this picture of my daughter and grandson on The Ultimate Ride I noticed how lovely the sky was.

Not sure what the cloud formation is though, I've forgotten all the stuff I learned in geography. Hope I re-learn it participating in Skywatch.

This photo doesn't do the view justice. It was beautiful looking across the lake to The Big Wheel which we had just left. It poured while we were at the top of it.

We walked around the lake and a few minutes later, whilst we were standing in the rain, the sun started to come out over the Big Wheel. Just wish I was a better photographer.

Roll on summer I love those blue skies and white fluffy clouds.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

My Fun Fair Phobia

I’m not a fan of fun fairs, in fact it's almost a phobia. I’m not exactly sure why, but my instinctive response is to cringe when anyone asks me to go to one and I always refuse.

I’m sure I enjoyed them when I was little, when you see the coloured lights, the candy floss and toffee apples, it all looks so good. I remember my grand dad taking me to one at a nearby seaside town and I still have the photo. Poor soul it doesn’t look like he was enjoying it much with 3 small children complete with candy floss in tow.

As I got a bit older I started to see them as tacky places full of scruffy blokes, tattoed with greasy Brylcreemed hair and pierced ears, (before these became fashionable) twirling the waltzers. It shows I had stopped seeing the world through those rose tinted glasses and also the standard of the travelling funfairs we had in those days!

One really awful experience I had was when I was first going out with Eric (eventually my husband) and we decided to go to The Hoppings in Newcastle. It’s a huge event where lots of travelling fun fairs gather together for a couple of weeks in the summer. To be truthful the experience was nothing to do with the fun fair at all, just the fact that we had been there. When we got back to the car, Eric couldn’t find his car keys and he called the RAC out. Instead of taking us to a garage to get a new key, the prat started the car up himself. The car jumped and banged all the way home. I have no idea what he did but it cost a lot get the car repaired. Big fun fair psychological damage!

On the fun fair plus side, about thirty years ago, when our children were young, we went on holiday to Sweden. Neil and Claire persuaded us to visit the Liseberg Amusement Park in Gotenberg and it was great. Clean, safe, in a lovely setting and it was staffed by young people who were extremely polite and dressed in yellow uniforms. I’ve also seen the glorious ads for Disneyland, Disney World, Port Aventura, Alton Towers etc but my response is still the same, I don’t want to go.

Last week my daughter asked me to go to with her to Light Water Valley, a fun park about an hour drive from where we live. My initial response was no. However she had already bought the tickets and it was the last day it would be open until next year. She didn’t want to go on her own with 2 children of quite different ages wanting to go on different rides. Her husband didn’t want to go either. She knows I’m a soft touch and love spending time with them, so I agreed, reluctantly.

Well the weather forecast was quite good so off we went and arrived there at about 10.30am. It was a glorious autumn/winter day and the funfair is set in a lovely country park area near Ripon in North Yorkshire, not at all tacky. The rides were well spaced out in the park, yes a real park not just a name. There were very few people around too so the children could just walk onto any of the rides with no qeueing. Great!

Ah Sweet! (They're not always like this!)

The weather was great for most of the day. It was chilly but the sun warmed things up a lot. At one point there was some rain but luckily it didn't last.

Big Wheel in the Rain

Now I gave up riding the waltzer a long time ago but I have to say I took a real fancy to getting onto what they called the Skyrider. It was what we used to call "chairs" when I was little. However this one was different! A lot bigger, faster and as you can see from the photo it had a tilt to it. I have to say it was almost a work of art. I admired the colours, the lights and the designs on it, not at all tacky.

My grandson loved it and kept going on over and over again as there were no queues. I have to admit that I was sorely tempted to get on with him but I had been left carrying the coats, bags etc. whilst my daughter took Lauren onto the rides for younger children. It was probably just as well, I might not have lived to regret getting on it. What a wimp!

The Skyrider

Never mind I really enjoyed listening to the music, all 'sixties stuff. I hadn’t realised how well suited Telstar was to fun fairs. Spot on!

I wasn’t the only one feeling their age. My daughter took Nathan onto one ride called The Ultimate and hurt her neck. She thinks it will be her last time on a roller coaster ride, after all she’s 35! Another wimp in the family.

Roll on next summer, we'll be back now that I'm getting over my fun fair phobia.

My Singer 338!

Well here it is my very first sewing machine, the one I got for my 21st birthday in 1966! I know it cost my Mam  a lot to buy it for me...