Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70

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[69] What’s it! All About?

[69] What’s it! All About? – A Blog about Blogging

You can leave this one out if you like. It won’t be full of pictures. But I will sneak in a few – some that were too late for their target blogs.

I am going to reminisce about my year spent producing this blog. I knew it would be a difficult task. It was difficult! It was hard to juggle 70 ideas at the same time and keep the flow going through the year. After starting with the idea that each blog might be based on ten pictures I soon found that a hundred was more typical!

I think I survived by always having the next few weeks roughly planned even though I had no idea about how the rest of the year might finish. Even when I had done 62 and the next six were more or less complete I still wasn’t sure about the last two!

Categories and Topics

I spent a lot of time thinking before I fixed my Categories. I wanted to have some structure and I considered ten lots of seven or seven lots of ten. When I started the blog in November 2016 I had roughly decided maybe 65 of my 70 topics but six months later I probably had a less clear idea. I just used the categories as rough guides and found them sometimes overlapping and ambiguous.

This is a quick post by post review of how the year went. I have split the year into three sections so the order is a peculiar mixture of chronological with categories.

[I feel the need to say something about the titles for some of the topics. These comments will be in Italics like this.]


It was difficult as first deciding on how to split [0] Plants as so much of the significance of the seasonal blogs seemed to be about the annual cyclic nature of plants and trees.

[07] Berries was an obvious choice to do very early. The original plan was to do ‘Fruit’ but I found such a variety of coloured berries that I restricted this early blog and left the rest of fruit until later. [‘Red and Yellow and …’ – The best list ever of colours!]

[00] Lichen, Moss and Fungus was an interesting topic. As for many, it was a definite topic in my list before I started and it was convenient as an autumn and winter topic before the leaves and flowers came out. I saw a lot that I would not have noticed except for this topic. I had to issue this in February although I have seen excellent examples later of more lichen. [‘A Rolling Stone.’ Fairly predictable but not much choice.]

I was reasonably happy getting a couple from this category done by winter. The rest would come with spring and summer flowers.


While I had a rough idea that [1] Animals might consist of three or four about Birds, three or four about Insects and three or four others, the exact split was not certain at the beginning.

[11] The Zoo was almost the only time I did something just for a blog topic. This was the sixth one of seventy, just making it into November. It brought home the uncertain nature of my categories as the visit to the Zoo could have been an event or a place![‘You can come too’ – from ‘Going to the Zoo’ with fond memories of Julie Felix, one of the popular folk singers of my youth.]

[12] Waterfowl came in early January, more or less being finished as I did [32] Slimbridge. Most of our ducks, geese and swans either stay with us all year or come here in winter so this made a convenient partition of my bird pictures and something I could do early in the year. [‘The Best in Town’ – from ‘the Ugly Duckling.’ I have memories of Danny Kaye. You can see that I was taking titles from old familiar songs.]

Two in winter was reasonable for animals. I more or less had the rest of my topics decided in this category.


I suppose I thought of the category [2] Times as about events, things that took a day or two. As it happened the events I had in mind never seemed to make a suitable blog topic although some of them made half a blog.

[25] Autumn was the first blog I did. This was a difficult choice, starting in November, already well into the season of autumn, but I needed something to get started. I decided to look at autumn trees and split off other topics like fruits for another blog. I had not considered that now I had set a precedent and I needed to be able to do Winter, Spring and Summer as they came round! [‘Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness.’ There was never any possibility of any other title for Autumn.]

[20] Birthday and Remembrance Day came inevitably early as both took place on the same day in November. There was no intention originally to combine them but I felt they were both worth a mention and neither was quite enough for a blog to itself. [‘Threescore Years and Ten,’ seemed appropriate for both parts. If in doubt look for a Biblical quote. The Book of Proverbs is a good source.]

[22] Road Paving just happened. When I saw the signs on our street I had to do this one. It was an event lasting a week and I could see my original ideas for ten topics needing a bit of re-structuring. [‘Paved with Good Intentions’ – from a saying that reminds me of my mother.]

[21] Christmas Well, it just included a wedding and was about our Christmas stay with relatives.

The category was looking OK with another three seasonal topics to come.


By the end of the year I had done eleven posts but it was looking a bit skew – four about Times, but none yet about

[3] Places. This was a difficult Category. I had lots of ideas of places I might do but I really wanted sunlight for pictures of places. I just assumed that by the summer I would be able to do a day photographing Cheltenham or Gloucester or Stratford or Tewkesbury …

[32] Slimbridge came early in January because I needed to get the last of my seven Categories going. I go there two or three times a month so I photographed my way round the site for a blog. Inevitably it just shows Slimbridge in winter. I couldn’t wait for summer. [‘Make the Boy Interested’ – about Peter Scott. I couldn’t find much about Slimbridge for a title so I went for its founder.]


[4] Outside was for landscapes and buildings but I had other ideas for inclusion from the start.

[48] Statues was a topic I wanted to do early and I found that I had enough to get the blog going as my third topic. The original plan was to allow for the addition of more statues through the year but I soon decided that most blogs would not be changed once they were issued. (I allowed only two exceptions to this – [68] Skies and [55] House Numbers.) [‘Here am I’ – A Biblical quote related to one particular statue. A very difficult topic to title.]


I always knew there would be hundreds of pictures for [5] Signs but deciding how to split into blogs was not easy.

[55] House Numbers came out early on. I pass lots of houses every day on my walk so this was easy and I really enjoyed it. I just did a couple of early updates and then decided that I had enough pictures. [‘Home, Sweet Home’ – the best I could do for something about houses.]

[52] and [53] Pavement Signs and Road Surface Signs. The markers for fire hydrants and gas pipes had always fascinated me and a lot of work went into these. I added manhole covers and all the signs that are almost at ground level. It was only the need for continued research (and the search for one of everything) that delayed this topic. Eventually I split it into two posts issued almost simultaneously. [Fortunately one of the songs of my youth provided a title that I could also split as an indication that the two were linked. ‘The Concrete and Clay (beneath)’ … ‘My feet begin to crumble.’ Two of my favourite titles.]


I had several ideas from the start for [6] Other.

[68] Skies was a subject that I foresaw as continuing through the year. So I started it early on with a few pictures and did several updates later. It was the first of the blogs that I considered as just a collection of photographs with little in the way of comments. [‘The Fourth Day.’ My first Biblical quotation but I couldn’t find anything much better. It’s quite a tenuous link.]

[61] Walls came early. Not everyone’s choice But I always knew this would be a topic. I could have done a lot more by issuing it later in the year but the blog remains as it was issued in Early December. [‘Joshua Fit the Battle’ – I could have done a Biblical quote but went for an Elvis Presley link!]

[60] Pillar Boxes and Telephones. What can I say about this one? It was on my list before I started and I loved doing it. I was lucky to find so many different ones. [‘Wait a Minute’ – the Beatles – I had to get in some modern songs.]

By the end of winter progress was OK but I needed flowers and insects and sunlight to get going with many of my remaining topics …




[0] Plants

[05] Bulbs was an opportunity to keep going with a plant subject before the other flowers started emerging. It might have been something for the topics about Winter or Spring but I had already decided how to do them. [‘Lonely as a Cloud.’ The poem chose itself. I just had to decide which tiny bit to use.]

[06] Leaves was a topic that I thought would come much later. But there were so many in this Category that I had to do it quite early.[‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves.’ I strayed a bit from the usual literary and musical sources for this book title.]

I had six topics about plants still to do and I was waiting for summer to end for each one of them.


[1] Animals

[13] Pigeons was a topic that sort of formed itself. I had allocated three slots for birds and had done Waterfowl already. A few of my favourites made up this one and I could wait for a final one on birds a bit later. [‘Kila ndege huruka na mbawa zake.’ I was running out of ideas and I love the sayings of Swahili, especially this one.]

[18] Croatian Wildlife. This one started a new approach. I couldn’t just take two weeks off from blogging. I took lots of pictures while on holiday and managed to get three blog topics out of them.

[14] Other Birds. An easy one, using up the rest of my bird pictures. The insect ones would have to come much later.

[15] Butterflies. I was so surprised with how many different insects I was seeing. I knew I would never get them all in and I had seen quite a few butterflies. The split into three sections for insects had always been problematical but the decision was made by the end of June. I put the big pretty ones together – butterflies (and moths) and dragonflies (and damselflies.) To be honest part of the split of insect orders was motivated by the need to have some suitable quotations for titles. [‘Bright Elusive Butterfly of Love.’ Another fondly remembered song from my youth.]

I knew I would miss some. Here are a Marbled White, another Mint Moth from my garden and a Golden-ringed Dragonfly from Wales.

[2] Times

[23] Bournemouth. I knew that this would be a topic as it was a regular short holiday. I didn’t know whether it would be a time or a place. I picked the one that at the time seemed more difficult to fill.

[26] Winter. Having committed myself to seasonal blogs all I could really think of for winter was the trees without leaves. I found a few odds and ends and moved the pictures of ice and snow that I had tucked away ready for a blog about the weather! [‘Winter of our Discontent’ was another familiar saying that somehow picked itself.]

[27] Spring. The format for seasonal blogs was fixed by now. I had selected two subjects that could be borrowed from elsewhere. I took tree blossom from the plant world and lambs from the animal world. [I had several thoughts for the title starting with ‘Spring is sprung , the grass is ris. I wonder where the birdies is!’ But I went for ‘Spring is in the Air,’ a deliberate misquotation of the song ‘Love is in the Air.’]

[29] Brownsea Island. A day out with the Bird Club made a suitable topic. [Fortunately the island had associations with Boy Scouts so I could use ‘Be Prepared’ as a title.]

[28] Summer I had been juggling topics between seasons, plants and animals and managed to keep young birds for summer, with some other odds and ends. [‘The Living is Easy’ from the song, ‘Summertime.’]


[3] Places

[31] Pittville Park. Very similar in style to [32] Slimbridge already done.

[39] Croatia. I had enough pictures from my holiday for two blog posts, divided arbitrarily between this one and [47] Istria. [All I could find in Croatian was its National Anthem.]

[38] France. Another holiday made two blogs, this one and [46] Antwerp. [‘I was Born for This’ – inspired by Joan of Arc and our visit to Rouen.]

[27] Thames Path. This came from desperation about finding topics for this category. We had done a few walks on this path so I had lots of pictures. [‘Liquid History’ – a quotation about the Thames, the best I could find.]


[4] Outside

[47] Istria. See [39] Croatia above.

[46] Antwerp. See [38] France.

[49] Water. Always a topic I wanted to do covering seascapes, rivers, lakes and reflections and fountains. I felt ready to do this after seeing the sea on our cruise to France and Antwerp. [‘Working His Purpose out,’ from a familiar hymn final won out over the competition. ‘For Those in Peril on the Sea’ was a contender as was ‘Water Water, everywhere …’]

[45] Streets. An easy pictorial blog. [‘Digging for Gold’ – from the Mountains of Mourne – about the streets of London.]

[44] Quenington. It just happened. I went to see this exhibition of sculptures and this pictorial blog extended [48] Statues, one of my first blog posts.

[41] Churches. It was almost a last-minute change when I decided to do this. Instead of looking at one church at a time I put them all together in a sort of generic architectural order. [I deliberately avoided a Biblical quotation. I wanted to stress that it was about architecture, not religion. ‘Transcendant Beauty and Poetry’ – I moved my explanation of the quote to the beginning for this one.]


[5] Signs

[54] Plaques. This one was more difficult than I expected. I didn’t want to go too much out of my way looking for pictures and Cheltenham was a bit thin on plaques. I just happened to have a day visiting Cirencester and found lots of plaques there.

[57] Picture Signs. I had always hoped to get better pictures of the pedestrian traffic lights with red and green men but these were difficult to photograph. By the end of June I had enough to do this one while still undecided about other blog posts for signs. [‘Worth a Thousand Words.’ It was disappointing to discover that this was not a Chinese proverb but it still made a good title!]

[56] Information Signs. This came from a pragmatic decision about the pictures I had collected. In a fairly unspecific way I split them into interesting ones and unexciting ones and these were the unexciting ones. [‘SO 651 014.’ In the absence of anything else I took the ‘wording’ from one of the signs for a blog title. Similar titles would come later for Signs.]


[6] Other

Textures. Planned from the start I was reluctant to issue this too early. It was a complement to [62] Walls and [68] Skies. [‘Neither Beginnings nor Endings’ comes from The Wheel of Time, a long science fiction saga that always presented its story as part of a repeating cyclic pattern.]

[64] Cheltenham Trio. Somehow this one split and diverged from [54] Plaques. Read them both to see why.

[66] Clocks. There from the start with statues and pillar boxes! One of those things you might miss without looking at the tops of buildings everywhere. [‘Striking Thirteen,’ from Nineteen Eighty-four. I found this one easily.]

[65] Transport. Another obvious topic. I had to wait until after my holidays to include aeroplanes and ships. [‘Trains and Boats and Planes.’ Another one that was obvious from the start, another song from my youth!]



From the end of July I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I looked at the remaining topics and tried to order them sensibly. I found that I had enough pictures to do almost all of the rest and I could do several of them very quickly by just bunching up the pictures with some prior selection and ordering. The next ten posts came out quickly building to a queue of scheduled posts so that I could spend more time on the last dozen or so more difficult topics.

[36] Wales – came easily after a short holiday there.

[59] Interesting Signs – was just what was left over from [56].

[40] Landscapes – One of the easiest. I had just the right number of pictures ready and didn’t sort them.

[10] Farm Animals – I had to some arranging and wrote some notes to accompany a relatively sparse set of pictures.

[30] Cheltenham – I knew I could not give full justice to everything about this town so I decided to do an extended walk around the town and keep photographing. Fortunately I very soon had a sunny day and took the opportunity. It worked. The blog used the pictures in strict order with very little commentary.

[04] Garden Flowers – a simple collection of pictures with just a few words.

[33] Forest of Dean – a fairly easy topic after a visit to collect pictures.

[08] Fruit – some grouping of the pictures I had been gathering.

[58] Cheltenham Signs – using pictures, in order, taken at the same time as [30] Cheltenham.

[02] Wild Flowers. Lots of pictures. Just a bit of grouping.

[With so many titles based on Biblical and other literary quotations I was keen to keep to cryptic titles – using the text of some signs. I certainly had titles in mind and would not have done posts without suitable titles.

[36] ‘Sgod a Sglod’ was a fortunate sighting. It had to be something in Welsh. [59] ‘Get a Free Sausage’ was another lucky spot for me. [40] ‘Green and Pleasant Land’ and [10] ‘Old Macdonald’ were both fairly obvious. All places are difficult and for Cheltenham I had to use its Latin motto, [30] ‘Health and Education.’

For garden flowers it had to be from English Country Garden, so I picked [04] ‘Daffodils, Hearts-ease and Flocks.’ The Forest of Dean was almost impossible until I thought of the wild boar there. [38] ‘Caput Apri Defero’ must be one of my more convoluted choices.

For fruit it had to be the Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, [08] ‘The Serpent Beguiled me.’ [58] ‘Danger of Death’ was another sign but Wild Flowers was difficult. I wanted something poetic or Shakespearian but went eventually for the Bible again. ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.’]


[16] Bees and Beetles. As expected this one took a long time. To fit in all my insect pictures I included beetles and bugs into this one. It was more or less one picture of for each species. Even without saying anything about many of them I was up to 2 500 words. [‘What a Wonderful Thing.’ I am just about old enough to remember Arthur Askey singing the Bee Song.]

[01] Grass and Fern. I had been collecting pictures and for a few months I had just been waiting for some corn ready to be harvested. [I probably spent more time deciding on a title than actually writing the blog. Again with a lack of alternatives I found a Biblical quotation. ‘All Flesh is as Grass.’]

[34] Tewkesbury and [63] Tewkesbury Banners came from a successful visit to the town, a single day visit like [30] Cheltenham. When I found out about the banners I just had to do that one. [By now I was scouring the Internet for quotations before undertaking anything. So I had ‘As Thick as Tewkesbury Mustard,’ from one of Shakespeare’s histories before I went there. A book about the banners provided ‘The King apparelled himself.’]

[19] Other Animals. Even putting wild animals and pets together made a short blog. [I looked hard for something about Noah’s Ark but ended up with Animal Farm, ‘Some are More Equal than Others.’]

[43] Old Buildings. A difficult split of my pictures of buildings into two. [‘Afterwards Our Buildings Shape Us.’ I took longer trying to find a title than I did doing this blog!]

[51] Pedestrian Signs. Straightforward. Pictorial. [I was getting used to some of the songs from my youth and I remembered Helen Shapiro, Walking Back to Happiness.]

[03] Roses. Just a collection of pictures. [It had to be from Juliet, ‘By Any Other Word.’]

[35] Lakeside. I had to wait to see if this late holiday would provide enough pictures. It had too many. I had to do lots of pruning.

[67] Food and Drink. Fairly limited because I don’t normally photograph what I eat. [‘Let Them Eat Cake’ was another misattribution to expose.]

[17] Flies and Spiders. As for the other insect ones, a lot of work! [‘Walk into my Parlour’ defined the topic! The title came first.]

[24] The Year. I knew this was coming because I had been taking pictures all year. [Another song from my youth, ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’]

[09] Trees. Just pictures but selected and ordered. I filled up my allocated space in WordPress and had to go back and delete about 300 pictures from earlier blogs! [I was really stuck for a title and could find nothing specific about trees in general]

[42] Buildings, What was left after [43] [I engineered the topics a difficult so that this could be ‘Life, the Universe and Everything.’]

[50] Heraldry. I would have liked to say a lot more about the heraldic arts, the language of blazon and the places and institutions that still use heraldry.

[69] Summary. This is it!


You have to go back to 1966 to understand my title. There was a film called Alfie starring Michael Caine, a sort of romantic comedy adapted from a novel and play by Bill Naughton. [It was remade in 2004 starring Jude Law]

It tells the story of a young womanizing man who leads a self-centred life, until events force him to question his uncaring behaviour, his loneliness and his priorities.

There was also a song, Alfie, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the film. The song was a hit for Cilla Black who sang it in the UK version of the film. In the US a version by Cher was sung over the closing credits. It was also a hit for Dionne Warwick in America.

The words of the song were quite poignant and it is probably much more memorable than the film.

It has absolutely nothing to do with this blog apart from the opening line …



What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel,
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there’s something much more,
Something even non-believers can believe in.
I believe in love, Alfie,
Without true love we just exist, Alfie,
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie,
When you walk let your heart lead the way,
And you’ll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.


For each blog use the links in the Full List of Posts.

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[67] Let Them Eat Cake

[67] Let Them Eat Cake – A Blog of Food and Drink

The first thing to say about this familiar saying is that it is a mistranslation. It never meant ‘Let them eat cake.’ We have to see it in the context of French culture and French cuisine.

‘Qu’ils mangent de la brioche’, meant, ‘Let them eat brioche,’ and what the French call a brioche is not a cake. It’s a luxury form of bread enriched with butter and eggs, perhaps more like pastry.

(You may have a pain au chocolat as a nice treat with your coffee. If this is your only experience of this delicacy you would think of it as a cake. You may not think of it as a breakfast item. But the French have croissants and pains au chocolat with their breakfast where we have toast and marmalade. The word ‘pain’ even means bread or it can mean a loaf. Sorry about the correct French plural.)

So if the French peasants didn’t have baguettes or croissants for their breakfast it wasn’t quite so outlandish suggesting brioches. It didn’t mean ‘Why don’t they have Black Forest Gateau?’

The other important thing to note is that it was almost certainly never said by Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI. It’s not the only popular saying to be misattributed!

It appears in the Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and was written when Marie Antoinette, then Archduchess Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna, was nine years old living in Austria. He attributes it to ‘a great princess.’ It may have been said a hundred years before Marie Antoinette by Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV.

It is unlikely that Mari Antoinette would have made such a callous statement.


I looked at various possible titles for something about Food and Drink and its provisional title was ‘Food, Glorious Food,’ from the musical ‘Oliver.’ You will see soon why the emphasis on cake seemed appropriate.

It’s going to be a relaively short blog post. You have already seen some of what I had to eat on my Birthday.

And you have seen some of my cooking skills at Christmas.

I don’t only do desserts at Christmas.

The first one is a sort of Bakewell Tart – the same recipe as Christmas but a few weeks earlier. (It’s a posh Bakewell. Officially it’s a frangipane.) The second one from a couple of months later is completely different – with rhubarb. (I’m an unbiased commentator. They were all delicious!)


There is something about the ‘English Breakfast’ that keeps its name even though we hardly ever have it at home now. It is still offered routinely in hotels and until recently it was always sold at Motorway Services and at Slimbridge.

Very recently it has disappeared from many places. Motorway Services now just have the familiar Costa or Starbucks coffee and national burger chains. Slimbridge now just does Bacon sandwiches.


I sometimes have lunch out and I have to admit to Fish and Chips as a favourite. If it come with posh ‘Fine Dining’ presentation it soon gets tipped on to the plate!

There are other options and sometimes it’s a toasted sandwich or even just a sandwich. [Toasted sandwiches can have foreign sounding names like ‘Panini’ or ‘Croque Monsieur.’]

You may notice the odd cake or biscuit in the background of the pictures above. To complete my research for this blog I had to try a proper dessert.


I have a lot of coffee out and this almost always includes a cake of some sort.

Marks and Spencer do a nice apple turnover but I think they only have one each day. It I miss it there is always something else.

Waitrose is my more usual haunt. I have a free coffee every day but I have to buy something to get the coffee free with my My Waitrose card. Sometimes it’s a couple of toffee waffles but I am sometimes I am tempted by pastries and cakes.


Here are some more from my travels around the country and abroad.

You may recognize some of them.


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[63] The King Apparelled Himself

[63] The King Apparelled Himself – A Blog about the Banners of Tewkesbury

I went to Tewkesbury and I noticed the banners in the streets.

I had seen some of these heraldic flags on previous visits and had assumed that they were random heraldic designs put up to make the town look mediaeval and attractive to tourists.

But as I went round the town this time the first ones I came to were this group of three banners in a little back street on old houses overlooking the river.

Each house had a little printed note, carefully enclosed in waterproof polythene, stuck prominently in their tiny gardens below the banners.

I could see that these banners had much more significance to the people of Tewkesbury. As I went round the town I was careful to photograph as many as I could and when I reached the Abbey I did a bit more investigating.

I looked in the Abbey shop and I found The Street Banners of Tewkesbury produced by the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society.

So I need to do a diversion here and go back a bit – back somewhat over 500 years!

The Battle of Tewkesbury

When we did History at school we did the Romans and then we skipped over the Dark Ages and Mediaeval England and we started again with the Tudors from 1485. So I know very little about the Wars of the Roses. They were long and complicated and I won’t begin to attempt to explain them.

But with the help of Wikipedia I can say that the Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses. The forces loyal to the House of Lancaster were completely defeated by those of the House of York under King Edward IV. The Lancastrian heir to the throne, Edward, Prince of Wales, and many prominent Lancastrian nobles were killed during the battle or were dragged from sanctuary (in Tewkesbury Abbey) two days later and executed. The Lancastrian king, Henry VI, a prisoner in the Tower of London, died or was murdered shortly after the battle. The Battle of Tewkesbury restored political stability to England at least until the death of Edward IV in 1483.

The Banners

For the last twenty years the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society has undertaken the task of producing and maintaining these banners, which are made individually by hand. Every May there is a public showing of new and refurbished banners at the Town Hall. Local shops and houses can choose them and hire them for erection in June. They come down in September to avoid the hazards of winter weather.

The book has short description of each of the people represented, with a picture of the banner and notes about genealogy and heraldry. I can’t include everything here so I will make some general comments and then show you the banners with comments on one or two.


These banners represent early heraldry with colourful designs on shields and armour to identify individual soldiers. Various stylized forms developed over hundreds of years with the pattern on the shield identifying the family. Differences were made for descendants of the original arm-bearers and this period is almost the end of the relatively uncontrolled era of heraldry. It was a few years later, in 1484, that the College of Arms was formed to register and formalize the process.

A modern armorial Achievement (colloquially known as a Coat of Arms) is not just the shield (Escutcheon) at its centre. It also generally includes a Crest on a Helmet with a Torse, Supporters at each side, Mantling and a Motto. But the banner of arms is a simple flag and shows just the shield.

When they hang vertically as those at Tewkesbury there is no distinction between right and left so you don’t have to worry about ‘dexter’ (right) and ‘sinister’ (left) meaning ‘left’ and ‘right.’ (Actors may perhaps understand the confusion of ‘stage right’ and ‘audience left.’) Some of the pictures below will only match their blazon if you flip the picture round.


The art of describing these shields (Blazon) can fill books. (It does!) The descriptions are still in an archaic Norman French with word order not as we would speak today. I will give you two examples, one from each side. Note first that they don’t use white and yellow. For historic reasons they are silver and gold.

The first one is a very simple design and you will understand its blazon. Sir William Fielding of Lutterworth, Leicestershire (1428-71) fought on the Lancastrian side. His banner was:

Argent a fess Azure charged with three lozenges Or.

[Silver, with a bar across the middle, blue, bearing three diamond shapes, gold.]

The book tells you a little more about Sir William who was made Sherriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdon in 1470. He was killed in the battle at Tewkesbury.

Sir William Norreys of Bray and Yattendon, Berkshire (1440-1507) fought on the Yorkist side. His shield is more complicated with parts coming from his father and some from his maternal grandfather. Women didn’t bear arms in the same way as men but they could pass them on. His blazon is:


1 and 4. Argent a chevron between three raven’s heads sable

2 and 3. Quarterly Argent and Gules fretty Or a bend Azure charged with three bezants.

[Divided into quarters

Two of these quarters – each is silver with a chevron and three raven’s heads, all black.

The other two quarters are quartered again – silver and red with yellow diagonal lattices – over all a diagonal bar, blue, with three gold circles.]

I have tried to translate the blazons but you can see how they work very concisely. For example the word ‘bezant’ above is actually short for a ‘roundel Or,’ Roundels were so common that they each had a name. A bezant was a gold coin and hence a gold roundel but other roundels could be plates, hurts, torteaux, pellets, pommes, golpes, oranges or guzes depending on their colour. Even more concise was the word fountain for a ‘roundel barry wavy argent and azure,’ the very common blue and white stripy representation of water.

There will be another blog about Heraldic Signs.

The Lancastrians

These are in the same order as the book so you can find them yourself.

John Basset [Barry wavy of six Or and Gules] One of few surviving prisoners to be pardoned and allowed to return home to Cornwall.

Sir John Butler [Or a chief indented Azure] and Sir Thomas Butler [Or a chief indented Azure a molet Argent for difference] who later succeeded his brother as Earl of Ormond. The blazon makes it clear why these two are different. John was a second son and only had the banner without a difference mark because his older brother had been beheaded after an earlier battle.

Sir Thomas FitzHenry [Ermine a chief Azure charged with three lions rampant Or.] The Ermine of the blazon is neither a metal (like Argent and Or) nor a colour (like Azure or Sable) but it is a tincture representing fur. The fur is the white winter coat of a stoat with lots of small furs sewn together. Exaggerated stylized tails make the black patterns.

I’m sure you all spotted another pair of brothers there – Sir John and Sir Roger Lewkenor. (More to come below.)

They loved puns. Doctor Ralph Mackarell, a non-combatant Doctor of Divinity. [Azure three mackerels hauriant Argent.]

Margaret Valois of Anjou, Queen of England after her marriage to Henry VI, a major figure on the Lancastrian side, had a more complex banner described as Quarterly of six. (Quarterly did not necessarily have anything to do with a four-part division.) I won’t give the full blazon but two of the six sections were forms of the ancient shield of France (blue with gold fleu-de-lys) modified to represent Anjou and Lorraine and three of the others represented Hungary, Jerusalem and the Duchy of Lorraine.

She was captured just after the battle and held until the King of France paid her ransom of 50 000 crowns. As Queen of England she could have had an even more complicated banner impaling her arms with those of Henry VI.

The Yorkists

There were more Lancastrians than Yorkists but most of the banners represent Yorkists. Perhaps that is because they won!

This banner of Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) is a household banner, not the same as his shield (a differenced version of the royal arms of his brother, Edward IV, shown further on.)

Sir Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy of Thurveston, Barton Blount and Elvaston is one where my picture shows a reversed form. Among other changes this gets the numbers of the quarters wrong. It should be.


1 Argent two wolves Sable, on bordure Or eight saltires Gules

2 Or a castle triple towered Azure

3 Barry nebuly of six Or and Sable

4 Vair

Vair, like Ermine is a stylized form of fur, representing the greyish-blue backs of squirrels alternating with their white under-bellies. (It’s the winter fur of one form of the Red Squirrel found in northern Europe.)

This is not just a wolf. It has blood on its claws and tongue. It is Azure, a wolf salient Argent, armed and langued Gules.

King Edward IV, Duke of York (Edward Plantaganet,) the leader of the Yorkists. The banner is: ‘Quarterly 1 and 4. Azure three fleur-de-lys Or 2 and 3. Gules three lions passant guardant Or’ but its history is so well-known that it It’s also described as: ‘Quarterly 1 and 4 France 2 and 3 England.’

The Royal Standard has changed little over hundreds of years. As I am sure you will recognize it is now Quarterly 1 and 4 England 2 Scotland 3 Ireland.

A very simple banner using counter-changing. Sir Geoffrey Poole of Worrell: Per pale Or and Sable, a saltire engrailed counter-changed.

Unidentified Banners

The book is a few years old and I found a few new ones not in the book. Most of these seem to be very close relatives of some in the book, marked by small differences in the blazon.

Without the tree torteaux (roundels Gules) this would be the Lancastrian Sir Henry Grey.

Probably Sir Maurice Berkeley whose two sons fought with the Yorkists. They both have this banner with difference marks.

Probably Sir Philip Courtenay who also had two sons fighting for the Yorkists.

Perhaps a relative of the Lancastrian Sir Robert Knollys who had three red roses on a chevron instead of one on a saltire as shown above.

Fairly similar to the banner of Sir Thomas Montgomery, a Yorkist.

The Lancastrian John Wroughton had boar’s heads instead of greyhounds.

I won’t guess at the next two but the last one (which appears on the cover of the book, but not inside) is presumably the white rose of York.

It’s all about the Battle of Tewkesbury and the web-site of the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society displays this quotation which probably comes from a contemporary document.

The Kynge apparailed hymselfe, and all his hooste set in good array; ordeined three wards; displayed his bannars; dyd blowe up the trompets; commytted his caws and qwarell to Almyghty God, to owr most blessyd lady his mothar, Vyrgyn Mary, the glorious martyr Seint George, and all the saynts; and advaunced, directly upon his enemyes; approchinge to theyr filde, which was strongly in a marvaylows storng grownd pyght, full difficult to be assayled.

A similar description with more modern spelling is as follows.

Upon the morrow following, Saturday, the 4th day of May the king apparelled himself, and set all his host in good array, displayed his banners, did blow up the trumpets, committed his cause and quarrel to God, and advanced directly upon his enemies who were pitched strongly in a marvellously strong ground, very difficult to assail. In front of their field were such evil lanes and deep dikes, so many hedges, tree, and bushes, that it was very hard to approach near and come to hand fighting. But Edmund, called Duke of Somerset, having that day the vanguard advanced with his troops somewhat on one side of the king’s vanguard, and by certain paths and ways previously surveyed, and unknown to the king’s party, he departed out of the field, passed a lane, and came to a close, just in front of the king and from the hill that was in one of the closes, he set right fiercely on the end of the king’s division. The king, in manly fashion, at once set upon them won the dike and hedge and with great violence pushed them back up the hill, assisted by the Duke of Gloucester.


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[65] Trains and Boats and Planes

[65] Trains and Boats and Planes – A Pictorial Blog about Transport

Trains and Boats and Planes” is a song written by composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David, first recorded in 1965. Hit versions were recorded by Bacharach; Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas; and Dionne Warwick.

I won’t add much to that. This is just a collection of pictures loosely categorized as pertaining to forms of transport. They come from England, Wales, Croatia, Italy, Belgium, France and the seas in between.

I will start with trains, boats and planes!


Now some more land transport.


Two Wheels.

Some more marine transport including boatyards and fishing.

That’s about it, just lots of pictures.



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[66] Striking Thirteen

[66] Striking Thirteen – a Pictorial Blog about Clocks

The author Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell, is well known for the two books ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Nineteen Eighty-four. His dystopian novel starts, normally called ‘1984’ starts with these lines.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

When these lines were written in 1948 its setting was far in the future so perhaps his unusual clocks just made this clear to his readers.

I will be talking of the clocks of today when clock faces generally just go up to twelve! I always planned to a blog about clocks although at first I had just three in mind from the centre of Cheltenham. It will be mostly pictures.

The House of Fraser has a department store that continues to keep its old name of Cavendish House.

Marks and Spencer has also been with us for as long as I can remember. Its clock is high up and not so impressive.

Martin & Co. have a jewellery shop in the Promenade, almost opposite Cavendish House. Their prominent clock show their sponsorship links to Rolex watches.

I didn’t stop at three. I looked around a big and found a few more clocks.

This one is by the taxi rank in Royal Well Road just behind the Municipal Offices.

One of my favourite sights when I visit Newnham-on-Severn is this clock tower.

Two more that you may miss if you don’t look up in central Cheltenham.

Clocks on churches are always impressive.

Two more buildings that may be familiar to Cheltonians. The tower is part of the remnants of a listed building whose wall appears in my Walls blog. The other one is one of several old buildings that make up Cheltenham Ladies College.

You will recognize this one by the post boxes at our main sorting office.

Three quite large plain modern clocks.

Now some from my travels – Cirencester. Bournemouth and Oxford.



World’s Oldest Clock

You can read about this clock in Salisbury Cathedral in my blog about Bournemouth.

It may be the oldest in the World but its provenance is uncertain.

[Yes, I know that Salisbury isn’t strictly part of Bournemouth. Read the blog to find out!]


I’m cheating a bit for the next few pictures.

After some clocks and watches for sale there is picture of a large sundial on a wall. The last one at the entrance to some modern residential buildings is a sign to mark the proximity of one of Cheltenham’s now long dead stations – St James Station. It isn’t a clock. It always shows five o’clock!

Arcade Clock

As usual I have save something special for the end of my blog.

The Regent Arcade in Cheltenham features a large automatic clock designed by Kit Williams.

All that Wikipedia would tell me is that:

‘In the United Kingdom, Kit Williams produced a series of large automaton clocks for a handful of British shopping centres, featuring frogs, ducks and fish.’

Our one at Cheltenham does many things when it chimes to mark the hour. (OK, it doesn’t ring bells. It plays ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.’ You will see why in a minute.) The large wheel at the top rotates and we have an egg-laying bird, a mouse and a snake.

The most familiar action, especially for visiting children, is the large goldfish underneath that turns and blows bubbles.

I was lucky to get these pictures. The next time I visited this was all I could see as the clock undergoes repair and maintenance.




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[62] Neither Beginnings nor Endings

[62] Neither Beginnings nor Endings – A Picture Blog about Textures and Patterns.

In every book of his series on the Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan always opens with almost identical first paragraphs all about the wheel repeating itself.

‘… [It] was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.’

Nature and the works of Man both have many patterns that seem to repeat and I see many of them. Here are just some of them, more or less in random order. You can find others under the topics of Walls or Skies.

Some of these pictures have already appeared in other blogs.

I will leave it to you to work out what these pictures are: –


[60] Wait a Minute

[60] Wait a Minute, (Mr Postman) – a blog about Post and the Post Office

This is one of the topics that was always going to make it, one of the first contenders for a reserved number in my complicated list. It’s basically about those boxes we find everywhere – all painted what we call ‘pillar-box red!’

Christmas is nearly upon us and I couldn’t resist a shot of this card to start this blog.


I suppose I will have to say something about the Post Office for those of you not quite as old as me. The Post Office used to mean the GPO, (General Post Office) which used to be a government ministry. It provided the only way to send letters but it also controlled the only telephone system and what there was then in the way of television (and it was also the usual way to pay for gas, electricity etc. or receive state pensions or lots of other things.) Of course in those days telephones and television were much more primitive than what we know today. But the pillar boxes and public telephones boxes were sturdily built and they are still with us.

Victorian Pillar Boxes

The GPO started in 1660 but it was not until 1840 that we had prepaid postage and postage stamps. Before then it was the recipient who paid, not the sender.

The first pillar boxes date from around 1850 and the earliest Victorian ones were green. In the 1870s the hexagonal design emerged and red became the standard colour. (I am sure you will know that we have Robins on Christmas cards because Victorian postmen wore red uniforms. Perhaps this is why pillar boxes are red.)






As for nearly all of my pictures for this blog, these two come from the streets of Cheltenham. The positioning of the Crown, Royal Cipher and ‘POST OFFICE’ are not standardized and you will notice that only one of these has the coat of arms below the letter slit.

vict03In 1879 the cylindrical design replaced the hexagon. From then onwards boxes always carried the royal cipher and the words POST OFFICE. There were two sizes, both the same height – ‘A’ (slightly larger) and ‘B.’

Later Monarchs

I have been lucky enough to find most of the different pillar boxes and the main thing to look for is the Royal Cipher. The hardest to find was Edward VII (1901-10). This one was covered in moss and looked old.



I did find a much newer looking one on a trip to Oxford.


After Edward we had George V (1910-36), George VI (1936-52) and Queen Elizabeth II. [I wasn’t expecting to find Edward VIII!]





I couldn’t quite catch this last one open as it was being emptied.


Since the 1980s we have a more modern design and the words POST OFFICE have become ROYAL MAIL.


This one, inside the huge local Waitrose supermarket, is made of plastic.


Larger oval Type ‘C’ boxes, with slots for town and country post, date from the turn of the Twentieth Century.



We also have rectangular Type ‘G’ boxes.


You normally only find these larger ones outside where there used to be main Post Offices.

The next one is quite modern, for franked mail only.


I have never quite worked out how and why they can distinguish between stamped and franked mail but the distinction was there long ago even before postcodes.

Smaller Boxes

There have always been roadside wall boxes. From 1885 to 1965 they were used particularly for sub-post offices.

(You may not understand the term sub-post office. There were Post Offices, which did nothing but Post Office business and there were smaller sub-post offices, sharing their premises usually with a shop. Now most of them have disappeared and those that remain are nearly all sub-post offices.)

Now wall boxes are seen mostly in countryside towns and villages. This one is at Newnham-on-Severn.


I was intrigued to find the next one low down in a wall in the countryside near Stow-on-the-Wold. I photographed it without knowing what it was.


It’s an earlier Victorian model used until 1904 and this is clearly an Edward VII post box. It is no longer red so I presume that it is now just used privately. I note that you can now buy old post boxes or replicas in various colours so maybe this was never active where is now located.

The Lantern type is quite rare nowadays but I see this one often on my trips to Slimbridge.



As you can see the notice at the front gives the last collection time. When I was young they always used to list all of the collection times.


During the very successful 2012 London Olympics there was a decision to paint post boxes gold over the country to commemorate local success. We have this pair on Cheltenham High Street. I have to say that it’s more of a light beige colour than what I would call gold but the thought was there.


Alex Gregory from the coxless fours in the Rowing, was born in Cheltenham.


I feel I ought to end the section about post boxes with these two pictures from our main sorting office at Cheltenham. I think of them as new but they must date from the Nineties. They are certainly showing signs of age!




You are, of course, wondering what telephones have to do with letters and the Post Office. Well, when all of our post came under the GPO it must have fairly logical to put the developing technology of telephones under the same organisation. From about 1900 to the Fifties telephones were big chunky black bakelite machines fixed by wire to the walls of houses. They were expensive and unreliable. Calls over about thirty miles were connected manually by an operator so most calls were local.

Not many people had telephones but there were many public telephone kiosks – in towns for the use of the general public and in the countryside for emergency use.


You can see a certain similarity in the style of these with pillar boxes for post. Both were solid metal structures, painted bright red, with the royal crown.

Here is the equipment inside a modern working kiosk.


Things have changed. Since about the eighties and nineties we have mobile phones that do all sorts of things that telephones didn’t do in the fifties. They have developed and become so popular that very few people even use their own landlines. People no longer need public telephones. Public Telephone kiosks have disappeared almost everywhere.

Thousands of them have been removed, either scrapped or sold, although some remain unused as listed buildings! Here is an unused one I spotted in someone’s front garden.


(The pillar box at the front is a little toy model!)

As part of the revolution in telephone technology, the old GPO has disappeared and the telephony bit became BT. Here are some new telephone boxes from BT and the equipment inside it.



The one above is an early BT version. The logo of Mercury disappeared over ten years ago.

Here is a more modern version.


Many of the old red boxes still remaining now have other functions such as housing emergency defibrillator equipment.



Here is one in the town centre that manages to include a cash machine while still retaining its function as a telephone.




At the centre of Cheltenham where the Main Post Office used to be we had ten telephone boxes – a group of four and another group of six. They have recently been taken away, refurbished and replaced roughly where they were but they are no longer public phone boxes.




If you look closely you find that the doors do not open. They have displays making small museum exhibits about Cheltenham.




All of our landlines are connected. You don’t see nearly as many telegraph poles anymore carrying the final lines. I noticed last year these identification signs on them.


I think the poles have been made shorter in some places because these numbers are now lower.

Most of the cables go underground.


There are lots of boxes at the side of the pavement where connections are made. Some are old and some not so old.




In the age of the Internet we have telephony mixed with broadband computer connections and also television.



I was lucky enough last year to get a picture of the inside of one of these boxes for my daily picture blog. My luck continued this year.


Just to complete this dissertation, we still have postmen delivering mail and we still have Post Offices!




Please, Mr Postman is a song from the early Sixties, most famous for versions by the Beatles and the Carpenters. (I can’t do biblical quotes every time.)

Here are some of its words.

(Stop) Oh yes, wait a minute, Mr. Postman;

(Wait) Wait Mr. Postman.

(Please Mr. Postman look and see);

Oh yeah (If there’s a letter in your bag for me,)

Please, please, Mr. Postman (Why’s it takin’ such a long time;)

Oh yeah (For me to hear from that boy [/girl] of mine.)

It sounds better when it’s sung.


Apart from Wikipedia special mention for this blog must be made to PULP – Paul’s Unofficial Letterbox Pages, which I have used to identify the various letter box types.