28 February, 2009

The shattered decanter by D H (Bert) Lawrence

Auntie Chris sat in the drawing room at Eastwood Hall Hotel and Conference Centre.
From Travels around London

The hotel was in the very heart of the east midlands mining country that was once home to D H Lawrence from his birth until he could manage to escape. The hall nestled under the old slagheap like a child its mother, the village stood at the top of the valley the hills covered in four square brick houses that had once housed the coal miners – attracted by hard work and low wages to populate this village. Lawrence had been born half way up the wall of one of these houses according to a plaque present thereon.
From Travels around London

Eastwood Hall Hotel and Conference Centre was the scene for the drama that was about to play itself out and an important gathering had come there to debate tactics and strategy for the Coöp. Men, ay, and women too had come from throughout the country to be present at the gathering and that there was any love between them none would have acknowledged although they were held in much deeper bonds than mere love could provide. Some of them were brutal in speech but never coarse in manner.

Eastwood Hall Hotel and Conference Centre was by far the biggest house in the village, having over 300 bedrooms, but was set in a valley and so did not command it. The D H Lawrence heritage centre, that place of enlightenment and education, was in a more commanding position opposite the hall, and in there one could, if one were so inclined, learn what there was to know about the Lawrence family. It was even the scene of many a village wedding as it housed the registry office; all those who went through that door suffered the terrors of the damned on those occasions.
From Travels around London

In a commanding position in the high street were the Coöp stores, where villagers could shop for their groceries, electrical goods both brown and white and home furnishings. A special department catered for the villagers travel needs, and it was this department that was well frequented. The Coöp men and women had visited the stores and found them to be good. They had returned to the hall and told their friends and comrades that flannel singlets could be obtained at half price. Some of the coöperators made their way to the library, set in a square with a millennium clock and opposite an inn where the village men folk gathered to drink their ale. The clock had been paid for in part by the Midlands Coöperative Society and it showed the time to the staff in the library. There was an important DH Lawrence collection in the library under lock and key. These are not books to give your servant after all. No, the serving wench would more desire Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code or something by Catherine Cookson if she were elderly. Outside the library a modern sculpture celebrated, yet again, the one son of the village to have achieved worldwide (in)fame(y). A blue line on the pavement connected places associated with this man phoenix who had brought such prosperity to the village people.
From Travels around London

DHL's Childhood home

The conference went on in its interminable fashion with speakers both great and good. Delegates repaired to the swimming pool when it all became too much and there in the grinning water, steam room and sauna dripped away their cares until they could return to the hall refreshed and ready to debate some more.
‘What’s for dinner?’ I asked of one of the delegates, who said that she didn’t know, but thought as it had been chicken on Friday night it would be beef tonight.
‘Aye lass, ‘appen that’ll be right. Chicken follows beef as sure as Sunday follows Saturday.’

There was to be a presentation that evening at the dinner that night but the beef was not on the menu, instead pork was served to the general consternation.

After dinner the presentations were made: Auntie Chris was presented with a crystal decanter by the members of the Coöp, for having been for many, many years a stalwart in the Coöperative service. This was her just reward for the many years of hard work for the society that showed in her careworn face. The hard work also showed. She was now about to take a well earned retirement and the conference was to be her swan song. The secretary had called her name, holding the decanter in his hand. Chris collected it from the Secretary and stepped down from the stage to the applause of her comrades, colleagues and fellow coöperators depending on their persuasion. A turn to greet a fellow and oh! a slip, and the decanter lay shattered on the dining room floor.

27 February, 2009


A visit to Nottingham, home of lace and er that's it really. There are two interesting churches that I visited in the town St Peter and St Mary, St Mary has a 500 year old porch and St Peter has a modern tryptich and workers window that was paid for by subscriptions from trade unions and workers organisations.
From Travels around London

From Travels around London

Nottingham is also home to the legend of Robin Hood who actually came from Wakefield. He gathered a band of outlaws about him when the Sherrif of Nottingham (the office still exists) would not give him maid Marion's hand in marriage. I think there's rather more to it than that as the Sherrif is responsible for the administrtion of justice including collecting debts. Nevertheless Robin Hood and his merry men camped out in Sherwood Forrest wearing lincolngreen they stole from a merchant.

From Travels around London

Hmm. Alas the legends are really just that. There's no record of Robin Hood or his band of merry men. It's probably just a pagan survival - green men, fairys etc., but it is a good story especially when you get to the redistributive robbery.

Nottingham has a castle and a fairly grand railway station. It has some interesting shops. I was only there for half a day so not much exploring done.

22 February, 2009

George Lansbury celebrations

George Lansbury, an honest politician.

Events to celebrate the life of George Lansbury, Pauper Guardian, LCC Councillor, Poplar Borough Councillor, MP, cabinet minister, Brixton prisoner and leader of the Labour Party (this one by default). Diamond Geezer has blogged in depth about him, so I’ll blog about the walk. A large crowd had gathered outside Bow Road Tube station including some of my Coöperative friends from Hertfordshire and Essex but not a friend from Tower Hamlets who claimed to have been distracted by a tall… but we won’t go into that. Four groups led off to St Clements Hospital, the former City workhouse, to introduce Lansbury as a Pauper Guardian and how he uncovered corruption in the workhouse, next off to see some other sites less well connected, then the site of Lansbury’s house destroyed by a bomb in 1944 and now the site of a block of council flats and a memorial garden. Past the former Poplar Town Hall and the statue of Gladstone paid for by a deduction from the wages of the match girls at the Brymay factory and hence with the statues hands painted red to symbolise the blood of the match girls on Gladstone’s hands. After that into Bow church an old building for some tea and cakes. Many thanks to the man who pointed out the squirrel in the stained glass east window.

The Memorial service was also held in Bow Church and although my companion was impatient to get away to the hell hole of a tiny ‘theatre’ bar he frequents, the singing and the preaching by Ken Leach were excellent, although Bunyan’s good masculine words were mangled and ‘He who would true valour see’ was a curious hybrid of Dearmer and Bunyan but not the usual namby pamby Dearmer. The Lansbury family were out in force although not Miss Angela Lansbury who was playing Madame Arcarti on Broadway. One professor stated that he had been inspired by Lansbury to give up his riches, his big house with two cars to live modestly in a poor district. I’m all for professors living where they want to but of course all the people who do live in the poor district by necessity would, should they come into a professor’s wealth, move out to a better district and buy two cars. I know I would!

From Travels around London

21 February, 2009

East Ham - it is all sh*t!

A visit to the far reaches of the District line and the borough of New Ham an amalgam of East Ham and West Ham. I stuck to the East Ham side. And it really is horrible. I went into the vast Carnegie Library. The fiction section downstairs had a lot of books although mostly in foreign languages the information section upstairs was a vast barn with three, yes three shelves of books. Even in Barking I saw more books than that. There was nothing about the history of the borough, the topography or anything like that so I came away at a loss. The vast heritage of one of the county boroughs of Essex reduced to nothing. I made my way to the scrubby grassy park. The library promised me a tree trail – No 1. London Plane, No 2. London Plane etc. On the way to the park a stoned youth asked me where Newham College was. As it was obvious that it was opposite the library away from the direction he was going I pointed towards it and said “There it is”. He just kept walking away from it in some dope induced dream of his own. Why he would want to go there on a Saturday I could not understand.

The picture shows the public mortuary – I’d rather be in there than living in East Ham.

From Travels around London

08 February, 2009

Birmingham and Braunston

Another visit to the Canal Boat show at Braunston in the snow. I went with Phil and we had a ride on a narrow boat specially equipped for ice breaking.

From canals and waterways

02 February, 2009

the King Stone Upon Thames

Kingston is home to the stone on which the Saxon Kings were crowned. It stands outside the Guildhall. The Church (All Saints) was serving tea, coffee and cake to my companion's relief, and had some old brass and a wall painting of St Blaize with carding comb and pastoral staff.

The museum is fairly small but has some curious exhibits telling the story of Kingston through the ages.

From Travels around London

The Cleve Almshouses

From Travels around London

The Lovekyn chapel

From Travels around London

Modern sculpture