A visit to the National Memorial Arboretum

On the way home from the garden holiday in the Peak District, (see earlier post), we passed The National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield, Staffordshire and called in for a quick visit. What an inspiring and emotive place! We only had just over an hour and it really is worth more than a quick visit; a full day would have done it justice.

Opened in May 2001, the 150 acre site has over 30,000 trees, almost every tree has a dedication plaque, and 300 memorials recognizing service and sacrifice. We mistakenly thought that it was solely war memorials, how wrong could we be. There are memorials to the armed forces, civilian organizations and voluntary bodies who have served the country.

The recently opened Remembrance Centre has 3 galleries, a restaurant, cafe and shop. As much as I have searched I can't find out who designed the gardens outside but they are planted in the prairie style and are quite impressive.

The majority of memorials have their own dedicated gardens, and the ones we saw had wreaths and little wooden crosses on them. The day before, 31 July, had been a commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele and I think a number of events had been held but clearly crosses and wreaths are left throughout the year by family, friends and colleagues.

If I had been more aware, I would have bought one of the small crosses on sale in the entrance, because the next memorial we came across was to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. The ATS was the women's branch of the British Army during the Second World War. It was formed on 9 September 1938, initially as a women's voluntary service, and existed until 1 February 1949, when it was merged into the Women's Royal Army Corps. My mum, who died in June this year, was a member of the ATS and I have photos of her in her uniform, seeing this statue really bought a lump to my throat and I had a few tears.

The next monument was to the Woman's Land Army. I loved this and stood in front of it for quite a while, thinking about all those hard working women. The sculpture by Denise Dutton and unveiled in May 2014.

The emotional, tearful, walk around the Arboretum was not intentional. However, the next onslaught of emotion was the Royal Artillery memorial garden dedicated to all those who have served in the Royal Artillery. My Dad, who sadly at 93 has advanced Alzheimer's, was a long term serving officer in the RA and he would have loved to have seen this.

Although the Arboretum is mainly to commemorate service men since 1945, there are some for the First World War. Above is the memorial for all those who lost their lives in Gallipoli, Italy, between 1915 and 1916.

Coming right up to date, the photo above is the SANDS Garden in remembrance of Stillbirth and Neonatal Deaths.

In the middle of the grounds is the spectacular Armed Forces Memorial, dedicated in October 2007. Made out of Portland Stone, the memorial is a tribute to over 16,000 men and women who have been killed on duty or as a result of terrorist action since 1948 to the present day. It is designed so that at 11:00 am on the 11th of November each year a shaft of sunlight beams between the two walls on to the wreath in the middle.

The life sized bronze statues were created by Ian Rank-Broadley. This one is a Serviceman raised aloft on a stretcher by comrades as family members look on. The information about this statue says: "It bears witness to the cost of armed conflict to those left behind – the families, loved ones and friends who live with the pain and consequence of their loss for the rest of their lives."

This one is the body of a warrior being prepared for burial by female and Gurkha soldiers. The figure before the double doors points to a world beyond where the warrior will rest as another figure chisels the name on the memorial.

During the Falklands war, I received an early morning phone call from my father in May 1982 to tell me that the son of close family friends had been shot and would not be returning home. As I looked on the memorial I found his name J A Barry – he was only 24.

There was so much to see, as I said earlier we only had an hour or two, but will certainly return. Not for morbid reasons, it isn't like walking around a graveyard, but to stand, recollect and pay tribute to lost lives. The whole place has a sense of serenity about it. There is so much to look at and in the new centre there are various exhibitions such as Victory over Blindness, an exhibition inspired by the Blind Veterans UK. Also there are audio guides you can take with you recounting snippets of history.

The National Memorial Arboretum is open daily, except Christmas Day, from 9am to 5pm and dusk in the winter months. It's an excellent day out and children would love it, there is lots for them to do and history learn.

In Memory of My Mum

My mum, Joan Mary Elizabeth, was born on the 12th April 1919 in Liverpool, the eldest daughter of Ernest and Alys Eckes. 

The above photo of Mum was taken by Edward Chambre Hardman, when mum was 10 years old.  Hardman was a renowned photographer who lived in Rodney Street, Liverpool which is now owned by the National Trust.   Much to my excitement I found this several years ago when running a family search through the Liverpool archives. 


Life with mum was not always easy,  when Theresa May said she was a “bloody difficult woman” she hadn’t met my mum!  We had our ups and downs believe me, she could be stubborn and unbending.  She was adamant to stay in her own home when it was obvious she was not managing, so when she went into hospital just after Christmas 2008 with pneumonia it was time to persuade her that a nursing home was the better place for her to be.  With some gentle cajoling – we told her to look upon it as a 2 week recuperation – she moved into Caer Gwent Nursing Home, Worthing on 4 January 2009 at the age of 89.  We had been told to expect her to live another 6-12 months and it was important she was somewhere nice.  After 2 weeks she decided she loved the company and the food and asked to stay.   

Eight years later following a 10 day fight to stay alive, mum finally gave in and passed away on Sunday the 4th June 2017 at 08.00a.m.  


With an excellent diet of good food, the most wonderful caring staff and daily activities mum thrived.  She became a happy, contented lady, developing a wonderful sense of humour I never saw as a child.  Brushing away all our past difficulties,  we built an exceptionally happy mother/daughter relationship and I spent a lot of time with her.  Mum still kept her feistiness and was known to dig her heels in on occasions refusing to do things, but was always charming and mortified if she knew that she had upset any of the staff, apologizing profusely.   Something elderly women suffer from is a ‘hairy chin’ she would only let the male staff shave her, saying only they knew what they were doing!  Singing the “Sun has got his hat on” with her was another ruse to get things done.


The nursing home is just around the corner from me and when mum was mobile enough for a wheelchair,  we would go down to Worthing seafront and people watch, mum’s favourite pastime and eat ice cream, her favourite food.  She loved shopping, especially at  Christmas when we negotiated the aisles with a basket on her lap, and she tried to buy everything!   Singers are regular visitors to the nursing home and mum would sit there conducting the music, which always made everyone smile.   Even in her late 90’s she enjoyed Elvis! 


 Mum loved gardening, and no matter where we lived and the soil conditions, she always managed to grow sweet peas.  I have grown them in my garden for her ever since she moved down here.  She loved sitting in my garden just looking at all the flowers and would look up and say “Look at the sky Ron, it’s so blue”.  Mum never got over how blue the sky was!  I have ordered a double ended spray of sweet peas to go on the top of her coffin, a wicker one, and it will have a garland threaded around the edge with sweet peas.  I sat with mum on Sunday morning, holding her hand, talking about gardens and flowers, I hope she left us with lovely thoughts. 

Mum on her 95th birthday – 2014

Her greatest love was her two granddaughters, her great grandson, Jamie, and great granddaughter, Scarlett.  You can see how proud she was of them from the above photo.   On days when she was being unco-operative the carers would talk to her about Jamie and Scarlett which always worked a treat.  

Like most elderly people she was wise and always had the right comforting words when needed by us. 

There are certain phrases I will always associate with mum – if she didn’t hear or understand what you said to her, she would lean forward and with a frown ask “a whichy-what?” and “Yum yum” when talking about food.  Two days before she died, mum was very frail and weak, but when we talked about the upcoming Strawberry Tea to he held at the nursing home, she whispered “yum yum” at the mention of strawberries.   My cousin Katie said a short prayer at her bedside, and halfway through the Hail Mary, mum piped up “chocolate biscuits!” we fell about laughing and will always hear this now when saying that prayer. 

Mum on her 93rd birthday – April 2012

Although Mum’s death was expected and I visited her and sat with her every day for her last 10 days, joined by my cousin Katie on the last few days, her death when it came was still heartbreaking and I will miss her dreadfully.  Even this afternoon when working in the garden, I looked at my watch to see if it was a good time to visit her.  I suppose that will take time to fade. 

 I know it is not for everyone, and until now the mere thought of it filled me with horror, but I visited mum yesterday at the funeral parlour and sat with her for a while.  She actually looked healthier than she had done for the past few months and had lost that awful yellow pallor and the dark purple around her sunken eyes.  I had been warned sometimes undertakers overdo the makeup but they got it just right.  Being with her yesterday has helped me understand that she has left us and it’s time to stop feeling so desperately sad.  

I hope there is an after life and she is somewhere happy watching people and eating ice cream, saying “yum yum”. 

Learning To Write English All Over Again

There are times when I wish my mother tongue was something other than English  and I had to learn English from scratch. That way I would know my verbs from adverbs, my nouns from pronouns and how to construct a grammatically correct sentence.  I don’t know about you, but I have always been acutely aware of my lack of knowledge when it comes to English grammar.  Even as I start to write this post, I am wondering if anyone reading it might be thinking that I have used prepositions and subordinate conjunctions in the wrong place.   No, I don’t know what they are either!   I just write as I speak the language I have grown up with over the last 63 years.

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About 20 years ago I joined an adult education evening class at my local Sixth form college and took Adult English GCE. The majority of the syllabus was literature based which was most enjoyable and I discovered the joy of writing.   At that time, I was surprised how the written word had evolved since I left school. For example, we were told not to use a comma in front of the word and ( ,and ) as it was unnecessary.  I never did get around to reading “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”  written by Lynne Truss and published in 2003.  Maybe if I had read it I would not be struggling now.  10 years later I worked for someone who abhorred capital letters apart from the beginning of a sentence.  This threw me into a complete flummox trying to get things right, I had spent years, as a legal secretary, typing the Court, so to downgrade it to the court just didn’t feel right.

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I have muddled along quite happily over the years, accepting corrections from bosses, although I wasn’t entirely sure they were correct, and (see I still use the unnecessary comma) in the last 4 years writing my blog as if I was talking to you, without any hesitation as to whether the Grammar Police were going to come at me with a big stick.

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I am very aware that everything evolves over the years, but last week something happened at work that made me wonder, even question, whether it is changing for the better.   We have been given a “Writing style guide”  to be used as a reference tool to ensure that communications are presented in a consistent style.  It went on to explain that spelling and punctuation changes as the language evolves.  There is a list of words to be avoided “Jargon”, redundant phrases and how to simplify common phrases such as using ‘about’ instead of ‘in relation to’ and ‘from or for’ instead of ‘from the point of view of’.  We are shown how to use bullet points, capital letters and abbreviations.    It was at abbreviations that was one hurdle I found a bit too high.   The style guide goes on to explain that abbreviations pronounced as words are written in sentence case, giving the example of NATO should be Nato.    Surely this is WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!

Feeling strongly about this, I took it up with our Marketing Department, sorry that should be marketing department (lower case), and received a reply that they were “delighted to see that I was absorbing the writing style”, explaining acronyms can be presented in both forms but a consistent approach was important and provided me with a link to the Guardian and Observer style guide.    I am not a Guardian reader but this was interesting and I learned that the ubiquitous comma can be used in front of the word ‘and’ and it is known as the Oxford comma:

Oxford comma – a comma before the final “and” in lists: straightforward ones (he ate ham, eggs and chips) do not need one, but sometimes it can help the reader (he ate cereal, kippers, bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade, and tea), and sometimes it is essential:

compare
I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis, and JK Rowling

with
I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis and JK Rowling

All is not lost, fortunately.

Meanwhile, I will continue to write as though I am speaking to you, whether it is right or wrong.  If I ponder too much over correctness it will slow down my process of thought, or should that be thought process.  I will remember not to use capital letters for the seasons which is something I always get wrong, and I will continue to stumble over the use of which and that –  “This is the house that Jack built” “This house, which Jack built, is now falling down.”

What is your take on all of this?  I leave you to think about how English has changed having read my post which is probably bursting with grammatical errors.

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Board Games Never Lose Their Attraction

I believe that you can have much more fun with a group of people playing a board game than sitting in front of an XBox, Playstation or a solitary time with a Nintendo DS.

A few weeks ago, I had a highly entertaining supper party with three close friends playing a board game that K had found in a second hand shop. It is no longer in the shops but I found it can be bought for the pricey sum of £30 on Ebay. The game? It was The Archers – Ambridge version.

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We were not surprised it didn’t catch on, the rules were complicated to say the least. The idea is to work your way around the board on the throw of a dice. You collect cards telling you which Archers character you are, and as you land on a known property, such as The Bull, another player gives you something off the list to talk about. Got it so far? Try talking about slurry in the voice of Linda Snell before the egg timer runs out! If you are now thinking you don’t listen to the Archers and who the hell is Linda Snell, spare a thought for the fourth member of our group who, several years younger than the rest of us, doesn’t listen to the Archers either. It made the evening all the more hilarious.

Fun times can also be had across the generations. My grandchildren, four and eight, came to stay last weekend and before they arrived I pulled out the toy box only to realise that they were outgrowing ‘grannie’s toys’. I quickly ordered a reversible snakes and ladders and ludo game. – thank goodness for Amazon.

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When it arrived I had to read the ludo rules because I couldn’t for the life of me remember how it was played. Armed with the rules, the three of us sat down and had a most enjoyable time going up the ladders and down the snakes, followed by moving our coloured counters around the ludo board. My four year old granddaughter took it in her stride when someone’s counter landed on hers and she had to go back to the beginning,

Board games teach children that there are winners and losers and you can’t always be first. A valuable lesson in life.

What family board games do you still play?

A New Venture – What a Minefield!

I said in my first post of 2015 that I would tell you all what I have been up to in the “quiet” months since November.

With the run up to Christmas and the dark evenings, I spent the time making Christmas presents, knitting, crocheting and sewing.   I dusted off my old work horse of a Singer sewing machine and put it into action again.

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I bought this splendid machine, which weighs a ton, when I was 19 after getting fed up with hand sewing clothes.  Back in the 60’s you couldn’t get anything on hire purchase if you were under 21 so my father had to stand guarantee.  Those were the days!

Amongst the many things I made for Christmas were lined cotton drawstring bags; one for knitting projects and a smaller one for my granddaughter, both proved to be very popular.  Following a throw away comment that I didn’t know what to do once Christmas was over as I had nothing else to make. I was encouraged, quite vocally, by family to make more things and sell them using an on-line market place such as Etsy.

When I got home after Christmas I dug out a bag full of material scraps and visited my local fabric shop who were selling fat quarters at half price so I stocked up with supplies.

What is a fat quarter you ask?   Popular with quilters, and absolutely ideal for making cotton bags, a fat quarter is a 1/4th yard cut of fabric that (usually) measures 18″ x 22″.

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I set to and made several bags using two contrasting exterior materials and a further contrasting lining, with mitred corners to give a flat bottom so the bags will stand up.

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Making the bags with flat bottoms was time consuming and the issue of pricing your product comes into play. At what stage do you decide price over the time it takes to make an item? There is little point making anything at a loss.  I could make the bags faster with straight seams and leave the choice of base for custom orders along with the type of ties and size.

There is a lot of information on the internet about pricing home-made goods.   Generally you are suggested to work out the cost of materials, how long it takes to make plus profit.  Initially my bags worked out at £24 each, which was a little worrying when you look on Etsy and Folksy and see similar bags ranging between £4 and £12.   I was told that generally people will buy the more expensive product as it is usually deemed to be better quality, so I thought I would go along with that maxim.

I searched both Etsy and Folksy websites for drawstring bags and felt a bit deflated.  There is so much competition, they seem to be very popular and at this stage I almost shelved the idea.

There is a lot to take on board, after all I am setting up a small business, the most important one is tax.  Was I trading for a profit or just selling goods as a hobby?  If you are “carrying out a trade with a view to making a profit” then it’s trading.   If you sell items you have made at cost (i.e. you enjoy making items as a hobby and sell surplus items at the cost price of the materials, or at a loss) then it is not trading.  I want to make a profit so I am going to have to look into this further.

Still undeterred, I set up my Etsy shop with the name I have always used when making things, AarTee, the phonic of my initials.  Before that I checked there wasn’t another shop with the same name – fortunately I am the only AarTee Designs.  I also re-opened the Folksy shop I had used several years ago and I set up a Facebook page.

https://folksy.com/shops/AarteeDesign
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AarTeeDesigns
https://www.facebook.com/ThingummyBags

I took photos, decided on a product price and uploaded my products.  At the moment I am only selling to the UK and Europe, I feel a bit daunted about selling goods further afield.  I will take a look at what the requirements are to trade outside the EU shortly.

The name ‘Thingy Bags’ came to mind, again before using this, a bit of internet searching was required to see if anyone else was using the same name. Unfortunately there was, so ‘Thingummy Bags’ were born.

Why use a plastic bag when you can use a Thingummy Bag?

The pitch being “Ditch that plastic bag”.  They can be used for shoes, knitting/craft bags, lingerie, separating dirty laundry when away and countless other uses that we use unattractive carrier bags for.

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i get lots of views and several ‘likes’ but it’s getting the product sold that is the name of the game.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could fund my retirement by Thingummy Bags?!   Well I can always dream and in the meantime I will be happy making my bags to stock the shop or as customer orders.

If you sell handmade goods on-line please let me know of any pitfalls you came across that you had not counted on.

My World War One Stories

The remembrance of World War 1 (1914-1918) has featured a lot in the last few months, not only in TV programs but social network media, blogs and a large variety of dedicated WW1 websites such as www.Forces-war-records.co.uk and www.nationalarchives.gov.uk.  It has caused me to think about my relatives who fought in that war, so I have revisited the family trees I have been compiling on Ancestry.

My Grand Uncle : William Aloysius Taylor (1877-1915)

On my mother’s maternal side are the Taylor’s, a very large family from Liverpool, so this is where I started.

William Aloysius Taylor was born in 1877 to Thomas (Tom) Taylor and his second wife, Anne Gilbertson.  Tom had 3 wives, 2 predeceased him, and a total of 15 children – a good Catholic family!

William married Mary Gertrude Fox in 1910 and from the information I have I gathered they had at least two children, the last of which, Jane, was born in 1914.  It must have been hard for William and Mary at that time with a newborn, when he joined the 5th Battalion Prince of Wales Volunteer (South Lancashire) Regiment and went off to France.  I’m not an expert but assume that he was not conscripted as he joined a volunteer regiment as an officer.

On 11 May 1915 William died in hospital in Boulogne following injuries received at Ypres. His grave, which I found on the War Graves Commission website, is in the Eastern Cemetery Boulogne and the war graves index reads:

Taylor, William Aloysius (Capt) died 11 May 1915 from wounds received at Ypres on 8 May 1915

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The Second Battle of Ypres

The Germans released a batch of chlorine gas on 24 April, directed against Canadian troops situated north-east of Ypres. They gained ground against the unprotected Canadian troops, and the fighting was fierce.  The German infantry sustained heavy losses from the defending Canadians, who were relieved by arriving British troops who arrived on 3 May.

Fighting renewed around Ypres on 8 May, the same day William received his wounds, and continued until 13 May.  Poor William, it would appear that he was only in France for 5 days before being wounded.

Thomas had two grandsons, Cyril Adderley Taylor and Oswald Acton Taylor from his son, James William Adderley, whose mother was Tom’s first wife. They were both officers in the Liverpool Regiment and they were lucky enough to survive.

My grandfather Claude Charles Riches (1900-1981)

I know quite a lot about my paternal grandfather Claude Charles Riches because my Dad is still alive and has photos of him during WW1.   Grandpa was born in 1900 but lied about his age when he joined up.  On 31 July 1914 he was 14 and the call to enlist was in August 1914, so I am not sure if he joined up then or a year later, but he must have told them he was 19, the legal age for signing up.   There were approximately 250,000 underage boys who lied about their ages.  The criteria was that they should be at least 5ft 3ins with a minimum chest measurement of 34 inches.  As recruitment officers were paid 2s/6d (about £6 in today’s money) and they often turned a blind eye to these young lads.

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Grandpa joined the 5th Battalion London Rifle Brigade and went on a signallers course.  It was only because he did so exceptionally well on this course and they found out his age (although it didn’t stop them from sending him home) that it was decided not to send him to France.  Had he gone, it could be that we would not be here to tell this story.

My father gave me another photo of Grandpa with 1916 written on the back, he was 16, and you can see the crossed signallers flags on his left sleeve.  I don’t think he looks anything like 19 do you?

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There is also a Leave on Duty ration book, dated 20/12/18 to 31/12/18 and I guess this meant he went home for Christmas.  The ration book has unused ration stamps, one for lard – LARD!! – and one for tea.

Grandpa survived both the First World War and Second World War – but that is another story.

Do you have any WW1 family stories?  Please share them here.

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