Walking for talk’s sake…

There’s more too it than you think and less than you might sometimes expect. That’s the sort of nonsense I talk after a good walk, that’s ended at a pub. Anyhow, my chum Robin, chose to chauffeur me out to a place I’ve never been before, the Cheltenham Canal. Apart from the pleasure of the drive in his spectacular vehicle with buttons for everything, we had a brilliant sunny day and a good walk to look forward to.


Robinus Burtonicus in it’s natural habitat.


It’s a fact that if one earns one’s living in a career where most of the time you sit behind a desk and listen to nothing much more than Radio 4 and your own record collection for company then there is a tendency when let out to talk too much. I was once described as ‘garrulous’ in a school report and asked the teacher what it meant, he simply said ” You talk too much Davies”. He was a religious education teacher and I’d have thought he could have been a tad more Christian about it. I was not particularly wounded by his comment, as it was plainly true. The Games master’s report for PE was something that did hurt when describing my athletic prowess in gymnastics: “Tries hard, fails miserably”. Anyway, as someone who talks too much I’m typically going off the point.

Suffice to say that Robin and I had chosen a golden day to visit the area. In the distance the Malvern Hills were as clear as crystal, May Hill in the other direction looked closer than it was from us, and the light on the fields and water was simply golden.


There be yonder Malvern Hills

Sodden underfoot from a lot of rain that we’ve had recently, it was a great day to get out and chatter. I was able to recycle stories of hearing a sedge warbler on a similar visit further down the Severn Estuary and mistaking it for an HP Deskjet Printer re-charging with expensive ink, whilst Robin patiently listened to me like a kindly doctor.
Is that a Sedge Warbler or what?

There was much dancing from clump to clump of slightly dryer grasses to reach bird hides to view loads of ducks and other such birds peacefully going about their business.Trouser leg bottoms were beginning to act like a fairly sodden wick and rising damp was likely to become and issue.

The Fulcrum of the walk was the pub at Wainlodes, which Robin, who’s something of an expert on local folk history, gave me the true meaning of the name, whilst I just thought that Wayne Loades was a fork lift truck driver. I’ve had a bit of a thing about unusual names recently.

It was the Red Lion at Waindlodes that was our target and well worth the walk. The food was excellent and the service great too. If you feel like a good walk and some great food and beer, I’d certainly recommend this place The Red Lion




Striding across fields we came across this fine set of potential cricket bats. How do they make willow into such things? Who thought that might be a good idea in the first place.


Perhaps being cricketers they were expecting rain and knew that willow was a good plant for damp areas. I’m sure if there’s a folk song about it Robin will either find out about it or already know it and belt it out right there and then. He is, after all, a quarter of the Gloucester Diamonds folk ensemble and is naturally good at belting out a song. He sang a couple on the way back in the motor and it was quite unlike a computer printer charging up, or even a Sedge Warbler. Good day, good talk, good food, try it yourself when we next get a sunny day.

The Gloucester Diamonds Facebook Page





The importance of washing up.

Dishwashers have been around for years now but there are good reasons for dispensing with them. First of all they use some pretty toxic chemicals to get the burnt on cinders off your beautifully crafted dishes. They can’t really be used to clean anything delicate or fine, and certainly shouldn’t be used to clean the silver cutlery. Did you hear that Jeeves? But the most important reason they should be considered superfluous is that they are desperately unsociable.

Jeeves v1

Fascinating little memorial just up the road from me here in Cheltenham at Cheltenham College, a very expensive public school with the most beautiful cricket ground. I never know that Jeeves was a cricketer and that he was the inspiration for Woodhouse’s character. The school was also the location for some of the filming of Linsday Anderson’s cult film “If”, but they don’t talk about that much. It did feature schoolboys machine gunning people from their chapel roof, so perhaps no surprise there.


In the day when washing up was the order of the day, it was, or at least should have been, a team effort. Two people minimum in any team. One to wash, one or maybe two to dry and one to pontificate and put stuff away until the next time. It should not be undertaken alone if at all possible, but of course these days it is usually people who live on their own who do wash up, instead of loading dishwashers.

What happens when two or more people gather together to wash up. They talk, they are in close proximity, they interact, in short they are sociable. Whereas it usually falls to one person to load a dishwasher. The end result of washing up is cemented friendship, the end result of a dishwasher is cemented cookware.

What’s the betting you don’t win?


Cheltenham Race Week starts tomorrow, I think. I live down the road from the course but I’ve never been there. I’m sure it’s a wonderful event and the town will be filled with a heady mix of racegoers looking for the full English Breakfast or even the full Irish, as many of them are from Ireland.

The bookies have a heyday and the streets start to fill with young women dressed as jockeys in a rather unseemly attempt at attracting business. Some of them have obviously never been near a horse and the horse would probably be thankful for that.

I write as someone experienced in a racecourse but not racing. When I was a student I had a job at the nearby Haydock Park Racecourse which is close to Wigan. I was a temporary assistant to the ground staff and a wonderful bunch of blokes they were. I was an extra pair of hands to aid in the picking up of litter after a meeting, not a great task as losing racegoers tend to rip up their betting slips into tiny pieces when they lose,and they lose a lot.

A more interesting task was helping build the fences between race meetings. We’d trundle off to Lord Derby’s estate down the East Lancs Road and cut bunches of birch trees, tie it up and load it onto the back of a trailer to be towed by a tractor. The area was awash with mosquitoes and horse flies, pedigree horse flies. We’d get bitten rotten all part from George Willie, one of the elderly guys who was part of the team. ” How do you do it George?” someone asked one morning. ” Easy, I spray myself with ‘flit flyspray’ before I leave the house, and if any of them land on me they die on contact”. None of us fancied doing the same, ‘flit’ being the near equivalent of nerve gas.

After we’d got a complete load we headed back to the course, I was put on top of the load with a red flag to warn approaching traffic. Health and safety was not the consideration it is today. I was certainly a little nervous but a couple of cigarettes on the journey back calmed my nerves atop this natural bonfire.

The day before the races the horses used to arrive, with tiny jockeys who’d be invisible on the streets of Cheltenham. Lester Piggot, an famously unpopular jockey with the staff, used to arrive by plane and land in the middle of the course. We were charged with putting down white sheets to help his pilot land. Some of the staff were tempted to move them nearer the trees to make his landing a little more interesting.

Stable boys and some girl would look after the horses, and well I remember when one of them said to me, “Put your wages on my horse, sure fire winner”. I’d never bet before in my life but this was a chance not to miss: an inside tip! So I placed my bet.

This was in the days when they started the race at a rope across the course, a messy affair, and my race was no exception. My horse started fast and was probably quicker than any of the others, unfortunately it was going in exactly the opposite direction and there was nothing the hapless tiny person on board could do about it.

I’ve never bet on a horse since.

The drawing is a near finished version of a series on Sports Nuts.








Bibury, how the Japanese avoid it.



The walk of a tourist who does not undertsand what he/she should be doing, or seeing, or indeed why they are where they are at all. Involves walking slowly in one direction and then in another random direction, even the person doing the walking does not understand exactly why or in which direction they might be going. The presence of vehicles makes this a dangerous activity and can result in a split bibury which is where the group is bisected by traffic and can induce panic amongst the assembly.  It’s all a sorry sight. Pity them. Common in the Cotswolds.

Japanese avoid this by having someone with a flag leading them which is somewhat sinister. Anyone leading with a flag is sinister don’t you think?

Continuing my theme of true meanings of Gloucestershire place names this is one I have witnessed in many parts of the Cotswolds. Bibury is in fact one of the county’s prettiest villages and attracts many tourists, shame that the spellchecker turns it into bribery.

My book on the subject is in the final stages and I’ll let you know when completed so that you can fund my pathetic lifestyle.

Glossary : A Collection of Gloucestershire Place Names

More true meanings of Gloucestershire place names, glossary meaning a collection of Gloucestershire place names, as you well know. I’m planning a small book, illustrated of course, with the whole truth and nothing but the truthity truth. I’ll tell you when it’s done.


Frampton Mansell

The outfit worn by a large huntsman. Rather too tight across the backside and gut as the owner has generally owned it and worn it from when he was at least three trouser sizes thinner.

Puts the horse under exceptional strain. See also Hartbury as someone displaying a Frampton will generally respond to to an observation about his Frampton with one single very loud Hartbury.


The sound made when men of a certain age clear their throats before speaking in public, or when someone makes a disparaging remark about them. Onomatopoeic. Emphasis on the HART. Method of dissapproval, see Frampton Mansell. Only ever used by rich landowners who have no need to purchase their own furniture.

If you are outside the UK, then believe me these places do exist. Look on Google maps.

Guiting power, the unknown force.


Guiting Power

The uncanny way that a vicar is able to pedal a very heavy bicycle at a constant speed no matter what the gradient of the slope or the load carried in the front basket. There is always a front basket.

Continuing my series on possible meaning of Gloucestershire names, this place is in the Cotswolds and probably does not see a lot of these gentlemen these days.

guiting powermap

Bishop’s Cleeve, well it could be.


Bishop’s Cleeve

The word cleeve is generally thought to relate to the way a valley is formed, so it’s a geographical term. So a Cleeve is a wooded valley. How it relates to a Bishop is unknown, could be a favourite walk of the Bishop or possibly a parade through the area by religious people.

Can also mean the dark area between a barmaids full bosom, but this is conjecture.

Another place name meaning, I like the idea that a Bishop would go walking in full regalia through a wooded valley. As you can see from the map here it’s near Woodmancote so my theory about a wooded valley holds weight.


More about the true meaning of Gloucestershire names



One of those parkas your dad or granddad used to own in the seventies that you never bothered to throw away. The undefined fur on the collar is somewhat perished and moth eaten. It has no waterproofing qualities at all and never did, and if mistakenly worn in wet conditions will act like blotting paper.

May have the slight smell of patchouli oil, the rennants of a visit to a music festival but more likely to give off the odour of cow manure.

Here’s another of my recent drawings for my little book of Gloucestershire names and their true meaning. I’m working on the book but it’s a bit behind schedule at present. It’s typical of those projects of one’s own where one agonises on what it should look like instead of just doing it.

More to come.

Splishy Splashy and others…

I’ve taken up swimming. I loathe swimming but it’s like hitting your head with a hammer, it feels good when you stop. I suspect that runners have similar feelings and that it’s all to do with self inducing drugs that the exercise induces: endowotsits. The source of my hate is that I was forced to swim every week, at least three times a week by a school that had proudly built a swimming pool. As a boarder they sent us twice at weekends to keep us cool and to give us something constructive to do, and then we had regular lessons in the week.

My recent conversion is for a number of reasons that are too boring to go into, but the concencus is that it will ‘do me good’, and I reluctantly have to admit that it has. I go to the local outdoor pool that is one of those 1930’s lido’s that has been well maintained and is HEATED. The steam rises from the pool if there happens to be a cold morning.

I’m amazed at some of the swimmers that plough up and down that pool. They swim faster than most people jog, and continuously. They get their own lanes, the rest of the saps have to maintain pool etiquette. We plough up and down but occasionally have to take avoiding action. I realised just how slow I was when I found even the ones in the sap lanes seemed to go a lot faster than me. Not to worry, this is not a race. However it is interesting to note some of the types up to their necks in water.

The other day I noticed a very smart lady enter the pool gracefully with what seemed to be a new hairdo and I wondered how on earth she was going to manage, but manage she did.She did not get even slightly damp from the neck upwards and seemed to glide through the water like a swan, her dark glasses still in place with a discreet earnings to complete the ensemble.


Then there are the titans. They are large women who seem also to glide through the water effortlessly, they can hardly walk on dry land but once in the weight bearing water they displace a very fast bow wave.


Then to the men…well they are a similar mix though none that I have seen keep their hair dry, most don’t have any anyway. Some are real lane rage yobs and none more so than Mr Splashy Splashy, the other day. I’m at a loss how much effort he was able to put into his forward crawl and gave the impression that he was drowning rather than swimming. The ladies were not amused, fortunately ‘smart hair’ was not there, otherwise words might have been said.


Only last week I though I might have a bit of a triumph. I was catching up with one of my fellow swimmers. As I drew level I could see that she must have been at least 80 years old and was striking out for the end of the pool just a head of me. I thought to myself ‘I’m not going to be beaten by granny’, but I was by a short hand. My excuse is a good one, she had a weight advantage on me, she had no teeth in.


Just a walk away…

So you might have expected a couple of Siberian Border guards but the weather today has been so good that they have melted away. They’ll be back soon. Off for a walk through the town and came across this gem of a house, and yes it is a house, here in Cheltenham.


Then up to Pitville to meet my walking companion for the afternoon stroll. Pitville is a super park area that was at one time only available to the residents that surrounded it, but is now thankfully open to all. Here we came across a wild planting area that could have been from deep in the countryside but was right there in front of us, and today looked at its very best. Teasels and all sorts of wild flowers that were a bit of a mystery to me and on the very sunniest of afternoons. This is a bit of a change from of late where we’ve had rain wind and very cold days, so the opportunity to get out and enjoy the sun was just a little too much to resist.


Quite a few of these local residents of the park were out as well also enjoying the teasels.


Still life with crisps


As anyone can see from my “Mr Grumpy” profile picture, I like a grumble.

Here’s today’s.In the days when the clever victorians designed the local park here they had a ‘Parkie’ who looked after it, and carried about his person a brush and shovel. This function has now been taken over by the local Borough Council, who no doubt ‘outsource it’ to some large cleaning conglomerate who bring in their machines to clean the park. In general they do a wonderful job but the devil’s in the detail. I have no doubt that they are not allowed to use a hand held brush as this would give them the same health and safety worries as if they were carrying a loaded semi automatic. Instead they have to rely on a machine to pick up the litter and the leaves, as this is completely safe and totally automatic.

This leaves them in a bit of a corner, as it leaves the leaves in a bit of a corner. In this particular instance it even left an empty packet of crisps too, bonus!

Blame the writers.


The next few blogs were inspired, if that’s the right word, by my evening with the Montpellier Writers Group. The theme was to do with senses for the evening and was testing, so I opted out in a way by just hoovering up little writer’s gems from the evening.

The one above is my own view of probably what I’m like with these sort of things.

Thanks to all those who made more sense of it than I did and apologies for recycling and here and there revamping any of your ideas.