Archive | January, 2013


6 Jan


Cley Churchyard Pictures, Images and Photos

On his way from the old rectory to his church the Reverend Josiah Pyke passed Mildred Downder, an old woman holding an almost empty methylated spirits bottle and with a hungry, greedy look in her eyes.

“Hello Reverend, sir,” she wheezed.

“Bog off, you drunken old sot!” growled the Reverend Josiah Pyke, “and make sure you come nowhere near my church and its sweet-smelling congregation. I get complaints when you seek shelter from the weather with regular folk. They say you smell, and you do: I can smell you from here. And last week old Tommy Fletcher caught fleas off you!”

“Yes sir, sorry sir, what about a few coppers for me ‘ealth, sir?” wheezed the sad old woman.

“You’d only spend them on more rot-gut to melt your brains,” he snarled. “Look at you, you pathetic creature! Instead of lurking in the gutters, get away and clean yourself up! Now out of my way. I’ve a sermon to preach!”

“Yes sir, sorry sir…” mumbled the old woman, and she sauntered off, taking her smell with her.

“That’s dealt with that,” whispered the Reverend Josiah Pyke to himself, and he continued on his way to his church. It wasn’t far: the old Rectory shared the same plot of land as the church that it serviced and a slightly overgrown path wound its way between an orchard of ancient, crumbling gravestones that surrounded the medieval structure.

Once in the church the Reverend Josiah Pyke felt more at ease and he began to regret some of the harsh things he’d sneered at the old alcoholic. But only some of them: most of what he said he heartily approved of. He merely wished he hadn’t told her to bog off. Maybe that had been a bit harsh. Bugger off would, he thought, have been more appropriate.

The sermon he’d planned for that day was a good one. It was one of those that had come easily to him when he’d sat at his desk with his whisky and cheese biscuits and he’d drafted it in minutes.

A prominent member of Government had died in suspicious circumstances and it had been all over the news, and he was going to use that as the basis of his argument.

He surveyed his congregation. There had been a time when it had been bigger with more souls seeking salvation, but as time had passed he had convinced himself that one good Christian attending to his sermons was more likely to appeal to his Lord than would a thousand wretched atheists with their non-belief. And scattered in front of him sat more than one good Christian: there were four.

He cleared his throat.

“We hear that Sir Everard Twitch has passed away,” he began.

Sir Everard Twitch was the late lamented prominent member of Government who had been all over the news.

“He may not have been a perfect man, he may have been only as mortal and strong or weak as us, but he did great things,” pontificated the Reverent Josiah Pyke.

“Such as?” breathed one of his congregation, audibly enough for the good Reverend to hear.

He winced. His preparation had been minimal because it had all seemed so easy, writing the brief notes that he knew he would be able to expand from the pulpit with the authority bestowed on him by his dog collar.

“During the war against the infidels in the East,” he said, “he provided our army with the most destructive of weaponry, his splinter bombs that successfully maimed and killed thousands of their ill-equipped foe! That saved lives, the lives of our countrymen, the young men protecting us from a vicious foe! Now he has gone we must all mourn, for his greatness was one of defending us against wild men, unbelievers and not men of God, who would overrun our proud nation and bring it to its knees…”

He was right there, he knew that.

He cleared his throat, and continued.

“I know that he died in a state of undress, surrounded by a veritable army of naked women doing appalling things to his flesh, and that it is reported he had goodness-knows how many strange chemicals jostling his blood for space in his veins, but he was a man with the frailties of all men everywhere, a good man….”

“Shame…” came a hiss from the four.

“The evil in all of us condemns us in our own eyes, but underneath it all he was great and we will miss him, for his weakness was our strength…”

The huge oak door at the back of the church opened with a crash.

“The old woman … Old mother Downder … she’s dead on the step of the church!” came a voice. “Help!”

For a moment the Reverend Josiah Pyke was lost for words, then, “Poor woman,” he rumbled, “but she’s no loss. At least the air around her will be less … putrid,” he added with a nudge and a wink.

By your words are you judged, he seemed to hear actually coming from an image on the church wall, badly painted, of a young woman holding a baby with a spooky ring encircling its head.

And he was.

Next week his congregation numbered less than one.

He sighed. They’ll be back when they realise who made the smell, he told himself. But they did realise that much, with the consequence that nobody returned.

© Peter Rogerson 06.01.13


Tick Tock Me

4 Jan


HMV Gramophone, Wind-up gramophone

This is my favourite mechanical gramophone, bought after my famous collection was started!

For me, it all started many years ago at a boot sale when I spent not very much on a record player.

I had a few 45s and LPs and I thought it would be nice to have something to play them on, especially something that cost not very much. But when I got it home and examined it more closely I discovered that, though electric, it was only capable of playing records of one speed (or a close variant of that speed): 78 rpm.

I had no 78 rpm records. Do you remember them? Before vinyl, they were pressed into brittle and easily damaged shellac, so despite the vast quantities that were created between the turn of the twentieth century and 1960 when production finally ceased, relatively few have survived.

Their longevity as records wasn’t enhanced by a children’s television programme that encouraged creative little ones to heat them up and bend them into fruit bowls. Mummy, the presenters (probably) said, would love a black shellac fruit bowl! They don’t get taught things like that these days because of health and safety concerns, so any surviving 78 rpm records may have a chance of surviving intact and playable a little longer.

Since then I have accumulated quite a pile of old 78s and a couple of proper wind-up machines to play them on!

Anyway, that’s when it all started.

What, you may ask, was “it all”?

Well, I do have a fair sized collection of 1950s 78s, having pompously decided to collect the “soundtrack of my childhood” and subsequently created a list of all UK top 40 records since the charts began in 1953. It was a big year, was 1953: the present queen had her coronation, I had my tenth birthday – and the charts were established. Three fairly significant events there, and no mistake!

But as my collection of 78s grew and finding new ones was becoming unbelievably difficult without paying through the nose for them, I got diverted.

What is it in a man who is approaching that famous “certain age” that makes him take an undue interest in time?

Smiths watch, Smith's English watch

This is possibly my best mechanical watch and I really ought to wear it more often.

To start with it was watches. You can buy brand new watches, the quartz variety, for almost nothing and they are astoundingly accurate, but the second hand turns round in monotonous one-second jerks. You can visit flea markets and so on and, if you’re lucky, buy a fifty or sixty year old mechanical (ie wind up) watch for not much more, and its second hand will be of the gentle sweep variety though the chances of it being anywhere near as accurate as the cheap quartz watches you (if you are anything like me) have accumulated in indecent quantities are approaching zero. There are, indeed, scores of watches out there and you forget, for the moment, that you only have one left wrist and consequently hardly need a tin filled with watches-in-waiting.

But that’s to start with.

It doesn’t take long for you to discover the rich variety of clocks that abound, and before we moved to a tiny home a year ago Dorothy and I had accumulated far too many. She was tolerant, I was obsessive. I guess I still am, and if her tolerance gets stretched too far I remind her that it was she who bought the cuckoo clock when we were in the Black forest a few years ago.

There can be few things more loveable than mechanical clocks that actually keep an approximation of the correct time, chime resonantly every hour and tick without deviation for eight days at the time. And they invariably have wonderful time-enhanced wooden cases: nothing plastic, nothing tacky or cheap.

Sibsey Trader windmill clock

This lovely oak-cased clock (circa 1940) was actually bought by me from a clock enthusiast who uses the tea-room of the Sibsey Trader Windmill as a show-room for his collection of clocks.

Sibsey Trader windmill

And this is the very windmill with the tea room off-picture, to the right.

All night long in this little house the cuckoo makes its spirited hourly call from just outside the bedroom door, a magnificent 31 day clock (inexpensive, probably made yesterday in the Far East) dongs its echo from the porch and elsewhere, out of earshot, an oak-cased wall clock replies, unheard but none-the-less stentorian.

That’s time, that is: our lives, tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

It’s good to know that it’s being measured.

© Peter Rogerson 03.01.13