Sing, sing all earth!

Well, on our last Sunday before returning to sunnier climes, I had the opportunities to sing in the bass chorus of Olivet to Calvary at Springwell Chapel, in the afternoon, and join in with the 'congregational' singing at the South Shields Folk Club in the evening. A full day, but I was unable to make the evening service at our own place at Windy Nook, due to stuffing my face at the Faith Tea after the Cantata and not arriving home till almost 5.45!

The Cantata is the same one we sang at Windy Nook on Good Friday, only with a few more voices in the choir, so I'd had several practices before that. With the extra practice last Wednesday, I should have been OK; after all I'd been singing it every other year for about 40 years previous to moving to Luxor!!!

Brother-in-law Roy, chose not to actually sing this time. He would sit in the congregation with my mother. Mmmmm, perhaps he could be persuaded to take a few pics with my easy-to-use Samsung camera? Good old Roy, always game for a laugh! Trouble was, the camera decided to not work for him. (He probably doesn't have the tender, caressing touch that the camera is used to!)

I took it from him and snapped..........
By this time, quite a number had disappeared into the hall to partake of the Faith Tea. I was stopped on my way by two ladies whom I hadn't seen for about 40 years! We had quite a chin-wag about the days when we made up the 'Young People' of our respective chapels, what a hoot; two flash birds who had suddenly transformed into two 67 year old 'old bags'!!!! (In truth, they were still very good looking, but a bit old for a youngster like me at 62!) By the time I got to where the goodies were arrayed, there were only a few sausage rolls left in the savoury section, but there were cakes aplenty! Different types of chocolate cake, two or three different sponge sandwich cakes, some delightful little scones with jam and cream plus a host of 'Mr Kipling' type (bought, as opposed to home-made) tarts and buns etc. I sampled one or two (?) with a few cups of 'Chapel Tea'. 'Chapel Tea' is invariably too strong for my delicate taste buds, but I managed with the addition of an extra bit of boiling water.

On eventually getting a lift home, I had a half hour nap on the sofa before making some nice Ceylon tea and then making my way across to our Chapel to cadge a lift to South Shields with our Susan and Roy. We were going to see a singing group called GU4, pronounced Guffaw. (About GU4)

In case you aren't aware of how British folk clubs generally operate: They are peopled by folk song afficionadoes who sing or play (or both) folk music of various types. Most members will perform in front of the others as they meet week on week, and depending on the club finances, they might have special paid guests now and then who might be professional or at least semi-professional. This week at South Shields, we had the very famous professional Benny (The Whale) Graham, not as the guest, but just as a visiting singer! There were also a few others who were semi-professional in the gathering (our Susan knew most of them, but I didn't know them from Adam!) I managed to get a video of GU4 which is short enough to put on here. They aren't everyone's cup of tea, but their music and style are right up my street!

They asked two of their semi-professional friends who were in  the audience (Barrie and Ingrid Temple: to join them for their last encore, they are on the right of the picture. (They sang earlier just as a duo, and were tremendous.)

That's just about it for now, I think. Insh'Allah, my next posting will be from our home in Luxor, where we'll be spending the next week or so cleaning out five weeks worth of the Sahara before our next guests arrive. (They're on their honeymoon, I do hope that they find our place romantic enough!!!!!)

Toodle pip!

Sounds good to me?

Yes, that's what I said last week, and this week; 'the proof of the pudding was in  the eating'. (That's a bit of a proverb, in English.) We ended up back at Hexham on Saturday the 27th, especially to visit the 'Eating Festival'.

We came towards the town centre from the bottom end, where the local 'bus garage used to be, and managed to get the last parking space in the car park opposite the old Tannery and near the Public Baths. My legs haven't been too good, so I was thankful that I wouldn't have too far walk. We were up the street and next to our favourite 'Ashbourne House' in  no time, among musicians who were playing and singing some dreadful (Lennon sounding) pop song! Just on the (closed) road there, was a stall selling 'Chai and Tiffen', but we were too eager to get inside the shop to stop and try some.

On opening the door, I was surprised to find a very large camera lens about a foot from my face and pointing straight at me! It was a big movie camera as well, and wielded by a young girl who didn't look strong enough to pick it up, never mind control it. We found that we were sharing our favourite junk shop with one of the 'experts' whom I've seen on the telly on one of those antiques programmes, where members of the public contend with each other with the 'expert's' help. With it being the day of the Spring Fair and Eating Festival, the town was very busy, and the shop had far too many people in it for safety. Not 'Elf-n-Safety' you understand, it's just that there's very little space between the fragile stock of glass, china and other breakable goodies etc on the main floor to start with, never mind having a camera crew battling for space too!

We came across a lovely wooden rocking duck, which I immediately envisaged little Coco sitting in. It wasn't badly priced, either, but Freda was frightened that he might fall out of it; end of story! Actually, there were a fair number of bits and pieces which we would have not had a second thought about carrying home in years gone by. But times change, as do priorities and space to display such delectable 'treasures', so we left empty-handed.

The Iranian man's lovely shop, over the road, had the usual "Back in 10 minutes" sign in the door, we haven't seen it open since we bought the table cloths (made in Esfahan) from him about 6 or 7 years ago! We slowly made our way up to the Market Place, where we came across our first dancers of the day:

I didn't know how long the dance would last, so stopped filming where I did, only to find that it finished about 10 seconds later! Here's the final scene;

These were men from 'Hexham Morris'; more of them later.  

This was outside the Abbey, and just a little farther on is the entrance to the park, where it was ALL happening! Another music group were just inside the gates, but they were busy tuning-up and things, so we just passed on to the tent village where every sort of craft imaginable was either for sale or on show. (A jar of lovely home-made lemon curd found its way into Freda's bag.) Farther on, we came across what was passing for a 'Classic Car' display, all we could see at first was a line of Minis!

Never  mind, we soon left the 'Minilite' (non-standard) alloy-wheeled BMC products behind, as we came across a few more interesting marques:

Not that the '71 MGB was all that interesting, but the beautiful Lagonda standing next to it was a cracker! As were the '64 Rover and the memory rekindling Ford Thames pick-up. Strangely (or so I thought) there were two old (think the Maigret TV series of the sixties) Citroens, and a really old (possibly 'vintage') Renault, plus a pristine LHD Yankee Model "T" Ford. Obviously, I didn't bother taking pictures of these foreign interlopers!

Next were the food tents!!!! We made a bee-line for the "HOGROAST" (another 'obviously' I dare say!):

I would apologise for the inclusion of this part to my Muslim friends, but they've never had the opportunity to taste this delicacy in a big soft bap (bread bun) with lashings of apple sauce and a generous spread of sage and onion stuffing; oh, what a joy, and oh, what they're missing!!!!

When I arose from the table to find a bin for the wrappings, I heard someone call my name. "Who could possibly be here who knew me?" I thought. I could hardly  believe my eyes when they beheld a large, fully-grown, man who had the face of a twelve year old boy who I used to take to school when I had mini-buses! Of course that was a few years ago.

Thomas Foden; Site Security Man (and general 'bouncer'!) I was delighted to see him, but I was also shocked in equal measure to find out that he was now 39! (And a bouncer for 20 years!) It also came as quite a surprise that he should have recognised me, with my white hair and everything, after some 27 years or so. (Then again, I do realise that I've managed to keep most of my youthful good looks, as those of you who know me personally will no doubt testify!) I was very encouraged to think that I'd made enough of an impression upon that young lad all those years ago, that he should not only remember me, but want to make himself known to me and renew our acquaintance as well.
The next musical group we came across was the Hexham Town Band. What a mix of different instruments! No brass to see or hear, but guitars, ukuleles, a banjo, fiddles galore; melodeons and a piano accordion and at least one '48 key' English concertina (hidden away at the back), a saxophone and a flute:

The '48 key English concertina, which looks (from this angle) to be exactly the same as mine!

The players seemed to be a rather eclectic bunch as well; from hippies to housewives, and pot-smokers to professors! Actually, there were a goodly numbers of renegade hippies 'floating' about. (Peace and Love, man!) I was, on more than one occasion, almost tempted to laugh out loud! I always feel that it's so sad to come across people who refuse to grow up. Of course we all hanker after the times before we became responsible people with jobs and family to consider; but if we all decide to 'drop out', Dear Reader, then who will provide us with the things we all need on a daily basis?

Never mind all that, this isn't a political blog!!!!!!!!!!!!

Before too long here came the Hexham Morris again:

Sorry about the quality, but as you know I'm not the best when it comes to technology! However, I've found the size settings for the video bit on the camera, so just filmed the original while playing it on the lap-top; simple!

I love to watch stick dancing, in either of my home countries. Of course they're very different; in Luxor it's more commonly known as stick fighting, I suppose that the Sayidis might consider dancing to be a rather effeminate pass-time! Nevertheless, they're both great to watch, and, I should imagine, great to participate in! (I'd love to see a Morris crew turn up at the stick dancing at Luxor's moulid! Wouldn't it be great?) 

We'd seen most of what we really wanted to and, as it had turned quite chilly, we started to make our way down through the park towards where the car was parked. As we neared the bowling green, we could see that the old guys were setting things up for a match, and it must have been a big one, as all the green was to be utilised. Just then, the sun came out from behind the clouds, and I thought that it would be  nice to get a few minutes of the  bowling on camera, just for you, Dear Reader. I got a couple of decent shots of the green while we waited:

OK, the other one wasn't very good, so I've spared you having to look at it! In the event, we sat for about 20 minutes (till the sun again disappeared behind the gathering clouds, and it turned cold again) before realising that the match would probably start at 2 o'clock, which was 4 minutes after our 3 hour parking ticket expired. So we decided to push off, rather than win a parking fine! 

While we wondered around, I had just had to have a cup of tea (as you might have guessed) and this time we tried a larger cafe on the main through-road. (I cannot now remember the name.) I had a large piece of warmed ginger cake with my cuppa, and Freda tried their lemon sponge sandwich cake, I think I'm safe to say that we'd both have them again! The biggest drawback, other than the size of the place, was the very steep angle of the stairs which led to the toilets; looking down from the top, it made me dizzy! 

All in all, another example of what a good 'day out', Hexham can be, well done!

Didn't we have a loverly time the day we went to .......................Hexham!

I suppose that it'll be only the English reader (and even then, probably not many?) who might recognise the plagiarism involved with the title of this post? So, for those of you to whom it's just a statement with a misspelling; here's where the original came from: 

Even if the weather's not too grand, we do like having a trip out to the Northumberland market town of Hexham, it's different! Invariably, either on the way there or on the way back, we call at one of our favourite little tea shops. It's in the village of Mickley Square, which lies directly on the A695 midway between Prudhoe and Stocksfield.

(Mickley Square is also where visitors can find 'Cherryburn'; the birthplace of the famous Northumbrian artist and engraver Thomas Bewick, which is now owned and cared for by the National Trust.
More info at )

Anyway, back to the tea shop! Here it is, as you can see, it's called by the strange name of "Jiggery Pokery".

As well as being a little gem of a teashop, they also sell antiques and bric-a-brac. Some absolutely fascinating pieces, as well! How about their long case clock?

Oh look; it's 'P' to 'G'!!!

We enjoy the lovely atmosphere of Jiggery Pokery, the owners and staff are very nice, and of course the snacks and cakes are to die for! I was quite taken aback, when (after ordering a tea, a coffee and a toasted tea-cake) the chap brought two plates, it seemed that our Luxor reputation for thrift had arrived before us! (As most of you already know, hotel staff in Luxor are used to providing us with two plates, as we generally share one meal.) But just have a gander at these cakes:

There's plenty of seating, as well, the shop entrance is on street level and it's full of interesting stuff. There's some very pleasant repro furniture alongside lovely antique pieces, and jumbled up in display cases are some really rare finds! (There were two beautiful glass and silver claret jugs, but too expensive for the likes of us.) At the back of this room there are about 6 steps up to the main teashop part of the premises, where there are about 5 tables, through another doorway they have several more tables, mixed in among the antiques etc.

 Ever onwards, we made our way along to Hexham. The charity shops here can (and do) turn up with some really choice articles! And, there are plenty of them, even a Buddhist one!

Our favourite Hexham shop is "Ashbourne House". It's choc-a-block full of antiques, junk, bric-a-brac, works of art and painting by numbers! It spreads over three floors and we just love it! Nevertheless, today it was closed. Mondays and Thursdays, we'll know for the next visit!

Never mind, we still had a few charity shops to browse through, and then to the "Cornmill Cafe" for our usual Welsh rarebit with mango chutney. We couldn't find it, how was that? No, it hadn't moved, we'd just walked past it; and it was also closed, but (horror of horrors) closed for good!

Wandering around the shops near the Market Place, we came across Robin the Busker, playing his melodeon. He was great, but he must have been a touch on the cold side!

Eventually, we ended up at "Mr's Miggin's Coffeeshop" which was perfectly adequate, but sadly a bit of a disappointment after being hyped up for my Welsh Rarebit!

We were parked near the fabulous Hexham Abbey:

Hexham has a great number of good quality shopping opportunities as well as it's charity sector, it also hosts different festivals etc. throughout the year For instance, on the 27th of April there is the Spring Fair and Hexham 'Eating Festival'! That sounds good to me!

By the time we left for home, we'd only spent a few pounds, but had an enjoyable time. The only real grumble was that I'd had to wear my coat, as it was very blustery and really quite cold. Never mind, we'll soon be on our way back to Luxor. Perhaps then, I can find something to write about that might actually interest you, Dear Reader!

Our Royal connection?

My younger brother is a bit of a genealogist and has spent a great deal of time over the past year or so compiling a book about our our recent family background. The idea was to collect and collate the memories of those of us who were still living in order for our future generations to have an interesting record of their forbears lives and experiences, and a general point of reference. My sister Susan was also involved in the printing and binding, and they hoped to have it privately published in time to give copies of it to our three children for Christmas. One of the reasons why it didn't get finished on time, was that I kept remembering little snippets which I thought shouldn't be left out.

When it did, finally, get done; we'd already departed for the foreign shores of our beloved Egypt, so didn't receive our copy until we got back here, just the other week.

I'm really impressed with the end result! Not only is it a great read, but it also looks and feels like a very professional job.

My maternal grandma was a Makepeace, a name which originated only in the English county of Durham. Our family connection to royalty stems from the daughter of our King Edward the second and his French wife Isabella. Born on 5th July 1321 in the Tower of London, she was consequently known as 'Joan of the Tower'. (But also, sometimes, as Joanna.) Joan was eventually married off to the son of 'Robert the Bruce', the King of Scotland as a major part of a peace treaty between the two warring countries. Joan subsequently became known as 'Joan of the Tower, make peace'!   While David (King Robert's son) was held prisoner at Neville's Cross (then a village to the west of Durham city) and presumably during one of her secret visits to him, she conceived a child, the offspring of whom actually adopted the name of Makepeace as their family name.

I'm not sure exactly what it was which was prompting me, around Christmastime, to revisit a rather spectacular grave in the cemetery of St Mary's Church at Heworth (quite near our home), but in the event, I didn't get! As our visit home for Easter neared, I again had this grave on my mind and determined to visit it on this occasion. It's a grave where the 'headstone' is a very elaborate affair, in the form of a four-poster bed with three sleeping children in it, very poignant. I knew that it was a Makepeace grave, but had no idea that our Richard was going to write about that section of the family in such detail, or include the story behind the grave!

I had intended to Blog the story of how the children all died in their bed after a candle had set fire to the bedroom curtains; it's just as well that I hadn't done it at Christmas, or else I'd have had to retract it very shortly afterwards!

I came across the same story in our 'Book', but Richard doesn't just take things at face value, and had therefore corrected this myth! The children actually all died at separate times, thus debunking the tale which had been passed down! Nevertheless, it's still a very sad monument to behold:

A family crest is displayed on the back, rather gruesome with the severed leg etc:

Anyway, seeing as I cannot report on what's going on in Luxor at the moment, I thought I'd just 'blow my own trumpet' a bit. By the way, there's really no need to bow when we next meet! Tarra.