The old woman was sitting in the shade of the tree. Dressed in black, following the tradition of widowed Mediterranean women, and with a scarf covering her head she was rocking from side to side; watching. A small group of people was gathered in the open surveying the dusty, stone strewn soil about thirty feet away. She extended two gnarled fingers and made the sign of the cross against her chest, bowed her head and continued her vigil. It was early afternoon, the sun was high in the sky and yet she pulled her shawl closer about her as an involuntary shiver ran through her body. She stared at the people one by one until her eyes came to rest on the person nearest to her, a younger man in a yellowing panama hat, wearing a leather satchel over his shoulder and carrying a large sketch pad. As he pushed the brim of the hat back to run his hand through his hair the sun lit up his face and she gasped. A small lizard, sensing the vibration in the air scuttled for cover under a rock close to her foot. She would sit there in the shade and watch a while longer. From his place of concealment the lizard also surveyed the scene.


Three people, two well tanned local men and a fair haired woman, were moving shovelfuls of sandy soil and stones held within a wood frame which formed a box some two feet high, and filling a shallow trench in the ground. They had almost finished the task and the men were sweating, their clothes were damp from their exertions. The woman stopped, leaned on her shovel and tugging the red-spotted handkerchief from around her neck wiped her forehead. She was younger than the men and not yet touched by the sun and the Greek summer. She glanced in the direction of the man in the panama hat and motioned with her shovel, her meaning clear.

He nodded, closed the sketch pad with his drawing of the woman’s face taken earlier from the recently excavated mosaic floor and placed it inside his satchel which he had already dropped on the ground. Stepping forward he took the shovel and felt it in his hands. The wood was worn smooth and the metal where the blade met the shaft was hot to the touch. The two other men stopped to watch, their part of the task done. He added the last of the earth from the pile onto the ground by his feet and smoothed it flat, patting it down in a final symbolic gesture. As he stood he said, “Thank you for allowing me to gaze upon you, Eleni. I hope you will see the light of day again soon and not have to wait another two thousand years.” He turned to the girl and added, “Perhaps we can come back next summer.”

From beneath the tree the old woman crossed herself again and muttered. “You can bid her farewell, Englishman, but you will meet again far sooner than you think.”

He handed the spade back and went to retrieve his hat and satchel. As he picked it up the sketch pad fell out onto the ground. The face of a beautiful woman, Eleni, dark hair, curled and tied high on her head, blue eyes, full lips and an enigmatic smile stared back at him from the ground. He knelt to close the drawing pad, to push it back inside and secure the flap. That’s when he caught sight of the old woman in the shade of the tree and wondered where she had come from. Most of the locals and the old women chose to sit in the shade of the trees by the harbour enjoying the gossip and the relief of any breeze off the sea, not here amongst the stones and ruins with hardly a tree or shade in sight.  She was watching him intently and nodding, muttering something to herself which he could not quite make out. He thought about offering her a drink of water and started to pull the bottle out of the bag.

“Ohee, ef haristo, no, no thank you,” she said with a shake of the head holding up her hands palms towards him, waving him away.

He smiled, pushed the bottle back into his satchel and did up the flap. “Yasou, goodbye,” he said and turned to follow the two men and the woman who were already heading back towards their hot dusty car parked in the open by the rutted track. As he passed the site of their dig he stopped and looked back at the ancient land and the distant horizon shimmering in the haze. In the shade of the tree the lizard came out from beneath his rock. The old woman was nowhere to be seen.


Words and photographs Copyright 2017 by Antony J Waller



Finding Jimmy

I didn’t know Jimmy, or James Bellamy to give him his full name. He was my great uncle and died 100 years ago. However, I cannot recall my grandma and great aunt, his sisters, ever mentioning his name or even talking about him. In those days one didn’t, it seems. Jummy first came to my notice years ago when I first started to trace my family past. I had seen the name, Jimmy Bellamy, and noted he had died in the Great War, but looked no further.

Then the events of a few days ago, the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele and the commemorative service held to honour the fallen, roused my curiosity. I realised Jimmy might have been there so I turned to the internet. Slowly, one step at a time, I am now finding Jimmy.

I even found a photograph posted on a website. (I had not seen his picture before)


Jimmy Bellamy joined the 11th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) soon after the war broke out.




Snippets from a local newspaper, The Grantham Journal, revealed more:-
25th September 1915 – (Jimmy Bellamy) “Visiting friends and relations in the last week or two.”
There was more.
4th March 1916 – “Corp. Bellamy of the Notts and Derbys has been home for a brief spell of leave before departing for the front. His many friends sincerely wish him “God-speed” in doing his bit, and a safe and quick return home.”

Then in Army records I came across a hand written witness statement dated 18th November 1916. It read:-

On the night of 18th November 1916, I was in charge of a Patrol which was sent out from the trenches in N Sub Sector Arras. Nothing of importance happened whilst out, until our return.
Whilst creeping through our own wire opposite Bay 93/1 we were fired on by the sentry and no 42199 Pte Leadbitter and one of the Patrol was wounded in the left leg.
I did not hear anyone challenge until after three shots had been fired.
I then jumped up on to the parapet and told the sentry 24118 Pte Handley 15th Btn Sherwood Foresters to stop firing as it was our own men returning from Patrol…”
A little while later The Grantham Journal carried the following news:-
16th December 1916 – “Corp. Bellamy has again been wounded in action, this time badly in the right hand by shrapnel.”

And :-
24th March 1917 – “Corp. Bellamy has also spent three months in Hospital suffering from wounds. He is now completely convalescent, and has been spending a few days at home.”

Jimmy was having an eventful war, as the saying goes. He was clearly on the front line in the trenches and in the thick of the fighting.

The next entry in the newspaper was longer:-
6th October 1917 – “We regret to state that on September 16th, the death took place in action of Sergeant J. Bellamy, son of Mrs. Bellamy, of Dry Doddington. The deceased was only 29 years of age and the only surviving son of a widowed mother. He joined the Forces soon after war broke out, and had been wounded twice. His is another noble life laid down in the cause of liberty and freedom, and in preservation of the women and children of the Motherland. Sergt. Bellamy is the third member of our local roll of honour to fall in the field, and to his young wife and little child, and to the widowed mother, who has lost her only two sons within the brief space of seven weeks, the truest sympathy goes out. The bell tolled in the village when the news of his death came, and memorial hymns were sung in the little grey Church last Sunday.
The following sympathetic letter has been received by his wife from the Second-Lieutenant of his Platoon, and a very kind one from a fellow Sergeant: – B.E.F., September 25th.
Dear Mrs. Bellamy,
It is with very deepest regret, that I have to inform you of the death of your husband, Sergt. J. Bellamy. He was my platoon sergeant, and, in my estimation, the best sergeant in the Battalion. He was killed by a direct hit from a shell in the front line trenches. In his case, death was absolutely instantaneous and he suffered no pain. I always found him an excellent N.C.O., who always did his duty and was very popular with the men. His loss leaves a deep gap which it will be hard to fill. I wish to express my profoundest sympathy with you and your family in your bereavement. He was killed on the 16th, and buried the next day. These are all the details I am able to give you.
I am, yours truly,
J. Greville, 2nd-Lieut.”

He is ‘Remembered with Honour’ on a panel at the Tyne Cot Memorial. There is no grave.
Jimmy, a hundred years on, I have found you.


NIK_15291 - Copy


Footnote: I followed up the reference, ‘who has lost her only two sons within the brief space of seven weeks’. William Bellamy, aged 38, died from pneumonia in late August 1917 ‘at Chesterfield on Government work’. A former Police Constable, he had been working as a miner.

Words and photographs Copyright 2017 by Antony J Waller



Now available, my book in paperback
Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2qrRuvc

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2pndHwN

…(or as an ebook download)

Doorways, once shabby and neglected, in the narrow streets of the Zona Velha (old town) district of Funchal Madeira now invite you to stop and stare and to wonder what lies behind. There are several hundred colourful, painted portals. Here are just a few:-

(click on image to enlarge)





















Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

Sweet-Feckle Hall

It was a beautiful morning in Ramfeckle under Whiteskelfe. The early wisps of mist clinging to the fields had dispersed, burnt off by the sunshine, and the low clouds which had earlier cast a veiled shadow over the village chased away up to the top of the bank. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and all was right with the world.

Walter was enjoying the moment, lounging on a new oak bench commemorating a recently departed villager. Set back from the road on the grass verge in front of a high stone wall, marking the boundary of Sweet-Feckle Hall, his seat afforded a view of all and everything that passed by. He saw Nimrod approaching.

“Morning, Walter. Thou’s up early. Owt wrong?”

“It’s our Mary,” replied Walter. “Spring cleaning. Deadly she is with a brush and duster, so I got out the way before I took a clout. How can I chill over a mug o’ tea with all that activity going on. Anyway, what about yerself. You’re out and about early too.”

“I’m off to the shop. Only it’s slipped me mind what it was I wanted. It’ll come back after I’ve had a sit.” And Nimrod plonked himself down on the bench next to Walter. For a while neither of them spoke.

“Feckle Hall’s looking good these days,” said Nimrod. “Spruced up a treat under the new owners.”

“Well those Bell sisters let it go a bit,” added Walter.

“That’s going back a piece. Rum lassies, those three. Life in the village was never dull with them about. The three Bell sisters,” echoed Nimrod.

“The tri-Bell elders as we used to call ‘em,” said Walter. “Destiny, Liberty and Southern.”

“Destiny,” repeated Nimrod. “Dessie. She was the eldest and most vociferous of the three.


Worked as a doctor, if I remember, though never married. Her final tryst was with the local vicar. Unfortunately one warm summer’s evening after Vespers the rector found them in the crypt. He was unfrocked and Dessie was struck off.

Then there was Liberty, the middle sister. A real artiste,  and quite a talented actress. Had her name in lights, ‘The Postman always rings twice’, ‘For whom the bell tolls’. But the drink got her. Fell off the stage at the Alhambra when playing Tinkerbelle in a musical version of Peter Pan.

Southern was the baby of the three, apple of her father’s eye, practical and philosophical. Conceived in First Class on the London to Brighton line. ‘Well it might have been worse’, she used to say to anyone who asked after her unusual name. ‘Daddy could have named me after the steam train or one of the stations.’ Often bumped into her in the village shop and she always had time for a quick chat.”

“What a font of knowledge you are Nimrod, and what a memory too. Now if you could only remember what it is you want from the shop….”

* *

Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

The small village of Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe can be found nestling in the shadow of the Hills to the north of York, closer to the Moors and the sea than to the Yorkshire Dales. Typical of most Yorkshire villages of its ilk Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe’s roots go back through the centuries, though the angst and demeanour of life in the village is very much a part of the present day and not the past. This and subsequent stories are how village life and events are observed and perceived by Walter and Nimrod, two of the village’s more stalwart inhabitants.

Tales Of The Head

Finally, in paperback, some of my short stories.




The small village of Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe can be found nestling in the shadow of the Hills to the north of York, closer to the Moors and the sea than to the Yorkshire Dales. Typical of most Yorkshire villages of its ilk Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe’s roots go back through the centuries, though the angst and demeanour of life in the village is very much a part of the present day and not the past. This and subsequent stories are how village life and events are observed and perceived by Walter and Nimrod, two of the village’s more stalwart inhabitants.

* *

It was Tuesday in Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe and black bin collection day. Nimrod was ensuring his wheelie bin was correctly parked at 90 degrees to the kerb. Satisfied it was he gave the bin a final shuggle and lifted the lid to check the contents.

“Lost summat, Nimrod?”

“Morning, Walter. Nah, just checking the stuff I should be recycling is hidden beneath the rubbish. I’m using the recycling bin to store logs. And there’s a bit of garden waste in there too. I’m not paying to have my green bin emptied.”

“They’ll catch you one day, Nimrod.”

“Then they’ll have to be up early.”

“Fit for the Arms tonight?”

“Is the Pope a catholic? I’ll be there, Walter. See thee later.”

* *

Tuesday evening was dominoes night at The Whiteskelfe Arms. A game of penny a spot and five pence a corner washed down by a couple of pints of Brown Belch. And to round the evening off the Arms signature supper dish, a pork pie submerged beneath a sea of mushy peas covered in mint sauce. A proper Yorkshire aphrodisiac after a game of bones.

* *

Nimrod was already hugging his first glass of Belch and staring into the flames licking the logs in the fire place when Walter slid onto the wooden pew beside him.

“I wonder what the origins are,” he said, eyes still fixed on the fire.

“Chinese I think,” replied Walter. “Then mid 18th century European.”

“No, not dominoes. Tuesdays. Where do Tuesdays come from?”

“Eh? What’s that got to do with owt?”

“I was interested, that’s all.”

They both took a sip of Belch and looked into the fire for an answer.

“Germanic gods,” said a voice.

Walter and Nimrod averted their gaze towards the newcomer as he scraped the legs of a chair on the stone floor and plonked himself down opposite before setting his glass down on the table to join them.

“Now Sid,” said Walter. “Hope you’ve brought some money. I want to be touching it this week.”

“Tuesdays,” said Sid.

“Oh, don’t you start as well. What is it with you two and Tuesdays?”

“If you’ll let me finish,” said Sid. “I was about to tell you about Tuesdays.”

“And Germanic gods” added Nimrod.

“That’s where Tuesdays come from,” continued Sid. “An Anglo-Saxon warlike deity, ‘Tiwesdaeg’. It all goes back to the Romans who called it Martis dies, day of Mars, after their god of war.”

“An apt night for dominoes then,” said Nimrod. “Least the way you two play.”

“Supposed to be a good day for getting married too.”

“You mean better than a Saturday if United are playing at home,” Walter chipped in.

“You’re a font of knowledge Sid,” said Nimrod.

“Well, if you want superstition, it’s a good day to have your hair cut or your nails. It’s supposed to bring wealth or a new pair of shoes.”

“I’d best make an appointment then, if I don’t take all your money playing doms, said Walter.”

“And don’t sneeze on a Tuesday or you’ll meet a stranger. And if he’s left handed…”

“Ey up lads. What’s thee gassing about? You haven’t got the dominoes unboxed yet?”

“Now then, Harry. We were just saying about strange left handed men who worshipped Germanic gods and got married on Tuesdays.”

“New boots, Harry?”

“Hope you clipped your nails before we start.”

“You’re crackers, you lot. Must be Tuesdays.”

* *


Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

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