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It was a cold, crisp Tuesday morning in Ramsfeckle under Whiteskelfe and the locals were going about their business. Nimrod, a local for more years than many could actually remember was waiting for his pal Walter, also an inhabitant with more years tucked under his belt than most. Sitting cross legged on the communal seat, set a few yards back from the main road and footpath on a grass verge beneath a line of old yew trees which overhung the high stone boundary wall of Sweet-Feckle Hall, he was enjoying the warming rays of the sun and clutching a thermos flask of coffee and two slices of thickly cut ginger parkin wrapped in grease proof paper. It wasn’t like Walter to be tardy for morning coffee, he thought, and if his lifetime didn’t buck his ideas up there would soon be just the one slice of parkin and half a noggin of coffee to share out between them.

A scuffling sound and a string of curses caught his attention and Nimrod turned to see his best mate stumbling along towards him resplendent in flip-flops worn over bright orange socks.

“Thy’s late, Walter.”

“Bloody miracle I’m ‘ere at all,” came the tetchy reply.

“And what’s with t’outfit and clartin’ about like a worm through quicksand?”

“Hutch up and let us sit down. Come on, Nimrod, hutch up.”

Nimrod duly shuffled along the seat, grumbling as he went that he’d just warmed those particular wooden slats up. “Anyways what’s wrong with thee?”

“I’ve bruised me toes, soles of me feet are tender and I can’t get me boots on.”

“But Walter. Socks with flip-flops?”

“Mary would give us hell if I wore me slippers and I’m not a barefoot hipster.”

“Thy’s got a point,” said Nimrod. “Coffee and parkin?”

He unscrewed the thermos, poured out two cupfuls and carefully unwrapped the sticky ginger treacle and oatmeal loaf which he had made himself.

“You’ll have to have it without cheese. I’ve not been to that new supermarket yet.”

“Well my advice is don’t,” said Walter. “Or if you do mind where you put yer size tens. I tripped and went arse over tip on the kerb by the disabled bay in the car park.”

“Eck,” replied Nimrod, munching on a mouthful of cake whilst taking a slurp of coffee.

They sat chewing and cogitating in silence for a while watching as Mrs Perks approached, walking  her pet Poodle, Ollie.

“Clever dog that,” said Walter. “Watch when it reaches the dog pooh bin. Always cocks its leg, never misses.”

“Humph,” said Nimrod. “And it also never misses crapping down the lane too. And when you’re shod in flip-flops then that’s definitely somat you ought to be missing.”

“Oriflamme Ongar Olivier the Third.”

“Eh. What’s thy wittering about now, Walter?”

“Ollie, the dog’s proper name is Oriflamme Ongar Olivier the Third. He’s got pedigree. Mrs Perks told me he was shortlisted for Crufts ‘Best of Breeds’ the other year.”

They raised their mugs in salute and chomped on as Mrs Perks and Ollie drew level.

After another brief respite Nimrod cleared his throat, “Are you up for a pint today then Walter. Do you think you can ‘obble as far as the pub for opening time?”

“Too reet I can, Nimrod, even if it means teking me socks off.”

 

Words and photographs Copyright © 2017 by Antony J Waller

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As many readers will know I belong to a local group of writers, ‘Thirsk Write Now’, and at every meeting we come up with a theme on which to write a short story to be read out when we next meet. This week the only stipulation being the tale must contain the following words:- Worm. Shortlisted. Tender. Oriflamme. Missing. Flip-flop. Orange. Car park. Quicksand. Usually stories run to between 500/1000 words. On this occasion I went for brevity!

James suspected his new novel, ‘Tender smells the Oriflamme’, written after he went missing in a car park might flip-flop.

Instead the poignant tale of a worm in quicksand was shortlisted for the prestigious Orange award.

 

Words and photographs Copyright 2017 by Antony J Waller

 

 

 

 

The delightful historic coastal town of Whitby nestling beneath the ruins of a thirteenth century abbey, famous for Captain James Cook RN, Bram Stoker and ‘fish n chips’ always makes for a good photo-fest. Here are just a few images and some of the characters from a recent visit:-

 

 

Words and photographs Copyright 2017 by Antony J Waller

 

 

 

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)

wp0a7e37e2_05_01Jimmy

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:-

“Sir
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
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…(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

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