India Beats Britain!

No, I am not talking about test cricket, though we lost that series too.

Checking the stats today, I was surprised to discover that views of my blog from India are now in second place behind America.

Britain is now in third place for views.

Am I being deserted by my own country?

Anyway, thanks very much, India!

Television Licensing

From 1952, Detector vans like the one shown above were once used to detect TV signals being received in the homes of people who had not bought a licence. The operators were not allowed to force entry to your home, but if you refused to open the door, they were allowed to apply for a search warrant.

If you live in Britain, and want to watch TV, you need a licence to do that. To fund the running costs of the BBC, TV licences were introduced as long ago as 1946, when they cost £2 a year. Current charges are £157.50 per year. However, you can reduce this to £53 for a Black and White only licence. I find it hard to imagine that anyone still only has a B&W TV, but many thousands of B&W licences are still purchased every year.

There are currently some concessions, though there is talk of those being scrapped in the near future.

If you are aged 75 or over, you can apply for a free TV licence, but only if your income is so low that you receive the benefit known as ‘Pension Credit’.

If you are a ‘Registered blind’ person, you can apply for a 50% discount on the cost of the full licence.

If you are a resident of a care home, you can apply for a reduced cost licence of just £7.50 a year.

This rather outdated system looks set to change. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are not covered by the legislation, as they are transmitted over the Internet. Detector vans may no longer roam the streets looking for TV signals coming from your home, but enforcement still exists.

When you buy a television set, your details are supplied to the Licensing Authority. Failure to apply for a licence, or to already have one, will result in a letter being sent. Ignore the letter, and there is a chance that investigators may visit your home to see evidence of TV watching. This might be the presence of a TV aerial or Satellite dish on your roof, or remote controls spotted through a window.

Once this ‘evdence’ has been logged, then you could receive a visit from enforcement officers armed with a warrant to search your home for a compatible TV set. If you have been avoiding paying for a licence, you will be fined up to £1,000, plus administration costs.

On the plus side, this means we get at least three television channels from the BBC that carry no advertising whatsoever. (Except for them advertising their own forthcoming programmes.) But a generation of people who watch mainly streamed content on phones, laptops, and tablets is unlikely to concern itself with that.

Perhaps the TV Licence has had its day? Time will tell.

Holidays At Home

The pandemic is still going to affect foreign travel, so it is a brave soul indeed who is prepared to book a holiday in some exotic location for 2021.

With much of the UK now in the same lockdown situation, holidaying in Britain might be the only option for many people used to seeking sun and excitement in foreign countries.

Fortunately, our own country does offer many places to enjoy, despite the unreliable weather.

But where to go?

I found this article online that has lots of suggestions. I have visited quite a few of the locations mentioned, but also discovered some I didn’t know about.

It does have some sponsored links, but they will be helpful on this occasion, so you can find out more.
(I get nothing for recommending this article, just so you know.)

A Short History Of British Coinage

Here is something for you to watch and digest while I am away. My friend Antony sent me this 10-minute You Tube film that gives an easy to understand history of British currency since the time of Queen Victoria, to the modern day. It covers the change to decimal currency in 1971, and explains very clearly why all our coins are the size, shape, and colour they are.

If you are writing historical fiction, you may well find this to be a valuable resource.

And it also explains why I still use terms like ‘A quid’, ‘Ten bob’, and ‘Three half-crowns’.

And if you ever intend to visit Britain as a tourist, it will help you understand the coins in your pocket.

Pub Signs for the 21st Century

As any UK readers know, pub signs have been a long tradition in this country. For those of you who have never visited Britain, here are two examples.

With many pubs being bought out by large companies, corporate names have fast become the norm, and our towns and high streets have seen the old signs disappearing fast.

I thought it might be time for some new names for pubs, to better reflect our changing society, and our dependence on electronics in this century. As I have limited artistic skills, I have not attempted to draw them. Instead, I offer only some name suggestions that could be developed into signs by someone with good graphics skills.

And if anyone does that, remember where it originated!

If there was a pub in Beetley, I would like it to be called this.


For those of you hooked on Internet dating apps, how about this name?


Those people who always forget their charger will be regulars here.


Twitter users would have this obvious watering hole.


Anyone foolish enough to have already bought an all-electric car might like to stop for a beer here.


Those phone users still on pay-as-you go options might like to meet up with others at their pub of choice.


Six selections for you, to get your minds ticking over.

Please add your own in the comments.

Guest Post: Liz Lloyd

I am delighted to present a guest post from British blogger, Liz Lloyd.
This is her own short bio.

‘After 35 years as a primary school teacher and school librarian, I started two blog sites based on my main interests in history and books. I am a volunteer researcher at my local Workhouse Museum as well as following my own family tree. I also enjoying travelling, especially to the Algarve’.

Liz has two blogs. One is solely concerned with book reviews.
Her second blog features her travels, photos, and visits to places of historical interest.

Here is her unedited guest post, a sad story of poverty, and forced migration.

British Home Children in Canada.

Since 2013 I have been researching the lives of people connected to the Union Workhouse in Guildford, Surrey. Initially we were preparing for an exhibition at The Spike museum about the changes from Workhouse, to war hospital in both world wars and later a General Hospital but subsequently I became particularly interested in what happened to the children who had stayed in the Workhouse, many of whom went to Sail training schools, Scattered homes, into domestic service or apprenticeships. However, the most alarming fate was the decision to send the children across the ocean to a new life in Canada.
“From the late 1860s right up to 1948, over 100,000 children of all ages were emigrated right across Canada, from the United Kingdom, to be used as indentured farm workers and domestics. Believed by Canadians to be orphans, only approximately 12 percent truly were. These children were sent to Canada by over 50 organizations including the well-known and still working charities: Barnardo’s, The Salvation Army and Quarrier’s, to name a few.” (British Home Children Advocacy & Research Association)

In Canada and America many descendants are trying to trace the origin of their ancestors, often only discovering after their grandparents’ deaths that they had been sent across by British charities or Union Workhouses. Some of the children were lucky, going to good homes where they were educated and cared for, but others were treated like slaves or abused. Government Inspectors visited from time to time but in such a large country this was a rare occasion. These are a few of the children I have followed.

Margaret Ellen, Edith Mary and Louisa were born in the village of Pirbright, Surrey the daughters of James Chewter and his wife Sarah. James was a farm labourer. As agricultural labouring opportunities declined many families moved closer into Guildford so that the fathers could find casual labouring jobs. They managed to eke out a living until one parent died and then it was impossible to provide for the family and look after the children. According to the death records registered in Guildford, Sarah Chuter, mother of the three girls, died at the Royal Surrey Hospital in 1884 aged 38, so it must have been very difficult for their father James to look after them on his own while continuing to work.

Margaret, Edith and Louisa were first sent from Surrey to Mr Middlemore’s Home in Birmingham where they were prepared for their voyage. The Board of Guardians in Guildford provided each with a chest containing a basic set of clothes and a Bible. On June 18th 1887 they were part of a group of 115 children aboard the SS Lake Ontario bound Quebec and on to the Guthrie Receiving Home in London, Ontario. The Chewter/ Chuter girls were soon given placements. Edith was placed in three different locations, the final one being at Belmont, Ontario, Louisa, age 7, was placed with Francis Davis at Adelaide Street, London, Ontario and Margaret, age 12 went to David Phillips of Durham, Oxford Co. Ontario.

Two years earlier, Walter Shires, an 11-year-old boy from a tragic family, had also been migrated to Canada. He can be found age 7, amongst the inmates listed in Guildford Union Workhouse in 1881 and next to him, the name Mary Ann Joyce, age 12, who was his stepsister. Both children had been orphaned two or three years earlier, but only Walter would be part of the small party of children sent out to Canada to begin a new life.

Walter’s mother Kate May married William Joyce at St Nicholas, Guildford in 1866. He was an Agricultural Labourer and by 1871 they were living in the area of St Catherine’s with their three children, William John Joyce, age 4, Mary Ann Joyce, age 2 and newly born Kate Elizabeth. Sadly, Kate died within a few months and a year later their father, William Joyce, was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, aged 26.

The young widow, Kate Joyce, married again next year, this time to labourer Walter Henry Shires. Their son, also called Walter Henry Shires was born shortly afterwards but there is no evidence of any other children born to the couple before Kate’s death in 1878. At the age of 30, her funeral was held at St Nicholas’s church. With three young children to look after, Walter Shires senior entered Guildford Union Workhouse where he died a year after his wife, aged 37.

By 1881, the eldest boy William John Joyce was 14, so he was working as a farm servant in Hambledon. The next time we find Mary Ann Joyce is in 1891 when she is living in Spitalfields with three other girls, all with no occupation, in the household of a Docker and a Laundress.

Like the Chewter sisters, 12-year-old Walter first went to the Guthrie Home in London, Ontario. From there, Walter was sent to live with J D Crane, a farmer in Chatsworth, Ontario. Each child was subject to one inspection to check that his new home was suitable. Walter Shires was reported to be both honest and untruthful, stubborn, sulky and a source of trouble. He was, however, “showing signs of slight improvement,” in his behaviour, although suffering from scalp disease. In later years Walter married and had 2 children, before his death in 1937.

In 1881, wheelwright, Benjamin Sink was living with his wife Jane and their three little girls in Farthing Lane, Wandsworth, but Benjamin came from Ockham, Surrey where most of his family still lived. By 1883 the lives of Ruth, aged 7, Beatrice, 6, and Ada Sink, aged 3 had been turned upside down. Their mother Jane had died and Benjamin was imprisoned in Wandsworth jail. The family in Ockham took in the three girls, but their grandmother was 64 and nearly blind so they were soon given up to the Union Workhouse in Guildford. In in June 1884 the sisters set out from Liverpool on the Allan Line steamship Parisian, with 115 other girls from various parts of Britain.

It is recorded in Ontario that Mark Smallpiece, Clerk to the Board of Governors of Guildford Poor Law Union, requested feedback on the children’s situations, as did other workhouse Boards and thus we have it on record that Beatrice, “would like to know her birthday if possible,” that Ada, “thinks she has a brother in the Union,” (Guildford Workhouse) while poor Ruth is so unwell she has been returned to Guthrie House. We do not know whether Beatrice discovered her birthday or whether Ada really had a brother “in the Union.”

Thanks to Maureen Salter, a descendant of the Sink family, I now have a little more information.

Beatrice Sink was adopted by the Burton family and took their surname. Later she married a cousin of her adopted family. Ada also went to a caring home in Ontario where, at the age of 6, she was adopted by Ephraim Snell. Sadly in 1893 she died of typhoid fever.

The children’s birth father Benjamin Sink died in Richmond Workhouse, Surrey in 1938. There is no record of a brother in Guildford Union Workhouse, and we do not know whether Beatrice was given her correct birth date.

It seems fitting to conclude with a quotation from the journalist of Guildford Jottings in the Surrey Mirror in 1885,
“Although one feels almost guilty of expatriating the poor little ones by deciding to send them from our shores, it does not follow that it is not in reality, the very kindest thing it is possible to do for them. They are at a premium in Canada, they are a discount here. It’s just as well to get a premium on one’s wares where possible.”

Liz Lloyd

Please take time to visit Liz’s other blogs, and give her some support from our great community. There is lots to discover on her general blog, and I am sure all you book fans out there will appreciate her reviews on the literary blog.

Famous Graves

I always like to look at gravestones in old churchyards and cemeteries.
But I have rarely seen any of famous people.

Thanks to the Internet, I can at least see photos of them instead.

William Shakespeare is buried in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire.
If you want to visit the site, here is the address.
Holy Trinity Church.
1, Old Town.
CV37 6GB

The famous navy commander, Admiral Horatio Nelson, has an impressive tomb, and I have seen this one.
This marks the high regard in which he was held by Britain at the time of his death in action at the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805.
The tomb is located inside St Paul’s Cathedral, in The City of London.

William Blake, poet and artist, was famous for writing the hymn ‘Jerusalem’.
Many people in Britain think it should be our national anthem.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

His grave can be found at Bunhill Fields, 38 City Road, London EC1Y 2BG

Rupert Brooke was a WW1 war soldier and poet.
He died from wounds on the island of Skyros, Greece.
His famous poem ‘The Soldier’ is incredibly affecting, given that he is buried abroad.

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

His small tomb on that island is well-maintained.

Charles Dickens is one of the most famous and best-loved British writers.
Popular in his lifetime, and just as popular today, his fame guaranteed him a place in Westminster Abbey

Grave of Charles Dickens

The famous escapologist Harry Houdini never managed to escape from his own grave.
He is buried at Machpelah Cemetery, Queens, New York City, United States.

King Richard III of England was killed fighting at the battle of Bosworth, in 1485. For centuries, he had no known grave.
Then in 2012, remains were found in Leicester, during the renovation of a car park.
After much publicity, they were confirmed as being those of the famous king.
He was re-buried in an impressive tomb, in Leicester Cathedral.
If you ever want to see it, it is easy to find.

Another grave I have seen is that of the famous Communist, Karl Marx.
His tomb is in Highgate Cemetery, Swans lane, London N6 6PJ
It is one of the most-visited graves in Europe.


Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

No News is Good News.

I woke up thinking of that old saying today.

Ever since the events of 9/11 in New York in 2001, I have had something of an addiction to 24-hour rolling news. I often think I might miss something, if I don’t watch it at least a few times a day. Since Brexit, it has become extremely annoying to watch, especially as during the last five years or so, it has also become apparent that the BBC (the news channel I watch) has definitely been dumbing-down the content, and showing worrying signs of bias on many important issues.

As well as that, actual live news is often replaced by opinion pieces, or the use of so-called ‘experts’ who appear on screen pontificating on some issue of the day. Then there is the heavy focus on certain celebrity stories and sports coverage, as well as the long-term adoration of the British Royal Family, and the hordes of hangers-on who surround them. The result is that on the BBC News 24 dedicated news channel, News is actually just a small part of the output.

When I went away to visit relatives and friends in the south of England last week, I had decided not to watch any television, or to look at sites on my tablet. This meant that for the first time in over seventeen years, I had no idea what was happening in the outside world. I didn’t look at the weather forecast, the local news in Essex or Kent, and paid no attention to what might have been happening in Westminster, or The White House.

Last night, I had a quick look online, in case I had missed a war somewhere, or the collapse of the government in Britain.

So here are the ‘beetleypete headlines’, as far as I can tell.

Boris Johnson is trying to close down parliament to force through his ‘no-deal Brexit’. This has happened in the past over other issues, so for me it is a bit ‘seen it before, so what?’

Some government ministers have resigned in protest. ‘Yawn’.

The Queen didn’t stop Boris. Well, she can’t actually do that. Going to ask her for permission is just ‘being polite’. Britain fought the English Civil War in the 17th century so we didn’t have to ask a monarch what we could do.

Boris Johnson is an arrogant conceited man who doesn’t care about anyone but himself and his rich cronies. Well we already knew that, didn’t we?

Some members of parliament changed parties. That has happened since the first parliaments here, and political turncoats are part of our history.

The ‘peace deal’ with the Taliban has been cancelled. Like that was ever going to work in the first place.

India and Pakistan are squaring up to each other. That has been happening since before I was born.

Hurricane Dorian is causing chaos. Sorry to hear that, and I hope all my friends in the path of it are okay.

The Democrats in America still have no viable opponent to challenge Mr Trump. No change there then.

Iran is being accused of all sorts, and Israel and Hezbollah are on the verge of hostilities. Hardly ‘news’.

Brazil is destroying the Amazon in the lust for mining gold and farming for beef. We should have stopped them a long time ago. It’s probably too late now.

Five days with no news, and that’s all I can come up with. Nothing really changed, and everything that was going on before I left on Tuesday is still going on.

I have to come to the conclusion that I didn’t miss anything at all, and that my obsession with The News has now been purged from my system.

WW1: The Real Faces Of War

At the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914, many men from all over Europe went off to fight in the war that would be remembered as one of the most terrible in history.

Before they left, they often went to one of the growing number of photographic studios, to have their photo taken in uniform, as a memento for the loved ones left behind. Even as the war dragged on, and the extent of the carnage and loss of life became widely known, that tradition carried on, with the men knowing that this might well be the last image their family would ever have of them.

This young German soldier is adopting a classic pose.

A British junior officer, attempting to appear casual and relaxed.
I can’t help thinking that he was dreading his arrival in the trenches.

All the armies used Colonial soldiers. This Indian soldier would have been fighting in the British Army, and wanted to leave this memory behind.

Naval warfare was a large part of WW1 too. This sailor looks like a schoolboy. He tries to appear tough in the photo, and looks determined to do his part.

This mature French soldier’s photo was used a propaganda image by his government. He looks well-equipped, and ready for anything.

Another German soldier, taking his equipment to the studio to be photographed against a nice backdrop.

This handsome Australian soldier looks like a film star.
He may well have seen action in the Gallipoli campaign against the Turks.

America entered the war in 1917. Their soldiers were known as ‘Doughboys’. This smart soldier is actually Harry S. Truman.
In 1918, he was a Captain of Artillery.
He later became President of The United States in 1945, and ordered the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Scottish regiments were an important part of the British Army. This soldier is posing in his kilt, before being posted to the front lines.

This particular soldier famously survived the war.
He was hit by bullets that lodged in a thick Bible he always carried, and that stopped them entering his body.
His story was widely reported when he returned.

Most of the men looking out at us from these photos were either killed or badly injured during that long and horrific war.
Even those that came home have long since died.

But we have these photos to remember them by.