Mistress Agnes goes on holiday – more about driving than history

Have recently added Linkedin to my social media collection. A little worrying that they have interpreted my skills as being suitable for a post that involves ‘developing mathematical algorithms for high-order simulation of compressible flows’. I am sure I could, if only I knew what it meant.

French Exchange students with us in the seventeenth century this week. Somewhat anachronistic that they all began singing the Marsellais when doing pike drill!

Was not holding out much hope when I received a request to trace the Jones family. Things got better when I managed to get back to an Archimedes Jones (got to be better than William). They then got worse again as his birthplace was Jamaica!

Now on a short break resuming our south-west coastal path walk. This portion requires two cars. Not very ecologically sound but there are just no buses anywhere near the places we need to start and stop some of the sections. This means I have to work out a convoluted route so I can get to south Devon without encountering anything that purports to be a major road – the A38 for example. This is especially important as I am in the new-to-me car that I am not yet used to. The up side is that I get to pootle across stupendous countryside in the middle of nowhere Dartmoor. I stop for herds of horses and generally enjoy myself. I am fine until I get to Cornwood. Unfortunately the next bit is not on my map. Well it is but not on any of the maps that I have actually brought with me. Fine, I have borrowed the sat-nav. I’ll sat-nav on from here. Problem one – This is not my sat nav so it has to lie on the passenger seat. This means I can hear it but not see it, so not much time for anticipating what is coming next. Problem two – I lose GPS signal for about ten minutes on a very narrow road with a car behind me and no chance of stopping. During this period I have to guess the route. Problem three – the sat-nav would like me to go along the A38. By this time I am tired and hungry. A38 – whatever – it is only a road. I am to join the A38 on a blind bend with the sun in my eyes. My wing mirrors or angled down to facilitate getting up my drive, which is barely wider than my car, without untold damage to the Methodist Church next door. They are not angled correctly for seeing what is bearing down on me at a great rate on the A38. The wing mirrors don’t seem to move much. I am restricted to twisting round awkwardly and using my rear view mirror, which is about as helpful in these circumstances as a chocolate tea-pot. I launch myself into the unknown. There is no screeching of brakes or hooting of horns. I seem to have joined the A38 without incident. More by luck than judgement.

Driving along the A38 is fine, it is just the joining I have trouble with but this is seriously out of my driving comfort zone. I know, I know, I have been driving for twenty five years. Sadly, most of that was on the Isle of Wight, where you get a sum total of 200 yards of dual carriageway and joining that is controlled by traffic lights. I leave the A38 after 3 miles cross under it and – oh no – have to join it AGAIN going in the opposite direction! Effectively I am crossing it but not in a straight line. Arggh!

Chris and the caravan have been in south Devon for a couple of hours already. I am later as I have been conducting a Devon Family History Society session for beginners, slow starters and the generally stuck. In this weather the paddling pool in the adjacent park was probably more appealing but those who attended seemed appreciative. We plan an early start for tomorrow’s walk to avoid the forecast 30 degree temperatures.

We leave before 8 o’clock to walk from Bantham to Inner Hope. A comparatively short stretch but we are out of practice and the starting and stopping points have to take account of the many south Devon river estuaries. We leave my car at what will be the end of the walk and drive in Chris’ to our starting point. An unidentifiable red warning light appears on his dashboard. We ignore it – the wheels haven’t fallen off or anything – we will be fine. Against our principles but we have already paid a small fortune to park my car now we need to pay again to park Chris’. There is no on road parking for a very long way. Neither of us have had the sense to actually bring any money with us. We count out the copper and 5 pences in Chris’ car ashtray, wondering what plan B is if we can’t come up with the £5 required. Fortunately we have enough, although the car park attendant looks less than impressed with a handful of change.

 Day 66 21 July 2013 Looking back at Bantham

We set off on a lovely stretch of coastal path. Bizarrely there appears to be a martial arts class going on on the beach. Landslips mean we are diverted on to a narrow road. Every time a car passes we have to squash ourselves in to the hedge, attempting to choose a portion that is lacking stinging nettles and brambles. We cross a rickety bridge, keeping a sharp eye out for trolls and manage to get back to my car before the heat of the day – pretty much just as everyone else is starting out. We drive back for Chris’ car. The only place to turn my car round is past the man collecting the £5s for the car park. An advantage of Chris being distinctive looking and I guess of us having paid in 5ps is that, amongst hundreds of customers, we are recognised and are allowed to drive past to fetch Chris’ car without being deprived of any money, which we don’t have anyway.

Then the problems start. We are two of only a few cars who are heading up a single width road away from the beach as hoards of surf board carrying, spade wielding tourists are approaching it in their cars. None of these tourists seem to a) know the width of their car or b) be able to find reverse. Plenty of squashing into hedges, reversing and passing with half an inch to spare is required. Unlike the A38, this is fun. I can do this. This is what I do all the time. Slow, I’ll grant you but fun.

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More from the seventeenth century

Thanks everyone for the Race for Life donations – it made all the ‘running’ in the hot weather worth while. The medals, that were awarded for not expiring from heat exhaustion on the way round, are equipped with safety gadgets in their ribbons. I suppose these are a nanny state necessity in case any hapless racers attempt to hang themselves.

 A nearby village has a scarecrow competition running. I accelerate nonchalantly hoping no one noticed that I slowed down for the lollipop lady. I did wonder why she was so far from the nearest school. Well she was very life like. The last week has seen us spend a seventeenth century day in the hottest classroom in the world. Fifty children were crammed into said room making matters worse. Some excitement was occasioned however when a gardener began some not very seventeenth century strimming outside. Obviously all the windows were open making said strimming distractingly loud. I was half way through the fourth of four hourly sessions so my voice was beginning to falter somewhat. I was just shouting my way through what happened when armour was hit by a musket ball when the strimming man’s strimmer flung up a stone and shattered the window. Any teenagers rendered comatose by the heat jerked into an excitable frenzy. I extolled the virtues of armour when being attacked by flying stones.

We rush home to show a Clovelly Archives Association member round her ancestral village. Needless to say she is related to Chris. Pretty much anyone with North Devon ancestors is related to Chris. Walking up and down the cobbles makes my muscles remember that I have raced for life the previous day.

Then one of our best ever days back at the 1646 ranch. Four wheelchair bound, brain injured, residents of a local care home come in with their carers. I open secondary doors to allow wheelchairs to pass through. I knew it was going to be a good day when one of the lovely carers, of ample proportions, suggested that this might be for her benefit, rather than that of the chairs. We were able to dedicate our day to these wonderful people. Pike drill was a blast – ‘place the right wheel of your chair against the base of your pike’.

A meeting to discuss our proposed Buckland Brewer History Group followed. Not being a milk drinker, when offering guests a cup of tea, I check the sell by date first. Unfortunately I did this after I had removed the lid. I did realise and stop tipping when my foot started to get wet. June 13th by the way.

Off in our new to us caravan, in preparation for the South West Family History Fair at the weekend. We are struggling a little with the downsizing that is a concomitant of the new van. We call in at Street. For the benefit of my foreign fans, Street is the home of the Clarks outlet store. Clarks being one of our premier shoemakers and this being their largest store. We then commence the farce that is me attempting to buy shoes. My feet are pretty much square and when approached by assistants asking what I am looking for I am not joking when I say, ‘Anything that fits’. On previous occasions I have left this store because nothing does fit. This time I am after sandals. This is better than shoes as, with sandals, ones feet can sometimes hang over the edges a bit. I would really like some the same as I am wearing, purchased in this store about eight years ago. My shoe wearing and buying resembles that of my ancestors. I buy a pair of shoes (yes, singular) and then wear them until they are beyond economic repair. This is to postpone the awful shoe buying scenario for as long as possible. It is still very hot but shoe trying on requires sock wearing. I am now looking natty in my three quarter length trousers, sandals and socks. The assistant looks at me as if I am seriously sad when I ask if 2005 fashions are still in stock. I head over to the children’s department. The one advantage of having feet my shape is that I can fit into children’s shoes and thus avoid paying VAT. Oh silly me this is July and predicted to be the hottest weekend of the year. Of course sandals are not in season. Oh to live in days when shoes were home made and were for comfort not fashion. Of course at this time of year, many of our ancestors would have gone barefoot to preserve a valuable asset for the winter. The weird thing about historical shoes is that, allegedly Medieval and Victorian footwear had a left and right, yet in the seventeenth century shoes were identical. The reason I have heard given for this is that, if shoes were identical, it was quicker to pull them on in a time of war. How does this work? Were there then no wars in the Medieval period? I then try to emulate my ancestors by tripping barefoot down the prom at Weston super Mare for the first paddle of the season.

I pop in to a high street bank to pay in some cheques. Super keen Simon approaches. Would I like to try paying them in using the machine to save queuing? Well, not really but Simon looks like he is on some kind of payment by results deal so I agree. It is not a quick option this and first my debit card and then my cheques are swallowed by a machine. After a lot of whirring they are duly spat out again. Simon thinks it is because one of my cheques is not a standard size. Now I am at least three places further back in the queue to pay them in the conventional way.

Racing for Life and a bit about the tennis

So Racing For Life today. 1500 people have gathered in 27 degree heat. My companions have forty years on me. I am relying on them being slowed down by their tutus and fairy wings. I don’t envy the participants in the fleecy onesies. I feel a little conspicuous as I am not wearing regulation pink. I rarely do pink. My one pink T-shirt has long sleeves – you must be joking. You can always spot those who are taking this just a tad too seriously. They have personalised water bottles and are checking their stop watches. We do the obligatory prancing about that is laughingly called a ‘warm up’. Warm up? I am already sweltering.

I have a year’s worth of Zumbaing under my belt since last years R 4 L. Trouble is it always comes straight after I have spent a month being immobile as a result of the job I must not mention. I was hoping to get round the 5k in under 40 minutes. I contemplate jogging the shady bits – I don’t contemplate it for long. Actually there are very few shady bits. I am proud of myself for pretty much jogging the whole first kilometre, when bottlenecks allowed. I graciously allow the youngsters to get ahead of me – wouldn’t do to demoralise them too much. Manage to get round in 42 minutes 10 seconds – pretty good considering the heat. Great to see so many raising money for a good cause. Am I the only one to find it ironic that someone who has just completed the course, sporting a ‘let’s kick cancer’ t- shirt, is barely across the line before she lights her cigarette? The freebies for completion are somewhat minimal this year – maybe sponsorship is becoming harder to come by. Bring back the cool shoe bags, that’s what I say. Still time to sponsor my efforts.

 Home in time to witness Andy Murray’s win. Watching Wimbledon is one of my earliest memories. At 15 months old I was sat in my pram watching a nine inch square black and white TV. It seems I was probably watching Lew Hoad and Althea Gibson. Still mourn the days when there was no tie break and the top players played doubles and singles. Early memories are part of our family history and we need to record them.

Car Parking, Cooking and Colonial Research

Whilst taking the seventeenth century to a local high school last week, an interesting incident occurred. We leave our not very seventeenth century vehicle in order to check in with reception. ‘You’d better lock the car’, I say – not very quietly. ‘It’s got the gun in it’. A passing school librarian goes a peculiar shade of pale and is clearly wondering which emergency service she should alert first. Once inside, I am allocated not a classroom but a theatre. This gives me delusions of grandeur. I am playing to the gallery here – great stuff. Time to go home and we find that an over zealous work experience caretaker has given us a parking ticket. He has forgotten to check against the list of authorised visitors’ vehicles. We manage to talk our way out of this. Not sure they would want us to pay a fine in groats anyway.

I have made more progress on the American Braund who was incapable of telling the truth. Help from the Canadian Censuses and the ability to see the 1940 US census images free via Family Search. Courtesy of the American Newspapers site, I discovered that the poor man met a tragic end whilst suffering from a form of dementia. He cut his wrist and then, when that failed to work, hung himself. I did think that the sanitised version of events in the newspaper of his Canadian home town was a master of understatement – ‘although he had not been in his usual robust health for the past year or two, death came to him not unexpectedly’. Apart from apparently running off with the, much younger, wife of his former lodger, it seems he had another ‘wife’ whom he seems to have neglected to marry.

Village BBQ today. I have been delegated to provide bread rolls. News of my cooking ‘skills’ has obviously preceded me. We also have the annual Strawberry Tea, which is my chance to climb the church tower. Up and down the spiral staircase usually has after effects. As I have to ‘Race’ for life tomorrow, maybe I will give the tower a miss this year.