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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Odds and Sods, January 2022, Part 1

It's been a month out of the ordinary because I have been confined to the house a lot of the time. No I am not wearing an ankle monitor or on a curfew, but it is more toe and limp related so I have not been driving or walking very far. Luckily I have still got about a bit though, thanks to my "carer" chauffeuring me about so we could escape occasionally when the weather permitted. This was a necessity for part of the month to escape the plumber working on a project upstairs that involved a lot of banging, scraping and whispered mutterings of despair followed by cheerful whistling.

But today we are almost back to normality and one water leak and a new cloakroom later, things are looking rosier, and thanks to the LED lighting, a lot brighter. We also reduced our carbon footprint but not in the way you might think. The LED's would have done that, but I mean the big black stain left behind after I cleaned the wood burner, a real carbon footprint, which involved getting out the carpet shampoo machine. But that's another story.

Things started well with a picnic on the beach on New Year's Day which nearly got called off at the last minute due to torrential rain in the morning. We decided to persevere though because too many events had already been called off due to a surfeit of caution and fear, only a few weeks before in another year, that was already seeming like an aeon ago.

Sure enough our confidence paid off as we thumbed our noses at the rain clouds and arrived to sunshine, and a beach as full of people as many a summer's day, albeit they were dressed mostly in woolly hats and wetsuits, that's a combination you don't see on the average catwalk. Yet. There is still time.

Before I was voluntarily incapacitated at the foot clinic we decided to make the most of my ambulatory abilities while I was in possession of them, and this resulted in a guided tour by some friends of Kingswear on the River Dart and another, mountain climbing in Dartmouth.

Ambulatory - Relating to or adapted for walking. From Latin ambulatorius, from ambulare ‘to walk’.

Frankly, once I had placed it in bold and read the word again I already knew it was going to have a Latin origin, because it still sounds Latin even today. But I did check to make sure. It turns out that for the first half of the month I was "adapted for walking" and the second half of the month not so much. "Adapted" has a scientific sense here like having opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs up to a point made a huge success of modern Man. Just in case that sentence is not clear, let me spell it out for you, that is "Man" as in the species, not man as in the "identify as" sense.

Man or woman as in the "identify as" sense is really just a modern case of self improvement. Why self improvement? Well when did you see a biological woman identify as a man to better stand a chance of becoming a sewage worker? When did you ever see a man "identify as" a woman to better stand a chance of getting a job as a checkout girl at the supermarket? No, in every case I have seen of someone identifying as something else, there is a financial or social payoff. " I identify as a table because I enjoy getting laid" that sort of thing.

You will sooner see a man identify as a woman to get a top job at the BBC or to win at sports. The reason you will generally see fewer women identifying as men is that there are almost no areas of life where it is beneficial to be a man anymore.

For every activist though, there are a thousand ordinary people getting on with ordinary lives, being who they want to be and making a success of their lives as useful members of society who have no interest in policing language and criminalising your thoughts even if they started life as Robin and ended up living life as Robyn.

Getting back to opposable thumbs, you may have noticed I said they were a success up to a point. Latterly the great gift to Man of opposable thumbs enabled trillions of one fingered words to be spewed on Social Media using one fingered devices held in hairy palms, giving birth to the poisonous cult of the virtue signalling SJW. We share this trait with the Old World Monkeys and the Great Apes, the thumbs that is, not the tweeting, as far as we know. It's difficult to know for sure if Chimpanzees are prone to tweeting without them having developed the Chimpernet yet.

Social Justice Warriors are the people who know little, have experienced less and achieved nothing. Greta Thunberg (Homo sapiens thunbergii) is the genus type of the SJW. We've all heard of her but can we point to a single carbon molecule she has stopped from being released?

On the other hand most of us have never heard of Shuji Nakamura, Hiroshi Amano and Isamu Akasaki who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014 for the invention of the blue LED. The blue LED was the Holy Grail of LED's, as without it the uses for LED's were limited. You cannot make the sort of light people need or TV that people want to watch without the colour blue. I bet Greta Thunberg hasn't heard of them, they went to school, and didn't protest, and have probably done more to save carbon emissions than any other humans on the planet.

But I digress.

I won't include many of the Kingswear shots here because I have already made a post about it here at my mothballed blog at Blogspot where I briefly posted my blogs before this new venture at . I have taken the plunge and committed to three years of blogging here so if you like what you see, and know someone else who also might like it, then please spread the word.

If you don't like it and don't know anyone who might like it then I suggest you just put it down to experience. I do that every day, as do most sane people. Just try to accept that the world is a richer place for having people in it who disagree with you. Most of the good things we have today are the result of disagreement, argument and debate and none of them are the result of censorship, violence or fear.

This is Octopus Cottage one of several brightly coloured houses in Kingswear. People who decide to theme their home on the octopus also make the world a richer place.

This was the mountain we climbed on the second walk, and at the top are the remains of an ancient hill fort, Gallants Bower. All those bumpy bits are what ancient hill forts look like today. Unless they have been covered with housing estates or shopping malls, not the case here, as the road up is too narrow for a cement truck, or even most small cars.

Why build up here? Well look at the view. Everyone wants to make that bit of extra effort for a good view, but this is not an Iron Age fort but a much later one built during the Civil War as a line of defence for Dartmouth Castle below, at the entrance to the harbour, possibly on top of an earlier construction. Dartmouth Castle was designed to protect Dartmouth from a sea invasion but during the Civil War the threat was by land and for this reason the castle was vulnerable to attack from the hill above. It is the nature of Civil Wars that your neighbours may become your enemies, maybe the cruellest and most destructive sort of war.

By the 12th century, the town's harbour, located in the estuary of the River Dart, was an important trading and fishing port, able to hold up to 600 vessels. It also had a reputation as a centre for both piracy and privateering, particularly for its attacks on French shipping. By the 1370s, during the Hundred Years War, Dartmouth was a key target for the French navy and the Crown repeatedly advised the town to improve its defences. Nothing was done, however, until in 1388 John Hawley, (we meet John Hawley later) ,the mayor of Dartmouth and a privateer, was authorised by Richard II to raise funds from the town for a new "fortalice by the sea" to defend the harbour.

Fortalice - From Medieval Latin fortalitia, later shortened to fort.

At the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642 between the supporters of Charles I and those of Parliament, Dartmouth initially sided with Parliament and the castle was guarded by five men. In 1643, Prince Maurice besieged the town and the castle was overcome by artillery positioned on the higher ground of the overlooking hill behind it. An earthwork fort, called Gallants Bower, may subsequently have been built to protect this vulnerable position; an alternative explanation is that the fort was first built in 1627 and was simply brought back into use during the conflict.

In January 1646, Sir Thomas Fairfax led a Parliamentary army to retake Dartmouth. He first took the town, then Gallants Bower, before forcing the surrender of Sir Hugh Pollard, the castle's commander, the following day.

Kingswear Castle, below, is an artillery fort, built to protect Dartmouth harbour in Devon, England. It was constructed between 1491 and 1502 in response to the threat of French attack and was one of the first purpose-built artillery forts in Britain. By the end of the 16th century, however, improvements in the range of artillery weapons had reduced the utility of the castle. It took part in the English Civil War and continued to be armed until the early 18th century, but fell into ruin.

Restored as a summer house in 1855, in the 21st century it is managed by the Landmark Trust as a holiday let. Today they are advertising a four night stay for £733 or $985, but that is low season. The only other availability this year is three days in August for £2857 or $3841, which is about $1280 per night. The Savoy in London can be booked for the same period for $1132 per night, in fairness the Savoy is a room for two and the castle does sleep four. "You pays your money and takes your choice" as the saying goes.

It lies opposite Dartmouth Castle and a protective chain linking to the other side of the river supported by small boats called "cobbellys" was maintained during times of greatest threat as a means of added protection and deterrence.

Both castles also feature later.

Coming down the steep hill towards the castle below we came across this colourful sight, an itinerant seller of walking sticks. All he asks for one of his hand made sticks is a "donation" towards petrol for his truck. I wonder if he knows the "Wand Man".

"For my sticks a donation is all I ask, to put some fuel in my old van is my task."

Uniquely, the donation box is an antique copper, bed warming pan. These pans with a long handle, were filled with hot embers from the fire last thing at night and then slid under the bed covers and moved around in the bed to warm it. They fell out of use, probably after several houses burned down and with the advent of the electric blanket.

"Once a witch always a witch."

The stick man was not at home so this is all an honesty arrangement. Leave with a stick and without a donation and he may cast a spell on you. Is it worth the risk? I noticed that frog sculpture above. Is that a victim of a spell? Is it a former dog walker turned stick snatcher?

Here is the castle and as luck would have it, one of the Royal Naval School training boats is just entering the harbour. No chain preventing entry today.

Just along the main road a major building project is underway and there was this surreal sight, a flying boat swan atop the temporary tool store. Why? Who knows. It does seem to be very securely strapped down to prevent accidental take-offs.

Swans feature later too.

After going under the knife, we had a week of beautiful weather which involved some trips out and a fair bit of hobbling along to see what I could see. Here, back at Blackpool Sands where we had our New Year picnic we had earlier spotted a small Navy ship anchored in the bay and it was now on the move. A patrol vessel of some description.

Here, was the Battle of Blackpool Sands, also to feature later.

It's like all this was planned.

In Dartmouth itself, this was just a flying visit to see what was inside the church, St Saviours. All those things mentioned earlier, are about to feature here.

I decided the church merits a separate visit as there is a lot of historic and interesting stuff in there. Not least the front door, so consider this a taster.

You don't even have to enter the church to see one of St Saviour's most remarkable historical features. The south door has been carbon-dated to 1361 (it bears the date 1631 but that is merely the year it was repaired). The door is decorated with an extraordinary example of medieval ironwork. You can see a Biblical 'Tree of Life' and a pair of leopards, a popular symbol in Plantagenet times. (

The Plantagenets ruled at a very historically important time for the future of England, the modern United Kingdom and as a result the United States of America.

The House of Plantagenet was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France. The family held the English throne from 1154 (with the accession of Henry II, at the end of The Anarchy crisis) to 1485, when Richard III died in battle.

Under the Plantagenets, England was transformed. The Plantagenet kings were often forced to negotiate compromises such as Magna Carta, which had served to constrain their royal power in return for financial and military support. The king was no longer considered an absolute monarch in the nation—holding the prerogatives of judgement, feudal tribute, and warfare—but now also had defined duties to the kingdom, underpinned by a sophisticated justice system. A distinct national identity was shaped by their conflict with the French, Scots, Welsh and Irish, and by the establishment of the English language as the primary language.

The pulpit is of 15th-century construction, and is a medieval rarity; a painted stone pulpit. A slender octagonal stem widens to form an octagonal drum with timber doors. The drum is decorated with later initial of King Charles I. (

Below is the High Altar. This was created in the 19th century using the four legs of the original stone altar that was destroyed in 1552 during the Reformation like so many other churches in the vicinity (


Protected by a carpet (but uncovered the day of our visit) in the chancel, is a superb memorial brass commemorating John Hawley and his two wives. Hawley (d 1408) was an infamous privateer and 14-time Mayor of Dartmouth. He was granted a license by the Crown to sail the seas in search of bounty, which he shared with the king.

At least, that was the idea; it seems that Hawley, who owned 30 ships, sometimes forgot the 'share' part of the bargain. He was hauled before the courts on a charge of piracy but escaped punishment. It was Hawley that helped build the fort that later became Dartmouth Castle. (

He also organised the defeat of the French invasion at the battle of Blackpool Sands mentioned in more detail in this previous post.

I should add that his two wives were not concurrent or polyamorous but asynchronous. In other words he only had one at a time. On the left is Johanna his first wife who died in 1394 and on the right is Alicia, died 1403. He holds the hand of his first wife.

The brass seems to be a real portrait of the man rather than a generic face. It's possible it was made while he was alive or at a later date from a portrait. He wears a bascinet, camail and plate armour with an elaborate baldric from which his sword hangs.

The bascinet is the open fronted helmet, the camail is the chain mail around his neck, and the baldric a belt from which the sword hangs.

The inscription reads, "Here lies the well- known man, John Hawley, founder of this chancel. Who died 30 December 1408. On the right side lies his first wife by name Joan who died 12 July, 1394. On the left side lies his second wife Alice who died 7 January 1403. On whose souls may god have mercy".

It really makes you think when you walk here with this effigy that has laid in this spot for over 600 years.

Hawley appears to be borne aloft on a lion while his wife has a pet dog at her feet.

I really like this stained glass window below and it is nice also to see something modern in the church that works so well with all the ancient interiors.

I cannot find out any information about it so will have to do more research but I can describe what I have worked out.

The main scene at the top is Christ on the Sea of Galilee. Above that is a cross with a ship's anchor.

The story is taken from the Gospel of Luke, where it is told that Jesus gave a sermon by the Sea of Galilee and performed various miracles. On the banks of the lake a large group of people had gathered around Jesus to hear the word of God. Jesus went on board the fishing boat of Peter (who was then called Simon) and spoke to the people from it. After the sermon he challenged Simon and his fellow fishermen to travel out to the lake, where the Miraculous Catch of Fish then took place.

Here the scene appears to take place in Dartmouth harbour with modern pleasure sailing boats on either side and swans in front. Behind is the iconic view out to sea from the town with Kingswear Castle on the left and Dartmouth Castle on the right. Seagulls feature throughout the window.

Below this scene in a curve are the modern people of Dartmouth and a contemporary fisherman with a large crab in the crab pot. Dartmouth is famous for crabs, and as a tourist destination.

On the left a mother with two children, maybe the fisherman's family? The boy is carrying a fishing rod and the small girl a red bucket as used by children who sit at the edge of the quayside crabbing, even today.

In the centre is a family sitting at the water's edge, the older boy has a toy yacht.

Along the bottom row are the more traditional biblical scenes, The Prodigal Son and The Sower. The two smaller scenes I cannot as yet determine.

It is a stunning piece of work, and well worth the visit to the church on it's own. It just sings a song of Dartmouth in all it's details.

There seems to have been a running theme of ships both naval and fishing in this post so it is apposite to finish with another flying visit to Royal William Yard in Plymouth. We were playing tour guide this time for some friends one of whom is an American naturalised Brit.

Apposite - apt in the circumstances or in relation to something. From Latin appositus, adpositus "contiguous, neighboring;" figuratively "fit, proper, suitable," past participle of apponere "lay beside, set near,"

I will be doing a post on William Yard at a later date. Suffice to say for now that it is a very historic site and overlooks the entrance of Plymouth Sound leading to Devonport Dockyards, home of the Royal Navy. As I was relating my guide's knowledge I explained that it was purely a matter of luck, but that it was sometimes possible to witness warships coming and going from the Naval base. Nothing there on this occasion, we retired to a nice warm bar for a pint of cider. When we re-emerged later, there right in front of us was this monster slowly being manoeuvred out into the English Channel by a tug. How lucky was that?

HMS Albion is an amphibious transport dock of the Royal Navy, the first of the two-ship Albion class. Built by BAE Systems Marine in Barrow-in-Furness, Albion was launched in March 2001 by the Princess Royal. Her sister ship, Bulwark, was launched in November 2001, also from Barrow. (Wikipedia)

It is presumably on active service as it is currently listed as "Destination not available" on my Marine Radar App.

She is the ninth ship to carry the name Albion (after Albion, an ancient name of Great Britain), stretching back to the 74-gun 1763 warship, and last carried by an aircraft carrier decommissioned in 1973 after 19 years service. Designed as an amphibious warfare ship, Albion carries troops, normally Royal Marines, and vehicles up to the size of the Challenger 2 main battle tank. She can deploy these forces using four Landing Craft Utility (LCUs) and four Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVPs). A flight deck supports helicopter operations.

After the excitement of seeing the ship we retired to a nearby restaurant for lunch. This restaurant is in one of the historic Royal William Yard restored buildings. The industrial style décor suited the bare stonework and exposed roof timbers of what was probably a former storage warehouse for the purpose of revictualling navy ships.

My January 2022 Odds and Sods continues in Part 2 with another visit to Plymouth.

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Unknown member
Jan 31, 2022

I love and always have loved your odds and sods because one never knows what the next photo or story might be, plus you seem to find some really odd stuff. Btw, every time I see the word cloakroom, I expect someone like Bela Lugosi jumping out of a closet with a "cloak". Another enjoyable read 😊.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jan 31, 2022
Replying to



John Durham
John Durham
Jan 31, 2022

Another great trip and guided tour. Glad you were able to get out. I hope you're healing up properly. I understand that frustration - just had another lumbar epidural in order to prove that, indeed, there is still more nerve issues and I will need another surgery. As I often say, getting old ain't for sissies.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jan 31, 2022
Replying to

Too true. Sorry to hear that, best wishes for your surgery. Keep fighting the good fight.

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