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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Odds and Sods May 2023

Quite a mixed bunch this month.

May started out looking like this but it soon changed. First we had a hosepipe ban because we have had record rainfall this winter which has apparently still failed to fill our one reservoir built in the 1940's which the water company expects to cope with a massively increased population eighty years later. Then we had a heatwave.

This was the first Quayside Classics of the year, which despite the weather, still had a reasonable turnout. This is the effect of water on highly waxed and painted steel.

I didn't get any wider shots because of the rain as I was shooting single handedly as my other hand held an umbrella over the camera. Needs must. So I mainly got watery close ups which are in themselves quite pleasing.

This is the effect of water on unwaxed and unpainted steel. This wasn't on display but on a nearby trailer going off somewhere for emergency surgery. I thought it made a nice contrast with the rescued shiny vehicles in the town square. Vehicles like this are commonly called "Barn Finds", as they are usually stumbled over in old barns or outbuildings, long forgotten by their original owners.

This is a Celebrity copy vehicle below, from the famous TV comedy "Only Fools and Horses". It ran for ten years from 1981 to 1991 (the show, not the car) although it feels like it ran for forty years. It is the infamous three wheeler, Reliant Robin. It is the second-most popular fibreglass car in history after the Chevrolet Corvette, with Reliant being the second-biggest British car manufacturer for a time.

The 1996 episode "Time on Our Hands" (originally billed as the last episode) holds the record for the highest UK audience for a sitcom episode, attracting 24.3 million viewers.

Just out of shot is the famous catchphrase from the show, "This time next year we'll be millionaires".

I still remember a surreal Only Fools and Horses moment on holiday in Bosnia on a coach trip to Mostar, the famously heavily bombed town from the Yugoslav Civil War. As all our guides emphasised at every opportunity, "the war was definitely not about religion", apparently it was just a coincidence that all the warring parties worshipped in different ways.

Our Croatian tour guide was not going to miss the chance to sing his favourite TV show theme song with a captive audience of thirty British tourists. First he sounded us out by explaining he was a huge fan and asking if we were too. He was on to a good bet if a third of the British population had watched it. Whereupon he led us in a group song as we rolled through the parched countryside of war torn Bosnia. You can't make this stuff up.

and miles and miles of carpet tiles,

T.V.s, deep freeze and

David Bowie L.P.s,

Ball games, gold chains, wozanames,

And at a push

And Trevor Francis track suits

from a mush in Shepherds Bush,

Bush, bush, bush, bush,

bush, bush, bush ...

No income tax, no V.A.T.,

No money back, no guarantee,

Black or white, rich or poor,

We'll cut prices at a stroke......

God bless Hooky Street.........

Still raining at this point, and now windy and stormy too as we go on a classic train ride on the Riviera Line of South Devon. The Riviera Line, so called as it runs along the coast for some way arriving in Torquay and then Paignton the so called English Riviera, where palm trees abound.

The line was famously built by Brunel. The sea wall has always been prone to damage during stormy weather as it runs alongside the open sea at the base of cliffs for four miles. The first time this occurred was in September 1846, just a few months after the line opened. The most recent closure was in 2014 when a major breach at Dawlish closed the line from 4 February until 14 April 2014.

The train took us to Exeter, our largest city here in Devon, and almost next door to the station is RAMM, or the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. This museum was a revelation, stuffed to the rafters as it is with fascinating collections of assorted artefacts from all over the world, mostly it seems, collected by travellers who either started life or ended their lives here in Exeter and ended up donating their things to this institution.

Some Hollywood stars would pay anything for the secrets of eternal youth portrayed by this lady who is a mere 3000 years old. OK, so this is a painted mummy cover, but even so the condition of the painted surface is remarkable, my garage door was only done two years ago and needs attention already.

Shep en-Mut was carefully mummified and placed in this painted coffin by her loving and presumably wealthy family. All we know about her is that she was about fifty when she died, which is a feat in itself living at a time when a small cut could be deadly, and she lived long enough to develop arthritis. The coffin was given to the museum in 1897 at a time when Egypt was awash with mummies for sale, which means that sadly we don't know where her tomb was. It was more than likely a rock cut tomb in a cliff face in Thebes.

This coffin mask looking more like an aging Hollywood star is also about 3000 years old but showing its age. It is a representation of the person who was in the coffin. The hole in the chin suggests it originally had a beard.

In ancient Egypt, the beard was seen as an attribute of several of the gods. Although real facial hair was not often admired, Pharaohs (divine rulers) would wear false beards to signify their status as a living god.

I was captivated by an old Victorian glass case of artefacts that looked like sea creatures preserved in formaldehyde. As I was wondering what exactly I was looking at I spotted a small sign which explained. These were in fact contemporary art works made of glass. They were created in 2017 by Steffen Dam. The exhibit was called "Specimens from an Imaginary Voyage".

"Dam has taken inspiration from RAMM's collection of starfish and sea urchins. His glass jars contain imaginary sea forms made from glass that trick the viewer to believe they were once alive"

In 2013 Laurence Egerton was searching a field near Seaton with a metal detector when he uncovered some Roman coins. He realised their importance and stopped digging. Local archaeologists organised a professional excavation and when they had finished, 22,888 coins had been retrieved.

This is the largest coin hoard ever found in Devon and the third largest in Britain. The coins are all a single denomination - a Nummus. They are composed of bronze with some silver. Most are from the reign of Constantine I and his family. It was probably buried around the year 350. Constantine I also known as Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor from AD 306 to 337. He was the first emperor to convert to Christianity.

Whenever I read about these famous discoveries I always have one thought. The person who buried it died, taking it's secret to the grave. Either they died from the threat that caused them to bury it or they fled and were never able to return. Were they murdered, did they die in battle or was the territory just invaded so they could not return. We'll never know.

This is John Hooker painted in around 1601, when Elizabeth I was still on the throne. Exeter was his home city and he was Chamberlain, in charge of the city's finances. He took great trouble to record, map and maintain the city walls and buildings.

This is just a short list of some of his achievements. John Hooker (c. 1527–1601) of Exeter in Devon, was an English historian, writer, solicitor, antiquary, and civic administrator. From 1555 to his death he was Chamberlain of Exeter. He was twice MP for Exeter in 1570/1 and 1586, and for Athenry in Ireland in 1569 and wrote an influential treatise on parliamentary procedure. He wrote an eye-witness account of the siege of Exeter during the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549.

It's hard to believe today, that a change in a Prayer Book could cause a violent uprising, needing an army to quell it. Today if the government brings in a law restricting our freedom of speech we hardly even notice. We are more likely to revolt over a rise in tax for warm sausage rolls.

The rebellion was part of the ongoing changes made in the church after the Reformation and Henry VIII's marital problems, which rumbled on well after his death. Cornwall and Devon were traditionally more Catholic in nature and nothing upsets a Catholic more than being forced to read a book in their own native language, English when perfectly good unintelligible Latin has always done the job perfectly well. Having said that, a lot of these rebels still spoke Cornish at this time.

As the group of rebels moved through Devon, they gained large numbers of Catholic supporters and became a significant force. Marching east to Crediton, the Devon rebels laid siege to Exeter, demanding the withdrawal of all the new liturgies. Although a number of the inhabitants in Exeter sent a message of support to the rebels, the city refused to open its gates. The gates were to stay closed because of the siege for over a month.

It took an army of 8000 men to quell the rebellion after various local battles and massacres. The contemporary Exeter historian John Hooker wrote that "the Cornish would not give in until most of their number had been slain or captured". Lord John Russell reported that his army had killed between five and six hundred rebels, and his pursuit of the Cornish retreat had killed a further seven hundred. In total, over 5,500 people lost their lives in the rebellion.

I dread to think what could have happened had they actually raised the tax on warm sausage rolls.

On the approach to the massive Exeter Cathedral it is quite easy to miss a small church tucked away in a corner next to an alleyway.

St Martin's props up the black-and-white building of Mol's Coffee House on a corner of Exeter's historic Cathedral Close. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, consecrated a year before the Norman Conquest, and was once one of six churches clustered in the cathedral's shadow. It is the most important and complete church in the centre of Exeter, having escaped both Victorian refurbishing and the Second World War bombing that severely damaged many other Exeter churches.

The first church on this site was consecrated on 6 July 1065 by Bishop Leofric, the same bishop who founded the cathedral in Exeter. Its tiny parish - smaller than the size of a football pitch - served the workers and traders who crowded into the three and four-storey houses in the surrounding streets.

There are several notable memorials inside including this one of 1643 to Judith Wakeman.

The stained glass is medieval.

Under the tower is the font, unusual in having a small additional basin on its stem; the two

parts of the font are not of the same stone and probably not of the same date. There are

mediaeval fonts in other English churches with similar basins at the side: their purpose is not

clear, though it has been suggested that they were for the holy oil of chrism used in baptism.

I recently experimented with some infrared photography using a lens filter. After I had done that I noticed all my photos had a blue tinge once I had removed the filter. In processing I had to adjust the "white balance" of each shot as I edited them. I was getting quite concerned I had inadvertently caused some sort of damage to the light sensor in the camera. I researched the problem online but could not find anything about it. I also could not work out how preventing certain wavelengths of light from reaching the sensor could have any damaging effect so I was bewildered. This shot below is an example of what I mean. This was taken after the infrared shots and it has a definite out of balance feel even after editing. More on this later as I did find the answer, sort of.

"White Balance" -White balance is a camera setting that establishes the true color of white. This produces a baseline from which all other colors are measured. White may not appear “white” under all lighting conditions, so this helps correct it

I visited the Start Point headland to take some photos on a mixed sort of day when the rain was playing games, threatening but not delivering, which was fine by me. It means dramatic skies while you stay dry.

I have done the section to Hallsands before but have never reached Lannacombe, so that is my target this summer. The path on this route is quite challenging, being very steep and rocky and close to the edge in parts. Today though I was only taking photos on the headland.

This is the private access road down to the Start Point lighthouse. For most of its life the lighthouse was marooned out on the point and only accessible on foot, the road came much later.

This is the crest of Start Point. The lighthouse is just out of sight lower down and behind these rocks.

There are a surprising number of hardy plants clinging on to life out here, bombarded by sun, wind, rain and salt.

Here, a small crevice acts as a shelter.

Start Point is the southernmost part of the mainland in Devon, while here on the opposite side of the south west peninsula, just inside Cornwall, is Tintagel. Looking very similar in craggy windswept nature. Tintagel is a small village that has grown up out of a legend which became attached to some actual local history. This bridge is a modern addition to the site and carries pedestrians across from the mainland to "Avalon", the alleged home of King Arthur and his Round Table, complete with Merlin's Cave. If you look closely you can see both natural rock and also man made remains made from the same rock which now blend in almost imperceptibly.

Please note. The grass is green, this will come up later.

Tintagel Castle is a historic site situated on the cliff tops of North Cornwall. Due to the rugged coastal landscape, there are steep slopes, sheer drops and uneven surfaces which can present a challenge to visitors. (I am only reading this now after I developed a severe limp the following day.)

If possible, we ask our visitors to follow a one-way route around the site which means leaving via 140 steep steps, (these were the steps that got me). Please see our access page for detailed information and advice for visitors with limited mobility.(Too late).

The site of Tintagel Castle has been inhabited at least since the late Roman period, and a community flourished here in the 5th to 7th centuries. In the 12th century Tintagel gained literary fame when Geoffrey of Monmouth named it as the place where King Arthur was conceived. These Arthurian associations may have inspired the fabulously rich Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build a castle at Tintagel in the 1230s, and the enduring legend still ensures Tintagel’s international renown.

The reasons for Geoffrey’s use of Tintagel can only be guessed. He associated Arthur closely with Cornwall, and Cornish legend may have preserved a folk memory of the earlier importance of the site, perhaps as a stronghold of the rulers of Cornwall. Geoffrey described its dramatic physical attributes, evidently appreciating its romantic nature.

Gallos is an 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) bronze sculpture by Rubin Eynon located at Tintagel Castle, a medieval fortification located on the peninsula of Tintagel Island adjacent to the village of Tintagel (Trevena), North Cornwall, in the United Kingdom. It is a representation of a ghostly male figure wearing a crown and holding a sword. It is popularly called the "King Arthur statue", but the site's owner English Heritage states that it is not meant to represent a single person and reflects the general history of the site, which is likely to have been a summer residence for the kings of Dumnonia.

This is a rare photo of the statue without people posing in front of it. Note the polished sword handle which is gripped in every selfie or portrait. Just to the right of this statue below, is a queue of family groups waiting their turn to pose with "Arthur". I quickly realised that the only way I would get a clear photo was to stand to one side and snap away as one group stood down and the other came forward. This photo represents the approximately 3 second interval at changeover. The fact that nobody was trying to fall off the cliff behind was a bonus, they were certainly trying to kill themselves at other sheer drops around the island.

Having "broken my knee" on the 140 steep steps to get back down, we then strolled along the bare rock which forms the "coast path" here, to the nearby church. The church is a thousand years old and none of the 5000 visitors at the castle seemed interested enough to have a look at it. This proved to be a very nice way to walk back into the village and we only saw about five people at the church.

The Parish Church of Saint Materiana at Tintagel is a Church of England parish church in the Church of England Diocese of Truro in Cornwall, England, UK. It stands on the cliffs between Trevena and Tintagel Castle and is listed Grade I.

The existing church may have been created in the late 11th or early 12th century. Art historian Nikolaus Pevsner (writing in 1950) suggested that its Norman-era design includes some Saxon features, while the tower may be 13th or 15th century in date.


One of the items inside this very plain but beautiful church was this original lifebelt washed up on Tintagel beach.

South Wales Daily News - Thursday 21 December 1893




The coastguard on duty at Boscastle on Wednesday afternoon, saw a large barque coming around Tintagel Head. A heavy gale was blowing and the sea was running high. During the height of the storm the wind shifted suddenly and the vessel was driven ashore close to Lys Rock, Rossiney Bay. When the crew saw the vessel was sinking they swam to the rock.

The Boscastle rocket apparatus arrived on the spot about five o'clock, and immediately a rocket was fired. A member of the crew seized the line, but apparently did not under- stand how to use it. He attached the line in such a way that the coastguard could not work it. The wrecked men are foreigners, and believed to number ten, two men being on top of the rock and the others near the water's edge in an extremely dangerous position, some being nearly naked. It was most distressing to hear the appeals for help whilst the men had the means of safety in their own hands, which they did not understand.

At seven o'clock efforts were still being made to save the men. The island is not far from land, but the cliffs are very precipitous. A heavy gale prevailed at Plymouth during the day. Telegraphing later the Central News Plymouth correspondent adds :—Various plans for rescuing the wrecked crew were proposed, and finally two coastguards men named Hughes and Hambly gallantly volunteered to climb down the cliffs at considerable risk to their own lives, and with great difficulty they succeeded in reaching the island. They managed to set the rocket line in working order, and by this means seven of the crew were rescued, three, however, being drowned.

The vessel was an Italian barque of 572 tons, and named the Iota. A Lloyd's telegram says:- -The Italian barque Iota, from Cardiff for Trinidad, is ashore near Lye Rock, between Boscastle and Trevena, and will become a total wreck. Seven of the crew saved, and three drowned.

The ship's cabin boy was only 14, and at his funeral... "Mr Cooke officiating, said the Paternoster in Latin, which was the only part of the service the Italians could follow" His grave lies next to the War Memorial in the churchyard and is still tended to this day.

It is a strange coincidence that I should have started this post by complete accident with the Prayer Book Rebellion, as a result of taking a photo in Exeter museum, only to end with a reading of the liturgy in English 300 years later at a funeral where the common language was Latin.

The font is Norman, rather crudely carved in elvan: each of the four faces is carved with snakes and each corner with a head.

I have a story about Elvan here. Elvan is a name used in Cornwall and Devon for the native varieties of quartz-porphyry. They are dispersed irregularly in the Devonian series of rocks and some of them make very fine building stones. Greenstone is another name for this stone and it is often used for parts of buildings such as doorways so they can be finely carved.

Returning to the white balance of my camera, and here is what Tintagel looked like when I arrived. The sea may be a lovely blue but so is the castle. We had taken a picnic, and while eating it I got to wondering about the damage I may have done to my camera, when a last resort solution struck me. Putting down my ham and mustard sandwich, where the seagulls couldn't snatch it, I perused the settings until I found the section on white balance. There I discovered that the camera was mysteriously set to Tungsten instead of Daylight. A quick flick of the switch and back came my green grass of Tintagel. I really have no idea how this setting got changed. Was the presence of Merlin there that day to help me stumble on the answer to this strange event.

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John Durham
John Durham
Jun 02, 2023

Never, ever touch that WB setting! Or let Merlin near it. As much as I love the church photos, I was gaga over Start Point - I've seen "professional" photos of the area before, but yours were much more relatable. And I'd never seen the statue - very clever to wait out the "changing of the selfies" for that one.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jun 02, 2023
Replying to

Thanks John, the church was so dark and outside so sunny I actually had to wait a moment to adjust when I went in, could not see a thing. I think the Start Point ones were better for it being a little overcast. More details in the sky.

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