Walking in my Great Grandfather’s Footsteps

Recently Linda was contacted regarding one of her ancestors who had fought and died in the First World War.  James Frost . This led to us driving to France and Belgium which she has just blogged about here Linda’s Blog.

However whilst we were in the area we also visited Ypres (Ieper) where my Great Grandfather had been stationed for a time before his posting to the Somme where on November 4th 1916 he lost his life.

Herbert Goulding was my paternal Grandmother’s Father. He had been born in the Barracks of the Lancashire Fusiliers at Bury and joined up as a boy soldier. He had seen action in the Boer War and spent 21 years in the Army gaining the rank of Regimental Sergeant Major.

After leaving the army his family settled in Barrow in Furness but within 14 months of civilian life he had reenlisted at the start of the Great War. He was shipped out to France initially stationed around the Belgian town of Ypres.

Ypres endured particularly heavy fighting. At the end of the war nothing remained standing. The Ypres  of today is rebuilt as it once had been and looks like it was from the Middle ages, except every building is not yet 100 years old.

The war diaries show that Herbert Goulding was on the western front at Sanctuary Hill of Christmas day 1915 and that he was relieved on the evening. The unique thing about Sanctuary Hill is that it was time capsuled by the landowners at the end of the war, preserved as a museum. The trenches are as they were, as are the craters from artillery fire. The archaeological finds are stacked up somewhat unceremoniously and the splintered and dead trees are strapped in position as they were when the Armistice was called.

My Great Grandfather wasn’t a young lad who signed up with the notion of a good time abroad, sold the spin of the recruitment officers, believing they would be home for Christmas, he was a career soldier who had seen it all before. I wonder what he must have thought at the constant stream of cannon fodder and the ever pervading stench of death, mud and destruction.

I can’t put into words my emotions as I walked the trenches, knowing he had walked them, imagining how he must have felt to be on the Front Line  on Christmas Day, with his young family miles away in another land, another world almost, whilst trying to look after soldiers who were little more than children themselves. RIP RSM Herbert Goulding, thank you for your life.





Remembering the Chase

I must have been there hundreds of times. In years gone by I would go there two or three times a day. For those of you thinking ” Aye Aye, he doesn’t even own a dog” , I had far too many opportunities to mountain bike before my broken back and lack of talent accident.  I left a little of myself on King Billy’s, mostly my courage and a little blood, maybe a bit of wee.

Since that time I haven’t really visited the Chase. I have cycled through it on the tarmac but mostly avoided the wooded bits. Over the last few months Linda has been reintroducing me to the Chase and aside from some great trails and some amazing views there is some amazing history and most of it has passed me by.

Today we visited a living history experience at the Centre on Marquis Drive, which not only exhibited relics of the day and brought to life the fading black and white photographs of people and times gone by. In one of the original huts is a scale model of the camps and some high definition photographs of a high altitude laser surveys which show the locations of ground disturbance through the trees pinpointing the exact location of the structures. It brings reality to the history and even shows bell pits and other far older manmade alterations to the landscape. The pictures are simply mind-blowing.

Having covered just about every square mile of the place, how was I not aware that 500,000 troops training for the trenches of World War One called the Chase home for a few weeks? That two camps holding 20,000 troops each occupied the area and that a lot of the trails are a legacy of the occupation and that the railway climbed up from Milford to supply them?

Having visited the Somme leaving humbled by the bravery and brutality of men and war, to see the other side; the days before the horror was revealed in its enormity brought back all those memories. To read letters written home by innocents, and discover the relics recovered, left me once again humbled and saddened. Did they realise what fate really awaited? Did they realise this was a production line for a machine that was constantly in need of more lives to fuel the fire of destruction? How did the Chase look to them as they sat on ammunition boxes, smoking their Woodbines in a moment of quiet where there was no enemy sniper waiting for a pot shot?

As usual I have arrived at a point in history later than everyone else and I have found another subject I want to learn more of. What amazes me is that I blissfully rode past unusual features and never gave them a second thought. I wonder what else I haven’t yet learned I have missed.

The event is on again tomorrow and if you are at a loss, please go and visit, it is so worth the effort.

It`s Christmas

The Plastic Hippo

So here it is So here it is

How indescribably lucky we are as a nation to be under the stewardship of such a kind, caring and thoroughly generous government. The largess and caring munificence of Mrs May and her selfless cabinet colleagues knows no bounds and her avowed mission to care for the vulnerable, support the poor and make this great nation a beacon of equality continues unabated.

The latest gift to a grateful populous is to allow local authorities to increase council tax by six per cent over two years to inject much needed cash into the social care system. This unbelievably charitable act will, no doubt, be a source of great comfort to elderly and disabled people currently abandoned and at risk of starving to death. Mother Theresa has taken bold and compassionate action and has shifting the problem manufactured by a previous government in which she served onto local councils…

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The representation of the people

The Plastic Hippo

Via M Bird of 82 Walsall Road, Aldridge Via M Bird of 82 Walsall Road, Aldridge

Although it is tempting to tar them all with one, broad, sordid brush, it would be quite wrong to consider all politicians as nasty, self-serving, mendacious, opportunistic parasites. Given natural selection, the possibility of some form of innate human decency and the hope that bad people are eventually found out, there must surely be in existence some politicians who are not complete and utter bastards. With political hypocrisy currently off the scale that measures a taking of breathe and outlandish drivel being spouted as if it is in some way remotely connected to anything other than absolute garbage, a peek into the quite backwaters of local government reveals an illuminating insight into the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.

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Defying gravity

The Plastic Hippo

Via glamgrid.com Via glamgrid.com

In an increasingly predictable and occasionally boring existence, there are very few things that can still provoke jaw-dropping astonishment. If the discovery, observation and actual measurement of gravitational waves left you agog with wonder, consider the utterly remarkable and almost frightening piece of reality that two weeks into February and with 12 matches to play, Leicester City are 2 points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Although narrowly beaten by Arsenal, Leicester are still favourites to win the title and on current form clever football pundits suggest that Arsenal were lucky to score the winner in the fifth minute of added time against ten men. Astonishingly, the Gunners were considered as underdogs and their last gasp victory is regarded as something of a shock. Once considered as lower league cannon fodder at the mercy of better resourced global brands, Leicester have spent the equivalent of the…

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The Plastic Hippo

Via scoopnest.com Via scoopnest.com

We now know that his name is David and that he is 48 years old and that he comes from Oxfordshire. David likes to talk a lot about “British” values such as democracy, tolerance, freedom, respect and equality as if these are uniquely “British” possessions. Sadly, David and his government are systematically dismantling the very values he wishes the rest of us to adhere to. Faced with the direst humanitarian crisis that Europe has endured in 70 years, David shrugs his shoulders, turns his back, shuts his eyes, sticks his fingers in his ears and shouts “la la la la, can`t hear you.”

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Cycling from Aldridge to Westminster (not actually cycling there, that would be daft)

At the start of the Election Campaign, spurred on by the CTC ( the oldest road using lobby group in the UK) I sent an email to all the prospective parliamentary candidates for their views on five fundamental questions on cycling. Ok it was a pro forma document supplied by the CTC but nonetheless the questions were valid, reasonable and fair. They merely asked how the candidate, if successful would support cycling during their tenure on the green seats of the second highest house.

The questionnaire is available here http://www.ctc.org.uk/news/20150330-vote-bike

For those who haven’t access to the link here are the questions:

  • Ambition. Will you support measures to increase levels of cycling to 10% of trips by 2025 and 25% by 2050?
  • Funding. Will you support an average government spend of at least £10 per person per year on cycling?
  • Design standards. Will you support action to create consistently high design standards for cycling in all highway and traffic schemes, new developments and planned road maintenance work?
  • Safety. Will you support measures to improve cycle safety by strengthening road traffic law and its enforcement and revising the Highway Code?
  • Positive promotion.  Will you support the positive promotion of cycling, including cycle skills training, for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities?

Without being funny, these aren’t as hard hitting as a Paxo salvo, they aren’t even as hard hitting as a Dimbleby Bullingdon backslap and yet to date only one candidate has bothered to return an answer, for the record this was the Liberal Democrat Ian Garrett.

Perhaps my email was written off as an opportunity for me to score political points in line with my own political agenda but this would be wrong. I am exactly the type of person any of the candidates should be appealing to. I am a disenfranchised socialist. I earn an above average wage. I am over 50 and I care about my locale, the environment and cuddly animals. Quite simply I could, for any number of reasons, vote any way I choose. So, in order to narrow things down, I asked the questions on cycling as I care about it a lot.

As a cyclist, I have been a thrill seeker, a victim, a commuter, an advocate and an enthusiast. Cycling transcends all boundaries, it takes you to places nothing else can. You can get out of a wheeled box at your destination but only on a bike can you live the journey. As Jack Kerouac waxed lyrical about the last hairpin turn, or the road being the journey not the destination, he could have been on a bike, had he not been stoned out of his mind and unable to pedal. But each cyclist carries a little bit of Jack with them.

With so little to differentiate between all the Parties, it only takes something like the view on cycling to make the difference but none were bothered. Perhaps they all feel Wendy Morton is odds on for the seat and can’t be bothered. Wendy isn’t bothered about cycling, I understand she likes parachuting and so doesn’t need to reply, it would eat up photo opportunity time and there is a fridge being opened in Pelsall demanding her attention.

Cycling won’t go away, not even now Pendleton, Hoy and Wiggo have retired (technically Wiggo hasn’t retired but I will put a pound on him not being at the next Olympics). Cycling will become a more viable means of personal transport and yet the Media is allowed to vilify and marginalise cyclists. Increased road usage and congestion victimise the most vulnerable and yet the combustion engine is suffocating the life out of the city and do nothing for the health and well-being of their pilots. Those that try to buck the trend are seen as martyrs or extremists and their attempts litter the roadside in the form of ghost bikes marking their passing.

Something has to change, something has to be done to separate and protect. Investment is required to provide a safe and vibrant infrastructure for human powered transportation and legislation is required to ensure people are put before the profit. By not returning my questionnaire, these candidates are perpetuating an injustice that has gone on too long.

If they want me to put my endorsement behind their expenses, their second homes, the employment for all their relatives, not mentioning the lucrative advisory circuit then at least bother to respond to me.