Often when I tell Little Boots about my childhood, it feels like I am discussing medieval history.

A recent case in point was when I was telling a story about when Star Wars first came out.

By Star Wars I mean the first movie, which to many of us will always be Star Wars and never A New Hope.

In those days, unlike today, films did not come out at the all the cinemas at the same time. Our local town was usually two weeks behind cinemas in the nearest large conurbation, which was itself behind London.

From somewhere, a rumour started that Star Wars was not coming to our local cinema because the screen was too small. This rapidly became gospel at our school, sending the pupils into paroxysm of anxiety and nervous excitement.

Somehow, my brother and I persuaded the Old Man that it was essential that we see the movie and to this day I’m really not sure how, because he probably hadn’t been to the flicks since the early sixties.

Anyway one evening the Old Man took us along to one of the “big” cinemas twenty miles way. It was big because it had more than one screen, which was impressive to us. As we turned the corner we saw a huge queue snaking back from the cinema. My brother and I were sure that we would never get in. Dad reassured us that we would, but frankly I was not convinced.

However the doors opened and before long we were in.

It was an amazing experience, because apart from Disney films, we had not really been to the “pictures” a great deal.

There were two outcomes from this “event” – I call it that because it does stand out significantly in my memories of my last years at primary school.

Firstly that my Dad loved it. Not surprisingly really, because it is basically a western and the old man loves a good western, but he also really raved about how the equipment all looked battered and used rather than pristine which was the usual model for Sci-Fi movies. Consequently, for a couple of years thereafter he agreed to take us to see any movie we suggested. Close Encounters and Grease stand out as examples.

The second, and far more important result, was that my brother and I saw Star Wars a full two weeks before it eventually came to our town cinema, dispelling the myth that it wouldn’t.

And for that period we absolutely ruled the school, with what felt like demi-god status. Thus we also spoiled it for everyone, by explaining the plot, and other facets of the film, in infinite detail. Not, I’m sure,that that made a jot of difference to the kids’ enjoyment of the movie once they saw it themselves.

This was a tale I recently told Little Boots and whilst a lot of the background seems from ancient past, the kudos with seeing a mega-movie ahead of the other kids still holds good.

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Little Boots is a very creative soul.

Because of this some weeks back we attended a launch event for a film competition that LB’s school cine-club is going to enter. It consisted of some screening of short films and some Q & As from “experts”.

There was an interval during which various attendees sent in Tweets which were displayed on the large screen on which the films had been shown.

I tweeted something about Seeing Star Wars as a child. That is a post for another day.

Anyway my tweet name and avatar popped up (the latter forms part of the banner of this blog).

I laughed.

“Is that you?” asked LB. “Yes”, I replied.

A very confused look passed across my child’s face. “Why have you got that name and that picture of those old boots?”

I explained that the boots were my all-time favourites and that I’d worn them when doing some things that I’d loved like building RHS show gardens. Following on from that, I explained that there was a very famous gardener from Victorian times called Miss Jekyll and there was a well-known painting of a pair of her old boots. My picture was an “homage” to that, as my boots were in the same position and I’d set up the background to look the same.

LB, who knows what an homage is, nodded along as I described this.

“And the name”,  I went on, “comes from the fact that the boots were an Australian brand called Blundstoned and Stoned Love is a track by a soul group called the Supremes, and because I loved  the boots and soul music I put the two together – Blundstoned Love”.

LB thought for a moment before saying. “That’s really cool.”

“Yea, I used to be cool,” I replied, not smelling a rat.

“So can I have a Twitter account?”

Well I did  it.

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Words and more pics to follow.

This is a blade I swapped with someone on a bushcraft forum, with the intention of rehandling.
I didn’t take a picture of how it looked to begin with, but you can get an idea from this first illustration which is a before and after type thing, with the blade after I had taken some metal off on a photocopy which I used to work out how much steel to remove.

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Having done so, I ordered a brass bolster from Moonraker Knives (great service) and found a suitable piece of wood for the handle. I chose a seasoned piece of Ash because it is a wood that is light, strong with a certain amount of spring, which is why it is tradionally used for tool handles.

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After drilling and filing a suitable slot in the Ash to ensure the knife tang was a tight fit I began to shape the handle. At this stage I did not fix the blade in place, in case I had a mishap with the wood.

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Eventually after a lot of work with knife and sandpaper I was somewhere near where I wanted to be and glued the blade in place with epoxy.

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Here I learned something, namely to consider whether blade or bolster needs any final work, before joining the parts together. The latter needs some filing and smoothing to get rid of some of the machining marks of manufacture and I should have done this before I glued the whole shebang together.
Anyway, with lesson learned, the thing was now a whole rather than several parts.

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It was however quite ugly, so the next thing was to make the handle thinner and a bit better looking. My instinct was to make it very slim, to visually “balance” the blade, but I was chary of taking off too much “meat” and with it the strength. Having spent so much time on the knife I did not want it failing on me.

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At last I’d got it to a point I was happy with, and so after a final going over with fine sandpaper it was time to oil the handle. This is my favourite part of working with wood, when the grain’s colour springs out with the first coat.
So then, after a good number of coatings over several days, it was done. The next thing to consider was making a sheath.
Now that is going to be a challenge.

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An occasional series on a few of my favourite things.

This, like an earlier favourite thing, is a knife that I inherited from my grandfather.
Whilst that one was given to him by his father-in-law, this one is of less certain provenance. He never showed it to me when he was alive and it came to me when we were clearing the house after his death. I made the assumption since it was an old knife that he’d had it since he’d been a boy. After all for my generation, my father’s and beyond most boy’s aspired to own a sheath knife. And my grandfather had been in the Scouts and I knew that in the Thirties some Scouts carried a knife on their belts. A knife is after all an essential piece of outdoors kit.

Thus I thought no more of it until recently when I put the maker’s name through an internet search engine. (The details – Joseph Rodgers & Son, Cutlers to His Majesty, Sheffield, England do not show in the picture – the blade is stamped on the other side).

The result identified the knife as those issued to Auxiliary Units in WW2. This shadowy bunch of warriors was set up when the threat of Nazi invasion was very real. They were something like the Special Forces wing of the Home Guard: recruited with the specific intention of creating mayhem behind enemy lines, should Britain be invaded. Such was the secrecy surrounding these units, and so resolutely did those involved take their oath of secrecy, that very little is actually known about these units.

So whilst I was pleased to find out something about this knife I was faced with a number of questions.

Had my grandfather been in an Auxiliary Unit?

Is that why he was not called up at the earlier in the war?

If not, where had the knife come from?

I asked my mother if she knew anything of the knife’s history. She did not, but when I explained what I thought it was, commented that she’d always thought it unusual that he knew where all the defensive pillboxes were on the (local) Kennet and Avon canal.

From looking on the internet it would seem that the Auxiliary Units were all based in coastal counties which would put paid to any suggestion that my grandfather was a member of one. I think he probably picked it up somewhere, like a few other bits and pieces he had, however I guess I will never be certain.

So I have inherited a knife, a piece of British wartime history, and a mystery.

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In my last post I mentioned Bushcraft and Survival Skills magazine.
This is a publication I very much enjoy. Little Boots also likes it because it has features on tracking and as I have mentioned before, we are always on the look out for tracks and animal signs when out wombling in the countryside.

The September/October edition is out today and I’m delighted to say they have kindly published a short book review I did of Lost In The Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg and since it’s on the very last page it’s nice and easy to find.

Last year I read Jungle Soldier Brian Moynihan’s fascinating biography of Freddie Spencer-Chapman, which I enjoyed, although I am still slightly perturbed by the sudden demise of the subject. He was a remarkable man.

I have been reading a few jungle-based adventures lately and so acquired a copy of Spencer-Chapman’s book The Jungle Is Neutral which I was reminded of by an article in Bushcraft and Survival magazine by SAS Handbook legend Lofty Wiseman, where it was referenced after the following statement:
“Survival is easy in the jungle and if you have a chance out of all the environments, sea, temperate, desert, arctic or jungle – choose the jungle.”

As an aside I also coincidentally stumbled across a site of the same name, which is interesting, but alas appears to have been discontinued.
The Jungle Is Neutral blog.

Now that is a small coincidence, and I have mentioned such things in previous posts, especially where they appear somewhat uncanny. And here is another.

Just as I started reading the Spencer-Chapman book I also started researching some of the background of Captain Gurowski who I posted about a short while.

Imagine my surprise then when just after I had learned that Captain Gurowski was apparently in France in early 1940 as part of a Scots Guards battalion that was learning to ski, I discovered, whilst reading the first few pages of his book, that Freddie Spencer-Chapman was one of the instructors brought in to train those troops at Chamonix, in Haute Savoie. He would therefore presumably have known Captain Gurowski.

This has inspired me to discover more about the Captain.

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