avatar37999_1

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?”

Advertisements

SDC10184 (2)

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.

SDC10214 (2)

SDC10083 (2)

Yonderland begins it’s second series tonight on Sky1.

Little Boots enjoyed the first series very much and fell in love with the Parvuli, furry little singing and flute playing creatures, that featured in the final episode.

So that last year when they made some cotton bags at school LB’s featured a Parvuli on the front.
We will be looking out for them this series.

SDC10085 (2)

SDC10072 (2)

This is an update to a trio of posts from last year detailing how I rehandled a little Sheffield blade.

One, Two, Three.

Having given the blade a new lease of life two things seemed important.

Firstly making a sheath and secondly giving it a useful role.
So this is what I came up with, a small sheath that allows it to be worn around the neck.
I made the sheath by making a wooden covering out of thin wooden spatulas – think tongue depressors. This I then covered with leather. And then added a leather lace, to allow it to be hung round the neck, with a bead to hold the sheath in place.
The leather came from a pair of gardening gloves from the Poundshop – which is why the colours are slightly off. The lace is something I bought off Ebay and is the only new/non-recycled item in the whole thing,set . The bead I made from a piece of apple wood. Overall I’m really please with it. Having never worked with leather before, it was definitely a process where I gained some experience.
As for the second bit, being useful, well it just is. I have found that when camping, or doing other outdoorsy stuff it useful to have a knife quickly to hand. Of course you may have a penknife in your pocket or a bigger sheath knife on your belt. One takes time to deploy (and two handed) ; the other is often to big for the task. This knife therefore often has the edge – as well as being razor sharp that is – hanging round your neck makes it quick to get hold of and its size means it’s just the thing for the times you need to quickly slice, dice or nick something.

SDC10049 (2)

Here at Boot Hall we are always making things, for reasons both of pleasure and practicality.

This is the first in what, hopefully, will be a series about that.

About a year ago I bought a large water bottle to take on wombling excursions. It came with a pouch and a belt. I found that whilst this was a useful piece of gear the belt and pouch were too much, unless I had other kit to stuff in the pouch.

So I got some nylon webbing, some quick-release clips and made a holder along with an adjustable and detachable shoulder strap. This has made it much more useful as a grab and go item, plus it’s lighter and easier to carry.

Unintentionally, it reminds me of a water bottle I had as a kid that came with something called an “Adventure Kit“.

I’ve just started work on some loops to attach it to a belt. We’ll have to see how that develops.

Over the weeks of the school hols Little Boots has crossed off a few more entries from the National Trust “Things To Do” list.

I queried one ‘Go Bird-watching’ (number 44).

“We’ve never been bird watching”, I said.

“But we’ve watched lots of birds”, came the reply. Woodpeckers and nuthatches were cited and true enough on a walk a couple of years ago we’d spied a nuthatch and earlier this year we were very close to a woodpecker (a Lesser Spotted one we later discovered – barred back) and watched him for some time as he searched a tree for food, just a couple of yards from the path where we stood.

“And the Wagtails” added Little Boots.

Immediately my mind went back to late May when, taking advantage of the only dry day of a soggy Bank Holiday weekend, Little Boots and I set off for a womble. We took a route that was new to us identifying trees and plants as we went. Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books have made knowledge of trees and such pretty cool indeed. Cutting across a field and over a railway crossing brought us back to more familiar territory. With a view to making some casts of animal tracks we explored the waters’ edge of a couple of old gravel pits. This did not yield any good prints, but LB did find some coins no doubt dropped by some bivvying angler. Almost enough to buy a bag of elastic bands, since weaving them into bracelets was the latest craze. We wove back towards the village before joining the riverside path. Insects, mayflies mostly, were visible in the sunlight hatching and dapping the water’s surface as they completed their cycle of life. Whist we ambled along I showed the munchkin some mayflies clinging to reeds as the sun dried their wings. This wasn’t deemed very impressive, and so I explained Duffer’s Fortnight, which did at least raise a snort of amusement.

By now we had reached a bridge and stopped beneath it for something to eat a drink. Not that Little Boots needed the latter, having been sipping all along from a long-wished for camelback. It had been my hope that we would see a fish rising to take a fly. A Brown Trout perhaps, I knew there was at least one in here, or more likely a Chub.

That wasn’t to be, but we did see something pretty amazing as we stood eating and contemplating the river. A pair of yellow-chested birds, their long tails hanging down, were perched on reeds that stuck out from the opposite bank. We watched them flitting back and forth searching for hatching flies and acrobatically taking them on the wing. At one point one came within four feet of us, spinning and hovering at the same moment as it snipped its target from the air. Occasionally one of the birds would disappear up under the bridge. “There must be a nest up there” said Little Boots. I agreed, adding that I thought that they might be reed warblers.

How wrong I was. When we get home I looked them up in our bird book and found that they were in fact Yellow Wagtails. A summer visitor to this country the book said and that “Observers of the yellow wagtail are lucky to get within 50 yards of this extremely cautious bird….The nest is particularly difficult to find even when parents carrying food for their young are watched. Rather than reveal the nest site, the adults will refuse to deliver the meal until the danger has passed or the intruders have gone away.”

When I told LB this it was met with a widening of the eyes that always greets something special.

Even more special I now realise, having subsequently read that their numbers are on the decline.

 

kit

Berghaus the outdoor clothing/equipment people are running an online competition at the moment based around the question – “What does adventure mean to you?”

Competition aside, it’s a question that interests me because I think my life is one where we seek adventure albeit at a low level, lower even than Alastair Humprey’s Micro Adventures. Nano-Adventures perhaps.

I say we because Little Boots is most often my partner in action where adventuring is concerned. So undoubtedly the place to start with that question, as far as I’m concerned was to put it to Little Boots.

The answer I got was –

“Bushcraft and tying knots and things. And firecraft. And setting up camp.”

An interesting answer. We have probably used the word bushcraft whilst wombling around and doing stuff in the woods. Tying knots is something LB has been interested in for a while, and is accentuated by the current craze for loom bands. Firecraft is a word I’d never use, and I think must have come from the Bear Grylls book that LB takes on every camping trip.

But it’s good to know that my child equates the word adventure with being outside, and doing outdoorsy stuff.

For my part I would answer the question “What does adventure mean to you?” by saying it’s something to do with the spirit of life itself. The things that make you glad you are alive, even if they are tough going along the way. The things that make up for all the rubbish of modern times we have to endure.

Recent adventures include a hilly, five-mile yomp through woods and fields to a remote pub with a wood-fired pizza oven, another trip where we slipped across a railway at a crossing that I’m still unsure we should have used and battled through chest-high nettles the other side, a three a.m start to cycle to the water on the opening day of the fishing season and a virtually sleepless night in a small tent in the woods during the worst thunderstorm to hit the county for a good few years.

Fun, exciting and perhaps slightly dangerous experiences that will live in the mind as well as the heart for a long, long time.

That’s what adventure means to me.