Saturday, 29 January 2011

"A Watch House for Smugglers, some Spooks, a few Spies, and a British Secret Agent..."

The Boat House on Lepe beach, looking south, at the estuary of the Beaulieu River.
Just a few hundred metres along to the right, are some of the country houses and grounds
 that were requisitioned for use as part of the complex of ultra secret training/finishing schools for 
secret agents and saboteurs by the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) throughout World War Two.

Chapter 1.  The Smugglers -

(Authors Note & Update to this post: The grey square 'thing'
over on the right just here is an addition and a live prototype
experiment, still very much in development, as a dedicated
'nature sounds' blogger player widget/gadget. Please feel free
to play with it. It's a short loop sound composition of an outdoor
natural sound scenario. To stop it playing, just click on the little
'loudspeaker' icon in the bottom left corner. It wont hurt you or
your computer, I promise.)

The ‘Watch House’ at Lepe beach on the south west coast of Hampshire in central southern England, and just a bare two minutes at the gallop away from the little hideaway where I live...looking out due south-ish pretty much, over the western 'Solent' to the northern shores of the Isle of Wight, with commanding views to Cowes in a south easterly direction (left) and Yarmouth & Hurst Castle in the other.

Part of the Lepe Estate & neighbouring Exbury Estates owned by the Rothschild family since 1916 and situated on the southern most borders of the ‘New Forest National Park’ on Hampshires south west coast. Lepe has a recorded history which dates back to Roman times, with evidence of dinosaur activity and some impressive fossil footprints going back a tad and a bit further still.

Sitting sentry at the mouth of the Beaulieu river, the Watch House and the block of terraced cottages that sit out of shot, just above and behind, was completed in 1828, by the 'modern coastguard' which was itself formed in 1822. A Lieutenant Hodge was the first commander to be appointed in charge of the coastguard crew, to combat the smuggling & piracy activities that had plagued this busy stretch of water for centuries.

You may want to take a look at this link to Rudyard Kipling's 1896 poem: 'The Bell Buoy' -

Lepe House itself is hidden from view, just behind the treeline immediately
to the left of the Watch House, in the centre of this picture. Inchmerry House
is concealed behind the same tree line in the extreme left of this picture.

During WW2, Lepe House which sits just to the west of the Watch House, was requisitioned by the navy in 1943 and became the HQ of ‘J-Force’ Assault Group, for the embarkations to Normandy on D-Day. One of the most ingenious innovations as well as perhaps the most daunting D-Day construction projects of all, were the ultra secret Mulberry Harbour's.

The image below shows a series of six vast floating concrete caissons, that were built right here in Stanswood Bay next to Lepe beach, towed across the English Channel, along with other caissons and component sections that had been built at other locations around the British coast and then bolted together and sunk just off one of the Normandy invasion beaches, to form huge temporary harbours that enabled the allies to quickly off load countless thousands of tons of vital supplies, food, ammunition and heavy equipment for the invasion forces. Without which, the D-Day plans to secure the beach heads and eventually move in land would undoubtedly have weakened and faltered, thus allowing the German forces more time to reinforce and counter attack with much greater effect and subsequent loss of life to the allied troops.

The concrete caissons under construction at Lepe Beach
in 1944.
 The above photo image is courtesy of
Dr Ian West & Keith Talbot and is just an extract from their
detailed geological & historical report of the Lepe shoreline.
Chapter 2.  Some Spooks -

One of the more interesting and little known secret missions, attached to the Mulberry Harbour story, concerned the 'Ghost Army'. This was a U.S. Army tactical deception unit, officially called the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. Some of these Ghost Army deception troops went to Normandy two weeks after D-Day, where they simulated a fake Mulberry harbour at night with lights on, to draw German fire away from the critical activities of the real harbours. The 1100 members of the Ghost Army also became involved in a number of other ingenious deception missions across France, during and after the allied landings, causing major havoc and confusion for the German senior military commanders throughout Brittany and Normandy.

The Boat House looking west south west.
In order to position myself and my tripod just so for this picture - I had a 'muppet moment' and decided to perch everything, including me, onto the smooth concrete ramp that drops down into the sea below. Not the part you can see with all the nice steps carved into it though.  I set up the tripod accordingly, framed the shot, took the picture, then casually elected to test the grip of all this greeny slimy coloured stuff coating the concrete surface, next to my left foot.

 Bad play! Instant lifeboat launch, sliding very woefully down the ramp on my rump whilst holding tripod and camera at arms height before arriving in the English Channel up to my... shins.   Phew!

Convinced I was the only person around on this stretch of the beach, trying to look cool and unaffected but really feeling a bit very silly alot, I turned around to see a resident of one of the cottages behind me, collapsed on the path in delirious fits of laughter just a few feet away. Green really is for 'go' then.

Chapter 3.  A Few Spies -

About a mile up Beaulieu River, which is entered from just behind the Watch House in the above image, is historical 'Bucklers Hard', where many of the18th century warships were built from the wealth of indigenous oak trees that surround the Beaulieu river in the New Forest.

Another mile further on up river and you finally reach the picturesque village of Beaulieu with Beaulieu Abbey and its estate - home to the ‘Montague’ family - and during WW2, the region that became home to the top secret ‘spy training school’ for members of the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) and other clandestine forces personnel. Many of whom left Beaulieu, often in their early twenties and even late teens, on dangerous missions overseas to help fight the evil spread of Nazi fascism, on never to return alive to British shores again.

Staying with the S.O.E. for a moment - I have been carrying out research into the life, times and adventures of my great uncle 'Cornelius', who served fully in both world wars - spending four years in France & Italy with military intelligence and the RFC in WW1, then after a distinguished career between the wars as a foreign correspondent with Reuters in Paris - flew on the Hindenburg to Rio, did a spell in the Spanish Civil War, Reuters Bureau chief in Rome from 1938 to June 1940 when he had to escape on the diplomatic boat after Mussolini fell in with Hitler, before joining 'de Gaule' on the Ark Royal for a couple of months on the failed raid to Dakar in 1940, while his wife and daughter fled separately across southern France to Bordeaux to catch one of the last evacuee boats back to England, as the germans were arriving in the city. On Cornelius's return from the Ark Royal mission, he stayed in Gibraltar for a further few months as the senior correspondent for Reuters.

Chapter 4.  And a British Secret Agent -

In early 1941, Cornelius (CJ) left Gibraltar to become the Reuters bureau chief in Lisbon - at the same time period as Graham Greene, who was himself involved with counter intelligence with the S.I.S (Mi6) and is reported to have become involved with the handling of the famous double agent known as 'Garbo'. In this same time frame, Ian Fleming along with his travelling guest - 'Wild Bill' Donovan - of the soon to be born fledgling O.S.S - were themselves mingling and chancing their luck at the casino tables in Estoril against many of their contemporaries in German counter espionage. It was Fleming's experiences at these gaming tables that became the inspiration for the story outline to his first 'Bond' book - Casino Royale.

The central female character 'Vesper Lynd' in the story
 'Casino Royale' is said to have been based on
  Christine Granville/Krystyna Skarbek, a brave and beautiful
 real life Polish agent of the S.O.E. during WW2.

Click here for more information on Krystyna Skarbek
So...imagine my surprise while hunting through the bowels of the National Archives recently, when I came across a personnel S.O.E. file for 'CJ' - containing numerous documents - some of which had been
written seemingly somewhat his own hand. It now seems clear that he flew home from Lisbon in early summer of 1941, resigned from Reuters and joined the D/Q Press & Black Propaganda section of the S.O.E. (Special Operations Executive) - which was also known as 'Churchills Baker Street Irregulars'.

Two months later he was given a false Irish passport and a cover profile, then promptly shipped off to South America on a nearly year long highly secret special deception mission, probably in league with Sir William Stephenson's 'British Security Coordination' - known as the B.S.C. -involved in black propaganda whisperings, reporting Axis shipping movements to the Royal Navy & hunting down U-boat sanctuaries all the way up through the Caribbean, to Washington, New York and finally Canada.

My great Uncle Cornelius James (CJ) and some extractions from his original SOE file
now secured in the National Archives at Kew.

If any of you reading this Blog post have any additional knowledge, suggestions, thoughts, interest or any other information of relevance - no matter how trivial - please do try to get in touch with me...

Especially - information concerning SOE's - D/Q Black Propaganda section within 'SO1' - and any specific covert operations carried out in South America & the Caribbean possibly with or under the umbrella of the BSC/Intrepid and the FBI.

Sundown at the very entry to the Beaulieu River sailing channel at Lepe.

Chapter 5.  Pirates of the Caribbean -

The OSS - U.S. Office of Strategic Services - was originally formed in 1942 by Col 'Wild Bill' Donnovan & later morphed into the CIA in 1946. Many of the models and templates used to set up the OSS were borrowed from the British SIS (Mi6), Mi5 & the S.O.E.  Commander Ian Fleming, a senior intelligence officer with British Naval Intelligence, took Col Donnovan on a whirlwind tour of early wartime Europe, especially Spain and Lisbon in 1941 and then accompanied him back to the U.S.A. where he was asked to write a detailed paper for Donovan mapping out how to build and run an efficient global counter intelligence service.

Later in 1941, Ian Fleming - working on intelligence obtained by the S.I.S. - helped devise a bold and dramatic plan to steal by force, the Vichy governments vast stash of gold bullion which they'd secretly (or so they thought) moved from Vichy France to a fortress on the French Island of Martinique, and which Winston Churchill & his Canadian spymaster Sir William Stephenson of the BSC, were extremely keen to relieve them of.

William Anderson's painting of 'The Capture of Fort Louis on Martinique, 20th March 1794.
And a more recent image of the historically embattled and still surviving - Fort St Louis, Martinique.

 In other words, a good old fashioned piece of 'fair game' buccaneering and piracy in the Caribbean against our favourite and most respected old foes..the French, or more fairly & accurately this time around...'The Vichy French'. This is a true story, which resonates back to the best traditions of 18th century Royal Navy 'gung ho' and 'daring do'. Visions of 'Bolitho', 'Hornblower', 'Nelson' & 'Aubrey'...wreaking chaos & havoc together, to the considerable disruption and irritation of the Governor of French Martinique. And there lies another muse plucked from the actual historical events of 1794 and again in 1809. (Oh!...if only it became a movie.)

Well actually it did - but without the roar of canon, the blinding smoke, the clash of steel against steel and the creak of canvas and rigging - although it did have Pussy Galore. The film was called 'Goldfinger'. The third 'Bond' film which was set around a devilish plan to irradiate the US gold reserves in Fort Knox for decades thus causing financial chaos to the U.S. and western banking system, to the advantage of China and greedy old 'Goldfinger' himself. Once, during filming, Ian Fleming actually visited the film set, but tragically died some months later before the film was finally released in 1964. 

Fleming's ambitious plan for a raid on the fort in Martinique was never ultimately sanctioned due to Americas delicate political links and political posturing with the Vichy government in 1941, and in turn, the highly sensitive relationship 'we' had to preserve with the U.S. Government at 'all' costs - until Japan suddenly went and bombed Pearl Harbour. By which time it was decided to simply lay siege to all the gold instead. However, after the war, it all seems to have mysteriously disappeared into various banking systems around the globe - and the French didn't get a bean. Allegedly.

At least it can be said that Fleming and his family, did eventually plunder some profit from his thwarted plan
to steal the Vichy gold - as the success of his 'diplomatically' adapted story for the plot of 'Goldfinger'
now testifies. Although frankly, I would have preferred he
had been allowed to base his plot more specifically on his original outline for the raid on Martinique.

That said, I have to smile at his dry sense of somewhat prescient humour and irony, with regard to the location and eventual plot of the resultant 'Goldfinger' story. In 2008, 'Toxic Waste' became a global buzzword for one of the central causes of the subsequent melt down of the western economies and banking systems throughout the USA and Western Europe - 'The recent unpleasantness' to quote the U.S. Civil War phrase. 

Guess which 'undamaged' posse of banking businesses came to the rescue and bank rolled us all with more billions than the World Bank?                  Yep....

Cmdr Ian Fleming - Assistant Director
 of the 'Naval Intelligence Division' in WW2
The Chinese.                                                                    

You can almost hear Ian Fleming's sardonic chuckle from his grave.

The quest for me remains to try and establish whether my great uncle Cornelius; a) Met Fleming in Spain & Lisbon b) Went to Martinique to sniff around for him (I know he was in the Caribbean from his passport stamps) - and c) Met Fleming again in Washington, while Fleming was working there for a while with Roald Dahl - who was himself working covertly for the British Government in the business of spreading pro british support propaganda amongst the 'isolationist social circles' of Washington and New York.

It's easy to connect the dots, but it's very hard to substantiate the 'connection's'. 

But then the thrill of the only ever in the chase.

Chapter 6.  'Mercury?'   'S.M.E.R.S.H.?'  &  'The real Man from U.N.C.L.E.?'

I've since learnt that CJ worked with Ian Fleming at Kemsley House in the early fifties for the Sunday Times, although it turns out this was actually a cover for what was actually the N.A.N.A. owned and run 'Mercury' news gathering service, which was basically a joint CIA & MI6 funded spy ring, made up largely of 85 foreign correspondents working covertly as spies, ostensibly to glean intelligence from around the globe concerning the emerging Soviet/communist threat to western peace at the onset of the cold war.

Out of curiosity, I did a background check on the size and content of a typical edition of the Sunday Times back in 1953. Apparently it was a very lightweight affair, rarely containing more than about 8 pages in total and never reported on International news or related articles.

Yet it did manage to employ around eighty five 'foreign correspondents' (?).

A View to the Isle of Wight
And Cornelius didn't exactly tear up his passports and stop right there. Funny thing is I didn't even know I had a great uncle until a year ago when my own 'Uncle Jack' sent me an email to tell me. There was so little evidence of CJ, and because he kept his life so secret, in particular from his own family, it has become for me an exciting and enticing learning curve, full of frustrating dead ends, a myriad of missing links, obscure & muddled musings, all consuming theorising, pointless endless hypothesising and...blah, blah, blar de blah - well into dawns weary twilight. 

 And then, just now and again, the smallest tease of luck, as you uncover just the merest tiny morsel - to 'dot' the odd 'i' and maybe even 'cross' the odd 't'. Causing the proverbial Chinese puzzle to alter its expression just one glance closer to explication.

Addictively Poirot-Esque. Frequently all consuming - and sometimes courting the sleepless and obsessive.       But never, ever, remotely, slightly ....'dull'.

A view across the Solent to the north western coast of the Isle of Wight and sixty miles and a fast rib further south....'France!'

Chapter 7.  Requiem for a W.R.E.N. -

Lepe House and Exbury House just round the river bend, were home to a large contingent of W.R.E.N.’s during the war. Many of these young women enjoyed long days and nights, skippering and piloting fleets of motor launches and landing craft up and down the coast and its various river based establishments here, as well as fetching and carrying senior Navy and Army officers from the constant assortment of ships passing through the Solent.

Nevil Chute was also in the Navy and based here at Lepe House for a while. He was so inspired by the area and the work of the W.R.E.N.’s that he wrote the book “Requiem for a W.R.E.N”.

Lepe Foreshore with the front of Lepe House just showing on left of picture, the Watch House itself and the Coastguard's Cottages to the right of picture.

Chapter 8.  We Lucky Few -

I’ve been so very fortunate to live just over a mile up the lane from Lepe, for the last 35 years, allowing my children to enjoy frequent access to its beautiful and relatively safe shoreline as they grew up. They’ve shared countless adventures and mischief’s (I hope) along this stretch of coast with their friends over the years, as well as the swimming and the BBQ parties, and after all this time, rarely does a week go by when I’m not to be found gazing out across the water here, particularly at sundown.

The setting of the Watch House is so natural and peaceful especially on quiet, calm, balmy evenings when the sea is mostly still, the air has that distinctive salty coastal freshness about it and all you can hear are the sounds of birdsong, the soft sloshing of water and the lazy chimes of distant bell buoy's resonating over the gently undulating waves. Quite magical...

And then your phone rings!
Andrew & Joanna - larking about in the sand at Lepe
around 14 years ago. The Watch House in the background.

When the kids were both at home until a few years back, we would always pile into the car and career off down to the beach here when a big storm brewed up, just as everyone else was leaving. And even now, if there’s a big storm or a decent thunderstorm at night, I’ll head for Lepe and park up by the Watch House, call my son on the mobile only to find he’s just parked up a few hundred yards ahead of me and is in the process of sending me a text message.

Boys will always be ‘Boys’.


Taken at 4.45pm today 28th Jan - 2011, in a temperature of minus 3 degrees
with the incoming tide swirling around my ankles.

Looking westwards (Really Phil!?) (Yes really. It's where the sun sets up here.) (Oh Wow Phil, you're so brainy!) (Yeaagh...I know) - towards North America which can just be seen about 3500miles away in the background...

 (Go on....admit had a quick glance at the horizon didn't you!!...okay it was just a peek...evasoquick....but you have to admit - you diiiiiiid looook.  Hmmm.  And now you're feeling just an incy wincy bit ... 'D'oh!' ... with just the hint of a smirk. Cos you know you bin caught!

 The Watch House however, can be seen a little more clearly
in the background right of this picture. (Don't worry. It really is there, so you can relax now and have a good old gawp at it.)

This is not the most impressive sunset I've witnessed
here by a good margin, but it's the best me and Mother Nature could conjure up between us ce soir.

Shortly after this I slunk off home, peeled my sodding wet boots and socks off and stuck my feet in the microwave for about 10 minutes - on 'defrost'.

Worst cheese on toast I've ever had.

What's going on down here? ...... Ooooh! ...  it's gone all dark ... well 'Bollocks' to this then ...

I'm off  to bed ...
Nitee Nite...

Monday, 17 January 2011

Two of my 'Raison D'etres' -

My two mid twenty somethings - Andrew & Joanna, both Leos, born 4 years and 4 days apart, yet I still get their birthdates wrong - together here at the Isle of Wight music festival last year. Rarely without a smile on their faces, often engaged in manic laughter through shared humour, and always on the look out for each other.

There is never a dull moment when they're around. Unknowingly possessed of an abundance of natural humility, they seem to energise and uplift everyone they meet and engage with - and remain a constant source of joy, pride and inspiration for my wife and I. All the tough times, adventures, experiences and difficult choices we've had to face as untrained parents over the last couple of decades were worth every moment of heart ache, tears, sleepless nights, ice cold terror and despair. And I'd willingly go through it all over again without changing a single nano fragment. Boy oh Boy...did we ever draw the longest pair of straws.

As a Dad, I love the above shot. Although their expressions suggest otherwise, this was actually a moment of mutual consensus and diplomacy, concerning something stupid they'd just witnessed and reached the same conclusion over. A second later and they both erupted into laughter. 

Taken by one of their oldest and closest friends, this marvelous capture remains our favourite 'brother and sister' photo of their recent adventures together. Thanks for the umpteenth time 'Rachael !' You're a star. 

Please, if you still have a pulse - I implore you to play this video featuring the eponymous 'Simons Cat'. Its one of a series of outstanding animation shorts by genius Brit animator Simon Tofield and his equally genius partner in sound design - Shrooter.  

Already a global YouTube phenomenon with over 90 million hits on his series of videos, Simon's Cat is mostly based on one of his own four hungry house cats - 'Hugh'.

Here are their links:  and also: 

You can see another video of Simon's Cat within an earlier post below - "Pooh in the Box". This particular video is titled "Snow Business". I sincerely hope you like it. Don't forget to turn the volume up!

And now to continue with A&J again...

Taken early on Christmas morning 2010, Joanna and I were enjoying a surprisingly quiet and very relaxed
moment together, with 'Taz' the handsomest tabby boy cat - sometimes affectionately refered to as 'Bugga', and his very pretty, feline black sister 'Misty Moo' partly camouflaged on the sofa. The woolly Santa stockings were knitted by my Mother when A&J were mere toddlers and will remain an essential slice of Yule Tide custom and fun for their whole lives.

 Even our happy pussy cats have their own pair of mini designer stockings. When they were kittens they used to crawl inside their respective socks and slink around the floor together. Very funny to witness, especially when they bumped into each other. Well, have you ever seen a pair of odd socks fighting on the floor?
Thought not.

 This was the quiet before the storm, when everyone else descends upon us and I lock myself away in the kitchen for the next three hours or so. Cooking being a major passion of mine. Christmas is never a chore or a stressful occasion in our tribe. Tiring yes, but never tiresome. Perhaps we're lucky but we've never had a painful one yet. Long may the tinsel continue to sparkle for us all.

Just to prove that you don't need to buy expensive gifts to induce laughter and merriment, my eagle eyed wife spotted these 'grown up sized' baby suits in a supermarket and grabbed them for the princely sum of £3.00 each. A& J have always loved dressing up and any excuse for a fancy dress party, especially when the theme is comical.

 They opened these presents at the same time, looked at each other and instantly tore off into the kitchen to peel their respective suits on. The laughter and screeches that emanated from the kitchen for the following couple of minutes had us all in fits, and will remain etched into our memories forever. A truly precious 'Banzai' moment of fun and silliness for us all to share. This was their reappearance and living proof that even at the ripe old age of 27 and 23 respectively, they are still very much happy bunny wunny kids at large. Priceless.

Andrew dutifully (?) remained within his 'grow bag' for the next three days of partying and beer practice, we learned later. Jo said it looks a little 'matured' now. Alledgedly. If you see something that resembles it on Ebay - report it as missing and odorous. And the suit too. If any shred of evidence remains attached to him that is.

Oh...and if you see him - tell him I want the £50 quid back he blagged off me for 'just a couple of days'.
But he can keep the suit.

And tell him to have a proper shave - 'before' he starts his new job on Monday. That means the stubble too.
And remind him to clean 'both' shoes, with the polish I gave him. Not just one of them.

Oh, and if you really do see him, make sure he's got this YouTube link I text'd him the other day. It shows how to 'tie a tie knot' properly. He asked me thats all.

And remind him to phone - not text - Nanna & Grandma and thank them for the cash they gave him for Christmas!

And Mum say's she's got him the new white shirt he wanted. And yessss..she's ironed it too.
But he'll have to come over and get it himself, cos she's still not up to a return visit to his flat again, so soon after passing out the last time she popped in for a cup of coffee. Hmmm.

And still can't borrow the new hoover sonny jim. Its a good one and we want to keep it that way. And anyway, it doesn't do beer cans, furry pizza leftovers and dirty underwear. Remember?!
And besides, we've hidden it with the neighbours next door again. Along with my tool kit.

And you'll never get past their dogs. Even you know that. You've still got the scars.

Warned you though didn't I.   Ha ha!!

Love you bloke.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The trully extraordinary talent of sand artist story teller - 'Kseniya Simonova'.

I was reading through a number of postings over at one of my favourite blogs - - the other day, when I stumbled across
this astonishing You Tube clip within his posting: " I Am Glad I Never Cease To Be Amazed. "
Thanks again Ken for sharing this remarkable video with us and for penning such an entertaining and
informative blog.

If you havnt yet heard of Kseniya Simonova and her beautiful skill with sand artistry story telling, then I urge you to take a look at this video. It may be the most enlightening eight minutes you've enjoyed today. It certainly was for me.

Having watched this video clip, I Googled a little deeper and discovered that Kseniya had only taken up
sand artistry from scratch, one year earlier following the sudden collapse of a previously successful family business - due to the credit crunch. Then, as a mother with child, she practised and honed her craft between 11.00pm and 4.00am, grabbing 3 to 4 hours of sleep a night if she was lucky.

To quote an excerpt from an article written by James Donaghy of The Guardian newspaper in August 2009:
Kseniya Simonova, the winner of Ukraine's Got Talent, has become a YouTube phenomenon by telling stories through sand animation.
Here, she recounts Germany conquering Ukraine in the second world war. She brings calm, then conflict. A couple on a bench become a woman's face; a peaceful walkway becomes a conflagration; a weeping widow morphs into an obelisk for an unknown soldier. Simonova looks like some vengeful Old Testament deity as she destroys then recreates her scenes - with deft strokes, sprinkles and sweeps she keeps the narrative going. She moves the judges to tears as she subtitles the final scene "you are always near".

If I were the great and immortal Rolf Harris CBE, I might be considering ebaying my brushes and 'tying me kangeroo down' about now. But then I'm not - and I sincerely hope he does'nt! - and if you click on this link, you may well agree. I hope so...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

"View through a jetty"

Just a view from the shingle beach by Calshot Castle at the entrance to Southampton Water, Hampshire, UK, looking northward towards the city of Southampton about eight miles away in the distance. One of my favourite places to be at sundown and only a few minutes from the cave where I lurk.

As a boy in my early teens, I was often thrown off this jetty, even at this time of year - and sometimes at very low tide - by my close and trusted friends. Much to the delight and applause of our guardian adult canoeing and sailing instructors from the Calshot Activity Centre that has occupied this famous maritime peninsular since the mid 1960's.

Those were the days....when involuntary pupil drowning's were considered an acceptable part of the 'elementary life saving course' foreplay - ie: when the 'drownee' ceased to have a discernable pulse, you had roughly 15 to 20 minutes to practice your revival and recussitation techniques, unless it coincided with lunch, in which case you had an extra thirty minutes or so.

If however, you were unable to bring your real 'drownee' patient back to life, even if he or she was now your ex best friend, you would be recorded as a 'technical fail' and invited to perform the test all over again on a fresh new 'drownee' until you either got it right - or - you ran out of 'drownees' - as happened in my case. For which, as a penance, they made me come back again the following week as part of the next fully stocked course intake. I eventually got it right when they pointed out I should 'blow' rather than 'suck' during the mouth to mouth part. Well my last 'drownee' did have a great pair of bluey grey lips on her.
Oh for the manic joys and confused innocence of boyhood puberty all over again. Or maybe...not. Reckless and life endangering pranks by ones peer's were actively encouraged by the senior instructors present, and specifically for their own amusement - young pupils complaining of hypothermia were left to stand outside the hot shower blocks until the rest of us had used up all the hot water - and 'water boarding' was one of the most popular team sport 'straight after dinner' contests, especially when there was an all girl team present. "Back in the day", when there was life, adventure and politically incorrect gaiety for free... without even a hint or threat of litigation.


And this is the reverse view 'south' taken from the above jetty, looking at Calshot Castle, the NCI Watch Tower, the RNLI station and.... on the horizon just between the pointy end of the big boat and the castle wall is a slither of land which is the north eastern end of the Isle of Wight. Yes really.

Sunrise at Calshot Castle - April 2011

"Pooh in the box".

This is a convenient 'tidy box' which is designed to help and encourage dog owners to dispose of their doggy pooh and keep the park clean for one and all intelligent species and even pikey's to enjoy.

The problem is that our local council has to keep replacing these boxes with new ones on a regular basis, because some dumb owners of large dogs keep lifting their doggy's up and sitting them precariously on top of the box, so they can 'do their thing' straight inside - and thus save the owner the trouble of picking up their doggy's pooh with a 'pooh scoop' or plastic bag - which of course they don't have anyway.

Most large dogs become quite a bit agitated after being picked up and dumped unceremoniously on top of these pooh bins, often resulting in spectacular displays of extremely noisy, violent and frantic wrestlings as their owners struggle vainly to secure their canine cherished ones in place and remain looking cool and in control at the same time, while under the gaze and cheery heckling of the few dozen greatly amused spectators who have just beamed in from nowhere - to be rewarded with the sight of the 'pooh box' collapsing under all the strain, the owner sprawled over the wreckage as 'doggo' bolts off triumphantly out of sight to the other side of the county, to complete his needs less publicly under his favourite tree.

And here's another installment of Simons Cat in...."Let me in!" This is so similar
to the internal glass door we have that leads from our lounge to the porch, I fall
about every time I see this video, cos its just like our tabby cat Taz looks when
he lets himself in the front door.

Simon Tofield's animations are sheer brilliance and as cat lovers, we're all devoted fans.
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