Monthly Archives: May 2015

Hilton Hall

Not far from the garage workshops, just over the brow of the hill below Hilton Tower was the mellow red brick outline of Hilton Hall, a Georgian mansion built by a family who had lived on the site since the fifteenth century.  They continued to occupy this fine house until the fifties, when it was let to a community of nuns to use as a convent, before being sold off to Tarmac. It is now used as a headquarters by their sister/daughter company Caril-lion – a construction and management company with 40,000 employees worldwide and a revenue of well over £4000 million.  So it was hardly surprising my request to have a look round fell on deaf ears, but I took the new scooter up the road at the back of the estate and then strolled by the fishing lakes – obviously a target of some of our more recently arrived citizens. I am not certain what it translates as but probably something like – LEAVE THE FISH ALONE

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From the lakes at the side of the house there were glimpses of the beautiful old house through the trees and shrubberies

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And in the grounds a recently restored garden gazebo summerhouse.

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One of the locals had told me that the notorious ‘Duck House’ – centre of the scandal surrounding politicians’ expenses a few years ago – had ended up on one of the lakes here, but I have to say I didn’t spot it anywhere.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and the trees and lakes looked magnificent reflecting in the still waters of the lakes where the huge fish swam lazily, gently sunbathing as they floated close to the surface of the water.

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Moseley Old Hall

 

 

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Moseley Old Hall is a lovely Elizabethan half timbered house built around 1600 (and later encased in red brick) by the Whitgreaves a local Staffordshire family, who had not only retained their Catholic faith throughout the Reformation but were strong Royalists in the Civil War period.

The future Charles II had arrived back in Britain to reclaim his father’s throne, but the attempt ended when his army was defeated at the Battle of Worcester.  During six weeks of narrow escapes before Charles managed to escape overseas he visited Moseley Old Hall – the day after foiling the Roundheads by hiding in the Royal Oak at Boscobel

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Not the Boscobel Oak – not even an oak, but I could imagine the Boscobel Oak looking a bit like this. The original oak is recorded to have been destroyed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by tourists who cut off branches and chunks as souvenirs

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Charles arrived at the back door of Moseley Old Hall in the early hours disguised as a woodman.  All his fine clothing had been replaced by peasant clothing, but at over six foot he was a tall young man for the times, and the local peasantry didn’t have large enough feet to provide him with footware  So the toes were cut out of a pair of shoes, and he had stumbled across country cutting his feet so badly that when he arrived at the back door of Moseley Old Hall he could barely stand upright.

The future king was met by Thomas Whitgreaves whose priest, John Huddleston, then took him straight up the narrow back stairs where he was hidden in a bedroom next to the childrens’ rooms. Concealed in the wardrobe closet of the room was the entrance to a ‘Priest Hole’ situated beneath the floorboards next to a chimney.  The plan was that Charles would stay upstairs in the childrens’ quarters, accompanied by the priest who was disguised as the Whitgreaves’ family tutor, whilst the children would watch out from the upper window to see if anyone approached down the narrow lane which fronted the property and was once the main highway through to Coventry.

The original bed in which Charles slept during his stay is still at the house.

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Roundheads did arrive and Thomas Whitgreaves, alerted by the children, rushed out leaving all the house doors open and invited the Roundheads to search wherever they wanted – Charles having hidden in the Priest Hole at the first sign of trouble.  In fact the soldiers did not search the house though they took the opportunity to give Thomas a bit of a beating on account of his Royalist sympathies.

Charles stayed at Old Moseley Hall for a few days whilst arrangements were made for him to travel disguised as a servant accompanying a local lady who had a pass to journey and visit a friend.   From Bristol he escaped over to the Continent

On the day I visited Moseley Old Hall all the staff in the house were dressed in period costume and it certainly added to the atmosphere of the place and complimented the period furniture and artefacts.

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Outside the gardens were very pretty with blossoming orchards, spring flowers and an intricate knot garden

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The New Scooter

For some time now my mobility scooter has been playing up a bit – but only on an intermittent basis.  It seems that the wiring for the motor, which is near to the ground, was not protected from the weather in any sort of effective way so when it was rainy and Thebus went through lots of puddles, or I got caught out in a shower the scooter was not one hundred percent reliable and would stop unexpectedly, stranding me in odd places.

My brother Mike had given it all a thorough overhaul and service, but there was nothing which could be done to prevent the wiring getting damp so the upshot was I would need to look for another scooter.  Even though I am travelling the country, very often in a different place every day, I still find myself resistant to change – but resistant or not the time had come to bite the bullet.

Lots of internet research kept me coming back to a rather flashy little number in black and chrome.  I was worried about whether the ‘Lovely Lift’ (which was the replacement for Wretched Rack) would be big enough and strong enough to take this new scooter.   If a new lift was necessary it would need to be shipped over from The States.  Emails and measurements flashed backwards and forwards between the scooter manufacturers and their agents, the lift manufactures and their agents, plus me and the garage.  The result was that even if the ‘Lovely Lift’ was not man enough to lift this heavier and larger scooter a direct replacement from the same American manufacturers would be.  So suitably reassured I purchased the flashy black and chrome number scooter over the internet – untried and untested – but secure in the knowledge that even if the lift was not suitable I could order a new one which would be delivered within a few days

And this was my new purchase

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It has a longer range – apparently up to thirty four miles on one battery charge, and even better it has a lovely tight turning circle – the old scooter, with its four wheels, took quite a bit of turning round when on a narrow pavement.  The icing on the cake was that it had a slightly better ground clearance.

Having tried it out and liked it I popped the old one on an internet site as taking two scooters with me was out of the question.  It went online Friday at about 8pm and Saturday morning bright and early someone phoned about buying it.  Her husband called round a couple of hours later, liked it and loaded it on his van – or should I say I loaded it on his van as he ‘got a bit stuck’ much to his embarrassment – and went off muttering that he never thought he would have had to ask a woman to help load for him.

Then my problems started.  When the new scooter had arrived it looked as though all would be fine and it would fit on my own Lovely Lift which at the time was removed from Thebus whilst he was undergoing repairs. But once the lift was refitted the angle of the lift and the shape of the handles of the new scooter made it next to impossible to drive on, plus the weight of the new scooter seemed all to one side which I didn’t like. Soooooo…. it looked like I would have to make other arrangements.

But before all this was realised I took my new Super Scooter out for an airing.

Up the road from the repair workshops was a lovely old property owned by the National Trust.  The day was bright and sunny so the few miles drive was not likely to be blighted by my getting rained on.  Mind you the trip there was quite exciting when undertaken by mobility scooter rather than car.

Firstly I had to cross four lanes of traffic coming directly off the motorway roundabout.  Then round the big roundabout under the M54, on up the dual carriageway, over another couple of roundabouts, then down a narrow lane used as a traffic ‘rat run’.  I had to smile though when I arriving at the property I was directed to the motorcycle park by the attendants – perhaps I should look at buying a motorcycle helmet!

The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing – Wolverhampton

My brother, Mike, who has been such a god-send with the electrics on Thebus, came over to visit and see about fitting a gizmo which will tell me what Thebus’ newly fitted long-life batteries are doing, and I asked him to take me into Wolverhampton so we could have a look round.

First we had a nice lunch at a little Italian restaurant Rosso e Nero, a fresh salad to start dressed with beautiful fresh fruity olive oil (I am so looking forward to getting over to the Mediterranean for all that lovely local produce), followed by fish of the day which was whiting and salmon in a tasty cream and mushroom sauce; then off to explore Wolverhampton.

As we would be passing the church I wanted to see the base of the Anglo Saxon preaching cross said to date from around the 9th century.  I was doubly surprised – firstly by how tall it was, and secondly by the intricate carvings which completely covered it, and though sadly eroded by the weather it was still possible to see what it might once have been.

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The church (even though Wolverhampton is a city it does not have a cathedral) was beautiful inside, with an unusually well preserved medieval carved stone pulpit.

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And a beautiful medieval carved stone font

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But the thing I was most interested to see in Wolverhampton was ‘The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’

This is an automaton which rises from the balcony on the Art Gallery and Museum on the hour between 8 am and 10pm.  A local lady came past when it was about to start its display and asked what we were looking for, and when I explained was amazed as she had never seen it and lived in Wolverhampton all of her eighty four years!

Nicknamed Baa-Baara originally its appearance was heralded by a wolf’s howl and a cloud of smoke, but too many passers-by thinking the Art Gallery was on fire contacted the local fire brigade to summon help  – so the howl and smoke were dropped from the routine.

 

Buses Galore

Thebus was parked up facing an old bus, but a day after arriving I spotted another old bus parked up outside, then another, then another one, and more and more, until the entire forecourt seemed full of buses of every size and shape.

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They even had an old Midland Red bus just like the one I travelled to school in, or took those first unaccompanied teenage shopping trips to the ‘big cities’ of Worcester or Hereford and very occasionally into Birmingham.

I got inside it to take a look round, and do you know it smelt exactly the same as those buses did long ago.  Quite nostalgic!

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After they had everything out that was going to come out I asked if I could take a look inside at the others, and there were some in there, which if they ever come out at all will probably be piece by piece.

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Some of the other vehicles were in various stages of restoration

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All in all a fascinating day – and as my brother commented when he arrived the next day……. “This is a random sort of a place!”

 

 

Repairs to Thebus

So!  We were  stuck inside a garage for the next few weeks.

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Some of the locker doors needed replacing after their close encounter with the very narrow bridge on the exit from the St. David’s Cathedral carpark.  The aluminium, as it was for an American vehicle, needed to be in imperial rather than metric thickness – which caused a delay,  but once the doors were finally made things moved on quickly

Everyone at the repair shop was really friendly and in fact it turned out to be an interesting time as I learned a bit about Thebus, as well as being able to look at his undersides whilst it had a grind off and coat of wax oil.  I had some top-quality longlife batteries added for when we have to go a long time without electric hook up. (I am trying to learn a bit about electrickery, but it’s hard for someone who didn’t even take ‘o’ level Physics, so didn’t even have the opportunity to fail it).   Then I had some side ‘docking lights’ put in, for those tricky, narrow-bridge, night-time reverse manoeuvres – and  the little side cameras were changed to a more sensible position i.e. they are now at the front end rather than in the rear wheel arch from which position any damage to the side of the bus was already done before you could see any image on the screen.  Finally the plumbing for the washing machine was changed to make it easier for me.  So hopefully some good has come out of our enforced stay.

Just outside the workshops a fellow traveller, with the tag of Smudger, was parked up in his RV; and what a character he is!  Having been involved in a bad road traffic accident some years ago, and now confined to a wheelchair, he still manages to drive his huge ‘rig’ plus a trailer complete with a van adapted for wheelchair driving, and drives this extended assemblage all over Europe.  He had just arrived back from Spain, and I think he said the entire outfit was around some 66 ft in length  which is well over 20 meters.  It just goes to show what you can do if you put your mind to it.  Apparently he flew over to America and visited the factory where his Winnebago was built to arrange all the modifications, then had it shipped back to the UK, and is now talking of maybe going back over ‘The Pond’ again to change it for a new one.

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Because Thebus’ locker doors had to be sent off as patterns for the new ones to be made it meant Thebus had to stay inside, and as he is my home I was allowed to stay inside him. This was our early morning view – okay – not quite as scenic as some places we have stayed but it was an interesting stop-over if nothing else.

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Phoebe and I spent a day up on the ramps, and we had a good view of one of the other resident’s homes, carefully constructed on the top of one of the four tons hydraulic lifts.

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Being shut inside a garage workshops made for an interesting first night’s sleep, especially when, with the big roller shutter doors down and everyone gone home for the night, I am certain I heard a sneeze.  I took Phoebe the big shadowy shed to check things out, her hackles rose and she gave a  low growl to let me know that all was not as it should be.

Next day when I mentioned this it transpired that I was not the first one to have experienced something unusual.

One winter’s night when it was dark before everyone left a visiting mechanic had come back ashen-faced with tales of a man walking straight through his vehicle; and another customer, arriving a day early and sleeping over in the waiting area, was woken by his wife saying there was  a man standing by the end of the bed and looking at them.  Then Dave said that ‘something’ had been seen twice, but he was not going to say what; but if I saw something unusual to tell him so he would know if it was the same as thing. In all the chatter caused by this it transpired that the fire-engine we were sharing the shed with might have been the one involved in a bad incident resulting in the loss of four firemen.

As everyone left for the night and I got ready to lock myself in I commented that much more of this and we would need more space – what with a sneezing ghost, a disappearing man, two unidentified ‘some-things’ and four ex-firemen .

And when each morning I found the temporary back window to the bedroom was loose and peeled back ……….!!!!!  eeeekkkkk!!!!!