Countryside Notes – January 2016 Umbrellas

Until I retired I had always worked outdoors which meant whenever it was raining or snowing I got kitted up in waterproofs. In the early years this was inevitably waxed cotton clothing and wellingtons. Thankfully we now have comfortable light-weight breathable fabrics which don’t go stiff or stink like a wet spaniel when they’re wet as waxed cotton used to. For me umbrellas were things that town people poked me in the face with when I went shopping. Umbrella came from the Latin word ‘Umbra’ meaning shade or shadow. Originally made from paper they’ve been about for thousands of years and were used as shade from the sun in Egypt, Assyria, Greece and China. The Chinese were the first to waterproof them using wax and lacquer and from the 16th century they became popular in wetter northern European countries. At first they were an accessory for women but in the 18th century writer and traveller James Hanway carried one publicly. It then became commonplace for men to use them and they were often referred to as a ‘Hanway’. The first umbrella shop, James Smith and Sons, opened in New Oxford Street, London and apparently is still there. With summers like we’ve had recently it’s no surprise they’re still in business! Early umbrellas were made out of whalebone or wood covered with oiled canvas with fancy handles carved from hardwood. Samuel Fox created the first steel ribbed umbrella in 1852 but it was another century before the compact collapsible design appeared. Umbrellas are also put to good use by golfers and dedicated anglers who fish whatever the weather and can be seen huddling under them in the pouring rain. A century ago an umbrella was a very important item of equipment for shepherds on the South Downs. Spending every day out with their flocks they were often at the mercy of howling gales and driving rain on those exposed chalk grasslands along the Sussex coast. On a sunny summer’s day the Downs are a wonderful place but one only has to look at the stunted trees trimmed and angled by exposure to southerly gales to visualise just how grim conditions must have been. The shepherd’s umbrella was made from green material and the ribs from whalebone or cane. It was large (up to four feet across). This might sound cumbersome to carry around all day but with a cord attached between the handle and ferrule end and with one arm put through it was easily carried diagonally across the back. If a storm blew up the shepherd would hold it with one hand and push himself backwards into a thick bush. Sheltering beneath it he was well protected from the heaviest rain. However shepherds’ umbrellas would be banned under today’s health and safety rules. A severe gust would turn it inside out or snatch it out of his hand and wreck it. There are even accounts of shepherds being lifted off the ground if they chose not to let go!

Amateur Radio


U.3.A. is about learning and passing on your learning. I thought as one room in our house is full of radio equipment, and there is a 20 ft. mast in the garden, I ought to find out something about amateur radio. I thought amateur radio involved retired gentlemen discussing the weather, or lorry drivers exchanging jokes. However, I was totally wrong.

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West Dereham Parish Council – December Meeting

PRESENT (five Councillors): – Pam Bullas (PB), Claire Cann (CC) – Chair, Lorraine Hunt (LH), Paula Kellingray (PK),
Claire Williams (CW).
Clerk: Helen Carrier
Three members of the public were in attendance.
The Chairman welcomed everyone present and opened the meeting.

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Horses, Poppies and a Naughty Cat

I have had a wonderful time during November – and it is only half way through as I write this.
First the London Eye with my lovely friends Elaine, Caroline and Jo- which included a Greek Lunch that seemed to incorporate the whole menu and then the next day a trip to Wembley Arena to watch the Lipizzaner Stallions strut their stuff. The latter was a late anniversary gift from Sherrie, daughter number two. However, Sherrie is the only member of our family who loves horses with a passion and has owned and ridden them since she was a small child. Throughout the show she gave us a running commentary on what each fancy foot work was called and how difficult it was and I had to nudge hubby a couple of times to keep him focused- I think he was remembering the cost, the smell and the cold nights we had to feed and water her darlings when she was ill or studying. Never the less, it was lovely to spend the evening with her even though we arrived – and left – with 87,000 football fans who were attending the Scotland/English match in Wembley Stadium . It was lucky that England won and the Scots were somewhat subdued on the way home.
Another occasion I shall not forget in a hurry was our Annual Remembrance Service in All Saints, the Parish Church of Wretton and Stoke Ferry. We were privileged to have with us the Wereham & Wretton Scout, Cub and Beaver Troop together with their families. The church was packed, standards lowered and poppy wreaths laid. The troop and their leaders were absolutely brilliant and the service very moving.
But what is next…. about a dozen of our church family are going to the theatre in Cambridge to see ‘A Room with a View’ next week, yes, including me, again with lunch, only this time Vietnamese -oh my waistline- no, I know I haven’t got one! Then…………………It is Advent and then……………….It’s Christmas!
From remembering the sacrifice made by all those men and women who gave their lives for our country, to now remembering that little babe who grew up to die so that we could know what the God, I believe in, is all about, Remembrance Sunday & Christmas have much in common – both are about love and sacrifice.
By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
1 John 3:16

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