On Watling Street (II)

Paved ancient route

Artery of trade and war

Unites and divides


n.b. The Romans built on, upgraded and extended the established thoroughfare, (only known as Watling Street from medieval times, long after the Roman retreat), that conveniently led from south of the Thames, through a ford and on towards the north-west of the island of Britannia.

Of all Britain’s ancient roads, this one probably has the richest history. Battle-fields lie adjacent to it, market towns decorate it, canals and railways run in alignment with it. Watling Street is in many parts identified as the A5 highway.

Watling Street also acts as a border. Now used in parts along its length by various counties, parishes and districts, the street was agreed to be the south-western edge of the Danelaw; with the invading Vikings to the north-east of the line and the Angles, Saxons and assorted settled tribes of the island to the south-west.

In Atherstone, that sits along the spine of Watling Street in Warwickshire, the old route is labelled Long Street. This label could just as easily be applied along the thoroughfare from tip to toe.

I could go on a lot further, but will rest here at Atherstone for now. The Atherstone Ball ball game takes place on Shrove Tuesday, this year on 24th February. This violent, rolling, riotous ritual has been played out here since medieval times on Long Street.

It is now used as a way to raise funds for charity, but still serves as an excuse to settle scores and leave a mark on rivals for the town’s ruffians. There are no rules, so no referees, but three ambulances and numerous police officers will be in attendance.

Unfortunately I will not be here to witness it this coming week. I feel that the forthcoming knockabout in this former millinery town could be a metaphor for the post-Brexit era; a lot of pointless tussling, with several unnecessary injuries, just for the hell of it.


CLP 22/02/2020

Fever Ship

Voyage of a lifetime

Three and a half thousand folk



n.b. Not your normal newsworthy cruise with an outbreak of norovirus, but now a rogue coronavirus on board, roaming between decks, seeking out the weakest.

My thoughts keep returning to these unfortunate passengers, confined to their cabins, isolated on the ship, but I also think about the workers on board serving them.

The British media seems only to consider the elderly fee-paying passengers, with the crew as bit players in the story. In India and the USA this nightmare story is more roundly reported.

CLP 13/02/2020

At Manningtree

On the train

To the big city

It always stops at Manningtree


One of these days

I must stop off

To spend time taking a little look-see


I’d like to stroll along the ancient quay

Sat on the bank of Suffolk’s Stour



n.b. Possible the smallest town in England. It was the centre for the self-appointed Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins who, with his associates, had around 300 local women executed for “witchcraft”* in the period 1644-46. Some were slaughtered after he “heard them talking to The Devil.” He was in his 20s when he turned his hand to this evil trade; dead at the age of 28.

*Witchcraft: The behaviour of women that does not conform to male expectations of feminine behaviour; knowledge or understanding of matters beyond masculine experience and interpretation. Not necessarily a bad thing, but how would I know?

Perhaps I won’t stop by after all – although the mudflats look great for bird watching.

CLP 12/02/2020

On Football Car Parking

Do you want your car looking after, sir?

During the match, sir?

Only half a crown, sir?

Not to bother, son. I’ve a dog. See?

Ah yeah! That’s a great big dog, sir

Fierce too, I bet.

His name’s Vicious, if you need a clue

Yep, he looks like a smart dog

Tell me, sir

Can your fierce, smart dog put out a car fire?


n.b. Moral: Pay the boy and your car will be still where you parked it and in good condition when the match is over.

n.n.b. Thank you to Danny for the joke.


CLP 12/02/2020

On Air

Wind sock pulled rigid

What chance the hovercraft now

On its air cushion?


n.b. The hovercraft, one of the noisiest modes of transport, draws in air, blows it forcefully downward into a skirted area beneath so that the body of the vehicle is pushed upwards in flight. Large propellors are used to manoeuvre the craft as it floats a few inches above the surface. The vehicle can move quickly over water and land as there is no physical contact with the surface below.

The hovercraft can move at considerable speed (the world record is around 133 kph / 83 mph) over relatively stable, level surfaces.

There is only one commercial public transport service using hovercraft at present in the world. This operates between Ryde on the Isle of Wight and Southsea beach, by Clarence Pier. It is the quickest way to get from shore-to-shore across the Solent as a paying customer.

In strong winds the hovercraft has to cease operation as there is a danger of it being flipped, as tragically happened in 1972. The decision that day to attempt a crossing in winds gusting at Gale Force 8 cost four lives as the vessel sank, (twenty two people were rescued).

Yesterday the hovercraft was not running when I walked past. Employees from the ticket office were shovelling shingle off the concrete landing pan to prepare for better crossing conditions. The choppy sea, unsettled by the recent storm, was doing its best to dump more shingle ashore just as quickly.


CLP 11/02/2020