Visit to the Kilns


I belong to a group of Christian Librarians, I have done since its inception in the mid 1970’s with a break while I was bringing up my family.

They organise trips and events to which I rarely go, I must admit. But when it was announced that a guided tour of  The Kilns ,  C.S. Lewis’  house in Oxford was being arranged, my interest was piqued and I signed up. 


The day dawned; a sparkling bright Saturday in October. 

I was nervous about the drive. I’ve driven to and around Oxford many times and rarely found it an enjoyable experience. But my sat nav lady and I agreed on a route that meant I didn’t need to actually go into Oxford as the house is in the suburb of Headington; it’s on the outskirts.

I took the new bypass in Bicester – I like it. It does seem a bit longer than the first bypass but traffic was light and you come out by the new park and ride at Bicester, avoiding the Designer Village traffic completely. Then after crossing the motorway I took an extremely pretty route through Islip, arriving at the Kilns after an hour’s journey.

As I parked 2 others came walking down the road holding the travelling instructions we’d been posted, so I introduced myself. It turns out we had a friend and ex-colleague in common, and we had a good chat about how libraries have changed, and not for the better.

There’s a nature reserve behind the house that used to be part of the property. It’s small, but was a tranquil haven on this sunny day.

A group of a dozen or so of us assembled in the Kilns’ garden and our tour guide introduced himself and asked us to introduce ourselves to the group. About half of us were librarians, mostly retired. Others were current and ex Oxford students. Several of us mentioned the Narnia series and I told how I’d enjoyed the Screwtape Letters, as my Dad had recommended the book to me.


The house is used for research and study, much as in Lewis’ day, and 4 or 5 students live there at any one time. Despite this, the house is kept in the style in which Lewis and the other inhabitants would have known it. The dishwasher, for example didn’t look too out of place in a kitchen that also contained one of those laundry dryer racks that was hoisted up the ceiling with a pulley arrangement and there was computer paraphernalia alongside ancient typewriters.

There are three studies,(I think!) and a library in what used to be the garage.

We were shown into each room in turn, took a seat and the tour guide (a young American; I’ve forgotten his name) told us about C.S. Lewis’ family and academic life, and about the mother and daughter he lived with. We also learnt that his brother came to live there, and later Joy, who became his wife.

We were told how resistant he was to refurbishments and how Joy struggled to beautify the house, adding new curtains (made of army blankets) and reproductions of Van Gogh and Constable paintings.

The house itself is a little rambling, of a good size, and had a relaxed atmosphere, probably helped by the beautiful sunlight. There’s a twisting staircase that one of our number couldn’t manage, leading to an attic ‘hideout’, another bright study and Lewis’ bedroom, which itself was accessed by a perpendicular outside staircase.

Our group asked questions of our guide, and one of our number who is a member of the Tolkein Society, was able to add information and anecdotes.

After an hour and a half another group was waiting in the garden, so we dispersed. Some went off to the nearby church, Holy Trinity, Headington, where Lewis worshipped and is buried, and where there is a Narnia commemorative window.

I however, headed home the way I came, despite sat nav lady’s several attempts to get me to turn around, and later on, to take the M40. Anyone know how to direct a sat nav to take you home the way you came?


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Rip It Up in Edinburgh.



The   Rip It Up exhibition at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is really worth visiting if you’re in the area and interested in Scottish pop, as we are.

It’s a good mixture of personal items, ie clothes, instruments, programmes, and audio and videos of performances.

From the start the exhibition gets you going. 

To start with I selected from a ‘jukebox’ Sunshine Superman’ by Donovan, a song I remember singing in my head in the back of the family car while wearing a maxi coat over my mini skirt.

Followed by admiring an exquisite red lace dress worn by Lulu in a performance of ‘Relight My Fire’ with Take That. (I actually heard her singing this through my bedroom window as the wind was in the right direction while she was singing  with the band at their concert at the Milton Keynes bowl).

Then video of The Average White Band, Paolo Nutini, Midge Ure’s ‘Vienna’ raincoat, so much to enjoy. Annie Lennox’s outfit, a very young Edwyn Collins with Orange Juice, Clare Grogan singing ‘Happy Birthday’ with Altered Images; the first song my Claire sang, at 18 months old. 

Finishing with a huge video screen showing performances, the last of which got me singing and dancing; ‘Letter From America’ by the Proclaimers.

A related TV programme can be seen.


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Houghton Hall


Houghton Hall near Kings Lynn is currently hosting an exhibition of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings and statues. The reviews that I read were glowing so I booked tickets to attend.

Following my sat nav along narrow roads I turned up at the gates and joined the queue of cars waiting to enter at 11am.

The morning was overcast and drizzly so I needed my brolly as I made my way from the car park to the house.

The house itself is beautiful and I took so many photos that it’s difficult to decide which to show you, and I may have chosen too many.( Do click on any that are too small to see them more clearly.)

I’m a bit cross that I seem to have mislaid the leaflet I was given that named the statues, so you’ll have to make your own names up!

I think the unicorn and the winged horse were named Myth and Fantasy. I find them very beautiful. Inside the house there were two human form statues, two pieces using air to shoot ping pong balls into the air, and many spot paintings. The paintings varied in size, as did the spots. I quite enjoyed these though the conjunction with the lovely old house was odd. The painting propped up in the library though, jarred against the leather bound tomes lining the walls.

Scattered round the grounds were more exhibits; some permanent, others in this temporary exhibition.

Once again, I appreciated most of them. The small boy standing in front of the ‘pregnant woman’ shows how large this one was.

I didn’t get the hat one. It’s called something like Men Without Hats, though that’s a pop group, so maybe it was Hats Without Men, which is more apt.


I had lunch in the stable square café, and looked round the crafts exhibition. ‘Charity’ was in the square; a very large version of one of those charity boxes that used to stand outside shops.

The walled garden is spectacular, and so well looked after. As well as flowers, there were fruit and vegetables and an orchard.

A beautiful house and gardens, well worth a visit, even after the Hirst exhibition has gone. You may even prefer it!

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Hunstanton was our favourite seaside place to visit when we used to stay with Mum & Dad so the opportunity to stay for a few days was too good to miss.

Mum had recommended Caley Hall Hotel in Old Hunstanton so that’s where we headed.

An erstwhile motel, most of the rooms are accessible from outside, and they are arranged round courtyards so there are pleasant areas to sit relax, and birdwatch.

During our stay the mornings were misty but the afternoons were sunny and warm.

Having visited Le Strange Old Barns for a spot of retail therapy we walked into Hunstanton, passing these gardens around St Edmund’s Chapel remains on the way. The lighthouse, now used for self catering accommodation, is just about visible!

Although the beach at the town centre was quiet, returning along the coastal path, the sun appeared, families turned up and children played. 

In need of refreshments we lunched at the Ancient Mariner. A crab salad was just what I’d wanted! There were house martins flying ahead, a wedding party at the hotel, and a group of horses being exercised along the beach. Very relaxing.


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Visiting Sandringham.

Leaving Norwich in drizzle, we arrived at Sandringham to find it cloudy, though dry and warm.

I’d forgotten about the long distances you have to drive in Norfolk.

We passed the beautiful Sandringham gates where in 1997 we’d stopped en route to Hunstanton to examine the floral tributes to Diana and pay our respects.

We parked under the trees and made our way into the estate. We decided just to look round the gardens and the museum.


There were lots of families playing and picnicking in the grounds, but it wasn’t too busy as we walked round the estate.


The rhododendrons were spectacular. We visited the museum which contains cars, carriages, wheelchairs and model cars presented to the young royals. There were even fire engines.

Walking round the outside of the house we commented that it’s a strange building in two very different styles and materials.

Passing the church, we decided to go in, and once in I was gobsmacked.

Like the house, it’s rather a building of two halves. The nave is quite plain, but with beautiful wooden angels in the roof, and several royal memorials.

The chancel is highly decorated and opulent. The roof is coloured, with yet more angels in attendance. The walls are decorated, and the royal pews are a rich wood.

The altar and the pulpit which are panelled with solid silver were gifts to Queen Alexandra from a Mr Wanamaker. Though stunning, their opulence made me uncomfortable. But all in all , possibly due to the reverence of those visiting at the time, we found it a peaceful place.

After a sandwich and a successful visit to the gift shop we headed to Hunstanton.

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Norwich: a fine city.

We moved on to Norwich. My Dad lived in Norwich as a boy, and I was born nearby. Dad studied history and loved it, and being a teacher, he wanted to pass his knowledge on to me, so as a child I was familiar with the local museums. That was a long time ago though!

When I was growing up going ‘up Norwich’ was for shopping, family visits, the theatre, cinema and dentist. It was good to explore the city in a different way as a grown-up to and discover how the various parts of the city connected.

We stayed at the Maids Head hotel in Tombland (Tomb in this context apparently means empty space rather than a graveyard). According to the hotel website this is the oldest hotel in the UK, dating back over 800 years. It’s very comfortable and full of character, and we are very likely to stay there again. The rooms are large, have iPads ready with local information, and have huge local photo murals in the bathroom, like this:


We could see the cathedral from our window and Elm Hill was just across the road.

After eating in Côté Brasserie (we’d like one in MK please) we came across this Damien Hirst sculpture, ‘Hymn’, which will be in St Georges Street till July 15th this year. Inspired by a child’s anatomical toy, although it’s initially shocking, I find the detail interesting.


As I had tickets to see his exhibition at Houghton Hall later in the week, this was a taster. 

We had a guided tour of the cathedral, and I walked the labyrinth in the cloisters. I came away feeling uplifted, though I tried hard to ignore 2 nearby workmen debating when Jimmy Hill was famous. (While walking I worked out I’d seen him in a London restaurant in 1975, so the ignoring wasn’t totally successful).

Following the Riverside walk we passed Pull’s Ferry and an edifice named the Cow Tower. 

Strangers’ Hall is a very old and interesting museum. As it was half term there was an Alice in Wonderland theme going on. A very atmospheric place, but there could have been more labelling of items.

I headed for the square box that is Norwich Castle. Refurbished and updated since my last visit, there was lots to see. The Keep was lively with activities for children, and I enjoyed the Viking and local wildlife galleries; the latter now named after Ted Ellis, an esteemed local naturalist.

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Strumpshaw Fen.

On the way to Norwich we visited Strumpshaw Fen, an RSPB reserve to the east of Norwich, just at the start of one arm of the Broads.

Strumpshaw Fen 

Once again we were lucky with the weather, in a week where torrential rain and thunderstorms were wreaking havoc elsewhere .

The Norfolk Broads are currently the only place in the UK where Swallowtail butterflies can be seen, though migrants are sometimes spotted elsewhere, and as we walked from the car we were pointed in the direction where a butterfly had been seen. A small knot of people were hovering at the end of a lane, saying that a swallowtail had been sunning itself on a lawn just a few minutes before. Continuing down the lane, there it was flying towards us, but it then disappeared over the adjacent railway line. We saw a further 2 swallowtails but neither was camera friendly so here’s a photo I took later of a diorama in Norwich Castle. At least this one stayed still!

Walking back to the reserve reception, we showed our RSPB cards for free entry. Coincidentally, mine had a picture of a swallowtail on it. The reception is in a hide overlooking the marsh. There was a board with recent sightings, leaflets and posters with local and wildlife information, plus snacks and hot drinks for purchase.

We had a very pleasant walk exploring  the reserve. As well as open marshy areas there are extensive woodlands, regularly crossed by the Norwich to Yarmouth trains.

 A brimstone, a peacock and a green veined white butterfly were spotted, various damsel flies too, and we were both excited to hear a cuckoo a couple of times; the first one we’ve heard for many years.

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Attempting the Pingo Trail.

I’m sorry that I haven’t blogged for a while, but I’m one of those people who doesn’t say anything if they have nothing to say.

But last week we went to Norfolk, and travelled around, visiting some interesting places that I’d like to tell you about.

First of all we were invited to a family gathering near Watton, in south Norfolk, where I lived between the ages of 6 and 18.

We had a morning to kill before the event so we decided to walk the pingo trail

It was sunny and warm, a great morning in which to explore. We parked in the recommended car park and looked at the map there.

Off we went, through shaded woodland, listening for birds and looking for butterflies. We soon came across the first pingos, which are ponds formed by melting glaciers a very long time ago.




Soon, though, a few mosquitos appeared, then one stung me on the wrist. I had gone prepared, wearing a long sleeved, hooded top, and (very stylishly) with my socks firmly over the bottom of my trousers. But the mosquito found a gap and did its business.

Pretty soon there were clouds of them and we were walking waving our arms around, and it wasn’t fun anymore. So we turned around, having walked barely half a mile.

We drove a few miles south into Thetford forest and walked there instead; a bonus of that being that we met someone I’d been to primary school with and had a good catch up!

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Eleven questions.

Ariel, having been nominated as a Sunshine Blogger, had the task of answering several questions, and has responded by posting some of her own for her followers to answer if they feel so inspired. I thought I’d give it a go, and if you’d like to answer them too, feel free. Ariel’s blog is here:-

A Blog of Hours 

1. If you have a blog, what inspired you to start it? If you don’t have one, what put you off?

This is my blog part deux, as my first blog has disparu. But I started my first blog when we went to Australia on holiday, as a way to keep friends and family up to date on what we were doing without shouting it out on Facebook.

2. What is your greatest regret?

That I never saw The Beatles live. I was far too young, realistically, but whenever I meet someone who saw or met them I experience this pang.

3. Could you give up alcohol for, say, six months?

Possibly, but I would really miss it. I love wine, Katy cider and Disaronno!

4. Is there a painting or an artist that you have been particularly impressed by?

I saw The Candy Man by Alan Macdonald in the Walker Gallery in Liverpool. I call it Christ on a Bike and it makes me smile. I love everything about it.

5. If time and money were no object what would you most like to do?

Go and live somewhere else and explore, not just stay for a holiday. I’m thinking Provence, or Canada, as long as it was sunny and warm.

6. Can you name five things that you are grateful for?

My health, my husband, my two daughters, the fact that I had a career in a profession I loved.

7. Do you believe there is a deity, a Supreme Being, a spiritual power, or some such?


8. What, for you, would be the perfect holiday?

Being driven around ( I say no to driving on the right), being cooked for, but otherwise being left alone to do my own thing. Not going to happen!

9. Who would you say has been most influential in your life?

My parents I reckon.

10. If you can drive, do you enjoy it?

Yes, I enjoy driving, as long as I know where I’m going. I get stressed driving places I don’t know, especially cities with strange junctions and poor signage (which lane should I be in now?) though the sat nav helps immensely. And see above regarding driving on the wrong side of the road. Turning right in France and finding myself on the left of the road gives me flashbacks (and I did it twice in the same place!)

11. Chocolate: yes or no? Dark, milk or white?

Yes, milk preferred. Cadburys especially. Dark chocolate can be too bitter and white chocolate is yucky, and actually isn’t chocolate.

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James Tydeman: Transported to Tasmania for stealing beans.


James Tydeman was born in Suffolk in 1829.

He was baptised in Walsham-Le-Willows, where so many of my ancestors lived, on 27th December 1829. His parents are listed as James and Mary.

There is a death record for a James Tydeman in the Stow district of Suffolk in 1838.

The 1841 census records Mary, (36, born 1805) James, (12, born 1829) and William (3,  born 1838) living in Church Street, Walsham-Le-Willows. Mary is working as a “Wash Woman” to support her family.

In 1845 Mary married Robert Frost and according to the 1851 census is living with him and William in Palmer Street, Walsham.

There are several interesting things on this census. Firstly, William is described as ‘son-in-law’ instead of step son , which caused me some confusion. His age and date of birth comply with the previous  census. Robert is ten years younger than Mary, and is an agricultural labourer, very common in this area. But they now have a daughter, Sarah Ann Frost, born in 1847, who went on to be my great great grandmother.

This is our link to James Tydeman; where was he though, in 1851?

It’s a sad story, and it’s thanks to my grandfather Wilfred Gardiner, and his grandmother Sarah Frost/Clarke, that we know what happened.


A bundle of letters from James to his parents, Mary and Robert, have been passed down to me.

From 1848 James wrote to them from Bury St Edmunds Gaol where he had been imprisoned in 1846 for stealing beans. His sentence was 7 years. He had previously been imprisoned for house breaking in 1846 for 18 months.

The writing is beautiful and flowing, (probably dictated to a scribe), and the content is heartbreaking.

In his first letter dated October 1848 he tells his mother that he wishes he had taken her advice, and if he had he wouldn’t be in his current position. He says, addressing William,

“Brother, I hope you will be a good boy to your Father and never gamble for that have been the ruin of me. gambling is the first step of ruin. I hope this will be a warning to all my companions.”

He signs this letter, “your unhappy son”.

His second letter is dated April 1849, also from Bury St Edmunds Gaol. It seems James is unwell as he says,

“I am very sorry to think that I cannot send you a good report of my health for I get no better.” He asks Mary to send him a pocket handkerchief and is anticipating a visit from her in a month’s time.

A change is afoot though, and the next letter, dated October 24th, comes from the Defence Hulk Convict Settlement in Gosport.This was one of the decommissioned ships which were used as floating prisons.

James says ,”this place agrees with me very well” and that he is feeling better, but he also says,

” But we cannot tell What a Day may Bring forth for Death May Come when we Are Not aware of it.”

He also pleads,

“Send my love to my Master and Mrs and in hope you will send me all the Good News you can”, which makes me wonder if he is hoping for a pardon.

The next letter is from November 1850, still at Gosport.Optimistically he hopes that he will,

“In a few months to again be restored to you.” He is desperate to be home and is anxious about his family’s wellbeing. He says he has been ,”acting as cook”. He sends regards to Mary Ann Death; I wonder if she was his girlfriend at home.

The next letter, from March 1851, is in response to a letter from Mary and Robert sent two months earlier. He explains the delay is due to the fact that he had sent a reply in error to ‘Walter’ Frost rather than Robert and his letter was returned to him from the ‘dead Letter office London’. He explains that the Governor has given him permission to write, but in a post script he says further that although he isn’t allowed to write more frequently than once in three months, they can reply immediately .

This letter and the two following are interesting as the notepaper used includes the Convict Establishment rules for writing letters. Included are such instructions as,

“All letters of an improper or idle tendency either to or from Convicts, or containing slang or other objectional  expressions will be suppressed.” Letters are “for the purpose of enabling [convicts] to keep up a connection with their respectable Friends , and not that they may hear the news of the day”.

James’ next letter is dated 7th June 1851.He says that ,

“In all probability I may be moved to another place, where I cannot inform you, at present should such be the case, I shall no doubt be allowed to write to my friends immediately on my arrival…”

He signs off, “Believe me to remain My Dear Father & Mother Your Unfortunate Son James Tydeman.

The last letter is dated 10th January 1852 and is from Dartmoor Prison. The official notes on the letter’s second page say,

“The Convict has been received here, under a Sentence of Transportation, and will remain until removed according to Law…No visits are allowed”

Poor James says he is uneasy at not hearing from his parents for over 6 months. He says,

“I was told when I was at Portsmouth that when I had completed the half of my time I should be restored to my liberty in this Country. But now I can see no signs of it.”

He is still hoping that “ a petition or a private letter to Sir George Gray”will help his case. He asks his parents to,

“take this letter to Mr George Finch and tell him I am very sorry for what I have Done And I hope he will Do something for Me Towards Getting me my liberty”. In that case, he says that,

“you shall see by my future life and conduct that I am become a useful member of society.”

My Grandad reports that in with these letters was a small piece of paper with this address:

Pestonjee Bomanjee. Van Dieman’s Land. Ober Town, (I wonder if this is a mishearing of Hobart town)

The ship Pestonjee Bomanjee  left England on 18th April 1852 and arrived at the Van Diemens Land colony on 31st July 1852. There were 292 convicts on board. is a magnificent resource through which I have found further information on James. The digitised documents tell me that he was 5’ 4 1/2” with black hair and dark eyes. He had a tattoo on each arm, one a heart with a cross and the other an anchor. He had an oval face, fresh complexion and (like me) he had a low forehead. Like his step father he was a farm labourer.

He was given 2 conditional pardons, I expect one for each offence, gaining a certificate of freedom on 7th July 1855 when he was 27.

Wikipedia entry on Tasmanian convicts.

I next found him getting married on 26th November 1866 to Louisa Denner. She was 17 and he was 35. They married at the Chapel in Fingal, Tasmania. He is described as a labourer and she can’t write, so signs the register with a cross. Sadly they didn’t have much time together as Louisa died inAugust 1877 of lung disease. I found all this information on Find My Past.

With the help of family trees on FamilySearch and Ancestry I found that they had a daughter, Roseanne, in March 1868

After Roseanne they had a daughter in February 1872, unnamed on her birth registration. Sadly, a son, James, only lived for a month before dying in March 1876 of an insect bite. More tragedy in 1877 as another daughter, Louisa, was born on 12th August 1877, but died on 30th August of convulsions. As her mother, Louisa had died on 28th August their death entries are adjacent in the Fingal registration book.

Roseanne, under the name Rose Ann Tidiman married James Curtis in November 1885.They had a son, Thomas Henry in January 1888. Sadly, I found her death under the name Rose Curtis in April 1889. The cause of death is given as burning so, like her mother, an early marriage and an early death.

This is where I lose track of James.

Going back to his brother William, though, I find he became a policeman. He married, moved to Wiltshire and had 2 daughters and 6 sons, one of which also became a policeman. None of William’s descendants are called James.

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