Year: 2020

75 Today and reminiscing …

me and my Mum!

Having reached 3/4 of a century I thought I would start sharing some of my family history. I’m going to start with me and my parents and then work back through grand-parents, great-grandparents, etc.

So here goes …

I was born on December 17, 1945 at Royal Northern Hospital to Sarah Ilter/Marlborough and Alfred Edward Marlborough.

Sally Marlborough

I’ll start the family history with my Mum. I don’t really know when she was born.  She told my father that her birthday was September 15, 1919 but she later claimed that she was actually older than him.  I believe she was born between 1913 and 1919.  She was born in Istanbul to Jaques and Marguerite Abravanel.  The family changed their name to Ilter sometime after she was born – probably after the revolution that brought Attaturk to power.  Here are some pictures of Sarah (or Sally, as she was known in England) taken before she was married.

It’s very unlikely that I will be able to find any records of my Turkish family because many have been destroyed and what’s there is written in Cyrillic or Hebrew.  Most of what I know is anecdotal and I will write about it another time.  The main focus of my family research so far has been my English family. 

Mum and Dad’s wedding photo 14/12/1944

However, I do know she married my father in 1944.  There were three marriage certificates and two ceremonies.  This was all done on the same day – 14th December. 

First they were married in a Turkish Registry Office.  I don’t have that certificate.  Secondly they were married by the British Consul General.  He issued a marriage certificate and so did the British Army.  Sarah came to Britain in 1945, some time before the war ended.

Here are some more pictures of Sally and Alf from the time when they were in Istambul.

Alf Marlborough

Born June 8, 1919 to Alfred Thomas Marlborough and Jane Maria Brittain Marlborough my Dad lived at 73 Arlington Street with his parents; presumably he was born there.  This is a picture of Alfred at an early age.  I believe he is in the garden at Arlington Street with Annie Lys who lived in the same house and was a good friend of my grandmother. 

This is a picture of 73 Arlington Ave (the street names have all been changed and it’s possible that the house numbers are different too. However, most of the houses look the same as they did when I was a girl and I can remember my Dad showing me the actual house.

If this is the right house, it was badly damaged in WWII.

Alfred Edward was apprenticed to the Cleansing Department of Islington Borough Council in 1936 to learn the trade of “fitter and turner”.  His apprenticeship should have lasted for 5 years (till 1941) but it was extended because he was called up to serve in the Army during World War II.  His apprenticeship finally finished in 1946.

Below are a couple of pictures of Alf holidaying with his parents followed by a couple of photos of him in Istambul.

Alfred was sent to the Middle East with the REME and ended up in Istanbul where he met and married Sarah Ilter on December 14, 1944.  His marriage certificate shows him to be a Staff Sergeant (No. 7617341).   He returned to England with Sarah before the end of the war.  Sarah reported that they expected to live with Alfred’s parents, but they were living in a bomb damaged house.

More later …..

SHHS Photo

WARNING: Be careful if you try to click on the two links in the next paragraph. The files are huge and take a long time to download! Panning and zooming on the .pdf especially takes a long time, so don’t keep clicking – just wait for something to happen 😉

I have been talking to some old school friends and one of them mentioned the school photo that was taken in 1961. In order to have a really good look during our next Zoom meeting I’ve scanned it at 400dpi. My scanner can’t take anything that long, so I did it in 4 sections and those are shown below. However, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I decided to combine it back into one photo using Photoshop, and then exported it to a .pdf so I could pan the photo and zoom in on the details if I needed to. I was amazed to see that the whole photo turned out to be 43 megabytes and the pdf is 186 meg! Each of the original jpegs is less than 2 meg, so it shows how much extra stuff goes into photoshop files and pdfs!

Thanksgiving Greetings!

Today, as lockdown 2 ends, they announced approval of the first vaccine. So we’ve had an elated, attenuated, belated Thanksgiving.

Yes, we had our Thanksgiving dinner today. We were planning to have it last Thursday with friends, but lockdown 2 prevented that. We went ahead and ordered the turkey but decided to reduce the amount of food we were planning to cook. And then the appointment came through from the hospital – I found myself booked in to have a minor op to remove some skin cancer from my hand on Thanksgiving day. This is no surprise as we don’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving over here. We just do it because we’ve done it for years and we like the idea of a feast day with no presents and minimal religious overtones.

We delayed our turkey order for a week. I was wandering around with a big bandage on my hand while John was preparing a meal of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, with baked potatoes from the garden and Turkish-style braised green beans in tomato sauce. For dessert John made his first ever pumpkin pie. He used fresh pumpkin and it was served with cream. It was beautiful and delicious.

We’re thankful for a lot of things right now. The wonderful NHS continues to deal with the covid crisis, in spite of all the dreadful things our last few governments have thrown at it. Locally the people of the Strettons have banded together to protect the vulnerable and lonely and to keep everyone safe, well fed and protected.

I’m also thankful to Jackie Banfield for lending me her amazing Limbo! 😉

The Spring Peak

Now is the time of peak spring flowers in our garden. I’m not going to write anything, this is just a gallery of shots taken in the last couple of weeks. As usual, you can click on a thumbnail to see a bigger version.

May Day

It’s May, but we’re having April showers today! There has even been some hail! The warm and sunny weather finally broke last week and we heaved a sigh of relief when we realised we didn’t have to water the garden for a while. Now, several days of rain have limited our outside work, but the garden doesn’t care – it’s burgeoning with new growth and more and more flowers are appearing.

Today I’d like to start in the pond – well beside it, anyway. The frogs spawned in late February and the spawn lasted for some time. Of course, that attracted the newts and we spent several evenings watching them on the hunt around the edges of the spawn mass. The tadpoles continue to eat the spawn “jelly” for some time, but they crowd together for safety in the middle of it. Slowly the tadpoles disappeared. I doubt if they’ve all been eaten, but with all the mighty hunters in the pond they keep a very low profile once they are swimming free. We may see one or two as the summer progresses, or we may see a tiny frog as it leaves the pond later in the season, but if we do it’s just luck.

Meanwhile the newts have been getting frisky. It’s now the mating season. To attract the females, the males use their tails to flick pheromones through the water towards them. You can see them cruising through the water, with several males following each female in the hope of being the one to pass on their sperm packages. You can see a full description of the process here along with some much better pictures than I have managed to take.

I’m using the lockdown to catch up on various jobs and projects. One of them is to learn to use my camera. I have had it in auto mode for too long! I am learning to do a few more things with it, which is why I was able to get better pictures of the pond life. However, I realise I have a long way to go before I get really adept at changing settings, focusing and shooting quickly!

As the earth warms up, lots of interesting plants are showing up in the garden. I love the young ferns, the bluebells, the red maples and the apple blossom. Here’s a selection of photos taken over the last couple of weeks. Click on a photo to see it more clearly.

An update

Hello again! May I introduce you to our resident Great Spotted Woodpecker. He spends a lot of time in our garden and in the trees on the bank above our house. Take a good look at the picture and you can see that he is hanging onto the fat feeder with one claw! Yes, he only has one leg. He’s been hanging around since last autumn, so he made it through the winter and he’s a lovely sight to see. He seems to be able to feed himself well enough, in spite of his disability, but from watching how difficult it is for him to perch on a branch I doubt if he will be able to mate or rear offspring.

These are scary times. We have been staying at home and trying to get on with jobs. I have to admit I am bored. I would love to go out for a ride in the car, or visit a friend, or take a trip to another part of the country. But I know that this is going to have to wait till the Covid crisis is over.

At present all we can do is phone, text, email, and skype our friends while we tidy, sort, file, clean and garden. So gardening and and observing the plants and animals in the garden have become even more important than usual.

Let’s start with the pots in front of the shed. In autumn I planted up lots of bulbs. The daffs are in full bloom now, and they have two or three flowers on each stem. The tulips I planted below the daffs are almost ready to bloom, so we should have a good show by next week.

The acer that the Turners gave us is just budding now. Paul will be pleased to see that I have weeded out most of the ground elder!

Unfortunately, I also sprained my knee while doing the weeding here, so I’ve had a good excuse to avoid kneeling for the last few days!

Along the edge of the stream I have been doing a lot of clearing. I daren’t dig out the brambles as I’m afraid they are keeping the stream bank together, but by cutting them back I’ve exposed the shrubs and other plants which are growing there.

As the garden grows towards it’s flowering peak in May we can see the other acer is also putting out its leaves. These are a gorgeous deep red which will soon be complimenting the azaleas and rhodedendrons that surround them.

On the right of the above set of pictures you can see a new arrival. This suddenly appeared in the garden for the first time this year. From the oniony smell of the leaves and the bulbils on the flower stalk I decided it’s an allium, but I was a bit dismayed to find out it’s the invasive Allium paradoxum or “few-flowered leek”. Two clumps have appeared this spring in different parts of the garden. The good news is that you can keep it under control by eating it!

The early daffodils are starting to fade now and I’ve been deadheading them, but there are still plenty about and there are some lovely varieties.

Meanwhile in the mini meadow we now have cowslips and the red currants are blooming.

Gooseberries are blossoming and the apple flower buds are swelling, too. However, this plant with the lovely blue flowers is the dreaded green alkanet – attractive in small quantities, but unfortunately it won’t stay in one place!

Another flower is doing it’s thing at the bottom of the garden right now. This is Erythronium ‘pagoda’. It’s a relative of the dog-toothed violet here in the UK and of the Trout Lily in the US. Every year it seems to be getting bigger and stronger, and while it doesn’t last long it is truly beautiful while it’s out.

A letter to Paul

Dear Paul,

While we’re all isolated I thought I’d just write you a (public!) note and tell you that we miss you. Since others might be reading this, let me just say that we miss all our other friends, too, but are grateful to those who have taken the time and trouble to phone or email. We’re well and enjoying the peace and quiet; John in particular is quite happy to be tucked away in our little dell.

You’ll be pleased that we’ve taken note of your advice to mow more often and John has been out with the mower. Needless to say, after 2 years with no use it took a while to start, but start it did and he got it done!

Today, I decided to take a walk round the garden, as you and I do on Thursday mornings. I thought you might like to see how it’s progressing.

The Hellebores are now in full bloom. They look lovely. Click on any photo to see it in full screen

Here are some more from the woodland path

Mahonia in full bloom. Today I started in all around this to cut back brambles as thick as my wrist!

The marsh marigolds are spreading from the bog to the edge of the pond and this year the wood pigeons haven’t been ravaging the leaves!

Down the back of the house there are violets in the gravel, in a couple of places in the garden, the skimmia shrubs give off a lovely perfume while their tiny white flowers set off the red berries from last year and every now and then you can spot a large vinca flower peeping through the jungle!

The badgers are working hard next to the compost heap – the pile of soil dug out of the sett continues to grow apace. And it’s not just soil, is it? Look at the size of some of the rocks they’re shifting!

Talking about compost – I’ve started collecting some of the more noxious weeds in this dustbin. I’ll fill it with water and we can make our own fertilizer.

Since I took the pictures I’ve started a new scheme. Rather than work bed by bed, which is difficult because I keep seeing all the beds that haven’t been touched, I’m picking on one species of “weed” and trying to get it all up from all the beds. Obviously, I won’t be able to do that with the ground elder since it’s ubiquitous, but over the last couple of days I’ve managed to collect almost a dustbin full of green alkanet. I know I haven’t eradicated it, but it’s made all the beds look better for the moment.

My next purge species is brambles. Again, it’s impossible to get it all, but clearing it off the paths and out of the shrubs and flower beds makes for easier access and allows us to move around the garden more easily.

Moving on to our mini meadow there are lots of flowers in bloom or about to bloom. Clumps of daffodils, white snakes-head fritillaries and primroses are leading the way. The cowslips will be out next week and the common spotted orchids are starting to push up leaves.

As you can see, John’s heather bed is looking good. In the background is the fabulous honesty plant that grew into a giant after the great sewage flood. The seed pods are now falling apart, but underneath the old plant are millions of new seedlings. You didn’t need to put any of the seeds into pots for me, we’re going to have enough for the whole garden and then some!

The bergenias have been a picture through most of the winter and early spring, but the blossom is starting to fade now. But look how happy these little daffs are by the front door! And look closer at the window where you can see my Scrappies mannequin all dressed up and ready to go out!

So Paul, here come some success stories. The new bed in the back garden is looking lovely with daffs and hyacinths. There’s lots of other stuff coming on well, too. Although I don’t have a picture, the “red bush” that you moved (whose name I can never remember) is developing buds so I think it has survived the winter and Pam’s old Pieris is not only covered in white flowers, but also producing new red leaves.

And finally, I’ve cut back the flowers on the magnificent grass (which you can just see behind the artichokes) and put them in a chimney pot so we can continue to enjoy them for the next few weeks.

I guess that’s all for now. I hope you and yours are healthy and well and I look forward to seeing you again when the emergency is over.

cheers ….. Joan.