No cucumber unsliced, no camp chair unfolded, no pop bottle uncorked…….

In the words of W. Somerset Maugham “There are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort”

No cucumber unsliced, no camp chair unfolded, no pop bottle uncorked at the first Kirkby on Bain village picnic last summer (August 18). At 1.45, the school field looked just like any other day, except for some bunting, a table and a couple of chairs, but within an hour or so about thirty villagers, undaunted by the KoB wasp brigade, were happily tucking in to traditional English picnic grub and chatting to friends and neighbours.

The idea, suggested by Margaret Dewrance, was inspired by a similar event in a French village a few years ago. It had a lot going for it – no complicated arrangements or red tape, just bring your own picnic and spend a pleasant afternoon in good company. We were lucky though – the sun came out just on time after an overcast morning.

Since we packed up our empty picnic baskets, we have had some really good feedback on this initiative, and even a welcome offer of an alternative venue for next year, so it looks like the event is set to become a local tradition. Continue reading

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Roman life in Kirkby on Bain revealed

On a fine day in December last year, Kirkby on Bain Parish Councillors were invited by Alan Stephenson, Quarry Operations Manager at the Woodhall Spa Quarry, to attend an open afternoon following the recent discovery by local archaeologists of a Roman settlement. It was a fascinating event, led by Lydia Hendry, Community Archaeologist, Heritage Lincolnshire, and her team. She took us round the site in small groups and explained what they had found so far, demystifying numerous trenches, artifacts and data.

I understand that there will be another opportunity to discover more secrets of this ancient settlement, later this year. Lydia has very kindly written an account of the December event for us:

Quarry Discoveries Continue reading

Ethel Major – A Lincolnshire village murderer?

Not long after we moved into Kirkby on Bain in 2001, somebody said to me something along the lines of “Of course you must know about our famous murderer, Ethel Major”. Of course I had never heard of her, so I did some very superficial research and found that this Kirkby on Bain lady was convicted of killing her husband (a nasty piece of work, allegedly,) in 1934 and hanged in Hull gaol.

A little later Betty Dixon, who was born that year and until recently was one of Kirkby’s oldest residents, kindly lent me a bundle of newspaper cuttings and a book about this case. Like a lot of accounts of past murders, quite a bit of this material was written in sensationalist styles, with little by way of references or source attributions. I also noticed that some accounts were word-for-word copies, apparently lifted from one original newspaper write-up.

During subsequent searches, I stumbled across a real surprise – macabre testimony to the everlasting obsession with murder, a knitted representation of Ethel’s house, made by Jean Arkell, originally installed at the Minories Art Gallery, Colchester. Believe it or not there really is a website featuring knitted representations of houses lived in by female murderers. Midsomer Murders scriptwriters, please take note.
Continue reading

Socks for Refugees

Here’s a great idea from Holy Trinity Church, Tattershall:

What small thing can you do for someone who is displaced from their home and family?

How about donating a new pair of socks? We all love putting on a new pair of socks. Separate your socks if you bought a pack, remove any unnecessary packaging but keep the plastic tag holding them together. Continue reading

The good old red public telephone box

Martin_phonebox_crop_150I have recently been spending time creating and running a website-cum-blog for the village in Lincolnshire where we live, Kirkby on Bain. So far it’s been a lot of fun, and it gets more hits than any other site I have worked on, somewhat to my amazement. One of the most read posts is an account by my neighbour Martin Briscombe, who recently retired after managing a chicken feed mill (no jokes please) for many years.

martin_phonebox _paint_240Martin is a man of action, and on retirement he promptly took over responsibility for doing something about the red public telephone box which was adopted by the village but has been gently decaying in recent times. You can read his account of this venture here.

Before publishing the story, in the normal process of fact checking, I found myself entering a whole new universe of phone boxes. I have since become hypersensitive to every decommissioned phone box I see in villages around these parts, most of which seem to be simply abandoned, presumably as a result of the meteoric rise of mobile phones. It’s a done deal alright, those good old red phone boxes are now definitely things of the past, along with steam trains, fax machines and consideration for others. Continue reading

Blown off course, but land is in sight

Martin_phonebox_crop_150I have been distracted lately by working on a new blog for my home village of Kirkby on Bain, Lincolnshire. I have to admit I was sceptical about the idea, but how wrong can you be? To my surprise, after only a few days, it’s a hit, at least round here, and oddly satisfying to work on, especially after the extreme frustrations of working for the local University.

Come to think of it, this turn of events rather bears out my growing conviction that websites, including blogs, tend to work best when there is a ready-made audience, or constituency, regardless of numbers. Building an audience is much harder.

The most-read story so far is about that great British icon, the red telephone box, and how it has been saved from extinction in our village. Give it a whirl.

However, fear not, I do have a lot more of my own stories to tell here, and I hope to have normal service resumed fairly soon.