Monday, 14 October 2019


Ain't It A Shame Sparrers Can't Sing, the words of the title song from a Barbara Windsor film from 1963.

Isn't it amazing how the mind works? I was watching a flock of sparrows on my bird feeders the other afternoon and the words of that song just came floating into my mind. I didn't see the film but the title song was very popular at the time and obviously stuck. And, of course, sparrows don't actually sing they chirp and babble on in all sorts of ways but none of their utterings could remotely be described as song. Not withstanding all of this, sparrows are quite entertaining to watch. They are nothing, if not, quarrelsome. I have a large colony of them, apart from the fact that I feed the birds I also have a very large clump of thick trees and plants. A couple of apple trees have been taken over by a Clematis Montana and a Russian Creeper, together, these two climbers have entangled themselves in and around the trees to form an, almost, impenetrable mass which is huge. This mass of vegetation serves to provide a roosting place for the sparrows, they also build nests within it. I suppose it pretty much provides everything they could hope for in a roosting site. Being so dense, even when the leaves have dropped, the vines ensure a wind free location and the centre of the tangle is so dense that, save for the very hardest downpours, it remains dry, the rain running off in a way similar to a thatch. This mass also attracts a number of wrens which spend hours creeping around within it like little mice.In fact when I first saw one I actually thought it was a mouse. 

The number of sparrows, I suppose like many other species of birds, have declined significantly in recent years.Once again we have the dramatic changes in agricultural practices to thank for many of these declines and, not least the widespread and, I am afraid, indiscriminate use of chemicals upon the land. But in the case of the sparrow, I suspect, the improved machinery of today has also had an impact. The modern combine harvesters do not drop or fail to collect anything like the amount of grain which the old techniques and machinery did. In the old days, threshing, bagging up grain into sacks, and winnowing, (which was the process of sorting grain from the weed seed mixed with it ), all served to provide lots of grain being spilled onto the ground in and around the farmyard. This, in turn, provided lots of food for seed eating birds like the sparrow. I well remember the huge flocks of sparrows which, for example, could be seen on Dean Farm especially during the harvesting period. It should also be remembered that the grain harvest in those days was not completed in a few short days as it is now. The harvest, depending upon acreage, could then have taken two or three weeks to complete.

The sparrow and rat populations were then such that sparrow and ratting clubs were a common rural pastime. Men and boys would devote lots of spare time in the pursuit of both these species.These clubs were generally supported by the farmers and I suppose helped to keep losses down and damage to grain down a bit. Ratting was pursued with packs of terriers in the fields and hedgerows and in barns and shed etc. They were also shot at day and at night, I have spent many hours at Dean Farm, as a boy, rat shooting. Lights would be rigged up and when the rats came out to feed we would shoot them with air rifles. A very popular past time it was too.Rats quickly become used to lights and, of course are eager feeders. Together this meant we always had lots of targets to shoot at. Sparrows were also shot and caught in bigger numbers by a variety of home -made traps. These were usually wire netting structures with trap doors. They were bated with grain which enticed the birds to enter. The trap doors would be held up by a peg which had a string attached to it. When a sufficient number of birds were in the trap, the string would be pulled and the door would drop enclosing the birds within. 

The village church in Kingsley also provided nesting sites for sparrows, the large metal, funnel like tops to the drain pipes were of particular favour and provided a rich source of sparrows eggs for little boys who, legally then, collected birds egg as a hobby. I wish I had a pound for every time I have scaled up the drain pipes of the church. 

The trees in the church yard also provided nesting sites for the, now rare, tree sparrow. They particularly liked the holly trees which was a bit of problem as accessing their nests usually involved getting badly scratched. I wonder if there are still tree sparrows nesting in the holly today? I would like to think there are.

Of course, egg collecting became illegal in 1954 when I was nine, I have to say, country boys were not impressed by that piece of legislation. Personally, I don't think that egg collecting, in it's then form, did a great deal of damage, for a start, money was not involved. But nothing stays the same and life moves on. In general terms politicians spend a great deal of their time banning things and continue to do so, but has life improved as a result? I somehow doubt it.   

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Jalsa Salana planning application

Full application details SDNP/19/03709/FUL

"The proposals are to formalise the holding of the Jalsa Salana festival within Oakland Farm as well as securing a number of other improvements to the existing agricultural, storage and kitchen buildings within the site.
 The planning permission can be split into two distinct proposals. The Jalsa Salana will be permitted seasonally for a maximum of 7 weeks of which no more than 4 days will be permitted for the event itself.
The wider permission will be implemented on a permanent basis throughout the site and seek to ensure the Oakland Farm development is appropriately managed within the South Downs National Park.
As discussed above it is proposed to limit the maximum days the Jalsa Salana can operate within the site. This limit will be broken down to the following:
Religious Event – Maximum of 4 days.
Set up and take down – Maximum of 7 weeks (49 days) inclusive of the 4 days to hold the event."

My response:-

Jalsa Salana has been held in this location for more than a decade and is clearly here to stay. While it's true that road traffic volumes during the current three, proposed four, days of the event involves some significant delay to local residents that's all it is, the problems are not insuperable. In my experience, the days of the Jalsa Salana may well be the only days of the year when nobody is speeding through or between the villages.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Association has proved to be an excellent event organiser, has always been considerate of the needs and concerns of its neighbours and has been proactive in improving the management, especially the traffic management, of the event as a whole.

I support this application as I feel that the extra time allowed for set-up and take-down will facilitate reducing the event's impact even further.

Monday, 23 September 2019


A few days ago I was in conversation with a friend of mine and during the conversation he happened to mention that pay day was about to happen and he was looking forward to his next pay packet. Well, although he was not speaking literally, as a far as I know pay packets are a thing of the past. But, none the less, his words got me thinking. I well remember when most of us got pay packets. Things are so different now, when I first began working we were paid weekly and in little brown packets. The amount within was written, by hand, on the outside of the packet together with details of National Insurance and tax deductions etc. This went on well into my working life, even when I joined The Prison Service we were paid in the same way at Wandsworth Prison. There, every Friday, a large, shallow box would be brought to the detail office containing all of the pay packets for the uniformed staff. A large sheet of paper with all of the staff names upon it had to be signed when the pay packet was collected. As far as Kingsley was concerned most working people in those days did not have a bank account, everything was done in cash. It is hard now to imagine no "holes in the wall", credit and debit cards, direct debits and standing orders etc. Nothing like that then existed. 

In fact quite a lot of the people's needs were provided by delivery, for example, we had bakers, milk men, a butcher and various other trades men who did the rounds of the villages once a week and all were paid in cash. The system then was quite clear, no money, no goods. I don’t think credit was likely to be considered. In addition to the tradesmen weekly visits to collect their money were also undertaken by the rent collector and the insurance man. The customer was provided with a little book which was signed up by the representative each week when the money was handed over. In those early post war days money was not plentiful as far as rural workers were concerned but neither were so many of today's consumers goods which we all take for granted. Cars were few and far between and television was in its infancy, not to mention expensive. We didn't have a television for several years after they became readily available. This due to the fact my parents took the rigid view that if you couldn't pay for it you didn’t have it. Of this they were very proud. Credit, in the form of, what was then known as Hire Purchase, was just beginning to become available and again the customer paid by instalments which were logged in a little book which the customer retained. Many people viewed this development as little short of disgraceful, my how things have changed!.

Eventually television became more widespread due to the fact that many television rental companies sprang up and offered televisions on a week rental basis also with the little book. This appealed to many as the televisions of the day were by no means as reliable as they are today and breakdowns were common. Those machines had valves and they were prone to blowing. Repairs were costly and renting did away with all those problems as the provider repaired the sets free of charge. But, bit by bit, the use of banking began to become the norm and slowly but surely we all became customers and in some cases, had to. I well remember when The Prison Service decided to pay its staff by bank credit, all those not having an account were told to get one. There was a transition period but, at the end of the day, we had no choice. A matter that didn't go down very well at the time and in addition to the bank account, wages were then paid only once a month, no longer weekly.

Another of modern conveniences, the telephone, was not widely available. I recall when I applied for our first phone, again because The Service said I should, in order that I was on call, I was offered a party line. Due to the lack of available connections customers shared a line. By no means ideal as when the phone rang both parties would often pick it up, only then becoming aware of who the call was actually for. This situation went on for quite a few years before we could get our own line.

Similarly, when we applied for our first mortgage, we were told there was a waiting list and it took a couple of months before we got ours. It would appear building society branches were allocated their funds on a monthly basis and there was never enough to meet each month's demands. We were lucky, in so far, as the branch manager was a personal friend of ours and this did help to speed things up a little. Not what you know but who you know as they say. So, so different today when we have had the credit crisis and money is little short of thrown at the unwary client. I am not sure life is actually better, I think we valued the things we had far more in the days when they were so hard to come by.