Photos of readers

We’re BACK with this feature, which I guess will be sporadic. But I invite you to submit your photos (2 max) and a narrative.

Today we have two—count them, two—readers, Dom and Jez, both hailing from England. Jez sent the text (he’s on the right below).

As you [Jerry] know, WEIT reader Dom just visited us here in Royston, Hertfordshire for a couple of days.

Royston is a small market town about 13 miles from Cambridge, 43 miles north of London, and very close to the prime meridian. According to those who grew up in it, the town is world famous (!) for several things. Two ancient roads, (Roman) Ermine Street and the (prehistoric) Icknield Way, meet here which is probably why the town was founded here at all; the mysterious Royston Cave lies under the town centre; the town was the site of an Augustinian priory built in about 1250, part of which forms the nave of the current church; King James I of England (and VI of Scotland) had a palace here; and the Royston Golf Club claims to be possibly the oldest golf club outside of Scotland. Recent notable people with connections to Royston include trumpeter Alison Balsom, British blues guitarist Danny Bryant, and pianist Joyce Hatto. (The latter was proclaimed by The Boston Globe as “the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of”, until the fraud perpetrated by her husband was uncovered! The story was the subject of a film written by Victoria Wood called Loving Miss Hatto.)

When he visits, Dom is always keen to visit Therfield Heath, a chalk escarpment with Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and just a short walk from the town centre. Here’s Dom (on the right) with me and my wife Lyn at the Heath on Tuesday.

Dom is now retired, following the closure of the specialist library at University College London where he worked. I’m a self-employed academic proofreader; after a brief hiatus due to papers being postponed for reasons related to the coronavirus things have been unusually busy. My theory, which is mine, is that with no conferences etc. to attend, academics have finally been able to get around to writing up the research that they conducted a while ago. That’s been good news for Lyn and the kids, as they’ve been trapped at home since March but I’ve had less time to play guitar (very badly). Dom looks rather dubious about being in the photo at top, despite my best attempts to ply him with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (it’s not the same from a bottle, though). I freely admit to being the least musical member of the family, and that includes Marcus Clawrelius (pretentious, moi?) our toothless cat. The photo of Marcus was taken earlier this summer.

52 thoughts on “Photos of readers

    1. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, when he was originally taken to the rescue centre Marcus had severe gum disease and his remaining teeth had to be removed. The veterinarian who took them out noted in his medical records something along the lines of “Friendly cat, despite being in great pain”. When we adopted him the rescue centre had named him “Mark” after the guy who was looking after him, but that didn’t strike us as a very cat-like moniker, so it was adapted to reflect his stoical nature. I feel obliged to insert “pretentious, moi?” after using his full name partly in recognition of my pretentiousness, but mainly because it’s become a personal parody of the prophet and “peace be upon him”.

        1. I’ll pass your thanks on to my wife and kids as that’s who deserve them, Ken. (Though as my daughter Ana likes to point out: “There is no bond as strong as that between the grumpy dad and the pet they swear they didn’t want!”)

    1. I believe a lot of Asian cultures do this too. My Korean wife insists on it sporadically. I suppose that’s because she went to high school here in the US. Her more recently arrived relatives are more diligent in this respect and always require shoes off at the door. I have to be very careful in selecting my socks on visiting days. 😉

      1. I’ve lived in Canuckistan for 43 years and never do it in my own house. My kids do in theirs, though, and there are always trip-overable piles of shoes near the door.

      2. Asian custom certainly. When we lived in Hawaii it was done by all and in Japan for sure. Some restaurants I noticed in Korea required the shoes off. So anyway, my wife requires it in our house.

      3. We only did that when we moved into our new house. Didn’t want it contaminated. But we are not strict about it now. A friend had a box of slippers in the closet for guests.

    2. I’m not sure when I started doing that – certainly as a kid I was confused when I visited friends’ houses and their mothers insisted that I take my shoes off, but at some point since then I’ve obviously adopted the habit. I suppose it has something to do with the ’60s penchant for “wall-to-wall carpets”, though those days are long gone and our floors are carpet-free nowadays.

    3. When I was a lad we were all bought slippers, often unworn by me, but shoes were not worn indoors despite cold lino! Guests would not be expected to remove shoes. Probably people started doing that when they got carpets, so I would guess in the 1960/70s. With lino only floors slippers would have stopped you wearing out socks & stopped cold feet.

  1. Very nice pictures of your area. I was familiar with a close by region many years ago when I was in the service. I went to Cambridge to pick up my new car (1971). I guess New Market would be a similar size to Royston. Would go there to the horse races.

    1. It seems Royston and Newmarket were almost identical in size at the last UK census in 2011 – there has been a lot of house building here since then, so the 2021 population figures will be interesting. Back in the 19th century there were occasional horse races here, and I know there’s a blue plaque on one of the buildings in town concerning a celebrated horse trainer, though I can’t recall the details I’m afraid.

      1. Yes, my time in England does not quite go back to the 19th century but I remember staying at some friends place in New Market and early in the morning you could hear the horses going by in the street on morning exercise. A friend of mine who was from England explained the betting at the track. I did not have a clue.

  2. I’m so jealous of the history under the feet of Brits. Neolithic, bronze age…millennia of history. I can’t help but think this has an effect on people’s outlook and perspective.

  3. Royston sounds delightful —— lovely and historical. I was interested to read that academics in the UK are also writing up their research for publication. I am a science editor, and professors who have been quite negligent in writing up papers are suddenly producing a massive amount of work. Earlier in the year many of them could not do field work, or as you suggested, go to meetings, so they decided to catch up on their writing. I’ve been quite pleased to be relieved of the chore of nagging them. Thank you for the photos.

      1. There’s a WH Smith – not what I’d call a bookshop, but it is a shop and it does sell books. And Cambridge is a 15-minute train ride away…

  4. The photo with Dom’s dubious look is indeed different than the one that introduced me to his mug- smiling with book on head.
    Thanks for the interesting history and things-to-see in your locale. I like your cat, and his punny name. For whatever reason, I am sometimes called Marcus Aurelius by one of my friends. Must be my unflagging stoicism. 🙂

      1. No beard, can’t grow a proper one and no ‘fro. And if anything, I’m an Epicurean…not that my friend knows what that is in context to Marcus. I think it just sounds good to say. It is a nice sounding name. Another name I’m called (fake, I think) is Marcus Finniceus (sp?). Is there such a person? And I’m not even a Marcus. I guess I have strange friends.

  5. We voted for Brexit and elected Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as prime minister, so the effect on the outlook and perspective is clearly waning.

    The story of the discovery of the Royston Cave is a good one, though. In 1742, a workman discovered a buried millstone when digging foundations for a new building; on moving it he discovered that it had been covering the entrance to an excavated shaft of some kind. The locals decided to lower a small boy with a candle on a rope to find out what was down there (as you do in these situations, of course) and the rest is history. The carvings in the chalk in the Cave are unique, and who made them and for what purpose remains a mystery – one involving the Knights Templar, naturally…! Although to be fair they did have known local bases fairly nearby, so it isn’t totally a Dan Brown conspiracy theory.

      1. That’s the one! Or “piffle, paffle, whiffle, whaffle” as the Guardian‘s John Crace usually puts it in his political sketch column.

        1. Oops, didn’t turn off the italics! Crace probably uses the remark in parody of Johnson’s protestations against suggestions that he was having an affair with one of his columnists whilst editor of The Spectator: “It is an inverted pyramid of piffle”. Of course, it was an outright lie and it transpired that the columnist had had an abortion following her liaison with him.

    1. Ya. That’s just what I’m talking about. History! We have lots of holes here in the US too, but a different kind.

  6. Great to see images of both dom and jez. The u.k. is beautiful. The picture on the heath reminds me of a pleasant walk i had over watership down with a friend i visited in kingsclere many years ago when i was in england on business. Thank you, jez.

  7. Very nice pictures! I can’t wait to visit the U.K. again some day.

    The fact that so many music “critics” praised Hatto’s fake recordings seems to lay bare how little professional critics really know. After reading the Wikipedia article, it seems her fake recordings were made by many different pianists. The fact that numerous critics couldn’t tell the difference between a significant number of different pianists makes a case for most professional critics being nothing but common folk who merely fell into their roles or received them by other means, but not by means of merit or because they have much knowledge of their subject.

        1. Absolutely! And I’ve always wanted to visit a real pub out in “the country,” far from any tourist traps.

          When I finally make it back over there, I will definitely let you know 🙂

            1. Beautiful! Of all the great museums and vistas I saw in London, three memories stand out above all the others:

              (1) The Palace of Westminster

              (2) Seeing Pat Martino in the basement of a pizza place. I was chatting with some folks on the street early in the evening, and we ended up on the subject of music. They told me about the show. I got to see Pat Martino in a room of about 50 people!

              (3) This was a student trip, and we all had rooms with two beds and a roommate. My roommate was the only person who didn’t show up, so I had my own room and an extra bed. I met two gorgeous gals in a pub while I was alone and we drank together for an hour or so. When the place was closing, one remarked that they had to take a cab 1/2 hour back home. I said, “you could stay in my hotel room — I have an extra bed,” obviously expecting the answer to be a drink thrown in my face. Somehow, they took me up on my offer, though we all ended up in the same bed. Only threesome I’ve ever had 😀

  8. Oh, and your cat’s name is delightful. I almost named my new kitten Winston Purrchill, but she was given a different name when she was brought in the house for the very first time and I couldn’t let that one go.

      1. Milo, after one of my favorite childhood movies, Milo and Otis, about a kitten and puppy who go on an adventure and become best friends.

        I felt Milo rolled off the tongue better, but now I wish I went with Winston Purrchill, as that could be shortened to “Winnie” (who was also a boyhood crush on The Wonder Years). Milo can only be made into “Miley,” which I am NOT doing! Doing she’ll just be called Milo.

      1. Maarten Boudry seemed like a name I had heard before, but I couldn’t place it. You’re mentioned on his Wikipedia page 🙂

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