Yes folks, once again we have been packing and unpacking – hopefully for the last time. While we were quite happy with our little home at the northern end of Oakham Town, the rent was quite high and in October last year it was increased. We could still afford it, just, but we were on a rolling month by month contract and I have always fretted about our security of tenure – the landlord could chuck us out at any time, by giving two months’ notice.
The other problem was that the only WC in the house was upstairs, and due to my bladder and bowel problems, I was having to go up and downstairs all day long, which was playing havoc with my COPD. Every time I struggled upstairs; I would get severely out of breath and have to lie down for a few minutes.
It was not at all satisfactory on several fronts, so I put my name down on Rutland’s housing waiting list back in 2019, and submitted a doctor’s note stating that I needed a place with a downstairs loo on medical grounds.
Like all local councils, Rutland have a points system for allocating houses, based on number of years of residence, age, disabilities and other medical conditions etc. But knowing how people can be on housing waiting lists for years and years with no positive outcome, no one was more surprised than me when suddenly, last December, they called and offered us a two-bed bungalow in Langham – a nearby village to Oakham.
It transpired that all the social housing in Rutland is actually owned by a housing association, who informed me the same day that I had only a few days to make up my mind or they would offer it to someone else. The situation was so rushed that we only had the opportunity to see inside the house for a few minutes before having to sign up.
To cut a long story short, we moved on 1st February, and I believe we are going to be very happy here. The bungalow is semi-detached, and in front there is a large open lawn (the grass is cut for us), and at the back is a small enclosed garden, mainly covered with concrete slabs, but we can take them up if we wish to extend the flower beds, or lay some lawn.
Newer than most of the housing in the village – certainly no older than the 1960’s as it has no chimney stack – the interior of the property has been well maintained and was ‘done up’ prior to us moving in. It has a decent a sized living room and master bedroom, an adequate kitchen with the bonus of a large utility room at the rear of the kitchen where we have put our fridges, chest freezer and tumble dryer. So, although quite a small bungalow, we have managed to fit all our stuff in quite comfortably. We had to lay carpet on all the floors and also buy a gas cooker as there was nothing at all in the place. Now it’s all finished we are very happy.
The rent is much lower, and we get a “starter lease” for one year, and if all is well, we then then go onto a long-term lease which effectively means we can stay for ever. There was no deposit, and we received the entire deposit back from our old place, so although one way or another we had to shell out quite a bit of cash, we managed the move without going completely broke!
The village is only 5 minutes’ drive from Oakham town, so luckily Song didn’t have to change schools. It’s half an hour’s walk or a ten-minute bike ride to her school, and so far, she has adopted both means – depending on how early she gets up… We have even kept our existing home phone number.
Langham means “Long Village” and has its origins in the midst of time. There is evidence of iron age, bronze age and Roman settlements within the parish, and the Domesday Book records Oakham as having five hamlets of which Langham was one.
Langham’s most noteworthy son is Simon de Langham who was born here in 1310. He became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1366 having been both Prior and Abbot of Westminster Abbey and also Chancellor of England. He was also created a Cardinal by Pope Gregory XI. His tomb is the earliest ecclesiastical monument in Westminster Abbey.
During the middle ages the village was within the remit of England’s Kings who, through the centuries, gave the village to various influential families. Most notably in the 16th Century, Henry VIII granted Langham to Thomas Cromwell. Langham remained in Cromwell’s hands until 1600 when it was sold to Sir Andrew Noel, and parts of Langham, including Langham Manor, remained in family Noel’s ownership until 1925.
Our home is literally only five minutes’ walk from the Manor Farm and its Manor, but frustratingly, the hall is hidden from sight by surrounding buildings and trees, and it seems to have been rarely sighted, as the only photograph I have been able to dig out is a black and white photo taken in 1954. One of these days I’ll creep down the private track that leads to the Manor and take a quick snap with my trusty Samsung.
Another large estate in the middle of the village is The Old Hall, on Church Street, opposite the church. The core of this building dates from 1664, and even the stone boundary wall is a listed grade 2 ‘building’. As with the Manor, The Old Hall is quite difficult to photograph, although there is one corner of the surrounding stone wall where I can get a partial view of the building. Maybe one day I will get Lek to give me a leg up and I’ll take a quick snap. Meanwhile, here is something I found on the web.
Langham really is an idyllic, ancient, peaceful village with some exquisite antique buildings – many of which date back centuries. In fact, there are no less than 35 grade 2 listed buildings in Langham, plus the beautiful grade I listed Church of St Peter and St Paul which dates back to the 13th Century and is still fully functional.
As you can see, (above and below), I have managed to take a few pics around the village during my twice daily walks with Olly the dog, and as the weather warms, I will no doubt be taking many more.
The village has no shops – hardly surprising given its proximity to Oakham – but according to Google maps it does boast a post office, just down the road from the village hall. On my second day here, I took a wander down the road to the hall to locate the post office but look as I might, I couldn’t find any trace of it. Back at home I studied Google maps again and on the following day I returned to environs of the village hall and did an even more detailed search – but no post office and I could only assume that it had closed for good during the pandemic. A week later, fortuitously on a Tuesday, I was passing the village hall with Olly, when I noticed some activity inside the hall.
“What’s going on here?” methinks, “we’re still in lockdown so what are they doing?”
Then to my astonishment I looked on the side of the building and saw the red sign for a post office.
“That sign wasn’t there yesterday – or am I going crazy?”
I stopped and read the notices on the hall notice board – and there was my answer. The post office was open every Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. I breathed a sigh of relief; I wasn’t going crazy. The following day I strolled passed the hall and the post office sign had disappeared; all that remained was a red bracket, where presumably the sign was inserted every Tuesday morning.
Almost the only people I encounter on my morning walks are fellow villagers also walking their dogs. Ditto in the afternoons. The stark difference between Langham and Oakham is that in Oakham, maybe 50% of the people you encounter when out walking will say “good morning” or “hello” with a friendly smile; whereas in Langham, just about everyone I meet, greets me. So, while Oakham is friendly Langham is even more so.
Such are the joys of village life.
A very ancient Stump
The stump (below) predates the Church and is pre 11th Century. 1.3 meters high, it is part of a much larger churchyard cross which was broken by Cromwell’s forces in the 17th century. Looking a little folorn, it is nevertheless a Grade II listed structure.
Corona is still amongst us
The world continues to be rocked by the Covid Pandemic and thank God we, in the UK, can see some light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccination process is rolling out exponentially across the age bands, and very thankfully I received my first jab at the end of January, and am booked for the second on 16th April.
This has been a major milestone for me as I am classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and have been shielding for over a year. What with Lek working, going shopping and so on and Song attending school for much of the lockdowns, it has been quite a risky and worrying time for me, as I am pretty sure with all my chronic medical conditions that if I were to become infected, there was a pretty good chance I wouldn’t make it through. But we rode our luck, and here we are, with infections rapidly decreasing across the country, and on Monday England comes out of lockdown, with a limited social interaction between families and friends outdoors being permitted.
Lek is in the 40 – 50 age band and was expecting to have her first jab sometime in April, but it now seems to have been put back to May due to a shortfall of 5 million vaccines that were expected from India, and threats of vaccine export embargoes from the EU.
I know, you couldn’t make this stuff up.
I’m afraid all this will almost certainly put the kybosh on Lek’s plans to take a 4-week break in Thailand, from early July. She should have her first jab by then, but it is highly unlikely she will get her second jab before the back end of July or even August. It looks like nobody can travel out of England without having both jabs – and right now there’s a total ban on travelling abroad with penalty of a £5,000 fine for anyone who breaks it. Thailand’s rules require a hotel quarantine of at least 7 days and this will remain in force until October.
As for Song – who won’t be vaccinated at all as she is only 13 – I have severe doubts whether she will be allowed to travel, or enter Thailand.
I brought Lek up to date on the current situation a few days ago, and it was a massive disappointment for her, as she hasn’t seen any of her family for two years. She had planned out the whole holiday and made firm arrangements with her family and friends etc. and now it all has to be put on hold.
However, she took the setback with surprisingly good grace, and I have told her that if there is any chance of going later in the year, then she should go. The only problem with that is that she will have to take unpaid time off work and Song can’t go with her as she’s not allowed time off school. We’ll see how things go.
Over the last few months, Lek has been mainly on furlough (receiving 80% of her wages), and Song has been at school throughout the lockdown. Apart from a brief period of work before Christmas, Lek started full-time work two weeks ago, and both her and Song are now doing Covid lateral flow covid tests twice a week. It may be that some kind of negative test results might allow them to travel at some point in the future but right now nobody can leave the country.
It’s Been Snowing in Blighty
Lek and Song just love the snow, and late last December the skies opened with large volumes of the white stuff which settled long enough for the kiddies to have some fun. And then, as if that wasn’t enough for one winter, we had another snow storm the day after we moved to Langham, which allowed the kids to do their thing again in icy, below zero temperatures.
As for me, I had the distressing task of walking Olly the dog along snow-covered paths and roads for his daily walks. The February snow lasted for a week, and the paths became increasingly treacherous as the snow was compressed into slippery ice. I don’t know how I managed to make it through without slipping over. Just as well, because if I did, I doubt I would have been able to get up again, and Olly would have had to drag me home like a human sled! Here are some pics of both periods of snow.
What else has been happening?
Well, as far as non-covid events are concerned in the wide world beyond Rutland, I guess the shenanigans during Trump’s last days in office will top the poll of the most debated events, with the Megan/Harry saga, running a close second.
I have little to say in the way of comments on the horrific Trump manifestation, only to offer my opinion that as long as long as his health holds, and he is not jailed as a result of his many criminal activities, then I would bet money on Trump running again in 2024. The man is clearly a vainglorious, narcissistic sociopath who has brain-washed half of the population in believing he is their saviour; so, I wouldn’t rule out him running again – and even winning again.
What is so sad, is not the fact that Trump exists – as there are countless of his type who exist throughout the world – but that he is able to dupe so many ordinary citizens, in the same way that Hitler brain-washed almost the entire German population.
Maybe comparing Trump to Hitler is a bit extreme, but in many ways, they are so similar: rousing, nationalistic, off-the-cuff speeches to the multitudes, a pathological belief in their self-importance, incitement to violence against minorities, and so on.
It does seem to be the case that the Americans are very vulnerable to so-called ‘messiahs’ – look at the numbers that are taken in by evangelist preachers, who themselves frequently end up in the courts for defrauding their devoted flocks.
For the sake of the entire globe, let’s hope that America wakes up and finds a way of keeping him permanently out of any kind of public office.
As for Harry and Meghan – well writing as a republican who believes the monarchy should either be abolished completely or be drastically reduced in size and privilege, I don’t have any sympathy for either side in this protracted Royal “It’s a Knock Out.” The way everyone writes about Harry and Megan being badly treated and having their funds cut off and forced to run away and hide in California, you would think that poor, hard done by Harry was a modern-day Oliver Twist.
In some ways he is;
“Please Sir, can you pay for my security?”
“Please Sir can I keep all my Royal patronages so that I can use them to make money?”
“Please Sir, can my son be a Prince? I don’t want him to be part of the hoi paloi.”
Of course, no aspects of racism should be tolerated, but until the agrieved couple come out and say who said what and in what context, it is a little difficult to feel too much sympathy.
I must say I am deeply suspicious of Megan’s motives in all this. It’s almost as if it was part of her life plan to marry a prince before she ever met Harry. All she needed was a young, distinguished prince of royal blood, whose intellect wasn’t exactly out of the top drawer, and was ripe to be emotionally seduced by a calculating Hollywood actress. She reeled in her catch of the century with all the aplomb of a scheming wicked witch of the north.
Apart from her motives, we now find that several of the things that her and Harry stated in the interview are simply not true. They didn’t get married 3 days before the official wedding and all that nonsense about Archie not being made a prince because of his colour is all hogwash. The Archbishop himself has confirmed that there was no wedding before the one the world saw, and Archie wasn’t made a prince because he isn’t entitled to it until the Queen passes on.
As for her assertions that she knew nothing about the Royal family before she met Harry and teh ‘firm’ seizing her passport don’t merit comment. There’s more but I can’t be bothered going into it any more. It does make me think that if this privileged couple are economical (mispoke?) with the truth in some instances, then whose to say what is true, and what isn’t?
The antics of a bunch of highly privileged royal millionaires airing their dirty laundry in public leaves me cold; They are no different to the Kardashians – whose daily utterances I have never read, nor do I ever intend to. This social media phenomenon seems to have taken over the world.
As a person who grew up with snail mail – not even a telephone, as they were just for the wealthy middle and upper classes, and even if you ordered one, it would take 6 months or longer to arrive. Does anyone remember party lines? – where you would share your phone line with somebody down the street, because exclusive lines were so hard to come by?
Then – when I was overseas in the middle of the jungle or desert, mail would be delivered once per week by specially charted air courier. Day to day communication was either via telex, or more commonly, via single side band radio.
Oh, how times have changed in such a short space of time, and are continuing to change at such a rapid rate. It’s sometimes hard for us septuagenarians to keep up. Will this obsession with social media ever run its course? Probably, but not in my lifetime.
The role of books in an ever-changing world
Ordinary books – you know, those things you hold in your hands containing pages of printed text that most of us used to read. I wonder how many have since deserted them in favour of the latest Netflix blockbusters. It’s much less effort, isn’t it? But I’ll wager the benefits of watching movies and TV series are so much less than reading a really good book.
From an early age I was a very keen reader, and my ‘back of envelope’ calculation suggests that I have read around two thousand books during my lifetime. I wonder how many people can say the same in this day and age? There used to be a time when I was a bit short of the ready that I would buy a book based on its size, and I would always go for books with the greatest number of pages, as I consumed them so avidly that a ‘thin book’ would barely last me a day.
Books were probably the saviour of me during various times of my life when I was completely alone – either physically or spiritually, and even now there is not a day goes past when I don’t manage to fit in a decent spell of reading somewhere along the line, usually late at night.
I have mentioned above about the incredible advance of technology during my lifetime, and although some aspects of it are to be regretted, there is one invention that has certainly transformed my life. We tend to worry about technology giants such as Amazon who have cornered the online sales markets, but forget that it was through the genius of Amazon that we were introduced to the world of electronic books – or Kindle – as the world now knows it.
I have always been an inveterate traveller, and taking my books along with me has always presented some major logistic problems; not least because they weigh a ton and even a modest collection of books can cost an arm and a leg to transport around the world. This means that while I always had a small collection of ‘must-have’ books with me, most of them were discarded or given away during my sojourns to far flung places.
During my recent fifteen odd years in Thailand, I built up quite a collection of hard back and paperback books, some of which I had shipped out from England back in 2002. I can’t recall exactly when it was, but a good few years ago I discovered the convenience of Kindle books, and my collection of physical books thereafter remained static. What a wonderful invention Kindle was to someone like me. Not only could I carry my entire library around with me in a smartphone, but I had access to the whole world of books, most of which would have been impossible to buy in my place of residence. There’s not too many readers of War and Peace or Jane Austin in Pattaya.
A special bonus of getting books for Kindle is that any book past a certain age is out of copywrite and thus is free to download from Amazon’s enormous library; so I am able to read the classics without paying a single penny.
When I finally relocated back to England in 2017, I gave away my entire physical collection of books in Thaialnd and ‘nere a tear was passed. I have my trusty Kindle, and even if I lose my phone, my collection is still safe out there in the ether and can be accessed by downloading my Kindle account onto a new device.
Here in Langham, there are only two physical books in my home. A book on walks through Rutland, and one of my self-penned novels, which was published by Amazon as a paper-back.
I decided to make a list of my Kindle books the other day, as some of them are still unread, and was surprised to find that I have accumulated some 225 books over the past few years or so. A majority of my reading matter are classics of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, but there also a few modern books – some quite contemporary.
Click below to download the list
The contemporary books in the list are a bit of a mixed bunch, and some are a bit trashy but others really stand out as excellent novels.
You will see that I am a massive fan of Haruki Murakami and I absolutely love everything he has written. I only discovered him quite recently, so just about everything he has written is in my Kindle collection. Some of my other favourite authors, such as le Carré, Tolstoy, Bryson and Hardy have been favourites for many years, so only the ones that I hadn’t previously read are in the Kindle list. The same goes for other classics which I read long before Kindle came along.
You would think that by reading mainly novels, the amount of ‘mind-broadening’ would be minimal – as opposed to reading non-fiction. I actually don’t think this is the case, as I think I can say I am pretty ‘well read’ and my wide-ranging general knowledge extends back through the ages – much of it acquired by reading, although I admit most of it is fairly superficial.
For example, I would never know what Russia was like pre revolution if I hadn’t read Tolstoy and the other great Russian writers of that period. Similarly, I learnt about the revolution and communist Russia by reading the likes of Pasternak, and the post communist era by reading Pomerantsev amongst others. Then Harukumi provides me with great insight into the Japanese mind and culture, and all those great 18th and 19th English classics paint a wonderful picture of life as it was 100- 200 years ago. Le Carre teaches us about the Cold War; and so it goes on and on…
I am also a massive consumer of rolling news, which wouldn’t have been possible without the advent of smart phones. And I always read the news, and never watch the smart phone news videos – as the reading content is always much more detailed than the vids, and is far more likely to stay in my ageing brain.
I seem to have gone on a bit in this blog, so I will call it a day.
As it seems to be around three months since my last blog, I will try to commit to writing a blog at least once every three months, and keep you all updated on what’s been happening in the wide world of Mobi.
meanwhile here are some more pics that have been taken in the past 3 months.
Here’s to next time….