The Newt in Somerset, to be precise. I hadn’t seen my cousin Mary, who lives in Croydon, for several years, so her love of gardens and gardening, along with the fact that I had a garment to hand over that I had knitted for her, gave the perfect pretext for us to get together last Friday, 20th August, in one of my favourite local places.
South West Trains brought her in perfectly on time to Templecombe Station, which is about 15 minutes’ drive from The Newt (also served by GWR to Castle Cary, just five minutes’ away). We started with the obligatory coffee, bought from the Cyder Bar, and studied the plan of the grounds.
By then, we had just 30 minutes or so before our lunch reservation at the Garden Café, and Mary opted to visit The Parabola, which features hundreds of varieties of apples, and I suggested that the kitchen garden would nicely fill the rest of the time.
Not only apples are grown in The Parabola, so named for its shape.
To get to the kitchen garden, you go past the huge wildflower area,
and through a tunnel, which I’ve seen develop from not there, to there but plantless, to supporting small nameless plants,
to producing many different varieties of gourds.
It was time to make our way to The Story of Gardening. No time to wait for this deer to lift its head.
We could have just walked down the slope to the entrance, but instead went the slightly longer way round on the slightly vibrating walkway,
from which we saw these deer.
I think this selection of photographs does not too much replicate the visit I made with my friend Mary four weeks previously!
Mary was very envious of the Victorians for their greenhouses.
Four weeks ago, I assumed that these smell horns would not (because of Covid) be working. This time they certainly were.
On the long Tool Wall, I was attracted to these many balls of string, all apparently made by the same company.
It was time to move back to real plants, mainly flowers, once we had visited the cactus house.
The Cottage Garden
The Victorian Fragrance Garden
Mary pointed out toxic Monk’s Hood to me.
Part of the White Garden, near to the Red and Blue Gardens
The beginning of The Cascade
Hadspen House, now a luxury hotel
The view from the same spot 180 degrees round. The far pool retains its historic name of the Bathing Pool, though I think paddling would be all it enables, now anyway.
The Fowl House, within the Lower Egg
Back through The Parabola,
where Mary got the joke before I did.
After a visit to the farm shop, where we bought freshly ground coffee, and bottles of the pink cyder of which we had been given small samples at lunch, we made our way to the Cyder Bar, where we enjoyed glasses of The Newt’s delicious chilled fresh lemonade.
A final look round the tropical greenhouse, and it was time to take Mary to my place, from where her brother (a third first cousin – I only have five! – met within 11 days!) picked her up from her to spend the night of his and his partner’s house.
Several months ago, my cousin Geoff, who lives in the States with his American wife, Nicole, and their three children, booked flights for the pair of them and their youngest, Sophie, to visit the UK. They got nail-bitingly close to not being able to come, (their flights were refundable) but just a few days earlier, the UK government had lifted the requirement that double-vaccinated people must go into 10 days’ quarantine. We all met, including Geoff’s mum, Barbara, in Salisbury on Monday, 9th August.
In fact we met up at the Wilton Park and Ride, and took the bus into the centre of the city. It was the first time I had been on public transport for a very long time. (Thank you, Somerset County Council, for rushing my new bus pass to me!) It was pleasing to see that nearly everyone on the bus was wearing a face covering.
Not knowing Salisbury well, I was not sure where we were when we got off the bus, and in our efforts to orientate ourselves we came across a pub, the George and Dragon, with an outdoors seating area, where we took first coffee and then some lunch.
Having orientated ourselves, we then set off on a walk I had printed from somewhere on the internet some years back but never done. It started in the Market Place, at the Guildhall, which houses some services of the Salisbury City Council (strictly a parish council, the lowest rung of local government, Wiltshire Council being the unitary authority for the area). I failed to get a photo of the outside of the Guildhall.
Some rooms in the Guildhall are open for visits, in addition to being available to hire for events.
The giant basting spoon above was made for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Description of the artefacts in the Guildhall is here.
We walked on. The Haunch of Venison is said to be haunted by a resident ghost, the Grey Lady. The Poultry Cross is is the last remaining element of the market established in 1227. There were crosses for several trades and and goods.
The black and white building is the hall of a 15th century wool merchant called John Halle.
Why is there a camera in a 15th century hall? Because the building is now a cinema!
Up the pedestrianised High Street and to the North Gate to Salisbury Cathedral. Here Nicole and Sophie left us, and Nicole was able to render her phone useable in the UK.
We didn’t go into the Cathedral, but walked round the Cloister. (My visit in July 2017 is recorded here.)
The walk then took us to more rural areas, to the adjacent village of Harnham
At one point there was a ten-minute walk along a busy road, where to add insult to injury it started raining. Thank goodness we had brollies with us.
In due course we were able to turn off the main road, and arrived at the Old Mill, from which we walked across the Water Meadows on the Town Path. It was still raining.
From thence it was a short walk, brollies lowered, across the Elizabeth Gardens to Crane Street, and into the town centre again.
We three returned to the Market Place where in due course met with the two, partaking variously of tea and cake before taking the Park and Ride bus back to our cars.
Cerney House is just a couple of miles down the road from Rendcomb College, where the course was taking place. It belongs to the Angus family. I spend a happy hour or so wandering, with the aid of a loaned printed guide, around the large walled garden and it several ‘rooms’, and then out into the parkland to the side and front of the house.
Mildred is very old and recently lost her husband, Frank. She is glad of the company of three other ducks. The notice saying so didn’t say what she thought of the squirrel.
A proud peacock (butterfly) right by my parked car.
Yesterday I posted about the early music course I did a couple of weeks ago, mentioning that I had been taken to the Emergency Department of the Royal Gloucester Hospital on the Tuesday. Here is the write up I have prepared about it.
MY TGA, TRANSIENT GLOBAL AMNESIA
Transient global amnesia is not actual loss of memory, but the failure to lay down memories for a certain period. Meanwhile you can continue to function physically and intellectually at quite a high level.
It happened to me on Tuesday, 3rd August, 2021. I was at Rendcomb College, on a music-making course with the Gloucestershire Academy of Music, known as the ‘Beauchamp’ course for historical reasons. At 4:30, we were in four different groups, and a few minutes after that an appeal came to the group I was with for a tenor to move to another one. No male tenor offering, I did. Once I had found the room, I was greeted by the tutor there with a considerable degree of scepticism. Knowing full well that I could sing tenor, and well – I wouldn’t have volunteered otherwise – I was determined to prove to him that I could do so, and perhaps oversang throughout the session.
I am told that in fact you could see on the tutor’s face from the outset that I was doing fine. Unfortunately I did not register this, and, had I done so, life might have been rather different for the next 12-15 hours. I think the TGA must have started around 5:15, because when the session ‘ended’ I remember thinking how very short it had been. However that thought must have come to me at about 6:30, when I ‘came to’ (i.e. started laying down memories again) and found myself in the rehearsal room with three other people: Jill C, the only person on the course who knew me at all well – thank goodness she had been in the same session, and it’s only by chance she had hung around to ask me something – and the two administrators of the course, Jane and Anne. I recognised who Jill was, but I couldn’t place the others, politeness stopping me asking.
Apparently, when all others at the session had dispersed at 6:00, I had just sat there, not knowing where I was or why I was there. They told me they had called an ambulance, because of my bizarre behaviour. Later on, Jill told me that I had been asking, over and over again (because, I now understand, I was not laying down memories of their answers) where I was and how I had got there. Jill had asked me the names of my cats, which I was able to give, and where they were, which I was not able to say. And apparently, I also thought that I still lived in France, from where I had returned 10 years previously. (Ah, so I did have some loss of actual memories.)
They had first called 111, but poor telephone network had severed that, and they had also called the registered GP for the school, who did not want to know, so they just called the emergency ambulance, though they had no idea when it would arrive. I heard Anne or Jane say that they would ask for dinner (normally 6:30) to be put aside, and I insisted that I was fine to eat it then, by now 6:45. I needed help to find my way downstairs and through to the dining room, but I had no difficulty remembering that I needed to take the vegetarian option, and I also remember saying, ‘But I haven’t got a mask on’, to be told that that really didn’t matter in the circumstances. Though later I recall being puzzled that people were wearing masks at all. Dinner finished, we went through to sit in reception for the ambulance to turn up.
I was accompanied by two of them to my room to pack an overnight bag. I felt very confused and concerned that I wouldn’t remember to take everything, but in the event I did, even surprising myself when I unpacked it again at some of the things I had remembered. No doubt I had been helped by the two women.
When ambulanceman Phil ( from the Southwestern Ambulance Service) came, at about 8:15 I think, he asked me lots of questions and did a few tests. I can’t remember everything, but I can remember him asking whether anything like this had happened before, to which I answered no. At that stage, I did not remember the TIA I (may have) had in March 2016, but I did tell him, or possibly Shaun, who arrived around 10:30 in his ambulance, about it then. Phil saw this as evidence of my having much improved, and indeed, I think I was in fact pretty well back to normal by then. (Of course TIA and TGA are nothing like the same. I did not lose any memory, or rather fail to lay it down, at all during the TIA. But I’m sure I would have mentioned it had I remembered it when asked at the outset if anything like this had happened before.)
The reason that a second ambulance had to come is that Shaun, normally Phil’s partner, had not been able to come with Phil at the outset because he hadn’t had sufficient break. (I am impressed that two ambulances were even available, given the current circumstances.) Shaun was needed for two reasons. Apparently, it was above Phil’s grade to decide whether or not I should be taken to hospital, especially if the decision was negative, and also if I were to be taken to hospital, one ambulance person must be in with the patient.
While Phil would have been inclined not to insist that I went to hospital, Shaun said that once an episode had lasted for more than an hour, it was always their recommendation that the patient should in fact be checked out at the hospital. My own main concern was to be back in time for proceedings the next day, for fear that I would not be included in the various groups as they were planned for the Wednesday. Jill undertook to make sure that I would be!
Meanwhile, Jane and Anne were debating whether one of them should follow in a car to get me back again, but I insisted that neither should come. We had no idea when that would be, and I could get a taxi back anyway.
Shaun’s firm recommendation was that I should go, so I agreed reluctantly. By the time we left the school, at about 11:00 pm, I was feeling fine and my memory for everything outside that hour or so was complete, other than a bit of fuzziness, which remains to this day, about the order of things that I’ve just been describing.
At the hospital all things all seemed very calm in Emergency, nothing like those programmes on television, but I was told that they were having a very busy night. After a few minutes standing, I was led to an area where I was laid on a gurney, where in due course nurses started doing tests on me, and on which I was moved to another area, still in Emergency, later on, for more tests. It was to me chilly – not like hot hospitals I had experienced previously. I was told it was because it was still the Emergency area, and also because they were maintaining deliberately a good flow of air, presumably for Covid reasons. They gave me more blankets.
At no stage did I have any worries, or in fact even think, about Covid, although I was wearing an FFP2 mask of my own throughout after dinner. I had already had a lateral flow test before the ambulance set off with me, (the other ambulance had to be left to be collected by Shaun and Phil later) and another, PCR, was done in the course of the night, along with blood tests, temperature, blood pressure, and an ECG, and, once the doctor – for whom there was a waiting time of six hours, for non-emergency emergencies, (my phrase) – saw me at 7:00 am, various questions to test my mental acuity. She apologised for the “stupidity” of them. Anyway, among other things, I knew my name, my date of birth, what a pen was, what a pen nib was and where I was, (including the full name of the hospital because I had asked that as I arrived). She also asked a lot of other questions, which, as I now recognise from my reading, were designed to eliminate other things that might be going on. She wanted to contact Jill to get a full description of exactly what had happened while I was ‘absent’ but unfortunately network at the school was very poor, and Jill could not be reached. When the doctor came back from trying to do so, said she was going to take a ‘pragmatic’ view of the matter, just telling me not to drive until I really had to (which would be Saturday), and let me go back to the course, which I did, £60 the poorer for the taxi.
At 10:00 pm the night before, when the debate as to whether I should go to hospital was on, I said I just wanted to go to bed because I was feeling very sleepy. Now, I don’t know whether that would been better for me. I got only about an hour’s sleep in Emergency and still, 11 days on, feel that I have not caught up fully with that sleep. On the other hand, yes, I do know it was the right thing to go to the hospital just to have everything checked out.
I have done lots of reading on this phenomenon, which was not given a name by any of the medical people. But googling ‘temporary memory loss’ has led me to the clear conclusion that I had an attack of TGA. The symptoms are identical. Fortunately, all the literature indicates that it is pretty rare, and that it’s incredibly rare to have a second attack in a lifetime. I am just at the top end of the age group which is most susceptible to it: about 25 in 100,000 in that age group may expect to have one in a lifetime.
Why did it happen? Given all my reading, (Wikipedia and various mainly American articles) I can put it down to three possibilities, perhaps in combination:
– hyperventilation, as I forced my voice to sing tenor, something I do regularly, but not in circumstances where I’m doubted and thus perhaps forcing;
– the stress of trying to prove that I could sing tenor (if so, where are my priorities?!);
– abnormal breath pressure on the closed glottis.
I am immensely grateful to the medical services, and the three women, for all the care they took of me. It must have been pretty frightening for Jill, Jane, and Anne, more so than for me, as I was just confused, (though also a little worried, as I gradually returned to normal, that true normality might never return). Of course I thanked Phil and Sean as they said goodbye at the hospital, and at the same time I asked them what their favourite charity was. I fully expected them to name some medical charity, but Phil, looking at Shaun, said “Animals? Little fluffy animals?” at which the latter nodded. So I have made donation to the PDSA, which is both animals and medical.
I cut the first session of Wednesday, to tidy up and snatch some sleep (unsuccessfully), and was very careful in any further sessions for the remainder of the week when I sang tenor!
Or six nights, five days, anyway. I had done the ‘Beauchamp’ early music course in 2001, when it was based at a place called Beauchamp House, in Churcham in Gloucestershire. Most people camped, and a few of us, including me, living in France at the time, stayed in B’n’Bs.
The scale of things being too large for me on the whole, I had not done that course again, but this year I just felt I wanted to get together with lots of fellow amateur singers and players to make music for a few days under the aegis of some known and trusted tutors. The course had not been held at Beauchamp House for many years and had known several different homes since. It is run by the Gloucestershire Academy of Music, and this year was being held at the independent school, Rendcomb College, near Cirencester, for the first time. It was amazing that the course took place at all this year, and all precautions were taken to ensure a Covid-safe environment, including all participants having to take a negative-outcome lateral flow test within 48 hours before arrival. In the event two people were ‘pinged’ during the course of the week and went straight home.
I arrived on the Sunday with an hour or so to spare before dinner, and walked round (just) part of the grounds.
The timetable was that all 70 participants, plus the four tutors, were all together working on one piece in the evenings, the first session of the day was in instrumental specialities (I was with 30-odd singers), and pre-lunch and post-tea sessions were in changing mixed groups, with the post-lunch period being free.
During Monday’s free time, I took up the suggestion of the very able organisers and visited Cerney House Gardens, just two miles down the road. I took lots of photos of course, and these will be the subject of my next-but-one post.
On Tuesday evening, I was taken to Emergency at Gloucester Royal Hospital, in an ambulance for the first time in my life. I have written that up, and that will be the subject of my next post. (Teaser: it was a mental, not a physical problem.) Here is a photo I took in the ambulance, which will show you that by that time I was sufficiently well to be sitting up, not lying on the ambulance’s gurney, and aware enough to think of taking a photo with my phone. This is Shaun. He has just done a lateral flow test on me. Phil was driving.
I missed breakfast on Wednesday morning. It was not to be served until 8.00 at the hospital (very civilised compared with what I have experienced in the past), and I was in a taxi back to the course at that time. Having had very little sleep overnight in Emergency at the hospital, and being very scruffy indeed, I did not feel up to creeping in for a late breakfast at Rendcomb. I skipped the first music session, and was found a banana, a chocolate bar and some cake to fortify me at 11.15, at the end of the coffee break. From then on I took full part in all the sessions, bar that of Wednesday evening which I decided to devote to R and R. In the afternoon’s free session, Jill D invited me to join a really excellent group of three recorder players and continuo instruments to sing the mezzo part in a lovely piece by Bach. The players sounded gorgeous. I think I acquitted myself reasonably well, but there were some complicated harmonic changes, and I was only working from a part, not a score, so would have done better with a little work on it beforehand. I really enjoyed the brief interlude though.
I remembered to get my camera out of my bag a few more times, but mostly forgot.
On Thursday afternoon I got a group of four viols and two voices together to do six-part music. Sadly it did not work quite as well as the previous afternoon’s free music-making, not least because I was not on particularly good singing form.
My last photo shows us nearly ready for the final session, on Friday evening. Most of the 70 plus participants can be seen in the picture, but sadly the huge variety of modern copies of renaissance instruments cannot. Hats and coats are because (Covid-safe) ventilation through the huge doors in the four corners of the room meant that it was blowing a chilly gale for most of us – August! – except for those in the large bay of the window.
One way and another I was shattered by Saturday. My aim to make good music with lots of other amateur musicians had been fulfilled – but there were elements I could have done without!
[Works I was involved in were by: Aliseda, Anon, Byrd, Croce, A Gabrieli, Guerrero, Hildegard, Isaac, Padovano, Palestrina, Praetorius, and Victoria (lots). The other tutors were Sue Addison and Julia Bishop.]
I am somewhat behind with my blog posts, so here is just a brief account of, in effect, Part 3 of the trilogy on this hospital, which I visited – now converted into luxury dwellings – on Christmas Day last year, and whose cemetery I visited a few weeks ago. This third part concerns the Wells Museum exhibition, now over, but due to open at the Wells Bishop’s Palace shortly, about the inmates/patients/residents, whom I shall henceforth refer to as residents.
Most of the exhibits were principally typed text, not ideal for a blog intended mainly for photographs, nor indeed for the visitor. I do hope the Friends of the Mendip Hospital Cemetery , whose work goes so much further than just the cemetery, will find the means of putting it all online. It is all on members’ computers, and just needs someone with the know-how to be found (and probably paid for) to convert it into a web site. The material is fascinating.
Doctor Robert Boyd was the first Resident Physician and Superintendent of what opened as the Somerset and Bath Pauper Lunatic Asylum, became the Wells Mental Hospital, and ended up being called the Mendip Hospital.
When I read this I was reminded how Covid-19 had prevented me, since February 2020, from making my monthly visits to a local nursing home to sing bygone popular songs to the residents.
Once photography came in, an image was taken of very resident on arrival.
There were many, many accounts of individuals. It would be good to be able to sit down and read more of them at leisure, each one a story to be told.
The following photos are of various members of staff and their families.
I did read the whole of this large panel, a very sad tale of Mary Ann Norman, 1833-1913, a homeless woman living on the streets, on prostitution, and on drink, in and out of of both Shepton Mallet Prison and the Asylum. No-one wanted to know her then, but we can give her attention now.
A talk given by Dr Morag Hervey in 2000 on the history of the hospital is here.
It is so good that the Friends of the Cemetery are not just maintaining the grounds but reviving the stories of the residents of the hospital itself.