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Remembrance Sunday 2017

November 10, 2017

In 2011 we changed the time of our Sunday morning service at Nelmes, because we wanted to allow the same minister or preacher to be able to take services the same morning at Upminster and Nelmes. This meant that the Nelmes service was now at 11.15. This was a problem on Remembrance Sunday with respect to the Two Minutes Silence which had previously fitted into the order of a 10.30 am service. So in 2011, the Scout Group held a short ceremony in the car park, including the Two Minutes Silence at the right time before we went into church. I wrote what follows for that ceremony but it was never used in full, but I think it’s worth posting in full here. It is deliberately simple and assumes no historical knowledge.   I have changed only the numbers of years in the first and tenth paragraph to bring it up to date to 2017.

Since 2012, Nelmes United Reformed Church holds its Remembrance Day service at 10.45.

103 years ago in the summer of 1914 there was a great quarrel in Europe, started by the murder of an Austrian prince in Bosnia. Countries declared war on each other.

The German army had a plan to beat France quickly by going through Belgium.

Britain was an ally of France and had promised to defend Belgium if it was attacked, so also declared war on Germany.

The German plan didn’t work and the French army dug in helped by a British army in the north. So the Western Front was born – a system of trenches, where soldiers lived and watched. It went for 500 miles from the Channel coast to Switzerland through Belgium and France, and a little bit in the south in Germany.

The Allied soldiers on the Western Front were French, British, and Belgian. Later they were joined by Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders; by South Africans, Indians and Portuguese; and eventually by Americans.

The Front was two continuous lines of trenches – Allied and German. Behind them were big guns. Between the front lines was no-mans-land. If you went into no-mans-land you would probably be shot. No-mans-land was torn up by the shooting and had big holes in it made the shells from the big guns. In disturbed land, as in corn-fields in the spring, the tiny seeds of poppies sprouted and little red flowers appeared in no-mans-land.

Generals on both sides organised attacks, always hoping for a great victory, but for four years this never happened. The attacks might gain a little ground, but afterwards there were new front lines not far away from the old ones. Many, many soldiers died in these attacks, but very little changed.

The country of Britain changed so that every effort could be put into winning the war. The Army was bigger than ever before and everyone knew people in the army. As time went on, everyone knew people who had died or been wounded in the fighting. Men and women who couldn’t fight took jobs to support the war effort and the soldiers. The Western Front was very close to here; it started only a hundred miles from London – closer to London than Birmingham or Manchester are.

Both for those who fought and for those who didn’t it was a very emotional time. Out of the war came many important books and poems.

When the war was over, it was known as the Great War, but we now call it the First World War. People felt that we must remember those who had fought, especially those who hadn’t come back; we must look after those who had come back wounded in body or mind; and that such a war should not happen again.

So war memorials were built in many places; each town or village had one, as did most churches, and many schools and work-places. You’ll find memorials in the back of this church to those from the church who served in both World Wars. Former soldiers who were wounded and couldn’t go back to their old jobs worked in factories to make cloth poppies which were sold to raise money for those permanently damaged by the war. The poppies recall the flowers that grew in no-mans-land and the blood that was spilt there. And, at 11 in the morning on the 11th of November, at the time when firing ceased on the Western Front in 1918, two minutes Silence were observed every year at ceremonies all over the Kingdom. Work stopped, traffic and trains stopped and the whole country remembered those who had been lost.

We still do this, though not as rigorously as nearly a hundred years ago, and we also, as we do today, remember on Remembrance Sunday, the nearest Sunday to the 11th of November. Nowadays, we remember also those who suffered in wars and conflicts since, including conflicts that are still going on.

If you go to Emerson Park School, you may be able to go on one of the study tours of the Western Front they run for their pupils. If you go to Royal Liberty School, you should know that part of it was an army training camp in the Great War, where the War Poet Edward Thomas worked for while. Like the most famous War Poet Wilfred Owen, Edward Thomas died as a soldier on the Western Front.

Just before the two minutes silence, I will read a verse from the another War Poet, Laurence Binyon. He was older, and he wasn’t a soldier, but he worked in France taking care of wounded soldiers. After I say it, I’ll ask you all to repeat the last line with me. At the end of the two minutes silence, I will say those words again.

(Group Alert

 Lower Flag)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

All: We will remember them.

Two Minutes Silence

We will remember them.

Raise flag

Let us pray


Dear Lord,

We thank you that we live in more peaceful times than the times of World War.

We give thanks for the selflessness and devotion to duty of those who have served in war.

We remember those who died, those who returned wounded in body or mind and those who loved them. We ask that you continue to comfort the survivors and their loved ones.




112000 miles – BACKBLOG from 2014

May 7, 2017

14th November 2014 7.30 pm; M25 between Junction 29 and Dartford Crossing

My most expensive purchase ever was a new Renault Megane in May 1999. (House prices were a lot lower when we bought our house!) It replaced a 10 year old Renault 19 which had been my wife’s company car for 4 years when we bought it. It’s now the oldest car we’ve ever owned. Apart from my wife’s very first car, which we sold at 13 and half years old, all its predecessors had been sold or scrapped between 9 and 12 years old. Compared to the cars we had made in 1950s, 60s and 70s, it’s very durable and economical. THEY used much more petrol and burnt oil; they needed replacement water pumps and clutches every 30,000 miles; they rusted more and several had manufacturing or design faults. The Renault 4 my wife bought in 1976 was a revelation; it still rusted, and its roof had to be repainted, paid for by Renault, but its parts lasted much better. It was very unconventional, but that wasn’t a problem. Two examples: the headlights could be changed from RHD to LHD very easily without extra parts and I replaced the entire exhaust system without going under the car. The back wheels had a wider track than the front wheels and the two back wheels weren’t exactly opposite each other; but it worked.
Back to the Megane: Every summer for the last 15 years we’ve driven it from Harold Wood to Brno in the Czech Republic, where our granddaughter lives. The outward journey involves a couple of nights stop in Metz, eastern France, where my sister lives. That is less than a days drive from Harold Wood. Metz to Brno is just under 1000km and can also be driven in a day, with 2 drivers taking turns. One arrives in Brno in the mid-evening. It’s easier to do it on a Sunday, when long-distance lorry traffic is banned from the German autobahns. Lots of foreign lorries are parked up in service stations for Sunday. Sometimes we make extra stops and try to see more towns when we do so. We’ve stopped as Ansbach, Ulm and Amberg in Germany. Stops in France have included St. Avold, Rheims, St Quentin, Cambrai, Laon and Bethune. I reckon the car has done about 30% of its mileage on the right hand side of the road. We’ve got pretty used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
I also got pretty good at finding my way around Brno and Metz. For a couple of years in Metz this was a particular challenge. Added to the usual problems of two motorways, railways and multiple branches of the Moselle, they were building a BRT system, where very long tram-like busses run on reserved tracks. One evening we found that we had to make a very long detour round several suburbs where the main roads were closed for construction work.
In 2009-10 Alastair Darling introduced the scrappage scheme to encourage purchase of new cars. My Megane would have qualified but it had plenty of life left in it, so I really didn’t want to lose it. Also having to put down more than £10k of my own money to benefit from a £2k grant didn’t seem to make much sense.
Conventional wisdom is that you keep a new car for three years. It doesn’t go wrong and you benefit from other sweeteners that were given to a new car owner. I think there is another way. You keep it for much longer; you will have to pay for some repairs but the depreciation is less that £1k per year – down to the same level as annual tax + insurance.

Printed (distributed) by Automattic Inc. 132 Hawthorne St. San Francisco, CA 94107. Published and promoted by G.R.Potter on behalf of I.V.Sanderson (Liberal Democrats),both at 11 Cedric Avenue,ROMFORD, RM1 4JL.

Henning Mankell’s ‘Firewall’

May 7, 2017

Henning Mankell’s ‘Firewall’

From time to time I re-read detective novels that I enjoyed in the past. This is quite distinct from a second read just after the first. In the first read, we are carried along by the momentum of the story and miss subtleties in the way the story is told. A second read allows many of the details and the craftsmanship of the author to be appreciated.

Ystad Railway Station building

Only a small part of building is now used by the Railways. Much of the rest is now a bed and breakfast. It was one of three buildings used on TV to represent the Police Station.

‘Firewall’ was the last of 8 original Kurt Wallandar novels, based in Ystad, written by Mankell in the 1990s. There were films of them made in Swedish starring Rolf Lassgård, starting in the mid-1990s. These films were mostly shot around Stockholm. A later development was the Swedish TV films starring Krister Henriksson and the English language ones starring Kenneth Branagh. The shooting of all these were based in Ystad Studios and used Ystad locations extensively. The Henriksson ones go far beyond the original books, though Mankell was involved and suggested original story lines. Mankell did write several more books which either extended Wallandar’s story or included characters from it. He died in 2015.

‘Firewall’ was written about 20 years ago, and is revealed to be about a global computer cracking conspiracy, and by implication, how much we depend upon computers for our daily lives. The remarkable thing is how little it shows its age. The references to backing up or moving data using diskettes is archaic; nowadays this would be done copying data to thumb drive or an external hard disk drive or sending it to a server, either on a local network or by the internet – using The Cloud. The other slightly false note it strikes is descriptions of blocks of characters scrolling rapidly up the screen, which is a visual convention in films and TV programmes about computer cracking. I doubt if it happens much nowadays, or even did all that much in the past. Mankell, after all, was a man of the theatre.

This time I also followed much of the geography of the story, using Google Maps to follow up street names. I spent a day in Ystad in August 2015, helped by location maps provided by the tourist office; so much of the layout of the town was familiar to me. The maps show not only the locations mentioned in the books, but also other locations using in filming the stories. For instance three different buildings were used to represent the police station – none of them the actual police station! So even when a location in the book was not findable in Google Maps, I still had a rough idea of where it was.

The ideas in the book remain up to date. We are very aware that we have a globally interdependent finance and banking system, and this was brought home to us in 2008. The idea of cyber warfare and interference with other countries electoral systems emerged again in 2016, and was in the news on Friday in France. The driving idea of the villains that international finance and politics were so corrupt that the whole system had to be rebooted is almost exactly what Al Qaeda would say.

Televised interviews with Mankell shows him speaking very thoughtfully in perfect English, with perhaps the mildest hint of what might be a Dublin accent. I can almost hear him, when some new cyber outrage occurs, saying ‘I told you so.’

Printed (distributed) by Automattic Inc. 132 Hawthorne St. San Francisco, CA 94107. Published and promoted by G.R.Potter on behalf of I.V.Sanderson (Liberal Democrats),both at 11 Cedric Avenue,ROMFORD, RM1 4JL.

Panda to the barricade!

August 29, 2016

From 20th August 2016                                                        PandaBarricade

Several times at the end of carriages on the Paris Metro I saw this poster for the French section of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. At first, I thought it slightly strange, but vaguely familiar. The penny (or centime, or eurocent) gradually dropped, followed up by a quick computer search. Its composition (cropped from landscaped to portrait) mimicked the Delacroix painting

‘La Liberté guidant le peuple’

(You can see it at

The panda, icon of WWF, replaces Marianne, the symbolic figure of Liberty and Revolution in France and the flag now says  WWF rather than being the tricolour of revolution. The two foreground figures on the panda’s right are similar format to the original, with one of them wearing a tall hat. The adoring person in the middle at the front has being replaced by an adoring spaniel.
The corpses in front of the barricade have been cropped off and the poster has less in the way of weaponry.
But the essential feature is a masterpiece of the advertising trade by harking back to an image familiar to all educated French people. The French wording is simple and straightforward; even a foreigner can read it easily. In fact the man at the left of the picture has an English slogan on his t-shirt ‘Keep Calm and Save the Earth’. (I can’t help feeling that General de Gaulle wouldn’t have liked it being in English.)
Figureheads of the WWF have included Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, our Prince Philip and now Prince Charles. I wonder how they would feel about a poster lauding on the 1830 revolution which finally overthrew the legitimate monarchy in France. I hope they would be happy about it if it brings money and support.

My other picture, taken in La Defense, is probably the biggest picture of a panda in Paris; it advertises Beauval animal park in the Loire valley.


Step-free access?

August 27, 2016

From 21 August 2016

On the Sunday afternoon we left our hotel in Levallois and used the Metro to get to Paris Gare du Nord and hence by Eurostar to London and Harold Wood.

The first bit was easy; a 10 minute walk trundling our cases included a couple of pedestrianised streets, including one where the Sunday market was almost cleared up. Paris Metro stations are not the easiest places for people with luggage – I’ll write another posting about that later. I reckon we had to manoeuvre our bags through one ticket gate and down about 30 steps (in several flights) to reach the platform.

Once on the metro train, things really started looking up. We changed at Reamur-Sebastipol and had done a recce. We knew that the change there involved 24 steps up, followed immediately by 6 steps down, thereafter to home there were only 3 fixed steps (in Liverpool St underground station) until we reached our doorstep in Harold Wood.  In Gare du Nord metro we used two escalators followed by a lift to the Eurostar reception. Boarding the train involved a travolator down to the platform. Several steps into the train were a bit challenging, but getting down in St Pancras was less so – different platform height. Inside the Eurostar section at St Pancras were ramped travolators again. Once in the open areas of the station, the Metropolitan-Circle line platforms were reached by a combination of two lifts. The Met-Circle trains now have floors level with the platform. At Liverpool St. there were the unavoidable 3 steps, but we used the lift from the Underground concourse to the Main Line ticket office, leaving only lifting the bags on and off the Greater Anglian train.

There had, of course, been gates (2) at Gare du Nord, at Kings Cross-St.Pancras, Liverpool St (2) and Harold Wood, but I know how to deal with them.

And thanks are due to the young man at Harold Wood station, who seeing me unload my bag from the train, offered me help. I hope that I declined gracefully, as I was then within easy trundling distance of home!


New footbridge at Harold Wood Station

March 10, 2016

From February 16th

Some months ago I attended an exhibition at St. Peter’s to tell us about what would happen in the run up to Crossrail. I was glad to be re-assured that all four lines could still be used by both the TfL (Crossrail) and Greater Anglian trains to keep the services going during maintenance or other problems. My wife was less happy when I told that construction traffic from the A12 traffic lights to the station would use our road on the way to the station; this, so far, doesn’t seem to have made any impact in our road.

It was a couple of months ago that the foundations for the footbridge were put in. This involved closing the fast lines for a weekend while a temporary bridge went, at platform level, between platforms 2 and 1. Then there was no great activity in the station, apparently, for some time. Of course, there was work going on up and down the track, and we have become used extra construction equipment appearing in Station Road at evenings and weekend and to varying sorts of weekend closures. Also there are TWO works compounds occupying perhaps two thirds of the station car-park.

It was a slight shock, therefore to come back from a weekend away and find that most of the new footbridge, obviously pre-fabricated was in place. It is on a grander scale than the original. It is still a long way from finished, as the lifts and the walkway joining it to the booking office block need to be installed. The works compound near the station building is now much emptier!

Joining to the booking office block will involve demolition of the existing footbridge, which has apparently an asbestos roof.

Harold Wood people await further developments with interest.

Lagan River Path

March 10, 2016

From: February 14th.LaganPath14Feb16

Belfast is, in Irish, the fort on the river Farset , and if you had been there 300 years ago you would have seen ships docked in the Farset, just like in the Fleet in London or the Ouseburn in Newcastle; but now like small rivers in many cities it is largely underground (under High St, in fact). Belfast is now definitely on the River Lagan. In recent years, the weir that marks the divide between the tidal and non-tidal Lagan has been moved downstream from the Gasworks to where the Liverpool and Heysham ferries used to dock near the city centre. The next weir up is at Stranmillis, and marked the start of the Lagan Navigation, which used the river and bypassed the weirs with locks with canal sections. About 10 miles upstream, in Lisburn, the canal left the river and headed towards Lough Neagh, from there, in the heyday of canals, you could have gone, via rivers and canals, all the way to Limerick in the south-west of Ireland.

Although the canal fell into disuse in 1958, there is still a path following the canal or the river from Stranmillis (about 1 mile from the centre of Belfast) to Lisburn. You can have a nice Sunday walk along a section of the river. Stranmillis to Shaw’s bridge is close to city buses at both ends and the ‘The Lock Keeper’s Inn’ café (involved in a political scandal about 5 years ago) makes a pleasant stop.

But we, Barbara & I with a local friend as guide, decided to walk the next section up, from Drumbeg to Shaw’s Bridge. A bit of shuffling left a car at each end, included a detour by car to local Neolithic fort, the Giant’s Ring, and a coffee at the Stables near the Drumbeg Bridge. So refreshed we walked downstream to Shaw’s Bridge, keeping an eye out for the cyclists who also use the path. The left bank skirts Malone Golf Club, whereas on the Co Down (right) bank it is completely rural except for the former mill village of Edenderry (footbridge from the path).

This all forms part of the Lagan Valley Regional Park and at intervals you can find QR codes (see picture) that should give you access to audio commentary. However, the one I tried was in a spot without much Vodafone signal, so it only downloaded and played some minutes later, as we continued on our way. A very nice outing, within 6 miles of the centre of Belfast.

There is, in quite a lot of versions, a mock heroic ballad about a disastrous barge journey to the canal, with the crew rescued by use of a scarf or braces. The links take you to 2 versions:

Their voyage from the Docks didn’t even take them to Stranmillis! Of course, the Clancy Brothers have recorded the ballad.

Zac Goldsmith’s great-grandfather (and other ancestors)

March 7, 2016

When I was a student at Queen’s University, Belfast there were three on-campus places where students lunched – the Students’ Union, a ‘temporary’ dining hall (the building’s still there!), and the Great Hall.

The Great Hall is an impressive wood-panelled room and at that time it had a discreet cafeteria servery at one end while a selection of oil paintings of University worthies decorated the walls.

Such worthies obviously included Chancellors of the University and I remember that one of them was the 7th Marquess of Londonderry, Chancellor 1923-49; that still makes the most long-serving Chancellor the university has had. His granddaughter, born Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the daughter of the 8th Marquess, is Zac’s mum. The 7th Lord Londonderry was a Tory MP before the First World War. Afterwards he became a Stormont MP and minister. In 1926 he moved his career back to Westminster and was a minister in all Tory and National governments until 1935. The family London house, Londonderry House in Park Lane, was famous in the 1930s as a place where the influential met socially.

His family was extremely rich. The 3rd Marquess (who succeeded in 1822) had ‘married well’ to an heiress from north-east England, under whose land were seams of coal. (This accounts for the village of Londonderry in North Yorkshire.) So the family were major coal owners until Nationalisation, as well as major landowners with fine houses in the North-East and Ulster.

The 3rd Marquess’s half-brother, who was briefly 2nd Marquess, is better known to history as Viscount Castlereagh – the title he had during 20 years at the top of Tory governments at the start of the 19th century. He represented Britain at Congress of Vienna and was considered by liberals as a very reactionary figure. Both Shelley and Byron wrote poetry that made it clear that they hated him.

Zac Goldsmith is a golden boy because his father was a very rich man, but not many know that through his mother he has a silver spoon because she was from a rich family which owned much land and many coal-mines.

Don Sanderson Trophy 2015

November 6, 2015

Our son, Don Sanderson (Dagenham 1969 – Brno 1999) was in the 1990s the Events Officer of the SquashBJC_-_U17_19_winners Rackets Association (the governing body for Squash in England) – now called England Squash and Racketball. His work involved being tournament director for a number of tournaments, including the British Open and especially junior tournaments, which cater for young players up to 19 in four two-year bands.
After Don’s sudden death in a road accident in 1999, the squash community was very supportive to Barbara and me. This included a charity tournament involving leading players and the decision of England Squash to name the trophy for the under-19 British Junior Championships after Don.
As a result of this, we are invited each year to the Technifibre British Junior Championships, which are now held in Manchester, to present the prizes. Access this year was a little easier than last year, when there was no match in the Manchester City stadium next door to the National Squash Centre!
The skill shown by these young players is inspiring and many of the leading under-19 players go straight on a career in squash, as players and coaches. There is overlap in skills between age bands. The runner-up in the Under-19 girls was last years Under-17 winner and last years Under-15 winner was runner-up in the Under-17 girls. A few girls as young as 14 are quite capable of playing at Women’s Senior level.

Picture (England Squash and Racketball) shows Under-17 Winners Kyle Finch and Lucy Turmel to the left of the photo with Under-19 Winners Georgina Kennedy and James Peach to the right.

Stamps for Sir Nicholas Winton

August 25, 2015

In July I wrote a short appreciation of Sir Nicholas Winton, who had just died. Since then there was a campaign to have him commemorated in postage stamps both in the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. The Czech Republic agreed quite quickly, but the UK reaction was more cautious, quoting the procedure for such stamps and suggesting that it could be over a year before it was agreed, if at all.

There was a petition on which I was happy to sign. Today, as one of the signatories I received an email indicating success:


Justin Cohen & Richard Ferrer

United Kingdom

25 Aug 2015 — You did it! The Royal Mail has confirmed it will produce a stamp celebrating Sir Nicholas Winton. While stamps are usually decided on two years in advance, this will be fast-tracked to be issued in 2016.

Thank you to each and every one of you that backed our campaign which demonstrated such a strong desire for this rare honour. We hope the stamp will serve as a lasting reminder of Sir Nicholas’ inspirational actions without which thousands would not be alive today.

Thank you once again!”