Welcome back to the third in our weekly gallimaufry of Frank and Ella Raleigh’s wonderful world of East Devon. Retirement is anything but dull.
Why do fish live in saltwater? Because pepper makes them sneeze!
This week we look at some extraordinary weather from the past. We’ve enjoyed warm winters in East Devon more often than not. When it has snowed, we are inconvenienced only for a short while. However, back in 1607, things in Britain were not so easy.
The Great Winter of 1607-1608 caused trees to die due to the severity of the frost, ships to be stranded by ice several miles out into the North Sea – much commerce was done by ship.
The severe weather lasted in parts of England until about 20th February, though with variations in depth of cold. For example, in records from Kendal (Westmorland / Cumbria) ‘hard frost’ is noted from November 3rd, 1607 to March 6th, 1608.
Our River Exe also experienced major ice formation by the latter-third of January with damage being caused to a local weir. Up in Scotland, the Firth of Forth is noted as being ‘frozen’ during January 1608.
Meteorologists have since blamed a Peruvian volcano for spewing
The River Thames froze in London and the term Frost Fair is first used. In the city, the Frost Fair meant that shops could set up market tents on the frozen river that “shows like grey marble roughly hewn” and sell souvenirs and winter clothing and shoes, serve alcohol from bars on wheels, gamble on sports or animal baiting, provide hot fair food from fires built on the ice and have sleigh rides up and down the river. Ice skating was well-known in the Netherlands and Germany, and perhaps the English tried it. They also played football, and shot arrows and muskets.
A booklet printed by a shop situated on London Bridge described a talk between a country-man and a citizen. The Citizen said: “Both men, women, and children walked over, and up and downe in such companies, that I verily believe, and I dare almost sweare it, that one half (if not three parts) of the people in the Citie, have been seene going on the Thames.”
The Great Frost was harsh, and it wasn’t the only time the Thames froze, but it was the most memorable. It lasted a little more than three months until the ice broke up and life returned to normal.
I found a lot of information about the Great Frost from William and Mary Dyer, a fascinating blog run by Christy K Robinson. You can find it here – https://marybarrettdyer.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-great-frost-of-1608.html
Since all that beat about in Nature’s range, Or veer or vanish; why should’st thou remain The only constant in a world of change
“Sometimes you make me want to kill you!” Christine screamed.
“The feeling’s mutual.” Caleb turned towards her, almost spitting out the words.
“Why? After all the hard work. Why?”
“Because it’s my money and I want to have some fun with it.”
“What about me?”
“You’re well provided for. You always have been and you always will be.”
“I don’t understand you. I’m not sure I ever will!”
“Perhaps that’s the problem.”
Christine changed tack.
“Doesn’t Kenneth mean anything to you?”
“Yes, it’s about time he stood on his own two feet.”
“And Fabian and Carl? Have you told them? Don’t they have a say?”
“Why do you think I asked them both to come here this evening? They’re only directors. They can’t outvote me. They’ll do what I say. They always do.”
A moment of silence descended upon the room as if they were preparing for the next onslaught. The calm before the storm.
There was a knock at the front door and Caleb went to open it.
“Come in, Fabian. Is Carl not with you?”
“No. Am I late?”
“You’re never late. Come into the drawing-room and I’ll pour you a drink.”
Fabian followed Caleb into the room and sat down in one of the comfortable armchairs by the piano.
“Good evening, Fabian.” A curt sharp voice greeted the man.
“Good evening, Mrs Kennaway.” He would never dare to call her Christine.
Caleb brought Fabian his drink and handed another to Christine. She looked at him and for a moment, Caleb thought she might throw it back into his face.
“I’ll call him,” muttered Christine. She pulled out her mobile phone from her trouser pocket and dialled a number. “Kenneth, come down. We’re almost ready to start.”
Within half a minute they could hear the echo of footsteps on the stone stairs leading down into the front hall. There was another knock at the front door.
“I’ll get it,” a voice from the hall shouted.
“Good evening, Carl. We’re in the drawing-room. Come through!”
Kenneth ushered the well-built man into the room. He was puffing and appeared out of breath. “Sorry, meeting finished a bit late.”
“Sit down, Carl. Drink?”
After drinks had been dispensed and sipped, everyone sat down. Over the past few years, they each seemed to possess their allotted chair and drink. They all sat and drank as if in a trance. Caleb was the last to be seated. The rest of the room turned their eyes towards him. He had their undivided attention.
“I’ve brought you together this evening because I thought you deserved to hear the news, straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.”
He smiled but no-one smiled back.
“I’ve decided to give up the chair and ownership of Kennaway Coopers. I’m retiring. I have enough money saved to keep on enjoying my lovely lifestyle, so I’ve….” He stopped to savour the moment.
“Oh, Caleb, stop messing around and tell them.” Christine’s voice stabbed into the expectant atmosphere.
“Alright, my dear.” Caleb had a twinkle in his eyes and a smile upon his lips.
“I’ve already communicated this information with my wife. If you were anywhere in Ottery St Mary you will have heard her reaction!”
He took a sip of his drink.
“Get on with it!” his wife snapped.
“I’m retiring and none of you will be taking my place as Chair or owner.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from the gathered group.
“What do you mean?” blustered Kenneth.
“What I mean is that the company I’ve built from nothing, Kennaway Coopers – well, I will be giving it away.”
There was an explosion of noise in the room.
Caleb held up his hand and shouted above the tumult. “I’m giving it away to the winner of the Ottery Lottery!”
Last week’s Mystery Snap was the ford across the River Sid in Sidmouth. This week? Where is this? Somewhere in East Devon?
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Once again, that’s all for this week. See you next Monday.