Saturday, March 2, 2024

Tunnel Vision

Hello!  I'm checking in after another self imposed period of absence from the screen.  Eyes and screens are not great bedfellows and eye strain is a recurring problem for me, my phone being the biggest culprit.  Talk about 21st century problems!

We are living in dark times and there are times when I'm finding it hard to find the light.  Photography continues to push me to do so.  Here's the moon glimpsed through our roof window, criss crossed by thorns and slightly soft focus rosehips.  I'm slightly irritated by that, but quite like the overall magic of the scene.

I appreciate the escape that Blogland offers, but there are some things that just shouldn't be left unsaid.  All life is precious and every single one that is cut short by war or malevolence is a tragedy.  The world's problems are numerous, widespread and currently feel insurmountable.  Yet in this turbulent world plagued by violence, intolerance and corruption, Alexei Navalny was one soul who offered a glimmer of hope, albeit in the dim and distant future. 

Incomprehensibly, he's no longer with us....yet another light that has gone out.  If you've never seen the Oscar winning documentary "Navalny" you really should.  It's inspiring stuff and his bravery clearly knew no bounds.  After viewing what I could of his funeral yesterday on YouTube, I felt moved enough to immortalise him in this revolutionary-style poster, alongside his chosen final message.

February has been one of the wettest on record, so our walks have been few and far between.  I've realised that dampness has a huge impact on how cold I feel.  Crisp, dry air, even when the thermometer is hovering around zero, is much more comfortable than 7 or 8 degrees in damp conditions.  

That said, we continue to discover new places on our doorstep.  Regular readers will know that Kinver Edge, the National Trust managed area, is a beloved local beauty spot of ours.  In amongst the 600 acres of land, are hidden places of intrigue and last weekend, we ventured to the perimeter and beyond and stumbled across another one - a Grade II listed monument - hidden deep in dense woodland. 

It bears the following inscription: 

"This pillar commemorates 
That devoted man Richard Baxter
Minister of the Old Church.
Kidderminster about the year 1650
And whose unwearied labours
Were so greatly blessed to that
Town and neighbourhood.
Read his Saints everlasting rest
And call to the converted."

The pillar monument, erected circa 1850, stands tall, but nonetheless is somewhat dwarfed by the surrounding trees.

Now, I'd never heard of this Richard Baxter, so after a little research, I discovered that Baxter was a Nonconformist Puritan minister, theologian, poet and hymn writer (he had a lot going on!) 

His ministry in nearby Kidderminster was controversial because Baxter's strong views on justification and sanctification, with their emphasis on faithfulness and repentance, were unusual.

Baxter was elected as minster by the people of Kidderminster after being invited to deliver a sermon.  He was twenty six.  He had a long and eventful career, dogged by persecution in one form or another. 

He was ejected from the Church of England after the 1662 Act of Uniformity.  However, he became one of the most influential leaders of the Nonconformists in the 1600s, partly because of his prolific theological writings, partly because of his prosecutions and his time in prison for various faith related offences.  

You can read about his turbulent life and divisive theological views here:-

Just a stone's throw away from the monument, is the Drakelow Tunnel complex, a former underground military complex covering 26,500 square metres with a total length of 5.6 km.  They were originally built as a Second World War Shadow Factory and were developed during the Cold War to be a fall back government centre.

British shadow factories were the result of the Shadow Scheme, a plan devised in 1935 and developed by the British Government in the build up to World War II to try to meet the urgent need for more aircraft using technology transfer from the motor industry to implement additional manufacturing capacity.  The term "shadow" might suggest secrecy, but in reality it was a reference to a protected environment staffed by motor industry employees of all skill levels working alongside (in the shadow of) their own similar motor industry operations.

The Drakelow Tunnels Museum is now open after spending a number of years in private ownership.  Inexplicably, we never got around to visiting before the complex (the largest underground tunnel complex in the UK) closed in the 1990s and I was unaware until recently that it had in fact reopened after a painstaking transformation into a family friendly Cold War Museum.  I've dropped them an email to plan our very first visit!

Given that the echoes of this dark chapter of our history are reverberating loudly now in 2024, I'll leave you with some positivity.

First up...a beautiful sunrise captured last week.  Our house sits on the fringes of the West Midlands conurbation.  In one direction, we have a fairly urban skyline as evidenced by this photo.  In the opposite direction, we have woodland and countryside stretching all the way to Wales.

The low lying mist and pale pink sunrise makes everything look beautiful!

In the garden, Squirrel Nutkins is up to his usual antics, robbing great chunks of fat balls from the disgruntled robins and blackbirds.

As much as I can't stand the rain, we witnessed some beautiful cloud formations over Walton Hill (another local beauty spot with incredible panoramic views over town and country).

Today, I scored these apparently unused M&S hiking boots from a charity shop for £7.00 and am choosing to ignore the teen's cruel "Ronald MacDonald shoes" comparison.  

Whilst it might not feel like Spring right now (snow fell on high ground last night), nature definitely received the memo.

But the big news in these parts, is that last week, Staffordshire County Council served a notice on the owners of The Crooked House (Britain's Wonkiest Pub), to rebuild it within 3 years, exactly as it was before the arson attack and unlawful destruction.  Regular readers will recall that we were outraged last August when yet another piece of local heritage was laid to waste, allegedly by individuals motivated by financial gain.

You can read my post written in the aftermath here:- Winter Peach Photography: A Very Crooked Tale

The campaign group have plans for an event on the anniversary of its demolition, which include inviting along the band originally booked to play on the eve of its destruction - Gasoline and Matches.  Yes, really!

There's a way to go yet, but it's definitely seen as a little victory and a big step towards the pub making a return!

See you soon!


  1. I thought of you straight away when the news about the Crooked House broke.
    How brave were the people of Russia to turn up in their thousands for Alexei Navalny's funeral, unmasked and fearless? I love your protest poster. What an incredible man he was.
    The tunnel museum looks fascinating, definitely somewhere Jon & I need to visit with our ongoing obsession with all things Cold War.
    I'm not familiar with Richard Baxter either. I did try and read the link but got totally lost with all the churchy stuff.
    Hasn't the weather been grim? We had snow yesterday although it didn't stick unlike a friend who lives in Sedgley and posted photos of their all-white garden on Facebook.
    Love the squirrels and the clouds over Walton Hill. The new walking boots are great, never take fashion advice from a teenager! xxx

    1. Thanks Vix. He was amazing. So hard to believe what's happened.
      When we got home, we immediately booked the Discovery Tour on 6th April. They sell out fast!
      Richard Baxter's career was pretty controversial, but you're right, the information on him is very church heavy.
      We can see Clent Hill from our landing window and it was white over. We didn't see a single snowflake!
      The walking boots had their first outing yesterday. So far, so good! xxx

  2. I'm sorry to hear you keep being plagued by eye strain. Screens and eyes are indeed the worst of bedfellows!
    We are definitely living in dark times and the continuing dismal weather doesn't help us seeing things on the bright side - that's if these things actually exist nowadays. I'm loving your protest poster: a fitting tribute to an incredible man ...
    I'm intrigued by the tunnel museum. It reminds me of the Command Bunker of the Belgian armed forces in Kemmel (in Belgium's west country), which was a nerve centre of the supreme command during the Cold War.
    And never mind the teen: those walking boots are fabulous! xxx P.S. Great new about The Crooked House. Still no sign of it on the Belgian news I'm afraid.

    1. Thank you Ann. Very dark indeed.
      We're going to the Museum next month, so I'll be sure to keep you posted. It's a very short drive away from where we left you at Kinver Edge.
      The boots will definitely get some use! xxx

  3. the moon photo is soooo very very romantic!! wonderful!
    getting older i start to feel the screentime on my eyes.... thankfully i ruled out a smartphone ;-D
    you did the nawalny poster!?! sensational! i have a little love for revolutionary posters and your´s fits right in in the tradition. thanx!
    here, with personal experiences of non-democratic systems of different kindes, we knew they would kill nawalny earlier than later - it was already a wonder he survived the poison attack. and the gulags have only one function: to kill people. dark times. very dark indeed.
    glad you went out walking! baxter´s pillar looks quite picturesque in the middle of the forest...... the tunnel museum seems very worth a visit.
    thank your pink misty skyline and cute squirrel pics and the wide blue sky with gorgeous wild clouds - and for the flowers <3
    your new walking boots are cool!! give them plenty of wax to protect from the wet forest soil......
    and very good news from the crooked pub front! a light in this times.......
    stay dry and warm! xxxxx

    1. Thank you Beate.
      You are very wise to resist a smartphone. They are very useful for some things, but really not great for the eyes!
      I think I naively thought, after the poisoning, that he might be left alone. Whatever the details, that can't have helped his health and neither could the harsh conditions under which he was imprisoned. Heartbreaking!
      Noted. I'll get waxing! xxx

  4. I read about the Crooked House in our local paper recently, after reading your post about it! It made the news all the way over here in Canada.

    "Navalny" was an amazing documentary - I sobbed when I heard he was dead. What the f**k is going on with people and the world today??

    I love your new boots - yellow laces and all. You could just change the laces to get the teen to shush.

    Your photos are so gorgeous.

    1. Thanks Sheila. Amazing that our humble little pub made the news in Canada!
      I too shed tears at the dreadful news about Navalny. I can't quite come to terms with it.
      The yellow laces are staying! :-) x

  5. Sad indeed that Alexei Navalny was taken away, this is the beginning though, not the end, his wife will bravely take his place. How lovely to read about the Crooked House and how fun your hiking boots are. My eyes are having problems too, our sight is so precious we must take best care. Thank you for visiting my blog recently and taking the time to leave comments :) Betty

    1. I really hope so Betty. His wife is also very brave.
      I'm sorry to hear you're having eye issues too.
      No problem. I enjoyed your recent travelogue. x

  6. Hello Claire, I heard the news of the Crooked House last week on the radio whilst driving, thought of your post and cheered out loud! One triumph in this bonkers world. Loving your moon picture, I could see that as a backdrop in a theatre production. I look forward to the tunnels tour, most intriguing. Stay well and rest up those eyes xXx

    1. Great to hear from you Lulu! Yes, there's a way to go yet, but it felt so good hearing that the authorities are all over these crooks!
      Thank you. I love moon gazing. xxx



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