Wednesday, July 29, 2009

they paved paradise

Eventually, everything changes.

For fifteen years I have traveled to Berkley Springs and then, for exercise and peace, found my way through the woods to the top of the mountain that looks down on the Shenandoah River. The forest is full of deer. Tall and stately oak trees are mixed in with the lower climbing sassafras and red bud. Ferns dot the undergrowth and lichen covers the exposed rocks.

Imagine my disappointment - I pull up to the trail head and find a big yellow No Trespassing sign warning me that if I should set foot on this pristine woodland path, I "would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Joni Mitchell said it all years ago:

"They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know
What you got til its lost...."

Oh yes, I still went on the trail, up to the top of the mountain and yes, the Shenandoah is still there.

Barbara Fritchee

The story goes that at the age of 95, Barbara Fritchee flew the American flag from the attic of her house in Frederick, Maryland.

Alone among all the citizens of Frederick, she was demonstrating her opposition to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson's troops, who were passing through in Lee's Maryland campaign of 1864. The rebel troops shot at the flag and broke the staff....

Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.

She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.

'Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag,' she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;

The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word;

'Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on! he said...

The poem by John Whitleaf Whittier.

traditions furniture - tables and chairs

This rectangular extension table of solid white oak is fit for a feast.

After you select the right table, you can change its style by changing its edge or legs. The edges add character without adding cost. Most legs are interchangeable without changing a table's price.

The Extra Large Turned and French Regency legs are thicker and carry some additional cost. Our Turned and Tapered legs are also available in counter height. This option will raise the height of a table from 30" to 36".

Click here to see how.

hardwood furniture

About half of Gat Creek Furniture in is built in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. A collection of more than 25 individual workshops – many owned by Amish and Mennonite families – hand builds the remainder in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Each piece of furniture is made by hand. The artisan signs and dates his or her work. Gat Creek exclusively uses domestic hardwoods - cherry, oak, and walnut, all wood coming from sustainably managed forests.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gat Creek

The 2009 Annual Homecoming Show for Gat Creek Furniture is being held this week.

Gat Creek features solid handmade furniture from native oak and cherry, with many of the pieces made by Amish and Mennonite craftsmen from Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Some of my favorite things include the solid cherry rectangle table with two leaves that seats eight. This table is available in oak or cherry and with a variety of stain finishes and custom edges and legs.

Gat Creek also hand builds a mission style table and chairs, here shown in a clear unstained oak.

kings of leon

One of the greatest joys of having children is that when they are old enough to apprecitate good music they turn you on to new groups.

My son Will likes the group Kings of Leon and I have to agree. See them on Youtube.

Other favorite group, The Killers. Like the lyrics, check them out.

breaking away

If we are going to talk about racial profiling - white police officer Crowley arrests black professor Gates in his own home - let's also talk about class - working class cop and snobby Harvard professor.

Remember the movie "Breaking Away"? I know it has very little to do with racial profiling. But, then it has everything to do with class consciousness:

"Dave, nineteen, has just graduated high school, with his 3 friends, The comical Cyril, the warm hearted but short-tempered Moocher, and the athletic, spiteful but good-hearted Mike. Now, Dave enjoys racing bikes and hopes to race the Italians one day, and even takes up the Italian culture, much to his friends and parents annoyance. While meanwhile, the 4 friends try to break away from their townie, Indiana reputation while fighting with nearby college snobs."

Breaking Away

Remember how Dave wants to impress the university coed? How he has to deal with the legacy of being a stone cutter's son, and making dad proud? The point of the movie is that class shouldn't matter.

Before you say that this is a stretch, at least think about your point of view - Judge Sotomayor has a point, remarking in her Senate confirmation hearings, on how her experiences as poor and Hispanic will give her a unique insight into hearing cases on the Supreme Court. We are all biased; it is the legacy of our racial, social, and economic backgrounds.

For police officer Crowley, no man is above the law, neither Harvard professor nor thief, and both should comply with the lawful orders of an officer to produce identification and answer questions. For Professor Gate, his home is his castle; he should be accorded the respect both the humblest and mightiest citizens have a right to regardless of race or class.

As for President Obama, who now finds himself in the middle of a national debate on race, I suggest that when he gets the two parties together for a beer, his idea, he also screens for them the movie "Breaking Away" so that they can all think about social arrogance as much as racial arrogance. By the way, what kind of beer do they drink in Boston?

is it still going on?

Early afternoon on Ware Street in Cambridge, Mass., a few blocks from Harvard University. Professor Gates and his airport driver, a large black man, shoulder open Gates' jammed front door. A concerned neighbor calls 911.

Officer Crowley arrives to find the caller standing on the sidewalk in front of the home. Crowley recalls "she observed what appeared to be two black men with backpacks on the porch ... her suspicions were aroused when she observed one of the men wedging his shoulder into the door." The caller, now identified as Lucia Whalen, a white woman, does not recall using a racial description of the men, other than to say one might have been Hispanic.

Gates, 58 and gray-haired, was dressed in a blazer and walking with a cane. His driver was wearing a black suit jacket and matching pants. After they forced open the door, the driver carried Gates' luggage into the house, then drove off.

Crowley confirms that Gates is the owner of the residence, but still arrests him for disorderly conduct. What was said between the two and what conduct Gates used is uncertain.

President Obama later comments that Officer Crowley "acted stupidly" in arresting Professor Gates. The black community collectively says, "Right on!" The white community reacts in disbelief saying "Don't mess with a police officer in the execution of his duties." And, we are still talking a week later about what happened and who's right.

Can't we just recognize that both sides acted a little stupidly and move on. Both the racial aspect of the situation and the fact that we are dealing with class - a Harvard professor versus a Boston police officer - means that perception is in the eye of "victim", the black professor coming home from a long trip or the police officer just trying to do his job and getting no thanks for it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

looking good

Randy is a pro and he has only been at it for a third time. Okay, he was a little anal about scratching the bottom of his new kayak, the "Swifty" painted a stoplight red and yellow.

Andy, big Bwana as he is known along the river, glides along in his green for go kayak.

cool dudes

After awhile on the lake kayaking, 15 minutes, more or less, you're a pro. You're confident in your abilities and ready to tackle the rapids that challenge the best kayakers.

it's good to be back

It is good to be back in the USA.

By that I mean there is cheap entertainment in kayaking on Satchel Creek leading into Lake El Dorado, Kansas. I can't give too much information, otherwise, it would be crowded with everyone trying to find a getaway to our own secret place.

For starters, Randy and Andy slide like pros into their colorful kayaks.

At first the river is wide and deep.

And then, it gets a little narrower.

And narrower still. Along the way we see strange trees and root formations, pretty skies, but no lions, tigers or bears.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

bellagio when it rains

A picture may be worth a thousand word, but it will never replace being there.

The family had just driven from Tuscany to Bellagio, on Lake Como and checked into our hotel, The Pergola. The weather began to change immediately.The wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and clouds gathered between the mountains.

What had been serene and peaceful, became foreboding.The sky which had been half sun half gray was now full-blown gray and wet. The boats began to rock to and fro. The wind whistled through the masts. The chains anchoring the boats clanged in furious rhythm to the wind.

The rain which had until now held off, began to beat against the window of the hotel. As the rain began to fall, the visibility was reduced to nothing. White caps appeared on the lake. It is the quickness of the change that is so surprising. In a moment the beauty is replaced with the fury of nature.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

electric cars

Along the Champs d'Elycees in Paris, France, Toyota has a showroom for its newest and sportiest cars. Here it is, the 2004 fuel cell concept Toyota Triathalon Race Car.

"The MTRC was conceived to compete in three different environments: an off-road course, a smooth and high-grip racetrack and a narrow city street circuit, as if in a 'triathlon.'"

Top Speed.

Buds and mates

Here is a photo of Will and his mates at the Manchester United Soccer Camp from the summer of 2009.

Will is on the left on the bottom row. Along with Will is Ignacio, next to Will, Pedro, the second to the far right , bottom row, and Jordan, in the middle on the top row.

For more information on the residential courses in Manchester, click here.

guard dog

Arles was a key city in Roman times. A Roman arena still stands guard along with this dog.

Arles was a depressed town that Vincent Van Gogh came to in the 1880's. Painters can still find inspiration in the colors of the town's window shutters and doors, as well as the cafe at Arles which was the subject of one of his most famous paintings. (You can compare the real cafe with the artist's version by clicking above.)

Today it's a conservative place, the stores shut up shop when the tourist buses go home at six, but the town comes to life for the Saturday market, which brings in farmers from thecountryside, and during festivals of tauromachie between Easter and All Saints, when the town's frenzy for bulls rivals that of Spain.

Travel Info.

sports bars

In Manchester the football club is Manchester United.

The drink is a pint of your favorite ale; the food, well, it is heavy and unappetizing. But, the fans come for the football and the ale anyway. Hey, maybe, it is an upset stomach from that spicy food that causes the English football fans to become so unruly.

"Manu," as the team is more familiarly known, is Will's favorite team. In England a great way to start a conversation is to wear a football jersey. You will get a response either way. Loyalties are intense and local.


Space and the price of gas are the main factors in choosing a European car.

My brother-in-law just bought a Fiat that gets over 70 miles to the gallon. And it flies down the road at speeds in excess of 80 mph. I am beginning to get excited about Fiat's foray into the American market.

Occasionally you will see a Chrysler Jeep, Land Rover, Nissan Pathfinder and even a mini-van, but these sitings are rare. There is simply no where to park them in most European cities. And then consider that many of the cities and roads were originally built over a thousand years ago when the main means of transportation was a donkey and cart if one was not on foot.

Gasoline sells for a little more than one euro a liter. It sounds cheap until you figure that a liter is roughly equal to a quart and a euro is almost a dollar and a half. If you do the math, gasoline sells for almost six dollars a gallon. Thank goodness the tanks are small.

The good news for Americans travelling by car in Europe. You will feel like a Grand Prix driver in your small rental car tooling down the road with someone riding your rear bumper flashing his or her lights wanting to pass on a hair-pin turn.

Top ten car not in the US.

Monday, July 20, 2009

ty mawr country park

The Ty Mawr Country Park, Wrexham, in northern Wales is lovely collection of pasture, river, and woodland set in the Welsh countryside. It is a oasis of peace and quiet in an otherwise hectic trip. For a quick panoramic view, click here.

At one end is the impressive Cefn Viaduct built by Thomas Brassey in 1848. Ty Mawr Country Park is a favorite location for families, due to the petting zoo including retired Cavy the pony who has been put out to pasture along with donkeys.
At the opposite end is the Pontcysllte Aqueduct, 1000 feet long and 125 feet high, taking the Llangollen Canal over the beautiful River Dee valley. (I did not take it, but you can actually ride the aqueduct in a small boat.)

The park doesn't show up on a list of things to do in Wales. But, it was still a nice break from a day of driving and an opportunity to stretch my legs with a short run. Besides, at this point in my trip I am extremely tired of the tourists, me included, and I want to see how the Welsh enjoy life.

Funny thing, it is not so different from parks anywhere. Mothers with strollers gather together to share news; old couples hand in hand, walk the grounds and talk; young groups of boys and girls wander down to the river, take their shoes off, and wiggle their toes in the cold water. Then, there I am, jogging along as best I can, trying to take it all in.

they still speak welsh

In parts of Wales, they still speak Welsh, a Celtic language. Welsh is spoken daily by roughly 20% of the Welsh population, slightly more than a half a million individuals in mainly the north and west of the country.English is also spoken as a secondary language.

The Welsh Language Act 1993 gives Welsh equal status with English in the public sector in Wales. The BBC has a daily radio program in Welsh, as well as its own website, BBC - Cymru. Public libraries encourage the reading of Welsh language books and periodicals.

It has to be difficult keeping this ancient language alive. English is spoken in almost all daily commercial transactions, and the influx of English tourists make English a necessary conversational tool. Still, the language manages to hold its own against the incursion of English.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

back in the usa

Back in the USA, so glad, I just want to keep singing the Beatles tune but change USSR to USA.

what is wealth?

Overheard in the Charlton House pub in Ludow, England, "China is the richest country in the world." One of the gentleman turned to me as I sat nearby, and I said, "No, not yet, America is still on top."

Once England was the wealthiest countries on earth. At other times other countries have laid claim to that title.

For most of the twentieth century and for the present, the United States holds that title. Whether we continue to hold that position depends on the health of our economy; the ability of our education system to create new engineers, managers, and information technologists; and, finally, a government that recognizes the challenges of the future.

The measures of wealth have changed in the last hundred years. Wealth today is less a function of agriculture, natural resources, and manufacture, and more a function of the gathering of information and the ability to manage it. Service industries that involve the computer and information technology, but also including insurance, banking, and business management are increasingly the dominant industries of today. These industries produce nothing that can be eaten or worn, they do not power any vehicles or plants, yet they produce wealth. Take Google for example. Yet, it is a company valued at 220 billion dollars and growing because of its ability to gather information and put it in a usable format.

The internet, like the printing press, is revolutionizing the world; the ability to dominate this service industry will determine economic success or failure in the twenty-first century. One only has to observe the international concern with both Microsoft and Google to see this.

Friday, July 17, 2009

final thoughts

We are staying at the Marriott near the Manchester Airport.

The nearest town is Hale. Lots of ManU footballers live here. Had dinner at
a Thai restaurant in Hale, the Tamarind Duck for me, Pad Thai for Will. Both were delicious. The Thai food here is crispier than the States.

Football camp round-up was at the Old Trafford. The kids loved it, the parents enjoyed the ceremony.

It is back to the real world.

We're going home

We're going home

Two of us sending postcards
writing letters on my wall
You and me burning matches
lifting latches on our way back home
We're on our way back home
We're on our way home
We're going home

You and I have memories
longer than the road
that stretches out ahead

Two of us wearing raincoats
standing solo in the sun
You and me chasing paper
getting nowhere on our way back home
We're on our way back home
We're on our way home
We're going home

You and I have memories
longer that that road
that stretches out ahead

Two of us wearing raincoats
standing solo in the sun
You and me chasing paper
getting nowhere on our way back home
We're on our way back home
We're on our way home
We're going home
We're going home

Beatles, Two of us.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

self expression

Observed on a tree stump in a park in Wales.

all who wander are not lost

Sometimes you feel like a sign post - going in all directions and in a language that no one understands. My advice is pick a direction.

My daughter Hannah gave me a t-shirt which reads "All who wander are not lost." I like the shirt and I follow the advice when I can. Then again as Shakespeare observed in King Lear, a little vision can make life simpler and less tragic.

This last week has been my random wandering though England and Wales. I have been searching for my roots, knowing that my forebearers came from the Cotswolds, Wales and the Midwest of England. I may not have found anything new about them, but at least I enjoyed the journey.

deal or no deal

Sometimes choosing a hotel is like "Deal or no deal." You can take the hotel that you have come across while you are driving along, or, and this is where Howie Mandel jumps in with the spiel on whether you have got guts, you drive on, hoping that the next town and hotel are just as good, if not better.

I started out in Ludlow where I spent a great night at the Charlton Hotel. This hotel had it all, great food, great view, and a modern bed and shower in an historic building. With that as a benchmark, I drove north through Wales, stopping in several perfectly lovely towns, but always wanting more. By noon, I was so close to the northern coast, I decided to go for it. Pull out the map and there is Rhyl. It looks like a big enough town . I get there and it is a crowded mess of shoppers, cars, and trucks. Now, the banker is smiling and thinks I should have taken the deal he offered earlier. I drive on, and it is not getting any better. It looks like I am going home with a $1 suitcase.

Then, there is Llandudno, a town on the map with the three squiggles that signify a pretty view of the North Atlantic. I am there, I am tired, it is raining, and my options for bigger payoffs are getting smaller and smaller.

The hotel is the Oak Alyn - not beautiful, but clean and close to the seaside. And, at 30 pounds a night with a full English breakfast, it is the bargain of the trip. Pay in cash because at this price the hotel owner has to keep it simple.It is a deal.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

chump steak

Some of you have questioned my reference to "chump" as a cut of meat. I did question the waiter, saying that the word has another meaning in America. Apparently, this meaning is not part of the British lexiocon.

They also serve faggots over here. And that has a different meaning as well.

What they prefer serving up are pies that contain various meats and vegetables. Steak and kidney pie is one of the favorites.

It's all available at the local butcher's shop on main street.

ice bytes

Change comes slowly to small towns. Ludbury for instance, still has its main street with all the small local markets such as the meat shop, the winery, and everything else needed for the town's inhabitants.

Sticking out like a sore thumb is the Ice Bytes wi-fi shop, proving that even the small towns and villages of England want to be a part of the global exchange of information.My advice to the locals is enjoy what you have while it is still here.Gloucester seemed soulless with its large "Superstores," a Walmart knock-off and Sainsbury's everything for sale store.

For a history of the town during the civil wars, click here.

letters from abroad

This trip to England was an attempt to discover my past family history.

I have learned that the past is gone, and what remains can be found in archives, museums, antique shops, and on post cards. Life is for the living, it is a phrase I often use. To me it means living life to its fullest, enjoying each day as it comes, and expecting more and better things in the future.

I am sad that I could not have learned more about my family. Still, seeing where they lived, and sometimes, how they lived was interesting. Our families did not leave their homes to come to America because life was great, but because life poor, hard, or there was war or persecution. Our forefathers and mothers came to America hoping for something better, and that is the legacy that we must carry on. A better America, a better world.

70 million

The population of Great Britain, now 60 million, is expected to reach 70 million by the year 2028. Seventy percent of the increase will be due to immigration. Texas, by comparison, is roughly the same size as Great Britain with only 24 million people. At its present rate of growth, Texas' population will double within 20 years.

Statistics mislead. Projected trends level off over time. Still, with land scarce, the question is where to put everyone. In England, the answer is in smaller houses and more apartments. This, however, is changing the life style of the English from one of country villages to large urban cities. How many more Manchesters or Birminghams do the English want on their beautiful landscape?

It is such a sensitive question that only the bravest or most fool-hardy politician would want to answer - when is enough enough?

breakfast at the Edward Hotel in Gloucester

I am not a breakfast person - by that I mean a cup of coffee and a piece of toast will do.

But in England at the Edward Hotel in Gloucester, breakfast is a "Full English Breakfast." And by "full" it is meant: handmade local sausage, the size of a hot dog; bacon, not the thin strips we are used to, but thick Canadian bacon; grilled tomato; mushrooms and baked beans; an egg, usually sunny side up, but you can ask for anything you want; and, of course, two thick slices of English toast with butter and marmalade.

I say I am not a breakfast person. Who has the time to eat all that and wash it down with a cup of coffee or two? I doubt that the average Londoner on his way to the train or the tube, to make his or her way to work, can afford to leisurely sit and sup.

But, then it struck me that this is keeping alive a bit of British tradition. This tradition belongs to the upper class. Who else other than the lord or lady of the manor can take the time to eat that much food?

Is it a great tradition? Does it remind us of something that once was? Does it give us something to aspire to? Or, does it simply make us think that a life style dependent on the hard work of others is not something to be emulated?

England strikes me a class conscious society. This view of the entitled and unentitled is however changing as the British society recognizes the principle of equality under the law. An example is the news item I heard on the radio yesterday. The government ministry in charge of tax exemption ruled that private (in Britain they are called "public") schools in order to keep their tax exempt status cannot teach only the children of the well-to-do. They must now serve a "public interest" . This means admitting free of charge some individual students of lesser means. "Public" means all of the public and not just the rich and well off.

The current government in Britain is ruled by the Labour Party. The Conservative Party is in opposition. Listening to the dialogue between the two parties is a lot like listening to a discussion of the haves and have nots. The Labour Party wants to provide services for everyone. The Conservative Party recognizes that there is a cost to services by the government, and responsible citizens will contribute to the wealth of the country. It is not unlike the discussion in America between Democratic and Republican principles.

The tendency in political debate is to take an extreme position in opposition to the other party. Thus, I heard on the radio a discussion in parliament by the Labour Party to tax bank bonuses at the 90% rate. Didn't I hear the Democrats in America saying the same thing. Compromise in politics, as in life, is always the better course. Punitive measures that penalize either the rich or the poor do not serve the interests of society -either the rich or the poor.

The point is that a full English breakfast is a fine English tradition. So too is the public (private) school system in England. But, as a society, it is important that we keep in mind the less well off and strive to improve their lives as well.

Dick Whittington

I had dinner at Dick Whittington's Pub last night. Dick Whittington and his cat are semi-folk characters first written about in 1605. The story centers on Dick, a poor boy, and his cat who go off on various adventures. The cat makes Dick rich, but does not seem to get much in return from Dick for his good deeds.

Richard Whittington was a real person, the son of a knight and himself a rich merchant in London. He served three terms as Lord mayor of London: 1397-99, 1406-07, and 1419-1420. On his death in 1423, he left his estate to charitable causes.

Dinner at the restaurant was appropriately fish and chips. I am not a fried fish fan, but this was excellent. The fish was fried whole, 14 inches in length and, amazingly filleted. There were mounds of thick English style French fries and peas on the side. The sauce was a spicy mayonaisse.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


It is spelled "GLOUCESTER," but it is pronounced, "GLOSTER."

British spelling is certainly confusing for most Americans, and perhaps it works the other way too. One explanation for the difference in spelling and pronounciation is that England, when it standardized its spelling in the 1800's, opted for the Norman or Anglo-French spellings.

Learn more.

That might explain the differences in spelling, but what about pronounciation? I am not sure, but I have a guess. Walking around listening to English as it is spoken in different parts of the country, I notice a wide variation in pronounciation. (Shades of My Fair Lady and Henry Higgins.) I also notice a tendency to contract words when pronouncing them. Even Shakespeare did this. (Look at the quote of the Earl of Gloucester in a previous blog.)

Here is a concrete example. The word "bedlam" was originally the word "Bethlahem." "Bedlam" is how it was pronounced. "Bethlahem" hospital or "bedlam" (as it was pronounced) was the name of a lunatic asylum where, as you might 'ave guessed, things were a little crazy.

the news

The sad and tragic news in Great Britain is the loss of six of their soldiers in combat in Afganistan. It is the worst troop loss for Britain in 18 years. The loss was the result of a roadside bomb.

As in America the reaction is mixed. Questions arise as to the wisdom of fighting unknown insurgents in a foreign country. There are also the recriminations against a government which does not fully support its troops with the necessary equipment. But, there is also genuine patriotic support for soldiers who are fighting to make for a better world - "If not us then who?"

At some point in this conflict the American and British governments will recognize that winning this war is an obligation of the Afgan people. American and British military power can not defeat an insurgency that has its roots in the Afgan people.


In Shakespeare's tragedy, King Lear, both King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester do not see the reality of their family relationships. Both are blind to the world around them - Lear can not see the devotion of his beloved daughter Cordelia or the shallowness of his other daughters, while Gloucester is blinded by his son Edmond's treachery. This failure to see reality leads to Lear's psychological blindness, his insanity, and Gloucester's physical blindness, his trusting tendencies.

At the end, both Lear and Gloucester recognize the truth, demonstrating the need to have a clear vision in life.


I' th' last night's storm I such a fellow saw,
Which made me think a man a worm.
My son came then into my mind, and yet my mind
Was then scarce friends with him. I have heard more since.

As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods,
They kill us for their sport.

Monday, July 13, 2009

chasing ghosts

Trying to find evidence of your ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago, is a bit like chasing ghosts - ghosts in that their spirits have long since left this earth and the tangible proof of their being is more ephemeral than real.

My father, Arthur Harvey Davis was born in Austin, Texas in 1920. His father, of the same name, was born, to my knowledge, on a farm called Langford Downs, just two miles north of Lechlade. The farm is now gone, replaced by a newer house.

There is a picture of this house which I now have, developed by the local chemist in Lechlade who also had the last name of Davis. He died years ago, marrying late in life and without children. Davis, a local historian explained, is a Welch name. There are no other Davises in the town with the exception of one family which is a recent transplant from Wales.

All that I possess connecting me to the farm of Langford Downs and the village of Lechlade is a photograph. It a typical photograph of the period between 1860 and 1890. The date is based on the quality of the photograph, the pose of the two men, and the fact that my great grandfather would have been in his thirties most likely in the 1880's.

The local church in Lechlade dates from the 1200's. Like many churches it was built on an earlier foundation, and there have been over the years additions and changes. When I walked in the church today, a historian, David Ramsely, was acting as custodian. It was he who explained to me the Welch derivation of the name "Davis" (I knew.), the chemist who had the name Davis (I knew that too.), and the fact that Langfor Downs and Lechlade are in two different counties, Oxfordshire and Gloustershire (I didn't know that.).

Langford Downs is not on the map. The post office directed me to the location two miles north of Lechlade and near the smaller village of Filken. The area is a working farm with wheat as the primary product. A larger stone house stands on what was probably the site of the original house. Am ancient and gnarled tree marks the spot, unlike the surrounding area. There are two other houses in the same area, and I suppose that either of them might have been a replacement for the house my great grandfather owned.

The property records, if discoverable, are either in Gloustershire or Oxford. It all depends on the flip of a coin as to where the records were sent.

within living memory

Most of us do not record our family histories. We know very little of the momentous events in our parents lives, less about our grandparents, and thereafter, all is lost in a cloud of haze.

When we are young, we are too embarrassed, or interested in other things, to ask questions of parents and grandparents. Sadly, when we are older and wiser it is too late; the images and memories we are left with are few and distorted by childhood inexperience. The nature of children to leave home and go far, far away, the twists and turns of fame and fortune within our families, and the untimeliness of death and birth creates huge gaps in what is known about our family trees.

Before the computer and internet, sources for family histories in America are few. Family bibles, when kept, recorded significant dates in a family's life, but there was only one copy and when there were many children, them majority suffered from a lack of recorded history. Then, there were perhaps church records recording births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths. For the more industrious, there are property records or military records which can reveal new details.

In my family, I was fortunate enough to personally know three of my grandparents, my father's father, for whom I am named, died before the birth of any of his grandchildren. He was an immigrant from England, the town of Lechlade, by way of Canada. Or was it his father who emigrated from Lechlade and settled in Canada, from where his son then went to Texas and, later, Arizona. Sadly, now that I am older and interested, there is no one to answer my questions. My father's father married Francis, who I met several times, but know little of other than that she was born in Arkansas.

More is known of my mother's father, James Madison Pearson, whose ancestors origonally came from the border country of England and Wales, and crossed to America before the War of Independence. In World War I, my grandfather fought with the 2nd American Infantry Division near the Vosages Mountains in France. Wounded he was cared for in the small village of Graffigny-Chemin, where he met and married a French woman, my grandmother, Marguerite Chevalier Meine.

Of the hundreds and thousands of others, I know nothing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


In Stratford-upon-Avon, I am staying at the Holiday Inn, located just across the canal that connects to the river Avon. There is a short walk to Shakespeare's house in the city center. The city has a great website with all the information you will need on what to do and where to stay.

The canals have colorful barges lining the banks. The river is lined with grassy parks. Swans glide gracefully by. Beautiful hanging flowers line most of the street lamps.

Shakespeare's house is well-preserved; a learning center connects with the house. Most of the other buildings built in Stratford are of a much later date. There is a drive to Mary Arden's house.