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May 2019
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Dates for your Diary

Wednesday 12th June 6pm – Ralph Richardson Memorial Lecture - Workers, Warriors and Waywards: Women in Gwent in the Second World War.

Saturday 15th June - Aberfest

Saturday 29th June – Coffee Morning – talk by local archaeology group.

April 100 Club

No.     3        Jen Price               £20
No. 110        Margaret Evans    £10

If you would like to join our 100 club and be in with a chance of winning, it costs just £1 a month. Ask at the museum for further details.


Aberfest is on 15th June this year. Donations gratefully received for our bric-a-brac stall, also cakes on the day and if you can spare a few hours to help man the stalls / café etc, it would be much appreciated.

Coffee Morning

Our recent coffee morning on the Guiding Movement went very well and many of us there (myself included) had been in the Guides, Brownies or Scouts.  Plus, in addition to two former Guide Commissioners, Mrs Chris Budd and Mrs Vera Smith (see photo below), we were also pleased to welcome two current day Girl Guides, a Brownie and a pack leader.  Many thanks to Kath Taylor, herself a former Girl Guide, who gave a very interesting talk. 

girl guides

We even sang a camp fire song, led by Kath and the youngsters.


Left, Kath with two young modern day Girl Guides and a Brownie, and below, two former Commissioners meeting a young Brownie of today.


There will be an exhibition of Guiding memorabilia on display for the next few weeks so do pop in and take a look.

Unexpected Laws

At this time of year our thoughts often turn to booking our two weeks holiday in the sun but how many of us ever think to check on local laws and customs of the country we are planning on visiting?   Many of us don’t realise just how easy it is to fall foul of unexpected laws.

Most of us are aware that travel to Muslim countries such as the United Arab Emirates, means much greater restriction on what you can do and even on what you can wear, and if you happen to visit during the religious festival of Ramadan you need to take even greater care; however there are laws that can catch you out much closer to home.  Take our closest neighbour, France for instance; if you are driving in France you must carry a breathalyser kit, a warning triangle and reflective jackets for everyone in the vehicle and the jackets must be accessible without leaving the vehicle.  Speed limits on motorways vary too depending on weather conditions and if your dash camera or satellite navigation device has a built in feature to alert you to possible speed camera traps on roads, then it is illegal to have the device in the vehicle even if not in use.  You are also required to display a ‘pollution sticker’ and if your vehicle is too old to qualify for one, then you cannot drive in certain parts of the country such as Paris, Lyon or Grenoble.

feetWhile it is always prudent to wear sensible shoes for driving; in Spain it is required by law. Driving in bare feet, backless shoes or even high heels could land you in hot water.  Like France, you must carry reflective jackets and two warning triangles which must be placed in front of and behind the vehicle in case of a breakdown.  You must also carry a spare wheel and the tools to change the tyre.  In Madrid, on high pollution days, only cars with even ending number plates are allowed in on even dates and those with odd ending number plates are allowed in on odd dates. 

You must be able to provide Spanish police with photographic ID on request and can be held in custody until you do.  Challenging a police office can be viewed as disobedience and is a criminal offence.  In some parts of Spain it is against the law to be in the street wearing just a bikini or swimming trunks while  some local councils have even banned this on seafront promenades.  Bare chests are also banned by some councils.

In Greece, indecent behaviour, including ‘mooning, isn’t tolerated.  It is not advisable either to wear fancy dress as some could be deemed offensive and therefore breach decency laws and if you find yourself driving in neighbouring Cyprus, do not toot your car horn in the vicinity of a hospital.  In Italy it is illegal to sit on monument steps or to eat or drink in the immediate vicinity of churches, historic monuments or public buildings.

Turkey has become a popular destination recently but did you know that it is a requirement to carry photographic ID at all times?  Police in Istanbul in particular carry out random ID checks on the general public from time to time.   It is also an offence to insult the Turkish nation or flag or to tear up the currency.  These offences could land you in prison for up to three years.

And someone who was sentenced to three years in prison was Briton, Laura Plummer, not in Turkey though but Egypt.  Her crime was to try and enter the country carrying the painkiller, Tramadol.  While Tramadol is available on prescription here, it is illegal in Egypt as Laura found out to her cost.   She was arrested on her arrival in the country in December 2017. Conditions in prison were extremely harsh but fortunately she was released in January this year having served just over a year of her sentence.

For more information on travelling abroad, please visit:-
Sally Murphy

My Big Feathered Friend

In November’s edition I told you about my ‘little feathered friend’, well this is the story of my BIG feathered friend….!

In early 2005, I had been feeding the birds peanuts as usual.  As well as hanging some from a feeder in the tree at the bottom of the garden, I had also scattered some on the ground for the many ground feeding species of birds.

I was first made aware of my unusual visitor by my cat Bonnie, hissing at something through the cat flap door (she was very brave from the safety of the kitchen).  When I looked out I was astonished to see what I at first thought was a partridge.  It was happily gobbling up the peanuts I had put out.  When it started appearing every day, I decided to take a photo of it and send it to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to see if they could identify it for me as scouring my copy of ‘British Garden Birds’ had proved futile.  I received the following reply:

‘The mystery bird that has been visiting your garden is a species of Guinea Fowl, most probably a Helmeted Guinea Fowl Numida meleagris.  The species originates from Africa but has been imported to the UK for both the culinary and aviculture trades.  If not being reared for the table, helmeted guinea fowl are often allowed to roam free, like peacocks, by people keeping them as pets or part of a collection.  Your visitor is most likely coming from such a collection and is definitely one of the more unusual garden visitors we have heard of’

The RSPB advised me to feed it corn and, named ‘Gary the guinea fowl’ by my daughter, it seemed  I had acquired a new pet!  Whenever I went on holiday, my father, as well as feeding the cat, also fed the bird.  Guinea fowl are not good flyers.  To fly off it would first have to gain some height by getting onto the fence.  This it did by going to the far side of the garden and then taking a run at the fence.  Often it would abort the ‘takeoff’ at the last second and go back for another try (oh that I had had a mobile with video capability back then!)  From the fence it could fly into a nearby beech tree for a nap.  When it wasn’t in my garden or the beech tree it would often be seen wandering around our estate and became quite a talking point for our neighbours.

At first I was afraid of what would happen if the bird and my cat Bonnie came face to face.  Bonnie was not averse to chasing birds but this bird dwarfed her. One day ‘Gary’ was in the garden, under the kitchen window and to the right of the cat flap and hemmed in by my conservatory.  Bonnie hadn’t seen the bird and so entered the garden and sat down just outside the flap.  At first she just sat staring straight ahead, then she looked to her left, then to the right and then back to straight ahead, and then she did a ‘double-take’ - her head snapped straight back to her right and she and ‘Gary’ came face to face!  Neither knew what to do – Gary was a poor flyer as I’ve already said and Bonnie looked alarmed.  You could almost hear her weighing up her options, attack or flee!  She fled back indoors!  They met like this on more than one occasion and the result was always the same, Bonnie would flee.

April 28th 2006 was my father’s 80th birthday.  My uncle and his wife from ‘Gary’ on my garden benchYorkshire had travelled to Wales to help us celebrate.  On arrival they commented that they had just encountered a very large unusual bird wandering in the road.  I told them not to worry, it’s only ‘Gary’ but unfortunately this was the last known sighting of the bird.  It had vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared.  Did it get run over?  Or did it end up on someone’s plate?  If you know what happened to Gary, do please tell…!
Sally Murphy

Beware HMRC Scam

There have been reports of automated phone calls stating that ‘HMRC are issuing a warrant for the arrest’ of the receiver of the message for tax evasion and that they need to ‘urgently press 1 to speak to an agent.’

This call is a scam. Do not press 1 and end the call immediately.

If you receive a call, email or text message similar to this, report the message to Action Fraud UK.
Telephone numbers can be ‘spoofed’ to look like genuine numbers. Emails and text messages can also be made to look very convincing.

Information above supplied by Gwent Now in affiliation with Gwent Police Neighbourhood Watch Scheme.

Mothering Sunday

What’s in a name? Well there can be quite a lot. If you thought Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day were one and the same, read on and I’ll try and explain the difference.

Originally, Mothering Sunday was a keenly observed religious occasion going back many centuries. It actually had no connection with mothers at all!  The word “mothering” referred to the mother church which was the church where you were baptised or the local parish church or the cathedral of the area. It became a tradition that on the fourth Sunday of Lent, people would attend a special service in their mother church, travelling back to the area if necessary.  This pilgrimage was known as “going a-mothering” and it came to evolve into something of a holiday event. Domestic servants were usually given the day off to visit their own families as well as their mother church.  It was also the custom for children to pick wild flowers to place in the church or to give to their mothers and many churches today have small posies of flowers for children to present to their mothers at the Mothering Sunday service.
It would seem that for all its religious significance, the processions were not always peaceful and Robert Grossteste, Bishop of Lincoln wrote in a letter dating to about 1200 “In each and every church you should strictly prohibit one parish from fighting with another over whose banners should come first in processions at the time of the annual visitation and veneration of the mother church.”

The observance of Mothering Sunday had seriously faltered by the start of the 20th century and a lady called Constance Penswick Smith, the daughter of a vicar, took it upon herself to try and revive its popularity by writing a book and setting up a “Society for the Observance of Mothering Sunday”. She was successful, in a way, in that the day called “Mother’s Day” gained popularity.

However, strictly speaking, Mother’s Day is an American invention by an American lady called Anna Jarvis in the early part of the 20th century. She wanted desperately to honour her own mother and although she was ridiculed or ignored at first, in 1914 President Woodrow Wilson officially signed Mother’s Day into existence.  It is reported that it was Anna Jarvis who inspired Constance Penwick Smith.  The celebration of Mothering Sunday and Mother’s Day has since become blurred and Mother’s Day is now considered by many to be over-commercialised – something which Anna Jarvis herself condemned.

For those with a Christian commitment, Mothering Sunday is still something to be observed in the form of a special church service. This year Mothering Sunday or Mother’s Day fell on 31st March, last year it was on 11th March and next year it will be on 22nd March.

It is also worth noting that mothers have been celebrated since ancient times, before the coming of Christianity.  The ancient Greeks celebrated Rhea, the mother of the Gods and Goddesses, every spring with festivals of worship. The Romans celebrated a mother Goddess, Cybele, every March, as far back as 250B.C.

Another name for Mothering Sunday is Refreshment Sunday or Simnel Sunday. Although we tend to think of Simnel cake as an Easter dish, in fact it was baked for Mothering Sunday; the cake being presented to one’s mother and bringing a welcome treat into the otherwise austere period of Lent as Mothering Sunday was a day when normal fasting rules were suspended.  Simnel cake comprises a rich fruit cake with layers of marzipan or almond paste and eleven balls of marzipan on the top, these representing eleven of the disciples (Judas is not included). 

The internet is an invaluable tool in research and through it I have found three possible explanations for the origin of the word “Simnel”.  One is that it comes from the latin word simila which means a fine wheat flour used in cake baking. Another explanation is that a man called Simon and his wife Nell argued over the Mothering Sunday cake – should it be baked or boiled? In the end they apparently did both and the cake was named after both of them Sim-Nell. A third explanation is that it was named after Lambert Simnel who worked in the kitchens of King Henry VII in about 1500.
Jen Price

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