Talk Radio

THERE is a lot talking going on. Everywhere.
When you get on in life a bit, as The Scribbler freely admits he is, a bit of peace and quiet is something you come to cherish.
Oh, to be able to sit in a quiet room and read a newspaper or a book, or even, if things are desperate, actually do some work.
The Scribbler, as you may have gathered, is not one for turning the radio on when he is working, or even just generally (usually) wandering around the house. In the car, yes. It is good to have some background noise when you are pootling along – a good tune can make the miles flow by.
But here we run into our problem. Talk Radio. It’s all the rage. Wherever you turn to on the dial, there it is – a discussion about something. Not an interview, say for instance with someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about, like an author, a musician or a scientist. Obviously not a politician. An interview is fine. It might actually inform you, tell you something you didn’t know.
But no. Mostly it’s talk radio. A discussion – pointless, rambling, endless. Usually with some radio host throwing in a subject, and then shouting at people who ring up and disagree with him.
There’s one particular talk station (LBC) that particularly irritates. The breakfast guy will pick up a headline from the Sun or the Mail and start a discussion about it. In the next show, the host will start another discussion about something else that was in the papers/news, and in the next show the host will start a discussion about probably the same stories that the first bloke and his listeners were blathering about.
The common theme of all these discussions? No experts. No info. It’s just Bert from Basildon or Cath from Croydon with their opinion.
And what are they usually taking about? SOMETHING THAT WAS IN THE PAPERS IN THE MORNING!!! Something that I already know about. Something that none of us can change. So why go on an on and on and on about it?
Occasionally when the Scribbler goes to bed, his darling wife – a fan of talk radio – will have a show on. AND THEY WILL STILL BE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING THAT WAS IN THE PAPERS THAT MORNING. SIXTEEN OR SO HOURS AGO. And guess what? No one has an answer, or any more info. They just go on and on, and the host shouts at them. Again.
And as for football phone ins… Now regular readers will know that the Scribbler likes his football. Is obsessed with it, in fact. But obsessed with watching it, or talking about it in the pub with his mates.
The first national football phone in was (I think) the Saturday night 606 phone in with Danny Baker, which was a hoot – irreverent, cack handed, funny. Didn’t take the game or itself seriously. That was fine.
But Baker moved on, and they got serious. Now its Sid from Crewe ringing up after another disastrous result for the Alex, saying they should sack the manager, or Eric from Exeter, or Bill from Bromley saying Pardew should stop using wingers. And now thanks to Talk Sport, you get it every day. Every wretched hour. Reams of it, and all of it (or almost), complete cobblers. The game has gone. It is history. The result is the result. YOU CAN’T CHANGE IT. If you want to go on about it, do it in the pub with your mates. Like we used to. Not on my radio.
The Scribbler is probably in the minority here, but there you go. I’ve said it.

The Scribbler

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The Sparrows are back!

READERS may remember The Scribbler worrying that his sparrows had disappeared from his front garden.

But now he has good news. The sparrows have returned. Gradually, over the last couple of  months, they have started to come back.

In ones and twos, they have begun to populate the bushes and trees in the front garden, and bathe in the gutters at the front of the house.

And gradually, brilliantly, more and more are beginning to arrive. They sit on the roof chatting and then fly down to the pyracantha bush (always their favourite) to congregate.

Once that bush had been  Picadilly Circus of birds, rustling and bustling with movement. Then it fell silent for a long, long spell last year (and not just during the winter). Now the chirping and chirruping is back.

You can stand in the front garden and listen and it is as if some sort of  market is going on around you – full of call and response, birds whirring back and forth on their errands.

It is not just because it is getting warm again, summer has at last arrived and they have all returned from skies afar. Where were they last summer – and the summer before?

It doesn’t matter. They are back now. A simple thing, but it brings a smile to the face.

Welcome back. Stay for a while.

The Scribbler


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Surbiton – Frontier Town

Richard Jefferies was a writer fascinated by the areas where city and country blend together, come into contact. In his book ‘Nature Lear London’ (1883) Jefferies explores the ‘frontier line to civilisation’.

IN 1877, Jefferies, a countryman at heart, moved from Swindon to Surbiton. This was then the frontier he was looking for. Robert MacFarlane, in his great book “Landmarks” (2015) , writes: “Surbiton was then at the limit line of London’s growth: a high-Victorian edgeland.”

Jefferies had been born and raised in Coate, near Swindon. His father was a farmer, and he explored the countryside from a young age, hunting, fishing, and became an essayist and a writer. Then, with wife Jessie and son Harold, he moved to Surbiton.

McFarlane writes: “London’s edgelands today comprise jittery, jumbled grounds: utlilities infrastructure and haulage depots, crackling substations and allotments, scrub forests and sluggish canals, slackened regulatory frameworks and guerrilla ecologies.”

The Surbiton Jefferies encountered was very different. Country lanes, fields, woodland, streams, cottages – and space. Although London and its sprawl, or more particularly Kingston and its sprawl was gradually beginning to encroach. Major roads ran through the little town: to Brighton, to Portsmouth, to London. The railway had opened in 1840.


(Ewell Road, Surbiton in the early 1900’s)

But, as McFarlane reveals, Jefferies still then found that suburban streets suddenly became fields; footpaths led into copses and woodland. “It was recognizably a marginal zone.” It was travelled through by people trying to escape London – and get to it.

Jefferies also writes about the birds he finds in Surbiton: the chiffchaffs, the willow wrens, the thrushes and blackbirds, chaffinches, greenfinches, wood pigeons, turtle-doves, tree-pipits…larks: “As for the nightingales, I never knew so many in the most secluded country.”

Where have they gone?

(Robert McFarlane “Landmarks” 2015. His other books are great too)

The Scribbler.

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Anne Cornish Vyse

This a tragic little tale with a Surbiton connection.

Charles Vyse was a straw hat maker, straw hats being very popular in mid Victorian England. His premises were at 30 Ludgate Street in London. In 1847 bankruptcy proceedings were taken out against Charles, but he was allowed to continue to run his business from 30 Ludgate Street. In 1849 he was advertising that he was selling fashionable ‘Parisian bonnets’ and other fancy headgear from his shop.

Charles died in July 1850 at the age of 66 and left the entire business to his wife Mary, and after her death to his children. But his son Edward, he ruled in his will, was not to be a partner in the business, but to receive a salary. Why this was so is not clear. In the 1851 census, Mary is listed as the head of the household, with son Augustus manager of the business.

Meanwhile, son Valentine, a bankers clerk, meets and marries Anne Cornish Saunders, the daughter of a chemist, in January 1851. They live together in Surbiton and begin to bring up a family. It would appear that after 1858 Valentine then took over the family business. Then things started to go horribly wrong.

Around June 7 1862 a notice appears in several newspapers reporting that Mrs Vyse of Ludgate Hill, then 33, had been committed to Newgate on a charge of wilfully murdering her children, Alice Kate and Annie Howard. At her trial at the Old Bailey it was revealed that she had been charged with poisoning the two children.

Valentine and Anne at that point actually had five children, though only the two girls had up come with her to see the Great Exhibition in London on that particular that day. Three weeks earlier, Anne had visited a chemist’s to buy some rat poison. A servant, sent out to fetch some more poison, returned home and knocked on the bedroom door, only to be told to wait. Becoming suspicious, she called Mrs Vyse’s sister Sarah Saunders, and they forced open the door.

There they found a scene of horror. Anne was standing over the sink bleeding from the throat with a cut throat razor in her hand. The two girls were found dead in their beds, fully clothed. The court records show that Anne: “said that she was mad and wished to die, and that her children were in heaven.” An analyses of their stomachs found large quantities of strychnine.

Anne Vyse’s defence at the trial cited that she was pregnant and depressed. She had lost a child in 1860 to diphtheria, in Surbiton. Elsewhere in her family, one cousin had tried to commit suicide, another had been confined in a lunatic asylum.

Anne was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity. She was sentenced to be detained for life, but by 1871 was living in Wimbledon, with a family. Anne died in 1889 and is buried in St Paul’s churchyard in Hook – in the same grave as the two little girls.

For more on this sad case, see the excellent London Street Views blog at

The Scribbler.

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THE Scribbler is no good at gardening. Just can’t do it. He has tried, yes he has. He has made an effort.

The Scribbler has read books. He quite enjoys the gardening programmes on the television. Especially that one where they all seem to work on the same garden, and it has lots of different sections. Where they grow vegetables that make you feel hungry just watching, and at the same time, they have amazing flower beds full of colour and life.

I am looking at my garden now. (Through a window, obviously). I might go out in it later, and fiddle about for a bit. But not if it is too cold, or rainy.


(Note well tended patio pots in foreground)

My old man was an amazing gardener. He was a country boy, from deepest Sussex, and he loved gardens, loved nature, loved the countryside. Our garden back home was  brilliant. Immaculate lawn , amazing flowers, shrubs and all kinds of stuff. I have friends who are brilliant gardeners. You go round to their houses and their gardens are gloriousy organised little oases of peace, quiet and beauty.

Or even worse, they have these deliberately messy “wild” sort of gardens, cottage gardens I think they are called. They look unkempt, overgrown, but they still look great. Mine is unkempt and overgrown, but it still doesn’t look as good as theirs.

Do a little bit at a time, they say. Each day, do a bit. Don’t leave it to one big clear up. Work it constantly.

Doesn’t matter. The Scribbler doesn’t know the names of plants, apart from the obvious – red robin, roses, foxgloves,  daffodils. And when you look in a book and see a plant you might like, you go down to the garden centre ( I like garden centres though I don’t know why. I think just being in one makes you feel like you might be able to be a proper gardener) – but they are never there. Just a host of other plants with indecipherable Latin names.

And the Scribbler is not sure when to plant them. And if the soil is right – and should they be in shade? And then weeks or even months later, when (more likely if) something appears, he is quite likely to dig it up thinking it is a weed. And then there are slugs. They did for my efforts once.

And look. I can  get technical. Berrylands has clay soil. So, on advice, I dug some silver sand into my beds. (That was hard work). Has it made much difference? Not really. The soil is still sticky, still comes out in clumps. Not like on that BBC programme where it is all crumbly and moist and easy to dig. They cheerfully scoop out a bit, plant something, and then the next week there it is, all bright and springy.

I like a nice lawn, mind. I actually re-sowed a bit of mine – and I’m always trying to root out the moss. I like to mow it and have it looking neat. But it never quite does. Not like other people’s, not like Monty Dons, or whatever his name is.

And the odd thing is, I like my garden. I like to go out and stand in it with a cup of tea, drink in the peace, make the odd phone call. I just ignore the chaos around me, obviously.

Of course, The Scribbler can prune. Oh yes he can. Cut down, trim back, dig out, take it all down the dump. It is the other bit, the creative bit, the planting and the nurturing that is the problem.

Bit windy today. I’ll leave it.

The Scribbler

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IT WOULD appear that Kingstonian, The Scribbler’s home town football team, are on the verge of finding a new home, in deepest Chessington.

The proposed ground is on the site of Chessington Golf Centre, which is literally opposite Chessington South station, on Garrison Lane.

K’s chairman Mark Anderson revealed this week that the 130-year-old club has been working alongside developer Affinity Global to prepare plans to build a stadium at the centre.

Golf  Chessington Golf Centre

There has long been speculation that the centre, which is on greenbelt land,was being eyed by a developer to build 700 homes, a swimming pool, leisure centre and football pitch.

Anderson told the Surrey Comet: “It will be the making of the club if we can get it.

“It’s not cut and dry, but it’s the right time to release more information. It’s about putting our stamp on something, it will be our home we hope for the next 100 years.

“We will be able to generate revenue from our own bar, and hiring out the clubhouse. There’s an awful lot of work ahead of us.”

Ks were due to exhibit their plans to supporters this weekend. There has though been opposition from local councillors and others concerned about building on greenbelt land that could be used for affordable housing.

Ks were forced to look for a new stadium after AFC Wimbledon, leaseholders to their current ground at Kingsmeadow, secured planning permission to build a 20,000-seater stadium in Merton.

Wimbledon are now in advanced talks to sell Kingsmeadow to Chelsea, who want to use the stadium for their women’s and youth teams.


Kingsmeadow as it is now

There was always a worry as to where Ks would end up after Kingsmeadow – simply because there is not much space in Kingston for a new football ground.

At least Chessington, if the move comes off, is in the borough – even if it is some way out from Kingston town itself. It is right opposite a station and there are bus routes, but parking looks like it might be limited.

Also, The Scribbler has played golf (very badly) at Chessington, and it is a very hilly course – so there will have to be some pretty major levelling out of the land before a stadium can be put down. There is space though.

What Chessington & Hook United, of the Combined Counties League, whose Chalky Lane ground will virtually back onto the new Ks stadium, think of the matter, will also be interesting.

The Scuffler first started watching Ks at their old Richmond Road ground (now housing). When that was sold they moved briefly to share with Hampton. Now there is a third site for the grand old club.

Watch this space.

The Scribbler

(Photographs copyright Surrey Comet)

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Wearing black

The Scribbler spent a considerable part of his life clad almost entirely in black.

Over a decade in fact, from around 1978 to 1990, at which time The Scribbler met his dearly beloved, who slowly but surely weaned him, not without a struggle but with gentle and simply irresistible persistence, off the total blackout.

Up ‘til then it was black Oxfam/Notting Hill Housing Trust/ or some such like jacket, or a battered (had to be battered) leather biker jacket. Black shirts with occasional bootlace tie if going somewhere special, black jeans or trousers, and black Doctor Martens shoes (not boots). Standard outfit.

Doctor Martens were also worn until they almost fell apart (could take maybe two years if I remember correctly) – and they were the only shoes owned – obviously.

It wasn’t a Goth look. There was a quiff in there (also sadly banished in the 90’s) of varying height. It was more New Wave, sort of ex punk.

But even after the early 90’s it cannot be said that The Scribbler suddenly became a riot of colour in his apparel.

Black is still heavily favoured, but The Scribbler has gradually accepted greys and dark blues, and even an occasional brown. A check shirt is occasionally deemed acceptable.

The exception to the uniform black used to be the odd crazy shirt. There was a period of buying the most horrible shirt possible (often women’s blouses) from charity shops, to wear to parties along with the black. One was so successful that the revolted girlfriend of the time got out a scissors and cut it into very small pieces when we got home.

Black was not an unusual look in the late 70’s, early 80’s. In fact amongst a certain age group it was almost regulation. The Scribbler was a student at one point, but it was not a look restricted wholly to students. When you ceased being a student in those days, you went on the dole. Then if you were lucky (!) you got a crap job (making bits for petrol pumps/ warehouse work, etc, etc). It was the era of Margaret Thatcher, of dole queues, of gloom.

Of course the music was like that too – punk had petered out and it was Joy Division, The Fall, The Cure, Pyscheledic Furs, the Cramps, The Fall, etc. It was dark. And there was not much to look forward to. It all felt black.

We thought it looked good too, of course.

Mums could be a problem. “I knitted you this. I know you like black, but I just thought I’d put this little red stripe in. Nice isn’t it? It’s mostly black…” Ta mum.

Actually, come to think of it, don’t know where the bootlace tie is now, either…

The Scribbler



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