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July 2019

The Ancient Village of Ickford

Tales From The Edge
This is an occasional series where I go to the edge of North Bucks and show you what I've found.

Inside:outside Ickford churchInside/outside the church.

Right on the bottom left hand edge of the North bucks area is the village of Ickford. You can walk half a mile South from the village towards Tiddington, but when you cross the 17th Century bridge over the River Thame you’ll find yourself in Oxfordshire. The river valley is shallow here, the land almost flat.

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At the Peace Pagoda

 

The Peace Pagoda CeremonyIndian dancer

There’s quite a few ceremonies every year at the Peace Pagoda and Buddhist temple in Willen, Milton Keynes. A few weeks ago I was at this year’s Peace Pagoda Ceremony, the 39th.

I didn’t get there in time for the chanting and praying, but after lunch I saw the cultural part of the events, with both Indian and Hungarian dancers, and a Chinese dragon dance. Here are some photos. (You can scroll the gallery sideways)

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Fletcher Was Here

Norman Stanley Fletcher

Near the entrance to the new theatre in Aylesbury is a statue of Ronnie Barker, as he looked when he played the prisoner Fletcher in the TV series Porridge, between 1974 and 1977. He considered Norman Stanley Fletcher to be his finest creation.

Born in Bedford in 1929, Ronald William George Barker was living in Oxford in 1948 and working in a bank there. He took a trip to Aylesbury to see a play at the Market Theatre, where the Manchester Repertory Company were Performing.

The Market Theatre was off the Market Square, and behind The Green Man pub. It's gone now.

Back home, he wrote to the company asking for a job and enclosing a photograph, but didn’t receive a reply. He wrote to them again asking for the photo back, and they offered him an audition. At the audition, he was hired on the spot.

His first role was in J.M. Barrie’s comedy play Quality Street. That was in November 1948; he was nineteen.

Ronnie Barker statue  Aylesbury

Once Ronnie Barker had performed in two more comedy plays he realised that he wanted to become a comic actor. In 1956 he made his first radio appearance in the sit com The Floggits. Later he played Able Seaman Fatso Johnson, in the excellent long running comedy series The Navy Lark.

This radio programme ran from 1959 to 1976, and he played a total of 40 different characters.

Many people don’t realise that he played another role in Porridge, too; that of the judge who sentences the “habitual criminal” Norman Stanley Fletcher to five years in the opening credits. Ronnie Barker played a huge variety of radio, TV, and film roles over the years; he was a man of great talent. He passed away aged 76, in October 2005.

If you want to hear how good he was in his younger days, The Navy Lark is often broadcast on Radio 4 Extra. See if you can spot which characters he plays; it’s not as easy as you might think.

Eye to eye with Ronnie Barker

I’ve written about some of the other statues in Aylesbury; there's lots of them:

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Aylesbury. David Bowie played in the Borough Assembly Hall, which is what the Market Theatre later became. Standing Square in Aylesbury. A Market Square hero. A Bird From Aylesbury. John Hampden gets the bird.


BSA Days

_IMG5575BSA M33.

I’ve been riding motorcycles since the mid 70s, but in all those years I’ve never owned a British bike. It’s time I did.

After looking at the alternatives, and there are plenty, I’m going for a BSA M33 or B33, a 500cc bike with a single cylinder engine. These were both made from 1947 to 1957 (M33) or 1960 (B33).

The bikes are fairly similar, but the main difference between the two is that the M33 was designed to have a sidecar attached. There are attachment points, or lugs, built in for the sidecar, and the frame is stronger.

I’m not after one with a sidecar. I quite like the idea but I have nowhere to keep one. Plus, every time I’ve tried riding a bike and sidecar I couldn’t keep the sidecar wheel off the pavement.

So far, I’ve joined the BSA Owners Club, and I’ve had lots of advice about these bikes from the members. Being in the club means we go out on bike rides.

We meet at the Super Sausage cafe at Potterspury on the A5 one Sunday each month, then take a twisty and convoluted route down the back roads to somewhere that sells tea and cake. Some of these bikes, fifty or sixty years old, are not too quick compared to modern bikes, but it doesn’t matter; they are in their element on the back roads.

My Yamaha, a mere 37 years old, is quick enough for modern roads, but I’ve often been finding myself riding more slowly, since I started my  relaxed trips out with the BSA Owners Club.

_IMG5501Turweston Airfield.

The last ride out took us all over the top edge of North Bucks beyond Buckingham. It was a route so twisty I can’t retrace it on the map, and a lot of the time it was on what we might have called cart tracks if only they were a bit wider.

We ended up at Turweston airfield, right on the border of Bucks, not far from Brackley. RAF Turweston, as it was, like many airfields in this part of the world, was an Operational Training Unit or OTU. They trained bomber crews. It opened in November 1942 and over the course of the war men were trained on various twin engined aircraft.

We arrived on a variety of motorcycles, most of them BSAs. We were going to the first floor Flight Deck Cafe, where we could drink tea and have a good view of aircraft taking off. The cafe is open from 9am to 4:30pm every day. There’s a lift up to the first floor.

_IMG5502BSA Owners Club, Beds, Bucks & Northants branch.

The man in the top photo is Chris. He has been a BSA man for many years. The bike is his BSA M33.

I bumped into him at the annual Ludgershall Bike Night. (I covered it here last year) He had ridden there on his M33. I had last seen him a few weeks before, when I told him I was after a B33 or an M33 for myself.

Then, he immediately offered me a chance to try his one out, so I could see what they were all about. Ludgershall was the first time I had seen him since.

I straddled the Beeza, and followed his instructions. I must confess, I couldn’t start it. Off I got, and to show me how it was done he started it with ease, twice.

I got back on, and failed again. But I’m sure it’s just a matter of technique; I’ve never owned a British bike, and it’s been a long time since I had a bike with a kickstart. I’ll be going round his house in a few days, then we can try again in a calmer atmosphere.

Riding an old British bike will be rather different from riding modern machinery. These machines were designed just after World War Two, and there have been many changes in Britain since then.

I’m looking forward to getting one.