Wednesday, 22 June 2016


Margaret and Jonathan in the new store
  Like Mark Twain who famously quipped a report of his death was greatly exaggerated, our own Margaret Kettle is proving there is a lot of life still to live - even as one of Goostrey's oldest villagers a few months off her 94th birthday! When Margaret's "Aladdin's Cave"  appeared to close several weeks ago, it was feared the doughty shopkeeper had finally  locked up for good. But nothing of the sort as it reopened today (July 4) with Margaret still behind the counter in a refurbished shop. Now renamed Goostrey Village Store, complete with post office, groceries,  bread,  fresh meat and hardware, the wheel has turned full circle to the days when the community was little more than 500 souls and there were many more shops.  Its transformation is due to Jonathan Royle, of Plumley Village Stores, who took over Goostrey sub post office when it was threatened with closure, and has now invested his faith and resources in a return to shopping locally. And Margaret, born and bred in the community at Roadside Farm, Barnshaw, will remain very much a lively fixture - although  she can no longer boast she sells everything from a pin to an elephant - continuing a role that began with her late husband, George, in 1960.  "I am certainly not retiring and I will just disappear one of these days," says Margaret. "I have been modernised, and have been dragged shouting and screaming into the modern age." Those of a certain maturity in Goostrey will remember when the couple ran  not only the post office  but sorted the mail at 5.30 am behind the shop in Main Road and employed a team of posties. It was a real rural service and I doubt a letter was ever  delivered incorrectly. I then lived in Mill Lane and  was always aware when George  delivered the post - the whiff of the smoke from his ever present cigarette wafted up the stairs through the letter box!  In recent times,some 29 years after the post office moved elsewhere in the village, Margaret came to the rescue when it faced the axe and offered a corner of her  shop as a branch of Plumley post office. Now she is looking enthusiastically to her new role as arguably the oldest shop assistant in the country in premises built for £300 in the mid 19th century on land known as the Acreage and her home for more than 50 years. It has served the village as a bakery, a shippon for five cows, stabling for horses and an abattoir before Kettles emporium. Jonathan says the shop will be an addition to other businesses in the village and not in competition. Griselda Garner, wife of author Alan Garner, who lives at Blackden, was among villagers at the official launch." She said:"It is a fantastic addition to the village and I hope it will be well supported."
Margaret cuts the tape to launch the new village store
*Mark Twain, the American writer who died April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut, was in London in 1895, when he was rumoured to be on his deathbed, provoking his famous response.
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Winston Churchill is claimed to be the architect of the European Union. But even the great wartime leader would not have foreseen his baby grow into such an overbearing middle-aged bedfellow in  28 nations that we, one of the club, are being asked today (Thursday) to remain or leave. I've hesitated to declare my hand. Now, having looked at the pros and cons, I fear the only alternative is that we must go, sadly Mr Cameron's interview on BBC Today on Wednesday morning being the deciding factor. I just cannot believe that the fine tuning of our relationship with the EU  he claims to have achieved will be rubber-stamped when the proposals come up for approval. And even if they were sanctioned we would still face the prospect of the European steamroller continuing to crush our opposition to any future regulation and legislation we disliked. I know many of the great, good and sometime worthy have declared they will be voting to stay. Let's face it, though, many  have vested interests, notable among them that champion of the consumer, Martin Lewis. He says on the balance of probability, it is more likely we'll have less money in our pockets if we vote to leave. Others, like Richard Branson, say leaving the EU would be very, very damaging to Great Britain. Well, all I can say, I have a lot of time for both, but am reminded that one made a mint from his money saving website, and the other is a billionaire magnet whose lifestyle on Necker Island in the Caribbean is far remote from the daily grind of the majority on our small island! Someone asked the other day: What has the EU done for you? I  really can't say - although I do know until recently it was illegal to be sold goods in pounds, only kilos were allowed, the plan to replace miles with kilometres on our roads was also defied, but, frustratingly, in some authorities over-zealous Europhiles continue to maintain kilometre footpath signs, and I am confused because I still think in inches and fahrenheit  not celsius These are all pretty petty matters. It is what lies ahead should cause our concern if the majority vote to stay at the table, and we fail to regain the right to plot our own destiny. 

Friday, 3 June 2016


Look closely and see a man in a hat?

Must be a beast with face above?
I've been doing a bit of wall-gazing purely in the interests of tracking Goostrey's long departed graffiti artists. Even the Romans left their mark on monuments as widespread as Hadrian's wall and the Colosseum. So it is a fair bet the village's old-time wall whittlers will have left their mark, too. Not surprisingly, the stonework surrounding the old churchyard of Saxon-founded St Luke's  has provided a fertile hunting ground. Sure, I have to admit, it takes a lot of imagination to see images carved and drawn on the ancient stone, but I swear I can see pictures and words, if only barely visible to the naked eye. I have no evidence to support the theory, but my belief is the stone wall is recycled from the old timber-framed church torn down in the 18th century. It could have formed the base on which the timbers stood, but let's not speculate. Some of the pictures here I'm convinced show long lost images on the stonework. Anyone interested in taking a look might let me know what they think and confirm I am not seeing things! If I am right perhaps they should be recorded for posterity by someone who knows a thing or two about old graffiti.
 Wroxeter, Shropshire, where Romans left their mark!
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