From the Radio Times, 5th-11th December, 1981:

Artist Gordon Beningfield cycles down the lanes of West Dorset on his old Post Office bike in Friday’s ‘In the Country’. Brian Jackman, Gordon’s guide when he visits the area, tells what’s in store.

Dorset has many faces. There is Purbeck Dorset, Hardy’s Dorset, a Downland Dorset of bell barrows and barley fields. And there is West Dorset; different from all the rest. In feeling a county in its own right, with Bridport as its handsome capital. There are no official boundaries; only the crumbling sea cliffs, thick with fossils, from Lyme Regis to Abbotsbury. Inland it melts away somewhere just north of Beaminster.

The Magic Triangle: a rumpled, tumbling green-gold land of steep hills, sensuously rounded. A secretive place of deep and buzzard-haunted combes, threaded with bright streams and sunken lanes, awash in May with cow parsley, the pungent smell of wild garlic and the song of cuckoos.

At its heart is Powerstock, pretty but not picturebook; a living, working village of golden stone with cows in the street at milking-time. There is a church (Norman); a castle mound (Saxon); a pub (Victorian); and a real ‘Cider with Rosie’ village school which survives happily.

In the east of the parish lies Powerstock Common, with its fallow deer and ancient oaks, and Eggardon looming on the skyline, ringed with ramparts, and so huge it looks like a displaced chunk of the Pennines. Eggardon is a geological frontier, the great divide marking the end of the chalk. This is where Southern England ends and the West Country begins.

Plunge down those burrowing lanes and the landscape changes before your eyes, welcoming you with a flourish of ferns. Suddenly fields are smaller, woods wilder. Everywhere, wildlife burgeons. In spring the hedges are full of primroses. I know banks where snowdrops grow, and orchids in summer. Butterflies abound. Badgers are common. Foxes and sparrow-hawks hunt the hillsides.

No one with a genuine love of fine countryside can fail to respond to it. West Dorset is special. That is why Kenneth Allsop spent his last years here; and why the artist Gordon Beningfield returns each year as regularly as the swallows, to seek inspiration in this unique fragment of vanishing England.

I am not a Dorset native. I came to Powerstock only sixteen years ago. Now I cannot imagine living anywhere else. It is a good feeling: here I am, where I belong.


From Why the Universe Exists, published by the New Scientist in 2017:

A proton walks through a bar. ‘I’ve lost my electron,’ it says.

‘Are you sure?’ says the barman.

‘I’m positive.’

A Higgs boson walks into a church. ‘Hey, you can’t have mass without me.’

A photon is checking into a hotel, and the doorman asks whether he needs any help with his luggage.

‘No, I’m travelling light.’


From the Reader’s Digest, February 1986,  page 133:

An American and his wife touring along the Thames came to a place where bands were playing and flags flying. What was all the excitement about, he asked.

‘We’re celebrating the anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta here at Runnymede’ a resident replied.

‘When did it take place?’


The American looked at his watch, turned to his wife and said ‘Sorry, honey, we’ve missed it by 15 minutes.’



A ham sandwich is better than nothing.

Nothing is better than perfect happiness.

Therefore a ham sandwich is better than perfect happiness.


From The Guiness Book of Names:

Real names of famous people:

Doris Day       Doris Kappelhoff

Diana Dors     Diana Fluck

Judy Garland  Frances Gumm

Cary Grant     Archibald Leach

Mike Todd      Avrom Goldnborger

Joseph Stalin  I.V. Dzhugashvili

How many of these people would have become famous if they had kept their original names?



From ‘Number Power’:

Apollo 13 was launched at 1313 hours American Central Time. The accident occurred on April 13th.

Three of the first five Presidents of the United States died on the 4th of July.

The Presidents elected in 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940 and 1960 all died in office.   (The book was published before 1980.)   Seven of the eight Presidents who died in office were elected in those years.


From ‘Coincidence’ by Brian Inglis:

Lincoln was killed in the Ford Theatre; Kennedy was killed in a Ford Lincoln car. Lincoln had a secretary called Kennedy;  Kennedy had a secretary called Lincoln. Lincoln and Kennedy were both succeeded by a man called Johnson.

From The Book of Lasts:

Lincoln was elected to congress in 1846, Kennedy in 1946; Lincoln was elected President in 1860, Kennedy in 1960; John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839, Lee Harvey Oswald in 1939.

From another source:

There are the same number of letters in Lincoln and Kennedy .

There are the same number of words and letters in John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Lincoln and Kennedy were both killed on a Friday.


Little by Little

‘Little by little,’ an acorn said,
As it slowly sank in its mossy bed,
‘I am improving every day,
Hidden deep in the earth away.’

Little by little, each day it grew;
Little by little, it sipped the dew;
Downward it sent out a thread-like root;
Up in the air sprung a tiny shoot.

Day after day, and year after year,
Little by little the leaves appear;
And the slender branches spread far and wide,
Till the mighty oak is the forest’s pride.


‘Little by Little,’ said a thoughtful boy,
‘Moment by moment, I’ll well employ,
Learning a little every day,
And not spending all my time in play.
And still this rule in my mind shall dwell,
Whatever I do, I will do it well.

‘Little by little, I’ll learn to know
The treasured wisdom of long ago;
And one of these days, perhaps we’ll see
That the world will be the better for me’;
And do you not think that this simple plan
Made him a wise and useful man?

The Brook by Alfred Lord Tennyson:

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally,
And sparkle out among the fern
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges
By twenty thorps, a little town
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I chatter over stony ways
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me as I travel,
By many a silvery water break
Above the golden gravel.

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers,
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance
Among my skimming swallows,
I make the netted sunbeams dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmer under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses,
I linger round my shingly bars,
I loiter round my cresses.

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.


The Street where he Lives, by Roger Woddis, from the Radio Times:
(about Alan Jay Lerner, to the tune of On the Street where you Live)

He had often worked to a beat before
With composers barely able to complete a score,
Then he met Fritz Loewe,
Who just said, ‘Let’s go’,
And the rest is a show that still lives.

Are there many hits in a foreign tongue?
Do you know a land where My Fair Lady isn’t sung?
Are the humming birds
Dumb without his words?
No, it’s much more the touch that he gives.

And oh! the towering feeling
Just to know the meaning is clear,
The overpowering feeling
That a billion hearts are moved by what they hear.

He may have his doubts, but he’d still agree
That there’s nothing else on earth that he would rather be.
As a lyricist
He would still insist
Writing songs is the street where he lives.

Seaside Golf by John Betjeman

How straight it flew, how long it flew,
It clear’d the rutty track
And soaring, disappeared from view
Beyond the bunker’s back—
A glorious, sailing, bounding drive
That made me glad I was alive.

And down the Fairway, far along
It glowed a lonely white;
I played an iron sure and strong
And clipped it out of sight,
And spite of grassy banks between
I knew I’d find it on the green.

And so I did. It lay content
Two paces from the pin;
A steady putt and then it went
Oh, most securely in.
The very turf rejoiced to see
That quite unprecented three.

Ah! seaward smells from sandy caves
And thyme and mist in whiffs,
In-coming tide, Atlantic waves
Slapping the sunny cliffs,
Lark song and sea sounds in the air
And splendour, splendour everywhere.

A Subaltern’s Love-song by John Betjeman

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament—you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weekness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophed with sports
And westering, questioning settles the sun
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.

By roads ‘not adopted’, by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car-park the dance has begun.
Oh! full Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us, the intimate roof of the car,
And here on  my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice,

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

Indoor Games near Newbury by John Betjeman

In among the silver birches winding ways of tarmac wander
And the signs to Bussock Bottom, Tussock Wood and Windy Brake,
Gabled lodges, tile-hung churches, catch the lights of our Lagonda
As we drive to Wendy’s party, lemon curd and Christmas cake.

Rich the makes of motor whirring
Past the pine-plantation purring
Come up, Hupmobile, Delage!
Short the way your chauffeurs travel,
Crunching over private gravel
Each from out his warm garáge.

O but Wendy, when the carpet yielded to my indoor pumps
There you stood, your gold hair streaming,
Handsome in the hall-light gleaming
There you looked and there you led me off into the game of clumps

Then the new Victrola playing
And your funny uncle saying
‘Choose your partners for a fox-trot! Dance until it’s tea o’clock!
‘Come on young ’uns, foot it featly!’
Was it chance that paired us neatly,
I, who loved you so completely,
You who pressed me closely to you, hard against your party frock!

‘Meet me when you’ve finished eating!’ So we met and no one found us.
Oh that dark and furry cupboard while the rest played hide and seek!
Holding hands our two hearts beating in the bedroom silence round us,
Holding hands and hardly hearing sudden footstep, thud and shriek.

Love that lay too deep for kissing—
‘Where is Wendy? Wendy’s missing!’
Love so pure it had to end,
Love so strong that I was frighten’d
When you gripped my fingers tight and
Hugging, whispered ‘I’m your friend.’

Good-bye Wendy! Send the fairies, pinewood elf and larch tree gnome,
Spingle-spangled stars are peeping
At the lush Lagonda creeping
Down the winding ways of tarmac to the leaded lights of home.

There, among the silver birches,
All the bells of all the churches
Sounded in the bath-waste running out into the frosty air.
Wendy speeded my undressing,
Wendy is the sheet’s caressing
Wendy bending gives a blessing,
Holds me as I drift to dreamland, safe inside my slumber-wear.

Trebetherick by John Betjeman

We used to picnic where the thrift
Grew deep and tufted to the edge;
We saw the yellow foam-flakes drift
In trembling sponges on the ledge
Below us, till the wind would lift
Them up the hedge and o’er the hedge.
Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea,
Sun on our bathing dresses heavy with the wet,
Squelch of the bladder-wrack waiting for the sea,
Fleas round the tamarisk, an early cigarette. 

From where the coastguard houses stood
One used to see, below the hill,
The lichened branches of a wood
In summer silver-cool and still;
And there the Shade of Evil could
Stretch out at us from Shilla Mill.

But when a storm was at its height,
And feathery slate was black in rain,
And tamarisks were hung with light
And golden sand was brown again,
Spring tides and blizzard would unite
And sea came flooding up the lane.

Waves full of treasure then were roaring up the beach,
Ropes round our mackintoshes, waders warm and dry,
We waited for the wreckage to come swirling into reach,
Ralph, Vasey, Alastair, Biddy, John and I.

Then roller into roller curled
And thundered down the rocky bay,
And we were in a water-world
Of rain and blizzard, sea and spray,
And one against the other hurled
we struggled round to Greenaway.

Blesséd be St. Enedoc, blesséd be the wave,
Blesséd be the springy turf, we pray, pray to thee,
Ask for our children all the happy days you gave
To Ralph, Vasey, Alastair, Biddy, John and me.

Miscellaneous quotations:

‘Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.’ – Sir Winston Churchill

‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’ – Oscar Wilde

‘When science discovers the centre of the universe a lot of people will be disappointed to find that they are not it.’ – Bernard Bailey

‘Trial:  A formal inquiry designed to prove and put upon record the blameless character of judges, advocates and jurors.’ – Ambrose Bierce

‘I think it would be a good idea.’ – Mahatma Ghandi on being asked his view of Western civilisation

‘Of course they have, or I wouldn’t be talking to you.’ – Barbara Cartland, when asked by Sandra Harris in a radio interview whether she thought English class barriers had broken down.


I don’t like the family Stein!
There’s Gert, there is Ep, there is Ein.
Gert’s writings are punk,
Ep’s statues are junk,
And no one can understand Ein.


The mind is like a parachute: it only works when it’s open – Quote Unquote, Radio 4

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

A stationary Moss gathers no sterling – said of Stirling Moss after his retirement from motor racing.

In 1899 the head of the American patent office suggested that it be closed down, as there couldn’t be anything left to be discovered. – Radio Times, 1st January 2003

‘Television will be of no importance in your lifetime or mine’ – Bertrand Russel, 1948.