96. White Winter Hymnal



So, I’ve been living with winter in Jersey for a good few weeks now. Not my first experience of winter here as longtime readers of this blog may remember but my first full winter, certainly.

And what are my impressions so far?  Winter in America is cold, baby. I know you folks in places like Michigan or Illinois are probably laughing up a storm at the suggestion that Jersey gets ‘cold’ but for this refugee from a sunburnt country, it’s plenty cold enough.




However, I haven’t only been hit by successive waves of frigid temperatures. The beauty, too, comes in waves here and it’s not just the snow. As magically transformative as a blanket of snow is in this landscape, there is plenty of beauty to be found after the melt.










I’ve been struck by the quiet poetry of the colour pallet. Russet dominates here and I love to see whole woods of skeletal trees all painted in those tones.








The other feature of winter here that I find endlessly fascinating is frozen waters. Whenever I come across a frozen creek or river I become a child lost to wonder. It’s a beauty that comes with its own ache.





It amazes me that, even on a warmish day, you can find frozen water with ice thick enough to stand on.

My favourite is the snow that looks like icing sugar, making everything, houses, trees, shrubs, look like confectioneries.








It’s worth suffering some chilled ears and fingers to see these sights that are so foreign to me. I don’t know how I’ll feel about it all after a few more winters. People who’ve experienced far more of them than I are pretty jaded about the beauty, in my experience. I’ll try to keep my sense of wonder intact and keep recording the beauty I see.







Words and images are my own.







Part 12: Accidental Fate


I’ve just completed the 12th instalment on my other blog and in the interest of growing an audience have decided to reblog it here (shameless self-promotion, I know).

A Padiham Man's Great Sacrifice

Birth of 8BN

Not everything can be discovered using direct evidence. Sometimes we must use deductive reasoning to determine the most probable likelihoods and outcomes. My desire to discover to which of the four Companies of 8th Battalion my Great Grandfather belonged has led me back to the period before 8th Bn. even existed.

birth-of-8thbn.jpg Extract from the 218th War Diary for 20.1.18 confirming the formation of 8thBn.

The Battalion was formed on 20th January 1918 out of four existing MG Companies. ‘A’ Company was formerly the 23rd Company of the 23rd Brigade, ‘B’ Company was 24th Company: 24th Brigade, ‘C’ was 25th Company: 25th Brigade and ‘D’ Company came out of the 218th Company which was the 8th Division Reserve MG Coy.

The 23rd Coy. had been formed on 15.1.15

The 24th Coy. on 17.2.15

The 25th Coy. on  19.1.16

And the 218th Coy. had not formed until 23.3.17

The main engagements they…

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Another Jersey Girl


You know she thrills me with all her charms

When I’m wrapped up in my baby’s arms…


In this blog, I’m going talk about something very dear to my heart; beer.

I can remember a time in my life when the selection of beers on offer (at least in Australia) was depressingly small. There were the big breweries which pumped out mass-produced swill full of chemicals that all tasted exactly the effing same and that was pretty much it.

Don’t get me wrong, those beers are still the most popular on the market. They have a loyal following among those who believe real men only drink beer that tastes like piss (hence the term “getting pissed”). It’s supposed to prove how tough, working class, and patriotic you are or somesuch BS (I think this is the actual reason women live longer).

England, where I lived for a spell in the early 80’s, was a different matter. There they had a fine tradition of pubs that brewed their own local beers and so you could get away from the generic blandness of the big brewers and experience a wider variety…. of beers drunk at room temperature.

Back again in Australia, things were (very slowly) beginning to get more interesting. A small(ish) brewer in South Australia called Coopers was producing a line of pure beers that were more than drinkable. I switched gratefully from dishcloth brews like Victoria Bitter (VB as it is lovingly known by its brain-damaged acolytes) to Coopers and, for a while, all was well.

Then one of the majors bought up Coopers and that fine beer was very soon close to indistinguishable from the VBs and Carltons. Amazing how thoroughly mass production screws shit up.

All beers produced in NSW are garbage btw and don’t let anyone tell you different.

By the 90’s the horizon was less bleak. Microbreweries were emerging in the back lanes of Melbourne (probably Sydney too but who cares?). Small pubs started experimenting with their own house brews and before long there was a plethora of not too terrible beers popping up. I alas, cannot remember the name of a single one of them.

‘Boutique’ beers really took off in the 2000’s (I refuse to say naughties). In Australia, Belgian style Beer Bars were all the rage and every pretentious wanker worth his salt was swanning around with a surgically decapitated Hoegaarden to go with his neatly trimmed designer stubble.

It all seemed to be about imported beers at that point. The disaster of 2008 was a few years away yet and confidence was still OK. People were willing to shell out a bit on imported brews to show their mates how well they were doing.

Craft beers (as they’d come to be known) really seemed to explode after the GFC but it wasn’t until I first visited America that I really saw how big they’d become. My mind was blown by the sheer volume of choice in every liquor store I visited. Back home, you generally had to go to one of the big warehouse booze emporiums to see that much choice.

I eagerly dove in. Each visit (and, if you remember, there were five of them) I would expand my repertoire of craft breweries.  Flying Dog, with their amazing Ralph Steadman, can designs, were a fave for a while but I eventually moved on from there. Two Roads Brewery was the next to catch my eye and I found several of their beers to be top notch. However, for some reason, the stores around our area just don’t seem to want to stock the good ones.


We, that’s Jersey girl and I, eventually started specifically seeking out New Jersey brews. We found a great IPA from a brewery called Brotherton which would turn up on draft in various places only to vanish after a week or so. We tried to find it in bottles but the brewery was so small they weren’t bottling yet*.

Asbury Park Brewery does some nice beers but not quite the style we’ve been looking for.

I even kept searching while I was back in Melbourne, looking online for news of new breweries in NJ. Which is how I found the winner. A small brewery in Hackettstown was just about to start canning. They’d been around for three or four years and were finally about to release their first canned beer intriguingly called Rake Breaker. Hackettstown is very close to home and so I was pretty excited to get back to Jersey and try it.

And what was the name of this fledgeling brewery?


You just know I was going to be won over by that, right? When I came back (this time to stay) we started looking all over for signs of Rake Breaker in the stores. To no avail. We started to plan our visit to the Brewery tap room but it seemed that every time we had a chance to go something came up. It was becoming a source of no small frustration.

Then, one evening, we were in a tap room restaurant in Princeton and there on the beer menu was Jersy Girl. By this time they had another IPA out called Sun Kissed Citra. We fell over ourselves to order and, there in a cellar in Princeton, had our very first taste of a Jersey Girl beer.

And lo, it was very, very good.

A few weeks later, the cans started turning up in the stores and we got to sample Rake Breaker at long last. It was, if anything, better than Citra.




We’ve since visited the Taproom at Hackettstown several times It’s a great little spot tucked away in a fairly bland commercial park. They have big comfy sofas and board games to while away the time and a very nice selection of beer adventures to sample. They also sell their brews in refillable Growlers, which is nice.



We’ve found our Alpha beer. We still stray into unknown territory fairly regularly, but the fridge at home always has a few cans of Jersey Girl on the shelf.

Ah, life’s simple pleasures**.



Here, for anyone interested, is the Brewery website.






*That situation has apparently now been rectified.

**And yes, It is my ambition to sit with Jersey girl at Jersey Girl, drinking Jersey Girl, while listening to Jersey Girl (they’ve played Springsteen while we were there but not that song – I would happily take the Tom Waits version).

We are alive




April Coda


Set it up

Strip it down

Watch the whizz-bangs Charlie

No time to sniff the clover

Ol’ Fritz’s on his way


Passchendaele to Steenvoorde

On down to Longuenesse

Somethin’s up but no one’s talkin’

Now it’s Rosieres and

Me bloody boots are knackered


Strip it down

Set it up

Forgot me gasmask on the train

Sarge’ll have me taters

If the alarm goes in the line


From Nesle on to Béthencourt

Dug in by the rank canal

There’s bluebells by the water

Reminding me of home

What I’d give to see ’em all again


Load ‘er up

Swing her round

Targets over on the slope

And five hundred rounds a minute

Ain’t hardly enough to count


Pullin’ out for Hallu now

Then back again to Rosieres

Sixty new belt boxes

Got me feelin’ windy

Sure wish I hadn’t lost that mask


Line us up

Strip us down

Too few to make four Companies

A into C and B into D and

Then there were just two.


From  Rouvrel to Castel

Dug in on the heights

Sending lead over the valley ’til

A whistling shell

Brings a red flower to our pit


Lay me down

Strip my boots

They’re useless to me now

Drop me in a hole in Conty

They’ll remember me eventually.


For John Harry.









History never repeats


8BN MGC.jpg


Regular readers may have noticed I’ve been a little absent on here the past little while. It’s not that I’ve run out of things to say so much as the problem of finding the time. I’ve got several projects on the boil at present all of which have necessitated this blog taking a bit of a back seat.

One project is a graphic novel I’m attempting to write and draw. This is a huge undertaking for me and has required my getting much better at programs like Photoshop. It’s quite a learning curve but I’m getting there slowly.

The other is one I now feel ready to share with anyone who may be interested. I have been researching the life of my Great Grandfather who died, 100 years ago this coming April, in the Great War.

Private John Harry Pate was a member of the Machine Gun Corps and tragically lost his life in the last year of the war. Very little has been known about him among my family and so the information I’ve been able to uncover has been a very valuable insight into who he was.

I’ve been at this off and on since 2004 and now feel I have amassed enough information to write a story of his life (as far as we can know it) and my personal journey through the archives, documents, and forums where the breadcrumbs of his story lay.

Yesterday, I created a blog dedicated to all this and have made several posts to give an idea of how it will all be unfolding.


If you have an interest in history or genealogy, perhaps you’ll give it a little of your time. If you’re so inclined, I suggest you start with the ‘About’ page for a little context.


New Year’s Day


Brand new start


Bird with a song

Like a squeaky shopping cart

Just a flitting shadow against

The bedroom curtains

Catching bugs on the Fly-wire

Sunlight makes bright


On the dark drapes

That hold the new day

The new Year

At bay

Dog snores softly in her bed

Oblivious to the bitter cold

Pressing against the window glass

The first day of the year

Gets off to a slow start.





I’d like to wish all who are reading this a very happy, safe, and healthy 2018.



Words are my own.




95. I want a wonderful life




I didn’t put anything Christmas themed up this year because, well, frankly I’m really not all that in to Christmas.

Bah humbug.

We had a very nice family gathering (it was the first time I’d personally celebrated Christmas in about seven years) and don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. That said, I don’t get into all the rigmarole that usually goes along with the consumer season.

I did, however, come across an interesting tidbit while perusing NJ.com.

Apparently, for many American’s, the movie It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart is a Christmas tradition not to be flouted. Now, I’ve not seen the movie myself but I get the gist of the message it conveys and I can see why people like to indulge in it around this time of year.

What I wasn’t aware of, was the story’s connection to New Jersey and Hunterdon County (where I now reside) in particular. The movie is set in the fictional upstate New York town of Bedford Falls but the story’s original creator, Philip Van Doren Stern, had a different town in mind when he was writing it; the town of Califon NJ.

We have spent some very happy times in Califon over the years. It’s only about seven miles from home and is a very pretty place to visit. I keep uncovering these odd little factoids since I found my way here to Jersey. I take them as little reminders that I’m where I’m meant to be and that all is on track.





Take it away Jersey boy…