Shad does Tangmere Military Aviation Museum

Situated at the former Battle of Britain RAF airfield in West Sussex, the museum is home to a number of historic aircraft and exhibits and is a fitting tribute to those who flew and served from Tangmere during its active past.  Its purpose is to promote public awareness of the UK’s military aviation heritage and serve as a memorial to the air men and women who gave their lives in the service of this country.

 

I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the pilots of the Spitfires as they headed towards Dunkirk in the autumn of 1940.  Perhaps the growling sound of the Rolls-Royce engine and morale boosting government propaganda filled them with confidence for a cast-iron victory.  Perhaps this newly designed powerful fighter hid apprehension and fear at the thought of leaving their pals and kinfolk at home for situations unknown.  Sadly, we cats also faced the horror of war as many family pets were killed during those dark days due to misconceptions about what was the patriotic and humane thing to do.  The slaughter of animals was also apparently driven by a panic-fuelled government who even allowed one unfortunate woman to be fined £5 (the equivalent of around £230 in today’s money) for giving bread to her pet white mice.  This information is from a book called ‘Bonzo’s War: Animals Under Fire’ about the animal experience in World War II.

 

John is the military enthusiast, not me, so he took these pictures and can probably name each of the machines we saw.  I might not know what they’re called, but I know that each engine and instrument and technological advancement created in the development of military aviation was spurred by conflict that affected the lives of humans and animals in countless ways.   I count myself a lucky pussy-cat to be living in the safety and comfort of my home on the south coast of England, pondering the issues of the day and writing my musings in a blog, for smart and discerning readers like you to read and share.

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Shad does PAWs animal sanctuary

Have you ever met a rabbit who thinks she’s a chicken?  John and I did at the weekend.  This rabbit spent her life with chickens and was not socialised by her previous owners.  So when PAWs Animal Sanctuary in Findon, West Sussex rescued her, she was unable to settle with other rabbits and soon became affectionately know as Mrs Grumpy!  This big bundle of fuzz is now well cared for and lives happily with 2 tortoises and a cat.  Her name is Fluffy and she has long soft downy ears and fur so thick and lush that the tortoises snuggle up to her at night for warmth and comfort.

PAWs has been rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals for the past 30 years and is a small locally-based charity run by Stacey and Sheila in their back garden.  John and I met Stacey on our visit and she welcomed us in and showed us round, telling us about the animals she is currently caring for.  Some of them are permanent residents, like Fluffy who needs special care and patience, and some of them are looking for new homes.  Basil the black cat was rescued from the house where he lived when his owners moved out and left him behind.  Then there’s Harry the long-haired black and white cat with a black beard and half a moustache.  There was a number of cats with amusing facial markings and I must admit I felt a little jealous.  I reckon I’d look good with a white handlebar or a Fu Manchu!

Now, you know how curious cats are.  Abbey the old tabby cat you can see sitting on my camera bag was sniffing round my equipment the whole time we were there.   Her tongue hangs out because her jaw is misshapen due to wearing a metal brace in her mouth for 5 years following a road traffic accident.  The brace should have been worn for only 6 weeks but the owners never took her back to the vet to have it removed.  When this friendly little pussy-cat was rescued, she had dreadful ulcers and infections in her mouth, but PAWs fixed her up and she is now living a comfortable life.  I thought she was being a nosey parker but it turns out John had hidden some treats in one of the compartments in the camera bag, so me and Abbey hooked them out with our paws and enjoyed a snack together in the sunshine.

Abbey has lots of company at PAWs including a donkey, guinea-pigs, a peacock and a clutch of chickens.  The chickens spend their days clucking and pecking around the garden and are tucked up safely into bed at night.  If you pop over to PAWs on a Sunday afternoon, you can buy some of their scrumptious free-range eggs, drop a couple of quid in the collection tin and sit on the bench in the garden, watching the animals and talking to the volunteers who are busy grooming, feeding, medicating, exercising and bonding with the animals.

Like every animal charity, PAWs is always full and has a waiting list of animals to come in.  But PAWs provide a unique service to the animals of Sussex because they rescue 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  However they can only go out in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve to rescue an animal in distress if they have the resources to care for it.  They don’t have secured funding or a national infra-structure to support them so public donations and support from local businesses are essential.  All proceeds from donating go directly towards the upkeep of the animals and enable PAWs to meet the increasing costs associated with caring for animals.  They have also launched an appeal to raise money for a desperately needed bigger and better animal sanctuary so good luck to them for that project.  Thank you PAWs for the dedication and hard work and sacrifices you make every day to look after animals in need.

Shad does Arundel Castle and Gardens

I wonder what life was like for a black cat like me in the 12th Century Norman Period in a place like Arundel Castle.  I would hopefully have been part of the Royal Court, being hand-fed haddock or loitering outside the kitchen, hoping for some scraps of pheasant from the roasting spit, while watching battled-scarred young men put on their armour and prepare to leave for the perilous Crusades.  Outside the Castle, life was hard on the streets for both humans and cats, and medieval people were superstitious about cats and persecuted them.  In fact, cats have taken a bad rap throughout history, particularly in Europe, where they were associated with witchcraft.  Yet around the same time in Egypt, cats were kept to control rat populations and protect food stores, and gradually became members of Egyptian households and were even worshipped.  It wasn’t long before the cat craze spread to India, China and other Asian countries and now I like to think they we are highly regarded pets.

Arundel Castle overlooks the River Arun in West Sussex and has a 1,000 year history spanning from the reign of King Henry I (1068-1135) to being passed to the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years.  It has been at the forefront of English history and displays a unique and priceless collection of fine furniture, tapestries and clocks dating from the 16th Century.  John and I, and a couple of other friends, wandered around the corridors and rooms, mouths open in awe at the shiny polished silverware, the grandeur of the paintings and the skilled craftsmanship evident throughout the castle.

We also took a stroll through the peaceful grounds and the meticulously kept gardens.  The gardens are divided into formal courts and have a central canal pond with water fountain, an ideal place to dip my paws and freshen up.  The gardens are imaginatively planted and managed in an eco-friendly way and there were various gateways to walk through and pavilions with seats based in oak where we could rest.  I enjoyed chasing the insects in the peach house and vinery, hiding in the herbaceous borders and taking a nap under the palm trees.  Altogether, the gardens were lovely and had a rustic charm.

Shad talks about his home town

I was born and raised in Bognor Regis, a seaside town in the Arun district of West Sussex on the south coast of England.  I was lucky enough to meet John when I was kitten, as I was not looked after properly, under-fed and covered in fleas.  John took me home and cleaned me up and I’m now a rather portly, proud and playful 3 year old boy.  I’m sure you’ve noticed the noble whiskers and satin coat!  I can be a little grumpy from time to time but a headstrong and adventurous cat like me is entitled to the odd mood-swing!

One of my favourite activities is going for a walk along the promenade.  When the tide is low, the wet rippled sand is strewn with rock pools teaming with sea life such as crabs, winkles, algae, and those tiny little fish that live in the rocky shores of the British coastline.  When the tide is high, the water can be still and shimmering blue, or choppy and murky green.

Bognor Regis was originally just named Bognor, being a fishing town, and at one time a smuggling village until the 18th century, until it was developed into a fashionable seaside resort by Sir Richard Hotham.  He came to the area to partake of the ‘beneficial’ sea air and now has a public park named after him.  Tourism gradually took off in Bognor during the 19th century and King George V came to Bognor in 1929 to convalesce.  As a result, the King agreed to bestow the suffix ‘Regis’ (which means ‘of the king’) to the name.  It is located 55 miles south-west of London, 24 miles west of Brighton and 6 miles south-east of the city of Chichester.

Now I can’t talk about Bognor without mentioning the legendary International Bognor Birdman competition.  This is an annual competition for human-powered flying machines which involves crazy contestants launching themselves from the end of the pier, a prize being awarded to the one who glides the furthest distance.  Competitors wear outlandish dress and construct some impressive and improbable machines to take part in the event.  It started in Selsey in 1971 and transferred to Bognor in 1978 when it had outgrown its original location.  The Birdman Event of 2008 was transferred to Worthing following health and safety concerns about the pier.

The pier is 148 years old (almost as old as John!!) and took some 18 months to complete.  It has undergone several transformations over the years, with extensions and restorations, and the addition of a theatre, a cinema and a roof-garden restaurant.  It was used during the Second World War as an observation station and has since succumbed to damage and structural collapse over the years from fire and severe storms.  With increasing maintenance and repair costs, and continued weakening of the seaward end of this Grade II listed structure, the seaward end unfortunately remains derelict.  However, the pier is still popular with locals and tourists and forms part of the town’s character and charm.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my musings about my home town.  John and I have taken lots of photos in the local area over the years and I’ve shared a selection with you here today.  Oh and don’t worry about my little joke at John’s expense earlier.  He knows I think the world of him and have the greatest respect for him as my friend and provider and business partner (even if he is a grouchy old chap like me!!).

http://www.bognorregisbeach.co.uk/