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'A gaping silken dragon,/Puffed by the wind, suffices us for God./We, not the City, are the Empire's soul:/A rotten tree lives only in its rind.'

Thursday, 5 February 2015


... to catch on.

Funny how familiar things are taken for granted. Over the last Christmas holidays, I was down on my sadly neglected allotment plot, doing a bit of digging and tidying. Not as much as I should have, but, still, it was a start. Enjoying a well-earned coffee in my little hut, watching the pale winter sun setting pinkly over the railway embankment, it suddenly came to me that a familiar bit of wood and steel in the hut was, perhaps, more than it looks. The backstory is: 1) I inherited a few bits and pieces when I took the allotment plot over ten years ago. The usual stuff - rusty lawnmower, rusty saw, rusty hammer, rusty wire, and some rust. Among that small treasure trove was an odd sharp-ish thing that I have subsequently used to hold the hut door open. It is this:

About four feet in length, and, apparently home made, being a pick axe handle and a worn down blade:

which was made in the nearby city of Birmingham (famed, once, for its light engineering workshops). As far as I know, this thing has no horticultural or agricultural use, and as I sat there, in the cold, drinking coffee, the number 2) of this backstory came into play. The number 2 is that I have a long standing interest in the British Home Guard . Now, as you will know, it was all a bit sticky for Blighty and the free world back in the late Spring of 1940, and when the Local Defence Volunteers came into being (i.e., the immediate precursor to the Home Guard), keen chaps of all classes had to make do and mend when it came to weapons. So, my sudden revelation was that the pointy stick I use to hold my beloved allotment hut door open is, in fact, a relic of Britain's finest hour. I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure. Oh, how I love the artefacts that surround us!

Stop Press!
Idle (uninformed) dream shattered!
In response to the above post, a reader (Tony) writes:
'Think it looks like a very old and worn 'hedging bill' , used to trim agricultural hedges before 'laying' them - but an effective weapon when sharp ! '
Now, that makes much more sense! Being an allotment plot holder I think in terms of digging, pruning, and hoeing, but not hedge-laying. I have also been known to think about the Home Guard. But, thanks, Tony, I'm rather pleased to have such a Gucci bit of agricultural history in m'hut; it goes rather nicely with the seemingly endless pieces of clay pipe I turn up on the plot.


  1. Think it looks like a very old and worn 'hedging bill' , used to trim agricultural hedges before 'laying' them - but an effective weapon when sharp ! , Tony

    1. Thanks, Tony, makes much more sense! I'm afraid I got carried away. Mind you, I was thiking of guarding the nearby railway bridge, but now I'm looking for a hedge to attack!

  2. Interesting tool whatever ,I guess the homeguard could have utilised such an item in defence.Who knows?

    1. I'll go with Tony's answer, it makes a lot of sense. The old TA drill hall is about five minutes walk from my plot (the Warwickshires - Monty's old regt.),so, at a guess, the local LDV/Home Guard probably had a bit more than spiky things at the beginning.

  3. If that's what the Home Guard had to work with, it's a good thing the Jerries didn't invade. It is a rather splendid artifact and I don't blame it for wanting it to have a story. I have a decrepit German bayonet from WW2 that my wife's father (whom I sadly never met) brought back from Europe. I use it to pry lids off paint pots, etc. I like to think it has a backstory, but it was probably used by its owner to open sausage tins, discarded, picked up, traded to my father in law for a pack of smokes, and so to me and my paint pots.
    Clay pipes, eh? Very common in a Victorian era barracks here in Ontario I helped a dig with.

    1. Clay pipe remains are marvellous - I love turning them up. You can imagine our forefathers (and mothers!) pitching them into the soil. There were even deliberately disposable ones, pre-packed with tobacco and designed for one smoke.
      I think Tony Kitchen has the real answer to my spiky thing. Actually, by the beginning of 1941, the Home Guard was reasonably well equipped (if short on ammo). But, thank god Adolf looked East...