The Grell Mystery

I have just started reading a novel – a police procedural by an actual police superintendent, and I am really enjoying it. I’ve been worried that I’ve become a fussy reader, well, maybe I have, or maybe I need easier reading than I used to be able to enjoy, and a nice detective story is just my cup of tea.

The author of the book I am reading is Frank Froest; his name may not be very well-known but one of his investigations is still remembered today. Frank died in 1930 and is buried in the churchyard overlooking our village – keeping his eye on things no doubt, and as his most famous case involved a trans-Atlantic voyage, maybe it is appropriate that if he looks the other way he can look out and the next land he will see, beyond Ireland is the USA.

He was in charge of the investigation into the notorious Dr Crippen, and members of his team were on board a fast liner taking them across to Canada where they landed before the murderous doctor and his girl-friend Ethel le Neve, and arrested them when they docked.

Although written nearly a hundred years ago, and despite the massive advances in police technology and scientific investigation, the book, so far still reads well, and the police far from blundering into the crime scene and mess up any evidence, wait outside the door of the room where the murdered man lies, waiting for the executive chief of the Criminal Investigation Department, Heldon Foyle to appear. here is how Froest describes Foyle:

He put the phone down and began to dress hurriedly but methodically. He was a methodical man. Resolutely he put from his mind all thoughts of the murder. No good would come of spinning theories until he had all the available fact… He rarely wore a dressing gown and never played the violin.

When Foyle gets to the scene of the crime this is the ‘little cluster of grave faced men’ who awaited him:

Sir Hilary Thornton, the assistant commissioner… Professor Harding, an expert retained by the authorities and a medical man whose scientific researches… had sent a man to the gallows; Grant of the finger-print department; a couple of men from his department gearing cameras and lastly the senior officer of the CID, green and his assistant.

Buried in the churchyard of our old village church is a man who was involved in the arrest of Dr Crippen, the man who murdered his wife for love of a young woman.  More of Dr Crippen another time, but I wondered how detective Inspector Frank Castle Froest came to be buried in our little village, overlooking the Bristol Channel.

The Grell Mystery by Frank Froest

This seems very similar to the sort of team which would gather at a crime scene today… here is something I wrote a couple of years ago about Froest:


It seems he was born in Bristol, or in the Bristol area and ended his life as a superintendent of a sanatorium in Weston-super-Mare, the town just next to Uphill.

I tried to do some research about Frank but census returns and other documentation seem  unable to yield much… maybe his name was sometimes misspelt as Frost, I know sometimes it was Fro’est. However I did find out that he travelled a great deal and as yet I’m not sure why, maybe as part of his work as a police officer:

  • 1895 – Southampton To Buenos Aires – Magdalena
  • 1924 – Southampton To Algiers – Koningin Der Nederlanden
  • 1925 – Southampton To Algiers – Prinses Juliana
  • 1926 – Southampton To Algiers – Jan Pieterszoon Coen

Frank married Sarah Jane Carpenter at Lewisham in 1880 and probably had two children, Frank Egbert Froest who sadly died aged 16 in Long Ashton near Bristol, and Mabel Mae who married and had three children.

The only other information I have on Frank is a census return for 1911 when he is living on Streatham Hill with Sarah, and a servant (from Bristol) and his occupation is Superintendent, of the  Criminal Investigation Office. He died in 1930, aged 73 in Weston, and now lies looking over the town and out to sea, an appropriate resting place.

Finding something else

Sometimes a search for something can be in vain… and it can be something quite ordinary, a particular foodstuff you’ve read about, a book in a bookshop or an album in a music store – or even a bookshop and a music store in some places! You can be looking for a particular song you half remember, a half-forgotten poem, or a place you haven’t quite got the right directions to. Sometimes those searches can be in vain for what you’re looking for but sometimes you find something else instead, something completely different from what you expected!

We had that happen yesterday when we went off to a nearby village, Bleadon, to try and find the grave of Edin Clegg, a character I have become fascinated by; he was a man from Looe in Cornwall, possibly a Quaker, but just an ordinary man a grocer in the family business. During World war 1 he was a conscientious objector who got himself into difficulties by circulating an unwise text comparing the ordinary soldiers of Germany, the hated enemy to the ordinary young British men sent out to their deaths. Whether it was for this reason, or some other he left Looe and ended up in Bleadon, where died nearly forty years later, saving a young man from drowning.

We didn’t find Edwin but we did find a delightful little church, with some very interesting features in a beautiful simplicity. it seems there has been a church here since Saxon times, although there are few actually remains from that early period; apparently the dedication to two saints, Peter and Paul is an indication that there might have been a Saxon church here. In our own little village of Uphill, less than a mile away the old church of St Nicholas, built on Uphill hill, is supposed to be on the site of an earlier Saxon building – although, as yet, no trace has been found.


We didn’t find Edwin, but we will go back and look for him again, but we had a very pleasant tour and did find some interesting things!


A Saxon angel

Read about the church here:



The word pettitoes popped into my head for no reason… but when I thought about it, trying t remember what it meant, I realised why it had arrived unbidden. Pettitoes is another word for trotters, pig’s trotters, and I bought some the other day. I’m not sure I had ever bought and cooked anymore, I may have done in the distant past, but it is more a memory of my dad cooking and eating them with great relish.

They were nice and clean and obviously from a young pig and I put them into stock with onion, carrots, garlic, and a few other bits and pieces and cooked them gently for a couple of hours. I had a lovely gel from them, to be used in soup, but the actual trotters were bereft of much meat, but what there was, was quite tasty.

I was looking at other recipes and as well as brawn and what was known as ‘cheese’, there were quite a variety of different things to do with pettitoes, and every other part of the creature. I think people must have been less squeamish in past times because lots of dishes were to be served to guests along with offal such as heart and liver; I can’t imagine many dinner guests greeting such a thing with joy these days!

I’m not sure I will bother again with buying and cooking pettitoes, but if I had supper with someone who offered it, I would gladly do my best, and no doubt enjoy!

Red cliff

I’m continuing my National Novel Writing Month challenge of trying to write 50,000 in November… I thought I wasn’t going to make it, now I’m nearly there! I’ve been looking at the river which enters the sea in our little village, the River Axe, and found there was once a quite important little sea port way inland on the way to Cheddar. The Axe was tidal up to Rackely, now it just bubbles its little way along past the highest peak in the Mendips…


From earliest times of organised transportation, there was a wharf of what must have been then an important if small river port of Rackley, Reckley or even Ripley ; it was situated below Crook Peak, which is only real peak of the Mendips; this limestone outcrop’s ancient  name derives from old English cruc, meaning peak, yet another tautological topographical name, Peak’s Peak.

The name Rackley apparently derives from the fact that the clay banks round here are red marl, a type of red clay most used for making pots; in fact the bank by the village was called ‘the Red Marl’, which can be seen nearby. This bank maybe the Red Cliff  which apparently (although it might just be writers guesswork and false deduction) gave its name to the village and that Radeclive comes from ‘red cliff’; maybe, another maybe the little place was Portus de Radeclive, a name which appears in documents more than seven centuries old. Portus may on the other hand just be ad description and not part of the name at all.

From here the Romans shipped leaden ingots from the mines and smelting works of Charterhouse and Priddy down to another wharf at Uphill. Uphill’s name comes from saxon times, what it might have been before then is unknown. The cargoes would have been shipped down the coast, across to the Roman ports in south Wales, or maybe even to Europe.  Later cloth and corn were also exports, particularly to Portugal.

There is nothing to see now of the old Rackley wharf, which dated back to about 1200, any original buildings have been subsumed into the farm and its outbuildings. This maybe what is now Rackley House all that remains of the port

Countless eyes of brightness

I had never heard of Samuel Griswold Goodrich until I came across this sonnet; the title made me think of stories I read when I was little, of brave heroes (usually aged fourteen!) going off in search of the mysterious Ultima Thule.

He was born in 1793 in Connecticut, and used the pen-name Peter Parley; I am intrigues to know why he chose that name – apparently other writers, mostly British I believe, also used the same non-de-plume. He wrote, co-wrote and edited a tremendous number of works, mostly non-fiction and children’s books, and also published magazines,  and made his fortune.

In ‘Peter Parley’s Illustrations of Commerce’ he defines a whole range of different items and goods which could be sold and traded, including beer!

Beer: a common and well-known liquor, extracted principally from malt. Of barley, there are now about thirty million bushels annually converted into malt in Great Britain; and more than eight million barrels of beer, of which four fifths are strong beer. The manufacture of beer is likewise extensive in the United Stated.

Here is his sonnet:

Ultima Thule

The blue heaven spreads before me with its keen
And countless eyes of brightness,–worlds are there,–
The boldest spirit cannot spring, and dare
The peopled universe that burns between
This earth and nothing. Thought can wing its way
Swifter than lightning-flashes, or the beam
That hastens on the pinions of the morn;
But, quicker than the glowing dart of day,
It tires and faints along the starry stream,–
A wave of suns through countless ether borne,
Though infinite, eternal! yet one power
Sits on the Almighty Center, whither tend
All worlds and beings from time’s natal hour,
Till suns and all their satellites shall end.

Samuel Griswold Goodrich



Science and technology

  • Surface texture
  • Texture  road surface characteristics with waves shorter than road roughness
  • Texture (cosmology), theoretical topological defect in the structure of space/time
  • Texture (crystalline), material’s individual crystallites sharing some degree of orientation
  • Texture (geology), physical appearance or character of a rock
  • Texture mapping, bitmap image applied to a surface in computer graphics
  • Soil texture, relative proportion of grain sizes of a soil


  • Texture (painting), feel of the canvas based on the paint used and method of application
  • Texture (visual arts), element of design and its application in art


  • Texture (music), overall sound created by the interaction of aspects of a piece of music
  • Textures (album), 1989 album by Brian Eno
  • Textures (band), a metal band from the Netherlands

Well, that is what Wikipedia has to say about texture, but it doesn’t mention texture in relation to food; part of what is enjoyable – or horrible about food is its texture, and different people find different textures delightful or disgusting. Mushrooms, love the flavour but can’t stand to eat them! Liver – don’t mind it in paté but fried -yuk – or in my case stewed! I like liver very much, I like it fried so it’s crispy on the outside but quite pink inside… cooked in a sauce or gravy it’s texture changes and I find it quite repellent. Somebody’s smooth is another person’s slimy, al dente or tough, under-cooked or perfect, granular or… well… textured! Some people like food with plenty of ‘bite’, crackling for example, others find it annoying or tiresome or uncomfortable to eat.

I was thinking about this, and I came to the conclusion that reading is similar to eating; sometimes what you are eating or reading is perfectly fine but not to your taste, and sometimes it’s the texture of the text (I don’t mean this in the way it is meant in linguistics) sometimes a book is written so smoothly that it becomes tedious or the pages slip past your eyes without being read; sometimes it’s lumpy and uneven and then it can be annoying – especially if it’s the quality of the writing. It’s a well-known phrase ‘to get your teeth into something’, and to say about a book that ‘it’s not to your taste’, or that it’s ‘stodgy in parts’.

I suppose this idea also explains why people like and dislike certain books – at our book club some of us prefer olives to chocolate buttons, peanuts to mini-muffins, chilli bites to Turkish delight… it’snot just the taste, it’s the texture – of our snacks and our books!