Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Il Stroncapane

During the last two and a bit weeks since I last posted I have had several ideas that I fully intended to set down here. But something always got in the way - Life with a capital L. Now, of course, I can't for the life of me remember what any of those ideas might have been.

Another senior moment, I suppose.

Anyway, Il Stroncapane.

It was while doing the washing up yesterday evening that those words flashed into me mind. What caused this flash of Italian sunshine is beyond my comprehension.


And what, you ask, is Il Stroncapane?

Some years ago, my Good Lady and I had a holiday in Tuscany. As was in those days our wont, we rented a place for a week, self-catered breakfast and ate in various restaurants in the evenings. We visited Florence (disappointing, except for the baptistery doors), Siena (cram-packed with tourists) and Pisa (Piazza dei Miracoli miraculously empty when we arrived but after a stroll around it was filled with people pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower as their photos were taken).

What? No tourists?

We also took a look at the famous triangular piazza in Greve in Chianti. Just like Siena, there was hardly room to breathe. But in a small town closer to where we were staying is another triangular piazza. For my mopey, the piazza in Figline is more attractive - and wasn't full of screaming tourists!

The piazza in Figline
And tucked away in a corner of the piazza is - or was then - a restaurant that became our favourite that holiday: Il Stroncapane.

I wouldn't mind going back there sometime.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Blue eyes

I'm always a sucker for blonde hair and blue eyes, especially when they come with a young lady. yesterday I fell in love again. Mind you, she was only born in the early hours, but my latest granddaughter will be able to twist me round her little finger before she's much older. And here she is, Katie Elizabeth Rose.


Sunday, 22 October 2017

I'm late!

With all the kerfuffle going on, I never did get round to posting yesterday as I had intended. You see, yesterday was Trafalgar Day, the anniversary of the battle in 1805 in which the British fleet, commended by Admiral Lord Nelson, defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar. Nelson's flagship was HMS Victory, which has the distinction of being the oldest commissioned warship in the world!

Borrowed from the Daily Mail but I see another has copyright. Sorry!
I sometimes wonder how much of the ship actually saw the dockyard at Chatham when she was launched in 1765. A bit like the story of "my grandfather's axe. My father gave it a new haft and I gave it a new head".

Nelson, of course, was shot and killed during the battle and his body was preserved in a barrel of brandy.

Which reminds me of the story of a guide on the Victory telling a party of tourists, "That plaque on the deck is the spot where Nelson fell." To which one of the tourists responds, "I'm not surprised. I nearly tripped over it myself!"

On the quayside at Falmouth, Cornwall.


Friday, 13 October 2017

Silver for her...

...was gold for the Old Bat and me! Last weekend our granddaughter won the silver medal in the Sussex Gymnastics Championships, Tumbling Age 9-10 Women. What a pity we were unable to see it.


Where are the 2024 Olympics to be held?

(Yeh, just dreamin'!)

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Hi

I just can't bring myself to do it. Almost everyone who send me emails starts them, "Hi" and although it doesn't grate on me, it's not something I can bring myself to do. Which - I have to admit - is just a little odd as I have no difficulty in ending my emails "Regards" - or even, sometimes, "Kind regards".

Language, I am very well aware, is a living thing; it moves, it changes, it develops. And that is how it should be. After all, Old Bill the Bard is venerated for having introduced (or even invented) goodness knows how many words. Infinitives I can split with the next man, despite knowing that a split infinitive is a grammatic abhorrence - but there are times when sandwiching the adverb just seems to give it a bit more punch.  As in "to boldly go", for example.

Back in the day, I was firmly instructed (or instructed firmly) that business correspondence opened "Dear Sir" and closed "Yours faithfully". If one was well acquainted with the correspondent, the salutation could be the less formal "Dear Mr Smith", in which case the closing would change to "Yours sincerely". Of course, letters to family and close friends would open with "Dear Jim" and close with "Love from". There would then be numerous permutations of opening with things like "Dear Prime Minister" and ending the letter of resignation with "Yours truly" or even "Yours ever" - although both the salutation and either closing would perhaps be somewhat tongue in cheek.

Of course, we have all seen examples of letters from the first World War trenches ending along the lines of, "from your affectionate son, Jack" - which simply goes to prove my point about language being a changeable commodity. but I still can't open an email with the word "Hi".

Sunday, 10 September 2017

A new one on me

The weather on Friday was decidedly naff, windy and with a fair amount of rain - oftentimes really heavy. Nothing compared to what people have been facing in the Caribbean or those southern states in the US, but a bit off for this part of England. Here in the south-east corner we have enjoyed a very fair summer - indeed, the weather has been very good for the most part and better than in other parts of the country.

But that is all by the bye and has little to do with what was new to me.

I had taken Fern for her post-breakfast walk - and got rather damp. In fact, very wet. There was very heavy rain late morning and I had pretty much decided that the afternoon walk would not happen - but the weather cleared. We set off across 39 Acres, through the wood at the top of Wild Park and on to the deserted golf course. And that was when it happened.

You can, perhaps, imagine my astonishment when I saw a crow looking for all the world as though it was about to land on Fern's rump! It's legs were outstretched as it approached the unsuspecting dog. I yelled at it and it moved away - only to come back a second and even a third time!

But it was then that the crow's avian nemesis appeared in the form of a first-year herring gull. The gull flew at the crow as if it was attempting to drive the bird away - and it kept doing so!

I don't know what surprised me the most: that a crow should attempt to land on fern; or that a gull should come to Fern's rescue; or that we got home dry after the better part of an hour's walk!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Squirrel alert!

It's that time of the year again. The time when the pears are getting near to being near to being ripe - if you follow my meaning. They are really starting to thin themselves out, which means they are ripe enough for the squirrels. Indeed, I watched one taking a few bites just the other day, but the fruit was apparently not quite ripe enough. But it very soon will be!

And if the squirrels don't damage the fruit, the jackdaws almost certainly will. There are jackdaws around all year, but when the pears are very nearly ripe they descend on the tree almost like a horde of locusts. And there doesn't seem to be anything we can do to stop them - other than tie the dog to the tree, to which she would most certainly object vociferously.

If all goes well, we might get a few undamaged pears.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Just updating

I haven't posted for a week - and what I have posted recently hasn't been anything of my own. But as Skip said, life has just been getting in the way. What with barbecues with the family, a visit from my daughter, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner with friends (not all the same friends and not all on the same day!), there has been little enough time for me to grapple with the complexities of my brand new iphone. Yes, I finally decided to retire the old Nokia. It has served me faithfully for many a year but I felt I wanted something more sophisticated, something that would just give me more that simple phone calls - and horrifically difficult texts!

Throw in Lions work - transport for stroke patients and the blind, shopping for food banks, dealing with bookings for PSA tests while another Lion was away, planning the fireworks display and putting together the proposal for relieving fuel poverty in Brighton and a couple of business meetings. I have also had fun dealing with various bits of software such as Survey Monkey, Jotform and even PayPal. Still, most of it has been fun. Of a sort.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Why Brexit?

At last, the UK's 500 year plan and decision to vote to leave Europe is explained in full. ("Yes, Minister" was a British TV comedy series, this episode dating from 1981!)


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Glen Campbell, RIP

I remember many of his songs, but this one was new to me when I spotted it on the Tube o' U today.


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Feminine logic

There follows the gist of a conversation I enjoyed had yesterday with the Old Bat. I was ironing a t-shirt of hers but was unsure were she would want me to put it later.

Me: Where does this green t-shirt of your live?

OB: In the t-shirt drawer.

Me: I am never sure which of your t-shirts go in the t-shirt drawer and which go on hangers in the wardrobe.

OB: All my t-shirts go in the t-shirt drawer. Except those that go on hangers.

There are times when it seems easiest just to keep quiet.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A hundred years

I am always slightly surprised when there are large-scale (well, largish) events commemorating something that happened a century ago. I'm reasonably sure I would remember if there had been anything done to commemorate the Crimean War (battle of Balaclava, Florence Nightingale, the Charge of the Light Brigade) when the centenary occurred in the 1950's, but perhaps it is just that the Crimean War didn't leave such a mark on the hearts and minds of my fellow countrymen as did the First World War.

There are, I would suggest, two major battles from that war that are deeply etched into our consciousness: the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly known as the Battle of Passchendaele, in 1917. Indeed, the centenary of the start of that battle occurs next weekend.

Briefly, Passchendaele is a small village a few miles from the Belgian town of Ypres, also spelt Ieper and known to the Tommies of WW1 as Wipers. It was considered vital to the war effort to capture the ridge on which the village stood. the attack was launched on 31st July, but it was until 10th November that Canadian troops finally captured the village. The weather was appalling, as can be seen in this photograph, and there are reports of many men drowning in the mud.

Australian gunners on a duckboard track, 29 October 1917. Photo by Frank Hurley.
The number of casualties is still a matter of controversy, but the official figure of British and allied losses is in the region of 250,000.  Many of those men have no known grave - and Belgian farmers still find human bones from time to time. The Menin Gate at Ypres was erected after the war as a memorial to the men who died and on it are carved the names of those who have no known grave.

The Menin Gate. Photo Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

When the memorial was finished, it was found to be too small to contain the names of all those who had no known grave so a cut-off date of 15th August 1917 was imposed. There are, nonetheless, 54,395 names inscribed. A further memorial at Tyne Cot Cemetery has the names of the remaining 34,984 UK soldiers missing. The names of the missing New Zealand and Newfoundland soldiers are on separate memorials.

One of the main roads out of Ypres passes through the gate, but every evening the road is closed while buglers of the local fire brigade play the Last Post.  The Last Post Association web site states:
Every evening since 1928 the Last Post has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper at 8 o'clock sharp. This evening the ceremony will take place for the 30747th time.
In fact, that is not quite correct. The ceremony didn't take place while Ypres was occupied by the Germans during World War II, but on the day the German army retreated, the ceremony was reinstated. It regularly attracts considerable crowds, as can be seen in this video taekn only in April this year.


Monday, 24 July 2017

Blue sky thinking

We do get blue skies in Brighton - but not today!

This is possibly the best-known building in Brighton, the Royal Pavilion. It started life as a modest farmhouse, until the Prince Regent had it converted into his palace by the sea some 200 years ago. Can you believe that at one time there was a proposal to demolish it and build a bus station on the site?


Saturday, 22 July 2017

More on the daily photo

Some days ago, or just two blogs ago, I mentioned the City Daily Photo scheme. I had signed up to that - but my photos were more often of the countryside around the city than of the city itself. This is one such. I have just discovered that there are a couple of dozen (or maybe even more) pictures on the camera that I have done nothing with. This one, taken from the bedroom window early on an October morning back in 2013, was intended for that daily photo blog of mine, but obviously never made it.

I had long wanted to emulate those photographers who managed to capture early morning mist filling valleys, with perhaps a church spire poking through. This is the nearest I have ever got to it - and I didn't even have to leave the house!


Friday, 21 July 2017

It's the pedant in me

that objects and I have to struggle to keep my mouth shut when I hear:

"hopefully" instead of "I hope";
"was" instead of "were" (you/we was there too);
"can I get" instead of "may I have"
"should of" instead of "should have".

And there are others - but you get the idea!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

City Daily Photo

Some years ago I discovered the City daily Photo website and wasted spent a considerable amount of time each day visiting cities around the world. I even started my own daily blog with photos I took in and around Brighton.

This had all virtually (pun intended!) slipped from my memory until this morning. I had an outpatient's appointment at the hospital (no real problem, just a follow-up from an earlier consultation and no further action required) and on the way back to the car I walked past St George's church, the parish church for Kemp Town. I had photographed the church back in the 'old days', and here it is:


It doesn't look English to me!

Built in 1824-25, the total cost was £11,000. According to Wiki, "After Revd James Anderson became curate of the church in 1828, his close association with Queen Adelaide, the consort of King William IV, made the church very popular. The queen consort was popular with the British people and often spent time in Brighton. When in the town, she worshipped at St George's." Hence the Royal coat of arms above the door.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Inflation?

One of our supermarket chain has been advertising this week:

"British cherries, strawberries, raspberries - £2 each"

And in the pub where Brighton Lions held their dinner meeting this week:

"FREE - function room for hire!"

But maybe it's just me.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

More about Will

As I inferred in my last post, the people of Gillingham knew nothing about Will Adams - and, for the most part, cared even less! But that we 60 years ago. Now I understand that there is a Will Adams NHS Treatment Centre, a Will Adams ward in the Medway Maritime Hospital, a Will Adams Pupil Referral Unit, a pub named The Will Adams - and even an annual Will Adams Festival! It seems that Gillingham's most famous son is at last becoming famous!

So who was Will Adams?

The pub sign. Photo Brian Curtis

Will was born in 1564, he was apprenticed to a Limehouse shipyard owner and learned shipbuilding, astronomy and navigation before entering the Royal Navy, where he served under Sir Francis Drake and saw action against the Spanish armada. In 1598 he sailed in a convoy of Dutch ships for the Dutch East Indies via the Magellan Straits, the west coast of South America and Japan. After many disasters, Adams was one of the few men to reach Japan, the first Englishman to have reached that country. He was forbidden to leave Japan, became a samurai and was forced to take Japanese nationality. He died in Japan in 1620.



Friday, 14 July 2017

Will Adams

Will Adams is proclaimed as the most famous person to have been born in my home town. not that I, as a boy in Gillingham, ever knew anything about him. Nor, I suspect, did many other residents. All I knew was that there was, standing on the grass verge on the Top Road, a dusky pink clock tower that, as I had been told, was the Will Adams Memorial.

Copied from geograph.org.uk
It seems almost incredible now, but when I was about 8 or 9, our entertainment on summer Sunday evenings would be a walk along the Top Road to the Will Adams and back. But the walk was incidental; the real entertainment came from gawking at all the coaches stuck in the traffic jam.

The Top Road - as we called it - was Watling Street, the A2, the main road from London to Dover. Some miles to the east, a side road left Watling Street and headed for the seaside destination of choice for hundreds, maybe even thousands, on people from south London: Margate.

Back in those days, before even television was commonplace, few people possessed cars and a trip to the seaside involved a coach trip. As they headed back to London after a day on the sands, the Londoners (in my mind almost a strange race from a distant galaxy) would find themselves stuck in the traffic as it approached the bottleneck on Chatham. Indeed, many of the coaches would be standing in Chatham already as the boundary between Gillingham and Chatham ran along the centre of the road for some of this way.

We had very simple tastes in those days.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Ton up!

My thought processes are always meandering, frequently meandering in ever increasing circles until I have absolutely no idea how I end up where i do, nor even where I started! but this time I can actually follow the convoluted trail from the beaches of Dunkirk (or Dunkerque, as the French would have it.) to the city of Chicago.

(As a diversion, many people are unaware that Dunkirk is in England. It is a village in Kent, not far from Canterbury!)

I mentioned the Dunkirk evacuation yesterday in connection with the paddle steamer, the Medway Queen. It was, of course, immediately after that defeat-seen-as-victory that Churchill made what is possibly his most famous speech:



What I have only today discovered is that, although the speech was made in the House of Commons in 1940, Churchill only recorded it in 1949! You can read about it here. But I digress again.

It was only a matter of three or four months after Churchill gave that speech that the Blitz began. Much of London, especially the docks and the East End, was flattened. When men of the Canadian air force saw the conditions in which people were living, and especially the lack of food, they wrote home. Lions Clubs in Canada responded by sending food parcels.

After the war, the Queen (later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother), who had been very much impressed by this generosity, sent an equerry to Canada to find out about Lions Clubs.  As a result, Canadian Lions established Lions Clubs in England. Indeed, it was a Canadian who was responsible for establishing Brighton Lions Club. A short quote from Diamond Geezers, the history of the first 60 years of Brighton Lions Club:
Why Brighton was selected as the place in which to form a new Lions Club is not known, but some years later Dennis Venning, one of the charter members, was to recall how it came about:
A representative of Lions International headquarters in Chicago, a Canadian named Murray Huggan, came to Brighton in the late summer of 1950 following the successful formation of a Lions Club in London. He had been advised to get in touch with Dick Pockett, and Dick, who was a great pal of mine, got in touch with me and we decided to meet up with this Murray Huggan and see what it was all about. We got hold of four other persons who I thought might be interested and we had a meeting in the Old Ship Hotel to hear all about it. We were all a bit dubious at first and I remember that one thing we asked for was a copy of the latest annual accounts of the Association; our friend had not got such accounts available and so he had to send to Chicago for them. Anyhow, they arrived pretty quickly and we were quickly satisfied as to the credentials of the International Association of Lions Clubs.
Oh dear, I'm wandering again! But we now have a mention of Chicago. That is where the first Lions Club was formed back in 1917, and that is where this year's international convention is being held right now.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Medway Queen

I don't really remember my paternal grandfather. he died when I was 9 years old, having lived in the house next door all my life, so I find that lack of memory rather surprising. My brother - two years younger than me - does remember him, so why can't I? What i do remember is that he took both of us boys to the cattle market in Chatham on more than one occasion. Having said that, all I can remember of those trips is the squealing of the pigs as they had tags inserted in their ears!

I also have a memory - although I still can't picture Granddad in it- of him taking me on a trip aboard the Medway Queen.  The Medway Queen was a paddle steamer that ran from Sun Pier, Chatham, to Southend.


Built in about 1924, she served as a minesweeper during World War II but her real moment of glory was in 1940 when she made seven trips to the Dunkirk beaches, rescuing about 7,000 men and shooting down three German aircraft. returned to civilian use after the war, she was taken out of service in 1963 before being used as a night club on the Isle of Wight. She was eventually restored (rebuilt?) and is now back on the River Medway, moored at Gillingham Pier.

All this was brought to mind as I see there is a programme about the Dunkirk evacuation on television tonight.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A curious thing

The shirt I am wearing today is one I bought many years ago. It's a Van Heuson, a brand which may not even be around these days; it's so long since I bought a shirt that I really have no idea what shirt-makers still exist. I suppose there is still M&S, although Bhs, their main competitor, has gone to the wall. Anyway, Van Heuson was a brand just a cut above the common or garden shirt-makers. So much so that the sleeves have no buttons at the cuffs; they sport double cuffs which should be folded back and held together by cuff links. I wonder, does anyone other than the Prince of Wales use cuff links these days? I always did - provided my shirt cuffs had the necessary holes, even if the cuffs didn't require folding back!

But the point I am getting to - at long last! you exclaim - is that the button holes down the front are vertical, like this | except for the top one (which I can longer fasten) and the bottom one, which is horizontal, like this - .

There seems to be no common reason why this is so. Some say it is because the shirt was at one time buttoned to the trousers, other because the stress on that button is most likely to be horizontal and making the button hole horizontal means there is less stress on the cotton used to secure the button. I guess I shall never know!

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Four quarters

Today, being 24th June, is Midsummer Day, one of the four quarter days in England - and probably Wales as well although not in Scotland. Quarter days are the days when rent is traditionally due to be paid - and still, in the case of many commercial rents - and servants were traditionally hired.

All four quarter days fall on religious festivals: Lady Day (25th March) is also the Feast of the Annunciation; Midsummer Day (24th June) is the feast day of St John the Baptist; Michaelmas (29th September) is the feast of St Michael and All Angels; while the fourth quarter day is 25th December, There is an easy way to remember which day of the month is the quarter day. March has five letters, so that quarter day is on the 25th. June, with four letters, has its quarter day on the 24th. September has nine letters, so the 29th is the quarter day, and December has eight letters . . .

Up to 1752, Lady Day was the first day of the year in England - goodness knows why such an odd day was chosen! But in that year, the calendar in England was changed from the Julian to the Gregorian, with Wednesday 2 September 1752 being followed by Thursday 14 September 1752 (an early example of England falling into line with the continent). The old calendar had been getting out of kilter with the solar system or something, and 11 days had to be lost. There were demonstrations in the streets with people complaining that the state had stolen 11 days of their lives! The act of Parliament (the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750) also changed the day on which the new year started from 25th March to 1st January. However, so that investors would not lose 11 days interest, the start of the financial year would be 6th April, which is the Gregorian equivalent of 25th March under the Julian calendar.

Which is why our tax year still starts on 6th April.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Kindling

I have always been a keen reader and I well remember walking what must have been two or three miles to the public library when I was but 12 years old. I have never been one for buying masses of books; I would then have the problem of either storing them or giving them away, something I would be loth to do. There are some books that I am happy to read again and again, and they do have pride of place on my bookshelves.

But - a few months ago I decided to bring myself into the 21st century. I bought a Kindle!

I was really very dubious about using such a device. There is something special about opening a new book - the smell of it and the crisp feel of the pages. But I rarely managed to be the first to read any of the books I borrowed from the public library so there was little chance of me missing that special feeling.

I still do like reading a 'proper' book, but I have to confess I am very taken with ebooks. There are various advantages:

  • the Kindle fits in a jacket pocket so is easy to take with me;
  • I must have the better part of 50 books in my library, many of which I will read again;
  • the size of the font can be altered at a whim, so I can increase the size when my eyes are tired;
  • the pages are back-lit making reading easier in low light;
  • many 'classics' can be downloaded free of charge, and there are plenty of books priced at less than a pound!
On the other hand, there are disadvantages;
  • in my experience, there is a tendency for errors to creep in due to lack of editorial control over the electronic version of books;
  • one occasionally needs to recharge the battery before the Kindle warns of low battery life - and it is too easy to forget.
On balance, I consider myself hooked.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Not my work

I don't have the foggiest idea who took these two pictures showing what was at one time called the Palace Pier, then Brighton Pier and now Brighton Palace Pier!



Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Book of Jeremy Corbyn

From The New Yorker:

And it came to pass, in the land of Britain, that the High Priestess went unto the people and said, Behold, I bring ye tidings of great joy. For on the eighth day of the sixth month there shall be a general election.
And the people said, Not another one.
And they waxed wroth against the High Priestess and said, Didst thou not sware, even unto seven times, that thou wouldst not call a snap election?
And the High Priestess said, I know, I know. But Brexit is come upon us, and I must go into battle against the tribes of France, Germany, and sundry other holiday destinations. And I must put on the armor of a strong majority in the people’s house. Therefore go ye out and vote.
And there came from the temple pollsters, who said, Surely this woman will flourish. For her enemy is as grass; she cutteth him down. He is as straw in the wind, and he will blow away. And the trumpet of her triumph shall sound in all the land.
And the High Priestess said, Piece of cake.
And there came from the same country a prophet, whose name was Jeremy. His beard was as the pelt of beasts, and his raiments were not of the finest. And he cried aloud in the wilderness and said, Behold, I bring you hope.
And suddenly there was with him a host of young people. And he said unto them, Ye shall study and grow wise in all things, and I shall not ask ye for gold. And the sick shall be made well, and they also will heal freely. And he promised unto them all manner of goodly things.
And the young people said unto him, How shall these things be rendered, seeing that thou hast no money in thy purse?
And he spake unto them in a voice of sounding brass and said, Soak the rich. And again, Pull down the mighty from their seats.
And the young people went absolutely nuts.
And they hearkened unto the word of Jeremy, and believed. For they said unto themselves, Lo, he bringeth unto us the desire of our hearts. He cometh by bicycle, with a helmet upon his head. And he eateth neither flesh nor fowl, according to the Scriptures. For man cannot live by bread alone, but hummus is quite another matter.
And the High Priestess saw all these things and was sore. And she gathered unto her the chief scribes and the Pharisees and said unto them, What the hell is going on?
And they said unto her, It is a blip, as if it were a rough place upon the road.
But they said unto themselves, When the government was upon her shoulders, this woman was mighty. But now that she has gone abroad unto every corner of the land, she stumbleth. For surely it is written that ruling and campaigning are as oil and water, and there shall be no concord betwixt them.
And the chief scribes wrote upon tablets, saying, Jeremy is false of tongue. He hideth wickedness in his heart. And his sums do not add up.
And nobody paid any attention.
And the elders rose up and said to the young people, If ye choose Jeremy, he will bring distress in your toils and wailing upon your streets. Do ye not remember the nineteen-seventies?
And the young people said, The what?
And the elders spake again, and said to the young people, Beware, for he gave succor in days of yore to the I.R.A.
And the young people said, The what?
And the young people said, Jeremy shall bring peace unto all nations, for he hateth the engines of war that take wing across the heavens. And he showeth respect for all peoples, even unto the transgender community.
And the elders said, The what?
And it came to pass that the heathen of this land came among the people, with fire and sword, and slew many among the faithful. And great was the lamentation.
And the High Priestess waxed exceeding wroth and said to the people, Fear not. For I shall bind your wounds and give ye shelter from the heathen, and shall take up the sword against them.
And there came again pollsters from the temple, who said, Will the people not vote for her in this hour of need?
And nobody paid any attention.
And it came to the vote.
And the elders went up to vote, and the young people. And the young people were as a multitude. And in the hours of darkness there was much counting. And the young people watched by night, and the elders went to bed.
And there came in the morning news that the High Priestess had vanquished the prophet Jeremy. But the triumph of the High Priestess was as the width of a nail. And she was vexed.
And the elders and the chief scribes and the Pharisees spoke among themselves, yea, even in the corners of their houses.
And there was great rejoicing amidst the multitude of the young. And they took strong wine, and did feast among themselves. And there were twelve baskets left over.
And of the pollsters there was no sign.
And the people saw Jeremy and said, Surely this man has won? Doth he not skip in gladness like a young hart upon the hills?
And there was great murmuring among the elders. And they said unto themselves, Weep not. For the High Priestess doth but prepare the way. Cometh there not one who is greater than she?
And they said, Behold, for the hour of the redeemer is upon us. And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Prince of Peace. And they cried in one voice, Boris.
And the young people said, Oh, shit.
And the people gave tongue, and made supplication unto the Lord, saying, Lord, let our cry come unto thee.
And the Lord thought the whole thing was absolutely hilarious.
And then the people said, Lord, what shall we do regarding Brexit? For henceforth the High Priestess shall be as weak as a newborn lamb. How shall we hope for continued access to the single market?
And the Lord said, The what?

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Three weeks!

I'm not entirely sure how it is that three weeks have passed since I last cast a few pearls before the swine. But it is!

I have been fairly busy - apart from the week we spent in France ("wineracking", as Skip calls it). Then there have been various things going on, far and near, to distract me. We had an election. That took place only last week, but it seems much longer ago than that. It hasn't helped that the result was a hung Parliament.  Of course, while we were away there was another terrorist attack - on London Bridge and in the Borough Market. And only three days ago there was that terrible fire in Grenfell Tower in London. The media can't complain that there has been no news to report recently!

This morning I spent much of the time updating the Brighton Lions website, Facebook and Twitter pages (here, here and here) and have been working on the Club's accounts in preparation for the year end.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Negative thoughts

Picture credit: The Sun/PA Press Association
This, frankly, is not a picture one associates with the United Kingdom - except during 'the troubles' in Northern Ireland. but following the decision this week to raise the threat level in this country from 'severe' to 'critical' we now have armed police supported by troops on patrol at key sites such as government buildings, railway stations, shopping centres and the like. We even have armed police on trains!

I don't ask why; I know why. But I do have to ask, Is it necessary? What good will be served by having all these armed men in our towns and cities?

Those whose brains are wired wrongly or who have been brainwashed into acting as suicide bombers won't be stopped by a few soldiers or armed policemen. Picture a mainline railway terminus in the rush hour - especially those in London such as Waterloo or Victoria. Ten, twenty or even a hundred police or troops will never spot a determined bomber. The same goes for shopping malls.

Seeing those men around the town doesn't make me feel any more secure because I know that if a madman plans to commit an atrocity, he very likely will - unless he can be caught before he sets off to blow himself to what he hopes will be paradise.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Positive thoughts

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have shed tears at the thought on Monday evening's horror in Manchester. Our television screens and newspapers have been full of the results of that obscene act of evil and I do not propose to dwell on that side of things. It is - perhaps strangely - pleasing that all sections of the media have also highlighted positive matters.

How taxi drivers switched off their meters and offered free rides home.

How off-duty doctors, nurses, hospital porters all went back to work without having to be asked.

How so many people queued to donate blood that the blood transfusion people were unable to cop

How a Muslim man escorted his elderly Jewish neighbour to pay their respects.

How a man and woman who just happened to be passing collected 50 girls as they escaped, took them to a hotel and stayed with them until every one had been collected by parents.

How people took food and drink to hospital staff.

How a local cafe offered free food and drinks to emergency service staff.

I am sure there were many other examples that I just don't know about.

When so many people are not prepared to pass by on the other side when others are in need, there is hope for us all. Evil will be defeated.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The nun's prayer

It was only the other day that I posted about language - and I find myself doing so once again!

I acknowledge that I am in increasing danger of being a pedantic old bore on the subject and have to bite my tongue on more and more occasions when people say 'lay' when they mean 'lie'; 'less' when they mean 'fewer' and 'hopefully' when they mean 'I hope'.  It irritates me even more when I hear somebody (quite often my younger son!) ask in a café or restaurant, 'Can I get' instead of 'May I have'. I always want to say, 'No, you can't get it. The waiter will do it for you.' Another irritant is the response to the question, 'How are you?'  The reply should, of course, be 'Very well, thank you', not 'I'm good'.

These thoughts have been rattling around in my brain for a few days and it was a complete coincidence that a report was published yesterday telling how a so-called expert on the English language had pointed out that a lot of words we think are irritating Americanisms can be found in the works of Shakespeare. For example, he used 'gotten' quite a lot and spelt 'honour' as 'honor' more than he did with the 'u'.

But controlling my tetchiness reminded me of the (supposedly) 17th century nun's prayer. I'm sure many will remember these gist, but just in case, here it is:
LORD, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends in the end. Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is growing sweeter as the days go by. I dare not ask for grace to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and less cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be saint — some of them are so hard to live with — but a sour person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.
Wise words indeed, whether they date from the 17th century or not.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The common tongue

I stopped watching the annual Eurovision Song Contest many years ago. I seem to remember that it started in quite a small way with the (national) television broadcasters from a number of western European countries. Or maybe the eastern bloc countries were involved as well. It became a little tedious, with voting tending to become more and more political and the entries becoming , well, let's say just weaker and weaker. It seemed a little strange to me when countries outside Europe were allowed to enter: Israel, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Australia even!

With 42 counties entering this year's competition, there had to be two or three rounds (I don't know how they organised it!) before the grand final on Saturday. I understand that of the 42 entries, 35 were sung in English, and even the French entry broke into English from time to time.

Earlier this month, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (who seems to think that because his initial are JC he has some sort of divine right) delivered a speech in French, claiming that, "Slowly but surely English is losing importance".

I am reminded of the theme tune to Dad's Army: "Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler."


Sunday, 14 May 2017

I don't understand

There are many things I don't understand, and many of those things are matters that (probably) seem so very simple to cleverer people. Like why is it that electricity flows along a wire, into a light bulb, and then out along another wire - but we can't use that electricity again. And if we used the electricity to light up the bulb, how come it flows out again?

See what I mean? The answers are quite obvious to at least one of my regular readers. (I kid myself that I have some!)

What's bothering me as I type is my sleeping pattern.

Time was when I was a morning person. Up with the lark, and happy to be so. It bothered me not one whit getting up at 4.00am to set off on holiday before the rush. And for several years I was up at 5.00am to get to my desk in London just after 8.00.

I was told on more than one occasion (by different people) that they found they needed less sleep as they got older. Not unnaturally, I assumed that would apply to me as well. I also assumed that my habit of rising at 5.00 would continue after I retired. Only this week, I was told by a friend that he had been so accustomed to rising at 6.30 when he was working, that the habit was still with him.

So this is what I don't understand. As I get older, I find that I need more sleep, not less. And whereas I was wont to be early to bed, early to rise, I am becoming transmogrified into a night owl! I happily sit reading until 11.30 when I force myself to go to bed. And then I struggle to get up as early as 7.30 - because I'm sure the dog will need to go down the garden!

As the King of Siam said to Anna, is a puzzlement.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

OK - the pigeons

This is going to be about as scintillating as my conversation with the D of E with which I regaled you yesterday.

The sound of wood pigeons cooing first thing on a sunny morning always takes me back more than 60 years to my first summer camp with the Scouts. Twenty-plus Scouts with our one solitary Scoutmaster entrained at Gillingham (the one in Kent) whence we travelled to Charing Cross (a mainline terminus in London). Lugging our personal baggage - all the camping gear had already been sent on as one could in those days - we crossed London by the Underground (it wasn't called the tune then as far as I remember) to Paddington. There we caught a train to Bath.

That journey seemed to me as though we were heading into a foreign country. I was accustomed to building constructed of red brick, but here the railway stations were made of stone. All the stations in Kent and the signs on them were painted green; here they were maroon. At Bath we changed trains again to travel on to Freshford and from there we walked to the farm where we were to camp.

If the buildings seemed foreign, at least the language spoken by the locals was English. Well, a kind of English. This was the first time that I - or, as far as I am aware, any of the other Scouts - had come into contact with the Somerset accent.

"Be Ee goin' to zee Gillingham (with a hard G in place of our soft G) play this zeazon?" I was asked by one.

It was all quite an eye-opener for this young Man of Kent.

I would wake up in the morning, wrapped in my two blankets (no sleeping bags in those days) pinned together with what looked like large nappy pins, just like the ones Scotsmen use on their kilts, to a sort of greenish light as the sun shone through the canvas. And every morning, the wood pigeons would be calling from the trees at the side of the field.

I heard a couple of wood pigeons the other day. They weren't calling; indeed, they weren't in the trees. They were on the flat roof of our kitchen extension. And, boy, were they enjoying themselves! They were boffing like mad - and making a heck of a lot of noise as they thrashed around.  Fortunately, Fern (the spaniel) was not feeling her best. She takes a great dislike to birds on the kitchen roof and they would have felt the rough edge of her tongue had she been 100%.

The next day I was in the bedroom when I heard a tremendous bother going on outside. yes, you've guessed it. It was those wood pigeons on the kitchen roof again! I opened the window to suggest they might like to be a little more discreet. Since then they have taken to using our neighbour's fir tree, which thrashes around as though the wind were blowing a gale when there's absolutely still air!

Perhaps this will be a good year for pigeon pie?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Pigeons can wait

I was planning on commenting about the wood-pigeons, but that will have to wait. The Duke of Edinburgh takes priority.

To look at the newspaper coverage this morning, you might think he had died. Honestly, seven pages - and those the first seven pages - of my daily fish wrap were devoted to his retirement, announced yesterday. And he deserves it. Retirement, that is. After all, he is 95 - 96 next month.

I think he's a great guy. Some people say they don't like him, he upsets some people occasionally with slightly off-the-mark (non PC) comments, but I think he's a real life WYSIWYG. It was a good few years ago that, for some reason long forgotten, I drew up a list of the 6 or 7 people I would like to get together for dinner. Philip was top of my list.

The one and only time I was featured in the society gossip column of a national Sunday paper was because of him. I spent the last diddely-dum years of my career in the newspaper industry and somehow found my way onto the board of the employers' body. It was because of this that I received an invitation to a reception at Windsor Castle. I was standing near the door of one room, chatting to three or four others I knew, when the Duke entered and tripped over the carpet. A couple of days later, I received a phone call from said Sunday paper.

"Where you at the reception at Windsor on Tuesday?"

I confirmed that I had been.

"Did the Duke of Edinburgh speak to you?"

Again, I replied in the affirmative.

"What did he say?"

I told the questioner, thinking that this would be of no interest whatsoever to anybody. It was very much to my surprise to see my name in print the following Sunday, with the conversation quote.

"Do you know how old this carpet is?" asked the Duke.

"No, sir."

"It was made a hundred and fifty years ago in an Indian prison."

Now, tell me: is there really anything remotely interesting to the average newspaper reader in that innocuous conversation?

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

May Day gone

A rather dreary bank holiday weatherwise. But this afternoon I was delighted to smell the cow parsley for the first time this year. A distinctive smell, and perhaps not to everyone's taste, but I like it.

Cow parsley against a setting sun
It's also good to see the apple blossom - including the crab apple which I shall be harvesting later!


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Update 2

I would usually be a far from happy bunny to hear the phone ring at a quarter past eight on a Sunday morning. Today, however, was different, although I was a little apprehensive as I picked up the receiver.

It was slightly lucky that I was even up to answer the phone. With Fern being in "hospital", I had considered taking the opportunity to have a lie-in, especially as for some reason I felt particularly groggy this morning. But good sense prevailed. I guessed that the vet would be making his round of the patients at about eight o'clock and Fern had been the only dog expected overnight so the phone call would be fairly early.

It was good news. Fern was apparently bright and eating well. I could collect her when I was ready.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Update

The vet diagnosed either vestibular syndrome or a stroke. She gave Fern two injections, an anti-inflammatory drug and an anti-nausea drug - and wanted to see her again this morning. Although the same vet did see Fern briefly, the consultation was with another, who agreed with the diagnosis and recommended support care over the weekend. So Fern is now in hospital (at another vet surgery) on an IV drip. They will possibly repeat the anti-nausea injection and try to tempt her to eat something; a little chicken, maybe.

All the makings of an expensive weekend.

Meanwhile, I have finished the redesign of the Friends of Withdean Park website, here.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The best of intentions

The best of intentions, just like the best laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft agley. And they have certainly ganged agley this week! I was going to explain how I spent Sunday - half the morning and pretty much all the afternoon - reconnecting the cables in a double power socket. I had started full of confidence that the job would take 20 minutes or so.

That was Sunday gone.

The next day, Monday, I was pretty well screwed up as a result of Sunday's efforts.

Tuesday saw me determined to put to bed the May issue of the newsletter I produce for Brighton Lions Club. I had been dithering over it for days and I knew I really had to get it finished. (If you are not on the distribution list or seem to have dropped off it, you can read a copy here.)

I had more fun and games on Wednesday. For some peculiar reason, the folks at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs decided that Brighton Lions Club Charity Trust Fund should complete an income tax return for the 2016-17 tax year. But the letter asking for the return was sent to the previous treasurer instead of to me. This letter indicated that the return should (ideally) be submitted online through the HMRC website. But although I had all the access details for the website - user name, password etc - I wasn't allowed access to the part where tax returns are submitted. I eventually acquired the necessary authority, only to find that I would have to buy special commercial software to complete the tax return! "Bugger that!" i thought, and downloaded a hard copy. It was no great hassle to fill in, but when I came to address an envelope I realised that the address to send it to wasn't actually quoted anywhere, although there was a post code (that's a zip code in the States). But the Royal Mail told me that that post code doesn't exist! I sent the return there anyway.

Yesterday I decided that the website I run for the local Friends of Withdean Park needed a rethink, especially so that there is a mobile-friendly design. So I wasted spent much of the day fiddling. I will get there!

This morning, I took the Old Bat to the MS Treatment Centre for her weekly overdose of oxygen and on the way home I was following a bus when I had a brainwave. Bus tickets can be bought online and displayed on a mobile phone. Surely Brighton Lions should be able to do that with tickets for our fireworks display? It would reduce work and cost in sending tickets out by post - so now I have something else to get my teeth into.

Oh, and the dog is unwell. She became unwell 48 hours ago, quite suddenly, it seemed. On our way back from the park she was walking extremely slowly, and staggering every now and then. She wanted no supper (she must have been feeling terrible!) but seem gradually to improve. Yesterday, she had breakfast and seemed better still. But this morning she has been staggering badly once again so I have an emergency appointment with the vet late this afternoon.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Just saying . . .

While walking down the street one day a Member of Parliament suffers a heart attack and dies.
His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'
'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.
'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'
'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the MP.
'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'
And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.
They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.
Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises....
The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
'Now it's time to visit heaven.'
So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'
The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.
He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.
The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. ' I don't understand,' stammers the MP. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened? '
The devil looks at him, smiles and says, ' Yesterday we were campaigning.. ....
Today you voted.'
Here we go again.

Monday, 24 April 2017

By George

Or even bye bye, George.

Yesterday, in case it slipped your notice, was St George's Day. I had intended doing a piece about the four patron saints of the British isles - George for England, Patrick for Ireland, David for Wales and Andrew for Scotland - with the emphasis, as is only right, on St George. After all, it was his special day, and he is the patron saint of my country. That post didn't come to fruition for two reasons:

  1. Mike, he of a Bit about Britain, covered it so much better than I would have done, right HERE.
  2. A little DIY job, one I had expected to take me about half an hour, actually took most of the day. Maybe I'll tell you about it when I have recovered.
It just happened that the job I was so unsuccessfully trying to complete required more digital dexterity that cerebral so I was able to ruminate gently about George and patron saints generally. What, I wondered, is a patron saint actually for? What is one supposed to do? I have never seen a job description, nor have I ever seen the position advertised so it all seems a little nebulous.

And who chooses the patron saint of a country anyway? 

Well, I've actually found the answer to that question. An answer, anyway. here is what can be found on the historic-uk.com website:
The original patron saint of England was St Edmund, but his influence began to wane when Richard the Lionheart adopted St George as the protector of his army whilst on crusade. Edmund was finally replaced when King Edward III formed the Order of the Garter in St. George's name in 1350 and made him the Patron Saint of England. The cult of the Saint was further advanced by King Henry V at the battle of Agincourt in northern France.
So now you know.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Cranky dog

I have been a dog owner for more than 50 years and I suppose I would describe myself as a dog person. That said, I'm not entirely sure just what goes to make a dog person, but I like dogs and that's enough for me. What I am not is one of those horse-whisperer types who can get a dog to do just about anything simply by raising an eyebrow. People have sometimes remarked that our present dog - Fern, a springer spaniel - is well-trained. Naturally, I soak up such praise, even though I know full well how little justified it is.


Fern did prove remarkably easy to train in the basics. By that I mean simply "sit" and "come". For some long-forgotten reason we never did progress to "stay" and "heel" is very much a matter of luck, although I have discovered a hand signal that she obeys almost as "heel". i am very much of the opinion that dogs are pack animals and the lone dog in a household has to learn at a very early stage that it is the least important member of the family pack.

One thing that causes problems for many dog owners is the first few nights that the puppy is away from the litter and its mother. But that was no problem with Fern. On her first night in our house she was sent to her bed in the kitchen, the light was switched off and the door shut. She made no noise at all that night - and there was no mess to clear up next morning either! She has always settled down at night with no problem, even in a strange kitchen or scullery.

Until the last two or three months.

For some reason that I have not yet managed to identify, fern now barks after she is put to bed. And this is not barking at foxes (she has always done that if a vixen howls) or asking to be let into the garden. just a few minutes after being put to bed, while I am cleaning my teeth or just getting into bed, she starts barking. Not loudly, but annoyingly. At first I tried ignoring her and she would stop after a minute or two, only to bark again about ten minutes later. And then again sometime in the middle of the night. And again as I was under the shower in the morning.

I have tried ignoring her, cajoling, remonstrating fairly gently, standing over her and really telling her off - all to no avail. The last three nights I have tried leaving the kitchen door open. Now she simply barks for a minute as I clean my teeth, after which I go back downstairs and point out to her that she has not been left entirely alone. That seems to settle her and I hear nothing more.

Could it be that she has just gone cranky in her old age? She is 13, after all.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Ash before oak?

Walking in the woods today it was easy to spot the sycamore, hazel and hawthorn trees, if only because they are all in leaf. The chestnut (both sweet and horse) are well on, and the silver birch leaves are starting - as are the loaves on the ash trees. But I saw no sign of oak leaves.

Ash trees in High Park Wood.
We must just hope that there is little truth in the old country saying:
Ash before oak - we're in for a soak. Oak before ash - 'twill be but a splash.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

What happens if . . .?

This afternoon, acquaintances of mine (I can hardly call them friends - I don't know them well enough for that) have been at the funeral of their granddaughter. Aged 11, she was knocked down when crossing the road to catch the bus to school. She was air-lifted to hospital, but to no avail. I cannot imagine what her parents and grandparents are going through.

There was a report in the paper this week about another couple who are facing the death of their child, a baby aged just eight months. The baby has an extremely rare genetic condition as a result of which he is both blind and deaf and he is being kept alive by a ventilator. The hospital applied to the court for permission to discontinue treatment, against the parents' wishes. They, the parents, have raised a vast sum of money - £1.2 million - to pay for treatment in the USA.

I have my view on the court's judgement but that is wholly beside the point of this post. My concern here is that £1.2 million.

There appears to be an increasing number of cases where people - parents, other family, friends - appeal to the public at large for funds to pay for drugs or treatment not available on the National Health Service. This is, of course, in addition to the on-going charity appeals for cancer research, the lifeboat service, over-worked Spanish donkeys, dancing bears in India and many others of variable worthiness. Most of these one-off appeals to attract generous donations. But my cynicism, scepticism or downright stinginess immediately jump into action. Even without questioning the genuineness or otherwise of the appeal, there are things I want to know. Things like:

  • Can I trust the person collecting the money to deal with it properly without dipping into the fund?
  • What will happen to the money collected if the target is not reached?
  • What will happen to the money if the patient dies before the money is spent?
  • What will be done with the surplus if more is donated than is needed?
Those questions are left unanswered too often for me to donate to any such appeal.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Bluebells


For a number of reasons, it was several months since I last walked in the Great Wood at Stanmer. I had been in other parts of the woods, but this afternoon the dog and I returned to the Great Wood. As I hoped, the bluebells were well on the way. There are acres of these delightful flowers and i am pleased to say they are the English variety rather than the dreaded Spanish bluebell which is forcing out the more delicate English with its fragrant scent. This time next week they will be magnificent.

I have always been slightly surprised that there are no primroses in Stanmer, but there are aconites a-plenty, and tiny little violets. And it won't be long before the beech trees are dressed in their spring leaves like this:

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Little green men

I caught sight of a headline one day during the week, but I never did get round to reading the article. Something or other must have distracted me; one of those "Ooh, shiny!" moments, I suppose. Anyway, I gathered from what I saw that radio signals must have been detected in space and that somebody had suggested this might be evidence of alien life.

Astronomy has never been one of my passions. For one thing, there is usually too much cloud in this country for me to see the stars to any extent - and even if there were no clouds, the level of light pollution would seriously diminish one's enjoyment of the night sky. This lack of astronomical passion extends to pretty much everything connected to extraterrestrial activity.

It's not just the cloud cover and light pollution that detracts; the figures involved are, quite literally, beyond my comprehension. I find it almost impossible to understand - or believe - that the light I see from that star actually left that star not just years ago, but centuries or even millenia ago. (I know that in America there are two 'n's in that word.) That, to me, is mind-blowing.

But to get back to the LGM.

Why is it that scientists say that if there is evidence of water on another planet (or whatever), there is the possibility of alien life? Why should water be a prerequisite of alien life? Are those people possessed of insufficient imagination to accept the possibility that other forms of life - the little green men - might have no need of water? Is it not possible even that life might exist in a form that we can't even see?

No - I can't cope with this. Let's change the subject!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Do I care?

My wife being disabled, I am the not-very-proud possessor of the description 'carer' - a word I don't much care for (if you'll excuse the pun). It's not a job for which I would have applied; indeed, it's not a job for which I am much suited. All the same, it's a job I signed up for more than fifty years ago. Of course, back then the words "for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health" were just that - words. How many of us, when in our twenties, have ever given thought to what life will be like half a century hence?

Please don't think that as I type this I am wallowing in self-pity. That most certainly is not the case. I know full well that there are many, many people who are in situations far worse than mine, and who have been in those situations far longer than I. That, naturally, applies also to the persons for whom the carers care.

But I wonder how many of us, when we see a disabled person with a carer, give a thought to what life is like for the carer? The disability affects the carer as well as the person being cared for. Not to anything like the same extent, obviously, but often in ways that other people just don't realise. Let me simply state a couple of facts and this will be just that - a statement of fact, not a plea for sympathy.

I can't recall the last time I enjoyed an uninterrupted night's sleep. Most nights I am out of bed, helping the Old Bat to the bathroom, twice. Occasionally it's just once, but there are nights when it is three times. Granted, the loss of 20 or 30 minutes sleep is nothing that can't be made up - but it is the disturbance, the waking every two or three hours, that is exhausting. Then there is the amount of time spent during the day simply waiting; waiting for her to finish eating long after me, waiting while she does part of a job so that I can get on with the next part (which she is unable to do). Or, if not actually waiting, walking with her very slowly so that a walk that should take just two or three minutes actually takes nearly ten.

As I said earlier, I know there are people far, far worse off than I am. I have recently read a book (My Life in his Paws by Wendy Hilling) written by a lady who has EB, a rare skin condition which also means her throat is very narrow and she can stop breathing at any time. She and her husband had to take it in turns to sleep for two hours at a time.

In making a plea for people to consider the carers as well as the disabled, I don't mean to suggest that the disabled are not in a much worse situation that the carers. Far from it. I just think that the person behind the wheelchair is very often invisible.

Monday, 20 March 2017

100 today

Dame Vera Lynn, the nation's sweetheart. Difficult to decide which Y/t clip to use to mark her birthday.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

A Saturday rant

Although why it should be a "Saturday" rant I have no idea. There really is nothing special about Saturdays that makes me rant. Any day will do!

The local council (Brighton & Hove City Council - just in case you are interested, which you probably aren't) seems determined to make life difficult for the motorist. It was two or three years ago that parking charges on the sea front were increased to £20 a day. At that time, each individual parking bay had its own meter that had to be fed with coins. No coin of a denomination greater than £1 was accepted, so any visitor wanting to park for the day on the sea front (always assuming he could find a space) was faced with the problem of having to insert twenty £1 coins. No councillor or official seemed to question whether or not a visitor would come armed with £20 in pound coins!

There have been several other things done to make life difficult for drivers: taking one lane of a two-lane carriageway for a cycle lane which is rarely used by cyclists; marking bus lanes that are operational 24 hours a day (not simply in rush hours); imposing an almost city-wide 20mph speed limit - which is ignored by nearly every driver, including police drivers.

OK, I have learned to live with most of those problems - all of them, in fact. But this week I came across another.

"Residents only" parking areas have slowly spread outwards from the centre but there are always a few spaces that residents can use but non-residents as well, so long as they pay at the nearby meter. Many of these meters have been replaced by new ones that do not take money. To park in those areas drivers must first download an app onto their phones and then pay br credit or debit card when they park. Which is OK if you have a suitable phone. I don't. To make matters worse, the council imposes a handling charge for payment by card. So, to pay for a hour's parking, which costs £1, the driver has to pay a surcharge of 15p. That represents an increase in the cost of no less than 15%!

Outrageous!

But the council did promise that, in each street subject to paying, there would be a machine accepting cash.

On one afternoon each week I collect my granddaughter from school. Parking is usually easier in the street at the back of the school, so that is where I head. This street suns roughly north-south, and on the west side of the street parking is restricted to residents only. The back entrance to the school is halfway along the east side. Parking on this side is available for non-residents but on one side of the entrance drivers must pay by card only. So it has been my practice to find a space the other side of the entrance where there is a machine accepting coins. Or there was such a machine. This week I arrived to find a completely new machine, a machine that accepts credit cards. But not cash. I ahd taken coins to pay for parking - but I had no card with me, so I was unable to pay. Luckily, I was not ticketed by a warden. If I had been, I would have gone to court if necessary.

I have to wonder how the council expects to receive payment from people who, for one reason or another, have no credit or debit card. And can they arbitrarily decide not to accept coins of the realm, coins which are legal tender? I wish I knew how to find out.