A Day of Contrasts

First job this morning was to parcel up the Prisoner of War postcard. It appears to have gone to a collector. There were only three people in the bidding and two of them chased it up over £60. As far as I know it’s worth £20-30 as a piece of postal history so I presume it was the story they were bidding for, and that it will be well looked after from now on.

Second job was to parcel up a nice late Georgian medallion. It was struck in 1835 so it’s nearly as late as it can be whilst remaining Georgian. It has been on sale a few months and we turned down several offers because we thought it was a good piece. It commemorates the installation of the marquis of Camden as Chancellor of Cambridge University. Lovely medallion, as I say, but he’s no great looker, and it’s a dull subject. It has gone to America. A lot of our better medallions go to America or China. I feel slightly guilty about exporting our heritage, but we have an excellent stock of historical medallions which is hardly ever looked at in the shop.

Earl of Camden, Chancellor of Cambridge University and, as I said previously, no great shakes in the looks department. Roman nose, piercing stare and, doubtless, a commanding manner, but not easy on the eye.

I then spent the rest of the day beavering away at my desk loading a succession of modern coins onto eBay. They are weird modern combinations – a coin from Niue celebrates Edison and the lightbulb, one from the Cook Islands celebrates the Ascot Gold Cup and one from Somalia is part of a series called “Wildlife of North America”.  The Cook Islands coin is quite pleasant apart from that, but the Somalian coin is an abomination and the Niue coin lights up if you press it in the right place. Words fail me…

I despair of any society where people actually collect these monstrosities


Can you see the light? 

At least the design is good, even if the mis-match beggars belief.



Plans and Haiku

Despite the first part of the day consisting of a mathematically implausible three halves, I did have a plan for the next bit of the day, which I’m going to describe as “bit” because it saves me having to be accurate.

The plan was to go home, write, wash up and make stew for tea. It also included, after my talk with the doctor, eating eggs for lunch and not sleeping in front of daytime TV whilst watching quiz with my lunch. Next time, I’m going to eat lunch at the computer.

It’s has all come to pass, apart from the not sleeping bit, but instead of being 5 o’clock, as planned, it is seven o’clock. As days off go, it has been OK, but not hugely productive. However, I have had another acceptance, this time from Wales Haiku Journal. It will be published in the next two weeks and is a haiku of eleven words. It almost feels like cheating to claim I’m having a poem published when it’s only 11 words long, but as Mark Twain said:

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Brevity can be tricky.

I now have a nine rejected haiku which can be sent out again. Just because they have been rejected doesn’t mean they are bad. I’ve shown that before, with many pieces. As it is, I have ten ready to go to another magazine and if everything goes as it normally does, and they take one, as they often do, I will have 18 haiku looking for a home. It’s amazing how they mount up. That’s how it goes – one day you have nothing, next day you have too many. It’s a shame that the same doesn’t apply to £10 notes.

I’m off to eat stew now, I’ll see you all tomorrow.

The haiku features a robin, so that’s the reason for the picture.

A Plan Comes Together

The first half of the morning’s plan is complete. I got to hospital for 7am, found the last remaining parking space (as someone left), had my tests done (3 tubes this week) and went back to the car park to find a number of empty spaces and several people wearing NHS lanyards getting into cars in the (visitors only) car park. At the moment I am filling in time before going to the doctor to be lectured on my weight. She dressed it up as a discussion on anti-coagulants, but weight came into the conversation at the end, and I can imagine what is going to happen.

I am now off to complete the second half of the morning’s plan.

That was the doctor’s visit. It started badly when I was held up behind a couple demanding information on getting a Covid Passport so that they could go away on holiday and help spread the disease. Bad enough they want to go abroad,  without cluttering up the surgery when I need to get to the desk.

The good news is that I am the same weight I was when they last weighed me four years ago. That’s even better when you think I ddi put weight on but have managed to bring it down again over the last few months. I’ve used the Tootlepedal diet – cutting out a little bit here and there, and it’s working so far.

The doctor was able to make some helpful suggestions and has also changed my anti-coagulant to one where I will only need one blood test a year. I can’t start it until the blood results come in, but if it’s OK I will be able to have blood tests every year instead of the current weekly tests.

It’s all looking quite good at the moment. I’ve been advised to lay off the cereal and go onto eggs for breakfast, which is good, as I like eggs. However, it’s also bad as I can’t prepare them in advance or take them to work with me. Swings and roundabouts, as we say.

The third part of my plan, which I forgot about until just now, which renders my maths obsolete regarding halves, was that the pharmacy had all my stuff in and it was correct. I didn’t bother complaining that they hadn’t texted me last Friday as promised. There’s just no point…

Thoughts of Change

I’ve been thinking about blogging. I know I’m not the only one that feels this, as I’ve read a similar post today, but I’m feeling stale and uninspired and wondering where it is all going.

At one time, when we were on the care farm and we had lots of visitors, plenty of time, loads of nature and a multitude of new subjects, it seemed a lot easier. Of course, I then go back and look at it , and it really wasn’t as good as I remember. The typos in my old posts can be quite upsetting and the quality was patchy, to say the least. Fortunately I didn’t have much of an internal editor at the time. Once I got past the thought that writing down the dull days of my life was rather self-indulgent, I didn’t have much to hold me back. That came later when I started doing more writing of other types.

Things are gradually improving again and I now have ten haiku to send off. As I have a deadline in nine days and two more at the end of the month it’s about time I did get back into the rhythm. I am becoming a bit too much like our plum tree in the garden – a year of plenty followed by a year of sparsity. However, I know what do do with the plum tree – pruning and thinning – two jobs I don’t do. I skimp on pruning, and haven’t actually done any for two years, and I always wimp out of thinning, because it seems a waste to remove fruit when it is forming. I know that in theory it is better for the crop, but I just can’t do it. I keep saying I’ll look for a recipe for green plums, which might be the impetus I need. Something similar is needed with my writing.

I’ve tried to change the way I blog before, but I always drift back to the same old style, maybe today is the day I change. Well, tomorrow, actually, as this is today and it’s more of the same old rambling diary…

The opening picture is a Shilling of George II – 1731 – quite a pleasant coin. It leant itself well to the “drawing” setting on the camera. The closing pictures of the coin are how it actually looks. No, I don’t know why they always dressed like Roman Emperors for their coin portraits. It’s a King thing…

George II Sixpence 1731 Obverse 

George II Sixpence 1731 Reverse 


Where Roses Fade – a Haibun

This was first published in Drifting Sands Issue Six, December 2020. I was looking through the book where I print out my published pieces ( a trick my father in law taught me – when you need a boost, you can always flick through it). I discovered I’m actually several months behind with it and started poking around the internet. I quite liked this one when I first wrote it, and I still do. This isn’t always the case.

I probably linked to it from the blog when it was published, so apologies if you have seen it before.

Here is the link to the full issue.


Where Roses Fade

Thirty years ago, I rambled through the Leicestershire countryside and saw villages which had collections of crumbling farm buildings and odd nooks of unruly weeds. Stands of tall nettles often concealed rusty machines, and rosebay willowherb blazed in the sun. Now they are tidy, and iron butterflies decorate the fronts of houses built where real butterflies used to feed. They have become development opportunities, and gaps have been filled. Small neat houses and barn conversions proliferate, with block-paved drives and shiny cars. Drinks are taken, and conversations held, where pigs once grunted and chickens scratched. Snouts, though, are still rammed firmly into troughs.

but the roots of weeds go deep


Comma Butterfly

The Second Shot

I wrote a 350 word post earlier. It was about the GP surgery not having my blood test paperwork sorted despite me organising it three days ago. Then it went on to discuss the pharmacy and the lie they told me about texting me when my prescription was ready this afternoon. I feel you’ve heard the same complaints before so after ridding myself of the burden, I consigned it to WP limbo and decided to move on. I moved as far as the cooker, then as far as my seat in front of the TV. There I stayed for a while. I am now back writing a new post, and hoping that it’s going to be more interesting than the previous list of complaints.

It is ten months since I started taking poetry writing more seriously and in that time I have made 39 submissions. It’s going to be a bit of a slog raising that to a hundred a year, because I already feel that I spend a lot of time writing. I’m in the middle of a good patch at the moment – plenty of successful attempts with an even spread of rejection to keep my feet on the ground.

When I get a cluster of rejections I always start to think I’ll never be accepted again, and when I have  a good run of acceptances I worry that it can’t last forever. It is also the case that after a run of acceptances the next rejection hits harder. The mind of a writer is a strange thing.

I need two sets of submissions in the next couple of weeks – one to a magazine where I have had some minor success and one where I have had no success at all since a change of editor. I had a look through my list of pending/unfinished/work in progress and decided that there is very little there of any merit. I need a surge of enthusiasm and a flash of inspiration to set me going again.

TheDouble Rainbow

That is the double rainbow that Julia photographed. It had faded a bit by the time she got to it, but as you know, it had disappeared completely by the time I got to it.

I have kept the photo small as it loses the effect if you make it too big. According to the Met Office link I’ve used in the first line the second rainbow is generally more spread out and paler, which seems to be the case here. The difference in sky colour is also explained, as the light, being reflected, cannot illuminate all the sky. It’s quite interesting and, according to the website, not rare. I can only remember seeing a handful, which makes it rare to me.

I had an interesting day today, when I finished work. We have had a car parking outside on the frontage for a few weeks now. I haven’t seen who parks it there, but it appeared to be a woman, from the style of air-freshener. It’s a slightly down at heel Ford and the combination of both these factors inclines me towards thinking that it’s one of the admin staff from the opticians at the end of the row. We have asked their staff not to park in front of the shop before. I haven’t actually seen who drives it o haven’t been able to have a word with them. There has to be a bit of give and take about the parking, but when somebody parks in your spot constantly it gets a bit wearing.


I am thinking calm thoughts

We emerged from the shop this afternoon to find that the Ford was not only on our frontage again (having arrived and parked after I did) but it had parked so close to me that I couldn’t get into my car. On account of my size and joint stiffness and the high transmission tunnel I can’t get in the passenger side.

So, acting on my suspicions, I went to the opticians and asked if they had someone working there with a dark grey Ford, even having the registration number written on the back of my hand. They said that they didn’t, but they suspected the people over the road, as they often use our parking and  are very inconsiderate. This is true, but they tend to have luxury brands (they seem to trade in cars so have a constantly changing selection of Audis, Mercs and BMWs). I then tried the Indian takeaway and the beauticians. No joy. This all took about 25 minutes. I was just going to go across the road and check if it did belong to them when a young woman approached and unlocked the car with her remote.

I won’t repeat the conversation word for word but it seems that she does work at the opticians, so I asked her not to park there in future but to park in front of her own shop, as her constant use of the space outside our shop causes us parking problems. I also pointed out to her that I had wasted 25 minutes as a result of not being able to get into my car, that I was not happy about this and that if it happened again I would not be as pleasant about it.

Very calm…

No doubt by the time this all gets repeated I will be some sort of unreasonable rampaging monster, but such is life. It’s amazing how selfish people can be. And in all that time, do you know how many times she apologised for the inconvenience she caused to both me and the shop – not once. We’ve had this all before – everybody is always in the right and they always have  a reason why it is OK for them to steal a space or barricade you in. And there are large numbers of people out there who consider you rude if you tell them you aren’t happy with them.


(And, by the way, the parking I refer to is private property in the front of the shops. All the shops know this, and they all know that they are supposed to keep to their own space. I’m not one of those people who considers the public road in front of their property to be their private property.)

Punctures, Poetry and Police Procedurals

Sorry, after the events of the day, which included quite a lot of activity in the shop, I went home, had a puncture, called Green Flag to change the wheel (after the debacle of a few years ago) and embarked on my usual routine of wasting time. I was napping by midnight, when I should have been blogging and am, as usual, slightly ashamed of myself. However, I will get over it. In fact, I have. When I checked my emails this morning I find I have had two poems accepted by the Frogmore Papers.

Contrast this with yesterday. Yesterday I told you about a magazine that said it would “aim to” get back to me in three months. The Frogmore Papers got back to me in fourteen days. They have been about for a while and get plenty of submissions (“over 350” this time, according to the note) so it must be hard work. I’m going to modify my words of yesterday slightly – I’m not developing an artistic temperament, I’m developing a loyalty to people who work hard and make things easy for me.

Later this morning I’m off for a new tyre – by the time I’d got off the ring road to a quiet place to change a tyre it was beyond repair. It didn’t have a lot of life left in it, so this isn’t too bad, not like the time I ruined a brand new tyre by having to run with it flat for half a mile until I could get off a busy main road.

In fact, by the magic of modern technology, I have been to have my tyre replaced, sitting outside in the sun reading a crime novel and keeping my social distance. I’m back on tartan noir. You can’t escape it these days. The books are OK, but it’s a silly name. Two languages and black tartan? Really?

Time to make lunch now, then I may try a spot of poetry and some literary criticism. Or quizzes and a nap. The course of the afternoon has not yet been decided.


I thought I’d give you Gannets today – from Bempton Cliffs in May 2017, when the weather was better, and we were allowed to travel.

It also ties in with the tartan noir, as they have quite a lot of Gannets in Scotland, as Tootlepedal’s holidays over the years have demonstrated.

Stirrings of Artistic Temperament

I think I may be developing an artistic temperament. This is not good, as I am not an artist. I am a word mechanic and rely on calm and orderly conduct, plus a large vocabulary and a metaphorical bag of literary spanners – swapping words in and out and tightening things up as necessary. I don’t do art and I don’t do feelings.

I read through the submission guidelines of a magazine late last night and decided, despite previous decisions to the contrary, that I wasn’t going to submit. They just struck me as a bit sloppy and as I have a limited supply of poetry it seemed a waste to tie it up for three months or more when I could show it to people who would give me quicker responses (and allow me to resubmit it elsewhere).

I never seem to have enough good poetry to go round, so I can, to some extent, be selective. It’s not an approach that I want to extend, because I always feel the need to keep opportunities open, and it’s also borderline arrogance. I’m definitely not so good that I can afford to start acting like that.

However, I do remember from my business days that there are sales you don’t want to make, and sometimes you just need to walk away. In this case there are two other magazines that I can submit to. They are not necessarily quicker, but they are more professional and it is all laid out beforehand without any words like “we aim to”.  That’s a bit like saying “we often don’t”.

This attitude, of course, is partly due to my involvement with haiku and haibun – those magazines seem to be a bit quicker and more poet-centred in their approach. Many poetry magazines won’t give feedback, and say so in their submission guidelines, one editor even going as far as to say that if you want feedback you should go to a writers’ group. I can’t imagine anything worse than sitting in a room full of writers and having to read my work out. Even salad and exercise seem more attractive.

Rainbow – Spring Evening

The photograph is of a rainbow we saw tonight,. Julia go a shot with her phone which showed it as a double but I was just too late. Unfortunately I can’t download the photo she took so you will have to put up with mine.

A Piece of History

I seem to have lost all my drafts. It doesn’t really matter in most cases as I rarely actually go back and use one, despite my good intentions. On the other hand I did write half a post last night that I wanted to finish it this morning.

Instead, I will move on to the next subject I had in mind. Prepare to be saddened.

We bought 5,000 cards plus assorted ephemera last week, the stock of a retired dealer. It has been gone through and is really just the leavings of a lot of mixed lots that he bought. It’s taken us the best part of two days to sort it – work that out on an hourly rate if you are interested in the hidden costs of running a collectors’ shop. We have found a few decent cards, but it’s mainly dross. However, they all needed going through and they are all sorted into counties now, which is always a test of general knowledge.

One interesting card we found was a pre-paid card addressed to a prisoner of war in Japanese hands. It has a positive message on the back, as you can see from the photo.

The Message

It was posted nine days before VJ Day, so it looked like a happy ending was imminent. However, many people were so ill by then of the war that you can’t guarantee a happy ending, even at that point. I decided that after I checked it on the Prisoner of War roll I’d check the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, just to see if he made it home.

I didn’t need to do that, as it happened. The first POW roll I checked had all the details I needed to close the story.

The list

I suppose the “Return to Sender” stamp on the front should have alerted me to the outcome.

649850 AC1 Victor Ernest Gordon never made it home. As you can see from the print-out behind the card, he was buried at sea on 6th November 1943, a year and a half before the postcard was posted. He died of beriberi, which is a variety of thiamine deficiency brought on by existing on a diet of white rice.

Another roll narrows his place of death to “off Formosa”, about halfway between Java, where he seems to have originally been kept, and Japan, where he was probably bound.

His father would not be the only parent in this situation- the entry appears on British Page 284 of the roll entitled “Unreported Deaths of Allied Personnel”.  He is commemorated on the Singapore Memorial, which commemorates 24,319 British and Commonwealth Servicemen who lost their lives and are not recorded elsewhere.

The next stage is that it will be put on eBay. This is what we do, and although it seems disrespectful to consign such a sad and historical document to an auction, that is, when you think about it, exactly what his family did when they sold it. We could give it to a museum, but museums have  a habit of locking things away where they are never seen again. at least we are able to tell the story and move it on to a collector who will value and cherish it, and possibly give the story a new lease of life.

It’s a moral question I’ve often had to face in many years of collecting and dealing, but the fact to bear in mind is that nothing comes up for sale before the family, or even the recipient, decides to sell it.