A Sea of Troubles…

Last night I got home, chatted to Julia, admired her new hair cut, ate tea and fell asleep.

She woke me at around 10.30 with a cup of tea and a scone. I was, it seems, less than charming, ate the scone and went back to sleep, waking just after midnight – too late for a second post about my adventures. This was just as well, because there were no adventures.

That is how a day ends that started so well.

Today I went to the shop and found, even before I entered, that my key didn’t work. This sometimes happens. It hasn’t happened for about a year and I was beginning to think the keys had all bedded in. Seems I was wrong. The stale smell by the door is getting slightly better but the dodgy light switch still crackles when you use it. I get round that by leaving the lights off when I arrive. Whoever comes in second can risk electrocution. This is evolution in action – the smart ones survive.

I switched on the computer, which worked, then I opened up the email, which didn’t. For some reason it had randomly thrown us out instead of keeping us permanently signed in. Fortunately I now know the password to get back in.

British West Africa 1/10th of a Penny

I had messages about postage and delivery to answer. I won’t bore you with the details.

Then I found I couldn’t get into eBay. They’ve been messing with security and decided not to let me in without a one-time pass code. Unfortunately the pass code has to go to the telephone of the owner. It’s lucky he was already up and working at home when I rang to explain that. Then I started to sort the orders. This can be difficult when you work with people who think that the alphabet doesn’t apply to them. I needed three sets of world banknotes, which should have been easy enough to sort out if they had been, as they are supposed to be, in alphabetical order, They weren’t.

Just after we opened a man ring up to sell us “rare” stamps. We don’t really deal in stamps, as we tell him every week. And they aren’t rare. Then the query about the “rare” £2 coins. We have plenty of them, which tends to suggest they may not be rare. Then the walk-in with the 50p coins. At least she didn’t tell us they were rare. Add a man who called in to spend £3.50 on card and that completes our day.

I will chuck in some photos of stock and move on to cook tea,

We are expecting an ASDA delivery soon. Three times I have ordered celeriac. Three times it has been out of stock.

EIIR Medallion

EIIR Medallion

 

 

 

 

Up early, doing stuff…

I woke with a creaking back this morning and decided to make this into an opportunity to rise early and bee industrious. It is not yet 8.15 and I have already checked emails, made WP comments, boiled eggs, ordered my week’s groceries online and spent a short while cogitating on the nature of soup.

Last night we had one of the best soups I have ever made. It was a lustrous orange-gold with a velvety texture with deep, savoury flavour, which caused Julia to ask if I had included bacon in the recipe. If it had been a voice it would have been James Earl Jones.

The recipe for this nectar? Two onions, a bag of ready chopped carrot and swede (or rutbaga if you prefer) and two cheap vegetable stock cubes. Boil. Liquidise. I did leave it standing for a day before liquidising which may have helped.

I’d ordered the ready chopped veg because I’m lazy and I didn’t bother with any other ingredients because I’m feeling apathetic.

It’s ironic that as I hit the pinnacle of my soup-making career I am actually disposing of my cookery books. Most of them have cost me just a few pounds from charity shops in the past and that is where they will end up. They were remarkably (and sadly) clean when I got them (indicating that they had never been used in anger) and that is how they remain. I do read them to get ideas, but rarely use a cookery book as I either make it up or use a recipe off the internet.

That is enough for now – I have to make breakfast and sandwiches for lunch then start on a full day of non-fun activities which have been planed for me. Such is life.

Sharp-eyed readers may notice that the soup photo has been used before – it’s what we call a stock shot.

Cumberland Jacks

If you search through any junk box in a coin shop you can be almost certain to turn up a small brass counter, just under an inch in diameter, with a depiction of Queen Victoria on the obverse (front) and a figure on horseback on the reverse  (back) with the date 1837 and the words ‘To Hanover’.

I turned up nearly as dozen with a quick search today, and we’ve actually sold at least the same again to a collector who decided to add a few of the different types to his collection. Though they are broadly the same, they were made over a period of fifty years and many different dies were used, giving a variety of portraits, lettering and horsemen. There are even varieties where a monkey is said to replace the man, but that might just be a poor depiction of the rider’s face, allied to a good imagination.

The date and the head of Victoria provides a clue that this was about Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne, but what about Hanover and what about the horseman?

Hanover, in 1837, was still a possession of the British Kings, handed on from George I, who had been Elector of Hanover when he was offered the throne on the death of Queen Anne. It is an unusual Royal title and stems from the way the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was selected – by election. There were nine Electors – three Spiritual and (originally) four temporal. Two further temporal electors were added later – the last being Hanover in 1692.

In 1837 when Victoria came to the throne of Great Britain she was not able to take the throne of Hanover which adhered to the Salic law. This, amongst other things, prevented women from inheriting the throne.

The next male candidate was Victoria’s unpopular Uncle, Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale. He had led an interesting life – wounded twice in battle, and accused of murdering his valet, electoral fraud, incest, blackmail and adultery. He was also extremely anti-Catholic, a hard-line Tory and one of the die-hard Lords who voted against the Great Reform Bill of 1832. To be fair, much of his life was spent blamelessly and many of the accusations came from political rivals as his political input grew.

It is possible that he was not as bad as his reputation suggests, but it is true that his departure to Hanover was greeted with general approval and that the Cumberland Jack token, also known as a ‘To Hanover’, was produced as part of a celebration of his leaving.

The Hanoverians seemed happy enough with him, and once removed from Britain he seemed happy enough to treat both Catholics and Jews with courtesy, explaining that Hanoverian history gave him no reason to do otherwise. There were problems, such as when he deprived seven professors (including the Brothers Grimm) of their positions for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to him, and the troubles of 1848 which he resolved quickly by offering to step down and let the Prussians take over, but he generally seems to have been a reasonable and popular ruler.

His son George was born in Berlin in 1819 (his parents spending much time, in Germany) and was baptised by the Reverend Henry Austen, brother of the novelist Jane Austen. Austen was an interesting man, but his career is outside the scope of this post.

The Cumberland and Teviotdale title eventually became extinct in 1919 under the Titles Deprivation Act 1917 which removed British titles from those who had supported the Germans during the war.

The counters were used in card games, alongside a selection of other cheaply-produced brass tokens, as well as having a satirical and political function. If it is true that they were produced for  50 years, this use would account for it, as it would be a long time to bear a grudge against a man who died in 1851.

As you can see, they were struck from  a variety of dies. Queen Victoria was no great beauty when you look at much of the medallic art that pictures her, but on these tokens she comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, as does the reverse picture and lettering. It is hardly surprising, given the crudity of the pieces, that the man sometimes looks like a monkey.

Some of the dies were also used for advertising tokens – an article in a back issue of the Token Corresponding Society newsletter – Vol 6 Number 1 (1998) – newsletter gives a list of 12 tokens (including a To Hanover) struck using one particular obverse die.

Although I can find the information listed several times on the internet, I cannot find any legislation dated 1883, or several years around that date, which would appear to ban the production of these or other tokens.  However, ast the basck of my mind is the undeniable fact that the information on the internet all appears to be copies of just one article, and that source may be wrong.

More work, it seems, is necessary.

 

 

 

The Cinderella Medal

The featured image shows a miniature group, as worn in Mess Dress, awarded to a British officer who served in both World Wars – the first medal is a British War Medal, complete with ribbon. I’ve included it here as a way of showing the medal complete with ribbon and suspender. The one in this story is not so complete.

British War Medals were awarded to troops and merchant seamen who served overseas in many different capacities, and some were issued to troops, mainly in the Royal Navy and RAF, who served in the UK. They were also issued to soldiers who fought after November 1918 in the Russian Intervention and sailors who were engaged in mine disposal into 1920.

British War Medal 1914-18 to Pte Morris Sheffield Pals

British War Medal 1914-18 to Pte Morris Sheffield Pals

The obverse features a bust of George V, as used on our coins at the time, and the reverse features a naked horseman trampling on a shield bearing a Prussian Eagle. Iconography was less subtle in those days.

British War Medal 1914-18 to Pte Morris Sheffield Pals

British War Medal 1914-18 to Pte Morris Sheffield Pals

There were approximately 6.5 million issued in silver and 110,000 in bronze. They were all named, which must have been a tremendous undertaking, and a tremendous cost.

We are offered them on a regular basis and the people selling them often don’t know who the recipients were – they may have been family members or they may even have just been picked up by a previous member of the family with a magpie’s curiosity for picking up shiny objects.

This was probably the case with the medal we bought in a parcel of old coins last week. They had obviously been accumulated over the years and the selection included a little silver, a lot of copper (up to the reign of the current Queen) various odds and sods of foreign change (including war souvenirs and holiday change) and the disc of a British War Medal. It was heavily polished and the suspender was missing.

The owner passed it over to me to see if I could find any information on the recipient, as silver prices are high and he was thinking of scrapping it. That is what has happened to a lot of medals over the years. One estimate I have seen is that a million medals may have been scrapped during the silver boom in the 1980s. I have never agreed with scrapping named medals, but it’s a fact of life.

British War Medal 1914-18 to Pte Morris Sheffield Pals

British War Medal 1914-18 to Pte Morris Sheffield Pals

This one, despite its defects, won’t be going into scrap. It is named to 12-1682 Pte J T Morris of the York & Lancaster Regiment. This denotes that he was a member of the 12th Battalion of the regiment, and the 12th Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment was the Sheffield Pals.

If you have ever read Covenant With Death by John Harris you will know the story, as the book is based on the Sheffield Pals.

MIC Pte Morris Sheffield Pals

MIC Pte J T Morris Sheffield Pals – this is a medal index card which shows he was discharged to the Z Reserve at the end of the war – despite his wound in 1916 he must still have been fit for service. The Class Z Reserve was a special reserve formed for the end of the war so that if the peace negotiations broke down, which seemed likely at one time, we could recall everyone and start fighting again. I’m not sure what would have happened if they had tried it.

They were brigade with the 13th and 14th Battalions (both Barnsley Pals) and the 11th East Lancashire Regiment – probably the most famous of the Pals battalions – the Accrington pals. Mike Harding wrote a song about them, though his accuracy has been questioned. (I hope the song plays OK – my computer has no sound so I have to take it on trust. In my mind it is 1981 and I am listening to a live performance in Preston…)

Anyway, I confirmed that, as his number implied, Private Morris was in the Sheffield Pals. He may not actually have been in the attack on 1st July (the First Day of the Battle of the Somme) but he was wounded whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion in October 1916. He hasn’t left much behind him, just this disc, probably a Victory medal, and a story of military misadventure, but at least I’ve been able to bring his memory back to life for a while.

Research Pte Morris Sheffield Pals

Pte J T Morris Sheffield Pals

I’ve not done more research, but I have saved it from the scrap box and it will, I’m sure, end up in the collection of a keen collector who values the story rather than just the item.

For more on Pals Battalions, see this link. They were a brilliant idea from the point of view of recruiting and instilling esprit de corps, but when things went wrong it was like cutting the heart out of a community.

The Sanguinary Sequel

This was meant to be posted last night but I seem to have forgotten to press the “Publish” button. Senior moment! Bah!

I have reduced my “Following” list to 33.

At this point I realised that I have several people missing who should be on. I may eventually get up to around 50.

I was surprised to find that Derrick Knight was not on my list. He is one of my most visited sites, alongside Tootlepedal, but I didn’t seem to be following him. As with a number of people who are frequent visitors to this site I just get back to him by clicking on his link. Sorry Derrick.

So far it’s only halfway through the day and apart from cooking brunch and watching one episode of Diagnosis Murder I have done nothing but Word Press related work. I have answered comments, finalised the “Followed” List, followed Val’s instructions on how to delete followers and read a few blog posts. It is not a lot. Finally, as I am working towards a secret self-imposed target, I decided it was time to write.

Unfortunately I just calculated the target and I’m going to miss it. So, craftily, I reset the target and I’m going to meet it. All I had to do was adjust the time-scale. And, as it’s a secret, you will never know…

It’s later now. I’ve been on the phone to my sister, ordered a prescription online from a reluctant NHS system that kept kicking me out, washed up from brunch and made  a pot of soup that will see us through the next couple of days.

I am making slow headway towards my 250 word target. This is 261. At 250 I can persuade myself it’s a proper post. At 240 it’s probably OK, but at 230, it doesn’t seem like I’ve made  a serious attempt.

Some days, the magic just doesn’t happen. This may be linked to the bad night’s sleep I had last night. I have made many mistakes in my life, and last night they all came back to me. They do that once in a while. It has been within my grasp at times to be richer, happier, thinner and more widely published, but I have shown an uncommon talent for failing to failing to close the deal. It’s as if my subconscious likes to torment me every so often by letting me know that it knows…

The photos are just random work photos.

 

Greek banknotes

Greek banknotes

Bloodbath!

Last week I realised I was following over 1,800 people. I had culled a lot of the people I followed a couple of years ago when I realised that I didn’t actively follow most of them, and that many of them hadn’t posted for months. I started following a lot of them because we had shared interests, or because they followed me, and it soon got out of control.

After the cull I still fell into the trap of following people who followed me and it started building up again.

A couple of days ago I started thinking about WP and my numbers. I don’t need to follow 1,800 people when I actually struggle to keep up with reading more that a couple of dozen blogs, and even then my reading is somewhat erratic.

After three days of boring effort I am now following 285 people and that’s only because I haven’t finished yet. I’m hoping to get down to around 100. Some of them make it easy for me by having words like “marketing” in their titles, Others haven’t posted for months, or even a year. A few haven’t posted for two years. It’s very sad to see them pass, and I haven’t the heart to delete the ones I used to enjoy.

As an aside here, if someone dies, what do you do with their emails and email address. I keep them, because it’s not like you’ve lost them if you keep the emails alive, and it seems discourteous just to press a button and consign them to cyberspace. Is that morbid, ghoulish or unbalanced? Or just plain stupid? I’m not sure. What do you do?

In a similar vein who do you follow? And how many people follow you? I have 2,080 followers, but on a good day I have fifty to sixty people visiting the site. If a post gets 20 likes it’s a red letter day. I’m pretty sure that 2,000 of those followers aren’t pulling their weight. Let’s face it, most of them have probably left WP or grown bored of my ranting over the years, or never really liked me in the first place – they just wanted me to follow them. I shouldn’t be surprised about this, after all, it’s what I do to other people.

The Red Admiral in the featured image was basking in sun on some ivy as Julia walked to the laundrette today. I saw a Small Copper in our front garden yesterday but it flew off before I could get my camera out. Wife 1 Me 0.

Small Copper on castor oil plant

This is one from a couple of years ago, when I was younger and quicker. It appeared in the recent post Sunlit Uplands and I took it a year or two before that.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Only one day after saying I was waiting impatiently for news from two editors, one got back to me.

Not only did they get back to me, but they told me they were going to pass on the haibun which, it seems, lack depth, as the haiku fail to take the reader on a step beyond the prose.

This is slightly depressing as I was just beginning to think I was getting the hang of things. About a year ago I had several haibun returned as the haiku were felt to be a step to far away from the prose and were not related enough.

Rejection I can cope with. It is, as I recently said, simply an indication that one particular editor, at this time, doesn’t think that the work is right for publication. It isn’t personal and it isn’t necessarily an opinion shared by other editors.

What does concern me a little with this rejection is that the specific objection is one that I thought I’d addressed. It’s not about my ability to write, it’s about my judgement of what is good and what is bad. I actually thought I was getting better and was moderately happy with them. (I am never fully happy with any submissions, even when they are published, I even went over yesterdays Limmerbun to alter a line this afternoon).

I have just been and looked at about twenty haibun in a couple of magazines. About a third of them had haiku attached which were stronger than mine. Another third featured haiku much the same as mine. The final third featured haiku which bore little relationship to anything that had gone on in the prose – my previous problem. This, of course, is just my opinion, and as we have just seen, my opinion may not be correct. I would however suggest that on another day, with another editor and a different magazine, these haibun could have been accepted,

This all goes to show that there is no good and bad in haibun, just things that gain approval and things that don’t. Today, I didn’t. Watch, learn, move on. I will tweak them over the next few days. It’s not so much improving them as moving them more into the area where they are likely to be accepted for publication. Or does that sound too cynical?

I will leave you with these wise words from one of our great, but unappreciated, philosophers.

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 

 

Talent, Resilence & Patience

There are three things you need for success in life, whether you are talking about writing (as I do) or anything else.

(By the way, I’m about to invent a new form of poem, so stay alert till the end.)

Despite the title, talent isn’t one of them. Research has shown that if you divide a group of children into two lots and praise one for their talent and the other for their hard work the results of one group will gradually decline and the other will increase.

The problem with praising someone for their talent is that they begin to believe that their talent will run out, where the other group starts to believe that the harder they work, the better they will become. This seems to be borne out by the actual results.

It is all laid out in a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed. Reading the review, as I did whilst looking for a link, it looks like there’s a lot more in there too – I really should read it again.

Talent can, to be honest, be replaced by practice and work rate. As long as you have a basic grasp of what makes a good bit of work in your field, you can work on improving the quality of your work. If you write a lot and submit enough pieces of work, success will follow. Once you have some success, more will follow. It’s like Roger Bannister and the four minute mile – once he broke the four minute barrier others followed. Barriers are mainly psychological, and once broken can be broken again and again.

Resilience, I have covered several times. Rejection is merely  the opinion of an editor at a certain point in time, and does not constitute a damning judgement on you or your work. If several editors share the same view it still isn’t that bad, just take it as a hint that you need to alter a few things.

As an aside – write haibun. I have always felt fortunate that a number of editors have taken the time to give me pointers about my haibun, which isn’t something that happens in a lot of fields. It seems to be a field where we are blessed with a group of fine editors. When I was a more traditional poet I rarely met with helpful comments – it was a case of yes or no, mostly no, and no clue as to what needed altering.

Stone on the Floor

I thought I’d put the poetic rocks half way down as it isn’t really a poetry post.

Finally, patience. No editor of a small poetry publication is in it hoping for fame and fortune. They are often overworked, under appreciated and blamed for the varied failings of authors. Some people even write sarcastic haibun about them. These people should be ashamed of themselves.

If you are a guest editor, as many are, the under-appreciation must be even greater.

However, it doesn’t stop me getting twitchy when they take a long time over their answer. I’m waiting for an answer from a magazine that says it may take 6-8 weeks to answer during busy periods. IT’s had the submission for 54 days now, which is just two days short of eight weeks, and I’m becoming twitchy. Another, with a target of two weeks, has had my submission for sixteen days. Two weeks is an excellent response time, so I’m not complaining, but I’d love an answer.

You just have to sit back and wait. It’s difficult not to be impatient, but just think, if it was you, would you appreciate impatience. I think not.I keep telling myself we are lucky to have people to do these jobs for us. If you left me in charge of a magazine it would soon degenerate into confusion and Limericks.

There was an old poet called Quercus,
whose efforts, often, would irk us.
He loved to declaim,
and would often exclaim
that he’d much rather work in a circus.

And that is my new form of poetry. You have prose and haiku, which are haibun, and prose and tanka, which are called tanka prose. Well this – prose followed by a Limerick, is a Limmerbun.  I add the double m to make sure it is pronounced correctly. Unlike the other two, a Limmerbun can be utter nonsense.

My Orange Parker Pen

I’m still hoping for some freebies from Parker. They are obviously not reading this blog.

Edited next day to tidy up a typo, remove a repetition and tinker with the Limerick.

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire - dramatic setting

One Tree, Four Photos

The featured image shows a tree at Gibraltar Point yesterday. I have used the “Dramatic” setting, which could easily be labelled “Melodramatic” as it always reminds me of the words “It was a dark and stormy night…”

The one below is the one my camera took with its normal setting. Having just checked it I see that “normal” means it’s set for fluorescent lighting (which is what I use when taking pictures for eBay. This may account for the slightly lifeless colours I have been noting recently will dull weather.

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire - normal setting

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire – normal setting

The next one is the same tree, and the same photograph as above, but with the computer’s “auto correct” setting applied.

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire - auto correct setting

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire – auto correct setting

I’m not clear what it actually uses for reference. In this case it hasn’t made a lot of difference. I have tried it on other photos at times and it does make a considerable difference, but I didn’t think to save original copies to compare the two. I only actually started thinking about this a few minutes ago when I auto corrected a couple of beach photos, which seemed to consist of moving them from Lincolnshire to California – the difference in sea, sand and sky were that significant. It did not, however, change any of the subjects into youthful, bronzed lifeguards, as you will see when I eventually use the photos.

I did, as you may guess, take three photos for use in a blog post, the fourth is an afterthought. The fourth uses a setting called Pop Art, which brings all the colours out and always reminds me of a 1970s colour postcard. I have used it before with some posts, mainly when I’ve been at the seaside.

I’m sure the postcards that used this colouring were labelled Photochrom, but I’ve just looked it up and found that it was a completely different process according to Wikipedia, so I may be getting confused.

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire - Pop Art setting

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire – Pop Art setting

Personally, I like the stormy picture, as it suits the skeletal tree, and I like the Pop Art setting as it reminds me of a day at the seaside. From the point of view of it just being a photograph with no context, either of them are reasonable tree photos.

From the documentary point of view, neither are accurate – there was no storm and the day was not that bright and sunny.

However, it was a bit brighter than the other two settings imply, which might be partly down to me having the camera adjusted for fluorescent light.

Having started off to compare a few camera settings I’m now starting to wonder if any photograph is reliable, particularly with so many ways of manipulating photographs being available.

How long, given the current state of technology, before somebody comes up with an app that inserts Elvis Presley into a crowd scene every time it detects more than twenty faces in the photo?

Or even better, inserts a photograph of Derrick  J Knight holding a gherkin – we could call it the Where’s Wally? App. (That’s an in-joke for regular readers of Derrick, who has introduced the slang term wally into the culinary vocabulary of a wide range of his WP readers.)

 

Tuesday, and a Departure from My System of Simple Titles

Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

We went to the coast today, it was warm and pleasant, though a touch crowded in places. Our route took us through North Lincolnshire to avoid the roadworks round Lincoln. We eventually arrived in Chapel St Leonards, thinking of toilets. There was a queue, and it was a bit crowded to we went to Sutton on Sea, which was also queued out and crowded. Eventually we found toilets in Alford which was not crowded, being a traditional sleepy market town, though there was still a queue for the toilet as they only allow one person in at a time.

Dabchick, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

Dabchick, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire – it is scratching the side of its head.

Dabchick, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

Dabchick, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

Thomas Paine served as a customs officer in Alford. (The linked article has interesting information, though some of the syntax is slightly irregular.

Skegness was also crowded so we carried on to Gibraltar Point. The main car park was crowded, so we went to the smaller one and had a picnic under the pines before walking in the marsh and taking a few photos. Julia walked more than I did – I sat in the hide trying to get some duck photos.

We saw a good pincushion gall and plenty of berries – hawthorn, sea buckthorn and rose hip. If old wives are correct it will be a bad winter, but they aren’t always right. I’m sure the berries  have more to do with the summer weather than the coming winter.

Pincushion Gall, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

Pincushion Gall, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

Pincushion Gall, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

Pincushion Gall, Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire

I couldn’t find a dragonfly to pose for me, though several flew past and several grasshoppers lurked modestly amongst grass stems which prevented decent photos.  I did manage a few shots, including sky and water, which tend not to move when you press the button, unlike ducks.

On the way back in the dark we narrowly missed a female roe deer that bounced out of the hedge in front of us. There are plenty of dead deer poems (google it if you don’t believe me) of which this is probably the best known. Due to me being alert and equipped with new brake pads the world has been deprived of another.