Monthly Archives: Apr 2017

Thinking and Sitting

I’ve been thinking today, and sitting. Mainly sitting, to be fair.

One of the things I was thinking about was funerals. I tend to think about funerals more than I used to, which might be a sign of something. Specifically I was thinking of wickerwork coffins, as they seem to be gaining in popularity these days. I’ve not used a large sample in my researches (four funerals in the last two years) but two of them used wicker coffins. One of them was my cousin, who had a lifetime’s commitment to safeguarding the environment. The other was a friend, who did a lot of fishing. It’s probably inappropriate, but I still smile at the thought.

I’m making no recommendations here, by the way, just showing some examples. You can also have bamboo and seagrass coffins imported from China, which tends to suggest they are less environmentally good. You can also get cardboard ones, but they only come in small sizes. I am only available in 5XL, so I’m either going to build my own from recycled boxes or go wicker. They are also available from ebay and Amazon.

Actually, I’m going to pause there. £250 for a cardboard coffin? I’m definitely making my own.

Anyway, my conclusion on funerals is that I don’t want one yet.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was on this afternoon. It’s a great film, and at the same time it’s appalling. Devil worship, witchcraft, Celts and a sheriff called George? What were they thinking? On the other hand, it does work, and I always watch it when it’s on.

I watched Grantchester later, wondering why I bother, as the TV stories don’t draw me in the same way that the books do. While I was watching, up popped Nick Brimble, last seen as Little John with Kevin Costner in Sherwood Forest.

All in all, not one of my most profound days.

I must eat more fish.

 

 

 

In which I have some Brilliant Ideas

I dropped Julia at work this morning then went to the jewellers.

We didn’t talk about jewellery much, but we did set the world to rights and form the idea for a new TV programme.

The programme will take place in two shops in Nottingham and feature two groups of miserable old men sitting round moaning about how things used to be better. We already have one shop with three miserable old sods (even though one is quite young, he moans with the best of us) and have another shop and group of old gits in mind for the second one. We’re going to pitch it to a successful producer we know and see what happens.

People like antiques, reality shows and grumpy old men so I think it has legs as an idea. Personally, I’ll be looking for some advertising and a book spin-off. If Scarlett Moffatt can do it I’m sure I can, though, looking at her profile, I may need a new middle name. Karloff seems good. It has the right ring to it and you can see why William Henry Pratt adopted it as a stage name.

We were talking of the things that used to worry us, like Russia invading Afghanistan. Do you remember that – we all thought how stupid they were for trying – it rarely ends well for the invader.

Now we worry about recycling and financing kids through college.

We also spoke of the good old days and a local dealer who just bought a forgery of a rare coin, losing £2,000 on the deal. It was offered to him, gleaming and uncirculated, in the middle of a parcel of average worn coins. There’s a place where enthusiasm for coins, and the love of profit muffles the alarm bells that should be ringing.

How, he should have asked, did such a remarkably well-preserved coin end up in a batch of worn silver? It takes remarkably little wear to downgrade a coin in the eyes of a collector. Terms such as bag marks and cabinet wear are used to denote the sort of damage that can be done to a coin even before it is circulated. Bag marks are the marks that occur during manufacture and packing into bags. Cabinet wear is the light scuffing that occurs when a coin moves in a cabinet as you open and close the drawers. That is how fussy they are.

Anyway, he didn’t ask, he paid the money, and he can’t get the seller on the phone number he supplied, which gives me an idea for the next TV programme – CSI Coin Shop.

Stranger things have caught on…

Sword of Sherwood Forest and Daytime TV

Daytime TV strikes again!

The quiz schedule has recently changed and, in looking for something else came upon Sword of Sherwood Forest. With Richard Greene as Robin, Peter Cushing as the Sheriff and Oliver Reed as one of the villains it’s actually better than many of the Robin Hood films, though the fight scenes let it down badly.  The Disney version is my favourite, so I’m not sure I’m a reliable reviewer of the Robin Hood canon.

I did write to Russell Crowe’s agents suggesting he might like to promote the film by working with Nottingham Outlaws RL.

The agents didn’t get back to me, a golden opportunity passed and the film received mixed reviews. I’m not saying the things are linked, but it wouldn’t have hurt to send a simple email reply. Also, the sequel never appeared and what has Russell Crowe done since? For the purposes of karma may I suggest you don’t mess with The Outlaws.

Back on quizzes, it used to be The Code, Fifteen to One, The Tipping Point, Pointless and The Chase. Admittedly I often doze off during The Tipping Point, and get annoyed with the way The Chase appears to cheat the contestants at times (as he did yesterday), but it’s not a bad line-up.

Sadly it has been disrupted by replacing The Code with The Boss, an overly complicated format with a presenter who is unable to lift it from the gutter. I’ve not seen such a load of rubbish since I had a junk shop.

It’s probably a good thing to break the habit as daytime TV is not really good for me. On the other hand, I know a lot more trivia than I did three weeks ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sundown in Sherwood

This is a picture from Sherwood Forest, the shooting of Sword of Sherwood Forest actually took place in Ireland!

Light at the End of the Tunnel

As the day progressed I started becoming more agitated. It’s hard to settle when you have a 4 pm hospital appointment. At least, by scheduling two health appointments on one day, I wasn’t going to waste two days.

It was cardiology this time and I haven’t been looking forward to it. It proved to be one problem after another. First I had trouble folding myself into the taxi as all this sitting round is making my knees seize up, then I got lost in the outpatients department. I say “lost”, but some proper signs would have helped. By the time I got to the right place I was three minutes late, annoyed with myself for poor punctuality and irritated by the signage.

At that point I discovered I’d left my glasses at home and my arms aren’t quite long enough to allow me to read.

It got worse when I was sent off to another department for my third ECG in six weeks. Why not do one and use it three times?

Things improved after that. The ECG technician apologised for asking me to remove my upper body clothing and I replied it was no problem, and a real bonus to keep my trousers on for once.

That led to an amusing story about her morning. She asked a patient to remove his upper clothing so she could attach the sticky tabs and turned round just in time to stop him removing his trousers. It seems he thought he was in for a haemorrhoid examination. I’m not sure where sticky pads and wires fitted into his view of things…

Anyway, much cheered, I made my way back to the clinic to be weighed (again), measured (again) and have my blood pressure taken (again). I seem to have shrunk by two inches since my last measurement. Sadly I haven’t grown any lighter.

After examining all the evidence the doctor told me she’ll write a letter to my doctor,  and said I was free to go. She didn’t need to tell me twice.

That’s one to cross off the list.

Now that I have a date for Male Urology I also feel I’m close to crossing that off.

I’m tempted to say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that just reminds me of a flexible cystoscopy.

Eeeek!

 

 

An Awkward Moment and Some Good News

I went to the dentist this morning, which proved to be a prelude to an embarrassing episode. As I was leaving, I noticed a couple of small pools of liquid on the floor.Oh dear.

A quick inspection revealed that the tap on my leg bag was open. Whether this was due to me not closing it properly, or whether I caught it at some point, I don’t know. Fortunately it didn’t leak on me, just the floor.

This left me embarrassed, and the dentist with the impression that he must have frightened me.

Ah well, I suppose it had to happen some time. If you store urine in a bag attached to your leg you must expect accidents. After my time in Male Urology I know that worse things happen…

The good news is that my teeth passed muster, though the gums need attention. As a result I’ve been trawling the internet to check on ways to enhance my gum health.

It seems it’s all down to eating the right things, and not eating the wrong things. In other words, it’s just like other sorts of health.  As you would expect, some foods appear on both lists.

I may start writing lists for the blog. How about a list comprising chips, chocolate, cheese and cake?

One week it could be Four Foods to Avoid, the week after Four Favourite Foods and the week after that Food Alphabet – Letter C. That’s before the sound of barrel scraping and the inevitable What I’m Having for Tea Tonight.

Finally, some good news. I’ve just had a letter from the hospital. They want me to present myself with an overnight bag in two week’s time. I’m not getting too excited after what happened last time, but it does seem that there might be reason for hope.

The Epitome of Relaxation

I’ve just been to the doctor, which is not something to be undertaken lightly after my recent experiences. Fortunately I emerged with only mild embarrassment and a prescription for antibiotics and ointment.

I still look forwards to the day when I am allowed to keep my trousers on. This was, unfortunately, not that day.

My reward was a nice quiet sit-down in the pharmacy followed by test of willpower (swallowing a large uncoated pill which I suspect of having veterinary origins).

I then sat down to watch a number of obnoxious people competing to be judged as best value B&B. I can understand why people would want to go on such a programme to boost their business. I can’t, on the other hand, see why anyone would want to go on national TV to reveal themselves as the reincarnation of Lucretia Borgia.

Juli just returned from the hairdresser looking gorgeous. She has just changed because her last one, where she’d been going for 10 years, rang her to say they had closed down. Fortunately a new one has just opened round the corner, and it seems to be good. They will even shave my head for £6, which isn’t bad when you consider the contortions and safety aspects of doing it myself.

She just cooked beans on toast, with a garnish of sausage and bacon, plus a few mushrooms and some bubble and squeak (you have to remember the veg!).

Now I’m watching The Saint. it’s in colour and features Yootha Joyce and Tony Booth as Russian agents.

Soon it will be time to read a bit more, shout at some idiot quiz contestants and drink more tea.

Wife, tea, TV.

Does it get any better than this?

The most famous medal in the world

There are probably several contenders for this title. For the purposes of this post I will suggest that the most famous medal in the world is Siegfried Sassoon’s Military Cross. There’s a lot written about Sassoon’s decorations – some people claiming he won a bar to his MC, and others that he was recommended for a DSO and even a VC. Be that as it may, he was given an MC, and, according to the legend, he threw it in the Mersey when he decided to make his protest against the continuation of the war.

I haven’t seen the film Regeneration but I’m told that Sassoon tears the medal from his tunic and throws it in the water.

It’s a good story, though it isn’t true. That’s the trouble with legends, and as they say in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

The novel Regeneration is quite clear that it’s only the tunic ribbon that gets thrown away and in Memoirs of an Infantry Officer Sassoon says:

I ripped the M. C. ribbon off my tunic and threw it into the mouth of the Mersey. Weighted with significance though this action was, it would have felt more conclusive had the ribbon been heavier. As it was, the poor little thing fell weakly on to the water and floated away as though aware of its own futility.

So, what did happen to the medal?

It finally came to light in 2007 when a member of the family went through a trunk in the attic and found the MC in its case, along with an ID disc, a revolver and “some poetry medals”. It was put up for auction “on behalf of the family” with an estimate of £25,000 (about 100 times more than an MC without the Sassoon connection at the time).

However, it seems that not all the family agreed and it was withdrawn from the sale, later turning up with his Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in the Museum of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

In case you find it off-putting to discuss fame and bravery in terms of cash, don’t. As an ex-antiques dealer I can tell you nobody else does. In fact, many of the recipients sell their own medals. As the links show, Sassoon wasn’t much bothered about his medals, and apparently told the family to sell them.

He never bothered to claim his campaign medals, which were eventually claimed by his son. They were duly put up for auction with his CBE and made £4,375 despite the fact he was dead before the campaign medals were issued so they had no personal link to him. Again, this would be about 100 times more than you’d normally expect.

If you think that’s a lot, how about his hockey medal? It was sold with the final contents of Heytesbury House (after the building itself had been sold) and then sold again in 2012 for £880.

I could go on. In fact I’ve probably gone on too long anyway.

There are plenty of catalogues of around relating to sales of Sassoon’s property (he seems to have had a lot of stuff) if you search for them, including his Point to Point Cups and hunting coats – Wooley and Wallis 27th October 2010 if you’re interested. (I just had a look through their last militaria sale and see they recently sold Lord Kitchener’s tea cosy for £600).

Just one final note – when Cambridge University bought his papers, seven boxes of them, they paid £1.25 million. That really is a lot of money for the sort of stuff Julia makes me throw away.

 

Hitler and the Avocets

“I cannot help thinking that if only Hitler had been an ornithologist he would have put off the war until the autumn migration was over.”

Manchester Guardian”Country Diaries” September 1939

I suppose most readers will already have a view on Hitler, and that it is unlikely to be based on the impact he had on European ornithology. However, as the quote shows, people are able to view major historic events and see them from a very different point of view. They may even find the energy to write to the papers about it.

It also shows that the consequences of major events can be far-reaching and quite significant, even if they don’t involve battles and the fall of governments.

In the case of the Second World War this included bombing my mother, training a new generation of naturalists, and flooding large parts of eastern England to defend against possible invasion.

Another, better known, example features the struggle with malaria. In the war this involved the wonder chemical DDT, which continued to be used in great quantities after the war as the answer to many problems. The inventor even got a Nobel Prize in 1948  “for his discovery of the high efficiency of DDT as a contact poison against several arthropods”. It was also highly effective at reducing the viability of birds’ eggs and nearly wiped several species out in the UK.

However, back to the flooded lands. As luck would have it, a party of Avocets drifted across the sea from Holland in 1947, and found conditions that suited them for breeding. At Havergate Island the army had accidentally breached the sea wall during training and at Minsmere the coastal area had been deliberately flooded as a defence against German landings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Avocets

 

At that point they had been extinct as breeders in the UK since 1842 due to the pressure from hunting, egg collectors and taxidermists. It seems to be a factor in the decline of rare birds, such as the Passenger Pigeon and Great Auk, that the rarer they became the more desirable the few survivors became to egg and skin collectors.

Gradually the Avocets consolidated their position, becoming the symbol of the RSPB along the way. From four pairs in 1947 we now have 1,500 pairs according to the latest figures.

For another example of how WW2 is contributing to wildlife, see this link.

I found this whilst looking up DDT. The mind boggles.

Thanks to Rodney Read and the Chatburn Village website for the well researched story of the bombing.

Shakespeare, St George and the Calcutta Light Horse

I have now managed 102 consecutive days of posting. It’s an example of habit taking over. You sometimes hear about it when athletes are interviewed on TV when the interviewer refers to dedication in training and the athlete responds that it’s just about establishing a habit.

That much is true: training is just a habit. However, I’m not trying to make it sound easy. The habit bit is easy, but simply turning up for training doesn’t guarantee success. That is where the dedication comes in. And the luck, the talent, the work ethic, the…

As I’ve said before, quantity is no guarantee of quality. It also means that I’ve resorted to posting at five past midnight just to ensure that I’m credited with a post for that day. It has also led to me writing things in advance and, as mentioned here, posting by accident. That was a simple button pushing error.

Here, I wrote a post and automatically pushed the button, which means I posted several times yesterday. If I’d pushed the button 15 minutes later it would have been OK, but I ended up posting just before midnight, so I posted three times yesterday and need something for today.

It’s St George’s Day today, and if Labour win the election it will be a public holiday, as will St David’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and St Andrew’s Day. That’s March 1st, March 17th, April 23rd and November 30th. I don’t know about you but I really don’t need days off in March and November. As for 23rd April, we already have Easter, which moves, May Day and Late Spring Bank Holiday  (which used to be Whitsun). That would be three Bank Holidays in 5 weeks. Well, it would be in England and Wales, it’s different in other parts of the UK.

Even more confusingly, whilst re-enacting the Battle of Dunbar, I found out that Haddington in Scotland also follows some English holidays.

It’s also the 99th Anniversary of the Zeebrugge Raid. It wasn’t necessarily a great strategic success, but it’s a good story. The Hundred Year’s War didn’t end particularly well but we still have Henry V.

There are some interesting sidelights on the raid. It was, for instance, the last time a VC Ballot was held. The VC is unique amongst British decorations in that if a unit performed in a particularly valorous manner the participants are allowed to vote on who they think should be awarded a VC. That way you limit the number given out, and they go to people who really deserve them.

One of the casualties of the raid was Wing Commander Frank Brock of the fireworks family. Amongst other things he invented the machinery to produce the smokescreen for the raid.

Another participant was Bill Grice. He lied about his age to join the Royal Navy and was Mentioned in Despatches for his part in the raid. Thirty years later took part in another daring raid with the Calcutta Light Horse. This link has more details – there’s a bit of a proofing issue with this article but it’s better than some of the others out there. The man who took his glass eye out before the action started was called Bill Manners. When volunteering he’d asked if the glass eye would be a problem. Grice said it hadn’t been a problem for Nelson…

There were no decorations for the 1943 raid, though Grice was played by David Niven in The Sea Wolves.

I’m already running on, and haven’t even started on Shakespeare’s Birthday or the likely consequences of having a public holiday on St George’s Day. I’ll have to cover them on another day.

 

 

Now, where was I?

Wales, I think.

We’d seen the kites, and we’d ended up eating at Burger King.

Next day we went across Anglesey to South Stack, where I reported unfavourably on the toilets.

The stiff note of reprimand I’d planned for Travelodge has still not been written because, like so many I have planned, I never quite get round to it. My indignation doesn’t last long, which is probably a good thing.

However, I do stand by my original view that a Little Chef (closes 8pm), a Burger King and a petrol station shop do not equate with the words “Guests can enjoy a variety of food and drink choices within easy walking distance from this hotel.”

The choice between Little Chef and Burger King in culinary terms (when you are looking for something nice because you are on holiday) is a bit like the choice between a cystoscopy and a colonoscopy. Obviously my recent hospital experiences have extended my range of comparisons, even if they haven’t done much for my temper.

The trip across was painless, though we did miss using the Menai Bridge. Once at South Stack a cheery volunteer explained what was available, and where to find the Choughs. We soon spotted one flying in and out of one of the sea caves where they were nesting, but it was a long way away and could easily have been a Jackdaw. They were a lot easier to see last time we were there, but that was later in the year.

Two Jackdaws hung about as we walked the cliff top, giving us plenty of false alarms, but we did manage to see plenty of Choughs too. They obligingly called as they flew over, a softer call than the crisper call of the Jackdaws, and more chuff than jack.

We got some good views of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and a Whinchat. Best views of the day were a selection of Stonechats that we saw in the field with the Iron Age hut circles. I wonder how it happened that 3,000 years ago someone thought “Let’s build houses on the most exposed and inhospitable corner of the wettest part of the UK.”

The bird photos were all poor but several flowers,lichen, a lizard and several buildings did stand still long enough for me to get some decent shots, despite the hazy light. It was just warm enough to wake the lizard but cool enough to keep it slow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Footprints of a dog

At some point a dog had stood in some wet cement by the roadside. Roadside grit has blown into the prints to give them some form. I was annoyed by missing all the bird photos so I took a photograph.

On the way back we used the Menai Bridge, which was more interesting than the other one.