Monthly Archives: Oct 2017

More from Stoke

After a look found the shopping village, and a disappointing look round the Portmeirion shop we stuck another postcode in the satnav and set off for Dudson. (The shopping village postcode is ST4 8JG if you want it, and Dudson ST6 2BA). Dudson is mainly hotel ware and the shop can be quite good for cheap mugs. Julia bought a teapot to replace the one she bought last year, which is now chipped.

We passed Moorcroft on the way, but didn’t have time to stop (ST6 2DQ). Then it was time for Middleport (where I took most of the photographs. It’s the pottery where they shot The Great Pottery Throw Down. That’s ST6 3PE if you’re planning a trip. I’m not particularly keen on their factory shop, but they do other things too, including a narrow boat which used to carry clay from Cornwall and take finished pots to the port of Liverpool. Canals must have been wonderful things at one time.

I had to check how the canals brought clay to the Potteries, as there is no canal from Cornwall. It seems they used to bring them in via various places – first shipping the clay up to Liverpool and Hull before bringing it closer by river, then using packhorses for the last bit. You can see how the canal must have made things much easier. With the canal you can bring clay from either port to a wharf alongside the pottery.

The tearoom is quite good (though we didn’t eat this time, still being full of breakfast). It seemed a bit over-staffed for the business if was doing (three staff to six customers) and wasn’t as clean as it could be – a problem when you have an old building and tables made of old planks. There could be a solution to both problems – get the spare staff cleaning!

After failing to find anything in the factory shop we popped a hundred yards down the road to William Edwards. No postcode needed – it’s next door to the last one. Julia was happy because she bought a square plate. It seems that we need a square plate. I suppose it’s easier for sandwiches and Battenburg cake.

That left us with just one errand to do – looking for a Christmas present from Portmeirion. There are three Portmeirion shops in Stoke, which was a good thing, as the first one had been disappointing. I stuck in one of the other postcodes and we ended up at the old Phoenix Works, which was a place we’d been before. It solved the problem and produced the necessary christmas present. ST3 1EZ, for those contemplating a visit.

 

Watching TV and Reflecting on the Unfairness of Life

I’ve just been watching Countryfile Autumn Diaries on TV whilst writing up the second post about our visit to Stoke. I’m fuming. I often fume, as you have no doubt noticed, but this time I’m having to hold myself back from throwing something at the TV.

It seems that many of our common garden plants are poisonous. Knew that.

Garden soil contains bacteria which helps cure depression. I’ve written about that more than once in this blog.

They also showed us a group of men who get health benefits from working together in a garden group (a sort of Men in Garden Sheds). Knew that.

Darwin was an expert on earthworms. I’ve blogged on that too. I can also tell you that he was related to the Wedgwoods of Stoke, which I visited yesterday, and that he noticed the activity of earthworms when discussing how all the pottery waste was pulled down into the soil.   They didn’t tell you that on TV.

Then they visited the worm farm where I bought our wormery.

So there you are. I’m sitting at home unemployed, and possibly unemployable, and those idiots are getting paid lots on TV for talking about stuff I already know. There’s something wrong with the world.

If I’d been able to find something to throw there would be something wrong with my TV too.

It’s not even my specialist subject.

Talking of which, Tim Wonnacott managed to make three errors in thirty seconds yesterday when talking about Princess Mary tins.

I’m not saying I’d be any good at presenting TV shows, or that I’m always accurate, but it does seem like money for old rope when all you’re doing is talking about stuff I already know.

A Trip to Stoke on Trent

We haven’t been to Stoke or a while. Looking back to post links to the last visit I see it was almost exactly a year ago. We had planned to visit at least twice this year but, as usual, it didn’t quite work.

This morning Julia, who had a list of jobs for both of us, looked at the weather and said: “Do you fancy a trip out?”

I suggested Stoke and forty=five minutes later we were eating breakfast on the outskirts of Derby.

The satnav is getting more use these days as I get used to it and after taking some postcodes from the internet we were able to drive straight to the Trentham Shopping Village – a place we’d never visited before.

The parking was free and plentiful and the toilets were excellent, though The Works was the worst branch I’ve ever been in – small, badly stocked and crowded. Well, nothing’s perfect.

There’s a shop that claims to sell artisan foods, though as with all these shops the stock is a bit more industrial than the signs in the window claim. There was some good stuff there, though it didn’t really look like it had been made by sweaty men wearing bandanas and working with open pans. Or whatever your definition of “artisan” is.

I Googled for pictures of “artisan” and most of them are grubby-looking men in overalls so I wasn’t too far off. It’s a strange thing that though women surely make the majority of jams and pickles in this country we always seem to think of men when we mention the word “artisan”.

There was a whiskey shop too. We had a look in because we were looking to buy some gin for a Christmas present. At £20 for a half bottle we decided to rethink that one. They were selling samples of whiskey in medicine bottles. I can see the point in smaller bottles, and I can see the comedy potential of a medicine bottle, but it just doesn’t look right.

There’s another shop selling alcohol too – whiskey, gin and vodka. You select a bottle, then you fill it from a big container. There are many varieties of fruit-infused gin and vodka, for just £6 (plus the cost of the bottle) it seemed OK. Then I put my glasses on. I hadn’t been expecting much for £6, but I had been expecting more than 100 ml – that’s £60 for a litre, or £45 for a supermarket bottle.

No wonder they can afford staff and glitzy shop fittings.

More from Stoke, with photographs, tomorrow.

 

The Moral Maze

I am in a quandary. When Julia went to work this morning she left five chocolates in the box from yesterday, and a clear explanation of what would happen if there weren’t at least three left when she returned.

An hour or two I found myself looking at an empty box. I’, mot sure what happened, and this isn’t really the place to discuss it, but we seem to have been the victims of some sort of specialist robber.

I bought a replacement box when I shopped this afternoon and the box is sitting on the coffee table waiting to be eaten.

The question is – do I eat most of the chocolates to reduce the numbers to five (and endanger my diet) or do I leave the box full and hope she doesn’t notice?

After all, if she sees it has filled up again she might think it is a magic box and might expect it to fill up every morning…

What would you do?

Twenty Eight Years!

It only seems like yesterday that I was a happily single man. Then I got married, had children and became old.

It might not have happened quite as tidily as that, and the chain of causality might not be quite as simple as depicted, but it gives the general idea.

By rights, this should have been titled Thirty Seven Years but Julia resisted my charms for the first nine years that we knew each other. I attribute this to her having poor taste in men when she was younger. She denies this, countering with opinions that I was immature, boorish and often in drink during those nine years, thus rendering myself unsuited to settling down.

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I told her it was on “Portrait”

This is clearly just an excuse, as I’m still immature and boorish, but I won’t labour the point as she finally came to her senses.

There are worse ways of spending 28 years.

One of her co-workers trotted out the old chestnut of “you could have killed him and been released by now”.

I can’t say I cared for the way Julia looked at me as she repeated that…

 

 

Peace Medals

When all the fighting was done, the UK decided to have a national Peace Celebration. The selected day was Saturday 19th July 1919. This was a little optimistic as the Great War was not officially over when they started the planning, and we were still engaged fighting the Bolsheviks in Russia. We were also still fighting amongst ourselves, with mutinies in Southampton, Calais and Kinmel and tanks on the streets of Glasgow.

There was trouble during the celebrations too, with the riot at Luton being the best known. The town museum, as I remember from a visit many years ago, has a livelier version of events than The Guardian. They blame trouble between the The Discharged Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation and the Comrades of the Great Warfollowed by a riot which involved looting a piano shop and playing Keep the Home Fires Burning after setting fire to the Town Hall. The two ex-service organisations had different political outlooks, the Comrades of the Great War being set up as a right wing alternative to The Discharged Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation. Eventually they were to resolve their differences and become founder organisations of the British Legion.

Part of the Peace Celebrations featured the giving of medallions, often in white metal, to local school children. Unlike 1911, Nottingham didn’t produce a medal. The Nottingham Peace Celebrations provided sports, cinema visits, fancy dress parades and teas for 30,000 children, though there is no mention of medals, apart from sports prizes.

Some places provided generic medals, though others were specifically made for individual towns and villages. The Derby Peace Medal in the header page is one of the better examples of design – featuring the badge of the local regiment.

The Sheffield medal is more typical, with a generic figure of Peace on one side and the city coat of arms on the other side.

The Birmingham medal is slightly better from the design point of view – I’ve always liked this representation of Victory. It features on a generic peace medal, with an agricultural scene on the reverse, which was the first of these medals I ever had (given to me by my grandfather back in the 1970s).

This is the obverse and reverse of the Derby medal.

Note: I’ve added a link to the previous post to access a picture of the 1911 silver steward’s jewel.

Nottingham 1911 Veterans’ Dinner

This is the medal that was given to members of the Boy’s Brigade and Boy Scouts who lined the procession route for the Veterans’ Parade in Nottingham during the Coronation celebrations. The Scouts were, at that time, a new organisation compared to the Boy’s Brigade. The medal features two stags with very flat antlers. They have to be flat to allow room for all the wording.

I presume Mrs J A Morrison was the wife of J A Morrison DSO, who was MP for East Nottingham between 1908 and 1912, and was host of the dinner.

There is a book which lists the names of the war veterans who went to the dinner, which was held at the Empress Rink, King Edward Street, Nottingham. The skating rink is reported as burning down in 1910 and being rebuilt as a cinema, which opened in January 1913 so I’m not sure how it hosted the dinner in June 1911.

There were 1,600 veterans, with 2,475 medals between them. The oldest veteran was 90-year-old E Pratt of the 17th Foot, who lost eight toes to frostbite in the Crimea.

Each veteran was given a copy of the book as a souvenir, with Stewards being given silver jewels (which I have seen, though never been able to photograph), and Captain Morrison, as he was then, being given a gold and enamel jewel.

Edit: This is a link to the catalogue archive of auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb showing a picture of a silver stewards jewel.

Ideas (Part 1)

By the time I’d finished my frittering yesterday I had twenty minutes to post before midnight. At that point I decided that it was time to take a more relaxed attitude.

I’ve become adept at knocking out a quick post over the last year or so in order to maintain a record of daily posting. The post is the easy bit – adding photos and tags is what seems to take time. You can meet the deadline despite this, simply post before midnight then edit to add all the other bits after midnight.

At the moment I have photographs with no words, words with no photographs and ideas with no words or photographs. For the sake of symmetry, I really should add that I have words and photographs with no idea, but I don’t. One thing I’m not short of is ideas.

They say that the most frightening thing in the army is a new officer with a map, and I can see this being true. In civilian life the most frightening thing I know is a committee member with an idea, or even worse, several ideas. I was at a committee meeting on the farm once when a new member announced “I don’t do things, I see my role as being more about having ideas. I could probably write a list of fifty ideas now.”

The ironic thing, as anyone who has ever served on a committee will know, is that everyone has at least fifty ideas, but what you really want is people who will do things. If committee work was about sitting round having ideas we wouldn’t be permanently short of people on committees.

The phone has just rung. I should have left it but I am conditioned to answer telephones. Four rings later, as I am half-way there, it stops. This is more irritating than actually picking it up to find either the noise of a call centre or the inane scripted chatter of an operator.

So, idea number one – see if there’s a landline that offers call barring.

Two – go ex-directory.

Three – disconnect the phone.

Four – look into the Edgar Wallace plot device that allows you to kill someone via a telephone line. I can’t remember the story, but I do remember the ability. My grandfather often mentioned the story, so I assume this is a case of genetics.

Five – see if it’s possible to set it to stun or sting, as killing someone for being irritating is a little harsh.

Six – look up You Tube footage of sturgeon. I saw some on TV and at the Garden Centre yesterday. There must be a celestial purpose to it. I like sturgeon.

Seven – remember that the irritating Scotswoman is called Sturgeon. Nicola Salmon is just a figment of my imagination.

Eight – and remember Salmond, Alex Salmond. See above.

Nine – look into careers that offer fame, fees for speeches and generous expenses.

Ten – look into careers where you can promise much and get away with delivering nothing.

Eleven – find address for Liberal Democrat Party.

Twelve –

Is that the time already? Better get ready – I have an appointment to be stabbed in the arm in half an hour.

Twelve – develop a better blood test. Preferably one that involves no stabbing.

Thirteen – develop a blood test that uses a mobile phone app.

Fourteen – check what a “mobile phone app” is. I’ve heard people talk about them but I really have no idea…

Political Limericks and Other Poems

Warning, this post may include tedium. This is particularly true for overseas readers who may not recognise any of the names.

I was intending to write some political limericks last week, but haven’t been firing on all cylinders after being ill. A limerick, with five lines, two rhymes (AABBA) and anapestic meter is trickier than it looks. Even when my brain is replete with fish and purring like a sardine-stuffed cat, questions of metre have a tendency to take the shine off my day.

The answer I adopted, in line with my normal policy of lowering standards to match results, is to cut out all the difficult bits. That would suggest a clerihew, a form often used to make fun of famous figures. The rhymes are easy (AABB) and it has a sensibly easy-going view of line length and metre.

Theresa May

Gave a poll lead away

She lost her majority

and offended her sorority

or

Jeremy Corbyn

Rhymes with next to nothin’

A beardy, weirdy smarty

Who leads the Labour party

To be fair, I’m not sure how smart he is. As long as it isn’t libellous (and I’m pretty sure that accusing politicians of intelligence is not defamatory) I think I’m in the clear as accuracy doesn’t seem too important in clerihews.

Nicola Salmon

Has a tendency to bang on

About places north of the border

That sound a bit like Mordor

Other parties are available, but I can’t remember the names of any of the leaders.

I then had a look at senryu. They are like haiku but without the rules –  no cutting words, no season words and no nature. Seventeen syllables or less. You can include humour and human foibles. They are almost the limerick of Japanese poetry and, apart from throwing a selection of words on the table to see what happens, there can’t be many easier ways to write a poem.

Ripples of applause

A political speech

The sound of lyres

Sorry, it’s a cheap shot but I couldn’t resist.

As for my comment on throwing a selection of words on the table, there is a poet who does that at workshops. I forget her name but she was on Radio Four a couple of weeks ago when it was National Poetry Day. She travels the world with a big bag of words running poetry workshops in a career that makes professional cuddler look almost mainstream.

 

 

 

 

Guess Where We Went Today?

The sign might be a giveaway. We started off with breakfast at Harvester, which featured rubber sausages and a severe lack of melon or crumpets. I rather disgraced myself with a couple of muffins as an alternative, despite the no bread and potatoes rule. I suppose they were under pressure with having a surge for half-term. However, they were still charging the same price so they should provide the same service.

From there we went to the garden to drop off plastic crates and donated bird feeders. Then, via an ill-fated “shortcut” we dropped into Derbyshire. At one point, with the hedges nearly touching the door mirrors and a strip of grass growing down the centre of the road, Julia started her impression of duelling banjoes…

We eventually found civilisation, in the shape of the Homebase DIY store at Ashbourne, where we bought a bag of Scottish River Cobbles and some half-price violas. It cost £10 for a bag of rocks, which Julia is going to use in a project. I was all for stopping by a river and helping ourselves to some for free but Julia pointed out that this would be irresponsible and illegal. For the purposes of the blog I’ll pretend that this was what stopped me doing it.

From there we drove into the low cloud to visit the High Peak Bookstore and Cafe. As you can see from the header picture, grey is creeping in and the cafe is getting more space on the sign. This is true in physical space too. The cookery books have been removed and were being replaced with jars of jam on the former bookshelves. We were able to sit and watch this act of sacrilage when we visited.

Tripadvisor is full of upbeat comments about book stock and prices. They must be being visited by people all love thing the same thing, and I am out of step. The fact that the shop reply is always identical adds to the impression of sameness.

The tea and cake were good and the book selection is generally holding up well though the nature section has still not recovered and the craft books are now starting to suffer. It could still be OK, but I’m still concerned. Last time I went head to head against a cafe I came off second best.

On the way back I tried a few photographs. Light hadn’t been good during the day but the view was pleasantly misty and as it coincided with passing a lay-by I thought I’d have a go. As luck would have it, the camera managed to get rid of the atmospheric haze and I resorted to the effects button.