Monthly Archives: February 2018

Today…

I spent some time working in the new shop getting things ready. When I finished I set the alarm and walked out, turned to lock the door…

…and found that I had a key that won’t lock the door from the outside. It’s fixed now, but as I stood there making futile attempts to lock the door life seemed to be against me.

It seems that my day has been one long string of conflicts with inanimate objects. It started off with my trousers, which fought back with unusual vigour this morning. The theme continued when I had to mount a Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal long service award with four extra bars (for 35, 40, 45 and 50 years). As you can see from the picture, it was a fiddly job. The bars are two different sizes, just to make things more difficult.

Fifty years voluntary service selling poppies is quite a feat, and I can’t help feeling it would be nice to mark it with something a bit better.

From there, as detailed above, it was a short step to fighting with the door lock.

Compared to the British Men’s Curling team I had it easy. I didn’t watch the match on TV but I did see one shot on the highlights. It threaded its way between two other stones, bumped one of ours out of the way and won the match for the Swiss.

It’s not necessarily the most gripping of sports, but a great shot is a great shot whatever te sport. And that was a great shot. It would have been better if it had been a British shot, but that’s life.

Without sporting set-backs winning would mean nothing.

I’m now off to finish the second part of yesterday’s post.

What Does £32 Million Buy? (Part 1)

The easy, topical answer, is that it buys a Winter Olympic team, along with 59 athletes, four medals and the material for some great film scripts.

A crowd-funded bobsleigh team, crashing skater and an ice dancer who came back from smashing a kneecap – it’s all there.

I’m not a great sportsman, as you may have guessed from my photos and various comments on size and sloth, but every four years I rotate through Olympics, Winter Olympics and Commonwealth Games. The kids make me watch a variety of World Championships, there’s the Rugby World Cup,the Rugby League World Cup and plenty of local news on skaters and kayakers who train in Nottingham. It’s hard not to get involved with all that around on TV.

Now, the question, as raised by National Treasure “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards, is, are we spending too much on Winter sports. We aren’t, it seems, a natural Winter Sport nation.

Unfortunately we aren’t naturally good at Summer Sports, cricket or football either.

So, where do I go from here?

I could go on to discuss sport, politics and the national mood, which always seems to improve when we do well.  It often improves when we lose too, as we all love an underdog and Elise Christie, though devoid of medals, has set an example of determination that’s a great example to the rest of us.

I could talk about sport and money. It’s a massive subject, and it has plenty to offer a cynic, particularly if, like me, you believe that the money would be better spent on developing better drugs programmes. If people want to run as fast as chemicals allow, let’s help them. I’m looking forward to the two minute mile.

However, for those who want to do it the old-fashioned way – hard work and dedication – I’d have a separate set of games. I’d also ban transgressors for life instead of handing them a short rest between games. Yes Justin Gatlin, I’m looking at you.

Finally, as we’ve sort of covered politics, cash and the cowardice of governing bodies, it might be a good time to mention James “Darkie” Peters. I’ll say no more. If you’re interested in the history of sport, apartheid and spineless administrators you will find it interesting.

In Part 2 I will look at what else you can buy with £32 million.

 

 

 

A Crowd of Customers and the Laws of Chance

We opened at 10.00 this morning, the phone went at 10.01 and two elderly gents walked in at 10.02 with three bags of coins. One wanted to sell coin.

Meanwhile. his friend wanted to look at postcards, which involved finding various boxes and albums for him. We need to get organised when we move shops. Two shop assistants, two customers. So far, so good.

Then a lady came in to sell some silver, banknotes, coins and medals. It was a shame about the medals, as they had no paperwork or photographs with them. He saw service in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific with the Royal Navy during the war, but without extra details or medals with names on, all the history is lost.

So that was two assistants and three customers. Then a regular customer came and wanted to look at coins. The phone kept ringing with enquiries. Then two more people came in with things to sell…

Two assistants, six customers. It’s not ideal, as you can’t leave people hanging round too long, particularly if you want to take money off them, but you can’t do three jobs at the same time.

Eventually we managed to finish, and everyone seemed happy. I wasn’t even rude to anyone on the phone, though it was touch and go at times. It wasn’t the subject matter, it was the fact that they all start with a similar, lengthy, preamble, which you can do without when you have a full shop.

I don’t mind the fact that most questions are about “rare” coins: the laws of chance dictate that one day it really will be a rare coin or an interesting medal.

It really will.

 

The Death of Good Intentions

I had planned on a day of activity, relying on lists and time management and getting a lot of things done.

What I actually delivered was a day of sitting in front of the TV with a laptop, a book, a cup of tea and a box of paracetamol. This could still have quite productive, but after two nights of disturbed sleep, I managed to nap through large portions of the day. I also watched quite a lot of curling.

It can be tricky to differentiate between napping and watching curling.

Both our men and our women are clawing their way back from the brink of oblivion after poor starts. I think we must practice poor starts, we do it so well. Anyway, all we need to do is win…zzz…

Sorry, must have dozed off.

There was some ice hockey too, which is more exciting, unless you want to support Team GB. Our men haven’t qualified since 1948 and the women have never qualified, though they did once beat South Africa 27-0. I’m guessing that excellence in ice hockey may be linked to the natural availability of ice in a country.

I’m too tired for a witty, meaningful or well-crafted ending, so I’ll just say goodnight and post a squirrel on a bin photo. I’ve used it before but it makes me smile.

 

Reflections on Knitwear, Quinoa and Ice Hockey

It’s been a mixed day, but at least I’m back on the blog and feeling enthusiastic. I even took some video of clothes going round in the washing machine. It’s not very exciting – the excitement came later when I emptied the machine containing six of Julia’s jumpers. It turned out that the spin cycle wasn’t up to much on that machine and I ended up with seven wet jumpers (my contribution being a modest single item), a pool of water on the floor and, it later turned out, a drier that wasn’t up to the job.

I won’t bore you with the video. Partly out of consideration for my valued readers, but mainly because I can’t get it to download properly.

The damp jumpers are currently draped over a variety of convenient items in the bathroom.

I think we need to have a talk about knitwear. Why one small woman needs her own bodyweight in knitted garments I really don’t know.

I’m going to start going to the laundry later – it can be quite hectic at 8am as we all try to get in before the rush, but at 10am it was empty again and quite relaxing. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to rush, despite all the talk of eating frogs.

You can take pictures when nobody is there.

After writing a menu for the week, which is going to be healthier and better structured than I’ve been managing recently, I then went shopping.  It was a special day today, with everything set up to make it difficult for a man having a bad joint day.

One of the doors is still jammed, people seemed to be targeting me like something in a chariot race and then the trolley wouldn’t release the £1 coin. I’m seriously thinking of writing a letter so TESCO can ignore me.

I also noted some unusual items in the bins they use for collecting for the Food Bank. Quinoa and Couscous?

Don’t get me wrong – people using food banks deserve good food, but I’m a little sceptical that there are many eaters of Quinoa and Couscous amongst the typical users of food banks. Some collection points specify the types of goods they want, and I’ve never seen either of these on the list. They aren’t generally on my list either, but this week I happened to buy both as I’m going to be eating healthier lunches.

By the time I finished shopping the light had gone so I went home to prepare red cabbage and put the gammon joint in the oven.

Finally, on looking at some internet pages relating to the Winter Olympics, I ended up looking at our medallists for the first Winter Olympics at Chamonix in 1924. We aren’t particularly good at winter sports and it took us from then until Sochi in 2014 to win four medals again – a gold, a silver and two bronzes. We’re currently on four again, a gold and three bronzes, so people are getting excited. My experience of British sport indicates we’re heading for disappointment yet again, but you never know, I may be wrong. Perhaps our famously unlucky speed skater might stay upright until the end of a race. Or perhaps not…

If she does, we will have to make a film of it. Disqualified three times at Sochi, crashed twice at Pyeongchang and has one last chance to fulfil her destiny. It would be brilliant if she did.

It would make a better story than the British Ice Hockey team at Chamonix. At least eight of the ten were Canadian, Wiki is silent on the place of birth of the remaining two, though I suspect they were probably Canadian too. Several of them had interesting careers, particularly Blaine Sexton. It’s an interesting link, particularly the picture of him in the uniform of the Windsor Swastikas, in the days when they were one of three teams using the name, and Swastikas were merely seen as interesting good luck charms.

I’ve always thought of  people swapping between nations as a symptom of the moral bankruptcy of modern sport. Looks like I was wrong.

 

 

 

Struggling with Time and Stupidity

I’m currently 80% of the way through Eat that Frog!, which is a time management book by a man called Brian Tracy. The book includes advice on time management, an autobiography that seems to indicate that he left school at the age of eleven to join the Merchant Navy, and an overworked metaphor about eating a frog. You probably worked that out that last bit from the title.

The idea is that if you had to eat a live frog every morning none of your other daily tasks would seem so bad.

My version Eat that Pickled Beetroot!, is even more gastronomically revolting, but less catchy as a title. I should imagine that it will be very popular with people who share my views on pickled beetroot but less so with people who like extended amphibian metaphors.

Of course,  if you are looking for a simple way to cut down on wasted time you might want to consider cutting out time spent reading books about time management. It’s similar to buying a book about decluttering, as I pointed out in a previous post when my sister did exactly that.

Things have been a bit quiet recently, and I’ve missed posting on the last two days. The truth is that I just ran out of words and enthusiasm. It was a combination of big subjects (gun control and OXFAM), more low-level illness and some jobs that needed doing more urgently than the world needed another blog post.

Instead of facing up to the challenge I decided to leave it alone.

I don’t suppose that 5,000,000 members of the NRA are remotely interested in what I think about gun control. Fair enough, as I’m not interested in what they have to say about grouse moors.

However, I can’t leave without suggesting that, although there are moral questions over the activities of some OXFAM workers, there is nothing in the actions of our MPs that suggest they are suitable to pass judgement on the morals of others.

 

“Rare” Coins and Dark Thoughts

It sometimes feels like we’re under siege in the shop.

Every day we get phone calls or personal callers with “rare coins” to sell. I don’t mind it if the coins are old (by which I mean pre-decimal) because there is at least some hope of something interesting cropping up. The “rare coins” that provoke me to thoughts of homicide are the ones that are reported as being rare in the press, on the internet,or, even worse, on ebay.

Recently we’ve had several reports of rare 2007 £2 coins. It’s a commemorative issue which marks the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. The rarity is not in the coin itself (with a mintage of over 8,000,000 it’s actually reasonably common) but in the placement of the edge inscription.

The motto AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER is impressed around the edge. According to the intellectual giants who stoke the hellish fires of rare coin “knowledge” the lettering should be right way up when the Queen’s head is uppermost. If it is upside down, the coin is the “rare” variety.

2007 £2 coin

2007 £2 coin – reverse

Now, this is where things start to come unstuck. The edge inscriptions are put on by a roller before the final striking and people who know about the process are happy that the inscription is going to land in accordance with the laws of chance – 50% will be right way up and 50% will be rare varieties worth £300 on ebay.

Or, to look at it another way, there is no rare variety. There’s also no evidence of one selling for £300 on ebay in the last month or so.

Turning to the actual prices realised on ebay, which are often very different from the fanciful figures put on the coins that don’t actually sell, I found one that sold  for £500, one for £102, one for £23, three for £20 and only two others in double figures.

Some people clearly shouldn’t be allowed on ebay without supervision.

Thirty three coins, after allowing for ebay fees, sold for £2 or less, with several selling for 99 pence.

That’s from a total of 155 sales in the last 6 weeks.

I will let the figures speak for themselves.