Monthly Archives: Mar 2018

Stop All The Clocks (Part 2)

I thought I’d post a link to the poem, as I forgot last time. Those of you with cultural leanings, or a familiarity with Four Weddings and a Funeral, won’t need it.

So far I’ve selected the man to take the service, inclined towards a cardboard coffin  and decided against a council funeral.

I’m thinking of a natural burial, though I’m concerned about cost. If anyone is going to make free with the kids’ inheritance it’s going to be me and Julia, not some stranger in a black suit.

For that reason I’m inclining towards a hot funeral with the sprinkling of the resulting ashes being performed in a cheap and clandestine manner. I can’t give too many details, but previous family ash scatterings owe a lot to the funeral of Sir  John Moore after the Battle of Corunna.

We buried him darkly at dead of night,
The sods with our bayonets turning;
By the struggling moonbeam’s misty light
And the lantern dimly burning.

It’s a bit like guerrilla gardening, but nobody writes so much about it. This is another way to scatter ashes.

Which brings us to the subject of the actual law on scattering ashes. It seems pretty relaxed, and you can scatter them anywhere as long as you have permission from the landowner. If you don’t have permission you can be fined for littering.

The law in other countries may differ – it is more complex, for instance, in the USA.

An unexpected feature of a cardboard coffin is that the resulting cremains are less bulky than if you use a wooden coffin. Or what passes for wood these days.

I think that’s enough for now. In the next part I will discuss music and Battenburg cake.

 

 

 

 

Another quick post

Sorry about the lack of application but I’ve had another action-packed day.

First off, a lie in, followed by a late breakfast of sausage, bacon, beans and potato cakes. It was an excellent breakfast cooked by my dear, kind wife.

I feel I have to call her that because (a) she is dear to me (b) she is very kind and (c) she is still grumbling that I forced her out of bed to make me breakfast. It was 14 hours ago, can she not forget?

I’m arranging breakfast tomorrow. McDonald’s, eaten in the car on the way to work. We can pretend we’re high-powered executives.

Next, we went to Men in Sheds to have hot cross buns with the old codgers. They are looking forward to Spring. Julia has been hatching plots and extracting help and equipment for the MENCAP garden. We heard the tractor running and watched the plough go up and down on the newly repaired hydraulics.

I didn’t take any pictures because I was feeling miserable and in pain. It was, I suspect, a combination of too much walking the night before, and the thought of returning to the farm.

Whatever it was, a couple of hours later I was feeling much perkier and navigating my way round a bookshop. I have a new Janet Evanovich whodunit to read and a book about Great War tanks. I’m being very careful about book buying these days, as I’m still giving bags of them to charity, and I want to make sure I’m giving more away than I buy.

Finally, we met up for a family meal as my uncle and two of my cousins were down in Peterborough visiting my Dad. It was a convivial party, ending with the male faction taking on the pudding menu as the female contingent looked on and thought virtuous thoughts.

Uncle Tom tried the Gin and Tonic trifle and the rest of us stuck to apple crumbles. The apple crumble was excellent. The trifle, we were told, picked up towards the bottom half. That would be the half with the gin-soaked sponge…

Out for a Curry

We went for a curry tonight – three shop staff and five customers celebrating a birthday. For reasons of internet security I won’t tell you who was having a birthday, which birthday it was or what the exact date is. I can, however, tell you that it wasn’t mine.

I had a nice mild curry, drank tonic water and only spilt down my shirt once. My days of raucous behaviour and painfully hot curries are over. As my 60th birthday chugs over the horizon I have finally discovered the benefits of middle age.

Life is good/

The only fly in the ointment was that I was late due to a heavily congested ring road, but as the people in the crash were clearly having a worse day than me I listened to the radio and tried patience.

I’m not sure I like patience so I may revert to shouting next time it happens.

That’s all for now.

Stop All the Clocks

I’m coming up to sixty, I’ve been talking to a man who officiates at funeral services and, on the way home last night, I listened to a radio programme about funeral singers. This would tend to indicate that it’s time to think of funerals.

Apologies to anyone who finds the subject in bad taste, but there are certain things that need arranging beforehand. I’m a bit on the large side, for instance, and the average coffin always looks a bit on the small side. Wicker, apart from its green credentials, has a bit more give if you’re having to pack a fat man in it. Cardboard is probably even greener, and you could probably make your own if you had enough warning. That might be a step too far, though totally in character for my parsimonious nature

I’ve had a quick look and made my first decision. I’m going for cardboard, as they do one of decent size at a reasonable price. You can buy them here on eBay, with free delivery. In contrast, most wicker coffins are only about six foot long and p&p on eBay is £50. You can buy a lot of sandwiches for £50.

I may well shrink with age (if I live long enough) but I’m still currently too tall for a wicker coffin. I don’t think we need to worry about the width just now.

I’d also like to be buried in a natural burial ground, but I’ve just looked it up and find a burial plot costs £600. You can bury one person in it or scatter four sets of cremation remains. The ashes seem more economical but you have to get cremated first and I can’t find a cost for this to do a proper costing. Even Cremdirect want to sell you a complete funeral. The don’t cover the Nottingham area, but if they did I’m not sure if they’d want me, as they say – “Additional costs my apply to oversize coffins in excess of 6 foot 4″ and over 24″ wide”. You could probably fit me into  6′ 4″ as it leaves an inch at each end and you’d be able to bend my knees a bit, but I’d have to check the 24″.

Their cost, as long as you’re small enough, is £2,150. Alternatively, you can have a Nottingham Funeral for £1,799.99. It’s the Council’s modern equivalent to a pauper’s funeral, and there may be extras, including an extra charge for having a Friday funeral. No, I don’t know why.

Nor do I know why you’d trust your funeral to people who have trouble organising basic bin collections.

Part 2 to follow…

In which a joke of questionable taste is told, coins are sorted and I am forced out of the way by a rude woman in the supermarket.

I decided to employ a sub-heading as I couldn’t convey it all in the title. (Added later: then I forgot to write a title! Senior Moment Alert!)

Last week, having failed the blood test, I received a panicky phone call from the anti-coagulation service. They do take things a bit seriously at times. All I did was forget a couple of pills and drift off target a bit – it’s not like I’m hovering at Death’s door. I’m not even at Death’s garden gate. In fact, I’m feeling quite perky.

As I get older I really ought to stop saying things like that, as I’m going to look pretty stupid if I drop dead tomorrow.

I’m pretty sure the anti-coagulation is working as I bled quite a bit when they pulled the needle out.

We had a visitor in the shop today, which was good as I hadn’t seen him for about ten years. He used to be a coin dealer, but he’s taken up a new career since then and now takes secular funeral services. He also told us one of the funniest jokes I’ve ever heard. Unfortunately I can’t repeat it.

It wasn’t rude and it didn’t feature bad language but it was, shall we say, in questionable taste, and looked at something from an unusual angle.

I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my seat.

Then I carried on sorting. Stamps, shillings and crowns. Ah, the glamour!

Finally, as you may have guessed from the first paragraph, I went shopping. It all went relatively well until I got to the checkout. The manned checkouts were all crammed, so I decided to use the self-service. They, it seemed, had been giving trouble all day, and the one I used queried six of my nine articles, necessitating the intervention of a staff member each time.

When all was done I started to leave the shop. As I got to the doorway a woman came up behind me and pushed past, which isn’t good when you’re using a stick for balance. She then made someone else swerve to avoid her then walked directly towards someone coming into the shop and made them stop the let her past.

She wasn’t being pursued, she was just very rude, arrogant and inconsiderate.

All this rush meant that she got to her car, started the engine and engaged reverse gear ready to escape.

Meanwhile, I put a bit of a spurt on.

And once I was behind her car, as she waited impatiently to reverse out, I walked behind her…very…very…slowly.

I don’t usually manage to get my own back, but today everything just fell right. And it felt good.

 

Pack, Pack, Pack!

We turned up at the shop today and found we had a record number of packages to send off. A normal Monday sees us with anywhere between two and ten parcels to send. Today there were fourteen. Not only that but one of the orders was for twenty eight medallions to go to Australia.

That required a stout box, brown paper and some old-fashioned wrapping skills.

We sent out pennies and sixpences, several coin sets, a seventeenth century token, two lots of banknotes and a variety of other things I can’t quite remember.

We also bought some coins (including a stunning Gothic Florin) and turned two lots of stuff away as it had originally been bought from the Sunday supplements and were thus (a) expensive and (b) poor quality. This is always sad as we know we are disappointing people, who often buy it with an eye to either investment or leaving it to grandchildren.

I’m tempted to use the word tawdry, but it seems a bit cruel, even though it does allow me to use an interesting link.

At the moment it’s a bit of a sore point as we overpaid when buying a few things that turned out to be very cheap on eBay. We will have to transfer some of the cost to the other things we bought. Some you win, some you lose…

The moral of this is don’t buy from people who spend a fortune on advertising, as you are paying for the advertising rather than the item.

And if you want to leave something to the grandchildren put some money into a savings account.

Sixpences, Sweethearts and Samosas

It was a hectic morning, with fourteen eBay parcels to be packed and sent off before the Post Office closed at lunchtime. We would have managed it easily, working together as a well-oiled machine, if it hadn’t been for the arrival of a shopful of customers.

It’s a real dilemma – we want to provide a quick and efficient eBay service, but our core business is based on the customers who come to the shop so we can’t neglect them.

We were expecting a quiet day as two of the Saturday regulars came in on Friday, but it didn’t work out like that. Within the first hour we were full with people buying and selling and the post had to wait. We got most of it done in time, though some will not be going into the post until Monday. Such is life. It’s not ideal but we are still within the time allowed for posting.

During the rush I managed to sell a nice Victorian sixpence to a young collector who is just starting to collect coins. Hopefully it will be the start of a lifelong collecting habit, and hopefully he will continue collecting good stuff instead of modern decimal coins. We owe a lot to decimal coins, as they are fuelling a great interest in coin collecting, but I can’t help wondering if it will still be popular in ten years, or if it will be a bubble that bursts.

In the afternoon we also managed to sort more shillings, put several lots on eBay and polish the counters. One of the later customers bought us samosas from the Indian shop across the road, which proved to be an acceptable snack with our afternoon coffee.

I’ve described one of the sweetheart brooch lots as having a pin that has been “replaced at sometime in the past”. I resisted the temptation to tell them that it had actually been replaced by me five minutes before I took the photos for eBay. It’s not a bad job, even if I say so myself. It came from the back of a cracked enamel badge that said Delegate and involved two sets of long-nosed pliers and a certain amount of muttering.

This is the brooch – a WW2 mother of pearl sweetheart brooch for the Royal Armoured Corps.

We have several more on sale, including these two for the Middlesex Regiment.  The one on the left is a silver and enamel tie-pin or bar brooch, the one on the right is silver, with hallmarks for 1915. It’s an interesting subject for collecting, with all military units depicted in a variety of styles, though I often wonder who gave them and if they came back.

 

 

 

Six Thousand Shillings Sitting on a Shelf

We started sorting shillings at 10.00 and finished at 14.30. If we’d started four hours earlier, or spent another hour and a half sorting, it would take the tongue-twisting title to a whole new level.

A sixish start spending six hours sorting six thousand shillings sitting on a sagging shelf is not a sentence to be attempted lightly, or in polite company. Even for an alliteration addict like me, it’s a bit much.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Silvery sorted shillings sitting in a sorting tray

The sets of  shillings are slowly taking shape. Coincidentally my back is also taking on a new shape, which is much more hunched than it was a couple of days ago. Shilling Sorters Spine is shortly going to be written up in The Lancet.  Or possibly the BMJ. One of my friends was once written up in one of them after the premature detonation of a cannon.

We were re-enacting the English Civil War in the Sealed Knot somewhere in Somerset (that’s not a security measure – I just can’t remember exactly where). The mop for swabbing out the barrel was a bit worn and it allowed a glowing ember to survive the operation. When the powder was rammed home the ember ignited the charge while he was still ramming.

This is clearly a bad thing.

Fortunately, because he was using good technique, the ramrod merely took the skin off his palms as it whistled across the “battlefield”. The blast also blew off his shirt sleeves and peppered his arms with fragments of black powder.

And that, when one of the doctors realised this was a rare chance to write up the hazards of muzzle-loading cannon, was how he appeared in the medical press.

We never did find his shirt sleeves…

Just to give you some idea of what the blast looks like I’ve purloined a photo from the web.

Image result for sealed knot cannon

 

Another of my mates was shot in the small of the back (mere inches above anywhere that would have provided a highly amusing and ribald anecdote) by a cannon at Naseby. But that is another story.

Thoughts of Cheese and Currency

I started writing yesterday’s post at 4.30pm when I got home, and didn’t manage to finish it by midnight.

Part of the problem was that I was diverted by various other activities – eating, washing up and eBay. Well, mainly by eBay, I will confess.

The writing did not go well, and as the main subject, ironically, was time management I decided to call it a day, throw in the towel and give it up as a bad job.

With hindsight I should have written about cliches.

Tonight I intend doing better as, despite recent events, I really do want to blog every day. Apart from practice and keeping it as a habit, I have a hankering to be a diarist. I’m not going to turn into Samuel Pepys, even with practice, but Nella Last is a definite possibility.

If I am going to become a diarist I’m going to need to do something more interesting. Pepys knew lots of notable people, owned valuable cheese and saw the Great Fire of London. Even Nella Last had World War 2 and a son who became a famous sculptor. I’m not sure what her position on cheese was, but I do know that one of the horrors of WW2 was “National Cheese“. You can still rekindle the Spirit of the Blitz by buying cheap, rubbery supermarket Cheddar if you want.

On the other hand, Pepys’s famous Parmesan still seems valuable today, as this article shows.

As for the day – it’s been a shilling sorting sort of day. We’ve been making up sets of Elizabeth II shillings (1953-66) in both English and Scottish varieties. It’s an interesting coin with a long history. At one time, according to Wikipedia, it was in use on every inhabited continent, being worth 24 cents in the USA, even into the 19th Century.

Believe me, after you’ve sorted 5,000 of them, they aren’t quite as interesting as they were.

 

 

The header picture is the 2016 £2 to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666. It’s the nearest I can get to a relevant photo. 

 

More Blood…

Blood test again, and I went down for 8.20 this time, to avoid the queue.

It started going wrong when I was prevented from entering the car park by a man shouting at the machine in a haughty and peremptory manner (which immediately made me assume he was a doctor).

“I’m at the car park in front of Maternity and the barrier won’t lift!” he said.

They raised it for him. When I pulled up at the barrier I found that he’d neglected to take the ticket from the slot, which would have raised the barrier. It worked for me.

By the time I’d parked, he was walking into Maternity with an expensive leather bag over one shoulder. If he has such trouble extracting a ticket from a slot I can’t imagine he’s much of a gynaecologist.

As I walked across to the blood-letting department it started to rain – small, sharp, freezing droplets.

It got worse when I entered the waiting area and took a ticket. I was 11th in the queue. Not only that, but after doing ten people the service seemed to stop. even the people behind me noticed it, and they weren’t next in the queue or  in a hurry to get out and have breakfast with their wife before going to work.

I had “the trainee” again. She’s making progress because, after two multiple failures she nailed it first time. They now use a piece of arm which hurts more than usual, but if it works I suppose it’s better than multiple stab wounds.

As I walked back to the car it rained. This time the drops were bigger and less icy. They were still cold though. The roof of the shelter over the ticket machine, I noticed, is just the right size to channel drips of cold water onto your head as you feed your money into the machine. For an extra £20 in materials they could probably have built a shelter that kept people dry as they paid.

It occurs to me that the NHS is missing a trick. Charles Saatchi once owned a frozen sculpture made from the blood of the artist Marc Quinn. Despite it nearly defrosting in a builder-related incident, he managed to resell it for £1.5 million.

Clearly, as the NHS has plenty of blood going spare, there’s an opening here for an enterprising artist, an Arts Council Grant and one of those marketing companies that knocks out limited editions via the colour supplement on Sundays.

You can do 150 heart valve operations for the cost of one frozen blood sculpture. Or 1,500 cataract operations

I’m not saying that it’s the solution to NHS funding problems but it might help.