Monthly Archives: September 2020

A Tale of Two Torontos

I’ve been to Peterborough today, which featured a visit to a garden centre, lunch with my sister, the cutting of a monstrous pyracantha, and the transfer of various junk from her to me, with a view to me taking it on another illegal jaunt to Leeds on Sunday. Actually, I just checked the regulations and I can visit to facilitate a house move. He cannot, however, travel to Nottingham and stand in my garden. It’s all a bit surreal.

The pyracantha is in my sister’s garden, well, half of it is. The other half has been removed. It’s still about over seven feet high, and some of the bits we took off were between five and seven feet tall. The branches were quite thick and resisted my heaviest pair of cutters – a set of Wilkinson Sword geared bypass loppers. They are OK, but the handles are a bit short to apply pressure when cutting the bigger bits and I struggled with branches over an inch in diameter. The newer ones, I note, have longer handles. I really should have taken a saw but I hadn’t realised how big they were.

My arthritic fingers ached a bit after I’d finished but have recovered now and the only remaining damage is in the form of scratches to my hands and forearms. It looks like I’ve been wrestling a cat. (Actually, last time I had to get a cat into a basket my arms ended up a lot worse.)

We had some photos from Number Two Son last night. He seems to have taken to life in Toronto with enthusiasm, having been camping in the woods as a birthday treat. The pictures are of trees and blue jays.

We spoke of Peterborough Ontario this morning too, my sister mentioning that when she had Googled Peterborough in the past she had ended up with the Ontario one and itb looked nicer than the English one. This led me on to a gem of trivia knowledge I came across last week when we sent some coins there – there is a Toronto in New South Wales.

Wonders will never cease.

The featured image is a soup. I’m using the netbook to post this and it’s even slower than the ancient PC, so I went for an easy option, as we had soup tonight.

Haibun Accepted – Drifting Sands

One of my accepted haibun has just been published. You can find it here – as usual you need to scroll down to the name Simon Wilson. If the author’s bio is still there, don’t believe a word of it as it refers to Simon Hanson – he is more erudite, more interesting and, I have to confess, better looking. I’m quite happy with the substitution but if he ever visits this blog, sees that I write limericks, live a dull suburban life and look like I sleep in the woods, he may not be impressed.

The other haibun are all worth reading, though I must admit to being mystified by some of them. That’s why the writing of haibun is such an interesting area. There are several that I read and think “I could have written that!” but I didn’t. Sometimes that’s because I just didn’t connect something I’d seen to the possibility of a haibun, and other times it’s because I couldn’t make the subject work. I still have a lot to learn.

Some of them, as I say mystify me. I have a few things to do this afternoon, but this evening I will re-read the magazine several times and let things sink in. Enlightenment may come. Or, if there is anything good on TV, I may abandon the deep reading and just accept that I’m a Philistine.

Just in case you didn’t click on the last link, here it is again.

In other poetic news I was turned down by another editor, but as they are young, dynamic and cutting edge it is hardly a surprise that I can’t produce what they want. I did have a note from another editor, suggesting changes, which I made. I haven’t heard back yet, which is a worry, last time this happened the rewrite was turned down, leaving me with both a feeling of rejection and a loss of integrity. I’ll pretty much alter anything to get published (I am such a needy egotist)  but when you alter it and still get turned down it’s a double blow.



Zimbabwe Hyper-inflation Money

A Day of Many Zeroes

It was an interesting day at work. We had someone in to buy gold, someone in to sell rubbish and someone who came in to waste our time chatting. He was my favourite visitor.

I put some Buffs medals on the internet, starting price 99 pence. They are quite common and the Buffs are not as keenly collected as the Freemasons.

RAOB Medals

RAOB Medals

I’ve photographed more banknotes, as you can see from the examples of Zimbabwean banknotes at the top of the page. They are examples of hyper-inflation money, though the one below is the most mind-boggling of the lot. Hyper-inflation is what you get when you have a megalomaniac clown as head of state. This post won’t sound quite so funny if you are reading it in a few years with Boris still in Number 10 and you have a £50 million note in your wallet.

They say that in Hungary during their hyper-inflation people were advised to pay as they ordered in restaurants and cafés because if they waited until the end of the meal it would have gone up.

Zimbabwe Hyper-inflation Money

Zimbabwe Hyper-inflation Money

One of my friends once sold a Zimbabwean note to an Eastern European with a tenuous grasp of capitalism – he came back twenty minutes later, having tried to exchange it in the nearest bank. Yes, he really thought he could get trillions of dollars by spending a few pounds on a banknote. God loves a tryer, as we often say in the trade.

Apart from that, nothing bad happened, and that counts as a good day the way things are going at the moment.

In the Depths

I’m waiting for a phone call. When I was in Leeds earlier today I swung one leg out of the car after parking, the car rolled forward and, before I could get my leg back in to use the brake, I’d hit the car in front. I left a note under the windscreen and am currently waiting for a call. I’m not sure if I’ve done any damage – there was nothing obvious – but you can’t be sure. I have three areas of damage on my car where people have hit me (twice in car parks and once at a roundabout) and just driven off. It always annoys me to see them, thinking that someone  has done that and driven off. That’s why I left the note, though I could do without the hassle.

I’m also about to embark on a major argument with one of the neighbours. I won’t bore you with the details,  but the day my dad died I got a letter pushed through the door. Since then I’ve being trying to solve the problem, avoid arguments and bring it all to a conclusion. I have enough other stuff to do at the moment so wanted to settle as quickly as possible. They keep wanting more and I’ve reached a point where I’m going to have to say enough is enough. Tomorrow I’m expecting the fireworks to start. It’s cheaper to give way rather than go to court, but they are trying to make me take joint responsibility for a dodgy supporting wall in their garden and that could be a problem for years to come.

Then there are the neighbours on the east side, who are encroaching on the boundary. I have to sort that out before it becomes a problem, though I don’t like making a fuss.

Meanwhile, the rear chimney stack needs attention as it’s starting to look a bit rickety. That won’t be cheap as it never is when a man goes up a ladder.

The re-wiring still needs doing, and the decluttering is progressing slowly.

We are now finishing disposing of Dad’s possessions, which is a sad time. I remember reading a poem about the tyranny of heirlooms. So many items hold great memories, and, as we don’t live in a grand country house. I can’t keep them all but It is so difficult letting go.

And that is why I feel like I’m standing in a pit.

Sorry to be so negative, but sometimes, if you set out to give an honest appraisal of your day, there will be days like this.

I used the butterfly photo as a reminder that there are good days too.


It was flu vaccination day today. My original time was mid-morning but, before I could ring and ask for a change to an earlier time they sent me an earlier time. That was good, as it allowed me to get to work on time.

We arrived at 8.05 and by 8.10 we were on our way home. This was, I have to say, excellent service with a great turnout from the practice staff and a well thought out system.

It’s 8.40 now and I’m having a cup of tea before going to work.  I thought I’d write a quick post now because tonight we will be preparing for an epic journey to Leeds tomorrow. They are in lockdown, of sorts, as from last night but as Number One Son is moving to a new house we want to take some things up for him.

As I understand it, we can’t enter the house or garden to socialise but as long as he isn’t in the backyard (note to US readers, a yard in the UK is a small, generally cheerless enclosure with hard floors and walls) we can unload the furniture and things into the yard, leave and watch him emerge from the house to collect them.

After not socialising in the house or garden we can then go to the pub and stay there till 10,00 pm with a group of strangers who aren’t wearing masks.

It’s a little inconsistent, but that’s the way life is at the moment. No point moaning, just do our best and protect our own family. The best way to do that is to protect everybody, by sticking to the spirit of the regulations, It’s just sad that not everyone is taking that view.

Having said that, I wonder which academic hot-shot decided that it was a good idea to bring all the students back. Not someone who knows much about young people, I imagine. Of course they are going to party. If I was forty years younger I would be out there, knocking back a few beers, telling everyone that alcohol was a disinfectant and asking if anyone wanted to try a spot of social undistancing.

It’s not the students who are at fault, it’s the universities who wanted to get income from the accommodation.

Anyway, just look who they have for role models – full pubs and hypocritical politicians.

Rant over. Time for work. I’m going to add a general purpose, though hopefully tranquil photo as the system is jammed up again. See you later.



Just a short post as I need to get to bed early – it’s flu vaccination day tomorrow, one of the biggest days in my social calendar. If it goes as well as my visit to the pharmacy today – a forty minute queue outside in a cold wind – it will probably cause more flu than it cures.

When I went to the Post office this afternoon I wasn’t able to send any post out because the computer system was down. There is, it seems, no manual system for sending post. There was a reasonably well-developed postal system in the seventeenth century, which they managed without computers and still found time to persecute witches and cultivate religious bigotry.

If I had time I would have a really good rant, particularly on the subject of pharmacy staff who don’t wear masks, but time, as I said, is short.

I seem to have been asleep most of the evening.

We had a couple of frustrating orders today – one where we’d got the postage wrong and faced a loss of £18 on the transaction and one where we seem to have sold the item through the shop and forgotten to remove it from eBay.

We bought a few lots in – mixed coins and a pair of First World War medals – sold a few bits, saw one regular customer and had to ask several people to put masks on.

I just need eighteen words and some photos and I will have done enough to meet the 250 word target – oh, I just did.

See you tomorrow with more ranting…

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.