Monthly Archives: January 2022

Day 27

I had a shock on opening my bank statement when I returned home  today. I knew I’d relaxed my spending control over Christmas, but I hadn’t realised I’d spent quite so much. In fact I couldn’t remember spending anything like the amount that was missing. That initiated a search for my bank statement from last month, which I confess I hadn’t opened. I’m not good at things like that. My fear was that my account had been hacked. I worry about things like that as I get older and criminals get sneakier. It turned out that I had simply misremembered the running total I keep in my head. Normally I keep tabs on my cash by using ATMs, but since lockdown I have hardly used one. Julia and my sister, who fill the roles in my life that Bertie Wooster;s aunts played in his, are both keen on me growing up and going online with my banking, but I feel that as long as I don’t go online I can’t be robbed online. Seems logical to me.

Last year, or maybe the year before, I refused to give Amazon my phone details when they wanted to add them to my account. The reason? If my number isn’t on the internet people can’t ring me with nuisance calls. Julia gets a lot of nuisance calls from time to time. There will be none for a while, then they start again, often using software to disguise where they are coming from. Once we had a month of calls from numbers that, according to the caller ID, were coming from all over West Africa. They weren’t, they were coming from one call centre with some clever software. They haven’t quite grasped the psychology of it – if you aren’t going to answer a call from Ghana, you really aren’t going to answer the next one either, even if it does claim to be from the Ivory Coast.

As a result of being careful my mobile has never rung with details of a “parcel delivery” or news that I am the beneficiary of the the will of a deceased African politician.

I’m running out of inspiration for photos, so am reverting to the George II shilling with cunning colour effects.

 

Day 26

Last night, feeling pleased with myself, I hit a seam of inspiration and wrote notes as I was on the point of falling asleep. his is what proper writers do. So, two things went right – one, I relaxed and became inspired and two, I had a notebook and pen ready.

Just one problem – I can’t read the notes. At the best of times, as I may have said before, I have trouble reading my own writing. It looks like a lazy worm has escaped from an ink pot and made loops on the page. That’s why I generally write in capitals, even if it does end up looking like a ransom demand.

When I am close to sleep it gets worse. I can’t remember what I was thinking and I definitely can’t read it. I am sure none of my thoughts included the words “blessed treehouse stargazer”, “print out the smell lads” or “listed in retinue meat”. It is, however, possible that some future notes may include them because the three of them offer a range of bizarre possibilities.

So, even before starting to write, I seem to have failed. From this I take the lesson that all late night notes should be written in block capitals.

Who would have thought that reading your own writing would be such a problem? Maybe, in years to come, quercusisms (unintentionally amusing poetry resulting from the inability to read your own scrawl) may join malapropisms, spoonerisms and mondegreens in the list of literary mishaps.

In the meantime, I will learn my lesson and start printing my late night notes – I can’t afford to lose inspiration to poor penmanship.

Day 25

I’ve been thinking about road safety.

The government has, according to the papers, just enacted a huge number  of new laws to make the roads safer for for pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists whilst ensuring that drivers of motor vehicles are held responsible for all the bad things that happen.

Leaving the moral dimension of road use to one side, I will start with pointing out the obvious – there’s no point trying to hold pedestrians, horse riders or cyclists responsible for their actions on the roads as you can’t identify them. You can identify motorists because we all have to have numbers on display. It’s actually an offence to have your car number plate obscured, but all other road users are allowed to get away with their various delinquencies due to their anonymity.

I’m not allowed to use a hand-held telephone whilst driving. Yet a pedestrian is allowed to use one whilst walking across the road and I, according to the new guidelines, have to give way to them. Similarly, I now have to do the thinking for cyclists as it will be my fault if I hit one.

What really annoys me is that whatever part of the government came up with all this rubbish seems to think I spend my life on the road running down pedestrians and cyclists and, for some reason, driving too close to horses.

I don’t. In my driving career I have so far managed to avoid pedestrians, cycles and horses. Not only do I not want to injure another road user, I don’t want the hassle of reporting an accident and losing my no-claims discount. And I certainly wouldn’t drive too close to a horse, even one where the rider seemed to be in control (which isn’t always the case) because they are large, unpredictable and, unlike car drivers, not insured for third party claims.

I can’t help thinking that these are not the same sort of changes I would make if I were in charge (assuming I could find time for governing amongst all the lockdown parties).

Rather than bore you with the full tedium of my proposals (which I am currently preparing for my MP) I will just say that I consider Jeremy Clarkson to have once had a great idea about road safety. It was simply this – instead of putting air bags in steering wheels to reduce injuries to drivers it would be better to install a large spike. This would make them drive more carefully and reduce road accidents. So far I have been unable to fault the logic.

Today’s picture is the one I always use to induce tranquility. Lavinia’s comment on water voles reminded me.

 

Day 24

Years ago, when Russia invaded Afghanistan (oh,  life seemed so simple in those days) someone put a letter through my door, detailing the seriousness of the situation, the fact that I may be needed to answer my country’s call, and various other semi-official hings. I was feeling quite concerned until I got to the final sentence – “Due to recent cut-backs in Defence spending, we would be grateful if you could provide your own gun.”

I never found out who sent it, but it was amusing at the time. Less amusing now, after British troops have died in several wars because they didn’t have enough equipment.

The writing is still going slowly. This post has taken me half an hour already, though a lot of that has been checking the internet for “research”. As for the poetry, it’s hard to write when you are asleep in font of the TV.

It’s not so much a case of writer’s block (which I am convinced does not exist) but a case of bad sleep habits and lack of focus. If I stayed off eBay and got to bed at a decent time I would be able o write more prolifically. Simple really – there’s only so much time in a day and you have to use it wisely. Over Christmas I allowed myself to stay up later and that led to me sleeping in late, meaning I felt wide awake at bedtime. Or sleeping in front of the TV, with the same result. That, in turn, meant I wasn’t sleeping enough at nights and when I went back to work I found I’d established a bad habit. Why are they always so much easier to establish than good ones?

Anyway, that’s enough words. I’m off to bed now before I get my second wind and start doing something else instead of sleeping.

There have been some great sunrises on the way to work recently (admittedly interspersed by some miserable grey ones). The picture is one I took a few years ago.

We have ben spotting a cormorant regularly on the way to work too. It seems to take up position on a lamp post and gaze down at the canal. We have seen it perching, and flying to its perch, but have not yet seen it fish in the canal.

I went through 1,500 photos without finding a cormorant, but I did find these photos of silver Britannia coins, taken a few years ago. Somehow, I just couldn’t get the balance right last time I photographed a new set we had for sale. Maybe my camera is wearing out, or maybe I am . . .

Silver Britannia coin

Silver Britannia coin

Silver Britannia coin

Silver Britannia coin

Silver Britannia coin

 

Day 23

Our Government is in disarray. Russian troops are massing on the Ukrainian border. Tonga has been flattened by a tsunami. But I’m more concerned with on-line grocery shopping, approaching poetry deadlines and eBay. In years to come, I can’t see my blog being much of a barometer of the mood of the country in 2022 Unless everyone else is  self-centred and politically unaware too.

Let’s face it, Russia starting World War III isn’t even the biggest problem we have. The planet dying because we have too many people using too much stuff and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. WW III might actually do us some good by thinning out the population. I’m not advocating it, just pointing it out. How ironic to come back in a a hundred years, having been frozen in a new Ice Age caused by nuclear winter, to find that Vladimir Putin is actually seen as the saviour of the human race. Well, if we are allowed freedom of thought by our new Chinese overlords.  They might want us to see the General who ordered the release of Covid to be seen in a similar way.

That’s at least two sci-fi novels in the bag – The Man who Saved the World and The Pangolin Protocol. Sadly, a I can’t even get a simple haibun written, I’m unlikely to be able to find time in my schedule to knock out a couple of dystopian novels.

This is a shame, because if I could write them, and the film rights sold for enough, I could spend the rest of my life living in a plastic bubble on Mars, taking drinks by the pool with Elon Musk and Richard Branson, whilst paying Microsoft or Amazon a monthly fee for air.

Sometimes Armageddon doesn’t look so bad . . .

 

Day 22

Got up, had breakfast, went to work. There was one parking space left when I arrived. Is this what my life has become – repetitive with worries about parking spaces? I used to think there was more to life than that.

On the positive side, I have started to find myself laughing and smiling more. You are supposed to get happier as you age and I had been waiting for it to kick in, as the last few years have been hard work. I may be lagging behind the curve (nothing new there) but it looks like I’m finally becoming happy.

The customer who has been irritating us for most of the week with unrealistic offers has finally decided to order something. He still tried to do a deal until we had gone to the post office (it closes at lunchtime on Saturdays) so we won’t be able to send it until Monday. By Tuesday I expect he will be writing about something being wrong. Some deals just have an aura of doom hanging around them.

One bright spot in the day was that we put some second-hand display cases on sale. After a bit of a lull they have started selling and we sold our last three during the week. The owner checked in the overspill stock room (as I call his garage when talking to customers) and found a couple more, which I added to our eBay listings around lunchtime. One of them sold twenty minutes later. It always feels good when that happens.

Day 21

Group dynamics are a difficult thing but it’s noticeable that Friday afternoon, when the owner and I are on our own in the shop, is more productive and relaxing than most other days. We’ve known each other for over 30 years (he is more sociable than I am and came over to introduce himself at an antiques fair we were both standing at Granby Halls) and it’s a bit like being married – as long as I do what I’m told it all goes well.

Granby Halls was demolished 20 years ago, how time flies. I’ve just looked it up and am amazed by how historic it was – I’d have taken more notice of it if I’d realised. If you have read the article behind the link you will now know what me, Mick Jagger and Sir Oswald Moseley have in common.

This isn’t to say that we don’t get on when all three of us are in, but it’s different. Personally, we have no problems, but I don’t feel we work as well as we could do as a group. When there are two of us we work as boss and peasant and it all goes quite well, as I see my role as doing what I’m told and being paid for it. With an extra person there, we seem to lose focus. He’s not yet been beaten down sufficiently by life to take on the roll of a peasant.

Shakespeare £2 coin – comedy. I put it in here because I fulfi8l the role of Fool to the owner’s Lear, though I don’t actually call him Nuncle. NOt that Lear is a comedy, but I thought the hat and rattle fitted here.

One of the things that influences my attitudes to groups is that I’ve been fortunate to be in some good teams over the years – nearly always by accident, as they seem to form and then become successful without a lot of talk or planning. The key thing, I think, is that “a star team will always outperform a team of stars“. Once you’ve been in a good team it becomes easier to become part of another.

I’ve also been in one or two bad teams over the years , such as the rugby club committee where the Chairman eventually fell out with us and resigned, taking the post protectors with him. We had to run round and borrow a set for Saturday. If I were writing a play about a dysfunctional Rugby League team I wouldn’t dare include that in the script because it’s so hard to believe.

Shakespeare £2 coin – history

Day 20

I sat down with a cup of tea, fell asleep in a draught and woke up an hour later fee,ling distinctly lazy. So I shelved the plans for a healthy vegetarian meal and ordered pizza. That’s twice this year already. It will last for three meals but it’s not the sort of diet I would like to admit to.

Whilst eating pizza I watched The Apprentice, but they seem to be running out of idiots with character/ All they have now is commonplace idiots, and they aren’t very interesting. They have also got rid of all the decent assistants and gone the “no character” route again. Karren Brady actually seems to be getting more boring as time goes on and I don’t know who the other one is. So far I find him virtually indistinguishable from the apprentices.

We are trying a new method at work, loading more on eBay and using less description. It seems to work for some of the big sellers. Most of the stuff we sell doesn’t need  much additional information and even people still ask us about things even though all the information is there. As each email represents time wasted, and therefore money wasted, We might get a few more queries if we cut down on the information we give, but we will be saving time on writing the sales. It will be an interesting exercise.

We’ve exchanged a string of emails with someone today already. It’s not about details, it’s about unrealistic offers. He’s made several offers on something, the changed to making unrealistic offers on something else. We don’t mind doing a deal but we need to cover the costs of running a shop. Some people can’t see this.

We have stopped replying to him.

Sometimes, despite the doctrine that “the customer is always right” you have to put an end to things.

The top picture is a group of pre-decimal halfpennies. There were 480 of them to a £1. They are about the same size as  modern 2p – where there are only 50 to a £1.  That is one way that decimalisation has been an improvement.

The bottom picture is a propaganda Iron Cross from 1914 – highlighting the destruction of Belgian cities, raising the martial ardour of the British and raising funds for charity. When the price rose above £5 I stopped buying them. We sold this one for £40. If only I’d kept buying them . . .

British made propaganda Iron Cross 1914

 

 

Day 19

I finally dragged myself down for blood testing at around 10.30. There was a bit of a wait but I was till only number six in the queue. They were moving though us rapidly and I was in and out in just under 15 minutes. It would have been quicker but I couldn’t stop bleeding. The pills must be working, though part of it was probably that I had managed to fit in two cups of tea before going to hospital. When they have trouble they often blame it on my lack of liquid intake in the morning.

So far I’ve had no panic phone call so it looks like I might be OK.

Last night I did several of the Citizenship Tests posted on the internet, to see if I knew enough about the UK to be allowed to live here. Well, fortunately I passed. I did four tests and got six questions wrong out of a hundred. As I’ve lived here for over sixty years I feel I could have done better. I’m sound on Magna Carta, Tudors and Stuarts and electoral law, but can’t see that the first two are very useful today. There was a distinct lack of questions on queuing, recent history and the law as it applies to motor vehicles. All three of these are more important in 2022 than the date of Magna Carta and the Spanish Armada.

And in case you are wondering, yes, this is what they mean by “displacement activity“. It meant I didn’t need to fail to write any publishable poetry.

Anyway, why you would want to be a citizen of a country that demands you know such things?

The picture is one of Mrs Botham’s pork pies. There were no questions on British cuisine in the citizenship test. Not even fish and chips.

Fish and Chips – more British than Magna Carta. 

Day 18

Day 18 passed in much the same way as Day 17, but without the element of anticipation that you get after a Sunday off. In that respect it was very much like Day 11. I expect that Day 25 will be similar.

It was also like Day 17, in that I have a few ideas for writing, but didn’t do much about it. The trouble with giving days numbers is that the passing of time is much more noticeable and there is nowhere to hide. “Next Wednesday” is quite a friendly place, in a soft and woolly future. “Day 26” is much sharper, and leaves you in no doubt that you have seven days to do something, and that when it arrives the deadlines are only five days away (the days leading up to Day 31 are going to be interesting.)

I bought 500 items on eBay last night. They were very cheap, just pennies each and will, eventually, help finance my collecting habit. Julia will be delighted when she finds out and will no doubt be keen to congratulate me on my financial acumen and the purchase of more clutter. That’s why I’m letting her know via the blog. I don’t want to be in the room when she finds out. I could, I suppose, conceal this from her, but she will eventually notice a big box of plastic tokens no matter what I do.

When I have  a few minutes I will prepare more posts on collectables to leaven the musings on mortality, boredom and the passage of time. However, despite all my attempts to put it off, I need to go for a blood test now. It’s not procrastination if you put it off because you have to do something important.

I had some haiku turned down yesterday, which means I am currently running with one acceptance and one rejection so far this year. The editor sent a longish email and included a useful link to help me do better. The problem I find with haiku is that although they are small poems they come with a lot of conventions attached (some call them rules, though this isn’t quite accurate) and I never quite manage to remember them all at the same time. It’s a bit like that hypothetical over-filled bookshelf – you put a book on one end and one falls off the other. That’s my brain . . .

The picture is a small Royal Artillery sweetheart brooch carved from mother of pearl. They are generally from the First World War usually, I’m told,  made in Palestine. I include it as it’s a new picture and illustrates my inability to stop collecting things.