Monthly Archives: August 2022

Britannia – a woman with a past

I nearly forgot I had to post. It seems harder to remember now that I have stopped numbering the posts.

I really don’t like the days after Bank Holidays. It’s nice having Monday off, but as I always have Wednesdays  off I have to go into work for just one day. It feels like I’m just getting going when I have to stop again.

Today we did parcels until lunch, having had several orders over the weekend. Then I did halfpennies. I’m preparing a listing for halfpennies from Charles II to George III. The earliest is 1673 and the latest just reaches the early 1800s.

In those days they used Latin names for Kings – Carolus is Charles. It’s clearly been in circulation for some time. Judging by the Victorian coins we had in our pockets when we went decimal it was probably in use for a hundred years. Britannia came into existence with the Romans and first appeared on the coins of Hadrian before many centuries of obscurity. She reappeared on the coins of Charles II in 1672, modelled (according to Samuel Pepys) on  Frances Stewart, later the Duchess of Richmond and Lennox. There are various accounts, some stating that she resisted the advances of Charles II, others that she didn’t.

Over the years she gained a Union Flag on the shield, a trident (in place of the spear) and a helmet. In 1673, when this coin was new, we were at war with the Dutch, Sir Christopher Wren was knighted and the Chelsea Physic Garden was opened. When it was a year old we took back the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and changed the name of the city of New Orange back to New York.

Over the next few years, whilst this coin was still shiny, the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral started and Titus Oates began the Popish Plot.

Interesting times . . .

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Soup, Seeds and a Kitchen Mishap

I just wiped out 200 words of text. I could retrieve it, but I was debating whether to keep it anyway. There are always more words . . .

University Challenge is back on, so winter cannot be far off. After a good match tonight, including me answering a good selection of questions, we watched a documentary on the first 60 years of the show. This contained quite a lot of interesting material including the preparation some teams go through and what some of the contestants did afterwards. However, I did feel it could have been a lot more interesting. What I am noticing more and more is that TV programmes take fifteen minutes of material and spread it out over 45 minutes. I’m not sure if it’s a new fashion in TV or a sign that my intelligence is growing and needs more input. Frankly, it’s unlikely that I am becoming smarter, so am forced, once more, into believing the cynical option.

They also showed a couple of question setters. One of them referred to something being “very unique”. I hate it when they do that. Things can’t be grades of unique. It’s the same as being dead or pregnant. You are, or you aren’t. What sort of questions will they set if they don’t have a basic grasp of language?  And will they have answers that are graded as “correct” and “very correct”?

This afternoon I roasted some butternut squash to make soup. I also cleaned the seeds and roasted them. I’m not clear whether it’s ecologically sound  or not, roasting a few seeds just to avoid waste, but it ended in disaster anyway, when I overcooked them. They still tasted good in parts, but the overwhelming taste of carbon was a bit off-putting. Next time I will pay more attention to temperature and timing.

Tomorrow we will be having roasted squash soup, but it won’t be sprinkled with seeds.



Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park

Population, Politics and Prime Ministers

I’ve been thinking. This is never a good thing as it tends to highlight the faults in the world and, more depressingly, the faults in my life. The faults of the world, I can’t do much about. The faults in my life are all down to my bad decisions, and that is something I could have done something about, which adds an element of tragedy to the depression.

However, that’s all water under the bridge. There’s no point worrying about things I can’t correct. The same goes for the problems of the world. I’ve been thinking of these problems recently not because I can change them, but because it’s the theme of submissions for an internet magazine I sometimes submit to. Or, to which I submit. That’s one of my regrets – lack of formal grammar education.

I’ve cut down on car usage, I’ve cut down on plastic and, as much as possible, I try to live sustainably. Of course, that merely means I’m killing the planet at a slower rate. I still use too many resources and It doesn’t really matter what I do, all my economies are easily undone by just one blogger  flying to Prague to report on handbags, or someone like our ex Prime Minister Tony Blair having four children. I have two. I’m not sure if we really should have two, because that might be too many. However, I started shouting at the TV many years ago when he spoke about looking after the planet. He has already committed his family to using twice as many resources as mine in the future. For the sake of political balance I will point out that the current PM is even worse in this respect.

It’s an issue were are going to have to address in the future, because we can’t keep increasing the population. I’ll be making my personal contribution to reducing the world’s population some time in the next 30 years or so, but there’s a lot of work to do on population control.

Cars, Costs and Cameras

I got my car back tonight. Apart from servicing, they fixed the oil leak, replacing several pipes and a gasket. The pipes lead to a valve I can never remember the name of. I had the valve replaced a couple of years ago. It cost a fortune. The annoying thing is that I don’t remember having one before – I suspect it is a modern “improvement”.  I also suspect that the pipework wasn’t properly reconnected last time, leading to this problem. All in all it has cost me the equivalent of two computers or 250 days on the bus. And all for a valve that doesn’t seem to have been necessary on my previous (reliable) diesel cars.

It’s good to be back in a manual car with plenty of legroom.

Other news – my camera broke. The small one finally gave up the ghost a few months ago. The big one, after several days of making increasingly ominous noises on startup finally refused to start at all. It whirrs and grinds and squeaks and the lens moves but nothing else happens.

We tried using a phone, but it isn’t really good enough. I ended up using the shop camera, which is quite good, but it isn’t really practical to share a camera. We will have to see what happens. I’m not going to take my other camera down. I didn’t mind taking the old ones to work but it’s time for them to provide one now. I suspect that whatever happens will the cheapest option. It has become clear that this is the way we select computers and I can’t see cameras being any different.  Ah well, less than two years to retirement . . .

The picture? Peppermint creams. I was scrolling through pictures and they made my mouth water.

An Unusual Day

Today was a little unusual – we did some gardening at the shop and I had the car serviced. The former required a lot of hacking of brambles and tracking of mud through the shop, as it was a wet day. The car servicing was equally successful and involved leaving it at the garage overnight because they are struggling to get it back together. I was provided with a small Mazda automatic for the night. It is small and automatic and not at all comfortable. Apart from the lack of space the automatic transmission means I am continually on  edge in case I forget myself and put my left foot on the “clutch”.  I did that years ago in a borrowed automatic. The “clutch” is, of course, the brake in an automatic and the car tends to come to a rapid and inconvenient halt.

So far, so good. I got home without major incident, squeezed myself out of the car and worked out how to lock it.

I’m sure tomorrow will be equally memorable when I get the bill for my car. The cost of bus tickets has gone up too and Julia is looking at ways of economising. It now costs £3.78 a day.which, considering the time taken, the timetable and the number of drunks and idiots on the bus, makes the expense of a car seem worthwhile. I know it’s better for the planet to use public transport, but cars are so much more convenient.

We had several interesting customers today too, including one who was recently awarded an MBE and one who is recovering from breaking both arms in a cycling accident. He’s recently had the cast off one arm and revealed the scar from the operation – it’s well over a foot long. This is another reason to stick to cars.



The Ideas Factory

In past times when I had an idea I would keep it and wait for the right time to use it. I didn’t have many, and there never seemed to be a good time to use them.

Then I made a discovery, there is no limit on ideas, I noticed this years ago, when I sat down and listed ideas of subjects for poetry. I had a list of over 90 ideas. Some worked, some didn’t. But the important thing was that I never managed to work my way through the list, demonstrating that I was capable of generating more ideas than I could handle.

It’s always tempting to mention a meeting I was once in when someone

Ideas, the more you have, the more you get. made the statement “I always see my main strength as having ideas, rather than carrying them out, so if you need ideas feel free to ask.”

Those of you who have been on organising committees will have met the sort. Long on ideas, short on industry. To be fair, she was being modest – self-publicity was her main talent, having ideas was a secondary. We never, of course, needed to ask her for a single idea, as we always had too many.

Oh, I seem to have written two paragraphs about the meeting. It must still be annoying me.

The post can now go one of two ways. It could become a rant about committees. idleness, etc. Or it could remain on course as a discussion on generating ideas.  It’s supposed to be about ideas, so despite the fun element of vituperation, I will stick to the original intention.

Ideas – the more you have, the more you get. I’m just noticing, 12 months after my original (non-COVID) illness, that I am getting back to normal as writing and ideas are starting to take shape once more. It’s been a long time. I actually had to write a lot of notes this morning, as ideas started as soon as I woke up.

I see from the news that fish and chips are under threat – prices are up due to the war and disposable income is down. It’s like the Butterfly in the Amazon effect isn’t it – a dictator flexes his muscles in the East and the UK’s national dish is threatened.

Haddock Special at the Fishpan, Scarborough

Titles seem so hard . . .

I’m currently watching a programme about art. In this episode they are researching a wall painting on the plaster of a bedroom in a house in Surrey. Ben Nicholson was a friend of the one-time owner and is supposedly the painter of the piece. If it is by Nicholson it will be valuable enough to justify preserving it (which probably involves removing a piece of the wall). If not, I fear it may just be destroyed. It all comes down to money. Conserving paintings and removing sections of wall is not a cheap undertaking.  However, I like the detective work and the technology.

The question of attribution was finally solved by the art experts (though it was an opinion, of course, rather than fact). They believe that the painting is a joint effort between Nicholson and his mate, This brings the estimated value down from £200,000 to about £50 – 100,000. Nobody is quite sure what a joint work is worth because this is the only one known. This, fortunately, is enough to justify removing the painting.

To do this they paste tissue on the surface (using special glue and tissue), sandwich the wall between two pieces of thick plywood and cut round it. The strange thing is that although I’ve never seen it done before I could (with the exception of the special tissue) have worked out the method. All those years of messing about in poultry sheds seems to have paid off. I miss the days spent with tools and practicality – life as a shop assistant with a computer lacks an element of challenge.  It’s OK trying to use sales techniques on eBay, but you never know if something sells because of your skill and knowledge or because it’s too cheap. Or just through blind chance.


Laptop Woes (Yesterday’s Post)

I have a problem. It is a long-running problem. which I haven’t had to think about for a while. but it is now starting to affect me again. Put simply, I have trouble composing on a laptop. Balancing a piece of plastic on my lap and prodding at a keyboard with one finger is not a good way to write. It’s not just the laptop, of course, it’s also difficult to compose when you are sitting in the living room talking to your wife and coping with TV in the background. As a younger man I was able to follow TV whilst reading a book but as I get older my concentration isn’t what it was.

Last night I found myself grinding to a halt. I have haibun and tanka prose to transfer from paper to computer but the task was beyond me. The same goes for blogging. I stared at the screen, I tried a few paragraphs and I decided that even by my lax standards I was writing rubbish. I tried three times. I failed three times. I deleted three times. Then I fell asleep, woke at 2 am and made sandwiches. The sandwiches – herby cream cheese and cucumber, are not quite as bad as the blog, but they are far from my best. I was intending to make a mackerel spread from smoked mackerel fillets, spring onions, herby cream cheese and lemon juice, but at 2am it isn’t just sparkling prose that evades me.

At the moment I am writing this blog post (which will count as yesterday’s post) at work, and will email it to myself. Then I have one to write for today, and hopefully I will manage some poetry too, before everyone arrives. That was the plan yesterday, though it didn’t work out.

Tonight I will spend time making room for my laptop on my normal table and will plug a keyboard into it. Not only will it make it easier to type, but I will be able to divide my time clearly between work (or writing, eBay and procrastination) and relaxation (TV, conversation and napping). It is important to keep the balance between the two parts of my life.

The picture is the badge we sold to Germany today. I’m sorry to see it go, but that’s what I get paid for.

A Quiet Day

The big news from yesterday, which I forgot to tell you, was that when I got home we had a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the front garden. It’s the first time we’ve had one for several years and was good to see. It was very skittish so I didn’t even try for a photograph. Even under favourable conditions they are tricky to take.

Blurred Hummingbird Hawkmoth

You can see how difficult they can be from the existing pictures. They are supposed to be a sign of good luck. I hope so, I could do with something to lighten the mood.

Apart from that I don’t have much to offer. I’ve written about days like this before and they are not even interesting first time round. I could discuss sport, as we have plenty of it on TV, but there are plenty of other people who can do that better. If you want something to absorb a little time (I’m still in training for the World Procrastination Championships – be patient, these things take time), try looking up “gymnastics” and “syrup” or “honey”. Or both. I’m left with an even greater admiration of their sporting activities after reading about the hazards of chalk and the the use of sticky comestibles.

It’s now 9.30 pm and I am beginning to feel uncomfortably warm. This seems to be the wrong way round, as I expect things to get cooler as the day goes by. I’m not sure whether this is part of global warming or whether I’m just growing old and confused.

We had plum, apple and blackberry crumble for tea, all with fruit that had been growing in the garden earlier in the day. I really should have taken a photograph. As this is nearly where I started I will bow out now and leave you with a suspicion of symmetry.



Sales, Surprises and Staff

If you read yesterday’s post you may have noticed that I missed the title off. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, but it is the first time since last year – one of the advantages of my “no title” series of posts. It has a title now, though it didn’t exactly stretch my creativity.

It was a good day in the shop. We had five orders on eBay, one for 32 items I had only loaded yesterday. They were only cheap, but any sale is a good sale. It was one of those double-edged events – glad to make the sale, but slightly regretful that two hours of listing and (complicated) loading of photographs brought such a quick result. Even though it was clearly a masterful bit of listing, it seems like wasted effort when it finishes so quickly.

We then had several customers by appointment, answered phone calls and listed more items for sale. One of the customers was very knowledgeable, and told us so, at length. It’s very tempting to be sarcastic, but I’m better than that.

Then, when I finished loading the new coins, I checked for new sales and found we’d had six sales, one of which was for more than all the sales we’d had overnight. There’s always plenty of room for surprises when you have eBay.

Another surprise was a comment in our feedback, which I liked – “you should be very proud of your staff”. I’m thinking of having it made into a T Shirt.

Gold £2 Coin 1995 End of WW2 Reverse

Dove of Peace on a 1995 £2 coin – this one is gold, the ordinary ones were brass. For those of you from UK, yes they were meant for circulation but they never caught on.