Monthly Archives: October 2022

British Citizenship – a Few Suggestions

I just did British Citizenship Test Number 4. Fortunately I passed. I did, however, get two of the 24 questions wrong. I thought you had to be 21 to become an MP. I should have known as, as soon as I pressed the button, I remembered getting it wrong before. It’s 18. A good age for it, as teenagers know everything there is to know. Much better than getting an old person to do it. Personally I’d just roll dice, as I expect it would be just as successful as a way of running the country.

What interest rate should we have? Roll the dice. Budget for health, defence, education? Roll the dice. Prime Minister this week? Toss a coin.

Then I was told I had got the question about Scottish banknotes wrong. I hadn’t. The citizenship Test needs to rephrase the question, or alter the answer. If you define “valid” as “legal tender” (and what other sort of validity could they mean?) Scottish banknotes aren’t valid in England, but most people accept them. It’s a matter of courtesy rather than a matter of law. Scottish banknotes aren’t actually valid in Scotland either, if you check. Nor are Bank of England notes – they just don’t have  a law on it, but they seem to get by without it.

The rest of it was OK, but I followed up with doing more questions and am quite surprised by how important it is that people applying for British Citizenship know about the Tudor and Stuart monarchs, including the difference between Mary I and Mary Queen of Scots, whereas most people who are born in the UK think they were the same person.

I’d say that if you want to become a British Citizen it’s more important that you know about queuing, driving on the correct side of the road and  the right way to talk about the weather. All the history stuff can be picked up from watching quiz programmes.

The medallion is the one I mentioned a few days ago. It set me thinking about the Citizenship tests. Time flies – I just realised that “a few days ago” wa actually ten days ago.

harrow Council Citizenship medallion.


Dumplings, Dreams and Diet

As I sit here at my desk (which is actually the dining table covered in junk) I can hear the gentle bubbling of a vegetable stew on the top of the stove and smell the waft of garlic and simmering vegetables. I am  a simple man and this is my simple life.

That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t like the £900,000 house I have just viewed on the internet. It’s just outside the Lake District National Park and has outbuildings, an office an acre of garden and a section of fishing rights. I am sighing as I write. I don’t need the hot tub in the conservatory, as sitting in a warm bacterial soup has little charm to me. However, it will be somewhere to keep a pet alligator, I suppose.

However, I take some consolation in the thought that it was an  excellent vegetable stew and the dumplings were top class. It’s been at least six months from my last dumpling, so it was a welcome seasonal change to the diet.

The other seasonal variation to watch out fro is the increasing number of greens in my diet. This is a phenomenon noted by the Anti-Coagulant Service, and not just in me. People start eating more greens around Christmas, and these greens act as an antidote to the Warfarin. It has happened to me several times at this time of year. I now try to eat more greens at all points of the year. It’s not the antidote effect that’s a problem, it’s the variation in diet throwing the Warfarin calculations out. Now I try to keep the consumption of greens up a bit more through the year so the seasonal change doesn’t show up.

Cobbett, Chartists and Alternative Simon

Somewhere out there, in a parallel universe, my alter ego, known as Alternative Simon, is sitting at his keyboard. He will be surrounded by books, sitting at a desk and will smile gently, secure in the knowledge of his successful career and healthy bank balance as he heads into retirement.

He will not be sitting at his dining table surrounded by clutter (including a pile of things that need throwing away) because he will have folders and shelves and no compulsion to hang on to things that “might come in handy”. He will definitely not be wondering how he ended up working in a shop part time and sneezing copiously.

He will almost certainly be a lecturer in history at a University of moderate reputation, with a specialisation in British Civil Disorder of the nineteenth century, a number of papers and possibly even a book with his name on it.

In turn, he will dream of his possible life in a University with ancient foundations (Cambridge by preference), with book-lined walls and a tweed jacket. If only, he will sigh, he had worked harder t school. The alternative Alternative Simon will be an expert on British Civil Disorder of the 19th Century, with books and TV spin-offs for Brandreth – the Nottingham Captain and Chartism – the Revolution That Never Was.

And, of course, the alternative Alternative Simon will sit there chewing his pen (none of them will be much good with technology) and wishing that he had followed the healthy outdoor farming life portrayed in the works of William Cobbett, whilst avoiding Cobbett’s more non-woke opinions. He may even dream, in the midst of the turbulent rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle of a successful historian, regret the succession of trophy wives and drug-fuelled orgies and wish that he could swap it all for one good woman and a sideline in writing poetry.

Well, you never know, it could all be true. The picture is from my first month of blogging and was the cake we had on the farm to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We have just celebrated our 33rd. How the years fly by.

Colds, Customers and Time for Bed

I fell asleep in the chair again. So I’m writing in the early hours again, and having rambled on for about 600 words, have parked two unsuccessful attempts at posting. It’s late now and I have to take the decision on whether to write a post or go to bed. As I’m writing this, you can probably guess what I decided. The desire to write about my days is like a sickness. I just can’t shake it off.

I’m currently sneezing on a regular basis and my nose is running. I could expand on this, but it’s probably best that you imagine it rather than I describe it. Let’s just say that of all the drugs I need, decongestants aren’t one. I also have a sore throat and a thick head. The throat could be a sign of the new form of Covid, but I did a test yesterday before the dentist, and it was clear. This isn’t, as I found out last time, conclusive, but it’s the best I can do.

We had an email this morning from a Chinese customer demanding to know why his order had gone to japan and what we were going to do about it. Unfortunately, when communicating in a language which isn’t your first language it can appear that you are being rude, when you don’t intend it. In fact, this can be the case even when writing in your first language. First I had to waste ten minutes checking where we had sent it (we had sent it to the right address in China) and where the tracking showed it had gone (it had, as he said, gone to Japan).

Then I had to spend twenty minutes explaining simply and politely that I don’t know why his order has gone to Japan and that there is nothing I can do about it.

Customers always seem to think we have a hotline to Royal Mail to sort these things out. We don’t. Having paid the money to have it delivered we just have to sit tight and hope it makes its way to the customer before they run out of patience. At that point they can ask for their money back and eBay will give it to them and take it off us. That is my cue to write a complete post on the evils of customers, so I’d better go to bed now before I start.


Aches and Pains and Dentistry

I was a little stiff this morning after my contact with the carpet yesterday, but it wasn’t too bad. To be honest I’ve felt worse after sleeping awkwardly. If it hadn’t been for the position of the aches and memory of the fall, I would just have passed it off as normal wear and tear. Contrast this with a friend of mine who woke up with a slight ache in the head one morning. It was only when he decided to look in his wallet to see what he’d done the night before (drink having been taken) that he found a note from the hospital “Precautions for Head Injuries” or some such, and realised that he had stitches in the back of his head.

Next thing was the dentist. I probably already said we’d been lucky enough to land another National Health dentist after I was cut adrift by the previous practice when they cancelled me during lockdown and never sent me a new appointment.

Julia has been twice already to sort out an ongoing problem but this was my first visit. They are very clean and efficient and give me a feeling of confidence. Despite the lapse of time I need just one small filling, and all the dire predictions of my previous dentist don’t seem to be an issue. I always knew that my previous dentist, though a nice man and a pleasure to talk to, wasn’t much of a dentist and this seems to confirm that. Of course, the proof will be how she handles the drill on my next visit.

After that I wrote a little, relaxed a lot and woke at 3am in my chair. This is becoming a habit. I must try to break it.

The picture is the Newark Siege Shilling I wrote about before. Someone wrote us a note about it querying its authenticity and telling us it looked more like a pewter key fob. We think it was meant to be the opening in an attempt to get the price down. Some people adopt this sort of approach, having been encouraged to do so by all these awful scripted TV antiques programmes that show people getting huge discounts. The owner replied. It was a very restrained email but the keynote of the answer was “supressed fury” and we haven’t had a follow up.



An Unfortunate Incident with an Office Chair

It’s embarrassing, but I’m going to tell you anyway . . .

Today I fell off my chair. It’s been borderline before, and I have actually done it at home before, but this is the first time I have fallen off my chair at work. I bent down to pick some bits up from the floor, felt the chair moving under me and hit the ground. It was reasonably soft, as landings go, and I was fortunate only to catch my head a glancing blow on the boxes behind me. That could have been a lot worse.

If I win the lottery I am going to devote some money to developing an office chair with brakes on the wheels. The wheels are great, and it’s much more comfortable than using a chair with no wheels, but they do have a tendency towards betrayal when you bend over.

Normally I get up and then bend over. Today I didn’t, but at least it was worth 150 words. I’m not sure if it counts as a Senior Moment, or whether I have crossed the line into Danger To Myself. I remember when my grandmother did that. We walked into the kitchen to find she was standing in the sink to change a light bulb. My Mother was so worried by the dangers of falling/electrocution, that she forgot to deliver the normal lecture on locking the front door.

That is probably enough blog for today. I(‘ve been frittering my time away on eBay instead of writing, and that poetry isn’t going to write itself. If you ever want to waste a little time, check out “houseboats” on eBay. Considering that I have trouble sitting in a chair without falling off, a house with a gang plank probably isn’t ideal

Pi, Pie and Piglets

I am home alone, abandoned by my wife, who has gone out for a meal with a group of people she used to work with. It is cold and there is little in the house to eat. So far I have kept body and soul together with a few crumpets I found hanging around and I am going to fry a few onions in a minute as we have a couple of finger rolls and some hot dog sausages left over from yesterday. It is, as repasts go, adequate.

Tomorrow we will have mushroom pilaff as a neighbour brought us a dish round, having made more than she needed. We will eat it with the last of the hot dog sausages. There are eight in a jar and only two of us. They are the big ones, about a foot long and doubtless crammed with more animal detritus than I would wish to know about. However, they are cheap and I like them. Eight for £2 and they last for 3 meals. At that price you don’t expect actual meat. I once spoke to a man who owned a food processing factory and he said the best ingredient for hot dog sausages was chicken skin. Well, it’s often the best bit of the roast chicken so why not use it?

He used to have a great line of pork pies too. They used chicken and pink food dye to produce the meat filling, but he had to stop using the recipe when picky politicians passed a law about having pork in pork pies.

And I can’t tell you about the cow head machine, or you’ll never eat a processed meat product again.

Header picture is a proper pork pie. Footer is a group of cute piglets, as they pause to smell the flowers on their journey towards a sausage skin.

Politics you say? Yes, there has been some politics, but I’m placing it exactly in the hierarchy where it deserves to be. First I will discuss poultry byproducts, then I will go and fry some onions. Maybe after that I will return and discuss politics. I may even discuss biproducts – they are not the same as byproducts but they don’t set off the spellchecker so care is needed. Fortunately I checked, as I was hazy on the spelling. A biproduct is a term used In category theory and its applications and as a result of my diversion I know that it is both a product and a coproduct and of no possible use to anyone but a mathematician.

I am not a mathematician and prefer my pies with an “e”. See what I did there? Mathematical pun. I’m on a roll tonight.

Piglets – like a pork pie but not as crusty

Keyboard Induced Amnesia

I think I have finally solved the problem of the mystery ailment that afflicts me every time I sit down at the keyboard – a strange forgetfulness that assails me  as soon as my fingers touch the keys.

Take today, for instance. I entered the room with this post in mind, but still visited eBay, searched Ancestry for “Richard Badger” (he gave out a medal for the 1902 coronation, but there are to many to search) and had a look round a couple of houses for sale (one an old railway station in Yorkshire, one an ancient manor house in Devon _ I can’t afford either). That was after following a link to the bridge disaster in Great Yarmouth. I’ve lived in the Eastern Counties, I’ve visited Yarmouth several times, but I never knew there was a bridge collapse. Note – we call it Yarmouth because we’re lazy – it isn’t to be confused with the other one. The other one is a lot nicer by the look of the website and has never come in the top five of Britain’s Worst Seasides.

Whalebone Arch – Whitby

I just got diverted by the list – it’s not a very fair list and says more about the people who compiled it rather than the actual resorts. I’ve been to 9 of the bottom 20 and though they aren’t particularly nice places they aren’t horrible either, they are just resorts to go with your kids for an unsophisticated day out. They wouldn’t suit international jet-setters, lifestyle bloggers or readers of highbrow newspapers, but they are cheap, cheerful an inoffensive.

The top twenty? I’ve been to eight of them, and they are lovely. This, however, is an accident of geography and lack of development. How could you fail as a tourist resort if you have a beach and a castle? Or miles of beach and a scallop sculpture?

Fish and Chips from the Dolphin – Sutton on Sea

I can’t believe that Cleethorpes missed the bottom twenty, or that Llandudno didn’t make it into the top twenty.

Fish and Chips, that’s the thing to think of, and whether your kids will grow up with great memories of the day as they decide which Care Home you are going to.

Ooops, another diversion. I forgot what I was doing . . .

Boat trip at Llandudno

A Remarkable Run

I mean, of course, a run in the sense of a sequence. Regular readers, I presume, knew it didn’t mean moving at a speed above walking. It would be remarkable, I admit, but not prudent or likely. I am a man more fitted for ambling than running.

The run I refer to is acceptances. In September I sent off six submissions and in October, two. In an ideal world I would have four chances to submit each month, but in the real world submissions aren’t so evenly spread. I have just had the eighth acceptance. Despite my worries about whether the bubble is about to burst, I’m quite pleased with that, and despite the dangers of immodesty, I’d like to share it. Half the pleasure of having things go well is the ability to tell people.

Having shared it, I won’t labour the point as I have to get writing again – I am, as I always say only as good as the next lot.

Today in the shop has also been remarkable. We seen two customers return, who had not been seen since lockdown. Yes, it has taken that long to recover, and we have had a new, young customer for the second week in a row. It’s always been hard to attract new collectors to the hobby, so this is a good sign. Whether they last is another matter, as there are always plenty of distractions.

In the afternoon we had a run of sales on eBay, including three good medallions to three different customers. It’s strange how these things go – we had only just been discussing the fact that we hadn’t sold a decent medallion for quite a while. The trick is to keep putting something new on, which attracts attention. Unfortunately, it’s difficult motivating yourself to put new stuff on when none of the similar old stuff is selling.

The psychology of eBay is a fascinating subject – both the psychology of the buyers, and of the sellers. I watched a programme on IKEA last week and discovered that there are academics who devote all their time to the study of retail. Who would have guessed that the study of shopping could be a career choice?





Musings on Mustelids and the Fault of the Ferrets

This is the result of rooting about in my unused drafts. The “yesterday” I refer to is about three years ago, but I don’t think that matters. I have added a couple of links and a few minor edits but it is mainly as written at the time, showing the timeless nature of my aimless ramblings.

If I’m honest, I spent a bit too much time yesterday musing on the trustworthiness, or otherwise, of members of the mustelid family. It is not really a suitable subject of thought for anyone over the age of twelve. However, if you look at the world wide web you will find that I am not the only one who considers such questions.

It was, as usual, the fault of the weasels. I could say, and was in fact tempted to say “the fault of the ferrets” but that would have been untrue. The train of thought was, I admit, started by me thinking of a ferret in connection with a pedestrian who walked out in front of me as I was driving, but quickly moved on to thoughts of politics and weasels. I like alliteration, but I like accuracy more.

We describe evasive words as “weasel words” and refer to untrustworthy people as weasels. We also use the word “ferrety” about people we don’t like. (This “we” is my opinion of what people generally do, but it might just be me. Please feel free to distance yourself from my pronouncements if you feel I am being weaselist.) We even have the expression “morals of a stoat”. I checked that one up just in case it was just me, but find it originates from a speech in the House of Commons. Polecats are generally only spoken of when a measure of smelliness is required. All in all, they do not have a good reputation.

Badgers, on the other hand, and otters, are generally portrayed sympathetically. I see the hand of Kenneth Grahame in this, aided and abetting by BB. Martens are not generally portrayed in fiction and we don’t have wolverines in the UK, though we don’t have racoons either and that doesn’t stop Disney putting them in films set in the UK.

The original stopped after Kenneth Grahame so I have finished it off and will now leave you with the epitaph from the BB link. The picture is, I admit, not a mustelid, but it is the nearest i have.

The wonder of the world
The beauty and the power,
The shapes of things,
Their colours, lights and shades,
These I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.