Monthly Archives: April 2023


Interesting day in the shop. It started with me arriving early to find all the parking had gone, and as I parked to cause maximum possible inconvenience to the people using our spaces one left, which left me with a dilemma. Continue to cause maximum inconvenience, or grab the slot and secure a parking space for the day with no need to move or argue.

I decided to park in the newly available space. As it was, we had a customer later and he blocked the bad mannered parkers in, so the woman in the big black car was still put to some inconvenience when she wanted to move. This is good, as it may make her think twice about parking outside the shop again. However, I know it probably won’t, as most people who park in our spaces think they have some sort of right to do it. Like the one who told me “I pay my taxes . . .”

Until then I didn’t know you could pay a tax that allowed you to park where you want (I am, of course being sarcastic here, as we don’t).

Bamforth comic card

The photo has nothing to do with the subject of the blog but I saw it whilst searching and thought I’d put it in.

We had a couple of questions – one surprisingly clear and one, unsurprisingly, the ramblings of a man who appears to think e can fill in the gaps with our mind-reading skills. He wants to know if he can offer us £50 for a coin. Well, I can’t stop him. What he really means, in his woolly-headed way is is if we will accept £50 for a coin. Confused? Me too. Traditionally questions like this come with a little more information, like which coin. He has obviously got one in mind on a drop down menu. Coins on the menu start at £35. I would be happy to sell him a £35 coin for £50, but I don’t think that’s what he has in mind. Most of the coins on the menu are £85 to £100. I imagine that is what he is thinking of. If we were making so much money we could afford to offer that level of discount I’d have retired years ago.

Harlow Carr Gardens – this may be too ambitious as a retirement project, but you need to have ambition.

At this point my thoughts always turn to winning the lottery and installing bollards that go up and down so we could keep people out of our spaces. Of course, what I always miss in this scenario is that if  won enough money to even think about retractable bollards, parking at work would no longer be an issue. Actually, I just checked. You can buy a cheap bollard (retractable or folding) for as little a £60, though I wouldn’t really trust an eBay dealer with my security needs. Around £100 labour to fit, they say, but it’s probably more. It’s always more . . .

There are, of course, more expensive choices.

However, getting back to the main question – if I won a significant sum on the Lottery would I let it change my life. Yes, I certainly would. Now that I’m on the verge of retirement I am getting impatient. I’ve just been looking up garden sheds, greenhouses and raspberry canes. Once I get a flat and easy to maintain garden I am going to take more interest. There are too many steps and slopes in our current one.

It’s strange what a difference a few months makes. When I first realised it was looming I grew afraid of retirement. Now I can’t wait.

Fat Rascal at Harlow Carr. In retirement I am going to do more baking. I may even buy a mixer to do the difficult bits.


On Grammar and Worry

As usual, I am running very close to some end of month deadlines. I had four sets of submissions to send and have only managed to finalise one set. That went off a couple of days ago and I have jut been informed that one has been accepted. It is only a senryu, so it’s almost embarrassing, as it’s still hard to see three lines as a poem.

Try as I might, they still seem like fragments rather than poems. I know it takes more work to get it right in three lines, but it doesn’t look like much of a result for month’s effort. To make it even harder, the subject was Ekphrastic poems. I only discovered the term three or fours years ago, so will explain it – it’s a poem about a work of art. If you already knew that, I apologise for being condescending. If you didn’t, these examples are interesting, as you will know some of them, even if you weren’t aware of the term.

At times like this, I think of all the poets who include English degrees in their writer biographies. They spent years learning all this stuff and then they find themselves in a journal rubbing shoulders with people like me who just pile words up  without a clue what I’m doing. There’s an editor who sometimes writes back to me with suggestions based on points of grammar. I would hate him to know this, but there are times I have to go to the internet to find out what he is talking about.

Last time this happened I was amazed by the number of people discussing a point which I had never needed to know about in over 60 years. And having learnt about it, I forgot it again.

I wonder if there’s room in the world of poetry for an Ekphrastic poem on the subject of Fowler? My only worry is that if I start to think about my language too much I may become too fearful to write. I already worry about it being good enough, but what if I add the additional worry about being correct?




Last night when I tried to write the blog,  I couldn’t put anything together. Once I had announced the less than enthralling news that it was unseasonably cold (or record-breakingly hot in southern Europe – they are taking all our heat) and that I have booked my Covid booster, I ran out of steam and couldn’t come up with anything else to say.

Today is little better, despite my lack of inspiration in the matter of a title. I slept for three and a half hours last night.  Then I slept for two more hours. Then one. Strangely, after getting up and having breakfast, I was able to sleep in my chair for another hour and a half.  Why am I able to sleep so easily in a chair in full daylight when I have such difficulty sleeping through the night in a bed designed for such things? It is a mystery.

It’s also a mystery why I can think of subjects for blogs and poetry when I’m sitting in the car, but all such thoughts desert me as I sit in front of the screen.  What I need is a degree in psychology and a nice big research grant. The only problem is that with my propensity for timewasting and random internet use I’d end up with one of those click-bait articles that says “Scientists Discover New Way to Brew Tea.” or even one of these. Number Seven is interesting, Number Eight is bizarre and Number Five, frankly, makes me wonder about the sort of people who take up medicine.

Meanwhile, I can reveal that there is a lot of bird activity in the garden – manly pigeons, It looks like it’s a good year for pigeons. Several times I’ve looked out to see three pairs in different parts of the garden, many of them performing impressive feats of balance whilst ensuring the continuation of the species. It is definitely Spring, despite the temperature.

Same Old . . .

I’ve been looking into all this security and stuff that goes on these days when you try to give some of your own money to your children.

First, Number One Son was told he was on a list of people with suspected terrorist links. This was  bit of surprise as he couldn’t remember any terrorist links. However, it wasn’t a problem, as all he needed to do was write and sign a note saying that it wasn’t him, just someone with the same name. That’s a really robust anti-terrorist system isn’t it? I said that when the solicitor submits the bill he should send it back with a note saying it wasn’t him.

Now I have been sorted out by the use of technology. I’m told I appear on  register of bankruptcies and need to address this problem. I have asked why I need to do anything, as it clearly isn’t me, just a coincidence of a couple of parts of my name with that of someone else. I’ve already covered that. Just to keep things going, I have signed the obligatory letter saying it isn’t me, though it did take three attempts for them to send me the correct link. I actually hate myself for doing it, but I have better things to do with my time. Roughing out an official letter of complaint for one thing.

It’s a heaven-sent opportunity for lawyers – some vague guidance from government and the liberty to make things up as they go along. There is clearly no law enforcement benefit involved, (as the “it isn’t me” letters show) just a whole new industry for lawyers, which involves creating work for me, ticking a few boxes and submitting a bill.

The Power of the Lawyer is in the Uncertainty of the Law.

Jeremy Bentham.

Fig Roll Day

I was up early and hit my peak about ten minutes later. Since then, nothing much has happened. It would be nice to think that my day has been devoted to fermenting ideas, ready for an outpouring of creativity, but all that has happened is that I have built up enough creativity to write a blog post which starts “I was up early and hit my peak about ten minutes later.”

We have had fig rolls this afternoon, so at least I have one thing to identify the day with. Without this, it would merely be another disappointing grey day in our worryingly cold and miserable spring.

It has been a bad time for men who make a living by dressing as women. Paul O’Grady, also known as Lily Savage, died a couple of weeks ago, and Barry Humphries, the man behind Dame Edna Everage, died a couple of days ago. I’m always surprised when I read bout people after they die, as there is so much we don’t really know about people.It’s a strange facet of modern life – we are on first name terms with people and we see them in our homes, almost as if they are friends. But we don’t actually know them.

I’m told, from my reading of self-help books, that people have difficulty separating truth from fiction, which is why the death of a soap star (in the soap rather than in real life) can produce so much genuine grief over a fictional event.

That’s why they recommend visualising yourself as a success, because it will trick the brain into thinking you are a success with all the trappings of success.

It’s an interesting thought. Sitting here in a cold semi-detached house with a battered Volkswagen parked outside, it’s a little difficult to see that this says success. However, I must go now. My trophy wife has just called through from the front room to tell me to put the kettle on. She has obviously been unable to visualise a Butler.

I’m not sure that self help book (purchased from the Exchange and Mart in the days when it was still printed on paper) was entirely accurate. Though my £1.75 (plus P&P) probably did help the author to a better life.

The header picture is biscuits, but not fig rolls. It’s close enough.


Saturday Morning Questions About My Life

When I was a young man I used to work six days a week. We did the five weekdays then alternated Saturday or Sunday. I used to swap with someone else. He liked Saturdays off because he liked to go into town with his friends and I used to like Sundays off because I liked to watch motor racing, which was mainly on Sundays. In those days shops didn’t open on Sundays.

It worked well as a system, but I always wanted to get to a level where I didn’t have to work at weekends. Eventually I did. Then I started in the antiques trade, which meant I was back to weekend working. Now, at the twilight end of my career, I’m back to working Saturdays.

I sit here typing and wondering how I have ended up working on Saturdays. I’m not stressed about it. In practice it makes little difference to my life, but I can’t help wondering what happened to my career trajectory and the successful life I had planned.

I can’t really complain as I have a roof over my head,  tolerant wife and food in the cupboards. It comes back to gratitude and knowing when you have enough. I touched on this yesterday, and today is another example. If I was living on a windy hillside in a plastic tent, and ten thousand refugees for neighbours,  my dripping gutter would seem like paradise.

I wonder why we can organise a war in Ukraine, but we can’t attain world peace. It’s easier, I suppose, to shoot someone than help them. You have to wonder whether an international cull of politicians would help bring about world peace, shooting them being easier than re-educating them.

By  5pm I am hoping to be in a more cheerful mood.

Me versus The Rest of the World

I had a letter this evening when I returned home – BT are reducing the level of service I get from my email (which has been getting worse and worse anyway, and if I want it restoring it will cost me £7.50 a month. Note the level – they are all trying to charge £7 a month or so for email, Prime and subscriptions to various sites. They work on the basis that it isn’t much and it’s a small enough sum not to think too much about. However, by the time you have three or four of them in force it starts to mount up. There are plenty of free email services still available, so I’ll leave before I’ll pay. This is particularly true as it’s been triggered by me changing from BT Broadband to BT Fibre Optic. They made me change and now they are making me suffer for it.  I didn’t want to change., it was forced on me. Now I have an ongoing dispute about the bill after they failed to organise the changeover as they promised, and a lesser email service. It’s becoming increasingly difficult not to swear.

The solicitor spent all day not addressing my queries. late on in the afternoon I had an answer fro one of my emails, which was just to repeat what he’d asked for before. That’s not really an answer, just an arrogant repetition of something I have questioned, as if I’m going to fall for the old repetition trick. I’m a parent, the pester factor hasn’t worked for years. He has one more chance to come through with an answer. After that I may send my first drafts instead of editing down to the polite bones.

The other email got no answer. They continue to breach their own data protection policy. Their problem, not mine.

It was not  good day. but even a bad day at work beats a day of unemployment.

Same Again – Confessions of a Procrastinator

Fresh from claiming that today was going to be different, I spent most of it in front of TV and ordered a McDonald’s delivery. I am hanging my head in shame as I type.

Well, not quite. Twenty four hours ago I was hanging my head as I typed. Now I am just typing, having slept in my chair, woken up and decided to go to bed.

This afternoon I had a text from the people who run the “app” that checks ID on the phone. I use quotes round the word app (if it deserves to be called a word) to show my disdain for the modern world.

In days past we “discovered” far off lands (much to the surprise of the people who were already there) using a compass and a sextant. We learnt how to fly and to dive to the bottom of the sea using spanners and a lack of fear. We even got to the moon with less computing power than the average teen uses in their mobile phone. But apparently we can’t catch a bus, order takeaway food or prove our identity without an app. And that, if you really want to know what I think, is what’s wrong with the world.

To sort out the ID problem I used email to ask the solicitor what was wrong with the ID details I have provided, and why they had allowed the people to contact me again after I instructed them to stop it.

While I was on email I noticed another email from the solicitors. This one tells me that I have ben spotted on a list of bankruptcies and they would lik to check it isn’t me. They are really trying hard to find fault, which, of course, they will do if they are being paid to do it. I don’t understand why they need to check this, as the money has already been paid. It clearly isn’t me. The man in question has two forenames and a double-barrelled, and lives several hundred miles away. But because we are both called Simon (a name that was in the top ten from 1955-75) and Wilson (the 7th or 9th most popular name in the country depending on who you believe) the solicitor obviously saw something else he could charge for.

It’s not too onerous to solve the problem, I just need to write a note and sign it – ‘The above entry does not relate to me, signed………..’

Well, if it’s that simple, how can you really call it  a security check? A more cynical man might be tempted to suggest it was just a way to inflate the bill.

If someone asks me at work  to find information on Thomas George Smith of Nottingham, they aren’t going to be impressed by my carefully researched life of Thomas Alfred Warren-Smith of Carlisle. And that is the extent of the match – a common first name and a common last name, three others that don’t match and two addresses 200 miles apart.

I am struggling not to be sarcastic.

Dull Day Blues

There are so many things I could write about, but somehow they all get crowded out of my head by the sight of a keyboard. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had an interesting life, but I don’t, and all my days seem to be much the same.

If the town was on fire and I needed to bury my cheese, or if my tailor was making me several new suits I could, I suppose, have a diary as interesting as that of Samuel Pepys. If I had a bicycle or a road full of ponies, I could be as . . .

. . . well, you’ve all been round WP, you tell me.

Other people also write interesting blogs, so don’t feel left out, it’s just that I identify with some more than others.

Today I will just settle for telling you about posting prohibited items to China. I’m not sure of the exact range, but here are a few examples – both of prohibited goods and the irony of some of the listings.

There are a number of sensible prohibitions in place – you aren’t, as far as I know, allowed to send radio-active material through the post to any country.  I also know that Bosnia Herzegovina specifically prohibits the sending of nuclear reactors through the post. I’d love to see the size of their envelopes.

Books . . .

For China, you cannot send “Articles infringing upon intellectual property rights; and counterfeit and shoddy products” which is ironic, considering the amount of copyright infringement, theft and counterfeit and shoddy goods which the Chinese are responsible for. Pot, kettle, black, as we say.

“Endangered wild animals as well as their products Such as ivory; tiger bone; rhinoceros horn and their products; etc” Enough said . . .

Then there are books. “Illegal publications; printed matters; audiovisual products and other propaganda materials Books; publications; pictures; photos; audiovisual products that contain reactionary contents; contents inciting nationality hatred; undermining state unity; destroying social stability and propagating evil cults and religious extremism; or obscene contents etc”.

This seems to include second hand reference books on coins. I know this because the courier we tried to employ to deliver two old coin books refuses to take any books at all to China. Fortunately, if you take out the reference to “coin books” and then write “coin catalogues” the automated booking form accepts it without a qualm.

I was enjoying the thought of being a dangerous reactionary intent on destroying state unity by sending two old coin books, but it seems I’m not that interesting. However, it does strike me (and I’m not advocating breaking any laws) that if you did want to send a nuclear reactor to Bosnia Herzegovina  you could probably do so if you change the customs declaration to “car parts”.

Stack of books burning

Spring is Here! Probably.

It’s been a bit cold today, which is the story of our spring – one false start after another. Despite everything, the blossom is out now. The sun made a bit of an effort today and the world looks like a sunny fairyland. Most of it, to be fair, happened on Sunday. The day may have been dreary but the blossom had an inexorable drive to open. This makes things easy – I can merely re-use pictures of blossom from previous years.

I sorted things out this morning, using my desk space at work. It’s small and cramped, but it’s larger and less chaotic than my home equivalent. I’m tempted to drop the solicitor a few lines af advice regarding the quality of their website, and the dreadful design of their forms but have noticed before that people don’t often appreciate my attempts to help.  Anyway, why give them something for free. When did you last hear of a solicitor doing something without expecting payment?

There are quizzes on TV tonight and I particularly like to see if I can beat the contestants on various things. I don’t understand all the questions on University Challenge, but I do like it when I can show my mastery of a subject compared to the gilded youth of the student body (though some are nearly as old as I am). They couldn’t, for instance, identify the voice of Elvis Costello last week, which was noted on Twitter by  number of people. It’s nice to feel superior.

On the other hand, when they ask questions on physics or enzymes I don’t actually understand the questions . . .

Blossom at Wilford