Monthly Archives: November 2023

Cold but Interesting

This morning, after a very cold typing session last night, I decided to start my post when I arrived at work. It didn’t happen, because I found things to do and my attention drifted. I was about to start again while the owner was across at the Post Office, but that didn’t work because a coin collection came int the shop. It was accompanied by an ex-coin collector, just in case you were worrying about what it was doing out on its own, and I ended up looking through that instead of writing. Can’t complain, however, as it is what I’m paid for.

I’m now taking advantage of a lull to write again, and can’t think of much to say.

We have bought two coin collections today, and sold a total 15 items to nine people. Two of the items were books. Two were Roman coins. One was a very nice Victorian medallion. One was a Saxon penny. In terms of quality Numismatics, that’s more than we normally sell in an average week. The rest of the stuff was modern, though there were a couple of highly priced bits. If they are expensive I can forgive them being modern.

Hedd Wynn – forgotten war poet. You really needed to be English and posh to be remembered.

One of the modern bits was an Isle of Man Christmas 50p depicting T E Brown. Who? I hear you say. T E Brown, the Manx National Poet. I’ll forgive a coin many things if it depicts a poet. I can only think of one other, which I have used before – the £5 Fern Hill Dylan Thomas coin. The one that makes him look like  popeyed lunatic. I’ve just searched for it, but can’t find it. A quick Google search reveals that we have had a coin to commemorate Robert Burns and another to commemorate the end of the Great War which featured lines from Wilfred Owen. There’s also  5 ounce silver coin using lines from Rupert Brooke, but if it’s five ounces of silver I don’t count it as a coin. And I’m not keen on Brooke either.

Finally, there has been a drastic thinning of celebrities today. The first was Alastair Darling, Gordon Brown’s Chancellor – someone told me about him this afternoon. 70. Cancer. It’s no age.  Then Shane McGowan from The Pogues. He was 65 and I’m surprised he lasted that long. Finally, Henry Kissinger has died at 100. I’m sure it’s a matter of great sadness to his family, but 100 doesn’t seem too bad.

It’s a bit like the day Kennedy died. Nobody remembers that C S Lewis and Aldous Huxley died on the same day. I wonder who will be most remembered for dying in this group? Clearly Kissinger was most famous, but my money is on McGowan. Politics will take you so far, but music really lasts.

So does poetry – hence the pictures today.


Vaccination and Internet Shopping

It was a reasonable day at the shop and Julia arrived around 3pm with a box of mince pies. We had already had date and banana cake provided by the owner’s wife, so it was a Great Cake Day.

We closed early and consequently turned up for our vaccinations 45 minutes before the appointment time. They agreed to do us early and we were duly seen and punctured. We waited a few minutes, felt fine and set off for the next appointment, which was Julia’s meeting. Because we were early we found it easier to travel and, as my memory of side streets returned, I ws able to slip through town, drop Julia off and get home without too much queuing.

Heron at Arnot Hill Park

She eventually returned to find me snoring in a chair. And they say romance is dead . . .

I just amended the Friday shopping order. It seemed wrong in several ways – things missing that I was sure I had ordered and things on the list I thought I’d decided not to order. I thought it must be a case of sloppy button pushing, but when I went to check out it turns out that I’d been amending the 23rd December order, not the 1st December order. This is irksome but a very 1st World problem. I have plenty of time to do the Christmas order.

Wooden man at Arnot Hill Park, Arnold

What does worry me is that the two orders were so similar that I didn’t notice I was in the wrong one. They do say that shopping online makes you order a much narrower range of items, which is a bad thing as you need variety. It’s a problem I will have to address in future orders.

That is enough for now – time for a cup of tea, a bit of TV and an early night with a hot water bottle. I put the cover on my windscreen so am feeling a little smug regarding the issue of frost tonight.

Heron woodcarving – Arnot Hill Park

Things Not to Talk About

I haven’t got a clue what I’m going to write about. There is so much to discuss but by the time I’ve filtered out the politics and the stories that are not mine to tell there is less to say. When I also remove the subjects I’ve already done to death I’m left with very little to work with.

It’s COVID vaccination day tomorrow. Because I’m working it’s less convenient than normal, though it has to be said that all the COVID vaccination venues are less convenient than they have been. It’s mostly pharmacies now, but unfortunately my local one doesn’t do it.

Greylag Goose Arnot Hill Park Arnold

Julia will be coming to the shop and we are going together. I’m then running her into town as she has a meeting to go to. There may be no rest for the wicked, but there’s not much for people who volunteer either. She is in the process of stepping down as Chair, as we prepare for moving house.

There was something at the back of my mind, but I can’t think what it was. This used to be a sign that it wasn’t important, but now it’s a sign that I have a bad memory.  I just remembered what it was . . .

Red Crested Pochard – Arnot Hill

The Elgin Marbles are back in the news. It’s a story that has run all my life and one that gets new life breathed into it every time the Greek Government needs to divert attention from something. I’m going to mention it so the fictional future PhD student who uses my blog for historical research will have something to write about. I will also mention the Falkland Islands and the new Argentinian Government, because that falls into the same category.

I’m developing a though. Why, instead of keeping all his stuff that people want, don’t we just give it all back, but insist hey take he rest of the country too. That way, all the people who complain about he way our government runs hings, can see how another government would do it better. Apart from sunshine I don’t thing either of them has much to offer, and they don’t actually own the sunshine.

Pochard – Arnot Hill

Incidentally, on the news this morning it announced that in many parts of Europe (Norway, Svalbard etc) the sun has gone down for the winter. Svalbard won’t see the sun again until February.

A Bad Start, but it Improved

Moorhen at Arnot Hill Park

Today started badly. I woke up, noted the degree of daylight coming through the curtains and checked that Julia had already got up. I was just deciding to turn over and snooze until the alarm went (which I estimated would be quite soon), when Julia shouted up and asked if I was getting up. It seems, after I looked at the clock, that I had set the alarm for the wrong time and should have been up ten minutes ago. It’s not a good start to the day.

Then I realised, as I set off, that I had forgotten my glasses. Fortunately I have spare pairs. My arms have been getting shorter over the years and I can no longer hold things far enough away from my face to let my eyes focus. It’s very annoying, as nobody warned me about this. I’d have carried weights around if I’d known I would need to stop my arms shrinking.

Arnot Hill Park, Arnold, Nottingham

I arrived at work, trying to act as if I was bright and early, switched everything on and started getting the things together for parcels. The spare glasses I keep on my desk have tortoiseshell frames and seem very bright after wearing black frames. The first twenty minutes felt like I was staring through a luminous orange porthole. Fortunately my eyes soon adjusted.

Last night I had a problem with my injector pen. I couldn’t get the plunger to click and release the needle, which was a bit annoying.  This was multiplied by the feeling that it was caused by the abundant nature of the fat pad I was trying to inject into. The trick, for those of you who don’t know, is to pinch some abdominal fat and inject into that instead of the abdominal muscles. It’s much easier with the needles that you press yourself because they don’t need much pressure. However, they don’t seem to do the arthritis drugs in that form – they come in a massive spring-loaded contraption that has to be pressed firmly against the injection site. When you press hard enough the plunger trips the release and what feels like a massive needle is driven into your flesh. It’s actually quite a fine needle, it’s just the strength of the spring that makes it feel so bad.

Arnot Hill Park, Arnold, Nottingham

In fact, after I failed to trip the spring, i pressed it against a piece of plastic to see if it was working. It was. It narrowly missed my finger and I sprayed immunosuppressant all over my hand. I also ascertained, to my surprise, that it is a very fine needle.

The rest of the day, I’m glad to report, was better than the start. We made last night’s stew into soup and had it with crisps and a pasty whilst watching quizzes on TV. I am better than some of the Mastermind contestants on general knowledge (though I am sitting comfortably at home), got a few of the links on Only Connect (though some were childishly easy tonight) and then entered the world of University Challenge. I still think the team members are part of some freakish experiment, but I did manage to get a few right, including one or two that they got wrong. However, many of the questions went right over my head, because the world of University Challenge is very different from the one which I inhabit.


That’s it for now. I will post some photographs, do a bit of reading, attempt to write a few tanka and then go to bed.


Sunday Morning Turns to Night


The Helmet Byron wore when liberating Greece. The legend is, I believe, bigger than the truth.

I would say “it’s early on Sunday morning” but it isn’t. It’s almost ten. Julia has heaped up the bedding to for a bulwark against the cold and is refusing to move and I have been pottering instead of doing anything useful. Let’s face it, I always potter or procrastinate or, possibly, putter. I had to use a Thesaurus for that last one as my supply of P words proved to be inadequate for the task in hand. I’ve also been Googling Australian writers in WW1 after a comment from Paolsoren. I actually know more about American writers in WW1 than I do about Australian ones, and that isn’t much.

I know that e e cummings and Hemingway served as ambulance drivers, that Alan Seeger served in the French Foreign Legion, Joyce Kilmer wrote a poem about a tree, and was a man, despite the name, and nothing much else.

And that, on a cold Sunday morning, is where I have ground to a halt. With little more than 150 words done from my modest target of 250 written, I have run out of things to say.

Time, I think, to make bacon cobs for breakfast. If bacon doesn’t do the trick I may have to admit that my brain has closed for winter. Talking of that, I am reminded that I have quite a few submissions to do in December. That’s always good for a few hundred words as, despite the evidence, I always worry that I might not be able to think of anything to write this time.

Water feature at Newstead Abbey.

But first, bacon . . .

And so the day passed . . .

Eventually, having put the vegetable stew on to cook, I have made it back to the keyboard. Quiz shows have come and gone, a second-rate film with Dick van Dyke and family has passed, time has flowed, or ebbed, depending on where you are standing and, as far as I know mighty empires have crumbled and fallen, though I suspect they might have announced it on TV if that had happened.

And then, bit by bit, I watch TV and make sandwiches for tomorrow and  waste time in a dozen different ways until it is time to finish this off and go to bed. And so a day that seemed to have so many possibilities has been frittered once again.

Picture from behind the waterfall at Newstead Abbey.

Pictures are from Julia’s visit to Narnia/Newstead Abbey yesterday.

Two Women and a Wardrobe

I was home just after 1.00, did a couple of tasks off my list, had a badly timed meal (KFC delivered at 4pm), chatted with Julia and my sister, watched Strictly Come Dancing, napped in front of fire/TV and finally decided it was time to type. Julia and my sister have been to Narnia. Or, Newstead Abbey, if you want to be accurate, the home of Lord Byron. However, while they were there, they walked into a wardrobe . . .

I had the KFC with the Christmas trimmings, including the stuffing. I should stop watching their adverts.

A Woman with a lantern and a pair of Wardrobe doors. It’s neither CGI nor Rocket Science, but I’m told it’s very good.

Yes, it’s Christmas. They also walked round a sparsely attended craft fair and a closed Delicatessen. It shut at 3pm, which is a strange time for a shop that wants to make a living. Even we don’t shut until 3.30. Apart from today. We shut at 1.00 today so the other two could go to the Banknote Society meeting. However, we are a Collectors’ Shop and they always work short hours.

The White Witch

Mr Tumnus on Lantern Waste

Another lantern

Like so many writers of his generation, Lewis served on the Western Front, where he found considerable material for his battle scenes (as did Tolkien). He was wounded in 1918 when a British shell fell short of its target. After war service, Tolkien wrote great epics with huge battle scenes, Lewis also wrote of battle. A A Milne, who also served on the Western Front, made his contribution with some small books about a group of toys, including a bear of very little brain. It’s strange how people interpret things.

Both Tolkien and Milne were sent home after bouts of Trench Fever. The article on the link says Lewis had it too, but I’m not sure if this is the case. The major event in his military career was that he was nearly killed by a British shell. However, it does link back to Byron, who famously died of fever whilst fighting for Greek Independence.

It is easy to forget that in the days before antibiotics many casualties in wartime were actually caused by disease rather than battle. That’s one of the reasons that if I ever get a chance to have a shot at time travel I’m going to confine myself to trips that take place after the invention of antibiotics.  When I was young and healthy I never sought to restrict my time travel ambitions. As I got older I started to define my time travel plans by considering the availability of anaesthetics. Now I’m  old and unhealthy I will stick to the 1950s.

Mr and Mrs Beaver.

Byron, but I expect you knew that.

Cold Night, and Cake

It’s 4.30, it’s cold and I am too tight to put the heating on. So I’m going to write 250 words as quickly as I can and withdraw to the living room. I don’t mind putting the fire on in the living room because we will both be there most of the evening, which seems a much better use of the heating.

I have been looking at my submissions. There have been none in November. To be fair there wasn’t really anywhere to submit to and I did have two weeks where I was devoting most of my time to thoughts of my internal workings after my unexpected trip to hospital.

That’s where my plan ground to a halt, as Julia needed to go to the shop and I thought it was cold and dark and not the sort of night for her to be out shopping. So I drove her down to the shop. 

I’m back at the keyboard now, still cold, and still trying to write as quickly as I can. As a result of our trip to the shop we now have cake, so the kettle is one and I really want to get done as quickly as possible so I can pay proper attention to the comestibles.

So, there I am – I have done no writing in November.  I also found, when looking at the list of submissions for December, that two of them are in the wrong month – they should be in January.  I really do need to get organised.

Whilst I was in the car park I rang Julia to tell her where I was parked. The phone wouldn’t ring out. I tried my sister to see if it was just a fault with ringing Julia, but it wouldn’t ring her either. Then I tried to text. That wasn’t working either, but it did advise me there was a problem and I should insert a SIM.  This was annoying, as there is a SIM in the phone. It won’t come out until I am eventually forced to change my phone again, or until the kids sell all my possessions on eBay after the funeral.

However, as proof that I can cope with modern technology if forced, I switched it off and I switched it one again.

It worked.

Bloody useless pile of garbage. How is this an advance on my 100% dependable old Nokia? I used to empty the soil out a couple of times year, drop it regularly and never had a moments grief from it. Phones should be better now, not worse.

Night falls . . . well, to be accurate, night fell, as the photo is about 5 years old.

A Commotion in the Driveway

I think Julia just arrived home. Either that or there is a massive urban fox wrestling with the wheelie bin in the driveway. I do hope it’s Julia, as I’m not sure I can cope with a massive fox.

I suppose that’s why the British are slowly declining. It isn’t the soft living caused by central heating or the constant drip of criticism by academics blaming us for an Evil Empire, it’s the lack of challenging wildlife. We’d have to up our game if there was a chance of a snake or a bear in the driveway. When Tim found the beehives on the farm had been raided by a woodpecker over winter, that was as bad as beekeeping in England got. It’s a lot less fraught than beekeeping in America.

It’s also less of a problem running a cafe in UK than in Canada. We have a few health regulations, but there’s a lot more to think about in other places. I’ve just been reading about how to run a restaurant in Whistler BC. There are parts of their staff training that I never had to do on the farm. You don’t , for instance, have to worry about blocking the exit route of a mouse, which was the biggest thing I had a problem with.

It was Julia. She just came in and muttered. Now she has disappeared to do something mysterious in the house, which will probably involve moving something of mine so I can’t find it. I’m not sure which is worse, the muttering or the random moving of things that were perfectly fine where I put them.

My sort of bear

Thoughts . . .

We had several part bags of oven chips in the freezer. They are now in the oven cooking. We don’t buy them often, we just seem to use 90% of a bag and leave the others in a frozen corner. We also have four onion rings heating up with them. Because there are too many of them to fit in the tray properly it is proving to be a difficult job to get them cooked properly. When piled up, they steam rather than roasting. I know this from making roasted vegetables. At the moment I am writing this post and hoping that the time it takes will be enough for the chips to turn golden. They can be quite off-putting when they remain white.

White is the colour of things that you find under stones or the bellies of dead fish as they float past in a river . . .

Or maybe that’s just my imagination working overtime.

Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park

Crepuscular rays at Rufford Park

White, despite the way the label has been used over the years, is not an accurate description of me. I’m slightly pink and, in winter, a bit greyish too. Sometime in summer I go red in places and may even take on a very light tan colour. The sun and I are not a great team. I have light brown freckles, or had them. They may be age spots by now, after stealthily changing without me noticing. There are a few spots of me where I have burned or cut myself, and they re white, but they are very small, and you wouldn’t notice them most of the time.

It’s a strange thing to muse on, but what else do you do when you have twenty minutes to kill and a blog to write.

If I were a deeper man I would go on to explore ethnicity and racism. But I’m not. The only ethnicity I seem to have, due to the ginger beard and mousy hair, is Viking ancestry and, after reading about Vikings recently I now know that they are the cause of much toxic masculinity,  imperialism and Fascism. Being both English and Viking I have much, it seems,  to answer for in historical terms.

And with that in mind, I had better get to the kitchen before I imitate King Alfred the Great and burn the chips.

Dunwich Beach

A Nice Young Man Rings the Shop . . .

Yesterday I upset a nice polite man who rang up to help me with my computer security. It seems my computer has been sending messages about errors to Microsoft and they rang me to help, as it seems a criminal gang were trying to gain control of the computer. This is obviously quite serious so when he offered his help, bearing in mind that Microsoft is a very reliable company, I was glad to accept it. First he asked me to switch on my computer, which was easy because it was already on.

Then he told me he would need to take control of my computer in order to perform his security checks.

“What, ” he asked, “do you have on your screen at the moment?”

“I’m not telling you.” I said.

“What you say?”

“I said I’m not going to tell you.”

At that point he switched from affability into abuse and slammed the phone down.

I really think Microsoft should review their recruiting procedures. That’s not the sort of thing you expect from them.

What? You don’t think it was a real Microsoft employee? You think someone may have rung up and lied to me? That’s disappointing, he seemed like such a nice young man. It would, however, account for his annoyance at wasting so much time on someone who refused to cooperate.

It just shows that you can never tell who is on the other end of the phone. Still, it helped pass a few minutes in an otherwise boring day and it was nice to think that I’d been able, by the magic of technology, to irritate someone from thousands of miles away.

I think next time I get a call like that I may well try a bit more acting, such as pretending that my computer is being slow to start up. It should help raise the caller’s hopes, as they begin to think they have rung a confused old man. Not only will it waste more time, but the irritation level will a little more elevated when I eventually spring the trap.

The pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the post. In fact, as I write, I have no clue what pictures I will use.

Squirrel on bird table (and fly on squirrel)