Author Archives: quercuscommunity

A Medal and a Brief History

I bought a small parcel of medallions from eBay earlier in the week. I really only wanted one of them, and I would have liked them to be cheaper, but the drive to collect is strong and I ended up buying them. One of the items was a white metal cross awarded for attendance by the Preston Church Day Schools Association. It’s pleasant enough, though not really something I collect. There are two notable features about it, the first being the mark on the reverse of the lower arm.

At first glance it looks like accidental damage. White metal is an alloy of lead or tin used for cheap souvenir medallions and such things and is easily damaged. However, a second look reveals that the damage seems to have been done with a tool – I suspect a small hacksaw. It’s what we call a test cut in the trade, a cut inflicted on an item to check if it is silver or not. There was no need to have done this, as it clearly isn’t silver, but some people just do it automatically. Whether this is a flaw, or whether it adds to the story is something you will have to make your own mind up about.


The other interesting feature is that it is name on the reverse – to Edward Valliant, who sounds like a character from Bunyan.

Due to the unusual name I can tell you that Edward Valiant was born and baptised in 1894 in the Parish of All Saints in Preston, the son of Richard and May Valiant of 46, Lady St. Richard was a Railway Porter. In 1911 there were three boys and two girls in the family and Edward was a cotton weaver. He appears, with a short break, to have worked in the cotton industry for a large part of his life (being listed as a cotton taper in 1939. At this time cotton was the major employer in Preston, and in much of Lancashire. His father was dead by 1911 and the head of the family was his mother, though his brother Thomas signed the Census form.

Edward served in the Loyal North Lancaster Regiment during 1916-18 and appears to have avoided injury in that time. He married in 1920 and 54 years later his wife, Lily, died. Edward followed her a year later. His address at the time was 219, Fletcher Road, the same as his 1939 address. It’s a two bedroomed terraced house, which is still standing. Lady Street, his previous address has been demolished and although All Saints Church survives, the area around it has been redeveloped.

Preston School Attendance Medal (Obverse)

He appears to have been slightly more fortunate than his brothers – Thomas had two children, was listed as “Incapacitated” in 1939 and died in 1949 at the age of 58. Stephen, also having two children, also lost two at an early age and died in 1953 at 60.

Sadly, though it’s possible to build a framework of the lives, it’s frustrating that this is all I can do from the records. I imagine he must have been generally happy as he stayed married for 54 years and never moved away from Preston, but I have nothing to back this up.

The Post That Never Was

Today’s post is going to be a politically scathing and hilarious look at modern life in the UK. Well, it was this morning when I composed it in my head as I drove to work. I seem to be able to relax and think in the car, which is quite an alarming thought when you think I am in charge of a ton and a half of metal powered by the equivalent of over 120 horses, all of which needs threading through a mass of vehicles driven by people paying even less attention than I do. I may have to reconsider my meditation routine.

Anyway, I won’t be writing that blog post. It’s partly because I’m trying not to do politics. And mainly because by the time I’d got to my computer (I email my notes to my home computer from the shop) I’d forgotten what I was going to write. I find I do that more and more often. I think my brains might have hit the point of no return. In terms of going over Niagara Falls in a barrel I’m at that teetering point just at then top, thinking of mortality and the long fall that is coming . . .

Meanwhile, today’s rant features charitable donations. I already give by standing order. I sometimes give a bit extra. I don’t mind the giving, what I mind is the way people like Amazon and eBay keep asking at check out time. If they want to support charity they can do it out of their massive tax-avoiding profits, not by ambushing me. And Clogau jewellery is even worse. I’ve ordered from them three times recently (I hve a lucky wife) and three times they have added £3.50 for a donation to a charity of their choice – twice for trees and once for something else I can’t remember. I always cancel the donation, but they shouldn’t have added it in the first place. It is very annoying as it makes me feel evil to cancel the donations. Anyway, I already give money to plant trees every year. End of rant.

Christmas is Coming and Scrooge is Moaning

A whole month has gone, and I didn’t make a single submission. I’m feeling lazy, but also thinking I made a good decision. I have a few things ready, but plenty of submission windows will be open in the next two months. I could send a submission to an editor who normally turns my submissions down, or I could send it to one where it stands a chance of being accepted. I know I really should keep trying, but it’s one of those cases where it feels good to take control. They say that people often cheer up once they make the decision to kill themselves, because they are back in control and, though this is not the same class of decision, it also feels good to take control of my own destiny.

It’s only a few months before that magazine will have another submission window, so I haven’t missed much. It’s just a pause before a greater effort.

The decluttering effort last night produced some result, though only a small one, but it did cheer me up. Tonight’s was not quite as useful, so I must ensure i get something done before it becomes just one more abortive start.

Snowman at Bakewell

Tonight I ordered Julia’s final present of the year, bought lottery tickets and ordered groceries online. Modern life has dragged me down so far that I actually see this as work.Sitting for an hour tapping keys on a keyboard is not work. I must repeat that a hundred times. However, as I know how to cut and paste it will not be the effort it used to be. A hundred modern lines are not the chore they were when I was eleven.

Tomorrow night ( which is actually tonight, as I slept through midnight in my chair) I will finalise the grocery shopping and plan the ordering of my pills for Christmas. The NHS is great for issuing free medication now I am over 60, but the Christmas Holidays is bound to to throw the system into chaos, as it often does. Unfortunately I need everything renewing around Christmas and I need to make sure I order them soon enough. I’ve been lucky the last few years, bit it can be a nightmare as you need to remember that if 24th and 25th fall at the weekend the Bank Holidays fall on the Monday and Tuesday of the following week, which then become non-working days for the purposes of ordering prescriptions.

This used to annoy me – fifty two weeks of the year I would work at the weekend, and through Bank Holidays as necessary, so that doctors and pharmacists and shop assistants could have eggs for breakfast 365 days of the year. Did they do the same for me?

Robin at Christmas

Did I ever tell you the story of what happened just before we changed the Sunday shop opening hours? I sat in a motorway service area and listened to a man lecturing his wife (and anyone within range of his loud and annoying voice) about how he wasn’t going to give up his Sundays, just because the government was going to allow supermarkets to open on Sundays. He seemed totally unaware of the irony of saying this on a Sunday, as people gave up their Sunday to provide him with fuel and food on his journey.

I have interspersed the unseasonal moaning with some jolly Christmas pictures.

Turkey. That’s it really . . .

My “Friends At WordPress” as they sign themselves, tell me that I can secure the use of my domain name for another year at the old rate if I act quickly. As it’s only two months since I last did it I have to decide whether the saving is worth paying 10 months in advance. I suspect not.

Today I start my clearance activities. I want to lift the burden of junk that lies heavy on my life. This feeling will last for a few minutes then gradually fade away. My ability to stick to plans has become much depleted over the years. I think about this immediately after the WordPress comment as the two organisations seem to have the same sort of ethic regarding pricing – “jack it up every year and sprinkle the announcement with bullshit”. Entry level is announcing that they will be introducing “new and improved” features, which usually means new features and a variety of teething troubles. Advanced level is not bothering to pretend you are introducing anything new – just put the price up and fail to fix the old faults.

Yes, I’m in one of those moods.

I went for a blood test today as the one from a fortnight ago had slightly missed target. Just like last time I had to sit in a waiting room whilst a maskless kid ran round the room spreading germs and a maskless parent ignored them in favour of their phone. Same nurse as last time, but this time she hit the vein and took the blood faultlessly, as she normally does. So at least something went right today.

We’ve just done a bit of shopping and bought a frozen turkey crown. We thought e’d get in before the panic buying started, as the press are stoking up a frenzy of hysteria about turkey being short for Christmas. I’m not really bothered, as I’d happily eat a boiled parsnip for Christmas dinner as long as we have stuffing. It’s the company and the tradition I like (including the 34-year-old Christmas Card) rather than the food. I like the food too, but it wouldn’t spoil Christmas if we didn’t have it.

Now I’m going to start clearing junk from the house. Later I will write about how successful I have been.

The Lack of a Hyphen Makes my Day Duller

I got Julia to work this morning around 8.30, and waited patiently as someone backed out of a parking space in a leisurely manner. He made a mess of it, but when I was able to see the driver I could tell why – he had a peeled banana in his hand and it was clearly slowing him down. After dropping her off I was able to join a queue behind the banana eater and wait patiently behind him at two more junctions, as he appeared to stop and reflect on his life before each manoeuvre. Not the best start to the day, but far from the worst. That belonged to a man who was in a collision on the ring road just before I turned off to the shop. He had been hit from behind, his rear offside wing was chewed up and the rear window of his van had disintegrated. That’s far worse than being delayed by a man eating fruit.

Having said that, the addition of a hyphen could have made my day a lot more interesting. being held up by a man-eating fruit really would have been worth blogging about.

The rest of the day wasn’t even as interesting as the dull version of my day. We did the parcels, put a few things on eBay and I went home for a night of quiz shows, where I didn’t do very well.

Last night was slightly more exciting. After several months of putting it off I finally started injecting myself with adalimumab. Who comes up with these drug names? It’s another immunosuppressant to deal with my arthritis, and has, I’m told, side effects like cancer, heart failure and liver failure. And, in the middle of Covid, it can also mean that I become ill a lot more. Just what you need, isn’t it? I had a telephone consultation today and the rheumatologist was keen to check I had had my winter flu and Covid vaccinations. It’s a shame they can’t prescribe isolation – I’d happily spend the next three months avoiding human contact as long as I was paid. I doubt that will happen.

I used to inject myself with an anti-coagulant at one time. It was just for a few months after coming out of hospital, and it was done using small, pre-prepared syringes with fine needles and a plunger you pressed yourself. I’m a bit of a coward but I made myself do it and it all went OK.

The injectors for the new stuff are about twice the size and much less pleasant. You don’t put it on the injection site then complete the job with gentle finger pressure. You press firmly, release a spring loaded plunger, and feel your eyes bulge as a spring-loaded needle (which feels about the size of a hosepipe) stabs you violently and spends two seconds pumping the stuff in before clicking a second time to signify it is complete. Self-injection with the anti-coagulant was like the gentle caress of reading a Shakespearean Sonnet on a summer’s day whilst sipping elderflower cordial. Self-injection with adalimumab is like being beaten over the head with the screenplay of Terminator on a  wet Thursday evening in Hartlepool.  Fortunately I only have to do it once a fortnight, so I have another thirteen days before I need to do it again. Not that I’m counting, or anything.


Bears and Bikes and Bloggers

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what makes a good blog, I have about eight regular followers/commenters. This is down from the dozen I used to claim, because I am getting steadily more boring and less active. If I knew what made a good blog I would have done it, and possibly increased this number to twenty. It’s also well down on the 2,505 followers that WP claims I have. It would be more but I cleared a couple of thousand out a few years ago when it became clear that “followers” in WP are much the same as “friends” in Facebook. It provides a very shallow view of the world if you think a friend is gained by the pressing of a couple of buttons.

Bear in the Garden

When I started blogging I really wanted to reach out to thousands of people. This was partly because I wanted to publicise the Quercus group, and partly because I was vain. I’m still vain, but the thousands of followers don’t seem to have materialised.

The bears in the title are provided by Paolsoren, and the bikes by Tootlepedal. For details of an old codger’s evening meals (he had gala pie last night!) I have Derrick J Knight, for gardening and weaving I have Helen and for the secret life of a writer I have Laurie. I get my politics (in reasonably palatable doses) and embroidery from Billy Mann and my look at sophisticated life in a  big city from LA. Finally, for cats and music in Oregon, we have Lavinia, who is still around despite the alarming content of her last post.

A Bear of Very Little Brain

There are others too, now that I have finished the list and added links I realise how far from Finished the list really is. However, adding the links, which involves reading blogs (which I have been bad at recently) has taken enough time already, so I will have to post and run. Julia requires me to actually do something – she doesn’t believe that blogging is doing something.

The blogs I’ve mentioned are all good blogs, and allow me to sneak around peering into the lives of others, but none of them are “good” in the sense that they are really followed by huge numbers of people. You have to talk about handbags or getting rich quick or photograph yourself in underwear to make it big on the internet. Even though I am trying to resist it, a picture of my thirty year-old thermal long johns is coming to mind. Yes, definitely time to go.

Straw Bale Bowie Bear

A Perplexing Proliferation of Popular Political Parties

The football rumbles on. I tend to ignore most of it, but note that wales didn’t do quite as well as their hype suggested, and England, as usual, have made things a little more difficult for themselves. If Wales beat us by 4 goals when we play on Tuesday. It’s unlikely that Wales will beat us by 4 goals, but in football you never know . . .

Meanwhile, the Arab world seems to be getting a little fed up (though I base this on reading reports of reports) with being lectured on how to conduct themselves. Looks like I was very timely in my discussion of such things.

I’m actually quite irritated this week, because I’ve been drawn into discussing sport and politics. There ahs been so much nonsense hanging round the subject I couldn’t stop myself saying something, despite the fact we already have too many people offering opinions. Just because I am irritated by something doesn’t men I have anything to offer. That’s why I tend to stay away from serious subjects. Bloggers should stick to subjects like baking, bicycling and bears and leave politics to the lesser writers.

Which brings us to American Politics. I hear that Kanye West is running for President. I know very little about him but won’t rule anything out after watching events of previous years. I have just been looking at the list of American political parties. I honestly thought you only had two, with the occasional egomaniac standing as a independent. I now find there are actually loads, but they never get on the news.

US Taxpayers Party, People Over Politics Party, Independent Conservative Democratic Party, Green Party, Independence Party, Veterans Party of America Party, American Independent Conservative Party, Conservative Party, Libertarian Party, Peace and Freedom Party, American Independent Party, American People’s Freedom Party, Concerned Citizens Party of Connecticut, Moderate Party, Independent American Party, Resource Party, New Alliance Party.

Forgive me if I say that I am put in mind of the People’s Front of Judea sketch.

However, if you look at a list of British parties we have 11 parties represented in the House of Commons with four in other UK legislatures and another 124 represented in local government, including Tunbridge Wells Alliance, Poole Local Group and Poole People Party. Could you make it up? Probably, but I didn’t need to, I just needed Wikipedia and an enquiring mind.

Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I have noticed that there is room for People’s Poole Party, and I may be just the charismatic leader they are looking for . . .

The header picture is a metaphor, with pigs and snouts and troughs, though it does seem unfair to the pigs. The lower picture shows wasps. I like wasps and lured them to the table (in August 2015, which now seems a long time ago) by smearing jam on the table.


And in answer to the question I am sure is in your minds, yes, I could have worked People and Poole into the title, but it seemed a bit long.






The Day Continues

The cauliflower soup was, even though I say it myself, very good. As I mentioned to Julia (who was also looking very good after her visit to the hairdresser), if it had a fault, it was a tendency to sit like a small pile in the spoon. Soup, I feel, should sit in the spoon like liquid rather than bulge over the top. It’s a consistent fault with my soup that it resembles a puree rather than a soup, but one I almost conquered this week. It will be more watery tomorrow, as I dilute it, and will also have cheese in it. I decided the soup would overpower the cheese available today, so didn’t add it.

Apart from the thick soup, there were no problems with the day. If I were looking for a perfect day I would like to ditch the ad-blocker. It is nothing like as bad as the ads it blocks, but is still quite intrusive. I assume this is deliberate because it is accompanied by offers of massive savings if I pay to use their premium level software.

I may be stupid enough to get myself infected by annoying adverts, but I’m not stupid enough to believe that they will do me a special deal at £19.99 a year if they consider it really is worth £109 a year.

Apart from that, not much has happened. More people are going on strike. Some football has been played and the world keeps turning. It’s going to rain tomorrow. I expect there will be more strikes threatened, more football played and a continuing rotation. It’s not just my life that is dull and predictable . . .

Peacock on the roof

Today I decided to use peacock photos.

A Day of Good Intentions

I’m going to have to abandon the ideal of daily posting for a while, as I seem to consistently be a day out.  So from now on I will post when I can, allowing for my hibernation schedule.

This morning we have a day off and I am making cauliflower soup. Julia found a big back of frozen cauliflower florets in the freezer when she tidied at the weekend. It is bet before 2023 but it is full of ice, so I decided to use it for soup as I can’t see it looking too good as a vegetable. I suspect that the ice will melt and make it soggy. I’m roasting it for added flavour at the moment and will make it into soup in my standard way before dropping in the dregs of the Stilton from the fridge. It’s about time to make a trip to Long Clawson to buy a Christmas Stilton. We haven’t done that for a few years, as Covid dimmed my enthusiasm for shopping.

It’s probably time for some Christmas plans now. This include buying more ASDA Sloe Gin Mince Pies. Of all the ones we have “tested” so far they are by far the best and, being on special offer, the best value. They are currently £3.50 for two packs, which is reasonable value, and better than noted on that ebsite.

I am also making vegetable stew for tomorrow and preparing the vegetables to roast with tonight’s meal. I’m not quite sure what it is going to be, but it will have roasted vegetables with it.

I find that if I get right into it, I can get stuff done, but if I have a leisurely start the day quickly stalls and i get nothing done.

So, with the smell of warm cauliflower drifting from the kitchen I am going to rough out three poems that are in my head and then get on with more cooking. With luck I will post again tonight so I can morally claim to be up to date.

The Promised Part 2

England just beat Iran 6-2 in the football. One of the big questions is what were the defence doing. England v Iran is a bit like me versus a plate of sandwiches. There is really only going to be one outcome (though I would have said that about Iceland at one time). However, it’s not the biggest question, is it? The biggest question is why, after excusing ourselves for playing in Qatar, with all it’s perceived faults, are we playing Iran. They currently have two women awaiting execution for supporting LGBT people and for attempting to help them escape from Iran. Not for being gay, but merely for supporting people who are. We banned Russia from various sports for state-sponsored doping and for invading Ukraine, but we are happy play a country that kills people for supporting the human rights of others.

But don’t worry, our fearless moral crusaders of the England team are going to show their disapproval of the way LGBT people are treated by having the captain wear a special armband. That’ll show them!

Oh, wait, no, it seems FIFA have issued instructions that the captains will be booked if they wear the armband. So that plan has collapsed.

This wasn’t what I’d planned for Part 2, so I’ll now move on to discuss whether we are right to tell other countries how to live.

The question is, what right do we have to lecture other countries on the way they run things, and does it make any difference? Qatar doesn’t tell me I can’t drink in public in the UK, or anything else. Is it right that I should have views on how they conduct themselves at home? Having walked through the streets of Nottingham a few times at night, I’d be happy to ban drinking in public. We can drink in a pub in the UK at the age of 18. The minimum drinking age in the USA is 21 (with minor exceptions in a few states according to Wikipedia). Will we be lobbying the USA to change the drinking laws for football fans?

Interestingly, according to Human Rights Watch, Afghanistan’s marriage laws protect children better than the equivalent laws in America. And recent changes to abortion laws in USA mean many states operate a policy people in the UK would be unhappy with. Will we be raising these issues with the US before the World Cup? I sincerely doubt it. There’s a tendency in the Western world to let other Western countries run themselves as their citizens want. But if you are outside the club we are liable to tell you how you should behave. Unless you have something we want.

It’s a bit like South Africa’s apartheid system when the Chinese were considered “non-White” but  the Japanese, Taiwanese and citizens of Hong Kong were all considered “honorary white”, as were West Indian cricketers and Maori New Zealanders when on sports tours.

And there we are – back to politics and sport. Do they mix? Should we lecture other countries on how to live their lives? (And don’t feel singled out if you live in the USA, it’s just that you are one of the hosts of the next FIFA World Cup and I know a bit more about you than I do about Canada and Mexico).

Whooper Swans on farmland near Frampton Marsh

More swan photos. Tomorrow I will stop being serious and go back to moaning about trivia.