Author Archives: quercuscommunity

Sundays and Self-Improvement

I’m currently reading yet another self-improvement book. I can’t recommend it as I’m currently wondering whether to carry on reading it, and one of the few things that I have learned from it is that extremely successful people say “no” more often than people who are merely ordinarily successful.

So I’m close to saying “no”, I won’t waste more of my life on this book. It’s strident in tone, doesn’t really explain the concept of being extreme and isn’t giving much in the way of insight.

Fortunately, being a Kindle book, it was cheap, it hasn’t killed a tree and nobody else will have to suffer as I can’t pass it on.

It’s even worse than the last one. I decided I would benefit from a book on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. So far, I haven’t. I kept falling asleep when I read it. This probably isn’t the fault of the book as I have a habit of buying psychology books despite knowing that they have a soporific effect on me. I’m going to persist with this one as I think it has something for me.

I can finish most books, including the one about eating frogs. It isn’t really about eating frogs, but it does offer an extended, and overdone, metaphor. It was irritating but useful.

For some reason the writers of self-improvement books really have it in for frogs, as do Victorian scientists.

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a radio programme on self-improvement and research suggested that by the end of a self-improvement book you feel worse about yourself for failing to be the person the book implies you should be.

The strident book mentioned in the opening paragraph is a bit like that, and tells you that you should write all your failures in a journal as this helps you get over them. I’m currently failing to make the change from self-employment to employment, and did wonder, momentarily, whether to write it all down. I’m not sure, but if I do you will be the first to know.

The picture shows a cream tea that came off second best when it went head to head with me on Wednesday. It wasn’t the greatest cream tea, but it does have a link to self-improvement and failure in that one of my long-standing self-improvement targets is to lose weight.

That cackling sound you hear is 2,000 calories laughing ironically.

And that concludes my thoughts for Sunday morning.

Fun with Stamps

We get offered a lot of stamps in the shop, and turn most of them down. The stamp market is such that there is no real call for First Day Covers, schoolboy collections or, indeed, most stamps we are offered. We even turned away a Penny Black the other day. As you can see from the link – they printed 68,808,000 of them and many used examples were saved. They were hand cut from unperforated sheets and only ones that have been well cut, with four even margins, are really worth anything. They frequently sell for under £30 on eBay, with several under £20. It’s not much for a cultural icon. (On the other hand, Stanley Gibbons have a nice one for sale at £250,000. Well, I assume it’s nice for quarter of a million.)

The ones we buy are the Presentation Packs. We then break them up and use them on parcels. As long as they are priced in decimal currency you can still use them. You can even use the ones priced in 1/2p denominations even though we stopped using the 1/2p coin in 1984.

It can take a while sorting all these stamps and working out the postage, as you can see from the accompanying pictures. It’s good for your mental arithmetic, if nothing else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bluebells and Winnie the Pooh

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very orange stamp

The first perforated stamps were Penny Reds. They were originally issued to replace Penny Blacks in 1841, and continued until 1879. In the beginning they needed cutting like the Penny Black but in 1854 they were issued perforated for ease of use.

1854 – we couldn’t run an efficient army nursing service but we could perforate stamps…

The day I nearly got political

On Wednesday I was out and about when I spotted a distant turkey in a cage. This struck me as symbolic. An American icon and a cage, I thought. Then I thought: It’s a good thing I’m not political or I might ruffle a few feathers with some comments on symbols and cages.

Well, to be honest I only just thought the feathers thing but it makes me look more witty if I pretend I thought of it at the time.

Of course, now that the children have been released from their cages, it’s no longer symbolic.

I’m hoping that their release from cages will be easier than the experience of Ezra Pound after he was kept in a cage for six weeks.

I cannot, however, help wondering about an alternative history where the Native Americans didn’t share their food with the undocumented aliens also known as Pilgrims.

 

We will never know.

Thoughts from a Fried Chicken Shop

KFC Mapperley Nottingham

KFC Mapperley Nottingham

Julia had an appointment for lunch with some of her colleagues from work yesterday. She has more friends than I do, and no shortage of invitations. As a consequence I found myself in a familiar situation – dining alone at a fast food outlet. Fortunately I like my own company. and I like fast food. The choice was KFC.

My first thought on arriving was “Where are all the people?”. I know KFC suffered from bad press recently with their supply chain debacle, but I had thought there would be more than three people in there at 1.30pm. That number was reduced to two when one of us left with his food to eat it elsewhere.

My second thought was that I was surprised by the average age of the clentele. I always think of fried chicken being food for young people. Bearing in mind that I’m 60, and that I’m not wanting to be ungallant about the lady who was the other customer, I reckon that our average age was about 70. This did fall when a couple of youths came in, but not as far as the drop in the average IQ.

This brought me on to thought three – why do white youths adopt the lisping patois they seem to associate with black youth in the ghetto? Or should that be “lithping patois”. It completely seems to escape them that we don’t have ghettos in Nottingham, and that there’s a distinct lack of rap music. I’m not sure whether it’s a case of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery or some sort of condescending cultural appropriation.

Anyway, back to a thought with less potential for argument. Would it be possible to develop a vaccine, or maybe a yoghurt drink, to increase IQ?

Talking of dodgy liquids, I had the gravy. It isn’t really gravy, and Colonel Sanders once referred to it as  “sludge” that had a “wall-paper taste”. That was while he was acting as a brand ambassador for the company after selling it. His idea of an ambassador seems slightly at odds with mine. The company felt this too and sued him. They were unsuccessful, indicating that judicial opinion was on the Colonel’s side.

It’s better than that now, though I do think it’s been better in the past. This isn’t unusual, I tend to think everything was better in the past.

The final thought, as I stared across the road, was that 20 years ago Collectors Corner was still in business and there were none of those shops about that bought old clothes by weight. This is progress.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A closed collectors’ shop – the very definition of sadness

And on that note I think it’s time to go.

 

As I stood in the shop one day

Yesterday afternoon the sound of “Greensleeves” drifted through the open door of the shop. It wasn’t the instrumental version, with its memories of school music lessons and a youthful Henry VIII, but the tinny ice cream van version. According to the Wikipedia entry for Greensleeves, it’s probably not by Henry VIII, and it is a common earworm.

Where do I go from here?

I could discuss Henry VIII. I could talk about the psychology of ice cream van music.  Or I could tell you that when I was working in Africa a letter arrived from my mother telling me my cousin had been killed on his motorcycle I had Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou playing at the time.

Every time I hear the song it takes me back to that letter. Everytime I think of that letter, the song starts in my head. And every time the subject of earworms crops up the whole thing starts going round in my head. It doesn’t happen often, but like now, when it crops up the whole thing starts again.

Forty years have passed since it happened and though the image is fresh in my mind, it’s simply there and no longer evokes any emotion. This might be natural, or it may be I’m just not very sensitive.

It’s the same with the car accident flashbacks. After a lifetime of driving I’ve been in a few accidents and near misses as driver or passenger. With one exception, which happened nearly 30 years ago, they’ve not really made much of a mental impression on me.

One of them caused flashbacks. I don’t know why, but for a while I was getting two or three a week. They gradually declined over the first year until it was one or two a year, then none for a couple of years. However, when they did come they were quite disturbing. The last one was about five years ago and it woke me up with a feeling of panic just as I was drifting off to sleep.

Since then I’ve rarely thought of it and it no longer bothers me when I do. It’s now just a memory.

I suppose this is how we are meant to be – you can’t worry about everything in life or you’d break down.

Well, that’s been quite a journey – from ice cream vans to road traffic accidents. All I meant to say was that after two fire engines and a police car it was nice to hear an ice cream van.

The Excitement Continues…

Look what drew up outside our house tonight.

I’m going to get invited to the Fire Service Christmas party at this rate.

Fortunately they didn’t rush up to the door with axes. Instead they went to the house across the road and climbed in through an upstairs window as the owner had, it appears, locked himself out.

That took me back to the early ’60s when we were living in Blackburn. We went to the seaside and spent the day at Southport, which always seemed like a treat compared to a day in Blackpool. Even now I can’t tell you why I preferred Southport and Morecambe to the bustle of Blackpool. It may be something to do with the time we went up Blackpool Tower and I discovered I was scared of heights.

Whilst relaxing on the beach the shop keys fell out of my Dad’s pocket. We sifted a lot of sand but never did find them.

On arriving home we rang the fire brigade for help and, as today, they entered by an upstairs window.

The difference between the two events, apart from nearly 60 years and 150 miles, was that we had a dog, a Border Terrier called Pip. He had been left to guard the house and that’s what he did. Fortunately we were able to distract him while the firemen entered and opened the door.

Ah, memories…

As you may notice, we have lace curtains so I can twitch them whilst spying on neighbours. I didn’t need to do that today, I just sat in my chair and took the photo. It’s probably my laziest ever blog post.

Curiosities…

p6120313.jpg

The medal in the picture is a British War Medal from the Great War. It isn’t rare – 6,500,000 were issued. Over the years many have been melted during booms in the silver price but there are still many survivors. It’s one of the commonest medals we see in the shop and, generally, they aren’t very interesting.

The cartwheel penny is also a common enough item (the first order was for 480 tons of this 1 ounce coin – over 15,000,000) and is often found cut about or counter-stamped like this one. Some people actually collect this sort of mutilated coin. It looks like someone has been trying to make it into a cogwheel. They have also stamped the name “Gosden” into it.

So, two common items, why the blog post?

Well, the medal is named to Private O G Gosden, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a penny and a medal named to the same family name.

In addition, the Medal Index Card shows that he is only entitled to the one medal, which is unusual, as it usually came in a group. Normally this indicates that the recipient served in India, as part of the force sent there to replace the Indian troops that went to serve in France and the Middle East. In Gosden’s case his unit – the 10th Middlesex Regiment – sailed from Southampton on the “Royal George” 30th October 1914 and arrived in Bombay on 2nd December 1914. It stayed there until the end of the war.

I found no information on what he did during the war, but I do know he lived from 1879 to 1959, was a solicitor in civilian life and left over £120,000 when he died. There’s more information to find, but I’ll leave that to the purchaser as I don’t want to spoil the fun of researching it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA