Author Archives: quercuscommunity

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)

The Pinnacle of Procrastination

Boxed Lord Byron Medallion by Ron Dutton

I have a list of jobs to do. Some of them are quite important. None of them are particularly interesting. So I’m going to write another blog post and pretend it’s important because I am being “a writer”. It’s a bit like the old saying “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but give him a fishing rod and you won’t see him all weekend.” It works with computers too. Give a man a computer and he’s suddenly “a writer” or “a poet” or “a blogger”. And he’s nowhere to be seen when there is work to be done.

Butlins Veleta Competition Medallion 1954

Butlins Veleta Competition Medallion 1954

I can’t speak for everyone but I’m just a man with a computer who finds it easier to procrastinate if he can say he’s writing something. It’s not really writing, it’s just producing words and avoiding work.It is, as the title says, the Pinnacle of Procrastination.

If I was still mobile I’d be looking at fishing tackle catalogues and planning a retirement where Julia hardly ever saw me. My first purchase would be one of those waistcoats with loads of pockets and  I’d then dream my life away riffling through catalogues and muttering about test curves and breaking strain as I accumulated a mountain of gear.

Magistrates’ Court Medallion

At heart, I believe that most fishermen are also collectors. I had a friend who definitely was. He decided to take up fishing in late middle age (having been a keen fisherman in his youth) and he also decided, within weeks, that he was going to collect fishing reels. With Nottingham being the home of the “Nottingham Reel” it seemed a logical thing to do.

Collectors, you see, come in all shapes and sizes and are never short of an excuse to start a new collection. If they aren’t collecting things they are buying things to keep them in, or books to learn about them. And if all else fails, I can always claim to be cataloguing my collection. It’s not such a high level gambit as “writing” but it still suffices to deflect actual work.

Flying Horse of Gansu medallion & leaflet

Customers and Caves

We had feedback from a customer today. He said the book we sent was as good as new but that he thought the postage was expensive. It’s not worth answering, but it may be worth looking at the reality of the situation.

The book is new. It’s a priced catalogue of cigarette cards and there is normally a new one every year. We were quite clear that it is the 2023 catalogue, so why he would think it was going to be second hand I do not know.

Now, the postage. We charged him £3.99. The Post Office charges us £2.70. eBay charges us approximately 20% on top as they charge commission and payment fees. That means it has, so far, cost us 2.70 for stamps and 54p in fees. A padded envelope costs 20p. That’s £3.44. It leaves us with 55p to pack the envelope securely (there is a weak spot at the flap end where a book like this, if dropped by the delivery man, can get damaged). It happened once and we were accused of all sorts of shoddy packing by the recipient. We put an extra bit at that end to stop this happening. I’m paid about 18p a minute. In order for us to make a 1p profit on postage I would have to pack the parcel in three minutes. IT can’t be done. Once again, we make a small loss on postage and packing and are accused of overcharging.

It’s sometimes very difficult not to reply in a sarcastic manner, or to block them from further purchases.

And now I have that off my chest, I am going to have a cup of tea and watch Pointless.

Photos are more of Julia’s cave pictures.


A Tale of Two Cameras

The header picture is the last batch of tomato soup in my mug at work. It’s just a few onions, tinned tomatoes, water, garlic paste and Henderson’s relish. Two tins of chopped tomatoes and two tins of water gave us enough for a meal and for me to have another two days of soup for lunch, with a bit left to go in the meatball sauce.

The next picture down is one of my latest acquisitions pictured in black and white. It didn’t need to be in black & white, but I found a button on my Lumix which allows me to do B&W photography and thought I’d give it a go. I now need a subject suitable for black and white photography. Leafless trees would be good, as would graveyards. And possibly magpies, though that seems a bit like cheating.

The following two pictures are the same thing taken in colour with two different cameras. The background and the lighting were exactly the same, only the camera varies. I have tried explaining this to the owner of the shop numerous times when he compares the colour rendition of my photos to those taken by my work colleague, but he is unable to understand this.

Multiple Sweetheart – Olympus

Multiple Sweetheart – Lumix

As you can see, the two pictures are different in a number of respects. Both are better photographs than anything I can take with the appalling pink thing I have been landed with. Its close focus ability is poor and the focal length of the lens applies a fish eye effect even at a normal distance. It is, I have no doubt, good for party shots, family gatherings and even eBay if you aren’t used to something better.

I’m hoping that the Lumix will give better colour rendition of bright white coins – my Olympus tends to make them look slightly gold, or blue if I try to correct this. The shop camera, which is also a Lumix, gives a truer silver.

The reason for the three badges is that the family has three sons in the services – Royal Artillery, Essex Regiment and Royal Army Ordnance Corps. You don’t see many of these. In fact I only have one other. The Americans did it in a slightly tidier fashion by having badges with stars on, derived from the flags they used to put in their windows.  I have some somewhere but can’t find them to photograph.

Sweetheart Brooches – Swords and Rifles

\This is a group of WW1 sweetheart brooches I bought last week on eBay. They are all on either swords or rifles. I now have twenty five on rifles and ten on swords (which are a lot rarer. One day, as I say about many things, I will write an article on them. I was supposed to be saving money this month, but as they cost me about 50% less than I think they are worth, I consider them an investment. Julia, needless to say, doesn’t.