2,222 Posts

Yesterday, I see, brought up the number 2,222 in my stats. It is totally meaningless, but allows me to produce an easy title and gives me a quick start to the post. I don’t know about you, but if I can get the first sentence down, the rest follow. This works even with the most trivial of sentences.

It doesn’t work with “Tonight we are eating salad” or anything starting with “The Government assures me…”. There’s just no coming back from an opening like that. Anything else, though, tends to unlock the gates of blethering, if not actual creativity.

Today, I thought about going to the shop for bread, but thoughts of death and red crosses on the door persuaded me otherwise. While the new variety of Covid is on the rise it pays to be more careful. ASDA was unable to deliver sourdough last week but I’m not prepared to die in the attempt to buy one from Lidl.

This has the added benefit of stopping me buying chocolate brownies, pain au chocolat and croissants, which all tend to appear in my basket as I drift past the bread counter. However, the main benefit is in stopping me coming into contact with a shop full of people who don’t wear masks. Julia will be using public transport for the next few days while the car is in for repair, and I’m hoping that nothing bad happens as a result. It’s very noticeable that the younger, less “at risk” staff at MENCAP have all run for the hills and are “working from home”. Julia wasn’t given the option, she was just told she would be required to go in to work.

I’m not even sure they should be working in groups. Most of the clients live with family or in homes, and the rest have carers going to visit. As they have at least four times the death rate of the average population (possibly six depending on how you look at the figures) it would seem to be a good idea for them to isolate rather than mix.

So there you go. I started with 2,222, moved on to creativity, bread, Covid and differential mortality rates. That’s enough for now.

IIncluding checking on eBay, looking up a couple of things on the internet and adding a few groceries to the order (mention of ASDA reminded me) an hour has now gone and it’s time to move on to another activity.

In fact it’s time to move. I need to move round more and do some exercise.

A Slow Start

I won’t say I’ve wasted my morning, but I’m trying to limit my time at the computer and so far I’ve spent a whole morning answering comments and visiting the blogs of people who have visited mine. Although It’s not a waste as such, because I’ve had some interesting reading, it’s not the creative time I had planned.

So, 12.54 and a leisurely morning  has been had. We had porridge with fruit and home made bread (Julia fired up the bread maker yesterday) with marmalade. I have visited London, Maine, New York, East Yorkshire and various indeterminate locations where I have read posts on current events, crime, American politics (which neatly connects the first two) , writing, being happy, and digging for old ruins (which reminds me, I haven’t checked in on Tootlepedal and Derrick yet). They are both so prolific that it is difficult keeping up with them.

Based on yesterday, when I watched TV, read and lost three lots on eBay, I want to write a post now before making soup from last night’s stew and settling down to finish Out of Time. Click the link and support laurie Graves, your local author. Well, maybe not geographically local, but she’s local on WP – just a button press away.

Not quite sure what to say next as I’m all out of creativity. I do have some material on American politics, but it’s probably not fair to find humour in a situation that saw five people killed in an argument about something that doesn’t really matter. It’s politics, to a large extent nothing done by politicians affects us much at home. We might pay a bit more tax, or have a bit less money to spend but we aren’t going to wake up in the morning living in a tent, unlike a lot of people in the Middle East. Even if an election was rigged, is it worth five lives? George W Bush managed to get in on a disputed election and nobody got killed then.

He went on, I see, to win both the highest and one of the lowest Presidential approval ratings ever recorded. That’s proof that you can’t please all the people all of the time.

 

 

My Life as an Inaction Hero

I had a lazy day today, to rest after my hard day packing parcels yesterday. Did I really work six days a week at one time? Or even five? I feel like a friend of mine who,,years ago, detailed his activities shortly after retiring and said plaintively “It’s a good thing I’m retired, or I’d never be able to fit it all in.”

He had, of course, made two cardinal errors – said “yes” when asked to go on a committee and allowed his wife to get involved with planning his day.  Wives are wonderful things, but they are, unfortunately, not to be trusted with a man’s time. That’s why I intend having a shed or workshop when I retire. Ideally a shed with a moat and drawbridge. That way I will be able to call my time my own and find things even years after putting them down.

I’m actually thinking of making that my First Rule of Lethargy – an object which is at rest will stay at rest unless it is acted on by a wife, or the kettle is out of reach.

This is the first proper saturday I’ve had off for a while,a nd I was able to devote the middle portion of my day to watching Sharpe and the bits at either end to eating. Murder She Wrote served to fil lthat awkward afternoon gap. We are now about to eat vegetable stew and watch some quiz programmes.

I see on the news that Donald Trump is threatening to start a new social media platform and that the Queen and prince Philip have both had their Covid vaccinations. That’s nice to know, as we really need a new social media platform, and it brings my vaccination date nearer.

To be honest, neither really affects me as much as the fact that we are nearing the end of the Christmas biscuits and are likely to be reduced to eating Digestives by then end of the week. It’s just that I am sometimess eixzed by the need to write for posterity.

A Little Knowledge is a Puzzling Thing

First day back at work after Christmas today. Whatever kills me, it’s unlikely to be overwork or stress. I now have a week off, thanks to Covid. A whole week, and nothing immediately comes to mind – I have three haibun to refine for a competition by the end of the month and that’s it. The rest of the year looks comparatively easy.

I’m setting myself some targets to make sure I don’t drift off into idleness but that won’t take me all week.

One project is printing copies of my published submissions as I like to put them in a folder so I can leaf through them on the days when my confidence needs a boost. I have got a bit behind with this and need to catch up. The main problem is that the existing folder is lost. It will be somewhere lurking in plain sight, but I just can’t find it at the moment. For the moment I’m going to start a new folder and transfer them when I find the original.

Another is trying to memorise the capitals of American states, because they often come up on quiz shows. So far it’s not going well. Apart from the difficulties of an aging brain, how did Americans come to select so many unknown towns as capitals? Some of them are world famous and others are completely unknown. You’ think that being selected as the state capital would guarantee a place would become well known.

I then looked up the county towns of England, and found I don’t know as much about my own country as I thought I did, including the development of county names. THe county towns of Somerset and Wiltshire, for instance, were Somerton and Wilton. I’ve never heard of Somerton, and only know of Wilton because of the carpets.

As  a result of all this new knowledge I now find myself  thinking “Nebraska” every time I see the word “Lincoln”. I’ve lived in Lincolnshire, I can almost see it from here, but it just doesn’t seem to register. Lincoln, Nebraska is named after President Lincoln, not the English city. It used to be called “Lancaster” which is the county town of Lancashire.

I can’t help thinking that I might have been better not starting down this road as the more I learn, the more I realise that I don’t know.

If I carry on like this I might have to read more articles like this.

A Quandary

A quandary is, mostly, a dilemma, and that is the sort of quandary I’m talking about.

It can also be a small antelope of the genus Madoqua, that lives in the bushlands of eastern and southern Africa and the trade mark (as in “Quandry”) for a piece of Victorian picnic equipment – a combination camp kettle, spirit stove, windshield and adjustable toasting fork. They were well known at the time (c 1870 s to 1900s), particularly as the famous self-publicist Henry Morton Stanley took two on his expedition to discover Livingstone and wrote about them extensively -an early example of product placement.

I do love words. I particularly love the stranger and more obscure meanings and the way you start off in one direction and end up going in another.

This post was supposed to be about me being in a quandary about my list-making and using lockdown to write instead of doing housework. It became a discussion on alternative meanings simply because it has none and I thought it sounded like a small animal, a bit like a quagga or a quokka. After that, taking my cue from the Paradox (a combination rifle and shotgun), it seemed logical to add a toasting fork to a perfectly ordinary spirit kettle and stand, to make the “Quandry”. It nearly had a cake stand added too, but enough is enough…

It looks like, after a dip during the festive season I might be getting my sense of humour back. Sorry if I mis-led you with my spurious definitions, but I just couldn’t help myself. I may be the new Ambrose Bierce, though I will be more cautious than he was in the company of Mexicans. And following on from that, I will attempt to inject a little cheer into the lives of my American readers with one of Bierce’s more appropriate definitions.

Presidency – n – The greased pig in the field game of American politics.

Danger UXB – Bomb Disposal in WW2

It’s not a very photogenic item, just  a rather dull cigarette case which I bought at an antiques fair one day. The interest lies in the inscription. It was presented to a member of the Royal Engineers for work in disposing of an unexploded bomb in 1942. The full text reads:

Presented to
SERGT. R.H. Woodrow R.E.
316161
in appreciation of courage shown
assisting Lieut. K. C. Revis R.E.
in defusing 1000 KG
PATCHAM.
13.5.42

Between 1939 and 1945 members of bomb disposal teams in the UK dealt with over 50,000 unexploded German bombs, 7,000 Anti-Aircraft shells and 300,000 beach mines. In the period 21st September 1940 to 5th July 1941 (known as “The Blitz”) an average of 84 bombs a day failed to explode on impact. Approximately one in 12 of them were designed to go off after a time delay, causing increased disruption to everyday life and, as a bonus, killing the men dealing with them. In all, 394 officers and men were killed dealing with unexploded ordnance during the war. Of these 235 were Royal Engineers working in the UK. The rest would be Royal Navy personnel, civilians and Home Guard (yes, they had their own bomb disposal units – usually based in factories and used to minimise damage and disruption to production.) olus those killed overseas. I’m afraid I can’t find figures that give a more accurate breakdown. Many more were, of course, injured.

Silver Cigarette case given to Sgt Woodrow

Patcham is part of Brighton, and during the war, being close to occupied Europe, the skies over Brighton we busy. There were 56 raids recorded on Brighton between 1940 and 1944, including one by a single bomber that killed 54 people on 14thn September 1940. A newspaper report of a post-war exhibition about the bombing mentions 636 high explosive bombs being dropped in the area during the war. Brighton was bombed on 56 occasions with 198 fatalities and 790 injuries of varying seriousness. The article says that the damage would have been far worse if it wasn’t for the number of bombs that failed to go off and specifically mentions a 1,000 kg bomb “which was dropped in a garden at Patcham by a bomber afterwards shot down on the downs in May 1942.”

I have not been able to find any information of Sergeant Woodrow, which is good in a way, as it means he survived the war. Hopefully he survived in one piece.

Lieutenant Revis survived the war too, though in his case there is some information available, and his story is quite harrowing.

He was interested in explosions as a boy, before moving on to the less dangerous hobby of riding motorcycles, became a civil engineer and, at the outbreak of war, was commissioned into the Royal Engineers and assigned to bomb disposal duties. His first bomb was a 500kg device in a Hastings garden and he defused hundreds of bombs up to 1,800 kg. It wasn’t an easy job and it was made harder by German attempts to kill or injure bomb disposal officers. As if the work wasn’t dangerous enough, they fitted booby traps to some bombs amd altered designs so that the common method of defusing a bomb one month became a way of detonating the bomb. However, Revis was not caught by a German bomb. It was a British one that caused his troubles.

In the early days of the war, piers were seen as a danger to security as they could have helped the Germans land troops during the planned invasion. As a result the east coast piers were partially dismantled and wired for demolition. In 1943, as the danger passed, we started to remove the explosives. Three years in a corrosive environment did not make this a simple job. Revis successfully defused the mines on the Palace Pier on 10th September 1943. He then moved on to the West Pier and had successfully defused six mines when the remaining mines exploded.

At one point a nurse pulled a sheet over him and he reputedly said: “Take that bloody thing off – I’m not dead yet”.

He was taken to east Grinstead Hospital where he became one of McIndoe’s Guinea Pigs. During his time in hospital he used a bed previously occupied by Richard Hillary, author of The Last Enemy, and was visited by an American airman called Clark Gable.

When the bandages came off, it was clear that he would never see again. Despite this, he taught himself to type and read braille, using what was left of his fingers, and he trained to work a capstan lathe, producing Spitfire parts. He was awarded the OBE for his bomb disposal work  and was asked by Sir Ian Fraser MP, a blind veteran of the great War, and head of St Dunstan’s (now Blind Veterans UK) to go to India to teach blinded veterans, which he did until 1947.

A brief summary of his later life includes qualifying as a solicitor, working as a Press Officer for Morris Motors, learning to water ski and flying a glider. He also drove a sports car down a runway at 100mph for a TV programme, as his wife sat in the passenger seat and gave directions. She must have been an extraordinary woman.

It doesn’t look much, but it’s the gateway to an extremely interesting story

He also appeared on This is Your Life and was the technical adviser for  episode 12 of Danger UXB, (1979) where he was played by Anthony Andrews. He also appeared on the documentary Danger! Unexploded Bomb (2001) and raised funds for the restoration of Brighton’s West Pier. It seems that several people asked him why he would want to return to it after what happened to him. His reply? “I suppose it’s the last thing I saw.”

It always amazes me what you can find on the internet these days. I’m not much of one for technology, as you know, and there are a lot of bad things about the internet, but if you need to find information on an engraved cigarette case, it’s obviously the place to look.

Close up the inscription from Revis tio Woodrow

Edit: I just searched “WW2 Patcham” and found this – for some reason I hadn’t thought to do it before.

 

 

 

Bits and Pieces and Fishing in the Spam Folder

It’s 10.39 and my day is about to begin. So far all I have done is the basics – dressed, had breakfast, answered comments, finalised tomorrow’s on-line grocery order and had a telephone consultation with rheumatology . It’s our day off today, though  most days are a day off for me at the moment,  so It’s now time to think about elevenses.

There’s something companionable about elevenses. Reading the link I was also reminded about second breakfast. We used to have second breakfast when I worked in Ireland – cup of tea and slice of toast at 6.30ish, work at seven, breakfast at 9.00. It’s much more civilised and it always feels better on the digestion.

From there I start wondering why toast seems like a meal but a slice of bread and butter doesn’t. I wonder when the change occurred. My grandparents ate bread and butter, my parents ate toast. I suspect that the invention of domestic grills and toasters holds the answer, as toast at my grandparents was usually preceded by a session with bread and toasting forks in front of an open fire.

Julia is approaching me with a hoover in her hand and menace in her eyes so I had better get the elevenses going. Music may have charms to soothe the savage beast, but tea and biscuits works better on Julia.

I now have a problem to ask you about. Derrick tells me that he has to give his details before he can post a comment. Is this happening to anyone else? And do you know how I can cancel it, as I hate it when that happens and I want to keep everything simple and easy.

Apologies to LA and GP Cox too, when I started looking through my settings I found several of your comments in Spam. It seems to select someone every so often and dump them in there on a slightly random basis as some have been allowed and some haven’t.

Car, Garage, Disappointment

Eventually, the phone call came. I have a valve which is sticking open when it should be closed. Phew, that was a relief. Sounds like a simple enough job. What a stupid thought…

The valve, as far as I can tell, exists to release pressure somewhere so that the car can’t do more than 30 mph and accelerates slightly more slowly than me on my way to the salad aisle. It’s part of the system that is there to guard against engine malfunctions. Thirty years ago we didn’t have such things as far as I know. I have certainly never experienced this after many years of driving diesels. This is slightly annoying.

There is, it seem,s no underlying fault. just a sticking valve.

Yes, the safety system has activated itself in the absence of a fault, and is itself the fault. Are you with me so far? The VW Passat I previously owned did 247,000 miles without an engine fault. This one has done a third of that and developed a major fault in the system designed to protect my engine from major faults. This is one step along from programmed obsolescence and one step on from sanity.

They will need to put it up on a special lift, which is currently in use for the next three days, and dismantle the front sub-frame. You can only get to the valve after some major work. So much for German engineering. Who thought it was a good idea to put the valve there?

A part I don’t need, jammed open when it shouldn’t be, and concealed behind many hours of spanner work. This is looking like a triumph for stupidity and a very large bill for labour. Cancel the cautious optimism of the last post.

It’s tempting to let go with a good old moan and a session of “Why me?” but I have better things to do, including eating the last of the Christmas cake.

Let then historical record show that in the day before our third lockdown became law (I believe they will pass it tonight, I passed the time by moaning about garages and cars (an eternal subject for conversation if ever there was one) and eating cake (ditto).

 

 

Car, Garage, Senior Moment

They day has started in mixed fashion. The garage thinks that the fault on the car is probably a simple blockage which should be reasonably easy to fix, and inexpensive. Fingers crossed. I called a taxi (they have moved and it is now too far to walk) and this was a little more complex than usual.

Of course, in  my day, when cars were simple and lights were fewer, this wouldn’t have been a problem at all, and if it had a tap from a hammer or a quick twist of a spanner would have put it all to rights. faults these days tend to be in parts we never actually had in the 1970s.

It’s the first taxi I’ve taken in nearly 12 months and the system has changed. You have to ride in the back now. For a man who is over six feet tall, overweight (to say the least) and has a bad leg, this is not easy, even in a generously proportioned vehicle. With one of the small Japanese cars that taxi firms seem to favour it was  a cross between playing Twister and packing a holiday suitcase.

Eventually I got in and we set off. They have barriers now, rather like black cabs, but made out of flexible plastic and fixed with cable ties.

Five minutes later I remembered that I’d left my phone charging in the car.

Could I communicate through a mask and plastic barrier and then unravel myself to get the phone before doing it all again in reverse? No. I really couldn’t be bothered. I’m at home now. I’ve rung the garage from the land line to give them that number ( I really should have remembered the phone when I gave them  my mobile number). Now I’m going to email Julia to tell her I don’t have my phone with me. It would be easier to ring, but I don’t know her number.

All the numbers are stored in my mobile these days. Oh, what a to-do. I can feel myself turning into that elderly parent who seems constantly bemused by modern life and is a worry to the children…

How the List Went

I’ve already covered the list and the progress, so now it’s time for the final wrap.

Done

Sort out two submissions (well – 90%, but they will be done tonight)

Pick Julia up

Cup of tea, TV, nap. The nap went particularly well, as did the TV

Cook stir fry (excellent meal, though cooked by Julia as I was exploring all the possibilities of napping)

Write post (500 words) about how hard I’ve been working today – doing it now

Write more (the last post counts towards this)

Write haiku/senryu – was 15 minutes early for Julia so did a few then (note I didn’t say they had to be good)

I also rang the garage to discuss the flashing lights on the car dashboard (it is going in tomorrow so they can empty my bank account)

Not Done Yet

Start two poems I have notes for – fell victim to procrastination

Research for article – Bomb Disposal

Research for article – RNLI

I’ve done more than I was expecting. I’ve been putting off the two poems for a few weeks – doing a note here and there, but I’d like them to be good, and they aren’t living up to expectations so far. THe research was listed to make sure I do something about it, rather than in hope that I would get any done today.

Do lists do any good? I think they do. They keep me working and they preserve focus. Without  a list I would have done less today. I would have browsed the internet more, wasted more time, and have done less of the things that needed doing. Which reminds me, I need to get in touch with the doctor. I forgot to put it on the list.

I just went away to contact the doctor.They want me to use the online ordering system for medication, but they keep changing the system. last month I was able to request Methotrexate. This month I’m not able to order it so I’ve had to put in  a written request. Apparently it can only be ordered by a clinician. I’m not actually sure what a clinician is, apart from someone who works at a clinic. I’m also not clear why someone who hasn’t spoken to me about the medication needs to get involved in the supply. You would think that in the middle of a pandemic they would have better things to do than mess about with the way I reorder prescriptions.

This, of course, reminds me that I need a blood test for the Methotrexate to see if it is dissolving my liver. As I have not yet turned yellow I’m probably OK. I hope so because it’s a very effective drug for the arthritis. I’d better do that tomorrow as I want to try and coordinate it with the Warfarin blood test in two weeks time. Despite what they keep telling us, I see no point in going where there are a load of sick people if I don’t need to. One day and two tests is better than going down on two days. With any luck I will be able to get it done at the hospital too, as the nurses at the surgery don’t get the practice, and are not as effective as the hospital phlebotomists.

If you are going to be stabbed in the arm it’s better to get it done by a professional.

That’s enough writing now. I will probably discuss our new lockdown when I write again. Yes, we enjoyed the first two so much that we are having another one.