Day 134

Got up, had a bacon croissant sandwich for breakfast, went to work and found a parking space. Home for lunch (it’s my half day) for vegetable soup I made last night. Does it get better than that?

The answer seems to be “no”. Nothing in the rest of the day, even watching Mega Shark Versus Kolossus and eating a Magnum choc ice, though good, failed to improve on the morning.

I suppose that an outbreak of world peace and a sudden dose of common sense influencing international politics would improve on a bacon sandwich, but it didn’t happen and so the day is tailing off. Julia will be making burritos for tea and Pointless Celebrities is on soon, so there are still things to look forward to, despite this anti-climax.

Yesterday, I found out a very interesting fact. Two, in fact. One is that rats and mice are unable to pass wind, in either direction. Julia said something very unkind when I told her this, but as I said, blame my healthy high-fibre diet. The second is that simply calling yourself “organic” doesn’t make you a nice person.

The reason I say this is because I found out how organic gardeners kill rats. Unfortunately, with neighbours who put out too much bird food and have BBQs and decking (all good stuff if you are a rat) I am forced to take action from time to time. I don’t want to poison a cat and I don’t want rats in the garden, so I use a trap. Organic gardeners have another method.

They don’t use poison, because that would be bad. They use baking soda, delivered in a number of ways,, usually mixed with peanut butter or a flour and sugar mix. The rats eat the baking soda, the soda reacts and produces carbon dioxide when it hits the digestive acids of the rat. And the rat, instead of releasing the gas, inflates.

You aren’t actually poisoning the rats, you are inflating them until their internal organs rupture. This, to me, seems a lot worse than simply poisoning or trapping them. Maybe I’m not cut out to be an eco-warrior.


Day 133

I had two new experiences yesterday, including breaking a hot water bottle. I was using it to heat my hand, and, as it wasn’t full, bent it round my hand to warm both sides. I noticed that there was a drop of water on it when I looked ten minutes later. This seemed strange, as I had been careful filling it and it was hot so any drops should have dried.

Further examination  showed that if I manipulated the bottle to apply pressure, there were six places that released about a teardrop of water. It’s not a disaster at the moment, because it doesn’t leak under normal conditions. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep knowing that it might leak. Fortunately I am only using it while I am awake and out of bed.

It’s probably a good time to buy a hot water bottle as demand in summer, even a UK summer, is likely to be low. I must seek a bargain.

It’s tempting to paint the face of a saint on the old one and try to establish myself as a site of pilgrimage as people queue to see the tears of St Kyneburgha. I know what you are all asking Saint who? She is, I admit, not the best known saint, but I grew up in the area and often walked by the church. Saints and pilgrimage have always been a cut-throat business, and all the well-known ones were snapped up years ago. The advantage to this is that my painting doesn’t have to be very good.

Even so, I’m fairly sure that the souvenir sales and cream teas should make enough to see me right as I subside into old age and it is at least as respectable as running a fake business college.

I might even end up building an airport.


Day 132

I don’t have a degree. Most of my contemporaries do, and I have always felt disadvantaged by the lack. There are several ways this blog post could now go, including a discussion of my troubled youth, ramblings about my wasted life or my thoughts on our educational system. I could even have a rant about how poetry seems riddled with people who want to list their academic credentials when discussing poetry. I read an article last night that spent a lot of time telling me about the author’s educational qualifications and am feeling in the mood for a rant.

But I’m not going to do that. I’m going to tell you about a business idea I had, and how the government ensured it was stillborn. And how your cat can get a degree . . .

When I was 29, I decided to make a determined effort to improve myself and show ambition. It wasn’t, to be honest, the natural me and it didn’t last. However, I did manage to talk my way onto a post-graduate course (a Diploma in Management Studies) and I did manage to finish it.

Whilst I was on the course I learnt several things. One was that British Universities, whilst insisting that I had proper qualifications, were not quite so strict with overseas students. Overseas students didn’t even need a particularly good command of English – just the necessary funding to pay through the nose.

The second thing was that there were such things as fraudulent  business colleges which provided spurious qualifications, and that people seemed to think they were worth buying.

A couple of months after finishing the course I was just in the process of setting up the Carlton Business School when the government stepped in and banned this sort of thing with the Education Reform Act (1988) – I still wake up dreaming about it.

I did a bit of research last night and it seems I should have been more persistent. Thirty five years later I see that 85 fake universities were closed down in the last five years, so maybe I should have carried on.

I’ve never had such a good idea since. Meanwhile the “real” Universities carried on taking money from overseas students who paid a lot of money but didn’t gain much from their studies due to an inadequate grasp of English.

The moral, never give up and remember that posh people, and Universities, are above the law.

Look at what I could have done if I’d just been a bit more persistent. I particularly like this one.



Somebody just won the £184,000,000 lottery prize I was hoping for. I hope they will be very happy. I know I would be. Yes, there will be problems with being so rich, but I’m sure most of us would be happy to put up with them.

Most of the problems could be solved by having an accountant and a butler, and with that sort of money you should have no problem recruiting staff.

I just searched for a link to that to check my facts and see that Adidas had an advert for a sports bra banned because it shows pictures of naked breasts. I had to search for an example of the advert because most of the stories seem afraid to use it in an unblurred fashion. This blogging stuff is hard work, but I am prepared to do it for my readers.

As a result, I am able to report that I don’t find the  poster objectifies women, causes me any offence, or makes me want to buy a sports bra. It does make me think that while I have been frittering my time away, I have missed out on a worthwhile career.

On the other hand, despite frittering my life away, it could have been worse. I could have been an advertising executive, or I could have been a lawyer. With recent high profile legal cases like the Johnny Depp defamation case and the Rebekah Vardy social media case, I have a new found feeling of contempt for lawyers, and celebrities, and social media.

Remember that reporting of these cases is making the front pages where the UK’s declaration of support for Sweden and Finland, the war in Ukraine and the shooting of a reporter in Palestine.

There must be a whole academic area to be researched around this subject. What weighting do we give the antics of worthless celebrities compared to the lives of people slaughtered by occupying military forces? How do we feel about a poster full of bare breasts compared to illegal military occupations? And, would you rather your kids grew up to be lawyers, celebrities or ruthless war criminals?

I think I may christen the new academic discipline The Index of Worthlessness and try to get myself a PhD in why most celebrities would do more good for the environment if we composted them instead of giving them airtime.

Featured image is honesty – I’ll let you add your own tag line.



Day 130

Today’s new word is Anthropodermic bibliopegy, which is the practice of bookbinding using human skin. How, you may ask, did that ever become a word (or two, to be accurate) – and, more specifically, how did it become my word for today?

It was just one of those subjects that come up in conversation at the shop. A customer came in, we stopped for a moment to talk as we hadn’t seen him for a while, and we started to talk about metal detecting, then funeral practices, then human remains in auction, then The Hatchet Inn at Bristol, which supposedly has the skin of an executed convict on one of its walls, and finally to Corder, the murderer of Maria Marten. There’s a book in the museum of Bury St Edmunds which is bound in his skin. I saw it when I was on a hiking holiday when I was 16. It’s not very impressive but the thought is still disturbing.

After that I just had to look up more on the subject. I knew there were other books bound in skin, and the preserved skin of a supposed Viking raider on a church door in East Anglia. I can’t remember the name of the church but will look it up in a minute.

The point of all this ghoulishness is to prove that even as late as 1828 we were still binding books in human skin. Even worse, Corder’s skeleton hung in a museum until 2004, (which I didn’t know until I read the Wiki article) until it was removed and cremated. Have we really moved on so little in all our history?

As for the daneskins, there are several churches that claim such things, and none of them, under the scrutiny of modern science, hold up. They are all animal skins, probably applied as coverings when the doors were made. Imagination does the rest . . .




Day 129

During the day I think of interesting things to talk about. During the evening, as I sit and watch TV, all my enthusiasm and knowledge seems to leak away. It happened tonight. I watched a programme about antiques, another which featured a fish & chip competition, one about auctions, one about gold-mining in Australia (it was cold and snowy in Victoria, which looked more like Canada), and a news quiz.

Next thing I knew, it was 1.30am and I had just woken up in my chair. I now have a headache and no desire to sleep. This is an unwanted state of affairs.

And I have clean forgotten what I intended to write.

Tomorrow I will blog as soon as I get home and try to make it more interesting.

We had a note from the man who was faced with a £1.50 penalty from the Post Office. The letter is properly stamped, with £3.05 of stamps. We know it is in the correct weight range, because we have other similar items and have check weighed them. It’s a mystery.

I have now dead-headed 57 Spanish poppy blooms and two Welsh poppies. This impressive, considering they are neglected ands growing from cracks between paving slabs.

I counted my poetry submissions last night. I have had about 80 poems published ( have mislaid an old list so am relying on memory for a few of these). It was just idle curiosity, bit now I know, I keep thinking about the magic 100. It’s not an important figure, just a convenient round figure, and it’s stuck in my head. I should be able to reach it by the end of the year, even though I know quantity and quality are two different things.

Day 128

The honeysuckle at the bottom of the garden was, according to Julia, heaving with bees and insect life. It’s down two flights of steps, due to our hillside location, and I decided not to risk it, so there are no photographs. I really must find my spirit of adventure and start getting out again.

The poppies are doing well in the front and there were plenty of insects in the rosemary and valerian, though the rosemary flowers are tailing off. It is a much under-rated shrub, being able to survive a drought, grow in poor soil and shrug off neglect. This is fortunate, as that is precisely the way I look after it. I will be rooting some cuttings this year as I am feeling the need for more rosemary. There is plenty of room in the back garden for more plants and I do hate buying things if I can grow them.

From a poetry point of view, today has been a productive day. I have lacked focus and direction, but have produced in quantity. Before going to bed, I will be looking at this month;s deadlines and dividing some of the work up to ensure I am working towards making submissions.

Last month was poor for submissions, but sometimes you just need to allow yourself to slack a little. I’m now feeling fully recovered. The strange thing is that if you’d asked me in February, March or April I would have said I had recovered. However, it’s undeniable that I felt a lot better last week – whether due to time, season or just getting more sleep.

Day 127

I failed to win last night’s lottery draw and forgot to buy a ticket for tonight. As a result I am £2.50 poorer than I would have been if I hadn’t bothered at all. Normally I don’t bother, but the thought of winning £160,000,000 tempted me into buying a ticket.

This means that plans to live in an air-conditioned bubble and exist renewable energy will have to be put on hold.

It’s strange how plans change. If I’d won the lottery when I was 24, sports cars, wine, women and song would have featured heavily in my plans. If I’d won at 44 my plans would have centred round Julia and the kids. Now, at 64, I appear to have changed into a slightly demented hermit. The funny thing is that I’m happy with the idea and am starting to see where Elon Musk gets his ideas from.

I’m not even sure if I’d want to leave work if I won the lottery. It’s not like it’s unpleasant being a coin dealer, and I don’t have much else to do. Since Covid and the rise in fuel prices caused by the war in Ukraine I don’t want to go out as much so if it wasn’t for work life would be very dull. I don’t even do my own shopping these days.

I’m not sure there’s much we really need. I doubt I’ll be allowed to build an air-conditioned bubble so I’ll probably just buy a bungalow with solar panels. It’s not quite so much fun as a sports car but sometimes you have to face facts – we have to save the earth, and with my knees I really don’t see a sports car as a realistic option these days.

Day 126

I thought about talking about 1st World Problems (this is the second week in a row ASDA has failed to supply the figs I ordered!)

I thought about discussing politics. But I decided against it.

I even thought of mentioning that I saw a man on a cycle wobbling through traffic as he used one hand to look at his mobile phone (an operation that would be considered both dangerous and illegal if he were to do it in a car. But I decided not to bother.

So I deleted it all and thought “What can I write about?”

I could write about the emails we had on eBay today. One is from a German demanding to know where his goods are. The answer is that they are in Customs at Frankfurt Airport. He could have established this for himself as he has the tracking code. Sadly, the German Postal Service is currently so inefficient that most eBay sellers in the UK snigger at their name. They are finding it difficult to cope with the UK being out of the EU.

Another customer wrote to complain that we had under-stamped an envelope and he is being asked £1.50 for excess postage. He has written to us via eBay demanding a £28 refund. When we asked what was wrong with the letter he told us he doesn’t know, as he hasn’t seen it yet and is only assuming it is the one from us.

Then we had one in the afternoon enquiring if I would check that we had remembered to post his order as it had been three days and he hadn’t had it yet. I did check. We had remembered to post the letter. We mainly remember, as that’s how we pay our wages, But sometimes the Royal Mail isn’t perfect.

And that, as the word count rises to 300, is probably enough. I’m going to go now. We have chocolate cake to eat (it was heavily reduced in M&S and called out to Julia s she passed) and I have imaginary sarcastic letters to write to customers. I’m not allowed to write actual rude replies. This is, to be honest, a strain.

Day 125

It might have been having a good moan about it, or it may have been the application of hot water bottles over the last couple of weeks, but my fingers were a lot better this morning. Whatever the reason, it is a welcome development.

As a result, everything seems better. Even the birds are singing more tunefully, and I deadheaded 24 poppy stalks this afternoon, bringing the running total to 36, with a few more to go, as I didn’t do the second clump.

This is a very different pattern top last year, when we were getting about a dozen a day and they were lasting until mid afternoon. As far as I can tell they are lasting two, sometimes three, days, at the moment. The effect is the same, with lots of poppies out, but they aren’t producing the number of blooms daily that they were last year.

Whether it’s the time of year, the weather or the age of the plants I don’t know. I must observe and see what happens later in the year.

I’ve just finished watching the final of Masterchef and, though lost in admiration for the winner, am left wondering why they bother. Who needs a plate  spotted with oil and smeared with foam? Who, seriously, wants a dish with a name that includes so many words that you need to breathe in the middle of it?

“Stuffed chicken wing, chestnut cream, chervil root and Périgord truffle.”

I’ve written shorter poems than that, and I’m sure it’s not the longest recipe title I could find if I set my mind to it.  It should be possible to find one that includes the words “with pickled vegetables, citrus foam and a Parmesan tuille”. Some of them go on for an awful long time.

Foam, by the way, is not food.