This morning I went to collect cash from the ATM. At 8.30 there was already a queue, with two people in front of me and two behind me by the time I finished. Despite what the shops and banks keep telling us, people still want cash.
I was in the shop for 9.00 and, with a coffee on the desk, was answering queries from eBay users. In general, eBay users who ask questions fall into five categories. One is buyers who are reasonably intelligent and ask useful questions. These form about 10% of all enquiries. We didn’t have any of these this morning.
Some, possibly 5%, are enquiries about deliveries. We had one this morning, because the post has been erratic during lockdown. By the miracle of the internet I was able to put the tracking number into the Irish postal system and find that it has been sorted in Dublin and is out for delivery.
Another 10% make ridiculous low offers. We had a couple of these on Saturday but none this morning.
Another 10% ask questions that they could have answered themselves if they had read the description properly. We had one of these this morning.
That, as you have no doubt already calculated, leaves 65%. These are enquiries made by people who would at one time have found employment as village idiots. Thanks to the internet they are now able to extend their reach and disturb my morning from many miles away.
The rest of the day went quite smoothly, until I returned home. The gardeners had returned to finish the clearing, and had filled the skip, including a lot of roofing felt. You can’t put roofing felt into a skip these days, along with a lot of other things, so I had to set to and remove it all. This was tricky as it was in many pieces and much of it was still attached to parts of the shed roof. However, I am glad to report that my hands worked well, my back stood up to the strain and I managed to get all the felt out.
It was a minor victory. In fact, a few years ago it wouldn’t have counted as a victory at all, because I would have expected to be able to do it. A couple of years before that I would have demolished my own shed and wouldn’t have needed help. This is a picture of me in 2012. The contrast with the haggard me of 2020 is a bit of a worry.
This was a rugby club ID photo – I was much more colourful in those days, with a ruddy hue and ginger beard. I’m now pale and white, which reminds me – I had a look at yesterday’s foggy photo and have just noticed the decapitated scarecrow in the foreground. No wonder people have been saying it’s eerie. I missed that until today.
I am much more wrinkly than I was in 2012
It’s a sombre thought on the impermanence of what we regard as a normal way of life. Tomorrow I will try for a more cheerful view.
Meanwhile, I will leave you with a header picture of a poppy purple poppy. I like purple poppies. I found it whilst looking through some old photos. They seem to have died off in the garden, but the memory lives on.
As an antidote to musings on mortality we had sausages for tea and followed them up with rhubarb and apple crumble. You can’t be serious while you’re eating sausages, which don’t really lend themselves to solemnity. Crumble, though lacking some of the comic potential of sausages is a similarly cheery food and should, in my view, be prescribed as a cure for depression.
I may actually launch a movement to deliver crumbles to neighbours. Unfortunately, in these days of Type 2 diabetes and rampant anti-sugarism it may open me up to accusations of attempted mass murder…
I do like Saturdays. They are generally interesting days, being a bit busier than weekdays, and with a slightly more social element about them. For the last few weeks they have been also been the start of my weekend, as I currently have Sundays and Mondays off.
Today we had several people selling things and a couple coming to buy, with someone in nearly all the time. I’m just getting into the swing of things with the Edward VIII medallions, and am remembering how to set up an eBay listing with a drop-down menu. It isn’t difficult but you need to concentrate and my first few attempts last week all ended with me wiping things off by accident.
We currently have one listing up and running. There are two more ready to go and a fourth is in preparation. They are getting steadily more interesting as time goes by. I started with Coronation medallions (two lots), moved on to the Empire Day medallions and am now on Royal Visits. I still have the better quality Coronation Medallions and the Investiture Medallions to do.
He’s an interesting man, and had some admirable qualities, but he is not a man I personally admire. I think that things worked out for the best as George VI made a great wartime King, whereas Edward VIII, with his admiration of Hitler and his defeatist talk, would not have been an asset.
However, like so many things from history, we will never know.
I am trying to extend my posts to 500 words in order to increase my writing stamina, having made do with 250 words for many of my posts. However, there are just some days when 250 seems the right number. I did try a few hundred on fascism (following on from Edwards VIII) and I also became enmeshed in some discussion of anti-semitism (ditto) but my heart wasn’t in either of them and they are not really subjects lending themselves to short discussions.
Rather than burble on for the sake of reaching a word count I racked my brains for a quote, then, as my brains were not up to the job, looked on the internet. My brains don’t hold enough Shakespeare. but fortunately the internet does. A line from Henry V on the subject of Corporal Nym supplies the title of the post, and the closing thought.
(I have re-used two photographs from recent posts – sorry to be so lazy.)
I was encouraging my dining room computer to greater efforts last night, because I felt it was deliberately slowing down and refusing to obey commands just to wind me up. Shouting isn’t a long term answer, we really need a new computer, but it provides some short-term relief. In this, a computer resembles a teenager, though teenagers do eventually improve. On the other hand, you can switch a computer off and it never empties your fridge.
As I paused for breath I heard Julia say: “Simon, can you stop swearing please?”
This led to our usual discussion about me and my right to freedom of speech and how it was hardly even swearing compared to some of the things I could have said and how…
“Will you **** shut up, you foul-mouthed ****!”
I’ll leave you fill in the gaps. Unlike the tabloid press I have deliberately left the words unidentifiable. If you are going to blank out the bad language I’ve never seen the point of adding the initial letter and the exact number of asterisks. You may as well just print the word. As I know my readership contains churchgoers and grandmothers I tend to be honest in admitting that my language is not good, but refrain from exposing the true depravity of my language. Too many years spent working in the company of rough men. I really should stop it, but like vegetarianism and exercise, I seldom persist in my improvements for long. Te only two things I have really ever given up have been smoking and hard work. I have not done either for over 20 years.
It seems that Julia had just been adding sound to a video she had done for work and my advice to the computer meant she was going to have to do it all again. There really are times when I realise I’ve been a bad influence on her.
Chastened, I carried on typing, but when the computer seized up again I made my displeasure obvious with the use of hand signals.
It’s a good thing that we are doing more days at work in the coming week, as lockdown is beginning to change me. First I started eating too many biscuits, then I pretended to be a bear and now I’m making offensive hand gestures at a computer.
We’ve each been in twice a week for the last two weeks to do the eBay work and answer the phone. From this week we are going in four days a week and there will be two of us in the shop each day. I will be at work tomorrow, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
In two weeks time we will start letting customers in by appointment. I spoke to someone by telephone today – he has had a queue outside all day wanting new watch batteries. A lot of watches ran out of power over the last few months.
It’s going to be a long slow recovery from lockdown.
This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
If you look up “Sweetheart Brooches” on the internet you will find a few links to eBay and a leading dealer, then you find a link to a post of mine. That is a ridiculous state of affairs, partly because there should be more information out there, and partly because I only made a couple of short mentions of them. The highest-ranked entry of mine isn’t even the most informative post I wrote about sweetheart brooches. The internet is indeed a mysterious place.
Cambridgeshire Regiment Sweetheart
The Cambridgeshire Regiment was a small unit and the badges are hard to find. This one is mounted on a wishbone, a symbol of luck, promise and potential. Nickel-plated brass.
As usual, when things have been slack, I have reverted to spending too much time on eBay. Whilst it is a pleasurable activity it can also be a disastrous way of spending time as I can’t resist buying things, and it soon starts to add up. Fortunately, having spent many years as a dealer in collectibles, I have a built-in aversion to paying full price, which tends to keep things within bounds. Despite this I’ve still managed to add eight items to my sweetheart collection.
Sweetheart brooches are strange things, because they weren’t even called that until the 1970s. Well, not in the UK – they may well have been called that in the USA, where there is a wide range of sweetheart items. Until that time, in the UK, a sweetheart brooch was a brooch bought for a sweetheart and they tended to feature motifs of birds, hearts or flowers. They were not military themed, as the brooches are that we now call sweethearts. These are mentioned in various news reports before the Great War, often cropping up in breach of promise reports. Those were definitely different days, when a man’s promise to marry could be enforced in court, and the gift of a brooch could be used in evidence.
Lancashire Fusiliers Sweetheart
The Lancashire Fusiliers badge is stamped “Sterling” on the back, showing that it is silver but offering no dating evidence. I would guess it’s late WW1.
In contemporary newspapers the brooches we now call sweethearts are known as Regimental Brooches or Badge Brooches. They are to be seen in newspaper adverts and feature in reports of weddings, when the groom gives a regimental brooch to his bride. These reports are mainly from the 1920s and 30s and I suspect they are the high-quality brooches which rarely feature in my collection.
The type of brooch known as white-faced enamel sweethearts (as featured in the header picture) are usually well made, and are made from brass and enamel. A cheap brass and enamel brooch could cost as little as 4d, the white-faced enamel type would cost you 1/6d. (That is fourpence and one and six (one shilling and sixpence) for those of you who don’t know.) Fourpence is worth 2 new pence and 1/6 is worth 7½p.
Yorkshire Light Infantry Sweetheart
Nickel-plated brass again. Cheapish quality but with the military motif of crossed rifles, which you don’t often see. This is the first of its type for my collection.
At that point I had better stop and deliver a quick word on British pre-decimal currency in 1914. There were 240 pennies in a pound, 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. We also had farthings (¼d) and halfpennies, pronounced ha’penny, (½d).
When we went decimal, with 100 pennies to the £1 a new penny (1p) was worth 2.4d. The abbreviation became p for penny rather than d for denarius (even though it was pronounced penny).
That’s about as clear as I can make it. I have condensed two thousand years of coinage into six lines, but I think I’ve covered the basics.
WW2 Aircrew Sweetheart – silver
RAF Pilot’s Wings are quite common, but the half-wings for other aircrew are not so easy to find. The style of this one is distinctively WW2 with the brooch bar and dangler style. The “S” for Signaller brevet was issued from 1944 onwards to the aircrew who used radar and similar technology, which was all developed during the war.
To put this in context, an infantry private in the British Army was paid a shilling a day (1/- or 5p in decimal terms). He was also fed, and got meat every day, which was better food than most of them got at home.
The header picture is a white-faced enamel sweetheart of the Scots Guards. It cost a day and a half’s wages and would have been bought by a new recruit for his mother, girlfriend or sister as he embarked on a great adventure. There are eight brooches pictured here. On average, one man in seven was killed, which means that it’s likely one of the men who bought these brooches didn’t make it back home.
This is a sweetheart brooch of the 10th (The Prince of Wales’s Own) Royal Hussars, consisting of a regimental badge on a cavalry sword. It is a nice brooch to obtain because the ones with swords are difficult to find, as are brooches to cavalry regiments. In 1914 there were 733,514 men in the British Army, with less than 16,000 being cavalrymen, so you can see why the cavalry brooches are difficult to find.
There is a fault with the brooch, which is probably why it was reasonably priced (I hesitate to say too much about prices because Julia reads this blog). The hallmarks on the reverse are, unfortunately incomplete.
You can tell that the maker is MB in two circles which is Marshall Brothers, that the item was marked in Birmingham (Anchor) and is sterling silver (Lion), but the final element, the date letter, is under the hinge. This is irritating, but not unknown, and it’s a nice addition to the collection, even without a date letter. It’s likely to be around 1912-16, based on the dates of similar items.
Finally, we have a sweetheart brooch of the Welsh Regiment, hallmarked Birmingham 1898 and again made by Marshall Brothers. The hollow silver horseshoe was a common design at the turn of the century and persisted until the early years of WW1. This is a nice early example.The regiment was known as the Welsh Regiment from 1881 – 1920 and the Welch Regiment after 1920.
Welsh Regiment Sweetheart
Hallmarks – Birmingham 1898
This example has the regimental motto on it – Gwell angau na Chywilydd (Better Death than Dishonour) – rather than a scroll with “The Welsh” on it as brooches sometimes deviate from the official badge pattern. There’s some minor damage to it, but what do you expect from a brooch that has survived for 122 years?
Along with the personal link, that this was originally a gift with a great deal of meaning to it, the wear is all part of the charm.
Silver Brooch HMS Celerol
Hallmarks – Birmingham 1915 Frank H Mannox
The final brooch says “Well Done HMS Celerol”. I’m not sure what they did well, and can’t find any record of it. Celerol was a Tanker/Oiler, a class of ship used to escort convoys, import oil and refuel other ships. Launched in Sunderland in 1917, Celerol stayed in service until 1958. She was a hard-working ship, serving in two World Wars and the Russian Intervention, but she seems to have avoided both fame and disaster. Although several of her sister ships were sunk by enemy action Celerol survived to meet her end in the breaker’s yard at Bo’ness.
The morning had been mildly challenging. One customer wrote a note with his order asking us to pack his parcel properly. I wanted to write and thank him for his advice, finishing with the words “…because it had never occurred to me to pack the parcel properly.” However, shop policy dictates that they never let me use my first idea for a reply.
Two customers wrote in with “offers” of approximately half our asking price. I wasn’t allowed to write to them either.
Another, who is from overseas, wrote a note in English words, but used in an order which conceals the actual meaning. You have to admire his bravery in using a foreign language, and the originality with which he uses it. We think he’s asking for a discount. They are always asking for a discount.
And then we have a case of theft – an envelope of coins was delivered with a slit in the side and a complete lack of coins. It’s insured, but it has already taken over an hour of emails and insurance claims, and is going to take more time before it is all settled.
Eventually I arrived home and went to see the couple next door. They have concerns about our conifer and I have arranged to have it topped before the nesting season starts. Tomorrow it will, at what sees great expense, be shortened by about 12 feet.
This leaves the lower half to act as a windbreak and wildlife habitat.
As I left, after letting them know the plane they asked “Have you thought of taking it down completely?”
As it happens, I have. There are many reasons I’m just having the top taken out. It acts as a windbreak for my garage, and partly for the house. It is a great wildlife habitat and we usually have pigeons nesting in it. It is one of the last mature trees left round the area as all the neighbours have taken their trees down (I may return to that subject later). It’s cheaper. I can’t think what to replace it with. And, finally, it’s my bloody tree and I can do what I like with it.
People seem to hate trees in gardens these days.
Apparently it casts a lot of shade over their garden. Well, when they bought the house a few years ago it was just as big and just as shady.
I’m very disappointed in them. There are a lot of reasons, as I explained, leading to me wanting to keep the tree. And they kept repeating that it cast a lot of shade and they would be prepared to help with the cost.
They might be prepared to help with the cost of cutting it down, but what about the cost to the local wildlife?
I took 425 photos last week, according to the count I just did. Exactly 200 were personal and 225 for work. I’m not surprised by the number of photos but I am surprised that they worked out to such tidy figures.
Cook Islands $1 – gold-plated copper with coloured detail
Of those, about half a dozen are blurred (as I delete obviously faulty ones at the time of taking, if I can) but many are poorly composed, badly lit or simply duplicates to make sure I get a decent shot.Many of the work shots are poorly lit because the subjects, particularly coin sets in boxes, and the lights (a couple of badly placed fluorescent tubes) aren’t really designed for good photography.
Guernsey 50p – much the same as the previous photo – they never circulate and are really just medallions for people who want lots of bright shiny stuff
It was a dull week at work – just coins. medallions and the cards that go with them. The “house style” so far as we have such a thing, is also dull, as the shop owner doesn’t like shots which might be more interesting than average. That’s a shame, as I like to look for slightly more interesting angles. Apart from taking pride in my work, it breaks up the tedium of taking 225 photos of shiny, round things.
The other problem I have with him is that he doesn’t use a camera himself. This means he doesn’t understand lighting, or the way the camera sees the shot, particularly the colour rendition. He can’t see why we can’t replicate the picture his eye sees. Most of the time we get decent shots, but with a good camera, good lighting and with some decent equipment such as tripods and diffusers, we could do a lot better.
75th Anniversary of teh Spitfire’s First Flight
75th Anniversary of teh Spitfire’s First Flight
75th Anniversary of teh Spitfire’s First Flight
This is a medallion to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Spitfire’s First Flight.
A lot of them have to be photographed inside plastic capsules, which doesn’t help.You can’t win with that one. If you take a proof coin out of a capsule you get criticism for taking it out and, in the view of the critic, putting finger marks on the coin. If you leave it in you get questions about whether a scratch is on the coin or the capsule.
Crowns – from the Festival of Britain 1951 to Wedding of Charles & Diana 1981
So here are a few of last week’s coin and medallion photos. Not really much of a challenge, apart from the poor equipment, and not much of a feeling of a job well done either. It’s fortunate I have a blog to keep me going.
I had a shock this morning. As I waved to Julia after dropping her at work I realised I had my father’s hands on the ends of my arms. I have the same ageing skin, the same slightly bent fingers and the same way of holding my hand when I wave. I even have some brown spots, though mine are freckles rather than age-related.
It was a bit of a shock.
I once wrote a poem, my first published poem as an adult, about looking in my shaving mirror to see my father looking back. It wasn’t quite accurate (or “authentic”, if you prefer), because I don’t, as you may have guessed from the beard, shave. And in those unguarded mirror moments I actually look a lot like my maternal grandfather who has handed down his distinctive head shape to me.
Eventually, I will probably write a poem about this. It will be much more complicated than the anecdote I have just related and will include angst and a word I can’t quite remember. I’ll remember it when I stop thinking about it. It’s like ambivalence. It might be ambiguous. Something along those lines anyway. Editors, it seems, like that sort of stuff, and I don’t have enough of it.
That reminds me, I have a haibun in Contemporary Haibun Online January Issue. I feel that it may be the last for some time, as one of the main magazines is closing and the chief editor, who has accepted several of my haibun, and offered editorial advice, is being replaced by a man who I do not get on with quite as well.
Time to work on my craft, and begin battering editors with my brilliance.
There were eighteen parcels to pack this morning including several with multiple content. We also bought in a pair of Great War medals and some sovereigns.
We turned down the tin of worthless coins and the stamp collection. It was plain that the owner of the coins thought they were worth a lot more than we did so we persuaded him to keep them as their interest outweighed their commercial value. The stamps, we were truthful about – the market for modern First Day Covers has been dreadful for years and we don’t buy them unless they are autographed or have a coin on them. Or they belonged to Freddie Mercury’s father.
Falklands Crown 2014 mounted on postal cover and autographed by Sir Tom Courtenay
For tea, we will be having haggis. This time it is made with meat. I’m looking forwards to it, and to making veggie burgers with the leftover veg,
As a welcome coincidence, it begins with “H” and allows me to indulge my passion for alliterative titles.
This is a £20 coin from Gibraltar. The £20 is an unusual denomination which some countries, including the UK, have started using for commemorative coins. You can’t spend it, because nobody will accept it, but they can charge quite a high price for it because of the face value. The silver is worth about £6 and the collectable value is not great in most cases.
It is, in short, a bit of a rip-off.
Don’t be fooled about the legal tender aspect, when you look into it the definition of legal tender is very tightly drawn. It appears that legal tender can be used to pay court costs and fines, but nothing else. Nobody else needs to accept it, even if it is legal tender.
This basically means that the Royal Mint can make coins which don’t have to be taken back. We encountered this problem recently when we tried to pay some £5 coins in at the bank. They informed us that they no longer take them. Normally we pay £5 for a UK coin and most of them go straight to the bank as nobody collects them. We can’t do that now, so we can’t pay £5. People, quite rightly, don’t like that. We now tell them to try their bank or post office to see if they are still taking them.
The same is true for £20 and £100 coins, though as far as we know, no bank or post office will take them. We actually sell £100 coins for less than face value at times. It’s a ridiculous side effect of the modern coin trade. Read this article for an insight into what goes on, but before you do, may I just add to the information they provide. If you sell a £100 coin on eBay for £130 as they say, you will pay eBay and PayPal approximately 15% of the cost in fees, so the £130 immediately falls to £115.
Buy coins because they are beautiful, historical, interesting or educational. Or buy them as a present for future generations. If you want an investment ask a bank manager about it, not a numismatist.
This is the reverse of the Gibraltar coin, which is a lovely design. It commemorates the efforts of the Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Gibraltar £20 Coin 2016
Here’s the best value £100 coin on eBay with a Buy it Now offer of £69.99. I just checked all the ones that sold over the last month. There were 12 sold. One made £140. The other eleven all made less than face value.
There is something called seigniorage, which I don’t understand completely. It’s a branch of Economics, which is also something I struggle to grasp. Basically, if it costs the US Mint five cents to produce a quarter they make twenty cents every time someone puts a quarter in their collection. If you produce collectable quarters, such as the State Quarters Series, this can add up. In fact, it adds up to $3 billion. The USA is the best at this, but the Royal Mint is making a big effort to get a piece of the action.
Tomorrow I am planning two more posts, one of which will be to tell you more about this Gibraltar £20 coin. It is very interesting.
I’m not currently at my best. If I tell you that I went through most of the day under the impression that it was Tuesday you may get some idea of the impairment suffered by my softening brain.
This was despite the fact I knew the car had gone away on Wednesday, which was yesterday. A simple process of deduction could have told me that it was Thursday today but I managed to miss out on that basic step.
This morning I managed to do the parcels on my own as the owner sorted a big trade order, and when it came time to get the parcels to the post office he noticed that I’d stamped several parcels up with the right stamps for Special Delivery but had stuck the labels for Signed For delivery on them.
That looks very inelegant – Special Delivery, I can just about live with, though the old name Registered didn’t, in my opinion, need changing. But Signed For sounds like an incomplete phrase rather than a description of a postal service. It was better when it was called Recorded Delivery.
In an ideal world you wouldn’t need this sort of postal service. Unfortunately there are so many thieves, liars and idiots on eBay that we need to use it to protect ourselves.
The normal problem is that somebody gets in touch a couple of weeks after you post something and says it wasn’t delivered.
Stamps, stamps, stamps
We then go on the Royal Mail site and put in the tracking number. Normally it shows that the post office tried to deliver it and, as nobody was there, put a card through the letter box telling the addressee to go and pick it up or arrange to have it delivered again when they will be in.
Unfortunately people don’t always see the bright red card. They also often seem to think it’s my job to arrange the redelivery for them, even though I don’t know when they will be in.
Some, even though it’s been signed for, insist that it hasn’t been delivered and tell us they want another parcel sending free of charge.It is possible that someone has signed for it fraudulently, but again, that really isn’t my problem.
One man actually accused us of knowing when it would be delivered and driving up to Scotland to sign for it and steal it. We were tactful, because he clearly had more problems than missing post.
It’s not even as if it was a sustainable business model…
And at that point, having established that some people have worse senior moments that I do, I will sign off.
I’m watching Pride and Prejudice on TV and resorting to the netbook because I will only have half and hour to post if I wait until the end. Obviously I could go through to the computer in the other room, as I know how it ends, but it wouldn’t be the same.
I’ve generally liked Jane Austen on TV, but do have trouble with it on the page.
I suppose it’s better to watch it on TV rather than have no contact with it at all.
The rest of the day has been quite busy. We had eleven parcels to do, four sales to conduct via email and half a dozen vacuous enquirers to answer. I really don’t know how it’s possible to be stupid enough to ask these questions but intelligent enough to use a computer.
It is half-day closing for us today, so I was able to be home before 1.30, and set to work on my own projects.
I managed to get some of the planning and research done for my talk on Peace and Tribute Medals and beat the computer at Scrabble (once in three attempts). Finally I took a lot of words from a list I had made last night and tried to fashion them into a sonnet. It is not going well. The trick, as they told Miss Elizabeth Bennett tonight, is to practice. I really don’t have the mental stamina to practice sonnets, so each attempt is a fresh trial. Mostly they end in failure.
I’m going to have another try now. Submission windows are going to be opening at an alarming rate for the next few months and I have nothing to send.