Thursday, 28 February 2013


Today the Heart of Midlothian parted company with another manager.  I find this one rather sad.  John McGlynn was a decent Heart of Midlothian man who cared for the club and did his best in difficult times.  His common complaint that he had lost several major players through transfer and injury was indeed correct.  Many of the young players he was encouraged to play had been through his hands in times past when he was a youth coach.  Instead of seeing them reach the heights he instead sees a bleak future as one of the unemployed.  For myself I always considered John more as a coach than a manager, an assistant manager rather than the man in the media spotlight.  The pressure of managing a club of the size of the Heart of Midlothian is great, as indeed is the fans expectation.  Both told on him as the season continued.  His tactical knowledge was less than that required and it is clear no Heart of Midlothian side ought to be playing one up front, especially at home.  The Heart of Midlothian must always make attack the policy, as full bloodied as possible and according to the resources available.  Sadly for John his ideas fell flat and the feeble effort against St Mirren on Tuesday night spelt the end for this decent man.  Those who take over have a difficult job to do however the change will actually encourage some players and hope of success still beats.  We have a cup final to look forward to, and I expect us to win it!


Today also saw the publishing of Lord Nimmo-Smith's report into Rangers use or misuse of what are called 'EBT's' in paying their players.  For some these are legal, for other a tax dodge, regarding the Scottish Football Association (SFA) these must be declared to them before they begin.  Whether legal or not was not the question, the question was did Rangers under David Murray hide such payments and gain advantage.

The report decides no advantage was gained, but these were hidden and fines a club that has gone into liquidation the sum of £25,000 that cannot ever be recovered.  In short a whitewash of the SFA favourites!  Once again Rangers under Murray have moved the goalposts and got off with it!  Once again the Scottish establishment have come down on the side of their team!  How anyone can believe that giving hidden payments, therefore encouraging the buying of better players, does not lead to gaining advantage is hard to understand!  Of course they had an advantage, of course the titles and cups are tarnished, of course the fine is inadequate!  

Muddle?  No, deliberate moving of goalposts to aid the team that matters.  I am left wondering what political pressure (read that phrase any way you like) has been exerted and where?  If only I supported Celtic, I could see conspiracy and back room dealings being done here among the rich and famous.  However I will not do that.  Scottish football however has been stabbed in the back once again! 


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Walk in the Sunshine

The bright and almost warm sunshine this afternoon reminded me of my time as a postman walking the streets in summer, on a bike!  Always the bets way to walk the streets.  At that time the daft new rules had been brought in, the Union rolling over and submitting to the bosses in their usual manner, rules that changed this pleasant but hard job into a hard and unpleasant routine for many.
Delivering early in the sun is great.  The cats all greet you, imagining you will open the door and feed them, instead you speak to them, post the mail and turn away.  The cats then possess an expression that would make Maggie Thatcher tremble!  At some times of the year the bushes in the gardens would be covered in what looks like thin white silk.  This turns out to be spiders webs about a foot or so across, often a dozen or more on a bush.  The morning dew added a glint in the sun to these, although difficult to photograph properly I find.  The dew on lavender plants heightening the fragrance as you brush past the stalks leaning over the pathways.  Lavender is a common plant in this area, the long purple rows can be seen on many farms. The scent wafted around as I passed but the cats did not appear to care.

In those days I often met with mothers taking the brats to school.  On on occasion I rang the bell just as mum was yelling "Get down here this minute! I said NOW! not tomorrow!"  She opened the bell somewhat sheepishly realising I must have overheard.  "Don't worry lass," Says I, "Every other house down the road is doing exactly the same."  Indeed they were.  The house where a child, or children, trotted cheerfully and quickly off to school does not exist.  Some parents believe others have an easy time with their kids, they are wrong!  All children are brats!  As I returned from a house further along the family were now acting out 'happiness and obedience' in the same style all the other mums dragging their brood to primary school were.   Kids often look out for the postman.  On occasions wee George will be straining to see the postman, meaning the regular man will hesitate before moving on so as to wave to the boy.  This will continue for several days and suddenly stop.  Wee George has lost interest and possibly has another to wave to.   

Postmen of course do not deliver to you.  Postmen deliver to an address.  No 24 is what matters, not Mrs Smith.  Postmen sign the Secrets Act because the mail belongs to 'Her Majesty the English Queen,' although she never makes any attempt to deliver it herself.  So much for sex equality!  What is delivered is none of the postie's business, he just carries the stuff, and if he discovers what is being sent, from whom and to whom, he cannot pass on such information to anyone, even the police.  Any legitimate authority must go through the proper channels if required.  Naturally it is not difficult to guess what many people (called 'customers today') are receiving  however few will really care.  Nosiness has its limits, especially when there are several more sacks of mail to get through.  It is customary for postmen to act natural with 'customers' in spite of the sex machines, interesting pills, and other legal implements that show through badly packaged mail.  

People are strange.  Most I met around here were sensible enough, boringly normal for the most part, but occasionally something will arise.  One postman in Chelmsford was apparently met by a naked women (age not known) as he desired a signature for an item.  He was later informed by a policeman friend that he could have been done as a 'peeping tom' for that!  I doubt he would have been.  I might have waited until she signed and suggested "You'd better put some clothes on lass, they will think he wants you for your money!"
The nearest I got was a young lass in her underwear who possibly expected the parcel van driver. She certainly was disappointed to see me.  I managed not to suggest that a diet would help her love life.  But only just.  

Ah memories.  Memories are of course better than the pain in the knees, the weight of the mail, the unfortunate management, the rain, the hail, the snow and on occasion the sunshine.  One year some folks were claiming it was too hot!  Stupid men!  These were the ones who sit in a little van going around the villages.  In between stops for coffee from friendly farmers daughters and one or two wives, something we 'townies' never got, the sun shining through the windscreen must have made life difficult for them on their 300 drops.  I had 500 at least!!!  Bah!  Well it is a good job I was never one to complain, as there were reasons to.  Being a postman, on the good days, was once a very enjoyable job, and I had hoped to continue this until I retired.  Maybe of course the knee has saved me many troubles as I do not think I would enjoy the confused and overworked life such men endure today.  Yes I know what you are saying, women are postmen also.  However in those uniforms it was difficult to tell!


Monday, 25 February 2013


On the first day of creation: God created The Cat.

On the second day: God created man to serve the cat.

On the third: God created all the animals of the earth to serve as potential food for the cat.

On the fourth day: God created honest toil so that man could labour for the good of the cat.

On the fifth: God created the sparkle ball so that the cat might or might not play with it.

On the sixth day: God created veterinary science to keep the cat healthy and the man broke.

On the seventh day: God tried to rest...........but he had to scoop the litter box .....

Discussing exam: 
"Jones, unlike Green, who had had 'had', had had 'had had.'
 'Had had' had had the approval of the examiners."


Saturday, 23 February 2013


Jim asked his friend, Tony, whether he had bought his wife 
anything for Valentine's Day.

'Yes,' came the answer from Tony who was a bit of a chauvinist,
 'I've bought her a belt and a bag.'

'That's nice of you,' Jim added,
 'I hope she'll appreciate them.'

Tony smiled as he replied,
 'So do I, and hopefully the vacuum cleaner will work better now.'

My wife just called me.

She said, "Three of the girls in the office have just received
 some flowers for Valentines Day, they are absolutely gorgeous."

I said, "That's probably why they've received flowers."


Friday, 22 February 2013

It Seems to me

This man, Oscar Pistorius, shot his girlfriend either deliberately or accidentally.  He is famous for being a disabled athlete who apparently has won things.  Can I just let it be known I do not care?  There is in my view nothing, bar some very poor police work and absurd journalism, in this story that relates to the UK so why do we have it thrust upon us as the main story in every news bulletin and paper?  Do we lack murderers and dubious athletes ourselves we need to care about other peoples?  I know not whether he is guilty or not, I know it is not newsworthy, so why is it so important to the media?  Having been given bail he may stay out of the news for a while, until it begins again during the court case.

When the present Pope decided to resign rather than die on office it created a media outcry.  A man considered irrelevant by so many gets an awful lot of publicity for anything he says.  Now it transpires he had read a report indicating a 'gay' fraternity being exposed in the Vatican, that says the 'La Repubblica' paper is why he is going.  I believe them, the pope is an 'intellectual' as opposed to a leader, a manager, which is what the pope role is about.  he was given the job because the other cardinals did not want another John Paul II, a man who refused to die in office for many years.  I believe them also as it is no secret that many homosexuals, as well as paedophiles have found their way into the Roman church organisation (although I am not able to give evidence bar reporting stories thereof) .  Such tales have been around in RC circles for many years, names never mentioned, and any organisation that wrongly insists on celibacy is open to corruption if control is poor.  The size and complexity of the RCs organisation makes such control difficult, especially when the Vatican itself is full of problems.  A return to the bible is required from the next pope, a removal of homosexual groups and a handing over to the police of all paedos is an urgent step he must take, an end to celibacy is also overdue, that in itself with free many problems. When he reads this report, if it exists, he has many hard choices to make.  

Car drivers are always whining about petrol prices.  There is hardly a day when the poor hard done by drivers grumble and complain about their struggle to pay for fuel.  I noticed while sitting on the bus the other day the prices, £135.9 for Unleaded, and £147.9 for diesel, that's at a litre a time.  Smaller cars will have a tank of what?  Around 45 litres perhaps?  That means you might pay £40 - 50 when you fill up.  However as I look around I find people driving big cars, and those who drive smaller appear to use them a lot.  Now I am on a tight budget, which is why I bought 30 butchersd sausages for £10 yesterday, cheap around here, but so many people appear to find enough to fill the hosue with all mod cons, drive cars, have holidays, drink in pubs, attend football matches and yet say "It's all right for you!"  Where does their money come from in these austerity days?  How do folks manage to live so well?  I would hate to tell them to buy a smaller car, eat better and less, don't buy what you don't need, and get a life.  There again, I might.


Thursday, 21 February 2013


So you don't like me shopping? BAH!  I went anyway!

It was rubbish! 
The Oxfam shop exists here, it remains overpriced and did not have what I want!  Waterstone's here had more floor space and more books I didn't want, but found two I can suffer.  Almost no bookshops left in this country, even the second hand ones are mostly charitable types now.  Amazon has much to answer for!

Still I got 'Annals' by Tacitus (or Takitus if you prefer) plus 'Britain BC' by Francis Pryor.  Also having passed two folks with flu I expect to get that also, Flu hates me with a passion.  I'm convinced virii and germs recognise me wherever I am.  There are ancient canals in boring  Chelmsford, the bridge is dated 1787, the one below I mean, as that is the year the canal opened, and runs over the River Can which leads tothe Basin.  The green one is considerably later and not so attractive.  From Chelmsford basin, now a nice walk in the sunshine, the boats would make their way to the Heybridge Basin near Maldon.  Horse drawn barges, very romantic but commercially slow, carried 25 tons of grain, flour and whatever to the coast, bricks, coal, timber etc were brought back.  The horse were used until the 60's even!  The commercial side ended in 1972,unusually the rail links did not compete with this canal and that is the reason for its survival.  

I attempted to take pics of the fabulous wee houses I passed but the bus moved too fast and only this one in a village survives.  T last time I was in Great Leighs, about 15 years ago I cycled around the back roads visiting the tomb of the Reverend Clark, he of 'Echoes of the War' fame. Then it was a small place, with lots ofinteresting wee houses and people watching through the net curtains as I passed.  Today it has swollen enormously owing to housing development.  You get a glimpse of such housing development in this picture here.  I know what I prefer.  Other villages have kept the developer at bay and houses from several hundred years ago deserve a visit in the summer.  If I'm free that day!

I hurried up the road to get the quarter past bus, which naturally did not arrive.  The highly sophisticated timetable has been well presented, it just forgot to add the bus might not arrive!  The first time I visited London I was somewhat taken aback to see the timetables on the stops informing us the buses arrived 'every fifteen minutes, but it then told us the times may not be adhered to!  That would never have done for Edinburgh!  

As I headed for the bus in a rush I passed this place.  Typical of many pubs in the London area and looking very neat today.  In stead of standing freezing in the bus station (why do they build them in such a way as to invite cold winds?)  I should have been in here. The bus arrived at twenty to the hour!  Bah!  

Still awake.....?  


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Old Doorway

In the middle of Colchester centre stands this Saxon tower, built around 1020 AD they say.  This is the oldest known church in the town, and as the Saxon's tended to build in wood, abundant in the area while stone is not, this may well replace a previous structure.  Actually, outside the new police station lies the traces of a building thought by some to be the first Christian church in the island, possibly built in the first 300 years of the millennium.   There is an abundance of Roman tiles in the doorway and the walls of the tower, which shows how entrenched the Romans were here.   The doorway is not encouraging fat people (oops, sorry, grammar nazi's insist on 'obese.') to enter is it?  

The narrow street meant I could not get a better picture from there but sufficient to show the height.  I can imagine their shaky scaffolding as the tower grew!  Amongst the graves in the plot squashed around the tower lies one William Gilberd, whom you will recognise as the physician to Queen Elizabeth I.  He also discovered 'electro-magnetism' whatever that is.  Also entombed lies one John Wilbye, whom you will recall was famous for writing madrigals. (A note to the less enlightened, madrigals were songs, not magazines)  I stuck my head through the side door into what once was a church to find a dingy hall filled with tables all askew.  The hall now serves youth and sometimes is used as a music venue.  While useful to many this appears to me to be a sad end for such a building.  

All around us lie things we never see because they have always been there.  I suspect folks walking up East Hill never glance at this one time watering place.  We take clean water for granted, except when the bill comes in, but until the middle of the 19th century it was not always so.  Water was often polluted, if available, and beer was safer to drink.  Many houses built near the end of the century still shared a common water pump.  This one was erected in 1864 'In Memorium,' but it does not say of whom!  I can imagine bare footed children crowding around each time they passed for a free drink.  Quite what the lower niche was for I know not. Did they wash their feet there perhaps.  

I noticed this in the walls of the priory but am undecided as to the purpose.  A window perhaps? Too high of the ground for anything else.  In RC tradition a light is kept burning, possibly this was connected to that, possibly not.  You can see the haphazard stonework.  Anything lying around was used.

 Yet another memorial to the war dead stands in the priory grounds.  To which members of the town I did not look to see however I was once again struck by the use of the phrase 'The Glorious Dead.'  How the people at home wanted to believe the losses had been worthwhile.   The effect of the losses remains in our character to this day.  


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

St Botolph's Priory

After the Roman retreat from southern Britain the Anglo Saxons came to dominate the area, forcing the remaining locals to move to Wales, how cruel can you be?  Occupation of Colchester had continued and the Saxon's built a Minster there.  Once William the Conqueror (a name he preferred to his previous title, 'William the Bastard') was in control an abbey was begin shortly after the Norman's began to build the castle on the ruins of the Roman Basilica.   The Priory did not do well.  Monks arrived and left in short order, possibly because the bishop was not too generous towards them.  This was to be the story of the following years.  While Bury St Edmunds developed with the body of the saint in residence Colchester had no relics, no books being written and no great men to bring in the crowds or the wealth.  Many efforts were made over the years to produce a satisfactory life but this place never became wealthy.

 Colchester itself appears to do little but exist around the five hundred years of the priories existence, although they did receive a  charter from the king and around 1300 AD contained a population of possibly 4000, although the taxation roll only names 390!  Conservative politicians fiddling tax even then?  Occasionally a King would visit, the castle would be endangered by a siege from the Danes or French, an occasional plague and of course the Peasants revolt passed through in 1381.  'Long live John Ball!'  

In 1403 the then Abbot, one Geoffrey, became embroiled in a plot to bring Richard II to the throne.  Not surprisingly this never occurred and in spite of being given clemency he once more got involved in treasonable acts.  He died in prison of a disease of the throat.  These men were very influential in their day, related to Kings and Queens, often of the royal line themselves, and on the odd occasion a Christian might make it near the top.  Politics was too important to let that happen.  However by 1539 the then man in charge, one John Beche, disagreed with Henry VIII to the extent that he lost his head over it on December the 1st  that year.  And a Merry Christmas to you mate!  Since that time the building has fallen into disrepair.  Built from materials at hand, no building stone in this county, Roman remains were used alongside anything lying around.  An impressive building arose, the walls once covered by plaster which has since fallen away to reveal the flints beneath.  

Now standing somewhat desolate the council have ensured the ruin will not collapse any further and the place forms a hideaway for the derelicts of the town.  Three such were minding their own business as I wandered about yesterday, heedless of the fool with the camera or the many others who followed the path from one of the town's stations into the heart of the place.  A somewhat sad story.  A towering building that never saw fame, was a disappointment to many who spent time there, and now stands forlorn, almost hidden from view.   The stonework, mostly Roman I say, around the door shows some extent of the hope that someone once had for the place.


Monday, 18 February 2013

The Big City, in Comparison....

Early this morning, clutching my FREE Bus Pass, I wandered down to the bus station go shopping in the big town.  I had the choice of two towns to visit and against my better judgement I went into Camoludunum.  There I planned to visit Waterstones, a second hand bookshop, a Christian bookshop, a shop selling almost every odd thing you need but don't have, and acquire a couple of T-shirts to replace dying stock.

From the off there were problems.  For a start the driver did not want to let me on.  
"Is that your dad's pass?" He asked brusquely.  
Tempting as it was to agree with him the woman behind me, whom I once delivered mail to, intervened.
"Nah! He's a miserable old git right enough!" She said somewhat too eagerly.
As I climbed the stairs I mused on how willingly the driver accepted her opinion! Bah!

Ah, upstairs on a bus!  An unusual experience these days for me.  Useful for looking into passing gardens and people's windows, seeing life hidden from normal view and giving a new outlook on the world.  Few others joined us, half term means kids are out and about but few joined us today I'm glad to say.  Two grans brought two primary school kids to the front seats and almost immediately a chinky bloke sat alongside them.  Seconds later the male child was sitting on his knee as a joke, and I noticed the grans holding their handbags cudgel fashion.  When I next looked one gran was quietly sitting behind him.  Subtle.  He was no danger, the man was just socially unaware, as he would soon be made aware if the women misunderstood.

Passing through a village I noticed once again the quaintness of the ancient houses, the narrowness of the road compared to the size of a double decker bus, and recalled that while this place looked interesting the people were, somewhat insular!  English you see, they are not egalitarian like what we are.  During the plague this village blocked the road with barriers to stop the plague getting in!  I must go back there, when the sun shines, and have a browse at the prices in the shop windows.  Sadly the day remained overcast until I was heading home again, and wee villages require sunshine.  The quaint houses compared badly to the shopping centre some miles further on, in particular the new 'Sainsburys' that surprised me by its size!  It was as big as a football stadium!  On the other side stood a 'Boots' with a 'Drive Thru Prescription' service!  Now excuse me but who uses that?  Do you phone up and order the bottle of 'embarrassing stuff' and drive in the side door so no-one can see you?  Typically it is spelt badly, must be Yank inspired.

As we neared town I cleaned my glasses for the third time.  Vision had been quite misty up till then.  It was as I cleaned I realised it was the sleep in my eye, not the film on the glass!  In the town stood a field, several trees, planted a few years ago, stood knee deep in long grass.  Behind them stood goalposts, just the one set, surrounded by a deep layer of brown mud.  No accompanying set of goals were to be seen.  This reminded me of the difference between the British Isles attitude to the beautiful game, and Johnny foreigners approach.  The proper approach is the one we took when young.  A couple of jumpers were deposited as goals, I would take my usual place as goalkeeper, and the rest would spend time crossing the ball in or playing a kind of defence v attack format with one goal only.  However in places like Spain and Italy, where the sun shine most of the year, young men get a ball, meet in a park and do not set up goals.  Instead they pass the ball, dribble, experiment on fancy ball control, and the like.  Technique is all, while getting on with the game was our idea!  The result is the better control of foreign players, and their goalies constant struggle while dealing with crosses.  The British drive is missing although in the south high temperatures mitigate against that.  The cold means we need to run about quick!  A simple thing those posts, but they speak loudly about our game.

I alighted the bus as we entered the centre, a mistake I was to discover later.  Heading straight for 'Waterson's'  I clutched tightly my Book Token given to me at Christmas by a sensible, intelligent young lady, and began to search for something worthwhile, educational, cheap, historical and to suit my exquisite taste, I failed!  They had a few good books right enough but none suited today.  The only decent bookshop in town and I could find nothing!  Shock!  However disappointed as I was I continued on to the Christian bookshop down the road and failed to find it.  It had turned into a shop full of junk furniture and was closed!  Two down, but   was I downhearted?  Yes!  I wandered through the centre, much more interesting than boring Chelmsford I must say.  Lots of interesting shops that appeal to women, and few closed or turned into charity shops, those were found in the lesser streets.  I wandered about this interesting town centre, still showing evidence of Roman organisation in these street patterns, disappointed by the charity shops books also, much better choice than here in this town but not what I wanted.  There used to be an 'Oxfam' bookshop in town, but that was no longer to be seen either.  The odd bits shop I dreamed off I then discovered had closed down!   I began to realise why the temptation to visit boring Chelmsford was so strong!  I was not meant to be here.  Off I trotted downhill to the secondhand bookshop.   I became somewhat worried when I espied an 'Under Offer' sign on the side of the building.  I then noted the 'Books at £1' sign and the closed door and shut gate! The place was closed!  It appeared to me that the M&S T-Shirts I was intending to buy might not be a good idea.  If I found the store I might close it down by attempting to shop!   However, in amongst a lot of poofy a variety of merchandise I found the boring T-shirts I required.  If these fit they might not shrink this time.

One place I did find was the Priory, a ruin  that stands in the middle of town, and was erected around 1100.  That's not eleven in the morning, I mean the year 1100.  An interesting ruin which I must read up on and I will mention this later as my dinner is burning as I write.  Nothing new there either. 

The journey home began badly.  The bus station was not there!  Someone had closed it down and moved it elsewhere.  I should not have got off where I did.  Eventually a nice man told me where to go, as opposed to less nice men who have told me where to go willingly in times past.  Once at the new station I boarded after a short wait, again accompanied by the socially unaware chink who chose to sit behind the adolescent brat in the front seat even though the bus was empty. Brats mother ignored his placing his feet on the window ledge, something my folks would have never allowed, and her desire to phone a friend and allow us all to enjoy her loud conversation gave cause for concern.  The concern being I had forgotten my chainsaw!  However I sat happily as the sun shone brightly in the window, indicating the soon return of Spring, hooray!  Being upstairs I noticed all those small items, names, carvings, (I canny mind the word) found between windows on Victorian homes, and there were many.  Some were painted, some not, many were intricate and while copied from a pattern book were worth a look.  So were the 80 or so Mercedes Benz parked awaiting customers during these austerity days.  However I suspect that austerity or not they will not be there long.  As the bus began the journey home I also noticed the Oxfam bookshop.  I had walked past the new, larger shop twice.     

I will have to visit boring Chelmsford now, bah!


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Early Morn

Well, earlyish.
A strange sight greeted my creaking knees as I huffed and puffed up the old railway this morning, blue sky and sunshine!  Even the wind dropped, although by the time I propelled the beast home again I had begun not to care.  Just imagine, sunshine!  No dark clouds, no rain, even less snow!  How almost Spring like for a few hours. 

How can things disappear?  I had three wooden spoons, rewards for my efforts, a big one, a small one and a middle one.  I use the middle one constantly but it has disappeared!  It is not where it ought to be, not in the cupboard, not to be found anywhere.  How can anything disappear so completely?  I've searched the cupboards, I've crawled on my hands and broken knees all over the floor,  I've checked the rubbish bins, it's gone!  I wonder who broke in to steal a wooden spoon....?

Soub? Is that you Soub?

Look, blue sky!  Ignore the frost covering everything!


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Saturday Laff

My wife just called me.

She said, "Three of the girls in the office have just received
 some flowers for Valentines Day, they are absolutely gorgeous."

I said, "That's probably why they've received flowers."

Jim asked his friend, Tony, whether he had bought his wife 
anything for Valentine's Day.

'Yes,' came the answer from Tony who was a bit of a chauvinist,
 'I've bought her a belt and a bag.'

'That's nice of you,' Jim added,
 'I hope she'll appreciate them.'

Tony smiled as he replied,
 'So do I, and hopefully the vacuum cleaner will work better now.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Another Old Photo

An ancient shot I took while studying with the Open University.  This was a week long session at the Royal Holloway place in the south west of London.  Marvellous building, fantastic place to be.  It was begun as a college for women, I think since the false equality laws took over it is now open to anyone rich enough o pay the fees.  A week there was enough for me mind, had I been young and studious it may appeal but by that time I liked my own place too much.  I would finish the course but the history on offer is poor and each costs £2400 these days.  Beyond me now, but never mind, I was a poor student and was only doing it for me myself and I.  Lovely individual rooms the girls had I must say.  Sufficiently large for one, possibly cool in winter, own sink and fire, and the stairs would keep them fit!  A real fine Victorian building this.  He also constructed a psychiatric sanatorium nearby, in use until the late 80's, made in similar style.  Some studying might have wondered if they were in the right building at times I suspect. 


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Nil Desperandum Jimi

I trawled through my old albums tonight, amazed at the rubbish shots I used to think so good, and found one or two I had forgotten all about.  Nothing special, although I find the lamp with praying angel quite attractive now.  Beforehand I thought it a bit iffy.  I never managed to get through the door of this large impressive building, and I suspect still evangelical church, but always admired it.  Built of what they call 'Bargate Rag Stone,' with 'Box Ground' and 'Baths - Stone' dressings, as you can tell, it rises high over Bayswater and was erected during the great wealthy days on 1880.  At that time the are only contained the best people, Westbourne Grove' being shopping of high quality, and while the area depressed somewhat, my part full houses divided into bed-sits and small flats, a small flat today would cost about half a million!  It should be noted I moved out.  They knew how to build in those days, especially when labour was cheap and 'gothic revival' popular.  Almost nothing however can be discovered about John Johnson the architect.  How strange.

Nice doors, that I almost got into the picture!  I think I took these on the Leica IIIb that I possessed for a short while.  Foolishly I swapped it for something more efficient!  It was a good camera but to difficult for an idiot like me to use.  I should have kept it mind.  The things daft folks do!


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sir James Young Simpson

James Simpson, one of many great and internationally famous Scotsmen, was born into the usual 19th century small Scottish family, he was one of seven children!  His father had moved from a bakers job into accounting for the local bank, which with so many choldren was a good place to be.  James emerged into the small town of Bathgate in what is now West Lothian.  The town had been around since the time of King Malcolm IV (that's the 1100's to you) but while it had an occasional  moment of fame nothing much could be said of it in 1811 when James appeared.  It did have a distillery (that produced 85,000 gallons a year by centuries end) and built a decent large academy, so someone had money as well as the Scottish emphasis on education.  Our James however had been so bright that he had long since left the town and entered Edinburgh University at 14 years of age (the same age at which I departed school!).  Our hero began to practice medicine at 20 years of age and was so bright that he became professor of midwifery at 28!  Here he introduced many innovations, including using midwifes in hospitals, and reorganisation of hospital procedures but became much more famous for his discovery of Chloroform as an anesthetic.

Sir Humphrey Davey, he of the miners lamp, had begun to use Nitrous Oxide in 1799 but the use did cause problems for patients lungs.  Always willing to experiment at a time of much needed innovation, James and his pal doctors experimented on themselves with a variety of substances to aid patients.  In 1847 they found Chloroform was a knock out.  With Doctors Duncan and Keith and some say with their wives also,  he experimented in the front room of his home at Queen Street, Edinburgh, the home of many famous men (ahem).  Each held a cloth soaked in the stuff over their mouths.  When they awoke, the next morning, lying on the floor , they realised they had something here!  It was however, as always, opposed by many and not until Queen Victoria used such while giving birth to Prince Leopold that it became accepted.  Many women breathed a sigh of relief!     

Somewhere along the line James added 'Young' to his name.  Possibly this referred to his age while professor, maybe it was a cause for humour among his colleagues, no reason is given.  His humour was well known, he once sat a freed slave beside a slave owner at one of his dinners, and possibly he took the name 'Young' as a laugh! In 1866 his work and fame war rewarded by the nation, he became 1st Baronet of Strathavon, possibly after the location of his country house, and we all need one of those!  The house I mean, not the Baronetcy.  

Simpson died aged 58 in 1870, and while his worldwide fame was such an offer of burial in Westminster Abbey was made he like all good Scots, was laid to rest in Warriston Cemetery in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital!  A memorial bust was placed in the Abbey while on the day of his funeral a holiday was declared. 100,000 people lined the streets!  What a man!


Saturday, 9 February 2013

So,what was it....?

It lies here, just of the old railway, turning green and falling apart.  It reminds me a lot of myself.  I suppose it once formed part of Farmer Brown's life and was parked here and forgotten.  It may even be a stolen vehicle dumped by thoughtless youths.  Whatever it was it no longer is.  

I came across it after having a touch of the sun this morning!  The sky was blue, the sun shining, and I was fooled into getting in the bike and trundling out.  I became further fooled by the thought that I could meander up the old railway and see the country, even though the fields all around were covered in white frost as I left.  I forgot that the sun shines in Antarctica also!   I donned my cap and thick gloves and sallied forth.  How nice to be up early and on the bike again.  I have not been up there for months.  The place looks a bit weather beaten, much has been cut back by the Rangers, and their keep fit volunteers, although selfish folks with dogs think standing in the middle of the track is funny.  Words could easily be exchanged with some of these dog lovers.  

Just imagine, cold sunshine, snowdrops appearing, even some blossom appearing on one or two scraggy bushes.  The finches sang,  dogs wagged tails, and I now ache all over.  Anyone got time to do massage.....? 


Friday, 8 February 2013

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A few days ago I ventured into a new experience.  
I bought meat!  

Rising from my pauperism to a level known as 'poverty' I had the good fortune to receive one of those gift voucher cards for Christmas.  So clutching my card tightly in my grasping mitts I ventured up the road to the shop early in the morning.  The rain did not deter me, although I thought it unusual to rain on the first day of February - it’s usually snow!  Sloshing through the smaller puddles to avoid the rain getting in the holes in my boots I soon reached the destination, eager to buy.

It was at the store when I realised  I had a problem.

I hailed a passing assistant, “Meat,” I said, my eyes pleading.
“Over there,” said the lass, her eyes bright and glinting full of light and happiness.
“Thanks,”said I, “But, er, em, this meat, er,... what exactly is it? I haven’t bought any for a very long time”
Her eyes dimmed somewhat and she muttered something under her breath.  
Taking my hand, in the manner of a nurse in a care home, then letting it go suddenly and wiping hers on her uniform, she led me to the counter and explained the red things found therein.
“Some comes from cattle, that’s called beef, some from pigs, that’s called pork, and some from lamb and that’s called expensive.” She spoke as to a six year old.  
"And that?" I questioned, pointing to packets of blackish stuff.
"That's offal."
"If it's awful why is it on sale?"
She gave me a look that would send a shiver through Maggie Thatcher.
"I mean, that this is liver or kidneys."
"Oh, sorry," I muttered. 
What's that over there?" Muttered I, my eyes blinded by the price tags.
"That's all Fowl that side."  
"CHICKEN!" she said rather too loudly, her eyes becoming white balls with a black dot in the middle. Some people turned round and gave us that embarrassed smile, others moved away silently. I glanced at the prices, searching for those yellow price reduction ones.
"Chicken, goose and," she looked meaningfully at me as she added, "Turkey are all found over there.  Sausages and bacon over there!" She indicated this with an abrupt wave of her hand." 
" Hmmm what.....?" I began, but hesitated as I saw her eyes were now small slits, rather resembling those seen on pill boxes with machine guns peering out. "I, er, em......"
She wandered off clenching her paws and kicking the stick from under an old fellow who just happened to look towards her as she passed.  

I wandered back and forth, annoyed I had not asked her how to cook these strange red shapes, being a woman that sort of thing would come naturally.  I am more used to mince myself, however I was wary about asking another assistant.  There were several to be seen, including the two now picking up the old guy from the floor and returning his stick.  Selecting several items according to price, yellow label, and colour (I mean should meat be a dark greenish shade?) I hovered around until the security man returned once too often and moved further into the store.  

Glancing around I detected a lack of the 'Wal-Mart' types often seen on the web, most people appeared to be normal humans here.  I remembered the Tesco store in Portobello Road in London, now that would be a haunt of such types today I imagine.  Residents here indicate how boring this town is.

Checking the prices of my more usual stock I was impressed how the increase was constantly higher than the rate of inflation, however you calculate this. Supermarkets having killed of all opposition bar other major supermarkets are having a field day in times of austerity.  Beans that were selling at 9p a tin rose to 29p when the economy collapsed.  The store knew people would turn to 'own brand' goods and increased prices accordingly.  They could build a new store on the profit made of one weeks national sales of tins of beans I suspect.

Having carried my basket full of meat (meat!!) round the shop (I always use a basket as it is easier to get past the women with trolleys blocking the path) I selected several smaller items from the wines and spirits biscuit row and proffered my card at the smiling checkout assistant. This one smiles at everyone and her smile reminds me of the ‘Joker’ from the ‘Batman’ series.  I did not mention this.  I offered first the voucher card, then a small dollop of money to complete the purchase, gathered my several thin plastic bags, and struggled manfully homewards.

Passing my friendly helpful assistant as she stood near the entrance I offered a happy greeting and she spat out a retort I did not catch, however the 'Big Issue' seller opposite beat a hasty retreat.    

Now the freezer has sufficient for a month.  The cupboards are bulging, and when I eat I am almost satisfied with life.  I noticed today also that the helpful assistant now works for Morrison's up the road, you know, the store I never go into........

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


All day I have been involved in contention, yet have never left the house.  'Belligerent is I' has been the order of the day.  Why?  It began yesterday and was with me all day today.  Irritable and ready to yell at the slightest thing, unable to concentrate for long on anything, and just plain irked from dawn to dusk!  
A normal day then......


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Voice of Nonconformity

I've been enlightening myself by reading through Keith Ives excellent history of the nonconformist church at the turn of the centuries just over a hundred years ago.  In England the term 'Nonconformist' was given to any who during the period of the reformation (which you may have heard about, it was in all the papers) refused to attend the Church of England services.  The church in Scotland had, naturally, a different approach to reformation, partly due to the influence of one of the leading men, John Knox, and also because Scots tend to make their feelings known if the situation requires this.  Free church and Nonconformity basically mean the same thing.  To study the late 19th century church position Keith Ives has concentrated on one forgotten man, indeed one I had never heard of until now.  Yet this man had an great influence on church opinions and indeed following this he also had some effect on the changes to British society through his contact with leading men, Lloyd George being the most important.  

William Robertson Nicoll entered the world as a 'son of the manse,' and not just any manse but a 'Free Church of Scotland' manse.'   In 1843 the 'disruption' ended with a third of the Church of Scotland leaving to form their own church, the way people of integrity do.  His father was content to minister in a small church in rural Aberdeenshire, satisfying his desire for knowledge by reading widely and giving a love of such knowledge and reading to his son.  William however desired bigger things and once qualified found himself a church in Kelso in the borders in which to expend his preaching talents and imbibe his listeners with evangelical truths.  His time there was cut short by a  variety of illness and stress and it was recommended he move south to what was termed, 'warmer climes!'  His lung was so badly damaged that he had to seek a very different kind of employment to feed his family.  

Since his days at Aberdeen University Nicoll had contributed articles to the press.  This had continued ever since and once in London Hodder & Stoughton, who had known him for some while, offered him a chance to work as an editor.  So began his influential time ad editor of the 'British Weekly,' a religious paper that he made the leader amongst all such press of the day.  For the next thirty or so years Nicoll was in the centre of theological debate, attempting to hold on to biblical truth while also allowing many teachings, mostly from Germany, to influence both himself and his readers.  In the middle of the 19th century some in German universities decided to use a variety of 'criticisms' to investigate the truth of the bible.  This normally ought to be encouraged as the truth has nothing to fear, however man's 'reason' cannot understand the book God has given us unless it is also open to the supernatural and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Too many 'discovered,' to their own content, mistakes, changes, alterations, that suited their understanding. Such teachings have influenced people ever since, in spite of alternative views being offered.  Nicoll himself was so impressed that he gradually began to ignore the Old Testament altogether and began to concentrate on the cross of Christ, the centre of Christianity.  However it is not possible to drop half the book, and much research has backed up much of the history of the OT.  This debate added to the Darwin evolutionary theory which caused many believers to wonder what was truth.  

Many leading men of the day were swayed one way or the other, it appears even some of the leading lights, often men who wrote in Nicoll's paper, took extreme views, some so extreme they soon were moving elsewhere.  Such debates could not be new to a man brought up in the Free Church of Scotland.  The 'disruption' left many men without a manse and their congregations without a church building.  Soon after this another conflict arose and some left to form what became known as the 'Wee Free Church of Scotland!'  A walk along the bank of the River Ness in Inverness shows some 16 church buildings there.  The ones mentioned plus Baptist, Catholic, Congregational, Methodist, Reformed, Presbyterian and so on.   Most arising from theological disputes, some from pride, the great killer.  Should this be?  Not really, but heresy will always arise, and secondary things, such as infant baptism, music and the like cause some to meet with like minded people, nothing wrong in this.  Paul and Peter both had early disputes with those of the Circumcision Party, who thought all Gentiles ought to become full Jews.  Later Gnostics, Arians, Pelagians etc became points of discussion.  This has been a constant theme as both man and demon wish to turn us away from the central importance of Christ's finished work on the cross.  Small things often cause division to our shame. 

As time passed and his influence grew Nicoll became involved with politics!  His other great love had been literature, which I regard as mere story books, and he had placed much emphasis on reading 'good books,' and gave such space in his paper, introducing stories in the copy also, not unusual at that time.  However the political side became a good escape from theology as the nonconformists were always the leading light in reforming British society.  The state church rarely motivated change.  The early leaders of the Liberal Party were almost all nonconformists of some sort, and even the Labour Party front men were from working class chapels as opposed to state churches.  This aided the introduction of pensions under the Liberal government of 1909, a time when Labour exchanges and unemployment 'dole' money also appeared.  Many improvement to society occurred at that time, and Nicoll and the 'British Weekly' was in the centre of developments.  Exactly where Christians ought to be today!  

However the nonconformist churches were  beginning to appear as middle class Liberals rather than evangelicals.  While many trade unionists were from the churches the majority of the working class were not.  The rise in wealth from the 1850's onwards had been made on their backs.  Pit and mill, shop and farm found many now literate workers who considered they had the same rights to a better life as their so called 'betters.'  Therefore their vote went to the Labour Party as it grew, and more so as Nicoll, who had been Knighted for his 'services' had given full support to the war effort once that broke in 1914.  After the war the Liberals were tainted by coalition with the Conservatives who followed their normal practice of throwing workers on the dole in a time of austerity, while remaining well fed and warm themselves.  'Homes for hero's' never arrived as the Tory chancellor claimed there was no money in bankrupt Britain.  

The free churches were also tainted as middle class, theologically dead, and people seeking a new satisfaction in life after the war sought refuge in pleasure, if they had the money, and socialist politics if they had not.  The nominal dropped the church, those confused by fifty years of debate wandered elsewhere, and Nicoll must take a share of the blame for this.  He had been one major instigator in moving into the political sphere, he had encouraged what was called 'believing criticism,' and the people had moved away with no certainties to depend on.  William Robertson Nicoll never lost the centrality of the cross, but he lessened the hold of this for many.  Either the book was true or not, if the OT was a doubt why not the NT?  In academic circles such debate can continue with little damage, the man in the street often requires more easy to read information.  The failure to explain, the lack of dependency on the Holy Spirit guided by scripture, the more people became confused.  

Nicoll died in 1926, the free churches had lost their flocks after the war, and many of the members had given their lives for that cause believing it to be fighting for freedom and for God!  Sadly the Germans also had similar ideas.  It is important not just to read the bible but also to study it.  To understand the main biblical doctrines and apply them to life each day.  Far too many during Nicolls time did not do this, attending because everyone else did, reading the book sparsely, and understanding little.   The free church has never recovered.  The state church in England is a mess, with 95 per cent non evangelical and with agendas unknown in ancient times.  The Church of Scotland is heading the same way, and for many years the leading men had little belief in the supernatural God.  It is the minority that know him.

'Voice of Nonconformity' speaks to us today about the danger of following trends rather than Jesus himself.  Biblical study is a must for anyone who wishes to know God through Jesus his Son, but there are many wide theological roads that lie open to the unwary.  Read, study and think, would have been William Robertson Nicolls suggestion, use your brain, but I fear he himself was entrapped by fame, politics and position while struggling with theological disputes.