Thursday, 31 October 2013

No time to post...

Anything sensible....

Today was to be a quiet day.  A late rise, about seven, a bath and it's not even Sunday, a big breakfast, make lentil soup, write things on history and sleep. The bath and soup occurred, but not at the same time, and a call from the museum took away my Saturday morning, but most of the other stuff did not get done.  How come?  

'Private Eye,' did fall through the letterbox and offer me another dose of corrupt MP's, bankers, businessmen, and local Councillors, to cheer me up.  There were some aspects of Cromwell that possibly had an advantage over what is called 'democracy.'

However I did work out all my Christmas needs and began to fill out the Christmas cards already! It may be that I have spent so much time in Tesco that I have been influenced just a bit too much by them!  

The shock of the day came when my sister told me my niece (49) has decided to have a stroke. Naturally this worried me, I thought I may have to spend money travelling north for a moment!  I think however she will be OK.  It appears to be mild, if there is such a thing, and in a few days we will have a better idea of the problem.  Damage does not look to bad and she talks well enough considering.
Tsk!  The things people do to you!  

I had planned such a skillful post for tonight also, now I have forgotten it.  More rubbish to follow tomorrow!


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

I've Nothing to Say,

So here is a picture of a cat sitting under a car.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A 'Penny' for your thoughts.

After the storm the world has returned to normal sadly.  A thousand children, plus mums, arrived in the museum before I woke up this morning.  Money was exchanged however, Kids and mums were happy, especially the two who got in for nothing, and the place was put back to normal quickly enough.  One mum phoned to book the kid in for an event and asked about 'Penny Farthings.'  We have one and tomorrow she and her kid can see one for herself.  What a great idea these were.  

The 'bone shaker,' that went before (pictured above, made by Lake & Elliot) enabled the eager rider to achieve a decent speed however the large 'Penny' wheel of the later bike gave their rider the speed advantage with no more effort.  Bright young things took to these willingly, even though the first 'Penny Farthings' bikes had a very simple brake which if handled badly left the rider far ahead of his bike!  These interesting creations were not found on tarmac roads such as we have today, the majority of the roads would be poor quality I suspect, and not very comfortable in winter. The 'Bone shaker' was well named! Of course the safety bicycle came along both these were left far behind.  The safety bike had wheels the same size, gears, and brakes.  No wonder it was safe, although it may well cost much more than a man's weekly wage.  Now I am in the mood to jump on my bike and race off down the road, oh dear, it's dark, I had better forget that idea for now.    

Note the broken brake (string) cable!


Monday, 28 October 2013

A Good Dying Day!

For days they have been on TV and Radio informing us of the impending storm. The papers of course were hoping for another 'Hurricane' such as blew through in 1987, it did not arrive.  What did arrive was a storm indeed, houses were damaged, tall vehicles turned on their sides, trees fallen over, trains halted because of, "leaves in the line, attached to the tree," shop fronts damaged and lots of rain hammering into the already sodden earth.  Sadly at least four people were killed, two of them quite young.  
The media reports were desperate to build this up into a howling gale equal to 87, the fact that it failed did not stop the large pictures and hyped up reports. Certainly the wind reached 79 miles an hour around here this morning, it did make a mess of my hair, however little real damage occurred overall.  In the afternoon however I noted the remarkable clear sky.  The sun shining at an angle gave a very clear light.  The gale had stopped the Sainsbury's heavy lorries running around, the road traffic was lessened and aircraft were not landing at nearby Stansted. All this contributed to a clear sky along with the wind clearing the air and leaving an interesting sparkling light.  I attempted to capture this with my wee camera but it was not easy as no decent subject showed itself.  However the owl on top of the aged drinking fountain in the town did reflect the light brightly and the sky behind was a lovely blue.  It was the best I could do in the circumstances.  The drenched bench did not quite work.
It strikes me as unusual that this is almost November and the temperature is still mild.  Does this indicate the winter will be harsh from next month on I wonder?  Lasting until April probably? It may be the jet stream moving south may give us a mild winter, I hope so, just to annoy the energy people!

The title?  In Edinburgh such 'storms' are referred to as "A good drying day," by the housewifes.


Saturday, 26 October 2013

Museum's Twentieth Birthday!

It is twenty years since the museum moved into the old school.  Today as a small celebration we had old Austin Cars outside, Face painting (for kids!), a World War 2 group with lots of stuff, spider making for kids and other activities likely to bring in the punters.  Over two hundred wandered through.  

My day was spent rushing around obeying orders or talking to a variety of people about history, or children!  Do you understand how difficult it is to blow up balloons and attach them to a stick?  I do now!!!  All the high heid yins turned up for the presentation at the end, when we had chucked the public out, and cake and imitation champagne was the order of the day.  However I ended up washing the glasses once again.  Just where do the women disappear to when washing up time comes around?  

                                                            An Air Raid Warden on Duty.

Watching the man turn balloons into a variety of shapes for the kids was a great experience. Stupidly I forgot to take pictures of them as their faces were brilliant!  He and I wandered the streets giving out leaflets and offering such balloon creations to whoever wanted them.  No better way to disrupt the street market on a busy Saturday!   Now my feet and all else are killing me and I have tons of research bits to do.  A good day all round.


Friday, 25 October 2013

Sergeant Edward James Cuming 1270898

A few days ago Tony contacted me re his research of a downed Wellington Bomber, and in particular the Wireless Operator, Sergeant  Edward James Cuming (1270898). (note the spelling)  As always I find things such as this interesting in so many ways.  During Tony's research he discovered the wireless operator came from this area yet was not one of those mentioned on the Braintree and Bocking WW2 War Memorial site that I created.  That indeed intrigues!  I had no details of this man and it appears like so many others he has left little imprint on the area, although by 1939 Braintree had around 7500 of a population. From the details given I looked around but nothing comes up which always annoys me.  Plenty of RAF sites and some indication regarding the operations at the time but nothing re the man's home or family.  However it is indeed amazing what arises when you search 'Cuming!'  

The Bombers story commences at the RAF base at Protville in Tunisia at six thirty in the evening of the 16th September 1943.  It must be remembered that the Italian campaign had only just begun, Italy surrendering on the 3rd of September, the war at this time was far from over and victory uncertain, and the crew knew they were flying into heavily defended territory.  Nevertheless the Wellington Bomber, FU-K, of 458 Squadron (An RAAF, Royal Australian Air Force Squadron, flown by RAF personnel) headed out into the night on a routine scouting mission along the coast of Italy beginning at Civitavecchia and heading up to the Savona Gorjona islands from where they intended to turn towards Bastia in the north of Corsica, and then run down the coast of Sardinia and home. This appears to have been a common routine for this squadron at the time with the danger being clear as several others were shot down, alone, in similar fashion. Nothing was heard from the aircraft after take off and it did not return to base. One man's body was however recovered, Flight Sergeant E.L.Wilson, the second pilot, who now lies buried in the Florence War Cemetery. This indicates the plane came down as it approached or passed over the islands but the wreckage has so far not been discovered.  Was there engine trouble, did enemy fire deal with them, German anti aircraft fire was very effective, or did a night fighter bring them down?  The second pilot got out and possibly the rear gunner, why not the others?   If they got out they may have landed in the sea, and during the day this was hazardous, at night such a situation would be perilous!  No message was sent, does this indicate the wireless operator or his equipment were hit and put out of action?  German pilots entered details of their hits into the squadron log, I expect German efficiency required anti-aircraft guns to report in similar manner.  One day the details may hopefully be discovered

The crew of FU-K comprised:-

RAF FO Driver, P R Captain (Pilot)
RAF Sgt E L Wilson (2nd Pilot)
RAF FO Holt, G (Navigator)
RAF Sgt E J Cuming, (Wireless Operator)
RAF Sgt G R Potter, (SE/Operator)
Sgt D A E Salt, (Rear Gunner)

Driver, Holt, Potter and our man E.J. Cuming, are commemorated on the RAF Malta memorial to those missing in the the Mediterranean area. Wilson in the Florence Cemetery and it appears no record can be found re Sgt D.A.E. Salt, possibly he survived, but like so many other war mysteries it may never be known what happened to him. He, like so many others, remains 'Known unto God.'

With so little details regarding Sgt Cuming it would be good for Tony to discover more about this man and his family. Sadly people often leave so little trace and no details of their lives are ever found. The hope is one day more information will arise. I have placed Edward James Cuming on our memorial along with two others who were not placed on the official memorial by their relatives. On occasion there are good and various reasons the names are withheld. It would be good to know why those omitted were left off the memorial also.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

E-Mail Woes!

I'm having a wee bit of trouble with e-mail.  Some comments have been landing in the Spam folder for some reason.  It took me a moment to realise this.  This is unusual as normally comments go through straight away without bother.  Add to this one of my four e-mails, I use them for different purposes, often hangs for no reason, that is the Microsoft one, and the ISP email, where all the spam normally lands, is once again finding spam for me.  Now Yahoo is the e-mail I use for contact via my War Memorial websites, and the woman in charge, it had to be a woman, has changed the thing and upset the regulars.  The colour is OK with me but I am having great difficulties working the blasted thing.  One contact has been asking about a missing aircraft and when I attempt to reply I am finding it very difficult.  Three times he has answered and with each attempt to reply I am flustered more and more.  It was simple enough before, bah!

On the other hand where would we be without E-Mail?  It is the easiest way to keep in touch, useful for imparting knowledge, humour, and in my case rubbish!  It also saves time wasted in phone calls.  E-mails can be read and left to be dealt with later, phone calls cannot.  I suppose all the rich with their iPods and Tablets live their lives without e-mail as I know it these days.  This however does not appear to be my way forward, not at the price of those items!

Sunday, 20 October 2013


The Death Trap Whisky Bond

For some reason today I contemplated my first job, way back in 1966 before you were born, and made the strange discovery that almost all my previous workplaces had disappeared!  The whisky bond where I singularly failed to make any impression moved shortly afterwards outside of Edinburgh. The death trap building itself may well stand down the bottom of Leith Walk but I have no idea if it remains in use.  Wooden floors, stairs and tons of cardboard boxes mixed with a vat of whisky and thousands of bottles of the stuff do not enable Health & Safety men to sleep at night.  Having departed before being encouraged to leave I moved to Slateford Road where a company making biscuit tins and their plastic inserts paid me almost £6 a week to prove I was not cut out for that job. The company realised that making the inserts was more profitable than the tins and last I heard were developing that side of the business.  The do not exist today.


Today a modern housing development that greased somebody's hand stands there.  In the modern world 15 and 16 year old's seldom find employment, the government keeps them at school to avoid paying them dole money, but in the past companies throughout the land were employing feckless youth who took the money, chatted up the women unsuccessfully and offered little in return, at least that's what the company secretary told me with an uncompromising stare.
Shortly after this conversation I found work at the brewery.

Tenents Heriot Brewery

Here I remained almost four years, enjoyable years at that.  The work was not difficult, even I could do it, the women threw themselves at me, well if you used a can or two of 'Husky Export' that is, and when my life changed I departed for London and a new life.  The people, almost all of whom I actually got on with, gathered together sufficient funds to pay a one-way train ticket to London for me.  Wasn't that nice?  Now the one time brewery, not far from Tynecastle Park home of the world famous Heart of Midlothian, is a block of overpriced flats.  So that's three jobs where the company has found the premises demolished after I left.  This cannot go on can it...?

After a year of London life, where I found a church where Jesus would speak to me and a job with a charity rehousing folks, I came back to what appeared to be old fashioned Edinburgh, well it was 1972!  The shops shut at five in the evening whereas in London they stayed open longer and one worked 24 hours! After a few months away it seemed so boring to a 20 year old.  I was employed eventually at a Cash & Carry where I happily upset people daily.  Deciding to do something a bit more worthy I embarked on a healing career by joining the Royal Infirmary as an orderly.  Here I was so good the other wards attempted to head hunt me!  I wish they had!  While happy at the time I discovered just how difficult women could be to work with.  Until then I had found no trouble working however in this ward bitchiness from the sister towards her superiors and to her nursing staff did not enable a happy atmosphere.  The patients, even the female ones were better behaved, there again I suppose Sister had the needles!  I returned to the Cash & Carry for another year or two.  Both the Royal Infirmary and the Cash & Carry have been redeveloped!  That's five jobs and five redevelopments, so far.  Naturally I should add the building we resided in while working for the charity London no longer operates as we did.  Our 'Hippy' like approach did not go down to well and that place is now someones home.  The organisation has become another council and who knows what goes on with them today!  The old hospital now has many grand flats, for the rich.  

In 1975 it was important to return to that church in London.  This meant leaving the family that I missed, especially those lovely nieces, how hard that was, and found a few months work in a highways depot in Finchley.  That is now a small housing estate.  After a few months I moved to a slum in Swiss Cottage, since redeveloped, and worked at Maida Vale Hospital for several years. 

This was my best ever employment.  Whether the others agree I know not but this place still appears in my dreams at times.  Happy place to work, something new each day and the people on the whole good to me.  Working amongst the long term sick and others dying gives a differing view of the world.  On occasion this place appears in my dreams and I suspect appear in the ladies dreams also.....what..oh!  The hospital is now a block of flats.
Sadly my long years which followed at Selfridges, in the vans, warehouse and then dreadful office, did not result in the stores imminent collapse.  Maybe I was unnoticed there?  Running from that dead end to temp work and eventually I escaped to the wilderness of Essex.  Here those who employed me know about it.  One closed the warehouse and moved, actually two did that.  One almost collapsed but thanks to cost cutting, e.g dumping staff, survived and one was badly run then collapsed, one lost the account and died and Royal Mail has been sold off in a disgraceful manner and soon will become like the private energy companies, greedy, expensive and out of control. 
How strange I find that so many places that once saw me wandering about in a dream no longer exist.  Was it ever thus I wonder.....?  


Friday, 18 October 2013

PC Banter

Roy Hodgson makes a poor joke using the term 'Monkey face' or something similar and it becomes a major 'racist' talking point.  Someone (I forget who) claimed Fernando Torres acted like a fairy (or was it jessie) when reacting to the attentions of an opposing player, this caused a complaint which resulted in an apology.  Danny Lennon the St Mirren manager apparently upset the media by speaking against them, today he apologised.  A pregnant MP could not find a seat in the House during Prime Ministers Question Time and the media is in an uproar about ungentlemanly conduct. An English taxi driver ordered to remove the English flag stickers from her car after council receives one complaint, and a circus forced to drop posters after one person says she is scared of clowns.  A transsexual PC seeks money after operator did not believe she was female.

Just what is going on today?  How come light hearted, and often honest, humour is seen as 'racist?'  Had I complained about the abuse I received while working at the sorting office I could have made millions.  However it was banter, well usually, those signs regarding the English football teams failures might have been made by me after all.  Abuse from friends is common, colour, sex, and anything else should never stop this.  Today however far too many get their moment of glory by shouting 'racist' or 'sexist!'  It makes me wish to shout 'monkey face' or similar at them.   It appears apologies must be made constantly for small things these days yet allowing people to die in a hospital requires much press comment but no apologies and murder or manslaughter charges either!  Something is wrong somewhere.  The hard done by MP was ignored by the male MPS it appears, though most would not have known she was there, and the meia ignore the fact female MPs did nothing for her either.  I wonder why?  As for the PC seeking redress, sometimes we all have to prove who we are to the police, why not you also?  Councils are so busy being PC, as the taxi driver and circus have discovered, that your own flag is offensive or a clown upsetting!  It's your nation, fly your flag!  A clown upsets you, look away!

I am becoming sick of people whining about things that 'offend' them.  Usually those people offend me but if I complain I am seen as 'offensive.'  It is time people stopped being so 'precious,' the poor little darlings.  Vast numbers of things can offend us daily, sometimes they are directed at us, but by turning the other cheek we can survive.  Too many hide behind their sex, colour, sexual problems, age, or any other excuse to whine.  How about just growing up or finding real problems to deal with?  Oh they are too hard, and possibly you cause them maybe? Next time you are called 'monkey face,' ask whether it is banter or an insult.  Humans use banter, humans also look to be offended, it makes them feel important.    

Thursday, 17 October 2013


British Gas increased their prices by over 8% today.  An announcement everybody knew was coming.  My new bill arrived the other day and at the bottom they happily display where the money goes.  It is listed in such a way as to imply the 7% marked as 'Profit' appears a small amount of the total.  Considering that in the past few years the percentage of profit has risen from 2% to 7% I begin to feel we are being robbed!  Companies require profit, money is needed for investment and correct wages, this is not wrong.  However we all know that in spite of rising Gas prices, running costs and legitimate salaries, the whole thing is robbery!  I need not mention the £10 million given to the retiring chairman in case you boak!  As many are struggling to survive now how will they cope with a cold winter?  For far too many the choice is heat or eat, this will make things worse for many, and these will often be people with jobs.  What makes all this worse in the Tory answer to the difficulty.  "Switch supplier," says David Cameron and his energy minister. Fine, we will do that and be charged just as much there.  
The truth is the smug Conservative Party have allowed privatisation an open door to line their pockets no matter the cost to the rest of us.  Labour may grumble but the m have little idea what to do.  I know what to do, NATIONALISE all energy companies, put them to work for all of us, not just themselves! 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Power Dressing

Another day amongst the past.  Rising before I awoke I combed my hair, longer than it ought to be, but I blame this on swigging from the 'Baby Bio' bottle rather than the cough mixture next to it the other day, wrapped a clean shirt around my wizened body and headed off to the museum. What a difference when the powers that be are locked in a meeting!  Instead of a panic re the things needing done there was a quick word and we three, we happy three, just got on with it. Very happy as it only took two of us this morning.    
I was intrigued however how people approach such meetings.  Apart from the office politics, the infighting over money, plans differing from one viewpoint to another especially the viewpoint of the one empowered to cut spending from those empowered to spend, another interesting fact arose.  The way women dress to face one another.  Our lass looked very good indeed, later I realised it was because she faced a powerful troublesome woman!  While a man may wear a brasher coloured tie, if anything, she must dress for the occasion!  I hope she won!    
Men are limited in their outfits.  A suit for business or council, smartish for shop or office if not suit, 'toetectors' for warehouse, and hi-vis jacket for insurance purposes for almost everything else even if not required.  A woman requires five wardrobes!  Colours must be relevant for each event, let alone the outfit itself, never can it be repeated two days in a row, and while other women will criticise not one man will notice much.  It's a funny old world saint!
We didn't get too busy today, but that will change next week with kids off school, however I get home knackered!  I must rest before the football tonight, I must be ready for the emotional stress.  

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Awful Smell of Fish!

Fish, the 'experts' say is good for you.  I believed them!  I bought some Haddock from Sainsburys, two to a packet, and on Saturday grilled one until burnt as you should.  I cleaned up as usual, slowly, and left the windows open for a while.  In the morning when I came through from the west wing I opened the door and was greeted by what is best described as the inside of a trawler hull! The place (should that be 'plaice' I wonder?) stunk.  While sitting in it I had not realised how bad it was.  Bah!
Sunday lunch was the other portion of burnt Haddock.  It tasted the same, it probably did me good, but it left the same fragrance throughout the building.  I took the usual precautions, cleaned appropriately, opened windows, but today once again I walked into a thick vapour of fish.  
I cleaned the place again, I even cleaned the oven, and it is nowhere near March, I scrubbed and left windows open, and thoroughly cleaned away the smell.  However after a walk in the rain, where I was reminded about the holes in the soles, I returned to the stench of Tench, well Haddock.  Even the Kippers I once, and only once, bought, did not whiff like these.  So I sit here, windows and doors ajar, the cold wind bringing the rain inside to get warm, while my only source of heat comes from the curried mince I am making for lunch.  Now that is one aroma I can suffer happily!


Friday, 11 October 2013

Rain, the weekend's almost here......

After a night of rain I raced slowly to Sainsburys to be overcharged for my breakfast.  On crossing the car park I remembered the holes in my shoes and spotted the great sky above the church opposite.  The picture doesn't quite get the brightness of the glow of the sun or the rays shining through.  Somehow it cheered up the dismal day.  Naturally it is raining for 24 hours now!

The Gas people asked for a meter reading the other day and the bill showed I had been using too much, in summertime!?  One Electricity company has increased their charges by 8% and others will follow suit soon.  Yet today we privatised Royal Mail (is it still Royal?) while previous privatised utilities charge reckless amounts and hoard the profits in the directors pockets.  How stupid can government be?  The only privatised railway that makes money is trhe East Coast line, and that is because the company running it failed, dumped it back o the nation and now it has made £281 million profit.  I think there is a lesson here!


Thursday, 10 October 2013


I pass this often, it is attached to a very nice house indeed, it looks as if it has not been in use for decades, but I sometimes ponder on what it was used for?   The first thought concerns gardening, gardeners usually are quite adept at making use of old spring mattresses, sheets of iron, bits of wood and the like on which to grow their vegetables.  There are some wooden spars here, a sheet of corrugated metal, a sheet with a window cut out looking like it was pinched from one of the old 'tin gospel halls' that once abounded.  It might even have been used by someone who ran racing pigeons, although I doubt that with this particular dwelling.  
Whatever use that construction was put to someone from the electric board thought it funny to place an electric sub station next door, just what you want innit?   At least it prevents bad folks clambering over and breaking in.  That does not in itself look as if it would prevent a cat burglar attempting to enter the building.  Of course this would be a waste of time, I know for sure that gentleman does not possess a cat.

As I was scribbling this one of the longest running programmes on TV began on BBC4, 'The Sky at Night!'  This was, and remains, one of the few intelligent programmes left on TV today. Beginning in 1957 with Sir Patrick Moore as presenter it became the longest running programme with the same presenter as he remained in position, in spite of age and infirmity, until his death in December 2012.  Famed for his knowledge as well as his character, once during an early live broadcast a bluebottle entered his mouth as he spoke, he swallowed it and continued!  The programme has continued after his death, no doubt it will change as time passes, but at least it continues informing the many astronomers, young and old, amateur and professional throughout the land. The British have a strange attraction to the night sky, possibly because it is so attractive and more probably because it is so rarely seen!  
Educational, informative and interesting, three words that usually kill programmes on telly today, yet long may this one continue. 


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A Boring Picture...

That, says you, is a boring picture.  Aye, agrees me, but I like it.  I like it because the sky in the background looked good, the autumnal trees show their colours and it shows that I was once again wandering across the park.  It has been almost three weeks since I done this.  Three weeks since what some women call a 'wee chill,' and all men agree is a serious bout of 'Man-Flu,'  laid me low and ruined my life.  It's ridiculous that something that used to come and go in three days takes almost three weeks now.  Can it be the virus is changing, or is it my health failing?  The muck that fills the skies unseen cannot be doing us any good, it also may well be changing the way virii adapt.  What a great difference a day makes.  Yesterday I attended the museum but was far from awake.  I sat there staring into space rather than doing anything, disturbed only when a few stragglers entered.   I was glad it was quiet, but the museum needs visitors.  Today however I was almost alive and raced out slowly to peruse the market and keep my cash in my pocket.  I did however notice a lass drop a bit paper.  As I arrived on the spot it turned into a £5 note, this meant running at least seven steps to catch up with her. I still have not recovered!  

In an attempt to find a prettier picture I ventured out this afternoon, eyes peeled for enticing sights.  Sadly few appeared under this ever darkening gray sky.  However the falling leaves can produce interesting pictures, however whether this is one is debatable.  

As luck would have it the foto opportunities enlarged as a poor soul required aid from the first response unit.  This has parked in the bay as he ought but the following ambulance just stopped in the centre of the road.  Probably a woman driver I would conclude myself.  The traffic behind may grumble as it is impossible to pass, but most will accept this.  Hopefully the patient will survive, the trip to the nearest hospital is fifteen miles away!  However in spite of the Tories desperate attempts to sell the NHS to their friends it exists still and the cut down ambulance service still manages to save lives in spite of them. Sometimes we forget just how lucky we are to have an ambulance at the other end of a phone.  We take such benefits for granted, benefits not always available, nor so efficient, elsewhere. 


Monday, 7 October 2013


The news today is as always depressing.  The ineffectual leaders of the English parties are desperately reforming their ministers and juniors in a vain attempt to convince the nation to vote for them.  So far I am far from impressed.  One clean cut young lady has appeared on local TV telling the world she is glad to have stepped down from her position (who? what? No idea!) and is doing the most important thing, caring for her constituents.  Lies, all lies!  Others, also unknown, have moved to lesser jobs and accepted this just to keep the position by their fingernails and also the money that goes along with it.  What difference will it make to you and me?  None!
Roll on the election so we can remove this bumbling idiot Cameron and replace him with another barely elected bumbling idiot in Milliband.  At least Clegg will disappear without trace.

The Heart of Midlothian lost an important match on Saturday, now the fans are indulging in the usual empty recriminations.  How quickly fans turn against their team.  Heroes are loathed simply for not being as good as the crowd are, in their own heads.  Players and their dispositions are discussed in an all knowing manner by those who know nothing.  Those who failed to make the grade in any way are happily criticising those who did.  Tsk! That's something I never do......wot..?
However it got me thinking just how easy it is to grumble about others way of working, whether we have any experience or not of their work.  Clearly politicians are one area we all grumble about, however today the grasping corruption probably annoys us more than incompetence.  There is no doubt we can always do better than others at their job, be it running railways, buses, government, or fixing the car or repairing the plumbing.  Sometimes we are right, but how often do we end up suffering because we are vexed and those that vex us walk away happily?  It's a funny old world Saint!

Friday, 4 October 2013


I was led to this 'Quaint little Railway,' via the excellent 'Forgotten Relics' site.  If you have no life you may wish to spend a few hours a day looking at the films on show at this site.  Some people have disappeared for months watching this selection.  I may be one of them soon. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013


This book offers a 'short' history of Byzantium, one of the most famous and in my experience most unknown ancient cities of the world.  We know a lot about Egypt, Greece and Rome but almost nothing about Byzantium and the Greek influenced Mediterranean area after the first couple of centuries A.D. The later Muslim takeover, the influence of the Roman church and self absorption within Europe probably accounts for this.  We have all heard of this city, we roughly know where it lies, how the name changed to first Constantinople and then Istanbul, but apart from sunning ourselves in Bodrum and a passing visit heading for the airport very few bother much about Turkey or this major city.  
So when I discovered this book selling for 50 pence in a Colchester charity shop I decided it was time to take advantage and learn something.  Honestly the price was not the biggest mover here though it helped.  I,.. er, must add that as they had a book sale on I only paid 20 pence and with almost 400 pages that sounds OK to me!  

There are good things and bad things about this book. The author John Julius Norwich has been a renown voice on radio and television, and he has indeed an excellent voice for radio, a voice which can be heard as you plough through the book, and this is a good thing.  The knowledge he imparts fills the empry space in my mind, covering an area unknown to many of us.  The bad thing is that the need to cover the history stretching from the days of Diocletian in the year A.D. 284 all the way to Constantine XI Palaeologus in A.D.1453 by necessity leaves only room for the arrivals and departures of each Emperor.  After a few hundred years this becomes a little wearing.  The emperor is ageing, fading, useless, too powerful, so a son, cousin, general, rebel, distant claimant, arrives and disposes of the incumbent by deceit, knife, sword, poison, helped by wife, daughter, son, general or whatever and takes his place.  He reigns successfully, badly, for a long or short time when he in turn is replaced in one way or another.  The man in charge may or may not be a man of integrity, some indeed put the needs of the empire before their own, but this shortened version of the history can only pass quickly over the adventures which may have covered a term of many years. Not only can we only hear about the top people we cannot have much idea of the life of the man in the street.  What we do learn is that the peasants, and many were just that, could make their voice heard, especially where their preferred religion was concerned.  Riots could occur easily and if the bread and circuses which entertained them in between famine, war and plague ceased they could happily burn down the town.  Happy days.

When Constantine decided to make use of the Christian religion he not only enabled Christians to walk freely in the land he also turned it from a loose collection of churches seeking God to a religious organisation, an ecclesiastical hierarchy in which power and ambition replaced worship. Theological argument ceased to be based on the Messiah's teaching and belonged to theologians spread across the Mediterranean.  'Elders,' were replaced by 'priests,' and celibacy for no good reason became standard practice, possibly influenced by pagan beliefs ensuring the 'priests' were seen as important and above the ordinary.  Dress and ceremony became less about worship and more about presentation.  Candles, widely used in Byzantine royal pomp appeared in the church, fashions changed but church leaders dress did not, all to emphasise their superiority and importance, not God.  The great divide between Rome and the Greek based Orthodox churches arose more from ambition than God and has lasted until this day, yet the reformation is even yet ignored and indeed opposed by such!  Other heresies brought division and danger, the Arian heresy bringing much conflict also, again from church theology and not scripture truth. Wars were fought, tortures aplenty applied, cities devastated and thousands perished all because such religion was used as a power base by various men. The people supporting whatever side they were born on at the time.  How many ever read the scriptures, how many could read?
The Crusades come along also.  Vast armies travel overland seeking to escape purgatory by fighting the Muslim.  Forty thousand began the first and this motley collection of vagabonds, thieves, chancers and escapees raped and pillaged their way across Europe and Turkey, fighting with the Byzantine forces 'escorting' them.  These ended their days in Cilicia, slaughtered by the first enemy army that they met.  Byzantium suffered more from Crusaders than Mohammed ever did!  Indeed many leaders of Muslim forces behaved in a more civil manner than any 'Christian' Knight ever did.  The Knights were more intent for selfish glory and a parcel of land to rule over rather than removing the infidel from Jerusalem.  Most just liked killing people, who they killed didn't really matter.

I avoid referring to any specific emperor bar Constantine, who was at York when he was declared emperor by the way, as there are hundreds of them, covering both the east and west sides of the empire, various patriarchs of the Greek church, popes aplenty, and far too many names to indulge any here.  That in itself tells us something.  The city of Byzantium stood for well over a thousand years and was not overthrown until Sultan Mehmet, then aged just 21, took the city in 1453.  The walls were so strong, the position so strong that defence was comparitively easy, as long as food and water held out.  

Visiting crusader armies, peasants living in stone built huts with turfed roofs, knights in grander houses and castles, gazed in wonder at the mighty buildings in this city.  The splendour was to overpower many of them, indeed the Crusaders occupied the city and ruled, against the peoples wishes, for some time.  The richly dressed leading citizens, the pomp of the Emperor, the bejeweled populace made Europe appear dingy and covetousness arose among the Crusaders.  The majority of citizens in any empire live bleak lives, the wars that destroy their towns or farmlands, famine, the need to fight someones wars, the recurring plagues all tend to keep the people in need of leadership.  Hmm sounds a bit like the UK today I hear you say!  However when it came to pomp, art, and splendid architecture Byzantium possibly led the world.  Tribute from all around filled the city, art flourished, Santa Sophia still stands as a tribute to this, and yet in the UK we know so little about this past.   

I appear to have wandered around.  My mind has done that a lot recently. However I found this book well worth a read simply because I knew nothing about this great city and while the somewhat crushed royal history can be wearing it does reveal why the Balkans turned out as they did, that life is a constant war and we ought to be thankful for the years of peace we have enjoyed, and now I have a slightly better understanding of this ancient and almost ignored empire that affected our civilisation so much without our noticing. 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


Then strip, lads! and to it though sharp be the weather,
And if by mischance you should happen to fall,
There are worse things in life than a tumble in heather,
And life is itself but a game of football.

Sir Walter Scott

I'm watching football, for a change...


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The View From My Desk....

The view from here is somewhat limited even yet.  The Lurgi hangs around leaving a fog on the mind as well as a cloud in the chest.  The result leaves me sitting indoors as the idea of trudging around in the late sunshine does not appeal, the camera is somewhat disappointed with this. Three times I have found the camera looking mournfully out the window desperate to eye up the world.  I know how it feels.  Instead my dim mind suffers the papers lack of intellect, the older radio programmes that I have searched out, and finishing off the books that litter the place. Quite how several can be sitting half read and forgotten always amazes me, especially as I cannot remember beginning the things in the first place.  Too often I put the book down and take months to get back to it, even if it is a good one.

So like the camera I sit here moping, my eyes scanning the scudding clouds crossing the late September blue sky, only to discover today is October!  Who stole the time?  Only the other day I watched the trees budding and small green leaves appearing.  Has someone fiddled time somewhere?  Anyway the trees opposite have already began the shedding of rusted leaves, one while offering a dazzling display of bright red berries for the birds delight.  The season of 'Mists and mellow fruitfulness,' sounds romantic but ignores the chill blended in the wind, a hearkening of approaching winter.  Those who venture out reflect the dubious nature of the seasons.  Young men wander abroad in tee shirts emblazoned with 'witty' phrases, multi-coloured shorts, reaching beyond the knees, all the while carrying water bottle to make them look 'cool.'  More 'mature' people wear a jacket as they have been caught out by British weather far too often for their liking.  Surely the brown edged leaves lying across the pavements indicate to some that summer is over?  A bright sun does not indicate warmth, just ask any passing Eskimo.  The dark misty mornings keep the Blackbirds asleep till well after five these days.  A silence broods over the land early in the dark morning, enhanced by the council switching the street lights off to save money. (They have not cut the leading men's salaries however.  The silence is broken only by a raucous coughing, from me, which I think gave the birds their wake up call.  Soon they were all off, barking out (Can birds bark?) their warning to other birds and claiming their patch, a claim that will be heartily defended as the cold weather leaves feathers ruffled in the search for nourishment.
As I write the light begins to fade, indoors darkens sufficiently to demand a light is used, the sky loses its brightness while trying to decide whether it will end with a pink glow or a damp squib. Once more we enter the long nights which herald the commercial escapades of Halloween and Christmas after that.  Once again catalogues begin to fall through the door, their bargains thumping onto the floor and lying their unwanted.  The world is once again forgetting why they exist and follows the crowds into Argos, Tesco and local shopping malls.  Our reason to exist is lost among the urgency to obtain, to satisfy others or ourselves, to forget real life.  Unless of course the reader is a 'benefits scrounger,' (@'Daily Mail') and has nothing to spend on fripperies yet again, not that the 'Daily Mail' reader will accept that.

The reader may by this time have noticed I ramble, I blame the cough mixture, the whisky, the tired mind, the Lurgi!  In truth, it is just me, nothing else, ho hum.......