Thursday, 30 October 2014

Write, Right?

I have been listening to one of those wireless programmes again, this time it is called 'The Write Stuff' and features questions of books but specialising in Jerome K Jerome.  You can hear it here if you wish. The spoofs of the chosen authors books at the end are always good and JKJ would no doubt laugh at those heard here.
Once again however this got me thinking about writing a similar book to 'Three Men in a Boat.' Like everyone else I have wished to emulate this success and so far I have only the booklet re the Great War exhibition.  Fame at last!  However writing a book that would travel outside this area is somewhat harder as it has to resonate with readers everywhere.  This makes things harder. Also having an editor rough it up to improve it makes for double work!  
What is the book you are trying to write?  
They say everyone has a novel in them, although I have no wish to write a novel, more a factual book worth reading and offering a light yet serious view of the world.  Travel books are idea, yet the last trip was five miles down the road! An autobiography, but that was cause suicide to the readers.  I read one chaps excellent ' The Goalkeepers Guide to Britain.'  This took the period since the war, set in his home area of run down Islington in London and through the varieties of goalkeepers since gave us an excellent readable social history, at one and the same time personal and understandable for all.  Super stuff, shame he has already done it.  
Ah well, it's good to dream, innit?


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

It Rains Here

Trapped inside all day by the wet stuff falling like I was in Scotland!  Naturally I had no bread and had to brave it while searching Tesco for breakfast.  Surely in this day and age we can fix things so it only rains at night?  Bah!
I therefore spent an exciting day looking for peoples missing relatives.  When they were alive in the early part of the century some things can be discovered. However The Ministry of Defence does not release details of servicemen from WW2, this I reckon is so they can charge £30 a time for a search fee if you enquire about them.  This government will smell cash and privatise the records soon.  Oh look, they already have!
One lass failed to give sufficient info, one mentioned the ships dad had sailed in and these two took all day to investigate.  Poor dad, he was on three ships and I suspect he was on one of them when it went down, all three were lost.  He survived but gave little away as is normal.
He served at one time on a ship that went down while Lord Mountbatten was a mere Captain then.  Well a Captain of a Flotilla of five ships.  Two were lost in 1941 south of Crete and a film was made later starring Noel Coward called 'In Which we Serve' telling the story.  

The rain was such a pain that I even ironed four shirts rather than do something useful.  Just think what  could have done had the sun shone? I could have walked away from the laptop for a start!

Oops must has started....  

Monday, 27 October 2014

It's Over.

It's over!  At long last the futile Afghanistan operation has ended and Camp Bastion, the British HQ in Helmand province has been handed over to Afghan forces.  The million questions will continue.  Was it worth the lives of our men? Did the Taliban lose control?  Could it have been dealt with better?  
The reason we went there as I understand it was because of 9/11.  Both the intention of dealing with bin Laden and dealing with the Taliban amongst whom he was hiding appeared to contain some merit. The PR Puff informed us that this action would make the UK and the west safer.  Did it?
It was understandable that the US would chase bin laden, I have no problem with this.  However if we go into Afghanistan a plan of action was required, and not only did we appear to be unsure of this political games led to a failure to deal with the situation properly.  An example was the deployment of 16th Airborne Division to Sanguin.  3 Para were sent there not because this was part of the plan but the American General in charge insisted.  Why did he do this? The Afghan President wished to support his corrupt Governor of this province and 3 Para were forced to act as his shield.  Their thoughts on this are best not known.. That town had it's successes but it also saw lots of needless fighting, which 3 Para won!  From the start it was a mistake as was the different approaches to handling the situation chosen by the US and UK troops.  British troops are much more 'Hearts & Minds' in their attitude, they learnt this during the Malaya conflict years before, while the US took several years to develop this.  So many things were wrong, so much of the strategy was misplaced and political changes, week by week, did not help anyone.

Most Afghans did not want anyone near their land, no matter who.  While content to see the Taliban removed they continued under the local warlord, or will do now the troops have left, irrespective of what happened during the past ten years.  Their life will carry on for the most part as usual, the cities may well educate girls and develop some sort of democracy, the rural villages will not. While money fills the leaders hands the people will see little of benefit reaching them and few will enjoy a better life, but enjoy this they will.  The Taliban will probably never gain control again over the whole nation but they do remain active.  The people will support them, unless the crops need attention, and a better organised army might just protect the cities from Taliban incursion.  It could just be another Pakistan, oh joy!

The UK is no safer, and possibly in line for a reaction to these years from the extremist groupings.  The failure to understand the Afghan mind is repeated in the Middle East where we also saw Iraq blown apart for no good reason.  That too has blown up in our faces now.  Since the end of the Great War we have failed to consider the mindset of the local population in these parts.  Our thoughts were only for our needs, oil, peace, revenge, or whatever we required. At no time did the needs of the locals get consideration.

We wash our hands of Afghanistan, we mourn our needless dead, politicians responsible fade away, families mourn, we move on.  What a mess and it has not finished yet, has it?  

Sunday, 26 October 2014


The good news is the clocks going back one hour and offering an extra sleep in the morning.  It goes without saying that I awoke at five, that was six and struggled to sleep properly until ten minutes before I had to rise.  Tsk! Struggling into the cold east wing I began looking for all the timepieces that required changing.  As always during the day others appear out of nowhere and I sometimes wonder why I have so many clocks is useful positions that I never notice except when the stop or require moving forwards or back one hour.  
Having succeeded in registering time in the house I looked to having my weekly bath, what with this being Sunday and all.  The boiler would not work!  It has been giving problems off and on and now it was just off!  The starter has decided not to start and the little red light says call for the man!  So I sent an email to the woman who calls the man who calls me and turns up probably sometime during the week.  Just as the weather turns winterish all the boilers fail, this year it's my turn.  Ah well, I suppose I can have a bath next week, no need to fuss is there. 

The thing about the Edinburgh derby is that you must realise the Heart of Midlothian always win it!  OK on occasion the wee team sometimes scrape a victory but since 1875, when we beat them one nil on Christmas Day, the Heart of Midlothian have always been the superiour side.  This is one of the blessings I have received, to be born into a Hearts of Midlothian family, how lucky is that! Hibernian fans, those few, those noble few who follow the wee team do not like this situation.  Indeed since we defeated them in the cup final, again, in 2012 one or two of the most likeable Hibs lads have only referred to me in grunts, and that via the web!  
Today the Hibs had some idea that they were in a position to defeat this mighty team, jokers that we are we played along with this allowing them to convince their feeble minded followers that a victory was on the cards.  Indeed they even managed to get the ball into our goal and with this one goal lead the happy bunch were celebrating a win long before the end.  90 minutes had been played, 4 more added by an excellent referee to cover injury time and other happenings at the end when cheering Hibbys had reality restored.  That great man Alim Ozturk strode forward into enemy territory, unleashed a shot from close on 40 yards and watched as it sailed into the air, dipped, and off the bottom of the crossbar rocketed into the Hibs net!  Oh what a shot, what a goal, what a laugh (in love obviously) as the Green and white clad lower orders stared in disbelief.  Once more they had failed to win, once more the BIG TEAM took a point, we should have had three) once more i expect to hear grunts over social media soon, when they come out of the pub/sulk/coma. 
Some feardies thought Hearts were going to lose?  Some, like me, are not old enough to experience the shock of being defeated by Hibernian.  Tsk!  The Edinburgh derby, one of the most one sided in the world.  Still, it's a giggle innit?   


Saturday, 25 October 2014

Commemoration Event

As part of the Great War commemoration event we had a replica Bristol MC-1 fighter standing in the yard.  This magnificent beast brought attention to the event extremely well as being Saturday market day many passed by and came to join us.  The real version of this fighter spent most of its time in the Middle East shooting Turks.  This one was hand made, with as much original material as possible.

Had I been able to climb inside I may well have been tempted to fire that Vickers machine gun.  I suggest however the library opposite might have objected to their windows being broken.

It came complete with appropriate knowledgeable staff and the kids loved it, no matter their age!

The Braintree Cadets joined us also, happily scaring young children with their outfits, especially when wearing the 'tin helmets.'  Strangely enough wearing the 'tin helmet' we offered was one of the more popular choices by the same kids!  So many men comment on the weight of these weapons and I was surprised to find the German gun much heavier than the British Lee-Enfield rifle.  Still I know why my dad complained now.  These two young men give an immediate impression of the type of soldier who served during this conflict.  Young, fit, able, clever and willing to serve.  There were many like this from these parts some who did not return.  A local choir singing tunes of the time, both inside and outside the building, serenaded the public, an event that was much enjoyed.  I of course missed this as I was stuck inside, but I am not one to complain.  I failed to obtain a second portion of 'trench cake' either, even though I saw two lying there as we were clearing up - where did they go I wonder?  You canny trust nobody. 

In the hall several experts gave a demonstration of the operation of such weapons to interested parties. This Vickers Machine Gun amongst them.    

Some things useful to the soldier, 'tin helmet,' water bottle, bayonet and a variety of clubs to deal with any enemy gentleman who happened upon your trench one dark night.  Going 'clubbing' meant something different in those days.

I myself, in a vain attempt at historical dress, sat at my Great War laptop attempting to send people to the right place to find information about their relatives.  This was successful in that I now have a dozen men to look for to aid damsels in distress, folks with no laptop and those who smiled sweetly.  I have also noticed one has omitted to write down her email for me.  Bah!  We did however sell a good number of the booklets which I had to sign for the admiring audience.

I am so tired I fell asleep during tonight's football.  It meant nothing to me as I could not find my brain. With little to do this week I will sleep a lot and spend the rest of the time looking for other peoples dead men. 

The large crowd who attended kept order very well, although the sergeant and corporal from the Military Police patrolling the establishment kept the rowdies away!

Difficult to get such men in focus when trembling.....


Wednesday, 22 October 2014


As I turned in I noticed two postmen I knew, good men and true, one on his bike heading out bearing that constant smile on his face, a smile that makes us wonder what he had been inhaling, and the other who appeared to all purposes now to work in this office.  I took my ticket and collected the note detailing my winnings.  The money amount was clearly marked at the top and as I glanced at the £24,000 there I noticed to my surprise the other prizes also.  Two weeks in some sunny rich man's playground far away, a week elsewhere, and other lesser but quite welcome prizes.  It was then I noticed the prize money was in fact £200,000!  Much better and as I began to work out where I could get a wee house for that amount I turned towards the desk to claim the winnings when I heard John Humphreys muttering banalities on the 'Today' programme muttering about the time.
"Drat! Not even got my head of the pillow and already I have lost £200,000!"
So I entered Tuesday in the manner in which I intended to continue, as so it proved.  The day was dominated by another ex-US hurricane which were supposed to flood us out, knock down all the trees and high buildings and cause mayhem everywhere.  Indeed in places this was the case but it does appear we now err on the side of safety and urge warnings a wee bit too keenly I reckon. The use of common sense by the populace is lessening.  
I persevered.  Slowly I went through the routine, slowly I ate, slowly I ignored the news, slowly it dawned on me that I was watching the clock say ten minutes past ten.  "Ah, I can get ready at half past I thought.
Suddenly the fog lifted, I was supposed to start at ten and it was ten past already!
Dementia has begin folks.
I faced the struggle to the museum bravely even though driving rain threatened to wash me away as I limped up the road.  It stopped once I arrived and remained quiet until I came home!  
Busy as we were, fixing those little things that needed fixing, cutting thinsg that needed cutting and sellotaping things that should not have been cut, dealing with lots of visitors, including in fact one real dementia patient and her escort - what a sad sight that was - discovering a school class was quietly wrecking the joint and another event was on today so that much of the day was taken up with others running around daft for that.  This left me alone much of the time and luckily nothing demanding occurred.  I also took delivery of large old books, for myself, which I bought (cheap) from a colleague which then required lugging home.  Lots of heavy reading lies ahead.  I made two trips and collected the rest today.  How heavy can a book be I wondered?   My arms now reach my knees. At least our own book is now in stock and should be on sale today.
On top of this my knees ache and carrying heavy bags does not help.  Having got two lots home, up the stairs, and onto the floor I then lay beside them gasping for breath and demanding oxygen from whoever heard my groans.
No reply came the reply!
The fog over the mind all day was so bad that even though I attempted to watch two football matches I could hardly concentrate on the first, it just tired me out, and the second failed so badly I actually had to switch it off and sleep.
That reminds, me I must buy some brandy....

Today began without losing vast amounts of money, and the £150 million is still available in the lottery if I buy a ticket.  Instead of dreaming of wealth beyond my wildest dreams I hobbled all the way to the Post Office, waited while the man in the steel helmet, visor and armoured outfit delivered the new stamps, and then I posted three expensive packets.  Tripping over my own feet on the way back I wondered why those men never smile?  Is it part of the training to look tough in case the old women in the shop attack you?  So far when meeting such men they give the impression of being soul dead. Rarely do they look the type you would employ let alone trust with valuables.  I suspect most are recruited from ex-prisoners. 
I limped to the museum, collected my remaining heavy books and asked if the girls there could help by massaging my knees for me.  They flung me out the door somewhat rudely and left me to collect myself and climb back over the wee wall from the garden bit where I landed and attempt to make my way home. This proved difficult as today's Victorian school arrived like a stampede of Buffalo and ran over me once again.
As I climbed the stairs thanks were offered for bits of me still working.

Then came the painters.  Limited in their work by the rain nothing has been done for a week, one being afraid to climb the ladder in the high wind yesterday in case it blew him off, the big Jessie!  I see no reason for this as he has already fallen off one so must be used to it.  Today, as the rain ceased they glossed the bottom windows and following his success of leaving my living room window jammed for five years jammed the bedroom one!  Much later, we both struggled after he had released the window from his six inches of paint and attempted to get the thing to shut again!  He almost fell off his ladder that time, but I changed my mind and didn't push!  Sash windows can be difficult, especially when he is around.  This pair also involved me with clambering up and down stairs to assist lost motorists find places when their map failed to include the one way systems.  I also had to convey tea to the workers. 'Workers' is a word used loosely around these parts. They have not finished and have been called away to other jobs.  They might be back by February.  My windows are open, downstairs remain jammed!


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Pope, Football and Knees.

I took the opportunity to hobble out at one point this morning to experience some sunlight and blue sky. That interesting colour scheme when leaves begin to die was to be seen everywhere yet hanging from the branches were many young caterpillar type beasties convinced it was Spring! The warm weather may end tomorrow as the US is sending us another storm apparently. Just when the Gas and electric men are beginning to wonder where their million pound bonus's are coming from a storm approaches.  If even October is this warm how cold will February be I wonder?  

The day had begun with the BBC's continual support for the gay lobby.  The main news being Pope Francis and his desire to accept gays as people.  There was of course other news but that was way down the list at the BBC.  If only the news had been that he wished to accept that the reformation was what required study.  Jesus accepts gays and all others who do wrong simply because he came to earth to save sinners, not righteous folks.  Francie makes only two mistakes in his speech, he refuses to accept the word of God as written for him and does not proclaim Jesus first words - 'Repent!'
Jesus died to make us acceptable to God, however the turning from our was and turning to his way, repentance, is required.  We cannot continue doing our own thing, and when we do it brings misery I can tell you!   Real life, abundant life can only be found in him. 
I like Francis.  His poor theology aside he is a man who has attempted to build bridges with all around him, even the president who disliked him, and had an evangelical friend as his financial manager.  He clearly has a concern for the poor, he does wish to bring people together and is open to discussion with anyone, except the US Archbishop whom he has moved to a lesser position because he was too 'conservative' for him.  It all gives the impression of a man who wishes to accept everyone, just as God wishes to accept us all.  However without emphasising the death and resurrection of the Messiah on the cross and our need to be born anew his message could easily be seen as 'be nice to one another.' Eternity goes on forever and those unrepentant will not spend their eternity with Jesus.  
There is a thin dividing line between following Jesus and doing it our way.  At the moment Francis does it his churches way and this could deceive many. However there is always the possibility it could turn many back to considering God in their lives, and how we need this at this moment in time.

If you are going to make a mess of things do it properly I say.  These Queens Park Rangers men certainly did today.  They outplayed Liverpool from the start yet managed to score two, yes two goals for Liverpool!  At the end they lost 3-2 and had only themselves to blame.  
It's a funny old game and Jimmy Greaves never said, even if you are the best you still lose. Usually you lose because they score, not because you score for them and certainly not twice! How much do they pay these defenders I wonder?  
Pope Francis supports San Lorenzo by the way.

There was nothing else to do today.  I could not walk far as my pins ache from pulled muscles and aching other bits under strain from the way I walk.  This exercise is a good one, what a shame it is crippling me!!!


Saturday, 18 October 2014


This small book about Clem Attlee, Labour's great post war Prime Minister, is one of two such books I read recently, the other concerning Lloyd George, a man who could make Tony Blair look innocent. These small but well written books are great overviews of the lives and works of previous Prime Ministers. Attlee comes out of his looking like a humble man from a wealthy background who found his role in life in bringing about a fairer society, and this he did well. Not the type to enrapture audiences, his speeches were short and to the point, and some say somewhat lacking, but his heart was for the people.  His lawyer father in the better class district of Putney, better class then, saw his son spend more and more time in the youth club in the east end of London endevouring to improve the lives of the people there.  After much time in local councils and as MP he fell into the leadership of the Labour Party as all the other contenders fell out!  When the war arrived his office management style suited many and when Winston Churchill toured the war areas Attlee ran the cabinet as deputy PM. Efficient, short of words yet to the point he allowed others to debate while he summed up the discussion.  Almost always his summary was accepted.  His leadership saw the nationalisation of the railways, electric companies, gas and water boards.  The pride of all was the National Health Service, the greatest thing ever produced in this nation, now sadly put on sale by the Conservative Party.  Attlee lived humbly, his holiday was driving his wife around the south west in their little car, no escort, no publicity.  His like will never lead us again sadly.

Lloyd George however was very different.  While keen to improve the state of the nation, he introduced pensions, dole money and more in his 1909 budget, he was very happy to pocket any cash that came his way.  Very able and far from slow in coming forward his speeches could rouse an audience and bring others round to his viewpoint, or just bamboozle them.  His work rate was also enormous, the Great War could not have been won without him!  With the nation behind Germany in every way he alone improved munition work, fighting spirit and every area of the home front and much of the firepower at the front itself.  His failing was he was no soldier and thought the war could be won by the back door. Hence he and his friend Churchill produced the failed Gallipoli campaign, the waste of Salonika, and encouraged other Middle East enterprises. In between all this he noticed lots of women around, especially his secretary. There is no doubt he was one of the , if not the, most important politician of the early twentieth century.  His morals were simple, 'me first!'  'If it works, do it,' let others worry. While he actually loved his wife he managed to love his secretary and 'venture' with others along the way, women do like a 'powerful man' don't they.  His failure to support Field Marshall Haig could have cost us the war, his attempt to smear Haig via his memoirs, by insinuating Haig cost 750,000 British lives, fails when we remember Lloyd George was Prime Minister!  His memoirs read could have been titled 'It wasn't me, it was him!' He was however wrong!  

Attlee a powerful politician, unassuming but capable, Lloyd George loud, aggressive, powerful yet which benefited the nation more.  Both partook of major war efforts, both attempted to lift the poorest, both made major changes to British society and the world order.  Lloyd George shaped the Middle East during the twenties, Attlee brought about the 'end of Empire.'  Attlee was clearly the better man, as a man, Lloyd George the more powerful politician who got things done.  he could not however fire Haig, there was none better!


Friday, 17 October 2014


So what is it about music?  
Chicken Shack perform the type of music that made a joy of my youth, the youth in question being me by the way.  The Rhythm and Blues, plus the Blues itself, were the basis for the music that changed the world during the sixties. The Liverpool bands became so successful because the stewards on the liners that took the rich to New York would bring back records found there that could never be known about via the then BBC 'Light Programme.'  Such records ended up amongst the Lennon's and McCartney's of Liverpool and a new sound arrived.  
But what did it mean?
I enjoyed much of the music, however much the BBC continued to play us with 'Bubblegum Music' instead, but why did that music mean so much to us?
Each generation requires its own sound, it has always been thus.  J.B. Priestley, a somewhat famous English author, spoke of the jazz music whose syncopated rhythms moved his generation.  Today these sounds are rarely heard bar those seeking early Jazz and are considered tame.  World War Two found big band sounds the music which could win the war but the teenager, not a new found creature as some like to believe human nature does not change, the teenager of the fifties with his Edwardian jacket, winklepicker shoes and slim Jim ties was so entranced by 'Bill Haley and his Comets' that he happily tousled his Brylcreamed hair while ripping up cinema seats.  The music was the backdrop to all of this, but why?

Each generation requires music to identify with, each age also, each layer of society decides what is acceptable where and when.  No matter which part of the world you investigate they all have music of a sort.  Music is just sounds, usually made by sticks on a surface, blowing through or over some tube, or via the voice itself.  Japanese music may be acceptable in 19th century Japan but it is unlikely to be popular in Hounslow on a wet Tuesday night when aircraft landing at Heathrow drown out the sound.  

There is so many different kinds of music, yet we usually only listen to a small fraction for our own delight.  Painters and scaffolders love to listen to the local pop channel, loudly.  Young folks, and some old, must walk about these days with headphones in their ears to hear the latest album stolen from somewhere on the web.  Car drivers need the gentler sounds to aid concentration, as indeed do many surgeons.  Football crowds, and the team itself, are often encouraged to get in at them via the playing of the teams song and churches begin to worship by singing praise.  Armies marching to battle gee themselves up with music, the words amended to fit with the enemy and therefore unsuitable for gentler climes.  One Chines General in the 19th century took Christian hymns and gave them new words and discovered how much this strengthened his men as they marched.  Chinese music not being capable of this.  

Music today is all around us and we need it.  However why does it do what it does to us.  How on earth can such a thing change our moods, delight us, infuriate us or just become wall paper? Can even the musical answer this?   


Thursday, 16 October 2014


Hmmm, funny how when I took that picture, the sun shining through the trees, the blue sky peeking in behind, it all seemed such a good idea.  Now that darkness reigns it has palled somewhat.  I wonder who thought of the idea of placing dirty big orbs on top of gateposts?  This was done around 1880 ish and some clever designer, not an architect I suggest, considers this the way to er, top off the gateposts.  In days of yore pineapples made of stone were used for this decoration.  The pineapple was an exotic fruit for far away and if you possessed one you were indeed wealthy.  Those who had excessive wealth therefore placed stone pineapples on walls, doors, houses, anywhere they would be seen.  Today you get your picture in 'Hello' or the 'daily Mail.'  The intellectual difference between such pictures and stone pineapples is minute, but the stone wins each time.

While ploughing through the update on the Great War memorial I also began to investigate the WW2 one.  Next year is the anniversary of the end of that war and we are doing something for it. My part will be smaller but I may have to search things out.  Typical, these wars come so close together.  I have not finished one and they are starting on another.  Something should be done.
Worse still there is less information on the second war strangely enough because while we all know about it individuals stories are still subject to Ministry of Defence restrictions.  Bah!

To enlighten my boring day I also cleared the ice from the freezer.  It had been building up somewhat and I managed to fill the sink with lumps of ice that took all night to thaw.  Such excitement, it could be worse, one day I must clean the oven.  Where are women when you need them...?  


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A Tiring Day

The strange weather, neither Autumn nor Winter, has confused the plants and the beasties. Some plants have wonderful blossoms on show and all around lie dead leaves blown off the trees.  Beasties that should only show in Spring occasionally pass by wondering why they are not hibernating or dead yet. It's all very confusing really.  

I was quite confused myself today as I, with two others, attempted to deal with a herd of wildebeest at the museum.  A large school party arrived and sauntered around eight or ten at a time.  For most of the morning we sold our goods, checked the change, indicated £4 was not enough to buy £5:90's worth and helped the maths by suggesting dumping one or two items.  On the whole it was successful but at the end off the first half dozen groups we were reaching for the tea wishing it was brandy!  When I left there was a similar number still to come!  Quite how they got so many on those buses I am not sure.  It was good fun but exhausting.  Quite how people decide to become teachers is beyond me!

One or two of the brats were a wee bit out of order, not unusual that, however talking to the lass who plays the Victorian teacher she was going on about the indiscipline in schools today. She herself is a retired teacher, all our Victorian teachers are, and upset that so little personal responsibility is taught. That begins in the home and so many kids do not have a stable home. The nuclear family is the only way and yet many of these kids have no idea of what this could be. Her complaint was really about the 'rage' and 'anger' that she finds in children, 9 or 10 years of age, because of problems at home. Indiscipline in school plus a policy of not touching or shouting at kids does not help.  At one school she was asked to leave because she 'touched children.'  The two boys were fighting under the desks and she pulled them apart!  The teaching assistant complained and she had to leave!  Good grief!  Pull them apart and six of the belt and no more problems, or at least less often problems.  Liberal parents, liberal schools, and a demand your rights approach does not produce kids prepared for life.  They might end up as teachers!   


Sunday, 12 October 2014


For the past few days I have been working my way through this book.  Paul Theroux is not one of my favourite authors, he is somewhat dark in his view of the world.  My world is, in spite of what you may think, full of light and brightness, this clashes with the world around me and makes me very annoyed all to often, which explains my grumpiness.  Usually if I seek out such a work I look for something brighter, full of light and good things, Jenny is one such place I enjoy.  Not long into the book I was beginning to weary of his writing but his comparison between the tourists on Gibraltar and the apes found there endeared me to him and so I ploughed on.  
Theroux planned to travel from Gibraltar to Tangiers, between the two 'pillars of Hercules' as called, passing along the coats of Spain, France, Corsica, Italy, the former Yugoslavia (which was then (1994) in the middle of killing one another), touching Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Morocco and possibly somewhere I have missed.     
His travels were by bus and train, not always the classiest kind, where he encounters the real population of the Mediterranean.  This was helped as he travelled during the 'off season' at a time when tourists were at home working overtime to pay for next years week long drink fest in the sun.  While many places were closed the people were often open and friendly.  His descriptions are honest, he details the good and the bad he bumps into and some of his opinions upset people, especially Israeli's, and upsetting Israeli's is difficult to do isn't it?  He clearly enjoyed his time in Bari, Italy, while Israeli security is not an enjoyable endurance.  He is right there as I have endured that also!  His ability to travel around Syria amazed me.  Assad was still in power and while the people feared to say his name Paul's freedom to travel the nation was undisturbed.  
I found the main bugbear on this book was Theroux's incessant on quoting from the books he had read, was reading and the discussion of the authors of such works.  My grumble was because most pf them represented, and still do represent a life of emptiness and futility which such as he found 'stimulating.  I was depressed cogitating on the years in which the writers had spent telling the world their opinions and indulging their brokenness which resulted in empty meaningless lives.  Worse still is the hero worship afforded such by those who envy and wish to copy them, if only they had their cash and could avoid the real world.
That aside I found the need to pick up the book and read to great to resist!  I enjoyed the way he travelled, a hotel there, a cafe, a bus, a train, people to speak to, although most of the ones he met I would avoid!  At times I was close to grabbing my free bus pass and making for Sicily!  At least I made Coggeshall five miles down the road, six miles depending on which road sign you read!  I may take to the road and wander about one day, I did similar in the early eighties going around by bus to 'see' the country and recommend this as you avoid tourist traps and see real people.  Real roadworks, breakdowns and long waits also of course.  
While keen to avoid the people Theroux spends time questioning I know these are the folks you meet while travelling.  A tourist heading from Gatwick to Marbella for a weeks lager louting will meet little of the people in this book.  He has English drunks (oh joy) and Theroux has real people, the weird, the lonely, the desperate.   The locals reflect the mixture of peoples in the region, mixture being the word. For thousands of years these people have mixed, from one side of the sea to the other, religion, colour, food all mixed up and influencing one another, with I suggest local regional differences showing through.  On occasion this leads to hatred, and always has, otherwise it leads to an acceptance of others even when their behaviour is far from usual. 
I never managed to finish the other two books of the authors that I attempted, not sure why, but now I am bereft and desperate for another tour somewhere similar to this!  This formed a light reading in comparison to the three political books I read recently and I have little 'light' reading around at the moment. Maybe I will just get out the bus pass or old man's train ticket and go and write one myself.....what?...oh!   


Saturday, 11 October 2014


As yesterday's post was so successful I will post a hundred more pictures from the day.  What's that you say....?  

Usually this river is teeming with ducks but at the time only this family of swans were elegantly dumping their damp feather all over the bank.  Difficult to take pictures when the vehicles are an inch from your heels.  Old villages ideas of wide roads do not fit in with mine.  

These have the look of Victorian Alms Houses, designed for the 'deserving poor' to keep them in their old age.  Quite who qualified and how I know not but it is better than the Workhouse. Who lives their now?  Something at the back of my mind indicates they have long since been sold.  I do like the statue at the door however, that is the first time I have seen one that fits in place!

This is Spooner's House dating back to 1467 they say.  It does look like two houses have been knocked together and what once was doors are now two large windows.  I preferred the doors that once stood there but I suppose these folks like to see what they are eating.  Of course since they were built all these houses have changed inside and out over the years.  If only my landlord would change our windows instead of just painting them to make them look as if they are OK.

Outside one of the remaining junk antique shops i saw this bike used as dressing for the shopfront. Very good indeed I thought and I was impressed by the finding of a bike in worse condition than mine!  I suspect this bike was dragged from the bottom of the river but whether the lass riding it at the time was also recovered is not made clear.  

Of course if I have nothing else to say I will use the other pictures....


Friday, 10 October 2014

Morning Off!

The return of the camera justified a day out in my twisted and perverted mind. Luckily the weather decided to agree and off I jolly well went to the nearby village of Coggeshall.  This hamlet contains around 4000 souls and 300 listed buildings.  Built around the old Roman road called Stane Street running from Camoludunum to the west and with the River Blackwater passing through. Many of the houses and of course the pubs date back hundreds of years, the Chapel Inn operating legally since 1554 and illegally probably long before that.  The building once housed the Sheriff of Essex and Herts who was somewhat upset to be attacked by rioting hordes during the Peasants Revolt of 1381.  Henry III, about whom no-one wrote a play, granted a market over 800 years ago and once a week the tatty stalls appear still.  

The Ford over the river is probably the reason for the settlement, possibly from the Roman times, coins from early on have been found, and it may well go back into Stone Age days also. The people I met may well do so.  Smiles were rare but that could be the village attitude or just the way I snarled at all who came close.  Few of the older houses are brick or stone in spite of brick being made here in early medieval times, the majority are built from timber frames and plaster walls, quite normal for this area and many several hundred years old.  

There are only two or three main streets, one of which is Stane Street, and a few side roads also containing some interesting buildings.  Note how a hundred years of development closes little shops and turns them into expensive homes. Funnily enough industry was popular here in the past, wool, silk and later Tambour lace were major employers and of beer was brewed!  Little remains and the sight of derelict industrial buildings dating back possibly to 19th century times, maybe later, is quite surprising. They appear somewhat out of place in this expensive middle class village.  The narrowness of the streets cause congestion, one or two legally parked cars against a number 70 bus and the buildings shake.  I noticed last time I passed through the rusting iron base of a sign that once protruded from the first floor, right in line with the doubledecker!  

The 'Old Black Boy' Bistro is up for sale for a mere £300,000 and reveals the narrowness of the road and openness of the minds here.  No PC busybody telling you to change the name, no customers either or it would still be open and not up for sale I suggest.  How successful such an establishment may be I could not say, Colchester and all its wild delights is a mere 20 minutes away by BMW, and folks here would know all the local eateries. Next door used to be antique shops but I notice these are less noticeable now than before.  So many chancers antique dealers operated in this area that a BBC programme, 'Lovejoy,' a right load of cobblers, centred on a woman magnet (under lots of make up) was filmed here.  

St Peter ad Vincula, the parish church fists installed a vicar in 1296 according to their notes.  Like so many of these buildings it does of course go back further into Saxon times and this large edifice most likely stands where a smaller wooden Saxon one one stood at the edge of the village.  It stands on the edge of the old village but did the village move from the church as sometimes happen or was the church erected deliberately outside of the dwellings I wonder? This would make folks parade to the church and also allowed the ecclesiastical hierarchy to remain aloof from the plebs.  Actually I have just realised an Abbey stood near the ford so that is why they are a distance apart.  The Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII and the bits moved into other uses.  This is a pleasant light building, lightened by a dirty big hole the Luftwaffe made in the wall during 1940.  The rebuilding allowed for light and glass panes instead of darkening stained glass.  The angel carved in the 19th century must be the treasurer, he has got the lute.

Some glass remains stained but is difficult to photograph correctly in the circumstances.  I was delighted with the quietness here today in spite of one or two working to dress up the building for the weekend.  The only fault was my ability to wander around looking up while not noticing the step beneath my feet. Dumbo!  
The graveyard went back a long way as did many of the tombstones.  I cannot resist walking around such places, they are dead quiet, and this one like many others has a wildlife area with several irritated birds informing me my presence was not required!  I moved on.  

The war memorial is rumoured to stand where a Zeppelin dropped a bomb during the Great War. Standing at the edge of what is now a slice of parkland it shows the bombaimer was not much good. Most Zeppelin bombs in this are missed their mark, the minority caused death and destruction.  Raids on larger towns and cities were more productive.  While researching the war we read through one woman's 'One shilling diaries' of the time.  There were plenty of 'Walked to town,' and 'Tea with vicar' comments but the talk of the war was less noticeable.  Clearly well to do she 'did her bit' in a charitable fashion could not get the car out as lights were banned during the blackout.  How the rich lived. If only we could work out which house she had.

The south facing gardener can grow figs if he is lucky!  I never knew this until I spotted these a few years ago.  Here they are still producing and the changes to the weather this year shows a harvest approaching.  Imagine, figs growing here!  I will return when ripe....

Life goes on and this hamlet has watched Romans, Saxons and revolting peasants pass through. The threat from Napoleon required the raising of a militia and soon this force stood strong, 20 officers and 3 privates were enrolled.  It is not clear if they partook of any action.  The Black death passed this way, as later did the aforementioned peasants, but while industry rose and fell and agriculture continued it seems to me money somehow made its way into the place.  Houses range from £300,000 to over a million.  Those in the centre have the traffic at their window, and this after a bypass takes the majority away, the rumble of traffic, the ability to hear the neighbours bad choice of music, and being well aware of each and everyone's life stories could be a bit wearing to me.  Yet it is the middle classes who move in, house prices going up not down.  An attractive well organised village but not one I would wish to live in.    


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Home is Where the House is.

We were chatting in between those irritating interruptions called visitors this morning about home and house.  What I refer to is returning to the place you were born or in which you grew up.  Home in your mind, yet just another dwelling to the passerby.  
My 'home' disappeared when my mother died.  The flat that we always called 'house' was handed back to the council for use by a new family, well once they chucked the two nancy boys who moved in forts out that is.  Why did they get a three bedroomed place when a family was waiting I ask?  Mum could have bought the place under Thatchers ridiculous sell off the housing stock idea for £5000!  She refused and we agreed that she enjoyed moving out of a tenement of two rooms and a small toilet into the three bed place with kitchen and bathroom, what luxury in 1953!  Because we wished another family to get a similar benefit she turned the idea down, and we could have sold it after she left for around £100,000.  I hope the new folks get on well there. 
However when I return to Edinburgh I will be without a 'home' as that is no longer mine.  I can no longer walk in unexpected without getting six months in prison.  The family have dispersed and each has a new 'home' where their kids and grandchildren will gather at the centre of their individual little families.  A strange sense to no longer have a home while everyone else has.  
Of course this is my home, but not as 'home' was home.  
For many home is a flat or a three bedroom house, for others a collection of iron sheets or mud walls but the sense is the same, and by the way happiness may be better in such places, that does not come from wealth as we have found.  'Home' remains in the mind as my colleague found when she returned to her long gone parents house, one of the elderly neighbours remembered her and chatted about past times yet things were different, nothing remains the same and the past is in our minds, not in front of us.  There must be many who would never return to a home as their past was to say the least rotten. Family or circumstantial difficulties may leave bad memories and returning would be a terrible time for some.  Just be glad that you may be able to return 'home' even if only in the mind, that home is a good place to be.


Monday, 6 October 2014

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Museums and Objects

In museums you get used to old objects lying around.  Penny farthings, looms, Roman vases and occasional old members of staff asleep in back offices.  The shop therefore attempts to stock goods that will sell and reflect the aspects of history that are the main reason for the museums existence and this is always a good thing.  However, and I am not one to grumble as you know, when you look at the imitation Trench Whistle, the key ring made from a pretend bullet and a cut out castle you do not wish to see a copy of a shilling (priced at £2.40) that once formed part of your everyday experience!
We now sell part of my past as HISTORY!
Now I may be on a pension, I may remember Black & White television and steam engines form a fond memory for me but to place my youth into a museum is not acceptable I say.  Lets face it I only look 25, my mind tells me I am 15 and while my body insinuates I am 87 it should not be believed, though it might make a noise tomorrow when I restart the exercise programme!
The shilling, which today equals five pence, has been around for hundreds of years.  Back in Anglo Saxon times, that covers the lower half of England today, a shilling of twelve pence was the price of a sheep. What you got for the money and what you did with it was not recorded.  No actual shilling coin was around until the late fourteen hundreds when a coin called a 'testoon' appeared.  No I don't know why either, but in the fifteen forties Edward VI issued a coin called a shilling and put the date on it. Whether he made them by hand himself or employed a lackey I have not bothered to check, but I suspect he counted them all just in case, Kings were like that.  Since then shillings as such, worth twelve pence, were in circulation right up to decimialisation in 1970 (or was it 71?). Not only but as they were worth five pence they continued until the early 1980's before being finally replaced by the five pence coin. Today smaller five pences carry on the tradition of lining the pockets of the rich and falling down the back of couches or filling children's piggy banks.  
The designs have changed constantly over the years, however it was only George VI who bothered to ensure some shillings had a design on the back representing Scotland, only England had mattered before, but you will guess that.  He of course married a Scot.  Today Lizzie still sits on all these coins while the designs today have a modern absurd appearance which pleases the daft folks.  
Strange to say that often when discussing prices I fall back onto shillings.  If something is a mere 80 pence I might refer to it as sixteen shillings and many a customer acknowledges that is what they were also thinking!  It makes understanding prices much better you know.    


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Now I'm Not One to Complain, but...

Now as you know I am not the complaining type.  I suffer in silence in spite of the hardships and sufferings I endure.  Not one to make a fuss I happily allow things to pass that even the mildest mannered chap would lose his cool over and start waving a poleaxe about.  The need to make the world know that you have been twisted, cheated, robbed or dealt with in an underhand and despicable manner is not the way in which to face the world I always say.
However, I passed the museum today as I returned from the market with a bag full of fruit when a screaming banshee at he window called me inside.  The boss had seen me limping along and desired my presence in spite of four of them sitting there doing nothing!  I told you I do all the work!  Anyway she just wished to indicate all the new stuff brought in to the shop, and good it all is far more acceptable and practical than what we stocked before.  So we chatted as not one person was visiting and then I gathered up my fruit before they nicked it and headed home to catch the football (the Heart of Midlothian won again as you will know).  
Typically it began to rain as I made to leave, not even rain by cloudbursts fell in great drops the size of my hand as I hurried slowly up the road.  Why me? There are around 40,000 people living here why rain when I walk out?  What's wrong with landing on them?  One or two could do with a good soaking I can tell you.  So here I sit now, hours later, the clothes still damp, the shoes reeking, and no doubt flu will result!  
But I will not fuss or make a complaint about this.  I will accept this suffering in good grace in spite of people passing in big cars gloating at me as they did so. In spite of not being offered a lift by these rich selfish peoples.  In spite of standing in the East Wing dripping like someone rushed out of the shower by a dirty big spider, many off which exist in this building I can tell you! In fact I will not mention this to anyone.  

Friday, 3 October 2014

Fraught Friday

I have sent my sick camera of to my sick brother so he can remove the dust from the lens.  He is the expert and I am banned from such tech work, mostly because of ineptitude and the possibility I would set the house on fire!  Since school where my four legged magazine rack sat happily on three legs right up to the massive holes in the wall that appeared when attempting to pin a picture up there my mechanical skills have been as efficient as everything else I get started on.  Having a wee bit more time I look around the house and not the things that await correction, most will still be awaiting in a years time I reckon, those not waiting will have been seriously wounded but not necessarily healed.  At least some form of camera will return, probably by Christmas!

so fraught I watched the football and forgot to finish this...

Thursday, 2 October 2014


Yonks ago I was down at Maldon wandering along the quay there.  A lovely estuary with a couple of barges and some other boats to be seen.  Most of this part of Essex is low lying estuary  filled with the yachts of the wealthy.  At least you need to be wealthy to buy one of these things and then learn how to drive one.  There have been such craft sheltered around here for generations, indeed one reason the Romans chose Colchester as their home was the ease of boats from Rome trundling up the river and almost into the town.  The yachts are a wee bit more sophisticated today but admirable as they are I refer something with a bit of character and this Tugboat suits me more than an expensive boat.
Now I realise you are indicating somewhat caustically that the last time I was at sea was standing on the old bridge at Leith harbour and even then I felt seasick however I would like to dream about being a sailor!  The crossing off the oceans, on a quiet day that is, would be enjoyable I say.  Slowly cruising past Greek Islands, wandering about the Indian ocean, or viewing the landmass of Australia - from a distance, would be intriguing.  Actually all that on a small cruise ship, with good lunches and competent crew, might be better than slogging around on an old tug.  The only problem with cruise ships as far as I can see would be the other passengers!  
Ho hum, I must go and dream on....