Saturday 24 December 2016

Thankful Thursday: Work

Okay it's no longer Thursday and I don't work (for a living) any more. However I thought of this post yesterday (which was Thursday when I started this post) and was working (though not for a living) all week at my son and daughter-in-law's house to be (which is now almost ready for habitation) together with my son and various tradesmen. 

One of the things about working with other people is that BBC Radio 2 seems to be the default acceptable radio programme of choice (for non-UK residents Radio 2 is a popular light mixture of music and chat). One of the presenters is Jeremy Vine. So far as I can gather he indulges in a sort of pop journalism. Until last Thursday the words he had uttered had passed over or through my head without any of them stopping. On Thursday the subject of internet availability arose and my ears pricked up. The Government is to pump another couple of hundred million £s into making fast broadband available in remoter areas. Apparently I now have what BT regards as superfast broadband (If I'm lucky I have 2.5MbPS which is half of what I learned Netflix regards as needed for to watch a movie) so this is a subject close to my heart. 

And then the words that will forever lead to me holding the aforementioned Mr Vine in contempt. Paraphrased "If you live in a remote area why would you want or should you have broadband internet anyway. I thought the whole reason for living in a remote area was to get away from such things." Now I am realistic enough to know that he was being deliberately provocative but he carried on espousing that line of thought until I eventually went to work out of earshot. 

Then it occurred to me that there are probably millions of people in Watford who now believe that philosophy and will vote for independence from the Remote Areas thus ridding themselves of expensive members of the population who are such a drain on their taxes. Mind you we'd probably end up in the urban areas taking their jobs.

Happy Christmas.

Sunday 18 December 2016

Christmas Decorations

Those of you who know me (and, I suspect by now those who don't will have realised) also know that I am not a Christmas person and the one and only time I have had a Christmas tree since I have lived alone was when Friend Who Knows Too Much said she would only bring The Girls (her two wonderful daughters) if I put up a tree. So I did. I also put three sets of lights on it (it was a reasonably sized tree) and plenty of decorations. During the morning two sets of lights went out and then as they walked in the third set expired too. None of the spare bulbs I had would fit any of the sets on the tree and they were all different from each other so I couldn't even pinch from one to mend another. So the tree sat there in a shadow of what should have been its glory. The tree went out and the decorations went to a charity shop. That was the last time I had a tree.

Actually no. That's not correct. The first Christmas I spent in New Zealand Catriona was only just 5. She made me a tree. Each year that tree has come out and has been on display as it is this year:

 Together with another one Catriona made for me:

This year I thought I'd make a bit more effort. Not entirely my own effort I have to admit. My little Santa (gift some years ago from FWKTM) is next to the candle and the glass piece centre top is a gift from the USA and the glass tree from a friend in Glasgow who is a very talented glass artist.

The mobile, bottom right, is a reminder of the large one my family acquired when we used to stay in Berlin and Bavaria in the '80s.

In addition I have 
I must be getting mellow in my old age.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Memories of Games

During a certain period of my childhood Saturday night was very habitual. Dad went to the Broadgreen Abbey Hotel to meet some of his friends and Mum and I and younger brother CJ went to our maternal grandmother’s house about 15 minutes walk away. There was no television, of course, so we usually played games: cards or dominoes being the most usual so far as I can recall although we did play some simple board games too like Ludo and Snakes and Ladders. The card games were usually Newmarket, chase the ace and rummy.

I should add that later, until my grandmother came to live with us, Dad or Mum (often accompanied by CJ or I) went to my grandmother's for supper every night around 9pm to check that she was okay.

This was all brought back to mind this week when, having finished a complete refurbishment of the main guest bedroom, I started moving things from their current temporary homes to a new storage place in the bedroom. One of those things was the stock of games I have kept: some of which date back to those days at my grandmother’s.

Almost all the games were inherently 'betting' games (eg Newmarket or chase the ace) and, of course, lives had to be won and lost and scores had to be kept. For that purpose and when playing 'Put and Take' (see the little brass spinner in the beans) we had my grandmother's tin of beans: the St Bruno Flake tin with the very beans we used back then. Later when I had my own family we used the Marmite jar filled with dried fruit stones. I cannot remember when the tiddlywinks first came into the family but, of course, we had some of them (and probably that box) since the '50s anyway.

I used to play rummy, cribbage and dominoes with Dad. I occasionally won at rummy but at the other two Dad was unbeatable. These dominoes are not from that era but Dad made the cribbage board out of a slab of solid brass and the holes were square(ish) to take the Swan Vestas matchsticks Dad used to light his pipe.

In those days Patience was played a great deal as it was until the presence of versions of patience appeared on every mobile device. Generally we used ordinary playing cards but most had 'travel packs' for playing in more confined spaces from one's hospital bed to railway carriages.

As a child I loved draughts (another game that Dad usually dominated in the winning stakes) and chess (a game Dad didn't play). My first chess set was this boxwood Staunton set but when I went into hospital for several longish spells when I was in my mid teens a lady who lived nearby gave me the red-boxed travel set which I used for many many decades. I am astonished that it has survived so well.

Two games my wife and I played were Bezique and Othello

Pass The Pig was a more recent addition to our games. When our son, Andy, was dying in hospital Pass The Pig seemed to be copeable with.

Monday 12 December 2016

On Being Right

Here lies the grave of Jeremy Day.
He died defending his right of way.
His way was right.
His will was strong.
But he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong.

(This is a poem I have used since I was a teenager. It is in my journal from that era. I cannot find an original source and I have none specified in my journal. I cannot believe that it is an original of mine although I would like to believe that. If anyone knows the source I would be grateful if they would say so.)

Friday 9 December 2016

Just Occasionally

We have weather in the Outer Hebrides which makes you realise that there is nowhere else on earth that you ant to be (at that moment!). Last Monday was such a day as I walked by the Stornoway Golf Course. It was windless, cloudless and very cold.

There was a time many years ago when I used to walk this course regularly trying to hit a golf ball around 18 fairways an into 18 holes with as few swings of a club as possible.

PS I'm away from the Island at the moment and have not had much time to read blogs. Apologies.

Saturday 3 December 2016

A Fiver For Your Principles

As some of you may know I am by inclination although not in practice a vegetarian. 

As some of you may know the new Bank of England £5 note contains minute traces of tallow which is an animal product.

It now appears that a café in Cambridge is refusing to accept the notes because they will not have animal products in their establishment. ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-38184599 )

Presumably, therefore, they will refuse to serve anyone wearing leather shoes, silk underwear or woolly jumpers.

How fortunate are we to have such first world problems to worry about?

Saturday 26 November 2016

Are You Happy?

Image result for happy faceIt's been a very busy time since I arrived back from Glasgow: enjoyable and productive and busy.

I had a lot of things to do in town this morning including breakfast at The Woodlands - well it was really a mid morning top-up.  

After that I made a number of calls dropping things off at charity (goodwill/op shop) shops as well as the usual shopping forays.

As I got out of the car outside the Red Cross shop two very attractively personable young ladies accosted me (not a common situation for me I have to admit) and asked if I was happy.  My immediate reaction was that they looked like female versions of the very well-groomed and personable young men who roam the streets proselytising for the Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).  Whether they were or not I do not know. However they were wearing badges that declared that they were missionaries. I have to say that the idea of missionaries on Lewis which is the last bastion of staunch Christianity in the UK rather amused me.

What was unusual was that they walked right up to me and greeted me very forthrightly asking if I was happy. 

It did occur to me afterwards that if I as an old(ish) man had walked up to two young girls and greeted them in the same way I'd probably have been arrested at best or carted off in a straightjacket. 

I responded that I was, indeed, very happy: just like the rainbow smiley face above. After all I'd woken up this morning and that, in itself, was cause for my happiness regardless of all the other good things happening in my day. Indeed, I told them in response to their further questioning as to why I was happy, that I am invariably happy because that is my general nature (these days!). Of course they then introduced their chosen subject. 

I'm assuming that they were fairly new to the vocation because they seemed rather at a loss when I said that I was not just a happy person but a happy atheist.

And there, having exhorted me to 'have a nice day' and I having responded likewise we parted company.

I wonder if what they saw was
Image result for happy face

Tuesday 15 November 2016

If You Lived on Lewis in the '70s

then you had to remember that everyone knew you and your business. As a friend said when we arrived in the '70s "People here know that you have passed wind before you have eaten the beans." Incomers were relatively unusual. It was a very small world.

How things have changed. Now many people don't even know their neighbours because there is a chance that their neighbour has little or no island connection or history.

When I came to the Island the furniture removal van arrived in Stornoway several months later on a Communion Thursday (and that's another story). On the Friday morning they went into Roddy Smiths (a newsagent and more in Stornoway) and asked where 22a Coll was and were astonished when the people immediately knew for whom they were looking.

One day in the early '90s I had to go to London with a female senior colleague who, at the time, had an aversion to both London and hotels. I thought that I would solve the problem by suggesting that we stayed at a London Club of which I had reciprocal membership. The Club had a 'Ladies Wing' which gave ladies privacy and 'security'. I rang the Club to arrange the accommodation. I gave my name and as I was giving my address as 22a Coll the receptionist said  "on the Isle of Lewis?". Having confirmed that it was indeed that Coll the receptionist then continued to tell me that she was from Barvas on the Island. 

I realised (as if I hadn't realised before) just how small the world was if you came from a Hebridean island. I was rather pleased that I'd not been having an affair and had tried to book a double room!

Sunday 13 November 2016

New Zealand Shakes

My blood ran cold. Less than an hour ago New Zealand started being shaken by a series of earthquakes from Hamner Springs in South Island through the capital, Wellington, at the southern tip of North Island and up through the North Island. The 'quakes are continuing unabated as I write.

There is now a tsunami warning:

I can only begin to imagine how everyone is feeling and I hope that everyone stays safe. My thoughts are with you all.

It's the middle of the night in New Zealand too which always makes things seem worse.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Spending Time on the Loo

For my readers in the USA the title is "Spending Time in the Washroom" and for Canada substitute "Restroom".

When I was about 9 I was given The Schoolboy’s Pocket Book. It was a truly wonderful treasure trove of information including The Universe, Solar System, The World, Language, Tables and Formulæ (sic), Hobbies, Pastimes and Sports.

I used to shut myself in the bathroom with it and learn as much as I could. Unfortunately I was born with a very poor memory and getting things to stick in my brain was not, and still is not, easy. So I would write things out and pin them in places where I could see them and recite them which is why, over 60 years later, I can still recite the Greek alphabet. My brother reminded me a few weeks ago that as a result of me reciting it, he too (who had my share of memory as well as his own) can still recite it. I have to say that it has proved invaluable when doing crosswords.

Looking at some of the book's pages today gave food for thought and some interesting information.

Some is presumably relevant today:

Some probably not!

And  some might look quite bizarre by today's standards. I wonder if any of these records remain today.

Years later I came across Frank Bunker Gilbreth the father of work study and O&M (Organisation and Methods) having read the book by two of his 12 children, Frank and Ernestine, entitled Cheaper By The Dozen. One of his tricks was to put things he wanted the children to learn on the back of the toilet door.

So I have always used my time in the loo to good effect.

Nowadays if you play WWF (Words With Friends - a derivation of Scrabble) with me then there is a likelihood that my turn was taken in the bathroom.

I thought you’d like to know that.

Friday 4 November 2016


Outside the Oxfam Shop in Heswall (and doubtless in many other places) there is a sandwich board which carries various messages with the aim of getting readers to part with their belongings to Oxfam.

It seemed to me a very strange message. ‘Free yourself of stuff’ is a wonderful, liberating, concept and one people of my age in particular both aspire to and do. However it does rather conflict with Oxfam’s desire to offload that same stuff onto someone else!

Wednesday 2 November 2016

More Labelling

It's good to know that water is suitable for vegetarians.

Monday 31 October 2016

My Beer is Isotonic

I rarely drink beer these days. However, when I was down on The Wirral, my brother and I called into the Irby Mill pub  on the way home (I'd been drinking too much coffee and needed the pub's facilities and CJ wanted to photograph the pub's sign). We decided to enjoy the pub's ambience 

and I decided to have a non-alcoholic beer. I rarely drink beer these days and non-alcoholic beers that I've sample have not been to my liking apart, I should add, from a John Smiths bitter that ceased production aeons ago. I was given a 

which turned out to be rather enjoyable.

However the fact that it was a 'refreshing isotonic drink' had CJ and I wondering what the relevance of isotonic was. The usual meaning of the word relates to a solution having the same osmotic pressure as some other solution, especially one in a cell or a body fluid. We all know from our biology lessons that osmosis is a process by which something passes through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one. So if the pressure was the same surely the liquid was about to drink would just pass straight through me without permeating any of my digestive etc organs and therefore couldn't have any effect on me. 

Thinking about this I discovered that sports drinks (I've never had one) are isotonic as well but they are all supposed to be good and energy-giving and that presumably requires the transfer of goodness through my bodily membranes.

I'm confused. Can anyone enlighten me.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Amazon Reads Minds

We all know that with cookies etc set Amazon knows every thing that we have ever looked at on the Amazon website and tailors our Amazon home page and any marketing emails accordingly.

This morning I looked at Facebook on my phone and what did I see?

Now I'm sure you are wondering why on earth that should surprise me. The answer is that when I was with my Goddaughter and her partner and their young son (aged 2½) at the weekend  I mentioned that I'd taken young Catriona (at that time not yet a teenager) in NZ to see a film a few years ago but that I couldn't recall it's name but that, nonetheless I had actually enjoyed it. (Partly, I think, because it was my first 3D film experience since the days of the red and green glasses).  They went on line and produced a list of family films from that year and I immediately recognised the film: The Croods. I've certainly never mentioned it to Amazon though.

My dear brother commented that the Amazon appearance was scary on two counts: that Amazon could read minds and, more weirdly, that it was able to read my mind. It's a good job I love my brother.

Monday 24 October 2016

Another Place

In September Yorkshire Pudding ventured into the alien territory of the Red Rose and one of the results was a rather moving poem  about the Antony Gormley figures at Crosby beach. 

I spent a lot of my youthly social life in Crosby. Amongst other friends was a friend with whom I had a particular affinity who lived with his parents in one of the splendid villas which now look out over the Gormley sculptures:

It was some years since I had been there but my brother and sister-in-law were keen to go earlier in the week. It was a spur of the moment decision when we were in Birkenhead near the Mersey Tunnel and we didn't think to check on the state of the tide.

The sculpture entitled 'Another Place' consists of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures spread out along three kilometres of the foreshore, stretching almost one kilometre out to sea. I saw it when the tide was out and it was amazing although I don't think all the original figures were visible even then and they certainly weren't this visit. Having said that there are more in the photo below than one can see at first glance although I had the advantage of the original photo and a digital loupe.

What saddened me though was the huge amount of detritus lining the water mark:

Saturday 22 October 2016

Christmas 1/4 of a Year Away But....

Last week before I came away I received in the same post my first Christmas card and my Boots offers for Christmas purchases. I also received an email from Marks and Spencer suggesting I might want to order my Christmas food. I'd already been to the Maybury Garden Centre where Alison had her Christmas display out. I actually bought some stuff.


Thursday 20 October 2016


On Tuesday CJ, Jo and I went to Wales; to a place that has been special to me since my childhood; to a place that I used to go in my late teens to escape from the world. 

I first went to the Glyn Valley as a toddler. I remember two holidays in Glyn Ceiriog when I was very young - one in a house we rented and one in my Uncle's caravan - and my brother recalls one. As his memory of these things is invariably more accurate than mine it seems that the caravan holiday was when I was older because my brother recalls that holiday. Nevertheless as I only have one picture of me and my Uncle's caravan that's the one you're getting! Where it was actually taken is anyone's guess. My mother's brother is on the left and my Dad is holding me.

About then and on many visits to the valley after that I became acquainted with the small village of Llanarmon Dyffryn-Ceiriog with its two hotels The Hand and The West Arms

I'm not sure whether I've ever been into The Hand. I first recall staying at The West Arms when I was about 17. I rode out there on The Hippogryph

The Hippogryph was my steed for several years: we went all over The Lake District (where the above photo was taken), Wales and I popped up and down to London after work on a Friday (which astonishes me looking back). 

The West Arms was a wonderful retreat from the 'real world' for me.

On Tuesday we went for lunch and it was like going into a time warp. I walked into a place that has hardly altered (in my memory at least) in over half a century. 

Perhaps one difference was the food. I don't recall the food from the early sixties but I do recall the lunch we had on Tuesday.  I had whole prawn scampi with home made tartare sauce and perfect crisp on the outside and fluffy inside chips. This was not pub grub. 

I hope that one day I will make the journey from the Outer Hebrides to Llanarmon once again and spend some time at The West Arms in the Land of My Fathers.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

To The Woods

When I first went to live on the Isle of Lewis I thought that I would never get used to living without trees. I'd been brought up in a city but a city with lots and lots of trees. After that I'd lived amongst trees in Cheshire. So when on Saturday night I stayed with friends in Evanton it was a wonderful opportunity to step out of her back garden into the Evanton Community Woodland. Steve and I went for a good walk (thank you again medical team for my new knee) round the woods on Sunday morning accompanied by four paws.

Setting off
"Right you can catch me up!"
Autumn mists
Would you believe mating slugs?
Art in the woods
More art in the woods
Classroom in the woods
Fun in the woods