Friday, 30 April 2010


I can hear you, dear reader, even as I type these words.

'Oh no!' you are muttering to yourself. 'Surely he's not going to post comments about the weather again?'

Wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. If you read on, you will find out why you are so hopelessly wrong.

This time next week it will be all over bar the shouting; "it" being the general election. The pundits - well, most of them - are predicting that, because of our electoral system, we will have a hung Parliament. But perhaps I am wrong in apportioning the blame for what has yet to happen on our electoral system. The thing is, the party which gains the biggest share of the vote across the country does not thereby necessarily win the most seats. This means that a party which the majority of our citizens to not want to form the Government, does in fact do so. Indeed, that is what we had until Parliament was dissolved a couple of weeks ago. I do hope we don't end up with a hung Parliament because if we do, then we will probably have to go through all this again a few months down the line in an attempt to select one party which enjoys an overall majority.

And this is where the forecast comes in. But, in view of my amazing generosity, I will declare this a BOGOF day and provide two predictions for the price of one. What's that? You haven't paid for one? Well then, this is your lucky day as you will get two predictions absolutely free. Both concern the constituencies that comprise Brighton.

First, Brighton Kemp Town, where I predict that the person elected will have the Christian name Simon.

Now, my own constituency - Brighton Pavilion. This seat has been held by Labour for several Parliaments, although I seem to recall that it was a Conservative seat for many years before that. This time round there is the distinct possibility that the seat will be won by the Green party. If it is, it will be their first seat in Parliament, although they already have a seat (the one for my area) in the European Parliament. Indeed, our Euro MP is the leader of the Green party and it is she who is fighting the Brighton Pavilion constituency. But to get to my second prediction. It is this: the new Brighton Pavilion MP will be a woman.

I hope you will come back next week to see if my forecasts are accurate.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Day 3

This getting up early lark is beginning to get to me. We are now on the third day of the installation of our new boiler and I have been having to get up early so as to be ready for the installer to arrive. Goodness knows how I managed to get up even earlier for all those years that I was working in London. I always thought that one needed less sleep as one got older but it seems to be the reverse for me. With luck and a following wind - as they say, whoever they are - I will be able to reset the alarm clock tonight.

I have been astounded at the complexity of what I expected to be a fairly simple job, albeit one that is far beyond my capabilities. I envisaged that it would involve unshipping a few pipes before removing the old boiler, then put the new boiler in place and join up the pipes again. But no, it has been necessary to block up one hole through the outside wall and drill another one through in a different place, and install about three miles of copper pipe in the kitchen, in the airing cupboard and under the landing. Later today an electrician is due to arrive and I am told he will need to lift the landing floorboards again as well as work in the airing cupboard and the kitchen.

There are two things to be thankful for. First, we have an immersion heater so we have not been without hot water for the last two and a bit days. Secondly, the weather has been warm. If the job had been done a few weeks ago we would have frozen with only a small electric fan heater for warmth. And there has been that gaping hole in the kitchen wall as well, a hole the size of about half a dozen bricks. I might have implied that this hole was blocked up right away after the old boiler had been removed, but no, we are waiting for a bricklayer to come and fit in some new bricks. Fortunately, the hole is near the top of the wall or Fern, our dog, might have managed to wriggle through it during the night.

It will be a good job done - when it is done.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


It must be about 35 years since my leg was in plaster.

It all came about because, many moons before and in what now seems a different lifetime, I had become involved in running a Scout troop. One of the leaders from another group with whom I was on friendly terms had taken up rock-climbing and I was persuaded to go along with him one Sunday. It may seem strange to people who know this south-eastern corner of England fairly superficially - or, indeed, to many who know it quite well - that we have here some of the finest rock-climbing in the country. About 30 miles to the north of Brighton are several outcrops of rocks which, although no more than 50 or 60 feet high, provide some particularly tricky climbing and which are considered to be an ideal training ground for better-known climbing areas such as the Lake District. Our rocks are sandstone, which is what makes them so tricky as they wear away very easily. What is a great handhold on one visit can have disappeared completely a month later. Climbs are graded from 1 to 6, 1 being the easiest, and there are sub-grades a to c within each grade. Although many of the climbs are in the easier grades, there are a good number of 5s and several 6s. I think 5a was about as good as I got.

Having been climbing with my mentor on a number of occasions, I was declared sufficiently trained to take parties of Scouts to the rocks, and so on one Sunday each month I did just that. It was easy enough to send one to the top of the rocks by the easy route and once there he would fix a belay to a suitable tree and send down both ends of the climbing rope. One of the party would be tied on to one end of the rope, while another would hold the loose end to stop the climber if - or rather, when - he fell. Once at the top, the climber would detach himself from the rope, throw down the end and walk round to reach the bottom again by the easy route.

I had negotiated a fairly tricky grade 4 (it was shortly to be reclassified as a 5) and was feeling pretty pleased with myself for having done so in an elegant fashion. I walked round to the easy way down and was walking back along the bottom of the face feeling cock-a-hoop when I slipped in a patch of mud and twisted my ankle badly. That was the end of climbing for me that day, and I found the mile-long walk back to the cars a painful experience.

I hobbled about all that week. The following Saturday, we took the children swimming as usual. One of the regular mothers was a nurse and when she saw my ankle she called over the swimming instructor for a second opinion. They both agreed that I should visit the hospital and the nurse drove me since the accident had been a week before. (One is supposed to have a doctor's referral if the accident was more than 24 hours before one's visit.) An x-ray confirmed the diagnosis: I had broken my ankle.

This left me with something of a dilemma: should I tell people that I had broken my ankle while climbing, suggesting that I was perhaps somewhat incompetent, or should I tell the truth and admit that I slipped in mud at the expense of being ridiculed? I think I varied the explanation depending on who was being told.

This picture of me abseiling was taken at about that time.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A bit of a bummer

Up early this morning - early for me, that is - as we are having a new boiler installed. When the current central heating/hot water boiler was serviced towards the end of last year, Matt announced that we had a carbon monoxide leak. Fortunately, he was able to seal it, but I made a quick trip to B & Q and bought a CO detector, something I had been meaning to fit for years. We have been aware for some time that the boiler was nearing the end of its life - after all, it was installed in 1980 - but this was the last straw for She Who Must Be Obeyed. Matt said that it would need to be his father who quoted for fitting a new boiler and we asked him to arrange a visit asap. Despite several phone calls chasing this up, we never did get a quote from Matt's father and I eventually called two other companies. The second quote came in just two days before we left for France and I put it to one side to deal with on our return. Both companies had assured me that we would qualify for a Government grant of £400 under the boiler scrappage scheme which had been introduced as part of the Government's drive to reduce CO2 emissions and they both indicated that there seemed to be plenty of money left in the kitty.

It was two days after our return that I went to the appropriate web site to stake a claim for my £400 - only to find that the scheme had been withdrawn on the afternoon of the day before we came back to England. So I shall be £400 worse off, although as I never had the money in the first place I can't claim to have lost it. It's a bit of a bummer all the same.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The roast beef of old England

That was yesterday's dinner - roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, carrots and broccoli, followed by creme brulee for dessert. OK, so there was nothing particularly unusual in that menu, except that the beef was the best I have eaten for a long time, tender and full of flavour. It is certainly worth paying that bit extra at our butcher's rather than buying meat in a supermarket. This beef was Scotch and probably grass-fed. It had definitely been hung for the proper time.

Creme brulee (yes, I know there should be accents on the first and third letter "e" but I can't be bothered to cut and paste) is one of the specialites de la maison.

All in all it was a memorable meal, and now its time to sort out some bread and cheese for lunch.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Of cabbages and kings

So I did get down the garden yesterday which means the onion sets are in and the parsnip seeds sown. Today we are having occasional showers which the garden really does need.

I was flicking through photographs and was amazed to see that it is three years since our Italian holiday. Two of the pictures brought home to me how much we prefer to get away from the main tourist areas, although we do nonetheless like to see the "big" sights such as the leaning tower of Pisa. The smallish town of Greve-in-Chianti is supposedly famous for its triangular piazza and this was one of the places we visited.

The piazza turned out to be surrounded by shops selling tourist tat and was crowded with tourists, cars and delivery vans. I suppose it didn't help that the sun wasn't shining on the day we went.

Nearer to where we were staying and seemingly undiscovered by tourists (and happy to stay that way) was another smallish town - Figline. This also has a triangular piazza which is, to my mind, much more attractive than that of Greve.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Glancing back

I see that on St George's Day last year - that's 23rd April for the ignorant - I noted that there were acres of bluebells in bloom in Stanmer woods; they are a week or so behind this year. However, my efforts to force rhubarb under a metal waste paper basket have borne fruit (!) and I have already pulled the first sticks. Mowed the lawns yesterday for the second time this year, and then watered the garden. In April!! Actually, I only watered the pots, which had dried out terrifically, and the few vegetables I have got into the ground so far. I must get down to the vegetable patch and get the onion sets in, the parsnips sown and all sorts of other things done.

Friday, 23 April 2010


The television news programmes and the newspapers have, understandably, over the last week been filled with pages of drivel about the forthcoming election and the closure of British and European airspace. However, a few other bits and pieces have got through. Among them was the news that a girl of 5 (yes, five) had hit a hole in one. Admittedly, the hole was only 86 yards long, but still . . . What I want to know is who is treating that child so cruelly as to make her play golf? And, furthermore, how come she can hit a golf ball when I can't?

At almost the other end of the age spectrum, a man in his 60s was stopped by police under suspicion of driving under the influence. When the breathalyser showed otherwise, the police searched his car (On what grounds, I wonder?) and found a pen-knife in the glove compartment. This, he explained, was used for cutting fruit on picnics (or perhaps it was part of his car's toolkit), but he was charged with and pleaded guilty to carrying a offensive weapon. I just hope no police ever search my trouser pockets . . .

Thursday, 22 April 2010

When the dust has settled...

British airspace was reopened on Tuesday evening, quite probably because the airlines forced the Government's hand by putting planes in the air from various parts of the world, all bound for the UK. Once the (volcanic) dust has settled - or possibly even before then - there will be questions asked.
  • Was the ban on flying an over-reaction on the part of the authorities, and was the computer model on which it was based sufficiently accurate in its forecast?
  • Why did it take nearly four days to set up a meeting of Government ministers to discuss how to deal with the problem?
  • Was the decision to despatch naval vessels to the Channel based on the fact that we have an election coming up?
  • In any case, given that there is plenty of capacity on cross-Channel ferries, why send those ships to the Channel instead of Spain given that Madrid airport was being used as the hub for intercontinental flights?
And there are plenty of others.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A letter I didn't want

It was sitting there on the front door mat among the sundry junk mail and one or two items of "real" post and stood out like a sore thumb, the official-looking - even officious-looking - brown envelope.

'Oh no!' I groaned. 'Not another letter from the Inland Revenue!' (Sorry - that should be Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, which is what the Inland Revenue has become.) The Old Bat and I seem to have received two or three letters a week from them for the last couple of months, reminding us that we need to file a tax return for 2009/10 by the end of October or January depending on whether we send a paper return or do it online.

But this letter wasn't from them. The return address on the back read "HM Courts Service". I held the envelope in my hand, wondering what I could have done wrong and why I was being taken to court. As far as I was aware my life had been pretty well sinless - at least for the previous few weeks. I might have exceeded the speed limit slightly on the odd occasion, but that wouldn't result in a court summons even if I had been caught. No, I couldn't think what might have led to this letter being sent. I decided I had better open it.

After all these years, with just another two to go before I would be too old for it, I have been called for jury service. Now, I happen to think that we in this country have one of the world's best and fairest systems of justice and that this relies heavily on the jury system of 12 good men and true, but I would really prefer not to have been called up to serve.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Cowslips and primroses

When I was a child, my mother would take my brother and I for long walks in the countryside. One of her favourites involved catching a bus to Wigmore or Hempstead, walking from there to the small (and very attractive) village of Bredhurst, and then through the lanes to Bredhurst Woods. I remember one particular occasion when the woods were carpeted with both primroses and bluebells at the same time and it was well nigh impossible to walk through the trees without trampling on the flowers. It is quite unusual for both primroses and bluebells to be in bloom at the same time, although it looks as though that might happen again this year so I am wondering if this is a result of the very cold winter. If that is the case, the occasion I am recalling might well have been in 1948. But whenever it was, in those days it was quite acceptable to pick great bunches of primroses. Bluebells weren't picked as they only last for about 24 hours as cut flowers, but primroses were popular. In more recent years the flower became much less common, supposedly because it was over-picked and had no chance to regenerate. Since picking wild flowers has become verboten, the plant has staged something of a recovery, although the best place to find it is still alongside railway lines.

This bout of nostalgia was prompted by driving down Ditchling Beacon yesterday en route to a village pub for lunch. I remembered driving the same steep, narrow, twisting lane a few years ago and exclaiming, 'Look, a cowslip', and then, 'And another!'. The cowslip was then a fairly unusual sight. I am pleased to say that nowadays one is far more likely to see great patches of the yellow flowers, especially on the Downs alongside the Brighton bypass. It really does seem to have spread like wildfire. I just hope the primrose manages as well.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Matthew Hervey

One of my favourite authors is Bernard Cornwell and I have enjoyed reading every one of the books in the Richard Sharpe series. Browsing through the stock at the Lions book fair one month, I came across a number of books by Allan Mallinson which looked as though they might be in a similar vein and set in approximately the same time frame, the difference being that the first Sharpe novel is set in 1799 and the last in 1815 (No - there is now a later one) whereas the Hervey series only starts in 1815. Both series feature British army officers, but there the apparent similarity ends. Sharpe, a product of the London slums, has no claim whatsoever to the title 'gentleman', but Hervey, the son of a clergyman, can almost claim that he is one. He also bought his commission.

The series follows Hervey's career in the 6th Light Dragoons. The author is himself (or he was) a serving army officer, reaching the rank of Brigadier, and has quite obviously immersed himself in the history of the cavalry. There are many details which make it easy for the reader to see himself in an 1820s cavalry barracks. Hervey is a likeable hero and the other characters who feature throughout much of the series are well-drawn.

After I had read a couple of the books I felt that they were not as fast-moving as Cornwell's and re-read a Sharpe book to check. I was right - they don't hook me in quite the same way. There is more action in Sharpe than in Hervey, and more strategy in Hervey than in Sharpe, which slows the pace somewhat. That is not to say that I haven't enjoyed those I have read: quite the contrary, but I feel it unlikely that I will want to read any of them again. In fairness, I don't think I can award more than three stars, although I might be pushed to three and a half.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Pay attention at the back!

We have a lot to cover today, so sit up and pay attention.

First, UK (and much of Europe's) airspace is closed until at least 1.00am tomorrow, Monday. The disruption this is causing to holiday-makers is enormous, given that today is the last day of the two-week Easter school holidays for most of Britain. But it is, of course, not only holiday-makers who are affected. Businessmen are unable to travel and will need to rearrange meetings, a couple who have spent three years planning their wedding in Antigua have been unable to travel, and tons of food waiting to be flown into Britain from Kenya and Egypt (for example) have had to be destroyed. This will mean that farmers in those countries who rely on exporting crops to Europe will suffer, and as a knock-on effect, British shoppers will suffer as there will be shortages of some fresh foods. This will no doubt mean that there will be increased demand for other foods. Am I just being cynical when I suggest that this could lead to price rises in our shops? Then, of course, the airlines themselves are losing millions of pounds a day and it is predicted that these losses will mean some airlines could go bust.

The Icelandic volcano with an unpronounceable name may be responsible for locking down European airspace, but it cannot be blamed for locking down Brighton's roads today. The inaugural Brighton marathon is being run and many of the city's major roads are closed for at least part of the day, including the main east-west road through the city - the sea front. There have been 12,000 people who have paid to enter the marathon, although the organisers expect some 25% of them not to turn up. This will still leave 9,000 runners, and another 30,000 spectators are expected to come into Brighton. Hotels report that they have been fully booked for weeks, and restaurants have heavier than normal bookings for this evening. The weather today is great - it feels warmer than any other day this year and the sky is blue (although there is a distinct haziness towards the horizon, for which we can thank volcanic action). Most people I have spoken to seem to be happy to put up with the disruption the marathon is causing and welcome the fact that it will bring business to the city and that thousands of pounds will be raised for charities, many of them local ones such as Leo House, Martlets Hospice and the Sussex MS Treatment Centre.

It is some time (I think) since I have mentioned books I have read and there are a good few that I should be covering. I think perhaps I will leave the bulk of them for another day and I will mention only the latest Peter James book in the Roy Grace series, Dead Tomorrow. Although, like the rest of the series, largely based in and around Brighton, quite a lot of the action takes place in Bucharest. When bodies found in the sea off Brighton are discovered to be missing organs, it is not difficult to put two and two together and come up with the answer that people trafficking for body parts is the central theme. As with previous books in the series, there are two or three sub-plots that run through each book. It was interesting to see that several of the characters in the book have the same names as some of the people thanked by the author for their help - and what's more, the real-life people appear to have the same roles as the characters in the book. I mentioned in my previous note that each book contained a geographical error. This one is no exception, but I have come to the conclusion that this is a leg-pull by Mr James and that these are deliberate errors on his part. Like his other works, this is a fast-moving tale which works up to a dramatic conclusion. And not everybody lives happily ever after.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Volcano update

I can't even spell, let alone pronounce, the name of the Icelandic volcano that has caused world-wide travel disruption. The closure of UK airspace has been extended until 0100 tomorrow, Sunday, and much European space is closed as well. There was a thin film of what I assumed to be volcanic dust over the car this morning so the cloud must have reached us, although the sky still seems to be blue.

Yesterday I phoned my daughter in Portugal in case she and her party were unaware of the difficulties they would face trying to return home this weekend. They did know about the problem and had spent several hours trying to arrange alternative travel. The best they could manage was a flight next Wednesday, so she will miss the first three days of the new term and the rest of her party - like so many thousands of others - will also be late returning to work.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Of matters avian and aeronautical

First, aeronautical. UK airspace has been pretty much closed following the eruption of an Icelandic volcano. The volcanic dust is highly dangerous to aircraft as it can jam the engines and even seep into and corrupt passengers' air.

The picture shows the Met Office ash cloud forecast for 7pm BST on Thursday 15 April, issued at 6.35am. The red areas show the risk of ash at lower levels between ground and 20,000ft - marked in "flight levels" as FL200 - while green areas show the risk of ash between 20,000ft and 35,000ft, marked as FL200/FL350.

Blue areas show the cloud between 35,000ft and 55,000ft - marked as FL350/FL550.

The spread of all three layers over southern England suggests even more disruption to flights is expected later today, as controllers extend air space closures, currently affecting every UK air traffic 'sector' north of London.

It is not known how long the disruption will last, so I'm wondering if my daughter will be able to get back from Portugal in time for the start of the new term next Monday (she is a teacher).

As for matters avian, I have been watching house sparrows, a hedge sparrow, blue tits and blackbirds gathering nesting material over the last few days. The blackbirds have chosen a spot in our neighbours' tree, which is right beside the fence. It's a pretty dense tree with ivy growing up through it. I have seen the cock bird occasionally, but it seems to be mainly the hen doing the nest building. She has imposed a one-way system, flying into the tree on our neighbours' side and out on our side. She generally lands on a post in our garden quite close to the tree where she sorts out her plumage, which gets ruffled as she exits the tree, before going foraging again. It's for all the world as though she is primping her hair before going out and really is quite amusing to watch.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

What's the date?

While reading today's fishwrap yesterday evening, I found myself looking at the top of the page to check the date. Yep, April 14 it said, although given the story I was reading I fully expected to see that I was reading a two-week old paper dated April 1.

It was reported that a couple from Merseyside in north-west England decided to treat her mother to a day out in France. This involved driving almost 300 miles to Dover, where they put the car in a multi-storey car park. Mother-in-law stayed in the car while her daughter and son-in-law went off to pay for the parking.

Some time later, when the ferry was well into its one and a quarter hour crossing to Calais, the couple wondered where her mother had got to. Then it dawned on them: she was still waiting in the car.

The ferry radioed Dover and the police searched the car park, finding m-i-l still sitting in the back seat of the car, wondering why it was taking so long to pay for the parking.

Daughter and s-i-l caught the next ferry back from Calais and drove home again - with the old lady. I bet that was a lively journey!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

When all else fails

To paraphrase my American friend, if there's nothing else to talk about, the weather is always a good stand-by. We have been enjoying a dry spell and plenty of sunshine, with temperatures reaching the mid-teens Celsius (low 60s Fahrenheit) but unfortunately a brisk north-easterly has taken to edge off the warmth of the sun. The wind generally waits until the flowering cherry trees are in bloom but although the very early ones are out, the main blossom is still to come so perhaps we will have to put up with the wind for a while yet.

I seem to have recovered my energy, so there is a possibility that I will get into the garden this afternoon and mow the lawns for the first time this year. I did wander down to check out the vegetable patch yesterday and was pleased to see that most of the garlic is sprouting well, the new raspberry canes are showing, and the rhubarb being forced under a wastepaper basket is coming on with two sticks several inches long already. A few more days and we will have our first tender rhubarb of the year.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


The road from Brighton to London is numbered A23. I have just discovered that there is another Brighton in MI (Michigan?), USA. Guess what? Highway 23 runs through the town!

Monday, 12 April 2010


Brighton - or to give the city its full title, Brighton & Hove - is not particularly big as cities go. In fact, with a population of about a quarter of a million, it's really quite a small city. But it sometimes feels as though that population figure almost doubles, particularly on a fine summer weekend when visitors flock into the city in their thousands. The proximity of Brighton to London doesn't help, of course, and from mid-morning on a fine Saturday or Sunday, the only main road into the city from the north is reduced to a snarl up as trippers try to drive into the city, down to the sea front, and then start searching for somewhere to park. If they are lucky enought to find anywhere within spitting distance of the beach, parking will cost them an arm and a leg.

That main road from the north almost exactly bisects the city, so trying to drive from one side to the other can be a frustrating business at times, even if one has no wish to go into the centre. The traffic jams spread from the sea front right through the city and about a mile or so beyond the northern boundary. We got caught out last Saturday. Our daughter has spent a few days with us and suggested that we had lunch at a country pub before she headed back to the Midlands. On the way to lunch we had to cross the stream of traffic heading into town, but that took only about a quarter of an hour. It was coming back on a quiet(ish) country lane when we really had trouble. It must have taken the best part of an hour to travel no more than a mile, the traffic was so bad.

That was admittedly the first warm Saturday we have had this year, so we really should have expected the problem. If the weather is the same next Sunday, Brighton will most definitely be a city to avoid as that is the day on which the town will be pretty well closed down for the first ever Brighton Marathon.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Election fever

I have been a little surprised at the lack of coverage there has been in our newspapers and on the television of the forthcoming election. The PM went to Buckingham Palace on Tuesday to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament and there was a lot of coverage that evening and the following morning, but since then there really has been very little. I suppose this is partly due to the fact that Parliament sat until Friday, so the campaigning has not really got into its stride. I expect that things will start to change this week.

The opinion pollsters are forecasting a hung Parliament with neither the Conservative nor the Labour party having an overall majority, which will not be good for the country. My constituency has had a Labour MP for some time now, the seat having been lost by the Conservatives in the early 1990s (I think), but the bookies are forecasting that it will be won by the Green party this time. A flyer for the Greens was pushed through the letterbox yesterday, but I have no idea what their policies are.

Another four weeks and it will be all over bar the shouting.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Weather report

Well, it seems that spring might have arrived at last. Yesterday's temperatures reached the 60s and there are hopes that we might hit 68 (which is 20 Celsius) over the weekend. The lawn needs mowing, if I can summon up the energy, and I really should get down to the vegetable plot and sow various seeds. It's ridiculous that neither the Old Bat nor I can summon up more than about 60-70% of our normal energy as we are still suffering the aftereffects of the chest virus we went down with.

Friday, 9 April 2010


I've just remembered that I had intended writing brief notes about a peculiarly British custom that took place on Thursday last week. It was way back in the 13th century that the then king, Edward I, followed the practice of Jesus by washing the feet of a number of poor citizens - but only after the Yeoman of the Laundry had washed them first! The king then distributed food and clothing, and later money was also distributed. By the 18th century the foot-washing had been discontinued, and in the 19th century only cash was distributed.

It was in 1662 that special Maundy money was minted and that practice is still continued today. Today's recipients of Royal Maundy, as many elderly men and women as there are years in the sovereign's age, are chosen because of the Christian service they have given to the Church and community. At the ceremony which takes place annually on Maundy Thursday (this year at Derby cathedral), the sovereign hands to each recipient two small leather string purses. One, a red purse, contains - in ordinary coinage - money in lieu of food and clothing; the other, a white purse, contains silver Maundy coins consisting of the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign's age.

Maundy money has remained in much the same form since 1670, and the coins used for the Maundy ceremony have traditionally been struck in sterling silver save for the brief interruptions of Henry's Vlll's debasement of the coinage and the general change to 50% silver coins in 1920.

The sterling silver standard (92.5%) was resumed following the Coinage Act of 1946 and in 1971, when decimalisation took place, the face values of the coins were increased from old to new pence.

I copied most of the last three paras from the Royal Mint web site.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Peter James

One of the advantages(?) of having felt so poorly while we in France was that I was able to get a lot of reading done, including three books by an author who was new to me but who had been recommended strongly. So, this is not a review of one book but of three.

Peter James is a Brighton-born author who (I believe) still lives at least part of the time in the town. He has written a good many books, but has lately taken to writing novels in the crime genre. These are set in and around Brighton, which adds to the interest for me, and follow the career of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who is based in the CID office just a mile from my home. The plots of the three I have read (Dead Simple, Not Dead Enough & Dead Man's Footsteps) are sufficiently intricate to keep one's interest, and the sub-plots, of which there are several running from one book to the next, are equally intriguing.

Interestingly, I found one geographical error in each book, although I accept that one of them may be ascribed to poetic licence. Having now been lent James' latest title (Dead Tomorrow), I shall read it closely to see if I can find another error!

But joking aside, these are well-written, fast-moving novels that will bear reading a second time and I am happy to give them five stars.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

We're back

After another very enjoyable Easter on the farm, we are back home with no plans to go away again until the end of May. We met up with my cousin Hilary on the way to Somerset and had a most pleasant pub lunch with her. Unfortunately, her husband was unable to be with us as he had a job interview to attend - job-hunting as he has just retired from the army and doesn't feel that he can fully retire just yet.

Surprisingly, neither the Old Bat nor I are fully recovered from whatever it was that we have had. I walked the dog as usual this morning but, much to my alarm, I found that I was too weak to do the usual walk without taking a rest on a bench in the park halfway round. It really is a pain, but with luck I should be back to normal in a few days. If I'm not, I will just have to give in a see the doctor.

An early lunch today, then we must attend the funeral of the wife of one of the Lions, with a Lions dinner meeting this evening.