Saturday, 31 January 2015

The little yellow car

There has been quite a storm this past week, a storm caused by a little yellow car.  This car, a Vauxhall Corsa, has become almost as famous a little yellow car as the one driven by Noddy.  But perhaps I should start the story a little farther back, especially for our overseas readers.

One thing we are not short of here in England is picturesque villages.  You may well think that some of the hilltop villages of southern France or Tuscany provide lovely views, but I would suggest that for pure chocolate box prettiness only English villages will do.  You will find them right across the country, from the Isle of Wight to Northumberland, from Cornwall to Norfolk.  Some of them have featured in the television dramas of the Midsomer Murders series, much of which was, I believe, filmed in Buckinghamshire.  But it is the area known as the Cotswolds, a part of southern central England containing the rolling Cotswold Hills, that is particularly associated with chocolate box villages.  Among these is Bibury, which the nineteenth-century artist and craftsman William Morris called the most beautiful village in England.  Bibury is noted for the cottages made from honey-coloured stone under steeply-pitched roofs.  In particular, Arlington Row, a row of cottages that was built as a wool store in 1380 and converted into a row of cottages for weavers in the seventeenth century.

Picture by Saffron Blaze via Wikicommons

This delightful row is possibly the most photographed row of cottages in England and is visited by tourists from across the globe, anxious to take home with the perfect picture as a souvenir.

But photographers have complained about the little yellow car "photobombing" their pictures.  It seems that the resident of a cottage in Awkward Hill, leading off to the right in the picture above, has no garage and the only place he can park gets in the way of many of the photos.

Photo: SWNS
A lot of the photographers have complained about the car getting in the way, but my reaction is the same as many of the locals': tough.  Bibury is not Disneyland or one of those almost make-believe places like Jamestown, Virginia - it is a real, lied in place and those cottages are peoples' homes.  Besides, as the big picture demonstrates, it is quite possible to take a picture that doesn't feature that corner where the car is parked.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Looking back

I just happened across this on UTube.  What memories came flooding back!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Food, glorious food

We ate a truly international meal the other evening.  The main course was confit de canard (a French dish made with the leg of the duck) with hasselback potatoes (Swedish roast potatoes), broccoli and French beans.  The duck actually came from France - no, not on its own; I brought it back in a tin - while the potatoes came from Scotland, the French beans from Kenya and, I think, the broccoli from England.  Dessert was baked bananas, baked with lemon juice and soft light brown sugar.  The bananas came from Colombia, the sugar (I assume) from the West Indies and the lemon juice was 'produced' in Belgium.  Yes, that's what it said on the label - although I'm not at all sure how lemon juice can be 'produced' other than by squeezing lemons, which don't grow in Belgium.

Here in the mist-enshrouded, dank area known as England ("this scepter'd isle. This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars. This other Eden, demi-paradise."  Shakespeare must have been on the mead when he wrote that.)  Here in England, this is the time of year for comfort food.  A good, steaming Lancashire hotpot; shepherd's pie; steak and kidney pudding.  Food for the gods!  One of my favourites is toast and Bovril.

One of the things I like about Bovril - other than its unique taste - is that the bottle in which it is sold has stayed the same shape and colour for as long as I can remember.  The label has changed only a little.


I don't know how widely available this very British product is, but there was a scare only last week in Canada when it was reported that Bovril, Marmite and other British foods were banned because of some of their ingredients which are not allowed in that country.  A later story tells that these products are allowed in Canada, provided they are made to a Canadian specification.  I have to wonder what the changes in the ingredients do to the taste of the products.

And how to describe the taste of Bovril?  Well, that's quite a tricky one.  Bovril is essentially a beef extract with yeast and has been made in England since the 1880s.  It does have a salty flavour, but I'm not at all sure that I really want to look at the list of ingredients which probably include a whole lot of chemicals.

Bovril is not only scrumptious on toast, but it also makes a very tasty hot drink.  Just a good teaspoonful in a cup of boiling water is all it takes.

And while we are on the subject of peculiarly British foods (such as Gentleman's Relish) I was astonished to read this week that Marmite Easter eggs are to be sold this year.  Now that really does sound disgusting!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Let's be thankful

Given that even after the atrocity of the holocaust mankind still practises inhumanity to man, I think it is useful to remind ourselves occasionally that the world is not overflowing with evil.  There are good people out there, and many of them.  For a start, there are those amazing doctors and nurses who have volunteered to go to west Africa to tend people suffering from Ebola.  People like Pauline Cafferkey, who was critically ill after catching the disease and who has only recently recovered.  people like William Pooley who also caught the disease, was cured in London, and promptly returned to Sierra Leone to continue nursing Ebola patients.

Let us be thankful that there are so many people like that.  Like the members of mountain rescue teams and lifeboat crews who voluntarily put themselves in danger to rescue others, others who are often in trouble through their own foolhardiness.

However, let us also remember what Edmund Burke said: "The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing."

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Two things...

First, the wonderful Quote of the Day that Blogger (or whoever) has thrown up: "Idleness is not doing nothing. Idleness is being free to do anything."  Apparently by Floyd Dell, whoever he might be.

Second, to day is Holocaust Memorial Day.  It sickens me that similar atrocities have happened and are continuing to happen in various places, even if the extent of them is not so great.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Profligacy and shirt buttons

It may have escaped your notice, indeed, if you live outside Europe there is probably no reason why it should have been drawn to your attention, but there was an election yesterday.  In Greece.  Now, elections in Greece are not something that we in Britain would normally get worked up about, but this time the result could send shock-waves throughout the so-called euro-zone - and possibly even throughout the European Union.  It was therefore quite understandable that the BBC television news late yesterday evening should devote time to the result of the election.

But did they really need to send to Athens not only Gavin Hewitt, their Europe editor, but also Clive Myrie, one of their top news readers?  Could not Mr Hewitt simply have covered the matter, reporting to Reeta Chakrabarti as she headed up the studio presentation in London?  And I wouldn't mind betting that Mr Myrie spent at least two nights in a top Athens hotel.

The Beeb seems to be making a habit of such extravagance these days.

And they are not the only ones.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, moonlights as a writer for the Daily Telegraph newspaper with a column published every week.  OK, I have no problem with that, always assuming that he writes in his own time.  But this week's column reports on his trip to Kurdistan where he met Peshmurga fighters and refugees driven out of their homes by the so-called Islamic State terrorists.

I have to wonder if the trip was undertaken in his capacity as Mayor or if it was in a purely private capacity.  Was it undertaken during his annual leave - and who paid?

Another momentous matter covered recently in the said newspaper concerns shirt buttons.  Well, not so much the buttons as the button holes.  Why, asked a correspondent, is the bottom button hole on men's shirts horizontal when all the rest are vertical?

What's that?  You'd never noticed?  Shame on you!

Anyway, an answer was provided by somebody with specialist knowledge, a shirt maker or some such.  And the answer was not, as one gentleman opined, so that the dresser knew when the last button had been fastened.  It is to stop the shirt gaping (and displaying the wearer's stomach) when the wearer turns in his seat.

I have since examined all my shirts.  Only one of them has the bottom button hole set horizontally.  Maybe I'm just a cheapskate when it comes to buying shirts!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

It is about this time every year that I get a sort of stir crazy.  It's not that I have been confined to the house for any length of time; far from it as I have been out every day.  usually twice a day, in fact, walking the dog, on top of all those other excursions to such exciting places as the supermarket and the doctor's surgery.  But it is at about this time that I suddenly wonder, did I really walk through the woods in shorts and t-shirt with sandals on my feet?  Was it really only a few short months ago?  And will it ever happen again?  I get so accustomed to swaddling up in a thick coat with hat, scarf and gloves and wellies on my feet that it really doesn't seem possible that summer will ever come again.

I don't think I would want to live in a place where it's summer all the time; that would just get boring.  One can, after all, have too much of a good thing.  And I'm equally glad that I don't live somewhere like Finland - or Winnipeg.  I've been watching the weather reports for Winnipeg - it just happens to be the last place in the "Rest of the World" list on the back page of the paper - and they have endured temperatures well below freezing, as low as -30 Celsius, for weeks.

Oh well, warmth will come again and in the meantime, I must just look at some of the photographs I have taken in warm weather, like this courtyard in southern France where we bought some wonderful wine direct from the producer.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

England's greatest man?

I am sure that if a hundred people were each to be asked to name England's greatest man there would be several nominations. Almost certain to be included in the list are Nelson, Wellington and Shakespeare but other contenders could be Alfred the Great and even Henry VIII.  But what about Robert Stephenson, Alan Turing, Tim Berners-Lee?  Well, possibly they would get few, if any, nominations.

One who would almost certainly receive quite a few nominations would be Winston Churchill, he of the V sign, the cigar, the spotted bow tie and the boiler suit.  (Although not the last in this picture.)

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Winnie's death.

A soldier, war correspondent for newspapers, artist, writer (he won the Nobel Prize for Literature) but principally a politician, he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1940, possibly the darkest time of the Second World War as far as we British were concerned.  It is his wartime leadership for which he is chiefly remembered, and especially his stirring speeches.  Like this one:

Friday, 23 January 2015

Where does the time go?

Today is the 12th anniversary of our purchase of a cottage in France which has given us much pleasure during the intervening years - and a good few laughs along the way as well.  Some time after we had bought the house, I wrote up our experiences and published the result in a paperback,  Privately published, I should say - just 10 copies, all but one of which have been given to friends and family.  What follows is my description of completion day, but you will have to make due allowance for artistic licence!


Maitre Legrand's office that morning was even more crowded than Monsieur Detroit's (the estate agent) had been when we exchanged contracts. I was a good five minutes early, but even so I managed to arrive last, to find an assortment of chairs from baroque to bentwood arranged theatre style in front of Maitre Legrand's imposing desk. I was ushered to my place in the front row of the stalls by the modern French equivalent of Uriah Heep. Seated to my left, on the opposite side of the aisle, were Monsieur and Madame Erlanger (the vendors), while on my right was a nondescript lady of indeterminate age. She introduced herself, but she was so immediately forgettable that I cannot for the life of me remember her name. It might have been Hermione, Hydrangea or just plain Mary. I gathered that she was English and was there to act as my guide and interpreter. Behind the Erlangers was Monsieur Detroit, while sitting behind me was another man who might have been dragged in off the street for all I know. He was never introduced to me, nor was his function explained. Uriah Heep sat on Maitre Legrand's right to pass him the papers as they were needed, while to Maitre Legrand's left sat his secretary. I didn't manage to fathom out quite why she was needed, but perhaps Maitre Legrand did nothing unless she was present to record the proceedings.

Maitre Legrand started the proceedings by clearing his throat in a particularly French way, though if I was asked to explain the difference between the French way and the English, I would have to admit defeat. It just sounded particularly French at the time. It was his responsibility as a representative of the French state to see that everything was done according to the book. This involved reading aloud what seemed like the entire Old Testament. I gathered that he was actually detailing the past owners of the land, from whom Mrs S and I would derive a good title. There was a little difficulty as he started becoming a little impatient with the interpreter. After every couple of paragraphs or so, he would stop so that she could provide me with a translation. But Maitre Legrand must have been in a hurry to get to a lunch appointment, because he started reading again before the previous translation was complete. This meant that the interpreter failed to hear everything and had to ask for bits to be repeated, which made Maitre Legrand even more impatient.

Eventually, Maitre Legrand finished reading and it was time for me to say "I do", or something similar. After that, Monsieur Erlanger had to sign each one of several hundred sheets, affirming aloud with each signature that the contents of the page were true and correct. I had to do it twice: once for me, and once as attorney for Mrs S. Maitre L handed cheques to Monsieur Detroit (his firm's commission) and Monsieur Erlanger, the latter being quickly grabbed by his wife and stuffed into her handbag. I was handed three large bunches of outsize keys.

I had read all the books and magazine articles, so I knew what would happen next: we would all decamp into a bar and celebrate the completion of the deal, during the process of which Monsieur Erlanger and his wife would become my bosom friends and come over to cut the grass for me every week (except that we don't have any grass).

Well, I don't know about all those authors, but it didn't happen like that for me. Maitre Legrand and his secretary hurried off to their lunch engagement. Monsieur Detroit positively raced back to his car. Monsieur Erlanger stomped off frowning, with the walnut scurrying along three paces behind him, clutching her handbag to her chest as if it contained the crown jewels (though I don't suppose France has any crown jewels). Uriah Heep wrung his hands and vanished into the basement. The unknown man who had been sitting behind me lit a cigarette and strolled off down the street with his hands in his pockets, whistling cheerfully but tunelessly. The interpreter, whatever her name was - I wish I could remember it - coughed delicately and vanished in a puff of smoke. Actually, it was exhaust fumes from her car which had been parked right outside the office. So it was that I was left standing on the pavement, alone, and with three enormous bunches of outsize keys hanging from my left hand. My right hand was half outstretched as I was fully expecting to shake hands with everybody before going to the bar. In fact, I had shaken hands with nobody. And  I couldn't even call Mrs S on mobile as she was incommunicado in the school library. What a let down!

Back in 2003 (above) and more recently (below)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Box sets and candles

Last night, BBC television showed the first episode of Wolf Hall, the adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Booker prize winning novel.  As I was out, I recorded it and have not yet had time to watch the recording.  To be honest, I rather think I will not be bothering with any other episodes and will more than likely give up on this one after a few minutes.  And the reason for my negative attitude?  Actually, there are two. 

First, all the comments I have seen from professional critics have lavished praise.  But what the critics like, I usually dislike.  So that rather puts the mockers on it.

Secondly, it was filmed in candlelight.  Yes, candlelight!  I have been getting increasingly concerned that the good old Beeb has failed to pay its electricity bill as so many shows are filmed in deep gloom, such deep gloom that I can't actually see any action.  It all seemed to start about a year ago with Jamaica Inn, based on Daphne Du Maurier's novel of the same name.  The cast list looked great - but the show didn't.  There were many complaints that people couldn't see what was happening - and that they couldn't hear what the actors were saying!  This was partly due to mistakes in recording and partly to the actors being required to speak (mumble) in strong Cornish accents.  That latter complaint - about accents - is also being made about the second series of Broadchurch which has recently started in ITV.  We didn't watch the first series so here again, I am recording this second series in the hope that at some time the first will be repeated.  Then we will be able to catch up!

In the meantime, we have become hooked on box sets.  We've gone right through As Time Goes By, Porridge and Allo, Allo! and are now watching Judi Dench and Michael Williams in the 30-years-old sitcom, A Fine Romance.  Is it just us getting old, or do they not make sitcoms like that any more?

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Books I haven't read

I know I have a tendency to sneer at those quizzes one finds on Facebook, like the Travel List Challenge and so on, but only this morning I tried another one: Amazon's 100 Books to Read In a Lifetime. The average score is, apparently, 23.  My score: 9 - and most of those were children's books like Alice in Wonderland.  I had never even heard of about half of the authors in the list!

Then I tried a different list of a hundred books, one produced by the BBC who claim that most people have read only six of those.  This time I managed to tick 24!

But these things are so subjective.  Why, for instance, does Captain Corelli’s Mandolin feature in so many of the lists?  I did try reading it, but gave up after a couple of chapters.  So did the Old Bat - and half the people we know who had tried it!  On the other hand, some books I think particularly good aren't on any of the lists.

I do like a book that is well written, in good English and with correct punctuation.  That sounds like a "given" but so often I find that the author has been let down by the copy editor and there is incorrect punctuation, or the author has let himself down with a poorly constructed sentence that I have to read at least twice in order to understand it.  But above all, a book must interest me.  I suppose what I most want is "a good yarn".

Maybe one day I'll put together my own list of the top 100 or 50 - or maybe just 10 - books.  But rest assured, Salman Rushdie, John Steinbeck and the Bronte sisters won't feature in it.  Certain to be included are John Masters's Loss of Eden trilogy of Now God Be Thanked, Heart of War, and In The Green Of The Spring; Thomas Hardy's Under the Greenwood Tree; Alastair MacLean's HMS Ulysses and several others I can't think of right now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

I was going to write about something

It's been a funny old day.  When I opened the curtains in the shortly-after-dawn gloom, it was to see that we had been blessed(?) with a sprinkling of snow overnight.  Not enough to make a snowman; indeed, not a lot to spare after making a snowball!  After breakfast, the dog I and I ventured forth to the park but we had got less than half-way down the park before Fern stopped, holding up a paw as if to say, "This hurts!"  Hardly surprising, given that the fur between her pads had accumulated snow which had become compressed into a lump of ice the size of a golf ball.  I had forgotten just how she manages to collect snow in her paws and how painful it must be.  We turned for home, but had to stop three more times to melt ice in her paws.

For some reason, the road leading up to our house turns into a skid pan or skating rink at the drop of a snowflake - and this morning was no exception.  Which was a nuisance as I had an appointment with my rheumatologist.  I decided not to risk taking the car for what would usually be a drive of 10-15 minutes.  It took an hour and 20 minutes on the bus, and another hour and twenty minutes to get back home again.  That was the morning gone - and part of the.afternoon.

I declined to take Fern out again but the snow had melted so I went shopping instead.  And now it's after four and I've only just checked my emails.

There was something I wanted to write about - but I've forgotten what it was.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Box Brownie

That picture I posted yesterday really got me going.  I spent far too long trawling through a mass of pathetic teenage and pre-teenage pictures I took using my trusty old Box Brownie camera, the sort where you just pointed the thing and pressed a button.  It had to be a reasonably bright day or the result was bleh.  Of course, in those days I new nothing about composition, nor did I bother to get human subjects to stand out from the background.  I rather suspect that I was aiming to get both landscape and portrait into the one picture!  I'm not claiming that my photographic skills are all that much better today, but they are at least a little better.

What does surprise me is the quality of the photos those old Box Brownie cameras could produce.  Of course, when they came back from the chemist the prints were a mere 2½” x 1½” so a lot of detail was lost.  All the same, this picture of Folkestone harbour was taken on my BB back in 1957 and I am still fairly pleased with it.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The things we say

Our son and granddaughter were with us for dinner yesterday.  Emily, aged 7, was tucking into the broccoli and carrots when she told me that she always leaves the best - in this case, the sausages and hasselback potatoes - till last.  "Some people," she told me, "always eat the best bits first in case they get too full."

As usual, one thing leads to another in my convoluted little mind and it occurred to me that we have never had to resort to any of those futile ways of encouraging her to eat.

"You eat those vegetables.  Starving children in Africa/India/China would be glad of those."

"Eat your crusts to make your hair curl."

And it brought to the surface something I had quite forgotten.  How it lodged anywhere in my jumble of a memory is beyond comprehension, but here is what happened.

Apart from my brother and me, there were - as far as I can recall - only two other children in our road of just over a hundred houses of comparable age to us.  Barry and Susan lived next door but one, but we very rarely played with them.  Brother and I were sufficient unto ourselves most of the time.

One side of our road was straight while the other side bowed outwards and, in the centre, was a grass area with a few trees.  This was large enough for a kick-about or even a game of cricket - although it is not easy playing cricket with just two people.  One day Graham and I were having a game, using a tree as a wicket.  Just behind the tree was a notice: "No Ball Games".  I suppose I was probably 12 and at the local grammar school.

While we were playing, a rather pompous resident in the street stopped and asked, "Don't they teach you to read at your school?"

I answered immediately - insolently but truthfully, "No, sir", at which he harrumphed and went on his way.

I can't imagine what got into me to make such a comment as I was usually the most timid child imaginable. 

Leading on from that memory, I remembered where I had buried a childhood photo album, and here is a picture of my brother, taken in 1957.  He was always the one who was good with his hands so I can't imagine I had any part in making this soap-box cart.  I must send him a print.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Lucky the rain stopped

Being the president of a Lions Club gives the office holder some uplifting moments.  I was lucky enough to experience one such earlier this morning.

Some few months ago, Brighton Lions Club was approached by the mother of a 9 year old child who suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy.  We were asked if we could help with the cost, some £1,300,  of a specially built tricycle to enable the young girl to get out and about and to exercise her legs.  We agreed to pay the whole cost and Father Christmas delivered the trike so it was waiting for Ceydra on Christmas Day.

Father Christmas asked Leo the Lion to visit Ceydra just to make sure everything was alright.  Luckily the rain stopped when Leo called round this morning and I was delighted to be there as well.

It's just what Lions do!

Friday, 16 January 2015


I really could not summon up much enthusiasm for a walk yesterday afternoon.  I had been out with the dog straight after breakfast when we had slopped our way along the muddy paths in the woods in the local park.  Granted, I only got very slightly damp as the one and only shower was while I was under the trees which, even bare of leaves, did provide a little shelter.  But it was windy and there had been fairly frequent squally showers during the morning - one just as I was about to leave the housing society office and another just as was about to get out of the car when I got home again.  I saw no reason why the afternoon should be shower-free.  And I was right.

I had decided to go to Waterhall, a valley cutting up into the Downs.  The open end of the valley has been levelled (probably by filling it with household refuse and adding a thin layer of earth) to provide playing fields.  Just up the valley from these, and at a slightly higher level by about 12 or 15 feet, is Brighton Rugby Club with three pitches , an all-weather pitch and a baseball diamond.  From here paths lead into a conservation area of densely-packed, scrubby hawthorn trees and meadows, complete with dew pond.

On reaching Waterhall we sat in the car to allow the squall to pass over.  There was a complete arc of rainbow with just the start of a double bow.  The rugby pitches could almost have done duty for water polo matches, so extensive were the puddles.  In one place where an animal of some sort had dug a hole, the water level was just an inch or so below the surface.  Fern (the dog) picked her way delicately between the puddles but hesitated when she saw the mud on the paths.  We ventured not at all far along before calling it a day and heading back to the car, much to Fern's relief.

Even the Old Bat said that yesterday was one day when she had no regret that she is now unable to take the dog for her walk!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

El Capitan

In my far-off younger days, the only sport in which I demonstrated a modicum of ability was rock climbing.  I used regularly to take Scouts to some of this country's most difficult climbs - which, surprisingly, are found locally in Sussex.  Those rocks weren't high - and they still aren't - being no more than 60 feet at their highest.  But some of the climbs were extremely tricky.  That said, both the height and the scale of difficulty pale into complete insignificance against the climb completed yesterday, the first free climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan.  (Read about it here.)

The world's highest granite monolith, El Capitan is to be found in Yosemite National Park in California.

El Capitan
It brought back memories of my one and only visit to Yosemite, rather more than eight years ago now.  Absolutely stunning views, such as these:

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Charlie, je suis - ou peut-être je ne suis pas

Our newspapers and the television news have given enormous coverage to recent events in Paris.  The BBC sent two of their top television news presenters in addition to three or four other correspondents, editors and reporters - plus (of course) all the sound and vision recorders etc etc.  I shudder to think what that cost.  The Parisian hoteliers must be rubbing their hands in glee!

I suppose that hysteria is not really surprising - and I think describing it as hysteria is no exaggeration.  I would apply the same word to the reaction of the French people, turning out in their millions on Sunday in mass demonstrations of solidarity with the magazine Charlie Hebdo and its staff.  It wouldn't have happened this side of the Channel - remember the London bombings of 7th July 2005 when as well as the four bombers, 52 civilians were killed and over 700 more were injured.  But the French have always been given to over-the-top displays of emotion; they don't have the stiff upper lip mentality.

Anyway, now that the hysteria has died down a tad, I will throw in my two-pennyworth.   I am a firm believer in the freedom of the press and the right of free speech for all, so to that extent, je suis Charlie.  I have never seen a copy of the magazine or reproductions of any of its cartoons so I cannot speak from personal experience, but from what I have read, some of the cartoons published in the magazine have been especially offensive to many Muslims.  I would not suggest that atrocities such as were seen in Paris can ever be excused by the publication of cartoons ridiculing religions or those who hold particular religious beliefs, so again, to that extent, je suis Charlie.  But I do believe that it is incumbent upon anybody and everybody - including newspapers and magazines - to exercise some self-discipline.  Public figures, such as politicians, put themselves forward and must be prepared to accept that they will be lampooned, but there is a line beyond which newspaper and magazine editors should not venture.  The question remains, however; just where should that line be drawn?  It seems to me that in France the line is drawn further to the side of libertarianism than it is in England and that is why peut-être je ne suis pas Charlie.  Indeed, I might even go so far as to say je ne suis pas Charlie, no peut-être about it.  It does seem, shall I say, a little hypocritical of all those senior politicians to say that it's perfectly in order to mock Muslims - but don't you dare say anything about blacks, gays or Jews as that would come under the category of hate crime.

Another point that concerns me about the reaction of the television and newspaper editors, as well as the world leaders and the millions who marched in Paris and elsewhere, is that other more bloody events are taking place in the world and they are attracting far less attention.  What about the activity of Boko Haram?  They slaughtered two thousand people in Nigeria a few days ago.  What are the national leaders who were in Paris saying about that?  More to the point, what are they doing about it?  And there has been, as far as I am aware, little or no international outrage at the murder of more than 150 people, most of them children, by the Taliban at a school in Pakistan.  It's almost as though we have one set of values for Europeans and another set for Africans and Asians.  But no, that would be racist.

I don't have the answers to the problems posed by Boko Haram, Al Quaeda, the Islamic State of wherever or any of the other extremist groups across the world; I only wish I did.  But I do hope that our elected leaders give urgent thought to how we can collectively thwart their threats.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015


I will probably live to regret it, but I'm ashamed to say I have fallen for a chain email!  It read as follows:
We are participating in a collective, constructive, and hopefully tasty experiment - a recipe exchange. We hope you will participate. We have picked those we think would make this fun and easy.

Please send a recipe to the person whose name is in position 1 (even if you don't know her/him) and it should be something quick, easy and without rare ingredients. Actually, the best one is the one you know off the top of your head, and can type right now. Don't agonize over it, it should be a recipe that you make when you are short of time. You can even send a web link if easier.

After you've sent the recipe to the person in position 1 below (and only to that person), copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1 and put your name in position 2. Only my and your name should show when you send your email. Send to yourself and BCC 20 friends (blind copy).

Once complete, you should receive 36 recipes. It's fun to see where they come from! Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas, and the turnaround is fast as there are only 2 names on the list - and you only have to do it once.
There followed the email address of Madge, a lady in Scotland, and the sender.

Frankly, I think the sender must have been scraping the bottom of the barrel in inviting me to take part in this experiment.  Me - who has trouble boiling eggs!  Anyway, I sent off a recipe of sorts to Madge.  But my arithmetic is letting me down - or maybe it's the originator's arithmetic that's wonky.  How do I end up with 36 recipes?  I send the email to 20 people, each of whom moves my name to position 1 before sending on to 20 people each.  That's 400 people from whom I am to expect recipes!

Like I said, I think I might live to regret this.

Oh, if you would like to copy that email and add my address in position 1, well, don't bother, thank you very much.  I don't need any recipes - I married a cook!

Monday, 12 January 2015


I've heard it said - or maybe I simply read it somewhere.  One or the other, or maybe even both - that confession is good for the soul.  So, in the hope that if indeed I do have a soul and confession is, indeed, good for it, perhaps it is time for me to (as I believe my American friends might say) 'fess up.  I must say, that always sounds to me a most unsavoury thing to do, 'fess up.  I know that "'fess" is a contraction of "confess" - the leading ' gives the game away anyway - but "confess up"?  Oh, come now, please!

But my confession.

I don't understand American football.

I have studied a concise version of the rules, the idiot's guide, you might say.  I've read John Grisham's Playing for Pizza.  I even spent a few minutes watching a game the other weekend when one was in progress on the Waterhall playing fields as I took the dog for a walk.  To somebody brought up on (proper) football, the game seems to have no flow.  There are stoppages every few seconds, it seems.  And to have two entirely different sets of players to chop and change depending on whether the team is attacking or defending...  Well, it simply blows my mind.

I do at least have an inkling of what is happening on the baseball diamond.  And no, I don't consider it to be a slightly odd version of rounders.  As I say, I have an inkling, but that is all.  There are many terms that are quite beyond my comprehension.

But then, that is the case with cricket.  I don't know where to find the gully or the difference between a cover drive, a sweep and a square cut so explaining the niceties - or even the basics - of the sport to somebody without much knowledge of it would be quite beyond my ability.  But it doesn't spoil my enjoyment of the game.

There are, no doubt, plenty of other "sins" I should or could confess, but sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Random Thoughts

I very nearly gave this post a different title - Odd Thoughts - but decided that might give readers the wrong impression, so Random Thoughts it is.

* * *

Why is it, I ask myself, that I can start to write about something knowing full well how the piece is going to end - and only realise the following day that it didn't end how it should have done?  Is it the mind - my mind - that wanders, or do the fingers on the keyboard exert some hidden pressure and take me to places I don't want to go?  It's rather like setting off to visit Blackpool, only to find oneself in Bradford!  Most unsettling.

* * * *

And how does the great Blugger decide which comments on my posts should be sent on to me as emails and which should remain in the nether land of obscurity?  In order to ensure that I see and read all comments, I have to go to the "comments" link on the dashboard!

* * * * *

Nature seems to be confused - again.  (I'm so glad it doesn't happen just to me!)  There is a Christmas rose in bloom in the garden; by that I mean a hellebore, not a summer rose blooming late, which is in bloom at the right time of the year.  Mind you, there is also a yellow Welsh poppy (a summer flower) and the passion flower has a solitary bloom (should have been over in October-ish).  Early daffodils are in bloom along the fence of our local primary school, and yesterday I saw my first primroses of the year in Hollingbury woods.  Just a few, but very early.  That must be a warm bank as I recall seeing the first primrose in the same spot last year.

* * * * * *

There seems to be a thing about schools and flag poles.  One school a couple of miles away has had a flag pole for some years now and has a great selection of flags to fly from it; the Union Jack, St George's flag, the Olympic flag and so on.  Then at Christmas they were flying a flag with the words "Merry Christmas".  And late last year our local primary sprouted a flag pole.  (I wonder if they thought to get planning permission?)  They had the "Merry Christmas" flag as well, and are now flying one wishing people a "Happy New Year".

Saturday, 10 January 2015

There comes a time

Every so often we read reports in the papers of motorists driving the wrong way on dual carriageways or motorways, usually elderly drivers who had become confused or simply hadn't noticed what they were doing wrong.  These reports are frequently followed by letters to the editor suggesting all sorts of things: compulsory re-testing at various ages, a complete ban on driving over a given age, etc etc.  Two suggestions that stick in my mind especially are that anybody who tales longer than 30 seconds to get out of a car should no longer drive, and that family and friends should tell a person when they think the time has come for him (or her) to give up driving.

Driving licenses in this country expire automatically at the age of 70, at which point the driver has to complete a form - basically a self-assessment - to confirm that he is capable of driving safely.  The license is then re-issued for a period of three years, when the process is repeated.  People suffering from any of a list of complaints and health conditions are required to declare the same when re-applying for a license and, in some cases, the DVLA (licensing authority) will contact the driver's doctor to obtain confirmation that it is safe to re-issue the license.

The problem is that these things are never black or white; there are always shades of grey.  And the opinions expressed are always subjective; they can be nothing else.  Take the case of our household.

It is now about 18 months since we sold the Old Bat's car.  She hadn't driven it for at least six months because although she could control the car perfectly well, she was unable to get to or from the car without assistance; I always had to be with her.  Since her car was kept in the garage, with mine in front, we always used my car.  But, in any case, she didn't like to drive my car in traffic as it was considerably larger than hers.  She was quite happy to drive my car along the almost deserted French motorways, which did give me a break when going to our holiday cottage.  However, I was becoming more and more concerned that she was not noticing road signs.  On at least three occasions she drove past the turn-off we wanted and several times I had to point out reductions in speed limits an so on.

When the time came to renew her license, I fully anticipated problems.  I telephoned the DVLA as her condition is not one on the list that have to be declared.  They checked and confirmed that she would need to do so; they also wanted to contact her doctor.  It was quite a surprise to me that she received a new license.

But it is now getting on for a year since she last drove.  There has been no opportunity for her to drive my "new" car, something she would want to do before taking to the motorways so on our last few trips I have done all the driving.  I'm rather hoping that it will stay that way.  I dread having to tell her that I think she is no longer capable of driving safely.  As it is, there are many things I watch her struggle with around the home as a result of her slowly worsening condition, but I bite my tongue and only occasionally offer to do what for me would be simple.  The time will come when she decides for herself that she is not able to do things.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Happy - but fuming too

Yesterday was...  well, interesting would be one word.  There had been heavy rain overnight and as we went out to the car the Old Bat shrieked - the drain in the drive had been unable to cope and the water was an inch deep.  But we paddled on and drove away.  As we got down the hill, the water was fountaining from the drains and the local high school playing field was a lake - something neither of us had ever seen before.  Then I took one look at the flood water at the crossroads - and turned back to find another way!

We arrived at our friends' place a little later than expected having been held up by roadworks somewhere in south London.  A short but pleasant visit before we dropped them off for J's hospital appointment and headed further into darkest London to arrive in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for the Old Bat's appointment.  The hospital has no parking facility and I dropped the OB off at the entrance, eventually finding a spot with a single yellow line where I was able to park with the blue (disabled) badge on display.  We sat in a very crowded waiting room with her clinic running an hour behind.

At last the OB was called.  When the doctor came in, she expressed surprise.  "Going by your notes and the last blood test results, I expected to see somebody looking very poorly, but you look very well!"  The OB replied that she felt very well.  It was mutually agreed that chemotherapy was probably not a good idea, especially in view of the probably side effects on a person of such limited mobility, but that if further treatment is needed, steroids might well be the answer.  Another scan is wanted, but this can probably be arranged nearer home in Brighton or Haywards Heath.  So that's the good bit.

When she was done, I left the OB just inside the door while I fetched the car.  Which had a parking ticket tucked under the windscreen wiper.  I pulled up at the hospital entrance only to be berated by an ambulance driver who claimed I had not signalled.  I assured him that I had, whereupon he became rather aggressive.  Ignoring his rant, I flapped my hand at him and walked away.  But he followed me and stood no more than two inches away from my face shouting at me.  I said nothing, until two nurses came rushing from the hospital, telling him to stop shouting, at which point I told him that if I had inadvertently done something to offend him, I apologised (or something like that).  One of the nurses was most solicitous, checking that I was OK.

On the drive home, my sat-nav seemed intent on sending me round in circles but I eventually ignored "her" and followed my nose - and the signs - until "she" finally caught up with me.  Like credit cards, sat-navs make good servants but bad masters (or mistresses).

On checking this morning, I find that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, along with the cities of Westminster and London and part of the borough of Camden, have different parking rules to the rest of the country when it comes to blue badges.  This is explained in the notes that come with the blue badge - but I read those when the OB got her badge - and that was three years' ago!  So that's £65 I have to fork out.  If she needs to go there again, the OB will have to ask to be taken by ambulance (at enormous expense to the NHS!).

And this morning I have received a response from the ombudsman service to a complaint I made recently about a local firm with whom I have been having problems since last September.  The ombudsman asks me to send a copy of the firm's complaint handling procedures and evidence that I have exhausted these.  Part of my complaint to the ombudsman was that the firm refused to send me a copy of their complaints handling procedure!

Is it just me going mad - or have the inmates taken over the asylum?

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Out of town

The Old Bat has a hospital appointment in London this afternoon so we are taking the opportunity to visit some friends who moved from Brighton to Wimbledon back in 2013 and who we have not seen since.  And no, we will not be wombling on Wimbledon Common - although I have very happy memories of...

Well, we won't go into that in mixed company.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

When is a swede not a swede?

I will get to the answer - which has nothing to do with those neighbouring Scandinavian countries - all in good time but, first, a slight diversion to discuss a perceived threat to the Cornish pasty.

Here in Europe, certain foods have... well, I'm not sure what the official wording is, but it is something like protected geographic status.  What it means is that, for example, champagne is produced in that part of France from which it gets its name and nowhere else.  No other sparkling wine may be called champagne.  Similarly, there are three English foods that have this protection: Melton Mowbray pork pies are produced in that small market town; Stilton cheese (which, oddly enough, is not made in the Cambridgeshire village of Stilton) is made in a designated area; and the Cornish pasty, which can only be made in Cornwall.

(And I think the official wording might well be Protected Denomination of Origin.)

But the Cornish pasty is in danger.  The denomination of origin protection extends only to Europe, so there is nothing to stop similar pasties made in America, to recipes carried by Cornish emigrants, being so described.  So what, you might ask?  There is talk of some sort of trade deal being discussed between officials in the European Union with their counterparts in Washington.  If that deal comes about, there will be nothing to stop American manufacturers exporting so-called Cornish pasties to Europe.  There is no apparent danger to Stilton cheese or Melton Mowbray pork pies as there are no products made in America bearing those descriptions.

So, what is this business of a swede not being a swede?  Well, it all came to light about four years ago when officials of the European Union tried to decide when a swede is not a swede but a turnip and, conversely, when a turnip is a swede.  It was all the fault, as so many things like this seem to be, of the French. Their wines have long been subject to appellation controllée which defines exactly where the grapes for the wine were grown. They later spread this scheme to cover cheese and, for all I know, it might now cover olive oil as well. The original reason for this was to protect their farmers and to prevent people from other areas or, worse, other countries from using names such as Champagne when what they were really describing was a sparkling wine produced in the Champagne style. Needless to say, the Brussels bureaucrats soon jumped on this idea as a way of expanding their own little (only now it's not so little) empire.

In order to give the Cornish pasty its PDO or appellation controllée, it was necessary to describe the recipe precisely and officially, and it was this precise description that exercised so many bureaucratic minds.  You see, in Cornwall, the swede is known as a turnip.  The traditional recipe uses swede in the filling, but to a true Cornishman, it's turnip. So the bureaucrats had to decide just what ingredients go into a Cornish pasty - and what should be listed on the packaging. Does it include swede or turnip? If the bureaucrats decided on swede because that is what most people call the vegetable, the Cornish would say it's not the proper recipe, but if the decision were to call the vegetable turnip, people outside Cornwall would expect something different.

I never did learn what was decided, but I can answer the question in the title: when it's in Cornwall.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Rip off!

It's high time that I had a rant.  I haven't had one for, ooh, ages, and if I don't get one soon, I'll . . .

Anyway.  Parking charges in Brighton.  After our meeting yesterday (I still have my watch and all my fingers - and, boy, is he a smooth talker!)  a colleague and I headed off into the centre of Brighton to meet our solicitor.  No empty meters around, so into the nearby multi-storey.  This is not something to be undertaken lightly, wantonly or without first ensuring that another mortgage will be available.

£4.20 for one hour!  And just to rub salt into the wounded wallet, when I came to pay, the ticket machine was not accepting notes.  Coins or credit cards only.  Having insufficient small change, I opted to pay by credit card - and was immediately charged a further 11p "processing fee".  That's two rip offs (rips off?) in one go, killing two birds with one stone.  Honestly, I have parked in the centre of Mont Carlo and Cannes at lower prices than were being charged in Brighton.

And to have the cheek to add 2.5% as a processing fee just because I paid by credit card.  The cost of processing credit cards is something that should be built into the price of things, just as the cost of handling cash is.

Then we have the problem of actually paying at parking meters in Brighton.  The latest news is that all parking meters will be removed within the next two years - but don't get over-excited just yet.  There is a but, a BIG but.  This doesn't mean that parking will be free, oh dear me no.  Motorists will need to pay by phone.

Now, I know very well that many people have contracts with their mobile phone service providers allowing them so many minutes of calls each month.  But what about people (like me) who simply pay for calls made - or those who top-up by buying £5 or £10 of time.  Not only will we have to pay to park, but we will have to pay to pay!  And if there is a credit card processing fee added on top of the parking charge we will have to pay to pay to pay to park.

I wonder, too, if any thought has been given to visitors from overseas who will have to use their (foreign) credit cards - and pay an exchange fee on top of all that!

A recent news story demonstrates just how careful one needs to be when paying by phone to park. 
The motorist inadvertently paid £5,325 too much for a parking space which should have cost them just £15.30.  Brighton and Hove City Council refunded the motorist after the driver mistakenly entered the location code of their parking bay as the number of hours of their stay.  Lucky that there was sufficient spending power on the credit card.  And I wonder how long it took to get the refund?

Welcome to Brighton - the rip-off capital of England!

Monday, 5 January 2015

If winter comes . . .

. . . can spring be far behind?

It has turned very mild today, almost spring-like.  And it seems to have got to the birds.  When I opened the door to let the dog down the garden in the half-light, I was serenaded by a robin in the cherry tree.  It was pleasant, but robins sing all year round so I thought no more about it.  But later, in the park, a wood pigeon burst into coo and as well as what seemed like a multitude of robins, I heard blue tits chattering to each other, wrens singing their song much louder than one would expect from such a small bird and several blackbirds.  But the star of the show was a song thrush and I stood listening to him for several minutes.

Anyway, I've a busy day ahead.  A lunchtime meeting (with fellow directors) with a man who wants to do a deal with us.  We have dealt with him in the past but many of us (indeed, most of us) have learned not to trust him.  Before shaking hands with him, I always make sure my watch is firmly fastened.  After shaking hands, I check that I still have my watch - and count my fingers!  But we still hope to recoup some of our previous loss with the proposed deal.  Time will tell.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


The Christmas cake, the pudding, the mince pies and the brandy butter are all just memories now - but we still have some turkey left!  We don't buy a turkey for Christmas, we buy a turkey crown.  That way there is no carcase to dispose of - and it also makes carving just a little easier.  Not that carving a whole turkey is exactly difficult.  Anyway, we ate cold turkey last night, with baked potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

I wouldn't say that sprouts are my favourite vegetable, but I'm perfectly happy to eat them.  There has long been an urban myth that English housewives start cooking the Christmas sprouts in about September so that they are properly softened by the time they are wanted to accompany the turkey.  Absolute nonsense, of course.  You can't buy sprouts in September.  But many people are not especially keen on the "little green bullets".  But maybe they have never tried eating them when served the way the Old Bat did them yesterday - mixed with pancetta and chopped chestnuts.

As I said, I wouldn't describe sprouts as my favourite vegetable.  But then, there are lots of vegetables that would not merit that description; there can, after all, be only one favourite.  I don't know what I would call my favourite.  I'm bored with broccoli (which we seem to eat almost every day) and French beans are very popular with She Who Cooks.  She is less keen on peas, which I do like very much, especially when picked and eaten only ten minutes later!  But I enjoy frozen peas as well.  I like parsnips very much - provided they are roasted.  Our local Italian restaurant decorates some dishes with thin slivers of parsnip, either baked or fried, I'm not sure which, but either way, they are delicious.

Sweet corn I love, either as corn on the cob or the frozen - what do you call them?  Bits?  But preferably not tinned.  I'm not keen on any tinned vegetables, except baked beans - which are another of the OB's less-liked vegs.  Carrots, cabbage, swede, cauliflower - bring it all on!

Oddly enough, I think my favourite vegetable is probably the humble potato.  It is so versatile, eaten as plain boiled potato with steak and kidney pudding, or mashed with things like boeuf bourguignon.  Roasted, baked, served as chips, wedges (with plenty of mixed herbs), potato cakes or rosti.

I'll have to stop: I'm getting hungry!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Toys for boys

I've been deliberating with myself about going behind the scenes (as we call it) and crawling into the deepest recesses of the loft to bring out the electric train set which is - or should be - there.  The grandsons are old enough now to play with it.  Always assuming it can have life breathed back into it.  It's not simply a train set, it is a whole model layout on a board - tunnel through a grass-covered hill, fences, trees, animals, even a small orchard of apple trees!  The boys (Huh!  They're both over 40 now!) and I made it years ago.  And great fun we had, too.

The train set of my boyhood was a set of eight curved rails which clipped together to form a circle, an engine and two carriages.  It must have looked similar to the train set on the right - without the Meccano engine in the centre - although as far as I can recall my engine was green and had no tender, just the two carriages.  It was probably listed as O gauge, although it transpired in time that it was just a tad small compared to the standard O gauge sets.

My brother subsequently saved up his pocket money (and probably birthday and Christmas presents as well) to buy himself a spanking smart engine and tender made by the famous British train set manufacturers, Hornby.  This engine was another clockwork one, O gauge, and found my circular track just a little tight.  Things were much improved when we bought proper Hornby track, one piece at a time; straights, half straights, curves, crossovers and even points!  We also bought several wagons of different sorts.  It was a little frustrating having to wind up the engines, but at least we were able to lay out the track from one room to another after we had built up our collection and the slightly different levels of linoleum and carpet made no difference to a set on this scale.

I would have loved an electric train set, but brother and I were very happy with what we had.  Years later, after I had married, I was just a little envious when I learned that my wife had had an electric train set.  I'm not sure that she was at all interested in it, but she was an only child and her father probably wanted one!

When the boys were old enough, I bought them the train set I had realised I would have liked as a child, a Hornby Dublo electric train in OO gauge (hence the "Dublo" in the name).  This was fine, but a train set of this nature really needs to be laid out and left out - and our house simply wasn't big enough.  So, in the fulness of time, another train set appeared, an N gauge set.  This gauge is small enough to fix the track on a board only about five feet by three - or even smaller - and that is just what we did, constructing the imaginary countryside around the track.  We were aiming at something like this, although our talent was not up to quite this level!

Friday, 2 January 2015

The hole truth

After yesterday's (overlong) post I'm going to keep it a lot shorter today.  That's partly because I've been on the go since first thing and it's now approaching winding down time and partly because the muse seems to have departed for other climes.

Anyway, there has been action on the hole front.  I first mentioned the hole here on 20th December, and then posted an update here on the 27th, since when several things have happened.  It must have been about a week ago - immediately after Christmas - that the hole outside my neighbour up the road was filled in.  But the same day, another hole was dug outside my neighbour down the road - and yet another three doors further down.  Every day, at least one man arrived in a van, spent some time ruminating before getting out of the van and peering into each hole in turn.  After that, he would get back into his van and ruminate some more, before making a phone call and driving off.

Then, on Monday, another hole was dug, midway between the two already existing holes.  And on Wednesday, as I left for the park with the dog, I noticed two vans and a flat-bed truck.  I counted five men standing around not even talking or bothering to peer into any of the holes.  But when I came back from the park, the truck had gone and just three men were gazing intently into the hole furthest down the hill.  A fourth man was back in one of the vans, obviously exhausted from his stint of hole watching and in need of a rest.

But today, when I arrived home from the weekly visit to Sainsbury's, a grab lorry was blocking the road.  The driver was shifting the soil and general muck from the verge beside the middle hole and he also dropped some soil back into the hole before movong to allow me past.  And all three holes have been filled in!

Well, partly filled in.  There is earth in each of them, up to a level just below the surrounding paving slabs.  They still await a little more in-filling and the replacement of the paving slabs.  Meanwhile, the temporary plastic fencing remains in place, together with the "Footpath Closed" signs.  But at least the "Nosmo King" signs have been removed so I rather suppose we are no longer in any danger of being blown to kingdom come.

Until the next hole is dug.

Thursday, 1 January 2015


Yes, here we are, the first day of a new year.  A day for making resolutions if you must - I never bother and that way I never break my New Year's resolutions.  Anyway, I was going to make snide comments about Janus, the two-faced Roman god after whom, I fondly imagined, this month of January was named.  It seems obvious, doesn't it?  But, true to type, I decided to check my facts; after all, I would hate to be accused of placing before you, gracious reader, a plateful of total cobblers.  And it's just as well I did check because, although the convention is that January was named for Janus, the god of going out and coming in, ancient Roman farmers' almanacs say that Juno was the tutelary deity of the month.

Be that as it may, I think Janus is a far better candidate for the tutelary (it's such a good word I wanted to get it in again) role.  After all, this is a time for looking both back to review the year just passing, and ahead to consider what will be happening during the next twelve months so his ability to look in both directions at once would seem perfectly suited to this time of the year.

I'm not at all sure that I want to look back over the year just gone.  There was too much sadness, especially during the second half of the year.  All I will say is that the 70th anniversary of D Day and the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I were both suitable marked.  This year will see even more multi-centenaries.  Three in particular mark events which had and continue to have international reverberations.

Two hundred years ago, in June 1815, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.  This finally stopped the French dictator from grabbing power across much of Europe: he had placed his relatives on the thrones of Spain and the kingdom of Naples and was intent on bringing the rest of the continent into subjugation.  the battle also ensured that Britain became the dominant colonial power for the next hundred years and more.

Another battle had been fought almost four hundred years before Waterloo, in October 1415.  This, too, was fought between British (albeit in this case, English) and French armies, at Agincourt (which the French call Azincourt).  The size of the English army has been estimated at 7,000 (including 6,000 archers), while the French force may have numbered between 12,000 and 25,000, the majority of these being knights.  You might think I'm stretching it a bit when I say that Agincourt has caused international ripples through the ages, but just consider this: Shakespeare, in his Henry V, wrote a speech which has been read and studied by students right across the world:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Listen to it here:

Going back another two hundred years to 1215, we reach the date when King John was "persuaded" to seal the Magna Carta.  In their book, 1066 and All That,  Messrs Sellar and Yeatman describe, somewhat facetiously, the history of Britain.  Their summary of Magna Carta reads:
1. That no one was to be put to death, save for some reason - (except the Common People).

2. That everyone should be free - (except the Common People).

3. That everything should be of the same weight and measure throughout the Realm - (except the Common People).

4. That the courts should be stationary, instead of following a very tiresome medieval official known as the King's Person all over the country.

5. That no person should be fined to his utter ruin - (Except the King's Person).

6. That the Barons should not be tried except by a special jury of other Barons who would understand.

Magna Carta was therefore the chief cause of Democracy in England, and thus A Good Thing for everyone (except the Common People).
But on a more serious note, Magna Carta is considered to be the basis of democracy and justice across much of the world.  the American Bar Association paid for a memorial to be erected close to the site where the charter was sealed.

And so we will be commemorating events from 1215, 1415 and 1815.  It seems rather strange that nothing very notable happened in 1615!