Sunday, 31 May 2015

I still don't get it

Blogger has been giving me - well, not exactly a hard time, but I have been puzzled by some of its vagaries.  And this goes back months.

I think I might have solved one of the problems, although I still don't understand how it arose in the first place.

It's all to do with comments other people are kind enough to leave on my rambling thoughts.  And to do with comments I leave on other people's blogs.  But let's deal first with the comments on this blog.

I have told Blogger through my settings that I want comments sent to my email address.  And sometimes they are.  But some people#s comments are never forwarded by email.  The only way I know that those comments exist is by refreshing the list of posts and looking to see how many comments have been left.

Some comments do get sent to my email - twice!  This is the bit I think I might have solved.  I checked my settings this morning and discovered that Blogger had two email addresses to send comments to.  I suppose I might have entered two different email addresses, but I can't think why.

And when I comment on another blog, I always tick the box asking for future comments on the post to be emailed to me.  But they never are!

Bewitched, Bloggered and bewildered, that's me!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Positive thinking

I will think positively.
I am thinking positively.

I am positive that both knees are stiff, the left especially painful.
I am positive that my fingers have all swollen so I can't make fists.
I'm positive that my left shoulder is stiff and almost painful.
I'm positive that just putting my socks on feels like I'm running a marathon.

And I'm positive that most of this will clear up in a couple of days.

Friday, 29 May 2015

A speech - and then?

OK, so I have to make a speech.  It's really not a difficult speech, and it certainly won't be a long one.  Brighton Lions Club celebrates its 64th charter anniversary a week tomorrow with a dinner and dance.  Gone are the posh frocks of yesteryear, but most of the men will be wearing penguin suits.  It will be my responsibility to respond to the toast to Brighton Lions Club.

As I said, not the most difficult of speeches to make.  Indeed, I have already drafted out what I propose to say and on the basis of "stand up, speak up and shut up", it should take no more than about three minutes.  I will need to be ready to amend my speech depending on what the proposer says, but that shouldn't be beyond my capabilities.

However, I am a tad concerned about the "and then" mentioned in the title.  You see, in a moment of madness (I can think of no other plausible excuse) I agreed to talk to the local branch of the Forum Society about Lions Clubs, with particular emphasis on Brighton Lions Club.  And there is nobody better suited than me to talk about Brighton Lions Club.  (No false modesty here, you understand.)

Then, yesterday, I received the confirmation letter from the FS secretary.  In this it specifies that the talk should last an hour.  An HOUR?  Granted, that does include time for questions, but still and all!

I am in no way a professional speaker and I have no idea at all just how many words I will need to say to fill an hour, a whole hour (less question time).  And it's not as if I can think of any suitable illustrations or other gimmicks to help keep the audience at least semi-comatose.

Oh well, it doesn't happen until November.  By then I might have thought of an excuse good enough to prevent me from appearing!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Wedding of the Year

OK, so maybe it wasn't the Society Wedding of the Year - but it was the family wedding of the year.  It's where the Old Bat and I were last weekend - down on the farm.

The bride was my cousin's daughter.  She had hoped to get married in what used to be their village church, but the village no longer really exists and the church is long since unconsecrated.  Unfortunately, the bishop would not give permission for the wedding to be held there.  This was a pity, as I had visions of the bride and her family and friends trooping across the two fields between the farm and the church all Thomas Hardy style.  But of course that would never have happened and we would all have driven almost a mile to get there.

So the wedding was at the church in the next non-village.  The collection of buildings consists only of the church, a farm, and the big house, known as the Grange.  A delightful church, with a board listing vicars going back as far as 1326.  It was probably as well that the ceremony took place here as the bride's first choice of church would have been too small.

There being room for no more than four cars to park outside the church, we were directed to park in a field a hundred yards or so along the narrow lane, round a blind bend.  Rather than risk the road, access to the church was then through a kissing gate and into the Grange by a back door, up the stairs, through the kitchen and into the garden, then through a gate into the churchyard!  It transpired that this is the regular route for wedding guests.

Anyway, the bride and bridesmaids arrived at the church in an open-top 1920s (I think) Lanchester:

After the service we all returned to the farm for the reception.  About half a ton of gravel had been used to provide a level base for the marquee and there was a smaller marquee with covered straw bales, colouring books, crayons and other things for the children.  And a bouncy castle.  The barn dance and disco kept people going until the early hours - although I was in bed and asleep long before that finished!

We were so lucky with the weather - a perfect English summer's day.  Some guests were not so lucky with the travelling.  There were huge traffic jams on one motorway which meant some guests arrived at the church right at the end of the ceremony.  The official photographer didn't get there at all, but fortunately was able to call upon another professional who was very good.

To my mind, this picture - not by the professional nor me - of the bride's nephews and nieces sums up the day beautifully.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Them and us

It was George Bernard Shaw who described England and America as two countries divided by a common language.  I don't know if the fact that GBS was Irish has anything to do with him referring to 'England' rather than Britain, but does it really matter?

I suppose we all know that each country uses some words in a different way to the other.  We say petrol, they say gas; we say boot, they say trunk, and so on.  But it's not just words that are used differently.

This past weekend has included the late spring bank holiday here in England.  Monday was also a public holiday in the States: Memorial Day, the day when the people of the USA remember those members of the armed forces who gave their lives for their country.  Our equivalent is Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday nearest to 11th November.  It used to be called Armistice Day and was marked on 11th November, the day on which the First World War ended.  As it is, and never was, a public holiday in Britain, the day's events were moved to the nearest Sunday to avoid causing disturbance to the working week.

I understand (although I could well be quite wrong) that it is in November that the USA marks Veterans' Day, a day when all ex-servicemen are honoured.  We don't really have an equivalent day, although a few years ago there was an attempt to introduce an Armed Forces Day to be celebrated in June each year.  Again, this would be on a Sunday so there would be no question of another bank holiday!  But Armed Forces Day has never really caught on, despite several towns and cities holding military parades.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Tatty Tuesday

This post is my own version (once again) of Sarah's Rubbish Tuesday posts which she picked up from somebody else...

Boats in various stages of disintegration on the River Adur at Shoreham.

Sunday, 24 May 2015


Although the Vikings and Danes landed elsewhere, the principal target for invaders and would-be invaders of England has been the south-east corner - Kent and Sussex.  It's hardly surprising, really, given that this is where England is closest to the continent of Europe.  At its narrowest point in the straits of Dover, the English Channel is only about 21 miles wide.  Indeed, it is easy - on a clear day - to see right across.  the white cliffs of Dover can be seen in this picture taken from a motorway service station between Calais and Boulogne, just below the bank of cloud.

The Romans invaded three times, in 55BC, again the following year, and finally in 43AD.The first invasion was a half-hearted affair, and Julius Caesar returned with his small army to Gaul fairly quickly.  In 54BC he landed near Deal, Kent, but after defeating the Celtic army, he agreed to leave England on condition that an annual payment was made to Rome.  It was almost a hundred years before the third and last Roman invasion, a much bigger affair. Armies landed at three locations in Kent - Richborough, Lympne and Dover.

Fast-forward a thousand years and the south coast was once again the site of an invasion.  William, Duke of Normandy and claimant to the crown of England, landed at Pevensey in Sussex in 1066 and decisively beat his rival, Harold, at the Battle of Hastings.

There were sporadic attempts at invasion during the following 700 years but it was not until the early 1800s that such an event became more than a faint possibility.  There were fears that Napoleon Bonaparte might make the attempt, so between 1804 and 1812 the British authorities built a chain of 103 towers, known as Martello towers, to defend the south and east coast of England.  The towers were set at regular intervals along the coast from Seaford, Sussex, to Aldeburgh, Suffolk.  They were never called into use as Napoleon failed to gain control of the Channel, his fleet being trounced at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Fifteen towers have been demolished to enable the re-use of their masonry. The sea washed thirty away and the military destroyed four in experiments to test the effectiveness of the new rifled artillery. During the Second World War, some Martello towers returned to military service as observation platforms and firing platforms for anti-aircraft artillery.  Forty-seven Martello towers have survived in England, a few of which have been restored and transformed into museums, such as the one at Seaford.

The Seaford Martello tower.
Fifteen towers were demolished to enable the re-use of their masonry. The sea washed thirty away and the military destroyed four in experiments to test the effectiveness of the new rifled artillery. During the Second World War, some Martello towers returned to military service as observation platforms and firing platforms for anti-aircraft artillery.  Forty-seven Martello towers have survived in England, a few of which have been restored and transformed into museums, such as the one at Seaford.

The next threatened invasion was 75 years ago, when Hitler aimed to cross the Channel.  It was in that period after Churchill had declared, "we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets".  As well as numerous obstacles placed on any beach deemed remotely possible as a landing site, other fortifications were hastily constructed.  Known as pillboxes, there were numerous designs although most were built of reinforced concrete.  it is estimated that some 28,000 pillboxes and other hardened field fortifications were constructed in the United Kingdom, of which about 6,500 still survive.  Like the Martello towers, these pillboxes were never used for the purpose for which they were built.  In this case, it was the air over the Channel that the enemy needed to control, control that was denied to the Luftwaffe by the pilots of the Battle of Britain.

After the war, farmers were offered the sum of £5 to demolish a pillbox constructed on their land but few were touched at the time.  Since then, many have collapsed and, as far as I can discover, none have been given Listed Building status, which I think is a pity.  It would be a shame to lose all of them.

A World War II pillbox on the bank of the River Adur beside Shoreham airport.

Saturday, 23 May 2015


We didn't know it as bingo back then.  We called it housey-housey.  My father owned a set comprising perhaps a couple of dozen or more cards measuring - according to my memory, which is probably faulty - about 8 inches by 4.  Each card had the numbers printed in exactly the same way as the cards used today.  Then there was a large sheet of paper with nine rows of 10 squares each printed on it, the squares numbered from 1 to 90.  There was a cloth bag with 90 plastic tablets numbered (you've got it) from 1 to 90.  And what seemed like thousands of squares of cardboard cut from ceral packets and the like.  We wouldn't want to cross out the numbers on our cards as this would mean they couldn't be used again, so the cardboard squares were used to cover the numbers as they were called.

My brother and I thoroughly enjoyed a game or three with our parents.  Nowadays I can think of little that I would find more boring.  It's almost as boring acting as caller, which I do from time to time at retirement homes where the Lions organise sessions for the old folks, many of whom are younger than the Lions!

You will understand from what I have already written that I have had no difficulty in resisting any temptation to sign up for on-line bingo sessions, especially those for Foxy Bingo whose television advertisements I find excruciating.  All the same, I'm going to treat you to their latest, but only because it was filmed here in Brighton on the Palace Pier so you can catch a few glimpses of the city.

Friday, 22 May 2015

I am here, but

there's just too much else that MUST be done for me to find the time to even start thinking about blogging!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Getting the wind up

This is what one might call a stock picture in that although I am going to mention my walk around the Roman Camp yesterday, this picture was actually taken three years ago.  It is the view across Brighton and out to sea.

When I was up there yesterday, visibility was better than when the picture was taken.  I counted seven or eight ships on the horizon heading down Channel - the up Channel lane is on the French side of the Channel.  I suppose they must have been between 20 and 25 miles away.  But I could also see the isle of Wight, albeit admittedly not very much more than a smudge on the horizon; I have seen it much more clearly defined on many an occasion.  That is over 50 miles away.

Now picture, if you can, a wind farm just eight miles off the shore, a wind farm consisting of no fewer than 116 turbines!  Just like this:

Now, I do appreciate that we can't go on and on using fossil fuels and although I am not against nuclear generated power, I am also in favour of more natural (if that is really the word) means of generating power.

But wind turbines I detest.

They are all the rage in France and we must see dozens and dozens of them as we drive down to our hideaway.  What irritates me most is that they seem so inefficient.  Many a time only half - or less - of the turbines in any group are actually turning and producing power.  The rest are, presumably, out of order.

Added to that, I consider them an eyesore, ruining many a good view.  And we are to have more than a hundred located just off Brighton!  And I suspect that the manufacturing these machines, the transporting and installing of them will put more CO2 into the atmosphere than they will save.  Then there is the cost, subsidised by the taxpayer (ie, me) to the extent of £236 million just for the construction, plus further "green" subsidies when operational.

I just don't understand it.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Medway Queen

Paddle Steamer Preservation Society

As can be seen, the Medway Queen was a paddle steamer.

But I want to tell you a little bit about my paternal grandfather.  Unfortunately, I have no real memory of him.  I do remember that he liked walnuts - well, I hope he did as my brother and I bought him a bag of them each year as a Christmas present.  He was born during the reign of Queen Victoria in a small, Suffolk village where, after attending the village school, he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by becoming a farm labourer.  But not for long.  At the age of 15 he joined the Royal Navy, in which he served for over 20 years.

He would sometimes take my brother and I into Chatham to the livestock market.  (I can remember how the pigs squealed when their ears were notched.)  And on one occasion he took me on the Medway Queen, my brother probably being thought too young to come as well.  We embarked at Sun Pier, Chatham, and sailed down the river Medway into and across the Thames estuary to Southend.  And back again.

The Medway Queen must by then have been about 25 years old, having been built in 1924.  In 1939 she was requisitioned by the Navy, painted battleship grey, and used as a minesweeper.  But in 1940, she was called into action for Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches of Dunkirk.  Sailing back and forth across the Channel, she rescued some 7,000 soldiers.  After the war she continued with the river trips.

Withdrawn from service in 1963, she has now been restored and although usually moored at Gillingham Pier, she is now at Ramsgate to mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Dynamo.


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Tatty Tuesday

This post is my own version of Sarah's Rubbish Tuesday posts which she picked up from somebody else...

Anyway, this is a photograph I took some years ago when walking the dog on the South Downs.  It's one of those pictures that I rather like, although I would have great difficulty in saying exactly what it is that I like about it.  I do like the rather washed out look of the colours and the bleached fence posts leaning at all angles.  they are probably rotting in the ground, and the rusty barbed wire hanging loosely between them hardly provides a barrier to livestock.  Not that any livestock have been kept in this field for as long as I can remember.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Cow parsley

Here in Sussex - and, for all I know, across much of the rest of England - this is the start of the cow parsley season.  Parts of the wooded area at the top of Withdean Park are almost smothered by the plant with its white flowers and lacy leaves.  I always think of the scent as being nutty, it's certainly not sweet, but it is an aroma I like.

I think it makes an attractive picture when silhouetted against the dying sun.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

St Nicholas Galley

The church of St Nicholas of Myra stands on a hill just outside what was the village of Brighthelmstone.  That's the church in the picture, as photographed in the late 1860s by the Old Bat's great-grandfather.  The church is easily visible from the sea - or it was until the area around became so built up - and was used by sailors as a landmark.  Likewise, it was a good vantage point from which to watch for approaching ships.

This print shows the village of Brighthelmstone in 1765.  The bumps on the horizon in the centre are supposed to be the isle of Wight (but are completely the wrong shape!) and St Nicholas church is shown on the hillside at the far right.

It was on this hillside that the fair Lady Edona, daughter of the Lord of Bramber, watched on 17th May as her lover's ship returned from Byzantium.  Manfred de Warrene had been sent to fulfill a pledge to travel there and place the belt of St Nicholas on the shrine of the Virgin Mary before he could marry the Lady Edona.  But his galley, the St Nicholas, struck a rock and keeled over with the loss of all but one sailor.  Lady Edona collapsed and died on the spot.  Legend has it that Manfred's father, the Earl de Warrene, survived only long enough to have the church built and that Lady Edona was buried under the plinth of the cross in the graveyard.  The Earl was also buried in the graveyard - along with his horse.  It is said that his ghost, on horseback, may be seen on dark nights.

Legend also has it that at midnight on 17th May, the galley St Nicholas can be seen approaching the harbour at Shoreham and striking the same rock.

I don't think I shall stay up to see. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

El Niño

It always strikes me a strange that an equatorial current in the Pacific Ocean, somewhere off the coast of South America, can have an effect on British weather.  However, we have been warned that this coming summer is likely to be cold and wet precisely because of that current which sets up a system known as El Niño.  Apparently, this warm current alters the course of the jet stream - don't ask me how - which causes a knock-on effect on our weather.

It is said that the main effects here are felt in winter, and the Daily Mail has warned, "Britain is set to be battered by fierce snowstorms and freezing temperatures that could affect food stocks next winter as the first El Niño cycle for five years kicks in".

Oh well, que sera, sera.

Friday, 15 May 2015

My Genghis Khan attitude

I tend to keep off political subjects on the blog as i like to think that my political opinions are my affair, my private affair, and i really don't have any wish to upset readers of a gentle disposition.  But I suppose it will do no harm to admit that my leanings are, if anything, a little to the right of centre.  In most matters I am not as far to the right as Genghis Khan and I am more than happy to accept what in some countries would be greeted as socialist trappings.  Our National Health Service, for example.

Back in the 1980s, I was very happy to see the success of Mrs Thatcher in restricting the power of the trades unions and I wish our current Prime Minister every success in his promise (some would say threat) to restrict them further in regard to strikes.

It has always been my opinion that the withdrawal of labour by employees seeking better pay or other improvements in their working conditions, is wrong.  It is particularly wrong when the objective is to force an employer to grant an increase in wages.  There are occasions, I would suggest, when going on strike can be counter-productive for the workforce, especially if the strike leads to a company failing.

I think most people accept that the sale of almost any product is subject to the natural laws of supply and demand.  If the product is in plentiful supply and demand is weak, then the price will be low.  On the other hand, if demand is strong and supply is negligible, the price will be high.  And the deal between employer and employee is simple: the employer is buying from the employee, time and labour.  There is a contract between the two parties, usually known as terms of employment.  If an employee decides he no longer likes the terms, he can terminate his employment and seek better terms elsewhere.  In my view, employees who go on strike are in breach of contract and employers should have recourse to the courts to sue strikers.  Or at least to summarily dismiss them.

And as Joe says, opposing opinions are welcome, but are wrong.
As always, no name calling, and that means you, you big stupid head!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Oh, the irony!

It had been arranged that I would attend a local school this afternoon to present a cheque from Brighton Lions.  The school has been raising funds for a project and the Lions agreed to make a donation once the rest of the money had been raised.  The last fund-raising event was planned for this afternoon and the organisers were confident that this would bring them to their target, hence my attendance. But the forecast is for heavy rain to sweep across southern England today - it's already started - so the event has been postponed until next Thursday.

The irony is that the funds have been raised to pay for the installation of solar panels!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Daily photos

There was a time when I posted a photo every day, a photo taken in or around Brighton.  This was because I became , well, hooked I suppose is the word, on the City Daily Photo idea.  I gave it up in the end because I was starting to take - and post - similar pictures far too frequently.  Here is one I posted four years ago.  It shows a concrete block known as a triangulation point.  These were placed around the country by the Ordnance Survey and used to make their maps.  No doubt they are completely obsolete now.  I pass this particular one quite often as it is sited on the ramparts of the Roman Camp, one of my favourite walks with the dog.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Whatever happened to (reprise)


I don't seem to have stopped what with taking to dog to the vet (scale & polish teeth), collecting spare dental equipment to be sent on to Dentaid, ordering gifts for the ladies at our Lions Club's charter night (small gold-coloured boxes each containing two hand-made truffles), buying a birthday present for the granddaughter, supermarket shopping, having the car hand washed, collecting the dog (and almost fainting when I saw the bill) as well as all the usual chores around the house.

Mayhap tomorrow will be a little less hectic - but I'm not counting on it!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Whatever happened to . . .

Hayley Westenra?

You don't know Hayley?  Well, she's a New Zealand crossover singer who was signed up by a record company at the age of 12 (she's now 28).  Described as a 'demure singer with a sweetheart face', she had the fastest-selling debut classical album of all time at the tender age of 16.  I first saw her on television when she performed in the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall many years ago (well, it seems many years to me), singing Pokarekare Ana.  I recall thinking that she had a good voice, but what a pity it was that her diction was so poor.  It was only later that I discovered the song is in Maori!

Last Saturday there was a concert held on Horse Guards parade in London to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day and when Katherine Jenkins and Alfie Boe sang We'll Meet Again I was reminded of the time Hayley Westenra had sung that song at another Festival of Remembrance, since when I don't think I have heard anything of her.  That was back in 2009 - and here it is, copied from YouTube, and with Dame Vera Lynn topping and tailing the video.

Sunday, 10 May 2015


I had this post drafted perfectly in my mind having been thinking it out as I walked the dog after breakfast, but do you think I can remember now what I proposed to write?  Of course not!

Anyway, I can't remember the last time I had a full English breakfast.  Or even a half English, come to that.  Cooked breakfasts just don't happen in this house.  There's no good reason why they shouldn't, except for the established routine which dictates that I take the Old Bat a cup of tea, then have my breakfast before I go back to help her get up and dressed.  If I were to take the time to cook bacon and eggs, the morning would be half gone before the OB came downstairs and it would be almost lunchtime before I took the dog out.

For many years, all I had time for before dashing off to catch the train was a bowl of cereal and a mug of coffee.  And that habit has continued into retirement.  I have changed the cereal from time to time.  There was even a short while when I heated milk to make instant porridge, but I never did seem to get the right ratio between hot milk and porridge oats so I gave up and went back to the old cereal.

But when in France, it became routine for me to have toast and marmalade, using a supermarket's own brand sliced bread and their own marmalade.  It was during our last trip that I decided I fancied a change from my usual cereal breakfast, so when I next did a supermarket shop I lashed out and bought a sliced loaf before spending an inordinate length of time choosing my marmalade.  There is no choice in France.  Well, there is: take it or leave it.  But I had forgotten how many types of marmalade we have here in England:  Oxford, thick cut, thin cut, orange, lemon etc etc.  And several different makes as well.  Anyway, I have so far tried two different breads and two marmalades - and i still prefer the French bread and marmalade!

Maybe I shall just have to go back to cereal.  Or buy some bacon.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Seeking inspiration

The weather here has not been exactly spring-like the last couple of days.  Granted, Thursday was not bad - apart from the wind - but yesterday was grey and today is the same with occasional drifts of rain.  All this has encouraged me to look elsewhere for sun and warmth.

So I have been browsing through my photo albums.  And yes, I do have one or two of the traditional sort with black paper pages in which I fixed my black and white photographs with those little corner sticky things.  Can't remember what they were called - and i doubt very much that they can be bought these days.  Like everybody else, I used white ink with a dip pen to write the title or details below each picture.  Crikey, that ink was a pain to use!  The nearest semi-modern equivalent I can think of is that white paint typists used to have handy to blank out their mistakes before typing the correct character again.  Tippex, we call it here in England.

But it was my digital photo albums that I was browsing and I was astonished to see that our last trip to the real south of France - Provence - was almost six years ago.  It was on that trip that we spent a day in the Carmargue, the marshy land in the delta of the river Rhone, known for its black bulls, white horses and flamingos.  And we saw them all.

This is one of the pictures I took that day.

Friday, 8 May 2015

VE Day

70 years ago today, the country went a little bit mad.  Or so I am told.  For people under the age of about 75 it's difficult, perhaps even impossible, to imagine what it must have been like.  The war against Germany had lasted six years and for most of that time, the whole of Great Britain - but especially the larger cities and ports - had been at risk of attack by bombers.  Elderly men, women and children were on the front line.  The overwhelming feeling must have been of relief, relief that expressed itself in tumultuous elation.

The Old Bat and I watched a very interesting programme on the television on Monday in which various celebrities described their memories of VE Day.  It was as we were watching that a fragment of memory surfaced in my consciousness, a memory of a party in a school playground.  It was Byron Road boys school, which was just down the road from my grandparents' house, and I can't think of any other occasion that I might have been at a party there.  But on VE Day I was still a few days shy of my third birthday so the memory may well be false.

Of course, although many people celebrated that day, many more were worried about their menfolk still fighting in the Far East and it was to be nearly four months before the war against Japan would end.  And the relief felt by many was tinged with sorrow for those who had been killed, whether fighting or as a result of bombing.

I think many people were surprised that things didn't get back to normal for a very long time.  Indeed, the food ration was reduced once again AFTER the end of the war.  Tea remained rationed until 1952, sugar until 1953, and meat only came off the coupon in 1954!

It was during those immediately post-war years that I was taken into hospital to have my tonsils removed.  (This was in the vain hope that it would ease my asthma, which demonstrates how far medical science has progressed since then!)  I and another rather older boy were in a ward of old men.  At least, they seemed to us to be old.  One of the nurses gave the other boy and I an orange each.  That was the first orange I had ever seen but the other boy soon showed me how to bite through the peel and suck out the sweet goodness within.  As she was going off shift, the nurse came by to take back her oranges only to be horrified to find that we had eaten them!  She had thought we wouldn't know what to do with them and would simply play with them as if they were balls!

For any who need a translation, VE Day = Victory in Europe Day.

Thursday, 7 May 2015


I've done my democratic duty and marked the two ballot papers with the requisite four X's, one for the Parliamentary candidate of my choice and three for the candidates I wish to see elected to represent my ward in the local council.

To the best of my belief, I have always exercised my right to vote in both Parliamentary and local elections - although, having said that, there might have been one occasion when I just never made it to the polling station.  I can understand people not voting on the grounds that (a) the person they would vote for has only a snowball's chance in hell of being elected or (b) they would really prefer that none of the candidates were elected - or at least, that it makes little difference who is elected.  I can understand people thinking that way, but I do believe they are misguided.  We have the hard-won freedom to take part in (for the most part) open and fair elections, unlike people in so many parts of the world, and it is, to my way of thinking, an abdication of responsibility not to exercise that freedom.  On the other hand, I would not wish to see it become law that everybody must vote.  I seem to recall reading that that is the case somewhere: Australia, perhaps?  If it were the law, I would probably spoil my ballot paper out of sheer bloody-mindedness!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

It happens every year

The Council, in its infinite wisdom, planted a number of flowering cherry trees in the neighbouring streets. They are now grown to full size and look great when the blossom comes out at about this time each year.  But almost as soon as the trees are in full bloom, the wind gets up and cherry blossom petals are scattered like so much confetti.

The wind got up yesterday and we have had gusts of 60-70 mph both yesterday and today.

My car is in for service today and so I had occasion to drive along the cliff-top road with the car being blown about quite violently at times.  The sea looked very grey, with plenty of white horses.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Cowbells and blueslips

I have a vivid memory of my mother taking my brother and I to Bredhurst, which was then - and probably still is now - a small village not all that far from our home in Gillingham.  I say not all that far, but that rather supposes one made the journey by car or public transport.  We didn't.  At least, I don't think we did.  Something tells me that my mother walked while my brother rode his tricycle and I used my scooter. Our destination was a wood just beyond the village where we picked masses of primroses and bluebells.  If that sounds horribly incorrect, please remember that this was nearly 65 years ago and in those far off days nobody had any idea that picking wild flowers could result in their extinction, for that is what nearly happened to the primrose in many parts of the country.  I'm pleased to say that the flower, which to so many people speaks of spring, seems to be making a comeback and I see more and more each year.

Another flower of which I see many more these days is the cowslip.  It doesn't seem so very long ago that , as I drove down Ditchling Beacon, I spotted two cowslip plants at the side of the road.  Nowadays, one sees them in masses.  As I walked in Stanmer Park the other day I noticed a bank at the edge of the wood that is simply smothered with cowslips and violets where I can't recall having seen any cowslips before.

I consider that we are lucky round here in that the bluebells in Stanmer Woods are the English variety.  But for how much longer, I wonder?  The Spanish bluebell seems to be spreading farther and farther.  Most of the plants in Withdean Park are of the Spanish variety and they will almost certainly hybridise and eliminate the few remaining English bluebells.

Sussex Wildlife Trust

Monday, 4 May 2015

Nice while it lasted

Not really surprisingly, the forthcoming election was knocked off the front page of every British newspaper yesterday.


The Old Bat said that no woman had the right to look as good as the Duchess did less than 12 hours after giving birth.  Seems Russians agreed as some Russian women said it was ‘impossible’ for Prince William’s wife to look so good immediately after the birth.
‘If she really gave birth naturally, it was surely some days ago,’ said one woman commenting on the story in Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

Another wrote: ‘Look at the baby – she does not look like a newborn at all. She is at least three days old.

‘It was a surrogate mother who gave birth but not her,’ said one. ‘Kate must have been wearing a fake belly… It is just not real to walk yourself several hours after birth and wave to the public.’

Now I suppose it's back to the boring politics.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

London to Brighton in four minutes

For some fourteen years before my retirement, I commuted daily between Brighton and London.  Leaving home at 6.00am, I was usually at my desk soon after 8.00.  AM that is, not PM.  When I heard of the problems commuters faced one day this week (Thursday, I think) I was even more glad than usual to be out of the rat race.  The 6.56 Brighton to London train was still several miles short of its destination more than five hours later.  A problem in the electricity supply led to massive delays to all trains between London and the Sussex coast.  Police and paramedics handed out water to people stuck on crowded trains with no air conditioning (and no opening windows!) and later led them along the track to safety.

Back in the day - and I'm talking 50 or 60 years ago - there was an hourly fast train between Brighton and London - and it did the 50+ mile journey in exactly 60 minutes.  Nowadays there is probably no non-stop service, and even if there were, it would take more than an hour.

It was in 1953 that the BBC did the journey in just four minutes!  Sit back and enjoy a nostalgic ride.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

A hectic morning

Despite not having put it on the kitchen calendar, I still remembered that I was on book fair duty this morning and got up early enough to finish most of the chores before heading off.  Plenty of other Lions turned up as well and we managed to hold several informal sub-committee meetings, mainly two or three of us brain storming .  Under discussion were fund-raising events including the planned craft fair, the proposed murder mystery evening, the annual fireworks display and the beer tent at Hove carnival which we are manning this year for the first time.  Also under discussion were a prostate cancer testing session as a service activity, charter night, the return exchange visit to Lions in Bavaria, the handover dinner meeting and the presentation of their charter to the new Leo Club we have sponsored..  I felt quite exhausted when I got home for lunch!

Friday, 1 May 2015

What a mug

When we bought our French bolt-hole the plan was that it would be let as a holiday rental so we went for bog standard crockery on the basis that anything broken could easily be replaced by a visit to our nearest supermarket.  We bought six of everything - tea plates, dinner plates, soup bowls, cereal bowls, cups, saucers and mugs - even though the house only sleeps four.  We even bought a few spares which we hid away in the loft.  As it happens, only one of the cereal bowls has been broken - and, of course, the pattern is no longer sold.  I say "pattern" but the crockery is actually plain.  Or nearly plain.  Three of each item are yellow with a green rim, while the other three of each item are green with a yellow rim - all coordinated with the yellow and green kitchen!

Now, you may well think I'm a bit odd when I confess that I prefer to use a green cup or mug rather than a yellow one.  I'm sure the tea or coffee taste no different; and the coffee looks no different as I drink mine without milk.  (is it non-PC to say i drink my coffee black?)  But the yellow crocks cast a strange light on tea.  So I stick to the green.

At home, I have no favourite cup - but I do have a favourite mug.  The colour is just right for both tea and coffee and - most importantly - the handle is the right shape and size to be comfortable.

If all this seems a bit too much like navel gazing for your taste, I should tell you that it was only yesterday my attention was drawn to a survey which shows that 65% of we Brits have a favourite mug or cup.  I did say that this is a new survey, but I'm blowed if I can find anything about it.  All I can come up with is this report from 2009.