Friday, 29 July 2016

Travelling hopefully

"They" say that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.


Whoever "they" are, they haven't been living in this little corner of the globe during the past month or so.

First - and possibly affecting the most people - there are the problems on the railway.  There have been intermittent strikes by guards because the train company intends to bring in new trains on which the doors will be controlled by the drivers instead of the guards.  And on top of that, there have been unprecedentedly high levels of sickness.  The result, a new timetable with a considerably reduced number of trains, overcrowding on station platforms and general misery for commuters.  And the guards have now announced a 5-day strike in a couple of weeks' time.  And guess what? the 7.40-something train from Brighton to Bedford, calling at various London stations, is officially the most overcrowded train in the country.  Designed for 420 passengers, it regularly carries 960! That's 229% over capacity at 8.20am at London Blackfriars.  I'm so happy not to be commuting these days.

And then there's Easyjet.  Or, to be specific, the Easyjet flights between the UK and Munich.  My new daughter-in-law teaches in Munich so she and my son are regular flyers on the route to and from London Gatwick,  It was about two months ago, before the wedding anyway, Soon to be d-i-l travelled from Munich to Edinburgh to spend the weekend with her grandmother.  On arrival at Edinburgh airport for the return flight on the Sunday evening, she learned that the flight had been cancelled.  Passengers had been booked onto the next flight, leaving the following Friday!  She rang a colleague to explain that she would not be at work on the Monday and spent another night with her Gran.  The next day she flew to London Luton and from there to Munich.

A similar thing happened to my son just last weekend.  He had flown to Munich with the intention of travelling back Sunday evening.  Once again the flight was at first delayed, and then rescheduled for Monday morning.  On boarding the rescheduled plane, he learned that they would be landing at Luton, not Gatwick (where his car was).

It's not much better - if at all - on the ferries.  Last weekend there was a 15-mile queue of cars trying to get to Dover.  Some people even ended sleeping in their cars in the queue!  It all stemmed from a lack of French immigration officers (who are based in Dover) to check people boarding the ferries. At one time there was just one on duty!

We are due to travel through the tunnel tomorrow.  I foresee a lengthy journey.

Better to travel hopefully than to arrive?  I think not!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

A world tour

A couple of days ago, Skip posted something about a driving route taking in all 48 contiguous states of the USA.  You check it out here if you like.  It reminded me that I have from time to time considered driving a world tour, but without leaving England!  I would visit:

  • Dunkirk and Gibraltar - both in Kent;
  • Holland - either in Surrey or Lincolnshire;
  • Waterloo in London;
  • Florence, Staffordshire.

I would then move further afield to:
  • Palestine (Hampshire);
  • Egypt - which is in Buckinghamshire.

Moving on still further, I would drop in on Bermuda (Warwickshire) before landing in North America and seeing:

  • Washington, New York and Philadelphie (all in Tyne and Wear);
  • Toronto, County Durham;
  • California, Norfolk;
  • Hollywood, Worcestershire.

I could scrape into Australia by going to Melbourne, Derbyshire.

If I was prepared to cross the border into Scotland, I might discover Moscow in Ayrshire.

Of course, the ultimate would be to end up in Paradise, Gloucestershire.

And by the way, Hell is not in England, it's in Norway.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016


Right at the northern edge of Brighton is the one-time village of Patcham - where I live.  Very popular in the 90's,radio star Terry Garoghan famously made a musical about Brighton, lampooning all areas. Here is what he had to say about Patcham.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Make hay while the sun shines

I wonder just how much longer this glorious weather will continue?  Mind you, at least for the last few days I have been able to take the dog for a walk in the afternoon.  This time last week it was far too hot to do that.  Indeed, last Tuesday several boys at a school in Brighton wore their PE shorts to school - and were sent home for not wearing regulation school uniform.  The following day some of them turned up at school wearing regulation skirts!  They were obviously mindful of this tombstone in Stanmer churchyard.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

If music be the food of love, play on

That's the opening line of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night - just to demonstrate what a show-off I am, but what I really thought was along the lines of music soothing the savage breast.  That should be a quotation, or a misquotation, of somebody else but I haven't the foggiest idea who it might be.  You see, there popped into my mind this morning, quite unbidden and from goodness knows where, the lines:
The shades of night were falling fast,
The snow was falling faster,
When through an alpine village passed,
An alpine village pastor.
No, that's not right.  The lines were:
The shades of night were falling fast,
Yid-eye-dee, yip-eye-day,
When through an alpine village passed,
A youth who bore through snow and ice,
Yid-eye-dee, yip-eye-day,
A banner with a strange device.
That is, I think, the first verse of a song we sang round the camp fire when I was a Brussels Sprout.  Unfortunately, I can't remember any more of it.

Anyway, it stirred up all sorts of memories from half a century ago, when the world was a gentler, kinder place.  (No, it wasn't really.)

So, back then when I was a Brussels Sprout we had a scout master who was keen on camp fire singing.  So much so that our scout troop learned a good many songs during our scout meetings in the winter months.  Harold, or Bosun as we knew him, considered that a camp fire leader needed to prepare the order of songs before the fire started rather than just take pot luck.  The idea was that the first songs were easy ones to get everybody singing, then in the middle would be louder, more raucous songs, before calming things down with quieter songs towards the end.

I was running the troop before I was 20 and I carried on the (new) tradition of camp fire songs.  One night, at summer camp, I achieved what was almost nirvana.  That night the atmosphere really got to the boys and after the last song there was complete silence.  Nobody even twitched.  After a few moments, I said - almost in a whisper, "Goodnight, lads," and without a word, every boy got up and went off to bed - in complete silence.  I never managed it again.

Footnote: Excelsior, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  You can read the poem here and listen to the tune here.  A E Houseman's parody is fun.

Saturday, 23 July 2016


I went to the pub last night.

That - I hasten to add - is not something I do at all frequently.  Indeed, the last time I had been to a pub was as long ago as Monday, when the Old Bat and I, along with a whole bunch of friends and acquaintances, enjoyed a pub lunch.  But back to last night.

It wasn't quite what I might call my local but was, probably, the next nearest.  It was heaving.  The hot weather had brought out families galore and there were hordes of screaming kids scootering (is that a word?) in the car park.

But I was only there to book their side hall for the oldies Christmas party being arranged by the Lions.  So that's another job crossed off the list.  I must ring the entertainer in the hope that he will be available on our chosen day.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to decide whether or not I am pleased that I bought a Kindle.  I have now read a couple of books on it while at the same time reading real books.  No, no, no - I didn't have the Kindle in one hand and a paperback in the other.  I didn't really read them both literally at the same time; I swapped backwards and forwards between the two.  That meant two books on the go. Simultaneously.  It might have been interesting to try reading the same book both ways, ie a chapter (or segment) on the Kindle, then carry on from the stopping point with a real book.  But no, I would just get confused about where I had got to and end up reading the same bits three times or more.

The Kindle does have convenience on its side, but I'm not entirely sure that I like reading from a screen, even if I can hold that screen in the same position that I hold the printed page.  And it's strange that I can absorb information from the printed page better than from the screen.  And then again, with the Kindle I can easily carry a whole library with me.

Talking of which, I seem to have become addicted to buying books! I have always been a miserly reader, preferring to borrow books from the public library than to buy them.  It's not only a matter of cost; there's also the little matter of storage!  But several of the books I have downloaded are classics which have been free.  I can now go ahead and read many of the books I have always been meaning to read but have never done.  And if I don't like one, I can stop reading without my conscience telling me that I spent good money on that book so I had better get on and read all of it.

Will I ever get round to War and Peace, I wonder?

Which title reminds me that the OB and I were worried last night when we saw the 10 o'clock news and the first item was the gun attack in Munich.  Our new daughter-in-law works in the city and had returned there only last Wednesday for a few days.  As soon as we saw the news, I rang my son, who had only a few minutes before heard from his wife that she had - eventually - managed to get home safely.

And there's another book on the Kindle.

Friday, 22 July 2016

The weeks fly by

I really shouldn't be surprised - although I am - to see that it is a week since I last got a round tuit. No, that's not right; it's only six days.  All the same, I find it astounding, horrifying or just plain worrying that for the past week I have been too busy with other crap business to find any time to cast my pearls of wisdom before the adoring hordes of swine.

Much of my busyness (and, indeed, my business also) arose from a relatively brief meeting to start planning the Lions fireworks display.

There I go again, giving you duff information.  The planning had really started several months ago, although that was little more than booking the venue.  Now we need to get down to the nitty gritty.  And guess what?  Some of the gritty landed on my plate.

So, I spent the next day producing an eye-catching poster and a pretty-pretty advert for use in magazines,

(and Blogger is refusing to allow me to upload either of them)

(But I seem to have got round that problem - except that I now have a message reading, "This page contains HTTP resources that may cause mixed content affecting security and user experience if the blog is viewed over HTTPS."
Oh well, hard cheese.)

Anyway, Before I could finish those off I had to arrange for a QR code.  That's the maze-like thingy that people can flash their phones at to be taken straight to our website.

But that led to another little job.

Anyone flashing at the QR code would be using a mobile phone - but our website was not mobile-friendly.  It took a day and a half to redesign the site but at least it looks a whole lot better now (even if I do say so myself).

(Before the poster or the advert can be used, I need to firm up a deal with the Dome box office, so I must go to see them next week some time.)

A few other (comparatively) minor bits and pieces, along with the usual domestic requirements, have taken up the whole of my time  But it all kept me out of mischief.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Have-a-go hero

The television news last night and this morning's newspapers are, unsurprisingly, full of coverage of the shocking event that took place in Nice on Thursday night, with more space devoted to the military coup in Turkey.  (That should delay the country's acceptance into the EU for several more years.)  But in the midst of all the horror, there was one example of desperate daring, insane bravery, that has almost escaped notice.  It was mentioned - almost in passing - on the television news and is covered by a short sentence in this morning's newspaper.

As the lorry was driven along the Promenade des Anglais, the driver apparently firing a handgun, a motorcyclist drew level with the cab and, still riding his bike, attempted to open the driver's door.  he presumably hoped to be able to overpower the driver and stop the lorry, but just how he could have done that is beyond my understanding.  However, there is just the briefest mention that he fell off his bike under the wheels of the lorry.

Nobody seems to be concerned about who he is, and there are no reports of what happened to him.  Is he injured but alive, or was he crushed to death?

Whatever, he is to be applauded for attempting to do something, even if the chances of success where infinitesimally small.

Friday, 15 July 2016

On this day

Gotcha!  You were expecting some deep, historical insight, weren't you?

Today is St Swithun's Day.  Or St Swithin's Day, if you prefer.  I don't suppose he minds over much which way his name is spelt.

St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain.
St Swithun's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mare.

A Buckinghamshire variation has

If on St Swithun's day it really pours
You're better off to stay indoors.

So far so good.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

A hectic weekend

My younger son got married yesterday.  The ceremony was in Arundel Town Hall, with my granddaughter from his previous marriage as the bridesmaid.  No wicked stepmother syndrome here!

The reception was held in a village hall deep in the South Downs.  A hog roast, followed by a ceilidh band (the bride was born in Scotland of Scots parents) before a disco.  The table decorations were wild flowers in jam jars and a splendidly neo-rustic time was had by all.

Now I have to pack the car for a trip sous la Manche.

Have a great day tomorrow, all you one-time colonials!

Friday, 1 July 2016

This day in history

While it might not be entirely true to say that I have always been a devotee of trivia, I have rejoiced in it for many years.  I have been especially keen on the 'on this day in history' trivia.  It has, however, been something of a challenge for me to find 'on this day in history' facts that interest me.  There are websites that specialise (or seem to specialise) in this trivia, but I have always found them to be of no, or very little, interest to me.  They seem to list the dates of birth (and sometimes death) of film stars and the like, so-called 'celebrities', and I couldn't care less about their birthdays.  Or the site specialises in international political events, such as the assassination of the one-time president of Venezuela or the outbreak of war between Kazakhstan and Afghanistan.

But things have changed!

No, I'm not going to promulgate (and that's not a bad word for a Friday afternoon) the URL of a website I have discovered which provides me with the sort of facts I like, the sort of facts that amuse me, even though I will forget them within a day or so, or even an hour or two.  No, as far as I am aware there is no such website.

But, an insurance company has taken to buying advertising space in my daily newspaper and each day's advertisement is simply an 'on this day in history' fact.  Apart from the company's name and address etc, there is no mention of insurance at all.  (If I were in need of any further insurance I might contact them simply because of that!)  A couple of days ago the fact was the burning down of the Globe Theatre in London - in 1631 or some such year.  There were further details, such as how it is thought the fire started, the play which was being performed at the time and so on.  Today is, it seems, the anniversary of the institution in England and Wales of a national register of births, marriages and deaths.  Before, these were simply recorded in each parish church or non-conformist church but from 1 July 1837 people were required to register these events centrally, and the registrar was paid for each registration, thus encouraging them to ensure the population obeyed the law.

Yesterday, the advertisement commemorated a much more recent event.  It was on 30 June 1937 that the emergency telephone number 999 was made available to subscribers in London.  We were told that the American version - 911 - was only introduced in Alabama in 1968.

(Well, it made a change from thinking about those 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme this day in 1916, though they are not - and never should be - forgotten.)