Monday, 23 January 2017

Winter warmers

A very hard frost this morning with fog down in the valley when I left to walk the dog. I hadn't noticed it happening, but by the time we left the park about half an hour later, the fog had blossomed(?) out of the valley and was quite thick around us. And still there were idiots on the road with no lights at all! The temperature was stuck at 2 degrees (Celsius).

I was very happy to see that the Old Bat was preparing tonight's dinner - steak and kidney pudding. A real winter warmer, and the subject of a little doggerel I remember from years gone by:
Steak and kidney, steak and kidney, steak and kidney pud;
That's the kind of lovely grub that really does you good!
It really is high up there among my favourite winter foods, along with such diverse foods as toast and Bovril, shepherd's pie (only it's really cottage pie 'cos it's made with beef instead of lamb) and toasted muffins (that would be English muffins).

I never did see a muffin man, probably because they had stopped trading before I was even born. But I did once see a gas-lighter - a man whose job it was to walk the streets at dusk lighting the gas lamps. I'm not entirely sure I remember the occasion, which was somewhere near the Temple in London, but my mother told me about it. I suspect it was when she took my brother and me to London to see Father Christmas in Gammidges or one (or more) of the other department stores. I think Selfridges didn't have FC, they had Uncle Holly instead - but he still gave all the children presents!

Another of those memories that might be or might well not be is of the searchlights criss-crossing the sky in the search for enemy aircraft.  But I rather suspect that's just folk-memory (or fake memory!)

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Inner peace

By following the simple advice I read in an article, I have finally found inner peace.

The article read: "The way to achieve inner peace is to finish off all the things you have

So I looked round the house to see all the things I had started and hadn't finished.

And before leaving the house this morning I finished off a bottle of red wine, a bottle of
white wine, the Baileys, three Bacardi Breezers, the Jack Daniels, the Prozac, some
Valium, some cheesecake and a box of chocolates.

You have no idea how bloody good I feel.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Source unknown

The horse and mule live 30 years
and nothing know of wine or beers.
The goat and sheep, they also die
and never taste of scotch or rye.
The cow drinks water by the ton
and then at 18 years is done.
Without the aid of rum or gin
the dog at 15 cashes in.
The cat in milk and water soaks
and then in 12 short years it croaks.
The modest, sober, bone-dry hen
lays eggs for nogs, then dies at 10.
All animals are strictly dry:
they sinless live and swiftly die.
But sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men
survive for three score years and ten.
And some of us - a mighty few -
keep drinking till we’re 92!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Grave stones and memorials

I have from time to time blogged about oddities I have stumbled across (across which I have stumbled, Skip?) such as the pirate's grave at Brockley (read about it here.) or another in Stanmer churchyard (you can find that one here). There is another memorial which I have never seen, even though it is only a mile or so from my front door. Not only have I never seen it, but I had never heard of its existence even until a few weeks ago.

Back in the 18th century, smuggling was almost a way of life for people in south-east England - even more so than in the days of the booze cruise! Brandy, tea, tobacco, silk - all made their surreptitious ways across the beaches. As Rudyard Kipling had it:
Five and twenty ponies,  
Trotting through the dark —   
Brandy for the Parson,  
Baccy for the Clerk;  
Laces for a lady, letters for a spy,  
And watch the wall, my darling,  
While the Gentlemen go by! 
One delightful story concerns the Vicar of Preston, then a small village just north of Brighton. The gentleman in question was also in charge of the parish of Hove, then an even smaller village to the west of Brighton. He would conduct Sunday services in either church on alternate weeks. One Sunday the Vicar turned up to do his duty, but found that the bell was not being rung and, on enquiring why, was told that he had got his preaching timetable wrong. The Vicar, certain that he was right, pressed the Sexton who eventually informed him that he could not carry out the service because the church was full of kegs of spirits and the pulpit was full of tea.

But back to the memorial in Patcham churchyard. The grave is that of Daniel Scales, who, we are told, "was unfortunately shot on Thursday evening, Nov. 7th, 1796." The inscription continues:
Alas! swift flew the fatal lead, 
Which pierced through the young man’s head. 
He instant fell, resigned his breath, 
And closed his languid eyes in death 
.All you who do this stone draw near, 
Oh! pray let fall the pitying tear. 
From this sad instance may we all 
Prepare to meet Jehovah’s call.

There must have been plenty of money in smuggling to cover the cost of that inscription!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Now there's another worry

For some reason that completely eludes me, the Old Bat and I have started watching a couple of programmes that are, I am sure, not really aimed at low-brow types like wot we are. They are both aired on BBC2, which I always used to think of as the cultcher channel. I know it isn't really, but most of the programmes are the sort that attract the lower-size audiences. I think.

Anyway, these programmes. University Challenge and Mastermind, both of which lean towards the intellectual. Lean? Huh - they're decidedly intellectual.

Look, I'm not going to go to the bother of typing descriptions of those programmes for those to whom they are unfamiliar. Just use the links to find out a lot more.

Naturally, both the OB and I see how many questions we can answer. I do rather better on Mastermind than on the other show, which tends to be for real brainboxes. Now that University Challenge is into the semi-finals the questions have got even harder. So hard that for much of the time I don't even understand the question, let along have a hope of guessing the answer!

Over the Christmas and New Year period both shows featured 'celebrity' contestants. 'Celebrity' was, I thought, stretching things a little, but the questions were definitely easier. So much easier, that I even scored more than one of the celebs did on his specialist subject in Mastermind - a first and probably last for me!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Panic in Brighton

I see that somehow the better part of a week has slipped by since I last found the time to put any of my stupifying thoughts into cyberspace. There has not been anything especially noteworthy - at least, not that I can recall.

Except for yesterday. I did suffer a mild panic attack yesterday evening, a panic attack of which I am now mildly ashamed.

The weather forecasters, scared of doing a Michael Fish, were predicting dire conditions with heavy snowfalls in southeast England.

(Back in 1987, Michael Fish announced as he broadcast the weather that he had received a telephone call from a lady who said she had heard that there would be a hurricane. Mr Fish pooh-poohed this idea. That night we experienced hurricane-force winds during the Great Storm.)

I was due to attend a meeting, a meeting I would happily not attend. All the same, I got my papers together and the Old Bat had dinner ready early. The rain started, as forecast, heavy rain. The drain in our drive was unequal to the strain and we very soon had a growing puddle an inch deep, spreading wider and growing deeper. Then the snow started, about a quarter of an hour before I was due to leave.

The local authority asked people not to go out unless it was really necessary, and I know how quickly our road, a steep hill, becomes impassable. I rang and gave my apologies.

Half an hour later the snow had stopped and the roads were clear!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Greetings! (again)

When I typed the title of yesterday's blogisode it had been in my mind to mention an eccentric (well, some think it so) habit one of my fellow Lions has, but then I got distracted.

No, that's not quite accurate. I didn't 'get' distracted - I distracted myself!  of course, anyone who knows me will agree that I am a world expert at distracting myself.  You see?  Here I go again!

So, greetings.  My friend David starts letters and email thus:
Dear (Jack or Jill or whoever),
Greetings! Please find enclosed blah blah blah.
It's perfectly harmless but does seem a little... well, peculiar at first, just until one comes to accept it.

Anyway, to get back to the salutation business I was warbling about yesterday.  I have trouble when writing emails.  The standard salutation seems to be, 'Hi Joe' and as my name isn't Joe but I can't bring myself to open communication that way, even though I realise that electronic mail is inherently informal. I usually adopt a brusque approach and open very simply with just the addressee's name, thus: 'Joe,'  (I don't forget the comma; punctuation is important even in informal correspondence.) If I'm feeling verbose I might start, 'Good morning, Joe,' (or whatever time of day it is as I write).

And then there is the closing to contend with. None of the old 'Yours faithfully' or 'Yours sincerely' in these far more casual days. 'Regards' seems to be the standard, falling away to 'Kind regards'.  Well, I reckon I can live with that, although in emails that I have started with just the addressee's name I frequently just sign off with my name.

Modern etiquette just defeats me.

Friday, 6 January 2017


(I started writing this two days ago but got myself heavily side-tracked sourcing pass passes and special chairs. See Brighton Lions' Facebook page for more details on that.)

I have continued to muse on the evolution of language and how words fall into disuse, words such as prithee, gadzooks and goodwife - even maiden, except for use as an adjective with over, speech and voyage - but thinking rather of letter writing. That is, my musing was on letter writing rather than words that have fallen by the wayside.

Back in the day, when I started work as a lowly junior in a bank, letters - not envelopes - would contain only one of two salutations (other than strictly personal communications). They would start either, 'Dear Sir' or 'Dear Mr Jones'. If they former salutation was used, the writer would sign off, 'Yours faithfully'; if the latter, formality could slip to, 'Yours sincerely'. Addressing the envelope was a different kettle of fish. Never 'Mr Jones', always 'S Jones Esq', although 'Stuart Jones Esq' was considered acceptable. Addressing an envelope to a lady required the writer to know whether or not she was married since a married lady could be addressed as 'Mrs' whereas an unmarried lady was always 'Miss'. The ghastly 'Ms' - and even more abominable 'Mx' had not then been coined. A married lady's initial was also a slight cause for concern. In very formal communications she would be addressed as 'Mrs S(tuart) Jones, whereas 'Mrs B(ertha) Jones' would be quite correct in less formal situations. Correspondence for a husband and wife could be address to 'Mr and Mrs S Jones', but only if one was certain that they were husband and wife. Otherwise it would be 'S Jones Esq and Mrs B Jones' or something similar.

One of my jobs as a lowly junior was the preparation and despatch of statements to customers of our bank branch. this was all done in-branch, even the typing of the statements. I would have to see that all the paid cheques listed on the statement were there and in the correct order together with any other papers such as dividend warrants. That done, I addressed the envelope by hand - yes, in handwriting, not typing. It was in doing this that, one day, I made an embarrassing mistake. Not that i knew about it for several days until, one morning, I was summoned to the manager's office.

In those days, the bank manager was GOD. In fact, I didn't even meet my manager for three weeks after I started work. One day he passed me on the stairs as he was going to his Private Loo, whereupon he barked, "Who are you?"

With the manager were two people, a man and a lady, the lady in a state of distress.

"Is this your writing?" demanded the manager, handing me an envelope that had contained a statement.

I agreed that it was; I could hardly do otherwise since it most clearly was my handwriting.

"And can you explain," continued GOD, "why you addressed it like that?"

I looked more closely and saw that I had written, 'Mr S Jones and Mrs B Smith'. That would have been bad enough - this was nearly 60 years ago - but the postman had, whether by mistake or design, delivered the statement to the house next door. Mrs Jones, for it was she, was mortified.

Oh well, more tomorrow - or whenever.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

In a word

Language is in a constant state of flux, of evolution - a fact I have bewailed before now. We lose words as they drop our of use; many youngsters would be flummoxed by that very word! And words like 'thee' and 'thou' have fallen by the wayside. At the same time (or maybe not), some words change their meaning. Some people, especially youngsters, might be flummoxed by the phrase 'with gay abandon' now that 'gay' no longer means bright and cheery.

But not all is doom and gloom.  As we lose some words and others change their meaning, we also gain words. Words like 'sexting', which I gather means taking indelicate photographs of oneself and sending them by mobile phone to someone else.  I have never sexted (is that really the past participle?) partly because my mobile phone is archaic and is only any good for making and receiving calls, but also because I don't know anybody whom I dislike sufficiently to harass them with indelicate pictures of myself.

Another word that has been invented, or perhaps I should say coined, during the past few months is Brexit, spelt with a capital B. I know what that means.  Our prime minister has told us that Brexit means Brexit.  So now you know as well.

A new word that has got me confused (I nearly typed 'flummoxed') is 'post-truth'. To my simple mind, the addition of the prefix 'post' simply means 'after', as in 'post-war'. Another 'post' that gets me going is 'post-modernism'. Doesn't 'modern' mean 'up to date'?  How can anything be 'after up to date'?  And what comes after truth I simply cannot imagine. And I don't think I would want to even if I could.

So there you have it - in a word.

Monday, 2 January 2017

2016 and all that

(With apologies to Messrs Sellar and Yeatman.)

I am fully aware that as I get older, time passes ever more swiftly, but just how I have been unable to find even a smidgen of it for ten days or so to write the blog is a mystery that passes all understanding.

At this turn of the year so many people look back over the past twelve months that it becomes almost boring to pick up a newspaper or magazine. Many of those I have glanced at - well, some of them - have indicated that they are glad to see the back of 2016 and seem to be of the opinion that this year can only be better. I can't say that I entirely agree with that sentiment, although there have certainly been some low points in the year just gone for my family and friends. A good friend died in the summer, not surprisingly as he had been going downhill for quite a while. Another friend has been diagnosed with prostate cancer which has now spread to his spine - this to add to his heart problems. My brother has been told he has leukemia, and my younger son was told in the spring that the problems he has been experiencing for the past eight years are actually multiple sclerosis.

But hey! It's a bright, sunny day, albeit a tad chilly. I am waiting for a call to collect son and daughter-in-law from the airport, their plane having just landed. They spent the New Year in New York and somewhere in New Jersey with friends of d-in-l. I have been watching the progress of their flight on flightradar24 and even managed to wave at their plane as it flew over the Downs behind the house! I didn't see them waving back.

That's it for now so I will take the opportunity to wish everybody a happy, healthy and peaceful 2017.