14 June 2024

Floored

There was a time when getting up from the floor or the ground outside meant nothing to me. It was as if I just had to press an internal switch and then - Boing! - I was up. But it is not like that these days.

Just this week I was lying on the floor with Baby Margot. We were playing with baby toys and smiling at each other but when I tried to press the internal button in order to give the "Get up!" signal, I discovered - not for the first time - that it is just not working any more.

Instead of leaping up like an uncoiled spring, I was left floundering on the floor like a beached sea-lion. It was only when I managed to find some leverage on the coffee table and sofa that I was able to pull myself up with noticeable physical effort and some porcine grunting sounds.

Outside our house there is a public grass verge which I have tended for the past thirty five years. Mostly there's no need to get down on it but in the middle of it there is a young magnolia tree which remains staked for stability. My "Bosch" lawnmower cannot get in to cut the grass between the stakes so I have to get down on the ground with my garden shears to trim the grass there.

All very well and good until I have to get up again. More grunting while using the stakes to pull myself back up. What a pathetic sight!

When did this happen? I cannot pinpoint the point in time when I achieved this disability. Rising from the floor or ground used to be so easy but now it is so hard. It is quite possible that my life will end this way - gracelessly thrashing about on my back or belly - pathetically calling for help or some kind of leverage.

Is this what it means to be seventy? Perhaps the social services will happily provide me with some sort of mechanical hoist for emergency occasions. Alternatively, there may be a number I can call in order to receive the services of trained lifters.

13 June 2024

Australians

 

This blog attracts quite a few Australians so I wanted to know more about them. I typed the question shown at the top into Google. As is now the usual case with Google questions, more connected questions were A.I. generated under the sub-heading "People also ask". Frankly, I found some of these follow-up questions rather odd. Even so I am now much more au fait with what being an Australian really means.

Here are just a few of those auto-generated questions with answers. I think if I had stuck with the task,  endless follow-up questions would have been churned out by the system.
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What is a typical Australian behaviour?

They value authenticity, sincerity, and loathe pretentiousness. Australians prefer people who are modest, humble, self- deprecating and with a sense of humour. They do not draw attention to their academic or other achievements and tend to distrust people who do. Australians place a high value on relationships.

Do Australians hug a lot?

In Australia, we may sometimes shake hands when we greet someone in a formal manner (for example in the workplace), but we don't generally hug or kiss people we have just met or who we aren't close with.

How to flirt with an Australian?

What are some things to avoid when flirting with Aussie people?
Don't be too forward or aggressive. ...
Don't assume that everyone is interested in you. ...
Don't take things too seriously. ...
Avoid being too crass or vulgar when flirting with an Australian.

What are the don'ts in Australia?

Don't mention the divisive topics of Australian society (e.g., refugees, Indigenous affairs, LGBTQ, religion, etc). Don't be overly argumentative. Australians tend to avoid the company of people who are too opinionated. Don't litter as it's illegal in Australia.

What are the table manners in Australia?

Table manners in Australia are Continental, meaning that the fork goes in the left hand and the knife goes in the right. In some cultures, it is considered polite to leave a little food on your plate, but Australia is not one of those cultures. Feel free to finish your meal.

What is the most important rule in Australia?

The rule of law means that laws apply to everyone, including the people that make them. To make sure everyone knows the law and their rights, laws should be easy to find out about, easy to understand and enforced. The rule of law is a key feature of Australia's democracy and legal system.

Can you wear shoes in Australia?

No Australian states or territories have actually outlawed wearing inappropriate footwear while driving, and this includes wearing no footwear at all. However, rule 297 of the Australian Road Rules 2008 provides that the driver must still take all precautions to drive in the safest manner possible.

How do Australians show affection?

Within families and close circles of friends, women will often greet other members with a kiss on the cheek and men will often greet each other by shaking hands. Australian men generally do not openly display strong affection for male friends.

What do Australians call sandwiches?

Sanger is an alteration of the word sandwich. Sango appeared as a term for sandwich in the 1940s, but by the 1960s, sanger took over to describe this staple of Australian cuisine.

Is there gender discrimination in Australia?

Australia has made good progress towards achieving gender equality in recent times. However, women still experience inequality and discrimination in many important parts of their lives. At work, women continue to face a gender 'pay gap' and barriers to leadership roles.
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End note. The assumption that it is valid to generalise about the citizens of any particular state seems highly questionable to me and the follow-up AI questions and answers that Google churns out frequently miss the mark. Please note - No Australians were harmed in the making of this blogpost.

12 June 2024

Pop

"The Eagle" - off City Road, London

This week I have been singing "Pop Goes The Weasel" to our darling baby granddaughter Margot. It is a song I have known all my life but when you pause for reflection, the lyrics seem rather odd - somewhat mysterious even. Here we go:-

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

Every night when I go out
The monkey’s on the table.
Take a stick and knock it off
Pop goes the weasel.

A penny for a ball of thread
Another for a needle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

All around the cobbler's bench
The monkey chased the people;
The donkey thought ’twas all in fun,
Pop goes the weasel.

The song has several American versions. It seems that there was a dance craze in the the 1850's  that spanned The Atlantic and the only line it had was "Pop goes the weasel". The extended lyrics probably came later as the song evolved and embedded itself in the English-speaking world.

It is likely that the tune goes back much further in time and in truth the full, accurate history of "Pop Goes The Weasel" is almost impossible to tease out. There are so many theories that often contradict each other.

It is the same with many old nursery rhymes. The truth may be as elusive as butterflies or shooting stars. Time has a habit of clouding the waters making it hard to see.

Clearly, there are references in the version I have inserted above to spinning, to  pawning and to London. "The Eagle" is still a pub on City Road. However, it is not clear what "the weasel" refers to and why does it go "pop"? Some think it is a device connected with the textile industry. I wouldn't like to say for sure.

What I do know is that singing old nursery rhymes to babies is a nice thing to do - entertaining them and helping to fuel their nascent  language skills as well as  beginning to mark their cultural identity.

Below an amateur rendition of "Pop Goes The Weasel". This is not, I repeat NOT Tasker Dunham!

11 June 2024

Beanz

Per head of population, Great Britain consumes more cans of baked beans than any other country in the world. We love them. They first arrived in  this country in 1901 courtesy of the Heinz canning business that was originally based in Pennsylvania USA.

There are other brands of baked beans but Heinz are by far the most popular. They sell around 50% of all baked beans in this country even though they have become the most expensive baked beans on the market. To me and many other Britons, non-Heinz baked beans just do not taste the same. Around one million cans of Heinz baked beans are consumed in this kingdom every single day.

Back in 1967 while sitting in a pub, a London advertising professional called Maurice Drake came up with a new jingle for the product: "A million housewives every day, open a can of beans and say Beanz Meanz Heinz". This clever slogan was so successful that even today everybody knows it and on the product label they still use "Beanz" with a zed (American: zee) rather than an "s".
At last Sunday's quiz, the tie break question was this: "According to the Heinz company, how many beans should you expect to find in a standard 415g tin of baked beans?" The correct answer was 465 - a figure which seemed rather too high to me so today I checked. I opened a tin and carefully counted 379 beans within! 

This is not proof that I am crazy. Shirley and I were about to have a light lunch of beans on toast. This is a very popular option in The British Isles. However, fairly recently, I discovered that it is not really a thing in North America. I was surprised to learn that so in today's blogpost  I am keen to promote the idea of beans on toast. Maybe it will take off across The Atlantic. I have no idea if it is a thing in Australia.

Beans on toast is a nutritious, quick and economical meal. Kids love it and I have never heard anybody say that they dislike beans on toast. It is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians. In my family, we tend to sprinkle some grated cheese on top before serving.

This was my lunch today. Beside it there was a mug of standard British breakfast tea with a spoonful of sugar and a glug of semi-skimmed milk. As John Gray in Trelawnyd, Wales would say - Bloody lovely!

10 June 2024

Quiztime

Ten more questions. Answers given in  the comments section

1) When he was young. Who is  this famous man? Clue: American politics.

2) When she was young. Who is this famous woman? Clues: Pop music. The photo was taken in 1965.


3) When he was young. Who is this famous man. Clue: They gather no moss.

4) Travelling in a straight line, how far is it from the North Pole to The South Pole?
(a) 1,432 miles (b)4,320 miles  (c) 12,430 miles  
(d)  22,430 miles (e) 102,342 miles

5) What was the currency of Spain before the euro replaced it?
(a) lira (b) peseta (c) escudo (c) dirham (d) bolero

6) What breed of dog is this?
7) Which nineteenth century  English author wrote "The Old Curiosity Shop" and "Martin Chuzzlewit"?

8) What is the name of this Hanna-Barbera cartoon character?
9) Which planet is closest to The Sun?

10) Translate this German question into English - Was ist das?

How did you do?

9 June 2024

Michael

The map above shows the north of the island of Symi. It belongs to Greece but is in the eastern part of the Aegean Sea very close to Turkey. It is a pretty barren island with a full-time population of less than 2500. However, in the summer holiday months, that number may be trebled.

Last Wednesday an English holidaymaker called Michael Mosley was on the island with his wife and some friends. They were enjoying Saint Nicholas Beach in the bottom right hand corner of the map.  

Michael said he was feeling a little unwell and set off back to their holiday accommodation in Symi town which is over in the bottom left of the map. it took twenty  minutes to successfully walk to Pedi - a fishing village just right of centre. He was spotted there on CCTV cameras.

Travelling west upon a quiet paved road, he would have had only two kilometres to go before reaching Symi town. However, inexplicably he did not go west, he headed to the north east instead upon a rocky path that leads to Agia Marina to the top right hand corner of the map.

Agia Marina is a small resort and there's no road there. Most visitors arrive by boat from Symi town's harbour. Michael was walking there in the heat of the day, feeling unwell and holding an umbrella to give him some shade from the searing sunshine.

He didn't make it. After five days, his body was discovered next to the perimeter fencing at Agia Marina's  tiny resort. He was just thirty metres from the beach. Almost there. So near but yet so far.
This story has received a lot of attention here in Great Britain because  Dr Michael Mosley was a well-know TV personality - specialising in health-related matters - including dieting and generally looking after your body. He was a a great communicator and passionate about all things health-related

It is therefore quite ironic that he probably died from heat exhaustion after taking a wrong turn out of Pedi. Local Greeks would not choose to go walking like that in the heat of the mid-afternoon sun. The temperature at the time was estimated to be 40℃. Such a tragedy but I suppose that it could have happened to any of us.

Heat exhaustion may cause disorientation and weakness. It is easy to feel faint or dizzy and of course there's the problem of dehydration. If only the rewind button could be pressed on Michael Mosley's life. He was a fit sixty seven year old with four grown up children and a loving wife. His demise came far too early.

8 June 2024

Saturday

I plonked myself down at this keyboard ready to write my 4758th blogpost but nothing much sprang to mind. I had one or two ideas concerning things I have done in the past but I soon discovered that I had already covered  them in past blogposts. Well, we can't easily remember every blogpost we have ever published can we?

Today, after a wasted morning on the internet, I finally managed to get out into our garden. There were some jobs I needed to do such as dismantling the wooden gate I made thirty years ago.  It leads on to the back lane. The gate has become rotten after all that time and needs replacing. However, it pleases me to think that it lasted so long.

It was difficult getting the old hinges off the wooden gatepost. Not just a simple matter of turning a screwdriver for the screws were rusted and unwilling to move. In the end I had to prise the hinges off and apply brute force, taking care not to damage the gatepost because before too long it will need to receive new screws connected with the new wooden gate I will most likely build from scratch.

This afternoon, I also had to cut back vegetation that flanks the long garden path I made back in the summer of 2009. Next week two fellows will be using that path as they begin work on new patio paving. They will have to prepare the ground and there's a significant amount of  stonework to be done.

Tomorrow's weather forecast predicts a nice sunny morning turning to drizzly rain in the afternoon so I hope to get out there fairly early. There's more to be done before the patio work can commence.

Another thing I did today was to phone my brother Robin in south west France. He has been living there since 2005 - a good chunk of his life. As usual we had a good old chinwag and put the world to rights. We may not speak every week but when we do phone each other the conversation flows naturally. As brothers we have learnt to make allowances for each other. We are the same in many ways but different in others. I have known him longer than any other living person and he can say the same.

Before I sign off, I just want to say I have been thinking about "Quiztime" which has evolved into a regular feature of this blog.  I want the quizzes to be fun to do but it is hard to pick topics that will suit visitors from different places. The last quiz was geographical. What I want to ask is this: Can you suggest a topic or theme for the weeks ahead? The subject should have some universal appeal.

Soon I will be climbing the stairs to my lonely bed but like last night please don't worry about me. I will be okay.

7 June 2024

Friday

At 6am I woke to the sound of footsteps on the landing. It was our granddaughter Phoebe. Shirley was already downstairs and I guessed that Phoebe would be disoriented. After all, she had not slept here over night for months.

I called to her, "Phoebe! Come and see Grandpa!" Then she came into our bedroom for a little chat and I was able to ease her anxiety. When she woke up she had been very surprised to find that she was not in her own bedroom.

Her mama had been down in London yesterday - meeting up with her London office team. Her new job will mostly involve working from home here in Sheffield with Thursdays down in London. Once a month, she will have to travel up to Glasgow where the business's head office is located. It is likely that Phoebe will stay with us every Thursday night. We look after her all day Thursday anyway.

Shirley left home at nine thirty - heading down to Warwickshire for what has become known as "The Cousins' Weekend". She will be staying in a big house with her sister and eight of their female cousins. They all grew up together on The Isle of Axholme in Lincolnshire and the annual weekend away has become a family tradition.

So I am "home alone"  this weekend rather like Kevin in the popular 1990 film of that name.

This morning, I drove over to Wingerworth near Chesterfield to meet up with a man called Rick about a woodturning commission I have arranged with him. Presently, I would prefer to say nothing about this but all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

Upon my return from Chesterfield, I decided to trim our front hedge for the first time this year. One of the benefits  of wintertime here in the north of England is that there is no need to mow grass or cut hedges. These are definitely summertime jobs. In winter months, dormancy  is rather appealing.

We have got a general election here in Great Britain in less than a month's time and there was another debate on the television tonight.  It is widely  believed that The Conservative Party are about to be booted out of office and I for one am very happy about that. 

Throughout my life, I have supported The Labour Party and I do not see that changing any time soon even though, after fourteen years in government, The Conservatives will leave behind a poisoned chalice. They have caused so much damage to the lives of ordinary working people, to The National Health Service, to schools and to the basic rules of fair play.  They have drained away precious funding and ensured that under them the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. It was this shower of self-seeking nincompoops that led our country to the self-inflicted economic injuries of Brexit.

Late on this evening, I fancied a couple of pints of beer so I wandered down to "The Dark Horse"  which used to be our local branch of "Lloyds TSB" bank. I drank two pints of "Stones" sitting at a window seat and didn't talk to anyone apart from the barmaid then I came home to write this blogpost.

The door is locked and I have got a lonesome night ahead of me but please don't worry. I will be okay.

6 June 2024

Childcare


I was the third of four brothers. During our connected childhoods, our parents did not spend a single penny on childcare. Our mum was normally at home but she did earn money by teaching a few evening classes - specialising in mixed crafts that ranged from glove making and basket weaving to the creation of lampshades. She could turn her hand to anything. Her income paid for extras such as holidays and special Christmas presents.

In the nineteen fifties and early sixties, the necessity for mothers to supplement family incomes was not as great as it is now. Nursery schools and other childcare facilities were not as widespread nor as vital as they are today.

At the start of this week, I had to give my daughter a big hug because after a year out she was going back to work. It had suddenly hit her that it would be a  huge wrench to leave Baby Margot after seven months of devotion to her care and development.

In August, Margot will spend three days a week at the local nursery school that Phoebe currently attends. Till then, Shirley and I will be looking after her for three days a week and on one day a week our son-in-law's mother will take on the responsibility.

Nursery school fees are exorbitant and many working parents have to weigh up whether or not it even pays to work. I mean, what is the point of working if nearly all of your income goes into nursery school coffers? 

In this country, schooling is free from the age of four so why is it not free for children aged one to four? Parents are cogs in the labour force and small children are future workers so they are also going to be valuable to the nation's future economic well-being.

Nowadays, in their retirement, it is not uncommon for grandparents  to take on unpaid childcare roles. You see the evidence all over the place in high streets, children's playgrounds and supermarkets for example.  If fit and able, grandparents invariably perform this essential task very willingly as it not only helps working parents out a lot but also assists bonding with grandchildren. However, it shouldn't be the answer. Workplaces should customarily provide free childcare provision and the system we inhabit should not be taking grandparental childcare for granted.

5 June 2024

Advice

An echo from 1969, I heard this song on the radio last weekend and I thought to myself - yes, that is a great chorus. It's urging people to be themselves, live in a manner that feels right for them - no matter what anyone else might say or think. It celebrates independence and individualism.

Cass Elliot
Make Your Own Kind of Music
Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil
Sung by Cass Elliot

[Verse 1]
Nobody can tell ya
There's only one song worth singing
They may try and sell ya
'Cause it hangs them up
To see someone like you

[Chorus]

But you've gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind of music
Even if nobody else sings along...

Researching Cass Elliot's life I note that she died from a heart attack in 1974 in a flat (apartment) in London  when she was thirty two years old. The flat was owned by Harry Nilsson. Four years later, The Who's eccentric drummer - Keith Moon died in the very same flat - also aged thirty two. I guess that they each made their own kind of music though it didn't last too long.

4 June 2024

Quiztime

Yes it is Quiztime once again. Sponsored by Uncle Joe's Mintballs, this week's theme is geography. As usual, answers will be give in the "Comments" section.

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1. What is the longest river in the world?

2. What is the tallest mountain on this planet?

3. What is the most populous city?

4. What is the coldest desert? (It is also the biggest one)

5. What is the most populous country?

6. In which ocean will you find the deepest trench?

7. Which American state has the greatest land area?

8. Which is the smallest American state?

9. How many islands are there in Indonesia?
(a) Just over 500 islands 
(b) Just over 17,500 islands 
or (c) Just over 175,000 islands

10. What is the largest island in The Caribbean Sea?


"How did you do?" says Uncle Joe.

3 June 2024

Bollington

I had never been to Bollington before. It was this big white obelisk that drew me there. It is called White Nancy and it commemorates the Battle of Waterloo which occurred in 1815. It stands  at the north end of a ridge overlooking the small Cheshire town. Climbing up there was the first thing I did after I had parked Clint on Water Street. Then I headed south along The Saddle of Kerridge but in the picture below I took a look back at White Nancy....

Above - that's Water Street. No doubt the terraced houses were once occupied by cotton mill workers. It was cotton that caused the small agricultural village to grown into a substantial town in the early nineteenth century.

Below - on my eight mile walk I snapped this picture of foxgloves growing wild against a drystone wall near Swanscoe Farm. There are thousands of these plants around our countryside just now and they love the support of  stone walls...
To service industry, The Macclesfield Canal was dug  and engineered in the eighteen twenties. It finally opened to traffic in 1831 but nowadays it is almost entirely devoted to leisure pursuits. The moored canal boat below is called "Little Luv"...
This narrow boat, steered  and probably owned by a young woman was moving south to the town of Macclesfield. She made the mistake that so many have made before her just after midday - waving a cheery "Good morning!"
In Bollington, I rather liked the look of this hand-painted sign - principally concerning canal-related services.
Below - Grimshaw Street in Bollington passes under the Victorian canal so you can rightly call the stone structure an aqueduct...
Three and a half hours after parking Clint, I  pressed my Hyundai key and soon headed north to the village of Pott Shrigley where I snapped this picture of St Christopher's Church before heading back over the hills to Whaley Bridge and thence to Chapel-en-le-Frith and The Hope Valley...
Sunday June 2nd was such a lovely day. A diamond day of greens and blues and prostrate sheep panting in the shade of trees.

On days like that babies should not die.

2 June 2024

Tragedy

Today something terrible happened while I was walking south of Bollington in Cheshire. It happened in the Derbyshire town of Chesterfield which is just eight miles south of Sheffield.

It happened in the maternity unit of the local hospital. And yes, you may have guessed it already. A baby died.

The father is someone I have known since he was four years old. In primary school, he was my son's best friend and he came to this house countless times to play or to eat.

The last time I saw him - which was about a month ago - I said, "I am looking forward to seeing your baby James. I hope all goes well and that you have a beautiful, healthy child in your arms. It won't be long now".

They didn't want to know the baby's gender before he or she was born. That would be a beautiful  surprise as it has been for zillions of parents through the ages.

James's girlfriend went into labour on Friday afternoon. The unborn child was judged to have been growing healthily for forty weeks. But this morning, for whatever reason, it was announced that the baby had died in his/her mother's womb - fully developed and ready to live. However - it was not to be. The dreams, the imaginings and the hopes were over.

I suspect that by now the lifeless babe will have been coaxed out of the womb by medical means. It is such a shit, such a bugger, such a tragedy and I feel awful for James and the lady he usually refers to as his "missus". She was going to be a brilliant mother.

Even the early death of a foetus through miscarriage is tragic but to carry a baby full term and lose it is horrendous. I will go to sleep tonight thinking of that baby and wake thinking about him or her. James and his lady would have loved the unborn child entirely and with all their hearts. What more can I say? 

R.I.P.

Today. The babe was delivered. Never to say a word nor walk a single step nor even breathe a breath but she will be Hayley forever.

1 June 2024

Decade

At English Bay, Vancouver

A decade just flashed by. However, my saved digital photographs help me to remember the special holiday that Shirley and I enjoyed in 2014.

We flew to Vancouver from Manchester. After three nights that included a trip up to Whistler, we took a ferry to Vancouver Island where we stayed in the capital - Victoria for four nights. Next we took another ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles in Washington State. There we picked up another hire car and after nights in Ocean Shores and Olympia, we drove down to Portland, Oregon before heading east along The Columbia River then back north to Seattle via Goldendale and Ellensburg. After three nights in the suburbs of Seattle, we returned to Port Angeles and the ferry back to Vancouver Island before flying home.

It was an itinerary that I had planned carefully myself and as on other occasions, it was very satisfying to witness everything coming together nicely with no significant hiccups. From my photo files I have picked six pictures to share with you from our Pacific North West holiday. A decade ago.


A hoary marmot emerging from hibernation in the snowy mountains above Whistler B.C.

"The Empress Hotel" in Victoria

Heading to Vancouver Island with the mountains of British Colombia beyond

At an abandoned farm near Ellensburg, WA

Fake Stonehenge north of The Colombia River - on the way to Goldendale

31 May 2024

Felon

This is, I believe, my first ever caricature of The Orange Monster. I created it this afternoon to mark his special moment in history. He is now the first ever president or ex-president of The United States to be judged by his peers in a court of law and found guilty of a series of felonious charges against him. You know the story.

I began calling him The Orange Monster after looking closely at photographs of him taken in court. Apart from the orange, there was something decidedly ugly about his face. Emily Bronte referred to the eyes as "the windows of the soul" but in his eyes there is a void, a meanness, a lack of humanity that makes me shudder - as if looking at a monster.

I know that if I worked harder on the caricature I could arrive at a more successful end result - achieving a much better likeness but for now this will do.

I followed his New York trial pretty closely and I can say conclusively that there was no evidence of rigging or political interference The wise and experienced judge, Judge Merchan, did a fine job of progressing the trial in a level-headed and unbiased manner. He acted entirely in accordance with the law.

No doubt The Orange Monster will kick and spit and seek to blame others for his wrongful behaviour. He will use his wealth or money begged from blinkered supporters to appeal about yesterday's clearcut verdict and maybe he will win because in The Orange Monster's world, truth doesn't matter very much.

30 May 2024

Niagara

I wondered where our indian head plaque had gone. It was up in the attic. It must have ended up there during a decorating campaign. This week I was pleased to see it back - like a reunion with an old friend..

I have known that indian for over sixty years. He was brought back to England from Canada circa 1960 by the grown up daughter of the village school's caretaker - a fearsome, pipe-smoking man called Alf Assert. She gave it to my parents as a holiday souvenir and it was pinned up in our house for decades until my mother died and I claimed ownership.

Through most of my childhood, that proud indian head seemed to represent an otherness - somewhere different far away and if  Mr Assert's daughter could get there then surely I could do the same. One day. Along the neckline these words are inscribed: "Niagara Falls, Canada". The plaque is made from  some sort of wood composite resin...
Over at e-bay I found a very similar plaque but this time it was a souvenir of Montreal. The indian mould is identical.
Anyway, back to Niagara Falls. Eventually, I did get there in the summer of 2002 with my wife and children.

We had flown into Boston  and spent four days in New England before driving across New York State and along the south side of Lake Ontario right into the town of Niagara Falls. And the next morning, there we were on "The Maid of The Mist" in the middle of the spuming waters of the falls themselves.

I am sure that it was  the indian in league with Alf Assert's daughter who had guided us there.

29 May 2024

History

Shirley was up in our attic on Monday. She pulled down some of the detritus of my teaching career and asked if I could sort through it - perhaps throw some of it away. After all, fifteen years has now passed since I opted for early retirement. Why on earth have I hung on to so much of it for so long?

If I died tomorrow that stuff would not mean a thing to anybody else. Even my grown up children would not give it any more than a cursory glance before binning it. Amongst the memorabilia debris I found the two school magazines shown in this blogpost.

The first one was from the summer of 1964. I know who designed the front cover. It was a young art teacher called Barry McKenzie. He was still there when I arrived in January 1986, following a promotion from my previous school.

Barry also designed the following cover from the glorious summer of 1966:-
The two designs suggest a simpler, more innocent time when school magazines were printed in-house and costs  needed to be limited. Within each magazine there were forty eight pages and they all needed to be stapled by hand in the middle  before every pupil's family received a copy. 

The magazines were meant to champion achievement  and endorse a sense of community and well-being in the school which was built just a few years earlier on the northern edge of this northern city. To this day, it continues to serve an area with plenty of social and educational challenges.

Below you can see some of the text from the 1964 magazine. No word-processing back then. The typists would have used Gestetner stencil skins each placed in a rather basic printing machine before black ink was applied from a tube and the hand wheel was turned to churn out multiple pages. Later these had to be turned over and printed on the reverse. It would have been a  very arduous task.
Anyway, I  freed our house of these two magazines by posting them to the current headteacher of the school. I hope he finds a way to save and cherish them but that is now out of my control. At least he is someone with a History degree  so there's a chance that history matters to him.

28 May 2024

Fifty


In my life, I have been fortunate enough to visit fifty of the countries on this planet. In total, there are 195 countries which do not include either The Vatican City or The State of Palestine. As it happens, I have visited the former but not the latter.

I am sure that there will be one or two visitors to this blog who have been to more countries than me but fifty is a pretty good score I think if indeed this is a scoring matter.

Every one of those countries has left me with memories and impressions that I cherish. I wouldn't like to say if there were "best" or "worst" countries on my personal checklist. They all had something good or interesting to offer.

If you kindly provided me with a wad of banknotes and told me that I could add three more countries to my list, the ones I would pick at this point in time are:-
(a) Bhutan
(b) Cuba
& (c) Tuvalu
I think I would have some memorable times in these three countries for different reasons. Other places I would love to go are Sumatra in Indonesia, Guyana in South America, Mauritius and Japan. I guess I am still greedy for travel. That appetite was stirred by my parents when I was a young lad.

If you were given an equivalent wad of money, which three countries in the world would you pick - places you have never been before? We can all dream.
Bhutan

27 May 2024

Kindness

On Saturday night, the band Coldplay were the headliners at a big outdoor concert in Luton, Bedfordshire. Beforehand, Chris Martin, Coldplay's lead singer, was being driven along in a Mercedes. Closing in on the venue, he noticed a fan who was clearly in discomfort, leaning against a security fence.

Chris asked his driver to pull up and sixty four year old Saundra Glenn was invited to join him on the back  seat. They drove into the back stage area, chatting away like best friends. Then Chris  asked for her to be driven in a golf buggy to her  ticketed location.

Saundra suffers from osteoarthritis and "a dodgy right hip" so she appreciated Chris Martin's  charity. She said, "He gave me an act of kindness that I'll forever be grateful for."

Being kind to others in an altruistic manner with no thought of personal benefit is something that I think we all applaud. Even though Chris Martin is a very wealthy pop superstar with a personal fortune of over £160 million, he is clearly not too big-headed to assist others.

He has been an emissary for Oxfam and has supported various other charities. In America he has always vocally  backed Democrats including Barack Obama. In 2009, in Sydney with the rest of Coldplay he performed  at The Sydney Cricket Ground to raise money for victims of bushfires and floods in Victoria and New South Wales.

Simple, quiet acts of kindness with no hope of reward or praise are arguably what keeps the human race ticking over. Without such behaviour the world would be a much sorrier place.

In Chris Marin's honour here's a Coldplay song from 2021, performed with the support of Selena Gomez...

26 May 2024

Quiztime

You didn't think that I had forgotten about "Quiztime" did you? This week's quiz concerns Portugal and you will have to look back in this blog to find the answers for Questions 3 & 4. Good luck! Answers may be found at the head of the Comments section.

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1. What are the two principal colours of the Portuguese flag?

2. What is the capital city of Portugal?

3. What was the name of the villa where Mr Pudding and family stayed between May 11th and May 18th 2024?

4. What was the name of the lighthouse that was very close to the holiday villa?

5. On  which Portuguese island was the world famous footballer Cristiano Ronaldo born?

6. In which century were the two great Portuguese explorers Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco da Gama born?

7. What is the most southerly region of mainland Portugal?

8. With which alcoholic drink would you mostly associate the northern city of Porto?

9. This tower is located on the coast near Lisbon but what is its name?
(a) Belém Tower   (b) Cristiano Tower   

(c) Pudding Tower  (d) TAP Air Portugal  Tower

10. "Pastel del nata" is a popular Portuguese tart but what is it filled with?

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