28 July 2011

Quotes of the Week

The usual eclectic and kleptological collection this week ...

Blunt common sense is valued above Gauloise-wreathed nuances of gossip about concepts.
[AC Grayling, The Form of Things]

Religion is false but the masses should be encouraged to believe it; it keeps them in order.
[Plato quoted in AC Grayling, The Form of Things]

Harvester of maidenheads
[Description of the second Earl of Rochester, circa 1660, quoted in AC Grayling, The Form of Things]

The people who are regarded as moral luminaries are those who forego ordinary pleasures themselves and find compensation in interfering with the pleasures of others.
[Bertrand Russell]

... and those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
[Friedrich Nietzsche]

I like prime numbers ... I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your lifetime thinking about them.
[Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time]

The greatest university of all is a collection of books.
[Thomas Carlyle]

Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.
[Peter F Drucker]

Life begins at 40 — but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.
[Helen Rowland]

If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?

27 July 2011

Skills I Do Not Have, No. 253 of 44975

Common Wasp, Vespula vulgaris by kcm76
Common Wasp, Vespula vulgaris, a photo by kcm76 on Flickr.

I present you with the Common Wasp, Vespula vulgaris.

I found this critter dead on the bedroom floor this morning and in picking it up for recycling I realised just what stunning creatures wasps are. We so often think of them a nuisanceful pests whereas they're amazingly engineered and even in death almost beautiful. So I had to photograph it - click the links below for larger views.

Image 1 (top left) shows just how hairy they are when we think of them as bald. And you can just see the tiny, shiny bulge of the top of the wasp's compound eye.
Image 2 (top right) shows some of the mazing engineering: just look at the hooks and barbs on the legs - just what is needed for gripping caterpillar/insect prey and crawling over plants.
Image 3 (bottom left) shows the face and jaws which are the characteristics that identify this as Vespula vulgaris rather than any of the other UK species.
Image 4 shows something I'd never realised before (although my book shows it clearly) and that's that wasps have two pairs of wings: look carefully and you can see in front of the large main wing a smaller wing. No wonder they're such skilled flyers.

These are tiny, amazingly delicate yet robust insects. This individual, a worker, is just 12mm long with a wingspan of about 22mm. In her lifetime she may well have "salvaged" numerous flies, caterpillars etc. as food for the next generation of grubs - without wasps we would be knee deep in creepy crawlies.

This was taken under my desk lamp (hence the slight colour cast) with my point-an-shoot Lumic TZ8 - which is amazing for macros like this as it will focus down to just a couple of centimetres (much better than my dSLR)!

And as I was taking these I thought: how the hell do you go about dissecting something this small? Clearly scientists have done so, but it's a skill I don't have and I'm not dexterous enough to ever conceive how to do it! Amazing insects and amazing scientific work to dissect one!

Montage created with fd's Flickr Toys

26 July 2011

[30/52] Symmetry

[30/52] Symmetry by kcm76[30/52] Symmetry, a photo by kcm76 on Flickr.

Week 30 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

OMG do I ever photograph anything other than flowers? Well yes, but it's too easy to photograph flowers at this time of year, and they almost always look stunning. This small but perfectly symmetrical rose was seen in a front garden in Northolt. Can anyone identify it?

Cartoon of the Week

Listography - Things My Mother Taught Me

Kate's Listography this week is about the lessons I learnt from my parents. As Kate herself expresses it "I'm not talking about the 'don't fart in a swimming pool' type lessons either (though they do have their place) - I'm talking about the real deal - the lessons that you want to pass down to your own children".

Yes, I have things to be grateful to my parents for. But sadly I feel I have more that they (well my father anyway) did that I don't appreciate. But we're here to be positive. So what did I learn that's useful?

The first thing Kate puts on her list is how to cook. And I have to agree with her. As an only child with a non-working mother, I was always around the kitchen. So I learnt a lot of cooking by osmosis, just by watching my mother rather than actually being actively taught. But I remember from an early age being involved in making buns, fudge, toffee, jam; bottling fruit; making bread. At 11 or 12 I was sufficiently accomplished to be able to keep house for my father for 3 or 4 days (during the summer holidays) while my mother was in hospital. OK my mother and I planned it all out in advance: menus, what to buy, how to cook it. But if I say so myself I think I did it well. By the time I was a student I was teaching my peers that they could cook bread, jacket potatoes and pastry in a Baby Belling! To this day I cook, although not as much as I might like. I'm not one for fancy cooking or cakes (though I could do that if I wanted) but good, wholesome, fresh cooked family meals. And not a recipe in sight!

The other big lesson I took from my parents was their bohemianism and eccentricity. Remember we're talking 1950s/60s here when the country was still depressed and very conventional following the war. My father had been a conscientious objector during the war and spent the time working in hospitals and on the land; youth hostelling on his days off; and billeted with all sorts of interesting people. After the war my parents lived together for two years while my mother's divorce happened. This was unheard of in those days! So I got a very free-thinking upbringing where anything could be discussed, all the bookshelves (and there were many) were on open access, doors were never shut, nudity and sexuality were normal and people were known by their Christian names, not as Aunt/Uncle/Mr/Mrs/etc. (unless they insisted as some did). Not that I was allowed to do what I liked: there were very strict boundaries and one was brought up to be respectful, polite and considerate of others — otherwise known as children should be seen and not heard. But that, together with living through the 60s and 70s, has left me with an open mind and a propensity to tell it like it is.

Something else this gave me, at least in part, was the concept of taking responsibility for my actions. To some extent I had to learn this by doing the opposite of my father. He was a negative, grumpy old sod a lot of the time and became almost a caricature of Victor Meldrew in his old age; nothing was ever his fault but always someone else's and they were out to get him or his money. Except that isn't wholly true; he did try to say "sorry, that was my fault" if it was just maybe not enough or loudly enough to drown out the negative. But he also taught me responsibility in a rather curious way. Despite all the "open access" I don't recall us ever having a talk about "the birds and the bees" and in this context he only ever gave me one piece of advice. When I was about 17 (I certainly had a steady girlfriend, so we're talking 1968/9) he said to me one evening something to the effect that I was old enough to know about how things worked followed by "I don't care what you do as long as you don't have any bastards". Yes, in those words. This was in the day when the pill was fairly new still, and there was still stigma in some quarters about being born to unmarried parents. A valuable lesson, but one that maybe scared me a bit too much?

Another thing which came out of my parents' bohemianism was a love of books and knowledge and being inquisitive. Both my parents read — a lot! My mother, who's 95, still reads a lot. We were forever in and out of the local library and knew the Chief Librarian as a friend. We had books at home. I was encouraged to have books. And I was allowed to read anything on the shelves which meant I read Lady Chatterley in my early teens (boring it was too!); and Ulysses (also boring); and Havelock Ellis (being the nearest thing then available to The Joy of Sex). Knowledge was important but being inquisitive and knowing how to find things out was even more important. As my father used to say "Education is not knowing, it's knowing how to find out". We still have books; literally thousands of them pushing us out of house and home.

Which brings me to the last of the five. All of this put together gave me the ability to think. Properly and deeply. As Noreen once, somewhat over inflatedly, observed of me: he has a brain the size of the Albert Hall and runs around in it. Sure there are things I don't think about or understand (like high finance, economics and money markets) but I could if they interested me. As a result of this, plus our educations, both Noreen and I know how to do research: proper research. But then in many ways that's been our lives.

So there are five things I learnt from my parents. And I haven't even touched on natural history, photography, churches, history, nudism, local government (my father was a councillor) and how to be a grumpy old sod — although I've tried to throw away this last.

What did you learn?

25 July 2011

Word of the Week


A parchment or other writing-material written upon twice, the original writing having been erased or rubbed out to make place for the second; a manuscript in which a later writing is written over an effaced earlier writing.

23 July 2011

Rye Reprise

It feels like time for another piece of poetry about Rye, again by Patric Dickinson.

William Henry Borrow, Rye from the Marshes

Van Dyck drew it from the South
From the river, seeing a plateau,
The great church riding eastward
In its tideless ocean of faith.

From the East, coming over the marsh
Or from the golf-club it’s a pyramid
With the church tower at the top.
A black silhouette in the twilight.

Turner halfway from Winchelsea,
From the West, romantically stationed
Upon some dangerous sea-stropped
Causeway of his imagination.

Drew Camber Castle floated away
Almost hull-down to the east
And Rye in a spotlight, half Italian,
And half as it were a volcano.

With smoke and fire belching
From the church, it is always the church
That crowns the unique town.

From the North you come down hill
From the mainland then climb again,
Up this rocky hillock like a moraine heap:
Rye is an island, St Mary’s Mount.

Is also a castle, should have a drawbridge,
There are aeons of life in this pyramid,
Fire in this volcano,–
Is also like a beautifully jewelled broach
Worn at South England’s throat,
As land gives way to channel:
The Tillingham mates with the Brede
And both mix in the Rother
The sweet and the salt waters,
Below Watchbell Street and under
The eyes of the Ypres Tower,
Last dry land or first island,
A place between past and future,
A historic present to speak of
In a language of salty silence
That is sweet on every tongue.

22 July 2011

[29/52] Hebe

[29/52] Hebe by kcm76[29/52] Hebe, a photo by kcm76 on Flickr.

Week 29 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

As so often, flowers again this week. This hebe is growing in our front hedge. It's a fairly dull shrub and I always forget how pretty the flowers are.

21 July 2011

Quotes of the Week

This week, a few words of wisdom from some Americans ...

Any social organization does well enough if it isn't rigid. The framework doesn't matter as long as there is enough looseness to permit that one man in a multitude to display his genius. Most so-called social scientists seem to think that organization is everything. It is almost nothing — except when it is a straitjacket. It is the incidence of heroes that counts, not the pattern of zeros.
[Robert A Heinlein, Glory Road]

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.
[Thomas Jefferson]

Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs. This is the principle behind lotteries, dating, and religion.
[Scott Adams]

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
[Thomas Edison]

I have always believed that I was slightly saner than most people. Then again, most insane people think this.
[Truman Capote]

19 July 2011

Quote : Belief

The more people who believe something, the more apt it is to be wrong. The person who's right often has to stand alone.

[Soren Kierkegaard]

Shoe Shine

I had a minor-ly interesting experience last Thursday. I had to go into central London for a meeting and chose to travel on the Chiltern Line from Harrow on the Hill to Marylebone. Being early we stopped for a coffee. It was then that I noticed, in a corner of the station something I've not seen for many a long year: a shoe shine. So of course I had to do something I've only ever done once or twice before when quite young and have my shoes shined.

Well they did need it!

Apart from the fact he was there, what interested me were two things.

First he wasn't the old-style shoe shine with a wooden box, a mat and a stool. He had a sort of booth affair which meant the young man had a better working environment as he could sit in relative comfort while I perched on a high seat as well. It felt a bit unsafe as the super-sized me was perched some way off the ground on what felt like quite a small bolster. But with feet on the foot-rests it was actually fine and a fine view as well.

The other interesting thing was that he had three grades of service: basic at about £2.50, a better one at about £4.50 and the luxury job at £5.99. I went for the luxury job, as I felt my shoes needed the extra nourishment and they got several rounds of polish and buff. The job took about 5 or 6 minutes — nice time for Noreen to finish her coffee.

I remember the old shoe shines in London in the 1950s. Indeed I remember my father telling me about them and taking me to experience having my shoes shined, I think by an old boy on Liverpool Street Station, when I was probably about 8 or 10. By the time I remember shoe shines they were mostly old men (often war veterans). They were all real old characters, often dispensing worldly wisdom, racing tips or Stock Market predictions. But they were a dying breed as there weren't many boys learning the trade and even fewer people prepared to pay for their services. Essentially they had died out by the 1970s to be replaced by inferior mechanical brushing machines in hotels and offices.

But they're making a come-back albeit often with upmarket stands/booths. I first noticed one a few years back in Heathrow Terminal 1 and they now seem to be creeping back into central London — there are certainly shoe shines in Leadenhall Market and Burlington Arcade — although I can't see them becoming as ubiquitous on street corners as they obviously were before the war.

I don't recall the cost of a shoe shine in the fifties (one shilling comes to mind, but I'm sure someone will be along to correct me), nor if they had several differently-priced offerings, but the cost of the modern version seemed eminently reasonable.

Cartoon of the Week

You will need to click the image to read a larger version of this week's cartoon ...

18 July 2011

Word of the Week

1. A freedman; one freed from slavery. [Roman]
2a. The name given to certain "free-thinking" sects (of France and elsewhere on the continent) of the sixteenth century.
2b. One who holds free or loose opinions about religion; a free-thinker.
2c. One who follows his own inclinations or goes his own way; one who is not restricted or confined.
3. A man who is not restrained by moral law, especially in his relations with the female sex; one who leads a dissolute, licentious life.

The word 'libertine' was first applied in the 1550s to a sect of Protestants in northern Europe who, with unimpeachable logic, reasoned that since God had ordained all things, nothing could be sinful. They proceeded to act accordingly. Their views were regarded with horror by both Catholics on one side and Calvinists on the other.
[AC Grayling, The Form of Things]

17 July 2011

Listography - Gigs

For Kate's Listography this week we're asked to nominate the top five bands we'd like to see live. I've never been a great one for going to gigs and seeing bands live partly because they've often seemed unreasonably expensive and partly because you can often get a better sound from a studio recording without being deafened -- but then I grew up with the excessively loud rock bands of the 60s/70s. Nevertheless there are a few bands I wouldn't mind seeing live. Those of you who know me at all can probably guess a lot of the list ...

Well we'll start with three all-time favourites Pink Floyd, closely followed by Yes and Caravan. What more is there to say about any of them?

At #4 I'd probably but The Beatles. It would have to be late Beatles, as of the era of Abbey Road and Let It Be, by when they'd stopped performing live and the cracks were beginning to show.

All of those four create such magical music (at least it is for me). How I've never been to see especially Pink Floyd I just don't know.

Creeping in at #5 would I think be the Barron Knights. Originally formed in 1959 they're a set of guys who performed for the hell of it (as I recall they all had regular jobs) and did those brilliant Christmas-time parodies of other bands. And they were still performing live until relatively recently.

And the Barron Knights win by the shortest of short heads from Who, Rolling Stones, Queen, Dire Straits, Moody Blues, not necessarily in that order.

16 July 2011


Why do I matter? If I matter at all it's because I'm an intellectual. And society needs intellectuals, pace this short essay in AC Grayling's collection The Form of Things ...
The role of the intellectual

Ideas are the motors of history. They take many forms and have many sources, and often assume a life of their own, and prove to be bigger than the epochs they influence. As such they are matters of vital concern; and therefore it is necessary that they be examined and debated, clarified and criticised, adopted when good and defeated when bad. The job of doing these things belongs to all of us, but in practice it falls to those with a particular interest in, and sometimes aptitude for, the task. Such are the 'intellectuals'.

Intellectuals are people who are not just interested in ideas, but who actively engage with them. They set themselves the task — some of them see it as a duty, given the opportunities they have had for acquiring the relevant interests and skills — to analyse, to ask questions, to clarify, to seek fresh perspectives, to suggest, to criticise, to challenge, to complain, to examine and propose, to debate, to educate, to comment, to suggest and, where possible, to discover. They see it as part of their remit to contribute to the conversation society has with itself about matters moral, political, educational and cultural, and to remind society of the lessons history taught it, and of the promises it has made for its future. And thereby the intellectual comes sometimes to be — as Socrates elected himself to be — a gadfly on the body politic, stinging it into alertness of mind.

The risk run by intellectuals is to seem pretentious, fatuous, pompous, self-congratulatory and given to polysyllabic mouthings of banality and cliché. And too often they actually are so — often enough to have a bad name in the Anglo-Saxon world, where blunt common sense is valued above Gauloise-wreathed nuances of gossip about concepts.

But the advantage to society of energetic intellectual activity is that it offers society self-awareness, wakefulness and clarity, inspiration and new ideas, and intelligence in debate and action. A sluggard community which never asks questions or inspects the world around it with a bright eye, and which never tries out different ways of understanding its circumstances, is sure first to stagnate, and then to slip backwards.

Thus do intellectuals perform a service: by keeping the hope of progress alive, and by never ceasing to argue about its nature and direction.
And for me being a working thinker goes hand-in-hand with being a catalyst and with my role as Hon. Secretary of the Anthony Powell Society.

14 July 2011

Quotes of the Week

Somehow I'm not writing this week, probably because I've spent a lot of time with my head in family history research. But here is this weeks strange set of bedfellows.

First I've been reading a 1923 book about my home town and discovered that even Cromwell's officials in 1650 could write estate agent-ese ...

The Presence Chamber. One very large, spacious delightful Room called the Kinge's Presence Chamber, being wainscotted round with carved wainscott of good oak, coullered of a liver color, and richly guilded with gold, with antique pictures over the same ; the ceiling full of guilded pendants hanging down, setting forth the roome with great splendour [...] Also a very fair, large chimny piece of black and white marble, with four pilasters of the same stone [...]
[Government Survey of Theobalds Palace, 1650 quoted in Percy Charles Archer, Historic Cheshunt]

This really is what it's thought Theobalds Palace looked like!

And from the same volume this delight ...

For, if those enemies to all good endeavours, Danger, Difficulty, Impossibility, Detraction, Contempt, Scorne, Derision, yea, and Desperate Despight, could have prevailed by their accursed and malevolent interposition either before, at the beginning, in the very birth of proceeding, or in the least stolne advantage of the whole prosecution; this Worke of so great worth had never bin accomplished.
[John Stow, Survey of London, quoted in Percy Charles Archer, Historic Cheshunt]

And now for some things much more of our time ...

Face to face advice on the internet.
[BBC TV London News, 11/07/2011]

Be especially sure to wipe your children down. Children are just about the grimiest thing in the world.
[Rob Dunn at Scientific American Blogs]

Boris Johnson knows even less about geology than he does about geography. Undercutting Ealing with a tunnel means my constituents, and his electoral voters, will fall into the ground. London's transport system is built on clay, it would cost more money to tunnel through that than if we replaced HS2 with sedan chairs and walked people to Birmingham.
[Ealing North MP, Steve Pound, on Mayor Boris Johnson's idea of tunnelling HS2 rail under outer London]

12 July 2011

11 July 2011

Word of the Week

Crushed, broken or refuse glass with which the crucibles are replenished.

According to the OED the name is formed as an extension of "Collet. The neck or portion of glass left on the end of the blowing-iron after the removal of the finished article" to include all refuse and broken glass melted over again to make inferior glass.

[28/52] Roadside Rosebud

[28/52] Roadside Rosebud by kcm76
[28/52] Roadside Rosebud, a photo by kcm76 on Flickr.

Week 28 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

A rather nice pink rose growing over a garden wall in Pinner.

10 July 2011

Listography - Ice Cream

It's summer! Well at least that's the theory. And in acknowledgement of summer this week's listography is to pick out top five favourite ice creams (or ice lollies). Hmmm. I'm not a great ice cream eater, however ...

Magnum Ecuador Dark. I like Magnums, all of them. But this dark chocolate is especially good.

Real Strawberry Ice Cream. It has to be real strawberry, with chunks of fruit in it, as made by a number of the small local firms and often available at the seaside.

Rowntree's Fruit Pastille Lollies. Definitely the best of the ice lollies currently available.

Double Ripple Ice Cream. This is one I remember from my childhood in the '60s, which probably isn't available now. Made by Wall's and available only as a brick, it was normal vanilla ice cream with a ripple of two red flavourings: one was obviously raspberry, but I don't remember if the other was strawberry or cherry. And I don't think it was available for very long; maybe only one summer as a trial.

Top Quality Chocolate Ice Cream. It really has to be good quality chocolate and quality ice cream; I especially like Beechdean Double Chocolate as sold by Waitrose.

Ten Things - July

Number 7 in my monthly series of "Ten Things" for 2011. Each month I list one thing from each of ten categories which will remain the same for each month of 2011. So at the end of the year you have ten lists of twelve things about me.
  1. Something I Like: Beer
  2. Something I Won't Do: Parachute
  3. Something I Want To Do: Visit Scilly Isles
  4. A Blog I Like: Not Exactly Rocket Science
  5. A Book I Like: Diary of Samuel Pepys
  6. Some Music I Like: Amanda Palmer, Map of Tasmania
  7. A Food I Like: Cheese
  8. A Food or Drink I Dislike: Tapioca
  9. A Word I Like: Numpty
  10. A Quote I Like: It will pass, sir, like other days in the army. [Anthony Powell]

09 July 2011


I got asked a really interesting question on Facebook earlier: I wonder whether every cats' paw print is unique?

Well is it? Naively one might think that every animal would have unique wrinkles to their skin, but ... do they?

It appears that no-one really knows for certain. But grubbing around with Google I have discovered:

The nose print of a dog is as unique as a fingerprint, and your dog can be positively identified the same way. Reference.

It is known that gorillas and other primates do have fingerprints, of special interest however, is that our closest relative, the chimpanzee does not. Koala bears also have fingerprints. Individual fingerprints appear to be restricted to humans and gorillas. Reference.

US scientists and criminal justice investigators have developed a technique designed to more accurately track and conduct a census of some animals. The research focuses on the fisher, a member of the weasel family and the only carnivore known to develop fingerprints. Reference.

The only reference I can find to cats' pawprints is this, which sounds like a school project.

But then are human fingerprints actually unique?

It is often assumed, but has never really been proven, that fingerprints are unique, in humans or other animals. The history of this apparently involves an assertion (early in the 20th century, as I recall) that they were unique, this assertion was accepted by a court, and they've been pretty much never really been analyzed thoroughly beyond that. (It's not clear to me how you'd go about proving it anyway, since the pattern of fingerprints for any individual is a function of his environment during gestation (yes, identical twins do have different fingerprints..). So the best you could hope to do is to prove the odds of an interference are vanishingly small. Reference.

Which is worryingly true. Human fingerprints have never been subjected to scientific and forensic scrutiny in the way that DNA profiling has been. This article in The Register summarises a New Scientist report (hidden behind a paywall) of an official report. Conclusion: fingerprints have never been scientifically scrutinised properly.

As for cats ... Well in their usual inscrutable way, only they know!

Oh and here's today's piece of gratuitous pornography. :-)

Priceless Records

Grubbing around in family history again this afternoon, I've happened upon a couple of absolutely priceless extracts of London parish registers on Ancestry.co.uk.
01 Dec, 4 Elizabeth [1537] — True Bill that, from the said day even until now, John Hardy [... and 34 named others ...] have without reasonable excuse neglected to provide themselves with bows and arrows, and neglected to practice archery, in contempt of the statute in this matter provided.
And quite right too. The English archer remained a potent weapon for probably another 50 years by which time the arquebus/musket was taking over as the weapon of choice. So it remained important that all healthy Englishmen were at least competent archers to defend the realm.
Tuesday after the Feast of St Martin ao 10 Edward III [1322], information given to the aforesaid Coroner and Sheriffs that Simon Chaucer lay dead of a death other than his rightful death in the rent of Richard Chaucer, his brother, in the parish of St Mary at Aldermarichirche in the Ward of Cordewanerstrete. Thereupon they proceeded thither, and having summoned good men of that Ward and of the three nearest Wards, viz.: Queenhithe, Brede Strete and Walbroke, they diligently enquired how it happened. The jurors — viz.: William de Chelrythe [... and 25 named others ...] — say that on Monday before the Feast of St Luke last passed, the above Simon Chaucer and Robert de Uptone, skinner, were quarrelling after dinner in the High Street opposite the shop of the said Robert in the parish aforesaid, when the said Simon wounded the said Robert on the upper lip; that John, son of the said Robert perceiving this, took up an instrument called "Dorbarre" and therewith struck the said Simon on the hand, side and head and forthwith took refuge in the church of St Mary de Aldermarichirche, whence he secretly made his escape on the following night. Chattels none. They further say that the said Simon lingered until the Tuesday aforesaid when he died at sunrise; that the said Robert was captured, before the holding of the inquest, on suspicion and taken to the house of John de Northhalle, the Sheriff [...]
Don't you just love lay dead of a death other than his rightful death? What more picturesque circumlocution could there be?

[27/52] Cat's Paw

[27/52] Cat's Paw by kcm76
[27/52] Cat's Paw, a photo by kcm76 on Flickr.

Week 27 entry for 52 weeks challenge.

Harry the Cat's from paw, taken while he was sleeping on my desk in the warmth of the desklamp. Despite being around 13 and an outdoor cat he's still got sparkly white fur and nice soft pink paddy paws, although note the slight grubbiness from a little light gardening duty.

Sleep in the Raw

Yesterday I found a potentially useful little site called sleep.com. And yes, it is all about sleep. Being a confirmed nudist what caught my eye was a short item entitled Benefits of Sleeping Naked. Ah-ha! At last we aren't the only ones to appreciate a lack of nightwear:

Sleeping naked can increase feel-good hormones in the brain, strengthen emotional ties and heighten both desire and intimacy between you and your partner.
You don't have to have a partner to enjoy the benefits of sleeping naked, however. Research shows that sleeping naked:
— Allows the body to relax and rest more peacefully, which can in turn, increase your energy and daytime alertness levels.
— Improves self-confidence.

Yes, indeed. Apart from the occasional sojourn in hospital, I've eschewed night attire entirely since I was a student. Yes, that's right, not even a pair of boxers. I was brought up to wear pyjamas and frankly they were often necessary in an unheated house in the 1950s, although my parents often slept in the nude. But as soon as I left home and had a room of my own (rather than a shared room or lodgings) I threw off my pyjamas, never to look back — it felt better and was a lot more comfortable.

For us sharing a bed and sleeping nude is all part of a good, healthy relationship. As the article says:

Skin contact creates more than just useful hormones — it creates a bond! Increase the sense of bond between you and your partner and feel closer together than ever before. Remember, increased closeness encourages greater sex.

What better excuse could you want?!

08 July 2011

Wax on, Wax off

Thank gawd someone else agrees with me!

07 July 2011

Quotes of the Week

A rather temporal theme this week ...

What is time? If no one asks me, I know. If I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.
[St Augustine, Confessions]

Time is Nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once.
[John Archibald Wheeler]

The universe is a simple place. True, it contains complicated things like galaxies and sea otters and federal governments, but if we average out the local idiosyncrasies, on very large scales the universe looks pretty much the same everywhere.
[Sean Carroll, From Eternity to Here: the Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time]

Apart from Earl Alan, the Lord of the Manor, there is no record of local names. As to the women, who one must assume formed the usual percentage of the community, not one word!
[Percy Charles Archer, Historic Cheshunt commenting on the Domesday Book entry for Cheshunt]

I just love the preambulatory greetings in old documents, which are maintained even to this day in royal letters patent.

To all Christ's faithful people unto whom this present shall come, Peter, by the grace of God, Abbot of the Church of St Peter of Fulgeres and of the Convent in that same place, greeting in the Lord!
[Percy Charles Archer, Historic Cheshunt translating a 12th century document]

Conan, Duke of Brittany, Earl of Richmond, to all the sons of the Church of the Holy Mother, and its steward and chamberlain, and to all its servants, and to all its men, French and English, and to all Britons, and all its well-wishers, greeting!
[Percy Charles Archer, Historic Cheshunt translating a 12th century document]

The constant recurrence of old familiar names in the ancient Parish registers seems to show that some of them have long taken root in the place. "Lowin" and "Adams" and "Archer" and "Cock" and "Tarry" and "Dighton", and a good many more household names, are plentiful as blackberries in the old Registers.
[Percy Charles Archer, Historic Cheshunt quoting comments on parish registers by Revd Arthur Brown]

05 July 2011

Listography: What I want to do this Summer

Keith at Reluctant Housedad is running Listography again this week while Kate Takes 5 has a break and we've been asked to say five things I want to do this summer.

Hmmm ... well .. I thought summer was over. Wimbledon has finished, the first blackberries have been picked and it's raining. Sounds like the end of summer to me. :-)

But in the spirit of beating my brans out ('cos I actually found this hard!) here is my rather pathetic list ...

Run a Successful Conference. For the Anthony Powell Society; at the beginning of September. Yep, I'm organising it (again — that only five of the last six!). It certainly promises to be good, but you never know until you get there if some joker or other is going to be put into play. So let's hope all the speakers turn up; the venue works OK and the events all run smoothly.

Kill off my Depression. I've had depression for far far too long. It's high time it b*ggered off for good. It's certainly better than it was; I've halved my dose of anti-depressants this Spring and the hypnotherapy seems to be doing some good. Now for the remainder, please!

While we're at it can I also Get Rid of my Hayfever once and for all. It had really p'ed me off more than usual this Summer as I've been having really itchy, watering eyes despite my usual anti-histamines. After 50-odd years enough is enough. Thank you!

Visit Kew Gardens at least once on a nice day. Kew is one of my favourite places, but despite living only a few miles away we get there all too seldom. At least one visit is a must this summer.

Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, home of the late Derek Jarman.
© Copyright Dr Keith C Marshall, 2010.

Finally we need a Holiday. But it ain't going to happen until after the conference in September. Does that still count? We're going off to wallow in decent B&B in New Romney, Kent. The Romney Marsh area is another of my favourite places: wide open spaces; Dungeness; seaside; medieval churches; RH&D Railway. And I have ancestors from New Romney and around the edges of the Romney Marsh, so we'll be doing some family history while we're there too. Mix and match depending on the weather, but get away and get some good sea air — and even better if it is warm and sunny.

Will that do?

Cartoon of the Week

04 July 2011

Word of the Week

1. Having the form of a wedge, wedge-shaped.
2. Applied to the characters of the ancient inscriptions of Persia, Assyria, etc., composed of wedge-shaped or arrow-headed elements; and hence to the inscriptions or records themselves.

Probably hence also "cunt".


About a week ago David Marsh wrote a brilliant article in the Guardian about the peculiar torture of Railspeak, that surpassingly odd distortion of English perpetrated by train companies:

Railspeak is a language with a unique syntax and vocabulary — characterised by, for example, the mandatory use of auxiliary verbs ("we do apologise"), the random deployment of redundant adjectives ("station stop", "personal belongings") and the selection of inappropriate prepositions ("journey time into London Paddington is approximately 25 minutes").

Trains never leave, but "depart", never reach their destination, but "terminate", and are frequently delayed by mysterious "incidents". Rail catering, meanwhile, has been transformed from a music hall joke (British Rail sandwiches) to a surreal world of its own, offering among other treats "teas, coffees, hot chocolates [sic] ..." (Has anyone tested this by asking how many varieties of hot chocolate are, in fact, available? To enjoy, perhaps, while reading the safety information leaflet in braille?)
Meanwhile, someone should tell the announcer at Waterloo station that the ever-lengthening list of things we can't do — smoke, run, cycle, skateboard, find a rubbish bin, find a seat — does not, so far, extend to playing boules or yodelling. Is this an oversight?

Customers requiring enhumoration into their Monday will find the article in the vestibule at the end of the post. Here.

More Auction Oddities

More mysterious lots, often containing odd assortments of objects, from our local auction house.
A wooden Hemley’s mah-jong set with bone pieces, and another modern mah-jong set.

A pair of reproduction plated napkin rings with cherub supports and a quantity of plated cutlery.

A good pair of late Victorian plated candlesticks in Adam style, with square tapering stems, with nozzles.
My heart sinks as soon as I read the first few words of the next lot ...
An extensive interesting lot on four shelves including brass and copper ware, horse brasses, door furniture, kettles, taps, ornaments, trays, candlesticks, lamps, etc., buttons, clocks, weights, pewter ware, decanters, ceramic hot water bottles, mineral samples, playing cards, painted eggs, plate racks, reference books, etc.

An attractive French mandolin with paper label of JTL Jerome Thibouville-Lamy, Paris, inlaid with flowering stems in mother of pearl in leather case with sheet music.
Yes, but does it slice cucumber?
A German bisque piano baby, seated naked, another with small dog, and a large Sylvac comic dog with toothache.

A taxidermy specimen of a Barn owl in glazed case, early 20th century.

A taxidermy specimen of a curlew in a glass case, early 20th century.
I note they've stopped referring to "a stuffed booby". "A taxidermy specimen" has a much less interesting ring to it.
A wonderful Saint Laurent Rive Gauche python skin lady’s suit with suede trim, bomber style jacket, straight skirt.

An old white painted water tank, a terracotta chimney pot, an old cut stone mill wheel, a pair of classical patinated urns, and three other troughs and three pigeons.
I hope they've been feeding the pigeons!
A large quantity of garden gnomes, squirrel, hedgehog, tortoise, etc.

A good collection of patinated garden ornaments including semi-clad ladies, figure of Pan, reclining dog, lions, pineapples, and a trough.

A large patinated terracotta pot containing a good example of a twisted Ficus plant, currently in healthy condition.

A WWII tin hat, gas mask, four old earthenware bed warmers and a soda syphon.

A 19th century elm and yew Windsor armchair with pierced and stick back and crinoline stretcher and a milking stool.
Presumably the milking stool folds away under the armchair when not in use, but carrying an armchair into the fields for milking must have been a real chore.

01 July 2011

More Silliness

On Sunday morning I shall be travelling through central London by car, so I looked to see what major roadworks/closures there are lined up only to find that at the Blackfriars Bridge/Queen Victoria Street interchange
TfL contractors will be working at the junction to put poles into barrels.
Presumably this is so the foreigners can be pickled and repatriated.

I had to laugh ...

Waitrose's latest venture, for which they have a new magazine, appears to be dating and sex advice ...

... at least I'm sure that's what most people would believe from the magazine title!

[26/52] Healthy Lunch

[26/52] Healthy Lunch by kcm76
[26/52] Healthy Lunch, a photo by kcm76 on Flickr.

Week 26 entry for 52 weeks challenge. Yay, we've reached the halfway point.

Components of a healthy lunch lurking in this morning's shopping. Good grief, when did I ever eat a healthy lunch?