30 November 2012

Catching Up ...

Blimey it's busy round here! Even when you aren't trying to get rid of a really dirty cold. At last this morning I have a chance to try to catch up a bit as I've been excused supermarket duty, so here is your occasional catch-up on links to items you may have missed. In the order I have them noted ...

Does chocolate make you clever? Probably not but countries with a high per capita chocolate consumption also have more Nobel Prize winners.

Rules are there for a reason, allegedly. There aren't for us to pick and mix the ones we like. A short excursion into why this is.

The received wisdom is that children are natural scientists. But apparently they aren't, though they are inquisitive — and there's a difference.

Apparently city birds are adapting to an unusual predator: cats. Yep, over generations the birds are modifying their behaviour towards what is for them a relatively novel enemy.

So who do you trust to tell you the truth? Nobody much it seems.

Mary Rose won't die! Now scientists are identifying the shipwreck's elite archers by the fact that their skeleton show signs of RSI.

Who killed Tycho Brahe, the 16th century Danish astronomer? Jennifer Ouellette investigates and discovers that the answer is: nobody.

Please tell me it is 1st April! Apparently San Francisco are trying to ban the obese from wearing clothes. They reckon it's going to shame them into thinning. I think (hope) it might backfire.

According to the sources who know (ie. the Daily Mail) the Pope is stealing our traditional Christmas. Why should we care?

Earlier in the week the Police shut part of Whitehall because an idiot climbed a statue and then stripped. As usual the reaction is completely OTT. While I don't condone the damage to the statue but public nudity is not per se an offence. I suspect that if the police had ignored the whole thing the guy would have got bored and gone away within 5 minutes, instead of which they make a huge drama out of it.

Can you identify corporate logos? Probably. Can you identify tree leaves? Probably not. A nice diagram from Evopropinquitous as an antidote to this state of affairs.

Diamond Geezer goes in search of the birth of our favourite supermarkets. Did you know Waitrose was founded by Messrs Waite, Rose and Taylor and their first store was in Acton? Or that Liptons (remember them?) started in Glasgow? No neither did I.

Here's an important post on a rare but important sleep disorder. But because it can be very like some other sleep disorders it may not be so rare.

How do you lose an island?

The Geese Book, a delightful medieval manuscript is now available online. Here's a report and here's a link to the actual book.

And finally here's one for all you geek girls out there. Hack your vibrator so it listens to your body. This is how Beth did it. And Emily is in awe!

Have fun!

25 November 2012

Let Them Dance

Christmas is coming, and it's time to have some fun with the TV schedules.

This evening we made the mistake of catching a bit of Strictly Come Dancing, the appallingly horrible BBC TV show. Oh dear, even with the sound off it was verging on the vomit-worthy.

But we thought what a wonderful line-up the BBC could put together for a Strictly Christmas Extravaganza.

As it would be a one-off special we decided it should be just 8 couples; so 8 "slebs", four of nominally each gender. We decided that for a real laugh they should be:

Ester Rantzen
Vanessa Feltz
Harriet Harman
Camila Batmanghelidjh
Robbie Coltraine
Graham Norton
David Beckham
Tony Blair

So who would you choose to make right prats of themselves?

Reasons to be Grateful: 54

Well the week started off OK but it has ended crappily as I awoke on Friday morning with a filthy head-cold. Friday was a struggle, Saturday was a no-go area and today I'm feeling about back to where I was on Friday; so hopefully I'll be a lot better tomorrow after a decent night's sleep.

So anyway, this is week 54 (so we should finish the first weekend of the new year) of the experiment documenting five things which have made me happy of for which I'm grateful this week.
  1. Sausages. We've had two absolutely delicious sets of sausages this week. The first were Park and Black Pudding from Waitrose. The second are the stars, from our favourite butchers, Hiltons in Pinner: they make their own called Pinner Royal. These are award-winning sausages and maybe the best I've ever tasted. They're succulent, densely meaty and very tasty — partly as they contain some pimento and partly because Hiltons use good meat. Hiltons are good because they specialise in organic, free-range and humanely reared meat, so you get something that looks, feels and tastes like proper meat rather than a piece of soggy pink plastic.

  2. Sinex Nasal Spray. I dislike using nasal spray as I know they can wreck nasal membranes. But very occasionally it is necessary, as it was last night in order to be able to breathe and get a decent night's sleep.

  3. Wednesday's Sunset. We were coming back from Pinner at sunset on Wednesday, and the sunset was absolutely stunning. Lots of dark peachy-orangey cloud above a bright azure blue sky. I did photograph it, but they really don't do it justice; the blue just didn't come through.


  4. Osteopathy. Wednesday's trip to Pinner was partly for hypnotherapy and osteopathy. On Tuesday I managed to hurt my right wrist (no, not like that!). I've done it before and it was hugely painful for a long time, so I knew I needed to get Chris to treat it ASAP. It seems that, as before, I had misaligned one of the small wrist bones — quite commonly done, apparently, pushing open doors. Chris gave it a waggley-twist and wrench. As he was doing the waggley-twist there was this grindy-grindy noise and feeling, followed by a snap putting it back. Now I know some people don't like this and can't stand cracking knuckles. But I don't mind; indeed I quite like that connection with what my body's doing.

  5. Nice People. Noreen and I have spent two mornings this week at our doctor's (guess where the head-cold came from?) talking to patients in the hope of getting some interested in joining the Patient Participation Group. I've been pleasantly surprised by how nice people are. Very very few have said a flat "no, don't want to know" and the vast majority have at least taken a flyer away and said I'll read it and consider. What pleased me even more is that many of those most interested are the under-30s, both male and female, and of all ethnic backgrounds; also a good few young mums. We've met some interesting people and a few pretty girls; not many pretty boys though.

24 November 2012

The Strangeness of Days

The more I think about it, the more puzzling time becomes. Not just from a scientific point of view — and who knows that's bad enough! — but from an experiential view.

There are two things which especially puzzle me; confuse me, even; despite that I think we all experience them.

The first is the way in which time is not linear.

OK, we know that time works only in one direction: it marches inexorably forward. As far as we know there is no way in which time can run in reverse; physicists tell us this doesn't accord with the laws of nature they know about, hence our continuing quest for time machines.

But we all know from experience that time is not linear. There are days when one gets up and follows one's normal routine — some combination of coffee, shower, shave, hair-do, feed the cat etc. — only to fine one is 15 minutes late leaving for work/school. The next day you'll do exactly the same and be ready 15 minutes early. Some days the afternoon disappears without you realising; other days it drags and you seem to be checking the clock every few minutes wondering how many hours have passed.

Scientists tell us this is impossible; that time is perfectly linear. Yet we all experience it. And no-one so far can explain it satisfactorily.

The second puzzle, which may be related to the first, is the nature of days. Again no-one to my knowledge has ever satisfactorily explained this.

How is it that on Thursday, I was convinced it was Friday? Yesterday (Friday) morning I thought it was Saturday. And by yesterday evening I thought it was Thursday again. Worse, yesterday evening (what time I was existing in Thursday) Noreen was convinced it was Saturday. And today? Well I have no clue; my head is just too full of cold germs to be sure of anything beyond it's dark, it's raining and I'd rather be huddling under the duvet.

Now I can understand how it may be possible to explain the way in which time passes faster as one grows older. The theory is that as one ages there is less new to take in; the brain measures time in notable experiences; hence as there are fewer, time seems to pass faster.

But that doesn't explain the non-linearity of time at either the level of minutes and hours or at the level of days. I've been pondering this for years, and still have no idea what's going on here. Is it just that all our brains are faulty, or is there some underlying system of local time-warps? Has anyone got any clues?

23 November 2012

It's a Cat's World

Just for pre-weekend amusement.

I've seen similar diagrams before, but this one amused ...

Word: Haruspication


A form of divination from lightning and other natural phenomena, but especially from inspection of the entrails of animal sacrifices

An Etruscan model of a sheep's liver used for divination

22 November 2012


Crumbs it's a busy week again, which is why there's been no blogging. Hopefully I might catch up a bit over the weekend, because next week looks like being busy too.

Meanwhile earlier in the week I came across the best advice I've seen in a long time about recovering from mistakes written by Matt Shipman over at SciLogs. It is very simple, though not always easy. It goes like this ...
Assuming you are a human, you are going to make mistakes. But [for many of us] those mistakes can be public. And embarrassing. So how do you recover gracefully, or at least with as little damage as possible to your reputation?

Here’s the short answer: admit your mistake as early as possible; never make excuses; and do not make the same mistake again.
The rest of the article is worth a read too.

We're human. We make mistakes. That's what we do here; it's called "life"!

So yes, three golden rules:
  1. Admit you made a mistake — and that includes saying "Sorry!"
  2. Never make an excuse — they cut no ice; it was a genuine error and these things happen.
  3. Log the mistake in your brain so you can guard against it next time.
We all make the best decisions we can, at the time, with the information we have available. That information includes the state of your aberrant brain. Unless we're mental, we none of us deliberately make mistakes. So yes, we are going to get things wrong sometimes.

When I was at work I expected to make errors, but I knew I could hold my hands up to them and often correct them. I also expected to get a bollocking for it occasionally. And I was fine with my guys as long as they admitted they got things wrong. There's only a problem when someone keeps making errors — usually the same silly errors — and not learning from them.

Keep calm, admit you got it wrong, and learn from it.

19 November 2012

Word: Wallah

Wallah or Walla

From the Hindi/Urdu suffix -wālā, which has the sense of 'pertaining to or connected with' that preceding, which may be compared with the English suffix -er (as in, for example, baker, walker). Thanks to the Raj, in English it has progressed beyond its Indian roots and has come to mean:
  1. One employed in a particular occupation or activity (eg. kitchen wallah; rickshaw wallah).
  2. An important person in a particular field or organization.
  3. One carrying out a routine administrative job; a civil servant, a bureaucrat.
Thus it is also a component of Indian names, eg. Unwalla (originally a wool worker or merchant).

Other examples of Anglo-Indian usage include:
  • banghy-wallah, a porter who carries loads with a banghy or shoulder-yoke
  • dhobi-wallah, a laundry worker (photo right)
  • punkah-wallah, a servant who works a fan
  • Dillī-wālā, inhabitant of Delhi.

18 November 2012


Another toffee-bag of recently encountered quotes. This selection seems to be mostly from the cynical and philosophical jars.

Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.
[Oliver Wendell Holmes]

My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what’s really going on to be scared.
[PJ Plauger]

Reality is something you rise above.
[Liza Minnelli]

War is organised murder, and nothing else.
[Harry Patch; last surviving soldier of WWI]

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.

Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.
[George Santayana]

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
[Herbert Spencer]

Finally a gob-stopper from the jar of amusements ...

Judge: There's a certain light connotation attached to the word panties. Can we find another name for them?
Prosecution: I never heard my wife call them anything else.
Judge: Mr. Biegler?
Biegler: I'm a bachelor, your Honor.
Judge: That's a great help. Mr. Dancer?
Dancer: I was overseas during the war, your Honor. I learned a French word. I'm afraid it might be slightly suggestive.
Judge: Most French words are.

[Wendell Holmes, Anatomy of a Murder; with thanks to Barnaby Page]

Reasons to be Grateful: 53

Week 53 and we get to the hardest part of the experiment: not just keeping focus and motivation for the last few weeks but also surviving winter. The greyness has really caught up with me in the last 2-3 weeks. Anyway here is this week's pick of five things which have made me happy of for which I'm grateful this week.

  1. Golden Leaves. Yes we still have lots of rich golden leaves on the trees — although fewer today after a very cold night — and they've looked just glorious in the winter ...
    Golden Leaves
  2. Sunshine. Yes, sorry I have to repeat myself, especially at this time of year, as I really do appreciate every drop of sunshine we get. Not only do I suffer from SAD but I hate dull, grey, damp days. I'd much rather have bright, cold alpine weather.

  3. Nice Scrabble Words. Scrabble, even played against oneself during sleepless nights, is pretty good at keeping the mind active. And being competitive I always want to beat my own best score. I enjoy being able to play unusual, fun or interesting words too. Like GNEISS or DJINN. Neither scored outrageously high but when I played DJINN a few days ago it resulted in a series of four very high scoring moves.

  4. Wine Deliveries. The wine rack is overflowing. Because we thsi week we had three wine deliveris. What do you mean "Why?"? Because (a) the wine rack was almost empty, (b) it's approaching Christmas and (c) because it's time for ...

  5. Beaujolais Nouveau. No I'm not someone who is sniffy about Beaujoias Nouveau. Partly because we've found Nick Dobson Wines who ship wine from a couple of very small producers who create good wines, even in challenging years like this one.

    Vincent Lacondemine, Beaujolais Villages Nouveau. Light, bright, cool, refreshing berry fruits; ruby red, obviously young but oh so drinkable. If anything it's even smoother than last year's despite the awful summer. How did I manage to stop at just one bottle? If that's what the nouveau is like the vintage should be excellent!

    Phillipe Deschamps, Beaujolais Nouveau. Initially much smoother on the palate than the Lacondemine, but not as characterful, thinner with more low molecular weight esters (amyl acetate comes through). Very drinkable, but so far I prefer the Vincent Lacondemine.

    I drink this stuff because I actually like it. We don't all like to drink heavy, robust red wine all the time. And isn't all part of enjoying the year's rich cycle — along with the SAD.

More Things You May Have Missed ...

Another round in our series bringing you links to items you may have missed and which may amuse. In no special order ...

So common sense seems to be filtering into government circles with the announcement that there may (notice only may) be a way to vaccinate badgers against bovine TB rather than slaughtering them.

Just so you're no longer confused, here's an interesting article on the non-difference between "skeptic" and "sceptic".

Seems that a lot of those wonderful medieval stained-glass windows in Canterbury Cathedral are early 20th century fakes. My father — brought up in Canterbury — must be having apoplexy in his grave.

I've mentioned the Wellington Arch, at Hyde Park Corner, before (here and here). They currently have an exhibition about Egyptian architecture.

Apparently Australian Fairy-Wren chicks have to sing the right password to get fed by their parents. Even more amazingly the female bird teaches them their specific password before they hatch. Mums, what did you teach your child before birth?

Randall Munroe's brilliant web comic XKCD which often takes a wacky look at science and logic. This week he has produced a blueprint style explanation of the workings of a space rocket in very simple language even readers of The Sun can understand.

Victoria Moore in the Telegraph asks how discerning drinkers can (still) be drinking Beaujolais Nouveau. Well I'll tell her: we're not all wine snobs and some of us actually drink it because we enjoy it; we don't all like thick heavy red wines all the time.

Some while back we reported that archaeologists had found the remains of some old bras under the floor in a medieval Austrian schloss. The bras have now been dated to the late 15th century. Here's the low down (or should that be the "prominent points"?) on the investigations so far.

Finally, following on from last week's report of the investigations into the wildlife of the navel, Rob Dunn's team are making their whole dataset available online so that others can look to see what they can discover from it. So if you fancy some scientific data mining, and maybe getting your name on a discovery, hare's your chance. All are welcome.

More anon ...

15 November 2012

Word: Djinn

Djinn or jinn.

In Islamic mythology (including the Quran) an order of spirits lower than the angels which is said to have the power of appearing in human and animal forms and which can to exercise supernatural influence over men. Together, the djinn, humans and angels make up the three sentient creations of God.

In Islamic theology djinn are said to be creatures with free will, made from smokeless fire by Allah just as humans were made of clay etc. This free will allows them to do as they choose thus, like humans, the djinn can be good, evil or neutrally benevolent. They are usually invisible to humans, and humans do not appear clearly to them. They have the power to travel large distances at extreme speeds.

Commonly used as the singular to denote an individual spirit.

Like many words it seems to have it's origins in English in the latter part of the 17th century, I suppose reflecting the increasing importance of international trade and travel. Due to The Thousand and One Nights, and hence Aladdin and pantomime, they are now best known as genies residing in lamps and bottles.

14 November 2012

Are the Nazis Winning?

Well no clearly they're not in the strictest sense; they were almost obliterated in WWII. For which we should all be hugely grateful.

However over at Hardcore Zen, Brad Warner (Sōtō Zen priest, author, blogger, Godzilla enthusiast and punk rock bass guitarist) has an interesting take on Nazi Germany which I'd not previously thought about.
Nazi-ism is the antithesis of Buddhism in a lot of ways. One of the least obvious, though probably the most important is that Nazi-ism was completely goal oriented ... They wanted a better world, a world unified and at peace.

The Nazis set their sights on a goal. And they were willing to do all sorts of nasty things to make that goal happen. The goal was important. What needed to be done to achieve it was secondary. But goals are problematic. They never really turn out the way you imagine them.

Ironically many of the goals the Nazis were trying to accomplish have come to pass, though not in the ways they would have envisioned or liked. Europe is unified. There is a single currency throughout most of the continent. There is even a common language spoken by people all over Europe. That the language is English and not German, the currency is the Euro and not the Deutsche Mark and the union is presided over from Brussels rather than Berlin might have made them cringe. But many of their major goals have been achieved. That the Nazis themselves had to be destroyed in order that their goals could be achieved probably didn’t fit Hitler’s master plan. But that’s how goal-oriented practice works.
And he's right, give or take a few local difficulties and a varying value of "better". No real wonder then that large numbers in this country are very anti the European Union.

None of which, of course, justifies Hitler's ways and means. Ever!

Gallery: The Eighties

Bravery. That's what's called for, at least for many, to do Tara's Gallery this week. Because the theme is The Eighties. So there's megatons of opportunity for embarrassment.

Not from here though, as I don't have much by way of photos from the 80s — at least not scanned or readily to hand — and besides we've never been ones for taking loads of snapshots of each other. However I have found these ...

kcm76 and Parents, 1984

This first (from 1984) is me (centre left) with my parents at the private view of Jolly Hockey Sticks, an exhibition centred around girls school stories curated by Noreen at what is now the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

Note my already spreading waistline and the Young's brewery tie. I'm only surprised I don't obviously have a glass of wine: I would have needed it because this was time when we were paying 17½% interest on our mortgage (3% above base rate). But we survived and even paid the mortgage off several years early. Oh for the "good old days", formerly known as "these trying times"!


This is the little terraced house I was brought up in during the '50s and '60s. It's seen here in the estate agent's mugshot from when my parents sold it and moved to Norwich in 1988. Built around 1937 these were the late-30s equivalent of the Victorian "2-up, 2-down".

Note the state of the garden wall! Those walls were forever falling down as they had poor foundations and were apparently built on an old field ditch!

Floss Cat

And finally this is the first cat Noreen and I had. Well Floss (not our choice of name, he was a rescue) and Pickle came at the same time almost as soon as we had our own house in 1981. This is a serendipitous capture from sometime in the early/mid-80s. The cats didn't wear collars for very long: they rubbed the fur off their necks and the bells were useless at stopping them chasing birds as they just learnt to run with their chins down to muffle the sound!

13 November 2012

Word of the Year: Ominshambles

Yep that's right.

Omnishambles has been declared word of the year. And not by me, but by the Oxford English Dictionary.

I'm sure that we can all guess it means "a situation which is shambolic from every possible angle". Oh, yes, just like the BBC!

As a word I don't like it. It is too long, too contrived, too, well ... shambolic. But I have to admit it is pretty well descriptive of our times. Think just this last few weeks of Jimmy Savile, the latest BBC "McAlpine" fiasco, Abu Qatada, Abu Hamza, Italian earthquake scientists. And they're only the ones I can think of immediately.

What I find even more amusing is that good old(ish) word (first recorded 1865 according to the OED) pleb was also shortlisted for word of the year. Now that would have been a even better choice, if only to cock-a-snook at a few people!

11 November 2012

Reasons to be Grateful: 52

Through the haze of whatever lurgy is trying its best to sink me at the moment here's my contributions for week 52 of my experiment in documenting five things each week which have made me happy of for which I'm grateful.
  1. Autumn Colours. Although the leaves are beginning to fall quite quickly now we've had a frost or two, there's still some glorious autumn colour around (and a surprising amount of green too) — which looks wonderful on a nice sunny day like today. These photos were taken earlier today in our garden.
  2. Acer Leaf
  3. Baked Ham & Red Cabbage. Earlier in the week we had a baked gammon joint. And delightfully flavoursome, tender and succulent it was too! |To accompany it there was red cabbage: sliced and braised with some onion and cooking apple and then simmered slowly with a glass or two of red wine. Add pepper, caraway seeds, garlic to taste. A most excellent winter warmer veg.

  4. Wasps. Yep we've still got our wasps around. Not so many now it is colder, but still the odd few in the house, with more in the attic. They're mostly a mix of queens and workers, although I've seen at least one drone this week.

  5. Rump Steak. Also earlier in the week we had a couple of really juicy and tender pieces of rump steak, courtesy of Waitrose. They have to have been some of the best pieces of steak I've ever had, they were just so tender.
  6. Rose Hip
  7. Squirrels. And finally our resident squirrel, we discovered this afternoon, actually is resident — it has build it's nest in the ivy at the top of our hawthorn tree. While in the garden we saw it running through the trees and Noreen spotted it sitting in its drey, a pair of ears and a beady eye poking over the edge! I like squirrels, despite that they are only tree rats, and I feel honoured to have one nesting in the garden.

09 November 2012

Another Catch-up

More links to things which amused or interested me and which may do the same for you. This edition isn't all science; we start off being rather more light-hearted ...

Everyone seems to be flapping about some fungus which is attacking ash trees in the UK. Apparently some government minister is suggesting we should stop it spreading by washing our children. Whatever next?

Meanwhile in Egypt the Copts have used a boy child to to select their new Pope. I love the way they wear a combination of table runners and lampshades! Makes the new Cantuar look very tame. But what I didn't know is that Egyptian Copts are internationally well known and influential; Boutros Boutros-Ghali (former UN Secretary-General) and Sir Magdi Yacoub (heart transplant surgeon) are among their number.

Not to be outdone, IanVisits looks at two churches in London's East End and wonders what London would have been like if a Victorian mega-rail project had come off.

And talking of Victorians, a rare books dealer has stumbled upon what is thought to be an authentic Tenniel Alice in Wonderland chess board. And of course he's trying to cash in.

Finally before the science stuff, nambawan pikinini bilong Misis Kwin (aka. Prince Charles) has been in Papua New Guinea brushing up on his Tok Pisin. The Guardian gave us a guide to this hoot of a language.

When he gets back home Prince Charles will soon be being tested by his doctor for dementia, as will we all. I can't see why Brenda and Phil the Greek should be excluded though; I would have thought the latter is a cut and dried diagnosis.

Slime molds. They're slimy, and brainless (yes, there's a link there somewhere!), and it seems surprisingly intelligent. Though I guess the latter depends in the value of intelligent as well as the price of eggs.

But as far as I know, no-one has yet found slime molds growing in a navel. Rob Dunn and his team have spent two years finding all manner of other life though, including Carl Zimmer. And for their next trick ... arm-pits!

While on noxious substances, Puff the Mutant Dragon writes interestingly (well to me anyway) about the chemistry behind wacky-baccy.

Be afraid! Be very afraid! There's another new pest on the way. It seems Asian hornets, Vespa velutina, (not to be confused with the Asian or Japanese Giant Hornet, Vespa mandarinia, which is altogether bigger) have established themselves in France and are heading for the UK. They munch on honey bees (as if bee-keepers needed anything more to worry about) and they have a nasty sting!

Finally something cool for those interested in space junk. NASA has launched an app which will email or text you when the International Space Station is due to be passing over your head, so you know when to look up.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

07 November 2012

Buggered Britain 14

Another instalment in my occasional series documenting some of the underbelly of Britain. Britain which we wouldn't like visitors to see and which we wish wasn't there. The trash, abused, decaying, destitute and otherwise buggered parts of our environment. Those parts which symbolise the current economic malaise; parts which, were the country flourishing, wouldn't be there, would be better cared for, or made less inconvenient.

These were spotted yesterday lurking on a street corner near home. It seemed to sum up all that is currently buggered about Britain: binge drinking, life on the street, emptiness, lack of concern/consideration for others ... It's only a wonder one of the bottles wasn't smashed.

Buggered Britain 14

Gallery: Autumn

I don't recall why I didn't contribute to Tara's Gallery last week, apart that is from being too busy, but we're back this week for the theme of Autumn.

So first here are two taken last year in our garden ...

Crab Apples

Autumn Oak

... and one I took yesterday of a tree in the street close to my house ...

Autumn Yellow

... on what was a glorious clear Autumn morning.

05 November 2012

Auction Amusements

Time for another sale at our local auction house. This time round it is a huge sale with over 1000 lots. And as usual it is a curious mix of some "wow!" stuff and the exceedingly strange.

Let's start with the star of the show, Lot 600:

An important Chinese gilt bronze figure of Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Life, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period, seated in shawl and dhoti with engraved floral borders, wearing elaborate diadem and other jewellery, retaining numerous inset coral, turquoise and lapiz cabochons, the exposed flesh retaining brown lacquer colouring, the eyebrows and hair coloured black, on double lotus petal base, 35.5cm high.

Note: this figure belongs to a select group made in the Imperial foundry, one of which was cast on the orders of the Kangxi emperor for his devoutly Buddhist grandmother’s birthday in 1686 and is illustrated in
Cultural Relics of Tibetan Buddhism Collected in the Qing Palace, Hong Kong, 1992, pls 1-2. It is likely that the other examples were made for the many Tibetan Buddhist temples in Beijing.

Should you desire this magnificent piece you'll need to arrange a mortgage before you even consider bidding.

So after that it has to be all down hill into the oddities ...

A set of Guinness buttons on original card.
How do you sew buttons on Guinness?

3 silver-gilt jewels of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, early 20th century, in cases, each for Lodge 181 (Prince Victor Lodge, Isle of Wight), together with the order’s certificate for ... and an old photograph of a tailor’s shop; also a German Iron Cross, Second World War 1939-45 War Medal and the 1939-45 Defence Medal, and the George V and Queen Mary medal by Elect Cocoa.

An original cartoon by Willie Rushton and a 1930s map of Berlin.
Does anyone else find this slightly surreal?

An interesting collection of 20 buttonhooks and other implements, some silver, mainly circa. 1900.

An extensive collection of old horse decorations mounted on leather, a collection of graded buckles mounted on leather, a carved furniture decoration, a fire trivet, a letter stamp, etc.

An old milk churn inscribed: 'S. Jackman, Buckingham', a Bakelite record player by Columbia, an old coat hanger in the form of a doll, a similar doll, a brush with a doll handle, a bed pan ... an old trunk, purple glass vase, etc.

A large well presented light brown sawfish rostrum, 130cm.

A large early Victorian neo-gothic burr walnut chiming mantel clock, by Daniel Desbois, the signed painted arched dial with strike/silent indicator below the chapter ring, with gilt hands, quarter chiming on eight bells and hour striking and with pull-cord repeat, the back plate signed ... the case with outset cluster columns with obelisk finials flanking the arched cresting, 24″ high.
They make it sound a mess, but from the photo (right) it's actually rather nice in it's way. You'd need an enormous mantelpiece to put it on though.

A pull-along papier mache French Bulldog with nodding head, glass eyes, opening mouth and barking when chain pulled, fitted with coir and red fabric collar, early 20th century.

A probably tribal or theatrical musket.

A pair of William IV neo rococo ormolu candlesticks, each with a heron by a foliate scroll stem on rocaille base, complete with nozzles.
Yes, they are a complete mess!

A wax profile of Catherine the Great, said to be by G Dupre after Wyon, under glass in Georgian ebonised frame.

A broken stained glass roundel, probably 16th century, of St John the Baptist.

The skull and horns of a bison mounted on a shield and stand.

Seventeen terracotta, wood and pottery garden pots, and contents, and a linen box of rope sisal construction.

Two unusual mirrors incorporating the grille from a Rover 75 motor car, and another, a tennis racquet mirror, also a ship’s wheel nutcracker, water flask, wooden tool box with tools and a leather document case.

Four fire extinguishers.

A large quantity of artist’s equipment: pads, paints, an easel, also decorative lamps, birds under glass domes, resin bird figures ...

A pair of occasional reproduction tables, each with a galleried centre section and two hinged ends, on moulded tapering legs.
But what are they at the times they aren't reproduction tables?

As with so much of it, you just have to ask "Why?".

04 November 2012

Word: Piton

  1. [Geology] A volcanic peak, especially a steep-sided dome, in the West Indies and other French-speaking regions.

  2. [Mountaineering] A strong iron spike with an eye at one end through which a rope can be passed.

Reasons to be Grateful: 51

So here we are at week 51 of my experiment in documenting five things each week which have made me happy of for which I'm grateful. It's been a busy week, not helped by the fact that I was knocked out last weekend and the beginning of the week by my annual 'flu jab.

Anyway, just for Sue, here's this week totally non-foodie selection.
  1. Golden Leaves. Many of the trees are still green, but there are also a lot of wonderful golden-yellow autumnal colours as well.

  2. Clear Dental Check-up. We had our twice yearly dental check-ups this week. And we both got away with nothing needing doing — though we had to run the gauntlet of the hygienist as well.

  3. Vintage Cars. Yesterday was our quarterly Anthony Powell Society London pub meet (always enjoyable) and one of the nice things about going into central London this day is that there are often vintage cars driving around getting ready for the London to Brighton run the following day. Although there weren't many around yesterday I did see the one above receiving some attention near Lancaster Gate, having just been pushed out of the traffic. I managed a quick squint at the engine as we passed, and the cylinder block was tiny — little more than half the size of a shoebox.

  4. Sunshine. When we see it, as we did a couple of times this week, I always feel much better.

  5. Top Hat. I bought a top hat this week. You know, the way one does. It isn't really for wearing but more to provide a fun hat to be passed round at AP Soc. gatherings.

03 November 2012

More Quotes

Another occasional round-up of recently-encountered quotes which have interested or amused me.

At least two-thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity: idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political ideas.
[Aldous Huxley]

He is a vegetarian; I don't know whether from principle or from gourmandaise. One never knows whether people have principles on principle or whether for their own personal satisfaction.
[Karel Čapek on George Bernard Shaw in Letters from England]

He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.

The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.
[Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.]

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.
[Peter Drucker]

The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it's only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.
[Novelist Chuck Palahniuk. Shades of X Trapnel in Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time]

Everyone should be responsible and if they do visit a wood just make sure they wash their boots, wash their dog, whatever's been running around the leaves, wash their child, to make sure they don't transfer to the next wood.
[Owen Patterson, UK Environment Secretary, talking about how people can help prevent the spread of the fungus which is killing ash trees; quoted in the Daily Telegraph]

02 November 2012

Quote: History

History is nothing more than the sum of countless individual decisions, most of them now lost forever.

[Dominic Sandbrook]

01 November 2012

Another Catch-up

More links to the interesting amusing or curious you may have missed ...

Someone has finally realised that there is no way to totally shield children from pornography and that they're going to find it anyway. So what?, I say. They have to learn these things sooner or later. And how much better to have it out in the open (Oooo, missus!) and that they learn about such things in the comforting environment of home. Oh, they don't have homes. Hmmm ...

Scientists reckon that after a lot of work they're finally beginning to be able to decode the contents of dreams, without waking up the subject.

This one is definitely not for teatime, and maybe not for work! Pictures of the world's most revolting cakes. Nah, there must be worse than these, surely!

More pictures, and of all sorts of things. But these are seen microscope photos and many are rather beautiful. See how many you can correctly guess.

So we're always being told we should drink 8 glasses of water a day. Why? Well actually no-one really knows, or where the myth started. I'll take my share in beer, thanks!

We're always being told that fresh pee is sterile. So in another item Mind the Science Gap asks "Mommy, why do I need to wash my hands if I only pee?". Interesting take on house-training boy children!

Waht to really stand out from Nature's crowd? Be true blue!

They think it's good, but from here it looks more like a disaster for book publishing. Penguin and Random House to merge (subject to regulatory approval).

Duke of York Column

Somewhere in London there's an observation tower, masquerading as a memorial column, which has been closed to the public for 130 years. IanVisits would like to see the Duke of York Column, just off Pall Mall, reopened. I bet most Londoners don't even know it exists!

And finally it's party time down in Kent. Archaeologists have found the remains of what appears to be a 6th century Saxon nightclub (ie. a feasting hall) in Lyminge. It sounds seriously impressive.