Friday, 18 April 2014

11th April – Spring Arrived





The British weather makes no allowance for Spring beginning at the equinox on 20th March.  This year, on The Wirral Peninsula, it began on 11th April so far as I’m concerned.  My test of Spring is the day on which one can set one’s foot on seven Daisies.   


I can’t recall who told me it was seven but that was definitely the number I have known for many years.  Upon checking it seems twelve was a more common number in the old calendars but perhaps Daisies were more common on those days.  As it happens I could just about have managed twelve and I do have small feet!

We can now plant our ‘foot upon nine daisies’ and not until that can be done do the old-fashioned country people believe that spring is really come.
    [1863 R. Chambers Book of Days i. 312]

    ‘It ain't spring until you can plant your foot upon twelve daisies,’ is a proverb still very prevalent.
    [1878 T. F. Thiselton-dyer English Folk-Lore i.]

    Spring is here when you can tread on nine daisies at once on the village green; so goes one of the country proverbs.
    [1910 Spectator 26 Mar. 499]

    When you can step on six daisies at once, summer has come.
    [1972 Casson & Grenfell Nanny Says 52]


The weather was truly Spring-like and I had a little walk down the Wirral Way at West Kirby.  On the lake the birds were enjoying the sunshine.



 







The coots were building a nest.





A Small Tortoiseshell was flitting about.  When I think how common they were in my youth I find it very sad that they are now worthy of remark.  We never get them in our garden.


 


On a happier note, I saw my first Bluebells in flower.




Saturday, 12 April 2014

Bits and Pieces



Today is

I have mentioned before Messymimi’s great blog which combines peeks into her personal life (mainly her children and pets) and a daily list of Festivals, International Days, etc.  Today, for example, amongst lots of other things, is...

D.E.A.R. Day (a/k/a Drop Everything And Read) -- sponsored by the American Library Association, on Bevery Cleary's birth anniversary.   Beverly Cleary is an American author of more than 30 books for young adults and children. One of America's most successful writers of children's literature, she has sold 91 million copies of her books worldwide.  She was born in 1916 and is 98 years old.

It is also Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.

And, interestingly, it is Big Wind Day – the anniversary of the strongest natural wind ever recorded on the earth's surface, at Mount Washington, NH, US; the wind gusts reached 231 mph.


The Everlasting Orchid

At the beginning of October Partner-who-loves-tea bought an orchid.   It has been in flower every day since then.

 So this week I bought another.  I wonder if it will also just keep on flowering.


The Ugly Volvo
If you are on Facebook I can thoroughly recommend The Ugly Volvo in which a stand-up comic tackles motherhood.  The link is to a recent post about having a tattoo. This is for anyone who has ever had a child; anyone who has ever contemplated having a child; anyone who has never been fortunate enough to have a child; and anyone who has been fortunate enough to never have had a child. 


Julia Louis-Dreyfus
And talking of tattoos (only it’s a photo-shopped one) Julia Louis-Dreyfus looks fabulous at the age of 53 on the cover of Rolling Stone.


But John Hancock didn't sign the Constitution.  He signed the Declaration of Independence.   Oopsies!  The American actress, comedian and producer demonstrated her sense of humour  by defending Rolling Stone -- "John Hancock not part of tattoo. It is a birthmark.1962 photo is proof. Apologies 2 @RollingStone #crackexcuse."


 My world

So what is happening in my world?  Partner-who-loves-tea and I have both had bad backs and a couple of trips to an osteopath have largely fixed mine and helped hers a bit.   PWLT has also had a birthday – I won’t mention which one.  One of her presents was a mirror which she used to good effect to hide from the camera as she usually does.


The sun shone on her birthday and we took a trip to Brimstage Hall craft centre for coffee, a look around and then some lunch.   




Although the exact date of construction is unknown, Brimstage Hall is believed to have been built between the 12th century and 14th century, making it one of the oldest buildings on Merseyside. 




Originally the site was enclosed by a moat and high embankment. The building's first known occupants were Sir Hugh Hulse and his wife, who were granted the right to construct a chapel in 1398.

The Ladies and Gents…



I must mention that on the way there the local rape fields were gloriously in flower.


 

On the way home we passed a house in Heswall with a telephone box and a fire pump in its front garden. I wonder if there is a pillar box in the back garden.




Thursday, 10 April 2014

Women are from Planet X while Men just arrive...

Partner-who-loves-tea and I often discuss the difference between Men and Women and their responses to things - trying to find a balance between sexism and the fact that Men and Women really are different.  At last, thanks to my friend Amit in India I have found the answer - please read on...

 Let's say a guy named Fred is attracted to a woman named Martha. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Martha, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?"

And then, there is silence in the car.

To Martha, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Fred is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Martha is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Fred is thinking: ...so that means it was...let's see...February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means...lemme check the odometer...Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Martha is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed - even before I sensed it - that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

And Fred is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Martha is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Fred is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty...scumballs.

And Martha is thinking: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Fred is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their...

"Fred," Martha says aloud.

"What?" says Fred, startled.

"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never have...oh dear, I feel so..."(She breaks down, sobbing.)

"What?" says Fred.

"I'm such a fool," Martha sobs. "I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."

"There's no horse?" says Fred.

"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Martha says.

"No!" says Fred, glad to finally know the correct answer.

"It's just that...it's that I...I need some time," Martha says.

(There is a 15-second pause while Fred, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

"Yes," he says. (Martha, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

"Oh, Fred, do you really feel that way?" she says.

"What way?" says Fred.

"That way about time," says Martha.

"Oh," says Fred. "Yes." (Martha turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

"Thank you, Fred," she says.

"Thank you," says Fred.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Fred gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a college basketball game between two South Dakota junior colleges that he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it.

The next day Martha will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.

They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.

Meanwhile, Fred, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Martha's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: "Norm, did Martha ever own a horse?"

And that's the difference between men and women.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sport and sportsmanship (and other stuff)



More Sport (Just so Monica, Marcheline et al can skip this paragraph)

Liverpool's 2-1 win at West Ham on Sunday was their ninth in a row and took them back to the top of the table, just five wins away from an astonishing title triumph.  The match was a fiasco.  Liverpool were winning 1-0 when West Ham took a corner.  Andy Carroll (ex Liverpool!) jumped up and hit the goalie on the head before knocking the ball out of his hands and down at the feet of one of the West Ham players who ‘scored’.  Even Rugby doesn’t allow assault and knocking the ball out of a player’s hands. The linesman waved for a foul, the referee gave a goal.  The linesman and referee then had a lengthy debate and the referee over-ruled the linesman and gave the goal. 


I liked the way the Daily Mail phrased it the next day – “Carroll had a hand in West Ham's goal as he set up Guy Demel for the goal”.   The referee was obviously made aware at half time of what an idiot he had been so early in the second half he gave Liverpool a penalty which they didn’t deserve – he obviously believes two wrongs make a right.  Gerard scored and Liverpool won the match 2-1.  A fair result but a ridiculous way of winning.

Meanwhile (literally, since they were all on at the same time) Hamilton won the Grand Prix in Bahrain and Oxford won the Boat Race.  Hamilton's team-mate at Mercedes, Nico Rosberg, said: "I thought I'd got him about nine times but they didn't work. He always got the run back on me and he did a good job, that's it. Lewis is obviously a great driver and made it work and next time I need to do better."  Despite racing wheel to wheel several times, Rosberg said he never felt they were going to collide.  "I was just pushing to the limit, going for it and just making sure we don't crash, but all the way, as hard as possible and it worked out," he said.  "At no time were we at risk of taking both cars out. There was always the necessary margin. It might not have looked like it on TV but there was. It was good racing."  With ten laps to go the panicking team on the pit-wall went on the radio to both drivers saying 'Let's bring both cars home'.  You could almost hear them saying ‘Please, pretty, pretty please, guys’.

Oxford powered to victory in the 160th Boat Race on the River Thames. One of the Cambridge rowers almost fell out of his boat and lost control of his oar as the two crews clashed in the early stages. The incident allowed Oxford to surge forward and build up a comfortable lead. Oxford has now cut Cambridge's overall lead to 81-78 in the series between the two famous rivals, with just the one tied affair still in the overall standings.  The universities first raced in 1829, and the Boat Race is one of the oldest sporting events in the world.


I love the caption to this Mail-on-line photo -
 "Cambridge's Luke Juckett loses control of his ore 
during the Boat Race against Oxford on the 
River Thames, London."  If he was using an ore
 instead of an oar it's no wonder Cambridge lost.

And sportsmanship
One of the reasons I am proud to be a Liverpool supporter is because of the sportsmanship they show.  Most football club supporters boo players who used to play for them and now play for the opposition.  There was an example on Sunday where a player who gave a team six years of excellent service was booed by his former team’s supporters for the whole match every time he touched the ball.  How unsportsman-like that is. 


By contrast, the previous week, Cardiff came to play at Anfield and one of their players was Craig Bellamy.  Bellamy had two periods as a Liverpool  player – in 2006/7 and 2011/12.  Did the Liverpool supporters boo.  No, they cheered when he came out onto the pitch, they rose from their seats and applauded when he came down to the Kop end to take a corner, and they stood and applauded when he was substituted before the end of the match.  That is how to treat an ex-player.

Back to the 1870s
I mentioned the other day the increase in postal charges in the UK.  Later, I came across a note I once made about the 1870s and postal services then.   In parts of London there were twelve deliveries daily.  Other town districts received eleven deliveries a day but suburban areas ‘only’ received six deliveries daily.   It cost a ha’penny to send a postcard.  An old half penny is equivalent to one 480th (or 0.002) of a pound.  Nowadays the cost of sending a postcard first class (i.e. next day delivery for the majority of mail) is 62 new pence, 0.62 of  a pound.  I think it cost 1½ old pence (or 0.006 of a pound) to send a postcard to the USA.  Nowadays that is £1.28.  An increase of 21333% (I think – as previously stated my maths leaves a lot to be desired).  All prices inflate over the years and I think it would be fair enough if the increase in cost was matched by at least a retention of the service.  So I look forward to my eleven additional deliveries a day…

Hand-made in Bali
I know one should shop local whenever possible but today I bought something that travelled about 10,987 miles (7,683 km).  Prior to today I have bought a lot of straps for my spectacles – most of them with a ‘Made in England’ sticker on.  I have bought pretty ones, sturdy-looking ones, thin ones, and thick ones.  I have bought ones with elastic ends and ones with plastic ends.  Some were cheap, some were expensive.  Some came from opticians, some came from chemists and a couple from a market stall. None have lasted more than six to eight weeks.  Today I got one from a craft shop.  It was hand-made in Bali.  The price was about middle of the range of what I have paid so far.  I wonder what the odds are on it lasting more than eight weeks?   

(It was fun scanning this picture – those are my reading glasses I use for the computer.  So my eyes were two inches from the screen as I adjusted the settings on the scanner.)

Have a good week, folk.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Here is the News…



You can’t buy HAPPINESS but you can buy cake and that’s kind of the same thing.

Here is the News…
Do you remember when the BBC Radio began its news broadcast with ’Here is the News…’?   I can’t recall whether it was on the Light Programme or the Home Service but I’m sure they did.  Interestingly when I tried to trace how old the phrase was there was no mention of the BBC and the good old days. The Goddess Wiki traced it back to the Dutch broadcasting company VPRO which has been using the opening sequence of "Here Is the News" since 1981 at the start of their radio and television broadcasts.  Anyway, whatever its origins, Here is the News…

Spring is sprung

(Picture from the web)
Spring is sprung,
The grass is riz,
I wonder where the birdies is.
The boids is one the wing.
Don’t be absoid;
The wings is on the boid.
                        Anon. (Not Ogden Nash!)

The Daffodils are at their peak.  This pot full was a birthday present from Food-loving-Daughter last year.  




 And the cherry tree is beginning to blossom, making it an even harder job to decide upon its future.  It really is in the wrong place, the roots are ruining the ‘lawn’ and the branches are shading far too much of the front garden.  The blossom only lasts a short time but it is so beautiful while it is out.

The Storks are building a nest.
No, our family is not being increased at all (at least as far as I know).  These are real White Storks which look as though they are breeding at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens in Norfolk.  The last time they built in the wild in Britain was in Edinburgh in 1416 when the Hundred Years War was raging and Henry V had just defeated the French at Agincourt.   The four year old birds were bred in captivity and released at Thrigby Hall in the hope that they would like the tall chimneys there.  A helping hand was given by putting a pile of sticks on one chimney but the birds rejected that and chose to build on another one instead.


(Newspaper picture)

White storks have a wingspan of 7 foot and about 20 of them are seen in Britain each year but they have never arrived in large enough numbers for a pair to match up.  The story of the birds delivering babies has been in the folklore of various countries for centuries but was popularised by Hans Christian Andersen.

The Trial of the Pyx
Did you know that an inspection of samples of new coins, called the Trial of the Pyx,  has been held in Britain since the twelfth century.  The Trial of the Pyx is the procedure in the United Kingdom for ensuring that newly minted coins conform to required standards. Trials to ensure that newly minted coins conform to required standards have been held, normally once per calendar year and the form of the ceremony has been essentially the same since 1282 AD.  They are trials in the full judicial sense, presided over by a judge with an expert jury of assayers. Trials are now held at the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths; formerly, they took place at the Palace of Westminster.  Given modern production methods, it is unlikely that coins would not conform, but this has been a problem in the past—it was tempting for the Master of the Mint to steal precious metals.  The term "Pyx" refers to the boxwood chest (in Greek, πυξίς, pyxis) in which coins were placed for presentation to the jury.

Oh the shame, the shame…
When we lived in Walton we lived in the middle of a triangle formed by the prison, the cemetery and the hospital (formerly the workhouse).  But so far we ourselves have managed to keep out of the workhouse which is more than my mother's father's father did.  Daughter-who-takes-photos has been doing some more family history research and has discovered that in 1911 the 59 year old Henry Charles Body Snr. was in the workhouse. It was considered terribly shameful to have a relative in the workhouse and people would do everything in their power to avoid having to end up there.

In England and Wales a workhouse, colloquially known as a spike, was a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment. The earliest known use of the term dates from 1631, in an account by the mayor of Abingdon reporting that "wee haue erected wthn our borough a workehouse to sett poore people to worke".  The origins of the workhouse can be traced to the Poor Law Act of 1388, but mass unemployment following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the introduction of new technology to replace agricultural workers, and a series of bad harvests, meant that by the early 1830s the established system of poor relief was proving to be unsustainable. The New Poor Law of 1834 attempted to reverse the economic trend by discouraging the provision of relief to anyone who refused to enter a workhouse. Some Poor Law authorities hoped to run workhouses at a profit by utilising the free labour of their inmates, who generally lacked the skills or motivation to compete in the open market. Most were employed on tasks such as breaking stones, bone crushing to produce fertiliser, or picking oakum using a large metal nail known as a spike, perhaps the origin of the workhouse's nickname.  Oakum is a preparation of tarred fibre used in shipbuilding for caulking or packing the joints of timbers in wooden vessels and the deck planking of iron and steel ships. Oakum was recycled from old tarry ropes and cordage, which were painstakingly unravelled and taken apart into their constituent fibres.  In a shipbuilding area like Liverpool this was the most likely task for many workhouse occupants.

Life in a workhouse was intended to be harsh, to deter people and to ensure that only the truly destitute would apply. But workhouse inmates had certain advantages over the general population in areas such as the provision of free medical care and education for the children, neither of which was available to the poor living outside workhouses until the early 20th century.

As the 19th century wore on, workhouses increasingly became refuges for the elderly, infirm and sick rather than the able-bodied poor, and in 1929 legislation was passed to allow local authorities to take over workhouse infirmaries as municipal hospitals. It may be a reflection of this gradual change from the able-bodied to the sick that resulted in Henry Charles Body being described as a 'patient' rather than an 'inmate' in 1911.  Although workhouses were formally abolished by the same legislation in 1930, many continued under their new appellation of Public Assistance Institutions under the control of local authorities. It was not until the National Assistance Act of 1948 that the last vestiges of the Poor Law disappeared, and with them the workhouses.  

A postcard to the USA
Postal charges in the UK went up on 31st March.  It might have seemed like an April Fool to those who went into their post office on 1st April but sadly, it wasn’t. The cost of sending a postcard to the USA, New Zealand, China, etc.  went up from 88p to £1.28.  I never was very good at maths but I think that is a rise of 45.454545… % .  That being the case, can I expect pensions and benefits to rise by the same percentage?   

LSHMGFOAIDMCC

And in case you don’t know that abbreviation (because I just made it up) it means
Laughing So Hard my Glasses Fall of and I drop my Coffee Cup...

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