Tuesday 31 March 2009

An ordinary middle-aged woman

A ‘happy, ordinary, middle-aged suburban woman’ has died. It's with regret and sadness that I must announce to you that after years of living with melanoma Sara Shulsinger, author of Moving Right Along, has died. She had just turned 46 on the 24th of March.

Sara passed away last Saturday evening at 7:30 PM at Emerson hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, accompanied by her partner of 16 years, Erik Squires, Erik does nopt wish for condolences and says that if you had seen her last week, and in her last moments, you'd understand why he was grateful that she did not linger any longer. As Erik wrote in an e-mail to friends and family "May your grief be short, and your fond memories everlasting."

Sara was the very first blogger whose blog I read when I set up mine. How that came to be I cannot recall after all this time. She endeared herself to Jo, Richard and I when she awarded me the booby prize in one of her competitions and we opened it on Christmas Day.

Life is too short to spend it grieving for all the people we sort of half know in blogland but that doesn't mean we won't miss them and remember them with fondness for a long, long time.

A Diamond is Forever

Jo and I had a debate about engagement rings when sorting through the jewellery box the other day. I had imagined they were always diamond whereas Jo thought they often included sapphire, emerald or ruby.

It seems that although the first diamond engagement ring dates back at least to 1477 the real push for them came in the mid twentieth century. Because the demand for crowns and tiaras had virtually disappeared De Beers was looking for a new market and after the War people wanted bright colourful things not diamonds which were seen as colourless like the War years. De Beers set about advertising its way into the engagement ring market and created the line ‘A Diamond is Forever’.

Now 80% of engagements of Europe, America and Japan are celebrated with a diamond ring. Now De Beers is promoting diamonds for the independent woman with slogans suggesting the left hand is for ‘us’ and the right hand for ‘me’. Married couples are also being targeted since the age old diamond anniversary no longer has to wait until the sixtieth. The modern list suggests diamonds for the tenth, thirtieth and sixtieth anniversaries – thereby increasing sales to married couples.

It is apparent that Jo was right and some engagement rings do contain other precious stones but diamonds are still the favourite.

Monday 30 March 2009


The recent strong winds have damaged a few of the Daffodil stems but that just gave me an excuse to cut some for a vase. The ones which suffered most are the double and multiple Daffodils which look beautiful but are obviously too heavy for their stems.


I have been reading about gems lately and was fascinated to come across one beautiful mineral of which I had never even heard. Tsavorite or tsavolite is a variety of the garnet group species grossular, a calcium-aluminium garnet with the formula Ca3Al2Si3O12. Trace amounts of vanadium or chromium provide the green colour. Green grossular had been rare until 1967, when British gem prospector and geologist Campbell R. Bridges came across a deposit of the mineral in the mountains of north-east Tanzania.

Weighing in at 325.14 carats and priced well over two million dollars, this extraordinary tsavorite is one of the largest most valuable gems ever to be discovered in East Africa. It was exhibited in January 2007. An exceptional gemstone, most likely the largest fine colour clean tsavorite in the world, it was discovered near Arusha, Tanzania.

The uncut stone weighed 185 grams and was preformed and faceted in Thailand. The impressive size and saturated colour combined with remarkable clarity and transparency put this stone in a class of its own.

Even tsavorites over 2 cts. in size are considered to be rare so an amazing stone like this will certainly end up with a collector or in a museum. At 325.13 carats, this stone is the probably the largest and definitely the largest clean tsavorite in the world.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Richard's will power

This was drawn on 29th March 1991 when Richard was aged 3. The problem about two people of a fairly stubborn disposition having a child is that he tends to follow suit...

Saturday 28 March 2009

What's for dinner?

Frank feared his wife Peg wasn't hearing as well as she used to, and he thought she might need a hearing aid. Not quite sure how to approach her, he talked to the family Doctor, to discuss the problem.

The Doctor told him there was a simple informal test the husband could perform, to give the Doctor a better idea about her hearing loss.

Here's what you do,' said the Doctor, 'stand about 40 feet away from her, and, in a normal conversational speaking tone, see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet and so on, until you get a response.'

That evening, Frank's wife is in the kitchen, cooking dinner, and he was in the den. He says to himself, 'I'm about 40 feet away, let's see what happens.' Then in a normal tone he asks, 'Honey, what's for dinner?'

No response.

So the husband moves closer to the kitchen, about 30 feet from his wife, and repeats, 'Peg, what's for dinner?'

Still no response.

Next he moves into the dining room, where he is about 20 feet from his wife, and asks, 'Honey, what's for dinner?'

Again he gets no response.

So, he walks up to the kitchen door, about 10 feet away. 'Honey, what's for dinner?' Again there is no response.

So he walks right up behind her. 'Peg, what's for dinner?'

(I just love this)

'Frank, for the FIFTH bloody time, CHICKEN!'

Friday 27 March 2009

Nigel Mansell

The new Formula One season kicks off in Australia this weekend.

No longer is Nigel Mansell Britain's most recent Formula One champion. He has been eclipsed by Lewis Hamilton. But I have never seen Hamilton in the flesh whereas I was fortunate enough to watch Mansell a few times in the 1990s. This was one of my photos from the Luffield stand at Silverstone.

But patriotism doesn't always come into it when chosing one's favourite racing driver and Ayrton Senna (photographed exiting the pits at Silverstone) will always be one of my heroes.

Migraine triggers

There are many possible factors that can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals, including allergies, constipation, stress, changes in hormone levels, liver malfunction, too much or too little sleep, emotional changes, sun glare, flashing light, lack of exercise and changes in barometric pressure. Dental problems may also be a factor. Low blood pressure and blood sugar levels are other factors.

One of the solutions is supposedly to adopt an appropriate diet and for many years I have eschewed some of the more obvious triggers including alcohol, chocolate, cheese and aubergines (I love moussaka!). Which is sad because they are among my most loved foods.

Of late the list of foods to avoid seems to have grown enormously and my latest bout of reading shows the following should be shunned - aged meats, alcohol, chocolate, avocados, bananas, cabbage, tinned fish, dairy products, courgettes, aubergines, hard cheeses, potatoes, raspberries, red plums, tomatoes, dried or cooked fruit, yeast and yeast extract, syrup, honey, sugar, and all refined foods . (What is a refined food? One that doesn’t make you burp?)

OK – so there goes the cheese and marmite on toast since the cheese, the marmite and the bread are all bad for me. My favourite tomato sandwiches are also a no go area. The roast dinner has also gone for a burton since the potato, meat and cabbage are banned. The banana split is forbidden since the fruit and the cream and the ice cream are all on the list, along with the chocolate sauce. No cheese and biscuits after my non-existent roast, either. And the coffee would hardly be worth drinking without sugar or milk. As John McEnroe would have said – “You cannot be serious.”

Thursday 26 March 2009

I smell a rat

Well, actually, what I smell is more changes to Blogger....

Outages suggest changes. Let us hope that if Google is messing around with Blogger again today we shall not be suffering the consequences for days to come.

Migraine relief – or perhaps a cause thereof...

I was looking at migraine relief sites the other day to check whether there were any obvious triggers that I had failed to eliminate from my diet. One of the sites I came across was Dr. Tamiko Arrisola (always low prices at our drugstore, order online lowest price drugs easy). I just loved the translation from the Japanese for what, I think, was an advert for Nortriptyline. It was definitely enough to give one a headache...

"Migraine nortriptylineDomagk, Gerhard the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) iL-10 johnnies was deorbit to whistle that awerner syndrome lower leg was parkinson, James. I could td the first American medical journal of apsychopathic personality disorder. I don't burkitt lymphoma that at hormonal, health, child. After medical without moraxella kingae for ablalock-Taussig operation or articulation, artificial morts judicially postpartum it. And young alimentary migraine nortriptyline about-turns it euphenics to muscle cramp orthopox like thoseshoulder pain countermeasures? I overheated I was bMP the striven since she arose despairingly ware totubercular and trephined toward the abstinence near the iFA. Like fear of closed spaces dysgraphia festivities, cain, mark of is pithily a sulfonylurea of mALT andhideously of chew congestion. I designated before been bowled by the lacteals of the migraine nortriptyline I subsisted imperiled; I exsufflated been overfree unforced by his another wethers: but now, for the scrubtyphus fusospirillosis, the surfing of their darwin, Charles chordoma upon me; I emulated to american Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) that kinetics halts would ventricle, fourth me as our syndrome, cyclicvomiting, suchlike communism produced hastily hipt to accessory placenta craniums hemi- t.i.d. (onprescription) at the nerve, glossopharyngeal, videlicet, of the pacemaker..."

I'd love to know where the Mark of Cain and Charles Darwin come in; and why he uexsufflated! And I thought wethers were castrated male sheep - I hope no one is recommending that as a solution to my migraines.....

Wednesday 25 March 2009

The Tools of the Trade

I went around Liverpool Cathedral on Monday and whilst the whole experience was a bit disappointing – as it is every time I visit – I did enjoy the displays of tools.

Scattered around the Cathedral are a number of display cases showing the tools that were used in some of the stone masonry and carpentry work.

The tools in this case were used by John Rowbottom, stonemason, on this site from 1932 to 1981 and were given to the Cathedral by his widow.

One or two of the tools are masterpieces in themselves – like this Sharples Frame Brace.

Many of the tools were familiar to me since their like was once to be found in Dad’s shed. Some, like the plumber’s hand brace, dividers, shave hook and mallet headed chisels have even found their way into my shed and are used occasionally.

I used to love watching Dad use his paraffin blowlamp and I can still remember vividly the wonderful smell of the glue pot on the stove.

Less familiar were the names Mandrel, Trammel, Bossing Stick, Pitcher, Turn Pins, Lead Dummy, Shift Stock, Jumper, Drags and Bolster. Whatever their purposes it was delightful to see them in the building where they had been used.

My first love

"My first love was a bicycle. I don't expect anyone to understand this, but it was a real pro job as used in the Tour de France. In the middle of the war years, it was my passport to the traffic-free roads of Britain; it literally saved my life and I stared at it for four hours the day I acquired it. I've stared at lots of girls since, but none of them for four hours."
- Jimmy Saville.

I wouldn't quite go so far as Jimmy Saville but I certainly was very fond of my bike - seen above while touring the Cotswolds on a youth hostelling holiday in 1965.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

It's all Greek to Me

I don't very often direct folk to posts from my own family members. I'm not sure why that is since I find them all interesting. But then I would, wouldn't I.

The other day GB commented on he and I learning the Greek alphabet when we were very young. Then on Sunday my son-in-law Mark wrote a post that I think many of my readers will enjoy (especially those who visit my Words blog) - It's all Greek to Me.

Flog It and the AA

One of the daytime television programmes that I quite enjoy is ‘Flog it’ on BBC2. Can I explain, to those whose country doesn’t broadcast it or who are not so fortunate as I in terms of having television time, ‘Flog it’ is an antiques programme with people bringing their antiques in to be valued and then sold at auction.

One of the things I particularly enjoy is the interval between the programmes two sections. During this, the presenter, Paul Martin visits some local place of interest. In one of the most recent episodes he was shown some of the old AA vehicles restored lovingly by patrols in their own time.

This BSA motorbike was in exceptional condition and recently went from John o’ Groats to Land’s End on a charity run.

This is the classic AA patrol vehicle of the 60s and 70s – the mini-van.

What is not so well known is that the original purpose of the AA was to warn members of policemen with stop watches – hiding at the roadside waiting to catch motorists speeding. A group of motoring enthusiasts met at the Trocadero restaurant in London's West End on 29 June 1905 to form the Automobile Association (the AA) – a body initially intended to help motorists avoid police speed traps. As motoring became more popular, so did the AA's and its 100 members in 1905 grew to 83,000 by 1914. In 1906 it began erecting the country's first effective danger and warning signs and the AA has been committed to promoting road safety ever since. They continued to be responsible for all signposting until the early 1930s, when it became a local authority responsibility. AA Signs' distinctive yellow and black colouring for special events remains a familiar sight at the roadside. To cater for the increased popularity of touring by car, we appointed agents and repairers throughout the UK, listing them all in the AA Members' Special Handbook, which first appeared in 1908.

The introduction of two-way radio after the second world war saw the 1949 launch of a night-time breakdown service in the London area, which was gradually extended to cover most of Britain.

To revert to Flog it, some of the items that appear on the show are bizarre like this ornament of a mouse nibbling a biscuit.

Monday 23 March 2009

And you thought you had computer problems

SUPPORT: 'Hello Tech Support. How can I help you?'

LADY: 'Last night my computer started making a lot of hissing noise at me so I shut it down. This morning when I turned it on it started hissing and cracking, then started smoking and a bad smell, then nothing.'

SUPPORT: 'I'll have a technician come over first thing this morning, just leave the computer just like it is, so he can find the problem and fix it, or change it out with another computer. Give me your address and phone number and the technician will be there just as soon as he can.'

When the technician got there, the woman showed him
Where the computer was, said what happened to it. This is what the technician found wrong. You won't believe your eyes!!! !!

And you thought you had computer problems !!!

The technician told her: 'It must have been after the mouse!' The woman didn't think that was funny at all.

Mengs and Hall

I haven't been to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool for many years and have made a resolution to go again soon. I think that the last time I was there was 1991 and I was particularly taken with two paintings. One of them I recalled from previous visits - a self-portrait by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779) from 1774 which really talks to you.

The other was Margaret Bernardine Hall's 'Fantine' from 'Les Miserables' (1886). It has a haunting quality that insists one look at it repeatedly.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Do you know what this is?

Do you know what this is?

It’s a one of these! A map measurer. In the ‘good old days’ before we used the Internet for everything it was a brilliant device for measuring how far a walk or drive was on a map. You roiled it along the route from start to finish and then rolled it back along the scale bar to see what the distance was. Much more accurate than trying to do it with a ruler because you could follow all the ins-and-outs of the road or path. (The map in the background is the old-fashioned 1 mile to 1 inch scale that was the mainstay of the Ordnance Survey for many decades.)


Women's hemlines go up as the economy gets better. They stay put when nothing happens in commerce. They go down when business drops off. The question is why. It seems that nobody knows the answer but the record indicates the pattern dates back more than 65 years.

So it looks like we'll be seeing a lot of maxi-skirts this summer! Indeed, the way the economy is going there'll be girls tripping over their hemlines. For 'leg-men' like me that is very sad news...

Saturday 21 March 2009

I wonder

I wonder if he still sleeps that sweetly? I suppose it depends if he’s had a any lager and whether Liverpool FC won last night!

Richard was 16 months old when friends Paul and Phyllis Richardson babysat for us and Phyllis did this charcoal sketch.

My Big Brother

My big brother - otherwise known as GB....

Photographed around 1962.

Friday 20 March 2009

That darned telephone...

Some telephone trivia....

“Jo is the only girl I know who phones round all her girlfriends to tell them how enormous the latest phone bill has been.” (Written by me after a particularly enormous bill - 8th Feb 1991)

Did you know red telephone boxes were made with slightly sloping floors so that ‘unpleasant liquids’ could drain out.

L S Lowry had a telephone with no bell. He said he had the telephone for his convenience not for others.

More than 50% of the people in the world have never made or received a telephone call.

The international telephone dialling code for Antarctica is 672.

Mother's Day is (allegedly) the busiest day of the year for the telephone companies.

Women can talk longer with less effort than can men. That has been proved repeatedly. Why? Because the vocal cords of women are shorter than those of men and so release less air through them to carry the sound. It's all a matter of breathing.

From the August, 1906 Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph Company
directory for San Francisco, California . . .
How to Answer a Telephone Call: Remove the hand telephone from the hook and say "Here is Main 297" (or whatever your number may be). The party calling should say "Here is Main 298," (or whatever the number may be). Much friction and annoyance will be avoided if this simple plan is carried out.

The American Bell Telephone system was named after Alexander Graham Bell. However, the Canadian Bell Telephone system wasn't named for Alexander Graham Bell. It was named for his father, Alexander Melville Bell. Being a good son, he gave is father the Canadian rights to the telephone.

The use of telephone answering machines became popular in 1974.

The year 1879 saw the first use of telephone numbers at Lowell, Massachusetts. During an epidemic of measles, Dr. Moses Greeley Parker feared that Lowell's four operators might succumb to the disease and bring about a paralysis of telephone service. He recommended the use of numbers rather than individual names for calling the more than 200 subscribers. This way, substitute operators could be more easily trained, in the event of such an emergency.

Why are calculators and telephone key-pads set the oposite way round?
Before the touch-tone phone, of course, rotary dials were the rule. There is no doubt that the touch-tone key pad was designed to mimic the rotary dial with the "1" on top and the 7-8-9 on the bottom. When AT&T contemplated the design of their key pad, they called several calculator companies, hoping they would share the research that led them to the opposite configuration. It seems the calculator companies had conducted no research at all. It has also been suggested that if the lower numbers were on the bottom, the alphabet would then start on the bottom and be in reverse alphabetical order, a confusing setup. This might have entered AT&T's thinking, particularly in the "old days" when phone numbers contained only five digits, along with two exchange letters. (In the UK it was three letters and four digits; our phone at home being STO1936.)

"The great advantage [the telephone] possesses over every other form of electrical apparatus consists in the fact that it requires no skill to operate the instrument." - Alexander Graham Bell, 1878
(He obviously didn’t have my Nokia!)

Childhood days

Some more photos of the girls from the late 70s and early 80s...

I bet Bryony wishes her limbs were still this flexible.

An angelic smile from a two month old Helen for Nana.

Helen showing off her first proper shoes - aged 14 months.

Bryony contemplating life - aged five.

Helen (aged 4) and Bryony (aged 5) enjoying the freedom of a holiday in the Welsh hills.

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