Saturday, 25 May 2013

From the Ground

“What day is it?”

That is often my cry nowadays.   Not going into work and having Partner-who-loves-tea teaching every Saturday and Sunday it is hard to keep track.  The side margin of the Friday My Town Shoot Out Blog did its best to confuse me today by listing

May 25: From the Ground Interpret as you like.
I checked the bottom right corner of my computer – it read 04:44 24/05/2013.  OK, so it’s the 24th (assuming I believe the computer).  Now to establish if it is Friday as my brain suggests it is.  Checks memory vaults and thinks, yes I saw a few minutes of the First Practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix on TV yesterday.  Wait a minute – practice sessions always begin on a Friday.  Now I’m getting really confused.  But I saw one yesterday.  So the 24th must be Saturday.  What happened to Friday?  Oh yes, Monaco is the exception to the Rule and has First and Second Practice on a Thursday for some reason.  So yesterday was Thursday.  So today is Friday.  So I’d better get on with it….
How ironic – I wrote that paragraph yesterday and have ended up not publishing it until today – May 25th - Saturday (I think!).

Friday My Town Shoot Out - From the Ground

The above were taken on the Isles of Lewis and Harris -

The following were on the Lleyn Peninsula, North Wales.

If you would like to see how other members of the group have interpreted this theme see here.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Money, money, money

Don’t you just love it when you get an e-mail telling you that your finances are less precarious than you thought?  I had two such e-mails the other day. 

Firstly there was one from Zazzle –

My first sale – hooray.  That means I have about 15p towards the £30 I need before I can receive a Paypal payment from Zazzle.  Only another £29.85 worth of sales to go …

In the meantime I got this e-mail from the National Lottery. 

News about my ticket - oh goody. This indicated I had won somewhere between a couple of pounds and £55m. Imagione the tingle in my fingers as I open my account page...

Ah well….  I’ll have to put that cottage in the country back on the dream shelf for a while. 

Do you have a dream shelf?  It’s the place where you put all those things that you would like to own but for one reason or another (usually related to finances or the dislikes of partners) are unable to do so.

My dream shelf includes a wide variety of things from Desert Chameleon and Bearded Dragon to thatched cottage with woodland and stream.  Every time one of those little catalogues drops through the door I add new things go my shelf.  You see a new object that suddenly fulfils a need you never knew you had.  “Wow, look, they have a thingy which does that.”   Some are great little inventions and so reasonably priced that you end up buying them.  But for every one of those there are ten that go on the dream shelf.  Fortunately the brain cannot cope with putting too many things on the dream shelf and as you push another item on at the front something from a while ago falls off down the back.

I should point out at this stage that the same thing does not apply to the kitchen drawer in which you keep all those useful objects.   That simply gets more and more full until it reaches the stage where the jam jar opener becomes a jam drawer half-opener.

Monday, 20 May 2013

The attack on snail-mail


Recently there have been all sorts of suggestions and plans for the future of the Royal Mail - most of them detrimental to the users of the service and those who value traditions like red pillar boxes and postmen on bikes. 

Our postman retired at the end of last year and his route has not been replaced. Don't misunderstand me,  we do still get a delivery but it is never the same postman twice and it can be any time between 10.30 a.m. and 4 p.m. as opposed to the old time of 11.30 to 12.30.  That is because our route is now done by people on overtime. There are various problems that this causes us. 

Firstly, small parcels, which are carried by the regular postman, may not always be small enough to fit through the letter box. Our old postie knew where to leave them. The irregular guys don't know offhand and some, it seems, are incapable of reading the note on the front door which tells people where to leave parcels. (Presumably requiring postmen and postwomen to be literate contravenes some Equality legislation).

Secondly, post which needs signing for is now returned to the post distribution office and has to be collected from there. One has to allow up to 70 hours before collecting it.  Presumably the postman must take it home with him for a couple of nights.  I just hope he sleeps with it by his bed; I'd hate to lose one of our parcels because of a burglary at a postman's house.   (I won't tell you what happened previously but suffice it to say we got it delivered to us and the signature may not have exactly matched mine! Our postman trusted us not to drop him in it if anything went wrong and because we knew him we trusted the postman not to pinch our mail.) 

Thirdly our address is 1a but as you walk long the road our house precedes the house numbered 1. This is unusual and therefore there is a certain brain-type that seems incapable of finding us. The Royal Mail (presumably as part of its Equal Opprotunities Policy) has employed a number of this brain-type. 

Fourthly, there is a 1a in the next road. It would appear it is easier for the brain-type mentioned above to post our letters at that house (ignoring the postcode and the road name) than to find our house. An alternative is to post the letters at number 1 on the basis that presumably they know where 1a is. 

However, all these can be considered minor irritations compared to the greater issues like the closure of post offices and the reduction in mail services generally, combined with increases in the cost of sending snail mail. There have been two increases since I started postcrossing last year.

Over the years the Post Office has seen many major reductions. In my grandmother's day, in urban areas, she could post a letter in the morning, get a reply in the afternoon and have her further response delivered by the evening delivery. Nowadays what is called First Class mail would take at least three days to accomplish that. Second class mail could take up to a couple of weeks.   I have a letter written by my great grandfather in Birkenhead (admittedly on the major rail network at the time) in the morning and delivered to Shipton-under-Wychwood (as rural as it's name implies) over 140 miles away later that day.

In my youth there was Sunday postal delivery and a Sunday collection from pillar boxes. We had two deliveries a day and things posted in the morning often arrived by 'the second delivery' as we called it. Nowadays there is one postal delivery a day and none on a Sunday. The time of postal deliveries can offcially vary from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.. The parcel office from which parcels that could not be delivered - for want of a signature, etc - is only open until lunchtime. There is no collection from pillar boxes between Saturday lunch time and Monday morning. 

It seems that the US mail is under equal attack and the following infographic comes from

Life without the United States Postal Service
Source: NumberSleuth

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Thank Heavens for Research

Have you ever walked into a room with some purpose in mind, only to completely forget what that purpose was once you arrived?  Of course you have.  Especially those readers of Rambles who are in my age group.

It turns out the doors themselves are to blame for these strange memory lapses.   Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame du Lac, a Catholic research university located just north of the city of South Bend, in Indiana, United States, have discovered what causes it.  The cause, it seems, is simply passing through a doorway.  This triggers what's known as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, separating one set of thoughts and memories from the next.  Your brain files away the thoughts you had in the previous room and prepares a blank slate for the new locale.

 "Now what was I thinking before I walked through that door???"

Go back to the previous room and you will remember.

It's not ageing, it's the damn door!  Thank goodness for studies like this.

On the same subject I got a leaflet from the GP the other day.  It's all about what to do if you are afraid you might be developing Alzheimer's.   Unfortunately I have forgotten where I put it.  

And while we are thinking about doors -

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A Ramble around Liverpool

I did promise you a bit more about Speke Hall, Liverpool.  But that can keep for another day and first I shall tell you a bit about our journey there.  It might have been but a few miles but there was a fair bit of interest on the way.

Firstly we had to go through the Mersey Tunnel.  This is the ‘new’ tunnel (Kingsway).  Partner-who-loves-tea travels through bit at least twice a day on her way to work. 

We also passed the Pier Head.  The tall building on the left is one of the ventilation shafts for the ‘old’ Mersey Tunney (Queensway).

This is part of the Cunard Building, one of the Three Graces as the three main buildings of the Pier Head called. 

This is another of the Three Graces -  the Liver Buildings with the Liver Birds on top.

Any piece of waste ground is covered with Dandelions at this time of year.

At Wapping, near the Albert Dock there is a reminder of days gone by – a disused drinking fountain. 

 When I was young these could be found everywhere.  There was one embedded in the wall on our route home from prep school.  We would often stop for a drink on those hot sunny days we used to have back then.  I think those hot days were in a now forgotten season called ‘summer’!

There are, of course, a lot of places to consume alternative drinks on the way.  The dock road has always had plenty of pubs. This is the Baltic Fleet.

And the Coburg which, unusually has a sloping floor.  It is named after Coburg Dock, part of the South Docks of Liverpool, opposite which it stands.  Coburg Dock was opened in 1840 and I suspect the pub is not much newer.

I enjoyed reading the reviews of people who had visited this pub.  One commented – “It's difficult to see who would ever go to the Coburg of their own volition.”    

It is supposed to have Real Ale (in this case London Pride) but one reviewer said - "I paid another visit to the sloping Coberg the other day but their sole cask of London Pride wasn't on, so I had to make do with a half of wicked Tetley’s something or other, which I couldn't finish. To add insult to injury they don't have Sky, so they didn't have the England match on, so we legged it."  Do people 'leg it' in other paces or is that one of our peculiarly Liverpool expressions?

This is Menlove Avenue and we are just passing the tennis courts in Calderstones Park where – unknown to each other – both P-w-l-t and I played in our young days.  

It was lovely to see the fresh green of the trees as they were just coming into leaf.  We then passed the football pitches were Son-who-watches-films used to play football for his school.  Then there was the childhood home of John Lennon with the usual little crowd of sightseers outside.

On the way home we passed the Church of St Austin, Aigburth, built in 1838 and described by the Liverpool Mercury of July 1838 as 'a neat and commodious building in the plain Gothic style'. The church presents a bold face, with its large rose window and octagonal pinnacles, to Aigburth Road; it is surrounded by mature trees and a cemetery.

It is interesting to note that the church is still blackened with the pollution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Most of the city centre buildings were cleaned in the 1980s and 90s and no longer show the marks of the smoggy atmosphere of earlier days.

 (If I were Adrian I would do something magical and remove the lamp-post!)

This is St Anne’s Church of England Church.

Outside The Reach, furnished apartments near the city centre.  

And back, through the tunnel.

To The Wirral with its quiet corners.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Happy Monday

“Do you have a new bouncy green thing?  This one’s gone kaput!”

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A sunny day in Tudor England

Catch 22
I want to renew my driving licence - purely as a form of identity.  I can't drive any more but that is my view of my abilities, not the formal medical one which says I am OK to drive.  (But I know I would be too much of a hazard with feet slipping off pedals and double vision).

In order to renew my driving licence I need a Government log-in i/d.  I don't have one.  So the licence renewal site says I have to register for one.  I try registering and it says I can't (no explanation as to why).   So I go back to the start to see where I have gone wrong.  I try logging in without a Government i/d but it says I have to have either the e-mail address I used to create my i/d or the password.  But I don't have these because I have never had an i/d.  So I need to 're-register'.  But I can't...  Need I go on?

In the news
Just to show I am aware there is news outside of our house I should mention that here is to be a major change to the British monarchy.  In future the succession to the crown will depend upon who was born first and not upon the child’s sex.  In other words, an older sister will not be displaced by a younger brother as has always been the case in the past. I mention this specifically because Adrian’s friend, the Duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant and may have a girl.  In the past if she then subsequently had a boy he would have displaced the girl in the line of succession but from now on he won’t.

Also in the news, but a bit more local is the loss of what was believed to be the oldest oak in Britain.  The gales which we had a couple of weeks ago brought down the Pontfadog Oak, a 1200 year old tree near Chirk.   Some experts claim it could have been as old as 1600 years.  It was certainly already a major tree when Prince Owain Gwynedd rallied his troops beneath it before defeating Henry II at the Battle of Crogen in 1157.  Legend has it that it was spared by Henry when he had surrounding woods cut down in 1165.

A Tudor Day

It was sunny on Bank Holiday Monday and whereas Partner-who-loves-tea and I would normally stay at home away from the crowds we went along to Speke Hall in Liverpool because they were having a Tudor Day and I fancied photographing some of the outfits.  (The Tudor period in England and Wales is the period between 1485 and 1603).


 Could these two be Romeo and Juliet??

P-w-l-t was not particularly bothered about seeing the Tudor activities but there was compensation in the form of a silver jewellery stall that yielded a new pendant and a ring.

The new ring is the one on P-w-l-t's little finger.

On another day I shall blog more about Speke Hall and about the Morris Dancers who were there on Monday.

Who recommended the Curiosity Cabinet?

Someone recently recommended the book the Curiosity Cabinet by Catherine Czerkawska and I downloaded it onto my Kindle.  Nowadays it is a toss-up between downloading onto my tablet (which is what I did with all the David Gemmel books) or the Kindle which I have used for various other books.   I still haven’t decided which I prefer.  Czerkawska’s story is delightful so may I thank whoever recommended it and apologise that I can’t recall who it was.  It concerns a small Scottish island, the kidnaping of a woman in the late 17th or early 18th Century, and a potential love affair between an Edinburgh woman and an islander in the present day.  With three hundred years separating them, the two women are linked by the cabinet and its contents, by the tug of motherhood and by the magic of the island itself.

The Kindle / Tablet issue may be fairly irrelevant for the next few months.  I have decided not to add a single book, real or digital, to my collection until I have worked my way through some of the books which are piled high along the upstairs landing and in every room of the house (including the downstairs cloakroom /loo!). 

The sunshine continued today and I spent almost the whole day in the garden working my little socks off.  But that is a story for another day.

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