Wednesday 31 May 2017

The Price of Fish

Usually when I think of a phrase to mention on my blog I can just turn to ‘Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’ (a wonderful book) for a definition of it.  It may not be the definition I use but it can give me ideas.  Imagine my surprise when, for the first time in decades of using it, I looked up a phrase and Brewer’s didn’t have it! 

The phrase is “What’s that got to do with the price of fish?”

It means, simply, what is the relevance of that.   It denotes an irrelevance or non-sequitur in the current discussion.  Looking it up via Google I also found ‘….the price of eggs’ and ‘….the price of beans’, neither of which I had heard.  There was also ‘….the price of tea in China?’, which I have used as an alternative myself.

What is the equivalent in your country / language?

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Words and Phrases - To Spend a Penny

The phrase to spend a penny means to use the toilet, especially, but not exclusively, a public toilet.

It originates from the use of coin operated locks on public toilets. It was used mostly in the UK and mostly by women (men's urinals were often free of charge).

Such locks were first introduced, at a public toilet outside the Royal Exchange, London, in the 1850s. The term itself is later though. The first recorded citation of it is in H. Lewis's "Strange Story", 1945:

"'Us girls,' she said, 'are going to spend a penny!'"

'Spend a penny' has now largely gone out of use, partly because charges have changed and partly because it was always a coy euphemism, which now seems rather dated. The writing was on the wall for this phrase, so to speak, from 1977, when the Daily Telegraph printed an article headed "2p to spend a penny".  Nowadays it costs at least 20 new pence to spend an (old) penny.

Sunday 21 May 2017

Happy Birthday Dürer

Albrecht Dürer was a painter, printmaker, and theorist of the German Renaissance. Born in Nuremberg on 21st May 1471, he was the third child and second son of his parents, who had at least fourteen and possibly as many as eighteen children. His father, Albrecht Dürer the Elder, was a successful goldsmith, who in 1455 had moved to Nuremberg from Ajtós, near Gyula in Hungary.

Dürer established his reputation and influence across Europe when he was still in his twenties due to his high-quality woodcut prints.   He died on 6 April 1528, also at Nuremberg, Germany.

Some Durer Quotes:-

Some think that they know everybody, but they really don't know themselves.
Albrecht Durer

Love and delight are better teachers than compulsion.
Albrecht Durer

What beauty is, I know not, though it adheres to many things.
Albrecht Durer

Dürer created large numbers of preparatory drawings, especially for his paintings and engravings, and many survive, most famously the Betende Hände (Praying Hands) from circa 1508, a study for an apostle in the Heller altarpiece. Dürer created the drawing using the technique of white heightening and black ink on (self-made) blue colored paper. The drawing shows a close up of two male hands clasped together praying. Also, the partly rolled up sleeves are seen.

(This copy of the drawing was given to me 
on my 21st birthday by my then girlfriend.)

The drawing was planned to occupy the central panel of the triptych installed in Frankfurt, which was later destroyed by a fire in 1729.  The drawing also once contained a sketch of the apostle's head, but the sheet with the head has been separated from it. Overall, Dürer made 18 sketches for the altarpiece. The image is thought probably to depict Dürer's own hands.

Friday 19 May 2017

Did your school have a library?

My school had a library and for a couple of years I was a library prefect which meant I could spend my lunch times and breaks in there.  I was definitely born to be a librarian!  I recently found a picture of myself at an early age...

Just kidding!  (You can tell they are not real librarians.  Real librarians carry twice as many books as that on one arm, leaving the other hand free to shelve them!)

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Skeleton leaves

Have you ever made leaf skeletons?  When I was young |i made a lot of them and used them for making bookmarks and various others forms of craftwork.  Sadly, none of those survive.  But one which my grandmother made - probably well over a century ago - still does.  I covered it in 'sticky-back-plastic' (to quote Blue Peter) and it is still quite happy to this day.

In my early teens I had a pen-pal who lived in Malaysia and she sent me two dyed leaf skeletons with little strings to turn them into bookmarks.

If you want to know how to make leaf skeletons take a look at
It's quite easy to do.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

My worries

Tabor, talking about Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” recently wrote on her blog ‘One Day at a Time’ –I like that it reminds me how I have so little significance on this planet that my worries would not even fill the tummy of a mosquito.

Is that not a wonderful concept!

Monday 8 May 2017

Favourite Confectionery

My Grandmother's favourite chocolate was a walnut whip.

My Mum's were Terry's Spartans.

Closely followed by Toblerone

and Liquorice Allsorts.

Dad loved Kendal Mintcake

and nougat

And both Mum and Dad liked the purple-wrapped brazil nut in Quality Street.

Partner-who-loves-tea has a penchant for Ferrero Rocher.

and Cadbury's Whole Nut.

GB likes Dolly Mixtures but by that he means proper Dolly Mixtures - the old ones with the little hard sweets in.  They don't exist any more and I couldn't even find an image of them.  Nowadays they are Health and Safety Dolly Mixtures!

GB also likes Crunchie Bars.

Son-who-cooks doesn't eat much sugar/chocolate but he used to like Fruit Salad Bars but he doesn't think they make them any more.  They've gone the way of so many of the best sweets and chocolates.

I am very fond of Edinburgh Rock.

But my favourite confection was, without doubt, a box of Weekend - sadly also defunct.

The Marzipan and Almond Fourree was my absolute favourite

What was yours?  Perhaps it appears in one of these pictures...

Saturday 6 May 2017

The Victorian Mystery Series

I shall list all the books I read in  2017 at the end of the year.  But I must make mention of a new series I have just found – The Victorian Mystery Series by Robin Paige (a.k.a. Susan Wittig Albert and Bill Albert).  There are twelve in the series and I have just read the first three.  They are most enjoyable, un-put-downable, cosy crimes set in England at the end of the 19th century which is a period about which I am especially fond of reading. 

1. Death at Bishops Keep (1994)
2. Death at Gallows Green (1995)
3. Death at Daisy's Folly (1997)
4. Death at Devil's Bridge (1998)
5. Death at Rottingdean (1999)
6. Death at Whitechapel (2000)
7. Death at Epsom Downs (2001)
8. Death at Dartmoor (2002)
9. Death at Glamis Castle (2003)
10. Death in Hyde Park (2004)
11. Death At Blenheim Palace (2005)
12. Death on the Lizard (2006)

They star an early forensic scientist and photographer, Sir Charles Sheridan, and an Irish American girl, Kate Ardleigh, who comes to England as a secretary to her aunt and is – unbeknown to those around her – the author of lurid penny dreadfuls.  Together the two of them team up (or antagonise each other) to solve murders.  Great fun.

Each chapter is preceded by an appropriate quote or two, a feature I usually find enjoyable in books like this.  This quote was especially appropriate:-
“Novel-writers are a devious lkot.  Just when the question seems resolved and the answers are all known (or nearly all), a new difficulty is often introduced, startling the reader out of his complacency and throwing order into chaos once again.”  - Lenore Penmore ‘Secrets of the Narrative Arts’, 1892.

And here are some quotes from the books themselves.  I can only hope they don’t leave you too inflamed and passionate. . . .

Aunt Jaggers voice became hoarsely sententious … “It is our duty to reprove and correct those in our employ and to guard them from their own natural inclinations to become apprentices of misrule.  That, of course,” she added, but not as an afterthought, “is why the reading of novels is prohibited.”
“You do not deem novels fit reading, Kate ventured cautiously.
“A sign of moral depravity,” Aunt Jaggers replied firmly.  “Witness this teaching from The Christian Miscellany and Family Visitor.”  She took up a booklet from the table, adjusted her glasses, and again read aloud.  “Novel reading tends to inflame the passions, pollute the imagination, and corrupt the heart.  It frequently becomes an inveterate habit, strong and fatal as that of the drunkard.  In this state of intoxication, great waywardness of conduct is always sure to follow.  Even when the habit is renounced, and genuine reformation takes place, the individual always suffers the cravings of former excitement.”

Edward thought he had given up being surprised by Miss Ardleigh.  But he could not help being surprised now.  She bent down, unlaced her stout black boot and pulled it off, balancing on one foot in an altogether unladylike posture.  He averted his eyes from her slender black-stockinged foot, a part of the female anatomy that he had seen only once or twice before in his life and found, to his dismay, inordinately provocative.

Thursday 4 May 2017

Red Herring

Words and phrases – Red Herring
A red herring is one which has been cured by salting and slow smoking to a reddish brown colour.

Metaphorically it is a clue or piece of information which is misleading or detracts attention from the real issue.  Agatha Christie's books are full of red herrings.

The phrase is said to have come about because of the use of a red herring (an especially smelly fish) being drawn across a trail (such as that of a fox) to confuse the hunting hounds. William Cobbett is said to have used a real red herring to confuse a pack of hounds chasing a hare and then on 14 February 1807 he used the incident to criticise the English Press who had mistakenly reported the defeat of Napoleon calling it a ‘political red herring’. And so the term ‘Red Herring’ became entrenched in the language as a diverting trail.   

Cobbett (9 March 1763 – 18 June 1835) 
was an English pamphleteer, farmer, 
journalist and Member of Parliament.  

Interestingly, the red herring may originally have been used for a slightly different purpose as outlined in Nicholas Cox’s “The Gentleman's Recreation : in four parts, viz. hunting, hawking, fowling, fishing” in 1686:-

‘A Dog may be trained by the trailing or dragging of a dead Cat, or Fox, (and in case of necessity, a Red-herring) three or four miles… and then laying him on the scent.’

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Liverpool Lyceum

“When you least expect it, you hear the dreadful click which is driving the world mad. . . .  Wherever you be, on land and sea, you hear that awful click of he amateur photographer.  Click!  Click! Click!"
Musical comedy act of the 1890s.

It doesn't much matter where I go I end up taking photos.  Among my favourite subjects are natural history, architecture and post boxes.  

Recently, on a walk through Liverpool, I photographed the Lyceum building.

The Lyceum is a Neoclassical Grade II listed building located on Bold Street, Liverpool, England. It was constructed in 1802 as a news-room and to house England's first subscription library (the Liverpool Library 1758-1942).  It later became a gentleman's club.

After the club relocated in 1952 the building was left unoccupied for many years, eventually falling into a state of disrepair. Calls were made for its demolition in the late 1970s, however a campaign against demolition was successful and it later reopened as a post office. 

Currently most of the building lies vacant with only part of the building serving as a branch of The Co-operative Bank.

This is how it looked in 1828:-

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