Sunday, 14 January 2018

Watts and Barraclough

Several posts ago, as a starter for my ambitious project to hit 1,000 posts on my 10th blogging anniversary, I put up a list of surnames, with the idea that just asking people to guess the context would be good for a shot or two.  My brother inadvertently blew my cover with a comment identifying them as teachers at our grammar school, so I might as well cut straight to the Act II exposition, which is to say something about these long-dead formers of my self.

I’ll start with a couple about whom I remember least, and will therefore have to make up most.

Mr Watts had an artificial leg, having lost the real one in the war.  I think it was his left one, because I can picture him riding his bike to school.  This had been modified so that he only had to pedal on one side; I’d only see him in the morning, when he would be riding along Mallard Way towards the staff entrance and so would be on the same side of the road as me.  But it could have been his right one.
His inevitable nickname was ‘Pegleg’.  I guess he must have been aware of this, but he was a kindly soul who clearly had a thick enough skin to elect to be a boys’ secondary school teacher in the knowledge of all that would entail, and I don’t think there was ever any unpleasantness serious or discernible enough to need escalating.
I have no idea what he taught.
Mr Barraclough taught, I suspect, geography.  If so he must have taken me over from Mr Styles (q.v.) when I was in about the fourth form and done serious damage to my interest in the subject.  To be fair, my interest in any subject other than skiffle was at serious risk by then, so I can’t completely lay my abysmal O level performance at his door.  Oh all right, I can.
I remember him being extremely tall, which is confirmed by a photograph I’ve recently stumbled across online.  Online sources also suggest he was an avid user of the cane, but I never experienced that.  Mind you, I don’t remember ever having been caned during my school days (or since).  I was too timid to be a threat to any of my teachers.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Research suggests

Whenever I read those words I reach for my logic gun.

The latest research suggestion is that a person who smokes one cigarette is twice as likely to go on to smoke a few more than another person who smokes one cigarette.  (I simplify the maths for blog-effectiveness, of course.  But not the logic.)

I’d have thought that most people (usually kids) who decide to try a cigarette (or anything else dangerous, for that matter) do so either because they are peer-pressured to, or because they want to, and will probably go on to try a few more, at least ‘for a period’ (undefined).  The detailed commentary on this ‘research’ does make this qualifying point among several others – for example, that it was a self-selecting sample drawn from widely variant populations and can therefore be considered as, at best, ‘only an estimate’ – but that doesn’t stop the journalists (I’m drawing on the reports in the Guardian and the Times) from headlining this as if it’s in any way factual or significant.

I have no axe to grind here, as I stopped smoking several months ago and don’t intend to start again.  I’m just against spurious science.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018


Yes, I know.

I’ve just about got the hang of the stove top – you slide things around sideways rather than turning a knob – but I clearly haven’t quite cracked the ovens yet.  I know that the top one is very hot and the lower one quite cool, and that within either of these the shelf position is crucial in determining the actual cooking temperature, but fine tuning is obviously still beyond me.

I know this to be so because after my best efforts it proved hard if not impossible to distinguish the carrots from the turnips from the onions.  In gas cooker terms I roasted them at gas 6 for about 25 minutes then turned it down to 3 for another half an hour or so.  Clearly I need to practise more, because they all ended up black.
The oxtail stew was still superb though.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Technology makes it simpler for us

My fabulous new camera has 17 buttons on its outside.  That's including the one you press to take a picture.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

At a glance | Theresa May's 12-point Brexit plan

Just a little reminder from a year ago:

  1. Provide certainty about the process of leaving the EU
  2. Control of our own laws
  3. Strengthen the Union between the four nations of the United Kingdom
  4. Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland
  5. Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe
  6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU
  7. Protect workers' rights
  8. Free trade with European markets through a free trade agreement
  9. New trade agreements with other countries
  10. The best place for science and innovation
  11. Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism
  12. A smooth, orderly Brexit

Friday, 5 January 2018

Islanders (chapter 1): five things I've discovered

1.  After the Isle of Man opened Europe's first non-smoking prison in 2009, crime rates on the island dropped by 14%.

2.  Some Manxmen persisted in observing the pre-Gregorian calendar long after 1752.  If any of them are still alive, Happy Christmas today!

3.  The OECD no longer classes the IOM as a tax haven.  So that's all right.

4.  It's the world capital of cryptocurrencies, and it's even possible to spend them there.

5.  'The triskelion always lands on its feet.'

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Timbo gets Shorn

No, that’s not as in ‘…of the Dead’.  My hair (certain male friends should look away now) gets out of control when it exceeds 2” (two inches) at any location and makes me look like a scarecrow.  So about a fortnight ago I started to try to get it cut.

It turns out that the weeks immediately before and after Christmas are not the best of times to access the only barber within a ten mile radius, so I spent the festivities performing my Wurzel Gummidge impersonation to a politely blind-eyed audience.  But today the master plan was kicked off.  I would rise early, grab a quick bite and cuppa, and get into town in time to be waiting outside the door when he opened at nine, ahead of the few remaining locals who hadn’t previously managed to make the cut.  (When I tried it on Tuesday, at about half ten, there were six in the waiting area, about two hours’ worth.)  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it turned out, nothing.  Z provided the transport (cleverly suggesting that she did the market shopping in parallel) and dropped me off at exactly ten seconds to nine.  I was first through the door, and was welcomingly ushered into the chair.  Exactly ten seconds after that, another man came through the door, looked a bit surprised, then disconcerted, then resigned, and sat down in the waiting area.  After another ten seconds (I am not exaggerating here), two more came in and did the same thing.  Hah! I thought.

It’s a really good haircut.  It took what seemed like ages but was only about twenty minutes.  I resisted the temptation to count, let alone make brief, smug eye contact with, the poor saps of runners-up as I left.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Five things because I need to blog

1.     I’ve read two of my Christmas books.  The first one was an intriguing, though flawed, thriller called ‘Magpie Murders’ by Anthony Horowitz.  Tim Lott recently said in the Guardian that ‘literary fiction’, by which he meant posh novels as opposed to common ones, had lost the plot, and I sympathise with his point – I’ve tried to read some posh novels in recent years that disappeared up their own introspection – but I’m not sure where the genre boundaries are any more.  I reckon Horowitz would, if forced to classify, call his work ‘literary’; but a shortage of plot is not one of its failings.

2.     The next book was about growing, processing, storing and burning wood in Norway.  It’s informative, gripping and often hilarious – a classic example of writing quality transcending subject matter, in a way the opposite of point 1, I suppose.

3.     However, I now know more than I really need to about Norwegian chainsaws.

4.     However, if you are felling a tree for fuel, it’s a good idea to do it in the spring, when the leaves have set, and don’t take them off until the autumn.  They will continue to grow (not knowing that there aren’t any roots any more) and so extract moisture from the trunk, drying the latter that much faster for burning.

5.     The third book is ‘Islander’ by Patrick Barkham.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  We’re starting in the Isle of Man.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Dead Men Talking

Ticking down.  I can probably get a day out of most of these, more or less - meanwhile, guess the context (no insider trading please):

Parry; Bennett; Dixon; Dodds; Green; Watts; Pettoello; Read; Wiseman; Styles; Barraclough; Cushion; Harcourt Smith

Monday, 1 January 2018


Is it legitimate to write at length about the fact that you can't think of anything to write at length about and are only pretending to be writing at length because you've contracted to write at at least blogworthy as opposed to Fakebuk length for some numerological  reason that you wrote at length about a couple of days ago and could if it were absolutely essential remember and expound again at length here?
Thought so.