Thursday 29 February 2024




I was just reading Liz Hinds’ blog post on ‘Finding Life Hard?’ The title was ‘Do you need a wee?’ Now that’s a catchy phrase but it led on to Liz’s dislike of all photographs of herself. I share that feeling, but latterly – well, in the last five years or so – I have reached the conclusion that avoiding the camera is foolish and actually extremely difficult with the demon photographer to whom I’m married.

I used to joke that our grandchildren would never recognise him because he’s always behind a camera, but they have grown up with a healthy attitude to having photographs taken, able to look entirely natural and comfortable. My son and two younger daughters have also been able to face the camera easily. My eldest daughter and I have always tried to avoid it; consequently, there are a myriad photos of hands, back or top of heads, cups or glasses held directly in front of our faces or, when unable to escape, gurning gargoyle images, (not eldest daughter - she’s very pretty). Not a flattering look – and I look grim, stern, unyielding, but if I smile, I look like a simpleton. Well, the camera never lies!

I regret it, because when I look back at the few photos I quite like, I think, ‘I wish I looked like that now.’ Maybe, in a few years’ time I will wonder what face I presented to the world. It will not have improved, of that I’m absolutely certain, but as it’s only going to get worse, perhaps I should have some portraits done so that when I’m in my dotage – or more in it than I already am – I can repeat, ‘I wish I looked like that now.’

I did point out to Barry that there are few photos of him as he’s always the photographer, so have tried to snap some of him. Funnily enough, his reaction is the same as mine. He doesn’t like his photos, either. It’s all the fault of the person behind the camera.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Bubble car


Bubble car

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

JayCee’s post reminded me of Mrs Ball and her three-wheeled bubble car. Mrs Ball was our biology teacher, a very nice lady, and well suited to her surname. Her car reflected her physiology and it amused us to see her drive across the playground behind the science labs.

I don’t recall the make – I wasn’t interested in cars then and only noticed more unusual ones. My friend’s mother had an Austin Metropolitan, which seemed quite flashy at the time, but other than that, and Mrs Ball’s car, I don’t remember any others.

Bubble cars became popular in UK in the 1950s, when worries about Middle East oil supplies prevailed. The first models were built in Germany and then other European manufacturers began to produce the little, fuel-efficient vehicles.

                     The entire front of a car like Mrs Ball’s bubble car was hinged so that it could be completely opened to allow entry. It was powered by a two-stroke motorbike engine and could achieve 70 miles per gallon. It carried just under three gallons, so a full tank would allow a journey of 210 miles. As its top speed was about 47 mph, a journey of any appreciable length would take a very long time. I think its main purpose was as a runabout, a little vehicle to get its driver short distances from A to B.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Driving tests


Driving tests

Tasker Dunham posted a blog the other day about hand signals when driving, and included a very amusing anecdote about his aunt’s driving test. This reminded me of the story of Barry’s first driving test.

Do all males fail their tests the first time? There used to be a theory that examiners failed boys and passed girls on their first test. The feeling was that boys passing their test would be overconfident and prone to showing off, and therefore a potential danger behind the wheel. This was less likely to happen with girls. In fact, statistics show that drivers between the ages of 17 and 24 are more likely to be involved in car accidents during the first year following a successful driving test.    

I was taught to drive by a retired police driving instructor and passed my driving test first time, when I was seventeen (small brag there!) My daughters passed first time, first time and second time, but my son had at least three tests. My examiner was unremarkable and I remember nothing about the test. My husband’s experience was rather different.

Driving along a quiet country road, the examiner told Barry he would indicate when he wanted him to execute an emergency stop. As I remember, the usual method was to strike the clipboard against the dashboard. Anyway, the signal was given and Barry duly slammed on the brakes.

A man came storming out of his house and banged on the passenger door, the examiner’s side, shouting, ‘I’m fed up with all you lot doing your emergency stops outside my house. Why don’t you go and do them somewhere else and leave me in peace?’

The examiner ignored him and told Barry to drive on. Barry pointed out that the man was hanging onto the car.

‘Drive on! Do as you’re told,’ said the examiner.

‘I can’t,’ said the hapless examinee.

‘Do as you’re told,’ the examiner shouted.

At that moment, the man relinquished his hold on the passenger seat door handle and rushed to the front of the car and draped himself across the bonnet. He persisted in haranguing the examiner and all the while the examiner kept yelling, ‘Drive on’. 

‘I can’t.’           

‘Do as I tell you! Drive on!’

This continued for several moments until the man on the bonnet grew tired of his uncomfortable position and withdrew, still shouting and gesturing.

The driving test resumed, examiner and his charge somewhat unsettled.

‘Take the next turning left,’ the examiner instructed, so Barry did. Unfortunately, it took them into a one-way street.

‘Why did you do that?’ barked the instructor.

‘You told me to,’ Barry answered.

There followed a more than three-point turn to exit the road and the examination continued.

Back at the driving test centre Barry was informed that he had failed the test. Later on, he took his test in the army and passed. 

Monday 26 February 2024



The Six Nations match between France and Italy on Sunday was preceded by the customary fireworks. The roof of the Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille was closed, so the smoke was trapped. It gradually cleared at ground level, drifting up as the game progressed. More fireworks exploded after successful penalty kicks, resulting in more smoke.  It cannot be good to play in and is certainly unfortunate for crowds in the upper stands.

The result was a draw - 13-13.  France played with 14 men for most of the match, Danty being sent off for dangerous play. It need not have made a difference. Teams have been known to win with two men down.

It was exciting.

Usually, games would be played at the Stade France but the stadium is being prepared for the Paris Olympic games in the summer.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Golden syrup


Golden syrup

F fromTigger’s Wee-Blog posted her grandmother’s recipe for mouthwatering ginger biscuits. It was the mention of one of the ingredients, golden syrup, that triggered this post.

I read recently that Tate and Lyle were changing the 140-year-old trademark on their classic green and gold tins of golden syrup because some customers had complained that the current one was grim. The illustration shows a cloud of bees buzzing around a dead lion. Underneath are the words, ‘Out of the strong came forth sweetness’. The logo and words are repeated on the red and gold black treacle tin. (Tooth-achingly sweet golden syrup is refined from stronger, slightly bitter black treacle, which is said to be similar to molasses.) It holds the Guinness World Record for the oldest unchanged logo. This year, 2024, it was replaced by a stylised lion’s head and a single bee.

Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup became Lyle’s Golden Syrup after the sugar business was sold to American Sugar Refining in 2010. Tate and Lyle continues to trade other commodities.

I remember studying the syrup tin when I was a child, but it never occurred to me that I was seeing something offensive, and even now I see nothing wrong with it. It was based on the story of Samson and the lion in chapter 14 of the Book of Judges. Briefly, Samson killed a lion and later discovered that bees had used the carcase as a hive and produced honey. He then posed a riddle to the Philistines, one of whose daughters he wanted to marry, ‘Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.’

I must remember to keep the empty tin, as a reminder of simpler, less antagonistic times . . . and my childhood.

 My guilty pleasure, but one I rarely indulge, is syrup on hot, buttered toast. 😔 

I like ginger nuts, too.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Subtle bragging


Subtle bragging

                                    Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This doesn’t apply to me - I have absolutely nothing to brag about, but I have noticed other people indulging.

For instance, someone I knew received a course of flying lessons as a present from her husband. She was pleased and excited. Not unnaturally, she mentioned it in a social media post. Most of her friends congratulated her and said how lucky she was. They were happy for her and hoped she would enjoy the course.

One person, however, took it one step further and asked if she was considering buying a small aircraft. This person recommended the plane he had, a Cessna, I think, or perhaps a Piper, and said how much fun he and his family were having and where and how often they were flying. Maybe he just wanted to share his enthusiasm but the effect was to devalue the gift. 

It deadened the pleasure my acquaintance felt momentarily but she proceeded to have her lessons and thoroughly enjoyed them. So far, some months later, she has resisted the urge to buy her own plane!

Friday 23 February 2024

The Entropy Gang’s February 2024 blog



The Entropy Gang’s February 2024 blog

Herschel: We had a nice surprise the other day. The MAID gave Jellicoe and me a new toy. She put it in the conservatory.

Jellicoe: We haven’t had any new toys for ages, not since we were little kittens.

Herschel: The MAID used to give us little balls to play with, but the DOGS kept taking them and the THINKER and the MAID thought they might choke on them.

Jellicoe: This toy is designed to make us work. The MAID puts treats in the different parts and we have to get them out. I like playing with it, because I like food.

Herschel: It’s not really a puzzle toy, more of an activity board. My paws are bigger than Jellicoe’s and I’m not as greedy as him, but I can still pull out the little biscuits.

Jellicoe: The MAID puts liver treats in the different parts. I like liver. Yum.

Herschel: Roxy came to have a look. She likes liver too, but her paws are much too big, and so is her nose.

Jellicoe: She’s not very good at removing them. I suppose she’s just too big all round. I was surprised that Gilbert hasn’t tried to snaffle all the little biscuits. He hasn’t bothered with them at all.

Herschel: That’s because he’s usually in the kitchen, helping. The THINKER puts us in the conservatory when he and the MAID are preparing food because Jellicoe is a pest and tries to take all the ingredients. I have much better manners, so I don’t have to be shut away.

Jellicoe: The THINKER suggested putting wet food in the sections. I liked the sound of that, but the MAID said, ‘No’, even though it can go in the dishwasher. It is quite big, I suppose.

Herschel:  I wait until Jellicoe’s finished before I have a turn. Most times there’s not much nothing left but I’m not really bothered. Sometimes we have a standoff . . .

. . . but mostly I just watch and wait.


Thursday 22 February 2024




Image source

Mr Chad, sometimes known as ‘Mr Wot no . . . ’ was a popular cartoon character during WWII in Britain. He was a means of expressing people’s dismay about the things they most missed, like bananas or sugar. He appeared all over the place, on walls, shop windows, on doors or trains and in cartoons. The Chad the RAF recognised was known to the British Army as Private Snoops and to the Royal Navy as the Watcher, though he had many other names, too.

Image source

The origins of Chad are uncertain, though Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable claims that he was the creation of the British cartoonist, George Edward Chatterton in 1938, who was known as Chat. Chat could easily become Chad.  However, the character first appeared in a ‘Useless Eustace’ cartoon by Chatterton’s former drawing instructor, Jack Greenall in the 1920s.

Here you can see Chad in his first public appearance at the top of the cartoon.
Image source

The repeated caption ‘Wot no . . . ?’ was added later, as observations on wartime shortages and rationing. He appeared across the world, wherever troops were deployed.

Image source

In Australia and the USA, Foo and Kilroy may have been different characterisations of Chad or just the same character with different names.

There is more information here and here.

Image source 

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Pretty dangerous


Pretty dangerous

Lily stamens stand proud of the flower
Many of the prettiest garden plants are toxic and potentially dangerous to domestic pets, though serious poisoning is very uncommon in the UK. Lilies are extremely poisonous. If an animal merely brushes against them, the pollen from the stamens will coat individual hairs and be ingested when the animal cleans its fur. Obviously, this applies more to cats, which are far more fastidious than dogs.

Close-up of pollen on lily stamens 
In the spring, we delight to see the dancing daffodils, which are toxic in every part, followed by stately tulips, which are equally poisonous. The tiny, dainty snowdrop carries poison throughout its structure, though the toxin is concentrated more heavily in the bulb.


Hyacinths, sometimes overpoweringly fragrant? Toxic, particularly the bulbs, where the greatest concentration is found. Severe poisoning in dogs occurs when they dig up and chew newly planted tulip or hyacinth bulbs or have free access to great quantities of bulbs awaiting planting. Cats can be affected simply by smelling the flowers of hyacinths, indoors or out.

Lily-of-the-Valley, that pretty, sweetly scented flower, is poisonous. In fact, there are very few garden plants that do not present a potential danger to our four-footed friends.

It is the youngest animals, the babies, and that includes human babies, who need to be watched most carefully, because they learn through their mouths. Older animals either do not have the urge to munch everything in sight, or discover that certain flowers make them feel a little unwell.

Primula (primrose)

Through many decades of human and animal babies, we have never had a problem with poisonous plants, though we have always avoided lilies and foxgloves, unless in the front garden, where our cats are not allowed and which our dogs pass through without lingering. Perhaps we have been lucky, but on balance, I think we will continue to grow primroses and crocuses, bluebells and hydrangeas, irises and chrysanthemums, love-in-a-mist and wallflowers. Our clematis will carry on clothing the garden arches with cascades of purple, pink or white blooms.


We can safely appreciate our philadelphus, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, lavender, rosemary, geraniums, roses and snapdragons, asters and violets, luscious honeysuckles and that dainty scented garden thug, jasmine, and the sweet, reliable, sometimes overlooked forget-me-nots.

Close-up of violet

Nature is on the move in the garden and soon the fruit trees will blossom. After that, as spring gives way to summer, an orgy of growth and colour will ensue, plants growing almost while we watch.


Tuesday 20 February 2024

The cat’s whiskers


The cat’s whiskers

The origins of this expression are uncertain. It may have arisen in 19th
century girls’ boarding schools. Another source suggests that the cartoonist Thomas Dorgan was responsible for the term in the early 20th century.

What is certain is that it carries the same meaning as ‘the bees’ knees’ which I wrote about here and here. It is not an expression commonly heard in the 21st century.

Last night we were commenting on our cats’ splendid whiskers and started discussing their purpose. We knew they were a means for cats to determine whether a space was big enough for them to pass through, a sort of inbuilt tape measure, but when we investigated further, we discovered some interesting facts.

The formal name for whiskers is vibrissae, from the Latin vibrio, to vibrate. They are much thicker than normal cat fur and have roots three times deeper. The tips have sensory organs that send information to the brain. They enable the cat to judge distance and direction and even texture. They can sense air movements and changes, sometimes alerting them to danger.

Cats are symmetrical, at least, their cheek or mystacial whiskers are. Every cat has at least 24 tactile facial whiskers, arranged symmetrically in four horizontal rows of three on each side of their muzzle.  Some cats may have more than 24, but there will always be an even number on each side in symmetrical formation, so that they can accurately assess their surroundings.

I think Herschel has 30 muzzle whiskers

Whiskers can indicate the mood of a cat. Pinned back whiskers signify a scared animal. Whiskers pointing forward, particularly if the ears are also erect, show alertness, as when a cat is hunting or curious. If the ears are flattened and the whiskers are forward, the cat is showing signs of aggression. When relaxed and happy, the whiskers droop.

The length of the whiskers is dependant on the size of the cat. A larger, fatter or fluffier cat will have longer whiskers than a hairless cat. A large Maine Coon may have whiskers that are six inches long. Conversely, a little Cornish Rex will have very short, curly whiskers. 

Cats cannot easily see things less than about eleven inches in front of them. By touching an object with their whiskers they know where and how big it is. At night, their whiskers detect air currents, alerting them to objects they may need to avoid. Outside, whiskers can sense sharp objects, thus protecting their eyes and faces from injury.

Whiskers, like fur, go through a natural sequence of growth and shedding. It is not unusual to find a mystacial whisker on a cushion or chair. If a number are found it could indicate something amiss, like an infection, or an allergy.

Most cats have white whiskers though they sometimes change colour with age, looking grey or black. A colour change may indicate that that whisker is about to be shed.

Cats’ whiskers should never be trimmed – they are essential to a cat’s well-being.

Cats have whiskers on other parts of their bodies. Leg whiskers grow at the back of the front legs. They are quite difficult to photograph but are easily seen in 'real life.' These carpal whiskers help when the cat is climbing, sensing the texture of the tree or fence. As cats cannot see detail well close up, their carpal whiskers are used when hunting to indicate whether the prey they have caught is still moving. 

The whiskers above their eyes, their eyebrows, are sensitive to the lightest touch, warning them to blink or move, though I have sometimes seen Jellicoe with wispy cobwebs on his eyebrows. He's not providing board and lodging to a spider, just using his whiskers as brooms. The word whisker comes from the Middle English 'wisker' for anything that whisks or sweeps. 

Now, go and find a cat and count its mystacial whiskers!

Monday 19 February 2024

Microfiction 3


Microfiction 3

Image source

This was another 2010 microfiction prompt. The challenge was to write a response in 140 characters or less. Spaces are characters, too.

‘See, Jim,’ said Tom. ‘You can have a nice warm bath first and then you can use the ring on your chair. That’ll ease your haemorrhoids.’

(136 characters)


‘You told me there’d be treasure from that wreck – gold bars and bullion. A bar of soap won’t make my fortune, only bubbles.’

(125 characters)

I’d love to read your responses. Have a go. It’s fun!


Sunday 18 February 2024

Commonplace book


Commonplace book

 A commonplace book is a notebook or journal which records things of interest.  These may be quotations, ideas, observations, written or drawn. My commonplace entries are entirely quotations. If I could draw, I would include pictures – I see them in my mind’s eye but am incapable of translating them into sketches. How I envy those who have artistic skills!

Anyway, today I was looking at the last pages of my commonplace book, Y and Z.  Under Y I had written Yadah, for which I had the definition, ‘to acknowledge the nature and work of God.’ Looking it up today, I discovered that it is a Hebrew word encompassing praise, confession, gratitude and worship.

I had also written ‘yada, yada, yada’, which is an informal phrase used in a similar way to ‘et cetera’ and ‘blah, blah, blah’ and sometimes indicative of boredom or irritation with a conversational gambit. It’s not an expression I use but I think it’s quite colourful. 

For Z, I had a Zen proverb – ‘Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.’ Very true!

Zen can be an adjective or a noun. As an adjective it means relaxed but I don’t know anyone who uses it. Its use as a noun is more familiar. Zen is the Japanese pronunciation of a Chinese word, ch’an, meaning thought or meditation. Zen is a Buddhist sect that originated in China. Practitioners do not believe in reincarnation or worship Buddha, although they acknowledge him, but seek enlightenment through meditation.

I like the rocking chair analogy. I like rocking chairs but it is almost impossible to sit in one and not rock. We have had ours for decades and it has borne the teething attentions of many toddlers, puppies and kittens. It may one day be restored to its former glory but for now it is battered and bruised. There is no point in owning something and not using it and I don’t believe in banning young ones from touching furniture.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Gilbert the Good - Would you like a carrot?


Gilbert the Good - Would you like a carrot?

'Did you say carrot?'

Our humans ask us that almost every day, as if we’d ever say ‘No’.

(What? Oh, sorry, ‘No, thank you.’

Me and Roxy have a carrot most days.

What? Oh, sorry, Roxy and me have a carrot most days.

What? Oh, sorry, Roxy and I have a carrot most days.

What? Oh, sorry, Roxy and I each have a carrot most days.

Some people are so fussy about the way we speak.)

Honestly, we have to watch our pees and queues here, you know. I don’t really know what queues are, but I don’t know why we have to watch our pees.

(What? Oh, sorry, it’s ps not pees, and qs, not queues. It means minding our pleases = ps and thank yous = qs. Clear as mud, that is.)

'You did say carrot, didn't you?'
Anyway, me and Roxy, I and Roxy, Roxy and me, Roxy and I really enjoy our carrots. Janice tried to photograph our expressions when she asked if we would like a carrot today, but they change so quickly and she’s not very good at the photography lark. Barry’s much better, but he’s very precise. Focal length and aperture and lenses and all sorts of other things have to be considered and that’s why he ends up with dozens of photographs of one thing, trying to get the perfect shot. Janice is a point and shoot person so that’s why so many of her photographs are out of focus, or are shots of feet, or smudged windows, or the ceiling. Anyway, she tries her best and you can’t ask more than that.

How do I know about these things? I listen. I listen really carefully. Roxy listens, too, and sometimes she hears before I do, especially if I’m in a deep sleep.

I can hear a packet of biscuits being opened in another room, or a pear being sliced. Janice wondered if we could hear a banana being peeled, but that would just be plain silly.

(What? Oh, sorry, I’ve split an infinitive. Let me see if I can sort it out. I should not have said ‘that would just be plain silly’ because I split ‘would’ and ‘be’. So, I’ll try again.

That just would be plain silly’. Is that better? No, it’s clumsy, so should it be, ‘That would be just plain silly’? That’s quite difficult to say, too, so perhaps I’ll simply say, ‘That would be plain silly’ or simply, ‘That would be silly.’

I’m a dog, for goodness’ sake. Some people expect too much.)


To resume . . . Added to that, I have an excellent sense of smell. We have been playing retrieving games indoors and in the garden. It’s great fun. Herschel and Jellicoe join in, too, but their noses aren’t as powerful as ours so they don’t find treats as quickly as we do.

                                            'I do like carrots!'

Roxy eats much quicker than I do. She finishes her carrots and chews in half the time it takes me and she’s always looking for more food. Actually, she’s quite greedy, like most Labrador bitches. I suppose they have to eat as much as they can to build up their energy reserves in case they have puppies. I don’t think Roxy will be having any puppies.




Friday 16 February 2024

Looking up


Looking up

. . .  is what I had to do as the stinging eye drops went in to dilate the pupils.

I was dreading the appointment as it was back in the opthalmology department of the large hospital – well, not that large, just 725 beds. The John Radcliffe has 1,133 and Manchester Royal Infirmary, has more than 1,700 beds. 

There, I, and many others, had spent hopeless hours, several years ago, watching the information cards and the delay times on them increasing - waiting time 35 minutes, 50 minutes and so on. I don't much object to waiting if I'm travelling under my own steam, but I don't like keeping my chauffeur waiting.

View from the waiting room At least the sky was pretty!

It had been such a relief to go to the smaller hospitals – parking was easy, waiting times were negligible, fewer people. However, I was pleasantly surprised today. The waiting rooms were crowded with people . . . . waiting, but everyone had a seat and things were proceeding in an orderly fashion.

Several empty ambulances were parked. The one on the left is a St John  ambulance.

Two emergency ambulances stood ready. As we were on our way home an emergency ambulance with blue lights flashing passed by on the opposite side of the road. It was a 'there but for the grace of God go I' moment.

It was all conducted very efficiently. My main complaint would be the assumption that I needed to be treated like a small child, with questions being asked rather too loudly and a hand guiding my head rather too insistently towards whichever machine was the next to be monitoring my eyes.

I was touched to see a couple of benches outside with dedications, two of them to hospital porters. They are important members of staff and easily overlooked or taken for granted.

It's a pity the benches have to be chained to prevent theft!

There and back in under two hours! Well done, FPH.