pictorial Somerset – anti-aircraft gun for sale, and Koi

so who wants to buy an anti-aircraft gun – it would make a wonderful feature for the back garden. See below.

This was the last afternoon with our friends so in spite of an impeding rainstorm we decided to set off for various venues. I normally sit down at the computer with all the alternatives and feel my way through the journey. If I get a positive feeling I make the decision with confidence and I always find if I trust my intuition we get a good result. This is particularly important if other people are involved. So off we go on another journey…….first stop, a miniature Japanese garden in Cheddar.

Count the number of varieties – see below
a hot target but for one only – not quite sure about the meaning of “I love you to the moon and back”

The National Garden Scheme encourages people to open their private gardens once or twice a year, charge a modest fee, and give the money to charity. Here was a remarkable small garden in Cheddar tucked away in a small side road. The owner exhibits acers and conifers all over the country in all their varying hues, along with koi.. but then have a look for yourself.

a half yurt?
subtle hues – the photo does not do justice to this
koi and gold fish
a lovely picture taken by my wife
Somerset levels – we watch two sets of parents taking their brood of ducklings off for the night, horses stand vaguely around
this place has to be seen to be believed. It is on the road from Glastonbury to Wells
you will not believe the variety of stuff here. Many bargains, some contemporary items for use in a stylish home. Bring a trailer if you want to buy anything. Unbelievably eccentric.
this is the road sign gently beckoning you in. There is adequate parking inside




Victims of our own communications – The day that never was – less is more


3 June 1664

Up, still in a constant pain in my back, which much afflicts me with fear of the consequence of it. All the morning at the office, we sat at the office extraordinary upon the business of our stores, but, Lord! what a pitiful account the Surveyor makes of it grieves my heart. This morning before I came out I made a bargain with Captain Taylor for a ship for the Commissioners for Tangier, wherein I hope to get 40l. or 50l..

To the ‘Change, and thence home and dined, and then by coach to White Hall, sending my wife to Mrs. Hunt’s. At the Committee for Tangier all the afternoon, where a sad consideration to see things of so great weight managed in so confused a manner as it is, so as I would not have the buying of an acre of land bought by the Duke of York and Mr. Coventry, for ought I see, being the only two that do anything like men; Prince Rupert do nothing but swear and laugh a little, with an oathe or two, and that’s all he do.

Thence called my wife and home, and I late at my office, and so home to supper and to bed, pleased at my hopes of gains by to-day’s work, but very sad to think of the state of my health.

Poor old Pepys, barely a day goes by without him mentioning suffering of the body of some sort and yet he just gets on with it and puts in a good day’s work. This is the very opposite of ‘pulling a sickie’ by the young and lazy are so fond of. In their own slender defence, if you are treated like a living robot there is not the feeling of belonging  especially when you see your bosses getting paid stellar amounts of money. The resentment must build up.

Wall to wall imagery of fear and panic, but the police did a good job. eight minutes from the first call to shooting the perpetrators dead.

So, here we go again, another group of three zealots shouting ‘this is for Allah’. They drive into people with their van on the iconic London Bridge, succeeding in injuring 48 people and killing 7 before being shot. I heard about it at the same time and in the same manner as I did the Manchester debacle whilst listening to Radio Five Live shortly before midnight. Now we have endless overreactions by the police though I admit they have a difficult job, people being barred from their own homes, wall-to-wall coverage and generally spreading the idea of fear in our midst.

The BBC would not dare discuss exactly why UK in general should receive this treatment. It would have nothing to do of course with the UK and America’s support of Saudi Arabia, and the wars tacitly approved of by UK which killed thousands of people in the Middle East. Heaven forbid that people should actually think or take collective responsibility. ‘Make ’em afraid then tell them what to do’. Endlessly asking people ‘how they feel’ and ‘what they saw’ is not enough. Strange that the miscreants  used fake bomb attachments ‘to spread fear’. That’s an odd thing for a suicide bomber to do.

This forthcoming observation may help people who are thinking of planning something  involving travel for the first time. Our local horticultural Society arranged an all-day coach outing to North Devon. The first feature was Tapley Park Gardens near Bideford where there are terraces, woodland walks, and a lake. The second feature was Marwood Hill Garden  near Barnstaple which has a 20 acre private garden with three lakes set in a valley. This was to be followed by a substantial cream tea in the local church. On the face of it and for £30 it sounded good.

I had provisionally reserved four places but all did not sit well and as regular readers to this diary will know, my instinct about travel is fairly good. The client group will be people in their 60s and above. We are looking at a summer Sunday in North Devon and as locals will know, anything other than the M5 / A303 is very slow and prone to traffic jams so you can reckon about 30 miles an hour average.  The organiser ‘thought’ (first danger signal) that the trip from Somerset to Tapley Park Gardens would take ‘about two hours’.

The AA in their automated wisdom estimate it will be 2 1/2 hours and 111 miles. That’s about the same distance as going to London by the faster motorway from where we are in Somerset. Then we have a half hour 25 mile journey to the second gardens. Then we have the best part of the 100 miles to return home after having gone to the church for tea. That makes three lots of embarking and disembarking with an 8 am start with  total time on the road of not less than 5 1/2 hours probably nearer 6 with a total mileage of about 240. If you add to that the time that each of these gardens would require for walking round, the math simply does not work.  I get exhausted even thinking about it.

This is a classic example of wanting to fit in too much to please people and give them ‘value for money’. As the headline for today says  ‘less is more’ which is a good philosophy especially if you are unfamiliar with the territory and as a general principle in any event. A day normally fills itself in by some magical process without having to make a big effort.

I think the less is more philosophy applies more as you get older because you learn that it’s not the point of the number of things you do as in “Europe in seven days” so beloved of our cousins from the USA but just example being in nature, having a conversation with somebody, enjoy a cup of tea and talking to the other people in the restaurant.

the ultimate mobile coffee bar


This afternoon I took my friends to the Kennet and Avon canal. Since this fact is probably of little interest to you I have taken a series of pictures to give the feel of canal life and how it differs from everyday life.

We met a chap who runs a coffee and ice cream bar from his 55 foot boat. His only official mooring is in Huddersfield. For the last 10 years he has cruised the canal system presumably making a living from selling tea, coffee, ice cream and soft drinks. He can only stay in the same place for two weeks due to the regulations but is quite happy with this and has adapted to it. Cleverly he has a little serving hatch on either side of the boat so someone can stop their own boat and buy a coffee, or order one from the tow path. He lives on the boat.

Francoise asked him if it was a safe mode of living and he said that it’s like going back 35 years. He claimed you don’t have to lock your boat but having said that, the only thing that the occasional opportunist person steals is bikes. He seemed very happy to be of service to us and and I thought that was a lovely way of earning a crust. He said with a smile that customers lean over from the tow path to order something, and their mobile phone falls out of their breast pocket. Once it is down there in the murk there is nothing you can do.

The only difficult part of walking along the canals is that people ride their bikes at quite a speed and some forget to ring their bells, or don’t have one in the first place, and it may be a good idea to walk along one side or the other of the path and look behind you before changing your position. Why not a sign saying ‘walkers to the right’ or walkers nearest to the canal’

If you want a starting point for this canal walk both ways East and West, type in BS15 2HD. You can also start from Bradford on Avon which is about 2 miles to the east. This is a particularly lovely spot because you can see the confluence of the river, railway line, and canal they going over each other. There is also a cafe open Thursday – Sunday called Number 10.

an excellent pub and restaurant overlooks this area. To find it, put in the postal code mentioned in this article, but beware that the parking is not always easy. Weekdays are better.
there is always more going on in the country than you would imagine and you need to look at local flyers to find out what is going on.
I’m not quite sure how a swan can whistle but never mind it does attract attention
a branch line miraculously spared by Dr Beeching
plenty of ingenuity in making use of your roof


how many different types of vegetables can you spot
Yours truly doing an impression of a tree spirit


this was a scarecrow competition that seems to have developed into something more than that, on display at an adjacent village
an original scarecrow indeed










dealing with pain – terrible baking


2 June 1664

Pepys writes : Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and then to the ‘Change, where after some stay by coach with Sir J. Minnes and Mr. Coventry to St. James’s, and there dined with Mr. Coventry very finely, and so over the Parke to White Hall to a Committee of Tangier about providing provisions, money, and men for Tangier. At it all the afternoon, but it is strange to see how poorly and brokenly things are done of the greatest consequence, and how soon the memory of this great man is gone, or, at least, out of mind by the thoughts of who goes next, which is not yet knowne. My Lord of Oxford, Muskerry, and several others are discoursed of. It seems my Lord Tiviott’s design was to go a mile and half out of the towne, to cut down a wood in which the enemy did use to lie in ambush. He had sent several spyes; but all brought word that the way was clear, and so might be for any body’s discovery of an enemy before you are upon them. There they were all snapt, he and all his officers, and about 200 men, as they say; there being left now in the garrison but four captains. This happened the 3d of May last, being not before that day twelvemonth of his entering into his government there: but at his going out in the morning he said to some of his officers, “Gentlemen, let us look to ourselves, for it was this day three years that so many brave Englishmen were knocked on the head by the Moores, when Fines made his sally out.”

Here till almost night, and then home with Sir J. Minnes by coach, and so to my office a while, and home to supper and bed, being now in constant pain in my back, but whether it be only wind or what it is the Lord knows, but I fear the worst.

I must admit I’m not very good at dealing with pain. The only way I can think of surviving it is by being driven with a vision that is so strong that all else seems minor. We can think of Jesus on the cross who had changed the level of his consciousness to speak words of forgiveness to his persecutors whilst in such an excruciatingly painful situation. I think of Bernadette of Lourdes, who had a very painful growth in her knee, probably cancerous, and yet her mind was so focused on God that she did not complain and only showed the deformity to a sister when specifically asked. I’m struck by the fact that millions of people go around doing their daily tasks uncomplaining, with neither acknowledgement nor thanks. The human spirit is an amazing thing is it is only species where we see sacrifice for others although elephants and dolphins are probably a glorious exception.

Last evening after I returned from the Bath and West show, I sent a photo newsletter to all the people in my allotment group of which I am the secretary. I do like to share good things and I encouraged people to go to the show, tomorrow is the last day. My stats show me that 80% of people to whom I send the bulletin read it. My stats for this website do not pick up everyone who reads it for some reason but irrespective of the numbers, I will still produce good quality material to the best of my ability. This applies to everything I do including this diary which I regard as a work of art. If you think of the work of an artist, they do the work for its own sake irrespective of the number of people who will see it. It is the same with a musical performance. If you are playing for a small crowd, a large crowd, or even to one person you play  your best because that is what the work deserves.

completely dreadful composition and baking. It will never win any prizes.

Last evening I baked the worst-looking loaf of bread I have ever done. the crust separated from the rest. We had to hack the body out of the tin. My wife attributed this to the fact that I let it prove in the oven and it started to cook. I was tempted to throw it away but then we tasted the rescueable portions and they were absolutely delicious.  So much for appearances.

Bath and West Show Special – pictorial issue


This series of pictures has very little to do with Samuel Pepys but more to do with our observations on a day out to the biggest show in the South West of England. The city of London in which Pepys lived was very overcrowded with buildings hanging over each other, street sanitation leaving much to be desired, animals being shepherded to market heading to the interest of the aroma. Needless to say, the city garden was an unknown phenomenon.  The Bath and West Show started as a purely agricultural event in 1852 and has been going strong ever since.

We arrived this morning at the venue, a couple of miles south of Shepton Mallet, at 10 AM.  We left at 4:30 PM having done justice to about 30% of the show. In case you are wondering, the dimensions of the field or area of the show are 360,00 square meters (800mx450m).   We were active and going around all the time but there is so much to see. I would almost say you could fill up 2 days but at £25 a day you would probably think twice about that.

You never know quite what is going to happen. We started with a pig judging, then the same with horses. We watched sheep shearing and a very lively Army Brass Band. Both are videos.

There is a predominance of commercial stands, and that is how they survive I suppose, but there are many arts and cultural events, and a lot of demonstrations and trials including more exotic events like the judging of alpacas. It is fair to say that there are no bargains to be had with food, if largely because the people had to pay such high rentals. The food is definitely mass produced and about the same price as you would pay on the high Street if not a little more. By careful selection you can find very good locally produced food for example in the food tent so don’t dash and by the first thing you see.

I should add that I attended the Church Marquee as I normally do where tea and coffee was on offer for a donation and in fact I gave not much less than I would have done had I had to pay. It was indeed a happy atmosphere and free from creeping commercialism. Interesting Christian books were on sale.

as my wife would point out, there are fat men as well as women. Junk food, plus lack of exercise will do it for most of them.

It was noticeable how many unhealthy people there were attending. Grossly fat and distended people with overweight children. Mountains of blubber flopping about. I can describe it in no other way. Do these people have no sense of self-respect or are they so dumbed down that they don’t even notice their size. I notice that some of the women have to lean back slightly so great are the size of their breasts. This cannot be be comfortable. Airlines are keen to charge us for an extra kilogram of weight. Is anyone brave enough to charge people accordingly?

Anyway, one picture is worth 1000 words so here follows a pictorial essay. This is only a small selection but I’m just trying to give you some flavour of what is on offer.

these wonderful people do this for a living and exhibit all over the world. What a lovely way of giving happiness to others.
a very contented mum with her 10 piglets
most definitely an enthusiast with his miniature steam engine
1947 milk float. Taken to Australia with an emigrant and then returned to the UK. In working order.



detail of the 125 cc engine
carnivorous plants in great abundance and variety
first prize in its class
packed full of vegetables no room for anything else
another exhibit, garden shed and all
a happy wreath
not the shoes you would use to go to the supermarket but very entertaining nevertheless
and if you want a metal crusher for all the tin cans that end up in your garden this is the place to come

Pepys -our theatre performance interrupted due to a hail storm


Wednesday 1 June 1664

Up, having lain long, going to bed very late after the ending of my accounts. Being up Mr. Hollyard came to me, and to my great sorrow, after his great assuring me that I could not possibly have the stone again, he tells me that he do verily fear that I have it again, and has brought me something to dissolve it, which do make me very much troubled, and pray to God to ease me.

He gone, I down by water to Woolwich and Deptford to look after the dispatch of the ships, all the way reading Mr. Spencer’s Book of Prodigys, which is most ingeniously writ, both for matter and style.

Home at noon, and my little girl got me my dinner, and I presently out by water and landed at Somerset stairs, and thence through Covent Garden, where I met with Mr. Southwell (Sir W. Pen’s friend), who tells me the very sad newes of my Lord Tiviott’s and nineteen more commission officers being killed at Tangier by the Moores, by an ambush of the enemy upon them, while they were surveying their lines; which is very sad, and, he says, afflicts the King much. Thence to W. Joyce’s, where by appointment I met my wife (but neither of them at home), and she and I to the King’s house, and saw “The Silent Woman;” but methought not so well done or so good a play as I formerly thought it to be, or else I am nowadays out of humour. Before the play was done, it fell such a storm of hayle, that we in the middle of the pit were fain to rise;1 and all the house in a disorder, and so my wife and I out and got into a little alehouse, and staid there an hour after the play was done before we could get a coach, which at last we did (and by chance took up Joyce Norton and Mrs. Bowles. and set them at home), and so home ourselves, and I, after a little to my office, so home to supper and to bed.

Waiting, waiting and more waiting

Not one queue but many in the same room. Mindless TV aka daytime BBC provides a distraction.
long line

…continuing my theme of waiting for something you cannot control as indicated in my first diary this morning…
Most of us have had to wait in lines and queues in hospitals if not for us for somebody else.

I would like to reflect on my monthly visit to BUH (Bath hospital) for my eye checkup. When I visit any sort of facility I like to leave smiles on as many people’s faces as possible. Insofar as I was able I made a number of comments to about half a dozen people example I complimented a woman on her smile and she smiled some more. it is as well to remember that for some people, an appointment is the only contact never mind social contact they have on a particular day so why not make a difference to it. It costs nothing but a little bit of care and consideration. Even if you talk drivel at least you’ve made the effort

Some newcomers to the hospital system may be misled or fooled by the fact that there are 31 or 35 people waiting in front of me. This is in fact incorrect. There are queues for many different types of services and for all you know there are only two or three people waiting for you in a particular dedicated queue. Also, most people bring a friend so you can safely halve the number of people who are actually waiting.

Why do you have to wait beyond your appointed time? It will amaze you to know that many people turn up late, demand or need more attention than their original remit, and give the doctor or attendant more work to do. It is a rule in the NHS that you give people the attention they need and not be governed by the clock though of course everyone tries to keep to time. If you are made to wait there was probably an emergency that exceeded yours in importance. Do not take it personally.

If you watch the staff, they never actually stop moving. Some do not even have time for coffee or even lunch. My recommendation is, take a book or newspaper, don’t look at any clock or your watch, do not complain or grumble because the person next to you may not want to hear it and wait for your name to be called. They do not forget you. Once you have announced yourself you are in the system and attention will happen.

The corridors of the hospital are filled with wonderful quality art which does lift the spirit I must say. Here follows many examples:

Golden Harvest by Roger Longdin
The Simarillion: Of Beren and Luthen Vera Carbin,  South West Illustrators.
a lovely day out
an installation in the main entrance of BUH hospital
intentions of the hospital

I have finally heard from the hospital where I have been negotiating for a particular scheme on behalf of patients who have been discharged. I would describe the letter of reply as an interesting step forward with many background factors that have to be taken into consideration which of course the average person cannot see or be aware of even. However there is the spirit of cooperation abroad and so we will no doubt proceed slowly but surely.

Tomorrow, Friday, 2 June 2017, off to the Bath and West show. It is vast in its proportions and we typically spend as much as six hours there before exhaustion sets in by which time we only see about half of what is on offer.




They also serve who only stand and wait


Once again, Pepys is very loquacious almost to the point of being  laborious so if you want to read the full diary entry please click on the date below. I have included a excerpt on which I wish to base today’s thoughts.

Tuesday 31 May 1664

…Dined at home, and so to the office, where a great while alone in my office, nobody near, with Bagwell’s wife of Deptford, but the woman seems so modest that I durst not offer any courtship to her, though I had it in my mind when I brought her in to me. But I am resolved to do her husband a courtesy, for I think he is a man that deserves very well….

Comment: so, another side of Pepys, almost lechery. He decides not to make a sexual –  or now we would say inappropriate – advance to the wife of his friend out of respect for the husband. I would say rather sarcastically, that’s decent of him and considerate to his wife.

The discourse of the town is only whether a warr with Holland or no, and we are preparing for it all we can, which is but little.

John Milton, Born 9 December 1608, Cheapside, City of London. Died 8 November 1674

John Milton (d. 1674) was a contemporary of Pepys born a stone’s throw from him.  Most scholars believe the sonnet below was composed sometime between June and October 1655 when Milton’s blindness was essentially complete.
I have looked carefully at all images of Milton and there is no image which shows him as obviously blind.  He may have suffered from macular degeneration which means that although you can see peripherally, you cannot see detail ahead of you.

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
It is up to each of my readers to reflect on this incredibly profound piece and I’m sure many books have been written including the subject. It is clear that Milton is reminding us about the doers versus the people who just learn to be. His idea is that God is measuring us by standards other than the ability to perform tasks.
I’m reminded of the many occasions in my life about which I can do nothing. A more obvious political one is the amount of deliberate evil, greed, and general wickedness in this world which we have to watch like spectators at a football game where the players have been bribed and the match has been fixed. We can only boo and scream.
There are other occasions however where at a more local personal level, our input is important and significant. We are waiting for our child to make a decision about whether to go to university. We are waiting for our friend to end an inappropriate relationship when everyone else can see that it has no chance whatsoever of succeeding. So we are indeed standing and waiting but we are also serving. Why? Because by being available and willing to talk, indeed by just existing in open mode, we are performing a service.
A very crude analogy is the act of insuring our car with a company. The company does not ‘do’ anything but you know that if you have an accident you can get the help and support you need. All the company is doing is being itself.  it’s the same with us supporting our friends and family. If you are approachable you just wait for the call or visit knowing that the person knows you are open. . if you do not receive contact then it is because the person does not wish to speak to you at the moment. The fact that they do not wish to speak is none of your business. Efforts to push them one way or the other may have a countervailing effect.
My advice (given without any expectation that people will take it) is to commit this person to the universe, the person that you are worried about. Turn your mind to other things. It is their lesson to learn, their destiny, not your destiny and not your lesson. You do not know what is going on in the mind of the sufferer. You ARE serving by standing and  waiting.


Much worse than conceit – phrases like “have a nice day”


Monday 30 May 1664

Pepys – Lay long, the bells ringing, it being holiday, and then up and all the day long in my study at home studying of shipmaking with great content till the evening, and then came Mr. Howe and sat and then supped with me. He is a little conceited, but will make a discreet man. He being gone, a little to my office, and then home to bed, being in much pain from yesterday’s being abroad, which is a consideration of mighty sorrow to me.

Give me conceit any day rather than false modesty so beloved of the Brits. Most people don’t have enough of the quality of self love or should I say self regard and go around beating themselves up and apologising to table legs for bumping into them, apologising for people they might have bumped into and sometimes apologising for their very existence. Don’t try that in Mexico or Germany. Ronnie Corbett did a TV series called “Sorry”  which just about sums it up.

so I pop in to my local surgery and there sits a very young lady receptionist who looks like a trainee, alas unsupervised, doing her best to deal with a queue of customers.  Here is the conversation as well as I can remember it including embellishments of what I would like to have said:

Brian: on the booking system for prescriptions it tells you to go to the wrong address.

Receptionist: so you want it delivered somewhere else.

Brian: no, I’ve already picked it up. I had it in my hand (shows her).

Receptionist: what was your name?

Brian: to my knowledge I’ve always had the same name throughout my life and I have not recently changed it.  Brian Snellgrove.

Receptionist: I cannot find it in the system. How am I spelling that?

Brian: I have no idea how you are spelling it. I cannot see the keyboard. You may be typing in ‘Godzilla’ for all I know.

receptionist: can you spell it for me

Brian:  I’m actually quite good at spelling especially when it comes to my own name. It is   S N E L L G R O V E.

Receptionist: what was your date of birth then

Brian: (tells her). <thinks> Listen my dear, dates of birth normally remain the same unless something catastrophic has happened. Any idea what might have changed my date of birth? Why do you use the past participle?

Receptionist: let me just double check something

Brian: No I will not let you so what are you going to do.
Why not say “I’m going to check something” and by the way since you haven’t checked in the first place how can you double check something you haven’t checked at all
. It’s a bit tautologous and redundant wouldn’t you say?

Receptionist: so you want me to change the pickup place then?

Brian: no, I came in to waste my time and your own, making up a problem which does not exist in order to cause the NHS to grind further into the ground. Of course I want it changed.  Actual –  Yes if you wouldn’t mind (see how my Britishness shines through with a  stiff upper lip and biting the tongue.

Receptionist: have a good day

Brian: I was actually doing quite well until I came in to see you. Having a good day is something I decide to do, it’s a policy or a principle or an existential belief system or whatever you care to name it. Can you give me one single example of someone who was having a bad day and who transformed it into a good day by being admonished or instructed? People decide their own destiny and that includes you or me. There is no cure for self-pity or escaping from the results of your own actions. Geddit yeah?

While we are on the subject, people who say will you do this for me as if it were some personal favour apart from unnecessary procedure of a professional transaction.

Also, I have a ‘quick’ question really gets me grinding my teeth. Is this a question asked quickly or is it a brief question or is is a simple question.

Finally, horror of horrors, will you just do this or even worse, this is just £40 Sir. In other words, this is overpriced cheap junk that I’m trying to convince you is a bargain for the price. If someone uses the term just to me they have lost me completely and I don’t bother to continue.

So as you see that I’m quite a curmudgeon or can be when something annoys me. It amazes me that I can be quite nice to people most of the time but that is only possible because I spend the majority of time on my own. I’m quite happy to spend 70% of time on my own because I’m busy busy busy all the time. I can switch my head on to being a 24 hour entertainment centre just by doing it. that is the characteristic of the Enneagram Five typology – the thinker. I’m actually Five with Four, thinker with artist, which is why this type of activity, diary writing, suits me very well. You can never come to the end of thinking because each thought will generate the energy for a new thought and so on ad infinitum

With regard to the above case it was quite clear that she was struggling to find her way around the system so I didn’t want to give her a harder time than she was already having. I ended with a smile, or was it a grimace?



mental preparation for an important occasion – fussy yeast


Pepys was obviously in a very creative mood – on a Sunday at that. His diary is far too voluminous for me to reproduce so if you wish click on the date below to read the whole thing.

Sunday 29 May 1664

…..He (Mr Povy) do, as to the effect of the warr, tell me clearly that it is not any skill of the Dutch that can hinder our trade if we will, we having so many advantages over them, of winds, good ports, and men; but it is our pride, and the laziness of the merchant. ….He seems to think that there may be some negotiation which may hinder a warr this year, but that he speaks doubtfully as unwilling I perceive to be thought to discourse any such thing……

Pepys is pondering the advantages of the English over the Dutch when fighting the war including the character of the people concerned.

I want to share a couple of thoughts on preparing for a meeting or a discussion. It is my contention that we can fall into the trap of relying far too much on emotion, and what we want in the short-term. That may not be to our advantage.

Turf laying is quite an art. What you see is the turf but what you do not see is all the effort into making the ground ready which is a good 90%. The same principle should apply to having a discussion. There is nothing worse than bursting forth with your personal needs without considering where the other person is coming from and the constraints that they are under not to mention any psychological or emotional problems they may have.

There are three factors that need to be considered. 1. What I want or think I want 2.What the other party wants or think they want 3. finally as a third factor the situation itself.

In other words the two parties concerned may be whiter than driven snow in their intentions but if the circumstances or the situation are inappropriate, their desires will come to nothing.  In any event a general inquiry about the person followed by a discussion on how they see a situation is not a waste of time. It is likely that they came or will come to the meeting when their mind is full of other material and it will take them some time to really listen, in other words to *want* to listen or ‘tune in’ to what you have to say.

So you can align to each other in by having a discussion on something you agree with or some other matter which has succeeded in the past to set the framework for dialogue and cooperation. If this stage does not go well, it is unlikely that the rest of the agenda will.

The best schemes or ideas are those that benefit both people but it is unlikely that both parties will comprehend the extent of the benefit to the same extent. The person who proposes the idea should make sure they are not running at 60 miles an hour while the listener is running at 10 miles an hour otherwise you will lose them and a glassy stare will come into their eye.

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, which for all I know most of the above points are to you, the most important quality is to listen and not to speak and make sure that your opposite number is on your wavelength or better still that you are on the same wavelength.  Western people in particular seem to need to fill every second with noise or speaking whereas the Occidental person will spend more time just ‘being’ and let the silence be filled with thoughts. I think most of us are so far away from that condition that it is but a distant dream and I would say in the first instance that you we should find a place to meet which is conducive to listening for example going for a walk, being outside in nature, sitting in a quiet corner of a pub.

it may be that the agreement needs to take place in two or more parts. You will need to sense when your listener has had enough new information to digestive and rather than push them you could ask them if they would like to think about it and meet on another day. The fact that you have taken the pressure off may give them the incentive to continue. Let’s face it, we all want to be happy and productive but sometimes we make life difficult for ourselves.

As John Cleese of Monty Python fame would say “and now for something completely different”.

Yeast is so fussy and the way it is treated, this living substance, determines the success or failure of a lump of dough to transform itself into a yummy loaf. Optimum temperature range is between 27°C and 32°C for yeast to grow and reproduce at dough fermentation stage. My sister and brother-in-law coming to stay with us for a few days so the bread factory must be up to speed. What is the ideal place to let the yeast do its job? I find the ideal place is the greenhouse. Even on a partially cloudy day, the heat gets up to just the temperature required for fermentation.

this most unspectacular process takes place of its own accord when the conditions are right – in this case during the warmer months in our greenhouse, which holds the heat of the sun very well.
the same scene, 20 min later
the final result


A human fruit machine in Kilmersdon, Somerset


Kilmersdon is a tiny little village with a few hundred souls, actually about 550, which nevertheless has the requisite basic needs of a community namely a lively church, a pub and a village hall. It is just lacking a village shop. Not a million miles – a whole 7 minutes – by car  from Mells there is  the ideal post card – local ads – grocery – bakery – newspaper shop – post office – cafe all in one. If anyone wants an introduction to this part of the world with tea and cake of good quality then you can do no better than come to Mells (unintended plug) but Kilmersdon is a good second.

Kilmersdon is mentioned in the Domesday book so that makes it a least one thousand years old and when you walk down the handful of streets in the old centre you certainly get this impression. Once a year they have a Village Day and they happen to have picked a rainy day for the most part.

The old favourites are there, the locally produced sausage roll for three pounds, four for £10, home made cakes to die for, a bouncy castle and slide – alas sparsely patronised because of the rain. Plants for sale at 50p, car boot tables, the local concert band from Paulton, tea and cakes in the Village Hall, all the usual things you would expect. The most original item was the Human Fruit Machine where on payment of 50p, at the ring of a bell three people disguised as seafarers rotated oranges and apples with their arms. The person paying the money rings the bell again at what they think is an appropriate time and if the three people were holding up fruit of the same type the player gets a small prize. This was the most popular item to my great surprise and the success was considerably assisted by the lady compere who had a wonderful infectious laugh. No one cared that it was raining.

lush growth at this time of year

You can measure the community spirit of the place by the number and variety of activities and Kilmersdon scores well. It may score even better if a planned restaurant and sub post office is bought to being but that involves politics and money and committees so I’m not holding my breath. It’s a great idea though.

Anyway, I will let the pictures speak for themselves, they are not in any particular order but since each one speaks for itself I just need to put a brief caption in to give you some idea of the flavour of the day.


a rather macabre competition to guess the make and model of a car that has been totally crushed in an accident
spelling out the message loud and clear
sales of wonderfully fresh plants spreading out onto the street
two period pieces immaculately presented
oh but it was a rainy day
the church became a refreshment centre for the weary


three very jolly and brave people entering into the spirit of things
this was the most popular feature



Time to go home, mum
all stars start out in a small way like this
float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. This chap has a bit of a way to go but we all can dream
The Blind House – Lock Up originally built by the churchyard wall as a guardhouse in 1785. Rebuilt in its present position in 1835 on the site of the parish stocks. Restored by the parish council in 1992.







Pepys aches and pains – a DIY garden customer

28 May 1664

Up pretty well as to pain and wind, and to the office, where we sat close and did much business. At noon I to the ‘Change, and thence to Mr. Cutler’s, where I heard Sir W. Rider was, where I found them at dinner and dined with them, he having yesterday and to-day a fit of a pain like the gout, the first time he ever had it. A good dinner. Good discourse, Sir W. Rider especially much fearing the issue of a Dutch warr, wherein I very highly commend him.
Thence home, and at the office a while, and then with Mr. Deane to a second lesson upon my Shipwrightry, wherein I go on with great pleasure. He being gone I to the office late, and so home to supper and to bed. But, Lord! to see how my very going to the ‘Change, and being without my gowne, presently brought me wind and pain, till I came home and was well again; but I am come to such a pass that I shall not know what to do with myself, but I am apt to think that it is only my legs that I take cold in from my having so long worn a gowne constantly

Click on the get out link above for full details of this painful disease partly brought about by style of life. There were no anti-inflammatory drugs in those days so the sufferer just has to sit it out.

I subscribe to Naturalnews.com which propagates real news as opposed to propaganda and the Health Ranger, the editor, while sympathising with the eight year old poster girl of the Manchester bombings reminded us of the hundred thousand children in the USA who are maimed or killed through vaccinations. The government have paid out $3 billion this year in compensation for vaccines that they also claim are 100% risk free. I’m also reminded by my friends of the beautiful children in Syria who have been killed by US bombing raids. Such hypocrisy. Either the reporters have no brains, or they are bought and paid for, the latter being more likely.

Returning to a more mundane matters, my customer of yesterday decided with a friend to do the job themselves. They have strimmed the  grass and cut down all the foliage and presumably expect us to repair the damage and take away the spoil. They have wasted our time but on the other hand she has taken the garden into her own hands and we were the catalyst so in the greater scheme of things that is no bad situation. I congratulated her on a forward step. I think she was taken aback by this but my rule is, if in doubt, be magnanimous and it does not stick to you.

negotiating a fair price – car boot fairs – homelessness USA style


27 May 1664

Up, not without some pain by cold, which makes me mighty melancholy, to think of the ill state of my health. To the office, where busy till my brains ready to drop with variety of business, and vexed for all that to see the service like to suffer by other people’s neglect. Vexed also at a letter from my father with two troublesome ones enclosed from Cave and Noble, so that I know not what to do therein.

At home to dinner at noon. But to comfort my heart, Captain Taylor this day brought me 20l. he promised me for my assistance to him about his masts.

After dinner to the office again, and thence with Mr. Wayth to St. Catherine’s to see some variety of canvas’s, which indeed was worth my seeing, but only I was in some pain, and so took not the delight I should otherwise have done. So home to the office, and there busy till late at night, and so home to supper and to bed.

This morning my taylor brought me a very tall mayde to be my cook-mayde; she asked 5l., but my wife offered her but 3l. 10s. — whether she will take it or no I know not till to-morrow, but I am afeard she will be over high for us, she having last been a chamber mayde, and holds up her head, as my little girle Su observed.

Today encouraged by the last of Pepys stanzas above I reflect on how people negotiate. Haggling, bargaining, negotiating – all have their subtle differences. The expression haggling comes from the Middle English haggen, to chop. The processes seem to depend on the participants keeping their cards close to their chest and not really saying what they think. Come to think of it, it’s a bit like playing cards in many ways. Most of our human activities involve negotiation of some sort and there is an interesting article I have found, lightweight in nature admittedly, which reflects on some of the aspects.

The double glazing people that I’ve had the misfortune to meet offer a higher price than they expect knowing that if they offer a discount that will sound more attractive than mentioning that amount of money in the first place.   If you go to Marrakesh or any city in India you will find that bargaining is normal. Don’t try bargaining in Denmark. The price is the price and there is no discussion.  With services that don’t have a rigid price structure such as gardening, personal chemistry is important and that may well influence the customer. Someone said to me once, first you sell yourself and then you sell the product. However difficult the circumstances, I tried to retain politeness and objectivity. People may say no for a number of reasons including the fact (they dont tell you) that they are going to see someone else about the same matter the next day, their partners may not agree, they don’t have the money. There are a dozen reasons most of which have nothing to do with you the seller.

I’m off to a car boot sale this afternoon where the only bargaining of any interest to me will probably be garden tools. One pound or even 50p is the marker for most things possibly two or three pounds but we shall see when we go. …… <3 hour pause>   I have returned from one of the most dispiriting events which perhaps is no longer for me.  There were a lot of very overweight people deciding whether to buy discarded plastic toys or used dresses for a pound or so. I was hoping to see something on the gardening front but I was disappointed. Traders were taking whatever they could get for any items. I saw a good quality microphone that would have cost the best part of hundred pounds go for three pounds which is great. I think it’s all a matter of luck so I will draw a veil over this afternoon.

I just had one of my potential garden clients tell me that they had found a friend who would do the work or some of it on a voluntary basis for which we had quoted. This is not my day so I think I will pause the diary at this point. Time to cook up a storming ratatouille.

But hey it turned out to be my day after all – the outer life is one thing, the inner life, the life of imagination, is quite something else.  I listened to a wonderful programme on Radio Four about Rachmaninov and how his first symphony was ridiculed and how he needed hypnosis to believe in himself enough to write the piano Concertii particularly the second one.

I have just finished watching a film made in and about the USA concerning people living on the street and it’s quite amazing how many college students are homeless, I think it’s about 25,000. Most employers offer the minimum wage of $7.25 which doesn’t get anyone anywhere. If you have 1h11m29sec to spare this is a wonderfully human film which did more for my spirit than anything else I’ve done today. I don’t make a penny from these recommendations but the series of which this is apart is outstanding in quality  and free to watch. The series is called Top Documentary Films. I used to work for the homeless in London many years ago and produced a directory to help them. I remember going round with a social worker who said to me “you see that man over there. You would not think he was a merchant banker three months ago”. Homelessness can strike anyone at any time for any reason. Do not look down on these people because you could be seeing yourself in a future version.

A possible customer called me this afternoon. I gave a quote for a job and she sent me an e-mail saying that she had found somebody else to work for her for nothing but she would like us to come along and make the place look pretty. In other words, get some person who doesn’t know what they’re doing to wreck the place and we have to repair the damage. I don’t think this is what a professional relationship is all about. anyway the call came after the letter. I did not answer the phone because I didn’t want to hear nonsense on the Sunday afternoon.

Thunder during the night – a garden quote – a dead frog


26 May 1664

Up to the office, where we sat, and I had some high words with Sir W. Batten about canvas, wherein I opposed him and all his experience, about seams in the middle, and the profit of having many breadths and narrow, which I opposed to good purpose, to the rejecting of the whole business. At noon home to dinner, and thence took my wife by coach, and she to my Lady Sandwich to see her. I to Tom Trice, to discourse about my father’s giving over his administration to my brother, and thence to Sir R. Bernard, and there received 19l. in money, and took up my father’s bond of 21l., that is 40l., in part of Piggot’s 209l. due to us, which 40l. he pays for 7 roods of meadow in Portholme. Thence to my wife, and carried her to the Old Bayly, and there we were led to the Quest House, by the church, where all the kindred were by themselves at the buriall of my uncle Fenner; but, Lord! what a pitiful rout of people there was of them, but very good service and great company the whole was. And so anon to church, and a good sermon, and so home, having for ease put my 19l. into W. Joyce’s hand, where I left it. So to supper and to bed, being in a little pain from some cold got last night lying without anything upon my feet.

It’s worth remembering that Pepys was 31 years of age when he described physical symptoms that in the modern world people in their 50s and 60s would be complaining of. The average age expectancy was about 40 years of age in the 16th and 17th century but this figure was heavily skewed by the high levels of infant mortality. Pepys himself was 70 years of age when he passed into the heavenly realms so I don’t think he was that bothered by the statistics. I note that he carried his wife to the Old Bailey. It may be that she was not well but he does not discuss her health in great detail. Of course, ‘carry’ could refer to carriage but we shall never know.

More than a flash – a ‘burn’

There is a certain smug  satisfaction in lying warmly in bed and listening to the pouring rain, seeing the reflection of lightning on the bedroom wall and hearing the clap of thunder. The nearer the centre to the commotion the less the time between the flash and the clap. As bank holiday approaches, we would expect nothing less than a break in the weather.

It must be a nightmare if you are a restauranteur or pub owner to figure out how many extra staff to engage. I believe 20 million cars are going to be on the road today. I don’t really care if there are 20 million or 200 million because I’m not going anywhere. All I know is that roadworks, rail works and everything else are carefully timed to take place over the bank holiday, I suppose on the grounds that lost time for tourists is less of a disadvantage to the economy that lost time for business people.

I gave what I thought was a fair garden quote to a man who needed a 30 m hedge taken down to a certain level, who needed all the lawns repaired and a number of brambles removed. Brambles are the most pernicious beasts because they sneak in among shrubs and bushes and poke their heads up in the most un-symmetrical way. AND they are so ugly. The chap that I gave the quote for was a fine character but when I gave in the quote he admitted that he wasn’t so affluent as he used to be. That can be a euphemism for being completely broke. I can adopt a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude but I’m inclined to say to people in this situation that I will meet them halfway if there is any type of problem. We’ve left it that he thinks about my quote and tells me what he can afford it and I will do my best.

We have to function in an imperfect world. People are either short of money, or worried about the possibility of being short, and the amount of money they have to spend on other than necessities is very limited so I had to adopt good humour in this instance. The most difficult people to deal with are the rich because they want everything for nothing and will try to find any means for avoiding payment. I have found the less well-off people are the most generous; maybe there is a lesson there somewhere.

My wife being away visiting a friend, I spent some time reading about the history of coffee houses and was also in receipt of a book written by Ian Mortimer, “The Time Traveller’s guide to Restoration Britain”. I saw it advertised a few weeks ago for £20 when it first came out but I was loath to pay such a goodly sum so I decided to wait. Sure enough Amazon came to my rescue and a discounted hardcover book was available for a trifle over seven pounds.

this creature retains a certain dignity in death

Finally, a small mystery that appeared on my lawn today. A frog with rather long legs seems to have got tired of life and has decided to ascend to the heavenly fields, if indeed such lowly animals have such a place to go to. I have no such assumptions for myself knowing that’s where you end up after you have cast off your body is entirely due to your vectors of either caring for others or caring for yourself. And I had to ask (as one does) how did this frog get here? I found the corpse 2 m from the nearest pond. If it was on its last legs would it find the energy to go away from water? Was it picked up by a bird who decided it had no appetite or the meal not quite right for its digestive system? unlikely. Normally, animals know what is good for them otherwise they wouldn’t bother to waste the energy. Is this the start of one of the Plagues of Egypt? Was it a consequence of the very heavy rainfall last night? We shall never know. At least it maintained a certain dignity of pose in death.

Perhaps it was executing a pirouette.



Talking with your Significant Other – putting off the inevitable – dogs – resonance


25 May 1664

Took physique betimes and to sleep, then up, it working all the morning. At noon dined, and in the afternoon in my chamber spending two or three hours to look over some unpleasant letters and things of trouble to answer my father in, about Tom’s business and others, that vexed me, but I did go through it and by that means eased my mind very much. This afternoon also came Tom and Charles Pepys by my sending for, and received of me 40l. in part towards their 70l. legacy of my uncle’s.

Spent the evening talking with my wife, and so to bed.

Today, Pepys’s diary has given me inspiration for two sets of reflections.

We all receive from time to time what I call ‘brown envelope’ letters, unpleasant material that you don’t really want to deal with. The problem is that if you put them aside they prey on your mind and in my experience for what it is worth if you deal with them immediately you stop the cancer spreading. As regards phone calls, I often build up a negative impression in advance of how difficult the call will be. When I make the call, I often find it is much  easier than I thought.

It is quite rare that Pepys talks about spending time with his wife. Although my wife and myself spend most of our time together, it is all too easy to be too busy to focus the mind and discuss and work through important issues. The problems can slip by day after day, week after week, and month after month. It is possible for partners to have conflicting views on something but not really work them out as far as is possible, and so a little black spot remains which over a period of time can affect the quality of the relationship. It is almost a discipline but one that repays in clarity of mind. For this, time and space is required away from other influences and that includes children.

I was discussing yesterday why we don’t have much gardening work at the moment and I remember saying to Françoise that at any time something can pop up. Sure enough, this morning I get a letter from Australia of all places, the daughter of someone who lives locally in Farmborough who wants me to do not one but two gardens. I also got a notification from Rated people about a job that I went to see today. That will take care of our end of month bills. Work seems to go in cycles and after 40 years plus I can say there’s nothing whatever you can do about it.

The vast majority of news on the radio or television is either irrelevant or of no interest to me but I suppose we have to listen to it being alert for the items that stand out. One such was talk about leaving animals in a car in the hot weather. One man had left his three animals in the car for five hours, in the shade, while he was in the gym. When he returned, two of them were dead and one was near death. He was prosecuted and fined and banned from owning animals for 10 years. In court, he expressed contrition and volunteered to be part of an RSPCA film about treating animals. He freely admitted he had made a terrible mistake. I thought that while this does not take away from the seriousness of the event at least he can be an example to others in respect of his honesty, owning up and so on.

The RSPCA person said it makes no difference if you partially open the windows and if you park in the shade. If it is a hot day the car will heat up to up to 15° above the temperature outside for example from 25° to 40° causing the animals to expire. Their advice was to call 999. Evidently the law states that if you think the owner would approve of smashing the window that act is permissible. They also pointed out that the RSPCA is a voluntary organisation and they cannot guarantee to get people there quickly and even so they have no statutory powers to break in.

I find it interesting that I can listen to some news items and remember them almost word for word and yet other news items leave me stone cold and I couldn’t even remember what they were talking about 5 min later.

We speak the same language, but do we? I went to see a garden which was in one heck of a mess and spoke to the lady who happened to work for the publicity and planning department for a bank. We understood each other as soon as we opened our mouths and it was a pleasure to talk with her. I was not talking to her or at her but  with her and there was an instant comradeship of people who see the world the same way. I realise that I have just as much difficulty talking with someone who’s got a quantumly different world experience. Although our common language is English, our empathy and understanding with people is sometimes less than if I were to speak French or German or Swahili.


Another sunny day threatening to be HOT


24 May 1664

Up and to the office, where Sir J. Minnes and I sat all the morning, and after dinner thither again, and all the afternoon hard at the office till night, and so tired home to supper and to bed.

This day I heard that my uncle Fenner is dead, which makes me a little sad, to see with what speed a great many of my friends are gone, and more, I fear, for my father’s sake, are going.

if nothing happens that’s worth recording, then there’s no need to fill the space. I think that on some occasions Pepys is too tired even to write his diary. I write most of my diary first thing in the morning. The diary comprises my first thoughts when I become conscious.

It is now five weeks since I had a meeting at the hospital where I hope to offer myself on a voluntary basis. I do not know how to interpret the silence. People who have worked in big organisations will I’m sure understand better than myself how long it takes to get anyone to make a decision on anything. There are all sorts of ifs and buts no doubt that in the absence of any guidance at all I do find my enthusiasm diminishing. It’s not as if I’m asking anyone for any money, is just an opportunity to help traumatised patients who are leaving the hospital system as such.

my mobile phone lens is not up to it but there are actually sheep and cattle grazing in the distance on this glorious summer evening
Nice to sit and have a drink overlooking a stream

So my dear readers there is nothing better than finishing the day with a pint of the best Somerset cider. we have been working on our allotment planting the youngest and tenderest leeks you ever saw but they will grow into mighty objects. After, I went along to my favourite pub which as you know is called the Old Down Inn and there met by coincidence Mark who runs The Sheppey Inn, If you buy a trendy facility in a unique location – water meadows and low lying land near Glastonbury for example – it is very difficult to sabotage success.  Mark the owner with his wife have certainly hit the nail on the head – well done you two. The heading on the website reminds me of the lettering on the side of packing cases which is hardly trendy but that may be trendy in itself so who cares so long as the punters are coming in. 🙂

Evensong to the sound of water – Salisbury special + More Dumb Americans


Part two of my daily diary for Wednesday, 24 May. About 11 AM we decided on impulse to drive to Salisbury, a city that I have not visited for about 30 years. This will be a largely pictorial comment on a visit to the town, and particularly concerning the Cathedral. Details of the art season as well as concerts and events can be found here and the Cathedral abounds with them. This Cathedral is well-known for it’s interest in modern art.

One of the blessings of living in Somerset is that there are many places that are within an hour or so’s drive of Midsomer Norton and Salisbury is one of them. We decided to use the ‘park and ride’ scheme which saved us about seven pounds on parking charges but didn’t make much of a dent on our expenditure for the day (ooops) which was our wedding anniversary.

First some examples of local artists’ work exhibited at the local library in Salisbury. I absolutely love the casual nature of the way the works were displayed including the Cabinet photograph below of people’s sketchbooks

Raw data brings the individual to life
example of a multi purpose room

Then to a National Trust property Mompesson House. What a delight to come across a normal sized house open to the public. I contrast this with a place like Chatsworth House which although vast and opulent, cannot relate to us in the same way as a living space for actual human beings. Everything here works on a miniature scale. The volunteer staff are a delight and very enthusiastic about their work of communicating the essence of this essentially private house to the visitor.

I need to add another chapter to my Dumb American theme. I can assure you that if it was any other nationality for example Chinese, Japanese, Norwegian I would have made a comment about them in these columns.

As a prelude, a Canadian man and his wife made themselves known at reception. He was soft-spoken, had a very smart appearance, and was apparently a member of an equivalent organisation in Canada to the National Trust. He was respectful of the property. I noted that trait, and  when he was seated having tea I showed him where the water meadows were using a map that I had. In other words, we had a normal tourist type conversation.

The first American incident was while we were having tea in the National Trust property. A tall lanky American came in, glanced around, and said “Gee I wondered what it was like when you English had tea”. He said this in the tone of talking about looking at animals in a zoo without making any eye contact with us.  There were only two tables occupied and the other one was occupied by German couple who were talking quietly enough to each other. I made some inane comment about it not being four o’clock but what I noticed was he came in, made his announcement, and walked out. I call that arrogance.

Number two: We attended the Evensong in the Cathedral with about 150 congregants. It was a joyous and involving celebration which lasted from 5:30 PM until nearly an hour later. Another couple from America came in, sat in the back row with their cameras, and talked to each other during the service admittedly in quiet tones but everyone else was taking in the spirit of the event. Then, the wife walked around with her camera at the back of the Cathedral while the husband got out a map of the area and started looking at it. I became irritated and moved away. I should add that I was also seated towards the back.

the cathedral on a perfect afternoon

I should have said – and may do so in the future if I can be bothered and if I felt it would make any difference at all – “This is a religious place; a service is going on; the least we expect is respect irrespective of your race or religion”. The usual arrogant exceptionalist attitude would doubtless have come across, probably involving staring at me with a blank face. I wonder if these people communicate at all or are even capable of it. In matters of dispute they normally threaten to contact their lawyers, such professional creatures being slightly more common than blades of grass.

Anyway, on the the images…

‘To Let’ adverts from the Salisbury and Winchester Journal January 21, 1788
creative space of the owner as it was when she left the house


House from the rear. Immaculate garden.
work by Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco
resurrection scene below the pulpit


amazing font which trickled happily away accompanying the service.

Thirdly some shots of the cathedral which has a good reputation for featuring modern art (above and below).

How humans react to suffering
world’s oldest working clock which as ticked an estimated 4.4 Bn times between 1386AD and 1884, then 1956 to 2013… and counting.



Monday 23 May 1664

Up and to the office, where Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, and myself met and did business, we being in a mighty hurry. The King is gone down with the Duke and a great crew this morning by break of day to Chatham. Towards noon I and my wife by water to Woolwich, leaving my wife at Mr. Falconer’s, and Mr. Hater and I with some officers of the yard on board to see several ships how ready they are. Then to Mr. Falconer’s to a good dinner, having myself carried them a vessel of sturgeon and a Lamprey pie, and then to the Yarde again, and among other things did at Mr. Ackworth’s obtain a demonstration of his being a knave; but I did not discover it, till it be a little more seasonable. So back to the Ropeyard and took my wife and Mr. Hater back, it raining mighty hard of a sudden, but we with the tilt kept ourselves dry. So to Deptford, did some business there; but, Lord! to see how in both places the King’s business, if ever it should come to a warr, is likely to be done, there not being a man that looks or speaks like a man that will take pains, or use any forecast to serve the King, at which I am heartily troubled. So home, it raining terribly, but we still dry, and at the office late discoursing with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten, who like a couple of sots receive all I say but to little purpose. So late home to supper and to bed.

it seems that the term ‘lunch’ had not been invented then because ‘dinner’ refers to any formal meal taken at whatever time of day. In the UK anyway we would not have two dinners per day unless we were exceptionally greedy but this terminology appears to be normal for someone in Pepys time.

‘Aftermath’ is used to describe the effects of an unpleasant event. You would not talk about the aftermath of a party unless there were fighting or disagreement. the term originates in the 16th century  after + math = a mowing, Old English mǣth. rather obscure but that’s the way it is.

By the way, a ‘sot’ is another way of saying a stupid person, a fool, someone who spends too much time inbibing. you can also be ‘besotted’ by somebody which implies a departure from your rational mind.

The same cannot be said of the people of Manchester who are demonstrating their spirit of togetherness and support by offering free food, accommodation, and transport.  I went out this morning and bought copies of the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail which between them will give a pretty good down to earth account of Monday nights events. their photographers always get the most striking pictures. I felt very sorry for the woman who made an appeal for her daughter to return only to be told a few hours later that the daughter had passed away.

I think religious fanaticism takes on a new meaning here. I’m not quite sure what is religious about the action of blowing yourself up, apparently getting to heaven quicker, and killing a lot of other people with nuts and bolts. I just don’t get it.

facing death in Manchester – an observer’s view


Sunday 22 May 1664

Pepys Diary (Lord’s day). Up and by water to White Hall to my Lord’s lodgings, and with him walked to White Hall without any great discourse, nor do I find that he do mind business at all. Here the Duke of Yorke called me to him, to ask me whether I did intend to go with him to Chatham or no. I told him if he commanded, but I did believe there would be business here for me, and so he told me then it would be better to stay, which I suppose he will take better than if I had been forward to go.

Thence, after staying and seeing the throng of people to attend the King to Chappell (but, Lord! what a company of sad, idle people they are) I walked to St. James’s with Colonell Remes, where staid a good while and then walked to White Hall with Mr. Coventry, talking about business. So meeting Creed, took him with me home and to dinner, a good dinner, and thence by water to Woolwich, where mighty kindly received by Mrs. Falconer and her husband, who is now pretty well again, this being the first time I ever carried my wife thither. I walked to the Docke, where I met Mrs. Ackworth alone at home, and God forgive me! what thoughts I had, but I had not the courage to stay, but went to Mr. Pett’s and walked up and down the yard with him and Deane talking about the dispatch of the ships now in haste, and by and by Creed and my wife and a friend of Mr. Falconer’s came with the boat and called me, and so by water to Deptford, where I landed, and after talking with others walked to Half-way house with Mr. Wayth talking about the business of his supplying us with canvas, and he told me in discourse several instances of Sir W. Batten’s cheats.

So to Half-way house, whither my wife and them were gone before, and after drinking there we walked, and by water home, sending Creed and the other with the boat home. Then wrote a letter to Mr. Coventry, and so a good supper of pease, (peas) the first I eat this year, and so to bed.

This entry speaks for itself but re the last para.  I’m not sure how you can have a supper consisting entirely of peas but hey everybody to his taste.

If you haven’t heard of Ariana Grande by now it’s because you have been on another planet. This poor young lady had just started a world tour of about 12 countries and this happens to her.

Ariana Grande-23 years of age
Audrey Hepburn






I have taken this opportunity to observe myself observing the great dramas and disasters of this life, 9/11, Diana Prince of Wales, even President Kennedy (yes I do go back that far) and now Manchester.

I always remember exactly what I was doing and where I was when I hear bad news. On this occasion, it was at 10 min to midnight when I was putting my earpiece in to listen to Radio Five Live. For overseas readers, this is a news program which prides itself on being on the ball when anything you happens. I was joining the story halfway through and realised something had happened. Gradually the keywords come through, … Manchester …. Casualties… City centre closed… And it doesn’t take long for the brain to figure out what is going on.  I heard about Diana’s death when I was in France watching TV and I heard about Kennedy’s death when I was at a youth camp. The scene photographed itself upon my mind. If I close my eyes, I can see every tree and bump in the ground. ‘Kennedy is dead’ said someone. That was when the inner photograph was taken.

But then I was young and impressionable. Now I am much more battle hardened and able to look at something with an objective eye. I don’t know whether that’s a compliment to myself or not. I find the endless repetition of the same video scenes,  still shots as a backdrop to commentary repeating the same thing time and time again very wearing but with a developing story I suppose there’s no alternative. A new feature is the destination audience for the supposed perpetrator. I understand there were children of seven upwards in the audience and they will have been particularly vulnerable. There’s no way they could digest this sort of thing stoically.

I have learned through long experience to take note of the raw footage from reporters on the scene. For example, someone commented that a worker shouted a warning. How did they know what was coming? I notice the CIA announcing without a shred of evidence ‘US Officials : suicide bomber suspected’. Were they on the scene? In any event this was a fairly brainless conjecture. Since the singer is American I suppose they have some interest. Anyway, my point in this statement is that information does not fit the official script is excluded.  A prime example of this was on 911 but we won’t go there today. PS today Tuesday ISIS have admitted responsibility though quite frankly we don’t even know if that is true.

Anyway, I got up (rose from my bed as Pepys would say)  when I heard the news and went to watch both BBC and Sky TV. Since the BBC are based for the most part in Manchester I would expect their coverage to be good as indeed it was being right on their doorstep so to speak. Over the years, Sky have shown their ability to cover any event in the world. I’m thinking of the tsunami which happened on that fateful Boxing Day.

There is one encouraging sign if you can call it that. People are very hesitant before ascribing blame to anybody. This image is of a most eloquent commentator talking about the mixture of reasons for such an outrage. He was saying it was not only political or social but also an issue of mental health and that increasing the surveillance would not solve the problem.

Such events and outrages happen almost every day of the week somewhere in the world and may be this is a good way of waking people up to the disgraceful unnecessary wars and conflicts that happen in the name of so-called democracy. if a country deliberately stirs up conflict in order to destabilise the government for its own economic and political purposes they must not be surprised if they get an adverse reaction.

So my self-analysis is that I can take such horrors in my stride much better than I could even a couple of decades ago because I know more of what is going in the background, the good and the bad.

Alas, the good seldom gets the coverage that it deserves.


Gossip and intrigue; keeping mentally stable; Chelsea Flower Show commeth


21 May 1664

Up, called by Mr. Cholmely, and walked with him in the garden till others came to another Committee of Tangier, as we did meet as we did use to do, to see more of Povy’s folly, and so broke up, and at the office sat all the morning, Mr. Coventry with us, and very hot we are getting out some ships.

Jemima Mountagu (“my Lady,” Countess of Sandwich, b. Crew)

At noon to the ‘Change, and there did some business, and thence home to dinner, and so abroad with my wife by coach to the New Exchange, and there laid out almost 40s. upon her, and so called to see my Lady Sandwich, whom we found in her dining-room, which joyed us mightily; but she looks very thin, poor woman, being mightily broke. She told us that Mr. Montagu is to return to Court, as she hears, which I wonder at, and do hardly believe. So home and to my office, where late, and so home to supper and to bed.

This era was not short of gossip and intrigue. It was the era prior to mass communication where the main source of information was conversation. I find it so sad that Lord and Lady Sandwich had fallen on such hard times that she doesn’t even have enough food to eat or maybe she is pining away through some psychological reason.

Today is warmer with the promise of real heat to come. I am inspired to write about stability. In my previous counselling work and to a certain extent now, I have what I call my “picture department”. The client would mention a particular problem more question, and instantly a picture would come into my mind. I told the client and they found it helpful.

When I thought of the problem stability with regard to myself bearing in mind all the various pressures that assail us, I got the picture of a keel of a ship. The sea can be rough but if the centre of gravity is low enough then the bad weather can be survived.  For me, the keel of the ship represents things that I know and trust in, my faith in the universe and as some would say God, the ways that I’ve been able to help people over the years and hopefully make the world a better place. I’m reminded that when people used to go to war they carried a picture of their sweetheart close to them.

There is so much negative imagery on this planet today, normally fear-based that to hold positive imagery in the mind requires a certain amount of discipline but it is not by any means impossible. I found that doing ordinary things for example  working in the garden whilst keeping the keel of the ship in mind as an image was enormously stabilising. I did not have to ‘try’ and become stable, it just happened because of the power of the imagery. I link this imagery with giving thanks. My partner Françoise and myself have a lot to be thankful for although we have our day-to-day issues that need dealing with. Peace is possible at all times though varying degrees of discipline are required.

Why one presenter appears clearer may be due to flicker rate (I think).

EVERTHING stops for Chelsea. Joanna Lumley dazzling us for the 28th time, the Queen for probably about the 50th time, The Duke of E making his trademark wisecracks, and then the wonderful BBC team of presenters who keep us riveted to every shot. We can’t even go to the loo for fear of missing an even more exotic flower. And so it will be for this week.

I rest my case.

So much on my mind


Friday 20 May 1664.

Samuel Pepys Diary entry is rather lengthy so see it here.

… So home to dinner very pleasant. In the afternoon to my office, where busy again, and by and by came a letter from my father so full of trouble for discontents there between my mother and servants, and such troubles to my father from hence from Cave that hath my brother’s bastard that I know not what in the world to do, but with great trouble, it growing night, spent some time walking, and putting care as much as I could out of my head, with my wife in the garden, and so home to supper and to bed.

Samuel Pepys has suffered like the rest of us from an accumulation of family troubles. He tried to put “care as much as I could out of my head”. However he qualifies this by saying he spends time with his wife in the garden. It is my belief that the brain as a great capacity to sort out its own problems but the worst thing you can do is to focus on the problem itself. If we could see the world of nature as it really is we will be totally amazed at its ability to self generate, to recover, to balance itself and I think if we have not already done so we should take some of the lessons on board.

I think it’s fair to say that worry is much more to do with internal processes than anything that is actually going on in the outside world, though of course the latter is a catalyst. We could describe worry as a loop in our internal software. We go on thinking about the same thing without seeing a way out.

I can only say what works for me, and if I find myself worrying, I just get on with something, often a simple task such as doing the garden or talking to a friend, and I  find that the pain eases somewhat. We are all telepathic to a certain extent whether we like it or not but it may be worth thinking about whether we are picking up something outside ourselves. We think it is a problem originating in us but actually it is a signal from a friend in need.

Pursuing this model, a transmitting tower is not just the tower itself but the radius of influence via the signals. I have for a long time now regarded the human body as the solid bit in the middle of ‘us’; we broadcast or radiate for a great distance probably to the ends of the earth. If you care to do research there are numerous examples of people ‘picking up’ when someone has died or in trouble when they are thousands of miles away and there was no mechanical way of making that discovery.

So back on planet Earth …  here is another thought to assist your brain to calm down. Some things are urgent. Other things are important. Other things are important but not urgent. Other things are unimportant and not urgent. How about making a list of priorities. I would describe an urgent item as something that will deteriorate if you don’t give it your immediate attention. For example – a running tap. For example – cancelling an arrangement.

Another thing that can cause stress is that you are aware of a task that needs to be done but you don’t know how to do it and you don’t know who to ask. It is always worth trying the Internet because whatever type of problem you have, someone somewhere will have had the same problem. It may also  be that the answer is simple but your mind built it up to seem complicated.

I’m secretary of the local Allotment Association here in Midsomer. the whole was looking so nice in the sun I decided on the spot to do a picture newsletter to everybody on the tenant list. I took out my mobile phone and started snapping. If the timing is right, I find things go very smoothly and indeed this was so in this case. By about 6:30 PM I had compiled the newsletter and sent it off via a free mailing client, Mail chimp. 

So much is possible with the Internet.


Samuel Pepys on YouTube and Google


Thursday 19th May 1664

Up, and it being very rayny weather, which makes it cooler than it was, by coach to Charing Cross with Sir W. Pen, who is going to Portsmouth this day, and left him going to St. James’s to take leave of the Duke, and I to White Hall to a Committee of Tangier; where God forgive how our Report of my Lord Peterborough’s accounts was read over and agreed to by the Lords, without one of them understanding it! And had it been what it would, it had gone: and, besides, not one thing touching the King’s profit in it minded or hit upon.

Thence by coach home again, and all the morning at the office, sat, and all the afternoon till 9 at night, being fallen again to business, and I hope my health will give me leave to follow it.

So home to supper and to bed, finding myself pretty well. A pretty good stool, which I impute to my whey to-day, and broke wind also.

‘The Ajax’ a running toilet invented by Sir John Harrington in 1596. Elizabeth 1st refused to use it on the grounds that it make too much noise. Sir John was ridiculed by his peers embarrassing him to the point of retirement.

Well, that’s a relief to know. Our lovely Samuel Pepys is passing motions and farting. it has drawn my attention to the fact that bearing in mind his sufferings of two days ago the body does have an ability to heal itself.

I’ve had a look at YouTube and find that there are no less than 6.500 results. if I look at Google I find 478,000 references to the great man. it is interesting that an ordinary diary which I’m sure Pepys wrote primarily for his own use has attracted such attention. It is an ordinary account of his day’s activities, his relationships, his bodily functions, his observations, so why is it that he is so well known? I find it a bit like watching a long movie, a 10 year movie, and it gets cumulatively more addictive as my understanding of this man becomes more and more comprehensive in its aspects.

It is my wish that everyone would consider writing a diary. I find inevitably that I only know what I really think about something if I have closure and writing diaries such as you have seen adds immeasurably to this.

By the way, I have been a great enthusiastic contributor to Trip advisor.com but it looks like a change of policy has taken place. They are now more interested in becoming a travel agent then asking the public what they think about various hotels and activities. If I want to make a review it is much more difficult to find how to do it. Once again, money or the lure of money – or more money – influences the American decision-makers of this site.


Dumb Americans


We took the 2 PM coach from Victoria to Bath. There were 22 passengers so everyone had plenty of room next to them. We had a very pleasant driver. Most of the National Express drivers are very pleasant and accommodating. I always make a point of greeting them and appreciating the work that they do. Driving up and down motorways every day for a living doesn’t strike me as an easy thing to do. However, on with the story

Two Americans had joined the coach and were sitting in the row behind me. They were in their 60s. I’m going to describe them in some detail because it sums up all that I find profoundly irritating about the American mindset.  The man had a cane and dark glasses. He was led by the woman as if he were blind. After a time I saw him looking around like everybody else.  I was using my Galaxy to track the route and I decided to keep them in touch with progress since they wanted to get off at Chippenham. Without thinking, I showed the tablet to them and I noticed that he could quite easily read the small print. Why the show of the cane and the dark glasses? OK I do know the difference between peripheral vision and the ability to read print but he seemed to be aware of everything around him. I have macular degeneration in my left eye and it is not possible to read if you have this condition.

The woman announced loudly enough for everyone to hear that she enjoyed reading Vanity fair magazine and read everything about Donald Trump. There was no feeling of talking to someone but at somebody.

Three times they explained to me they had to get off at Chippenham and there were a choice of two places. Three times I told them to look out for the people that were picking them up and then get off. The man asked me when we were going to pass Swindon and I said that was not even on the route. The woman had the phone number of their contacts but did not want to call if it included the prefix 0044 as she thought she would have to pay more. I said this was part of the protocol and would not affect the price of the call.

The woman acted as if I had not spoken. The reason she did not act was that the information did not figure with what she had previously understood and there was no way she was going to trust a stranger. In general I find that although Americans will ask advice, they will do exactly what they planned to do in the first place and that an attempt at any form of advice giving is simply a waste of time. Anyone with a contrary view about what I have just said I would love to hear from you.

The man asked me where I was from and I said I was from Midsomer Norton, South of Bath. He said he had been living in Cologne and said, “I bet you have never heard of that place”. I was able to respond rather sarcastically, well actually I lived there for six months. Americans are famous for not knowing where other countries were. I saw a college student, and I use that word in its broadest sense, mark France as Australia on a blank world map. I have noticed that the focus points of the average American are very narrow indeed and consist entirely of features that are of benefit to their own comfort zone and to which they can relate.

The ability to think out of their box is – putting it mildly – impaired. In a way I do not blame them. The sheer battering from hours and hours of TV, Main Stream Media controlled by corporations, the enormous amount of advertising for drugs, chemicals in junk food, the dependency on pills and pharmaceutical products, political correctness would dumb down anyone but the most determined. If you think it’s bad in the UK try the USA. It’s amazing anyone can still think. Most of them have given up. So if you believe that the average American can put themselves in your shoes and empathise without reference to their own world view you are going to wait a long time. It is the ultimate self-centred society and alas shows no signs of changing.

You may say that you know some wonderful American people and I have to agree. I could give you a list of philosophers, social change agents, courageous people who stand up for the truth, people imprisoned and beaten up for their beliefs, people with a sparkling fast mind, but these are the exceptions not the rule. South Africa is described as the rainbow nation except that with President Zuma around there isn’t much rainbow left. We can describe America, politely, as a country of contrasts. I wish the best of good fortune to anyone who can still think particularly in America but also in this country where thinking is going out of fashion.

Anyway back to the couple. They got off at the first stop in Chippenham without any sight of the people who were supposed to be greeting them. Someone came forward and took their baggage. It appears that they knew all the time that the person was going to be there and were just getting hysterical and panicky. These people are so easy to manipulate it’s embarrassing to see but then with the talk of fear and terror in the media every day I suppose this degeneration of their psychologies is inevitable.

<rant over>



The cold, Dulwich picture Gallery

Wednesday 18 May 1664

Up and within all the morning, being willing to keep as much as I could within doors, but receiving a very wakening letter from Mr. Coventry about fitting of ships, which speaks something like to be done, I went forth to the office, there to take order in things, and after dinner to White Hall to a Committee of Tangier, but did little. So home again and to Sir W. Pen, who, among other things of haste in this new order for ships, is ordered to be gone presently to Portsmouth to look after the work there. I staid to discourse with him, and so home to supper, where upon a fine couple of pigeons, a good supper; and here I met a pretty cabinet sent me by Mr. Shales, which I give my wife, the first of that sort of goods I ever had yet, and very conveniently it comes for her closett. I staid up late finding out the private boxes, but could not do some of them, and so to bed, afraid that I have been too bold to-day in venturing in the cold.

This day I begun to drink butter-milke and whey, and I hope to find great good by it.

I don’t know whether it has escaped your attention but we’re talking about a fairly spirited individual wondering if he has damaged himself by venturing out in the cold. Here, we have mid May. We may take for granted such things as damp proofing, ventilation systems, building regulations in general but obviously these things were troubling to our worthy diarist.

Today was the last day of my trip to London which coincided with the repair my computer which now seems to be flying along ably enough. We visited the West Dulwich Picture gallery which is celebrating its second centenary in this summer. It was founded in 1817. It is a small but beautifully proportioned gallery that has special exhibitions from time to time. It attracts the upper-class wives of the business people who can afford to live in this very expensive area where it is almost impossible to get a decent house for less than £1 million.

The gallery is currently showing works by Vanessa Bell (1879 to 1961). I note that this gallery is self funded and enjoys no subsidy either local or national. However, to charge between £11.50 and £12.50 for the contents of one corridor seems to be a little bit out of proportion. The blockbuster David Hockney in the Tate Britain which is about to finished at the end of this month of May 2017 costs if I recall £17.50. I understand the Bell exhibition like all others has start-up costs but I do feel that the charge point is a little bit full.

For those of you who have not been before, there is an excellent cafe adjacent to the gallery itself, a workshop room, another exhibition room, and a lovely little miniature Park which I would thoroughly recommend you take a look at. Most of this part of Dulwich is owned by Dulwich College where my father had the fortune to be educated. it was created in 1619, contemporaneous with the life of Samuel Pepys. the annotations are quite scholarly and there is no doubt that the art lover will discover much to exercise them.

A model of the original building preceded by a comment

a model of the original building
a scholarly if brief introduction to this picture
please compare the presence and dignity of this image with the one below. Spot the differences. Limit your comments to one side of A4

An unexpected visit to Kings Hospital


Pepys Diary  Tuesday 17 May 1664

Slept well all night and lay long, then rose and wrote my letter to my father about Pall, as we had resolved last night. So to dinner and then to the office, finding myself better than I was, and making a little water, but not yet breaking any great store of wind, which I wonder at, for I cannot be well till I do do it. After office home and to supper and with good ease to bed, and endeavoured to tie my hands that I might not lay them out of bed, by which I believe I have got cold, but I could not endure it.

These diaries are strangely inconsistent. One day Pepys is complaining about the warmth and next day about the cold. Maybe he has a blood circulation problem. I wonder if he is tying his hands together, or tying his hands to the bed itself.

unromantic picture of low tide on the Thames on a dull and rainy day

We planned to go back to the Tate Modern where you can spend at least a day walking round the galleries now that it has doubled in size. there are two or three chargable temporary exhibitions but, visitor be assured, there is plenty of free stuff to keep you more than entertainment.   Again I make my point, here is a group of seven or eight-year-old children in their high-viz jackets chatting excitedly to each other going in to an exhibition by Alberto Giacometti. how they can get any benefit out of it apart from the gratification of the ego of their helicopter parents, beats me.  This artist or should I say sculptor is difficult to understand at the best of times and I did not see any evidence of the children having the works explained to them. Apart from ticking boxes, will someone please tell me what the point is.

Anyway I was getting some heart palpitations and was feeling a bit queasy so I thought that a trip to King’s College Hospital in South London would be appropriate.  The Outpatients Department of any hospital is not the most relaxed place and it cannot be by its nature. There is refurbishment going on at the moment so the whole thing has a temporary feel.  there are three stages. You have to stand in a line and talk to a nurse who decides roughly what category your problem falls into.  stage two is getting registered and making sure that all your personal details are correct and then stage three is when you sit in the general waiting-room, sometimes for a long time, for the attention you require.

From the view of the people sitting waiting, it looks like there is one queue, but in fact there is a classification depending on the type of problem.  My problem was a suspected heart condition and that is treated in a different way by different group of people. The NHS has set a standard of four hour waiting time and when you consider all the things that have to be done in that time I think that is quite realistic. For example if a patient comes in by ambulance who needs the immediate attention of 5 to 6 people and they have to be taken off their ‘non-urgent’ work to probably save the life of somebody else.

Most people are very philosophical and patient but they’re always one or two  while tending towards mental instability for reasons that we shall never know. One woman could not bear the idea of queueing up for anything and started shouting at the staff and accusing them of being lazy and unproductive. She obviously had had a chip on her shoulder for most of her life and anyone in authority was like a red rag to a bull.  The staff are used to this and accept this as part of their work. Nevertheless, there are Hospital security people, if I may say this of ample dimensions, who will appear at very short notice if they are required as we saw on one occasion.

I witnessed an unpleasant sight when I went along to the pharmacy to collect my medicaments.  There was a rather sour faced woman there pushing a child in a pram. She had plainly been very inconvenienced by the wait,  and told the harassed Chinese dispenser that the system was inefficient and they should not claim a waiting time of 16 min instead of the half and now that she had had to wait.   Had she taken the trouble to listen, she would have known that the automated system for delivering the medicines had broken down and they were not able to dispense anything.  It was just plain superior nastiness and abuse. The remaining people breathed a sigh of relief and rolled our eyes when she left. I never blame the person who is trying to do their best behind the counter. I always make light of the event and engage the other people in positive conversation and it always works (well, nearly always).

In spite of all this apparent mayhem, the standards are very high and they did not let me go until they were satisfied that I was out of danger.  I got a written discharge report and after lying in a recovery ward was offered fish and chips which I accepted with alacrity.  I entered the hospital at about 2 PM and left it about 9:15 PM.  I tell anyone who complains about waiting that they should try private treatment and take their credit cards because they will need them.  I don’t think we realise how lucky we are to have such a system and I wish the so-called Health Minister would actually wake up and show a little bit of empathy for those in his charge. My impression is that he’s waiting for the system to crack in order that American Corporations can infiltrate yet another aspect of our life.  I have complete contempt for these money-based people who see the human being as a cash machine.


visiting the burial place of Samuel Pepys


It was part of my mission coming to London to visit the birthplace and burial place of the catalyst of this website, Samuel Pepys.  Little did I know that the place where he lived – Seething Lane – was separated from where he was buried by an estimated 50 m. He was born just off Fleet Street in Salisbury Court where his father had a tailoring business.

We went along Pepys Street in the hope of seeing the famous blue plaque saying ‘here lived the one and only Samuel Pepys, author of the famous diaries of that name’.  Alas this was not to be, as is abundantly obvious from the enclosed photograph. Pepys Lane is one big building site on the south and an hotel on the north.

We then went into the church where he was buried, just at the end of Pepys Street. I just missed a piano recital by Malaysian pianist  Hao Zi Yoh which was ending with ‘Scarbro,’ from Gaspard de la Nuit (Ravel). This is a show piece played by every pianist in the world but here is her (“slightly mechanical where is the heart?”) version. Hao has a channel on Youtube so here is the piece.  Compare it with Valentina Lisitsa’s version Here. Yes, it is the same piece.

It never ceases to amaze me the people you meet in their stories. A man dressed in leather came in, strolled round the maze, sat down staring in front of him not looking at anybody. We were approached in the same church yard by a friendly enough fellow – 60’s dress – who mentioned the Pink Floyd feature at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He told the story of the early days of Pink Floyd when he was passing a theatre and saw an advertisement for a concert and decided on the spur of the moment to try and buy a ticket for an otherwise sold-out concert. Because he only wanted one ticket he was able to sit in the 10th row and observe the group that later became his idol. Like most good things, this was a little gem, a time warp, unexpected, out of the blue.

Here follow numerous photographs with captions.

for some unknown reason here we have a maze
a church amidst vast construction projects
a church lost amidst modern architecture
in the immediate aftermath of a piano recital given that very day alas we arrived too late
Peaks was buried somewhere under the altar
the man himself
the board outside
view from the street


visiting the Tate Modern and the Mall Gallery

Monday 16 May 1664

Forced to rise because of going to the Duke to St. James’s, where we did our usual business, and thence by invitation to Mr. Pierces the chyrurgeon, where I saw his wife, whom I had not seen in many months before. She holds her complexion still, but in everything else, even in this her new house and the best rooms in it, and her closet which her husband with some vainglory took me to show me, she continues the veriest slattern that ever I knew in my life. By and by we to see an experiment of killing a dogg by letting opium into his hind leg. He and Dr. Clerke did fail mightily in hitting the vein, and in effect did not do the business after many trials; but with the little they got in, the dogg did presently fall asleep, and so lay till we cut him up, and a little dogg also, which they put it down his throate; he also staggered first, and then fell asleep, and so continued. Whether he recovered or no, after I was gone, I know not, but it is a strange and sudden effect.

Thence walked to Westminster Hall, where the King was expected to come to prorogue the House, but it seems, afterwards I hear, he did not come.

I promised to go again to Mr. Pierce’s, but my pain grew so great, besides a bruise I got to-day in my right testicle, which now vexes me as much as the other, that I was mighty melancholy, and so by coach home and there took another glyster, but find little good by it, but by sitting still my pain of my bruise went away, and so after supper to bed, my wife and I having talked and concluded upon sending my father an offer of having Pall come to us to be with us for her preferment, if by any means I can get her a husband here, which, though it be some trouble to us, yet it will be better than to have her stay there till nobody will have her and then be flung upon my hands.

it seems that arranged marriages or relationships are still alive and well if the last paragraph is anything to go by. It also reflects the status, or lack of status, of women. I infer that nothing much is expected of a wife apart from keeping the house and producing children. Pall is short for Paulina, pizza’s sister who joined the household as a servant but was sent away to Brampton in 1662 to look after their parents. she did in fact marry a few years later and produce three children.

It seems that Pepys is suffering from a sexually transmitted disease or at least an infection. It does bring home the point that in the days before medicine people are very much on their own. In tomorrow’s diary I shall be discussing my latest encounter with the National Health Service.


On a fairly rainy and unseasonably cold day we visited the Tate modern very briefly and the Mall Gallery.

This is what you did not quite expect when you spend over £1 million buying an exclusive apartment with ‘views of the River Thames’. Only  compulsive exhibitionists need apply.

This is a ‘pregnant’ building taken from the observation roof of the Tate Modern. The city of London and surrounding areas are always building something or other. The City Fathers are apparently easing the restrictions on building because they want London to remain a financial centre, and this will probably increase post-Brexit.


The Mall Gallery is always good for portraiture or painting or an exhibition of reasonable size away from hordes of schoolchildren. This is a portrait of Frank Letch MBE  the Mayor of Crediton in Devon who was born with no arms.  Please note the complete lack of self-pity in his face. One of his feet is uncovered. I assume he uses this instead of a hand.

I would like to urge my readers to examine their attitudes to people who are different.  Each person has their own destiny and they have to manage with what they’ve got.  Why not try ignoring the obvious and not so obvious physical and mental problems and just treat them like anyone else. Because they are disabled does not mean they are stupid.

The Mall Gallery is very well funded and there is a change in theme every few weeks. Well worth including in a trip to London.

The Red Hat
good text just the right length



continued pain, painful images at the Saatchi Gallery

Sunday 15 May 1664

(Lord’s day). Rose, and as I had intended without reference to this pain, took physique, and it wrought well with me, my wife lying from me to-night, the first time she did in the same house ever since we were married, I think (unless while my father was in town, that he lay with me). She took physique also to-day, and both of our physiques wrought well, so we passed our time to-day, our physique having done working, with some pleasure talking, but I was not well, for I could make no water yet, but a drop or two with great pain, nor break any wind.

In the evening came Mr. Vernatty to see me and discourse about my Lord Peterborough’s business, and also my uncle Wight and Norbury, but I took no notice nor showed any different countenance to my uncle Wight, or he to me, for all that he carried himself so basely to my wife the last week, but will take time to make my use of it. So, being exceeding hot, to bed, and slept well.

The relationship between Pepys and his wife is complicated to say the least and I don’t know enough about Samuel Pepys to comment on the subtleties.  Retention of urine must be very painful and he seems to have a prostate problem of some sort.

Today we visited the Saatchi Gallery in London. The purchase of the gallery must have cost millions, situated as it is in the middle of fashionable Chelsea adjacent to Kings Road. To its left there is a very classy restaurant and in front of it there is a field which is used as a race track which doubles as giving a very calm frontage to this building.

It is extraordinary to see a whole gallery full of high-definition TV screens showing works by Frida Kahlo and other great artists from the past. This gallery is immaculately conceived,  meticulously presented. The current theme was the selfie, that modern phenomenon  which I have completely no understanding of. Why it is necessary to photograph your own face with that of a friend or in the famous place to prove you have been there seems sad and superficial beyond belief. I include pictures in no particular order including the most disgusting and obscene Selfie which includes Hillary Clinton. Madness, narcissism and extreme self centredness. Ugh.

Shown on HD screens with a refresh rate of 5 seconds when the picture is changed for another.
‘full on’ you might say

Nan Goldin describes her photographs as a “visual diary”. This self-portrait was taken to prevent her from forgetting the damage caused by her boyfriend’s violence
truly the most obscene selfie image I have had the misfortune to come across. She-devils and manipulators at play.

leaving home – the delights of coach travel – my favorite pub


This is part two of my daily diary for 15th May written in retrospect.

I won’t bore you with the minutae of a coach journey apart from saying that life’s main pleasures are often quite ordinary and unexpected and that some people reading this may be prejudiced towards coaches as a means of long distance transport from A to B. I always travel National Express to London. It’s not that I don’t like trains but the price is 3 to 4 times what I would pay on the coach and for the saving of an hour or so why bother? Train fares in particular and fares in general are the most expensive in Western Europe and are a disgrace.

A system of very clever algorithms have been developed to calculate when people tend to buy tickets and adjusting the price accordingly. This happens particularly with airlines and has been so for years but the application to coaches and trains has been a little bit more recent. you need to beat the system and fly for example on Tuesdays which appear to be unpopular days.   On this occasion when using coaches, we plan ahead at least two weeks and select our particular coaches at unpopular times of the day with the result that we paid return London to Bath £21 for the two of us. That’s just ordinary passengers without a coach card or anything. if you book the day before,  it would be £43.40 for two people.

By train, the cheapest advance return fare that I can find is £57.50 per person which makes £115. if my mathematics is not too rusty that means a saving of £94 over the advance booking by coach which I’m quite happy to spend on riotous living or more probably on decent food. PS people seem to confuse advance with advanced. ‘advance booking’  means booking in advance, ahead of, the occasion.  ‘advanced’ booking means a more sophisticated or different way of making a booking.

On the coach, a spirit of comradeship quickly springs up particularly if the driver is a friendly person. As my readers will know, I take any opportunity to speak with strangers and for the most part it succeeds. During my trip to London I was rebuffed once by a very defensive tourist who was trying to demonstrate to his family that he knew everything about London but most people are delighted to be approached. With or without my wife it seems to make little difference.

Victoria coach Station 6 min walk from the rail terminal of the same name

Victoria coach Station is not the most glorious place in the world but it is safe and central. How they manage to look after people in such a confined space is a mystery to me that they do through sheer British ingenuity and strict time management.  It is but a stone’s throw to Victoria Station (named after Queen Victoria, one of England’s longest reigning monarchs) and from thence to all points. If any potential visitor to England is reading this, there is no need to spend £60 on a taxi from Heathrow unless you actually want to burn money. I know you have heavy suitcases but if you are capable of lifting them and putting them in an elevator or an escalator you can travel by subway or train to Paddington.

We settled in at our temporary accommodation in Dulwich where I stayed in the accommodation that I left for Somerset over four years ago. I went to visit my favourite local pub, The Horns Tavern, with the one and only Alison who has owned the property for the past 16 years.

I don’t normally write at length about pubs because you might say a pub is a pub but this is more than that. Alison (pictured) has the rare talent of welcoming people and making them feel at home. To me the test of a pub is whether you can go in as a single person and not feel on your own. When I visited (with my wife on this occasion it must be said) about 5:30 PM most of the men were sitting quite happily doing crosswords staring into their glass but there was also banter at the bar between people who knew each other

Alison is always trying new ideas including a coffee servery for people using the nearby West Norwood station but that did not last. Currently she is producing a magic elixir which is equivalent in nutritional value to a meal so she claims. It consists of a mixture of Apple, pineapple, celery, carrots, beet, lemon, hemp, Banana, and avocado. She had given three bottles to someone at an adjacent table and so I enquired about it and bought one on the spot. It was pleasant enough.

I have not mentioned the most important aspect is that after almost a couple of years of not seeing Alison she greeted me warmly as if I were a long lost friend as did one other member of staff will recognise me. A warm greeting cannot be faked and it stands out and apart a mile from the mechanical “good evening sir can we help you”  with or without a smile.

I go to London partly to see old friends and this is one of the highlights of my visit for reasons given above.

And so to my sister for supper.

Gall stones – not fun at all


Pepys Diary Saturday 14th May 1664

Up, full of pain, I believe by cold got yesterday. So to the office, where we sat, and after office home to dinner, being in extraordinary pain. After dinner my pain increasing I was forced to go to bed, and by and by my pain rose to be as great for an hour or two as ever I remember it was in any fit of the stone, both in the lower part of my belly and in my back also. No wind could I break. I took a glyster, but it brought away but a little, and my height of pain followed it. At last after two hours lying thus in most extraordinary anguish, crying and roaring, I know not what, whether it was my great sweating that may do it, but upon getting by chance, among my other tumblings, upon my knees, in bed, my pain began to grow less and less, till in an hour after I was in very little pain, but could break no wind, nor make any water, and so continued, and slept well all night.

NO A and E for Pepys who chooses to tough it out irrespective of the pain level. No Laudanum even. This pain level probably ranks with acute toothache or even dare I say my accident last October 2016.

Gallstones develop when cholesterol levels in the bile are too high and excess cholesterol turns into stones. Most gallstones are mixed stones or cholesterol stones, mostly made up of cholesterol. They are usually yellow or green. Many people have them but are not aware of them so the smart thing would seem to prevent the build up in the first place.  It’s all about a healthy and self-respecting attitude to the body.

There will be a pause in my diary keeping as my computer will be going for repair, by happy coincidence taking refuge from the onslaught of Ransomware that is taking place throughout the world as I write – but strangely not in the Eastern block or in Australia.  Institutions have been warned for years about the possibility of this and yet they don’t keep their systems updated or even accepting patches from Microsoft. XP is old. It was introduced on August 24 2001. At the rate that computer software is developing, that is another era