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 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 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

The pouring rain – people who ask for money


Pepys diary for 13th May 1664

Folks,  this entry is far too long for me to include here so if you want the full version please visit here

Today: Never was the sound of rain so sweet as it was last night. It rained upon us for a least two hours. I’ve now awake, quite late for me, at 8 AM to find a cloudless blue sky albeit with a rather chilly wind. Today we must finish a gardening job and the long grass that I have to cut must be attended to with a strimmer otherwise the whole thing is flattened and no cutting can take place.

The diary:

“…….  I went homeward, calling upon my cozen Roger Pepys, with whom I talked and heard so much from him of his desire that I would see my brother’s debts paid, and things still of that nature tending to my parting with what I get with pain to serve others’ expenses that I was cruelly vexed. Thence to Sir R. Bernard, and there heard something of Pigott’s delay of paying our money, that that also vexed me mightily. So home and there met with a letter from my cozen Scott, which tells me that he is resolved to meddle no more with our business, of administering for my father, which altogether makes me almost distracted to think of the trouble that I am like to meet with by other folks’ business more than ever I hope to have by my owne. So with great trouble of mind to bed.”

It is quite obvious that Pepys is troubled by money, not so much his own the problems of his friends and business contacts both those who are in need and those who do not attend to their debt with him

Sometimes, we made a rod for our own back by lending money without thinking about it first. In a moment of largess we offer a loan but if we don’t take the trouble to investigate the circumstances we may be just pouring it down the drain. For example if a person is a  compulsive spender or gambler there habit exerts a stronger pull over them then the desire to pay back. I suppose it’s the same as gambling, only gamble what you can afford to lose but it’s even worse with a friend because the lack of payment induces a certain tension in the relationship which may spoil it. It would seem to make more sense to discuss with the person why they got into the problem in the first place. Perhaps they were undercharging for their services feeling that they were not good enough, or who were not capable of keeping their accounts. I remember a close friend saying that no one had ever told them to manage money and they did not learn the principles of simple bookkeeping until halfway through their life.

Putting it another way, giving someone some money just puts off the evil day when they have to confront themselves and what got them into the position. England is awash with debt advice agencies and people should not under estimate the value of the Citizens Advice Bureau. It may have a staid and traditional image but the amount of experience they have in their computer systems is considerable. Nationally, we spend over £2 billion using credit cards each day. We make 126 purchases each second. The total credit card debt is £67.5 billion which equates to £2,500 per household.*

So, if you are in trouble you are not the first. The attitude particularly with with credit card debt might be not to not to stick your head in the sand but tell the company as soon as possible, the earlier the better.  Credit card spending can induce a certain anaesthesia, especially if you have three or four credit cards. I long ago substituted debit cards which although not romantic, keep you in the realm of reality.

Back to Peyps’ England – Spindle Cottage

An extension with a difference – a period piece built for the Queens Jubilee by the owner – Spindle Cottage – built just before Pepys started writing his diaries.

It’s the time of year when wild garlic flowers grow in multitudinous numbers at the side of the road. You grab them, stuff them in your mouth and chew them and how delicious they are.

This is the second part of my diary regarding today’s events. The first part I finished this morning. We visited Kilmersdon‘s annual plant fair which is normally held on a Saturday in May. by coincidence it was next to my mower repair centre when I was going into all sorts of paroxysms of worried because my mother was only going at half power. Visions of the guarantee, spending a lot of money on replacing apart were soon dispelled. Mike, the ever helpful service engineer, diagnosed a loose spring. He brought out a pair of pliers and fixed it than I was on my way in 10 minutes.

Anyway, back to the plants. I decided to have a cup of coffee and started to chat to a woman whose daughter was a gardener. She, with great enthusiasm said that “Spindle Cottage” was open today, only one of two occasions during the year.  We had a choice of going for a guided walk around Priddy which is a picturesque local village or going to the cottage. When I tuned in I got no particular enthusiasm for the guided walk so we decided to go to the cottage and I’m so glad we did.

The cottage was built in 1640, 20 years before Pepys started writing his diaries. the house was bought in 1965 for £1250 by a couple who have lived in it ever since and they have completely transformed the place from a derelict building to a place of magic for children and complete charm for adults. Part of the property has been developed into a self catering holiday cottage. We were taken  on a tour by the way for the owner and quietness of the place will be absolutely ideal for a stressed couple or family wanting peace and harmony.

This diary from now on will be largely photographic as it can say far better than words our experience of going. It was the most magical couple of hours I have spent in recent times. All the structures you see were created by one man, the owner,  a carpenter by trade but also a builder, stoneworker and goodness knows what else as well. He did all these things because he had no money himself so he is the ultimate DIY man

‘compact’ toilet
any guesses anyone how all this kitchen cooker is?
Aubyn, the owner of the property, talking animatedly with visitors
my goodness, she really is enjoying the sun
Tromp de oeil clever use of a mirror to enlarge the space
pond and genuine well
frontage of building 1640 onwards

Some jazz, some silence, some listening


Samuel Pepys Diary Thursday 12th May 1664

Up by 4 o’clock and by water to Woolwich, where did some business and walked to Greenwich, good discourse with Mr. Deane best part of the way; there met by appointment Commissioner Pett, and with him to Deptford, where did also some business, and so home to my office, and at noon Mrs. Hunt and her cozens child and mayd came and dined with me. My wife sick … in bed. I was troubled with it, but, however, could not help it, but attended them till after dinner, and then to the office and there sat all the afternoon, and by a letter to me this afternoon from Mr. Coventry I saw the first appearance of a warr with Holland. So home; and betimes to bed because of rising to-morrow.

I can understand the desire to get up early. If you are awake and your mind is buzzing, why bother to stay in bed? All these blogs are written first thing in the morning typically starting at 6 AM. I find that come 9 AM I’ve pretty much done half a day’s work, I’ve done my daily financial ‘due diligence’, answered e-mails, and written about 1000 words which comprise these blogs. Meanwhile my wife is sleeping peacefully. She does not sleep very well at night and her best sleep seems to be in the early morning. She however is lively as a cricket at night while I want to go to bed.

Last evening we went to Burdall’s yard in Bath to hear the last of the music department of the University’s jazz events for the spring. The next one is on October 6 to which I shall go. Ollie Howell may not be known to those of you outside the jazz field but he has a fascinating history which I shall write about on another blog. If anything his drum sounds were to big  for a small hall in but would have been perfect for a concert Hall. He told us how he met Quincy Jones and how they hit it off straight away so much so that Quincy has been mentoring him for a couple of years now. He was in a residency in Dubai for three months as they were opening a new jazz club.

the auto focus on my mobile phone does not work very well in bad light conditions

I spoke to him afterwards and told him that I wanted to write a blog. It was clear that he was the complete opposite of an exhibitionist almost shy in fact expressing himself through his drums. When I got back I had a look at the hundreds of pictures of him in Google images and it is quite clear that this chap hates being photographed. This is one such example.  I have made arrangements to talk to him the week after next and do a little interview.

This morning I went off to join my men’s group which was addressed by an ex-Methodist minister. We discussed listening. Although it is possible to hold a perfectly good conversation with people, do we give people time and space to just be themselves and say what they are thinking or do we panic and try and fill in the seconds of silence with verbiage. I believe that if I were to lose all my talents except one, I would choose the ability to listen. Our presence, which is the sum total of our past present and probably future is what communicates. The speaker said that Jesus spent some time with the ladies of the night and other people regarded as unworthy but did not preach to them but just joined in with them in their everyday conversation. That is one cool character.

We agreed that there is nothing worse than faking interest in someone by doing what I call a ‘nodding donkey’ when your mind is miles away. To be a natural listener, you not only have to shut up but more importantly be genuinely interested in what other people have to say plus a certain security in yourself which means that you don’t have to jump in to make your point every five seconds or indeed to compete. Very few people have enough peace of mind in themselves to actually listen – and society is the poorer for it.


Morning coffee ritual – dentures – Samuel Pepys’ wife


Pepys’s Diary 11th May 1664

It appears that an uncle is proposing to inseminate Pepys’s wife to produce a child, to which the wife appeared to be enthusiastic. Pepys distrusts the colleague’s motives thinking it is just lust. He is not speaking from higher moral ground here because he himself had an affair with the housemaid, not to mention numerous other ladies. The relationship between he and his wife is to put it mildly interesting. Pepys ends his diary for the day by saying rather dryly that he needs ‘time to think about it‘ and then ‘so with my mind and head a little troubled….’   Only an English person could say that.

Up and all day, both forenoon and afternoon, at my office to see it finished by the joyners and washed and every thing in order, and indeed now my closet is very convenient and pleasant for me. My uncle Wight came to me to my office this afternoon to speak with me about Mr. Maes’s business again, and from me went to my house to see my wife, and strange to think that my wife should by and by send for me after he was gone to tell me that he should begin discourse of her want of children and his also, and how he thought it would be best for him and her to have one between them, and he would give her 500l. either in money or jewells beforehand, and make the child his heir.

He commended her body, and discoursed that for all he knew the thing was lawful. She says she did give him a very warm answer, such as he did not excuse himself by saying that he said this in jest, but told her that since he saw what her mind was he would say no more to her of it, and desired her to make no words of it. It seemed he did say all this in a kind of counterfeit laugh, but by all words that passed, which I cannot now so well set down, it is plain to me that he was in good earnest, and that I fear all his kindness is but only his lust to her.

What to think of it of a sudden I know not, but I think not to take notice yet of it to him till I have thought better of it. So with my mind and head a little troubled I received a letter from Mr. Coventry about a mast for the Duke’s yacht, which with other business makes me resolve to go betimes to Woolwich to-morrow. So to supper and to bed.

My day began at 5:45 AM this morning listening to Radio Five Live. The presenter was asking if anyone had sent e-mails to the wrong person. I sent a text in saying ‘I sent an e-mail to my wife saying I thought the potential garden customer was dishonest and mean, and copied her in by mistake. Strangely the customer wrote back saying “I believe you do not want to do business with me”.   The comment of the presenter was that at least the customer was polite.

As my readers will know I never decide what I’m going to write about until the day in question. I rise to see evidence of rain, a substance of which we need at least three weeks worth if the agriculture of this country is going to achieve its full potential.

I see that the USA is planning to ban laptops on any flights from UK to that Land on the grounds that explosives might be contained in these machines. Whatever will they think of next? So this means that the businessmen preparing for a meeting in Los Angeles cannot use the 11 hours of the flight to prepare his notes all because of some wild and unproven hypothesis that a person dressed as a businessman would blow himself up. Paranoia in extremis.

In all the millions and millions of searches have the TSA ever come across anything resembling a threat and how many millions of bottles of water have been taken away all because about 10 years ago a ‘plot’ was discovered involving a group of youngsters who might have built a water based explosive. They never actually flew on a flight. No evidence was offered; nothing was ever proved and this may well just be an excuse to hassle people and bully them.


I want to write a little bit about my morning ritual without which I cannot start the day and that is the cup of coffee. It is always filter coffee made in the same battered cafeteria which lets the coffee grounds through. I have to use a small sieve in addition. Everything has to be exactly the same, I must use the same large, more like a bucket size cup which although in theory other people can use, I  hide it away to make sure that no one actually does. While drinking from it, I contemplate the day which I suppose is the equivalent of morning prayer. It is a small but significant marker that the Earth has spun round on its axis once more, being smaller than a pinprick in unimaginable large universe.  The Earth’s rotation is actually not quite 24 hours, more like 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds but who’s counting. That’s why we need leap days every four years.

I am currently having a new set of dentures made by an excellent dentist in Bath. Needless to say it is private practice. I think I have visited about 15 times so far with another five to go. This was the only way I could avoid further misery with my teeth that have over the years been attended to by dentists of varying competence. It will cost me over £12,500 but worth every penny. If you can’t enjoy eating food you can’t enjoy meals and the company that goes with it. Also, bad teeth do not help the digestion since the juices should reduce the food to semi liquid before it goes down the gullet. I’m guilty here of rushing my food, a habit I got from my father who often had finished his meal before my long-suffering mother had started. She had dreadfully-fitting dentures that made a clacking sound and suffered in silence because there was not enough money to have decent treatment.

St Augustine of Hippo (Bishop of Hippo Regius)

And now,<fanfare of trumpets>  for the most useless, irrelevant and irreverent fact(oid?) you are ever likely to read on these august pages. It is about St Augustine of Hippo where the great man writes on the topic of… farting.

And therefore man himself also might very well have enjoyed absolute power over his members had he not forfeited it by his disobedience; for it is not difficult for God to form him so that what is now moved in his body only by lust should have been moved only at will.

We know, too, that some men are differently constituted from others, and have some rare and remarkable faculty of doing with their body what other men can by no effort do, and, indeed, scarcely believe when they hear of others doing….Some have such command of their bowels, that they can break wind continuously at pleasure, so as to produce the effect of singin

-Augustine, City of God, p.472 (14.24).

Quite what a saint is doing spending his time writing about such things is completely beyond me, but If you want to know more about this fascinating subject, you only have to visit Wikipedia




Denial of Service – Samuel Pepys at home – being a trader

grass roots site. click image.

There are groups of sad individuals in Russia, China, Brazil, USA, eastern Europe, who have nothing better to do than to send millions of messages to Internet servers and cause them to become inoperable because of overload. My server company is comparatively small, Besthost, and I’ve been dealing with them now for the best part of 20 years. Apart from the DDoS overload, hesitation of writing to your hard disc can be lack of RAM (8Gb recommended with Windows 7). Another factor is the complexity of software in the particular program you are working through or other programmes running at the same time. For example WORD is more complex than WordPad, blessedly free of HTML content.

One of the biggest industries in the world is making money by scams, selling address lists, and generally causing mayhem*. The 911 scams originating from Nigeria seem to have died out now but there are some far more insidious for example asking you to open a link which apparently comes from your bank or telling people that your order is about to be delivered, ‘click here for details’. Malicious code is then imported which hijacks your machine which is then used for sending mail to others and infecting their computers as well.

* Mayhem refers to the gruesome crime of deliberately causing an injury that permanently disfigures another. The name derives via Middle English from the Anglo-French verb maheimer (“to maim”) and is probably of Germanic origin; our own verb “to maim” comes from the same ancestor.

My brother-in-law trustingly followed the instructions of someone who was supposed to be from Microsoft. The operator told him that there was a serious fault in his computer and it needed to be dealt with. My bro-in-law gave over the control of the computer to the operator and was going to receive a bill to unlock it. Fortunately, someone else intervened and by some magic disinfected the computer. It could have been ‘restore to an earlier time’ for all I know.

These operatives are obviously highly intelligent, so why don’t they use their skill for making money legitimately. I suppose we could ask the same of highwaymen, or Robin Hood who robbed the rich for the sake of the poor.

In China, hacking is regarded as just a 9-to-5 job. You will be shocked to read this article about hacking which happens on a positively industrial scale. Individuals flaunt their talents to break into other systems at trade shows.

This whole semi-rant above may explain why some of you had difficulty getting through to my site which was down for at least a couple of hours and may well come down again.

Samuel Pepys’s diary for Tuesday, 10 May 1664 is among the briefest of his entries “Up and at my office looking after my workmen all the morning, and after the office was done did the same at night, and so home to supper and to bed.”

I imagine that Samuel Pepys is a caring and conscientious person. When I worked in London with a small team of gardeners and regarded it as my duty to supply them with breakfast and lunch on jobs which lasted the whole day. It is easier to do this in London where there is more money around and you can charge a bit more for work.  I can say to any employer, and that includes employing me or anyone else, that you will get a far better service if you treat people as human beings and look after their needs for example offering tea or coffee is always appreciated. I find that if someone is nice to me I will go the extra mile. I find that working for people who are dissociated from me is actually draining of energy and I’d do the job to the minimum required for a professional standard and leave as quickly as possible.

The type of client that I like most of all those who take an interest in you, share something of their lives, without being nosy or judgemental in anyway.  New customers inquiring on the phone should know that we listen very carefully to the tone of their voice and if they sound bossy we will think of reasons why we are too busy to assist. Yesterday someone spoke to me who would not even give me their own name but the name of their partner for whom the job needed to be done. You could hear from her voice quite clearly the sentiment “oh dear, why do I have to deal with these lowly types of people”. We listen to every dot and comma not because we’re judgemental but because we have to defend ourselves against time wasters of whom there are many. I responded mechanically and politely to her but I know I will not hear from her again.

When I am turned down for a job it is not ‘me’ that’s been turned down; it is the price that for some reason is not right, a lack of understanding of what is involved cost was timewise, or a simplechange of mind.  Some potential customers expect us to work for £10 an hour because 15 years ago someone worked with them for that sum.  They do not realise that taking all expenses into account we would be working for less than the national minimum wage.  Sometimes people don’t know what they want until they ask someone to come round and have a look and I’ve heard people say that ‘we have decided to do it ourselves’, or ‘we’ve decided to ask a friend’. Now this I don’t mind  because I have been of assistance in helping people to make up their mind. That was not a waste of time. I have done the same thing myself as a purchaser quite a few times, going into a shop and asking questions. The problem is that the high Street is suffering at the moment because people go into the shop and get all the information they need to make a purchase and then buy the same thing on the Internet for 10% cheaper.

To sum up: for the benefit of anyone who is reading this who engages people, treat us as human beings and as individuals and you will get far more for your money and will gain a loyal worker that you can call on another occasion.

Useless fact of the day: the surface area of the sun is 12,000 times larger than the surface area of the Earth.


The danger of the meazles + using your intuition (again)


Samuel Pepys’ diary  9th May 1664

Up and to my office all the morning, and there saw several things done in my work to my great content, and at noon home to dinner, and after dinner in Sir W. Pen’The smoking is bads coach he set my wife and I down at the New Exchange, and after buying some things we walked to my Lady Sandwich’s, who, good lady, is now, thanks be to God! so well as to sit up, and sent to us, if we were not afeard, to come up to her. So we did; but she was mightily against my wife’s coming so near her; though, poor wretch! she is as well as ever she was, as to the meazles, and nothing can I see upon her face. There we sat talking with her above three hours, till six o’clock, of several things with great pleasure and so away, and home by coach, buying several things for my wife in our way, and so after looking what had been done in my office to-day, with good content home to supper and to bed. But, strange, how I cannot get any thing to take place in my mind while my work lasts at my office. This day my wife and I in our way to Paternoster Row to buy things called upon Mr. Hollyard to advise upon her drying up her issue in her leg, which inclines of itself to dry up, and he admits of it that it should be dried up.

We of the 21st-century are comparatively free from infectious diseases and it does no harm to remind ourselves that people were afraid of contact with each other – and with good reason. For example, the Great Plague took 68,596 in London in 1665 but of course Pepys was unaware of this future event.  Anyway, I’m sure you’re not much interested in that so we now proceed to the main business of my diary.

We had a day free of obligations today, and normally I get inspiration about where to go and it always seems to work out well. Today was an exception. No inspiration came and I knew I was waiting for something. What it was I did not know. All we had decided was to take advantage of the good weather and go for a walk. At 1.30PM the phone rang,and I knew why I did not get inspiration. I needed to be in for that call which was about a large gardening job in Shepton Mallett which is about 10 miles away. It happened to be near where we wanted to go for our walk.

So now the day is clear and everything has clicked into place. We go for a walk, do the things we need to do in Shepton Mallet, and go and visit our new customer who sounded very nice and on our wavelength. This will pay the bills for a few weeks all being well.  Only one thing bothers me. The lady has stipulated that we work for four days each subsequent Friday. I do hate  being controlled and being told how long a job will last. We have never quoted an hourly rate as we work without breaks far harder than the average gardener so if I did charge £20 p.h. I would diddle* myself, as we say in the UK.
*From a character called James Diddler, a character in a farce “Raising the Wind” (1803) who constantly borrowed and failed to repay small sums of money.

I’ve got to get this tree down and stop it falling over the adjacent field

We visited the garden concerned and there is indeed a lot of work to do including the felling of three trees. At the age of 72, I have to be a bit careful about how I utilise my physical strength which although is well up to standard if not beyond, the resilience is not what it was. At the time of Samuel Pepys, 72 years of age would have been seen as very senior and venerable but now I don’t regard anyone as old until they are 80. So, the idea of three score years and 10 is now redundant.

PS I eventually decided not to remove the tree. It is about 5 m tall and my insurance does not cover me. The wood is very heavy and is leaning over at an unfortunate angle. Having had one bad accident in the last six months, I don’t intend to have another one. I shall quote for the rest of the job.

Would you believe the country with the highest life expectancy is Monaco at over 89 years, and the lowest is Chad at around 50 years. Monaco beats Japan by five years. UK is about the same as USA, 80 years. I guess it’s quality not quantity that matters. Monaco is a very small country where people can afford to be pampered and looked after, the average citizen is very rich indeed so a they can afford the latest and greatest.  With Japan I guess it is reverence for the old, very good food and a meditative lifestyle.

During the afternoon we visited the local park in Shepton Mallett, Collett Park, and I was very impressed by the quality of attention given to detail.

You can tell when something is loved a mile off and this was a good example. Here follow a couple of images. One is of the park itself and one is of the field adjacent to the park.

sheep and lambs on an adjacent field – this is the country don’t forget
a lovely pond with fish and ducks enjoying themselves



Dealing with people you don’t trust


Pepys Diary 8th May 1664 :

Sir William Penn (23 April 1621 – 16 September 1670) was an English admiral and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1670. He was the father of William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania.

(Lord’s day). ..then Deane and I to my chamber, and there we repeated my yesterday’s lesson about ships all the morning, and I hope I shall soon understand it. At noon to dinner, and strange how in discourse he cries up chymistry from some talk he has had with an acquaintance of his, a chymist, (chemist)  when, poor man, he understands not one word of it. But I discern very well that it is only his good nature, but in this of building ships he hath taken great pains, more than most builders I believe have.

After dinner he went away, and my wife and I to church, and after church to Sir W. Pen, and there sat and talked with him, and the perfidious rogue seems, as he do always, mightily civil to us, though I know he hates and envies us.  So  home to supper, prayers, and to bed.

It is clear that Pepys struggles to understand the technicalities of ship construction, which clearly frustrates him.  He says “I hope I shall soon understand it”. There is nothing wrong with asking people to repeat what they have said. Far worse than saying you understand for ‘politeness’. The brain takes time to rearrange itself for new types of information. It is not  a sign of lack of intelligence but perhaps a lack of preparedness.

I get the impression that in the age before social media, the Internet and other instant means of so-called communication, a personal reputation is to be guarded and treasured. Sir William Penn in spite of his lofty position in society was clearly the victim of his own past actions.  I love the sound of the word ‘perfidy’. It’s almost dripping with horror. Just to remind you of what it means, it is a deliberate breach of faith or trust; faithlessness; treachery. So here we have Samuel Pepys talking jovially to someone he doesn’t trust as far as he can throw him, as we say in modern parlance. I’m sure there’s a much more colourful phrase that was used in the 17th century but I have no access to it at the moment.

How do we proceed with people we do not trust especially if we have to do business with them. We must not make the mistake of assuming that others are as honest as we presumably are. People are on the lookout for any useful information they can use to their own advantage. So, in matters of business, it is probably best when looking forward to keep your mouth shut unless the person has a good track record. I recall reading about a number of ideas that were stolen because the inventor, in an early and enthusiastic stance, spoke too freely.

Roy Plunkett invented the nonstick pan 1948 using the famous Teflon was offered $500 on the grounds by his employer Du Pont. Quite a decent amount in those days but a bargain for the company no less.

Gordon Gould was a graduate student at Columbia University when in 1957 he developed the first practical method for creating a laser and coined the acronym LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation).  Unfortunately, Gould wrongly believed that he needed to create a working model before he could patent the device. This resulted in him failing to stake a claim on his invention until 1959, by which time colleagues from the same laboratory had already filed patents for the laser. It took him 30 years to claim his rights to ownership.

Most of us gossip to other people over the garden fence, or in the immediate neighbourhood. Many years ago someone gave me some good advice which I do not always hold to. Is it true? Is it loving? Is it necessary? The problem is that if people hear you gossiping about others, they may think you are the sort of person that will gossip about them once their back is turned. In a small town or village, this is not a trait that you would like to be associated with and means that people will think twice before confiding you about a personal problem.

There is also a slight problem with the Brits. vs. say Dutch people. Can we detect what the English person is thinking?

“The Dutch are friendly, but crudely direct and outspoken, which is a mixed blessing. Some people love it, some people hate it. The Dutch are loud and may be imposing. In contrast, in the UK people are very polite and mindful of the feelings of others, which is a relief in one way, but it also means it’s impossible to figure out what they think of you and they’re always anxious about embarrassment”  From

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say “I wish I had listened to my intuition”. If we are about to say or do something we have a gut feeling that we should not proceed but we ignore it normally because of our needs.

Sometimes, I meet someone who I know has a questionable reputation. In this case it may be a good idea to give them the benefit of the doubt if they are being reasonably polite to you or even if they are not. Just suppose they are trying to turn over a new leaf. You don’t know. Why not treat them as if they were trustworthy? Appeal to the good in them even though it may be buried deep down in the psychology, and you never know what might happen. We cannot harm others with our thoughts without harming ourselves, the dreaded ‘instant karma’. That may sound a bit ‘preachy’ but there is no other way of saying it.

You probably don’t know that I am secretary of the local Allotment Association. I was delighted to offer a vacant plot to a very deserving lady from Poland who had been living in the area since 2005 but had not been able to find a space which she could call her own and plant Polish type vegetables as well as the standard beans, potatoes etc. I made contact with her at 12.30 today and by 4:30 PM she signed the lease and happily went off to buy some tools. She described the event as a ‘gift from heaven’ and is looking forward to involving her children in cultivating crops. I believe this small unpretentious plot of land will make a huge difference to the family living as they do in a flat.


a sunny Monday morning – a new SSD shows its power

Sir Anthony Deane (1638–1721) was a 17th-century mayor of Harwich, naval architect, Master Shipwright and commercial shipbuilder, and Member of Parliament.

Saturday 7 May 1664 from Pepy’s diary  “Betimes at my office with the joyners, and giving order for other things about it. By and by we sat all the morning. At noon to dinner, and after dinner comes Deane of Woolwich, and I spent, as I had appointed, all the afternoon with him about instructions which he gives me to understand the building of a ship, and I think I shall soon understand it. In the evening a little to my office to see how the work goes forward there, and then home and spent the evening also with Mr. Deane, and had a good supper, and then to bed, he lying at my house”.


I have a strong suspicion that Samuel Pepys is a workaholic and that he has his fingers in so many pies he only goes to sleep when he is exhausted. For my own part, some nights I sleep like a log. At other times I rely on radio five live to keep me from becoming too restless. The theme for the night time hours last night Sunday was a discussion on thriller fiction novelists with two noted authors taking part in the discussion. It’s always worth listening at night because normal news is not happening so there is a lack of pressure and thus time to listen to members the public ringing in with comments.

Today is a nerd day for me because I have spent some money on having a solid state drive installed. This reduces the start-up time of a PC by about 80% and decreases the processing time by a large magnitude. Someone said to me once, you save 1 minute but what you do with the time that you saved? When my mind is working at a high speed, which it does most of the time, I don’t want anything to slow it down so that is why a minute is a long time.

Several starts later I’m very glad I made the investment. The only problem with the solid disc is you can’t tell if it’s on or not. The reassuring whir and click is not there. Processing of a programme is almost instantaneous and very satisfying therefore. I’m sure if I played computer games, which I have no intention of doing, it would be even more impressive.  Some people are unrealistic about how long they expect their computers to last. My repair man was telling me about a customer who had developed an emotional attachment to his seven-year-old laptop. He told me that the average life of a laptop was about half this and I think people should build this expectation into their computers as indeed they should do with the failure of a hard disk which sooner or later will happen. This brings up the glorious topic of backups but we will leave that for another day.