Getting the quote right


Tuesday 30 August 1664

.. after dinner comes Mr. Pen to visit me, and staid an houre talking with me. I perceive something of learning he hath got, but a great deale, if not too much, of the vanity of the French garbe and affected manner of speech and gait. I fear all real profit he hath made of his travel will signify little…

My comments to this:  the best friends are those who listen to you. it’s called a dialogue not a monologue.

I just realised today while doing my gardening job that I had been far too generous with my quote and cannot possibly achieve the aims and objectives within it. At the start, I did cover myself by saying that if I cannot achieve the job I may have to discuss an uplift but the customer is away so I’m going to do the hours that I budgeted for, then pause and then have a discussion with him. Fortunately, he has been pleased with our work so far. We really have sweated, fought with thorns, dragged trees down his driveway and put them on an enormous mountain of miscellaneous items to be taken away.

When I see him again I will give him alternatives which I think you should always be done. I shall tell him that I’ve done the best I can with the quote but I cannot continue without discussing an uplift.

this is a real tough type of job to deal with, and makes demands on the musculature which means you need to be fit to do it

I can say that if he is pleased with what we have done so far then we could bring the job to a close and settle. It is always difficult to tell the financial circumstance of a customer. People can be very well-dressed, nice car etc. and yet they are thousands in debt. Other very ordinary looking people have a few hundred thousand pounds or more stashed away because their relatives died etc.  and left them money.

I don’t want to ask him if money is an issue but I could say that if he wants us to continue we could do so at a later date. Frankly I would far rather close the job now and get on with something else so it is going to be hanging in the air for a little bit but never mind I can survive. There are other jobs just waiting to be done.

Anyway, we have five hours to go between us so will go along tomorrow and see if we can make a passable stand at finishing the job. Fortunately, we like both the garden and the customer who has a very good relationship with his daughter. She is going to move into the bungalow so there are quite a few plusses. What is unpleasant is if you don’t like the customer and they refuse to pay for some reason, or make a complaint, but in the last four years of gardening in Somerset I’ve had few problems and these are usually due to ignorance on the customers part.

Off to see the doctor because I seem to have an infected big toe which warms up and is very sore and sensitive. I have been given some antibiotics –  Flucloxacillin, which contains penicillin with strict instructions to take them four times a day, one hour before meals. I’m relieved to see that the instructions on the medicine box are clear. It says “take this medicine when your stomach is empty. This means an hour before food or two hours after food”. How nice to have plain English.

And so I will crawl into bed. I must admit I feel pretty stiff but I know I will be fine in the morning.

staff problems – 132cm rain – optimum time for studying – bread making


Monday 29 August 1664

.. and thither came the woman with her mother which our Will recommends to my wife. I like her well, and I think will please us. My wife and they agreed, and she is to come the next week. At which I am very well contented, for then I hope we shall be settled, but I must remember that, never since I was housekeeper, I ever lived so quietly, without any noise or one angry word almost, as I have done since my present mayds Besse, Jane, and Susan came and were together. Now I have taken a boy and am taking a woman, I pray God we may not be worse, but I will observe it.

Pepys has highlighted a problem in taking on staff. They may be perfectly adequate individually but collectively may not get on well and clearly this has been the case with the three ‘mayds’ mentioned above. When all said and done, the servants  can be an intrusion on the house and constitute a type of extended family, so harmony at all levels is vital.

132cm is about 4 feet 5 inches – imagine swimming around in that lot at night in the cold

I do feel for the people of Houston Texas and surrounding areas because 132 cm is one heck of a lot of rain. I just measured how high it would come on me using a tape measure and it comes up to my shoulders. If we imagine a suburban area 40km x40km x 0.00132km  = 2.112 cu km or 211,200,000,000 litres of water.    A lot.

I have given some thought to the best part of the day for reading and studying. I can organise my life as I wish but have not been able to discipline myself enough to study at the level I wish to  never mind keep up with the vast pile of books that for some reason I keep accumulating. I read that Kindle books are becoming less popular and are not surprised.  It’s very nice reading on the subway but given the choice I would go for a real book any time. There is one big advantage of the Kindle however that you can change the size of the  text if you happen to have poor eyesight.

People who are obsessed with a topic can study at any time but I reckon the best time for study is the mornings when you are fresh and unencumbered. NB Theoretically,  this blog is open to anybody and anyone with an opinion is more than welcome to write to me. My e-mail is on the home page of this blog.

using the normal 500ml of whole wheat brown flour this is a variation on the normal shaped loaf.

As regular readers will know, we make our own bread. Some time ago we bought a bread maker but it took us a long time to actually get round to using it for its intended purpose. I think it is the ideal food for a novice.

The ingredients cost very little, about 70p per loaf, so if you mess up then there is no great harm and even if the result doesn’t look very nice it is very probably edible so no need to throw it away on sight.  I decided to just use the bread maker as a mixer; I decanted the result after about 10 min of mixing onto a round baking tin, having decided that I would make a continental-looking loaf. It smells good. I find that unless bread has cooled down it is a little bit indigestible so I must wait an hour or so.

About four o’clock this afternoon I got the urge to go and see our current garden job. This was strange because I thought no one was going to be there. My gut feeling wins again. There was the client and his daughter busily discussing what they wanted to do with the garden. The timing was perfect but I had not intended that to happen, I just got this urge to do something and when I get such an urge without any reason behind it it is always ‘meant’ to be.

Tomorrow is going to be a hard day. I have somewhat under quoted for the clearing job but can theoretically do it in the time allowed so we just have to get cracking. I shall cut down the trees and bushes and Francoise would drag them to the rapidly growing pile of spoil. I shall get into the zone rather like you do when you meditate and the energy will look after itself.


The country way of buying things – murderers escaping sentence?


Sunday 28 August 1664

(Lord’s day). Up and with my boy alone to church, the first time I have had anybody to attend me to church a great while. Home to dinner, and there met Creed, who dined, and we merry together, as his learning is such and judgment that I cannot but be pleased with it. After dinner I took him to church, into our gallery, with me, but slept the best part of the sermon, which was a most silly one.

Lovely to see someone spend quality time with a young man. It is clear that his wife Elizabeth does not go to church. Evidently, he went twice on this particular day.

Wife and Dee

Apart from my beloved butchers about which I have made mention a few times now, we rely for our eggs on the local farm run by the one and only Dee. For £1 we get six large eggs fresh as a daisy plus whatever else she feels like selling. Today she offered us plums for cooking, the first of the season to my memory, and potatoes by the bag or sack, beans, birdseed and plants in season. She sells 250 dozen eggs each week and at Christmas she sells about 1000 Christmas trees. There is no such thing as displaying goods. She just leaves them around where we can see them. Everyone understands this and that is the way it is.

the menu varies with the season

When Dee is not around, you put the money in the box. When she is around, there is always time for a chat about this and that. We might discuss the latest events we have been to, the weather etc. It would be extremely rude to buy something without engaging in a chat. The weather is not such a trivial subject because she is situated on top of a hill and she gets weather that we do not only a mile or so down in the valley. This applies particularly in the winter. They get snow; we get sleet.

Do potential murderers get away with it? The answer is yes, if their partner is too afraid to give testimony in court against them. One of our allotmenteers had to go on jury service in Bristol and they were told right at the start of the day without even having to be sworn in that the case against the defendant for his threatening and physical behaviour had to be abandoned because the partner was too scared to speak. The defendant had threatened to kill his partner but this made no difference.

My gardening day tomorrow looks like it could be sabotaged by rain. I tend to mentally plan jobs that are very difficult or wild. Once you start deciding in what order you going to do things, the job becomes less foreboding in other words break things down into elements and they won’t frighten you. Another approach is to do things little by little and forget about all the rest but having said that we have a maximum 30 hours work between us so we don’t want to spend too much time messing around. Once I start work I tend not to stop because if I do, I get stiff. If I’m enjoying my work I tend not to get tired. A good trick is not to spend too long on repetitive actions and go from one element to another. This will minimise any fatigue.

We planted some leeks today. This is our second plant, the first one  being a few months back.  We are just trying as an experiment and if September is warm we have a good chance to see the leeks growing well.  These seedlings are tiny little things that you think would scarcely stand up so for that reason we make a little hole for them and push them down and water the hole so they stand up in a type of mud bath.

how not to perform in a brass band – sausages to die for


(see previous entry) … So here we are at 11am in Wells having found a parking space by some miracle in what is a very compact town designed in the years before the motorcar. What a lovely day without a cloud in the sky. The great thing about Wells is that it is so compact that everything is within 10 min walk of all the major features.

Tourists – fear not, you will not get lost. Just look for the tower of the Cathedral and you will get your bearings.

A slightly unusual view of a property at Vicar’s Close; someone who is not mowing their lawn. There are strict tenancy agreements in place and she or he is probably due for the chop

Vicars’ Close must have one of the strictest preservation orders ever. It has been in existence since A.D. 1348 and is owned by the Cathedral who rent the buildings out to private individuals. It is a privilege to walk down it and we always either pay homage to it and/or walk down it when we come from where we park our car.

Anyway, without further ado, we braced ourselves to join the hundreds of people that were in the environs of the grounds of the unique Wells Cathedral Gardens and properties. The history of this place is quite amazing and you can Google it if you feel so inclined.

On a bright and sunny day, you can rely on the weather conditions to bring out the best among the Brits. and I was not disappointed. In general, Somerset people are quite friendly but the atmosphere today was particularly good and I must have had a record number of casual conversations. Once again I tell you it is easy to talk to people in the street and any barriers are in your own mind. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know them from Adam. People like to talk and if you have a sense of humour this is an enormous help.

The Round Table was selling their programs for a pound and I bought one just to make a contribution. The canoe and boat races are down one side of the Cathedral property with swans looking on. The whole thing is done with great good humour because it is all for charity and the main thing is that people turn up and have a go. This is a good thing because the standards of the racing fell slightly below Olympic standards. When the floating objects start it is an act of randomness if they follow the rules and even if they go in the right direction at the same time but not a disaster if they are not.

The Parsons Nose

Due to hunger i.e. not having had breakfast I made straight for a sausage and hamburger stall which was run by a local company. I will give you a big clue here. If you want to eat decent food go to a place run by a local company because they stand or fall by their reputation. Contrast this to a traveling circus where people just go anywhere to make a few bob and don’t care about the quality of their food. Typically, bread supplied in the form of rolls is full of fresh air and chemicals and not worth any money at all. These people provided sausages of the first quality and bread that you could actually eat without comparing it with polystyrene. I got two sausages and a decent bap for four pounds and it was worth every penny.

it was lovely to see an apple tree clinging to the south facing wall of the monastery/Castle. Ctrl + for bigger images
the water of the moat is very clear indeed, being fed by springs from the Mendips
this is the very clear water near the spring. the depth of the water is about 2 feet
a lovely place for all to  paddle and dip their feet on a hot day
an iridescent team

Incidentally, the first boat race was started by John North, the 644th Mayor of Wells. It just reminded me how historically significant this city is.

this man has a natural talent for relating to children, he is kind and gentle and a good entertainer

I now come to the local brass band, Congresbury no less.  It takes great dedication and commitment to come along and play at events where you will probably not be paid. However, the player should remember that they are playing music which requires the coordination of say 16 people to play the same notes in the same order at the same time. This is where our worthy group fell down. For some reason on this occasion there was no conductor. Before giving a performance, it is necessary to rehearse. Things do not coordinate themselves by magic. I say unless the people are prepared to spend more time on discipline they should not appear in public. Judge for yourself. I find it a sloppy rendition with attempts at life.

The next topic was quite extraordinary. I saw a woman sitting by the spring doing what I thought was painting. Normally, I leave such people alone to do what they have to do but by some instinct I decided to say hello to her. In fact she was doing her diary. She told us the she had just come back from a three-week pilgrimage where she kept a daily diary but during her time in the United Kingdom had difficulty in disciplining herself to do one regularly so she was just catching up. I told her about my Samuel Pepys diary and how interesting it had become. She said that it’s amazing how much you recall when you start writing.

synchronistic meeting

At that moment, two women showed up and the one with the identical top greeted the woman sitting down by saying, hello Francoise. I did a doubletake as did my wife thinking that she knew her name by some magic but it appears that the writer did in fact share the name of my wife. It appears she and the other lady were both tourist guides. The writer was french, originating from Paris. After a chat, she said to my wife, “we must keep in touch” and gave her a business card. It seems that she does many of the alternative things that my wife does such as Reiki, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines. She and I were only discussing the other day the lack of specialist friends shall we say so this seemed rather heaven sent, certainly an invitation worth following up. There was no hesitation on the part of the french Francoise to extend the exploratory hand of friendship to my wife.

The allotmenteers nearby are the friendliest and coolest bunch of people you can expect to meet. I have no hesitation in chatting to them about beetroot, runner beans, what grows well and what does not grow well.

not all were in a celebratory mood

Outside the castle grounds my attention was drawn to a young girl singing and playing the guitar. There are many buskeers in Wells but I was very struck by the quality and maturity of her voice. I noticed that for the 2 min I was there, three or four people put money in her guitar case. I listened the moment, waited for her to finish her piece and then asked if she had done any Youtube or Soundcloud. She said no but she has recently signed a contract in Southampton with a music company. I told her straight out that she had a lovely voice and we would definitely be hearing from her in the future. She gave her name as Marty Carver, though I bet you she will be given another name if she gets famous

very realistic demonstration

In the Palace Gardens we had a demonstration of medieval swords and armour and ways of waging war. We were shown the way to fight with swords without getting your arm cut off and we were able to see real life weapons, fiendishly sharp, which did rather well in destroying common objects, slicing through a plastic milk bottle filled with water as if it were not there.

I gave an example yesterday of good teaching methods. The compere was completely into the part, demonstrating how to behead someone, how to ‘top and tail’ them shall we tactfully say. There were about 100 people watching (see picture) and they were all enthralled particularly the children. He got a big round of applause at the end.

the crowd
quite crazy

How this car drives round the roads legally I do not know but there it was parked on the kerb. There was a note on the car saying that If you had a laugh you were invited to put some money in through the open window. It was virtually impossible to film the whole car in all its glory so this image gives very little idea of the total impact. .

view through the drivers side
I simply could not understand what the attraction of this advert outside a pub could be but I was told it was because the film”Hot Fuzz” had been partly made there
The phrase, “it takes all sorts to make a world ” originated in the 1600’s and applies to this gig


Elephant cruelty – mysterious properties of electric cords – Wells Moat Boat races


Saturday 27 August 1664

…Thence to my case-maker for my stone case, and had it to my mind, and cost me 24s., which is a great deale of money, but it is well done and pleases me…

Pepys reminds us that he’s human and likes to treat himself from time to time.. It must have made a change from dealing with maritime matters

So home and find my boy a very schoole boy, that talks innocently and impertinently, but at present it is a sport to us, and in a little time he will leave it. So sent him to bed, he saying that he used to go to bed at eight o’clock, and then all of us to bed, myself pretty well pleased with my choice of a boy.

Pepys is wise enough to see that he will grow out of his impertinences and he takes a relaxed view, knowing that the phase will pass.

Last night we watched a programme on BBC2 by the very honest and transparent Gordon Buchanan who has made it his task in life to get to know a family of African elephants in the wilds of Kenya.  During the filming they came across an elephant that had been snared by a steel rope. The animal was obviously in great distress and we saw him going into the water to bathe itself gently – the best it could do. The emergency team were called, the elephant subdued, and the operation to remove the offending object began.  I don’t think we can have any idea of the pain that this wonderful and gentle animal suffered.

bolt cutters were needed
the offending object
they use clay with healing properties
the doctor assures everyone the elephant will be all right because his bodily condition is sound

Francoise has suggested that we go to Wells as there is some sort of bank holiday shenanigans with the boat race and so on. There are lots of things we could do at home including the endless tidying up  but it threatens to be a hot day so we might as well be out and about. So much for the plan to stay in.

there they go again

I must also organise my garden tools. When I put away any garden equipment which has a length of cord I take such care to wind it up so that it can be easily unwrapped. When I come to use the tool, by some mysterious process the cord has become entangled in itself so much so that I have to pull the whole thing apart and start again. I think I should set up a night vision camera and observe. I guess about three o’clock in the morning there is a certain writhing and  wriggling. Perhaps it is to do with the magnetic fields of the Earth or perhaps some mischievous animal but it happens time after time.

don’t go between a swan and its cygnets. The Swans are on patrol

As they say, nature abhors a vacuum and with such a nice sunny day we thought we would do something which in this case go to Wells, again, to witness the Moat Boat Races one of these big events organised by the Rotary club who do such admirable work raising money for charity. The moat refers to the area around the remains of the castle adjacent to the Cathedral. The history is long and interesting should you wish to Google it.

The moat is still in good working order, though it serves more as a facility for duck and geese breeding than any defensive purposes.This is going to be one of these very long reviews I think I better start another part of this diary. Following the example of the above elephant I have placed a layer of healing clay around the big toe of my left foot which was some reason is sore and slightly hot. Compared with this poor elephant I have nothing to complain about but pain is pain so if I’m not to hobble around in a few months time I must deal with it.

Next part of the diary for Monday, 28 August 2017, temperature 25°, follows shortly.

Chilcompton Fringe Festival and how to motivate people to sing


The outstanding design / logo for the web site. Well done someone.

SPOT THE BALL a grandfather and young lady playing with a ball. This is called a “game” No mobile phone devices are required  Ctrl+ to magnify this picture, indeed to magnify the whole lot..
what better way to rest, in contact with mother nature on a lovely sunny day

We arrived at about 12.30, half an hour after the event was opened on a grand all-purpose sports field suitable for football, cricket, anything else that needs a large space to find about 100 visitors there. Since the opening times were between 12.00 and 11 PM we expected the numbers to build up as the day went on. They did.

It is quite brave for a small village to have an event which is called a fringe Festival which implies that there are other festivals that are not fringe but it matters not. The website was put together by an imaginative team well done.

My eagle eye, when I’m not enjoying myself, is focused on how things are done and how they can be done better. I do the same with myself by the way.

see text below

I’m sure this lady had every good intention. There were five people in the audience, 3 to the right and 2 to the left. She sat in front of the three and spent 90% of the time looking at them with only the occasional glance at the other two in the audience. This is an absolute no-no because you are excluding the others and making them feel that they are not part of things. If you look at good speakers you see they look around to everyone and make sure that its proportional even if the audience is to the side or even behind

one thing organisers forget is to have conspicuous containers for trash. This is important when there are a lot of eating stations

When you are a group of volunteers it is easy to forget something. At the entrance there was a fair amount of money being taken and the only thing they had to stop the notes blowing away in the wind was a red plastic bowl.

It is also helpful for committee members to have some sort of label or notification or uniform so that if someone has a problem for example a medical matter or a query all lost property it is good to know whom to ask. They probably have Public Liability Insurance and I would have thought this is part of the professionalism.

So, never mind the style or finesse let’s just bash out good old rock ‘n’ roll  you know the music you know the words let’s just remind ourselves of what it was like in the good old days.

Beer and cider were served in limited varieties but the basic needs of people were met. I cannot speak for what happened later when there were probably more people for the main music acts in the evening. I did not notice any lights set up so I suppose they manage with what the few lights they had. About 10:50 PM we heard the sounds of music wafting across the landscape when we were about to go to bed but it did cease at 11 o’clock.

It is fair to say that the names of the groups were original. e.g.
Shake the tree / real life / parfanon / venezuelan pig rustlers / hidden gentlemen / hurry up harry / helena / 200 hurts / vox terrae / gina valerie / monitors / village folk / fraser road race / stealth legion / no thursday war / bewildered herd / ninotchka . The last one was a type of gypsy sound / Eastern European / Russian and everyone listened with rapt attention.

listening with rapt attention (sorry my lens got steamed up)
bales of straw acted as seating areas but they were rather high and difficult to get on. A good Supply of chairs should always be available for those that need to rest. It must be said that in the excellent and modern lounge area  there was a TV and very comfortable seating plus a bar.
the all-purpose clubhouse with the F1 race going on


a carnivorous plant stall
the chap on the right is 1. A London banker on his day off 2. The secretary of the local Conservative party 3. A local who has lived here for years
this takes me back to my childhood when such objects were magical and had a life of their own
I was so moved by these youngsters who took on musical numbers way more sophisticated than they could manage but they sung with such enthusiasm and guts that everyone applauded them for their efforts. They probably imagined they were on a Saturday TV talent show. We all have to start somewhere.
Where would we be without the welly throwing competition
the Mendip brass band

This is a wonderful example of motivation. Helena is getting people to sing who do not think they can sing and maybe have never sung before. She was working against a background of noise and still managed to retain everyone’s attention. Anyone who is a teacher of actors or performers in any form should watch this video. Watch to the end.

PS Unbeknown to me, Michael Eavis of Glastonbury fame opened this event at 11.30 AM to what must have been a handful of people. Is there any limit to this man and his dedication to the community. From the Midsomer Norton Journal “In a short speech that referenced his experience of Glastonbury’s early days, he concluded with “Everything starts at the beginning, and this is the beginning for you people – and next year I shall see you again! Good luck, have a wonderful, wonderful time, and congratulations – I wish you every success’.

This is the true voice of community speaking. His words were not attended by TV crews but this is Michael attending to his responsibility as an influencer of youngsters.

Giles Harrod, a spokesperson for the event said” Michael Eavis did a brilliant job opening the Festival and it is fantastic that ..he .. came to open the event for us; it gave everyone involved a real boost!”

This is what we can do for each other on a daily basis and what we try to do in our own small way from our humble bungalow in BA3

Make sure the stands are not too far away from each other

So, to sum up:

I found enough to keep me interested and occupied for about three hours and was considerably helped by the fact that the weather was ideal.
Full credit to the organisers. Very few people realise that planning for such events start many months before and enormous amounts of people have to be cajoled, coerced, persuaded, begged, even being asked to give up their bank holiday Sunday for the great cause.

My summing up below are just my observations and are not meant personally or critically.

If you possibly can, try and gather everyone together before the event starts and appraise them all the facts they need to know on health and safety, the what if….   and who is supposed to do what. It is easy to slip out of phase in the frantic period building up to the opening time.

There were no programs that I could see available. Printing is cheap enough and having the major features on one A4 sheet and contact details does add to the professionalism.

Have enough seats and enough rubbish bins

Make sure that the music stands are far enough away from each other so they do not disturb.

Committee members should have labels on and any collecting point for money at the entrance should have a certain standard of security.

Don’t situate the features too far from each other because it can get lonely if you’re 50 yards away from the nearest stand and people will not tend to go there. It’s a bit like the coals on a fire, to have an effective heat you need the coals to be fairly close. I was thinking of the Welly Throwing stand though agree you have to be careful of flying objects.

The most important point is that PEOPLE make the event and if people come along willing to make a contribution and be friendly then the event however simple will be a success. It was my impression that the people of Chilcompton came out in very good numbers and enjoyed themselves so you can’t ask for much more really. See you next year.

a lovely sunny day, a boxing match of note, websites good and bad


Friday 26 August 1664

…Up by 5 o’clock, which I have not been many a day…

the sky is blue and we have no obligations today – our garden (part)

I must admit that this morning I was up at just after 4 AM to listen to the fight between a kickboxer versus a 100% real boxer. There is something in my psychology that wants the underdog to win and confound everybody, and there is definitely something about Las Vegas that tells me that an event that happens there will be over the top.  I have been there twice. I think everyone should go to Vegas to see what excesses can bring.

I digress. Back to the boxing. On the one hand, we have Lloyd Merryweather, a lean and mean African-American who had won 49 fights and now wanted to win the 50th and retire on it. In the opposing corner we have the rough and ready Irishmen Connor McGregor whose countrymen would have supported him if he was carried into the ring in a coffin.  A slight look back in history will show you why America is full of Irish people and why he could rely on such good support. According to the US Census statistics of 2000, 34.7 million residents of the USA reported Irish ancestry. That is about 10% of the total population.

Well, they choose to do it

As it happens the American prevailed against someone who was essentially not a boxer but a kick boxer, a different discipline. The kick boxer was full of heart and guts but all accounts. The boxing promoter from the UK, Frank Warren, was asked whether the reputation of the sport had benefited and he was clearly unsure. He did not count the match as a real fight because the Irish man had only been learning boxing for six months and therefore his opponent took him to school. Frank said that if people were prepared to pay the stratospheric prices that were asked, and enjoyed what they saw, then good luck to them. The hundred million payday to each boxer was probably more than all other boxers earned in their entire life certainly in the UK. I suppose ultimately it is showbiz and entertainment and if that’s how people want to spend their own time and money in an act of free will there is really nothing much to say. I was spellbound by the authoritative commentary on Radio Five Live UK – well done people. PS I think you need an East London accent to be convincing

As a special treat this morning we had smoked salmon on buttered bread (my own lovely bread cooked the night before) accompanied by a generous portion of scrambled egg. Later on today we will tackle the formidable pile of leftovers from yesterday but meanwhile we are going to an arts day.

Chilcompton, a local village, is definitely boxing above its weight. its website cannot be accused of self depreciation. It starts by saying that Chilcompton is a vibrant, electric village nestling in the northern slopes of the Mendip Hills. I think that is what is referred to as talking up a place. There are a couple of pubs, an attractive stream, a sports field and club, a lively village hall and a rather famous quilting outlet. That’s all the features I am aware of.

Unfortunately, like so many local directories, the website is not kept up to date in all respects. Under “Events” we find the last entry to the Chilcompton Society Flower Show Saturday, September 5, 2015 to 15 p.m. at the village hall. It sounds like the Webmaster has retired and there is no one else to replace him or her.

General comment: the golden rule of websites is better no information than out of date information or simply wrong information. It annoys the visitor If you say – with or without a friendly icon – that ‘we are working on this page’. In my experience this ‘temporary’ notice can last for months or even years in which case why do you bother with the site at all?  You can use all the wonderful words you want but if it is not backed up by the appropriate integrity of the data the reputation will suffer.

<after further examination> It looks like the site is run by the Parish Clerk who had at one point voluntary temporary help (guess).Parish Clerks have lots to do and it is my guess that she could do with a bit more help and cooperation.

I very much enjoy maintaining websites. Though my technical knowledge of HTML is very small, there are so many DIY sites where anyone capable of typing can put something halfway decent together. There are certain rules of protocol to bear in mind because you don’t want to let your product look amateurish.

Part two of today’s diary will consist of a very lengthy report on the Chilcompton Fringe Festival event taking place this afternoon and evening, Sunday, 27 August 2017, in the middle of the bank holiday weekend.


schadenfreude- healing using goats – preparing for guests


Thursday 25 August 1664

numerous business dealings and some squabbling from our diarist

schadenfreude is a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction when something bad happens to someone else. Hurricane Henry is approaching from the gulf of Mexico and going to  centre its activities on Corpus Christi in Texas. Worse than the wind there is a threat of up to 60 inches of rain. Why do I tune into Fox TV, a station that I never touch with a barge pole, to see the latest gruesome details?

the mayhem and chaos starts

Maybe such catastrophes trigger a fear that we have deep down that something will happen to us but for the moment we are spared. The whole is a bit more complicated. The US Govt have approved 175 patents for weather control. The idea of some disturbed people amongst us is to use perverted Tesla technology as a weapon of for example depopulation. It is much easier to get guns off people if they are vulnerable having lost their homes. Check out if you don’t want to believe me.

This is John Cleese in fine form

And now for something completely different
Yoga with goats – yes really

I’m not quite sure what emotions she is going through. The woman said that she thought the goat was nibbling her hair because to the animal it must look like straw. I think there is a bit more to it than that.

Anyway, I can think of something more interesting though quaint. I had never thought of doing yoga amidst straw bales on a farm where goats would be allowed to interact with me, walk all over me and so on  but some people are evidently quite happy to pay for this being done to them. I think this curious therapies started in USA but it is evidently spreading to this country, the UK.

I don’t have any doubt that animals have unconditional love but it is difficult to detect this in a charging bull. I suppose in this case the love is expressed by protecting their youngsters. From the quite long excerpt on morning television it seems these people are enjoying themselves.

if they benefit they wish to pay the money to have a bunch of kids run all over them who am I to say anything
at a boy!

I know that dogs and cats are very intuitive and supportive and many people tell stories of when they have been feeling depressed and the pet has come and cuddle them and paid attention to them in a particular way, so why not goats.

Somerset does not have a great tradition, come to think of that it doesn’t have any tradition at all of having people round to meals particularly supper.  Historically, the miners will have returned home so exhausted that they will would little more energy than is required for their tea or their supper whatever they call it and then off to bed for a 6 AM start the next day. The retirees round here tend to keep themselves to themselves during the evening though there is a lively scene of groups and societies that start meetings again in September through to June. On these occasions, the standard fare is tea, coffee and cake with other refreshments thrown in if you are lucky. The younger working people are so preoccupied with looking after their kids and surviving the daily commute to Bath and Bristol they don’t have much time for social entertainment particularly during the week. There are many people working on low wages so they have to work  long hours such as the ones who work in shops and so on so they don’t have much disposable time or energy to do social stuff. I’m talking about formal occasions not chatting in the street or over the garden wall.

We however do very much enjoy entertaining and pull the stops out for the people we like. The great thing about having guests is that you have to clean and tidy your house, unless you want to be seen as a complete slob. We spent the whole of the day vacuuming, persuading reluctant spiders to emerge from their place above the skirting board, laying the table and making sure that the implements were clean, cooking ambitious food which as it turned out was far too much for the assembled gathering. I did an amazing shepherds pie which was enough for eight people and we eventually had enough left for my meals for the rest of the week. I shall freeze some of it. For some reason I always over provide food. it is a habit I cannot break. Perhaps I should advise people to fast for the previous 24-hours. I think to myself, quite irrationally, that it would be such a disgrace to run out of food in front of your guests.

Image result for you will leave south africa but it will not leave you airport sign
Table mountain with its famous table cloth viewed from the city bowl.

One of the guests was South African and we were able to share memories of KwaZulu Natal, the wonderful beaches consisting of acres of sand, wine and beer that is not eye wateringly expensive, the friendliness and dignity of the local population, the beautiful sunsets,  the mountainous landscapes. At Cape Town airport there was a sign saying “you will leave South Africa but South Africa will never leave you”. At the time, I laughed at it as a clever PR slogan but it is absolutely true. I have not been back to South Africa now for nearly 3 years and I miss it a lot. I suspect part of my soul is lodged there.

a perfect evening

A most pleasant evening with the delightful feeling that there were many subjects that could be covered but on another occasion. I must find an excuse to go to SA.



If you live a violent life you can live to 100 or you can die tonight


Wednesday 24 August 1664

Up by six o’clock, and ...

I have a certain admiration for people who get up early; they cannot be completely bad because they have the desire for productivity and making the most of the day. Sometimes I get up early only because I have finished sleeping and there is nothing more boring than lying in bed with nothing to do. Having said that, I have my small portable radio tuned to Radio Five Live 24 hours a day and you will be surprised at the quality of the material that happens at 3 AM and also you will be surprised the number of people who are up and able and willing to send texts or make phone calls at such an ungodly hour. Why the phrase ungodly hour has been originated I do not know. I regard the silent hours of the night as rather Godly – peace and quiet in time to think.

Why the headline? I was just listening to Spotify, a rap funk track called “if you live a violent life you can live to 100 or you could die tonight” I thought this was a wonderfully inspired title to a song and reminds us all of the transitory nature of our lives and how anyone can go at any time. I believe that the state of mind you’re in when you transcend your body will determine to a large extent where you continue your conscious existence perhaps in another life or perhaps in deaths fields who knows. I’m absolutely convinced that the soul being immortal  continues on its path irrespective of the particular adornments we have, suits, clothes, which we call  a human body which we wear for a few years and cast off. I do not identify my real self with my body, it’s my body for the moment but it is not me.

It’s a very sad thing to say really but I use my to identify any plane that I hear flying overhead. Anyone with a PC can see who is flying where, and at what altitude and speed and vector. generally, I’m very nosy and so to know who’s doing what when where why is very interesting. This also applies to people walking down a street. It is a cul-de-sac so any stranger is immediately spotted. where we live we have a very low level of burglary. The only case was when some labourers have come in to do some work and took a fancy to something in the house and returned later to claim it on any voluntary basis.

Today I started a big job  of jungle clearing. That is what I advertise  and that is what I do. Clearing dreadful gardens requires a certain vision as to what the garden can be like. An extreme example of this are the lost gardens of Heligan, which were uncovered from ruin. Its a good story. When the National Trust take over a property they look back in the deeds to see what it was intended to be like by the designers, not necessarily Capability Brown  but many of the young designers that existed in the 16th 17th and 18th century.

the back garden before we started our work this morning

Anyway back to the garden. The family situation is quite complicated. the house is going to be rented to by a young lady and her boyfriend.

the same scene a few hours later

The mother of the divorced father owns the property. The daughter on entering the property agrees to pay rent to the mother and the father will pay the bills. There are therefore three separate parties that are interested in the job being done well. The divorced husband who wants to look after his daughter. The daughter who wants a reasonable place for living and the divorcee who would like an income from the property from rent with a security in the future that she can move into it in her old age.

The day was warm and we did work extremely hard. I wanted to push myself to see how hard I could work and whether age was taking its toll. When I was sweating so much I could not work any more I sat down and listened to my heart to see if there were any irregularities but there were none.

The young lady who is going to move into the property, together with her partner, are going to live in this very nice three-bedroom bungalow. There was a most extraordinary reaction to  the work that we had done – the daughter cried. She did not burst out crying, it was what we called tearing. At the mention of her grandmother who used to live in the house,  there were further tears. I don’t think it’s anything to do with the fact that she is a social worker. My partner thinks it’s to do with a kidney energy imbalance.It’s possibly the recall of important memories.

Anyway, this did not bother me at all. If people want to cry it is up to them.  If people want to laugh that great, if people want to flush the toilet  (better out than in) then crying is a good way of doing it.

We discovered that her grandmother was very interested in owls. This followed a discussion about what to do with a big tree that needed felling. Having been to the Bath and West Show I thought it would be very nice to use one of the very talented chainsaw artist to produce the owl  so I thought if they cut the tree down to about 6 feet and let the artist get on with it this would be a wonderful memorial for the grandmother.

Anyway day one finished as you see with taking a completely derelict area,  dragging away many cubic metres worth of spoil, and returning it to the condition as it was 20 years ago when the grandmother was able and willing to cultivate it.

Incidentally, we developed a time-saving way of getting rid of spoil and moving it. We used a huge tarpaulin, dumped everything on it, and dragged it to its new location. There was no need to do any bagging.

The granddaughter brought photographs of how the garden looked in days of yore. It was indeed unrecognisable from its present condition. She said that in the 1980s there were no houses surrounding it and the garden overlooked fields. If you were to look over a wall you would see small houses densely packed together with gardens the size of postage stamps. The daughter said that they had been offered £400,000 for the land but that developers would have used it for flats and she asked her mother to let them keep the house.

The daughter also asked me if I will be available on a weekly or regular basis. I replied saying that this was not our normal way of doing things. Our aim was to work ourselves out of the job so that the owner of the property could maintain it. She then went off on another theme saying that originally she told her dad not to have a gardener because we should do it on our own but she then realised that they didn’t have the tools and the energy to do the job.

A lot of people do underrate our profession and think we are just gardeners but we are far more than that quite a lot of wisdom is required and not a little bit of advice which I for one freely give to potential customers.

I was glad to get back to have a hot shower and a glass or two of white wine.


Poison dust – preparation for guests – finished my talk!


Tuesday 23 August 1664

Lay long talking with my wife, and angry awhile about her desiring to have a French mayde all of a sudden, which I took to arise from yesterday’s being with her mother. But that went over and friends again, and so she be well qualitied, I care not much whether she be French or no, so a Protestant.

I just had to buy this book. It was for sale at £1.25 from Amazon so what’s to lose

Here is a curious prejudice highlighted in the simple act of protesting about the possibility of a foreigner as I suppose the French were at that time being engaged in the house. My lack of historical understanding prevents me from understanding the nuances here.

With regard to my own wife, it is very strange that people who live in Somerset cannot detect that she has a French accent. We have now turned it into a sort of game. If someone asks her where she is from they have to guess. We’ve had the following, Italian, German, Polish, Russian, pretty much everything you can think of. The locals are just not tuned to a French accent whereas people who have  travelled or are from larger cities such as London pick up her fairly heavy accent instantly. I’m not blaming anyone for this, just commenting.

I have not so far managed to finish my speech for the doctors. It is the last 20 min before lunch I don’t want to give anything heavy but I don’t want to be trivial either. In such a brief time if I can make three points that people will actually remember that I won’t be doing too badly bearing in mind that I’m on the tail end of three hours of learned discussion about trauma.

I arose early. It is actually 5:45 AM as I deliver these words. I have quoted a modest sum for clearing a garden which is more like an enclosed jungle. With very hard work sometimes I just go into a zone and float through the job even though it involves cutting down trees, dragging material, dealing with horrible brambles. I think if you’re in the correct state of mind you can cope with almost anything. I was thinking about the priorities of the job and I decided that I should do the major stuff first of all, cutting down trees etc and then see what we have. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got to do until you start the job or in the well-known phrase you can’t see the wood for the trees.

Interestingly, I look an age now when people do not believe I can do the strenuous garden work that I claim to. The last person asked me if I was going to bring someone else in to help obviously thinking I was not up to the job. After I have felled the first couple of trees and strimmed a 50 yard length of rough ground they go silent.

I was reading about the shocking number of identity thefts that are going on with the British public. In 2016, 173,000 frauds were recorded. Identity fraud now accounts for more than half of all fraud. The first time you know anything is wrong is when you receive a credit card statement for goods that you did not order. Apparently all the fraudsters need is your name, address and date of birth. There is a downside to all technology and contactless cards are very convenient except if you lose them. A person can go on a spending spree even after you cancel the card  so I suppose if you want to be ultra-cautious you can ask for a credit card without the contactless facility. I don’t think they do this any more for debit cards.

I went to see a garden in Peasedown where someone wanted me to take down a very tall Yew hedge. When I spoke to him on the phone I noticed that he was wheezing and I wondered why perhaps it was a lung disease from having been a miner. Anyway, I arrived and gave him a quote for the job but afterwards I realise that I’m allergic to the very fine dust that this bush gives out. The poison is called Taxine. it has a list of symptoms as long as your arm. Breathing difficulty and variations in heartbeat are only two of a dozen. I do not have the requisite breathing apparatus so I must turn down the job regrettably. I don’t know whether I’ve got the heart to tell in that his own breathing difficulties because he breathes in the poison through the window.

On Saturday we have guests, and Francoise uses the opportunity to clean the whole house, not just a casual clean but of the clean of everything that might contain does contain all will contain bacteria and diverting any form. I’m actually teasing her a bit because when guests come there is a tendency, deep-seated I’m sure, to clean the house and make very nice food more splendid than we would normally eat. The theme for the meal on Saturday evening will be “things we have grown on our allotment”.

I read in the New York Times today “in what may be the largest so far in a lawsuit tying a ovarian cancer to talcum powder, a Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson and Johnson to pay $417 million in damages to a medical receptionist who developed ovarian cancer after using the company’s trademark Johnson is Baby Powder on her perineum for decades.

Eva Echeverria, 63, of East Los Angeles is one of thousands of women who have sued the consumer products giant Johnson & Johnson claiming baby powder caused their disease, pointing to studies linking talc to cancer that date to 1971, when scientists in Wales discovered particles of talc embedded in ovarian and cervical tumors”

This is just a reminder of the incredible consciencelessness of the pharmaceutical and chemical companies who sell things to people and making great claims without actually testing them. It means that the public act as guinea pigs for any new offering which has been on the market for say less than five years. You can dig around the alternative media but have a look at the so-called vaccine Gardasil given to girls aged 9 for conditions they do not have, but just might have in the future. For goodness sake the body has an immune system which given half a chance will do its stuff. Why interfere with it for profit (well, there is your answer I guess).  If you type into Google “vaccine dangers” you will get a return of 576,000 results.

I have finally finished my talk having had it twirling around my head for a week or so. It was actually very easy to finish because all the points simply needed to be juxtaposed and placed in the right order. It contains my usual anarchistic breed of humour which I hope the doctors and staff attending will find a relief from discussing aspects of trauma. I believe in finishing talks at least a week before you have to give it so that it can settle itself and when you give it it sounds like you are familiar with the subject. Lack of preparation is an insult to the people who are listening because it means you don’t respect them enough to bother.



Play me I’m yours – art therapy for the mentally troubled


Monday 22 August 1664

A fairly tedious entry from Pepys about his numerous business dealings.

This evening we spent watching a documentary film about the history aspect of the South Downs of England. I had forgotten that the famous White Cliffs of Dover were once under the sea. That’s the only way that chalk can be formed ha ha. I was impressed by the varieties of flora and fauna including rare orchids that are only able to survive in this particular environment and with this particular soil type. BBC4 is now what BBC2 used to be years ago before it started really going down market or as the BBC would say ‘popularised’.

Prior to that we had spent some time cleaning out the gutters particularly dealing with accumulations of moss  that were behind the conservatory. This came about because we were visited by a ‘character’ shall we say who offered to clean and repair our gutters for £550. That was an incentive for us to do it ourselves; improvisation was the name of the game. I climbed up on a ladder  and used my very powerful jet washer to push the moss and gunge towards the other end of the gutter where my wife was able to  collect it and throw it away.

Prior to that, I visited the customer who I mentioned before who turned out to be a jovial man, amicably separated from his wife who was renovating a very spacious bungalow for his daughter. I always like to meet people before doing any type of business deal although in theory it can be done on the telephone.   We agreed a price and I said we would start as soon as possible. To the customer, their gardens look absolutely dreadful. I suppose our job is a little bit like a surgeon in an accident and emergency department who takes on someone who has been in a road accident. You know exactly what you have to do and you just get on with it. Specialising in garden clearance does not sound a very romantic job but it is quite challenging knowing what to take, what to leave, what the customer wants versus what they think they want, trying to please everybody, figuring out how much waste is involved  and how many trips to the recycle it will take.

The main business of day was that I drove with my wife and a bonnet full of the sound of crickets to the Volvo garage in Bristol. By ‘crickets’ I refer to the noise made by a tension device in the engine that was about to give up the ghost. We made it without incident and I spent some time talking to my very jovial salesperson, Myles, who has held the good reputation of the Volvo outlet in his hands for a couple of years now.

He’s always chatty and genuinely interested in what I’ve been up to, and this feeling is reciprocated. They have two new polish mechanics now, one of whom is called Marin, who had carefully taken my car on a test drive to check that all was in order. He is thought of very highly due to his hard work. This does rather reinforce my idea of Polish people as hard-working and honest. incidentally, I very much approve of the practice of the service person going through what has been done on the car, when and why, a bit like a judge summing up a case. This not only involves closure but minimises possible complaints.

In general, car main dealers have a reputation for charging rather high hourly rates. Insofar as this is accurate I don’t mind paying some extra because they have all the spares you need and they have dedicated plug-in software for Volvo cars as opposed to the generic software used by most service stations.

Off to Bristol City Centre which for the most part resembles a roadworks, to kill the hours waiting for the car to be done, which was not difficult because we were due to meet my sister and spend some catch up time with her. Whilst on the way, I had previously read in the paper about the campaign to put pianos in public places so people could play them if they wanted to. Anything that involves the creative talents of the public has my approval. It was difficult to go for many metres without finding a piano, normally with someone playing it at the time and I enclose first off some examples of this.

piano number one, imaginatively painted, Donald Duck style.
a Korean person is playing this piano, in the vicinity of the Western Art Gallery
a young man playing this next to the tourist bureau
I can’t remember where he was but he could play quite well
one of the delights of Bristol is that it is large enough to support very minority tastes for ethnic minorities
this is a a Argentinianrestaurant with just that extra reach into the soul
quite an unusual and profound poem stencilled on a wall
Quite an ambitious mural. I am glad Bristol Council approves of such thing

We wandered in to the Royal West of England Academy to find the normal restaurant closed, to be shortly open under another name.  It is a diminutive size restaurant with the space for 20 covers at a maximum but this did not deter the enthusiastic new owner from sharing with us all sorts of  plans for the future. She had spent time in two cities in France and felt that her French was deteriorating, so I suggested that once a month they had a French morning which would not cost anything, but would stick in the mind of potential customers.  All she had to do was to put a French flag on one of the tables and people could congregate about it. She said that she knew many French speaking English people in Bristol.

My wife, my sister and myself lunched at Za Za overlooking the waterfront in Bristol, which is reputed to be the largest restaurant in Europe. I think it seats over 1000 people. During school holidays it is very lively indeed and probably not the place for an intimate first date. However, if you want food from six continents on an all-you-can-eat basis this is the place to be. For lunch you pay £8.95 a head all-you-can-eat. The deal lasts for two hours so it is a timed eating ticket though I’m not sure how they enforce it. This is to make sure you don’t spend the whole day eating.  My sister and I are not particularly close but when we meet up we always enjoy a catch up, hearing what has happened to various friends and relations.

We chanced into the local  art gallery and museum and found a fascinating temporary exhibition by  artists marginalised by their mental health conditions and also because they just wanted to make a particular personal statement from outside the box. I took more photographs than any decent person can absorb so I have selected a few below.

see below

“On the act” is the term given to prisoners who are on suicide watch. Supposedly, this reduces the opportunities to self harm, but as it often involves removing their personal possessions and a considerable stigma, it often worsens the mental health of the subject. Rates of self harm in prison have risen 40% in two years.
I switched onto art while serving a prison sentence where it became my catharsis and a way of documenting my experiences. I strongly believe in the therapeutic effects of creativity – I paint because I need to.
Arthur Mactaggert (artist)

this young man uses drinking straws which he cut into pieces
speaks for itself
this is a doll owned by the artist who took it to pieces and put it together again in a modified way. She says this is largely about the dubious delights of borderline personality disorder. She says of herself, sometimes you can’t see what is wrong with somebody
the whole doll reconstituted after having been dismembered
speaks for itself
what a nuclear war would be like
these still pictures from a video portraying the artists who are showing. I’m very impressed by their unpretentious and self-effacing description of what they do
that comment could apply to many of us
3D bronzes
that could apply to all the artists in this exhibition

Do you look or do you see? Frome under the microscope

somewhere behind this growth are bushes. I reckon there’s a good 10 years of growth here

We went to see a new garden job above – a stripped out bungalow down a very narrow lane. My job would be to clean back all the growth. The problem is not the growth but the means of getting rid of it which would require at least six trips with a fully loaded car. Customers have no idea about the cost of getting rid of something. They think it will disappear by some sort of magic. The customer says he has a friend who will arrange for disposal. I’m going to ask him to agree with his friend before giving a quote.

Trip to Frome – my wife  goes there regularly for acupuncture treatment. It was necessary for me to drive there in our hire car so I thought we would make the most of it.  We as tourists or travellers are conditioned to looking for the biggest and the best when it comes to exploring our surroundings. I suggest that we maybe are doing ourselves a disservice. In the United Kingdom at any rate most of the towns and villages and of course cities are very old and underneath, almost lurking, behind the modern appurtenances we find history. This can be very thought provoking and educational.

I’m going to take you around Frome, which is a small town in Somerset and perhaps encourage you to open your eyes and not take things for granted. almost everything you see has a history

In case you are thinking of moving to Frome, the historical houses are horrendously expensive, have small gardens and are on a hill. The parking is difficult but there is a lot of culture and many people love it. There are two theatres and a cinema which is quite remarkable considering the small size of the population. They also have a local radio station situated in the Old Fire House.

Westway Cinema Frome
the local cinema are supported in the most part by volunteers
films showing on 22 August 2017 Ctrl+ to view
this looks like a bishop and it has been incorporated in one of the normal railings
I love flowers outside pubs but I think this one is overdoing it a bit
a lovely old Spring with pure water coming therefrom
In a milliner’s. Interestingly the papier mache heads are made out of newspaper with Swedish printing
this street rejoices in the name Cheap Street. What do you think of this gullet was for? Was it to supply water or to remove foul water certainly not human waste.
a delightful and personal collection of stones and artefacts
this is a community noticeboard. Someone could come to live in Frome not knowing a living soul and yet by taking advantage of the messages on this board get themselves a full social life Ctrl and + to read the notices.
definitely a lively evening
a community agriculture come allotment idea
a town map outside the library Ctrl and + to read.
a slightly odd work in metal but it’s different
a canoe racecourse, something for the children and adults
Read this article with great care. This appears in today’s Times, 22nd of August 2017 and to me it asks more questions than it answers. We have assumed until now that the best contact in face-to-face but maybe there has been a change in mindset

8 pm – My wife rang up a friend called Anne. A gruff voice answered. He said ‘what do you want?’ She said ‘I want to speak to Anne. She is a friend of mine. He said ‘we are having supper’. My wife said, ‘please tell her…..’ The voice put down the phone. No wonder Anne is depressed with a partner like that. I hope I don’t get him on the phone otherwise he would have an ear-full.

The fear of fire, the fear of everything really


Sunday 21 August 1664

Worth quoting his diary in detail

(Lord’s day). Waked about 4 o’clock with my wife, having a looseness, and peoples coming in the yard to the pump to draw water several times, so that fear of this day’s fire made me fearful, and called Besse and sent her down to see, and it was Griffin’s maid for water to wash her house. So to sleep again, and then lay talking till 9 o’clock. So up and drunk three bottles of Epsum water, which wrought well with me.

Yesterday was the day of the eclipse in the USA and people speaking about the experience of darkness which they likened to a religious high. The one eclipse I have witnessed was very much like night-time in north Finland in Midsummer. Everything is grey, not completely dark but eerily devoid of light, weak, no power “it shouldn’t be like this”. I think the word is ‘wan’, as in ‘the wan dawn light’. In human beings, the term is used to give the impression of illness or exhaustion. the word ‘pale’ doesn’t quite do it. You can be pale with shock but not wan with shock.

For me yesterday was for the most part unproductive. I tried to finish my speech which is due in a couple weeks time but nothing went. I just stared at the papers. I have prepared two versions which I printed out and showed it to my wife. I decided that since nothing was coming I might as well give up so we at some time hanging out and watching TV. I recently invested in Internet radio which means you can get thousands of channels from programs throughout the world should you have the time to do so. It is a bit hit and miss because sometimes radio stations are broadcasting and sometimes not but if you want to hear rock ‘n’ roll from some obscure city in Ohio, or South Africa then you can do so.

Off to the garage to check the progress of my Volvo repair. The car would only fetch about £500 so I don’t want to spend a fortune on it. On the other hand it is a good and solid bit of kit before they started making Volvos in China as they are doing with everything these days so the investment is worth it.

Fear is contagious. The recent fire has obviously spooked everybody. We’ve have this ridiculous spate of events in the world of people in vans driving on the pavement and running down pedestrians. I saw the driver chap in Barcelona, Spain that was killed by the police because he showed them what could have been an explosive jacket. he looks like a kid, 22 years of age I believe. I don’t know whether these people are hypnotised or what.

Fear has been used to control people for ages, the threat of withdrawal of life or freedom or food will get people to do virtually anything. I like these quotes on fear

I forget where I saw this:  Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” Nothing in life is to be feared.

I can remember times when I had needlessly been afraid of doing something and once I actually did it, the person or situation concerned is often quite glad to have my input. It was all in my own mind. I must admit I’m a person who doesn’t like confrontation and even finds it difficult to read official letters. When I receive an e-mail I know the tone of its content even before I click on it to open it. My stomach flutters in an unpleasant way. I do not enjoy that experience but I suppose it’s part of being sensitive or a sensitive should I say.

This is a rough-and-tumble world with more than a tinge of aggression which I suppose is part of the fight for survival. This is partly due to lack of spiritual security in other words you think that you are a mortal body with an (eternal) spirit attached rather than a spirit with a body attached. The latter will bring a security that the former cannot. Sometimes I think we just have to get off our backside and go along and make a difference if we can. If we get bruised then we will survive. In some new situations where I have been particularly nervous, I have been comforted by the thought “the worst that can happen is nothing”.

Deep down everyone wants to be loved and valued so if you go along to your difficult contact or meetings that may help.

The major part of my diary today is about a visit to Frome.


What if your house burns down?


Saturday 20 August 1664

primitive methods in those days

Thence I walked to Cheapside, there to see the effect of a fire there this morning, since four o’clock; which I find in the house of Mr. Bois, that married Dr. Fuller’s niece, who are both out of towne, leaving only a mayde and man in towne. It begun in their house, and hath burned much and many houses backward, though none forward; and that in the great uniform pile of buildings in the middle of Cheapside. I am very sorry for them, for the Doctor’s sake.

For most of us it is unthinkable that we return home  like this unfortunate couple to find a smouldering ruin where our house previously was. To find that you have been burgled is bad enough but to find the whole thing taken by the forces of nature is even worse. The people from Syria have to suffer this on a daily basis but most of this uncomfortable factual material is conveniently put out of focus.

The most common source of fire in a property is faulty appliances including cookers at 50%. Smokers’ material is a long way down at 7%. People in the house at the time stand the greatest risk of being overcome by gas or smoke rather then getting burnt. Interestingly, fires where a smoke alarm was present but either did not operate nor did not raise the alarm accounts for 37% of all dwelling fire related fatalities. About 200 indoor fire incidents happen each day. In 2015 to 16 there were 73,000 primary fires in England, 11,000 in Scotland and 5000 in Wales. From these conflagrations there were  7,700 casualties in England, 1300 in Scotland and 600 in Wales. We can say that is a small but significant risk for us all to bear in mind.

If you really want to know more click here

Whilst the chance of having such a disaster is low, it is quite a clever plan to reduce the odds even further. It is risky to have a to-do list of things you really must get round to but never do.

One fundamental idea is the checking of your smoke alarm which takes all of 30 seconds.

I’m somewhat obsessive in checking my appliances before I leave even if I’m just going shopping particularly the cooker to make sure I have not left the gas on. The living room coal fire is closed anyway and we mostly rely on central heating. Yes, we do clean the chimney once a year even if we don’t think it needs it

Spontaneous combustion is unlikely.

Also when did we last check out insurance policy and was the cover adequate? Did we actually read the documents when they came through last time for your annual insurance and have you added things that you need to?

Does a neighbour have a key to your front door so that if an incident arises the Fire Brigade do not have to break it down. I’m not sure if that would be covered on your policy.

you never know when it might come in useful.

Did you think of having a small fire extinguisher, water or powder-based, which would attend to a small conflagration before it got out of hand – typically a kitchen fire.

We do have one (illustrated) and it is kept by the front door in the hall. Also our garden hose is permanently connected at the back of the house. I’m not saying it is a substitute for calling  the fire brigade but if caught in the early stages it will save damage.

Space heaters and blowers when placed near items such as curtains can quickly heat them up to ignition temperatures. Oh and when cooking be careful about mixing hot fat and water. Look on Youtube for spectacular demonstrations of this. Christmas lights? Candles?  ooops.

Consequential damage happens when incompetent people repair your electrics or your gas so it’s as well to get a recommended service agent. No one will mind being asked for their qualifications if they are genuine.

This has been a public service announcement on behalf of the Common Sense Company.

PS the new pillow made a great difference and I actually got a stiff neck because my neck had been so used to being in the wrong position. I think it will take two or three days to get used to it – can you believe getting used to a pillow takes time.


Is watching TV a waste of time?


After visiting the Shepton Mallet show about which I have written above I decided for the first time in years to buy a soft pillow. I have become more and more aware of my body especially after the accident and I’m realising that I often sleep with my neck at an angle when ideally it should be straight in line with the spine. The pillows are not orthopedic models but at least better than what I’ve got at the moment which is basically plastic foam so I have decided to give them a try.

And now onto the topic of this diary:

I’ll turn this on its head and say that anything is a waste of time if you don’t have the right attitude to it. You can have a marriage which on the face of it looks good but actually is a waste of time because you not being honest with the other person. You can put in money to a scheme which is a waste of time because it wasn’t thought out properly. You can spend time and energy on a journey to see someone and nothing results so you wasted your time there as well.

I hear some people saying they never watch TV and seldom read a newspaper  and I can certainly see the logic of that bearing in mind the amount of visual programming that we can receive unwittingly especially when watching so-called news.

I think the whole point is about priority and attitude not time. I have about 500 channels to choose from on Sky and Freeview plus goodness knows how many  videos on Youtube and Vimeo and Net flicks that I really want to watch. With regard to TV, we chose our programs carefully. However, the indisputable fact is that there is lots of material of real value on TV both factual and entertainment which can be good for the spirit

First up was a program called Countryfile which was a special edition about a large agricultural show in Blenheim Palace.  We saw how old agricultural methods were being preserved for example showing of an old-fashioned harvester just about post-war time.  We saw how a lady became fascinated by painting cows after deciding to paint a cow  on her bedroom wall. Her father took it along to a gallery owner to be framed whereupon the owner asked her to paint 20 more cows and use them all to comprise an exhibition. There she was on BBC1. You never know where an idea might lead.

We saw youngsters being introduced to farming methods. We saw how difficult it is to marshal geese to do what you tell them. I found the programme very stimulating and encouraging, a reminder or how many nice community minded people there are around these days.

Second half, an hour-long investigation on the authenticity of John Constable’s the Hay Wain. it was quite a nailbiting as the team put together piece after piece of the jigsaw, followed trails, sought scientific opinion. We were finally rewarded with seeing the chap who paid £35,000 for the picture 10 years ago now finds it to be worth more than £2 million. His final words were that he wanted to be on public display so I suppose it would like to sell it to a gallery.

Next In-line and shortly thereafter, we watched the first of a new series of Dragons Den which I think is in its 12th series now. In case you are unfamiliar, applicants have to make a pitch to very savvy and successful people called Dragons in order to invest money with them. The exciting thing is that it is all live but of course pre-recorded; there is no escaping the perspicacity of said Dragons. I find this a very good learning experience albeit vicarious as to how to approach people or not to approach them. one person asked for £600,000 while cheerfully admitting that he had no plan and no idea how to bring his business forward. Another person annoyed the Dragons by addressing them in the familiar. I think it was Debbie Meadon who was called Debbs or Debbie or some such. It is always best to err on the formal side unless invited to call someone by their first name.

Other people were unrealistic by offering too small a percentage of the company in return for their money when some of the ideas were embryonic and had not stood the test of time. Some people fail because they have not done their maths homework and do not understand basic accounting procedures. One-person screwed himself up because he did not come clean that he had had a tax bill demand for 200,000. The best candidates are those who speak with humility and realism and have done their homework. In the past, applicants have failed because although they think their idea is very good they have not done research on the competitiveness of the market.

talking to one of the staff in the prison

The final programme on the list of viewing this evening was Ross Kemp who specialises in going to extreme situations in the world and this time he went to  Pollsmoor prison which is situated in Cape Town. Strangely, I know it well because it was about 2 miles from where I used to stay with my friend in Constantia. I have been to South Africa 20 times. You could say I know it fairly well. All the prisoners in this prison were murderers, rapists or drug dealers. To put it politely, the guards have to let the men have their way in order to keep the peace. The ratio of guards to prisoners is 100. Saturday night and Sunday morning times consist of drug and porn related events followed by men having sex with other men.

The prison is controlled by three gangs, the 26, 27 and 28 gang . Promotion within the hierarchy is obtained via certain deeds  that you have to perform including murder. It’s regards doing, to the standard required and they are killed. Many of the prisoners come from Cape Flats where 2 million Cape Coloureds, the bottom of the pile, take refuge. They are regarded as below Black people and definitely below Europeans so a life of drugs and murder is second nature to them. What else is there?

interviewing one of the gang members

The chief of one of the gangs was describing how he would routinely rape  newcomers who would be killed if they resisted his advances. I don’t think I need to say much more but the whole program was not a pretty sight. What I learnt was how conscienceless people can become when the circumstances are bad enough. We can look down on these people as animals but if we didn’t have enough food to eat and if our best friends had been killed and we knew we were due to stay in prison for 7 to 8 years I wonder how we would behave. Ross Kemp did a great job in my view.

So after about four hours viewing and I become a rich or a poorer person? I have certainly learned a lot and my attitude has changed, not much but it has changed for example in the way I prepare to meet someone when I have any favour to ask of them. I do not assume anything and them even more determined to be polite.

I was genuinely entertained by the efforts to secure the provenance of the artwork and I very much enjoyed seeing the agricultural show which in many ways for similar to the show that I just attended today Sunday, 20 August 2017 as I sit here in my office listening to showers of rain outside.

If I watched television and nothing else I think that would be a waste of time but if I can combine television with personal creativity, outdoor activities, working on the allotment, meeting people, I think I will be absolutely fine. I don’t think we can blame television for everything indeed I don’t think we can blame television at all because there is always the off switch.

Mid Somerset Show part 2 – lots of pictures

The Alpacas to which I previously referred

Dont forget to use Ctrl+ to increase the size of all the images.

preparing a horse for show
a pony and trap pair dashing along
these geese are definitely followers
£2000 for this wooden horse. Yes darling but where would we put it
this is still a table. I’m not quite sure what we would put on it, why and how
there are many craftsmen in this part of the world plying their trade
fiendish machines part one
fiendish machines part two
this looks like a seed sowing machine
acres of judging of fruit and veg bread and preserves
perfect onions
vegetables made to look like transport vehicles
first prize for saladings
that’s not bad either
perfect leeks
endless cheeses in the competition
goodness knows how many kilograms these weigh
first prize in the Wine and Roses competition
the second prize isn’t too bad either
Capt Manwaring talking about WW1
Peter Hayward and his wife specialising showing West Country milk bottles between 1880 and 1980 in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset
lots of competitions for the children
a painting competition
developing children’s imaginative powers
telling a story
dogs waiting to be judged
a style suitable for some – a scaffolder maybe

Anyway, I trust you got the idea. It is always worth going to these events. you can have a chat with anyone you want, compare views or prejudices, and above all enjoy an occasion that doesn’t cost anything at least in this situation. If you are coming on your own, it really doesn’t matter. An individual is an individual and that’s all people care about.

Part three of my diary for today here




Mid Somerset show and the story of the Kiwi Alpacas


Friday 19 August 1664
various dialogues on work and family matters not to mention the war with Holland, about which he continually obsesses.

Today, off to the Mid-Somerset Show held at Shepton Mallett. This is an interesting historical town with its own prison now defunct, a pleasant park and a useful shopping centre which contains most of the popular trading names.

This is a once a year the event where everyone in the town and from the surrounding country gets together and in this largely pictorial essay I will give a feel of what it is like. As if we did not know it already, news is mainly spread by word of mouth. At the show there is the sort of atmosphere where you can just talk to anyone, without worrying that they will take it the wrong way because everyone feels safe and at home in this very interesting environment.

I spoke with a schoolteacher about how she trained children to write. I asked whether a writing style of a young child could be improved and she said only to a certain extent. She gets people to start writing a word with a serif in other words a loop to encourage them to make continuity and with not so much emphasis on the individual characters.

I also met a very knowledgeable man who was an amateur cook who described how he made savoury pies by mixing sausage meat with apricots and mustard. He says it is delicious and I have made a mental note to try it.

We also chatted with an exhibitor of alpacas. He transported them from New Zealand along with his family and they are now settled in the United Kingdom. He used to live in Christchurch where recently they had the earthquake. Unfortunately to date the geology has not settled sufficiently to start major construction work and in addition to that NZ have had many more earthquake episodes. That is what made them decide to up sticks and come halfway round the world. They are happy in this decision and have acclimatized well.

I suppose the culture shock would not be so great between the two countries apart from the fact that there are many more people in the UK than New Zealand which is sparsely populated at 41 per square mile. Bearing in mind that the majority of the land is habitable and economy good. The United Kingdom has 660 people per square mile, Mongolia has 4.4 people per square mile but it’s really about the overall economy, and how much the land itself can support people. Hong Kong supports 16,444 people per square mile. Singapore is even more at 18,513 psm. The United States of America supports  85 people per square mile but then it says nothing of the distribution of people which is overwhelmingly in C California and the eastern seaboard.

Anyway enough of this gay banter. I expect some of my readers are wondering whether it is worthwhile settling in Somerset. I shall be covering this in many diaries but the short answer is that if you are open to people, they will be open to you. Lots goes on but it takes a much longer time to discover it. Outside the main towns, there are quite a few more people living on subsistence level incomes but in spite of all that people are cheery, positive and friendly.

We arrived at the show at about 10 AM and by the time we left at about two o’clock the place was heaving with people. Due to heavy rains in the previous couple of days, there were deep ruts in the muddy ground making it difficult to push prams. The vast majority of people who attend are either farmers or farming families or those who have a connection with the land at some level. This I would say is an informal social club for the farming community; you can tell who farmers are because they are in general tall, lean, fit, (they have to be) and have a certain look in their eyes.

Anyway on with the pictures: the owners of antique cars love exhibiting them and will take every opportunity as we have seen recently in the Camerton show.

1933 Austin seven – don’t you dare touch!
I love the way they have used various shades of green
pristine engine compartment
first of two examples of a Rolls-Royce
one of the most distinctive marques in the world, the flying lady
a lady judge for the pigs
no ambiguity here, this pig is in the land of Nod
it is interesting to note the differences in wool which even the amateur can appreciate
you can see the differences in this picture sleep without having to feel the wool
Rams getting on fairly well with each other
an attempt to educate the public about wool
lovely white wool
a marked difference here

Lots more photos to come – see next diary

Busy UFO’s – a walk in a railway tunnel – a sunny afternoon


Forbidden Knowledge is a website, one of the many hundreds of alternatives to the mainstream media otherwise known as the MSM. This bloated animal the MSM can be relied upon not to report events that would adversely effect the profits of corporates and of the politicians. Forbidden Knowledge covers factual topics and a ‘what goes on behind-the-scenes’ reference point. I just got an e-mail from them about a video that shows a rocket that is about to take off blowing up shortly after a  small circular object passes overhead.  You can draw your own conclusions. It is a 4 minute vid.

As the sky was lightening and having finished the first part of my diary we decided to go to the Wellow Trekking Centre which is a key point on a cycling route and a walking route on what used to be the North Somerset train line service. People outside Somerset may not realise there is a fascinating historical intertwining of the canal system which transported coal, the rail system which was at its peak in the late 19th century and the system of roads, tracks, byways that cross this beautiful part of the world.

The Wellow Centre is a very good place for parking the car and walking either to the city of Bath or to the Kennett and Avon Canal. The trekking centre, BA2 8QF is a base for riding holidays, pony trekking, riding lessons and has a friendly tea room that serves good breakfast and lunch for hungry walkers and cyclists not to mention cream teas.

I enclose some images which may give you some flavour of the day. I should add that the people on such walks whether they be on foot or on bikes are a very chatty crowd and you can always fall into interesting conversations and acquaint yourself with the latest news.

a scenic map of the area showing the intertwining of rail, road, Canal, River, by way. Increase the size by Ctrl and + key at the same time
keen young riders gathering together at the centre
a young lady being trained
a pony nurturing its offspring
a pony in its stable with plenty to keep it interested from the people who come and go
off we go towards Bath, it is lovely to hear the wind blowing in the wheat. It is definitely a type of music
a work of art representing the geology of the area
the various types of stone which comprise the landscape from a historical point of view
the story of William Smith who has been dubbed “The father of English geology”
 Tw3o tunnels Greenway
notices approaching the Two Tunnels Greenway. View via via Ctrl and+
The rather foreboding southern entrance to the tunnel itself but inside it is well lit. It is quiet and clean but beware cyclists coming along at great speed. Many of them do not have warning bells.


walking out of a bad movie – or a bad relationship


Thursday 18 August 1664

Dined alone at home, my wife going to-day to dine with Mrs. Pierce, and thence with her and. Mrs. Clerke to see a new play, “The Court Secret.”
My wife says the play she saw is the worst that ever she saw in her life

My own wife and I slightly differ on whether to stay watching a bad movie. I’m normally out after 10 minutes whereas she wants to see it through to the end to see what happens. It is seldom that we see anything either a movie or on the TV which is so bad that she wants to turn it off though of course it does happen.

I walk out of media events because watching them actually does me damage. if I see no point at all to the script, or find the language so unremittingly foul or the violence for violences sake above a certain level, or sexual depravity below a certain level I do not stay for my own sake. Why should I allow myself to be violated? I have one of these minds that never forgets an image. I must have trillions of memories in picture form and they never leave me. I guess we are all like this but I feel myself particularly afflicted in this way.

Having said all that, I seldom go to shows that are bad because I look at the excellent IMDB which is the equivalent of Trip Adviser but for movies.

I suppose one could say the same thing about walking out on relationships. I think normally one can tell if a relationship is not going well. There is a certain awkwardness, a certain silence, a certain artificiality which makes social intercourse that much more difficult – forced you might say. Sometimes I did not want to share my concerns with the other  person perhaps not knowing that they were feeling just the same thing and didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Excessive analysis of the relationship is another sign of its sterility as opposed to a match of souls were no words are required.

There is an important point in that perhaps the only way you could have learned a lesson about yourself is  by having a relationship with someone. No relationship is so bad that you can say you learned nothing from it. Was the lesson to stand up for yourself? Was the lesson that you underestimated your own uniqueness and ability? Was the lesson that you can be independent in your own right as a beautiful person? The only dumb thing you can do is to repeat yourself, attracting the same type of person time after time. That’s probably a childhood damage thing and needs looking at.

How to finish a relationship? I think it would be more honest to say how to confirm finally that relationship is over when it’s been obvious for some time. For what it’s worth, I feel that personal attacks and comparisons do not really help. The point is, you chose the person in the first place. There must have been something about  them to attract you.

There are three factors; person A, person B, and the circumstances that they are in. Very often it is the circumstances that determine the viability of a relationship for example living too far away from each other or a career situation that is incompatible with spending quality time together.   In my time giving advice and counselling  to other people I found in many cases the lack of finishing cleanly with the previous relationship cast a certain cloud. The person just freshly out of a relationship was trying to heal themselves by having another relationship and this compensatory factor does not necessarily bode well for clarity and honesty.

If you feel you need to draw to a close, my suggestion  is that you first of all give thanks silently for all the good times you have had together. That is something that no one can ever take away. Be kind. “I do not feel that the relationship is going to help our development” is much kinder than saying “I am finally fed up the way you pick your nose or the way you are late for our dates without giving an excuse”. Abuse that you throw at other people normally bounces back to you and carries on bouncing back that is the trouble. Some things do not need to be said.

Summary: be honest, be true to yourself, be kind, don’t apportion blame.

You will find that after the break life still goes on, the sun continues to rise, your old friends are probably there for you. Self-pity leads nowhere and just extends the period of recovery.  A word of caution – there is only one in 650 chance of getting the right person through a dating bureau and this is because almost everyone who applies is on the rebound  from another relationship and two rebounds do not make a right.

I have always said to my clients that there is safety in numbers and when you have a new boyfriend or girlfriend don’t drop your other friends but keep your social circle going, an easier task these days what with social media.  I also ask my clients what they want in a relationship that they can’t get through having a good social life. If you want a relationship through fear of loneliness that in itself is not a very good ground for starting one.

I say to people, look at the way your potential partner treats other people. Anyone can sweet talk and individual and tell you that you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread but how socially minded are they really? If they are in this category they are much more likely to offer you a stable and outgoing relationship rather than something that is possessive and exclusive.

Frieda and Diego

I have noticed that people in stable and long-lasting relationships have a belief in common, it doesn’t have to be a belief in God or any faith but a lifestyle or a tendency. For example if two people are interested in art and one is a potter and one is a painter  that gives a nice basic outlet for creativity both individually and severally but there are glorious exceptions. Think of Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Here was a fiery relationship if ever there was one but never a dull moment. You pays your money you takes your choice

I could ramble on for ever about the topic but in closing I would say the most common thing that people have said to me is “I wish I had followed my intuition”.  I think the most important thing is to get married to yourself, to accept and love yourself and the rest is a bonus.


See next diary for part II of today.

By royal decree, I declare today to be Saturday – country life in 3D


Wednesday 17 August 1664

Here I walked long with Mr. Pierce, who tells me the King do still sup every night with my Lady Castlemayne, who he believes has lately slunk a great belly away, for from very big she is come to be down again.

I love Pepys’ fulsome description of a lady (quite high up in the society of the day) who has apparently lost weight.

Anyway, today is officially Friday but since we both have nothing in particular to do I’ve decided to have the mindset of Saturday. Why? Because I’ve done a good amount of work for this week and I think I deserve a rest. If the truth is to be revealed, and it is about to be, I never rest. I find that boring. I’m quite happy to sit in front of the computer and catch up on the vast number of articles that I should be reading to keep myself informed. For example there is a huge tranche of two hour lectures on the perils of GMO genetically modified food and how companies are making billions of dollars out of serving up untested chemicals for us  but the results in our mouth and possibly interfere with the chemistry of our body. Some claim that it even  affects the DNA. When 12 qualified scientists who are not engaged by pharmaceutical companies get together and make a series of statements at the risk of their own reputations, there is probably something in it. I admire these people.

If you are a doctor practising in America, and you claim that vitamin C may help to prevent cancer will be struck off never mind if you have evidence. Such is the hold of the pharmaceutical industry. They are not intending to let go any time soon.

We had a lovely evening yesterday watching very good films on the Arts Channel on Sky including the history of Charlie Chaplin  which contained a host of information about his life that I did not dream of. I did not realise what a dreadful child hood he had. His mother had to be institutionalised for mental instability and his father became an alcoholic.

We also watched a film about the Portland Hospital in London which is where VIPs and very rich people go to give birth to their children. How lovely to have 24 hour gourmet cooking.

According to the receptionist, the greatest amount spent by a VIP was over £250,000 for the birth plus three days recuperation but that was when the VIP booked a whole suite of rooms, including rooms for guests, nanny, you name it.  The average stay costs about £12,000. A nurse who had moved from the NHS gave testimony and said she got wonderful training there but there wasn’t enough time to give the attention that she would like to each patient. A jolly good evenings viewing, chaps.

Off to the allotment to pick more beans than we can eat or store, and to dig a row of potatoes which are currently sitting in hessian sacks in the kitchen.  It is fascinating that the slugs prefer some and ignore others and I was rewarded with a new row of completely pristine potatoes that will do wonderfully for salads.

I had a chat with a fellow allotmenteer who was also overwhelmed by beans. He had noticed a disease spreading from the leaves at the bottom of the plant and also noticed it on other people’s beans too. Whether the leaves were just dying or whether it was an actual disease I did not know but he was a local Somerset man and you do not question the locals on their knowledge. Bad idea. You defer to them as a mere newcomer. People round here have either been miners or know someone who was and they have had to be very tough to survive and this lasts to this day especially among the older people.

my favourite local butcher

This is really a community centre disguised as a butcher And they have been going since the dot. Almost every customer is known and they in their turn know the people who serve behind the counter. Such establishments are a dying breed but they keep going through reputation, through supplying only local produce organic in nature, and knowing that they survive or fail through the reputation. I normally buy ham and cheese quiches at the rate of two or three per week. They last for at least two meals each and cost £2.50. Yum Yum good value in my book.

Today when I entered a woman customer was in animated conversation with the server. He had evidently been away ill  and was now back bright and breezy and she said how nice it was to see him again. I announced to all and sundry that I thought that the woman came in mainly to see him and not ready to buy anything and she said “no actually I have come for a hug”. The butcher said “where do you meet a butcher as handsome as I am?”.  The woman complained, laughing, that all the handsome men were taken i.e. unavailable.  After about 5 min of conversation she finally got round to ordering some meat, a fine chicken no less,  devoid of chemicals and delicious as I can testify.

The rosy cheeked butcher who served me said that I probably wasn’t able to do much work. On a previous visit I must have mentioned that I do gardening so we had a little grumble about the weather, commented on the number of people who were away and then we got down to the business of why I was in the shop which was to buy something. You could almost say that it is rude not to  chat with the server before asking for anything.

That reminds me of another country custom  that when we are riding the local buses we always greet the driver with a good morning and when we leave we thank the driver. It is very rare for someone not to thank the driver. In very local parlance the driver is called ‘drive’. Don’t ask me why.

if I went to the USA I will probably be arrested for carrying cocaine. Probably better to put it in the hold luggage.

Off to the farm where we get our eggs and bird feed. The woman who runs it whose name I still cannot remember after three years (shame on me) had just cleaned out her shed and described in some detail how much she took out where she put it. We came onto the subject of  beans. She found that dwarf beans could be frozen but runner beans were less tasty when frozen. She then gave me a wonderful tip passed on from generations ago which was if you cook beans with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda they taste far better.  I shall definitely try this at lunchtime. She also offered very kindly to sell any beans I had on my behalf. I shall bear that in mind in the future but this time I didn’t really have enough quantity to make it worth her while.

PS Later- I did in fact try it at lunchtime and the beans were very soft and sweet  but I shall do a number of experiments with new beans and  beans a few days old.

For disposal of the excess, once this rain stops, I shall be walking around the area and offering runner beans to anyone who wants them.

So you see, by 10 AM I’ve had more social contact and many city dwellers have in a day or a week even. This is why I like to live where I am and in a way we both have our cake and eat it. We are within less than an hour’s drive from Glastonbury, Wells, Bristol, Bath, Frome and Trowbridge  and if we want to escape up the A303 or the M4 to London that’s about two and half hours a day. South Wales is less than an hour away (hooray that they’re going to remove the bridge charge at the end of next year 2018).

However, it must be admitted that it is more difficult to find people  who are creative i.e. those not merely struggling to survive.

This is definitely a day for showers and sunny periods with emphasis on the showers. Water decided to pour into our conservatory for the first time so quite glad we were present, with a bucket and mop.  Plastic guttering does not last for long. It was installed – let me think – 1980. I suppose 37 years is a good run.   The sky is so delightfully blue when it is not raining but then another black cloud looms over the landscape and off we go again putting up our umbrellas and running for shelter.

Feste the Clown

At school, many many years ago, I was Feste the clown in the School play and I had a rather unnerving job of singing a song to finish the play of William Shakespeare “Twelfth Night”. Shakespeare took the unusual step of giving a second title namely “or what you will” in addition to the formal title. In other words he couldn’t think of a name.

Here is the song that a 14-year-old boy had to sing in front of a large audience including his mother (cringe). It is ideally suited to the weather conditions prevailing in this part of the world and please don’t remind me that southern Europe is baking in hot sun.

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man’s estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut the gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.

I still remember with embarrassment the fact that I fluffed the lines of the last three verses. I just repeated what I had sung before but the doting ladies who comprised most of the audience did not notice and clapped anyway maybe out of relief that the school play had finished. My 15 minutes of fame.

Off to the Old Down Inn to find the normally irrepressible manageress, Maxine, admitting to being depressed because she had quite a severe chest infection. some people are so uniformly happy and positive you forget they are human and have their own weaknesses so after chatting at the bar for 20 min or so that having a usual ration of chips we sailed away into the night and waited for the next heavy rain shower.

And so to bed.




Tempests, the quietness of creativity, synchronistic timing


Tuesday 16 August 1664

Pepys writes in his usual graphic manner about being woken by a storm and then torrential rain. Wonderful obervations. Click on the link above.

It is a pity that we have lost the art of storytelling and thus the ability  of the brain to conjure up images is seldom used to full potential. Instead, we have imagery thrust upon us (Thank you William Shakespeare for the use of this phrase – “some have greatness thrust upon them”)  via TV and the media. I remember once I had a whole two weeks in natural surroundings. When I returned to so-called normal society I could scarcely face poster advertisements in the subways which I found assaulting and offensive. I do not recall turning on my television for a few days thereafter. I think we suffer from over-stimulation so that when something authentic comes along, our heads are too full of noise to notice it.

Today I hope to finish my 20 minute speech due for presentation on 6 September to the doctors group. If you reckon the average number of words per minute is 140 that means I have room for 2800 words. With the inevitable pauses and interruptions it’s probably better to aim for 2500 words.  Try keeping the subject you’re interested in down to 2500 words. it’s tough. I always finish preparing my speeches well in advance so that I can refine it, changing a meaning here and there so it is fit for purpose when I deliver it. it is important that the speech is part of me not something I’m just reading like reading a newspaper. I will show my wife what I have written and she inevitably has one or two good suggestions.

You can always tell books that have been edited by the writer. They inevitably lack form and style and have inconsistencies and repetitions.

It is vital that I have quietness and peace while I am writing. Writing is somewhat like  tuning several instruments at once. You have to be aware of the effect of everything you say on everything else you have said or might say..

I am not good at giving speeches off-the-cuff. I prefer reading my speech at the risk of losing contact with the audience because I make sure I get every point correct. You might say I have a rather clinical approach.  Mother Theresa never wrote speeches. She spoke from the heart but I guess her material is evocative rather than analytical.

My wife has taken to making set pieces. I think she was inspired by a visit to a recent show I think it was in Wells where such pieces were for sale

Synchronicity and timing

Timing is all. The driving belt on my Volvo has been doing impressions of legions of crickets or whatever the collective name is and I was putting off the evil day when I had to go along to the garage but something told me to call the RAC of which I’m a member. It was a definite push and a feeling that I had to do it. The very nice lady said there was a two hour wait. A few minutes later I received a call from a chap called Stuart who said he would be with me in 10 minutes. He diagnosed the problem as a loose tensioner. By coincidence he was also a Volvo owner and had a similar model as myself. He told me quite a story about the Bristol branch of the Volvo.

About eight years ago he went along with the show room with his wife to buy  a car. His wife had the money and you exactly what she wanted. However, they did not look right in the eyes of the salesman. After one and a half hours waiting salesman came up to them and asked them if there is anything they wanted to know. On reflection, Stuart said ‘actually nothing’. They bought the car at another branch. This is a good lesson because you never know who someone is. They could be dressed in rags and yet be a quirky millionaire.

Stuart also knew Alex, his normal liaising mechanic at my Fourth Avenue garage. He called him up and have a chat, explained the problem, and I followed him in my squeaking car. He had offered to take me back home but by coincidence there was a hire car available which was given to me immediately. It went so smoothly it was almost a non event. Maybe all of life can be like that if we get our attitude right. who knows?

the exact timing was as follows:

14.57 – called RAC
15.02 – Stuart called me by mobile saying he would be with me in 10 min
15.16 – he turned up bright and breezy, did the diagnosis
15.40 – we both drove to the garage
15.58 – I left the  garage in a hire car having given instructions
16.03 – I arrived back home

Had I not trusted my intuition and made the call even 10 min later it is very unlikely that I would have been allocated Stuart and the whole cascade of events would not have happened so smoothly.

Many years ago I read of an aborigine tribe in Australia, the leaders of  whom would have a meeting from time to time. There were four separate tribes. The leaders  just knew when to start walking for the meeting, a  journey of many hours, and they all arrived at the same time. To the best of my knowledge and belief, they did not have mobile phones.

Dealing with sorrow – how to write persuasive material


Monday 15 August 1664

..and there discoursed with Mrs. Blagrave about her kinswoman, who it seems is sickly even to frantiqueness sometimes, and among other things chiefly from love and melancholy upon the death of her servant, [Servant = lover] insomuch that she telling us all most simply and innocently I fear she will not be able to come to us with any pleasure, which I am sorry for, for I think she would have pleased us very well. In comes he, and so to sing a song and his niece with us, but she sings very meanly...

one solution to life’s problems

I am minded to remember that in that era people were supposed to look after themselves. No such thing as therapy, counselling, support groups except perhaps in the local coffeehouse or tavern. There were such drugs as Laudanum but the common people had access to alcohol and little else. Pepys is not unlike Charles Dickens in that he paints pictures that you can imagine. It is clear that this lady  has destroyed herself through bitterness  so much so that even her singing is affected.

I’m in correspondence with the hospital group about a leaflet they propose to utter for post trauma patients which will include my offer of supporting patients who have been as part of the system.

Here begins today’s observations. If you have something to say to the public and you are involved in something, a project of note or value, this is my suggestion. Write down the following.

Who are you writing for? If you write for everybody you write for nobody.  No single utterance can answer all questions. In the majority of cases you want someone to telephone you so you can speak to them.  The biggest art is to write from the point of view of what the customer wants, not what you think they might want or need.

What is the absolute minimum  you want to say? Because you have been occupied in a matter for some years you know it back to front but that’s not the point. Keep the knowledge and wisdom and tune it to the person who calls.

Give the document to someone who knows very little about the subject matter and ask them to comment. After having accepted the valuable feedback from at least two people, yes two people, give it to a professional who has the skill to get inside the heads of the potential recipients.

The biggest mistake people make with new documents is that they give it to their friends who are far too polite to say that it’s rubbish, or they give it to those who are engaged in the same profession who know exactly what the document is about  and to say to themselves “surely anyone with any intelligence can understand the meaning of this”. The problem is, the public often can’t because one or two vital stages have been missed.

I find this with software engineers and fellow computer enthusiasts who will tell me how to do something but forget a stage that to them was so obvious they did not feel the need to say it.

The final stage is to show the completed article to half-dozen people or so who are not your friends or colleagues and if they like it then you probably have it on your hands. There is no point in spending hundreds of pounds on Vanity publishing when no one actually reads or wants to read what you have produced.

Now, I know that you, dear people, will say that yours is a very urgent and important item.  It is very unlikely that a few days will make any difference so put your ego and your pre-conceptions aside and see what comes up. The golden rule: less is more. There are exceptions to this. if you are describing the itinerary of a leisure cruise or holiday the more detail you put in the better because people look for certain things example what is included and how long the tour is. However, if the item you are selling is intangible or  novel or personal there is a greater onus on the telephone operator to explain what is going on.

The ideal gardening job


Sunday 14 August 1664

..He gone, comes Mr. Herbert, Mr. Honiwood’s man, and dined with me, a very honest, plain, well-meaning man, I think him to be; and by his discourse and manner of life, the true embleme of an old ordinary serving-man…

…By and by comes W. Joyce, in his silke suit, and cloake lined with velvett: staid talking with me, and I very merry at it. He supped with me; but a cunning, crafty fellow he is, and dangerous to displease, for his tongue spares nobody

I do admire Pepys’ honesty when describing people. He is a very good observer which on the Enneagram scale is a five. In the days before the telephone, people’s mindset had to be different because if you wanted to see someone you had little alternative but to turn up at their property. I consider this ‘community mindedness of quality’ which is so much lacking in cities today and remains only in small villages. So much current instant communication is nothing of the type. I think people’s brains are too frazzled to know what real communication is.

Today dawned bright and sunny with only the odd cloud obscuring the horizon of the sky. This is the season of plenty; we are running out of places to store beans and potatoes. The neighbours that we offer them to already have enough.

lovely fresh beans going begging. Unfortunately, they do not freeze well but bean chutney can be made
my wife has split up a large tuber of aloe vera and intends to let them grow and then give them away

I was truly looking forward to today’s gardening job which consists in remodelling and disciplining a garden area, a lawn of 7 m x 20 m with various trees and overgrown bushes surrounding. The customer was about as close to the ideal as I have ever had in my years of gardening. She is a farmer’s wife. Farmers wives are used to mucking in and doing what is required so true to form she had her Wellington boots on when we arrived and helped us in with our tools.

When will customers understand that the more helpful and supportive they are to us, the more we will do. We are not robots. This was a lesson that our customer did not need to learn. She had empathy by the spadeful. It was very good as it is in most cases that the customer is there while we work because we need to ask questions as we go because garden layout and design is a matter of opinion. We will do anything the customer requests  but it is much better if we ask their opinion when we are actually doing the job rather than discussing some theoretical event that could take place in future.

Rather like the National Trust’s attitude to renovating old properties you have to figure out what was originally intended by the design which is quite tricky in the case of gross overgrowth which we had in this case. The principles of gardening are just the same as the principles of painting a picture. You have the background, the main features, and the job is to harmonise all and to remove the redundant, allowing the key features to stand out. Only plant may be perfectly fine in its own right but maybe out of place or deceased or too large, or excluding light for its neighbours and it is not inappropriate to cull such plants or bushes.

This is a ‘before and after’ impression of three different types of bushes plus a tree that is occupying the same space. Thinning out is the order of the day.

a three-part clump of bushes in disarray and disorder with a tree in the background
The same scene, three hours later when we tried to restore some individuality to the various types of plant. it is not easy to see due to the green hue but there are two separate types of bush that have been distinguished from each other by removing extraneous material.

I was fascinated to read that Paul Gauguin, a leading post impressionist artist and writer known for his primitivist style and philosophy decided to sail to the tropics to escape European civilisation and ‘everything that is artificial and conventional’. He made this move at the age of 43 in 1891, frustrated by the lack of recognition and financial security in his home country. He spent his remaining years in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. I guess we idealise well known artists and think they had easy lives.  Try Frida Kahlo for size. Actually, try almost any artist.

Gibbons took carving to a new level, abandoning oak for softer lime wood.

You could count yourself fortunate if you obtained Royal Patronage as Grinling Gibbons the artist and wood carver did – after a long struggle. He came to UK from Holland in 1667 but languished doing routine work for ships in a dockyard in Deptford until spotted by someone with royal connections. He later came to be known as the Kings carver.


Slow to get the message – a colourful day trip to Bristol


Today’s the day when I must take my Volvo in for service. There is a noise like crickets chirping, and various  miscellaneous warning lights reprimanding me from the dashboard. There are times when I tend to be judgemental. Today was one of those times. I arrived to find a scene of some chaos and confusion. There was only one person at the service reception and she seemed to be having difficulty with finding my identity and my booking. All sorts of uncharitable thoughts  went through my mind about the decline of standards, and why can’t they employ more competent people, and she doesn’t seem to have received any training. All this was a complete waste of energy when I discovered later on that one of the two agents was on holiday, the other one was sick  and they had to draft in someone from another department to help out.

Anyway I dropped my car off and went on the bus to go to the centre of Bristol. This time I visited St. Mary Redcliffe Church, very famous and very popular with students so I understand. Anyway here are a few of my photographs with comments when I feel like it.

The theme of today’s photo shoot is “relating to the public”. It is important to draw people in and make them feel part of something and these photographs I  am going to show you do indeed represent this challenge and how it is dealt with. If you want to see details in bigger detail roll your mouse button or use control and +

There seems to be a fashion for huge flower arrangements in public places. This one is by Bristol Temple Meads station
what a truly lovely community idea
St Mary Redcliffe Church on a rather dull day it must be said
the welcome is a mark of a caring church
stained-glass windows often tell a story and it is worth studying them in some detail
lighting a candle and saying a prayer I believe resonates with something deep in most of us
what a lovely thoughtful prayer designed for everybody
this is an alter in the shape of a boat or ark which makes reference to the relationship of the history of the church to seagoing people
John Cabot who sailed to America from Bristol near this very spot
the last time I saw such a selection of keys was in Cologne. This habit has spread throughout Europe if not the world
an art installation called the Energy Tree
here follows a series of figures in one of the main squares of Bristol
is this a religious person or a money changer
lovely to see vegetables placed there I suspect to encourage people to grow their own
children learning workplaces are
lovely safe playing area. Children love splashing in water
an original antilitter campaign

Off I went to a buffet restaurant called Cosmos. It is in the art gallery district up the famous hill and by the University Church. This establishment is much favoured by students because for £7.95 you can have a very good selection of salads, sushi, soups, all types of currys, roasts and various Eastern foods, lovely cakes and various sweets. I arrived at midday when it opened and found that I was not the first one. There were already about 20 people waiting to be let in. It was quite clear who the boss was and he firmly and politely escorted people to their seating area. I watched him closely and he never became flustered and he was always polite to people. The waiters and waitresses were similarly smiling and polite.  My used plates were taken away invisibly while my back was turned.

From about 12:20 PM the whole place was full and I would say about 100 people were dining.  A 20 min bus ride took me to the Volvo showroom and after various technicalities which I won’t bore you with, mainly concerned with the wisdom of spending money on an older vehicle,  I sped home. The engineer, a Polish chap called Marin, had explained the problems in great detail leaving it quite clear to me where my choices lay. For many years now I have trusted Polish people because I find they are hard-working and give good value for money. I only hope that this Brexit business does not discourage them from coming.

Five o’clock was the time when I met the lady who had announced the demise of her art gallery. I met her in a pub, appropriately called “The Globe” accompanied by a charming male friend that she had invited along. She was very appreciative of the fact that I troubled to write back to her original letter so quickly. We had a very fruitful and mutually encouraging talk and her accent made me realise how much I missed South Africa – which I have visited about 20 times over the years. She was brought up in KwaZulu Natal province which is to the north-west of the country. South Africans are open, friendly and honest plus being tough as old rope and we spent a very joyous time together before I drove home in the rain.

The weather forecast augurs well for tomorrow and it better be good because we have to do some gardening work.



cars, cars, and yet more vintage cars


We in Somerset know how to do things properly. If you are thinking of migrating or escaping from London and think there is nothing going on in the country you are incorrect. A lot goes on but it is not advertised widely mainly for economic reasons.

This is a car ‘meet’. The essence of such a meeting is its lack of formality. It’s free to everyone and show cars can come and go as they please. We arrived about 11 o’clock and found the whole field in Camerton full of people and cars. What I know about old cars from the technical point of view could be written on a postage stamp so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

I just love the variety of colours, and the personalisation and care that people have gone to to maintain their vehicles and their motorbikes by the way. you can see the whole families sitting there with their picnic baskets basking in the fruits of their labour and keen to answer questions from the public.

I think I’m going to break the record for the longest web the page ever. How many of these car marques can you recognise?

PS If you want to see the images magnified, try Ctrl and + at the same time. Your own PC will have its own variation on this.

and especially built sidecar
for the Welsh 2 day trial 1960
a car driven by steam
subtle blue
the works
lemon yellows
two shades of green
VW traveller
embellished interior with memorabilia
Rolls Royce
not a common sight my dear
any guesses?
car with history
ever so twee
Zephir Six
from California
and more detail
A chevvy
The Edsel which if I recall did not sell well
a three wheeler I think
Oldsmobile? I can’t read the marque
no idea about this one
ultraclean detail
you could cook your breakfast on this one
An Austin
another Austin
two shades of blue not quite sure about this one
later Ford
Two USA cars
amazingly simple controls, brute force it seems to me

I have photographed only a fifth of the cars that were there but just to show you we do things in style in Somerset.



losing our tempers – a grand collection of old cars


Friday 12 August 1664

….I to White Hall and did much business at a Tangier Committee; where, among other things, speaking about propriety of the houses there, and how we ought to let the Portugeses I have right done them, as many of them as continue, or did sell the houses while they were in possession, and something further in their favour, the Duke in an anger I never observed in him before, did cry, says he, “All the world rides us, and I think we shall never ride anybody.”…

Dr Martin Israel. I am particularly struck by part of his bio. Martin Spencer Israel was born on April 30 1927 in Johannesburg. His father, an ophthalmic surgeon, took him to the liberal synagogue, and at the age of three he felt called to “a lonely life in order to discover life’s meaning”. As a child he spent much time in the company of African servants in whom, he said later, he saw “an authenticity of character absent from Europeans”.

I once asked a very wise mentor of mine, a priest called Dr Martin Israel,  (1927-2007)what was the difference between murderers and us and he thought for a moment and said one word “self-control”. He spent some time talking to prisoners so he should know what he was talking about. We give away to violent anger we lose our self-control or as we say we just ‘lost it’.

What to do? Emotions are part of our make up. It is very British but very self-defeating to stuff it all down which I’m sure in the long term does as much damage as anything. We could always walk away or leave the scene but that solves nothing, except minimising the risk of being arrested for assault or saying something that you later regret.

it could be a good approach to examine why we get angry in the first place and an obvious candidate would be frustration, and the feeling of not being listened to, or the feeling of being ridiculed. If there is this type of history it attains some of the characteristics of a septic wound and it does not require much of a stimulus to provoke a reaction. I suppose you could also define losing your temper as a statement of impotence.

This is where preparation for life is so important possibly taking the form of discussing your feelings with a trusted friend if you have a trusted friend or a counsellor if you do not. If you can somehow rehearse what it feels like to be challenged or annoyed by somebody, then you can avoid losing your temper in the first place. The loss of control seldom makes you happy indeed quite the converse. People don’t do it for fun they do it because they cannot help it so it would seem logical to say that the more self-knowledge you have less likely it is for you to fall into traps. For example to discover that a difference of opinion with someone reminds you of the excessively critical nature of your father, and the beating you got when you were young. Isn’t that something you could dispose of? Also, another important point to bear in mind is that you will lose the trust of your friends because they never know when you will blow up next and you will therefore tend to attract other angry people.

Eckhart Tolle (Americans please note the E at the end of his surname is silent). I’m on his mailing list and he sends a very apposite phrase on a weekly basis. Today’s is “Incessant mental noise prevents you finding the realm of inner stillness that is inseparable from being”

Last night, my wife sat up in the dew of the night to watch the shooting stars, it being the season. She saw four or five. The night was clear and we became more aware of the planes with their bright lights coming into land at Bristol airport. This is pure boys toys stuff on my part but I am on a website called which shows the exact position and altitude and destination of each plane in the sky. I can then correlate the data on my screen with seeing the actual plane flying over. The site also shows me what it looks like from the cockpit when landing. The fact that you can do this with any plane landing anywhere in the world is quite mind blowing but I suppose most of us get so blase about technology these days we don’t give it a second thought.

I have noticed that it is far easier to write material on a Sunday morning and I’m sure that without being aware of it I do get psychically contaminated by the busy thoughts of other people. It is normally quiet in our little bungalow but this morning it is “quiet quiet”, I could almost say peaceful, and I’m very tempted to spend more time writing and reading. I can understand why people go to monasteries.

Anyway, I wasn’t intending to write 750 words but sometimes they just write themselves with comparatively little effort on my part. I find the diary of Samuel Pepys very inspiring and triggering for digging into my vast memory resource which we all have of course.

I do very much enjoy giving compliments to people. Whilst in the grounds of  Wells Cathedral, I saw a lady dressed entirely in a 1960s type lemon two-piece suit with a hat to match and I could not resist telling her how lovely she looked. She responded that this was part of her normal dressage whereupon I responded I would love to see her when she really makes an effort to dress up for a special occasion. After I have given the compliment I always walk away with a smile. I do not want anything back so to speak.

Also while I was having my trip yesterday in Wells market, I bought an asparagus and cheese quiche which I consumed on the spot. After taking the first bite I realised that the person who made them had an understanding of food because together with the normal ingredients there were small halves of button tomatoes on top, well cooked, which lightened the whole lot up and made the whole thing a meal in itself. I went back and told the stall holder that it was the one of the best quiches I have ever had and indeed a work of art. The chap said he would pass it on to the cook.

I wonder why we cannot spend more energy encouraging each other. It does not cost anything, makes people feel human and valued, and just makes that little contribution towards a more humane society. My theme on a good day for dealing with people is encourage encourage encourage though admittedly you do need a starting point of something they have done in the first place. Also, I need to feel that the person is good tempered as in the discussion above. I adopt the same attitude to artists.  When giving a compliment, I don’t think you should just give a bland complement but look at what they’re trying to do and with your remark try to help them forward in their endeavours.

So we are off to the Camerton car show or as it is called the “Norton Radstock Classic Vehicle Somerset” show.

I think I’d better make this a separate entry otherwise this page is going to be ridiculously long what with the many illustrations that will undoubtedly appear.


And now its play time


It is very nice to be able to arrange one’s – as our Queen would say –  own day. We always plan by feel, mostly not deciding until the last moment but it was clear that this was <fanfare of trumpets> Wells day. What finally tipped the balance was the weather, and the fact that there is a model railway exhibition going on in the Town Hall.

Model railways, and anything relating to nostalgia of the railways, attracts a vast following and I was quite pleased to pay six pounds for the right to enter the Town Hall overflowing as it was with stalls of all shapes and sizes and subjects. I would say the average attendee was male and the average age was about 60, with a few children tagging along. There were a lot of attendees.

encouraging a reluctant train to go
a fantasy rail line
detailed construction items available
a realistic seaside scenario
a serious hobbyist at work
Wells market is a class act
with serious amounts of local produce
we then moved on to the Bishops Gardens where all the dahlias are named after various UK bishops
the entry to the spring area is a little bit magical
image of the cross being carried by a variety of people with varying degrees of success. Definitely worth a look
50th wedding anniversary celebration
part of one of the allotments
an allotment owned by a couple both in their 80s and doing fine thank you very much

From here we went along to our favourite Pub in Wells. I entered into a conversation between one of the bar staff and one of the regulars. He commented on how often she apologised even when the fault was the other person. She apologised about apologising and said that she had done it ever since she was young and it was a habit and she could not break it. I do notice that an awful lot among English people.  They don’t want to bother other people or be a nuisance. Touching also seems to be in the forbidden area although it’s no one’s fault and there is no deliberacy of intrusion. Sorry, excuse me, sorry sorry sorry.

It’s a bit meaningless if you ask me.

we went for lunch in a vegetarian restaurant called Whole Earth. When you see such a notice board is always a good sign
on to the local museum showing illustrations from the stonework of the Cathedral
part of a World War One exhibition in the local  museum
early 20th and 19th-century Fire services – same museum

We watched a man operate a rather advanced drone which had captured rather brilliant examples of Wells Cathedral from about 100 foot above its roof. He did cease operations soon after we arrived because he admitted that the authorities did not like drones to be operated in the vicinity of historic buildings. I was actually quite excited by the drone because high-quality pictures can be obtained which I would think would be most useful in cases of reconnoitering fire damage or even trying to find someone who has fallen into an inaccessible area. I don’t think airports like them very much.

So back on the bus and to home where we had a siesta in the afternoon sun to be followed by seeing Mo Farah and Usain Bolt’s farewell runs or should I say performances. Win or lose they have won.





with great regret – breadmaking – diplomacy – a train day


Thursday 11 August 1664

….I show him a good countenance, but love him not for his base ingratitude to me….

No one can accuse Samuel Pepys of being unproductive. He has a lot of political situations to deal with and has to consort with people whom he admires and with whom he does not and if you read the diary today by clicking the link you will see the sentence that I have highlighted.

I think the term “good countenance” really sums it up. it is the functionality of society as a whole that is the key here and if we treat someone with respect, that helps them to treat someone else with respect by giving them an example of behaviour. I am not talking about the term used in arguments ” but with respect…..” because that is normally a preview to an implication that you do not respect the person or their views. I’m talking about the default stance that we take in every day life. I think we just need to be disciplined and if we are in a less than good temper we should probably consider repairing ourselves before going in the public arena. Bob Dylan would not take this advice because he is as he is take it or leave it but then artists are in a slightly different category.

Today is Saturday and for once the weather forecast is not die so we shall venture forth to Wells where there is not only the market but also a model railway exhibition.

My wife needs gluten-free food so we normally cook  gluten-free bread with varying degrees of success. You would think bread is the easiest thing to cook  consisting as it does of flour, yeast, water and maybe some salt. I believe that you could spend your whole life time making bread and would never master the whole art because there are no less than 300 different types of bread available in the world. The way it can go wrong, even using a bread machine, are legion. You can have ever so slightly more water then you should have and the loaf will collapse, insufficient time allowed for the bread to rise will result in a solid bit at the bottom, not having the right type of baking dish typically one that has been well used can result in the bread sticking to the bottom.

one of my less successful cooking attempts. However, the bread tasted delicious.

Unless you understand what function the constituents perform I don’t think it is possible to master the task of breadmaking. It requires considerable discipline and consistency. If you are new to breadmaking I suggest you follow the instructions exactly. When you are at a more advanced stage, then you can experiment and I would say this about all types of cooking.

I have just received one of those  ….. it is with deep sadness… notes from a local art gallery saying that after X years of trading they are going to close their doors. I will keep the details anonymous for obvious reasons.

The reply I have just sent to them may give comfort to those who are in financial difficulties be it an artistic offering or indeed any type of commercial business.

Thank you for your note just received.
This would seem a time of transition for you not of failure and reflects the trend of departure from the high Street in the face of the increasing costs associated with bricks and mortar as you say.
I started a site about 15 years ago attempting to sell the best that South Africa can produce over the Internet and after this time we are still going. We do have a very important condition that if people are not happy with the work they can return it but it is a risk worth taking.
More people search online for things than ever before and it would seem the answer is to increase the quality of your website which does not have to be an expensive thing to do. You can introduce miniature videos by artists to  announce their work and talk about it. In other words, you can bring a 3D effect to a website by those devices.
If you can reframe and regroup, I don’t think any intellectual property or history will be lost and you never know you might get a new lease of life.
If you would like me to do so I’m quite happy to make suggestions about your website as a contribution to the world of art. 
So don’t forget, folks, a painful divorce can be followed by a happy marriage
I received a response to my letter at 9:28 AM this morning.

Brian thank you so much for your email and offer of help, it really means a lot. And yes, overheads have been the greatest issue for us and we have had to bend under their weight, but you are right to say to not allow it to break us. Hopefully we will go forward with greater strength and understanding within the fine art market. Thank you for your generous offer to look at our website critically, I would be most interested in your opinions and suggestions. As Tesco rightly say, every little helps. Thank you.

I wrote back later on in the day with a whole list of suggestions but quite frankly I was closing the business I wouldn’t particularly want to read it so it remains to be seen whether that be any further response. She is South African so they are a tough breed and they tend to fight and survive so I think on balance I will hear from her. I was pretty blunt about her website. I have tried constructive criticism many times before but in most cases it is too much for people and they go into the defensive that is why I asked beforehand if they would welcome comments.

Anyway, off to Wells by bus. We often go to Wells. It is the ideal tourist centre because everything is within about 300 m and it is packed full of history, culture, good food, markets, you name it there will be something to interest you.

The second part of today’s diary will be mainly pictorial.


It all happens underground


Saw a delightful potential customer this morning who is secretary to social services, a division that cares for disabled children which she does three times a week. It is always a pleasure to work for such people and I try to give extra to those who give to others – simple as that. The daughter was the spitting image of the mother and works on a freelance basis for John Lewis as a designer. She works in London. What a delightful and polite young lady and not a mobile phone in sight. I wonder if there is any correlation, surely not.

I was able to welcome a new plot holder on my allotment. He has a few months to go before he retires and was looking for something to fill his time. This was not a brilliant time of year to take over an allotment because there’s not much you can plant except broad beans for the winter so the holder felt the best thing to do was to prepare the plot for next year. Luckily, he has access to a shed which was left by the previous tenant and there is one huge amount of rhubarb and several raspberry plants so they should be off to a good start.

This is the time of plenty for runner beans and for potatoes. The various creatures in the ground are very choosy about which ones of my varied potato varieties they consume. So much goes on under the ground you wouldn’t believe. Wireworms, flea beetles, potato tuberworm and white grubs are all soil-dwelling pests that feed on potato tubers. I find a marked difference in their attention between Desiree, which is a large red potato which they ignore, and other white varieties that are completely riddled with the accursed mentioned above and are hardly worth storing. I have decided this year to store potatoes in the loft in hessian sacks. Paper bags can be used but in any event the potatoes must breathe otherwise they get mouldy. Before storage it is important to weed out any diseased potato and therefore look at each one carefully.

The more you pick runner beans the more they grow and we have far more than we can cope with either in the bottom of the fridge or in baskets. Other Half is going to try and freeze them as they are and see whether they taste fresh in a few weeks time. The problem is the freezer is almost full so what do you do ha ha

Lord Howe was castigated by the mainstream media for daring to question the basis of climate change and was put up against Brian Cox who is the thought and paid for spokesman for the mainstream media. Ad hominem is normally a sign that you don’t have a good case and the only way the climate changers have managed to win their case so far anyway is because they suppress and ignore all the scientists who disagree. I’m told on good authority that the temperature of the oceans has gone down by 2°.
Hot and cold periods have been going on since time immemorial especially the famous Medieval warm period. I don’t think there were a lot of motorcars around at that time but they were certainly volcanoes and lots and lots of animals. The vast amounts of CO2 produced by ocean liners and the above-mentioned volcanoes more than cancel out  any tiny change in carbon dioxide levels resulting from more stringent requirements on motorcars.

Focus and precision


Wednesday 10 August 1664

…So I find out Cocker, the famous writing-master, and get him to do it, and I set an hour by him to see him design it all; and strange it is to see him with his natural eyes to cut so small at his first designing it, and read it all over, without any missing, when for my life I could not, with my best skill, read one word or letter of it; but it is use.

I have always been excited by seeing craftsmen at their work. They may be woodworker, jeweler, potter, artist, but irrespective of the craft I get a thrill from the human mind doing what it can do best. The human brain is the greatest relational database in the world and seeing people use their brain or shall we say their mind brain encourages me to recognise my humanity to the full and hopefully to emulate it as I do with this  diary. I’m into my seventh months now and look forward as ever  to recording anything of value in terms of observations and reflections. This coming Saturday there is a model railway demonstration and show at Wells.

This morning I went to visit a potential customer who is just about living on planet Earth. It was buried in the depths of the country and when I entered the garden or should I say Jungle, I was greeted by three noisy dogs who I was assured are quite friendly. the garden area was as high as it was wide with huge trees overgrown with vines, weeds 6 feet high, buried paths, too many trees competing for too little space.

She had a memorial garden to her husband who had died many years before. It was derelict. Her son used the front area as a dump for pallets and there were about 50 of them together with 6 foot by 8 foot boards.  The whole garden area was more than a mess, it was abandoned. To make it worse, the woman had lost the use of one arm in an accident a year ago but still talked about climbing ladders, pulling out bushes and so on, things that she was clearly unable to do. She showed me the area that she wanted to have cleaned out, an area 6 m x 4 m and when I asked her what she wanted to do with it she said that she used to grow runner beans there and she now just wanted it left.

I’m not very good at walking out on people  that I cannot help but I did feel like it on this occasion. The garden work seemed a purposeless exercise; the state of mind of the customer was eccentric to put it kindly. However, somewhere there is a need so I will get back to her and offer to start off with a very simple operation, the cleaning of the area, and see whether some  coherent set of desires emanates from her.

Off to the eye Clinic in the afternoon. I was privileged to have the chief consultant of the eye Department look at my eyes. I took the chance to discuss the various remedies for macular disease for example MacuShield Gold which contains a cocktail of vitamins that are supposed to be good for the eye. He told me candidly that there were no definitive studies showing the effectiveness of this or other preparations and that the best I could hope for was to stop the macular disease appearing in the other eye which I thought was a pretty good basis for continuing my self-medication. Anyway, the monthly eye injections seem to have worked because there is no deterioration since last month in fact a small reversal of the situation. Thank goodness for the NHS without which I would have been many thousands of pounds the poorer.