visiting the burial place of Samuel Pepys

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

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

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

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

Here follow numerous photographs with captions.

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


visiting the Tate Modern and the Mall Gallery

Monday 16 May 1664

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

The Red Hat
good text just the right length



continued pain, painful images at the Saatchi Gallery

Sunday 15 May 1664

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so to my sister for supper.

Gall stones – not fun at all

Pepys Diary Saturday 14th May 1664

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

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

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

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

The pouring rain – people who ask for money

Pepys diary for 13th May 1664

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

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

The diary:

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Peyps’ England – Spindle Cottage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some jazz, some silence, some listening

Samuel Pepys Diary Thursday 12th May 1664

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Morning coffee ritual – dentures – Samuel Pepys’ wife

Pepys’s Diary 11th May 1664

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

St Augustine of Hippo (Bishop of Hippo Regius)

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

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

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

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

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




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

grass roots site. click image.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Samuel Pepys’ diary  9th May 1664

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Dealing with people you don’t trust

Pepys Diary 8th May 1664 :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


a sunny Monday morning – a new SSD shows its power

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

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


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

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

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

the best way of meeting people + an evangelical magician

Most of our beneficial interactions are unplanned and unintended. You just turn up to an event, not knowing a single soul, and then you meet someone you have something in common with. This was indeed the case in the Mendip Society ramble or walk which was on the Somerset levels on this occasion. We spotted it in the “Mendip Times” in the morning and it sounded good so we thought, why not?

our motley crowd
if you keep going you will get to the Bristol channel

Due mainly to the fine weather, 30 of us gathered together at 2 PM on sunny summer afternoon and after a brief explanation of the nature and function of the reserves over the millennia off we went. The good thing about guided rambles is that the leader has been round the course before so there is no question of wasting time on blind alleys and cul-de-sacs.

The walk, 5 miles in length, encompassed areas of the Somerset levels that had been occupied 3000 years ago by people who derived their living from this watery place that was once under the sea. Buried sea-shells to prove it.

You can say that rambles are self organising social clubs. You show up / turn up / pitch up/  rock up – take your choice according to the slang of your country on your own or with a friend. Whoever ends up beside you provides an opportunity to chat. If nothing much happens it does not matter as you can just drift off and talk to the next person. No hard feelings, no embarrassment. I would suggest this is the ideal way for a newcomer to an area to get to know people.

I met a chap who was obsessed by gadgets and we had a discussion about his multifunctional Ipad. It could identify various birds from the noises they made and would wake him up in the morning asking him if he wanted the radio on. Now, there is service for you.

I had another chat with someone who was the new Webmaster for the society and we discussed how to best handle the mailing list. I told him about Mailchimp and how easy it was to use I reminded him that it was free.

very helpful maps in the Visitor Centre (BA6 9TT)

I fell in with a lady by the name of Carolyn who was a performance artist and photographer. She goes to Colombo in Sri Lanka every year to give performances, and her daughter lives on the south-east coast. She is a fan of Instagram and posts photographs which people follow. This seems a very transitory environment to me as you follow someone based on the sight of a particular photograph. I think it’s entry-level stuff into the Internet and blogs but I don’t want to knock it in any way because good photography is an art form and it’s a lovely thing to share it.

I do want to spread the idea that everybody should write their own diaries and I have submitted an article to the local paper which hopefully should appear next Wednesday. Let’s see if it’s brings any response. By “response”, I mean visited the page.  I use a stats program on all my sites which means that I can see whether someone has viewed, roughly where are they are from, what pages they looked at, and how long they stayed on the site. I’m very thrilled that so far I have had two or three very complimentary comments from thoughtful souls. I don’t expect all that much from this geographical area in which I live because it has no literary heritage, being an ex-coal mining town and indeed a place where many large printing firms were based. Now it is mainly for commuters and retired people alas.

About analytics software if anyone is interested you always have Google Analytics and my own favourite which tells more about the visitor. Both free but statcounter gives limited historical data without upgrade.

With regard to my blog site, boringly, people have to register before they can post, otherwise the site gets invaded by thousands of robots and uses the opportunity to post something to advertise a sex site or a quick making of money offer and I don’t think most of my readers want that sort of thing.

We finished the day in the splendid Eco Friendly Shop full of good food and drink – homemade of course  – and I rested my sore back and drank a good coffee – a cafeteria – which the proprietor kindly supplied. Highly recommended. BA6 9TT in case you want to visit.


I was invited by my local men’s group to come along as a guest to a supper evening in the local rugby club here in Midsomer Norton where there was an entertainer called Tom. He was from Stroud in Gloucestershire and hoped to become a full-time entertainer and evangelist in October. he came and joined us at our table for a meal. I found him transparent, unaffected, glad to answer details about his life and his faith, and able to listen.

I told him something about the program I saw on BBC four about Ken Dodd’s life and health care in felt at the end of free shows that he could have done better but he said, in spite of these doubts, “you just go on and do it anyway”. The Liverpudlian entertainer of 53 years experience said “You know that the audience want you to succeed”. he was asked if he ever gave performances with other people to which he said he did sometimes but when working on his own he said “I never give a solo performance; it’s me and the audience”. He says he much prefers working with a live audience instead of ‘staring at wires’ as he calls a studio performance

Tom was introduced and he went on stage to give his show which lasted about 50 min I think.  I give him 10 out of 10 for enthusiasm but only 5/10 for presentation. It is essential that self taught entertainers no matter how talented receive mentoring from an experienced person and if necessary pay for it.

The first problem was that he invited one person from the audience up on the stage called Melissa to help him with his various tricks. Although there were 40 people in the audience he called her up three more times which I almost considered an invasion of privacy. The idea is to involve the maximum number of people you can.

The second problem was of the microphone or rather the volume was far too high and he screamed into it deafening everyone. I had to retreat to the back of the room but even then there was no escape from the noise level.

The third problem was that he criticised in a joking way people who did not cooperate by saying “it’s my show”. You can make the same joke maybe two or three times but I think he did it about 12 times and it just wore a bit thin.

The fourth problem was that he asked people to applaud members of the audience who did the slightest thing such as standing up, walking forward, taking part in the simplest of instructions. “give them a round of applause” he shouted at full volume. The audience duly obliged but really it was going over the top.

The fifth problem was that the said of someone’s husband that they had a forgettable face. Even when said in fun, that could be really hurtful especially if the man was lacking in confidence as indeed he seemed to be.

His magic was good. He took someone’s mobile phone off them and made it reappear from a packet of Cringles. His humour was not off-colour and actually rather quaint and oddball and I found this attractive.

Halfway through, he invited people to fill in a card with their name address and phone number to say if they were interested in committing themselves to Jesus. I really don’t mind this because everyone came along knowing that it was a Christian thing. About 25 people filled in the cards. I wonder how appropriate it is to mix comedy and magic with selling your DVDs and asking to support children in Africa and encouraging people to commit themselves spiritually.

He drives all over the country doing his show and I think the sheer enthusiasm that radiates from him wins the day. He is going to speak to 500 Salvation Army people in Harrogate, and then do the same thing again with 500 more.

I shall write to him about these points and hope that he takes some notice though human pride tends to dismiss criticism as if it is some sort of insult on the persons virility. It’s just an observation mate – nothing more –  take it or leave it.

PS I visited his website and had a look at the contact page. As you can see, the contact form is almost invisible because the default font colour is a very light shade of grey. It is absolutely vital when making a website to find someone who is outside the field, intelligent, and not afraid to report what they find. It is called beta testing. They should go through every aspect of the site because as the old saying goes “a change is as strong as the weakest link”. The very people who need the service most may be the ones who are most timid and therefore most likely to be put off by difficulties in the website.

Ignoring warnings

Thursday 5th May 1664. here is an extract from Samuel Pepys’s diary… So home to dinner, and to the office, where all the afternoon, and thence betimes home, my eyes beginning every day to grow less and less able to bear with long reading or writing, though it be by daylight; which I never observed till now.

How could they miss this one?

We read of extraordinary health conditions where someone has walked around with an operating instrument in them, someone has a 60 pound cyst, and we say to them “why didn’t they do something about it before?” This is a reminder to me of what we call the boiling frog syndrome. The frog sits in water which is gradually turned up 1° at a time. It does not notice it until it succumbs to the heat. If the frog were suddenly put in boiling water, it would jump out immediately.

The mind has a great ability to create normality out of chaos and this includes pushing away symptoms and signs of disease. The problem is that our bodies deteriorate over a period of time and unless the alert person looks out for signs, these warning indications will be ignored. How often have I heard of someone going to the doctor after their wife has been “at them for years” to attend to a particular situation and they have chosen to ignore it on the grounds that it will go away, or it’s not important, or I don’t want to waste the doctor’s time. This is in fact self abuse of the first order but it is not recognised as such. Perhaps we want to think that we are all immortal and cannot suffer from any deterioration. This is optimism driven to extremes.

Even with the limited ophthalmic knowledge available in 17th-century maybe we would have seen 10 more years of Pepys’s diaries had he sought appropriate advice earlier. The National Health Service is under great stress at the moment and that includes the General Practitioners. I tend not to trouble my doctor unless I absolutely have to. Better than that, I leave messages on my computer record via the receptionist asking for a referral on a particular subject and the doctor will call me back when he has a moment.

I think people who do not turn up for appointments should be charged say £25. Cancelled appointments probably cost more than this but the £25 would make a point. I would like to see respect of the medical profession and today’s promise by the Labour and Liberal Democrats to put more money into the NHS is welcome but in the event I fear that the Conservatives will eventually allow the entrance of predatory money grabbing American companies who see the human being just as an opportunity to make money. Currently in 146 hospitals, you have to pay £.50 to receive a call. You had to pay up to £5a day to watch TV. Were the NHS completely asleep when they signed the contract? Probably not. the Department were more likely seduced by the offer of a system installed without cost and who knows a couple of sweeteners on the side.

Today my computer is playing up and so I should be out of commission for the rest of the weekend. My wife will breathe a sigh of relief because she thinks I spend far too much time in front of the computer. In fact it is my umbilical chord without which I would find it very difficult to function creatively.  I shall have to make do with my wonderful tablet but having said that PCs can do a range of tasks that tablets cannot so easily do. I hope the computer can be rescued from its many failings and doesn’t have to go to computer heaven.

Having less than 10% of my hard drive free does not help.  it’s easy to get to the stage where you spend more on repairing the computer than buying a new one. You can pick up laptops for virtually nothing these days. I saw a new one with 1 TB of data but without an operating system it must be said for under £200.

Perhaps we would be better off with parchment and a quill pen.

On that rather nerdy note, I finish my diary for today and it’s only 7:55 AM

The Great Plague; waiting for Godot; mind-boggling numbers

protection against the plague

The Great Plague lasted from 1665 to 1666 and was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. The plague killed an estimated 100,000 people, almost a quarter of London’s population, over a period of 18 months. The plague was caused by a bacterium usually transmitted through the bite of an infected rat flea.

Samuel Pepys’s diary Wednesday, 4 May 1664 reminds us how important the Coffee house was for exchange of information “ Thence to the coffee – house and to the ‘change (The Royal Exchange) for a while. News uncertain how the Dutch proceed. Some say for some against a war. The plague increases at Amsterdam. So home to dinner and after dinner to my office, where very late, till my eyes (which begin to fail me nowadays by candlelight) begin to trouble me.

in a way we can say that the great Fire of London in 1666 may have done a job of bringing the plague to an end, or maybe it signaled in a rather spectacular way the fact that the plague had run its course.

I have great difficulty in getting my head around large numbers. The fact that a galaxy is 100 light years across is far too much for me. I cannot even understand or appreciate what one light-year is. I know it’s the distance that a beam of light travels in a year at 186,000 miles second. I can just about imagine a second’s worth, during which a beam of light would nearly reach the moon perhaps a few kilometres short.

I subscribe to a site called the Money Charity which gives monthly statistics for the UK economy which I read with varying degrees of comprehension. The average annual salary in the UK is £26,468. That’s fine I can understand that but £2.04 billion spent using plastic each day is beyond me though 126 purchases made every second I can get that. 3321 Consumer County Court Judgements are issued every day – that’s fine.
My ability to conceptualise seems to fade over about 1 million of anything.

our ability to evaluate distance depends partly upon practice of using the imagination. If the skill is not needed it will fade away. I know it’s not the same thing as astronomical distance but I like the chart so here it is.

It appears I’m not the only one. Kate Baggaley has written an interesting article on a site called the Brain Decoder.. which includes the following:  “Our cognitive systems are very much tied to our perceptions,” said Daniel Ansari, a researcher at the Numerical Cognition Laboratory at Western University in Canada. “The main obstacle is that we’re dealing with numbers that are too large for us to have experienced perceptually.

By contrast, we constantly experience small numbers. “Smaller numbers are more frequent in our daily vocabulary,” Ansari said. “When you lay the table you ask your child, how many knives do we need? It’s never going to be 10,000 unless you have a very big dinner party.

I suppose if we needed large numbers for survival, we would get used to them very quickly that there is simply no need so I suppose the brain says to itself, why bother?

‘Waiting for Godot’, a play by Samuel Beckett

Today I am awaiting a response from the hospital about my proposals, as I’m aware that a meeting to discuss my plan will be held today. As a free spirit, never having worked in a bureaucracy, I have no idea of the pressures that are on an organisation such as the NHS when making a decision about anything. It is not just a question of common sense, or even need, but of timing, priority, funding, endless committees, and whatever else the proposal it has to go through the mill. This takes time. I feel like an artist who wants to just get on and paint a picture.  The picture is in my head and I want it translated into the real world. I hope the picture does not fade and thus my incentive.

To avoid torture, I tried to divert myself to other matters for example gardening, reading but not TV which strangely does not replace the pictures that I have in my mind. I think it’s important to be active with something and not passive. The activity itself overwrites any worry or concern you may have. If you try not to worry about something that will make things worse.

There are many worse types of waiting. You can wait for your husband to come back from a war when the outcome is far from clear, you can wait for your partner to return from a six month contract abroad or you can wait for someone that you love to get out of prison not knowing when they will emerge. I wonder if Skype conversations makes things better or worse. It just fans the flames of desire for the proximity of the person and offers just a tantalising view. Better than nothing I suppose. At least they can see the children.

In a different category, you can be waiting for someone who has disappeared.  275,000 Brits. disappear each year. The people who they leave behind must blame themselves or wonder what they did wrong. Such waiting is pure torture; that situation would be almost impossible for me to entertain because I don’t like losing control over my environment. Another worse type  of waiting is when you are due in court in six months time. It may be a divorce case. In spite of the assurances from your solicitor, a lot can go wrong and often does. It’s a question of who is believed and some people are very plausible in court.

All in all, I have nothing to complain about.


Do people really care? Do dogs love us?

The press or should I say the Main Stream Media  would have us believe that we are becoming a more uncaring society but in spite of that I see many acts of goodwill and courtesy. Why is this? I remember reading that if you put a certain number of rats in a cage they behaved reasonably well towards each other. If you introduce more and more rats until it became overcrowded their behaviour starts to change and they became more aggressive about the invasion of their territory.

my beloved regular bus service from West Dulwich to Brixton. This was in my London days. Incidentally, it was common for me to be the only white person on the bus and, resident as I am in Midsomer Norton, Somerset,  I kind of miss it.

If you took a bunch of apparently uncaring silent people staring into space on the top of the No 3 bus to Crystal Palace and try to evaluate them you’d think what an introverted lot they were. If you were to take these very same people and place them on a bench outside a pub in Cornwall, bring on some lovely scrumpy, you would have complete strangers talking to each other after 10 or so minutes if not before. So there are two factors here. First the person themselves with their psychology, and secondly the environment in which they live. An intrinsically functional person in the wrong environment can be real pain in the backside and the fact of the matter is they don’t enjoy this at all.

We may be confusing the ‘lack of caring’ with lack of being able to find a supportive environment where it is possible to open up and be oneself. For my own part, I spend most of my time on my own so it is very easy to develop an infrastructure which is comfortable. If I were to spend eight hours of my day at work in a large corporation, I doubt if the real me could emerge and that includes the manifestation and pride in my uniqueness. The downside of being on your own is that if you are lonely about one particular thing there is no one to share it with – excluding of course those closest to you.

We do suffer from the stiff upper lip, but I think less than we used to. This article was prompted by the attitudes of a couple of people that I regard as friends. They are very happy to talk about themselves and yet when I start to talk about myself they switch off. I can think of a number of reasons for this, charitable and uncharitable. The most charitable thing I can say is that people are so anxious and concerned about their own problems that they see anyone else’s ingress as something that will smother them somehow and destabilise them. The most uncharitable thing I can say that social behaviour is learnt and perhaps people need to be reminded that others have a need to have their problems and situations listened to. I think selfishness is a mug’s game because it leaves so little room for learning about the good things in life.

If they were happy people then surely hearing about other happy people would be a bonus. If they are not happy people, hearing about a happy friend just rubs salt into the wounds so you don’t particularly want to be reminded of this especially if you see your own current situation to be insoluble. Example, a couple together who don’t really want to be together but can’t afford to separate because of a communal mortgage. Insofar as that is the case they have to live a phoney life and someone who is living a real life true to themselves will again rub salt into the wounds just by being themselves.

I do occasionally meet liberated souls in the streets or anywhere come to that. We seem to recognise each other, smile, and pass the time. I do feel that most human beings are in an open prison due to the long-term effects of not dealing with problems when they arise. I’d say rather cynically or perhaps realistically than one in every 20 persons I meet have a degree of freedom which I find attractive and all these, most would be classed as eccentric, out-of-the-box, nonconformists, including a special category of artists for whom I have a soft spot. When I meet artists I forgive them for anything they have done, are doing, or will do, because being an artist in an unaesthetic world is almost impossible to achieve and requires great focus and single-mindedness.

I do not know what Samuel Pepys would say about the sort of dialogue above but he probably chose his friends carefully. ” My Lord” who was his benefactor he had to be nice to but I get the impression that he doesn’t suffer fools gladly and he would quickly tire of tedious company. Pepys does have a charitable and observational side to him there is no question.

Thomas Povey FRS

On Tuesday, 3 May 1664 Pepys talks about a Mr Thomas Povey FRS (who was a London merchant – politician who was active in colonial affairs from the 1650s, and his considerable influence in the not yet professionalised first English Empire)  and says ” for, of all the men in the world, I never knew any man of his degree so great a coxcomb* in such employments. I see I have lost him for ever, but I value it not; for he is a coxcomb and, I doubt, not over honest, buy some things which I see; and yet, for all his folly, he had the good lucke, now and then, to speak his follies in as many good words, and with as good a show, as if it were reason, and to the purpose, which is really one of the wonders of my life.
* A vain and conceited man; a dandy

So coming back to my original question of caring, and I think I will be returning to this numerous times, I think there is a tendency to care which in dwells in us as we are human beings. This is unfortunately eclipsed so we do not see it and the symptoms of hiding are the criteria we use to judge people which can be misguided. Having said that, first impressions do count and we don’t have endless time to form an opinion of someone during our busy daily life.

I think if we can attain the unconditional love of the average mutt by the time we die we will be doing fairly well. Dogs are amazing and forgiving. You can abuse them and they come nuzzling up to you as if you hadn’t done anything. No lessons to learn then.

A well and truly out of control Leylandii. These are one of the fastest-growing trees and are the subject of frequent litigation between neighbours.

After a fairly productive day in the garden, we went off to see a potential customer who had a huge Leylandii hedge and tree to trim, and about 20 m of 2 m high hedge, or collection of different types of shrubs comprising a hedge. The couple moved into their property five years ago. It is quite common for people to focus on house first of all and then finally to deal with the garden.  I had great difficulty in dealing with the price because I was not sure how many trips to the recycle are required and this does bump up the time hugely.

And so to a movie for our weekly treat

We try and have a least one day out every week. This is not so easy when the gardening season is in full swing or when Francoise is attending Yoga or painting classes. We went to see “The Sense of an Ending” at the Little Theatre in Bath.

art work in the Indian buffet – this is style writ large
calling all airborne germs calling all germs I am wonderfully hot and sticky and nutritious so attach yourself to me

Prior to that we had our usual Gorge-Fest in Jimmy’s restaurant where for a very moderate amount of money you get an ‘all you can eat’ three course meal.

Soup of the day, various salads, 14 choices of the main dishes –  Chinese or Indian or Mexican. Cakes, sweets, ice cream, chocolate fondue (the best-known germ collector I have ever seen) choreographed by the ever welcoming and polite Indian staff.

I tend not to go during school holidays. Very generously anyone under 10 years of age gets fed free but this does result in a lot of noisy people and I’m one who likes to eat in peace.

a retro Lambretta, one of the many works of art in the entrance hall of Jimmies Restaurant

Unlike most buffet restaurants they have a selection of rather good photographs and artworks, of which I have given two examples.

You can always tell the professional buffet eaters.  The novices pile everything on one plate. They mix salad, meat, fish, and gobble it all down as if it were going to disappear, giving themselves indigestion in the  process. The professionals take their time, have their courses in order, visit the buffet many times, and relish everything to the full. Professionals recognise each other: we have secret wink and a smile rather like the Masons have a secret handshake. “we know it’s good value and we are here to take full advantage.”

As Pepys would say, on to the Little Theatre, which is a stone’s throw away from the Roman Baths. It had good management, showing a steady stream of quality films which do not insult the intelligence. Inside the theatre there is a miniature bar and I do mean miniature with room for one person to work or maybe two slim people. It sells coffee, limited supplies of drinks, and sweets.   We entered the auditorium 10 min before the film programme started. There were 6 people when we arrived but at the end of the film there were 14. I don’t  think you can expect many more for a weekday crowd at 1:45 PM

I am a Luddite in certain respects but I believe that these days films are streamed on high quality broadband lines rather via an actual reel of film being taken from theatre to theatre. If so, that is good news because it keeps the distribution costs down in theory anyway.

One thing I’m not very good at is understanding subtle stories. The first reason is that I tend to drift off to sleep for short periods and that is not very helpful when it comes to identifying a key point in the script. I am far too easily distracted when it comes to sensory things like noise and the first thing I was acutely aware of it was someone rattling a crisp packet. I’m very good at glowering at people if they make a noise. I did so and the woman got the message and quietened down though trust me you cannot eat crisps silently.

The film duly started and I was immediately attracted by the leisurely pace and the meticulous working or should I say outworking of the script. Each character had time to establish him or herself to the audience. There were not too many actors, there were no guns there was no violence. Massive amounts of brownie points for that. I find flashback techniques quite difficult to understand if I don’t know why the flashbacks are happening. Anyway this is the gist of the film formula so far as I understand it and it can be applied to many films.

  1. Someone did something wrong when they were young
    2. there was a misunderstanding with the result that they accuse someone or something that they did not do
    3. many years and several divorces later they decide they want to do something about it by way of apology
    4. they track down the people concerned who of course mistrust them, and attempted to repair the damage
    5. the film ends with a sort of reconciliation as good as can be expected bearing in mind the fragile nature of the human ego
Charlotte Rampling

Charlotte Rampling OBE, 71 this year, has perfect timing, amazing presence and a variety of facial expressions that alone communicate more meaning than half an hour’s worth of news on TV.

She could ask someone to pass the salt and could sound like a seductress or a female dictator. She started modelling and acting in the swinging 60s and hasn’t stopped yet.

Jim Broadbent

Jeremy Corbyn AKA Jim Broadbent holds our attention for most of the film and I think it’s worth seeing for his acting alone which is outstanding in terms of pregnant pauses and timing. He says as much with silence as he does speaking.

Thank you Director Ritesh Batra for allowing the film to move out its own speed and for such sensitive attention to detail.
However, such films reflecting on past mistakes and times of childhood make me very maudlin and I left the movie theatre with mixed feelings, a feeling of being pulled into the past which wasn’t very nice but by contrast a feeling that I’m in the present which is a bit safer.

We made two discoveries on our way back to the bus station. We stopped off at a Polish shop to buy one of my favourites, Kafir, a type of sour milk. I also bought some pâte. Chinese shops are not very good at promotion or perhaps they don’t have to, but we discovered one tucked away run by a jolly husband-and-wife team and we bought noodles and some hot pepper sauce which we cannot get in any English supermarket. We returned home loaded with food and happy as the proverbial sand person.

I decided to have some business cards printed announcing these diaries and giving them out to all and sundry, especially those about whom I write something. I would like everyone to write a diary because I think it’s so therapeutic apart from being informative in this age of “fake news” and finally making the point that everyone has a contribution they can make to society.

The cards arrived this morning Wednesday at 10 AM having been ordered 40 hours earlier this last Monday,  bank holiday. I think they cost me about £16 for 250. There is no question that the Internet is making suppliers very aware of the need for good service. I love it when you get a text or e-mail when your item has been dispatched, and if it is to be collected at at another place notifying the customer of that as well.

Samuel Pepys the drama critic, grey grey sky, computer problems

Thomas Killgrew as he appeared in 1650. one of the leading actors of this period.

Samuel Pepys is certainly blunt with his criticism. On Monday, 2 May 1664, he went to the Kings Playhouse (now the Theatre Royal) with his wife and a ‘mademoiselle’ friend, “and there sawThe Labyrinth,’ the poorest play, me thinks, that I ever saw, there being nothing in it but the odd accidents that fell out, by a ladies being bred up in man’s apparel, and a man in a woman’s”.  As if that were not enough, “thence in the coach to the park, where no pleasure; there being much dust, little company, and one of our horses almost spoiled by falling down, and getting his leg over the pole; but all mended presently”.

We are going to London later on this month and I shall be doing a tour of where Pepys was born, lived, and died.

Sometimes you wake up in the morning to a sky that is just plain grey. No redeeming features of any sort. It’s not raining, It’s not windy, it’s not cold – just grey. However I have decided to have a positively technicolour day because the physical senses comprise only about 1% of what is actually going on in terms of wavelength.

A new SSD arrived yesterday. Solid State Drive to the uninitiated. My ever helpful computer man, Terry, told me to clear out the data that I didn’t need and the programs that I didn’t use. The trouble is  two fold.  First I don’t know what programs and software I need because they have rather strange names. Secondly I use quite a lot of programs, not frequently but I use them and they do eat up the gigabytes. My new SSD is 525 Gb but that’s not an awful lot these days. For those of you that remember the Bible, the old and new Testament takes about 15 MB which is but a comma compared with the average software installation.

We do earn the majority of our income doing gardening in what I laughingly call the summer  but it has been so dry of late that no rain = no growth = no jobs. Give me a few days of rain and we will have jobs aplenty but now all we do is to contend with the usual Spring burst of life that will not get us far.

On R5Live a man was talking about his emotional breakdown and how he had to summon up the courage to tell his boss. In the event, his boss could not have been more helpful and provided all the sources of support that were necessary. The sufferer was saying that there is no stigma admitting that you got a broken leg or arm or that you are exhausted, but as soon as you admit to an emotional or mental problem then another level of courage is required.

Strange, isn’t it, how we identify ourselves with  our weakest point.  Why is it that we think we will be judged, rejected, laughed at, when our software is not functioning the way it should. Everyone has suffered mentally at some time or another so any laughter may be the laughter of a nervous person who can see him or her self reflected in the person who confesses. I think on this topic we don’t know how to broach the subject. Possibly the best way to do it is to start in a soft way and say “I haven’t been feeling very well lately”. If the person is not interested in you they will talk about something else but if they are interested in you than they will ask the question and encourage you to talk.

Let’s have none of this nonsense about “not wanting to trouble anyone”. I’m not talking about continual whingeing which is a pain but the people not wanting to trouble others are often those who would themselves go out of their way to help a stranger or friend in need so come on now, the universe owes you a bit, so don’t be shy. You should pick your place and time. If you phone someone when you sense that they’re busy you could at least ask them if it’s convenient to speak but I would say in almost every case it’s better to do it face-to-face. I’m not even sure that Skype is good enough. I think it has to be the immediacy of the living people. The same applies even more to Twitter and Facebook. I recall reading about a young lady who had 650 friends or so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook. She said that she felt like taking her own life. No one responded so guess what, she did.

the art of negotiating, more on autism

Elizabeth Pepys, wife of Samuel

The diary of Samuel Pepys of 1 May 1664

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed. Went not to church, but staid at home to examine my last night’s accounts, which I find right, and that I am 908l. creditor in the world, the same I was last month.

Nice to know that these now famous people have a day off, relatively speaking. Interestingly, Pepys did not see himself as famous. He just liked keeping a diary and only stopped when he was fearful for his eyesight. The fame came because in retrospect people now see the keeping of the diary as a unique record of the time, most commonly associated with the record of the Fire of London.

the fire of London at its height

Anyway about today’s entry,  Pepys took his wife on the Thames and met some friends at a Halfway House, 3 miles from London Bridge at which they dined and conversed. No telephones in those days. You had to sit down and actually talk to someone my goodness whatever next.

Today I feel a need to move forward in my dealings with the hospital. Last week I made a proposal to them about a certain matter which must be private for the moment. In any large organisation there is the immediate reaction of the people present at the meeting to be considered,and then as a totally different matter their obligation to fit in with the terms and conditions of the management of the institution concerned whatever it is.

Any new scheme needs to be scrutinised and although a pessimistic view should not be taken, investigations have to be made to ensure that the integrity of the scheme is whiter than white. It is a good idea never to have to rely on one person. No one is indispensable.

Any proposal for anything needs to have not only an idea, but relevant experience i.e. a track record and an understanding of the particular section of society to which they are addressing themselves. I have tried to put myself in the position of the receiver of the idea to see what problems they could spot down the line. This is partly because I tend to be a victim of my own enthusiasm, or fail to see, or want to see, the potential flaws and weaknesses (not quite the same meanings by the way).

I did a revised piece over the weekend, as a follow-up to the meeting I have put in a proposal as a consequence of
1.  what was said by the other parties at the meeting
2.  how it was said
3.  what was not said
4. No own thoughts since the meeting

That is why time should elapse, preferably overnight, before we decide how to respond to anything. The phrase “make haste slowly” comes to mind otherwise known as festina lente or “more haste less speed’. The Emperor Augustus used this as his motto.

I’m enjoying reading the book that I mentioned previously “The Reason I Jump” dictated by an autistic young man. It should be compulsory reading for everybody with a child with such a condition. It is very easy read with each chapter consisting of about two pages if that. One of these chapters I like very much so here is a quote therefrom.

Q – Why do you enjoy going out for walks so much?
A – “…The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in the world, and our entire bodies get recharged. However often were ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts…. Green is life, and that’s the reason we love to go out for walks.”

So, the image of these people being stupid is completely erroneous. They just can’t get the thoughts out into the outside world like the rest of us do.

So, I have sent my magic letter off to the NHS and compressed the points down to one side of A4 and now all I can do is sit and wait.

And now for a complete change of subject or as John Cleese used to say in Monty Python

“and now for something completely different”

I have a friend who shall be nameless who is in a lot of financial and job difficulty. She knows all this but her pride prevents her from accepting help never mind sympathy. it’s difficult to ring up and say brightly, “well how are you then” when I will probably be snapped at  for my troubles. I think sometimes people have to be left to sort themselves out on their own.

They know what they have done and they know the consequences of it and it is very corny to say “well, I’m here if you need me” but that’s what I want to say. Maybe I send a card or an e-mail or even a text. I’m reluctant to do any of those and I think all I can do is to just bear them in mind and hope that I have the sort of vibe that will encourage them to call if they have such a need.  A helpful thing that I have just thought of is that I’m not the only friend or contact of the person and if they don’t feel comfortable talking to me then maybe there is someone else who has far more experience and rapport than I do who can help them just fine.

A cartoon of Maxine which is hung in the main bar

To lunch at the Old Down Inn. As ever, the one and only Maxine, the owner, looks after us all in her own way. I recall a Pub in Cape Town, South Africa, which was run by a person of great character who looked after individuals like he’s known them for ages. The time came to sell and he sold to someone who looked at the figures and found them good but what were not contained in the figures was the fact that the original owners’ popularity was what kept the place going. Without him, trade eventually disappeared and the new buyer sold at a loss. People do not come to pubs just to drink but for the atmosphere and the friendly nature of the landlord. I think someone with the right personality could resurrect a pub from the dead but it’s not something you learn, it’s either something you have got or you haven’t. You either like people or you don’t.

Maxine has it, by the spade full.


Radio Five Live and the hard avocado

Never let it be said that I am the late riser. Today as I look out of my study window at 6.09 AM the sun’s power is slowly increasing, the sky is blue without a cloud and the odd bird is fluttering around.

Louise Cooper and Sean Farrington – hmm – looks like a photoshop interposition

‘Wake Up With Money’ is part of Radio Five’s weekday morning routine. Sean and Louise are up there bright as buttons. How they manage to combine family lives with getting up at some ungodly hour in the morning beats me.  What normal person would do this type of thing?  Mind you, normal people bore me to death so maybe it doesn’t matter if they are as mad as Hatters. The pair, not to mention the producers and support staff, must be up at the latest at 3:30 AM and probably before. I hope they don’t live too far from the studio in Manchester. I recall the song ‘Sixteen Tons’ sung by Johnny Cash including the words ” I sold my soul to the company store” and I suppose you have to do this with such punishing hours.

So where does the avocado come into this? This morning’s topic was on the price and availability of food and they were lamenting the shortages of this and that including avocados. I was listening in bed via my earpiece while my other half remained in the arms of Morpheus. I do not mean Morpheus as in the film The Matrix because that would mean something far more sinister and existential. I mean Morpheus as in morphine. Sean, one of the presenters, was talking about avocados. I noticed during a recent trip to Bristol that they were being sold at for £1.50 for two, but they were inevitably as hard at bullets and need to be rested for a week or so before you can eat them. They almost need a “Best eaten after” date label.

no, surely the squeeze test is from end to end?

I felt I had to make some contribution to the program so, bleary eyed, I crawled or should I say crept out of bed into the living room, turned on my device and texted the following comment to 85058 “what is the point in buying an avocado that is as hard as a bullet irrespective of price. Brian”.  I took off my glasses and crept back into bed and put my earpiece on again. Lo and behold, I heard my own words being repeated back to me by the presenter. We have a text from Brian……..   If I may say so, that is blistering efficiency.

Radio Five Live have won a number of awards and they deserve them. They keep the standards high, bright and witty. It is the station to respond quickest to any developing news item and seems to be oblivious whether it is night or day. This contrasts with the increasingly widespread use of that dreadful “breaking” appellation so beloved of certain channels particularly in the USA where the most trivial news items are “breaking”. Nothing is too trivial to be used as a diversion from getting people to actually think. I regard the audiences at some TV shows as members of a ” performing animal circus” where the audience is lit up in blue and red for some reason and have obviously been prepared by some manic producer to whoop and hoot at the slightest display of individuality or eccentricity. This shows what a curmudgeonly being I am for which I take full responsibility and frankly at my age I can say anything I like because no one will take any notice.

For some reason, this type of dreadful dumbing down trend does not apply to Radio Five Live. I listen to it more during the night than during the day and you will be amazed how many people want to give their opinions at 2:30 AM in the morning. They are not nerds, just people with brains who want to find an outlet for their views and expressions. I’m not saying I’m delirious about every aspect of this channel. On the Wake Up programme referred to above, Rico from Singapore gets on my nerves a little bit by prefacing every other sentence with “Sean Louise”. Credit to him, though, he is always full of beans, completely positive, and the biggest gossip about the financial world and stock market trends that I know of.

“if you get it wrong again I will kill you” – Louise having a controlled mental crisis (I’m only joking)

Other irritating things on R5Live are a wall blast compilation of sports achievements where the final moments of winning a football game, a Formula 1 motor race, or some other act of sporting prowess are related at hysterical breakneck speed. It is then when I take my earpiece out of my ear. But they are forgiven. I suppose you got to wake the dead somehow.

However, for sheer consistency in being on the ball, editorially brave, and bantering in a happy journalistic way, R5Live takes a lot of beating.  I was going to say they “take the biscuit” but that expression can have a pejorative meaning. This phrase is either the equivalent of ‘taking the cake’, meaning to take the first prize, or that behaviour ‘takes the biscuit’, or even worse ‘that just about takes the biscuit’  because of its shocking nature.

Such a wonderful language is English. Take the word ‘live’. How does a naive student of English know how to pronounce the same word with two meanings.  Is it ‘i’ as in idiot or ‘i’ as in eye. However, learning English is nothing compared with Hungarian and Finnish (the Finno Ugrian group of languages including Estonian) not to mention Icelandic. if I wanted to say “Hungarian is difficult to learn” it would be “A magyar nyelv nehéz tanulni”. or with Icelandic “Íslenska er erfitt að læra”.  Aren’t we so lucky we were born in an English-speaking country, or are we?

We could have a poll to decide which language is easiest to learn. I would say Spanish. Anyway, it is now 7.13 AM and time for another coffee. The day has not even started for most people. I feel a tiny bit smug about that but not so much as I would tell anyone.

Priston Prosecco is the order of the day

So there they were, these glasses of bubbly, full to the brim and laid out in a rather seductive manner. How could I resist? I had a glass of Prosecco for £3 served by two delightful ladies which set me up for the afternoon.

The village of Priston has a population which at the last official count is listed as 232 souls, but today I saw at least three times that due to the attraction of the May Day Festival which is held annually on, guess when, May 1st.

The event is centred around the village hall for which funds are being sought and all profits go to charity as they say. Behind the pub and the village hall is a small car park where stall holders were plying their trade.

There was a stall selling crêpes which to my mind was the most doubtful value of all. I have enclosed a price list which you see. The owner was just making a layer of flour and milk as you do and putting a dusting of various ingredients, for example Nutella, and charging £4. I would say the value of ingredients was about £0.30. Maybe he gave the profits to the Village Hall so I will maintain an open stance towards this.

a formidable array of home-cooked cakes
a whole squadron of cream teas waiting to fly off the table

On the other hand there was an amazing collection of cakes and scones in the village hall. I was so greedy I had two cakes both of which were delicious, and were home made by the local ladies. The cost was £2 for a generous slice of cake and scones. I had two cakes.

There was enthusiastic and varied Morris and Maypole dancing plus the local Radstock Brass Band who played a series of upbeat numbers.

a happy band indeed

I don’t think they get paid anything for this so well done for turning out in all weathers, sometimes travelling distances but always in the service of the community.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP. Does he ever go off duty

I spotted Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset who is going to be out of a job on 5 May when Parliament dissolves in time for the election on 8 June.

the sign which you cannot see says ” ice cream for sale”

There was a splendid lady who went around selling ice creams with a sign round her neck a bit like a bib. She was very charming and personable and I hope she eventually sold a lot of product.

I had a chat with a man who had a strange elongated watch, which turned out to be a Garmin HealthWatch, it is called a Vivosmart HR+ with GPS activity tracker. It does everything except make tea.

It registers the number of steps you’ve made during the day, your pulse rate, in fact any type of physical activity. It has an inbuilt GPS which tracks distance and pace while at the same time mapping your progress. The man only bought this gadget a couple of weeks ago but he’s very excited about it like a kid with a new toy.

a general gaggle of people in the area behind the village hall and the pub

This event was the best example of a free and easy experience where quite frankly you could to stop and talk to anyone, say outrageous things, and nobody minds. It is pleasant to be in the company of intelligent and well educated people. For a start they know how to behave and there is a level of acuity and awareness in the atmosphere which I appreciate and in which cocoon I feel at home.

May Day ou (venez) m’aider and Phil Gyford

Today dawns a bright sunny morning and Other Half and I are off to a Mayday event in Priston which is a small historical village about 6 miles from here. I would be even happier if it was warmer with less threat of rain but hey this is England. It is notable that some small villages are very well served from the communications point of view due to the literacy and sophistication of the people who live there. Awareness of the wider world is correlated to the activity in the neocortex and although intellect is not just ‘of the left brain’, such cerebral activity and a good dose of self-discipline certainly helps. The link above shows the Priston website.

I wish all villages had such a site. Building a web site for pages or blogging is as cheap as chips these days and if you are able to read and type, you just get on with it. If you get stuck, you can be sure that someone else has the same problem what ever it is so just type the keywords into Youtube or google and before your very eyes there will be a demonstration. Technically you just need to register a domain name (a few pounds), it could be your own name, and find a firm to host the site. Beware, the actual hosting is not the problem is the quality of service if you get stuck, and it is sometimes worth paying for a host within your own country. The big domain name sellers and hosts, normally based in the USA, do not have a live helpline and rely on Q &A to solve any problems. Inevitably your problems are not covered by the Q&A. When you have a problem and realise that you cannot contact anyone, that’s when the lack of personal service becomes a real bore.

This morning I discovered the architect of the Samuel Pepys website where one page of the diary is issued on a daily basis with the date if not the year of his activity. I receive it and look forward to reading its contents. The architect’s name is Phil Gyford and you can read all about him here.  some people are destined to be in public view, and some are designed to be backroom people and do an immense amount of good through software development, contributing ideas, helping other people to do what they do best and I think Phil is in this category. It warms my heart to read about him because I also feel that I’m in this category.

Incidentally, I have just looked at my own stats for today and I see I have visitors to my site from Ireland, Perth Australia, Sri Lanka but mainly for some reason from Finland. It makes the world a very small and cosy place to know that complete strangers are tuning in to what you have to say

I wrote Phil a letter of introduction to myself thanking him for his contribution to the Samuel Pepys legend. I mentioned speech to text software, without which I could not produce this diary in such a short time. DragonDictate has been used by me for about 13 years now. Many people have tried speech to text and have been put off it because they tried an early version but now the amount of RAM in computers is a useful 4 GB which is what you need for high-speed computer processing and I find I can get near to 100% accuracy.

One thing I do have to remember, and that is to switch off before talking to people on the phone or in the room because not only will you see garbled version of your conversation on whatever program you are using but Dragon listens out what might be instructions to your computer and I have had files deleted, and page down scrolls which I did not intend. If my wife knocks on my door, she has to allow me a few seconds to turn off the listening ear. This is not so serious as some of Amazon’s creations I’m sure including the Dot, but it will be some time before I get round to that.

This assumes good articulation. The software allows for training which is particularly useful with unusual words, for example my surname, but it is not absolutely vital.  You have to develop a talent for thinking what you are speaking about while speaking. Once you have mastered the art your productivity goes up enormously. It is worth saying that if you are trying to write a missive on a website, the response will appear to be slow because there is so much hidden software within the site which will slow down the appearance of your words on the page. The most uncluttered client for such work is WordPad as one example.

Actual rain!!! – THE book arrives

My goodness, it’s actually raining. Not much but at least it’s enough to change the colour of the ground. I watch BBC weather forecasts and I am reduced to despair when I see the graphics. They find it necessary to project a picture of rain on the screen as if we didn’t know what rain was. I wish that newscasters would just sit down and read the news instead of standing, walking around the studios, and having very large backdrops of images which sate the senses but give little information.

On another matter, the Amazon machine has kicked into action.

Saturday 4:30 PM    mentioned book about autistic person was ordered
Saturday 9:38 PM    email – the book is dispatched
Sunday  10:06 AM    email – the book is out for delivery
Sunday   2:25 PM     the book was posted through my letterbox
Sunday  2:35 PM      email – ” your package has been posted through your letterbox”

Amazon certainly works seven days a week, 24 hours a day. I hear the Amazon couriers are pressured so much so that they don’t get time even to go to the loo, never mind have a meal break. Still, I say to myself in mitigation, it does give weekend employment to those who need the money. I do wonder how anyone survives on the national minimum wage except by living at home perhaps.  If you are a giant company and get a certain density of orders in a given geographical area, I suppose you can pay the deliverer £1 or £1.50 a piece and still make a profit.

Off to the allotment to collect rhubarb. There is so much to pick that I could have rhubarb every day. I have picked 10 large sticks and I will give some to the next door neighbour who has just moved in.

11°C so that a good enough excuse for a fire.

The day began like any other day

We had spent a quiet day together doing the garden and spending some time preparing lunch. Little did I know what was going to hit me in terms of learning experience. About 2:30 in the afternoon I switched on the TV. I think we were having a late lunch. There followed a sequence of events that focused me exactly where I needed to be both in the attitude to myself and to others with a certain type of disability.

Naoki Higashida. until this afternoon I had not heard of this amazing young man. I felt I should tune in to Japanese NHK TV, which is our favorite non-English channel with a quality of reporting way above what we see in the West. We have about 600 channels to choose from so why I chose this one at this particular time is a mystery . The same thing happens with travel and the people we meet; we seem to get the timing right on each occasion. I regard this as a real blessing and I seem to be looked after by some mysterious force.

This young man featured on the programme has autism and is looked after by his mother. I enclose some snapshots from the TV to give some idea of the length and breadth of his intellect. He has written a book that has been translated into 30 languages and on watching this TV documentary I immediately ordered it via Amazon prime; it should arrive tomorrow Sunday (yes, you read that right). It is called “The Reason I Jump” – one boy’s voice from the silence of autism.

What is amazing is the number of people throughout the world that have been affected by the book particularly parents with autistic children, who have been enabled to get inside of the head of the autistic person and understand where the problem lies or what the symptoms indicate. I’m really humbled and moved by carers who are driven with a motive that is innocent and altruistic and they go on doing so day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. This type of action cannot be faked. Autistic people themselves have no choice, they have to carry on in spite of gross dysphasia between their intentions and the interpretation of the people in the outside world

In his description of how he sees life, I could see this as an amplified version of how I feel sometimes. For example if I picture something in my head I cannot talk about it at the same time. The vision takes precedence.

with the unwavering assistance of his mother he communicates using a ‘keyboard’  which is in English and speaks in Japanese at the same time. It is a mystery how this works.
he is objecting to stereotyping of his condition when being asked a question by a reporter



he said he was happy although he had no friends
he was invited over to Ireland by this father who had read his book and was moved by it. The father has a son with a similar condition. They met but they did not speak but shook hands at the end
this was the advice he gave to the reporter who asked him about how we should conduct ourselves
looking out of an apartment at a familiar scene.





On an entirely different matter, these are the number of automated attacks made by robots on PC’s in the last week. This shows how essential it is to have protection precautions with your computer especially if you host a website. Block Count
Russian Federation Russian Federation 74,350,963
Ukraine Ukraine 26,408,116
United States United States 21,631,135
Turkey Turkey 19,499,390
India India 15,741,988
Brazil Brazil 10,263,209
France France 9,503,834
China China 8,034,118
Korea, Republic of Korea, Republic of 7,133,979
Philippines Philippines 6,382,397






How can any day be boring? … ladies – how to escape from men

Even Samuel Pepys, the great diarist of the 17th century, is capable of having a bad day. He wrote on Thursday, 28 April 1664 …

” quite tired with business, and without joy in myself otherwise then I am by God’s grace enabled to go through it and one day, hope to have benefit by it”

I may be fortunate, but I find that as soon as I get up I’m “full of beans” as the English say. Moving from the horizontal position to the vertical position seems to trigger my brain to full action for the day. After my requisite coffee, I turned on the TV to hear about a breast surgeon who had mutilated hundreds maybe thousands of women over a period of 15 years and it makes me wonder where the controls are both in private medicine and in the NHS that someone can do this for so long. In China you would be executed for such a thing.

My galaxy has a facility for summarising news in various categories with a left swipe on the screen. One item particularly caught my attention. The essence is that female dragonflies are faking their death to avoid the attention of males. Researcher Rassim Khelifa was doing studies on the Moorland Hawker dragonfly while collecting larvae in the Swiss Alps. While he was working, a female being pursued by a male crash dived into the ground and then lay motionless on her back until the suitor flew away. Once the coast was clear, she got up and left.

Moorland Hawker dragonfly

The researcher was intrigued and paid special attention to this phenomena. He found that dragonflies faking their death is standard practice when a male will not leave the female alone. 27 out of the 31 female dragonflies he watched used this tactic to avoid males.

So ladies, can we learn from nature here. If you’re being pursued by an unwanted male I’m not suggesting you dive bomb yourself into the ground but how about freezing? How about an expressionless face? Maybe it’s better then giving any form of attention to the unwelcome intruder.

The brain is the ultimate relational database and can produce enough new ideas to keep us going 24 hours a day. the question which I shall only deal with briefly here is this “what causes us to stop being creative?”. I can give a lot of cheesy answers but basically it would be fear and insecurity. With the former, it would  be more accurate to say ‘angst’ which is fear without a clear object. Insecurity is another matter and that may arise from this dreaded word “normality”.

Predicating your behaviour on what you surmise others will think of you is a pathology. It kills spontaneity stone dead. If you were an artist, and we all are in a way, would you refuse to paint a new picture because you think it might not be received by the public? No, you paint it anyway, because it lies within you and demands expression.

Once you become creative consistently, you are hooked and you will never return to normality and conventionality again. You have taken the blue pill in terms of the film the Matrix. for those unfamiliar with the quote, here it is:

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

The term ‘red pill’ refers to a human that is willing to be made aware of the true nature of the Matrix.

I think most of our insecurities if not all of them originate from within our mind and that is why the mainstream media of the world are so focused on using the word ‘terror’ and ‘fear’ time and time again to make us terrified of being ourselves and subservient to the invisible machine that tries to control our very thinking.



the day of the grand sort-out of my attire

My clothes occupy far too much space; I only wear a fraction of them depending on whether it is for work, play, rain or shine, summer or winter, or more formal occasions such as dinners and weddings. What causes me to keep clothes that are well beyond their sell by date and out of fashion. Referring to the latter point, however, I have to note that fashions come and go and may be if I hang on to those trousers another 10 years they will be back in fashion and I can wear them with pride.

For the record, which I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for, here are the numbers:

vests and T-shirts  19
suits 2
short trousers 5
Winter jerseys 9
ties 14
jackets formal and informal  12
trousers formal and informal 16
shirts long and short sleeved 26

oh, the ties! I know some of them are 20 years old at least and quite dusty but I don’t want to throw away my college tie “Dunelm” apart from all the other quirky ones I have accumulated so I think I’ll put them in the little ball and forget all about them. Maybe when I die I will need one for my own funeral. I find that ties constrict the throat and are uncomfortable.

Currently, all the clothes that I own are lying in inglorious heaps in my living room if you can bear to look at them. A sad and sorry collection, un-ironed and unloved but let it be said with a few gems amongst them. Some have exceeded their use because my geographic dimensions have expanded somewhat for reasons that I shall only know when I pass over at the Pearly Gates, not that St. Peter will be that interested in my dimensions. He has seen them all; anorexic, rotund, athletic, unfit, attractive or plain and ordinary.

If, according to the Internet, 151,600 people die each day then that gives this saintly figure 0.5699208 seconds to evaluate each person. By any standards this does not allow time for lingering so I imagine he is interested in other matters, the summation of good and bad we have done, whether we loved our mother-in-law, whether we had been too interested in mammon or whether we sought the greater good.

Maybe not right for the supermarket on Saturday morning but hey each to his own.

In this context, the clothes we wear would seem to have very little relevance. I imagine cavemen either had their shorts and top on or they did not. Scullery maids either had their uniform on or a simple outfit for rest and recreation such as it was. And here we are, in the so-called civilised 20th-century, worrying about whether we should wear this or that colour or type of garb and whether we should be regarded as square (which is in itself an old-fashioned term) or cool. My view of clothing is that we should wear it to merge into the background and not draw attention to ourselves.

The other restriction is that we should not dress in such a way as to frighten small children. Apart from that, anything seems to go especially in places like the United Kingdom. You could walk down the road in a leotard and I don’t think anyone would care.

I’m not interested in the current phase of exhibitionism and instant fame particularly among the ladies I have to say. The amount of pounds of fatty tissue women have in their breast area is irrelevant and frankly if I saw the same type of fatty tissue in a butchers window I wouldn’t look twice. I agree this is not the most romantic statement ever uttered, but I do wonder why us men are fascinated with breasts; is it the mother thing?

I suppose we all suckled at one point so maybe this is a past life memory – who knows. There is no proof that a woman with big breasts is any more interesting than a woman with smaller breasts in fact it is probably quite the converse. If she knows that a man will come running when she blinks and pouts then there doesn’t have to be much in the upstairs department if you get my politically incorrect point. PS I was born politically incorrect and I intend to stay that way. PC is for wimps.

Anyway back to the subject of clothes. I had roughly 150 items to sort out. I have thrown away about a quarter, put another quarter in for washing and the rest I keep. I’d almost forgotten what clothes I had and I realised that I have needlessly brought duplicates. however, I am a long way before I reach Imelda Marcos’ record of 3000 pairs of shoes. She denied having 3000 pairs and said she only had 1060 pairs. I’m quite self depreciating about clothes but a good clean appearance, smartness, is important when making a first impression and I think we all need a few sets of decent clothes when we are about town. I believe Milan in Italy is very couture conscious, ditto Rome and Paris.

viewing the smaller from the greater

I had the good fortune and the honour of meeting a retired professor of world politics from America who had settled near Bath whom I met at a temporary exhibition of remarkable photographs in the Victoria Hall Gallery, Bath. He was a duty volunteer at the time. I struck up a conversation as I am wont to do and said that although it was my fifth visit, the photographs spoke to me in a different way each time. They are on the theme of war and conflict and too much to digest at one go. I described it as seeing 12 movie films one after the other. I commented that a good photographer always asks a question and invites you into the scene. We got talking about politics and so on and as you would expect he was very alert on comparing UK politics with American politics. I introduced the idea of the Enneagram, which is a Sufi method for determining personality types and said that America was type 3, the aggressive and commandeering type and UK was type 9 with 1, conciliation and adaption almost beyond what is good for the individual country.

It is so nice to meet someone with a greater view because most people see the world based on their own needs with every other aspect either helping or hindering the advancement of their own needs spectrum. I know the Greeks were very good with philosophy which basically means looking at the whole and seeing what are the main trends. I discussed with Arthur if I recall his name correctly how long would it take before America implodes as a result of its own greed. We discussed Trump versus Hillary Clinton and agreed to differ. The electoral system in the USA is unique in that someone can get in with less of a majority than someone who comes second in the other party so Trump was not elected by the majority; neither was Bush. Arthur thought that Trump’s plan of cutting welfare and Obama care  combined with a tax break for the rich will create further chaos and deficit. He was slightly confused and disappointed with the shenanigans that goes on in the UK.


About yesterday’s meeting I recall that I felt a sense of anti-climax when I left and then I realised that I was simply doing inner work to continue the creative process of the meeting. In other words, I had expressed one end of the spectrum and the other party had spoken from the other end. The requirement is to meet somewhere in the middle. As soon as I realised that this is what had to happen I felt very peaceable about the meeting and was looking forward to the next one. I did in fact receive a letter from the team organiser saying that they were going to meet next week to discuss what to do with my proposals. I think it’s a fair point that creativity does not happen tidily and a certain amount of chaos, differences, confusion, misunderstanding, is all part of the course. In dictatorships, orders are given from the top but in democracies there is more equality or should we say potential for equality.

And so to the RUH Hospital in Bath. It is time for my monthly macular injection for my left eye. Last month I got away without one because I was stable but this month there was a deterioration and more water in the back of the eye.  The waiting room for injections is always very interesting and enjoyable. You know that you have something in common with everyone there which is what makes us Brits more animated. Evidently two of them had just come back from Spain and were both complaining about the cold. Evidently it had been Spain’s worst winter for years with storms and floods and even snow in some places. I love this way of getting information because you know it is accurate. One person was there for the first time, another person was having their 26th injection. we realise that 10 years ago before this injection was on the NHS we would have had to pay the going rate which is now about £800 a shot. I would certainly be near blind in one eye had this problem not been detected at the start of last year.

The main waiting-room for the eye department is a pleasant enough place to be in although at times it is very crowded. There is a television there with text describe and the sound turned just high enough that the people can hear what is being said. This was the news bulletin where Corbyn was reported as being called a “Mutton-headed old mugwump“, the phrase that only Boris Johnson, our Foreign Minister, could use. He is very literate and intellectual man with a good command of the English language.  I dictated his biography for a books for the Blind service for which I work. However, I think that name-calling will probably backfire upon him. Jeremy Corbyn replied that he was not interested in responding to such remarks and he would rather get on with the job bearing in mind the elections just a few weeks away.

The hospital goes to great lengths to give a personal service as the enclosed photographs indicate. Anything that contributes to the welfare of the patient, and the feeling of community, is not a waste of time.

The hospital does its best to make itself a pleasant place to go to. There is a large sculpture in the main hall composed of items washed up from the sea and it is beautiful though I don’t know how many people raise their heads enough to look. Along the corridors are hundreds of photographs and paintings and it does transform what is a long and boring corridor into an art exhibition. Well done people.

I was very much drawn to a sculpture piece which I have attempted to photograph. It is on the way to the main restaurant on the ground floor. It was called ‘The Casting Out’ and expressed in one installation people’s various attitudes to someone stricken with leprosy. It relates to the Bath Leper Hospital, one of the first leper houses in England formed in 1100 A.D. and continued to function for hundreds of years.

People thought to have leprosy were outcasts from their communities and underwent a symbolic funeral on admission. They had to give up all their possessions and relationships and we declared dead to the world and born-again to God.  Communities have to decide how to cope with anyone who seems to be a threat: in this case from infection, but also from violence, loss of livelihood, religious and cultural differences etc.

Martin Elphick

The model displayed in the work above is a third of life-size. It is made of cement fondue, the material that a notional life – sized sculpture could be made of.

The artist is Martin Elphick.


a woman crying on the bus

So I’m on my way by bus to Bristol for the long-awaited meeting which I have put so much energy into. The skill set demanded by the NHS for patient representative is very much my line of work.

To my right sits a woman looking very uncomfortable with herself. Her mobile phone rings and it is her husband or friend saying rather brusquely  “how’s it going then”. She held him online while she fumbled around trying to turn off the loudspeaker because she didn’t want everyone to hear. She tried to compose herself and gave an account of what she was doing.

As she was talking, her feet were twitching and tears were falling from her eyes. She looked desperately desperately lonely. Then she started to smile I think in an effort to cheer herself up. She rang off, and stared ahead into no man’s land. There is nothing I could say or do. Here is a suffering soul condemned to a silent world.

On the way to the hospital I stopped off at a delightful new Polish patisserie that had been opened for only three weeks. This is definitely a potential niche product in trendy Bristol and it will definitely succeed. the chef had put so much effort into the cakes and the image does not do justice to the variety and originality and inventiveness. It is called “Sweet Moment” and is at 296 Gloucester Road Bristol BS7 8PD and it is open every day.

And so on to the meeting from central Bristol via the 76 bus . I’m quite jealous of Bristol because it’s able to support so many cool minority restaurants and quirky artistic places. We just don’t have that in Midsomer Norton. Anyway, Bristol is only an hour away by bus so we can come and enjoy when you want it.

I saw an amusing sight in the atrium of the the venue for the meeting, Southmead Hospital. A grand piano was chained to a collection tin. I wonder what was chained to what. Was the money collection point chained to the piano to make sure that that was not stolen, or was the piano chained to the cash collection point so that it could not be stolen. Anyway, it makes a nice picture.

I arrived at my meeting slightly before 1 PM. Due to confusion about the room, the meeting started at 1:10 and I wondered if I could fit everything in. Interestingly, the audience was very sympathetic and I found that I needed to spend far less time than I thought explaining my points. I said that Albert Einstein had great difficulty in sharing because he had been so frequently misunderstood. Dr B, the lead doctor in the team, was particularly sympathetic and understanding to my points and I found that very encouraging.

There was a fellow patient there invited by Dr B called R. whose life had been saved when he was taken by air ambulance to the hospital. He was either blind or Blinded by the accident but I didn’t want to inquire too closely. He gave an extremely cogent comment on his condition describing how his memory had been affected. I said I would love to interview him and take a statement from him for the website and that his memory lapses did not matter at all.  I commiserated with him by saying that my memory for names was also not what it was. His mother acted as his helper.

I delivered my recommendations and they appeared to be well received. It is however a mile between interesting the workers and getting the hierarchy to approve a project which is to be  added on to a statutory instrument such as the NHS and I was warned that there would be a delay while it was approved. This I find a form of torture because it goes against my nature which is doing everything instantly but to be fair I really believe that they’ll do their best in the various proposals.

On my way back I dropped in at a hi-fi shop. Sometimes I think of things for ages, maybe five years, and suddenly one fine day it’s time to make a decision. I hope I will do business with this shop. It is a novelty to be able to control a hi-fi system from my android device. This shows how retro I am in my thinking. The idea of 20,000 radio stations available at the click of a mouse is also something that I find mind-blowing although I am a techie or a least a sad person who spends far more time than they should do on the computer. it has finally registered that FM radio is going to be phased out to be replaced by DAB

I sat in the local pub and debriefed the day to my wife. It was a little bit of a pity that another meeting followed my one o’clock meeting as I was not able to talk with the other participants afterwards, but that is the pressure that the NHS is under.  My wife, wise as ever, recommends that I leave the whole thing and let them respond in their own time.

Amusingly, she had gone to Jimmy’s, the self-service Indian buffet in Bath for lunch and was charged the full price because they didn’t realise she was of pensionable age. I suppose it is quite flattering. Long may that continue.

The weather forecast for this evening is for uncharacteristically low temperatures; down to freezing point, so that’s an excuse to make a nice log fire.

so others have the same problem!

25th April 1664

“Up, and all the morning in my chamber setting some of my private papers in order, for I perceive that now publique business takes up so much of my time that I must get time a-Sundays or a-nights to look after my owne matters.”

Yes, I know the feeling, Mr. Pepys

Well, I have done all I can for tomorrow’s important meeting as Patient Representative for the Bristol hospital group. For the most part, I find meetings rather boring and am determined that this meeting, which I shall chair, and which is is 55 minutes – or however long we have at our disposal – will be time well spent. I am as usual over-optimistic about the number of matters that can be fitted in so I have spent as much time thinking of ways of summarizing my remarks as I have with the subject matter itself. The only way I can cope with the ambitious agenda is to see this meeting as the first of many and not a stand-alone one.

Victor Meldrew

My pet hates with meetings is the site of the lecturer and an assistant fiddling around trying to make the projector work, or seeing lots of private material projected from the PC which is just a distraction. I have even seen Skype messages appear at the bottom of the screen while the lecture is in progress.  Is it asking too much for people to check their equipment before the audience arrives?

The other irritant, though more minor, is someone asking “can you hear me at the back?” Obviously, if the people at the back cannot hear they could not respond to the question. The better question is, is my diction clear enough and is the volume control adjusted for a full room rather than an empty room. It is part of professionalism to make sure that everything is running properly. Surely, it is not the first time the hall has been used with a microphone.

On the topic of microphones, may I remind organisers that these are instruments that wear like anything else and they need maintenance. How many times have I seen microphones crackle or go on and off because of bad contacts. Sometimes they do not work at all and have to be abandoned. It is up to the manager of the venue to make sure that the equipment is maintained on a regular basis.

So we have to finish this weeding job this morning which will take a good three hours. It is 5° at the moment, but sunny and no threat of rain so it’s not all bad.

Later – the second part of the weeding job went much better than the first. Because the client cannot move out of the house unaided I used my galaxy to photograph the garden so she could see what work we have done. She took the opportunity at the end of our working day to tell us about her family; she has 9 great-grandchildren and probably more on the way. She was herself the youngest of 10 children and she said that when she was young, the person first up in the morning got the best clothes. She said her father cooked meals for them all and they never went short. She has to go to hospital every week for a blood transfusion and then again for an iron transfusion whatever that is.She manages to maintain her stalwart spirit. She goes to a lunch club in Peasedown which she says “gets away from the four walls”. She loathes soaps on TV and has never watched one in her life but she complains that her sister is addicted to them and has almost made them a substitute for her real life.

We watched a programme on the life of Albert Einstein. I did not realise the effect of his dominating father, of the rising tide of the German socialist party, and his need to find people would actually believe in some of his theories. National Geographic produced this wonderful ten-part series of which we watched the first one.