The history of Somerset miners – I hate PC upgrades


In today’s edition – The history of Somerset miners – PC upgrades

From Pepys diary Wednesday 16 November 1664

My wife not being well, waked in the night, and strange to see how dead sleep our people sleep that she was fain* to ring an hour before any body would wake. At last one rose and helped my wife, and so to sleep again.


Off to Terry my computer fundi (that’s South African speak for expert). He has built me a new computer and now each element has to talk  to the Mother Board to see if they are compatible both with the board and with each other. Compared with this, a first date is a breeze. Tonight is testing night and my shiny new min-tower remains at his place.  Firefox have just brought out a new version which i automatically downloaded without asking you. I note that some ideas have been borrowed from Opera.

I hate upgrades forced upon us especially Skype ones. Functionality is seldom more than marginally increased. They never beta test them properly with all the main operating systems and I try to avoid those updates if I possibly can. They are usually geared to sell you more stuff.
All being well by tomorrow lunchtime I will have a lightening fast silent computer (it has a huge fan / heat dump) and then I will have the pleasure of re-installing most of my programmes.


Whilst leaving Terry’s house I noticed a group of three people. One of them, a bearded young man, was making strange animal sounds, staring, walking normally, then making the growling or grunting sounds again. I wondered what quality of life this suffering soul had. The two minders walked with him, respectfully and quietly. As they turned the corner I had a certain respect for those who give their time day after day, week after week, month after month, to care for those whose brains do not work.


The last dance saloon

My my*  (an English expression not a typo) we keep ourselves going, so off to Camerton Community Hall for a talk (which turned out to be a film of 96 minutes) on Miners of Somerset. 80 people were assembled. The format consisted entirely of old miners sharing their stories. Each clip was about 30-45 seconds. We were shown shots of men in their eighties and nineties when they were younger interspersed with the actual interview. They were straight to camera with the interviewer keeping out of the way of the shots.  Perfect for retro viewing. Not suitable for TV as not gimmicky enough. The audience loved it.

  • My My is similar to ‘Wow. I’m impressed.’ The phrase is often used to tease someone for example a late riser who wakes early can elicit the comment “My, my, you are up early”.  It’s use is seldom mean or offensive. It is playful and fun. In the case above I am making fun of myself.
80 enthusiastic people

I did not take notes but here are some mental snap shots.

Getting up at 4.30am for your shift. The wife cooks you breakfast and off you trudge….. in those days there was no water except an outside tap, no toilet except a shed down the garden. Dad emptied the bucket every so often. We had wonderful produce. In those days, growing your own was the only way to get enough food….. the sense of comradeship was very strong and friendships lasted for life…. they took a canary down with them to check for carbon dioxide. Once the foreman took his eye off it and the canary died…. until 1911 the men had no tools and undercut blocks of coal about 6′ by 4′ then broke them up….. there were two men and a carrier in a group. Wages were not paid individually but to the group on a Saturday morning. The men were seen sitting around dividing up the money. Their wives were close by getting a share before it all disappeared into the pub…any aspect of mine work was dangerous but working at the face particularly so… even with all the rules and regulations, stone fell down and broke arms, legs and spinal cords…wounded men used to be given lighter duties in the canteen and so forth …..the local mines worked in three shifts; 6am-2pm; 2 pm- 10 pm; 10 pm to 6 am….. there were no baths until the advent of showers after the nationalisation act of 1947. Men had to wash and then kneel in the bath in front of the fire. … washing water had to be heated in kettles and pans.. when the bath had been finished with, the whole had to be taken out and poured away… ponies were carefully examined before being allowed down to work. They were well treated and during the annual holidays were taken up and grazed in fields…. the men suffered from fine dust which under certain combinations was explosive but was in any event injurious to the lungs. Men coughed up dirt long after they finished their shift… in spite of investment in machines the coal seams were not thick enough to enable the company to make a profit and the last Somerset mine closed in 1973… a wife complained because she never knew when she would see her husband. He would lave at 6am and not return until midnight… they often asked each other to help out.. men used to get raw hands from pulling ropes and raw backs from pulling ropes but they just used their own urine and wiped it in coal dust on the affected parts to make them be come tougher… this physical work has to be performed day after day and even at weekends.. many men do not reach 65 without major accidents… the air around the colliery was so dirty that window sills and front doors had to be cleaned 2 or 3 times a day…many people from eastern Europe came to work. The Polish people had (to the bosses) unpronounceable names so they were given nick names such as Joe the pole, or Fred the pole…..

Suffering and hard work wise “we don’t know we are born”.

This phrase  appears to be an exclusively British idiom. It is used of those (primarily the rich and the young) who enjoy freedom from want or responsibility and behave as if they are unconscious that they were merely born into this freedom and that others (the poor and adults) are not so fortunate.

Anyway, enough of this gay banter. To chocolate drinks and then to bed.



An arty visit to GUH hospital – the evils of sugar – witches


Today Pt 2 – art and  GUH hospital – the evils of sugar – witches

Part one here.

So as I mentioned in my previous, time for my macular examination. That’s when the layers of the eye become unattached from the retina and produced lack of central vision though long distance vision is unaffected.   I could read all but the bottom two lines of the chart, so relief as I don’t need an injection this time anyway, and must go back in a month.

The art ‘gallery’ spread over two floors of corridors in the GUH Hospital provides a continuous exhibitions of 500 works that change four times a year. Most works are for sale and this helps support the arts charity at the RUH.  It’s worth going to see the works even if you don’t have a patient to visit (bus 4 from city centre). Well done Hetty Dupaus, Art Programme Manager and Tony Smith, Exhibition Manager. Check out the web site

22 fish
An imaginative and engaging poster

On the way home I saw this amazing ‘hybrid’ relationship. Make of it what you will.

an alien trying to cuddle???


Every sentient being should be aware that there are health dangers through eating too much sugar. Not just sugar itself but the masses of sugar in sweet drinks. Sugar and other sweeteners are everywhere. They’re hidden in a huge percentage of  processed foods.  They’re sold to us as a way to feel good and enjoy life more. What price are we paying for our addiction to sugar and other sweeteners? Obesity. Diabetes. Cancer.

This report for ’60 Minutes’ reveals the addictive nature of sugar and the price we pay for our overindulgence. The good news? Switching to a diet of whole, unprocessed foods can reverse the effects. You could also look at Sugar- the bitter Truth’ on Youtube, a no nonsense examination if a trifle difficult for the newcomer to understand.  The video is from the USA but same deal in UK. Americans eat an average of 130 pounds of sugar per year and the UK at 72 pounds is not far behind.

Back home and a quick bite. Off to the Paulton History Society which this evening is offering a talk by Prof Ron Hutton on Witchcraft and magic, taking the period between 1740 and 1940 in the UK.  Prof Hutton was born in India, has studied in Oxford and Cambridge and is currently head of history at Bristol Uni.

Prof Ron Hutton
There were far too many facts to write down but there is a plethora of evidence for the ‘dark arts’. For example you could write 150,000 words of evidence from Essex and Somerset alone.
Charmers are one trick ponies, people who cure warts, indigestion, headaches
Wise Folk, or cunning folk, have a far wider range of abilities and skills such as healing, tracing lost objects and breaking curses.
Witches are people suspected of using magic to hurt others. Whether you call them white witches or black witches the effect is the same.
At the time, London was the capital of magic.
He described the actual and symbolic use of herbs – either by drinking in in an infusion or hanging them around the patient’s neck. The process of bouncing back evil to the perpetrator was accepted. A witch might take the urine of a sufferer in a bottle, place pins and needles in it and bury the bottle. This would ensure the undoing of the curse or spell.
It is Satanism not paganism that was regarded as the antithetic force to Christianity.
Cunning practitioners could continue with their work but if they were too expensive or if their spells did not work then the police would be called in and they would be taken to jail. Even this could have a publicity value.
I stood up at the end and asked if reading the professors latest book (The Witch: A History of Fear, from Ancient Times to the Present) would help me in my understanding of the topic and was told ‘no’. Instead I was recommended an earlier book published in the 90’s “The Triumph of the moon,  a history of modern Pagan Witchcraft‘.  I ordered this one using my mobile device.

Prof was asked what effect the curses had apart from the biological changes induced by fear. I felt he did not want to go in this direction. One of his students at Bristol, Jack Hunter, has written a PhD on Spiritualism, so that should be an interesting study if and when it emerges.

An audience of 60 is not a bad turnout for the country
On the bus on the way home was a young mum together with her son in a pram. He had a sweet smile. He was given a half slice of brown bread. He put it up to his ear and began speaking to it. He must have been all of 18 months. Guess where he got the habit from. God help the next generation.

Bath Colourists exhibition plus the ultimate germ collector


Today – Bath Colourists’ Exhibition in Bath – the ultimate germ collector

Pepys Diary Tuesday 15 November 1664

….I to the ‘Change, and thence Bagwell’s wife with much ado followed me through Moorfields to a blind alehouse, and there I did caress her and eat and drink, and many hard looks and sooth the poor wretch did give me, and I think verily was troubled at what I did, but at last after many protestings by degrees I did arrive at what I would, with great pleasure, and then in the evening, it raining, walked into town to where she knew where she was…

One of Pepys’ more unseemly habits. The less said the better, methinks.


This the time time of the month (no, not that time of the month) but my time to go and have my eyes looked at for spaces where they should not be, bleeding, unwanted water – you name it, an examination will occur.

But first, to my favourite buffet restaurant in Bath, Jimmy’s, just opposite the bus station. I have my all-you-can-eat buffet for £6 (sorry folks that’s for pensioners only) but £8.95 for the rest is not bad. During my meal there were three mums with their children, the youngest of which was about 6 months. That child screamed, wailed, screeched and generally made a noise. What does the mother do? Smile. Yea well that’s really effective.

germ collecting machine

Now I ask you, what more efficient way is there of taking germ samples, spreading viruses from coughs and colds, collecting dust particles and providing the ideal conditions for growth i.e. warm and sweet petri dish material right in front of your very eyes.


This was the mess left by the above mentioned group of mums. Now, children are less disciplines but why so much wasted food? Why give it to a child knowing that they will not be interested in eating it. For once I was glad to get out but I still love Jimmy’s. Do a search for Jimmy’s to see all my entries.

Bath Christmas Market minus two days

There will be about 100 stalls selling goodness knows what connected with the idea of Christmas. The place gets over run with visitors from all parts as the stall holders try to get back the significant costs of renting a stall or booth plus accommodation and travel expenses of those coming from overseas. No wonder the goods are expensive and – do I really need them.  More will follow.

Another exhibition at the BRLSI. This time it is the Bath Colourists exhibition. Colourists are people who paint with emphasis on colour (amazingly). Any arty person thinking of moving to Bath will find plenty to occupy them. I was impressed more by the 3D ceramics (see examples) by Sylvia Owen.  Alas her website does not do her justice. The yellow globe is shot out of focus and it is therefore not a good selling aid. There is no doubt of her great talent though. Enjoy.

example one
example 2
ooops did not mean to cut off the top of his head
Laughing Girl, ceramic, £275
example 5 (dont forget to use Ctrl and + to enlarge the images for better effect.
A colourist’s diary

This diary is far too long to make into one page so part two follows.


Difficult garden customers – the wonders of bees


Monday 14 November 1664

….So home (to his office), where infinite busy till 12 at night, and so home to supper and to bed…

I imagine his housemaids had to wait up until Pepys came home in order to serve his supper. ‘Overtime’ was a concept not in vogue at the time, nor is it today in many countries.  Anyway I have lots to write about so off we go.


Today we had the second and final day our idyllic garden  job which alas had a bitter ending. We worked about 11 hours in addition to my work yesterday. When it came to be paid the husband of the lady with whom I had been dealing suddenly decided that the price was too high and more or less confronted us.  The wife was embarrassed and gave me a cheque. I do try to avoid any sort of difficulty. This is how I do it.  I receive my brief on the job and within 48 hours give a quote. I charge ‘piece rate’ not an ‘hourly rate’.  The reason is that I work at manic speed and do not stop for say 5-6 hours and do far more than most people would do in one hour.

In this case my estimate was the same as the customer’s so I wrote an E-mail and got a conformation by e-mail so the contract was signed sealed and delivered as they say. When I am near finishing the work I take the customer on a walk around to show them what I have done and get their approval.  If they are not satisfied I make good.   When I have finished I ask once more the customer is happy and then I take the money. Fool proof enough you may say – alas, far from it.

The husband thought I should have charged by the hour and said for what I was charging I should have been in the garden for five days. From his tone of voice I realised that he had made up his mind so conversation was a waste of time. Am I glad to work for less than the minimum wage as a self employed person? I don’t think so. Many traditional local men still go back to thinking that £10 per hour for gardening is a good rate.  As an overall observation, many people in this area do not want to pay anything for such a service and even resent being asked.   It’s in the culture, dudes.

Part of our customer’s restored and cleaned garden in the country with such a lovely view to boot

The worst scourge is when I do work for a pensioner (most of my customers) and then afterwards their son / daughter / friend comes along afterwards and ‘thinks’ I have charged too much and that’s without them knowing anything about gardening, or being there when we did the work. One or two senior people have turned against us as a direct effect of over-protective family members.  This is  in spite of our doing the job – and doing more than we were asked to do, to price and to time AND they thanking us afterwards and handing over money without argument.

I must make an attempt to put contracts in writing  but even then the problem of local meanness and ‘experts’ would not be solved.  Ah well we do enjoy the work and so many people appreciate our efforts. We shall continue. I did not have this problem in London. We can’t have everything and there are compromises or should I say adaptions to be made wherever you live.


Natural News is an excellent source of accurate information about the goings on of ‘Big Pharma’ particularly in the country where they reign most of all, the US of A.  I read the headline ” Pharma drug cartel just changed the definition of “high blood pressure” to trick HALF of U.S. adults into “treatment” with high-profit prescription drugs

The idea is to hoax the public (already hoaxed enough) and to generate yet more profit from these gullible people by announcing a new definition of “high blood pressure”. This is done by lowering the acceptable level of cholesterol in the body, rendering tens of millions of Americans quanlifiable for statins. The overall plan is to convince otherwise normal people that they are sick by moving the goal posts. Read more here but have the vomit bag at hand.


On to the Mendip Gardening Club for their meeting on bees. It is held in the village hall of the strangely named Ston Easton which is not a stutter but a real place which existed before the Norman Conquest. The few houses that remain exude history and character. That does not include the modern Village Hall built in the 1980’s. Perhaps one day someone will repair the rutted driveway that leads from the road. It is a functional enough place which has a bowling alley but no bar (wonder why).

Neil Lovesay fell in love with bees when he saw a swarm coming towards him and attaching themselves to a door of his house. This happened about nine years ago. This lecture 2The Bee-Friendly Garden” was remarkable in my mind for presenting more unknown myth busting facts at one time than I have heard for many a long day.

the speaker holding the attention of the audience.

Here are a few facts about this amazingly intelligent creature and their environment. The most destructive enemies to bees and wild life in general are badgers. There are 270 types of bee. 75% of the food we eat is only possible because of the pollination performed by bees.  The best way of stopping bees who desire water from drowning in your pond is to drop a sponge on to it. The bees can suck the water in the sponge in safety.  You ‘type’ the bee by the colour its its head, ditto its body, and the number of stripes on its tail.

Bee-friendly flowers

Swarming bees do not sting because to swarm they need great amounts of energy which they can only  get through over-eating honey. You can safely scoop them up in yours hands without fear. When a bee strings you, it dies. If a bee-like insect stings you – say – six times, it is a wasp. Flies have eyes that can scan all around in 3D mode. This is because there are the bottom of the food chain and need to be on the alert. Bees have eyes that face forward but certain species can have up to five eyes.

The lecturer works for Picket Lane Nursery, Dorset  BT8 3HU where up to 1,000 varieties of hardy perennials and flowering shrubs are grown. Check opening times before traveling.


So with a slightly aching body even after an Epsom Salt bath, to bed with a hot water bottle.

I am too tired to write more so will return tomorrow and complete.


Pepys and music – the ideal restaurant environment


Sunday 13 November 1664

(Lord’s day). This morning to church, where mighty sport, to hear our clerke sing out of tune, though his master sits by him that begins and keeps the tune aloud for the parish. Dined at home very well, and spent all the afternoon with my wife within doors, and getting a speech out of Hamlett, “To bee or not to bee,” without book. In the evening to sing psalms, and in come Mr. Hill to see me, and then he and I and the boy finely to sing, and so anon broke up after much pleasure, he gone I to supper, and so prayers and to bed.

A wonderful sense of humor here and I am again impressed by Pepys’ use of music as a recreational preference.


Francoise took me to lunch today at a place called the Blue Bowl, near West Harptree. I am as cautious as they come with regard to eating out in any form but here was a good old fashioned place. What gives it kudos is that many local people come regularly as well as those from up to 30 miles away. I had a very good cod, actually there were two such fish with chips and vegs all for £9.95. It’s not often you get such quantity and quality for under a tenner. The soup was Stilton and leek and both came out of the bowl in technicolor.

plenty of room to breathe and be private

The waitresses have been working there for a long time. One six years and one ten years. Evidently they ‘like the management’. Well  done whoever you are. Long serving staff is always a good sign. One of them has to drive from Wells.
Another two Plus Points. Thee tables are placed quite far from each other so you can have privacy. Secondly there was no music. Blessed be.


We drove back home via Bread and Beyond, an impossibly good bakery in the middle of nowhere. On the table a very clever original ad carefully printed and cut out of an A4 sheet of card.  Such love and care.

10/10 for originality



Getting up late – new computer – gardening – Carnival


Saturday 12 November 1664

Up, being frighted that Mr. Coventry was come to towne and now at the office, so I run down without eating or drinking or washing to the office and it proved my Lord Berkeley.

Horrible to have that sinking feeling when you get up late. I once did that crossing America by plane with a friend and forgot to adjust my watch. I had an hour to catch the plane and return my hire car. We made it – just, and that was before the days of standing in lines being strip-searched. Since the enhanced security farce, tourist traffic to the USA from Europe has gone down by 7%


My friend Terry of South West Computers is going to make me a new computer from scratch. I will be spared the hundreds of junk software items ‘included’ in PC’s from PC World and the like without telling us and which slow up the computer. I am splashing out on 8GB of RAM which is what most software now requires to run at an optimum level. My existing computer is 6 years old. It has been running slower and slower mainly because modern programs have enhanced  requirements and also if you put new items in (new wine in old bottles) they are not 100% in sync for what is already in the box. Result: slower running and less reliability i.e. more crashes.

I know this will excite you but here is my shopping list.

Goods Shipped:
£49.99 x 1 – Asus H110-Plus Intel H110 (Socket 1151) DDR4 ATX Motherboard
£26.66 x 1 – Kolink KL-SFX250 250W 80 Plus Bronze Efficient SFX Power Supply
£74.99 x 1 – Kingston Fury Black 8GB (1x8GB) DDR4 PC4-17000C14 2133MHz Single Channel Module (HX421C14FB2/8)
£11.66 x 1 – LG 24x DVDRW SATA Rewriter – OEM (GH24NSD0)
£22.49 x 1 – Raijintek Arcadia Mid Tower USB 3.0 Case – White
£41.66 x 1 – Intel Pentium Dual Core G4400 3.30GHz (Skylake) Socket LGA1151 Processor – Retail

So  for £285.24 plus the labour of connecting it all up I have the latest up to date machine with no junk. A result in anyone’s language.

I ordered the bits from an Internet company called Overclockers. They are completely nuts i.e. turbo speed.

For example:
17.40   My order was received by them
18.22   the order was dispatched
19.36   formal note of delivery with tracking details
21.12    an invoice received
10.08   goods arrived (inserted by Ed. the next day)

I look forward to re-loading my Dragon Speech to Text software. It badly needs a large dos of RAM. For the last six weeks I have been typing these diaries using a keyboard which although I do not mind doing makes the whole proceedings more drawn out than I would prefer.


This afternoon I had a dream gardening job. A lovely client who divides her time between looking after her 100 year old grandmother who lives in her house upstairs, her husband who is having a course of Chemotherapy ‘treatment’ after the removal of a brain tumor, and her numerous voluntary duties in the local library. She is a giver, happy and giggly with it, and I find I work far better for givers than for ‘stuck’ people who are often miserable. It is the difference between chalk and cheese. One takes energy, one gives it.  The wan autumn sun shone across the garden which abutted on fields and there was no wind so speak of. Although it was only 5 deg C I had to take my jersey off.


This evening, the annual Midsomer Carnival. More or less the whole town turns out, the children have a lovely time, and lots of money is collected for charity.  Snaps of moving objects at night are impossible to take with an ordinary mobile phone camera but the enclosed will give you some idea.

waiting, mobiles in hand, for the procession
Flashing objects for sale, the Town Hall lit up
These floats must have cost a fortune to assemble. They are used several times in towns throughout the South West.
Many marshals ensure ‘ealf and safety
These are all real people who have to hold a pose for 50 minutes.
Dancing Dervishes (not really)
Ever resourceful, a Mexican themed float
Weird Alice in Wonderland theme

We fight our way through the crowds going home, to the computer and then to bed.

Listening with rapt attention – lazy reading – war


Friday 11 November 1664

Up, and with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten to the Council Chamber at White Hall, to the Committee of the Lords for the Navy, where we were made to wait an houre or two before called in. In that time looking upon some books of heraldry of Sir Edward Walker’s making, which are very fine, there I observed the Duke of Monmouth’s armes are neatly done, and his title, “The most noble and high-born Prince, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth, &c.;” nor could Sir J. Minnes, nor any body there, tell whence he should take the name of Scott? And then I found my Lord Sandwich, his title under his armes is, “The most noble and mighty Lord, Edward, Earl of Sandwich, &c.”

This gives us an insight in to Pepys active mind. Instead of sitting waiting and staring at the ceiling he seeks something to occupy his mind, namely books of heraldry.  I would flip through the latest magazines in the dentist’s waiting room or simply do nothing. Not that you can ever do nothing because you exist and that’s a full time job.


I was reflecting on ‘listening’ as opposed to ‘hearing’.

We are born with functioning ears but listening is a skill that we need to learn.  The main problem – apart from the speaker being boring – is that we think faster than people talk so there is a temptation to fill in the gaps with focus on other matters. If people hear, process and absorb 25% of what we say then we are doing well.  Do we need to consider how to keep our speaking interesting. Maybe it should be in the form of telling a story where the listener is more likely to follow a thread and hang on every word.  Question – what sort of conversation do you NOT like to listen to.

I love the saying ‘he listened with rapt attention’. That means you have their attention.  What does ‘rapt’ mean? It means “completely fascinated or absorbed by what one is seeing or hearing”. There needs to be an element of self interest if someone wants my rapt attention or I really have to care for the person who is speaking or the talk could be an exploit or adventure that activates the imagination. Putting it another way, we need to give people a headline, an incentive, a reason for wanting to engage.

There is a also the question of timing. When I call on the phone I always ask if it is a god time to talk. Are they cooking the proverbial omelette. If someone is pre-occupied they may not have any time or energy to focus on you, however interesting your thoughts.  Your intuition should tell you

I am reminded that when people say “I hear what you say” there is a ‘but’ included in it. I hear, BUT I disagree. I distance myself from what you say although I heard it.  I am not even going to bother to reply. We are miles apart. There is a good article in the Independent on the matter.

Some people pretend to listen by doing what I call the ‘nodding donkey’. This is supposed to send out messages that ‘I am here for you’ but it is mostly fake. Their eyes will dart over your shoulder trying to spot the next person they wish to speak with. I think you can actually feel if the person is listening to you because they surround you with their presence.

Do I listen to people?  Yes I am capable of it but a pre-cursor is that there needs to be a certain basic  chemistry.  I need to like what I feel and here many people fail the test. If I feel they are judgemental, self centred, pre-occupied or tense then I don’t even bother to try to engage. I need a 50/50 situation or maybe 60/40. I am looking for a certain amiability, a certain openness before I can summon the spirit to attempt to converse with a stranger. Oh I nearly forgot to mention. In the street if people are on their mobiles or have headphones plugged in their ears, they might as well not be there so far as I am concerned.

When I listen to people – yes I am capable of it if I want to – I absorb and then reply. Some are quite shocked.  They did not expect to be listened to. They are more used to delivering monologues to thin air almost as an act of vanity which may or may not be taken seriously.  I find this at social parties and pub meetings which can turn into shouting competitions. Real listening immediately elevates the conversation to a dialogue, to a sharing of minds, to what might become a friendship or liaison. Perhaps the best way of defining a conversation is to identify what it is not, its antithesis.  Shouting at a car driver, arguing with the wife when you are both stressed out,  are good examples. We come back to our old friend bona fides  or on a good day ultra fides (utmost good faith) but then you have to be a special soul for this to apply.


I caught myself being a lazy reader. A newspaper article described ‘7  ways of being ripped of with overseas car hire’. and I was about to launch in to it when I thought ‘ hang on Brian, you probably knew most of them so you can use your BRAIN to try to recall’. I jumped out of my passive mode and started recalling.  Amazingly, after a few moments I got each point. You dear reader have probably read similar articles, do you want to have a go and see how many ways you can recall?


A pause to watch the annual Rememberance Day at the Cenotaph here in London. We take our history seriously and all is done with dignity, pomp and circumstance. This term refers partly to the occasion and partly to a march named after it.  I wish we did not have to have these unnecessary wars.

<rant on>  ‘The policy of the USA is war without end’. Very profitable war, pharmaceuticals, drug drugs and debt are the major pillars around which the economy of the USA revolves. If they don’t have real war enemies, they invent them witness the whole cult of the terrorist.  The USA has only started 42 wars since World War 2. There is a list somewhere which I will (re) publish when I can find it.In other words without the warmongering of the USA there would be no wars except perhaps in the Congo.<rant off>


beware Steganography – getting people to join a group


Thursday 10 November 1664

Up, and not finding my things ready, I was so angry with Besse as to bid my wife for good and all to bid her provide herself a place, for though she be very good-natured, she hath no care nor memory of her business at all.

Such a minor thing as staff training was not part of Pepys management style. You were either up to the mark or for whatever reason not up to it in which case you would be dismissed. No allowances were made for anything save death. At least they knew if not before then certainly after being sacked.


I was quite subdued by the new from my web master that .jpeg files (images) can contain viruses.  I found an innocuous looking quotation on google and copied it over. On loading it on to the page I was unable to instruct the paragraph breaks by hitting return twice. How ever many times I hit return the whole mass of text remained as one paragraph.  If you search on google you will find the code, dubbed IMAJS. The techniques itself is called ‘Steganography’ which places the code inside the pixels of an image, hiding malware in plain sight to infect target victims.  After all, images are a lot of zeros and ones 0010010101010101110010101 could be hidden javascript , separate from the colour information.

Steganography is also being used by terrorist organisations to communicate securely with each other by adding messages to image and video files, due to which NSA officials are forced to watch Porn and much porn according to a lecture “Stegosloit: Hacking With Pictures” given by Saumil Shah from India delivered at a Amsterdam hacking conference ‘Hack in the Box’. So when you see a very attractive lady or an adorable kitten then take care when downloading (if indeed you decide to download it at all). the virus clicks into action only when the target opens the image file on their web browser and clicks on the picture.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Internet is a dangerous place. You can receive an e-mail seemingly from your solicitor asking you to change bank code numbers when in fact is the account of hackers. A few seconds after you send funds to the new account, its gone for ever.

“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found there, 1872


Anyway, enough of the gay banter.  This morning, our Midsomer Norton mens’ group. In spite of great efforts by the organiser, the membership remains static as it was before it received a make over. This is sad but there are seldom more than a dozen of us and the occasional visitor comes and goes. Why? We are very much a niche group. Midsomer Norton is not a cradle of expressive men never mind Church of England or Methodist men. It is not ‘the thing’ for ex coal miners to come out with actual spiritual views. Now, Bath or Wells or Bristol is a different matter but I am sure that here, the spirit of coal mining lives on.

Work – come home – bath – eat – sleep – do it all over.

Growth has to be by word of mouth. You can spend vast amounts on advertising on a PR campaign but there is no guarantee that the curious will feel part of the existing group. This is one thing that Americans are very good at – welcoming people.

This morning’s talk was by a man who five years ago came back from working in Singapore with his Singaporean wife and now lives in Peasedown. He loves that country and I have invited him and his wife to coffee. People in this area do not ‘do’ dinner parties and would think you were very forward if you made an offer. Dinner would be for family members and relatives only.

The talk was on being a Street Pastor. They go out late at night Saturdays – their insurance mandates going in groups of three people – and engage troubled and violent youngsters to try and defuse situations that could turn nasty and require police attendance.  Although Christian, they do not evangelize but talk to people in a human way (remember the term?). If they are asked specific questions about a faith they will happily respond.   In the background they have a prayer group in the Town Hall who pray continually for them whilst they go about their work.

They have their own website; the idea was pioneered in London in 2003 by Les Isaac. Since then they have trained over 12,000 volunteers from local churches who play an active part in strengthening community life and working for safer streets. Our particular group was formed in 2013 with widespread cooperation from the local churches of all denominations. the images are very posed and I do not find them particularly helpful but the work goes on, week in and week out. An unglamorous job but some are led to it.


To Camerton where there was a Craft Fayre. I bought a knitted cup warmer for £1. Cakes if available are always good value for some reason (clue for those intending to move to Somerset). We were in and out in 10 minutes and went for coffee to the nearby Meadgate Farm Shop. I used to write for Trip Advisor but I can say it is an excellent place with a very good brand of coffee and the odd light meal. Oh, and they do breakfasts also.

Meadgate Farm Shop

Home and now camping in due to another weather front from the Atlantic. We are both quite happy to sit in our respective offices and watch videos. Francoise spends some time painting at which she is getting very good; I writing these diaries and doing various bits of research.


One of the things that the BBC does very well is nature programmes. I think we are one of,  if not the leading masters of nature photography aided by the one and only David Attenborough who at a mere 91 years of age is one of the most traveled people on the planet.

The picture below is from a BBC2 production about the vast plains of Brazil and how hey change with the seasons – monsoon then – apres le deluge – the dry season with wildfires etc. The film crews must be vetted most carefully for temperament and I notice they choose the cream of the cream. You have to be an expert in your field even before being considered. The BBC can take their pick of technicians as their reputation is so high.



Solitude vs. loneliness – and – stress


Wednesday 9 November 1664

A day of business for our Samuel. Read his diary by clicking on the link above.


Reflecting on the human condition for a moment. I have taken to listening to TWR Trans World Radio, which is to  be found on the Internet and on freeview/Sky TV. It is a re broadcaster for a wide variety of religious programming channels mainly from the USA and UK.  The material consists of refreshingly straight forward bible teaching in the Christian / Methodist or baptist style – not bible thumping but explanation. I turn the radio on when I get up and am preparing breakfast in the kitchen. It it on in the background but I am alert for something to jump out at me for I have learned that the ‘jumping ‘is what is meant for me to think about. This is part of my inner guidance system which I have found so reliable,  provided I listen to it of course. ha ha. Sometimes it has to be the right word spoken by the right person at the right time. Then it goes right into the soul without resistance.

Today’s jumping phrase stress is something we do to ourselves. Everyone has busy days but it is how we react to the events that multiplies stress. We should distinguish between stress, which is the tension applied to for example a mechanical system, and strain is the way the system responds.  I am under stress not under strain. Yes, most people are. Am I stressed out. That depends on me. The smart thing is to stop situations becoming full of stress – stressful as we say. That requires planning, common sense, courage. We should not blame ‘outside forces’ for what is our own responsibility. Strain may be due to inflexibility.

Second jumping phrase – the pastor was talking about the refreshing effect of solitude which is a voluntary choice, and loneliness which is the feeling of being cut off from other people and the world. Jesus sought solitude to refresh himself and to see his work in perspective. I wonder if we would all benefit from this, away from phones, computer etc and just to be at one with nature. Bliss.

Third Jumping phrase.  When people are unpleasant or nasty to us they are victims of the enemy (evil). Who gets pleasure out of being nasty? I found today’s dealings with people and on the phone much easier and I don’t take unpleasantness personally. Fingers crossed this will continue.


I find America a profoundly evil place.  Rand Paul (Ron Paul’s politician son) was mowing his lawn one Sunday afternoon when his neighbour (apparently) comes in the garden and attacks him from behind, breaking 5 ribs and causing damage to his lung.  Here is a man who gets on well with all around him. Why? What turns these people on to commit acts of evil?

Secondly I was watching a video about the fires in California and how strange it was that terra cotta roofs burned leaving trees around them completely free of fire. The maker of the video gives evidence that they were started  by high power directed energy beams.  Coincidentally, 72 mobile phone towers were burnt or damaged. Have a look here if you are so minded. This means that a coterie of the invisible elite that runs America decided to test a few new systems and burn down houses. If you think of people as ‘useless eaters’ (orig. Henry Kissinger) then that act of arson is little more important than swatting bugs.


To the local hospital to check on an inflamed big toe. The nurse on duty was a detective and found the inflammation was due to my choice of footwear. The previous day I had worn metal capped boots to do gardening and they were tight. I did not notice the harm they were doing. Tut tut Brian

I learn a lot about latest trends by looking at posters. Here are a few.

clear message but is it required in this area?

Genital mutilation is everywhere – part of many cultures – as it is a non -spoken about subject – people need to know about it and know that something can be done about it. Women can have somewhere to go and be listened to.

a niche market

A reminder to me that in the ‘old days’, remedies for most illnesses were provided by tinctures or doses or extracts of plants, which are and always have been the biggest free medical cabinet in the world. We choose to blast ourselves with dead chemical material and wonder why we have ‘side effects’. Such chemical medicaments are artificial.


garden customers – joy in work – orchids


Tuesday 8 November 1664

..So all the afternoon at my office till late, and then to bed, joyed in my love and ability to follow my business….

I am so invigorated- transformed would be too strong a word – when I  come across people who love their work. Whether it is someone in the local hardware shop, the local library, a builder who has just finished a ramshackle (to us) construction for his tools you can’t beat the thrill of human creativity.  Pepys loved his work and the social pleasures therein. He had a responsible job as administrator for the navy, apart from being an MP. No one can accuse him of not living life to the full.


Garden matters – I visited a new customer today. I spoke about her garden in glowing terms saying that it was a special and loved place and should be treated with respect.  Within ten minutes she started to tear and become emotional. She apologized as Brits normally do for expressing any kind of emotion and said that this was due to someone understanding her and her  world. I said  yes this was a common problem. You are either on someone’s wavelength (resonance) or not. A miss is as good as a mile. I am very lucky to be en rapport with my partner., So many do not, and they endure decades of loneliness  with no remission. This is a long prison sentence.

I visited my favorite customer and did 3-4 energetic hours to put the garden to sleep for the winter. The customer who is 86 was complaining of feeling dizzy. She has been suffering from kidney failure recently. She seemed to us to be more distant, and said ‘good bye’ to us not once but many times as if she did not want us to go. I hope this is not an ominous  sign but it did seem rather surreal.


Oncidium crocidipterum

Writhlington School, orchids section,  has a reputation justly earned as being one of the leading centres of expertise on orchids, all 28,000 varieties of them with countless hybrids.

The whole has been presided over from day one in 1995 by one of the teachers, Simon Pugh-Jones.  The scheme has been going for 22 years and they are now out growing the £250k building which houses the orchids in various climates.

Simon Pugh-Jones

So great is the prestige that the British Orchid Council Conference will be held at the school November 2nd – 4th, 2018.

I thought I knew what an orchid was and how it could be defined. I found such basic information lacking on the site of the school, link given above.  It is any of a large family of perennial epiphytic or terrestrial monocotyledonous plants that usually have showy 3-petaled flowers with their middle petal enlarged into a lip and differing from the others in shape and colour. For those of you who need to update your understanding of definitions, here they are.
Perennial = living for several years
epiphytic =  an organism that grows on the surface of a plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around it.  This is in contrast to
lithophytic = plants that grow on rock, feeding on water and decaying plants including their own dead tissue.

Jess, one of the pupils, was invited to come to our small gardening group for a lecture, which was given in the Town Hall here in Midsomer Norton.

Jess composing herself whilst we yatter away.

I was curious to see how a sixteen year old young lady would perform in front of a group. She has as yet no idea about ‘how to present’ and the various tricks and devices to keep your audience interested. She just stood there, waiting for our attention, and off she went. Who needs gimmickry when your confidence in your subject is so great. Her delivery was monotonic almost as an academic person would deliver a paper or a judge would deliver a judgement. I think that will remain her style – purist we could say.   (A purist is a person who insists on absolute adherence to traditional rules or structures).  She went through the Power Point presentation at rocket speed with a one liner statement per image when she could possibly have developed the theme a little more, not giving time for or inviting questions but they came anyway as people became interested in a particular image.

In future she may experiment with the value of  pausing after each slide and making brief eye contact with the audience to encourage questions. She will also learn to project her voice but I think that even with this she will need microphone assistance at larger meetings.   But hey – she did brilliantly for someone her age. I wish there were many more like her.

The above is given as a summary of what will be learned in the coming years.  I remember myself at that age being a quivering heap when asked to speak in public. My wife thought the above ‘sounded critical’ so this has caused me to consider the difference between a critique and criticism.

A critique is a detailed analysis and assessment of something. It is not pejorative. Contrast this to ‘criticism’ which is normally an expression of disapproval, and a judgement of the merits and faults of work. So, the above is definitely in the former category.

I remember when I was young I made some mistakes of presentation  in my life and the sad thing was that I went on making them for years because so I found out later my friends did not want to hurt my  feelings by sharing their observations. How I wish they would have told me because I would not have made a fool of myself. Anyway, I digress.

Jess has ‘about 50’ orchids in her own house. She has been with a group of 12 to Rwanda where they were able to donate a 3D printer, and spend some time with the local children.  Their trips abroad are to set up some orchids growing in schools. They teach them & help for the physical apparatus, microscopes etc… the same way they have in England, to help a school develop conservation, interests etc.

She admitted that orchids were an obsession and she spends all her spare time engaged in this field. Jess has been offered an internship at the Eden Project (see below)  when she leaves school and prior to university. She wants to do environment and conservation  studies at Oxford.

Money from the sale of these orchids goes to funding foreign study trips

The Eden Project has a justly high reputation. I went there 8 years ago and was impressed, but not by the crowds of people who walked, zombie like, through the whole.  I think that guided tours are a ‘must’ but there is little  space for this amidst the throng. It is a victim of its own success IMO and the prices. Wow! When I went it was £12.50 now (November 2017) it is £27.50 adult on the door, Students £22.50 wow! Children aged 5-16 £14 what!!! Children –4 free (that’s nice of them).  Two adults and two children is £71.  Now ain’t that a bargain. A generous 10% off if you book on line. One ticket does however cover return visits for one year so if you live in the area that is a bargain but as the powers that be know, most people will only be able to come once.

stratospheric entry prices but plenty to do (but pick a sunny day)

I hear that students are paid £3.50 per hour. Hardly enough to live unless accommodation is included. Each to his own.

Bath FilmFest Pt 5 – The myth of ‘Rape’


Monday 7 November 1664

Nothing jumps out to speak about. Read Pepys diary as you wish by clicking on the link above.


I am doing a garden for Judith, one of my favourite customers.  She owns a large house on some valuable land but cannot bring herself to up sticks and leave. We encourage her every time we visit as her health will catch her out.  She has kidney failure and can barely walk due to a fall.

Whilst working  I found myself having a mental rant, this time about people who claim to be raped. Scroll down if the topic does not interest you.


In recent times many women have found the courage to ‘come out’ and claimed they have been raped by this or that famous or powerful person. I can understand the delay in cases of child abuse or inmates of prisoner of war camps in Japan but I do not understand young intelligent women of 18+ some in their late 20’s and 30’s behaving in this way.  Women have a good intuition and they must pick up in five seconds flat that a man’s intentions are suspect. I’m not talking about a film mogul asking people to come to his hotel room and appearing in a bathing robe for an interview. It takes two to tango. Are women who ‘come forward ‘ to complain about so and so so gullible and naive that they somehow go into a trance state, remove their clothes and allow a man to penetrate them or do some other act of sex? At some level they WANT to take part. It’s the thrill of being loved, of feeling needed even though  they know it is a fake. Some of them deliberately prostitute themselves and offer their bodies in exchange for a real or imagined favour say in the film world. Afterwards they feel guilty and to mitigate the guilt decide to BLAME THE MAN. Of course he is guilty silly us for doubting it – but think. The calf muscles of a woman are strong. They have to be for obvious biological reasons. If women really did not want to be raped they can just close their legs. What chance does a 6″ + little visitor have? None. They could as a prelude  say a plain ‘no’ but their ambivalence and lack of a moral compass catches them out.  I think ladies come forward out of conscience. They know they were complicit. Blame should be 50/50 unless I am missing something.

Oh and I forget, what about women who deliberately seduce a man and call it rape. Again, obviously – his fault.

Comments anyone? <end of rant>


Tonight’s offering from the Bath Film Festival;

The Prince of Nothingwood

Nothingwood is the opposite of Hollywood: prolific Afghan filmmaker Salim Shaheen works with a budget of zilch and no expectation of a paying audience. He uses the stunning natural landscape as the backdrop for his homemade dramas which he then screens to local communities. If ever there was a labour of love, this is it. Director Sonia Kronlund accompanies him during the making of film no. 111, and presents us with a portrait of this immensely loveable, endearing and enduring auteur, whose only aim in life is to give pleasure to others. ‘Educational, touching and hilarious’ – Screen InternationalIMDB page here

discussing the next scene. There is no written script.

My review: this was an eye opener to see what life in Afghanistan is like. Here we have an ebullient and charismatic film maker Salan Shaheen, who loves showing off and doing as much self advertisement as he can. There was a lovely story of a 16 year old girl who saw the film director in the street and simply told him that she wanted to be in his films (110 made so far). She went to his office and he agreed.  Films are not rehearsed and filmed with one or possibly two hand held cameras.

Salim was beaten as a child for showing interest in films but he went back to watching movies anyway. (brother gives testimony)

People love him I suspect as a model of someone who refuses to be beaten and demoralized by the Taliban. They ban all images including films. there are only five cinemas in the whole country so making money from showing films is virtually impossible.   This wonderfully eccentric  man has a three story house. On the first floor lives his first wife with their six children, on the first floor his second wife and the third floor is his for social and recreational purposes. I can truly call him a character and rejoice that there are these types of people around hopefully serving as a role model for the rising generation.

even the Taliban could not stop people from downloading his films on to their mobile phones.

The Festival goes on until next Sunday but the best films are sold out so as things stand that will be our last Festival film viewing. However with yours truly never say never.

Film Festival 4 – Don’t go to court! – a nearly namesake


Sunday 6 November 1664

(Lord’s day). Up and with my wife to church. Dined at home. And I all the afternoon close at my office drawing up some proposals to present to the Committee for the Fishery to-morrow….

Surely, Pepys is a workaholic. However I don’t want accusations of ‘the pot calling the kettle black’, or ‘motes and beams’ do we.

In a structural way I have become more Godless – less observant of Sundays as being a special day –  in that I work pretty much 7 days a week. Because I enjoy it, I do not call it work. However I do refrain from turning on my computer Sunday morning though I more than make up for it in the evening if I can drag myself away from Country File. I’m a pretty hopeless but not hapless workaholic really.  Do you know the difference between these two words? Hapless is when you are a victim of circumstances, such as the hapless victim of a car accident. Hopeless is an entirely different kettle of fish. Its when you see no hope  of emerging from a situation. I am in hopeless debt. Even, I am hopelessly in love. I have a feeling of hopelessness about the future. I am hopeless about cooking.  Hapless is more a temporary attribute and more descriptive of a situation than anything else. It’s up to you if you feel hopeless about it or you could react in a hopeless fashion.


A very local piece of good news. Avid followers of my blog will recall that I offered to help a neighbour who did not care about his garden. What happens? I am passing when lo(ok) and behold, a miracle. The garden has been cleared, partly so far. This bone headed owner has actually taken notice and done something. I know my neighbour put a note in his door threatening action but in a nice way (if that is possible) by saying that the council could clear his garden but he would have to pay for it. The mention of money normally motivates people. I am glad this has not escalated.

Advice I was given many years ago was ‘avoid taking people to court if you possibly can’. If so you get put on some dreadful invisible treadmill subject to the whims and processes of anonymous people. It’s like being in a nightmare that you can never wake up from.  Avoid avoid avoid. Even if your pride is hurt, still avoid. Even if you have to go to mediation and risk meeting the offending party, still don’t. All those will pass quicker than the effect of a court case. The main winners are and always have been the lawyers.


Briana Snellgrove from Pensacola. Fl. currently 26 deg C – ENVY

So I very seldom go into twitter but did today as was looking for the female molestation debate at #metoo. I saw some very convincing footage of women beating up (on) stupid men in elevators. Anyway I looked for myself and who do I find – a nearly namesake Briana Snellgrove who is Proud Mamma, Happy Wife, Pensacola Native, Marketing Operations Manager, A Little Asian, A Lotta American. I have never heard of such a look-alike name. So an ‘a’ is all that differentiates us, but I bet her second name is not John. We Snellgroves are a special breed. There are more in Portsmouth UK than other regions for some reason. How’s that for a useless fact.


I was reflecting how little the newspapers can be trusted to report what is really going or is it a propaganda and brainwashing exercise. What do you think about this quote? Scroll down to the bottom and see who said it.

Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. . . . I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors.”*

So, today’s film.

‘Sami Blood

Review: In common with many societies at the time, 1930s Sweden was gripped by racial theories on the inferiority of certain groups – in this case, the Sami (once better known as Laplanders). Like other indigenous peoples, they were subjected to all manner of degradation and forced to disown their language and customs. This is the plight of Elle Marja, our 14-year-old reindeer-herding protagonist, and writer/director Amanda Kernell captures the complexity of her predicament with exquisite empathy and understanding. A ‘beautiful, haunting film, anchored by a startlingly accomplished lead performance’ – The Washington Post. NB – contains flashing images.   IMDB review

Having been to Lapland about 5 times I am looking forward to this one.

A sobering film to remind us how minorities are treated. Around the turn of the last century the ordinary Swedish people believed that Laplanders had less brain and were regarded as animals. A very brave young lady tried to break the stereotype by requesting to be taught school in Uppsala but had to leave and return home due to lack of money. She was rejected by her own family but was given some means to continue her life and the film ends with her walking into the distance. All good films ask a question and this was no exception.  The dialogue was sparse to say the least but a gripping film and a good two hour’s worth.

Can we take another one. There was a good one about the upside of an African American Family living in USA. The cameras followed them for the best part of ten years. I could not take any more so went to the adjacent Wetherspoons for a very nice dish of Lamb Moussaka with salad and chips.

On the way out we saw another brainless USA product advertised esigned to further dumb down what is left of the intelligence of the average American.

making rebellion a virtue



*Thomas Jefferson, USA President writing in 1807.  They don’t make ’em like that any more.

Bath Film Festival 3 – being listened to


Saturday 5 November 1664

...and so with my wife to the Duke’s house to a play, “Macbeth,” a pretty good play, but admirably acted. Thence home; the coach being forced to go round by London Wall home, because of the bonefires...

None of your Health and Safety in those days then. Just watch out! Shakespeare’s play written in 1606 could as well be written for today’s politicians. The key to the main theme of the play is that excessive ambition will have terrible consequences.


Someone cancelled a garden job on the grounds that I might have an accident and she could not sleep for worrying. Never mind that I have given assurances and will not work alone. It was an awkward property in that all the tools had to be taken through the living room and up stairs but we have done worse. It was two doors away from the garden from hell, ibid. I was looking forward to it but – you win some, you lose some – is and always has been true.


And so to part 3 of our film odyssey. Today’s films are:

Dark River

Clio Barnard is widely considered one of our finest contemporary UK filmmakers, ‘the spiritual heir to social-realist master Ken Loach’ – CineVue. Set against a rugged Yorkshire backdrop, her new film stars Ruth Wilson as an itinerant sheep shearer returning to the family farm, bequeathed by her father (Sean Bean). She finds the farm run down by her brother, who undermines her at every turn as the troubled family’s history explodes into the present. This powerful family drama is a virtuoso piece of film making: ‘there’s scarcely room here for improvement at the level of craft or performance’ – Variety.
IMDB review

My review – irrespective of the details of who owns what in this down market sheep farm, the lesson is that a bad case of child abuse can remain with the victim all their life. The father of the victim had sex with her and then blamed his condition on her. Neither she or her brother could engage with each other normally. She because of her trauma and he because he could not summon up the courage – as the elder brother – do do anything against the father. Gritty and gripping.

Most Beautiful Island

‘A short, stressful, and utterly spellbinding debut that transforms the immigrant experience into the stuff of an early Polanski psychodrama’ from ‘a cinematic juggernaut in the making’ – IndieWire. Director Ana Asensio also stars as Luciana, a young Spanish woman fresh off the boat and trying to find her feet in Manhattan. Several demeaning jobs barely pay for her seedy, roach-infested apartment, so when a friend offers mysterious but lucrative employment, she jumps at it – and Asensio’s social drama begins to morph into something altogether darker and stranger. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s SXSW Film Festival.
IMDB review

My review: how easy is it to descend into chaos especially in a city such as New York. Live by the sword or get swallowed up. I will not spoil it for you but what would you do if you were a young girl offered $2000 cash for an evening’s work and no it is not prostitution or drugs. You will have to find out.  The whole was believable and as I have lived in NY NY I can confirm that it is authentic.

We are getting into quite a routine. I shall miss the festival when it finishes. The experience is not unlike Wimbledon tennis or the world cup not to mention the Olympics. I am a sucker for the big occasion.


No profound thoughts today. Last Sunday’s guest sent me a lovely text message saying how much she appreciated our hospitality. That was great but we were only doing what we normally do. We did not put on act or special show.  As my preacher of old said “The greatest gift to the world is to be yourself”.   Posers or actors need not apply.

On the topic of being listened to I feel there must be a way of creating environments where people are able to speak and feel listened to. Surely not rocket science.  More of that anon.


Addendum – Bath on a rainy night


Continued from Bath Film Festival 2 – We had some time to kill between the end of the first showing 19.30 and the start of the next film 21.00 so we went for  wander, camera in hand. We walked across town (10 minutes is all it takes) and photographed along the way. It was full moon and a clear sky. It was Sunday night so very few people were out in contrast to the crowds on the balmy night before. We may not get the perfect photograph with a common or garden mobile phone but the atmosphere is definitely caught.

a bridge with shops on (Ctrl and + repeatedly to enlarge)
patrons waiting to get into the comedy club. The full moon shines down the street.
end of the world scenario
surreal to see a deserted place usually frequented by groups of tourists.
shops for the well to do part 1
shops for the well to do Pt 2
ditto part 3
seductive colours
C’mon girls, let’s party
Expensive but you get more pile for your money than in London

Bath Film Festival 2- anxiety – web designers


Friday 4 November 1664

…Waked very betimes and lay long awake, my mind being so full of business.

How to stop worrying about things at night? The injunction ‘put it out of your mind’ is easier said than done. Maybe to read a good book or listen to some soothing music will divert the time. I reckon that trying not to think of something is doomed to failure. Eating or drinking before going to bed does not help the system to close down.  I cheat by listening to Radio5Live until I fall asleep.


Inspection of allotments today. We have five people who although they have paid their rental have not maintained their plots with the result that seeds get blown over everyone and germinate, as seeds do. We will have to read the riot act in a nice way, probably by giving a months notice unless something is done. However we phrase it, we will annoy them. If we do nothing, we will annoy the other tenants who maintain their plots to good standard. You cannot win but rules is rules. If I worried about making people feel uncomfortable I would never do anything with anyone.


This morning we prepared for a visit of a good friend from South Africa who was transferring her sales base from a high street art gallery in Bath to a virtual art gallery. We provided fresh pea soup with freshly baked bread, organic sausages and mash with home grown red cabbage, and a scrumptious orange pudding with double cream followed by buffalo cheese. She contributed a couple of fine bottles of rose wine and being South African I would have expected nothing less from her.

She talked about her new web site. I being me wanted to assist and see if I could spot any factor that would be inhibiting sales. I spotted a few points straight away to do with basic architecture and functionality or lack of it of links. As a web builder your job is to make it as easy as possible to go from casual glancing to purchase. Even one missing link means abandonment, a very expensive mistake for those hoping for sales.  I went through each page and made some ‘end user’ comments i.e. imagining if I was using the site how would I find it.  There was no stat counter so how could she know how many hits she was getting. I use which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the origin and habits of your visitors. Google Analytics does the job but I don’t find it so friendly.

If you want to comment one someone else’s work only do so if your offer is accepted. Give your qualifications for doing so and don’t over claim. Say it is just your impression but had they thought of ……. Alas many professional web builders function in a semi-robotic manner and do not enter in the the spirit of the site. As a result it does not ‘buzz’.  Image quality is very important especially if selling fine art or promoting design. This bad habit is particularly common when the client knows little or nothing about web sites. The site needs to walk your talk and reflect the skill and understanding of the designer.


Off to Bath with no need to use park and ride as the parking is easier Sundays. Two films that I am looking forward to in particular.

Mountain is ‘one of the most visceral essay films ever made’ – The Hollywood Reporter. After the BAFTA-nominated film Sherpa, director Jennifer Peedom and specialist high-altitude cinematographer Renan Ozturk collaborate again. It takes a certain type to climb mountains – as the film observes – ‘half in love with themselves, half in love with oblivion.’ For the rest of us, Peedom’s documentary presents a unique chance to experience these majestic places. Composer Richard Tognetti (Master and Commander) conducts music written specially for the film, alongside works by Beethoven, Grieg and others. A granite-voiced and poetic Willem Dafoe narrates. 76 mins.

My review: seldom have I seen so many awesome images of mountain ranges, spectacular sun sets, individuals clinging to sheer rock faces with no support, lines of people being marshaled in order to ascend Everest. Extreme bike riders plunging off mountain tops only to be slowed by their parachutes.  There was a particularly stunning piece – a speeded up film of lava spewing out of a volcano and solidifying in a rolling tide-like formation.  Everyone was silent the whole way through.  The string quartet music was a trifle loud so I had to block my ears at one point.


This ‘is a movie about itself: the subjects are so warm and wonderful it’s a wise move’ – The Guardian. The amazing (almost 90-year-old) Agnès Varda has been an icon of French cinema for over 60 years. For this enchanting documentary she has teamed up with 34-year-old artist JR. This odd couple traverse rural France in a van resembling a giant camera, taking pictures of people and pasting giant prints onto local buildings. ‘A lovely addition to the long line of personal documentaries about French life at ground level that Agnès Varda has been making throughout her entire career’ – The Hollywood Reporter.  89 mins.

an arty crowd

We saw this in Cinema 2, an intimate venue with about 8 rows of seats and a large screen.  I love being with arty people. It makes an atmosphere were everyone can talk to each other. There is an appreciation of the abstract and the existential which is like a breath of fresh air.

My review: a delightful and vivacious 84 year old puts us all to shame who complain about ‘getting older’ I don’t know how to do justice to this film. Imagine you are living in a nondescript part of France and your block of houses is condemned. You refuse to move out. Among comes a stranger and offers to make a photo of

this is the van with a real printer inside (mut be either dyeline or high speed dot matrix A0 size

you. Then they make an enormous images of is and plaster it to the wall of your house. All the neighbours come round and admire it. The photograph has a huge power over the psychology. The woman is moved to tears (see image below).

the house owner is moved to tears

They crisscross the French countryside, finding unlikely subjects and places. They are a most unusual working partnership couple  but seem to get on very well and be united in creativity. The only tiff they had was when JP (Jean-Paul Beaujon) refused to take off his dark glasses when she wanted to see his eyes.

Agnes has a great sense of humour but one of her quotes was on a serious note which I could adopt for myself ‘Chance has been my greatest assistant’. I would slightly modify it and say that ‘synchronicity has been my greatest asset’ but that was my stick in the mind saying of the evening. By the way, IMDB reviews here.

On the way out I talked to the executive director of the Festival. She said that each seat cost £25 with an average seat price to the public of £8. That is why sponsorship was required.  They give half the receipts to the Odeon plus and office plus staff of one but still staff plus publicity (the brochure cost £3,500) plus getting the films. I was glad to have spent £140 for the two of us and was thinking of offering my services in some way. I am quite good at being a sounding board and asking the right questions.  To end here is a picture of a farmer on the wall of his building taken bootleg fashion whilst watching the film.


pictorial essay continued here

The Bath Film Festival


Thursday 3 November 1664

At noon to the ‘Change, and thence by appointment was met with Bagwell’s wife, and she followed me into Moorfields, and there into a drinking house, and all alone eat and drank together. I did there caress her, but though I did make some offer did not receive any compliance from her in what was bad, but very modestly she denied me, which I was glad to see and shall value her the better for it, and I hope never tempt her to any evil more

That’s my girl. We have had a lot of ‘anti-men’ propaganda by that master of perception control, the BBC. I just luuurve the way women always blame the man for their own lack of control. If you don’t want sex you close your legs. No contest.  Womens’ thighs are among the strongest muscles in the body because of what they have to do giving birth etc.  Compared with that power the male organ can make no progress except with consent. You can’t open your legs without knowing it, ladies. Don’t blame the man when you are 50% responsible.


Amazing how conversations can start unexpectedly. I was waiting for the 41 Park and Ride at Odd Down. Two ladies were also waiting and I picked up what I thought was a South African accent.  It was actually Rhodesian and she had lived in Australia for 10 years. We all sat in the front seat on the top of the bus – a relic of when we were children and regarded it as the best seat. It turned out she was she was an agricultural specialist who worked in Rhodesia with farmers, lectured in many countries & well versed in agriculture. Talk soon turned to Monsanto. She was a mine of information about the wickedness of this company (previously referred to in the diaries by me) and in the 10 minute journey to town, words flew between three of us in a wonderful kindred spirit way. Her friend was not so clued up and promised that she would look into it. Adrenalin flowing, we wished each other a good evening as we left the bus. What a lovely start to our evening.


I am addicted to Film Festivals because we can see a genre of film that is not available even in arts cinemas. The London one is too big for me to cope with. You pass sleepwalking figures who have seen three or four films a day. There are I forget up to 200 films in the BFI London event whereas in the current we have a mere 43 films over 11 days from which to choose. We chose 7 films. That meant laying out £140 but we were happy to do this to support the minority British film scene. We booked in very good time. So off we toddle to the Odeon, Bath where most of the films are being shown.

First up, ‘The Florida Project’.

madam and her daughter

The write up: “Sean Baker’s new film has been acclaimed as a surprising and original work of brilliance. With subject matter reminiscent of a Ken Loach drama – three children living below the poverty line in a grubby Florida motel run by Bobby (played excellently by Willem Dafoe) – and a healthy dose of American energy, this ‘shot of pure cinematic joy’ (Little White Lies) introduces us to three kids who are infused with excitement and belief in the limitless potential of their future lives. Baker’s previous film, Tangerine – screened at the festival in 2015 – was a minor sensation; his new one is a quantum leap forward.”

My comment: if this film was a quantum leap forward I dread to think what the previous film was like. I can cope with the F word so many times then it becomes offensive and monotonous. It was not a healthy dose of American energy but three feral children learning abuse and bad language from their dysfunctional mother. They were not infused with any potential. They went round causing chaos and damage. Willem Defoe was excellent but if I want to see other people lying and cheating I don’t have to go to a movie to do it. At 115 mins it was too long for my taste.

The film re enforced my loathing for all things American – the violence, the shallowness, the hypocrisy, the gap between rich and poor which is even greater than us in the UK. I had to leave the theatre about three times to get a breath of fresh air and found myself starting to get depressed or down hearted. After the film, a man sitting in the next seat said that the film should never even have been made. I sat outside and waited for Francoise to join me and we went for a walk up and down before going back into the same theatre to see the second offering. If you want to know what IMDB thought about it (the Bible of film criticism) then click here.

Number 2 film was “Ingrid Goes West”. The description “Ingrid Thorburn is an unhinged social media stalker with a history of confusing “likes” for meaningful relationships. Taylor Sloane is an Instagram-famous “influencer” whose perfectly curated, boho-chic lifestyle becomes Ingrid’s latest obsession. When Ingrid moves to LA and manages to insinuate herself into the social media star’s life, their relationship quickly goes from #BFF to #WTF.

Aubrey Christina Plaza (born June 26, 1984) is an American actress and comedian known for her deadpan style.

Now this was a lot of fun. This is a world ruled by Instagram. For me it was a warning not to lie or fantasize since one stage can lead to another on a slippery slope. At 98 minutes it was just right. The director was also the editor which explains the sharp cutting.

The actors were very well chosen and were really believable. For this reason I found myself glued to my seat so to speak. The story line drew me forwards. IMDB scored slightly lower than the above film . Goodness knows why as I found it superior in every way.

The Florida Project was described as a ‘gritty’ film. In my experience that normally means people behaving very badly. IMDB review and description of Ingrid Goes West is here.

The enlightening effect of the second film cancelled out the disappointment of the first. If you have never been to a film festival then take heart. It is fun. Everyone who comes becomes instant members of a social club. It is the  done thing – yes even for English people – to talk with anyone else and compare views.  All have a love of film so there are no class or age barriers.

Two down, six films to go.

On the way out, a glance at what is possibly the most fat inducing and unhealthy sweet counter ever. Which company conned their way on to poisoning young children in such a fashion.  No wonder there are so many overweight children who have to have their teeth removed.

Sugar bombs

And finally, another nudge towards trans-humanism. It’s coming folks.



Shepton Mallet Pt. 2 and an organic evening


See previous Shepton Mallet Pt. 1

You can tell a lot from the local notice board  Ctrl and + repeatedly for enlargement
more grinning people at a dentist surgery (uugh)
she is not showing off her teeth by any chance?
Nothing if not original
I can’t wait

If you know where to go, there is a flourishing community within this Aldi/Tesco town. There are two particular gems that I would like to draw your attention to.

My coffee shop  BA45AS

A lovely shop/community centre/cafe

We entered after some hesitation. It might as well have been part of the Viennese Cafe scene of the 19th century. We were greeted by the  enthusiastic Karen Mercer. Everyone was chatting. There is no better place to start your getting to know people if you have just moved in to the area. The products for sale are ‘fairly traded, eco-friendly and ethical’ but the coffee ain’t half good too. TripAdvisor reviews.

a living room setting is comfortable for all.
Tesco retro displays. Very early supermarket shelf. All products tested by the owner.
children’s wall?

We then went over the road to ‘The Hive’, a combination of a haberdashery, fabric centre and cafe. BA4 5AQ . TripAdvisor reviews.

Unusual but welcome workshop themes
Seasonal window display

Again this is a welcoming place not for food gourmets but for mums, friends to meet and chat over a coffee and cake. Light eats are available.Come along if you don’t know anybody and you can strike up a conversation with anyone who is there including the staff who are lovely people.


This evening, off to the Clutton Horticultural Society to hear a talk on organic gardens by a lady called Di Redfern.  This was a wide ranging and informative talk with many hints and tips – leave small holes for swallows to get in after their long trip from Africa – consider leaving dead and dying plants over the winter as eggs may have been laid on them and the seeds are valuable to birds. You do not feed the plants themselves, you feed the soil. the nutrition in the soil then feeds the plants. Comfrey leaves are rich in minerals because the roots go down deep and capture minerals that other plants cannot reach. Cut the leaves of the plants (they give about three ‘crops’ per year and put them in water. After a month the resulting bad smelling liquid makes a very good liquid fertilizer. Don’t underestimate beetles and insects and worms as they are part of the food chain. Make habitats for them for the winter. She described strimmers as ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and that if you are going to strimm hedgerows and verges make sure that all animals are out of the way. All life is interconnected.

Our worthy chair welcoming the speaker. There were 19 of us in the audience.

Although the talk was interesting, the same cannot be said of the speaker’s professionalism with regard to the photographs of plants. The projector was a manual one without a remote control and she had to coral a member of the audience to change the slides. Looking at the spec. on the Internet it does have a wired remote control but she did not seem to know how to use it.

Years since I have seen one of these

The quality of the images were very poor – they were old fashioned slides – and some of them seem to have been taken at dusk or at night. I figured that the macro lens of the camera if there was one was not switched on to auto-focus. The screen at the front of a fairly large hall was a 6′ x 6′ so we could hardly see the detail.  That did impair the visual enjoyment somewhat.
I am a detail person (polite term) but most of the others were blissfully unaware of these shortcomings.  She has been giving talks for the past x years so why not 1. get a decent camera 2. go to digital if you can 3. don’t rely on 5 year old slides.
I love coming out of a meeting into the cold night air knowing that I will step into a car and in a few minutes be at home in front of a warm fire. I tried photographing the moon but with a camera of a mobile phone, the auto focus does not know what to do so you get a blurred mess. Photography has its limits.

Shepton Mallet in words and a pictorial tour Pt. 1


Wednesday 2 November 1664

…Up betimes, and down with Mr. Castle to Redriffe, and there walked to Deptford to view a parcel of brave knees —[Knees of timber]— of his, which indeed are very good, and so back again home, I seeming very friendly to him, though I know him to be a rogue, and one that hates me with his heart.

Is Pepys being a hypocrite? Diplomacy does not imply lack of integrity. It means that if someone is in a negative state of mind you withdraw and let them sort out their situation in their own time. It is unlikely that words of admonition would change anything.


And now <fanfare of trumpets> a mostly pictorial guide of Shepton Mallet for those who have an interest in Somerset in general and  this town in particular or are thinking of living in it. Semi-detached average £221,616; terraced £170,651 and detached £272,328 (Nov 17)

This is a pictorial diary in chronological order of our visit.

Friday is market day
more detail
rules as they were in the 1950’s
cross building now
This cross was on the main road
I wonder how old this signage is
Stall holder trying not to be photographed
What can I say
healthy plants for sale

continued in Part 2,


For older people who are garden owners


Tuesday 1 November 1664

Up and to the office, where busy all the morning, at noon (my wife being invited to my Lady Sandwich’s) all alone dined at home upon a good goose with Mr. Wayth, discussing of business. Thence I to the Committee of the Fishery, and there we sat with several good discourses and some bad and simple ones, and with great disorder, and yet by the men of businesse of the towne. But my report in the business of the collections is mightily commended and will get me some reputation, and indeed is the only thing looks like a thing well done since we sat.

Then with Mr. Parham to the tavern, but I drank no wine, only he did give me another barrel of oysters, and he brought one Major Greene, an able fishmonger, and good discourse to my information. So home and late at business at my office. Then to supper and to bed.

Whatever you say about Pepys, he recognises the value of networking. Mind you, with no radio, TV or internet what choice did people have? I sometimes wonder if there was no technology the sense of community would be greater, though admittedly the overall efficiency would be much lower.


For some years now I have performed gardening work for the more senior section of the population so now is the time to summarize my advice and observations.

Where we live in Somerset it is more common for the husband to predecease the wife. A typical customer is a lady over 70, a widow, who finds that her garden is too much for her. ‘My husband used to do all that’. It is normal for the survivor, the person responsible for the garden, to have had a hip replacement, to have difficulty bending, to have heart problems, and for one reason or another not being able to perform garden operations.  I have lost count of the number of times a customer has apologized for not being able to do something as if it was their fault.

Meanwhile, the garden is deteriorating and becomes a source of embarrassment. It is good having Francoise (partner) with me when I see potential clients. She talks to them for at least 15 minutes, listening to their stories and explaining that it is part of getting older that you cannot do so much physical work. I found myself saying today to an older lady “Age is like the tide. It is coming in. Think of what you need to achieve then divide by two. Do what you can and enjoy it. If it ceases to be a pleasure then get someone to assist you”. If that does not work I say that one day I myself will become older and will need the same support as we are giving them.  That normally does the trick.

Older people feel vulnerable so I ask them what they want, then I tell them exactly what I propose then before I start the job I go over it all again and say that unless they are satisfied I will not accept payment. When the job is done I take them on a tour and tell them and show them what has been done and ask them if they are satisfied.

It is quite good to involve a daughter. Daughters are sometimes over protective so have to be charmed at an early stage. They need convincing that their mother is not going to be exploited and for this I do not blame them.

I find this sort of work very satisfying because older people do worry a lot (or is it general anxiety) and if you can show a substantial improvement, their joy is a sight to behold. It is also good to offer to return should they need you. The continuity gives security.

As  for how much to charge, this is always tricky. Some are well off and not concerned about the amount so long as the job is done and done well. Others who are living on a pension and have to watch every penny. I state a price but say that this is negotiable. I do not want to hurt their pride but you have to be adaptable. I do a bit of a Robin Hood act and subsidize the poor from the income of the more able payers.

There are few things better than being out on a sunny autumn day making a difference to someone’s life – and we get paid for it! Wonders never cease.


Working together rather than working alone

Monday 31 October 1664

So late to my office and there till past one in the morning making up my month’s accounts, and find that my expense this month in clothes has kept me from laying up anything; but I am no worse, but a little better than I was, which is 1205l., a great sum, the Lord be praised for it!

So home to bed, with my mind full of content therein, and vexed for my being so angry in bad words to my wife to-night, she not giving me a good account of her layings out to my mind to-night.

* For our non UK readers, this word is any item of movable property apart from freehold land such as furniture, domestic animals. It’s from Medieval Latin capitale: cattle

Poor old Elizabeth (Pepys’ long suffering wife). She has to be alert to all matters of the house whilst being treated little more than a chattel* for most of the time. She takes the brunt of any frustration that Pepys has, being the nearest available living object.


It is more fun working with others than working on your own. There are occasions when solitariness is required such as when doing a carving, or sorting out an intricate problem or puzzle. Man is a group animal and functions much more effectively when in harmony with others.
Today was the perfect day for  working on our allotment. We do not have heat of the sun (what’s that you may ask), we do not suffer from waterlogged soil, or from frozen ground as can be expected from December to March. William, who has a few days off work, has enthusiastically taken up his role as committee member and paces around the plots looking for how he can help the whole allotment be in a better condition. We joined in, covering an allotment with carpets to kill weeds and having a laugh and a joke at the same time.

The interchange of ideas while doing a job is always greater than for example talking to yourself. It may seem an obvious point but when others see the task from another point of view and with another experience set, they can give insight far quicker than a person working alone. In modern jargon it is called ‘pooling of resources’.

Sometimes a physical task requires more than one person, maybe only from time to time, but there is a temptation ‘not to bother’ other people and do it on your own, giving unnecessary stress to the body and possibly damage. You can do something ever so slightly wrong and have to repeat the task. This is much less likely if someone else is observing.

If it is physical and should there be an accident then someone is there to assist. When I had my fall back  a year ago there was no one there and I had to drag myself to my car and drive five miles to get home. Not fun.
Do not assume that others are too busy to assist. They may appreciate getting out of their house and into the fresh air, or change of environment. It is partly a social thing after all. We can all draw strength from each other provided the group is in harmony; we can say that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.


Dr Amy Frost

To a lecture by Dr. Amy Frost, the curator of the Museum of Bath Architecture on the development of styles from the Greeks on to the present day. A true intellectual who held the attention of the audience by her command of history and its trends. She is one of these people who could have gone on all evening but she timed her talk to the minute to finish in the allotted time.

I won’t attempt to summarize the talk. I was struck by her reminder of the three basis of design: structure, function(s) and beauty. Are they reconcilable?  Some designs are only complete when they are populated so that requires considerable imagination.  I recommend that visitors to Bath visit. It is a little out of the town centre – well, 10 minutes but worth asking directions. Do check the opening time before setting out. This ex Methodist church is  has been converted into a small but perfectly formed exhibition which is maintained by volunteers. The images below give only some idea of the facilities.

Dr Amy giving her talk – good to see a full house (well, it is Bath you know my dear)
Architect’s pens (Ctrl and +, repeatedly,  to magnify)
The Countess of Huntingdon
with whom you do not mess around
scale model of Bath
a reminder of the history of Bath area stone
good presentations


Bath has a good sprinkling of art galleries and in closing the work in the window of one gallery caught my attention.

no idea what the title is
Falling in Love

Being all things to all men


Sunday 30 October 1664

(Lord’s day). Up, and this morning put on my new, fine, coloured cloth suit, with my cloake lined with plush, which is a dear and noble suit, costing me about 17l..1 To church, and then home to dinner, and after dinner to a little musique with my boy, and so to church with my wife, and so home, and with her all the evening reading and at musique with my boy with great pleasure, and so to supper, prayers, and to bed.

Confession: I am fully aware that I do not listen to good music enough. It is balm to the soul. I can give an excuse that there is too much on my mind but when all said and done I am too restless to sit down for an hour or so and listen to auditory material. I can however listen to news as in Radio5Live because they are always jumping from subject to subject.

I like Charles Darwin’s quote “If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week” or Albert Einstein “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician”. I read that listening to music releases the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine and I feel intuitively that it lessens stress and boosts the immune system. It has reduced depression and discourages me from compensatory eating. I know some surgeons played music during operations to diminish stress but knowing our luck the NHS has banned this practice on some ground or other though private surgeons can do as they wish.


I understand that if people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are played music from previous eras, their memories are stimulated to remember previously known songs. Music improves intelligence, so studies show. I need to do some work on slowing down, which may be connected to the need to drop the idea that I am indispensable. It’s a hard one for a Gemini as we live on nervous energy.

But wait, even cows give more milk when classical music is played to them . Go on, your can google that phenomenon to your hearts content.


My webmaster asked me today who my website was intended for. He asked me because I felt I needed to reach more people. I was tempted to say ‘everyone’ but then that reminds me of being all things to all men, and nothing to yourself’.  The derivation of this phrase comes from the King James bible, Corinthians 9:22. “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made All things to all men, that I might by all means save some” This is a huge and ambitious statement and is about flexibility and adaption without compromise – you can figure out the rest.
It gained a certain derogatory meaning in modern times in terms of the futility of ‘being all things to all people’ because that causes unacceptable compromise in behaviour which is hypocritical.  We need  to stop this habit because one person cannot embrace all the requirements of your friends or your customers. We are best sticking to what we are passionate about, or simply good at.

This brings me back to my webmaster’s question. I want to attract diarists or bloggers and encourage them to write, people thinking of moving away from big cities to the south-west particularly Somerset, and people who like to be stimulated by new ideas or ways of looking at the world. I am coming up to 300 blogs now and nearly 250k words with no sign of slowing down. Rather, it has become part of my end of day routine, something that I enjoy doing and learning from, and an activity that my wife regularly reads and corrects my spelling mistakes and syntax errors.

Lord Mayor’s Show – risk taking – is it bad for the health?


Saturday 29 October 1664

The first Lord’s Mayor’s shows were not held annually

Up, and it being my Lord Mayor’s show, my boy and three mayds went out; but it being a very foule, rainy day, from morning till night, I was sorry my wife let them go out. …Here I staid three hours, and eat a barrel of very fine oysters of Wolfe’s giving me, and so, it raining hard, home and to my office, and then home to bed. Read the full diary entry by clicking on the date, above.

Yes they did have weather in those days. We forget what a historic event is the Lord Mayor’s show, manifesting as it did in 1189 but annually from 1751. The Lord Mayor is elected annually and is to be distinguished from the Mayor of London, a political and administrative post which has only existed since 2000. Prominent among the floats are the 12 great Livery companies such as the Grocers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths etc.


Matias Ventura or just plain Matt, the lead of editor focus for WordPress, writes about innovation

……Which is scary! Because change always is, and this is a big one. But a scary thing is usually a thing that leads to growth, if you can push through it. Ten years ago, agencies and developers worried that software like WordPress would ruin their business because clients wouldn’t need help updating their sites any more, and would maybe even just start building their own sites. But their worse fears didn’t come true — instead, it created new opportunities for everyone.

I find this very helpful. We hear of ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. I wonder why people including myself are afraid of risk taking. Maybe we should think of all the things that could go right, rather than the converse. I always have a Plan B, for what to do if things go wrong but you cannot plan for all unexpected events. I have noticed that people with the fuel of will power melt all opposition and create a tidal wave of self belief that conquers all. Perhaps vision is the limiting factor or it could be sheer cowardliness or laziness. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18


Francoise went on a trip with Age UK seniors and passed Chew Magna Reservoir which is part of the system that supplies Bristol with water. It was very much down; this  being surprising as we have had so much rain. Dips in level occur over the summer so maybe it will restore in the winter.


Our allotment a few years ago. It’s not bad but could be improved.

Just a short blog today. I spent most of the time digging on my allotment  so that the rain and frost could break up the soil.
A new committee member, Will, is turning an unused and unloved plot into a trial bed. He is killing the weeds by putting carpet on the ground and will leave them for six months to die for want of light. What a perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky.



Friday 28 October 1664

Slept ill all night, having got a very great cold the other day at Woolwich in [my] head, which makes me full of snot. Up in the morning, and my tailor brings me home my fine, new, coloured cloth suit, my cloake lined with plush, as good a suit as ever I wore in my life, and mighty neat, to my great content.
Click date above for full content


the world’s quietest room

The more I experience silence the more is the outcome rich and productive. There are very slight overtones, quiet hums, rumbles and these are not all due to pulsing of the blood activity in my eardrums, maybe the vibration of the head itself.  I was sitting particularly quietly and meditating on silence about which a lot has been written.

I remember reading that existence in an anechoic room is  very difficult to bear for a long time and it can send people out of their mind. I believe the record is 45 minutes in the ‘Worlds quietest place’ which is in the Orfield Laboratories in South Minnepolis.

The Quietists were a movement of Catholic monks based in France, Italy and Spain starting in the 1670’s. It was later dismissed as heretical as it elevated contemplation over meditation, intellectual stillness over vocal prayer, interior passivity over action, spiritual growth and union with God.

The quietest place I have every experienced was in Northern Finland which is well beyond the arctic circle. Ice and snow are good absorbers of sound and you can literally hear yourself breathing, and even see your breath due to the intense cold.

Silence! vs Sit quietly! There is a difference in meaning and implication. The first is the vocative tense, and order. The second is descriptive. The former contains an element of duress. We can  be ‘silenced’ by something but not ‘quietened’.

Noise is a physical thing, the pressure of sound waves,  measured by decibels, named after Alexander Graham Bell of the USA. However, peace is an entirely different animal. This is about the harmony of the mind body spirit enabling a human being to conduct themselves with equanimity (lovely word). I find the human psyche to be robust and enduring but we need to give it the circumstances it needs to function but then you did not need me to tell you that.

Sunday is my day of rest and the computer was not even switched on until 5pm. I did not miss it though <confession> after 24 hours I would probably get a bit twitchy.

I was tempted to have a log fire this evening. Our worthy chimney sweeper came on Friday to do his annual deed. He has all the latest gear and makes no mess. The brushes are operated by an electric drill. The whole process took 25 minutes.  It is useful also to have an official certificate for the insurance company as many house fires are caused by an accumulation of soot in the chimney (4,193 incidents in 2015-2016). I did not know that temperatures can rise to 1000 degrees centigrade

Now to watch  David Attenborough’s latest nature offering, Blue Planet II



The best things in life are free?


Thursday 27 October 1664

… At noon, Sir G. Carteret, Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, Sir W. Pen, and myself, were treated at the Dolphin by Mr. Foly, the ironmonger, where a good plain dinner, but I expected musique, the missing of which spoiled my dinner, only very good merry discourse at dinner….

Well Mr Pepys you can’t have it perfect 100% of the time. If the discourse was merry is that not a type of music?


Today’s reflection:

The best things in life are free,
Now that I’ve discovered what you mean to me
The best things in life are free,
Now that we’ve got each other
The best things in life are free

but are they? I disagree with the premise that a relationship is an essential prerequisite but hey that’s one view point. Many of us are prisoners of our own inertia and we have blocked ourselves from our own power. It is a form of self induced mind control or light trance to think we have to pay for something to get enjoyment
1. feel restless or unsatisfied
2. find something ‘to do’
3. fill the car with petrol, off you go, spend more money at the destination. 4. go home and rest.
5. repeat the above.

Let’s think outside the box. What is already available to you ? I thought I would make a list of what I enjoy with no monetisation attached i.e. it does not cost you anything. Why not make your own list?

* The lovely peppery taste of nasturtiums. I can eat about a dozen flowers at a sitting. Don’t believe me? Try some.
* My  partner coming home and hearing her voice after hours of silence
* hearing an item of music I first listened to years ago and remembering every note.
* the smell of newly mown grass
* the sound of crickets
* retrieving a file thought lost on my PC
* sunsets
* sitting in a hot sun with a slight breeze, looking forward to a drink
* receiving an E-mail from someone you have not heard of for ages
* having a conversation with a complete stranger and finding you have something in common
* coming indoors out of the wind and cold and sitting in front of an open fire
* being praised / appreciated for a piece of work I have done for someone
* when working as a gardener, hearing the customer saying during the job ‘my, what a difference you have already made’.
* talking to someone and realising that they are actually listening to you (quite a shock, eh?)
* hearing about the birth of a friend’s child.
* paddling on a beach
* crawling into bed after a good day
* making a good pun and having someone laugh at it
* the smell of Sunday roast
* holding hands whilst walking with my partner
* balancing my accounts
* looking at a pile of books, each one of which I long to read
* getting a book on Amazon which I ordered the previous day.
* being able to thank someone spontaneously and sincerely for something they did
* taking freshly baked bread out of the oven and smelling it

* and finally if any of you can send me a pleasure example greater than this then let me know. Click here.
We are all children at heart.
A – speak for yourself
Q – I am speaking for myself.

Is watching TV worthwhile?


Wednesday 26 October 1664

Up, my people rising mighty betimes, to fit themselves to go by water; and my boy, he could not sleep, but wakes about four o’clock, and in bed lay playing on his lute till daylight, and, it seems, did the like last night till twelve o’clock.

Better playing the lute than fiddling with an electronic device. My goodness what a day our Pepys had. It makes me exhausted just reading it. Click on the link above for the lurid details.


Today dawns bright and sunny. I am further resolved to make a collective appeal to my fellow allotment holders to keep neat and tidy for everyone’s sake.

how not to watch TV

At the last count I have a choice of about 500 TV channels not to mention numerous unwatched videos, many books that I need to complete, and I wont even go to Netflix which I could watch for 24 hours a day and still not see every worthwhile offering. What did I watch last night, what did I not watch, and what did I gain? Are you ready for this gripping item of news?
6.30 PM – BBC1 Points West. I like my fix of gossip. Not sure how and where a rocket can go on land at 1,000 MPH. Seems like a suicide mission….. 330,000 people are absent from work due to mental problems. So  get rid of American type companies who drive people to work for minimum wage under inhuman conditions….. Someone try to wake up Jeremy Hunt (our health minister) to actually campaign for people instead of feeding the pharmaceutical companies….. When is this wretched chancellor of Bath University on her £450k salary plus grace and favour house going to resign? …. Must have the local weather.

Now let’s have a look at the evening which for me starts at 7 pm.

7 pm Channel 5, All new traffic cops. I started to watch but found myself getting so irritated with the moronic idiots trying to escape from the police that I switched off. There was nothing new about it – more of the same – Brian -what are you doing?
7.55 PM Channel 4 Grand Designs.  Listed in my national paper but did not show. I must remember that different regions have different schedules. I love that programme particularly the measured comments of the long serving presenter and the manic enthusiasm of the property owners.
8.00 PM Channel 5, Bargain Loving Brits in Blackpool. This brings scraping the bottom of the barrel to a fine art. I know people need to save money and in a town with such a high level of unemployment (about twice the national average, more stats here) there will be enough to make a programme. I doubt if my knowledge of human nature will be enhanced so that’s a ‘no’.
9.00 PM Channel 4, Feral Families will tell us how children are allowed to grow up without rules. I can see enough of that on the street thank you. An aspect of Political Correctness? Possibly. I pass on that one. ‘no’
9.00PM – Film 4 Fast and Furious 6. I’ll give it a go but set the recorder so I can fast forward through the innumerable ads. Have you noticed that the more popular the film, the more ads there are? It’s about MONEY. The allowance was 12 minutes an hour but now the arrangements are more flexible – 20% of viewing time spread over the time period 7AM to 11PM

and now to what we did watch.

BBC4 is what BBC2 used to be a decade or so ago. We spent out evening watching three hour programmes in succession.
900PM Retreat: Meditations from a Monastery. This is part of the channels peace and meditation week. It showed monks from a Benedictine Monastery going about their business. There was a Peruvian monk making an icon; I was struck with his dedication and calmness. There was  very little commentary – actually now I come to think of it, none.   What a blessing. It reminded me of Slow TV in Norway. We got an undistorted view of the daily round, the common task and could form our own opinions. I would like to try that for a week or so to detox myself from all forms of technology
10.00 PM Confucius: Genius of the Ancient World. Taoism, the expression of Confucianism, was attacked by Chairman Mao in the 1960’s but so embedded was the culture that it rose from the brutalist destruction and is as strong today as it ever was.  These people have a different quality of life, a different disposition, a calmness. Magnetic viewing.
11.00 PM The Work – Four Days to Redemption – Storyville. Every six months in a high security US prison, outsiders are invited in to meet the prisoners and interact with them. We see violent men with terrible records being reduced to sobbing children. We hear how they never learned to be men and suffered from a complete lack of example in their early life. Amazing how people can counsel each other and that both prisoners and visitor were equally affected. The enhanced perception that manifested as a survival skill in violent gangs can be turned to good effect to perceive the inner depths of brothers who are suffering similarly.

So, a brilliant evening, and all because – don’t say it – the lady loves milk tray (archive of useless memories/advertising jingles) no actually because our time is valuable and I want to fill my mind with good things. It has enough junk in it already without adding to it. ’nuff said.

I have recently discovered and am enjoying Trans World Radio which is a hub for many Christian broadcasting networks. I like it’s straightforward no nonsense explanations. No preaching, no fluff, no ego-centred personalities.

So folks to state the blindingly obvious, choose carefully and there is a feast out there. I do not think TV should be passive but something you actively watch, think about and compare views. This cuts out most of main stream media which alas is a perception management and control mechanism for the most part but there are still avenues of hope for the living human spirits amongst us.


Like father, like son — a group tipping point


Tuesday 25 October 1664

...After a little stay I left them and to the Committee of the Fishery, and there did make my report of the late public collections for the Fishery, much to the satisfaction of the Committee, and I think much to my reputation, for good notice was taken of it and much it was commended.

So home, in my way taking care of a piece of plate for Mr. Christopher Pett, against the launching of his new great ship tomorrow at Woolwich, which I singly did move to His Royall Highness, and did obtain it for him, to the value of twenty pieces. And he, under his hand, do acknowledge to me that he did never receive so great a kindness from any man in the world as from me herein….

Pepys worked hard to grow and maintain his relationships in business. In today’s diary example he has pleased two groups of influential persons. Flaws he may have, but he has a good heart. The cynic would say ‘shrewd business man’ but some of his actions show considerable effort going out of his way to achieve something on others’ behalf so I am persuaded by him.


My son has inherited from me the ability to always look on the bright side of life (thank you Life of Brian, Monty Python) no matter how dire the external circumstances are. This is part of his account of finding an hotel in south Sri Lanka

My friends and I went with two other people to Tangalle, a beach down the south coast. However, the trip was not particularly stress-free as hoped. First of all, we tried going along a small beach road which should have got us close to the hotel we had booked, but then we got out of our three wheeler too early and walked a bit only to find that the road had collapsed so we had to get another three-wheeler to go back to the main road then find the beach road again. However, rejoining the beach road we came across another section that had collapsed, but this time a pull chain ferry had been organised for transporting people at least. After crossing with the ferry, Google maps led us a little astray but we eventually found our hotel which was locked up.

However, we found another entry point by the water and explored the hotel which wasn’t in a great state. Eventually a security guard turned up and told us that no staff were there as the hotel hadn’t been booked. I don’t know why said the booking was confirmed. Anyway, we started looking for a place and eventually found a reasonable place. Then we went to the beach and watched the sunset whilst drinking beer.

That’s my boy!


A group assembled for any purpose has a balance of order and disorder, or I could say harmony and chaos. A little bit of chaos can be tolerated but when it gets beyond a certain level the nature of the venture changes and becomes less pleasant to be a part of. The trick is to see something coming and nip it in the bud, not by military means but by correcting the problem on a case by case basis.

Our allotment has been going pretty well this year, not helped by the lack of summer and high rainfall, but more plot holders than is ideal are not maintaining their areas though they are paying their fees. Now is the time before winter hibernation sets in to create as much horticultural harmony as possible – by that I mean getting everyone to tidy their plots. This is not done by sending a circular but by communicating with each person and asking if I can be of any assistance. Gently does it, as people’s circumstances can be changed by factors over which they have no control such as illness in the family, change of job or just plain and simple too much on their plate.

Gardening is demanding because you cannot leave it for a month especially in the season.  We have eight non-payers out of 65, and five vacant plots. If I were to leave this until next year I would have to work twice as hard to remedy it. A stitch in time saves nine, as my mother used to say. Another one I remember was ‘one years seeding, seven years weeding’. It’s one of the best pieces of advice I have taken.


I shall go into complete vegetable mode this evening. There are no less than 5 programmes starting at 9 pm that I want to watch. I shall record the ones on commercial TV otherwise I will spend half my time starting at ads for sofas, and others showing ridiculous people grinning at each other because they have bought the right life insurance.



Timing is all – when trustees go bad – meetings


Monday 24 October 1664

… and though not very well yet up late about the Fishery business, wherein I hope to give an account how I find the Collections to have been managed, which I did finish to my great content...

A long entry from Pepys today (click the date above to read) mostly about business dealings. I remember a BBC reporter once saying that he could not work unless he was given a deadline. I have something of this in my own psychology. I am incentivized by knowing about a meeting on a certain date so I plan well ahead and try to anticipate what qualities will be required of me.

not quite relevant but I like the thought.

With regard to meeting preparation, there is a certain lack of dignity in rushing around at the last moment chasing your own tail as we say (orig: a phrase likening us to a dog running around in circles trying to catch its own tail).
In other words, lack of time means that you tend to repeat and regurgitate rather than innovate and extend your understanding of the subject in hand and – dare I say – do not enjoy the task as much.

Jumping topics a bit, management of anything – a business – a meeting – even a family – is not always pleasant.  People are sometimes their own worst enemies and when their behavior affects others adversely, the manager must take a firm hand even if the atmosphere will be made more brittle in the short term. What is the point of meetings when there is no challenge, no growth, no questions?

Timing is all.


A salutary tale – Good quote – Helen Keller (born deaf and blind) and – as you might expect – a political activist said that ‘there is only one thing worse than being blind, that is seeing and having no vision’.

I could apply this to a story I heard this morning about trustees of a building where I was having a meeting. I looked outside and saw the large garden area was a mess – brambles, long grass- flowers choked with weeds. What had happened? A local gardening group who loved working together and improving the environment offered their help to the trustees. The garden was improved over the years until it was a delight to all who saw it.

One day the trustees sent a letter to the workers saying that they would have to pay extra for water they were using during the summer season. They refused. The trustees did not budge. ‘We want the money to look after the building.’ The harmonious atmosphere was destroyed. The gardeners were disgusted and found another property to look after. The garden now lies in ruins.

There is a certain ‘type’ of individual who acts as a trustee because I think they like the power. Had these good folks come and talked with the gardeners and seen with their own eyes what the volunteers had done I believe they would have gladly paid the modest amount for the water bill. This is a warning to us all not to judge from afar. Get involved and see both sides of the situation. See who is doing what and who benefits, then make your decision. It is possible for one dominating or bullying or prejudiced person on a committee to influence all the others. This unfortunate type of outcome would be less likely if they had as a group all visited the situation they were adjudicating.


Russell Brand has a reputation which does not adequately represent his ability to think, and perceive changes in society. I love his comments today in an interview with the BBC (whatever next!)

Addiction and mental health may not be the kinds of issues you’d normally expect to be addressed at a stand-up comedy gig.

But Russell Brand has never been your conventional comedian – and it’s precisely these subjects that he’s tackling in his new book and at one of his upcoming London shows.

“Society is collapsing,” the comedian tells the BBC, “and people are starting to recognise that the reason they feel like they’re mentally ill is that they’re living in a system that’s not designed to suit the human spirit.

“People are realising ‘Hold on a minute, is it natural to work 12 hours a day? Is it natural that I live in an environment that is designed for human beings from one perspective but not from a holistic perspective?’ Breathing dirty air, eating dirty food, thinking dirty thoughts. So really what this is, is a time of transition.

“Yes, the conversation is changing because the communication is becoming so much more expedient, but what’s really changing is people are starting to notice that the system is not working for them”

all I can say is “yes, yes, yes”


To the sounds of Al Jarreau (thank you Spotify) may his soul rest in peace .

Time to roll on to the sofa, a hot chocolate, then to bed.

The genre of garden centres- Congresbury being one such


Sunday 23 October 1664

..(Lord’s day). Up and to church. At noon comes unexpected Mr. Fuller, the minister, and dines with me, and also I had invited Mr. Cooper with one I judge come from sea, and he and I spent the whole afternoon together, he teaching me some things in understanding of plates. ..

I admire Pepys’s public acknowledgement and lack of pride saying that he learned from someone else. I get the impression that in most cases once people have left school/university and reached a comfortable position in their job, learning for learning’s sake is of secondary concern. Learning is a thing of beauty. It refines your knowledge and understanding of our society and also our ability to communicate meaningfully with our fellow humans.

Pepys is also a very sociable creature. The minister would only turn up at his place for lunch if he was confident that it was his life style to receive guests under such conditions. I remember when I was young our family household was very conservative and my father would expect to receive notice in the form of a letter if someone wanted to visit. Times have certainly moved on, then backwards. Many teenagers spend more time on their own with their devices than going out and hanging out with friends. People will lose the ability to talk in full sentences before you know where you are.


This diary has a variety of purposes and one of them is to describe what life is like in S(pronounced z)omerset and what gives it it’s distinctive character. My plumber Robert was enthusing about the Congresbury Garden Centre so we thought ‘why not?’. It is not raining today anyway so a spin in the car would be a nice way of relaxing after the meeting last evening.  This will  be mostly a photo essay with comments at the end (scroll down) about what constitutes a good outlet and what to look out for in both senses of the word. Use Ctrl and + to increase the size of the 17 images.

a warm greeting to the centre
a trifle expensive for a 3′ example. Also you need to plant them so you would have to buy another for display the next year or drag the growing tree back into the living room.
a thoughtful touch in the entrance lobby
a good set piece to advertise the furniture
but they might drive you mad in a wind
Christmas wrapping paper Sir? Take your pick from a few hundred examples
certainly different
Prize for the most expensive kindling wood
excellent display of different stone types available
Now that is a good deal indeed if you see what is included.
a new one on me
good clear sharing of info.
Give out the message loud and clear
yes you can do it “The dot connector”
ornamental Kale – but where would it fit in your garden? Veg or flowers?
well done that PR person you know your stuff
a lovely autumn colour spread on the way to our car.

Conclusions and observations:

This recently renovated centre is amongst the top quality in variety and sheer range of product.
* Right from the start, the impression is excellent and reminds me a bit of IKEA in the walk through.
* This has been designed for families with special entertainment for children
* The restaurant is a large c 200 seater with an adjacent area thoughtfully provided for those who want to eat their own sandwiches. I noticed the queues for ordering were long. You order and pay Wetherspoon style and the food is bought to your table.
* some of the prices are higher than I would expect but in the main you get what you pay for.
* There is by the way an excellent butchers section with very well dressed meat. There is also a pet and I think a fish area hence the need to explore. I was missing a map at the entrance. Obvious when you know the place but not if you are there for the first time.
* I admire the effort to communicate via chalk board and to bring the subject alive. People read written material more than printed (in my observation anyway) and this store is lucky to have someone with good writing.
* in the main areas the staff were difficult to spot. If you have a question and look around, you may be looking a long time. Items do not sell themselves and I get the feel that this is a vast show room too big for its own good. Could staff stations be made clear.
* there are offers going on which you need to spot e.g. off season sales for sheds
* come along and be prepared to spend most of the day there; you might include a visit to the restaurant. Avoid Saturdays if you don’t like crowds.
* at the very least you will get some ideas for what you really want but you will probably go away with an item you did not expect to purchase. There it was with your name on. ha ha, that’s as good an excuse as any.

Well done brave investors for putting millions in to this. I enjoyed the experience but felt a bit intimidated by the sheer size. Maybe that will diminish on my subsequent visits. Those around me were enjoying themselves and the buzz in the cafe was good.


Into Congresbury itself, a village little more than a T junction with a thousand or so inhabitants. In the entree is is a small square with a restaurant/bakery, fish and chip shop and one or two others. Fish and chips were good enough. We went to the bakery for coffee and cakes.

anything that prevents loneliness is a good thing. 40 million Americans are on anti-depressants. Give me a good conversation any time.

I was attracted to a leaflet on the table. Its a great idea to have a two aspect event – having a good breakfast Saturday morning and meeting people at a weekend which can  be lonely for those living on their own.


Londoners will not be aware of the Ticknell Country Store chain. It specializes in clothes for the outdoor country person, gardeners, DIY people and horse lovers.

Definitely a country feel about it AND the salespeople know what they are talking about.


Not the most eye-catching entrance. Huge car park. Dedicated staff.

On the way home we stopped at the Blagdon Water Garden store which I had never been to before having passed it scores of times. It is mainly for anything to do with water, garden ponds, fountains and they stock a very large variety of fish. We bought some goldfish to make up for those eaten by a heron or was it a kingfisher (we never saw them) who has our pond on his GPS and visits us once a year to feast where he can….<pantomine season coming ‘Oh no you don’t‘>  Not this coming period. We bought a net which now covers the whole pond and the said heron will get his feet well and truly caught. Mind you, these are clever creatures.
We released our six little goldfish and within minutes they were swimming with the existing inhabitants of the pond. We asked if their sex could be determined and were told that they can only be sexed in the spring. Males have small white spots (tubercles) on their gill shields and tend to be thinner than females. Males will chase females again in spring. So now you know.

not quite sure what a police box is doing in the tank but each to his taste.

The little ‘uns integrated easily enough. They are not territorial.

And so to supper, TV, and to bed.

Neither a lender or a borrower be


Saturday 22 October 1664

… At noon comes my uncle Thomas and his daughter Mary about getting me to pay them the 30l. due now, but payable in law to her husband. I did give them the best answer I could, and so parted, they not desiring to stay to dinner

This reminds me of the importance of clarity with any form of financial transaction, business or private, especially the latter. I would say never lend money to friends because the status changes from a friend to a debtor. It does change the vibes, bringing a certain awkwardness even when the money is repaid. There is a good argument for putting things in writing in any event as some people are forgetful, or choose to forget.

When asked for a loan you might do your friend a favour by helping them to find out why they need a loan in the first place. The excuse will be plausible and fanciful ‘just for a couple days’, or ‘until I get paid’. These are not to be relied on.  It could be bad money management or bad decisions.  In that case the problem will re-occur and they will be unable to pay what they owe you.

There are excellent debt counseling services in the UK. Sadly, there have to be. You could start by suggesting the Citizens Advice Bureau who by the way deal with 3,846 new debt problems every day. What is unfortunate is that allowances for unemployed people are sent directly to them, leaving them to pay the rent. The temptation to buy that big screen TV is sometimes too much to resist. The average debt per adult in the UK is £30,012 and that’s without mortgage. Bearing this in mind you may find that giving a loan to your friend does not address the problem and just delays the day when they have to face reality. I support Christians Against Poverty which addresses people’s emotional difficulties as well as their financial situation.


If I may be permitted to pass on a few observations about preparing for a meeting. Assuming that the room is booked, I want to talk about content. I run through the meeting in my head and figure out all the papers that might be required. Most important, I finish all my preparations a few hours before the event including things that will ‘just take a few moments’. One time I wanted to print off the agenda and the computer chose that very moment to freeze meaning that I had to recreate my document (No, it did not save it in full).  Since I had plenty of time in hand, this could be accommodated in a fairly calm state of mind. If I am using PowerPoint or any electronic apparatus I always check it, not relying on the argument that it worked well three months ago when last used. I always arrive well before the event and delegate small jobs so that I can pay full attention to the guests as they dribble in, then come in a rush at five minutes to the event start. I always start on time. Those who are late will catch up from the others.

I have reminded everyone twice of the AGM by E-mail and a MailChimp bulletin. It is bad to overdo it otherwise irritation is caused.  Last year we had 18 plot holders out of 64 allotments. I hope we will do better this time though it must be said that last time was useful. I try to create – even before the day itself – a positive and pleasant atmosphere of expectation.
Asking people if they wish to serve on a committee is a bit like asking someone if they want a parking ticket but that is partly what AGM’s are all about. There are three of us at the moment which is below the safety limit as in the case of one person falling ill or dropping out for personal reasons.

people are happy to chat after the formal meeting if they had a good time.

<after the meeting> the key thing is to work together with people and see  others as making a contribution even though they may be critical. We had about 30 people – double of last year – and maintained a jolly atmosphere throughout. Ending with wine and cheese, what could be better than an AGM designed not to be like one. We actually got two volunteers for the committee! That’s a turn up for the books.  One of the measures of a good meeting is how long people remain behind afterwards to chat. We had one hour of meeting and one hour of chat. Not bad.

I cannot think of anything profound to say so maybe watch some trash TV and then to bed.

Night night

The F*** word, The A*** word, The S*** word

Friday 21 October 1664

..but most I doubt his not lending my Lord money, and Mr. Moore’s reporting what his answer was I doubt in the worst manner. But, however, a very unworthy rogue he is, and, therefore, let him go for one good for nothing, though wise to the height above most men I converse with.

In the evening (W. Howe being gone) comes Mr. Martin, to trouble me again to get him a Lieutenant’s place for which he is as fit as a foole can be. But I put him off like an arse, as he is, and so setting my papers and books in order: I home to supper and to bed….

It is on my list to report how I believe we should deal with difficult or idiotic people but that will have to wait. It was a mild shock to me that Mr Pepys would use the word ‘arse’. OK it’s use goes back to around 1500 AD but I still find it more offensive than many other vulgar and swear words I can think of.  I tend to translate words into smells. A relation of synesthesia probably.

Why do we swear? Is not the English language with its 40,000 words sufficient to express what we think? We are supposed to swear to release anger or frustration but is that really the best way? Many swearers seem to get more and more out of control so they have to use swearing more and more frequently to get the supposed cathartic effect.  It seems to lose its impact for example when you say a pop band is awesome. Isn’t awesome a definitive word? How can you be more than ‘awed?’. If I say, the pop band was f***ing awesome, what addition to ‘awe’ can there be. I suppose we could use ‘outstanding’, ‘astonishing’, ‘fascinating’, or ‘technically brilliant’ which might convey to the listener useful information, some nuance of the band that had not been experienced before.

We could be old fashioned and construct a full sentence (steady on, Brian) e.g. “I had heard a lot about this band but when they started playing I realised how technically advanced they were and I found the whole experience mesmerizing and outstanding”. That takes a long time to say (more than 160 characters) but it conveys something meaningful and gives a context.

Interestingly you cannot imitate the syntax of ‘he was far, far away’ by saying they were f***ing f***ing good.  It does not work does it. Any word can get overused. It also reflects on the utterer because it implies that they don’t think much of the people around them or their situation and they are perhaps quite miserable and in general unable to handle life. i.e. a LOSER. I note that swearers are on the defensive against real or imagined foes. I also note that swearers lack a sense of humour. If you want to ridicule another party, it is much more fun to say that them could not ‘organize a piss up in a brewery’, or you could call them a ‘Ninny‘ (short for nincompoop) or a plonker or even a pleb. I find that ‘plonker’ has a more satisfying sound to it as in ‘What a plonker!’ That says so much more.

The problem with the use of ‘pleb’ is that true plebs (Latin = the common people) would not have the vocabulary to know what you were talking about so that defeats its own object. How about ‘he shoots himself in the foot by opening his mouth’. That has rich imagery and is quite funny. If you leave the group in a state of laughter have you not ‘won’ the battle more than F-ing and B-ing. While on the F-word if you say ‘F-you’ it sounds very much like you are in the same category and that you are just as bad as they are.

I once tried insulting someone which worked well enough to silence him. I think it was a disruptive person at a talk I was giving so as a last resort I said ‘If you are ignorant then don’t advertise the fact‘.

Compared with this, the F-ford is just – well er – boring. So come on people, let’s be more creative, let them try to work out what we were implying. When the penny drops, it will drop with a thud. A friend used to call women of a certain disposition ‘a bitch de luxe‘. Beautiful. Says it all.

But if you really want to have fun, use another language.

Hey folks you can actually comment on my views by using the reply form below.


We witnessed today the aftermath of storm Brian who has blown himself out for the most part. The next one is Caroline, as yet unidentified. The Independent newspaper tells us that 10 more storms are on their way.
It is Sunday and we have spent the Lord’s Day relaxing, cooking a fine lunch (I never knew Whitebaits were that delicious), and not watching TV. The latter, strangely, a relief. Tomorrow, Monday,  the AGM of the Allotment Association of which I am secretary and general dogsbody.


My dear friend from Germany spoke with me. Her boss who has returned from maternity leave is a ‘stupid cow’ according to her but my friend has developed a method of survival – she distances herself. She refuses to get caught up in the emotional nonsense and the politics otherwise she says she would be ‘in pieces’. I reminded her of Shakespeare’s ‘All the world is a stage’ and said that this employment was a ‘bad movie’ that she would be out of eventually. So, my friend does her job, goes home, gets (well) paid. She knows that there are those who have to work far harder for less money. She and I are grateful for what we have, our stability etc. We respect each other’s gifts.

On that note

Good night.