Thursday, March 26, 2015



New to my Collection.

Wurttemberg Prepaid Stationary.
I haven't identified all of these.
Top Row: Offical overprints on prepaid letter and money order
Second Row: Envelope corners
The rest are unknown to me, but fun.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


From O. Reader


I blame it all on Welsh TV.

I remember for many years that Welsh TV was – well – Welsh. Like. You know. Sort of. As viewed by foreigners from England.  I also remember once there was a competition in a national newspaper as to what could make you punch the remote control quicker than anything else. There was one outright winner:

“And now for our classic movie - Singing in the Rain...   (pause)    ...Viewers in Wales have their own program...”

But it has changed a bit, and Welsh language programs have been fairly adventurous, especially since they gained their own dedicated channel. OK, so the programs for tiny tots can resemble Beatrix Potter on acid, but some of the others aren’t too bad, even if (like me) you need the subtitles.

British TV in recent years has shown a number of crime dramas originating in Scandinavia. They have invariably been dark, moody and miserable. Well, someone worked out that parts of Mid Wales can be dark, moody and miserable – especially when it rains. That’s 365 days of the year. So they decided to do a moody Welsh noir.

There were two versions – an English language one, lapsing into Welsh in home situations with subtitles (which is more the reality in Wales) and one totally in Welsh. They were filmed back to back. The English language one was called Hinterland and the Welsh, Y Gwyll.

So someone in our household of two (who shall remain nameless) suggested that we did Aberystwyth and did the film locations. In previous years we have done the same for British crime series Inspector Morse (Oxford) and Foyle’s War (Hastings). We have our stash of pics of Mr and Mrs O pulling faces (the local word is gurning) in front of well-known sites of the Ghost of TV Series Past.

We managed to get respite care for my mother for two weeks. The government’s idea is to give carers a break, so they don’t crack up and cost the State even more money. So off she went for her “holiday” and off we went for ours. And that is why we have been shivering in a caravan near Aberystwyth. Now we like caravans. I have lived in several in my murky past. The problem is the time of year and lack of insulation. We were promised verbally that the van would have central heating. They lied. They of course denied this, and we have just stuck it out – with hot water bottles, piles of bedclothes and eReaders, and a cold nose when waking up in the morning. Not being canine, and pushing elderly, it hasn’t really worked as it should we have done.

But Aberystwyth has been interesting. There is a series of books by Malcolm Pryce with pastiches on familiar titles – Don’t Cry for me Aberystwyth, Aberystwyth Mon Amour, Last Tango in Aberystwyth etc. They are a sort of mixture of Raymond Chandler crossed with Terry Pratchett. Imagine hard boiled dialog but Druids replacing the Mafia. Aberystwyth houses a famous university and the National Library of Wales. We did the library, the tour, the exhibits, and some researching (Mrs O on Welsh folk songs, and me on Welsh Bibles) and as always when away, we looked up the local folk club, with a whole new unsuspecting audience for our limited repertoire. We also attended a one day meeting attended by over 300 where the whole program was in Welsh. I will be doing one of the talks in English in a few weeks time at a repeat event and thought I might have gained some points. And if I could have understood more than the odd word, perhaps I would have done. Mrs O is the linguist in our family. The language is certainly making a comeback from those former days of being suppressed and children using it in schools being punished by the authorities.

And of course, the locations for Y Gwyll. One key location was a place called Devil’s Bridge. I’d been there before, but a million years ago when our daughter was small, and we never did “the walk”. This time we did.  This time I wished we hadn’t.  It is a one-way trip down an extremely steep gorge, with high water-falls to your side and rainwater underfoot; then crossing a scary bridge, and up the other side. Once you have entered – using a primitive slot machine – you can’t get back. There’s a catch-phrase from a British quiz show – I’ve started so I’ll finish... No choice here. We reached the bottom, Mrs O was hyperventilating, and I had come to realise how badly I had done my leg in the day before (don’t ask). Never mind, says I, we are half way there. Except that the second half was going up; mountaineering with slippery rocks, dodgy handrails, and the real possibility of doing an impersonation of that famous Holmes-Moriarty scene from the Reichenbach Falls.

I think I am getting old. I once mentioned in an old post how my father walked 13 miles for charity (and more important for him, a story on the front page of his local newspaper) when he was 95 years old. He died shortly thereafter, but I hasten to add that there was no connection between the two events. However, I have decided after Devil’s Bridge that I am not going to emulate him.

And finally, we spent time in the caravan and shivered and caught up on DVDs. While writing this, we have been watching Paranoiac. It’s a British Hammer studio horror picture based loosely – very loosely – on a superior Josephine Tey novel, Brat Farrar. The old Hammer Company turned it into an over-the-top shock-fest – and it made me laugh out loud and spill my beer. It was the sort of film that as a teenager you would take a girl with you to see in the cinema. At a crucial scary moment you would clutch her hand – only to find it already contained an ice cream, resulting in an unpleasant experience for both of you.

Anyhow – I’m rambling again. As you do. As I do. So to-morrow it’s goodbye to Y Gwyll and Aberystwyth and cold feet – we head back to civilisation and work and responsibility and all that. And decent central heating. It reminded me of a newspaper filler that compared attitudes of people of a certain age with certain decades. Example – Year 1965: “I want to look like Elizabeth Taylor.” Year 2000: “I don’t want to look like Elizabeth Taylor.” And the warmth one?  1965: “I wanna to go to California, man, because it’s COOL...” 2000: “I want to go to California because it’s WARM!”

I’m with the latter all the way.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015

So ... maybe it was stupid ...

I'm teaching a medieval history course next year. It's for grades 4-6, but many of them will function at a high school level. I've scouted dozens of curricula and found all of them wanting. I rashly agreed to write one specific to the course. If my mind had been turned on, I'd never have done that. Experience tells me it's inviting over work and stress.

I have until the fall to finish it. But I have to simplify material and present topics that might offend with some delicacy. Here's the start of an "extra" page (minus the illustrations) that is about a third of the way into the course:

Chivalry was not an ‘official institution.’ It was not decreed by a king or priest. So historians do not know when the idea of chivalry arose or where, and the definition of chivalry differed according to time and place, making it hard for us to define. Though it is strongly religious in thought, it was not a religious organization. “It would be useless to search for the place of its birth or for the name of its founder. It was born everywhere at once, and has been everywhere at the same time the natural effect of the same aspirations and the same needs.”

Chivalry arose from a German custom which was idealized by the Christian church; and it was an ideal than a practice. One writer called it “the Christian form of the military profession; the knight was the Christian soldier.” While knights believed this, this belief is contrary to early Christian practice.  

“They refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire. . . . It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.”—Edward Gibbon: History of  Christianity.

“A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [Roman emperor from 161 to 180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”—E. W. Barnes: The Rise of Christianity (London, 1947), p. 333.

The various sects of the Church continued to speak against war, but by the time of St. Augustine its view of war had changed. Augustine wrote: “He who can think of war and can support it without great sorrow is truly dead to human feelings.” But “it is necessary to submit to war, but to wish for peace.” The Catholic Church believed war was God’s way of punishing nations and individuals. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, (1627-1704) a French bishop, said the Catholic Church believed war was earthly preparation for the Kingdom of God. He said that empires ‘fall upon one another to form a foundation where on to build the church.’  The code of Chivalry bound knights to the church.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Monday, March 16, 2015

okay ... this is swell!

I have all the numeral issues from the Kingdom Bavaria except one. These are some of my favorite stamps. I didn't have the 12K Red. It isn't as pricy as some of the others, but people seem to want more than usual for it. The Scott Catalogue suggests 140.00 used. No one pays that unless it is top quality. Usually sellers ask about 40-60 dollars. I don't think it's worth that either and would never pay that much.

Uncle B. found one for cheap and bought it for me. So now I have the complete set 1849-1858. How very nice. Here it is:


             I continue to find comfort in my stamp collections. It’s a distracting hobby, and right now I need to be distracted. I tried a new medication that didn’t work. It didn’t do anything but make me feel icky and turn my pee a funny color. So when I can’t do much else, I sit with one of my stamp albums on my lap and turn pages.

            Which album I examine changes with my mood. I found an old packet of Austrian stamps in a box that Uncle B gave me. Some of the early issues have varnish bars across the front. Most American collectors see these as a minor variety, but I collect them. There was a complete set of the 1904 issue in the packet. So that was nice. I made a special page for them.

            But the nicest find this week is a pair of German Inflation Era stamps. The normal example is very inexpensive mint or used. There are several varieties. This example is listed in the Michel catalogue as 256d and valued at $250.00 each used, giving the pair a catalogue value (seldom realistic, but a guide to rarity) of $500.00. This example differs in color from the normal issue. I’ve found a number of the rarer varieties in large groups of otherwise common stamps. I’m always pleased to find something like this.

The heavy bars used to cancel these stamps indicates that they paid parcel post.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A poem by O. Reader

He only sent the first few verses.

A dragon’s life is very hard
When you think about it.
From most places it is barred
And heroes come and clout it!
Your worries never seem to cease.
No life are you enjoying.
You never get a moment’s peace
- It’s really most annoying.
Fire and sulphur you must blow
To scare the humble peasant.
If you hiccup blowing though,
It can be quite unpleasant!
And every time you come in view
All people flee in fright.
And no-one ever talks to you
- Unless they want a light.
You are cursed to have a face
All greenish as a rule;
A tail that is a right disgrace
- You don’t half feel a fool.
And every hero to a man
You have to go and fight.
And only “gorgeous dishes” can
Appease your appetite.
These last sins are quite correct.
(Such nasty things to do).
But alas, they all expect
That sort of thing from you.
Legend thus is most to blame;
For no-one has been told
That somewhere deep inside your frame
You have a heart of gold.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Dragon in the Park and other Adventures

            I’m taking a break from lesson planning. I’m swamped and frustrated, and even the simplest tasks are difficult. But I’m forging ahead. I teach a kindergarten-first grade children’s literature class. I read a book to them, always a short book. We talk and explore words they might not know. Those who can read (many of them can) get to volunteer to read bits. Then we craft a book of our own. Each child gets two file folders. We fold them into book form and glue them together.

            We draw pictures, cut out and past in coloring pictures. Discuss what we like, review the story, add games. We just finished one of the Golden Book classics about a rabbit that seeks a home of his own. Results are always mixed. Following directions, cutting straight lines and similar things put dexterity to the test, and sometimes little hands can’t do those things well. I help, but it’s the student’s task to put the book together.

            I’m putting together a series of poems about dragons and dinosaurs and cats and dogs and birds. I’m using two of my own poems, maybe three. This is one of them:


By Rachael de Vienne


I saw a dragon in the park.
His eyes were green.
He puffed at me,
And I thought I saw a spark.

He hid in the dense trees,
But he looked at me as boldly as you please.
I thought I was a goner
Until I saw him kiss a lark.

So, bravely, I asked,
"Tell me Mr. Dragon, please …
Answer my question, will you?
But just don't sneeze.

Was that really smoke?
Or just something blowing on the breeze?"

He cocked his head and
Looked me up and down.
"My mommy doesn't let me smoke," he said.
And with that he lost his frown.

"You haven't seen her, have you?
I lost her somewhere near the zoo.
I've cried and cried all day.
Can I go home with you?"

I don't think I have any dragon feed.
Say, do you eat meat or
– I smiled hopefully –
Maybe a big bowl off bird seed?

"I'd like some tea and cookies
If you have those, please?"

Well, you have to promise and solemnly swear
You won't sit on mom's best chair.

So I fed him cookies by the dozen
And lots and lots of tea,
And we made posters to fix to every tree.
They said, "Have you seen my mommy?
She's missing me."

A week went by and then another;
We were near despair
And running low on tea.
When we found his mother.

Or, I mean she found me.

A huge salty drop
– It must have been a gallon –
Hit me right on top.

And I looked up and up … and up.
There was a dragon with huge toes,
One, two, three.
It was taller than a tree.

“Say,” she said, “have you seen my baby? Have you?
I lost him near the zoo.
I cry and cry every day.
Can I go home with you?”

            I’ve chosen some pictures to color that relate to the poems. I learned from earlier versions of this class that letting each child make his own name tag is a bad idea. I make one they can fill in complete with title and a large lined space for their name. I print these out at my own expense. Our district print shop can put out nice work but often there is some problem – currently all the printers are down but one. So that’s why I do this myself.


I enjoy this class. It’s very chatty, and sometimes it’s rowdy. I pull them back to their work. Managing a classroom full of kindergartners is like herding cats or pushing string up hill, but it is fun.

It's a painless way to improve dexterity, help them learn to follow directions and introduce them the age-appropriate children's classics. And this time I get to sneak in something of my own.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I haven’t ‘been around’ for a while. I fell face first onto pavement. It made a nasty squishy, thumpy, cracky noise. I was cut and bruised from eye to chin. And my knees are still scabbed up. I tell everyone that I tripped over a bit of cement. This is true but not all the story. I’m unstable as a result of increasing seizure problems, and it is these that have kept me away from this blog and barely functioning.

I have committed to teaching ten classes next year, but if my health continues to degrade I probably won’t be teaching anything.

While I’ve been in semi-hibernation I’ve watched more crime shows. Among those I watched were Murder Call, an Australian series, and Da Vinci’s Inquest, a Canadian show. These were a product of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Murder Call is interesting but not at all realistic. Parts of it were irritating. The opening credits are not well done. The play off a telephone dial tone grates on my nerves. You’d have to be Australian to know what VKG means. (Call sign of the police radio net.) The crimes are improbable, gothic even. The solution is reached by the female detective, but presented in disjointedly through rapid flashbacks to the key clues. This is fantasy, not crime fiction. But it’s good enough to watch them all.

Da Vinci’s Inquest is set in Vancouver, B.C. (I got seriously lost there once.) The main character is a coroner who’s come to the job after being an undercover policeman. He has an unnecessarily abrasive personality. Most of the shows have a political message that detracts from the stories. A few of them are improbable. Of the two, this is the superior show. It does not reach the level of the American show it copies, but it is a huge improvement over Quincy, an American show that featured a Medical Examiner. (MEs are a different kind of bird. They’re physicians. Coroners aren’t.)

I watched other crime shows too. These were made in the UK, Australia and the USA. None of them were worth more than one or two views. You can find the two I liked on youtube.

I’m suffering social-withdrawal pains. Other than work and sleep, I seldom do anything but vegetate and write a little. My doctor wants me to go off to the University Hospital. Been there, done that more than once. It’s a waste of time and money.

We’ve been looking into a Mr. Conley’s life. The research results are unsatisfactory thus far. But we have a fairly clear view of key events. If we don’t find things with more substance, we’ll change our outline and combine his misadventures with those of another related person. That will remove a chapter from the outline, but that’s okay. We’ve done that before.

Mr. Conley drifted into the faith cure community. Group interest extended back at least to 1878 when Mr. Russell, Conley’s associate, consorted with one of the earliest American advocates of faith cure (as expressed in Germany in the 1860s). Modern Pentecostals do not see Faith Cure as part of their heritage, but it is. We won’t trace the connections; they’re not relevant to our story. Conley, as do many believers, wanted what ‘should be,’ ignoring ‘what was.’ A driving force of sectarian divide has always been the desire to return to Christian roots. This isn’t an unworthy desire. But the New Testament suggests that Christianity is a tree that becomes a fully grown planting. So while Christian fundamentals are always important, some things are supposed to pass away with maturity.

We do not have a clear statement of Conley’s later belief, just hints of it. He cannot have been totally pleased with his final path. He sought healings such as Jesus performed. Within his final association he saw fraud, fornication, and imperfect, slow ‘cures.’ If he did not see the difference between Christ’s cures and this, we do not know why.

His final religious association was with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. This group has always been plagued by fornicating pastors, drunken adherents, and fakery. Today they are a marginalized sect. And they deserve to be.


Saturday, March 07, 2015

From O. Reader


What if the first Zeppelin bomb raid on London during the Great War, hadn’t blown a young office junior down a flight of stairs?

He wouldn’t have suffered from shell shock giving him exemption from conscription just in time to avoid the battle of the Somme.

What if penicillin had been discovered two years earlier than it was?

The man’s first wife (of several) would probably not have died when she did, leaving him a widower.

What if the man, now in his late 40s, hadn’t decided to take a working holiday as a host, compère and comedian?

What if one of the families on holiday at this location hadn’t included a girl who was desperate for a father figure?

Well – I wouldn’t have been born.

Yes – the world would have been spared Occasional Reader.

Let’s wind the clock back again.

What if a man who was desperate to be an RAF pilot in World War 2– even though the average life span was only a few weeks at that time – hadn’t been turned down on medical grounds?

He would never have become a RAF mechanic and been sent to Egypt after the war.

What if a Morse code operator at Bletchley hadn’t also been sent to Egypt after the war, where she met the mechanic?

There wouldn’t have been any future Mrs Occasional.

What if the future OR hadn’t volunteered for a kind of missionary work and been sent to the Wild West? Well, at least to Wales, where his first abiding memory was of free range sheep raiding trash cans – something not normally seen in the leafy suburbs of London...

What if the future Mrs O hadn’t come back from a foreign land to attend a wedding in Wales, which the future OR had promised to film?

What if the future OR, while dithering about the future Mrs O (dithering being a basic part of his makeup in that era) hadn’t bumped into her – literally – in a bookshop in the middle of a capital city? (At least a mutual interest in books boded well.)

Answers to all the above?

I wouldn’t be lounging here on a sofa trying to sort out a dead database of radio drama, with Mrs O sitting beside me sending emails to our daughter on her shiny Galaxy tablet. She on the Zinfandel and me on the Cabernet Sauvignon, with a creaky old crime thriller as moving wallpaper on the television.

Strange how things work out...
Perhaps I’ll just have another half glass.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

When Cartoons Dance

More from Harry

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

From Harry

Goldfish, Snow, and Christmas Trees

I spent the last two days sitting with the twins. My wife, GIC, (Grandma In Charge) had other things to do this week.

First I was just going to watch Maggie on Tuesday while Corbin was in his day program, but then he developed a fever and my daughter had to leave work and bring him home. So I got both of them. No problems except for the potty.

Grandpa – "Do you need to potty Maggie?"

Maggie doesn’t even look up from her iPad. "Oh no."

An hour later the diaper is visibly drooping. "I think you need to potty Maggie."

Maggie – "Nope. Don’t want to."

Finally – "Come on Maggie. Go sit on your potty."

Reluctantly Maggie sits on her potty while continuing to play on her tablet. She continues to sit for 30 minutes or more as I keep asking if she is done yet. Finally I pick her up and place her on the changing table and put on a dry diaper.

"You want to see Goldie now?"

Goldie is her new goldfish. Now the story goes that when my daughter goes shopping at the grocery store with Maggie they have been visiting the pet store next door. Maggie loves looking at the fish. The marriage started with two dogs and two cats in the family even before the twins arrived. My daughter had told her she would have to ask her father before another pet was added to the menagerie. A couple of weeks ago, as they were leaving the store, Maggie starts crying, "Mommy we’re leaving Goldie. We gotta go back and get Goldie." Before Mommy knew what happened, they were in the pet store and Maggie was pointing out Goldie to the lady who was trying to scoop the right fish out of the tank.

Back. Did you miss me? I was only gone three days. Life has been busy here.

Sunday night we tried something different. My son currently works at our favorite Irish pub. The pub is trying to bring in more business on Sundays so they started a cabaret program. The first offering was Secret Agent Galactica, a cross-dressing blues singer, who spices up ‘her’ act with stories of space and time travel. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Jayne had fish and chips and I had bangers and mash. We laughed and clapped, and drank good beer. Maybe too much beer. Galactica was starting to look good to me by the end of the night.

Yesterday we got ready for our big snowstorm. We brought our kerosene heater into the house along with a can of fuel. Firewood was loaded into the fireplace. All of this was just in case we lost electricity and had to keep the house warm. Of course, having done that, we never lost power. Snow started just after midday and fell throughout the evening. We got around 8 inches, which is a heavy snow for Richmond.

Back again. Another day has passed.

Because of the snow Jayne didn’t need to babysit the twins this morning so she gave up on trying to get me to take down the decorations on the Christmas tree. She let me know that I could now take off the lights and disassemble it and box it up.

I had planned to hang flags on it for the 4th of July, but I guess that’s not going to happen now.

So how was your week?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bahh Humbug

A man takes the day off work and decides to go out golfing. He is on the second hole when he notices a billy goat standing next to the green. He thinks nothing of it and is about to shoot when he hears, "Baahh. 9  Iron"

The man looks around and doesn't see anyone. " Baahh. 9 Iron." He looks at the billy goat and decides to prove him wrong, puts his other club away, and grabs a 9 iron. Boom! He hits it 10 inches from the cup. He is shocked.

He says to the billy goat, "Wow that's amazing. You must be a lucky goat, eh?"

The billy goat reply's " Baahh. Lucky goat."

The man decides to take the billy goat with him to the next hole. "What do you think goat?" the man asks.

"Baahh. 3 wood."

The guy takes out a 3 wood and Boom! Hole in one. The man is befuddled  and doesn't know what to say. By the end of the day, the man golfed the best game of golf in his life and asks the billy goat, "OK where to next?"

The billy goat reply, " Baahh. Las Vegas."

So, they go to "Las Vegas and the guy says, "OK goat, now what?"

The billy goat says, " Baahh. Roulette."

Upon approaching the roulette table, the man asks, " What do you think I should bet?"

The billy goat  replies, " Baahh. $3000,black 6."

Now, this is a million to one shot to win, but after the golf game, the man figures what the heck. Boom! Tons of cash comes sliding back across the table.

The man takes his winnings and buys the best room in the hotel. Once in the hotel room the man says "Goat, I don't know how to repay you. You've won me all this money and I am forever grateful." "Just name it and it is yours."

The billy goat replies, " Baaah, Kiss Me."

He figures why not, since after all the goat did for him, he deserves it. With a kiss, the billy goat turns into a gorgeous 15-year-old girl.

".... And that, your honor, is how the girl ended up in my room."

Not Super: 4.38. But fun ...

Click to Mix and Solve

Old Glory

These were  hard to photograph. I don't take good photos anyway, but these are framed behind glass. They're my Grandfather's shooting medals from the late 1940s and early 1950s.

From O. Reader

TIME FOR A CHANGE [If i were in the re-titeling mood, I'd call this The Agony and the ... Agony - Pixie] 

Mrs O suddenly decided that she wanted the bedroom furniture changed around. She insisted that it wasn’t “suddenly” – she’s been suggesting it for years but I don’t listen. So this last weekend, we risked life and limb to put the bed against another wall, and played musical furniture with the rest of the room.

I am now sleeping facing due south rather than due north, and although I get suspicious of words like Feng Shui I still feel the need for an orienteering course. At the moment, if I climb out of bed in the night, I run the risk of going on automatic pilot and heading straight out of the bedroom window...

The immediate problem was all the wardrobes and cupboards. They were all now the wrong side of the room for each of us. Just trying to get some clothes to put on in the mornings we would collide. So everything had to be emptied out and changed over.

It’s amazing just what we have found there – stuff that has been lurking for goodness knows how many years. Family history files going back decades. I’d wondered where some of those things had gone. Hidden behind my shoes apparently. Then more photos and stuff that we always meant to sort out, but never did. Nearly all of it can probably be binned, because we have it in electronic format – trouble is, we still have to check through it all just in case. Oh well – maybe next year.

Then my jars for collecting spare change. I did a post a couple of years ago on that, and Mrs O is still horrified to find how much cash in coinage I’m salting away. I repeat that any thief trying to make off with it all would give themselves a hernia, but it doesn’t seem to reassure her.

Then there is a collection of old suits that have magically shrunk. Neckties that others say I shouldn’t be seen dead in – but maybe they will come around again. If you wait long enough, things do come back. Trouble is, there is always some slight variation to show that what you have dug out of mothballs is – as we put it here – naff!

Games – from the days when we used to play board games, before TVs and computers and tablets took over. We still dig out the Trivial Pursuit on vacation and if feeling erudite, Scrabble. The rest could go to the charity shop.

Podiatry supplies that I lost and then expensively replaced have now re-seen the light of day. Sadly some have dates on them that are long extinct.

Then there is re-fixing the wiring – aerials and electrical wires – that sort of thing. At the present time, until I can burrow behind the wardrobes - which are so firmly fixed, if the house fell down they would probably still remain - there are interesting trails of wire and flex and stuff all over the floor. So if I don’t get out of bed and fall out of the window, I still run a severe risk of tripping and damaging assorted fixtures with my head.

They say the most dangerous place on earth is your home. You wake up in the morning feeling happy and relaxed and secure, and venture forth into an environment desired to trip you up, or cut you up, or blow you up. I can narrow that down a bit – the most dangerous place on earth at the moment is our bedroom.

And the lighting. Oh please, don’t get me started on the lighting!

Personally I could have lived on happy and oblivious in the old bedroom. I have been assured though that I am very fortunate. It’s not a complete refurb – it hasn’t really cost us any money – in spite of everything it’s the same bed, the same cupboards, the same wardrobes, and the same collection of stuff for which a room three times the size could still be insufficient. It’s just all - rearranged...

But that’s not the end of it. Now I am being vigorously encouraged to think of repapering the parts of walls that have been revealed after aeons of camouflage. The words of an old music hall song come wafting back through the ages:

When Father papered the parlour, you couldn't see pa for paste
Dabbing it here, dabbing it there, paste and paper everywhere
Mother was stuck to the ceiling; the kids were stuck to the floor
I never knew a blooming family so stuck up before.

Beam me up Scotty.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stampy Stuff

            I’ve been playing with two old stamp albums. One was given to me and the other I bought for ten dollars in a junk shop. They’re sparsely filled; most of the stamps are on the cheap side. Some are junky and damaged. But there are scattered gems.
            I have a nearly complete Bavaria collection if you just consider major types. Most American collectors ignore all the varieties. Lately, I’ve been looking for them. Some are very rare – high priced in the various European catalogs – but mostly ignored by the Scott Standard. I pulled all the Bavaria officials from the two albums, sorting them by Michel (A catalog published in Germany) listed shades and varieties. Two of them are really pricy. This is fun. Treasure in a box of neglected stamp albums.
            I am combining everything that I don’t need into the best album which I will give away when I’m finished. It will give one of my friends who collects a fun album of pre-1935 stamps.

            Collecting varieties brings its own problems. Sometimes a difference is obvious, but identifying which variety it is becomes difficult. It’s fun anyway. I work on it in ten minute spurts, using the time I devote to it as a break from more tedious things. Below is a photo of the Bavarian official stamps. I’m not certain you can see the difference in colors.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Times New Roman font is broken. I've done the windows fix and a fresh install of Word. It is still fuzzy on my screen, barely readable. It's just as bad in WordPerfect. None of the other fonts seem to be affected, just TNR. It prints just fine.

I'm an unhappy pixie. Any ideas?

Out to Pasture

A group of Texas tourists were on a bus tour of France when they came upon the town of Sancerre in the Loire Valley.

They eventually stopped at the little village of Chavignol and visited a cheese farm where the world famous 'Crottin de Chavignol' goat's cheese is made; their guide, who was the farmer's wife, led them through a process of cheese making, explaining how goat's milk was used.

Madame showed the group a picturesque hillside where many goats were grazing. These, she explained, were the older goats put out to pasture when they no longer produced. Madame then asked, turning to the group, 'What do you do in Texas with your old goats that aren't producing?'

One spry and very quick elderly gentleman answered, 'They send us on bus tours.'

Drinkin' Buddies

A man and his pet goat walk into a bar. It's about 5pm, but they're ready for a good night of drinking.

They start off slowly, watching TV, drinking beer, eating peanuts. As the night goes on they move to mixed drinks, and then shooters, one after the other.

Finally, the bartender says: "Last call."

So, the man says, "One more for me... and one more for my goat."

The bartender sets them up and they shoot them back. Suddenly, the goat falls over dead.

The man throws some money on the bar, puts on his coat and starts to leave.

The bartender, yells: "Hey buddy, you can't just leave that lyin' there."

To which the man replies: "That's not a lion, that's a goat."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


... oh ... and books. Many of these are signed

Monday, February 09, 2015

The New Bookshelves

Okay, so I don't take good photos. But ... here are the new booksleves, about half organized. The shelf on the left has on the top shelf leather-bound classics; the rest is history. The shelf on the right has history on the top shelf, and the rest are all childrens' and young adult books.

My work table ... when no one's watching but me ....

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

From Harry

I should be feeling good today. The Patriots managed to make an interception in the last minute of the game to maintain their lead and win the Super Bowl, (Pixie says, "Who cares?") but today is Groundhog’s Day and I woke up with the stomach flu. My wife and I were going to take the twins to the Children’s Museum, but by the time we got to their house I collapsed in a chair and pulled a blanket over me. That wasn’t all I did, but you don’t need the gruesome details.

Why did it matter that today is Groundhog’s Day? Simple, it’s my Mom’s birthday. I would feel crappy today without the flu. I miss her so much today. We used to joke about whether she would go out and see her shadow and how long winter would last. There are two other birthdays in February, mine and my daughter. We would just have one big dinner during the month to celebrate all three birthdays, but it was always Mom’s choice of which restaurant.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hawwt Donkey Sex

Got your attention, huh? There's nothing in this post about donkeys or sex. But here you are reading it ...

I’m swamped. I have too much to do, too much to worry about. And most of it is school stuff. I may be caught up in a week or two. And I need to sell stuff. I’m going to sell off papers related to Photodrama of Creation, an early multi-media program and the second movie ever coordinated with sound via phonograph records. We have a window advertising hand out, and some of the newspaper size souvenir sheets. It pains me to do this, but both my writing partner and I are swamped with medical issues, and we need the money. So …. So much for that.

Remember my new bookshelves and the family room alcove I’m redoing? I thought I’d be done by now. But no, not even close. The shelves are up and mostly full. The books aren’t fully organized. I have piles of things that need a new home or maybe I should donate them to a thrift store.

I’ve taken boxes of things to the Goodwill this month. An aunt by marriage died, and a cousin showed up with a truck. “Here,” he said. “She wanted you to have this stuff.”

Ummm ummm why? Most of it has gone to the Goodwill. I have four boxes left to sort. She had tones of costume jewelry, some of it nice. I’ll keep about fifteen pieces of that, and the rest will go off to one of my aunt’s best friends. She can keep what she wants and donate the rest to someone.

I’ve misplaced my new camera. It’s probably in plain sight. I’m really good at overlooking the obvious. I lose my keys too if I don’t put them in their usual spot. (A ratty silver-plate bowl in which I dump small change.)

The school district (and to a lesser degree a new state law) requires a change to our school’s focus. We’re about evenly split between ultra-smarties and children with learning disabilities. There is, of course, considerable overlap. Being a little genius doesn’t mean one is free from learning disabilities. So we have a new counselor designated as the lead for the new programs. I like her. She knows her stuff.

It seems to be official; I’m teaching a medieval history and literature course next year. This will be for 4-6 graders. I don’t have time to develop a full curriculum so we’ll adapt a pre-existing one.

And how was your day?

Oh, I forgot. I got some new cheapish stamps. They’re from various German colonies. The auction photo made it look as if there were duplications and condition problems. I believe that the seller didn’t know what he had. The duplications turned out to be Michel listed varieties, some of them on the more expensive side. So I did well with this.


Amy Goddard and Friends Concert, Troedyrhiw, 30th January 2015 Posted on 31 January 2015

Amy Goddard presented a very enjoyable evening, showcasing a mix of songs from her debut solo album "Burn & Glow" and an opportunity to get to hear some of her new songs - Amy is already working on her next album.

The atmosphere of the evening was light and friendly, with Amy holding the crowd with a relaxed charm. Emotionally, the music took us from a stark warning of the dangers of bullying, reminding us that "words can cut as deep as any blade," to the light joyful anticipation of meeting someone special at the end of a long early morning train journey.

Amy, who is an exceptional guitarist in her own right, was joined on the stage by Jonathan Lewis ho took turns playing bass guitar and lead - and also impressed us all with his excellent playing.

Amy’s husband, Matt Goddard, also took to the stage for a song that had the whole audience giggling - "Things you don’t say to your wife" - which contained entertaining lessons for husbands everywhere!

After Amy sang "The Lonesome Picker’s Last Hurrah," her moving tribute to John Stewart, Alan Whitby joined her on stage to perform one of Stewart’s songs:"Eyes of Sweet Virginia"

After the interval (with much appreciated tea and cake!) the stage was taken by Sophie Williams. Sophie recorded "Near the Sea," one of Amy’s songs, in the Autumn of 2013 and it was released through Incantus Media, subsequently being broadcast on BBC Radio Wales. Sophie delighted us all with that beautifully reflective song, which she then followed with her gorgeous performance of "Closest Thing to Crazy" which left many of us speechless.

For me, the highlight of the evening was one of Amy’s newest songs, which I hope will appear on her second album. Based on love-letters exchanged with a soldier fighting in the trenches of World War One, "Gladdie" brought tears to the eyes.

Amy invited all her guests back on to the stage for the finale, and the sound of so many talented voices performing together was a sheer joy.

Amy’s album "Burn & Glow" is available on CD from her website and from It is also available as digital download from all the major online retailers.

Sophie’s singles "Near the Sea" and "What You Wish For" (which includes "Closest Thing to Crazy" as B-side) are available as digital download only through all the major online retailers, or direct from Incantus Media.

Monday, January 26, 2015

From O. Reader


This is a rant. I don’t usually rant, and this is probably not the place for it – but I have ranted elsewhere, so I might just as well rant here as well. Normally my posts attempt to be mildly humorous, dealing with the vagaries of nostalgia and growing old gracefully – or rather, in my case, disgracefully. This is about age, but there’s not a lot to laugh about.

For a number of years we had increasing responsibilities towards my mother and her husband, who suffered from dementia towards the end. He died 18 years ago, so since then Mrs O and I have had sole responsible for my mother’s care. She is now 95, not far off 96. We have gone through all the problems of her going in and out of hospitals, and having an alarm button go off in the middle of the night when she fell or made it to the bathroom but couldn’t make it back. She adamantly refused to live with us, so this is done at a distance of about a mile. Mrs O ultimately ended up washing and dressing her for years, and I helped feed her, and we got her to her place of worship until a little over two years ago, when we just couldn’t get her back out of the car. Finally, about two years ago, it became permanent bed. Over the years we bought special beds, special chairs, you name it, and finally when our “get up and go” sort of “got up and went” we had care agencies come in four times a day to feed her and bathe her and ultimately just keep her clean and comfortable in bed. We regularly slept on make-shift beds at her place whenever there was any sign of a need, and were geared up to move in at night-time on a semi-permanent basis. And that’s when the Jobsworth people struck!

If you don’t know what I mean by Jobsworth, all will be revealed at the end.

My mother now eats pureed food – which we buy in from an excellent specialist company. She has a thickener put in her drinks – just in case something goes down the wrong way, although it never has. BUT – all of a sudden someone in the social care system cottoned onto the fact that the carers were giving her thickened liquids. Horror of horrors - they are not qualified! If they worked in a care home, they would be qualified – with even less actual qualifications, but because they work in the community, the rules say they are not qualified. It’s a policy you see. It’s a guideline – although actually, it is viewed as a law. And one size fits all. So who can feed her now? Well, the family can. But, but – they’re not “qualified.” Yes, but if something goes wrong, they are not going to sue are they? So how does the family get “qualified”? Well – er - the existing “unqualified” carers who have been doing this for a couple of years can train them...  Huh?

And if the family can’t do the feeding several times a day forever, the only other option – apart from the client starving to death – is a care home.

I have very negative feelings about the care home industry – probably because I have worked in it for the last 35 years. There has been a huge scandal in this country about horrendous things happening to vulnerable people in care homes, and in the most infamous case I was interviewed by the police twice as a potential prosecution witness. As it happened, the proposed villain of the piece – a doctor who owned a string of care homes and made his fortune – never got to trial. Someone attacked him with a hammer, and he was declared unfit to plead. The cases collapsed. It would be an irony if he ended up in the care system he was accused of abusing.

Anyhow, back to what actually happened. One evening a few months back, we had just got back from long trip to England for a funeral – when a phone call came through at 7.30 in the evening. An officious voice – we hear that the carers are feeding your mother with thickened fluids – they can’t do that. We’ve stopped it! Crunch! But, this is tomorrow morning – can’t they do it tomorrow until we can get our heads around it?  No – absolutely not – rules is rules, orders is orders, and we are only obeying orders. So what happens to my mother? There was some “flannel” as we call it here, but basically, that was our problem!  So to prevent my mother going without food and drink for the whole day, we dropped everything and did the feeding – as noted above, having been “trained” by the “untrained” carers who are still allowed to go there but only to change and wash her.

Finally, it came down to it. The rules say that only nursing auxiliary carers should feed her because she has a medical condition. But tough - they haven’t got any spare. That’s why it is all down to us and when we eventually crack up, a nursing home for her. Forget the government’s pledge to keep people in their own homes. Forget the fact that the regular carers have no problem feeding her whatsoever, and are up in arms at the slur on their capabilities. Forget the fact that my mother has had unsurpassed personal care and all paid for (by her and ourselves) - it doesn’t matter, you see, there’s a “policy.” We are not allowed to think outside the box.

In discussions at subsequent urgent meetings we try and get some sense. I ranted and Mrs O burst into tears. She was more successful in getting a sympathetic ear, although the results were the same, until we pointed out – er – what is this medical condition then? Answer – she has difficulty swallowing. How do they know? Well the SALT lady (Speech and Language Therapist) said so. But she’s never ever seen my mother! She’s never visited! She made a decision without consulting us down the end of a telephone! She just ticked a box! Consternation! Errm - they would have to look into this...

Anyhow, to cut a very long and tedious story short – we finally got the SALT lady to come and see my mother. It took three months of nagging to get it to happen, during which time the health authority that lobbed the hand grenade into our lives was conspicuous by their absence. And when she eventually came and did the examination – surprise, surprise, my mother may LIKE thickened fluids for “ease” but she has NO problem swallowing. Phone-calls are made with a mushroom cloud coming out of our heads – and this time the health authority backs down – the original carers can feed her again. Back to square one after three months of totally unnecessary grief.

If we were the family from hell and my mother looked like she was being abused, then I can understand the cavalry coming to the rescue. But we’re not and she’s not, and we have been praised by the doctors and nurses for our level of care for a relative. But this was a different department you see, and (umpteenth repeat) it’s a policy. That’s the mantra. Jobsworth.

We are still not out of the woods. There will be further future reviews – as there should be – and there’s always the chance that an officious social worker will find a new policy in triplicate designed to trip us up.

Are we going to complain to higher authority? We would certainly have done so if they hadn’t caved in, and my letter was already prepared. And when my mother is no longer with us, we will consider what we can say to prevent anyone else being needlessly put through the mill in the interests of bureaucrats ticking boxes. For now, it is a sigh of relief.

So – rant coming towards its conclusion – Jobsworth? It’s a folk song by Jeremy Taylor. I’ve sung it a few times in the past, but I suspect that the next time I go to a folk club and warble – it will be on my list.

The chorus goes...

Jobsworth, Jobsworth
It’s more than my job’s worth...
I don’t care, rain or snow,
Whatever you want, the answer’s NO.
I can keep you waiting
For hours in the queue.
And if you don’t like it

That’s the chorus. I think I am going to write my own verses.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Just Because ....

Movie Review IV (From Harry)

Young man’s parents are killed and he is forced to live with abusive relatives. His only hope is an education in a very exclusive private school.

Note from the Pixie: I know what this is. But I'm keepin' me mouth shut. (Or is that my fingers still.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Man with No Name

Movie Review III

Lost name in the west of Italy.


I collect book. I like books. I collect stamps. I have a stellar stamp collection that was started two generations back. I like my stamp collection. I collect old photos and post cards. I "collect" interesting people. I have a small group of vintage to antique moccasins. I started that as a project in high school and kept them. I collect coins. I love interesting sea shells. But my favorite hobby is flirting with and seducing my pet Scotsman.