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.


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.