scribbles tagged ‘cultural curiosities’

oh, those French

Friday, March 21st, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

A last-minute trip arranged to Geneva, do I need Euros? No, Swiss Francs. Rumania and I couldn’t use my Euros, USA and I couldn’t use my Euro’s, now Switzerland and I can’t use my Euros. Grumble, grumble, currencies, exchange rates, coins and stuff. World, stop making my life complicated!

The hotel I stayed in, outside Geneva, was approved (recommended), by my employer. It was in France. Yay! I can use my Euro’s. I speak a little pigeon French, left over from a CSE French course in the mid 1970’s. To call my French ‘rusty’ is more than generous. I try, at the GVA airport information desk. The information person talks fluently and fast in French. My eyebrows raise and meet above my not insubstantial nose as I try to repeat my understanding of the tyrannical stream of words he’s just blown at me. It seems I’ve understood him about where to get a Taxi, how much it should cost and what I should have done to travel cheaply if I’d been shrewd like I should have been. I feel pathetic and inadequate. It shows, he smiles at me but doesn’t wander from his native French language.

The taxi driver spews French at me. I raise my eyebrows to join in the middle “Je ne parle Francais” He looks at me with pity and continues talking in French. The ride from GVA to the French town of Dionne-la-bain was smooth, comfortable, and silent. I suspect silent is not the natural way for this Taxi driver.

In the Hotel foyer a large, elegant, elderly British woman is talking in a very raised tone with a plummy accent. Wealthy lady. She’s hurling a range of dissatisfaction at the receptionist. I don’t really hear what she’s saying but I hear the very strong pain in her tone. After a while I can bear it no longer.

Are you alright? You seem to be having some troubles here

Her son comes up “let me deal with this” he hugs his mother who appears to ignore him but turns to me

You’re English?”
Yes, I don’t speak much French and this is my first trip to Switzerland, it’s quite overwhelming

My husband’s in Hospital, he’s dying…”

We’re near Switzerland, an English woman’s husband is in Hospital dying. I immediately think Euthanasia, and all the awfully difficult decisions and actions that lead to that pathway. No wonder she’s so upset, no wonder her adult son is with her. I wish the receptionist had the insight to treat her emotions and not the content of her words, she wasn’t really criticising him she was showing all the pain of having to fly her husband here to get a dignified death after what’s probably been a terribly painful illness. I wanted to hug her. I suspect she knew. With hindsight I wish I’d asked for her permission to give her a hug.

I thought of Dad and how lucky my family has been by not having to deal with a painful illness towards the end of his life.

1 wonderful musing »

OS measurementation of what?

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 | tags: , , ,  |

what's this for?One of the joys of working for an engineering company is learning the new language, the language of Engineering

For example, this item raised a smirk from me and so many questions. What is this? What does it do? Who would buy it? How would they use it? Does it come with any attachments? Does OS mean ‘Operating System’? Should I buy one in case of emergencies?

What do you think?




5 bits of fabulous banter »

car over football

Sunday, January 12th, 2014 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

what does it mean?Mumsie: But how do I keep the email address so that I can find it again?

Wendy: You can ‘Save’ it in an address book on your computer. Can you see anything here that suggests ‘save’ or ‘keep’?

Mumsie: No

I look at the symbol of the floppy disk and wonder what dipstick in the Microsoft visual design icon set development team thought that a floppy disk would be meaningful to youngsters who’ve never seen one and oldies like mum who’ve never used one. While I can’t imagine a universal symbol for ‘save’, ‘keep’ or ‘store’, this symbol clearly misses the mark now and will miss the mark even more with the younger generations to come.

Wendy: What does that look like?

Mumsie: the car driving over the football?

Wendy: Yes! Brilliant, that’s exactly what it looks like, a ‘hummer’!

Mumsie: What’s a ‘hummer’? Someone in a choir who’s forgotten the words?

She’s quickly learnt the symbol now I’ve told her that it means ‘save’, the car saving the goal strike. Mumsie is very bright. Gotta love her and question who was recruited by the windows 8 user testing team to test the legibility of this icon.

1 wonderful musing »

water towers as cultural icon

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Towns and small cities proudly display their name on their local water tower. 3 examples from 3 States:

Cuba, Missouri

Missouri Hicks BBQ Cuba MO (13)

Commerce, Kansas Kansas (19)

Norman, Oklahoma

Norman (2)

3 bits of fabulous banter »

stop it!

Friday, July 5th, 2013 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Can you guess what this design is meant to do:
Don't drin the wine in the store

Plastic locks on the top of wine bottles displayed in a local store.

Is it to stop terrorists putting poison in the wine?  Or to stop locals drinking the wine straight from the bottle (for free) when no-one’s looking. Neither option is a promotional point for living locally. Oh dear. Defensive design gives out such a poor message about human behaviour…something, somewhere’s gone wrong…

1 wonderful musing »


Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

From a Goggle Translation in a Finnish discussion list:

  • 1.5 litres of fresh 3-4 cm long spruce tips (pitkiä kuusenkasvaimia)
  • 6 litres of water
  • a dab of champagne  yeast
  • 2 cups of honey

Crush the spruce. Pour the boiling water over them and allow to cool to lukewarm.  Add the yeast and honey. Let it ferment for 1-2 days, strain.  Spruce tips are rich in vitamin C and make a healthy and bright-flavoured mead.

SpruceBritish websites refer to this as “Spruce mead

A fast-food version of this involves putting some fresh spruce tips in your Finlandia vodka.


1 wonderful musing »

Howard Street

Monday, June 17th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

Howard Street Pub    Howard Street - number 16s now a towerblock    Howard Road - Back Alley Cobbles

Very little of the original Sheffield Howard street still exists. Sheffield city council explains that in the 1990s:

“Howard Street and Sheaf Square have been redesigned to create a much better ‘first impression’ of  Sheffield and to reinforce one of the city’s major pedestrian axes.”

A Sheffield council guide to street names says the street was named after the family name of the land owner – Charles Howard Earl of Surrey who lived in Arundel.

“Between each wide straight street, north to south, and between each wide straight cross street east to west, there was a back lane for deliveries and for any small establishments which might, in accordance with Sheffield custom, be built behind the frontages of the road streets. The lanes were named after the streets; the streets commemorated the manorial lord of Sheffield and his ancestors. Surrey Street is for his second title; Arundel Street, Charles Street for his Christian name; Howard Street for his surname; Earl Street for his rank as Earl Marshall; Furnival Street for his thirteenth century ancestors.”

This picture found on a Sheffield Historical photographs website shows the odd number houses 17-23, on Howard Street in 1902:


Henry Hall, the ‘inventor’ of Hallmarks (a way of identifying the quality and origins of precious metals) was based at 11 Howard street working in “Walker and Hall” a company that also pioneered electro-plating.

From this is a picture of their Howard Street premises taken circa 1915 it looks like the factory was on the top of the hill which is consistent with the current Street numbering.  I found this picture in a ‘Silver’ discussion forum:


An earlier picture (1906), a sketch, posted on another silver discussion forum states that they employed 2,500 people!:



what do you think of that »

General cemetery for none-specific cash burials

Thursday, June 13th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

General Cemetery - beautiful on a sunny dayThe Sheffield General cemetery is a registered charity run by trustees, this means it’s a ‘private’ rather than ‘public’ cemetery.  Wild and unkempt, graves unplotted and stones crumbling. It’s one of the earliest commercial cemeteries, and garden cemeteries, in Britain. People paid to be buried here in good company of other wealthy people. They were the new ‘Middle’ class who were mainly ‘Dissenters’, Nonconformists, Protestants who were separate from the Church of England. The cemetery was probably a symbol of the rise of these non-conformists outside of the gentry who inherited their wealth and were mainly Church of England.

The General cemetery is less than 2.5 miles away from the Sheffield City Road cemetery which run by Sheffield local government, a public cemetery. It was built 45 years before the City road cemetery in 1836 because:

“Graveyards were overflowing and there was an urgent need to find more space for the bodies (safe from body snatchers!)…   …where people could be buried in a way that reflected their earthly wealth and status…   …in a ‘remote and undisturbed’ location. It became established as the principal burial ground in Victorian Sheffield containing the graves of 87,000 people…

General Cemetery Grand entrancewayIt took me about 40 minutes to walk the uphill mile from the city centre train station to the General cemetery. Poor people were buried in this private cemetery, but not with individual graves. Their website announces that the General cemetery throws all the bodies of the poor into one plot, it contains:

“the largest single grave plot in the country, holding the bodies of 96 paupers “

This was about making a profit for the private company shareholders, they did it by:

“burying paupers for the Poor Law authorities. They charged five shillings (25 pence) for each pauper. Then they waited until they had a cartful of them and saved space by burying them all in a single plot”

what do you think of that »

indignation 1832 Sheffield style

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

A 1832 letter to a Royal commission investigating the Church of England’s revenues:


It is a matter of the deepest regret and surprise that no steps are taking by the Dissenters in England, at this critical juncture, to assert their principles and claim their just rights, when it is generally understood that his Majesty’s ministers, or at least the majority of them, will concede nothing to us which they can possibly avoid; and that they intend to bring forward, next session, their plan of church reform, the tendency of which will be decidedly unfavourable to our interests, and will consolidate the political power and influence of one dominant sect.…

If, then, we owed Earl Grey and his colleagues any debt of gratitude, for doing us an act of justice before they took office, in getting the Test Laws repealed, we have now paid it; and it is time to look to our own interests, in which are involved the best interests of the country.

We are required to submit to the domination of a corrupt state church; to be governed by bishops; to see £3,5000,000 at the least (but more likely £5,00,000) annually expended in the maintenance of a clergy, of whom a vast majority do not preach the gospel; to see the cure of souls bought and sold in open market; to have the Universities closed against us, and all the iniquities of those degraded places continued; to be taxed, tithed, and rated to the support of a system which we abjure; to be compelled to submit to objectionable rites and ceremonies at marriage, baptism, and burial; – in one word, to be left out of the social compact, and degraded.…

We have hitherto demanded too little; and, consequently, we have been refused everything worth caring about. The bill for relieving places of worship from the poor rates, which was the fruit of the labours of the last session of Parliament, is no boon to us. It applies to churches in the establishment more than to ourselves, and I doubt much whether it will save the Dissenters £50 a year. I fear we have even misled the Government itself by asking for trifles, when we ought to have been contending for great principles. What signifies a small church-rate, when we should be contending against a corrupt state church? What is the trifling amount of procreates levied upon a very few of our chapels, in comparison of millions of pounds annually expended on a secular and dominant clergy? – and all this is done in a country burdened with a debt which grinds all! The real points at issue between the Government and us are very few, and may soon be stated. They are chiefly as follow, viz: –

1st. A total disconnection between church and state, leaving the details consequent thereupon to be dealt with by Parliament.

2nd.The repeal of the Act of Charles II., which enables bishops to sit in the House of Lords.

3rd. The repeal of all laws, which grant compulsory powers to raise money for the support of any church whatever.

4th. The reformation of the Universities, the repeal of all religious tests, and a grant of equal rights in them.

5th. A reformation of the laws relating to marriage and registration with equal rights in places of public burial.

No Government whatever could long resist any of these just and reasonable requirements, if perseveringly demanded; and it is well known that several members of the present administration would gladly and promptly grant all of them.… Our political power is far more justly estimated by our opponents than by ourselves, and few of the members of Parliament would venture to be indifferent or opposed to our wishes. Lord Durham knows us well, and his advice is particularly applicable to us: ‘The power rests with yourselves, now, to instruct your representatives as to the measures which you, the respectability and intelligence of the country, have set your hearts on, and they will inevitably be carried.’

I am, Sir,
Your very obedient servant,
George Hadfield

2 bits of fabulous banter »

the unburied are dangerous or injurious to the public health

Sunday, June 9th, 2013 | tags: , , , , ,  |

route to CCI 19097Gray graves some falling overThe ‘City Road’ cemetery in Sheffield is well maintained, the grass is cut, fallen stones are repositioned, and mature trees shade the pedestrian walkways through it’s extensive hillside grounds. It has separate Church of England, Nonconformist and Roman Catholic burial grounds. Originally known as the Sheffield Township Burial Ground or Intake Cemetery (City Road was formerly called Intake Road), it was renamed the City Road cemetery when it was taken over by Sheffield City Council in 1900.

It was built because of:

1) the rapidly increasing population in Sheffield.

“1736 Sheffield and its surrounding hamlets held about 7000 people, in 1801 there were around 60,000 inhabitants, and by 1901, the population had grown to 451,195″ (Wikipedia)

“By 1841 there would be 110,000 people within its [Sheffield town] boundaries, and hardly any sanitation…   …disease was common and people did not live long. At this time the citizens of Sheffield died at an average age of just 27…   …The huge number of deaths at this time” (Sheffield General cemetery website)

2) the rapidly dying population in Sheffield due to a cholera epidemic that started in the town during 1832:

“meant that the churchyards in Sheffield were becoming full to overflowing. The dead were often kept under the floor of the church, and sometimes in these places you could really smell death…   …it was not unknown to see bits of corpses sticking out from the overfilled graves” (Sheffield General cemetery website)

3) and the introduction of ‘Burial Act’s which still apply today. These Acts required that dead people are buried, even the poor who can’t afford to pay for burial, because of the health risk associated with their lying unburied.  The local parish is required to fund the burial of the poor:

“persons as may have the care of any vaults or places of burial, for preventing them from becoming or continuing dangerous or injurious to the public health; . . . and such . . . persons shall do or cause to be done all acts ordered as aforesaid, and the expenses incurred in and about the doing thereof shall be paid out of the poor rates of the parish”

City Road cemetery is the largest cemetery in Sheffield:

“opened in 1881…  …It covers 100 acres, and is the largest owned by Sheffield City Council…   …By September 2005 almost 163,000 people had been buried within the cemetery occupying over 20,000 graves; some having as many as 8 or 9 bodies in them”

Entrance viewed From the CrematoriumSoon after the cemetery opened Sheffield was granted a charter to become a city in 1893. This garden cemetery was  commissioned and funded by the “Sheffield Township Burial Board”.   Their visits to Birmingham’s Whitton cemetery and Liverpool’s Anfield Cemetery probably influenced their  decisions about the lay-out and running of the cemetery. In 1878 the land for the cemetery was purchased from the fifteenth Duke of Norfolk for £13,625. A requirement of the purchase was that a proportion of the ground would be allocated for Roman Catholic burial. This requirement suggests to me that Catholics in England still suffered from discrimination. That is, the Duke of Norfolk didn’t expect a burial ground to automatically include Catholics, he felt the need to specify that the should be included to avoid them being excluded.

Hillside graves of many shapes and sizesLocal architects Messrs M E Hadfield and Son designed it to include Church of England and Nonconformist chapels. A catholic chapel was added in 1889. As-if the designers planned without including a Catholic area and had to retrospectively add it because of the purchase agreement.

2 bits of fabulous banter »

wendy house works

Saturday, June 1st, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Works: ButchersWorks: ChallengeMany of the red-brick industrial buildings in downtown Sheffield are called “Works”.

There’s something rather disturbing about the name “Butcher works“. Apparently it’s “one of the most important surviving cutlery and grinding workshops“. They would have made knives at the Butcher works.

There’s something inspiring about “Challenge works“. The Challenge works in Arundel Street is described in it’s listing as “an edge tool manufactory with workshops, office and warehouse, appears to have rapidly evolved into a multi-occupancy site, with an electro-plating company sharing the site in 1888. The Goad Fire Insurance plan of 1896 identifies various trades being carried out on site, and the presence of tool forges set behind the street frontage range, itself identified as office and warehouse…   …a significant survival in a once densely populated manufacturing quarter of Sheffield

Works: UniverseWorks: GibsonThere’s something very reassuring about being told that “Universe Works”  The only online references for it are to rent apartments. as a downtown residence in a converted industrial building I suspect this address is now high chic.

The “Gibson works” is also a listed building, it was originally a ‘Pewter’ works built in the late 19th Century.

‘Works’, both a noun and a verb. Lets take a moment to establish that “wendy house works” because we are and we do.

what do you think of that »

In search of Swinton’s “Little Britain”

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 | tags: , ,  |

Before their deaths Peter (1873) and Mary (1870) Robertson lived in “Little Britain” Swinton. But where is this Little Britain?

Current map’s don’t show the area in Swinton or the nearby Mexborough. After many internet searches filled with results for the comedy TV program, Tilda Swinton. and the London District of Little Britain, I finally found 2 direct references:

  1. South Yorkshire Times:  “It appears that “Little Britain” encompassed an area of both Mexborough and Swinton, and was surrounded by: Rowmes Lane, Swinton; the base of Cowood Street; Britain Street, and the canal.”
  2. Glassby family history pages: “Little Britain” is next to “Upper Canada” in the 1841 Census list, and close to Don Pottery and Swinton Wharf. Giles Bearley of Swinton Heritage Society says:-  These fanciful names were generated by the Canal people. The South Yorkshire Cut and the Dearne & Dove Canal were put through the town circa 1780. Employment on the canals was quite extensive with all the local industry. Some were short runs and some were long runs. Others used to set off on “the wander” where they would go anywhere they could get a cargo. It was not as fanciful as being on the ocean wave but names from sea voyages filtered back as nicknames for different places. Particularly where there was a turning circle or a boatman’s mission where they could get religion and supplies. In Wath-on-Dearne (the next town) for example was the “Bay of Biscay”. Families residing there used the same names to describe where they were which was picked up in early censuses.


The area formerly known as "Little Britain" in Swinton, South Yorkshire

I found this area on the map, it’s about a 20 minute walk all downhill from Peter and Mary’s burial place at St Margarets church graveyard. I couldn’t find a way to walk along the Canal side. Most of the buildings in the area are from the 20th century and looking very neglected. I parked on Walker St. and photographed the pub on the corner of Station Road and the Victorian terraces on Station Road. It wasn’t the sort of area you feel safe walking around alone. I walked along Rowms lane, up and down New Station Road and tried to spy the canal over large hedged wire fences.

I suspect Little Britain was a much more raucous and lively place at the height of the canal trade.
Little Britain            Little Britain

what do you think of that »

giving a hand

Friday, April 26th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

An Italian, and American and a Wendy in a room together.

The American compliments the Italian.

The Wendy turns to the Italian, raises the flat of her hand into the air and smiles at him.

The Italian looks baffled, takes Wendy’s hand as if to shake it.

Wendy: High Five, slap my hand

American: Yo, High five man!

I really like the way USA people express compliments with this physical gesture. It will happen to people that I work with….

what do you think of that »


Tuesday, April 16th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

I had never heard of a Piñata when I moved to the USA. My manager was going out to buy one for a friend, I asked him what it was. He was gobsmacked that I didn’t know. How could I have lived a truly fulfilled life without knowing what a Piñata is? He explained that it was a colourful paper container, often shaped like a donkey, that is hung from a tree branch and people beat it with baseball bats until the sweeties it contains fall out.

wendy: so it essentially rewards people for being violent to something that looks like an animal?

manager:  yeeeeaarrh (he’s Texan)

wendy: Americans are strange people

7 bits of fabulous banter »

plates are so passé

Thursday, February 14th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

Can't afford proper dishesI’ve noticed a trend in the restaurants, cafés and pubs who occasionally serve a meal to me. No plates. Popular alternatives are:

  • plank of wood
  • slate tile
  • basket
  • small bucket or mug (of chips or vegetables)

I’m hoping that it’s just a passing phase. I find it quite difficult to eat off a slate tile without simultaneously decorating the table.

3 bits of fabulous banter »

rococo hedgerow

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Rococo hedgerow

4 bits of fabulous banter »

Education act

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

The Education Act of 1895 made schooling free for all children. Hoorah!

Several schools near the Wendy House were built around this time. The nearest one is where I go to vote, on the Wokingham road. The Alfred Sutton primary school.

Alfred Sutton ran “Sutton and Sons” which was the world’s largest seed firms at the time. Alfred donated 20% of his substantial income to charitable causes. One of these causes was funding the creation of local schools.

Alfred Sutton Primary School opened as the “Wokingham Road School ” with just over 100 children attending the first day in 1902, it was renamed after Alfred Sutton in 1920 when there were 528 children attending – 50 in a class. The red brick building is not just functional, it really seems to celebrate children and education.

what do you think of that »

cant be bovvered

Monday, November 19th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

4 pony-tails(superciliousness warning)

I’m one of the minority that voted in the Police commissioner elections. The Guardian reports the elections as having the worst turnout ever. It’s hardly surprising. Prior to normal local elections candidates will canvas voters, promote their positions  and encourage people to engage with the system.

In advance of this election I received an election card through the post. It didn’t contain any information about how to find out more about the candidates. What? I have to actually do my own research?!

Just providing the right type of information isn’t enough. A capitalistic society sells ideas, products, to its consumers. The candidates were not sold to the voters. This is totally counter to the expectations of the electorate.  How could anyone expect this system to work within a developed capitalist system? It’s hardly surprising there was such a low turn-out. It shouldn’t be news.

I’m very grateful for my ability, right, to vote. I will show my appreciation for this right by using it wisely. I did my research and found a succinct central information source that pointed to candidates own web pages, twitter feeds and provided a summary personal statement for each candidate. Really easy to find local candidates by entering my post-code. Excellent service. Research was easy and left me feeling adequately equipped to make an informed decision.

The low election turnout suggests that my belief in my social responsibility (to put thought and effort into exercising my vote) is not a common belief.

7 bits of fabulous banter »

fate all at tea

Sunday, November 11th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

FatalityTrains are running 30 minutes late due to a fatality on the line.

The other commuters hasten their weaving around each other as-if the delay urgencifies their platform dash.

As a nation we give 2 minutes still, silence,  to the people who lost their lives in wars. Fatalities, deaths. Like this one they have an unattributed cause – Suicide or accident?

Was this fatality a person who’s life was

  • so very painful that the thought of being smashed-into by a speeding train was a release from the pain of their life.  Suicide.
  • ended unexpectedly. did they slip and fall? Accident.

I watch the faces of the commuters pushing me aside in their platform rush. Coats rustling and mumbling.

I’m alone in my stillness.  Taking a moments silence to mourn the fatality, person’s death,  is not part of the behavioural script ‘what we do’ for commuters and station staff.

It seems like it should be a time when we should be hugging each other, wiping away each others tears, expressing our helplessness and then slowly moving on. I hug myself, wipe away a tear and turn towards the platforms.

That evening I tried to find out about the 2 people who’d died in train fatalities that day. The news reported the delays to the trains, the things that affected most people’s everyday lives. Nothing about the people who died, not even a name. Sending condolences to strangers isn’t a part of the what we do nowadays. Kay’s recent blog post had a quote from John Donne which seemed most apt:

No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….”

4 bits of fabulous banter »

voting performance

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

On November 15th they’ll have local Elections in the UK. The voting stations, normally schools, close for their normal purpose and are staffed with people to help the voters make their vote.

After work I’ll walk along to the local primary school “Alfred Sutton” walk up to a table that’s labelled with “H” for House, give them my voter card and they’ll use a pencil to cross my name of a paper list and point me to a little booth where I’ll go and put an ‘X’ next to the name of the person I want to vote for.

It’s all very quaint and has been the same since I started voting in the early 80’s.

Voting as a fmily eventFriends in Washington State (West coast USA) get to vote by dropping their papers in a large Ballot Box or the mail, it’s all postal vote for them. In this case, the family made a trip to the ballot box location and the children ceremoniously dropped their vote into the Ballot box.

They can also pick-up a report card that gives them a voting performance score based on their personal voting history and that of thier neighbourhood. Excellent!
Voting history report card

7 bits of fabulous banter »

the lady doth protest too much methinks

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

On facebook I have some ‘friends’ that I barely know, I met them a few times and they seemed like nice people. They were friends of friends, and in that sense had a good pedigree.

One of these people is a professional woman, probably in her mid 30’s. I follow her status posts with fascination because I’m intrigued by the possible back-story, the things she doesn’t say.  These are some of the key focus points of the things she has said in the last 6 months

  • Bought a new house
  • Bought a flash convertable sports car
  • Had a fabulous sailing holiday with friends – drinking, relaxing, sunbathing, partying
  • Went to my first ever weekend music festival, camped, had a brilliant time
  • Had a fabulous night out with the girls (photographs of happy people)
  • Had a fantastic house party – photographs of people looking drunk and smiling.
  • Has new 42″ plasma TV attached to the wall in her bedroom (updates facebook from bed – windows phone)

Somehow I read into these posts that she is an unhappy, lonely, person. Someone trying to convince either us or herself that she’s having a good life. By limiting her status posts to acquisition of socially significant items and engagement in ‘popular’ social activities she is only mentioning things that are cultrually defined as aspirational.

In my imaginary backstory she’s just got divorced, is painfully lonely and trying to fill the gap created by the pain of a failed intimate relationship and let her friends know she’s ok – don’t worry. Either that or she is as shallow and superficial as her facebook status convey at face value….

8pointsomething33333333333334Am I bonkers?

4 bits of fabulous banter »

Poor show from Google Blogger

Monday, September 5th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

Askimet provides the wendy house with an outstanding blog spam filtering service. Hoorah!

The service is much like an email spam filter, it puts all comments that it considers as spam in a place where I can review and delete them. Most of my blog spam is from people trying to sell loans

Every few months my blog spam folder contained a comment from a Blogger  hosted blog that was more than just Spam. It was promoting racial and gender hatred. I am suprised that since December 2010 the Google service Blogger, has been  prepared to host this blog that:

  • Spam other blogs
  • promotes hatred based on gender stereotyping (e.g. get a more obliging wife from India)
  • promotes hatred based on racial characteristics (e.g. Philipino women are ok)

I’ve twice reported the blog, for abusing the Blogger behavioural code by spamming and hatred, using the Blogger ‘Report Abuse’   facitility. It’s still there.  My opinion of Google continues to dive while they continue to knowingly host a blog that the awesome Askimet recognises as a spam source and normal people recognise as promoting gender based hatred

Poor show Google

1) comment in my blog spam filterMaybe you’d like to let Blogger know how you feel about this blog, you can report it here

5 bits of fabulous banter »

green doors

Saturday, June 18th, 2011 | tags: , , , , ,  |

The toilets in the Fine Art department of Reading University are proudly green and probably original features of the one-storey utilitarian style brick building (circa 1930). The subtle differences in styling such as the 3 vertical panels on the womens’ door imply it may be newer (circa 1950) than the more utilitarian design of the mens’.

womenThe addition of a paper sign to the womens’ door is a modern addition, an attempt to change behaviour using strong language “Important, Under no circumstances should…” clear identification  of the people who should attend to this notice “...fine arts students…” and their unacceptable behaviour “…clean their brushes in these toilets

EWE!  I always use the sink to clean my brushes – easier and less whiffy.

green door

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can’t say how

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

“It’s a little-known fact that the world’s best chicken sexers come almost exclusively
from Japan”

For some reason psychologists and philosophers investigate chicken sexing. Psychologists lured me into reading obscure articles on chicken sexing because, amongst other things, it is a skilled human activity that cannot be articulated. Just one mention in my undergraduate course, carefully juxtapositioned with a reference to how wine tasting is a similarly non-articulatable skill.

Chicken sexing? Chicken sexing! Maybe the idea stayed with me so long and in preference to wine tasting because of the word sex. Maybe its that the act of labelling a chicken with a predicted sex is called ‘sexing’. From one comment in a 1985 class on cognitive psychology, I developed an interest in reading about chicken sexing. So it was, so it is.

“If I went for more than four days without chick sexing work I started to have ‘withdrawal symptoms”


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take time to smell the flowers

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

heart of a roseOnce upon a time, during an annual job performance review my manager suggested that I should be a little less efficient because it was making other staff feel bad.

I wasn’t living in the USA at the time. Quaint British ways.

I am now more adept at ensuring that I have work time allocated to allow me to be seen to be inefficient.

Lets think of it as my

  • ‘unfit for purpose’ time
  • extra tea-time breaks
  • fermenting good ideas while going completely off-topic time
  • employer funded socialisation time
  • creative teamworking

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road-crossing is an athletic skill

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 | tags: ,  |

This article published in the British Psychological Society’s Readers digest concludes that “Athletes are more skilled at crossing the road than non-athletes (when they can’t go backwards or sideways while crossing)

For me this article raised many more questions than it answered, for example

  • Will local councils be sending pedestrians on athletics courses to reduce road traffic accident rates?
  • Will crossing the road be introduced as a new Olympic sport?
  • Did being unable to go side-ways or backwards during the crossing give the athletes an unfair advantage?
  • Will road-crossing skills be used to identify the potential athletes of the future?
  • Who funded this research? Is this a good use of their money?


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tinkle tinkle tinkle

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

servant call systemTyntesfield house has a bell-pull system to call servants. At the foot of the servant’s stairwell each bell is labelled with its location. I was surprised to see that nearly all the bells are the same size and shape.

They sound the same, they look the same.

Servants had to look at the bell moving then read the room description beneath to work out where they should go.

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comfortably middle class

Thursday, February 24th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

does that hurt?

It’s not what I was expecting. When you open the door to a stranger they normally introduce themselves or ask if some named person is in the house. We held each other’s gaze while I tried to work out what he was referring to, before moving us on

can I help you?

is Nicky in?      I meant your nose

Was my nose bleeding? I ran my forefinger under my nostrils then inspected my hand. No blood or snot.


He wore blue jeans, a Pringle jumper and a padded anorak that could have been picked up in a Marks and Spencer’s sale. Short back and sides, clean shaven, the boy lacked visual charisma. He looked comfortably middle class, visually unoffensive. Then it dawned on me that my nose-piercing probably made me unique amongst the people he talked to. Nicky was conservative with both a big and little c. She had already given me the benefit of her expertise on the painfully clashing colours of my dress, my unsuitable hair and recommended that I drop my friends because they risked being unsuccessful in life. They could drag me down.

Life. If she didn’t have one, she couldn’t fail. She was on-track for a Pharmacy degree, a husband, car, kids and holidays abroad. It didn’t map to my idea of life then. It doesn’t now.

Only when the temperature drops below -5 degrees

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Butlers from Belfast

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 | tags: ,  |

Butler sink

This is my Butler sink. The Butler sink got its name from the role of the main user. The Butler of the household would use the Butler sink. As I talked to kitchen suppliers they all corrected me when I called this a Butler sink, no, its a Belfast sink. A quick online search tells me that Butler is the generic word for the sinks and Belfast describes more specific features, in this case a ‘wier’ style water overflow. This website describes how city names became associated with the design, and why different cities had different designs:

This is because, when butler sinks were first made in the late 17th century, each major city had a sanitation officer autonomously responsible for the ordering of pipes, basins, sinks, and decreeing sizes, styles etc. Different patterns were evolved and gave rise to specific types. Hence the Belfast butler sink was different from, say, the London butler sink.

Belfast, with access to plentiful water housed sinks with overflows, but London , built on clay where deep wells had to be drilled to reach water, discouraged water wastage and no overflows were accommodated. Therefore, the Belfast butler sink has what is known as a Weir overflow built into it, whereas a standard Butler Sink doesn’t

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antique communication devices

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Why I love England #16:  red telephone boxes

Red antique English telephone boxesJust around the corner from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is this fabulous row of antique communication devices. Many people 20 and under will never ever have used these. Why would they need to? They carry their own phones with them. In the 80’s a row of phone boxes like this in a city centre would have a person in each box talking and maybe one or two people outside, checking the change in their purses, waiting for their turn to make a private call.

According to this history, in the 1980’s most homes didn’t have landline phones.

In 1987, the post office, who deployed and maintained them, systematically replaced these red boxes with a more modern design with more glass and open to the air that reduced the likelihood of the box being used as a urinal, or the subsequent pungent smell. Pew! I remember the smell!  Some villages protested against the replacement and managed to hold-on to this much loved older design. But sadly, most red boxes were removed.

I guess they are still useful to a few people for actually hosting a landline call, they are also useful for keeping warm, dry and quiet for making a mobile phone call. It’s wonderful that the local council, as many councils in tourist areas, have decided to leave them here and maintain them in such good condition. For the tourists, and people like me who can be heard bubbling


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