(Updated November 2017)
Under the umbrella of this website, I have decided that this page is the best place to put all the things that have little or nothing to do with music or piano history. It is a random collection of things that I find amusing, interesting, useful, or annoying!
Increasingly, electronics and digital technology is taking the lead, instead of letting us do our own thing, whether it’s computers, cars or organs. I find it intensely annoying when a machine is programmed to assume that I don’t know what I am doing, or how to spell, or how to play my own notes. The wonderful thing about computers is their ability to search through files and pick out the ones I want to look at, ignoring the ones I don’t want. I have been using home computers ever since there have been home computers, and I have developed a system which allows the computer to search through fifty thousand files and just show me the files I want to see. Well, it used to, but since Windows 8 and onwards, the software now drags up all sorts of stuff I don’t want to see. If I had a hundred files it would be a minor inconvenience, but with over fifty thousand, I depended on the computer to help me, but it can sometimes show me a thousand files I didn’t ask for. Does anyone out there know how I can get the wretched machines to JUST search for substrings in filenames again? Or have I got to go back to XP?
Occasionally, someone will tell me that what I am trying to do is impossible, and I have to point out that I have already done a lot of it. Recently, a schoolboy was said to be a genius in the top 1% of the population because he has an IQ of 145. Beth and I both have an IQ of 147, I am not sure what that says about us, but perhaps it gives us license to do barmy things, and ignore the advice of sensible people?
If your house starts to fill up with your possessions, you mainly have two options - get rid of some, or move to a bigger house. We did a mixture of the two, dumping a lot of stuff that really was clutter, and then moving to a bigger house, after which began the process of going through things in a less hurried way as we unpacked them, and whittling it all down even further. This includes going through thousands of paper files, and making sure I look at every one, because some of them haven’t seen the light of day for years. The problem is that we are both busy people with creative brains that dream up more projects than our bodies can ever complete, and since we can’t afford to employ a team to do them for us, there is a constant queue of ideas waiting for the opportunity to be put into action. Music has so many trappings that we really do need, quite apart from Beth’s art, crafts and dressmaking, and imagine the task of moving the world’s largest collection of piano history, not to mention PIANOS!
Beth said “Bill is going to move the pianos, and then we will get removers to shift the HEAVY stuff!” As it turned out, the van we bought to move the pianos worked out so well, we decided to move everything else ourselves.
Many people are terrified at the prospect of having to move ONE piano, and we have just moved THIRTY-SEVEN pianos and organs. Some of our friends and relatives are worried that this is all too much of an ordeal for an old man like me, and I should really just spend my life sitting in front of the telly. They obviously don’t know me at all. It has been exciting and stimulating to put hard work into a project that produces progress in our lives. I could move pianos any day, but garden ornaments? Never again! All that bending my knees into places they don’t want to go. I apologise if some of the items on this website may still give the impression that we are at Yarmouth, there are hundreds of pages to alter, not that we have anything else to do… just unpacking thousands of files, rearranging them into the new office, moving dozens of pianos, building displays, starting afresh with a bigger music room, etc., etc..
I was born in 1947, soon after my Dad came home from the war, and I have always known that lots of babies were born in the baby boom, so it is no surprise to me that in my retirement, I am surrounded by many people who are at least as old as me. However, politicians are pretending to be very surprised, they keep wanting to blame everything on the fact that we have so many old people to care for. In 70 years, they have made no provision at all for what we all knew would certainly come about, the government has made no advance plan for dealing with all these pensioners. I am especially happy to see this year arrive, because it means I have survived longer than David Bowie or Alan Rickman. My best wishes to the other forty-seveners, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elton John, Hilary Clinton, Richard Dreyfuss, Glenn Close, Billy Crystal, Ted Danson, Richard Dreyfuss, Farrah Fawcett, Stephen King, and Sam Neill.
I understand BOYHOOD and MANHOOD, but what is COOKERHOOD?
We had a wonderful time at the Oasis Camel Centre near Halesworth on our anniversary, we cuddled a camel! Callum lay there like a pet labrador while I held his lead and stroked his head. What a delight!
I saw a squirrel run under my car, I grabbed my camera, pointed it underneath and pressed the button. What amazing luck!
AN EAR FOR MUSIC
I was working on a piano one day, not actually tuning it but going through each note in turn, playing it several times to test it. Young Jamie sat on the floor by the piano, listening, staring wide-eyed, fascinated, as most 5-year-olds would be. Suddenly, he began singing along with the notes I was playing in a soft, almost whispered falsetto voice. I tried to ignore him, but as I went up another semitone, so did he, singing very well in tune for an untrained voice. I wondered how high he could go, and smiled to myself as he suddenly went quiet. Then, to my surprise, he dropped down an octave, and continued again, still following the notes accurately, but an octave lower. I couldn't control myself any more, I had to stop and talk to him. It was so amazing, what he had done. Why? Can't 5-year-olds sing? Well, yes, but this particular one was a cairn terrier! The owner claimed to be unsurprised by the feat, but it was never repeated on my future visits, and like many reports of singing dogs, some people don't believe it happened:
IT DID!... I WAS THERE!
Recently, a video on Facebook showed 2 dogs playing notes on a keyboard, in response to notes blown on a whistle.
SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT DOGS?
And why are so many musicians dog lovers? I love animals, but dogs are something extra-special to me. I have had a dog most of my life, the one above was Trixie, and what they do most for me is make me smile. It’s not only their quirky view of life, but also the way they love unconditionally, cheer me up when I need it, and bring such joy and laughter into my life.
Penny was the most beautiful dog I ever had, but with attitude. I was tuning a piano for a dog pound owner, the rest is history! The puppy stank when she came from the pound, and instantly became known as “Pen and ink”, but I told my daughter Sarah that Penny’s formal kennel name was Penelope Pongalot. However, because little Sarah couldn’t pronounce “Penelope”, it somehow ended up as “Pepper Lemon Emily”! When I was seriously ill for years, I was mainly stuck indoors with only Penny for company. She was sometimes grumpy, but always up for a cuddle when I needed one, and she never lied to me. Back in the real world, people are not always that good.
We took on a rescue dog, his name was Harold, we thought it was rather a formal name, but you can imagine our reaction whenever he was feeling relaxed, because he said “Ha–Ha–Harold” in a deep Northern accent. He also had an endearing habit of coming up to me as if he had something terribly important to say, and then giving a deep grunt in my ear. How sad that our pet dogs are no longer safe from attack by dangerous breeds running loose on the streets. Repeated attacks turned our lovely, gentle Harold into a vicious dog that could not be trusted.
Someone who studies the paranormal told me that other animal spirits have a very small aura, and it is difficult to tell them apart – except dogs!
I find it fascinating that the most boring old slot machine I have ever known has now been made into a TV game. Participants seem unable to grasp the fact that the position left-to-right is purely random, and not in their control however much they shout at it, whereas a little bit of common sense should enable them to take control of the moment when they press the button. This is the only skill in the game, but they can’t seem to grasp it.
THE LANGUAGE OF PAIN
I used to know a lady who always pronounced her sneezes with a perfect "atishoo" but most of us are not thinking about the sounds we make when we sneeze, cough or express pain, and I am reminded of Billy Connolly, who said he had reached an age where he produces so many spontaneous noises, he has to try to work them into the conversation. I suffer from a condition known as glossolalia, although most people would not think of it as a "condition", and many Christians long to be able to attain a state where their mouths produce utterances which resemble words, but not in any language we know. This "speaking in tongues" is easier for artistic, creative people to produce, and is said by some to be the purest of languages, given by God. There are claims that whenever somebody does it, there will always be someone in the room who can understand what is being said. Having heard a few recordings of preachers and congregations doing it, I find it difficult to detect any structure to suggest a real language. I would guess that since I am not a Christian, some of them will suspect that my babbling is coming from Satan.
Back in the seventies, psychologists were finding ways to cause people to voice things from their sub-conscious minds, and I decided to try just writing, with no subject matter in mind, and see what happened. I was hoping it might reveal something interesting about my sub-conscious. There was a certain control from my conscious mind wanting to produce proper sentences, but the actual content was meaningless. Have you ever listened to a long speech or sermon that was so boring because you didn't have a clue what they were talking about? Try talking for a few minutes, in proper sentences, but with no subject matter in mind, it's not as easy as it sounds.
I also tried applying the idea to playing piano, and a few years ago, I made some improvised recordings which still fascinate me, the only rule was that if I could hear where the music was heading, I took it somewhere else!
My dad had brought me up imitating the sounds around me, including animals, and I have developed the habit of repeating back to them the sounds they make. This got me in trouble at a zoo once, when a monkey made a ticking noise at me. I repeated it back to him, thinking that he might enjoy the communication, but he was not amused, he went ape! When I suffered a long major illness, and spent most of my time alone, with only a dog and cat for company, sometimes Harry the dog would throw himself on the floor in a heap, and give a big sigh, then say "uffle". I repeated this back to him, and the response was astounding, he seemed impressed, as if I had made a major breakthrough in man/dog communication, and he suddenly needed to be very close to me. Both he and Muffin the cat made various noises, although cats have a much wider vocabulary of sounds. I used to come home to hear Muffin saying “aaallo” to me, and if he was hungry he would say “meal”. I found myself regularly "talking" to them both in these abstract sounds, and even making some of my own. Now, at the age of 70, suffering aches and pains, I am embarrassed to find myself babbling short phrases when something hurts, such as…
Arfl pom up
Bawdy chew num
Bench iboo fomp
Bo dunch kalim
Bo dinj if woe
Pa tujja kondi
Pim ponga dunga loop
I only show you these to demonstrate that there doesn't seem to be any language structure, and I suspect that sub-consciously, I am actually trying to avoid real words. I was pleased to hear that actor Adam Thomas, who plays Adam in Emmerdale, also babbles in a similar way when he is stressed or excited, so at least I am not the only one. Any others out there? And then there’s…
It has not escaped my attention that this connects in some way with scat singing in jazz, so I have suddenly found that I can make these odd noises useful by improvising a swing blues with them, and the “words” mould themselves to the rhythm.
Some years ago, I saw a very unusual staircase in an old house, known as a “Maid’s Case” - presumably on the basis that anything is good enough for servants. It achieves the same height in only half the distance front-to-back, because each step is divided into 2 halves of differing heights. I feel sure there must be useful applications for the idea in modern buildings, but I am not sure it would get planning approval.
Why is it that we can fly to the moon, but we can't make teapots or kettles that pour properly? I am fed up with the mass-produced chrome teapots in cafes, but recently we bought a new kettle, and although I have been pouring teas and coffees for most of my life, I had to have an intensive course in how to pour boiling water into cups without spreading it all round the kitchen.
I don’t know if I will ever meet anyone quite like Valerie Howkins, who passed away peacefully on November 9th, 2016. She only lived across the road, but I might never have met her but for the fact that her museum has the stamp room, in which all the contents of a room are encrusted with postage stamps. One of the items is a square piano, so I wrote to Val, asking if I could have a look at it, but she already knew my name, as a source of piano history, because it appears in a booklet she wrote about the stamp room. From this simple beginning arose a very special friendship, and although I am not a Christian, we shared many of the same opinions about God and Nature. In her last days, she often said “Oh dear!” and she found this amusing, so the phrase was always followed by her laughter, and now we think of her whenever we say it.
This statue “The Elusive Muse”, until recently displayed at Somerleyton House, was commissioned and owned by Valerie Howkins, the artist was Dennis Foster. I attended a wake in a freemasons’ haunt, and was fascinated by the way angels were depicted in a painting - they had wings, but no arms. Disregarding the question of whether angels exist, it has always seemed strange to me that artists usually depict them as human beings with wings added on. It is one of the pervading rules of Nature that (ignoring insects) if a creature has wings, it does not have arms, the wings are the very same skeletal structure, developed in a different way, for a different purpose. Birds and bats don’t have arms! I have the same problem with dragons and winged horses.
OMNIBUS OF ENTERTAINMENT
Recently, we went to London to do some piano history research, and this meant being imprisoned for hours on buses, and we were subjected to many loud half-conversations on people’s phones. One girl said things such as “Yes, she like likes alcohol like”. Another girl went on for nearly an hour, and we felt for the person who was on the receiving end of the endless babbling, which mainly consisted of “like”, “lit’rally” and “basic’lly”. I love watching Judge Rinder on TV because he is so scathing about these unnecessary, pointless words. I wish I had a transcript of the conversation, so I could delete all the unnecessary words, and see what was left.
We accidentally sat in a position with a grandstand view of a short flight of stairs that went down to a small square of floor outside the toilet, and it quite made my day as people in a moving, swaying bus attempted to negotiate the stairs, then having reached the floor, found they couldn’t open the toilet door because they were in the way of it until they had gone back up a few steps. Next, they found that they couldn’t shut the door unless they had grabbed the handle in advance, and when they sat down, there also was a considerable risk that they would hit their face on the hand-basin. Now, they had to bolt the door, which had the additional effect of switching on a warning light so that other people knew they were in there. Failure to do so would either result in the door swinging open on the next bend, or someone thinking the toilet was available, and walking in on the occupant. Leaving the toilet, one has to grab the door before ascending, lean back to shut it, and make sure the bolt is not pulled again, otherwise it will seem that someone is still in there, and people who are busting will dance around unnecessarily.
While we were in London, we thought it would be a great idea to visit the British Museum after so many years, but having walked three times as far just to get from the gate to the door (because of a new bag-searching area) we found ourselves in what should have been a familiar area, but it had turned into a vast open space where hundreds of people could congregate, but with no proper signage to even tell us that this was a museum, or direct us to exhibits. We fought our way through the confused throng for a while, then gave up and left without seeing anything. It was intimidating.
DO YOUR JOB!!
I had a call from a lady who wanted her piano tuned, so I made an appointment, tuned the piano, and she paid me. Not much of a story, but why is it that when We need a job done, it is never that simple. WHY CAN’T PEOPLE JUST DO THEIR JOBS? When Sean Kirby promised to do a plumbing job that nobody else wanted to take on, we paid him hundreds of pounds and then found the job wasn’t done, we had to take him to court. It is a matter of public record that the court found in our favour, and we naively assumed that they would extract the money from him. No, he already owed the court for other offences, and hadn’t paid up. They couldn’t even get their own money from him, let alone ours. We had to get into more debt to pay bailiffs to go round, and we were told that they could seize the van and sell it to raise our money. The van wasn’t seized because “he wouldn’t let us in”! Years later, we still haven’t been paid, and all we have had from him is abuse. A “decorator” came round to quote for doing some jobs, but as I took him around the house it became clear that he doesn’t do ceilings, plastering, artex, coving, wallpapering, architraves, or put panels on walls or repair skirting boards. I was asked to provide some music for a Lowestoft care home, but in spite of five invoices, they didn’t paid me for SEVEN MONTHS. Also from Lowestoft, Jamie Stewart came to do a large, difficult, expensive job re-rendering and damp-proofing our kitchen wall. The accent was on DAMP PROOFING. The lower half of the wall was wetter than it had ever been. He didn’t even use the most basic sealant to stop salts coming through, and the plaster is already falling off in two patches, so we can’t decorate. He said his wife was very ill, so we let things slide for the first few months, but he doesn’t answer his phone, doesn’t answer text message, and ignores letters which I personally put through his door. Don’t people have any conscience at all? Or do they think we are stupid old pensioners who have to put up with being abused? Or perhaps they think we have nothing better to do than chase people who don’t do their jobs? I ACTUALLY HAVE A LIFE!!
BT supplied a router for our friend to use on her computer, I plugged it in, it worked perfectly, but I spent FOUR HOURS on the phone to someone at BT who couldn’t speak proper English, and what really annoyed me was that he couldn’t understand my English. He was trying to tell me what to do to set up the emails, but knew less than me about how to use the internet. Nothing was achieved, so someone else spent hours trying, with no success.
THE GAS MEN COMETH
Recently, we were told of all the benefits of having a smart meter for our electricity, but there was nothing smart about the result. The engineer couldn’t fit it because the bit that feeds it is too old, so he went home and we had to get yet another company to fix the problem. When they finished, they said they would notify the other people, but months went by, nothing happened, and we have had to chase them ourselves. Then, they turned the power off in DECEMBER to fit the smart meter. Thanks very much. It is well known that moving house is one of the most stressful things to do, our move was made much worse when the solicitors lost our paperwork for two weeks.
Our friend had a lot of genuine, worrying health problems, bereavement etc. to deal with, but as if life wasn’t hard enough, he started being threatened by Vodafone for not paying his bills. There was a standing order in place, they didn’t use it. Months of paperwork and red tape resulted in the ombudsman finding that far from owing them money, he was owed over a hundred pounds that they had overcharged him, and they wrongly blacklisted his credit scores. You’d think it was simple then, to pay him, and cancel the contract so he could go elsewhere, but they charged him for setting up a new account that he hadn’t asked for. They were not the only company charging him for appalling services, but Vodafone made national headlines recently as the WORST company in the country for customer service.
Life is difficult enough without us having to suffer like this. I just don’t have any confidence in paying anybody to do anything anymore. I wish I were a builder.
Great Yarmouth made national news in August, when the Regent Bowl burned down. One of the oldest bowling alleys in the country, it was constructed by connecting the first floors of 5 adjoining buildings, while the ground floor became a thriving indoor market, enjoying one of its best seasons this year.
When a business burns down, there are always rumours of arson, and someone said that “3am was the optimum time for setting light to a building”, but these 40-odd traders had absolutely nothing to gain from this fire, they lost over a million pounds-worth of stock, and insurance companies would not cover it, because the building had no sprinkler system. The losses were devastating, but would YOU put your stock into a building that could not be insured? I had a trailer specifically adapted to enable me to load and unload antique pianos on my own, it was locked onto a gate post, but while we were away for a day, someone came along and just cut through the lock. The insurance company wouldn’t pay out because the trailer wasn’t attached to our car – because OUR CAR WASN’T THERE.
“On particularly rough days, when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is 100%, and that’s pretty good.” – Dorothy Courtis
Judging by current news, if anything goes wrong in our website, we ought to blame it on Brexit, it is being blamed for everything else, even though it hasn’t happened yet. While we watch the progress of our exit from the EU, it might be interesting to click on this picture once in a while, and see how reality compares to “Brexit – The Movie”. WE NEEDED CHANGE! Now, Britain is not going to be run by Europe, or by Facebook, where some people are already asking for another referendum because the results don’t suit them. The referendum had a higher turnout than most elections, but sadly, the country was divided in their support for the two sides. I wonder how many times in my life I have been unhappy with the result of an election, that doesn’t mean I can ask for a recount every time, GROW UP!
LOVE TRUMPS HATE!
Having spent most of my life avoiding politics and politicians, I suddenly find myself spending a surprising amount of time and energy defending the UK Independence Party against allegations of racism. However, some recent comments from their new leadership certainly sound racist. I don’t care what colour people are, or where they come from, or what their beliefs are, but Nigel Farage echoed things that we have been saying for years (until he supported Trump) and we do get very angry with people if…
1, They come to live here, but can’t be bothered to learn proper English.
2. They promote violence, or go against the laws of this country.
3. They abuse our benefits system or health service.
4. They abuse people.
If any of this applies to you, I am happy to be prejudiced against YOU the individual, and YOUR ATTITUDE, whether you are “white British” or not. If you see that as being racism, it is time to take a good look at yourself. In the seventies, I tuned pianos in North-East London, and was invited into more of the homes of immigrant families than most people will ever see, where their pianos were often an important and cherished part of those homes. I quickly learned that there are good people and bad people, and the colour of their skin is nothing to do with it. I remember the first, a young negro woman who was not only charming and eloquent, but also a Christian. A negro laughed as he told me “I asked for a tuner, and they sent a BLACK bloke!” – the strange (racist) implication being that he didn’t think a negro could possibly be a good tuner. I met a horrible, rude, aggressive Chinese family, and several others that were lovely. I had a regular customer, an Indian woman who was beautiful, eloquent and wonderful company. I laughed with a West Indian woman who was angry and embarrassed because her children referred to “a white boy” at school. When I was a child, my only experiences of Irish accents were (1) a woman who was an alcoholic, and beat her children and (2) people getting killed or blown up in the troubles. The consequence of this is that even with someone as gorgeous as Christine Bleakley, I have to go through a conscious process of fighting back my prejudice, and I struggled for years with the enormous number of Irish voices on television. Of course, the answer (as always) is that there are good and bad people, and whether they have an Irish accent is irrelevant. I tuned for a white British woman who was so unpleasant to me, I developed a serious phobia about going there. Anyone who suggests that “white British” people are all good, and everyone else is bad, is living in a fantasy world. Try watching animal rescue programmes, or some “reality” TV, which invites into my front room the kinds of people I have spent my life avoiding. Don’t forget to take the antidote afterwards – DIY SOS shows us rare glimpses of the good side of the human race.
The only generalisation I allow myself is that when I worked full-time as a piano tuner, a lot of my time was spent in the company of intelligent, eloquent, creative female musicians, and the level of IQ was more comfortable than that of the average man walking the planet. If you disagree, you are not an average man.
As for the European Union, it cost us 17 billion pounds in 2013. A recent independent survey concludes that coming out of Europe would save us the equivalent of a thousand pounds per person per year. If they had told us it was going to cost this country millions of pounds per day, I doubt that anyone would have agreed to go in. Why was Channel 4 allowed to make up a fiction about living people, using clips of UKIP speeches out of context, and misrepresent them entirely? If they did that to me, it would be libel.
In spite of providing 11 of the 39 local councillors in Great Yarmouth, UKIP were being blocked from all the council’s committees. Now, they have a UKIP mayor!! In the general election, UKIP received nearly 1/7 of the total voting population, but only ONE seat in parliament, 1/650 of the seats… I had never realised how far we are from Proportional Representation.
FEELING THE PINCH
I don’t want to go on about it, but 2015 will go down in my memory as the year when, at the tender age of 68, I finally found underwear that fits me. I had always been under the impression that men’s underwear was designed by abused women, who wanted to get their own back. I can’t blame them for that, but I never did anything to deserve being strangled and mutilated.
I’m a logical person, but the world is not logical.
I had trouble finding the “West Block” of the hospital
because it’s at the SOUTH end of the building.
The “East Block” is at the North end!
“I look pretty young but I’m just back-dated. Yeh!”
One of our little feathered friends generously left this self-portrait on our window, I just love the subtle suggestion of the wings, the way he captured the light falling onto his back, and that suspicion of a beak. Much better than Jesus in a piece of toast. We used to live in a street where birds didn’t go, and it was lovely to have them around us again in such numbers when we were in Yarmouth, even the beautiful but insomniac gulls, which the locals affectionately referred to as “flying rats”. How absurd that we have news headlines about gulls attacking people, or stealing food, they have been doing that for centuries, and they mainly attack if they perceive you as a threat to their babies. As often happens in the animal world, a lot of it is bluff. A group of gulls flew over, and their calls reminded me of certain musicians I have known: each stuck rigidly to his own tempo, and completely ignored the others.
My research in the archives of the Lowestoft Journal revealed that in 1904, local breeders were trying to create chickens with one leg shorter than the other, so that if they tried to run away, they would just go in circles!
As I sat listening to a starling giving a long-drawn-out impression of a squeaky wheelbarrow, it struck me that they are even worse musicians than wood pigeons are! Can anyone enlighten me about this idea that pigeons spread diseases? I think it is a myth put around by councils because they would rather slaughter them than clean up the mess. The way I see it, there were birds pooing long before there was a town. On the same logic, we should regularly slaughter all the sea creatures to stop them pooing in the sea. As Loerner & Loewe put it… “They civilised what’s pretty by puttin’ up a city where nothin’ that’s pretty can grow.”
God made the country, but man made the towns.
God made the plants, but man made the gardens.
God made the dust, but man made the housework.
God made the colours, but man made the colour schemes.
God made birds, trees, clouds, stars, but man made brick, asphalt, concrete.
Now, we are in the lovely Lincolnshire Wolds, and our nearest neighbours are rabbits, stoats, squirrels, pheasants, pigeons, robins, and a better class of rat. Time to stand and stare means we can look in almost any direction and find something interesting, like an invasions of about thirty goldfinches, a stunning visual display, but the resident robin was not impressed. I found myself mesmerised by a female pheasant near the back door, she seems to be deep in a daydream, then my attention was diverted by a rabbit running under the decking, making more noise than one expects from a rabbit. Who needs a telly?
Our 1869 front doorstep (same year as “Little Brown Jug”) was so wonderfully smooth and level that the rain just sat there until it overflowed indoors. I realised that drainage channels were needed, and I was let loose with an angle grinder for the first time. This was the result.
SNAP, CRACKLE AND POP
On a wet morning, I start the day with the traditional “snap, crackle and pop” that ensues when I tread the hordes of slugs and snails that invade the path to our front gate. I have to admit that, of all God’s creatures, these are the ones I like least, so I quite understand why people use slug pellets, but in spite of instructions that tell you they are “not harmful to pets or animals” it is thought that slug pellets are a major reason why hedgehogs, those gorgeous little creatures that have survived since the time of the dinosaurs, are rapidly becoming extinct, and may be entirely gone by 2025. The pellets cause them to have a long and painful death when they eat the slugs. I remember the comical sight of a hedgehog wandering blindly in the road because he had his nose stuck in a yoghurt pot. I had to wrench it off the spines, without getting stabbed myself. He didn’t thank me at all for man-handling him, but at least he ran away to live another day. Ironically, it is hedgehogs that offer us the best hope of getting rid of slugs and snails, and it is also the rapid disappearance of hedgehogs that is causing an upsurge in the numbers of slugs and snails, so what can we do to help?
1) DON’T USE SLUG PELLETS, USE SALT! I used half a pack of table salt to pour large circles around every slug I could see, and not only did this kill them, but many more slugs took the same route, and we found about 30 dead slugs, just from the one application. It is interesting to know that they are such creatures of habit, and we were slug-free for months.
2) Leave CD-sized holes in your fences at ground level.
3) Provide bushes and crevices where hedgehogs can hide.
4) Find foods that will encourage them to live in your garden, such as dog food, cat food, (not fish) crushed cat biscuits, minced meat, or chopped boiled eggs. Do not feed hedgehogs bread or milk. You can actually buy special hedgehog food from bird feed suppliers. When we lived by a river, I had to ask how we could possibly feed hedgehogs without feeding rats?
WOT, MAKE IT??
Nobody seems to make or mend anything anymore, and it seems that people depend more and more on buying things ready-made.
We went to a "music shop", but they didn't have any sheet music or instruments,
they only sold CDs.
We went to a model shop, but they didn't have any modelling materials,
We went to an art shop, but they didn't have any paint, brushes, etc.,
only finished artwork.
We went to a needlework shop, but they didn't have materials,
only ready-made needlework.
We went to a “Watch Workshop” but they didn’t mend watches.
We went to the “Owl Sanctuary, but they didn’t have any owls.
And where on earth will I find someone who can make me some simple electronic faders from scratch?
I hate any kind of dishonesty, fakery or disguise. I remember a customer who was probably quite beautiful when she got out of bed, but she solved that problem by painting her face orange, with huge black eyebrows, blue eyelids, blobs of red on her cheeks, and pillar-box red lips. It has long been a puzzle to me why people think lips should be bright red? Now, someone has decided that teeth are going to be white. They are not white, they never were. What’s next, green tongues? Not so long ago, eyebrows were banned, or reduced to the thinnest sliver, but now, girls are determined to have thick black slugs crawling across their brows. This, of course, is supposed to make them attractive to boys, what do you think boys? Just as food is better if human beings have not messed about with it, it seems to me that the more people try to change their appearance, the further they go from nature, the more ridiculous they look. If I look ridiculous, it just comes naturally!
CHAIRVOYANCE by Bill Kibby
If you should find me in my favourite chair,
Heart still pumping, occasional sighs,
Nothing in my hands, nothing in my eyes,
If you seriously think I’m doing nothing here,
Then you do not know me at all, it’s clear.
PIANO Ā QUEUE?
At the beginning of 2014, after a stressed and difficult December, fraught with carrying stuff upstairs because of flood warnings, and then doing endless Christmas songs and carols, I went down with a cough and cold, and sat around like an old man for a month, exhausted by doing nothing much but cough. How is it that when I am well, I “can’t find time” to do things, but when I am ill, I can sit around all day, the world still goes on turning, nothing falls apart because I take time to do what I need to do?
Whenever I come across creative people involved with the arts, they all seem to have one thing in common: the one pursuit that they are passionate about, and want to spend their time doing, always seems to be pushed to the back of the queue, behind all sorts of mundane, everyday things. I think it is because it is difficult to free one’s creativity when the lawn needs mowing, the wall needs painting, the baby needs changing, etc.. Psychologists say that children need “play time”, which they define as time when they have nothing planned, no fixed schedule, and can spontaneously do whatever they feel like doing. I think this is vital to adults as well, especially if they have that creative urge, but even television seems to eat up this precious time. My suggestion is this: allow yourself a day once a week when you make NO commitments, and take NO control over the day, just let it happen. If once a week is not enough, try doing it on every date divisible by 6, and see how it goes. Learn to say “sorry, I can’t make the 12th, or the 18th.” If that is not enough, try 5, or even 4.
What do you want to do?
And what are you actually doing?
Also, if you believe in God, and feel that He neglects you, perhaps it is because you don’t make free time in your head for Him. God doesn’t communicate on a conscious level, so you need to pay more attention to your subconscious, and the more you control your life with routines, schedules and agendas, the less time you allow for things to just happen. Perhaps you should set aside one day a week for the purpose. I wonder why nobody has thought of that before?
AH! SWEET MYSTERY OF LIFE!
Some of my good friends are Christians and bible readers, I am not. Although I applaud Christ’s teachings, and imagine him to have been an exceptional human being, I just don’t see him as a God, or my saviour. “Desiderata” says it all for me, even if it was written in 1922 by Max Ehrmann. To me, God and Nature are pretty much the same thing, I suppose that defines me as a Theist, but there seems to be no theist church anymore for those who believe in God, yet do not support the idea of immaculate conception, or being made in God’s image. How could God look like us?
I used to know someone who thanked God every time she got a parking space, and my catchphrase became “My God is too busy looking after the universe to worry about whether I get a parking space”, implying that I do not expect God to take control of every detail of every minute in everyone’s life. However, I find that some things that happen in my life cannot be explained by any rational argument, and there are times when life helps me along with some of the more vital things, so I can’t help feeling that these events were aimed specifically at me. I have come to accept that there are forces at work that are beyond nature, or human control, so I use the most popular label for them. I rather like the “Star Wars” abstract concept of “The Force”, and I tend to think of Nature as a system that deals with the normal everyday things, sometimes in a very random, cruel way, and throughout my life I have found that almost anyone will discuss Nature with me, whereas the use of the G word can cause them to clam up. When I look out at the world, it is fascinating that below the horizon, there is so much ugly man-made concrete, brick and asphalt, while above the horizon there are wonderful, beautiful things like birds, trees, clouds and stars. Someone asked me how I could NOT believe in Jesus when I see them, but these all existed long before Jesus arrived on the scene. Someone asked if I had a Jesus-shaped hole in my life, I said “No, God fills it!” although my label of choice is “Nature”.
At a time in history when churches are desperate to encourage more people to come in, 26 Christians at Park Baptist Church, who don’t want to go to church on Sunday evenings, decided that 18 others will be actively prevented from going to their own church on a Sunday (“The Lord’s Day”) and worshipping in the evening. Where is the Christian love and caring in deciding that people whose health problems prevent them getting to church in the morning will be deprived of their only opportunity to worship? People who feel the need to go to church more than once on a Sunday also have no support. Fortunately, there are other churches which show more compassion, but in the end, they are manned by human beings, and some of them do not practise what they preach.
Sadly, there are some much more evil people hiding among the many decent, honest Christians, and within a twenty-mile radius, we know of two who abused women, one beat his wife so badly she ended up in hospital, another was turned into a nervous wreck, unable to cope with life. Another “Christian” used his position to inflict evil onto people, the husband of a local minister has just been convicted of 30 years of child abuse, and we used to know of several who were paedophiles. A local man found that he could get a free living on a grant by posing as a Christian and pretending to provide loving care for needy people, whilst actually relieving them of some of their most treasured possessions. Then, he just dumped people, leaving them in a worse state than they were in before, until things got too hot, and he moved on suddenly. A supposedly “celibate” priest lived with a man who was convicted of stealing thousands of pounds from his church. If you are a Christian, it is up to you to expose these people hiding in your ranks before they undermine the credibility of the whole church. Some of them are still standing up at local pulpits, telling us how we should live our lives. Do you ever wonder why such people seem to live so long?...
It occurred to me - what if life is a punishment, and
we have to be VERY good in order to secure our release?
An interesting quote from Pope Francis: “It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person. In a way, the traditional notion of God is outdated. One can be spiritual but not religious. It is not necessary to go to church and give money – for many, nature can be a church. Some of the best people in history did not believe in God, while some of the worst deeds were done in his name.”
A WORK IN PROGRESS
By Bill Kibby-Johnson
Why do you make it so hard, Lord, living a life on this earth?
Never mind death and dementia, it's tough enough just giving birth.
A baby who comes into this world is in for a difficult ride,
and life in the open's a tough start, it was cosy and warm there inside.
I know they say I lived before this, and came back to try it again,
but now I can only just wonder what life was like for me back then.
And what about growing up too, Lord? Did we really have so much to learn
that we couldn't just take it all slowly, and play for a while 'fore we burn?
Oh yes, I remember the fun times, the games that we played in the sun,
and the love of a fam'ly around me, all caring about everyone.
I remember the loving, the losing, the wishing they still could be here.
And ev'ry step forward's a struggle, so I never look back at my fear.
And every little adventure is fraught with its troubles and traps.
And ev’ry step forward in this life could be a lot simpler perhaps?
And is it a sin to enjoy some of the better things life can provide?
Is no-one allowed to have fun, Lord, each time that we just step outside?
But it couldn't be simple, Lord, could it? We couldn't be left to enjoy.
And everyone just has to struggle, no matter if girl or a boy.
And everything I hold so dear in this life that's so full of dead ends
should remind us to think of the joy and the music, the lovers, the friends.
If I've learned just one thing in this life though, it's that life is for living, let's go!
Grab onto whatever we can now, and never just go with the flow.
If something looks like it is easy, beware for we know it won't be,
There's no such thing as a free lunch, and no shortcuts for you or for me.
But that doesn't mean it's all sorrow, I love all the challenge I see.
'cause it's pushing against all the problems that brings out the best part of me.
And I s'pose life would be very boring, if we just got it all on a plate,
but I want it all, I want it now, and it's hard that we all have to wait.
So if I come back for a new life, no matter wherever I go, could you
please give me some little hint, Lord, about things that we all need to know.
Someone said that “Bill believes in reincarnation”. It’s not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of FACT, and I can say with absolute certainty that there is no long-term heaven or hell, because anyone open-minded enough will find that very little effort is required to search the internet for huge amounts of evidence that within 10 or 15 years of their death, many souls (perhaps all) are re-born into a new baby, anywhere around the world, although most can go through their new life blissfully unaware of their previous existence. If it were a tree dropping a seed, which was then blown around by the wind, or carried by a bird until it arrived at the spot where it would grow, it would be tempting to accept the randomness of Nature without ever allowing the concept of a higher being into the argument. I can’t see a way to apply that to the reincarnation of a soul, or imagine it drifting aimlessly around the world looking for a place to accidentally land, and there have been times in my life when it was very inconvenient for me to have to admit that things could not be dismissed like that.
A very interesting aspect is that the new host can be male or female, so it would seem that after leaving the physical body, the soul has no need for gender, something that is only important for genetics and reproduction.
Most of my knowledge on the subject of reincarnation dates back to the eighties, and was based on people like Arnold Bloxham deriving information from hypnotic regression, and then following up the facts to seek proof. At first, regression was only intended to take the subjects back to their childhood, but some accidentally went back even further – to their previous lives. The hypnotists soon found that almost anyone could be regressed to a previous life, not that we’d all want to. Of course, in spite of the overwhelming evidence, some doubts have been cast on the whole process, but more recently, various researchers around the world have added a huge amount of new evidence from other people who recall previous lives naturally without the need for hypnosis. The new TV series “Ghost inside my child” explores this to some extent, but these reality programmes are so full of waffle and repeats that I doubt if it will convince many people.
LET’S BE CLEAR ABOUT THIS, KNOWLEDGE OF PEOPLE’S PREVIOUS LIVES CAN BE VERIFIED.
Interesting things start to happen if you compare reincarnation with accounts of astral projection. When someone is having an out-of-body experience, they claim to be able to travel some distance away from their physical body, yet their soul can see and hear without the need for eyes or ears. A blind person, regressed to a previous life when he was not blind, could see! I wonder if the same idea works for deafness?
My optometrist said he couldn’t understand why I coud see so well, I said “perhaps I see with my soul?” but he didn’t get it.
HARDWARE & SOFTWARE?
In some ways, the Christian idea that after death, our souls will become “perfect” has elements of truth but, having had experience of several people with dementia, I find myself wondering whether the soul is immune to that mental state, and whether hypnotic regression could assist dementia sufferers. Could it be that in the same way that blindness is part of the body, dementia is also separate from the soul? I hope so, otherwise there are a lot of demented souls out there.
Souls must consist of some form of energy, and some scientists claim to have measured the electromagnetic field leaving a body as the person dies. But how is that energy maintained? How does a soul go on functioning without sustenance?
I sometimes find myself thinking things, or saying things, or doing things that don't make any sense at all at the time, but later prove to have been the right thing to do. I can only see 2 possible logical arguments for this. Either God is directing my subconscious, or I have a very well-developed ability to tune in telepathically to the thoughts of others, and know what they need. If that were true, I would still describe this as a natural, God-given ability, though it is frustratingly beyond my control, and not always available, especially when I want to do things to help MYSELF. I have a problem accepting that I should take the credit for this.
I am not the driver, merely the vehicle.
One thing is clear, if I have a major problem and make genuine, positive efforts to fix it, help often arrives from an unexpected source, with no apparent connection to my own efforts. This is not “nature”. For most of my life, I have been aware that sometimes, I get uncontrollable, brief flashes of what seems to be telepathic information. To put it another way, I sometimes know things that I have no way of knowing. When I meet someone for the first time, I don’t form a clear impression of what they look like on the outside, but when I look into their eyes, I seem to see into their soul. This can be deeply disturbing, or wonderfully uplifting.
When I became single in the nineties, it suddenly became clear to me that most of the very special people in my life, the logical, creative ones, have been women, and most of them think very little of themselves because they have been abused by men. I had spent most of my working life tuning pianos for married women in their homes, and somehow never realised that such a huge percentage of them were being abused. Some surveys suggest that as many as 1 in 4 women have suffered abuse. Suddenly, in the nineties, I was looking for a partner, and if I was allowed to get to know women that I thought were special, I would hear their accounts of the most dreadful verbal abuse, beatings, broken teeth, rape, or even torture, so it is no surprise that most of those women were incapable of trusting me enough to enter into a relationship, simply because I was a man. Often, it was alcohol that had fuelled their abuse, and some people seem to think that is an acceptable excuse. Who can blame women for lumping me under the heading of "men", although I protested that "I'm not men, I'm just me".
I don't know if I will ever understand why I am drawn to the same kind of women who attract abusers, but I certainly know beyond any doubt that I had a telepathic link with one of them, she could "call" me whenever she couldn't cope with the abuse, and I would just walk out of the front door without knowing where I was going, I followed what seemed like a silent distress beacon, and carried on walking until I found her – in a town of ninety thousand people. On one occasion, I followed a similar signal into a shop, and was surprised to find another friend who was also in an abusive relationship, so I can only guess that I am somehow tuned in to women who have suffered abuse. Sadly, most of these women just seem to keep going back to abusive, controlling men.
Avoid loud or aggressive persons, they are vexacious to the spirit.
When I was a child, someone gave me a conjuring set for Christmas, and alongside the usual card tricks and illusions, there was a small brass pendulum on a thread, which was used for two purposes: assuming that I could avoid seeing the person who held it, the way it moved would tell me if they were male or female. On a more practical level, the way it moved would change if they told a lie. To me, this was glimpse of something much more important than magic tricks because it was a real, natural phenomenon, and I couldn’t explain it.
Our minds or brains have a lot of stuff that we put in there in the course of our lives, from our knowledge and experiences, but there is also a huge amount in the sub-conscious that nobody can account for, and although people may speculate that it comes from past lives, telepathy, or from God, or the collective consciousness, or all of these, we really don’t know. I feel that dowsing gives me some limited access to the sub-conscious. If you hold your arm out, unsupported at the elbow, it quickly becomes clear that you cannot hold your hand absolutely still, because everyone has a tremor, a pattern of movement which is not just a random wobble, it is so complex that as far as I am aware, nobody has ever managed to analyse it properly.
I have been told it is impossible, so I must have a go at that!
However, if you make a simple pendulum, such as a small object suspended on a piece of thread, and dangle it between your thumb and finger, it will pick out the more regular components of the tremor, and not only magnify them, but also join up the gaps so that it becomes a smooth, visible pattern. You may find that a man’s tremor produces a straight line in a particular direction, whereas a woman’s might trace a circle, so the pendulum can usually detect gender. Now, tell a lie, and your altered metal state instantly affects your tremor pattern. Try asking questions. This is a natural, God-given thing, but some people lump it together with a lot of mumbo-jumbo, and even suggest that the pendulum itself has magic powers, or can be programmed. It’s a piece of junk on a string!
WE’VE LOST SOMETHING…
A recent, expensive survey discovered that people who help others are happier. A lot of people have been talking to us lately about what they view as being a “good person”, and human beings are often presumed to be superior in this matter, evolved to a higher level of whatever. In reality, many members of the animal kingdom have far more success than we do in honesty, innocence, working together for the common good, supporting family, loving their neighbour, protecting children, and helping each other. Whether it’s elephants, lions, meerkats, gulls, crabs, bees or ants, they have a certain code of conduct that we can only aspire to. If you bring a dog into your home you will soon be able to learn from it when it is first in the queue to welcome you home, cuddles you when you are feeling down, and in some cases spots a seizure or cancer before humans have any clue that it is coming. We are only just beginning to scratch the surface of all the amazing things that animals can do for us, and what’s more, they are happy to do them. Have a look at this link, a magic moment for animal lovers…
STAN GILBERT (1927-2013)
“To the Memory of a Man whofe Countenance at all times exprefsed Benevolence mixed with Humility, and whofe good and charitable Deeds, though by himfelf industrioufly concealed, were senfibly felt to the Relief and Subfiftence of Many.”
We came across this very appropriate quote from the gravestone of William Lovick, a Norwich Apothecary who died in 1759. It sums up Stan perfectly.
THE MAKING OF FRIENDS
Parrish invented the Rolling Ball Clock which can now be found in the Science
Museum. He was a Methodist Minister who proclaimed that all art was
frivolous, but his daughter Mary showed me a poem that he typed in 1947, we
think it was his own work. I have put it to music but sometimes, when I
try to sing it, the emotion of his words overcomes me…
If nobody smiled, and nobody cheered, and nobody helped us along,
If every man looked after himself, and good things all went to the strong,
If nobody cared just a
little for you, and nobody thought about me,
And we all stood alone in the battle of life, what a dreary old world this would be.
Life is sweet just because of the friends we have made, and the things which in common we share,
We want to live on, not because of ourselves, but because of the people who care.
It’s giving and doing for somebody else, on that all life’s splendour depends,
And the joy of the world, when you sort it all out, is found in the making of friends.
AN EVENING OUT
If you are recovering from a bad haircut, the chances are that a lot of the trouble may be unevenness of cut. Before you do anything too hasty, risky, or complicated, use a simple, gradual technique to even out the hair, and give it a softer, more natural look. Grab a handful of hair, and gently pull it outwards from the scalp, allowing the hairs to slide out of your grip until you are left with no more than a finger-width of the longest hairs. Cut off those tiny end-pieces, then repeat the process all over your head. Go on until you are bored, or until your arms ache. If you repeat this every day, your hair will gradually get shorter and more even, but without the risk of any sudden, irreversible disasters. If you only do it once a month, your hair will gradually get longer, but it will still become more even. Somewhere between the two, find the frequency that suits you.
SORRY WITH A FRINGE
Every year, a few children DIE simply because they chew the ends of their hair, and when my daughter Sarah was little, she started this habit. (I think this photo came after she decided to trim her own fringe!) You can remove the risk very simply, by creating a haircut that is based on nothing more complex than the need to stop the hair reaching the mouth. Grab a handful of hair, and gently pull it towards the tip of the nose. Cut off any excess so that it cannot reach beyond the tip of the nose. Repeat this with hair all over the head. The same technique can be applied by anyone to any point down the middle of the face to provide a long symmetrical cut, or anywhere off-centre for an asymmetrical cut.
After washing my hair, I used to brush it all back, and just leave it to dry, but since it went grey, it has taken on a life of its own. Remember, when you are washing your hair, from the moment you wet it, do not use any random rubbing or brushing movements. Instead, brush or comb each part of your hair only in the direction you want it to take. The same applies when you dry it. Who needs gel?
We had a lovely time when I played for the Hollywood Ball at Shepperton Studios last year, and Beth was delighted to see that Jonty Hearnden was there. I finished playing, and loaded the gear back into the car, but Beth had gone missing, I wondered where she could be…
UGUDDA FEE LEN
My life has always been about sounds, so although I am fascinated by watching people, I sometimes can’t bear to listen to them, especially when they abuse the language I love. If we can’t communicate, what hope is there? I have been learning English for 70 years, so I have nearly got it right now. There are some simple, everyday aspects of the English language that many of us take for granted, without studying them in any way. Astonishing as it may seem, different letters can have their own individual sounds, so they don’t have to all be pronounced the same. These include 14 vowel sounds, which deserve more than a neutral grunt…
“Who would know aught of art must learn and then might take his ease.”
Nowhere is this lack of a proper vowel more irritating than when a word starts with a vowel. If it is an “A”, perhaps it is understandable, but people start saying *llegal, *bject, *nvent, *lection, *conomy, etc.. Then there are letters which changed their sound according to the other letters around them. For example, we know instinctively that the pronunciation of the word “THE” varies, depending on whether it is followed by a vowel or a consonant, and people who get such a basic thing wrong can so easily sound to us like idiots. I should applaud the recent trend towards, when words end in a K, pronouncing the K twice as loudly as the rest of the world, but the experience is somewhat marred when the “word” in question is SOMEFINK, ANYFINK, EVERYFINK or NUFFINK.
If you are doing historical research, it soon becomes obvious that we don’t always know how words and names were pronounced at the time, the written word survives, but the sound does not. For anyone who needs to be convinced, this is the very simple and obvious reason why grammar, punctuation, and especially spelling are so important to written language. When we can’t hear the tone of voice, if the spelling is wrong, we have no chance of understanding words.
If a roofer tells you that he is going to put “hip irons on the kicks” it is perhaps understandable that he is using specific technical terms, in the same way that computer geeks expect me to know the meaning of all their gobbledygook. When the Data Protection Act became law, and I asked for clarification on various points, but their answers were not helpful. I pointed out to them that if they hijacked several existing English words and re-defined them, they could hardly expect people to understand. “Data” for example, as defined in the Act, suddenly meant digital data held on computer, and “transfer” meant transfer by digital means from one computer to another, so weeks of being pestered by these people was a complete waste of my time and money, because although (in plain English) I was transferring data, I was not “transferring data” by their eccentric definition. Why change words that work perfectly well? I hate it when people say “I call it…” – doesn’t it already have a name?
We went into a bed shop to enquire about a type of bed where the top can be lifted to gain access to the space underneath. “We call them ottomans” said the woman. “Oh! Dear!” I said, trying hard to feign shock and dismay, “What are they going to call ottomans now?” but my warped humour was lost on her.
It would be ridiculous if I opened a piano museum and called it “Chocolate Factory” but apparently it is alright to call a clothes shop “Bank”, or call a restaurant “Bowling Green”, or call an ordinary street “The Lace Market” when there is no lace, and no market. Now that Co-operative Pharmacies are renamed as “Well”, I wonder how they will answer their phones?
Words have a meaning and a purpose!
I remember when so many guitars were electric that people suddenly started calling perfectly ordinary guitars "acoustic guitars". Later, when digital pianos arrived on the scene, the inevitable consequence was that “pianos” have suddenly become "analog pianos" or “acoustic pianos”, just as we have “analog watches” and “clockwork clocks”.
In 1929, De Sylva & Henderson wrote a song called “You’re the cream in my coffee”, but the idea has not filtered through to Norfolk yet, so you may be asked “What, IN the coffee?”, and you will have to run the gauntlet of all sorts of “creamers” (glucose syrups) and squirty creams that have never seen a cow, so you have to ask for “pouring cream”. What is it? It’s CREAM. They’ve heard of it in Ipswich! One used to be able to simply order a black coffee, now it’s an “Americano”, but beware, you may be asked “do you want milk in it?”.
All my life, I have known what a crowbar is, but now, suddenly, they are “wrecking bars”, or “torsion bars”. Small ones are known as “nail bars”, which sounds more like a manicurist’s salon. Coach-bolts were a specific type of bolt, as used on coaches, with a round head and no thread on the top section, but now, they are just “bolts”, and “coach-bolts” are something different altogether. My engineering teacher lived in a world where “if it hasn’t got a nut, it’s a screw”, but he will be screwing in his grave now. One of the most amusing things about English for me is the fact that I listened and carefully learned from my dear old form teacher Mr Charlton in Roger Ascham Junior School, and went on for years spreading his “wisdom”. It is only in later life that I find that some of what I learned so carefully was wrong, like his idea that “maintainance” is about maintaining, whereas “maintenance” is about tenancy. There is, of course, no such word as maintainance! I did a grammar test on the One Show’s website, and scored 7 out of 10. Like several of the celebrities, I wanted to quiz the people who wrote the test.
I supplied piano information to the One Show and they said they were sorry they couldn’t pay me.
I said I’d settle for a weekend with Alex Jones.
And why can’t people tell “diffuse” from “defuse”?
And when did “condense” become “condensate”?
And when did “Thank you” become “Think ye”?
And why is “Have you?” answered with “I do”?
And when did “SCRATCH” become “ITCH”?
And how many syllables has “deteriorate”?
And why can’t people pronounce “good”?
And why can’t people pronounce “Aitch”?
Or “viOlence”, “vuLnerable” or “mischievous”?
And is “Seccatry” the art of cutting?
If you go to a Bring & Buy sale, you will need to know the difference between BROUGHT and BOUGHT.
Products seem to have such long multiple names now, like “Three LED Magnetic Telescopic Pick-Up Tool” for example, a name that hardly fits on the little packet, OR…
“Vanish Oxi-Intelligent Stain Remover Pre-Wash”
“Chrysler Grand Voyager SR CRB Passenger Car”.
Do you get the impression that public signs and advertisements are now in the hands of people who do not understand basic English, like the bus that is “up to every 30 minutes” – what does that mean? The road sign on your right appeared outside our house last January, and you might think that the 6 months of road works would have been finished by July, but it hasn’t even started yet. Which January did they mean? I saw a fascinating poster, the exact wording was…
HIXXY STARKEY SCOTT BROWN DOUGAL
VIBES PUT MORE ACROSS AT PASSION
If you know what this means, please don’t bother to tell me, I prefer to imagine some event with the organisers standing at the door, wondering why nobody came. When I need a good laugh, I just look for those hand-written signs in shop windows, but although anyone can now print a neat, tidy sign on a computer, the English remains just as bad. Even professional sign-writers often don’t have a clue. Musicians may be excited to learn that Card Factory are now offering a “Cello Wrapping” service, although they don’t sell ‘cellos! Who comes up with a business name like “Talk Talk” or “My My”, or “No No”, or “Table Table”? And imagine calling a waste disposal firm NEWS, or a charity SALE. These names turn sentences into complete nonsense…
I was on talk talk at table table, a woman from sale was saying that no no was great, she takes her rubbish to news, and she is just off to the next Next sale.
(The food and service at Table Table are wonderful though, and they have unbelievable online deals for regular customers!) Having had several firms called ONE, we now have to cope with hearing that “the second bus is a First bus”. Don’t even get me started on the various announcements about “all THREE customers”.
We stopped at motorway services to use the facilities, and were assailed by neat, bold computer-printed notices which said “SOME TAPES ARE BROKEN, PLEASE USE THE OTHERS. SORRY FOR THE INCONVIANCE.” Ignoring the obvious spelling error, we had no idea what “tapes” it referred to, until I went into the toilets and found that several TAPS were broken.
Oh! Dear! Some of the taps are broken, whatever shall I do?
I know, I think I’ll use one that isn’t broken!
Why is it that TV advertisers repeatedly say “two times”? Whatever happened to TWICE? A local shop was selling a “hot cross bun loaf”: I concede that it was a loaf, but it was not a bun, it was not hot, and being sliced, there was no cross anywhere. I went shopping in Norwich, and was assailed by so many rogue apostrophes and unrelated participles, I quite forgot what I was there for. A website lists a picture of a “square piano by Thomas Baxter”, but Baxter didn’t make the piano, he was the artist.
“And I was like… and she was like…”
I am sure you know people who mindlessly put “like” or “i’n’it” into sentences, or even “know what I mean” but I used to have a customer who embarrassed his wife by interjecting “and anything like that” into almost every clause: “I went to the shop and anything like that and asked if they had any bolts and anything like that but he said they only had screws and anything like that so I left it and anything like that.” I phoned the Lowestoft refuse disposal department, but the woman I spoke to didn't call it “ref – use”, she called it “ree-fooz”, which led to a very confooozed conversation!
In East Anglia, we don’t have musicians, they are MOOO-sicians, but we laughed when a lady phoned to tell Beth that the hymns she had to lead that week would be from the POO bible.
An Irishman I know has always interjected “okay” between every clause for no apparent reason, but now he has moved on to the next level, and adds something that sounds like “arsagay”, presumably a contraction of “Ah! So, okay”. “Arsagay we ought to look at that one arsagay and consider what needs to be done arsagay to prevent further problems arsagay.” I found it strange in the sixties, when some people became “square”, but I wonder how people will view our language in the future, when “wicked”, “bad”, or even “sick” is suddenly good, “gay” friends of ours are neither happy nor carefree, and “fit” and “hot” mean the same, while “cool” and “chill” have nothing to do with temperature, and “there you go” has nothing to do with going. I am reminded of a friend who described sex to his foreign girlfriend as “stuffing”, but then his Mum invited her to Christmas dinner…
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
If you are still reading this twaddle, you may be someone who is interested enough to offer me theory or explanation of the following: the verb “to have to”, meaning that someone must do something, is peculiar in that HAVE is pronounced HAFF, while HAD is pronounced HATT, and HAS is pronounced HASS. Why??
Have you seen www.apostrophe.org.uk
ROUND THE BEND
I was in Suffolk, driving through the Barnby Bends, a notorious accident black spot. I stayed just under the 50 limit, then just under the 40 limit, then as I came into the 30 limit, my speed crept up to a sinful 31 mph! Instantly, there were flashing blue lights, and I was stopped by police…
“Good evening Sir, you’re driving very slowly.”
“I don’t think I was driving VERY slowly.”
“Well no, you WEREN’T driving very slowly…
? ? ? ? ?
… but you were slowing down for the bends, and that’s something people often do when they’ve had too much to drink.”
“Well, I DID have TWO whiskeys LAST year!”
At this point, the officer decided he was on a loser, and retreated, but I have since been told that anyone sticking to the speed limit is now regarded as suspicious. I really wanted to ask what he expected someone to do when they were driving at the speed limit, and approaching a bend? It was drummed into me back in the sixties by my driving instructor that one should always accelerate into a bend. What really gets up my nose is the idea that these bends are somehow “dangerous”.
THE ACLE STRAIGHT
Oddly, this same label is also firmly applied to the section of the A47 known as the Acle Straight, perhaps because it’s toooooo straight? The recent appalling multiple pile-up in Kent demonstrated that it is not the roads that are dangerous, it’s stupid people driving at ridiculous speeds, when they can’t see ahead. It’s a bit like labelling level crossings as “dangerous” when people ignore the warnings, you can’t legislate against stupidity. I suspect this is another example of survival of the fittest, Nature’s way of removing the lame elements from the gene pool, but it’s a shame that innocent bystanders can so easily get caught up in the crossfire. Recently, Beth was driving along a stretch of the A11 that had been temporarily reduced to single carriageway, one lane each way. The signs were clear and insistent, 40 miles per hour, and no overtaking, but the cars behind us were itching to get past and drive faster, with the result that they were all bunched up much too close to us. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, a car was hurtling head-on towards us on our side of the road, with headlights blazing. I can’t imagine how fast he was going, Beth had very little room to manoeuvre, and I was convinced that even if he managed to miss us, he would knock out the following cars like dominoes. In a few seconds, it was all over, he had got away with it, and we couldn’t help smiling at the way the drivers behind were suddenly very sensible and law-abiding. How easily our lives could have ended on that road.
When I was brought up in London, there was a sort of convention that gentlemen walked on the outside edge of the pavement, probably dating back to sabres and carriages. However, things are very different in East Anglia, and women will NEVER walk between a man and a brick wall, they would rather walk in the road, so I have developed the habit of walking as far as I can from the kerb. With the present state of mind of the local population, this has the advantage that it is harder for a bunch of morons to force me off the pavement when they want to have the full width to themselves.
Around here, ASBO stands for Anti-Social Bicycle Owners, and every time we make the short journey along Southtown Road to Haven Bridge, we have to run the gauntlet of these people who, faced with a choice of bike lanes each side of the road, feel obliged to ride on the WRONG side of the road in the face of any unlucky cyclist who is foolishly trying to observe the law. Mainly though, they prefer to race along the FOOT-path and curse any poor pedestrians who get in the way. Gone is the gentle tinkling of a cycle bell, replaced by loud F---ing. It doesn’t end there, they ignore traffic lights, or signs telling them not to cycle, and just do what suits them. One motor cyclist turned off the road, onto a pedestrian crossing, cut across moving traffic, and went off along the footpath across the bridge, where even cyclists are not allowed. If you dare to walk over the bridge, you will have to resort to staring at the ground, making yourself as wide as possible, and just hope to hear of the welcome sound of a bike crashing into a post, or (dare we hope?) an even more interesting fate when they fall off the kerb in front of the traffic, the non-survival of the not-fittest.
I suppose we come to expect that the World Cup will bring alcohol and mayhem, but the recent one seems to have been the pathetic excuse for some drunken idiot to light a bonfire in the ivy against our building, timed at the very minute the England match started, synchronised with various other acts of vandalism around town. If I had not looked out of the window at that moment, the whole collection could have been lost, but with prompt action by the Norfolk Fire Service, together with swift help from a kind neighbour, the fierce blaze was put out, and the building was just slightly scorched.
FLOOD DAMAGE IN LOWESTOFT
Having suffered more trouble from the flood warnings than we did from actual water when we were in Yarmouth, we were shocked to see the terrible damage at Lowestoft. The whole seafront area flooded right across to the longest terrace in Britain, and when that enormous body of water receded, it tore away concrete and stone from the sea defences, and then dragged huge volumes of sand from the beach, leaving the levels about ten feet lower, exposing structures that had been buried for decades, and making the beach a very dangerous place, with overhanging, loose blocks of stone. It took months before expensive repairs could make it a safe place for the public again. When I lived near the beach, it amused me that the sand fairies used to sneak in during the night, and top up the sand from a barge.
I call this surrealist picture “Flying free”, but after you have pondered on it for a while, you may just be able to work out how it got off the ground.
I have been caught out twice by booby traps set by antique dealers, but I didn’t pay up. It works like this: you are wandering around the old shop, concentrating on the objects that interest you, and suddenly, you tread on a floorboard that moves. The floor bends, then a frail table tips, and a hugely over-priced piece of breakable junk falls to the floor and smashes. Don’t be sucked in by this, it is a ploy to get money out of you. It is not your fault if they are unwise enough to put breakables on rickety tables and dodgy floorboards! I try to imagine the kind of perverted mind that seeks out loose floorboards and carefully lays these traps.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Can you see where this doorway leads to?
Be warned, there is a growing menace which threatens to undermine the whole internet system as well as your home PC: It is known as "Just Intolerance", and it works like this:
You say "I'll JUST have one more look at that site" and the message comes up "Cannot find server".
You say "I'll JUST print this before I catch the train" and the ink cartridge runs out.
You say "I'll JUST find that document before I go out" and it isn't there.
You say "I'll JUST play one more level of this game" and the machine crashes.
You say "I'll JUST save this before I close down" and the hard-drive dies.
NEVER EVER, under any circumstances, use the J word anywhere near your PC or laptop, or it will retaliate with instant and vicious effect.
When I was a child, the matter of gender seemed simple. Boys had short hair parted on the left, and girls had long hair parted on the right. I remember a man who winked and said that someone "parted his hair on the wrong side" and then glanced up at my hair to find that it was parted on the right. I had no idea what he meant, but to me, it was just the wayward nature of my hair. As soon as a baby is born, we rush to look for the obvious signs of gender, although sadly, some babies do not conform. By the time a child is 4 years old, he or she may have definite feelings about internal gender, so the 2 gender groups become 4 - boys, girls, and the potential transgenders - boys who wish they were girls, and girls who wish they were boys. By the time they are 8 years old, they are aware of their sexual preferences, although not necessarily willing to make it public. Suddenly, ignoring people who just like to cross-dress, there are heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals in each group, so we now have 12 main gender groups, but spare a thought for the unlucky thirteenth, whose bodies do not conform to any normal conventions. Statistically, we would expect that each of the main groups would be in the region of 4% of the population, but the so-called "normal" heterosexuals do seem to account for the majority. Several surveys claim that gay people only amount to 2% of the population, but if this were true, I would have to ask why so many seem to appear in almost every TV programme now, not only soaps, but also property programmes etc.. In my life, I would say that less than 1% of people I have known seemed to be gay. One man was in such despair, he decided to talk to his piano tuner (me) about the fact that so many people said he was obviously gay, so women didn't fancy him. This was a man who walked gay, talked gay, carried a "handbag" everywhere, used classic gay gestures including the "wet nail varnish" move. He stood out so much that my work colleagues had all noticed him, and jumped to the obvious conclusion.
Although we are aware that for all our lives, the word “GEN” has meant information, somehow I almost feel I should be apologising for the fact that so many people who emailed us still did not understand what PIANO GEN meant. Putting a heading “Gen about pianos” on the website didn’t help at all. Now, our website has changed to…
Easyspace is living up to its name, and the basic setting up of the new website, emails and domain is going well. Somebody has just told me it is impossible to set up web pages the way I do, and I had to point out that they have been working for years! Computer software is cleverly designed to allow anyone to save a document as a web page, so it can easily become a website, but the host companies are not too forthcoming about this simple, non-technical approach, in spite of the fact that it could offer them far more business. If you want to save an ordinary Word document as a filtered web page, there is just one step you need to take in Microsoft Word for some internet servers. From the file menu, select Options / Advanced then go to the bottom of the page, select Web Options / Encoding, and cancel the default tick, then select utf-8. This should continue to work for any future documents you save.
INTERFERING WITH MUSIC
Have you had problems with a ticking electrical interference from Arqiva’s transmitter masts? Or trouble with range or reliability of broadband and other wireless applications near a mast? Although OFCOM will protect your right to laze around and watch TV or listen to the radio, musicians apparently do not have the right to rehearse or record in their own homes without having their efforts destroyed by electrical interference. We bought the particular house at Yarmouth because it had a soundproof studio at the end of the garden, but all the money spent on rewiring, new instruments and recording gear may as well have gone down the drain. The engineer arranged a “window” of 2 minutes to turn off the 2 transmitters, in a bid to prove that it could not possibly be their fault, but when the first one went off, the ticking reduced instantly, and turning off the other transmitter stopped the problem altogether… for 2 minutes. After two long but fascinating one-day visits by engineers, doing rigorous testing to try to solve the mystery of our interference, Arqiva called in OFCOM, because although they have no jurisdiction over this problem, they have the best test-gear. Among other things, they wanted to discover whether electro-magnetic fields in our building were likely to be injurious to health. In general, they were not, but the engineer demonstrated what he already knew, that if their sensor was placed near to one of the new-style low-energy light bulbs, the levels were many times above the safety guidelines. In other words, if you spend a lot of time reading right under a low-energy bulb, you may well be risking damage to your health. So why are these things even allowed in our homes, let alone forced upon us? Trying to tackle energy wastage by changing domestic light-bulbs is a pathetic dent in the tip of an iceberg, and why should someone tell me that I can’t leave a light bulb on in my own home when so many businesses are pouring energy away?
I was repeatedly offered suggestions about what might help to reduce the interference, and what I found fascinating was that, having no knowledge or experience in radio frequencies, almost every time, I said “I’ve tried that!” as I had adapted and applied my knowledge of, and training in, musical acoustics. At long last, they concluded that the ticking was caused by a clock-pulse signal that keeps all the broadcast signals synchronised. This, I was told, pulses at 6Hz, or six clicks per second. My immediate response, as a musician and a piano tuner, was “No, it isn’t 6Hz, it’s more like 9Hz”. They were quite taken aback, and wondered how I could possibly know this, so I demonstrated how easy it is to tap once a second, then double and redouble until there are 8 beats per second. I use this knowledge of tiny time intervals, both in playing music at prescribed tempos, and in tuning “beats” in pianos.
Not having their expensive equipment, I used a £1 microphone to record the ticking on computer, then used free software to produce a picture of it, (above) which demonstrated beyond any doubt that the ticking was 10Hz, or ten ticks per second. They have no idea what it is, or why it is there. It used to extend along the back garden to our kitchen, now it engulfs the whole house and half of the front garden, so the whole of our home has now been invaded by the dreaded ticking, and even the church along the road suffers it. Apparently, we are the only people in the world mad enough to try to make music next to a mast. Our house has been here since the 1840s, the mast is the intruder. I wrote to my MP to ask why he was ignoring my plight, he said he was not ignoring me, but didn’t actually do anything. Recently, the ticking seems to have reduced, but it is still not suitable for professional recordings, so if someone wants a recording done, I have to take all my gear to their house!!
To Barrie Heaton for getting us onto the internet in the first place, and to our friend and ex-neighbour Louis Barfe, music historian, radio presenter and "listening drummer" for his help in setting up our original domain. Thanks also to the many people who have helped me in so many ways in the past, including the Aberdeen City Librarian, Alastair Laurence, Andrew Garrett, Bernard Watts, Bill Dow, Bill Roope, Billy Little, Bowes Museum, Christie's Ltd., Colt Clavier Collection, Dick & Katrina Burnett, Eduoard Robbins, Elleni Perrin, Ernest Daynes, Finchcocks, Frances Collard, Gill Green, Guildhall Library, Jay Mallory, John Davis, Kenneth Mobbs, Lionel Sims, Mary Thrower, Monika Barns, Monington & Weston Ltd., Morley Galleries, Musical Museum Brentford, Pam Newton, Robert Kirkman, Robert Myhill, Rod Watt, Roy LePetit, Royal Archives at Windsor, Roy Sagar, Sarah Medlam, Sherry Waring, Sotheby's Ltd., Stephen Kirkman, Susan Searle NMLR, Tania Staite, Tanya Hutchinson, Tracey Jane Biggs, Victoria & Albert Museum, etc..
Also, apologies for any apparent lack of gratitude to those people who sent information during my "Rip van Winkle" period of the nineties, and whose names became separated from the goods in the general fog! Without donations, I will be fine, but PianoHistory.Info may not survive. If every visitor to this site donated just one pound, we would have a proper museum building, and much-improved facilities for research within our archives.
Pianogen.org panio paino pniao pisno