(Page updated September 2020)
Under the umbrella of this website, I have decided that this page is the best place to put 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!
The “Wuhan Whistleblower” seems to be a qualified, knowledgeable scientist who claims to have inside information to prove that Covid-19 was not natural, or from animals, she says it was man-made in Wuhan, combining elements that could not have combined naturally. With all the conflicting statements and statistics about Covid-19, I came to the conclusion that the only relevant figures were the number of deaths compared to the total UK population. About one in every 120,000 of the population is dying, although it becomes obvious that death records (which I have always regarded as important historical documents) are not considered important enough for people to make the effort to be accurate. Because of my age, I am at high risk with Covid-19, (as are tall, obese, black or Asian people) so we are self-isolating, and in a small village with no facilities, and poor phone signal, we are highly dependent upon the internet.
Occasionally, someone will tell me that what I am trying to do with piano history 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 logical, sensible people? We often over-think things, so what we never do is to walk into a situation without considering all the ramifications, and we don’t gamble with our limited financial resources. Certainly, those of our friends and relatives who have been to see us since our move agree that our lives have improved in so many ways.
If your house starts to fill up with your possessions, you have two main 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 unpack them, organising 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 projects waiting for the opportunity to be put into action. Lockdown has provides some opportunities. Music has so many trappings that we both 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 50 pianos worked out so well, we decided to move everything else ourselves. Sadly, the big van died of exhaustion afterwards. Our specially-adapted trailer was stolen, so at the moment, we have no way of rescuing more grands, or anything over four feet tall, unless people can deliver them to us. We just can’t justify spending over a hundred pounds hiring a van to rescue a piano that has no cash value.
I love my van, it has a special design feature – I can open the door and just get in, unlike Beth’s Vauxhall Insignia, which was all the more difficult when I had back pain. I have to fold myself up to get in, then there is no room to get my legs in between the seat and the steering wheel, so I have to get out again, and slide the seat back. Next, although I am only 5’7”, I am too tall to fit my head in the doorway, so I have to twist my back in order to get in. Having sat down, with my legs wedged against the steering wheel, the door is too far away for me to reach, especially as there is no reachable handle. What kind of idiot puts a door handle next to the hinge? I have to get my head out again, and lean out precariously, to grab the edge of the door. Having shut the door, I have to slide the seat forwards again, trapping my legs against the steering wheel. When I want to get out, the whole process has to be repeated in reverse, but if I have parked between other cars, there is no way to hold the door and stop it hitting the next car, because there is no handle I can reach while my legs are wedged in there.
Many people are daunted by the prospect of having to move ONE piano, and we have recently moved over FIFTY pianos and organs – some of them twice. While I was taking Tramadol for pain, I moved most of the pianos on my own in a big van, loading, unloading and sorting them into a time-line. (Unfortunately, my new doctor told me that Tramadol might KILL me, and when I came off it too hastily, it caused months of weird symptoms.) 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…
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.
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. This is also a problem if a piano falls flat on its back. I apologise if some of the items on this website may still give the impression that we are still 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, unpacking in a bigger music studio, etc., etc..
An interesting aspect of country life occurred when we first moved in,
I flushed the downstairs toilet, and a frog appeared in the pan!
“WE DON’T GET SNOW AROUND HERE!”
BLUE TITS & FAT BALLS
We just love our new home, in the only bit of Lincolnshire that isn’t flat, surrounded by animals and birds, including not just the usual sparrows, blackbirds, pigeons, and thrushes, but also barn owls, blue tits, buzzards, chaffinches, collared doves, dunnocks, mistle thrushes, pheasants, pianets, red-legged partridges, robins, siskins, snow buntings, wagtails, yellow hammers, and an occasional charm of goldfinches. We set up a bird feeder in the garden so that we could see more of the birds, and it is fascinating to get insights into their pecking order. Two blue tits were eating fat balls, then one of them decided they were too good to share, so he chased the other one off. The ever-so-‘umble sparrow waited on the ground, grateful for any little crumbs that came his way. Then the resident robin chased them all away, but don’t imagine that the robin is top of the heap. When the wagtail spreads his beautiful tail to make himself bigger, and more impressive, the robin knows he is on a loser, and makes a hasty retreat.
We have 3 main types of weather, warm wind, cold wind, and wet wind. We love being surrounded by nature, and when we pass a window, ten minutes can easily disappear as we look at the wildlife, but as always, there are human beings making our life difficult by not doing their jobs properly. Our solicitors lost vital paperwork for two weeks, such as passports and bank details. The website that bought our old house deviously dropped the price on us at the last minute, but by the time they paid our fees as well as ours, they made a loss! YES!
The poor mouse on your left must have been in our loft for years before we moved in, its skeleton perfectly preserved in a trap. The other cute little mouse was acting very strangely in our garden, because one of its legs didn’t work. We gave it some food and drink, but while we were deciding what to do about it, it died. A little snack for the barn owl, I expect.
For many years, I felt that a big dark cloud was slowly trying to catch up with me. When I was based on the edge of North-East London, I found that days spent tuning pianos in Essex were so much happier than those spent working in London. It was as if the city caused many people to be tense, stressed, aggressive, self-centred and depressed, whereas the Essex people were much more relaxed, considerate and friendly. So much so, I decided to move to Essex, but the mistake was probably going near to the other end of the county, where the big town blues seemed to exist around Southend as well, on days when I worked that way. Later, I moved 130 miles North to Lowestoft, Suffolk, and the good effect was even more apparent, so if I popped into a shop for a photocopy, I could be chatting for twenty minutes.
In spite of warnings that local people didn’t like Londoners, I found everyone charming, friendly and polite, not to mention the number of gorgeous, intelligent, creative women I met when I was single in the nineties, including the one I married. Bus drivers not only said hello, they had proper conversations, whereas when I went to London for a day, the bus driver looked at me as if I was mad because I said hello to him. I was not aware of the dark cloud until we moved 8 miles up the road to Great Yarmouth.
After ten years there, the cloud began to engulf me, and finding that we were almost accidentally moving to the Lincolnshire Wolds, I wondered how things would be there. We fell in love with the individual property without knowing what it would be like to live near Louth. Some of the road signs have little extra signs explaining what the main signs mean!
I have to say that people around here seem very unusual. The most common conversation I hear is “Sorry! Thank you!” because people are so polite and considerate, and aware of other people around them, they apologise not only for things they do, but also things they nearly do, like nearly getting in someone’s way, or nearly driving by when you want to cross the road. Then they are thanked for apologising.
I went to my car and it was so hot, I left the door open for a few minutes, until I noticed a lady sitting, waiting silently and patiently because she couldn’t drive by, because my door was in her way. I said “sorry” and she smiled sweetly, waved and thanked me. Strangers smile and say hello, and I have to be on my best behaviour after years of being verbally and physically abused by ignorant morons who take over the pavements, or stand blocking doorways and aisles chatting, or ride bikes where they shouldn’t, or just generally act as with no consideration for other people.
I hope there is enough breeze on our hill to keep the dark clouds away. Thank you Lincs! Sadly, some tuners are charging half as much, and musicians here are often not even getting minimum wage. My big problem is getting people to hear what I can do, they keep telling me to come along and pay to listen to other people! That’s not quite the idea.
Meanwhile, almost every company we contact for anything uses Post Office software to find our address, and the listing doesn’t separate our farmhouse from the working farm business, causing endless complications. Not one single company could offer us television, telephone and internet here, so we got the TV from Sky, and the phone and broadband from Plusnet. When the Sky man came, he used the Plusnet internet to set up the Sky TV! Can you see a problem there? In an age where we are constantly bullied into using online services for medical, financial and other important business, we recently had 4 weeks without any internet or landline, thanks for that Plusnet! We were fobbed off with excuses but nothing was done. As a result, we had no internet, so the mobiles didn’t work very well, and the TV didn’t work properly, the landline has also been off. They rubbed salt in the wound by telling us we could view our fault ONLINE!! People talk a lot about speeds of broadband, but we would settle for having it working constantly. It has settled into a norm where it disappears several times most days. They are now promising us a speed of at least 38, but it is actually less than ONE. After complaining for 2 years, we have now had FOUR WEEKS with NO internet at all, and who knew that without internet, the router won’t operate the indoor network, so we can’t even trust it to print a document! It seems that Plusnet just sit in their offices and wait for BT Openreach to do all the work, but BT are now trying to blame the delay on Covid-19, a cheap shot when we are in self-isolation in a small village with no facilities, and phones won’t work properly without wi-fi.
Although we have been aware for all our lives that 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 PIANOGEN meant. Putting a heading “Gen about pianos” on the website didn’t help at all. Now, we have a more logical name…
Easyspace lived up to its name, and the basic setting up of the new website, emails and domain went well. Somebody 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… unless the dreaded updates change everything. I can’t even find the item now!
BATTERY OF MISINFORMATION
I was concerned when I saw several items on TV and online saying that if batteries are left lying around, or stored badly, they can touch on something that shorts out the terminals and causes the battery to explode into flames. There are tales of buildings burning down, and I wanted to test this, so I took two PP3 batteries (the oblong 9-volt ones) and joined them together by their press-studs, so not only were they very efficiently shorted out, the voltage was doubled. In theory, they should heat up and explode into flames. I have tried this several times in the interest of safety, but NOTHING HAPPENED. Where is the evidence?
OMNIBUS OF ENTERTAINMENT
Recently, we went to London to do some piano history research, but 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 bus conversation, so I could delete all the unnecessary words, and see what was left. I heard another woman who had being saying “obviously” so often she had shortened it to “ozly”.
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, but then they couldn’t reach the door handle so they had to go back, grab the handle, then get out of the way again. Next, they found that they couldn’t shut the door unless they had grabbed the inner 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 place, 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.
At Southtown, I developed a very effective system of lighting based on PIR sensors and halogen floodlights, which also tied in with timing for tours, and turned off when everybody left, to reduce fire hazards. I wanted to buy new ones for the new, bigger time-line, and use the system I designed, but apparently that is unreasonable and unrealistic. The government thinks halogen lights are inventions of Satan, and has banned us from buying them because they are so bad for the environment. Instead, I have to buy LED floodlights, no replacement bulbs are possible, just throw them away if they go wrong, then pay out to fit complete new plastic units. That’s really good for the environment?
They aren’t as bright, the sensors don’t turn far enough for my needs, and they won’t stay on for 12 minutes, only 4 minutes. Is this progress? Meanwhile I am on my fifth electrician, having waited months to get some lights, but at least this one turned up, although he expected me to dig a trench up a hill for the armoured cable. It’s all the more frustrating because I have been wiring up music gear for half a century, but I am not qualified to do household wiring. Piecing together hints from several electricians and a builder, I realised that as long as I plug the armoured cable in, I can legally run it up there myself, without the need for a trench, and wire it to sockets.
Within the last 6 years I could buy 8x4 softboard for £4 a sheet, and planned to use it in displays, so my whole layout is designed around 8’x4’ boards, but although I can read online about its impressive attributes, apparently softboard has disappeared from the universe, Jewsons have been banned from buying it in, so I am expected to spend up to eight times as much for display boards. Not only that, but local B&Q stores don’t even sell eight-foot boards.
I’m popping out to the shops, just need to make sure I don’t go without my torch, tuning fork, magnifying glass, calendar, calculator, camera, computer, notebook, alarm clock, photo album, satnav, atlas, metronome, stereo, filing cabinet and – oh yes!.. The phone. Recently, I went to tune a piano in town, but forgot to take my phone with me. (I left it by the door so I couldn’t forget it.) I remembered the road, but not the house number, it was written on my phone. I couldn’t phone home to ask. As I wandered around cluelessly, the customer spotted my van signs and told me where his house was.
The piano was interesting, I wanted to take a photo,
But my phone wasn’t there.
I wanted to type some details,
But my phone wasn’t there.
The pitch was all over the place, and I really wanted to measure frequencies for each A,
I opened up the piano and found some feint writing on a key, I wanted to enlarge it,
But my phone wasn’t there.
I wanted to get some more light on it,
But my phone wasn’t there.
I wanted to look up my history notes on the maker,
But my phone wasn’t there.
I sent Beth a text message once, to tell her that she had left her phone at home…
I don’t know if it’s a national thing, but we are having a lot of trouble with pot-sized holes in main roads. There was one on the A16 at a point visible from our house, where it caused an accident, after months of complaints. Five big vans and drivers arrived, with a multitude of flashing lights and signs, causing a major hold-up to traffic. I feel sure ONE man in ONE small van could have parked there with his hazard lights on, and poured something into the hole. There are many choices, including asphalt, rubber, plastic resin, cement etc., and he could spend his life going from one pot-hole to another, instead of leaving things unresolved for months and then costing a fortune and injuring people.
Interestingly, a pot-hole suddenly appeared in a tiny country lane nearby, and was resolved in DAYS. I bet that wasn’t the council. You’d think the council would appreciate volunteer help, but it is illegal for the public to fix holes in roads.
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?
Ebay were advertising some sets of printer cartridges for sale, so we bought one. Then, we were contacted by police to say the items were stolen, and we should return them to the police once Ebay had refunded our money. Sounds simple? Ebay sent us several emails, appalling English, misspellings, typing errors, and they kept putting barriers in our way, such as sending us a virtual form to fill in, but we didn’t know how to work the software to get into the form. Then, in this electronic document, they wanted us to include an official police stamp – from the other side of the country. They told us our local police would deal with it, but the officer told us “Ebay known we don’t do that”. He decided to be very helpful, so there we were, with a paper copy now stamped by our local police. We scanned it, and sent it to the email address Ebay gave us, only to have it returned, as not an acceptable address. At last, we had our money back.
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 didn’t do ceilings, plastering, artex, coving, wallpapering, architraves, or put panels on walls or repair skirting boards. I provided 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. When he had finished, 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 fell off in two patches, so we couldn’t decorate. He said his wife was very ill, so we let things slide for the first few months, but he didn’t answer his phone, didn’t answer text message, didn’t answer the doorbell, and ignored 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 some foreigner 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.
I had a call from National Windscreens, they were unable to replace my windscreen because it was RAINING!! I said “What you need is a tent” and the man said “We have asked, but we are not allowed to have them, although Autoglass does.” It’s a good job it doesn’t rain much in England then!? Their combined software for satnav, job sheets and card payments was no more impressive. Try Autoglass.
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 was too old, so he sucked his teeth and 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 had to chase them ourselves. Then, they turned the power off in DECEMBER to fit the smart meter. Thanks very much.
We stayed for a night at the Harefield Manor hotel in Romford. Being a collection of separate buildings, it is spread around a busy crossroads, and not pedestrian-friendly. The so-called "Secure Parking" was difficult to access, and spread over 4 separate areas, with inadequate signage. It took us over 40 minutes to wrestle with traffic and find a parking space, which was then an unacceptable 200 metres from the building. The staff's English was difficult to understand. We were given the key to room 231, and walked in to find that someone else was staying in there. They gave us another room which was cold, the heating didn't work, the control was broken. The bathroom floor was constantly wet and slippery, it never dried. Various floor tiles were cracked or not fixed properly, and the floor beneath sagged. The toilet didn't flush properly. The bidet would not turn off, so we had constant dripping water all night. The bidet drain-off emptied very slowly. When I sat in the bath, I couldn't reach the soap dispenser. The hand-held shower wouldn't work unless I held the control with one hand while I tried to shower. The hair drier was uncontrollably hot. The television made a constant whirring noise. The wi-fi kept cutting off, at which point it was not listed on screen, so I had to keep waiting for it to come back on, so I could restart it. The bed and the breakfast were adequate, but £75 per night for this?
Our friend had a lot of genuine, worrying health problems and 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 overcharging 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. 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. Do they seriously expect people to keep their trailers attached all the time?
Great Yarmouth made national news in August 2016, 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?
“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
I have been using computers as long as there have been home computers. Suddenly, I can’t always have bitmaps in slideshows, only photo formats such as jpg. Suddenly, I can’t run a slideshow of images that are from different folders, which has always been the mainstay of my research within my files. Anyone who has to edit pictures regularly will know that jpg is too unstable for images that need to be edited repeatedly, because every time you save, it compresses the image, and loses quality, so I have eighty thousand bitmap pictures I can’t always look at properly anymore. Most of the control we have over a laptop is with the mouse pad, but Windows 10 has taken that away every time the cursor goes nuts and dithers about randomly. I have to threaten it with CTRL ALT DELETE. Suddenly, it is acceptable for the software to move my cursor, and cause me to waste my time and energy trying to fix all the problems it causes. One time, it selected hundreds of pictures at random, and rotated them. Another time, it duplicated hundreds of files and altered their names. I know that it is not normal for someone to have thousands of history files on a computer, and the makers have to cater for the majority, but things I have come to rely on, the essence of what makes computers special, are being undermined.
Increasingly, electronics and digital technology is taking the lead, instead of letting us do our own thing, whether it’s computers, cars or organs. A new car now will regulate temperature, tell you if you have a flat tyre, switch on the wipers when it rains, switch on the lights when it gets dark, and operate the handbrake for you. I find it intensely annoying when a machine is programmed to assume that I don’t know what I am doing, how to drive, or how to spell, or how to play my own notes. I wouldn’t mind so much being controlled by the machines, but really we are in the hands of computer programmers, many of whom seem to live on some other planet, and have no concept of the wonderful everyday things that their software COULD achieve if they had the common sense to write it properly. Now, we have airplanes crashing and people dying because the software wasn’t done properly. I used to do the programming for my own business, and if anything went wrong, it was my fault, and my job to fix it.
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 developed a system which allows the computer to search through eighty thousand files and just show me the files I want to see. Well, it used to, but with Windows 10, 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, and with over eighty thousand, I depended on the computer to help me, but it can sometimes show me a thousand files I didn’t ask for. On one occasion it showed me 3 of the ones I wanted, and nearly 2,000 I didn’t want.
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? It used to be normal to click on an item once to highlight it, or twice to open it, but now, I am lucky if even clicking 3 times works. Suddenly, whereas a document used to open in a second or two, it now takes thirty seconds. Is this progress? A message popped up on my screen asking for feedback on what I thought of Windows 10. I let rip! My old laptop, which hasn’t been on the internet for years, works better and quicker than the brand new one.
Now, to compound the problems, Microsoft have decided that we ought to pay £79.99 every year for the privilege of using their Office software, so they just took the money from our account last year, without permission, but when I complained, they refunded it without any protest. They tried to do the same this year, and I spent over an hour on their website getting stuck in loops, and “chatting” with a machine, then a person who can’t construct English sentences, then finally someone who dealt with the problem. One can only wonder how many people did not complain, and ended up eighty quid worse off! It is perplexing to me how people can take my money from my bank without my permission.
Royal London Insurance decided to take money from our account and put us in overdraft, with its consequences, when we have had no dealings whatsoever with them. They have no answers, no record of why they took the money, no proof they even received the money, and our bank still haven’t explained why they paid out money from our account without our permission, but the error originated from an agent.
THE PROBLEM IS… IS
Why do people around the world keep repeating the word “IS”?
The answer IS, IS I don’t know.
The problem IS, IS it seems to be getting worse.
The question IS, IS how did this ridiculous habit start?
The worry IS, IS that people will start repeating all of the verbs.
Where WILL WILL we BE BE then? How WILL WILL we COPE COPE?
It has always puzzled me why PLCs and other companies spend large amounts of money on having their vehicles professionally sign-written, but only put a name on there, with nothing to tell anyone what the firm does. There’s something sinister about people hiding their identity. Now, things have escalated, because they don’t even use a name, just three letters.
Yes, the word is “escalated” NOT “escUlated” as people keep saying!!
Recently, I parked in a layby and was amazed at the number of passing vans, PSVs and HGV lorries with signs like AAH, AAF, AKP, BAM, DFS, EKG, JML, LMB, MSC, OCL, WTF. It is all so anonymous, it might as well be XYZ. How can you judge someone’s USP if you don’t know what they do? ESP? The reason we have thousands of words in a language is that three letters do not provide enough permutations to express everything, so there are inevitably duplications, as well as confusion between similar initials. (Try googling any 3 letters.) A TV programme was going on about IMB, and probably meant Independent Monitoring Boards, but it could equally have been Inter Menstrual Bleeding, International Mountain Bikes, International Maritime Bureau, International Mission Board, Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Irish Medicines Board and a whole lot of other things. Someone phoned and said he was the CVO for our local surgery. There are 36 definitions of CVO online, none of them seem to fit. The problem has become so widespread that there is a danger you could end up suffering from a nasty attack of Standard Trunk Dialling, it is made worse by so-called “open punctuation” – not bothering to punctuate at all, and the language is losing its EMF. ATM used to be Automated Teller Machine, but now it means At The Moment, or even Association of Teachers of Mathematics. CPS used to mean Cycles Per Second, but now it means Crown Prosecution Service. ETA may mean Electronic Tuning Aid to tuners, but it is more often Estimated Time of Arrival. LCD used to be Lowest Common Denominator, then it was Liquid Crystal Display, now it is something else. UCL used to be Upper Cylinder Lubricant, but now it’s a college. MCP used to be Male Chauvinist Pig, but now it is something to do with websites. We used to be pestered about PPI, but now PPE is our worst worry. I love alsatians, but now they are GSD. PVC is a type of plastic, but it is also a medical condition. DNA gets a lot of air time, but it used to mean “Did Not Attend”. RSI used to mean Repetitive Strain Injury but now it means Rapid Section Induction… whatever that is.
My friend has an RSI in fiddle playing!
Medical people seem to use lots of these 3-letter things like PPE, DPA or SME, as do the armed forces. STD used to be Standard Trunk Dialling but now it is Sexually Transmitted Disease. An estate agent’s website was going on about PPC without explaining it, so I googled it, there are 133 possible meanings, none of which have anything to do with houses! I grew up with the BBC, and later ITV, but increasingly, companies and organisations hide behind three letters. The RAC has been around a long time, but now there are many others.
I’m an OAP, my body is giving me GBH, it wasn’t NFN even when I was in Norfolk, I need some TLC, wish someone could shine an LED or an OHP on it, I’m not BME, my GCS is AOK but I feel ILL, I think my RSI is playing up, or perhaps the CFS is coming back, my BMI doesn’t help, must contact the NHS for an MRI, I know it isn’t EDS, TIA, DVT or PMT but I need to do something PDQ or I might end up DOA, PPE is not the answer for me, and I am not ready to go DNR. I need a bit of VIP treatment but I must get working on the PHC, so I’ll have to buy some RSJ and OSB, I wish I could just shove it in my USB. I really fancy a cuppa, a DVD and a BLT, but I must check my ETA at the ATM, try to remember my PIN and see if I have enough LSD. OMG I only have UHT! LOL
The frightening thing is - that paragraph is intelligible!
Does Boris Johnson seriously expect 75-year-olds to earn a living? Has he ever met anyone of that age? 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, and some are 20, 30 or 40 years older. However, politicians are pretending to be very surprised, they keep wanting to blame anything and everything on the fact that we have so many old people to care for. The latest gem from the House of Lords is that old people should do community work to earn their pensions, but this seems to have lost track of what RETIREMENT means. 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 was especially happy to see 2017 arrive, because it meant I had survived longer than David Bowie or Alan Rickman. My best wishes to the other forty-seveners, including Alan Sugar, 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 16th 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 always imagined camels to be aggressive and spitting.
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 big keyboard, in response to notes blown on a whistle.
SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT DOGS?
And why are so many musicians also 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 tuned 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 often 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 by staffies running loose turned our lovely, gentle Harold into a vicious dog that could not be trusted near the grandchildren.
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!
WHEEL MEAT AGAIN?
On a wet morning, I used to start the day with the traditional “snap, crackle and pop” that ensued when I trod the hordes of slugs and snails that invaded the path to our front gate at Southtown. 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 a circle 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. If you leave a tiny gap in the circle, they have the sense to head straight for it.
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 hedgehogs 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. I have to ask how we could possibly feed hedgehogs without feeding rats?
WE’VE LOST SOMETHING…
It took a recent, expensive survey to discover 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. Now, a water company is using dogs to sniff out water leaks. Have a look at this link, a magic moment for animal lovers…
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 socks without irritating seams, and we can't make teapots, kettles or jugs 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. Predictably, the wretched thing didn’t last long, and we bought a £12 kettle from Wilko. It looks better, it is easier and more comfortable to lift, it opens and closes better, the switch is much more reliable, the water level gauge is much clearer, and it boils quicker. At least somebody is doing their job properly!
I don’t know if we will ever meet anyone quite like our dear friend Valerie Howkins, who passed away in 2016. Although she only lived across the road, I might never have met her but for the fact that her museum had the stamp room, in which all the contents of a room are encrusted with postage stamps. One of the items was 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 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.
Not being a bible reader, I was fascinated by Ezekiel’s description of the Glory of God,
I wish I could draw it.
RENOVATION, CONVERSION & MUTILATION
There is no standard definition of terms like renovation, restoration, refurbishment, or reconditioning, so although we can say that “restoration” or “renovation” should mean restoring it to its original condition, “as new”, it often means nothing of the kind, and sometimes it is more like mutilation. Antique dealers often moan about “over-cleaning” but when it comes to some pianos, appearances may be purposely altered by reputable museums, even when pictures are easily available to show what the piano should look like. Old authentic parts are sometimes ripped out and replaced with modern ones, wood finishes are completely altered, and this obsession with making the interior of an old piano shine like a new pin can lead to the destruction of its original character. We go to museums in the hoping of seeing what things looked like originally, but what we see is often quite wrong.
SOUNDPROOFING & SOUND TREATMENT
When we lived in a small mid-terrace cottage, it was difficult rehearsing and recording music. Firstly, there was the unpredictable noise coming in from the neighbours, especially when Melissa was having one of her 6-hour screaming fits! Secondly, it is difficult to let yourself go, and sing or play confidently, when you know the neighbours can hear you. After all, rehearsing is about going over and over the WORST bits! The French call it “le repetition”.
Another aspect is that a normal room does not produce good microphone recordings, because there is usually a lot of resonance from hard surfaces. The process of improving the acoustics of a room is called “Sound Treatment”, but it can be combined with soundproofing. With modern recording equipment, it is easy to add controlled amounts of reverberation electronically, so the ideal is a completely “dead” room, to get that warm, intimate sound.
I set about seeking advice from professional people who should know the best way to soundproof, but even ignoring those who had no idea, the advice from others was often conflicting and confused, so I developed an experimental formula, based on combining ideas from various sources with ideas of my own, and I set about testing it.
The results were amazing! Having put panels around the walls of a room, I set some music playing very loudly, then I went next door and asked if the music was loud enough to bother them. They said “what music?” and nothing at all could be heard inside their house, in spite of the fact that I had done nothing to the floor or ceiling. Here is a description of the simple construction of these panels, which also have the effect of levelling out the temperature in the room.
One of the requirements for keeping sound out is to have a hard surface with plenty of mass, so that it can reflect sound back out, but also dissipate any that it absorbs. The simplest idea is ¾” chipboard, and this usually comes in 8’x4’ panels. Lay one on the floor, and fix 4” sides on top of it, to form a tray. Apply a 2” layer of rockwool, then a 2” sheet of polystyrene foam, which will have to be trimmed slightly to fit inside the edges. Top it with softboard, which absorbs and insulates. This is the surface that should face into the room, although it is the least attractive, and a bit of a dust-trap, so you may want to dress it up with curtains.
In spite of references online to the heat-insulating and sound-insulating properties of softboard, the actual stuff seems to have disappeared from shops in England!
The chipboard will go against the wall, but must not conduct vibrations from the wall, so stick a layer of bubble wrap onto it. In the same way, it needs some rubber to stop vibrations from the floor. I used strips cut from kneeling pads. At the time, the total cost was about £30 for an 8’x4’ panel, about 5” thick, but prices of some boards have gone up to 8 times the price in the last few years. These well-worn panels are still giving good service after two changes of address, not pretty but effective.
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 didn’t happened as quickly as Boris promised. I wanted to leave to stop the EU controlling us, but the reason we haven’t managed before it is because THEY WERE CONTROLLING US!
While we watch the progress towards our exit from the EU, it might be interesting to see how reality compares to “Brexit – The Movie”. WE NEEDED CHANGE! Sadly, it has reached a point where politicians and TV presenters use so much jargon that most people I speak to don’t even know what is meant by “soft Brexit”, hard Brexit”, “no deal”, backstop”, etc..
Now that Boris Johnson has a resounding victory at the election, we have seen Brexit happen. Both sides of the debate have used scaremongering to try to win their arguments, but it is interesting that in spite of predictions of doom and despondency, big businesses are now backing Brexit to such an extent that the value of the pound has suddenly risen. Nobody knows what will really happen, conjecture is pointless. I remember when we were asked to vote on joining the Common Market, but I wonder if it would have been the same result if we had known that we would be dragged into the EU, and suddenly under their control for all sorts of things. It is that very control that made me vote to get out - not out of Europe, but out of the European Union.
Having spent most of my life avoiding politics and politicians, I suddenly found 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, and it is being suggested that this is why Nigel Farage got out of UKIP. Perhaps the racists all thought this was the party for them? I don’t care what colour people are, or where they come from, or what their beliefs are, but even before the Brexit party, Nigel Farage echoed things that we have been saying for years 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 Lampard, I have to go through a conscious process of fighting back my prejudice against this accent, 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 frequently 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 those rare glimpses of the good side of the human race.
Are you as fed up as I am with those television presenters who look dreadful, can’t speak proper English, and seem to have no talent for anything, yet they spend so much time telling us how to live our lives? I have learned to trust my instincts about people. I listened to a woman on television complaining that people were prejudiced against her because of her skin colour. She was so intensely disturbing, I found myself making a list of the many things about her that made my skin crawl. She was enormously fat, and seemed to thrust her huge breasts into the camera. Her face was painted ridiculous colours, with ridiculous lashes. She shut her eyes rather than make eye contact when she spoke to people. When she did look at the camera, her eyes were strangely unattractive, and the pupils kept disappearing up into her eyelids as she spoke. I was irritated by her facial expressions, her version of English and her tone of voice. Skin colour? Who cares?
Conversely, I have a friend who has the most beautiful eyes you will ever see on a man, but when people stare at him, he assumes that it is because he is in a wheelchair. I used to known a Scotsman who thought everybody disliked him because he was Scottish, not because he was rude and abrasive.
The only generalisation I allow myself is that MOST WOMEN can do MOST THINGS better than MOST MEN! When my main work was 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 probably not an average man.
Traditionally, the Conservatives have been regarded as supporters of business and high finance, and working class families like mine were brought up voting for Labour, but the boundaries have become blurred in recent times by "New Labour" and "The party of the people" so it is not so easy to pigeonhole the 2 main parties. I have to say that Boris impressed me in his first speeches as prime minister, and I am interested to see where he can take this country.
When we voted to join the Common Market, I had no idea that Europe would start telling us how to live our lives, telling us which words we could use, and making us changes our laws. Even now, as we try to leave the EU, the problems are caused by the EU (not “Europe”) controlling us. As for the back-stop, it is a simple choice. We can’t control Southern Ireland’s border so a decision has to be made between just TWO options. Either Ireland has to be split by a hard border, or Northern Ireland will have to have a hard border with England. I think they should have the choice themselves.
Soon, 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. However, if people like me wanted to get away from the European Union controlling our lives and our laws, that very control was the reason why we were finding it difficult to get out, and get back to running our own country without interference. 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!
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. Money that could be spent on health, education, policing, etc.. 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 into what was originally just a common market. Then again, coming out means we have to pay a penalty of billions more. 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. Then, they found themselves with 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.
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 Lowestoft 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 darkness, but man tried to light it.
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 badgers, hares, moles, rabbits, stoats, squirrels, and a better class of rat. Time to stand and stare means we can look in almost any direction and find something interesting, like a “charm” of about thirty goldfinches, a stunning visual display. 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?
Sadly, my relationship with wasps has not been so pleasant. They did not apply for planning permission before erecting their structure inside my part-built stud wall, and left me in a situation where, once I had finished the job, the wasps would have been trapped inside the building. I tried reasoning with them, then used various combinations of soapy water, WD40, wasp spray, paint, glue and sealant, before finally nailing them up in their own little world. I provided an exit hole, but they couldn’t grasp its significance. In the course of it all, one of them took a dislike to my nose, and I had to saturate it with vinegar to dissolve the sting…
Vinegar for Vasps, Bicarbonate for Bees.
Then there are the pigeons. Not that I have anything against pigeons in general, but they are not nature’s brightest sparks, and until the barn was pigeon-proof we had to put up with their deposits in certain favourite spots, and their state of panic every time I walk in. Baby pigeons flop around in a different type of panic when they see me, and evidently they were getting in through the adjacent barn. One morning, a big pigeon smashed a decorative glass lamp that seemed to have been securely placed, then a dog we were looking after killed a baby pigeon and wanted to eat it. Then I drove to town and a pigeon flew straight at the windscreen with such a bang, I was sure the windscreen would smash, but it was the pigeon that was smashed. And all in one day.
In Lowestoft, 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.
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,
they only ready-made models.
We went to an art shop, but they didn't have any paint, brushes, etc.,
only finished artwork.
We went to the “Owl Sanctuary”, but they didn’t have any owls.
We went to a “Watch Workshop” but they didn’t mend watches.
We went to a needlework shop, but they didn't have materials,
only ready-made needlework.
And where on earth will I find someone who can make me some simple electronic faders from scratch?
I have had to resort to clockwork!
Apparently, although our modern world is surrounded by electronics,
nobody wants to repair these things when they go wrong,
they just throw them away, so electronics repairs is a dying trade!
Some people are offended if others use the names of God or Christ as if they were swear words. I am offended when people dismiss all the wonders of Nature, and decide that Nature doesn’t know what it is doing, so they go against it and try to make themselves into something unnatural, something they are not. 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, ridiculous eye lashes, 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. Instead of enhancing, they seem to emphasise the worst aspects. A young woman said “I don’t want to look like a drag act” and that summed it up for me – these women put so much junk on their faces, I can’t see the woman anymore.
If I look ridiculous, it just comes naturally!
One advantage of thick make-up is that it immediately demonstrates
which girls are so thick that they have no idea what a face should look like.
It’s deeply disturbing that some people have their faces reconstructed now, like cartoons.
People are even doing it to horses, breeding them with peculiar faces.
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, the sun still comes up in the morning, 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.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
One of the things many Christians struggle with is the idea that we must “Love our neighbour”, and they wrongly interpret this as meaning they should love everyone. Not surprisingly, they worry about finding themselves falling short, judging and choosing not to mingle with certain types of people. In this context, the translated word “neighbour” doesn’t mean “the bloke next door”, nor does it mean “everybody”. Christ was asked “who is my neighbour?”, and the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.29) was his answer, which showed that you should be very choosy about who you love. In that case, not the priest or the Levite who ignored him, but the Samaritan who helped. In other words, it’s not about what they call themselves, it’s about loving a person who deserves our love.
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? How could we look like God?
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. A deist believes that God created everything, then went away, that wouldn’t explain some of the things I have experienced.
Someone asked me how I could NOT believe in Jesus when I see birds, trees, clouds, 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 had 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. I find myself being very critical of some people who brag about being Christian, but do not conduct their lives in the way that Christ would have wanted. Several people have commented that I live my life nearer to Christ’s teaching than many who call themselves Christians.
Sadly, there are some evil people hiding among the many decent, honest Christians, and within a twenty-mile radius, we knew 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, while 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.
HEALTH, WEALTH & LOVE
I used to work with a man who, despite a jewish upbringing, said he was a warlock – a male witch. I found it difficult to believe or take seriously many of the things he said. Isn’t it convenient that many well-known people who believe in reincarnation also believe they are the reincarnation of somebody important, like Cleopatra’s hand-maiden. They never claim to be the reincarnation of Joe Bloggs, shop assistant. This man claimed to the reincarnation of Merlin, the magician from King Arthur’s court, but opinions vary as to whether Arthur even existed, and his magician was almost certainly fictional. My friend claimed to be able to turn lead into gold, so he was asked why he didn’t do it. He said that life is a balance between health, wealth and love, and if we tried to gain on one of these, we would lose on the others. Suddenly, that idea resonated with me.
Imagine if, logically, you decided that health was most important, and you spent a lot of your wealth on diet, exercise machines, lycra etc., then neglected your loved ones to spend time keeping fit. In the end, you might be healthy, but broke and unloved. On the other hand, if you decide that money is all you want, you might work yourself into the ground earning money, and again, neglect your friends and loved ones in order to earn it, so you are wealthy, unhealthy and unloved.
The third option is to make love your priority, but if you spend your whole life helping people, making them love you, and making yourself loved, you will spend all your money helping them, and ruin your health as well. Balance is what is needed.
HARDWARE & SOFTWARE?
In some ways, the Christian idea that after death, our souls will become “perfect” has elements of truth but, having had close contact with several people suffering 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. I have come to think of the brain merely as a modem or router that allows the soul to operate the physical body.
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.
With the lockdown, reports of domestic abuse have increased 700%, but I don’t think it has got worse, I think it was always there. 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 know that some women are abusive, but I have lost count of the number of lovely, exceptional women I have known who were abused and controlled by men.
“A” married a man who seemed nice, but on their honeymoon, he tied her up, put her in a dog basket, and tortured her with cigarette burns.
“B” courted, dumped, married, divorced, and re-married a man who wanted to leave her to cope with their family all week, then expected everyone to live by his rules at the weekend.
“E” was so used to men abusing and controlling her, she couldn’t cope with getting to know me, because she couldn’t trust a man.
“J” was married to a man who thought nothing of letting a stranger hear him insulting, belittling and mocking her until she ran out of the room crying. He regularly left her with no money while he worked away from home, but still wanted to exercise his control.
“L” was married to a control freak who (among other things) expected her to drop what she was doing whenever he needed feeding. He saw nothing wrong with doing this in front of others. I thought I was wrong until I happened to meet her friend, who said exactly the same about him.
“M” married a man she thought was wonderful, but as soon as they were married, he started showing his true colours, taking control of her business and finances.
“P” thought she was happily married, while her husband worked away from home half the time, and lived with his mistress and their baby. It was just bad luck for him that I got to know him there before I knew who he was.
“T” wanted to go out with me, but her “friend” didn’t like her seeing other men. He ended up moving in and controlling her even more.
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 attuned in to women who have suffered abuse. Sadly, most of these women just seem to keep going back to abusive, controlling, manipulative men.
Avoid loud or aggressive persons, they are vexacious to the spirit.
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.
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!
Without donations, I will be fine, but our collection may not survive for future generations, and it may all end up on a bonfire. If every visitor to this site made a small donation, we would have better displays for our building, and much-improved facilities for research within our own archives. Cheques must be made out to Bill Kibby-Johnson. Foreign cheques are subject to high bank charges, so if you are posting a donation, bills are easier to change without any of your money disappearing on charges.
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
Ernest 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 completely 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, 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 72 years, so I have nearly got it right now, although it is not much use on facebook, where people who can’t form a sentence or punctuate feel a need to post every day, ignoring the fact that nobody can understand what they are on about. 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. I was taught at school that these include 14 vowel sounds, which deserve more than a neutral grunt. I had to add one…
“Who would know aught of art must now 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 *motion, *llegal, *bject, *nvent, *lection, *conomy, etc.. One TV person, who tries to speak nicely, keeps saying “escUlate”, why? Don’t even get me started on things like “cimmunity”, and it’s no good saying it is a local dialect. O does not sound like I. The charming Darcy Bussell keeps saying “There WAS moments”. Why are so many voices on TV ads incapable of pronouncing the word HAIR with an R on the end?
Then there are letters which changed their sound according to the other letters around them. For example, if you are more intelligent than a satnav, you should 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, and have to use a lot of glottal stops. It’s a bit like A and AN…
AN apple, A banana, A carrot, A date, AN egg
Of course, some people are not content with having just one vowel, they have to make it into TWO, turning words like SMILE, WHILE, HERE, etc. into 2-syllable words! I know that there have always been syllables that weren’t given much importance, like the many words ending in ER, but why would anybody from Essex or anywhere else want to pronounce them as if they end in AAR? I am an Essex boy but I don’t want to talk like TOWIE. There have always been plenty of English words beginning with RE, like redundant, report, retort, research, whether or not they involve doing things again. Computers have introduced even more like REDO or RETRY, I don’t mind that, but why do we suddenly have to treat this little 2-letter piece as if it were of major importance? “Research” is a prime example, the first 2 letters were never that important, it’s not like we were doing something again, it was just research, but recently, my granddaughter asked me “Did you mean REEEsearch?” No, I didn’t!
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.
For all my life, people have started sentences with “Well…” especially when answering questions. That is so familiar, it is very comfortable, but now, almost everybody starts the sentence with “SO…” and I want to scream. I know that it often refers to a continuation of a previous conversation, but there is a limit. Logically, you can tell me it’s no worse than “well”, but well, it is!
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.
Why do historians keep talking about the past in the present tense?
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 electric pianos and 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 and Lincolnshire! 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, but they said she doesn’t do that.
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” or “look”?
And why can’t people pronounce “Aitch”?
Or “viOlence”, “vuLnerable” or “amaTeur”,
And is “Seccatry” the art of cutting?
At a Bring & Buy sale, you will need to know the difference between BROUGHT & 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”.
Our local cemetery has a sign which seems to be in poor taste – “ENTRY ONLY – NO EXIT”. 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 Yarmouth house one January, and you might think that the 6 months of road works would have been finished by July, but it hadn’t even started. Which January did they mean? I saw a fascinating poster…
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! Imagine calling a waste disposal firm NEWS, or a charity SALE. Who comes up with a business name like “Talk Talk” or “My My”, or “No No”, or “Table Table”? 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 nonsensical 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 sign of a 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, they don’t have musicians, they are MOO-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.
There’s nothing wrong with “okay” in itself but yes, it irritates me when a police officer says “I am arresting you for murder, okay?” or a doctor says “You have cancer, okay?” – No, it is not okay. 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 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 appalling multiple pile-up in Kent last year 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.
I put this sign on my van, and now people have started to copy it. A driver can control the space in front, I tend to aim for a car length for every ten miles an hour, but what can we do about the idiots behind, who keep tailgating? The only answer is to apply the same rules in reverse, and slow down if they get too close behind. Unfortunately, this would mean that anywhere between Boston and Louth I might regularly be doing 10mph. I did enjoy it when a lorry driver overtook me at a stupid place and his passenger swore at me and made obscene gestures. What was my crime? I didn’t drive at the speed limit.
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 state of mind of the Yarmouth population, this had the advantage that it was harder for a bunch of morons to force me off the pavement when they wanted to have the full width to themselves. In Louth, people are aware of others, and polite and considerate.
Around Yarmouth, ASBO stands for Anti-Social Bicycle Owners, and every time we made the short walk along Southtown Road to Haven Bridge, we had to run the gauntlet of these people who, faced with a choice of bike lanes each side of the road, felt 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 motorcyclist 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. It’s good to be in Lincs.
I suppose we come to expect that the World Cup will bring alcohol and mayhem, but one seems to have been the pathetic excuse for some drunken idiot to light a fire in the ivy against our building, timed at the very minute the England match started, synchronised with various other acts of vandalism around Yarmouth. 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 if you ponder 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.
DOORWAY TO WHERE?
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.
If we care about people, and want them to care about us, and accept us, it is no use taking the punk approach, and thinking people should accept us no matter what we look like. The way we look can deeply affect other people’s perception of what is inside us, yet if we conform on the outside, we still have to be true to ourselves, and it sad that there doesn’t seem to be any standard way of showing that we may not conform to people’s first impressions. Many of us have grown up on the idea that there are only two types of person, whereas in reality, there are probably twelve! “Gender” may not be the ideal word for these, but they are gender groups, and until someone suggests something short and simple, I have used it here.
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. Although that was all turned on its head in the sixties, the programmed binary instinct remains. In my teens, 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, I was brought up in complete ignorance of sexual matters, 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 entirely conform to “he” or “she”, they can be of “neutral gender” or “intersex”. By the time a child is 4 years old, before their school years, they may already have definite feelings about internal gender, so the 2 gender groups become 4 - boys, girls, and the potential transgenders - boys who want to be girls, and girls who want to be boys.
This is not about transvestites or cross-dressing, it’s about the person inside. The terms “Boyish Girls” and “Girlish Boys” don’t seem appropriate, but I can find no suitable alternative for girls who feel like boys inside, or boys who feel like girls inside. They are not “trans” yet.
By the time they are 7 years old, children are probably aware of their sexual preferences, although not necessarily willing to talk about it. Who would be comfortable to hear a 7-year-old boy saying that his most overwhelming desire in life is to make love to a woman?
Suddenly, there are heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals in each of the 4 groups, so rather than a binary arrangement, we now have 12 main gender groups if we ignore the asexual option, but spare a thought for the unlucky thirteenth, whose bodies do not conform to any normal conventions. I can’t believe that there are still so-called Christians arrogantly claiming they can “cure” people of something that was already in the brain when they were born. If Nature or God made them like that, who are we to say it is wrong? Some surveys suggest that up to two-thirds of gay men have other gay siblings, so it seems to be genetic.
I make a lot of effort to allow people to be the way that God or Nature made them, so should I then be expected to make the same allowance for paedophiles? Sorry, I can’t do that!
Statistically, we might expect that each of the main groups would be in the region of 8% of the population, so with homosexuals in 4 groups, that looks like 32%, 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 appear in almost every TV programme now, not only actors in soaps, but also property programmes, antique shows, quizzes etc.. In my life, I would say that less than 1% of people I have known seemed to be gay. Whether I am comfortable with a gay person or a black person depends on the individual person, not what they do in private, there are good and bad, as there are (for example) among disabled people, or any other group.
One man was in such despair, he decided to talk to his piano tuner (me) about his frustration that so many people thought he was obviously gay, so women didn't fancy him. This was a man who walked gay, talked gay, carried a "manbag" everywhere, used classic gay gestures including the "wet nail varnish" move. He stood out so much that my work colleagues had all noticed him walking by, and jumped to the obvious conclusion.
For myself, I find it very uncomfortable if people are not what they appear to be, it’s a kind of disguise and dishonesty. What you do in private is your business, but your public image affects many people. If someone feels they are a woman, why pretend to be something else? If I were gay, and didn’t fancy women, surely I would be looking for a good-looking manly man rather than one who acts like a fake woman? If lesbians don’t fancy men, why do some of them want to look like men? Can anyone explain this phenomenon, and put me out of my ignorance?
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 Betts, 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 confusion!
Pianogen.org panio paino pniao pisno Piano History Centre