Friday, 1 March 2019

March 1st, 1969 - March 1st, 2019

50 years together.

March 1st, 1969

 - our first date, at a friend's 21st birthday party.

It was the end of the Swinging 60s, and they said 'all you need is love'.

Add to that a lot of hard work, a little luck, and making the most of opportunities offered.

Here we are, 50 years later, still a work in progress, proving wrong all those who said it would never work.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Remembering James Alfred Ryder

On this day, one hundred years ago, my Grand Uncle was killed.

James joined the Manchester Regiment in 1914, aged 28. He was awarded the Military Medal in October 1917,  for conspicuous bravery under fire.

The Manchesters lost communications during the battle of Poelcappel (Paschendale). Progress was relayed to Headquarters via lamps and runners. James had volunteered to act as a runner.

From the London Gazette Supplement 14 January 1918 "His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the undermentioned Non-Commissioned Officers and Men:- Page 842 303395 Pte J A.

By 1918, James had been promoted to Lance  Corporal with the 2/6 Battalion.

On 21 March, 1918, 2/6 Manchesters were in position, on the front line, to the North of St Quentin. Dawn broke to reveal a heavy morning mist. By 05:00, visibility was barely 10 m (10 yd) in places and the fog was extremely slow to dissipate throughout the morning. The fog and smoke from the bombardment made visibility poor throughout the day, allowing the German infantry to infiltrate deep behind the British Lines.

Forward communications were instantly severed and the situation so obscure and chaotic that, to this day, it is difficult to reconstruct the events of 21 March 1918. Up until about 11 a.m. the Germans delivered a terrifically heavy barrage mixed with heavy concentrations of Mustard Gas. At 11.25 199 Brigade HQ received a report that forward outposts held by 2/5 and 2/6 Manchesters had been surprised in the flank due to a retirement by the 16th Division on their left. They therefore pulled back to the vicinity of Cote Wood and Carpeza Copse. 

Company of 2/6 Manchesters had formed a defensive position at Fervaque Farm. They beat off several very heavy attacks but the Germans brought up flamethrowers and at 1.30 p.m. the farm fell. 

Only eight men survived.

James Alfred has no known grave. He is remembered at Poziers War Memorial.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, and increasing interest in geneology, I have found other descendents of J.A. Ryder and learned more about his life and the family he left behind in Manchester.

Today, we remember him.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The story of the 250 year old Mason Dixon Line -

Because I'm too weary to write an article myself, this is  BBC News

It is 250 years since America's Mason-Dixon Line was completed. Hailed as a
groundbreaking technical achievement, it came to symbolise the border between the Civil War North and South, separating free Pennsylvania from slave-owning Maryland. But who were the two British men who created it?

"It was the equivalent of the moon landings today," according to Mason-Dixon Line expert David Thaler.
Baker's son Charles Mason and lapsed Quaker Jeremiah Dixon were established scientists when commissioned to settle a land dispute in the pre-revolutionary America of 1763.
For 80 years the Calvert family of Maryland and the Penns of Pennsylvania had been locked in a bloody dispute over the boundary between the two colonies they had been granted by the English Crown.
"The stakes were very high," said Mr Thaler, trustee of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore and an expert on the Mason-Dixon project.
"There was about 4,000 sq miles of territory that was in dispute and nobody knew who to pay taxes to. Warfare regularly broke out along the border."
Outdated maps meant fresh measurements were needed, but colonial surveyors had proved inaccurate. So the families hired Mason and Dixon, who were known in England as master surveyors and astronomers.
The Mason-Dixon Line was drawn in two parts. An 83-mile (133.5km) north-south divide between Maryland and Delaware and the more recognised 233-mile (375km) west to east divide between Pennsylvania and Maryland, stretching from just south of Philadelphia to what is now West Virginia.
Mr Thaler said: "This was the most outstanding scientific and engineering achievement, not only of its day, but of the American Enlightenment.
"It was so advanced for its time. The brains were the best and the technology was the best."

Mason and Dixon brought with them some of the most advanced surveying equipment of the day, including tools by renowned instrument maker John Bird,who, like Dixon, hailed from County Durham.
"The map they produced is one of the most important historical documents we have here in America. It's almost the equivalent of the Declaration of Independence," added Mr Thaler.
"The accuracy is so extraordinary that even today it continues to astound. It represents the first geodetic survey in the New World."
Miner's son Dixon from Cockfield, near Bishop Auckland, and Mason, from Oakridge Lynch, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, originally came together in 1761 to map the Transit of Venus - making it easier to calculate the Earth's distance from the Sun.
It would take them almost five years - lugging their equipment across hundreds of miles of wilderness - to complete the survey and cement their place in the timeline of the United States.
Yet despite their groundbreaking achievement, both ended up in unmarked graves thousands of miles apart and remain virtually unknown in their home country.
Dixon's great-great-great-great-great-nephew, John Dixon, still lives in County Durham and is proud of his connection to a "marvellous man" who was of "great significance" in his lifetime.
"Jeremiah was a Quaker and from a mining family. He showed a talent early on for maths and then surveying.
"He went down to London to be taken on by the Royal Society, just at a time when his social life was getting a bit out of hand.
"He was a bit of a lad by all accounts, not your typical Quaker, and never married.
An entry in the Quaker minute book of Raby in County Durham, dated October 1760, reads: "Jery Dixon, son of George and Mary Dixon of Cockfield, disowned for drinking to excess."
Mr Dixon added: "Nevertheless, it's marvellous to be connected to such a prominent man."
Mason's early life was more sedate by comparison. At the age of 28 he was taken on by the Royal Observatory in Greenwich as an assistant. Noted as a "meticulous observer of nature and geography" he later became a fellow of the Royal Society.
"Not too much is known about his younger days, but we know his family was not terribly well off and that they ran a baking business," said Royal Society librarian Keith Moore.
"He had a school education, but didn't go to university. However, he did have some local connections and knew James Bradley, who was a very famous astronomer and also from Gloucestershire.
"Bradley got him a job at the Royal Observatory, which is really the start of his career as an astronomer and surveyor.
"While at the Royal Society, he was asked to undertake Transit of Venus observations and recruited Dixon as his assistant."
The pair arrived in Philadelphia to begin work in November 1763. They used Bird's instruments to calculate their path by the stars and had to combat hostile Native Americans, mountains, dense forest, rivers and wild animals.
Limestone markers measuring up to 5ft (1.5m) high - quarried and transported from England - were placed at every mile and marked with a P for Pennsylvania and M for Maryland on each side. So-called Crown stones were positioned every five miles and engraved with the Penn family's coat of arms on one side and the Calvert family's on the other.
"No-one really knows why the stones were shipped from England," said Todd Babcock, of the Mason and Dixon Line Preservation Partnership. "But we know there were nearly 400 of them."
He added: "At the time all Mason and Dixon had in front of them was wilderness.
"There were some settlements, but west of the Susquehanna River and approaching the Allegheny Mountains there were very few roads. It was all mature forest so they had to come through and cut a vista about 30ft wide.
"That required axe-men to cut down the trees, pack mule drivers to get the trees out of the way as well as cows for milk, chain carriers, instrument bearers and tent bearers. It was like a small army moving through the woods.
"They started off with a crew of five, but by the time they got towards the end of the survey the party had grown to about 115.
"When they came into this I think they thought it would take a year or two, but it ended up taking five."
Yet while their achievement has been rightly hailed, modern technology has shown the line was not as accurate as Mason and Dixon thought.
Mr Babcock said: "They thought at the end of the survey that the stones were accurate to within 50ft of where they should be. But what we're finding is that some of them are as much as 900ft off the intended line of latitude.
"Using modern GPS equipment we found they progressively went to the south and then started to come back to the north. The reason for that is not because they were inaccurate or because the equipment was faulty. It was actually gravity.
"Gravity had an impact on the plumb bob they were using. They had a 6ft telescope and it used a plumb bob on a fine wire to set it to true zero so they could measure directly overhead. But gravity varied from location to location because of the influence of things like mountains.
"We have found there was a direct correlation between the local variations in gravity and how far north or south of the line they were.
"The distances between the stones is supposed to be a mile, but what we're finding is that they are anything up to 15ft longer than a mile in places.
"That said, the idea of trying to stay on a line of latitude for 230 miles through the wilderness with equipment that had never been used before is just incredible."
Mason and Dixon began their return journey eastward on 20 October 1767 and later submitted a bill for £3,516.9s - estimated as the equivalent of about £500,000 today. But, according to David Thaler, neither died rich men.
"It was certainly a substantial amount for a world-class scientific effort," he said.
"But it wasn't enough to retire on."
Mason and Dixon are unlikely to have seen their names directly associated with their achievement, as the official report on the survey did not mention them.
The term "Mason-Dixon Line" would become more widely used when the Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820 to allow slave-owning Missouri and free Maine to join the union.
And of course the line's enduring symbolism was firmly established after the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, representing that demarcation between the North and South - and freedom over enslavement.
After the mammoth project was completed, Mason returned to England to work again at the Greenwich Observatory but he ended his days virtually penniless back in America in 1786.
"Many years after the Mason-Dixon line was made, Mason returned to Philadelphia, but became sick during the journey," said John Hopkins, who oversees the burial ground at the city's Christ Church.
"When he got here he knew pretty much that he was close to death, so he wrote to Benjamin Franklin, who he knew, and asked him to give him a place to be buried so he didn't have to burden his wife and family.
"We don't know where he is. If he had a stone it's been lost over time.
"We have a plaque that a bunch of surveyors from around the country paid for with text close to what the inscription might have been at that time."
Dixon returned to County Durham to ply his trade.
"For the last 10 years of his life he did work for Lord Barnard at Raby Castle and surveyed Auckland Castle for the Bishop of Durham," his relative John Dixon said:
"He died at the young age of 45 in 1779. There was no death certificate. We know he'd been quite a steady drinker through his life and there were rumours he died from pneumonia.
"We presume that after having been put out of the Quakers they reconciled and accepted him back. He is buried in the Quaker burial ground at Staindrop.
"We don't know exactly where he is because it was the convention at that time for Quakers not mark their gravestones."

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Tax bills are set to TRIPLE

Planet Hitchin © Paul W Waby

'If we do not have a good range of independent traders, we will lose the differentiation of' [insert town name here].

The business rate is a tax levied on firms that operate from premises designated as commercial is not based on the firm's turnover, but on the size of the buildings and their rental value. 

Normally, the Government sets the charges every five years, keeping them in line with movements in the property market. The latest review was due in 2015, but the Government delayed making changes until April this year. In the seven years since rates were last adjusted, a property boom has pushed prices up by 50% in some areas. When property values rise, rents will usually go up, too. And that's what's now causing business rates to jump. 

Hitchin is the victim of its own success, as a destination in which to make one's home, or to visit. Part of its continuing growth and attraction, is the number of independent traders, as well as the market and thriving cultural and social life. The loss of some or many of those traders will be detrimental to the economy and life of the town. 

Towns such as Southwold, which relies on its seasonal tourist trade, are mounting campaigns against what looks like, if individual cases are to be taken as indicative, a system which discriminates in favour of large, national retail and services chains. 

Friday, 27 January 2017

Big birdwatch

Getting ready for the weekend Big Garden Birdwatch. Click through the links for the sound archives.

Hoping to see some of these lovely song birds.


Blue Tit
Black Redstart

I have never, knowingly, seen one of these

A recent visitor to the bird table has been the Long Tailed Tit.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Via The Comet newspaper

Apologies for the dreadful journalist's puns and typos.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Gridlock (or worse) in-waiting

1,120 cars trying to access the only route into/out of town, when the roads are already gridlocked at peak times. Drains that regularly flood due to high water table. Who decided this was a good plan? Oh, I know, the same group that has made such a mess of costly developments in the past.

The proposedl plans were for 85 dwellings comprising 6 apartment blocks to accommodate 75 x 1 and 2 bedroom apartments together with two terraces of 3 x 3 bed houses and 1 terrace of 4 x 3 bed houses; provision of 120 parking spaces, associated landscaping and vehicular access from Cambridge Road, Willian Road and Hampden Road following demolition of the existing college building.

MWNN and I went to the exhibition of the proposed plans and voiced our fears about vehicle access roads. We were assured that there would be no access onto the main road (Cambridge) from the site. 
I assumer that the 1,120 parking spaces, quoted in the Comet, is a typo. Even if it is, allowing cars access to the Cambridge road at this point, is asking for trouble.

As this map illustrates, the slip road that serves as parking for the parade of shops and garage sales, exits onto a blind bend just where the proposed access road meets the Cambridge Road. There are many 'near misses' and at least one fatal accident at this spot, as cars approach the traffic lights without slowing for the blind bend, Visibility at this proposed access road is further compromised by parked vehicles on the slip road/ delivery road.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Elveden Memorial

I've always been keen to learn about the Elveden Memorial. We've passed it by many times on various trips o Norfolk. It's right beside the A11, (recently made a dual carriageway `this stretch) so it was never easy to stop and look at it.

On our recent trip to Norwich, we learned more about it, when we stopped a the Elveden Estate for lunch.

‘As a tribute to the imperishable memory of the men of Elveden, Eriswell and Icklingham, a magnificent Corinthian column has been erected on Earl Iveagh’s estate at a point where the three parishes meet. A new landmark has thus been set up in West Suffolk, and the memorial is the most imposing in the Eastern Counties...Such an arresting spectacle is it, that few who journey along the road near which it stands will pass by without pausing for a time to behold the beauty and magnificence of the monument' It also notes that the funerary urn is based on the 1791 Coade stone Monument to Timothy Brett in the grounds of Mount Edgcumbe, Plymouth, now a country park. Columns on this scale are not usual in World War I memorials and suggest competition with the Nelson and Leicester monuments. Tact suggested to the Earl of Iveagh and his architect, who had inherited the Elveden practice from his father, that their column should be shorter than Nelson’s (44 metres), but just taller than the Earl of Leicester’s (38 metres).

Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Baron and Earl of Iveagh, purchased the Elveden Estate in 1894. Born in
Clontarf, Dublin, Guiness was the third son of Sir Benjamin Guinness, 1st Baronet, and younger brother of Arthur Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun. Educated at Trinity College Dublin, graduating with BA in 1870, he served as Sheriff of Dublin in 1876, and nine years later became the city's High Sheriff  That same year, he was created a baronet, County Dublin, for helping with the visit of the then Prince of Wales to Ireland.

In 1873, Iveagh married his third cousin Adelaide Guinness, nicknamed "Dodo" (1844–1916). She was descended from the banking line of Guinnesses, and was the daughter of Richard S. Guinness (1797–1857), barrister and MP,and his wife Katherine (1808–81), a daughter of Sir Charles Jenkinson

In 1891, Guinness was created Baron Iveagh, of Iveagh County Down. He was appointed a Knight of St Patrick in 1895, and ten years later was advanced in the Peerage of the United Kingdom Elected to the Royal Society in 1906, he was two years later elected nineteenth Chancellor of Dublin University> in 1908–27, he served as a vice-president of the Royal Dublin SocietyViscount Elveden, of Elveden in the CountySuffolk

The estate was used as a tank training ground in WWI .

The Hall was used during theSecond World War as a headquarters for the> USAAF, during which time the staff quarters were struck and destroyed by a bomb. By the 1980s, the Guinness family were living elsewhere on the estate, and the Hall only occupied by caretakers. Its entire contents, including elaborate items owned by the Maharajah, were auctioned at Christie's 

The Elveden Estate continues to be one of the country's largest farms.

 Owners of Elveden Hall and its estate since 1894 have been:

  • Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1894–1927)
  • Rupert Edward Cecil Lee Guinness, 2nd Earl of Iveagh (1927–1967)
  • Arthur Francis Benjamin Guinness, 3rd Earl of Iveagh (1967–1992)
  • Arthur Edward Rory Guinness, 4th Earl of Iveagh (since 1992)
  • The Heir Apparent is the present holder's son Arthur Benjamin Geoffrey Guinness, Viscount Elveden (b. 2003) (wikipedia)

    Saturday, 25 June 2016

    Blackbird singing in the dead of night

    The dark skies outside my window are never dark. Even after the street-lights go out at midnight, the back garden is floodlit but two coaching lights alongside th neighbour's porch.

    I no longer sleep with the curtains drawn back, but I keep the windows open most nights. I was woken very early (3/30am)  this morning by this

    The dark skies outside my window are never dark. Even after the street-lights go out at midnight, the back garden is floodlit by two coaching lights alongside th neighbour's porch.

    Friday, 6 May 2016

    Success against all the odds

    but it required a whole lot of money, and tons of subterfuge on the part of her Manager, St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant)

    I read the account of Hugh Grant's return to the big screen in last week's Lady Magazine. It brought back memories of hearing Florence Foster Jenkins on the radio. I thought that she was a 'novelty act', but her story is one of obsessive delusion and health damaged by mercury to combat syphilis.

    Starring alongside Streep and Grant, is Simon Helberg (Big Bang Theory's Howard Wolowtcz), as the accomplished pianist, Cosme McMoon, who attempted to smooth over the worst edges of Florence's voice.

    Tragically, Bayfield's attempts to conceal the reviews of Florence's performances lasted too long. She died of a heart attack, two days after her performance at Carnegie Hall. The audience included critics previously barred from hearing Florence sing live. Inevitably their reviews were scathing. One said: “She clucked and squawked, trumpeted and quavered. She couldn’t carry a tune. Her sense of rhythm was uncertain. In the treacherous upper registers, her voice often vanished into thin air.”
    Wouldn't it have been kinder to prevent Florence's appearance  at Carnegie Hall? Perhaps, but then there wouldn't have been quite as much money invested in The Big Apple's music business as the donations from Florence's charity performances and recordings had done.

    It's a film I look forward to seeing, despite some flaky reviews from some critics.

    Sunday, 24 April 2016

    St George upstaged by The Bard

    BBC 2's celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, was broadcast live from Stratford-upon-Avon last night. It was an eclectic mix, presented by David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

    I was looking forward to Mr Cumberbatch's appearance.

    My favourite part was this 'sketch', based on the famous soliloquy from Hamlet.

    Friday, 22 April 2016

    Sometimes, I love the internet

    Yesterday, I posed a question and set up a Poll on this Blog entry.

    In answer to my question - which magazine is older, The Lady or People's Friend, I received the following answer

    I can provide a definitive answer for you. The first issue of the People's Friend was dated January 13, 1869 and it has been in continuous publication ever since, making it the oldest women's weekly magazine in the world. This claim has been verified by Guinness World Records. We have a complete archive of every issue ever published, and I'm delighted to be able to share the front cover of the very first issue with you. The "Friend" continues to thrive, selling over 200,000 copies every week. 
    Angela Gilchrist, Editor-in-Chief, The People's Friend, 22/04/2016

    The first edition of The Lady was issued on Feb 17th, 1885.

     ©  People's Friend archive

    The first edition of The People's Friend appeared sixteen years earlier, on Janury 13th, 1869

    The Wikipedia entry for the People's Friend could do with verification.

    What surprised me even more, is that, with only three hours left,  voting in the Poll puts The People's Friend ahead of The Lady as the favourite of the two.

    Friday, 15 April 2016

    "I have decided you are not a cantankerous old bat after all",

    Philippa and Terry at the booklaunch of Dodger

    Terry Pratchett once  said to  Puffin's editor Philippa Dickinson

    This, and other anecdotes were told at a  Memorial, which took place last night, at the Barbican Theatre.

    Steeleye Span perforning music from Wintersmith

    Summary Highlights

    Several people were awarded the Order of the Honey Bee, >the less visible people who helped make everything possible, his agent, his editor, his illustrator, his banker and so on.

    I had hoped there would be a biography. Terry died before completing his autobiography, and it falls to his friend and assistant, Rob, to complete it.

    There will be a TV adaptation of Good Omens, with screenplay by Neil Gaiman.

    There will be a film of Mort, xcreenplay by Terry Rossio.

    There will be a film of Wee Free Men, adapted by Rhianna Pratchett.

    Steeleye Span (Terry;s favourite group) performed at the Memorial.

    Epiphoni Consort performed Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis

    It sounds as though it was a fitting, and, at times, moving memorial to a man who lives on in the words he wrote, and in the Clacks #speakhisname

    Wednesday, 9 March 2016

    Virtue signalling is all about words, not deeds.

    I don't normally read The Mail, but it was the only newspaper available after my massage this morning.

    Sarah Vine's article on International Women's Day came as somewhat of a surprise. I found myself agreeing with most of what was written, beginning with

    The main reason I hate IWD is because I am not stupid enough to think that such a shallow outpouring of faux solidarity will, for one single second, improve the lives of women genuinely suffering around the world.

    It is simply an exercise in self-congratulation for a pampered, preachy and increasingly peevish sisterhood that has lost its way and is fast losing sympathy with even its staunchest supporters.
    One of the great malaises of our age is ‘virtue signalling. This is finding ways of letting the world know how good and compassionate you are - without actually doing anything to help anyone.

    Instead of volunteering at your local church, or signing up for shifts at your neighbourhood animal care centre (i.e getting your hands dirty), you wear a wristband indicating your support for some fashionable cause, or sign an online petition, or tweet something.

    The extent to which some social media (I'm looking at you, Facebook and Twitter) is full of people sharing 'support' for world events and 'special days', has become more than irritating. I've long held the opinion that people re-tweet and share to signal their solidarity with various causes because they have lost sight of what supporting fellow human beings (and other living creatures) is all about.

    My Dad believed that charity begins at home. By that, he didn't just mean the family home, or giving money to charities. From Roman times up until recently, "charity" was a state of mind, a mentality of kindness and benevolence.)

    After he retired, Dad worked as a volunteer in his local residents' association office, helping the 'old folk' get things done on the estate, be it a broken window, a failed  boiler, tax or pension problems or other matters.  He continued in this role until chronic illness kept him housebound a couple of years before he died. A labour supporter and former trade union rep, he'd put into practice what he'd preached throughout his life.

    Saturday, 5 March 2016

    Starting Over

    I'm back at the Nuffield Health and Fitness Centre. My MOT showed that I'm not quite as unfit as I thought. My weight is up by 5kg and my aerobic capacity is only 'average' for my age group, but my BP, resting pulse rate, and fasting glucose levels are good (that did surprise me).

    I've started to increase my daily activity by using the Vivofit 2 The Daughter and Son-in-Law bought me for Christmas. I set myself an easy target of 8000 steps per day, and hope to increase that on our trip to Southwold, beginning next Friday.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a Tai Chi class on Tuesdays. The tutor is Dennis Lee. He's very good, paces well and encourages his pupils with gentle humour, praise, and excellent teaching. The class is divided into three sections; 15 minutes warm up with Qigong  and breathing exercises; 15 minutes of  Qigong stick form (in only two weeks, we're already up to 4:15 in the video below); 15 minutes Chen Tai Chi Form.

    The class following Tai Chi is called 'Get Moving'. It's low-impact dance done to swing band and accapella.

    So, now I have my bass markers, I can begin again to build stamina and fitness.I'm hoping to get back in the pool once I've had a session with the swimming instructor to stop me damaging my knees with breast-stroke kick.

    Thursday, 11 February 2016

    At the Museum

    I'd forgotten all about the Initial Teaching Alphabet (ITA), until today.

    I was entering details of Ladybird book in the British Schools Museum database, when I came across

    this book.

    Which idiot thought that ITA would be easier than regular text?

    As I read the book to find details required for various fields, it was like trying to read old English.

    See if you can read this It's not from the 'poleesman', but it illustrates the difficulty I had.

    A page from the poleesman

    I understand that the ITA experiment was abandoned because children had difficulty with norrmal text. It's two different methods of coding language.

    Tuesday, 22 December 2015

    Thursday, 29 October 2015

    Voluntary Work

    I'm really enjoying the work I do at the British Schools Museum. At first, I thought I'd be involved with the groups of children who come for a day's immersion in the educatioal system of the Victorian age. It soon became clear that I was much more comfortable working on the database that is cataloging the thousands of items in the museum's care.

    I started with the Ladybird books, part of the Benchmark Collection at the museum.  Then I moved on to the Jill Grey Collection.

    My biggest thrill came last week, entering the details for Aunt Charlotte's Stories of English History for Little One's (!873)

    Handling a book of such a great age was a priviledge, Although the cover showed signs of wear, the inside was beautiful. The colours of the illustrations and the black ink of the text looked like new.

    Today, it was the turn of geography books. My favourite was an original 1867 edition of  The Civil Service Geography: being a manual of geography arranged especially for examination candidates and the higher forms of schools, by Lancelot M. Dalrymple Spence (of HM Civil Service). Lancelot died before the book was completed, so it was finished and edited by Thomas Gray (one of the Assistant Secretaries to the Board of Trade.)

    After entering the details of this book into the database, I thought of Anthony Trollope (who worked as a Civil Servant with the Post Office), and his thoughts about the need for entry by examination.  This work really appeals to the historian in me, and allows me to experience what was my second choice of career as a librarian.

    Monday, 31 August 2015

    Some of my Favourite Pratchett Quotes

    Arranged A - Z
    First draft: let it run. Turn all the knobs up to 11. Second draft: hell. Cut it down and cut it into shape. Third draft: comb its nose and blow its hair. I usually find that most of the book will have handed itself to me on that first draft.

    After you’ve learned to shout you have to learn not to!

    A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.

    All tapes left in a car for more than about a fortnight metamorphose into Best of Queen albums.

    Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual.

    Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show.

    And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based

    And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.

    And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn't that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people. As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn't measure up.

    Anyway, if you stop tellin' people it's all sorted out after they're dead, they might try sorting it all out while they're alive.

    An angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards. 

    Ankh-Morpork had dallied with many forms of government and had ended up with that form of democracy known as One Man, One Vote. The Patrician was the Man; he had the Vote


    “Bandits and governments 'ave so much in common that they might be interchangeable anywhere in the world...” 

    Beer! It was only water, really, with stuff in it. Wasn’t it? And most of what was in it was yeast, which was practically a medicine and definitely a food. In fact, when you thought about it, beer was only a kind of runny bread.

    Belief is one of the most powerful organic forces in the multiverse. It may not be able to move mountains, exactly. But it can create someone who can. People get exactly the wrong idea about belief. They think it works back to front. They think the sequence is, first object, then belief. In fact, it works the other way.

    Books must be treated with respect, we feel that in our bones, because words have power. Bring enough words together they can bend space and time.

    Building a temple didn't mean you believed in gods, it just meant you believed in architecture.

    But here's some advice, boy. Don't put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That's why they're called revolutions.


    Cats will amusingly tolerate humans only until someone comes up with a tin opener that can be operated with a paw.

    Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organized.

    Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

    Consciousness to sarcasm in five seconds.

    Destiny is important, see, but people go wrong when they think it controls them. It's the other way around.

    Do not seek perfection. None exists. All we can do is strive.

    Even if it's not your fault, it's your responsibility.

    Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.

    Evil. Human beings mostly aren't. They just get carried away by new ideas, like dressing up in jackboots and shooting people, or dressing up in white sheets and lynching people, or dressing up in tie-dye jeans and and playing guitar at people. Offer people a new creed with a costume and their hearts and minds will follow

    Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. Of course, I could be wrong.

    Geography is just physics slowed down, with a couple of trees stuck in it. 

    Gods prefer simple, vicious games, where you Do Not Achieve Transcendence but Go Straight To Oblivion; a key to the understanding of all religion is that a god's idea of amusement is Snakes and Ladders with greased rungs.

    Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to.

    He's out of his depth on a wet pavement.

    He says gods like to see an atheist around. Gives them something to aim at.

    He was talking in philosophy, but they were listening in gibberish.

    History isn't like that. History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved in a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always - eventually - manages to spring back into its old familar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It's been around a long time.


    I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are good people and bad people. You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people,but some of them are on opposite sides.

    I do note with interest that old women in my books become young women on the covers... this is discrimination against the chronologically gifted.

    I'd rather be a rising ape than a falling angel.

    If cats looked like frogs we'd realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That's what people remember.

    If failure had no penalty success would not be a prize.

    If you sit down and think about it , you come up with some very funny ideas. Like: why make people inquisitive, and then put some forbidden fruit where they can see it with a big neon finger flashing on and off saying 'THIS IS IT!'? ... I mean, why do that if you really don't want

    If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.

    If you want to change a whole people, then you start with the girls. It stands to reason: they learn faster, and they pass on what they learn to their children

    In fact the mere act of openng the box will determine the state of the cat, although in this case there were three determinate states the cat could be in: these being Alive, Dead, and Bloody Furious.

    In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded. 

    It has been said that civilization is twenty-four hours and two meals away from barbarism. 

    It is hard to convey five-dimensional ideas in a language evolved to scream defiance at the monkeys in the next tree. 

    It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.

    It is true that words have power, and one of the things they are able to do is get out of someone’s mouth before the speaker has the chance to stop them.

    It's a sword …. they're not meant to be safe.

    It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.

    It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault. If it was us, what did that make Me? After all, I'm one of Us. I must be. I've certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We're always one of Us. It's Them that do the bad things.

      Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle.
    Just because things are obvious doesn’t mean they’re true. "Just because someone's a member of an ethnic minority doesn't mean they're not a nasty small-minded little jerk.


    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    "Listen, Peaches,  trickery is what humans are all about," said the voice of Maurice. "They're so keen on tricking one another all the time that they elect governments to do it for them.

    Mere animals couldn’t possibly manage to act like this. You need to be a human being to be really stupid.

    Modesty is only arrogance by stealth.

    Most species do their own evolving, making it up as they go along, which is the way Nature intended. And this is all very natural and organic and in tune with mysterious cycles of the cosmos, which believes that there's nothing like millions of years of really frustrating trial and error to give a species moral fiber and, in some cases, backbone.

    No-one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away... The span of someone's life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.

    Of course, it is very important to be sober when you take an exam. Many worthwhile careers in the street-cleansing, fruit-picking and subway-guitar-playing industries have been founded on a lack of understanding of this simple fact..

    Once we were blobs in the sea, and then fishes, and then lizards and rats and then monkeys, and hundreds of things in between. This hand was once a fin, this hand once had claws! In my human mouth I have the pointy teeth of a wolf and the chisel teeth of a rabbit and the grinding teeth of a cow! Our blood is as salty as the sea we used to live in! When we're frightened, the hair on our skin stands up, just like it did when we had fur. We > history! Everything we've ever been on the way to becoming us, we still are. [...] I'm made up of the memories of my parents and my grandparents, all my ancestors. They're in the way I look, in the colour of my hair. And I'm made up of everyone I've ever met who's changed the way I think.

    Personal's not the same as important. People just think it is.

    Quaffing is like drinking, but you spill more.

    Real children do not go hoppity skip unless they are on drugs.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.

    Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one.  But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

    Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.

    Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing. It's where belief stops, because it isn't needed any more.

    Sometimes I really think people ought to have to pass a proper exam before they're allowed to be parents. Not just the practical, I mean.

    Sometimes words need music too. Sometimes the descriptions are not enough. Books should be written with soundtracks, like films.

    Space. It's sometimes called the final frontier. (Except that of course you can't have a final frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier, but as frontiers go, it's pretty penultimate. . . .)

    "The female mind is certainly a devious one, my lord."
    Vetinari looked at his secretary in surprise. "Well, of course it is. It has to deal with the male one.

    The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it..

    Then there was the puzzle of why the sun came out during the day, instead of at night when the light would come in useful.

    The people who really run organizations are usually found several levels down, where it is still possible to get things done.

    There isn't a way things should be. There's just what happens, and what we do.

    There is a rumour going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.

    There may be something called 

    The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.

    The truth isn't easily pinned to a page. In the bathtub of history the truth is harder to hold than the soap and much more difficult to find.

    The universe is, instant by instant, recreated anew. There is in truth no past, only a memory of the past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.

    They didn't know why these things were funny. Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you're alive, when you really shouldn't be.

    They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it is not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance.

    Things had all the grace and coordination of a deck-chair.

    Things just happen, one after another. They don't care who knows. But history... ah, history is different. History has to be observed. Otherwise it's not history. It's just... well, things happening one after another.
    Tourist, Rincewind had decided, meant 'idiot'.

    Using a metaphor in front of a man as unimaginative as Ridcully was like a red flag to a bu... was like putting something very annoying in front of


    What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter.

    "What're quantum mechanics? "

    "I don't know, people who repair quantums I suppose."

    What kind of man would put a known criminal in charge of a major branch of government? Apart from, say, the average voter. 

     “What's a philosopher?' said Brutha. 'Someone who's bright enough to find a job with no heavy lifting."

    When all else failed, she tried being reasonable.

    When you seek advice from someone it's certainly not because you want them to give it. You just want them to be there while you talk to yourself.

    Why bother with a cunning plan when a simple one will do?

    Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.

     comes from experience. Experience> is often a result of lack of wisdom


    You can't second-guess ineffability.

    You had to deal every day with people who were foolish and lazy and untruthful and downright unpleasant, and you could certainly end up thinking that the world would be considerably improved if you gave them a slap.

    Your own brain ought to have the decency to be on your side!

    You were so worried about legal and illegal that you never stopped to think about whether it was right or wrong.