Friday, 24 March 2017

When Something is Brilliant Already - Why Change It?

Free Clipart

I am downright disappointed with Wetherspoons. I might even write to Uncle Tim to complain.

This is the problem.

On m 5-2 diet, I factored in, very occasionally, a special treat. 

Eli caramel cheesecake!

Just 354 calories and a cup of coffee - any kind you like - thrown in for about £2.50.  So after my shopping trip, on a "fast" day, I might decide to use up all my precious last-meal calories on a nice slice of Eli caramel cheesecake.

(I should mention that last time I went to Wetherspoon's they didn't have any. I should have been warned because they said they thought it might be discontinued.)

Anyhow, I tried again today.

Oh yes, they had the cheesecake and coffee deal. So I ordered. The young lady said did I want caramel with it or compote. That was a bit strange because it was actually "caramel" cheesecake, but she was new so I said okay, caramel would be fine. The price had gone up 45p but I figured it was still well worth it.

What did I get?

Well, do you remember Angel Delight?  Maybe they still make it, I don't know. There's no accounting for taste.

A triangle of yukky looking pale yellow Angel Delight on top of a bit of crushed biscuit. It tasted exactly like Angel Delight with a dollop of manky cheddar added. Nothing like the delicious Eli cheesecake you could sink your teeth into, setting all your tastebuds on fire.

To add insult to injury it was also 200 extra calories. So that's the end of my Wetherspoons Special Treat!

When something is brilliant already, why change it?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Be Kind - Help a Bug Find a Home

Wikimedia, Public Domain

Help a bug find a home by making a beautiful Bug Hotel. Great fun for kids.

Beetles, bumblebees, wild bees, spiders, ladybirds, lacewings and bugs of all kinds want somewhere safe to keep warm in the cold weather. A great project for the whole family is to construct a beautiful Bug Hotel in the corner of your garden out of bits and pieces lying around. Your bug hotel can be round or square. Round is easier because you can twist a piece of wire netting into a cylinder and fix it together, then pile all the dead wood, twigs and leaves inside.

A square or oblong bug hotel can be constructed in layers, almost like a cake, with sheets of dead wood, leaves and twigs in between.  Pipes are good too, as bugs like narrow spaces to crawl inside. Just leave the end poking out of the material to invite them inside. Poking sticks and thick plant stems through the wire netting into the material will help keep it in place and dry.

A few flat pieces of metal also help to protect snails and slugs.

Why is this such a worthy project?

Firstly, the birds and animals in your garden need to eat, just as we do. Nurturing your bugs is a good way to ensure your garden will always be full of wildlife, as well as tidy.

Secondly, it's hands-on, and so it's a great way for the children (and you) to learn how to create a unique eco-system and get close to nature. Remember the wise old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

 Autumn or Fall - a Busy time for Bug-Carers.

The best time to create your bug hotel is the Autumn so that in the spring, you can carefully take it apart and see exactly who has taken advantage of your hospitality to shelter for the winter.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

What is the Paranormal?

A Seance Public Domain

I asked a group of people what they thought about when they heard the phrase "paranormal." And - what did it mean to them? Their responses were varied and enlightening:
  • The power of witchcraft and Pagan rites
  • Prediction of the future
  • Orbs that float and hover in houses and in the sky
  • Crop circles
  • Experiences of regression to a previous life or lives, possibly evidence for reincarnation
  • Telepathy, meaning the transference of thought from one person to another
  • Extra-sensory perception, or ESP, - the ability to acquire information without reference to any physical means. This is your sixth sense, or gut instinct. Telepathy, as mentioned above, is an aspect of ESP.
  • Psychokineses, or telekinesis - the ability of the mind to influence physical systems. Examples of psychokinesis include moving an object, or distorting it - like Uri Geller bending forks - or influencing the outcome of a random number system, like coin-flipping, shuffling cards or throwing dice.
  • Teleportation - the transfer of matter from one point to another, generally instantaneously. In other words, an out-of-the-body experience.
To summarise: the word "paranormal" simply means anything that cannot be explained by normal, objective investigation, in other words, it is outside the realms of science to explain - at least, for the time being. Some accounts of the paranormal have an uncanny resonance with reality and truth that seem to defy any rational explanation, and it's hard to doubt the sincerity of the narrators of these accounts. We must remember, though, that being sincere does not necessarily mean the person is not mistaken.

The scope of the paranormal is far-reaching and incredibly exciting, and this is aptly expressed by the incomparable William Shakespeare, who wrote: 

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. - Hamlet (1.5.167-8) 
  • Adapted from Cameron, Janet, Paranormal Brighton and Hove, Amberley Publishing, 2009.

Copyright Janet Cameron

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Beware of Apparitions - In Brighton's Spooky Twittens

When the lights goes out and all is quiet - don't linger in these little back lanes of Brighton - for there may be something else lurking - something sinister and very strange.

The layout of the lanes in Brighton's Old Town still survive in their original format from the eleventh century. Originally, they were the site of the little fishing settlement of Brighthelmstone. They were burned down by the French in 1514, but once was enough for all those who loved Brighton. So, when the French tried it again in 1545, the alarm was raised and plucky Englishmen from all surrounding areas descended on the lanes and fought off the foolhardy French. Today the lanes are an enchanting labyrinth of delightful shops, pubs and inns, bustling with Bohemian activity, and many with a spooky story to tell.
The Medieval Monk
A medieval monk is said to drift along Black Lion Lane, one of the Old Town's most interesting twittens, and disappear through an old arched stone wall. Some people believe the monk was bricked up inside as a punishment for having an affair with a young girl. It's also been said that this is unlikely because the wall is only 200 years old, so the medieval monk couldn't be bricked up in there. All the same, ghosts walk through walls and doors and appear to climb stairs that aren't there, so maybe he was bricked up in an even older wall that no longer exists, but was replaced some time later.
Dying for Love
Another account claims the ghost of a nun haunts the area. It's said that in the twelfth century, a priory stood here, St. Bartholomew's, and soldiers were ordered to guard the building to protect the nuns from the local ruffians. A nun and a soldier, who had been assigned to guard duty, fell in love and began an affair, and they decided to run away together. Unfortunately for them, they were captured by the young man's fellow soldiers and the soldier was executed.
The nun was bricked up alive in the wall and abandoned to starve to death, and it can be assumed this was carried out by holy orders. It was a usual practice to brick people up to avoid bloodshed which was against religious convictions. It's hard to imagine how it's less sinful to leave someone bricked up alive to suffocate slowly to death than to arrange a quick execution. It must have been little consolation to the poor, young woman that, as she suffered, the other nuns were praying for her soul.
The nun's ghost is also said to walk through the 200 year-old-wall in the photo, but again, as before, the wall may have replaced another wall considerably older, or it could have been a different wall in a different place and the route followed by the ghost has some other explanation.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Comedy - David Steinberg Explains What Makes it Funny

Public Domain Clip Art

Is there a theory of comedy evolution? Can anyone learn how to be funny? Thoughts from director, actor and comedian, David Steinberg. 

David Steinberg is a Canadian who has made an enormous impact on British television. The New York Times calls the TV director, "a comic institution." He is responsible for such comic treasures as Friends; Seinfeld; Mad About You; Newhart; Weeds;and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
What does he have to say about what makes great comedy?
"If you had a good childhood, a great marriage and a few dollars in the bank, you would make a lousy comedian."
So does Steinberg feel that suffering is an integral part of humour, and does a person with a tortured childhood behind them be better able to make people laugh. 
He agrees this is true, but also points out that an important aspect of comedy is that the comedian should truly love what he or she does. Steinberg expresses deep admiration for the comedian Don Rickles, whose performance is known for its special brand of warmth.
Can Humour Be Learned or is it Innate?
Steinberg explains that you cannot learn to be a comedian, rather that you are born with the ability to make people laugh and that it is inherent in your DNA. Comedy and humour works best if the person has a very high level of intelligence. Other qualities Steinberg notes are that the successful ones go inside themselves to root out their own frustrations and are constantly making observations.
"Watch what's going on around you," he says.
Is Comedy a Real Job?
David Steinberg has fifty years of experience behind him. He explains how, when he first started out in comedy, to describe yourself as a comedian was really no big deal. If a comedian went to meet his girlfriend's mother, she would not be impressed because, at that time around half a century ago, being a comedian was not regarded as "a real job."
·      David Steinberg and Steve Carell, Inside Comedy, @ Showtime 2012, Accessed April 29 2012.
·      David Steinberg on What Makes Comedy Funny, CBS, This Morning, March 12 2012, 6.56am. Accessed: April 29 2012.

·, January 26 2012. Accessed April 29 2012.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Ghost of the Old Grey Nun in the Sergeants' Mess

Copyright Janet Cameron

A phantom nun from an ancient burial place terrifies the tough soldiers in the Drill Hall next door.

An article in the Brighton & Hove Gazette dated 21 May, 1949 tells the story of a strange paranormal vision emanating from the churchyard of St. Nicholas Church. The writer's name did not appear on the article; possibly they preferred to remain anonymous.
The incident happened in the Sergeants' Mess at Queen's Hall Square at the Drill Hall, and the article was aptly entitled: "Ghosts in a Mess."
While in the mess, the writer heard someone chanting: "Don't hang about or the old grey nun will get you." He asked the RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) who the old grey nun was, and his colleague took him to talk to sixty-three-year-old Sergeant Welfare in the billiards room. Welfare threw open the windows, revealing below the graveyard of St. Nicholas church next door. This place of burial dates from Saxon times, and all the gravestones, where monks and nuns had been buried centuries before, looked eerie in the moonlight.
Sinister Experiences
"There was a saying in the mess, before my time, about the old grey nun," Welfare said. "There have been stories. One night I was working too late to go home, so I slept in the billiards room. Something woke me up in a fright. It felt like a cold, clammy hand touching my face. There was something uncanny about it."
Gravely, the sergeant continued with his story, explaining how, about two years ago, he was back from Germany, having spent a month in hospital recovering from his wounds. While in the Drill Hall workshop, late at night, he had a sudden peculiar feeling. The atmosphere became cold and clammy and something - he wasn't sure what - made him feel uneasy. Then, every door in the long passageway opened and closed as though some phantom presence was passing through. But - there was no human being present.
Sergeant Welfare decided to get out of the building immediately. But this was not the end of his ordeal, because in the passageway he fell over a life and force pump. This had clearly been moved by some unforeseen force, as he remembered it being stacked close to the wall when he walked down the passage to the workshop. No human agency had moved it - so what had? Sergeant Welfare was confused and scared.
"I am not superstitious," he said, "but I have not worked in that place since."
·      "Ghosts in a Mess", Staff Writer, Brighton & Hove Gazette, 21 May 1949.
·      Adapted from: Cameron, Janet, Paranormal Brighton and Hove, Amberley Publishing, 2019.

Friday, 3 February 2017

A Spare Pair of Stockings Just in Case!

The olden days of Remington typewriters, dual erasers, dark grey for ink, white for pencil, and the hard, orange typewriter erasers - how did we manage? Those orange erasers often made a hole in the paper, which meant a total retype, and this was devastating if it was a long and complicated letter.

And a bit later smart Adler typewriters and tippex, small rectangles of white paper, You slipped a piece behind the ribbon so the treated part covered the mistake, then you would retype the key to fix the letter that needed correction, and this would be obliterated by the magic white stuff.

Sometimes it was hard to type because the office budget required as little heating as possible. Then, more mistakes were made by fingers numb and frozen - all the same, mistakes were not tolerated. The letters had to be placed inside a blotter "For Signature" book, so the boss could sign with his fountain pen without danger of a smudge.

In those days, girls from the typing pool were fair game and groped by the men in charge, but secretaries were often luckier, protected by their higher status. But not if they had a predatory boss. It was no good complaining because it would always be your fault. "Can't you deal with that yourself?"

Every new typist learned the pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" because it used every letter on the keyboard just once.

Then there was Pitman's shorthand. Pages and pages of it. If your boss was a fast dictator, and you were a new secretary, sometimes it was hard to read back your work. If you were a temporary typist visiting a company whose business you were not familiar with, you hoped for a patient, understanding employer.

Every letter required copies, sometimes five or six for various departments, and you had to check regularly that the last carbon was producing a clear copy.

But the City of London was exhilarating back in the 1960s - marching across London Bridge on a brisk winter morning, a wave of bobbing bowler hats of the men and the high bouffant hairdos of the young secretaries. Big umbrellas used as walking sticks just for show.

Sharp suits and shiny shoes, and every good secretary carried a spare pair of stockings in her bag just in case she got a ladder. (Horrors!)