Divi at the Co-op
Does anyone remember getting the old Divi
(dividend) stamps at the Co-op? I remember
getting these for having milk delivered by
the Co-op to our doorstep, and for food
and furniture bought at Co-op stores. For
our first house, Mrs C and I bought a double
bed from the Co-op (with money given to us as
a wedding present from my dad and mum). The
Co-op gave us reams of little blue stamps to
stick in our divi books.
The stamps have since gone, replaced by a piece
of plastic, like the Tesco Clubpoints card,
and we now buy our milk in plastic cartons
from the supermarket, like most people.
I recall an ancient TV comedy series (around
the time of Hancock's Half Hour
), during one
episode of which an old woman loudly proclaimed,
"I want to go with the Co-op. I want to go
with the Co-op. I want me divi."
Another funny story (well it was funny at the
time, in the early 80s)-- I was having a cup of
tea with a couple of the local midwives, one
of whom was filling in some paperwork for a
woman she'd seen, when one of them said, "Well
I never! ... I've just realised that all years
years I've been writing my Co-op Divi number
number on the maternity cards." (instead of her
proper job number).
Well, what's triggered these recollections is
some post I've just received from the Co-op.
Not only a new cheerful bright yellow divi card,
but some really exciting offers from the Co-op
Funeral Service. For example, there's £50 off the
Co-op's funeral plan, if you book your plan now
(with an option of paying in full or over a 3
year period). The advert goes on to say that this
would be inflation-proofed, and that the plan
would also give you peace of mind (and peace of
mind for your relatives too).
What a brilliant idea. I could regard the £50 saved
as my divi, and go out and spend it.
(Better still, spend the £3,000 on a nice holiday
A new look
Yes, it's a new look. I've spent a couple of hours
testing out a new colour scheme on my dummy blog,
just tweaking the colours on the Blogger template.
) has a good display of website colours,
with lots of pastel shades if you like that sort of
So, how do you like it?
I've yet to sort out my Flickr badge and clock, but
then who needs a clock? I've got three in this room
A bit of this and a bit of that
Mrs C and I went to the Broadway Cinema yesterday to
see Pedro Almodovar's latest film, "Volver", which at
one level is a ghost story, but on another, it's more
a story about women within a family and their
neighbourhood, and how they support one another.
Superbly filmed and acted, with Penelope Cruz in the
lead role. She looked stunning.
The Guardian film critic, Peter Bradshaw gave it a
five star rating - I give it four. Well worth seeing,
We went for a brisk walk round Nottingham's Arboretum
this morning, in lovely cool sunshine. The park looked
very pretty and was fairly quiet. There were only a few
people around (and that was at 11 am) - perhaps most folk
were at home reading the papers or were away for the
I spent the rest of today, catching up on some videos -
Murphy's Law was one of them - a good yarn, well acted and
filmed (I do like the actor, James Nesbitt). Part Two was
on this evening, and for me the plot lost its credibility.
However, I'll be watching Part Three tomorrow night to
see how it turns out. Apart from a bit of cooking and
washing up, I spent the rest of the day, finishing off
my second Photoshop talk & demo, which I'll be giving in
about 10 days' time.
I've been having a go at photoshopping one of my
favourite flower photos, using a bit of this and a bit
of that. Here's the end result ....
to blog or not to blog
I've just read Max's blog
for Saturday 19 August,
about what's happened to Zoe Margolis, author of
The Girl With a One-Track Mind (blog
). I thought
she was very brave to tell people about her
personal life in her blog - it's not something
I would wish to go into detail about - so I do
admire her for that.
She went on to publish a book about her life, but
then discovered that a national newspaper had
serialised her book in its pages, and then worse still,
someone outed her. She had to tell all her family
and friends what had happened, and unfortunately
she's lost her job in the film industry.
I do think she's been somewhat naive to think she
could avoid the glare of media publicity, and the
embarassment of all her family, friends and work
colleagues knowing intimate details about her. None
of us would want to go through the hell she's going
I've also just read the last blog
of Le Chat, and feel
sad that she's left the blogging community. She is a
brilliant writer, and I will miss her. She called
her last blog, "Escape from Blogatraz" - escape from
blogland she felt imprisoned in, which is really sad.
I get a buzz out of blogging along, reading other
people's blogs, and contacting other bloggers. If I
stopped having fun, I'd quit. So that's it, in a
Yes, Amazon. Don't you just love it?
All those tempting offers in the books section that
pop up, along the lines of, "If you like this, then
you'll like these". And what bargains in the newly
new sections ... other shops or people giving away
paperbacks for next to nothing. Brilliant.
Mrs C and I love the reviews that customers write
about the books and other stuff they've bought, and
another clever idea - the "Wish List", where you can
put up a list of books you'd like for a birthday or
Xmas (and also search for other members of the family
to see what they'd like).
We're "amazoned" about the speed of their delivery
service - we never ask for next day delivery, but
often the goods arrive the next day or a day later.
Wonderful. We're very impressed.
I was chatting yesterday with a friend who is an
opera buff, and a self-cofessed shopaholic as regards
buying CDs -- much to his wife's despair, as he's got
loads of CDs in the house already. He too is a fan
of Amazon, and he described a curious condition where
he tends to go into automatic pilot when looking the
pages of CDs available. It's as if his finger develops
a mind of its own .. "Oh yes," it says, "I'll have
that one, oh, and that one"... tap, tap tap, goes
I've named this condition "repetitive online finger",
though it must have been described elsewhere before
by now. I do get this from time to time myself, but in
a less severe form. Often when I'm sitting at the
computer half asleep (as I often am towards bedtime),
I just go into momentary automatic pilot and type in
something daft, or delete something I wanted to keep.
"Oh my God!"
Looking at windows
What a big change in our weather today! I set off to walk into the city centre this morning, when it was cool, cloudy and raining slightly. It was the tail end of a bad thunderstorm we had yesterday evening. A couple of hours later this morning -- brilliant sunshine, bright blue sky and hot. I had walked into town dressed for winter. Oh well, it was lovely to see the sun again, and to feel its warmth.
My lecture on Photoshop was well received this morning – it was the first of three I'm giving. I'd spent the last 2-3 weeks preparing for these talks. Today’s included a Powerpoint presentation and handouts for those who attended. I’ll also giving one on the basics of how to use Publisher (I only know the basics, most of which were shown to me by one of my daughters).
My main problem this morning was finding the ruddy photos on Windows XP -- photos that I'd already put on the laptop at the centre where I was giving the talk. The laptop is almost identical to Mrs C's and has what I thought was an identical version of Windows XP on it. I clicked on the Start Menu expecting to see a shortcut to My Pictures, but the shortcut didn't exist. Either this version of XP is different from Mrs C's or someone had removed the shortcut.
So you can imagine my embarrassment sitting in front of a group of 15 people, rummaging around, trying to find my photo folder on the computer. Fortunately one of the group was more experienced with using XP than I was and made some
helpful suggestions, whereupon I found it. The rest of the presentation went very well, despite my feeling fairly anxious for most of the time.
I'm a big fan of Windows 98 (I've got the SE version) -- may it last a few more years before it becomes totally obsolete, as regards new software. I don’t like XP.
This afternoon, I was walking through our lounge to sit down with a cup of tea, when I saw a huge splash of light reflected in our large wall mirror.
Time for another photo I thought -- so here it is. By the way, our walls are a light sandy yellow, and the mirror frame is light oak in colour.
more pics of Hardwick
Below are a few more pics of Hardwick Hall. I tried adjusting the perspective of the building to make the uprights look more vertical (with Photoshop), but I gave up on that. I've deliberately darkened the stonework of the house in the middle photo, to make it look more stark.
In the lowest photo, the shrubbery was over-exposed in places as you will see, but I like the contrasting colours nevertheless. If we lived next door to Hardwick, I'd be round there to take more pics of the border, but as we don't, I've postponed that idea for the time being.
Mrs C and I are National Trust members, by the way, as we like visiting old relics (including Mrs C's mum).
photography and Hardwick
One morning last week I was standing outside a photography studio, admiring the quality of the photos on display, when the owner came by to open up. I got chatting with him, and told him how much I liked his photos. We talked about photography in general, and making it your career too.
He was scathing about the main photographic societies, saying that the members went about awarding themselves grandiose titles, such as "Child Photographer of the Year". He said that you can judge the quality of a photographer, just by looking at his/her photos on display.
He was also critical of the multitude of students applying for university photography courses, when there are so few jobs available for them. He reckoned that Nottingham Trent University had 300 such graduates this year, and that only two of them would find work in Nottingham (these were his figures, not mine). Not only that but a student could end up with £15,000 worth of debt to pay off by the end of the course. He thought it would be far better for a young person who wants a career in photography, to get a job working as an assistant to a photographer, to get themselves trained up that way, and as a way of getting into the job market.
It's not surprising that a lot of young people are having second thoughts about going to uni, wondering what jobs would be available for them at the end of their study, and how they would pay off their debts. The most able students will do well at uni and will usually get the best jobs. Having wealthy parents helps too - so nothing's changed there.
There was a funny section in last Saturday's Guardian, where readers had sent in misprints they'd seen. One was a newspaper job advert for "Head of English and Liteacy Department"
Mrs C and I revisited Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire yesterday. It was built by Bess, Countess of Shrewsbury, who was the country's second wealthiest woman, second to Elizabeth 1. The house and its contents have been well preserved by successive owners (The Devonshire/Cavendish family dynasty, which Bess and her husband William started). Chatsworth was another family home, into which more money has been poured since - Hardwick became a hunting lodge for the family. And some hunting lodge it is too - fabulous tapestries and bed covers, fine furniture and paintings. Most of the interior is the same as Bess left it, so it's one of the finest houses now owned by the National Trust. I'll post a few photos of it during the coming week. The photos here are of the old hall and one of the flower borders.
I spent a good part of yesterday, playing about with this and another photo-montage, and then putting together a detailed instruction sheet on how I produced the photo I've posted below.
It's based on one of my photos of a country mansion in Mallorca, called La Granja, which was like a small version of Chatsworth. Mrs C and I visited it last April. The view is of a lovely first floor balcony-cum-courtyard, which spans across one side of the house, connecting the upper floor rooms together.
You will see that I've merged two copies of the photo together, using both the clone tool and the eraser tool in Photoshop. I think the result is eye-catching but somewhat claustrophobic (compared to the open-space feeling of the original view).
I'll be interested to hear what you think about it.
a few more pics of the market
Sorry about my delay in posting again. I've been very busy preparing a set of 4 lectures on Photoshop and Publisher to give to my old timers' group, the Nottm U3A. I've been advertising it by word of mouth and by email, as the first session will be on 24 August next week. Already the course is over-subscribed, so I'll be running another one for the extra people next January. I'm aiming it for beginners and for those who know a bit more (like myself). I'll end on showing them how to do a photo-montage from one photo (and I'll give them a work-sheet to take home with them). I'll post the photo-montage next. I've been thinking about doing more in the way of photo-montage to create some surreal art.
Borough Market nr London Bridge
Mrs C and I spent the weekend with our daughter L in London, South Wimbledon to be more precise. On Saturday, L suggested we visit the Borough Market near London Bridge. It was very colourful, despite the overcast sky and the rain, and was bustling with activity. We wandered round the stalls, went for some drinks at a cafe nearby, and came back to the market to buy some veggieburgers -- delicious bean-burgers from the organic veggie area, together with some organic smoothies. I sampled a mixed berry fruit one, and one made up from apples, melon and fresh mint - both of them were excellent.
I took several photos, three of which I'm posting today, and I'll post another three tomorrow - to give you an idea of how visually exciting the market is. BTW, L is about 14 weeks' pregnant, and apart from tiredness, she's feeling very well.
Yesterday we went to a big park
We saw lots of water and lots of burds
and a big wite wun
We saw lots of trees and lots of peepul and a man called Cris who had sum big burds
Wun of them got very cross wen a littul dog barked at him
We didnt get any ice creems
How to get going on your family history
Sorry if I’m turning into a genealogy bore, but if you have even the faintest interest in your ancestry, then ask your older relatives for as much info about the family as possible, even if it’s just a skeletal family tree with the names of everyone, who they married and the names of their children. It’s so bleeding obvious – so make some time to do it, and go through their photo albums with them as well. It’s not something you can leave until you retire, as they might be dead by then.
One of the recurrent moans in family history circles is, “If only I’d asked my grandparents/parents before they died”. They take all the interesting gossip with them to the grave/crematorium – how inconsiderate of them.
What have you got left – an address book, a few letters or some photos perhaps, with people in them that you don’t recognise? A vague memory of who came to Grandpa’s funeral?
How else are you going to fill in a huge gap in the public records for the last century, of the births, marriages and deaths, and the census information also? And who’s really interested in looking at just a few names and dates, without some interesting stories to tell of these people’s lives?
It’s very difficult to put together what happened in the last 100 years, otherwise. If you’re lucky, you might find a will of a relative in the Probate records, from the mid 1960s back to the early 1900s … a will with the names of beneficiaries on it. If you know the name, place and date of death of an individual, you can order a copy of the person’s will from your nearest Probate Office, even if they died a few years ago. That is if they made a will. School records can be helpful too.
Otherwise, you could slog through the marriage and obit columns of old newspapers, and old directories of personal and business addresses, old sports club magazines, and the like. It’s hard work and very time-consuming. The words, “Get a life (of your own)” spring to mind.
I’ve been working on my mum’s family history on and off for over 5 years now. Fortunately my mum gave me a lot of detail about her immediate family, mainly about her mum’s family. Her dad was one of 11 children, and died of cancer when she was 12 years old - a very sad loss for her, as they were very fond of each other. Unfortunately, he was an alcoholic, and was hated by her mum and sister. Her parents were anti-social as regards keeping up with his side of the family, so my mum lost contact with them all on his death. Only one of his brothers came to my granddad’s funeral – no-one else from his family, which is sad.
Finding out who all his brothers and sisters were has been very difficult, as his surname was Evans. I’ve tracked down only three of them so far, and know very little about them, apart from a few dates and what jobs they did. I’ve yet to check through all the censuses going back to 1851. Oh, … my mum told me about her cousin Albert Evans, who was a police sergeant in Liverpool (I got a little info about him from the retired police-persons association). That’s all I’ve got so far about her dad’s siblings – bugger all.
When I’m feeling more motivated, I’ll sign up for a year’s subscription to Ancestry dot com, and then do a blitz on all the censuses and other records for my family. This would save me loads of time, and might give me some inspiration to get going again on my family history.
The Hadow family
When I was clearing out my late mother’s house back in 2003, I came across a small photograph album. I vaguely recall that my dad and mum had found this in the loft of the Edwardian house they had moved into, in the late 1960s. It was one of those lovely stone-built houses, near Roundhay Park in Leeds.
I had a closer look at the album. In it were sepia-coloured photos of Raymond Hadow and his wife Dora taken in 1912-13. The photos were mainly of Dora, their mongrel dog Bingo, and interiors of the bungalow they were living in, with lots of English furniture (too much of it), including an upright piano – an interesting glimpse of colonial life, as there were a few other photos showing a lot of turbaned men working on some vast earthworks (in India as it turned out).
Well, I thought, what should I do with this -- throw it into the skip with loads of clutter from my parents’ house, or should I see if I could find a present-day descendant of this couple to send it to?
I brought the album back home with me to Nottingham, and then a few weeks later, I read a newspaper report about the famous polar explorer, Pen Hadow. This was in May 2003, when The Independent reported that he had been stranded for four days after a record 478 mile solo trek
from Canada to the North Pole. It was an amazing story.
A short while later I wrote to him to ask if he had any knowledge of Raymond and Dora, and he referred me on to the family historian, who lived in the south of England – a retired army major. The major was most helpful and sent me a chunk of his family tree to look at, listing Raymond and Dora in the middle, surrounded by all their relations, including their two children, who were born pre-WW1… a boy and a girl, plus the names of the people they later married. Wonderful.
Interestingly, Raymond was a civil engineer and a dam builder/irrigation expert, and he achieved high office in the Anglo-Indian government. He was knighted for his services in 1934, on his retirement. I found out a load of info about him in an edition of “Who Was Who” (1961-70). In retirement, he went to live in Fife in Scotland. I searched through over 20 telephone directories to find any relatives with the daughter’s married name, and wrote to the two I found. Fortunately the name was an unusual double-barrelled one. Raymond’s grandson phoned me a day or two later to say he was excited to hear about my find, and that his mother and uncle would love to see the album.
So I posted off the album to be re-united with Raymond’s family – I felt very pleased with the outcome. I never found out how the album ended up in my parents’ house, so that remains a mystery.
fancy making one of these?
For a bit of colour, I'm posting a photo of something fabulous that Mrs C made earlier today. The recipe for the meringue base is in one of Delia Smith's cookbooks -- Mrs C used the whites of 4 large eggs to make a large base, and the topping is the soft fruit laid upon some whipped cream. Mmmmmm ...mmmm.
My family history
I reckon that researching your own family history is a bit like private detective work -- tracing various family lines back through the censuses, and birth, marriage and death records, and searching through other sources too. Family history is another of my nerdish interests, though as I may have said before, I’m not particularly interested in going back hundreds of years with my family lines. I think this is rather like train-spotting, and at times, I think it involves some guesswork working out who is related to whom.
I’m more interested in looking at the last 100 years or so, and finding out what sort of lives my ancestors led, and what happened to them – their social history. This is what fascinates me.
I’ve got a couple of cousins who have done mountains of research work on my father’s side of the family, but like a lot of family history work, they’d come up against a few brick walls where they’ve made no progress at all. When I retired over 5 years ago now, I volunteered to take on one of the brick walls.
So this is the story of my great uncle Harry, who was a bricklayer by trade, and who was regarded as the black sheep of the family. He was greatly admired by his brother, my grandfather Tom (who was the youngest in the family). They were great friends. In his school holidays, Tom used to help Harry on the building sites. One such site was the rebuilding
of the Old Trafford Cricket Pavilion, in Manchester, which opened in about 1894.
Now according to family legend, Harry committed a misdemeanour, which we suspect was stealing building materials, and to avoid prosecution he fled to the US. He gave Tom an address where he was staying/going, and made Tom promise not to reveal this address to anyone. Anyway, their mother wheedled the information out of Tom and wrote a letter to Harry, whereupon Harry cut off all contact with his family for good. Nothing more was heard of him, until his daughter, Cora, came to visit an aunt and her family in Glossop, Derbyshire many years later. The aunt was one of Tom’s sisters. So that was all the information we had to go on.
My cousins had done many searches for Harry, but with no success. I too spent several months going through shipping passenger records (mainly to Ellis Island in NY), contacting relatives in Derbyshire, writing to people with the same surname in NY, and tagging the message boards of Rootsweb and Genealogy dot coms. Nothing.
And then I had three lucky breakthroughs. The first was the 1901 England and Wales Census (when it was first made public). It was there I found him living at home with his family of origin – a 22 year old unmarried bricklayer, living in the Manchester area. We thought he’d emigrated in the 1890s.
My next major find was in the 1930 US Census, which has been recently been published on Ancestry dot com. I found out that Harry was living in Lucas, a small town in Ohio, and that he was working as a foreman in a glass factory. He was married to Laura, and they had an unmarried 25 year old daughter, named Cora. They weren’t listed in any of the previous US Censuses, which fits in with the story that Harry wished to conceal where he was.
I had a hunch that Harry might have got married before he emigrated to the US. I went to the Notts Archives to look up the marriage indicies, found the marriage details, and sent off for the marriage certificate.
Harry and Laura married in July 1901, a few months after the 1901 Census was taken, at Eyam Church, in Derbyshire. Eyam was where Laura’s family was based, and is the famous plague village
My cousins were as amazed as I was, when I told them the news about Harry and Laura’s marriage – it was a well-kept secret. The huge rift between Harry and his family must have occurred shortly before his marriage. And how long were the couple going out together, before they got married? Most couples had a long engagement in those days, unless it was a shotgun wedding.
There have been big rows and rifts in my family since then, on both my father’s and my mother’s side of the family. I’m interested to know why they occurred and why some of them were never resolved.
Why didn’t Harry ever get in touch with his mother or with Tom after so many years? Was Harry angry all of his life towards his mother and Tom? Was there in fact a blazing family row, whereupon Harry left? The misdemeanour story could have been a cover-up, to save face.
Such things have happened in my generation too -- rows, rifts and big secrets -- history has a habit of repeating itself.
On becoming a private eye
In a conversation about photography last weekend with some relatives, I told them that I would have liked to have been a private eye. I’m a bit of a nosey parker, and like listening in to other people’s conversations rather than saying much myself. I felt a bit intrusive taking so many photos of everyone, rather than talking to people at the wedding, but then photography is the expected norm at family weddings, and I was simply shadowing the official photographer, and was taking less formal shots of everyone, between his posed ones.
I think I would have been quite good at espionage, like 007, if I were trained up to pick locks and abort alarm systems (and trained to tackle and disable people) as 007 was. I was never good at seducing beautiful women, which 007 was good at, but I don’t think M would have been bothered about my lack of skills in that area. I’m also not up to the mark in language skills or in bodily physique. So I’m not really 007 material. Oh well, I can’t have everything.
I’ve been thinking about the film, the Big Sleep
, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall playing the lead roles in it – a brilliant film with lots of sexual chemistry going on between the two of them, and a very sinister atmosphere. So if I were to set myself up as a private dick, I would need to find a seedy office on the first floor of a run-down house in Nottingham, have an ancient telephone, and develop a chain-smoking habit. I’d also need to develop a rude and ruthless couldn’t-care-less attitude towards clients – my years of training as a doctor would stand me in good stead there. A huge zoom lens for my camera would come in very handy too, for taking close-ups of errant partners having a snog in a dark doorway somewhere. Oh, and a battered old car, similar to the banger that Columbo drove around in.
I have a couple of police contacts, who’d be very useful for when it comes to checking car number plates. One of them looks a bit like Ross Kemp, and is training up as a firearms expert. He’s got a charming personality, though somehow he managed to break the nose of a suspect while the latter was hand-cuffed. No doubt the suspect was “resisting arrest”. My contact was suspended from duty while an investigation was carried out, but he’s back at work now. The words, “Dirty Harry” spring to mind. Not that I could ever resort to laying hands or a fist on anyone. That’s not my modus operandi.
Or perhaps I should find more time to lay my hands on this typewriter, improve my writing skills, and start writing a crime novel or two? Just let my imagination run riot, and then add a few gruesome details from the forensic medicine books. Less dangerous work than being a private eye.
choices in career and women
If you had your life over again, would you like to have done something different, job-wise? Fancy being a travel journalist or novelist, an artist, an astronaut, a famous pop-star, an Member for Parliament, a microbiologist, a plastic surgeon, a famous photographer like David Bailey, or a footballer like Georgie Best?
Yes, I fancied being all of those, at one time or other .... in my dreams.
And if I could have had a different personality, what would it have been like? Well, I would have liked to have had more confidence, and more in the way of social skills when I was growing up... and to be more articulate - better at expressing my own views. A good memory or a photographic one would have come in very handy for all sorts of things - memorising the contents of medical textbooks was always hard work for me, and remembering people's names, and requests to do things.
I got on well with my two sisters, and with girls in my class at primary school, but as a teenager I was very shy as regards meeting women of the same age - I didn't have any chat-up lines or conversation of interest. A turning point came when I was about 17 - I met my first girlfriend at a school dance, and later took her out.
The all-boys school I went to offered instruction in ballroom dancing. I joined up rather late to do this, but in good time for the annual school dance in mid-December, when girls from the neighbouring schools were invited to come along. My first dance was with a gorgeous red-haired women - she was chatty, very attractive, and amazingly warm close up. I fell instantly in love with her (though she didn't feel quite the same, as it turned out).
The friendship (that's as far as it developed) lasted about six months on and off. I say on and off, as we'd only go out together about once a month, (mainly to the cinema), as she said she had too much home-work to do. She made this excuse once too often one week, and having nothing better to do, I went along to a barn dance on the Saturday evening (invited by one of my sister's girlfriends who was running it). Anyway, guess who I saw there ... my girlfriend dancing with and cuddling up to a younger and more handsome lad from my school. It was then I decided not to ask her out any more. I phoned her about six months later, to see how she was getting on. She said was surprised that I hadn't kept in touch - I can't remember what I said in reply, but not what I was feeling about her at that time.
I went out with several women during my years as a medical student, until I met up with the future Mrs C, my true love.