Monday, 31 October 2016

Meeting Toby

Partner-who-loves-tea and I went over the Pennines last Friday to visit Toby.

Toby and Mum

The ten day old with his Mum and Dad.

My first grandchild

Partner-who-loves-tea gives a magic cuddle

Opening presents

Three generations

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Chinese Snuff Bottles

While GB was staying with us we went to the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight.   One of the remarkable items there is Lord Lever’s collection of Chinese snuff bottles. 

He collected 188 snuff bottles – mostly around 1918 - and his collection is one of the best in the country.

Snuff is powdered tobacco mixed with herbs and spices and inhaled through the nose.  The habit of snuff taking spread to China from the West in the 17th and 18th centuries.

These exquisite miniatures, which measure between one-and-a-half and three inches high, not only illustrate the technical virtuosity of Qing dynasty craftsmen, but also provide a window on life and culture in late imperial China.

Many of the bottles were brilliantly designed and made from a variety of materials including glass, porcelain, stone, ivory, coral, lacquer, amber and even a bean pod.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Words and phrases - Binky

GB recently pointed out that I hadn't blogged any words or phrases lately.  If time permitted I would continue to add to my Word blog.  But perhaps I should just add some here occasionally.  Here is today's  appropriate word -

Binky (pl. binkies)
In the Peanuts cartoon, Linus van Pelt
is rarely seen without his blanket

  • (informal) A stuffed animal, blanket, or toy that a small child is more attached to than any other, and often sleeps with.
  •  A high hop that a rabbit may perform when happy.
  • (US, informal) A baby's dummy (pacifier) In the U.S. and a number of other countries, BINKY is a brand of pacifiers, owned by Playtex Products, Inc.  (In the UK - or at least to me -Playtex only brings to mind 'the living bra' they used to advertise)
  • Saturday, 22 October 2016


    The first photos of my granddaughter Katie.  Can't wait to give her a cuddle.

    Friday, 21 October 2016

    Katie - The happiest days are when babies come.

    As I mentioned in the posting about Toby's arrival, Helen and Ian were also expecting around now...

    On Thursday evening, 20th October 2016, at a bit before 6 pm Helen gave birth to Katharine (Katie) Rose and both mum and baby are doing very well.  No photos as yet but you can be sure one will be put on here as soon as possible.

    Obviously I won't be going overboard and posting on Rambles from my Chair and Facebook about the two new arrivals all the time.  Like Hell I won't!!

    A few quotes with apologies to Gone with the Wind (and thanks to Kay for the idea).... 

    Nurse: You control yourself, Grandpa. You'll be seeing it for a long time. I'd like to apologize, Grandpa, about it's not being a boy. 
    Grandpa -with apologies to Toby: Oh, hush your mouth, Nurse. Who wants a boy? Boys aren't any use to anybody. Don't you think I'm proof of that? Have a drink of sherry, Nurse. 

    Nurse: This sure is a happy day to me. I done diapered three generations of this family's girls and it sure is a happy day. 
    Auxilliary Nurse: Oh, yes, Nurse. The happiest days are when babies come. I wish.. Oh, Nurse, she's beautiful. What do you suppose they'll name her? 
    Nurse: Miss Helen done told me if it was a girl she's going to name her Katharine Rose.
    Grandpa: Yes she's a beautiful baby the most beautiful baby ever.... Yes, I'm going to buy her a pony the likes of which this town has never seen. Yes, I'm gonna send her to the best schools in Devon. Yes. And her'll be received by the best families in the South. And when it comes time for her to marry well, she'll be a little princess. 
    Helen: You certainly are making a fool of yourself. 
    Grandpa: And why shouldn't I? 
    Helen: Great balls of fire! I had the baby, didn't I? 

    Inn Signs - Ye Hole in Ye Wall and Jupiters

    This is a popular pub name throughout the country and a variety of explanations are given for it.  In the case of this one, in Hackins Hey, Liverpool, it would appear to be because the pub is set down a narrow alleyway (Hackins Hey) off the man thoroughfare (Dale Street).

    Note the barber's pole on the left of the street.

    The blue sign higher up on the right belongs to another pub - Jupiters, a gay bar.  I'm not sure of the origin of the name but the adjectival form of Jupiter is jovial which means merry or happy, moods ascribed to Jupiter's astrological influence, and, of course, to the intake of alcohol.  The fact that merry is a synonym for gay is probably coincidental.

    Somehow, ye green wheelie bins don't quite fit in with ye scene!

    (This scheduled pst would have been re-scheduled if I had realised it was there - there are more important things going on in my life at the moment!)

    Wednesday, 19 October 2016

    The arrival of Toby

    My elder daughter, Bryony, and her husband, Mark, have a new arrival – Toby Arthur.  He weighed in at just over 8lb in the early hours of Tuesday 18th.  Mum and baby are both doing well and are already home. 

    Err, what's all the fuss about?

    Aren't I handsome!

    Toby is my first grandchild but is about to be followed soon (hopefully very soon) by my first granddaughter as my younger daughter, Helen, and her husband, Ian, are expecting the arrival of a girl who is now two days overdue.  Toby was nearly a fortnight late (poor Bryony!) and we are hoping that Helen won’t be kept waiting so long.

    All this waiting can be boring.

    Tuesday, 18 October 2016

    Poetry and Forgetfulness

    In the loft are many boxes of books - packed away, unpacked, re-packed and forever vying with the thousand books spread around the house for precious shelf space.  One such box contains my poetry books, though not "Mount Helicon"  (undated circa 1920s) or "Lyrical Forms in English" (1911) by Norman Hepple.  From these my mother, when a child, learned poem after poem, retaining her ability to recite them into her nineties.  And from them, a generation later, I too imbibed some of these 'best words in the best order' .

    Coleridge spoke those words on the night 
    of July 12, 1827  during a wide-ranging 
    conversation about a number of famous writers. 

    "Mount Helicon" and "Lyrical Forms in English" have their own treasured two and half inches of shelf in the study.  Sadly, my ability to recite most of the poems I learned has not survived into my sixties though a few still linger somewhere in the background.

    My attempts to find the poetry book box have proved fruitless during my last few trips into the head-banging, sometimes crawling, Stygian gloom of life above the ladder.   Feeling starved of poetry I turned to the local charity shops and Wirral Hospice yielded up "Poem for the Day Two".  Its predecessor, simply entitled "Poem for the Day" is somewhere in that elusive box.

    I have been reading through this new leap year of verse but have not attempted to memorise any of them for reasons which will become apparent.

    I came across "Forgetfulness"  on the page for March 22nd, the day on which its author, Billy Collins, was born in 1941 (1938 according to the book, which is wrong).  Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the USA from 2001 to 2003.

    When you reach 67 years of age the appeal of this poem is instant.  Especially having just got from the library a novel you had 'never heard of' but which your 'Books Read' list says you enjoyed just three years ago and which, once opened, gets more and more familiar (though whodunnit still escapes you!)

    This is "Forgetfulness"...

    The name of the author is the first to go
    followed obediently by the title, the plot,
    the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
    which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of.

    It is as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
    decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
    to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

    Long ago you kissed the names of the Nine Muses goodbye
    and watched the quadratic equation pack ts bag,
    and even now as you memorize the order of the planets

    something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
    the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

    Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
    it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
    not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

    It has floated away down a dark mythological river
    whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
    well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
    who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

    No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
    to look up the date of a famous battle in a book of war.
    No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
    out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

    Monday, 17 October 2016

    'Grandpa's workshop' - Henry Charles Body

    My maternal grandfather, Henry (Harry) Charles Body (1877-1956), was a trunk, dressing case and portmanteau maker in Liverpool and I recently took a photo of where his workshop used to be.  The workshops were in Dukes Terrace, Liverpool.  In the 1950s they could only be accessed by going down a back alleyway (known in Liverpool as an entry or jigger) between Seel Street and Duke Street and my father showed me them when I was very little.

    I rather assumed they had since been demolished as most of the adjacent buildings have now been knocked down and replaced with modern structures.  But the workshops themselves are still standing.  Some have been converted into flats, visible from the main road (Duke Street).  .

    The three storey ones (which, judging by the windows, Grandpa's workshop was in) are a Grade II listed building and form a small terrace of which the 'front' and 'back' are identical back-to-back houses; the only remaining back-to-back houses in Liverpool.   They were built in 1843.

    When I lived in Leeds I lived in a  converted back-to-back which had been knocked through so that there were two front doors and therefore two addresses, one on Royal Park Avenue and one on Royal Park Grove.  That caused chaos for leaflet distributors, postmen, door-to-door salesmen, TV licensing people, etc.

    This is the inside of the workshop.  Grandpa is second from the left and one of the others in the photo is his brother Fred, one of his five employees.

    I have a few dressing cases made by Grandpa including one he made for my Grandmother.  The outside of that one is alligator skin.  Perhaps part of the enormous alligator skin in the above picture.

     Although he lived all his adult life in Liverpool, Grandpa was born in Jubilee Street, Mile End Old Town, in the heart of London's East End.

    Such was the pollution from the factories to the east of Mile End Old Town that when Grandpa was just two years old the area lay for seventeen weeks (November 1879 to March 1880) under a bank of yellowish grey smog with a combined smell of "chemical works, varnish manufactories, match mills, candles factories, manure works,  cocoa-nut fibre and leather-cloth factories, and distilleries..."

    This is Grandpa (on the right) in a trilby with Mr Barmby, proprietor of the Rocket Pub in Liverpool.

    But I mainly recall him as a man in a bowler hat, never without his pipe.

    This photo was taken in July 1945, just before the end of the Second World War and the cute little babe in arms in my big brother GB.

    Grandpa and Nana lived on Queens Drive, now the main Liverpool ring road, but, when my Mum was young it was on the edge of the countryside with a view all the way to the Runcorn Transporter Bridge.  Corncrakes (a Red List bird now restricted to  around 1,000 pair in the Western Isles and Orkneys) used to call in the fields opposite.

    One of Grandpa's interests was cooking, especially meat which, to my Mother's horror, was often hung for ages in the cellar until it was 'ripe' enough.  He also played billiards and bowls and visited the local hostelries.  Here he is playing in the Childwall Abbey.

      He won so many prizes at billiards he became quite notorious!  The prize was often a canteen of cutlery and the knives, forks and spoons we use at home today are just some of his winnings.  They are engraved with the initials HFB - Henry and Florence Body.

    Sunday, 16 October 2016


    Diana Evans, a graduate of the University of East Anglia's Creative Writing MA has published short fiction in a number of anthologies but '26a', published in 2005, was her first novel.  I think it is brilliant.

    Cover design - relevant to the story - by Paul Catherall

    Bessi and Georgia are twins and on the outside of their front door (the loft of 26 Waifer Avenue, London)  they had written in chalk '26a' and on the inside 'G+B'at eye level, just above the handle.  This was the extra dimension.  The one after sight, sound, smell, touch and taste where the world multiplied and exploded because it was the sum of two people.   It is here in the loft, on their deciding beanbags, that the idea of a flapjack empire is born. The rest of the Hunter family are less harmonious.  Their Nigerian mother puts cayenne pepper on her Yorkshire pudding while their  Derbyshire-born father angrily shouts at the world.  Older sister Bel finds sex, high heels and organic hairdressing while younger sister Kemy moonwalks for Michael Jackson.

    Roving, often within a sentence,  from wickedly funny to devastatingly moving the growing-up process of the twins and their sisters is never without incident.  This is my Book of the Year.

    Such is the skill of the characterisation and imagery that I feel like I want to quote from each and every page.  A small selection will have to suffice....

    During their parents' wedding -
    'Tokhokho,' Ida said to the vicar as he struggled with the three staccato, fearless, perfect Os. 'Er, yes,' said the vicar' 'To-cocoa'.  He couldn't do it.  Irritation feathered his nostrils (he'd missed his breakfast and resented Saturday afternoon weddings because it meant he missed the horse riding). And it didn't matter anyway.  The name was about to be lost, sent drifting out to sea on a raft made of yesterday.

    Of Charles and Diana's wedding -
    Their lips shake hands. It is sealed.  She belongs to him and he belongs to his mother. 

    Arriving in Nigeria -
    Soft-voiced, he said 'Welcome, welcome,' and immediately, fourteen and panda-eyed, Bel fell in love...  They followed him to the carriage: a blond Mercedes parked in the shade of a coconut palm.  The mercedes had silver beams along the sides, a silver ballerina at the tip of the bonnet and the headlights were smooth blazed sockets of crushed ice.

    On getting drunk -
    Aubrey was knocking back syrup to wash the day, and telling Jim about how you worked for thirty years of your life and what for eh? ... Aubrey's head was starting to dance.  A waltz. He took its arm and let it lead.  Into the empty glass he disappeared - and from the murky bottom, Mr Hyde was rising.

    When the younger sister moves out -
    The old man drove his youngest girl across London to the other side of childhood.

    On 'Noticings' -
    Ham had passed away on 30th September 1980.  Bessi had forgotten the date but Georgia never had.  It was not an anniversary, because anniversaries were for weddings.   It was a noticing.  The ones who had lost and who remembered closed their eyes and looked inwards for a time, and then they carried on.

    Saturday, 15 October 2016

    Inn Signs - The Ship and Mitre

    This pub in Liverpool's Dale Street was a bit of a mystery to me.  I looked in my various pub name books and could not find any explanation of the name.   There are plenty of pubs named after ships in Liverpool - well, there would be wouldn't there.  And the city has a cathedral and therefore a bishop and therefore a mitre.  But what on earth was the connection?  

    (Note the mitre on the wall above the sign)

    The explanation turned out to be quite simple.  The name was a composite of the pub's two previous names - The Flagship and The Mitre.  Before the pub was built, around 1935, the site was home to a coach-house and reference to this can be seen in the foyer as you enter the building. 

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