Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Gardening Classes

When I was a child, garden centres were places where grown ups went which sold plants and perhaps a few seed packets and gardening tools. It was my great delight to be left in the car to read a book while they went in to spend hours poring over boring old plants which grew naturally in the garden anyway didn't they? Why would anyone buy them? A hellishly hot summer slaving in one as a teenager, scarcely able to breathe in the hot greenhouses, let alone work, a tyrannical dragon of a female boss constantly on my back yelling at me by way of training didn't alter my prejudices.
Below is my local garden centre.
Even vaster than it looks with an ample deli and an award-winning organic cafe as well, much of the merchandise is pricier than (and not dissimilar to) Harrods. It has now even diversified into antiques where you can buy barnacle-encrusted pots rescued from 19th century ship wrecks amidst the usual mahogany drop-leaf tables and oil paintings! Gardening has almost become an afterthought. I espied a box of my favourite mint chocolate crisps in the deli. Then I noticed they were £5.50 (twice the price of Waitrose) and promptly resisted, though the 'Traffic Jam' - a jar of jam in three flavours forming the green, orange and red of traffic lights was almost amusing enough to overcome the price tag for. After a few hours marvelling at the seductive uselessness of much of the merchandise on display on a sodden foggy day where we needed somewhere warm and dry to hang out, my friend and I left with a couple of half-price Christmas decorations, having succumbed to hot drinks and slices of exorbitant cake in the cafe.
Sometimes I feel tempted to revisit my teenage workplace to see if it has followed the fashion of putting chaise lounges before Sweet Williams, but I find if I wait long enough, the idea tends to go away again...
However I have got my eye on a rather palatial revolving summerhouse at my local garden centre if ever I win the lottery.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Poet's Tale

Blogmate Age of Uncertainty has begun an innovative series of podcast interviews, beginning with another blogmate and real-life poet friend, Oliver Gozzard.
Oliver is just about to publish 'The Commuter's Tale', an epic ballad concerning a jaded commuter about to be made redundant from his city job who finds his destiny transformed when he encounters a latter-day Lord Byron (now a rapper) on his train one morning who persuades him to ditch the city for a life of adventure on the high seas!
My contribution was that I helped design the cover, aided by my web designer friend Daniel Hart, (since my photoshopping skills are zero.) Too many poetry books we decided had terrible jackets in the form of abstract blobs or similarly meaningless standard-menu designs, demonstrating no care or imagination on the part of either poet or publisher and virtually condemning the publication to sell no more than a handful of copies, however good.
Oliver himself did not want imagination restricted to the narrative either and has come up with an equally imaginative marketing plan, which means hopefully everyone who's ever commuted or heard of Lord Byron will get to hear about his poetic debut in due course. Watch this space...

Not that I don't retain a sneaking affection for the cheesier draft image V1.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Bonfire of the Humanities?

'Widening Participation', 'Inclusivity', 'Equality and Diversity', 'Student Experience'.

These are the terms I have to conjure with every day of my working life within a University.

Yet what when the 'student experience' we are trying to provide is undercut by a Government determined to triple tuition fees, close libraries and youth clubs and continue selling off playing fields?

What if this leads to a nation where the Arts and Humanities become a luxury as no one can afford to anticipate a degree where they do not have the highest chance of employment at the end, whilst such under-funded departments are simultaneously cut and shut owing to lack of demand?

Is this not a kind of 'apartheid' on those who can afford it least, not to mention our national cultural life and riches in the form of future historians, philosophers, latin scholars, writers, sociologists and artists? As for talk of a 'graduate tax', do graduates not already pay greater income tax by dint of winning the better-paid jobs? Besides which, why would graduates wish to pay back many more times the cost of (even an inflated) student loan until they die?

As it is, many young people cannot afford to leave home, leading to the so-called 'boomerang generation', still going back to Mum and Dad throughout their 20s and even 30s. 37 is now the average age at which an individual first gets onto the property ladder, and even then, often only because they have been subsidised by their families in order that they can stretch to it.

Small wonder we are seeing longer delays before marriage and reproduction take place to the point that some women who might have wanted children are missing the boat altogether and the middle class are being squeezed the most in trying to pay all their bills and bring in two salaries to cover the mortgage as well as afford children, childcare and pay back their tuition fees.

I believe we are coming to a stage where we have to ask ourselves if society is not for people, then who or what, is it for?

This society is increasingly pricing itself out of the market for many, without even offering us security and sufficiency of employment, yet it expects us to carry on spending as if there is no tomorrow.

This government has to date given all the appearance of two overgrown schoolboys playing with a large train set and saying to one another 'I wonder what would happen if we closed this station' or 'I wonder what would happen if we tripled the fares on this train?' with the disinterested fascination of two boys who fail to notice the figurines are real and who have every expectation of a consequence-free playtime.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Oxford's BIG idea - Let's close the libraries!

'Give us your your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.' And take away their libraries!

A beacon is being extinguished, a golden door closed.

Goodbye free literacy for the masses and one of the last public spaces available to interact in with no pressure to spend money, because hey, we've paid for it through our taxes.

The barbarians are well and truly at the gates.

And let's not mention the embarrassing detail that Oxford is simultaneously bidding to be crowned UNESCO's world book capital in 2014

I hereby reproduce the leaked plans to close several of our libraries unless we useless citizens who obviously don't need day jobs put qualified Librarians out of their day jobs by undertaking to run the threatened libraries ourselves, and in community centres and doctor's surgeries rather than the intended premises, which will doubtless be sold off to the nearest greedy developer. Not even the carrot of a discount in council tax offered for an essential public service removed or reduced.

Big Society Proposals for Oxfordshire Libraries

Oxfordshire County Council is asking local communities to come up with innovative ideas to run their local libraries as it proposes to cease funding 20 of the 43 facilities that currently operate in the county, with possible further changes to service levels in future years.

Following the Government's Spending Review and cuts in funding to local authorities, Oxfordshire County Council currently calculates that it will have to save around £155m up to 2015. These savings will need to be made across all of its services and the library service is one of the areas that will have to contribute to making that saving. The council is already on target to make £35m of savings in 2010/11 with a pay freeze and driving down the costs of contracts with suppliers contributing to this.

What is the vision for the future of libraries?

Proposals have been formulated around a clear vision of providing library hubs centred on key areas of population in Oxfordshire with a quality support network of mobile library services and an extension of the library loan service to include e-books and e-audio downloads, so people can get the books they want direct to their home PCs. Residents will continue to be able to go online and order books from an online catalogue. The books can be delivered either to the nearest library hub or to the village/town by the mobile library service for users to collect.

In formulating proposals for a new way forward there has been a strong emphasis on the comparative quality of the public transport links that enable local communities to reach libraries in individual localities and geographical spread. Usage figures have also been considered.

Are these the final proposals?

Details could yet change when more information becomes available on Local Government Settlement Day - the day when all UK councils learn in detail what their grant funding from central Government will be in future years. Oxfordshire County Council receives 65 per cent of its funding from central Government.

Similar proposals elsewhere

Changes to the delivery of library services are also being proposed by councils all over the UK - amongst others, authorities in Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, Camden and Leeds have recently made proposals for chaThis would see services shaped by community needs and possibly hosted by partner organisations offering space in community buildings such as, children’s centres, community centres, schools and health centres.

Councillor Keith Mitchell, the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: "We have a clear vision to have a quality, core network of libraries based on centres of population. These will still be run by the council and they will be supplemented by mobile libraries.

"In line with the Government's Big Society agenda, we are very keen to hear from local communities and organisations who may wish to take on the running of local libraries and we believe there will be enthusiasm from people who wish to get involved.

"We have agonised over these proposals and I am sure we will agonise some more as our budget position changes when more information on exact funding details is received from Whitehall. However, by announcing the thrust of what we intend at this early stage, we hope that communities have the opportunity to digest and respond to our invitation for them to get involved. I look forward to imaginative ideas coming forward from local people

"Public transport links have made up a large part of our thinking in deciding which libraries we should continue funding. Such links are far better in some areas of Oxfordshire than others - the city of Oxford being an example.

"Our current network of libraries is based entirely on historical legacy. If we were starting from scratch in setting up a brand new Oxfordshire library service, it would not look like the current structure."

Which libraries will see funding cease?

A total of 82 per cent of library visits take place to the 23 libraries that are currently proposed for continued funding by the county council.

Oxford and Banbury have excellent transport links with a high quality bus service meaning that libraries are very easy to reach. Oxford Central Library is accessible to everyone in the city and it is proposed that opening hours should be extended to include Sundays. Cowley Library is also proposed to remain as part of the county council's network of libraries.

Summertown, Headington, Littlemore, Old Marston and Blackbird Leys in Oxford would see funding discontinued as would Neithrop in Banbury.

Adderbury, Bampton, Benson, Berinsfield, Botley, Charlbury, Chinnor, Deddington, Grove, Kennington, North Leigh, Sonning Common, Stonesfield and Woodcote would also see funding cease with opportunities for the community to take over their running.

When will funding cease?

Funding will be phased out during the 2011/12 financial year although there is no exact timetable at the moment. Any further funding changes will be announed in future financial years.
nge in response to changed financial circumstances following the Government's Spending Review.

Cash to help innovative ideas

In line with the Government's Big Society agenda, Oxfordshire County Council is to set up a pot of money to which local communities can bid for funds to help them take responsibility for any library that the council is seeking to end funding.

Was the word 'vision' ever so violated? Andrew Carnegie would spin in his grave. But if this outrage (sorry, 'vision') can be considered in a world centre of academia, you can bet your bottom dollar, no library will be sacred, so guard your libraries fiercely and use them weekly rather than weakly, while you still have them.

I am sure I am not the only one who practically lived in their local house of treasures (Library) as a child and continues to value them highly as an adult. Don't let this government rob you of these jewels beyond price, these hard-won perks of enlightened democracy that YOU will continue paying for whether you still have them or not.

(quote at top misappropriated from Emma Lazarus' famous 'The New Colossus' used to welcome immigrants through the golden gate by the Statue of Liberty in New York)

Saturday, 20 November 2010

World War I - the power of postcards

A couple of the famous Bamforth WWI song series cards which sweethearts sent to the Trenches to uplift their loved ones with cheery thoughts of how they were dying for their country which was far superior to mere worldly love and asking them to wait for them 'on the other side' etc. If they wanted to be more explicit they could always use the language of stamp positions listed below, though the War Office soon put a stop to this insisting on direct franking of the cards for postage instead. Cards veered from the mawkish to the maudlin to the patriotic, sometimes quite grotesquely. These examples (spotted at a recent Antiques Fair) represent the entirety of my collection. My friend Lorna Pearson has hundreds, many showing the same players, even wearing the same clothes, only differently hand-tinted and/or coiffured to appear different. She suspects real soldiers were used and hired together with uniform for the day when on leave. Some sets are identical in all but blood - which is shown in the early version, but wiped off in the later version, doubtless under War Office edicts.

Stamp Positions & Meaning

Upside down, top left corner = I love you

Crosswise on top left corner = My heart is another's

Centre of envelope, at top = Yes

Center of envelope, at bottom = No

Straight up and down, any position = Goodbye sweetheart

Upside down, top right corner = Write no more

At right angle, top right corner = Do you love me?

At right angle, top left corner = I hate you

Upright top right corner = I desire your friendship

Upright in line with surname = Accept my love

Upside down in line with surname = I am engaged

At right angle in line with the surname = I long to see you

Centred on right edge = Write immediately!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Going Off The Rails

According to today's news, 'Overcrowding on British trains is set to get much worse'.

And this despite the continuing rise in ticket prices out of all proportion to inflation or any other unarbitary known measure.

Many commuters now pay thousands of pounds a year for season tickets, only to be treated no better than cattle and little better than the denizens of Calcutta.

Aeroplanes and coaches are compelled by law to provide a seat for every passenger with a seat belt and to restrict ticket sales according to available seats.

Trains appear to enjoy immunity from all such Health and Safety legislation and an apparently limitless capacity to sell tickets for the same oversubscribed under-carriaged journey.

Medical experts have warned of the increased risk of DVT to passengers forced to stand in cramped overheated conditions for too long.

Not that this prevents sinister 'Revenue Protection Officers' (no longer 'ticket collectors') targetting particular commuter hotspots at rush hour in order to issue tickets en masse to those who've been forced en-masse into the wrong bit of the carriage by the sheer volume of commuters getting on.

Yet our Swiss and German counterparts transport vast numbers of their populace on trains every day with seemingly few problems.

Why is Britain (embarrassingly, land of the train's inventor, George Stephenson in 1822), so pathetic at offering a service even on a par with what the Victorians would have expected, bar the speed when a train actually moves?

The Victorians were miles more advanced than we at providing consistent pricing structures, timetabling and reliable movement around the country and to many more destinations, not to mention providing civilised public conveniences and 'waiting rooms' at their stations, despite being run by a number of different private companies. Their open-carriaged 'Third Class' does not sound so bad after all once you've sampled a peak-time London train (another reason my heart sank when we won the bid to host the Olympics in London next year).

As for the Green arguments for rail travel, I would counter that the appalling conditions and exorbitant price of rail travel are more likely to drive people into the arms of their nearest car showroom dealer than otherwise. At least they get to die in the comfort of their own posture-adjusted seat when terminal gridlock finally sets in.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Angles on Oxford

I took these photographs of Oxford some time ago when I was seeking possible images for a book of local short stories. In the end, something completely different was chosen as is the way with these things. However I thought I would share them anyway.

Monday, 25 October 2010

You Gotta Keep the Hamster Alive to Keep The Wheel Turning

In the wake of Chancellor Osborne's wielding of the £83 billion axe, decapitating a headcount of 1-in-10 public sector workers, coupled with the government's refusal to end banker's bonuses, cap footballer's pay, plug the brain drain or address the criminal wastage in the NHS, I find myself distinctly underwhelmed, if not exactly turning French to take to the streets.

And the French only have to work to 62 and there's riots in the streets – whereas we have to work to 66 and merely shrug our shoulders about it! Though of all the injustices to protest about, you'd think there was little arguing against the fact that most of us are now living longer, save those who worked in manual trades, and where allowances could more fairly be made than by the former system of gender division.

Meanwhile the banks continue to refuse to lend money to small businesses, systematically strangling the life blood out of one of the few resources for job creation, while companies large enough – even James Dyson - have stiffed the British economy by making their names here and then largely relocating to take advantage of cheap third world labour, expecting us (shortly with no jobs) to carry on buying their products.

In the midst of the number of jobs being slashed in every sector and quangos being quashed, the coalition government has decided in its wisdom that benefits are to be cut for the long-term unemployed and those on long-term incapacity benefit, in tandem with the drive to force, er persuade, people to work longer into retirement. Never mind where are the jobs for all these people, shortly to be unleashed onto an already oversubscribed labour market, but where is the back-up training and support they are going to need if they haven't trained or worked for years, if at all? And in these cases, confidence is as much an issue as training and the jobs for them to go to. This plan also presumes a society which has now successfully dispensed with ageism – one of the main reasons older redundant workers are actively encouraged to develop depression and a drink problem and opt for long term incapacity benefits. It's just easier and there's no need for them to show up on those inconvenient jobless figures.

Does it not occur to the Government that every time a job is cut, so is a consumer and that UK employees are also UK customers in many cases? If every former consumer is to be reduced to rent, bills and bread subsistence level, then all other goods and service providers may as well shut up shop, reducing wage bills still further.

But is the Big Society for the people or what? Is it about to decree a 'right to work' alongside its enhanced legislation against disadvantage in the workplace on the grounds of disability, gender, sexuality etc, and is the 'right to work' a philosophical or an economical question? We live in a society where women walk around believing they have a right to have babies. Or not have babies. We believe we have civil rights, democratic rights and entitlements from the State. Some of us even believe we have a right to be happy, despite lacking a constitution on this. But what about the 'right to work' for every man and woman from 16 to 66? Would industry be forced to redistribute itself more evenly across our green and pleasant land to accommodate? And would we get to decree our hours, pay and commute time preference?

Previous governments have decided that the right not to starve, or die for want of affordable medical care, is more achievable, hence the inception of the 1948 Welfare State and its promise of care 'from the cradle to the grave'. If this government seeks to erode that promise, it better jolly well have a superior idea up its sleeve as countless generations fought, suffered and sacrificed to attain that basic birthright, abused as it may have been by the feckless of later generations.

But I suppose we are luckier with the coalition government than Eire is with a premier who looks like he just lost the country in a game of gin rummy for College rag week.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Businesses Not Bonuses

Nick Leeson was jailed for six and a half years for what today's bankers receive obscene bonuses for - namely bringing our banks to their knees.

This morning on Radio 4's Today programme, Barclays Bank Chief Executive, John Varley opined that most people wouldn't consider the expending of 15% of a business's total costs on bonuses unreasonable.

Well that's where you're mistaken and completely out of touch with public feeling Mr Varley. During a recession where the majority of British employees are suffering pay freezes, pay cuts and even worse, job losses, many of us feel that ALL bonuses are grossly insensitive and ought to be frozen indefinitely at the very least, particularly in the banking sector largely responsible for the economic black hole we now find ourselves in, and which taxpayers have been forced to bail out, so consequently we expect some gratitude and favours in return, in addition to seeing performance-related pay implemented.

As for the old chestnut that you 'can only recruit the top people by paying top banana', for all the good the 'top people' have done, a bank may as well let the janitor loose on the system to have a go. At least the janitor is more likely to consider the customer and the consequences of his actions and is less likely to be motivated by blind avarice.

Even the Royal Family during World War II recognised that it was politic to announce they were going to be consuming the same food rations as their subjects at the Palace which, whether a short-term gesture of support for their subjects or otherwise, contributed greatly to the public morale at a time when it was besieged from all directions. The Royals were never so popular indeed.

The banks do not even have the decency to make a gesture such as suspending bonuses or lending to small businesses and the demolition of our once proud nation goes on.

I urge everyone who feels as I do to vote with their feet and close any accounts with the big 4, taking their business to a smaller or more stable bank. I myself defected from the Royal Bank of Scotland to Smile internet bank (the online version of the Co-Op bank) nearly 10 years ago now. It was easier than getting a new credit card and banking regulations have long prevented your old bank making it harder for you than a tearful pleading phone call. Whilst my interest rate with Smile has sadly plummeted over the years to become as poor as the big 4, at least I have the comfort of knowing I am supporting an otherwise ethical and stable enterprise, and one which does not send me any junk mail or spam whatsoever.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Obligatory Nature Poem

A belated Happy National Poetry Day!

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a poet in possession of a modest critical reputation must be in want of an obligatory nature poem.

Here's one a neighbour's cat helped me pen earlier.

Night Call

There's a change of shift that happens every night
When the birds knock off and the bats take flight
Supervised by Owl Foremen to ensure they're doing it right
Nature goes sonar in sound, save a few snuffles on the ground
Pipistrels squeak, all mouth and no beak
Protesting against their seven day week
As the badger parade vacuum the hedgerows of excess insects
And Mr Fox does his rounds for unprotected food and/or sex
The hedgehog fraternity practice crossing the road along with their rabbit brethren
As contrary to belief they're not in a hurry to get to heaven
Legend has it that chickens teach them
Though personally I don't believe them
The birds are waiting in the wings
Until the first cockerel cues their dawn chorus to sing
And indoors our alarm clocks begin to brrrring

© LS King 2010

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Banks - don't bank on them

When I worked in a bank, a bank employee lived or died by how many inappropriate 'products' they sold to unsuitable people, ie their monthly targets. It was indeed this cavalier attitude to customers and customer service which drove me out. I just couldn't pretend that we offered the best mortgage rates on the High Street when we didn't.

Now we read daily that the majority of banks are no longer lending to customers or granting mortgages even to those who would not so long ago have been judged 'a good risk', but in all probability would have got that 100% mortgage even if they were a lousy risk, just to get some bank employee's targets up to their monthly quota. No big deal if a house was repossessed to be sold and mortgaged again after all.

Horror stories abound of successful small businesses with good track records who merely require a small bridging loan until their new stock arrives or their bills are paid and their cash flow restored, going to the wall because of the refusal of banks to help with what was once everyday business for them. The bank managers who once knew their customers personally and interviewed the business customers on a regular basis are nowhere to be seen.

The deliberately-low (to aid the economy) 0.5% base rate seems to have no influence on their unreasonableness and no interest rate advantage is being passed onto the customer, even supposing we are lucky enough to be granted the privilege of being a customer.

I have but ONE question. How are banks making their money now if they are no longer selling products/lending money?

Sure they can coast along on exorbitant customer charges and zilch customer account interest for a while, but new business and extra business is where it's at.

Just because we wanted them to stop gambling with our money and selling us down the river, only to end up having bail them out, doesn't mean we wanted them to stop providing financial services at all. In fact if anything, they OWE we taxpayers for bailing them out and we expected better treatment and more humility from them as a result.

All we wanted was some integrity and some transparency and less greed. Most businesses can manage this - why not banks?

Then again, even Tesco rejected me for a credit card the other week.

I'll leave you with my story of the week on banks v the people.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Agent for Ideas

I was born to swan. How do I know this? Probably because work came as such a tremendous shock to my previously natural dreamlike state which did not readily engage itself with such worldly concerns as how to pay the rent and other assorted bills necessary to drawdown breath.

I have often joked indeed that if there is such a thing as a previous life, I was obviously filthy rich and didn't have to lift a finger in it, so inept was I in every way in early adulthood, scarcely able even to make a cup of tea without some calamity ensuing. Now if only I could work out who I was and what I left myself and where (as I have little doubt I'd have probably had the foresight to). Perhaps that £400 past life regression therapy course I once looked into would have been money well spent.

Joking aside, for at least the last five years I have been coming up with product and marketing ideas the like of which have often had listeners gasping: 'That's a great idea - you should sell that.' Or 'That's exactly what I've wanted to buy and can't find anywhere - you should invent it!'

However as a previous expert in ineptitude I know my limits. I am neither a designer nor a marketeer, merely an ideas person. Nor do I have the capital necessary to set up a business, notwithstanding guaranteed business acumen (necessary for even the most failsafe product).

What I want to be able to do is sell a big idea, live off the proceeds for six months and then sell another idea and live off the proceeds for six months. In other words, swan! Fill my life full of friends and writing and philanthropic works and leave behind that 9-5.

Fruitlessly have I therefore trawled the internet looking for a UK agency operating in roughly the same genre as an author's agent - ie the writer does the writing and the agent does the selling. Only with my model the agent wins a percentage of any idea sold. Even this in itself, I am told, is a great business idea and I should do it. They seem to have such in the States, but not the UK, unless they are known by some completely other name here. Though of course there are greater complications involved in selling intellectual copyright and obtaining patents and manufacturing and distribution contracts, not to mention the market research that an idea might need to prove it had legs. Perhaps I should pitch this to the BBC as the next generation 'Dragon's Den'!

Currently I am badgering every politician with anything to do with Education with a wholly new concept in University education to breathe new life into it for the future (the current system of the 3 year degree being unsustainable in the long term for multifarious reasons.)

All thoughts and feedback gratefully appreciated, dear blogmates. Or perhaps you have a thwarted dream you care to share.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Poet Laura-eate's Philosophy of Driving

Driving To Impress

Driving should be like ballet dancing
No junction slaloms, no jerks, no jarring
Just skill and grace with assertive pace
There's no room for road rage on the highway
By the immature ego which can't get its own way
If I had my way all ego would be left at home posturing
In front of a mirror until finally maturing.
And as for those who get a kick
Out of forcing other drivers to be psychic
With their treatment of indicators as an optional extra
Don't they realise they're holding up their own Vauxhall Vectra,
With the extra time it takes to anticipate their actions
In time to prepare appropriate defensive reactions?
Driving should be like ballet dancing
No junction slaloms, no jerks, no jarring
No crunch of gears, no screech of brakes
No crunch of cyclist or other road user makes.
Keep those sweeps fluid-smooth and hug those bends
And when you reach a junction, stop and look at the end!
Your car will thank you with lower garage bills
If you haven't contributed by mis-use to its ills
Ditto insurance premiums and other fetters on driver freedoms.
'Cos what goes aroundabout, comes aroundabout
And that's what it's all about.
So take pride in your driving, enjoy guaranteed arriving
Be nice to other drivers. Be a knight of the road
Nobody likes, admires (or wants to shag) a Mr Toad.

© LS King 2010

Monday, 6 September 2010

Letter to Nan

I thought it was time to post a spot of creativity so here is my entry to the Daily Express letter writing competition to win a laptop back in June. Sadly I didn't.

My Dear Nan

Your crocheted iPad cover and matching pashmina arrived yesterday and were the surprise of my birthday. Thank you. The pink and green stripes will go with so many things, if I can wrestle them back off the dog bed that is, as Biscuit promptly snaffled them for herself.
Anyway, how are you, and how are your feet? What did the chiropodist say?
I must say I am concerned that you still seem to be posing as a 14-year-old girl on Facebook. I know it started off as a bit of a laugh, but seriously, you are going to get into trouble luring all these creepy men to their deaths via bogus Beachy Head liaisons, much though we all salute you for trying to keep us safe and only doing what any caring grandmother would. I don't think you can get away with blaming Woofy Banjo for pushing all eight of them off the cliffs though. The Police must suspect something by now. And your latest status update saying 'It's great being 85 - you can get away with murder' is a bit out there, you must admit. I'd hate to see my grandma end up in prison anyway, so I really think you ought to find a new pastime and quickly and it's not too late to enter the Parish Autumn flower show.
I can't help feeling a bit responsible being as it was me who persuaded you to go to that Silver Surfers Session at your local library three years ago. I mean I honestly thought if you bought a computer you'd use it for online Bingo and the odd e-Bay purchase or to Google hernia treatment. Not this.
Then we didn't hear a word from you for six months and found you had emigrated to Second Life to become Princess Di and re-live her life, only this time making Prince Charles look like George Michael and Camilla look like a frog. You always did like your happy endings. The number of times we visited to find you crying over your Royal Wedding tea sets. Well it was heartrending.
It was really great that you started dressing the part and got to open that school, though I think Princess Michael was surprised as she was only stuck on the M40.
If only Grandpa had lived. You were so devoted to him. I remember when he died you couldn't even change a light bulb yourself, and now, well now, it's gone a bit too far the other way if I'm honest. You seem to have lost interest in everything you used to enjoy from Church to the Bowls team. As for that re-wiring you did in the house using Grandad's 1947 Boy's Own Manual. Well it's not very convenient to have to unplug the fridge every time you want to watch the telly is it? And what about that invalidated insurance certificate? You can't leave it, you know.
I must say I was shocked by that Grey-dar dating site link you sent me. I mean lots of them don't even have their FACES on their profiles. Are you sure it's wise? And are you sure a photo of your home made plum jam won't attract the wrong type? Some chancer who just wants someone to play free carer and housekeeper to him for the rest of his life and then leaves it all to his kids anyway, after all his promises?
I know it's your life and I've got to let you make your own mistakes.
But I'm so worried that you're being corrupted by modern technology Nan. You need to keep it real. Besides which I don't like that new Nan you've bought me on E-Grandchild anyway and I don’t care for your new granddaughter either. Just because she's programmed to agree with everything you do, wear everything you knit and never forget to send a thank you letter.
If I can swap shifts next weekend, perhaps I can come up and visit and we can discuss all these issues face to face.
Meanwhile my pager's just gone off. Another jumper at the local railway station. Just time to dash off a suicide note in case there isn't one and I'll jump into the ambulance. I do hate people to waste their lives without a cause as you know. 'My Penalty Charge Notice drove me to it!' at least gives them some honour in death and provides some sense of closure (and less guilt) for their loved ones left behind.

Love and Eccles cakes,

Your concerned granddaughter x

© LS King 2010

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


I have just been listening to a Radio 4 programme called Iconoclasts in which some bloke called Stephen Pillock (or was it Pollard?) proposed that arts funding should be scrapped as this country had better things to spend its money on than the arts and most were of little interest to the public in any case.

Although he was roundly opposed, I swiftly fired off a missive to point out that this once-proud manufacturing nation now had little else left to export except the arts, so perhaps our assets should be marketed more effectively, then they might actually pay their way and require less funding. In addition wasn't this country dumbed down enough to the point of a new class system evolving comprised of an underclass and the educated, and if there were no outreach exposure at all on the part of the arts to the culturally-challenged, this could only get worse.

Sadly, only my first point was read out, but it was interesting to hear Stephen Pollard floundering for words when countering my statement that this country was no longer a proud manufacturing nation. Finally he came up with an export retort we can truly be proud of - 'munitions'!

I nearly fell off my chair.

Selling arms to our enemies to use against us? What a good idea. Time was when that was treason, no less. Now, according to Mr Pollard, it is evidently more worthwhile selling munitions than turning our nation's artistic talent into a marketable commodity.

So many artist, musician and poet friends are not even receiving arts council funding and find it harder to scrape a living here (irrespective of the size of their talent) than they would in Austria, Germany or even Poland, where it is still customary to pay for art and entertainment and acknowledge the reasonable need of the artist to eat. In France you can even be a philosopher and get paid and valued for it.

Not that I disagree that some art is unworthy of the name, but hey, even the appalling stuff helps us recognise the extraordinary when we behold it.

I also count among the arts British television drama which has already proven it can be sold around the world successfully (the first major example - The Onedin Line - is still making the BBC money internationally and via DVD sales 40 years after its first series!)

Twelve years ago as an impoverished bank clerk I was awarded a BBC Radio Writing course by the Birmingham branch of the Arts Council which I could never have afforded otherwise. I may not have done much radio writing since, but I have done a great deal of other writing and it certainly helped boost my confidence in my talents and abilities. I have treasured the memory of that special week in the wilds of Wales ever since and can only hope that such nurturing opportunities are not quashed by the likes of Stephen Pollard.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

I Knew Cat Woman. Exclusive!

Midway through my sandwich this lunchtime my jaw dropped involuntarily as I read the name of the infamous 'cat woman' of Coventry - the object of the worldwide Facebook hate campaign following CCTV footage of her petting a cat and then callously flinging it by the scruff of the neck into a wheelie bin where it remained imprisoned for 15 terrified hours and might well have starved to death had the owner not heard faint miaows just in time.

Fifteen years ago I worked with Mary Bale at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Coventry. Not surprisingly she was younger then - with long wavy brunette hair and quite a bit slimmer than now, which explains why I didn't immediately recognise her. Quiet but competent and pleasant is how I remember her. It was common knowledge that she had had a raw deal in life. The love of Mary's life - Alan - the slimy area sales manager had unceremoniously dumped her, impregnating another woman and marrying her within months - giving her the life that Mary presumably yearned for and felt should have been hers. Worse still their paths crossed on a regular basis when he visited our branch to berate us on sales figures and give us new unattainable monthly targets 'We're a retail outlet now' was his motivational catchphrase. I lasted 18 months. On bank picnic outings he was also in evidence with NEW woman and baby in tow, which must have been unbearable for Mary. In fact I recall her commenting so on at least one occasion.

Whilst what Mary did was horrific and awful (and I speak as a major cat lover), it also speaks volumes to me of someone who is treating another creature as cruelly as perhaps she herself feels she has been treated. She obviously lives a narrow enclosed life cosseted with her elderly parents (symbolic wheelie bin), presumably with no way out in her eyes until they die, no man on the horizon and she even seems to have given up her choir according to one newspaper article, which as I recall was pretty well her only hobby outside the bank.

Nor is Mary the first former colleague of that branch to go nutty and make the Daily Mail. Receptionist Cheryl ended up in court to be bound over for repeatedly harassing her parish priest with unwanted teddy bears and sexual overtures, despite previous warnings.

Strangely both are middle-aged spinsters who lived with their elderly parents and had had love affairs with bank managers go sour beforehand. In fact Cheryl had even tried to sue the bank when one affair with a married manager went wrong and was off work for many months on more than one occasion with depression.

Unforgiveable as Mary's cruel act was, she can little have imagined it would be caught on CCTV, let alone become world news within days leading to Facebook hate group campaigns and customers clamouring for her to be sacked. She is certainly in the process of paying an extremely high price for her moment of madness, even without the death threats.

Personally I think RBS should suspend her until she has completed a compulsory psychiatric assessment and any court should enforce a treatment order. I may not have known Mary that well, but I know her enough to know that the real Mary used to be kinder than bitterness and disappointment have evidently moulded her and her worst crime until now had probably been lousy taste in men and an inability to move on in life when things didn't work out. She was almost one of life's 'good girls' - ie 'if I'm a good girl, life will reward me' When their lifelong good behaviour does not reap the rewards they feel deep down that it should, it is not unknown for the Mary's of this world to snap.

Many criminology studies have also concluded that if cruelty to animals is not nipped in the bud it can soon escalate into cruelty to humans. Many serial killers have a proven background or even 'apprenticeship' of cruelty to animals which has eventually escalated.

Then again Coventry was a funny place. People, particularly without partners, tended to go either nutty or turn into alcoholics there. Luckily I got out in time. Just.

Meantime, the power of the internet can also have a funny side

Monday, 16 August 2010

Then and Now

Laura & Sister Siren @ Brighton Marina, 2010

To look at some of my childhood photos, it's easy to assume I'm a good deal older than I am, but the combination of Kodak fade and the family photos being kept in a split mouldy suitcase in a damp shed have taken their toll.
In addition my father always drove old cars hence the pose at the wheel of the 1960s Renault. Unfortunately the photo with famous swimmer Duncan Goodhew posing for a photograph after I'd just won a swimming gala at around age 12 is missing.
The younger child in some of the photos is my sister who seemed to look about age 2 for years as I recall! There are also a lot of photos of us wearing matching knitted and crochet outfits including bobble hats with pom pom ties under the chin which seem to have gone missing, ahem. My grandmother insisted on churning out endless matching knitwear for us for the first 10 years of our lives despite the fact that there were 2 years between us. Then again my mother once bought us matching Noddy Holder style check flares.
The newspaper picture is quite amusing as I have a face like thunder and messy hair yet the photographer, evidently desperate for something to photograph at the boring yearly local flower show, decided to lie I was as pretty as the flowers so he could slip out before the judging. At 16 I did my work experience with the same local newspaper - The Ballymena Guardian, following red-nosed sports 'n' courts reporter Don for a fortnight as he went about reporting on my former schoolmates who were getting jailed for stealing sections of fence and some mysterious activity known as sport.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Life, Death and Duck Lips

With thanks to my dear friend Terry Sycamore for realising my cartoon idea of the eternal female dilemma! Luckily my lips are probably my best feature so that's one cosmetic procedure I'll never be tempted by. I like to hope I'll never be tempted by any of the others either, but that obviously depends on the number of panic attacks which strike as I grow older commensurate to the level of disposable income I have to do something about them.

A friend recently revealed that he was obssessed with thoughts of death and how long he had left. I told him I didn't give a damn about dying, it was the ageing bit that terrified the life out of me! Wafting around on a cloud and strumming a golden harp away from this rotten world - easy peasy, though it would be kind of fun to swoop down to play the odd trick on my friends and family left behind. And yes, I've got my heart set on angelhood. The long flowing locks, the classy grecian robes, the stunning wings and halo - sold to the girl who's still got a lot of apprenticing to do to earn her wings!

I blame all these people who keep buying me angels ever since I made the mistake of saying that I quite liked them in my early 20s. My house is now a veritable shrine to them (and faeries, many gift buyers seemingly unaware of the difference). Then again I'd had twelve years of dolphins prior to that having stated I liked dolphins when I was about nine. Another friend has a house devoted to pigs and frogs as a result of a similar chance pre-birthday comment.

To get back to the subject of ageing, on the one hand ageism in the workplace is apparently as rife as ever with thousands of highly qualified and experienced 50-somethings on the scrapheap, despite Labour's attempt at anti-ageism legislation. Meantime it remains government policy that we younger generation prepare ourselves for having to work well past the current retirement age with no sense of irony. Then there's the scientists promising that soon we will all live to 120 - whoopee doo! Well that's one way to get your own back - to claim your pension for 15 years longer than you earned it for! Plus I've committed the cardinal social security faut pas of having no children to support me in old age, albeit conversely earning a big gold star on the environmental front, having children being the most planet-polluting activity one can indulge in.

Life - it's a funny old game.

By the way, has anyone else noticed how David Cameron seems to be turning into Piers Morgan? Or do they just share the same Botox practitioner?

Sunday, 25 July 2010

£3.50 for a cup of tea guv?

'Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.' So wrote Charles Dickens in his 1849 novel, David Copperfield.

How I can relate to those words. It seems to have been a financially ruinous time just lately, notwithstanding I am earning less in my current job than I used to. The MOT, insurance and road tax on my car was all just about budgetted for but then my hot water tank decided to split (which my insurance won't cover as they consider it a 'wear and tear' issue) and my laptop decided to go haywire and one of my back teeth decided it needed a crown. Meantime my home insurance is rapidly approaching, my home needs reinsulating before the winter and the telly has now decided to go on the blink! And did I mention the five faults they found on the car which whilst not preventing it passing its MOT will need attention before long? Then there was the unfair parking ticket which I failed to get repealed and which mounted. As for that defunct garden pond with no water remaining in it, well that is last on the list.

Despite not smoking, drinking or indulging in designer handbags or exotic travel, and inhabiting cheaper housing than many, I seem to be spending money at a much faster rate than I am earning it at the moment. If I had a child I would probably have to sell it to a wealthy American couple.

All get rich quick ideas gratefully received...

Unfortunately I was rejected as a People's Peer, where I could probably have lived off the expenses alone.

I do find myself spending an inordinate amount of time watching people in city centres lately and wondering how they all seem to be able to afford whatever they want. Luckily most current fashion is too hideous and unflattering to possibly tempt me and I am old enough to know expensive cosmetics are no more magical than high street own brands.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Best in Class (or possibly not)

Tomorrow's Prime Ministers

Slack-hipped in slouch jeans, they waddle across the road as if they haven't a care
Contemptuous bovine stare for any motorist who might dare
To urge them to hurry their pace or perhaps deign to look before they cross.
It's as if the Green Cross Code Man never was, as if they don't give a toss
For their own lives or yours, even without substances filled,
Kamikaze cyclists whizz past just as badly in need of Highway Code drilled.
Yesterday I affixed a student chaser to my front grille
To avoid another garage bill
When I got home I found a brace of students neatly scooped
Which I will hang until gamey and tasting of goose.

LS King 2010

Rather worryingly I have seen increasing numbers of older people seemingly just as blase about their health and safety and regarding cars rather as a ruminent might if one entered its field.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Flu, Food, Fat & Footie

For the past three weeks I've been afflicted by what can only be described as the adult version of Whooping cough, so very little sleep and a throat so sore I've needed painkillers to brush my teeth! It's proved resiliant to all attempts to treat it though it seems to be finally passing now, along with accompanying eye infections which also make it hard to sleep or concentrate. The good news is that a diet of fruit and ice cream at midnight (when I wake myself coughing) has led to shedding a welcome half a stone!

Which brings me to the subject of supermarkets. I seem to have been visiting mine more than usual lately in search of cool and soothing things to tempt my non-existent appetite and have more than once felt like the last thin person walking around, aside from a few obvious anorexics and students who haven't lived long enough to pile much on. I've even seen some body shapes in my local Tesco which appear to defy physics. Worse still the body-hugging vests and leggings many obese individuals choose to wear are even crueller and more unforgiving than this blog post. They're also starting younger - a growing number of youngsters seem to have no waistline at all these days and look podgy from the age of about 6, much though I wouldn't want us to go back to some of the freakily small waistlines of the 1950s. Then there's the strange rolls of fat many seem to develop in the place they might once have expected to find a waist, even if they still have flat stomachs. Is evolution really bowling along at such an alarming rate, or is some kind of foodstuff responsible for this?

Is this a legacy from GM food? Of course food and booze are impossible to escape these days - every second retail outlet is a cafe or cafe/bar in Oxford and the trend is spreading across every town and city. TV food porn programmes are rife and so are ads. None of us dare leave the house without a bottle of water and a chocolate bar at the very least. Food is literally being shoved down our throats wherever we look and sedentary lifestyles in front of PCs and Playstations are rife.

This has all happened in the last 10-15 years. There was no such emphasis on food when I was growing up in the 80s and food certainly wasn't 'sexed' up in any way. Nor were painfully slow and basic steam-driven computers much of a temptation from a healthier lifestyle. As for drunkenness, that was a shameful thing which only students and alcoholics indulged in. For the rest of the populace a couple of 'jars' or an occassional glass of wine (a much smaller glass than today) was more the norm.

I've now formulated a theory that the reason there are such a disproportionate number of disproportionate people in supermarkets is that for some, the trip to their 'dealer' for their next fix is their only outing of the week and they are more or less housebound the rest of the time, either through self-imposed exile or simply not being physically fit enough to go out much (and did any of us ever expect to see a TV advert for a cream to prevent 'chafing' as you walk?). You can apparently actually claim benefits too for being 'too obese to work'. More time to devote one's life to looking for BOGOF's then, though one wonders in what perverse way it suits the government to have such a policy rather than regard it as an individual's own responsibility not to get into such a state.

It is certainly ironic that being fat was historically a sign of wealth as only the rich could afford to gorge themselves, but in this day and age it has become a sign of poverty and reliance on cheap filler foods of low vitamin content (hence the body's continual hunger until it reaches its minimum nutrient quota, many portions later). Either that or there's one heck of a lot of undiagnosed thyroid conditions around.

Anyway, never mind all this, when is she going to mention the football? I hear you cry! Doesn't she know there's a world cup on? (bloody TV repeats!) Well what can I say? Overpaid, overlaid, they're minted whether they win or lose, so why would they care? They don't even care enough to learn the words of their own national anthem for goodness' sake. But since my fellow countrymen are even more obnoxious winners than they are losers, I for one am delighted there wasn't a cat in hell's chance of 1966 happening all over again. That'll teach John Prescott for selling off all the school sports fields (did I really read that the A-hole was going to be honoured with a knighthood the other week?) Though doubtless England's devastated (never merely 'disappointed') fans went out and drank just as much to lament as they would have done to celebrate.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Life's Too Short To Wax A Lemon

But I'm sincerely wishing fellow blogmate Kaz all the lemon-waxing time in the world. If you've never visited Kaz (Idler), she is one of the wittiest, most stylish and youngest pensioners around who takes her inspiration from AbFab's 'Patsy' but there's so much more to her than that.

Kaz is currently battling ovarian cancer, so is sometimes too weak to blog, but appreciates all your messages of support, so please do pop over and pay her a visit.

And if the more religiously-inclined among you would like to pray for her to confound her doctors with a spontaneous remission of miraculous magnitude, I'm sure she'd appreciate that too.

However sometimes our endlessly merciful Lord does have his limits....

(recently spotted at Little Walsingham Shrine)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


These are my paternal grandparents Ernest Sidney King and Lilian Rose King who hailed from and lived in Coventry all their lives. However every summer they climbed into their Bedford Dormobile and followed John Betjeman's Shell Guide exploring various corners of Britain. They held little truck with 'abroad', though they once managed a weekend in Versailes and on another occasion, a day trip to Calais. They flew only twice in their lives - to see we grandchildren in Northern Ireland when they were getting on a bit to manage the long drive up to Scotland to make the ferry (and they were pushing 70 by the time we were born)

One of the high points of their travels was reaching John O'Groats.

My grandfather (second right) enjoyed chess. He also acted in plays put on by his engineering company Brico, and had roles in JB Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls' among a number of other productions. He was a quiet and highly dignified man who announced his presence with the sweet scent of a herbal tobacco pipe, but if you asked him something he would immediately light up and go to great lengths to explain it to you. No one dared to open the Coventry Evening Telegraph each night before he had read it and commented wryly on what the powers that be ('they') were up to now. He handled all his possessions with a kind of reverence, as if they were the most precious objects, and was of that generation who would warm up the television set (never the TV) for ten minutes before watching it. He once became quite animated when I used his Parker pen nib to slit open the cellophane around a jigsaw - as if I had committed the greatest act of negligence. I was careful to ask permission to use his things first ever after. I know now that he grew up in a very impoverished family, often going to bed hungry as a child, though many who survived WWI went on to make quite a success of their lives including my grandfather. When he retired from work as a factory Foreman he was given a huge music centre in an unwieldy walnut cabinet and a large early colour box television set in matching walnut, so they must have thought a lot of him.

This is my grandmother Lil in her younger days. She always had a lucky streak with the bingo and won at least as much as she lost, including sometimes bizarre prizes such as candlewick bedspreads. Each of her sucession of cats was trained to walk down to the end of Loudon Avenue to meet her at 4.30pm precisely and accompany her the rest of the way home. She liked to fancy she had a sixth sense and told me that when she and Ernest were walking home one evening after a wartime bombing raid, she had a bad feeling and insisted they walk a mile out of their way to go home. Grandfather was reluctant but eventually agreed. Later on a bomb went off in middle of the street they would have normally walked home down. She was full of stories about everyone in the street, who'd died and who hadn't, how the bodies were laid out on the green after the bombing raids, and was somewhat proud they were the last original residents from when the street was built in 1926, though I took her story about having a miscarriage after the hun flew low over the garden and smirked as she saw his swastika, with a pinch of salt as the explanation for why she'd only had my father. One of her proudest moments was getting a job in the Co-Op department store Offices at the age of 64, when they didn't take on anyone over 60 at that time. This she had done by claiming her birth certificate had been 'lost in the blitz.'

My grandparents were also very green

The cornerstone of their marriage seemed to be the joke that one year Grandpa asked Grandma what she would like for her birthday. She had replied 'a goblin', meaning the brand of vacuum cleaner. What she got was a garden gnome.

Like most of their possessions the vulgar fellow was lovingly tended with a fresh coat of paint every year, presiding over their garden pond for more then 40 years. Like most of their possessions, it saw them out.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

SplutterSplutter (the new name for TalkTalk)

Ever since I ran into a highly personable female TalkTalk rep who stopped me to admire my earrings in a shopping centre just before Christmas and then proceeded to convince me my life would be transformed by saving £2 per month over my previous internet provider, I have lived to regret it. My home broadband has become unreliable and as slow as hell. Any sort of internet activity has become a slog requiring the patience of Job.

Complaints to TalkTalk either fall on deaf ears or solicit the bland script-inspired response that the area I live in must be at fault.

Must be that new mountain range that's sprung up in the middle of Oxford then.

I have now escalated my complaint to Ofcom pointing out it is most unfair to hold customers to 18-month contracts if little or no service is being provided and the contract is therefore being breached on the service provider's side first. They promptly referred me back to TalkTalk, not quite fulfilling the suicide risk criteria needed for Ofcom's consideration.

Checking my broadband speed against 'the internet's leading Broadband speed checker' the other night I am getting 2344 Kbps download speed out of the 1Mb-5Mb I should be getting for my postcode location.

Meanwhile there's the matter of all those hours of my life I will never get back trying to do the simplest things. And my poor much-neglected blogmates.

And did I tell you the one about the new LG camera phone which won't download pictures to my PC and how many hours I've wasted on that only to discover it is probably a software fault inside the phone all along and not my own bumbling incompetance (as inferred by those oh-so-helpful LG call centre staff)???

I'm an artist I tell you, an artist!!!!! I shouldn't have to concern myself with such triviata as battling telecoms companies. Isn't it bad enough I have to work for a living rather than gazing from my garret all day long, quill in hand? What would Lord Byron do in my shoes I ask myself?

Totter a bit. Probably.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010


I have just returned from a parental visit to Northern Ireland, where access to the internet has been very sporadic indeed and half the £1-for-10-minutes public terminals don't work. To amuse myself amidst the dispiriting chaos of my parents' home and lives in which no one is allowed to intervene except for washing up and sharing the driving, I tracked down the family photos, which had rather shockingly been consigned to rot in a broken 30s suitcase in an outhouse, many stuck together or ruined by mould and both maternal and paternal families mixed up to the extent that if there was someone we couldn't identify, they could not even be narrowed down to which side they might be from. Very few were labelled. Luckily 'Mirrie' survived.

'Mirrie' was the glamour girl of my paternal grandmother's family who could have almost been a 30s film star, but became a doomed air hostess instead. Gold-watch deserving readers of this blog may recall the narrative poem I wrote about her here At the time I had no photographs to go with it, so it is nice to put some up at last.

I learned that she was the daughter of Walter and Miriam Gunn. Walter served in WWI and was an ARP warden in WWII, before rising in civvy street to become Manager of Pearl Assurance in Broadgate, Coventry. After their daughter Mirrie was killed in a plane crash - I'm assuming sometime in the 1940s since she evidently lived to be a Wren in WWII, her parents left Coventry to assuage their great grief by running an antiques shop in Brighton, their daughter's belongings locked in the attic having been sent back from the African Cape where she died.

The battered old familial bible states Walter Gunn's date of birth as 12th January 1894, so I will endeavour to order a copy of his death certificate and see if I can dig up some more family information. Unfortunately anyone who might have known the family is likely to be dead and my father has never taken much interest in his family, even before the onset of dementia.

Like Steerforth at Age of Uncertainty, I always think it compounds the tragedy of human loss when that person is entirely forgotten down to the last photograph being disposed of or carelessly allowed to moulder out of existence. Whilst I don't kid myself any of my ancesters had an easy time of it, there is a charm about old photographs and the lost grace and sense of Britishness they portray. Few photographs taken today are likely to be as evocative. In fact I regard old family photographs as the nearest thing to family silver.