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Topics - Gyppo

I am currently smiling to myself at the mental image of our Mayor and the Council ceremonially kneeling down en-masse and paying homage to the 'bin lorries', rather like Arabs facing Mecca.

Why?  One of those ambiguous sentences which can be read in more than one way.  My italics.

We are currently experiencing a high number of staff absentees due to sickness and holidays. In addition, there is the ongoing challenge of recruiting staff who are qualified to safely drive and load the refuse collection vehicles which many Councils are facing.

The Bar & Grill / Song Lyrics can be bloody dire.
November 20, 2022, 08:41:39 PM
As 'word people' we can't help noticing some truly egregious examples in songs.  Sometimes they're a forced rhyme which makes you groan.  Such as...

"...dont go out into the rain 'case you might melt, Sugar.
The weather's miserable, and you're so kissable."

I always thought that was one of the worst, but today I stumbled across something even more bizarre.


    I stumbled across this song  when I was looking for a couple of older links.

    The title?  'Every time you undress, I hear symphonies in my head.'  Overly poetic, sure, but the video suggests it's a bizarre reality

    The lyrics are dire, the voice is awful, but the accompanying video is insane.  Pretty mundane until about the forty four second mark.

    This could well explain the falling birthrate ;-)

If you have a wide and varied vocabulary you will instinctively use words which some readers will see as pretentious, and they will feel the writer is showing off.  As writers we're probably happy enpough to take a few seconds to 'look it up' when we meet an unfamiliar word.  other readers mat be irritated by these interruptions to the flow of the story.

This is not a suggestion that we should 'dumb down' our writing, but a question for my fellow writers.

I am currently re-reading a series of books, and as I'm reading them almost straight after each other I've noticed the author has one word he uses in nearly all of them.  Occasionally several times in the one book.

Etoliation or etoliated.  Used to describe faded or time worn signs and buildings, and occasionally the landscape around his main charcter.

Look it up if it's unfamiliar to you.  In a gardening context you may be well aware of the effect, even if you've not encountered the word.

It's a good word, but perhaps not always the best one to use when faded or sun-bleached would maybe be a better match to the sentences around it.


I find I use fortuitous perhaps more often than is appropriate when a simple lucky would be quite sufficient.  If I find it leaping off the page when I read through the first draft sometimes I change it.  Not always.

My question ...

Do you have a favourite 'fancy' word which jumps out at you from your own work?

The Bar & Grill / Magic Mushrooms' in the kitchen?
November 19, 2022, 08:19:45 PM
    I am not the only one in my family who re-purposes things to serve another useful purpose ;-)

    My eldest lass had a loose door handle on her kitchen cabinet which kept pulling off and was pretty much beyond repair or 'bodging'.  What she did have however were some decorative wooden 'magic mushrooms  from another project.

    With a bit of fancy string,  a small screw-eye, and a toggle of the inside of the door this was her quirky solution.     

     I suspect this temporary fix may last several years.

    Left click to enlarge.

The Bar & Grill / Something to ponder...
November 18, 2022, 08:32:52 AM
As writers we often maintain the childhood tradition of 'imaginary friends'.  Well,that's how it seems to non-writers when our characters also beocome part of our everyday lives.

Here, from 1974, is a song about a young lady who, possibly, took this to a whole new level.

This is storytelling disguised as song ;-)

Poet's Corner / Voices On The Wind.
November 14, 2022, 08:44:29 PM
Voices On The Wind

Occasionally it truly happens.
You hear your name on the wind,
and you fight it.
Wishful thinking,
a guilty conscience,
acoustic tricks,
a psychological aberration?

Recognising the voice
your sane self says ignore it.
If it's the dead calling
you acknowledge their hold,
their place in your memory,
and then let them go.
It seems to satisfy them.

When it's a long-lost friend
you can ignore the prompt,
or reach for the phone,
or pen and paper
and try to reopen contact.

The weeds on the pathway
may have grown too long,
the easy route lost to time.

Occasionally it works.

The Bar & Grill / As always. Lest we forget.
November 13, 2022, 10:24:54 AM
That time of year again.
The Bar & Grill / Low noise fireworks
November 05, 2022, 05:53:23 PM
If the weather gives me a chance.  Half an hour will do.

Low noise fireworks, lots of pretty colours but not much louder than the muted pop of a silenced .410 shotgun.

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Sometimes I wonder if I'm truly equipped to live in this bloody century.

My mobile phone died yesterday.  A complete black screen.  Nada.  Zilch.  Zero.

Even the rarely used torch setting did nothing.

This seemed a bit ironic as I'd only just answered a question on Amazon about this same phone for someone who was thinking of buying one.  But life's like that, sometimes.

I put it on charge and left it alone for a couple of hours.  When I got back I flicked the torch switch and the the light worked.  But that was all.  No menus etc.

I unplugged it and the torch stopped working.

"Right, you little bugger, let's troubleshoot."

If the light only works when it's plugged in, maybe the battery is dead.  Seemed a reasonable assumption.  Time to break out the voltmeter.

Battery wasn't dead, in fact it was disgustingly healthy.  But the torch function still remained resolutely off.

"Yes....  Fish out the manual."

I have a cardboard folder full of these.  I occasionally thin out the ones for appliances which I no longer own.

The Doro manual  is very tiny print, and late last night I really didn't feel like struggling with it.

This morning I rechecked the battery.  Still good.  Still a black screen of death and no response from the buttons.  Resolved to catch the next bus down town and visit the phone man.  I know he'll try and sell me another - and far more complicated - phone, but if it's a simple fault he'll fix it there and then.

With just under an hour until bus time I made a coffee and sat looking at the recalcitrant phone.  Re-read the manual, which is easy enough to read in daylight, even with my shop-worn eyes.  I decided to go right back to the very basics, and if necessary do a 'factory reset'.

But this requires you to open the menu and visit the settings.  Kind of impossible with a black screen.

So I went back a bit further still to the initial start-up instructions on that little slip of paper with the tiny print.  And there was the answer.

To turn your Doro On/Off.

It dawned on me that I have never turned it right off since I got it.

I pressed the appropriate button  and held it down, and my phone burst back into life.

Everything was there, the battery was fully charged, etc.

I must have accidentally 'pocket dialled' the on-off button.

That has now been nailed in place at the top of my mental checklist if it dies on me again.

Looking back it may well have been turned off by a mischievous corner on my Kindle when I slipped it into the same shirt pocket.

Or perhaps they were colluding just to wind me up ;-)

The Bar & Grill / Some people keep a guard dog...
October 29, 2022, 06:28:17 PM
...others do the job themselves. ;-)

    Behold a Benevolent Elderly Gent...

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    If your intentions are good and you're polite and reasonably well-mannered, there's nothing about this to frighten you off.      If, on the other hand, you're up to no good, maybe your perception of 'vulnerable' needs some adjustment ;-)


1)  Hair tucked away for doing dusty work around the bungalow.

2)  Now you know why they make 'Head & Shoulders' shampoo.  ;-)
    I learned on an Amstrad PCW - the 'W' was to emphasise that it was also a word processor, but it was a surprisingly capable little computer as well for those who wanted to run accounts packages, mail merge, etc.  But you had to swap discs for different tasks.

    As the training lady said...  "Basically it's a dumb box of electrics with several different brains.  There's the SOD 'start of day' disc which wakes it up and stays working until you turn it off. But all that does is tell it to listen for the next command.  That happens when you put in the word processing disc, or the accounts disc, or the mailing disc.

    "Remember, it only does what you tell it to. If you give it a wrong command it will cheerfully try to carry it out.  It doesn't think for itself. "

    One of the lads on the course already knew a thing or two about programming, so he set up a file entitled  'Sex Shop', which eventually found its way onto every Word-processing disc in the training centre.  If you clicked on it a message popped up in the middle of your screen saying 'Do Not Enter.   [Yes]  or [No]'.

    [No] made it just go away, leaving you free to carry on with whatever you were supposed to be doing.  But human nature being what it is sooner or later someone would press [Yes].

    At this point a one inch high flashing message appeared in the middle of an otherwise blank screen reading "PERVERT".

    There were no yes/no options,  and whilst everyone crowded around to see what all the fussing or swearing was about, the red-faced victim eventually discovered to the only way to get rid of it was to turn the computer right off and then do the full reload procedure again.

    If you had unsaved files open they would be lost.  If nothing else, in the days before autosave, it taught people to save regularly.  Just in case.


     Another popular tricks was switch the keyboards around.  They all had long leads, so you could end up operating the computer one or even two places to the side of you.  The designated keyboard wouldn't do anything, and whilst the poor sucker was turned away calling the trainer over to demonstrate its failure to accept input you could type in a quick message, such as 'my operator is inept'.

     The novelty soon wore off once people worked out what was happening.  Nowadays, with USB keyboards, you can have several plugged in at the same time if you have enough ports, and they will all produce input.

     So a trickster could sit a couple of machines away and delete the occasional paragraph as soon as the victim typed it in.  Or paste in a lengthy and totally irrelevant screed.

    As they say in the song, "Those were the days..."

Thought I'd get a picture first, in case it died horribly during flight testing, or, (Alma's biggest fear), it might get stuck up in a tree, or on some miserable person's roof.

It's a bit of bodge, because it's made from the contents of a 'Balsa Bundle', which meant none of the bits of wood were more than 9" long and three inches wide.  So the wingspan is 27".  The fuselage is laminated from thinner stuff, and is of similar length.

The chord of the wing - front to back - is a bit short because of the available wood, but I can make another deeper and altogether better one with more lift to fit on the existing fuselage if the prototype works okay.

This is a very basic model, a 'proof of concept' if you like.  Plus a way of finding out if my  memory of proportions etc is right.

The fuselage, despite being lightweight wood, is far more substantial/heavier than it needs to be.  But it should fly.

If the hand-launch tests show it's predictable I'll fit a hook underneath and then we can take it to the park, probably next week now,  for a tow-launch.  This is a bit like flying a kite before you shake it loose, and it lets you get a decent bit of initial height.

Left click to enlarge.


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The Bar & Grill / The Dark Is Rising...
October 16, 2022, 09:59:28 PM
The shorter days are starting to bite here in the Northern hemisphere.  The darkness just keeps getting earlier and earlier and it's already getting to me.

Yes, I know this happens every year, but for some reason I am not adapting well this time around.  By 6 PM I feel as if it's coming up for bedtime.  By 9 PM I feel knackered.  A couple of times this week I've laid down at nine, grabbed a couple of hours, and then come back to life for another hour or two before settling down for the night.

Then, at six in the morning I wake up and it's still dark outside.  My body clock and the world are most definitely not synchronised ;-(

Given a few more weeks it will align again, but for now it just feels all wrong.

No Photo-Shop trickery, just the right place and the right angle.

Left click to enlarge.

I'm sure many of you would agree there are times when, if we didn't have words to use as an outlet, we would either explode or curl up and die.  Usually when we fall into the gap between what is and what should be.

Times when cookie cutter excuses just infuriate rather than inform.

Agreed?  Well, here goes...


   When will some businesses - such as Milk & More - realise customer service means doing the job they are paid for.  Minor things like actually delivering the milk to the customers.

   They used to be a safe bet.  Organised a flawless changeover when I moved from the house.  But that was when you could leave a doorstep note for the milkman or milkwoman, (and yes, there are some, I'm not just pandering to PC), and he or she would sort it out.

   Apparently modern businesses don't work that way.  They have a computerised system, which, no doubt, finds human customers a total pain in the electrons.

   But the local Co-Op shop is coining it in with my regular visits to buy milk.

   Having changed my delivery schedule, 'as part of our continuing search for ways to improve service to our valued customers' [1], they have failed twice to deliver in the first week.  Only three deliveries a week, so that's a 66.6% failure rate.  I may not be as fast as a computer, but I can do basic arithmetic. 

   Failed again on the first delivery this week.

   For breakfast this morning, because I was fool enough to think they might actually deliver, I had porridge made with water, and a can of 7 Up.  Not as horrible as it sounds, but nothing special either.

   My patience is being tested to the limit.


    Larger businesses need to realise Customer Service isn't just having a pretty web site and a multiplicity of useless ways in which a disgruntled customer can completely fail to make contact if there are problems.

   Such as having a phone line which is permanently busy due to 'unprecedented high call volume'.  If it's happening all the time then it's not bloody unprecedented, is it?  If they must use multi-syllable words they could at least use them honestly.

   Their refund system works well,  with all the slickness you'd expect from regular practice, but I can't make my morning porridge with a bank refund, can I?

   One has to wonder if their 'business model' is a computerised version of  the  old school 'Hostile Doctor's Receptionist' whose job was, seemingly, to discourage people from making appointments.

   Fortunately I'm physically capable of going to the shop for my milk, but I'm willing to pay quite a bit over the odds to find it on my doorstep  when I wake up.  Very useful on those occasional 'bad days'.

   But for the housebound, either permanently or temporarily due to illness or mobility issues, the current level of service simply isn't good enough.  Abysmal is often overused, but in this case it's appropriate.  To paraphrase Heidegger...

   "I have looked into the abyss, and it not only looked back into me, it introduced itself as 'Milk & More'."


   [1]  We all know this means cost-cutting at their end.  I don't expect them to run at a loss.  Perhaps if they employed enough staff and hadn't spent all their money on a computerised ordering system - which is useless for those who are still offline - things would work better.

   I also have to wonder if some of their obviously reduced staff are like some of the 'agency clowns' we occasionally used at Royal Mail.  Useless buggers who couldn't read addresses, and seemed to think that merely attending meant you were doing the job.

   Whenever the various agencies made a mistake and sent a really good worker Royal Mail always tried to snap him/her up as full time employee ;-)  Didn't work too well though, because the better agency workers are those who want to work, but don't want full time regular hours.  Having once worked a regular three day week which paid enough for all my bills, and 'a bit over', I understand this mindset.

The Bar & Grill / Witches and Eggshells.
October 07, 2022, 05:38:29 PM
I've mentioned occasionally the superstition about puncturing eggshells after you used the contents for cooking or whatever, 'so that witches can't use them as boats'.  My Mum learned it from her Mum, and I've casually passed it on to my girls, and my Grandaughter does the same.

But Mum never explained how witches used them thus, or indeed why.

My eldest visited the witchcraft museum at Boscastle last weekend, and to her surprise there on the walls hung a picture of witches using eggshells for boats.  Apparently they somehow shrink themselves to fit.

Here's the picture. 

Left click to enlarge

The Bar & Grill / Another pair. Wood Pigeons again
October 03, 2022, 09:17:29 AM
I have another pair of baby pigeons in  the nest in my Fire Maple.  The signs were there, and this morning it was confirmed.

Two skinny- necked babies stretching up to the parent bird for feeding.

Alma will be fascinated too.


The other day I saw one of the fattest pigeons I've ever encountered perched on my fence.
I know they 'puff up' a bit when the wind gets under their feathers and they can look nearly double their 'sleeked down' size, but this one truly looked like a feathered football.
How the hell it could fly was a mystery to to me.

It launched itself down into my neighbours garden and I was somewhat disappointed not to hear the thud of it hitting the ground ;-)

    Some days start off very unpromising and you don't expect them to get any better.  This morning I was all fumble-fingered as I had my stay-alive pills and fixed breakfast.  Not at all 'switched on'.   80% at the very best.

    I really didn't expect it to improve and certainly didn't expect to get much done.  I resigned myself to a day of reading, writing, and not much else.

    But sometimes, just sometimes,  a poor start heralds a decent journey....

    At around 4 PM I decided I had to do something a bit more physical, so I turned my mattress, top and tail and over, which is a roughly six-monthly event.

    It's a hefty solid slab of firm high-density foam and over the last couple of weeks it hasn't felt 'quite right'.  Which leads to the restless nights and the fumbly mornings.  It usually takes me a week or so to realise this is due to 'mattress fatigue' and not just a restless night or two.

    Once this has been done it means tonight, and the next few nights, will feel like sleeping on a shelf again.  This, strange as it may sound to lovers of soft snuggly beds which swallow them up, is my idea of comfort, because I detest saggy beds.  In fact, I loathe them was a great passion.

    Most hotel beds are too soft for my liking and I sometimes end up sleeping on the floor alongside.  But can you imagine the 'Sleepy Moon' chain offering a partial refund if you can prove you didn't use the bed?

    While the mattress was off I dragged the bed away from the wall, to clear out any long term dust and rescue a few small things which had slipped down the back.

    To my absolute horror I  discovered that either it's become heavier, or I'm getting old.

    But where there's a will there's usually a way.

    I tilted it a little, one end at a time, and slipped a couple of lengths of I" wooden dowel underneath to act as rollers, after which it pulled away quite easily.  Applied Physics, so often the solution to life's heavy lifting jobs.

    There are two spare sheets of bed-sized half-inch thick wood under the mattress, which adds to the weight.  It's a good place to store them and it keeps them flat, rather than slowly bowing against the wall somewhere.

    One of them jumped out and smacked me across both shins.  Bloody painful.  I expect to find bruises there in the morning, despite applying a couple of goodly dollops of Witch-Hazel gel.  Felt a bit like unplanned contact with a quarterstaff back in the arena days.

    This bed moving lark is also something of a dummy run, because I've been toying with the idea of painting the wooden parts.  It's a low 'cabin bed', made with white melamine board, which is starting to show its age a bit after several dismantlings and movings in the house and then to the bungalow.   But it's still a sturdy bit of kit and it fits perfectly in the space available.  Any replacement might not.

    We shall see ;-)  I shall pencil the job in for next Spring.  When I can take it outside to paint it with a reasonable hope of it drying quickly enough to get it back in before nightfall.  (But it will be a two person lift.)

    Might even take the opportunity to raise the wooden base for the mattress six inches or so and  create a pull-out storage shelf for the winter weight duvet.  But this will create an access problem for the bedroom sockets, so it's not quite as straightforward as it sounds.

    I shall probably think of something over the next six months or so.


    PS:  The rarely seen section of carpet under the bed is reassuring.  It's good to see that the exposed and well trodden parts haven't faded much in the last four years.  One of my better investments ;-)

   Playing with light

   Today I was typing merrily away and happened to glance sideways.  The afternoon sunlight was angling in, and toying with various objects on one end of my desk, creating a pretty pattern on my otherwise plain blue desk diary.  I have a plastic stencil, made from a semi-opaque blue plastic, propped up against my tape dispenser, and the reflections onto the cover of my diary were fascinating.  Presumably this has happened before, but I've never noticed it.

   A fortuitous and random combination of light, angles, and timing.  Right now, at 5-30 PM the show is over.  But around 4 PM it was fascinating.

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The Bar & Grill / The Digital Child - A Grandaughter Tale.
September 29, 2022, 04:23:15 PM
   The Digital Child

    Some are naturally good with words, and some with numbers.  Most folks 'get by' in both well enough.

    My Grandaughter, who is home-schooled and generally doing very well on the system, was doing her maths homework the other evening.  She has a private tutor for Maths and English and generally enjoys the homework she is set.  This is a child who likes 'learning things', but can be a bit impatient and wants to 'push on' with something 'more interesting' once she feels she's learned anything well enough.  I dare say a lot of you who read this share her feelings ;-)

    Take Long Division for example.  She can do it, but doesn't like it.

    The other evening she did her maths homework whilst her mum was upstairs, making beds etc.

    When she came down the work was finished.

    Her Mum looked at it, and agreed the answers were probably all correct.  But she was a bit puzzled by the lack of any 'workings' on the page.  On the other hand, her husband does quite complicated sums in his head so it was possible some of the tricks he'd taught her had borne fruit.  He sees 'patterns' in numbers the way I do in words.

    My reading of the little minx is that she's more naturally attuned to words than numbers.  Looking across the family tree we've nearly all been biased one way or the other, with one which 'comes easy' and the other hard won.  My maternal Grandad worked in taxes and used all sorts of mental mathematical shortcuts to speed things up.  Out of his four children two 'got it' and two didn't.

    "Did you use a calculator?"

    "No!"  Quite clearly affronted at the suggestion.  She does affronted rather well ;-)  But with a little smile which suggested some kind of trickery was involved.

    "I just asked Alexa what the answers were."

    The questions are always set so they get more difficult as they go on, which lets the tutor see where any problems lie.

    She reluctantly did the last five questions again,  'the l-o-o-o-n-g way', thus showing she did know what to do.


    I made the point that blindly trusting a computer isn't always a good idea, so even if your own maths are 'a bit wobbly' you should be able to  recognise if the answer was 'way out'.  Over the next couple of visits I'll sneak in a bit about making flying model aeroplanes and calculating wing area and wing loading on a scrap of paper.