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Topics - Gyppo

The Bar & Grill / "Ships that pass in the night."
June 20, 2024, 12:12:45 AM
Some people or images stick in your mind, even if you never learn anything about them or see them again.  Perhaps even because of their transient glancing impact with your life?

Here's one of mine.  Seen at a poetry reading.

Girl in the Spanish Hat

Sat three rows behind us,
looking like a spare wheel
to an obvious couple.
In the low lighting,
of the tiny performance space,
above the cafe,
the etched straight line of her hat brim,
like a give-away gun barrel
against background greenery,
caught my attention first.

A poacher's eye always locks on,
spotting anomalies.

Then the rest came into focus.
the black hat itself, flat topped,
worn absolutely straight.
Dark eyes below the brim,
probably brown, but looking black.
Features alert, but not mobile.
Long straight hair, jet black,
red lips, but neat, not garish.

I turned back to watch the performer,
knowing I'd talk to her at the interval.
When the lights came back up,
she, and the couple with her,
had gone.  They weren't in the cafe,
nor there for the second half.

Did I imagine her?


The Bar & Grill / "Grandad? How does this work?"
June 12, 2024, 12:45:05 PM
   I bought a see through 'practise' lock and a basic set of lock picks some time back, for writer's research.  One of my characters I write about  is a skilled lock picker, and she's a locksmith by trade.  I have tried on several occasions but concluded I lack the feel, even though I understand the theory.

   The lock sits on my desk and occasionally I fiddle with it for a while, and my Grandaughter was fascinated to be able to see the pins moving inside the semi-clear case as the key moved in and out.  She loves to learn how things work.

   The other day she was fiddling with it and asked where the picks were.  So I handed them over, two simple picks and a torsion bar, told her the basic theory, and left her to play with it.  After quarter of an hour she seemed to lose interest, but went back to it later after tea and suddenly called out "I've done it!"

   I clicked it shut and told her to do it again, to try and remember what she'd done and how the 'rake' pick felt as it moved the pins.

   She succeeded a few more times but said she still wasn't sure why it had happened.

   I think if she keeps practising eventually her brain will click like the lock, and then she'll know what to feel for when she tries a different lock.

   As my daughter said "I think you've started something here.'

        The lass has  probably watched a few lock picking videos since then.  All I have do now is hope she stays honest.  She's never abused any of the important handful of self-defence things I've taught her, so she probably will.

   Like a lot of things in life, the skill itself is neutral, and can be used for good or bad.  It's down to the character/nature of the person using it.

        It was fascinating to watch her.  Like my youngest girl her face 'turns off' when she's really concentrating on something.  Ordinary everyday thinking and she'll frown or smile with the best of us.  But when she's really focussed she goes 'blank',

The Bar & Grill / Has Patti deserted us?
June 10, 2024, 01:05:08 PM
I notice that Patti (Spellchick) seems to have vanished.  Have the demands of Cross-Fit finally crippled her?  Has she gone mad and killed her Dick and been carted off to jail?

Does anyone know?

The Bar & Grill / O2 phone shop experience.
June 02, 2024, 06:50:28 PM
   O2 shop experience

   Went into the Southampton O2 shop to sort out my mobile connection.  Found I needed an appointment because they were very busy.  booked in and went off to buy a burger.  (That is another story in itself, for anither time.

   I'd already been to the eye unit earlier in the morning and it was a sunny day.  So my pupils were dilated from the hospital eye drops, and the world was both bright and blurry.   For all I know I may have looked a bit like some wild-eyed drugged-up street person.  Cammo Man with huge pupils ;-)

   O2 sent me a text and I went back to the little shop.  Saw a lovely young lady who sorted iy all out.

   When she swung the monitor around so I  could read through the contract and tick the various boxes It was a soft focus job,  readable, but...

   I couldn't find the bloody cursor.  Asked her to  point it out.  My home computer is set up to suit myself, and I've had a bright red and larger than normal cursor for years now.  The standard pale little bugger was almost invisible.

   The mouse felt all wrong too.  Mine is deliberately a bit hair-trigger, and I don't need to move it far to take it right off the screen.

   But between us we found a suitable tariff, seeing as the old one no longer existed.  Minimal data, because with my old man's voluntarily 'dumb phone' I don't use it for email or browsing.

   Had to smile when she asked if I minded them doing a credit check. Then told me they had to do it anyway.

   I told her there's no problems there.  I managed not to say they 'wouldn't find a nigger in my woodpile'.

   Probably took about fifteen minutes all told, and so much better than trying to do it over the phone, with background call-centre noises and dealing with a sing-song oriental voice which doesn't always play well with my shop-worn ears no matter how clearly the person speaks.

   The O2 shop is one of those open-fronted units within a large shopping mall, which in itself is a daunting prospect for people like me,  and there was a certain amount of 'swimming pool mish-mash' noise.  But face to face conversation was okay.

   One of the options offered was a spending cap, so I would never go above my limit.   But I didn't want that.  In family emergencies we just make the calls and take the time we need, and pay the bill when in comes in.

   Best of all, when I  got home, there was an email copy of my contract, which I can print off and put into a proper cardboard folder for quick reference when I need it.  Old habits die hard, and don't necessarily need to die anyway.  Plus the fact that, when the time comes, my family will know where to look to wind up my affairs.


PS: Later I looked at reviews for that particular shop and many of them were absolutely horrendous.  I am beginning to seriously wonder if I exist in an alternative universe to the unhappy folks who wrote them.
This is why.  Left click to enlarge

   A short story by John Mathewson  (My fiction writing pen name.)
   Copyright John Mathewson 2024

   When Joe Smith arrived at the Royal Mail sorting office the manager looked at his watch in over-acted astonishment.

   "You're early.  Only twenty minutes, but even so...  This will ruin your reputation."

   Joe just smiled and passed through the main hall to his sorting frame.  Over the last twenty years he'd acquired a reputation for always being late,  anything between five and twenty minutes, but he was a fast worker once he arrived and always left for his delivery on time.

   His managers didn't like it, but conscientious workers are worth keeping so his freestyle flexi-time became a matter of legend and wry amusement, rather than a cause for termination.    The newest manager was a bit sarky and referred to him as The Late Mister Smith, but Joe just grinned and did his job, always finishing on time no matter how bad the weather, or how heavy the mail load.

   He sat on his stool by the sorting frame and reached for the first bundle of mail.  He didn't feel quite right and couldn't quite get a grip on things.  Maybe he'd wait a few minutes, get his head together.

   Ten minutes later a policeman arrived and asked to see the manager.

   "Do you have a member of staff called Joe Smith?"

   "We do.  What's he done?  Shall I get him for you?"

   "We'd like his home address, Sir.  He was killed in a car crash on his way in to work this morning, about half an hour ago."


The Bar & Grill / Must be Summer.
May 19, 2024, 01:29:23 PM
I've seen my first fly of the season cheerfully buzzing around in my office.  Soon stopped him with a quick spray.

But either he's an exceptionally resilient Super-Fly, or they're working in relays because I've just seen another one.  So that's the end of leaving frozen food on the side in the kitchen to thaw out.  Time to be a bit more organised, to plan ahead, so sliced ham or chicken can thaw out overnight in the fridge.

I'll hang up a couple of flypapers as well, just in case they're literary flies and feel the need to read something ;-)

I could stalk around the bungalow with a giant spider on my wrist, like a falconer with his bird, but it would probably get motion sickness when I was typing.  The thought of spider vomit - considering what they eat - all over my keyboard isn't at all appealing.

Perhaps this will be the year when I finally get around to putting up some kind of insect screens?

I'm reminded of the joke about the extreme animal lover who couldn't bring herself to kill flies.  She'd just open the window wide, squirt them with spray starch, and watch them glide back out on stiff wings.


I am about to attempt a brain transplant for Marie-6, my long term old faithful computer.  (Cloning the entire system onto a new solid state drive.   If this goes well I shall doubtless be bouncing back in here to tell you all about it, and bore you witless with the glorious details of my shiny new toy ;-)

Should it go sadly awry I will still have Ye Olde Spinning Disc Drive ready to re-install as a recovery option.

If things go amiss I could be absent for a while.

    I had a notification from my Internet provider a few days back and scribbled a large print note about it on my scratch pad as a reminder.

   This morning I  read it, and thought, "I can't remember ordering one."

   The message?

   Virgin may be unavailable between 09:00 and 15:00 on the 8th of May.

   Who - or what's - that knocking on my door?
   Found a surprise gift on my doorstep this morning.  A sample free loaf from the milkman.  They deliver all sorts of other stuff as well, if you go on their web site and order it.  Even sacks of compost ;-)

   With the loaf was the following card.

   Picture below.  Left click to enlarge.


   Do you ever feel as if you're living in a computer game?

   If this is what your Milkie looks like then maybe you are.  A distinctly androgynous Milk-Person.  Pretty much ageless, gender-non-specific.  Only a few steps removed from a Lego-Person.

   Maybe you should check in the mirror.  See if you're really you .

   Encountering this smooth 'metro-sexual' creature was vaguely unsettling whilst I was only half awake.

   I've seen my milkman, he's a solid cheerful chunk, with a few tattoos.  He knocked on my door once, when delivering just after midnight, and saw my office light still on.

   "I thought you might like to know you left your keys in the door."  A very rare  consequence of having my hands full of shopping.
   I know there are some Female Milkies out there, often either sturdy rural types who helped their Dad in the family dairy business, and then took over when he retired, or tough and wiry little women that only a complete idiot would try to rob.

   But a 'Sims' figure at my door in the hours of darkness?

   Psychologically unsettling.  ;-)


The Bar & Grill / Eye Op Successful
April 27, 2024, 12:25:41 PM
Bones, a round for my fellow writers.

Following the check up I can say my eye op was a success.

The 'macular hole' has closed and my window frames and doorways are no longer pinching in towards each other.

There are still a few small floaters drifting across my vision occasionally, but nothing like the morning I opened my fridge and it seemed to be full of small fruit flies.

Another month of follow-up eyedrops still lies ahead, but after that, and a second follow-up check, I will be able to see my optician about new glasses, because the current prescription is old.  Although they work they're not quite right.

I am typing this without any major problems  and far less typos than two weeks ago.  Seeing as the text is no longer warping itself this is hardly surprising.

Not quite in the cliched 'puppy with two tails' territory yet, but probably a tail and a half ;-)

I had some truly weird visual effects for a few weeks.

Now the temporary gas bubble they pumped into my right eye has has dissipated  I have been passed as okay to swim or fly, which is a bit of a joke as neither of which loom large in my horizon right now.

One last thing...  When they gave me the Okay I phoned my daughter and told her I was going into town 'for a look around, seeing as I can now see better'.

Forgot to allow for the super-powerful eyedrops they'd put in to dilate my pupils for the retinal photography bit.  Walking along the hospital corridors, and then to the bus stop everything was very much soft focus and blurry.  (No wonder they tell you not to drive.)  Reading the bus numbers was like looking through fog.  I think I now have some idea what it must be like to be permanently  short-sighted.  Mind you, the fancy fountain at the front of the guildhall still looked lovely.

I dropped my sight seeing plans and went straight home instead.  Typed up a few notes, and went to sleep.


The Bar & Grill / Eye Op done. Now recovering.
April 11, 2024, 07:15:05 PM
Had my eye operation on the 8th.  Very interesting experience under a local anaesthetic.

Typing is currently a tedious and typo-ridden chore, requiring much correction as right eye is like seeing the word through water.

But this, they tell me, is normal for a while, and there were no complications.

As the pictures show I look like an Odinist who has taken things a bit too far.

The Pirate's Eye Chart was sent by a female cousin who shares the family sense of humour.  (Not sure why there's two copies of this, and can't be fussed to tidy it up.

As always, click to enlarge if you feel crazy enough.


The Bar & Grill / Another bit of 'Strange English'
April 03, 2024, 09:58:29 PM
I've recently bought a refurbished computer.  It came with a little thankyou card and a pre-emptive message ;-)

'Thankyou for your order.  Due to being extremely busy there may be a mistake whereby an order may receive a missing part.  We are sorry for the inconvenience.'


A wrong part maybe, but if you receive a part it isn't missing, even if its totally extraneous or unsuited.


It's got all the makings of fine computer though, and being a Dell, designed for rapid fixing in a busy office environment, it can mostly be dismantled without tools.  Later, when all this nonsense with my eye op is over, I look forward to setting it up properly, rather than the quick bodge job just to make sure it worked.

   Optical Illusion

   A squirrel ran along the top of my fence, catching my eyes as I had breakfast this morning.  Then he stopped, checking out the neighbour's garden.  Probably watching her cat, calculating reward against risk.

   Mr Squirrel was obvious, grey fur against the brown background of a distant tall fence, bushy tail moving a little whilst everything else was rock steady.

   I formed my hand into a pistol and pointed at him as if about to shoot.  My garden is a sanctuary, but the instinct to assess a shot dies hard.

   I closed my left eye, taking an imaginary aim.

   The squirrel vanished.  Totally gone.

   I opened my eye and he reappeared, grey against brown, tail flicking a little as if he'd sensed my scrutiny and was ready to move.

   I took aim again, and he vanished a second time.

   Opening both eyes I saw he was still here and realised what had happened.  He must have fallen into the 'macular hole', the blind spot right in the middle of my aiming eye.

   Distance plays a part in this.  Objects further away have a black dot superimposed upon them - like a red dot gunsight -  although my brain has largely learned to ignore this.  Larger objects, like the spherical cowl on a neighbour's chimney just look a bit ragged around the edges.  Obviously still there, but my brain is clearly trying to make sense of the distorted information.  A bit like Photoshop trying to fill in the blanks when editing.

   It's a fascinating research opportunity for a writer, but hopefully my eye operation early next month will fix it.  I'm getting impatient with the wait.

The Bar & Grill / Mister Hedgehog
March 22, 2024, 02:39:55 PM
   Mr Hedgehog

   In a mad moment of Springish-ness, and wanting to make use of my garden waste bin collection service - after all, I pay for the damned thing -  I was raking up a huge pile of dead leaves which had built up, between my Fire maple and the fence..  I gave it a tug with the three-pronged hoe and suddenly there was a very bewildered - and decent sized - hedgehog rolling towards me in a tumble of leaves.

   I swore a bit, having no desire to hurt or injure him,   Watched to see what he did.
   He unrolled a little , stretched like a very sleepy kid who can't quite wake up,  then rolled into a ball again.

   I watched him breathing for a while, reassuring myself he wasn't dead or bleeding from the prongs of the hoe.

   I promptly shoved a deep layer of leaves back into the stony gap twixt fence and tree, picked up my prickly lodger, put him on the leaves and re-arranged the rest of them on top of him in a thick mound.  I put a tarpaulin loosely over the top to keep off of the impending rain, and hoped he'd settle down again, hopefully with nothing more than a bewildered hedgehog dream of being disturbed from his hibernation.

   He'll probably be rooting around the garden soon, eating slugs.

   I say he, but I never truly checked.  He/She was  decent sized animal, has obviously over-wintered well.

   My neighbour has a hedgehog flap in her garden gate, but I haven't.  I'm not sure how he got in, because the only obvious gap in my fence seems a little too small.   I've known I have the occasional prickly visitor, their tarry droppings are quite distinctive, but I've never seen one wandering around on my side of the fence.

   Heard them snuffling about at night, but that could be my neighbour's lodgers, scuttling up the alley between the houses to have a root around on the grass at the fronts. before heading back to their hedgehog house to dream the day away.

   My Sis suggested that he may have entered my garden when he was smaller, feasted well on slugs, and can no longer get back out.

   I shall watch out for him now.  Not sure if I'm going to start feeding him though, there's too much commitment in that.  Once you interfere with nature  you have to accept responsibility for those little lives.

The Bar & Grill / First day Of Spring
March 20, 2024, 11:51:55 AM
Today is officially the first day of Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, and I have to say, here in my own little corner of the world it's started out with promise.

Windows and doors are all open for a while, a gentle breeze is stirring up any loose dust before I attack the carpets, and one of my baby oak trees in a pot has suddenly burst into green life,  The leaves aren't unfurled, yet, but they're spiking out through the brown cases.  The older Oak tree has sturdy looking brown buds, but seems to be reserving judgement until Spring is a bit more definite.

Two of my supposedly hardy 'Rambo' Primroses are showing colour, but the rest seem to have lost the will to live.  There were a dozen of them originally.  The completely wild ones at the far end of the garden were out and about a month ago.  I found one popping up through a gap in the paving slabs.

I lack the patience and dedication to be a proper gardener, with organised flowerbeds, but I like seeing the odd spot of unplanned colour in the long planters at the back.  It's a reminder that we've survived another winter.

A dozen tiny Lavender plants are growing on - hopefully - in a small planter on my windowsill. If they survive they can go out the front under the kitchen window. and be the start of a lavender hedge for the bees.  I've failed in this endeavour three times so far, and said I'd not bother this year.  But...

My eldest wanted some Lavender for her herbalist's garden so I bought two dozen and shared them with her.  We shall see.

That's enough musing for now, there's bread to bake, and a new pair of sandals to break in.  And a short story keeps poking it's head up and asking to be written.  I don't think it will go away.

Old faithful went on a go-slow yesterday.

At first I wasn't sure if it was the machine or just me being a bit hyper, which happens sometimes.  But I checked this as I have learned to.

Switch off and restart.  Sometimes a computer, like a person, wakes up 'out of sorts', and this has a knock-on effect.  It skips a step, jumps the gun, and confuses itself.  Usually a restart lets it sort itself out.

Whilst it does this I make breakfast, and if I spill powdered coffee all over the kitchen counter, or keep dropping things, or if everyday tasks seem to take forever, I know it's me.  Like the computer I go back to bed and restart myself later.

In this case it was the computer, and several restarts didn't fix things.

I uninstalled a couple of recently  added programmes to see if they were incompatible.  Made no difference, so I added them back in.  My cursor was still moving as if through treacle, so I ran my virus checker.  It seemed very reluctant to start, and eventually declared 'no problems'.

Could it be the mouse, I wondered?  Always preferring mechanical solutions to software ones.  After all, it's several years old now.

I pulled out the USB plug, blew on it to clear any dust or whatever, plugged it back in. This works surprisingly often, so always worth a try.  No change.

I turned it all off again and went to do something else for while, but my brain kept coming back to the mouse.

I have a utility programme called FixWin11 in my 'Clean & Tweak' folder, which offers various 'troubleshooters', so I loaded that up and asked it to troubleshoot 'devices'.  It slowly worked its way through whatever it does inside the box and eventually suggested a 'driver update might help'.

Clicking on 'Yes' seemed a good risk, so I left it to do its thing.

When it finished I did the suggested restart and my computer is now behaving itself properly, jumping to attention when I click the mouse.

FixWin11 resolves many problems in Windows 10 and 11, and is available from various download sites.  Some of these are more trustworthy than others.
is a safe place to find it.


Gleefully copied from the Mirror website.

The Midlands could meanwhile witness as much as five centuries of snowfall, with the northeast and northwest also seeing snow around March 28. Temperatures in the southeast of England may drop to between 2C and 4C, reports, and fall below freezing in areas further north.


Forgive me for spontaneously irrigating my own trousers.  And then doing it again as I think of the impact half a millennium of snow will have on the heavily publicised global warming.

I may have to trade in my sandals ;-)

    Watching a master at workA veritable miracle.

    Many years ago I watched an old gypsy chap pull up with an ancient Commer van full of family at a garage in the New Forest.  He made a beeline for a big old American car, a huge boat of a thing with at least eight cylinders and tail fins.  The sort of car that sat on a forecourt for ages after being taken in part exchange for something smaller and more modern.

    He whipped the bonnet/hood open, holding it up with one hand, and spent a few minutes gazing into the engine bay whilst the other hand darted at the motor a few time.  He then ambled over to the shed, where the owner sat behind the steamed up windows, nursing an oil stove, to start haggling over the price marked on the windscreen.  His family watched with interest from the van.

    I, a mere chance observer - sat on the grass verge nearby eating my sandwiches - watched with equal interest.

    The garage owner came out and some quite ferocious haggling took place.  Most of this hinged around the fact the label proclaimed it to be a 'good runner' but when the owner sat inside and turned the key it coughed and spluttered horribly and could barely drag itself itself across the forecourt.

    The gypsy announced that he was willing to 'take a chance on it' if the price was right.  The price was rapidly revised downwards, a handful of notes were passed over from a sizeable roll, hands were shaken to seal the deal, and then, no sooner had the garage owner got back to his cosy little shed, 'the miracle' took place.

    The transposed plug leads were returned to their proper places, all the cylinders roared into life, and one of the older children was summoned from the van to drive the monster to the camp site, slowly following the van.

    The attraction of the big old cars wasn't just the low price, but the enormous carrying capacity.  Even if they were long past their best they'd be good for a year or two, and with the rear seats ripped out the boot space was extended into something really useful.

     A fencer could carry all his tools and a whole bundle of stakes, coils of wire, and his family sat on the bare floor if he was dropping them off to 'go calling' whilst he worked on the fence.  Traffic laws were considerably more relaxed back in the mid 60s ;-)

March 11, 2024, 02:45:05 PM
   Today's The Day!
   Take a book.  Any book, unless it's ridiculously heavy.

   Place it in a string bag, carrier bag, or similar container with handles.

   Then swing it around your head several times.  (Try not to cripple yourself or any neighbours, and definitely avoid smashing ornaments or light fitting).

   Does this make you feel better?

   If so you have successfully marked 'Whirled Book Day'.