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A change of plans for Brian

Hello everyone that has followed my postings over the past few years.  I have really enjoyed it all – and I hope you have too – but all things must come to an end sometime and I think it is the time for me.

I won’t bore you with details – let’s just say Brian’s brains keep deciding far too often not to function correctly!  Hopefully I shall still feel able to post items – but they may be a bit wider apart than recently.

Thank you all for your support and comments – I shall miss it.


Today is Hallowe’en – day or night

My most recent version of Chamber’s Book of Days [2004] tells us that:
This is All-Hallows Eve, better known as Hallowe’en, when witches fly abroad and ghosts, fairies, evil spirits and other supernatural beings are at their most active.  The traditional beliefs and practices of Hallowe’en may be connected in origin with the rituals performed during the night before Samhain.

The 1864 edition of Chambers said:
Great fun goes on in watching the attempts of the youngster in the pursuit of the swimming fruit, which wriggles from side to side of the tub, and evades all attempts to capture it; whilst the disappointed aspirant is obliged to abandon the chase in favour of another whose turn has now arrived.  The apples provided with stalks are generally caught first, and then comes the tug of war to win those which possess no such appendages.  Some competitors will deftly suck up the apple, if a small one, into their mouths.  Others plunge manfully overhead in pursuit of a particular apple, and having forced it to the bottom of the tub, seize it firmly with their teeth, and emerge, dripping and triumphant, with their prize.

So – what is the ‘real’ story?

The last night of October; Old Year’s Night in the Celtic calendar; was a night of witches and fires that was changed by the Church into the vigil of All Saints’ or Hallowe’en.

‘Teanlas’ or ‘tinley’ fires would glow on northern hills on All Souls’ Eve, symbolising the ascent to heaven of souls in purgatory. It was only the introduction of farming enclosures, when bushes were grubbed up, that put an end to the small ‘tindles’, lighted in the furze of Derbyshire commons.

In one Lancashire field, called Purgatory by the old folk, men stood in a circle to throw forkfuls of burning straw high in the air on the night breeze, and all present fell to their knees praying for the souls of the departed. More prosaically – some farmers maintained that the procedure was useful against weed ‘darnel’.

Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year.  The Celtic day began and ended at sunset so it was traditionally celebrated through the 31st October to 1st November – a time that is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.

That’s it – there’s nothing for me to add apart from just saying:


The Diary of a Farmer’s Wife 1796-1797

This is a lovely book that does just what it says.  Anne Hughes is that Farmer’s Wife and she prefaced her book with these words:

‘Anne Hughes, her boke in whiche I write what I doe, when I hav thee tyme, and beginnen wyth this daye, Feb ye 6 1796.’

These are Anne’s words as we see her story of 20th August 1796:

This be the first time I hav writ in my book for three dayes, bein bussie.
It hav bin a verrie hot day and we to church at night, after the milking be don and the pigges fed.
The passon was new, and did preche a verrie prosie surmon,so I nearly aslepe, and did jump much at the last himm singeing. I was glad to be out once more, and John bidden the passon to sup with us we back home, where Sarah cumming in, we did put the supper reddie in the best kitchen.

In 2017 words this might read:

This is the first time I have written in my book for the past three days because I’ve been busy.  It’s been a very hot day and, after the cows had been milked and the pigs fed, we went to church.   We’ve a new parson and he preached a very prosy sermon, so much so that I nearly went to sleep – so much so that I jumped when they started singing the last hymn. I was glad when the service ended and we were outside. John, my husband, invited the parson to come to supper with us.  Sarah, our maid, was ready and we put the supper ready in the best kitchen.


A curmudgeonly accountant records…

George Taylor – described as a curmudgeonly accountant from Sheffield records on Monday 22nd July 1946:

‘As I am saving up current Readers Union books for my holidays I have been looking over old issues.  It is only last November that I read the anthology ‘This Changing World’ and I was astonished at how little detail I remembered.  I think the political trends in the book dismayed me even more than in November.  I, for one, do not wish to live in a world where everything is planned: I would much rather have liberty to make a fool of myself than become an ideal citizen by regulation.’

An extract from ‘Our Hidden Lives’ by Simon Garfield – published by Ebury Press in 2004

The Birth of British Radio

Britain’s first live public radio broadcast took place in June 1920. The public loved what they heard but this enthusiasm was not shared in official circles.  They said that the broadcasts interfered with important military and civil communications and by late 1920 public broadcasts were a banned.  However, by 1922, nearly 100 broadcast licence requests had been received and the General Post Office – the GPO – proposed that it would issue a single broadcasting licence to a company jointly owned by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufactures.  It was to be known as the British Broadcasting Corporation – the BBC

On Saturday 20th July 1889 a boy had been born at Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire, Scotland – the youngest, by ten years, of seven children.

He was baptised John Charles Walsham Reith.  In 1922 he was employed by the BBC as its general manager.  In 1923 he became its managing director and, in 1927, he was made the Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation that had been created under a Royal Charter.

His concept of broadcasting as a way of educating the masses underpinned for a long time the BBC and similar organisations around the world.

I loved reading the stories of this man

For most of those reading this there may be the thought ‘Who’s he?’ or ‘So what?’  For men of a certain age – and maybe some ladies – the outlaw Billy the Kid was a part of our youth – part of a time when young boys would have great fun playing cowboys and watching cowboy films in the cinema and on television.   I’m afraid I can’t avoid telling a bit more about Billy – and about Sheriff Pat Garrett.  Please feel free to move on to something else!

On Thursday 14th July 1881 one Henry McCarty – known by many over the years as William H. Bonney and even more as Billy the Kid – was shot and killed by Sherriff Pat Garrett outside Fort Sumner, USA.  For most of those reading this there may be the thought ‘Who’s he?’ or ‘So what?’  For men of a certain age – and maybe some ladies – the outlaw Billy the Kid was a part of our youth – part of a time when young boys would have great fun playing cowboys and watching cowboy films in the cinema and on television.

Billy the Kidd was first arrest was for stealing food in late 1875, and within five months he was arrested for stealing clothing and firearms. His escape from jail two days later and flight from New Mexico Territory into Arizona Territory made him both an outlaw and a federal fugitive.

After murdering a blacksmith during an altercation in August 1877, Bonney became a wanted man in Arizona Territory and returned to New Mexico, where he joined a group of cattle rustlers. He became a well-known figure in the region when he joined the Regulators and took part in the Lincoln County War. In April 1878, however, the Regulators killed three men, including Lincoln County Sheriff William J Brady and one of his deputies. Bonney and two other Regulators were later charged with killing all three men.

Bonney’s notoriety grew in December 1880 when the Las Vegas Gazette in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the New York Sun carried stories about his crimes. He was captured by Sheriff Pat Garrett later that same month, tried and convicted of the murder of Brady in April 1881, and sentenced to hang in May of that year. Bonney escaped from jail on April 28th 1881, killing two sheriff’s deputies in the process, and evaded capture for more than two months. He ultimately was shot and killed by Garrett in Fort Sumner on July 14th 1881. Over the next several decades, legends grew that Bonney had not died that night, and a number of men claimed they were him.


It’s amazing what you can find in old files

I’ve just been looking at the contents of one of my old files and came across this.  Where the heck I got it from I do not know but this is it; it’s called:-

The Value of Old Age

Remember that old folk are worth a fortune with silver in their hair, gold in their teeth, stones in their kidneys and gas in their stomachs.

I am quite a frivolous old girl you know.   I am seeing five gentlemen each day:-
As soon as I wake up Will Power helps me out of bed; then I go to visit Lou.

Next its time for Mr Quaker who gives me my oats.

They leave and Arthur Ritis shows up and stays the rest of the day.  He doesn’t stay in one place very long, so he takes me from joint to joint.

After such a busy day I am ready for bed with Johnny Walker.
What a life!
Oh yes – I am also flirting with Ai Zymers.

The Vicar came the other day and said: “At your age you should be thinking about the hereafter.”  I told him: “Oh, I do.  No matter where I am, in the lounge or upstairs; in the kitchen or in the basement, I ask myself: “Now, what am I here after?”

Fact or Fiction? True or False? You’re the decider!

Arthur Furguson (1883–1938) was (or may have been) a Scottish con artist who allegedly became known for “selling” English national monuments and other government property to visiting American tourists during the 1920s. 

His moment happened in Trafalgar Square, one bright and sunny morning in 1923 – the source of his revelation being a rich American from Iowa, who he found staring reverently at Nelson’s Column.  The American was interested and inquired as to the price. Furguson mused and explained that it was to be sold for just £6,000. Obviously, it would have to go to the right buyer: someone who would protect and appreciate a monument of this scale. Furguson decided to appoint himself as the official guide to the Square and, speaking to the American, he explained that the statue at the top the column was of Admiral Lord Nelson, one of Britain’s most famous seafarers and naval heroes. He had died in during the Battle of Trafalgar, after which the square was named. ‘Such a terrible shame’ he sighed, ‘the square wouldn’t feel the same without it. However, it all had to go, lions and fountains included. Britain’s debts were sky-high, and the government had decided to sell off the landmark to the highest bidder.’

By a curious coincidence, it was Furguson himself who had been entrusted by the government with the task of organizing the sale, which had to be kept top-secret. The American pleaded with Furguson to allow him to jump the queue. At last Ferguson relented and telephoned his employers for instructions. He returned within a matter of minutes and advised his buyer that it was decided that Britain was prepared to accept a cheque right away, to complete the deal as soon as possible!  Furguson, amazed at his own cunning, immediately went off and cashed the cheque while his customer got in touch with some contractors. They were extremely reluctant to accept the job and told him why. It was not until he received an official assurance from Scotland Yard that he would believe that he had been conned. The police however, were far from happy.

That summer was a good one as far as Arthur Furguson was concerned. One American complained that he had paid £1000 for Big Ben while another had made a £2000 down payment on Buckingham Palace!

While visiting Paris, he managed to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap at an unknown price to yet another American. Since Americans had all been his best customers, he decided to continue his work in their country. In 1925, he leased the White House to a Texan cattle-rancher for 99 years at $100,000 a year, with the first year’s rent payable in advance.

Furguson’s bank balance was now sufficiently large for him to consider retiring but his vanity got the better of him.  He wanted to end his career with a grand finale and emigrated to the USA in 1925.  There he sold the White House to a rancher on the installment plan of yearly payments of $100,000.

However, his most perfect victim seemed to be an Australian from Sydney. Furguson told him that the entrance to New York harbour was to be widened and, unfortunately, the Statue of Liberty was in the way. Sentimental attachments was not going to stop the path of progress, and the US State Department was prepared to sell it to anyone who would to take it away.  Would his visiting Australian like to buy the Statue of Liberty?

The Australian attempted to raise the £100,000 deposit over the next couple of days with Furguson practically glued to his side, carefully steering him away from anyone with whom he might be tempted to boast about his venture. Furguson kindly allowed himself to be photographed with his buyer, arm in arm in front of the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, there was a delay in getting the money through; Furguson grew impatient, and the Australian became suspicious and took the photograph of himself and Furguson to the police.

It was exactly the breakthrough the police wanted. They already knew about the salesman of monuments, but he had always managed to escape them. The Australian led them straight to Furguson, who was promptly arrested.  Furguson was jailed for five years, a rather small price to pay for the fortune he had made. He was released in 1930, and moved to Los Angeles where he lived in a lap of luxury (paid for by a few more convenient tricks) until he died in 1938.

BUT – subsequent research suggests that the existence of Furguson himself was a hoax and that the earliest known reference to Furguson dates from the 1960s.  Is this true?  Who knows?  True or false – it doesn’t really matter; it still makes an interesting story!

It’s amazing what you can find by mistake!

I was sorting through some files the other day and came across a letter I sent the ‘Woman’ magazine back in 1990.  This is what I wrote:

I was recently visiting a health club manager on business when the telephone rang.  As his secretary was out for the moment he answered the call through his ‘hands free’ extension.

At the other end of the line was a lady who wanted to enroll for one of their afternoon exercise classes.  All the formalities were completed and the lady was told to come along at the appropriate time wearing something loose.

Over the box came a sad voice saying: ‘If I had something loose to wear I wouldn’t need to enroll in your class’.  Then the line went dead.

I wonder if the lady ever resolved her situation.