Thursday 25 May 2017

Ten Questions: 111-120

Ten Questions to which we have neither the answer nor the question.  Tony was always of enquiring mind.  It was this impish curiosity that led him to blog in the first place, along with a desire to test others' curiosity, hence these Ten Questions posts.  I think he would be well satisfied with this as a last post – enquiring yet, vitally, completely and utterly without point or purpose.  One might almost call it Vintage OMF.  If one had nothing better to do.

Another quality of Tony was a keenness to avoid the overstaying of a welcome – his, certainly, but also yours.  He always made this very clear – sometimes, indeed, as you were stepping over his threshold ready to down one of his famously tonic-lite G&Ts ("You'll be wanting to make an early start back, I shouldn't wonder.  We shan't be hurt").   So he would not want any blog of his to overstay its welcome either.  Five years, five posts feels like about the very longest coda he would tolerate, so we shall leave it there.  Hopefully his words will not suffer too much bitrot in the years to come and ardent and (especially) lazy readers of the future alike will stumble across some choice OMF posts as a result of searching for some esoteric yet trivial items of interest.  Other Men's Flowers: wasting your time until the end of time.  That is the hope.

Family of Tony, 2017.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Ninetieth anniversary of a philosophical hat

Of this post we have only the title.  It's a typically quixotic and faintly silly title, all that Other Men's Flowers aspired to be, except for typical.  This would have been 49th in Tony's series of hat-related posts, one shudders to think what number 50 would have been like.  As it is, we shall never know which hat was philosophical and ninety years old.  Which is just as it should be, really.

There will be one more post this time next year, just as uninformative as this one.  But Other Men's Flowers has always striven to be complete if nothing else.

Monday 25 May 2015

Elvis ahead of Stalin but Jesus lags behind fish

If you search for these words, Google will count in millions all the websites which contained them in March this year [Tony drafted this in 2012] and (in brackets) in March 2004.
               fish         31           185
           Jesus         23           177
            Hitler           3           154
         Caesar           3           154
George Bush           2           153
      Beckham           2            94
     Tony Blair           2            35
              Elvis           2            16
            Stalin           1               8

                              72           978

This was one of the posts which was as much about an enigmatic title as about its subject. I think Tony just liked gathering unlikely combinations - the very essence of Montaigne.  On how many lists other than Hello!'s Top Ten Most Photographed do you find Tony Blair next to David Beckham, after all?  Blair, Bush and Stalin often figure together, on the other hand, so perhaps Tony was onto something and that was his point, the mischievous fellow.  

Sunday 25 May 2014

Bosoms heaving with pain

In post about celebrity funerals I published the other day, I noted that many of them are said to have been attended by one hundred thousand mourners. However, sometimes the turnout, though smaller, is just as impressive in a different way, by virtue of the great emotion being felt by all. An example is the funeral of the Reverend George Gilfillan of Dundee, to which thirty thousand people came.

This great occasion was well commemorated in a poem by William Topaz McGonagall. The news that some autographed poems of his fetched large sums at auction recently gives me an excuse for quoting it in full:

The Burial of the Reverend George Gilfillan
On the Gilfillan burial day,
In the Hill o' Balgay,
It was a most solemn sight to see,
Not fewer than thirty thousand people assembled in Dundee,
All watching the funeral procession of Gilfillan that day,
That death had suddenly taken away,
And was going to be buried in the Hill o' Balgay.

There were about three thousand people in the procession alone,
And many were shedding tears, and several did moan,
And their bosoms heaved with pain,
Because they knew they would never look upon his like again.

There could not be fewer than fifty carriages in the procession that day,
And gentlemen in some of them that had come from far away,
And in whispers some of them did say,
As the hearse bore the precious corpse away,
Along the Nethergate that day.

I'm sure he will be greatly missed by the poor,
For he never turned them empty-handed away from his door;
And to assist them in distress it didn't give him pain,
And I'm sure the poor will never look upon his like again.

On the Gilfillan burial day, in the Hill o' Balgay,
There was a body of policemen marshalled in grand array
And marched in front of the procession all the way;
Also the relatives and friends of the deceas'd,
Whom I hope from all sorrows has been releas'd,
And whose soul I hope to heaven has fled away,
To sing with saints above for ever and aye.

The provost, magistrates, and town council were in the procession that day;
Also Mrs Gilfillan, who cried and sobbed all the way
For her kind husband, that was always affable and gay,
Which she will remember until her dying day.

When the procession arrived in the Hill o' Balgay,
The people were almost as hush as death, and many of them did say
--As long as we live we'll remember the day
That the great Gilfillan was buried in the Hill o'Balgay.

When the body of the great Gilfillan was lowered into the grave,
'Twas then the people's hearts with sorrow did heave;
And with tearful eyes and bated breath,
Mrs Gilfillan lamented her loving husband's death.

Then she dropped a ringlet of immortelles into his grave,
Then took one last fond look, and in sorrow did leave;
And all the people left with sad hearts that day,
And that ended the Gilfillan burial in the Hill o' Balgay.

"The other day" isn't quite right, as the previous post was published one year ago today but I ain't going to mess with Pater's words.  I think it is a coincidence that two of the remaining draft posts that Tony left were about funerals.  He was not a maudlin fellow and these were not drafted at a time when such things were especially on his mind.  Anyway, no more funeral posts after this one.  Not a vintage post, this, composed as it is mainly of someone else's work.  But he was always an admirer of the work of others – from a safe distance – something he passed on to me.  

Saturday 25 May 2013

Seeing them off

Fourteen years ago Frank Sinatra's funeral was held in Beverly Hills. Four hundred celebrities were in attendance, including Bill Clinton and Nancy Reagan. John Paul II didn't show up, but many other showbiz personalities were there including Tony Bennett and of course top names from the world of organised crime. Half a dozen helicopters circled overhead and "a skywriting plane traced a giant cross, the letters 'F.S.' and a heart in the brilliant blue sky overhead".

That was all as it should be, but a report that "several hundred fans lined the streets around the church in quiet, respectful knots" makes the occasion sound rather low-key, though one must remember that thronging the streets is not something that the residents of Beverly Hills are accustomed to do, whatever the event.

In demonstrations of real affection, the attendance of 100,000 mourners seems to be the norm. "On 12 October 1922, over 100,000 people attended Marie Lloyd's funeral at Hampstead, weeping as they followed the funeral procession of twelve cars full of flowers."

Then, in August 1926, "an estimated 100,000 people lined the streets of New York to pay their respects at Rudolph Valentino's funeral". Windows were smashed as fans tried to get close to the hearse or into the funeral parlor.

When Edith Piaf died in October 1963 "the ceremony at the cemetery was attended by more than 100,000 fans", and it was the only time since the end of World War II that the traffic in Paris had come to a complete stop.

Piaf was denied a funeral mass by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Paris because of her lifestyle, but since then a much more friendly attitude towards depravity has prevailed among top prelates: the Archbishop of Los Angeles celebrated a two-hour ritual for Sinatra.

This post is one of five drafted by Tony before he became too ill to blog.  He had scheduled it for 20th May, 2012.  Today is the first anniversary of his death so we are publishing this.  His funeral, by the way, was considerably smaller but, we are quite certain, substantially jollier than any of those mentioned in his draft post.  Pope John Paul II ALSO elected to snub Tony's funeral, as he had Sinatra's, earning Frank S. and Tony B. yet another thing in common.

Friday 25 May 2012

Tony 1931-2012

This is the blog of Tony.  Had blogging been invented twenty years earlier it is likely this would have had a deleterious effect on his career progress.  As it was, it had a beneficial effect on his retirement.  Tony passed away at home on 25th May, 2012.  Details of his funeral and where donations can be made can be found at:

We have no plans ever to remove this blog.  Tony left a small number of unpublished posts.  We may publish these in future if it seems right.

Friday 20 April 2012

Message for Waldstein

For many years it was believed that Beethoven's Piano Sonata No 21 in C was named after one of his patrons. It is true that Beethoven did dedicate the work to Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein of Vienna, but it acquired its popular name for quite a different reason.

The composer had a very dear friend called Mr Waldstein. They had both studied counterpoint with Johann Albrechtsberger in 1795 and kept up a relationship by correspondence for some years. By 1804, however, Beethoven had started to make a name for himself while his friend's career had faltered, and, perhaps through jealousy, Waldstein had stopped replying to Beethoven's letters. This hurt Beethoven deeply, and in the sonata he wrote in that year he included a coded message in the first movement, intended as a gentle reminder.

It was a plaintive melody, GFEDC, DEFGF, and it meant "Oh, Mr Waldstein, why don't you ring me?"

Sadly, there is no record of him ever getting a response.


Sunday 15 April 2012

A bit of flavour

When staying away from home I used to be an enthusiastic Full English man. Sitting down to make a choice among twenty items, knowing that whatever you have will make no difference to the cost, was a inspiring way to start the day. At a really good hotel you don't even have to choose: you can order the lot, starting, say with two poached eggs and finishing with kedgeree (omitting silly hash browns, of course, nothing English about them). I was once encouraged by a helpful waitress not to regard kippers and black pudding as alternatives but to have them both, before the bacon, fried bread, mushrooms and sausage.

At home all this is too much bother, and anyway is bad for one's health, so over the years I have found simpler breakfasts suit me better. Some of the healthier options are not too bad: a slice or two of a new white loaf, lightly toasted, spread (sparingly, as it tells you on the pot)with salted creamery butter and Patum Peperium,The Gentleman's Relish, Est 1828,  or, thickly, with taramasalata (the kind with smoked salmon in it is good) are quite acceptable.

But looming over the breakfast scene is the horror of cereals. It's not that there is little choice; every supermarket has a whole aisle of colourful boxes, containing fifty varieties of the stuff: some consisting of polystyrene, some of dust with bits in, called muesli, some which degrade to a brown sludge when you add milk, some tasting of straw and some made almost entirely of sugar. There is one called Grape-Nuts, invented in 1897 by C.W. Post, a competitor of Kellogg, containing neither grapes nor nuts. This was part of the Jungle Rations which were given to American soldiers from 1939 and in WWII, as if they didn't have enough troubles: it is like eating gravel.

However, I have recently discovered a way of making a plateful of breakfast cereal almost edible: choose a bland and harmless one and, before you put in the milk (or, better, crème fraîche), add a tablespoonful of lemon curd.  

This will not actually be very nice, but it's not as disgusting as anything else you can do with cereal (like the dreadful gritty buns suggested by the manufacturers of All-Bran).  


Tuesday 10 April 2012


"Just what we need, darling, do stop and get a couple!"

Easy to see why the poor fellow looks so glum.
They often fall off on the terrible roads but there are few cars so there's very little demand for the things in Azerbaijan.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Ten Questions: 101-110

101   The Andean and California are two species of what?

102   What links Louis Armstrong, Oliver Tambo, John Lennon, George Best?

103   What's the lowest prime number consisting of consecutive digits?

104   What is the English title of the old song known to the French as "Les adieux du soldat"?

105   "The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small..." Translated from what language, and by whom?

106   Which country is the fastest-growing exporter of kosher products on earth?

107   How many silloths in an ephah?

108   What is

109   Who is this? Clue: This photo was taken in 1965 when he was in disguise, aged 37. Two years later he died.

110   "The best things in life are free”. Why might chiropodists interpret this as a piece of professional advice?


Friday 30 March 2012

A cool word

One of the pleasures of getting older is hearing the next generation but two still using quaint out-of-date slang like cool, with it and so on, thus showing themselves to be just as old-fashioned now as they once told us we were.

It is pleasant to find them occasionally using words which they believe to be modern but which we know to be around a hundred years old. Here’s one, its use and origin comprehensively explained in the OED:

def, a.
Excellent, outstanding; fashionable, ‘cool’.
slang (orig. U.S., esp. in African-American usage).
Forms: 19- def, def', irreg. deaf. [Prob. alteration of DEATH n., originating in the non-standard Jamaican English pronunciation and spelling def, and the use of the word (in both forms) as a general intensifier (see quot. 1907).

Cf. DEATH a.2 The form in quot. 1979 is often interpreted as being a use of DEF a., and is in fact spelt def in many later transcriptions of the song, including that in L. A. Stanley Rap: the Lyrics (1992). However, in the original published lyrics, the word is spelt death, although the pronunciation on the recording itself is indistinct. This song, one of the most celebrated and influential hip-hop records and one of the first to enjoy international commercial success, may in part account for the enduring use of def within the genre and the strength of its association with hip-hop culture.An alternative derivation def' in quot. 1982.]

[1907 W. JEKYLL Jamaican Song; Story lxviii. 171 ‘I never do him one def ting,’ a single thing. ‘Def’ is emphatic, but is not a ‘swear-word’. 1979 G. O'BRIEN et al. Rapper's Delight (song, perf. ‘Sugarhill Gang’), Someone get a fly girl, gonna get some spank and drive off in a death O.J.] 1981 W. SAFIRE in N.Y. Times Mag. 18 Jan. 6/3 Deaf [sic] a mispronunciation of ‘death’ is the current superlative. (In topsyturvytalk, death is the liveliest and baad-baaader-baaadest is the equivalent of good-better-best.) 1982 in S. Hager Hip Hop (1984) 89 A sureshot party presentation... Thurs. January 21... ‘Aanother def' bet’. 1986 Village Voice (N.Y.) 4 Nov. 24/2 ‘It's Yours’ T LA Rock and Jazzy Jay (Partytime, 1984) Here's the first def jam that made the others possible. 1992 Buffalo (N.Y.) News 23 Aug. G1/2 No self-respecting teen-ager in Buffalo who wants to be def listens to the bubble-gum music on classic hits radio. 1996 V. WALTERS Rude Girls xiii. 277 Yeah, that's a def idea. 1999 Y (S. Afr.) June 75/2 Premier's ‘New York State Of Mind Pt II’ is def, the bombest joint.

Sunday 25 March 2012

An old trick, but a good one

There comes a point in life when one has ceased to acquire major new skills, and but still have some which need to be perfected: getting out of bed without falling over, for example (or indeed doing anything without falling over).

Many of the skills which I have retained are of very little practical value to me now. Will I ever again need to stand properly to attention? I could, if necessary, because I remember very clearly the instructions for doing it, which I never saw written down but only heard bawled: Headup-chinin-chestout-stomachin-heelstogether-feetatanangleof45degrees-thumbsinlinewiththeseamsofthetrousers-standperfectlySTIW! It’s probably done differently nowadays.

Something else I could still do if asked was rarely called for even at the time. It was called Rest On Your Arms Reversed, and it went like this:

On the appropriate commands, you sloped arms, then presented them (more fun doing this with a sword, but that's another story).

You are now in this position, only in a different sort of uniform (unless you were in the Royal Scots Fusiliers) and without the bayonet, for reasons which will become clear. (Also, the position of his right foot isn't quite correct: it should have been crashed down at a slight angle so that its heel was tucked into the the instep of the left.)

Then comes the tricky bit: on the command Rest...etc., you rotated the rifle forwards through 180 degrees (first moving it away from you to avoid giving yourself a nasty knock with the butt) until the muzzle rested on the toe of your left boot. Then, slowly, one at a time, you made a big circle with each arm, following the hand with your eyes until they (your hands, that is) were clasped over the end of the butt with your elbows still sticking out. Finally, in one quick move, you dropped your elbows and bowed your head, reverently.

How you got back from this position I have quite forgotten. But given a hint or two about that, and a short Lee-Enfield, I would love to play a small part, if called upon to do so, in the obsequies of some royal person, for that is the kind of occasion when this manoevre is—or used to be—carried out. A misty autumn day with a slight drizzle, the Dead March in Saul, the black-draped coffin on the gun carriage....... Great!


Tuesday 20 March 2012

Scalpels over the Ruhr

Earlier this month I had an operation and a few days in hospital. I did not expect an especially jolly week but I was not nervous, because what had to be done to me was not at all life-threatening, though everyone knows that there is always some risk with operations: if something goes wrong, even little things such as having a mole removed, say, can leave you crippled for life, while clumsy work on an ingrowing toenail can kill you. Anyway, I felt it was unlikely that the sort of emergency that crops up frequently in TV hospital dramas would arise in my case, with cries of "Quick, nurse, intubate!" or, from a worried anaesthetist, a quiet "I say, he's gone rather a funny colour...".

They decided to give me an epidural. I'd had one of these years ago, but on that occasion I also had a general anaesthetic; this time I was fully conscious throughout so that during the operation I could listen to the conversation of the theatre staff, a rare privilege.

They had all courteously introduced themselves to me as they bustled about in the ante-room but I can remember only a couple of the names; there seemed to be at least three surgeons, an anaesthetist, two or three other men whose function I forget, and two female nurses.

From the way they chatted to each other it was clear that here was a happy team with mutual respect; their discussion was of course serious but lightened with an occasional quip. They were not as persistently jokey as some proctologists and colo-rectal surgeons I have encountered, but when you think of where the latter spend their working lives it is not surprising that they acquire huge repertoires of funny stories to get them through the day.

After the introductions the head honcho asked the team to gather round and then proceeded to give them a pre-op chat. None of the team were old enough to have been WWII bomber pilots, but the general tone was very similar to a Wing Commander's briefing, though using different words to describe a very different sort of operation:

Right, settle down, chaps, smoke if you want to.
Tonight, it's Dortmund again. We're going over in two waves: I shall lead the first and Squadron Leader Wilmington the second. The first will drop
incendiaries and the second 5,000-pounders.
Keep your eyes open for fighters as soon as we're over Germany, and there'll be heavy ack-ack over the target.
Weather will be......

...and so on. It was all most interesting and impressive. I would have liked to have joined in with questions or helpful comments, but I was too shy.

[Of course, smoking would not have been allowed in the theatre; you can't, anyway, when you're wearing a mask.]


Thursday 15 March 2012

A frank and honest report

A despatch from a remote spot from which few journalists have been able to file copy is likely to be accurate, particularly when it is written by someone who has no interest in embroidering his experiences or departing in any way from the whole truth.

Christopher Hitchens' latest report will therefore be widely accepted.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Free OED, but you have to wait

I have written many posts about the mighty Oxford English Dictionary, and this one described a way of getting access to the online version for nothing.

There is another way: simply sign up to the OED Word of the Day and you will be emailed daily with a link to the dictionary's entry for a word or phrase which, for one reason or another, is considered interesting. A recent example is Ps and Qsthe etymology of this is uncertain, and the OED lists seven possibles, likely or unlikely.

But does this mean, I hear you cry, that they will email you the entries for every one of the OED's 600,000 words and 3 million quotations? Well, yes, they will, but it will take them over 750 years, even if there are no new entries (the last quarterly update noted that 1,200 new words and meanings had been added).    


Monday 5 March 2012

Drained crystals

Watching re-runs of lousy old TV dramas is hugely enjoyable: it is fascinating to see which of them can give nostalgic pleasure and which are even worse heaps of rubbish than one remembers them. Fortunately many contemporary reviews are available on the internet so that it is possible to see what the critics thought of them at the time 

For example, there is a comprehensive archive of Clive James' writing on TV between 1972 and 1982. This is what he had to say about Star Trek

On Star Trek (BBC1) our galaxy got itself invaded from a parallel universe by an alien Doppelgänger toting mysterioso weaponry. These bad vibes in the time-warp inspired the line of the week. ‘Whatever that phenomenon was,’ piped Kirk’s dishy new black lieutenant, ‘it drained our crystals almost completely. Could mean trouble.’

In our house for the past few years it’s been a straight swap between two series: if my wife is allowed to watch Ironside I’m allowed to watch Star Trek, and so, by a bloodless compromise possible only between adults, we get to watch one unspeakable show per week each. (My regular and solitary viewing of It’s a Knock-Out and Mission Impossible counts as professional dedication.)

How, you might ask, can anyone harbour a passion for such a crystal-draining pile of barbiturates as Star Trek? The answer, I think, lies in the classical inevitability of its repetitions. As surely as Brünnhilde’s big moments are accompanied by a few bars of the Valkyries’ ride, Spock will say that the conclusion would appear to be logical, Captain. Uhura will turn leggily from her console to transmit information conveying either (a) that all contact with Star Fleet has been lost, or (b) that it has been regained. Chekhov will act badly. Bones (‘Jim, it may seem unbelievable, but my readings indicate that this man has … two hearts’) will act extremely badly. Kirk, employing a thespian technique picked up from someone who once worked with somebody who knew Lee Strasberg’s sister, will lead a team consisting of Spock and Bones into the Enterprise’s transporter room and so on down to the alien planet on which the Federation’s will is about to be imposed in the name of freedom.

The planet always turns out to be the same square mile of rocky Californian scrubland long ago overexposed in the Sam Katzman serials: Brick Bradford was there, and Captain Video – not to mention Batman, Superman, Jungle Jim and the Black Commando. I mean like this place has been worn smooth, friends. But the futuristic trio flip open their communicators, whip out their phasers, and peer alertly into the hinterland, just as if the whole layout were as threateningly pristine as the Seven Cities of Cibola. Star Trek has the innocence of belief.

Another example is this piece on Kenneth Griffith's documentary about Jesus:

During the course of his career as a maker of documentaries, this compact but variously gifted Welsh actor has been intense about such figures as Napoleon and Cecil Rhodes. Now he was after even bigger game — Jesus Christ. Retracing the journey of the Magi, Kenneth landed in Iran. Immediately he was thrown out. As usual Kenneth interpreted this rejection as an Establishment plot. Kenneth is convinced that the Establishment, everywhere, is out to get him, stifle his voice, ban his programmes, etc. 'I certainly have automatic high velocity RIFLES!' he shouted sarcastically.

Nothing daunted, Kenneth joined the Magi's trail at another point. Ruins of ancient cities trembled in the heat. A caricature stage Welshman darting abruptly out of doorways, Kenneth blended obtrusively into the scenery. He has a high visibility factor, mainly because he is incapable of either just standing there when he is standing there or just walking when he is walking. Standing there, he drops into a crouch, feet splayed, arms loosely gesticulating, eyes popping, teeth bared in a vulpine snarl. Walking, he makes sudden appearances over the tops of small hills.

Kenneth can ask you the time in a way that makes you wonder how he would play Richard III, so it can be imagined that when discussing Jesus he was seldom guilty of underplaying a scene. 'Jesus', he whimpered, ramming his hands deep into his pockets and staring sideways into the camera, 'was... a Jew.' In possession of this and much similar knowledge that the Establishment would like to ban, Kenneth kept moving through the desert, aiming the occasional slow karate chop at a rock. 'Of course all truth', he confided to the camera and a surrounding mountain range, 'is dangerous to all Establishments.' But even while saying this he was positioning himself on top of a particularly inviting mountain. Kenneth's version of the Sermon on the Mount was delivered to all points of the compass.

Spinning, jerking, ducking and weaving, he made you realise just how it was that Jesus attracted so much attention. As the son of a Nazarene carpenter Jesus would have remained unknown. It was by carrying on like a balding Taff madman with St Vitus's dance that he got his message across. 'Blessed are the MEEK!' shrieked Kenneth, climaxing a programme to which I unhesitatingly award, for the second time in the history of this column, that most rarely conferred of all television trophies, the Tin Bum of Rangoon.

This is classy writing. I read all James' TV pieces in the Observer when they first appeared and they are worth re-reading now. A comment in another article he wrote on Kenneth Griffith has stuck in my mind: "Griffith, if called upon, could do Gone with the Wind as a one-man show, including the burning of Atlanta if someone would set light to his socks."

On the evidence of his TV reviews and some of his literary essays—which are also in his archive—Clive James is witty, clever and erudite. But not particularly wise: years ago, he wrote a mawkish and fawning piece as an obituary (entitled, grandly, "Requiem") for Princess Diana, with whom he was besotted, while acknowledging that she was unstable, a liar and occasionally a fruitcake on the rampage; he was hugely impressed that she had enjoyed his company on many occasions, and had accepted his invitation to lunch. 

Oddly, at the same time he was describing Prince Charles as "a man as good and honest as any I have ever met", and expressing agreement with the view that he will make a great king.

He has a sharp eye for pretentiousness but not his own: Private Eye once devoted a whole Pseuds Corner to him, a rare distinction.


Wednesday 29 February 2012

Ten Questions: 91-100

91    Who was said to have been lovely as Peer Gynt?

92    How do you say "Hamlet, I am thy father's ghost" in Afrikaans?

93    When did Lancelot first appear?

94    What four words mean (roughly) "tiredness" and all begin with the same letter?

95    What flew before the girl could go into the garden?

96    In 1961 Rous, then Havelange, and since 1998, who?

97    Clint Reno, Vince Everett, Danny Fisher, Chad Gates, Lucky Jackson. Who were they?

98    Who is the only divorced US President?

99    Which Antipodean town is named after the wife of Sir Charles Todd?

100  Why, according to the French Foreign Legion, is there no black pudding for the Belgians?


Earlier questions are HERE

Saturday 25 February 2012

Essential sugar pills

Self Help Homeopathic Remedy Kit for Friends & Family

Ainsworths Essential Remedy Kit contains 42 remedies in 30C potency in 2g vials (approx 35 doses per vial). The remedies are made with sucrose pills. The kit comes in a beautiful dark green plastic box with sturdy hinges and includes a 72 page instruction booklet.

The remedies included are:
Aconite, Allium Cepa, Ant Tart, Apis Mel, Argent Nit, Arnica, Arsen Alb, Belladonna, Bryonia, Calc Carb, Calendula, Cantharis, Carbo Veg, Chamomilla, China, Cocculus, Drosera, Euphrasia, Ferrum Phos, Gelsemium, Hepar Sulph, Hypericum, Ignatia, Ipecac, Kali Bich, Lachesis, Ledum, Lycopodium, Mag Phos, Merc sol, Mixed Pollens, Nat Mur, Nux Vom, Passiflora Co, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Rhus Tox, Ruta, Sepia, Silica, Staphisagria, Sulphur

Cost: £43 (plus £2.50 P&P)

Now there's an attractive offer: all that for little more than a pound a remedy!

While this advertisement doesn't say what these things are actually good for, you can no doubt find that information in the 72-page instruction booklet. Ainsworths have to be very careful about what they claim for fear of being found to be contravening the regulations of the Advertising Standards Association, which now apply to advertising on the web as well as in leaflets and on packaging. The ASA is already investigating many false claims made by homeopaths relating to the value of their products as a "cure", as a "remedy", or "for the relief of" named conditions.

However, one claim which may be made with absolute confidence by vendors of homeopathic preparations is that they do not cause undesirable side effects: they cannot, for they contain no active ingredient whatsoever. One third of a drop of some original substance diluted into all the water on earth would produce a remedy with a concentration of about 13C.

Those in this kit are all at 30C dilution, the "potency" advocated a couple of hundred years ago by the inventor of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, for most purposes. On average, this would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient. So you don't need to worry about whether it is the Belladonna or the Lycopodium that you need to ease your distress, for none of the little vials contain any of the exotic ingredients listed; you can swallow the whole contents of all 42 vials in one go: they will do you no good, and no harm either, though it is never advisable to consume so many sugar pills at one time.

[HERE is an explanation of "potentization", and other terms used by homeopaths.]


Monday 20 February 2012

Mr Rudson and all that lot

One of my grand-daughters has lived in Spain since she was a toddler. Her name is Meadow, but she can't help that. Now nine years old, she is very bright and as near bilingual as it is possible to be.

The other day her mother said to her, "What are you going to do about your homework?". Meadow's response was, "I don't know, but [singing] what are we going to do about Uncle Arthur?"

Apparently she watches Upstairs, Downstairs on TV with her mother every Saturday morning; I do not know how many of the 68 episodes they have seen so far.

Meadow does not visit England very often, but great efforts have been made to keep her familiar with things English, and it has struck me that watching this old drama, creaky though it may be, will give her some insight into events in her native country between 1904 and 1930, and the zeitgeist of the period.

Later she will work out for herself that England isn't quite like that any more and perhaps never was.

[Last night's ITV showed the first episode of the second chunk of the continued series of UD, all about the Munich crisis. Not bad, but suffers by comparison wth Downton Abbey.]


Wednesday 15 February 2012

Lock up your ferrets

I have never been greatly interested in ferrets. Cheery little fellows, I grant you, but lacking the gravitas of your typical weasel or the diffident charm of a couple of British stoats—both called Arthur—to whom I tried teaching a few simple tricks, without, I have to say, much success.  

But a letter published in my local paper a couple of weeks ago introduced me to the fascinating world of ferret distemper, the existence of which I had never before suspected:

I am a ferret owner and member of a group of owners on Facebook who have been discussing the issue of ferret distemper.
I have also been very careful with mine by not letting them out as I am aware of this distemper outbreak. I know it's not mentioned specifically in our area but things like this have a habit of spreading very quickly and easily.
There are still people walking out with their ferrets, maybe some who just haven't heard about the outbreaks. Not all ferret owners will be on Facebook.
So, if you know a ferret owner who knows nothing about this outbreak, please pass on the details. It could be in all innocence wiping out animals before very long if no warnings are to go out.

I am posting this because I feel that OMF should give the warning wider publicity;. Also, I have never actually seen anyone walking out with a ferret but if I do I shall not hesitate to accost him (or her) and point out the irresponsibility of her (or his) actions. As we all know, even those of us who are not on Facebook, this type of distemper affects dogs as well as ferrets; it can be fatal or lead to many nasty conditions such as vesicular/pustular lesions on the abdomen, and we all know how painful they can be.