Wednesday 31 March 2010

Happiness is .....

Did you notice a newly formed charity, the Movement for Happiness is seeking a director whose job will be to bring joy to the world. Salary for the post, around £80,000 a year. The advertisement for the job reads, 'We hope this movement will help to shift our culture away from selfish materialism towards more rewarding forms of social engagement.'
Evidently the Society wants the successful applicant to have a vision of a society in which people are motivated by more than just money.
Happiness - brightness, cheerfulness, delight, gaiety, joy, light-heartedness, merriment, pleasure; beatitude, blessedness, bliss, felicity, enjoyment, welfare, well-being.
Happy- characterised by luck or good fortune; prosperous. Having, taking, or demonstrating pleasure or satisfaction; glad.

What was it Richard Whately ( Archbishop of Dublin (1787-1863) said, 'Happiness is no laughing matter.' (I have probably taken him out of context but I must admit he doesn't exactly sound a bundle of fun!)

I have never considered myself particularly materialistic yet many of my pleasures in life are purchased with money. Money purchases houses and furnishings. My motor home gives us pleasure, Derby County support costs money, our home is bigger than need be and the furnishings far from sparse. We constantly make purchases that we feel improve our life style if not our life. My latest toy, my IPod too gives pleasure yet is totally irrelevant in the larger picture.

Some of those 'into' religion will no doubt dismiss materialism as an irrelevance, citing the search for eternal salvation as the key to happiness on earth. (Being cynical by nature I am bound to ask why so many of my religious acquaintances have large cars, huge houses and often bank balances to match.)
It is not difficult to see that much of my own happiness stems from non-materialistic sources. Marriage, (forty years this week!) a loving wife, delightful children, fantastic grandchildren have made the most contribution to my joy and sanity in an often cruel world. And it goes without saying good health is far more important than mere wealth. What brings you most happiness in life?

Which brings me back to the Movement for Happiness. What do you think of the whole idea. How do you think the new director should go about his or her task. And what would you do given the job? I'd love to know!

Perhaps William Wordsworth 1770-1850 put it best when he wrote
Not in Utopia-subterranean fields,-
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us,- the place where, in the end
We find our happiness, or not at all!

Not a million miles from the ideas of the Movement for Happiness.

Friday 26 March 2010

A Dilema

For the first time ever a post that directly relates to the previous post. The mood within the place (see previous post) was at times not good and we were sometimes disheartened. We, (at least some of us) conjured up various distractions to lift morale. The following letter is politically incorrect (for which I apologise,) but must be judged in context of twenty five years ago. (Though I would phrase some things differently now.)

Diary entry Monday 25th March 1985
Endless discussion and argument at school concerning the merits and reputation of our school. Number of teachers away today reaches double figures. One suggestion is that 'our' school is hardly an academy for the genteel, a sentiment that the following letter, purporting to emanate from a parent will encourage.

27, Denstone Court,

4th March, 1985

Dear Mr Smith,

I write this letter in the hope that you or your fellow teachers can help with my problem.
I have three children, one of whom, Sean is in form 1K at Noel-Baker School. Sean's older brother, Kevin, is in the Riverside Special School because of minor misdemeanours involving various farmyard animals. My unmarried daughter has three lovely children, one of each. Two are half caste and one is half cut. Life is not easy and the father of my children refuses to marry me in spite of living off my earnings. My brother would help but is unable to do so, being incarcerated in Dartmoor Prison for arson and rape.
Nevertheless I am close to real happiness. Recently I met Albert, a self-confessed transvestite but a dear friend who lends me many of his dresses. We wish to marry and I'm sure it could work out. The trouble is, Albert knows nothing of my awful secret. Please, please advise me. Dare I risk my future happiness. Should I tell Albert that Sean is a pupil at Noel-Baker School?
Yours sincerely
Clarissa Morley (Miss)

Sunday 21 March 2010

Memories from Yesterday.

Tempora, mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis.
(Times change, and we change with them.) Or as Bob Dylan said in 1964 "The times they are a'changing". Change is often subtle, almost imperceptible, not to be judged in the short term. I taught in a very average secondary school for many years. I read my diary from 1985 and the memories come flooding back.
Friday 22nd March 1985

Slightly unusual day, teaching wise. CSE Orals, an examination whereby fifth-years talk individually on a subject of their choice. Their choice of subject gives food for thought; my own pupils chose the following. My garden, karate, canaries. Aswad (a Pop Group), Derby County, fishing, computers; pistol shooting (this from a female pupil), athletics, jazz bands, judo. Pandas, hairdressing, dolls; CB's, Germany, a child study, dogs, football.
The expertise of children not considered academic is interesting. The girl athlete is rated number 24 at her age in the country. A boy showed a grasp of computers that was truly remarkable yet has a reading score bordering on the illiterate. A Sikh girl waxed lyrical on India yet has never volunteered one single sentence in two years whilst in a classroom situation. One girl spoke at length on the problems of a physically handicapped child, illustrating her talk with drawings and photographs. Whilst she talked (we were in a small office provided for the occasion) her nephew aged two played quietly on the floor. The girl in question is in charge of this child whilst mother is in hospital and has attended school today especially to take the oral examination. What is the saying, 'To hide your light under a bushel'. Some of our pupils seemingly do just that!

They say 'Time waits for no man'. What has changed since those less than halcyon days, I wonder? A teacher, aged forty five, now seventy. We know where he is! But children, fifteen, now forty, where are you now. Did you achieve your dreams, your aspirations. I sincerely hope so.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Four Objects, Four Memories.

Number one is a Bakelite ball that unscrews and you put the wool inside it when knitting. I presume it would stop the ball of wool from 'ravelling' up.
I can picture my grandmother using one after the war. A tiny women, dressed in black, she could knit for England. Usually grey woollen socks and sometimes balaclavas. She also made numerous dish cloths. Were they knitted or is it a different technique? She died at ninety nine, a wonderful women.
Number two has a needle that is enclosed in the body in the picture. I have no idea what it is called. (Any ideas?) As far as I know it was used for mending nylon stockings, very scarce and expensive during and immediately after the war. The old 'Make do and Mend' slogan comes to
mind. It could no doubt also be used for mending socks etc as one reader, (50sme) suggests. We throw away far too much nowadays. Do you remember saving jars of old soap and numerous lengths of string. Are there any of you out there who dare to admit they are still frugal, thrifty or downright mean! Any little idiosyncrasies you dare to admit to!
Number three I am pretty certain are hair curling tongs. These are by far the oldest of the four items. You would place the main body of the tongs in a fire until heated. The handles too must have been extremely hot to handle. The whole procedure sounds precarious to me. It must have been a ladies thing!
I was orphaned at thirteen so memories of my mother are special. Friday night was extra special. Newspaper on the floor and out would come the steel comb. For Friday was 'Hunt the creatures' night, the culling of the dreaded head lice. For we shared more than our sandwiches with our classmates at junior school. Happy days!
The last item is a tool used by a plumber for 'belling' out the end of a lead pipe so that one pipe could be inserted into another and then soldered. I am reliably informed that it is called a 'Turpin'. Thank you Uncle Bernard (KD). Some of my family were tradesmen, including granddad who in fact died of lead poisoning in the 1930's. Amos, my uncle was also a plumber. He left his false teeth on a ledge down a sewer in the 1960's. When I married in 1970 my grandmother insisted he retrieve them for my wedding. He failed to do so, probably best in the circumstances! I never remember Amos with his teeth in. His party trick was to crack walnuts with his gums! He died leaving many bills uncollected, plus somewhere in the region of twenty gas cookers in his garden.
Four unconnected items, many different memories. Computers, who need them. The mind has a much greater capacity for storing life's experiences, however unimportant.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Give us a Clue.

Between you all three out of four have been roughly identified. The fourth one is the problem. No, it is not a spinning top.
Some of my family were self employed tradesmen. This was used in ********. What did they do with it? Go on then, they hit it!

Thursday 11 March 2010

I Know What That Is Number 2.

It's no secret I'm a hoarder and have a veritable museum plus fortunately a sympathetic long suffering wife who allows an old man's idiosyncracies. Some of the items are instantly recognisable. Butter churn, telephones, bedpan, box cameras. Others are more perplexing. Four more to test both young and old. No-one was completely right concerning the objects on view on the 21st January. Care for another go? It does not suggest you are a geriatric if the items are immediately recognisable, just clever! A note of caution. Beware of something that looks obvious. Also size is deceptive, but all are photographed on a small table. Plus a little clue. I would consider three out of four more inclined to be used by the ladies rather than the gents.

Saturday 6 March 2010


I was watching one of the shopping channels the other night. How sad is that! Mind you, there was nothing of note on any of the main channels. One 'bargain' involved a Suction Handle. You know, those handles that stick to the wall by suction to help you get out of the bath or similar.
(I fed onto the internet the words 'suction handle'. There are 1,260,000 possible websites!)
The only thing is, they don't, stick that is, at least not for long.
The chap on the programme, smarmy wasn't the word, used the words 'safe, removable, secure, effortless, convenient, powerful.' He attached one to a wheeled cabinet and pushed, note pushed not pulled it round the room. Another two were attached (note two not one) to perspex on a table. The price was £49.99 for two but we knew we would get them at a bargain price. And so we did. Under £5 for the pair. (The postage and packing were far more than the goods.) Great, what a bargain, except that one fell from its perspex display whilst the salesman was rabbiting on. And, remember, that whilst under no lifting strain or pressure whatsoever. Presumably that was why there were two on display, or am I being cynical? The salesman ignored this 'happening' but I'll bet he was glad when he moved on to the next 'bargain'.
Now I've got one of these handles. I didn't pay a fortune but five pence would be too much. I lay in bed in the dead of night, out of this world, to be brought alive by a loud 'clonk'. Fearing burglars, my wife 'ordered' an investigation. I did as I was told, got out of bed, drew myself up to my full 5ft 4 inches and wandered round the house. Unclothed, I would have frightened off any burglar but there were no open doors or windows and certainly no sign of disturbance. Relieved, I now needed relief and headed for the bathroom. I turned on the light and lo and behold, there it was, the source of all our fears. One suction handle, bored with life stuck to a wall now lying happily in the middle of the bath. We did try on other occasions to make our handle secure. But no amount of effort (or spit) secured the damn thing for more than a day. And that was without risking life and limb using the thing for its intended purpose.
I was going to write to the shopping channel to complain. I have a very posh pen. I bought it half price in a shop in Ilkeston. I've always liked unusual things and this 'biro' lights up as well as writes. Only it doesn't. Light up or write I mean. It steadfastly refuses to do either, never has done, never will do. Such is life.
What intrigues me, are there inventors out there designing useless objects to sell to fools like me. Are there goods out there I've yet to come across equally pathetic on which I can spend my pitiful pension. (My wife bought a long handled dustpan from a market recently. The handle refused to stay on after two weeks and has now been binned. Yet I have a twenty year old yard brush that has only had two new heads and three new handles.)
Have any of my readers got one of these handles that actually stays on the wall? And have you any items, gadgets or similar that have proved useless in the extreme. (I'm not too impressed with lawn strimmers I've owned.) Surely its not just me and mine!
By the way, the suction handles have their uses. Dogs love to retrieve them, they're durable and don't travel too far when thrown. Perhaps relabeled 'Dog Throws' would be more honest!

Monday 1 March 2010

Farewell Ffffreezing February. Grumpy's Alternative News.

So what did February bring?
I see the parliamentary idiots have learnt nothing from their recent disgraceful behaviour. Now there's a move to force two hundred of them them to pay a profits levy on the second houses they bought with taxpayers money. A move that the MP's are fighting with self righteous fervour. Plus they don't wish us to know about the £138,046 owed in unpaid food and drink bills in the House of Commons. What a sick shower.
Animals, now they're far more interesting. A woman was arrested at a Russian checkpoint with fifty lovebirds under her coat. Evidently they all woke up and were a bit noisy to say the least.
Ten hedgehogs in a Fife rescue centre have to go on a diet before they are released. They're been looked after so well they can no longer roll up into a ball when under threat.
A grey squirrel at Alton Towers is literally living 'the high life'. Nicknamed Sonic, he (or she) has been riding on the Sonic Spinball rollercoaster ride as it's been tested after a revamp. Definitely braver than me!
Plus dogs and cats in China can breathe a little easier. It is going to be illegal to eat either, those caught doing so face a 5,000 yuan (£450) fine and fifteen days in jail. Evidently dog meat is supposed to warm you up and is served with a sauce of ground coriander, spring onion, peanuts and sesame, price 38 yuan. (Who said they don't wish to know that!)
By the way, a team at Bristol University have decided that cat owners are more likely to have a degree than dog owners. (Perhaps because cats, being brighter than dogs choose more intelligent owners.) I often wondered what education spent my taxes on, now I know.
Any drinkers out there? Do you agree with the Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney who says that the monks of Buckfast Abbey should not be brewing a drink that is 15% proof. Evidently it is particularly popular in Scotland, known sometimes as 'bottle of beat the wife'. 'liquid speed' and 'wreck the hoose juice'.
I wonder what the Polish man who has just been jailed for drink driving was drinking. His level was the highest ever recorded in Britain. He was almost six times over the limit (191 micrograms per 100ml. Legal limit is 35.)
I see Marston's Brewery is on the ball. They suggested at a meeting lighter beer bottles would help their carbon footprint. (The chairman suggested the easiest way to make bottles lighter is to drink the contents!)
Congratulations to Amy Fearn, football referee who took over the Coca-Cola match, Coventry City versus Nottingham Forest, the first ever female to do so. I wonder if the Reverend Mark Oden of Kent noticed. He made the news by suggesting in his Valentine sermon that women should be more 'submissive' to their husbands. His views have had a mixed reception but interestingly enough he requested that the newspaper did not interview his wife.
Money, now there's a thing. And talking of money, the world's first postal order, serial number 000001, bought for one shilling in London in 1881 fetched £4,484 in an auction in Warwick. And Sir Stanley Matthews football boots used in the 1953 Cup Final fetched £38,400 in an auction in Chester. But the winner has to be a 22 inch meat dish taken to the Antiques Roadshow in Aberglasney, Carmarthenshire that turned out to be worth at least £100,000.
We do seem to collect as a nation. A recent survey gave us, in the main some fascinating if useless figures. The average Britain has some 3,370 cubic feet of clutter. On average 44% of the room in their homes is taken up by possessions. Comprising mainly of 'junk and clutter', followed by clothes, shoes, books, toys, exercise equipment, electrical equipment, magazines and papers. None of this information stopped the bidders at the Dr Who sale at Bonhams. A Cyberman fetched £9,600 whilst a Mk1 Imperial Dalek fetched a mere £20,000.
Dopiest of the month, two contenders. One, the artificial limbs specialist who fitted a new left foot to a gentleman in Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh. Unfortunately it was the right foot the patient was missing. To add insult to injury, the specialist never noticed his mistake on two later check ups. Beaten I reckon by the Arab ambassador to Dubai whose bride was not what he thought. On the few occasions they met before marriage she had worn a niquab. It turns out the bride was in fact cross eyed with facial hair. A bit of a shock when he lifted the veil to kiss her! (Mother had tricked him by substituting photographs of her more acceptable sister.) The marriage was annulled but he lost the £83,000 he spent on gifts for the bride.
And there you have it, good old February. What, no rude bits, did I hear someone ask. Oh go on then, the more refined of you stop reading now.
A university registrar offered bogus degrees in return for spanking sessions in a hotel. Very, very complicated, it was suggested it was a 'pain management study'. Prices, £500 for a 2.2 degree, £1,000 for a Masters with Distinction. I kid you not! The judge suggested he had been very naughty and he had now lost his job, his career, his professional reputation and his marriage. (And would he please stop smiling in court, it was not funny. Not true this bit.) I'm tempted to do a piece on the court proceedings but I'd better not. My wife says I'm getting too interested in this case so I'd better move swiftly on! Evidently someone in St Edmunds Hall (Oxford University) is vandalising the community condoms kept in the JCB welfare room. Some were found to have holes in them, a fact reported by a student from 'Teddy Hall' when using the condoms to make jelly ice cubes. How low can some people go!
Finally, are you fed up with reading about Ashley Cole and John Terry. What a pair! And what a pity they don't live in Wisconsin. A cheating man there got more than he bargained for. Four women (one was his wife) lured him to a motel and then glued his penis to his stomach! They each received a year's probation. I bet they thought it was well worth it!
There you have it, Good old February. Plus a little of my own town, Derby. A poll was organised to name a new road in the town, 89% were unanimous in their choice. We now have a road called Laura Croft Way! What do you reckon to that. (The Laura Croft computer game originates from Derby.) You couldn't make it up. Have a nice day.