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Recent Posts:
September 2005


Battle of Britain

Fertility Treatment

The Plumber's Tale of Woe

Learning to Read and Write

Bureaucracy Gone Mad

What is Really Happening in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina

The Tooth Fairy Forgot to Come!!!

August 2005

More Surgery!"

How I Met Michael Rennie (1909-1971)

"The Sixth Lamentation" - An Excellent Book

French Onions

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

I'm Recovering Well

Well, I'm Glad That's Over!

Just Me Prattling

The Russian Mini-Submarine

Amazing Animals: The Sturgeon

The Tower Subway

Surgical Pre-Assessment

July 2005

The Coal Delivery

Spyware and Anti-spyware"

Getting Enough Sleep?

An Insidious Cancer

Americans First on the Moon

"The Lion King"

Update on my Biopsy

Have I had my Head Buried in the Sand?


Animal Intelligence

Fl./Lt. Dennis G. Hornsey, D.F.C.

The English Language

London Bombs

Marriage Advice?

My Biopsy

A Message for the World's Leaders

June 2005


A 'Perfect' Day

Amazing Animals: The Emperor Penguin

Crowned on this Day in 1509

A Sweet for a Special Occasion

King Solomon's Mines

Father's Day

Tiger, Tiger....


Cockroaches and Human Fertility

World's Best Character Actor

Computer Decisions

Food for Thought


World Ocean Day

Daft as a Brush (or Two)

Douglas Jennings, RAF Evader During WW II

Lord of the Rings

Driving Me Mad

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Sunday, 16 January 2005
Some More Problems with the Language!
Topic: Humorous
Here are a few more mistranslations that may make you smile.

This first one happened to me in Spain in 1961 or 1962 when I was staying with my sister, Maud. I was having trouble with my foot - couldn't put my weight on it. It seemed to be a recurrence of my flat foot problem - probably due to the shoes I was wearing. Anyway, my sister decided I needed to see the doctor. Now, when I was sixteen, I had been prescribed some leather arch supports and had a course of treatment which entailed putting my feet into a bowl of water on top of two metal electrodes which alternatively contracted and relaxed the foot muscle (a very odd feeling!). So, naturally, I wanted to tell the Spanish doctor about it and that I had worn supports in my shoes. I looked up 'support' in my little pocket dictionary. The most suitable word was 'sostén'. Well, I made the error of pluralizing it and explained to the doctor that I had worn 'sostenes' in my shoes. Well, did my sister laugh when I came home. I had actually told the doctor that I had worn a bra in my shoes!

My eldest sister, Marie-Claire, who is a nun in the religious order of the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, told us this story about the Papal Nuncio to Paris (I think it was Archbishop Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII]. He gave a speech to a group of Church Dignitaries on his arrival in France and inadvertently said "When I look at my behind..." [Quand je regarde mon derrière..."] when he meant to say, "When I look back on my past..."

There is another trap that English people abroad can fall into - using a foreign word that sounds like the English one you want to use. My sister made this bloomer when she first visited Spain. She is an inveterate chatterbox so, when she was introduced to a handsome young man at a party, she was not put off by her (at the time) limited ability with the language. She was recounting an embarrassing episode that had just happened to her so she said "Estoy muy embarazada". She didn't realise until later that what she had said was not, "I am very embarrassed", as she thought! What she actually told the young lad was, "I am very pregnant"!

Another extremely unfortunate incidence of this kind of mistranslation happened when an English speaking Army Chaplain wished to bless some French speaking soldiers on their way to the battle front. "Soyez blessé" he said. Whoops! Not "May you be blest" but much worse, "May you be wounded"!

Bonne nuit!

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:48 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 14 January 2005
Problems with the Language?
Topic: Humorous

To you go abroad for your holidays? Do you take a small dictionary with you to help with your smattering of the language? Well, take care and, if possible, use a language dictionary with two sections to double check words before you plunge in feet first. Why? Well, this is a true story of what happened to one poor French lady who went shopping in London in the 1920`s.

My father worked in the London branch of a French firm, Dormeuil Frères. One of his French colleagues, recently married, had brought his wife over from Paris. Her command of the English Language was rather inadequate and the poor lady was feeling very miserable away from all her friends and family with little to do except write letters home. So, to try to cheer her up, her husband managed to get some tickets for a performance of a very popular opera showing at Convent Garden Opera House the following evening. The only problem was that their seats were up in the Gallery.

"Eh, bien, mon petite chou. Tu crois que tu pourras aller a les boutiques demain pour acheter des jumelles de théâtre?" [Well, darling, do you think you could manage to go to the shops tomorrow to buy some opera glasses?]. Hours of work in those days were much longer and he had no chance of getting to the shops himself.

So, the next day, our French lady arrives in Oxford Street and goes to a big store which her husband had said would be sure to have just what she wanted. But, no luck. Frustrated, she was forced to give up. So, she went to meet her husband in the evening and told him she had gone to "----" shop but that they didn't have any opera glasses. "That's ridiculous", replied her husband. "They must stock them - I saw some in the window! ". The wife explained that she had spoken to a young assistant in the shop and asked if he could give her some opera glasses. But he had just stared at her as if she was mad and had stuttered, "No, I can't help you, Madam". She had tried to ask him if he was sure he couldn't help as she needed them that evening but the young man had appeared to be very embarrassed and had rushed off to get the manager. The Manager was very polite, she said, but had told her very firmly that he was very sorry but they were unable to help.

The problem was that she had looked in the dictionary to translate the word "jumelles". As often happens, the word had more than one possible translation and she had chosen the short, easy word instead of the longer "opera glasses". What had she asked for? Well, no wonder the young shop assistant was embarrassed. She had said: "I want some twins. Can you give me some?"

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:58 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 11 January 2005
What Happened to the Pure in Heart?
Topic: In the News
Early this evening, (I'm still up, so it still feels like Monday!), my husband switched on the radio as he was getting changed in the bedroom after doing his exercises. He listened to a report on the Business News about "unusual auctions" and repeated to me what he heard over supper. I couldn't believe what he was saying, at first. But, yes, it is true and it is all over the Internet.

Rosie Reid, an 18-year-old student at Bristol University and a self-proclaimed lesbian, auctioned her virginity on the Internet. An unnamed, 44 year old BT engineer and father of two was the 'lucky winner' - for the price of #8,400.

Oh, how the world has changed that anyone can even think of prostituting themselves in such a degrading fashion. Fifty years ago, she would have been expelled from her university and widely condemned for selling herself in such a public manner. It brings disrepute to her university and to her fellow female students, to her family and, also, to our country and to women worldwide.

She apparently wanted "to avoid graduating with excessive debt". What is wrong with doing some work during the summer holidays like my son did? He helped to support himself by working at a supermarket at weekends, then every summer break as well. He pursued every opportunity to earn extra cash and even got a job dealing with students' meal tickets at the Halls of Residence, which meant he couldn't eat his own meal until they had all passed through. I know student fees are much more expensive these days but there is also a fatuous culture of 'must have' amongst the young - 'must have holidays', 'must have designer clothes', 'must eat out', 'must enjoy social drinking and clubbing', 'must have a credit card'.

University students, in particular, are supposed to be the future elite of our society. Blessed with brains and fortunate enough to receive an education, which is the envy of many other countries, they are our country's investment in the future. It makes my stomach churn to think that a person totally without principles, with no concept of Christian morality as it was taught to me at school, could one day become one of our political leaders or, worse still, be involved in the education of others.

Will she ever regret doing it? Probably not - and that is the saddest thing of all.

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:34 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 7 January 2005
Doing The Laundry
Topic: Memories
Yesterday, we were looking after the grandchildren, as we do most Thursdays. When my daughter came home from work in the evening, she was telling me that her washing machine had broken down the day before. It is twelve years old so she had feared the worst and had visions of bringing all her washing round to my house until she could get a replacement. However, the mechanic had been round and, thankfully, the problem was not serious - and he had the correct spare replacement part, so all was well. The first thing she did was to fill the machine up as she had two loads to wash. That got me thinking. Nowadays a washing machine is an absolute essential in the modern home - could you do without one? Would you do your weekly wash in the sink? Even once? Is your sink even big enough? No - I didn't think so.

Things were very different in the past. As a very small child in the mid 1940`s, I have memories of my mother doing the weekly washing. A washboiler with mangleIt seemed to take her all day! I think that before World War II, Mum used to use a laundry service for linen double sheets and large tableclothes and things like the detachable stiff collars men had to wear. But when war broke out, this stopped. I remember she had a very ancient gas washboiler with a large folding mangle. It lived in the `scullery' (utility room) and she used it for washing sheets, towels, linen tablecloths, serviettes and such like. This machine had to be filled with water by hand and had a tap at the bottom for emptying the water when finished. I think it had a paddle or something to move the laundry around in the water (manually, of course). I can remember helping her to pass the washing through that mangle. Items were still quite damp, of course, but much better than if you tried wringing them by hand. In the winter, it was not unusual for washing to freeze on the line in the garden. Ever tried dealing with a frozen double sheet?

An oldfashioned WashboardFor all the other washing, there was the washboard - a long wooden frame with a corrugated front. The sink was enormous - at least as deep as your arms and probably three foot square. Mum had a large bar of white soap which she rubbed on the clothes and then she pummelled and pummelled them against the washboard and up and down in the water for ages! Sometimes, she needed a small brush for stubborn marks on collars and cuffs. Then, everything had to be rinsed several times before going through the mangle or, for very delicate items, being pressed gently between two towels. She also had one of those large ceiling racks (you can still buy these) to hang washing up indoors when it was raining. You lowered the rack with a rope, loaded it up, and pulled it up again. Ceilings were high, so the washing was out of the way.

In the early 1950's, Dad bought Mum an electric Thor Washing Machine. This was a state of the art, top-loading machine with agitator action. It also rinsed and spun dried! I know we were the first in our road to have an automatic washing machine! It was a real luxury then and I can remember my mother being slightly embarrassed when she described it to our neighbours! Well, she deserved it. My lovely mum had been severely handicapped since contacting Puerperal Fever in 1921 from the midwife who delivered my eldest sister. She was very ill for a whole year and nearly died. [See the page on my website about My Mum]. In those days, with a large family and myself (the afterthought!) still under five, she had a 'Charlady' twice a week to help with some of the housework but that still left a great deal for her to do.

When I was first married, I had a washboiler too. My wringer was my husband! How we coped with the huge number of terry towelling nappies, I don't know. It was several years before we could afford an automatic washing machine so I really appreciated it when we got one even if I had to drag it backwards and forwards to the sink to attach the pipes to the taps. I remember once forgetting to put the outflow pipe into the sink and the machine emptied itself at least three times onto the kitchen floor! That was fun! Well, the children, playing alone in the breakfast room certainly thought so. I was in the next room tending to my husband, who had just come home from hospital after his second hernia operation, and it was the children's hilarious laughter which alerted me to something unusual! I can certainly laugh about it now but at the time I wasn't too impressed over that episode. ('Why on earth didn't you call Mummy straight away?')!

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:00 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 5 January 2005
Andrew's First Birthday
Topic: Grandchildren
What's this new toy?I can't believe that a whole year has passed since Andrew was born on 1st January 2004! I wonder if he will remember his first Christmas Day and his first Birthday? Andrew actually had two "birthdays", one on Saturday for his Mummy's side of the family and one on Sunday for our side of the family. This worked well as my son realised after the Christening in October that his house was really much too small to have all the relatives around together. We would have been restricted to a buffet meal instead of a lovely roast dinner and, at this time of the year, it is much too cold to spill out into the garden.

Well, I must say that I am amazed at Andrew's steady progress! I know I am a biased Grandparent, but he has been walking since he was ten months old and I don't think it will be long before he is talking. He already communicates very well by pointing at things and trying to say 'that' and claps his hands when he is pleased about something. He has been drinking from his cup since he was about 6 months old and can feed himself even if he is a bit messy! Shelley is a trained Nursery School Assistant and spends a lot of time helping him and encouraging him, so perhaps that is why he is doing so well. He loved tearing the wrapping paper off his presents and he recognises anything to do with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore. Not surprising because my son spent ages decorating the nursery a year ago and lovingly drew and painted these characters on the wall opposite Andrew's cot.

Stephanie with her favourite UnclePoor David looked exhausted at the end of the day. Shelley is also suffering from chronic tiredness as Andrew still wakes up in the early hours so David helps as much as he can. He did a lot of the cooking with Shelley, loaded up the dishwasher and emptied it twice, washed up the glasses and saucepans, made the coffee and entertained his nephew and niece by rolling on the floor with them and tossing them up to the ceiling! I got tired just watching! He was also up until the early hours on Friday evening/Saturday morning finishing Andrew's birthday cake, beautifully decorated with a big picture of Tigger's face! (Are you reading this, you Husbands and Dads out there?) When David was about 16, I showed him how to sew on a button, boil an egg, peel potatoes and cook a simple meal. It paid off when he left university and lived in a rented room for a while. He bought a combination microwave/convection cooker and cooked all his meals. He even tried his hand at making lemon meringue pie!

Thankfully, I saw my son-in-law, Adrian, taking lots of photographs. I shall look forward to seeing them when the film is developed as my digital ones aren't very good! I always seem to do something silly like accidentally moving the camera setting (usually on auto) and getting blurred pictures because the shutter speed is too slow! Then I had to use David's electricity to finish charging the camera when we arrived as I discovered in the morning that I had managed to leave it switched on and the battery had drained! It seems that 'Geri' is my middle name (Geri Atric!)

Posted by Noviomagus at 18:11 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 1 January 2005
My Wishes for the New Year
Now Playing: Auld Lang Syne
Topic: Special Days

Happy New Year Health and happiness is my wish for you all for this New Year and a life full of friendship, kindness and good cheer.

I wish also for peace on this wartorn planet we call the Earth. Peace for Palestine and Israel, peace for Iraq, peace for Sudan, peace for Afghanistan - all places where so many lives have been destroyed in recent months.

This little poem by Robert Brewster Beattie says it all! You may have heard it before but the words are timeless and reach out to all humanity.

A Way to a Happy New Year

To leave the old with a burst of song,
To recall the right and forgive the wrong;
To forget the things that bind you fast
to the vain regrets of the year that's past;
To have the strength to let go your hold
of the not worth while of the days grown old,
To dare go forth with a purpose true,
to the unknown task of the year that's new;
To help your brother along the road
to do his work and lift his load;
To add your gift to the world's good cheer,
is to have and to give a Happy New Year!

Posted by Noviomagus at 02:19 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 30 December 2004
Topic: In the News
pray for the dead and those left behind
My husband heard the early news on Boxing Day and told me there had been an earthquake under the sea resulting in a huge tsunami wave. On Monday we had a family reunion to celebrate my birthday so I only caught up with the news again at 10:40 pm that evening when the enormity of the tragedy began to sink in. They say the tsunami death toll may eventually be more than 100,000 as the casualty figure keeps rising, although many bodies will never be found. One third of these victims were young children - a lost generation. Of the survivors, an estimated 5 million people have been affected by this terrible disaster. Countless homes, hotels, villages and whole towns have been destroyed; twisted timbers and bits of masonry litter the landscape. The foreign tourists, who have survived traumatised and battered, many mourning lost family members, will come home to rebuild their lives. For the people left behind, the cost in human suffering is incalculable and the days to come could see another human catastrophe unfold as disease takes hold. Many people have no fresh water to drink as sewage outlets have broken and all water is contaminated. People on remote islands have no water, no food, no shelter, and desperately need medical supplies. The small but vital fishing industry is lost together with the fishermen's smashed up boats. The impact of this disaster will be felt for many years as these decimated communities struggle to rebuild themselves and some villages are probably gone forever. And for those whose economy was based on the tourist industry - now washed away - how will they survive? How long will it take to rebuild not just the resorts but the confidence of foreign visitors?

This dreadful catastrophe is one of the worst in recent times. There have been tsunamis before. In Alaska in April 1946, an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands triggered a Pacific-wide tsunami which killed a total of some 261 people and caused $52 million (much more in today's money) of damage. There was another tsunami in 1957 which caused less damage and no lives were lost. In 1960, there was one affecting Peru and Chile which caused widespread damage. In the 19th century, on 27 August 1883, Krakatau, an island volcano located on the island of Rakata along the Indonesian arc between Sumatra and Java, erupted with tremendous force sending dust 17 miles up into the atmosphere. Giant waves reached heights of 40 metres above sea level and devastated everything in their path. At least 36,417 lives were lost. The worst earthquake in living memory happened in Tangshan, China in 1976, when it was reported that 242,000 people died and over 600,000 were injured. However, in the decades since this earthquake, it is believed that the real figure was over half a million dead.

There are no volcanoes in England. We do not live in an earthquake zone where tectonic plates meet although we do have quite a few little earthquakes but hardly anyone notices - the worst measured 6.1 in 1931. There is an occasional severe gale and some miniature tornadoes have caused damage in some seaside towns but we never see the destructive hurricanes they suffer in the United States. Yes, of course we have had flood disasters and loss of life in recent memory and these will undoubtedly happen again. But we are lucky and privileged as a nation to live safe and comfortable lives.

These desperate human survivors in the devastated areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya (eleven nations in southeast Asia and Africa) need our help NOW. If every adult in the Western world gave something, even just £2 or $2 or €2 each, it would make a huge difference so please donate what you can afford to the disaster fund. It is easy. The telephone line for making donations from the UK is 0870 60 60 900 - you will be asked to enter your details via the telephone keypad.

Posted by Noviomagus at 13:15 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 26 December 2004
!Caramba! ?Que pasa?
Topic: Poetry and Poets
We have all heard that lovely Christmas poem, "Twas the Night before Christmas", (sometimes called, "A Visit from St Nicholas"), written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. Well, I hope he will forgive me for passing on this "Spanish/English" version, which I came across recently. It should amuse my Spanish relatives!

'Twas the Night before Christmas ("Spanglish" version)

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa,
Not a creature was stirring - !Caramba! ?Que pasa?

Los ni?os were tucked away in their camas,
Some in long underwear, some in pijamas,
While hanging the stockings with mucho cuidado,
In hopes that old Santa would feel obligado,
To bring all children, both buenos and malos,
A nice batch of dulces and other regalos.

Outside in the yard there arose un gran grito,
and I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrito.
I ran to the window and looked out afuera,
And who in the world do you think that it era?

Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero,
Came dashing along like a loco bombero.
And pulling his sleigh instead of venados,
Were eight little burros approaching volando.

I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre,
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:
"Ay Pancho, ay Pepe, ay Cuco, ay Beto,
ay Chato, ay Chopo, Maruco, y Nieto!"

Then standing erect with his hands on his pecho,
He flew to the top of our very own techo,
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chiminea.

Then huffing and puffing at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala,
He filled all the stockings with lively regalos,
None for the ni?os that had been very malos.

Then chuckling aloud, seeming very contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone como el viento,
And I heard him exclaim, y ¡esto es verdad!

Merry Christmas to all, ¡y Feliz Navidad!

- author unknown

Of course, most children in Spain receive their presents from the three Kings on 6th January, El Dia De Reyes (Epiphany) and, instead of a stocking, they put their shoes out the night before by a door or a window to be filled with little presents.

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:51 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 21 December 2004
A Philosophy for Life
Topic: Miscellanea
Ponder on this.

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When class began, and without saying a word, he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks right to the top, rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full and they agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The students laughed. He asked his students again if the jar was full and they agreed that, yes, it was. The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.

"Now," said the professor, "I want you to recognize that this is your life. The rocks are the important things - your family, your partner, your health, your children - anything that is so important to you that if it were lost, you would be nearly destroyed. The pebbles are the other things in life that matter, but on a smaller scale. The pebbles represent things like your job, house, or car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff."

"If you put the sand or the pebbles into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your energy and time on the small stuff, material things, you will never have room for the things that are truly most important."

Pay attention to the things that are critical in your life. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the rocks first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities, the rest is just pebbles and sand.

Posted by Noviomagus at 13:01 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Monday, 20 December 2004
Christmas Rush
Topic: Festive Season
A presentAre You Ready for Christmas? Well, I'm not. There seems to be such a lot still to do! All the presents are waiting to be wrapped up and I still have one more to find - and no inspiration! Last year, I bought this person some toiletries, shower gel and bath stuff. Not very original and I would really like to find something inspirational for a change. I know that it is the thought that counts but I always try to put myself in a person's shoes and give a present I hope they will be happy to receive. That can be very difficult with adults whose tastes you are not particularly familiar with; I will have to seek some advice! Only five `shopping days' to go, including today.

It is so easy to find presents for small children, don't you think. Too easy really! Saturday, we went down the town and I came home with a little coat for Baby Andrew and Sunday, I come home with yet another toy for him. Well, it is his first birthday on the 1st January as well as his first Christmas. The twins are easy too. They like money, of course, which they get from my husband, but I like to give them presents as well. A pink velvet dress, a cycle helmet and gloves, four sets of Hama beads, a fairy calendar, squishy soaps, sweets and I don't remember what else! Well, what are Grandmothers for if not to spoil kids occasionally?

Shopping was so much easier when I was a child. I can remember the very first time I bought Christmas presents for my family. It would have been the year after an older child at school put me wise about Father Christmas so I was probably seven. My father encouraged me to save some of my pocket money well in advance and then, generously doubled it for me so that I could buy little gifts for everyone. One of my sisters took me down to Woolworth, which had a large selection of goods, and sent me in on my own. I remember choosing presents for everyone whilst my sister waited patiently outside so I probably did all my shopping in half an hour. I particularly remember the brooch I bought for my sister, Pauline. When she opened her present on Christmas Day and admired it, I just couldn't contain myself and proudly informed her that; "it cost two shillings and sixpence!". Probably my first `faux pas'!

Posted by Noviomagus at 10:52 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

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