Monday, March 30, 2009

The Start Of The Book Bag

Just back from a holiday - a big thank you to Jane and Edwin and Sue for their hospitality - and immediately my mind starts planning for the next one. And the next one - a 16 day cruise around the Eastern Mediterranean - is just nine weeks away today. Once it gets less than ten weeks away I feel as though I can launch a number of pre-holiday rituals. I can start, for example, tracking the ship on the P&O webcam, just to ensure that the captain is looking after it in anticipation for my annual residency. This year we will be sailing on the Arcadia and - if the webcam is anything to go by - it is currently drifting off the coast of Dubai. I shall watch its progress over the coming weeks just to make sure it gets back in time to pick me up.
Another ritual is the annual book-bag. No cruise is complete without a bag full of books to read and the choice of the annual selection is a treasured part of the pre-cruise experience. I bought my first choice over the weekends and therefore a copy of Donna Leon's "The Girl Of His Dreams" has gone into the bag. We will be visiting Venice and therefore the latest in the splendid series featuring Commissario Brunetti makes a wonderfully apt choice. If I remember, I will try and update people on the other choices which go into the bag over the coming weeks.
Another pre-cruise ritual is that people begin to send me press cuttings highlighting lurid stories about mass outbreaks of cabin fever, pirate attacks and mechanical meltdowns. I mention this to save all those who were about to e-mail me details of the latest breakdowns and cancellations on board P&O's Aurora. I have read the stories about being stranded in Aukland harbour and having to abandon several stops in order to get back on schedule. I have read all the comments about it being a cursed ship ever since the bottle of champagne failed to break on its launch day. Having spend a memorably fine holiday on board the Aurora, as far as I am concerned it is a load of nonsense. And as for those passengers who became upset on being becalmed in the Antipodes : they should have taken a Book Bag with them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Black Clothes For Self And Children

My trouble is that I can't stick to one thing, I'm a digital jack-of-all trades and a somewhat sad master-of-none. I know this because a long succession of people have told me so, starting with Mrs Turner in Primary School (strange, I have been thinking of her a lot recently). Well, it's got to stop. What I need is focus. Direction. I need to grow up. In future these blog postings will be on SERIOUS subjects, they will be on-message, they will be professional.
Today I would like to announce that Microsoft will finally launch the non-beta version of its new web browser, Internet Explorer 8. It has many new and advanced features including ....
Talking of browsers, I was browsing around the web the other day when I came across the Charles Booth Online Archive. Charles Booth (1840 - 1916) was an English philanthropist and social researcher best known for his recording of life in working class London at the end of the nineteenth century.  His research papers are kept at the Library of the London School of Economics and they have recently made them available via a online digital archive. Amongst the various papers are six notebooks containing transcriptions of Stepney Union casebooks, 1889-1890 which record detailed case histories of the inmates of Bromley and Stepney workhouses and of people who received outdoor relief from the union. Do yourself a favour, forget work for a minute, forget your current worries and cares, and just dip in at random and have a read of the case notes.
I turned to the first case in the first volume - that of Mary Ann Brown. In 1889 she was 48 years old and living at 112 North Street Stepney. A widow of six years, she gave birth to 16 children 5 of whom had survived. The cause of her "pauperism" is listed as the death of her husband, a lighterman, in 1883. The notes list the circumstances of poor Mary Ann Brown in shocking detail (all the more shocking because these are the original hand-written notebooks). From the money she received from her husband's Burial Club she paid £6 for his funeral, bought a mangle for £5 in order to try and support herself in the future, and with what remained "bought black clothes for self and children". When she was no longer able to support herself as a washerwoman she applied to the Poor Law Guardians for support. The various reports chart the tragic history of Mary Ann : eviction from her rented accommodation, the illness of her children, the eventual death of her youngest son Charles. Her son Robert becomes a member of "the Union Shoeblack Brigade" and two other children are taken into the workhouse. 
The notebook moves on to the next case and you never know what happens to Mary Ann. But I defy anyone to flick through the digital pages of these notebooks and not be moved. Who the hell wants to talk about Internet Explorer when there are things like this to read?

View Our House

Just tried - go to maps.google.co.uk, put in our post-code, click on 'street view' and with a bit of tweaking you can see the front of our house. Fame at last!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Averagely Envoweled Handsome Celt

Not sure how, but the other day I was re-directed to a site called "Is This Your Name". In ways which are beyond me the site already knew my name was Alan Burnett and it went on to supply me with some wonderful information I had never known before (not only had I not known the information, I didn't realise I wanted to know), But on the understanding that information is empowerment, I an now empowered by the following series of facts:
Top 5 Facts for this Name:
  1. 36% of the letters are vowels. Of one million first and last names we looked at, 47.7% have a higher vowel make-up. This means you are averagely envoweled.
  2. In ASCII binary it is... 01000001 01101100 01100001 01101110 00100000 01000010 01110101 01110010 01101110 01100101 01110100 01110100
  3. Backwards, it is Nala Ttenrub... nice ring to it, huh?
  4. In Pig Latin, it is Alanway Urnettbay.
  5. People with this first name are probably: Male. So, there's a 98% likelihood you sweat just thinking of the price of shaver blades.

Name Origin and Meaning:


Forename:  Origin: Celtic Meaning: Handsome

3 Things You Didn't Know:


  1. Your personal power animal is the Cynomolgus Monkey
  2. Your 'Numerology' number is 2. If it wasn't bulls**t, it would mean that you are supportive, diplomatic, analytical, and play well with others. A team-player, you seek peace and harmony in a group.
  3. According to the US Census Bureau°, 0.204% of US residents have the first name 'Alan' and 0.0239% have the surname 'Burnett'. The US has around 300 million residents, so we guesstimate there are 146 Americans who go by the name 'Alan Burnett'.
So now you know. Kind regards from Nala T Tenrub

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Blogged Up Again

Two years ago I introduced a new phrase into the vocabulary of bloggers. To be "all blogged up" meant that one had managed to update all of one's blogs on the same day. It is to be at one with the world, the blogging equivalent to putting your house in order. Two years later I can now announce that for the second time I am "all blogged up". There is nothing left to achieve today. Might as well go to bed.

Ink And Paper And A Bus Journey

In the early 1990s I had an office in the back room of a library. We were setting up a European Information and Economic Intelligence Unit at the time and someone within the Council decided that a suitable location for it would be in the back room of the Public Library. As the European Information and Economic Intelligence Officer (yes, I was able to answer the phone by saying EIEIO) I argued against a library-based office, saying that I wanted the Unit to be paperless and I wanted the raw material to be digital rather than stuffy old ink and paper. We shared the same tea room as the Library Staff and I recall many a happy argument about the future of printed media. I even submitted a mock report at one stage to the Chief Librarian saying that it would soon be financially viable to shut all the local libraries down, sack all the staff, sell all the books, and give people a free computer and a disk drive.
Of course it didn't come about as I imagined it would do. I thought that the future of information would be disk-based and not web-based and I underestimated the pull of paper and cardboard. I also got the timescale wrong. However, eighteen years down the line, perhaps some of my predictions were not all that far off the mark. These thoughts were prompted by my need the other day to look someone up in the Dictionary of National Biography. I don't have a copy and the local library is a fair old bus ride away so I checked out - without much hope - on-line access. I found that you can take out an on-line subscription and it costs £195 per year. I was just about to leave the site - and abandon my investigation into the life of John Pudney - when I noticed a second log-in option which asked for your library card number. After a bit of experimentation I discovered that my local Kirklees Library Card entitles me to log-in free of charge. 
Further investigation revealed that my ability to access the Dictionary of National Biography forms part of something called the 24 Hour Library Service which also gives access to the full Oxford Reference Collection and a powerful press cutting service called NewsBank. It is not just my own Local Authority that has this kind of access : most local authorities throughout the country have similar arrangements which allow people to access powerful on-line sources of information via noting more than their library card number.
It's not ink and paper, I know, but it beats a half-hour bus journey any day of the week.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Desert Island Smells

There is no better way of spending a rainy day than a nice game of Desert Island Smells. The game is prompted by the simple question - if you were cast away on a desert island which six smells would you take with you? I have my own personal half-dozen carefully chosen, bottled and stoppered, and packed away ready for whenever I go travelling : just in case. I was reminded of one of the six on Friday afternoon when I was in Leeds with a bit of time on my hands.
Dedicated lovers of breweries will know that last November the international brewing conglomerate, Carlsberg, announced that it would shortly shut down the Tetley Brewery in Leeds. The brewery, which dates back to 1822, currently produces both Carlsberg and Tetley beer. Production of Carlsberg will, in future, be concentrated at the firms' Northampton Brewery. A question mark still hangs over the future of Tetley bitter.
So finding myself in Leeds with time on my hands I decided to walk down to the Tetley Brewery and check that it was still open. It is many, many years since I was there last and Leeds has changed beyond all measure over recent years, particularly down by the riverside. Therefore I was not all that sure which way to go, but soon found signs to Brewery Wharf and followed them down between blocks of flats and plate-glass offices. Brewery Wharf eventually came in site but it was nothing more than a collection of hotels, restaurants, shops and offices gathered around one of those meaningless modern sculptures.
But I have played too many games of Desert Island Smells to stay lost for long. A quick sniff told me that the brewery - wherever it was hidden - was still open and that today was a brewing day. A few twisting passages later and the steel, glass and concrete gave way to a majestic brewery. If only it was the offices and flats they were pulling down and not the brewery. Soon, very soon, this part of Leeds will not look the same, nor will it smell the same.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New mobile

Yesterday I gave into pressure I should have a mobile phone - a Nokia 2630 (pictured above) - so that Jane could use our old 6230i to call me should we both be out of reach of a land-line. (Camera in the 2630 is low quality and besides I can only download pictures using blue-tooth which we don't have.)

So I spent a happy afternoon trying to find out how to set everything for ease of use. Quite tricky to run check tests because in our house the signal is very dubious and comes and goes.....

What few people could possibly know is that I have to chuckle at the way the buttons do different things according to the number of pushes within a time limit, or do different things if you hold them down, because a very long time ago when black electronic chips were only just becoming available in places like Harwell I was student-poor but had this idea to fit my room with dimmable lights.... and to cut the number of switches and wiring cores realised I could use just a push button with two wires if my electronics counted how many times you pushed it within a time limit. Exactly the same idea so many devices now use. And now such very old history. (Sometimes I very much feel my age....)

Now, there's a nice logical problem with Jane's plan... we have to remember to have both phones switched on and in a suitable accessible pocket. And the 2630 is so tiny I can quite see I won't even know where it is unless I carefully tell my personal computer to be aware.... and that's becoming increasingly blocked by all the things I should be trying to remember.

Which reminds me we have visitors due not so very far away and at the moment the bed is covered in boxes I didn't bother to squirrel away at the time. But I could mobile them, now, - the people, not the boxes - if I had any idea of their mobile numbers - which I don't. And if I walked out the house because otherwise it's quite likely there's no signal. (These practical trivia are everything. )

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Great Yorkshire Pudding Conspiracy

I'm not normally a competitive type of person. I'm more of your "let's all pull together", "we're all in the same boat", "do unto others" type of guy. Never having excelled in anything I have always been a bit down on competition - it's OK if you are the kind that win, but I have always been an "also ran" in life's great steeplechase. I know I risk being accused of self-deprecation : after all, "everyone is good at something" as my Year 2 Junior School teacher, Mrs Turner, used to say. But even as a 7 year old, I could detect a look of what just might be pity as Mrs Turner said these words, she knew it was a fib and she realised that I knew it as well. "You see", she said, "you're very perceptive" as if it proved her point. I remember trying to look the word up in my Woolworth's First English Dictionary and not finding it there. When I remembered the conversation years later - and I had upgraded my dictionary - I realised that she was probably right.
If I am good at anything, it is baking a first-class Yorkshire Pudding. Ask any of my friends what they most readily associate with me and you will get very few answers that include phrases such as "ready wit", "sparkling personality" or "craggy good looks", but you will have a good few Yorkshire Puddings doing the rounds. I'm proud of my Yorkshire Puddings and just a little competitive about them. 
Now I have a good friend who believes that she can bake a decent Yorkshire Pudding (I don't want to mention names but for the sake of argument let's just call her "E"). She has gone so far as to suggest that her Yorkshires are better than mine. Once she accused me of having bought mine from Tesco's - to a true Yorkshire Pudding baker there are few insults lower than this. I have on several occasions challenged her to a "Battle of the Puddings" but she normally manages to avoid the confrontation. However, she has become something of a culinary stalker : she buys the same Yorkshire Pudding tins as mine and often questions me about my recipe. There are certain things you just don't talk about and one's treasured Yorkshire Pudding recipe is one of them.
Now the other day I received an e-mail. It was one of those circular things which asks you to send 10 coca-cola ring-pulls to an orphaned dwarf in Tennessee - well that kind of thing. The appeal related to "favourite recipes" and one was asked to send a copy of your favourite recipe to the person whose name was on top of the list. It didn't take me long to work out what was going on. Nice try E but you will need to get up earlier in the morning to pull that old trick on me. I will forgo the pleasure of having 1,244 fascinating recipes coming through my letterbox. I will risk the witch's curse for breaking the chain. You are not getting my Yorkshire Pudding recipe E!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Caesaring

Latest back view - the scaffolding is at last away and our builder Dave has rendered (sorry about the bad pun in the title) the blockwork (brickwork) and the back of our development starts to show how neat it all is and how the single-story bit of the extension on the left sort-of matches the neighbour's (as intended.) (She says she now wishes she'd had the same sort of two-storey extension bit as well!) We wish we could have timed our works to match hers so we could have shared the extension wall rather than having that silly little gap. On the other hand, sharing a gutter might have been quite tricky. The woodwork for our French window (and the triangle to its top left) is measured-up and now on order - again, to match the neighbour's. The "lawn" in view is soon to be levelled and returfed... but not before a soakaway has been dug for the rainwater coming from the gutters at the back of the house... we'd hoped to pipe it to the rainwater sewer at the side of the house, but Thames Water seem unable to work out if they'll permit this (builder Alan and I say the architect should never have bothered asking them - after all the rainwater from side and front gutters already goes into this!) Meanwhile, Building Control want to have a test pit to see if a soakaway is OK... so we have to pray for dry weather during this test because we KNOW that if it's been raining heavily the goundwater rises to just about 1 foot below the level of the surface (as in the photo) and stays for ages... i.e., doesn't exactly soak away. (We know because when Alan dug the deep trench at the front/side for all our new services it was raining a lot and it kept flooding, causing the sides to collapse.... all sorted out and covered in, now. Oh, we only found where this rainwater drain actually ran when Alan broke into it with the digger - none of us had any idea it ran that far across away from the house at the side before turning back again....) Still, the outside nearly done (bar a few drainpipes, coats of paint, terrace, garden, fencing, parking areas at the front, lowered pavement for car access...) Inside, downstairs, at least, partition walls are coming on apace ... all quite exciting and going well, but quite impossible to photograph (yet) to show anything meaningful. In the meantime my room at home.. and the living room.. are full of electrical bits and fittings - and water plumbing bits - waiting for the moment there are enough bits of walls in place to wire-to or to run pipes through.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Deja Vu

One of the best jazz singers around today, Trudy Kerr, has just released a new album of Duke Ellington songs, called "Like Minds" which features the great Michael Garrick on piano. It's a terrific record and is well worth searching for. On it she sings "Don't Get Around Much Any More" (one of my very favourite songs) in a way I have never heard it sung before, in a way which provides a powerful example of what jazz should be all about.
Anyway, I was browsing through her website when I noticed that her last album was called Deja Vu. And as soon as I saw these words I remembered I needed to put together a post about .... about deja vu (could all my pedantic friends please note that I know there should be all sorts of accents over various letters, it's just that I can't be bothered searching for the special keys which will produce them and therefore there is no need to e-mail me and point out my mistake).
I have been suffering from deja vu a lot these last few days. It all started when my computer came back from the repair shop. My new computer developed a fault after a couple of months which most people blamed on a software problem. Eventually it was discovered that it was a hardware problem - the Hard Drive had failed - and a new one had to be fitted. This meant that when the computer eventually came back I had to start at the beginning again, re-installing all my software and fine-tuning everything to just the way I like it. Whilst the software installation is a fairly simple process these days, the fine tuning is proving to be painful in the extreme.  And throughout the entire process there has been this sense of deja vu, this feeling that I have walked down this road before. And, of course, I have. My problem is that I can't remember the solutions that I painstakingly came up with last time. Thus my life has become a process of rediscovery - and what an annoying process it is.
So I sit here, staring at the screen fonts that look all wrong, glancing at my Google sidebar clock which isn't there, and wondering where it all went wrong. To hell with it, let's listen to some music instead. Next track Trudy please.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Did Anyone Ever Find Percy?

As I have said often before, one of the most enjoyable things about looking through old newspapers is the transient, inconsequential, provincial little article or advert which just happens to appear on the same page as a "major" news item. These little pieces tend to say far more about society than the big political events of the day. And, as I have also often said before, one of the best places to trawl for such gems is at the website of NewspaperARCHIVE.com. They publish a daily newsletter (The Daily Perspective) which is available in the form of a blog. Each issue takes an item from the current news headlines and goes in search of similar themes from over 100 years of archived newspapers. I have included a link to the Blog in my Blogs I Am Following List.
What has all this to do with Percy the Parrot? Well, today's issue of the Daily Perspective looked at the decision by the International Criminal Court to charge Omar Hassan al-Bashir, President of Sudan, with war crimes. One of the newspaper links was to the "New Mexican" of July 2, 2002 which included an article about the ICC. And there, tucked away on the bottom of the page was the above advert offering a reward for information about a missing parrot. President al-Bashir will no doubt be anxious to learn the outcome of the ICC charges. Me?, I just want to know what happened to Percy.

Came Upon A Child Of God

The question of the day is : "was there one child or two?". Let me start at the beginning, and the beginning is the Anchor Brewery which until 25 years ago occupied a prime site on Bankside in Southwark, London. The brewery was built in the early seventeenth century on part of the grounds previously occupied by the famous Globe Theatre of Shakespearean fame. When the brewery was eventually demolished in the early 1980s, part of the land that became available was used for the construction of a modern reproduction of the original Globe, and this has become one of the most famous sites of modern London.
It is the brewery rather than the theatre that I am interested in. A plaque set into the wall on Park Street provides a list of brewers starting with the Monger family in 1616 and running through until the acquisition of the brewery by the Courage Group in the 1950s. The brewer I am particularly interested in is Henry Thrale (who controlled the brewery in the mid eighteenth century) but in order to understand what he took over you need to understand the previous brewers. Which takes me to Josiah Child (1670-1693).
There is plenty of documentation to show that the brewery fell under the control of someone called Child in the 1660s and remained in his ownership until the 1690s when it was acquired by Edmund Halsey. But if you dig deeper than that, the agreement fades away in front of your eyes like the head on a pint of Courage Directors. In some places Child is referred to as James Child, in other places Josiah Child. Some people have Child taking over the Anchor Brewery in 1666, others in 1670. Some record his death taking place in 1693, some in 1699. Most people fudge the issue : John Pudney in his splendid 1971 history of the Courage Group talks about "Josiah, sometimes known as James, Child", whilst Alfred Barnard (the font of all knowledge on the history of British brewing) decided to skip over that particular episode in the history of the Anchor Brewery in his sonorous four volume work of 1889. 
There certainly was a Josiah Child - his life is well documented and his portrait has survived down the ages. He was born in 1630, and made a name for himself - and probably a fortune for himself - by being a firm supporter of Cromwell during the Republic. In 1655 he became Deputy of the Navy Treasury in Portsmouth and in 1658 he became the Mayor of Portsmouth, important positions given the importance of the Navy in seventeenth century Britain. He also became the MP for the seat of Petersfield in 1859. Following the restoration in 1660 he was removed from his official positions and banned from any dealings with the Navy by the new King Charles II. Nevertheless, if we are to believe the history books, by 1666 he had bought the Brewery at Bankside, Southwark, from the Mongers, obtained a contract to supply the Navy with beer (cleverly changing the name to the Anchor Brewery to reflect the nautical connections) and been recommended by the King for membership of the Company of Brewers. At the same time it appears that he had become a leading economist of the day, writing in 1668 alone two important books - "Brief Observations Concerning Trade and the Interest of Money", and "A New Discourse of Trade". Later he became a major stockholder in the East India Company and in the 1680s he became Governor of the Company. He was created 1st Baronet Child of Wanstead in 1678 and eventually died in 1699.  
The problem with this particular version of history is threefold. First, the owner of the Anchor Brewery is usually referred to as James Child rather than Josiah Child. Secondly, James Child of the Anchor Brewery is said to have died in 1696 and not 1699. And third, the next owner of the brewery - Edmund Halsey - rather cleverly acquired it by both being a decent head brewer and by marrying Child's daughter. Whilst Josiah Child is recorded as having two daughters who survived childhood, both married into the nobility and certainly not to a working brewer.
I am not sure that I have either the time or the inclination to untangle the strands and discover how many Child brewers there were. But there again, what else is retirement for? Did you know that you can download  "Brief Observations Concerning Trade and the Interest of Money" as a copyright free PDF file.  Excuse me while I go off and read it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Coming along

This picture may be confusing - it looks almost the same as the one I posted something like two years ago when we bought our development property!

Except that the roof is totally retiled (mostly using the old tiles, cleaned,) and has a felt below it (you can't, of course, see) and that the windows are all brand new and meeting BSS something-or-other meaning they are totally sound-proof and air proof except for the regulatory vent lets air in the rooms for you to have anything to breathe. And were you to look at the original photo, you'd spot that a new window has sprouted over the front door (for the upstairs' flat's bathroom.) (This picture was taken before builder Alan knocked through the hole for the forced ventilation of the downstairs, windowless, bathroom.)

And the front door visible (in fact leads to the stairs to the upstairs flat) is brand new and meets BSS regulation something-or-other else. It also can't be put on the latch but locks up like fort knox if you accidently let it swing-to. Mind you, it locks even more if you twist the key another turn - little bolts fly out top and bottom. (Doesn't mean to say you couldn't get in with a few swings of a sledge-hammer.)

Oh, and the TV aerial is brand new and suited to digital signals. They say. I wouldn't know, we tested with our old analogue TV from the boat - (must say, superb reception!)

Also hidden is that inside all the rooms are completely different from the old house and there's a whopping great extension at the back. Also, an almost-identical front door at the side for the ground floor flat.

The skip at the front is almost empty because some gypsies took away the old window's metal frames (presumably for scrap value) and a very pleasant lady nearish-neighbour demanded to have the old front door that had been in it to refurbish for her own house.

Oh, the gas boxes at the side now actually have meters fitted in them - since this picture was taken. I know, you wouldn't be able to tell either way, just thought you'd like to know. As builder Dave said, there is SO MUCH in building/developing a house you never actually ever see again....

Monday, March 02, 2009

How An Old Typewriter Ribbon Made Me Feel Suddenly Very Old

For the last few months I have been caught up in a Kafka novel. It started with a letter from some Government Department - God knows which, they change their names so often in order to re-brand themselves - which stated "According to our records you are now sixty and therefore entitled to Old People's Winter Fuel Supplement". There was a form to fill in which I duly completed and this gave rise to a second letter from another Department - or probably the same one which had re-branded itself in the week or so since the first letter - which said that they couldn't pay me the Allowance because they needed proof that I was old enough to receive it. I tried the approach of "I have a letter from you saying that I am entitled to it ..." but this got me nowhere. I was told that I would need to write to another Government Department and get a copy of my birth certificate. This I did, enclosing my £8 fee.
So this morning the copy of my birth certificate arrived. I cannot recall ever having seen a copy of it before and therefore the first thing I did was to double-check that I wasn't adopted (for many years I have had a strong belief that I am the last surviving Romanov) but there it was in black and white, I was the son of Albert and Gladys Burnett. The shock came when I checked my date of birth only to discover that I was born on the 17th June 1943 and not, as I thought, the 17th June 1948. This is the kind of news that can have a profound effect on a person and it is no exaggeration to say that in that moment I aged five years. Trust me, a lot runs through your mind when you discover that you are five years older than you thought you were : your bones ache a little more, your eyes get a little dimmer and, if you are lucky, you forget the name of the Prime Minister. 
It was whilst I was planning what to do with my back-pay from the Old Age Pension people that I examined the rest of the certificate a little more closely. When I came to examine it my mother wasn't Gladys BURNETT but Gladys DURIIETT. And here was a surprise, my second name - which I have always assumed was Michael - was in fact IIichael. Even worse, I wasn't a BOY but a DOY! And come to think of it, I couldn't have been born in June 1943 because if I had that would make me just five weeks older than my brother which, I suspect, is physiologically impossible. It was 1948 I was born, I'm sure of it. And wasn't 1948 the time of post-war economic desperation. The cold winter, the country bankrupt by the war and in debt to America. Belt's were being tightened all over the place. I could almost imagine the wording of the Memo which cam from the head office of the Government Department (no doubt the same Government Department that sent me a letter sixty years later plus or minus a few re-branding exercises). "Every effort must be made to save money and, in future, typewriter ribbons will only be replaced after six months of usage. By order of TIIE DEPAIPTIIENT OF IADOR"