Eighty years on. 16th November 1939

16th November 1939


The Rumanian King Carol’s offer of mediation was rejected by both sides.

The first British civilian casualty of the war was James Isbister, killed in an air raid on Orkney in Scotland.  Also in Britain, it was revealed that the cost of living had risen by 2.5% in October.  6000 suspected spies had been arrested in the past two months, and the Postal Censorship Department now totalled 1700 personnel.

Finland mobilised its armed forces after the breakdown of negotiations with the USSR.  The Soviets wanted possession of Finnish territory to safeguard Leningrad and Murmansk against a possible German attack.  Finland was not prepared to surrender its territory.

Game day 77. China

3rd, 4th and 5th Infantry Corps continued eastwards to confront the Japanese.

From Peking the combined infantry defenders attacked the Japanese 3rd Corps.  The Japanese lost two battalions to the Chinese one.  The Japanese fell back to the south, where they were attacked by 3rd Chinese Infantry Corps.  The Chinese wiped out a further two Japanese Battalions, but lost three.  The Chinese retreated.

Background image copyright Milton Bradley Games

Remembrance and forgetfulness…

…ignorance and disrespect.

Yesterday, Remembrance Sunday, I was waiting at Birmingham, New Street station for the somewhat awkwardly timed 11:04 train.  I wondered, particularly with passengers from a large mix of countries, if there would be anything like silence at 11:00.

At 10:59:20 an announcement was made on the lines of “Ladies and Gentlemen, it is nearly 11:00.  We will shortly be holding two minutes silence for the dead of the two world wars.”

I noticed that a few heads were bowed, but the general chatter did not cease.  We could see the train held just beyond the station, and so people began to jostle their way forwards to get the best position.

At 11:00:02 – “Bing-Bong.  Do not leave your luggage unattended.  Unattended luggage will be removed and may be destroyed.”  The hubbub continued.  A voice behind me bellowed: “SILENCE!”, and was ignored.

Thirty seconds later a station staff member began to shout:  “This is a four coach train.  Move to the other end of the platform.”  Did they not know this fact ten minutes earlier?  People began to move, but some of us remained stoically silent and in place.  The staff member continued her shouting, and then began to push those who were not yet moving.

The same voice from behind me muttered: “Fuck it! I’ll do it tomorrow.”

I can understand the ignorance of many to the solemnity of the occasion, or even that in their busy lives they had forgotten why they were sporting poppies, but there is no excuse for the total disrespect by station staff, particularly after the first announcement.

Shame on them.

Twenty-five years on. Our silver wedding anniversary

With apologies to followers of my “Eighty years on” blog posts.

Twenty-five years ago we got married on the cheap. Our honeymoon was a single night in the Castle Inn in what hd been voted “Britain’s Prettiest Village”: Castle Combe in Wiltshire. It was only about 50 miles from home, but was enough.

When we reached the prettiest village we opened the doors of the (borrowed from a colleague) Mercedes and proceeded to chase up and down the street, in and out of gardens, the escaped balloons with which our so-called “friends” had filled the car.

Arriving at our room we found that not only was a (pre-ordered) bottle of champagne waiting in the ice bucket, but the luxurious bathroom was well supplied with rubber ducks in addition to the normal expectations.

Next morning we got up early and were first to arrive for breakfast. It proved to be somewhat of a challenge after the previous day’s celebrations and the evening champagne:

We chose the “full English” breakfast (i.e. fried food). Question 1. “How would you like your eggs; fried, poached or scrambled?” Question 2. “Sausages: pork or beef?” Question 3: “Bacon: smoked or unsmoked, back or streaky?” Question 4: “mushrooms, tomato, beans, black pudding?” Question 4: “Toast? 4a: “Brown or white?” 4b: “Wholemeal, granary or plain?” Question 5. “Butter or spread with the toast?” Question 6: “Marmalade or jam?” I avoided the expected 6a “What flavour jam?” by selecting marmalade.

Then we got into stage two. “Tea or coffee?” I foolishly chose tea. You can guess where we went from there…

I may have temporarily confused our waiter by asking for un-grilled tomato, which was not on the (unwritten) selection list, but in the end he won the eight o’clock guest challenge. But I have played adventure games with fewer choices at each node.

After breakfast we drove back home, where we had left about a dozen people occupying what was now “our” home. Arriving home we realised that I had forgotten to tell anyone that my old pop-up toaster no longer popped, and thus we found the lawn covered in burnt bread “for the birds”. And nobody had bought us the almost obligatory toaster as a wedding gift.

As an aside to the wedding story, I was privileged to announce that my bride’s supporter for the day had discovered that she was expecting a baby, and we later found that another baby had been conceived in the house while we were away. Someone clearly had more energy that night than we had ourselves!

Fast forward 25 years. I booked a couple of nights at the same hotel that we had stayed in back in 1994. Once again we arrived in the dark. We unloaded the bags and I set off for the car park in the now partnership hotel a few hundred yards away. Returning to the hotel Chrissy and the bags had vanished. A helpful young man guided me to our room. I began to wish that I had brought a bag of breadcrumbs for a trail to find my way back! And here is the route from the bar/reception area to our room…

We were back to the adventure game mode!

I had booked the room with the “romantic” four-poster bed, but Chrissy told me that we had been given a complimentary upgrade. This room had a bed nine feet wide! I quickly browsed Google Earth to find the best route to my wife’s side of the bed. We later found that the disadvantage was that the duvet was only eight feet wide, so we could spend a couple of nights (as usual) in silent argument about territorial boundaries.

Anyway, despite the restaurant being fully booked, they had found us a table, a mere 30 minutes before the kitchen closed. We obliged and had a single-course meal, which was excellent, if mine was somewhat less filling than the menu suggested.

Next morning we went for breakfast. No longer the multiple choice examination, but a simple choice of egg preparation. The peripheral breakfast items were well presented, but we think our fried breakfast may have spent too much time under a heat lamp.

With a day to spend and no plan we investigated the local church. Surprisingly interesting, as we discovered the mechanism of the 600-year old clock (still working) and, in one of the stained-glass windows, the arms of the local family Poulet (3 swords, joined at the points, on a black background- and yes, I do know the correct heraldic description), which we recognise as the flag of the Marquess of Winchester’s Regiment of the English Civil War Society. the Marquess of Winchester was named Paulet and owned Basing House in the Englisg Civil War.

Later we set of on a random tour of the area, looking for interesting places. We came close to a monument (too long a story…) in an ancient hill fort with a carved white horse in the hillside. Many years ago we had ridden on horseback around this hill fort and considered, briefly, walking up to it. Then we reconsidered and set off for Avebury.

Avebury is an ancient monument, comprising stone circles. The village of Avebury is largely within the ancient circle. We walked the ring, declined to pay the fee for visiting the manor, museum, etc. during the school holiday/Halloween special attraction period, and bought some Christmas paraphernalia in the National Trust shop.

Moving on we discovered the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Regiment) museum at MOD Lyneham. Surprisingly Chrissy said it might be interesting. For me it was. I have some new ideas for converted 6mm models for WW2. She beat me on most of the children’s interactive games, including a complex modern vehicle recovery situation involving, a surround video, two joysticks and a soundtrack of shouty oeople.

Returning to the hotel we found that Moonpig had delivered the flowers and the hotel staff had placed them in our room as requested, but also taken the initiative of placing them in a kilner jar. I was amazed to find that the “multi-coloured roses” included some roses with multicolours on a single stem.

Apparently the process to produce these flowers is secret.

We went to the restaurant for dinner and were greeted with two glasses of complimentary champagne. The waiter appeared a little nonplussed as I had previously advised that I avoid alcohol. I was granted a dispensation for one glass. The hotel staff had taken the trouble to acquire my non-alcoholic alternative for the rest of the meal.

Dinner was far more tasty and exquisitely presented than the menu suggested. Although expensive I think it represented value for money. Our second morning’s breakfast proved to be equal to the previous night’s dinner. The muffin, smoked salmon and poached egg with hollandaise sauce was to die for!

After breakfast we checked out and took another walking tour of the village. This is a favourite “English village” for film directors, having been used for, amongst others: “Dr. Doolitle” the “Poirot” TV Series and Spielberg’s “War Horse”. Local regulations prohibit street lighting and visible TV aerials and satellite dishes.

Castle Combe. England as she used to was.

And so that was our mini-break. Sorry to be a bore, but some folks may glean something useful for their own holiday from my ramblings.

From little acorns…

A few weeks ago the Memsahib received a fairly large Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) compensatory refund. At the same time her PC began to “play up”. She decided to use the windfall to buy a new laptop computer. After much searching she found one, costing at least a couple of hundred pounds more than the incoming funds. Everyone agrees that it has far more capacity and processing power than she will ever need, but I am sure that Microsoft et al will soon find a way of using it all up!

“Before setting this up, I think the office needs a good clean and a lick of paint”, she said. Uh-oh. Well, it has been twenty years since the last redecoration.
“So we will need to clear it out and re-organise.” Uh-oh.

My turn. “Before we redecorate, why don’t we get more electric sockets installed”, says I. Our needs have grown since we adopted the smallest bedroom as an office when moving in in about 1997. On examination we are currently running a 4-socket extension, which is run from a 6-socket extension, which, together with an 8-socket extension is run from a 4-socket extension, which, together with a halogen uplighter with 2 sockets, is run from the single wall socket (with a residual current breaker fitted). Altogether plugged in, but not all active, we had 3 computers, 3 printers, the light, 2 desk lights, 2 storage drives, 2 USB powered hubs, the BT telephone and wi-fi connection, the wi-fi router, the burglar alarm, a label printer and various phone charging adaptors.

Now, from out of the blue, comes the idea that we need to replace both desks and review the wall-mounted shelving. My old desk will move to the shed (which will therefore need a complete reorganisation) as an extra workbench. Her desk (essentially a large table) will replace the table in the back end of our living room as my indoor hobby table.

And so, absolutely everything has to be moved out. Shelves are cleared. Filing cabinets purged and emptied into Really Useful Boxes. How come the contents of the smallest “bedroom” now fill every inch of spare space in the two next biggest rooms?
My desk is broken down for removal. Holes in the wall are being filled….

“9/11”: 11th September 2001

There has been a lot of talk on social media about “where you were on 9/11”.
On 11th September 2001 (to give it the correct date), I was in Satu Mare, at the north-west corner of Rumania. We were about two hours ahead of most of Europe and therefore in time zones about nine hours before the USA

After work I walked from the factory to my hotel and turned on the TV. The only English language programme was CNN news, and I was just in time to see the second aircraft strike the World Trade Center buildings.
Shocked, I called home. Sure enough, everyone was glued to the TV, although it was mid-afternoon in the UK. I watched CNN for the rest of the evening, despite the affliction of the soviet era combined hot water/heating system that could not be adjusted, except by hanging one’s head out of the window for temporary relief.

Very soon I received the company-wide “no-fly” instruction.
I was now stranded in a town that felt like something from the late 1950s, with just two flights per week to Budapest in Hungary and a similar train service via Ukraine to Budapest. I had “enjoyed” during the previous week the same greasy lamb stew every day in the Managers’ dining room. I had observed that even senior managers were paid weekly, in cash. My hotel wanted cash payment rather than the company-preferred Amex.

My Irish colleague and I started to search for alternative ways home, probably via train.

Fortunately after two days the flight ban was lifted. Just in time for the local flight to Budapest. At the local airport they had moved the security scanning equipment into the entrance lobby/car park area. They clearly had no idea what to do. My Psion organiser was temporarily confiscated as “computer equipment”, but my laptop computer passed without comment. The chap before me had his nail clippers taken away, but in the duty-free shop aferwards one could buy a Swiss Army Knife.

And so, our travel passed without any major incident, but with a few bizarre situations.

As it turned out, this was so much easier than the problems caused by the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull, when I was stranded in Wrotslaw, Poland and booked to be in Italy four days later. But that’s another, and much longer, story.