Posts Tagged ‘1990s’

A rather silly ‘invention’

February 7, 2016

Time was when we used to write letters to one another. The postperson (sorry if that sounds like an attempt to be PC, but my post is usually delivered by a postlady) was someone to be welcomed, bringing news from family and friends along with the occasional less welcome missive.

Some people had a sort of blunt knife which was called a letter opener. It could slot into the envelope and slice it open at the top. I don’t think such devices would ever have been regarded as essential but they were quite handy, particularly for folks with a lot of letters to open.

During the second half of the 1990s emails were definitely taking over. Somebody decided that what we needed was an email letter opener.


I have one of these devices and it, of course, was no more than a paper envelope opener. Its shape had an email link.

image004It is, as can be seen, an ‘@’ sign and the end of it is designed to open an envelope.

Can I make it clear that I did not buy such a thing. They were given away at a computer show I attended 20 or so years ago. It amuses me that anybody should have ever made such a thing – a bit of snail mail technology shaped for the IT age.

They can, of course, still be bought!

The Great Golf Ball Mystery

July 6, 2015

The other day as I was walking along a deeply sunken lane near my house I noticed this stuck in the mud on the cliff like sides of said lane.


This is just a common or garden golf ball and it took my mind back twenty or more years to the great golf ball mystery.

Golf balls kept appearing in our field and it did worry me for I was a sheep keeper at the time and the thought of golf balls descending straight on to a sheep certainly caused concern to me and may well have caused death to a sheep.

My son, on the other hand, was delighted for he had an occasional round of golf with a friend. The little course was (and is) at a local private school but my son was able to play with a friend whose mum worked at the school. Well son never had to worry about having a golf ball. A walk round our field would yield a small crop of them.

Then one day a young police constable arrived at my door. Having checked who I was and that I lived there, her next question was ‘Do you play golf?’

Well, a straight answer was needed and was very simple. I don’t play and somehow golf has never much appealed to me. But I confessed that my son sometimes played at the course by the school – well out of range of our field.

It transpired that a person who lived across our field was very concerned about golf balls in the garden. They had a young child and certainly didn’t want the little one taken out by a golf ball,

So I explained that we too received golf balls from heaven, much to the delight of my son. I mentioned that upstairs my son had a bag full of them and some, I was sure, had initials painted on them. I went and found them.

The initials, much to my amusement, were GB. I teased our officer of the law and suggested it could stand for Golf Ball!

Then, more seriously, I suggested where I thought they came from – the other side of the sunken lane. I recalled my childhood and the desire to project or throw things over huge distances. I’d have loved the idea of clonking a golf ball way over this sunken lane. As a kid, I’d have given little thought to what might happen when it landed and I felt sure I could identify it down to four houses where the balls might be clubbed from.

I suggested to our constable that she nipped down to the post office and checked out the electoral role to see if one of those houses had a G B living there.

‘Good idea’, she said and headed off.

A bit later I saw her car making its way to those suspect houses and I guess she found her person, for the supply of golf balls stopped immediately.

In a sense this is a tale of the wonderful world in which I lived then. It was a world where the police had time and resources to investigate the awful crime of clonking a golf ball into the unknown.

I suspect that amongst the people delighted that the great golf ball mystery was solved was GB himself. I reckon he (OK it could have been she) had been spending a fortune on the little white orbs merely for the pleasure of youngsters to drive them off into our field.

Actually, they weren’t that fussy about where they went (or skilled enough) for I have since heard tell of mystery golf balls over quite a wide area.


Anvil Tango

March 9, 2015

Now Anvil Tango was a band you’ll never have heard of. Its members were me and people who played table tennis in my team. Anvil Tango was an anagram of our team name – ‘Lavington A’.

We gave one performance at a Table Tennis prize giving event. It had been themed as a 60s evening and each team were supposed to provide something in the way of entertainment. In the end, the entertainment was all by Anvil Tango so I needed to produce a song book.


This was in the mid-1990s – twenty years ago and I was using an Acorn A3000 Archimedes type computer. What a brilliant machine that was! Not only could I design a front cover, I arranged simple music for our teenaged keyboard player.


So there we have one of our pieces.

I was lucky with my team for all had some musical talent. I can strum a guitar and do a bit of simple lead work. Tony could also strum and had a pretty good singing voice. But Bruce was a semi-professional singer so he was the front man on stage. Jonny’s dad was a music teacher so he had to be a musician – taking the keyboard role which provided a bit of a bass line. (As arranger, I can’t cope with the bass clef and I see I made the poor lad use the treble clef for the bass line.) That left Pete, who I once heard perform on vibes, as our drummer. We put Pete at the back and kept him as quiet as possible for his sense of timing didn’t ever seem to agree with the rest of us.

We enjoyed our one off performance enormously – we played a set of ten songs, one for each year of the 60s. The audience seemed happy, but we certainly had the best time that evening.

A couple of years ago I sold my electric guitar but I still play an acoustic from time to time.

Shame we have no photos of us in concert.

The Tamworth One

December 28, 2014

A little Christmas present arrived – I believe from a lady my wife sometimes gives a lift to on their way to the Community Choir. It’s a gift that kindled a memory for me, being a coaster with a picture of a Tamworth sow.


Now some folks, particularly readers in our home country, the UK, will remember tales of the Tamworth Two. This duo of pretty porkies decided the slaughterhouse was not the place for them and they escaped and proved hard to recapture as they roamed an area on the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire border. After a fortnight or so they were recaptured, but by this time the rights to their story had been bought by a newspaper so they escaped the slaughterhouse. Instead of becoming sausages in 1998, they lived until 2010/2011 at a rare breeds centre.

We suffered from having the Tamworth One before this event.

I worked at a school that taught agriculture and had facilities for pigs. Our agriculture teacher was offered a Tamworth sow and I could see he was minded to accept but there was a snag. He had just been diagnosed with cancer and was about to have surgery. (For the record he is alive and kicking as I write this some twenty years on.)

Now I had pigsties at home and had kept pigs. So I said we could keep Tammy until he was fit and ready to take her on.

She was delivered to our pigsty and our troubles began.

Tammy was a high jumper and promptly leapt out of the sty. I added another row of concrete blocks on top of the wall. Tammy liked a challenge and soon learned how to clear this higher hurdle.

But Tammy wasn’t just interested in getting into the field. I don’t know if Tammy had met metal field gates before but if not she was a quick learner. Once out of the sty, Tammy could put her nose under the gate at the hinge end and lift it off said hinges so that it fell over. Tammy was free to explore our village.

We were soon used to the phone ringing – in fact we learned to dread it.

‘Your pig is in our garden!’
‘I’ve just been frightened by a pig on the stream path. I’m told it is probably yours!’
‘Your pig has been in my garden and eaten all my beetroots!’

These were some of the calls we had and on each occasion we had to head off with bucket of pig nuts and sheets of tin (they help to guide an escaped pig) so that we could lead Tammy back home.

We sought advice and were informed that an electric fence would keep her in so she moved quarters to a spot in the field where there was an old and quite immovable pig ark and we surrounded her with sheep netting and set the old ticker unit going.

Poor Tammy obviously took a shock and for quite a while she avoided going anywhere near the fence but she settled in and thoroughly ploughed up the patch she was on.

But I can tell you, we were mightily relieved when our agriculture teacher recovered and returned to work and Tammy could be transferred to the school facilities.



A safety cutter

December 16, 2014

From about 1985 to about 2005 I used to attend computer and technology shows. Sometimes this was in connection with work. Sometimes it was work for on occasion I helped man technical advice stands and sometimes it was just a leisure and pleasure day out. Sometimes an equally childish friend and I had competitions to see who could scrounge the best freebies out of stand holders. I reckon I had an advantage for I wrote for a couple of computer magazines and plenty of software publishers knew me and were keen to make sure I stayed on side.

But sometimes a company found an interesting way to get a message across. Netnanny would like to make the internet safe for children, protecting them from things it is deemed better they shouldn’t come across. So their message is one of safety and at one show they were promoting that message with a safety paper cutter. Mine is actually well used and shows signs of age. It’s a great little freebie.

This little plastic wallet houses their cutter.


The cutter itself looks just like a piece of plastic, carrying a web address.


Yes, that piece of plastic allows easy cutting of a sheet of paper. More or less under the http of the address there is a miniscule blade. It will go through one piece of paper, but not two.


Drag it across the paper as shown and it will cut it, leaving the piece underneath more or less unmarked.

You can drag it along the edge of a ruler for a straight cut or use it freehand if you wish to do something more artistic.

What a cunning little freebie – and it works as an advert. I think the device is useful and I am bringing it to the attention of the readers. But it is up to you whether you are interested in the product advertised. I neither endorse it nor do whatever the opposite is. It isn’t for me to tell others how to run their lives.

But the little cutter really is safe.


Galileo Thermometer

March 4, 2014

Now you’d think, if you had a Galileo thermometer that the great man had invented the device. You’d be wrong. Galileo understood the principles on which the device is based and it was followers of his, including Torricelli who invented the device and named it in honour of Galileo Galilei. That was back in 1666. The device is slow to respond to changes in temperature. Its alternative name was ‘The Slow Thermometer’.

Now forget them for more than 300 years and then decide that with the addition of a bit of colour, they’ll make wonderful scientific toys for the man who needs for nothing. That’s what the London Science Museum started doing in 1990 and it is one of their attractive devices that I have.


The column of liquid contains a number of glass globes which contain coloured liquid. These rise or fall according to temperature. They have a metal tag on the bottom – a vital part of the balancing and this tells us the temperature at which they fall. My ‘Galileo’ is designed for quite warm rooms and only the bottom, 18oC globe has fallen. The globes go up in two degree gaps so I know the temperature is between 18 and 20. If it reached 20o then the next globe would fall. It seldom does in my house during the winter.

However, I can make more globes fall by warming the device with a hand.


There we are, the 18, 20 and 22 degree globes are ‘off the top’. It is registering a mix of room and my hand temperature. As a human, my body temperature is about 37oC.

What a lovely device. It sits on a shelf, normally, and allows me to argue with my wife when she tells me it is too hot in the room.

This is no advert, but they are still obtainable from the Science Museum.

Meet the Relative – Great Uncle Sam

October 26, 2013

This blog celebrates its first anniversary today.


If I ever met Great Uncle Sam I don’t recall it. That’s a shame for it seems I was almost ten when he died. Had he lived a little longer we’d have had a family car and might have got to see him.

So my knowledge of Sam is based on what my dad wrote – and here is his paragraph about Sam.

UNCLE SAM. Sam was dad’s brother nearest to him in age and was the most obviously bright of the brothers, not necessarily more intelligent but more of what would now be called a lateral thinker. He had risen to the rank of warrant officer during the war when the others had all remained as privates or gunners. We did not see him often but in some sense he was my favourite Uncle. He was Recorder for East Sussex Milk-Recording Society travelling around to check the reliability of records maintained on member farms. (He checked my weighings once during the war when I was looking after a herd.) In my childhood he lived at Hadlow Down which had the disadvantage of being difficult to reach from Bexhill by public transport. His wife, Nell (Unsted) was a bit sharp spoken and I never felt wholly at ease with her. When I last saw her in 1941 or 42 she was a distressing site being warped by arthritis; she died soon after. Sam kept the home going but he died of a coronary around 1958.

I can comment on the inconvenience of travel in times past. It was but 15 miles in a straight line between Sam’s house and the Bexhill home of my grandparents and dad. But the journey was nigh on more than could be achieved in a day. They’d have needed a bus to get to the central station in Bexhill, followed by a train to Lewes and another on from there to Buxted. Then they’d have needed a bus to Hadlow Down and still something of a walk to Sam’s house. That public transport journey worked out at about 38 miles, hardly a major distance, but it involved four different buses or trains and waiting times. It would have taken hours.

So Sam and his family remained a bit of a hazy set of people. But of course, I have photos although Sam seemed not to be in the Edwardian family postcard writing set.


This must be Sam, the new recruit, ready to go off to fight in World War 1. By then he was already married to Nell and they had two sons.

Sam was promoted in the army.


This family photo shows Sam the sergeant and Nell with sons Aubrey and Don.

I have no photos from Sam’s later life.

My Scissors

August 15, 2013

My Scissors

That title should read MY scissors. We have loads of pairs of scissors in the house but this one pair – actually not very special – I regard as mine.

I bought them at Leclerc’s hypermarket at Bayeux in France back in 1991.


This was our first ‘real’ abroad holiday with children and at that time a French hypermarket was a revelation. We all seemed to fall in love with the stationery aisle and 22 years later, I still regard these scissors as mine and feel edgy if other people use them.

Going back to childhood, another pair of scissors was mine, for I bought them at a jumble sale in the 1950s.


As scissors they were OK and they still cut paper perfectly well. I think they were designed to be embroidery scissors but I liked the fantastic, elegant shape.

My dad rather acquired these scissors and at some point I must have jokingly griped about it for at my birthday in the same year of 1991 they were returned to me with some good humoured cash for rental.


The odd result is that I never used them since and nor have I used the money. Somehow it seemed I should keep a bit of Dad’s humour. Bless him! Money has never actually been important in our family

On the basis of his payment, it looks as though he has paid a hire charge from 1953. I doubt I bought them quite that early.

I don’t know when the scissors were made. They do not appear to have any makers mark.

Dad’s Seeds

March 4, 2013

Dad was an enthusiastic gardener. He explains some of his early gardening influences in his own reminiscences, completed shortly before he died in 1996.

Uncle Joe had a long-term significance which I could not have foreseen. He was a gardener on a considerable scale and when I became a gardener myself (kitchen garden) the patterns implanted by Uncle Joe and Uncle Frank (of whom more later) played a considerable part. I learnt practical tips from Dad on his allotment but these two gardened to a higher standard and to greater visual effect given the advantage that their gardens adjoined their houses. I shall never be as good as either but a good deal of both is represented in our present garden…

…The southern end where the triangle narrowed was Uncle Joe’s kitchen garden which he had nursed since before I was born. The picture I carry in my mind of text- book perfect rows of vegetables may be larger than life, but it persists. I remember in particular rows of peas coming on in succession as gardening books say they should, including tall varieties, 2 metres high, covered with well filled pods. Dad never grew tall varieties partly, I think, because he could not afford the necessary pea sticks but mainly because they produced a luxurious excess when vegetables were plentiful and he was concerned for continuity- for crops in difficult periods -late winter and early spring.

That described as time in the 1920s. By the 1990s, dad had got more experimental and took to growing unusual vegetables. Sometimes he saved seed and passed some to me. Here are a couple of examples.


Here we have a packet containing scorzonera seed which he saved in 1993, along with cultivation and cooking instructions with an added comment that it should do well on greensand. He, of course, knew that where I live I have a greensand garden.

We ate scorzonera at his house. It was OK, but never special enough for us to bother with it. It is probably too late to plant those seeds now,

The other example I have is asparagus pea. These are in a clear packet so you can see the seed as well as cultivation and cooking advice.


These are members of the pea family producing pods that have a reptile look about them with an asparagus flavour. Maybe we ought to try a few of these.

Actually, it is good to have preserved these bits of dad’s gardening past which also show him with a thoughtful and very kind nature.

Measuring Track

February 28, 2013

Regular readers might be disappointed if they didn’t get a bit of railway here, every now and again so here’s a railway image that is just a bit different. There’s no train or loco in sight.


This photo was taken on 10th October 1998 and I was using my first digital camera at the time. It was basic and on high quality took pictures which measure 640 by 480 pixels – still an ideal size for blogs.

The location is Salisbury Station which used to be open and, on this occasion I was meeting my son off a train. These days the station is a fortress, barred to non-passengers. On one occasion, I had to really argue to be allowed on to a platform to carry bags for my pregnant daughter. That seems a shame to me. I always enjoyed those platform greetings and even the departures were OK as well.

The chap standing on the track is using a gauge to make sure the two rails are four feet eight and a half inches apart. If not, trains could de-rail. I think he is also measuring the camber. We can see there is a slight curve through the station and the outer rail should be a little higher than the inner one. I’ll assume all was OK, for not long afterwards my son arrived.

Track enthusiasts will notice that the near track is composed of flat bottomed rail mounted on wooden sleepers whilst the other track is of the older (much older) bull head type with chairs, keys and fishplates. Some enthusiasts will be horrified at the weed growth through the ballast – and that certainly looks in need of a clean-up.

I wonder what it is like now. Sadly, I rarely use the train because, quite simply, the car is cheaper. My children tend to arrive by car these days and, if I do meet anyone at Salisbury I’m not allowed on the platform. So I may never know if the old rail has been replaced, if the ballast looks better and whether weeds have been removed.