Ignite that ice cream and get sketching!

When taking a holiday in Britain, there are a few things that I consider need to be done in order for the holiday to be classed as an official holiday. The first is to laugh incredulously at the astronomically high prices at motorway service stations for food, drink and fuel, and then stare in wonderment at the crowds of people willingly parting with their cash for such items.

The second is to slowly crawl along a winding B road behind someone towing a caravan or driving a motorhome and then get a bit scared when an exasperated driver thirty cars behind decides to overtake everyone on a blind bend.

The third involves food, and my list of de facto items that have to be eaten on a British holiday is this: a pasty; a cone of chips; a cream tea; an ice cream/ice lolly. If all of these are not consumed during the holiday, then it is not a correct holiday. Continue reading

How to be civil in a Civil War? Always have a lemon drizzle cake to hand…

When was the last time you smacked your funny bone? That’s an unfair question really, as I can’t remember when I last did it. Maybe you did it last week though. Or yesterday. There might even be someone reading these words right now and they are just about to reach out for a cup of tea and – wallop – the sharp edge of a table or chair goes right into their elbow joint.

I could write anything now, as they won’t be reading this at all. They will be grabbing their elbow instead, which will be fizzing with pain. The pain will slowly grow and steadily move up their forearm and into their fingertips. It will feel as though their entire arm has been attacked by twenty crazed cheese graters. Their face will be screwed up in agony and they will be attempting to recite all of the known swear words in the English language. Plus a few unknown ones too, for good effect.

There is one thing that is certain though: funny bones are anything but funny. Funny bones don’t tell hilarious anecdotes. Funny bones don’t play the make-yourself-dizzy game and then fall headfirst into a hedge. That is funny. So why are they called funny bones? Surely they should be called agony bones or arrrggghhh bones.

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A new transport hub, the old cattle market – but no arthritic camels.

Personally, coach journeys are never something I look forward to. If there is any form of alternative transport available instead of a coach, I will always opt for that. Trains, planes, cars, tractors, ferries, speedboats, horseback, rickshaws, go-karts, arthritic camels and carrier pigeons are all preferable to coach travel, even though human-lifting carrier pigeons haven’t yet been invented.

I think my coach travel aversion was formed during school field trips away, where I’d spend the whole excruciatingly long journey doing my very best to make sure I wasn’t ill. Even now, the smell of coaches instantly brings back the intense and uncomfortable feelings of nausea that I felt back then, which sadly starts the whole process off again.

However, here’s the thing: when I travel on buses, I feel absolutely fine. The impending feeling of doom just doesn’t materialise. And yet, it’s essentially the same vehicle. I have never been able to work that out, and therefore find a cure, much to the disappointment of National Express executives everywhere. Continue reading

Robert Raikes, education pioneer – and now archives mascot inspiration.

Some say that your school days are the best days of your life. I suppose that from the point of view of not having many of life’s worries, they could be right.

But having said that, when I was at school, there were plenty of things to worry about. Such as- would I get to “be” the footballer John Barnes whilst having a kick about during lunch time? (Mainly yes, as everyone else wanted to “be” Gary Lineker or Chris Waddle.)

There were so many other worries too – what was the best way to get out of the pointless cross country PE “lesson”?; who was responsible for nicking my pencil sharpener?; could I swipe an intriguingly named Hedgehog flavour crisp from Daniel during break time without him seeing?; how much Space Dust popping candy could fit in my mouth before it spat and foamed out uncontrollably?; could I make it back home in time to see the next episode of ChuckleVision on TV? And the biggest worry of all – how much of a telling off would I get from my mum after I’d fallen in the brook that ran by the school’s perimeter whilst attempting to jump over it on the way home?

However, a few hundred years ago, there was no such thing as school or education for children. Children were set to work or to simply survive in the city’s disease ridden slums. They had plenty of worries far more serious than crisps and pencil sharpeners, one of which was just trying to stay alive. Continue reading

Gloucestershire’s archives revealed (6)

How documents and cucumbers (almost) prove time travel is possible.

Throughout time, people have always asked questions that no matter how much thought is put into them, the answer will always prove to be elusive.

Questions like: can true serenity of the mind ever be achieved? Why do cucumbers need to be wrapped in plastic? Will anyone in the world, apart from me and children, ever find amusement in a whoopee cushion?

All excellent questions to ponder on, I think you’ll agree. But there is another which has been a science fiction staple for many years. It is this: is time travel possible?

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Gloucestershire’s archives revealed (5)

A top hat, a cane and 10 gallons of petrol please

The band Madness once sung a song about how much they enjoy driving in their car. It wasn’t quite a Jaguar, but it didn’t matter, as they were satisfied that it got them far.

I enjoy driving in my car too. It also isn’t quite a Jaguar. It’s a Hyundai. Which is nothing like a Jaguar in reality. They both have a steering wheel I suppose, and four wheels. But it gets me to work and back, and other places I choose to be at, in sufficient comfort and convenience.

And that is half of what cars are all about. Convenience. Cars can also be status symbols, of course. But getting you from where you are to somewhere else, when you choose to do it, and not having to rely on timetables, connections or cancellations is one of the main reasons for car ownership.

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Gloucestershire’s archives revealed (4)

Flash bang wallop – I’ve just broken my back.

Photography these days has become easy. With the advanced technology available to anyone who can afford it, pointing and pressing a shutter normally results in a perfect picture. Thanks to many intelligent auto settings on the camera doing all the work, even I can get a semi-decent shot of my chosen subject.

And when one of my pictures does accidentally come out frustratingly blurred, I’ll pretend that I meant it and enter it into the Turner Prize. So far, I’ve been beaten to the award by a dead cow, a used bed and an empty room, so I need to concentrate on worsening my work considerably before I’m successful.

But back in the Victorian era, photographers couldn’t just go around taking happy snaps wherever and whenever they liked. The time it took to expose the photographic plate and then develop it certainly wasn’t instant, as it is today. Photographers were skilled technicians and chemists who didn’t waste their precious negatives on images of twerking chimney sweeps or the workhouse Master’s avocado lunch. Continue reading