Aug 16th

World War One transcribing

By Ann R

For those of you that have been in touch with me for a while you might remember (or not lol) that I do quite a bit of transcribing for genealogy websites.  At the moment I am doing a section of the alphabet births, marriages and deaths for 1978 (for England and Wales), also burials for a village in Dorset, starting in the 16th century and finishing in the mid 19th century, finally I am doing part of the 1841 census for Leicestershire.

As you can imagine this keeps me out of mischief and I have learnt so much over the past few years, for instance I came across an occupation a few weeks ago which looked as though it read Buhl Worker.  There is a forum where you can ask people, sure enough that is what it was and it turns out it is someone who produces marquetry (named after Andre-Charles Boulle).

However, I felt that I wanted a bit more of a change (I will still continue with the above) and noticed that The National Archives in Kew (in conjunction with the National Maritime Museum) were looking for volunteers to transcribe Royal Navy crew records from World War One.  I sent them an email and started it all today.

Getting used to the writing is the hardest part as some of it has been crammed into a small space.  I haven't heard of the majority of the ranks so I am on another learning curve.

Apr 10th

What I Learned From My Boys

By Colin L

The following came from an anonymous Mother in Austin, Texas...
Things I've learned from my boys (honest and not kidding):

A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 sq. ft. house 4 inches deep.

If you spray hair spray on dust bunnies and run over them with roller blades, they can ignite.

A 3-year old Boy's voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant.

If you hook a dog leash over a ceiling fan, the motor is not strong enough to rotate a 42 pound Boy wearing Batman underwear and a Superman cape. It is strong enough, however, if tied to a paint can, to spread paint on all four walls of a 20 x 20 ft. room.

You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. When using a ceiling fan as a bat, you have to throw the ball up a few times before you get a hit. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way.

The glass in windows (even double-pane) doesn't stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.

When you hear the toilet flush and the words "uh oh", it's already too late.

Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke, and lots of it.

A six-year old Boy can start a fire with a flint rock even though a 36-year old man says they can only do it in the movies.

Certain Lego's will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year old Boy.

Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.

Super glue is forever.

No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool you still can't walk on water.

Pool filters do not like Jell-O.

VCR's do not eject "PB &J" sandwiches even though TV commercials show they do.

Garbage bags do not make good parachutes.

Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.

You probably DO NOT want to know what that odor is.

Always look in the oven before you turn it on; plastic toys do not like ovens.

The fire department in Austin, TX has a 5-minute response time.

The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy.

It will, however, make cats dizzy.

Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy.

80% of Men who read this will try mixing the Clorox and brake fluid.

Those who pass this on to almost all of their friends, with or without boys do it because:
a) For those with no children - this is totally hysterical!
b) For those who already have children past this age, this is hilarious.
c) For those who have children this age, this is not funny.
d) For those who have children nearing this age, this is a warning.
e) For those who have not yet had children, this is birth control

Mar 9th

From: The Daily Mash

By Colin L


‘MILLENNIALS’ are the least fortunate generation in recent history apart from the ones who got conscripted, it has been claimed.

Twenty-somethings are blaming rising house prices, stagnant wages and too many cool new Apple products for making them the worst-off generation, if you forget those who were young adults during World War One or World War Two.

23-year-old trainee arts curator Julian Cook said: “I really want to move out but I’m stuck at my parent’s house, where I have all my food and clothes-washing taken care of but it’s really quite oppressive and my dad sometimes makes sexist jokes.

“Also there’s a girl I really like but I don’t think she likes me. And I saw a cool jumper in American Apparel but I can’t afford it.”

However 94-year-old D Day veteran Roy Hobbs said: “I understand that modern society is really unfair and that is a terrible shame.

“But I had to jump out of a boat while there were people shooting at it with guns and cannons.

“Then I landed on a beach where there were lots of other people shooting at me, and I had to kill several of them which still haunts my days and nights.

“So life wasn’t all a bed of roses.”

Dec 14th

Father Christmas letter from the 1930s found up Powys chimney

By Mary B

A letter written by a five-year-old girl to Father Christmas in the 1930s has been found up a chimney during renovation work at a house in Powys.


In the note, found at Garthmyl Hall, Berriew, Christine C, now 82, asks for "some nice toys" and a hymn book.

Builders made the discovery in a chimney breast at the property, which is set to open as a wedding venue.

The property's current owner Julia P said she was humbled by the letter.

The letter's author, Ms C, said she was excited to see the letter again and "very touched" that Ms P would want to keep it.

She said: "It was such a long time ago I can barely remember being five, it feels as though it was someone else.

"We didn't really want for much. Back then Christmas was about family and friends, not material items."


Ms P said she was struck by how different children's expectations were today.

"I have a two-year-old and she gets so many presents and stuff that she doesn't need," she said.

"Today, if you don't get an iPhone [for your children] you're an awful person.

"It's just quite humbling."

Event planner Ms P, 28, bought the property with her family in October and had already met Ms C when researching the building.

She said: "When we put an offer in I really wanted to know as much about the history [of the house] as possible.

"I found her [Christine's] number and gave her a ring. I've been to her house a few times and seen pictures of how the hall used to look so when I found the letter I knew it was from her."


Story from the BBC website

Sep 30th

From: Filmbust

By Colin L

Final Installment In Bush Trilogy Promises More Action, Bigger Explosions


Reeling from his slipping poll numbers and poor debate showings, GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently assured the nation his presidency will feature way more action and much bigger explosions than the previous two Bush blockbusters.

“Now that we’ve laid the groundwork [inciting systemic destabilization in the middle east], our guys can kick things off right off the bat instead of having to wait around.” said the third Bush in as many decades to potentially play the leader of the free world. Campaign officials promised to start bombing wherever rebel groups happen to be holding power so things wouldn’t drag during the first act.

“Don’t get me wrong, George I and George II were solidly action-packed popcorn presidencies,” admitted Jeb. “But what with the technological progress over the last decade in advanced weaponry, I’m confident we can bring something new and compelling to the Bush brand.”

“We’ll definitely be able to take this franchise to the next level with some huge firestorms, plus a ton of new drone stuff, maybe laser weapons or rail guns from space even.” said Bush’s top pollster David Hill, referencing a recent missile upgrade to all US unmanned aircraft. “But I think the clincher for the American public will be bringing back their favorite characters from the previous administrations.”

Hill declined to confirm if these cameos would include Rumsfeld or former Vice President Dick Cheney, but did announce the long-rumored casting of former Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a fan-favorite architect behind the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“It’s going to be tough to top the second [Bush Presidency], and the third installment is always a little disappointing, but I’ll stick it out. At this point we’ve already invested so much, might as well see where they take it.” said Mary Schmidt, mother of three wounded veterans. “Plus, at this point, I don’t have anything left to lose.”

* NB One "bad" word expunged

Jul 21st

From: The Daily Mash

By Colin L

Brighton to become the UK’s first ‘numpties only’ town



UNBEARABLY smug seaside numpty haven Brighton is to ban ordinary people.

The Sussex town, which had increasingly become an overpriced dormitory for London media workers and grizzled ‘big beat’ DJs, is to take the bold step of excluding anyone who does not have a glaringly flawed personality.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove Council said: “We have a legion of numpties here, mixed with a smattering of normal people, and the two groups were really failing to gel.

“On the one hand you’ve got ordinary worker types struggling with massively inflated living costs, while on the other you’ve got self-styled Bohemians with enormously wealthy grandparents, who somehow reconcile ecological beliefs with consuming vast amounts of cocaine.

“For the sake of the local economy, we want to defuse this tension while keeping the people who want to pay vastly over-the-odds for organic vegetables and taxidermy.

“So the normals can go to the nearest affordable town, which is only 212 miles away.”

Brighton resident Julian Cook said: “When I’m not DJing or ‘shopping local’ I like to chill on the beach. I have a small lifelong family income because my ancestors had a sugar plantation, which I’m fairly sure was run as an ethical workers’ co-operative.

“Basically I’m like a pet.”

Jun 4th

From: The Daily Mash

By Colin L

Couple with baby really overdoing talk of how great it is



A COUPLE with a new baby are trying too hard to convince their friends and themselves of how awesome it is.

Mary Fisher and Tom Logan have been evangelical in their descriptions of parenthood since having their son Richard, despite seeming physically and mentally depleted.

Fisher said: “It really gives your life meaning. It’s a special and unique kind of love, that changes you from a selfish person to a giving person.

“We are in heaven.

“I even love being puked on, and cleaning up puke, and having to be constantly responsible for someone with no knowledge or understanding of danger, and whose only means of communication is making a loud noise.

“And the insomnia-induced delirium, I love that. It’s amazing.”

Logan said: “Before having our baby we were just doing superficial stuff like going out with friends, pursuing hobbies and sleeping for more than two hours a night.

“The thing I don’t miss the most from our old life is the sex.”

Jun 1st

Clearing the Clutter

By Maureen J

Having completed the last assignment of the penultimate module for the degree I hope to complete with the Open University in 2016, I set myself the task of clearing clutter.  It’s a habit instilled into my psyche by my clear-the-clutter-at all costs mother who refused to allow me to keep any of my childhood toys or books. ‘You’re too old for all that now; time to give it to someone else.’ So out went the dolls and my beautiful doll’s pram that was so exactly like those advertised in glossy magazine together with the dresser and doll’s house my father had made with such care; the latter even had room-lights that could be switched on and off. The dresser had tiny dishes displayed on its shelves, and I still remember my father helping me cook soup in a tiny saucepan. The diced potato cut up by me under his careful supervision and his finally helping me stir in a crumbled stock cube.  Being an only child could be lonely.

So, back to the clutter-clearing session and the unearthing of letters I meant to answer, but didn’t have the time. Smitten by conscience, I started reading again and then decided it was high time to get back to my blogs. So here we are. Meanwhile, the rain swashes and gluggles down the windows of my roof-top den while the wind rattles the slate tiles overhead like so many bones washed up on the estuary lying in the valley below the fields that are my horizon. The trees and shrubs in the garden are dancing like so many whirling banshees and their gyrations are mesmerising.


In a little while, I’ll read a few more letters; even answer some by snail mail, and give old friends a nod or a Facebook prod that says, ‘Hey, how are you? I’m alive and well. Hope you are too.’        

Feb 16th

Volunteer transcribing work.

By Ann R

As some of you may know I am fond of both my computer and history, so there is a lot of information on the internet that helps anyone doing family history, people who are interested in the past, school children doing research for exams etc.  However, it does need to get onto the website in the first place which is where I come in.

For the past eight years I have been transcribing births, deaths and marriages for one website, they send me ten pages of typewritten information and I copy it onto their software and return it to them.  It is checked for errors and then goes onto their website.

Just before last Christmas I also started transcribing census reports, these date back to 1891 and I cringe sometimes at how many people lived in one house.  Also, the occupations fascinate me, perhaps they are things that we wouldn't hear about today - or at least I haven't.  For instance every now and then I come across a 'Griswold Knitter'. So I have looked it up and it seems that this was a machine to make socks and stockings.

As from next Tuesday I am starting a new project, I will be transcribing letters from WWI. This will be totally new to me and I am looking forward to that.  

Just as a final note I would like to reassure you all that I don't spend all day doing this, there is no pressure from any of the websites to get it finished quickly.

May 7th

An English Baby Boomer: My Life and Times by Neil G.M. Hall

By Mary B

An extract from 'An English Baby Boomer: My Life and Times'

Chapter Six (extract: age 20 ) with kind permission from the author......


In the meantime, our ‘enterprise’ took a completely different turn.

I once had a stockbroker friend named John Drage who enjoyed doing a little trading on the Portobello Road – ‘keeping my hand in’, as he called it. He would start at the top of the hill on a Saturday morning with fifty pounds in his pocket and expect to have doubled his money by the time he reached the costermongers’ barrows at the bottom. I never adopted such a robust attitude and certainly did not possess his skill, but had dabbled a little myself. One crisp autumn morning, when it was cold enough to see your breath and the market was in full, vibrant swing, I spotted a man in a pure white reverse-sheepskin jacket. I really liked the look of it and asked him where he had bought it. ‘Istanbul, the covered market,’ he told me.

My burgeoning entrepreneurial brain went into fifth gear. Was this an opportunity to make a killing? Coats like that, I thought to myself, would sell well in London during the winter. The King Charles owed me ten days’ holiday and Leon had plenty of work to keep the team going so, before you could say ‘Topkapi’, I had bought a forty-pound return ticket to Istanbul.

The Tauern Express left Victoria for Turkey late one afternoon. We crossed the Channel from Dover, arriving at Ostend in darkness then, having passed through the Low Countries while I slept tucked up in my couchette, reached Germany early the next morning and Munich at noon. A scheduled break of several hours in the Bavarian capital gave me time to take a leisurely walk through the clean streets and into the pretty park bordered by the River Isar. I got back to the station in time for a hot chocolate, consumed as demure German ladies with large bottoms and huge hats sat gossiping while they dug into sizable cream cakes at the next table. Then, boarding a new train, we set off through the night, halting at Salzburg and Ljubljana before arriving at Belgrade the following morning. As we approached the capital a pretty young English girl, who was preparing to disembark, pointed out President Tito’s palace. She told me that she was madly in love with a Yugoslav and they were to be married. In the troubles that followed in that war-torn country, I have wondered what became of her.

For the rest of that day, the train passed through spectacular country. Wide valleys with sparkling rivers and a shoreline of white boulders, thatched cottages and smallholdings where peasants in colourful costumes paused to watch the train go by. White rocky precipices that soared above us, all merged into a seemingly endless panorama. Much of the line was single–track, and it was fun sitting on the steps of the carriage with the door open and my legs dangling a few feet from the ground which sped along below me. There were not many passengers to talk to and the only Englishman that I met was from Bognor Regis. We struck up a conversation and I enquired what he did for a living.

‘I am a commercial traveller. I travel in rubber goods,’ he replied.

Keeping a wary eye on my companion at the other end of the compartment, I was glad that I had picked up a book at Victoria Station, which helped to while away the evenings. It was Secret Societies by Arkon Daraul, and I was surprised to find a chapter called ‘The Order of the Peacock Angel Cult’ which described a quasi-religious/mystical movement that I had never heard of whose members held meetings in Putney. They claimed links with the Yezidis of Iraq. There were also several sections relating to the Knights Templar, whom I had come across in Wiltshire. The remains of one of their medieval estates lay near Marlborough.

By way of Sofia we reached the Turkish border on the third morning and, a few hours later, the Sea of Marmara came into view as we chugged through Istanbul’s ancient city walls and ramparts. My first task was to find accommodation as I was expecting to stay three nights. The district of Sirkeci, where the station was located, was pretty rough with shady-looking characters lurking in the side streets, but I soon found a cheap hotel. There were three or four iron beds, customary in what was effectively a dormitory, and I dreaded whom my companions might be. As it happened, I was fortunate enough to be left alone.

Eager to find the covered market (Kapaliçarşi), I left the hotel and wound my way up Ankara Caddesi towards the Sultan Ahmet Mosque and Santa Sofia. Tempted as I was to do a bit of sightseeing, those glorious buildings would have to wait; there was business to be done.

Entering the Kapaliçarşi for the first time was truly breath taking. In every direction, stone arches that supported soaring roofs and a hundred small domes melted into a kaleidoscopic jungle of shimmering lights. The even-handed Turks had a history of welcoming all races and creeds, especially when it came to business. A sprinkling of Coptic Christians, Jews, even Greek and Armenian hawkers, graced stalls packed with gold, silver, jewellery, trinkets, antiques, curios, and as one penetrated further, surely every conceivable form of merchandise that anyone could desire. It took a while to find my sheepskin coats, but they were there all right; hundreds of them. By this time, it was getting late and the market was about to close so, after a cursory look around, which proved difficult because I was immediately spotted as a punter, I resolved to return in the morning.

I wandered back down the hill and as the sun set over the minarets behind me the haunting call of the muezzin caught my attention for the very first time. I found it strangely beautiful. Pressing on, an appetising redolence lured me to the side of the Golden Horn where I was heartened to find fresh fish being grilled by fishermen who had set up their glowing braziers on the quay or even on the decks of their boats. After parting with a few dinars, I munched on mackerel, wedged with a slice of lemon between layers of naan, as I returned to my squalid quarters.

At each street corner, voices rang out from the depths of the shadows.

‘Sir, sir, you like girl…boy… womans?’

‘Sir…Sir, best hashish, good price.’

I do not quite know what I was expecting when I returned to the coat stalls the next day. At the back of my mind I had planned to purchase half a dozen sample coats and establish a rapport with one of the traders so that we could subsequently order from London. Unfortunately the Turks did not see things like that.

I was a punter with pounds or dollars in my wallet; how many coats did I want, and what ‘best price’ was I prepared to pay? That was all there was to it. They were not the slightest bit interested in my long-term plans. They wanted cash, then and there.

Eventually, after dodging from stall to stall and examining several dozen coats, I seemed to have made a friend of a young stall-holder named Ayhan. His products were of good quality, the white skins unblemished and the wool thick and curly, so after several cups of apple çay (tea) and the inevitable haggling we settled on a price. He promised to parcel up six coats and I would collect them in two days’ time.

Well satisfied with my endeavours, I had forty-eight hours to explore the city before my train left for London. Tourism had not reached Istanbul in 1967. The few travellers that existed were hippies en route for Afghanistan, who sold their blood to hospitals as a means of providing an income, adventurers driving Mercedes Benz or Land Rovers to be offloaded profitably in the Middle East, or tough nuts driving ex-army trucks and attempting the land route from London to Singapore and thence to Sydney.

An exciting revelation and my first contact with Islam was visiting the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, which was built in 1609–1616 by the sultan’s chief architect, Mohammed Aga, and known as the Blue Mosque. It looked like a space ship. I peered through the portico of the Palace of Topkapi, ogled the mosaics of Haghia Sophia and then took a stroll over the two-tiered Galata Bridge that was constructed on pontoons and spanned the Golden Horn. The top level carried the road and pedestrian walkway while a lower level housed shops and restaurants. It would be years before the great suspension bridges were thrown across the Bosphorus, and the romantic in me could not resist a boat trip to Asia Minor. The ferries, together with dozens of smaller vessels and huge ships bound for the Black Sea or Mediterranean, packed what was one of the busiest seaways on earth. The return crossing was frenetic, noisy, thrilling and sadly unrepeatable, as most of the traffic now goes by road and the Bosphorus is a much calmer place. Once at Usküdar, I made for Haydarpaşa railway station where lunch consisted of tender lamb kebabs and patlican as I eyed the trains bound for Baghdad, Damascus and Erzerum. I was itching to jump on board. After I had eaten, this urge became almost irresistible as I peered through compartment windows where plush, richly embroidered seating caught my eye and I imagined myself travelling in style to far and distant lands. Sadly, time passed all too quickly, but I knew that I had not come for sightseeing. It was to be twenty-five years before the opportunity arose to really acquaint myself with Constantine’s great city (Konstantinyye), and that would be under circumstances that could not possibly have been foreseen; circumstances that pose a question. How did it come to pass that my huge, ginger English cat found his last resting place in Galata, at the centre of the city?

Read on, dear reader, read on!
You can find Neil's book on Amazon

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