This is Sooty, the first of five cats I’ve shared a house with.

He came as a six-week old kitten from a friend’s cat’s litter when I was nine or ten. Oblivious of the omnipotent choice I was making, I picked the one I wanted when they were just a few days old and never thought to ask what became of the others.

(Read full post on Blogger)

Brugada Syndrome

Some fifteen years ago, my youngest cousin had a cardiac arrest. His heart simply stopped. He got up during the night and was found downstairs on the floor in the morning. He had been absolutely fine the previous evening. He was thirty-one. The funeral was a wretched affair in pouring rain.

His father, my uncle, died in a similar way aged thirty-nine. Going back even further, my grandfather also died suddenly of heart failure at the age of fifty-six. Concerns that it might be some kind of inherited condition were not taken seriously until more recently.

In part, this was because of the very public incident involving the Bolton Wanderers footballer, Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed during a televised match in 2012. (read full post on Blogger)

New Month Old Post: ‘A’ Level Geography 1977

A nostalgic look back at the 1977 JMB ‘A’ Level Geography Paper

In my mid-twenties, I took Geography ‘A’ Level on my own, without a formal course, and got away with it. I bought copies of the syllabus and previous papers, analysed them carefully, pared everything down to what could be achieved in a year and planned my time meticulously. As with most ‘A’ Levels then, the Geography syllabus offered an excessive amount of choice, which meant you could omit complete sections.

In those days, you were allowed to take away the question papers after the examinations, so here they are, two three-hour papers. My son, who took ‘A’ Level Geography in more recent years, was surprised by the high quality of the supporting maps and photographic materials.

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C. S. Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet

Between the ages of eleven and fifteen, I read through most of the science fiction section in the local public library. It therefore puzzled me on reading The Chrysalids last month that I couldn’t remember it. Had I completely forgotten or is it one I missed? If I were to re-read something I know I did read at that age, then would I be reassured that my memory still works?

I know I read C. S. Lewis’s space trilogy. I went to Faded Page and downloaded Out of the Silent Planet for Kindle. I also managed to find an image of the cover I think our library had. Parts of it came back as I started to read. (read full review on Blogger)

Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

One of the best remembered and most envied openings of any English novel. It was the Guardian writer, John Crace, who prompted me to read it. He regularly returns to it as if in need of emotional sustenance.

Having read Jamaica Inn some years ago and thought it all right, and being in need of emotional sustenance myself after some of the things I’ve been reading lately, I thought I would give Rebecca a try. There it was, waiting in one of our bookcases with my wife’s maiden name inside the front cover.

Until the author twists the screw in Chapter 13 it is faintly irritating… (read full review on Blogger).

Short Shorts

In 1958, The Royal Teens had a hit in America with Short Shorts (in the U.K. we might be more familiar with the Freddie and the Dreamers version). The words repeat three times:

Who wears short shorts?
We wear short shorts
They’re such short shorts
We like short shorts
Who wears short shorts?
We wear short shorts

Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Yip Harburg must have wondered why they needed to try so hard.

It seems, however, there were times when lots of us wore short shorts, and in scanning in old colour sides I’m alarmed by what I have found… (read full post on Blogger)

New Month Old Post: Bonking

I used to have a book by a pair of American educationalists called Curtis Jay Bonk and Kira S. King. Students used to call it the bonking book. The surnames of the two authors were juxtaposed on the spine in such a way as to make it look as if it was a book about bonking: “a bonking good read” perhaps.

I’m not sure when I first encountered the word “bonk”. It wasn’t at school in Yorkshire… (read full post in Blogger)

Different Lives

Someone posted one of our school class photographs on that web site – the one that would rather show you things it thinks you’ll like or agree with. 

There we are, over fifty years ago in our school uniforms, thirty-one adolescent teenagers, seventeen boys and fourteen girls with hopes and dreams and insecurities, some smiling, happy in their skins, others serious or awkward, the way we were. Should it be there with names listed? No one asked for consent. Some names are wrong. Some are missing. I’m just a question mark. Good! Was that really me?

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Question: if packets of tomato seeds contain an average of ten seeds, what is the chance that one will contain just four? I will come back to this later.

Thirty years ago, the most popular television gardener in the U.K. was Geoff Hamilton. Here he is on the cover of the Radio Times wearing the same Marks and Spencer air force blue shirt as I had.

In 1996, he wrote a column praising the virtues of Thompson and Morgan’s orange Sungold cherry tomatoes. Sadly, he died shortly after it was published, but we followed the advice and bought some… (read full post on Blogger)