Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Looking Back - Space Mission Ends In Tragedy

On this day in 1971, three Russian cosmonauts were found dead in their space capsule after it made what looked like a perfect landing in Kazakhstan. Lieutenant-Colonel George Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Viktor Patsayev were found dead in their seats on the Soyuz 11 but did not appear to have suffered any physical injuries.

The Soviet Government ordered an immediate inquiry into the tragedy. It was thought the most likely cause was oxygen failure on re-entry into the atmosphere or unknown side-effects of their lengthy stay in space. The crew had spent a record 24 days in space, the longest period anyone had remained weightless and experts thought this could have been linked to their death.

The cosmonauts had become the first men to stay at a space station when they docked with the Soviet Salyut 1. They were conducting scientific experiments and observations during their trip which started when they launched on 6 June.

Following an inquiry into the accident it was concluded the three cosmonauts on the Soyuz 11 were killed by a fatal rise in blood pressure caused when the cabin became depressurised.

The first man to die in space was Vladimir Komarov, in 1967, when the parachute on his Soyuz 1 developed trouble on landing.


When China was hit by an earthquake it caused a rather unusual problem. The earthquake was right in the area where giant pandas live. Most pandas are well protected, especially panda babies. Right after the earthquake , they rushed out and some stayed together. The following pictures tell the story of staff at the Wolong giant panda breeding ground rescuing the pandas after the tragedy. At least three pandas remain unaccounted for. Click images to enlarge.

Quiz Show Howlers

Presenter: Which is the largest Spanish speaking country in the world?
Contestant: Barcelona
Presenter: I was really after the name of a country.
Contestant: I'm sorry. I don't know the names of any countries in Spain.

Question: What is the worlds biggest continent?
Contestant: The Pacific.

Presenter: Name a film starring Bob Hoskins that is also the name of a famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci?
Contestant: Who framed roger Rabbit.

Steve Le Fevre: What was signed, to bring World War I to an end in 1918.
Contestant: Magna Carta?

Cat Nap

Brainteaser - Monday's Answer

In yesterday's brainteaser you were asked to work out the two words Fred and Nikita were thinking. Fred's word contained five consecutive consonants and Nikitas word contained five consecutive vowels.

Especially well done to anyone who
got either word correct!

Today's Smile

Did You Know?

Dreamt is the only English word

that ends with the letters 'mt'.

Our eyes are always the same

size from birth

But our nose

And ears

Never stop growing!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Looking Back - Atlantic Record For Branson

On this day , in 1986, millionaire Richard Branson smashed the world record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic. His 72ft powerboat, the Virgin Atlantic Challenger (pictured right), reached the Bishop Rock off the Scilly Isles just after 19:30BST. The voyage was completed 2 hours faster than the previous record, set by the SS United States in 1952. The Challenger's successful crossing came in spite of problems with the fuel system.

Her voyage was closely monitored from an operation room in London, as the £1.5m powerboat crossed the finishing line at at more tha 50 knots It took the Challenger one hour from the, where crowds finish line to reach the island of St Mary's, where crowds were waiting in their hundreds in spite of the pouring rain.
In London the champagne flowed, but it was still not clear whether the team would be able to claim the Blue Ribband, the trophy awarded to the American boat in 1952. The prize currently resides in a New York maritime museum.

This was Branson's second attempt to break the record, his first attempt , in 1985, ended in failure when the boat sank off Land's End.
It was later confirmed that Branson had been denied the Blue Riband because he had broken two rules of the competition - he stopped to refuel and his vessel did not have a commercial maritime purpose
The SS United States' record was not broken until 1990, when the 74m catamaran 'Hoverspeed Great Britain' completed the crossing with an average speed of 36.65 knots.

Blankney Pictures

The white railings on the right surround steps
leading into the Club House at Blankney Golf Club.
(Click on image to enlarge)

The Cupboard

A woman takes a lover home during the day while her husband is at work.
Her 9-year-old son comes home unexpectedly, sees them and hides in the bedroom cupboard. Then the woman's husband comes home.
She puts her lover in the cupboard, not realising that the little boy is in there already.
The little boy says, "Dark in here."
The man says, "Yes it is."
Boy - "I have a football."
Man - "That's nice."
Boy - "Want to buy it?"
Man - "No thanks."
Boy -"My dad's outside."
Man - "OK, how much?"
Boy - "£250"
A few weeks later, it happens again that the boy and the lover are in the cupboard together.
Boy - "Dark in here."
Man - "Yes, it is."
Boy - "I have football boots."
The lover, remembering the last time, asks the boy, "How much?"
Boy - "£750"
Man "Sold."
A few days later , the boys father says to the boy, "Grab your boots and football, let's go outside and have a game of soccer."
The boy says , "I can't, I sold my ball and boots."
The father says, "What? How much did you sell them for?"
Boy - "£1,000"
The father says, "That's terrible to overcharge your friends like that. That is far more than those two things cost. I'm going to take you to church and make you confess."
They go to the church and the father makes the little boy sit in the confession booth and he closes the door.
The boy says, "Dark in here."
The priest says, "Don't start that shit again. You're in my cupboard now."

Church Signs


Today's brainteaser is a play on words. Can you work out which words are asked for in this ingenious puzzle?

Fred and his wife Nikita were having a conversation about words.
Fred said, "I am thinking of devilishly tricky word that has five consecutive consonants in a row."
Nikita countered with, "I am thinking of a word with five vowels in a row?"

What words were Fred and Nikita thinking of?

Cat Nap

Who Am I? - Sunday's Answer

The answer to yesterday's

Who Am I? puzzle


Paul Potts

If you would like to listen to Paul Potts singing, Nessun Dorma em Portugal the song that won him 'Britain's Got Talent' show, click on the video link below:


Sunday, 28 June 2009

Oldest Musical Instrument Found

Scientists in Germany have published details of flutes dating back to the time that modern humans began colonising Europe, 35,000 years ago. The flutes are the oldest musical instruments found to date. The team from Tubingen University published details of three flutes, found in the Hohle Fels cavern in southwest Germany. The researchers say in the Journal Nature that music was widespread in pre-historic times.

The cavern is already well known as a site for signs of early human efforts; in May. members of the same team unveiled a Hohle Fels find that could be the worlds oldest Venus figure.

The most well-preserved of the flutes is made from a vulture's wing bone, measuring 20cm long with five finger holes and two'V'-shaped notches on one end of the instrument into which the researchers assume the player blew. The find brings the total number of flutes discovered from this era to eight, four made from mammoth ivory and four made from bird bones.

According to Professor Nicholas Conard of Tubingen University the modern humans that came into the area already had a whole range of symbolic artifacts, figurative art, depictions of mythological creatures, many kinds of personal ornaments and also a well-developed musical tradition. The flutes provide yet more evidence of the sophistication of the people that lived at that time.
To hear the flute as it would have sounded 35,000 years ago, click on the video link given below:

Definitions (Medical)

Quicker than someone else.

A small lie.

Non-Jewish person.

Distinguished, well known.

Labour Pain
Getting hurt at work.

A better offer than I had.

Cat Nap

Uff Da!

When immigrants came to the U.S. from various lands, they strove to become thoroughly American. It became common practice to speak only English in the presence of the children.
However, one expression Norwegian immigrants found it impossible to shed was "Uff Da!". The term sounds just like what it seeks to convey.....disgruntlement.
It is a perfectly polite expression which may be used in place of various vulgarisms employed to evince displeasure.
In Norway, Charlie Brown says, "Uff Da!" instead of "Good grief!".

Lena is pregnant with Ole's child. Late one night, Lena vakes Ole and says, "I think it's time!"
So Ole fired up the Yohn Deere tractor and took her to the hospital to have their first baby.
She had a little boy, and the doctor looked over at Ole and said, "A son! Ain't dat great!"
Well, Ole got excited by dis, but yust den the doctor spoke up and said, "Hold on!" We ain't finished yet!"

The doctor den held up a little girl. He said, "Hey, Ole! You got you a daughter! She's a pretty little ting , too."
Ole got kind of puzzled by this, an then the doctor said, "Holey Moley, Ole we still ain't done yet!"
The doctor then delivered another boy and said, "Ole, you yust had yourself another boy!"
Ole was flabbergasted by this news!
A couple of days later, Ole brought Lena and their three children home in a self-propelled combine.
He was real serious and he asked Lena, "How come we got tree on the first try?"
Lena said, "You remember dat night we ran out of Vaseline and you vent out in the garage and got dat dere 3-in-1 Oil?"
Ole said, "Yeah, I do. Uff Da! It's a dam good thing I didn't get the WD-40!"

Did You Know?


Is the longest word typed

with only the left hand!

And lollipop is the longest

word typed with

your right hand!

No word in the English

language rhymes with

month, orange,silver

or purple!

Today's Smile

Who Am I?

Ten more clues for you to solve in order to identify our latest mystery celebrity. Can you work out who it is?

01 I was born on 13 October 1970.
02 I was born in Kingswood (a suburb of Bristol).
03 My father was a bus driver, my mother a supermarket cashier.
04 I have two brothers and one sister.
05 I sang in the church choir at Christ Church, Bristol.
06 I was bullied at school.
07 I gained an honours degree in 1993 from University College, Plymouth St Mark and St John, majoring in Humanities.
08 In 1996, I was elected the youngest member of Bristol City Council.
09 I once sang in a karaoke, dressed as Mathew Kelly and singing opera.
10 I used to be a manager for Carphone Warehouse.

Well, who do you think this can be?

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922)

Shackleton was an Anglo-Irish Antarctic explorer, best known for leading the Endurance expedition of 1914-16.

Ernest Henry Shackleton was born on 15 February 1874 in County Kildare, Ireland. His father was a doctor. The family moved to London where Shackleton was educated. Rejecting his father's wish that he become a doctor, he joined the merchant navy when he was 16 and qualified as a master mariner in 1898. He travelled widely but was keen to explore the poles.

In 1901 Shackleton was chosen to go on the Antarctic expedition led by British naval officer Robert Falcon Scott on the ship Discovery (pictured). With Scott and one other, Shackleton trekked towards the South Pole in extremely difficult conditions, getting closer to the pole than anyone had come before. Shackleton became seriously ill and had to return home but had gained valuable experience.

Back in Britain, Shackleton spent some time as a journalist and was then elected secretary of the Scottish Royal Geographical Society. In 1906, he unsuccessfully stood for Parliament in Dundee. In 1908, he returned to the Antarctic as the leader of his own expedition, on the ship Nimrod. During the expedition, his team climbed Mount Erebus, made many important scientific discoveries and set a record for coming even closer to the South Pole than before. He was knighted on his return to Britain.
In 1911, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole, followed by Scott who died on the return journey. In 1914,Shackleton made his third trip to the Antarctic with the ship Endurance, planning to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. Early in 1915, Endurance became trapped in the ice, and ten months later sank. Shackleton's crew had already abandoned the ship to live on the floating ice. In April 1916, they set off in three small boats, eventually reaching Elephant Island. Taking five crew members, Shackleton went to find help. In a small boat the six men spent 16 days crossing 1,300 km of ocean to reach South Georgia and then trekked across the island to a whaling station. The remaining men from the Endurance were rescued in August 1916. Not one member of the expedition died. 'South', Shackleton's account of the Endurance expedition, was published in 1919.
Shackleton's fourth expedition aimed to circumnavigate the Antarctic continent but on 5 January 1922, Shackleton died of a heart attack off South Georgia. He was buried on the island.

When Nature Seals Your Fate

Whilst nature is a wonderful thing, it can also be very cruel. Click on the video link below and see what I mean.


(Watch in full screen mode).

Church Signs

Zen Wisdom

01 If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
02 Some days you are the bug; some days you are the screen.
03 Don't worry; it only seems kinky the first time.
04 Good judgement comes from bad experience, and most of that comes from bad judgement.
05 A closed mouth gathers no foot.
06 There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.
07 Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.
08 Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
09 We are born naked, wet and hungry, and get slapped on our arse.....then things just get worse.
10 Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Cat Nap



Thought For Today

When the power of love, overtakes the love of power, then we shall have peace.
Author Unknown

Quiz Show Howlers

Presenter: What happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963?
Contestant: I don't know. I wasn't watching it then.

Presenter: What is the name of the long-running TV comedy show about pensioners: Last Of The .....?
Contestant: Mohicans

Phil: What is 11 squared?
Contestant: I don't know.
Phil: I'll give you a clue. It's two one's with a two in the middle.
Contestant: Is it five?

Q: Which American actor is married to Nicole Kidman?
A: Forrest Gump.

Leslie: On which street did Sherlock Holmes live?
Contestant: Er.......
Leslie: He makes bread.
Contestant: Er.......
Leslie: He makes cakes.
Contestant: Kipling Street?

Friday, 26 June 2009

The Humble Banana

A professor CCNY for a physiological psych class told his class about bananas. He said the expression 'going bananas' is from the effects of bananas on the brain. Read on:
Never put your banana in the refrigerator!
This is interesting. After reading this, you'll never look at a banana in the same way again.
Bananas contain three natural sugars -sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fibre. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to your daily diet.
Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.
PMS: Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.
ANEMIA: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia.
BLOOD PRESSURE: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure.
BRAIN POWER: Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert.
CONSTIPATION: High in fiber bananas can help restore normal bowel action, without resorting to laxatives.
HANGOVERS: Try a banana milkshake, sweetened by honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re hydrates your system.
MORNING SICKNESS: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness.
NERVES: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.
OVERWEIGHT: Studies at the Institute of Psychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort foods like chocolate and crisps. The report concluded that, to avoid these cravings we should snack on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep blood sugar levels steady.
SMOKING: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

FINAL TIP: Want a quick shine on your shoes? Take the inside of the banana skin, and rub directly on the shoe.....polish with a dry cloth. Amazing fruit!

Zen Wisdom

ZEN is a school of Mahayana Buddhism, translated from the Chinese word Chan. Chan is itself derived from the Sanskrit Dhyana, which means meditation. The teachings of Zen are sometimes referred to as simply 'path of enlightenment.' In order to set Journal readers off on their way down the path of enlightenment, here are my 'ZEN TEN' pearls of wisdom:

01 Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me for the path is narrow. In fact, just piss off and leave me alone.
02 Sex is like air. It is not important unless you aren't getting any.
03 No one is listening until you fart.
04 Always remember you're unique. Like everyone else.
05 Never test the water with both feet.
06 If you think nobody cares whether your alive or dead, try missing a couple of mortgage payments.
07 Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
08 If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
09 Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
10 If you lend someone £20 and never see that person again, it was probably well worth it.

Sign Of The Times

Manure.....An Interesting Fact

In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship, and it was also before commercial fertilizer's were invented, so shipments of manure were common.
It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet. But once water (at sea) hit it, it not only became heated, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a bi-product is methane gas.
As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles, you can see what could, and did, happen. Methane began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below with a lantern......BOOOOM!
Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening. After that, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the term 'Ship High In Transport' on them, which meant for the sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water coming into the hold would not touch the volatile cargo and start the production of methane.
This evolved the term 'S.H.I.T' (Ship High In Transport), which came down through the centuries and is in use to this very day.
You probably didn't know the true history of this word. Neither did I..... I had always thought it was a golf term!

Maxine's World

Today's Smile - Grandma And Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa were visiting their kids overnight.
When Grandpa found a bottle of Viagra in his son's medicine cabinet, he asked about using one of the pills.
The son said, "I don't think you should take one dad; they're very strong and very expensive."
"How much?" asked Grandpa.
"£10 a pill," answered the son.
"I don't care," said Grandpa. "I'd still like to try one, and before we leave in the morning, I'll put the money under the pillow."
Later the next morning, the son found £110 under the pillow. He called Grandpa and said, "I told you each pill was £10, not £110."
"I know," said Grandpa. "The hundred is from your Grandma!"

Brainteaser - Thursday's Answer

Yesterday's brainteaser asked you to find a 9 letter word that when one letter was taken away still left another word, the process continuing until you were left with just one letter, which was also a word. The answer is revealed below:

The 9 letter word is
An almost impossible, but very interesting, brainteaser!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Looking Back -Christie To Hang For Wife's Murder

On this day in 1953, John Christie, 54, was sentenced to hang for murdering his wife and then hiding her body under the floorboards of their Notting Hill home in London. Christie had admitted murder but pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
John Christie was an English serial killer in the 1940s and 1950s. He murdered at least six women and was implicated in the murder of two other victims. Prior to his arrest, he was involved in another murder trial, as a principal witness for the Crown in the trial of his fellow tenant, Timothy Evans. Evans was executed for the murder of his wife and daughter. However, Christie confessed to the murder of Beryl Evans prior to his execution.
During his trial the court had been told that eight female bodies, including that of a baby girl, had been found at Christies home at 10 Rillington Place. They had all been strangled. The bodies also included Christie's wife, Ethel.
Christie was hanged at Pentonville prison on 15 July 1953. According to newspaper reports, there were 200 people waiting outside the gates to see the notice of execution posted.
Christie's Notting Hill home was torn down and the whole decrepit street was rebuilt in the 1970s as Bartle Road.


Today's brainteaser is probably the hardest to appear in the Journal so far! Have a crack at it and see if you can come up with an answer.

There is a common English word that is 9 letters long. Each time you remove a letter from it, it still remains an English word - from nine letters right down to a single letter. What is the original word, and what are the words that it becomes after removing one letter at a time?

If you think you know the answer, please email it to me!

Comfort Before Speed!

A C-130 was lumbering along when a cocky F-16 flashed by. The jet jockey decided to show off.

The fighter jock told the C-130 pilot, "Watch this!" and promptly went in to a barrel roll followed by a steep climb. He then finished with a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier. The F-16 pilot asked the C-130 pilot what he thought of that.

The C-130 pilot said, "That was impressive, but watch this!" The C-130 droned on for about five minutes and then the C-130 pilot came back on and said, "What did you think of that?" Puzzled the F-16 pilot asked, "What the heck did you do?" The C-130 pilot chuckled. "I stood up, stretched my legs, walked to the back, went to the bathroom,then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun."
When you are young and foolish - speed and flash may seem a good thing!
When you get older and smarter - comfort and dull is not such a bad thing!

Poem - Cornwall In Childhood (John Betjeman)

Today's poem by John Betjeman is written in 'blank verse', as opposed to the more traditional rhyming verse. To bring the poem alive it should be read as if it were prose, that is to say it should be read, not to the end of each line, but according to the punctuation, much the same as reading a story book. Two of Betjeman's great qualities were his story telling and his ability, even as an adult, to see the world through the eyes of a child. The following poem is a great example of this, and as you read the lines you feel yourself being transported back to your own youth and recalling the world as it seemed then. This is a very long poem - but all the better for that.

Cornwall In Childhood

Come, Hygiene, goddess of the growing boy,
I here salute thee in Sanatogen!
Anaemic girls need Virol, but for me
Be Scott's Emulsion, rusks, and Mellin's Food,
Cod-liver oil and malt, and for my neck
Wright's Coal Tar Soap, Euthymol for my teeth.
Come, friends of Hygiene, Electricity
And those young twins, Free Thought and clean Fresh Air:
Attend the long express from Waterloo
That takes us down to Cornwall. Tea-time shows
The small fields waiting, every blackthorn hedge
Straining inland before the south-west gale.
The emptying train, wind in the ventilators,
Puffs out of Egloskerry to Tresmeer
Through minty meadows, under bearded trees
And hills upon whose sides the clinging farms
Hold Bible Christians. Can it really be
That this same carriage came from Waterloo?
On Wadebridge station what a breath of sea
Scented the Camel valley! Cornish air,
Soft Cornish rains, and silence after steam......
As out of Derry's stable came the brake
To drag us up those long, familiar hills,
Past haunted woods, and oil lit farms and on
To far Trebetherick by the sounding sea.
Oh what a host of questions in me rose:
Were spring tides here or neap? And who was down?
Had Mr Rosevear built himself a house?
Was there another wreck upon Doom Bar?
The carriage lamps lit up the pennywort
And fennel in the hedges of the lane;
Huge slugs were crawling over slabs of slate;
Then safe in bed, I watched the long-legg'd fly
With red transparent body tap the walls
And fizzle in the candle flame and drag
Its poisonous-looking abdomen away
To somewhere out of sight and out of mind,
While through the open window came the roar
Of full Atlantic rollers on the beach.
Then before breakfast down toward the sea
I ran alone, monarch of miles of sand,
Its shining stretches satin-smooth and vein'd.
I felt beneath bare feet the lugworm casts
And walked where only gulls and oyster-catchers
Had stepped before me to the water's edge.
The morning tide flowed in to welcome me,
The fan-shaped scallop shells, the backs of crabs,
The bits of driftwood worn to reptile shapes,
The heaps of bladder-wrack the tide had left
(Which, lifted up, sent sandhoppers to leap
In hundreds around me) answered "Welcome back!"
Along the links and under Cold Bray Hill
Fresh water pattered from an iris marsh
And drowned the golf-balls on its stealthy way
Over the slates in which the elvers hid,
And spread across the beach. I used to stand,
A speculative water engineer-
Here I would plan a dam and there a sluice
And thus divert the stream, creating lakes,
A chain of locks descending to the sea.
Inland I saw, above the tamarisks,
From various villas morning breakfast smoke
Which warned me then of mine; so up the lane
I wandered home contented, full of plans.,
Pulling a length of pink convolvulus
Whose blossoms, almost as I picked them, died.
Bright as the morning sea those early days!
Though there were tears, and sand thrown in my eyes,
And punishments and smells of mackintosh,
Long barefoot climbs to fetch the morning milk,
Terrors from hissing geese and angry shouts,
Slammed doors and waitings and a sense of dread,
Still warm as shallow sea-pools in the sun
And welcoming to me the girls and boys.
Wet rocks on which our bathing dresses dried;
Small coves, deserted in our later years
For more adventurous inlets down the coast:
Paralysis when climbing up the cliff-
Too steep to reach the top, too far to fall,
Tumbling to death in seething surf below,
A ledge just wide enough to lodge one's foot,
A sea-pink clump the only thing to clutch,
Cold wave-worn slate so mercilessly smooth
And no one near and evening coming on-
Till Ralph arrived: "Now put your left foot here.
Give us your hand" ..... and back across the years
I swing to safety with old friends again.
Small seem them now, those once tremendous cliffs,
Diminished now those joy-enclosing bays.
Sweet were the afternoons of treasure-hunts.
We searched in pairs and lifted after showers
The diamond-sparkling sprays of tamarisk:
Their pendant raindrops would release themselves
And soak our shirt sleeves. Then upon the links
Under a tree-box lay a baffling clue:
A foursome puffing past the sunlit hedge
With rattling golf bags; all the singing grass
Busy with crickets and blue butterflies;
The burnet moths, the unresponsive sheep
Seemed maddeningly indifferent to our plight .....
"Oh, hurry up, man: why, we're third from last."
And in the Oakleys' garden after tea
Of splits and cream under old apple boughs,
With high tide offering prospects of a bathe,
The winners had their prizes. Once I won-
But that was an unfortunate affair:
My mother set the clues and I, the host,
Knew well the likely workings of her mind.
Do you remember, Joan, the awkward time
When we were non-co-operative at sports,
Refusing to be organized in heats?
And when at last we were, and had to race
Out to low-tide line and then back again,
A chocolate biscuit was the only prize?
I laughed. Miss Tunstall sent me home to bed.
You laughed , but not so loudly, and escaped.
That was the summer Audrey, Joc and I
And all the rest of us were full of hope:
"Miss Usher's coming." Who Miss Usher was,
And why she should be coming, no one asked.
She came, a woman of the open air,
Swarthy and in Girl Guide-y sort of clothes:
How nice she was to Audrey and to Joc
How very nice to Biddy and to Joan .....
But somehow, somehow, not so nice to me.
"I love Miss Usher", Audrey said. "Don't you?"
"Oh yes," I answered. "So do I," said Joc
"We vote Miss Usher topping. Itchicoo!"
What was it I had done? Made too much noise?
Increased Miss Tunstall's headache? Disobeyed?
After Miss Usher had gone home to Frant,
Miss Tunstall took me quietly to the hedge:
"Now shall I tell you what Miss Usher said
About you, John?" "Oh please, Miss Tunstall, do!"
"She said you were a common little boy."
Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells
And sights, before the dark of reason grows.
Ears! Hear again the wild sou'westers whine!
Three days on end would the September gale
Slam at our bungalows; three days on end
Rattling cheap doors and making tempers short.
It mattered not, for then enormous waves
House-high rolled thunderous on Greenaway,
Flinging up spume and shingle to the cliffs.
Unmoved amid the foam, the cormorant
Watched from its peak. In all the roar and swirl
The still and small things gained significance.
Somehow the freckled cowrie would survive
And prawns hang waiting in their watery woods;
Deep in the noise there was a core of peace;
Deep in my heart a warm security.
Nose! Smell again the early morning smells:
Congealing bacon and my father's pipe;
The after-breakfast freshness out of doors
Where sun had dried the heavy dew and freed
Acres of thyme to scent the links and lawns;
The rotten apples on our shady path
Where blowflies settled upon squashy heaps,
Intent and gorging; at the garden gate
Reek of Solignum on the wooden fence;
Mint round the spring, and fennel in the lane,
And honeysuckle wafted from the hedge;
The Lynams' cess-pool like a body-blow;
Then, clean, medicinal and cold-the sea.
"Breathe in the ozone, John. It's iodine."
But which is iodine and which is drains?
Salt and hot sun on rubber water wings .....
Home to the luncheon smell of Irish stew
And washing-up stench from the kitchen sink
Because the sump is blocked. The afternoons
Brought coconut smell of gorse; at Mably's farm
Sweet scent of drying cowdung; then the moist
Exhaling of the earth in Shilla Woods-
First earth encountered after days of sand.
Evening brought back the gummy smell of toys
And fishy stink of glue and Stickphast paste,
And sleep inside the laundriness of sheets.
Eyes! See again the rock-face in the lane,
Years before tarmac and the motor-car.
Across the estuary Stepper Point
Stands, still unquarried, black against the sun;
On its Atlantic face the cliffs fall sheer.
Look down into the weed world of the lawn-
The devil's-coach-horse beetle hurries through,
Lifting its tail up as I bar the way
To further flowery jungles.
See once more
The Padstow ferry, worked by oar and sail,
Her outboard engine always going wrong,
Ascend the slippery quay's up-ended slate,
The sea-weed hanging from the harbour wall,
Hot was the pavement under, as I gazed
At lanterns, brass, rope and ship's compasses
In the marine-store window on the quay.
The shoe-shop in the square was cool and dark.
The Misses Quintrell, fancy stationers
Had most to show me-dialect tales in verse
Published in Truro (Netherton and Worth)
And model lighthouses of serpentine.
Climb the steep hill to where that belt of elm
Circles the town and church tower, reached by lanes
Whose ferny ramparts shelter toadflax flowers
And periwinkles.. See hydrangeas bloom
In warm back-gardens full of fuchsia bells.
To the returning ferry soon draws near
Our own low bank of sand-dunes; then the walk
Over a mile of quicksand evening-cold.
It all is there, excitement for the eyes,
Imagined ghosts on unfrequented roads
Gated and winding up through broom and gorse
Out of the parish, on to who knows where?
What pleasure, as the oil-lamp sparkled gold
On cut-glass tumblers and the flip of cards,
To feel protected from the night outside;
Safe Cornish holidays before the storm!

John Betjeman
Summoned By Bells

Climate Change