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Newton’s apple. No, really.

apples

We went to an apple fayre this weekend.

You know you’re in for an authentic British experience when they spell ‘fayre’ with a ‘y’.

Over 200 varieties of apples were there. Which is nothing. There are thousands of cultivated varieties (and many thousands more of not very useful wild apples).

They have sequenced the apple’s genome and found an apple has nearly twice the genes of a human being. That means apples are complicated and don’t breed clones. I saw this program on apple genetics several years ago, so bear with me if my memory is generic.

If you eat an apple and like it, and plant the seed in your garden, you will get a tree that bears a fruit that almost certainly bears no resemblance to that apple you liked so much. Also, it will be tall and awkward, because natural apples are. If you see a grove of natural apple trees in the wild, they will all bear different apples. There might be a hidden star in there with desirable characteristics. On the other hand, you’re more likely to find sour and awful fruits, as the modern apple shares more of its genome with the crabapple than its true wild ancestor.

For commercial apples, they take cuttings from the successful tree and graft them onto other rootstocks with desirable traits — like, usually dwarf rootstocks that make little, pickable trees. All the modern Granny Smiths, for example, come from cuttings from the original Granny. So really, when you think about it, that apple from Newton’s garden really is from Newton’s garden, if probably many intermediate trees removed.

Yes, I bought an Isaac Newton. It’s in a bag with four other ‘heritage’ apples, though, so I don’t know who’s who. This could be a problem because it’s a cooking apple.

October 23, 2017 — 9:18 pm
Comments: 24

Wish you were here

postcard

So, ya, I took a train up the coast for a work seminar today. Archivists and the law, mainly copyright law. It turned out to be not very applicable, not least because most of the documents we handle are very, very old.

And also because my main interest was working out if we could reuse some of our old photos and artwork as postcards. And since the time I started wondering, the bottom has totally fallen out of the postcard trade.

Seriously, we can’t give them away. Britain’s oldest postcard manufacturer has just gone tits up. And the murderer is: the selfie.

Well, the selfie, plus Instagram plus the cost of postage. Thanks, Royal Mail. We still sell some folding cards — you can tuck a fiver in there and a note and it’s nice and private in an envelope and it doesn’t cost any more in postage. But only the terribly old buy postcards, and they mostly buy them for souvenirs.

And that’s it for a tuckered weasel tonight. Have a good weekend, all!

October 13, 2017 — 8:03 pm
Comments: 15

A farewell to Sissinghurst

sissinghurst

We went to Sissinghurst today – one of our favorite National Trust properties. We go three or four times every Summer, though this might be the last time for a while. We’ve decided not to renew our National Trust membership when it’s up in Spring.

See, the NT has gone gay. Like very, very gay. Like intrusively, irritatingly gay.

Like asking their tens of thousands of loyal blue-haired volunteers to fill out a questionnaire on their own sexuality. Or insisting that staff wear gay pride buttons during the six weeks of their Prejudice and Pride Campaign, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the partial legalization of buggery. They had to climb down over that one, but meanwhile:

As part of an event to publicise the project, the charity has commissioned a film narrated by Stephen Fry revealing that Felbrigg’s former owner, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, was gay. But his godsons, who left the hall to the Trust on his death in 1969, have objected to him being ‘outed’ to market the hall. The bachelor, who was a magistrate and former High Sheriff of Norfolk, never publicly revealed his sexuality.

Oh, they outted some dead rich guy against his family’s wishes. Nice.

Sadly, we’re a little too far away from Kingston Lacy in Dorset to go see the fifty-one ropes hanging to commemorate the fifty one men who were hanged for sodomy, mostly between 1810 and 1835. They’ve got a recording reading their names over and over and everything!

But not to worry! We got to see Speak Its Name! – an exhibit of pictures from the National Portrait Gallery featuring a bunch of famous old dykes and poofters. A little more justification for this one, as Harold and Vita (Sissinghurst’s most famous owners) were committed and enthusiastic homosexuals (though strangely devoted to each other throughout their marriage).

As you might imagine, LGBTQRST is not the only progressive issue the current lot at the Trust are pursuing aggressively. It’s getting on for £100 a year for the two of us, we’ve been members for 7 years and, frankly, we’ve seen our local properties dozens of times. It’s time.

Oh, we had a lovely day today! The weather was perfect and the holiday crowds have died down. Nice memories. Have a good weekend, fags!

September 22, 2017 — 8:54 pm
Comments: 17

Boo!

weirdlondon

Here’s a bit o’ fun that came across my FB today: an interactive map of spooky London stuff. Hauntings, disasters, unsolved murders. It’s worth clicking around – some of the short items have links to longer articles. Very interesting, if you like that sort of thing.

Where we used to live, near Crystal Palace, is off the map. That is, the map isn’t there, but there are still markers in the general area. Looks like we’re all clear. Nobody’s dug up the bodies in the back garden yet.

They’ve gotten the data from a variety of sources, many of them worth checking in their own right. Like the Paranormal Database and Mysterious Britain (which appears to be down for maintenance at the moment).

I love a good ghost story. Not sure why; I’m not a believer. I’m as psychic as a potato. I guess maybe in the back of my mind, if one inexplicable thing is possible, they all are.

September 14, 2017 — 9:00 pm
Comments: 9

What’s this? What’s this?

tools

One of the particular pleasures of this show (the one we went to over the weekend) are the old tools. Several long rows of vendors selling old carpentry tools, car parts, gas cans, garden seats. Bunch of rusty junk, but often cheap and lots of fun.

The farm tools, like the ones above, are particularly interesting. They tend to be regional, locally manufactured (perhaps even by a village blacksmith) and intended for a very particular job. Like…I dunno…prying ant nests out of fields whole (that is a real tool I saw once, though I don’t see an example there).

Problem is, with many of these tools, nobody has the slightest idea what they were intended to do. The old boys have died out. We often ask, we sometimes get an answer, but more often not.

See if you can figure any of these out. Don’t try it from the little version: here’s a color pic (about a meg). The handles often provide the best clue.

There won’t be a quiz later, though. Just to break the suspense, I only know what a couple of these things were for.

September 13, 2017 — 9:24 pm
Comments: 21

I’m a steamroller, baby

steamroller

Not just one steamroller. I bet there were ten, at least. Great big things.

We stood and watched them pass and the earth — I swear — dipped under a couple of them, like a fat man moved across a wood floor. This is solid ground that has been passed over by these things dozens of times, and they still left tracks.

This was the last country show of our season. Weather was predicted to be rainy, so some of the exhibitors ducked out at the last minute. That’s kind of worrying, to be honest. When these events decline, even for perfectly explicable reasons, sometimes it causes a chain reaction of decline. Several of our favorite events have vanished in the last few years, and several more have shrunk.

Expecting a big blow tonight. Not Irma-sized, obviously, but chilly and miserable. We’ve had fires at night for a week. September, huh! Glad everyone from Florida is still with us…!

September 12, 2017 — 8:38 pm
Comments: 12

Sure, that looks safe

bullet

This is the last public three-day weekend before Christmas and it was blazing hot. What passes for it here, anyway. There were five flower festivals, a circus and a blacksmith demonstration. We managed to do…most of them.

Just one fete today. The moment I set foot on the field, the band struck up the Star Spangled Banner. Seriously, this happened. I felt like the President.

(Aside: have you heard Bill Clinton’s Hail to the Chief lyrics? It goes, “Hail to the Chief, he’s the Chief and he needs hailing.” Good one, Bubbah).

It was the usual: brass band, cake stall, junk stall, produce, plants, splat the rat, tombola, book stall. Dog show. They’re big on dog shows, or what they call “fun dog shows” (to distinguish them from serious formal dog shows, I guess).

Three old guys were there with an old tractor, an American jeep and a machine gun. They were the only people who brought chairs, so I asked to sit in one and we chatted.

Then they asked me to watch their stuff while they went across to the pub. I thought they’d never come back, but finally one old boy did. Lit up like a Christmas tree. He decided I must have a cartridge as a thank you. This wasn’t entirely right, as the machine gun belonged to one of the other old boys, but I couldn’t resist a souvenir.

When fingers didn’t work, he tried the knife. When the knife didn’t work, he got out a hammer. Thank god they’re dummy rounds.

Yes, I got my souvenir eventually, and nobody lost an eye

August 28, 2017 — 8:07 pm
Comments: 22

bucket o’ crabs

crabs

This, if you can’t tell, is a bucket of crabs.

I was done early today, so we lit out for a nature reserve at the seaside. There, we met a dour woman catching crabs. It was an older couple with their granddaughter, but clearly only grandma was into it. And boy, was she into it.

She had a crabbing net (an open-topped wire basket on a string, for those who, like me, grew up a thousand miles from the sea) baited with rotten chicken. She’d go to the edge of the pier and play it down into the water until it touched bottom, let it rest a couple of minutes, and haul it up again. She had two or three of the little pinch-monsters in there every time (plus a few shrimps).

She let them go in the end. At least, she said she was gunna, so we could watch with clear conscience. I could never stand watching food struggle to escape.

After that, we went to a cafe for a sandwich. It was sunny and fine. The end.

p.s. First time I ever saw the ocean, I was nine. I’ll never forget my dad showing us the right was to pick up a crab. He scooched it up from the back, gave an almighty howl and flung it out to sea as far as ever he could. We thought he was clowning around, but no – he was bleeding freely from the hole it pinched in his thumb. Heh heh.

August 16, 2017 — 9:34 pm
Comments: 11

Paging Argentium G. Tiger…!

silverband

Argentium G. Tiger, please go to the white courtesy phone. Someone you (presumably) know is looking for you and, believe it or not, your most recent internet presence with this nick is a comment on this blog. Drop me a line and I’ll give you the deets.

By contrast to the ploughing match I posted about yesterday, here is the house band from the poshest of posh fetes.

How posh? That ain’t a brass band, son, it’s a silver band. Yes, it’s a thing.

They’re very good, actually. It’s particularly amusing when they break into an enthusiastic version of the Time Warp or sech like.

August 15, 2017 — 9:22 pm
Comments: 17

A lady! Driving a tractor!

plough

And she probably has one of those fru-fru British accents and everything.

Ploughing match. We were told that’s her tractor and nobody else is allowed to touch it.

We managed one fete, one country fair and two parties this weekend, because our lives are just that exciting. You?

August 14, 2017 — 8:49 pm
Comments: 16