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I remember these!

Physalis. I mean, I don’t remember it from childhood. Do you? It’s South American, so I feel like I should. I remember it from when Uncle B grew it for me in the greenhouse some years ago.

If you’ve not had them, they have a tart and interesting flavor. The Wikipedia article says grapes or tomatoes, but I think oranges with a twist (okay, they’re orange in color and I’m suggestible).

You’d starve to death trying to eat enough for a meal, but they’re great as a mouth refresher.

So, is everyone excited about the Dead Pool tomorrow at 6 WBT? I know I am!

August 31, 2023 — 7:28 pm
Comments: 7

Mid cockadoodledoo

I happen to know this is the doodle portion of a cockadoodledoo. Uncle B got the whole crow in three shots. The third shot, Sam’s neck is outstretched, clearly marking it as the doo portion. The first one is therefore the cocka and this is the doodle.

Though it actually sounds more like rucka-rucka-roo, that’s a little Scooby Doo for me.

August 30, 2023 — 7:14 pm
Comments: 7

Stupid autocorrect!

Behold, the Vinegar Bible! Spotted on our adventures this weekend. It is so-called because of a typo in the header of the 20th chapter of Luke, which is titled “the parable of the vinegar” instead of “vineyard”.

It was published in 1717 by John Baskett, who set out to make the most showy and beautiful bible ever printed in English. Most bibliophiles think he succeeded.

It’s also absolutely stuffed with typos. It was called “A Baskett-full of printers’ errors” in its day. This article (and this one) claims it was the origin of the expression “basket case” – but it wasn’t (that first appeared in print shortly after WWI to describe mythical soldiers who had lost all four limbs and were carried around in baskets).

I’d like to know how many were printed and how many have survived, but I haven’t had much luck. This article claims there were four still around, but I’m sure that’s untrue. I’ve run across seven extant copies just Googling tonight.

Including one you can buy for $15,000.

Baskett was unpopular. He tried to keep a monopoly on bible printing in England and spent a lot of his money defending his claims in court. Despite that, he seems to have done alright for himself.

I can understand why this church leaves it open to the famous typo, but I wish they’d left it on one of the pages of sumptuous engravings I read so much about.

Your moment of synchronicity: the printer of the very first King James Bible was Robert Barker. (Get it? Eh? Bob Barker?).

August 29, 2023 — 7:38 pm
Comments: 3

He was a very little giant

It was a weekend of flower festivals. There were four at least within our usual travel range. We went to two.

One was at Brede, where I got to visit my old friend the Brede Giant. He was a real man, but not a real giant. If he was ever in this tomb, I make him 5’6″ tops. They did call him the Giant of Brede within his lifetime, though, so who knows why.

I wrote more about his legend here (13 years ago? Have I really been cruising the flower festivals that long?).

Well, good old Bob Barker has kicked the bucket. Barker was 1/8 Sioux and grew up on an Indian reservation. Congratulations to RushBabe (you better be right about that, Uncle Al – I haven’t double checked). You know the drill!

August 28, 2023 — 7:08 pm
Comments: 2

I snorted a spider today, so there’s that

It was a very little one.

I was biking across a bridge and felt a strand of web across my face and next thing I know I’ve snorked up something little and insect-y. Worst part, I was at a dangerous section of my ride where the sidewalks are too narrow and I didn’t dare stop. I had to huff until I came to a wider spot.

And that’s the most exciting thing that happened to me today. It’s the Friday before a long weekend. Rejoice!

August 25, 2023 — 7:34 pm
Comments: 17

Kerosene tractors, y’all

They’re American, naturally. We love our kerosene. Still blows my mind that jet fuel is kerosene and not the much more flammable gasoline.

Growing up, we had it around for all kinds of things, mostly oil lamps and starting fires. Only, we didn’t call it kerosene, we called it coal oil. At least, I think that’s what we were saying – being mush-mouthed Tennesseans, we actually said colall.

There’s a sad story I heard about the old-time classic Little Maggie. Fiddler Tommy Jarrell said around 1915 his cousin was trying to revive a dying fire and had an accident with the kerosene.

They put Jullie to bed right away–her whole body was burned up to her chin, and at first she cried in pain but after a while she didn’t feel anything at all. That evening as she was laying there she asked me to get my banjo and sing “Little Maggie” for her. That was the only thing she wanted to hear–it had just recently come around and everyone seemed to take to it. I expect I played it the best I ever had in my life, with the most feeling, anyway. It seemed to comfort her and pick up her spirits a little, but by the following morning she was dead.

Okay, now I’m sad. Stupid kerosine.

August 24, 2023 — 7:15 pm
Comments: 7


We crossed the border into Kent earlier this week, the first county to grow hops in Tudor times and still the main producer of hops in Britain. We rounded the corner and I snapped this pic through the windshield.

I don’t know how they do it now, but the hop bines (those tall strings of hops) were originally hung up to the overhead wires by men on great tall stilts.

Then, at harvest time, whole families of Londoners would come down by train to pick them. They worked long hours for slave wages, even the littlest had jobs, and lived in these godawful leaky shacks on the farm. They regarded it as a holiday in the country, with pay.

A local person in my friend group remembers the hop picking.

All around Kent, Sussex and Surrey, you still find oast houses (also called hop kilns) where the hops were dried. Green hops were spread on perforated floors in those round towers and fires were built beneath. The conical hat, called a cowl, had a little sail stuck on the side to make it turn in the wind.

Nearly all the oasts have been converted to housing now, and very posh and desirable houses they are, too.

Oh, I know much, much more about hop picking. I could bore you for hours. It’s one of the topics we have extensively documented at work.

August 23, 2023 — 8:06 pm
Comments: 7

It was a silly time

Lockdowns were pretty drastic here. Not Australia-drastic or Canada-drastic, but we had plenty of petty restrictions and overzealous coppers.

It was almost worse when they started trying to ease up. It was sillier, anyway. They couldn’t figure out how to tear the band-aid off.

So we had arcane rules like, you could go to a pub, but only if you had a meal. There were learnèd discussions about what is a meal?

Bag of potato chips? probably not. But a scotch egg? Is a scotch egg a meal? Maybe. Maybe if it’s served with potato chips, the two together constitute a meal.

You had to wear a mask walking into the pub, but you could take it off once you sat down. You had to put it back on to leave or go to the toilet, but I seem to recall you could get a refill at the bar without.

The rules changed constantly as areas moved through various “risk tiers”.

Most of my friend group shrugged and complied, as though goofy regulations were just the price you paid to live in a civil society.

But the wokest member of my group absolutely loved it. She always knew exactly what we were expected to do. It was a great mystery to me why this was, but I figured it out.

If the rules made sense, everyone would know what to do. But if the rules make no sense at all, then you have to read the Guardian every morning and commit them to memory, and that makes you a very smart girl indeed. Knowing the screwy rules was high status.

It explained a lot.

August 22, 2023 — 7:56 pm
Comments: 7

They’ve broken some people

A researcher was due in the office this morning to study some papers from our archives. I’d never met him before. He was a weedy-looking forty-something.

He didn’t arrive until 12:30 and I explained to him that he only had until 1:00 because my co-worker, who could stay later, had called in this morning with covid.

Holy cats, the reaction! He turned white and jumped back, clutching his briefcase.

“WAS SHE HERE THIS MORNING? DO YOU HAVE COVID?” He managed to fumble a mask out of his case with shaking hands, which he wore for the rest of the time. He did eventually calm down enough to sit and go through the papers, but what a nutcase.

She did, by the way. Phone in with covid. She said she thought at first she had the flu, but then she tested positive.

Why do people test? What would you do differently if it were the flu?

Strong rumors here that they’re going to try masking and lockdowns again this fall for the fresh new variant. I think they may have a surprise coming.

August 21, 2023 — 7:22 pm
Comments: 11

Let’s end the week on *the cat*

A beast so talented he can roll over and lick his paw at the same time.

This angle doesn’t quite show how fat this boy is. We told the vet it’s not our fault. He doesn’t eat people food. He doesn’t eat treats (can you imagine a cat that spurns Dreamies?). He only gets Iam’s dry kibble and he isn’t hugely fond of that.

It’s bunnies. A pendulous belly composed entirely of adorable baby bunnies he catches himself.

Sometimes we hear the screams. Sometimes we only find disgusting lumps of flesh and fur. And sometimes, surely, they vanish completely without us knowing a thing about it.

The vet didn’t seem worried. I suppose it’s a self-limiting problem. If he gets fat enough, he won’t be able to catch them.

Have a good weekend!

August 18, 2023 — 7:17 pm
Comments: 4