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Friday, March 27, 2009


I first noticed Shielings or "Old Sheilings" which are common on Scottish Ordnance Survey maps such as that below in an area one km to the north west of Ben Lawers near Loch Tay. Often the remains are only random and remote piles of stones but they are fascinationg reminders of a vanished culture. A shieling was the shelter for herdsmen who moved their flocks to upland pastures during the summer months. This practice is called transhumance. Still practiced in parts of Europe, but in the UK not since the land clearances of the early 19th Century. Transhumance was the fate of many Scottish cotters (cotter - a peasant farmer in the Scottish Highlands) for many generations. A healthy but bleak life in the highlands,
sharing the elements with
sheep or cattle, ravens and
golden eagles.
There is little evidence left for any archhaeologists. The stone walls and a few hearth blackened stones would be the only signs of the anonymous former occupanrs who would have taken everything back with them as they herded the stock to the lowland pastures with the onset of winter.

CRABBY OLD MAN When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in North Platte, Nebraska , it was believed that he had nothing left of any value .Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem . Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital .One nurse took her copy to Missouri . The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the St. Louis Association for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem. And this little old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet ..

Crabby Old Man

What do you see nurses? …. What do you see?
What are you thinking…..when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old man, ….not very wise,
Uncertain of habit …………..with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food…….and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice…..”I do wish you’d try!
”Who seems not to notice …the things that you do.
And forever is losing ………. A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not………..lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding …. The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse……you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am ………. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, …..as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten…….with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters ………who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen ..with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now. ……a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty …..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows……that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now ………. I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide …. And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty ………….. My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other …………… With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons ..have grown and are gone,
But my woman’s beside me…….to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, ……… Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children ……. My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me ………. My wife is now dead.
I look at the future........ I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing……young of their own.
And I think of the years……. And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man………and nature is cruel.
Tis jest to make old age ……….look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles……….grace and vigor, depart.
There is now a stone.. ……….where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass ………. A young guy still dwells,
And now and again ……my battered heart swells
I remember the joys………. I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living………….life over again.
I think of the years ..all too few……gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact……..that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people ……….open and see..
Not a crabby old man.
Look closer….see……..ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within . . . . . we will all, one day, be there, too! PLEASE SHARE THIS POEM The best and most beautiful things of this world can't be seen or touched . They must be felt by the heart .

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Folklore Guide to the Weather

Back 1950's, considering that we had no car, we had quite adventurous family holidays. In 1954 possibly 1955 we went by train to Bideford in a North Devon, and have stayed in a caravan at Westward Ho! (Yes, the town really does have an official exclamation mark!

I am not sure if there are any extant photographs from this holiday, but I have on my shelves, a little booklet, now without its cover, concerning traditional weather sayings. It is Folklore Guide to the Weather published by the the Westerner Press at Westward Ho! in 1954.

I will repeat a few of the sayings at random:-

Green Clouds

If the clouds take on a greenish hue, A heavy storm of rain is very imminent.


When everything at the table is eaten, it indicates continued clear weather.


When the frogs croak much, it is a sign of rain.

The louder the frogs, the more the rain.


Turkeys perched on trees and refusing to descend indicates snow.


Good day for hearing

A good hearing day is a sign of a wet.

Chairs and corns

See how the chairs and tables crack,

Old Betty's joints are on the rack;

Her corns with shooting pains torment her

And to her bed untimely sends her.

It will surely rain, I see with sorrow;

Our jaunt must be put off tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Electrophone

The name Electrophone was used for a telephone-distributed audio system which operated in the United Kingdom between 1895 and 1926, relaying live theatre and music hall shows and, on Sundays, live sermons from churches via special headsets connected to conventional phone lines. This was similar to the French Theatrophone system and the Hungarian Telefon Hirmondó [fascinating link!] which carried news, entertainment and fiction readings. These systems can be seen as important forerunners of radio broadcasting. [from Wikipedia]

I first read about the Electrophone in one of my books, - a 1923 edition of Herbert Jenkins' vade mecum Enquire Within upon Everything. Before the establishemt of regular broadcasts by thto thee BBC it was possible to purchase an Electrophone for the sum of £10 per annum for a home installation. The normal telephone would have up to four receivers attached.

Imagine holding the earpiece to one's ear and listening on your phone - probably with poor sound quality, to a concert from (for instance) the Albert Hall or to the Victoria Palace Music Hall. All one had to do was call the telephone operator and ask to be connectd to ones chosen concert venue. Each venue would have had microphones in the footlights transmitting the sounds through the telephone wires.