If it smells okay and there are no unsightly slimy bits…

A conversation at work recently reminded me how differently we treat food these days, compared to fifty, or so, years ago.

Someone was sniffing and scrutinising the milk, prior to making a hot drink, and decided it was time to part company, because the milk wasn’t quite as fresh and youthful as it had been (I know the feeling) and it reminded me of how we stored and used milk before we had fridges.

(Gripping stuff, are you sure you don’t have anything better to do; clip your toenails, put the cat out?)

When I started to think back I was quite surprised at how much our shopping, cooking and eating habits have changed since the 1950s. In fact before long I might also use it as an excuse to blather on about the local stores that we had before supermarkets arrived on the scene.

(Incidentally, why is the cat on fire?)

Anyway, back to milk. Before the widespread appearance of supermarkets in the late 1950s and early 1960s, most people had fresh milk delivered daily and, without a fridge, it was kept in the coolest place in the kitchen, pantry or cellar. We sometimes also had bottles of sterilized milk, which kept longer unopened, but didn’t taste as good as the fresh stuff.

Fridges didn’t become very widespread in British homes until the 1960s and 70s, so milk was normally used the day it was delivered, but if it happened to hang around a little longer, particularly in hot weather, it would start turn a little too sour for regular use.

Now I don’t know about most families at the time, but ours didn’t often throw it out. We kept it in a cool place until it had thickened up; I think Mum used to mix something like a little lemon juice in to curdle it. Then it was poured (well, perhaps glopped would be a better description) onto a piece of muslin, which was gathered up with the ends tied together, then hung over a bowl to allow the liquid to drain off. Once it stopped dripping it had a consistency between cream cheese and cottage cheese and was ready for use. At some point it was mixed with salt to improve the flavour and keep it fresh for longer, but I can’t remember if the salt was added at the end or before it was strained through the muslin.

The storage and shelf life of fresh food has altered a lot; food didn’t have ‘sell by’ or ‘use by’ dates until the 1970s, and then it was a bit sporadic. We used to pick up and examine our food; if it smelled okay and there are no unsightly slimy bits, then we would just eat it. If the cheese had a bit of mould growing on the outside, we would cut a layer off. If the bread was getting stale it was made into bread pudding, stale cake was made into trifle and so on.

I’m loath to trot out the customary ‘it never did me any harm’, but I do think we waste too much food. It would be more practical to inspect our food carefully and cook it thoroughly and with care, instead of just chucking it out for what sometimes seems to be an arbitrary date that depends on too many variables to be completely accurate.

We used to store some fruit and vegetables for months. Onions, for example, were cleaned up and kept dry, tied together and hung from hooks in the shed. When we wanted one, it was pulled or snipped one from the bunch and with luck they would keep all winter, or even longer.

Apples, as long as they were fresh and undamaged, would keep for months stored in a cool, dark place with a good air circulation. Similarly, we stored clean, dry, undamaged potatoes for a long time in paper or hessian sacks kept in cool, dry and dark conditions.

Anyway, you get the idea, before this turns into an episode of Gardener’s Question Time.

Another pre-fridge piece of equipment we used was a meat safe fixed to the wall outside, on the north facing side of the house, to keep it cool and out of the sun. The meat safe was a small metal cupboard with mesh covered holes to allow air circulation, but keep flies and vermin out, and we kept dairy produce, joints of meat, sausages, dripping and potted meat in it, particularly in cooler months.

Legion Stores, 13 Front St, Birstall (early 1950s)
Legion Stores, 13 Front St, Birstall (early 1950s)

In an old village shop we once managed, we had a cool and damp cellar that often served as a fridge. Mum made a trifle for a party and stored it in the cellar; it may have been for my birthday, but I don’t remember that. What I do remember is that when she went down to collect the trifle, there was a large frog sitting, apparently quite comfortably, in the centre. I don’t think we ate the trifle, although Dad wasn’t so fussy and probably scooped out the contaminated bits and scoffed the rest.

Since I first owned a fridge, I don’t ever remember finding a frog in any desserts. Although I do know how to tell if there are elephants in the refrigerator…

More on Legion Stores …cut into chunks, weighed and wrapped

Sensible, prudent and rational?

A few actions and conducts that appear to be sensible, prudent and rational, but are really just another poor excuse to repeat yet more quotations:

Plan for the future, but live for now; don’t live for a future that might be better, because it may never arrive.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” ~ Albert Einstein

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” ~ Yogi Berra

“Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Be yourself and say what you think.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” ~ Dr. Seuss

“It is better to be hated for what one is, than loved for what one is not.” ~ André Gide

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” ~ Kurt Cobain

Enjoy luxuries in small doses; too much of any one thing reduces the pleasure you take from it.

“The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.” ~ Charlie Chaplin

Don’t complain; either do something about it or forget it and move on.

“Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn’t take any brains to complain.” ~ Robert A. Cook

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain — and most fools do.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Tell the truth; being untruthful will almost always come back to you.

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ~ Mark Twain

“You never find yourself until you face the truth.” ~ Pearl Bailey

Help other people; that too will almost always come back to you.

“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” ~ Les Brown

“No man can help another without helping himself.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” ~ Althea Gibson

Don’t assume anything; assumptions stifle your thoughts and actions.

“If you see the teeth of the lion, do not think that the lion is smiling at you.” ~ Al-Mutanabbi

“Many people might have attained wisdom had they not assumed they already had it.” ~

Source Unknown

Travel to new places.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” ~ Mark Twain

“Travel teaches tolerance.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“The more I travelled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.” ~ Shirley Maclaine

Don’t expect money to make you happy.

“Money makes a good servant, but a bad master.” ~ Francis Bacon

“The only thing I like about rich people is their money.” ~ Lady Nancy Astor

“If you marry for money, you will surely earn it.” ~ Ezra Bowen

Don’t spend too much time either on your appearance or worrying; neither will solve anything in the long term.

“We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” ~ Ethel Barrett

“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Stop worrying — nobody gets out of this world alive.” ~ Clive James

Have the courage to do things; most of the time you will be successful.

“Do something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t, do something else.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Achieve things that matter to you.

“You never achieve real success unless you like what you are doing.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Work without interruption on one single thing at a time.

“The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” ~ Sydney Smiles

Keep your mind open to new ideas, tools and techniques.

“There will always be a frontier where there is an open mind and a willing hand.” ~ Charles F. Kettering

And last, but not least; when you do something, do it well.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

But remember:

“Believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you see.” ~ Mark Twain

For other stuff in this blog, click on these links:

Daft stuff; humour, jokes, quips and gags

Puns and word-play


Buses; location and locution

I’ve always used public transport to travel into Nottingham to work, because it’s convenient and good value for money and far more relaxing than driving on busy roads and trying to find somewhere to park in the city centre.

Also, I’m intrigued by the habits of people on the bus.

Although in this instance I’m limiting myself to location and locution; mobile phones, littering, vandalism and ingestion/vomiting can wait for another occasion to arrive. Or perhaps three occasions to turn up at the same time.


Regular travellers tend to sit in the same seat or area, particularly on the first part of the route, before the bus gets too busy. Passengers boarding further down the route have less chance of a regular ‘preferred’ seat, so they tend to be less specific about actual seats, but do appear to have a preferred zone of the bus to aim for.

By the time the bus nears the city centre, passengers either take whatever is available or just stand, so regular seat domination is largely confined to people from the outer suburbs.

There is also a regular pattern to the way people spread themselves about the bus as it starts to pick up more passengers along the route; firstly by occupying alternating window seats, then as those seats fill up, people alternate aisle seats, ideally with no one sitting directly in front or behind, or they survey the lower deck and decide there might be more chance of getting a seat to themselves on the upper deck, even if it means negotiating the stairs.

At least when you travel upstairs these days you are no longer in jeopardy of watering eyes, ashtray scented clothing or departing with antique kipper effect lungs.


My principal nosiness, I mean interest, in the observation of people on public transport is in the greeting or parting comments they make to the driver.

There aren’t so many actual greetings, the occasional “Hello” or “Morning”, even the rare “Areet mi duck”, with a high proportion of people not even bothering to acknowledge the person behind the wheel. However, on alighting there is far more variety.

“Thanks” and “thank you” are obviously the most common parting comments and again a majority of people say nothing and exit quickly without making eye contact. But there are quite a few “Cheers!”, “See you later” and “Thanks mate”; these largely said by younger men.

Now “See you later” and “Thanks mate” seem reasonable exclamations to me, but why would you say “Cheers!” which is a toast for drinking situations? When did it become a colloquialism for “thanks”? If this is a developing trend I’m waiting with some anticipation for alighting passengers to call to the driver “To your health!”, “Chin Chin!” or “Bottoms up!”

I’ve not travelled on a late night bus for a while; I wonder what remarks passengers regale the driver with when they’ve actually been drinking? Probably shouldn’t ask.

The occasional “Thank you driver!” now seems to be dying out, as it’s mainly expressed by older men in cloth caps or women with perms and head scarves.

I’ve recently noticed “Nice one!” or “Nice one mate!” being flung in the direction of the driver, so far this is also only being expressed by young men. Are they just making a general remark or is it a comment on something specific? Perhaps the fine cut of the driver’s uniform, the remarkable cleanliness of the bus or the exquisite view from the top deck?

Once in a blue moon there are exiting (as opposed to exciting) passengers that take the parting remarks to a whole new level. I’ve a fairly regular observation of one person who exits the bus fairly slowly, waving and keeping eye contact with the driver, while uttering a relentless stream of comments alone the lines of “Bye, have a good one, bye, see you, be good, bye, can’t get any worse, bye, don’t work too hard, bye, see you later!”

My usual bus route drops me off literally right outside the office and my own remarks are almost entirely limited to “Morning” and “Thanks”, although if it’s particularly wet or cold, I do occasionally, with a pathetic attempt at humour, ask the driver if they can get any closer to the door.


Sequentiality; everything must be parallel or sequent, or I will spontaneously combust.


The pleasure of lining up and straightening items on your desk; the harmony of a tin full of carefully arranged pencils or the joy of a drawer full of straight cutlery; the serenity induced by a scene of parallel railway lines or the contentment generated by the geometric regularities of buildings.

Cat legs
Cat legs

The delight in rearranging the legs of your sleeping cat from a haphazard pile to an orderly display (not easy, but very satisfying); the joy of methodically stacked shelves in a supermarket and the satisfaction when the coffee table finally lines up equidistantly and parallel with all the other furniture and the walls.

Hmm, just noticed these paragraphs are all agreeably and neatly ranged left (left justified, ragged right or lined up down the left hand edge). Wonderful.

Then there is the excitement of an orderly or consecutive sequence of numbers on a score board; although it’s a little annoying when you come across a good number sequence and it gets altered.

Digital Clock
Digital clock

For example, you might be watching tennis, perhaps the French Open, and the display develops a good sequence of numbers, eg 1,2,4/1,2,4 then someone wins and completely ruins it!

Still, you can always find a good, regular, chronological public transport timetable, or the consecutive numbers on a bus or theatre ticket, or when the total on a restaurant bill or check is a logical progression, and… the thrill when the digital clock reads ’22:22’ or especially ’12:34’, and if you’re extremely fortunate ’12:34:56’!

Oh yes, and one of my favourite Tweets ever by @Hipchickadee on Sep 6th, 2009: ‘I have C.D.O. It’s like O.C.D. but all the letters are in alphabetical order as they should be’.


New York buildings
New York buildings
Digital Clock
Piano keys
Piano keys

Loathed Language List

Wicked widespread words which wound wisdom.

Except that doesn’t really make sense. So, a short list of loathed words, well, words I don’t like anyway:

Whilst, to me, sounds pompous and outdated. I think it’s perfectly well replaced by while and should have gone the way of thee and thou when they were supplanted by you.

Mucus, phlegm and diarrhoea
Dislike of the word mucus has to be because of its association with illness and infection. Mucus is a naturally clear and runny substance, with lubricative and protective functions, but it gets its repugnant yellow/green condition from nasal and sinus mucus with bacterial or viral infection.

I also don’t like phlegm, but that’s because I can’t spell it without looking it up; the same goes for diarrhoea. Actually, to be fair to phlegm, if you strip away its meaning, the word itself is quite soft, gentle and almost cuddly.

Stakeholder is slightly annoying because it has two opposing meanings, but it mainly makes me wince because of its overuse in national and local government announcements; we all seem to be stakeholders now.

I only want to be a stakeholder in a restaurant in the company of a medium rare fillet (I know, but I did say that I can’t spell).

Actually, there are a whole raft of redundant words and phrases used to pepper ill considered Council documents that also make me grimace. Thank goodness for the Plain English Campaign.

It’s just bloody annoying.

I don’t really like the sound of the word, it’s too sharp and it conjures up a feeling of tasteless, ostentatious and old fashioned design.

Beatnik and gonk
Oh the 1960s (more or less, give or take a few years). There’s nothing wrong with beatniks as a group/breed/species, but the word just feels like a phony and fabricated media stereotype. And as for gonk, well, doesn’t it just sum up some of the vile tat produced and sold in that decade?

Aarghh! No. This is just too cringy. The word itself is too ‘nice’, it’s finicky, fastidious and fussy, before you even get into its meaning. Then it triggers flashbacks of squirmingly embarrassing office parties and colleague send-offs where people stand around in awkward groups, holding plastic cups of warm fizzy wine, not talking and wishing fervently that they were anywhere else. I don’t even want to think about it anymore.

Talking about stakeholder and redundant words and phrases has reminded me of a list I once found of meaningless words to insert into documents. I was going to include it here, but I think I’ve already gone on for too long. I’ll add it later, along the lines of; Meaningful nonsense, or how to enhance the impact of official correspondence.


My wife dislikes okey-dokey.

My sister cringes at the words crotch and gusset.

My daughter detests cordial, elderflower, thorough and frozen. I’m starting to think she’s just a bit strange though.


Thoughts and cultural references are transient

I was thinking about so many things being transient, but actually everything is.

Thoughts are remarkably transient; they come and then they’re gone in the twinkling of an eye, never to be remembered. Well, not without a pen or a stylus to hand.

And my eye doesn’t twinkle as much these days; is that age related?

Given the chance, I write thoughts down in a quick jumble before I forget them, then sort them out and make them legible later. Trouble is, sometimes I can’t read them or work out what I might have been thinking. Probably nothing of historical significance anyway.

I’ve realised of late the transient nature of cultural references and the huge percentage that are completely irrelevant to younger people, and also noticed that it becomes more pronounced as you get older.

It’s part of my, undoubtedly annoying, nature to make asinine remarks during conversations, in relation to comments that people make and about events, probably linked to my problem with word finding. However, as I get older, many of the references that I might link to these events or comments are also ageing, and therefore mean absolutely nothing to the reluctant, and frequently younger, addressees.

If I’m making reference to something that happened thirty or forty years ago, and the recipients of my remarks are under the age of thirty or forty, it’s likely that my comment will mean absolutely nothing to them. There will be no corresponding cultural reference point and my pithy and pertinent remark will be irrelevant and immaterial.

Damn, now I’m even less relevant than I used to be, and that was starting from a low base.

Everything is transient. Transience makes a change, and change is good for you.

Word finding difficulties

I regularly find it difficult to retrieve words to express thoughts and have always had problems remembering names and numbers.

It’s only in recent years that I’ve started to think about word finding difficulties and consider how it’s affected me. Thinking about it has made me realise that in some ways it’s had a fairly significant effect on some aspects of my life.

Moy's Garage (1954)
Moy's Garage (1954)

As a young child I was fairly slow learning to talk and I couldn’t pronounce some sounds very well, for example the letter ‘r’.  As a toddler I couldn’t say my name ‘Roy’. I pronounced it ‘Moy’; my father made a toy garage for me and put ‘MOYS GARAGE’ on the sign over the entrance.

Although I drew a lot, I was sluggish in learning to read; at around age eight I still didn’t read very well and was given some Janet and John books by the school to practice at home with.

I didn’t learn the times tables properly. At school I learnt the 2, 5 and 10 times tables and a bit later the 12 (because of pounds, shillings and pence) and I could sometimes work some of the others out by adding up as I went along.

I don’t like writing, my handwriting is hard to read and I’ve always found it tricky to remember what to capitalise and punctuate. For some years in my 20s I wrote everything out in CAPS, even my name; my bank eventually refused to accept my signature until I stopped using capital letters.

Dodgy spelling (1958)

My spelling has always been weak; I have to think very carefully all the time I’m writing by hand and there are many words that I still can’t spell, because I can’t think of a straightforward way of remembering how many letters there should be, or which order the letters go in. For example: across/accross, dificulty/difficulty, writing/writting, letter/leter, neighbour/nieghbor, metre/meter, confussed/confused, always/allways, recal/recall, scisors/scissors and in writing I tend to mix up short words such as ‘to’, ‘of’ and ‘or’.  I sometimes miss letters, especially vowels, out of words.  It’s only in my 50s that I’ve found a way of remembering which way round the ‘i’ and ‘e’ go in ‘their’.  Until my 40s I had problems remembering the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’ and at school for example I was made to write out a hundred times the difference between ‘they’ and ‘thay’.

I have trouble in remembering times and dates; since my early teens I’ve always carried a diary and lists of things to remember, do or buy. Having my first PDA in 2002 was a huge improvement; everything is in one place and reminder alarms can be set for events of all kinds, brilliant!

I use a computer whenever I can, always with auto spelling and auto correction, which has been a huge boost to the speed and accuracy of my writing. As I type these notes the software is correcting the spelling as I go and changing the letter order of words like ‘and’ and ‘the’ when I transpose the letters.  Before computers I had to write copious notes with multiple corrections and a lot of Tippex and then use scissors and sellotape to put the sentences in the right order, then write the whole thing out again neatly enough for someone else to read.  This applied to essays and letters, and to writing greetings cards and postcards, where I still usually write out a few lines, correct them and then try to write neatly on the card.

I sometimes pause or struggle when trying to recall words or names, and often replace a word with something similar, to try and get my thought across, when I can’t use the word I’m having difficulty remembering.

I find it easier to comprehend what someone is saying if I can see them and I sometimes have difficulty taking phone messages or understanding what someone is explaining during the call.  I have to ask for spellings quite often over the phone and I can’t often remember the letters until it’s written out in full, so I have to ask the person to repeat the spelling until I have it all down on paper.

I only remember one or two oral instructions at most; so I usually have to make notes. I also find it hard to remember more than one or two food or drink orders, when I’m in a pub or restaurant, without writing them out.

The only car registration I can remember
The only car registration I can remember

I have problems remembering names and especially numbers.  I don’t remember my car registration number or any previous ones, apart from an old black Morris 8, series E that my father sold about 1963 which was DBC 357; I’ve no idea why I remember that.

I can’t remember any mobile phone numbers, including my own. The only numbers I can usually remember are my home phone and my main bank account, which has been the same for over thirty years.  I find it hard to remember door codes and usually remember in what order to press the buttons rather than the numbers.

There are lots of technological aids; I don’t often remember web addresses for example, so I use ‘delicious’ to store all of my favourite bookmarks in one place, then they are always available anywhere online.

Sometimes I can’t recall people’s names even if I’ve known them for decades; I know exactly who they are, why and where I know them from and everything about them, but I can’t recall their name.  The same regularly applies to celebrities on TV and people in the news.  Yet sometimes I can remember an actor’s real name but not their stage or character’s name.

I confuse the names of people with similar sounds; I think Alice but say Janis, or Yvette instead of Colette.

I have a huge number of the universal ‘tip of the tongue’ experiences, where I know something, especially a word or name, but can’t immediately recall it. I can quite often think of the first letter of the missing word and think of words related to it, but not bring up the actual word.

Occasionally I say a word that isn’t the one I intended to use (this needs elaboration, but I’m out of words for now).

I can’t read (or write) and listen to someone speak at the same time and if two people talk to me simultaneously my attention skips from one to the other and I fail to understand what either of them has said. However, that may be because I’m male and useless at multi-tasking!

I find it very hard to learn or remember stories, poems or song lyrics and I don’t remember many song or group names or tell jokes, but I do produce spoonerisms (occasionally inadvertently) and many puns in striving to recall the meaning or word that I want to use.

I’m very uncomfortable talking in a small group of people and can’t address a large group at all; I become speechless and silent and can neither think of anything to say nor remember what I meant to say. Very embarrassing.

My hearing has deteriorated slightly in recent years, particularly in my left ear, which had to be operated on in 2004 to stop the impairment getting worse, but it’s left me with poor hearing and occasional tinnitus in my left ear.

The hearing problem has made some of these word finding issues worse. I try to avoid talking to people where there is a lot of background noise, such as in pubs, social occasions and on buses, because I find it very hard to understand what is being said.  Separating speech sounds from background noise, such as a television, can be quite hard.

I’ve not had any sort of assessment, except when, as a toddler, my mother was concerned about my speech, hearing and concentration and asked our family doctor for advice. He conducted a short ‘whispering’ test from the opposite end of the room and said there was nothing to worry about.

In the last year or so, when I’ve started to think about the subject, I’ve done some research and, apart from very minor similarities to some aspects of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), I’ve only found one website that has any correlation to any of my concerns (http://www.wordfinding.com/). Then more recently I came across the term ‘lethologica’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethologica) which may have some connection to the problem.

Assessment almost certainly isn’t necessary, as I don’t think the effect on my day to day life is that critical. Setting the issues out in black and white and attempting to describe it, as I’ve tried to do here, probably makes more of an issue of it than is warranted.

But I might change my mind.