Wednesday, 30 December 2009


How many people have been in outer space?

Up to November 2008 there have been 489 people from 38 countries who have flown in outer space. Space is defined as anywhere above the Karman Line 62.1 miles up.

What is the closest any human has been to the centre of the earth?

The crew of the bathyscaphe Trieste dived to a depth of 6.77 miles in the Pacific Ocean in 1960. This put them 3,952 miles from the centre of the earth.

When have been the coldest winters in the UK?

The coldest winter on record was 1684 when coaches travelled along the frozen River Thames. The winter of 1962-63 was the coldest since 1740.

Christmas Past

Well time I updated my blog after the Christmas holidays. But what to write, I can’t think of anything, nothing has happened. I could write about something that has been on TV, but what? There hasn’t been anything on TV. The only thing I can think of was EastEnders on Christmas Day. I sort of gave up on EastEnders a few years ago, but have started to watch it a bit these days. I have to say that Christmas Day episode was fantastic. Only observation is that no matter how bad everyone’s Christmas was on the programme - it was still better that the nightmare I have to go through.

Still its over for another year. Is this the time when we say to everyone we meet, ’did you have a nice Christmas?’ and everyone says ’Yes thanks, it was quiet though’. Why does everyone say that? How can it have been quiet, the whole thing has taken more organising that the Normandy landings, everyone in the country (or the world as far as I know) has bought enough food and alcohol for several weeks. All normal routines and working patterns have been totally abandoned, yet it has still be ‘a quiet Christmas!’

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Holiday

How come Cameron Diaz gets Jude Law, but Kate Winslet gets Jack Black? But thinking about it, you would probaly be better off with Jack Black!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Thursday, 24 December 2009

I think this can be called a White Christmas

Some pics taken in the park over the road.

White Christmas

According to the weather forecast the odds on a White Christmas are shortening - the further North you live the more likely you are to have snow on Christmas Day.

But they went on to say that snow on the ground doesn’t count, it has to fall from the sky on Christmas Day to be an official White Christmas. What’s that all about? There is snow on my roof, snow in the street, snow all around, but it might not be an ‘official’ White Christmas!

Who decided that there were rules to apply on whether it was a White Christmas or not? Do we have to fill a form in and apply to have ‘official White Christmas’ status awarded?

If it isn’t an officially designated White Christmas, do I have to take the snow on my house back to the council and say ‘sorry but its not an official White Christmas, so I can’t keep it’. In future years will I have to describe this Christmas as ‘the Christmas that looked like a White Christmas, but it wasn’t a White Christmas’?

I am lost now, I don’t know what to do.

Christmas Eve

Whatever you feel about Christmas - Christmas Eve is special. it’s a time for reflection and you can’t but help think back to the times of your childhood and the excitement and stories of Christmas.

There was always a stories like the one of the miserable old man that lived alone in a big house with a big garden and the local children would creep into the garden and steel the apples from his apple trees. The man would be so miserable he would chase the children with his stick and shout at them to ‘clear off’.

Then one Christmas one child would sneak into the garden and they would become friends and have an adventure and the man would turn out to be jolly and let all the children have the apples from his trees in future…………….. Makes you think.

Well just a thought for the children near me when the look at my apple trees -

‘Get lost and buy your apples at the shops like everyone else!’

Merry Christmas

Why Christmas is so Stressful - 4

The Christmas songs - why do we have to have the Christmas songs over and over again, year after year. When I come back in my next life I am going to make a Christmas song and take the royalties every year. There are very few Christmas songs that can stand a second hearing (most of them can’t take a first hearing) but if you want to get in the mood I can just about listen to these:

George Michael - December Song

Judy Garland - Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Shirley Bassey - The Girl From Tiger Bay

(Not a Christmas song but its got sequins, white feathers and diamonds, what more do you want for Christmas - and it’s a hell of a song)

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Two Christmases

Just heard that my sister isn’t well so she wont be coming home for Christmas this year. (I say home even thought I am sure she regards where she lives in Wales as her home now, but you know what I mean.)

So this means two things, on the day itself I wont have anyone to share the burden of the nightmare that is Christmas Day and since we wont have exchanged presents with family my sister will come up for a long weekend in January and we can do it all again. I know this will happen as it has happened about seven out of the last ten years.

Two Christmases in one year, let joy be unconfined!


News item last night about train services Eurostar. Newsreader confirmed that services under the Channel Tunnel would recommence today.

‘Under’? The Channel Tunnel - I think I have worked our what went wrong!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Travel Chaos

Another night of bad weather across the country with some snow fall in the South. Thousands of people stranded across three counties for the night. There is to be a Government enquiry into what happened and what went wrong. A Government enquiry, is that really necessary? I know it wouldn’t be pleasant for those affected - but a Government enquiry?

Let me save the Government some time and money:

  • it is winter
  • it was cold
  • it snowed
  • it froze
  • the roads got blocked.

Now can the Government please have an enquiry into what the banks did with all our money, who got it and why did we have to give them two hundred thousand million pounds.

Talking of which, according to Government figures the banks received £40,000 from every household in the country as part of the bailout. I wrote to my bank to tell them to just deduct my £40,000 from my mortgage and to let me know how much my repayments have been reduced to in time for next months payment. I also said I knew how difficult times were for them and as a gesture of goodwill I wouldn’t be charging them £40 for my letter.

Mr Leon Jackson

In all this talk of the X Factor winner it is easy to forget the ones that have gone before, as especially for male winners, history shows the future might not be so bright for Joe.

Leon Jackson was much maligned but I quite liked him. Great version of When You Believe and who can forget his duo with Kylie Minogue - well you obviously because you had forgotten he sang with Klylie!

Mr Leon Jackson and When You Believe

Mr Leon Jackson and Miss Kylie Minogue

Monday, 21 December 2009

Cold Callers

If you have ever been held on a company’s autodial list you will know how annoying it is to get phone calls everyday trying to sell you this that or the other. I was recently on the list for some mobile phone company based on the other side of the world trying to get me to switch supplier. Getting off these auto dial lists can prove difficult, but it can be done. Here are my four stages to success.

In the first stage, when the caller says ‘how are you today sir’? Say ‘I am very well thank you for asking, and it is so lovely of you to call just to ask me that’. Then hang up. This will leave the caller a bit puzzled as they now think you think they just called to say hello. They may decide you are a little odd and remove you from their list at this early point. If this doesn’t work, then move on to the second stage.

In the second stage when they ask ‘Could I speak to... ?’ You say ‘of course you can, I will just put you through’. You then put the phone down and watch TV, have dinner or whatever you were doing when the phone rang. Go back every couple of minutes pick up the phone and say ‘Still putting you through’. After about three or four times you will find they have rung off. If this does not deter them and you find you are still on their list, move on to the third stage.

In the third stage they are clearly not easily put off so you will have to speak to them for a while. This one can be a little tricky as you have to spot what they are giving away free quite quickly and home in on this aspect of the call. In my recent experience they were offering me a free phone, clearly what they weren’t telling me was that the ‘free phone’ would end up costing me a fortune on a new contract.

So as soon as they mentioned the ‘free phone’ I said I was absolutely delighted that they were going to give me a new phone and I asked them to send it to me immediately as I couldn’t wait to receive it. Then hang up. You won’t of course receive a new phone but the next time they call you can say you still haven’t received your new phone and ask when you can expect to receive it – or you can ask to be put through to the complaints department as you are getting annoyed that you haven’t received your new phone.

If this still doesn’t stop them calling you will have to try the techniques in this the fourth and final stage. If your caller has got through to this stage then clearly they are very determined so you will have to be prepared to be persistent and creative in your dialogue. My recent experience got to this stage and the conversation went a bit like this.

‘I am sure you will want to reduce your phone bill’

‘I don’t really spend a lot on my phone so I am quite happy with what I pay’

‘But I am sure you will want to reduce even that amount’

‘Why are you so sure about what I want, you don’t know me, we haven’t even met’,

‘I know we haven’t met, but most people like to reduce their phone bills’

‘Do I have to meet you to have my phone bills reduced?’

‘No we don’t have to meet’

‘Ok, but I still don’t know how you are so sure I want to have my phone bills reduced’

‘Well alright, I shouldn’t have said I was sure you wanted to have your phone bills reduced, I just made an assumption that you would’

‘So are you now saying that you are not sure I want my phone bills reduced?’

‘Well yes I suppose I am’

‘So are you saying that you want to keep my phone bills the same as they are now?’

‘No I’m not saying that’

‘Well what are you saying, you don’t sound very sure’

‘Well I am sure’

‘’But you said you were sure I was sure a minute ago, and now it looks like you’re not even sure what it is you are sure about’

‘I am sure!’

‘What about?’

At this point he seemed quite cross and hung up. I haven’t heard from them since.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Bette Midler and Jake Shimabukuro

If you’re feeling a bit stressed out as Christmas approaches take a few minutes to watch and listen to Bette Midler and Jake Shimabukuro sing and play this beautiful rendition of ‘In my Life’.

Santa Claus and other bringers of gifts

Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas, considered by many to be the original Santa Claus.
Christmas has for many centuries been a time for the giving and exchanging of gifts, particularly between friends and family members. A number of figures of both Christian and mythical origin have been associated with Christmas and the seasonal giving of gifts. Among these are Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus, Père Noël, and the Weihnachtsmann; Saint Nicholas or Sinterklaas; the Christkind; Kris Kringle; Joulupukki; Babbo Natale; Saint Basil; and Father Frost.

The most famous and pervasive of these figures in modern celebration worldwide is Santa Claus, a mythical gift bringer, dressed in red, whose origins have diverse sources. The name Santa Claus is a corruption of the Dutch Sinterklaas, which means simply Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in modern day Turkey, during the fourth century. Among other saintly attributes, he was noted for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts. His feast on the 6th of December came to be celebrated in many countries with the giving of gifts. Saint Nicholas traditionally appeared in bishop’s attire, accompanied by helpers, and enquired about the behaviour of children during the past year, before deciding whether they deserved a gift or not. By the 13th century Saint Nicholas was well known in the Netherlands, and the practice of gift-giving in his name spread to other parts of central and southern Europe. At the Reformation, many Protestants changed the gift bringer to the Christ Child or Christkindl, (corrupted in English to Kris Kringle), and the date of giving gifts changed from December the 6th to Christmas Eve.

The modern popular image of Santa Claus, however, was created in the United States, and in particular, in New York. The transformation was accomplished with the aid of six notable contributors including Washington Irving and the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840–1902). Following the American Revolutionary War, some of the inhabitants of New York City sought out symbols of the city's non-English past. New York had originally been established as the Dutch colonial town of New Amsterdam and the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition, was reinvented as Saint Nicholas. In 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City. At his first American appearance in 1810, Santa Claus was drawn in bishops' robes. However as new artists took over, Santa Claus developed more secular attire. Nast drew a new image of "Santa Claus" annually, beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Nast's Santa had evolved into the robed, fur clad, form we now recognize, perhaps based on the English figure of Father Christmas. The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.

Father Christmas

Father Christmas, a jolly, well nourished, bearded man who typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, predates the Santa Claus character. He is first recorded in early 17th century England, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness rather than the bringing of gifts. In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa. The French Père Noël evolved along similar lines, eventually adopting the Santa image. In Italy, Babbo Natale acts as Santa Claus, while La Befana is the bringer of gifts and arrives on the eve of the Epiphany. It is said that La Befana set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost along the way. Now, she brings gifts to all children. In some cultures Santa Claus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, or Black Peter. In other versions, elves make the toys. His wife is referred to as Mrs. Claus.


On average how many computer viruses are released each month?

600 new viruses are released to the internet each month. 80,000 viruses now exist. In January 2003 the Slammer virus infected 75,000 computers in 10 minutes.

Does everyone have a phone?

57.8% of the world’s population have never received a telephone call. Furthermore, 75.3% of the world’s population have never accessed the internet.

If you were to add up all the presents in the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ how many would there be?

364 presents are given by ’my true love’ throughout the ’Twelve Days of Christmas’ 184 birds, 140 performing (or milking) people and 40 golden rings.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Wrong Number

How annoying is it when someone dials the wrong number! Phone call yesterday,

‘Can I speak to Cheryl’

‘I’m sorry but I think you have the wrong number’

‘Well I think she changed her number recently’

‘Then you definitely have the wrong number’

‘She works on the night shift team’

‘You have the wrong number’

‘She hasn’t been there very long’

‘You have the wrong number’

‘Do you know what her new number is?’

‘If you don’t know her number then why do you think I know her number? You have the wrong number’

‘You haven’t been very helpful’. Then she hung up!

How is it that if someone dials the wrong number it becomes my problem that I have to solve by finding out what the correct number is!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Tiger Tiger Burning (not so) Bright

I see Tiger Woods has issued an apology for all the revelations about his private life that have been flying across the media over the last few weeks.

He needn’t have bothered for me as it is not my concern what he does, but since he has put the information out there maybe I can make an observation.

The apology was what I call a ‘celebrity apology’. This is where a celebrity makes a public apology but it doesn’t mean ‘I am sorry and I wish I hadn’t done it’ it means ‘there has been a lot of fuss in the press about something I did and I have just realised it might affect my future earnings so I had better say I’m sorry even though I don’t know what I am supposed to be sorry about, and even if I didn’t know its no ones business but my own’.

There is also the element added to it that they are only sorry at the point that the indiscretion becomes public knowledge, which really means ‘I am sorry I have been found out – not that I did it’.

You might be sorry that you have an affair, but if you have dozens of them then you’re not really sorry, it’s just your way of life. So I do wonder why he has apologised publicly I know he makes over $100 million dollars a year and that would be incentive enough for anyone to do anything to protect future earnings, but he already has a $1 billion dollars so how much more does he want.

It is just as well I’m not rich – I don’t think I understand how it works.

New Feature

Starting a new feature where I make comment on issues of the day. I don’t normally make comment on such things but will give it a go.

Don’t you Love GMTV

Item on this morning about how cold it is with some bloke standing in a village in Suffolk holding a thermometer we couldn’t see. He pointed at the 0C mark to prove how cold it was – I feel so much better informed.

Penny Smith did say she thought it was warmer in her fridge and she might now sleep in it – good idea Penny you might keep better!

Weather In Leeds

In the Tropical Rain Forest it rains every day – who would have thought the Leeds could be classed as Tropical Rain Forest!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Christmas Post.

At this time of year the postman will come at all different times of the day - even coming on a Sunday.

So you need to wear shoes in the house at all times from now until after the holidays. This is because postman love to put those ‘sorry you were out’ cards through your letter box. Even though you are in but you don’t the door bell because they didn't ring it.

If you already have your shoes on you can chase after the postman as soon as you notice a card being popped through your letter box. If you have to change into shoes before you race after the postman he will be long gone before you have your shoes on.

Fashion tip If you do have to put shoes on to go after the postman - in this scenario it is ok to put on the first pair of shoes or trainers you come to - they don’t have to match your outfit.

Christmas Cards

Delivered my Christmas cards to neighbours over the weekend.

I always give next doors little girl one to herself. She is getting a bit older now, think is six now, so she came round last night with a card for me that she had made herself at school.

I said it was very nice, but why was Shrek playing with some giraffes? She said it wasn't Shrek and giraffes it was Father Christmas and his reindeer! I said well it looks nothing like father Christmas and that and maybe next year it would be better if she bought me a card. Don't know why she seemed a bit upset.

Next door had another baby year before last - on new year’s eve , if I remember rightly, ambulances racing up and down the street sirens going full blast when I was trying to get ready to go out, no consideration for others - so I suppose that will be another card next year!


At the delicatessen the other day I was standing in the queue when the woman being served in front of me pointied at some chicken portions, and asked the assistant ‘have you not get any bigger breasts’?

How rude!

Quote of the day

Overheard in the gym, someone discussing a recent snow boarding course he had just completed. His instructor had told him that ‘on the dry slopes he was like a duck on ice, but on real snow he is like a fish in water’.

Worryingly I knew what he meant.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

X Factor 2009 - the final performance

Great to see Joe win and the song is pretty good too!

We had Kimberley Walsh with the crowds in South Shields - funnily enough she was the least orange person there!

Lovely to see Cheryl and Simon standing arms around each other as Joe sang the song as the winner. Louis got into the spirit as well by putting his arm around Dannii - for about three seconds until Dannii told him to get off!

Download available now - in the shops on Wednesday.

X Factor - the final result

What fantastic performances tonight, Cheryl gave it everything. Standing ovations so we could all see her dress again, quivering lips and tearful moments when she was asking everyone to vote for her. Trembling voice when she spoke of how wonderful Joe’s family were - bet she is never off the phone to them!

It was wonderful - oh and the acts weren’t bad either.

Waiting the result as I write (doing this while the rotten Paul McCartney is on - can’t bear him.

Best performance of the night George Michael.

Joe or Olly to win? Sorry Olly but I think it has to be Joe.

X Factor - the final

After months of shows and all the hype of the week - at last the final. Joe, Olly and Stacey into the last week, with what I have to say was a pretty poor show. The final song choices weren’t the best and I think the nerves were showing.

Second songs with Michael Buble, Robbie Williams and George Michael only showed how far the finalists have to go to get to that level. Can’t blame Joe for being overawed singing with George Michael but think he has done enough to win tomorrow’s final vote.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Name those Films

Have a watch of this video from Youtube and see how many films you can name. You have to be quick as some of them pass in an instant.

In case you are wondering, the tune is from Jerry Springer the musical

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Why Christmas is so stressful – 3

Christmas Day food

The day starts quite well as you are encouraged to eat a large breakfast – this is fine for me as I consider breakfast to be the best meal of the day. You can have anything you like, even things you would normally consider to be an evening meal is permissible. The general rule of thumb is that Christmas day breakfast should be about the same calorie level as that for a normal full day.

There are only certain things you are allowed to eat for Christmas Day lunch. Suggest a Lancashire hot pot or fish and chips and people will think you have gone mad.

There is a range of things you are allowed to eat, turkey, goose, beef etc. (turkey being the most popular). But whatever you choose, it has to be the biggest of its kind in the shop. It is not unheard of for people to buy a 20 kilo turkey for two.

There are a number of difficulties with the meal and it starts at the point you go to the table. You are required to:
· navigate (if you are from a large family) your way to a chair that is the proper height for the table so you don’t have to eat the meal with your knees in your face;
· sit at the table wearing a paper hat;
· pull Christmas crackers in the hope of winning something you are going to throw in the bin;
· eat vegetables that you don’t like and would never go near for the rest of the year;
· consume vast amounts of potatoes cooked in several different ways, e.g. boiled, roasted, duchess etc;
· eat sausage, bacon, stuffing (don’t ask) which alone contain enough fat to give a small elephant a heart attack ;
· work out how to keep gravy off the cranberry sauce;
· talk to the other people at the table;
· say ‘I shouldn’t really’ when asked if you want more alcohol, then say ‘oh go on then it is Christmas’;
· eat a Christmas pudding that takes four hours to steam cook, but still has the consistency of liquid concrete.

Then two hours after eating the biggest meal you have had all year, you have to consume another meal.

This meal is the beginning of the different ways that you are going to eat turkey for the next day or two. You are also required to consume Christmas cake, chocolate cake, biscuits and more alcohol.

By the time you have reached this meal the alcohol is not compulsory but it is advisable to take it to get you through the rest of the day\evening.

Tips for getting through the day

Each time you go past the central heating thermometer, turn it up a degree. No one will notice the gradual rise in room temperature but this will help everyone fall asleep after dinner so you don’t have talk to them.

If you are exchanging presents on the day and you have to buy a present for someone you don’t like – buy them a big, heavy or awkward to carry present, (or if you are advanced in this regard, something that is all three). This means they have to work out how to get your present it home. This is especially effective if they have travelled to you on foot so they can have a drink and then have to carry a six foot set of step ladders home in the ice.

Note: Christmas cake is a bit like Christmas pudding only it is cold and solidified. A single slice has the same calorific value as a pie and pea supper, ten Mars bars and a packet of Wotsits.

Don’t you love GMTV

Item this morning on London Fashion week and the award given to Kate Moss as British Fashion Ambassador of the year (yes really!). We were treated to a sound bite from Kate saying how wonderful she was. After the item the two presenters (Kate Garraway and one that looks like Kate Garraway) observed that you don’t normally get to hear Kate Moss talking and wasn’t it interesting!

Actually no, since you ask, it wasn’t interesting, but it does explain why we don’t usually hear Moss speaking!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Shopping for Babies

A friend from work is leaving this week to have a baby so I wanted to buy her a present. I was at the Retail Park by 09:00 on Saturday - its not the time of year to go late in the day!

Shopping for babies is not really my thing but took a trip to Mothercare to see what I could get. It is a whole new world of things I never knew existed and there was another shop next door - mamas and papas - which I think had the edge on Mothercare.

Lady in the shop was very helpful. Looked at a few outfits and decided on a … don’t know what you call it - a thing you put babies in I suppose.

Went next door to Borders to get a card.

Borders is now on its way out and it’s a pity coz find it convenient having shop on the Retail Park - saves me going into town to buy books. Did notice they had 20% off all their books as they are closing down but that is a bit odd as when I get books there they have them, either 3 for 2 or buy one get one half price. So in effect the cost of books have gone up in their closing down sale!
Perhaps that is why they are closing down.

I noticed they had some toys and things and I thought I might get something for my friend. There was a display of teddy bears and they looked quite cute so thought I would get one. Don’t know what is wrong with me - but be going sentimental in my old age.

Anyway the display of bears was quite big so I set to finding the one I wanted, I had them all out the display and lined up on the floor.

The woman came over and asked me ‘Can I help sir’

‘I want one of these bears’ She pointed at the one I had in my hand and said ‘I’ll take that to the till for you’

‘I don’t want this one, I want a different one’

‘They are all the same sir’

‘No they aren’t I want a good looking one, this one has a squashed nose’ I held it up to show the woman, ‘and that one is cross eyed’.

The woman just looked, ‘Well once you have finished interviewing the bears, bring the winner over to the till and I‘ll wrap it up for you’

After about 15 minutes I chose the bear I wanted and thought I would have a quick look at the books - see if there was anything I wanted.

The same woman came up to me. ‘I see you got a bear - it must be very pleased to have passed the interview. But could you carry it more carefully, you have it by the throat and your upsetting the children’.

Why do I always get difficult people serving me!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Batman Begins

Enjoyed Batman Begins always liked Batman - he was a bit dark and not the usual Super Hero type as he didn’t have any super powers. Didn't have a clue what the film was about - but I don't suppose that matters.

In the early days of Batman he used to shoot people but this stopped in 1940 after editor Whitney Ellsworthy complained about Batman shooting some mutated man. Batman first appeard in 1939.

Val Kilmer was the best Batman - but he’s looking a bit rough now. Val Kilmer is 50 on New Year’s Eve.

X Factor semi final - the result

Cheryl and Dannii stepped it up on the glamour front - both sensational this week. Although camera caught Cheryl taking her chewing gum out and putting it in the bin - classy!

Guests this week Lady Gaga and Janet Jackson. Don’t really get Lady Gaga, but nice to see Janet Jackson. Was it just me or was the sound a bit funny? Think she was miming - and what the hell did she have on? She looked like Kevin Webster the mechanic off Coronation Street!

So we have the finalists Olly, Stacey and Geordie Joe. Interviewed by Dermot after the result announced, Olly didn’t know what to say, and who knows what Stacey said.

Danyl Johnson lost out - but then I guess he has struggled in the press right through the completion - maybe we will hear from him again - maybe we won’t.

X Factor semi final

Semi final this week already. Last remaining contestants Olly, Danyl Joe and Stacey. Two songs this week, the first one for each was a Michael Jackson song. I thought we had already had a Michael Jackson week!

It was a bit poor really Geordie Joe did the best cover - but even then ‘She’s out of my life’ is not a Jackson favourite for me.

Second songs were better, but oh no Stacey if your going to sing a Queen Barbra classic - get the words right. Can’t believe she got the last word wrong - for future reference the last word is Somewhere - its sort of the point of the song!

If you want to know how it should be done - see Barbra sing it live

They keep giving Danyl Whitney songs to sing, and no one does Whitney like Whitney, but he manages to pull it off. On the subject of Whitney - heard her new song the other day - looks like a winner, lot better than the come back song.

Who is in the final, difficult Joe and Danyl yes - and either Olly or Stacey to lose out. Pity coz Olly was my favourite to win.


How much money has JK Rowling made per word?

JK Rowling has made £526.54 per word written in Harry Potter books. She has made £576m in total and is the world’s biggest selling living author.

What’s the lowest score anyone’s ever got on Mastermind and what was their specialist subject?

The lowest non-celebrity score on Mastermind was 7 by Colin Kidd. His specialist subject was World Chess Championships. The lowest celebrity score is 6.

How much was the first TV?

The first mass produced mechanical TV set sold for $150 in 1928, which is $1,800 in today’s money.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Travel to Leeds

Set off today for my working week in Leeds. Not my favourite journey as I set off at 6:15 on a cold, dark autumn morning. This morning was particularly cold and my car was frozen solid, so at least I had the advantage of not having to scrape out my car and just get into a warm taxi. I can always find the positive out of any negative situation.

Had a bit of an incident on the train. The lady with the refreshment trolley asked me if I wanted anything. I asked for a sparkling water. She handed over a bottle of water and asked me if I wanted a glass?

‘Do I look like Conan the Barbarian?’ I responded

She didn’t like that and gave me a cold stare with pursed lips as she picked up a glass and placed it (rather forcibly I thought) in font of me.

‘One Glass’ she said

‘It’s got a chip in it’

She removed the glass picked up another glass and placed it in front of me.

‘One other glass’ she said.

I stared back at her, my mind racing. I wanted to point out that actually it wasn’t a glass it was a plastic beaker, but I am not easily goaded into argument and she did look a bit frosty so I left it.

‘Do you want anything to eat – we have bacon flatbread but I haven’t got any cutlery. You will have to manage with your fingers’.

I looked at her and raised and eyebrow.

‘So nothing to eat then’ she concluded.

‘No thank you’.

A few minutes later she was back down the carriage with an armful of complimentary newspapers.

‘Paper sir’ she asked as she walked past.

‘Yes thank you’.

She handed one over. ‘Would you like me to turn the pages over for you’?

I sensed and adversary with skills of an equal status. ‘That won’t be necessary thank you’ I replied as she moved on.
The rest of the journey proved uneventful apart from being five minutes late. Gave me just enough time to pop into The Queens hotel and leave my bag with George – the concierge.

A warm welcome from George is guaranteed but he always begins our chats by asking me if I have come down all the way from Newcastle again. He says it like I have travelled by foot from Peru. I don’t know how far away he thinks Newcastle is.

Left my bag until I returned later to check in.

I have had some disastrous experiences at hotels but The Queens is my preferred hotel so is usually event free.

Couple of hitches this week. The bathroom was the coldest bathroom in the Northern Hemisphere. Some problem with the window so it was permanently open about half an inch – not much but more than enough when the outside temperature is -3C. I compensated by having the bedroom thermostat on full blast at 32C.

When I use the restaurant the ladies there look after me very well. They know I don’t have tea or coffee at breakfast and have my own table. I am the perfect customer for them as they don’t have to do anything and can leave me on my own and they are the perfect waitresses for me as other than a ‘good morning’ they leave me alone.

Bit of a surprise this morning when a new chap was standing guard over the restaurant entrance. He dutifully (even if needlessly) took my name and room number so he could tick me off his list.

I could see my ladies hovering in the background looking on a bit nervously as the new chap attempted to take me to a free table as he marched off due East to guide me to the table he thought I should sit at. I turned to face the opposite direction and headed due West to my usual table.

He seemed a little surprised and a little cross when he got to his intended table and turned around to see I wasn’t behind him and was in fact already sitting at my table at the opposite end of the dinning room.

My ladies were soon bustling around me to turn my tea cup upside down so any other new people knew I did not require tea\coffee.

Calm was once again restored.

Quote of the Day

'Why are there sausages amongst the Fishes?'

Why indeed.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Tip for a Peaceful Christmas

Over the Christmas period whenever someone rings your front door bell, put on an overcoat before you answer the door.

If it is someone you want to see you can say you have just come in, invite them in and take off your coat. If it is someone you don’t want to see you can say, so sorry but you were just on your way out! It works I have done this for years.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Stripes and Hoops

I accidentally overheard a conversation where a work colleague was extolling the virtues of his tea cup – he gave it a glowing reference and went on to describe it as having stripes. I could see his tea cup and the markings on his cup were quite clearly ‘hoops’ and not ‘stripes’.

I considered saying nothing and letting this outrageous breach of English language usage go unchallenged but the urge to intervene proved too much and I had to point out that stripes are vertical straight lines whereas hoops are horizontal straight lines.

The conclusion being that he did not have a beautiful striped teacup – he had a beautiful hooped tea cup!

Quote of the Day

Some things might happen, but not some time soon.

Very mysterious!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity - Day 15

A race against time tonight for the challenge between Joe and Stuart. The winner gets to stay but the loser leaves the jungle immediately. Ant and Dec explained what to do, but it seemed dead complicated to me - I’d have had to write the instructions down. On paper Joe should have won it, but poor tactics getting the combination meant he never got off the ground. Win for Stuart and a welcome return to the Jungle.

Can we lose the vile Kim Woodburn - please stop voting for her!

The Pink Party

Saturday was the highlight of the social calendar when I went to Miss Pink’s party. All of Newcastle society was there, apart from one or two notable exceptions (well they are getting on a bit and the party did go on quite late).

Normally Miss Pink is in housecoat and curlers at the start of the party as it takes her a while to get ready but this year she was dressed and in full make up right from the start.

This year’s theme was 80s and appropriate music supplied accordingly.

Phil turned out to be a walking encyclopaedia on tunes, singers and dates and was able to settle several arguments over who sang which song and when. Turns out Phil used to be a milkman in his youth (I never knew that) and retold lots of stories of his time on the milk cart and how upset he was when the horse (called Champion) was finally retired to make way for a new motorised milk float. Whenever I see a bottle of milk - I will think of Phil (Can you still get bottles of milk?)

Cocktails were the drink of the night and Miss Pink was very industrious in making cocktails for all. She had planned to serve drinks out of coconuts, and to do this she had bought a bag of mini coconuts from Asda - I didn’t know you could get mini coconuts but they did fit in the glass very neatly. Or at least they would have done if all had gone to plan. Miss Pink made a rare visit to B&Q to buy a junior hacksaw and used this to try and take the top off the coconuts. Unfortunately after 15 minutes of effort and one ragged edged coconut later - she gave it up as a bad job.

Still the hacksaw came in handy for chopping up the pineapple and she did produce a fantastic cocktail - and that’s from me that doesn’t like cocktails.

Evening went as these things do - with everyone in the kitchen - why do people do that at parties?

There was one, well lets call it an incident (actually there were two but I am sworn to secrecy on the second one) where someone dropped a full bottle of beer on the kitchen floor - smashed to smithereens - embarrassingly it was me - why is it always me?

Anyway a good time was had by all - but suffered for it the next day!

X Factor - Take That\Elton week.

Poor week this week considering there are only five left and it is the semi- final next week. It’s a bit worrying that they are singing ‘group songs’ at this stage in the competition, maybe they are not that good after all. I still like Stacey, but think Simon has decided against her as he will never be able to do anything with her in America - no one outside Essex can understand a word she says.

Not a fan of Alicia or Rihanna - no plans to buy their new tunes. Was Rihanna the one that did Eurovision? Or was that someone else?

Sorry Olly - I think you are losing it - Performance of the week again from Geordie Joe.

The result went as expected this week and Lloyd finally left - sorry Lloyd your not that good a singer, you’re a better singer than I am - but then I’m not on the X Factor.

Friday, 27 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity - day 13

Jimmy got the bush tucker trial (not the bush trucker trail that Sabrina insisted on calling it) and had to climb across a high wire and smash stars, with a bit of a bungee jump at the end. If I had to do a challenge - and I wouldn’t but if I had to, it would be this sort. No way would I do one that involved eating bugs. Jimmy’s not ht fittest celebrity in the camp so it was probably a mistake to have him do the trail - and the nylon leotard wasn’t a good look. Still he managed five stars but I reckon Sabrina would have scored a lot more.

The so called ‘intelligence test’ turned out to be nothing of the sort, more a ’guess how many people in a survey said’ test a Family Fortunes sort of thing. Complete waste of time picking teams just to guess a number! The tie breaker was ’calculate the combined ages of the stars in I’m a celebrity. Both teams got the same number but were still wrong. Looks like the celebrities have all been taking years off their ages!

Sam was the third person to be evicted. Funny how long it took me to remember who the first person to be evicted was! (In case you have forgotten as well, it was Lisa).

I’m a Celebrity - day 12

Just how many Hollywood greats does George Hamilton know! I guess we shouldn’t be surprised as George has been Hollywood A list for decades. It was interesting to hear his experiences of the stars (from a time when you had to actually do something and be good at it to get the title ’star’).

A bit uncomfortable for me to to watch as the mention of Hollywood always brings to mind an embarrassing incident at a fancy dress party many years ago. The theme of the party was ‘Hollywood stars’ and you had to come as a Hollywood star, I forget who I went as, some popular star of the day, Robert Redford I think.

Anyway I was chatting to this chap and I said I just had to compliment him on his fancy dress - it was the best Sid James I had ever seen. He was livid!

How was I supposed to know he was meant to be Burt Lancaster!


Of all the words in the English language, what word has the most definitions?

‘Set’ has 464 definitions - the most of all the words in English. ‘Run’ has 396 definitions ‘go’ 368, ‘take’ 343 and ‘stand’ 334.

How many ping pong balls would it take to re-float the titanic?

It would take 1,354,432,405 ping pong balls (33.5 cu cm2.7g) to float the titanic (41,730,498,040g). The calculation is: Titanic weight/ball volume - ball weight)


Why do some people just stop as soon as they get off a shop escalator to look for the department they want? Totally oblivious to the fact there are 20 people behind them all about to reach the end of the escalator and about to fall on top of them! They get so cross when you kick them in the leg to move them out of the way!

Thursday, 26 November 2009


How many brain cells would fit in a grain of sand?

One million brain cells fit in a grain of sand. If your cells were the size of sand you’d be 18m tall. There are seven quadrillion atoms in a cell.

What footballer scored a hat trick for his country but never scored for his club?

Geoff Hurst scored a hat trick for his country but never scored for his club. He played one county cricket game for Essex but scored no runs.

Windows 7

I had wondered about upgrading my home PC to Windows 7. The general advice was that Windows 7 isn’t a necessary upgrade and if you are running XP it probably wasn’t necessary. If you were running Vista it was probably worth it to reduce start up times and remove some of the annoyances of Vista.

Although I was running Windows Vista I decided that I would upgrade to Windows 7. I was told there were two options either just upgrade your operating system or completely replace the operating system. I was advised most people replace the operating system as this removes old unnecessary files. Either way I was assured that it would be trouble free.

I decided to replace the operating system. It wasn’t too bad - but it wasn’t as trouble free as suggested. Specifically:

  • itunes was a bit difficult (as expected, as it always is when you move from one system to another)
    Some software programs seem to have disappeared forever; not too bothered as probably never used them and were just taking up space;
  • Needed new driver for printer I only bought a month ago - Epsom were particularly bad at supplying this. It took a bit of investigation to locate where driver downloads for my printer were on their website and when I did find the right location it only had drivers for 64 and 86 bit computers, not the 32 bit I needed. My first email to Epsom too 24 hours to get a response that said yes they did have a driver for my printer and then went on to give me full spec for the printer and would I like to buy one. I responded saying that I already had the printer, which was why I needed the driver, (I wonder why they thought I wanted a driver for a printer I didn’t have!), and instead of just telling me they did have the driver - could they tell me where it was! They did reply quite quickly with the location and advice that said to be sure to download the version x86 version to get the 32 bit version. I have to ask why call it 86 when it is for 32? In the meantime I found a site that offered free downloads for all sorts of drivers - it sorted my issue in less than five minutes.
  • If you have Vista be aware that Windows 7 does not come with Microsoft Works, spreadsheet, portfolio etc so you might have to check PC manufacturer about how you get word processing back onto your PC. I had installation discs from when I had XP so could load them from that, but it might be something to check out before you upgrade to Windows 7

The hovering over icons and ease of opening of windows which they go on about as a great experience is just annoying. I think there must be knack to it!

Is the upgrade worth it? Not sure its early days, first impression it just seems like fancy ways of doing what you could do anyway.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


A new series of answers to questions you didn't know. Tell me the questions you have always wanted answers to.

Where did the drink ‘punch’ originally come from?

Punch comes from India where it was a drink with five ingredients - arrack, sugar, lemon, water and tea.. The word punch comes from ‘panch’ meaning five in Hindi.

What was the longest note held in a top 40 hit?

The longest note held in a UK hit lasts 20.32 seconds by Morten Harket of A-Ha in Summer Moved On. It got to number 33 in 2002. Bill Withers reached 18 seconds in ‘Lovely Day’.

How Heavy is the Internet?

by Simon Chester on June 1st, 2007

A recent piece in Discover Magazine sets out to weigh the Internet.

How heavy is information? Most of us know that computers represent all types of information–e-mails, documents, video clips, Web pages, everything–as streams of binary digits, 1s and 0s. These digits are mathematical entities, but they are also tangible ones: They are embodied and manipulated as voltages in electronic circuits. Therefore, every bit of data must have some mass, albeit minuscule. This prompted DISCOVER to ask the question: How much would all the data sent through the Internet on an average day weigh?

What do you think the weight of the entire Internet traffic might be? A mountain? A car? A brick? A feather? Heavier than all of that? Lighter than all of that?

The physical objects that move through the Internet never go very far. What really goes the distance—what carries the weight, for our purposes—is the bit pattern that represents each packet, which gets continually rebuilt in the electronic memory of system after system as information traverses the network.

If we can work out the weight of the bits associated with a piece of information when it is assembled in a computer’s memory, we are halfway to figuring out the weight of the Internet.

75 percent of all traffic on the Internet is due to file sharing, with 59 percent of that file sharing attributed to people swapping video files. Music tracks account for 33 percent of the file-sharing traffic. E-mail, it turns out, accounts for just 9 percent of the total traffic.

And that total is… a staggering 40 petabytes, or 40 x 1015 bytes: a 4 followed by 16 zeros.

Every shade and aspect of human life encoded as 1s and 0s.

Taken together, everything that moves across the Internet in a single day weighs roughly the same as the smallest possible sand grain, one measuring just two-­thousandths of an inch across.

The Girl from Tiger Bay

Last night BBC was showing the Alan Yentob documentary on Dame Shirley Bassey as she worked on her new Album (The Performance). Bassey belongs to the old school of singers that believe that even if you don’t write the songs you can still make them your own with a great performance. Whether you’re a fan or not, you always know when Shirley has sang a song, who else can sing Goldfinger and Diamonds are forever - although Dizzee Rascal had a go at Diamonds are forever.

The album is hit and miss with songs by KT Tunstall, Manic Street Preaches Gary Barlow and others (full album list at the end), but The Girl from Tiger Bay is worth special mention and if promoted right I think she could do well with that as a single.

Yentob clearly a fan did a good job of getting close to the reclusive Miss Bassey. We saw her working in the recording studio with producer Dave Arnold and her music director Mike Dixon. She said it worked very well, but I’m not so sure don’t think Dave Arnold enjoyed the experience so much.

It was the first time I have seen Shirley Bassey in a cardigan - I don’t know what I expected Shirley Bassey to wear to the recording studio, but it wasn’t a cardigan. Another illusion shattered, I thought she always wore sequined dresses.

Definition - se·quin
1. A small shiny ornamental disk, often sewn on cloth; a spangle.
2. A gold coin of the Venetian Republic. Also called zecchino.

Almost There [Tom Baxter]
Apartment [Rufus Wainwright]
This Time [Gary Barlow]
I Love You Now [Nick Hodgeson]
Our Time Is Now [John Barry/Don Black]
As God Is My Witness [David Arnold/David McAlmont]
No Good About Goodbye [David Arnold/Don Black]
The Girl From Tiger Bay [Manic Street Preachers]
Nice Men [KT Tunstall]
After The Rain [Richard Hawley]
The Performance Of My Life [Pet Shop Boys]

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Scottish Empire

There was, for short periods before Scotland and England unified in 1707, but to call it an "empire" is pushing it a bit. In the 1620s, Scotland gained a toehold in what is now known as Nova Scotia, but it was captured by the French, who also had designs on the area's rich fishing grounds. In the 1680s, 700 emigrant Scots established a colony in New Jersey, before merging with their English neighbours 20 years later. Scottish dissidents built a settlement at Stuart's Town, Carolina in 1684, but were quickly wiped out by the Spanish.
In the 1690s Scotland attempted to set up a free port and colony in the New World. They chose an unoccupied, inhospitable spot on the isthmus of Panama, called Darien.

The narrow isthmus separating the Atlantic and Pacific was a halfway house between Asia and Europe. William Paterson, the Scottish merchant who dreamt up the Darien scheme, envisaged a free port called New Edinburgh, in Caledonia, becoming the world's greatest trading centre. Having helped set up the Bank of England, he persuaded Scotland's moneyed class to buy into the project, raising half a million pounds - about half the nation's available capital. The adventure began in July 1698, and ended in disaster 14 months later. During that time, 11 ships carried nearly 3,000 settlers to Darien, but most fell victim to tropical disease, heat, humidity, and the Spanish military, who saw the area as theirs. The settlers used up valuable resources by stocking their ships with items such as wigs, woollens and stockings.
A few survivors limped home, and 300-400 resettled across the West Indies, but the damage to Scotland's treasury and self-esteem was immense, and the disaster almost certainly hastened the union with England seven years later.

Few outsiders venture there because it's so inaccessible. The Spanish abandoned the mosquito-blighted Atlantic coast when Panama City was founded on the Pacific, and the area has now been reclaimed by jungle. The road runs out at Yaviza, after which you need to hire a local canoe, a piragua, to negotiate the waterways feeding into the former Bay of Caledonia, through the Americas' second-largest tropical rainforest. In 2003, an expedition by Bristol University and the BBC uncovered part of the New Edinburgh township and Fort St Andrews, and reclaimed tools, a communal oven and a pocket sundial. Remnants of the Spanish offensive included cannonballs and a grenade.

Not quite. Thomas Drummond, a Darien survivor, took the rest of the Scottish fleet to Africa, hoping to establish trading posts along Guinea's coast. That failed too, so he headed for Madagascar, but his ship disappeared in the Indian Ocean. Dreams of a Scottish empire sank with him, but after unification Scotland played a pivotal role in the expansion of the British Empire. And it wasn't the last of Darien.

Mercifully, they turned away. But in 1736, 177 Scottish highlanders were granted land in Georgia to protect it against the Spanish. Initially named New Inverness, they built a fort and held the line. They renamed the settlement Darien, which survives today as a flourishing shrimp fishing centre.
Extract from Frank Partridge

Posting comments

You can now leave a comment on items in my blog. Click on the comments link under each item and follow the instructions - you might have to select anonymous for the ‘Comment as’ bit.

Look forward to hearing from you and any suggestions for:

Origins of Expressions you have always wondered about;
Questions no one knows the answer to; or
Anything else you think should be investigated

I’m a Celebrity - Day 9

Well it all happened last night, Katie walked out and went straight to her hotel and chucked her boyfriend after he had travelled 12,000 miles to propose.

And I missed it all, will have to wait for the highlights tonight or catch up on ITV Player.

Lucy Benjamin was the first to be evicted and was interviewed on GMTV. So many questions, what was Katie like, how did Katie get on in the jungle, was it fair Katie got all the trials to do, and so it went on. I was waiting for Lucy Benjamin to say, ‘Why don’t you go and ask Katie!’ After all it was supposed to be her interview and all they asked about was Katie.

Still, back to Katie. I’m not sure how it is a shock that Katie has walked out after a week - I knew before she went in that she was only staying in a week. sometimes I think the media forget what they have already told us.

Katie says all she could think about in the jungle was Pete and that is why she has chucked Alex - also she is fed up with Alex making money out of her - after all that is Katie’s job. But you wouldn’t think she would mind him making the odd fiver would you.

So is it all back on with Katie and Pete - I don’t think so. On the positive side that means Alex is back on the market and is a bit of a catch - apart from the cross dressing thing, and the fact he has been with Jordan and doesn’t have any money … actually maybe he isn’t such a catch after all!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity ...

...or the Katie Price show as it is now called.

Katie’s challenge today was called ‘Calamity’ but she said she didn’t even know what calamity meant. That explains why she was so puzzled watching Doris Day in the film Calamity Jane!

Well done to George on the challenge - two seconds out!

Another trial vote and another vote for Katie - this is getting a bit embarrassing. She says she wont do any more trials - think she has a point, everyone else is getting a free ride.

X Factor result - George Michael week

Great appearance by Susan Boyle, (although I notice she was given ‘diva‘ status by the voice over - I‘ll decide when diva status is awarded thank you very much).

Whatever you think of her she has done it all in six months. From unknown to storming America, doing Oprah and all the big network shows, having a breakdown and going into rehab at the Priory - and she hasn’t even released a record yet.

The singing is great but I am not sure she should be interviewed, I always worry about what she is going to say!

Never been a big Mariah Carey fan (don’t tell the gay council - it’s a sacking offence). Why have Mariah when you can have Whitney! At least this week they got the running order right and put Susan first with Mariah top of the bill.

The Whitney\Cheryl week they had it the wrong way round and had Whitney on as warm up for Cheryl - sorry Cheryl I love you dearly but you are no Whitney.

OMG Olly in the sing off - if he doesn’t get through it has to be fixed for John and Edward to win.

Well Olly survived to sing another day. It’s just as well that the song he sang was only for the judges and was not for the public vote - poor song choice and probably his worst performance.

Next week two songs each and no Sunday show.

Miss Pink Party

Its Miss Pink's birthday again and have been invited to the annual soiree.

This year‘s theme is 80s. What to wear shouldn’t be a problem for one or two of our acquaintances as I have seen them wearing a few dodgey outfits over the years that look like they have been around since Adam Ant was top of the charts.

It doesn’t seem a year since Miss Pink’s last birthday doesn’t time fly, and now she is 28 - sorry pet 27.

Quote of the day

... 'killers have been going around killing'.

To be fair, that's what killers do!

Susan Boyle

Not a great fan but the long promised album is released this week, don’t know what is on the album, apart form of course ‘that song’ and Wild Horses. You have to hand it to Simon Cowell - who would have thought Susan Boyle would sing a Rolling Stones song.

Will I buy the album - probably

If you haven’t Susan sing Wild Horses live check out her performance on America’s got Talent

And the original from 1976 by the Stones

X Factor - George Michael week

After a couple of poor weeks at last a week with the promise of some good performances - but a difficult category for all.

What was Cheryl wearing - she looked like Minnie Mouse.

Anyway first up was Lloyd, surprisingly still here after several better acts have lost out to the public\judges’ vote. But then so are John and Edward!

His version of Faith was ok - but would I go out and buy it when I have the original? I don’t think so.

Lloyd has also been given a new hair do - bit more grown-up than his previous style. Was it meant to be 80s style or are they trying to make him a bit more sophisticated to help against the competition. Or did he just fancy a change? These are the important questions that we need answers to. Seems a pity to do all that just as he is about to leave!

I was wondering which song they would give Stacey to sing as George’s songs are all so clearly identified with a male singer. ‘I can’t make you love me’ was a good choice, but a bit of a cheat as it is a Bonnie Raitt song. I like Stacey but I don’t think she pulled it off - see below to links to see how it should be done.

For me Danyl did his best song of the series - but then there was a bit of a rumpus over who was going to get this George classic. Danyl won and did it well.

Olly gave us one of my favourites Fast Love, although of course he couldn’t add the Patrice
Rushen sample in the middle.

Geordie Joe - best song of the night - but did they have to show him walking down a back lane with a rotten old sofa in the background.

Who goes this week? Can Lloyd or John and Edward survive another week?
See how it is done

George Michael - I can’t make you love me.

Bonnie Raitt - I can’t make you love me.

Patrice Rushen - Forget me Nots

Friday, 20 November 2009

Confusing Question

Someone just asked me 'have you got an orange blackberry?'

Expressions - 3

Seafaring Exprerssions - 2

No Room to Swing a Cat -
The entire ship's company was required to witness flogging at close hand. The crew might crowd around so that the Bosun's Mate might not have enough room to swing his cat o' nine tails.

Taking the wind out of his sails -
Sailing in a manner so as to steal or divert wind from another ship's sails.

Start Over with a Clean Slate -
A slate tablet was kept near the helm on which the watch keeper would record the speeds, distances, headings and tacks during the watch. If there were no problems during the watch, the slate would be wiped clean so that the new watch could start over with a clean slate.

Taken Aback -
A dangerous situation where the wind is on the wrong side of the sails pressing them back against the mast and forcing the ship astern. Most often this was caused by an inattentive helmsman who had allowed the ship to head up into the wind.

At Loggerheads -
An iron ball attached to a long handle was a loggerhead. When heated it was used to seal the pitch in deck seams. It was sometimes a handy weapon for quarrelling crewmen.

Fly-by-Night -
A large sail used only for sailing downwind and requiring rather little attention.

No Great Shakes -
When casks became empty they were "shaken" (taken apart) so the pieces, called shakes, could be stored in a small space. Shakes had very little value.

Give (someone) a Wide Berth -
To anchor a ship far enough away from another ship so that they did not hit each other when they swung with the wind or tide.

Garbled -
Garbling was the prohibited practice of mixing rubbish with the cargo. A distorted, mixed up message was said to be garbled.

Press Into Service -
The British navy filled their ships' crew quotas by kidnapping men off the streets and forcing them into service. This was called Impressment and was done by Press Gangs.

Touch and Go -
This referred to a ship's keel touching the bottom and getting right off again.

Scuttlebutt -
A butt was a barrel. Scuttle meant to chop a hole in something. The scuttlebutt was a water barrel with a hole cut into it so that sailors could reach in and dip out drinking water. The scuttlebutt was the place where the ship's gossip was exchanged.

And my favourite expression …

Cut of His Jib -
Warships many times had their foresails or jib sails cut thinly so that they could maintain point and not be blown off course. Upon sighting thin foresails on a distant ship a captain might not like the cut of his jib and would then have an opportunity to escape.

Why Christmas is so stressful – 2

The Christmas present

This is a bit like the ‘Christmas card list’ problem only more expensive.

I don’t mind buying presents for people if fact I quite like it – but having to do it because it is a particular time of year and understanding the rules around giving Christmas presents can make present giving stressful.

Understanding the rules can help:

· You can give a present to anyone you like, but you need to be fairly sure they plan to give you one in return, getting it wrong can
o be uncomfortable for the person receiving the gift and force them to have to go out at the last minute to get you something in return
o cost a lot of money with nothing to show for it!
· You need to follow price equivalence – the value of the present you give should be more or less the same value of the present you receive

But this can lead to an unintended result. Let me give you an example. I spend £50 on some cuff links for a friend; my friend buys me a bottle of aftershave for £50 in return.

On the face of it this seems like a fair exchange, but if I don’t like the aftershave and my friend doesn’t like the cuff links, then I have spent £50 on a bottle of aftershave I will never use and my friend has spent £50 on cuff links he will never wear.

This problem is then perpetuated as next year my friend can’t think of anything to buy me so he buys me another bottle of the aftershave he bought me this year because I said I loved it and I can’t think of anything to buy him so I get him another pair of cuff links. This can go on for years until one of us finally cracks and either admits we don’t like the present or we suggest we stop buying for each other.

Multiply this by all the people you buy presents for then you could end up spending a lot of money on things you don’t want.

Point to ponder

What is the worst Christmas present you can receive?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Quote of the Day

‘Does the fire exit take you outside?’

No is doesn’t, it is part of our new more stringent redundancy scheme!

The Carpenters

Liking the Carpenters in the 70s was a big no no, far too uncool, but Karen’s voice did make the songs memorable – and who doesn’t know all their biggest hits. So I was interested to see how their songs held up 40 years after their first hit in 1969. Were they great songs or was it Karen’s voice that made them so special?

So last night we had a range of singers giving us their versions of Carpenters classics. By and large it was pretty average. Jamie Callum and Kimberly Walsh singing ‘Rainy days and Mondays’ was embarrassing and even though I am a great fan of Chrissie Hynde she struggled a bit with ‘Superstar’ (Bette Midler does it better). Ronan (and I am not his greatest fan but he has gone up in my estimation over recent events – but Ronan – change the hair) gave a surprisingly good effort with ‘A day with out you’ , and the Noisettes – what the hell was that all about!

Note to the Saturdays - Please don't record 'Mr Postman' it was a poor song first time around and your version didn't do anything for it - even Karen Carpenter couldn't make anything of this song.

Best performances? Beverly Knight ‘Only just begun’ and of course Dionne with ‘Close to you’, who did want to remind us Burt Bacharach wrote for her and she sang first. Did I detect a slight note of bitterness?

I’m a Celebrity – day 4

Katie’s back and being her usual annoying, compulsive viewing self. Second trial in two days – who would have thought people would vote to have Katie do all these trials.

But our hero struggled through on to triumph whilst along the way tackling difficult mathematical conundrums like ‘solve this equation 8 divide by two minus 2’. With barely a moments hesitation she worked out the correct answer. I felt so proud.

And an early exit for Camilla. Strictly No Dancing.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Quote of the Day

"2010 is before 2011"

I must write that down!


When is someone going to move that puddle outside the One office building?


What is the difference between dominant and recessive genes?

For most genes you have two copies of each gene that you inherited from your mother and your father. Each copy of the gene could be different. For example one copy may give you blue eyes while another may give you brown.

So, what colour are your eyes if you have both the brown and blue eye version of the eye colour gene? Brown. This is where the idea of dominant and recessive comes in. Dominant means that one of the versions trumps the other. In our example here, brown is dominant over blue so you end up with brown eyes.

The way people write out dominant and recessive traits is the dominant one gets a capital letter and the recessive one a lower case letter. So for eye colour, brown is B and blue is b. As I said above, people have two versions of each gene so you can be BB, Bb, or bb--BB and Bb have brown eyes, bb, blue eyes.

Versions of genes are often dominant because the recessive version actually does nothing. In the eye colour example above, the brown version of the gene makes a pigment that turns your eye brown but the blue version does not make a blue pigment. Instead, it makes no pigment and an eye without pigment is blue. As you can probably guess, if the blue version of the eye colour gene made a pigment, then you'd get some mix of brown and blue. There are some cases like this for people. One of the easiest to understand is hair.

There are two "hair type" genes, curly and straight. If you have two copies of the curly version, you have curly hair and if you have two copies of straight hair version, you have straight hair.What kind of hair do you have if you have a copy of each? Wavy. Each of these versions contributes something so that you get a mixture of the two. You would write this out as CC is curly, SS is straight and CS is wavy.

In terms of what to talk about in your class, the hair type example I discussed above is a pretty good one for incomplete dominance. Maybe ask the class what kind of hair they have and what genes that means they have. You can also ask them about their parent's hair type and whether their results fits the model.

For pure dominant and recessive traits, I've listed a some below:

  • Bent little finger: The dominant version of the gene causes distal segment of little finger to bend distinctly inward toward the ring (fourth) finger.
  • Mid-digital hair: People lacking hair in the middle segments of the fingers have two recessive versions of the gene.
  • Tongue rolling: People with a dominant allele can roll their tongues into a tube shape. People with two recessive versions are non-rollers and can not learn to roll their tongues.
  • Ear lobes: Recessives have attached ear lobes. People with a dominant version of the gene have detached ear lobes.
  • Thumb crossing: In a relaxed interlocking of fingers, left thumb over right results from having 1 or 2 copies of the dominant version of the gene. People with 2 recessives place right thumb over left.

Monday, 16 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity - Day 2

Only saw the last 10 minutes tonight - who could have guessed Katie Price would be voted into tomorrow night challenge!

Quote of the Day

I know you believe you understand what you think I said. But I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant.

Why Do We Yawn?

Rather than being a precursor to sleep, yawning is designed to keep us awake, say US researchers. But why does seeing someone else yawn make you to do the same?
Yawning is an involuntary action that everyone does. We start before we are born and most creatures on the planet do it - even snakes and fish.

New research suggests rather than being a precursor to sleep, the purpose of yawning is to cool the brain so it operates more efficiently and keeps you awake.
The theory could explain a puzzling question about subconscious human behaviour - why many of us yawn when we see or hear another person doing it, or even read about it or even just think about it?

The brain cooling theory says that when we contagiously yawn we are participating in an ancient, hardwired ritual that evolved to help groups stay alert and detect danger.
It's not copying another person's sleepiness, say scientists at the University of Albany in New York, who are behind the latest research.

"We think contagious yawning is triggered by empathic mechanisms which function to maintain group vigilance," says Dr Gordon Gallup, a leading researcher at the university.

'Herding behaviour'

The belief is further supported by the observation of University of Maryland's Robert Provine that paratroopers report yawning before jumping.

But there are other theories. It's been suggested contagious yawning could be a result of an unconscious herding behaviour - a subtle way to communicate to those around us, similar to when flocks of birds take flight at the same time.

Another theory suggests contagious yawning might have helped early humans communicate their alertness levels and co-ordinate sleeping times.

Basically, if one decided it was time to sleep they would tell the others by yawning and they would do it in return to show they agreed.

Chimpanzees also suffer from contagious yawning, according to researchers at Kyoto University in Japan. They are thought to be the only other creatures, apart from humans, who do so.
The rest of the animal kingdom - including birds, snakes and hippos - yawn for other reasons. Dogs yawn to stay calm in certain situations, says Turid Rugaas, author of On talking Terms with Dogs.

Anyone who gets to the end of this article without yawning may wish to think of themselves as a medical aberration. In fact, only about half of adult humans are prone to contagious yawning.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

X Factor - Queen week - 2

Not a great fan of Shakira - what was she wearing? It looked like there were bits missing. It looked a bit like the outfit Cheryl had on a few weeks ago when she sang her new tune.

Cheryl's hair was much better back to normal.

So Lloyd survives again. Am I disappointed Jamie has gone? Not really, although I have to say in the sing off, Jamie did give the best performance.

X Factor - Queen week - 1

I see Dannii is back on the end seat - why can’t they leave her in the middle with Cheryl it works much better.

Not loving Cheryl’s hair this week - you don’t suit it swept back off your face pet.
What are they doing to Jamie’s hair - it gets shorter every week.

The performances

A difficult ask this week, no one can sing a stadium song like Freddie. Well they had a go but in the main not a great show - it only served to prove the pure quality of Freddie Mercury.
Best performances? Stacey did great version of Who Wants to Live Forever and Joe had a good shot at Somebody to Love.

Who goes? I think Lloyd has really reached the end of the road.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I’m a Celebrity 2009 - 1

Well its starting again, question is can anyone be bothered to watch it. Possible clues to low ratings is the desperate move of bringing Katie Price back to the jungle. Will I watch it? Probably - but not when they eat creepy crawlies - that’s disgusting.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Why is Christmas so stressful – 1

The Christmas card list

I was recently discussing Christmas card lists with a foreign friend. My friend had never heard of such a thing and asked me how it worked. I explained ‘You make a list of all the people you know, family, friends etc and then you write them each a card to say Merry Christmas. You then either post or hand deliver the card.

Your friends and family do the same. When you receive a card from them you make a mental note to keep them on your list for next year.

If you don’t receive a card from someone you sent a card to, then you cross them off your list, and next year you don’t send them a card. If next year they do send you a card, then you put them back on your list for and following year you do send them a card’.

My friend was looking at me as if I had gone mad.

I continued ‘these are the general rules, but there are complications’.

If someone you hadn’t planned to send a card to sends you one, then you send them one back, but have to wait a decent interval before sending the card. This is so that you can both pretend that you were going to send them one all along but just hadn’t got round to it.

If the person sending you an unexpected card leaves it until the last minute (for example they give you a card on Christmas Eve), then this can be seen as being quite provocative as it doesn’t leave you any time to give one back and makes it difficult to decide if you should put them on your list for next year.

Then there are the cards you receive from people you haven’t seen all year but their message ends ‘we must see more of each other next year’. This can be quite dis-heartening as you have spent all trying to avoid them and had absolutely no intention of attempting to meet up.

Tips for sending cards

· Buy cards that are all the same design – this stops people comparing cards you have sent to see who got the best one
· If you do send cards with different pictures on the front – don’t send the one with the candle on – everyone hates that card as they know it means they occupy last position in your affections
· Don’t send cards with glitter on them – they are just not nice
· You can write the same message on multiple cards – just make sure that people who are likely to see each other’s cards have different messages
· Don’t lick the envelope to seal them, use a sponge and water – why? Don’t ask!

My friend was taking notes by now and had a few questions:

‘Why do you send cards to people you never see?’

‘I don’t know’

Why do you send cards to people you see every day?’

‘I don’t know’

‘Why do you send cards to people you don’t like?’

‘I don’t know’

‘Why do you do it?’

‘I don’t know’

Expressions - not a sausage

Not a sausage = nothing at all.

I caused a bit of merriment in a meeting last night when I used the expression not a sausage – no one had heard it before. Its not one of my favourite expressions but it is quite descriptive.

It comes from cockney rhyming slag for cash: sausage and mash = cash; not a sausage = no cash = nothing

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Quotes of the Day

There must be no silent voices. (If they are silent how you do know they are voices?)

I’m doing a Waterfall approach at an Agile speed (or was it ‘I’m doing an Agile approach at a Waterfall speed?)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

A night at the Cinema

I was invited to join a few colleagues at the cinema the other night. I thought this was a very thoughtful invitation but as I am not a great cinema goer it did get me to wondering when I was last at the cinema – or the pictures as we used to call it.

The last film I can remember seeing at the pictures was either:

· Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – I still have no idea what it was all about;
· Halloween 20 – not really into horror but a bit of nostalgia after seeing the original at the time; (but I might have seen this film on the TV – I can’t remember); or
· Runaway Bride Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, probably the worst film in cinematic history I thought it would never end.

Given this past history I started to go off the idea, and then I remembered the actual cinema experience is not that enjoyable. Films are advertised with a particular starting time, but then they keep you waiting at least 45 minutes while they show endless adverts and trailers. I quite like the trailers though as they seem to show the entire film in about three minutes – saves me coming back to watch the whole thing.

And then there are the bits where they keep opening and closing the curtains (do cinema screens still have curtains?) but then nothing happens and you have to sit and listen to complete strangers around you talking about people you have never met.

I find all the false starts and not knowing when the film is actually going to start very stressful.

Then I remembered, the last time I was at the cinema I did have a bit of a tussle with the young lady sitting next to me. It took her four attempts to decide whether she wanted to sit in the seat next to me or whether her friend (Tanya) should sit there. I wouldn’t have minded but she nearly had my eye out twice with her umbrella.

After she had settled she decided that she was going to strike up a conversation with me – I have no idea why, I didn’t give her any indication that I wanted to chat.

She gave up after a while when she realised I wasn’t really in the mood for chatting, I think it was just after I said I thought she had a look of Jackie Pallo and was she related – but she said she didn’t know who Jackie Pallo was.

Things got worse as she spent the whole time the film was running getting up and down to buy more food. Sweets, crisps, nachos, a drink – ‘coz them nachos were dead salty’ pop corn, an ice cream, another ice cream ‘coz its dead hot in here’, a cheese and onion pasty – no idea where she got the pasty from, I think she found it in her handbag. At the end of which she announced to us all ‘Tanya I feel dead sick!’ I finally snapped ‘I’m not surprised’ I said ‘you have been up and down and eating non-stop for two hours’! She was livid and apparently, she informed me in a loud voice, it is none of my business what she eats at the cinema – how rude!

All in all I decided to give the cinema a miss.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Phrase of the Day

Screen Real Estate - any views on what that is supposed to mean?

–ise or –ize?

There is a suggestion that the use of a ‘z’ in words like nationalization is somehow wrong, or American.
It must be admitted that there are words with a ‘z’ in them that are purely American, like advertize, or maybe just wrong, like surmize. Sometimes it is simply error — a word whose spelling is not known, and whose correct spelling is not sought, is arbitrarily given a ‘z’ in the honest but mistaken belief it is correct. Sometimes words with a z-form in American represent an older (perhaps Elizabethan) form of English that made its way to the USA before the language was standardized in England. More likely, the American ‘z’ is one of Noah Webster’s attempts to ‘standardize’ or ‘improve’ American usage of English when he produced his famous dictionary in 1828 in which his decision to make deliberate and extensive revisions of spelling was aired — he has been described as a great spelling reformer. Webster evidently decided to use a ‘z’ wherever he considered the pronunciation called for it.

This polemic is nothing to do with the Americans. If we overlook the various words that the Americans deliberately choose to misspell, the majority of words that take a ‘z’, or an ‘s’ that is pronounced like a ‘z’, seem to fall very clearly into those that must take an ‘s’ (like compromise, where the derivation is –misser), those that must take a ‘z’, (like prize), and the rest, about which controversy apparently rages.

It seems that in books printed in England the use of the ‘z’ overwhelmingly predominated until the Second World War, though on a far smaller scale the ‘s’ can be found used by some printing houses, even in Victorian times. Textbooks set out the correctness of using ‘z’, some of them setting out in considerable detail the rationale for use of ‘s’ or ‘z’ depending on origin. After the Second World War the ‘s’ alternative is more frequently offered as a possibility and some house style manuals (though not Oxford’s) indicate a preference for ‘s’ — not because of any suggestion that ‘z’ is wrong, but because ‘s’ is now tolerated and it avoids having to remember which usage is which.

Recent manuals and dictionaries seem to have given up on the prescriptive use of a ‘z’, though it is usually offered as an alternative where correct.

It seems to me, summarizing, and using a ‘z’ correctly and non-Americanly, that:
On the whole the ‘z’ alternative has nothing whatever to do with America;

  • The ‘z’ is etymologically correct (where used properly);
  • The ‘s’ principally came into use by those believing it (apparently wrongly) to be correct by analogy with similar words that were current in French, when in fact the English use developed in parallel and came via Latin from the Greek, retaining the ‘z’ throughout (for example 'the realization' in English compares with 'la réalisation' in French) - in some quarters during the early days of English printing French [recently the language of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy] was regarded as posh;
  • The ‘s’ took hold in comparatively recent years because it was regarded as acceptable (because of the foregoing reason) and because of the hopelessness of training uneducated people correctly to grasp the correct occasion to deploy a ‘z’ or an ‘s’. Note Tillotson's House Stylebelow where they opine that use of 'z' is correct but they have decided to adopt the 's' because it gives rise to less trouble...
  • As the use of the ‘s’ caught on, dictionaries had to follow the trend, and are now quoting it as ‘correct’. It is arguable, but dictionaries do not necessarily promote correct usage, but follow prevailing practice (which is then taken as correct, creating a spiral of decline).
    For myself, I am very happy to keep using a ‘z’ where it is appropriate, and I do try hard to get it right but must admit to being inconsistent sometimes. This, of course, invites people to pick me up on it, whence I refer them to the Oxford English Dictionary (the big one) and that generally ends the matter.
I suppose even after being presented with the facts there will be people who will persist with the ‘s’ option, and that’s up to them — nothing more I can do. All I ask is that people determined to use the ‘s’ do not regard those using the ‘z’ as using Americanisms!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

X Factor - Movie Theme Week - the result

Not a great show tonight Leona singing her new tune - bit disappointing and I’m not really loving the Black Eyed Beans.

Lucy and the twins in the sing off. Lucy sang Whitney and Jedward sang Robbie.

Rock DJ wasn’t that bad but it is always a mistake to sing Whitney - only Whitney can sing Whitney, but the results were already in so it didn’t have any effect on the final result.

I thought the judges wouldn’t miss an opportunity to lose Jedward - but they survive to sing again.

X Factor - Movie Theme Week

This week is movie week. After a couple of poor weeks (rock week and big band week) I was hoping for an improvement.

There must be thousands of songs that starred in films to choose from but what a disappointment, the same old tired songs were trotted out to be sung by contestants that had little enthusiasm for the songs they were singing.

Stacey launched the show and much as I like Stacey (I can’t understand a word she says but I do like her) she is no Dusty Springfield.

Son of a Preacher Man was released in 1968 so we started the show with a song 41 years old.

Moving further back in time we got Twist and Shout from the Beatles first UK album released in 1963 and then more backwards time travel to Stand by Me from 1955.

The ‘newest’ tune I heard was Purple Rain a mere 15 years old - and I have never liked that song.

By this time I had lost he will to live and gave up - who goes on Sunday night? After that show - I hope they all do.

Well apart from Olly....

Friday, 6 November 2009

How to Wear a Shirt

An occasional series giving advice on important matters.


Recently I’ve heard that it is wrong to tuck button down shirts into jeans. Since I always tuck shirts into jeans, it really bothers me. So, should the shirt be tucked or untucked?


As everything else in world of fashion, it always depends. It depends on the type of shirt, on your height, on occasion you wear it, on how you wear it, on how old you are, etc.

If the shirt is European cut, which is slimmer, fitted, our suggestion is to wear it untucked. On the other hand, if the shirt is classic American style button down, our suggestion is to always tuck in, preferably with classic 501 style jeans. Never tuck into low-rise jeans. It would look really bad. Also, make sure that shirt is not too long when sporting untucked look.

If you are thin, tucking in is a must. Tucking out will make you look only thinner. On the other hand, if you are very short, tucking out won’t help much, either.

In general, more formal occasion – tucked, more casual – untucked. Older you are – tucked, younger – untucked. Classic jeans – tucked, low-rise jeans – untucked. On the other hand, since anything hardly can be generalised, wearing tucked or untucked shirt is more a matter of achieving a certain “look”. Either of this isn’t wrong considering what kind of jeans are you pairing you shirt with, when you are wearing it, how you are wearing and what look you want to emulate.

Moving Times ... again

I have been in One Business Park since March 2009. I started off on the second floor, was then moved to the first floor and have just been moved again, this time to the ground floor.

As the next floor down is the covered staff car park I am not anticipating any further moves – unless of course my next move is to car park attendant. Thinking about it, if they throw in a wood burning brazier, tea making facilities and a portable TV I might give it a go.

My new office has all the charm of budget airline aircraft hanger. The room is vast, cavernous and draughty. My desk is made of cheap laminated mdf with a design that purports to be wood. I am sitting at the furthest point from the door cocooned in a desolate corner, where the only aspect is a rotten car park and the backwards visage of Tetley’s brewery.

My first day in my new location was greeted with blazing sunshine. In normal circumstances would be most welcome – but as the windows have no blinds it meant it was almost impossible to see my PC screen. I don’t anticipate this being much of an issue as it has rained every day in Leeds since I started coming here in March.

This inconvenience has now been remedied with some old wall paper blu tacked on the window – this just adds to the overall ascetic appeal of the room.

A ray of hope – today I did see someone measuring the windows for blinds.

There are no tea making facilities on the ground floor so to get a cup of tea you have to set off about 5 minutes before you want one, negotiate locked doors and a flight of stairs – I am sure I will get used to it. Or maybe I need people. There is talk of a kitchen being built on the ground floor – can’t wait!

The printers are still on the first floor – but I assume this is temporary. It might even be a good idea to leave them there – it really makes you question whether you need to print a document if you have to walk a long way to get it!

New neighbours moved in today and after a while I could hear this constant beeping noise – I couldn’t work out what it was at first - it turned out to be a work colleague translating the bible into Japanese so he could email it to a friend via his Blackberry.

I notice the man is out today fixing the lock on the door – we can’t have broken it already?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Apes or Monkeys

The debate continues with the question is a Gibbon a monkey or an ape?

Primates are divided into two groups, prosimians and anthropoids. The prosimian group is comprised of lemurs and tarsiers, and is considered the more primitive group. Anthropoids are further divided into three groups: monkeys, apes and hominids, including humans.

The monkey subgroup contains over 200 different species of monkey, including baboons, tamarins, macaques and capuchins. Monkeys are also divided into geographical groups, with Old-world monkeys inhabiting Africa and Asia, and New-world monkeys living throughout Central and South America. Apes are also divided, but along terms of size. Gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans are called “greater apes” because of their large body size, while gibbons and siamangs are often referred to as “lesser apes.”

While both monkeys and apes share certain physical features such as forward-facing eyes and flexible limbs, there are several physical differences between the two groups. No ape species possesses a tail, while monkeys do. Monkeys are much more used to life in trees than apes, and use their tail as a fifth limb. Additionally, monkeys are not capable of using their arms to swing between branches, as apes can. Having a tail makes monkeys ideally suited for life in the treetops, while apes seem to have evolved to live comfortably on the ground or in trees.

With the exception of the gibbon, apes are considerably larger than monkeys. They have broad backs and arms that are longer than their legs. Most monkeys feature chests that are longer than they are broad, and have an arm-length equal to or shorter than their legs.

The greatest differences between monkeys and apes are believed to lie in intelligence levels. Monkeys are far more similar to the primitive prosimians in brain capacity and capabilities. Apes are closer to their human counterparts, able to learn forms of sign language, use tools and display problem solving skills. It is believed that apes, particularly chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, are much more similar to humans than they are to monkeys. Some ape species carry a 98% genetic match with humans, while monkeys are considerably less similar.

Expressions - 2

Seafaring Expessions - Part 1

With a long seafaring tradition Britain has a lot of expressions reflecting that way of life

As the Crow Flies
When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, ships would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight towards the nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be know as the crow's nest.

The weather side of a ship is the side from which the wind is blowing. The Lee side is the side of the ship sheltered from the wind. A lee shore is a shore that is downwind of a ship. If a ship does not have enough "leeway" it is in danger of being driven onto the shore.

A sudden unexpected rush of wind from a mountainous shore which allowed a ship more leeway.

To Know the Ropes
There was miles and miles of cordage in the rigging of a square rigged ship. The only way of keeping track of and knowing the function of all of these lines was to know where they were located. It took an experienced seaman to know the ropes.

Dressing Down
Thin and worn sails were often treated with oil or wax to renew their effectiveness. This was called "dressing down". An officer or sailor who was reprimanded or scolded received a dressing down.

The bottom portion of a sail is called the foot. If it is not secured, it is footloose and it dances randomly in the wind.

First Rate
Implies excellence. From the 16th century on until steam powered ships took over, British naval ships were rated as to the number of heavy cannon they carried. A ship of 100 or more guns was a First Rate line-of-battle ship. Second rates carried 90 to 98 guns; Third Rates, 64 to 89 guns; Fourth Rates, 50 to 60 guns. Frigates carrying 48 to 20 guns were fifth and sixth rated.

Pipe Down
Means stop talking and be quiet. The Pipe Down was the last signal from the Bosun's pipe each day which meant "lights out" and "silence".

Meaning something is filled to capacity or over loaded. If two blocks of rigging tackle were so hard together they couldn't be tightened further, it was said they were "Chock-a-Block".

In 1740, British Admiral Vernon (whose nickname was "Old Grogram" for the cloak of grogram which he wore) ordered that the sailors' daily ration of rum be diluted with water. The men called the mixture "grog". A sailor who drank too much grog was "groggy".

Three Sheets to the Wind
A sheet is a rope line which controls the tension on the downwind side of a square sail. If, on a three masted fully rigged ship, the sheets of the three lower course sails are loose, the sails will flap and flutter and are said to be "in the wind". A ship in this condition would stagger and wander aimlessly downwind.

By and Large
Currently means in all cases or in any case. From the nautical: by meaning into the wind and large meaning with the wind: as in, "By and Large the ship handled very well."

Cut and Run
If a captain of a smaller ship encountered a larger enemy vessel, he might decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and so he would order the crew to cut the lashings on all the sails and run away before the wind. Other sources indicate "Cut and Run" meant to cut the anchor cable and sail off in a hurry.

In the Offing
Currently means something is about to happen, as in - "There is a reorganization in the offing." From the 16th century usage meaning a good distance from shore, barely visible from land, as in - "We sighted a ship in the offing."