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Thanks to ChrisC for pointing out to me that it was the fiftieth anniversary of Aberfan today. Actually, what he said was "do you know anything about Aberfan?"

Yes. )
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Quite often, when I phone my parents, there's some sort of breathless scramble at their end as they turn off whatever music they're listening to. I nearly always have music on when I'm at home, and my parents do too... I always assumed that was just what people did, but apparently not.

When I was little, there was always music on in our house. One corner of my parents' dining room was given over to the record cupboard (an MFI job when I was little, now a far superior dark wood cabinet) and it was full... classical concerti, and the occasional Buddy Holly disc, but mostly folk music. Lots of it was bought direct from the artist in folk clubs up and down the north-east - my Dad tells me that when I was little I thought that was the only way you could buy records. He may be winding me up. He does that.

One of the records that reminds me strongly of my childhood is an album called Ring of Iron, recorded by a local group called the Teesside Fettlers. They were one of those rolling concerns that kept going through multiple line-up changes (oh, and still are, apparently). One of the stalwart (and, I think, founder) members was a guy called Ron Angel. On lots of the tracks you can hear him playing the whistle or the fife, the counterpoint dancing happily over the melody.

Ron Angel )
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I've been doing some tidying up recently, and trying to sort through a massive stack of unlabelled tapes. Some have been easily dismissed as blank, or not things I recognise as mine. Some turn out to be taped-off-the-radio tapes from the late 80s/early 90s. Which has been fascinating, even as it has confirmed that my early teenage self had flippin' awful taste in music.

The most recent tape appeared to feature me inadvertently leaving the tape recording until it fell off the end, capturing me a fascinating slice of local radio. I think the overal quality of songs actually went up without my curation, despite it taking in Male Stripper. And it includes one of the fabulous "The one you've got to come back for" McEwan's Best Scotch adverts. The cars advertised were G-reg, meaning I can place it as somewhere between 1 August 1989 31 July 1990 (thank you, Wikipedia).

Anyway, I'm on to another one and I thought I'd have a little go at live-blogging it as I listen[**]. I have absolutely no idea what's on it. This may turn out very dull :)

Side A )

Side B )

[**] If you accept "typing it into a text file at the time then forgetting to post it for a few days" as a reasonably definition of 'live-blogging'.
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Hmm. I was about to post the following poll:

[Poll #1878807]

Except it turns out that Wikipedia has a much longer list of stories. And their list doesn't include Peregrine Falcon (which I haven't seen anyway - maybe it belonged in a different series?)
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Earlier in the week, I nearly sent someone an email entitled "Wembley", because I was asking about their plans for Wednesday. And then I changed my mind, because I wasn't sure how many people frequently substitute Wembley for Wednesday.

My family does, but that's due to a conversation overheard by my grandad. He was on a train through London in the 40s, in a carriage with two gentlemen who were cheerful as newts. One peered out into the darkness, and the following conversation ensued:

"Is this Wembley?"
"No, it's Thursday."
"So am I! Let's have a drink."

However, I was moved yesterday to wonder whether this conversation was, in fact, the sort of apocryphal exchange that everyone's grandfather heard on a train in the 40s.

The answer, rather disappointingly, turns out to be yes.

Even if it is a hoary old joke, it's probably far too late for me to remove from my brain the fundamental belief that the working week goes Monday, Tuesday, Wembley...
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Following a brief conversation in my office about whether or not you could get to heaven in a biscuit tin, I have to ask....

[Poll #1853005]
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I just regaled ChrisC with a story about the lowly position of empiricists at the French court in the 17th or 18th century. The story goes like this:

All the finest minds of the era were busy debating why a bowl of water should become lighter when you put a goldfish into it. The debate was heated and wide-ranging. Until someone came along and said, er, actually, I don't think a bowl of water actually does get lighter when you add a goldfish. Look, I have here a bowl of water, a fish, and some scales.

His comments were immediately discounted because, well, who would be so low as to actually
try the thing?

Which is a lovely story. But when I went a a-googling to try and find out whether I really meant the French court, and which century, and whether the man with the scales was someone whom history remembers...

Well, I can't find any evidence that I haven't just made the whole thing up. I'm sure I remember being told it in school. Has anyone else ever heard this story? If you heard it from me, it probably doesn't count.
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Some time ago, I reached the age where I realised I didn't know my age. If asked (which, let's face it, doesn't happen all that often) I'm forced to remember what year it is, subtract my birth year, and work out whether I've had a birthday or not recently in order to answer.

It seems such a far cry from the days when anyone was able, and even eager, to give their age; when the half-years and the quarter-years were jealously accrued. Six and three-quarters was babyish, but seven? Seven meant being allowed to walk to Pierremont Road shop by yourself[*].

When I was small, I'd be given my apples cored and cut up, sliced into pieces on a plate. And one day, presumably before I went to school, though I don't know exactly when, I was deemed to have the years, dexterity and teeth necessary to be given my apple whole. To just, like, bite into willy-nilly. I remember distinctly that this was a very grown up thing to do, and quite an achievement.

Accordingly, it's taken me over thirty years to admit that actually, I quite like my apples cored and cut up into pieces. And, if I'm dead honest, and if location, situation and cutlery allow, I would rather have them that way. I've been secretly slicing my apples up for some time. Today I boldly borrowed a knife from a colleague and chopped my lunchtime apple up at my desk. I reckon I'm big enough to eat my food like a baby if I choose.

Apples are much nicer like that, you know :)

[*] Actually, I have absolutely no idea at what age I was allowed to walk to Pierremont Road shop by myself, although I remember it was an exciting milestone. The shop isn't even there any more, bought up by a rival shop-owner and converted to a private house years ago.
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Hello. I've been on holiday, but I'm back now. More of that another day.

This morning, I read on the BBC that advertising cigarettes on TV was banned in the UK in 1965. Gosh, I thought, that's weird, I'm sure I remember seeing ads on TV when I was a kid.

So I thought about it a bit, and concluded that the only one I could actually remember was about the first "born smoker". And so I googled that, and it turns out it wasn't an ad, it was an anti-smoking government public information film.

However, much more excitingly it turns out I now know that there is a massive archive of public information films. Did you know that? You didn't tell me.

I've remembered I'm supposed to be at work, so apart from checking out the First Born Smoker and a couple of films featuring Charley, I have restrained myself. Oh, apart from the watching the extremely peculiar The Fatal Floor.

I had been going to comment that the period 1964-1979 boasts a whopping 38 films in the archive, while 1979-2006 fields a mere 16 for a timespan nearly twice as long. However, I think it's probably a good thing if the government no longer feels the need to make short films to warn us not to fall over rugs.

Are public information films still made? I barely ever watch TV, so wouldn't see them. I hope they are.

Also, does anyone remember a longer version of the First Born Smoker film? I'm sure there was a bit about how children "will be exposed to smoke from an early age, by people called 'friends'".
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At the weekend, I spent a lot of time clearing out old files of work and notes from school and university.

In a way, I'm sad to see them go. The approximately two-foot high pile of A4 waiting to go out and give our recycling collectors a grave risk of industrial injury represents such a huge investment of my time and energy. I'm not honestly sure I would ever look at the stuff again, though - even the university lecture notes I keep intending to re-visit could probably be more usefully imbibed from books.

In particular, I lament the passing of my A-level physics notes. Writing notes in class was not as fraught as university lecture note-taking. I had the time and the inclination to take proper care over each page. My handwriting is even, the lines are neatly ruled, the diagrams carefully drawn in pencil and labelled.

Worse, it seems that almost the entire physics course has now fallen out of my head. "Using a Tangent Magnetometer to Investigate the Horizontal Component of the Earth's Magnetic Field" reads one tidily (double-)underlined heading. I did that? Yikes. Right now, I don't even know what a tangent magnetometer looks like. Or what it measures. Yet apparently I wielded one, shortly before I learned to use a cathode ray oscilloscope.

Flipping through the pages... what is the Hall Effect, anyway? Judging from the mark of 32/38 on the piece of work entitled "Comprehension of the Hall Effect", I only had a fairly hazy idea at the time. Shortly afterwards, I was using a Hall probe to measure the C. C. C. Inexplicably, the entire lab report fails to mention what C. C. C. actually stands for.

It feels wrong to be throwing away such a huge chunk of my life. But, ultimately, not quite as wrong as it feels to be giving up so much storage space to things I fundamentally don't need :)
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Recently, I saw a display of cheap inflatables intended for swimming pools. A ring with a horse's head, a dolphin. The seams of the plastic stuck out, rather than being nicely taped flat.

And suddenly I remember standing in the North Sea on seaside holidays, and the feeling of such a seam scraping across legs made cold and goosebumped by the water (my inflatable ring was yellow with a horse's head, from memory, although given the colouring it might have been a giraffe). As sensations go it was actually quite painful, but very distinctive and something which - in a life which rarely involves swimming in bodies of cold water and even more rarely involves inflatables - I haven't felt in years.

I set myself to wondering what other sensations might have got lost in the last few decades. The one that immediately sprung to mind was grazed knees )
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This week's stack of library books included Arthur & George. On the train in to work this morning, the first chapter introduced me to both the gentlemen.

One of the things which came up in George's description is that he doesn't have a particular memory that he regards as "his first memory", and had never considered that he ought, or that it was normal, to have such a thing.

I don't either )

Do you have an earliest memory? If so, how old were you when it was formed? How can you be sure it's the earliest?
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Help... my views are under attack! It seems that something I arbitrarily claimed on someone else's LJ is very wrong.

My claim was: everyone (in the UK, for approximately accurate values of everyone) had the BCG jab (ie TB vaccine) at secondary school. It seems that this isn't true, though.

What we need is a poll.

Poll! )

In not-entirely-unrelated news, [ profile] hjalfi and I concluded last week that the goverment's current welfare and NHS reforms are not an attempt to undermine the system, but a genuine desire to improve the quality of today's literature. The more starving, tubercular people we have in poor housing, the more poetry we get. Fact.
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I have just been watching a little bit of the world yo-yo championships on youtube (which is very impressive, by the way, you should check it out).

However, it led to a conversation with colleagues about the 1980s yo-yo craze. A colleague of mine insists it was around 1987-1988, which I dispute since I'm fairly sure it was well over by the time I went to secondary school ('87). We considerd that the craze may have hit different areas of the country at different times, but in general I'd expect the North (where I was) to be behind the South (where he was).

Suggestions that the North was so far behind that it only managed to catch up with the previous craze in the 80's are regarded as rude :)

Wikipedia unhelpfully notes the "1960s resurgence" and the "1990s technological renaissance", but is bizarrely quiet on the topic of the 80s. Maybe the 80s plague of yo-yi was limited to the UK?

Anyone have any data points to offer?

I had a bright yellow Duncan Rainbow, if you're curious. I still have :) (And I can still do around 0.75 of a trick with it.)
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Over on someone else's LJ, I've just been reading a comment about someone's school hymn. Which has just reminded me to muse what a bloody odd choice my school made.

O Brother Man )
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Every so often - usually when cooking - I notice that I'm doing something exactly the same way the mother does it. Of course, it's possible that this is because there is one right and obvious way to do it, and everyone else on the planet does it the same way too.

Why custard made me sad )
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This is a question for anyone who has small children, hangs out with small children, or, I suppose, is a small child.

How do the youth of today decide who's 'it'? )
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I'm working from home today, and I've just been overcome by a fit of nostalgia.

Little-dinner )
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I'm heading to Whitby folk week, and this evening have staged as far as my parents' house in Darlington. Normally, when driving north, my route goes M1->M18->A1 but today I made a special detour.

I stayed on the M1 and went the slightly longer route over Tinsley Viaduct, to wave goodbye to my twin towers. The Tinsley cooling towers, guardian giants of the gateway to the north, and beloved landmarks:

By the time I drive south again they will have been demolished.

It's interesting to note that (according to a spokesman from E.On whom I heard on radio 4) the energy company was keen to take into account the wishes of the local people. So they petitioned those who lived in the area whether the towers should be demolished or preserved. The answers came back almost exactly fifty-fifty.

I'll miss them, though.
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The BBC has just reminded me that it's twenty years today since the "Great Storm" in 1987. Among people my age - old enough to rember it, not really old enough to appreciate that it was more than a spot of run-of-the-mill bad weather - I suspect it's most commonly remembered as the storm which arrived in defiance of Michael Fish's jocular remarks that there was no need to worry. That he didn't really say that is largely irrelevant, of course; some stories are too big to be squashed by their own fallacy.

On the night of the Great Storm I was camping in a tent. Fortunately, only in a friend's back garden. We were determined to stay there - she had 50p riding on it, as her brother had bet we would wuss out even before the weather worsened. Her mother became increasingly determined as the night wore on that we were coming in the house. Her mother won, and I still remember being surprised the following morning by the wreckage of the garden: the large, heavy camping stove we'd cooked on the night before thrown across the lawn and the tent demolished.

I don't think the north got it nearly as badly as the south east did. Anyone else have any particular memories of it ?


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July 2017



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