Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Sadness, and Stories.

I woke up feeling a bit sad today.
Nothing specific, just thoughts about some things that make me sad.

Like lost friends that I can’t phone, or meet up with.
And things left unsaid with those now departed.
Or wishing I had made some better decisions in life a very long time ago.
Not to mention my frustration at my inability to get to grips with technology.

Stuff like that.

It obviously wasn’t too bad, because I soon shook that off thinking about ideas for more stories to go with the photos being sent to me.
By the way, if you have thought about sending me a photo to make a story from, there is no deadline. Please send me one, and I will do my best.
(Just a reminder, reduced size files, emailed to petejohnson50@yahoo.com)

One thing about having to make up stories from photos, it keeps your mind active. In my case, almost too active. I find myself considering stories in my head as I walk around with Ollie, trying to remember if I have posted one with a similar theme or idea before, and just forgotten it by now. But the photos are what they are, and often tell me their own story, which I just have to translate into something readable.

Photo-Prompts are very different to the complex discipline of a long fiction serial in many parts. They don’t require notes about time-lines, character’s names, or historical research. But the basic idea is the same. I think of the ending, come up with a suitable title, then work it all back from there to the first line of the story.

After more than six years of regularly posting fiction on this blog, I wonder when the day will come when my imagination fails me, and I run dry of ideas. But for now, as long as you keep reading them, and most of you enjoying them, I am inspired to continue.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Weights and Measures.

I woke up quite late this morning, no idea why. But I was thinking about millimetres, for some reason.
Come to think of it, I remember the reason, as it had to do with it being spelt differently in America. (Millimeters)

By the time I started to see things in England described in litres, centimetres, or millimetres, I was already pretty old. This country still cannot seem to make its mind up about the metric system, even though we changed to decimal currency in 1971. Directions (and signs) are still given in miles, and most haberdashery shops will sell you cloth by the yard. When you go to buy carpet though, it is sold by the square metre, and I have to use Google to translate that into something I can understand.

Petrol is sold in litres, as is milk, wine, juice, and soft drinks. But I can still buy a ‘gallon’ bucket, or a ‘five-gallon’ container. Meat, cheese, and loose produce are now sold in kilos and grammes. That means little to me, so I translate that into pounds and ounces in my head. (A kilo is 2.2 pounds) I have no concept of how long one centimetre is, but an exact idea of the size of something that is a quarter of an inch long.

Clothing is another problem. I can still buy shoes in a size I recognise, but the length and waistband of trousers is show in centimetres. Before buying most clothing, I have to translate the number from inches, so I know what to order. When it comes to large items like cookers and washing machines, the dimensions are all stated in centimetres. But I have an extending tape rule that has feet and inches on one side, so I measure with that so I know something will fit.

It is not unlike having to use two different languages. Imagine ordering clothes in Italian, but having to read direction signs in German. Remember the old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? In my case, that is true.

Much of what I learned at school from 1957 is now obsolete. Telling younger people about such ‘ancient’ measurements usually brings on a smile, followed by a look of complete boredom. However, some of those old measurements still exist, in specialised forms. Take a ‘Furlong’ for instance. This originally derived from ancient farming measurements, and came from two words ‘Furrow long’. This was the ideal length to plough a furrow in a field for planting. At school, I had to learn that there were eight furlongs in a mile, so the length of one was 220 yards. You may think that this is of little use today. But did you know that every horse race in Britain is still measured in furlongs?

I also had to learn that one furlong was equal to 10 chains, with one chain being 22 yards. There was even a physical metal chain used to check this. If you think this is silly and outdated, then you should know that to this day, one chain is the distance between the wickets on every cricket pitch in the world.

Fluid capacities were important too. Not centilitres or millilitres, I had never heard of those. We had Gallons, Pints, Gills, Flagons, Bushels, Pecks, and Firkins. I knew the relevance and size of every one, by the age of eight. And not all of those have disappeared. Beer is still sold in pubs here in pints and half-pints.

I could go on and on, but I can see your eyes glazing over from here. A Hand was used as a defined measurement, stated at four inches. Who uses that these days? Every horse is still measured in hands, so it is widely used by horse breeders and trainers, stables, and jockeys. When I was young, an average weight of a grown man was said to be around 11 stone. So if someone was 30 stone, you knew that they were very big, and almost certainly obese. When I am weighed at the doctor’s now, they tell me my weight in kilos. For me to make any sense of that, I have to translate it to stones and pounds.

So the next time you are thinking about how long, wide, or heavy something is, just hope that someone doesn’t come along and change all the measurements to something you will never understand.

2020: Blogging Thoughts For A New Year

Four days into a new year, my mind turns to thinking about my blogs over the next twelve months.

Because I am still using the now outdated Windows 7 on this PC, I may have to consider changing to a new version during the year. This brings with it the prospect of having to use the dreaded ‘Gutenberg Block Editor’ on WordPress, something I have so far managed to avoid. I am thinking about paying someone to give me a comprehensive and easy to understand tutorial, so if that’s something you can do, feel free to contact me.

As I posted a lot less of my own photos during 2019, I still have almost 70% of my allowance remaining, on the paid-for ‘Personal Plan’ I use. Considering that, I will try to take a lot more photos for the blog in 2020. Especially of Ollie, who will be 8 years old next month.

LinkedIn has generated so few views of my blog over the past year, I think I will give up on that particular social media platform. If anyone only uses that to view my posts, please let me know in the comments.

Fiction will still feature here, with short stories and longer serials. But I will reduce the word length of serial episodes considerably, to make them more reader-friendly. I would like to say that I am going to write a lot less about weather in 2020, but I fear that will not be the case. If anyone has any other suggestions about what they would like to see more of on this blog, feel free to tell me.

I stopped reading again late last year, when a long bout of cold/flu/cough made it hard for me to read at night in bed. I will try to get back to that soon, and hopefully begin to review some of the many blogger’s books I have bought but still not read.

I am determined to stop stressing about the new followers who have no blog connected to their gravatar. So if you follow this blog, and never hear from me, it is because you have not connected your blog, and I have no way of commenting, following, or communicating with you.

For any of you new bloggers who have decided that 2020 is the year you are going to start blogging, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If I can ever be of help to you, my email address is on the ‘About’ page.

Here’s to another great year of blogging, in the year to come.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Going to the Doctor.

I know I did a post on Thinking Aloud yesterday, but I woke up thinking about something this morning, so you get an extra one.

When I was young, my Mum used to take me to the doctor. But I had to be quite bad before she went that far. Not that we had to pay anything, because we had the NHS. That had come into being five years before I was born, and the working-class people where I lived in London were incredibly grateful for it. So my Mum would not bother a doctor with anything trivial, as she had too much respect for this new service.

The system was very different back then. No need to telephone for an appointment, just turn up for morning or evening surgery, and wait your turn. Most people where I lived didn’t have a telephone anyway, so appointments wouldn’t have worked. We sat on long benches around the walls of the waiting room. The first person to arrive sat closest to the door leading through to the doctor, and everyone took their place in turn, with not a thought of queue-jumping.

The only distraction provided for those waiting was a stack of old magazines piled on a small table in the centre of the room. I saw my first ever copies of National Geographic, along with the familiar Reader’s Digest, and some newspapers left behind by anyone who had already left. There were no screens offering TV or recorded messages, and definitely no toys for the amusement of children. We were expected to behave, and we did.

Nobody talked to each other either, even though many of the faces were familiar, and some of those in the waiting room were well-known to us. It wasn’t done to discuss your ailments in that situation, or to ask anyone else why they were there to see the doctor. When it got to our turn, the doctor opened the door and we walked in. There was no calling-out of our name, and no mention of whether or not he knew us. His office was like a study, and he sat at his desk with a serious demeanour. Once he had heard the story, and perhaps made some examination, he would either tell us what to do, or give out a prescription for the necessary medication, which was also free then.

Everyone called him ‘Doctor’, even though his name was on a sign on his desk. He was better educated than anyone we knew, and older than my Mum, and most of the others in the waiting room. His word was never challenged or questioned, and his advice or treatment was always acted upon. He was a doctor, so that was enough for us. We looked on him with some reverence, and gave him respect, and our best manners at all times. In return, he was polite, caring, and efficient. He was also rather condescending and superior, but I didn’t realise that at the time. Once he had finished with us, profuse thanks were in order, and even when I was still very young, I was taught to say “Thank you, doctor”, before we left his consulting room.

Things are very different now.

Getting an appointment can be exceptionally difficult in some areas of Britain, especially in the big cities. Most doctor’s surgeries have three or four doctors working there, to cope with the increased workload. They also employ skilled nurses to deal with minor injuries and illnesses, as well as technicians to take blood, or receive samples. At our local doctor’s we no longer have to go anywhere else to collect drugs or medicines, as they have a pharmacy attached, operated by three full-time staff. You can even get minor surgical procedures done there, which saves travelling to the hospital like we used to have to. In my opinion, the expansion of such facilities into larger clinics has been a positive move, and the doctors seem to be younger and more dedicated too.

But the most noticeable change has been in the attitude of the patients. Despite the provision of toys and games, children run around like crazy all over the place. Their parents stare into their phones, generally ignoring the bad behaviour. And people argue. They shout at the receptionists, complain that they haven’t bee seen quick enough, and debate their treatment with the doctor, based on some rubbish they have read on Facebook, or looked up online.

Despite being able to telephone, or book an appointment time using the Internet, many still just walk in and expect to be seen immediately. The last sixty years have imbued the people of this country with a sense of entitlement, and a worrying arrogance. They threaten staff, complain to local authorities, and take to Social Media to moan about the service at the local doctor’s.

They should think themselves lucky that we have such a system funded my small National Insurance payments, and backed up by huge amounts of public money. They are not old enough to remember a time when you queued patiently, sometimes for hours, and gave respect to the people who were treating you.

My conclusion is that if those people can get to the doctor’s just to be rude and horrible, they are not sick enough to be there in the first place.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Times change.

We are all aware how fast things change. I am using a computer to type this, yet when I left school, I never imagined that such a thing would exist. And I am posting this online, over the Internet. Who could ever have thought of that?

Whenever I complain about how things are, people wisely remind me that ‘times change’, or ‘it’s just progress’. Staring at mobile phones all day is progress then, I assume. I do try, I really do. Look how much I use technology to blog, and to spread the word about everything from how much it rains, to the stories I have written. But I confess that it is never less than a daily struggle, trying to keep up with those changing times.

As I get older, I complain a great deal. Regular readers will no doubt have noticed the increase in that, I’m sure.

Much of what I lament is caused by the addition of rose-tinted spectacles, and they make me firmly believe that everything was better ‘before’. Before times changed, and before so much progress. Does anyone under forty realise that their beloved smartphones and Internet televisions will be laughed at in thirty year’s time? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter.

But they will be.

Is life really so much better because you can switch on your house lights from the bus, by using an app on your phone? Well that is certainly progress, but is it either a good thing, or necessary? I struggle to believe it is.

When you are young, moany old codgers get on your nerves, always going on about how things were so much better ‘before’. They did it when I was young, and now I am upholding the tradition. And for you younger readers, a word of warning.

You will do it too.

You will hear yourself saying that your old X-Box was better than whatever is around when you are seventy years old. You will drone on about films and TV shows being so much better in your youth, and how the celebrities and stars of your day were much better-looking, and nicer people too. You will bore the pants off the future younger generation by going on about the food you used to eat, and how you used to cook it. The fast-food places that no longer exist, and the shops that closed down when you were in your sixties.

You will tell them about High Street Shops, and how you could buy just one cake in a baker’s. Regale them with how good it was to go to a doctor or the hospital, and not have to pay. You will become misty-eyed with memories of how people got state pensions, winter fuel allowance, and free bus travel when they were old. Of course, you will not have any of that for yourself, but you will remember when other people did.

You will find it hard to cope with progress, and increasingly difficult to change with the times.

I know, because I can see into your future.

And it is the same as mine.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

A Heavy Cold

All I could think about today was the fact that I have had a bloody awful heavy head cold since Wednesday.

I presume that having to sit with no heating on and windows open when the living room was being painted made me susceptible.
A niggly sore throat on Wednesday morning soon turned into hot watery eyes, sneezing, and occasional fits of coughing.

That night, it was hard to sleep, so I started taking regular doses of tablets to reduce the effect of the symptoms.

Three days later, and it shows no sign of improving, or going away. At least it isn’t Flu, as I don’t have any aches and pains.

What I was actually thinking about was how quickly we forget what it was like before the cold overwhelmed us.

It seems as if I have always had this, and it is impossible to remember when I felt perfectly fine on Tuesday.

I know, it’s just a cold. No big deal. It will pass soon, hopefully.

But it got me thinking.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Good cartoons.

No idea why, but I woke up thinking about cartoons today.

I know we now have adult cartoon shows, like ‘The Simpsons’, and ‘Family Guy’. Younger adults are also well-served by the Japanese animators, with their amazing imaginations. Kids have Disney Pixar and Nickelodeon, and the tiny ones have things like ‘My Little Pony’ and ‘Paw Patrol’.

But I never see any of the old ‘good cartoons’ anymore. Ones like these.

Or the ones I grew up with.

At the cinema, cartoons always added to the enjoyment.

Many became household names, and endured for decades.

When television came along, we had cartoons to enjoy at home too.

I was happy to watch these into my late teens,and always enjoyed the antics of the familiar characters. But then longer cartoon shows took over, like the awful ‘Scooby-Doo’, ‘Hong Kong Phooey’, and many more. Pop groups like the Jackson 5 had their own cartoon show, and very soon the essence of the short cartoon seemed to have disappeared without trace.

Political correctness, merchandising of associated products, and the power of the networks put an end to the cartoons I had enjoyed for years.

Let me know what cartoons you miss, by leaving a comment.