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Welcome to Old John's blog!

1 Nov 2013 4:11 PM

The other day, I told my wife I missed going out for a walk and she said that as soon as I see the first signs of rain, these days, I make an excuse to stay indoors and she eas right.  This is not like me and I thought it was time that I went back to doing some of the things I really love to do.

The truth is, I am so pre occupied, with some of the other hobbies I have taken on board, of late, I have been neglecting some of the things I have been learning over the past 40 years. 

This morning, Friday, I waited for the 'milkman' to call, so I could pay him for his weekly delivery, before proceeding to get ready to go out for my walk.

It was a beautiful morning with a slight ground or 'Haw' frost so I layered up and collected all the things I may need on my walk.  You know the kind of things, the camera and extra charged batteries, boots, binoculars, water proof gear and layers of clothing.

When I walked downstairs, now ready to go, my wife said, 'has there been a change of plan?'

I looked at here and then realised I had promised to take here to a coffee morning in aid of our local 'hospice.' 

A 'Plan B' was quickly formed for I had not had time to have a shave and did not wish to be seen in company. 

A decision was made to take my wife to the coffee morning, in the town where we live, drop her off and drive on to a lake only a few miles away.  'The best plans of mice and men,' as they say, for my 'Plan B' had to become a Plan C. 

While we were driving to the venue, it began to rain heavy and the further we went the heavier the rain came down so, when we arrived at our destination, instead of one ticket being purchased, for the coffee morning, my wife purchased two.
Has it turned out, for the coffee morning was in full swing when we arrived, one of my friends was there and, together, we were the only men in the large room so I made a 'bee line' to go to him and have a chat.  While we were reminiscing and having a laugh, the room began to fill up and one or two more men came to the venue. 

My wife went round all the tables, some of which were decked with sumptuous iced cakes and others with goodies for Christmas gifts, and I carried on chatting to my friend.  While we were talking, our new U3A (University of the Third Age) chairman came over to have a talk with us.  Our chairman, Dave, is one of the most helpful people you will ever meet and a good man with a great sense of humour. 

It transpired, while we were engaged in light hearted banter, that Dave and I both once owned a three wheeled car, when we were young men, called a Relient. 
Eventually, the time came when my wife had seen everything she wanted to see and also made a purchase or two, and felt the need to go.  We were just about to leave when one of the lady members came over to us and said, 'Hear John. You dun half need a shave dear.' Her London dialect is lovely to listen to and the lady in question has a faultless and genuine character that instantly tells you  whatever she says is meant either as a joke or with her wonderful humour and natural charm.
As we were leaving, more friends were going into the building and we stopped to pass the time of day with them before going back to the car where a 'Plan D' was quickly put into place for it had stopped raining. 

I drove my wife home and then drove on to one of the nature reserves where I have completed many nature surveys in the past. 

By the time I reached my destination, it had stopped raining but I was pleased I had brought my boots for the wet underfoot squelchy conditions would have been too bad for my normal town shoes. 

My first stop was at the side of a lake where lots of geese were grazing.  I did a scan, across the water, from my usual left to right, and noted that the Goldeneye ducks had returned from their summer quarters, Great Crested Grebes, some now on their own instead of in pairs, had lost all their summer plumes.  Widgeon were using their one note whistle and, to my surprise, this year's young Swans were still trailing behind what could well have been one of their own patents.

While I was looking out, over the lake, it began to rain heavy again so I made my way towards a few tall shrubs and hid there, for a while, until the wind subsided a little.  My water proof coat, a coat I have waited many years to be able to have it's cost, in the past, was always out of my reach, was working well for me. 

Inside my cocooned hooded breathable shell, I saw no reason why I should have to turn back and go home for I was cosy warm and completely dry.  Eventually, I felt the need to move on, for I did not want my warm interior to cool down, and I decided to go to a hide I had been to before.  I was about half way to the hide, now with rain beating down on my back, when I saw a small sign that told me  the hide, I was making my way towards, was out of commission for the time being. 

Not wanting to get rain on my face, I made an arch line detour and made my way towards a tree lined area that would help to get the wind off my face; I have learned, over many years, to try and use whatever cover there is to use, when fighting the elements.

Once up side of the tree line, I eventually made my way to a narrow lane where parents and children, dressed in the latest outdoor cycling gear, were out cycling in a family unit.  I did my usual side step, to let them pass, but the family were so intent on keeping together they did not know I had stood back for them.  Either the weather conditions were too bad for them or they did not know the country code.
Now walking down hill, my feet were accompanied by runnels of water that had formed on top of the hard packed surface; a surface that had been walked on by many feet before mine. At the bottom of the path, there was woodland and I walked into it to try and get out of the now driving rain. 

I stood, for a while, for I had altered the noise balance of the wood by my presence, and waited for things to settle down before moving on.  A Blackbird made an alarm call and I instantly knew that I would have to try and lower my noise levels even further. 

Inside the wood, there was a small pond and had I done my 'woodsman ship craft'  properly, I would not have disturbed a bird that was in foliage testing to see if it was safe to go for a drink. Some types of birds have to have a plentiful supply of water, close by, and when the bird flew away, as I approached the pond, I knew that I had disturbed a seed eater but the secretive brown thing flew away before I was able to get a good look at it.

At this time of year, as the leaves were falling like confetti, it is much easier to see a bird that may be roosting in a tree but it is also much easier for a bird to see someone approaching.  One of the best types of screen covering, in poor weather conditions, at this time of year, is Holly and I made my way towards a large bush of the plant cover.  I was now walking as quiet as I could but, unfortunately, I broke a twig on my boot, and disturbed a Pheasant which instantly went into a frenzied and noisy flapping mode as it tried to escape my intrusion.  The bird, hidden between a few pre cut logs, was only a couple of feet away from me when it took to the air and, as it clumsily rose to the air in a restricted branch area, I think the bird startled me more than I startled it.   

I was a little bit ashamed of myself, when the Pheasant felt that its only option was to leave after I had crept up on it without it knowing that I was there, and moved away.  A few minute's walk, now in a clearing, I could hear the quiet sound of an owl calling but, by this time, it was raining so hard I was unable to look up high enough to see where the owl could be.

At this point, I decided to turn back and, as I walked up a steep hill, towards a path that would eventually lead me to a car park, the runnels of water, I saw on my way down the hill, had now turned to small streams. 

I pulled in on the cord, attached to the inside of my water proof hood, so that only my nose and eyes could be seen, and lowered my head so that the water, as it bounced on my hood, did not wet my glasses and, for a time, all I could see was my feet as one went in front of the other.  Soon, I reached an area where I could hear human activity and, to my surprise, some people were just setting off, in the rain, to walk their dogs; what I could not understand is why the dog walkers were less protected, against the rain, than their dogs for the dogs were wearing water proof jackets.   

Once back to the vehicle, I decided to take my boots off in the car, for the rain was coming down like 'stair rods' but before I could do that, I felt the need to remove my binoculars and my camera which were tucked away inside my waterproof coat.  The coat had to be unfastened and, from the time it took to remove my two pieces of equipment and remove my coat, my first layer had to be removed due to it being so wet.     

No matter, for I was not cold, I removed my muddy boots and put on my shoes and eventually drove away. 

My journey, off the site, was a slow affair due to the car's windows steaming up and the blowers not having sufficient strength to remove the steam quickly enough.  Of course, after a few minutes, all was well but not for long due to the amount of rain that suddenly came.  There were no drains, on the lanes I was on, and streams of water flanked the sides of the broken tarmac.  The driving conditions became so bad that I felt the need to stop until it was safe to move on. 

Luckily, the heavy down pour eased off and I was soon on my way home. 
On reflection, I could have stayed at home but, sometimes, if you want to be close to nature, you have to take a chance with the weather and, for once, it paid off for me for the sight of the Pheasant, as it took to the air, is something that will stay with me for a long time.

By for now,


18 Oct 2013 3:39 PM

A few days ago, it was my birthday and along with the cards came a wrapped box parcel.  The gift was from one of my son's friends and, for it may have been a joke present, I shook it and it rattled.

My wife said, 'It is a box of marbles for the ones you have lost!' I suppose you had to be there to appreciate the joke but the sentiment started my memory going back to the time when I was a small boy playing with glass marbles in an uneven 'back yard' covered in hard baked soil and dust. 

The aim was to try and knock your opponent's marble out of the way or try to flip, with the use of the thumb; into a hole we called a 'podge.' 

There we were, not knowing any difference and all being the same, in our thick short trousers, with our cut and grazed knees and taking no notice of the darned stockings and patches on our clothes.

Our lace up boots, with 'segs' hammered in place or studs if nothing else was available, were hand me downs and, in my case, they were stuffed with cotton wool for I was a half size and they were difficult to come by. 

Attitudes were different too for if a child fell and cut open their knees, they went into the house screaming or yelling and the cure, almost every time, was a clean rag that had been spit on.  If you were really lucky, a knob of butter was also applied to the cut.  Once the treatment had finished, we used to jump off mum's knees and bound outdoors to meet our friends again. 

These were the days when wash day took almost all day and could only be speeded up if we could borrow a 'tub and posser.'
One of our neighbours was lucky enough to have an iron mangle which, when turned, allowed clean clothes to pass through two wooden rollers which squeezed much of the water out of the clothes. 

Arguments flared up quickly but seemed to be over in no time at all.  I once remember a young man sitting on a wall that divided one back yard from the other. 
My mum wanted to use the wall to hang out a carpet she had earlier beaten to get the dust off.  Mum asked the young man if he would move, we would now call the defiant young boy a  'teenager'

The young lad was not going to move so mum went into the house and came out with a bucket of cold water and she threw at him.  Instead of the young man being greeted with gasps of how anybody could do that to him, the young man fled the scene after all the women were laughing at him.

They say that young people, of today, grow up quicker than they used to and this is probably true when we consider that today's young person probably physically matures quicker than they did in those days but mentally, the young people of the times I am looking back on seemed to take on the adult mantle at a very early age. 
Preparing young boys to go work down the mines, at the age of 15, and witnessing, first hand, the harsh realities of co workers losing limbs or even their lives now seems unreal but, back in those times, this was all part of the working day for some of the boys and of the norms of social life too. 

Fights, after a Saturday afternoon in the local Inn (Pub) were common and so was drunken ranting but, more often than not, it was all over after a couple of blood stained punches. 

Contrary to popular belief, there was also an unwritten code of conduct too.  Men did not usually swear in front of women and if they were unable to control their tongue in front of children, the offending person was quickly dealt with.

Of course, no matter where you lived, in England in those times, the driving force was poverty and the ability of the working class people to make something out of nothing was remarkable. 

There was never enough money to put wall paper on the walls, no money to purchase our own tin bath, we used other peoples' baths, and food was always a constant worry to my mum but the community spirit was strong and my mum, when someone-in the vicinity-needed something no one could afford, she provided 'pea and pie' suppers and, with the small profit, the said items were somehow purchased.
Humour was the only thing to keep some people going and, when needed, a joke seemed to come from the worst corners of domestic fall out.

My father, who liked a pint of beer, once told me, after he leaned his head back and swallowed the brown liquid, that this was his medicine.

It was not until I was in my late 60s that I found out that there was more truth in what he had told me than I thought there was for my father, and all like him, came through a page of history where drinking water was often far from being good to drink. 

Yes, remember those times and make sure they are never forgotten but, apart from the community spirit, let us hope that such times do not repeat themselves.   
Those times, if they have taught me anything, were often reinforced in my later life when I wanted something and could not afford to purchase it.  I had learned, from a very early age, not to 'beat myself up' if there was something I really wanted and could not afford.   

I have regrets though for I always wanted to play the guitar and I had to wait, until now, before I could come to terms with spending hard earned money on what was, for me, a luxury reserved for the better off in life. 

By for now,



4 Oct 2013 1:35 PM

Hi there to you all.

I will be back on line soon but, for the moment, I am not going to be on this site for a few weeks.  I have, at long last-with a view to publish-started to write a book about art.

By for now,


17 Sep 2013 10:40 AM

Conversation overheard on the bus.

Two old ladies, on the bus, both in their 80s.
‘One old lady said to the other, I had to go to the Drs yesterday.’
‘What for dear.’ Her friend asked.
‘He wanted to take some blood!’
‘Did he say what it was for?’
‘I didn’t’ ask!’

‘Well, I had to go to the Drs too and he started asking me questions about my diet.
He asked me what I had for breakfast and when I told him I had bread and jam he said that wasn’t healthy.’
‘What did you say to him?’
‘I told him I love jam and bread, for my breakfast, and that is all I have had for about 40 years.’
‘He pulled a face and told me I should try Cornflakes of something like that.’
‘Are you having them for breakfast?’
‘No, I’m having them for my supper but he is not to know that is he!’
‘Don’t you fancy them for your breakfast then.’
‘No thanks, I’l stick to my bread and jam.’

15 Sep 2013 4:25 AM

My Blog is purely a hypothesis scenario to show I usually have two different ways to look at the same problem once fully aware of the facts. 

I am hoping, when you start to read my latest blog, that you may have a change of opinion about my subject matter.

Two teaching scenarios.

I have made the names up!

Miss Pringle tests her class of children every week and there is one boy who is bottom of the written tests in every subject.  His teacher is concerned but leaves the problem in abeyance until the midterm summery.

Mr Parker tests his class children, on the same subject matter, every week but instead of the children having to read out the test questions, he explains what the children have to do and asks them to give an oral answer to him. 

Mr Parker has a star pupil for not only does the boy give the correct answers, he also gives his 'rationalâ' as to why he has come up with that particular answer and comes top in all the tests.

When the midterm teachers' meeting comes, when teachers sat down with concerns about the children in their class, Miss Pringle voices her concerns about the boy that continually comes last in all the tests she sets.  Before going into a rant, about the boy, she mentions that the boy is called John Jones.

When Miss Pringle is about to make a suggestion as to what to do with this boy, Mr Parker interjects.

'Excuse me Miss Pringle but have I heard you wrong?  Did you say that the worst student, in your class, is John Jones?"

"Yes, that is right.  John Jones is the worst student in my class." 

Mr Pringle leant back in his chair, gave a loud sigh and, frustrated, began to shuffle in his chair as if he had ants in his pants.

The school Head,' chairing the meeting, intervened.  "What seem to be the problem Mr Parker?" 

"I am in a dilemma as what to say next Head for I am not in the habit of questioning the teaching techniques of my colleagues."

Miss Pringle, clearly offended by Mr Parker's intonations, was on the point of giving Mr Parker a good 'dressing down' when the Head intervened.

"Mr Parker.  Am I to assume the student, that comes top of your class, every week, is the same student Miss Pringle is so worried about?"

"Yes. That is correct Head."

The head teacher leaned back in her chair. 

"Just one moment while I have a think!" She said with a puzzled look on her face.

After a pause, the head teacher deliberated her speech.

"On the one hand, we have a student who cannot do anything right and yet the same student appears to be very clever.  There is something drastically wrong here.  Now, Miss Parker, who has students attaining very high grades, seems to be doing something wrong for John Jones yet Mr Parker seems to be doing everything right." 

"I have known you both for a long time and it is my observation that neither of you treat any of the children any different to any of the others so the fault, with John Jones, does not seem to rest with either of you." 

"On the other hand, it is clear to me, from Mr Parker's s class observations, that John Jones is a very bright boy."

The Head thought for a few more moments and then said.  "I have not found any reason to doubt that either of you are not teaching John Jones properly and I have not heard of any reason why John's parents wish to voice this particular student with any of us so there must be some other underlying problem here but what it is?"

The meeting ended and, the following day, the Head decided to have John Jones in her office.

The little boy sat down, in a chair he had to climb up into and he looked up at the head teacher waiting for words to come out of her mouth.

The Head looked down at the nervous little boy, smiled at him and offered a biscuit to him.

"Now then John," she said while the boy quietly nibbled at the biscuit, "When you have finished your biscuit, I wonder if you would mind filling in a test question for me."

The boy nodded and smiled then, when the time was right, he was taken into a quiet side room and given the test paper.  From time to time, the Head went back into the room  to see how he was going and what she found was that the boy was getting all the questions right but it was taking him three times as long to answer than it should have done so she let the boy carry on until he had finished his task.
The results of the test were outstanding for not only had he managed to get all the questions right, he gave his reasons for giving the answers.  The Head had not seen as good question answering, as John had given, for a long time.  Only the brightest children had ever come this far but John had even exceeded what was asked of him although some of his written words were all wrong .

The paper was taken away from the boy, when the Head knew it was the right time for the child, and smiled down at the keen eyed boy.

"Was it all right Miss?  Did I do well?" The little lad said excitedly.

The head looked at the boy again, smiled and said "Yes John, you did very well."

John smiled and when he was dismissed, he skipped out of the side room and through the Head's room into the corridor where he was lead back into his class room.

After class, the head summoned John's teachers to her room.  The teachers, almost accusatively glaring at one another, were politely told to sit down and then the Head made her deliberations telling them what she had done and how John had done in the test. 

Miss Pringle looked annoyed and was really put out that the child had received full marks, and more, for the test paper he had taken.

Mr Parker, on the other hand, was beaming from ear to ear.

"Now, the Head said, " I want you both to know that I think no less or better of either of you for I can see that you have both done the very best for John that you could but, now I have had time to see the child and what he is capable of, I can see that the boy is no ordinary child and because of this, his teaching requires more than teaching in the conventional way.  With that in mind, I have decided to bring in a specialist to have a look at John and see what he thinks."

It was now the turn of Miss Pringle to smile and Mr Parker was now clearly 'put out'  by what was going on.  He felt undermined by the reasoning of the Head to bring in outside help when his student was doing so well under his teaching. 

The following day, the Head contacted John's parents and asked them, when they could, if they would mind going to see her at some point.  She assured them there was nothing wrong but felt that the school could be doing better for the little boy's s education.

The parents went in and everything was explained to them as to the Head wishing to bring in an independent tutor to assess John' needs for he was clearly an extra bright child.

The bit about their child being extra bright registered with them but, probably because they were tense from having to go to school, the information about having someone in to look at their child's s educational needs seemed to go right over them. 

A few days later, a specialist came to school and it was soon realised that John Jones  was extra bright but he also had reading problems and that more tests would have to be done on him to find out exactly what the problems were.

After a few tests, it was found out that when the child saw words, some of the letters were jumbled up and he had to keep going back to read the same word over and over again.  Doing this, when there was a time factor, served to upset the boy when he knew he had to finish what he was trying to do and became so upset that he failed to complete any of the questions.  It was also found that the boy could go home and go back to school, the next day, and give the answers orally when asked what he thought a particular question meant.

The specialist was baffled for he had not seen anything like it before.
Time moved on but the Head, determined to get to the bottom of the child's problem, asked John's parents if they would go to London, with the Head, for a whole day so that John could have lots of simple test to try and find out what was really holding the bright child back in Miss Pringle's s class.

When the tests came back, from London, it was found that John Jones had something that had not long since been discovered which was called Dyslexia.
While John's class mates, his peers, were able to read several words at once, in a sentence, the little boy could only read one word at a time and many of the words did not look to him as they looked to others.

John's mum and dad were asked if they would try to get John to read out loud with them at home and what they noted was that the boy could pronounce words, when he had heard them, but he could not read or spell the word until he had been over the word several times.

Today, things are different in schools and Dyslexia, along with other things, can be found out about much sooner but, until everybody knows about Dyslexia, the child, or children, may carry a label that is frowned upon but, in reality, the problem has probably gone on, undetected, for many years and has held some very bright children back.

Of course, as I think you may have realised by now, I too am Dyslexic but my problem was not found out until I was 67 years old.  I always knew there was something different about me and have, all my life, put my problems down to being nervous. 

I remember one course I undertook to do, as a mature student, having the best class oral results and finished up, in the college cafeteria, telling all the students, in my class-some of which were at least 20 years younger than me-the theories needed to be able to reason out the questions.  Most of the students, who took on board what I had to say,  passed with good grades and I only just scraped through yet they thought I would easily achieve an A star plus.
If only I had known that I had Dyslexia, when I was a child, I feel I could have achieved great things and do not see why I should not have tried to become what I really wanted to become and that was a psychologist. 

Putting labels on people is the very last thing I would want to do but I have to say, since I found out I was dyslexic, I am much more at ease with myself and, funny enough, I can spell better too.

If you have gone through some of the problems I have gone through or if you know of anybody that has been through what I have suffered feel free to let me know.  Being labelled, matters not to me for I know I have a very high I.Q.  At least that is what the tests say.

By for now John. 

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