What the Child-Rearing Manuals Don’t Tell You

I was going to do a ‘word origin’ post today but I came across yet another indispensable piece of advice in my trusty Perpetual Almanack of Folklore and felt it my duty to pass it on to you – particularly any of you out there who are parents.

We have Jane Collier to thank for this, since it is sage advice she passed on to her readers in 1753:

Suppose your stock of children too large; and that, by your care for their support, you should be abridged of some of your own luxuries and pleasures. To make away with the troublesome and expensive brats, I allow, would be the desirable thing; but the difficulty is, how to effect this without subjecting yourself to that punishment which the law has thought proper.

On no account miss that useful season summer, in which you may give your children as much fruit as they can cram down their throats; then be sure not to contradict the poor little things if they choose to play about and overheat themselves in the middle of the day; and afterwards should choose to cool their limbs, by sprawling about after a dew has fallen. If they should chance, after all this, to outlive the month without the worms, a fever, or a general corruption of the blood, you must wait the event another summer.

“Tuck into the fruit, kids!”

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Manners Maketh Man Part II

I don’t normally allow bad language on here – my blog seems to be one of the last such refuges on the internet, or in the world in general. (It seems that even if you love science there’s got to be an F in it somewhere.) I don’t swear myself, other than when I’m doing DIY (and then it flows freely and colourfully – but no one hears it so that’s all right). But in this case I’m prepared to make an exception because I’m fully in agreement with the sentiments expressed below

It was almost certainly written by a disgruntled Lord or Earl. In fact it bears all the hallmarks of my irascible friend Stanley, the 3rd Earl of Double Gloucester, who likes a brandy or two with his breakfast.

My friend the 3rd Earl of Double Gloucester getting pissed off about something after breakfast

Here at Beardsley Towers we look down on those who have been so indolent and feckless as not to have acquired their own manor, let alone become the Lord of it.


Beardsley Towers. It will look much better when the east wing is added early next year.

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Wakey, Wakey!

Ever since a traumatic experience of being roused by a very loud, raucous, vibrating alarm clock when I had somehow repositioned myself during the night so that my head was leaning against it, I have gone for gentler methods of waking up.

I downloaded some lovely nature music to my phone so that I was woken by the sound of a babbling brook, gentle guitar music etc. When I changed phones I couldn’t find it, but I came upon something similar – birdsong. It’s been a pleasant way to wake up – until the spring and the start of the real dawn chorus.

The problem is, a little bird with a song just like the one on my phone has taken up station outside my window and he starts singing at 4am, regular as clockwork. I strongly suspect he is the actual bird they recorded for the audio clip, such is the similarity. And at 4am every morning I groggily reach for my phone and try to switch him off, so far with no success.

The song he sings is very nice – or at least it would be at any time other than 4 in the morning.

Anyway, I finally got to see him in the flesh yesterday. I was preparing my dinner (an oyster mushroom risotto –  delicious though I say it myself) when I spotted something hopping around outside. This is the little…the lovely creature I’ve been waking up to for a couple of bleary-eyed weeks or more:

I’ve identified him as a garden warbler. Not as exotic as I’d hoped for, but you would never think that something with such tiny lungs could produce such a loud sound. Now I’m going for a nap before I start work.

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Manners Maketh Man (and Woman)

I know a lot of you have come to rely on the sage advice I have been passing on from my trusty Perpetual Almanack of Folklore. Some of my followers can barely function in a social situation without first consulting this blog, so I’ve heard. Or was that a dream? I can’t remember. Anyway, here’s a bit more help for those in need – something to bear in mind at your next restaurant meal or dinner party. It’s from The Gentlewoman’s Companion, 1675:

Do not venture to eat meat so hot that the tears stand in your eyes, for thereby you betray your intolerable greediness; neither fill your mouth so full that your cheeks shall swell like a pair of Scotch bagpipes. Gnaw no bones with your teeth, nor suck them to come at the marrow.

Just one final wafer-thin mint, sir?

Or you could follow my lead and become a vegetarian. Just saying.

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What is it with Public Toilets?

I posted this a year ago, but it has become relevant again, as you will see at the bottom

(That’s Rest Rooms, America – though personally, I go elsewhere to rest.)

Oh for the old days of MEN/WOMEN or LADIES/GENTLEMEN, and locks displaying ENGAGED/VACANT.

That’s all much to easy and obvious for the modern world. The way to tell whether the toilet at my local Costa is occupied is by way of a hole the size of the Higgs-Boson particle, deeply set so that the colour is hard to see without a magnifying glass and high-intensity light. And the colour is either red or white – not green, mind but white. Quite what those not familiar with the system are supposed to make of a white sign when first coming across it, I’m not sure. Many a time I’ve seen people bending forward to try to ascertain whether the toilet is engaged or not, only for the door to open and for them to look like some sort of keyhole peeping tom.

But you’ve got to find the toilets first. Motorways service stations have taken to using abstract symbols that look like they were designed by Jackson Pollock, with a barely perceptible difference between the pictures for the two sexes. I believe the worst ones are Milton services on the A34 and Strensham on the M5. At the latter of which on one occasion, I was on my way in to the toilets (having studied the pictures for a few minutes to decide which one I dare enter) when I was passed by an elderly woman scurrying out rather rapidly. I’m not quite sure what she saw in there,  but she looked dazed and shaken and was mumbling ‘Oh, dear…’

As I say, that was last year, but on a recent trip I had reason to go in search of the toilets in a motorway service station, and among various other symbols that looked like that might be more at home on the side of an alien spacecraft, I was met with this:




I think it represents someone dropping a grape into a wine glass, as you do, but I could be wrong.

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Yes, watch out indeed – those kids might not have shoulders but they pack a mighty kick.

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Revenge from the Grave

Another diverting little snippet from my trusty Almanack of Folklore.

On May 20th, 1736, one Samuel Baldwin was buried at sea. He wasn’t a sailor and he didn’t die at sea, but it was his request to have such a burial, and he had his reasons.

His marriage hadn’t been what you might call an idyllic one – and his wife took great delight in informing him that when he was dead she would dance on his grave. Take that, Mrs B!

Mrs Baldwin off to pay her last respects.

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