by Martin Pollins | Jun 6, 2022 | General
Are you interested in unsolved crimes involving strange deaths or missing persons? They exhibit some truly baffling unsolved mysteries, whether they be unexplained disappearances, murders, or even bizarre supernatural occurrences. So far as the authorities are concerned, they were complete mysteries at the time and have remained so ever since – a little Edgar Lusgartenish perhaps…
The Body in a Wych Elm Tree
Perhaps a German spy ring was behind the death of a woman found inside a hollowed-out Wych Elm tree in Worcestershire during World War II. The unidentified victim was discovered by a group of boys in Hagley in 1943. The poor woman had cloth stuffed in her mouth, and her severed hand was buried nearby. Graffiti nearby asked Who put Luebella in the Wych Elm? so the victim subsequently became known as Bella. Police considered the possibility that Bella had been working as a prostitute or was a gipsy. They noted wych elms were thought to offer protection against witches.
One woman told police officers her Dutch lodger had boasted about putting “his Dutch piece in a tree”. Then in 1953, a letter to the Express & Star newspaper claimed Bella was murdered by a German spy ring. The publication of MI5 files detailing the capture of a German spy with a picture of the actress Clara Bauerle in his pocket led to speculation that Clara was Bella. Then, to add to the mystery, poor Bella’s skeletal remains have disappeared from Birmingham University. West Mercia Police said the reason for the disposal “was not known”.
Martin Allen – The Boy Who Never Arrived
On the afternoon of 5th November 1979, 15-year-old Martin Allen finished school and spent some time hanging around King’s Cross station in London with his friends. Then he joined his train for the journey home. But Martin never arrived home and was reported missing. A witness later recalled seeing a nervous-looking boy resembling Martin in the company of an unidentified man at Gloucester Road station that same day. The man was holding the boy’s shoulder and warning him not to run away.
Over the years, there have been strange developments in this case. In 1998, a shrine to Martin Allen was found inside the home of an alleged paedophile. This person matched the description of the man last seen with Martin, but authorities could not connect him to the disappearance.
Martin’s family believe there is a massive cover-up surrounding his case, particularly when they were informed that files and evidence related to Martin’s disappearance were destroyed in a flood, and that a police officer inexplicably took some other files with him when he retired and moved to Spain.
It has been speculated that Martin’s disappearance may be connected to a scandal involving an organised paedophile ring, in which children were allegedly delivered to high-profile figures at a brothel known as the Elm Guest House during the 1970s and 1980s. One anonymous witness came forward to claim he was a victim of the ring and had been molested by a Member of Parliament during his childhood. He also claims to have personally witnessed the murder of three other boys, one of whom may have been Martin. Yet, despite these allegations and enquiries, Martin Allen’s disappearance remains unsolved – no viable clues and no explanations.
The Andrew Gosden Mystery
One of the strangest British missing person cases involves a 14-year-old boy named Andrew Gosden. Andrew lived with his parents and sister in Doncaster. On the morning of 14th September 2007, he left home for school as usual. But he never arrived. Later that day, Andrew’s parents realised something was very wrong when they discovered his school uniform was still in his bedroom. Apparently, after his family left the house that morning, Andrew returned home to change his clothes. He then emptied his bank account of £200 before arriving at Doncaster station, where he purchased a train ticket to King’s Cross station in London. He would be captured on CCTV footage there at approximately 11:20 AM. That was the last confirmed sighting of him. Since Andrew had no known problems, his family were completely baffled by his decision to travel to London. He left no note to explain his actions and took very few items with him. Perhaps the strangest detail of all is that Andrew insisted on purchasing a one-way train ticket, even after being informed that a return ticket would cost only £1 more.
A year after Andrew’s disappearance, an unidentified man spoke into the intercom at the doorway to Leominster Police Station in Hertfordshire, claiming to have information about the case. When an officer arrived to answer the door, the man had disappeared. There is still no trace of Andrew Gosden or any explanation for his mysterious train trip.
The Inventor Who Vanished
One of the most bizarre unsolved disappearances of all time involves renowned French inventor Louis Le Prince. On 16th September 1890, while on a train heading to Paris, he vanished without a trace from a moving train. Le Prince was a French artist and the inventor of an early motion picture camera, possibly being the first person to shoot a moving picture sequence using a single lens camera and a strip of (paper) film. His work may have been slightly in advance of the inventions of other contemporaneous moving-picture pioneers and years in advance of that of Auguste and Louis Lumière, and William Kennedy Dickson (who did moving image work for Thomas Edison).
Le Prince was never able to perform a planned public demonstration in the US because he mysteriously vanished from the train in September 1890. His body and luggage were never found, but, over a century later, a police archive was found to contain a photograph of a drowned man who could have been Le Prince. The unconfirmed reasons for his disappearance are many, with theories including a murder set up by Edison, suicide, secret homosexuality, intentional disappearing in order to start a new life, and a murder by his brother over their mother’s will.
The Physicist Who Disappeared
In 1932, Ettore Majorana, one of the top physicists in the world, discovered the neutron. Six years later, he disappeared. He is not well known as he rarely published his findings, some of which were groundbreaking. Two months after his first lecture in 1938, Ettore Majorana didn’t show up to one of his classes. Antonio Carrelli, the Director of the Naples Physics Institute, was immediately worried, having previously received two cryptic letters from him.
In September 1939, WW2 began. Around that time, quite a few rumours arose that Majorana had been kidnapped by Nazis and was working in a laboratory in Berlin. However, as the German nuclear programme didn’t actually exist until 1939 (a year after Majorana’s disappearance), that theory doesn’t add up. So, where did he go? Nearly 70 years after his disappearance, in March 2011, a witness made a statement that he had met Majorana in Argentina a few years after World War 2, and in February 2015, prosecutors in Rome finally officially closed the investigation, declaring that Majorana was alive in Venezuela between 1955-1959. They concluded that his disappearance was a personal choice. Do you believe that?
The Lord who Vanished
Picture Credit: “1974 – West Midlands Police – Lord Lucan” by West Midlands Police is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The Earl of Lucan, commonly known as Lord Lucan, disappeared after being suspected of murder. His marriage had collapsed late in 1972, and he moved out of the family home in Belgravia to a property nearby. A bitter custody battle ensued, which Lucan lost. On the evening of 7th November 1974, Sandra Rivett, the nanny of Lucan’s children, was bludgeoned to death in the basement of the Lucan family home. Lady Lucan was also attacked; she later identified Lucan as her assailant. Lucan phoned his mother, asking her to collect the children, and then drove a borrowed Ford car to a friend’s house in Uckfield and later left the property and disappeared. The Ford was found abandoned in Newhaven, it’s interior stained with blood and its boot containing a piece of bandaged lead pipe similar to one found at the crime scene. The police issued a warrant for Lucan’s arrest a few days later, and the inquest into Rivett’s death named him as her murderer. Notwithstanding continuing interest in Lucan’s fate and reports of hundreds of alleged sightings, Lucan has not been found, despite a police investigation and widespread press coverage. He was declared legally dead in October 1999.
by Martin Pollins | Nov 15, 2021 | General
You may recall that HSBC has told us (and all clubs and associations throughout the UK) that a monthly fee will be imposed on the Club bank account. Also, from 1st November 2021, an additional cost will be made for cheques and cash paid in at the bank branch.
Perhaps it has a lot to do with Coronavirus, but banks don’t like to handle cash, nor do they like cheques. They love standing orders and BACS payments. To be truthful, our Treasurer doesn’t like to receive cash or cheques either. Poor Eric or Marcia have to go to the bank in-person to pay in cash and cheques.
In a nutshell, standing orders and BACS payments are desirable in more ways than one.
CAPTAIN GEORGE MAINWARING (Home Guard and Bank Manager).
Picture Credit: “A True English Hero” by Gerry Balding is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
I noticed that several members are paying for lunch by cheque. A cheque is better than cash, but HSBC will still charge for processing them. But cheques are not as good for us (or our Treasurer) as BACS payments. Nevertheless, Eric Bassett says he will continue to accept all legal forms of money!
As far as I know, all the main banks offer telephone or Internet banking. For those members who have avoided this modern way of paying people, I thought it might be helpful to share some information with you.
Personally, I use First Direct (which is part of HSBC) for all my banking needs. It’s a fantastic service and is free, albeit subject to a few conditions. Other banks may do the same, and of course, it’s up to you where you bank and how you deal with and manage your banking arrangements.
Ask anyone who uses online banking, and the chances are that they will say it’s straightforward to use. There’s no postage or envelopes to pay for, and whoever you pay will get the money straight away.
Most of the main banks allow online services on existing accounts and provide videos and written instructions etc., to help with understanding how the system works. There may or may not be a charge for the service, and there may be restrictions or conditions that apply. Some banks require you to move all your banking arrangements to them to enjoy the benefits of online banking – this can be a turn-off to some people.
It might be helpful to let you have some details of online banking in practice. I can only tell you about First Direct, which works well for me. The online banking service from other banks may be as good as, or even better than, First Direct.
As a starting point, if you have a computer or a SmartPhone, can I suggest you look up https://www1.firstdirect.com/banking/current-account/
Some key points from First Direct are:
- You get a £250 interest-free overdraft (subject to status).
- If you arrange an overdraft above the free limit of £250, you will have to pay interest.
- You will receive £100 as a welcome when you switch to First Direct * (see below).
- You get access to First Direct’s 1.00% AER/gross Regular Saver Account.
- If you telephone First Direct, you get to speak to real people here in the UK – no machines, no overseas call centres
- You get access to your bank account by telephone or Internet, 24 hours a day, every day, of the year: True 24/7, 365 banking – Online, Phone and on your Mobile
- If you pay in cash and cheques, you can pay the money into your account at HSBC branches and the Post Office®.
- You pay no monthly account fees to First Direct.
- Payments you make by standing order or BACS are entirely free.
- Anyone can apply – you have to be over 18, a UK resident, and haven’t been declared bankrupt or registered for an Individual Voluntary Agreement in the last six years (or be in the process of doing so), and have a phone number and email address at which the bank can contact you.
- A 1st account (current account) also gives you the option to set up a ‘sweep’, which automatically moves any spare money from your 1st account to a first direct Savings account on any date you choose.
* To get the £100 cash offer, you need to open a 1st account, switch your everyday banking to First Direct using the Current Account Switch Service and pay in at least £1,000 within three months of opening the account. The £100 offer is limited to one payment per customer or joint account, and you’ll get the money within 28 days of all the criteria being met. The offer only applies to people who haven’t previously held an account with First Direct and/or has not opened a HSBC current account on or after 1st January 2018. You may hold a HSBC account and still qualify for the offer, as long as the current account was opened before 1st January 2018. First Direct reserves the right to refuse your application and withdraw this offer at any time. Credit is subject to status and an assessment of your financial circumstances.
I am not recommending that you change how you pay your bills or that you should use online banking – I am merely writing to explain what’s on offer so you can see the attractions of personal banking in the 21st century. If you are interested in this subject, do feel free to email me at email@example.com. As with all things to do with money, if you are in any doubt as to the action you should take, it is recommended that you speak to your financial adviser for guidance or advice as may be appropriate in your case. Anyone not familiar with online banking services should contact their existing bank and/or consult a younger family member.
by Martin Pollins | Nov 15, 2021 | General
If you are over 65, beware of having a Fall. And, if you are over 80, take extra care because the risk of a Fall increases exponentially. The first thing to remember is that it is essential to keep calm if you have a Fall. Please note these four key facts:
FACT 1: Anyone can have a Fall, but older people are more vulnerable and likely to Fall, especially if they have a long-term health condition. Having a Fall can happen to anyone; it is an unfortunate but normal result of human anatomy. As people get older, they are more likely to fall over. Falls can become recurrent and result in injuries, including head injuries and hip fractures.
FACT 2: Falls are a common but often overlooked cause of injury. Around a third of adults over 65 and half of people over 80 will have at least one Fall a year.
FACT 3: Most Falls do not result in serious injury. But there is always a risk that a Fall could lead to broken bones, and it can cause the person to lose confidence, become withdrawn, and feel as if they have lost their independence.
FACT 4: The likelihood and severity of injury resulting from an event is related to bone health. People with low bone mineral density are more likely to experience a fracture following a Fall. One of the main reasons why people have low bone mineral density is osteoporosis. Over 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis, and they are at a much greater risk of fragility fractures. Hip fractures alone account for 1.8 million hospital bed days and £1.9 billion in hospital costs every year, excluding the high cost of social care. It is possible to improve bone density or at least help to delay it by taking calcium and vitamin D (but you must check with the GP first) and weight-bearing exercise – such as walking within your personal limitations.
If you are not hurt and feel strong enough to get up, the best advice is: don’t. Do not get up quickly. Roll onto your hands and knees and look for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or bed. Hold on to a chair or table with both hands to support yourself and slowly get up when you feel ready. Sit down and rest for a while before carrying on with your daily activities.
Are You Hurt?
If you’re hurt or unable to get up, try to get someone’s attention by calling out for help, banging on the wall or floor, or using your personal alarm or security system (if you have one). If possible, crawl to a telephone and dial 999 to ask for an ambulance. In the future, you may want to get a personal alarm system so that you can signal for help in the event of a Fall.
Try to reach something warm, such as a blanket or dressing gown, to put over you, particularly your legs and feet. Stay as comfortable as possible and try to change your position at least once every half an hour or so.
A good idea is to have a mobile phone in your pocket so you can call someone for help after having a Fall. If you have an Apple Watch Series 4 or later, it detects a hard Fall while you’re wearing your watch – it taps you on the wrist, sounds an alarm, and displays an alert. You can choose to contact emergency services or dismiss the alert by pressing the Digital Crown, tapping Close in the upper-left corner, or tapping “I’m OK.”
If you’re living with or caring for an older adult, read what to do after an incident.
Why do Falls happen?
The natural ageing process means that older people have an increased risk of having a Fall. Falls can result from both exogenous (internal) and endogenous (external) causes:
- Internal: such as slipping on spilt liquid, tripping over a rug or wearing unsuitable footwear. These are mainly avoidable – it is essential to keep your home environment safe, and you should risk-assess your home. Remove rugs or obstacles, and make sure you wear sensible shoes.
- External: these are events arising from acute health problems, such as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke) or cardiac events etc., both known and unknown.
Older people are more likely to have a Fall because of the interplay of multiple risk factors. These include:
- balance problems and muscle weakness
- vision loss or impairment
- having a history of Falls
- muscle weakness
- poor balance
- blood pressure changes – this can happen suddenly from when you are lying down then moving to standing or sitting – don’t rush: move slowly when going from one to the other to avoid feeling dizzy or sick
- polypharmacy – and the use of certain medicines
- environmental hazards (see below)
- a long-term health condition, such as heart disease,dementia or low blood pressure (hypotension), which can lead to dizziness and a brief loss of consciousness
- some specific medical conditions, which might make a person more likely to suffer a Fall
Environmental hazards can arise because:
- the floors are wet and slippery (such as in the bathroom) or have recently been polished.
- the lighting in the room is dim.
- rugs or carpets are not properly secured.
- the person reaches for storage areas, such as a cupboard, or is going down the stairs.
- the person is rushing to get to the toilet during the day or at night.
Another common cause of Falls, particularly among older men, is falling from a ladder while doing home maintenance work.
In older people, Falls can be particularly problematic because osteoporosis is a fairly common problem. It can develop in both men and women, particularly in people who smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, take steroid medicine or have a family history of hip fractures.
Older women are most at risk because osteoporosis is often associated with hormonal changes during menopause.
How to Prevent a Fall
Several simple measures can help prevent Falls in the home, for example:
- using non-slip mats in the bathroom
- mopping up spills to prevent wet, slippery floors
- ensuring that all rooms, passages, and staircases are well lit
- removing clutter
- getting help to lift or move items that are really too heavy or difficult to lift
The charity – Age UK – has more advice about home adaptations to make tasks easier.
Healthcare professionals take Falls in older people very seriously because of the enormous consequences they can have for the health and wellbeing of older people. As a result, there’s a great deal of help and support available, and it’s worth asking a GP about the options that are available. The GP may carry out some simple tests to check your balance. They can also review any medicines you’re taking in case their side effects may increase your risk of falling.
The GP may also recommend that you should:
Read HERE for more about preventing Falls.
Social care and support guide
The NHS social care and support guide explains your options and where you can get support if you:
- need help with day-to-day living because of illness or disability
- care for someone regularly because they’re ill, elderly or disabled – including family members
Falls and fractures in older people are a costly and often preventable health issue. Reducing Falls and fractures is important for maintaining health, wellbeing and independence amongst older people.
Resources and Further Information
COVID-19 related resources
- DHSC & NHIR: COVID-19 technology for strength and balance. Delivery of strength and balance exercises for Falls prevention amongst older people using digital technologies to replace face-to-face contact during COVID-19 home isolation and physical distancing.
- Keep on Keep up app. This app help reduce the high risk of Falls and physical decline in older people self-isolating during COVID-19 Lockdowns.
- Public Health England et al. Active at home. A guide to being active at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance
Royal College of Physicians
- Royal College of Physicians (2017) Bedside vision check for Falls prevention: assessment tool. The National Audit of Inpatient Falls (NAIF) has collaborated with partners to produce a new vision assessment tool that enables ward staff to quickly assess a patient’s eyesight to help prevent them from falling or tripping while in hospital.
- Royal College of Physicians (2016) Falls Prevention in Hospital: a Guide for Patients, their Families and Carers. This guide is designed to help prevent serious injury and unnecessary cost to the NHS caused by older people tripping or falling when they are in hospital.
- Royal College of Physicians (2015) FallSafe resources. FallSafe was a quality improvement project that helped frontline staff to deliver evidence-based Falls prevention.
- Royal College of Physicians. Falls and Fragility Fracture Audit Programme (FFFAP). The Falls and Fragility Fracture Audit Programme is a national clinical audit designed to audit the care that patients with fragility fractures and inpatient Falls receive in hospitals and facilitate quality improvement initiatives.
Spot the Hazard game on spotting Falls hazards in the home.
- PHE’s Everybody active, every day: an evidence-based approach to physical activity, published in 2014, is a physical activity strategy co-produced with over 1,000 partners, including health and professionals, local authorities, research specialists, educationalists, charities and fitness experts.
- Raising the Bar on Strength and Balance, Centre for Ageing Better, 2019.
- Falls Management Exercise (FaME) toolkit (2020)
Over 3 million people in the UK have osteoporosis, and they are at much greater risk of fragility fractures. Fragility fractures are fractures that result from mechanical forces that would not ordinarily result in fracture, known as low-level (or ‘low energy’) trauma. The World Health Organization (WHO) has quantified this as ‘forces equivalent to a Fall from a standing height or less’. Hip fractures alone account for 1.8 million hospital bed days and £1.1 billion in hospital costs every year, excluding the high cost of social care.
Fragility fractures are most common in bones of the spine, wrists and hips. The risk of osteoporosis starts to increase in women after menopause because their ovaries no longer produce oestrogen, which helps to protect the bones.
People may also be at increased risk of osteoporosis because it runs in their family or because of the side effects of some medications such as steroid tablets or injections. Therapies and treatments are available to help prevent fractures in people with osteoporosis. Other factors can also put a person at risk of fractures: low body weight (BMI <19), a diet lacking in calcium and vitamin D, poor mobility, smoking, alcohol, diabetes, certain long term medications, especially corticosteroids.
Any of the following medications can increase the chance of a Fall:
- Blood pressure tablets
- Heart medicines
- Muscle relaxers
- Diuretics or water tablets
- Sleeping tablets
Taking more than four medicines a day can increase your risk of a Fall. Ensure that your GP has reviewed your medications in the last six months to check they are still the most effective for you.
A hearing problem can severely affect your balance. Health conditions common in older people, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, can contribute to hearing loss. Viruses and bacteria (including the ear infection otitis media), a heart condition, stroke, brain injury, or a tumour may also affect your hearing. A 25-decibel hearing loss—equivalent to going from normal to mild hearing loss—triples your chance of having a Fall. Hearing aids work by making sounds louder and clearer. They will not restore your hearing to normal or cure your hearing loss, but they can make life much easier, according to AgeUK (HERE).
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute of Ageing discovered that hearing loss increases the risk of Falls for older people by a significant amount. The research found that the risk of having a Fall is even higher for people with more severe hearing loss: the risk increases 140% for every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss (HERE).
A word or two about Footwear and Lighting
Poorly fitting footwear will increase your falls risk.
- Avoid backless slippers; make sure your footwear fits properly and has a non-slip sole.
- Shoelaces can become a trip hazard – try slip-on shoes instead.
- Avoid walking in socks or tights as these are more slippery.
Poor lighting is often the cause of a fall. Make sure there is enough lighting to help you move safely around your living environment.
- Some energy-saving bulbs are slow to produce a lot of light. If these are in areas such as bathrooms, stairs and hallways, change to instant lighting to help you see better, alternatively leave them switched on.
- Make sure switches and cord-pulls are within easy reach during the night. A bedside lamp or a night light could be left on overnight. It’s a good idea to have a torch close handily available during the night.
- If any of your rooms suffer from daylight glare on sunny days, take extra care moving around. Natural light is good for you, so try not to shut it out.
Source: Essex County Council and North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, TUMBLES Booklet (HERE)
How to Use Walking Steadiness on an iPhone to Prevent Falls
The iPhone can now offer help for those unsteady on their feet: The iPhone Life Tip of the Day on 26th October 2021 explains how. Click HERE to read the article in full, but snippets of it appear below.
The World Health Organization says that over 37 million people each year have a Fall and suffer injuries bad enough to need medical attention. Thankfully, Apple’s iOS 15 includes a new Walking Steadiness score in the Mobility section of the Health app to help you keep yourself and your loved ones safe from Falls.
Since this Health app Walking Steadiness tip is specific to iOS 15, if you have an earlier software version, you will need to update to iOS 15 before using these steps. It’s also important to remember that Walking Steadiness metrics can’t prevent Falls altogether, but they do provide valuable data to allow you to keep track of risk factors and movement patterns related to a Fall risk.
Getting up after a Fall: prevent added injury with safe techniques
According to statistics (HERE), more than 1 in 4 people age 65 and older suffer a Fall each year. And, falling once doubles the chances of falling again. Even worse, after an older adult falls, lying on the floor for a long time or getting up badly could cause additional injury – even if they were not seriously injured from the Fall itself.
For example, someone who cannot get up from the floor or call for help may develop serious complications like dehydration, hypothermia, pneumonia, or pressure sores.
To combat these problems, it’s possible to learn safe techniques to get up from a Fall. Knowing what to do if a fall does occur and practising ahead of time will give potential fallers confidence that they’ll be able to help themselves and minimise injuries.
I found a helpful 5-minute video (click HERE) demonstration of safe techniques for getting up after a Fall – it outlines the key steps to take to get up or to call for help.
A large body of evidence shows that efforts to include exercise decrease the risk of Falls, yet the very fear of falling can reduce participation in physical activity.
Possible interventions to prevent Falls or injury from Falls, include:
- Environmental adaptations: Improvements to the person’s environment, such as their home or workplace, may help to reduce the risk of falling. These include reviewing the current living conditions, adding safety devices, such as grab handles, high friction floors, and low power lighting at night to the person’s home or work environment and identifying and removing potential hazards.
- Behavioural interventions: Regular exercise – lower limb strengthening exercises, increase muscle strength. Other forms of exercise, such as those involving gait, balance, coordination and functional tasks, may also help improve balance in older adults.
- Monitoring of medications and ongoing medical problems.
- Improvements to footwear and use of orthotic devices if required.
- Drinking water throughout the day is good for you.
- Hip protectors may decrease the risk of hip fractures slightly, although they may slightly increase the risk of a pelvic fracture in older adults living in nursing care facilities.
- Treatment for osteoporosis.
This paper is based on text derived from sources (listed below). © Copyright, including Crown Copyright when applicable, is duly acknowledged.
by Martin Pollins | Nov 15, 2021 | General
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
Rishi Sunak (below) has served as Chancellor of the Exchequer since 13 February 2020. A member of the Conservative Party, he was previously Chief Secretary to the Treasury from July 2019. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond in North Yorkshire since 2015.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Government’s chief financial minister – something akin to a Financial Director. He is responsible for raising revenue through taxation or borrowing and controlling public spending. He has overall responsibility for the work of the Treasury, and cover:
- fiscal policy (including the presenting of the annual Budget)
- monetary policy, setting inflation targets
- ministerial arrangements (in his role as Second Lord of the Treasury)
- overall responsibility for the Treasury’s response to COVID-19
What is the Budget?
Each year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer – who is in charge of the Government’s finances – makes a Budget statement to MPs in the House of Commons. It outlines the Government’s plans for raising or lowering taxes. It also includes big decisions on what the Government will spend money on – including health, schools, police and other public services. The 2021 Autumn Budget is unusual for two reasons:
- It is the second one of the year – there was a Budget in March 2021.
- It comes on the same day as the results of a spending review, which details how the Government will fund public services for the next three years.
The Government published the Budget and Spending Review in full: you can read it HERE. The Chancellor took 70 minutes to deliver his package of fiscal measures. After the Chancellor’s speech, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) – which monitors government spending – published a report on how the economy is doing. You can read the Executive Summary HERE.
Prior Announcements: giving the game away or testing the waters?
HM Treasury had already released a deluge of funding announcements, days before the Chancellor delivered his Budget on 27 October 2021. Statements from the Government setting out spending for transport, health and education were issued to the media in the few days before Autumn Budget day.
Autumn Budget 2021: Key points at-a-glance
Some parts of the Budget, such as defence spending, affect the whole of the UK. Others, such as education, only affect England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make their own decisions. Scotland has income tax-raising powers, which means its rates differ from the rest of the UK. The Scottish Government will publish its Budget on 9 December 2021.
The Chancellor painted a positive picture of the health of the UK economy as it emerges from the pandemic – in an upbeat Budget speech, he said the UK economy had not been hit as hard by the Covid pandemic as expected. He promised more money for schools, business rate cuts and took 3p off the price of a pint of beer.
- A rise in spending for every government department
- A freeze on fuel duty
- Funding per pupil in England’s schools is to be restored to 2010 levels over the next three years
- A 5% cut to the extra corporation tax banks have to pay to “maintain competitiveness.”
- An extra £2.2bn for courts, prisons and probation services, including £500m to reduce courts backlogs
- A cut in air passenger duty for internal UK flights – and a tax rise on “ultra long haul” flights
- More support for industrial research and development
- The teetotal Chancellor also announced plans to “radically simplify” alcohol tax, so that it was based purely on the strength of the drink.
- Taxes on sparkling wine, draught beer, and cider will be cut but will rise for stronger drinks such as red wine and “white ciders” from 2023.
- The planned increase in duty on spirits, wine, cider and beer due to take effect from midnight on 27 October 2021 has been cancelled.
- Also scrapped is next year’s planned increase in business rates in England. The Chancellor promised more frequent revaluations and tax breaks for firms that improve their properties, from 2023.
- In further moves to boost the leisure industry as it emerges from the pandemic, he announced a 50% business rate discount for pubs, cinemas, restaurants, gyms and other venues.
State of the economy and public finances
- Inflation in September 2021 was 3.1% and is likely to rise to an average of 4% over next year, OBR says
- UK economy forecast to return to pre-Covid levels by 2022
- Annual growth is set to rebound by 6.5% this year, followed by 6% in 2022
- Unemployment is expected to peak at 5.2% next year, lower than 11.9% previously predicted
- Wages have grown in real terms by 3.4% since February 2020
- Borrowing as a percentage of GDP is forecast to fall from 7.9% this year to 3.3% next year
- Borrowing as a percentage of GDP will then fall in the following four years to 1.5%
- Foreign aid spending is projected to return to 0.7% of GDP by 2024-25
Cost of Living
The cost of living could rise at its fastest rate for 30 years, the Government’s forecaster has warned. Its latest forecast says inflation, which measures the change in the cost of living over time, is set to jump from 3.1% to an average of 4% in 2022. However, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) says figures released since its report was compiled suggest inflation could hit almost 5%.
The Chancellor acknowledged that household budgets are strained.
Taxation and wages
- Universal Credit taper rate will be cut by 8% no later than 1 December 2021, bringing it down from 63% to 55% – allowing claimants to keep more of the payment
- Business rates are to be retained and reformed
- A 50% business rates discount for the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors in England in 2022-23, up to a maximum of £110,000
- The planned rise in fuel duty to be cancelled amid the highest pump prices in eight years
- Consultation to take place on an online sales tax
- National Living Wage to increase in 2022 by 6.6%, to £9.50 an hour
Shops, restaurants and gyms get Budget boost
Bricks and mortar firms have long complained that they are at an unfair disadvantage compared with online retailers, which do not have to pay business rates. They want to see an online sales tax being applied.
In his Budget speech, the Chancellor said that in the 2022-23 tax year, pubs, music venues, cinemas, restaurants, hotels, theatres and gyms would be able to claim a discount on their bills of 50%, up to a maximum of £110,000. He said that was a tax cut worth almost £1.7bn. In conjunction with the existing Small Business Rates Relief, the move meant more than 90% of all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses would see a discount of at least 50%.
Business rates in the retail and leisure sectors have already been reduced during the current financial year following the rates holiday during the pandemic.
The above points were extracted from the summaries posted by the BBC (HERE), and their © copyright is duly acknowledged.
The Devil is in the Detail
The government is committed, where possible, to publishing most tax legislation in draft for technical consultation before the relevant Finance Bill is laid before Parliament. The consultation on draft clauses is intended to make sure that the legislation works as intended.
The government has published explanatory notes on resolutions (HERE), which give a brief description of each of the Finance Bill resolutions. As is generally said, the ‘devil is in the detail’ meaning that what has been published so far are simply proposals to be enshrined in the Finance Bill and later, the Finance Act. The Finance Bill will be published on 4 November 2021. The government has also announced that it will bring forward a further set of tax administration and maintenance announcements later in the autumn.
Picture Credit: “Tax Form” by 401(K) 2013 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
by Martin Pollins | Nov 15, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “Raffle tickets” by HowardLake is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Running a Club Lottery or Raffle
Lotteries are a form of gambling. Raffles, tombolas and sweepstakes are all classed as lotteries. The information below is relevant to private societies: such as a sports club, a community group, Probus clubs, Masonic Lodge and any other type of organisation, provided they have not been created or run for a reason connected to gambling.
The following is based on Guidance from the Gambling Commission, HERE. As stated above, lotteries, raffles and some competitions are forms of gambling, so before you start organising, you should check if your fundraiser is classed as a lottery. You’ll also need to check if you need permission before you start selling tickets.
The law says you can run a lottery, raffle, tombola or sweepstake with people in a club, and no licence is required. It is known as a private society lottery. You must be a member of the society or club and have permission to run this type of lottery. Those taking part must be members of the society or guests who visit the society premises.
You can raise money with a private society lottery
A private lottery can be used to raise funds for your club, group or organisation, as long as the money is spent on a relevant cause.
- A tennis club could run a lottery to raise money for new equipment.
- You can also use a private society lottery as a fundraiser for a charity or other good causes.
- A private members club could run a lottery to raise money to buy the kit for a local football club.
Who can buy tickets?
You can sell tickets to members of your private society and to people who aren’t members of your society or club. However, non-members can only buy tickets on your society’s physical premises, for example, at a clubhouse or where members usually meet.
You must provide physical tickets to the people playing. However, there are no specific rules for what needs to be printed on the tickets.
You must make sure that:
- people pay the same price for each ticket
- the rights created by the ticket are non-transferable
- you only sell physical tickets: you can’t sell tickets online.
Where can the draw take place?
You can only conduct the draw at your private society’s physical location (see above). It can’t be done online.
Can I claim my costs?
Yes, you can claim money for prizes and reasonable running costs using the money you raise.
Prizes cannot be rolled over to another lottery.
Picture Credit: “Fiesta Basket Raffle Prize” by cobalt123 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The law in England, Wales and Scotland
Based on Guidance from the Fundraising Regulator, see HERE.
In the law of England, Wales and Scotland, a lottery is a type of gambling which has three essential characteristics.
- You must pay to enter the ‘game’.
- There is always at least one prize.
- Prizes are awarded purely by chance.
The Gambling Act 2005 created six categories of lotteries.
- Private lotteries, including:
- private-society lotteries;
- work lotteries; and
- residents’ lotteries.
- Lotteries that are held at events (known as ‘incidental lotteries’).
- Customer lotteries. (Please note that, as customer lotteries cannot make a profit, they are not suitable for fundraising.)
- Small-society lotteries.
- Large-society lotteries.
- Local-authority lotteries. (These are run by local authorities and so are outside the scope of the code.)
Each type of lottery has its own standards, and you can find an overview of these in the Gambling Commission Guidance.
A lottery run by or for the benefit of a charitable institution will fall under the definition of a society lottery. However, that does not prevent you or those fundraising on your behalf from running lotteries under another appropriate category.
Lotteries that fall within categories 1 and 2 above do not need a licence or permission from any authority if the charitable institution meets the rules that apply. Tombolas, lotteries and raffles held at events that fall within category 2 are a common type of fundraising. These do not need a licence or permission from any authority (although you should get permission from the event organiser or site owner). For more information, see the Gambling Commission’s Guidance on organising small lotteries.
For lotteries that fall within categories 4 and 5, the society must have the relevant permission from either a local authority (in the case of small society lotteries) or the Gambling Commission (in the case of large society lotteries) before marketing or selling tickets. You can visit the Gambling Commission’s website for more information on small-society lotteries that don’t need a licence and society lotteries that do require a licence or registration.
Sometimes, large charitable institutions outsource part of the work involved in running large-society lotteries to an external lottery manager (ELM). You can find Gambling Commission guidance on ELMs here.
by Martin Pollins | Nov 12, 2021 | General
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a complicated and serious condition of which there are many different types. This paper provides an overview of the condition with details of needle-free blood sugar monitoring. Diabetes prevents your body from converting sugars and starches in your food into energy. The body uses insulin to do this. A diabetic person’s blood glucose level is often too high because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. It can lead to complications that significantly impact the quality of life and health, including increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
The World Health Organization, HERE, says this about diabetes:
Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin. In the past three decades, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in countries of all income levels. Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin by itself. For people living with diabetes, access to affordable treatment, including insulin, is critical to their survival. There is a globally agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025.
According to the European Society of Cardiology, over 460 million people worldwide have diabetes, the majority living in low-and middle-income countries, and 4.2 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year. Both the number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have been steadily increasing over the past few decades. The Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation say that there are currently more than 3.8 million people with diabetes in the UK. It is estimated that a further 500,000 adults have type 2 diabetes but don’t know it. Currently, the treatment and care of diabetes and its related conditions use around 10% of the annual NHS spend, approximately £10 billion per year.
Types of Diabetes
As mentioned above, the two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2: different conditions, but they’re both serious.
- With type 1 diabetes, you can’t make any insulin at all. The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, but it is thought to be an auto-immune process. In effect, the body produces antibodies to the pancreas – damaging it and preventing it from producing insulin. Type 1 diabetes only affects about 10% of all people with diabetes, and it usually starts below the age of 40.
- If you’ve got type 2 diabetes, the insulin you make either can’t work effectively, or you can’t produce enough of it. Type 2 diabetes is more likely to affect older people, although it is being found increasingly in younger people – especially if they are overweight and lack physical activity. Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to obesity and tends to run in families.
- Other types of diabetes include gestational diabetes, which some women may go on to develop during pregnancy. And there are many other rarer types of diabetes, such as type 3c and Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA).
A rare condition called diabetes insipidus is not related to diabetes mellitus (the Latin name for diabetes), although it has a similar name. It’s a different condition in which your kidneys remove too much fluid from your body.
In all types of diabetes, glucose can’t get into your cells properly, so it begins to build up in your blood. And too much glucose in your blood causes a lot of different problems. Untreated high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs.
Sources: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics and https://www.drwf.org.uk/understanding-diabetes
Picture Credit: “Piercing a finger, close up. Person’s hand checking blood sugar level with glucometer” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0
If a person with diabetes is testing for glucose levels, it’s essential to know what the blood glucose level means. Recommended blood glucose levels have a degree of interpretation for every individual and should be discussed with the healthcare team. In addition, women may be set target blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
The following ranges are guidelines provided by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), but each individual’s target range should be agreed with their doctor or diabetic consultant. The NICE recommended target blood glucose levels are stated below for adults with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and children with type 1 diabetes. The table provides general guidance. The individual target set by your healthcare team is the one that should be aimed for.
NICE recommended target blood glucose level range
|Target Levels by Type
||At least 90 minutes after meals
|Type 2 diabetes
||4 to 7 mmol/L
||under 8.5 mmol/L
|Type 1 diabetes
||5 to 7 mmol/L
||4 to 7 mmol/L
||5 to 9 mmol/L
|Children with type 1 diabetes
||4 to 7 mmol/L
||4 to 7 mmol/L
||5 to 9 mmol/L
Normal and diabetic blood sugar ranges
For the majority of healthy individuals, normal blood sugar levels are as follows:
- Between 4.0 to 5.4 mmol/L (72 to 99 mg/dL) when fasting
- Up to 7.8 mmol/L (140 mg/dL) 2 hours after eating
For people with diabetes, blood sugar level targets are as follows:
- Before meals: 4 to 7 mmol/L for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes
- After meals: under 9 mmol/L for people with type 1 diabetes and under 8.5mmol/L for people with type 2 diabetes
Needle-Free Diabetes Care
Including excerpts from an article by Clara Rodríguez Fernández at: https://www.labiotech.eu/best-biotech/blood-sugar-monitor-diabetes/
People with diabetes, who take insulin to regulate blood sugar, need to test their glucose levels several times daily (see picture above). At first, these finger pricks with a lancet may not be painful or uncomfortable, but over time that can change. It may result in less frequent testing and consequently worsening control of blood sugar levels.
Now, the daily routine of finger pricking may have come to an end with the influx to the market of ‘smart’ devices that painlessly monitor blood sugar. Many companies worldwide aim to make the lives of millions of people with diabetes better by developing non-invasive glucose monitoring methods.
Non-invasive continuous glucose meters (CGMs) are considered convenient and effective, although they may not be as accurate as traditional meters. A CGM is a type of meter that doesn’t require a blood sample. Most CGMs detect glucose through interstitial fluids in skin tissues. Some CGMs have the capability of connecting to and downloading blood glucose information to your smartwatch. But thus far, no smartwatch can directly measure your blood sugar.
The UK Diabetes.org.uk charity says (HERE) that a CGM doesn’t actually measure your blood glucose levels – it measures the amount of glucose in the fluid that surrounds your body cells – called interstitial fluid. There is a short time delay when checking this fluid, especially after eating or if you’re exercising. So your CGM result isn’t always precisely the same as your finger-prick result. This means you’ll still need to do a finger-prick test if you’re thinking of changing your treatment at any point: for example, if you need to take more insulin or if you’re treating a hypo, so you can get the most accurate result.
A CGM has three parts:
- A sensor that sits just underneath your skin and measures your sugar levels.
- A transmitter that’s attached to the sensor and sends your levels to your display device.
- A display device that shows you your sugar level. This might be a separate handheld device (known as “standalone” CGM) or a pump (known as an “integrated system”).
CGM comes with software to analyse your results and see patterns in your sugar levels over time.
You generally wear a sensor for up to seven days, and after that, you need to replace it. When you change your sensor, you reattach the transmitter to your new sensor. You need to calibrate a CGM by checking your finger-prick blood glucose levels, generally twice a day.
What Needle-Free Options are there?
The number of needle-free options available is increasing all the time. It is best to speak to your GP or diabetic specialist about which option might be best for you. Some of the options available today are:
One of the best new products is FreeStyle Libre, developed by Abbott Diabetes Care in the US, which measures glucose levels in the interstitial fluid between the cells right under the skin. The FreeStyle Libre system is a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) worn on the upper arm that provides real-time blood glucose (blood sugar) readings every minute for people who have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, especially those who take insulin.
The Freestyle Libre systems you can choose from are:
- The original Freestyle Libre 14-day system(approved for adults 18 and older).
- The Freestyle Libre 2 system (approved for adults and children age four and older).
See: https://www.verywellhealth.com/freestyle-libre-a-glucose-meter-without-a-finger-prick-4154266 and https://www.freestylelibre.co.uk/libre/
The German firm DiaMonTech has developed a family of solutions: A desktop device for clinical settings and multiple users (D-Base), a compact pocket device for the end-user (D-Pocket) and a watch-like device you can wear on your wrist that measures your glucose levels continuously (D-Sensor). Each device can also communicate with your mobile phone, so you can check your information at any time and take immediate action. Measurement of blood sugar levels is achieved by beaming an infrared laser through the skin of a finger and causing glucose in the skin to convert the light to heat. The machine then calculates the glucose levels based on how much the skin’s heat increases, although the temperature rise is too small to be noticed by the user. For further information, visit https://www.diamontech.de/home.
Developed by the US company Senseonics, Eversense is a subcutaneous (under the skin) implant that continuously monitors blood glucose levels. Although it initially needs to be installed under the skin by a doctor, the sensor can last for up to three months before needing a replacement. Eversense measures glucose in the interstitial fluid under the skin of the upper arm by using a polymer that fluoresces in response to the levels of blood sugar. The data is then sent to a transmitter that displays the blood glucose levels in real-time. For further information, visit https://www.ascensiadiabetes.com/eversense/eversense-cgm-system/.
The Dexcom G6 is a one-touch applicator that easily inserts a small sensor just beneath the skin. The sensor continuously measures glucose levels just beneath the skin and sends data wirelessly to a display device through a transmitter. The customisable high and low alerts help you keep in range; the fixed Urgent Low alarm tells you when your blood sugar level is dangerously low, and a unique predictive warning can warn you up to 20 minutes before a serious low – so you can take action to avoid it. The display device is an Apple or Android compatible smart device or touch screen receiver that displays real-time glucose data. For further details and buying options, visit https://www.dexcom.com/en-GB/thedifference-info.
Developed by the US-Israeli company Integrity Applications, GlucoTrack can monitor blood sugar levels through a combination of ultrasonic, electromagnetic, and thermal waves. GlucoTrack® DF-F includes a Main Unit, which has a big colour touch screen with large digits, audible results and a Personal Ear Clip, which is clipped to the earlobe and contains sensors to measure glucose levels in the tissue. The device is small, light, easy to use and handle. The device is indicated for adults with type 2 diabetes and is marketed in Europe. For further details and buying options, visit http://www.glucotrack.com/.
Blood Lows and Highs
Counting carbohydrates every time you eat is a vital part of maintaining normal blood glucose levels. It helps people with diabetes determine how much insulin to take. It’s a juggling act to take enough but not too much insulin to ensure that no lows or highs occur.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia, or ‘hypo’) is when your blood sugar drops too low. A low blood sugar level can be dangerous if it’s not treated quickly. Low blood sugar can be caused by taking too much insulin, not having sufficient carbohydrates with the last meal, skipping meals or intense exercise.
Signs of low blood sugar include trembling, tingling lips, sweating, feeling tired, dizziness, feeling hungry, a fast or pounding heartbeat (palpitations), becoming irritated easily, being tearful, anxious or moody, or turning pale. These warning signs are the body’s way of telling you that there is a problem. A series of hypos over a short period may cause the body to switch off these warning signs until equilibrium returns.
To best treat low blood sugar, the general solution is to have some sweets or a non-diet sugary drink, followed by carbohydrate as a snack, like toast or a main meal.
If you keep getting a low blood sugar level, it is recommended that you talk to your diabetes care team about things you can do to help prevent it. For further information, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/low-blood-sugar-hypoglycaemia/#overview.
Hyperglycaemia is the medical term for a high blood sugar (glucose) level. It’s a common problem for people with diabetes. It can affect people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, and pregnant women with gestational diabetes. It can occasionally affect people who do not have diabetes, but usually only seriously ill people, such as those who have recently had a stroke or heart attack or have a severe infection.
The aim of glucose control is to keep blood sugar levels as near to normal as possible. But if you have diabetes, no matter how careful you are, you’re likely to experience hyperglycaemia at some point. It’s important to recognise and treat hyperglycaemia, as it can lead to serious health and life-threatening problems if left untreated:
- Occasional mild episodes are not usually a cause for concern and can be treated quite easily or may return to normal on their own.
- Hyperglycaemia can be potentially dangerous if blood sugar levels become very high or stay high for long periods.
For further information, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-sugar-hyperglycaemia/.
Further Useful Information about Diabetes
by Martin Pollins | Nov 12, 2021 | General
Everyone has it, but few people know how it’s made and what it does. Blood is a red liquid in humans and many animals. Blood is pushed through the body by the heart and brings nutrients and oxygen to our tissues. It also takes away waste and carbon dioxide from tissues. Blood is made up of blood plasma and various cells — red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Where Blood comes from Blood cells are made in the bone marrow and the spleen. The bone marrow is the soft material in the middle of bones. Special cells in the bone marrow make most of the blood cells in your body. Plasma proteins are produced mainly by the liver. The water and electrolytes in plasma come from the food and water that you eat. Although blood is a fluid, in some ways, it is a kind of connective tissue. Its cells originate in bone marrow and the spleen, and in the blood, there are potential molecular fibres in the form of fibrinogen. These are activated when a blood clot forms. Red Blood Cells Picture Credit: “Red Blood cells” by SciTechTrend is marked with CC PDM 1.0 Red blood cells get their colour from haemoglobin, which is red. There are millions of haemoglobin molecules in each red blood cell and millions of red blood cells in the human body. When haemoglobin has oxygen attached, it is called oxyhemoglobin. Haemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that contains iron. It is used to transport oxygen around the human body. It is also involved in the transport of other gases. It carries some of the body’s respiratory carbon dioxide (about 20-25% of the total). Another name for red blood cells is erythrocyte. ‘Erythro’ means red; ‘cyte’ means cell. RBC is an acronym for red blood cells. RBCs also help the blood stay normal pH. The blood needs to be at a pH of 7.4. If it is much more or less than 7.4, a person can get very sick or die. RBCs are a buffer for the pH of the blood. Buffer means that it stops changes in pH. The proteins and the carbon dioxide in the RBC are buffers for the blood. If you do not have enough RBCs, you will die. Source: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood and https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemoglobin White Blood Cells White blood cells (WBCs) help fight infections and heal wounds. White blood cells are a big part of the body’s immune system as they attack things that do not belong in the body. They kill germs such as bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. White blood cells also help to fight other toxic substances. White blood cells find where the germs are and start to destroy them. WBCs arrive in the blood. They also go out of the blood in places where there is infection. WBCs do this to fight the germs that cause the infection. If they go out of the blood to fight an infection, they may return to the lymphatic system. So WBCs are in lymph nodes. Another name for white blood cell is leukocyte. Leuko means white, cyte means cell. There are three main kinds of WBCs: lymphocytes, granulocytes and monocytes. Some of the WBCs mature into cells that do similar work in the tissues. The different WBCs work in different ways. Some WBCs kill and eat germs and cancer cells. Some WBCs make antibodies. These are proteins that stick to a cell and tell other WBCs to kill it. Some WBCs make chemicals. They release these chemicals to fight things that do not belong in the body. These chemicals cause inflammation in a part of the body. When a germ makes someone sick, the body shows it. If a bacteria gets under someone’s skin and causes an infection, the skin gets red, hot, and painful. This redness, heat, and pain are signs of inflammation showing that WBCs are fighting the infection and killing the bacteria. Platelets Platelets help the blood to clot. Platelets are also called thrombocytes. A clot is when the liquid blood becomes solid. The body makes blood clots when the skin is cut. It stops blood from leaking from the site of the cut or bruise. Blood needs to be able to clot. But, rarely, some blood clots are harmful. If a blood clot happens in a blood vessel going to the brain, it can cause a stroke. If it occurs in a blood vessel going to the heart, it can cause a heart attack. These things do not usually happen to young, healthy people. Platelets are not the only things that make clots. There are proteins in the blood that help make clots. Both platelets and clotting proteins are needed to make good clots. Source: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood Blood Plasma Blood plasma is the yellow liquid in which blood cells float. Plasma comprises nutrients, electrolytes (salts), gases, non-protein hormones, waste, lipids, and proteins. These proteins are albumin, antibodies (also called immunoglobulins), clotting factors, and protein hormones. Plasma that does not have the protein fibrinogen is called serum and cannot clot. Adults have about three litres of plasma. Plasma is a liquid and takes up 55% of blood volume. It is mostly water (90-92%). The contents of the remaining 8-10% include:
- mineral salts
Source: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood and https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/196001#structure Anaemia Anaemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Having anaemia, also referred to as low haemoglobin or low iron levels, can make you feel tired and weak. There are many forms of anaemia, each with its own cause. Low iron levels are usually treated with iron tablets prescribed by a GP and by eating iron-rich foods. Common symptoms of anaemia can include:
- tiredness and lack of energy
- shortness of breath
- noticeable heartbeats (heart palpitations)
- pale skin
Less common symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia (that are not usually connected to pregnancy) include:
- hearing ringing, buzzing or hissing noises inside your head (tinnitus)
- food tasting strange
- feeling itchy
- a sore tongue
- hair loss – you notice more hair coming out when brushing or washing it
- wanting to eat non-food items, such as paper or ice (pica)
- finding it hard to swallow (dysphagia)
- painful open sores (ulcers) in the corners of your mouth
- spoon-shaped nails
- restless legs syndrome
Untreated iron deficiency anaemia:
- can make you more at risk of illness and infection – a lack of iron affects the immune system
- may increase your risk of developing complications that affect the heart or lungs – such as an abnormally fast heartbeat (tachycardia) or heart failure
- in pregnancy, can cause a greater risk of complications before and after birth
Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/iron-deficiency-anaemia/ Blood Types There are eight main blood types, but some are rarer than others. The list below shows the percentage of donors with each blood type:
- O positive: 35%
- O negative: 13%
- A positive: 30%
- A negative: 8%
- B positive: 8%
- B negative: 2%
- AB positive: 2%
- AB negative: 1%
The data above comes from blood.co.uk and is believed to be accurate as of December 2018. Percentage figures have been rounded to the nearest whole number. Can blood change? It’s very rare, but possible, for someone’s blood type to change. It can occur through the addition or suppression of an antigen, which can happen during an infection, malignancy or because of an auto-immune disease. Another cause of blood type changing happens during a bone marrow transplant. People who receive bone marrow from someone with a different ABO type will eventually switch to the donor’s blood type. Blood Groups There are four main blood groups (types of blood) – A, B, AB and O. Your blood group is determined by the genes you inherit from your parents. Each group can be either RhD positive or RhD negative, which means there are eight blood groups in total. Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-groups/ Antibodies and Antigens Blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in a liquid called plasma. Antibodies and antigens in the blood identify your blood group. Antibodies are proteins found in plasma. They’re part of your body’s natural defences. They recognise foreign substances, such as germs, and alert your immune system, which destroys them. Antigens are protein molecules found on the surface of red blood cells. Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-groups/ The ABO System The ABO system defines four main blood groups:
- blood group A – has A antigens on the red blood cells with anti-B antibodies in the plasma
- blood group B – has B antigens with anti-A antibodies in the plasma
- blood group O – has no antigens, but both anti-A and anti-B antibodies in the plasma
- blood group AB – has both A and B antigens, but no antibodies
Blood group O is the most common blood group. Almost half of the UK population (48%) has blood group O. Receiving blood from the wrong ABO group can be life-threatening. For example, suppose someone with group B blood is given group A blood. In that case, their anti-A antibodies will attack the group A cells. This is why group A blood must never be given to someone who has group B blood and vice versa. As group O red blood cells do not have any A or B antigens, it can safely be given to any other group. The NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) website has more information about the different blood groups. Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-groups/ The Rh system Red blood cells sometimes have another antigen, a protein known as the RhD antigen. If this is present, your blood group is RhD positive. If it’s absent, your blood group is RhD negative. This means you can be one of eight blood groups:
- A RhD positive (A+)
- A RhD negative (A-)
- B RhD positive (B+)
- B RhD negative (B-)
- O RhD positive (O+)
- O RhD negative (O-)
- AB RhD positive (AB+)
- AB RhD negative (AB-)
About 85% of the UK population is RhD positive (36% of the population has O+, the most common type). In most cases, O RhD negative blood (O-) can safely be given to anyone. It’s often used in medical emergencies when the blood type is not immediately known. It’s safe for most recipients because it does not have any A, B or RhD antigens on the cells’ surface and is compatible with every other ABO and RhD blood group. The NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) website has more information about the Rh system. Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-groups/ Blood Group test To work out your blood group, your red cells are mixed with different antibody solutions. If, for example, the solution contains anti-B antibodies and you have B antigens on your cells (you’re blood group B), it will clump together. If the blood does not react to any of the anti-A or anti-B antibodies, it is blood group O. A series of tests with different types of antibodies can be used to identify your blood group. If you have a blood transfusion – where blood is taken from one person and given to another – your blood will be tested against a sample of donor cells that contain ABO and RhD antigens. If there’s no reaction, donor blood with the same ABO and RhD type can be used. Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-groups/ Pregnancy Pregnant women are always given a blood group test because if the mother is RhD negative, but the child has inherited RhD-positive blood from the father, it could cause complications if left untreated. RhD-negative women of child-bearing age should always only receive RhD-negative blood. Read more about Rhesus disease. Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-groups/ Fascinating Facts about Blood
- The word “blood” appears at least once in every play by William Shakespeare.
- Not every animal has red blood. Spiders, lobsters, crabs and snails have blue blood due to the presence of the protein haemocyanin (it contains copper). Earthworms and leeches have green blood. Many invertebrates, such as starfish, have clear or yellowish blood.
- Cows have 800 (and possibly more) blood types.
- The amount of blood in a pregnant mother’s body will have increased by 50% by the 20th week of pregnancy.
- Human blood contains around 0.2 milligrams of gold.
- Some Japanese people believe that blood type is an indicator of a person’s personality. There are even novelty goods themed after blood types.
- Research has shown that mosquitoes prefer blood type O.
- There are 150 Billion red blood cells in one ounce of blood and 2.4 Trillion red blood cells in one pint of blood.
- The human body manufactures 17 million red blood cells per second. In the event of stress, the body can produce up to seven times that amount (Up to 119 million red blood cells per second.)
- A red blood cell is around seven microns in size (a micron is one-millionth of a metre).
- It takes just 20 to 60 seconds for a drop of blood to travel from the heart, through your body, and back to the heart again.
- Nearly 7% of the body weight of a human is made up of blood.
- An adult body has 100,000 kilometres or 62,000 miles of blood vessels running throughout the body.
- The average volume of blood present in an adult male body is 5.6 litres, while an adult female body contains 4.5 litres of blood. A newborn baby will have around one cup of blood in its body.
- The only place where blood cannot be found in the human body is the cornea (eye) because it can directly extract oxygen from the air.
- The supply of blood in blood vessels located in the nose increases when someone catches a cold. This increase happens to keep the nose warm. As a result, blood vessels dilate and increase mucus production and cause a runny nose.
- More than 400 gallons of blood are filtered by our kidneys every day.
- Nearly 1/4th of the cells in the human body are red blood cells. In an adult human body, it’s estimated that there are 20-30 trillion red blood cells. The total number of white blood cells in an adult human body is between 4,000 and 11,000.
- Nearly two million red blood cells in an adult human body die every second. Fortunately, they are replaced by new cells produced in the bone marrow.
- The human heart pumps 1.5 million barrels of blood during a lifetime.
- At age 13, an Australian named James Harrison needed 13 litres of blood for major surgery. After he turned 18, he started donating blood. It was found that his blood contained a very rare antigen that was capable of curing Rhesus disease. To date, Harrison has donated blood 1,000 times (over 60 years) and is responsible for saving over two million babies from that disease.
- Kidneys regulate the production of red blood cells in the human body. Kidneys are responsible for producing erythropoietin hormone (EPO) that binds with the receptors in stem cell walls in the bone marrow, and after a complex set of events, the DNA of stem cells are transformed into red blood cells.
- Kidneys will release EPO only when it finds that oxygen levels in the blood have fallen below normal levels. Thus, kidneys are responsible for measuring the levels of oxygen in the blood.
Giving Blood Most people can give blood, but only 1 in 25 people actually do. You can donate blood if you:
- are fit and healthy
- weigh at least 50kg (7st 12lb)
- are 17-66 years old (or 70 if you’ve given blood before)
- are over 70 and have given blood in the last two years
Source: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/blood-groups/ For further information about who can and cannot donate blood, please go to the World Health Organization website, HERE. Picture Credit: “Blood donation” by Canadian Blood Services is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
by Martin Pollins | Nov 11, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: [Cropped) “Day 17 – Blockbuster” by Hornbeam Arts is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
You might be forgiven if you haven’t noticed that several once-famous brand names have disappeared from the high street. Vanished, gone forever, their pursuit for profit and growth failing against the twin threat of online shopping and spiralling rents. Other reasons for failure include failing to innovate, poor marketing, failing to cater to customers’ needs and not moving with the times. Here are some names that you won’t see on your high street today:
BHS (British Home Stores): The UK brand of BHS shut its doors for good in June 2016. Originally founded in 1928, the popular retailer had accumulated debts of more than £1.3billion, including a pension deficit of £571million. BHS bosses had attempted to negotiate a rescue deal more than two months before the closure which eventually fell through.
John Collier (the window to watch): John Collier was a British chain of shops selling men’s clothes. It was started in Leeds in 1907 by Henry Price and expanded to over 399 stores across the country, most of which traded under the Fifty Shilling Tailors brand. In 1958, the company was sold to UDS, which renamed it John Collier. It continued to trade within UDS until 1983 when UDS itself was sold to Hanson plc, who sold it to a management buy-out team. In 1985, the company was sold to the Burton Group, but the brand was discontinued and no longer exists.
Borders: This international book retailer first appeared in Britain in 1998. It broke away from its American parent company in 2007 to become recognised in its own right. Something you couldn’t have with online shops was the comfortable browsing experience of books, music and film complemented by Borders’ in-house coffee shops. But it wasn’t enough. It collapsed in June 2009 in the face of mounting debts blaming its declining sales on a rapidly changing market that stemmed predominantly from the increasing availability of digital books.
Toys R Us: The American toy store outlet Toys R Us was founded in its modern iteration in 1957 and was a popular destination for parents to treat their children to an assortment of branded games and electronics. But it was forced to close all of its stores in Britain and America in April 2018, blaming the brand’s lack of innovation and the unnecessary burden of warehouse space costing a fortune in rent. More than 3,000 jobs were lost when the company went bust.
Staples: Staples was a stationery store that disappeared from Britain’s High Street in 2016 after its UK branches were sold to restructuring firm Hilco. The management’s plans for a multi-million merger with its fellow American supplier Office Depot in May 2016, was abandoned on competition grounds.
Shoe Shops: In 1891, a shoemaker called John Sears set up a small shoe manufacturing business in his workshop. His humble enterprise became the Sears, the vast conglomerate that encompassed shipbuilding, Selfridges, William Hill the bookmakers and the Mappin & Webb jewellery chain. At its peak in the 1980s, Sears’ footwear division – the British Shoe Corporation (BSC) – accounted for one in four pairs of shoes sold in Britain. But Britain’s footwear industry was starting to show its age and was in deep trouble: declining sales, rising shop costs and a flurry of fashionable and cheap entrants into the sector eventually changed how and where we buy shoes. Freeman, Hardy Willis was a major chain of footwear retailers in Britain, established in 1875. For many years, there was a branch in nearly every town in the UK. In 1929, the company was acquired by Sears plc, and went on to own the Trueform, Curtess, Dolcis, Manfield, Saxone, and Lilley & Skinner brands. In the early 1990s, the British Shoe Corporation converted approximately half of its 540 Freeman Hardy Willis branches into Hush Puppies shops. It sold the remainder to an entrepreneur whose business empire collapsed within a year. After providing “Shoes For All The Family” since 1875, Freeman Hardy Willis was no more by 1996. Forty-four former FHW branches were sold to Stead & Simpson. British Shoe Corporation itself closed in 1998.
Littlewoods: Littlewoods was a great little shop that many people were sad to see leave the British high street, although it’s still around as a catalogue. It was founded in the early 1920s by John Moores of Liverpool and was originally intended as a betting shop but flourished into more of a department store, and at one time in its history, the shop was the largest family-owned retail firm in the UK. It ceased operations in 2005, and in the end, just under half of its shop locations were sold to Primark.
Tandy Electronics: Tandy was a serious contender to the Dixons and Comet chain stores, but it ultimately couldn’t compete on the high street with the other competitors and lost out. Tandy seems to exist in a limited form online, but it’s definitely not the electronics store we knew. At one point, it had over 222 shops worldwide, but now they are all gone.
Virgin Megastores: This was definitely one of the biggest names to disappear from the High Street. Virgin Megastores were a fantastic place for movies, video games and music. Virgin Megastore still exists in the Middle East and North Africa and still runs over 44 stores in these regions.
Focus: Focus was a big DIY chain that couldn’t keep up with the competition. In 1998, investors decided to swallow up some of the company’s main competitors and made a move for Do It All DIY. Focus and Do It All joined forces to become the aptly-named Focus Do It All, complete with a brand new logo. But it couldn’t be saved from administration after trying to weather the recession and in early 2011, the closure of 120 Focus Do It All stores resulted in 3,000 job losses.
Poundworld: Poundworld was around for years competing against other £1 stores, but it went the same way as so many other stores and was lost, closing in August 2018. The chain, founded in the mid-1970s, became one of the biggest pound shop mainstays on the high street, opposite its number one competitor Poundland.
Woolworths: Also known as Woolworth’s and even Woolworth, Woolworths was one of the best-loved high street stores of the nation for decades. It was the largest department store chain back in 1979, and at its peak, it had over 800 shops in the UK but closed down in the 2000s – every now and then, there is talk of a Woolworth’s revival, especially as people seem to remember the brand with fondness. But it hasn’t happened yet.
Athena: Remember Athena? It was that random high street chain that always had generic artwork in the window. Athena was founded in 1964 and enjoyed a fairly successful run before going into administration in 1995 due to a massive decline in profits. Some shops remained open in Exeter, but the last one finally closed its doors in 2014. However, you might not be aware that Athena still exists as a thriving internet business. It seems to sell plenty of generic travel posters and album covers, but it was always worth a look!
Blockbuster: Before the days of Netflix, Blockbuster soared as the UK’s most popular video rental shop. But as a result of such high competition online, it went into administration in September 2010 and again in 2013, closing its remaining stores that year.
C&A: C&A was a classic high street store originating in the Netherlands but headquartered in Brussels. It first began operating in the UK in 1922, and business quickly started booming. However, competition from other department stores over the years meant that C&A couldn’t keep up with new trends and started looking increasingly out of place. It was hit with a downturn in the UK clothing market and didn’t manage to survive. In 2000/2001, the company closed all of its UK stores bar 11 locations which rival Primark acquired.
And that’s not all
It doesn’t end there: many other shops are absent from our high streets, although some have an online presence. To name but a few: MFI, Gamleys, Gadget Shop, Past Times, Army & Navy Stores, Allders, Tie Rack, Principals, Dewhurst the Butchers, Comet, Austin Reed, Banana Republic, Laura Ashley, Monsoon, Oasis, Dunn & Co, Accessorize, MacFisheries and Thomas Cook. Sadly, the list grows ever longer.
Click here for defunct department stores of the UK.
Finally, why not read Who’s gone bust in retail, published by the Centre for Retail Research, available at: https://www.retailresearch.org/whos-gone-bust-retail.html
by Martin Pollins | Nov 11, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “Ring around the rosie” by Thad Zajdowicz is marked with CC0 1.0
How effective was medieval medicine to combat the diseases of the time? Dr Elma Brenner (the Wellcome Collection’s medieval specialist) wrote about this on History Extra, the official website for BBC History Magazine (here). She asks whether medieval scholars could grasp the causes of these epidemics and explores the medical treatments available to counter them.
There were many sicknesses around that needed attention and eradication. Some are covered in Dr Brenner’s article:
The Black Death: The worst plague outbreak of them all (in Europe 1347–51) was blamed on an inauspicious planetary alignment. It was terrifying and killed up to 60% of the population. Doctors were powerless to treat it. This illness appeared in two main forms: pneumonic plague, which affected the lungs and made the sufferer cough up blood, and bubonic plague, which caused swellings (buboes) on the body, especially in the groin and armpits. Modern-day scientists have identified the cause as the bacterium Yersinia pestis, carried by wild rodents. The bubonic form was transmitted to humans via fleas, but the pneumonic form, the most lethal strain, was transferred from person to person through the air.
The French physician and surgeon Guy de Chauliac witnessed the epidemic in Avignon in 1348, where it had spread rapidly from Italy. After falling into a gravely dangerous fever, De Chauliac was one of the few to recover from bubonic plague. He identified the primary cause as a conjunction of planets in the sign of Aquarius in 1345, thus corrupting the air.
The Pox: Although the pox only affected Europeans in the 1490s, it immediately caused great anxiety and fear. This sexually transmitted disease, roughly equivalent to modern-day syphilis, caused pain and unsightly swellings and could attack the nose and the face. Contemporaries linked it to prostitutes and immoral behaviour.
Leprosy: After the plague, leprosy is the disease most synonymous with the Middle Ages. It was undoubtedly a major issue for contemporaries, judging by its prominence in medieval literature, art, documents and saints’ lives. Comparatively few people developed leprosy since it isn’t heavily contagious, but those who did get it suffered skin sores, facial disfigurement and even blindness in some cases.
Dysentery: In late medieval England, outbreaks of an epidemic illness known as ‘the bloody flux’ or ‘dysentery’ were reported. This intestinal infection, causing blood-filled diarrhoea, manifested mainly in crowded, dirty conditions. Though thoroughly unpleasant and deadly, it was much less frequent than plague epidemics.
Bubonic plague: The most intensely feared killer in medieval Europe was pestilential illness. The Black Death of 1347–51 was unprecedented and decimated more than half of the population in some areas. Following another epidemic in the 1360s, there were recurrent plague outbreaks in England, France, Italy and elsewhere well into the 17th century.
The Sweating Sickness: This disease was almost exclusively confined to England. I wrote about the sweating sickness in the June 2021 edition of Nil Desperandum (page 14).
Seeing a Doctor
Most people in Medieval times never saw a doctor. They were treated by the local ‘wise-woman’ who was skilled in using herbs, or by the priest, or the barber, who pulled out teeth, set broken bones and performed other operations. The cures’ available were a mixture of superstition (magic stones and charms were very popular), religion (for example, driving out evil spirits from people who were mentally ill) and herbal remedies (some of which are still used today). Monks and nuns also ran hospitals in their monasteries, which took in the sick and dying.
With many wars going on at the time, doctors and barber-surgeons had plenty of practice in treating wounds and broken bones. They were able to set broken bones in plaster and seal wounds to stop them from getting infected. They knew how to use alcohol or plants like mandragora to send people to sleep or dull the pain of operations if that’s what you might call it. They could even remove diseased parts of the body, for example, the gallbladder, and deliver babies by Caesarean section.
In the middle ages, dentists were called dentatores, who had also learnt a great deal from Arab specialists. They had files, forceps, and many other tools and could remove decay, fill holes, strengthen loose teeth with metal wires, or even fit false teeth made of ox-bone. Holes were thought to be caused by tiny worms in the teeth. But only the rich could afford the services of the dentatores. Anyone else with a loose or aching tooth went to have it pulled out at a booth in the fair or market or by the barber.
Since many illnesses were potentially deadly, the best approach was prevention: staying healthy through a balanced lifestyle. When sickness did occur, attention to food and drink, exercise and other kinds of activity, as well as one’s emotions, could bring about recovery.
Whilst today there are antibiotics to treat infections, no such treatments existed in the Middle Ages. People were aware that wounds, childbirth and surgery were all dangerous moments because of the risks of infection. Medieval people knew what infections were but were unable to do much to treat people struck down by them. In medieval times, knowledge about the causes of disease was limited, so there was little chance of preventing it.
There were very few doctors about – most were educated men from the higher ranks of society who learned through practice rather than by attending a medical school. But they had strange ideas: for example, some doctors told patients not to bathe, as this would open the pores and allow the disease in. Other doctors thought it was domestic animals that spread the plague and other diseases.
In the 1350s, it was not a good time to be ill. Medieval doctors did not have a clue what caused disease. The average life expectancy was perhaps 30-35, that’s if you were lucky enough to survive early childhood – infant mortality was extremely high where 20% of children died before their first birthday, and many women died in childbirth. Nearly a thousand years after the fall of Rome, medicine in Europe had regressed and returned to a more primitive outlook, with the only treatment on offer continued to be a mixture of herbal remedies, bleeding and purging, and supernatural ideas. But, recently, historians have suggested that despite the primitive approach, many medieval treatments were successful, especially the herbal remedies.
Nevertheless, there were other types of cures used in the Middle Ages that many people would certainly not consider today, especially one called trepanning (also called trepanation, or trephination), the oldest surgical procedure known to humanity. Patients needed it ‘like a hole in the head’ if you’ll forgive the pun – having a hole cut in their skull to let fevers out of the body. Most died from this treatment.
Picture Credit: “File:Woodall ‘The surgeons mate’; trepanning instruments Wellcome L0020372.jpg” is licensed under CC BY 4.0
by Martin Pollins | Nov 11, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “Happy Halloween (if a black cat lays under a ladder, does that negate all bad luck?)” by LouevilBelle is licensed under CC BY 2.0
A superstition is “a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation” or “an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition.”
The British Museum website introduces (at: https://www.britishmuseum.org/membership/events/ancient-origins-modern-superstition) the subject of superstitions, asking: Do you touch wood for luck or avoid hotel rooms on floor thirteen? Would you cross the path of a black cat or step under a ladder? Is breaking a mirror just an expensive waste of glass or something rather more sinister?
Despite the dominance of science in today’s world, superstitious beliefs – both traditional and new – remain intact and surprisingly popular. The concept of superstition has existed for millennia, and some of today’s most popular superstitions had their beginnings in ancient Babylonia.
An explanation for why we cross our fingers stems from a pagan belief that spirits could be found at ‘crossings’, the idea being that by simulating a crossing with one’s fingers, a good spirit could be invoked to help make a wish come true.
Boudicca (or Boudica), queen of the Iceni people of Eastern England, led a major uprising against occupying Roman forces. She was said to have released rabbits onto the battlefield before a battle started so she could predict whether or not she’d be victorious. The relevance of a rabbit’s foot bringing good luck is not known. Like most superstitions, it’s a case of being aware of what people said and going along with it just in case it were true.
One horseshoe-related superstition says that if you sleep with a horseshoe under your pillow on New Year’s Eve, you’ll have good luck throughout the forthcoming year, or that if you dream of a horseshoe, it means that good luck is on the way.
Whatever you believe, here is a list of some common superstitions:
- If you have an itchy palm, good luck is coming
- If you find a penny, pick it up (for good luck)
- It’s unlucky to walk under a ladder
- A black cat crossing before you can be a sign of bad luck (most of Europe considers the black cat a symbol of bad luck, particularly if one walks across the path in front of a person, which is believed to be an omen of misfortune and death) but in Britain, Ireland and Germany it is lucky to see a black cat – as long as it crosses your path from left to right
- A rabbit’s foot will bring you good luck
- Finding a horseshoe means good luck
- Bad luck comes in threes
- Don’t break a mirror or you’ll have 7 years of bad luck
- Cross your fingers for good luck
- The number 666 equals the mark of Satan – avoid it all costs
- Knock on wood for good luck, three knocks gets rid of bad luck
- Make a wish on a wishbone
- It’s unlucky to put up an umbrella inside the house
- Friday the 13th is an unlucky day
- Tossing spilled salt over your shoulder brings good luck
- Seeing magpies can be good or bad, depending on how many you see (according to the rhyme): “One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold and seven for a secret never to be told, eight for a wish, nine for a kiss, ten for a bird that’s best to miss.
by Martin Pollins | Nov 10, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: [Cropped] By Allan Warren – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Holloway#/media/File:Stanley_Holloway.jpg
Between the two World Wars, several British poets wrote comical monologues to lift the spirits of their fellow citizens and servicemen. Almost one hundred years later, humour is very different today and yet these monologues still manage to raise a chuckle. And the chuckle is raised whether it’s the first time you’ve heard it, or you’ve heard it so many times that you can recite it off by heart.
Perhaps the comic best known for reciting monologues is Stanley Holloway (OBE 1890-1982). Although Holloway was born in London, he had served with a Yorkshire Regiment in WW I and acquired a close and detailed knowledge of the Yorkshire dialect which he put to good use in his rendering of the monologues. He became famous for his comic character roles on both stage and the big screen, such as his role as Alfred Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’. He began his recording career using ‘The Ramsbottom’s’ monologues written by Marriott Edgar. The most popular of all these monologues is without doubt The Lion and Albert.
My connection with The Lion and Albert
When my youngest son was just four years of age, he recited most of The Lion and Albert at my brother’s wedding in Ireland. That was a long time ago. I hadn’t realised that Roy Hudd had performed the monologue – otherwise when he was my guest at a corporate dinner, I might have asked him to perform for us!
Listen to: The Lion and Albert
Stanley Holloway: https://youtu.be/oaw-savyK0s
Roy Hudd: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUVzki2j87k
Marriott Edgar: https://youtu.be/g3JxoxVqbY0
Selection of Monologues From http://monologues.co.uk
Read these monologues and enjoy – simply click on the red links below:
- Pukka Sahib This sketch involved Stanley Holloway as a serious monologuist in full evening dress, hounded to distraction by Leslie Henson and Cyril Richard as two Indian army officers. From their vantage point in the stage box, they interrupted throughout and constantly sought to make Holloway ‘dry’ or smile.
- Sam Small’s Shelter It occurred on an evening in springtime, And Sam ‘ad coom out of his ‘ouse, To look at his flowers, bulbs an’ suchlike, And maybe to give ’em a souse.
- Sam Small It occurred on the evening before Waterloo, And troops were lined up on parade, The Sergeant inspecting ’em he was a terror, Of whom every man was afraid.
- Albert’s Reunion You’ve ‘eard of young Albert Ramsbottom, And Mrs Ramsbottom, and Dad, And the trouble the poor lion went through, Trying to stomach the lad.
- Albert Evacuated Have you heard how young Albert Ramsbottom, Was evacuated from home, With his mother, clean socks and a toothbrush, Some syrup of figs and a comb.
- Sam Small at Westminster You’ve ‘eard of Sam Small, ‘oo dropped musket, On parade when ol’ Boney ‘eld sway. Well, thanks to the ‘monkey gland’ treatment, Old Sam is still with us, today.
- One Each Apiece, All Round Number 2-4-6-8, Private Samuel Small, Were up before his Captain, To explain away a brawl.
- ‘Halt, Who Goes There? Old Sam first came to London, When George the Fourth were King, He’d been in th’Army, man and boy, For twenty year come Spring.
- The Food Demonstrator One day at a food demonstration, To which I shall later alude, Mrs. Cutterbuck, to her amazement, Found out there were three kinds of food.
- Sam’s Fortune It happened one evening in Wigan, at a certain men’s club I could name, We were some of us standing round talking, And some of us playing a game.
- Albert Evacuated Have you heard how young Albert Ramsbottom, Was evacuated from home, With his mother, clean socks and a toothbrush, Some syrup of figs and a comb.
- Brahn Boots One day at a food demonstration, To which I shall later allude, Mrs. Cutterbuck, to her amazement, Found out there were three kinds of food.
- Sam’s Christmas Shopping Sam Small were invited one Christmas, To visit some friends down in Kent, But owing to war and taxation, Most of ‘is money was spent.
- The Beefeater First of all, Sir, we come to the canteen, Where you wash the cobwebs off your chest. And in Yorkshire that means beer is best.
- The Famous Name of Small There are names as written down in Britain’s history, Sooch as Drake and Nelson, Iron Dook an’ all. But coom to work it out, bloomin’ names like them are nowt, When reckoned wi’ the name of Samuel Small.
- The Parson of Puddle In the sweet little, neat little, Only one street little, Parish of Puddle, Over which I preside.
- Brahn Boots Our Aunt Hanna’s passed away, We ‘ad her funeral today, And it was a posh affair, Had to have two p’licemen there!
- Sam’s Parrot Na tha’s ‘eard of owd Sam, well, that very same chap, Were out walking one day for a stroll, And were padding down t’ high street just casual like, On his way to sign on for the dole.
- The Green-Eyed Dragon Once upon a time lived a Fair Princess, Most beautiful and charming; Her Father, the King, was a wicked old thing, With manners most alarming.
- And Yet, I Don’t Know Now, my sister’s daughter Elizabeth May, Is going to get married next Sunday, they say. Now, what shall I buy her? She’s such a nice gel! I think a piano would do very well.
- Beat the Retreat I’m a hundred and two today, bagoom! Eh, today I’m a hundred and two, And at ten years of age I was soldiering, aye, I wor drummer boy at Waterloo.
- Yorkshire Pudden Hi waitress, excuse me a minute, now listen, I’m not finding fault, but here, Miss, The ‘taters look gradely… the beef is a’reet, But what kind of pudden is this?
- Sam’s Medal You’ve ‘eard of Samuel Small, per’aps? A lad of bulldog breed, ‘Oo saved ‘is Sergeant-Major’s life; (A most unusual deed).
- My Word, You Do Look Queer I’ve been very poorly but now I feel prime, I’ve been out today for the very first time. I felt like a lad as I walked down the road, Then I met Old Jones and he said, ‘Well I’m blowed!’
- Many Happy Returns Down at the schoolhouse at Runcorn, The ‘eadmaster walked in one day, Looking all ‘appy and cheerful, Which wasn’t his habit, they say.
- The Street Watchman’s Story Some chaps get the fat and some chaps get the lean, When they start on their journey thro’ life. Some make pots of money by being M.Ps, And some get it by taking a wife.
- Sam, Drummed Out When a lad’s been drummed out of the Army, He’s an outcast despised by all men; I’d rather be shot at dawn any old time, ‘Cause I never get up before ten.
- Sam’s Sturgeon Sam Small were fishing in canal, ‘Twixt Manchester and Sale; He hadn’t had a bite all day, And nought to sup but ale.
- George and the Dragon Some folks’ll boast about their family trees, And there’s some trees they ought to lop; But our family tree, believe me, goes right back, You can see monkeys sitting on top!
by Martin Pollins | Nov 10, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “Federal Reserve Bank of New York Building” by epicharmus is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Started by the Panic of 1907 (1)
In 1907 there was a serious financial crisis in the U.S. – the Panic of 1907 or 1907 Bankers’ Panic or Knickerbocker Crisis occurred over a three-week period starting in mid-October 1907 when the New York Stock Exchange fell almost 50% from its peak the previous year. Panic occurred (it was a time of economic recession), and there were numerous runs on banks and trust companies. The panic eventually spread throughout the nation when many state and local banks and businesses entered bankruptcy. Primary causes of the run included a retraction of market liquidity by a number of New York City banks and a loss of confidence among depositors, exacerbated by unregulated side bets at bucket shops.
The Secret Meeting on Jekyll Island (2)
In November 1910, six men – Nelson Aldrich, A. Piatt Andrew, Henry Davison, Arthur Shelton, Frank Vanderlip and Paul Warburg – met at the Jekyll Island Club, off the coast of Georgia, to write a plan to reform the banking system in the US. The group referred to themselves as the “First Name Club”.
The meeting and its purpose were closely guarded secrets, and participants did not admit that the meeting occurred until the 1930s. But the plan written on Jekyll Island laid a foundation for what would eventually be the Federal Reserve System.
Despite the warnings (see below), on 23rd December 1913 the Federal Reserve Act, was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. It gave the 12 Federal Reserve banks the ability to print money to ensure economic stability. It created the dual mandate to maximize employment and keep inflation low and was created by Congress to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system. The panic of 1907, and at the urging of J.P. Morgan and other prominent financiers, Congress eventually established the ‘Fed’ as America’s central bank – just two days before Christmas, between the hours of 1:30 A.M. and 4:30 A.M., when much of Congress was either sleeping or at home with their families before the 1913 Christmas holidays, The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was voted on and passed through the Senate.
“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered… I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies… The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.” Thomas Jefferson
“History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance.” James Madison
“If Congress has the right under the constitution to issue paper money, it was given them to be used by themselves, not to be delegated to individuals or corporations.” Andrew Jackson
“The government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credit needed to satisfy the spending power of the government and the buying power of consumers. Money will cease to be master and will then become a servant of humanity.” Abraham Lincoln
A few years after he signed the Federal Reserve Act into law, Woodrow Wilson reflected:
“I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.”
The Book to read: The Creature from Jekyll Island (3)
In this book. we get a close look at their mirrors and smoke machines, their pulleys, cogs, and wheels that create the grand illusion called money. A dry and boring subject? Just wait! You’ll be hooked in five minutes. Reads like a detective story – which it really is. But it’s all true. This book is about the most blatant scam of all history. It’s all here: the cause of wars, boom-bust cycles, inflation, depression, prosperity. The Creature from Jekyll Island is a “must-read.” Your worldview will definitely change. You may never trust a politician again – or a banker.
The Federal Reserve Act
The Federal Reserve Act was passed by the 63rd United States Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on 23rd December 1913. The law created the Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the United States. The Panic of 1907 had convinced many Americans of the need to establish a central banking system, which the country had lacked since the Bank War of the 1830s (4). After Democrats won unified control of Congress and the presidency in the 1912 elections, President Wilson, Congressman Carter Glass, and Senator Robert Latham Owen crafted a central banking bill that occupied a middle ground between the Aldrich Plan, which called for private control of the central banking system, and progressives like William Jennings Bryan, who favoured government control over the central banking system. Wilson made the bill one of top priorities of his New Freedom domestic agenda, and he helped ensure that it passed both houses of Congress without major amendments.
The Federal Reserve Act created the Federal Reserve System, consisting of twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks jointly responsible for managing the country’s money supply, making loans and providing oversight to banks, and serving as a lender of last resort.
Startling fact (5)
Take a look at this YouTube video (here) and you’ll learn that the Fed isn’t Federal, it has no reserves and it’s not even a Bank. The Fed is privately owned by a secret group of international bankers.
I posted a blog on this subject in 2014. You can read it at: https://onesmartplace.com/banks-nab-400b-in-usts-for-window-dressing/
(2) https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/jekyll_island_conference and https://www.amazon.com/Creature-Jekyll-Island-Federal-Reserve/dp/091298645X
(3) Source: Amazon describing the book: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve
(4) The Bank War was the name given to the campaign begun by President Andrew Jackson in 1833 to destroy the Second Bank of the United States, after his re-election convinced him that his opposition to
the bank had won national support.
by Martin Pollins | Oct 14, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “The Elements of Style” by Patrick Johanneson is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
‘Elements of Style’
In modern times, the original book on writing style, Elements of Style, was written in 1918 by Professor William Strunk, Jr., for use by his students at Cornell University, USA. His strategy was to edit down the complexities of English grammar into just those few basic elements which would help people to improve their writing skills. His central rule was to keep everything as simple as possible (he said ‘omit needless words’). For instance, he kicks off immediately with the apostrophe, the comma, and other points of punctuation which create the most common problems. Only when he has cleared these out of the way does he get down to what he calls the ‘Elementary Principles of Composition’.
Although Strunk’s book is a masterpiece, it should be remembered that it was written in America more than ten decades ago. Thus, there are some differences in spelling and style from that generally used in the UK. The book text is considered to be in the public domain, meaning that it is not subject to copyright.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a free copy of the PDF of this groundbreaking book.
‘The Origin and Progress of Writing, as well Hieroglyphic as Elementary’
Palaeography is the study of ancient and historical handwriting (that is to say, of the forms and processes of writing; not the textual content of documents).
Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts, and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing and books were produced, and the history of scriptoria. The first major English work of palaeography is considered to be The Origin and Progress of Writing, as well hieroglyphic as elementary by Thomas Astle. It was published in London in 1784, printed for the author and sold by T. Payne and Son [etc.]. The author was, by all accounts, Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London.
The original book was illustrated by Engravings taken from Marbles, Manuscripts and Charters – Ancient and Modern. It also provided some account of the Origin and Progress of Printing. There have been several reprints since 1784 but the closest most people will get to the book is a page-turning digital archive copy which is available online at: https://archive.org/details/originprogressof00astl_0/page/110/mode/2up
Picture Credit: Screenprint of Digital Book
‘A History of Punctuation’
Florence Hazrat is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of English at the University of Sheffield, working on parentheses in Renaissance romance. Her first book ‘Refrains in Early Modern Literature’ is forthcoming, and she is currently writing a book called ‘Standing on Points: The History and Culture of Punctuation’. She is well qualified in being able to write about punctuation and an essay she wrote on Aeon caught my eye. Please read it at: https://aeon.co/essays/beside-the-point-punctuation-is-dead-long-live-punctuation. The title of the essay is ‘A History of Punctuation: How we came to represent (through inky marks) the vagaries of the mind, inflections of the voice, and intensity of feeling’.
Ms Hazrat, who describes herself as “an academic and writer, swordswoman, folk fiddler, and radical ecologist with a side-interest in the history of hyenas” writes (an extract from her essay):
“One of the primary purposes of writing in Ancient Greece and Rome was giving lectures and political speeches, not publishing texts. Before going on stage, an orator would work on his text, making subjective, individually determined signs for long and short syllables, pauses for rhetorical effect and breathing, and joining up of words when reading aloud. There was no such thing as reading at first sight.
“Writing without punctuation lasted for many hundreds of years, in spite of individual efforts such as those of Aristophanes, the librarian at Alexandria. Around 200 BCE, Aristophanes of Alexandria wished to ease pronunciation of Greek for foreigners by suggesting small circles at different levels of the line for pauses of different lengths, emphasising the rhythm of the sentence though not yet its grammatical shape. That would remain a task for the 7th-century churchman and encyclopaedist Isidore of Seville.
“Isidore invented the period, comma and colon. He rethought Aristophanes’ punctuation, based on pauses when reading aloud, in terms of grammatical parts of the sentence: an utterance whose sense and grammar were complete would receive a dot at the top of the line, which would eventually migrate down to the bottom and become the full stop or period we know today. An utterance whose sense and grammar were complete but accommodated expansion would get a dot in the centre: the future colon. Lastly, an utterance that was neither complete in sense nor in grammar would be marked off with a dot at the bottom, evolving into the comma. Where previously only the full sentence received a boundary sign, it was now also possible to distinguish the constituents within. Isidore’s ideas circulated widely and, by the end of the same century, Irish monks had added spaces between words to his system of dots. These changes attest to a shift in the perception of writing from record of speech to record of information. Meaning no longer needed to pass from eye to mind via voice and ear, but was directly – silently – apprehended.”
by Martin Pollins | Oct 14, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “The-Dark-Pictures-Man-Of-Medan-220519-008” by instacodez is marked with CC PDM 1.0 [A video game inspired by the mystery of the SS Ourang Medan was developed by Supermassive Games.]
Did a mysterious tragedy occur on the SS Ourang Medan or is it all just a legend? Is it fact or fiction?
In June 1947, several ships travelling trade routes in the Strait of Malacca, off the coast of Malaysia, received a terrifying SOS message that read: “All officers including captain are dead lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.” After a short period of time, one final message was received, which read simply … “I die.”
Nearby ships identified the source of the signal as coming from a Dutch freighter, the SS Ourang Medan. The nearest merchant ship, The Silver Star, travelled as fast as they could to the source of the distress signal. Onboarding the Ourang Medan, they were horrified to find every member of the crew dead, their corpses scattered over the decks. The eyes of the men were still open, and expressions of sheer terror were frozen on their faces. Even the ship’s dog was dead, its once intimidating snarl frozen into a ghastly and ghostly grimace. The Silver Star’s party found the deceased radio operator as well, his hand still on the Morse keys, and his eyes wide open, even in death.
But strangely, there were no signs of wounds or injuries on any of the bodies. The Silver Star’s crew decided to tow the ship back to port, but before they could get underway, smoke began emanating from the decks below.
The boarding party quickly returned to their ship and barely had time to escape before the SS Ourang Medan exploded and swiftly sank. Some theorised that clouds of noxious natural gases bubbled up from fissures in the seabed and engulfed the ship, and others have even blamed the occurrence on the supernatural, but to this day, the exact fate of the ship’s crew remains a mystery.
Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ourang_Medan) casts some doubt on some of the foregoing. It says the SS Ourang Medan became a shipwreck in Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) waters, or elsewhere, after its entire crew had died under suspicious circumstances, either in 1940, 1947 or 1948, depending on the newspaper source. The story of the Ourang Medan has, to some degree, become a legend.
A survivor, before perishing himself, told a missionary that the ship was carrying a badly stowed cargo of sulphuric acid and that most of the crew perished because of the poisonous fumes escaping from broken containers.
According to his story, the SS Ourang Medan was sailing from an unnamed small Chinese port to Costa Rica and deliberately avoided the authorities. The survivor, an unnamed German, died after telling his story to the missionary, who told the story to the author, Silvio Scherli of Trieste, Italy.
There are many theories as to what actually happened. It was suggested the ship might have been involved in smuggling operations of chemical substances such as a combination of potassium cyanide and nitro-glycerine or even wartime stocks of nerve agents. According to these theories, seawater would have entered the ship’s hold, reacting with the cargo to release toxic gases, which then caused the crew to succumb to asphyxia and/or poisoning. Later, the seawater would have reacted with the nitro-glycerine, causing the reported fire and explosion.
Another theory is that the ship was transporting nerve gas which the Japanese military had been storing in China during World War II and which was handed over to the US military at the end of the war. No US ship could transport it as it would leave a paper trail. It was therefore loaded onto a non-registered ship for transport to the US or an island in the Pacific.
At the end of an article at https://www.historicmysteries.com/ourang-medan/, Les Hewitt asks:
Was the tragedy on the SS Ourang Medan a genuine event or just a mariner’s seafaring tale designed to scare, frighten, or dissuade?
Author James Donahue at https://www.perdurabo10.net/ourang-medan.html# wrote that Naval historian Roy Bainton conducted exhaustive research on this “death ship” story. After turning to Lloyd’s Shipping registers, the Dutch Shipping records and even places like the Maritime Authority in Singapore, he was about to conclude that the Ourang Medan story was nothing more than an old sailor’s yarn. Then Bainton found a German booklet titled “Death Ship in the South Sea” by Otto Mielke, which gave details about the SS Ourang Medan, its route, cargo, tonnage and even the name of the captain. Bainton wrote that Mielke’s booklet suggested that the Number 4 hold of the fated ship was filled with “a mixed, lethal cargo on the Dutchman ‘Zyankali’ (potassium cyanide) and nitro-glycerine.
Your guess as to what really happened is probably as good as mine. Perhaps better. What do you think? Was there a conspiracy at play? Something to do with the end of the war? It’s odd that there doesn’t seem to be any official records that the ship ever existed in the first place, yet the Silver Star found it…
by Martin Pollins | Oct 14, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “Piggly Wiggly” by ilovememphis is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
On 6th September 1916, Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis, Tennessee USA. As you weren’t there at the time, let me fill in some gaps for you.
It was the first true self-service grocery store the world had known. It spawned various familiar supermarket concepts such as checkout stands, individual item price marking and shopping carts. It was the brainchild of Clarence Saunders who took out a patent in 1917 on the concept of the “self-serving store”. Saunders issued franchises to hundreds of grocery retailers for the operation of Piggly Wiggly® stores. These franchised stores were constructed to Saunders’ rigid specifications, operated on a strictly cash basis, and maintained a high standard of quality and cleanliness.
Piggly Wiggly’s introduction of self-service grocery shopping revolutionised the grocery industry; many of the conveniences and services that American shoppers now enjoy were brought to them first by Piggly Wiggly®.
Saunders’ reason for choosing the intriguing name Piggly Wiggly® remains a mystery; he was curiously reluctant to explain its origin. One story is that he saw from a train window several little pigs struggling to get under a fence, and the rhyming name occurred to him then. Another theory is that it is derived from the nursery rhyme, “This little piggy went to market…
When asked why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organisation, Saunders’ reply was, “So people will ask that very question.” He wanted, and found, a name that would be talked about and remembered.
A little slow on the uptake, it took 32 years for Britain to follow Clarence Saunder’s lead. The self-service supermarket came to Britain on 12th January 1948, when the London Co-operative Society opened a store in Manor Park, following a trial 6 years before. Co-op Food opened Britain’s first fully self-service store in March 1948 in Albert Road, Southsea, near Portsmouth.
With the arrival of self-service came the ‘stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap’* approach to retail, and prices fell.
* credited to Jack Cohen before he founded Tesco
Many of the shops that clung on to the old ways soon found themselves out of business. Premier Supermarkets lost no time in opening a self-service store in Streatham and sales rocketed. Marks & Spencer followed that same year in Wood Green.
Mmuze uses artificial intelligence (AI) to recreate the in-store shopping experience online, through a virtual personal shopping assistant. This enables customers to interact with a brand – via voice or text conversation – and tell them exactly what they are looking for. Whether they are searching for a specific dress or want advice on what to wear to a certain event, Mmuze “associates” answer every question that shoppers have, from price to style to material specifications. This prevents them from scrolling through hundreds of items online, making their experience more convenient and personal. They also offer customers personalised suggestions based on their purchase history and the latest trends.
GlobalData predicts that voice purchases will hit €45bn in the UK and US in 2022, and Adobe claims 90% of decision-makers are investing in voice tech, according to Drapers: https://www.drapersonline.com/news/four-tech-innovations-pushing-retail-boundaries
Other innovations identified by Drapers are:
- Customer engagement platform Preciate uses facial recognition technology to help shop floor staff identify customers as they enter the store. It aims to help brands and retailers offer customers a unique, individualised experience through its tech-driven “loyalty programme”. As an opt-in service, Preciate requires shoppers to enrol with a selfie, which can be taken via a mobile, laptop or in-store. The facial recognition algorithm then notifies staff as soon as shoppers enter the store and recognises them in real-time.
- Visual AI technology from computer software company Syte allows customers to search and shop for products by uploading an image to show what they are looking for, rather than textually describing it. By uploading an image to a retailer’s website or app – be it from a brand campaign, random person on the street or magazine cutting – customers can browse and buy visually similar items that are currently in stock.
- Measurement technologies enable MySizeID to advise customers on their best size for every single item that they are looking at. Arguing that “customers shouldn’t rely on varying size carts”, MySize uses an algorithm to measure customers’ precise body fit using their smartphone sensors, without the need for a camera (instructions on how to take images of each body part are included). You can see a video on this at: https://youtu.be/od64G7CJr1o.
(Famous) Last Words
Covid-19 has hastened the innovation in online retailing. I can’t wait to see all the above happening. Then we can move on to the next big thing.
by Martin Pollins | Oct 14, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: [Cropped] “Brighton Palace Pier” by jameswragg is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Piers of Sussex does not mean Piers Morgan, but you can look him up if you want at: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piers_Morgan – admittedly, his name is Piers and he lives in East Sussex, (Newick) but Piers Morgan is an English broadcaster, journalist, writer, and television personality whereas this article is about the elegant structures that allow people to walk over water, well almost. Piers provide glamour and fun at the great British seaside and add a unique charm and nostalgia to our promenades and sea-fronts. The East Sussex coastline is fortunate enough to have three fine Victorian piers together with what remains of the wrecked West Pier in Brighton. In total there are 6 Sussex Piers which, in alphabetical order, are:
- Brighton Palace Pier
- Brighton West Pier (now wrecked)
- Eastbourne Pier
- Hastings Pier
- Littlehampton Pier
- Worthing Pier
The pier at Bognor is not listed above. Barely a tenth of its original length remains and it has suffered badly over the years. Nevertheless, it has a Grade II listing.
Although Sussex is probably the birthplace of the seaside pleasure pier, Ryde Pier on the Isle of Wight has the earliest origins as a pier. The dear departed and famous Chain Pier at Brighton was the first to be used as a fashionable promenade. Its full name was The Royal Suspension Chain Pier and it was the first major pier built in Brighton (1823), but was destroyed during a storm on 4th December 1896. From the 1860s until about 1910, a succession of piers were built along the Sussex coast from Littlehampton to Hastings. In their heyday, they were the place to be seen. Magnus Volk, an inventor and pioneering electrical engineer, and a resident of Brighton, built a ‘moving pier’ affectionately known as the ‘Daddy-long-legs’. He is most notable for having built Volk’s Electric Railway, the world’s oldest operating electric railway, on the Brighton seafront.
Here’s a quick round-up of three of the Piers along our coast:
Brighton Palace Pier
The Palace Pier opened in 1899 and was the third pier to be constructed in Brighton following The Royal Suspension Chain Pier and the West Pier. After opening, it quickly became popular, and by 1911 it had become a frequently visited theatre and entertainment venue. It has been featured in many works of British culture, including the gangster thriller Brighton Rock, the comedy Carry On at Your Convenience and the Who’s concept album and film Quadrophenia. During World War II, the pier was closed as a security precaution. A section of decking was removed in order to prevent access from an enemy landing. The pier regained its popularity after the war, and continued to run regular summer shows, including Tommy Trinder, Doris and Elsie Waters and Dick Emery.
The pier was listed at Grade II on 20th August 1971.
By 1894 a steamship began operation between Worthing Pier and the Chain Pier in Brighton, twelve miles to the east. The first moving picture show in Worthing was seen on the pier on 31st August 1896 and is commemorated today by a blue plaque. In March 1913, on Easter Monday, the pier was damaged in a storm, with only the southern end remaining, completely cut off from land. Later, it was affectionately named ‘Easter Island’. A rebuilt pier was opened on 29th May 1914. Then in September 1933 the pier and all but the northern pavilion were destroyed by fire. Two years later, the remodelled Streamline Moderne pier was opened, and it is this that remains today.
Worthing Pier was sectioned in 1940 for fear of German invasion after the British retreat at Dunkirk. Army engineers used explosives to blow a 120ft. hole in the pier to prevent it from being used as a possible landing stage in the event of an invasion. In 2006 and again in 2019. Worthing Pier was judged to be the Pier of the Year by the National Piers Society. It is a Grade II listed building structure.
Eastbourne Pier, one of the finest examples of a Victorian pier, opened in 1872 and is a sought after film and TV location used in Angus Thongs & Perfect Snogging, and TV series including Poirot, A Place in the Sun, Art Attack, Flog It, and BBC CCTV.
On New Year’s Day 1877, the landward half was swept away in a storm. It was rebuilt at a higher level, creating a drop towards the end of the pier. The pier is effectively built on stilts that rest in cups on the sea-bed allowing the whole structure to move during rough weather. It is roughly 300 metres (1000 ft) long. A domed 400-seater pavilion was constructed in 1888. A 1000-seater theatre, bar, camera obscura and office suite replaced this in 1899/1901. At the same time, two saloons were built midway along the pier. The camera obscura fell into disuse in the 1960s but was restored in 2003 with a new stairway built to provide access.
Paddle steamers (such as the PS Brighton Queen and the PS Devonia) ran trips from the pier along the south coast and across the Channel to Boulogne from 1906 until the outbreak of the Second World War II. Although they were resumed after the war, the paddle steamers were gradually withdrawn from service.
Various traditional pier theatres were built over the years but after the last one was destroyed by fire in 1970, it was replaced by a nightclub and bar which remain to this day. During World War II, part of the decking was removed, and machine guns were installed in the theatre providing a useful point from which to repel any attempted enemy landings.
What the Butler saw…
In earlier days, no self-respecting pier would be complete without a peep-show machine such as this. By depositing a penny coin (old money) in the slot, those who wanted to do so could view ‘naughty’ films. Tut Tut!
Picture Credit: “What The Butler Saw” by the justified sinner is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
by Martin Pollins | Oct 14, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “Backgammon” by Tord Mattsson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Backgammon is one of the oldest known board games with a history that can be traced back nearly 5,000 years to archaeological discoveries in Mesopotamia. It is a two-player game where each player has fifteen pieces (checkers or men) that move between twenty-four triangles (points) according to the roll of two dice. The triangles are grouped into four quadrants each of six triangles.
The quadrants are referred to as a player’s home board and outer board, and the opponent’s home board and outer board. The home and outer boards are separated from each other by a ridge down the centre of the board – the ridge is called the bar.
The objective of the game is to be first to bear off, i.e. move all fifteen checkers off the board.
The game involves a combination of both strategy and luck (from rolling dice). While the dice may determine the outcome of a single game, the better player will accumulate the better record over series of many games. With each roll of the dice, players must choose from numerous options for moving their checkers and anticipate possible countermoves by the opponent. The optional use of a doubling cube allows players to raise the stakes during the game.
The game is played on a folding wooden board with checkers and dice. The object of the game for the players is to remove all their checkers from the board.
Backgammon playing pieces may be called pieces, checkers, draughts, stones, men, counters, pawns, discs, pips, chips, or nips.
If you click here: www.shorturl.at/hosDV you can see the Board laid out at the start of a game and what happens as it progresses when the players move following the roll of their dice.
Checkers are arranged with two on point 24, five on point 13, three on point 8 and five on point 6. To start the game both players roll a single dice, the player with the highest roll begins.
The points are numbered for either player starting in that player’s home board. The outermost point is the twenty-four point, which is also the opponent’s one point. Each player has fifteen checkers of his own colour. The initial arrangement of checkers is: two on each player’s twenty-four point, five on each player’s thirteen point, three on each player’s eighth point, and five on each player’s six point. Both players have their own pair of dice and a dice cup used for shaking. A doubling cube, with the numerals 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 on its faces, is used to keep track of the current stake of the game.
Rolls of the Dice
The results of the initial dice rolls determine how many points you may move your checkers. For example, if on your roll, a 4 and 3 are rolled, you may move one checker four spaces and the other three spaces. Alternatively, you may move only one checker a total of the dice roll, in this example, 7 points.
Checkers are always moved towards your home board onto a point of a lower number and can only be moved onto an open point. An open point is occupied by no more than one of the opponent’s checkers. To move one checker using the total of the dice roll, the intermediate points must be open points.
If a double is rolled the numbers on the dice are used twice, for example, if a double 2 is rolled, checkers can be moved 2 points four times. Players must use all numbers rolled if possible. If only one can be played, this must be used. If two can be played, the highest roll must be used.
Hitting and Entering
A blot is a point occupied by a single checker. If a blot is hit during the opponent’s play, the checker must be placed on the ridge along the centre of the board, known as a (or the) bar. If you have any checkers on the bar, these must be entered into the opponent’s home board during your next turn. Checkers are entered onto an open point corresponding to numbers rolled. For example, if a 6 and 4 are rolled, the checker must be placed on point 6 or 4 of the opponent’s home board.
As many checkers on the bar must be entered (return to the game) as possible. If there are no open points corresponding to the dice roll, the player loses a turn. If only one checker can be entered, the remainder of the player’s turn is lost. When the player has no more checkers on the bar, play resumes as normal.
When a player has all their checkers in their home board, they can start removing them from the board: this is known as bearing off. This is done by rolling both dice and removing a checker from each corresponding point. For example, if a 6 and 4 is rolled, a checker can be removed from point 6 and 4. If there are no checkers on point 4, one must be removed from a higher-numbered point. If there are no checkers on a higher-numbered point, you must remove a checker from the highest numbered point available.
Checkers can still be hit while bearing off and must be placed onto the bar and entered back into play as detailed above. When a first player bears off all of their fifteen checkers, the game is won!
There are other rules not covered here such as Doubling, Redoubling, and Gammons. Backgammon chouette (click here) is a variant of backgammon designed for three or more players. Before you try to play a game of backgammon chouette, you may want to take some time to learn how to play regular backgammon first and the foregoing will hopefully get you started if you haven’t played the game before. Go on, it’s fun…
Over the years, many well-known celebrities have been aficionados of Backgammon. They include Tina Turner, Cole Porter, Humphrey Bogart, John Huston, Paul Newman, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette Macdonald, and, perhaps the best known of all – Omar Sharif, whose name has been used to promote tournaments, books, and other backgammon products (there’s even an electronic version named after him).
by Martin Pollins | Oct 13, 2021 | General
Are you using the shortcuts on your computer keyboard?
Ok, let’s start from the beginning.
You know what a keyboard is, I hope. There’s one above. It’s like mine.
At the bottom left-hand corner, you can see the key ctrl. That’s the Control key. It’s a ‘modifier’ key that, when pressed in conjunction with another key, performs a certain action. It rarely performs any function when pressed just on its own.
This ‘tutorial’ is about a Microsoft computer keyboard, but similar rules apply to Apple computers.
List of Control Key Shortcuts
Each of the following works by pressing the Ctrl key and, while holding it down, pressing the other key or keys as shown:
Ctrl+A These two keys will select all text or other objects in your document.
Ctrl+B Embolden the text you highlight.
Ctrl+C Copy any selected text or other object.
Ctrl+D Bookmark an open web page or open font window in Microsoft Word.
Ctrl+E Centre the text or picture in your document.
Ctrl+F Open the ‘find’ window.
Ctrl+G Open Find in a browser and word processors.
Ctrl+H Open the Find and Replace in Notepad, Microsoft Word, and WordPad
Ctrl+I Italicize text.
Ctrl+J View downloads in browsers and set justify alignment in Microsoft Word.
Ctrl+K Create a hyperlink (or edit an existing one) for the highlighted text in Microsoft Word and many HTML editors.
Ctrl+L Select address bar in a browser or left align text in a word processor.
Ctrl+M Indent selected text in word processors and other programs.
Ctrl+N Create a new page or document.
Ctrl+O Open a file in most programs.
Ctrl+P Open a print window to print the page you are viewing.
Ctrl+R Reload page in a browser or right-align text in a word processor.
Ctrl+S Save the document or file.
Ctrl+T Create a new tab in an Internet browser or adjust tabs in word processors.
Ctrl+U Underline selected text.
Ctrl+V Paste any text or another object that was last copied.
Ctrl+W Close open tab in a browser or close a document in Word.
Ctrl+X Cut selected text or another object that has been highlighted.
Ctrl+Y These keys will redo any undo action.
Ctrl+End Moves cursor to the end of a document instead of the end of the line.
Ctrl+Z Pressing these two keys will undo the last action.
Ctrl+Esc Open the Windows Start Menu.
Ctrl+Tab Switch between open tabs in browsers or other tabbed programs.
Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Tab Will go backwards (right to left).
Ctrl+⇧ Shift+Z Redo
Ctrl+[ Decrease font size
Ctrl+] Increase font size
Ctrl+= Toggle font subscript
Ctrl+⇧ Shift+= Toggle font superscript
And perhaps the most useful ones of all:
Ctrl+⇧ Shift+C Copies the format and colour of text you have highlighted.
Ctrl+⇧ Shift+V Pastes (replicates) the format. and colour of text you have highlighted, as above.
by Martin Pollins | Oct 13, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “Genghis Khan: The Exhibition” by williamcho is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
As a boy, he was rejected by his clan yet as an adult he clawed his way to power, coming to believe he was destined to rule the world. And he all but succeeded, so writes Spencer Day in History today (click here), who says:
In the early 13th century, Wanyan Yongji, mighty emperor of the Jin, sent a message to an upstart warlord who had had the temerity to invade his territory. “Our empire is as vast as the sea,” it read. “Yours is but a handful of sand. How can we fear you?” It was a bold statement, but one that was, on the face of it at least, fully justified. For the Jin dynasty of northern China was perhaps the most powerful polity on the face of the Earth at the time. The Jin had unimaginable wealth, gunpowder and an enormous army equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, such as catapults. What’s more, they could call upon the protection of one of the foremost engineering feats of all time, the Great Wall of China. So why should they be concerned about a nomad army riding roughshod over their land? But there were a couple of problems.
The Jin weren’t facing any old bunch of nomads, and the man commanding them wasn’t any old leader. He was Genghis Khan.
Who was Genghis Khan?
Genghis Khan (born Temüjin Borjigin) c. 1155 – c. 1162 to 18th August 1227), also named officially Genghis Huangdi, was the founder and first Great Khan and Emperor of the Mongol Empire. It became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death. He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. After founding the Empire and being proclaimed Genghis Khan (meaning ‘Universal, oceanic, and firm/strong ruler and lord’), he launched the Mongol invasions that conquered most of Eurasia, reaching as far west as Poland and the Levant in the Middle East.
Campaigns initiated in his lifetime include those against the Qara Khitai, Khwarezmia, and the Western Xia and Jin dynasties, and raids into Medieval Georgia, the Kievan Rus’, and Volga Bulgaria.
These campaigns were often accompanied by large-scale massacres of the civilian populations. Because of this brutality, which left millions of humans dead in his pursuit of power, Genghis Khan is considered by many to have been a brutal ruler. By the end of his life, the Mongol Empire occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia and China. Due to his exceptional military successes, Genghis Khan is often considered to be the greatest conqueror of all time.
Beyond his military accomplishments, Genghis Khan also advanced the Mongol Empire in other ways. He decreed the adoption of the Uyghur script as the Mongol Empire’s writing system. He also practised meritocracy and encouraged religious tolerance in the Mongol Empire, unifying the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. Present-day Mongolians regard him as the founding father of Mongolia. He is also credited with bringing the Silk Road under one cohesive political environment. This brought relatively easy communication and trade between Northeast Asia, Muslim Southwest Asia, and Christian Europe, expanding the cultural horizons of all three areas.
The Secret History of the Mongols
Genghis Khan’s birth name was Temüjin, a word derived from the Mongol word temür meaning “of iron” and jin denoting agency, and together mean Temüjin meaning “blacksmith”.
The Secret History of the Mongols reports that Temüjin was born grasping a blood clot in his fist, a traditional sign that he was destined to become a great leader. The Secret History is regarded as the single most significant native Mongolian account of Genghis Khan. Linguistically, it provides the richest source of pre-classical Mongolian and Middle Mongolian. The Secret History is regarded as a piece of classic literature in both Mongolia and the rest of the world.
You can read about The Secret History in the book titled: The Secret History of the Mongols: The Life and Times of Chinggis Khan (Note the spelling of Genghis) available at Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-History-Mongols-Times-Chinggis/dp/0415515262/
Why it ended…
In 1206, Genghis Khan, a fierce tribal chieftain from northern Mongolia, began to take over the world. His ruthless tactics and loyal horde swept across Asia, and one territory after another fell under the overwhelming force of the Mongol Empire, which would eventually stretch from the eastern shores of China. A series of successful forays in Hungary and Poland made even Europe seem within reach of conquering. By the year 1240, my paternal grandfather’s home city, Kiev (now capital of modern-day Ukraine), had been sacked. But this unstoppable wave of victories in Europe suddenly ended. Almost as soon as the Mongols set their sights set on Austria, they abruptly returned to Asia. You need to go to https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-finally-know-what-stopped-mongol-hordes-from-conquering-europe to find out why. It’s very interesting indeed…
Source: Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genghis_Khan
by Martin Pollins | Oct 13, 2021 | General
Picture Credit: “Two Men Listening” by .hd. is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
“Learning a new skill at any age helps to promote neural cell growth, improve concentration, and increase overall brain function… The studies provide evidence that intense learning experiences akin to those faced by younger populations are possible in older populations and may facilitate gains in cognitive abilities.”
Learning several new things at once increases cognitive abilities in older adults. Giving older people lessons on photography, painting and how to use iPads could make their brains up to 30 years younger in just six weeks, a study claims, according to a posting by Dianne Apen-Sadler for MAILONLINE, here.
Dr Rachel Wu, an assistant professor of psychology from California University, said the elderly should soak up knowledge as a child does. The claims from a detailed study are staggering:
- After six weeks, those in 80s increased cognitive abilities to those seen in 50s.
- Course workload saw a group take on three new skills including language lessons, photography, music composition, acting painting or using an iPad. Taking on three new tasks at the same time boosts mental power, wards off memory loss and confusion as well as protecting against Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have found.
- The course workload would be similar to that of an undergraduate and adds to growing evidence that dementia is avoidable through lifestyle changes.
- But, importantly, ‘Brain Training’ with crosswords or sudoku puzzles actually had no noticeable benefit on thinking ability, said the researchers.
The study published last year in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences, involved 58 – 86-year olds who simultaneously took three to five classes for three months.
“IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO LEARN – IF YOU GO ABOUT IT IN THE RIGHT WAY”. This is what David Robson wrote on 28th August 2017 on BBC Future – click here to read the full article, but an extract is as follows:
“If you ever fear that you are already too old to learn a new skill, remember Priscilla Sitienei, a midwife from Ndalat in rural Kenya. Having grown up without free primary school education, she had never learnt to read or write.
“As she approached her twilight years, however, she wanted to note down her experiences and knowledge to pass down to the next generation. And so, she started to attend lessons at the local school – along with six of her great-great-grandchildren. She was 90 at the time.
“We are often told that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – that the grizzled adult brain simply can’t absorb as much information as an impressionable young child’s. Many people would assume that you simply couldn’t pick up a complex skill like reading or writing, at the age of 90, after a lifetime of being illiterate.
“The latest studies from psychology and neuroscience show that these extraordinary achievements need not be the exception. Although you may face some extra difficulties at 30, 50 – or 90 – your brain still has an astonishing ability to learn and master many new skills, whatever your age. And the effort to master a new discipline may be more than repaid in maintaining and enhancing your overall cognitive health.”