Random facts and a little fiction

  • In 1964, 57 years ago today, I reported to Uniacke Barracks in Harrogate, Yorkshire, to begin a three year apprenticeship as an Electronic Engineer, thus beginning my Army career which lasted for 28 years and 151 days
  • After 22 years in the army I morphed into a military accountant
  • On Monday I watered a sparrow – she was asleep in a bush – I apologised
  • I have created a very small wildlife pond – it has been immediately colonised by mosquito larvae
  • My wife and I are somehow suffering from multiple mosquito bites

I’m happy and I’m shallow

but sometimes I am deep

I’ll often write best sellers whilst I am fast asleep

Unforeseen nice things

Sue at Nan’s Farm and GC at themainaisle.com post a weekly prompt each Wednesday inviting us to participate in any way we choose.

The prompt this week is Unforeseen.

In my back garden (yard) I have several bird feeders which I keep regularly stocked with all sorts of seed, nuts, suet, fat balls, and dried mealworms. I have a feeding station, feeders in trees, feeders under arches, and ground feeders. Not forgetting, of course, four separate water feeders/baths. The birds really do feed well, and sometimes the odd squirrel will decide to wreck everything in sight to partake of the feast. My ground feeders also cater for hedgehogs, the odd feral cat, and even foxes.

The downside to having so many feeders is that I am constantly having to weed underneath them. Oh, I know that I could buy “No mess, no grow” seed but really it tends to be very poor quality and often very dusty and so is prone to getting damp and clogging up or going mouldy (and yes, we do put a u in mouldy in the UK, just like we do in favourite, neighbour, and many many more words) The birds do try to help out by fossicking under the feeders to hoover up any stray seed and fat. All this tends to do is to leave a very bare patch underneath.

Sometimes I miss seeing that something has started to sprout in the garden that I have not planted, and I end up with unforeseen growth. I once had some very healthy, and rampant, plants that had very distinct shaped leaves and which I could have sworn I’d seen on a drugs awareness course I had attended. They composted very well – honest!

This year the birds have left some unforeseen, but very welcome, sunflower plants. They’re not daft – they know that they will produce food for later on!

All at sea – Flying through the air, with, and without, the aid of a helicopter.

Originally published on 27/10/2017, this is part of a series that I promised may take a while to complete. I was right!

This is part of a recollection of “Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

Number 2, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay, and 3, Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter can be recounted together because normally, when you go on a journey, you want to end up back where you started!

When I was posted to Gibraltar we (The Army) often entertained Royal Naval personnel when they had shore leave. We invited them to functions in the various messes (Officers Mess/Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess/Other ranks Mess, and we invited them to dine with us, often arranging a special dinner.

 In return, they reciprocated, and we were often invited on board ship.

 I came to know several of the Petty Officers of HMS Charybdis quite well, during 1976. I was invited to spend time at sea with the ship, in an exchange with a member of the ship’s crew, where we swapped jobs for a few days.

hms charybdis Life on board a Royal Naval vessel is unlike anything you may imagine. Space is at a premium and everything has to be stowed away to maximise space, and to ensure there are no hazards created by loose gear.

 Before departing from any port, the ship must be fully provisioned with fuel, stores, ammunition, food, and a myriad of items you wouldn’t even begin to think of. This is to ensure that, should the vessel be called upon to sail into conflict, or to aid others, it can proceed immediately, without having to stock up first. There is a good deal of manual labour involved in this, and the whole ships company (of 260 in this case) is put to work, less a few essential personnel. It is hard work, and I experienced it!

 Imagine having to stock a freezer so you can retrieve food, to feed 260 hungry people for 2 months, when you can only reach things right at the front. Just where do you put all those potato sacks, carrots, toilet rolls, extra large cans, butter, fat, oil, flour, spices. The list is huge, as is the quantity. You cannot run out.

 I shall not go into disposal of waste, recycling, or what can, under international law, be discharged into the sea. I mention it only because sometimes it flies off the ship!

 Whilst at sea it is sometimes necessary to load, or offload personnel, or materiel.

 This may be for changes in personnel, removal of severely ill, or deceased, replenishment of food, fuel, supplies, and the removal of waste for disposal, or recycling.

 The Royal Navy is supported at sea by Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels.

The RFA is staffed by civilians, and they have a variety of ships that can supply fuel and stores, effect repairs at sea, and even supply hospital facilities. They have a helicopter on board, and also cranes mounted on either side.

 Most modern warships have a helicopter on board, or a helipad that can receive a visiting helicopter so stores can be transferred from one vessel to another by underslung load. However, there is a restriction on how much weight can be carried that way, and it is an expensive method of resupply.

 The alternative method of transfer is by Jackstay, a method of using ropes and pulleys to carry personnel and materiel between vessels.
jackstay trfs

The light jackstay, employing human power, is used for transferring personnel, provisions, and light stores with a maximum load of about 250kg. The hauling end of the jackstay is manned by up to 25 hands. The other end is secured by a grommet strop to slip in the receiving ship. A traveller block is hauled back and forth along the jackstay wire by an in–haul rope in the receiving ship and an out–haul rope in the delivering ship manned by up to six crew in each ship. Working distance limits are normally between 24–61 meters with a normal working distance of about 34 meters.

 The heavy Jackstay, uses steel ropes for transfer of heavier loads, or to support feed pipes during transfer of fuel or water. Normally a powered winch is used.

 The ropes are passed from one ship to the other by first firing a thin twine by rifle and pulling this across, with increasing thickness of twine, then cord, then rope.

 Ships are unstable platforms when stopped in most seas and it is extremely dangerous to bring two ships directly alongside one another. All transfers are therefore done with the ships steaming side by side, in to the wind, at a distance determined by the state of the seas. It is a hazardous operation and constant adjustment is needed to ensure identical speed, and to ensure the distance between vessels does nor vary. The procedure needs to be practiced often to ensure the crew knows exactly what to do when the need arises. It is the ultimate in team work!

 This is how I came to “volunteer” for my first, and only, experience of transfer at sea by Jackstay, and return by helicopter. I was one of a dozen.

 Having watched others being hauled across from Charybdis to another visiting Frigate, it was soon my turn. Apart from a little dampness from sea spray I arrived safely on the other ship and was hurried along to the stern to jump into the helicopter for the return trip. This was only my second flight in a helicopter. The whole procedure took less than 30 minutes, but was very exhilarating!

 Flights by small helicopter are normally from, and to, a stable surface, and the take off pattern is normally a vertical lift into the air, transferring into forward flight whilst gaining height. Larger helicopters use a running takeoff and landing whenever possible.

 Taking off from, and landing on, a ship at sea, entails a helipad moving at quite a speed, often with buffeting wind, and large chunks of solid metal very close by. It is a very specialised skill!

 On take off, the aircraft has to rise off the pad and move to the left, or right, immediately moving away from the vessel.

 Landing is the more difficult skill. The helicopter must approach the vessel from the rear and then fly, at the speed of the ship, slightly to the left or right of the helipad. It then has to move slowly across so that it is hovering above the pad, but is, in fact, still flying forwards at the speed of the vessel. It must then drop down on to the moving deck, immediately ceasing forward flight.

 Naval pilots, I salute you!

 To the crews of both vessels, Thank you for not getting me wet!charybdis.jpg


HMS Charybdis was affectionately  called “The Cherry B.” Hence the cherry tree on the ship’s plaque.




Light Jackstay information courtesy of: MacFarlane, John M. (2013) Jackstay Transfer (Replenishment) at Sea. Nauticapedia.ca 2013. http://nauticapedia.ca/Articles/Jackstay_Transfer.php

Travelling down the Rhine on a duck

Originally published on 25/10/2017, this is part of a series that I promised may take a while to complete. I was right!

In the Summer of 1962, at the age of 14, I travelled to Germany, with the Combined Cadet Force from my school, for a Summer Camp.

It was quite an adventure to get there. We travelled by military steam train, with the carriages being loaded onto the ferry for the channel crossing. It must have been very nearly the last such journey.

We eventually arrived at 2 Division Signal Regiment, in Bünde, West Germany, a Regiment I was later to be posted to as a regular soldier.

2 div.png

The Crossed Keys of 2 Division



There were still National Servicemen who had been conscripted into the forces for 2 years. These were the last of a dying breed as the last National Servicemen left the armed forces in May 1963.

I well remember that the soldiers took great delight in plying us with beer, probably at our own expense. That Summer, far from home, was the first time that I became extremely drunk, and extremely unwell.

We obviously overdid the cigarettes too. When I returned home I suffered, for a few days, with what was diagnosed as nicotine poisoning!

During our 10 days there we went out on exercise with the Regiment and did all sorts of, what was to us young boys, very exciting things. We helped camouflage vehicles, laid large capacity cables, helped put up radio masts, slept in abandoned barns and spent a day with the German Army.

It was during this “exchange day” that I encountered the DUKW (duck) that was to transport us down the river. (For the technically minded, more information here)

Ten very excited teenagers squeezed into the restricted space at the back and were driven down a ramp, into the water, where we progressed at a very sedate pace for 20 minutes or so, driving back up another ramp to dry land.


To be honest it was a bit disappointing, certainly not as exciting as the next half hour when we were transported at some considerable speed back up river, sirens wailing, in a fast patrol craft.

We then experienced a German Army lunch, for many, the first ever taste of “foreign” food. Tepid cabbage soup, cold würst, sauerkraut, black bread, and a strange pudding of yogurt. A new experience that was not repeated until it became more commonplace in the UK.


In fact the river in question may not have been the Rhine. Memory being what it is, it could have been the Mösel, or even the Wëser. I have travelled on all of these, but, at the time, it seemed to be a very wide, and busy, river.

Part of the series Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t!

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.

This is a reblog of a series I started in October 2017. I thought I should resurrect it in order to attempt to get it completed. Perhaps it could take the place of my Lundi limerick series.

Peter's pondering

I had this random thought that I have done a few things in my life that the average person will never experience.  I thought I would write a post entitled:

“Ten things I’ve done that you probably haven’t.” It developed a little like this:

TenElevenTwelveThirteenFourteenFifteenSixteenSeventeenEighteen Nineteen Twenty things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

I arranged them in reverse alphabetical order, just for the sake of it! Then I thought of an added one, or four. So, here we have:

Some things I’ve done that you probably haven’t

  1. Travelled down the Rhine on a Duck
  2. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by Jackstay
  3. Transferred between Royal Naval ships at sea by helicopter
  4. Spent time in a prison cell
  5. Sat in a Harrier Jump Jet
  6. Rowed in a coxed 4 at sea
  7. Regularly travelled to work by helicopter
  8. Qualified as a helicopter…

View original post 174 more words

Lundi limerick #101

Epsom is known for its horses

and magnesium rich water sources

The Derby takes place

a most famous race

on one of the country’s best courses

Epsom is a town in Surrey, England, approximately 13.5 miles (21.7 km) south of central London. The town is recorded as Ebbesham in the 13th century, probably derived from the name of a Saxon landowner. Founded as a spring line settlement where the permeable chalk of the North Downs meets the impermeable London Clay, Epsom developed as a spa town in the Georgian period. The mineral waters were found to be rich in magnesium sulphate, which became known as Epsom salts. 

Each year, on the first Saturday in June, Epsom Downs Racecourse holds The Derby, the most prestigious of the five Classic flat season horse races.

Derby is pronounced DARBY, and Epsom laid claim before Kentucky did!

Song Lyric Sunday – July 12th 2020 – Water Fountain


Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday gives us the chance to share familiar, and sometimes not so familiar, songs.

If you fancy sharing one of your favourite songs you can find out how to participate, and also listen to all the great entries, here.

This week I have to issue a health warning before you proceed any further. Some of you may have no after effects whatsoever, but with others there is a severe danger of becoming addicted to this song. Just in case, I am offering you six versions to choose from and there are plenty more if you look. You will see that everyone enjoys singing this song. I enjoyed finding it and listening to it far too many times. I hope you enjoy it too!

It’s difficult to classify either the group or the music.

The group Tune-Yards (stylized as tUnE-yArDs) is from Oakland, California and is described as the music project of musician Merrill Garbus, with long-time collaborator, bassist Nate Brenner.

Their music draws from an eclectic variety of sources and utilises elements such as loop pedals, ukulele, vocals, and lo-fi percussion. You’ll soon see what I mean!

First is the official music video

Next a live performance on KEXP from May 2014

Now at the Pitchfork Music Festival 2014

and at Glastonbury 2014

The song seems popular with youth choirs and you will find lots if you look. One of the best to my mind is Coastal Sound Youth Choir: Indiekör 2016.

also worth a look is the Vancouver Youth Choir.

Water Fountain


No water in the water fountain
No side on the sidewalk
If you say Old Molly Hare, whatcha doin’ there?
Nothing much to do when you’re going nowhere

We’re gonna get the water from your house (your house)

No water in the water fountain
No wood in the woodstock
And you say old Molly Hare
Whatcha doin’ there?
Nothing much to do when you’re going nowhere

We’re gonna get the water from your house (your house)

Nothing feels like dying like the drying of my skin and lawn
Why do we just sit here while they watch us wither til we’re gone?
I can’t seem to feel it
I can’t seem to feel it
I can’t seem to feel I’ll kneel
I’ll kneel I’ll kneel the cold steel

You will ride the whip
You’ll ride the crack
No use in fighting back
You’ll sledge the hammer if there’s no one else to take the flak
I can’t seem to feel it
I can’t seem to find it
Your fist clenched my neck
We’re neck and neck and neck…

No water in the water fountain
No phone in the phone booth
And you say old Molly Hare
Whatcha doin’ there
Jump back, jump back Daddy shot a bear

We’re gonna get the water from your house (your house)

I saved up all my pennies and I gave them to this special guy
When he had enough of them he bought himself a cherry pie
He gave me a dollar
A blood-soaked dollar
I cannot get the spot out but
It’s okay it still works in the store

Greasy man come and dig my well
Life without your water is a burning hell
Serve me up with your home-grown rice
Anything make me shit nice

Se pou zanmi zwen, se pou zanmi zwen
And the two-pound chicken tastes better with friends
A two-pound chicken tastes better with two
And I know where to find YOU so
Listen to the words I said
Let it sink into your head
A vertigo round-and-round-and-round
Now I’m in your bed
How did I get ahead?
Thread your fingers through my hair
Fingers through my hair
Give me a dress
Give me a press
I give a thing a caress
Would-ja, would-ja, would-ja

Listen to the words I say!
Sound like a floral bouquet
A lyrical round-and-roundandroundandround
Take a picture it’ll last all day, hey
Your fingers through my hair
Do it ’til you disappear
Gimme your head
Gimme your head
Off with his head!

No water in the water fountain
Floral bouquet
A lyrical round-and-roundandroundandround
No side on the sidewalk
Take a picture it’ll last all day, hey
And you say old Molly Hare, Hare
Nothing much to do when you’re going nowhere

Gotcha, gotcha

We’re gonna get the water from your house, your house

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Merrill Martin Garbus / Nathaniel J Brenner

Water Fountain lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Song Lyric Sunday 06/10/2019 – Bus /Truck /Lorry

img_1345-3Thank you to Jim Adams, who hosts Song Lyric Sunday and gives us the chance to share lots of familiar, and some not so familiar, songs.

If you fancy sharing one of your favourite songs you can find out how to participate, and also listen to all the great entries, here.

This week, for a complete change, I searched for a song that I had never heard before, that was outside of my normal choice of music, but one that fitted the bill for the prompt.

I came up with a song from Joe Nichols seventh studio album, It’s All Good,  released in November 2011.

The song tells a sad tale of a man who has lost his ride home, his chance of a romantic trip on a boat, and his girlfriend. All in all he’s having a pretty bad day, and it doesn’t look as though it’s going to get any better!



No Truck, No Boat, No Girl

Joe Nichols

Sun-burned and wonderin’, how I wound up here
Edge of a dock, one flip flop, half of a six-pack of beer
Seems like yesterday I was sittin’ on top of the world
And I watched it all just drive away
No truck, no boat, no girl.

Layin’ out there on that water, is where we ought to be
Instead I’m stuck with no ride home and no you here with me
Seems like yesterday I was sittin’ on top of the world
All it takes is one mistake,
No truck, no boat, no girl.

If I could I’d drive a line and catch a bite to eat
Put my zip-code in my tackle box there behind the seat

The water’s turnin’ smooth as glass, the sun is goin’ down
A red seagull’s blowin’ by makin’ one last lap around
Seems like yesterday I was sittin’ on top of the world
I’m just bobbin’ in the wake
No truck, no boat, no girl.

Seems like yesterday I was sittin’ on top of the world
Man ain’t meant to live this way
No truck, no boat, no girl.
Some things just can’t be replaced
No truck, no boat, no girl.

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Adam Wright / Jay Knowles

No Truck, No Boat, No Girl lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Peermusic Publishing, Words & Music A Div Of Big Deal Music LLC