Saturday, 4 April 2020

Clap for chemists...

Just do it!

This is for Heather, Michelle, Sandra, Sally and all the backroom staff at our fabulous local chemist!

Sunday, 29 March 2020

The North Wind doth blow...

Heck it's cold here in Kent...

I know March can be pretty variable weather-wise, but this lot is coming at a time when we really do need a few days off to start to get better times in view...

Years ago, we had a national off licence client, and we used to do several surveys of shop sites in one day. They would phone us up in the office about 4:00pm, and tell us to be on a new site at 9:00am the following day, and some weren't that close either! Ivybridge springs to mind, and Torquay and Plymouth.

One day, we had to survey three sites in East Anglia. I can't remember the first two, but I do recall that the last one, at 3:30pm was in Sheringham, on the North coast... When I arrived and met the others, we did the work - it wasn't a lot really, just a look around, several notes, and some measurements, then a decision on the specification as to which brand they were going to apply to the property, like Peter Dominic, Bottoms Up etc. We all got on pretty well, and I actually enjoyed the travel, the friendship, and of course, they always paid on time, being a decent national firm.

I'd never been to the place, but one thing which always stuck in this old grey head (it was brown back then...), was that the North Wind always blew like hell there, as my dear Uncle and Aunt often went on holiday to the place.

I still have a small blotter, one of those chaps which look like a lemon wedge, and you used to roll them over the wet ink. When they popped off, we all took a few momentos of the lovely couple, and I finished up with the little blotter, which still bears a mirror image of their handwriting - which was down to the innumerable letters and cards they always wrote to everyone.

It's a treasure, and I've never forgotten my Uncle Ken telling me that 'It always blew like hell up there'!

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Truths, damn truths and statistics...

Image result for standard deviation

Several years ago, Scrobs was spending several hours a week studying for a Diploma in Marketing.

It was an attempt to leap-frog some contemporaries in a perfectly happy and well-paid job, but one where mundanity was more than apparent, and one could easily be intimidated by the mediocrity of others, if one wanted - which I didn't...

So the spare bedroom became a shrine of learning, and with a small allowance from the County (remember grants - a licence to buy a second-hand Mini,) and a few bob from my management, the work began.

The subjects were interesting and far-reaching, especially the Marketing papers based on Kotler and Management by Drucker - both gurus back then. The course work got off to a cracking start, despite Law and Economics becoming a bit turgid, but the big elephant in the room was Statistics. While I'd never really been an expert with maths, I got a reasonable GCE, and could understand most figures (not the pure maths, or applied maths, which was for people with brains the size of a Sainsbury's and a line of coloured biros in the top pocket - once called a 'nerd pack' by an unkind American.)

So then came Statistics.

At first, it was relatively easy, and the papers went off each week, with all sorts of calcs and figures, and I began to enjoy looking at rows of numbers, and making hypothetical decisions based on the findings. This was all in the late 1970s, so computers were called main-frames, and appeared in 'The Eagle'. But things didn't improve. The elephant produced a child - 'Standard Deviation!

"A quantity expressing by how much the members of a group differ from the mean value for the group".

The calculation was as here: -

\sigma={\sqrt {\frac {\sum(x_{i}-{\mu})^{2}}{N}}}

I think I'll decline to explain what it was all about, as it really doesn't make this yarn any more (or less) interesting, but suffice to say, I just had a mental block on the whole issue! I really couldn't understand it, and tried and tried every evening to fathom the true meaning and even why one really wanted to know what the result achieved! 

But anyway, I learned the calc by rote as it was a cert for a question in the exam, and even that took a long time with just a pocket calculator and a pad and pencil. I used to make up all sorts of mnemonics to remember the sequence, and drag the numbers from the interminable columns of figures, which became a blur after an hour or two. So I could just about do the sums, and achieve a suitable answer (of course, still not knowing why the bloody thing was needed in the first place)!

The day of the exam arrived, and I entered the exam hall muttering the equation over and over so that I could answer the inevitable question. I even panicked directly I sat down and arranged the desk, and immediately wrote the calc down on a piece of paper with a sigh of arrival.

Stone me, when we were all told to turn over the papers, the scheming, sodding examiners had printed all the calcs on the front sheet 'to aid students in their tasks'! 

Bugger! All that work for naught!

So it was ever thus, I passed the paper reasonably well (still not knowing what SD really meant), and went on from there!

But, nowadays with fabulous algorithms for PCs, spreadsheets the size of Wales, the SD is just a click away from an answer, and seeing all these charts concerning Covid 19, and supposed mortality rates, coupled with the Dow Jones graphs going the opposite way, such that new yard-high PC screens need to be invented to show the huge diversion of lines, I sometimes wonder whether it was all worth it!

And I still don't really know what a Standard Deviation does to help anyone!

Saturday, 14 March 2020

The flow of the Darling...

Heart-warming and lovely clip from Australia!

Looking at all the politics of the issues with this monumental river, I somehow see real hope here, and listening to the happiness of a lady from the area the other night, made this film required watching!

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Ahm on ve mobaw...

Just flicking through a few of the normal online rags, like the Telegraph, Express and Mail, Scrobs spied more than several instances of minor slebs, very minor 'royals' and lots of unknown TV hangers-on, all making the same vacant self-important grimace as they are snapped with a thing the size of a 1950s TV set glued to their ears!

I invented an anti-chugger device using a small phone some years ago, when walking up a Canterbury thoroughfare, and spying the inevitable clown antics of some early form of Prickstinction Fatbellian escapaders, still fresh from school, leaping about and trying to engage normal people to listen to a stream of twaddle, I just placed my phone to my ear, and was never, ever bothered!

I think the issue is now one of International importance, as the said individuals who desire poorly constructed pictures of themselves apparently talking in 'serious voices' to non-disclosed similar nonentities, have stolen my future!

My next few years will be spent in penury, because I couldn't raise the cash to make a patent of this activity, and cast its comparison with Bookface or Twotter onto greater things!


Friday, 28 February 2020

How old is an old friend...

On Wednesday, I went to meet an old chum I'd known since the fifties. We were at school together.

After a couple of hours of delightful banter in the quiet, friendly pub, we shook hands and agreed that a return match was going to be a necessity.

On the way home, I was musing how often something like this happens these days, and chums meeting up was becoming a rarer occasion. I hadn't seen Tim since he'd announced that he was retiring, and was going to live in France with his lovely wife. When I saw that, I just ticked off another mate I'd probably never see again, but what a surprise to learn that it wasn't what they wanted, so they came back home to live, and are now very happy with their lot.

Back in the sixties, after we'd gone our separate ways, I lost touch with so many people, as some went to Australia, some to South Africa etc., but really didn't want to do any of that, as I probably didn't have the nerve, certainly didn't have the money or qualifications, and above all, really liked it all here, especially in London.

How all this has changed. Mrs O'Blene and I decided long ago that we'll never go to London again, especially after the 'manic mare Khan' is sitting there making a disaster-zone of the place, so it's back to the roots of the village, and it'll stay that way!

So, back to Tim. After losing touch, I was one day reading 'The Estates Gazette', which is required reading in property circles, and suddenly, there was a photo of my chum, explaining the vagaries of some deal or other in The City! A phone call later, we thought a good glass of red would go down well, and it became a great regular meeting of minds for the eighties. So that's a twenty year break from school days.

We tried doing some business around 2003, when things were going downhill because of Blair/Brown, and then came mutual retirement and Tim's great escape, so now, after all that time, we get back to laughing at spidery writing in my collection of the old school mags, photos of great contemporaries, memories of unrequited lust after the assistant matrons, the joy of seeing notes describing a sports success/failure etc., and it all feels bloody good!

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Foyle's War...

Several years ago, Scrobs was living and working in London, in an office in Old Queen Street, Westminster.

Being pretty well penniless as usual, lunchtimes in the pub were almost non-existent, and a 3/- Luncheon Voucher just covered a cheap sandwich and some sort of orange drink from the little shop over the road.

But what to do with the down-time after the quick disposal of said comestibles (about three minutes)?

Well, as Damon Runyon would say, 'A story goes with it'! And it did!

A few years before, my dad had given me a copy of a paperback version of some of Damon Runyon's short stories, like this one: -

Image result for guys and dolls paperback

He was particularly amused by one story, 'A piece of pie', and it being very funny, the seeds for more were sown!

So, with 57 minutes of a lunch hour left, Scrobs decided to find out if there were any more books by the same man. It became a bit of an obsession, and talking in the present tense (like the stories), became a little boring for chums! It takes about fifteen minutes to walk to Charing Cross Road from Old Queen Street, and I used to stride out up Whitehall across Trafalgar Square and pore over the shelves of every second-hand book shop I could find, and there are quite a few!

One day, I was in one of the older shops, and asked the owner if he had any copies of any of the books, and he called down to his chum in the basement, who called back immediately. 'Got 'Runyon from first to last', he said. 'Ten bob'? So another three lunches went south and money changed hands. I remember him smiling and calling out as I left 'Harry the Horse to you'! Luckily I had some 'wit' left and came back 'Nicely Nicely', and we both had a huge smile on our faces, although his was, of course, much older!

A few weeks later, when I'd saved a few bob, I started the search again. This time I started at Foyles Bookshop, which is probably the best known bookshop in the world. Back then they had floors and floors of second-hand books, and all in various heaps, on hundreds of shelves, and stacked on the floor everywhere. It was an Aladdin's cave of the written word.

It took me several weeks of searching for the other main book, 'Runyon on Broadway': -

Image result for Runyon on Broadway

...and I'd got nowhere in any of the heaps, shelves, dusty corners etc., and was getting more than somewhat despondent, especially as I'd spent weeks searching for this book, with no result!

So, in final resignation, a weary Scrobs approached a friendly assistant, and asked, 'Do you have a second-hand copy of Runyon on Broadway', please'?

The assistant immediately looked up and around, and pointed to a shelf, 'No, but there's a new one in the violet cover over there'!

Scrobs experienced several emotions at once - dismay, relief, fear of the price of a new book and fury at not knowing that it was back in print so I had to buy it! It was far too much money back then (£2.10 - we'd just gone decimal), but what an absolute treasure to own! It's still in pride of place on a shelf of real books at home, having been read and re-read several times, and it still has the original dust cover. I think I'll eventually leave it to someone in my will as it's so precious!