Friday, May 31, 2019


"Motives, no doubt, are signposts rather difficult to read, and if one reads them amiss, they lead one very wide astray."

(from The House of the Arrow, by A. E. W. Mason)

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Silent Service

If life in the US Navy intrigues you, then you would enjoy this old television show, which is available on YouTube. Each episode details the "life" of a particular submarine and some remarkable aspect to its service. Each episode is introduced and closed out by Rear Admiral Thomas Dykers.

See the source image

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

She must have been very lovely

Jim was conscious of a mist of shining yellow hair, a pair of sapphire eyes, and of a face impertinently lovely and most delicate in its color.

(from The House of the Arrow, by A. E. W. Mason)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Politics is the worst

"Do you know what I am doing, Monsieur Frobisher?" he asked. "I am putting to myself a riddle. Answer it if you can! What is the strongest passion in the world? Avarice? Love? Hatred? None of these things. It is the passion of one public official to take a great big club and hit his brother official on the back of the head."

(from The House of the Arrow, by A. E. W. Mason)

Monday, May 27, 2019


"Memory is a woman," he said to himself. "If I don't run after her, she will come of her own accord."

(from The House of the Arrow, by A. E. W. Mason)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Who is the Premier Baronet?

There are two types of "Sirs" in the United Kingdom. Baronets are hereditary knights, although not peers. Then there are the life peers, whose titles may not be inherited. Thus, baronets are neither fish nor foul. They are not peers of the realm and thus cannot be addressed as "Your Lordship." They would be called "Sir William, or whatever. However, their titles do pass from generation to generation. (Just to be clear, a baron is a peer, and a baronet is not.)

The Premier Baronet is the current holder of the oldest extant baronetcy in the realm. At the moment that would be Sir Nicholas Hickman Posonby Bacon, 14th and 15th Baronet. He inherited the baronetcy in 1982 upon the death of his father.

If you are wondering about the double numbers applied to him, Sir Nicholas is both the 14th and 15th Baronet of Bacon since the 8th Bacon Baronet of Mildenhall in the County of Suffolk (created in the Baronetage of England on 29 July 1627), additionally succeeded as the 7th Bacon Baronet of Redgrave in 1755 when his third cousin, the 6th Bacon Baronet of Redgrave, died without heirs. Also in case you are wondering, Sir Nicholas has four sons, so it looks like the succession is in good shape.

The original baronet was Sir Nicholas Bacon, 1st Bt., who was born about 1540 and was appointed to the baronetcy in 1611.

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Saturday, May 25, 2019

A strange looking fellow

He is a tall, shambling fellow with a shock of grey hair standing up like wires above a narrow forehead and a pair of wild eyes. He made me think of a marionette whose limbs have not been properly strung.

(from The House of Arrow, by A. E. W. Mason)

Friday, May 24, 2019

Handy weapons

Think - think hard about the room - about where the furniture is. He'll be taken by surprise. Think where the table is, and the chairs. The chairs. Pick one up if you can - yes, pick on up an drive at him with a leg - at his knees - or his head. A good deal could be done with a chair, and his knife would be no good to him.

(from The Case Is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth)

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dartmoor prison

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, you are familiar with the long shadow cast by famous Dartmoor Prison. It was finished in 1809, and held 6500 American prisoners after the War of 1812. Believe it or not, it still is open and still is a prison, although today it is a Category C prison, housing mainly non-violent offenders.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Drought of '33

In her novel, The Case Is Closed, author Patricia Wentworth makes reference to "the drought of 1933." In a paper called "An historical analysis of drought in England and Wales" by Gwyneth Cole and Terry Marsh, we find 1933-34 listed as one of the "major droughts" in recent British history.

"Major drought. Intense across southern Britain. Severe surface water impacts in 1933 followed by severe groundwater impacts in 1934, when southern England heavily stressed." A graph in this paper shows that 1933 had one of the ten highest aridity indices since 1766. And we know that in this country as well, during that period we had the Dust Bowl days. So things evidently were dry all over.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Just don't talk!

"Landladies and fellow boarders have gaping ears and galloping tongues." (from The Case Is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth)

In other words, there are times when we really, really need to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


One of the character's mentioned in the novel, "The Case Is Closed," by Patricia Wentworth is Louisa Kezia Mercer. In the last chapter of Job, Kezia is listed as one of the second group of daughters of Job. I have long thought that was a very pretty name, and wondered why no one ever seems to use it.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Ned Maddrell's place in history

At the time of his death in 1974, Edward "Ned" Maddrell was the last surviving native speaker of the Manx language, which is spoken on the Isle of Man. Since his death, and partly because of his efforts, the language has undergone a revival at now has about 1800 people who speak it as a second language.


Friday, May 17, 2019

What people want to hear

"People are not always pleased to know the truth." Miss Silver nodded her head in a gentle depreciating manner. "You've no idea how often that happens. Very few people want to know the truth. They wish to be confirmed in their own opinions, which is a very different thing - very different indeed." (from The Case Is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth)

Not only that, but people also frequently hear what they want to hear, not necessarily what you said.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A description of Miss Silver

"She was very neatly dressed in an unbecoming shade of drab." (from The Case Is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

All related

"He went back to the shop and rang up Charles Moray, who was some sort of seventeenth cousin and a very good friend." (from The Case is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth)

That is getting into a distant relationship, all right. But if you think about it, all of us are going to link up in father Noah sooner or later. Just keep going back, and we are all cousins, or uncles and aunts, or grandparents. Some sort of kin.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The real life Big Valley

The Big Valley television show was reportedly based loosely upon the Hill Ranch in Caleveras County, California. The time frame would have been in the late 1870s.

Calaveras County view

Monday, May 13, 2019

Dithery dreep

In the Patricia Wentworth novel, The Case Is Closed, we find a woman described as "a dithery dreep." That was a new one to me. "Dithery" means "indecisive." "Dreep" is a British variant of "drip." As a verb it means "to lower oneself from a height and drop the remaining distance."

It is not completely clear to me how the phrase was used by Wentworth, but it definitely was not complimentary. Here is the complete section:

"Not that she thought Mrs. Mercer had shot James Everton. She was a dithery dreep of a woman, and she wouldn't have the nerve to shoot a guinea pig. Hilary simply couldn't believe in her firing a pistol at her employer. A dreep is and remains a dreep. It doesn't suddenly become a cool plotting assassin."

Sunday, May 12, 2019

An old plot

In one episode in the first season of The Big Valley, there is an earthquake, and three people are buried in the rubble underneath a building. Including a pregnant woman. Very pregnant. She had the baby while they are there, of course. I wonder how many times that scene has been used by Hollywood over the years.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Apache May Slaughter

The holder of this colorful name was the adopted daughter of famous cattleman and lawman John Slaughter. He found the girl, who evidently had been abandoned by her parents while being pursued by Slaughter in Mexico. By her adoption, she became the great-great-great-granddaughter of Daniel Boone. Her name comes from her race and from the date of her birth, as calculated by the Slaughters.

Apache May.jpg

Friday, May 10, 2019

"The Virginian" was one of the best of the westerns

I have read the original novel, and it is a western classic. Usually when Hollywood takes over they mess things up, but I don't know but what they actually improved upon the novel. First of all, the 90-minute format allowed more time to develop the plot line. Second, James Drury was the ideal actor for the title character, reserved and intense as he was. Third, the rest of the cast had featured some outstanding performances, perhaps most notably Lee J. Cobb as Judge Garth and Doug McClure as Trampas. Whatever the factors, the series just clicked, and lasted for nine seasons.


Thursday, May 09, 2019

Oklahoma's largest funeral

You never know if what you see on the internet is correct. After all, anyone can put anything out there for us to read. However, after infamous Depression-era criminal Pretty Boy Floyd was killed, his body was placed on public display in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. His funeral was attended by over 20,000 people and reportedly remains the largest funeral in Oklahoma history.


Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Questions at the inquest

The Coroner: "Are you a good shot?"

Geoffrey Grey: "I am a fair shot."

The Coroner: "At a target?"

Geoffrey Grey: "At a target?"

The Coroner: "You could hit a man across a room?"

Geoffrey Grey: "I have never tried."

(from The Case is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth)

Monday, May 06, 2019

Against our own best interests

Money and comfort are not everything. The dark motives of jealousy, hate, and revenge run counter to them, and in that clash security and self-interest may go down.

(from The Case Is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth)

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Roberta Shore

Shore played the daughter of the ranch owner on the early seasons of the  TV series The Virginian. She had a fresh-faced look that fit well with the outdoor life on the ranch. Her birth name was interesting: Roberta Jymme Schourop.

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Saturday, May 04, 2019

Force of habit

"The neat, inconspicuous clothes of a respectable woman who has stopped bothering about her appearance, but is tidy from habit and training." (from The Case is Closed, by Patricia Wentworth)

I thought that was a pretty good description of a certain class of women that we do see all the time, but do not necessarily think about in this particular way.

Friday, May 03, 2019

The cesspool of pride

What he wished now was to find Jordan and kill him before her eyes. He wanted to break her spirit and, ad the same time, to prove his own superiority. (from The Burning Hills, by Louis L'Amour)

So much of evil involves pride, even physical cruelty and violence. He must think and prove that he is better than someone else, even if the very act of seeking to prove it demonstrates his inferiority.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

TV westerns and memories

I grew up in the days of the great television westerns - the kinds kids could watch. I remember hurrying to my maternal grandparents' house near Malvern to arrive on Friday night in time to watch Rawhide. Wagon Train. Sugarfoot. Bonanza on Sunday night. There were lots of them. We can still watch many of them on reruns and on YouTube. Ah, the good ol' days! A lot of good memories are attached to those old "shoot 'em up" shows.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Look past appearances

"Very difficult to estimate depth of well by size of bucket." (Charlie Chan, from The Feathered Serpent)

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