Sunday, July 8, 2018

Does your dog speak to you?

Most dog owners know that their pets "tell" them about their needs.  I want a drink or some food, go for a walk and so on.
 Now two researchers from Salford University have been receiving lots of media attention from all over the world, having published the results of a study which showed that there is a distinct dog "language" .  Sean O'Hara and Hannah Worsley 1 conducted research with 37 owners and their animals where they video recorded hours of footage which on analysis showed clearly that dogs communicate with their owners  through  behavior  and signs which have a specific meaning and are intended to get a particular  response. Many reporters have interpreted this as a kind of sign language.

Sean and Hannah visited London recently to be interviewed by Sarah Vine, a Mail columnist who wrote quite a long piece on the subject.
Hannah Worsley (left) and Sean O'Hara (right) say they have worked out exactly how dogs speak

Admittedly most of the piece was about Sarah Vine and her own dogs, but interesting nonetheless.

The Salford research was carried out in the North West of England and it would be interesting to know if the same results would be found in other parts of the country.
The North East , for instance.  We all know that folk on Tyneside speak English which is unintelligible to people from elsewhere. What about their dogs? Does a Newcastle whippet understand Geordie and respond with two fingers instead of a paw? Then down in the West Country there is a different English again.  Further research is required..

And its a pity about Brexit.  It would have been a further area of research to discover what kind of Gallic gestures those French poodles use when asking for the garlic bread.




1 Worsley, HK & O'Hara, SJ (2018) Cross-species referential signalling events in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Animal Cognition, 21(4): 457-465.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Have you made a will?

How many  people  leave  it too late to make a will?



A distant relative, James heron when writing his testament in 1825 started by saying "I Consider it to be every mans duty in his own lifetime to settle his affairs in such a manner as to prevent all disputes after his death....."
He  then went on to leave all his estate to his only son, also James.  He survived for a few more years and in the meantime son James was apprenticed as a solicitor and became a member of the Society of Writers to the Signet,
Inheriting some nine thousand pounds James decided not to work anymore  especially when he later inherited the estate of his uncle, William Heron a substantial addition to his coffers.   Time slipped by, as it does, James lived the high life and did not think he was going to die.  He did, of course, but earlier than he anticipated so  had not had time to either marry or make a will.  Ironic that a man with legal training should die at the age of thirty eight and had not made a will.

The result of dying intestate was that his elderly aunt, Elizabeth McKie, as his next of kin, inherited everything.  According to the legal records, she was too aged and infirm to even write her own name so she quickly disposed of much it,  giving the Dalmore house and estate to her brother William in trust for his daughter.  She also gave railway shares to her neice,  Helen which enabled Helen's husband to retire from his bakery. 

Doubtful if this how young James would have disposed of his goods,  etc  had he got round to making a will.

So the moral of this story is, if you want to decide who gets all your goods and chattels then make a will.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Hone Stone

Do you know what a Hone Stone is?

Until very recently if you had asked me I would have thought along the lines of those stones used in olden days for sharpening scythes and sickles and the like.  I knew that there were stones used by carpenters for sharpening chisels but thought they were called oil stones.

I recently found that one of my great-great grandfathers was a hone stone manufacture in Stair in Ayrshire.
Hone stones from this small manufactory in the mid nineteenths century had two brand names Tam O' Shanter and Water of Ayr and they were famous mainly for sharpening razors and a finer variety was used in the jewelry trade.

The stones quarried in the Dalmore Estate near the small village of Stair in Ayrshire.  How William McKie came to be the proprietor here is very vague and difficult to follow.  It was originally owned in the early part of the century by a James Heron and according to some information it was passed down through the female side of this family.  William McKie was  the son of Janet Heron but we have not established the direct connection between Janet and James Heron..  Work for another day.  

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Old technology still works.

Have you noticed in the recent spell of cold weather  that despite all the latest gizmos in cars you have to revert to  the old ways to get started and they always seem to work.  You might have a satnav which helps you get lost in a strange town or a hi fi radio with 190 stations nione of which you want to listen to, but you still need a shovel to clear the snow from the driveway.unless you are the Highways agency, when you will need four blokes and a aJCB.

And the best way of getting the frost off the windscreen is still a plastic scraper as the heated windscreen system takes too long to work. And when the doors are frozen closed and you have a wireless key with no keyhole, how do you unfreeze the lock?  Such is progress. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Is Remembrance now just a photo shoot?

Those who know me will know that I am not a jingoist of any kind so I make no apology for returning to the subject of remembering the dead of the first world war.
Visiting Tyne Cot Cemetery this week I was appalled to say the least at the sight of young people climbing about on the central memorial cross just to have their photos taken.
I spoke to one of the guides who told me that the steps on the base of the cross where designed to be used for that.  She said that when King George V visited the cemetery he wanted to stand on the place where so many allied soldiers had stood.
I pointed out that standing on that spot reflecting on the dead of war was a world away from using a memorial as a platform for photographs.
She replied "You are entitled to your opinion."

The first time we visited Tyne Cot, we were almost alone there and it was a moving experience.  Unfortunately this time it was almost impossible to think of it in quite the same way.

Hopefully after 2018 this place will return to being a place of remembrance and not the tourist venue that it appears to be today.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A hundred years ago

Frederick Feston died nearly one hundred years ago on 25th October 1917. One of the casualties of the Third battle of Ypres that they called Passchendaele.  Not the only one who died that day so it is all too easy to lump them all together as casualties and forget that each of them was an individual: son, father or husband.
Fred Feston is a real man to us even though we never knew him. His daughters never knew him,   the first only a baby and the second born after he died. His widow remarried so his memory gradually faded.
We know him because of our interest in family history and we have been able to piece together his life before the war and the events surrounding his few brief months in the army in France before he disappeared into the mud of Flanders.  No grave-just a name inscribed on a long wall among so many others and an entry in  memorial book.

The Third Battle of Ypres ended at the beginning of November, too late for Fred Feston and for close to three quarters of a million men who died there in less than a month.  In a poem, Sigfried Sassoon put it "I died in Hell, they called it Passchendaele."

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A crowd, a host

To borrow from Wordsworth "I saw a crowd, a host ..........of people"

I was in my early twenties and hadn't seen a crowd like this before. I had seen crowds, of course, London rush hour, football matches and even from in a CND march, but they were moving crowds. This one was standing still and I didn't know what was going on.
This was a Monday and I was on my way to work at the GPO in the City of London from where I lived in Downham, just over ten miles.  I cycled everyday and never had a problem but that day I was completely baulked. Cycling in London back in in the 1950s was not as dangerous as it is today, a lot less traffic then but there was a special hazard of the tramlines which are not there anymore.
I discovered that the reason for the crown  was the Lord Mayors Show and the way to work was completely blocked.  I might just as well have been on the other side of the river as the other side of this mass of people just waiting to see a  hangover from medieval times. But of course a free show always attracts crowds.
The show was always held on the 9th November in those days no matter what day of the week it was and at the time I remember thinking it should have been held on the fifth! They have a bit more sense about it now and it always held on a Saturday, probably because when they changed it people still worked a five day week!
No matter which diversion I tried, down towards Cannon Street, up every side street but was still blocked.   I was still stuck until the parade had left the Guildhall area and some of the barriers had been removed so that I could get through.
Even without the bike I would still not been able to get through.  Have you ever tried to push your way through to the front of a crowd? Over an hour late for work, stopped two hours pay which I could ill afford still being on the lowest pay in the place.
I was never greatly enamoured of pageantry and stuff associated with the aristocracy and the upper classes before, but this confirmed an innate antipathy.  Almost joined the Communist Party!