Friday, April 22, 2016

Successful closing of the townhouse sale

The sale of my townhouse closed this afternoon.  I am a renter once again.  Hooray!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Farewell Blossoms

Next week I will sell my townhouse and downsize to an apartment.  As a farewell treat, the crab apple blossoms in front of my townhouse were in full bloom today.

My apartment will not have internet service (unless I weaken in my current conviction to take a break from visual-dominated modern technology).  However, I can use a computer at the apartment complex's business center to create blog posts.  At present I don't know how to attach photos via the business center computer, so subsequent blog posts may be text only.  This may be for the best.  My readership can also probably benefit from a break from photographs and videos.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ashley Sterne My Ideal Wireless Set

I stumbled upon this wonderful article by Ashley Sterne in Scribd.  The article was published in the 21 December 1923 issue of Radio Times.

From the Scribd description of the Radio Times issue:

“The much-loved Christmas edition of the Radio Times made its first appearance in 1923.  It was all very different to today’s multi-channel, on-demand world. There was only radio, and London station 2LO had a meagre five-and-a-half hours of programmes on Christmas Day.”

[Note: the English wireless enthusiasts refer to radio tubes as “valves.”]

My Ideal Wireless Set

By Ashley Sterne, the Popular Humorist

The wireless set I possess at present is really a very handsome affair; everything of the best, including the hole in the window-frame through which the lead-in passes.  My aerial is solid wire throughout, and very popular with the robins, three of which, as I write, are examining with keen interest two pairs of socks and my other shirt, which a myopic menial has just hung up to dry thereon in mistake for the clothes-line.

A Novel Tie-pin

My crystal is a beautiful thing, best 24-carat referendum, and when not in use for listening purposes I wear it as a tie-pin or a centre-stud, and try to imagine I’m Jolly Soel.  My cat’s whisker is so true to nature that the mice won’t go near it, while my tuning-in coil is capable of such delicate adjustment that it will even enable me to pick up a Marcel permanent wave.

If I have a fault to find with my apparatus it is that the head-phones are liable to give me hot ears.  I’ve got a 7 1/4 head, whereas my head-phones were apparently designed to be worn by a mackerel or a canary, or some other animal with an attenuated skull.  However, I’ve made some ear-pads out of a couple of crumpets, which afford considerable relief, and the risk of my contracting chronic radio-ear is now happily obliterated.

A Pleasing Ornament

The complete instrument, mounted on a small pedestal which reposes against my drawing-room wall, between a stuffed bear holding a card-tray and a life-size plaster cast of Ajax defying the licence, forms a very pleasing ornament, and it is with no little pride that I nightly demonstrate its wonders and point out its beauties to my many Scottish friends and radio-enthusiasts.

At the same time my installation is not all I would wish it to be.  I want to make it a kind of ideal set which will cause other zealots to go home and swallow their valves or garrot themselves with their aerials out of sheer envy.  To this end I am conducting a series of experiments which, if brought to a successful issue, will add considerably to the pleasure of listening.

I possess, however, a very meagre knowledge of electricity, even of that sort that goes on wires all the way, while my knowledge of the wireless variety, and ether, and Herzian waves, and so forth, is only comparable with an Angora goat’s knowledge of the Nebular Hypothesis.  Yet I feel if I potter about long enough with an accumulator in one hand, a condenser in the other, and a negative pole stuck behind my ear, I shall one day solve the problem of seeing the broadcasting chappy simultaneously with listening to him.

This will be a great advantage.  I shall be able to see my favourite uncle, for instance, when he’s telling me my bedtime story, and I feel perfectly certain that the moral of the Onoto who wanted to become a Swan will go home to me with far greater force when I can see his dear old dial, with its shiny bald head, three chins, and tufts of asparagus-fern whisker, that when, as at present, I have to sit with a Kruschen advertisement on my knee in order to conjure up a vision of him.

Then I’m at work on another device for chatting back with the studios.  A few weeks ago somebody was telling us all about the instruments of the orchestra: how the oboe quacked like a duck, and the bassoon bellowed like the bull of Bashan, and how one could manipulate the double-bass so that it didn’t go to the head.  Well, that put me in mind of an awfully good story I once heard about a short-sighted old lady who used a trombone as a hair-slide and ate a whole flute in mistake for a stick of liquorice; and if I could only have got it through to the lecturer — well, the rest of the entertainment would have fallen as flat as an amateur tenor singing “Where my caramel has rusted.”

Which reminds me that this new device of mine will enable us to encore things if we want to.  The other night the band played that lovely little thing, “Rhapsody in A flat (with vacant possession)” by — I fancy — Giddy and Giddy and Giddy and Giddy.  I clapped like any old thing.  But did we have it again?  No; we got a north-easterly gale and a waterspout allotted to us for to-morrow’s weather instead.

Bouquets and Bricks

Lastly, I am anxiously seeking some method whereby a listener can hand up a bouquet or heave a brick at the artiste who has specially delighted or annoyed him.  At present we have no means of expressing our emotions at headquarters, and I am strongly of opinion that some device for laying our tributes at the artiste’s feet or for smacking them across his face is urgently needed.

Some few months ago, you may remember, a ruffian with a name precisely similar to my own and looking exactly like me, only more so, broke into 2LO and broadcast something about installing a wireless set.  Notwithstanding that he delivered it in more or less my own inimitable style, manner and Oxford Street accent, he was clearly a forgery.  For instance, his voice was harsh and strident, like sand-papering a rhinoceros; mine is soft and seductive, like mashed potatoes.  He dropped all his h’s; I could hear them crashing on the floor.  I pronounce my aspirates so emphatically that they make the electric light flicker.

Now, had I only perfected the Sterne Telekinetic Brick and Banana-Skin Projector that impudent imposter would have topped the bill at the next coroner’s inquest.  Unfortunately I have at present only invented the title; but have no fear; my Ideal Wireless Set will come along one day.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ashley Sterne The Millionaire Business

I assume that this little article is by Ashley Sterne because of the final line.  The article was published in The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld) 13 April 1921.

The Millionaire Business


I expect you will be surprised to learn that I am saving up to be a millionaire.

I have come to the conclusion that the only business in which there is any money is the millionaire business, and it seems a pity that my folk didn't put me in the millionaire line instead of the law— in which I was a great success as a failure.

Still, I mention this so that you will not be surprised if you find me opening up as a journeyman millionaire.  My tailor already thinks I am in that line.  At least, that is the impression he gave me when I received his bill the other day.

But we amateur millionaires never get a real chance.  No sooner do we start out as millionaires than the landlord calls and takes our five pounds and we are reduced to the ranks right away.


I can do the talking side of the millionaire business all right. In fact, I’ll bet anybody I could take prizes in it — if they didn't make me put them back again.  I have listened to millionaire men talking well off, and it is pathetic to think what they have got to put up with.

One of them will tell you he has lost fifty thousand pounds on "Can. Pacs.”  He swears he is ruined, and then goes off and orders a couple of bottles of champagne in order to ruin himself some more.  These millionaires simply revel in being ruined, and there's nothing like champagne to help a man on the right road.  The last time I ordered champagne it ruined me.

Then you will hear one of them start crying, "I offered Jones £200,000, but he wouldn't take it."

Wouldn't take it, mind you.  I can’t think what Jones could have been thinking about.  If he wouldn't take £200,000, why didn't they offer it to me?  I'd show him how to take it.  And if they made it £300,000 I expect I'd have taken it even then.  I'm very funny that way.

But if you want to be a millionaire you must read their life stories.  They were all demons for work.  They used to work at their offices all day long, and they were never a minute late in the morning.  They got promoted, and, generally speaking, ended up by marrying into the millionaire business.


Remember, therefore, if you want to be a proper millionaire, never be a minute late at the office.  If you arrive at the office a minute late one morning you are doomed.  You can give up the millionaire idea right away.  I ought to have started this millionaire training by getting up at 5 o'clock every morning instead of at 10 a.m. when it is fine.

Again, if you read the life stories of millionaires you will find that they all arrived in London with only sixpence in their pockets.  So if you want to be a millionaire, and have the misfortune to arrive in London with a shilling in your pocket, you must throw sixpence away.  Some budding millionaires have tried it with 5 1/2 d and wondered why they failed.   Don't do that.  Sixpence is the amount — not 5 1/2 d.

I don't think I could have got hold of the idea right when I arrived in London with my sixpence in my hand, because I hadn't been there long before a 'bus conductor took it away from me and I had to go home for another sixpence and start all over again.

Still, I am getting along very well.  I already have £5 0s 1 3/4d, all of which is due to the fact that I am strictly sober, have worked hard, have given keen attention to business, and that I have just borrowed five pounds from our friend Ashley Sterne.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ashley Sterne Mermaid Mystery

This little trifle was published in The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld.) on 6 June 1925.  Ashley Sterne apparently needed to provide a light article on the spur of the moment.

(Note: a few terms below need explanation.  "Brixham" is a fishing village.  "Brixton" is a district in London.  "Pukkah" is a slang term for genuine.  "Southsea" is a seaside resort.   "Battersea" is a residential district in south London.  These explanations may aid the reader's understanding, but they won't make Sterne's references particularly funny.)

Mermaid Mystery by Ashley Sterne

Nature has compensated me for the absence of Norman blood in my veins by endowing me with a double allowance of simple faith.  I unhesitatingly believe, for example, everything I read in the newspapers — including the weather forecasts.  When the day is predicted to be hot and sunny, I religiously leave my goloshes at home and sally forth with my thinnest and coolest walking-stick.  The fact that I return later with double pneumonia, a chill on the liver, and three different sorts of catarrh doesn’t shake my faith in the least.  I feel that, anyway, the meteorologist did his best.

Similarly, when I read that there’s secondary depression and an anti-thingummyjig developing on the N.W. coast of Labrador, I take my daily walk as far away from Labrador as possible.  Yet I am not a jot disillusioned to find the secondary depression and the anti-thingummyjig waiting for me in the line behind the steam laundry.  I merely conclude that the hydrometer in the Weather Bureau has got the moth in it, or that the office wind-gauge needs recalibrating.  It never occurs to me to doubt the bona fides of my newspaper.

However, a certain phenomenon has, without actually dislocating my faith, nevertheless caused it to wobble in its socket.  As the observant reader is aware, the seaside season offers boundless scope to the various illustrated papers and scarcely a day during the summer months without one’s eyes being allured by snapshots of seaside life at our most popular health resorts.  We are all familiar with such fascinating pictures as that of the smiling, chubby youngster grasping a mangled crab in one hand, and in the other a couple of yards of that interesting seaweed which resembles a mixture of bootlaces and linoleum bearing the caption, “Baby likes Brixham better than Brixton,” — or words to that effect.

Equally familiar is the picture of the two little girls placing a moribund jelly fish in father’s hat, entitled “They’re afraid it will melt!” — as also is that of a small boy holding a lease expire shell to his ear, usually known as “What are the wild whelks saying?”  But no snapshot is quite so persistently recurrent as that of the devastatingly beautiful damsels, who clad in ravishing comic-opera costumes and wearing smiles like a tooth-paste advertisement, are generally “snapped” sitting on weed-girt, cockle studded rocks, dabbling their toes in the water.  The picture has several titles, of which I may mention “Merry Mermaids at Mudthorpe,” “Lovely Loreleis at Limpetmouth,” and “Winsome Water-Witches at Winklehaven.”

But — and this is what bothers me — neither I, nor any of my friends to my knowledge, has ever seen one of these entrancing maidens in the flesh.  Who are they?  Where do they come from?  Where do they hide themselves when they’re not being photographed?  Somehow I cannot believe they are genuine mermaids.  For I feel sure no self-respecting merdamsel would ever consent to have her tail split and the two ends thrust into a pair of stockings criss-crossed with chocolate-box ribbon.  Nor can they conceivably be pukkah loreleis, for loreleis sing while basking on the rocks, and comb out their long golden tresses; yet these maidens all have their heads tied up like pudding basins, and are far too busy showing their crown and bridgework to sing.

The question, then, is: How does the photographer manage to locate them?  I know, of course, that he has been specially trained as a spotter, yet here have I — formerly observation officer to the R.A.S.C. (Camel Transport) — formerly concentrating for many years on spotting one for myself, and I haven’t even spotted anything as much like a mermaid as a mackerel.  A solution of the mystery does occur to me, but I mention it with no little hesitation since I earnestly wish to preserve inviolate my faith in our newspapers.

I still possess a photograph of myself taken at the age of four announcing “H.M.S Pantechnicon.”  I am standing beside a curious looking craft, a cross between a hip-bath and a catamaran.  Over one arm a coil of rope is slung.  Under the other I carry a half-ton anchor.  In the background a fierce storm calculated to put the wind up the Ancient Mariner himself is raging.  The waves on the foreshore are standing up on their hind legs, foaming at the mouth.  Yet this marvelous picture was not secured at Southsea but at Battersea, and hence I am driven to speculate whether our annual crop of mermaids…

But no.  The thought is an unworthy one.  Let me sit on its head.