Belief - October 2002
Belief - December 2002
The Blackbird
Christmas 2002
Funny old Day
Golden Wedding
Local Ministry
Once in Royal...
Railway Engineering



Miscellaneous Thoughts

From a letter to a friend.

Strange how one thing leads to another. During my war-time stay at Birmingham University, I like most others, seemed to spend much time in khaki uniform, and after a session with the O.T.C. would change badges and become a member of the 28th. Warwickshire Home Guard. In my third year I attained to the exalted and heady rank of Platoon Commander, and can therefore claim a certain affinity with Captain Mainwaring. The latter, when faced with some blunder or peccadillo of his own would sometimes say pompously, “I wondered if any man would spot that mistake.”


During my various careers, I have been an assiduous collector of tools of various trades. This was no doubt the result of being a trouble-shooter with Woodall-Duckham for so long. Being called out in the small hours to attend to a disaster at some remote gas works was no time to try to get hold of a fitter with a pair of pliers. One had to have tools of one’s own. This interest spread to the tools of several trades, so that I know the difference between a Clyburn wrench and the more common Stillsons. Acquired too was the knowledge of the difference between a “bull-nosed rabbet” and an “old woman’s tooth”, also the function of a “Twitcher”. Even more esoteric was knowing the function of a “dwang” , the Glaswegian term for a tap wrench.


At South Cerney in Gloucestershire where I was Vicar for seven years, we had a well in the garden. This was a source of excellent drinking water, far superior to that supplied by the mains. The fact that it was only a few yards from the churchyard in which the remains of village worthies had been interred for past centuries may have had something to do with this. In the loft was a large tank into which well water was pumped by an electric pump in the kitchen when actuated by a float switch in the tank. At the kitchen sink, therefore, were not the usual H & C taps, but three taps, one of which was well water. This called forth comments from visitors who were inclined to assume that we had on tap, “Hot” “Cold” and “Holy”.


One recalls Gulliver’s problems with “Little-enders” and “Big-enders”. However, my great and late friend, Robert Morrison, who was a professional architect had a theory about the “rightness” of dimension. If a pole, inserted in the ground is thought of primarily as a structure, then it is “right” that it should be inserted big end down. A structure, in order to be stable, should be erected so as to ensure that the perpendicular from its centre of gravity to the ground does not under normal circumstances go outside its base area. The larger the latter, the more stable is the structure. An extreme example of this is the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Had the Pharaoh tried to build little end down, the history of the world may have been very different. We are conditioned by this and by many examples of it, so that any structure seems “right” when it is big end down.

It also explains why the female of the species is generally more stable than the male, except when wearing high heels. (well - think about it!.)

However, if the pole is regarded, not as a structure, but as a stake to be impaled into a resistant body or substance, then ancestral experience with hunting spears has conditioned us so that we expect to insert the little end first.

Bob’s rationale is therefore an interesting microcosm of the evolutionary process.

Having now removed my tongue from my cheek, and noted with satisfaction another win by Worcestershire, I leave you this time, not with a Black-Country comment, but with an old Irish aphorism:

“As you slide down the banisters of life, make sure the splinters are facing the right way !”

© The Estate of William John Green, 2004