A story I made up for my grandchild, aged 5, and later wrote down …

King Folly was, in a word, horrible. He had a terrible temper and kept putting his subjects in prison for no good reason. He was very vain and would send you to gaol for being better looking than he was. And woe betide you if you looked at him funny, as he called it – anyone who did so was liable to be locked up on the spot.

Many people ended up behind bars because he was somehow convinced that they weren’t telling him what he needed to know. People learned to smile sweetly and think of nothing as he passed by. They could always stick their tongues out when his back was turned.

One day a boy called Honest Jack was climbing a tree near the King’s castle. It was a nut tree and, as everyone knows, the best nuts grow nearest the top so that was where he headed. Suddenly, from far below, came a stern voice. 

“Know ye not, scoundrel, that this be the King’s tree?”

“Did he plant it?” the cheeky lad replied.

“Of course not,” said the stern voice. “The tree is hundreds of years old.”

“Then how can the King claim it for himself? Surely its sweet nuts belong to anyone brave enough to collect them?”

“You’ll not be so brazen when you get back down here!” the stern voice replied. It was King Folly, of course, out hunting with his soldiers.

“I’m very happy up here,” Jack said, “with nuts aplenty and dew upon the leaves.”

“Axeman, chop it down!”

If you were Jack, what would you have done? Down he came and the King commanded his arms be tied behind his back. Soon enough, he found himself in a gloomy dungeon that smelled of damp straw.

“Never mind,” he told a rat who came out to watch, “these nuts are nice!” The rat looked interested and in few moments they were the very best of friends.

Meanwhile King Folly was bored and up to his usual tricks. He gazed into his favourite mirror at his favourite face. And as usual he began to find fault with what he saw.

Can’t put my finger on it, he thought, but something’s not quite right.

So he did what he usually did. He went down to the castle prison and chose a prisoner at random to ask whether he (or sometimes she) thought that he (King Folly) was the most handsome man in the land. For some peculiar reason, the prisoner would always confess that these were his (or her) very thoughts.

“You have excellent taste, my good man (or woman),” the King would say. “For that and that alone, I release you back to your humble life!”

Today it was Jack’s turn. “You, handsome?” he replied. Even the rat held his breath. “You’d be no worse looking than anybody else, I suppose … if it wasn’t for the curl of your upper lip and the way you look at people down your nose.” 

The King was certainly not accustomed to this kind of thing and flew into a rage.

“You, boy,” he spluttered, “will be here, for that and that alone, to the end of your wretched days! And you can forget bread and water! From now on, it’s stinky … mouldy … cheese!”

The cell door slammed shut and Jack and the rat stared at one another.

“Never mind,” said Jack, “there’s nuts in every pocket!”

Upstairs, King Folly gazed in his mirror. All he could see now was the curl of his upper lip and the way he looked down his nose. And yet hadn’t the other prisoners said he was the handsomest man in the land? Surely they couldn’t all have been lying? He thought of the damp straw smell in the boy’s cell, the crust of stale bread and cup of dirty water. Why hadn’t the boy told him what he wanted to hear and thereby gained his freedom?

“That young man in the cell with the rat,” he asked an attendant. “What do they call him?”

“Honest Jack, your Majesty.”

Hmm, thought the King, perhaps the young man was telling the truth. He glanced again in his mirror and was surprised to catch a kinder expression on his open face. The curl of the upper lip was gone and there, in its place, was a gentle smile. In a daze he somehow made his way down to the dungeon and knocked on the door of the boy’s cell. He could hear shuffling noises within.

“It is I,” he said, “your King!”

“Quick,” said Jack, “hide those nuts under the straw!”

Could he be talking to the rat, wondered King Folly? He went in and gave them both his widest smile. “Forget the nuts! You are free to go. Pick as many nuts as you want whenever you like, for you have told me what I needed to know.”

They went round the prison releasing all the prisoners, King Folly and Honest Jack and the prison rat – still nameless but later to be known as Nutcracker. And from that day on, people noticed the friendly look on the King’s face and thought he wasn’t so bad looking after all – although, of course, it wouldn’t do to tell him. Honest Jack became the King’s chief adviser and always told him what he needed to know.

After a year and a day, Jack said that the King was ready for a new name. Henceforth he was to be known as King Jolly.


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Image: https://www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk/


Paper Chase

The other day I was talking ‘personal organisation’ with my fellow-retiree and WordPress correspondent Curt Mekemson – click on the name to view his enjoyable blogsite. Our conversation reminded me of a highly effective system I’d begun to use by the end of my working life. If I’d seen it earlier, I might have more hair now!

It’s paper-based but I’m sure it could be adapted for computer. I’d recommend a read to anybody, if only for a glimpse of perfect order in an otherwise disorderly world … 🙂

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The Less Stress Desk System

Operates on the “doing one job at a time” principle and “out of sight, out of mind” principle. Also keeps a running check on the work in-hand while constantly keeping papers in the right priority. Most desks have piles of papers on them, usually in no order of priority. Pending baskets invite paper piles. Double and triple tier baskets double or triple the size of the pile and the pressure. They are a constant reminder of work waiting to be done, and they distract from the current job. The less stress desk system cures this. Here’s how it works.

It uses one in-tray, one waste-paper basket and one bank of size A4 drawers. Drawers are better than baskets or trays because they keep pending work out of sight, but aren’t essential to make the system work. The drawers are labelled as follows:

Action Today

Action Soon




Info Needed

Under pain of death, people are warned to put papers only in the in-tray on your desk. Each time you return to your desk, or complete a task (whichever is convenient to your working style), you sort, not deal with, the in-tray contents as follows:-

1.  Take the first in-tray document, scan it quickly and ask yourself “Am I ever going to need this piece of paper again?” Be ruthlessly honest in your answer. If the answer is “No” put the document in the waste-paper basket.

2.   If the answer is “Yes” put it away immediately in the appropriate drawer of the bank of 6, including papers that you intend passing to other people. Put these in Redirect.

3.   If you have a Secretary or an Assistant, have him/her empty and deal with Redirect.

4.   Don’t go home until you have dealt with all the contents of the Action Today drawer. These will be processed one at a time and put in one of the other drawers or waste-paper basket as appropriate. If you are rigid in your discipline about not leaving each day until the Action Today drawer is empty you will become very realistic about what you put in it.

5.   As you leave at the end of the working day, put the contents of the Action Soon drawer in the in-tray ready for the same process at the start of the next day. This keeps pending material under constant review and prioritises it constantly.

6.   To prevent the Info Needed drawer becoming like the usual pending basket, handle it as follows:-

a)  Write on the original document the action needed from another person to provide the info needed plus the date you expect it by with a note to let you know if the person can’t do it by that time immediately on receipt.

b)  Note this in your diary on that date. Put the document in ‘Redirect’ to be passed on but with a note for it to be copied and this copy go into the ‘Info Needed’ drawer. Your diary will bring this to your attention at the right time to pull out and put in your ‘Action Today’ drawer.

c)   People will get used to meeting your diary date if they know you don’t forget and automatically chase them on the due date.

7.    Put away any material that will take more than a few moments to read – e.g, Trade Journals – in the Read Drawer. Plan blocks of time to do reading daily. And filing things away can be relaxing when you don’t want to do anything else.

And there you have it. Almost makes me want to go back and have a second crack at it. Almost.

10 Rules for Success

If you’re anything like me, there will always be a compelling reason why now is not the time to act.

It’s too early. It’s too late. You’ve not done enough preparation. You’ve done too much. They’re not ready to listen. They’re bored waiting and have moved on to greener pastures.

Either way, you’ve missed the boat. The next one’s a week on Friday …

Hey-ho! Like me, perhaps, you find yourself drawn to the words of this song:

Our modern ears might detect a dash of national stereotyping in there but, hey, Miss Peggy makes procrastination sound so appealing – sexy, even! – that by the end you’re all set to do sweet nada but sit out in the noonday heat beneath a great big sombrero …

From that kind of chilled-out perspective the song could be viewed as a delicious critique of the uptight, clock-watching, unforgiving world we actually live in. And weren’t machines supposed to usher in a brave new world where we’d all be freed from the drudgery of work to pursue meaningful hobbies and play constructively with our children?

What went wrong? Did I miss a meeting? (Several, but don’t worry, they never told you they were having them. Ed.)

No, but you see, I do worry! I worry that my urge to procrastinate stops me achieving anything much. Putting the occasional blog post together – although I sometimes whinge on about it – is the least of my problems. Without deadlines and directions, I tend to flounder. And to continue the fishy metaphor, you could say I flip-flop around.

A friend of mine once accused me – amused, I think, rather than annoyed – of having what he called ‘a shopping-trolley mind’. His idea was that I tended to pull things off the shelves, so to speak, at random. I reckon his real complaint was that this made me difficult to argue with.

I’m rarely short of something to say. If anything, problems lie the other way – I produce too much and lose focus, so that my writing tends to peter out having lost its way. I should edit, of course, to sift the wheat from the chaff but … well, you guessed it … I am prone to postponing the process.

Perhaps there’s a therapy group somewhere. My name is Dave Kingsbury and I’m a serial procrastinator … 

I hope they’ll be kind to me. Not like the originator of this brutal little list that I nicked off of the interweb and cleaned up for respectable readers like your good self. Can you imagine – the ‘f’ word in every sentence? It sounded like Bob Geldof!

 1    Do the work. Don’t be lazy.

 2    Stop waiting. It’s time.

 3    Rely on yourself. The universe doesn’t care.

 4    Be practical. Success is not a theory.

 5    Be productive early. Don’t mess around all day.

 6    Don’t be a baby. Life’s hard. Get on with it.

 7    Don’t hang around with time-wasters.

 8    Don’t waste energy on things you can’t control.

 9    Stop pretending. It’s embarrassing.

10   Stop being a people-pleaser. It’s sad.


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Image: deviantart.com


Storm in a Teacup

'The time has come,' the Blogger said,
      'To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'

'But wait a bit,' the Reader cried,
      'Before you start your post,
Consider customer fatigue
      Where some give up the ghost
Whenever folk go rambling on
       With length their only boast.'

'Let's talk instead,' the Blogger said,
      'Of what you really need:
The benefit of minds like mine
      Is very fine indeed —
Now if you're ready, Reader dear,
      You can begin to feed.'

'But not on you!' the Reader cried,
      Turning a little blue.
'To wade through half-baked tripe would be
      A dismal thing to do!'
'It's tit for tat,' the Blogger said,
      'If I unfollow you!'

'Please yourself,' the Reader shrugged,
       'It's all the same to me.'
But deep inside, well, something cried:
       A blogger's heart, you see,
While over in the Blogger dwelt
       A reader's sympathy.

'It seems a shame,' the Blogger said,
      'To play this spiteful game,
When mutual support so far
       Has been our climbing frame.'
The Reader, oh, said nothing but
       Was thinking just the same!                       
                  with apologies to Lewis Carroll

Appy Days!

After far too long struggling with the slowness of my WordPress link, I’ve finally got around to downloading the WordPress App.

No idea why it took me so long. The difference is striking. Typing this now, letters and words appear instantly instead of several seconds later – in effect, I was writing blind and trying to marry what was in my head with whatever eventually showed up on the screen.

The link was so slow that I couldn’t access my list of followed sites, which made managing them well-nigh impossible. Now I can whizz through them – just been unfollowing those who haven’t published in a year or more. The number of these surprised me, as did the higher number that haven’t posted for several months.

also noticed many sites with no information about when they last posted. Does anyone know if such sites are disused? It seems sensible to unfollow redundant blogs and so make it easier to concentrate on active sites.

I haven’t been visiting as much as I should and would be happy to receive heads up and links to posts you think I might like. I well remember doing just that in the early days to build up my readership.

Ah, the boldness of youth!

What am I talking about? That was only three years ago … or was it four?

Ah, the forgetfulness of age! Listen, did I ever tell you about that time at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival when everybody went skinny-dipping?


Oh well … won’t hurt to hear it again, will it? You see, in all the excitement, nobody had thought to pack their cossies …

[That’s enough excitement for today, time for your Ovaltine … Ed.]



Ovaltine Mug Shop Collectibles Online Daily

Philip Larkin’s Shorts

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If I was any good at Photoshop, this picture of poet Philip Larkin would have shown him wearing shorts. Great big baggy shorts and, below them, bare feet. You’d imagine he was just about to go for a paddle and laugh like a drain. But unlike Steve Austin, the Bionic Man – remember him? – we don’t have the technology.

Larkin did – as much as he needed, anyway. He took this proto-selfie using a timer. Behind him rises the steel skeleton of the brand-new university library where he was to serve out his working days as Chief Librarian. The following poem – perhaps his last – was written on an 80th birthday card to the university’s Vice-Chancellor, after whom the new Brynmor Jones Library was named:

By day, a lifted study-storehouse; night
Converts it to a flattened cube of light.
Whichever’s shown, the symbol is the same:
Knowledge; a University; a name.

Contrasting images become resolved in a wider concept. The zoom lens of the poet’s attention moves in and out, shifting its focus, seeking deeper truths within life’s random clutter. Philip Larkin’s shorts – short poems, of course, and not truncated trousers! – resemble his photographs, I think, in that both capture a whole world in a sudden flash of insight.

My favourite Larkin photo has to be this one. I imagine him setting up the timer and then composing himself with canny deliberation for this knowing self-portrait at once serious, gentle, vulnerable, revealing, funny. And above all, like his poems, honest.


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This is the first thing’

This is the first thing
I have understood:
Time is the echo of an axe
Within a wood.


‘To put one brick upon another

To put one brick upon another,
Add a third and then a forth,
Leaves no time to wonder whether
What you do has any worth.

But to sit with bricks around you
While the winds of heaven bawl
Weighing what you should or can do
Leaves no doubt of it at all.



What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
Midwinter Waking
Paws there. Snout there as well. Mustiness. Mould.
Darkness; a desire to stretch, to scratch.
Then has the – ? Then is it – ? Nudge the thatch,
Displace the stiffened leaves: look out. How cold,
How dried a stillness. Like a blade on stone,
A wind is scraping, first this way, then that.
Morning, perhaps; but not a proper one.
Turn. Sleep will unshell us, but not yet.
Caught in the centre of a soundless field
While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
                            I make a sharp reply,
Then clean my stick. I’m glad I can’t explain
Just in what jaws you were to suppurate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.
First Sight
Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold. As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth’s immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.

Home is so sad

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.


As Bad as a Mile

Watching the shied core
Striking the basket, skidding across the floor,
Shows less and less of luck, and more and more

Of failure spreading back up the arm
Earlier and earlier, the unraised hand calm,
The apple unbitten in the palm.


Take One Home for the Kiddies

On shallow straw, in shadeless glass,
Huddled by empty bowls, they sleep:
No dark, no dam, no earth, no grass –
Mam, get us one of them to keep.

Living toys are something novel,
But it soon wears off somehow.
Fetch the shoebox, fetch the shovel –
Mam, we’re playing funerals now.


The Little Lives Of Earth And Form
The little lives of earth and form,
Of finding food, and keeping warm,
Are not like ours, and yet
A kinship lingers nonetheless:
We hanker for the homeliness
Of den, and hole, and set. And this identity we feel
– Perhaps not right, perhaps not real –
Will link us constantly;
I see the rock, the clay, the chalk,
The flattened grass, the swaying stalk,
And it is you I see.
BBC Yorkshire looks through the lens of Philip Larkin ...

Melodious Mirth 10

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I know what you’re thinking. Desperate for people to read his posts, he’s finally flipped his lid and started to post pictures of appealing baby animals. Admit it, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to read this corny caption: ‘Aw, just look at that cute liddle puddy-tat!

Well, frankly, I’m hurt. Do you really believe a respectable site like this one would court easy popularity by providing gratuitous eye-candy for people to gawk at? Rest assured, A Nomad in Cyberspace is a kitsch-free zone with a zero-tolerance policy on anything too soft and/or fluffy.

(NB  This policy may be changed without notice if the cat pic produces a sudden stratospheric viewing spike in my WordPress Stats.)

Joking aside – what do you mean, you didn’t know I was? – the above picture wasn’t there for entirely gratuitous reasons. It shows a yellow cat like the one that features in a funny song I recorded from the radio – Children’s Favourites, as I recall, introduced by Uncle Mac – on our brand-new Grundig-made reel-to-reel tape-recorder all those years ago.

It wasn’t the best song on there, by any means. So why is it here, I hear you ask, in the final post of my Melodious Mirth mini-series?

Well, that’s down to the National Film Board of Canada who in 1988 made a great little film out of it. The film took over 15 awards, including a Genie Award for Best Animated Short as well as an Academy Award nomination. It appeared in animation historian Jerry Beck’s 50 Greatest Cartoons, placing at #32, and was included in the Animation Show of Shows.

Anyway, cat-critics, I’m not the only one to sell his soul to the highest bidder. Mr Johnson and the cat were later used in two adverts for Hula Hoops …


Kitten Image: Pinterest