Fiction or fact

There are many things that unite the delightful assistants, but when it comes to reading material their tastes are generally very different.

On the whole, delightful assistant no.2 is inclined towards non-fiction, whereas his spouse is an avid reader of fiction. Perhaps that’s why, on a stormy night during a camping holiday when I was a nipper, she made up a story to calm my nerves. The tale involved three sibling rabbits and an adventure they had.

The invention was a great success, I loved the three rabbits and demanded more tales of their escapades. As the stories increased in number so the cast of characters was expanded to include friends of the rabbits: birds, tortoises, fish and no doubt other creatures I’ve now forgotten.

To this day I get little gifts of rabbits on the backs of envelopes or sketched in the corners of notes from delightful assistant no.1. The little rabbit below appeared on a card she gave me recently, thanking me for some cleaning I’d done (the small thing next to the rabbit is a ‘James hoover’, a vacuum cleaner with a smiley face on it). Her pictures of rabbits always make me feel safe and cosy.

cleaning rabbit with James

By contrast, from an early age delightful assistant no.2 developed a passion for facts and is well known in the family for being obsessed with the recording of factual information.

For him, car journeys are largely notable for their times and mileages. The same journeys are repeatedly recorded in the same way, and have been for many years. As a result, he has accumulated a mass of data that may seem, to some, indescribably dull. Although we tease him for it, I must admit that it is sometimes extremely useful.

Yesterday I had to pop up to the village of Edzell, and had in mind that it would take me roughly an hour to drive there. On quizzing delightful assistant no.2 about this he agreed on the timing, adding that if I set the mileage recorder in the car to ‘zero’ before setting off I’d find that the turn-off I needed on the A90 would appear after a distance of 34.0 miles. He was quite right.

Whenever he makes the journey from home to Edinburgh, the mileage to various points, such as the middle of the Forth Road Bridge, are checked and, unsurprisingly, almost always the same. Occasionally they deviate a little, which causes great excitement.

On one memorable occasion, he noted that at the usual ten mile mark on the route south, rather than displaying the expected 10.0 miles, the meter showed 9.9 miles. Prior to making the journey the car’s tyres had been pumped up more than usual. This, he deduced, must be the reason for the discrepancy. As he explained, with a slightly larger circumference, each rotation of the wheels propelled the car that little bit further than normal, resulting in an extra one hundredth of a mile for each mile travelled.

The recollection of this event still brings a smile of joy to his face.

~~~~

While rummaging around in a box of old bits and pieces recently, I came across various items of family history.

I suspect that in his teens and early twenties, delightful assistant no.2 spent a fair bit of time reading newspapers, because amongst the treasures were two folders full of newspaper clippings.

news cuttings

Many of the articles he cut out related to science, particularly physics, and most of them were published in 1949 or 1950. At that time he was studying physics at Edinburgh University, so his choice of article was not too surprising.

science stories

Several other themes cropped up throughout the cuttings, such as road building and engineering, both of which are still of great interest to him these days.

roads

As well as local events, such as the entertainment of hospital patients by opera singers,

opera singers

a few national news items were included, such as the birth of Prince Charles to Queen Elizabeth in April 1949.

royal baby

Some of the photographs were so big that they took up a whole page in the folder, such as the one below of what is currently known as the Queen’s Park (the name changes with the gender of the monarch).

King's Park

One image that especially caught my eye was the photograph below of Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. I imagine this one made it into the folder because his grandmother, who lived with him when he was young, was from Dunvegan. When she moved to Edinburgh as a young woman she spoke only Gaelic. It must have been like arriving in a foreign country, hearing everyone speaking the strange words of English.

Dunvegan Castle

Along with the newspaper cuttings a few other bits of paper had been slipped into the folders. They contained exactly the sort of information I might have expected to find, such as this graph giving his height and the heights of his sisters up to the age of 20.

DSC03666

Such was (and is) his love of recording details, even trips to the dentist provided material for his hobby.

dental

During the Scottish independence referendum last year, I noticed him making little graphs and notes in the run up to, and during, the voting period. With politics, as with so many other areas of life, he saw a wonderful opportunity for the recording of facts.

He had, in fact, been recording political outcomes for decades, as I discovered when I came across a graph drawn up during the 1950 general election. In 2014 he received his information almost exclusively from constant television coverage; in 1950 he gathered the facts by listening intently to radio broadcasts. The graph below was compiled over a period of hours as results came in from voting stations around Britain.

election results

Along with photographs and articles, several little quizzes were pasted into the folders. Each quiz consisted of seven questions about Edinburgh and must, I think, have been a regular feature in The Scotsman or the Edinburgh Evening News in 1949.

I had fun going through the quizzes with the delightful assistants. Much to my astonishment, delightful assistant no.2 was able to answer several rather obscure questions. When I exclaimed my surprise he shrugged it off, saying that it had, after all, been he who pasted these snippets into the folder.

True enough, but to retain those facts 66 years on is, I think, most impressive. I gave him a little round of applause for his efforts.

Edinburgh quiz
Want to test your Edinburgh knowledge from a quiz in 1949? Questions are on the left, with their corresponding answers on the right.
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22 thoughts on “Fiction or fact

  1. Love it Lorna! Your dad is a man after my own heart. I do however think the dentist one is a step too far. For my own part, since we moved here 6 years ago I’ve been recording every time we receive a charity bag and details about it. I’ll be compiling it into a full report at some stage.

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    1. Thanks, David. I was a bit dubious about including the dental record but it’s so typical of him. I’d be very interested to read your full report on charity bags. How many have you had in six years? We seem to get them all the time, and the most annoying thing is that although they have the collection day on them they never get picked up. I don’t understand that, making the effort to deliver bags all over the place and then never returning to collect the goodies.

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  2. What a find. I discovered a box with receipts my Dad had collected in the year 1949. It showed how much it cost him to run his farm at that time. It was amazing to see the huge difference in costs from then to now. I love your mom´s bunnies. How whimsical.

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  3. That is brilliant Lorna, that your Delightful Assistant No 1 still sketches little rabbits in the corners of notes to you!! I can quite imagine her tales calming even the most frightened of children 🙂
    And I can totally relate to Delightful Assistant No 2’s love of facts and figures. I love all of the graphs you’ve shown, I thought I was the only person in the world to do such things!! And now they have extra meaning because they show things that are now of historical interest too!!! (Not that I’m saying that Delightful Assistant No 2 is old!!)
    And to work out that the variation of mileage of 0.1 miles is probably due to the tyres being fully pumped up is pure brilliance!!!!
    The newspaper clippings are amazing, that’s something I wish I’d done over the years, but clearly I’ve not got the patience of Delightful Assistant No 2!

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    1. Thank you, Andy, I love your enthusiasm for it all. 🙂 I wish I had the patience to keep clippings too, but I’m too keen on chucking things out. I had a huge pile of Smash Hits magazines when I was a teenager that would probably sell for a few bob now, but during a clear out I threw them all away. I’ve kicked myself for that a few times, not only for their potential worth but because I’d enjoy looking back at them decades on.

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      1. You’re welcome Lorna 🙂 It is a shame that you threw away all those magazines, as you said, they would be worth something now, but more importantly, they would be great to look back at 🙂
        I used to be a terrible hoarder, but over the last few years I’ve chucked out a fair bit, and the last of the stuff I’d kept all got water damaged last year 😦 That was a shame too, because I had some old ‘tea’ cards from the 1950’s and 60’s, which had been passed down to me.

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          1. It’s true that you can’t keep everything, however tempting it might be. That’s what makes all those graphs and data that your Dad has recorded over the years so special, most of us at some point would have cleared it out, I’m so glad for you, and the rest of us out here in blog world, that neither of your Delightful Assistants saw fit to throw it all out at some point in the past 🙂 🙂

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  4. I enjoyed this very much. Assistant no One’s rabbits have great charm. A James hoover? We have one with a face down South, but it is called a Henry – are they related? Assistant no Two’s collection of facts had me riveted, and I pored over the graphs. This is no doubt why, late in life, I became a scientist.

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    1. Thanks, Hilary. James and Henry are indeed related although I’ve no idea what the relationship is (brothers/cousins/uncle and nephew?). James is a yellow version, more lightweight than Henry, I think. He cheers up the hoovering no end. I’m glad you enjoyed the graphs, and your appreciation of them certainly ties in with your scientific bent.

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  5. Your delightful assistants really live up to their names, Lorna! What dear little rabbits your Mum draws for you! And I had to laugh at your Dad’s time-distance fascination! Of course the extra pumped-up tyres would make a difference! Although to my way of thinking, if it was an icy day when you had the 9.9 mile reading, the road might have contracted with the cold, making it very slightly shorter. The album looks like a true heirloom. I was interested to read of your Dad’s connection with Dunvegan. What a beautiful place. Crikey, those quiz questions are difficult! I didn’t know any, except no. 5, which I could only answer in part.

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    1. Thanks, Jo. 🙂 I thought you might be interested in the photograph of Dunvegan Castle. My dad has since informed me that his grandmother was not from Dunvegan itself, but from somewhere in the vicinity. I remember visiting the area many years ago and thinking of her then. I never met her but I like that link with Skye. Well done on getting question no.5 right, I wonder how many people would be able to answer any of them these days.

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  6. Those rabbits are lovely! 🙂 How sweet. I really hope Prince George doesn’t grow up to resemble his grandad quite so much as he seems to in these photos. I do not have a record-keeping bent, but I do admire people who do. There is a similar folder around here somewhere for my Grandad’s firewood business from when he was a young man. That’s fair enough, because you need to keep business records, but people who do it for fun go just that little bit further, and it’s quite cool. I have scrapbooks from a few years ago now. It’s funny to think someone might find them in another not so few years …

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    1. Thanks, Trish. When I saw the photo of Prince Charles I thought it looked like Prince William, but it does also look like George, there’s certainly a family resemblance. I think George has a good chance of becoming a handsome young man with the parents he’s got. Your grandfather’s firewood business paperwork sounds interesting. Quite apart from the fascinating information old documents contain, I like the way they look, especially when there’s beautiful Copperplate handwriting. You never know what might eventually happen to those scrapbooks of yours, perhaps they’ll find an appreciative audience some time in the future.

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  7. What a wonderful post Lorna. Your mum and dad sound very similar to my mum and dad re fiction and non-fiction. My dad thought fiction was a waste of time when you could be learning new facts!
    How wonderful to have such a great collection of memorabilia.

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  8. So pleased to see you haven’t knocked blogging on the head just changed direction – the term delightful assistants has always made me smile. If this initial post is the standard you have made an excellent choice. Good luck although you wont need it 🙂

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