Google Analytics

Monday 28 December 2020

The Yorkshire Story of the Creation

Yesterday, blogger Yorkshire Pudding complained about a scurrilous postcard purporting to epitomise the character of Yorkshire people. This moves me to set the record straight with this account disclosed by a work colleague some years ago.

The Yorkshire Story of the Creation

Recently, the Bishop of Oxford denounced attacks by creationists on the teaching in schools of the scientific facts about the evolution of life on Earth. He says that the attackers are bringing religion into disrepute by pretending that the theory of evolution is a ‘faith position’ on an equal footing to the biblical story of the creation.

Traditionally, the Anglican Church has relied on Archbishops and Synods to demarcate the boundaries of science and religion, especially the Archbishop of York. The latter is, however, keeping a dignified silence. You may be puzzled by this, but to those of us who know how the county of York was really created there is no puzzle at all. The Archbishop is simply being diplomatic and discreet. He knows exactly how Yorkshire was created.

It came about during a particularly dull February when God himself was overcome by existential ennui. God went missing for six days, but on the seventh day the Archangel Gabriel found him resting contentedly.

“Where have you been, Lord, and what have you been doing?” asked the worried angel.

“I have created a planet called Earth, a place of wonderful contrast and balance,” declared God with a serene smile.

“Contrast and balance?” queried the bemused Gabriel. So God explained.

“That part there in the North of America is very wealthy, and in the South, there, I established great poverty. Over there, I have put a continent of white earthlings, while down there is a continent of black folks…” God described all the continents and peoples to Gabriel, showing him which parts were hot, which were covered in ice, where it was flat and where it was mountainous. Gabriel was almightily impressed. Pointing to a particularly attractive area of England he asked “And what’s that?”

“Ah,” said God. “That is my own county of Yorkshire, the most glorious place on Earth. There I made beautiful lakes, streams, rivers and hills. Its people make great music, fine architecture, ingenious products. I made them at once modest, intelligent, witty and giants of sport. They are forever kind and hard-working, and wonderfully articulate. They are known throughout the earth as diplomats, peace-makers, and captains of industry, finance and commerce.”

Gabriel, gasping in admiration, was nevertheless puzzled. “But what about the balance, Lord? You said that your Earth is a place of contrast and balance!”

“Indeed,” said God, smiling and nodding sagely. He wiped his brow on his sleeve and pulled Gabriel gently to face the West. “Now let me tell you about Lancashire …”

Tuesday 22 December 2020


About thirty years ago, a John Phillips pointed out in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine  (1991, vol. 324, no. 7, p.497) that while the fingers all have Latinate names, no such distinction had been given to the toes except for the big toe or hallux. The others were simply numbered.

To remind you, the names of the digits of the hand are:

  • Thumb - digitus pollicis
  • Index Finger - digitus indicis
  • Middle Finger - digitus medius 
  • Ring Finger - digitus annularis
  • Little Finger - digitus minimus

To rectify this, and to preclude anatomical ambiguity in clinical situations, he proposed the toes be given the following names:

  • Big Toe or Hallux - porcellus fori
  • Second Toe - porcellus domi
  • Third Toe - porcellus carnivorus
  • Fourth Toe - porcellus non voratus
  • Fifth Toe - porcellus plorans domum

 Quod conservis callidus.

Saturday 19 December 2020

Don’t They Know It’s Christmas Time?

If you are not seeing the YouTube video after the 7 photographs of flowers blooming unseasonally in our garden, here is the link:


Monday 14 December 2020


I have been playing with colourisation tools. No, not paints and crayons, but software that colours black and white photographs automatically. It uses “artificial intelligence” and “deep learning” through “electronic neural networks” “trained” on millions of colour photographs. 

“Wow! Fantastic!” one might say, but having once worked on the periphery of a team of artificial intelligence researchers, I remain sceptical. I used to go from “Wow! Fantastic!” to “Is that all it is?” in the space of a forty-five minute seminar. 

Carried out manually, colourisation is a skilled, time-consuming, labour-intensive process. As well as expertise in tools such as Photoshop and a level of colour-sense I simply do not possess, it can also involve historical research to indicate what colours the photographer actually saw. Experts can spend a month on just one picture. 

So, it would be wonderful to be able to colour photographs automatically. I found these free resources (it may not be a complete list): 

With four of them you upload a black and white photograph to the web site and then download the colourised version. Pixbim is different in that you download and install a trial version on your computer and carry out the colourisation locally.

Are they any good? I tried them out on black and white photographs from earlier blog posts.

Bridlington c1929 - colourised by MyHeritage

Uncle Jimmys Bullnose Morris c1929 - colourised by photomyne

Bridlington 1955 - colourised by MyHeritage

Grandma 1963 - colourised by

In general, the different tools gave different results and no one was consistently better than the others. I tried to pick the best result in each case but you might have chosen otherwise as I possess a different distribution of cone cells from most people. My choices might be a bit green, or a bit pink, I dont know, I wouldnt be able to tell. However, there were some truly awful ones, one of which seems to think I was wearing pissy underpants.
Colourised by Pixbim

Colourised by Algorithmia

Colourised by photomyne

Colourised by Algorithmia

Of course, we do not know what the colours really were, although I do feel fairly confident that the Bullnose Morris was not brandy coloured, and know for a fact that the Pratts petrol can on the running board was spruce green (#2e4a41), which none of them got right.
One test of colour accuracy would be to re-colourise an existing colour image after first reducing it to monochrome. MyHeritage does not seem too bad to me on the Abbey Road cover (I wonder if this was one of the pictures it was trained on), but they all struggled with scenery.   

The Beatles Abbey Road (left) recolourised from monochrome by MyHeritage (right)

Spring Polyanthus 2020 (left) recolourised from monochrome by MyHeritage (right)

Glacial deposits in Glen Roy 2020 (left) recolourised from monochrome by Pixbim (right)

Johnson and Trump (left) recolourised from monochrome by Pixbim (right)

It is pretty impressive that black and white photographs can be coloured automatically at all, even though the colours are by no means accurate and not a patch on the original. 

Colourisation does seem to add something, particularly depth. Perhaps it works better with cine film, as in Peter Jackson‘s painstakingly restored First World War films (They Shall Not Grow Old) in which the moving faces of young soldiers, poignantly grinning amidst the mud of the trenches, become living people like us. 

I am not as sceptical as I was, but find myself thinking that with photographs it is probably better to stick with the original black and white. 

It would be interesting to see your efforts (irrespective of whether you call it colourisation, colourization, colorization or colorisation). 


I usually preferred MyHeritage, photomyne or, but some reviews speak highly of Pixbim, possibly because it allows control over the colours (see below).

The colourised photographs are not always the same size as you started with.

There are other limitations too. MyHeritage permits a limited number of free colourisations (I’m not sure what it is, maybe 10, but me, Mickey Mouse and Billy Liar have all used our quotas) before asking for a minimum £50 subscription to its genealogy services. One should also be aware that the uploaded photographs are retained and may be visible to others, but can be deleted.

Pixbim (the one you download and install) allows you to adjust various processing parameters, such as colour intensity and colour temperature (from reddish to blueish), and provides a brush tool for correcting incorrect colours, whereas with all the others you get what you are given. However, the trial version of Pixbim comes with only a 7-day licence after which it costs £40. Also, unless you buy it, the colourised photographs have “Trial Version” printed all over them, but you can get round this using PrintScreen to capture a smaller version of the coloured image.

I also found mention of two other tools: Colourise SG which now appears to have been withdrawn, and Colorize Photo ( which assists you in carrying out the colourisation yourself, which I have not tried. 

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Dear Google User...

I have wondered for some time how long it can be sustainable for internet providers to keep storing ever increasing amounts of data. It all relies on chains of energy-burning electronics which must be enormously expensive in terms of hardware and energy use. It has even been suggested that if each person in Britain sent one fewer email per day it could save over 16,000 tons of carbon a year, equivalent to thousands of flights.

It looks as if Google are beginning to do something. Like me, you may have received this email:

Dear Google User,

We are writing to let you know that we recently announced new storage policies for Google Accounts using Gmail, Google Drive (including Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files) and/or Google Photos that bring us in line with industry practices. Since you have previously used one or more of these products in your Google Account storage, we wanted to tell you about the new policies well before they go into effect on June 1, 2021. Below is a summary of the new policies. Please reference our Help Center article for a complete list of what's changing...

The email provides links to policies and a help centre article. 

In essence, it goes on to say that if after the 1st June, 2023, you have not used these services for 24 months, or if you have exceeded your storage quota, they might delete your content. Other outfits such as Flickr have already started deleting things. I like the bit about it being “in line with industry practices” as if they have some kind of standards. There is the suspicion it is all about cutting the costs of non-profitable activities.

In other words, we can’t assume our stuff is going to remain in perpetuity. I guess, eventually, this may also apply to Blogger, Wordpress and other blogging platforms. At present, we can read blogs written twenty years ago or more, but it might not always be the case. All those interesting, witty and wonderful posts and comments we have all made could simply disappear.

Saturday 5 December 2020

Come Lasses and Lads to Bangor

Musescore: Come Lasses and Lads to Bangor
MuseScore 3.5

Coronavirus has put paid to our WEA folk ensemble class. We won’t be starting again before spring at the earliest. I say it myself but we are pretty good. That is not because of any contribution I make sitting at the back banging out chords on guitar, but because of our accomplished fiddle, flute, banjo, mandolin, accordion, concertina and bass players, and Mrs. D. who takes her bassoon.  

Before the pandemic, we played concerts and ceilidhs, and carol services at Christmas, usually for charities. The leader got us good gigs. We twice played the ceilidh at the Underneath the Stars festival. We can therefore claim to have been on the same bill as Kate Rusby, The Proclaimers and Billy Bragg. Actually, we were on at the same time as the Proclaimers but people still walked 500 yards to fall down at our door.

Will we have ceilidhs again? All that clapping together, hand-to-hand chaining and swinging your different partners means that what one person has, everyone has by the end of the night. Then there is the puffing and panting, and laughing and shouting in loud voices, so the members of the band get it as well. Then, the wind players blow it back all over the dancers and non-dancers alike to ensure that no one escapes at all. If I was a coronavirus I would love ceilidhs.

So gigs and practice are off. Since March we have been meeting through Zoom. The problem with that is that the sound from different participants does not synchronise, and there are also volume discrepancies and other issues, so we cannot play all together. 

Zoom meetings are therefore divided into sections. We have a ‘Tune of the Week’ where someone introduces a new piece and plays it, and then we all play it again with everyone muted except the person whose tune it is. We have a ‘YouTube Clip of the Week’ which someone selects and introduces. We have a section where someone plays a new tune several times and the rest of us have to try to pick it up without any clues, even as to which key it is in, which is quite difficult. We have guest players: Northumbrian pipes and the hurdy-gurdy being amongst the most unusual things we’ve had. And we discuss everything.

A few weeks ago, I was ‘Tune of the Week’. Out came the nineteen-thirties News Chronicle Song Book (the topic of a recent post) and it fell open at the seventeenth century English air Come Lasses and Lads. So that it was. I played it through a few times to make sure I could, but then, overnight in my head, it transformed itself into Day Trip to Bangor, the one-hit wonder for Fiddler’s Dram in 1979. The two tunes are rather similar in places.  

We share music scores through MuseScore (pictured above), an amazing piece of software, especially as it is free. It does almost everything you could want, including scores for multiple instruments, chords, transpositions, different key and time signatures, and so on. It will also play them. But it is quite complex (because music is complex) and takes time to learn (although it is not the most difficult software I have used – 3D imaging is a level above.)

I put Come Lasses and Lads note-by-note into MuseScore (the free version does not yet do sheet music capture). I plucked out a bass line from the piano chord accompaniment and added and arranged Day Trip to Bangor by ear. Here to give everyone a severe dose of the rum-tee-tum-tees – the musical equivalent of coronavirus – is Come Lasses and Lads to Bangor, played by MuseScore, voiced for guitar and bassoon, with default piano chord accompaniment. 

Of course, at the Zoom meeting Mrs. D. and I had to play it ourselves. Let’s just say we got away with it. 

A couple of additional thoughts:

I don’t believe I heard the term “ceilidh” until around 1980. Before that they were “country dances” or “barn dances”. My mother used to go “old-time dancing” in a church hall. At school, we danced these dances from six to sixteen, which stood me in such good stead that when I later joined a social group which organised several “ceilidhs” a year, the future Mrs. D. was so impressed by my Gay Gordons that she married me. 

You might also ask whether the bassoon is really a folk instrument. Perhaps it is slightly unusual, but eighteenth and nineteenth century village bands often included a serpent which sounds at a similar pitch (think Thomas Hardy). And what did they have in Fiddler’s Dram? Drowned out by the rather strident voice of the lead singer was a bassoon. 

Tuesday 1 December 2020

New Month Old Post: Ray Gosling’s Goole

(First posted 15th October 2017. The YouTube videos linked below are quite long. I don’t expect many will want to watch them through.)

Gosling's Travels 1975: Goole
Gosling’s Travels: Goole (1975, 26 minutes)

In 1975, the radio and television broadcaster, Ray Gosling, made a film about Goole: a place I used to know well. The inhabitants were appalled. They had been looking forward to a film about a pleasant little town on the banks of the Ouse, with friendly folk in homely homes, about canals and railways, brave mariners who sailed the North Sea, the strange salt and pepper pot water towers, and the proud rise of a town from nothing to one of the country’s busiest ports in less than a hundred years: the story of the port in green fields.

But Ray Gosling was never going to stick to that. He homed in on the eccentric linguist who sought out foreign sailors to practise his Russian, businessmen who looked shifty and evasive, dockers who appeared scheming and workshy, the mysterious world of pigeon keepers, and, most embarrassing of all, the star turn, some young ladies who also liked to consort with foreign seamen, although not to practise their language skills. Goole: working-town low life in ragged abundance.

Watching again on YouTube, I see the problem. Right from the start, he goes for the jugular:
I’m walking the streets of a flat little town in Yorkshire that most of you will never have heard of: Goole. And those who do know where it is, between Doncaster and Hull, have nicknamed it Sleepy Hollow, because nothing has ever happened here that’s made the headlines in a newspaper. The place has no history worth putting into history books, and they don’t really manufacture anything. 
You might say: “What did you expect?” It was what Ray Gosling did. He was different from other broadcasters. He was cheeky and a bit common, working-class with an East Midlands accent, a university dropout, C-stream and proud of it. He made films about the little things of life, to him more important than the big things: caravans, allotments, sheds, the seedy, the left behind, the small-scale concerns of ordinary people. He was one of them. He wrote about them, ran things and campaigned for them.

The film is pure genius. He had seen the times they were a-changin’  long before Bob Dylan. He had tried to help the lively working-class community of St. Ann’s in Nottingham when the local council wanted to flatten and redevelop the whole district, but the community was lost in the end. He could see that Goole’s canal trains of coal-loaded compartments known as ‘Tom Puddings’, hydraulically hoisted into the air and tipped into the holds of ships, were nearing their end. Goole was a working museum that could not last, no more than the well-meaning vicar and police chief in the film, gullible anachronisms innocently trying to set up a wholesome mariners’ club not run by mariners. It was never going to supplant the Dock Tavern.

Ray Gosling Autobiographies
He had read On the Road and seen Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One (a film banned in Britain) and understood the implications. He saw change in the hearts of young people rejecting their fuddy-duddy parents’ expectations. His autobiographies, Sum Total and Personal Copy are fascinating memoirs of the fifties and sixties. “We were the first generation to be able to busk with our lives” he reflected in 2006 in one of his last films, Ray Gosling OAP. And as he sat waiting for his cluttered Mapperley house to be forcibly sold due to bankruptcy, unable to move around the heaped accumulations of a lifetime’s work: piles of files, mountains of books, scattered nick-nacks; he said:
All my life, I’ve known we are what we collect, what we pick up, so my room with all the detail I’ve kept is what made my work, it was important, to me. The silly nick-nacks are not just nick-nacks, and they’re not silly.
That is truly uplifting to hoarders like me: the glorious antithesis of decluttering.

Ray Gosling OAP (2006, 59 minutes)

Hopefully, the links to his films on YouTube will remain active, but they might get blocked for copyright reasons. There is also an archive of his work at Nottingham Trent University.

I'll leave the last word to Ray himself, part of an article in the TV Times in 1975:

... I don’t think facts always tell the truth. And I’m not a promotion man for God, Queen and the Ruling Class in Britain Beautiful – but we do search for the good in a place. And try to film what people naturally do. Try to avoid dwelling on obvious eccentrics, though that’s difficult. We are such an individual fruit and nutcase lot. I’m not hawking any pet philosophy or seeking hidden meanings. The films are simply place-tasters.

I don’t know what you’re going to make of Goole. People live nearby refer to it as Sleepy Hollow, because nothing ever happens in Goole. That’s why I went. It’s one of the most forgotten places of England. Britain’s most inland port, 50 miles from the sea. Just as Bath doesn’t make enough of its spa water, Goole doesn’t make enough of its dirty canal water. Still it is the 11th port of the land. Behind the parish church, you can see hanging from the jib of a crane, Britain’s balance of payments. Steel: in and out. Russian timber imported. We got turfed-off a Russian boat, camera and all – nicely, but firmly. And Goole exports: coals for every purpose.

The great local row was in the pigeon club. Should the birds be flown, next season, from north to south? Opinion divided. I like Goole, I do hope I’ve done it justice.

There was a nice man we wanted to film there; Albert Gunn, dental mechanic, pigeon racer and performer in the amateur Kiss Me Kate at the Grammar School – but Albert was ill, so we couldn’t.

That’s the problem I find filming as against writing. With pictures we have to prove it. Our folks have got to perform in front of the camera.