New Blog !

13 April 2017

We are off ! Ploughing fresh fields .

New domain – for Tom thornton’s Genealogy Vault
with a subdomain for WordPress
New Blog site –

The Ploughman

All day I follow
watching the swift dark furrow
that curls away from me
and care not for skies or upturned flowers

And at the end of the field
look backward
Ever with discontent
a stone or roots strayed thought
has thwarted the line of that furrow
and urge my horses ‘round again

Sometimes even before the row is finished
I must look backward
To find, when I come to the end
that I have swerved

Unappeased I leave the field
expectant, to return

The horses are very patient
when I tell myself
this time
the ultimate unflawed turning
is before my share
the must give up their rest

Someday, someday, be sure
I shall turn the furrow of all my hopes
but I shall not do it looking backward !


Is the Media playing for the Terrorists – THINK!

23 Mar 2017

Yesterday terror was inflicted upon London by one man seemingly acting alone. . This kind of event has become increasingly common but stop and ask why this is ? .
I feel that the media including the BBC has become “sensational” . The BBC broadcast continuously for over 24 hours the video footage repeatedly of this 20 minute event . This serves to give the assailant a victory to the cause amplified thousands of times over and above its merit. Yes, report it as a fact, but do not dramatise it. Saturation broadcasting these atrocities is not in the best public interest and serves the very people we are trying to eradicate for their extremist views.

The terrorist’s power lies in the ability to instill fear and terrorise in society . The way we choose to cover their assaults on our society either promotes their cause or dulls the impact . So let’s begin to campaign to defeat them and refuse to play their game by minimising their ability to get us to promote and recruit to their sick cause.

By reporting in this manner the lives of those who were killed or injured are devalued , that is wrong, very WRONG !

Teen suicide is no longer reported Front Page because it was soon notice that there was a noticeable rise in teen suicides, copy cat events , when reported in this manner , a practice which has now been discontinued.

So shall we learn and apply a similar strategy as one answer the the terrorist threat ?


Airmail – Par Avion letter writing.

Friday 10th February 2017

Old Airmail Letters


A word long forgotten in the age of Txt me and Twitter etc.
I was practicing my handwriting with a selection of my fountain pens when I realised that my grandchildren will never have experienced receiving a handwritten letter . That is, seeing a letter, and recognising the handwriting even before excitedly opening the envelope.  Now eager to read the news from a dear friend, a lover or distant aunt or cousin. These were often shared around the household widening the family bond. Many of those letter writers had learned to write with a beautiful cursive hand , their letters beautiful to behold.

Cursive Business Script

I decided to that I would write such a letter to each of my grandchildren , one that would be a surprise and eye catching , it would be an Aerogram . Though easier said than done . While I have written many hundreds of Aerogram and Airmail letters before and since my emigrating to Canada in my twenties . The electronic world has delivered instant connectivity and hand written mail has vanished into its ether .

A blank  prestamped Aerogramme

First challenge is to find a pad of airmail writing paper and matching envelopes, this paper was usually described as Onion Skin . My local stationer just laughed when I asked for these “not seen for years” they said . But adding that, “all our steel pens had suddenly disappeared” since it is now apparently cool to write with pen and ink again, so maybe the Spencerian era is returning.

Interestingly I found on the web several printable .pdf files to print download and print your own Aerogrammes . Here is a link to one in my Dropbox –

Meanwhile I have found pads of onion skin at Staples 8 1/2″ x 11″  so I can put these through my printer to create my own Aerogrammes it need.. I will hand write my letters but it is equally possible to type and print them onto the template. This circumvents the need to find the elusive Airmail envelopes.

Airmail Envelopes were of a lighter paper to minimise weight.

Here is link to my Google Drive for a .pdf Airmail US Letter page template created with iStudio for Mac so you may print your own airmail pages.

So “Write On! my friend”

Update Thurs. 16th Feb.

We had cause to go into town today so called at Staples to find the Onion Skin Pads . I just sat down and tried the first sheet with various fountain pens . This paper is beautiful silky smooth to touch and all my nibs glide over it oh! so nicely. I highly recommend this writing material. You’r gonna love it  to:)

Bye! I’ve got letters to write.



Nuclear Fusion is near – ITER

29th Jan 2017

ITER – Project site Nuclear Fusion by 2035

Watching The Christmas Lectures recently on BBC iPlayer by the scientist  Saiful Islam I learned about the existence of a Nuclear Fusion demonstration project in France named ITER partner in this endeavour are China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States . The expectation is to produce 10 times the energy input Which means electricity without pollution virtually free.
Here is link where you can lean more about your future :


Illicit Drug Use – A Tipping Point !

4th Jan 2017

Much news and media coverage has been given over to a disturbing increase in drug related fatalities in BC. Fentanyl being at the center of it. I find it far more disturbing for our already overloaded healthcare facilities and staff now being asked to divert precious resources away from treating genuine illness . Instead they are tasked with giving ICU care to the detritus of society that are playing Russian roulette with chemistry in order to escape reality and their miserable lives. I am told now that their brains are so damaged from the initial drug and its antidote that they will be in care for the rest of their lives. OMG ! What are we doing?

Where are we headed ?
One has to have some empathy with the Philippines with such a large proportion of its population living in poverty with 2 million addicts and growing . History is littered with examples of what happens when a society reaches a tipping point  of intolerance and a revolution erupts, the consequences of which are usually extreme.

So why do so many of our young feel that their lives are empty and meaningless and use poisonous chemicals to escape from their reality, eventually they make it permanent ?.
If one looks around the world into the faces of those in refugee camps who have faced the horrors of war and deprivation, there is hope in their eyes . It’s not so much about the challenges you meet in life but rather how you meet those challenges that makes all the difference . So many of the people that I have met and admire are those that have endured really tough times when young. Hence I am more inclined think that in many cases, both here at home, and in favelas and ghettos of the world one of the biggest problems unfulfilled expectations rather than deprivation. In today’s world of instant communication everywhere we are born into a world where are told everything is available now!  Reality is that few can have it all, or even most of it . But that is what is happening, the few are getting richer and richer or to use an old saying
“The Rich get richer, and it’s the Poor what gets the Blame !”

85% of the Worlds wealth in 3 regions 🙂

If you are not part of the Solution then you are part of the Problem !

The transfer of great wealth from the work of the poor to the industrial , banker or aristocratic society has always stirred the wrath and eventually brought down ancient empires and rulers. Currently we have many wars happening around the world as I see it they are usually triggered by a disparity between the “Haves and the Have Nots” – In the case of The Arab Spring was about the price of bread and grew into much more. But if the Egyptian labourer had been payed enough to buy bread and feed his family then it seems unlikely that The Spring would have blossomed.  Likewise I say that if we were able to design and apply a much fairer redistribution of wealth across the planet versus the present situation where 1% have over 50% of the world’s wealth.  Then the dreams created by the media could perhaps be somewhat better met and the desperation of our youth be calmed toward more rational behaviours. Hence our care facilities may the get back to purpose caring for the sick not the fatally disillusioned !



Tuesday 6th Dec 2016

This blog was shared with me today by friend . It addresses a topic which is a concern  for many parents and grandparents. That is getting kids motivated to explore their inclinations and interests and find fulfilment as adults.

NB : Because I want you to be able to share this with your kids I edited out the expletives of the original 🙁

Mark Manson –


Remember back when you were a kid? You would just do things. You never thought to yourself, “What are the relative merits of learning baseball versus football?” You just ran around the playground and played baseball and football. You built sand castles and played tag and asked silly questions and looked for bugs and dug up grass and pretended you were a sewer monster.
Nobody told you to do it, you just did it. You were led merely by your curiosity and excitement.
And the beautiful thing was, if you hated baseball, you just stopped playing it. There was no guilt involved. There was no arguing or debate. You either liked it, or you didn’t.
And if you loved looking for bugs, you just did that. There was no second-level analysis of, “Well, is looking for bugs really what I should be doing with my time as a child? Nobody else wants to look for bugs, does that mean there’s something wrong with me? How will looking for bugs affect my future prospects?”
There was no bullshit. If you liked something, you just did it.
Today I received approximately the 11,504th email this year from a person telling me that they don’t know what to do with their life. And like all of the others, this person asked me if I had any ideas of what they could do, where they could start, where to “find their passion.”
And of course, I didn’t respond. Why? Because I have no clue. If you don’t have any idea what to do with yourself, what makes you think some jackass with a website would? I’m a writer, not a fortune teller.
But more importantly, what I want to say to these people is this: that’s the whole point — “not knowing” is the whole point. Life is all about not knowing, and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. All of it. And it’s not going to get any easier just because you found out you love your job cleaning septic tanks or you scored a dream gig writing indie movies.
The common complaint among a lot of these people is that they need to ‘find their passion.’
I call bullshit. You already found your passion, you’re just ignoring it. Seriously, you’re awake 16 hours a day, what do you do with your time? You’re doing something, obviously. You’re talking about something. There’s some topic or activity or idea that dominates a significant amount of your free time, your conversations, your web browsing, and it dominates them without you consciously pursuing it or looking for it.
It’s right there in front of you, you’re just avoiding it. For whatever reason, you’re avoiding it. You’re telling yourself, “Oh well, yeah, I love comic books but that doesn’t count. You can’t make money with comic books.”
You, have you even tried?
The problem is not a lack of passion for something. The problem is productivity. The problem is perception. The problem is acceptance.
The problem is the, “Oh, well that’s just not a realistic option,” or “Mom and Dad would kill me if I tried to do that, they say I should be a doctor” or “That’s crazy, you can’t buy a BMW with the money you make doing that.”
The problem isn’t passion. It’s never passion.
It’s priorities.
And even then, who says you need to make money doing what you love? Since when does everyone feel entitled to love every second of their job? Really, what is so wrong with working an OK normal job with some cool people you like, and then pursuing your passion in your free time on the side? Has the world turned upside-down or is this not suddenly a novel idea to people?
Look, here’s another slap in the face for you: every job sucks sometimes. There’s no such thing as some passionate activity that you will never get tired of, never get stressed over, never complain about. It doesn’t exist. I am living my dream job (which happened by accident, by the way. I never in a million years planned on this happening; like a kid on a playground I just went and tried it), and I still hate about 30% of it. Some days more.
Again, that’s just life.
man sitting down with saxophone
The issue here is, once again, expectations. If you think you’re supposed to be working 70-hour work weeks and sleeping in your office like Steve Jobs and loving every second of it, you’ve been watching too many shitty movies. If you think you’re supposed to wake up every single day dancing out of your pajamas because you get to go to work, then you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid. Life doesn’t work like that. It’s just unrealistic. There’s a thing most of us need called balance.
I have a friend who, for the last three years, has been trying to build an online business selling whatever. It hasn’t been working. And by not working, I mean he’s not even launching anything. Despite years of “work” and saying he’s going to do this or that, nothing actually ever gets done.
What does get done is when one of his former co-workers comes to him with a design job to create a logo or design some promotional material for an event. Holy shit, he’s all over that like flies on fresh cow shit.
And he does a great job! He stays up to 4:00 AM losing himself working on it and loving every second of it.
But then two days later it’s back to, “Man, I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
I meet so many people like him. He doesn’t need to find his passion. His passion already found him. He’s just ignoring it. He just refuses to believe it’s viable. He is just afraid of giving it an honest-to-god try.
It’s like a nerdy kid walking onto a playground and saying, “Well, bugs are really cool, but NFL players make more money, so I should force myself to play football every day,” and then coming home and complaining that he doesn’t like recess.
And that’s bullshit. Everybody likes recess. The problem is that he’s arbitrarily choosing to limit himself based on some bullshitty ideas he got into his head about success and what he’s supposed to do.
Another email I get all the time is from people wanting advice on how to become a writer.
And my answer is the same: I have no idea.
As a kid, I would write short stories in my room for fun. As a teenager, I would write music reviews and essays about bands I loved and then show them to nobody. Once the internet came around, I spent hours upon hours on forums writing multi-page posts about inane topics – everything from guitar pickups to the causes of the Iraq War.
I never considered writing as a potential career. I never even considered it a hobby or passion. To me, the things I wrote about were my passion: music, politics, philosophy. Writing was just something I did because I felt like it.
And when I had to go looking for a career I could fall in love with, I didn’t have to look far. In fact, I didn’t have to look at all. It chose me, in a way. It was already there. Already something I was doing every day, since I was a kid, without even thinking about it.
Because here’s another point that might make a few people salty: If you have to look for what you’re passionate about, then you’re probably not passionate about it at all.
If you’re passionate about something, it will already feel like such an ingrained part of your life that you will have to be reminded by people that it’s not normal, that other people aren’t like that.
It didn’t occur to me that writing 2,000 word posts on forums was something nobody else considered fun. It never occurred to my friend that designing a logo is something that most people don’t find easy or fun. To him, it’s so natural that he can’t even imagine it being otherwise. And that’s why it’s probably what he really should be doing.
A child does not walk onto a playground and say to herself, “How do I find fun?” She just goes and has fun.
If you have to look for what you enjoy in life, then you’re not going to enjoy anything.
And the real truth is that you already enjoy something. You already enjoy many things. You’re just choosing to ignore them.
Well Said Mark ! tomt


Pens,Ink & Watercolour

20th Nov. 2016

The Ballpoint and the Keyboard killed handwriting.

I love to write with a fountain pen. To see the shape of the neat and tidy letters flowing onto the paper is immensely satisfying.
My everyday writing is not at all refined, but on picking up a real pen everything seems to change.

In primary school we first learned to write with chalk on lined slates in a simple script from of letter with blocky capitals . I think it would have been 3 years later that steel nibbed dip pens and joined-up writing began. Back then the neatness of your writing gained you a high proportion of your marks. As I recall my penmanship was above average, but far from calligraphic .

We were taught to hold pen in a relaxed light but firm grip so that consistent flowing script glided across the page . When I see folks of the later ” biro ” generation holding a writing implement, with fingers engaged in as in a death grip determined to strangle the life out of the thing and the inconsistent, undisciplined handwriting that results, I am forced to question what transpires in the writing classes of early education today. Since it results in such illegible writing, surely if it is not legible, then it is clearly not writing .

In my late teens I took pleasure doing pen and ink drawings of old buildings and country scenes, some which were given a gentle watercolour wash. Upon leaving School at 15 I briefly considered a position as a graphic artist for a local agricultural business, SCATS, but my father wisely guided me instead, toward an engineering apprenticeship. As part of my apprenticeship I attended tech. college where it was necessary to take notes in haste and over the next 4 years my handwriting deteriorated to ungainly ugly scribble .

The end product of my Engineering apprenticeship was graduating into the drawing office, where a consistently neat blocky script is demanded .  Being required to retrain my hand led to simple calligraphy and using italic nibbed pens.  This in turn prompted a return to occasionally sketching for pleasure.

Taking pleasure in art reentered my life again when I set up a picture framing business in the ’80’s and now that I am retired and less mobile I have again returned to sketching and watercolours . Fistly attracted by a 3 day travel sketching event on Quadra Island –

My my recent recommencement was prompted with the arrival of our wet season in October, and reflecting on the beautiful watercolour paintings produced by my sister Kate, until her death in January.  As a tribute of thanks to her I hope to collect as many photos of her work as possible and present them in a slide show.

On a recent visit to Qualicum I browsed the pen box in the antique shop and found two fine gold nibbed Sheaffer fountain pens from the late 30’s for $10 one needed a new bladder which I obtained from Pensacs USA for $3 each 🙂 . Thus if you are so inclined there are beautiful pens to be had for very little and there is no need to spend the high prices that collectors have created for a fine writing pen . There is real pleasure to be had in simple things and pride to be taken from a letter in a neat and tidy script style that is yours and yours alone – Get a fountain pen and get writing for Christmas 🙂

My Christmas Cards this year will be carrying a message written with ink and one of these pens in a distinctive neat hand and with love !


Sheep & Shepherding on the Downs

From my Owslebury blog –

Shepherd leading a flock c1950 through Longwood Beeches, Hants.
Photo by Dennis Kendal

This photograph was given to my Dad by the photographer and it has hung in our house for many years , a glimpse into the pastoral life now gone but not forgotten.

Add caption

The article that follows is thanks to – The Shepherds Hut Company it provides an insight into the important roll of Sheep and Shepherd on the Hampshire Chalk Down lands , one which is completely lost today.

 History of the Shepherd’s Hut

In the nineteenth century, farming customs on the light chalky soils of
southern England were far different to modern day practices.
Labour was cheap and plentiful and sprays and artificial fertilisers were 
unheard of.


In order to get any kind of production from these thin and often impoverished
soils, fertiliser in the form of farmyard manure had to be applied. However,
the physical problems and cost of hauling vast quantities of manure from
the farmyard to the distant fields were too great.
To overcome these problems, farmers employed animals to do the work for
them – sheep. The era of ‘The Golden Hoof’ had arrived.

History of the Shepherd’s Hut

The sheep that were used to perform the task of fertilising the uplands were
very different from those you see on the hills and downs of southern England
today. Almost every farm with downland or chalky soil would have had a
flock of downland sheep – Hampshire Down, Dorset Down, Oxford Down,
or South Down.

These sheep were not allowed to roam free but were kept tightly enclosed
behind hurdles. Once the forage crop or grassland had been grazed, the
hurdles and flock would be moved on to new pasture, leaving behind manure
that would be ploughed in ready for a crop of wheat, barley or oats.
Without this organic fertiliser, it would not have been possible to grow these crops
in such light soils.
If you owned a downland farm in the 19th century, a well managed flock of sheep
and a hard working shepherd were essential, so much so that your shepherd was
the most important worker on your farm. As most downland villages were set in
valleys and downland fields were the farthest away, the shepherd had to have
somewhere to store his tools and medicines.

It was hard, physical work with flocks having to be moved daily and the
shepherd also had to have somewhere to eat, rest and sleep, especially during
the lambing season.
Thus, the Shepherd’s Hut was borne.
The shepherd’s hut was a kitchen, dining room, bedroom, sitting room and
storeroom all rolled into one. The designs vary but all were constructed to
provide the shepherd with practical and durable accommodation.
The old huts had a stove in one corner for warmth and cooking, and a
window on each side so the shepherd could see the flock. A hinged stable
door, which was always positioned away from the prevailing wind, enabled
 him to hear the flock, and strong axles with cast iron wheels were used to
withstand the constant movement from field to field.
The durability of these huts is evident today with many fine examples still
being used by farmers, mainly as storerooms, and can often be seen parked
up alongside fields. Many more have been consigned to agricultural
museums giving testament to days gone by.

The pub ” The Shearer’s Arms  in Owslebury Bottom (sadly closed in 2004) has a long history back to the Doomsday Book and Henry VIII was thought to have hunted rom there. Its name speaks to the importance of Sheep and Shepherding on the downs over the past 800 years.

Now a residence but once a popular pub with an 800 year history

Courtesy of – The Shepherds Hut Company
David Cherrington
01822 612 720
07966 593 208

Whisky – Organoleptics

18th Oct 2016

Whisky is Brown Vodka

Bottled from the first batch of CC produced in BC

This story was prompted after watching a BBC Infodoc “Scotch – The Story of Whisky” and goes back to the early ’70’s when I lived in Kelowna BC.

Let’s begin wee a bit of Whisky’s history :

Hiram Walker had just built a state of the art distillery in nearby Winfield and were looking for an engineering type to record all the “As Built “drawing corrections to the project . I applied and was given the assignment .

When I joined Hiram Walker’s staff I was offered an opportunity to try out for a position on there product testing team . In these initial tests in their laboratory each candidate was presented with 5 glasses of water from different local sources which you were only allowed to sniff. If you were able to differentiate or recognise these again in later tests you became a candidate for further tests on their products . This testing is called Organoleptic Testing and is the standard method used throughout the distillate industry.

Following a long series of these tests I was told that I had a very good nose and was to join the Organoleptic Panel. This meant that not only did you go to the lab several times a day to sniff and compare samples of every sort of liquid, but you had unprecedented access the production process .  The secrets !

While what is described following was the practice of Hiram Walker, since the modern distillation processes are all based on the same science you can be pretty sure it universally true for all except gin.

Fermentation – This is a continuous process carried out in a pipe where some form of starch bearing organics ( Barley ,Wheat , are classics but also Adjuncts as they are known are added such as Corn or Rice ) are milled then inoculated with special high tech yeasts and water (the liquor ) to make a mash which is heated and converts the starch to sugar which then ferments to convert to alcohol.  Then end product is run through a centrifuge to separate the liquid from the solids . These solids are then toasted like pocorn and sold for animal feed.

Distillation – The liquid now passes onto the distillation department and is run through a giant still 50  plus feet tall . Condensates taken of at various heights and temperatures have differing properties . Many of these are used for other purposes other than making ” Vodka” . The distillers do not call their alcohol Vodka but New Product meaning raw alcohol at 180 proof. This is placed in oak Sherry casks for a number of years , in this case seven for maturation.

Blending – After the predetermined maturation is completed the casks are emptied and the contents filtered and the process of creating the “finished” product begins . This is carried out under the supervision of the Master Blender.
He uses his knowledge and experience to combine a huge variety of ingredients to create a replica of the “standard” of the product . This initial blend is the subjected to noses of the organoleptic panel for comparison with a sample of the “standard “.  any discrepancy mean  back to the blending room for amendment. the the process is repeated until the standard is matched perfectly.

So what do they do to pure 7 year old Vodka to make say, Canadian Club Rye Whisky – that’s is a secret !

However, some of the ingredients are known because we also tested them , organoleptically of course 🙂 for Canadian Club, such as Irish plum wine was included to provide colour and character.

That said, the recent so-called “rye renaissance” that never really happened, drew attention to the fact that in North America, Canadian rye whisky consistently outsells all of Scotch whisky, Irish whisky, Bourbon, and American rye combined.

Here is a link to another account of Hiram Walker’s distillery in Winfield BC. which was adapted to produce Ethanol for while , and has since been demolished .

Should you be further interested here is a link to the BBC webpage :