Archives for December 2009

12 Beautiful Mongolian Landscape Photographs

Regularly readers of my blog know that my son Daniel is serving a mission in Mongolia. Though he will be there for nearly two years these are some of the landscapes he will probably never see. As you can see from the photographs, Mongolia is a very beautiful and varied country. I like landscapes from any country, consider these varied vistas from China.

If you have visited any of these locations please tell me about your experience. Click on the images for a larger photograph or follow the photo credit links.

Sunset in Mongolia

Sunset in Mongolia

Photo Credit: shagal

Lone tree in Western Mongolia

Lone tree in Western Mongolia

Photo Credit: tiarescott

Mongolian landscape

Mongolian landscape with truck in the distance

Photo Credit: tiarescott

Khongoryn Els sand dunes Gobi Desert Mongolia

Khongoryn Els sand dunes, Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Photo Credit: PnP!

Grassland in Inner Mongolia

Grassland in Inner Mongolia

Photo Credit: shenxy

Hustai Nuruu National Park, Mongolia

Przewalski horse research station ger in Hustai Nuruu National Park, Mongolia

Photo Credit: m d d

Where Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, and Russia meet

Where Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, and Russia meet. Taken at 9,800 feet.

Photo Credit: kitseeborg

Near Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

A national park near Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Photo Credit: Michael Foley Photography

Khovsgol Nuui lake, Mongolia

Khovsgol Nuui lake, Mongolia

Photo Credit: PnP!

Amarbayasgalant Khiid Temple, Mongolia

Amarbayasgalant Khiid Temple, Mongolia

Photo Credit: PnP!

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Photo Credit: yeowatzup

Ongiin Khiid, Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Ongiin Khiid, Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Photo Credit: PnP!

These photographs carry a Creative Commons license that permits copying, distribution, and transmission provided that they are not used commercially and attribution is given. Other restrictions may apply, follow the photo credit links for details.
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Rickety: Top Ten Blog Posts of 2009

Weekly visitors graphThere may be one other blogger out there, besides me, who is interested in my top ten posts of 2009. Maybe not. Anyway, here are my top ten from 1 January 2009 to 30 December 2009. Total pageviews, as measured by Google Analytics, are in parentheses.

  1. Home Page (7,814)
  2. United States Total Fertility Rate Increases (3,414)
  3. Bank Rewards Checking (2,518)
  4. Mongolia (1,551)
  5. The Falling Fertility of Europe (1,290)
  6. Past Pictures: 15 Free Dual Screen Wallpapers (957)
  7. Rewards Checking (938)
  8. Build an Arc Welder from Microwave Ovens: Part 2 (924)
  9. Build an Arc Welder from Microwave Ovens (896)
  10. Updated LDS Membership Statistics (871)

In 2009 there were visitors from 142 countries/territories. Mongolia made the top ten because I post weekly about my son’s Mongolian mission.

  1. United States (20,256)
  2. United Kingdom (741)
  3. Canada (698)
  4. India (451)
  5. Australia (309)
  6. Philippines (286)
  7. Germany (264)
  8. Mongolia (255)
  9. France (174)
  10. Poland (156)

Visitors came from all 50 states. I live in Utah and blog about the state so nothing unusual about the number one spot.

  1. Utah (5,547)
  2. California (2,109)
  3. Texas (1,438)
  4. New York (981)
  5. Florida (648)
  6. Washington (608)
  7. Illinois (597)
  8. Pennsylvania (475)
  9. Arizona (465)
  10. Georgia (444)
City visitors to blog

2009 world-wide city visitors to Rickety

I blog about Kaysville, where I live, which explains its number one position as the city with the most visitors. Ulaanbaatar is in there because of my posts about Mongolia. Hill Air Force Base is my employer though I don’t access my blog from work (it’s blocked). Keller is where my daughter lives.

  1. Kaysville, Utah (1,829)
  2. Salt Lake City, Utah (1,133)
  3. Midvale, Utah (544)
  4. New York, New York (478)
  5. Provo, Utah (420)
  6. London, U.K. (269)
  7. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (253)
  8. Hill Air Force Base, Utah (245)
  9. Keller, Texas (227)
  10. San Francisco, California (198)

Google images is my top referring site because I use so many photographs in my posts. I make the file names descriptive which helps referrals. I send my feed to my Facebook page and I am listed with the Mormon Mission blog. The other non-Google sites are where I have left comments.

  1. Google Images (3,207)
  2. Google (629)
  3. Lazy Man and Money (518)
  4. Site no longer in operation (262)
  5. Wisebread (228)
  6. Google Images Canada (209)
  7. Google Images U.K. (200)
  8. Facebook (159)
  9. Google Images Mongolia (159)
  10. Mormon Mission (157)

Trackbacks from blogs with a higher homepage pagerank than mine (greater than 3):

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Testing Our APack Ready Meals

We tested our Meals Ready to Eat (not the military version) last month and they were barely edible. I promptly ordered a case of APack Ready Meals and tonight they underwent a taste test. We each took an APack so that at least all six varieties were covered.

Every APack Ready Meal includes an entrée with self-heating unit, side dishes, beverage mix (bottled water not included), condiment, utensil and towelette. The individually durable packaged meals have an extended shelf life of up to five years depending on temperature. Meals are self-heating — the entrée is ready in 10 minutes.

How many APacks do we need per person per day? Each APack contains between 1,140 to 1,310 calories. Allowing 2,500 calories per day for men and 2,000 calories per day for women, one case (12 meals) is enough food for two people for 72 hours. We will probably add an extra APack a day for the men.

The APack Team

I assembled a discerning team of eight for the taste testing. If this crew is happy then APacks will go into our 72 hour kits. The long story is below. The short story is we liked the meals.

Each APack had these common items: entrée, heater, salt water for heater, cracker, pepper, raisins, and spoon. Items that varied are listed below.

Paul's pasta APack

Paul's said his pasta APack was the best.

PaulPasta With Garden Vegetables in Tomato Sauce 1,150 calories.
Common items plus raspberry beverage tube, peanut butter, fig bar, and shortbread cookie.

We sampled each other’s meals. Paul says that his was the best one. He only ate the entrée and saved the rest until later.

Sarah's tetrazzini APack

Sarah's tetrazzini APack

SarahCreamy Chicken Tetrazzini 1,140 calories.
Common items plus lemonade beverage tube, cheese spread, fig bar, and shortbread cookie.

Sarah found the crackers dry but were good with the cheese spread. She also mixed the cheese spread in with her entrée. She said the Chicken Tetrazzini was so-so but she would eat it again. It may have tasted better if it was warmer. The fig bars tasted just like fig newtons.

Jill's spaghetti APack

Jill's spaghetti APack was plenty for her.

JillSpaghetti with Italian Style Meat Sauce 1,310 calories.
Common items plus raspberry beverage tube, peanut butter, strawberry toaster pastry, and oatmeal cookie.

Jill did not like her raspberry drink but thought Sarah’s lemonade was fine. She didn’t eat all her spaghetti because she was full. I tried the spaghetti and it was tasty.

Adelaide's southwestern chicken APack

Adelaide observed that you need a knife to open the packages.

AdelaideSouthwestern Style Chicken with Black Beans & Rice 1,190 calories.
Common items plus raspberry beverage tube, cheese spread, fig bar, and shortbread cookie.

Adelaide pointed out that one needs a knife to open some of the packaging and that was duly noted. Even though she is pregnant she liked all her food, plus ours as well. The heaters were good and hot.

Steven's homestyle chicken APack

Steven did not get enough to eat.

StevenHomestyle Style Chicken Noodles with Vegatables 1,180 calories.
Common items plus lemonade beverage tube, cheese spread, fig bar, and shortbread cookie.

Steven traded his cheese spread for peanut butter. He said the food was not sufficient. There were some items left over from the rest of our meals that would have fed him if we were in the wilds somewhere.

Rick's beef stew APack

The beef stew was very agreeable.

Rick and DerekHearty Beef Stew 1,310 calories.
Common items plus lemonade beverage tube, peanut butter, strawberry toaster pastry, and oatmeal cookie.

Rick: No we didn’t share a meal, we each had our own beef stew. I tried all the meals and this was by far the best one. The gravy was really thick and there was proportionally a good amount of beef. The heaters cranked out plenty of BTUs to give us some very hot food. I liked the raisins as did everyone else. Both Derek and I traded or gave away our peanut butter. I personally cannot abide the stuff. The oatmeal cookie was dry but still tasty. The toaster pastry was just like a pop-tart.

Bryson's raisins APack

Bryson says the raisins were juicy.


My job was to check out the raisins and the cheese spread on crackers. Very tasty indeed, better than the awful baby food I am used to. I really wanted my own entrée but I couldn’t reach as I was fastened in my high chair. My dad’s beef stew looked really good and he let me taste some of his.

Aurora no APack for you

Aurora, no APack for you!


Do I ever get anything fun to eat? No. Really, they treat me like a little girl.

Production Date and Cost

There is not an expiration date on the cases or individual packs because the shelf life varies based upon storage conditions. However, each case and individual pack contains a production date code similar to “9048” that was marked on mine. The 9 represents the year (2009) and the “048” represents the day (48th). Thus, the meal’s date of production is the 48th day of 2009. So my APacks were nine months old when I received them.

I purchased my meals from the manufacturer in November at a cost of $69.95 for a case of twelve ($5.83 each). With shipping the total is $84.16 ($7.01 each). You have to buy the whole box. The Epicenter will sell half a case for $35 (plus $10.63 shipping) for a cost of $7.61 each. When I ordered a half case from The Epicenter the production date was one day earlier than from the manufacturer’s store.

Note that there are other manufacturers that make civilian MREs. I chose APacks because of good reviews and the pictures of the meals on their website made the food look tasty and I was hungry when I ordered.
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Caption Competition

I can think of some captions for this photograph of my grandchildren Aurora and Bryson. But I will leave it up to you. I will update this post with the winning captions. There are no prizes but your wit and intelligence will have an opportunity to shine.

Photo: Mike Willoughby


As judges, mine and Jill’s captions were excluded. Thank you all for the excellent captions.

First — Alright, I put the batteries in, now what? Sean
Second — Bryson: What do you mean she has more teeth than I do? Melissa
Third — What’d you just call me, woman?! Mark
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Mongolian Moments #8

Mongolian Moments #8
Mongolia is extremely cold in the winter, with January averages dropping as low as -30°C (-22°F). Ulaanbaatar has the lowest average temperature of any national capital in the world. Daniel has heard of missionary’s eyelashes freezing together and says he looks forward to have it happen to him.

Click on comic strip for larger image. Created using Strip Generator. See all the comics on the Comics Page.
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Missionary Dan Email #9 from Choibalsan, Mongolia

Christmas was great. We had a branch party at the church. Lots of members came and had a good time. It was definitely a different Christmas than I have ever had before. Sounded like everyone there had a good time. I’ll be honest, everyone sounded really weird. I didn’t even recognize Jake. Who is he anyway? I enjoyed talking to Paul. Thanks for the good counsel, I wasn’t really speaking into the microphone. Everyone else sounded great.

View Larger Map
Choibalsan is located in NE Mongolia about 50 miles east of the Chinese border and 160 miles south of Russia. On our map Choibalsan is at bottom center and country borders are in white. Pan left to find Ulaanbaatar 377 miles to the west. Cannot see map? Click here.

So the visa problem is complicated. So the American elders and sisters haven’t been able to come. I don’t know if they ever will, but there still is a chance for them. So the government found out that we were sending people to be English teachers and be missionaries. Which I’m sure they knew the whole time, but this time they got mad that we were doing missionary work and threatened to throw all of us out of the country. So for the past two weeks or so American missionaries aren’t allowed to talk to people on the street. Before we would talk to 70 people a week and get referrals that way. But, for now we aren’t allowed to do that. Meaning talk to people on the street about the church to try and meet with them. Mongolian missionaries can still talk to people freely. We are getting some branch missionaries set up to talk to people for us to get some good investigators that way. My visa is fine for two more years and as far as I know the problem is calming down.

This week was a little harder to do missionary work. Everyone is busy getting ready for the new year. Elder Od Bayar and I still did alright on our work though. We found three new investigators which was quite an accomplishment. We were really blessed. Hopefully they will progress well. I really love being with Od Bayar again. He has changed since last time I was with him. Today I got this email from President Andersen:

Elder Od Bayar specifically wanted to be with you again. He thought that you were his best companion and wanted to learn obedience and diligence from you again. I think he is ready to learn this time with you!
Pres. Andersen

I was surprised to read that. It did make me happy though. It makes me want to work harder. I have been trying to accomplish some good goals this transfer and being with Elder Od Bayar has been helping me a lot. He has definitly changed in how he teaches and his desire. I can really tell that he wants to do good work and become a better missionary. He is my favorite companion and teaches me more than I teach him. It has been a great opportunity for us to be together again.

My mini missionary, Munkh Chuluun, who I was with last week came to a lot of church activities this week. He got a branch missionary calling and is doing his best to repent and prepare for a mission. I heard from the Branch President that two weeks ago he met with Munkh Chuluun and he said he didn’t want to serve a mission. He did the mini mission with me and then met with the Branch President again. This time he told the President, “I want to serve a mission!” I was glad I was able to help.

That week was truly a miracle as I see God’s hand preparing houses for us to go to and teach them. We had really good work and taught many lessons. I felt the spirit strongly with Munkh and I know it will impact him the rest of his life. He asked me for some little reminder that he can carry for when he has the desire to smoke. I gave him most of my mints before not knowing that he had a problem with smoking. He told me that he was using those when he had the desire and it was helping. So I’m going to give him some more! It makes me very happy to see him want to change and be better. I pray that he’ll become a great missionary and help many others receive the Gospel.

I know this Church is true and it really blesses many people’s lives. God hears our prayers and answers them in His own time and own way. He truly loves us and helps us every day. I know that I have been called of God to do His work among His children that they might have everlasting life.

Love Elder Willoughby.

P.S. This computer’s USB isn’t working. Sorry no pictures again :(. And I don’t have a mongolian accent.

Presented have been portions of an email from Elder Daniel Willoughby serving in the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission. If anyone wishes to send Daniel a message, write it in the comments and I will make sure he receives it.
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Patrick Henry Caucus Supports Lawsuit Against Feds

Patrick HenryThe Patrick Henry Caucus is calling on the leaders from all States to join in the effort to file a lawsuit against the federal government in order to stop the federal health care bill. The Patrick Henry Caucus says the national health care bill is unconstitutional on two counts:

  1. The preferential treatment given Nebraska “violates principles of due process and equal protection” under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
  2. The law is “an excess of Congress’s enumerated powers inasmuch as it requires every American to acquire health insurance.”

In a The Patrick Henry Caucus on Facebook press release the Caucus wrote:

On Wednesday, December 23, 2009 The Patrick Henry Caucus adopted a unanimous position to oppose the Health Care Reform Bills, and to support a lawsuit against the federal government.

Listed below are the amendments cited. I have italicized what I think is the applicable text. Correct me if I wrong on this.

Article 1, Section 8 lists the enumerated powers (see below) which doesn’t outline any power remotely resembling health care. The general welfare clause could be used to argue for the constitutionality of health care and no doubt it will be. My question is why bother limiting what the federal government can do by enumeration if a general clause makes it all moot?

As always, I am open to discussion on this although I do believe the time for talking is over. The states must act to reign in excessive federal abuses, for we have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.

Amendments 5 and 14

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment XIV

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

[Section 2-5 not listed]

Article I

Section 8.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
To establish post offices and post roads;
To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
To provide and maintain a navy;
To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;–And

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.
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Memories of Childhood

It is interesting to read about people’s childhoods, to see if they were similar to yours, or different. Here are a few snippets of my early years. Do you have pleasant memories of your childhood, or was it difficult? Did your parents stay together? What was life like for you where you lived?

I was born in Cheshire, England. My father was serving at that time with the United States Air Force, stationed in England at Burtonwood, during the Korean War. I was the first of three children—all boys. My grandmother, Florence, liked my father very much and he would tease her and call her “Flo-o-oreee” in his Missouri accent.

Parent's wedding day

My parent's wedding day

New Dad

Father had been transferred back to the United States before my youngest brother was born. Mother was to follow on with the children but she didn’t. Dad had no choice but to start proceedings and eventually they were divorced.

Mother remarried and I had a stepfather. While they dated we boys called him Geoff. Mother told us we will need to be calling him Dad, and I was fine with that.

We lived in a Council house. When I was four I made the coal fire early one morning to please Mother and save Dad some work. This was the only fire in the house. It would go out overnight and had to be started each morning. I overbuilt the fire, choking it of oxygen, and it went out. Still, my parents were positive in their praise, even though it took Dad much more time to completely rebuild it and get it started.

I began school at four years old. For my first day at school Mother took me but thereafter I had to find my own way there. I recall thinking that I must remember how to get to school if I was to find my way again the next day. There was a morning and afternoon playtime (recess). When afternoon playtime came around I thought it was hometime. The teacher, when she saw me leaving, figured I had had enough of school and was going home to Mum—so she let me go. I started walking out the school gates and I wondered why no-one else was leaving. Nevertheless I pressed on.

As I neared home I saw a lot of children playing at the school and thought that they were lucky children, waiting for their mothers to come and collect them. My mother and grandmother were at home. I opened the back door slowly and they thought it was an intruder. When they saw it was me, they were relieved and presumed I didn’t like school and had come home. It was not until years later when I spoke of the incident to my mother that she found out what really happened.

Parents in Blackpool in 1953

Father and Mother in Blackpool in 1953

Name Difficulties

I had to learn to answer my name when the register was called. A boy with a one syllable surname, Keith Flood, had trouble answering “here” when his name was called. I also had trouble answering “Willoughby”—I was only four years old and it is a long name to remember. I felt dumb like Keith Flood. There was even less room to doubt our dumbness when the teacher rebuked us: “Keith Flood and Richard Willoughby will have to learn to answer their names!” I felt really stupid.

A similiar experience occurred when the class was learning to write their names. Derek Farr sat in front of me, and when the teacher saw that I had difficulty writing my name she said, “Derek can write his name, why can’t you?” I thought, “Farr, that’s f-a-r, then add r again, only four letters. There are, hmmm, 1, 2, 3 … 10 letters in my name and which way around does the gh go?” This was my first realization that teachers don’t know everything which placed me on the path to later learning to check important information for reliability. When I was taught the word though it made it easy to write Willoughby, especially as the pronounciation matched.


I recall learning the alphabet and as soon as I could read a few words I was excited to try out my skills at home in reading whatever book I could find. I spent hours figuring out how to read words out of an adult encyclopedia, which was one of the few books we owned.

I was fascinated by astronomy. I couldn’t grasp the concept of constellations so I focused on the planets. In the first sentence of reading about Jupiter I came across the words aphelion and perihelion. I couldn’t hardly read the words, much less pronounce them. However, in the context of the distances from the Sun, it dawned on me that perihelion was the closest distance that Jupiter came in it’s orbit and aphelion was the furthest. I spent days trying to figure out the math section in the encyclopedia, which was silly of me because it was way beyond my years. I look back on those early school days when I was taught to read with very fond memories. It opened up a world where I could choose what to learn, at a very early age.

Held by my father

Held by my father

East Park

I would go with my brothers to the East Park. We used to take the long walk to the park, rather than take our bicycles, for we feared they would be stolen. We made The Park an all day event, with activities like boating, bowls, soccer, running around the band stand and hide ‘n’ seek. The neighborhood bully asked us how to get to the park—we wouldn’t tell him, and we ran off. The next day, about a third of the way to the park, the bully jumps out from behind a wall. That surprised us and we couldn’t get away but all he wanted was for us to show him the way to The Park. We did and he disappeared for the rest of the day and gave us no trouble.

Another day, my brother and I were returning from the East Park when in the distance we heard a shout behind us, “Come here!” We carried on walking and soon an angry boy, The Big Kid rode up on his bike. He said, “Why didn’t you come when I called you?” My brother said, “It’s a free country!” for which The Big Kid gave him a fist in the face, and a bloody nose flowing freely, spilling onto the footpath.

My brother was out of the fight so I put up my fists, and with resigned trepitation, was ready for the worst. The Big Kid said “That won’t do you any good, you can’t hurt me.” To prove his point, he told me to try something. I punched him in the stomache but it did no good. I turned to my brother and said, “Come on, let’s get him together” but he was understandably still tending to his nose. The Big Kid then said, “Next time, come when I tell you to,” and took off. I diplomatically refrained from making any comments about freedom. I never saw him again.


Mother was Catholic and my stepfather never mentioned religion but was a hard worker and was a good influence. If I asked him to do something that he thought I could do for myself he would say, “Use your own initiative.”

We never went to church as a family or individually but when I was very young I recall my mother telling me that there was “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” She said I can pray to God the Father and ask for what I needed. I could understand asking for what I wanted, a young child knows how to do that. She then said that you have to have faith. I didn’t understand that, I said to myself, what’s faith? But the seeds were sown for my faith later in life.


One girl that I remember was Jean Tilley. Jean was brilliant at math and I would compete to try and finish before her. I was never able to, she was too smart and too fast and would always finish before everyone else.

One morning, just before the big math test, I turned around to Jean to make a comment. We used fountain pens, every student providing his own, unless you used a school pen which had to be dipped in an ink-well every few seconds. As I turned around I inadvertently knocked Jean’s fountain pen to the floor with the back of my chair. The nib was bent on impact so Mr. Bellfield straightened it with a pair of pliers he kept for that purpose. The weekly Monday morning test started and after a few minutes Jean muttered something. She increasingly got more agitated and frustrated and eventually burst into tears. Mr. Bellfield put her into the storeroom so that she wouldn’t have to be crying in front of the whole class. Nobody could figure out why she was so upset. After the test I noticed Jean’s pen had a small gap in the nib, preventing the ink from flowing freely. Jean had difficulty writing, and wasn’t able to finish first and maintain her record. I thought, “Oh, no, that was my fault!”


My brothers and I used to cycle the country lanes in the summer, our goal being to reach the old church. Not for any religious reason but just because it was a convenient landmark. The grounds around the church were quiet and we liked to feed the ducks in the nearby pond. Sometimes we would get tired and turn around and come home.

Alderly Edge was another place in range of our bicycles. The reward was a magnificent view of the Cheshire plain, seen of course from The Edge. Having sinced lived in the Rockies, that view now seems minor in comparison but Cheshire is flat (except where it meets the Pennies) and to us The Edge seemed quite elevated. Jodrell Bank was another worthwhile destination for a bicycle expedition. Then it was the largest mobile radio telescope in the world. As we would cycle towards it, we would see that it had changed its position since we last looked.

With my mother

With my mother

So Sick

A friend, Jan, suffered from asthma and was not a very strong boy. He lived just a few houses from me. Sometimes when he couldn’t breathe too well and had to go home he would send word via another student for me to walk home with him. I would start out, Jan hanging on to me and breathing so heavy. Then a teacher would intervene and say that the headmaster would take him home in his car. I don’t remember why Jan would send for me, he just did.

I used to run home from school, enjoying the thrill of moving along at speed. I may have been weak at sports but I was a good runner with my long legs. One afternoon, when I was seven years old, I didn’t run home from school. I only had the energy to walk home. At home I felt ill and lay on the couch. I told Mother to get a damp cloth to place on my forehead. I was taken to my bed and later that evening an ambulance was called. I thought my Dad would carry me down the stairs to the ambulance but no, the ambulance driver did. I remember the slight feeling of disappointment. I had Meningitis and was hospitalized a month. As I recovered, on one of the visits to the hospital, my parents told me that Jan had died of the same illness.

A Dunce

When I left the hospital I had some time at home. So vivid in my mind still is the day Mother asked me to go and get the milk from the doorstep. I went to the front door, opened it, and couldn’t remember what I had been sent for. I returned to Mother in tears, telling her I couldn’t remember what it was she wanted. The meningitis had affected my memory.

When I returned to school I was put in what the school children called “the dunces class.” It was a class of thirty or so students, drawn from the entire school, who were not able to keep up with their regular lessons for whatever reason. I was not a very bright student to begin with, so after missing more than a month of school, I suppose it was thought prudent to place me straight into this special class. It went well for awhile.

The teacher was a beautiful tall woman, with long flowing hair who had been to Tanganyika (now Tanzania) at one time. Once she read a letter to us from someone from that country. Stars for your work and profusions of praise would be the order of the day, coupled with a relaxed learning atmosphere.

My friends came to visit me one dark rainy day. I showed them some of my good work. They laughed and thought it ridiculous that I would get so many stars for such average results. I was crushed and still can feel the insult in my heart. That was the day I never wanted to feel that way again. Thereafter I worked harder and smarter and was promoted into Junior I. Ages 5, 6, and 7 were Infant I, II and III and ages 8, 9, 10 and 11 were Junior I, II, III and IV. I had a tough time keeping up in Junior I but gradually improved. Memory was still a problem but very early I developed ways to compensate, which in the long run proved to be an asset.

At eight years old.

At eight years old.


At playtime we played King. You need one tennis ball and some boys—girls can’t play (1950’s rules). We stood in as wide a circle as necessary with your two feet two feet apart. Your right foot touches my left foot and your left foot touches his right foot and my right foot against another’s left foot etc. to form the circle. Bounce the ball hard and let it bounce until it goes through someone’s legs. That someone is IT. The unfortunate IT then throws the ball at the rapidly dispersing group to try and get a HIT.

When IT hits someone then he has a partner to help in getting the remaining players, who are now very much scattered. IT and HIT can now pass the ball to each other to get within throwing range. No running with the ball is allowed though running without the ball for the players still unhit is very much encouraged (if not imperative). Steven Wolstenhulme’s tactic was to leap high at the last moment when the ball was thrown whereas mine was to duck low at the last moment. It was surprising how well it worked. As more players are caught, it becomes easier to get the remainder. The last player hit is named King and gets to bounce the ball in the circle, which gives him a slight advantage, at the start of the next game.

We played Wall by kicking a soccer ball against a wall. Each player had only one kick to get the ball back to the wall and maybe have enough velocity to give the next player some difficulty. We had the perfect school wall—no windows and wide and high.

Winter found us making huge slides to run up on at high speed and see how far you could go. In fine weather the girls played hopscotch and seemed to enjoy skipping ropes.

One of the sports taught by the school to boys was soccer (no girls allowed, they played Netball — 1950’s rules again) and every player, with the exception of the goalkeepers would chase the ball in one great, mad mob. I decided that was no strategy.

I went to the opposite end of the pitch to wait until the ball was kicked my way. Of course the mob wasn’t into tactics and I didn’t get the ball. Mr. Bellfield stopped the game and pointed at me way down the pitch and said that was a clever position to be in, and to illustrate how easy it would be to score a goal, he kicked the ball to me. I shot wide of the goal with only the goalkeeper to beat. The rest of the players didn’t think it was such a good point of Mr. Bellfield’s but I think he deserved credit for observation.


In my last year at primary school I recall trying to sing. Mr. Bellfield walked around the class by each student and singled me out, along with Robert Axon, as groaners. We had to sit away from the rest of the class and weren’t allowed to sing. It wasn’t very encouraging and I dreaded music for the rest of Primary School and all through Secondary School.

I liked to hear people sing and I loved listening to music but I would not sing myself. I recall Pamela Hollingsworth singing Gloria in Exchelsis solo one Christmas season. I thought it was beautiful and a great achievement. I had to go after school to the assembly hall where Mr. Bellfield played notes on a piano and I would have to sing them. I managed four notes but all I wanted to do was to forget about singing forever.


By age 11, at the time of the 11+ (eleven plus) examinations, my parents were confident that I would pass this crucial test. The 11+ was the exam given in the last year of primary school, at age 11, which determined whether one got a higher standard Grammar school education or went to a Secondary Modern school. The Grammar school taught languages such as French and Latin, dealt with higher level mathematics, and generally was much more advanced academically. The “+” part of the 11+ meant that the exam could be retaken at age 12 and 13, if failing at 11. Years later, when I did so well at Weber State College, the story about me in the Crewe Chronicle began: “For someone who failed his 11+, he’s improved a lot since….”

So what happened? I recall that on the day of the exam, I felt that I really didn’t care about it and I didn’t try very hard. The thought of Grammar School was a little intimidating and I would have to travel to another city. Whatever, I failed and never retook the exam. I was destined for the local Secondary School until my mother stepped in and altered my educational destiny. But that is another post.

Do you have a childhood story of success or failure?

Mongolian Moments #7

Mongolian Moments #7

For those who follow the blog you will know that both foods mentioned in the comic strip were recently eaten by Daniel. The horse pizza Daniel and his companion made and consumed themselves without incident. The goat stomach was in the Byyz that Daniel ate at a member’s house but didn’t hold down. At the time he thought the byyz tasted different.

Click on comic strip for larger image. Created using Strip Generator. See all the comics on the Comics Page.
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