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Beyond pharmacy blog

All posts by Merlin PJ

Cross my palm with silver once again

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 20 Jan 2010

Many otherwise rational people read the horoscopes in newspapers and magazines and a surprising number seem to set great store by them. However, with a UK population of some 60 million, and even allowing for the small seasonal variation in birth rate, it would seem that between 4.5 and 5.5 million people in this country should all share the same birth sign.

Through a glass darkly with Claud Lorrain

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 20 Jan 2010

One of the 17th-century’s leading landscape painters was the French artist Claude Lorrain (1600–82). His real surname was Gelleé but he took the name Lorrain because he had been born in Lorraine. Much of his work was done in Rome.

The rapture of the deep

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 20 Jan 2010

Quartz crystals are forever

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 25 Nov 2009

Merlin’s collection of geological specimens includes some quartz crystals and a small geode of amethyst. Quartz crystals can be made to vibrate at specific frequencies, and this property is used in accurate time keeping. The watch on your wrist is likely to contain a quartz crystal.

Why clockwise, not widdershins?

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 25 Nov 2009

Recently, Merlin took the opportunity to visit the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle, Northumberland. One of the great attractions of this museum is its splendid pair of Canalettos, showing scenes on the Grand Canal in Venice in the 1730s.

No to vaccines, yes to woolly long-johns

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 25 Nov 2009

The refusal of many parents to accept vaccination for their children is an interesting sociological phenomenon as well as a source of great concern to the health services.

Must a balloon made of lead always go down like a lead balloon?

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 14 Oct 2009

The phrase “going down like a lead balloon” seems to have become more popular in recent years, and seems to be a particular favourite with those NHS administrative staff who enjoy using jargon. The phrase usually refers to an idea or proposal that has not been well received by the intended audience. It appears to have originated in the US.

Boogie for your bones

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 14 Oct 2009

Cross my palm with silver

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 14 Oct 2009

Merlin, ever the scientist, has always been rather sceptical, if not downright scornful, of the many different methods of supposedly divining the future.

Ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars

Posted by: Merlin PJThu, 3 Sep 2009

Thursday 3 September was the 70th anniversary of the start of the 1939–45 war, and no doubt millions of words will have been written on the subject by mightier pens than Merlin’s. Merlin has another military anniversary to write about instead.

A humble railway vehicle that had a valiant role

Posted by: Merlin PJThu, 3 Sep 2009

After the 1914–18 war, Britain’s railways began to gear up for peacetime operations with the end of their wartime role as troop carriers. In 1919, the South Eastern and Chatham Railway introduced a new type of luggage van to carry passengers’ cases and trunks, and small items of freight, on long journeys. The van would run with all types of passenger rolling stock.

Always read the label

Posted by: Merlin PJThu, 3 Sep 2009

One of the most useful works of reference for Merlin when writing this column is Culpeper’s ‘Complete Herbal’. Merlin’s copy, far from being an original, is a paperback edition from the Wordsworth Reference Series of books published by Wordsworth Editions.

Across the English Channel: celebrating a double anniversary

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 22 Jul 2009

Today, 25 July, is an auspicious day for aviation enthusiasts, builders of Airfix models and those who simply love different modes of travel. This date is both the centenary of Louis Blériot’s famous first crossing of the Channel in an aircraft and the 50th anniversary of Sir Christopher Cockerell making the same journey by hovercraft.

Cultivating crops without the use of soil

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 22 Jul 2009

Recently Merlin undertook a bus journey that happened to pass along a main road through one of the less salubrious areas of a large industrial city not far from my home territory. The district is known to be something of a crime hotspot and is certainly not an area to walk through at night.

Yarrow and the Trojan war

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 22 Jul 2009

The summer months see the flowering of one of Merlin’s favourite herbs, the yarrow or milfoil (Achillea millefolium, Asteraceae). Wild yarrow has a delightful aroma when crushed.

A Victorian custom revived

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 10 Jun 2009

The common cowslip, Primula veris, was at one time widespread in the countryside, particularly on well drained grasslands. A recent note in The Times informed us that the cowslip is returning to the countryside.

Of raspberries and foghorns

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 10 Jun 2009

While on the subject of soft fruit, Merlin, who has always enjoyed loud noises, once made an alpine horn for his young daughter out of the cardboard inner tubes from kitchen rolls. When blown, this produced a loud raspberry noise, much to said daughter’s delight.

Strawberry jelly — a diagnostic hazard

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 10 Jun 2009

Could the sport of flounder tramping become a new Olympic event?

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 29 Apr 2009

Always on the lookout for the odd, the quirky and the plain wacky, Merlin recently came across the sport of flounder tramping.

Batteries not required

Posted by: Merlin PJWed, 29 Apr 2009

The throw-away society does not appeal to Merlin, who tends to hang on to things long after they become obsolete. Thus it is that, in addition to a modern scientific calculator, Merlin has in his desk drawer a Hewlett Packard HP41 calculator, purchased over 30 years ago. It still works, but the batteries, an odd size, are not easy to come by.

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