Thursday 31 December 2015

Review of 2015

Although 2015 has been an enjoyable and productive year not everything has gone exactly the way I would have expected.
  1. I got quite close to resigning from being a school governor - after 32 years service in assorted schools and colleges. Then, rather unexpectedly, a new series of challenges fell into my lap and I felt sufficiently motivated to carry on.
  2. My postal history research has pretty much ground to a halt. There are several incomplete projects sitting on my study table but at the moment I lack to time, energy and enthusiasm to do anything with them. Much the same has happened with my South African postcard collection - nobody out there seems interested in the social history of South Africa pre-union and I don't seem to get the pleasure I used to get from working on these things on my own.
  3. Claire and I finished our survey of Herefordshire Churches, Churchyards and Cemeteries and we have now turned our attention to Worcestershire.  We have sold 364 books in the last 365 days which is vastly more than I would ever have predicted. It was quite an experience "appearing" on Radio Shropshire and giving a talk to the local Probus group on our favourite topic.
  4. Our former neighbour Betty died in late January.  She was a character in the very nicest sense of the word. Julie Bourchier, a former work colleague from my time in Somerset, died far too young in May. Eli and Flora have joined our extended family in 2015 to take their places.
  5. We had a lovely day with other family members at  Blist Hill Victorian town and we also attended my Auntie Margaret’s 90th birthday party over in Cambridge. 
  6. The Christmas family gathering was great fun even if it was all rather hectic.
  7. The three young people I mentor continue to thrive despite the very casual approach of the project organisers who spent all the available money on staff salaries leaving nothing for the travel expenses of the volunteers such as me!
  8. The electrics for the outside lights remain a problem that seems to be unresolvable at the moment.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Beyond the Messier and Caldwell Catalogues

If you subscribe to one of the magazines that cater for amateur astronomers you will soon realise that the same few objects are mentioned again and again as suitable targets for owners of small telescopes. I am, of course, referring to those listed in the Messier catalogue.
However there is a limit to how many times an object can be viewed or imaged before boredom sets in. So it is hardly surprising that more active observers started looking for advice on possible deep-sky objects “beyond the Messier catalogue”. Many other lists of astronomical targets have been compiled. Perhaps the best known of these is the Herschel 400. All 400 targets can be seen with a 6 inch telescope from a moderately dark site.
These lists seem to have one important feature in common – they are sub-sets extracted from much larger catalogues using a range of selection criteria that are not always well explained.
My lists of targets are not like these others. I have discovered all these objects myself: either by direct observation or via data mining.
This new book is now available from or from

Grave Hunting - Tips and Tales

  • Introduction Why go grave hunting?
  • How to hunt for gravestones safely.
  • When to go grave-hunting.
  • How to find the grave that you want.
  • Photograph the gravestones you have discovered.
  • Should you clean the gravestones?
  • Keeping records during your graveyard visits.
  • Do look inside the church.
  • Be polite and respectful.
  • Churchyard maintenance.
  • How do I find every church?
  • Survival tips!
  • Potential technical disasters.
  • Publicise the results of your grave-hunts.
  • Contact with other grave-hunters.
  • What else have we learned?
  • Research Unexpected pleasures (and disappointments).
  • These are gravestones, but you have to laugh sometimes…..!
  • Review of our year of 2015.
  • More projects.
  • Conclusion.
This new book is now available from both and