Ghostly bedfellow

A recent report in the International Business Times (yes, really) has a photograph supposedly showing a ghost or spirit in bed with a baby. The photo is of a video baby monitor and the baby’s mother says she saw the ‘face’ on the monitor but when she went to investigate there was nothing there. She claims there were no dolls or toys in the cot at the time. Obviously, without being there at the time and investigating it is impossible to say what it actually was but I would suggest it is pareidolia. There have already been the usual comments stating it is definitely a spirit. I would bet it is not.

Let me introduce …

Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983). I discovered Mr Pevsner quite late in life and I wish I had got to know him earlier. Who is he? He was a German born architectural scholar, probably best know for his county guides of England. Each guide covers a county, or part thereof, and lists all the building of interest in each town and village. There were 46 volumes in his Buildings of England series and I am the proud owner of several of them. Although dated the information they contain is still relevant (as long as the building he describes still exists).

I find his writing to be interesting and amusing, he doesn’t pull his punches if he doesn’t like something. Take my town of Pickering, North Yorkshire: he describes the primitive methodist chapel as “In a terrible Italianate style”1. Whether you agree with him or not depends on your views on architecture. The offending building is shown below for your perusal.


Regardless of Mr Pevsner’s views the books are useful for the buildings they list, the descriptions are accurate and his views can easily be ignored if you wish. His entry for Pickering spans over four pages, he describes in detail the church with its fifteenth century wall paintings and then the castle is dealt with in some detail. Several other buildings within the town are given short but detailed entries. However, he ends the section on Pickering with, “Pickering town is not architecturally rewarding.” I have to disagree with him, as I often do, but his books do give much more detail than would normally be found in local guide books for visitors and as such will remain on my bookshelves as reference tools.


1 Pevsner, N., (1966) The Buildings of England BE29 Yorkshire: The North Riding, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books

Enriching the list

I’m sure most of you have heard of listed buildings, those structures that have been deemed interesting or important to our heritage and have therefore been offered some measure of protection. Did you know you can view the listed buildings on the web? Historic England maintain the list and web presence and it is free to access. You can search for a particular structure or area or use the map to zoom around and see which buildings are listed wherever you wish.

A lot of the listings are quite old and may be a little out of date. Most of those in my area were listed in 1975 and the information has been transferred from the old manual listing system into the current accessible database. What makes it more interesting is that you can add to it. Yes, you can request listing for a building but I mean here that you can add to an existing listing. They call it ‘Enrich the List’, by registering on their site you can add information or photographs to any of the currently listed structures.

Many of the shops and other buildings in my town centre are listed and I have started to add photographs to the list as part of a photographic project I set myself some time ago.


The listing gives a good description of each building and shows its location on a map. I find it interesting to read about the architectural features of each building, my knowledge is increasing with each new building I view. For example, in the image above the white blocks of bricks down the edge of the building are referred to as ‘brick rusticated quoins’. The vertical posts either side of the ground floor window are ‘pilasters’, this used to be a shop window. The bay window is referred to as ‘canted’ because the sides are at an angle.


In this photograph the upper left bay is called a ‘rectangular modern oriel semi-dormer of 4 lights’.

I find it all fascinating and look forward to adding more to the list in the coming months. Take a look at the web site yourself and see what you might discover about the area where you live. Who knows, you too may feel the urge to Enrich the List.

Date with a Dove

Richard Baines – North York Moors National Park Turtle Dove Officer Was Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, a birdwatcher? As she sat about looking pretty with doves fluttering around her feet maybe she wondered when Turtle Doves would arrive back in Yorkshire from Africa that year! Valentine’s Day has long been associated with doves, […]

via A Date with a Dove — The official blog for the North York Moors National Park

This year I intend to see at least one Turtle Dove. I’ve been meaning to do it for some time but never got around to it, this year will be different. I am lucky enough to have them frequent this area each year and I may even have seen one without realising it, but I’m going to make a special effort to see them and, hopefully, to photograph them.

The blog post above is from the North Yorks Moors National Park and they have a Lottery funded project looking at these birds. I am going to try to attend one of their lectures and then head out to some of the well-known spots for sighting them. If I am successful I hope to report back here. Sorry, that should be WHEN I am successful.

Bring your own stone

Catching up on my magazine reading today I came across an article in Current Archaeology about neolithic Britain and mentioning the Ring of Brodgar on Orkney. This is a large stone circle (see photo) which is part of a prehistoric landscape and thought to have been used for ceremonial purposes or other gatherings by the indigenous communities over 5000 years ago.


At the end of the article there is reference to a piece in Antiquity1 that intrigued me. They suggest that as each of the individual stones in the ring are different and from different areas of the island it is possible that each stone was brought by an individual village or community. The idea of a village turning up with their stone as a contribution to the ring appeals to me. They also believe that after the breakdown of the communities people moved out of the area, even to the mainland, but still returned to the ceremonial sites on a regular basis for celebrations and possibly to meet a partner. This was described in some newspapers as a “neolithic nightclub”. My mind is boggling.

1 Bayliss, A., Marshall, P., Richards, C., Whittle, A., (2017) Islands of history: the Late Neolithic timescape of Orkney, Antiquity, Vol 91, 359, pp 1171-1188

So, let’s talk about language

Anyone that knows me could tell you that I get very annoyed at the wrong use of the English language. I am not a perfectionist by any means and I make mistakes myself, everyone does, but I do get annoyed at the incorrect use of words by quite a large percentage of the English-speaking world. My biggest bugbears are the incorrect use of there, their and they’re and the near unrelenting addition of the word ‘so’ to the beginning of sentences. (The title of this post is ironic, in case anyone was about to jump on me).

Understanding how to use ‘there’ correctly isn’t difficult, it should be taught at school in early stages of English lessons. Even if someone had somehow missed that part of their education it is not hard to find out how to use those words, especially in these days of instant access to information via the internet. To me, the continued misuse is just laziness by most people. I used to point the errors out to those I know but even then it was of no use, I was ignored and they appeared to believe it wasn’t important. I no longer bother, but just grumble to myself.

On to ‘so’. For some reason it now seems to be the accepted norm to add ‘so’ to the beginning of nearly every sentence, especially when answering a direct question. It used to be a young person’s thing, I think starting in the States, but now you hear it almost continually from folk of all walks of life. Stop it! There was an interesting piece on the first use of the word to start a sentence in a recent edition of Current Archaeology1. Christopher Catling says in that article that he thinks it started in the 1960s, used by beat poets. He also thinks that its use to allow time for thinking at the beginning of a reply is acceptable, I disagree, it sounds awful and is unnecessary. At its worst it sounds arrogant.

I haven’t even touched on the use of ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’ and the similar abominations. Nor have I spoke of my despair at the use of the greengrocers’ apostrophe. This bugs me so much that I rarely use an organisation or shop that displays one on their advertising.

I realise the the language must evolve and has been doing so for centuries but when we have clear conventions for the use of language these should be maintained. I accept, if not welcome, new words to English but its blatant misuse should be stopped.

There, I have had my say, it will be ignored as always but at least I’ve got it off my chest.


1 Catling, C. (2017) Sherds, Current Archaeology, 330, pp 64-65.


Since I was a school kid I have been interested in all things paranormal, occult and Fortean, though I doubt I knew them by those names at that time. I read Dennis Wheatley novels and watched Hammer films consuming everything I could to increase my knowledge. I graduated onto non-fiction quite quickly and started to study the subjects critically, if with a little bias.

As time passed I became more interested, I became a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) and the Ghost Club. I also attended many sessions at the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain in Belgrave Square, London. In the eighties I discovered Fortean Times, then only available via subscription, and avidly read each issue. I registered as an investigator, to be honest I can’t remember if it was with the SPR or the Ghost Club, but only received one request to investigate a reported haunting at a pub. I called the landlord to arrange a visit but when I went to the pub it was closed, no sign of life – of any description. I asked at the next nearest pub and they immediately thought I was a debt collector – alarm bells rang. It seemed the pub I was interested in had been doing a bad trade for many years and had tried everything to increase its profits. Perhaps claiming it had a ghost was one of those things it tried. I think it was about this time that my skepticism began to grow.

Since then I have thought a lot about the paranormal and my studies into it and now generally believe that things such as ghosts, spirits, the afterlife, UFOs (as visitors from another planet) etc do not exist. I still try to keep an open mind and if one day there is some proof that I am happy with I will no doubt change my mind. So far no such proof has been forthcoming. I realise many people do believe in such things and that’s fine by me as long as they don’t keep harping on at me to change my mind. With the arrival of the internet and mobile technology there has been an increase in reports of hauntings and unexplained phenomena. Usually, with a little thought and logic, it can be explained as ‘normal’ quite easily.

There are many sites on the net that deal with paranormal issues both believers and skeptics and I will list a few below that I feel are decent. Hayley Stevens produces a good web site in which she discusses ghosts etc. She too used to be a believer but now is more skeptical (I say that as if she were a friend but I have never met her). She also produces the Spooktator podcast which I always enjoy listening to, it has a wide variety of topics under the paranormal umbrella. Another site is run by Sharon Hill. I’ll leave you to discover more for yourself by following the links.

I hope to feature posts from some of these sites here in this blog (links, of course, not stealing their content) in the future.

Hayley Stevens


Doubtful News (Sharon Hill)

Fortean Times

Kenny Biddle

Initial Thoughts

Welcome to this blog. I hope to post a number of items on different topics. I intend posting on what I am up to, where I’ve eaten, things I’ve seen both in the real world and on the web. My intentions are good but time will tell how often I actually get around to it.

If you read one of my posts and would like to comment then I would be delighted to hear from you, whatever your thoughts. I look forward to developing the blog over the coming months.