Notes Of A Young Bristolian Biology Watcher And Later To Be Blogger

Hi folks, welcome!

I was a biologist at heart from an early age, owning a pretty nice microscope at the age of twelve. I found this wonderful device by chance (was it chance?), hidden in the back of a ‘junk shop’ in Bristol, covered in dust and badly neglected. A few years later, I discovered an old Villiers motor cycle engine in a similar way and it took me on equally exciting adventures.

Just like the one I bought for sixpence at the age of twelve. From: www.chinatraderonline

This little microscope wasn’t much to look at, but it had great optics and I quickly realized that I had quite a find. So I bought it for a tanner (sixpence, half a Bob), a small fortune for me at that time. I then hunted through the old book section, finding ancient (probably Victorian) crumbling tomes that had survived the war, with drawings of all sorts of strange creatures that live in the world at our feet. These ‘animalcules’ were invisible until Anton van Leeuwenhoek came along in the 1600s, though the Royal Society rejected his ‘stories.‘ So much for experts! I then went from pond to pond looking for interesting creatures, which I found aplenty. My favorite pond, which was just the other side of the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, England. Used to cross over it all the time as a kid. From:

and the pond looked like this:

The perfect pond for a 12-year-old biologist. Source of image unknown.

Lots of nice green slime was an essential component. I would watch male Sticklebacks building nests, and various frogs and algae, but the real life was too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Amoeba proteus. What a wonderful creature, similar to certain leukocytes in your body that protect you from bacteria. From:


Into my jam jar would go some slime, and I’d walk or bike home to my microscope, to look for hydra or amoeba. Having an interest in photography, at the age of 15, I managed to take a photograph not so different from the one to your left. It was my pride and joy on the wall of my darkroom. Here is a movie showing the kind of activity that fascinated me as a boy.

On arriving in the USA, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, one of the first things I did was to take some of the local pond water and put it under a scope at work. To my surprise, this water was alive with nematodes (round worms) that I almost never saw in the cooler climes of southwest England. Another organism that fascinated me was ants. It wasn’t so much the ants themselves, it was the fact that they never ever seemed to rest. Constant activity that would wear me out! I prefer a more phlegmatic approach to life, like our friend the amoeba, though not always a friend, as they can be catastrophic parasites.

An inspiring book for any young biologist. From:

My interest in biology would have been much encouraged by reading ‘Lives of a Cell, Notes of a Biology Watcher,’ by Lewis Thomas, but that came later. One interesting quote from this book is as follows: “I have been trying to think of the earth as a kind of organism, but it is no go. I cannot think of it this way. It is too big, too complex, with too many working parts lacking visible connections. The other night, driving through a hilly, wooded part of southern New England, I wondered about this. If not like an organism, what is it like, what is it most like? Then, satisfactorily for that moment, it came to me: it is most like a single cell.

It’s all around you. Take a look from time to time. Little did I know that all this experience would be grist for the mill of my blogging ideas on FitOldDog’s advice related to safe exercise for better health many years later in North Carolina. Furthermore, my interest in Biology created the intellectual underpinnings I needed to develop the body-awareness I needed to continue Ironman training into my late sixties (and beyond, hopefully).

-k Your Medical Mind



  1. Six pence, half a bob?
    It was a TANNER.
    A Bob was a shilling or 12 pence (there were 20 shillings to £1) but a sixpence was rarely called half a bob it was called a tanner.

    Also The Royal Society preferred a book on fish to Newton’s Principea it got published by one of the members privately I forget which member.
    Committees of the great and the good generally screw up.

    Yes, our Mother, the Earth is very much like a cell. Good thought there!

    • Kevin Morgan says

      Hi Trevor,
      Some of my friends and I would call a sixpenny piece ‘half a bob,’ but we never named the thrupenny (which I used to like because it was easy to stand on ‘end’) a quarter bob. Don’t know why. I don’t know if this was general Bristol usage, but I doubt it. One thing about Bristol was the fact that language was so varied from place to place. I remember having a book called ‘How To Speak Bristol,’ but the only word definition I can remember goes as follows:

      Armchair: Interrogative expression with respect to quantity.
      Example of Use: ‘Armchair your apples, mister?’


      • I had heard a thrupenny bit called a walley but it was not in any general use.
        The book you quote is, I think, “Krek waiters pek Bristle” (correct way to speak Bristol) There were several volumes produced in the 70s and 80s.
        The other idiosyncracity of the accent was the adding of the “L” sound to words ending in a vowel as in: Carlol Rosal Premal Donnal of the Operal.
        In old English there were many dialects. The dialect of a people called the Hwicce (of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire) had this quirk in their dialect and written version of old English (Anglo-Saxon). So perhaps accents go back long ways maybe?
        It caused as you know the town of Bristowe to be pronounced as Bristol by its inhabitants.
        I have an ear for accents anywhere I have lived or visited. I can locate some people’s origins to a close location if they do not have several influences to their accent.
        I never had a musical ear but I do have accents quite well.

        I never liked your bugs and squirmy things. I loved to look at plants under the microscope. I do remember a swimming thing that had little waving fibres all about it for motion and yet was green. Was the a swimming plant?

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.