John F. Allen's Blog at

31st December 2016

Joan Baez | There but for fortune

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 11:51 pm

Gower Peninsula in mid-December

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 3:12 pm

26th December 2016

Newport – home of the Mole Wrench

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 3:20 pm



Back in the days when there was clear separation between commercial interest and public service, the postmark “Ship through Newport, home of the Mole Wrench” had to go because it contained a registered trademark. That was right – no-one then wished to defend private “investment” in a public utility and natural monopoly. No-one thought to suggest that the Royal Mail should carry advertising. I very much doubt M. K. Mole & Son Ltd. had offered, or been asked, to pay.

The Mole Wrench postmark was more likely to have been a generous mistake, attributable to affection and local pride; a gentler age. Its replacement coincided with the General Post Office’s wish to promote postal codes, then new. The substitute postmarks said much about the town. I recall three of them:-

Send your letters with the postcode on,
Use a self-grip wrench from Newport, Mon.

The postcode helps to speed the mails,
The self-grip wrench from Newport hails.

The postcode helps to speed your letter,
Use a self-grip wrench – there is none better.

I own an example of the original Mole Wrench, genuinely handed down, and still in good repair. Sadly, it sits in a toolbox in a distant country. I therefore had recently to buy a replacement from a hardware store. The design is unchanged and the new one, place of manufacture unspecified, is just as useful, solid, and apparently indestructible as the old.

Travel to a recent, wonderful family gathering on the Gower Peninsula took us past Newport, my home town. A slightly magical world seemed to begin with the elevated view of the Severn Estuary from the Eastern approach, on the M4 motorway, to the “new” Severn Bridge. Once across, in South Wales, the light seems different, and there are dramatic coastlines with great tides, fascinating cliffs, real mountains to the North, and the Somerset and North Devon coasts, outlining and merging with the Southern horizon. I suppose the sense of enchantment could have been the occasion coupled with fond memories and familiar skylines.

An outline, personal, geobiography in a map. So much has happened. Yet, the further West one travels, so much remains the same. I’ll post some photos from the birthday week, in mid-December. And I promise never to use the term Locking Pliers.


4th December 2016

A week in Molecular Evolution, HHU

Filed under: Diary — John Allen @ 7:23 pm

Great thanks for such hospitality and generosity to Bill Martin and his colleagues at the Institute of Molecular Evolution, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf. Bill is an outstanding scientist and has others in his superb institute. I particularly appreciated illuminating conversations with Sven Gould and Sriram Garg, as with fellow speakers Louis Tielens (Utrecht) and Dave Speijer (Amsterdam) at the mini-symposium on November 30th.

I also also thank Nicolas Smelling, whom I have not met, but who generously tweeted accurate summaries of my main points at the mini-symposium and a research seminar on December 1st.

Tweets: Popper; Mitochondria; CoRR

On Twitter: Sven Gould, Sriram Garg, Nicolas Schelling, John F. Allen.

A hashtag: #corrhypothesis

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