Tuesday, May 30, 2006

East Anglian Liffery D - F

deeping gate
A deeply satisfying wooden gate to lean against and "deep" or contemplate. There is a famous one in Dorset which Thomas Hardy used regularly. He swore by it. And indeed at it, after getting wood dittons (qv) in his writing hand.

deeping saint james
Sitting on the wrong lap, thereby failing to reap the rewards of a deeping saint nicholas (qv). It can still be fun, though.

deeping saint nicholas
An ingenious scam used by streetwise kids to ensure that they get the presents they want when visiting Santa's Grotto. It consists of sitting on the old man's lap and whispering in his ear: "Gimme what I want or I'll tell me mum you touched me bum."

A mythical place where maidens have faraway looks in their eyes.A sort of Camelot.

A badly-aimed mucus-rich smacker from an enthusiastic toddler. A typical Carroll “portmanteau word”, formed from dribble and kiss. Like “slithy” only wetter.

Thorns and or slivers of wood that bury themselves in your flesh and which only start to hurt after skin has grown over them making them impossible to remove without considerable bloodshed.

downham market
The exact spot in the River Cam where a tyro punter loses his grip and his shippeyness (qv).

dry drayton
The throat condtion of a drunk as he squeezes that last glassful out of the bag of a 3-litre wine carton.

dunmow, adj
A futile attempt to keep age at bay by plucking the grey hairs out of one's pubes.

A nonce word which gave rise to the proverb "Do as you would be dunton". It never caught on.

Weird noises in the night which convince you there are tattiebogles in the house, but which turn out to be your stomach rumbling.

An excess of femininity

edith weston
A Canadian lumberjack and he's all right

A word much used by drunks to elicit sympathy from the sober.

The excuse when you are invited to a birthday party, wedding or christening that you have a prior engagement. Mean people use elsing as a way of saving expenditure on presents .

The distance a hand can travel up a stockinged thigh before a weak protest is made. Sometimes provokes shimpling (qv)

An exciting fairyland to which parents promise to take their children “if they are good”. Hence, any clause in an election manifesto.

epworth (DIY jargon)
A houseowner’s word, an epworth is what he expects to save by doing a repair job himself. Tradesemen approve of epworths, because, when they are finally called in to do the job properly, they get paid not only for fixing what was originally wrong, but also for repairing the damage done by the householder in pursuit of his epworth.

Making contact again with an old flame, forgetting what it was that made you break up in the first place. Inevitably leads to a farcet (qv).

The winning word in the Daily Star’s Shortest Palindrome Contest. The word o-o was disqualified on the grounds that this Hawaiian endemic is extinct. I was also disqualified on the grounds that I may spell the same backwards as forwards, but that I cannot be seen to move even when I does so.

That moment when you wake up and wish you were anywhere else.

field dalling
Doing in a field what would be infinitely more comfortable in a shed.

Feeling toft (qv) after the fish waiter has offered you a choice of talbot, tarpon, turbot, taipan or tarpaulin.

five miles from anywhere
A place that is eight kilometres from nowhere you want to be.

A way to experience ecstasy without disrobing.

Any slithery slimy gooey creature whose endearing qualities are obvious to everyone except people over the age of four and a half.

fulmodestone (pronounced “fdlmdlstn”)
The uttering of this word provides a useful method for testing the efficacy of a denture fixative

Monday, May 29, 2006

When I am old, I shall wear purple

When I am old I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter. I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired,
And gobble up samples in shops, and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain,
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats
and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rentand not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The East Anglian Meaning of Liff

Douglas Adams paved the way, showing how the names of places nobody ever visited could be pressed into service to describe human experiences for which no words had hitherto existed. I feel that an East Anglian version has been long overdue. Here are the words from A to C in this bootiful compooter-generated lexicoon.

abington piggots
If you have ever been to Italy and eaten pasta alla pagliarda in the belief that you were in for a treat, you know what abington piggots are. Even when translated, you are still not sure what part of the beast's lower intestines were involved. You just wish you had stuck to the pizza.

The terrible feeling of inadequacy on walking into the kitchen and seeing several days' accumulation of unwashed dishes in the sink. Bank statements often provoke a similar feeling to aldreth.

anmer, orig anomer
An alternative method for abbreviating words in text messaging. Whereas the normal method is to remove the vowels, eg, "whr s th prty tnght?", the anmer method removes the consonants, eg "ee i e a oi?" The anmer method was bitterly opposed by Muslims and Hebrews, but they needn't have bothered, because it did not catch on anyway. Or, in anmer, "i i o a o aa."

A surfeit of nature programmes.

A tangle of undies in a knicker drawer.

A careless untidy fellow whose trousers keep slipping down. (cf Italian "bracalone", defined as "a careless untidy fellow whose trousers keep slipping down")

barnham broom
A tool for sweeping chaff into neat piles, thus ensuring the survival of sparrows and other seed-eating birds during the winter months. Now banned by the EU, as indeed are the birds.

The price of half a pint of beer, just enough to get you legitimately into a pub. After that, you just wait in hope that someone else will buy your next drink. Known on Merseyside as "the latchlifter".

A toff's word for dick.

Barton Mills
A nattily-dressed plummy-voiced pillock who, when you discover he was at the same college as you at Oxford, makes you wish you had accepted Birmingham U's offer instead.

A risk-laden alternative to the hot water bottle, a bedon is made from an overstow (qv) filled with burning straw, but it is still better than cuddling up to Anne Robinson.

belaugh (pron: be`law!!)
An expletive unknown outside the fens (as indeed are the howling winter winds from the Urals which provoke it)

bircham adj
Descriptive of the attitude of matrons at Conservative Conferences who abhor cruelty to seaside donkeys, but who are in favour of corporal punishment for adolescent miscreants. Also, a lucrative service offered in Holland Park.

An explanation for the paradox of Schroedinger's Cat which you understood at the time, but which abandoned you one minute later.Your current stance is "Why not Just open the effing box?"

Padding; stuffing. Descriptive passages in novels that add nothing to the story are typical bourn, as is the content of a fish finger.

bracon ash
The fate of your breakfast if you answer the phone in mid fry-up.

brandon parva
An actor who mumbles and gets fired.

Anything that babbles.

A type of shoe for veldt-trekkers, most of whom look like John Prescott (the trekkers, not the shoes. Oh, I don't know though......)

A suspicious mound of earth in a well-kept garden. Schliemann attributed his success to his obsession as a child with digging up catworths in his parents' garden and cataloguing what he found. On digging through seven layers of civilisation at Troy, he is reported to have cried "Katzenscheiss, endlich hat man 'was gekriegt!" Hence, any much sought-after object, eg, a ballpoint pen at a bank counter that writes.

chatteris n
[1] A lascivious gardener.
[2] A knocking engine.

chittering, n
The nervous twitch of someone unable to make a choice from a Chinese takeaway menu. People who chitter invariably end up choosing the same dish they ordered last time.

cley (pron to rhyme with "my") adj
A useful coinage, combining cunning with sly. Its use is confined to dodgy birders who report the sighting of a rarity to Birdline without leaving their names.

clint green
An actor who snarls and gets fired.

cockley cley
The jaunty expression on the face of a man in a queue at a supermarket checkout who is unaware that his flies are undone.

colne vb (pron colne)
The anal twitch which advises a sleeping drunk that it is time to get up.

Every woman has a drawer or a box or a large tin stuffed with "coton". Even liberated females who vowed never to be like their mothers usually end up with one. See also girton.

coveney, adj
A term confined to the Women's Institute to describe members' condition at the end of a really erotic evening of jam making. Not to be confused with a welney (qv).

An unidentifiable plant that you come across in your herbaceous border, and which you leave "just to see what it turns into". By the time you realise that it's a nasty weed, it has already seeded, thereby laying the foundations for an unstoppable plague of cowbits.

The state of a crisply-ironed handkerchief after five minutes in a trouser pocket.

A seaside tout with a chemical kit who can turn a 2p piece into a 10p piece for a modest fee of 50p.

A reluctance to trim your toenails in case witches get hold of the parings and put a hex on you.

A momentary glimpse of the inevitable collapse of all one's dreams just before the alchohol kicks in.

More fractured dialogs

Mummy, does everybody have a birthday?
Of course, dear.
Even Grandpa?
Of course, dear.
But isn't he too old to have a birthday?
Drink your nuclearfreezone boysenberry juice, dear.


Mummy, will I go to Heaven when I die?
Oh, I'm sure you will, if you've been good.
Will everyone go to Heaven when they die?
I expect so, dear, if they've been good.
Oh. Poor Grandpa.
Drink your carotin-enhanced handreared carrot juice, dear.

Mummy, why does Grandpa wear a frock?
It's not a frock, dear, it's a djelllabiyah.
What's a jelly beer?
It's, well, erm, well, it's a bit like a frock.
Mummy, I think Grandpa's kinda weird.
Eat your peanut butter sandwich, dear.


Grandpa, why do you carry a walking stick?
Because it's too big to go in my pocket.
That's silly. Please tell me why you have a walking stick.
I use it to point at things.
Why don't you just use your finger to point at things?
Because I have a walking stick to point with.
I was right. Really really weird.

Moth-er's Ten Commandments

This is for moth-ers only (The hyphen is critical).

And Moses the Lepidopterist came down from the Great Mountain after an exhausting Chat with the Great Moth-Er, and delivered unto his People the following Ten Commandments:

Thou shalt call all small wainscots Common Wainscots regardless of their goolies.
Thou shalt call all difficult species Square-spot Rustic, Nutmeg or Turnip Moth.
Anything faded or not fitting Commandment 2, thou shalt let go with a sigh, videlicet, "Oops."
Whatever is rare or exciting Thou shalt allow to escape Thy Potting, leaving Thee free to fantasize about what It Might Have Been.
Thou shalt diligently employ Sugaring and Wineropes but no-one will blame Thee if Thou pourest the balance of Thy Rum into Thy coffee.
Thou shalt look intelligently at all Micros before releasing them unnamed.
Thou shalt refrain from Crowing or Vain Boasting when catching anything not yet on My list.
Thou shalt consult Skinner more than Thou didst before the Advent of Waring, Townsend and Lewington.
Thou shalt learn the Latin names of all Thy species even unto the Rarest thereof. (to be ratified)
Thou shalt submit Thy Records to the County Recorder, even though he Sleepeth Deep and Long (they say).

Benedic, Domine, nos et haec Tua Lepidoptera, quae de bonitate Tua, sumpturi sumus.

"That's why I'm always pheremoning"

The musical amongst you will recognise at once that the title of this post is the 5/4 version of the classic jazz piece, Moanin' . I once asked a jazz group to play something in 5/4 time, at which the leader turned to his group and said, too loudly for comfort: "Bloke here wants us to play "Life is just a Bowl of Fricking Cherries". A humbling moment.
The astute among you will immediately see the connection between this and the relict ancient woodlands in Cambridgeshire typified by Hayley Wood and Gamlingay Wood, where I spent some hours this afternoon in the company of David Hopkins, who wishes to remain anonymous.
Not there yet? OK, a clue:
There is an enterprising bloke in Holland who sells pots of moth pheremones.There is an enterprising bloke in Norfolk who buys these pots of moth pheremones from the enterprising bloke in Holland and then sells them on to blokes like David and me who are anxious to trap moths that cannot be trapped by more conventional methods (Skinner traps, wine ropes, etc). All you have to do is to rip the tights (pantyhose) off a passing acquaintance, wrap your pot in bits of pantyhose and hang the result on a tree in the right place. Easy peasy.
Getting there, right? Good.
Amongst the moths which do not respond to a bright light, but who get seriously aroused when a passing female wafts her scent over their throbbing antennae are the Clearwings. So, all you need to do is to buy a pot of pheremones from the bloke in Norfolk and your cup will runneth over with Clearwings, right? Wrong.
There are fifteen Clearwing species in this country, each with its own specialised habitat requirements. So you need fifteen different pheremones (not quite true, as some pheremones work on more than one species, but it makes for good dramatic effect to say you need fifteen different pheremones).
Not only that, but they each have specialised environments: some like orchards, some like birches, some like two-year-old oak stumps, and for all I know, some like reheated curry.
Today, we went for two species that are birch-loving: Large Red-belted Clearwing, recorded only thrice in Cambridgeshire; and White-barred Clearwing, not recorded so far in Cambridgeshire, but we were out for glory, my anonymous colleague and I.
And did we have a good time?!
Did we have a good time?
It was a lovely afternoon. And these two species are still around till end July. Wherever they are. Certainly not in the woods we visited. There's still time....

And that is why I am always pheremoning.

List while I tell thee....

Being up at first light, when wildlife is vocal, visible and confiding
Admiring a good bum on a woman
Pootling round the back fen droves in my Land Rover recording wildlife
Being with children who are curious about everything and keep asking "Wh..." questions
Marvelling at the wonders of Nature, which are evidence of Intelligent Design. Aren't they?
Giving and receiving non-sexual hugs and cuddles. The sexual kind are welcome too.
Teaching bright young people who bubble with enthusiasm (I miss that since I retired)
Watching cricket and snooker, sports where you can fall asleep and not miss anything.
Discovering the elegance of the grammar of other languages
Getting through a long-haul flight without being aware of the time.
Collecting pre-1980 Rupert Annuals and other ephemera
Going out with a field naturalist who is better than I am (Happens all the time!)


People who have human rights but no human obligations
Laws like Health and Safety which stifle our freedom to take risks
Hydrogenated vegetable oil and other crap in processed foods
Soap operas, quiz shows, sports programmes, chat shows - this list is endless
Airports, well Stansted and O'Hare aren't too bad, but the rest....... Aargh!
Incidental music which is anything but incidental. Add muzak while we are at it
People who mumble, and people who talk loudly in public places
Temporary road signs that are left up long after the work has been completed.
Yappy dogs and sullen cats
People who announce that they have a right to their opinion and then spout nonsense.
Tomato ketchup and other dressings put on food to disguise its lack of taste.
Developers who are forever trying to build something 'orrible in My Back Yard

The Rat in My Plum Tree

Now, about the rat in my plum tree... No, first, let me tell you of an incident when I was visiting a farm in the vicinity recently to repair a barn owl box. The farmer and his wife were present, and she began to say how wicked it was that farmers killed magpies, which, for her, was a beautiful bird. The farmer, wiser than I, remained silent, while I tried to explain about "pest" species which are listed in the Wildlife Act. To no avail, of course. This incident set me thinking about our inconsistent attitude to wildlife. We like ladybirds and butterflies, but we detest "creepy crawlies" (personally, I think that woodlice - did you know they are crustaceans? - are cute, and earwigs have a lot going for them, too, as long as they are not in your salad). Ask any dog or cat lover if their pets have souls and they will say yes; ask them if worms or spiders have souls and watch their facial expression. So, it seems we do divide the animal kingdom into the ones we like and the ones we detest, and there doesn't seem to be much logic in our attitude.
Which brings me back to the rat in my plum tree. The plum tree, old and crumbling, stands outside my back door and is a wonderful place to hang bird feeders. I have seen wood mice scurrying between its roots, and for a while, a splendid russet-backed bank vole was in residence there too (I am not clever enough to say if any of the woodmice were yellow-necked mice; apparently the latter are larger, but you can't see the yellow neck. Yep). I love the wood mice and I loved the bank vole. But last week a rat appeared, feeding from the tray of one of the feeders. The only missile to hand was an empty wine bottle, which I hurled at the creature, causing the rat to scamper and the bottle to smash on a paving stone, thereby giving me a nasty clearing-up job to do. It's a big rat. It's a nasty rat. Ah, but why is it a nasty rat? Why of the rodents that visit my garden do I love them all except for the rat? Is it something in the folk memory about rats being the bearers of plague? But it's a brown rat, for goodness' sake, not a black rat. Illogical or what? I need to have another chat with that farmer's wife.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ottoman Clock

A very talented and cultured Turkish lady recently lost her husband. Since then, she seems to be busy planning her own departure once she has got rid of all her money and possessions. She gave me this clock. It works, except that I have not put the workings together. I had it renovated, though, because the casing is so pretty. I love the Arabic numbers too. But every time I look at it, I remember the reason why I have it, and that makes me sad. So many people love and admire this lady. How sad that she might deprive us all of her presence.

Village Voice

I write a monthly article for our village magazine. Having been made cosmic by an encounter with Emperor Moths, I wrote this piece.

"Oh my beloveds!" If there's anything in metampsychosis, ie the transmigration of souls, I want to come back as El Mahdi, the Sudanese prophet as played by Laurence Olivier in the film "Khartoum", mainly so that I can address a million loyal followers as "my beloveds".

But I do not want to come back as an Emperor Moth.

Don't get me wrong. An Emperor Moth is in every way prettier than The Mahdi. But, to paraphrase Thomas Hobbes, an Emperor Moth's life is "nasty brutish and short". Well, for a brief while - about two hours to be exact - his life is ecstatic, and then the poor sod dies. What he does is wait for a female to hatch and start wafting her pheremones on the ether. He then homes in on her, jumps her bones and remains, erm, conjoined for about two hours, and then flies off exhausted to die in some quiet corner, no doubt with a smile on his face and an excruciating pain in the lower back. It doesn't seem much of a deal to me.

After his departure, the female lays her eggs and then within a short time also shuffles off her mortal coil. They don't even have mouth parts, they don't eat. Forget afterglow. It is a very mechanical business.

Mind you, they are devastatingly beautiful, these Emperor Moths, and for two hours they have it made. I suppose if you translate the timespan into human terms, they are coupled for the equivalent of about twenty years before breaking off and kicking the lepidopteran bucket.

Maybe it isn't so nasty brutish and short after all.

I am grateful to David Hopkins of Witcham for providing me with a female in a cage so that I could lure two males into my garden (it took two hours) and add Emperor Moth to the Haddenham list. If the foregoing is not "well I never!" enough for you, David calculated that the pheremone scent must be detectable from at least fifteen miles away. Wow. Talking of moths, as the weather improves, so do the names of the moths: Willow Beauty, Purple Thorn, Chocolate Tip, Red Chestnut, Brindled Pug, Spectacle, Silver Y, Lime Hawkmoth..... If anyone would like to attend a moth-trapping session this summer, get in touch with me. It's an intriguing business.

I don't know about you, but I am not keen on being dead. And what a lot of dead there is on our highways and byways. Rabbits, pheasants, hedgehogs and other assorted fauna. Still, nothing is wasted. The Crows and Magpies are the scavengers par excellence, so from their point of view, dead is good news. What I can't cope with is lingering death. On Long Drove the other day, my attention was drawn to an ailing Swan. I called the RSPCA, who in what seemed like a few minutes were there rescuing the poor thing. If you need that splendid organisation, the number to call is 0870 5555999. There was also a dead swan, which in these days of poultry flu (I refuse to call it "avian flu") can be something serious. Equally the DEFRA people were out in no time. The number if you need it is 07889 341671.

I love the bums of bumblebees. Their rear ends are white, yellow or red - and maybe some other colours I haven't registered yet. I bet St Augustine had them in mind when he decided to find ways to prove the existence of God. I hope someone will confirm or refute this, but I am told that if any of these beasties sting you, eg bees wasps and hornets, you can be sure that it's the female that does the business, the theory being that the sting is a modified ovipositor, which, by definition, only the females have. I think this helps to explain a lot of the problems I have had in my life.

"Six and three quarters going on seventeen"

This is my SoCal granddaughter, Sophie, who is, as my mother would have said, "a little madam". I love her to bits, and I recognise in her stubbornness and occasional obtuseness, traits that made bringing up her mother, Sarah, such a psychedelic experience. In honour - honor? - of the Sarah-Sophie tussle, I occasionally post short mom-daughter dialogues - dialogs? - some of which follow here.

Sarah, being British, can't cope with mOmmy:

Mommy, is Grandpa going to die soon?
Darling, I've told you a thousand times! I am Mummy!
Sorry, Mermy. What about Grandpa?
He is going to live for years and years and years.
I guess he's got nothing better to do, honey.
Is he still building nestboxes for moths, Mermy?
Eat you raisins, dear.

Indelicate, do forgive me (something like this dialog really happened):

Memmy, does Grandpa fart?
For heaven's sake, child, it's MUMMY, not memmy!
Sorry, M-u-u-mmy. Does he?
I expect so.
M-u-u-mmy, does Grandma fart?
Oh no, I'm sure she doesn't.
Why not?
Well, Grandma is a lady.
But you're a lady, M-u-u-mmy, and you fart..
Eat your carrot sticks, dear.

Sometimes, I am in the firing line:

Mommy, oops sorry, Mummy, why does Grandpa have a beard?
Ask him youself, sweetie.
Grandpa, why do you have a beard?
It makes me look wise.
Wise? You mean, like the Three Wise Men?
That's right.
Which one were you?
Eat your free-trade banana, dear

My Californian grandchildren are just beginning to get their head round the idea that I am Sarah's father:

Grandpa is your daddy??????????
Is Grandpa really your daddy, Mommy?
Sorry, I meant "Mummy".
Yes he is.
Oh. He's very old to be a daddy, isn't he?
He wasn't always old.
What happened?
Eat your broccoli, dear

American kids eating MARMITE??? It happens in San Diego! :

Mummy, why don't I have boobies?
You do, dear, it's just that they're not very big yet.
Why not?
They grow slowly, like, erm, eggplants or zucchini
I don't want boobies like eggplants or zucchini!
Eat your marmite soldiers, dear.

Children always go straight for the jugular:

Red Wine
Mother, why does Grandpa drink so much red wine?
I don't know, dear. Ask him.
Grandpa, why do you drink so much red wine?
It helps to keep me young.
Oh. It doesn't seem to be working, Grandpa.
Eat your organic barleyfed chicken nuggets, dear.

The moment every mother dreads:

Mommy, I got a boyfriend.
No you haven't, dear.
Yes, I have too! And I love him.
I see. What's his name?
I don't know. I haven't spoken to him yet.
Then how can he be your boyfriend?
I mean, I haven't told him yet that he's my boyfriend.
Eat your sun-kissed manure-fed orange segments, dear.


The blog that inspired me to have a go is called Fretmarks. It is brilliant. If you are into poetry, birds, philosophy, humour and humanity, that's the place to be. Meanwhile, I will provide the comedian patter between the serious stuff.
The picture is of a Fantail. My son, who lives north of Auckland in New Zealand described a wagtail-like bird, and I think this was it. The Fantail has nothing to do with anything, but it's such a pretty bird - sorry, SMART bird - that I decided to adorn my page with it.