Monday, July 31, 2006

Old movies

I guess the movies I enjoy are mei aetatis. Logical. Anyway, I hope you have fun matching these quotes to the movies they come from. Each movie is one I have watched many times, and will watch again. I love movies that have the completeness of a sonnet. Gestalt. The Apartment is probably the best example of what I mean.

01 Generosity, that was my first mistake!
02 I could have been somebody, I could have been a contender.
03 If that did it for me, I’d be the luckiest guy alive.
04 It’s a small price to pay for beauty.
05 My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
06 That’s how it crumbles, cookiewise.
07 There must be better songs to sing than this.
08 There’s a lot of dead bodies through there: it’s not a pretty sight
09 These are not my underpants!
10 We read to know that we are not alone.
11 Well, tickle my tits till Friday!
12 Will some kind soul say kaddish for me?

A As good as it gets
B Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
C Educating Rita
D On the Waterfront
E Rain Man
F Shadowlands
G Shirley Valentine
H The Apartment
IT he Godfather
JT he Magnificent Seven
K The Odessa File
L The Poseidon Adventure

Sunday, July 30, 2006


"Having testicles is like being chained to the village idiot."

So THAT explains the last sixty years.........

Saturday, July 29, 2006


(The slogan is Turkish for "Drink Ayran"]
I am addicted to ayran. It is a refreshing drink in hot weather, and has a soothing effect as a bedtime drink. It has a creamy look and texture and the first time you drink it, if you are not aware that it is basically diluted yoghurt, you might well throw up. But do persist.
According to Wikipedia "Ayran (Turkish: Ayran), (Bulgarian: айрян or sometimes мътеница, literally dreggy or oily liquid), (Greek: Αϊράνι), is a popular Turkish drink made of yoghurt and water. The ayran made from sheep yoghurt has a quite thick taste, fatty but also delicious. It is similar to the Iranian drink, Doogh. Salt is usually added to ayran for flavour".
Never mind all that. Go and get a pot of Greek style, ie thick, yoghurt from your local supermarket, put three dessertspoonfuls in a jug and whisk in water a splash at a time till it is diluted to your taste (The less water the creamier the ayran, of course. A proportion of 2Y:1W is a good starting point). I also add a pinch of salt to make it a little sharper.

I know you are not going to try ayran; that's a pity because you are missing something which is not only thirst-quenching and soothing but is also good for your digestion.

Go on, make some! Ayran iciniz! "Afiyet olsun!"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Excuse me, is it all right if I panic?

Mikumi National Park - about four hours' drive inland from Dar-es-Salaam. The wet season, few tourists, but I have a couple of days off-duty, so I go. Driven in a Toyota van by a wild driver, and accompanied by my houseboy, Juma. Great place, we went further and further into the reserve and ended up skidding off the road on a nasty black oily soil. Miles from anywhere, late afternoon. Wild driver and Juma try to dig the vehicle out, and just get filthy.

I start to walk the seven miles back to where I had previously noted a Ranger Hut. And then, I think: this is not Hampshire. In Hampshire you might get bitten by a tick if you are wearing the wrong socks, but here, in Mikumi NP, there are irascible warthogs and grumpy water buffalo and lurking leopards and god knows what else waiting to jump your bones and suck the vital juices from you. Suddenly I am nostalgic for the safety of my native land.

Amazingly, while I am back at the vehicle wondering how it will be to spend the night cuddling up to the wild driver and Juma, amazingly I say, a Land Rover appears: it is a Belgian guy showing his visiting family the delights of Mikumi. He wants to help but has no tow rope, so I jump in to go find means of rescue.

We stop at a camper in a clearing and walk towards it. A German couple are inside in flagrante delicto - even big game palls after a time when the hormones are pumping. A loud cough and a diplomatic pause later, and these darling lovers, loins girded, lend us a tow-rope.

Fast forward to the moment when I plus wild driver plus houseboy are on our way back to the entrance to the park. Wild driver takes a bend too quickly - yet again (sigh) - and once again we slide into immobility. F...k! But at least we are closer to a metalled road this time.

And then, German camper comes by, stops and offers the following "Do you make a habit of this?" I am full of admiration for his English, his woman and his towrope.

Listen, when the Wanderlust, la bougeotte - or whatever you call that need to visit exotic places - tugs at your sleeve: consider this: for all its boring ordinariness, England is a place where nothing can seriously bite you.

The Bear Necessities

Wyoming US Fish and Wildlife Service issued advice to visitors about what to do when faced with a bear. There are two kinds of bear in the region: the brown bear and the black bear. The advice included such sensible tips as "Don't run" and "Stay perfectly still". It also suggested that it might be possible to scare the bears off by the use of small mirrors and the ringing of a bell.
The notice continued with advice on how to judge which bears were in the vicinity by examination of their droppings. Black bears are largely vegetarian so their droppings tend to be dry, crumbly and full of berry husks. Brown bears are omnivorous so their droppings tend to be dark and slithery and often contain small mirrors and little bells.

An unusual Barn Owl

This month (July 2006), my colleague Peter Wilkinson and I ringed a brood of three Barn Owls from a box to the south of the Nene Washes, two males and a female. The males were normal, but the female was something special: she was a bold apricot-peach from chin to undertail coverts. Not only that but there was even some light spotting. Anyone seeing this owl in flight would immediately think "guttata". Peter and I have both seen female owlets before with a splendid apricot-peach suffusion on the upper breast, but never one as striking as this bird.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Workers of the World, etc

My old dad, born in 1890, was a Wobbly. It was just one stage in an ongoing journey to the Left. A Wobbly was (and for a small rump still is) a member of IWW, Industrial Workers of the World, which contends that "all workers should be united within a single union as a class and the wage system abolished." Serious socialism, this.

After a traumatic period as a "conshie" during WW1 as a political not a religious objector - his stance was not recognised, which is how he ended up in Wormwood Scrubs - he married my mother and went to Murcot in the Vale of Evesham in Worcestershire to help establish a commune based on socialist principles. It failed after two years, the failure due, according to my father, to human fallibility and the pressures from outside.

The portrait that hung in our "front room" (if you are not of working class origin, you may not know what a front room is) was of James Keir Hardie, a benevolent bearded
patriarch of socialism, whom I thought of as my grandfather.

Then a move further left, to the ILP, the Independent Labour Party, the spiritual forerunner of Vanessa Redgrave's Socialist Workers Party. As soon as I was able to read, I would open the "New Leader", the ILP weekly, and pick out the names of my father's heroes: Fenner Brockway, Tom Driberg, Jimmy Maxton.....

During WW2, politics were on hold, mainly because the issues were so clear cut. My father donned his ARP uniform to do his bit to fight fascism. I can remember he used to listen to a short wave broadcast called Workers' Challenge, a fiery nightly assault on the wickedness of the capitalist system with calls to overthrow our corrupt leaders. My father loved it, specially the swear words. He used to write summaries of the broadcasts in one of those moquette bound books that are normally used for double-entry bookkeeping. It was only years later - and mercifully when he was no longer around to know this - that I learned that Workers's Challenge was just one more Nazi deception, designed to rally the British working class against Churchill and all his evil works.

In 1947, the front room of our village home was the HQ of the local Labour Party during the election that swept Attlee to power after the war. I folded leaflets and licked envelopes and did my bit for socialism and gawped when my class teacher, Polly Bloom, turned up to help. My teacher! The one who used to rap my knuckles for writing my letters wrongly! And she knew my dad! And she was a human being! And a socialist like us!!

And guess who won the war. Guees who destroyed the fascists. Guess who was the hero in our house. Such a kind face. Everybody's idea of a benevolent older relative. The moustache designed to tickle as he kissed you, the twinkle in the avuncular eye. With Uncle Joe Stalin in charge, we could all sleep safely in our beds.

Disillusion with the Labour Government (He had a particular hatred for Ernest Bevin and didn't think much of Herbert Morrisson either) forced my father further left, to join the Communist Party. Now, our heroes were Phil Piratin and Willie Gallagher, the only two Communists to be elected; and our reading was now the Daily Worker. I missed the Daily Mirror, our staple during the war, because I missed the comic strips: Belinda, Garth, Ruggles, Just Jake (Ah! Cap'n Reilly Foull, my hero!). But I was happy that in my house at least, we knew the TRUTH, and we knew where paradise on earth was being built. All sorts of magazines and pamphlets about the Soviet Union seemed to arrive every day. As I grew older, I became enamoured of those smiling tractors and the bosomy headscarved girls who drove them. I have never lost my love for tractors or bosoms.

Fast forward: I go from this background and the local Grammar School, via a scholarship, to St John's College, Oxford, reading for a degree in Modern History. I return after some years to the parental home on Merseyside (to do postgraduate stuff at Liverpool University) to find my father, retired and mellowing, still active in the local Communist Party. I am tempted. I attend meetings, public and private. I even buy Anna Semeonova's delicious Russian Grammar and bludgeon my way through Pushkin's Kapitanskaya Dochka (Did I really read that from cover to cover??). The Cyrillic alphabet is damnably seductive.

They want me to join the party. And I don't. It is the time of local elections. The cell meets in my father's house. They talk tactics. Canvassing the working-class neighbourhoods has produced nothing in previous elections . My father suggests that we canvass the middle-class areas, where, he says, people are better equipped to consider the issues, they are more likely to think, discuss and reach the right conclusions. One of the cell, a professor from Liverpool Uni, rounds on my father: "That's revisionism, Jack!" Contempt in his voice. And that is the end of the discussion.

I hated that moment. All my life, my father - with whom, let's be clear, I did not have a close loving relationship - had fought for his socialist ideals. And now, he was put down, contemptuously, by a comfortable academic who wouldn't know a class struggle if it came up and bit him in the goolies. My dad wasn't an educated man, but he was an intelligent man. Hell, if there had been a 1944 Education Act in 1918, he would have been the one to get the education.

So I didn't join.

Many years later, I experienced the reality of Soviet Communism, both in the East Bloc and in Angola, and to a lesser extent in Tanzania, China and Vietnam. Thank you, but no thank you. I am just glad my father didn't live to see the destruction of all his dreams.

My dreams? Well, tractors for a start.....

Monday, July 24, 2006

On Golden Pond

I have finally found out who I am: I am Norman Thayer with ten years to go. If there's any lady out there wants to play the supporting Katherine Hepburn role, give me a call. Very soon.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Put the roller over the jhool

I treasure this book. It first appeared in March 1914; this is the sixth, revised, edition, published in 1922. It was given to me by my best friend from my late teen years, "Chic" Goode, alas long gone. I offer a few extracts. Uncommented, for they need no comments. Read them aloud. The phrases hang together like poetry.


Pull the punkah
Pull harder
Don't go to sleep
Wake up
Stop the punkah
All right, that will do
Don't worry me
Don't be lazy
Hold this
Hit him with the whip


Close the door
I feel the draught
Open the door
It is very dark
I will dress now
Give me another handkerchief
Not that, the silk one
What is this spot on the trousers?
Rub some chalk over it
Look the buttons are not clean
They don't shine
The spur doesn't look right
It is loose

The lamp is smoking
The burner wants a thorough cleaning
Perhaps the oil is not good
Or the wick must be dirty
Perhaps the wick is too old
Put in a new one tomorrow
The wick isn't level
It hasn't been properly trimmed
Have you put too much oil in, or does it leak?
Perhaps you haven't wiped it
The wick is too short
It doesn't reach the oil
I think the lamp leaks

The quilt isn't thick enough
Put the blankets in the sun
Owing to the dust storm
There is much dust on the bed
Just dust the bedding
There are too many mosquitoes about
Tell the chowkidar,
he is to be very careful at night.
These birds make an awful noise
They disturb my sleep
Drive out these birds.

Why did you strike the dog?
I have dropped my handkerchief somewhere
Go and see if it is in the drawing-room
Didn't you hear me calling?


Bring my horse
Be quick
Lead him with the long rein
Hit him with the stick
Tighten the girths
Look the girth is loose
Have you watered the horse?
Don't let it go till I am mounted
Let it go
The stirrup is too long
Shorten it two holes
The stirrup is too short
Let it down one hole
Another hole yet
This one too
Put it in the last hole
Loosen the girth
Don't keep it standing in one place
Walk him about
It is sweating a lot
Take off the saddle
Dry him
When he is dry,
take him to the water-trough,
and give him some water.
Get the tumtum ready
Show me the snaffle
Where is the martingale?
How many bits are there?
Only three
What became of the rest?
Take the tumtum back
Start grooming
Wipe its face
with a wet jharan.
Put the roller over the jhool.
Soak the gram for half an hour
Crush this gram
Have you finished crushing the gram?
Don't frighten the horse
Make much of him
Give him a good lunging
Have you brought any chit with it?
How is his dung?
As usual
Does he make water easily?


I am going out shooting tomorrow
The khidmatgar will have to go with me
Send for a shikari
Are you a shikari?
Have you ever shot a tiger?
I never had a chance
Who shot that monkey?
It is against orders to shoot a monkey
There will a row over that
He was shot accidentally

Collect 20 or 25 coolies
to beat the game.
Use no violence with the villagers


The cook-house is dirty
Why don't you keep it clean?
Don't throw the ashes here
The doctor is coming in the morning
Who broke the teapot?
I don't know
No, you never know anything.

Which spoon?
The tea spoon
Put the milk in the jug
Fry that fish.

Boil the water
Beat the eggs well
One fork is short
Two silver spoons are missing

May God make you a lord
Go and tell the Mess Sergeant
I shall have a guest tonight
What have you brought from the bazaar?
A fowl, a goose and some mutton
What joint of mutton?
The head and feet
Roast the goose
Make soup of the head
and curry the feet
Make some tamarind sauce
and give baked potatoes.

I require a new strainer
and a blanket for ice.
Well, I'll give them to you.
The kettle must be tinned
Send for the tinman
And see that he does the tinning well
or I'll not pay him.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ten things you didn't know you didn't want to know

I am an unwilling collector of useless words (hence the need to defrag my brain). Being a crossword addict only adds to my malady. Here is a gallimaufry, a galimatias, a salmagundi of the words I have come across lately in nasty crosswords. Don't go there, take up an outdoor hobby, molest dwarves, collect Rupert Annuals, anything but crosswords!
A taghairm is the act of seeking inspiration by lying behind a waterfall wrapped in a bullock hide .
An angekkok is an Eskimo conjuror.
A huer is a pilchard fishermen's lookout man.
Mallemaroking is the carousing of Greenland seamen in icebound ships.
Myristicivorous means feeding on nutmegs
Steatopygous means having fat buttocks.
An affenpinscher is a small dog which has tufts of hair on its face.
Sackdoudling is playing the bagpipes
A mosbolletjie is a sweet bun made of dough leavened with grape must.
Tmesis is the separation or splitting up of a word into parts by one or more intervening words (eg, fanbloodytastic) - but you knew this one, didn't you?

Blog off!

Until I saw the Fretmarks blog, I had no idea what blogs were about. Fretmarks inspired me, and I started mine. A colleague - let us call her Befana - visited my blog and commented that she thought blogs were for sad lonely people who should go out and get a life. Well, to quote my daughter's first husband*** "It says more about her than it does about me."
So, blog off, Befana. I have since visited some amazing witty thought-provoking blogs and I only hope mine occasionally has the same effect. Mind you, nobody will ever match Fretmarks. It rejuvenates, like that beer that refreshes the parts that other beers don't reach. Haste ye back, Pluvialis!

***A Welsh violinist, a strange guy who was obsessed with sitting up straight, also known as the Alexander Technique. The second was a software expert who runs the Chicago subway system single-handed, according to him. The third is a house fixer, but too far away to do anything about my leaky shower.


"You must excuse him, he's a limey"
"You know, Jake, for a pom, you're not too bad"
"You're a typical bloody scouser, Jake!"
So, that's me pigeonholed: a limey, a pom, a scouser. The people who said those things to me are people without an ounce of prejudice in their veins as far as I know, people whom I respect and like enormously.
For those of you not familiar with these terms, a limey is an American term for a Brit, used in this case by my Californian friend, Don H; a pom is the term used by Australians, in this case by friends I made in Perth, Don and Paula; and scouser is the popular name for someone from Liverpool (scouse is a local dish made from vegetables and whatever meat you can find), something I have been called many times (erroneously; I am a Shropshire Lad) .
I am all these things and more: in my time, I have also been a mzungu (Swahili), a farang (Thai) and a gaijin (Japanese).
Now, before you fall asleep, I will tell you my mzungu story. North of Dar-es-Salaam is a company guest house where I stayed during an assignment in Tanzania. It is in a security compound, surrounded by a high fence and patrolled by armed soldiers. In the grounds the houseboy Juma (he was about 40) and his family also live. Outside the fence there is a beautiful beach, to which lots of expats - mainly Swedes and Danes - come with their families at the weekend to swim and sunbathe. Juma's children peer through the wire at these strange pale apparitions, these "wazungu" (plural of mzungu, which means a European), and then go back to their games under the banyan. One Sunday morning, I was sitting on the verandah of the guest house, dressed lightly to cope with the heat and humidity of the Swahili coast. Giggles. Whispers. Childish noises which mean "Go on, I dare you!" in any language.
Juma's three children appear before me: the eldest, Suda, a girl of, well, she looks about eight but turns out to be thirteen, a younger girl of about seven, and a boy who is just a stripling. They come closer and closer to me, and finally look curiously at the book I have on my lap, a book which blessedly has many pictures of animals. So we start to play the language game Me: "Ki-ingilezi LION", Suda: "Kiswahili SIMBA" and so on, me repeating the Swahili and they the English (I cannot remember any more now, except for TWIGA - giraffe - which was the adopted name of the company I was working with; and, of course, NDEGE, given my passion for birds).
And then, one of those moments you never forget: Suda, being the eldest and boldest, suddenly touched my arm briefly and then withdrew her hand as if scolded. I waited. She did it again, this time running her fingertips over the skin. Then the other two, emboldened, did the same. I held my breath. In no time, they were exploring me avidly, my hair in particular being a source of great fascination. I realised at that moment what was going on:
All their lives they had watched the wazungu through the compound fence, but this was the first time they had ever touched the strange pale flesh and the wispy hair. In this case, the hair made more fascinating by being white (That made me a Mzee, but that's another story for another day)
If I knew what an epiphany was, I would call this an epiphanic moment. Hell, I'll call it that anyway. Stunning, mind-expanding, revealing.
I am glad that I was the mzungu who gave them the chance to find out that, in essentials, my skin was the same as theirs, just a different pigment. Partly because - and they couldn't know this - it was the first time I had ever, in my turn, touched African skin or African hair. It's just skin and hair, guys. Felt nice. Different, but nice, just as mzungu skin and hair was to them, I guess.
Just hair, just skin, just people.

This love business

I kissed Margaret Benbow under the kitchen table when I was four. I held hands a lot with Sheila Stanworth when I was six, and Edith Johnson when I was seven. I panted for Melva Davies during my pirate years (eight and nine). In my early teens, I sighed for Maureen Jones (a real Hunter-Dunn), loved Alicia Ball, and then, at seventeen............. Well, better not to go there, and this song just about sums up what happened after that:

At seventeen, he falls in love quite madly
With eyes of the deepest blue.
At twenty-five, he get involved quite badly
With eyes of a diff'rent hue.
At thirty-five, you'll find him flirting sadly
With three or four or more.
But it's when he thinks he's past love
That he finds his last love -
And he loves her as he's never loved before.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Time for a clean up

Go to Accessories, go to System Tools and you have some lovely options: Disk Cleanup, Disk Defragmenter, etc. Having done all of this, that is, ridding yourself of the clutter that slows down your system, you feel good.
So I did it. And there was light, And it was good, And I felt good. Then, suddenly, I felt not so good: the thought occurred to me that I should do the same for my brain. How about getting rid of the cranial clutter? I thought.
The Hungarian word "legfek" means "air brakes". I don't know any Hungarian apart from that. It was on the backs of trucks as we drove drearily and monthly from Budapest to Karzinbarcika (not even on the map, it's so bloody obscure). I couldn't bear not knowing, so I bought a dictionary. And that's how I have legfek lodged in my mind. That must be taking up space that my brain could use for other things, like...., erm, well, I will come back to that.
The Russian word for a newt is "gad". I was told that the plural of gad is pryezmikayushchiyesya. It may not be, but here it is, using up a synapse that could be more profitably employed remembering, erm, well, I will come back to that too.
I was told - and hope fervently - that the command in the Dutch cavalry for "get mounted" is "Doppel op de beestie". But what a waste of space! I could be remembering, erm, well, I will come back to that.
I have a little Spanish, most of it useful in that it gets me food and drink and directions, but what do I need "tortillera" for? It is derived from "tortilla", an omelette, and means an omelettemaker or a lesbian. What on earth is the connection? You see, it's not only the item stored in my brain, it's the questions it raises that clutter up the cerebral hard disk.
From my sojourns in Italy, I have a mountainous amount of clutter "E vietato giocare alla mora" (It is forbidden to play la mora"), "Al amico non si fa credenza, perche a pagar' non piu si pensa. Si lascia la strada, si prende il vico: ecco perduto il vecchio amico." (Never mind, it's not important) I have never needed either of these strophes in my life, but there they are in the cranial attic, gathering dust.
I know almost no Turkish, but I know "Kecide sakal de var" (Even a goat has a beard) and "Kilivuzu kargasi olanin, burnu boktan cikmaz" (He who chooses a crow as a guide will never get his nose out of the shit). What glorious bytes might be in my brain right now if these nonsenses were not taking up the space?
Believe me, I am not showing off. I take no pride in this polylinguistic clutter. Because I HAVE NO USE FOR IT. Arthur, my colleague from my EastBloc days, when we used to spend most of our lives going from one low-light-bulb country to another, used to come out with snippets of information and then say "Not many people in Huntingdon know that". I envy the people of Huntingdon.
My beloveds, there is a Chinese proverb "A mended pot lasts a thousand years". Tell me, what is the use of knowing that? Get rid of it, and use the space to store something really useful, like, erm, well I will get back to you on that too.
PS, Sorry I forgot your birthday.

East Anglian Liffery W-Z

Any unmissable excrescence on a person’s face which makes it impossible for you to concentrate on what they are saying. Nose and lip rings are self-inflicted warboys and have the same effect.

Wardy Hill
A sort of happy landfill site or Erewhon, where lost objects like odd socks and the tops off toothpaste tubes end up. Seepage from the Wardy Hill sock mountain partly accounts for march [2] (qv).

The inner dialogue of a motorist stuck in a snarl-up on the M25 which inexplicably clears after about five miles. Wayheading usually involves speculation on the theory of wave movement, Newton's Cradle and the behaviour of springs.

welney adj
Descriptive of an excited state that is rumoured to arise after a really intense session of flower arranging.

The act of emitting a series of high-pitched mouselike farts. Much favoured by vaudeville petomanes, who used weeting to reproduce (approximately) "Goodbye Dolly Gray" and other popular melodies of the day.

Buying not one but two lottery tickets in the belief that you thereby double your chances of winning.

The kind of receptionist who makes sure that you will never reach the person who can really help you.

westley waterless
A South American houseplant that dies on you after three days despite all your efforts. Tesco's have an excellent range of westley waterless plants, all on special offer.

wicken adj.
A synonym for damp. Descriptive of still-wet hands resulting from not wanting to linger at the automatic hand dryer in a busy public toilet.

wiggenhall st german's
Laughing at the soldier called Schultz in old WWII war movies.

wiggens green
Vegetables like curly kale, spring greens and spinach, which you buy in the belief that they will provide you with free radicals to destroy your antioxidants. Or free antioxidants to destroy your radicals. Or antiradicals to ......well, whichever. They smell and taste like silage and are best fed to uncritical cattle. (See also mickley green.)

The forced smile of the woman on the supermarket checkout till when faced with a cockley cley (qv).

The person in a medieval community that everyone felt superior to (cf Yiddish nebbish). Thus relieved of the need to be good at anything, wimpoles tended to be relaxed and healthy and stupid and loud-mouthed, and to live to a great age. Many hereditary peers are descended from wimpoles.

Driving a roundtrip of 70 miles to a cheap supermarket to get 3p off a packet of fags.

wisbech (pron. `whizz-beach)
Any attempted heroic or athletic feat which precedes a pratfall, eg, a triple somersault which ends up in traction. A speciality of British Prime Ministers.

The ralph or mischievous spirit that moves objects from where you KNOW you left them: keys, wallets, scissors, etc.

witcham toll
Visiting the same places several times in the hope that a mislaid object will somehow magically re-materialise.

wood dalling
Doing in a wood what would be infinitely more comfortable in a field (but see field dalling)

wood ditton
[1] A miniscule splinter in the pad of a finger which is too small to excavate with a pin, and which gets more painful with each passing day.
[2] An irritating prick.

A replete blackbird, only to be seen while the dew is still on the grass.

A good example of an hapax logomenon, the word is known only from a line in Macbeth: “If it were done, when ‘tis done, wortwell it were done quickly.”
Most scholars now reject the theory that Macbeth was issuing an instruction to a hitman called Cyril Wortwell, so god knows what it means.

The futile act of trying to look graceful while taking off one's underpants standing up.

There is no part of the human body that will not become yaxley in time. Teenage slang from the Beatles era, but now that the buggers are ageing fast themselves, they aren't so smug any more. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The way wimpoles (qv) speak into their mobile phones in public places. Women in hats adopt the same technique in tea rooms without any mechanical aids whatsoever.

[Envoi: a supplement to the East Anglian Liff Dictionary is in preparation. You are invited to add your own words and definitions: email your gems to me at]

A deep sense of something or other

After a vigorous afternoon's weeding in the shaded parts of my garden, I sat on my patio, also shaded, and with a glass of Orvieto's finest abboccato in my hand, enjoyed the twittering of a Linnet atop the huge ash that grows at the bottom of my garden. Twitter away, little cock linnie, I thought, it's a sight and sound to warm an old man's cockles. Then, my eye caught a movement in the foliage behind the bird. The next thing I see is a Sparrowhawk making off with my cock linnie in his talons. I accept the right of big birds to catch and eat little birds, but why couldn't he have settled for the House Sparrows coughing and retching in the shrubbery? I was overcome with a deep sense of something or other.

On the low wall of my patio, I have two bird tables, on which I from time to time scatter some tempting Tescos oatflakes. Only from time to time, though, because the Blackbirds, who are my prime customers, are quickly ousted by the bully boys of the birding world, Starlings. Damn them. This afternoon, as I looked out of my kitchen window, I saw a solitary male Starling, a superb, irridescent Beau Brummell of a bird, chomping at the oats. He had only one leg. Then, a young Blackbird, still scruffy in his natal body plumage, arrived and drove the Starling away without difficulty, showing no respect for age, irridescence or disability. Normally, of course, I cheer for the blackbirds, but on this occasion I was, well, overcome with another deep sense of something or other.

If it wasn't for an occasional glass of Orvieto's finest, I think I could become melancholy from a surfeit of paradoxes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Good Old Boy

I truly believe that God is a good old boy, as we say out here on the Fens (Well, S/He's gender neutral, of course, but you know what I mean. And I am 70. so you have to make allowances). Only a Good Old Boy would have created all these amazing hawkmoths: Elephant, Lime and the stunning Hummingbird Hawkmoth. Look at them:

And now look at these wonderful creatures, which protect themselves from predation by pretending to be something else:

Buff Tip, looks like a birch twig:

Chinese Character, looks like a bird dropping:

And now, consider this: until last summer, I had no knowledge or experience whatsoever of moths. My thanks to my good mates Martin King, David Hopkins and Barbara York for getting me into moths. It's good to have a new outdoor hobby at this stage of the game, although I wish my eyes were better. Never mind, we work with the tools we have, blunt or sharp.
On Monday evening, I, along with Dick Newell, had a meeting with a local Parish Church Council to persuade them to let us put up Swift nestboxes behind the louvres of their church tower. I think we managed to persuade them without playing the God card. What I mean is this: how can they sing "All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small" and then deny the creatures hospitality? I was all prepared to belt out a chorus of "All things bright" but it wasn't necessary. Just as well as I can only do it as a 12-bar blues using George Melly gravel. Mind you, I bet God wouldn't mind: He's a Good Old Boy.
Postscript: for those of you wedded to Evolution, I am cool about that: I don't care how we got here, I am just glad we got here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Just a tick

One day, while processing a catch at our ringing station, I took a Chaffinch out of a birdbag and noticed that it had a tick on the top of its head, a place where it had no chance of removing it.
So, after ringing and taking the usual measurements, I got out the alcohol and the tweezers in order to remove the parasite (If you don't bomb it with alky first, you will leave the naughty bits in the bird and create a fester). Just as I was about to administer the fatal dose, a colleague came in and asked what I was doing, in the sort of tone that meant, I know what you are doing and you shouldn't be doing it.
"I am removing this tick from this Chaffinch", I replied (I was never good at repartee. I have l'esprit de l'escalier, where I come up with devastating ripostes when it's much too late).
Mike - for that was his name, poor bugger, he later fell off a cliff in Wales and drowned - replied: "But you are disturbing that bird's ecosystem" (or worms to that effect). "Why are you doing that?"
"Because I prefer Chaffinches to ticks," I replied, making a mental note to subscribe to a course on Saying Clever Things.
"Huff puff," he said, and went to Wales to fall off a cliff.
I have worried ever since if I was right to remove that tick, and also if I contributed to his early demise. You never know, do you, what effect your witty ripostes might have on a body?

Where do you come from, my funny friend?

I recently had to fill in a form to subscribe to a county initiative to bring archaeology to the people. Ten happy pages. I approve of all they want to do. And then I come to the last page, where I am required to tick a box (one of about thirty) saying where I would place myself in a range of ethnicities: black Irish, white Asian, pink Chinese, brown Windsor, etc. What, if you will pardon the ouburst, the f... has this got to do with archaeology?! I didn't fill in this section, just wrote a comment under "Other" that will probably end my relationship with Cambridgeshire archaeology forever.
Similarly, when we applied for a Heritage Lottery Grant to buy and develop the seventeen acres of meadowland in the middle of our village, there was a similar section, asking us to specify and quantify the various ethnic groups who would benefit from the project. As far as I am aware, the Wong family, who run our chippy and Chinese takeaway in the village, consist of mum and dad and three children, so, under Chinese, I wrote 5. Under Black African (it may have been another phrase, off-white Nubian, perhaps), I remembered seeing two pretty dusky girls in the High Street some years before, so I wrote 2.
When it came to immigrants from the Indian Subcontinent, I wrote "None, but we are hoping for a huge influx". Actually I didn't, but I was so pissed off by this time that I needed to light several jossies before I could calm down sufficiently to remember that getting the money was the object of this crazy exercise. No point in winning battles if you lose the war.
What is this obsession with race and ethnicity? Would I have a different attitude if I was another colour, had a shorter nose or different eyelids? Perhaps. My Thai friends always made reference to the fact that I was a "Long Nose", and also that I was "pat wan", which means "sweet blood" because Thai mozzies preferred me to all other food on offer. So what? In my arrogant opinion, drawing attention to people's race is itself a form of racism. I was once on a bus in Birmingham, where the conductor was really rude and unkind to a passenger. I was about to remonstrate when I held back - because he was a Cadbury-coloured West Indian and the passenger was a white woman. I have been ashamed of my silence ever since. A bastard is a bastard regardless of pigment.
My son went for a job with a local authority in London. They posed a question: if you had to let a property, and two applicants of equal merit, one Caucasian and one Asian, applied, what would you do? After the interview, he asked what the answer was and they said "You would have to readvertise the property". Imagine the attitude of the owner of the property to that piece of nonsense (quite apart from the fact that no two applicants would ever be totally EQUAL in merit).
Oh yes, and another thing: I am not even sure where the Caucasus Mountains are, let alone why I should be classified as a denizen of that region. I like to think of myself racially as a sort of wobbly pink blancmange. So there.

Grandpa, are you what they call a "grumpy old man"?
Good Lord yes!

The Loch Ness Monster's Song

I don't know who Edwin Morgan, the author of this poem, is, but he should definitely be awarded a plush armchair on Parnassus with a crate of brown ale under it. To get the full flavour of this poem, sink a dram or three and read it aloud.

Hnwhuffl hhnnwfl hnfl hfl?
Gdroblboblhobngbl gbl gl g g g g glbgl.
Drublhaflablhaflubhafgabhaflhafl fl fl -
gm grawwwww grf grawf awfgm graw gm.
Hovoplodok - doplodovok - plovodokot - doplodokosh?
Splgraw fok fok splgrafhatchgabrlgabrl fok splfok!
Zgra kra gka fok!
Grof grawff gahf?
Gombl mbl bl -
blm plm,
blm plm,
blm plm,

Monday, July 10, 2006

Motor Bus - a poem

Clearly written by an Oxford don, a classical scholar, but I don't know who.
If you did Latin at school, you should find this delicious. If not, you poor soul, you never knew the delights of Kennedy's Eating Primer and the mysteries of fero ferre tuli latum.

What is this that roareth thus?
Can it be a Motor Bus?
Yes that smell and hideous hum
Indicat Motorem Bum!
Implet wheresoe'er they ply
Terror me Motoris Bi :
Bo Motore clamitabo
Ne Motore caedar a Bo
-Dative be or Ablative
So tho only let us live:
Whither shall thy victims flee?
Spare us, Spare us, Motor Be!
Thus I sang ; and still anigh
Came in hordes Motores Bi,
Et complebat omne forum
Copia Motorum Borum .
How shall wretches live like us
Cincti Bis Motoribus ?
Domine , defende nos
Contra hos Motores Bos !

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rockabye my baby with a Bootle melody

In a surge of patriotism, brought on by the blessed disappearance of the English team from the World Cup (what a bunch of primadonnas!), I want to write songs to celebrate my country. I am no Sammy Kahn, but, inspired by the hits belted out by Al Jolson, the Chocolate-colored Coon (can't say that nowadays, but wotthehell, Archie), et al, I offer a few classics to polish the jewels of our island's sceptre.

"Nothing could be finer than to be in Leighton Buzzard in the mo-o-orning...."

"Bognor Regis, here I come, right back where I started from..."

Pardon me boy, is that the Wolverhampton choochoo..."

"The stars at night, are big and bright - da da da da da - deep in the heart of Nantwich."

"Devizes, Devizes, that toddling town..."

"Is it true what they say about Cardiff? Does the sun really shine all the time?...."

To tell you the truth, my heart's not really in it. I think I'll stick to Vera Lynn singing about bluebirds over the white cliffs of Denver.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Fancy a fag?

Have a:
Passing Cloud, expensive oval cigarettes in a pink packet, suitable for lounge lizards, femmes fatales and uphill gardeners.
Three Castles, a green packet and definitely macho. Related to the pipe tobacco, described as "the tobacco with the curious cut". Curious, and reassuringly expensive.
Players, logo a bearded sailor, suitable for those of us who were about to circumnavigate the world. In two versions: Mild and Full Strength.
Capstan, blue packet; or, if you wanted "full strength", brown: larynx-destroyers.
Balkan Sobranie, posh fags in a top opening box, various colours: needing a cigarette holder to give you that Noel Coward image. And look a prat.
Senior Service, another naval theme, virgin white packet, became my preferred puff.
Craven A: that rarity, a filter tipped ciggy, suitable for women and wimps. Craven A were sometimes sold in tins (until the war effort required every scrap of metal to be collected and dropped on Adolf Hitler). A Craven A tin, with its hinged lid, was a great prize: you could keep THINGS in it!
And then there were the poor man's drags:
Woodbines, green packet with a woodbine curled round the name (you could buy them singly).
de Reske Minors, specialist taste among the discerning poor.
Player's Weights, thin, cheap and liable to fall to pieces between your lips. Also available singly.
And the new brands designed to seduce us away from our regular weed:
Dunhill, with the white dot on brown - I think they just wanted us to buy their lighters.
Strand, might have been a success till they came up with the advertising slogan "You are never alone with a Strand". Being alone and lonely was already part of our adolescent angst, we didn't need a cigarette to underline our isolation. It bombed.

Be honest, you have no idea what I am talking about. But I can assure you that when I was a beardless youth, there was a tobacco culture as elaborate as any adolescent ritual today. By their fags shall ye know them. We not only smoked them, we collected the packets, as well as matchboxes, and became phillumenists. My prize fag packet was a Turf, a dreadful weed produced, it was rumoured, from camel dung during the war and only redeemed by having "fag cards" in each packet, small pics of footballers, cricketers, birds, flowers, national flags and so on - all of which fetch serious prices at Collectors Swapmeets these days.

My life was determined by Uncle Ernie. He owned the village newsagent and tobacconist's shop. I delivered papers for him. I also worked in the shop on weekends, specially Saturday evening when the all the men of the village congregated to buy a copy of the Pink'un, giving the sporting results and confirming that this was yet another Saturday when they had won nothing on the geegees or the pools. Uncle Ernie's niece, Alicia, also worked in the shop, and it was natural that I should fall in love with her, despite the siren attractions of a plump and frustrated lady called Hilda whose delight was to rub her enormous bum against me whenever she passed me. Remember those plump bottomed fisherwomen on their bikes in Fellini's "Amarcord" that provided a week's fantasies for the boys of the town? That was my Hilda. With contact. Staying with Amarcord, the tabacchaia finally offers our adolescent hero an "Esportazione", having nearly suffocated him mammarily. On my first year in Italy, I tried and failed Esportazioni. Thankfully I found a black market source of Lucky Strike. A subsequent sojourn working in Paris and smoking Gitanes was just what I needed to give up smoking altogether, thank god.
But I still have an enormous nostalgia for the days when cigarette-smoking was innocent and an art form and the packets were works of art. Look at a Passing Cloud packet - or even a Woodbine packet - and you will see what I mean.

Friday, July 07, 2006

It's a .., no, hang on, it's a ..., er, no, I was right the first time, it's a ...

And then some obliging knowall arrives and turns your Arctic Tern (or whatever) back into a Common Tern (or whatever), which is what you were secretly afraid it was in the first place, erm, no, the second place....
My philosophy about identifying wildlife is "It's not where you start, it's where you finish that matters." The corollary of this is that you should never be afraid to CALL, even if you then have to change your mind - or in my case, have my mind changed for me.
One of the most important lessons you can learn is that different people depend on (plump for) different characteristics when trying to id or separate similar species. In the case of Arctic vs Common Tern, for instance, you might be looking for the bill colour (assuming it's an adult in the breeding season). Personally, I can't get that blood-red versus orange-red distinction, and black tips get mixed up with the floaters in my rheumy eyes. Or you might be looking at the pattern of the remiges to see if there is a translucent window (That's the one I usually try for). Or you might not be looking at plumage at all, but instead judging the bird on behaviour or movement: depth of wingbeat, how it feeds, buoyancy of flight. Or you might be one of those lucky people who can separate them on call. Or if it's resting, leg length, extension of primaries, well, you get the idea......
What you should do is this: try out all the various criteria that are available, find the one that suits you best, and use it to make your first call, then use others to confirm or contradict your first call. If there are others with you, listen to what they say, but always make up your own mind.
Put another way: you cannot claim to have seen the bird on the basis of someone else telling you that's what it is, but only after you have satisfied yourself. Put yet another way, you can identify the bird only when you are sure you could identify another of the same species at another time and in another place. I have a (mercifully short) list of birds that I am told I have seen, but which I have not really seen. An example: I went to Minsmere to join some friends who were watching a Semipalmated Sandpiper. It was on a distant mudflat with other peepy waders. After searching for a while, I asked "Which one is it?" and got the reply "It's the one that's limping." Thank you, but no thank you.
Only yesterday, my friend Peter called a Hobby. It was high and soaring. I got on to it with my current opera glasses (My god, Zeiss take a long time to repair binoculars) and simply couldn't make a Hobby of it. Peter, with his amazing Swarowskis, had seen the face pattern even at that distance. I continued to follow the bird still not able to call Hobby. It wasn't that I doubted my friend's identification, it was just that I couldn't call it a Hobby: it still wasn't MY Hobby. . Thankfully, it "jinked" suddenly and offered me a perfect Hobby profile, so Peter and I could part company still good friends.

Grandpa, I think birding is stupid.
I'm not a birder, dear, I'm a birdwatcher.
Oh? What's the difference?
About 30 years, sweetheart.
Grandpa, I think it's time for your afternoon nap.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Liffery T-V

The Petrus [pron `pi:trus
A fabled sarcophagus where they should inter Tony Robinson.

thistley green
A weak ingratiating smile adopted in order to counter a pedwardine (qv), made weaker by the fact that all explanations fall on deaf ears.

Tiny malevolent insects that bite horses in the bum, causing them to cavort, snort, stampede and kick down barns in an amorous frenzy. A distillation of thriplows is available without prescription for those who do not qualify for Viagra.

The right, on certain feast days, to rid youself of annoying pricks providing you dispatch them without Schadenfreude.

thorney, adj
Descriptive of the gloom that descends on you when you realise that nobody really loves you. Wittgenstein famously wrote “Tonight I was the life and soul of the party. I came home and wept.” Poor thorney bastard..

thornhaugh (pron: thaw)
The disdainful reaction of posh people to those of us who call the knave the jack.

A measure of the distance between eager anticipation and disillusioned reality, exemplified by the difference between the exotic aroma of roasting coffee and the tasteless sludge that ends up in your cup. Hence, the difference between Blair 1997 and Blair 2006.

Strictly speaking, trying more than a reasonable number of times to accomplish a failed task. Seeing
that you didn't succeed on the first three (or more) occasions, you could well be stubborn and try yet again. Hence Hitler's "Viertes Reich", Hollywood's "Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse" and, of
course, "The Magnificent Eight".

tipp's end
A paradox in Quantum Mechanics. Hans-Dieter Schroedinger-Tipp (1923-59) could not accept that once he was cremated he might still be both alive and dead, despite the lack of evidence to the contrary, as it were He was ignored by the best minds of the day.

toft adj
Intimidated by a wine waiter. "I was totally toft by the way he looked at me. I struggled to think of something to do with the cork that he had placed on the table before me. Finally I picked it up, sucked on it and pronounced it quintessentially Algerian, probably from the cork-oak woods above Annaba.." (Scott Fitzgerald)

toprow (pron. 'toprof)
A term in ballet for a dangerous manoeuvre, the double backflip arabesque and twist, named after its inventor, Anton Toprov (1840-1855).

tydd gote
An inadequate present, eg, the small box of Ferrero Rochet chocolates. You don't know it is a tydd gote till you have handed it to your loved one and seen the expression on her/his face. Shopkeepers understand this and have magnanimously taken to stocking only the large boxes of Ferrero Rochet.

An ecstatic state which you hope will go on forever. Until you think it might, at which point, you start to seriously consider an outwell (qv)

An accusation of adultery in medieval times . Given the difficulty of proof, most transcripts of trials read:
"Did you?"
"Case dismissed. Don't do it again."

An embarrassing condition, known in Spanish as "meteorismo", in which the recommended 200gm stool actually emerges as a series of tiny rabbit-like pellets. The condition is said to have inspired pointillisme, but that could be a load of old cobblers.

Beam me up, Scottie!

The usual way to inspect Barn Owl nestboxes is to go up a ladder, but sometimes they are so high or inaccessible (eg across a drain) that you need to be teleported. What happens is the obliging farmer puts a sort of cage on the front of his teleporter, you climb in and he hoists you up on his hydraulic arm. I love it so much I don't really care what I find in the box: I just love the ride. Mostly my colleague Peter is the one to be teleported but I have my chances too, as, for instance, yestereve when I was hoisted to a Tawny Owl nestbox to retrieve a clutch of failed eggs (I AM licensed to do this). It is exhilarating, and I now have a special respect for all those denizens of the Starship Enterprise*** who couldn't wait to be beamed up and down, Scottie.
Better than escalators, believe me.

***I am an UrTrekkie, can't be doing with this second generation stuff, especially since Lieutenant Uhura's thighs are no longer part of the bridge.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Liffery R-S

ramsey adj
Descriptive of a frisky feeling induced by the first daffodils of Spring, the fluting notes of an early blackbird's song, or a shot of thriplow distillate (qv). Feeling ramsey is no substitute for the real thing, but for most of us, that's as good as it gets.

Claimed by Sir Ernest Gower (Fowler's Modern English Usage, rev ed) to be potentially the most useful verb in the English language, if only it were given a chance.

Distressing new shoes by the addition of scuffmarks to make them look antique.

saddle bow
The nodding acknowledgement of a horserider that a passing motorist has slowed down. Hence, any ostensibly friendly gesture concealing a V sign.

saffron walden
The garish colours favoured by showbiz people. Saffron walden trousers are worn by golfers to help them remain visible in poor light.

sall (slang)
A grunt signifying “There isn’t any more”

sandy adj
Convenient, useful. Gertrude Stein's famous bon mot "Sandy and Alice, sandy and dandy" made the word popular in certain quarters, although there is still some dispute as to what she was referring to.

Scraping the excess margarine off a piece of bread in the belief that it contributes to your calorie-controlled diet.

scrane end
A cheap cut of meat that makes a tasty stew, and which is full of bits of bone that enable you to break your teeth without the aid of hammers.

Trying to establish where the blood is coming from after an energetic session with an electric toothbrush.

A sell-by date cunningly devised to ensure that the product will be out of date before the customer gets it home.

The bitter realisation on trying to peel a hardboiled egg in one go that it is just one more thing the French do better than we do.

An irrational but deeply satisfying urge to make fun of sheep.

Scraping the burnt bits off . King Alfred resolutely refused to shimp, realising that burnt cakes could well be his passport to immortality.

The futile act of pulling down the hem of a very short skirt.

shingay cum wendy
Re-roofing properties to make them look like twee doll's houses. Now a popular TV series.

shippey, adj
Descriptive of the jaunty posture adopted by a foreign visitor to Cambridge the first time he or she tries to steer a punt. Often leads to a downham market, qv

shouldham, n
Any attempt to explain paranormal phenomena by discrediting those who reported them. Lately, shouldhams have been used to explain away such bizarre social aberrations as believing that the characters in a soap opera are just actors.

six-mile bottom
An homoerotic fantasy.

soham (pron 'so-um)
A version of the English language used only by toffs, characterised by the tendency to add an -m sound to the ends of words, eg, "Well, actuallym I really couldn't saym."

[1] Sinking into an inconsolable depression after failing to cope with machinery.

[2] Blind rage induced by the failure to crush an empty crisp packet.

spong drove
The immensely satisfying activity of removing dead skin and other detritus from bodily crevices.

spooner row
The controversy over whether transposing letters within a word constitutes a legitimate spoonerism. Most people just don't give a fcuk.

A rustic airport. Related closely to the word "standstill" but without the latter’s sense of urgency.

staple leys [pron steipl li:s]
A slimming diet popularised by Sir Stafford Cripps based on selective grazing. His early death as a result of eating all that cellulose triggered the search for an alternative called muesli.

stibbard (obs)
A medieval leather condom with many uses, such as the storing of grapeshot.

When you get the correct solution to a crossword clue but you have no idea why it is right, you have found a stiffkey.

stody, adj
Descriptive of the bold, legs-apart stance adopted by movie cowboys to suggest that even if you kicked them in the goolies they wouldn't flinch.

stow bardolph
Where butlers hide things.

stow longa
A prolonged act of lovemaking during which both participants actually fall asleep. Generally leads to a desperate farcet (qv).

stukely adj,
Unable to make a rational decision between reasonable alternatives. Often applied to Liberal Democrats.

A phenomenon of very cold mornings.

swaffham prior
A swaffham bulbeck (qv) administered by a husband. Designed to establish territorial rights rather than to give pleasure.

swaffham bulbeck
A playful smack on the buttocks.

Swanton Novers
A writer of trashy novels who makes millions. Hence, any author who is more successful than you are.

swavesey adj
Uncertain. People get swavesey trying to decide whether to watch the news on Sky, BBC, ITV, CNN or Fox. As all the news is either bad or mere speculation, there is little point in getting swavesey about it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I've got a little list

My good birding mate, M, is a lister. Every month he starts afresh to record the number of bird species he can see in that month, competing against his previous best. Over the last couple of years, we have a sort of unspoken pact that he will come up from Ringwood every month or so to spend the first days of that month with me so we can get his monthly tally off to a good start. This year, we have started his July off with a 106 species in two days; he needs another 20 or so species to beat his previous July best. Mad, or what? Well, mad maybe, but I thoroughly enjoyed the hunt, even though I am not myself a lister (I am too idle and too forgetful to be a lister).
In the course of trying to reach the ton on Saturday, we started off at Titchwell just after dawn and ended up on Haddenham Fen until sunset. Every bird counts: Dunnock, Rook, House Sparrow and so on through the list of everydays until you get to the more exciting: Honey Buzzard, Hobby, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Greenshank, Spoonbill (the alabaster replica that they put up in Titchwell from time to time), Little Gull and so on. With 98 registered, we ended up on Haddenham Fen and in a glorious half hour, added Corn Bunting, Yellow Wagtail, Little Owl (3 of them!) and Grey Partridge. 102, and we still hadn't had such obvious species as Green Woodpecker or Longtailed Tit!
What is the value of this kind of activity? Listen, my beloveds, I have several quite exhausting but fulfilling conservation projects to fill my days, but I don't begrudge a second of the time I join M in his hunt for another record, another best. Apart from anything else, it reminds me of what we are trying to conserve.
In between all this, we had two moth trapping sessions and processed over 800 moths of 80 or so species, including seven different Hawkmoths and a Red Data Book species, Grey Carpet.
So now, if you will excuse me, I am going to sleep for three days without interruption.

Grandpa, why do you like putting names to the birds and butterflies and flowers you see?
So they won't get lost, dear.
Grandpa, I love you, but I think you are terminally weird.
Thank you, dear, but I'd rather you didn't use the word "terminally".
Eat your denture-friendly porridge oats, Grandpa.