Saturday, December 23, 2006

"It's not so bad"

I've got a throat that wouldn't improve even if you slit it. A sort of laryngeal inferno, making me cough when I don't want to. The Munchkins had it, the nanny had it, and now I've got it. This morning it rained on my sore throat too. If I knew how, I would ask the San Diego Tourist Board for my money back.
Beziehungsweise - you see the influence of a German nanny - I have found a source of good and inexpensive red wine, a place that sells authentic bread (a rare commodity in these parts), and a way to play my daughter's keyboard while wearing headphones so nobody else gets incommoded.
So, all in all, I am enjoying myself here in SoCal. Just as long as I can keep swallowing....
PS You should see the turkey - a monstrous bugger that surely never managed to walk on two legs. Given that I will have to carve it come Monday, I wish they'd invent a totally cubic one.
Have a good one.

Put down

A tramp knocks on a farmhouse door. The farmer's wife answers. He tells her he is hungry.
She says: "Would you like some of yesterday's pie?"
He replies: "Yes."
She says: "Come back tomorrow."

I once had a business meeting after hours in a pub with a businesswoman who brought her young son along. While she went to the toilet, he said to me "Do you know how to keep a moron in suspense?"
"No," I replied.
"I'll tell you later," he said.

Oh yes, and by the way, have a great Christmas, or whatever.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Into the mouths of babes and sucklings

Verbatim as near as I can remember it.

Sophie: There's a girl in my class, Maya, and twenty-six boys love her.
Me: Wow, she must be special.
Sophie (dismissive): She burps a lot.
Me: Oh.
Sophie: But maybe the boys don't know that.
Me: Could be.
Sophie: And she puts things in her mouth.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Report from Munchkinland

It is overwhelming to find myself in a busy house again. There are just three children - Sophie, Kiki and Harry - but most of the time it seems like three hundred. Fortunately, there is a wonderful nanny, a German fraulein called Silke, to keep the little ones in some kind of order. And me too.There is also a neurotic cat called Gigi. Gigi thinks he is a dog and follows everyone everywhere. Given that he has had the snip - the unkindest cut of all - he is not into lady cats, so I guess following the children to school is what keeps him happy.The weather is unbearably glorious, forcing me against my will to take long walks round the 'hood - usually in the direction of a coffee shop, or, when the cholesterol mood is on me, to the Big Kitchen for the kind of breakfast that doctors warn you against. Yeah!So far I have had one trip to the beach - a walk along the sand with Sarah - and the sea is also unbearably glorious. How I envy those muscular young men (and occasionally women) surfing the waves. Well, not really. I am just glad I have the energy and strength to walk up the hill for the naughty breakfast once or twice in a while.Next week the children are on holiday, so it's off to the zoo and the park and the beach and the shop that sells gummy bears. It's a hectic life being a Grandpa.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Last Word

I take back what I said, Well, some of it. I have now found how to import Excel files into Word, how to hyphenate (At my age, that could be dangerous), and how to disable some of Word's more fascistic automaticalia.
I don't mind admitting I was wrong, so I will put the pins and wax away. But for the time being only: I hate to waste a perfectly good hate.

Is it dead yet?

Blown in by the gales from their pelagic fastnesses, Leach's Petrels have been turning up at inland waters in Britain. Our local reservoir, Grafham Water, reported one this morning. I was invited to go and have a look, but declined as I was too busy packing and hiding the booze from my cleaning lady.
About half an hour after the invitation, I had a phonecall from another friend asking my advice as to what he should do with one of the Grafham Leach's Petrels which had been picked up in a poor condition. I told him to go and make a cup of coffee and look at the bird again in half an hour. Of course it was dead within half an hour. Poor bird - and there were others later - probably hadn't eaten for 2-3 days and hadn't found anything nourishing at Grafham.
Fortunately, there was one there that seemed to be flying strongly, and in fact did fly strongly away. So, a "tick" for those who saw it. It's not sour grapes - I have never seen Leach's Petrel - but I really don't get a lot of pleasure from gawping at birds which, by definition, shouldn't be there, and which in most cases are exhausted and unlikely to survive.
I remember years back being told a tale about a group of birders who were driving late down the Great North Road from a twitching trip to Scotland when they noticed a bird on the tarmac. It turned out to be a now uncommon bird, a Corncrake, and clearly on its last legs.
"Can I tick it?" asked one desperate lad.
"Is it still warm?" said another.
"Yes, it is. It's dead, but its still warm," said the lad.
"OK, then you can tick it."
Personally, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.

E giunto il momento della partenza,,,

Time for Valete, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen, Uf wieder luege, Arriverderci, Görüşürüz, ДО СВИДАНИЯ, Ma'a salaama, Viszontlátásra, Kwa herini, Até logo, and all the other abyssinia noises.
I am orff, I am outta here, and I don't know if I can keep this blog afloat in the next 44 days, a figure determined by the limit to the travel insurance I could secure. For 45 days I am actuarially ok, after that, I am a potential hazard, like a plague of locusts or a murrain on your cattle.
So, my beloveds, in the meantime, try to bear up without me. Think of me as a wind that blows over the land, cleansing the air, dispersing the locusts and giving people pneumonia. Well, not as far as the last is concerned: we are having bitter winds and driving rain, and there was even
a tornado in West London today. Global warming? More like the onset of another Ice Age.
Still, the sun is still shining in SoCal, and the Munchkins are getting ready to attack Grandpa the minute he sets foot over the threshold.
If I survive, I will endeavour to post to this blog - please come back and check in a few days' time.
PS They're not writing songs like that any more. Amazing that they ever did.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My Word? Not MY Word, my word.

Hands up all those who get frustrated by Microsoft's word processing program, Word.

I think it is dangerous to HATE inanimate objects, and I don't know Bill Gates well enough to hate him personally. But.....
Word gets my goat
Word gets my dander up
Word, if it knew how to, would probably get up my dander.
Word gets up my nose, under my skin and on my wick
Word gasts my flabber.
Word induces involuntary acts of micturition (Forgive the bowdlerisation)
Word is driving me to the bottle: it is foisting my gumple.

When I find that you can't import an Excel file into a Word file, the boggle really enters my mind.
Generally, good people, it does no good at all to me or to my Blood Pressure, the krakatoa of these parts.

Word tries to do my thinking for me.
Word pops in headings.
Word pops in corrections.
Word changes font and point size without warning.
Word emboldens and underlines and italicizes without my permission.
Word is like fascism without the nice uniforms.
Word makes squiggly underscores, just because it doesn't know what an oriole is.
Word has less knowledge of syntax than a woodlouse (Don't ask me how I know that)
Word cannot spell for toffee. In fact, it probably can't spell "toffee".


I find today, that when I try to create a single document from all the chapters of the book that currently sit isolated, each in its own folder, there is a limit to the size of document that Word will allow.
I have 15 chapters, but it sighs at the tenth and then deletes the whole document, as if to say: "We may be big, but we don't do big."

Sod it, I'm off to the chandler's to get a supply of wax and to the haberdasher's for some pins, and then, just you watch out, William Bloody Gates, just you watch out.

This is WAR, and I just declared it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"Hi, Jake, how's the book going?"

"Hi, Jake, how's the book going?" (For those of you who don't know, I am contracted by Poyser, with a co-author, to write a monograph on the Eurasian Golden Oriole, Oriolus oriolus).
So: "Hi, Jake, how's the book going?"
That's like, "Hi, George, hi Tony, going good in Iraq is it? Right? Right!"
Having experienced seven pregnancies, in none of which was I the main protagonist - thought I'd better make that clear - I think I know a little of what gestation is like. The pain, the sleepless nights, the morning sickness, the sheer tedium and heaviness as the ETA approaches....
In my case, the first scream of agony occurred at the moment of conception, and it's been pain every since. I am talking about the BOOK. of course.
Ah, the BOOK. There are days when I think it's going great, and there are days when I am sober. But, no mind, you who know me: good buddies, stout yeomen and sundry proud high-busted beauties, there's a dance or two in the old dog yet. Toujours gai, Archie, wotthehell. I will get the bugger finished if it's the last thing I do.
At this rate, I suspect it WILL be the last thing I do.

There'll be another one along in a minute...

Today, I decided to use public transport - my small contribution to greenery and saving the planet. Well, to be honest, I discovered that I had reached that stage of decrepitude where I was entitled to a free bus pass, which I did, so I did. I decided to try out the "Park and Ride" into the city of Cambridge, "buses leaving every 10 minutes". Great!
I parked my car and went to where there was a pretty red double-decker waiting. The reason it was waiting was that there wasn't a driver, and nobody knew when a driver would appear. After TWENTY-FIVE minutes, one did. Great!
So, into Cambridge, where I did a bit of necessary shopping, and also popped into Costa's in case a certain academic was there getting her caffeine fix, and then back to the bus stop to await the next ten-minuter. After FORTY-FIVE minutes, I gave up and took a taxi back to the Park and Ride. It cost me eight of the Queen's best. Great.
I love being a grumpy old man once a week, but this grump gives me no pleasure. It just makes me realise why, at least in England, people shun public transport.
And it's bloody raining again.