Saturday, March 31, 2007
I have no idea why I dream about these things.
I read that if you think, before you fall asleep, about what you would like to dream about, you can influence what you DO dream about. So, why have I not had a dream about Margaret Lockwood in the last thirty years?
Something wrong with the theory there, according to my mind.
One good thing about my dreams, though: I am quite athletic, I do a lot of running and a lot of swimming.
Excuse me, there's someone at the door. I think it might be the doctors from the funny farm......
So, here is a photo of a woman with a nice bosom driving a tractor. It's a lovely tractor. You have no idea how much better I feel now.
Dear Jeremy Paxman, she writes, I was pleased to see that you are fronting a campaign to save the Swift Turbine, which, in my view, is one of the very few hopes we have to save the planet from global warmth and other things that don't bear thinking about, like Greenland falling into the sea. I know nothing about these matters, of course, except from my late husband, Mr Trellis, who was passionate about what he called "alternative energy". After his retirement, he spent a lot of time in Rhyl with his trouser bottoms rolled up paddling in the sea in an effort to harness the energy of the tides. Poor man, he could have caught his death but for the ministrations of a Mrs Prytherch, the landlady of the B&B where he stayed while conducting his experiments. She, I believe, kept him warm one way and another, god bless her kind heart. If you are ever in this part of the world, I would be happy to entertain you and your lovely wife Moira Stewart to a leek supper, although she, being a darky, might not find it spicy enough.
On the other hand, I am not downhearted, indeed no. In fact, I am distinctly uphearted, because I have added another notch to whatever it is you add a notch to. Escutcheon, perhaps. Und zwar, with the considerable help of my mate, David H, who wishes to remain anonymous, I have today added yet another Swift nestbox to the suite of Swift nestboxes that will save the Cambridgeshire Swift from homelessness.
I have no wish to belittle the achievements of the bods in the first paragraph, but when did politics, poetry and novel-writing ever do anything for Swifts? As to what we have in common, I am sure you are ahead of me: we are fellow-alumni. I just wish there was a post with a title like Nestbox Laureate in the gift of the Prime Minister. But he'd better hurry, because he's retiring soon, and I am not getting any younger....
Friday, March 30, 2007
Dear Professor Challenger, I was fascinated to read that you had discovered a live archimandrite in Switzerland, as I always thought they had become extinct, along with all the other dinosaurs, when a giant asterisk from outer space hit our planet and caused a total blackout, not to mention a very loud bang. I love all animals, except those that bite, but I suppose a really OLD archimandrite wouldn't have the teeth to do that to you.
B Trellis, Mrs Retired
I had a colleague many years ago, a fellow school principal, who could memorise the names of all 300 students in his quarterly intake as they introduced themselves, and subsequently put the correct name to each face without hesitation every time he bumped into them.
When I first travelled by train from Zurich to Lausanne to meet him, I panicked when the Lausanne platform emptied, leaving only a man in clerical dress. It turned out that it was he: my colleague was an Archimandrite of the Russian Orthodox Church. He took me to his home, entertained me right royally, good food and wine, followed by a choice of vodkas and a choice of cigarettes, something I had never experienced before.
I asked him about his reputation for remembering names. He was very dismissive, saying that it was something he had had to learn during the war. Ah! Espionage! Skullduggery! But he was not to be drawn on the subject.
And, on top of all this - amazing memory, ecclesiastical status and gourmet taste - he had one more truc to leave me in awe of him: his surname, Peŷrachon. Who else on this planet has a name containing the letter y with a circumflex over it?
Thursday, March 29, 2007
elo bby :) aww nice page (writin) lmao chek u goin all out as if ur sum agony ant lmao na u probz r lol in ur own rite anyway lol haha ur workx is racist lmao unlucky myne is mint i get to go on comps on msn lmao but erm we av ad sum memories ant we lmao memba wen i stripped down to me bare skin (just me chest lmao) in -2 degrees or summet lmao i was fkin freezin n wen nicole got alchohol poisnin n was cryin to me goin get offf the traks lmao sik tht nyt bt we av ad sum bad tyms bt im not gonna go in to them :\ but i rly got nout else to say so ya knw lol lv ya millions bbe xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
As to my contribution, I remained shtum until after the meeting, at which point I cornered the local Biodiversity Officer to press my case for action to save Swift colonies in the county of Cambridgeshire. The fact that she was young and pretty did not deter me one jot or tittle.
Dear Jerry Springer, she writes, You are a one, writing about women's you-know-whats! The late Mr Trellis, my husband (We never did anything, you know, like that, until we were man and wife), used to enjoy pushing my b.....s together as if he were trying to make them into one big one, just like that man in Close Encounters of the Third Kind who kept making mountains out of mud. By the way, if you are ever in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, I would be happy to make you and your lovely wife Oprah a nice bara brith tea.
No, I blame it on the Wicked Lady, Margaret Lockwood, whose cleavage complete with beauty spot, got me and James Mason all of a dither.
No, I blame it on Howard Hughes and that cantilevered bra he slapped on Jane Russell in The Outlaw, giving her twin peaks that would put your eye out.
Whatever the cause, I quickly joined my fellow-pimplies in regarding the female bosom as an object of the greatest desire.
African women are amused by the western male's obsession with breasts. For an African woman, they are just food factories: the word for breast in Swahili is the same as the word for milk.
When you come to think of it, those two lumps aren't much to write home about, not that I would have written home about them.
But - and this is what really makes the whole obsession worthwhile - women are aware of our passion for their busty bits and so do everything they can to draw our attention to them. Until the burn-your-bra movement started, and then the world went flat for a while. But not for long, thank goodness. After all, if you've got it, flaunt it, as they say.
I only wish I had something flauntable. Well, I do have rather nice white knuckles right now...
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Dear Bill Oddie, I found your piece about Dunnocks particularly poignant (Isn't poignant a lovely word. It is my one of my favourites, along with cinnamon, lavender and irritable bowel syndrome). Poignant, because it was a Dunnock that caused the untimely demise of the late Mr Trellis. He was in the back garden burying our pet gecko (The gecko was dead by then, of course) when he became aware of a Dunnock on the fence eyeing him critically, in that way that Dunnocks have. Anyway, it quite unnerved Mr Trellis, so it was no surprise that he dropped dead of a massive cardial infarct some fifteen years later. By such slender threads do our poor lives hang, I always say. PS, I think you are a wonderful birdwatcher to see so many birds, you being so short and all.
Today has been glorious, causing me to dust the mouse droppings off my lounger and spend a happy hour or three sitting on the patio listening to the grass grow and the birds and insects hum, whistle and buzz. I have been mostly serene, but at one point, while watching the antics of my garden Dunnocks, a sudden irritation arose in my bosom at the people who say: “I may not know much about art, but I know what I like.”
Dunnocks can do that to you. The Dunnock ( Prunella modularis) is, relatively, plain and unassuming, mouselike even, a nothing-in-particular bird in shades of brown and grey.
But: Dunnocks are really really special, because they are the only species in the genus Prunella which occurs in Britain. The other 6 or 7 have ranges stretching from the Pyrenees to Siberia. Knowing this adds immensely to my enjoyment of the Dunnocks in my garden.
Thank you for listening. If I were you, I would go for pizza and lovemaking: nothing like a bit of yang to round off a spicy bit of yin.
Now, before you leave me for a peperoni pizza or a torrid session of lovemaking, just list a sec while I tell thee about the Wren. Our Wren (Troglodytes troglogytes) is the only representative of the genus in the Old World. Essentially, wrens are New World birds (about 9 species with vernacular names like Cactus Wren, Canyon Wren and Bewick’s Wren. Ours appears on the American content in winter as the Winter Wren). Knowing this adds immensely to my enjoyment of the Wrens in my garden.
OK, tell your partner you will be there right away, as soon as you have served up the pizza or perfumed your parts, but stay with me long enough to consider how much we are enriched in our AESHETIC enjoyment of things by our INTELLECTUAL appreciation of things. Not either-or, but both-and: yin and yang: “I know a lot about art, and I also know what I like.”
Monday, March 26, 2007
I was so pleased to read that you are still active despite being over a hundred years old. Given your strategic genius in driving the Carthaginians out of Egypt - or was it Mesopotamia? - I wonder if I could impose on you to advise me about a particular problem I have with my neighbour, Mrs Myfanwy Pritchard. She has taken to playing the bassoon at all hours of the day and night. In her nightie too, the hussy. It is terrible, it is worse than having Rommel and his Panders leaping up and down the street singing the Horse Vessel Lied.
I am at my wits' end how to deal with this awful woman. I know that she is afraid of rodents, so I was wondering if you could see your way clear to lending me a few of your Desert Rats that I could slip under her back door? That ought to stop her bassooning. I will, of course, pay postage and packaging.
Blodwyn Trellis (Mrs, retired)
Oh the shame of it!
In my defence, I will tell you one of those rare stories where I come out shining. I delivered a manuscript to my first publishers, Cassell, two weeks BEFORE the deadline. I was so proud of myself that I delivered it personally to their offices in Red Lion Square. My lovely editor, John Stockdale, said "Jake, you are only the second person in the history of Cassell to deliver a manuscript before the deadline: the other was Viscount Montgomery delivering his memoirs."
Me and Monty - now, there's an unbeatable team. I bet I could have been an asset at ElAlamein too, even though I was only seven at the time.
Just don't let on that I have fluffed my Poyser deadline.
The mass of bits occasioned by machine-washing a garment in the pocket of which you indavertently left several used tissues.
An angry interchange between a London taxi driver and anyone whose driving he derides, ie, everyone else on the road. Produces such gems as "I was going to call you a bastard, but I can see you are too fricking ugly to have been born of woman."
Fascinated by the proposition that every failure to find a purple swan contributes positively to the proposition that all swans are white, Tolkien began a collection of seven-letter words to contribute evidence to his proposition that there was no anagram of his name in the English language. The only reason "bintree" is remembered is that, having trawled through the dictionary to this point, he gave up and wrote Lord of the Rings instead. Pity, he might have eventually reached klonite.
The sound made as a run or ladder occurs in a lady's stocking, a sound that only a few lucky men have ever heard.
A landlubber, the sort who cannot tell his starboard from his larboard, or his stow from his prern . From a passenger on the QEII called Spixworth who was thrown overboard by the crew after demonstrating his complete misunderstanding of the purpose of the poop deck.
Shouting encouragement to a would-be suicide to jump off a tall building.
Descriptive of a business transaction in which each party believes he has screwed the other. Coined by Peter Mandelson to describe the alleged deal done between Blair and Brown in a restaurant before the 97 election.
A buttockless bum, especially the flat bums of geriatric linedancers.
A buttockful bum on a geriatric linedancer, inactive but pleasingly plump.
A knowledgeable rodent, the kind that never enters a trap.
A word coined to describe Denis Healey's eyebrows.
The duvet on the bed in a guest bedroom, designed to cover the shoulders or the feet, but not both. A device to ensure that guests will not stay long.
Insects which specialise in dying inside lampshades.
In painting, rearranging the parts of the human body for artistic effect. A school of painting inspired by Picasso and the game called "Pin the Tail on the Donkey".
An undersized adult who is frequently molested by paedophiles. Better, perhaps, than being overlooked.
The practice of sniffing the armpit or crotch of a garment in order to determine whether it is good for one more day.
The stubble on a bag lady's chin and upper lip, the sort of unsightly growth that a true bag gentleman would never draw attention to.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
A couple of days ago, the following message was posted on the blog of a young person whom I know slightly and admire greatly:
"My dad died the day before yesterday. Just like that. And as he would have wanted: out taking photographs....... The finest, most noble and wonderful dad in the world is no more. We are all walking around like ghosts, eyes chapped and burning. Love you, dad, so, so very much...."
I have been numb since I read those words:
- because I feel for the person who wrote those words, a person whose friendship I cherish;
- because I want to take the pain away but know that I can't.
And there is another reason: one day, the same thing is going to happen to my children. And there is nothing I can do before the event to make it easier for them to bear, any more than I can help the person who wrote those words above.
You will understand if I don't feel like being frivolous right now.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Dear Cilla, I found your article about the Archbishop of the West Midlands very moving. The late Mr Trellis was forever apologising for things too. He was convinced that he had shot the Archduke Ferdinand when his air pistol accidentally went off in his pocket, and that he was therefore responsible for World War I. He brightened up towards the end, though, because someone else, not him, started World War II, so he could relax and enjoy it without feeling guilty.
As I understand it, the recipient of my apology is not just the Archbishop of the West Indies but also all the other people whose forebears were dragged out of Africa to be slaves elsewhere, eg, Arabia, the New World and parts of Europe.
It is incumbent on you and me also to try to wring apologies out of the Arab slave traders and the African tribes who worked for them. It's an uphill task, but we have to do it.
I do hope that clears the matter up to everyone's satisfaction.
And now, if you will excuse me, I am busy preparing my next tranche of apologies: for the genocide of the Bushmen, for the Crusades, for the Japanese invasion of China, for the assassination of Julius Caesar, for.... well, the list is endless, but the important thing for me to do is to acknowledge my guilt.
After which, they can all fuck off.
Dear Mrs Thatcher, I have always admired you, particularly for the way you stood up to that awful miners' leader Arthur Scarface, but I am shocked at your suggestion that I should become a blogger. My family have been godfearing hymn-singing Wesleyans for generations and could never get involved in that kind of racy Caribbean music. But I am sure you meant well. Please give my warmest regards to your husband Tony.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Funny stuff, Camembert. It starts out being bland: if it wasn't for la recherche des temps perdus, no Englishman would touch it. Then, it gets runny, a very unEnglish thing for any cheese to do. Then it starts to smell like an unwashed sock: this is when it is at its tastiest. So, clothes peg on nose, you wolf down a goodly portion of it.
Then you leave the remainder unloved and unremembered in a cupboard until, one day, you are aware of ammonia fumes in your kitchen. Do not call the Fire Brigade: it is only the Camembert in the late stages of entropy. At this point, a sensible Englishman gives up on nostalgia for les fromages de la belle France, and goes back to Caerphilly. Caerphilly is a nice cheese, even if it is Welsh. At least it won't asphyxiate you.
Dear David Attenborough, I watched your programme called "Life in the Freezer" and was immediately reminded of otters. My late husband, Mr Trellis, during the terrible 1947 winter, found a dead otter and put it in our cold store. I later, after his tragic death - Mr Trellis's, not the otter's - transferred it - the otter, not Mr Trellis's body - to the freezer compartment of my Philips Combi refrigerator-freezer, a wonderful machine, as I am sure you will agree (Does Mrs Attenborough have one? I'm sure she does).
Seeing your inspiring programme prompted me to revisit our frozen otter, but it was then I remembered that we had defrosted it and made it into an Otter Hotpot on the occasion of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. I feel terrible. Please reassure me that this will not have affected the Welsh otter population.
It's not easy to see otters, but it is not difficult to find their poo, called "spraints". Check pathways under bridges and culverts, that's what the experts say.
Yes, fellow nature-watchers, this feisty mustelid is back in business.
Good news. Unless you happen to be a fish.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Dear readers, I would welcome your advice on how to respond to her latest letter to me:
Dear Oprah Winfrey, I don't think you should worry about lower black pain. After all, it's only like a strong suntan, isn't it? I once got suntanned in Llandudno, so I know what it is like. Well, more sunburned really. Also I think you are much prettier than Condomleeza Rice. Do you think you could accept me as a contestant on your TV show, The Weakest Link? I know quite a lot of things, specially about crossstitch and flower arranging.
The result is that ordinary jacks and jills like you and me are much better informed than we used to be. I now know, for example, who Clarice Cliff is, or was. It is a source of great irritation to the sellers of antiques and collectables that ignoramuses like me are harder to fool than we used to be.
I love these programmes.
The airwaves are equally awash with images of sexy women, but at my stage of the game, antiques win hands down.
Mind you, sometimes, fate throws a sort of amalgam my way. I am in love, for instance, with the antiques expert and auctioneer Anita Manning. Fortunately for both of us, she is not aware of my passion.
If only she were a collectable.....
Don't go, this is interesting.
If she were Saudi, I would have no problem: just sit there silent, think about the prophet Mohammed-on-him-be-all-praise, and wait for master's return. But I happen to know that Wife Number Three is Canadian, and a recent acquisition at that. She is, of course, dressed in regulation blackout.
What to do? Make small talk? Stay silent? Hum a few suras from the holy book? Ask her what it's like to be in purdah? Offer to massage her shoulders?
What would you have done?
I, belonging to that braw band of bravos known as cowards, remained silent - after all, I didn't want to have my genitals removed by a Saracen scimitar - but I felt bad about it, because the lady was English-speaking and might have thought me rude. She might have been homesick, she might have been DYING for a bit of occidental chitchat.
Later, I was told by a knowledgeable informant that I had done exactly the right thing by remaining silent.
By nature, I am a chatty bugger: I could so easily have lost my wedding tackle there.
All the foregoing is an apologia for a dinky cartoon sent me by JSF. Every nation has its fall guys. For the French, it is the Belgians, for the Swiss, it is the Appenzellers, for the Turks, it is the Laz, for the British, it is the Irish, for the Americans, it is the Poles, and so on. And it doesn't mean a damn thing, so, for the pc among you, leave now, because you are seriously screwed up.
I am grateful to my old engineering buddy, JSF, for sending me this pic.
What the flying fruitbat does the photographer say to his subjects to get them into photogenic mode? "Say cheese?" "Smile?"
Assuming - and it is a fairly safe assumption - that the photographer is the husband of this quartet, how will he know, when he gets the photograph back, which of his darlings is which? Maybe it doesn't matter to him. Maybe, to adapt an old French proverb, La nuit, toutes les chattes sont grises. Given that "chatte", feminine form of "chat" ( "cat"), is also the slang word for a vital part of the female anatomy, he probably doesn't really give a f... f.... which cat he is stroking when the mood takes him.
I have a terrible feeling that this posting will earn me a fatwa. Well, there ya go, they always said that women would be my downfall.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
"Doctor, I know you are eminent in your field, but, if I could make one tiny criticism, you check me over, you decide the treatment I need, but you never ask me how I am. The human touch, doctor, is really important. Forgive me for telling you this."
The doctor nods, goes away and thinks about what she has said, and realises she is right.
So, next morning, on his visit to Mrs Green's bed, he smiles and says "How are you today, Mrs Green?"
"Doctor, don't ask!" she replies with a deep sigh.
I note that none of my readers have asked me how I am, which is not nice considering my struggle with lower back pain. Thank goodness I at least received a sympathetic note from Mrs Trellis of North Wales, to wit:
'Dear Terry Wogan', she wrote, 'I was so sorry to hear that you had been savaged in the lower back by a minke whale. You would think they would have heard by now all the wonderful things you are doing for the environment. Maybe the poor beast thought you were plankton.'
Well, there is another view, as expressed by engineers: the glass is twice as large as it needs to be.
At this moment, I just wish I still had a glass with a glop of wine in it, but you know these 75cl bottles: just when you are getting into your stride, you find them empty. I blame evaporation caused by global warming.
1 Take up yoga
2 Visit an osteopath
3 Lose weight
4 Eat oily fish
I am sure this is all good advice, but I fear that the cure might be more painful than the condition. I ask you, would you still love me if I was  stuck in the lotus position,  penniless after paying outrageous osteopath fees,  skinny, hollow-eyed and sunken-cheeked, and  reeking of mackerel?
No. Admit it, you love me just as I am now: bent over, hobbled and decrepit.
Personally, I wouldn't know, because it hasn't happened to me.
Just thought I'd give you something to ponder while you are spilling your morning muesli down your front.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
... is a longrunning programme in which celebrities are asked to imagine they are marooned on a desert island, and are then asked to choose the eight records they will take with them. At the end, they can also take one book and one "luxury item". They already give you the Bible, a bummer if you are a Muslim; and the Complete Works of Shakespeare, as if you hadn't suffered enough in secondary school.
Given that every reader of this blog, including its author, are celebrities - some of us still unrecognised - I invite you to join the ranks of the Desert Island Dicks. Nah, why bother? Just answer the following questions. You can be honest, given that nobody gives a flying fruitbat what your preferences are.
Which piece of music would you have on your desert island? (Remember, you might have to listen to the damn thing a zillion times before you are rescued, or die)
Which book would you take with you? (Something you will re-read an equal number of times)
Which work of art would you choose to hang in your bamboo hut? (Careful now, this is a family show)
What particular food item would you miss most? (We can supply it of course: this is the BBC)
Assuming you could log on to the internet, which website would you most treasure?
What piece of hardware would you want to be posted to you from B&Q (Home Depot)?
Hygiene could be a problem. What cosmetic item would you want to have with you?
If you could have one famous person to share your isolation, who would it be? (Careful now, this is a family show)
What single activity would most help you to pass the time once your physical needs were met? (Careful now, this is a family show)
What would be your "luxury item"?
I know you are PANTING to know my choices. Here they are:
1 Piece of music
Janos Starker playing Bach's unaccompanied Cello Suites: it's almost jazz
The Koran: I want to work out why they feel the need to marmalise me. Also, if there's anything in it, I might make a pitch for seventy virgins.
3 Work of art
Any Breughel, pere or fils: you never get to the end of them
4 Food item
A mountain of lentils: bowel movements could become a critical issue
YouTube: it's good to know I'm not the only nutter.
6 Piece of hardware
A Bosch Cordless Drill: it makes such a satisfying bzzzzzrrrrrrrrrrr sound
7 Cosmetic item
A good lipgloss: you never know when you might need to look sexy
8 Famous person
I'm not sure the island is big enough for TWO famous people...
9 Pastime activity
Birding, of course, but if there aren't any birds, I'll poke around in the undergrowth like David A.
10 Luxury item
A powerful speedboat to get me "outta here" once the Bach Cello suites, the Breughel and the Koran start to lose their lustre.
Monday, March 19, 2007
1. Can you cook?
The microwave holds no mysteries for me, sunshine.
2. What was your dream growing up?
I never dreamt that I would grow up. Oh, ok, marrying Margaret Lockwood.
3. What talent do you wish you had?
Am I missing something?
4. Favorite place?
Wherever you are, my angel. (You can see why I was never a success with women)
5. Favourite vegetable?
6. What was the last book you read?
I haven't read the last book yet. I want to live long enough to screw the Prudential.
7. What zodiac sign are you?
Sorry, I'm strictly a Vauxhall man.
8. Any Tattoos and/or Piercings?
I cut myself once while peeling a mango. Does that count? (I still have the scar)
9. Worst Habit?
Hey, I ENJOY my worst habit! Don't take it away from me.
10. Do you personally know anybody on Blog?
Sure. Two kinds of people: those I message who don't reply; and those I don't message who don't reply. It's all about communication, pal.
11. What is your favorite sport?
Watching women's tennis for all the wrong reasons.
12. Negative or Optimistic attitude?
You buying or selling?
13. What would you do if you were stuck in an elevator lift with someone of the opposite sex?
I was once. I said wittily: "Wouldn't it be great if you were Ava Gardner and I was Gregory Peck"? She said: "Press the red button, asshole."
14. Worst thing to ever happen to you?
Dying. It hasn't happened yet, but my body is working on it.
15. Tell me one weird fact about you:
The act of micturition is always better if preceded by a brief anal eructation. Now, go f... yourself.
16. Do you have any pets?
I try to make friends with the woodlice that haunt my house. I have a weakness for crustaceans.
17. Do you know how to do the macarena?
Just give me the lentils, the spices, some good olive oil and a saucepan, and I will amaze you!
18. Is the sun shining where you are now?
In the middle of the fricking night??? What planet are you from?
19. Do you think clowns are cute or scary?
Both, I just hope they don't get re-elected.
20. If you could change one thing about how you look, what would it be?
I would grow a fine bosom, then I wouldn't need to go out on Friday nights.
21. Would you be my good angel or bad angel?
Sorry, I am out of funds right now, darling.
22. What colour eyes do you have?
Which one do you want to know about?
23. Ever been arrested?
Once. Bloody fascists.
24. Bottle or Draft?
I don't gamble.
25. If you won £10,000 today, what would you do with it?
Count it. Who trusts banks?
26. What kind of bubble gum do you prefer to chew?
None: at my age, there is a risk of leaving my teeth in the gum when I spit it out.
27. What's your favourite bar to hang at?
What makes you think I hang? I may be an old scrote but.... aw, never mind.
28. Do you believe in ghosts?
Of course. How else to explain the disappearance of socks, teaspoons and ballpoint pens?
29. Favourite thing to do in your spare time?
I really enjoy completing daft questionnaires.
30. Do you swear a lot?
What kind of a f........ Sorry. I try to keep it down to two expletives per sentence.
31. Biggest pet peeve?
I don't have a pet peeve. I thought about getting a jerbil, but I don't have the desert for it.
32. In one word, how would you describe yourself?
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Let's see what they make of that lot. :-))
My beloveds, I have an urgent message for you all, and Mrs Trellis of North Wales: life never ceases to bowl unexpected googlies at you. Actually, that's a silly thing to say, because googlies are by definition unexpected (Apologies to my transatlantic readers, who will be as mystified by a googly as any English batsman. Incidentally, V, great to hear from you today).
What I mean is, you can reach my age and still have new experiences, which is really comforting when you think about it, and certainly more life-affirming than lower back pain.
Anyway, back to my new experience. I am really excited by this latest never-did-this-before moment. Tonight I ate an Alaska pollock. To be accurate, I ate a fillet from an Alaska pollock. I have no idea what proportion of a complete AP I ate, but I can tell you that this fish is probably rectangular judging from the shape of my fillet.
The pollock or pollack- a fish that cries out for bad puns - is, according to Wikipedia:
largely considered to be a white fish, although it is a fairly strongly flavored one. Alaska pollock has a much milder taste, whiter color and lower oil content. High quality, single frozen whole Alaska pollock fillets may be layered into a block mold and deep frozen to produce fish blocks that are used throughout Europe and North America as the raw material for high quality breaded and battered fish products...Single frozen Alaska Pollock is considered to be the premier raw material for surimi; the most common use of surimi in the United States is "imitation crabmeat" (also known as crab stick).
I don't know from kak about all that, but I am intrigued to know why there is no -n on Alaska. Seems a bit of a pose to me, like those people called Finch who spell their names ffinch. The Alaska pollock was all right, but personally, I'd rather have ccod or hhaddock.
Shame on you, X. All you needed to do was ask me: I will happily gaze on your bum anytime.
During the War, in order to keep us children healthy, we were given a gill of free milk every day, a gill of orange juice and a tablespoonful of Malt Extract with Cod Liver Oil. I recently discovered that Malt Extract is still available, thanks to a firm called Potter's of Wigan, so I bought a jar. And took a spoonful. And, my goodness, it's not only delicious and doing me good, but it's made me feel eight years old again!
I didn't have lower back pain when I was eight years old.
Friday, March 16, 2007
................... I must try to get more sleep.
Ah, that's better. Nothing like a good grump to take your mind off lower back pain.
Friday, March 09, 2007
British Wildlife is, and I am serious here, a wonderful publication. But - isn't there always a but?- I quickly lose heart. Let me give you an example of the kind of thing that immediately takes the steam out of my sails. In the current issue, in the section called Wildlife Reports, in the subsection called Flies, the first sentence reads: "That the year 2006 was a poor one even for the Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus baltaetus speaks volumes."
It may speak volumes to Roger Key of English Nature and his entomobuddies, but I can't hear a damn thing.
Oh yes, and those stringy geeks on bikes who want me to give up my car.
According to the programme, it is solar activity, not carbon dioxide, that influences the ups and downs of our climate. Indeed, apart from the fact that CO2 is a trivial proportion of the cocktail in our atmosphere, its rise and fall follows, not precedes, changes in global temperatures.
They presented a convincing case. Well, what you and I believe won't make a scrap of difference, but it does bother me that it is so difficult to separate the facts from the fantasies in this matter. Time to put the kettle on and make a cup of tea - if that's ok with the IPCC.
What I want to know, though, is what went wrong with the spirit level. Has global warming done something to the bubble, giving it a cant to compensate for the reduction of the Greenland ice-shelf? Hell, if you can't trust your bubble, you could end up living your whole life on the slant.
Please don't be deterred by the fact that all comments are moderated.
I have to do this to keep the pornographers, life-insurance agents and suicide-bummers at bay.
I promise you I will post all comments that are not from the foregoing.
After all, if Mrs Trellis of North Wales can do it.....
Thursday, March 08, 2007
How did we ever make little holes in wood, how did we ever drive screws in, before he came up with his brilliant invention? It's a difficult concept, the Cordless Power Drill - he must have gone through Hell.
Say what you like, but I believe in giving credit where it is due: without old HB, a lot of Barn Owls would be homeless today. Yes, all things considered, a helluva guy.
Blame the Italians. Better yet, blame Guiglelmo Recupero. During my happy year in Brescia, which is where I learned Italian, I was told by my friend and mentor, Guiglelmo Recupero, that the plural of pomodoro should not be pomodori but pomidoro. I can see you straining at the leash for an explanation. Nouns in -o make the plural in -i, eg, ragazzo-ragazzi = boy-boys. But, etymologically, the word pomodoro (tomato) is pomo d'oro (golden apple), so, according to my purist informant, the plural of pomo d'oro would be pomi d'oro, so........ well, you grasp the argument.
Me, being an inveterate showoff, went around after that seeking, in fact MAKING, opportunities to talk about "pomidoro". I finally realised that I was the only idiot in Lombardy using this pretentious form.
But I haven't given up, no sir. As anyone who has read this far will know, many pasta dishes are grammatically plural: spaghetti, lasagne, tagliatelle, linguini, etc, so I taught my children to say things like "The spaghetti were really tasty" or "The lasagne are excellent", "Are the tagliatelle fresh?". They drew the line at pomi d'oro, however.
But that lingering memory of Guiglelmo's stricture is the reason why I instinctively wrote Billies the Kid, only realising afterwards how daft it must sound. Never mind, it gave me an excuse to write this piece and show off my knowledge of Italian tomatoes.
Yet another triumph of optimism over experience, I have completed the Barn Owl nestbox for the Pining Widow. It is, of course, tempting fate to call it a "Barn Owl" nestbox, even if it is designed for that species. What I mean is that there are a number of other species that might well occupy it, of which the likeliest is Stock Dove (Columba oenas), known in the Fens as the Blue Rock, often confused with the common Wood Pigeon and as such blown to smithereens by local Billies-the-Kid.
Swift Nestbox update: one of the two experimental boxes erected in the middle of Cambridge has been occupied. By Starlings. The house occupant, aka Pluvialis, is very happy about this, so naturally I am happy about it too.
Ignore the sound of my teeth grinding: I am still thinking about Stock Doves taking over the Pining Widow's box.....
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Living in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, which I and my family did for a time in the 70’s, is something which scars, sorry, marks you for life. Language is a major barrier. Swiss German is as rich and as valid a national language as Dutch, but for some reason, the Swiss have relegated it to a dialect: all official communications, spoken or written, are in Hoch Deutsch (High German) , that is, the formal language of Germany. The result is, given that the Swiss actually HATE High German, that they refuse to speak “proper German”, but resent any foreigner who tries to speak Swiss German. I tried a few times and grew very sad very quickly.
Forget it. Personally, I love all kinds of German. I love a language that can produce words like Dampffschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitänsgemahlin and Generaloberfinanzkriegsunddomänendirektorium (blame Frederick the Great for the latter). I love a language that can build from “krank”, meaning “ill”, to “krankenwagen” (ambulance) and “krankenhaus” (hospital) to “krankenschwester” (nurse). I love a language that produces literalnesses like “Auspuff” for a car’s exhaust, and “Durchfluss”, literally “through-flow”, for diarrhoea. When you arrive at a carpark, you go in via the “Einfahrt” and leave via the “Ausfahrt” – the former sounds to me like a painful experience.
But wait. That noiseless “fahrt” comes from the verb “fahren”, meaning “to go other than on foot”. If you go on foot, the verb is “gehen”. And if you think that is complicated, welcome to Russian, which not only distinguishes between going on foot (xhodit’)and going in a vehicle (yezdit’), but has parallel verbs for all sorts of other activities which may be carried out on foot or in a vehicle (come, jump, fall, arrive, depart, carry, bring, take, fetch, etc). Add to that that each of these pairs of verbs has an imperfective and a perfective form (aspect) depending on whether the action is perceived as ongoing or completed and you have a conjugation of verb forms that makes Latin look like Esperanto. Someone once described these things as "the diseases of language" and he was probably right, but for me they are all part of the fun of being unable to communicate with 90% of the human race.
I don't snore, dear.
You do too. I heard you.
That's not possible: I always put a clothes peg on my nose.
Don't you mean a clothes pin? >sigh<
Mommy, where's Grandpa? Is he in Heaven already?
No dear, he's in England.
That's like Hell, right?
Eat your iron-rich antioxidant spinach puré, dear.
Grandpa, why did God make poisonous snakes?
I'm not really sure, honeybunch.
Grandpa, why did God invent mosquitoes?
Erm, who knows, sweetiepie?
Grandpa, what are hurricanes for?
I guess they must have some purpose, angelcake.
Grandpa, you don't mind if I ask you questions, do you?
Of course not, princess, how else are you going to learn?
I just hope the Barn Owls can see what a des res it is.
We - I had the assistance of David H, who, as always, wishes to remain anonymous - lined the box with wood shavings and threw in a few pellets for the birds to shred. What more can we do? Does anyone know a prayer appropriate to Barn Owl nestboxing?
Envoi: today, during a day on the fens repairing nestboxes, Peter W and I were lucky enough to come upon a widow with a barn and a lust to have Barn Owls nesting in it. So, if you will excuse me, I will go now as I need to get an early night so that I will be fresh to start a new box tomorrow morning.
After all, it's not every day I get the opportunity to perform an act of unconditional love for a pining widow.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
But it's all a bit puzzling. I cannot understand why anyone should want to be me: I live with me all the time, day in day out seven days a week, but I sure wouldn't if I didn't have to.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
We now have a number of churches in Cambridgeshire with louvre boxes. Hurrah. But in the case of the church at S.... we have the approval of the Churchwarden and the Bell Captain, and the support of the village Conservation Society to boot, but the Vicar says he does not want swift nestboxes in his belfry.
I have had a word with God, who understandably has turned down my request to strike the Vicar dead - I know I was a little hasty - so I am now casting round for some other means of removing the blockage. Goodness knows what the Vicar's reasoning is. Maybe he already has bats in the belfry, if you catch my drift.
Anyway, if you hear that the Vicarage in the parish of S... has been burnt down, with the Vicar in it, just put it down to one of those freakish happenstances that sometimes occur.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Quot homines, tot sententiae definitely applies to the design of nestboxes for certain species. The best accommodation for the Common Swift (Apus apus) for example, is a subject as contentious as Princess Diana's last day on earth. Do Swifts want big or small? with or without a nest cup? an oval or a square entrance hole? the hole on the side or underneath? a light or a dark interior? gas-fired or oil-fired central heating? - seriously, there are as many opinions as there are Swift enthusiasts.
You would think that there would be unanimity of opinion about the preferences of Barn Owls (Tyto alba), but even in the case of this species, there are many nestbox variations. Take the bog standard square box type - think of a tea-chest with a front on it. What size should the entrance hole in the front be? Not too big - don't want draughts, but not too small either. Where should the hole be? At the top, at the bottom, in the middle? Should there be a "tray" in front, and if so, should it have a raised rim?
OK, for those of you who are about to put up a Barn Owl box in your stable, put the hole at the top, so that the young cannot get out until they have at least some flight feathering. Otherwise, if they fall out, they will not so much flutter down as plummet. Make sure there is a tray so that when the young do emerge, they have an exercise platform, but whether it needs a parapet I cannot tell you. Oh yes, and there is no need to write ENTRANCE over the access hole.
I have just completed my nth Barn Owl nestbox, so I do know whereof I speak. What I do not know whereof is why, no matter how carefully I measure up before cutting the wood, nothing ever fits. If I could grow instant 400-year-old oaks with nest cavities, I promise you I would never make another box.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Boy, am I glad I got that off my chest!
I once climbed out of a warm bed, leaving my girlfriend sleeping, in order to go up one floor and climb into bed with another lady. The year, 1957, the reason, excessive randiness, the outcome, zilch. The upstairs lady rejected me, and the downstairs lady never knew about my (unfulfilled) transgression. So, in the end, only my soul was scarred: no other injuries.
Boy, am I glad I got that off my chest!
I once had a great Italian meal in the Amalfi restaurant in Old Compton Street in Soho. The year, I don't remember but somewhere in the 70s, the occasion, I was in London on business. I was so fired up that on my walk back to the hotel from the Amalfi, I passed a pizza house and went in and ate a pizza. Gluttony. Nasty gluttony. I never did anything like that again.
Boy, am I glad I got that off my chest!
Don't worry, good buddies, only three hundred and forty three more confessions and I will be shriven.
Thanks for listening.