Saturday, June 30, 2007

Give us a kiss, whoever you are

Hillcrest. I realise that a reference in an earlier posting to the Hillcrest soprano voice might not have meaning to those of you - ie, 99.9% of the population of Planet Earth - who have not visited this particular quarter of San Diego. Hillcrest is where the ladies wear sensible shoes and don't smile at men, and where the men mostly mince and don't smile at women, if you catch my drift.
To both of these variations on the human template, I am invisible, being aged and decrepit. In fact, if they notice me at all, they tend to be very nice to me: to the lesbians, I am no threat, and to the gays, I am not worth the effort.
But it's not all same-sex stuff in Hillcrest. I did recently see a hetero couple on the corner of University and Fifth having a quick snog, but they were quickly arrested by the Police ("San Diego's Finest") on the grounds that their action was provocative and likely to cause a breach of the peace.
By the way, the reason I go to Hillcrest is that my favourite restaurant is there. You remember? The one with Chicken Piccata, Argentinian Keiken Red and the lovely friendly waitress, Gail.

Mrs T addresses a guru

It is such a relief to know that Mrs Trellis is alive and well and still banging the rocks. In her fashion. She writes:
Dear Mahatma Ghandi, I saw your movie the other evening and can't tell you how impressed I was, specially the spinning, which as you know is a Welsh speciality, there being so many sheep here and so little to do nights.
Also, I liked how you enjoyed having young girls around you, propping you up and bringing you tiffin, or whatever it is you Indians drink. Enjoying young girls is another Welsh speciality if the late Mr Trellis is anything to go by.
What I didn't know is that you were also interested in the other kind of birds, the ones with feathers. I thought you were VERY Hindu about those sparrows, personally I would have thrown a bucket of water over them.
One thing I didn't quite grasp: what was that business about the salt? We can buy any amount in our local supermarket, you should have said, you really didn't need to walk all the way across India, though with your bandy legs, you probably needed the exercise. Anyway. if you need any more salt, just let me know.
Yours submersively
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired
Now, 'ere's a funny thing, as Max Miller used to say (You don't know who Max Miller is, or rather was? Goodness, you must be either under 50 or a foreigner - both enviable states in their way).
Yes, here's the funny thing: the local SoCal equivalent of our garden Spotted Flycatcher (when we had them) is the Black Phoebe. I mean, it's a garden-loving flycatching passerine, but there the similarity ends. It builds a nest you wouldn't believe: it is exactly like a House Martin's nest, a quarter-or-half-melon-shaped mud construction plastered into the eaves. I know this because I watched adult Black Phoebes carrying food to their nest on the house across the road from here.
I realise there is absolutely nothing you can do with this information, but it may be a consolation that NOBODY in Huntingdon knows it.
And here is a picture of a Black Phoebe at the nest to convince any sceptics you might bump into in Huntingdon:

Friday, June 29, 2007

Aubergine panegyric

This is an aubergine, aka eggplant, aka patlican, aka brinjal, but whatever you call it, it has got to be the sexiest and most versatile vegetable in the culinary repertoire.
No doubt, you - my erudite and much-travelled readers - know about the Turkish IMAM BAYILDI, the stuffed aubergine dish prepared ad hoc by the Imam's wife which caused him to faint (though whether from ecstasy or shock is not clear).
Well, today, I had lunch with my friend V at an Italian restaurant on the corner of 7th and Ash called LunaSole, and we had the SoCal equivalent of the imam's surprise dish, and very very good it was too.

The restaurant posts a daily motto outside. Today's was Cosi e la vita - Such is life. If this is the such that life is, I am all for having a lot more of it before I am finally summoned to the Great Vegetable Patch in the Sky. And I wish a lot of such for all of you who read my blog: a life of good suches, including aubergines and the wonderful things you can do with them.

Balmy evenings

The days are getting hotter now, afternoons are to be avoided, and the best time of day for sitting on the back porch is the evening, as the temperature falls slowly and a gentle zephyr begins to fan your cheek. It's a magical time, a time for thinking about nothing much; just allowing the twittering of the House Finches at the seed feeder to caress the edges of your mind.
And then I see a pair of House Sparrows in flagrante delicto, and my serenity is shattered. Not because they are doing what comes naturally to all God's creatures, but because of the sequence of events, und zwar:
She is perched on the bougainvillea, he is feeding voraciously at the seed feeder. Then he flies over to her, mounts her, exercises his conjugal rights in that here-I-come-there-I-went way that males have, and then returns to the seed feeder, leaving her to unruffle her feathers.
It all seemed a bit cavalier to me. A quick rumpipump and then he's back to his supper without so much as a backward glance or a how-was-it-for-you-darling.
I have heard of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, but when it comes to ungracious couplings, that male House Sparrow could give MaleChauvinistPiggery a bad name. Mind you, as far as I can tell, she enjoyed it. It's difficult to know, though, what goes in the mind of a lady sparrow - or, indeed, in the minds of ladies of any species meinetwegen.

PS I would like to acknowledge the copyright of the photo at the top of this article, although the pair of sparrows I witnessed did not, of course, have iStockPhoto scrawled all over their plumage.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Excuse me, Mr D, could you just run that past me again?

I don't know if the controversy has hit Britain yet, but here a battle is raging between the Creationists and the Evolutionists. The catalyst for this seems to be the new multimillion-dollar Museum of Creation in Kentucky, which shows, with a great deal of pezazz, that Genesis had it right, and Darwin and his followers are a bunch of deluded atheists, poisoning the minds of our youth, etc.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about some gorgeous moths, and said: "I don't care how they got here, I am just glad they did." I know at least one loyal reader who then crossed me off their ("their", what a useful ambiguity!) Christmas card list, and I am really sorry that I should have provoked such a reaction (Contempt? Anger? Sorry, H)

The reason I am returning to this theme is because I have just been reading [a] the latest issue of the New Scientist, which lampoons the Creationist Museum and all its cookiness; [b] the Simon & Schuster Guide to Mammals (originally published by Mondadori under the title Mammiferi), which contains a detailed description, complete with polysyllables, of how life evolved from Reptiles to Me, as you might say.

As to the first, it is, for me, like listening to medieval monks arguing about how many angels can stand on a pin. As to the second, I love the idea that everything today was derived from everything then, with changes triggered by climate change, the odd galactic catastrophe, a butterfly beating its wings in the Amazon, and so on.

As you are probably nodding off at this point, let me bring this to a pithy conclusion. I like the idea of God, and I hope God likes the idea of me. I also find the whole evolutionist theory very intellectually satisfying: like my life, one thing should always lead to another, not always for the better, of course.

So, maybe God and Evolution are facets of the same thing. How should I know? All I know is that when I see something as glorious as a Monarch Butterfly (another nearly landed in my coffee this morning), I am just glad it exists, and I really, honestly, truly, don't care how it got here. I am just glad it did (And that it didn't in fact land in my coffee. For both our sakes).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Load of Warlocks

Once again, it is a joy to give my NorthWalian correspondent space on my modest little blog. Her latest contribution is truly seminal.
Dear J K Rowling, she writes, first may I say how much I enjoyed your novel Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings. I rarely get excited by magic, except for Paul Daniels, such a chuchy little man, makes you wonder how he's built, doesn't it, but I think you have really hit the hammer on the brass tacks with your amazing sago. It's almost Icelandic in its epicity.

Anyway, I am writing really to let you know that I have given up vegetarianism, having recently had some bad experiences, including choking on a broccoli stalk and finding half a worm in a half-eaten apple. So, it's back to chicken nuggets and Welsh rabbits for me.

By the way, why haven't you put any Druids in your stories? They are really BAZAAR, believe me, dressed all in ankle-length white frocks and pointy hats and going round burning crosses to intimidate people who don't like poetry. They would fit in a treat with the load of warlocks you write about, not to mention talking trees.

House Finches and stuff

What is the collective noun for House Finches? Because I now need it. From having just a happy courting couple, I have now moved on to an invasion, a veritable plague of them. Ah, that's it! A Plague of House Finches! They are like our Greenfinches in their ubiquity and their voracity. They occupy every vacant diner's slot, with a slather of others waiting their turn. This is the only time I have seen House Sparrows cowed. These latter wait on the fringes for a turn that rarely comes. By the way, as you might expect, the Californian House Sparrows have developed variant plumage characteristics, to the extent that, for a while, I found them exciting, you know, like Darwin and the Galapagos finches, but it's too hot at the moment for erudition.

Talking of excitement, the fact that I now have two feeding stations (seeds for the finches/sparrows and nectar for the hummingbirds), and a chirpy budgerigar, means that other birds are attracted to the backyard. It's only a matter of time before a Cooper's Hawk, the local equivalent of the Sparrowhawk, swoops down and makes off with a chunky piece of passerine.

Oh yes, and before you go, I am disappointed that Curitiba, our budgie, has not learned to talk, not even a "Pretty Bird" or "Give us a kiss". Last night I tried to teach it the words of Waltzing Matilda, but clearly, unlike the Norwegian Blue Parrot pining for the Fjords, it has lost all interest in its natal land, the Outback, billabongs and the rest.

Cracked it!

[The following is unsuitable for vegetarians and others of a nervous disposition]

Another of those evenings when everyone is somewhere else: Bruninha in Encinitas visiting a friend, the munchkins in El Cajon destroying Daddy's furniture, and Sarah doing whatever will bring her joy and relaxation on a Friday night.
So, methoughts, how about another crack at breaking the beefsteak challenge? This time, I went to Henry's, the sort of Waitrose-style store where you never feel quite properly dressed.
As usual, there was a variety of cuts with impenetrable names. What is a London Steak or a New York Cut, for instance? There might have been a Texas Hernia and a Louisiana Cartilege Steak too, but finally I lit upon a "Filet Mignon" section containing steaks so expensive that I knew I Was In The Right Place.
The steak I bought is now in the digestive state, and I know it is as happy as I am that the two of us found harmony together. What I mean is, it was excellent: tasty, succulent and a willing companion to the Mondavi red that I bathed it in.
Just one reservation: I bought it, caressed it, prepared it, cooked it and ate it, but I couldn't bring myself to tell it is was "mignon". I guess it's a guy thing: I just don't have the kind of Hillcrest soprano voice for words like that. Baritonally, though, I'd say it was "the dog's b..........ks"

Friday, June 22, 2007

Western Bluebird

Still buzzing from watching those nesting bluebirds in the Lagunas the other day, so here's a much better photo of a male. He knows he's handsome, you can tell from the way he posed for his picture.

Telesales calls, grrrrr

Yes, Americans are plagued with telesales calls just as we are. The main difference is the opening gambit, which is always creepily chummy: "Hi, Mr [your surname], and how are you today?" And this before you have the slightest idea who is enquiring so solicitously about your wellbeing. I was caught off balance the first time, but I now have my answer ready.
"Hi, Mr [Surname], and how are you today?"

"It's kind of you to enquire. Not too bad for my age, as you might say, but my knees are really not so good, particularly the right one. I've been using the glucosamine gel, but it doesn't seem to be working. Also, I went for a long walk the other day in some cheap sneakers, and I seem to have strained my left Achilles' tendon. Apart from that, well, you know, my right shoulder gives me the usual problems sometimes, still thinking about massage or maybe chiropractic again, but you never know if you can trust that alternative stuff, I mean, think of needles being stuck in you and people pummelling your feet, etc. Oh yes, and the diet here, you know how it is, or maybe you are used to it, but I have to eat an awful lot of figs to keep regular, try to make it daily to the can, ha ha, but sometimes miss a day and get real panicky. I am sure you know what I mean. In fact, I start to have panic attacks about incipient bowel cancer, or the onset of irritable wossname. Which reminds me, I think I need to drink more cranberry juice, you know, the old prostate seems to have enlarged again, I seem to pee a lot during the night, but that might just be the wine. Also, listen, I don't want to bother you, but do you think a slight twitchiness of my left hand might be an early indicator of Parkinson's, or is it just the result of years of self-abuse? Etc blah blah blah...."
By which time, the poor sod on the other end of the phone has probably run to the bathroom and slashed his wrists.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Missing the point

A useful historical perspective from the indomitable Mrs T.
In my humble opinion
, she writes, that piece about bluebirds was quite pathetic. totally missing the point. Vera Lynn expressed it so much better in that song of hers about "blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover just you wait and see, etc" Actually the etc was not part of the lyric, but I am sure you know what I mean, even if you are not Welsh.
That song. despite being repeated till the cows left home, undoubtedly helped to win the Battle of Britain because Luftwaffe pilots couldn't understand the words and probably thought it was a coded message saying something like "Go and bomb Scunthorpe", which, sadly, they never did.
But we won anyway, at least till the war was over, partly thanks to Dame Lynn and her bluebirds.
Yours etc Blodwen Trellis


Today, my friend V and I were in the Lagunas walking a trail through a mixed piece of woodland when we spotted a dull brownish bird. Dull, that is, apart from a blue tail. Ah, methoughts, female Bluebird. She had a beakful of insects, and disappeared into an old woodpecker hole. A nest! Wow! And then we watched the male, a handsome devil as the picture shows (just) , and her taking turns to feed their chicks. The sun was hot, but the breeze was refreshing and the trees gave cooling shade. What else do you need to be happy?
Well, you could add the beaucoups of Acorn Woodpeckers, the Wood-pewees and a few other delights, including a procession of Wild Turkeys and a covey of California Quail, but I won't, because it might seem like showing off. Yeah.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Oh goodness, I published the wrong photograph. THIS is me some years ago. That other one was a photograph of my grandfather. Please accept my profumbent apologies.
Blodwen Trellis, former Welsh beauty queen, etc.

The truth about Mrs Trellis

I hope you will all forgive my immodesty, she writes, but I thought it was time I laid to rest the spiteful canard that I am nothing more than a fragment of that Mrs Scrote's fevered imagination. This photograph, taken of me some years ago when I wasn't really ready for it, should dispel any doubts about my authorentoricity.

I cannot leave this moment without expressing my disgust, as a vegetarian, at Mrs Scrote's dreadful indulgence in what appears to be the hindpart of a cow. I wonder how she would feel if someone hacked a slice off her bum and ate it. Very cut up, I shouldn't wonder.

Romance in the air

This evening, as I sat on the decking wondering what to have for dinner, which basically means what would be a good accompaniment to my latest bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, I saw FOR THE FIRST TIME a bird at the sunflower seed feeder!
After three weeks, a bold House Finch has finally found this food source. He disappeared after about a minute, only to come back a few minutes later with a female in tow. Clearly he was offering her the equivalent of a candle-lit dinner.
I am happy. Not only because the feeder has now been used, but also because I might have been the catalyst in a beautiful romance.
Sorry about the tears: you know what a sentimental old scrote I am.

A bit of a beef

Opposite is a T-bone steak. What I cooked tonight looked nothing like this.

The evening meal here is a family event. Nobody starts eating until everyone is seated and grace has been said. Conversation is supposed to be about what we all did during that day, and there are rules about burping, farting, fighting, eating without benefit of cutlery, putting feet on the table, and so on. All of this is admirable and I am proud to be part of it. But...
...the food is children's food, as is right and proper. And there is a limit to how excited an old carnivore like me can be about mashed potatoes and sweetcorn with chicken dinosaur nuggets; or tacos, which are the remains of traffic accidents hidden skilfully in rolls of marinated cardboard. And baby carrots and celery sticks and bullet-proof raisins, healthy as they may be.
I mean no disrespect to Brunhinha, our nanny and amazing provider, but the craving comes on me very easily. So, tonight, with everyone elsewhere, I decided to go to Gala and buy, along with a baking potato and some saladry, a serious BEEF STEAK.
And this, mes potes, is where the boggle entered my mind as I checked out the meat counter. Cuts of meat have different names in different cultures, and for all I know, they may be different cuts anyway. I know from fillet, rump and sirloin, but what do I know about T-Bone, New York and Dodge Rubber Tire Retreads, or whatever the choices were?
Anyway, I bought and cooked some kind of a beefsteak. And ate most of it, not all of it properly masticated. As a lifelong chronic masticator, I felt rather unsatisfied that I had not brought each mouthful to a proper climax, but I did my best, honest I did.
All I can say is that the baked potato and the salad were faultless, but the steak was approximate.
So now, I'm even beginning to look forward to Monday evening's dinner of dinosaur chicken nuggets, raw broccoli and cold string beans. At least I will have the joy of my grandchildren round me, burping, farting, fighting, eating without benefit of cutlery, putting their feet on the table, and so on ...

Friday, June 15, 2007

More strictures from North Wales

Dear Mr Stringfellow, Mrs Trellis writes, as the widow of a strict Rechabite, I am horrifeid by your casual attitude to the consumption of alchohol.
Still, if Shakespeare is to be believed, it probably reduces your ability to have your wicked way with innocent girls, and a good thing too.
There is too much of that sort of loose moral behaviour and messing about these days. In my young day, it was confined to the Welsh valleys, and mostly during the winter months at that when there wasn't a lot else to do, but now it seems to be everywhere.
Why don't you take up a nice hobby like embroidery or embalming and leave the drink and the girls alone? Just a suggestion.
Blodwen Trellis, etc

Craving your indulgence

Nowadays when I go out to a restaurant for an evening meal, I have a main course and two glasses of wine. That's it: no starters, no desserts, no lingering coffee-and-liqueurs.
Last night, I ate the SoCal equivalent of kleftiko, and delicious it was, washed down with two glasses of an Argentinian red called Kaiken.
While waiting for the check, I glanced at the dessert menu, a list of killers of which tiramisu was the most innocuous, and underneath a recommendation for digestif liqueurs: Irish coffee, Bailey's, Sambucca, Amaretto, etc.
I have no regrets: In my time, I have put away enough Strega, Sambucca and various Amari to sink a battleship, I have soaked up enough Courvoisier and Cointreau to refloat the Titanic. I just wonder now how I ever managed to do it, and, even more puzzlingly, whatever happened to all that gargantuan gourmandise.
My brontosaurus theory is that if we are wise we listen to our bodies. My body seems to have set definite limits to my indulgences these days. That's cool. No regrets. I even flirt with vegetarian dishes these days, but without the politics.
Mind you, I can still put away a fair few glasses of the bonny red when the mood is on me.
PS My thanks to Angit for the cartoon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Gulp of Swallows

Today I decided to go to a place near San Diego where it is possible to see several of the species of Swallow that can confuse a growing lad. They are Tree Swallow and Violet-green Swallow (Genus Tachycincta); Cave Swallow and Cliff Swallow.(Genus Petrochelidon); Barn Swallow; and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Bank Swallow - our Sand Martin - is also on the list but mercifully not found in this area as it is so like the Rough-winged, which is so like the Tree Swallow, which is so like the Violet-green, which is so like.... To add to the confusion, different species often nest together and forage together in mixed flocks.
Add to this that now is the time when juveniles are also on the wing, and you will understand why, the sun beating down on my head and parties of schoolchildren arriving by the thousand, I decided to come home to a cool verandah and a nice cup of tea.
The swallow illustrated above is a Tree Swallow. Of course it is an adult male in breeding plumage. Adult males in breeding plumage constitute maybe a fifth of all the swallows milling around a colony or a feeding area. It's the other four-fifths that confuse a growing lad.


I had a comment from d-with-a-tilde today! D, we have all been worried about you. The silence was deafening. It is SO wonderful to hear from you again. Please let us know how you are.
As to your comment, I thought it was very incisive: I claim an obsession with tractors and write mostly about birds. It is because at the moment there are lots of birds round me, and no tractors.
PS Sorry I couldn't do the tilde.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mrs Trellis is not impressed by parrots

Dear Arnold Schwarzenegger, she writes, I can hardly believe you have time to look at parrots, you being Governor of California and all, but I suppose it's good to have a hobby to take your mind off all that corruption.
My brother Dai was in the merchant navy and he once brought us a parrot like the one in your picture, but every time I went near it, it bit my bum, if you will pardon the expression. Mr Trellis, my late husband, on the other hand could do anything with it, and often did. It's hard to believe that one of God's creatures could be so sexist, apart from man, that is.
By the way, do you "work out", or whatever it is you call it to keep those gorgeous bulging muscles of yours? Mr Trellis never had much in the way of bulges, but he could play the harmonium, which was a consolation, albeit a small one.
Feel free to send me a photo of yourself in a leotard, if it's not too much trouble.
Blodwen Trellis, Widow, available.

Red-crowned Parrot

There are various feral parrots resident in Southern California, noisy, colourful and destructive. The list includes Blue-fronted, Lilac-crowned, Mealy, Orange-winged, Red-crowned, Red-lored, Thick-billed, White-fronted, Yellow-crowned, Yellow-headed and Yellow-naped. And then there are the Parakeets, including Black-hooded, Blue-crowned, Mitred, Monk, Red-masked, Rose-ringed, White-winged and Yellow-chevroned. The Red-crowned Parrot is the one that is really well-established in San Diego, most of the rest are in smaller numbers, but with a good chance of establishing themselves in the balmy food-rich environment of Southern California. I saw my first flock or Red-crowned Parrots as they flew over the freeway on their way to roost. Exotic.
I have explained all this to our budgerigar, Curitiba, but she just keeps chewing the millet and pretends that she hasn't heard me: I don't think she is into propagation.
PS Curitiba is our Brazilian nanny Bruna's home town. Click here for more information.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


We have added a new game to our repertoire here in Granada Avenue: Yahtzee. Sarah last played it when she was at University, I maybe thirty-five years ago, so it's nice for us to renew acquaintance with the game and to introduce it to Sophie, Kiki and, almost, Harry.
We had our first game last evening and Grandpa won. I am not bragging, I just want it to go on record that I won a game, as it will almost certainly be the last. Already, Kiki is throwing yahtzees and playing the odds, so there's little hope for the rest of us.
PS The pic is of the original 1956 boxed version. The packaging has been jazzed up since then, but the game's the same. For an account of the game and its history, click here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Awesome Foursome

The awesome foursome relaxing after a strenuous game of soccer in the backyard. The final score is still a matter of dispute, as it always is.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Birthday greetings from Mrs Trellis

I was moved by Mrs Trellis's belated but most welcome birthday greeting.

Dear Jeremy Paxman, she writes, I had not intended to wish you a happy birthday, you being such a crabby person and all, but I was moved by your description of how you wept at your birthday party. It just shows that one should not judge a crab by its shell.
I find that these days I prefer not to think about birthdays, as they are a reminder of what the late Mr Trellis used to refer to as "the passage of anus domini". Bless him, Greek was not his best subject at school.
Anyway, despite everything, a Happy Birthday to you, and please try not to be so unpleasant in future, although it's probably not your fault: I am sure proper bowel movements would make all the difference to you.
Blodwen Trellis, etc

Call this "service"?

Many establishments like hotels and restaurants have a quality control system whereby they pay people to visit them incognito, sample a whole range of services, and then report back. Only once was I lucky enough to have this role. My ex-secretary from my Zurich days later became the Wine and Victuals Manager of a posh London hotel, and asked me if I would like to be a covert inspector. Great! I was on my own, but apart from that, I had a great time, working my way through all the hotel services, ordering difficult drinks at the bar, being fussy about my food in the restaurant, and so on. Mind you, I did not find it easy to be a nuisance on purpose; my forte is being a nuisance by accident.
Anyway, Cindy, let us call her that, was pleased with my performance and my report, refunded all my expenses, kissed me on the cheek, and I went away almost happy. Almost, because, although I had tested just about every service offered by the hotel, I had not been able to justify ordering a baby cot and a pack of diapers at 3 a m; I thought that might have aroused suspicion.
Anyone in the hotel or restaurant trade reading this: I am available at very short notice and I work cheap.

Can I have another one, please?

My 71st birthday was the best ever. So good, in fact, that I asked Sarah if I could have another one today (6 June). Apparent ly it's against the law in California to have more than one a year.
We had prawn cocktail (made with shrimps) and pork chops and an enormous chocolate cake to follow. I had cards and kisses and two lovely books, one a photographic record of the rain forests of the world from Bruninha, whom I have definitely added to my list of adopted g-daughters; the other a singing birdbook from the children. I had a little weep too , and that's only right and proper.
This evening, everyone being out and me still being on a high, I went to Pizza Nova in Hillcrest for dinner. I have been there many times, and there are several reasons for my loyalty to the place. First, I know where it is, which is important given my sense of direction (I can get lost coming out of the shower). Second, they do a dish called Chicken Piccata with capers and all kinds of fresh vegetables, reasons for a good chicken to cross a road to get itself properly garnished. Thirdly, they do a smashing by-the-glass wine called Kaiken from Argentina; I don't drink the Californian house red - it is the kind of liquid you can use to loosen rusty bolts. Fourthly, the restaurant is close to the second-hand bookshops on Fifth Avenue, so I can spend even more money without guilt. And, fifthly, Gail, the kind of waitress who is simpatica, witty, attentive and genuine: she puts me in mind of the waitress in "As Good as it Gets", with me in the Jack Nicholson role.
And I've got a new shirt. Tell me what else does a person need to feel truly content?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The marital trials of Mrs T

I received a particularly poignant letter from my North Wales correspondent today, and only decided to publish it after much heartsearching.
Dear Esther Ratsend, she writes, First may I say how much better you look since you had your teeth fixed, not that you could ever be called beautiful. But what's beauty when a person earns as much as you do? Anyway, thank you for posting that lovely picture of your three children. I am sure they are adorable, although I don't much like children, never having had any myself owing to a delicate problem which afflicted the late Mr Trellis every time we, you know, tried. Poor man, he just got too excited and rarely made it to the marital bed. In fact most of the time he didn't even bother to try to make it to the marital bed; I think he was in love with his armchair to tell you the truth.
If you are ever in Llanfairpg, do look me up, but don't bring the children as they are bound to break things.
Yours admirably
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired.

Western Scrub Jay

Everyone has heard of the American Blue Jay. Well, this is the Californian equivalent.
Like all corvids, it is a rogue and a thief, and like the European Jay, has an unpleasing raucous voice.
But, my, what a handsome bugger he is with his blue head, wings and tail and that light mahogany back.
Scrub Jays spend a lot of time in and on the local shrubberies trying to find eggs and chicks for breakfast, but I am prepared to forgive our local Scrub Jays their trespasses because they are the only birds so far to drink from and bathe in the bird bath that I erected in the backyard.
It cost me eighty bucks and a ricked back, so I feel I am entitled to some return on my investment.

The Awesome Threesome

Here they are, the Awesome Threesome, Sophie in the middle flanked by the twins Kiki and Harry. As you can see, they are serious students, seizing every moment to dive into a book. Moreorless. In Harry's case, more less than more.
You are not required to admire or adore them, I will do that for you, but I hope you will agree they were worth travelling 7000 miles to be with. End of eulogy.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Family business

Today, and on several previous days during this sojourn in SoCal, the Old Scrote has played soccer on the back lawn with the three munchkins. I never last very long, but try to engage in some fancy footwork before the fatigue kicks in. And I do pretty well, given that I can always sit on the opposition if the going gets tough.
On Sarah's recommendation, I am taking a daily dose of something called Rhodiola, a herbal energy-booster which was given to Russian soldiers to help them win World War Two. Clearly the effects had worn off by the time they went to kick ass in Afghanistan, but I am prepared to give it a good go. This afternoon I even scored a goal, albeit while the opposition lay injured. But you gotta take your chance while it's offered, right?
As has no doubt been announced in the British media, it is my birthday on Tuesday, and I have no knowledge whatsoever of the surprises being planned, including seasoned pork chops with broccoli, a chocolate cake, a bottle of champagne and a nice bird book which also play birdcalls.

It's a hectic life here, folks, and I am putting all my faith in Rhodiola. And some fine Cabernet Sauvignon that the Mexican ladies at Gala insist on selling to me. Benedicus benedixit.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mrs Trellis and the English

As always, Mrs Trellis is quick to put pen to paper to share her pithy withdom.
Dear Jay Leno,
she writes, I follow your television programmes with great interest, and find you very intelligent for an American, and quite presentable really except for your chin. So, please forgive me if I am a little critical of your recent observations on "rare migrants from the east". Much as I mistrust English people, who are definitely to the east of us here in Wales, I would never call them vagrants, although, to be fair, they are mostly very scruffily dressed. And they are in no way "rare" - they come to Wales in their thousands, buying up our farms and cottages, cluttering our lakes with their noisy boats and wearing out our mountains with their enormous hiking boots.
But I would not like you to think I am anti-English. It's just that there are too many of them. I suppose you Americans have the same problem with buffaloes. Or is it Apaches? I can never remember which you eat and which you kill.
By the way, I liked your picture of the Hooded Wobbler: it reminded me so much of Mr Trellis, my late husband, who frequently wore a primrose yellow waistcoat (what I believe you people mistakenly call a vest) and a black skull cap, not that he was Jewish, except for being cut, which was not his fault, just a misunderstanding.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired

More birds

Another lifer today: Hooded Warbler (see pic). An adult male in full dress uniform, what more could a birder ask for? It is in the same genus as Wilson's Warbler (the one with the yarmulka), and is described as "a rare vagrant from the east", a description which I guess fits me too.
Apart from this beauty, and an interesting Little Blue Heron (see pic) with a youngster in tow, birding is entering the quiet period: all the migrants have moved through, moreorless, and the residents are nesting.
The reason the Little Blue Heron is interesting is that it is blue, whereas the juveniles are white and look superficially like Snowy Egrets, but check out the beak and the feet (see pic).

Friday, June 01, 2007

Silvery Slough

Today I went into what the San Diegans call the "back country", destination Laguna Mountain, four thousand feet above Bury Lane Haddenham. Stunning scenery, masses of wild flowers everywhere despite the drought, including penstemon; good to see it in its wild state.
I also walked the Pacific Crest Trail, which is waymarked all the way from Mexico to Canada, a distance of some 2,500 miles. Well, I walked a mile of it anyway. In search of a difficult vireo called the Gray Vireo, dull song, dull colour, it's only interest being that I have never seen one. I still haven't, but I heard one, which is almost worse.
Butterflies again. Some spectacular ones which my companion told me were "some kinda swallowtail", and lots of specimens of a tiny pretty blue, very much like our common only perhaps purpler and smaller, and with similar underwing. A cinch to id this one, I thought. So, I checked my new acquisition, "Butterflies and Moths of North America", and there it was. Sort of. Silvery Blue? Acmon Blue? Boisduval's Blue? Take your pick. You know how it is with blues. The one illustrated is the Silvery Blue, which is what I am plumping for on the grounds that I am unlikely to remember the names of the alternatives.
Tomorrow I am going to the Famosa Slough, a marsh reserve within city limits. Here's a challenge: how would you pronounce "slough" in this context? Slough as in the town Betjeman wanted the Germans to drop bombs on ("Come friendly bombs and drop on Slough, it is not worth saving now")?; slough as in what snakes do when they discard their skins?; or maybe Slough to rhyme withthe past tense of slay, ie, slew?