Friday, August 17, 2007

Trellis praises Presley

Once again, Mrs T shows that she never misses a trick when it comes to topicality.
Dear Mr Priestley, she writes, I am so glad to be part of your fiftieth anniversary, although to tell you the truth, I thought you were older than that. I was never much for rocky roll, being brought up on the Gay Gordons and the Valeta, but I remember how excited everyone was when you won the Eurovision Song Contest with Volare, or was it Rocket Round the Cock? My memory isn't what it was, but I guess neither is yours.
I saw an interview on TV with your daughter this morning. My goodness, how she resembles you! Apart from that, she seemed quite nice, in an incoherent kind of way. It's none of my business, but you being so popular, have you thought about running for the US Presidency? I mean, you have all the necessary qualities: handsome, groin-oriented, televisual and braindead.
If you are ever in North Wales, do pop in and I will let you finger my harmonium.
Yours gracefully
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired.


The saddest thing about asking the question "Am I talking to myself?" is that you don't get an answer.

The Grim Reaper

Holy Smoke, guys, I am afraid of the Grim Reaper and I am not ashamed to admit it. So many of my mates have died lately, all younger than I: from brain tumours, strokes, assorted cancers and general disintegration of their internal bits. I am 71 and a quarter, which is when me old dad had his first cerebral haemorrhage. He had two in the following year and popped his clogs, so I feel I have cause to be apprehensive.

Nowadays, every headache is the onset of a brain tumour, every tightness in the chest lung cancer, every stomach gripe a fatal ulcer, every heart flutter the harbinger of an impending cardial infarct, every tight fart the onset of something nameless and nasty in the colon and points south - if there are any points south of there.

I tell you, I am in a state. Let me say in my own defence, though, that I am trying to do everything right: I cook my beefburgers on the griddle, I fry my chips in corn oil, I avoid MSG except on Fridays when I binge on a Chinese takeaway, I am down to three pork pies a week, and I am keeping my alcohol consumption well in check, no more than two bottles of wine a day, and I buy lots of fresh fruit, which to be honest mostly gets eaten by the Blackbirds.

What else can I do? Oh yes, I recycle my plastic, paper, cardboard and empty wine bottles, and I worship Lorraine Kelly. If this isn't clean living, what is?

Oh ok, you want to know about my sex life. Am I overdoing it? Overdoing what, for goodness' sake?! As far as I know it's still vigorous, but living a completely separate life now. I haven't heard from it in a while, though I did experience a brief frisson this morning when Kate Alcock smiled at me in her decollete (Well, me and a zillion other viewers. My, what that girl knows about antiques! Makes her the ideal companion for a scrote's old age!).

So, mes potes, what I want someone to do is to tell me what I can do to allay my fears and to avoid a mortal slash from the scythe of the Grim Reaper in the near future. Oh, and while you are at it, does anyone have a recipe for Ginseng Fritters?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Poor Molly Metcalfe

Jack Thackray wrote: Shepherdess is a poor word for her! It is a word that gives me a picture of a well set up young woman, with porcelain skin and good teeth, a pretty pinafore and a cleavage. She was none of that, she was more a sheep minder. She had no family and was reared by neighbours and worked for them. She was sent to the moor when it was thought she could look after sheep, get her own food, count properly. This was at the age of seven or eight years - not unknown, that people used to use children like that in those days, and give them a chance, and they still will. Not a lot was seen of her until she was found years later in the way that a farmer will find a missed animal, dead, dying, rotten, rotting, scrap of bone, wisp of wool. It was calculated that she must have been twenty-five, twenty-six. That was the life, one end to another. This, song, Molly Metcalfe, is about her and others like her.

Old Molly Metcalfe counting sheep,
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Up upon Swaledale counting sheep
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Grow little sheep come hail come snow
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Fine warm wool for a gentleman's shoulder blades
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Over the heather when the weather is cold
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Stiff Molly Metcalfe goes bow leggedly
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Grow little sheep come wind come rain
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Fine warm wool for a lady's counterpane
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

On her back in the bracken with frozen bones
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
Daft Molly Metcalfe singing alone
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Grow little sheep come death come dark
Yan tan tether mether pip she counted
No such wool for old Molly Metcalfe
Yan tan tether mether pip she said.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tonight is National Moth Night

It's a bit like Transcendental Meditation, whereby, if we all do it together, we can influence world events. So, traps set and mantra intoned, I am ready to do my bit for NMN. My only worry is that nobody has told the moths, so it's likely to be a bit of an anticlimax.
Sorry. I tell you what, would you like to see me do my impression of a One-Armed Flautist?
No, I thought not.


There is something both compulsive and stupid about memes.
I fill in the following, and what am I going to do with the information? Nothing
What are YOU going to do with the information? Nothing, or maybe cross me off your Christmas card list.
On the other hand, completing memes is marginally better than vandalising telephone kiosks or molesting postpersons (bearers of acres of junk mail).
So here goes:

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought? I thought:
With a face like that, you should have kippers for breakfast

2. Favorite planet?
I only know Earth, but Saturn looks pretty.

3. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?
I never miss more than two calls.

4. What is your favorite ring tone on your phone?
Diddly da doo doo da dee da dee dee. Do you know it?

5. Do you “label” yourself?
What am I? Marmalade?

6. What does your watch look like?
I never wear a watch nowadays. One small compensation for giving up work.

7. What were you doing at midnight last night?
Sorry, I wasn't awake at the time.

8. What did your last text message you received on your cell say?
Greetings from Istanbul.

9. What's a word or phrase that you say a lot?
Alone, fuck. In company, good gracious.

10. Last furry thing you touched?
A mini teddy bear given to me by my granddaughter to keep me company nights.

11. Favorite age you have been so far?
Ten and under.

12. Your worst enemy?
Myself, isn't that true for all of us?

13. What is your current desktop picture?
Two naked women fondling each other's breasts. Ojala!

14. What was the last thing you said to someone?
"If I catch anything interesting, I'll give you a call". (reference: moth trapping)

15. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to fly what would it be?
With a million bucks, I could fly wherever I wanted. Dumb question.

16. Are you in love with someone?
No, but I am open to offers

17. The last song you listened to?
I sang it: "If I were a rich man", etc

18. What time of day were you born?
0300 hours, not that I really minded.

19. What's your favorite food?

20. Where did you live in 1984?

21. Are you jealous of anyone?
No, but I envy one or two people whose sight and hearing is better than mine.

22. Is anyone jealous of you?
I hope not.

23. Where were you when 9/11 happened?
I was buying fish in the fish market in Sakarya (Ankara, Turkey).

24. Do you consider yourself kind?
Yes. And lovable. And available.

25. If you had to get a tattoo, where would it be?
I would have a gecko tattooed on my arse and let it out after dark

26. If you could be fluent in any other language, what would it be?
Russian, I love the liquid consonants, and Russian women driving tractors.

27. Would you move for the person you loved?
Fortunately I have a king-sized bed so the question wouldn't arise.

28. What's your life motto?
Is this it?

29. What's your favorite town/city?
Too many to mention, but I wouldn't mind dying in Florence, preferably after lunch.

30. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?
To my motor insurance company, protesting that I DID have a noclaims bonus, you bastards.

31. Can you change the oil in a car?
Yes, but I've got a guy fixes that kind of thing for me.

32. Your first love:
Margaret Benbow: only 5, but a stunner, red cheeks and long white legs.

33. Do you collect anything?
I love to buy notebooks but rarely use them. I hate to defile the first page.

34. The last time you dressed fancy, what did you wear and why did you dress fancy?
Black gear for a funeral. I seem to be doing that a lot these days.

35. Have you been burned by love?
Not since I was......., no, that's not true, it was, hell, I don't know......Ask me an easier question.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Everything ventured, but nothing gained

We are out of the pheremone business, boys and girls. Lady Eggar did her best but had no takers. Honestly, I don't know what the male sex is coming to these days. She put out for them, and they, well, I don't know, maybe they just stayed in and watched the snooker.
Poor Lady Eggar: I dropped her into her favourite food plant, and just hope she finds true love before a hungry Blackbird finds her.
As you can imagine, I am in a sombre mood this evening.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Oak Eggar

We are back in the pheremone business, boys and girls! The Oak Eggar chrysalis that my friend D gave me has finally emerged and proved herself female by laying a few eggs.
So tomorrow afternoon, I will set her up in the garden in the hope of attracting some males to make her day. And mine.
D tells me that the females emerge at night, and the males emerge in the afternoon, which seems a strange arrangement if nooky is what they are after.
Anyway, willy nilly, I will emerge her tomorrow in broad daylight. Maybe she will sleep through the whole thing, but at least it will ensure a new generation of Oak Eggars in the Parish of Haddenham.
PS The pic is of a male Oak Eggar. Look at those feathered antennae: he can pick up her scent from miles away.

Just a Minuet

Mrs Trellis is quick to intervene:
Dear Knickerless Parsons, she writes, I understand what you mean about intervention, etc, having once or twice caught your programme Just a Minuet, but I have to tell you that I am not a regular fan, mostly because I gave up dancing once my knee went. Also, I hate how your guests keep intervening each other. Rude, it is, if you ask me.
Be that as it may, I am, like you, a student of languages, having been brought up to be bisexual, speaking Welsh at home, and English with foreigners. And I am glad to say that I got by all right without anybody, to the best of my recollection, interfering with me.
PS May I say that you are one of the prettiest men I have ever seen on television. I do hope, though, that you are not one of those homophones that seem to be getting everywhere these days. Although with a first name like yours, I have my doubts.

Intervention or interference?

Think of a class of students learning a foreign language. You set them a communication task and they work in pairs. making use of whatever linguistic resources they have to achieve a resolution of the task. You, as the teacher, then move round, listening to what they are saying, or trying to say. You realise that someone needs help, even though they may be in full flow.
But what do you do?
The received wisdom is that you should intervene without interfering, ie, offer support but don't kill the flow by being prescriptive. Now, if anyone can tell me how you can intervene without interfering, I would like to hear from you. You see, if you do nothing, your students will think you don't care, or that you are not earning your pay. But if you do intervene, however skilfully, they can think you are interfering.
All I will add is that being a parent is in some ways like being a language teacher. I guess the answer (if there is an answer) is to sit back and wait till your students ask for your help. And if they don't, it's either because they don't need it, or because they no longer have faith that you are the person to help them.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Is it ok if I shop here?

Basically, I am a Tesco man. Easy in, easy out, has mostly what I want and there's usually a welcome bit of banter at the checkout.
So, why am I so intimidated by Waitrose? I can never go there without first taking a shower, shaving and changing my socks and underpants. Even then, I feel scruffy, out of my comfort zone, an interloper. My instinct is to wear gloves so I don't actually HANDLE the goods I want to buy. Oh yes, and their wine selection is pedestrian. Not that I mind being on foot when I buy booze, but there's nothing in their racks that would cause a bishop to kick a hole in a stained glass window.
The fact that the women at the checkouts NEVER smile doesn't help.
Sainsbury's doesn't bother me in the same way, pretentious as it may be, but mostly because I can never take seriously a capitalist who believes in socialism. That, and the fact that they no longer stock Brinjal Pickle.
I cannot comment on the others: Morrison's, Asda, Coop, etc, because there aren't any in my area.
But Waitrose bothers me. They have some good stuff, a lot of it better than the equivalent in Tesco's, but still, I only shop there when it is inconvenient to do otherwise. Maybe if they instructed their checkout women to smile more, and maybe show a bit of cleavage, they could win another regular customer.
PS The photo is of a Tesco checkout girl: I thought it might help Waitrose to get the idea.....

Zootoca vivipara, so that's what it is!

My new neighbour Alison, accompanied by her daughter Clare (actually, it was the other way round) popped round this afternoon, Clare anxious to show me the contents of her jamjar: a lizard-type creature about an inch long. I am flattered that they think that I know everything about Nature, and I don't want to lose face in front of a twelve-year old, so I put on my serious face (not easy when you are shirtless and in shorts from which two white legs descend like bits of knotted string}, and peered into the jar. Well, I do know enough to know that it was a lizard and not a newt, and I do know enough to know that it will be a common lizard. So I pronounce on it.
We discuss, we ruminate, we speculate, and then comes the dreaded moment: "Are the babies born live, or do common lizards lay eggs, like crocodiles?" At least I know that it isn't a baby crocodile, but after that, the bloom fades on my cheek, or rather the reverse. Then I notice the scientific name in the book: Zootoca vivipara. A pretty good clue there, I think you will agree.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

God and Muslims

Oh my goodness, this time, Mrs Trellis even posted a pic to go with her amazing letter!

Dear Gloria Hunniford, she writes, well, you HAVE been profilic recently, my dear! (I hope you don't mind me mydearing you, but I feel I know you, having watched you so many times on Sunday TV, rabbiting on about God and why we must be nice to Muslims etc).
You're like me, my dear, your neck's gone, but that's a cross we attractive older women have to bear, isn't it? How sensible of you to wear those chiffon scarves! When I say that you are attractive, I don't want you to think that I am one of those women who finds other women, well, you know, although I did once have a hot flush while watching Cilla Black on Blind Date, but that might have been the cheese and pickled onion supper that the late Mr Trellis and I were eating at the time. Fortunately, he didn't notice, but then, men don't, do they?
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, you being so abundant, literally-speaking. It's wonderful that you find so many different topics to write about, although most of the time I think what you write is incomprehensive, not wishing to give offence, you understand.
I don't mean to be cricital, but I think you ought to stick to safe topics like God and Muslims.
Yours fraternally
Blodwen Trellis, Widow, Normal, Retired

Goodbye, Dolly Who?

I have, as I mentioned before, an impressive repertoire of Old Tyme Music Hall songs in my noddle, inherited from the days when my mother played them on the piano while my father sang them and I hovered between ecstasy and death as he threw me enthusiastically into the air during the crescendos. Who can forget "On Mother Kelly's Doorstep", "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree", "I'll Be Your Sweetheart", "Hold Your Hand Out, You Naughty Boy" and the rest? Who can forget them indeed?
The answer is: I can. That is to say, the music is still there, but there are more lines containing the words "de da de de da dee dee" than there used to be. I think it's time I invested in a new cerebral CPU and a few more gigs of cerebral RAM.
Either that or I'm stuck with the likes of "Goodbye Dolly, I must leave you, tho it da de da my heart to go".

Friday, August 03, 2007

Mad Molly Metcalfe

yan tan tether mether pip
azer sezer akker conter dick

yanadick tanadick tetheradick metheradick bumfit

yanabum tanabum tetherabum metherabum jiggit

The above is real, and probably still in use in the rural north of England. Ponder it, and see if you can hazard a guess at what it is all about. A clue: Jake Thackray used it in one of his songs, about a shepherdess called Molly Metcalfe.
I find it awesome and humbling, both. I promise I will give you the solution in a later post.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

J Allsop of that Ilk

I am slowly beginning to realise that I have a very odd ilk. Delicacy precludes any detailed revelations here, but with every new page opened - or more aptly, every stone upturned - in the Allsop Family History, it seems that new facts generate more questions than answers, more fog than light.
It is not I researching the Allsop clan, but my step-nephew, Edward. Our first contact some years back was when I received an email from him saying "I think your father was my grandfather", an opening line that Noel Coward would have minced across a busy street to procure.
Edward is technically by step-nephew, because my father was married twice, the first time to Clara Jane Dingley (I know her name from an inscription in a book), who gave him two children: Dennis (Edward's father) and Doreen (with whom I am still in contact); and the second time to my mother, Mabel France, who gave him two children, my sister Betty (1928-1963) and me (1936- ?), who was first diagnosed as a fibroid.
Never mind all that. The mishegoss is the chronology of his first wife's death (in childbirth, giving birth to Doreen) + my mother's appearance on the scene (before first wife's death?) + the date, circumstances and location of the second marriage.
There is more, but I will keep that for my memoirs, and it's all a bit confusing since what I learned from my mother (plus the very very little that I gleaned from my father on those rare days when he noticed that I wasn't a fibroid) does not match what I am finding out from Edward, and Edward's various correspondents.
In the end it doesn't matter, it's more like an itch that I can't scratch, but this is a cautionary tale: don't ask if you can't handle the answers. A friend of mine, a good man except for one blind spot - he is antisemitic - researched his family history but gave up abruptly when he discovered that he had Jewish ancestry. He won't talk about it, but I thought it was a delicious irony. Serves the bugger right.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Plums, in this case, are not dear

I just invited my neighbour to examine my plums with a view to making them her own. Against all the odds, my Rivers plum tree has again produced a crop, and I simply can't eat or use all of them. Hence the invitation. Good for making jam? Kim bilir?
My vine, which started out on the south side of the house and has now moreorless taken over the west side too, is equally prolific, but, apart from gobbling the odd handful, I don't use them. I believe they are good for making wine, and it is possible that my neighbour's husband might be tempted. So far, nobody has, and they end up with the pourriture noble before withering on the vine.
Birds, especially thrushes, are grateful for both the plums and the grapes. Meinetwegen I just think these fruits are beautiful to behold, whatever happens to them in the end.
PS I have had a squirrel on my nuts again. This has got to STOP!