Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Prolific, that's our lady from North Wales!
Dear Dan Leno, she writes, I think it is wonderful that you have been able to make a second career in television, even though you are probably the ugliest man I have ever seen, but that's not your fault.
I do think, though, that you should curb your appetite for ladies' busty substances. Even the late Mr Trellis, bless him, took no notice of my appendages, except on those rare occasions when they poked him in the eye, the penalty for being a very short Welshman with no sense of direction.

If you are ever in North Wales, do call in and interview me: I genuinely believe that I am telegenetic.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retired.

Basse cuisine

Well, I didn't learn how to fillet haddock, but never mind, I have found the cookery programme of my dreams: Nigella Lawson showing how easy it is to do everything. Last night, she demonstrated cheerfully how to do things with avocados and crab and, well, hell, I can't remember, but it really doesn't matter, because as far as I am concerned, she can do no wrong. In fact, I hardly heard a word she said.
I wonder if she ever mounts a tractor?......

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Mazeltov Cocktail

I was beginning to worry that something had happened to our North Walian correspondent, but, no, I just received this missive from her.

Dear Osama, she writes, I hope you don't mind me using your christian name, but I feel I know you SO well, what with both of us having a passion for ankle-length frocks. I am sure you share my view that miniskirts are most unflattering on anyone over the age of eighteen. I certainly am glad you have never been tempted to appear in public wearing anything above the knee.
It's none of my business, but I understand that you have an entourage of adoring young men. While I do not personally approve of homeopathy - except for a brief feeling of passion I once had for our District Nurse some years back during a colonial irrigation session - I am sure you exercise suitable discreption, and you also ensure that they keep their legs covered at all times.
If you are ever in Llanfair pg, do call in and we can enjoy a drink together. I have a special concoction, strictly non-alchoholic, of course, me being a Primitive Methodist, and you a dessicated Muslin. I call it my Mazeltov Cocktail, something you semitic people will understand.
Your spirituously
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retired.

Go on, pull its teeth out!

As you all know, being fans of David Attenborough, owls regurgitate the indigestible bits of their (mainly) rodent prey in the form of pellets. So, if you dissect a pellet you can find what they have been catching by examining and identifying the skin and bones of various species. And, if you are so inclined (ie, because there's nothing on TV, your marriage is on the rocks or you are doomladen from watching CNN), you can pick through the bones and decide if your local Tyto alba has been noshing wood mice or common shrews or short-tailed field voles. But to make such specific identifications, you have to examine the teeth, ie, pull a tooth from the lower jaw and study its profile.
My young naturalist friend from next door has been doing just that (I took her and mum today to a Barn Owl nest with young, and she's hooked). She's been at it for a while now: ripping out teeth, examining them through the magnifier, comparing them with the ID chart, and then announcing the identification. Stunning.
Me, I am just looking at the TV guide to see if there's something I can cope with that doesn't involve pulling teeth. Maybe a cookery programme about how to fillet haddock.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A good day

Today has been such a good day that I am already apprehensive about tomorrow! Here is a list of the good things that happened:
1 A received a royalty cheque for £869.41 that I wasn't expecting.
2 Two plumbers turned up and repaired my faulty CH system - in about 30 minutes!
3 Keith G came by and mowed my lawns so that I could get on with....
4 ....making mega progress with THE BOOK.
5 I got ALL my laundry done and put away.
6 My dear friend E's operation for bowel cancer seems to have gone well.
7 I received a present through the post - a new frock, made in Turkey!
8 One of our farmers has FIVE Barn Owl boxes with second broods.
9 I have had two lovely conversations with other men's wives!

Now I am waiting for the other boot to drop....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mrs T gets proverbial

Dear Mr Gates, she writes, First off, may I admire you for your honesty in deliberating yourself as "microsoft". That takes courage in an age when every man likes to think of himself as "macrohard". I feel sorry for your wife, though, having myself experienced similar accoutrements from the late Mr Trellis, God bless him. Mind you, he was a demon on the harmonium.
But my main reason for writing to you was not to admire your diminutive status, but to say how much I agree with your comments about proverbs and similar aphrodisiacs. Our language is full of such nonsenses. Take "Too many broths spoil the cook" for instance. How can an excess of soup be bad for anyone? And "Lonely hands make lights work", what is one meant to deride from that, electricians accepted?
I will not go on. I know you are a busy man, what with litigation and coping with an excess of money. I just wanted you to know that, as we say in Llanfair pg "A friendly deed is a need indeed". Or something to that affection.
Yours proverbly
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retired.

What was that again?

Today, apart from the joy of finding 8 out of 13 Barn Owl boxes occupied by second or late broods, I was delighted to have two quotations fired at me. The first was the footer to an email:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed - and hence, clamorous to be led to safety - by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Just think, Mencken had not even heard of Global Warming or Climate Change at the time. Or am I being unduly cynical?
The second has left me with a niggling boggle in the mind: You cannot make a Pekinese by starving a Great Dane. I have no idea what that means.
I have a penchant for deeply meaningless aphorisms, and I am inclined to add that one to the list. Like the Chinese A mended pot lasts a thousand years, it leaves me befuddled. The Russians do quite well too with such pearls as Shchi da kasha, pishcha nasha ("Cabbage soup and porridge is our fare"). Try an English equivalent, such as "Cheese on toast and beefburgers are what we eat" and you see how it loses nothing in translation.
What on earth do these folkloristic apophthegms add to our understanding of life's vagaries? Because I love showing off, I will add a baffling Turkish proverb Kılavuzu karga olanın, burnu boktan çıkmaz. I am sure you don't need a translation, but it roughly says "He who chooses a crow as a guide will never get his nose out of the shit." Work that into a conversation if you can!

I will leave you with one more bon mot. I used to belong to a gentleman's club in Newcastle (the one under Lyme). One evening, the barman said, a propos a discussion about debts: I would rather owe forever than never pay at all. I wouldn't have minded, but the bugger didn't even smile: he meant it. Whatever it is.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All too soon?

"La vita è un mucchio di merda, ed io sono il gallo che ci sale sopra per cantare". Discuss.

Did I mention before that the time I spent in Italy (first in the north, and later in Naples) was a formative period in my life? Yes, I did. I have been back many times since, mostly to Tuscany and Venice, but that is just building on the foundations of my Brescia-Naples years.
What brought on this attack of nostalgia was not scouring the Italian shelves in Tesco's, but a conversation I just had with a lovely lady acquaintance about Italian women, a subject on which I do not claim to be an expert, worse luck. She commented that they all seem to start out beautiful: liquid brown eyes, raven-black hair, fine bosoms, nipped in waists and shapely calves, but "all too soon turn into fat mammas".
Is it true? If it is - and I doubt it - it's not a kind thing to say. What I have "turned into" at 71 is to be expected, but I hope it wasn't "all too soon".
Now, let me see if I can find a nice photo of an Italian girl, all liquid brown eyes, raven black hair, nipped in waist, etc. You know me, any excuse...

Not quite what I had in mind, but she'll do. Heart of gold, I'll wager. And fortuitous to boot...

Down with semantics!

It's a shame, I am sure you will agree, that words are always imprisoned by their meanings. There are so many lovely words that one just doesn't get to use often enough, just because somebody somewhere defined them so narrowly. Take "fortuitous", for instance. I don't think I have ever used that word. But I am going to liberate it! Here goes:
"I am feeling really fortuitous today: must be the Indian summer we're having."
"Does my bum look fortuitous in this?"

"Come on, be fortuitous, give us a kiss!"

It's fun. And I have a lot more words on my hit list!
OK, OK, I am being silly again. The reason for this silliness is that I am in the final stages (death throes?) of revising THE BOOK, and I needed to take a break for a coffee and a scream.
Now, that's what I call fortuitous.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dipping for Pondlife Part Two

Go on! Put your wellies on and join us!

Wriggly Squiggly Things...

.. and wormy squirmy things...
....and floppy ploppy things...
.....my garden pond is full of them.
There are beetles and boatmen, lice and larvae, newts, nymphs and nematodes - well, you get the picture.
How do I know there are all these beasties in my pond? Because my life has been taken over by a 12-year-old who pops round from next door at regular intervals to pond-dip. I have always been in favour of pond-dipping in an abstract kind of way, but my new young friend has got me hooked on the reality. For the most part, I have no idea what I am looking at, but whatever they are, they are fascinating, specially when viewed through my 7x loupe.
One day, if I keep at it, I hope to be as good at pondlife ID as my new young friend. She is really mustard!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Das Ding an sich

Today, I wish to speak to you about Magritte's pipe. And that is because I have been thinking about naughty words. People are shocked by naughty words, but the word is not the thing itself, it is simply a word for das Ding an sich.
In fact, I have a brontosaurus theory, pace Python, and that is that people are not shocked by the thing itself, but only by the word for the thing itself.
One of the cleverest adman inventions of the age is that FCUK logo. You are poised to be outraged, and yet, well, how can you be? It's just four letters in a row that don't actually mean anything.
If you have followed my train of thought this far, it means that you, like me, have nothing better to do this balmy Friday evening.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This post is about death, and offers neither wisdom nor comfort. I had occasion to phone my lovely ex-wife this evening on some trivial family matter (I can't remember our grandchildren's birthdays - typical male, right?) and found her in tears, having heard that her older brother had just died, and somewhat mysteriously it seems.
Scratch any human being, and you will find pain just below the surface. Which of you reading this has not suffered the outrage of the death of a loved one? And I use the word outrage deliberately, because however hard we try, it's difficult not to rage against God or the gods or Fate for taking away a loved one.
It's just so UNFAIR. It makes no sense. There is no rhyme or reason.
So, what did I advise my lovely ex-wife? "Pour yourself a stiff brandy", I said.
Dumb, sure, but what else can you say? I just don't have any words of wisdom or comfort at such times.

A load of b.............ks

OK, I know you are not into moths, but the following might interest you.
Identifying the (mostly) big moths - the "macros" - is just a matter of examining their plumage, and is fun and very satisfying, not least because many of them are stunningly beautiful.
But identifying the (mostly) tiny moths - the "micros" - is much much harder. You can usually say, by visual inspection, which family or even genus a micro belongs to, but to identify it specifically (ie, which species it is) usually requires dissection and an inspection of its internal genitalia.
Which can't be much fun for the moth.
Don't go, there is a point to this posting.
My young helper, Clare, wants to pot and identify everything, including the micros, bless her. So today, I went to one of Europe's moth gurus (he lives about two hours' drive away in deepest Norfolk) and asked him if he could advise me on books on the identification of micros. He took me into his study, and showed me a room-high bookcase packed with tomes, big heavy buggers most of them and in various languages, about micro identifications. And EVERY one I dipped into contained nothing but line drawings of genitalia (eg above)
Personally, much as I love acquiring knowledge, I have no enthusiasm for spending the evening of my days sifting through insects' goolies.
I hope you understand.

La Trellis confesses nostalgia

The Widow from Llanfairpg is once again moved to write breathtaking prose:
Dear Che Guevara
, she writes, I was fascinated by your account of memories that recur when you perform certain activities. Similar things happen to me. For example, every time I see that famous photograph of you looking all hairy and charismatic, I see you with no beard, a short-back-and-sides haircut and wearing a shirt, tie and dark suit, and I immediately think of T S Eliot, only sexier.
Funny things, memories.
Yours truthfully
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Available

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sallows and carpets

A good moth catch on Saturday night. Clare, my young helper was specially pleased because she potted AND identified a Centre-barred Sallow. Our other treat was a first for the garden, A Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet, a pretty moth considerably smaller than its name.
I just thought you might like to know. After all, what other news have you had to day that's better than this?

Broccoli, and other failings

Every time I prepare broccoli, I think of my Thai counterpart, Nongyao, from years back. I have no idea why.
Every time I make cheese on toast, I remember a colleague, Jane Millar, who asked me reproachfully why I was spreading margarine on the toast.
Every time I cut the corner of a carton of milk, I remember John Morgan saying "You are just like Monique" - his wife - "you cut the hole too small."
Every time I open a boiled egg, I remember my good colleague Arthur Bowyer telling me that I am "opening the egg at the wrong end".
Every time I take my trousers off, I remember Ruth telling me what a funny way I have of performing that simple manoeuvre (remaining stiff backed and letting them drop).
Every time I take my shirt off over my head without unbuttoning it, I remember Montse telling me that this is a weird way to take off a shirt.
Every time I put ticks in boxes, I remember my colleague Roy Kingsbury telling me I was doing the ticks the wrong way round (I am left-handed).
There are many more, I won't go on. But I would really love to know how to shake off these silly memories.
Any suggestions?
PS The illustration has nothing to do with this post, but I thought you might like it anyway.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The futility of human endeavour

I was introduced to the futility of human endeavour more than thirty years ago when I was called upon to shoot a cat. Don't go: no animal was harmed in the writing of this blog.
A group of us went to an island called Eilann Nan Ron off the north coast of Scotland to ring (band) a colony of Storm Petrels. Nan Ron is uninhabited but has the remains of crofts left behind by the islanders. The one we slept in had previously been occupied by a Hippy, as witness the graffiti on the wall, eg, "Silver flowers in my hair, the wind has gone silent, it is better to be light than honorable". When the local fisherman took him off the island, he was emaciated, hypothermic and delirious. And his poetry was crap.
Unfortunately, this child of flower power had taken a cat on to the island, which got left behind when he was evacuated. And the evidence was everywhere at the Storm Petrel colony. This alien introduction was decimating the birds, killing at will.
And so it fell to me, as the only one with a shotgun licence, to borrow a 12-bore and a few rounds, and to lie up on the scree at night waiting for a sign of the cat, while my colleagues enjoyed themselves ringing Storm Petrels. A couple of times I did see - or thought I saw - cat's eyes, but after hours of cramp and cold and resentment, a person can imagine all sorts of things, including a brief glimpse of Shirley MacLaine (good stuff, the malt whiskey that Hector the Fisherman gave me). I fired off a couple of shots now and then to reassure my colleagues, but it was a futile endeavour: Cat 1, Old Scrote 0.
Life's like that, isn't it?

Friday, September 07, 2007


This evening, I did a tour of the Old Scrote's Home with a view to making a list of what needs to be done to the old homestead.
I found:
- Spiders everywhere webbing and weaving
- Harvestmen creating whole curtains of gossamer
- Craneflies on their spindly legs immolating themselves on the lights
- Flies of every description falling into the wine and dying on the window ledges
- Woodlice going nowhere in particular - difficult to believe they are crustaceans
- Mosquitoes waiting for me to fall asleep so they can eat me
- Moths munching holes in my socks
- Wasps occupying the whole roof space.

You know, I think Nature is overrated.

Squash and Mrs Trellis

As always, our indefatigable North Walian correspondent weighs in with some pithy observations (sorry about the lisp).

Dear Barack Obama, she writes, I was so endeared by your little piece about Butternut Squash, I just felt I had to write and thank you for reviving memories of my late husband's PRIZE MARROW. It merits the capital letters, it being the only time he exhibited it to the public and won a prize for it.
I believe that you Afrikaaner Americans are very fond of squashes, goodness knows why, they don't taste of anything, although I admit they are nice to look at, as witness the late Mr Trellis' monstrous growth.
Anyway, enough of vegetables. May I say that I think you have all the qualities to become the next President of the Untied States of America, and I have only one suggestion to help you secure the victory you deserve. Why don't you marry that Hillary Clintoris? I think with her serving under you, you would romp home.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow

Silent September

My back garden (AmEng backyard) is usually alive with birds noshing at the various feeders that I put out for them: peanuts for the tits (similar to chickadees) and woodpeckers, sunflower seeds for the finches (especially Greenfinches), nyjer seed for Goldfinches, and assorted other foods for the ground feeders like Robins and Blackbirds.
But it has fallen silent. Scarcely a bird to be seen. The reason: I have removed ALL the feeders. At first the birds came back for a couple of days, metaphorically scratching their heads and wondering where the free food had gone. And now they have gone.

I have had to do this because there is a widespread outbreak of something nasty that is killing birds at feeding stations, mainly Greenfinches. In the last week, I have picked up at least eight, dead or dying. The disease we all worry about is trichomoniasis, caused by a parasite, but is more likely to be salmonella, the result of a great density of birds at the feeding stations and the presence of water, ideal conditions for the infection.

So, I have sprayed the whole feeding area, disinfected and washed every feeder, and must now wait for two weeks - that is the received wisdom about the period needed to beat the disease - before resuming the feeding.

I tell you, it's scary. Not a repeat of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, thank goodness, but still an ominous silence in September.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Butternut Squash

I was standing at the checkout at the Newmarket Tesco's yesterday - interesing place, Newmarket, lots of bow-legged little men and muscular women with moustaches, but I digress - when I noticed, as you do, the purchases of the lady in front of me. She had a spectacular bosom, an object of great beauty, but I wouldn't want to have to carry that around on my front: my wine-fed embonpoint is quite enough for me. Don't worry, the bosom has no further part in this story (although it WAS magnificent and it is as well, for the sake of my continued survival, that she was not sitting on a John Deere tractor at the time).
"What is that?" I asked, pointing at a curious gourd-like object in her pile of purchases (You get bolder when you get older, and don't mind asking questions like that of buxom women whom you have never met before. About the only consolation of becoming an Old Scrote)
And it was a butternut squash. It looked to me an ideal object to gouge the contents out of, put a 25mm diameter circular hole in the side and hang it in a tree for Blue Tits to nest in.
But apparently you can make soup out of them. It was her way, she said, of making sure her children had their vegetable fix without realising it.
Magnificent. I wish I could have taken a photograph.

An Old Lady in the garden

It's not often a man can go into his back garden and find that an attractive Old Lady has arrived during the night. And there she sat, motionless except for a slight quivering which I found most endearing.
It can be a lonely life out here on the Cambridgeshire fens, with nowt to look at between my back door and the Urals.
So my visitor was doubly welcome: a bit of company on an early dew-kissed morning, and only the second Old Lady that I had ever trapped.
Here is a picture of her. (Not my pic. In the ones I took, she looks like an ink blot)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Abuse of the uvula

I wish to declare war on the glottal stop. Things are not ge''in' be''er, they are going from bad to Estuary English worse.
Don't misunderstand me. My heart soars every time a BBC announcer manages to say Law'and'Order rather than LauraNorder. That is legitimate. And I am happy for Arabic speakers that the glottal stop is a consonant in their language. After all, they don't have much going for them, apart from amazing oil revenues.
But the use of the clack (uvula) among young people is ge''ing ou'ev'and.
I appreciate that it is all about street cred, which is why I have taken to wearing a codpiece on my bi-weekly trip to Tesco's. It's grotesque. I trow, but no' as ba' as the fu''in glo''al stop.
See you in court.

Mrs T gets mildly political

Our indomitable North Walian correspondent leaps in once more where angels fear to tread:

Dear Frau Merkel, she writes, I am not one of those who goes on a rant about the bloody Germans, etc. We won fair and square, and that should be the end of it.
But I do have a problem with your language, not that I know much about it, except that it seems to consist of capital letters, long words and people clearing their throats. A bit like Welsh, really, except that Welsh sings better.
I asked my neighbour what Weltanschauung means, she being something of a polygon (the result of a lot of hankypanky with foreign POWs during the war). And she said it meant Global Warming, which you might like to confirm, it seeming very unlikely to me.
May I take this opportunity to wish you every success as German Chancellor, or whatever your title is. I do admire you, with you being so plain and dowdy and all.
If you are ever in North Wales, do call by and we can listen to Marlene Dietrich singing "Lili of the Lampost" together. I reckon it was songs like that helped us win the war.
Yours regrettably
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, undaunted

Weltanschauung, as you might say

In 1955, I stood in St Giles and cheered on Hastings Banda. Down with colonialism! Up with independence for black Africa! In 1956, I stood in St Giles and excoriated Anthony Eden for invading Suez.
Later, I followed Mau Mau in Kenya and thought: nasty. During the Wilson administration, Ian Smith declared UDI in Rhodesia, and I thought, yes, maybe he's got a point.
Now, before you fall asleep from boredom at this trawl through dead matter, let me pose a question: What happened to change my Weltanschauung so completely?
Today I articulated my feelings to my neighbour, a Zimbabwean exile. It seems to me that every country, whatever its colour, political complexion or system of government, needs a stable infrastructure if [a] it is to prosper [b] its citizens are going to have a reasonable life.
So, it doesn't matter if Angola is Marxist or Zimbabwe is effectively a dictatorship or Tanzania is a confused socialist backwater. What matters is that they don't have a stable infrastructre which allows normal commercial and social transactions to take place safely.
And now, because you and I are both terminally bored by these meanderings, I will post a picture of something to aid your digestion and your sleep. I love my teddy bear.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Virgin territory

I received this from Mrs Trellis and reproduce it here without comment.

Dear Richard Branson, she writes, first of all, I want you to know how much the late Mr Trellis and I loved your Branson Pickle, a truly genial invention: it does for a piece of stale cheese in a sandwich what horseshit does for radishes. Howesomever, my reason for writing to you is not to praise your chuntney, but to ask you why on earth you named everything "Virgin". I looked the word up in my Tesco's Bargain School Dictionary and it says virgin
n. a who has no previous experience of a specified thing;
adj. in the original condition, unattained, untouched, never having previously undergone or been affected by the thing mentioned.
If that describes your airline and your trains, I am personally reluctant to use them. Mind you, I wasn't planning on going anywhere anyway. Unless, of course, you were looking for a mature air hostess......
I am not saying you are not a nice person, I just meant that after the pickle, I truly think you struggled a bit.

Yours imperviously Mrs Blodwin Trellis, Widow, no serious offer refused.
PS Get a haircut. The late Mr T was strictly a short-back-and-sides man, which gave him a certain military bearing. You look like Pooh Bear, only not so cuddly.