Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Child Labour

One of our leading clothing retailers has withdrawn - or maybe has been forced to withdraw - a whole range of its goods because they come from a factory somewhere out east which employs 10-year-olds. When I was in Angola (This was in Huila Province during the civil war), I visited a sort of residential vocational school for youngsters, mostly pre-teen. The problem the school had was that every night, parents would steal into the dorms and take their children away because they needed them to work to help the family economy.
My goodness, no one wants to condone the exploitation of children, or indeed the exploitation of any human being by any other, but when are we going to stop imposing our western standards on the rest of the world? We are at a completely different stage of the game from many other societies, and while we might suggest a GOAL at which others can aim, we have no right, in my anything-but-humble opinion, to expect others to change overnight, whether it's democracy in Iraq, women's rights in Iran or child labour in India. I wonder, too, if anyone stops to ask the children how they feel. Maybe there is more dignity in labour than in begging on the streets.
It is instructive, too, to note that, while we mouth pieties about "ethical foreign policy", ie, we do not deal with nasty despotic regimes like the ones in Burma or North Korea, we have no problem turning a blind eye to one of the Middle East's most vicious autocracies, namely, Saudi Arabia. No prizes for guessing why we are so nice to the Saudis.
Well, that's my splenetic outburst for the week. I am gratified that you managed to get this far. Or did you skip down the page? If so, I don't blame you.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Poor old George

Dick Cheney and George W. Bush are having breakfast at the White House.
The attractive waitress asks Cheney what he would like, and he replies, "I'd like a bowl of oatmeal and some fruit."
"And what can I get for you, Mr. President?"
George W. looks up from his menu and replies with his trademark wink and slight grin, "How about a quickie this morning?"
"Why, Mr. President!" the waitress exclaims, "How rude! You're starting to act like President Clinton." And the waitress storms away.
Cheney leans over to Bush and whispers.... .......
"It's pronounced 'quiche.'"

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Thought Police

I have been proscribed. I am on the non imprimatur list. I have joined the dreaded Index of THINGS THAT PEOPLE MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO READ. I have heard from four people, who access my blog via their work computers, that my blog has been blocked by their companies. Even my darling daughter is no longer allowed to read me.
Now, my beloveds, what in my blogs could possibly cause offence (offense), apart from my orthography? And how do the Internet Thought Police find out that I am offensive anyway? Presumably they do a word search and ban any blog that uses words of more than two syllables; or - and this is where my heart begins to sink - which contains anything they regard as politically incorrect.
So, mes potes, my next posting will be politically correct. Completely politically correct. Totally and inoffensively politically correct. So politically correct that you will be able to eat your dinner off it.
In fact, political correctness is already such a parody of reality that it is impossible to parody it. You know the kind of thing: "I met a man who was pigmentally challenged"**. It isn't funny because the chances are that that's how black people will be described in a year or so, once our dark-skinned brothers and sisters decide that the expression African American is almost as offensive as black or negro. Well, one more word search by the Bowdler Brigade and that's me done for.
OK, OK, I know, I am my own worst enemy. Show me a prick and I will kick against it. And, goodness knows, there are an awful lot of pricks to kick against these days. Pricks.

**In fact, it's the pink-blancmange-complexioned like me who are pigmentally-challenged. Why else would we spend so much money trying to darken our skin?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tomorrow, the Coolidge Effect. But for now....

A man in a bar orders a glass of champagne. By coincidence, a lady sitting next to him is drinking a glass of champagne.
Lady: "Quite a coincidence!"
Man: "It's because I am celebrating".
Lady: "Quite a coincidence, so am I. What are you celebrating?"
Man: "I am a chicken farmer, and I couldn't get my hens to produce, but now I have managed it."
Lady: "Quite a coincidence. My hubby and I have been trying for a baby to no avail, but now I have succeeded."
There is a short silence. Then she asks: "How did you manage it?"
The man smiles. "I changed cocks."
"Quite a coincidence," replies the lady.

It isn't over till the fat lady sings

I have completed my trawl through the text, making all kinds of changes, adding, rewriting, removing, turning lists of figures into graphs, histograms and tables, checking on spellings of foreign names, making sure all the references are in the bibliography and that all the figures are properly numbered in the text, keeping a list of all the colour plates and which text refers, keeping the appendices up to date....and so on.
There are still a few things to tidy up - perhaps another three days' work..
So, if you are waiting for my final huzzah, not quite yet, my beloveds : not until the fat lady sings.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Shrubbery, north side

Reading from right to left: an ornamental crataegus hawthorn (barely visible), a riotous buddleia (the orange-ball variety), the bird bath and behind, a bushy box (no jokes, please) and behind that, what I think they call a flame tree or a fire tree. Moving left, the frame with the bird feeders, and a couple of self-seeded sunflowers, followed by a ceanothus (Californian Lilac), then a walnut, in which a passion flower is struggling to survive. After that, it's a confusion, with a low hebe, a struggling euonymus (spindleberry) and behind everything, a straggly thorn hedge with elder and elm in it. In the far left corner is what I am told is a bullace, which produces a sort of cherry-apple that you can't eat. The tall dead thing in the hedge is, or rather was, an elm, which succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease once the beetles penetrated it and took the deadly fungus in there. I leave it unchopped because birds love to perch on it, and are easy to see as there is no foliage.
If you think this is luxuriant (aka wild), wait till I tell you about the south shrubbery; I am quite sure you could lose a tribe of pygmies in it.


Old Scrote, Vintage, September 2007

I thought it was time I reminded my children what I look like! In the background is, of course, my house. And in the tray on the table, an assortment of fiddly little things scooped from my garden pond by the unstoppable young naturalist from next door.


Today, I was introduced to another Turkish beverage (The very old among you will recall I waxed lyrical about AYRAN in an earlier blog). This one is called BOZA, and this is what Wikipedia has to say about it:
BOZA is a fermented beverage in Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. It is made from fermented wheat in Turkey and wheat or millet in Bulgaria and Romania. It has a thick consistency and a low alcohol content (usually around 1%), and has a slightly acidic sweet flavor. In the Republic of Macedonia boza is much thinner and lighter, and tastes sweeter. In Turkey it is served with cinnamon and roasted chickpeas, and is consumed mainly in the winter months. The Ottoman Empire was known to feed its army with boza as it is rich in carbohydrates and vitamins. In Bulgaria it is part of the traditional "Banitsa with Boza" breakfast. In Albania it is mostly produced and sold in the northern part of Albania; you can easily find it in the candy and ice-creams stores of the capital, Tirana. In southern Serbia, boza is produced and sold in the whole country. The variant found in Romania is called bragă, and it is sweeter than in Turkey and Bulgaria, but thicker and darker than in Republic of Macedonia.
From another source, I found the recipe for making the Turkish version::

For 5 – 6 cups
1. 1 cup bulgur ( ½ cup bulgur + ½ cup rice can be used as well)
2. 1 cup sugar
3. 8 – 9 cups of water
4. 1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1. Put the grains and 8 cups of water in a big pot and slowly cook it. If you like, you can soak the grains in the water overnight to help this process. Do not put the lid on. Cook until it is easy to mash the grains
2. Strain it through a fine colander by pressing hard and collect the thick juice; this will be your boza. You can discard the pulp
3. Add the sugar to the thick juice and stir well. It should be thinner than tomato paste, but not as juicy as tomato juice. If the blend is so thick, you can add more water to it. Put back on to low heat, and boil for about 3 - 4 mins. Pour into a glass bowl and let it cool down to about 120F
4. In another bowl, mix the yeast with warm water, and pour it into the big bowl. Make sure to mix well. Cover it with double layer cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and leave it in the room temperature until the bubbles appear. This can take up to 2 days, depending on how hot the room is
5. Serve it chilled. Sprinkle cinnamon on top and serve with dry roasted chickpeas (another Turkish/Middle Eastern snack), if you can have any. You may also need a spoon to get to the boza that is at the bottom of your glass/cup

I just saw this at the bottom of the Wikipedia article: Boza allegedly has the ability to enlarge women's breasts. It is also recommended to women during their lactation period soon after they give birth as boza stimulates the production of milk.

Given that my breasts are already quite big enough, thank you, I think I might not get into boza after all.

History versus propaganda

I have a Master of Arts degree in Modern History ("modern", that is, in contrast to ancient or classical history), and am very glad I read history. It makes one careful to try to distinguish between history and propaganda.
For those still interested in separating the history from the propaganda concerning the Armenian question, I recommend a recent article by Barbara Lerner in the National Review Online. At least it gives the historical background to the events in Anatolia during WWI, a background which I suspect very few people are aware of.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

An article about the so-called Armenian genocide

This appeared recently in the Chicago Tribune.

Armenian story has another side
By Norman Stone, a historian and the author of "World War I: A Short History"

October 16, 2007

All the world knows what the end of an empire looks like: hundreds of thousands of people fleeing down dusty paths, taking what was left of their possessions; crammed refugee trains puffing their way across arid plains; and many, many people dying. For the Ottoman Empire that process began in the Balkans, the Crimea and the Caucasus as Russia and her satellites expanded. Seven million people -- we would now call them Turks – had to settle in Anatolia, the territory of modern Turkey.
In 1914, when World War I began in earnest, Armenians living in what is now Turkey attempted to set up a national state. Armenians revolted against the Ottoman government, began what we would now call
"ethnic cleansing" of the local Turks. Their effort failed and caused the government to deport most Armenians from the area of the revolt for security reasons. Their sufferings en route are well-known.
Today, Armenian interests in America and abroad are well-organized.
What keeps them united is the collective memory of their historic
grievance. What happened was not in any way their fault, they believe. If the drive to carve out an ethnically pure Armenian state was a failure, they reason, it was only because the Turks exterminated them.

For years, Armenians have urged the U.S. Congress to recognize their
fate as genocide. Many U.S. leaders -- including former secretaries of state and defense and current high-ranking Bush administration
officials – have urged Congress either not to consider or to vote down the current genocide resolution primarily for strategic purposes: Turkey is a critical ally to the U.S. in both Iraq and Afghanistan and adoption of such a resolution would anger and offend the Turkish population and jeopardize U.S.-Turkish relations.

Given this strong opposition, why would Congress, upon the advice of
the House Foreign Affairs Committee, make itself arbiter of this
controversy? What makes the Armenians' dreadful fate so much worse
than the dreadful fates that come with every end of empire? It is here that historians must come in.

First, allegedly critical evidence of the crime consists of forgeries. The British were in occupation of Istanbul for four years
after the war and examined all of the files of the Ottoman government. They found nothing, and therefore could not try the 100-odd supposed Turkish war criminals that they were holding. Then, documents turned up, allegedly telegrams from the interior ministry to the effect that all Armenians should be wiped out. The signatures turned out to be wrong, there were no back-up copies in the rchives and the dating system was misunderstood.

There are many other arguments against a supposed genocide of the Armenians.
Their leader was offered a post in the Turkish Cabinet in 1914, and
turned it down. When the deportations were under way, the populations of the
big cities were exempted -- Istanbul, Izmir, Aleppo, where there were huge concentrations of Armenians. There were indeed well-documented and horrible massacres of the deportee columns, and the Turks
themselves tried more than 1,300 men for these crimes in 1916, convicted many and executed several. None of this squares with genocide, as we classically understand it. Finally, it is just not true that historians as a whole support the genocide thesis. The people who know the background and the language (Ottoman Turkish
is terribly difficult) are divided, and those who do not accept the
genocide thesis are weightier. The Armenian lobby contends that
these independent and highly esteemed historians are simply "Ottomanists" - a ridiculously arrogant dismissal.

Unfortunately, the issue has never reached a properly constituted
court. If the Armenians were convinced of their own case, they
would have taken it to one. Instead, they lobby bewildered or bored
parliamentary assemblies to "recognize the genocide."

Congress should not take a position, one way or the other, on this
affair. Let historians decide. The Turkish government has been
saying this for years. It is the Armenians who refuse to take part in a joint historical review, even when organized by impeccably neutral academics. This review is the logical and most sensible path forward. Passage of the resolution by the full House of Representatives would constitute an act of legislative vengeance and would shame well-meaning scholars who want to explore this history from any vantage point other than the one foisted upon the world by
ultranationalist Armenians.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mrs Trellis dips into politics

Dear Mr Einstein, she writes, first may I say how much I enjoyed your Theory of Relativity with its emphasis on the importance of family, even second cousins. And then, how much I agree with your disapproval of the way they got rid of that nice Ming Campbell, not that I would have voted for him, me being a staunch supporter of Plaid Cymru (Such a gorgeous hunk of a man, our leader is. And SO young and virile. Quite makes me quiver).
Now listen, don't get all worked up about Quantum Theory, it's just a fad, and will soon be history, like Gordon Brown or the Hula Hoop.
Yours, Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, available.

Too old to cut the mustard

I don't know about you, but I can never get excited about other countries' politics, not that I am much excited about the politics of my own. But something has happened here that I find vaguely sinister.
The leader of our third party, the Liberal Democrats, has resigned. Resigned after a sustained media campaign against him dwelling on the fact that he is in his sixties (in contrast to the youthful Tony Blair, the (relatively) youthful Gordon Brown, and the positively boyish leader of the Conservative party, David Whathisname). In other words, Ming Campbell has effectively been forced out because he is not telegenic, because he doesn't fit the expectations of the television age, because he is "old".
OK, let's put this into perspective. Hillary Clinton is unsuitable because she is a woman. Barak Obama is unsuitable because he is black. Schwarzenegger is unsuitable because he is a foreigner. And X is unsuitable because he is gay. Hurts, doesn't it? So, why should we accept that proposition that Ming Campbell is unsuitable because he is old?
This is perhaps the first time I have felt female, black, foreign and gay. Maybe it's because I am old.

Anyone for tennis?

Today, the Times carried an article about a tennis coach called Claire Lyle who had an affair with one of her pupils, a 13-year-old girl. The affair lasted a year before a complaint was lodged with the police by the girl's mother. The tennis coach was found guilty and will probably go to prison.
The part about this sorry affair that baffles me is that the mother caught the couple in flagrante delicto eleven months before she finally went to the police. Mother had gone to a party on a Sunday afternoon, but had returned early because she "didn't feel she was properly dressed". And found the coach and her daughter in bed together, doing whatever it is that ladies do in such circumstances. The daughter continued her tennis coaching after that for a further eleven months before mum blew the whistle. Doesn't this strike you as odd? My other question is: what kind of party starts at 2 pm on a Sunday afternoon? And what kind of party is it that you don't feel "properly dressed" for?
I don't condone Ms Lyle for betraying her position of trust, but I can't help feeling she's as much victim as predator in this case. And there's got to be more to mum than meets the eye.

This Sporting Life

When I was 13, I won the Junior Discus in the school's annual Sports Day. Before that glorious moment, all my moments had been inglorious. I had poor coordination and no ball sense at all, which made me a liability in soccer and cricket. But for one day, I was FIRST, BEST, a WINNER! Just shows what long arms and desperation can do.
Nothing like that ever happened to me again, so despite my self-imposed regime of fitness training and my determination to be Wellington Grammar School's answer to Wilson*, I went back to being the boy everyone wished was somewhere else on Games Afternoons.
So I became a rebel. By 15, I held a different record: the highest scoring number of canings in a single term. By the way, don't let anyone tell you that a caning on your arse carries a sexual tingle. It doesn't. It just bloody hurts. But I wore my stinging buttocks with pride.
The reason for this posting is that today I listened to a radio programme on the subject of Rugby Football, and whether it is a suitable sport for youngsters. My answer is a resounding yes. Soccer and cricket demand coordination, ball sense and speed, and if you don't have those, you are nothing. The great thing about Rugby is that there is a place for everyone from the great lumbering oaf who doubles as a battering ram to the speedy weedy little gonzalez who can whizz the ball away from a scrum
And do you know what they were whingeing on about in the radio programme? Is it dangerous? Is it more dangerous than soccer? Grrrr.
But, I have no sporting career whatsoever (apart from the discus event), so I am in no position to comment. Mind you, when it comes to kicking against the pricks, I probably have no equal.

*Wilson is in this pantheon:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

You're tiny and it's frozen

I don't do regret, it's a wasted emotion, but I will tell thee summat: I missed two golden opportunities in my life that I wish I hadn't. Erm, that sounds like regret. So be it.
The first opportunity was when I was in Brescia, Italy, in my early twenties and spent many evenings, after class, in a disreputable tavern across the way from the Opera House in the company of musicians from the Opera House. Queer as nine pound notes all of them, but great fun to be with. And sometimes they would play and sing stuff from Italian opera. And I never once went to the opera while I was in Italy.
The second opportunity was when I married Mrs A. She not only had a fine and trained voice, but she was an opera buff. And all the years of our marriage, when she went to the opera or played her records, I took no part in that. Damn.
And then, years later, as I went back many times to Italy on visits or on business, I bit by bit fell in love with opera. Visit Lucca and you visit Puccini.
I got there late, amici miei, but I got there. And now, when I am in the right mood, I can sing the clean version of La Donna e mobile, having only before known the scurrilous version (email me if you want to know the latter).
Mind you, much as I love the music, I wish people didn't die of unrequited love quite so much. Why can't you have a good tune AND a good sex life?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

They killed HOW MANY?!

I know you are all anxious for my reaction to the US Congress' intention to declare the killing of Armenians at the beginning of the last century a "genocide". When the French talk about the Armenian Genocide (using capital letters to make it official), I am not surprised: it's a deep-rooted feeling in the French psyche that is anti-Turkish and anti-Muslim, and as insidiously evil in its way as antisemitism. When the US Congress does it, I can only think there is a powerful Armenian lobby in the US that is doing some behind-the-scenes armtwisting. During the bloody conflict when so many Armenians died, about the same number of Turks died too, but the trouble with a fact like that is that it gets uncomfortably in the way of a comfortable prejudice.
I remember hearing a story when I was a boy about a victory parade at the end of WWII when various regiments marched through the town. Two bystanders watched as one after another came round the corner. At one point, the Jewish Regiment appeared, but only a very small number of soldiers. "Not many Jews fought in the War," remarked one. Then the rest of the Jewish Regiment, having been temporarily held up, came round the corner, making up a full regiment. "Not many Jews killed in the War," remarked the other.
As I say, one should never let the truth get in the way of a perfectly good prejudice.

Petticoats rule, ok?

Mother to child: Oh look, darling, it's a Petticoat Fungus!
Child to mother: No, it isn't, mother. It's a Paneolus Sphinctrinus.

In fact, such a conversation is likely to be the other way round. The child's mother and me and my generation, to the extent that we knew anything at all about fungi, only knew them by their scientific names. But recently, the British Mycological Society, in an attempt to popularise fungi, has given many of them vernacular names. So what I know as P.sphinctrinus (an hallucinogenic mushroom which grows on or very near dung) is, to a new generation, a Petticoat Fungus, so named from the frill that decorates the rim of the cap.
Last Sunday, I was completely at sea as the foray guides named species using the new English nomenclature, and felt like some kind of poser when I had to ask for the scientific names. For example, what they called a Brown Rollcap looked to me like Paxillus involutus, which of course it was.
When I first looked at dragonflies, they only had scientific names. Since then, they have acquired English names, with the result that people now take a lot more interest in them. When my old mate Roger B came to visit, I pointed out a Ruddy Darter to him, and he was baffled. Then, seeing it better, he said, "Ah, yes, Sympetrum sangineum."
It's all very confusing, so if you will excuse me, I am off to gather a few Petticoats and make an infusion. Don't tell the gendarmes.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Welsh take on fungi

Mrs Trellis is quick to react.
Dear Hillary Clinton
, she writes, I had no idea you were into mushrooms! It's such a joy when one finds one has something in common with someone one admires (What a lot of "ones" - I sound like Queen Elizabeth II (giggle!).
I expect you, being American and all, are into those magic mushrooms too, something I personally disapprove of, but I suppose it's all right if you mix them in with a soup, and lie down after.
The late Mr Trellis was adamant that he would have nothing to do with wild fungi. As he said "Don't expect me to eat a toad's tool", an example of fellatious reasoning, I suppose. But he meant well.
Anyway, dear, stick to your guns. I am sure you will make a wonderful President of the Untied States, as long as you don't forget to dilute the soup.

You kill me!

Today was fungus foray day. We walked - about thirty of us - through mixed woodland, mostly birch and beech, and gathered about 60 species. I realised some important truths about fungus foraying. First, fungi are a long way down. Second, they are hard to see. Thirdly, the only sensible way to collect fungi is to take an army of youngsters with you: they are closer to the ground, they have 20-20 vision and they are very flexible.
And, of course, the thing that I already knew about fungi is that it's damned hard to remember their names, scientific or vernacular.
It was a great afternoon, in glorious autumn sunshine. I was left with one unresolved question. The deadliest of our native fungi is the "Death Cap", Amanita phalloides, which kills human beings in a very nasty way, but can be eaten by other mammals and by insects with no ill effects. My question is this: what does the Death Cap get out of killing human beings?

Extraordinary Story

Today, I heard the most extraordinary story. A Liverpool boy, born into extreme poverty, so poor that he didn't have shoes until the age of thirteen, when his mother was able to provide him with a pair of boots. He put them on, walked down to the pier, dangled his legs over the edge and admired his new boots. They had no laces, and as he kicked his feet in delight, both boots fell off and into the water. He was so ashamed and so scared that he signed on with a merchant ship as a cabin boy and went to Australia, only returning to England many years later. For the record, he lived till he was 95, not that that has anything to do with boots.
True story. I once wrote a short story as part of my effort for Penguin Books (they published three books of my stories, bless them), a story based on a true incident. My editor rejected it on the grounds that is was not believable, and could I write a different story.
So, if you don't believe the boot story, I understand - not that I will ever forgive you.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bugger off, Trellis B.

I am a very tolerant man, specially when it comes to the ladies, but I think Mrs T has gone what we call TOO FAR this time. All the same, in the interests of free speech (Voltaire: I disagree with everything you day, and It really pisses me off that I am the kind of shlemiel who will defend to the death your right to say it), here is her latest, and, according to my mind (Bless you, Burhan) , most vitriolic, piece.

Dear Rabbi Newman, she writes, I am sure you have noticed, as I have, that the Scrote person makes constant reference to various sexual derivations. Personally I am with Queen Victoria in such matters: just don't do it in the street because it might frighten the horses and you can't make lesbianism illegal because there's no such thing. All the same, I am sure you as a religious man with no experience of sex will agree with the late Mr Trellis' view that any sex act that does not have procreation as its aim and object is an immoral act. It so happens that the poor man had a very bad aim, but that's by the way. I think you should excommunify the Scrote person, or at the very least put a murrain on her cattle. Yours piously Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Primitive Methodist

Cri de plume

With all due respect to Mr Clough, I am beginning to think that the struggle in fact naught availeth. I am in the position of the train driver who woke up late one morning - his alarm clock failed to go off - leapt out of bed and twisted his ankle, poured sour milk on his cornflakes, jumped on his bike and found it had a puncture, arrived at his locomotive three quarters of an hour late and had his pay docked accordingly, caught his hand, painfully, in a piece of machinery before finally getting the loco underway, and was zooming along the track at 75 mph when he saw an express train coming towards him at the same speed and on the same track. He turned to his fireman and remarked: with a sigh: "Tell me, have you ever had one of those days.....?"
Still, it's only a book, after all. Pity the bloody bird is all but extinct in Britain.

Hard labour

Today was a day for attacking the quickthorn hedge at the bottom of my garden. From the garden side, I can trim it without difficulty. But, on the other side, there is a deep ditch, so when I stand in the ditch to trim the hedge, the hedge is approximately 18 miles high. So, I have tended to neglect the south side, so to speak. The result is that I have in my ditch, and therefore in my hedge, a riot of bramble and brier, rubus spp, that were clearly the inspiration for the barbed wire tank traps of World Wars I and II.
But today, finally, I decided to work off my hatreds and frustrations (don't worry, the book WILL get finished) by sliding into the ditch in me boiler suit (OK, I know, funny place to have a ditch...) and wearing me hard hat to prevent serious scratching of the imperial bald pate, and then, armed with sickle and scythe, secateurs and saw, I attacked the hedge, the ivy, the bramble, the briery and anything else I didn't like the look of.
And you know what? I had a helper. My amazing young friend, Clare, rolled up her metaphorical sleeves and waded in too. Unstoppable, that girl. And here's the embarrassing bit: I gave up long before she did, muscles twitching and back all of an ache.
I am glad I am no longer young: you have to do SO much more.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Agony Aunt

Well, I have made the decision. I want to be an Agony Aunt. Below are my first Q and A's. Still feeling my way, so to speak......

Dear Aunt Scrote
I am worried that my hubby no longer seems interested in me, you know, that way. What can I do to revive his passion?
Worried Jane
Dear Worried Jane Put the egg in a pan of cold water and bring it to the boil - about seven minutes. Then turn down the heat and cook the egg for a further three minutes. Serve with bread and butter. If that doesn't revive his passion, kill him.

Dear Aunt Scrote
I find some women attractive, you know, physically. Does this mean I am, you know, a l......... ?
Anne from Norwich
Dear Anne Put the egg in a pan of cold water and bring it to the boil - about seven minutes. Then turn down the heat and cook the egg for a further three minutes. Serve with bread and butter. If you still find women attractive, email me privately....

Dear Auntie Scrote
I am only twelve but I already have, you know, feelings. I just worry that I might not be normal. Please help me.
Worried Brown-eyes
Dear Worried Brown-eyes Put the egg in a pan of cold water and bring it to the boil - about seven minutes. Then turn down the heat and cook the egg for a further three minutes. Serve with bread and butter. If this doesn't work, you are definitely not normal. Tough luck, kid.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dear Abby

I am thinking of starting a new career as an Agony Aunt. I think I am well qualified for the job: lots of experience, a caring nature, a warm bosom (quite an achievement for a man) and an endless obsession with affairs of the heart and other organs. Here is a selection of cris de coeur which I am sure I could deal with if Abby can't:
Dear Abby,
A couple of women moved in across the hall from me. One is a middle-aged gym teacher and the other is a social worker in her mid twenties. These two women go everywhere together and I've never seen a man go into or leave their apartment. Do you think they could be Lebanese?
Dear Abby,
What can I do about all the Sex, Nudity, Foul Language and Violence on my VCR?
Dear Abby,
I have a man I can't trust. He cheats so much, I'm not even sure the baby I'm carrying is his.
Dear Abby,
I am a twenty-three year old liberated woman who has been on the pill for two years. It's getting expensive and I think my boy friend should share half the cost, but I don't know him well enough to discuss money with him.
Dear Abby,
I've suspected that my husband has been fooling around, and when confronted with the evidence, he denied everything and said it would never happen again.
Dear Abby,
Our son writes that he is taking Judo. Why would a boy who was in a good Christian home turn against his own?
Dear Abby,
My forty year old son has been paying a psychiatrist $50.00 an hour every week for two and a half years. He must be crazy.
Dear Abby,
I was married to Bill for three months and I didn't know he drank until one night he came home sober.
Dear Abby,
You told some woman whose husband had lost all interest in sex to send him to a doctor. Well, my husband lost all interest in sex and he is a doctor. Now what do I do?

On second thoughts, maybe I will stick to moths.

A definition of bravery

[With apologies to my sapphic readers, bless you each and every one]

A blind man enters a lesbian bar by mistake. After finding his way to the barstool, he orders a drink, then yells to the bartender:
"Hey! you wanna hear a blonde joke?"
A deathly silence descends on the bar.
In a deep husky menacing voice, the woman sitting next to him says:
"Hey, before you tell that joke, you should know something. The bartender: she is a blonde. The bouncer: she is a blonde. I am 200lb and I am a blonde with a black belt in karate. What's more, the woman next to me is a blonde and she`s a weightlifter and the woman on your right is a blonde and she's a professional wrestler. Do you still wanna tell that joke?"
The blind man pauses, thinks and then replies:
"Nah, not if I`m gonna have to explain it five times."

Mrs T spaced out

I knew she wouldn't be far behind.....
Dear William Shatner, she writes, what an interesting piece that was about magic mushrooms! I guess you had a lot of magic experiences while visiting other worlds in your famous TV series, The Sky at Night. Personally, I always avoided the drug scene, with the exception of aspirin, but if you and that one with the pointy ears did stuff, far be it from me to judge, although the way your good looks have collapsed lately might be the price you are now paying for your youthful indulgences.
My late husband, Mr Trellis, always said "If you can't do it without artificial stimulation, don't do it". A sage counsel, I thought, although I noticed he always took a stiff one before approaching the marital bed. Mind you, approach it was all he ever managed, bless him, martyr as he was to premature evacuation.
Anyway, it's good to see that you have made a new career playing funny fat men, but I guess you must miss the magic of space travel and that black woman Uhuhu and her muscular thighs. A propos her, Mr Trellis could never watch her without a bag of walnuts and a pair of nutcrackers in his lap. You men!
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, etc.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Magic Jewish Mushrooms

Tonight, the Conservation Society talk was about fungi. Sorry you missed it. A most entertaining speaker, who introduced us to edible mushrooms, dangerous mushrooms, pretty and harmless mushrooms. And psychedelic mushrooms. He told us that it is not only a criminal offence to pick or possess these "magic" mushrooms. but that a landowner who has them growing on his property is liable to prosecution too. Is it just my paranoia, or has the world gone totally mad?
Another touch to invoke my grump: there is a fungus which has always been known popularly as "Jew's Ear" (apparently because it grows on a species of tree on which Judas is said to have been hanged). The speaker mentioned its vernacular name in a whisper but said that he was no longer "allowed" to use that name. Is it just my paranoia, or has the world gone totally mad?
Anyway, be that is it may, my ambition now is to pick a handful of magic mushrooms, dry and crush them to make an infusion and beg my Jewish friends to come round and share the experience. I hope they are prepared to lend an ear to my plea.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Noblesse oblige? You bet!

Defer, peasants! You might be dealing here with a scion of the landed gentry.
I always suspected that my thin wrists and ankles betokened aristocratic ancestry, and it seems that there is a chance I am right: I just came across a reference to one Sir Henry Allsop of Alsop-en-le-Dale in Derbyshire (reputedly the fons et origo of the whole clan, regardless of the number of l's and p's in the name). If there's a Sir Henry, no reason why there shouldn't be a Sir OldScrote Allsop, entitled to a coat of arms, a Manor to be Lord of, and all that flows therefrom.
The bit of flow therefrom that I particularly want to explore is the droit de seigneur known as Ius Primae Noctis, whereby the Lord of the Manor has the right, and indeed the duty, to roger every bride on her first night in order to satisfy himself that she is a virgin. You know me, I would take such a responsibility seriously: as we aristos say, noblesse oblige.
Now, as to my escutcheon: I guess I will go for something with an animal on it, a camelopard or a hippogriff maybe, but whatever it is, it will definitely be rampant.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Trellis sets her cap

I find it hard to believe that Mrs Trellis would set her cap at another man, but wonders never cease.
Cher President Sarkozy, she writes, may I first of all congratify you on becoming President of France and what's left of her Dominicans. But my main reason for putting pen to wordprocessor is to say how much I admire your love of beans. The late Mr Trellis shared your enthusiasm, despite the flatulence. Well, more, because of it. Being a deft harmonium player, he realised the musical potential of the humble bean, and could give a convincing rendition of Men of Harlech, or at least of the first stanza before Nature intervened, so to speak.
You know, mon cher monsieur president, the French and the Welsh have SO much in common: singing, the arts, lakes and mountains, good food, sympathy for small farmers, distrust of the English, and now beans.
If you are ever in North Wales, call in, and I can promise you an experience with cassoulet beans and celery that will make you forget you are a married man, heaven forbid.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired.

Cobwebs on my letterbox

The postpersons, employees of the Royal Mail, are going on strike tomorrow. For a week. Just think:a whole week without junk mail! Hurrah!
Of course, this will also be the last nail in the coffin of the Royal Mail, so that, instead of the 10,000 job losses, which is what the postpersons fear, there will be 40,000 job losses, ie, the entire workforce.
But that's cool. The private sector, poised to benefit from this daft strike, will re-employ most of them, and, with a bit of luck, this could also be the nail in the coffin of junk bloody mail.
But I doubt it.

What beanz meanz

Two disparate things happened to me today that I now believe to be conjoined.
First, at 10.30 a.m, in the lovely cathedral city of Ely, Mrs Barker invited me into a dimly-lit room, sat me down and looked into my eyes. At one bizarre moment, she asked me to read a line of letters that spelled out the name of a suburb in Peking, or so it seemed to me. But I didn't demur, I just allowed her to have her way with me, in the way that we allow opticians to do. She decided in the end that my sight had not deteriorated, although I was having a little more difficulty with close reading of small print than heretofore, hitherto and hencewithal.
Second, this evening I ate a concoction, pre-prepared by ole Uncle Sam Tesco, called "Bean Chilli and Wholegrain Rice". How DOES he think up these enticing names? After eating it, I idly read the small print on the back of the wrapper. My god! It's outrageous! Every ingredient is totally natural, healthy, veggie-approved, life-affirming.
If only I had persuaded Mrs Barker to prescribe stronger reading glasses, I could have avoided this dish and gone for my normal meaty, MSG-rich, e-number-laden crap, the stuff that my digestive system has grown used to.
It's my own fault. Put a pretty woman in front of me, and I just go to pieces.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Let's hear it for Saint Pancreas!

Talking of the liver, I had a head-to-toe medical the last time I was in Turkey, and was pleased with the outcome. Everything was as normal as can be expected for a man of my years: heart, blood pressure, kidneys, pancreas (what the hell does that do?), thyroid, bladder, anus (what DO they find up there to check out?), etc. In fact, I have the cardio-vascular system of a 95-year-old, a testimony to the efficacy of my habit of parking at a great distance from my wine merchant's and walking the last 300 metres to his front door.
The only thing - these bloody medics have to find ONE thing to scare you with, don't they? - was that my liver was at Stage Two. Apparently, there is only one more Stage, namely, - oh, ok, you are ahead of me as usual - Stage Three, at which point, I will have more suet round my liver than is currently hanging from my bird table. His advice? Give up the wine.
Of course, he is right. Apart from being young, fit and rich, he is right. And I tried to explain to him the extent of my ABSTINENCES in the interests of continuing health:
1 To avoid worry, I have given up politics and newspapers.
2 To avoid stress, I have given up work.
3 To avoid std, I have given up sex (Well, more accurately, sex has given me up)
4 To avoid hernias, I only lift very slim women.
5 To avoid obesity, I have given up dieting.
6 To avoid anxiety, I no longer open mail or answer telephones.
7 To avoid eczema, I have given up rolling naked in beds of nettles.
8 To avoid surges of blood pressure, I no longer watch Jodie Foster movies
9 To avoid skin cancer, I keep my shirt on in California.
10 And now, to avoid the suet round my liver, it seems I have to give up wine.

Well, the hell with it. I think 9 out of 10 isn't such a bad score.

Bra unburnt

Mrs Trellis ventures into European politics:
Dear Herr Merkel, she writes, it must be galling for you to have to make your own supper and iron your own shirts etc while your wife messes about running Germany.
The late Mr Trellis made it perfectly clear that HE was the breadwinner and my job was to create a home for him and the children (not that we had any children). I did flirt briefly with Women's Lib, but they met on Tuesdays which clashed with my pottery classes, so Mr T was spared any of that trauma, and I was spared the inconvenience of burning my brassieres, if you will pardon the impropriety.

My advice to you, Your Herr, is to get Mrs M back to what we Primitive Methodists call "family values", ie, being there of an evening to sauer your kraut, etc, when you come home exhausted from whatever you do. It's better than having her out in the street burning her lingerie, squatting naked and bringing the country to its knees in the process.

Yours mit Verstaendnis
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, unreconstructed.

Dissection update

I know that your hooks have been on the tenter waiting for further news of Clare's barn owl pellet dissection, but I am not sure you are really ready for all the details. Oh well, you can always stop reading if it gets too gory.
She has identified moreorless ALL the bones of short-tailed field vole, wood mouse, common and pigmy shrew and an unidentified bird.
She has extracted two large skulls of, probably, brown rat and water vole.
Her next project is to lay out a complete skeleton of a short-tailed field vole.
How many 12-year-old girls do you know who would do this? Not only this, but she is building a collection of spiders and catching midges and other morsels to feed them. Not only this, but she is collecting the wriggly larvae from the barn owl pellets to rear them on to chrysalis and imago stage (They will turn into clothes moths, so don't tell mum, ok?).

What is your image of such a girl? Plain, spotty, scruffy? WRONG! I can tell you that she is pretty, she is well-groomed and she dresses very smartly. We have the makings of a really telegenic presenter of nature programmes here: the next Kate Humble in fact.
And she's beginning to be better at moth identification than me, so my admiration is not entirely unalloyed................

Living Will

Last night, my friend and I were sitting in the living room and I said to her:
"I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."
She got up, unplugged the TV, and threw out my wine.
She's such a bitch.....

I am indebted to my Anatolian confidante for the above. In fact, I wrote a living will, but my son dissuaded me from making it "official" on the grounds that it might encourage doctors to finish me off before I was really ready. Somehow, that doesn't bother me. They can have my bits, just as long as they don't throw out my wine before I've emptied the last drop from the bottle.

A complete list of the Kings of Israel

Today I received a poignant crise de foie from my most loyal blog fan. OK, I know that should be cri de coeur, but in his case a crise de foie (crisis of the liver) is much more likely. So, I wish to apologise to him, and to my other fan, for my recent silence. It has been occasioned by my total preoccupation with finishing The Book and coping with the terrible moodshifts that accompany it, moods which veer from the merely anxious to the deeply desperate.
So, to make up for my silence, here is a complete list of the Kings of Israel. Well, not really, but a friend of mine, who was at a religious-foundation university doing chemistry, but where theology was a compulsory subject, answered his first-year theology examination paper by writing "I have no idea how to answer these questions, but here is a list of the Kings of Israel." The examiners failed him, just as their imagination failed them. Today, he is a very rich plumber.
My forlorn fan is suffering from a boss who delights in sending out deeply meaningless memos designed to "motivate" the workforce. These memos consist of ready-made phrases which substitute admirably for thought, and give the impression of a man who has raised diarrhea to an artform. Here is a sample:
We recognize the incredible market development efforts going on all over the world, and we committed to taking the necessary steps to globalize our brand, product, and channel development efforts to improve information sharing, benefit from common platforms, and accelerate growth. We realized the importance of sound processes to better attack the market opportunity and to better link market needs to production planning, and we committed to develop a more robust, more multi-functional product development process and to utilize our newly-launched planning process to enhance product innovation and customer service.
Personally, I would rather read a list of the Kings of Israel.