Sunday, March 30, 2008

Country ways

This afternoon, it being an amazingly balmy Spring day, I put my crumpled hat on my head and a straw in my mouth, and went to the kissing gate outside my garden, anent the footpath, and leant on it, yokel style, in the hope of engaging unwary walkers in conversation.
Frogs was my mission in fact. Below my hedge there is a dyke, water-filled after the rains, and a great place for amphibians. I had heard a sort of purring, reminiscent of Turtle Dove, but too early for them, so I knew it would be frogs in the dyke indulging in their usual chat-up routines.
And sure enough, in no time at all, a citizen in wellies came by with a border collie in tow. I have learned to dispense with the preliminaries (Lovely day, isn't it? What a nice dog! All that stuff). Instead, I plunged straight in:
"Funny things, frogs. Croon like Bing Sinatra when they're roused. Can you hear them?" says I.
I got a funny look.
But then, it was an incomer to the village, not used to our country ways.

Ten Steps to Fitness

When you reach old scrotage, fitness regimes are, to say the least, daunting. For this reason, I have given some thought to a 10-step route to fitness for the chronologically-challenged. Whether you follow it is up to you, but don't blame me if your joints creak for lack of exercise.

Step 1
Park at least 200 yards from your wine merchant's door and enjoy the invigorating walk to it. The mental/emotional anticipation adds to the efficacy of this simple workout.
Step 2
Park at the far end of the supermarket carpark. If you are zimmerframe-ready, grab a shopping cart to help you make the trek to the entrance.
Step 3
Always stand up to get dressed or undressed. Falling over is just part of the workout here. Try taking your underpants/knickers off over your head. Does wonders for the cardiovascular system. Whatever that is.
Step 4
When picking something up off the floor, stay bent over and consider what else you could usefully do while you are down there. The exercise here is based on the principle of dynamic tension. Whatever that is.
Step 5
When lying in bed last thing at night, or waking first thing in the morning, alternately stiffen and relax your whole body. I have no idea why this is good, but it sure feels good. Not every time, of course....
Step 6
Avoid all forms of mechanical/electrical grinders and mixers. Do it all with fork and spoon. Get stirring, and don't worry if your arse wobbles uncontrollably: it's preferable to having it just hang there sagging.
Step 7
Food: keep cakes, biscuits, chocolates and other sweets (candies) on the highest shelf in your kitchen. This way you have to stretch to reach them, giving a healthful torsion to your shoulder muscles.
Step 8
Food again: always keep the crackers in a separate room from the cheese, thereby requiring you to walk a bit before you tuck in.
Step 9
Television: I know it's tempting to slouch on the couch and rely on the remote, but really you ought to get into the habit of getting up and going to the set every time you want to change channels. On second thoughts, bollocks to that.
Step 10
Sex. A delicate subject, I know, but it is another occasion to get those muscles moving, those lungs gasping for air and that little pulse throbbing violently in the temple. Whether you have someone with you at the time is a matter of personal choice. And opportunity of course, which, as we all know, is a fine thing.

Well, it's either my ten-point regime or yoga. Personally, I don't trust anything with live bacteria in it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bloody Starlings, bloody squirrels, bloody birds

Put up feeders filled with expensive food for your birds, and what happens? It all gets noshed by Starlings (seriously endangered, my arse) and squirrels (they WILL be endangered if I can do anything about it), while your pretty birds perch at a distance wondering whether they could make a better living in the Algarve.
So, I spend megashekels to buy and put cages over my feeders that small birds can negotiate but larger creatures can't.
Sure, but nobody told the small birds that, so they are starving in the midst of plenty, because NOT ONE has yet worked out how to get through the cages.
Meanwhile, the squirrels and starlings have moved next door to pillage my neighbours' feeders.
Somehow, I don't feel that this is progress.

Trellis on diet, moreorless

I am grateful to my correspondent from North Wales for these useful observations.
Dear Clement Freud, she writes, I was very interested in your comment about potatoes. I once went a whole year without eating potatoes but I didn't lose an ounce (or should that be kilowatts? I am still confused by this metronome conversion thing). Not only that, but I had lots more salads, makes you feel like a rabbit, doesn't it, but I persisted, even with fish and chips.
Not that it mattered, you understand. The late Mr Trellis always used to say he liked his women "meaty", not that he was much of a one for getting his teeth into meat, having lost all his during an unfortunate encounter with a gerbil, but he could suck something lovely. But I don't want to dwell on that.
I didn't understand your reference to your "peacemaker". I don't approve of guns, but I suppose where you live, you have to protect yourself. I understand East Anglians are still very Viking in their habits, it's all rape there, isn't it, along with arsing and pillagery?


Today, still suffering, I went to see my regular doctor about my ribcage/chest/lung pains and associated nastinesses. He examined me and delivered his verdict:

"You're fat," he said.
"I demand a second opinion," I said.
"You're ugly, too," he said.
Well, not really, but it seems that my problem is muscular, which is a relief. But he did suggest that I should return as soon as possible to Papworth (the heart hospital) to get my pacemaker checked.
Oh, and the usual: watch my diet, get more exercise, cut down my alcohol intake, avoid large women on tractors.....
So, I am going to be good: I am going to eat fewer potatoes from now on.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An offer you can't refuse

So, there I was, installed as the Principal of a hybrid academic establishment which became registered as King's College of Further Education. You gotta admit, that has a certain ring to it.
And one day, I received an enquiry about putting on a course for a group of Libyans to prepare them for entrance to Polytechnic HND courses.
So, I picked up the phone and spoke to the author of the query. And we clicked. And my school got the job.
And, later, the man who phoned me - I will call him Dr L - invited me to a meeting in London with the Libyan principals, after which he said "One day, I will make you an offer you can't refuse." Talk about the Godfather!
But he did, and I accepted, and that was the beginning of my great adventure into the world of industry, engineering, management training and seat-of-the-pants consultancy.
It was hectic, crazy, mind-numbing, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Why? Because it opened my eyes to a world beyond the cosy confines of Academia. And it was very well paid too.
Later I went back to Academia, but I was no longer the same person.
Call it perspective.
Thank you, Dr L, you were a bad old bugger, but you did a lot for me - and for a lot of other people too.
Rest in peace.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Great Scott!

Mrs Trellis, once again, betrays her literary leanings.

Dear Scott FitzGerald, she wrote, imagine my surprise when I discovered that you were still alive, despite your appalling habits! My answer is a resounding YES - write write write - you are the most fascinating person I know after the late Mr Trellis, who, bless him, never got round to writing his memoirs because of his terrible trembling hand.
Mind you, he did once gain a certain notoriety on a visit to Pontypridd when he scrawled a graffiti (shouldn't that be graffito?) on the wall of the local Polytechnic (now, alas, a bum university) as follows: "I may not know what I like, but I do know nothing about art".
Listen, dear, I know that most of what you wrote after the Great Gatsby was not much cop, but Zelda believed in you, well, some of the time, and so do I.
Why not go for something pungent, you know, like Gray's Allergy in a Country Churchyard, an idea not to be sneezed at. Just my little joke!
Your literally
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired

The Life and Times of Old Whathisname

I had a message recently from a blog fan, clearly deranged bless him, suggesting that I could and should write bestsellers based on my exciting life.
Well, no. For most of us, our lives our fascinating, but only to ourselves.
There has to be something about our lives that transcends our little selves, otherwise it is just a silly self-indulgence.
I have been asked this question before. Why don't you write about.... [complete the phrase].
And my answer has always been the same: because I have nothing to say on that subject.
Mind you, a chorus of voices urging me to write my memoirs could influence me deeply.
So, apart from Mrs Trellis, who is for it?

To be or entropy, that is the question

Entropy, according to the Wikepedia entry, is "a measure of the unavailability of a system’s energy to do work. It is a measure of the randomness of molecules in a system and is central to the second law of thermodynamics and the combined law of thermodynamics, which deal with physical processes and whether they occur spontaneously. Spontaneous changes, in isolated systems, occur with an increase in entropy. "

Well, f............ that. Entropy for me is the tendency for everything to return to its constituent parts, ie, to rot.
My garden sheds are doing it.
My bathroom is definitely into serious entropy.
Most of my sweaters are in active return to the sheep they came from.
Even my furniture is beginning to pine for its forest origins, as bits fall away apparently without cause.
What is worse, my body has picked up on this fun process, and is going entropic - or whatever the expression is - at an increasing rate.
It is worrying to a person, and small consolation that the same thing seems to be happening to Gordon Brown and his Government.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Is it me, or has the world gone mad?

Busty British tourist barred from casino because of her 'offensive' breasts
This from a recent issue of the Daily Mail. Read on and be appalled.
A British tourist has been barred from a casino in New Zealand for upsetting fellow punters with her 'offensive' breasts.
Thirty-three year old Helen Simpson from Nottingham, was wearing a low-cut black evening dress when a woman staff member at the Christchurch Casino told her to cover up or leave.
"She said I was wearing too low a top, which people found offensive," Miss Simpson said. "I was highly embarrassed - humiliated, absolutely humiliated.
"There were girls at the casino wearing short skirts that I think are nothing more than belts.
Busty: Helen Simpson, 33, was told her 'offensive' breasts were upsetting clientele at a New Zealand casino. "I feel like I've been discriminated against for having big breasts."
Miss Simpson, a business manager for McDonald's who is in her third year studying human resource management, said the matter had been handled unprofessionally.
"The most humiliating thing was that everybody knew," she said.
"All the staff were staring and the group of guys that complained - I'm sure it was them - were smiling."
The Christchurch Casino's dress code makes no mention of low-cut dresses being banned, although anyone wearing jeans would be. It simply states on publicity material: "Smart, neat attire is required at all times."
And if you think this was only an excuse to post a picture of Helen, you are absolutely right. Put your hands together for Helen Simpson!

They've been seen!

Not by me, but others have now recorded the first Chiffchaffs, Sand Martins and Swallows of the year, and one of my circle even had a Wheatear in the Brecks last weekend.
But not me. So, instead, I will tell you some more about the Chiffchaff. It's scientific name is Phylloscopus collybita. The first part, from two Greek words, means "leaf gleaner". The second part, collybita, also from the Greek, means "moneychanger", from the supposed resemblance of its chiff chaff chiff chaff song to the sound of coins clinking together.
Not many people in Huntingdon know that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How dare you say out loud what everyone is thinking?!

There's quite a hoohaa at the moment because an aide in the Hillary Clinton camp said that Barack Obama's success was largely due to the fact that he is black. The aide was forced to resign.
Try this: do you think Obama would have got this far if he had been white? No, I don't know the answer either, but I see nothing wrong with the question.
I think Hillary Clinton has only got this far because she is a woman. Oops, I guess that's me refused entry to the USA from now on.

Oak Beauty

I had been told (thanks, David H), that the compensation for making poor catches at the start of the season is that you might well catch an occasional rarity or unusual moth. Among the unexciting moths (Common Quaker and Hebrew Characters) in Friday night's catch was an Oak Beauty. The photograph doesn't do it justice, but enjoy it anyway.

Wheatear? Not here..

Today, following the worst rainstorm since Noah forgot to pay his Water Bill, I trolled round the fens in search of the first of the summer Wheatears. I am now familiar with every tuft and tussock, every clod, lump and hillock, not one of which could I turn into a Wheatear. At one point, I met an attractive lady dragging an unwilling dog through the mud, but it was no consolation really. The fens remained as bleak as Gordon Brown's forehead.
The name wheatear is a corruption of white-arse, from its fetching white rump. It's a pretty bird so don't tell your Auntie Mary what its name really means.
The scientific name of the Wheatear is Oenanthe oenanthe, from the Greek oenanthe, duh, a bird mentioned by Aristotle but not otherwise identified. He may have been hot stuff as a natural philosopher, but after today, I bet I know a lot more about clods, lumps and hillocks than he ever did.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Memento mori

Here's the deal.
My father's 72nd birthday was on March 26.
Three months later he was dead, from a cerebral haemorrhage.
My 72nd birthday is June 5 this year.
So, if you want to buy me a beer, please do it before the end of August.
And if I don't pop my clogs, I will happily - very happily! - buy you one back in September.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hello Sailor

That piece about codling moths reminded me of the origin of this phrase.
Apparently we have Napoleon Bonaparte to thank.
Everything was ready for the invasion of England. He stood at the water's edge staring across the Channel, all his ships were primed, manned and ready, the wind had dropped, the sea calm, the tide favourable. He turned to his aide and gave the order:
A l'eau, c'est l'heure!

Ooh, you are naughty, but I like you!

Our local fruticulturalist has put two-thirds of his orchard into the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, which means that that part of the orchard has to be managed by "traditional" methods, ie, no pesticides, no fungicides, and so on. The result is that he now has an infestation of codling moths, the scourge of fruit growers.
But, not to worry, a biological control is available. There is a pheremone specific to this species, so what you do is to perfume your trees with the pheremone. And here's where the boggle entered my mind as he described how it works:
The pheremone attaches itself to the males who come to investigate it and this makes them irresistible to other males. Imagine it: an orchard full of poofter moths chasing each other round the trees having a gay old time while the female moths look on dismayed, wondering if the sexual revolution hasn't gone just a bit too far.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

If you need me, just whistle...

Today on Haddenham fen I met a beagler who told me that Harris's Hawks respond to whistling and that if I had whistled that one the other day at Aldreth, it might well have come down and landed on my wrist.
Many years ago, when I was Secretary of Christchurch Harbour Ringing Station, and therefore a person of some standing, I went into the ringing garden, an old corporation Nursery, where two youngsters, about 13-14, told me there was a strange and noisy bird in the pines at the top of the Nursery. I heard it whistle, so I imitated its whistle. It emerged from the pines and flew in our direction down into a low birch. I whistled again, it responded and flew closer, landing in a tree heather. I whistled yet again, and the bird - one of the Amazon green parrots - came and landed on my shoulder. The look of amazement and pure admiration on the faces of my young companions was a joy to behold! Of course I stayed cool, like, man, no big deal, I do this kind of stuff every day. Bless them, they clearly believed that I was the King of all Bird People, the St Francis of Christchurch Harbour.
I took the bird home with me, and it bit my wife's bum, which I regarded as a small price to pay for glory, an opinion not shared by Mrs Allsop.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


A correspondent to our local birding yahoo group reports seeing a male Mandarin Duck (above) on his garden pond. Tell me, if you decided to design a duck, would you EVER come up with anything so exotic? Better than the invention of the corkscrew, even, meinetwegen.

Humble corkscrew? Not in my book!

Some time ago, I sang the praises of the inventor of the clothes peg (clothes pin).
Today, I wish to laud the genius of whoever devised that most sainted of gizmos, the corkscrew.
I mean, imagine a bottle of desirable wine, imagine a cork in it, and imagine that the corkscrew had not been invented. Would YOU have come up with a solution to your thirst problem, other than biting the neck off the bottle?

OK, it's all very Voltairean: "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him". But, honestly, I reckon that most of us would find it easier to invent God than a device for getting the cork out of a bottle.

Trellis hits the nail on the pulse

For once, Mrs Trellis addresses the right person.

Dear Mr Scrote, she writes, I have to tell you that I don't like the tone of your last contribution. The late Mr Trellis, of blessed memory (mostly) always used to say "Never quit till you are beaten". In his case, I never used anything more brutal than a hairbrush, but I could still make him "quit", to use his quaint expression for it.
It's none of my business, of course, Mr Scrote, but if you are into some kind of BDSM thing with your editor, you can't expect everything to run as smooth as cockwork.
I suggest you take a break from book and beatings, get away somewhere, recharge your batteries - assuming you use them - get a prospective on things.
In fact, although I am not in the habit of inviting strange men into my home (and you are strange, no offence), you would be welcome to pop in for a glass of water from the Llanfairpg well, and a sliver of Caerphilly on a crust of bara brith, although you, being an inland person, probably aren't into seaweed.

E giunto il momento della partenza

In the elegant Italian phrase, E giunto il momento della partenza (It's time to leave). For the first time in my career as a writer, I am seriously considering withdrawing from a book, ie, pulling out of the Golden Oriole project. I am not a quitter, and I am not one to shy away from hard work, but I am so demoralised that it hardly seems worthwhile going on. Heaven knows there's no money in it, and the price of any glory to be derived from it is beginning to seem much too high.
I met my former neighbour, Madeleine, in Tesco's the other day. After the usual chitchat, she said a propos of nothing: "Jake, you need a woman." Well, I am not one to pooh pooh a useful suggestion, but I thought, no, right now what I need is a good editor, not the nebbish that I have had to struggle with this last eighteen months.
Anyway, if I do give up the book, I might then give serious consideration to Madeleine's proposition (She was not offering her own services, by the way: she is married to her own particular nebbish). Mind you, it's hard to find a woman nowadays who is smouldering with lust under her pinny for the embraces of an Old Scrote, never mind one with her own tractor.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fen afternoon

I had a wonderful afternoon doing what I love doing most of all: sharing my knowledge of birds and wildlife with someone who is eager to learn. We did a troll round the fens in the Land Rover and saw some good birds and some good sights.
It's the teacher in me, dontcha know. No, dear, I was not "showing off", something I hope I never do. I was just helping someone to improve their identity skills. Well, ok, maybe I did show off a little. After all, as Irma la Douce might have said, if you've got it, flaunt it. But I was very restrained: I only talked for 90% of the time.
For me, that's taciturn.

Dippy? Sure is.

As part of our village meadow restoration project, we want to install pond-dipping platforms (see picture for an example), so, as part of an information-gathering exercise, I wrote to Amy Bell, the wonderful teacher who brought parties of her children to the meadows in summer 2006 (reported in an earlier blog) to ask for her advice.
I received this email reply from Amy (the bold italics are mine) :

"Pond dipping platforms sound like a great idea. How will they be cantilevered? What will the mechanisms be? Thanks for asking my opinion! We hope to come and visit, although the change in law about it being almost impossible to let children ride in other parent's cars is making it more difficult. We shall continue to try though! Warm regards, Amy"

I am so frustrated by the ever-growing stupidity of the bureaucrats, nannies, killjoys and H&S lunatics in positions of authority that I cannot trust myself to make a comment without turning the air blue in the process.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Which doctor?

I have been pondering my recent visit to the doctor. I have been having a constant nagging pain across my upper back which occasionally causes me to catch my breath. Seeing that it had persisted for more than two weeks, I wanted to be sure that it was not a problem with my lungs.
Which it wasn't. Thank goodness.
So Dr Ali, unable to say what was causing the pain, said: "Take paracetamol". And I thanked him and left, relieved to know my lungs were still intact.
And now, a week and continuing pain later, I am becoming dissatisfied. Not with the pain: at my old scrote stage, pains, aches and creaks are to be expected. No, not with the pain, but with the doctor's advice: "Take paracetamol." It's just too easy, isn't it? Too easy for him, I mean. After all, something is causing the pain.

There is a story of a plumber who was all dressed up to go out on a Saturday evening when his phone rang. It was his doctor, who was in a panic because his toilet was blocked, and would the plumber come round right away? The plumber replied: "Throw a couple of paracetamol in the toilet, and I will be round on Monday morning first thing."

I hope Dr Abdullah Ali never has a blocked toilet, but if he does, I hope he gets that plumber.

Friday, March 07, 2008

What next?

You might just be old enough to have heard of Spike Milligan, comedic genius and manic depressive de nos jours, but I doubt if you saw his TV series, Q. It was in direct line of descent from the zany thirties comedy movie, Hellzapoppin, full of outrageous flights of fancy, running gags, daliesque dysfunction and occasional bare boobs (He was another tractor enthusiast).
Often, between each sketch, he would put a cardboard box over his head and desperately intone the words "What're we going to do next?" "What're we going to do next?" "What're we going to do next?" as he took another spastic step forward with each repetition of the phrase.
The BOOK is very close to completion now. And this evening, as I posted off the last of the corrections to the editor (Cap'n art thou sleepin' thar below?), a scary phrase came into my mind: "What am I going to do next?"
I hope you will excuse me if I put a cardboard box over my head while I work out an answer to that awe-ful question.

Parabuteo unicinctus, did you say?

Last autumn, I was with David Hopkins in his yard watching a Harris's Hawk mobbing a Honey Buzzard. The latter is a summer visitor and despite its name, not really a buzzard. The former is an American raptor, much used in falconry, and despite its name more of a buzzard than a hawk The one we watched was clearly a falconer's bird, identifiable by the jesses and bells hanging from its legs.
Today, while scanning finch flocks on the fen in the hope of finding more Bramblings, I spotted a large bird of prey perched on a piece of farm machinery. It turned out to be a Harris's Hawk, presumably the same one that I had seen at David's last year.
The purists in the birding fraternity will tell you that you cannot "tick" such a bird because it is not a genuine wild bird. Well, sod 'em, I say. It's a gorgeous bird, with mahogany-coloured wings and "trousers", a heavy pale beak, white undertail coverts and a long dark tail with a broad white terminal band. Look at it and tell me it isn't worth drooling over!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Stressed out

This morning, I wanted to see a doctor so I phoned our local surgery, and got an appointment for ten minutes later. How's that for service?! Dr Abdullah Ali - what a fine old English name that is - checked my chestal area and said he could find nothing wrong. I was just relieved that he had managed to locate my chest.
But this is not why I am telling you about my visit to the doctor's. In the few minutes I had to wait, I opened a magazine. You know the kind: pages dog-eared and yellowed, feature article on the abdication of King Edward the Eighth, etc, and in amongst this flotsam, an article on Stress and How to Deal with it. I ignored the bit about cutting down on alcohol and coffee, and the advice to take up yoga - or was it yogurt?
But I warmed to the bit about Communing with Nature, which is why I went birdwatching this afternoon. Well, ok, there was another reason: I had sent off to the publisher what I hope will be the last bit of the dreaded book , and I wanted to give myself a reward. No doubt he will get stressed out, poor chap. Maybe I should send him a picture of a Gobelimosveh.

Red Kite, Swiss style

Talking of Red Kites, one evening I was watching one close to where we lived in Switzerland when an old boy on a bike came by and asked me what I was looking at. I said "Ein roter Milan", using the official High German (HG) name. He looked across and said, in the local Swiss German dialect (my transliteration is necessarily approximate): "Nei, das isch kei' roter Milan, das isch 'n Gobelimosveh!"
I didn't argue, and did my best to hide my bafflement.
"That is no roter Milan, it is a Gobelimosveh
Later, I deconstructed the word: Gobel was clearly HG Gabel, meaning a fork. Mos was HG Moos meaning a marsh, and the last part Veh turned out to be HG Weihe meaning a harrier. So: a harrier of the marshes with a forked tail. Not bad, eh?
And that is what I want on my next troll round the Fens: mega-views of a Gobelimosveh, dear Lord, if it's not too much trouble.

Watch it!

The late Chris Mead used to talk about "England's green and sterile land". Well, yes, the fens are rich arable land, endless huge fields of monoculture crops, of very limited interest to wildlife. But despite this bland uniformity, wildlife still manages to make a living in the wild corners the plough can't get to. Today, for instance, I watched a flock of over fifty Chaffinches making the most of a huge muck heap, and they were accompanied by two Bramblings and a few Yellowhammers, Linnets and Reed Buntings. On another drove with gloriously unkempt verges, a huge flock of Goldfinches and Reed Buntings.
Even on the ploughed land, good things can happen. On recently ploughed or harrowed fields, hundreds of Fieldfares strut their stuff, always with an occasional Redwing and Mistlethrush amongst them to make scanning with a scope worthwhile.
Of course, any birdwatcher worth his salt keeps his eyes on the skies, hoping for a raptor. Today only Kestrels, but that's cool, as we septuagenarians really shouldn't say. And I used the word "birdwatcher" in preference to the modern "birder" quite deliberately, because the reason I did so well today is that I WATCHED. I stayed very still and waited for the birds to come to me. Which they did.
Thank you, God. As creations go, Yours is a humdinger. No complaints, but could you send a few raptors my way next time I am out? A Red Kite would be nice.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Old Father Time, damn him

Every day, I take 1000mg of Vitamin C and 75mg of Aspirin. This is to postpone the inevitable stroke. With that, I take 1000mg of Cod Liver Oil. This is to keep my joints supple. Every evening, I massage Ibuprofen gel into my shoulders. This is in the (vain?) hope that I can reduce the nastiness of my "cold shoulder" condition. Then I massage a good dose of Glusosamine gel into my knees. This is to postpone the day when I will need to have an operation on them. I also take a daily shluck of Cranberry Juice. This is to delay the inevitable enlargement of my prostate gland.
And I try to maintain a daily dose of 75cl of good Australian red wine, mainly because it helps me to live with the above conditions and worries.
But no worries: I can still remember - just - the time when my body did everything I asked of it without complaint. It's a bugger growing old, but it's better than the alternative.

Antifreeze, the Sequel

The wind has subsided, so maybe I won't become Jewish after all. But there WAS a moment....
You see, I suffer from Prince Charles syndrome: that awful growth spurt in middle years that causes the cranium to burst through the hair - specially on the crown, giving us (me and Charles) the appearance of tonsured monks.
And that is where the heat loss occurs. So, I thought how sensible it would be to become Jewish and wear a yarmulka (Hebr: kippah) to cover the leaky bit of my head, thereby satisfying the need for heat, the laws of thermodynamics and Adonai all in one go.
Maybe, though, I don't need to convert to Judaism: I notice the Pope wears a yarmulka. I bet his bonce is as warm as toast. Nu.

I wish to acknowledge....

And then, when the book is finally put to bed, there remains only the pleasant task of acknowledging all those people you wish to thank: spouses, lovers, friends, professional colleagues, wine merchants, correspondents and so on. In some cases, authors will also thank their editors, if, that is, they feel that their editors went beyond the call of duty. In my time, I have thanked maybe three of my editors; about the rest I remained silent as they did their job but nothing special beyond that.
Which brings me to the present book. I have been working on an acknowledgment, or maybe even a dedication to the commissioning editor. Something along these lines:
In particular, I wish to acknowledge the contribution of my editor, [name], without whose regular interventions, I could have written a better book in half the time.
I don't think the publishers will agree, though.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


It's cold, mes potes, it is damned cold. Il fait bloody froid. Winds from the Arctic blowing like hell and creating havoc. In fact, despite global warming, I find I am more vulnerable to the cold than ever.

Which is why I have decided to become Jewish.

Sorry, telephone. I will explain later.

What's in a (Welsh) name?

There being so many people in Wales with the same name, it is customary to identify a man by his first name and his profession. For example, Dai the Post or Barry the Bread. Particularly apposite is the undertaker: Dai the Death.
Two stories illustrate this phenomenon very well. The first concerns a Russian spy trying to make contact with his Welsh mole in a small village in the valleys. He goes to the pub, and says to the landlord "The waters of the Don flow swift and strong", to which the landlord replies, "Oh, it'll be Dai the Spy you're wanting. First house on the left after the post office."
The other is a lament from another Dai: "All my life, I have been a carpenter specialising in building boats. Beautiful boats. Hundreds of them I've built. Hundreds. Perfect boats. But do the call me "Dai the Boatbuilder"? No, they bloody don't! And I only ever shagged one sheep."

Mrs Trellis waxes patriotic

Today is St David's Day, look you, she writes, which is why I am wearing a leek. The origin of this custom is not hard to explain, once you realise that the Welsh have been trying to repel the English for the last eight hundred years, well, since Edward the First's time anyway. We didn't have any weapons, see, look you, so we drove them back with the smell of leeks, the way the French reinforced the Maginot Line by smearing it with garlic.
It didn't work, though, the English, being permanently bunged up with nasal catarrh from the smog, can't smell a thing, so they colonised us and burned down our castles anyway.
But, I shouldn't go on about Loegri and its perfidient albinos. Forgive and forget, I say. Live and let live, I say.
Mind you, if any more of them buy up cottages in my village, I might araldite their front door locks with leeks-au-gratin. Look you.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, mostly peacable.