Saturday, July 19, 2008

MG Magnet

At one farm we visited last week, I noticed an old car under a tarpaulin. It was the radiator grill that attracted my attention. Turns out it was an MG Magnet, a car about which I know nothing, except that my son Jeremy is likely to be interested. Hence this posting. The rest of you - me included - can now go back to what you were doing.

Back to basics

That's what's wrong with this damned blog: it's too long since we had a photograph of a tractor. The woman's name is Sharon, but beyond that I can tell you nothing about her, except she looks good on a tractor.

Cain and Abel

And Adam knew Eve, and she conceivedeth, and brought forth two sons, named Cain and Abel. After that, Adam puttedeth he up his feet and saideth: "Two brawny lads, let them drag the ass's thighbone through the sod and grow the maize". And Eve, being a good Jewish mother, caredeth she for them and fed them and nagged them and stopped them doing dirty stuff and tried to persuade them to become doctors or lawyers, But the lads listenedeth not, for they quite liked dragging an ass's thighbone through the sod. But it came to pass, as it usual doeseth, that the two bros got into a spat, and Cain the Bad sleweth he Abel the Good with one mighty slew. And then Cain, to avoid the wrath of the Divine Gendarme, soddedeth he off to the Land of Nod, which was a bit like the driest parts of Arizona, and took to himself a wife, though where the frick she cameth from, nobody knows. And he started begetting like it was going out of fashion, which is just as well, because if he hadn't, there would be no George W Bush or Gordon Brown today. Come to think of it, maybe if Abel had slain Cain, we might have had a better choice of leaders......

You win some, you lose some

My, my, my, it's been a busy few days! Leaving aside the saga of the incurable computer (a new hard disk should solve my problems), Peter and I have visited a slather of Barn Owl boxes and had the pleasure of seeing a score or more healthy owlets in various boxes, and the pain of finding a few dead ones in or under others, no doubt driven to jump because they were so hungry. There are plenty of voles and mice about, but wind and rain, of which we have had a lot lately, make it difficult for the parent birds to catch them In desperation, some Barn Owls have been taking avian prey, such as young Blackbirds and Starlings.

It's too early for a final verdict, but it looks as if this will be poor year overall, with low productivity, lots of failures, lots of late clutches which might well not make it, and very little chance of second broods, given that most birds started laying on or after the third week of April.
Two highlights of this week's barnowling. First, we visited a box at a fruit farm, which contained two fat
and feisty young ones. The owner was so delighted that she gave us each a punnet of raspberries. So tonight it's raspberries with thick yogurt and a light covering of sugar for me. The second was that I finally got a chance to look at Mary Parker's box. It's a lovely box, as indeed is its owner, a vivacious Irish lady with a twinkle, but sadly the box contained only the base of a squirrel drey. In a way, I am glad that Ms Parker was in the shower and therefore wasn't present to experience that awful sense of failure when you discover that your box has not been appreciated. But not to worry, a beautiful box like hers is bound to do the business next season, or my name isn't Benjamin Disraeli.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What is this life if full of care....?

During my year in Brescia as an English teacher, one of my jobs was to teach two hours in a nearby factory between 5 and 7 pm three evenings a week. To get me and my three fellow teachers there, we had a taxi for the journey, which took about twenty minutes. But the schedule was really tight.
Because our driver had a terrible speech defect (I think a cleft palate, but what do I know?), I was the one to sit in front to cope with his occasional utterances.
One evening, we were zooming across the derelict landscape when he suddenly stopped and got out of the car. We waited. He was leaning against his cab, immobile. Finally, prompted by my colleagues - this was a delay we couldn't afford - I got out and asked him why he had stopped. He said, without taking his eyes of the horizon:
"Guarda che tramonto!"
I knew the words: "Look what a sunset!", but I couldn't for a moment take in its sense.
But a moment later, I learned a profound lesson. OK, we are in a hurry, but we should never be in such a hurry that we cannot stop to admire a beautiful sunset.
God bless that taxi driver, he taught me an important lesson.

A Sense of History

I am going to invite you to laugh at me. My training is as an historian, and I have a serious defect.- I have no sense of place. You know what I mean, you are standing in, say, the atrium of Pompeii, and you KNOW its significance, but you don't get the buzz. It's just an old building. This is a source of great disappointment to me. I can multiply the examples a thousandfold, places that CRIED OUT to be appreciated, but left me unmoved. One exception was Auschwitz, but I really don't want to revisit those emotions.
The other - now you can laugh - was Tombstone, Arizona. I was birding in SE AZ and decided to make a detour to visit Tombstone. After all, I have always been a Western fan. I stayed in a nearby motel, and drove into Tombstone at eight o'clock in the morning. Deserted.Just one store open. I walked around the town and had a devastating feeling that I had been here before. When it opened, I visited the Birdcage Theater, and my sense of deja vu was even stronger. I won't bore you with the other parts of the town that I visited, but when I left, I drove away with the feeling "I WAS HERE BEFORE".
My son Jeremy said that is was just because I had watched so many westerns that I felt everything was familiar.
Maybe he's right. But I tell you this: every time I watch the movie Tombstone, I get the same tingles.
My advice to you all is not to mess with me: I can draw a pen faster than the Sundance Kid, and plug ten dedications into your copy of my latest book (when it's published. HA! ) before you can say OK CorraL.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In a jam

This morning, I took my desktop in two cardboard fruit boxes to the man in the village who is going to try to get the machine back to normal, or, failing that, rip out the old hard drive so that I can have the pleasure of starting again from scratch.
We had a coffee, we chatted for a while, and in the background his son was boiling up blackcurrant jam on the hob. I even helped sift through the recycle bins to find some empty jars. Surreal.
Finally, my good man said that he would look at my puter tonight after the jam-maker had gone to bed.
Second fiddle to a sprog puddling a vat of boiling jam. Humiliating: as if I haven't suffered enough already.

They finally got me

Sorry about the blog silence, mes potes. I have finally been zapped by a virus or similar nasty, so this is being written on my old steam-powered laptop.
If anyone knows how to remove a warning notice that reads "Failed to set hook!", I would be grateful. This is the outward manifestation of the nasty thing that prevents me from firing up any programs.
If anyone knows where I can download a file called usbccgp.sys, I would be equally grateful - if I had this file, I could use a mouse with my old laptop instead of the touchpad.
Watch this space, though - "you can't keep a good man down". It says here on this piece of paper.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Good for you, Laura Robson!

The imperial bosom is swelling with pride right now, and the object of my patriotic fervour is a 14-year-old tennis player called Laura Robson. As I write, I still don't know if she won her match in the Wimbledon final against a Thai girl with an impossibly difficult name, but it really doesn't matter. Our Laura played the game of her life, by turns brilliant and dogged, and has already brought glory to Queen and Country and The Old Scrote, not necessarily in that order.
Sure I had tears in my eyes as I watched the match. She's exceptional, special. Bless the child.
I might even go on google and see if her interests include moth-trapping.

New bathroom flooring and radiator

Those of you who have visited my home in the last few months will have been properly horrified by the state of the bathroom. But now, as you can see, things are improving: new flooring and a new radiator. These will be followed by redecoration and a new bath panel.
The really smart-arsed among you will deduce from the raised toilet seat that this is genuinely my bathroom and not a shot of a nunnery loo downloaded from Google Images.

Mrs Trellis dabbles in politics

A surprisingly serious contribution from my faithful North Wales correspondent.

Dear Desmond, or may I call you Bishop Tutu, she writes, I deduct from your recent blog entries that you are a person with a great diversion of interests: nature, women, politics, and even religion sometimes. While I do not adhere to your particular demonination, I admire very much your stand on some of the pernicious issues of the day, particularly your opposition to recognising that man-and-wife could include man-and-man (I make no reference to lebanese women, since I don't think they really exist outside of men's fantasies).
But I am a little disappointed at your opposition to the ordinization of women bishops. It seems to me that once a person dons the episcopal frock and speaks with a deep cathedral voice, nobody will know the difference, well, as long as they don't peek under the frock, that is, pardon my indelicatecy.
Before I close, I want to congratulate you on speaking out against that awful Mugabe person. He's a real nasty piece of work and no mistake, but I hate him mainly because he's black.
Yours in faith (Primitive Methodist, that is)
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retired.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Bless the Fens!

Today was a magical day. Out with my piri Peter W, and a good mate Roger I joining us, we visited a goodly number of Barn Owl and Kestrel boxes around the fens which are local to me. The fens are flat, and this means that the skyscapes are stunning. Thank God it was a perfect July day, warm and sunny with nothing more than cottonwool wisps of altocumulus to stain the welkin.
At the end of the day, which had included a wonderful farmhouse lunch with Robert and Christine and their children Edward and Holly (they have erected lots of nestboxes on their 600 acre farm), Roger summed it up: "This has been one of the most wonderful days of my life".
I'll drink to that. In fact that is what I am doing right now.

Out of the mouths of sucks and babelings

I never really liked Rita Hayworth. But I adored Esther Williams. I can remember, when I was 10 (TEN!) , informing my mother and my sister that Esther Willaims didn't wear a bra. God knows how I knew that, let alone why I should vouchsafe that information to my mum and my sister. But I tell you this: I can still feel to this day the resonance of their stunned silence. Is there something wrong with me? (Don't answer that question!)

Putting the 'tent' into good in-'tent'-ions

As you probably know by now, the Califorian munchins are coming to stay with me 12-19 August (That's Sophie 9 and the twins, Kiki and Harry, 8). So, methinks, let's revive my ancient tent so they can sleep out yurt-style in the back garden, maybe live on yak's milk and learn about plov.
The tent is a "Good Companions" tent that I bought in the early seventies when I paid my first visit to the Scottish Highlands, and a bloody good tent it was too. On one campsite, in a storm, all the tents got blown out except for the Good Companions tents.
So, I retrieved the tent and its flysheet from a musty trunk and my god, the canvas smelled musty.
So I pitched the tent in the garden, Moreoroless. Because after so many years, I had forgotten how to erect it (Old Scrotes are liable to this problem), and pitched it wrongly (Photo 1). I finally got it right (Photo 2).
The last time I used this Good Companions tent was with Jeremy when we lived in Switzerland, and we pitched it one summer's evening in the direct line of a Langlauf Piste, ie, zilliions of sweating Swiss in running gear pounding past us getting fit for the winter. I kind of went off camping after that.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Of all the organs in my body, my brain is the most amazing. A truly miraculous, wonderful organ.
The only thing that bothers me about the above statements is that they are coming directly from my brain.
Well, it would say that, wouldn't it?