Sunday, August 31, 2008

"Can I do you now, sir?"

Mrs Mopp was a character in a popular wartime radio show called ITMA ("It's That Man Again). A cleaning lady as cheerful as a cockney sparrer, she would go into the boss's premises wanting to get on with the cleaning. Her catchphrase was "Can I do you now, sir?"
It's quite a long time since I had a char to do me now, sir, and I have struggled to keep the house a few notches above pigsty.
Today, my tiled kitchen floor, which I have mopped a few times in a desultory fashion, looked up at me accusingly. So (you know how craven I am when faced with the otherness of inanimate objects) I got down on my knees with a bucket of sudsy hot water and a scouring pad, and scrubbed every single tile, all seventy or so of them.
My kitchen floor now SPARKLES. I hadn't realised that what I thought was patterning on the tiles was in fact dirt. Abso-bloody-lutely a-bloody-mazing, if you will forgive my tmesis.
But it leaves me with a problem: it is so beautiful, I daren't walk on it. I can't get to the fridge or the food cupboard or the microwave or the cooker or the kettle. I could easily starve to death or die of thirst here, and that, bence, meinetwegen, al mio paree and a mon avis, is too high a price to pay for beauty.
On the other hand, if I decide to re-employ a cleaning lady to do me now, sir, I will have six days in any week to mess the floor up, knowing that she will restore it on the seventh.
Did I tell you about the cartoon in Punch where a char is standing on the steps of a posh house. A very elegantly-dressed duchess-type has opened the door. The caption gives the char's words: "Are you the woman who advertised for a cleaning lady?" Funny lot, the English.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Listen, i miei prodi, the East Cambridgeshire District Council Annual Canvass of Electors 2008/9 has stabbed me in the back. Among the clauses I found in the small print is the following: People aged 70 and over cannot sit on a jury.
Just as peers of the realm, lunatics and criminals may not vote in elections, Old Scrotes are deemed unfit to sit in judgment on their fellow persons. It's outrageous. And a waste. Here you have, in me, someone who over the decades has honed his prejudices to the point where I can argue convincingly against minorities (except jazz fans), majorities (except oenophiles) and people who have fluff in their navels.
As I say, what a waste. With crime on the increase, the country - and I say this in all modesty - needs someone like me to demand life sentences with hard labour for speeding motorists, unmarried mothers, tobacconists, the glottal stop, Osmagalians and other antisocial elements. Damn. What a waste.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Anagrammatically speaking

Good to see that Barak Bin Obama has finally chosen a running mate. Alan Bidet.
Pity nobody ever heard of the guy.
By the way, have you noticed how often presidential candidates choose anagrams for their vice-president?
The classic was Nixon's running mate, Spiro T Agnew, but I think Alan Bidet has possibilities too.
OK, Biden, but allow me my little joke.

Fat balls

One of the joys - and mysteries - of the English language is the importance of STRESS, which very often carries important meaning. Think of pairs like:

a blackbird, ie, a species Turdus merula
a black bird, ie, a bird that happens to be black
a greenhouse, ie, a place where you grow plants
a green house, ie, a house which is painted green.
The difference in speech is all in the stress.
A blackbird is a DAH-dee, stress on the first syllable; a black bird is a dee-DAH, stress on the second syllable. Similarly stress the green in greenhouse, but stress the house in a green house. I guess you could argue that context will generally tell you which is meant, even if the speaker gets the stress wrong.
This posting was prompted by the fact that today I needed to go to my local garden centre to renew my supply of fat balls. I promise you, I resisted the temptation to get the stress wrong.
And now my Blue Tits are happy again. Careful with the stress in blue tits, by the way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mrs T, still alive and well

Never one to leave any turd unstoned, Mrs T gives her all once again:
Dear Jeremy Clarkson,
she writes, I am sorry I missed your birthday. Seventy-two? I can't believe it! You look so much older than that, but that might be your lack of hair and the fact that your neck has gone.
Anyway, I am writing to say how much I enjoy your programme, Come Dancing. It's such a refreshing change after all the sex and violence and cookery programmes on telly these days.
If you are ever in North Wales, do call in and I can promise you a Valeta that you will never forget.
Yours fanfully
Mrs Blodwen Trellis, Widow, No serious offer refused
PS Don't waste your time on Swifts. Nasty birds, poo all over the place, and you can't even eat them unless you're Italian.

"To all swift things for swiftness did I sue"

And it's been going on since we started the Concern for Swifts campaign in 1996. The reality is that Swifts have been losing their nesting sites at an increasing rate, but Swifts have continued to be green-listed, ie, not a species of conservation concern. To be amber or red listed, you have to demonstrate at least a 25% decline in BREEDING numbers. The problem with that is that it is extremely difficult to assess the number of BREEDING pairs in a colony. Our argument to the RSPB (and others) has been: accept the reality, and solve a problem before it becomes a crisis.
Well, here we are some 12 years later, and at last the RSPB has recognised that action in respect of Swifts is urgently needed. I won't divulge the details, but I can tell you after our latest meeting at The Lodge, I and my colleagues came away heartened that "resource" is now available to help Swifts.
My other news is that my campaign (renamed Action for Swifts three years ago) has now amalgamated with London Swifts to form a new organisation called Swift Conservation. I can now bin my copy of Dreamweaver, thank god!
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
Clung to the whistling main of every wind
. (Thomson)
Maybe I can start to relax now.

"Sophie, Sophie, Sophie!"

Apparently, that three-time Sophie utterance, accompanied by a deep sigh and a falling cadence, was made by her class teacher. I can guess what she was thinking about my little Princess at the time. Sophie is a one-off, a drama queen, a delightful chatterbox, bright as a button and seriously pretty with it.
Anyway, here is a picture of Sophie deep into reading Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, or something similar. Well, no, but you can bet it wasn't Milly Molly Mandy - she's too far on for that kids' stuff.
I love her to bits and I try hard not to be envious of that amazing hair. All I have left is a fringe round the bald patch, which, according to Sophie, is used by small insects as a skating rink.

At last!

I finally worked out that to take pics with my Nikon Coolpic, the first step was to press the little button on top with ON written on it. So, joy of joys!, I got a real pic of my darlings playing swingball. From left to right: Kiki, Harry, Sophie and Mom (aka Mum aka Mama aka Sarah).
On Friday afternoon, Sarah and I went into Cambridge, leaving the munchkins in the care of Clare, who is a natural when it comes to relating to children, even boisterous ones like my lot. And here she is with Kiki and Sophie:
I took the family to the airport on Tuesday, after a diversion via Grandma's and got back about five in the afternoon. The silence in my house was deafening. It's really all or nothing when your kids live on the other side of the world.
Never mind, it was wonderful having them here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

"As I was saying....

....before I fell off the stage", it's good to be back (Ancient readers of this blog will recognise the quotation from Tony Hancock).
Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated, etc. It's just that life has been hectic these last 2-3 weeks. Nice hectic, mind you: plenty of activity to do with Swifts (more of this anon), some Barn Owl monitoring (while dodging the downpours), gardening (ditto), desperate attempts to finish proofreading THE BOOK (It's like calling Macbeth the "Scottish play").
And, of course, the visit of Sarah and the three munchkins. Sophie, Kiki and Harry positively REVEL in the rain showers, and seem to take every opportunity to get wet. They are also passionate about feeding the ponies in the field below mine. But their favo(u)rite pastime is playing swingball (see pic above) with Clare. Clare has proved to be a natural with children. When I commented to her on this, she said "It's because I am the same mental age as them", which is stunningly profound. I think the same applies to me.....