Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And the historical guest list.....

Oh, bugger that, let me invite ten historical figures. Let's have a seriously BLOODY dinner party!
Fermat. You bastard! Explain that marginal note! You made it sound SO simple!
Pascal. "Cogito ergo cum"? What about the opposite? "Non cogito, ego..........." what?
Schroedinger. I really think you should get a life. I hope you get laid at my dinner party.
Florence Nightingale. Believe me, Florence, there are some flagging members here that desperately need you healing touch.
Praxiteles. If I give you the dynamite, will you help me blow up the town centres of most of the towns in England. And then re-design them so that they are for PEOPLE?
Deborah Meaden. You might not know who she is - she is one of the dragons in the Dragon's Den- but I have fallen in love with her calves. She is also devastatingly CLEVER. Oh god, she's not even dead yet. Damn
Dante Alighieri: there are so many parts of the Divina Commedia (ok, like everyone else, I only read L'Inferno) that I would like to squeeze in a couple of questions. For example, what is this about "fare le fiche" and that line "To, Dio, che a te le squadro!"
Adolf Hitler. No, seriously, somebody needs to talk to this guy. Evil? Too simplistic? Anal retentive? Spare me. What made this guy tick? I really want to know.
Samuel Johnson: what a curmudgeon. The original "grumpy old man", but a fund of information. Let him in.
John Donne. Come on, man, you started out shagging everything in sight, and ended up going all metaphsysical on us. Give us the full SP, you old goat!

Dinner Party

Accepting the wonderful Maureen Box's challenge, which ten people would you invite to a dinner party?
Oh my, what a challenge! The last time I saw this conceit, it concerned historical figures, which I could do much more easily, but ok, I will accept the challenge and go for contemporary figures.
Nigella Lawson, and I don't even propose to say why. OK, I might steal a few recipes. Yep.
Stephen Fry, the wittiest man around today. And I know I am safe: is he going to proposition a 72 year old guy with a prostate problem?!
Claire Short, amazingly antediluvian socialist, ugly as sin, but full of passion. Could cause the dinner party to disintegrate, but what the hell?
Barbara Windsor, bubbly as ever, despite the sagging, would keep any social gathering up and running.
David Attenborough, a man who for me can do no wrong. Sociable, knowledgeable, caring, anecdotal, god knows what he will make of my other guests.
Charlie Dimmock, a feisty lady with a contempt for bras which has influenced a whole generation of gardeners.
Angus Deayton, just because he is witty and I still feel sorry about the way the BBC dumped him (though I appreciate that they had no choice, naughty boy).
Patrick Moore, because I don't understand a word he says, and I love his misogyny (He has got to be on someone's hitlist!)
K D Lang, because it's important to get a lesbian perspective on world events. Isn't it?
Mrs Trellis. Go figure, as our American cousins say.


I watch nature programmes, don't you? But, i tell you, I can't take much more. It seems that every form of nature, floral and faunal, is under threat.
Sophie, Harry, Kiki, Joseph, Matthew, Alfred, my darling grandchildren, I have done my pathetic little bit to leave you a planet worth living on, but I fear for the future. Your future. Forgive me, I didn't do enough. Nobody is doing enough.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Learn English

Let me introduce you to a sentence that changed my life:
A friend of mine came round the other evening and it took me ages to get rid of him.
I am sad that I cannot acknowledge the author of this sentence - I think his name was Robin - but I remember vividly the lecture in which he introduced it, many many years ago at an ARELS teacher training weekend at the Bell School in Cambridge.
That was in the late sixties when Frank Bell was still in charge. A colossus, long gone to his rest, bless him.
Robin's point was to give students sentences to memorise which contained a richesse of useful constructions.
Let us now deconstruct the sentece.
A friend of mine
Not "my friend",which sounds too intimate, but just one of my circle of friends.
came round
Oh my, the problem that foreign learners have with phrasal verbs.!
it took me ages
Lovely idiomatic phrase, begging to be learned by heart.
get rid of him
Another idiomatic phrase that you have to learn by heart.

I copied this idea and gave my students ten crazy sentences on each Friday to memorise over the weekend. Even today, god willing, there are geriatric Swiss guys and gals stll coming out with a slather of English idioms and phrases, thanks to Robin, or whatever his name was, and my enthusiastic adoption of his idea.

Thanks, kid. Nothing personal.

Out of focus

No doubt you will recognise the third illustration as the infuriating Escher. I hope you enjoy these three pictures, but to be honest, everyday life looks like this to me....

Tractor porn

Listen, kid, I LOVE the tractor, but do me a favour: ask you big sister to get in the driving seat!

Gay or what?

Mrs Trellis goes straight for the groin.
Dear Matthew Paris
, she writes, I found your homeopathic insinuendos very distasteful, not that I begrudge you your moments of rectile happiness.
I am very bored-minded, but I don't think anyone of us want to read about your grapplings with the male member.
My late husband, Mr Trellis, god bless him, used to say:
"If God had meant us to smoke, he would have put chimneys in our heads." I have no idea what he meant, but I hope that his wise words will give you some comfort in your penile struggle.
On the other hand, I do admire your furtive mind, turmoiled as it is, so if you are ever in North Wales. do look in. There is a very muscular man three doors from me I am sure will be happy to fit you in.

Gay. or what?

When I was about 13, I went on a summer camp with the school to a farm at Sambrook, god knows where in Shropshire, and on the first night under canvas, the older boy in our tent, a lad called "Flog" Ferrington, a horny 15-16 year-old, displayed his erection and invited me or my classmate Dougie to grab it. Dougie didn't. I did. A big rubbery thing it was, and "Flog "showed me how to work it". Which I did.
Listen, I was just as curious about Boyle's Law and the Treaty of Utrecht and the manipulation of the "ut + subjunctive" construction in Latin. What's an adolescent cock, moreoreless?
So I did, and he did, and that was - and has been since - my total gay experience.
What was the effect on me? Well, first off, I wanted to replicate Flog Ferrington's amazing ability to make like Vesuvius. That took me at least another year.
What can I tell you? One swallow doesn't make a summer. Maybe not the best metaphor!
One day, my grandson, Harry, god bless him, came into the sitting room and announced that "Sophie and Kiki" - his 7-8 year old sisters - were "sniffing each other's nanas". Big deal.
Gay? I am with Woody Allen on this: I can only just stand rejection from a woman, but I am not prepared to be rejected by a member of my own sex.
Seriously, folks, aren't we making too much of this shit?


Oh God,once again, just when I wanted to be upbeat and positive, something grabbed me by the grumpy-bone. So, to make amends, tell me if you have EVER seen anything more life-affirming than this?!
Not only is she gorgeous and a great moth expert, she is also a friend of mine!

English as she is spoke

Re the fractured translations into English, as exemplified in the "Lost in Translation" collection, my lovely Turkish correspondent Angit, who still prefers to email me privately rather than post comments to my blog (damn her!), wanted to know if there were any examples from Turkey. Very few, but here they are:
Hotel in Ankara;
Please hang your order before retiring on your doorknob.
{Oh my darlings, if only you had remembered the rule of adverb order: MPT = manner, time, place - and my mnemonic "My Poor Toes"....)
Hotel in Istanbul:
Flying water in all rooms. You may bask in sun on patio.
Nearly there, totally undesrtandable.
Restaurant notice, Ankara:
You are invite to visit our restaurant
where you can eat the Middle East Food
in the European ambulance.
Well, only one word went astray.

It wasn't in Turkey, but my all-time favourite was the comment on a hotel restaurant menu: "Our prices leave you nothing to hope for." There is always something to hope for....

Grumpy Old Man Mode

If you are under 45 or of a nervous disposition, I suggest you stop reading right now. This is for grownups.

"First in, last out". This is the doctors' joke for the bladder daddies, the poor guys whose enlarged prostate gland is constricting the neck of their bladder, and therefore the flow of their urine. Mine is due for a recoke. But it's good joke, huh? No, it fucking isn't. It's at the least a nuisance, and the most, a precursor of prosate cancer. So wipe the fucking grin off your face, Dr Jokey Asshole.

It's on a par, I guess, with all those women in their forties who start to lose bladder control and end up with all kinds of pads as the price for being able to sneeze, giggle or run for a bus. What a gas! What a joke! Well, not really, not if you are the woman in question.

Let me tell you another tale. When Viagra was first announced and for Christ knows what reason was designated a prescription drug, I went to our village health centre for a tetanus injection, and met the senior doctor in charge, Dr Pam Kenny, standing at the reception desk with one of the centre nurses, and she said with a cackle: "We are just waiting to see which men in the village come in to get a prescription for Viagra!"

Thank god I cannot remember who the nurse was, or I would have TWO people to despise. Incontinence and impotence are not joke conditions. I don't have a problem with women who hate men - it's what I mostly expect - but cruelty I cannot forgive.

Did I just slip into grumpy old man mode here?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Downward trends...

My royalty statement for the half-year arrived from Pearsons - the publisher that took over all my old titles and buried most of them.
The ones that are left still continue to earn a buck or two, but the trend is definitely - and quite rightly - downwards.
I still get an occasional letter/email from a student of English, or more usually a foreign teacher of English, that says how wonderful my books are, and why don't I write more.
It's a bit like - and I hope you will not regard this as pretentious - asking da Vince, having admired La Gioconda, why he doesn't do a full-length nude painting of Catherine Zeta-Jones with an apple in her mouth.
Well, if I could do THAT, I definitely would...

Mrs T expresses an urge

Mrs T shows that she knows what's what. Moreorless:
Dear Gordon Brown, she writes, I know the economy is in a mess, but that is no reason why you should take refuge in talking about s - e - x. The late Mr Trellis, bless him, never allowed adversity to tempt him from the path of virtue, well, apart from his magazine collection, which I believe was prompted by his artistic bent, for bent he truly was, the dear man.
So, please get a grip on yourself, take yourself in hand and rise to the occasion. You can do it.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow.
PS If you are ever in North Wales, I would be very pleased to show you the local cromlech, a magnificent erection if ever there was one.

A Big Cock

All animals, it seems, come into season, do their stuff, and then spend the rest of the year burying their nuts, or whatever. The only exception is man, who is at it 365/365. If you are a stoat or an aardvark or an echidna, there are signals that the ladies are up for a bit of hows-your-father, and you take the appropriate action. Once the signals cease, you go back to rooting. But if you are a human, what are the signals?
Well, according to Colin Wilson, because we don't come into season, because we don't (obviously) secrete pheremones, there AREN'T any signals: we depend on another stimulus to keep the old armadillo sniffing the air, and that is imagination.
Because we don't summon up the Old Nick chemically, we summon up the Old Nick with fantasies, and the wilder they are, the more likely we are to rise to the occasion.
I have no idea if Mr W is right or not, and at my stage of the game, I am more concerned with my Council Tax bill, but I like the anecdote he tells to support his hypothesis. He calls it the Coolidge Effect. By the way, if you are not getting any, you might like to stop reading at this point. I DO understand. Honestly.
President Coolidge and his wife were visiting a state-of-the-art chicken farm, so huge that they decided to make their way separately round the facility. Mrs Coolidge was fascinated by a handsome cockerel, and when told that this prize bird could "perform" at least thirty times a day, she smiled that smile that only women can muster and said "Tell the President!" Later it was the President's turn to make the acquaintance of this amazing cockerel. "Thirty times a day?!" he said. "With the same hen?" "No, Mr President, a different hen every time." "Tell Mrs Coolidge," said the President.


Here is a definition of entropy. Please don't read it.
In thermodynamics (a branch of physics), entropy, symbolized by S,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 fundamental thermodynamic relation, which deal with physical processes and whether they occur spontaneously. Spontaneous changes, in isolated systems, occur with an increase in entropy. Spontaneous changes tend to smooth out differences in temperature, pressure, density, and chemical potential that may exist in a system, and entropy is thus a measure of how far this smoothing-out process has progressed.
Smoothing out??? That is a sneaky euphemism! What entropy is is the determination of everything in our universe to break down into its original components, preferably at the moment when you are most dependent on it.
I "smoothed out" last evening when I suddenly went from vertical to horizontal, the back of my computer chair having entropised, or whatever the bloody word is. The metal "spine" had broken in two, literally, so the chair suddenly went from chair to gurney. It was going back to its constituent parts, a process which I assisted today by throwing it into a skip at our local landfill site, and then replacing it with a Staples lookalike.
So, mes potes, I am a-rockin and a-rollin in a new smart executive style chair, definitely i coglioni del cane, but I have a sneaking feeling that it is already sizing up my backside and beginning to think about "smoothing out". Damn all inanimate objects: they really ARE out to get you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Le malade imaginaire?

I had a terse note from a reader of my blog suggesting that I am suffering from hypochondria. Stuff and nonsense. With all the ailments, aches, pains and worrying medical conditions I have, the last thing I need is to catch hypochondria. Anyway, I will be protected once the new central heating boiler is installed.

Lost in Translation

Make Charlie Croker's day: buy his book "Lost in Translation". It will also make your day. Mr C has collected delicious examples of fractured English from around the world. I will give you a taster:

On a hotel television set in Belgrade, Serbia:
If set breaks, inform manager:
Do not interfere with yourself.
Notice in a hotel bedroom, Ethiopia:
To call room service, please to open door
and call Room Service. Please call quiet,
people may sleep.
In a Japanese taxi:
Please put on your seatbelt.
Prepare for accident.
Greek deodorant stick:
Push up bottom.
Japanese phone card:
1. Lift up receiever. 2. Insert phone card.
3. Dial 0999 + number. 4. Say hello.
Tourist site in Beijing:
No fight, scrap, scrabble, rabble, feudal,
fetish or sexy service.

Let's face it. Millions of people speak our language, but few of us speak theirs, so we need to suitably humble and charitable. Mind you, when faced in a Spanish restaurant with the English translation for "pinchitos morenos calientes" (spicy moorish-style kebabs) as "hot arab little pricks". I decided to have the veal instead.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Excuse me, Darling, was that a Recession I just saw speeding past the window?

Years back, I got into Transcendental Meditation. Don't laugh, it was fashionable, and it worked for me. It's a very effective technique and I would recommend it to anyone; as long as you stop short of the yogic flying.
All you need is a mantra, a good teacher, and the space in which to TM-out for 20 minutes or so every day.
The TM tribe believe, bless their cotton socks, that if we ALL intone our mantra at the same time and in the same direction, we can change the course of world events.
As I am now out of the TM movement, I am having to do it all on my own, but I am determined to persist.
I have a session every day to keep the Pru (the insurance company that pays my pension) on an even keel. Don't you dare go bust, you bastards.
And another session to keep my ISA growing.
And another to persuade My Darling (aka the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to put up my retirement pension by at least 1000 percent by Christmas.
All this meditation is thirsty work, so, if you will excuse me, I will now go and rehydrate......

It's all going too fast

I f eel that tractors, bosoms and Peter Rabbit pottery are all passing me by. Where did I go wrong?

Get thee behind me, Satan!

I have been thinking lately about sex. At my age, this is mostly an academic exercise, historical even, but I am intrigued that serious stirrings can still occur given the right stimulus.
Frankly, I think they ought to ban Nigella Lawson from television appearances. Either that, or she ought to carry a Government Health Warning.
I don't even like ice-cream.

Doctor, Doctor, what's wrong with me?

Mon Dieu! Bozhe moi! Tanru bana yardim et! And similar appeals to the deities. I have just realised what is happening to me. I have become a victim of potions.
Let me give you a list:
Every day, 1000mg of Vitamin C with 25mg of Aspirin. This will prevent stroke.
Every day, 1000mg of Cod Liver Oil and 1000mg of Glucosamine Sulphate. This will keep my evil Lower Back Pain at bay.
Every day, a glass of Cranberry Juice. This will keep my prostate in check (I think. God knows what my prostate is up to).
And, on call when the panic hits me: Zinc, Echinacea, Ginseng, Valerian and Melatonin. I have no idea what they do. God knows, there are probably others, but in my panic, I forget what they are or what they are for.
Fortunately, there is one medicine that I have no problem with: it comes in 75cl bottles, it is coloured red, and it is - I am told - the way to keep Alzheimer's at bay.
So, parts of me may rot, but my brain will still be equal to the challenge of an Araucaria crossword. Inshallah.

Pretty things

I am not referring, of course, to the disintegrating figure of your Old Scrote, or even to the handsome hairless farmer next to me, but to the three Barn Owl chicks that we are holding.
At the time - about a week ago - the weather had been atrocious, so, not surprisingly, all three owlets were underweight. The farmer, who has access to a supply of dead day-old chicks, promised to send his wife down to the box first thing every morning to provide supplementary feeding. Let's hope they survive (I mean the owlets, tho I also hope that his marriage survives too).
And here they are in closeup. Nature doesn't get much cuter than this.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mrs Trellis tut tuts

Bless the woman, once again she takes the pith out of the discussion:
Dear Terry Wogan, she writes, I cannot believe that a man of your calibration is worried about money. You must have made millions comparing the Eurovision Song Contest, etc, though I still don't know why they paid you so much, seeing that you didn't even have to sing or dance, just stand their mumbling.
I never talk about money. Mr Trellis, my late husband, left me well provisioned, mostly a shedful of garden tools and a collection of pictures that I would rather not talk about, but also a nifty sum from the Pru that keeps me in filo pastry and white cotton unmentionables, etc.
So I suggest you stop moaning about money and get yourself a proper job. If you are a dab hand at gardening, I might be able to put some work your way: it's a shame not to put all those garden tools to some use, and the exercise might get some of the belly off you.

Money matters. Doesn't it?

Let's be vulgar and talk about money. Of course, in Britain, it's only the working class and the nobs who talk about money; the middle classes remain silent, eating off their Peter Rabbit plates and wiping their mouths on their serviettes.
You know how it is. You husband your resources and measure out your money, and then a storm of expenses rains down on you.
In the balmy days of Spring (Can you still remember those two days?), I committed to some redecoration of the house and some recarpeting, figuring that I could absorb that cost. About £2500. say.
But during the balmy days of August (I think there was one, but it was over by midday), I got an estimate from my dentist: work amounting to another £1500.
And today, my central heating boiler finally died on me (It had every right to: it's an external boiler and has had a rotten time of it out there in all weathers). Estimate still awaited for the replacement, but my plumber told me "not to expect much change out of £2500".
So, my aristo-proletarian friends, we are talking an estimated painful extraction from the Allsop coffers of around £6500 before the end of October, most of it unexpected.
Oh hell, it's only money. I just don't know how I'm going to break the news to my vintner.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Old Scrote Update

I had a lament today from my friend in Alaska that my blog has nothing about me in it lately. Oh dear, sorry. I will try to remedy that by dazzling you with recent happenings in my life:
I have been digging out rogue clumps of pendulous sedge in my garden
My central heating system has broken down
I have a verruca on the sole of my left foot
I have a new crown on upper right 5
Upper left 5 is sensitive, but my dentist cannot say why
I met a lady today with a stupendous bosom, I will never see her again. alas
I have finally understood about free radicals and anti-oxidants and intend to eat punnetloads of blueberries from now on.
All the birthdays in my family fall within the next six weeks and I have no idea what to do about them
There were 35 Greenfinches in my garden yesterday
The news about the Golden Oriole book is that there is no news. Maybe it will be out next Spring
I have discovered the convenience of fitted bottom sheets but have no idea [a] why they are slightly smaller than the mattress [b] how to fold them after laundering
My back problem persists, but I have no idea how to get rid of the embonpoint in front that is causing it
I have come to the realisation that it is much easier to lose friends than to make them
Plums are dear

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rubik shmubik

Of course you are FAR too young to remember the Rubik Cube, a fiendish Hungarian invention that gave you carpal tunnel syndrome before that phrase had even been invented.
But I never had a problem with it:

Good for you, Your Majesty!

Don't misunderstand me, I find the razmatazz that accompanies the four-yearly Beauty Contest, sorry, Presidential Election, in the USA most endearing. What a lovely pair McCain and Palin make! The poor guy looks at her and DROOLS: he's going to die any moment now of a heart attack, but with a beatific smile on his face. No, I ain't got nothin' against the Presidential Election circus - it beats most of the soaps on TV into a cocked hat anyway.
It's just that I don't want it here.
We have a nice sensible monarchy that is a point of focus, provides an excuse for a bit of P and C (Pomp and Circumstance), keeps alive some of the more arcane features of English syntax, and it doesn't get in the way of serious government, whatever that is.
But the chattering classes in the metropolis have started to mutter about replacing the monarchy with a republican system. So - and I hope you will forgive for taking this action without consulting you first - I got on to HM (Her Majesty) and asked her what she was going to do about it.
I now have my answer....

It's your turn next, Mr A

My father died in June of a cerebral haemorrhage, three months after his 72nd birthday. My 72nd birthday was in June, so I figured that if I could live past the end of August, I was into extra time. And here I still am! Cheating the Grim Reaper. Every day a bonus. I can't tell you good I feel about this.
Or did, till last night.
My father had two children by his first marriage, Dennis and Doreen. Dennis is deceased, but Doreen (who has lived in Canada this last fifty years or so) is still going strong. She called me last night and we had a good chat about the price of plums, etc. And then, a propos of I know not what, mentioned that Dennis had had Alzheimer's. So, dammit, even if I avoid a stroke, I have gagadom to look forward to.
When working out which deal I should take for my pension, I investigated the longevity on both sides of my family, and discovered that the women all lived into their late eighties or early nineties, whereas the men mostly popped their clogs in their seventies.
So, methinks, it is time I developed my feminine side. At least that way I might give myself a few more years to exercise the corkscrew, if not the armadillo. But, no dirty cracks, this decision has nothing to do with the fact that I now wear pink undies. Damn, I just don't know how that red towel got in with the whites...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Metaphors, similes and all that jazz

These figures are the stuff/staff of life, and I love 'em. But it is hard to keep them fresh: they soon degenerate into cliches. I refuse, for instance, to be "as happy as a sandboy" or "talk the hind leg off a donkey". I don't mind being "as happy as an eight-day corner cupboard" or "to bore the balls off a buffalo", because at least it makes you stop and think for a moment.
A colleague of mine of many years, now a lay preacher in his retirement, gave me a memorable comment on an attractive woman: "She would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window." Sadly, I never met the lady in question.
Liverpool, where I gained part of my education and a wife, is a place rich in memorable figures of speech. It doesn't take any imagination to recognise a woman "with a gob on her like a robber's dog". Nor a woman who would "eat the face off you".
The other elements in a memorable metaphor/simile are the twin devices of assonance and alliteration. For example the repeated b in the buffalo example, or the repeated o in the robber's dog example.
And rhythm. Rhythm is much harder to define, but if you say the stained-glass window example out loud, you will know what I mean, a delicious mix of spondees and dactyls, or whatever those da-da and da-de-de combinations are called. Remember scansion? Me neither, but it makes a powerful point. Take the expression "I wouldn't piss in his ear if his brain was on fire". Vivid imaginary, true, but if it didn't scan, it wouldn't work.
There are two expressions I know to describe something rare: "As rare as hen's teeth" and "As rare as rocking-horse shit". Leaving aside delicacy or social acceptability, the latter has much better rhythm. De da de da da as against De dah de da-de da da. Which is meaningless in print, but makes sense the moment you utter the two phrases.
Well, that's it for now. I hope you are not a buffalo........

All that jazz

If you are planning on dying in the next few days, may I recommend that, before you pull the plug, you click HERE?
And if it doesn't work, check out my next post before you switch off the light.
And if that doesn't work, email me, ok?
Have a nice day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Humphrey Littleton RIP

I have already written about this wonderful man, and how he hooked me on jazz when I was still covered with acne. He was not only an outstanding musician, but also an outstanding communicator. He was a lover of words. He loved to tell jokes. He had a comedian's sense of timing. He was a good family man. He was a socialist of the heart. It is impossible to find anyone who can say a bad word about him.
And now, having watched a tribute to him on last night's television, I discovered that he was also an avid birdwatcher. On the side of the angels, no doubt about that. It's not recorded, but I bet he had a soft spot for women on tractors too.
And, as a bonus, the tribute programme was followed by an hour of his last jazz concert, called “Humph's Last Stand”, where I discovered something else: he had taken on an amazing stunning Stan-Getz-soundalike sax player called Jo Tooks. If you get a chance to hear her play, neglect your family and your job to get to wherever she is. She is the cojones del perro, and she smiles a lot too.

The churning calabash

Sit up straight and listen, because I am going to transform your life. The way we look at the world is conditioned by where we live and who we are. You can see that when it comes to statements of the bleeding obvious, I am no slouch. But bear with me, because I am going to tell you about Tingo. Or, to be more precise, about two books called The Meaning of Tingo and Toujours Tingo, both by an author with the outrageous name of Adam Jacot de Boinod.
What AJdeB has done is to scour the dictionaries of the world to find words that define experiences for which we have no words, or for experiences which are foreign to us. Both works are so quotable that I could literally pick something from any page in either book, so just a few to whet your appetite:
pikun (Kapampangan, Phillipines) one who cannot take a joke
kasyapa (Sanskrit) having black teeth
drhey (Pashto, Afghanistan) the word used when addressing sheep
The very ancient amongst you who have been with my blog since the beginning will remember that I created an East Anglian version of the “Meaning of Liff”. Good fun, but that was spoof whereas the words in AjdeB's books are for real. Log on to Amazon, buy a copy of each, make AjdeB a rich man (yeah, some hopes, given the meanness of publishers' royalties these days) and treat yourself to a linguistic treat. A couple more, this time idioms, to give you the flavour:
The equivalent of “No use crying over spilt milk” in Welsh:
piad a chodi pais are ol piso – literally, don't lift a petticoat after peeing. (What??)
The equivalent of “Don't count your chickens before they're hatched” in Ndonga (Namibia):
ino manga ondjupa ongombe inaayi valu - literally, don't hang the churning calabash before the cow has calved. (What???).
I rest my case.

Keeping abreast of events

I am grateful to my good mate DH for his complimentary remarks about the collage of bosoms of the 1960s. The lad wasn't even born then! So, just for you, DH, here's a collage of bosoms of the 1970s, and I would be grateful if you would not ask me how I came by them.
I should warn you though, my young friend, that the women portrayed here, if they were in their twenties at the time, are now in their late fifties, not that that should slow you down.
Or them, for that matter.

Great grandad resurrected

My splendid Kiwi grandson, Joseph, wants to know about his paternal Great Grandfather, ie, my father. Not because it is a school assignment, but because he wants to know. Bless the boy. Knowledge for its own sake! As rare as hen's teeth these days.
I have sent him some information with which I will not bore you. But I will tell you one story that endears me to my difficult parent. He was in charge of the maintenance of the Wrekin Brewery's many pubs, inns and hotels, and a perquisite of this role was that he acquired a lot of materials surplus to requirements. My mother told the story that a neighbour, visiting our house and noticing the new wallpaper on the living room walls, remarked: “It's SO much nicer than the wallpaper you buy.”
Another perquisite of working for a brewery was that my father used to get lorryloads of spent hops delivered to our house. They were tipped over the front garden wall and made a steaming heap with a very distinctive odour that could be smelled through the entire village. The smell is like a sweet version of manure and mildly intoxicating. Apparently an excellent fertiliser, but it was no surprise to me that we were not popular in the village. In an article written in the Wellington Journal many years later about the history of my village, Hadley, was the sentence: At number 51 High Street lived a man called Allsop. We have no other information about him. Well, of course not, because the only information available was wallpaper that had fallen off the back of a lorry, and a mountain of sweet horseshit.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mrs T approves

If you don't have your finger on the pulse, don't worry, because my North Walian correspondent's finger is right where it needs to be.

Dear Barak Obama,
she writes, I truly appeciated your piece about treasuring toys from your childhood. It is a sign of your maturity, even though you have foolishly brought Rhodesia (or whatever you call it now) to its knees.
I am sure it is not easy being black, any more than it is easy being Welsh, but at least you still have your teddy bear to comfort you nights.

I am not political, but I am very glad you didn't choose that Hillary Clitoris person as your running mate - she is too abraded in my view.
Pity you couldn't have got that Sarah Palin person: she seems very suitable to rule the world, though it is not clear yet if she goes to bed with a teddy bear between her thighs.
Yours amicably
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, uncommitted.

Tae see oursels as ithers see us.

Oh wud some pow'r the giftie gie us
Tae see oursels as ithers see us.

Some while ago, an old friend visited me together with his new French wife, Monique. After a time in my hitchen, where I was preparing a meal for my guests, Monique said "Mais, Jake, vraiment tu aimes les bibelots!"
Until that moment, I was quite unaware of my fondness for "bibelots" - toys - but she was right. On my breadbin, Rupert Bear figurines and a mini Teddy Bear clutching a big red heart, on the mantelshelf in my sitting room, a Paddington Bear, in my bathroom, a whole series of miniatures, including a Good Soldier Schweik and a woolly sheep.
And to cap it all, my boiled egg set consisted of Peter Rabbit plate and saucer and eggcup (apparently this makes me "middle-cless" according to one authority).
So, Monique was right "j'aime les bibelots".
As to why, I neither know nor care. All the bibelots in my possession have a history, and that is my history and the history of the people I have lovcd.
So there.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Plus ça change, plus ce n'est plus la même chose

The whole character of my little Cambridgeshire fen-edge village is determined by the many small farms that we have. Small farms ( we are talking 150-500 acres max) mean small fields with dividing dykes (ditches) and drains and hedges, which means abundant habitat for wildlife. Small farms also mean small farmers, families that have been in the village for generations: the Fairchilds, the Burgesses, the Freemans, the Bidwells, the Dennises, the Waddilows, the Mappledorams, and so on. The farms and the farmer' famiiles combine to give not only character, but continuity.
As an “incomer” - I have only been here 25 years - I have been accepted mainly because my surname coincides, moreorless, with another local farming family name: Alsop (They call me the posh alsop because I have a second L in my name).
But things are changing. Fast. Sons are not taking over the farms from their fathers, so, when father dies, in most cases, the farm is sold. That is to say, the land is bought by one of the mighty agribusinesses of East Anglia (the "prairie boys", as we call them), and all the dykes are piped underground and all the hedges are ripped out, and lots of little fields become one huge field. But there is another awful consequence: the homes of the small farmers – a house with some land and outbuildings within the village – are sold off for development, and another estate of soulless "desirable residences" goes up.
This blog entry is prompted by the fact that another dear good farmer friend of mine, Harold Freeman, aged 70 something, died two days ago. During the night, he complained of a pain in his chest, and by the time his wife, Vera, had come back upstairs with a cup of tea for him, he was no more. A good way to go, that's for sure, but another sad loss. His farm, in the village High Street, will no doubt become another bungaloid growth once Vera decides to sell. There are no heirs prepared to take over the farm.
Let me close on a lighter note. Another farmer in the village, who was a very close friend of Harold's, while telling me the sad news, added: “Typical of Harold to disappear just before harvest!” To make a joke like that, you really have to love somebody, The sad thing is that there is no family to harvest his crops, although I am sure the remaining village farmers will rally round. What's left of them.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It worked!

Let me ask you a question. Do you know how the internet works? Do you know who runs it? Who owns it? Come to that, do you know how a tumble dryer works? Or an electric kettle? Or a telephone?
Bugger, I don't even know how a can opener works. I have a serious dependency issue here.
All this because I can't get online right now, or to be more precise, I can get online, but I cannot access anything on the internet: no emails, no google, no blog, just a little fricking hour glass icon followed by the usual dreaded message: "You must be joking, you loser!", or worms to that effect.
Today, clearing out a drawer in my desk, I found a pencil with "Wrekin Brewery Ltd, Wellington, Salop" written on it. That was the firm my father worked for from about 1938 till he retired in 1955. It's a piece of history, and a family memento, but, more to the point, the bloody thing still works.
I could write my memoirs with that pencil, if I had any memoirs to write.
Which is more than can be said for my broadband provider, or yahoo, or google, at this moment.
If you give me your snailmail address, I might well continue this blog in Victorian copperplate, using, of course, my dad's trusty Wrekin Brewery pencil.
Now, let's see if I can get online and publish this.....

Monday, September 01, 2008

What's the big deal?

I have thought hard and long about the male obsession with the female bosom. Indeed, so dedicated am I to understanding this peculiar phenomomenon that I take every opportunity to visit nearby towns in order to study the object of the obsession, and to try to understand what is involved.
I am sorry, but I cannot see what is so exciting about the mammary glands of the human female. Well, with the possible exception of Nigella Lawson, and certain ladies on tractors. Mind you, I AM a child of the 60s....
And now, if you will excuse me, I will get back to Moby Dick.

Oh my god, it's getting bigger!

Ladies reading this, I have little knowledge of your gyne problems as you get older: cervical erosion, mild incontinence, suspicious lumps, IBS, prolapsis, well, that's more than enough.
So, you can leave now, because I an going to talk about the problems that afflict males as they get older.
When I was fifty, I stood next to a Chinese man in a urinal, and admired the force of his act of micturition, compared to which mine was a dribble. So I visited my doctor, who with a practised finger in my rectum announced that I had an enlarged prostate gland which was constricting the neck of my bladder.
Hold on, this is nothing morbid. Stay with me, guys.
So, Mr Bullock, a gentle man, cored my prostate and solved my problem. After that I could pee like a Chinee.
"Will it recur?" I ask.
"Probably, but at least twenty years from now, so don't worry, "says the gentle Bullock.
Twenty-two years on, and in the context of the recent Olympic Games, I think I am once again in serious competition with the Chinese.
Ah yes, I hear you ask (including the ladies who did not have the good sense to stop reading), but what does the prostate gland actually DO? And what have you been doing to enlarge it again?
I think it is a great shame that the British do not have a written constitution, because, if we did, I would at this moment take the Fifth...