Friday, October 31, 2008

Best before....

This evening, I unzipped a tin of something comestible to go with the rest of the baby new potatoes and the sprouts, and made the mistake of reading what it said on the tin. "Best before end February 2011", it said.
Bugger, I thought, that's probably true of me too. So, may I advise those of you who still lust after my fading parts to make the most of me while you can, and definitely before end February 2011.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Oh to be in England now that sprouts are here!"

This morning, I spent nearly two hours in the dentist's chair. He attacked Upper Left 5 for the third time (the first two attempts having yielded no result), and gouged out an enormous filling from Lower Left 5, refilled, fitted a temporary crown and sent me on my way, trembling.
Which is why I want to talk to you about sprouts. For the benefit of our North American readers - how are you both? - I should explain that I am talking about Brussel Sprouts, not that curious stuff you call sprouts, which has the texture of wire netting and the aroma of stale silage.
In my country - I love that phrase! - in my country, sprouts come into their own in autumn, preparing themselves for the BIG DAY, ie, Christmas Day, when they can snuggle up to a turkey and a stack of roast potatoes.
We all believe that sprouts only taste good once they have had the first frost in them. Well, given that London had snow yesterday, the first October snow since 1932, and given that my brass monkey has applied to the Sudanese Embassy for asylum, I think the sprouts are ready for eating.
I used to watch my mother preparing sprouts. She would cut the base of the sprout, peel off any nasty outer leaves, and then cut a criss-cross in the stalk, presumably to help to soften it.
So I do the same. Inherited characteristics, or what? I can imagine this practice going back through generations of the France family. I can imagine Imogene de France preparing sprouts for the longbowmen at Agincourt. I bet that helped us win: flatulence can be a powerful weapon.
So, what has this to do with Upper Left 5 and Lower Left 5? Well, I have a weakness for RAW sprouts, despite the gaseous implications, but tonight, I decided to forgo that pleasure. Just this once - don't want to disengage the temporary filling in UL5.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Watch out for the real bastards

Whatever I write in this blog, you, my good friends, can read it. The same is no longer true for our friends in Turkey, where the government has imposed an embargo on a whole suite of websites, including blogspot, u-tube and many others***. China and other repressive regimes like North Korea and Saudi Arabia have been doing this for years, but we turn a blind eye to it for all sorts of convenient geopolitical reasaons.
But Turkey, for God's sake, is an applicant for membership of the EU. I think this latest move on the part of the Fundamentalist Islamic Government of Turkey exposes their hypocrisy: they pay lip service to membership of the EU, but their true agenda is to break the power of the military in Turkey, which is traditionally the guardian of Ataturkism, ie, the secular state.
By all means rail at the political leaders you don't like, Gordon Brown, George Bush, Sarkozy, whoever, but when you have to decide which side of the barricades you are on, think carefully where you place yourself. There are some real BASTARDS out there that you wouldn't want to associate yourself with.
""" Don't take my word for it. Check out THIS site and THIS one.

"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser"

I have just read the obituary of Geoffrey Lewis. I am sorry he has gone, such men deserve to be immortal. Let me explain by starting somewhere else.
There is a publishing house called "English University Press" that published*** books in a series called "Teach Yourself....", and it covered a wide variety of topics: academic, arts and crafts, sociopolitical, and so on. The EUP Teach Yourself books had striking yellow dustjackets with text in blue, and just to peruse a shelf-ful of them in a bookshop was almost as exciting for me as getting a glimpse of Cynthia Brown's knickers when she played netball. And I fell in love, of course, well, ok, with Cynthia Brown, but also with the language books in the EUP series.
I started with Teach Yourself German, which I bought with the proceeds of a few nights' carol singing in the December of, I think, 1950. Then I bought Teach Yourself Spanish by Norman Scarlyn-Wilson for no particular reason that I can remember, but I just LOVED the conjugations of Spanish verbs. By this time, I had (almost) forgotten Cynthia Brown. Then, at University, spurred by envy that so many of my fellow undergraduates had done Russian during National Service, I bought Teach Yourself Russian, which was, in fact, a terrible book. Fortunately, I was recommended Anna Semeonova's Russian Grammar, an amazing book, and one of the few language books I know that can give an impressionable young man an erection.
The other was "Teach Yourself Turkish" by Geoffrey Lewis.
My wife bought Professor Lewis's book for me as a Christmas present in 1961, and I dabbled for a while, and then forgot about it till I started to make regular visits to Turkey in the 1990s. I bought the revised edition of the book, and also Lewis's amazing Turkish Grammar, which almost caused me the same excitements as Semeonova's Russian Grammar all those years ago.
And now, out of the blue, I find myself reading Geoffrey Lewis's obituary. I didn't know he was an undergraduate at St John's, Oxford. Just so you know St John's has produced some very special people, including Dean Acheson, Tony Blair, Sadik AlMahdi, Takeo Iguchi, Kingsley Amis, and me, though this last is best regarded as an aberration.

***EUP is still going strong, but the covers are much jazzier now, and much less erotic from my point of view.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mrs Trellis enters the fray

Dear Mr McCain, she writes, forgive me, I had no idea you were also a prodigal writer of books, I thought you were just one of those politicians who spends his time trying to look pretty on TV. I am so glad to read that you have written a book on Pink Bras, was it?, and I am sure that your running mate, Sarah Palin, the one with the huge mouth, made a valuable contribution to it, when she had time off from shooting black bears, etc.
Mr Trellis, my late husband, had literal pretensions too, bless him, but being obscure and Welsh, ie very short, he never really rose to the occasion, apart from one poem that made a hit at the 1982 Eisteddfod. Here it is, in case you would like to use it in your campaign to become Queen of the Untied States:

Mae gen i iâr sy'n hedfan

Yn gyflym fel y gwynt,

Mae gen i sgidiau rhedeg
A gostiodd chwe chan punt.

Mae gen i gôt sy'n sychu

Yng nghanol storom law,

Mae gen i frawd sy'n gallu

Lladd teigr ag un llaw.

Mae gen i beiriant adref

y'n chwarae mil CD,

Mae gen i gi
Sydd nawr yn gant a thri.
Mae gen i gath sy'n nofio, A hynny rownd y byd...
Mae gen i feddwl hefyd

Sy'n gelwydd noeth i gyd!

It's a real giggle, isn't it, specially that naughty bit in line six?!
With best wishes, etc, Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ads, nothing to do with me!

May I remind readers once again that I am not responsible for the ads that appear on my blog page. Look at it now: "Women's Underwear", "Looking for a pink bra" and "Sale at fashion world". What possible interest could I have in such matters? Why did they pick on me? Have I ever written or said anything that could lead people to think that I ...........
Sorry, cancel this line of argument.

Collective nouns revisited

Just as we talk about "a gaggle of geese" or "a herd of deer" or "a pod of whales", I heard today that the collective noun for bankers is "A wunch..."

Getting them up

Yesterday (Thursday, 23 October) was cold, overcast and VERY windy. Despite that we managed to get up two A-frame Barn Owl boxes, one high on a telegraph pole, and one comfortably on an Oak. Today, blue skies by mid-morning and the gentlest of breezes, we erected three A-frame Barn Owl boxes, one on a barn, one on an Oak and one on an Ash. Also, as a favour to the landowner, we erected a suite of three bat boxes on an Elm. So, if you include the batboxes, that's eight magnificent erections in two days.
So you can perhaps understand why I am feeling just a tad fatigued. I suspect my colleague Peter is feeling the same, and he had a 90 minute drive home after dropping me off. Still, he's only a stripling and will soon bounce back.
As I have said before, there are several perks to the work we do with Barn Owls. First, we get to meet some very nice and very interesting people. Farmers generally get a bad press, but the ones we deal with are totally dedicated to their wildlife with the possible exception of Sparrowhawks (American readers, think Cooper's or Sharp-shinned). Secondly, we get to visit some wonderful habitat off the beaten track, and often get sightings of wildlife that we would not otherwise see. Thirdly, we get to have lunch "al fresco", dining sumptuously on sandwiches or baguettes bought at One-Stops, garages or similar. Today, I had egg and cress.
And of course we quite often see Barn Owls, still the most heart-stopping sight you could wish for on a day out in the countryside.
Life is not all good news, but after two days like these, I feel that "God's in his heaven, and all's right with the world."

Thursday, October 23, 2008


"The only necessary condition for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

The Book!

This pic of the cover of the Oriole book is taken from the website, from which we gather that we can expect publication early in the New Year. Of course, we have had no news about this from our blessed editor, who operates a system known as Mushroom Management - keep them in the dark and pour shit over them every so often.
Paul and I agreed at the outset that his name should come first - he is the doyen of the whole Golden Oriole research project in the UK, but true to form, our editor has got it wrong. We hope they will rectify it before it's too late.
Apart from that little glitch, I think you will agree that it's a very attractive cover. And the Amazon write-up is nice too. Click HERE if you want to read it.
And now, if you will excuse me, in anticipation of the first royalty cheque, I am going out to buy a large packet of Walker's Crisps and a small bottle of Murphy's Stout. Reckless, or what?!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I have written before about the poet/musician/genius Jake Thackray. Inspired by NEA's comment on my post about my tombstone, I offer you all this Thackray classic, Grandad.
I want to be like him, definitely D.R.I. P.!

If you come around to mourn for Grandad don't dress up in black ‚'cos
Although me Grandad's dead and buried, odds-on he'll be back, yes.
Although they stuffed him in a coffin and read out the will, and
Although he's six foot deep in darkness he'll never lie still.
He's made of sterner stuff, he's not dead enough.
Angels, saints and seraphim
Please, please will you try to keep an eye
On him.

On his ninetieth birthday, Grandad went down for a drink. Now
Me Grandad is a rabid dipso with a throat like a sink. He
Drank himself toward the skyline and his friends to the floor just
to prove how fit he was for boozing for ninety years more.
Your pearly gates he'll climb when it's opening time.
Angels, saints and seraphim
You'll, you'll find it hard to keep a guard
On him.

They brought him home upon a handcart with his legs in the air. He
Was singing Rule Britannia backwards in his underwear. He
Challenged all the county police force to a fight right away, then
He offered to put the Ladies' Union in the family way.
Your crystal domes will shake when he makes his break
Angels, saints and seraphim
He'll give you the slip, so get a grip
On him.

The doctor lifted up an eyelid and pronounced him gone. But
To judge from Grandad's finger signals the doctor was wrong. They Dressed him in his Sunday night-shirt, they combed out his hair, but
They couldn't get my Grandad's boots off, he'd need them up there.
Your silken wings he'll shed. He will paint Paradise red.
Angels, saints and seraphim
Please don't expect that much respect
From him.

Even at the solemn moment he wouldn't behave, for
I distinctly heard him whistling in his coffin on his way to the grave. He
Took off toward the New Jerusalem with his pinch of salt. I
Distinctly heard him flatulating in his marble vault.
Your candles will be dimmed when he gets the wind.
Angels, saints and seraphim
Although he's old, although he's cold,
Keep a tight hold
On him.

If you want to know more about this darling man, click HERE.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Who dat?

I watched a movie recently called "Waterloo", an epic reconstruction of the battle which Napoleon nearly won, but just lost when the Prussians under Blucher finally turned up to put some muscle into Wellington's campaign. Rod Steiger played Napoleon, and I have no quarrel with that piece of casting. But have you noticed how some actors are always themselves, whatever part they are playing? You look at Napoleon, and you say "Oh, that's Rod Steiger playing Napoleon". John Gielgud is another such. Remember him in "Arthur"? Sure he was Arthur's valet, but he was never anything but John Gielgud.
Very few actors have the gift of being self-effacing. I guess the top of my list would be Alec Guinness, who always seemed to disappear into his character.
Actresses on the whole seem to be much better at disappearing into their roles, with the exception of Elizabeth Taylor. But that may just be my prejudice.

Mrs Trellis looks death in the face

Our untiring correspondent from the wastes of North Wales goes straight for the jugular as usual:
Dear Ann Robinson, she writes, I find your obsession with death very morbid, even though you already look like a cadaver, have you ever thought of changing your glasses and getting a proper hairstyle?
As my late husband, Mr Trellis, used to say: "We are alive until we are dead", though you might be the exception to that rule.
All I am saying is, for goodness' sake, girl, get off this death kick and make something of yourself. There must be some man somewhere who is desperate enough to fancy even you.
Failing that, get a hobby: take up crossstitch or flower arranging. I get by making bara brith for my friends, well, if I had any friends. As it is, I feed most of it to the sparrows, greedy little b...s!
Anyway, you are rich, so you can do it. Just get out of the cemetery, you'll be there soon enough anyway, probably the victim of a Weak Link's bullet, God forbid.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, widow, retired.

Requiescat in Pace

When I go, I don't want to leave any loose ends. So, after spending all my money and squeezing the last drops out of my sex life, I have come to the penultimate action: deciding on my epitaph. Of course, all the good ones have already been taken (I would love to have had Si momumentum requiris, circumspice, not that I will have left anything monumental, apart from an unexplained stain on the kitchen wall), so here is all I could come up with. Given that my children seem to have stopped communicating with the Old Scrote, I thought it useful to publish it here, so that any last remaining friend with a chisel and a mallet could chip out the letters on my headstone.

"Rosy fingered Dawn"

Sounds like a good way to start the day.
Tomorrow will be foggy, they say, so I doubt if there'll be much rosy fingering.
I think I'll stay in bed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sugar and Spice

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice.

That's what girls are made of.

What are little boys made of?

Slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails.

That's what boys are made of.

I was taunted through my childhood with this rhyme: mostly by my sister and her friends, but also by other girls who lived in our neighbourhood, even sometimes by women, who would cackle as they spat the words out at me.
So I decided to be a nasty boy. And I was. Bad, mischievous, uncontrollable. It's a wonder I didn't end up with a criminal record. That I didn't is down to two factors. First, whenever our village policeman, PC Addison, nabbed a miscreant, he would either give him a good hiding, or force him to make amends to whoever he had wronged. Secondly, I and a fellow scoundrel, a loner called Derek Davies, got into all kinds of pilfering, but he went one step further and was caught (on his own) burgling a house. In court, he admitted to a lot of the pilfering, but did not reveal that I had been his accomplice on many of those expeditions. He went to Borstall, I went to University.
The other consequence of that awful doggerel was that I believed the first part of it too, so spent a lot of time trying to find a sugar-and-spice girl who would really really like me. I had very mixed success. In fact, mostly failure till I learned how to dissemble, It's a wonder I didn't end up as queer as a nine-pound note, but I didn't.
We had another rhyme to provide us with guidelines on how to cope with life's tortures:
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

That was one rhyme I did not believe. Words can hurt. Thank God they also have the power to bring us joy. Trouble is, I am just as thin-skinned now as I was in the ragged-arsed scuff-kneed days of my youth.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A fitting epitaph

Hands up all of you who are adult, but very short and very slim. Or very short. but fat. Or very tall but very skinny. Or very tall and fat.
Well, that probably accounts for 80% of the population.
But have you noticed that the High Street retailers only cater for some notional middle-of-the-road Mr/Ms average? Some mannequin/mannequine, who, through some freak of nature, can ALWAYS find something that fits?!
So, what do we other freaks do? We go to the specialist dealers, in my case, the "Big Man" shops. I am 6'4", waist 46, inside leg 33". And what do I find? Waists from 40 to 60 and more, but all inside leg measurements are either "regular" or "long", where "long" is defined as 31". I admire women, but when it comes to getting clad, I think you ladies have an even worse time than I do. Let's push this one a bit further. Have you noticed that, even if you find something that fits your outrageous shape, it's basically cheap-looking and ugly? 80% of the human race DOOMED? There ought to be a law.........
Years ago, I thought if I ever decided to commit suicide, before I did so, I would buy a gun and shoot certain people that I thought the world would be better off without. But as I have grown older, the number of people I would happily shoot has grown to such a proportion that I have had to give up that ambition.
And all I want. for god's sake, is a pair of trousers, 46 waist, 33 inside leg. I don't even give a flying f...k about material or colour, just as long as they fit my arse and cover my ankles.

Am I losing it?

I wish to lodge a complaint. I have just tried to watch a well-recommended movie called "American Gangster".
Let me come straight to the point.
In my day, the good cowboys wore white hats, the bad guys wore black hats. Cops were clean-cut and villains were unshaven and shifty-eyed.
Also, for the record, Denzel Washington was a good guy, but in this movie, he appears to be a villain. I say "appears to be" because I can't work out who he really is, or who is doing what and with which and to whom. Or why.
Even with subtitles. It got to the point where I realised I didn't care.
I will rerun Miss Congeniality instead. There's nothing about Sandra Bullock that I don't understand.
I tell you, mes anges, if I am not very careful in my choice of movies, the world of entertainment is going to pass me by.
Oh, for those of you who don't know her, here is Sandra Bullock:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Winter draws on

There you are, David, don't say I don't look after you! Sorry I haven't done any moth trapping lately. A couple of things distracted me. And now, as the nights draw in and get colder, I just can't face a trapful of Epirritas. If you will forgive me, I will tell you the coffee house where she is a waitress......

When I wor nubbut a lad

I can remember when I wor nobbut a lad having to listen to old codgers in the village telling how much better things were in their young day: the bread, the beer, the weather, the girls, how much fun you could get out of 6d, old money.....
And now that I have achieved codgerdom myself, I am casting round for young lads whom I can assail with the fact that things were much better in my young day.
Listen young'uns, I can remember when the sun shone at least four times during July, when it only took you two hours to make the three-mile journey to Wellington, when the girls would smile and then totally ignore you, and when you could buy a pint of beer, a packet of crisps and 20 Woodbines and still have change out of a fifty-pound note.

Anything about?

Birding is a funny business. Or maybe it's that I am a funny birder. Recently, we had a really RARE vagrant, and a spectacular one, turn up near where I live: a Glossy Ibis. I didn't go to see it, but everyone else and his brother and sister did.
And then yesterday, I received a text message to tell me that there was a Whinchat (see pic) on the nearby fen. Whinchats only pass through, and are not rare at all, though we are lucky to get more than a handful of records in this neck of the woods. I jumped into my Land Rover and was there within three minutes.
Yes, I am a funny birder, funny peculiar, that is. But I really like Whinchats - they are small and pretty and feisty, whereas I am not particularly moved by Glossy Ibises (Ibides?), birds which look vaguely prehistoric, like sawn-off descendants of the Archaeopteryx.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My Cardiff Period

Did I ever tell you about my Cardiff Period? Starting in the late eighties and for a number of years, I was responsible for the supervision of overseas trainees in training with British Steel, and this meant frequent visits to South Wales where the lads were either in Polytechnics doing HNDs, or in BS works getting otj training, from Ebbw Vale to Llanelli. My base, though, was always Cardiff.
On my first visit, I unpacked my stuff in my room in the Cardiff Crest Hotel, and then went for a walk, mainly looking for somewhere to have dinner. In a very pleasant thoroughfare called Church Street, I came upon two Italian restaurants which faced each other on either side of the road. I chose the one on my right. It was fine, good food, a bit expensive. And then, something amazing happened. The very pretty young waitress who had served me, and with whom, of course, I had got into conversation, whispered that the restaurant opposite was better. Naughty of her, but she was young and clearly sincere.
So, next time, I went to the restaurant on the other side, a place called the Positano. And, brothers and sisters, hallelujah, I never looked back. It was more fun than the eureka moment when Archimedes spilled his bathwater. Wonderful ambience, food and wine, friendly service, and a married couple running the place who were larger than life. I enjoyed chats with Waldo, a bon vivant and a womaniser, and I enjoyed even more hugs from his junoesque wife, Beverley, and her company at my table when they weren't too busy. Good times.
What reminded me of my Cardiff Period at this particular moment? Out of the blue, I had an email from the pretty young waitress who was the primum mobile of my love affair with Cardiff and the Positano. Her name is Sonia, and during my Cardiff Period, we became very good mates. She was as bright as a button, a wonderful chatty scatterbrained girl, mad as a hatter, full of life, and pretty enough to turn an old man's head.
And Sonia, now married and divorced with two grown-up daughters, saw my name on Facebook (so it does have its uses), and got in touch.
I often wonder what I have done to deserve such happiness as that provided by rediscovering old friends after many years, keeping (most, but not all, alas) of those I have made during my life, and, best of all perhaps, finding new friends occasionally.
I think I will open a bottle of something to celebrate...

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Stunning bird, stunning prose

If you are into birds of prey and good writing, do visit Fretmarks. I am speechless, and can't wait for Fretmark's book on the Goshawk.

Grumpy Old Man 33

Believe me, you don't want to hear this. It's just my way of seeking an alternative to bloodshed.

Buying online
Some sites are easy-peasy. You place your order, you give payment details, they say ok, and a coupla days later, Postie is delivering the goods. But there are others........ WHY do they want so much personal information? For godssake, if i am ordering a replacement set of vacuum cleaner bags, what does it matter if I am male or female, married or single, straight or gay, Welsh or normal?

Phoning an 0800 number
OK, I can accept that "all our operators are busy" but "please hold, because your call is important to us", but why do they have to play such lousy musak while I am waiting? What did I do to them to make them treat me this way?
Oh, wait, it's ok, I have an operator! At last! Only forty minutes of light opera! And then it starts to go downhill again.
"Hello, my name is Gupta. Hwo gan I hglep you ojnwer?"
"I am hpoweroeiwjr to seroiuve you otjiw jetle it is part of owiuere polcicy gtot otekeetp our wjuawopdoiuj tcutomres happy."
Forget it.
And to think they "record these calls for staff training purposes"!
God, it's so simple. Employ people who speak a neutral form of English.

Well, it doesn't matter if you don't know this BBC series about the work of our secret service, MI5. What matters is, if you watch the videos. you first of all have to wade through the naffest intro ever created. Then you have to have the episode ruined by a series of flash-forwards, ensuring that you have no surprises. And then you have to endure the agony of actors who are so inarticulate that you cannot be sure if they are even speaking English. And no subtitles. So it's a great way to ruin an evening's entertainment. Let's hear it for the BBC!

EON, suppliers of Electricity to the masses
They send me a bill which requires me to mortgage the house in order to pay it. That's ok, times are hard. Then they tell me that if I pay by Direct Debit, they will give me a discount of 8%. So I sign up. And I noticed just as I pressed the OK button that it was 3%. Bastards. But it was too late. Does anyone know how to nuke a power station?

Last night I attended a committee meeting, not as a full time member, but as someone co-opted to deal with a particular conservation project. I will not complain, but I tell you, my darlings, that I was not designed by the Almighty to be a committee person. Issues that could be resolved into an action point in about two minutes ramble on for half and hour. It's this democratic crap about everyone having the right to express their opinion. Well, bollocks to that. Every right to express an opinion carries a corresponding obligation to ensure that that opinion is supported by good reasoning and good evidence - and, if we are lucky, is expressed succintly. Rambling is something that should be confined to the Derbyshire Dales and the Brecon Beacons.
When I was an independent consultant, I would frequently spend a day in my client's office, and, upon leaving, I would say to myself "Thank God I don't work for this outfit." Know what I mean?

Pink Undies
And just in case you think I can find nothing positive to say about the 21st Century, I want to tell you that "Vanish" really works. I soaked my three Sunspel sleeveless cellular vests (undershirts) and my fetching white(ish) briefs, and after four hours they lost their coral pink lustre (luster?). A quick wash in regular Daz detergent and they came out looking pristine. So, I can relax. No more risk that I will be misunderstood for wearing pink undies. Thanks. Vanish.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Senior moment?

I am told that this expression is old hat, and that we should talk about a "CRAFT" moment, which is an acronym. When I was told this, I just couldn't imagine what the word stood for. Can you work it out?

Another senior moment...

My thanks to Agnes for pointing out, oh so gently, that it was Descartes and not Pascal who came out with the dictum "Cogito ergo sum".
Dr Spooner (he of spoonerism fame) gave the sermon in Christchurch Chapel one Sunday morning, and then proceeded down the steps, leaving his congregation baffled. When he was half way down, he paused, turned round and returned to the pulpit. "In my sermon," he explained, "whenever I referred to Aristotle, I of course meant St Paul."
So that's three of us who nodded: Dr Spooner, me and Homer. Not bad company, all things considered.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


As usual, i miei prodi, I am confused and need your help.
I love hazel nuts.
Indeed, I have a hazel nut tree in my garden, but the squirrels get to the nuts before I do.
So I buy my hazel nuts in my local supermarket.
So far, so good.
They offer two hazel nut products, identical to the human eye and taste buds. One is just Hazel Nuts; the other is ORGANIC Hazel Nuts. There is a substantial price difference.
My confusion is this: how can a hazel nut be anything but organic?
Does it mean that if I buy the other kind, they have been manufactured out of some heavily-disguised variant of polyvinylchloride?
The cheaper ones taste good to me, so why should I pay the extra? I am genuinely interested in an answer.

Trellis struggles with inversion

Mrs T does get confused sometimes. No, make that "often".
Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, thank you so much for publishing that photo of your three grandchildren, and also of your ex-wife, though I am slightly confused, you being a woman too, but I suppose that sort of thing is no longer frowned upon in these libertarian days. My husband, the late Mr Trellis, had something of an obsession with lebisans, or whatever you call them, and once or twice tried to get me involved with Mrs Parry at Number 25, not that I had the slightest interest, her being C of E and me a Primitive Methodist. Also, I never trust anything Greek, I mean, what's in taramasalata, etc?
Anyway, clearly you are a happy woman, even if you are disgusting, but I have a forgiving nature, so if you are ever in Llanfairpg, do pop in and I will make you an omelette.

A toothsome foursome

There is a social networking website called Facebook, I am sure you know about it, and Sarah has created a number of albums of her family. It's a delight for me, but I will not bore you with any more gushing about my three Californian grandchildren, apart from this one photograph, which shows, L to R, Sophie, Harry, Kiki and the lovely Mrs Allsop, known to the first three as Grandma.

Good vibrations

Years ago, I bought a device made by a Danish firm called Novasonic. Check it out, the device now costs over £100. Basically it vibrates and the claim is that the vibrations, ultrasonic or whatever, stimulate blood vessels, and can be beneficial for people suffering from lower back pain, cramps and other assorted unpleasantnesses.
And I have used it many times, and it works for me. It uncramps calf muscles, it relieves lower back pain, it soothes nasty neck pains and it doesn't make much noise while it's doing it. Seriously, I can recommend it.
On the other hand, my children, friends and casual visitors, the truth is out: the Old Scrote has become dependent on a vibrator to keep him vibrant in his old age.
Still, it;s better than vandalizing telephone kiosks or molesting dwarves on their birthdays...

I reckon you did real good, Johnboy

Following a long phone chat with my American daughter, Sarah (Yes, she is now an American citizen and has a vote), I watched Sarah Palin's inaugural speech at the GOP Rally in Dayton, Ohio, which was her first appearance since being nominated as Vice-Presidential candidate by John McCain.
To this point, I had only seen the stuff from those who don't like her: lots of sniping, lots of satire, lots of snide comments too, combined with the suggestion that McCain had finally lost his mind.
His choice is either an act of folly, or the shrewdest thing he could have done. I plump for the latter.
As my daughter Sarah said, Sarah Palin has great appeal, precisely because she is "ordinary", but, let's face it, a very handsome and elegant woman. She's married, she has five children, she talks the language of the people, she smiles a lot, she is patriotic, she is homely (in the British sense!), and I think, having finally seen her in action, that McCain has got it right.

Put another way, if Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic nomination, or had been chosen by Barak Obama as his running mate, I think the Democrats would have walked it. But now, I think Barak has blown it (Can you even remember the name of his cardboard cutout running mate?), and my money would be on John McCain and Sarah Palin.
Not that any of this really matters to an old scrote living out his days on the Cambridgeshire fens.
Unless someone presses the wrong button on the red telephone.....

Friday, October 03, 2008

Mrs T fights back

To be honest, I wonder sometimes about Mrs T....
Dear Angela Rippon,
she writes, I don't want to be unkind, but you are SUCH a silly woman. Women arm-wrestling is nothing new, I once had Olwen Parry on the floor within 15 seconds, though I don't wish to go into what happened next. She was such a very ANIMAL kind of woman.
It's time you accepted that we are now the equals of men in every way, including drinking to excess, dying of lung cancer, and experimenting with some very unusual kinds of that Jodie Foster, who would have thought it?!
I stick by what my husband, the late Mr Trellis, told me: "There are more things in heaven and earth than are thought of in your philosophy, Blodwen Trellis."
Mind you, he could be a real prat at times, bless him.
If you are ever in North Wales, do call in, I am sure we could find some "cash" in my "attic".

It's got to stop!

It's gone too far! Really it has.
In fact, I am thinking of fighting back.
Maybe adopt the hijab, so people can only see my eyes.
Given that my wrinkled face now resembles a contour map of the Welsh uplands, that might not be a bad thing.....

Heroes, while there's still time

OK.OK. it's time to spill the beans, it's time to come clean, it's time to set the record straight, it's time to cut the crap, it's time to tell it like it is. It's time to turn mother's picture to the wall, and face the truth.
This isn't easy for me, so please be kind.
I had a hard on for Margaret Thatcher.
Oh God, confession really IS good for the soul!
Thanks to her, I can shop at most hours of the day. Thanks to her, I never run out of booze. Thanks to her, my electricity doesn't go down because the miners want another 3p an hour, or whatever. Thanks to her, I have a choice about the suppliers of most of my basic necessities: electricity, gas, telephone, water....
Also, she was the sexiext Prime Minister we ever had, and that includes Benjamin Disraeli, who by all accounts was very dark and curly.
And now the poor woman is dying of a degenerative disease - Alzheimer's, I think - and I am sad about that. Bugger.

Do it! Or not.

Place on a tray in the centre of a preheated oven.
Place on a preheated tray in the centre of a preheated oven.
Place on a tray in the top of a preheated oven
Place in the top of a preheated oven. but not on a tray.
For best results, oven heat.
For best results, microwave.
OK, I am a male, I obey instructions, but I do wonder WHY. If any good woman - or even a bad woman - can explain why, I will be very grateful, and might even prepare you a Lamb Moussaka. Placed on a heated or unheated tray. Or not. Iin the middle or top of an oven. Or not. Or microwaved. Or not. No wonder my preferred meal is a cheddar cheese sandwich. Or not.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bad Egg

I bet you never visited the village of Egg. Even less likely that you went to Bad Egg. We lived in Egg in 1963-4 when I took the job in Zurich, and it's a pretty little village about 25 Km south-east of the city, at the end of the Forchbahn, the train-cum-tram that takes you into the city in 20 minutes. Bad = bath, ie, spa, in German, but it was still a joy to see the sign to Bad Egg.
We arrived there in early autumn, and by the time we had settled in, were thinking about our social life, which began with buying tickets for the village pantomime, a piece called 's Tapfere Schnyderli (the brave tailor). If you are used to Hochdeutsch, Swiss German can be disconcerting. Anyway, we sat through it uncomprehending, but cheered when everyone else did, and I can tell you that "s isch a plausch g'sy", ie, we had a good time.
But, a word of warning. If you speak High German to the Swiss, they don't really like it. And if you speak Schwitzerduetsch, they think you are taking the piss. So, better to stick to English. But, then, isn't that true of the whole planet?
As to why we didn't stay, well, I think I have already told you about the knicker-thief from Glattbrugg...

In my own defence, your honour

And just in case you think I am basing my judgment on pulchritude, here are Angela Rippon and Jenny Bond. No odious comparisons, but I do think Lorne Spicer is a cracker, as long as she keeps her mouth shut.

Speak up! On second thoughts, don't.

Patrick Moore, aged astronomer and veteran TV presenter (There can be nobody who does not know his programme "The Sky at Night"), practically got himself lynched when he said in a very public forum that the BBC was ruining the service by employing so many FEMALE announcers, newsreaders and the like. Man, you can't say anything like that in this day and age.
And yet. And yet. There are some people in broadcasting who have clear and beautifully modulated voices, and there are some who are close to incomprehensible, and, sometimes, unbearable.
OK, to cases. There is a programme I like called Cash in the Attic. If the presenter is Angela Rippon or Jenny Bond, I am happy, because they have voices like satin. If it's Lorne Spicer, I just have to switch off, because she has a screeching voice that would shatter a chandelier.
Equally, there are male voices that defy comprehension, often because they are thick with some local accent - all part of the political correctness de nos jours - but really it does no favour to some gabbling Glaswegian to give him a communicator's role, all it does is to make the rest of us furious. God knows how he understands himself, let alone the rest of us. I dinna ken what ye're on aboot, Jimmy. And that's a fact.
So, please, can we get back to horses for courses, and employ the right person for the right job, regardless of their origins, bra size or totemic value.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Now hear this! Now hear this!

"Did you hear that?"

"A Goldcrest calling."
"There's an influx of Yellow-browed Warblers. Well worth listening out for."
"Sure, if you can hear their high-pitched calls."

"Listen! Isn't that a Treecreeper calling?"
"Isn't WHAT a Treecreeper calling?"
We call our sport (or used to call it) "birdwatching", but any aficionado will tell you that 7 times out of 10, or so, you identify birds on CALL or SONG well before you see them, if you in fact ever see them. It ought to be called "birdlistening".
So, when you start to lose the higher frequencies, it's in a way worse than losing your visual acuity. I am slowly saying farewell to the sopranos, but still have a sporting chance with the altos.
Ah, good karma. I can say:
"Yes, I heard it too."
And I can still hear Long-tailed Tits and Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs and........
Seems there's a dance or two in the old dame yet, as Mehitabel was wont to say.
The diagram at the top of this post is a sonagram, a faithful graphical representation of the sounds made by............well, can you identify the species?! I sure as hell can't.