Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What ails thee? How long have you got?

As you know, because I never do the martyr thing when I am unwell, so I have told you - repeatedly - that I have had an ear/throat infection. Actually, it might be Weltschmerz, or even Lebensmuedigkeit, but I don't know how to treat those ailments so I will stick to the lozenges.
Anyway, it seems to be getting better, but I hope to keep it going for a while yet, as I am getting quite a lot of sympathy, and today, wonderful!, I was brought home-made Chicken Soup and a bag of Clementines by my friendly Apus Rehabber.
I also have a Verruca, and I reckon that ought to be worth a bag of Liquorice Allsorts at the very least. Any offers?
And now, while waiting for the Relief Column to arrive, I will give you the best news I have had in 2008. Peter's wife, who has been in continuous pain for most of the year, has been totally pain-free for the best part of two weeks after some kind of manipulation treatment on her spine. Bozhe moi! Hamd olsun! Mazeltof! and Gott sei Dank! And anything else you can think of to give thanks. Please God it will continue. Me, I will raise yet another glass to this little miracle. After all, whatever else is going on in the world, I need to keep my throat lubricated.
PS The picture has nothing to do with my condition, but I hope it will act as a warning against excessive snogging when you've got a sore throat.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Seasonal greetings from Mrs Trellis

Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, I know I have said some harsh things about you, which you mostly deserved, but in this season of goodwill to all persons, I will wish you a happy Christmas and a prospective New Year. To guide you in the future, I can do no better than quote the wise words of my late husband, Mr Trellis, : "You may not be much, but you're all you've got."
So very true.
Yours respectably

Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow.

Christmas comes but once a year....thank God!

"So, what did Father Christmas bring YOU?"
"An estimate for replacing the central heating boiler, £4000."
"No, come on, now. Be positive! What did he bring you?"
"An ear-and-throat infection."
"You are hopeless. There must be something good you can tell me..."
"Well, I enjoyed another two chapters of Bleak House."
"Why are you being so difficult? Tell me one GOOD thing he brought you."
"Father Christmas, of course."
"Father Christmas?! Are you on substances?"
"OK, let's cut the crap. Is there any chance at all you could be POSITIVE about something?"
"Yes, I am positive there's something wrong with my left knee."
"Oh, hell, I give up. Stew in your misery."
"Thank you, Ms Poppins. Oh, by the way....."
"I had the most wonderful Christmas Day. I was invited to lunch by my neighbours, Andy and Alison, and it was a joy to watch the children, Clare and Edward, opening their Christmas presents."
"Anything else?"
"I had a really long loving phonecall with my son, Jeremy, and another with my daughter, Sarah."
"Anything else?"
"Oh yes, some really nice birds in my garden....."
"Enough with the birds already! Nice talking to you. Bye."
[Thinks: I wonder who the hell that was. Jacob Marley's ghost, perhaps?]

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mrs Trellis gives the Pope her blessing

Dear Holiness Pope Benedick the EksVeeEye, she writes, you ARE a one, and no mistake! Fancy telling the poofters they're not to to do it any more in case it melts the polar icecaps! I bet they won't take any notice, though. We had one in the village some years back, but he got cured when some of the boys filled his trousers with ice-cold Guinness and gave him a picture of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blowing up, you know the one? Well, maybe you don't know the one, you being celebrate and all. I often wonder what you and your priests do when you get those feelings. I guess that's what Palm Sunday is really for. Just my little joke.
Anyway, I for one am glad you have taken a stand (Do Popes have a stand? Sorry, it's just the way my mind works!) against nasty perversities. I think you ought to say something too about mixed marriages, sopphism, mastication, bond-aid and so on. So many things people shouldn't be doing, specially when there's an economic crisis, ie, a time when we need all hands to the pump. Hands to the pump?! Oh there I go again! I really must cut down on my late night Ovaltine, it's making me frisky.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retired

The Pope and woodlice

So, the Pope has come out against homosexuality. That'll upset a few people and no mistake. Personally, I think it's his job to pronounce on moral matters as he sees them, and the fact that he might have his head up his arse should not - and indeed does not - deter him from making his ex cathedra judgments.
Personally, too, I think the best policy should be "don't ask, don't tell". It matters not to me "who does what and with which and to whom" ***, as long as I don't have it in my face, so to speak.
Let's say I am morbidly attracted to isopods. Why should I ask the world to accept that? Why should I tell anyone anyway? As long as I don't do unspeakable things to woodlice in public, who's harmed.
And if the Pope pronounces against isopodophilia, well, he's got his opinion and I've got mine.
Oh god, I realise that I might become the target of Animal Rights nutters' wrath. I was only kidding about the woodlice, guys, honest! I wouldn't harm a hair on their lovely bodies (Note to self: check Wikipedia, find out if woodlice have hair).

There once was a gay of Khartoum
Took a lesbian up to his room
And they argued all night
About who had the right
To do what and with which and to whom.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

“Le wiwichu”

Une belle nuit de décembre, à La Havane, un couple, des Cubains, regardent la mer, enlacés au bord de la plage, quand soudain, elle lui dit:

Non, je ne veux pas !

Allez Chérie, c’est le moment ou jamais, laisse moi gratter le wiwichu....

Bon, mon amour, mais c’est parce que je t’adore ...

Alors le garçon prend sa guitare

Et commence :

…. Wiwichu a merry crismas, wiwichu a merry crismas, wiwichu a merry crismas, and a japy niu yirrrr !!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Death of a Prince

I wrote some time back about my handsome cock pheasant, the one that visits my garden almost daily and struts proudly across the lawn as if he were the Prince of All Pheasants. Well, he is no more. Yesterday morning, I noticed a pile of feathers on the edge of the lawn, the remains of my proud bird.
It would take a raptor the size of a female Sparrowhawk to tackle a Pheasant (As with most raptors, the female is bigger than the male), and even that seems hard to believe. The picture shows a female with her kill. Her prey item in this case is a Wood Pigeon.
Sparrowhawks are noble birds, but on this raw December Friday, I like them a little less than I did two days ago.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Something is happening to me...

Something is happening to me. I just switched off a TV programme starring Nigella Lawson. Damn. Dr Johnson is reputed to have said "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." (That was before congestion charges).
So, have I grown tired of dear Nigella, and therefore of life?
Not really. It's not her bosom I am turning away from, it's her cooking. She's good, very good, culinarily speaking, but I can't take any more of this "Here is a fabulous dish to stun your family and guests at your Christmas dinner".
What family? What guests? If I am lucky, I might get a Wood Mouse come down the chimney.
When a man is tired of Nigella's bazoom, he is just trying to get through Christmas. I'll be back, girl, you can depend on it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The News on Sunday

I just watched a programme on TV about "assisted suicide".
I am not against that, but could I ask the authorities to consider a preliminary step, namely, "assisted life"?
Like removing the excise duty from wine and petrol, and increasing my retirement pension by maybe 300%?
Do that, guys, and then, when the time comes, you can feed me the Nembutal and no hard feelings.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rough-legged Buzzard

This rare winter visitor breeds in high latitudes of subarctic and arctic, largely in low-lying, treeless, tundra areas, so, you can see how lucky we are to have one wander into our patch. Today, we had wonderful views of one, looking stunningly beautiful in the cold December light.
It is unusual in that it frequently hovers like a Kestrel, so I am going out again tomorrow in the hope of seeing that.
There may be better ways of spending one's time, but I don't know what they are.
Thank God.


I am indebted to Dick Newell for this little gem:

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (symbol=Gv), has one neutron , 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons , which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2 to 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes . This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass . When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium (symbol=Ad), an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Christmas Story for people having a bad day

Sent to me by my friend, Angit, who ought to know better!

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Christmas pressure.
Then Mrs.Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more.
When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where.
Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.
Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had finished off the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.
Just then the doorbell rang, and irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree.
The angel said very cheerfully, 'Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?'
And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Sorry, what was that you said?

And the Babylonians built a huge tower as monument to their earthly power and achivements, and they called it the Tower of Babel. And it reached to the very heavens and almost struck God in His divine hindquarters. At first He was pleased, but when He realised it was not for His Glory but theirs, He said to Himself (for, verily, there was no one else to say it to) "These ungrateful Babylonian shlemiels! After all I've done for them, including cuneiform".
And devisedeth He at that very moment a Cunning Plan as follows: - He madeth each of them to speak a different language, so that nobody could any longer understand what the f...... anyone else was talking about.
And great was the confusion and the lamentation and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. But, like the trombone, it is an ill wind that nobody blows good (?), so it was also a great opportunity as some saw it to make a few bobs, namely, the Institute of Linguists and the School of African and Oriental Studies, and the Association of Recognised English Language Schools, and lots of other people, including Old Scrotes and Publishers and other Sinners of that ilk. And they all made fortunes out of the Babylonians' misfortunes.
And God looked on dismayed, and pondered He unto Himself as follows:- "These buggers will make a buck out of anything". And with that, wondered, as He had so often done before, whether a plague of locusts and a murrain on the cattle might do the trick.....

Red Sea Crossing

I am grateful to Peter for the following piece of information:
As you know, Cecil B de Mille was a great producer of biblical epics in the Hollywood style. It seems that, when filming the Ten Commandments, he spared no expense on the scene where the Israelites cross the Red Sea. He created a gigantic film set, hired literally thousands of extras, had the special effects and the sound recorder boys at the ready, and so on. When he deemed it ready for the shoot, he was about to call "Action!" when the heavens opened and God's voice boomed down from the clouds: "Ready when you are, Mr de Mille."


My many visits to Ankara between 1989 and 2003-ish are filled with good memories - of the many wonderful people I worked with; of the fascinating excursions I made to see the cultural, historical and geographical wonders of Turkey; of the endless fascination of trying to learn Turkish; and, I won't say above all, but at least not least, of the delicious variety of food I ate and wine I drank.
Ankara reminds me of Madrid in one respect - they are both as far from the sea as they can be, and yet they both have a reputation for excellent fish restaurants, with fish brought in daily from the coast.
Iskele, Deniz Yildizi and Yakamoz - memorable fish restaurants; only wish I could remember the names of all the dishes and fishes I sampled over the years.
But one I do remember:- a dish called hamsi, although it was a long time before I knew what hamsi were.

This note is prompted by a marvellous discovery I made today while doing my weekly shopping at Tesco's in Ely: they now stock hamsi in their delicatessen section! Except that, of course, they call them anchovies. I bought a portion and am now having great difficulty in refraining from eating them all in one go.

Many years ago, one of my teachers, about 30 years old said "I sometimes think that the pleasures of the table are preferable to the pleasures of the bedroom", and I thought, what a pillock. But as I approach my seventy-third year to Heaven, I have to say it will take an incredibly buxom woman on an incredibly shiny tractor to lure me away from my dish of Tesco's hamsi.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More fenland foolishness

An ice-cold day out on the fens erecting new Barn Owl boxes and modifying old ones.
It's an interesting mix of art, craft and science.
The science is knowing from systematic observation what the bird's requirements are, for instance, the need for a clear approach to the box, the need for some kind of initial layer (we use wood shavings) to cover up the bare-boarded floor.
The craft consists of the skill in constructing the box so that it is easy to make, easy to assemble, easy to erect and easy to monitor and maintain; and thereafter, in knowing the tricks for erecting boxes in many varying situations: on brickwork, on beams, on trees, and so on.
The art consists in knowing where to put the box to make it maximally attractive to the birds. And it is this last that is the most fun, because, being an art and therefore imprecise, it is the most likely to cause differences of opinion between my colleague Peter and me. Not that we argue, you understand; it's just that sometimes he has difficulty seeing that I am right.

Just kidding, Peter. It's always a joy to be out on the fens, frozen goolies notwithstanding, not only because what we are doing is in itself worthwhile, but also because we get to see some wonderful parts of the fens and meet some wonderful people too.
The lunchtime BLT sandwiches from Budgen aren't bad either.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Het es cowd

When the delicious young lady who later became Mrs Allsop and I first met, you know how it is, we explored each other. I am too much of a gentleman to be more specific, but I will share one piece of discovered information with you. I discovered that my good lady had spent the summer in Holland when she was 16 or so, and had learned just one phrase of Dutch: het es cowd - at least that's how she pronounced it. Ever since - and we are talking five decades or so - whenever I look out of the window of a morning and see the hoar frost on the ground, I say Het es cowd. At the moment, we have vicious arctic winds pulling down the temperature, so at the moment het es really f.........g cowd, believe me: a good excuse for adding a shluck of brandy to my bedtime cocoa.

Racy Newmarket

Yesterday I went to Newmarket, which has one of the most elegant main streets of any town I know in Britain (Sorry, I don't have a photo later than 1905). It is broad and long, with inns at intervals where, in the old days, stagecoaches would pull up so that their passengers could find victuals and a bed for the night. Many of the shops are one-man businesses, quaint really, and quite different from the multiples that blight most town high streets these days. Newmarket is a racehorse town, and it shows. Quite apart from the stables and the exercise paddocks, I know of no town that has so many short bow-legged men, or so many stern-looking women with sensible shoes and moustaches.
But my mission was a specific one, to go to the emporium called Kitchen and Things, a real labyrinth of passages and carousels selling everything culinary that you can think of. I found what I wanted - a wine rack for my home-made booze - and a couple of other things besides. Now, here's a bonus: on the way there, just short of Soham, two birds flew across the road in front of me, going at speed. They were starling-shaped, and there was a flash of waxy yellow on both of them.
It's a great wine rack, but I do wish Waxwings - if that is what they were - would slow down a bit, and preferably come feed on the berry-laden Guelder Rose next to my patio.

Trellis on card games

Mrs Trellis shows the breadth of her life experience.
Dear Germaine Greer,
she writes, I was fascinated by your piece on the game of cribbage, though I didn't agree with most of your expressions. For example, my late husband, Mr Trellis, always said "Jack up for two!" not "two for his heels", and always seemed to find the expression very amusing. But then, he often laughed for no particular reason I could see, like whenever he asked to "see my box". But I am sure you and I share a mutual incomprehension of the workings of the male mind.
Anyway, there is more to life than cribbage, and I am glad to see that you are still fighting the feminist cause in your old age. Like me, I notice that your neck has gone, but "there's a dance or two in the old dame yet", as Mrs Thatcher used to say. By the way, although I admire your struggle for women's rights, I do hope you are not a lesbian, because I can imagine nothing worse than having to share the bathroom with another woman.
Yours etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retired

The Lurch

It's a long time since I took one for his knob. Or two for his heels. It's a long time since I added up fifteen two, fifteen four, fifteen six, and six is a dozen. All this because I only discovered today the origin of the phrase to leave someone in the lurch. If you have ever "died in the hole", you were left in the lurch, because that is exactly what the lurch is: you are on 50, when your opponent has sailed past you to win the game.
Have you the slightest idea what I am talking about? If you haven't, then it means that your youth was not misspent as mine was. Thanks, dad, you were a great card player.
My best year at this game was the year I spent teaching at Longton High School, Stoke on Trent. Most evenings, I went to the Windmill pub at Meir Heath near where I had digs, and sat at the table with the cribbage enthusiasts playing crib and drinking pints till it was time to stagger back down the hill to my lumpy bed chez Mrs Ainsley, a dyky sort of woman, who never tired of telling me she was descended from the famous Ashley pottery family, and equally never tired of telling me what a wonderfully SUPERIOR person her previous lodger, Michael, was. Superior to me, that is. I wouldn't have given one for HIS knob, and that's a fact.