Wednesday, February 27, 2008
WHITE-SPOTTED PINION !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Erm, well, that fell a bit flat, didn't it? Pity really, because it is a very smart moth and rare-ish now since the decimation of elms (its food plant) by Dutch elm disease. I love how we blame everything on someone else: French leave, Dutch courage, German measles. Still, it's reciprocated: "filer a l'anglaise" (play truant/hookey), le vice anglais (no translation required), perfidious Albion....
Today I attended a workshop on the White-spotted Pinion (Cosmia diffinis), how to identify it, how to identify its preferred species of elm, how to find the larvae, and why it is good to do all these things.
You know me, always ready to rally to the cause, so if you see me at the end of May on my knees, arse in the air, peering into the undergrowth, think only that I am on a just mission in pursuit of a noble cause. Or drunk.
Monday, February 25, 2008
1 Making mud pies.
2 Loving Margaret Benbow, Sheila Stanworth and Edith Johnson.
3 Finding birds' nests and making a collection of their eggs.
4 Enjoying French and Latin grammar, but not letting my mates know that.
5 Discovering the pleasure-pain of being attracted to big girls.
6 Learning to play the piano, thanks to my mum.
7 Learning to play "Whispering" and the "Teddy Bears' Picnic".
8 Discovering traditional jazz.
9 Learning whole episodes of the Goon Show by heart.
10 Learning to be funny from the best mate I ever had, Chic Goode.
11 Trying to become an "intellectual" in the Sixth Form.
12 Winning a place at St John's College, Oxford.
13 Listening to Sid Phillips playing Sleepy Time Gal.
14 Falling in love once too often.
15 Going to teach English in Italy.
16 Meeting my wonderful Liverpool girl, marrying her and having two gorgeous children.
17 Getting back into birdwatching and taking up bird ringing.
18 Making a career of English Language teaching.
19 Changing mental direction after a seminar in Barcelona in 1974.
20 Writing my first ELT book.
21 Succumbing to the adulation of women teachers.
22 Changing career and learning to eat and drink too much.
23 Losing the plot.
24 Getting back into academia thanks to an old friend
25 Working in Turkey and many other countries and learning to become a mensh again.
I am working on 26 before it's too late!
Forgive me, I am feeling fractious today. You're lucky, you men, all you lose as you get older is your hair and your erections, while we women really wither on the vine, as you might say. Which is why my doctor has put me on HRT. She says it will rejuvenile me. We shall see. So far, the only effects I have noticed is an increasing irritation with your nestbox obsession and a tendency to stare too long at other women. Not that I am lebanese, you understand, just that I find myself comparing. I am sure you do the same with other men's boxes.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, available.
House Sparrows are members of the Ploceidae, the weaverbird family. Time was when you did everything possible to keep them out of the nestboxes which you had put up for prettier species like Blue Tit and Great Tit. But not any more. House Sparrows are now on the RED list of birds of serious conservation concern.
So today I changed the mindset of a lifetime and put up a nestbox for house sparrows. Because weavers are communal nesters, the box is a "terrace" box with three compartments. So I am doing my bit for House Sparrows, although there is still a part of me that hopes the box will be occupied by Blue Tits or Great Tits.
Forty years ago, when I lived in Bournemouth, House Sparrows were such a nuisance that I instituted an intensive trapping regime, and each time when I had caught fifty or so, I transported them to a location twelve miles away. To salve my conscience, I pretended it was a scientific experiment: I marked them to see if they would make their way back to my garden.
The method of marking was original: my wife's scarlet nail varnish daubed on their legs. I never saw any of my sparrows again, but I like to think that my cosmetic addition to their appearance made them more attractive to the opposite sex.
"Now, watch!" the instructor says. And he puts his finger in his mouth and sucks it. The students gasp.
"Now, you do the same!" he instructs.
One by one they do so, gagging and heaving.
"The second lesson you have to learn is to be VERY observant. I put my middle finger into the cadaver's rectum, but I put my forefinger in my mouth."
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The main drawer of the cabinet was also pressed into service with the addition of a back and a half-front, turning it into a Kestrel box (or possibly Stock Dove, whichever finds it first).
Today, David H, bless his cotton socks, gave me a hand to check two Long-eared Owl nest baskets that we had put up in NineAcre Wood last winter. Result: one empty, the other used by pigeons. Never mind, it's all speculative stuff. We also improved the security of a Little Owl nestbox by strapping it to the trunk of the tree.
And as a reward for our virtuous deeds, we were treated to excellent views of a gorgeous adult male Hen Harrier quartering North Fen.
God's in His Heaven,
All's right with the World.
Including some fly tippers.
Friday, February 22, 2008
1 I don't know how electricity works
2 I don't know how telephones, tvs, fridges or microwaves work
3 I don't know how aeroplanes stay up
4 For that matter, I don't know how ladies' breasts stay up
5 I don't know how the internet works
6 I don't know how this computer works
7 In fact, I don't know how this torch works
8 I also realise I don't know where or what my pancreas is...
9 ...or what it does...
10 ...and that goes for most of the other organs in my squishy innards.
Damn, I hate it when the lights go out.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
* We put up one Barn Owl box and repaired/improved two others.
* We checked out two boxes put up by friend DH, and marvelled at his nigh-on perfect erection.
* We discovered two hitherto unknown boxes and made contact with the owners with a view to making the boxes, if not the owners, more attractive to owls.
* We arranged with another landowner to put up a box in his barn where owls had been seen. He giggled, but that's cool. Better than seeing us off with a twelve-bore.
*We surveyed a site to advise on suitable locations for two boxes for Barn Owls and one for Kestrels.
We would also have erected the Kestrel box I made earlier this week except that the Sadolin was still not dry. So, that's a job for next Tuesday.
I am telling you this so you will not think of me as just an old scrote obsessed with tractors.
PS My thanks to Prairie Mary for sending me a "Hooters" Calendar: twelve glorious pictures of seriously beautiful American hooters. My cup runneth over, or would do if I didn't keep my lip on the rim. Jeeves, pass the Merlot...
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
If I were a lady Kestrel, I would be in there like a shot, measuring for curtains, deciding where to put the three-piece suite and the Welsh dresser and thinking about a suitable housename. And then I would perch on the perch, primp my feathers and set my cap at the next handsome male Kezzie to fly past.
I have promised Clare that if we get a family of Kestrels in there this summer, she shall have the privilege of holding one of the chicks in her hands. Baby Kestrels are drop-dead gorgeous: grey-white fluffy down and opaque blue eyes. Well, you know me and babies: can't seem to get enough of them.
PS My box is nicer than the one in the picture.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Dear Mrs Stallone, she writes, You must forgive my long silence, but I have been knitting a scarf for charity, which has kept my fingers busy and so unable to do the things I most like doing with my fingers.
I was SO pleased to see a piece on the telly about you remaking that Rimbaud film. You are the poet-warrior par excellence, as they say. You look so appetising running around all glistening and muscular and your brow all puckered every time you kill someone, not, you understand, that I have a "thing" for dominant muscular women. That was the late Mr Trellis' department, along with parrots.
It's none of my business, but I think you could easily win the Democratic presidential nomination if you put your mind and your weapon to it. After all, nobody really wants that Clinton woman, dressed or naked - she's so OBVIOUS - and that Barack person seems far too SMALL to be a President.
But maybe between your movie career and running Amazon.com, you have enough excitement in your life. If you are ever in Llanfair pg, do call in and I will let you run your strong muscular hands over my scarf.
Respectfully, Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, unabashed.
A Count their legs and divide by four.
I shall be SO glad when this goddam book is off my hands. To paraphrase the late great Winston Churchill (incidentally, the last white man to be called Winston):
"Never in the field of human conflict (ie writing a book for a publisher) has so much unnecessary work been generated by so many (ie a plague of editors) for so few (ie the struggling authors)."
In my next life, I am going to come back as a bacterium specialising in getting up publishers' noses. Come to think of it, I am already doing that....
Monday, February 18, 2008
Why not? It's a good story. Pretty girl, loving family, lots of tension, dies of typhoid in a Nazi Vernichtungslager. Nice location too, Amsterdam, even if it is only an attic in a tall thin house.
For any theatrical entrepreneurs looking for themes, I offer the following:
Al Fayed Follies
Glam princess gets topped in tunnel, Pa-in-law kills everyone in sight. Archbishop of Canterbury calls for understanding of parental grief, specially if it's semitic.
Lots of people in colourful costumes going up in smoke. Mega-spectacle. Slim woman under house arrest finally burned alive, nice tits, good crowd chorus. Archbishop of Canterbury calls for understanding of fatalistic element in oriental cultures.
Twin Towers Extravaganza on Ice
Thrill to the spectacle of people jumping to their deaths from burning buildings. Poignant death scene of fireman throwing child to safety before succumbing to fumes. Grand Ice Meltdown finale. Archbishop of Canterbury asks for sympathetic appreciation of legitimate Islamist grievances.
Thomas a Becket the Musical
Operatic treatment of bloody murder of troublesome prelate. (I'm still working on this one. Be patient).
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Interviewer: "Tell me, sir, have you lived in this village all your life?"
Old boy: "Not yet."
Another story with wide currency is the traveller asking a country bumpkin for directions.
Traveller: "Tell me, how do you get to Dorchester from here?"
Bumpkin: "If I wanted to go to Dorchester, I wouldn't start from here."
I am in the mood now to tell you the story about the Three-legged Pig, but I have already trespassed on your patience enough. Maybe another time, if I can catch you off guard.
Well, according to the report I read, the paperwork and procedures that Social Services go through are byzantine, ostensibly to protect the baby, but in reality to protect the SS's arse and to satisfy the demands of political correctness. Apparently, the baby is an octaroon (not that you can use that term any more) so they have to find a couple who are one-eighth black (not that you can use that term any more). They probably spend a month working out what terms you CAN use.
Secondly, everything has to be approved by the Courts, and it can take up to six months to get a hearing once the SS have completed their arcane paperwork. The Courts, as you know, are very busy these days listening to more important cases, mostly appeals against speeding fines.
Somewhere in all this sh*t, there is a baby being passed around like a parcel in a Beirut post office. Isn't it time we made a stand against this nonsense and demanded a return to good old-fashioned common sense?
Ah, it's nice to be back in grumpy-old-man mode again!
There's not a twitcher in the Queen's Realm who has not made a dash to the north Norfolk coast to see this unusual vagrant from North America. It turned up some weeks back and obligingly has not died. So, literally hundreds of telescopes have been focused on this bird, giving it a status that it definitely lacks in its homeland. Maybe that's why it emigrated: felt undervalued. I know how it feels, seeing the adulation my British accent brings me when I am in the States.
The sad thing is that, if you removed its beautifully patterned head, the rest of it is duller than a gravystain. So, its head and my accent are all that save us from the world's indifference. But we have to travel a bloody long way for the pay-off.
This is how the company Ang***n W*ter found themselves mentioned on my blog (Can't give their name in full or that nice Mr Smith might write to me again about my dripping taps).
This is why my blog is sometimes blocked, and sometimes not, on my daughter's pc at work, although what particular words they trawl for I cannot say. I doubt if it's tractor, but br**st or b*m might do it....
...and moreorless anything written by Mrs Trellis.
Now, I just wonder if there is a way I can turn this trawling practice to my advantage by, say, luring some bigger fish than AW into my net, to communicate with me and maybe make me an offer I can't refuse. So here goes:
Heritage Lottery Fund!
And, while I'm about it:
I'll let you know how I get on.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
But if they DON'T sing for you, they can be difficult to tell apart, and indeed when I was a lad, we used to call them "willowchiffs", and left it at that. Later on, I learned to be more sophisticated and referred to them as "phylloscs", from the generic name Phylloscopus (= leaf gleaner), implying that what you had glimpsed could be an even more exotic member of the genus.
Later, with a lot of effort, I - like a zillion others - began to sort them out on such features as call ( WW = dysllabic whoo'eet, CC = monosyllabic wheet), structure (extension of primaries greater in willow warbler) and leg colour (light = WW, dark = could be either). And we all went home happy.
But not any more. The whole goddam business has gone racist, at least as far as the Chiffchaff is concerned. There are Iberian races, Siberian races and, for all I know, Jewish, Welsh and Cantabrian races, distinguished by such subtle differences of plumage that even as we speak, Cambridge ornithologists are fighting duels to the death on Parker's Piece in defence of buff versus dusky and brownish-green versus greenish-greyish-brown.
By the way, I had some long-tailed tits on my suet feeders today. No risk of confusion there.
Or is there? It's such an uncertain world when you get to my age.
In my time, I have been addressed in a number of different ways. To my Libyan traiinees, I was always "Mister Jake", to my Turkish traiinees, I was, embarrassingly, Hoca (pron hodja, and really an honorific for a wise Muslim teacher), my Angolan counterparts always referred to me as O Doctor, in Tanzania, I was "Mzee" - wise tribal elder!, and so on. My first teaching job in Italy, I was "Professore", which is not quite as grand as it sounds, and a little incongruous for a beardless 21 year old..
Apart from all that, I have been variously Dad, Grandad, Grandpa and Jake Dede. But the title that means most to me at the moment is "avôzinho Jake". In Portuguese, avo is grandmother, and avô is grandfather, and the -zinho is a diminutive, ie, avôzinho is "grandpa jake".
This is how I am addressed by Bruninha, the Brazilian nanny to my three Californian grandchildren. She is with them no longer, having been booted out of the USA by the Immigration authorities. She brought sunshine into everyone's lives. She was amazing with the children. They adored her. She never raised her voice, but they always obeyed her. She did all the chores that nannies do, but she also sang and played guitar and put on concerts with the children, she was amazing.l
Well done, Immigration. Hit the easy targets and make your stats look good.
I am really and truly an old scrote, I no longer expect a lot of life, but I can tell you this: my life was enriched by knowing Bruninha, a kid, a mere 21, but as rich a human being as I have ever met. And, by chance, this evening she was on Skype and we chatted for a little while.
Me, I am proud to be her avôzinho.
ANKARA, Turkey) — Lawmakers voted early Thursday to approve a constitutional amendment allowing female students to enter universities wearing Islamic head scarves — a move that many secular Turks view as an attempt to impose religion on their daily lives.
Lawmakers voted 401-110 in a preliminary vote in favor of the government's proposed amendment to the secular constitution. The government has defended its plan as a reform needed to give its citizens religious liberty and bring Turkey in line with European Union human rights guidelines.
A second and final round of voting was slated for Saturday.
The government has the backing of a nationalist opposition party and together they have more than the two-thirds majority in the 550-seat assembly required to make the change.
The head scarf issue is a source of tension in Turkey and has divided the population among those who consider the ban an affront to the religious freedoms of pious Muslims and those who fear removing the ban would erode Turkey's secular education system.
The vast majority of Turkey's 70 million people are Muslim, but they are divided over the role of Islam in politics and daily life.
Secularists regard the head covering as a political statement and argue it has no place in schools. They also fear that lifting the ban at universities would pressure all female students to cover themselves up.
On Wednesday, about 200 people gathered near the parliament building to protest the government's proposal as lawmakers convened. Hundreds of riot police, reinforced by armored vehicles, set up barricades to prevent them from marching to parliament.
"We won't allow the head scarf!" and "Down with the AKP!" the group chanted, referring to the acronym of the ruling party.
More than 125,000 people, mostly women, marched in Ankara over the weekend to denounce plans to lift the ban. University deans from dozens of private and state universities also gathered in the capital last week to show their opposition.
The issue also symbolizes the divide between the Islamic-oriented government and the country's military backed secular establishment.
The military, however, has not played a prominent role in the debate, although generals have periodically spoken up against what they view as moves to undermine secular principles introduced by the national founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Burhan Kuzu, a ruling party legislator denied secularism was being weakened. "If the proposed changes amount to what they say they amount to, I would be the first one to oppose them," he said.To ease concerns, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party has said that a loosening of the ban would be limited to universities, and would not be expanded to high schools or public offices.
I all alone beweep my outcast state....
What do I do?
I play some traditional jazz.
I know of no better antidote to bad backs, insane archbishops, and publishers who, in another life, would have been apprenticed to pastry cooks - if they were lucky.
And so this evening, my beloveds, my house has trembled to the sound of bands you have probably never heard of - Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, Terry Lightfoot, Acker Bilk, Alex Welsh, Chris Barber, Monty Sunshine and the ragged voice of the outrageous and seriously dead George Melly.
These guys played and sang trad jazz: straightforward chord sequences, familiar riffs, everything to make an Old Scrote feel he hasn't lost total grip on existence. I even danced some.
That and garlic chicken with East Anglian new potatoes and broccoli.
I tell you, when it comes to coping, Saga hasn't even got close!
Thursday, February 07, 2008
First, that publishers are, as the definition has it, "people who drink champagne out of authors' skulls".
Second, that the current Archbishop of Canterbury is barking mad.
If you want to learn more, you will have to wait till I am sober, because my current publisher and my current archbishop are driving me to drink.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Dear Mr Allsop (Dear Mr Old Scrote didn’t sound quite right, I’m afraid),
I was very interested to read your blog and heartened by how much you value the basic services that so many people - understandably - take for granted. At nearly two tonnes of water for the cost of a high street cappuccino (50 glasses for a penny), it is not surprising that so many people do.
You are absolutely right - many people have to walk miles to collect water that isn't fit to drink, which is why we support the work of WaterAid. With our customers' help we raised more than £180,000 last year.
You say that prices have shot up, well actually if you take away inflation, average household bills are actually lower now than they were in 1993/4. Whatever the price, our aim is to use the income we get from our customers' bills as wisely as possible to maintain a reliable service (not forgetting wastewater) but also tackle the particular challenges in our region of very low rainfall, rapid growth and the impact of climate change. Oh, and we also have lots of environmental initiatives.
If you're interested in finding out more, please see our community and environment report on our website:
You may also be interested to read about our long-term plans, which all water companies have published this year for the first time.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
And I thought, in a few thousand years' time, they might dig me up out of the East Anglian peat and - god, this hurts! - will have NO idea what a warm vibrant interesting erudite witty passionate human being I was. Just a blackened torso.
I have just added a codicil to my will asking to be cremated: let's see what they make of a pile of ash.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
And they said "Why?"
And He saideth: "Cos you can't see in the dark."
And they noddedeth and spaketh thuswise:"There's no flies on Him and that's a fact!"
At which point, the idea of a destructive Flood entered His mind.
And who can blame Him?
"But, lo!" he spaketh, giving it one more shot, "Ye can see for fricking miles!"
And lo and verily and forsooth, there was no denying the truth of it.
And they knew the Truth of His words.
And they pondered His words.
"Not much to see, mind you," they said.
"Hang on," said the Infinite Patience, "I'm working on populating the fundament with a few bits and pieces."
And He diddeth the flash thing with the flora and fauna.
"Bleedin' Longleat!" one of them saideth.
"I hate snakes!" opinedeth another.
At which point, the Divine Being gritted His teeth and thought, "I will give it one more go.
And pluckedeth He a spare rib off His barbecue, and, lo, createdeth He Woman.
"Bloody Norah!" they said in unison, "what's that when it's at home? Looks like a bloke with lumps and no willy."
At a stroke, the Omnipotent lost His cool and destroyed everything.
And that was that.
Well, almost that.
After a couple of days, He thought: "Well, Mars was a washout, but it was a start. Let's see if We can do better. Another firmament. I'll call it Earth, make it out of dirt and see what happens."
And He said "Let there be light."
And there was light.
And you could see for fricking miles.
Not that it made any difference in the end.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Thanks, Villon me old mate, for a good headline. It’s snowing like fury in North America. And it’s reached the Scottish Highlands.
And I want it here, on my patch, in East Anglia. Why?
Because it brings the birds flooding into my garden, poor frightened starving buggers, to gorge on the best eatery in town. I have no illusions. They don’t love me, and as soon as the thaw comes, they will be off again. But, for a few glorious days, they will be MINE!
Funny, there was a time when I used to feel exactly this way about girls. Pass the Sanatogen.
Dear Pope Benedict th Whatevereth, she writes, your recent postings seem tortured, if I may say so, but I suppose that's normal for you, you being a papist and a lapsed hitlerjugend person and all. But I am not condemning you: they had really sexy uniforms, didn't they? Your Blessedness, even though as a Primitive Methodist, I ought to be cursing, etc. I accept that you have a job to do just like everyone else, although I imagine you are technically retired and on an old age pension like me.
One thing intrigues me - forgive me, it's the Welsh in me - did you ever, you know, pine for a woman's caress? No need to answer, of course, but if you are ever in North Wales, I can promise you a rabbit stew that will curl the papal hairs on the papal chest.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retired
Oh god, nothing occurs to me that.
Maybe tomorrow gypsies will abseil down from the minstrels' gallery and make orff with me.
Or, yeah I know, this is my fate: I will just carry on making corrections to the Golden Oriole manuscript. Is there NO end to this misery?!
Hell, you my dear readers, you both deserve better than this. Let me see if I can find an interesting tractor.....
Even so, it's impossible to avoid them completely, and I don't mind catching the arse-end of some of them, the ones that are witty or inventive or involve busty ladies on tractors.
But I DO object to those that talk to me at the top of their decibels, like those old Barnum and Bailey pitchers who are selling you the MOST AMAZING UNBELIEVABLE THING YOU WILL EVER SEE TWENTY FOUR EXCLAMATION MARKS.
Well, yes. A two-headed iguana or a bearded lady I can accept.
But a frigging LEATHER SOFA, 20% OFF, HURRY WHILE STOCKS LAST screamed out by banshees?
Another UNDERARM DEODORANT, SHE WILL SHAG THE ARSE OFF YOU WHEN SHE GETS A WHIFF OF THIS ONE, ranted by a raving lunatic who isn't getting any?
CRUNCHED NUTS, the breakfast cereal that will turn you into another Mel Gibson complete with tight buttocks or your money back if it sags?
Guys, just tone it down, ok? Sell it to me, but not down my throat, ok?
As to those animated telephones selling car insurance, I would even prefer to be propositioned by Alan Bleeding Titchmarsh, heaven forbid.