Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

May your year be filled with love and vegetables.

At last? No, THE last

Yesterday, on arriving back home after an exhausting hour discussing polyfilla and sawdust (don't ask), I looked out of the back window and there was a Waxwing in the guelder rose bush. It immediately flew off. I then went into the sitting room and, on drawing back the curtains, again saw a Waxwing (the same one?) in the bush. It flew off after three seconds. The photo above is not mine, there was no time for that sort of flimflammery.
Today, after nailbiting hours of covert ops, I can now report that my guelder rose is at no risk whatsoever from attack by Waxwings. So, you Starlings and thrushes, help yourselves - no hurry, because no competition - the Bohemians have buggered off back to Waxwingland.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

'Twas Xmas Eve and all over the house....

Anyway, determined to make Midnight Mass this year, I had an early dinner, and went for a snooze so as to be fresh for the big event.
I set my alarm clock for ten to eleven, giving me plenty of time to get ready, drive to church and enjoy the carol service, which started at eleven thirty, to be followed by midnight mass.
Alarm went off, I got up, visited the bathroom, got dressed and, by chance, glanced at the clock on the wall. The time was five minutes past midnight. I had set the alarm for 2350 instead of 2250. Talk about a head full of sweetie mice.
Oh well, there's always next Christmas....

Pretty thing

Isn't this pretty! It's a bathypelagic ctenophore from the benthic boundary layer, but I guess you already knew that. Yup

Merry Christmas all!

As for New Year wishes, the Irish have said it best:
May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
And, knowing the wicked ways of my readers, another Irish prayer:
May you get to Heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you're dead.

OK, now you can attack the turkey and the mince pies.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Midnight Mass

I believe that a lot of people in our apparently godless society have a yearning for spiritual nourishment, and I am no exception. I also believe that a lot of people who are not Catholic or High Anglican will go to Midnight Mass tonight (Christmas Eve), because it is "traditional" and because it will give them a warm glow, a fuzzy feeling. It's all of a piece with holly and mistletoe and mince pies. I am not belittling it, not at all, I am all for people breaking out of the materialistic culture, if only for an hour or so.
So, the question is, will I be going to Midnight Mass at our lovely little church, St Etheldreda's, in Ely? Every fibre in my body tingles at the prospect, except for that part of my brain that is crunching meteorological data, nonstop. The road surfaces are wet during the day, often after a light powdering of snow, and it freezes enough at night to produce treacherous "black ice" everywhere. And this despite the efforts of the salters and gritters to keep the roads open.
Come on, wimp, you've got a 4x4 on the drive, it's not that far to St Etheldreda's and it will do your pagan soul good, geschweige denn your lungs when you join in the carol singing!
We will see.
At this moment, I envy Angit - she and her family will go to Midnight Mass in the cathedral in Izmir, where the weather is balmy. Wish I were there, not just because it's warmer and safer, but because the Mass is in the vernacular, viz, Turkish. Now that WOULD be spiritual nourishment for a glottophile like me.
Pax vobiscum.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


My thanks to Angit for this little gem:

Devant l'entrée du siège social de la banque, un trader gare sa Porsche Panamera (Turbo!) flambant neuve, histoire de frimer devant ses collègues.

Juste comme il commence à sortir de la voiture un camion à toute allure passe si près qu'il arrache la porte et disparait aussi vite. Le trader se rue sur son portable et appelle la police.

Cinq minutes après les flics sont déjà là. Avant même qu'un des policiers n’ait pu poser la moindre question, le trader commence à hurler : "Ma Panamera, ma superbe Turbo est foutue. Quoi que fassent les carrossiers, ce ne sera plus jamais la même !" et il gueule et il gueule encore : "Elle est foutue, elle est foutue !"

Quand il semble avoir enfin fini sa crise, le policier hoche la tête avec dégoût et dit : "C'est absolument incroyable à quel point, vous sacrés banquiers, vous êtes matérialistes ! Vous êtes si concentrés sur vos biens que nous ne pensez à rien d'autre dans la vie."

"Comment pouvez-vous dire une chose pareille à un moment pareil ?" sanglote alors le propriétaire de la Porsche.

Le policier répond: "Vous n'avez même pas conscience que votre bras gauche a été arraché quand le camion vous a heurté."

Le banquier regarde avec horreur.

"BORDEL DE MERDE!" crie-t- il ... "Où est ma Rolex ????..."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Every day something new

Know what's special about today? Me neither, but I have just learned that 22 December is the Feast Day of none other than St Hunger, 866AD. Who he? All I can find out is that he was Bishop of Utrecht, Netherlands, who fled the diocese during an invasion by Normans. He died in Prüm, Germany.
Prüm? Hell's bells, I'd never heard of that either. We miss out on a lot here in the remote East Anglian fens.

The ever-helpful Mrs T

Dear Lady Thatcher, she writes, may I suggest to Your Eminence, a surefire cure for depression? It's an old Welsh remedy using leeks and sheep's offal. It makes a really thick stew with lots of flavour, lots of grease, and lots of unidentifiable chewy bits in it. The trick is, you feel so ill after eating it that you forget all about being depressed.
PS I saw your son Carol on TV the other night. He looks very girly to me. I do hope he's not one of those, you know, homophones. Still, as my friend Mrs Cohen used to say, "Oedipus shmoedipus, as long as he loves his mother...."
Yours etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd


I have been on an anti-depressant for over a year now, and decided it's time to reduce the dose with a view to giving it up altogether. Idly, I read - for the first time - the little leaflet that comes with the medicine, hoping to find some advice on how to do this. Foolishly, I started by reading the contraindications. OMG! I have been exposing myself to, amongst others:
distressing restlessness - got it
haemerrhoids - got it
nighttime urination - got it
abnormal dreams - got it
joint pain - got it
vaginal haemorrhage - small consolation, not got it
There's lots more, but I skipped to "Symptoms that occur when treatment is discontinued". Cop this lot:
dizziness, numbness, sleep disturbances, agitation or anxiety headaches, feeling sick, being sick and shaking, increased risk of bone fractures....
Doomed, cari amici! Doomed if you do, doomed if you don't. All this has really depressed me. Anyone know a cure?

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Anyway, there I was, binoculars round my neck and my heart pounding in anticipation of some good birds. And suddenly, there they were: literally dozens and dozens of Waxwings, noisy in a musical kind of way, and restless as farts in a bottle. It's the sort of moment that makes birdwatching worthwhile. I am sure you know the spot, the Cemetery, the one with all the big trees, a mecca for all kinds of wildlife. And, at last, I had got my Waxwing fix!

I know that everyone in the Cambridge area is at the moment finding Waxwings everywhere, everyone, that is, except me. So I thought I would pen this note so as not to be left out. Trouble is, my Waxwings were in San Diego, California . Cedar, not Bohemian. SPIT!!!


You all know the French expression "je m'en fous", meaning "I don't care", "I don't give a ...." Well, I was reminded today that the Italian equivalent, "me ne frego" has led to a beautiful coinage: "un menefregista" to describe anyone who is constantly shrugging his shoulders and letting you know that he doesn't give a .....

Even better was the word I learned when I was in Milan to describe the kind of person who dashes from bar to bar, gulping down a coffee and apologising the he can't stay long because he's "got things to do", in Italian, "ha da fare". He isn't really busy, but he likes to give the impression that he is a busy and important man. He is, in a word, "un daffarista".

The above note is gender-neutral, ie, man stands for man or woman, he stands for he or she, etc. If anyone is upset by this linguistic convention, well, to tell you frankly, sono un menefregista.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I know it's just a squiggle, but......

Todays grumble. Its Friday, so Im a bit grumpy. Youve probably noticed already that theres something odd about todays text. Blame it on Samsung. While doing my weeks shopping in Tescos a couple of weeks back, I foolishly went into the mobile phone section - Im a sucker when it comes to gadgetry - and was seduced by the salesladys patter into abandoning my yearslong loyalty to Nokia, and bought a Samsung instead. Its got more bells and whistles than a Mississippi steamboat, but theres one thing missing: it doesnt have an apostrophe. Dont ask me why, its a quirk, and Im really at my wits end how not to appear illiterate to you all. Maybe its Samsungs reaction to all the misplaced apostrophes you see on notices around the place: Maybe, but I've gone back to my old Nokia, so there.

A bit o' grammar

"Jetzt sind die Dãcher der Häuser mit Schnee bedeckt".
(Now are the roofs of the houses with snow covered). The phrase leapt into my mind this morning when I looked out and saw that another blast of Arctic weather has arrived. I created that German sentence 58 years ago, in the year when I was preparing for German O Level. It was part of a longer paragraph, a mnemonic for all the common German nouns which are (so weit ich weiss) neuter and monosyllabic, and which form the plural with an umlaut + -er where possible. So, das Dach, die Dãcher, and so on. And this is the first time that the above snappy sentence has been fired in earnest.
OK, that's it, you can wake up again now.

Mrs T apologises

Letters from Mrs Trellis are like London buses - nothing for ages, then three arrive together. Clearly she is in fine fettle:
Dear Mrs Samoyed, she writes, I am sorry I got your name wrong last time. I know that a Samovar is a Russian teapot, and I am sure you are neither Russian nor a teapot. Anyway, I haven't heard from you for a while and wondered if you were still considering publishing my autobiology. As you know, I have had a fascinating life, though for a lot of the time I wasn't really in it, being too busy ministering to the needs of Mr Trellis, my late husband. He was a difficult man - aren't they all? - but his heart was in the right place, possibly the only part of him that was. In later years, he described himself as being "partly-retired", which I took to mean that parts of him had retired. I can vouch for that, dear.
If you are ever in Llanfair pg, do call in and we can have a girly talk over a nice cup of leek broth.
Yours effectionively
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mrs Trellis has the answer

Always eager to be of help, my North Wales correspondent sent me a message:
Dear Mrs Palin, she writes, I'm sorry you have a sore throat. It must be even more galling for you, seeing that your neck's gone. Try the old Welsh remedy: make a poultice by wrapping the boiled entrails of a sheep round your throat and covering them with goose poo. It won't cure your bad throat, but it will keep you from giving it to other people.
PS, I hope you get to be the next President of the Untied States. We all need a laugh in these troubled times.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vicolo San Clemente, Brescia, Italy

I used to live in this little street, in the house of a widowed lady, Signora Donzelli Lucia (I don't know why she put her surname first). She was tiny and I was tall and lanky, and we got on well. I left after a year and never saw her again, although we corresponded for a while. She had a beautiful copperplate hand and her Italian was a joy to read.
The only reason I am telling you all this is to take my mind off my bloody sore throat. When it comes to making a fuss out of a minor illness, nobody can outwimp me. Signora Donzelli Lucia could have told you the same thing.

Ge-bloody-froren, pardon my tmesis

I hope the bloody struggle aught availeth, because, believe me, mes potes, putting up yesterday's two Barn Owl boxes was a real battle against gnarly trees, grumpy weather and dropped tools. I was gefroren to the marrow, and now I have the beginnings of a vicious sore throat. This being the case, I shall suspend all serenity until it gets better. I fricking hate colds, and I fricking hate gnarly trees, and at the moment I am not all that enamoured of Nature and its trickery. Grrrump.
PS The Ladder Course went well, and we now know when we are doing things wrong. But sometimes it's the only way to get the job done. I guess we'll have to pay an annual visit to the Health and Safety Confessional to receive Absolution...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sorry, Monday's out for me

If you want me to rub your back, neuter your cat or dig over your vegetable patch, please note that I will not be available next Monday. The reason is that I shall be taking a course called "Safe Working Procedure: K8020 Portable Aluminium Ladders". That's right, mes potes, I shall be in the grips of Health and Safety. This is at the behest of one of the agribusinesses on whose land we put up and monitor Barn Owl boxes, bless their cotton socks.
My fervent hope is that, after four hours of instruction in how to interact with a ladder, I shall no longer be a hazard in the countryside.
When it's all over, you may call round to my house to have your back rubbed, your cat neutered, etc, but I should warn you that you will first need to go through an induction course on how, healthily and safely, to stir a cup of tea, eat a garibaldi and flush a toilet without drowning. I'm not taking any chances.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

A rose by any other name....

An elderly couple had dinner at another couple's house, and after eating, the wives left the table and went into the kitchen.
The two gentlemen were talking, and one said:'Last night we went out to a new restaurant and it was really great.I would recommend it very highly.'
The other man said:'What is the name of the restaurant?'
The first man thought and thought and finally said:
'What is the name of that flower you give to someone you love? You know, the one that's red and has thorns.'
'Do you mean a rose?'
Yes, that's the one,' replied the man. He then turned towards the kitchen and yelled: 'Rose, what's the name of that restaurant we went to last night?'

Friday, December 03, 2010

Les subtilités de la langue française

I am grateful to Kerkenez for sending me the following gem:

Une vieille demoiselle se présente chez un notaire pour enregistrer l'acte d'achat de sa maison récemment acquise.

Le notaire l'invite à s'installer, appelle son clerc, et lui demande textuellement :
"Veuillez, s'il vous plait, ouvrir la chemise de Mademoiselle, examiner son affaire, et si les règles ne s'y opposent pas, faites une décharge pour qu'elle entre en jouissance immédiatement!"

On n'a toujours pas rattrapé la vieille fille ........