Monday, May 31, 2010


Oh come on, I need something to take my mind off my throbbing digit.


I have a loupe. I bought it when I started moth-trapping, but I mostly use it now when I have a splinter in my finger. I screw the loupe into my left eyesocket like an Amsterdam diamond merchant checking his sparklers, and then I approach the offending sliver of wood (in fact usually a bramble thorn - brambles hate me). needle poised to attack.
What always surprises me is how blunt the point of a needle looks through the magnifying glass. It doesn't so much gouge out the splinter as bludgeon it into submission.
What always surprises me too, though it shouldn't, is the difference between the very mild discomfort caused by the splinter and the agonising pain caused by its extraction. My thumb is now throbbing like a blind cobbler's, well, thumb.
OK, I'm a wimp, but I'm really glad I had a bandaid to wrap round my thumb after the operation.

Ducking out

That's it!. I give up!
This morning Mrs Duck was on the lawn with her two male admirers, and she was behaving in a way that in a human female would be described as coquettish.
I took the opportunity to check her nest. It was empty, the lining slightly dischevelled but no obvious signs of predation.
I can now say categorically, with unshakeable conviction and without fear of contradiction, that I have absolutely no bloody idea what is going on.
But I have made a resolution here. I am going back to my old ways, that is, thinking of ducks only in the context of canard à l'orange, ànec amb figues and that cute way the Chinese have of making the outside all crispy.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Eternal Triangle, Duck-style

The penny has just dropped! Like me, Jean-Paul Sartre must have had three ducks in his garden, and that gave him the idea for Huis Clos.
In my case, there is the Cuckolded Duck, the Lover Duck and the Lady Duck (the one now sitting, presumably on fertile eggs). This morning, while she continued to sit, the TWO males were side by side at the edge of the pond, apparently the best of mates.
So, this is how I see it:
Lover Duck is in love with Lady Duck, Lady Duck is in love with Cuckolded Duck, and Cuckolded Duck is in love with Lover Duck.
Or something like that. It's confusing for me, so goodness knows how the ducklings will cope....

Trellis and the Pope

Mrs T clearly wants to pour trouble on oily waters.
Dear Rabbi Burns,
she writes, you must be upset that Pope BennyDick is paying a visit to your lovely country this year, him being a left-footer and all. Still, in his favour, he does wear a yarmulka, and you could use him for first-footing next Hogmanay. I suggest you try to make friends with His Piousness, and maybe sing a verse or two of Oy Veh Maria with him.
Yours ecumen... whatever the word is
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retd, Primitive Methodist.

Reservoir Cats

This is the name of a blog designed specially for twitchers, or rather about twitchers. It's raunchy and very funny. Have a peep HERE.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Garden antics

Anyone lurking around the back of my house will notice that I have mown the lawn today. They will also notice that it remains uncut for about three feet around the base of the plum tree outside the back door. If you read anywhere, or hear it on CNN, that the Old Scrote is losing his marbles, don't you believe it.
There is a reason for the uncut sward, namely that Mrs Duck has made her nest at the base of the plum tree. Although she has clearly chosen this site to be near me, I fear that a Honda lawnmower shaving the tips off her retrices may cause her to give up the whole procreation business and go back to flirting with the male Mallards that now circle my garden in that testosterone-charged way they have.
Given that my three boisterous Kiwi grandsons were with me for the last ten days, you might wonder why I am so ready to help bring a cohort of noisy ducklings into the world, or, more accurately, into my garden. Well, mes potes, I guess I'm a sucker for anything cute and fluffy.
Envoi: my only reservation is the paternity of the ducklings. Even though her regular male companion has not left her side, I have observed him standing to one side, as it were, while another male has given his wife a good treading. All the same, if and when they are born, I know I will love the little bastards.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trellis upside down

It is always a joy to hear from the Chatelaine of Llanfairpg.
Dear Mrs Clegg, she writes, I am so happy you and David have got together at last, even if he is a bit ponsy. I have made this upside-down cake for you both, but I won't be offended if you give it away to someone homeless and jobless, like that Gordon Brown person.
Yours etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, Retd. "No job too small."

Over and out

It wasn't this particular plane, but it was an Airbus a380 that finally brought the Kiwi branch of the Allsop clan to Heathrow, via an unscheduled diversion to CDG Paris, and two hours late. It is now 1845 and they have all zonked out. No doubt the boys will be running around full of beans at three o'clock in the morning. Me, I have been catatonic since forever, but I will feel better once I have held the ladder for Claudia again, probably tomorrow.
I thought you would all like to know that.

Shredded banana

What developing countries need is simple solutions to local problems. What the developed world wants to do is to sell them complex, state-of-the-art and very expensive solutions. Example: a jetty in western Libya with a pipe running along it, valves etc at intervals. The pipe was for transferring ethylene from cargo ships to the plant where it was needed. The jetty was ideal for local fishermen. Problem: risk to life and limb. Solution suggested by the German consortium who were building the plant: an electronic security system costing tens of thousands of dollars. My colleague Arthur's solution: put up notices in Arabic saying: IF YOU TOUCH THIS, YOU WILL DIE! Cost: a few pence.
I heard a poignant example on BBC World Service recently. It's a delicate subject, so please bear with me. In many of the poorer African communities, girls stay away from school when they are menstruating, because they cannot afford sanitary pads (supplied, of course, by countries like ours). The result is that their education suffers. Now an enterprising local group called SHE has established a cottage industry in Rwanda manufacturing sanitary pads from shredded banana fibre, an abundant and cheap local material.
But we shouldn't blame only the developed countries,such as in the German example above. The local elite, expensively educated in Europe and North America, WANT the hi-tech state-of-the-art equipment: it's good for their image.
Well, there you go. Early Monday morning grump, provoked by bad news from BAA. I feel better already, though goodness knows when I will see my NZ family now that the authorities have shut down Heathrow. The plane from Singapore is in the air, but who knows where or when it will land? Next time, I think my Kiwi brood should choose a low-tech solution, like camels or roller skates.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Damn you, Eyjafjallajokull !

Eyjafjallajokull is the outrageous name of that outrageous Icelandic volcano that has been stoked up by malevolent forces to make my life difficult. My son and family are winging their way home from NZ via Singapore and are due to arrive at Heathrow on Monday morning abt 0555 hours. But now I hear that UK airports may be shut down from tomorrow till Tuesday, causing all our plans to gang agley.
With a name like Eyjafjallajokull, it has to be the work of Old Nick Himself.

Kestrel Hollow

According to Francesca Greenoak ("All the Birds of the Air") the word Kestrel comes from the Norman French crecelle meaning a rattle, and is probably imitative of the bird's kee kee kee alarm call. Other local names are based on the bird's characteristic hovering, windhover being one of the commonest.
The island of Hilbre in the Dee Estuary in Cheshire has a bird observatory which I used to visit regularly whenever I was on Merseyside. The obs guru was Professor John Craggs, who, over the years, had given names to the various features of the island, one of which was "Kestrel Hollow" after a depression in the ground some distance from the obs. Parties of dudes, mostly blue-rinse ladies, would visit the island, and invariably found the name "Kestrel Hollow" to be very sweet. What they didn't know was that Prof Craggs had given it that name after coming upon a young couple in flagrante delicto: another local name for the Kestrel is fuckwing....

Kestrel Time

It's that time of year again, ie, the time of year when we inspect our Kestrel boxes for signs of occupancy, and, if we are lucky, breeding. I spent three vigorous days last week with our PhD student, Claudia, and on the third also with Peter, and we found several nests with eggs. The pic shows the first nest we checked. The female will lay at least two more before she starts incubating. The white egg is from a Stock Dove that used the box previously. I think the Kestrel's is one of the prettiest eggs, but the birds that issue from them are even more gorgeous.
I hope Claudia won't mind if I publish a photograph of her too, up the ladder and happy. It was the word "gorgeous" that prompted the thought.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Language class, sixties' style

Having got no further with German than a scraped O level pass, I decided, when I was working on Merseyside, to take evening classes at Liverpool Tech, starting in the beginners' class. The first lesson, we were given
a basic structure:
X (noun) is Y (adjective)

with nouns like mein Vater, mein Bruder, meine Mutter, mein Freund, meine Lehrerin (teacher) and adjectives like jung, alt, arm (poor), reich, and some harder ones like traurig (sad), zufrieden (happy) and ehrlich ((honest).
We each then produced our little sentence. I think mine was Mein Freund ist traurig or something equally anodyne, as were everyone else's, until someone came up with Mein Onkel ist reich and unehrlich. I admired him enormously for having the wit to produce a gem like that out of an unpromising list of words.
Language classes tend to produce utterances which, to paraphrase Henry Widdowson, have "signification but no meaning", ie, they don't communicate or describe anything REAL. But the fellow with the crooked uncle had come very close. Judging by the outburst of laughter in the room, it certainly communicated something real to the rest of us.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Nestboxes for sale

We have a good local man, John Stimpson, who makes excellent nestboxes to our specification and at a reasonable price. He is doing good business these days, supplying Swift boxes all over the United Kingdom, and quantities of Barn Owl and Kestrel boxes in the fenland area. The picture above is of John's stand in the churchyard at the Blossoms and Bygones event. I helped him unpack at 1230 and repack at 1730.
"Many customers?" I asked him.
"I sold four tit boxes," he replied.
I swear the word "laconic" was invented specially for him.
Then he smiled. And I smiled. And we both smiled. A lot of work for a mere twenty sovs, but the sun was shining, so why not smile?

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Blossoms and Bygones - postcript

Blossoms and Bygones turned out to be a blessed event: good weather, lots of people and lots of activities. Here are a couple of pictures of my particular corner, showing various nestboxes, some stuffed birds and some trays for Barn Owl pellet analysis.
After my stint in the Conservation Room, I went outside to watch the Morris Dancers, such an enthusiastic and colourful bunch of people. Here is a pic of a troupe of morris dancers, which, I have to admit, is more interesting than a trayful of nestboxes and owl pellets.

Blossoms and Bygones

Today, the second Sunday in May, my village of Haddenham celebrates itself with a fete or feast of activities: open gardens, trailer rides, guided tours of orchards and conservation areas, and exhibitions of all kinds. My involvement is with the Conservation Room in the village centre, where there are lots of things to see and do, specially for children. I have just set up an exhibition of Swift, Barn Owl and Little Owl nestboxes, plus a supply of Barn Owl pellets for the children to pick to pieces in order to identify the prey remains. Grownups can join in as long as they are accompanied...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Trellis sums up

As usual, Mrs T has her ear to the grindstone:
Dear Mrs Clegg, she writes, I understand you are now squeezed between Gordon Cameron and Dave Brown. It can't be very nice for you, although personally I would rather have the Brown person behind me so I couldn't see his face. And having the Cameron person in front could be exciting, if you get the thrust of my position.
Blodwen, neutral

Old shed, new shed

The old shed is no more. It has been replaced by a spanking new shed. I realise that compared to the Apocalypse or the building of a new Tescos in Leighton Buzzard, this is a paltry event.
But it's my pride and joy. It is a birthday present from my darling Angit, although I did tell her a new pair of bedsocks would have been sufficient.
Any road up, I now have to reassemble the work bench (old legs, new top) so that I can get started on my next batch of Kestrel boxes. After all, they deserve new accommodation too.

Polling Day, Hogarth style

Thank goodness the electioneering is over. One more political speech from the potential PMs and I would have emigrated to Khatmandu.
But, yes, folks, the Old Scrote has cast his vote, but I had to add Joanna Lumley's name to the ballot paper as they had inadvertently left it off. I bet she will do for us old scrotes what she did for the Gurkhas - secure us the right to settle ourselves and our families in Nepal.That way I could put distance between myself and Messers Brown, Clegg and Cameron; and perhaps shorten the distance between myself and the luscious Lumley. Dream on, Allsop!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Little Nell

I know I always come late to these things, but I just heard a woman called Nell Bryden sing a song called Second Time Around.
As tomorrow, Thursday, is the day when our (British) fate is sealed -Gordon again "we're doomed", Nick holding the balance of power "don't panic", or our Dave "they don't like it up 'em" - click on the link and give yourself a treat.
She's a looker too: she can stir my porridge anytime.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Mrs Trellis gets frisky

Funny how a general election can cause the sap to rise:
Dear Nick Clegg, she writes, I won't vote for you because I have no idea what a LibDem is, but I must say you are a handsome fellow, you could almost be Welsh. I won't vote Plaid Cymru either, because they don't allow Male Voice Choirs in the Welsh Assembly. As to Labour, well, as Mr Trellis, my late husband, used to say: "How can you trust a party that supports natural childbirth?" Whatever that means. And, of course, I wouldn't vote Tory, me being a PrimMeth and them being High Anglians. Well, on second thoughts, maybe I will vote LibDem, just because you have such a nice smile and tight trousers. Oops, what am I saying? >giggles<
Yours truly
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd, still available.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A serious bit

Those of you who are close to me - family, colleagues and friends - know the problems I have faced in the last twelve months. Thank God the end of my troubles is in sight. I am writing this to thank all of you for your love and your support.
I am humbled.
And I realise now how lucky I am to have such family and such friends.
Much good has come out of all this: I am not the same person I was a year ago. Thanks to you, and with the help of a rediscovered faith, I have an inner strength and a serenity now that I have never known before in my whole life.
Well, that's enough of that. I can feel the satirical sap rising in the Old Scrote again: time for more observations on the follies and fripperies of humankind.
I just hope Mrs Trellis doesn't get hold of the wrong end of my stick.