Monday, June 28, 2010

Duck update

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green...
I'll be honest with you, I don't lilt as much as I used to, but it's a lovely day and there are still ten ducklings young and easy under the apple boughs. And it's going to stay that way as long as I can keep the cats, rats and foxes out of the back garden.
Envoi: the sharp-eyed among you will have spotted that it's a plum not an apple tree. Poetic licence.

What can ail thee?

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The answer is in the next two lines:
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.
David H and I went round the fen yesterday checking Barn Owl boxes. Not too bad, with 5 boxes containing young Barn Owls, and another 6 containing breeding Stock Doves. But the fens themselves were devilish quiet: no Marsh Harriers, just one Common Buzzard, a smattering of Corn Buntings and, in one spot, a fever of Yellow Wagtails. Oh yes, and Reed Buntings, Skylark, Common Tern.....
Wait a minute, I think I have woken up grumpy this morning. Time for some roughage

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Someone has hacked into my yahoo contact list and is sending, under my name, an email to everyone on it. The email contains a url ending in .com.
It is not from me. Don't open it.
And if you know how to put a hex on the bastard, please do!

Friday, June 25, 2010

No dice, says Mrs T

Another misguided missile from the fiery widow from North Wales:
Dear Mrs Samovar, she writes, I understand you are in the publishing business and would like to publish "The Collected Letters of Blodwen Trellis".
Nothing personal, dear, but I don't think I could work with a woman who goes around encouraging peasants to touch their foreskins.
Yours sincerely
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd.


I knew there was something aristocratic about me. It's not just the thin ankles after all. I bet I have as noble a pedigree as any Old English Sheep Dog, and it would be quite proper to breed from me (ceteris, unfortunately, are not paribus).
Well, it's a lovely evening, time for me to take a stroll through the village to give the peasants a chance to touch their forelocks.

Tip of the day

You will like this.
That is not a comment, that is an order!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day-old Wesleyan chicks

Even hairy bikers are allowed to use the word "cute" to describe these little beauties. My thanks to Claudia for sending the pic to me. They are Wesleyan, by the way, not out of religious conviction, but because that is the name of the farm where the Kestrel nest is located. For all I know, they could be Osmagalian, an ideopathic faith if ever there was one.

What was that again?

I love mistranslations. It seems to me that God's purpose in destroying the Tower of Babel was to give us all a good laugh. I could be wrong, of course.
Anyway, I remembered a gem, when a German couple got on a London doubledecker. The bus was crowded, so she sat downstairs while her husband had to go and find a seat upstairs. When the conductor came to collect the fares, the lady pointed to the ceiling and said "The Lord above will pay".
She meant, "my husband/the gentleman upstairs will pay" In German, "Der Herr oben wird bezahlen". I add the original German for the benefit of any Englishwoman who might one day find herself in a similar situation on a Berlin double-decker bus.
PS A small prize goes to anyone who can tell me what the English translation in the sign below should be.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Маша Черепанова

This will mean nothing to most of you, but I am bursting with pride to tell you that I just had an email from my young Russian correspondent, Masha (that's her in the picture), telling me that her final dissertation has been accepted and that she has been awarded her degree. Masha had written to me a little while back asking me to explain why I chose the titles I did for my Penguin short stories. That really gave the old scrote-brain a workout!
Today I persuaded a lady in Norfolk to put more Swift nestboxes on her house, so you can imagine that I am cock-a-hoop about that too.
Then I made a small detour to visit St John's Cathedral in Norwich, a breathtaking piece of Victorian Gothic.
Oh yes, and there are still 10 ducklings in the back garden.
After a day like this one, I'm not even waiting for the other boot to drop. Who cares?

Trevor Herriot

My heartfelt thanks to Prairie Mary for introducing me to Trevor Herriot's blog. I can earnestly recommend it for interesting text and gorgeous wildlife photography from around Saskatchewan (I think). The above photo is Mary's favorite, and it's mine too. Click here for more.


Don't be put off by the title of this website. Thanks to Claudia's witty friend, Mia, I was introduced to its zany humour. I don't understand all of it, being a bit too long in the tooth for some of the pop allusions, and not geeky enough for the computer stuff, but there's a lot in there that is hilarious. Click here and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trellis on food

Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, re your request for a recipe for a quick and easy pudding, the late Mr Trellis swore by his Spotted Dick. Here are the ingredients:
10oz Self-Raising Flour
5oz Shredded Suet
¼ pint) Milk
4-6oz Raisins
3oz Castor Sugar
1 Lemon, zest only, finely grated
Pinch Salt
If, like my late husband. you prefer a Plain Dick, just leave out the raisins.
Yours culinarily
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd but still able to stir a pudding.

Monday, June 21, 2010


There are a number of organisations in Britain dealing with the conservation of Barn Owls. The one that my colleagues and I support is the Barn Owl Conservation Network.
Admit it, the footie on the telly is mega-boring, you'll be much happier clicking on THIS.

Moving swiftly on...

Those of you with nothing better to do will doubtless have observed that the link on the right"Action for Swifts" is no more. It has become "Swift Conservation". Worth a visit, especially for those who are sick of football on the TV.
Duck update: down to 10 ducklings. Highlight yesterday was Mother Duck, head down, aggressively driving off a rat that was drooling for its dinner.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Knees and Climate

In my village, we judge the seasons by an examination of the postman's knees.
As soon as the temperature rises a few degrees Celsius (or whatever system you use) above freezing, he takes off his trousers and dons his shorts.
Those knobbly knees tell you that winter is over and that spring, if not summer, is on the way.
Mind you, there's a vicious north-easter blowing this morning. At this rate, his knees are not going to last long.
PS Mrs Duck is back, but with only eleven fluffies this time. At the moment they are all tucked warmly underneath her. THEY aren't fooled by the postman's knees.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New shed - progress report

As you can see, I have the first toolrack erected and stocked. In fact, it's so beautiful, I haven't got the heart to disturb it. What I need is another shed.....

Early morning, June 2010

What a lovely view to accompany one's morning dish of muesli! Good karma.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Grandparental responsibility

As you know, I have six lovely grandchildren, but this morning I woke up to find that I now have nineteen. It's a complicated story, so I will just pick out the highlights. About a month ago, I noticed that the female Mallard in my garden had taken to squatting in the long grass at the base of the plum tree just outside my back door. Could she be on eggs?
The two males that accompanied her everywhere (I don't know which is the husband and which the fancy man, but they both tripped the light fantastic with her from time to time) were in constant attendance.
Anyway, this morning, I looked out to see that she was in the garden pond with thirteen ducklings. That is prolific. As to the fathers, they disappeared the moment I screamed (with joy, that is), and haven't reappeared since.
Now I feel a heavy responsibility for the safety of the thirteen fluffies. I have put an upturned wheelbarrow near the pond, but I doubt if it will fool the foxes. Meanwhile, the crows and the jackdaws are circling....
With drama like this, who needs Springwatch?


Another of Angit's little gems:-

Un jour un fleuriste se rend chez le barbier pour se faire couper les cheveux. Après sa coupe, il demande combien il doit. Le barbier répond ''C'est gratuit, je fais du bénévolat cette semaine'' . Il quitte tout content. Le lendemain, en ouvrant sa boutique, le barbier trouve à sa porte une carte de remerciement et une douzaine de roses.

Plus tard, un policier se présente et se fait couper les cheveux. Quand il vient pour payer, le barbier lui dit: 'Je ne peux accepter d'argent, cette semaine, je fais du bénévolat. Heureux, le policier quitte et, le lendemain, dépose à la porte du barbier une douzaines de beign
és, avec un mot de remerciement.

Puis, le député du comté se présente et lorsqu'il vient pour payer, le barbier lui répond: Mais non, cette semaine c'est gratuit. Je fais mon bénévolat! Très heureux de cette aubaine, le député quitte la boutique.

Le lendemain quand le barbier vient pour ouvrir, une douzaine de membres du parlement attendent en ligne pour se faire couper les cheveux gratuitement.

Voila mes amis, la différence fondamentale entre les citoyens de ce pays et les politiciens qui nous gouvernent.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pussy Galore

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'

Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Splendid bird!

During all my ringing years, I only ever caught one of these birds. I had put up a mistnet to try to capture an escaped budgerigar belonging to a sweet old lady in the village. When I returned to the net fifteen minutes later, the only bird in the net was the species you can see here being handled by a sweet young lady.
As you can gather, when it comes to the ladies, I am not in the least ageist.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mrs T in full sail

Our correspondent from North Wales is definitely NOT "sleeping thar below":

Good heavens, Mrs Scrote, she writes, I know you can be a bit wild, but I never thought you had naughticle blood in your vines. All I can say is A l'eau c'est l'heure and hope you don't throw up over anyone. Personally I hate the sea after the one trip I took with the late Mr Trellis on the Mona Lisa, you know, that Camel Laired boat that goes from Holyhead to the Isle of Man. I didn't smile once, I can tell you. Nor did my late husband after he tried to touch a matelot's bottom for luck.
Yours etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd, landlocked.

I Must Go Down to the Sea

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over

I am no sailor, but there are days - like today - when I know exactly what Masefield was feeling. But I'll be all right once I've mowed the lawns, weeded the borders, trimmed the vine, swept the pathways, washed the windows, sanded down the woodwork on the porch, polished the ---- well you know what I'm getting at.
Have a nice day!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Seven and a half candles

I am relieved my family didn't try to put seventy-four candles on the birthday cake - I no longer have the puff for that.
It was a good party, though. After a day when I received visits from friends and neighbours, and several phonecalls, emails and facebook messages, we sat down for a celebratory meal of köfte and basmati rice, followed by cake with candles.
Best of all was the singing of Happy Birthday - Jeremy and Jackie and the three boys, Joe, Matthew and little Alfie, and on the phone from San Diego, Sarah and the munchkins, Sophie, Kiki and Harry. And my lovely friend "Angit" was with us too.
If this is what birthdays are like, I am going to have one every year from now on.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


It is important for grandparents to do what they can to help build up the character and moral rectitude of their grandchildren, without, of course, usurping the role of parents. Thus it was that I had occasion to talk to my grandsons about truth and lies, using, in the best parable tradition, the story of George Washington. You know the one: George's father discovered that his favourite cherry tree had been cut down. He confronted his son and asked him:
"Do you know what happened to my cherry tree? Someone has chopped it down."
The boy looked into his father's eyes, and knew that this was an important moment in his life.
"Father," he said, "I cannot tell a lie." He paused. "A big boy did it and ran away."
Character building, that's what it's all about.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Trellis the Good

Such a caring lady, our correspondent from the Principality:
Dear Mrs Scrote,
she writes, you're not going to believe this, but Myfanwy Roberts - you know, the one with the warts - well, I hear she's getting married! Yes, her! And she's not even pregnant as far as I can tell. Some people are all swank, know what I mean?
Hope you are well, dear. Let me know if you need any more incontinence pants.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd.

Rick K and the Allnighters

I had to go and lie down in a darkened room after watching this. Whatever he's on, I wish he'd send me a supply: I need something zingy to get me through the next few days!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Californian Spring

Once again the Ceanothus (Californian Lilac) in the front garden has been a show. Next to it, against the garage wall is a Pyrocantha, which seems to be more vigorous than ever before. I am hoping for a good crop of red berrries in the autumn. At the back of the house, the Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) is a mass of white flowers, and should produce a crop of succulent red berries as well. Is this the year Waxwings finally show up in my garden? Wenn nur!

St Boniface of Crediton

Of course you know Boniface! His feast day is June the Fifth, the same day as my birthday! (Steady on, Allsop, that's two exclamation marks already! No, three! No, ...)
He was born in 675 and was christened Wynfrith, but is always known as Boniface. I was christened Jack, but am always known as Old Scrote.
Among his many achievements was the compilation of the first Latin grammar written in English. One of my few achievements was the publication of my Student's Grammar of English.
He left England to go to convert the heathen tribes of Germany, and was finally murdered, put to the sword by Friesian barbarians. The nearest I got to emulating Boniface in this respect was trying to teach English to assorted German-speaking students. As to the manner of my death, I would prefer to be shot by a jealous husband on my ninety-fifth birthday.
All of this is a way of letting you know that it is my birthday on Saturday, just in case you want to propose me for canonisation, or whatever.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


In the course of a heated discussion on Cambirds, someone made reference to "N-dubz". I had no idea what that meant, and neither did another member of the group, P. I love the exchanges which followed. First a query from P:
Sent: 01 June 2010 16:55 To: From P: "I have had a long think and I know I am ignorant but what please are or is N-dubz?"
Then, a reply from S.
To P, From S: "Ashamed to say I know, but N-dubz are a rap (music) band. You know the type,they sound like a combination of someone building a shed whilst nailing their feet to the floor, and a steam hammer. So you can practice, just say these words in quick succession whilst wearing a baseball hat backwards - you'll soon see what I mean: "ooh, ah, chi, chi,wolla, wolla, bang, crash, f***, wow, bang, init, crash, woop, crash, ting.""
I thank the Dear that I have never heard this group, and, with luck, never will.