Sunday, December 25, 2011


Don't worry about what it means (it is in fact a poem written by my young friend Masha Cherepanova, and a nice one), just look at the Kyrillic alphabet. This is what Frederick Bodmer says in the chapter "The Diseases of Language" in "Loom of Language" referring to the influence of Church Slavonic on the secular Slavonic languages:
 [words in bold are my emphasis]
"The Russians did not emancipate themselves from the literary tyranny of the Church, and to create a written language of their own, till the end of the eighteenth century.  As a hangover from their church-ridden past, citizens of the USSR still stick to Kyrilliza...The Poles and the Slovaks are free from this cultural handicap..."
 And later:
 "While the Kremlin curbed the power of the Greek Orthodox Church, it made no attempt to bring itself into line with Europe, America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand by liquidating the cultural handicap of the Kyrillic alphabet..."

For me, there is always the fascination of "cracking the code" of a different writing system, and I still get a buzz from reading Russian. But I have to admit that page after page of Kyrillic can become somehow stultifying, perhaps because all the letters seem to take up the same square space. I suppose it's a bit like reading texts written entirely in capital letters. So, although I can't go all the way with Bodmer, I think he has a point.
Mind you, I wouldn't say so to Masha - she and her poems and her language are all far too beautiful.

Вечер,музыка,клуб,нас знакомят: «Привет.»
Я напротив сажусь. (Симпатичный,но нет)…-
Эта мысль в голове пробегает стрелой.
Шум, толпа, голоса.(Трудный день…)-Алкоголь?
-Не сегодня.-Пойдем. Этот танец за мной!
-Я устала.(Огонь…)- Сигарета важней?..
-(Черт возьми, кто ты???)Нет! 
-Так пойдем, не робей! 
(Это вызов? Зачем? Что кому это даст?)
-Не робей??Что ж, пойдем, танец силы придаст. 
Шаг. Еще.(Этот взгляд!) Поворот.
То лицом, то спиной, руки накрест, обвод...
Голова закружилась,шатнулась...Рука
С нежной силой меня притянула слегка.
Один танец мгновенно сменяет другой.
Я теряю ход мыслей, поистине твой
Этот вечер и танец в весь вечер длиной.
Ты меня не пускаешь- хотела уйти,
Руки,волосы,шея...сердце рвется в груди...
Голос внутренний шепчет лишь слабо:"Очнись!"
Тихо...Музыки нет.-Мы с тобой увлеклись..

Federico Barocci

I was in fine voice last night (in fact, early this morning) at Midnight Mass. It was good to be singing carols that I knew from my childhood: all shepherds and magi and mangers and swaddling clothes. The Nativity scene above was painted by an artist I had never heard of (shame on me!), Federico Barocci ,1535-1612. The painting hangs in the Prado, but I never saw it there, I was always too preoccupied with Goyal El Greco,  Velasquez. and the like.
The reason the painting is here on my blog is that it was on a Christmas card a dear friend sent me. Makes a change from overfed robins wearing pixy hats.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cigar Box Guitar Blues

While we were in Cambridge yesterday, Bruna and I stopped to listen to, and then to talk to, a tall skinny lass who was busking on a cigarbox guitar. Turns out she makes them herself, and is so obsessed with them that, she said, her house is filling up with them. The cigarbox guitar has a pedigree a mile long, starting out in the early jazz years along with the kazoo, the gutbucket bass and other instruments home-made from bits and pieces. Hers was a three-string, which she played in the hawaiian manner. Here's an exponent of a six-string version.

Mrs Trellis doesn't pull her punches

Dear Mr Sarkastic, she writes, you don't seem to like the British Prime Minister, David Cameroon, very much. I don't like him either, him being English and a Tory and all, but I tell you, there's one good thing about him: he really knows how to make you angry.
And where I come from, we say that if the French are annoyed with us, we must be doing something right.
Have a nice Christmas, and do try to smile properly, not that crooked grimace that makes you look as if you'd got the Eiffel Tower stuck up your fundament.
Yours etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd

I've got a cunning plan....

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do.
If you haven't got a ha'penny, God bless you.

Actually, what I need is not a penny or indeed a ha'penny, but fifteen euro, the price of a Turkish visa. Yes, lads and lassies, the imperial arse is getting out of the imperial chair and going to the Land of Lokum for a stretch.
Tomorrow, Christmas Day, will be spent doing laundry, clearing out the perishables and packing a wee suitcase. Boxing Day will be spent recovering from a fat lunch to which I have been invited. Tuesday, I climb into big silver bird and go through sky to Istanbul, where I will be met by my wonderful Angit.
There's more to the trip than a few good fish dinners at Yakamoz, though. I am fixed up with some consultations with some top medicos in Ankara to see if we can finally work out what is causing my weird medical condition, and what can then be done about it.
I could come back to the UK feeling a new man (Don't even go there, I'll do the jokes).

So, Lights of my Life, wish me well. And if they discover my bones are beyond repair, this is what I want on my stone:
Don't mourn for me now,
Mourn for me never,
I'm going to do nothing
for ever and ever.

Roller coaster

I'm not sure all this exciting activity is good for an old scrote whose only ambition is to do nothing for a while followed by a nice rest. Having put Jeremy and Sarah on the coach to Heathrow on Wednesday morning (they have both arrived safely back in NZ and USA respectively), I went back later to collect my "adopted granddaughter", Bruna. She is only here for three days before going to visit friends in London and Paris, and then back to Brazil. Three days out of a two-week trip to Europe, her first, just to visit her English avozinho: I am privileged and humbled both. Bruna is great company, bubbly, lively, curious about everything and a very quick learner. We have managed to visit Cambridge, drool over King's College, have lunch in Auntie's Tea Shop, buy a ukulele (for Bruna, not me - I long ago gave up setting conditions for failure), visit Ely and the cathedral, and have coffee with various of my lovely local friends.
We have sung songs, listened to choro, talked in foreign tongues, eaten scrambled eggs, laughed till our jaws ached, and explored a zillion topics. Mes chers potes, there may be luckier men on earth than me, but there can't be many.
Christmas is almost upon us. If I can stir my ageing carcase, I will go to Midnight Mass tonight. When you are as lucky as I am, you need to say thank you to someone.....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Courser it is!

Now, here's a bird you don't see every day of the week. My friend Tony P finally caught up with it in Samburu NP, making it the last of this family of waders he needed to complete his tick list. It's a Heuglin's Courser, a bird I hadn't even heard of, but then, I have to accept that Haddenham is a bit of a backwater.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another "sign of the times"

My thanks to Sonia Z for sending me this poignant cartoon. Translation for those unlucky enough not to know Italian:
Grandpa: Just think, at your age I was already working
Grandson: Just think, at your age I will still be working!

Plus ça change, plus ce n'est point la même chose

I came across this old photograph of the village primary school I attended between 1941 and 1946.
The by liine accompanying this picture read
Hadley Boys & Girls Junior School - now a mosque.

If it's all right with you guys, I will not be making any nostalgia trips to my natal village.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mum's funeral

 [I needed to write this more than you probably need to read it, so I will not be offended if you switch off. Explanatory note: mum's real name was Irene, and that was the name used by everyone yesterday. "Maggie" was my pet name for her, used by friends, but never by the family]
The funeral - service, interment and wake - took place yesterday in Liverpool. About forty people attended, mostly mum's relatives. As the wicked lothario who had carried off the favourite niece all those years ago. I felt a little uncomfortable, but in the event everyone was very friendly towards me, thank goodness. I immediately recognised two of mum's aunts (her mother was one of eight sisters), Dorothy and Rosie, and we had some rare old chats after the funeral. Of mum's three siblings, I knew her "little sister", Angela, at once; she's one of those lucky women who doesn't seem to age. I took at little longer to recognise David and Michael, and had long chats with them as well. .But the surprise for me, and even more for Jeremy and Sarah, was the number of offspring. Aunts had had sons and daughters, little known to us, and those sons and daughters had had sons and daughters. Bewildering and beautiful.
Jeremy and Sarah were magnificent. They looked good in their funereal black, they had organised everything to the last detail and played their part in the service with immense dignity and warmth. I defy any one to stay dry-eyed, especially when the eulogies were delivered.
After the service, I had a quick chat with the vicar, the Reverend Alan Kennedy, himself a scouser with all that that implies - nous, sense of humour, feet on the ground, and as affable as they come. He forgave me for having put the standard AV of Psalm 23 in the Order of Service, when I should have used the sung version, and congratulated me on my children: "You must be very proud of them. You and Irene did a wonderful job as parents". That was the moment when I ceased to be dry-eyed.
Jeremy stayed in Liverpool overnight so that today he can spend a quiet time at mum's graveside. saying the private farewells that he couldn't yesterday because he was so "on duty", making sure that everything and everyone was all right. Sarah and I came back to Ely by train, exhausted but tranquil, knowing that mum had had the "good send off" that she and Jeremy (and I) wanted.

The day was full of anecdotes, and I am glad I had one to add to the collection. Irene's grandmother, the formidable Grandma Holmes, had married off seven of her eight daughters, and was ready to turn her attention to the next generation, of whom Irene was the eldest and the favourite. So when she heard that some fellow was courting Irene, she needed to vet him. So Irene and I went to Platt Farm, the clan headquarters, and I stood, apprehensive believe me, before the Imperial Throne, ie, Grandma Holmes's elevated chair (it had a valance to hide, it was said, a crate of Guinness, but that is surely a canard - they would never have told scurrilous stories like that about Queen Victoria). She had piercing black eyes, appraised me silently for a while, and then motioned for me to come a little closer. Then, without warning, she reached out, grabbed my thigh and squeezed it really hard. She then announced to the assembled clan "Well, he's got good legs anyway." And that was it. I was accepted, or at least not rejected, and some while later, Irene Marjorie Pye became Mrs Allsop. And very shortly after that, Jeremy and Sarah Allsop were born.
Time for a cup of tea and another box of tissues.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friday, December 02, 2011

Rest in peace

There may be silence from me for the next week or so. A sudden family bereavement has thrown us all into chaos. My children Jeremy and Sarah are coming to the UK on Wednesday from New Zealand and California respectively, arriving at Heathrow within ten minutes of each other. I shall be there to meet them, of course, but after that we are likely to be tied up dealing with all the consequences of a death. If it is your wont, please add us to your prayers - we shall need all the strength we can muster to get through the next few weeks. If you are not the praying kind, please think of us on December 15th, when the mortal remains of my wife, mother to my children, are laid to rest.

Oy weh!

A female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. 
To check it out, she went to the Wall, and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.
She watched him pray, and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview. 

"Pardon me Sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from the BBC. What's your name? 
"Morris Feinberg,"
 he replied 
"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Wailing Wall to pray?"  
"For about 60 years."
"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?" 
"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims." 
"I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop." 
"I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man."
"And how do you feel  Sir, after doing this for 60 years?"
"It's like talking to a f*cking brick wall."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Police work

 My thanks to Mrs C for sending me this.

Recently, a female police officer arrested Patrick Lawrence, 22 year old white male, fornicating with a pumpkin in the middle of the night.
The next day, at the Gwinnett County (GA) courthouse, Lawrence was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, public indecency and public intoxication.
The suspect explained that as he was passing a pumpkin patch on his way home from a drinking session when he decided to stop, 'You know how a pumpkin is soft and squishy inside, and there was no one around for miles or at least I thought there wasn't anyone around' he stated.
Lawrence went on to say that he pulled over to the side of the road, picked out a pumpkin that he felt was appropriate to his purpose, cut a hole in it, and proceeded to satisfy his pressing need. 'Guess I was really into it, you know?' he commented with evident embarrassment.
In the process of doing the deed, Lawrence failed to notice an approaching police car and was unaware of his audience until Officer Brenda Taylor approached him.
'It was an unusual situation, that's for sure,' said Officer Taylor. 'I walked up to Lawrence and he's just banging away at this pumpkin.'
Officer Taylor went on to describe what happened when she approached Lawrence .
'I said: 'Excuse me sir, but do you realize that you're having sex with a pumpkin??'
He froze and was clearly very surprised that I was there, and then he looked me straight in the face and said:

'A pumpkin? Shit ... is it midnight already?'

The Washington Post wrote an article describing this as 'Best come-back line ever.'

Swift Academy

Devon Wildlife Trust have produced a brilliant game called Swift Academy. It's informative and it's fun. Do have a go.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


A new sight and a thrilling one in the garden this evening. After dark, I sometimes switch on the light that illuminates the back lawn, just in case there's something intertesting out there. This evening, feeding under the plum tree, a badger. It's the first time I've had one in the garden, and it's the closest I've ever been to one. I am not sure what it was feeding on - bits dropped from the bird feeders perhaps - but tomorrow night, if it returns, it will find a decent supper of peanuts and raisins, and possibly a spoonful of Pedigree Chum.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Still aching, still sweating

Latest on the Scrote maladies: after a thorough examination yesterday at the Assessment Clinic, the nice lady came up with the provisional diagnosis that I have "reactive arthritis", which seems to mean that the bad part, the left knee, is causing any arthritis elsewhere in my joints to flare up. Blood tests will confirm her diagnosis, and if she's right, they will put me on some kind of anti-inflammatory treatment, possibly steroids. Better than my doctor's nightmare scenarios of hip and knee replacements. The night sweats continue quite dramatically, record so far: soaked three pairs of pyjamas and six pillows in one night.
Get me the number for the Guinness Book of Records, Jeeves.

[Cartoon courtesy of Fibro of Oz]

Monday, November 07, 2011

Life is just a bowl of fricking cherries

Seeing that I am moreorless confined to barracks at the moment, I scratch around for things to do that won't upset my hips, knees and bumpsadaisy. So I have begun to brave the complexities of my new keyboard. The basic grand piano setting is majestic, even if all I have played so far is the Teddy Bears' Picnic. Beyond that, styles and voices and rhythms and tempi are areas of mystery.
I have resolved to go back to playing from the dots instead of the freewheeling improvisation that is my wont. Then I caught sight of this cartoon.
Anybody want to hear the Teddy Bears' Picnic played in 5/4 time?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Mrs T goes geopolitical

I'm not sure where the good lady finds her information, but she's clearly concerned about the future of North Korea: She writes:
To Kim Jong-il, c/o North Korea
Dear Sir
I read in the paper that you are thinking of retiring from your job as Divine Leader and handing over the post to your son, Un. I have nothing against the boy, though he does look very gormless - a family tray, I assume - but I wonder if you are doing the right thing. I only say this because our village butcher, Dai the Big Chopper, appointed his son Dai the Little Chopper to run the business, and the very next day the poor lad burnt the shop to the ground while trying to set up a celebration firework display in the cooked meats section. It's the sort of thing Un could do if I'm any judge of character.
I wonder whether your eldest son, Nam, might not be a safer choice. I know he's a bit of a villain, but he's the only one in your family that doesn't look as if he's only just learned to walk upright.
Yours respectfully
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd.


Savour the word istepne. It is the Turkish for "spare tyre". Now I appreciate that, like the Hungarian legfek (airbrakes), this is a piece of knowledge that you will be hard pressed to find a use for. But, please hear me out.
There is a point when you are getting into a foreign language when you start to get a feel for words that seem "odd". For me, and I cannot tell you why, istepne didn't FEEL Turkish in origin, but that is as far as it went until (thank the Dear for serendipity), I was browsing in Chambers Dictionary t'other day and my eyes lit on the word stepney
stepney /step'ni/ (old sl) n. a spare wheel (often fig); a mistress, esp that of a white slaver. [Said to be from the name of a street where the wheels were made].

My cup runneth over.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I am sure you have all heard of Strine, the baffling version of the Queen's English spoken in Australia. I didn't know until recently that Strine itself has dialects, of which Rye-Wye is possibly the most abstruse. I hope the following article will of use to students of English.

Rye-Wye: A dialect spoken by the Trine tribe. Strine, like any other living language, is constantly changing as new words and phrases are evolved or introduced and as old ones fall into disuse. All languages, and Strine is no exception, also carry with them many local dialects and sub-languages. These are usually more conservative than the mother tongue. Like the side eddies in a river they remain static and self-contained - almost unaffected by the main stream of the language, and thus they become increasingly cryptic and obscure.
Such a dialect is Rye-Wye, which is spoken only by the Trine tribes over the public address systems of metropolitan railway stations. All attempts to decipher this esoteric dialect have been so far unsuccessful, and it is now believed that it is not understood by even the Trine tribes who speak it. Rye-Wye is, in short, a ritualistic chant, the purpose of which is not to inform but to frighten away any passengers or other hostile spirits who may be lurking in the underground. For this reason it is not only terrifyingly loud but also
breathtakingly dissonant. The following are typical examples:

 (a) `Awe lathers trine nair stannenat num-rye teen plafform pliz.
Istrine term night sear. Awe lattpliz.'

(b) `Nuffor plafform nawshawtrine stomming milce point naw sinny
chasswood norl staish toresby.'

(c) `Trine num-rye teen plafform gerster rare fern, bird and stair feel

You can say that again.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Signs of the times

Premier jour de classe à Ville St-Laurent...
1er septembre... le directeur fait l'appel des élèves.
-"Mustapha El Ekhzeri"
-"Achmed El Cabul"
-"Kadir Sel Ohlmi" 
-"Mohammed Endahrha"
-" Ala In Ben Oit"
-" Ala In Ben Oit"
La classe demeure silencieuse.
- Pour la dernière fois:
" Ala In Ben Oit". 
Soudain un garçon dans la dernière rangée se lève et dit au directeur:
- C'est moi, mais ça se prononce: Alain Benoit. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

A what of what?

I have discovered that I am not a serious birder. Maybe that should be Serious Birder, a separate species in the genus Ornithophilus. The other day I put out a query to our local bird fraternity/sorority asking if anyone could supply me with the correct noun of assembly (collective noun) for a flock of Pheasants. Via google, I had tracked down a nye, a bouquet, a head, a warren and a nide, none of which I had ever heard before. The question provoked a short string but no satisfactory answer. One response stopped me in my tracks, a scathing dismissal of the whole idea of collective nouns for birds. Many of these nouns are Victorian coinages, many of them not used, but some of them very appropriate and still used by some of us, eg, "a charm of goldfinches" or "a gaggle of geese". But the scathing dismisser asserted that "serious birders despise this sort of nonsense", or words to that effect..
Serious birders, I take it, are a humourless prosaic bunch, who have forgotten that watching birds is a hobby, a source of harmless amusement, in other words, FUN. Oh dear, I am sure that another characteristic of the serious birder is that s/he has great aural and visual acuity and is therefore able - or wants to be able - to identify every bird that flies up, flits across, farts and fcuks off again.
When my sight and hearing were better than they are now, I suppose I was obsessed in the same way, but, honestly, I never lost my sense of joy in watching birds, reading about birds, and even amassing a list of the collective nouns of various bird species.
So there you are. I am not Ornithophilus severus. I am a member of that other species Ornithophilus frivolus. Frankly, anyone who does not get a buzz from a collective noun like "a tok of capercaillie" is missing the meaning of life. I'm serious.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Ever since I heard that Woody Allen had been chastised by a talking elevator, I have tried to be on good terms with machines. What frustrates me, though, is how quickly I reach the perimeter where enlightenment stops and ignorance begins. I have, for example, a microwave oven in which I can easily cook frozen meals or reheat a cold cup of coffee, but when I look at the fascia with its array of symbols, I realise that this machine can do far more than I ever ask of it. Similarly, I can use my fan-assisted oven to burn a pizza with the best of them, but I have no idea how to use the timer, mainly because all the instructions are given in icons.
Anyway, the reason for this belated grump (yes, it is a grump and we are just coming to the grump's nub) is that I bought a beautiful shirt recently and decided that it would be unfair to launder it in the usual manner, viz, on the mini programme along with oily rags, bedsocks, furlined jockstraps and the like. So I read the label on the shirt that bears the washing instructions. More bloody icons! I ask you, how intuitive is the meaning of each symbol in the following chart:
It's hard enough to understand machines as it is without baffling us with all this semiotic guff. Frankly, I'd rather have something in Hungarian or Fulani than a triangle with a dot in it to tell me that  I should put the shirt on a preheated baking tray before cooking it in the washing machine.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Consultation with Dr A, 20 October 2011

[If you are fond of your arse, you might want to skip this blog entry, since it might well bore it off you]

The X-rays that were done last Friday show a moderate degree of degeneration in both hips, and also some kind of bony growth in both that is probably interfering with the proper functioning of the hips.
Dr A also did a thorough examination of my knees and agreed that the articulation of the left knee in particular is very poor, ie, it has stiffened up so that I cannot straighten the leg, and therefore I walk with the leg bent to compensate. This in turn is probably what is causing all the groin and other muscular pain. The upshot is that I have been referred to the Musculoskeletal Assessment and Treatment Service, after which a decision will be made on the best course of action, up to and including surgery.

Susan who?

Susan Sarandon is an actress, or whatever you call actresses these days now that it is not politically correct to call them actresses. What I can tell you about her is that she has, as they say in Liverpool, "a gob on her like a robber's dog". In a TV interview recently, she referred to the present Pope as "that nazi". Anyone who has heard him speak or has read anything he has written on the evils of the nazi regime knows that he (and his family) were in no way nazi sympathisers. I assume that the actress's flippant comment was not meant seriously, and that it simply demonstrates that in addition to having a gob on her like a robber's dog, she has a brain the size of a pea, only less useful.
I looked her up and she was either Thelma or Louise in the film of that name, you remember, where at the end, the two women kissed on the mouth and then drove over the cliff. What a lezzie! (No, of course I don't mean that, but it's on a par with her offensive comment about Pope Benedict).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Something is a-foot

My feet and I have never had what you might call a close relationship. Not surprising since they are nearly 2 metres away at the other end of my body. On the other hand, I have never abused them, and they have never failed to fill my socks.
But with the present crisis, I can't even reach the dear darling pedal extremities (pace Fats Waller), so for the last 3-4 weeks my toenails, neglected and uncut,  have been turning into eagle's talons. Today, however, all was resolved when a nice lady called Sharon, a chiropodist (podiatrist?), came to my house, sat before me and used all manner of implements to pare and shape my toenails. I tell you, when she had done, I was almost tempted to ask for some scarlet nail polish: they have never looked so beautiful.

It seemed a shame to put socks back on, but the weather has turned cold, and in any case there wouldn't have been anyone to see my feet if I had left them naked. But at least I've told you about my feet, and you can use your imagination for the rest.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Waves of empathy are flowing from me to the horse at the bottom of the field, the corralled one with the bad leg(s). With the nasty things happening to my left leg, I am as forlorn as McGonagall's horse "A horse is a sad thing, naught is forlorner, It stands in a field, with a leg at each corner."
And I know the corralled skewbald feels the same. I would like to go, or more accurately hobble, over there and have a chat with him, just to let him know about my fellow feelings for his plight. Unfortunately, I don't speak horse.
Maybe if I stuffed a Babel Fish in his ear.......

Sunday, October 16, 2011

St. Gerard Majella

What do you mean, you've never heard of him?

St. Gerard Majella is the patron of expectant mothers. He was born at Muro, Italy, in 1726 and joined the Redemptorists at the age of 23, becoming a professed lay brother in 1752. He served as sacristan, gardener, porter, infirmarian, and tailor. However, because of his great piety, extraordinary wisdom, and his gift of reading consciences, he was permitted to counsel communities of religious women. 

Now, that's a job I would have been ideally suited for... Who knows, there might even have been a St Scrote's Day for you all to celebrate.

Trellis jumps in

As ever, the dear lady from North Wales grasps the nettle by the wrong end:
 Dear Mr Tolstoy, she writes, your Mrs Grice reminds me a lot of Annie Karinena. Was she the inspiration for your famous opera? Did she throw herself under a train at the finish like your heroin? I am not a literatious person, but I do like a good read with a bloody ending.
Yours graciously
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, widow, retd

Mrs Grice

I was into phatic communion long before I knew the name for it. Phatic communion describes those verbal interactions which have no intrinsic value, but are used as a kind of social lubricant between passing strangers or slight acquaintances. In Britain, the utterances are typically about the weather:
"Turned out nice again", "Nasty nip in the air this morning", "Lovely day isn't it?". "Looks like rain ", etc. I leave you to supply the equally pointless responses.
Which brings me to Mrs Grice, one of the dotty ladies of my natal village. Whenever she saw me, she would exclaim, and I mean EXCLAIM, in a shrill north country accent: "Ee, Jackie, 'e 'as grown!". lingering on the last word to squeeze the last drop of drama from it. It irritated me, not because she was making a statement of the bleeding obvious - I turned into a beanpole as I approached puberty - but because she called me "Jackie". Jackie was no name for a toughie like me, who was on his way to fight Redskins or root out Nazi spies or save the world from the evil things that came out of the graveyard at night. So, as a defence, I decided to be the first to speak, and I deliberately mangled my phatic utterances, eg, "Good morning, Mrs Grice, lovely day of the weather for the week of the year, isn't it?" And the old bat would smile and agree with me!
And then she'd add "Ee, Jackie, 'e 'as grooooooooooown!"
Sometimes you just can't win.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday grump

I have ranted before about the pernicious practice of asking people to declare their ethnicity whenever they are dealing with a government body or large public organisatin. I was asked to do so yesterday when I went to the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely to have my pelvis x-rayed. Of course I refused, and not just because they didn't have a category "wobbly pink blancmange".
I have a suggestion for an alternative and equally valid way of categorising people, and it is encapsulated in this chart:
Immediately, I hear the bleating of the equa-pop sheep: "Unfair to women!" Don't worry, I am working on a chart for females. But it's going to need a section for transgender, transsexual and those who just can't make up their minds what they want to be when they grow up. We owe it to our bureaucrats to get it right.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Here is a wonderful example of Italian politeness.
When you say or write something that confuses your listener/reader, he is likely to say "Non ho capito" (I have not understood). The gallant reply is "Anzi, non mi sono spiegato bene" (On the contrary, I didn't explain myself well).
So, my good friend P, you were right to be confused by my message about medical appointments: I said that I would be referred to a surgeon on Wednesday, which is ambiguous, because I meant that my gp will pass me on in due course to a surgeon for further examination (Non mi sono spiegato bene). The confusion is compounded because I wrote Wednesday, when it should have read Thursday. Non mi sono spiegato bene, anzi, ho fatto un ERRORE!
I don't feel too bad about the Wed-Thurs cockup when I remember the story of the Reverend Spooner, who gave the sermon one Sunday in chapel, leaving the congregation in baffled silence. He paused half way down the steps, returned to the pulpit, announced "Of course, during my sermon, when I referred to Aristotle, I meant Saint Paul" and calmly descended the steps again.
My kind of cockupper.

Who was Sabine, and how did he pronounce his name?

You get discussions from time to time as to where certain words in bird names came from and how they should be pronounced. Two currently under discussion are chukar and sabine's.

Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names
Onomatopaeic Hindi name chukor for the Chukar Partridge Alectorix
Chambers gives variant spellings and pronunciation  chu-kör' or chu-kär' (chu-CORE or chu-CAR). Most of us pronounce chukar to rhyme with pukka, but apparently we should be putting the stress on the second syllable. It seems to me a bit like that pretentious TV character, Mrs Bucket, who insisted that her name be pronounced "bouquet" in the French manner.

Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names
1 Joseph Sabine (1770-1837) English zoologist (Rhaphidura)
2 General Sir Edward Sabine (1788-1883) English scientist and explorer (Dryoscopus, Xema)

Chambers gives the following pronunciations of sabine

Sabine /sab' īn/ a member of an ancient people etc ("SAB-ine)
Sabine's Gull /sa-bēnz'/ a small gull etc (sa-BEENZ)

Most of us pronounce Sabine's (the gull) as SAY-bines, and I doubt if most of us will change.
After all, you need to remember that Chambers was originally produced by two Scottish ladies.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A distress call from Mrs Trellis

She writes:
 My cat's gone again. Well, when I say "my" cat, it was in fact my late husband Mr Trellis's pet. I've put out food for it and some dead mice I found in the bottom of the wardrobe, but the contrary little minx has not reappeared. I fear that standing in the yard calling her name doesn't work either. After all, would you come running up joyfully if someone screamed "Anghenfil Ychydig" at you? That name was my husband's idea, he said it was revenge on the English for giving their cats names like Boddington.
Anyway, enough about my pussy problems. I am going on a charabanc trip to Pwllheli tomorrow, shopping, cream tea and maybe a paddle in the sea if I can get my tights off without loss of dignity.
That ought to take my mind off anghenfil ychydig.

Monday, October 10, 2011

That's it for today

The weather outside is frightful, etc, so I am going to batten down the hatches and dream about tractors. See ya around.

Mix me a metaphor

An interesting Swedish experiment involved fitting geolocators to six Swifts in 2009. All six were retrapped in the following year, and a lot of data collected telling us many things about Swift migration patterns and routes that we didn't know. A paper about this project will appear shortly. I read a note announcing the forthcoming paper, a note that contained the following delicious mixed metaphor:
"The intention is to have the bones of a joint paper thrashed out by Christmas with completion ..."
Not only does the paper have bones, but someone intends to thrash them. I tell you, folks, I can hardly rein in my excitement - it  is fired up to overflowing....

Sunday, October 09, 2011

More medical guff

[Listen, guys, I promise this is the last entry on this topic until I have some definite news for you all]
Despite my doctor's diagnosis, I am convinced that there are other things going on in the imperial extremities, so I've been doing what you do at such times - I've been a-googling. Prepatellar bursitis, that sounded like something worth suffering from, until I discovered it is what my mum had - "housemaid's knee" Then there's . Baker's Cyst at the back of the knee, not sure who Baker is/was but I am all swolled-up there, so maybe it's that, and it's always nice to have a condition with a proper name attached.
A-googling on, I finally came to the realisation that I am suffering from EVERYTHING connected with knees and hips. That's bloody serious, mes potes, but what's even worse, knowing that has aggravated the pain. I guess this is what happens when you give up the booze.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Hypochondriac, moi?

I am getting regular and very tiresome night sweats these days, no known cause, so I googled my way to an informative website. Here's what I discovered about possible causes and cures:

1 Andropause: hormonal changes occur after 40 – 45 years.
2 The level of testosterone diminishes, consequently, this a manifesting feature.
3 Idiopathic Hyperhidrosis: i.e. there is no known cause
4 Alcoholism: excessive alcohol intake of alcohol.
5 Diseases: night sweats are common in certain medical conditions such as: cancer, T.B., bacterial infections,  viral infections, AIDS, etc.
6 Stress: is a very common cause. Anxiety, worry, apprehension, fears, all trigger night sweats.
7 Diet: consuming excessive amounts of garlic, onions, red meat and spicy foods, especially at night, triggers sweating
8 Medicines: certain medicines / drugs are also known to cause night sweating

That's a good list. At my age, I think 1 and 2 can be discarded. As can 4 and, I hope!, 5. Also, 7 seems very unlikely, which leaves:

3 Idiopathic Hyperhidrosis: i.e. there is no known cause
I love "idiopathic", which means "you've got it but nobody else has as far as we know"; and "hyperhidrosis" means excessive sweating. As an explanation, it's brilliant, isn't it?!

6 Stress: is a very common cause. Anxiety, worry, apprehension, fears, all trigger night sweats.
Well, yes, but I really don't think my "angustia" is so excessive as to cause night sweats. A desire to commit murder, maybe, but night sweats, nah.

8 Medicines: certain medicines / drugs are also known to cause night sweating
Well, again, yes, but the sweats occur even when I have laid off the medication. All the same, I guess this is the likeliest one. Personally I think that decaffeinated tea is the culprit.

The website where I found the above goes on to give advice:

Whilst sleeping, always wear light cotton clothes. I DO
Make sure that the room is well ventilated. I DO
Do not consume a heavy meal, just before bed time. I DON'T
Have a light snack, which is not too heavily spiced. I DO
Stress management will go a very long way in helping fight the problem. Yoga, Pranayama and meditation are strongly recommended. DO CROSSWORDS COUNT?
Even after lifestyle changes, the problem persists, get yourself examined and investigated, as per your doctor, and identify if there is any underlying medical condition, I WILL
If you are experiencing night sweats frequently, and every night, or they tend to disturb sleep, it is necessary that you consult a physician. YOU JUST SAID THAT.

So, if it persists, I guess I need to take medical advice. If I remember, I will mention it to Dr A next week. I just hope it has nothing to do with black stockings.

Cynical knees

You know how French schoolboys refer to Shakespeare as "le chat qui expire". Well, when I was a young shaver. Diogenes was known humorously as "dodgy knees". So, I feel quite justified in describing my knees as cynical.
What I find odd is that the doc, he of salad cream fame, is diagnosing a dodgy left hip in need of repair or replacement. How is that going to solve my two-knees-in-agony problem? I think he was a bit quick with his diagnosis, his mind was probably on cricket or the senior nurse's nether regions. Or am I just being cynical?
Anyway, we will know next Wednesday, when I am to be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon for a second opinion. Let's hope HIS mind is on MY nether regions, he can leave the ogling of the nurses to me.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Friday grump

Just one this week:

I am trapped. Because my children live overseas, I have to pick up when INTERNATIONAL appears on the Caller Display LCD on my phone. Almost always, I get instead, either one of those subcontinent voices asking for Mr Alspop, or a breathless American female telling me I have just won Male Stripper of the Year Award or whatever.
There seems to be no escape and no defence, but I am working on one. As soon as I hear the voice of Mr Subcontinent Cretin or Miss Breathless Tart, I will fake a recorded message that goes something like this:

You have reached the phone of [static noise and the word Alspop]. Please choose from the following options:
- for accounts queries or psychotherapy, press one.
- for heavy breathing, grunting and sweating, press two
- for migraine and cerebral haemorrhages, bang the phone against your head
- for donations to your favourite charity, don't press anything
- to see what happens, press any key and the hash key at the same time.
- for all other queries, please ring off.

Not funny? You must be joking.


Being told by my doctor that Glucosamine Gel was no more effective than Salad Cream as an unguent to massage into my naughty knees set me to thinking. It set me thinking back to a time when I was in Mombasa (on business, never been anywhere for pleasure, me). I was sitting at a table on the street-side patio of the hotel where I was staying when a scruffy urchin came up to me, grinned, handed me a card and stuck out his hand for baksheesh. I can't remember how much I gave him, but when I read what was on the card, I realised it was well worth the expense. Here, as nearly as I can reproduce it, is the announcement to the world of the wonders of a concoction called ALMARO:
OK, doc, Glucosamine Gel may not do anything for knees, but I bet it's the dog's bollocks if you needed to cure Burantasi or Qack ache, and you've run out of Almaro. I must try rubbing it into my qack and see what happens.

Va Pensiero Sull'Ali Dorate - Nabucco

There are times, and this is one, when we are all Jewish.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


My thanks to Angit for making me aware of this extraordinary episode in the story of 9/11. Can you imagine, a boat evacuation from Manhattan Island that was bigger than Dunkirk? 350,000 British and French soldiers were rescued from Dunkirk over nine days, 500,000 people were rescued from Manhattan within a day.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Essence of Kingfisher

Check this out, and while you are about it, enjoy Katie Fuller's wonderful blog, Bogbumper

Many years ago, when I was ringing in reedbeds in Christchurch Harbour during the summer, when the reeds are full of Sedge and Reed Warblers feeding on aphids to put on fuel for their journey south, we caught a succession of SEVEN young Kingfishers in one day, and everyone of them did something similar to what you can see in Katie's video clip.
Photo courtesy of RSPB

Monday, October 03, 2011

Bugger Barclays

I have now met the ultimate idiocy. I got the following message a few minutes after I had logged on to my online account with Barclays:
Sorry - we have had to log you out of Online Banking because you did not use the service for more than 10 minutes. Please enter your membership number below, and select the 'next' button to log in again.
Trying again to log on, I got the same message BEFORE I had logged on. I sent an email complaint to Customer Services and received one of those insulting pro forma replies which tells you [a] that they didn't read your email properly [b] they get cockups all the time and basically don't care.
There's no doubt in my mind now, I really am on the wrong planet.

Mrs T is disgusted

 Always one to grasp the nettle, Mrs Trellis takes a stand on morality:

Dear Signor Berlusconi, she writes, I am not surprised someone tried to stick a cathedral in your head, the way you act the old goat when it comes to young women. At your age, you should be growing geraniums and playing bowls, not chasing every skirt that comes along. My husband, the late Mr Trellis, had an eye for the fair sex too, but I kept him on a very tight leash.
Doesn't your wife mind about your philatelic tendencies? If I were her, I'd put a dog collar round your neck and literally keep you on a leash. But knowing you, you'd probably enjoy that, you prevert.
Yours disgusted
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, widow retd, strict Wesleyan.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


Twenty-five years and more ago, there were two Italian restaurants in Church Street, Cardiff, opposite each other, looking equally attractive. I had no reason to choose one rather than the other, but I am no Buradan's Ass, so I just picked one, the one on the right. It was ok, and the raven-haired young waitress who served me was most attentive and chatty. As I was paying the bill, she whispered "The restaurant opposite is better than this one."
Over the next two-three years, I having regular business in South Wales, I visited "the restaurant opposite" many times, and as often as not, my young informant joined me for a meal. It was a loving, but non-sexual relationship, something like uncle and niece. She was one of the nicest, funniest, brightest, dottiest, and prettiest, dinner companions I could have asked for.
Twenty-five years later - last Wednesday to be exact - I got up at ten to three in the morning and drove to Stansted Airport so that I could have a cup of coffee and a chat with my long-lost Cardiff dinner companion before she caught her seven a m flight back to Turin.
Sonia is fifty now, but to me hasn't changed a bit, except for perhaps being more worldy-wise.
We met, we hugged, we sat, we chatted, and it was as if the intervening twenty-five years had just melted away. Isn't it wonderful when that happens?  Sonia is long divorced, lives with her two grown-up daughters, works as an ambulance nurse, writes poetry, is in love with a doctor (though she calls it "just flirting") and yet, bless her, still has time for me. I am a very lucky man.

Mandarin ducklings leap from tree

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday grump

Yippee, it's Friday! Farewell serenity, hello grumpiness!
Today, it's pharmacies.

Thinks: Deep breath, lad. Here we go. Says: "Good morning, paracetamol, please. Capsules, if you have them."
"Are they for yourself?"
Thinks: No, they're for my pet alligator, he's got toothache. Says:"Yes."
"Have you taken them before?"
Thinks: No, I have always paid for them, but you've given me an idea. . Says:"Yes."
"Are you on any other medication?"
Thinks: Only bromide in my tea to counter my raging sex-drive. Says: "No."
"Don't take them for more than three days."
Thinks: What if the pain lasts more than three days? Says: "Of course."

By this time, I am spitting, and the fact that the salesgirl at the counter is as pretty as Jane Fonda does not diminish my irritation. I am not irritated at her, nor would I be even if she was as ugly as Peter Mandelson. No, I am irritated at the nannies in authority who no longer trust us to do anything right - if they ever did. Any day now, I expect an edict from the Ministry of Dowhatnannysays with instructions on how to hold one's member during an act of micturition. In my day, the advice was simple "Shake it more than twice and you're playing with it."
Common sense, you say. Ah yes, there's the rub. We don't do "common sense" any more; we do regulatory overkill. If you don't believe me, look at the little leaflet that comes with your medication - it's so full of portents and warnings and exhortations and, indeed, THREATS, that you are almost persuaded it would be better to die than to take the stuff. The only consolation is that this rigmarole is printed in several languages, so you should avoid the English and read the version in, say, Latvian or Finnish, languages that were obviously made for spouting gobbledygook.
Makes a lot more sense.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Medical update

It's time to face facts, fellers. I saw my doctor this afternoon. Do you want the good news or the bad news? OK, the good news first: my doctor is in excellent health. Now for the other news. It's not just the knee, it's not even the knee, it's the whole fricking leg from hip joint via the groin down the shinbone to the ankle. My left leg is more fragmented than the Kingdom of Lothar.
At first, I fought back, telling the doctor about the unguents I was applying to my skin - Ibuprofen gel, Glucosamine gel, etc. His reaction: "They don't work, do they? You might as well rub salad cream into your legs." He did mention something about osteoarthritis and having to live with it, or go for a hip replacement, but I think he was only trying to console me, to make up for his cavalier salad-cream remark.
So that's it, it's all over. I am doomed.
Well, not quite, I am thinking of buying myself a tricorn hat, an eyepatch and a parrot and getting work in a Christmas pantomime. It would have to be Treasure Island, of course. Ah, Jim lad!

Mrs Trellis gets the point

Dear Ban Ki Moon, she writes, I had NO idea you were Jewish! For a start you don't look jewish, although with peyes and tefillin, you could pass for an oriental hebrew on a dark night
Thank you for the New Year greetings, I shall pass them on to my friend Gwenddydd Goldfarb, as she is part jewish, not sure which part, though. Possibly her bum.
By the way, do your lot sing "Oyld Lang Zeyn" like we do?

Yours kosherly
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd, Primitive Methodist.

שנה טובה

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Verhältnismäßig Nebelfrei

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that da de da de da

That's right, the bloody fogs are on us again. This morning I couldn't see beyond the bottom hedge, and even now, mid-morning, I can only just make out the horses' arses in the field below mine.
When I started teaching at the Bournemouth Eurocentre (significantly a Swiss organisation with a preponderance of Swiss students), I was disturbed to see the description of the lovely seaside town of Bournemouth included the phrase verhältnismäßig Nebelfrei. Talk about damning with faint praise! Mind you, I quite like it as a way of describing my brain - "relatively fog-free". Well, it WAS true once upon a time....

Bobby Mcferrin - Don't Worry, Be Happy

According to CS Lewis, Old Screwtape loves worriers, because worrying distracts from what we ought to be thinking about!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Well I never!

It's "well-I-never" time again, folks.

Complete the following sentence ad lib:
 I have never seen     so many/ so few __________________ !
A few suggestions for the gaps: butterflies, hedgehogs, wood mice, ladybirds, velociraptors

Answer the following question:
Where have all the ______________ gone?
A few suggestions for the gaps: greenfinches, moths, frogs, velociraptors.

What follows statements and questions like the above is a rash of amateur theorising. Probably explanations for abundance/scarcity include: too much wet/dry weather, global warming, viral infections, sunspots, meteor impacts, Stephen Spielberg.

The great thing about it is that the details vary from year to year, eg, next year it will be sparrows, wasps and iguanadons, but the game remains the same. I am, as you know, immune to this kind of flimflammery, but I must say that my pyrocantha has never had such an abundant crop of succulent fire-red berries. Wanna know why?  Wanna know what I think? It's because, erm, oh, sorry, gotta go, the kettle's boiling.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Trellis gets romantic

Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, for once I am happy for you, I do hope you and Mr Norman can "get it up together", as the late Mr Trellis used to say (He was always careless with prepositions). There's nothing wrong with late-flowering lust, imho. Even I am not immune. I dreamt the other night that I was being groped in the ashram by Mohandas K Gandhi, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was spoiled a bit by me laughing at his bandy gandhi legs, but you can't have everything, can you?
By the way, are you ever irritated by people who have two Christian names, eg Robert Norman, or people who have two surnames, eg Somerset Maugham? I think there ought to be a govt dept to re-assign them, eg, Norman Maugham and Robert Somerset. I appreciate this has got nothing to do with love.

Yours romantically
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd, open to offers.

Phatically speaking

Robert Norman has got a girl friend.
Consider the above statement. I can tell you that it is true, or at least I trust Audrey, the person who vouchsafed this piece of information to me at lunch the other day. She said it a propos of nothing, just one of those phatic "Plums are dear" kind of utterances, something said to fill a gap in the conversation.
Yes, it seems that Robert Norman has got a girl friend. I have the advantage over you in that I know who Robert Norman is. I suppose the noteworthy element of this piece of news is that Robert Norman is well into his eighties. But beyond that, I have no particular edge on anyone else hearing the statement.
The Turkish for elephant is FIL, the Russian for elephant is SLON.
I don't see why my friend Audrey should be the only one to come up with exciting conversation fillers.

"Knees up, Mother Brown!" If only I could..

I think my knees, especially the left one, are finally giving up on me. They hurt and the keep going snap, crackle and pop like some demented breakfast cereal. I am going to the doc next Wednesday, and will inform a waiting world of the outcome.
Note "especially the left one", and I think I know why it is so. Decades ago, I was in the Highlands with a colleague, who persuaded me to tackle a Munro. We finally got to the top, he with ease and I with a great deal of panting. I placed the obligatory rock on the obligatory cairn.
Then I asked my colleague what was the technique for going DOWN a mountain. He said "make like a goat" or words to the effect, ie, zoom down in a series of short, rapid jumps. So I did make like a goat, and for the next six months, my left knee was strapped up and I had to walk with a stick. And now, I suspect, my sins have come back to haunt me. If I ever meet that colleague again, I will make like a goat and butt him in the trossachs.

Monday, September 19, 2011


(This is scurrilous so those of a sensitive and retiring nature should defintely read on)

A GI is referred to the Army Psychiatrist. After some preliminary questions, the psychiatrist comes to the heart of the matter.
"Do you masturbate?"
"What's that, doc?"
"Do you ever use your hand to, erm, excite yourself?"
"Oh, pull my putz! Sure."
"How often?"
"Oh, I dunno, two-three times a week, I guess."
The psychiatrist makes a note and then continues.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Storks on migration

Many years ago, I was privileged to spend time on the Camlica Hills watching the autumn migration of raptors and other species of birds across the Bosporus. Storks are particularly spectacular, especially in numbers. Enjoy this clip of migrating storks over Israel.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Falcon and the Hawk

If you are lucky enough to have access to BBC iPlayer, do listen to this 45-minute radio play. ** It is written by "pluvialis" of fretmarks, the wonderfully multi-talented woman who first inspired me to start this blog. She is an academic, a falconer and an all-round good egg. Her book "Falcon" has become a classic, and we are all waiting for her next opus "Goshawk". In the meantime, she has worked on JA Baker's classic, and somewhat erratic, book "The Peregrine" in order to produce this play for radio. Enjoy.

** Available until 22 September 2011

Trellis on gates

Mrs T, observant and trenchant as ever. She writes:
 Dear Angela, or may I call you Mrs Merkel?, reading about you and your gate, my mind went blank.
I mean, your lot were SO good at building walls to keep people out ( or was it "in"?), I am astoundished you couldn't cope with one measly little gate. To be charitable, I have to say it doesn't look too bad if you scraunch your eyes up. And at least it doesn't have an arch over the top with "Arbeit macht frei" written on it.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd, still spitting

A sab and a rope

Quiz time, folks! What is the connection between a rare gull and a roped plum tree? I don't know why I bother. You already know, don't you? And wondering whether to read on....
[SIGH].I'll give you the answer anyway as I have nothing better to do.
Every time there's a tornado along the east coast of the United States, Britain gets really strong winds a week or so later. And these strong winds can blow interesting birds off-course. Typical is the Sabine's Gull currently causing some serious twitching around Grafham Water. I haven't been to see it, partly out of laziness, and partly because I can't take seriously any bird that doesn't come into my garden and feed on my peanuts. The really strong winds also caused a threat to my old plum tree, so I had to rope it for fear of losing a limb or two. That would be a real shame, because then I would have nowhere to hang my nuts and therefore no chance of getting a Sabine's Gull in the garden.
So there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


This is a photo of the Osborne Hotel in Oswestry. It was taken in the 60's and, as far as I know, the hotel no longer exists. I have never been there, but I have an interest in it. I have a bone-handled table knife inherited, if that is the word, from my mother. It has "Osborne Hotel, Oswestry" stamped on it. I had no idea why this knife had come into the possession of the Allsop family, but now I know. You will notice the sign "Wrekin Ales" at the left-hand end of the fascia board. My father worked for the maintenance department of the Wrekin Brewery, and a large part of his work involved the renovation or refurbishment of properties bought by the brewery over the years. No doubt he was involved in work on the Osborne Hotel and found the knife to be a useful trifle to add to the family goods and chattels.
It wasn't thieving, honest, it was just an early example of recycling, or maybe downsizing. Good old dad, you were a bit of a Jack-the-Lad sometimes. My mother told me the story of the neighbour who came into our house one day, saw the new wallpaper in the living room and commented: "It's much nicer than the wallpaper you buy." Just recycling, making the best use of the leftovers. Good old dad, definitely a bit of a Jack-the-Lad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guess whose day it is today!

For the spiritually-starved among you, here is a tasty saint of the day. St. John, named Chrysostom (golden-mouthed) on account of his eloquence, came into the world of Christian parents, about the year 344, in the city of Antioch. His mother, at the age of 20, was a model of virtue. He studied rhetoric under Libanius, a pagan, the most famous orator of the age. In 374, he began to lead the life of an anchorite in the mountains near Antioch, but in 386 the poor state of his health forced him to return to Antioch, where he was ordained a priest.
The rest of his life is a bit sad, so I will stop here. By the way,I wish people would call me "Chrysostom" - sounds much better than "Scrote".

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gotta getta gate

One day when my ship comes in, I will have a fancy gate erected on the north side of the house. In the meantime, I decided to make do with the old one: replace the rotted posts and rehang the existing gate. My good mate David H came round and wielded the sledge hammer to drive the metal post wedges in. Bless him, he went home exhausted and dissatisfied that the wedges were not completely upright.
I decided to use them anyway, and, as you can see, the result is not very pretty, but serviceable for a while. No, let's be honest, it's bloody ugly. Anyone seen a ship coming in?

A new organ for the old scrote

When I was fifteen I told my mother that I wanted to learn to play the piano. Bless her, she bought me a second-hand upright and taught me to play. Well, she got me started, but I was soon improvising rather than sticking to the dots. When I was in my twenties, I worked with a man called Roy K, who was an enthusiastic player of jazz. He was a good teacher. Thanks to him, I developed my knowledge and my digital dexterity. When I moved to my present home, some twenty-five years ago, I bought a Roland electronic keyboard. It and I over the years have slowly worn out together. In fact, because of arthritic-type stiffening of my fingers, I stopped playing about two years ago.
But, you know me, a typical case of optimism-over-experience, I have bought a new keyboard, a Yamaha. Talk about bells and whistles, it does everything except make coffee! It even has a 5/4 time signature, so I can once again mangle Dave Brubeck's Take Five and that catchy tune from Jesus Christ Superstar that I can't remember the name of.
You also know about me that I am a considerate man. I love my neighbours, so I am getting the house soundproofed right away.

Monday, September 05, 2011


Nothing unusual about this dog, you might think. But a few days ago, it was found in a very poor condition, with its back legs tied together and the rope round its neck. God bless my friend, S, who took it into care; It is the third such dog that she has rescued. And may God judge the people who tied the animal so cruelly and left it to its fate.
The dog now has a name as cute as its face: "Çekirdek", Turkish for "pip". Let's wish Pip a long and happy life.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dear Withheld, go to hell

I'm sorry, but this can't wait till Friday. I have a declaration of war to make: I am declaring war against the people who phone me and who appear on my caller display as "WITHHELD".
If I call you, and you have caller display, you will have my name and phone number. So, what's with this "WITHHELD" crap? Is it for people who are too bloody important  to be identified? What are you saying: "We can phone you, but you can't phone us! Na na na na naa na!"
Well, stuff that for a game of soldiers. I DO NOT RESPOND TO WITHHELD NUMBERS.
If it's important to you, and you don't want me to know who you are before I pick up the phone, send me a postcard instead. Preferably a funny one.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mrs T's been watching the news

Dear Mrs Gaddafi, she writes, my goodness, what a mess you are in! I told you before that it would all end in tears if you didn't do something about that wayward hubby of yours. You mark my words, dear, you need to take a firm grip on a man or he'll just run amuck the first chance he gets. Let's face it, your Muammar (what kind of name is THAT?) isn't going to take a grip on himself, even if he did it a lot when he was a teenager and didn't know better.
I suppose you're all holed up in the desert now, getting sand in everything. You poor woman - get a hold of him and tell him to make a run for it, before he gets grabbed by the berbers. I believe Caracas is nice at this time of year, and no sand to speak of.
Yours truly, etc
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd.

Great jubilation

At 1400 hours British Summer Time, on Sunday, 28 August 2011, in the Parish of Aldreth, a moment of great jubilation occurred, an event in the annals of this pretty Cambridgeshire village that will be remembered long after the..............
Sorry, fellas, I was just watching a newsreel of the VE Day Celebrations, and the fulsome style of the commentary just got the better of me.
Coming back to "the moment", I can now tell you that the Green Woodpecker delivered to me unwell about ten days ago, was released fully recovered at 1400 hours BST etc.
Our star and guardian angel rehabber, Deborah L, nursed it back to health, and today came over to Aldreth to release it in the garden where it had been picked up by John B.
John and his wife and two children, and two grandparents were there to see the moment, joined by Paul M, who took the picture above.
OK, it's small potatoes compared to famine relief in the Horn of Africa or, for that matter, VE Day, but it's a ray of sunshine in a grey old world.
My goodness, I fancy a cuddle. Any takers?

St Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.
So, anyone here struggling with a particular vice or nasty habit? I have given all mine up, mainly from lack of energy. Something I like about St Augustine of Hippo is the text he had on the wall of his room: "Here we do not speak evil of anyone."
Maybe that's where the Gautama Buddha got it from.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Migrant birds in Africa

When we start to notice that the numbers of our summer visitors - swallows, martins, warblers and the rest - are going down year on year, we look around for an explanation: loss of nesting habitat, shortage of food, inimical agricultural practices and - if you are into ecobabble - global warming. No doubt some of these are factors contributing to the decline of particular species, but, during my visits to various parts of Africa in the nineties, I began to think that what happened to "our" birds in their winter quarters might be an even bigger factor. From increasing desertification of important habitats to the indiscriminate use of chemicals that had been banned in Europe years before, things didn't look good. And now, at last, the powers that be are looking seriously at what is happening in our birds' winter quarters south of the Sahara.
For more information, read this blog.
It's brilliant. And, for those who like a puzzle, have a go at identifying this Palaearctic species being ringed as part of the African project: