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:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dead Horse Theory

The tribal wisdom of the Lakota Sioux, passed on from
generation to generation, says that,  "When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount."
  However, in government, education, and in corporate America, more advanced  strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.
5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse..
8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse's performance.
10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's    performance.  

11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries
      lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line
       of the economy than do some other horses.
12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.
And of course the most common ......
13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Kiki 1, Grandpa 0

I have been silent recently partly because I have only just started to recover from being totally upstaged by my lovely granddaughter, Kiki. Seeing how her mother regularly sets her children little maths problems, I tried one on Kiki at breakfast one morning.
Grandpa: "Kiki, what's 11 times 12 times 13?"
[pause, followed by the triumphant stare - see pic]
Kiki: "Why do you want to know?"

Pass the Sanatogen....

Donnington to Wellington

Distance, just under six miles. Route: Donnington-Trench-Hadley-Haygate-Wellington. This was the bus route that served my little Shropshire village of Hadley. It's sixty years or more since I rode a bus on that route, and indeed the route probably no longer exists since they superimposed the overblown new town of Telford on the area. But I can still remember some aspects of it. 
First, there were in fact two bus routes, the local one, which ran what they called "Utility" buses, very simple affairs with bum-numbing wooden seats, because there was a war on, as people constantly reminded each other; and the longer Midland Red route which went from Newport, via Donnington and Wellington, to Shrewsbury the county town.
Secondly, even us little jockeys were proud of the fact that EVERY stop between Donnington and Wellington was the name of a pub. I can't remember them all after such a long time, but they included the Barley Mow, the Britannia, the Bush Hotel, the King's Head, the Cross Keys, the Summer House, the Buck's Head and the Cock Hotel.
This blog entry is just an excuse to post pictures of the two wartime buses and three of these memorable hostelries. Oh yes, and before you ask me, in my salady Salop days, I downed a pint in most of them.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

What's it like out? Check the mountain

Many years ago, I stayed with a Bernese family (Therese, where are you now?), whose house had a splendid view of Bern's very own local mountain, the Gurten. After all these years, my brain has managed to retain the rhyme they taught me:
Hat der Gurten einen Hut
Ist das Wetter schรถn und gut.
Hat der Gurten einen Kragen
Darf man nicht vom Hause wagen.
It's probably more reliable than hanging out a piece of seaweed, something which I imagine is a rare commodity anyway in Switzerland.

Trellis offers her best wishes

The Welsh widow sends her greetings to an old friend.

Dear Mrs Samarkand, she writes, I understand you are having dinner this coming Thursday evening with Mrs Angit. I used to like a girls' night out myself with my friend Gwynneth Pritchard, you know, the one with the squint and the warts. But since that time her hubby sprayed her with dieldrin, she has  gone all withdrawn into herself, as the saying goes.
Anyway, you and Mrs A, have a good time, and don't do anything I wouldn't do . And if the evening isn't going too sparkly, try pinching the waiters' bums. It always brought tears to my eyes whenever Gwynneth did that, specially as her aim wasn't very good.
Yours sisterlily
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, widow, retd, unabashed.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

You know it makes scents

Damn, it's Saturday and I missed my chance for a grump. That's what happens when you have a good Friday. Good because I had a lovely coffee and a chat in the morning with the winsome lass whose face could launch a thousand swifts; good because in the afternoon I succeeded in defrosting the fridge freezer with minimal flooding; good because Thursday's rain has done wonders for the lawn and the garden pong (That should have been "pond" but the misprint has a certain resonance, and indeed a certain truth).

Oh yes, and I sorted out Sarah's knickknacks - lots of little girl things like smiley cats, humorous hedgehogs and flexible apes, everything in miniature. They'll go a treat in the next CAFOD car boot sale. But I find it hard to let go of two cute little scent bottles. In fact I am thinking not only of retaining them, but also of starting a collection of my own. Such pretty objects, so sweet, so adorable. Mind you, if I go rummaging around in junk shops and car boots for girly objets d'art, you can be sure that anything I say to the vendors will be uttered in a gravelly Lee Marvin voice. Just letting them know there's nothing noncy about the Old Scrote.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Cure of Ars

For those in need of a saint, I offer St. John Vianney, Priest,  Feast day - August 4 Universally known as the Cure of Ars, St. John Mary Vianney was ordained a priest in 1815. Three years later he was made parish priest of Ars, a remote French hamlet, where his reputation as a confessor and director of souls made him known throughout the Christian world. His life was one of extreme mortification.
And you'll get no puns from me.

Monday, August 01, 2011

It's up to you

Do they still have that notice in four languages on Continental trains:
Do not lean out of the window
Ne pas se pencher au dehors
Nicht hinauslehnen
E pericoloso sporgersi

What I have always loved about it is that the first three say DON'T DO IT. The fourth simply says that it is dangerous to do it, but leaves the decision to you. Bless the Italians, they are among the greatest individualists in the world.

I was reminded of this notice when I came across the attached. You can see that the English says that you shouldn't, the German simply says please don't. Whether you prefer, the moral exhortation or the polite request, you can be sure that the Old Scrote and his pacemaker will steer well clear of whatever is on the other side of that fence: I'm not ready to be microwaved just yet.