Saturday, March 26, 2011


The old joke used to be:
Q "What do you think of the Vietnam position?"
A "I don't know, I've never tried it."

If you want to know what I think of the Middle East position, here is my answer:

Boxes and Bishops

Guess where I went yesterday? Of course you can't, so I will tell you (but you knew I was going to anyway, so why bother to guess?). I went up into north Norfolk to a village called Great Massingham. My mission was to visit a lovely lady whom I had christened "The Merry Widow" before I had even met her. She is concerned that the Swift colony on the neighbouring house will be lost when it is renovated by the new owners, so we looked at the possiblities for attracting the Swifts on to her property. Not easy, but we'll give it a punt.

Guess where I went next? Well, as it was only eleven o'clock when I said farewell to the MW, I decided to drive on to a nearby village called Walsingham, where there is a 950-year-old Shrine to the Virgin Mary. The village has both an Anglican and a Catholic church, and, as yesterday was the day of the Annunciation, I attended the midday Mass in the Catholic church. And what a beautiful ceremony it was! The principal celebrant was a Bishop who amazed me by making it sound as if he was saying things for the first time that he had undoubtedly said a zillion times before. The ceremonial and the vestments were gorgeous (unless you belong to the Puritan end of the Christian spectrum!) and the Choir was, well, heavenly.
I left uplifted, and even managed to remain serene when I ran into a monstrous traffic jam caused by a multiple pile-up. Remarkable when you think that it was Friday, my usual day for being grumpy!

Three pics

This is not a pretty picture. The Mallard pair took to coming up to the back door in anticipation of kindnesses from me, and showed their impatience by pooing all over the back doorstep. "Gli amici si riconoscono nel bisogno", but I have decided that they are no friends of mine now that they have taken to doing their "bisogno" all over my back doorstep.
This is a kind of nestbox that I have never made, or indeed tried out, before. It is for an open-fronted garage where Barn Swallows often visit in early Spring, but where there are no ledges for them to nest on. This peculiar-looking nestbox is based on a design I found on a US website. If it works, I shall be amazed!
This tree is self-sown. It produces large juicy berries that could probably make excellent jam. I think it may be a bullace, a tree that was planted around orchards to attract bees in early Spring. Whatever it is, it is incredibly beautiful, especially against a blue sky. And it's much prettier, I am sure you will agree, than duck poo or weird nestboxes

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spelling matters!

Et dire qu'il y a toujours des gens pour s’interroger sur l’utilité de l’orthographe.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pond update

There seems to have been an outbreak of morality in my back garden. Irma la Duck is now down to three male companions. I like to think that the fourth male had a crisis of conscience and decided to leave this scene of depravity, but I suspect the truth is that she shagged him to death.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I have just been watching, while waiting for my coffee to percolate, a most unnerving scene in the field below my garden. A young girl (well, in fact, she is about 35, the daughter of one of the owners of the stable, but she is tiny) was struggling with a horse that was lying on its side, apparently too comfortable to get up. The contrast between her tininess and the horse's hugeness (I think it's a percheron or a Suffolk punch, a big bogger anyway) was even starker when she got it up on its feet: the top of her head didn't even come up to its shoulder. And I could see nothing to suggest that the mighty struggle she had had with the beast had in the least affected her.
Now, I am as intolerant as the next scrote at the sight of a vigorous youngster succeeding in some major physical effort, when I can hardly find the strength and coordination to get up out of a chair (Why do we oldies always GRUNT when we get up?), but in the case of this lass, I was filled with admiration at her persistence.
I'd love to know, though, what the horse thought about it all.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mrs T comes on strong

A very serious warning from north Wales has just crashed through the letterbox:
Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, I see you are posting filth and pornology again, and I always thought you were such a pillow of society! I want you to know that I totally disprove of it. It is not only harmful to miners, but it might give even some grownups the wrong ideas. I know that Mr Trellis, my late husband, was very prone to poking around in that stuff. In fact he was prone most of the time.
Anyway, if you don't stop titillating, I shall report you to the Ministry of Health and Safety, and they'll surely cook your goose, or whatever the expression is.
By the way, it's nothing personal, I just don't like you.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ménage à COMBIEN??

Yesterday morning, The female Mallard had her usual boyfriend with her.
And FOUR other males.
As far as I could see (and I am not a voyeur), there was no anatid hanky-panky, but you can't always be sure what they are doing when they are concealed under the lip of the pond's edge....
If she's the same female as last year, we know she is a good mother. But on the way to becoming one, she is "no better than she ought to be", as the old harridans in my natal village used to say.
Whatever the truth, for me she will be known from now on as Irma la Duck.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A must-see birdy website

This is a photo, one of a series of shots, of a Short-eared Owl swallowing a vole. It's from a superb blog called Pewit. Do pay it a visit. The guy's a genius, enough to make you want to throw your camera in the bin!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Up in the air

This is the season for repairs and renewals. Here an A-frame Barn Owl box is being moved and repaired. It's a nightmare job to do from a ladder, so we were lucky in this instance that the landowner supplied that magnificent piece of machinery to hoist us safely and comfortably up to the box.
I've been wondering what to ask Santa Claus for Christmas. One of those machines would be nice, with or without a buxom lady driver.

Another one up!

I think this is beautiful, a proof, if you needed one, that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", You are right, it's just a manky old tea chest on the wall of a manky old barn.
But just you wait till it has a brood of fluffy white owlets in it.

Then it will be your turn to behold!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


My dear Russian correspondent, Masha, sent me a link to a website where there are illustrations of incredible  flower arrangements like the one above made at the Shkola Lyepki (Modelling School) in St Petersburg. They are described as made of Polimernoi Gliny (polymerised clay if my translation is correct), but I suppose we would say "porcelain". Pottery anyway.
Do go and have a look!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

When I Am Old

Worth a second posting, and it resonates with my present frivolous mood. Have a good weekend!
When I am old  I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves
and satin sandals,
and say we’ve no money for butter. I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired,
And gobble up samples in shops, and press alarm bells,
And run my stick along the public railings,
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain,
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow fat,
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
Or only bread and pickle for a week,
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats
and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me
are not too shocked and surprised,
When suddenly I am old
and start to wear purple.

Edelfäule my arsch!

It's too late. It's all over. No chance now of seeing them chomping on my Guelder Rose berries.
And that is because the berries have "gone over", they are withering, they are shrivelling on the twig: it's the viburnum equivalent of la pourriture noble. It is my bet that no self-respecting Waxwing is going to eat them now, even if (which seems unlikely) they could be gathered, fermented and pressed to provide a fortified noble-rot Trockenbeerauslese.
But I am not downhearted, oh no. Between now and next summer, I am going to cut down all the other berry-bearing shrubs in this part of the county. Then the waxies will have no bloody choice.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Rough Nights"

If you missed Carnival (confined in Britain to the eating of pancakes), I'm afraid it's too late - today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. The following, from Wikipedia - where else? - describes a more elaborate festival:

The "Swabian-Alemannic" carnival begins on January 6 (Epiphany/Three Kings Day). This celebration is known as Fastnacht. Fastnacht is held in Baden-Württemberg, parts of Bavaria, and Alsace. Switzerland and Vorarlberg, in Austria, also hold this celebration. The festival starts on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, known in these regions as Schmutziger Donnerstag or Fettdonnerstag. In standard German, schmutzig means "dirty", but actually the name is from the local dialect where schmotzig means "fat." Elsewhere the day is called "Women's Carnival" (Weiberfastnacht), being the day when tradition says that women take control. In particular regions of Tyrol, Salzburg and Bavaria traditional processions of the Perchten welcome the springtime. The Schönperchten ("beautiful Perchts") represent the birth of new life in the awakening nature, the Schiachperchten ("ugly Perchts") represent the dark spirits of wintertime. Farmers yearn for warmer weather and the Perchtenlauf (Run of Perchts; ) is a magical expression of that desire. The nights between winter and spring, when evil ghosts are supposed to go around, are also called Rauhnächte ("rough nights").

Beats pancakes!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Things developing nicely

A nice counterbalance to the last posting. Mind you, her husband ought to buy her a new tractor when the baby arrives.

The way of the (Western) world

After you have watched the video clip in the previous posting, consider this snippet of news:

WASHINGTON, DC ( - Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Web site shows that it performed 332,278 abortions in 2009, up 8,270 from 2008. According to a fact sheet published in February 2011, Planned Parenthood clinics in 2009 performed 332,278 abortions - up from 324,008 in 2008, or a 2.5 percent increase.

There is something very disturbing about this statistic, and I am not making a religious point here.

So what does it all mean?

After watching this, I need to spend some time in a darkened room with a a wet towel round my head!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Killer alert!

This old moggy belongs to my neighbours across. A ferocious-looking beast it is, but in fact it is far too aristocratic to do anything so demeaning as chasing mere birds. It will occasionally tackle a medium-sized dog, though.
I don't much like cats, but I have a sneaking regard for this one - as long as it stays on its own side of the road.

A couple of loafers

As you can see, the ducks are very much at home in my garden. Despite their dabbling presence, there are two great clumps of frog spawn in the pond. The toad to the right of the ducks is made of stone and never moves except when little Alfie pushes him into the pond. Bless the lad!

Made up and ready to go

There were six tea chests. Two are already installed. Here are the other four, made up and ready to go. Isn't that a beautiful sight?
I apologise that the Barn Owl, on the ledge of the top righthand box, is not to scale. I do have a real Barn Owl, but it's dead and in the freezer. I didn't think it would add much to the charm of the picture.

Trellis and the Italian Job

Ever helpful with her advice, Mrs T has gone south of the Alps:
Dear Silvia Burlesqueoni, she writes, you seem to be a very virile person. All this carousing with young women, is it your way of getting back at your mum and dad  for giving you a girly first name? Maybe you're letting everyone know you're not a whatchacallit, a poofter. It's none of my business but I think you ought to rain in your passions a bit or you'll cock yourself up and won't be able to run the country properly any more, not that you run it properly anyway.
I think you should get yourself a nice hobby. That's what Mr Trellis, my late husband, did and it seemed to stop him being, you know, too frisky. I still have his collection of naturist magazines somewhere. I can send them to you if you like.
Yours sincerely

Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The moment in question

If there was ever a moment when I needed a fine lady on a fine tractor, this is it. Her name, it seems, is Becky, and she can plough my furrow anytime she likes.
The moment in question is made tense by the fact that Mrs Allsop, the light of my life for twenty years and the mother of my children for forty-odd, has, having recently been released from hospital with a mended hip joint, taken it into her head to have another fall and fracture the other hip. So she's back in orthopaedics, and you know what it's like trying to get information out of a Ward Sister, or whatever they are called these days. Senior Surveillance Ossifer, I shouldn't wonder.
Poor Mrs A! It's a hard job staying upright when you get to our age.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Protect us from moral people - a postscript

I have several anonymous comments about this posting, not all of them approving. Fair enough. My interest is in the welfare of children who need to be fostered or adopted. My concern is the barriers that are now put in the way, and the reasons are, in my view, often quite spurious.
I posted some time ago about cases where it took a YEAR to get a child adopted because of the rigmarole and red tape, and the monumental timidity of officials that they might offend against current notions of correctness.
Fortunately it isn't Friday, my day for being grumpy, so I will say no more.

Another masterpiece

Another tea chest converted into an indoor Barn Owl box. The romanesque arch has no practical value. Think of it as my homage to the basilica of Saint Sofia in Istanbul. The teddy bear is equally non-utilitarian, but he has a nice smile.
The red smudge, bottom right, is blood. Mine. Scarred for life I am, but in a good cause.

The dark side of Turkey

More and more echoes of Nazi Germany after Hitler came to power.
Wave of searches and arrests of investigative journalists
Published on Friday 4 March 2011.
Reporters Without Borders is appalled by yesterday’s wave of searches and arrests of investigative journalists in Istanbul and Ankara in connection with a probe into an alleged anti-government plot. Journalists who have helped to shed light on this case are being made to pay for the tension between the government and the secularist and ultra-nationalist opposition.
“We deplore the repeated use of the charge of ‘membership of a terrorist organization’ to go after reporters who are just doing their work at a difficult time of political and ideological rivalry,” Reporters Without Borders said. “After a period of reduced tension, we are disturbed to see renewed heavy-handed treatment of journalists who reported facts that do not suit the government.”
Members of the Istanbul anti-terrorist police searched the homes of at least 11 people yesterday morning on a warrant issued by Zekeriya Oz, the prosecutor handling the investigation into the alleged “Ergenekon” conspiracy by retired military officers and other senior figures who suspect the AKP government of harbouring Islamist tendencies.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Superb photograph

This photograph was taken recently on Haddenham fen by a local naturalist, Simon Stirrup. Thank you, Simon, for giving us the pleasure of such a superb shot of one of our most charismatic birds. Simon even managed to read part of the ring number, so we might be able to determine its provenance, longevity, etc. Watch this space!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Protect us from moral people!

This newspaper article contains another example of the madness that seems to have seized our society. It's beginning to make my brain hurt.


Christian Concerns, a public interest legal group in England, reported on a disturbing Court ruling in an article entitled "High Court Judgment Suggests Christian beliefs Harmful to Children". A Protestant Pentecostal couple has been disqualified from being foster parents, in effect, because they are Christians. The Catholic News Agency in an article entitled "British court says Christian couple can't adopt due to beliefs." offered this summary of what occurred: "Eunice and Owen Johns, aged 62 and 65, are Pentecostal Christians from the city of Derby and have cared for 15 foster children in the past. Following the ruling, Eunice Johns said she and her husband were "extremely distressed" at the ruling handed down in Nottingham Crown Court. "All we wanted to do was to offer a loving home to a child in need," Eunice Johns said. "We have a good track record as foster parents, but because we are Christians with mainstream views on sexual ethics, we are apparently unsuitable as foster parents. The judges have suggested that our views might harm children. We have been told by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that our moral views may 'infect' a child. We do not believe that this is so."

The ruling is part of a trend in England since the passage in 2007 of the "Equality Act Sexual Orientation Regulations."