Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mrs Trellis is surprised

My Welsh correspondent has spotted something amiss:

Dear Miss Fifa, she writes, I always thought you were one of those Parisite fanny dancers in the Follies Bergeracs, so, imagine my surprise when I saw you on the telly last night. I don't know whether you are aware of it, dear, but you are a man, and a fat one at that. With enormous spectacles, it seems. Goodness knows what you look like when you are in your frou-frous and fishnets, but if I were you, I'd think of getting a different job. School dinner lady or a Lollipop Person might suit, as long as you keep your skirt down below your knees.
Yours frankly
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd, normal.

MRC Cognitive and Ageing Study II

The above study is being carried out by the Department of Public Health and Primary Care in the Institute of Public Health of the University of Cambridge. Forgive me, I must pause for breath after that mouthful....
That's better.
Now, I agreed to be interviewed, and was, the other day by a fine lady called Dianne Scott. Two and half hours of Q-and-A about every aspect of my ageing life, together with various physical, verbal and visual tests. Oh yes, I almost forgot - and a series of memory tests too.
It turns out that "for a man of your age, Mr Allsop, I must say you don't look a day over ninety-three."  No, she didn't say that, but she did find out that my hearing isn't 100% any more, and that my knees prevented me from doing one of those sit-down-stand-up-sit down tests. Even with grunts. Heigh ho.
The fine lady said that she will visit and interview me again in two years' time.
It's nice to have yet another reason to stay alive.
I just hope I remember the appointment and can still hear what she says to me in 2013.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Say it with flowers

Today was a first. My dear friend J came round for coffee this morning, and there she was standing at my door with a bunch of roses in her hand. I think it's a red-letter day when a gentleman receives flowers from a lady. I'm beginning to like this gender equality thing after all!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stuff stuffed

A really huge nurse came today to pummel me and change the dressing. I would hate for her to fall on the roof of my car from a height. Bless her.
After she had left, I drove to the landfill site and emptied the Terrano of lots of stuff from the loft. Pic to prove it:
Then I came back and finished the work upstairs. It all looks very neat and clean now. Pic to prove it:
I am sure the moment my children find out, they will steam over to the UK from their colonial outposts with the express purpose of filling the space again.
As for me, I am exhausted.
Pic to prove it:


"There are three kinds of people in the world: those who can do maths, and those who can't."
No, seriously though, when it comes to hoarding or getting rid of stuff, there are two kinds of people: which are you, a hoarder or a ridder**?
My loft had become so cluttered (no, I am not blaming my children, even though it's their fault) that even the mice have moved out, squeaking the rodent equivalent of "Lebensraum! Lebensraum!"
So for the last two days, I have been having a blitz. As a Gemini (don't tell Father Tony I said that), I veer between the two modes, hoard or rid. At the moment I am in rid-mode, filling boxes labelled "Rubbish", "Charity Shop" and "Give to Friends". There's a mountain of inexplicable computer stuff - cables, adaptors, keyboards, plugs, and little bits of twisted black wire - and it's all going to go. I was tempted to put this computer garbage in a box labelled "Give to Enemies", but I am much too nice to do such a thing.
I don't find it easy to be a ridder, mainly because my experience has always been that I will need any item which I have treasured within twenty-four hours of throwing it away. My son's a minimalist, and his philosophy is: if you haven't used it or needed it for a year, dump it, the only exception to his rule being photographs, letters and similar sentimental items that can never be replaced.
Anyway, lots of open space upstairs now, the mice are standing on the window ledge waiting, and it's time for me to have a coffee in that mug I bought in America, you know, the one with the birds on it. Oh sh*t, I threw it out yesterday.....

**Note to my foreign friends: the word "ridder" does not exist, but it ought to.

Time for tiffin

I don't know what species she is, but I bet her kids will be glad to see her.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A myna miracle

[Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog entry]

My first trip to Sydney, Australia, I needed to pay a visit to the Modern Languages Department of the University of South Wales. The Department was housed on the upper floor of a two-storey building, a little way off campus. As I walked up to the building, I noticed a lot of myna birds feeding on the grass. Mynas, a kind of Himalayan starling, are popular cagebirds, and once they escape, they are very good at establishing a feral population. What struck me about them, though, was that, although there were several cats on the grass amongst them, the mynas were ignoring them. Equally, the cats seemed to be taking no notice of the birds.
After completing my business with the people in the Department, I mentioned the strange sight on the grass outside, and asked why on earth the birds were not scared of the cats.
"Did you notice anything unusual about  the cats' eyes? No? Well, have a look at them when you go." They also told me that the ground floor was occupied by some kind of ophthalmic research institute. It turned out they were experimenting with various kinds of contact lenses. All the cats had contact lenses in, couldn't see a damn thing, and the myna birds knew it.
A lawnful of nonchalant myna birds and short-sighted cats. That's what I call bizarre.

Corncrakes and mosscheepers

I am just re-reading a schooldays' favourite, Prester John, set in South Africa in the late nineteenth century. The hero, a young Scot called David Crawfurd, has been sent there to work. At one point in the narrative, a valley reminds him of home:
"It was like a water-meadow at home, such a place as I had often in boyhood searched for mosscheepers' and corncrakes' eggs."
What's a mosscheeper? And when did you last have corncrakes' eggs for breakfast?
PS If you enjoy reading books that are gloriously politically incorrect, I reckon John Buchan's Prester John is outrageous enough to cause a bishop to kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Grumpless Friday

Today is Friday, but I am not grumpy. Sorry if you were expecting a rant. But I can't leave you with nothing to worry about, so have a read of this piece about C S Lewis (Did you see the movie Shadowlands, in which Anthony Hopkins played the great man? Do.) 

In 1947, C.S. Lewis addressed the decline of Britain in "The Abolition of Man: How Education Develops Man's Sense of Morality." He warned of the relativist trends in the British educational system and reasserted Christendom's timeless moral truths .Lewis called for a return to the classical vision of the human person and the cultivation of virtues as the path to true human flourishing and freedom. He defined what he called "the chest" in this work as the "higher emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments or character."  He wrote that without this "chest", men and women devolve into self-idolatry losing their human dignity and true freedom. They become slaves to disordered appetites.
"And all the time - such is the tragicomedy of our situation - we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible.You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive,' or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity.' In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful."

"remove the organ and demand the function" - I wish I had come up with that pungent strophe.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A reprimand from the Principality

Mrs T lashes out:

Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, MUST you keep on about your miner aliments and illinessies? There's people much worse than you who never utter a word, though I admit they might scream in agony from time to time. Myself, for example, I go through torments when I tweezer out the supercilious hairs on my chin, but you don't hear me bleating on, or posting photos of my delapidation after I've done, partly because all those little craters where the hairs came out make it look like a case of smallpox, and I wouldn't want to cause a panic in Llanfairpg.
So, please shut up and talk about nice things instead, like embroidery or rabbit pie.
Yours briefly
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, Widow, retd.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Comradely gesture

I see another Icelandic volcano has become active. It's no Eyjafjollajokull, but I still regard it as a comradely gesture from a fellow crater, a sort of a sympathetic pregnancy if you like.
OK, I know I said no more mention of the you-know-what, but this was too good an opportunity to pass up. Come on, Nurse, do what you have to.....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Progress report

The astronomers amongst you might well recognise this as one of the craters on the planet Mars, but you would be wrong. It is in fact the crater on Daddy Allsop's back after the op and the stitching.
I have an appointment on Tuesday morning with one of the nurses at the Surgery. I don't know which one, but as they all wear black stockings and blue uniforms, I am happy, be it Rita, be it Frances, be it Ann, be it the new one whose name I don't know.
All being well, the stitches will be taken out before the weekend, and I promise, by my troth, that there will be no further mention, and certainly no further photographs, of the Daddy Allsop crater.

Saint Rita

If you are looking for a really helpful saint, I can recommend today's saint, Saint Rita, because she is known as "the saint of impossible cases".
Get in line, though, my need is probably greater than yours right now!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Daddy Allsop has got a hurtie

Daddy Allsop has got a hurtie. Well, to be precise, Daddy Allsop HAD a hurtie until this afternoon, when it was surgically attacked by Dr Aniskowicz and his sharp little scalpel. And now, where there was once an infected sebacious cyst between my shoulder blades, there is a Vesuvian crater. Well, to be precise once more, I THINK there may be a Vesuvian crater, but he has put seven stitches across its diameter and has stuck a dressing over it, leaving me with just a puzzle and an itch.
I was hoping for some pain so that I could canvass sympathy from the matrons of the village, but so far only a mild ache. Not to worry, I can fake it if necessary.
Note: I prefer green to red grapes, or any kind of chocolate. No flowers, though, there's enough pollen up my nose already.

Examen de français au primaire

I have no doubt that the following responses are genuine. Kids see the world much more clearly than we do.

Réponses d'élèves du primaire

1. Dans la phrase, ''Le voleur a volé les pommes'', où est le sujet ?
- En prison.
2. Le futur du verbe ''je bâille'' est... ?
- je dors.
3. Que veut dire l'eau ''potable'' ?
- C'est celle que l'on peut mettre dans un pot.
4. Qu'est-ce qu'un oiseau migrateur ?
- C'est celui qui ne peut se gratter que la moitié du dos.
5. Que faire la nuit pour éviter les moustiques ?
- Il faut dormir avec un mousquetaire.
6. À quoi sert la peau de la vache ?
- Elle sert à garder la vache ensemble.
7. Pourquoi le chat a-t-il quatre pattes ?
- Les 2 devants servent à courir, les 2 derrières à freiner.
8. Quand dit-on ''chevaux'' ?
- Quand il y a plusieurs chevals.
9. Qui a été le premier colon en Amérique ?
- Christophe.
10. Complétez les phrases suivantes :
- À la fin, les soldats en ont assez...
- ...d'être tués.
- La nuit tombée...
- ....le renard s'approcha à pas de loup.
11. Pourquoi les requins vivent-ils dans l'eau salée ?
- Parce que dans l'eau poivrée, ils tousseraient tout le temps.
12. L'institutrice demande : quand je dis «je suis belle», quel temps est-ce ?
- Le passé, Madame.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

La reyne est morte, vive la reyne!

My new 4x4 chariot, inherited from my son. It has certain advantages over the late queen, eg, it has four doors making it easier to load and unload; it is diesel, making it merely costly rather than cripplingly expensive;.and it goes.
At least for the moment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

She's gone!

The old girl has finally gone, taken away by a hairy Norfolk fellow to a fate I'd rather not think about. If you want see a photographic sequence of her final moments, click here. But it might be better just to think of her as she was in her prime. Not that she had much prime left by the time I acquired her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 30th is a Bonk Holiday....

Two little gems from my lovely friend, H.

First, a quote from Alan Coren: "I like Sainsbury's: it keeps the riffraff out of Waitrose."

And H herself, who is something of a mycologist, when asked by an expert where she had found a particular fungus, said "Under a pine." When asked what species of pine, she said "I don't know, I can't tell one pinus from another."

I like my lovely friend, H.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Colour code

When I born, I black
When I grow up, I black
When I go in Sun, I black
When I scared, I black
When I sick, I black
And when I die, I still black
And you white fellow
When you born, you pink
When you grow up, you white
When you go in sun, you red
When you cold, you blue
When you scared, you yellow
When you sick, you green
And when you die, you gray
And you calling me colored?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Bottle TIts

This is the nest of the Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus to you), a bird known to me when I was growing up as Bottle Tit. The nest says it all.
I have heard recently of Long-tailed Tits nesting in a regular tit box. It must be a first. Has anyone else come across this aberration?
By the way, I am still waiting for someone to come up with a good collective noun for Long-tailed Tits. It will have to be good to beat "an oddie of bearded tits".

Friday, May 06, 2011

Mrs Trellis keeps a breast of the times

It's good to get a letter from my North Wales correspondent after a long silence:

Dear Mr Obama, she writes, what a shock! I read that you'd been assassignated  in, where was it?, Parkistan, then next day, there you are, on the telly, large and life, only a bit darker. If you are dead, I apologise for bothering you, but if you aren't dead, I am  quite happy about that, I mean, you seem to be a nice person, though you could do with being a bit taller, and maybe let your hair grow a bit.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, widow, retd.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Swifts and Dragons

Please ignore the old scrote in this picture. What really matters is the pair of Swift nestboxes at the top of the picture. Bill and I put them up at the request of the young woman, Tracey, standing next to me (and infinitely more worth looking at), who was distressed that a nearby building housing a Swift colony had been demolished.
It's a bummer we mostly hear about this kind of destruction only after it has happened, and nestboxing is generally the only remedy we have. Tracey intends to play the CD of duetting Swifts from her bedroom window, night and day if necessary, to lure the returning Swifts to the boxes.
By the way, the scary creature standing next to Tracey (no, not me, the little chap) is her son Felix dressed as a dragon. This is an optional extra in the business of persuading Swifts to come and live with you. Swifts are so contrary, it might just work. Go for it, Felix!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


According to the Meteorological Office, it was the hottest, driest April since records began, and it's still continuing. Fires are being reported from various parts of Britain. I thought it might be worth putting up a notice or two.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Hang on a mo'

The prolonged spell of warm dry weather is beginning to feel like a drought. The ground is rock hard, which must make digging for worms, etc, an ordeal for the likes of Blackbirds and Robins. Which is probably why they have taken to trying to get food from one of the bird feeders, the cage-like device which contains fat balls. Of course, unlike tits, sparrows and most finches, they are not good at hanging on, so they burn up a lot of wing-flapping energy as they peck for morsels. This morning, a Jackdaw was performing the same trick. That's a first if ever there was one!
It's a bit sad really, so I am going to see if I can find a source of cheap apples to keep the Blackbirds and Robins going till the monsoon breaks.
PS The photo is not mine. If I knew whose it was, I would acknowledge him/her.
PPS "Hang-on-a-mo" is also the name of a Scouse Red Indian....

The girl can't help it

Listen, it's very simple. I have online banking with Barclay's, two accounts, current and deposit. Fine. I also have a community bank account (ie a sort of charity account) for Action for Swifts, which at the moment I do not have online.
So, call the Barclay's helpline, wade through a series of alternatives ("If you are feeling suicidal, press 9", that sort of thing), listen to some crap tinny music till a PERSON comes on. A sweet voice from the subcontinent asks me if she can help me. It takes at least 15 minutes to satisfy her that I am who I say I am.
We come to the nub of the call. She seems baffled by the notion of a community bank account, and tells me I need to speak to my Relationship Officer. Wow, I didn't know I had one. The RO's name is Elizabeth Cooke, and I am excited at the prospect of a meaningful relationship with her. So, I sign off from Mumbai, and call Elizabeth Cooke.
She is, it turns out, unobtainable.
So, I dial the helpline a second time and - eventually - get a different sweet voice from the subcontinent, who goes through the entire procedure again, including the Liz Cooke bit.
When I tell her that Lizzy is bizzy (or dead), she says "Never mind, do you realise, Mr Allspop, that you are not getting the best interest on your deposit account. Instead of 0.2% you could be getting 0.25%, I can set it up for you."
OK, do it, I say, but this doesn't solve my problem with the community account.
"One more thing, Mr Allscock," she intones (these people don't talk, they intone like Tibetan monks doing a tantra), "have you thought about an ISA?"
At this point, I am tempted to press 9. The Old Scrote's serenity has disintegrated. I tell Mumbai I have had enough, I can feel my pacemaker running down, I need a wet towel and a darkened room, goodbye.
Helpline shmelpline, you could get a better response from a rat in a plum tree.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The snake under the ladder

It's official! I am now fully qualified to fall off a ladder and hurt myself without benefit of clergy. Oh frabjous joy!
But, hold, there is a terrible sting in the tail. Can you see it? Yes, my qualification will be withdrawn on 12th December 2015.
I must check with my universities without delay to see if they have a similar intention to take away my MA and my PGCE. If so, I fear that on 13th December 2015, you could find me dead at the foot of my ladder, an unqualified success.