Sunday, February 26, 2012


I have just read that pretzels are a traditional Lenten food, and I thought they were just a device to make you drink more beer. Reading about its religious significance, I wondered about the origin of the pretzel. This from - where else? - Wikipedia:
There are numerous accounts on the origin of the looped pretzels, as well as the origin of the name; most agree that they have Christian backgrounds and were invented by monks. According to The History of Science and Technology, by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, in 610 AD " Italian monk invents pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, 'pretiola' ("little rewards").
You learn something new every day, and that's a fact.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fitness Class

Now that my bones have mended, moreorless, it is time for me to join the fitness class I told you about, the one called the Phoenix Programme (Yes, the Old Scrote is going to rise from the ashes). I called in at the Health Centre the other day, and managed to take this photograph of the class I shall be joining....

Well, not really, but whoever my fellow fitness-freaks are, I do hope we'll all be dressed like the ones in the photograph,

Two Girls Waffle House

I like to think that this refers to the second definition of "waffle"
waf·fle 2 (wfl) Informal
v. waf·fled, waf·fling, waf·fles
v.intr. To speak or write evasively. To speak, write, or act evasively about.
n. Evasive or vague speech or writing.
Imagine being able to spend an hour or two avoiding the issue with these two substantial ladies. If only they had tractors....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mrs Trellis reveals all

I was beginning to wonder what had happened to the good lady.

Dear Mrs Scrote, she writes, sorry I haven't written sooner, but I have been away, dear. Not a holiday, no, I had a spell in hospital. Lady's things, you know. Nice enough doctors and that, but, honest, they way they put you in the stirrups and then walk out leaving the door open, and a boy you knew from school walks by, looks in, waves and says "Oh hello, I thought it was you!" Though how he recognised me without my glasses is a mystery.
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, widow, retd, mended

Young love

This photo is for my children (and grandchildren), just so they know that love was around long before they were.
The photo was taken, I think, in about 1960.
Ah, such beardless loving days!

Usher and Witzenfeld

The other evening, I watched an old episode of "Silent Witness", the series about a forensic pathologist, the episode where a teenaged boy is bullied and eventually hangs himself. The breaking point came when graffiti were scrawled on walls with legends like "Malcolm is a Wanker". In my class at Grammar School (the composition of it remained moreorless unchanged for four years, that's why I can still recite the surnames of most of the boys in it), I remember two boys in particular: Usher and Witzenfeld. John Usher was irritatingly well-groomed, he had immaculate hair and a school uniform made from the finest cloth. He was well-spoken, self-confident, neat, hardworking and the pet in particular of our Geography teacher, "Dag" Tomlinson, probably because the boy drew such perfect maps. John Witzenfeld was in many ways the opposite of Usher: he was gauche to the point of clumsiness, he was scruffy, he wore heavy boots instead of the shoes that most boys wore, and he was a plodder. For all that, Witzenfeld was likeable and Usher was not. And Usher never stopped teasing and taunting Witzenfeld. All kinds of insults and snide remarks, personal and hurtful, against which Witzenfeld seemed to have no defence. He simply hunched his shoulders, lowered his gaze and took it.
The Geography teacher, Dag Tomlinson, hated me as much as he loved John Usher, and he tended to be openly critical - overcritical in my opinion - of any shortcomings in Witzenfeld's work. Maybe that was why I became John Witzenfeld's natural ally. Not a close mate, mind, because it's not a good idea to get put in the same pigeonhole as a "loser", but I always let him know that as far as I was concerned, he was ok. As for Usher, I had nothing to do with him. He was a snob, and would have turned on me too (my school uniform was definitely out of the bottom drawer, frequently consisting of handmedowns or trousers and jackets I had grown out of), but I was made of sterner stuff than poor Witzenfeld, quick to anger, quick to fight, and much cleverer with insults and banter than anyone else in my class.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jeremy John Leggatt

He was my best mate at university. We were as inseparable as Heinz and the Bean, three glorious years of laughing, boozing, wenching, philosophising and generally trying to make sense of life. We met several times after we went down, mostly in Paris, where he was working on Realites magazine. The last time I saw him was when he had proposed to a lovely American girl and was off to Dallas. We lost touch after that, sad to say. An extraordinary coincidence was that we were exactly the same age, both born on 5 June 1936.
Today through the post I got the latest issue of the college Alumni magazine. As usual, I checked the obituaries. I almost wish I hadn't. My good mate has gone to his rest, I never thought he would go before me, he being so athletic and fit.
When my first child was born, I named him Jeremy John; you can't pay a friend a higher compliment than that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Bent Banana

I just found out that there is an official EU website called "EU What's in it for me?" that is specifically aimed at the British, to persuade the waverers that the EU is a good thing. On one page they explode various myths about alleged directives that have been issued on the lines of the famous (infamous) ruling about bent bananas. I am not too concerned about the exploding of the myths, but I love the myths themselves, and, as you know, I never let the facts get in the way of a perfectly good prejudice, but if you are into myth-busting, visit the site.  Here's a selection:
Brussels bans people from using the term “acres”
The EU has banned the consumption of cakes and scones entered into competitions in country fairs and fetes
Brussels to force UK to change emergency 999
Brussels rules mean that tightrope walkers have to wear hard hats
EU forces farmers to provide toys for their pigs
EU wants to ban plasma TVs
Brussels rules mean climbers have to use scaffolding and mountains have warning signs that snow is slippery
The EU is going to change the name of the English Channel to “Anglo-French pond”
Politically correct EU will stop bingo callers using the terms “Two fat ladies”
EU wants to remove the Queen from UK passports

Salaam aleikum

Or "Peace be with you". Have a look at this footage of a class of children in Algeria being "taught" the Holy Qur'an. If you can watch it to the end, you're braver than I am.

Whatever floats your boat

Whenever I come across a derelict barn in the fens, I get the sort of frisson that I used to get as an adolescent seeing a pretty girl. Such potential! It cries out for a Barn Owl box. Funny, though, it doesn't work the other way round. I still like pretty girls, but I can't remember getting the hots for old barns when I was a teenager.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lyrics to The Philosopher's Drinking Song

 Another Monty Python classic:

 Immanuel Kant was a real piss-ant who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table. ..
David Hume could out-consume Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine who was just as sloshed as Schlegel.
There's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach 'ya 'bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates, himself, was permanently pissed.
John Stuart Mill, of his own free will, after half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away, half a crate of whiskey every day!
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
And Hobbes was fond of his Dram.
And René Descartes was a drunken fart:
"I drink, therefore I am."
Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he's pissed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Cold comfort

Cold snaps like the current are very hard on wild creatures, making it a real challenge to find food, water and shelter. This is why species turn up in our gardens that we would not normally see. A typical example for me is Yellowhammer, a shy bird of farmland hedgerows: I have had two feeding just outside the back door.

More rare visitors to my garden turned up this afternoon on the seed feeders: two Tree Sparrows. In the sharp winter sunshine, they looked smarter than ever. Makes you feel sorry for House Sparrows, who are dowdy in comparison.
Oddest of all was a report from my friend Julie that she had a Lapwing feeding on her back lawn this morning. True she lives in a fen village, but all the same it's the first time I have heard of a Lapwing becoming so confiding. Must be hungry.

Good on ya, Gillard!

The following has appeared in various parts of the Australian media, and is said to be a speech made by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. It turns out that it is a HOAX, part of a campaign to discredit her, to depict her as an illiberal "Nazi" with racist views. This is a pity, because I agree with every word of it!

I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali , we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.
This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.
We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society . Learn the language!
Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.
We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.
This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, THE RIGHT TO LEAVE.
If you aren’t happy here then LEAVE. We didn’t force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country that accepted YOU.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

More on the European Court

<< [Here's one of them]

In the interests of fairness, I offer this response from Civitas regarding the suggestion that over 8000 ECHR judgments have been "ignored".

The number of judgements from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that are yet to be fully implemented has is more than 8,000.
Last week, the figure is elaborated on in a report published by the think tank Civitas, which is authored by Dominic Raab MP.
Mr Raab explains: 'As of 2009, there were 8,661 cases "pending" before the Committee of Ministers - i.e. unimplemented judgments.”
This is indeed what the figures show, so far as the cases pending are concern. Page 33 of the Annual Report on the execution of the ECtHR's judgments gives the number. The Annual Report explains that some of the rise is due to increasing complexity of actually implementing these judgements.
The problem is that although all of these cases are pending - some for a long time - we should not necessarily view them all as "ignored".
Philip Leach, Professor of Human Rights at London Metropolitan Universities explained to Full Fact: "It is a complete misrepresentation to describe these cases as ones which have been 'ignored' by other states. Of course, the implementation of judgments is a process which may require various steps, which can be more or less complex and more or less time-consuming."

But you know me, I never let the facts get in the way of a perfectly good prejudice, and I am seriously prejudiced against the ECHR. The expressions that come into MY mind are: "Kick it into the long grass", "Indulge in a posture of masterly inactivity" or simply "Put it at the bottom of the PENDING tray". I bet the Italians have a choice phrase for it too, such as, "Professore Leach, va a farti inculare..."

European Court of Daft Decisions

Here they are, the judges who rant on about human rights. And if you want to know more about them, click HERE.  I know I said they were a bunch of overpaid geriatrics, but if you want a second opinion, most of them are ugly too.

Monday, February 06, 2012


How did this ugly bugger come to be in Britain in the first place?. This from Wikipedia:
"After the liberation of Kuwait from Iraq (which Abu Qatada opposed) he was expelled from Kuwait to Jordan. From there he travelled to the UK in 1993 on a forged UAE passport, and requested asylum on grounds of religious persecution. He was granted asylum the following year."
In other words, he entered this country illegally. So why was he allowed to stay? And now, it seems, we can't deport the bugger because the European Court of Human Rights says we can't. Other EU countries, eg France and Germany, have ignored European Court rulings that they didn't like, and the Court could do nothing except bleat and pout - it is a toothless hound.
So why are we so bloody submissive? Why don't we tell the European Court to go to hell? Or better yet, just ignore it? After all, it consists of nothing more than a bunch of overpaid genitally-challenged geriatrics who lost touch with reality years ago, if they ever were in touch with it.
This festering piece of ordure is shortly to be released on bail, and three months after that, if we don't do something about it, he will be free. Free to peddle his message of hatred, free to plot again with others of his kind to commit outrages and atrocities in the name of Islam. When English king Henry II said in exasperation of his archbishop "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"***, four knights went off immediately and murdered him. Maybe we should ask Prince Philip to utter some such impious wish: he has a reputation for saying out loud what other people only dare mutter under their breath.

***In fact the king probably said something like "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?", but that is too much of a mouthful to fit into a neat anecdote.


Aux amateurs ou amoureux de la langue française

**Facebook** : Le seul endroit où tu parles à un mur sans être ridicule.
**GPS **: Seule femme que les hommes écoutent pour trouver leur chemin.
**Autobus** : Véhicule qui roule deux fois plus vite quand on court après que quand on est assis dedans.
**Taser** : Instrument utilisé afin de mieux faire passer le courant entre la police et la jeunesse.
**Sudoku**: Qui a le Sudoku a le nord en face.
**Porte-clefs** : Invention très pratique qui permet de perdre toutes ses clefs d'un coup au lieu de les perdre une par une.
**État **: Système mafieux le mieux organisé de tous les temps.
**Cravate** : Accessoire servant à indiquer la direction du cerveau de l'homme.
**Carla Bruni** : Blanche-neige moderne ayant eu une préférence pour un des sept nains : Grincheux.
**Maison Blanche** : Actuellement Barack noire.
**Voiture** : Invention ingénieuse, permettant d'avoir 110 chevaux dans le moteur et un âne au volant.
**Parents** : Deux personnes qui t'apprennent à marcher et à parler pour ensuite te dire de t'asseoir et de fermer ta gueule.
**Orteil** : Appendice servant a détecter les coins de portes.
**Égalité des sexes** : Nouveau concept créé par les hommes pour ne plus payer le restaurant.
**Monter un meuble Ikea** : Expression moderne signifiant "passer un week:end de merde.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sunday 5 February, early

The scene first thing this chilly Sunday morning. It's lovely sight: pure, virgin, untouched snow, snow on which the hand of man has not set foot.
A quick check of the morning papers on tv produced the usual headlines: FLIGHTS CANCELLED! ROAD CHAOS! PANIC! WORSE TO COME! It's moments like this that make you proud to be British. What other race in the world can turn the teeniest inconvenience into a major crisis? What other people can go from "nuisance" to "catastrophe" the moment half a millimetre has fallen?

My neighbours are on holiday in sunny Swaziland right now. Poor things, they don't know what they're missing.

Friday, February 03, 2012


I am constantly amazed, but also delighted, by the tolerance of wildlife to the vagaries of fortune. Take this indoor Barn Owl box, for instance.Wall-mounted in an old piggery, it has been used by Barn Owls every year since we put it up.
For some reason, the upper retaining bracket snapped, and the box ended up as you see - higgledy-piggledy.. Despite this, a pair nested in it again last season, bringing off a respectable brood of owlets. When I popped in to have a look in the piggery for owl pellets yesterday, a Barn Owl came out of the box, suggesting that they may use it again, upside down or not. Maybe we should just leave it like that. Maybe we should mount all our boxes in crazy Daliesque poses. .Maybe I should go and lie down in a darkened room....

Downs and ups of birding

When I said that the barn had blown down and crushed the old nestbox (See "Happy anyway"), I wasn't kidding. Raking through the debris in the box, we came across the skeleton of a long dead Barn Owl and an  egg that was almost entire. This is what birding is really all about. Isn't it?
Trolling round the fen yesterday to gather Barn Owl pellets from various barns for school projects, I was rewarded with excellent views of a "ringtail" Harrier. This is what birding is really all about. Yes, it is.