Saturday, December 12, 2015


Mary had a little bike,

it was painted red and yellow.

Every where the front wheel went,

the back wheel used to follow.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Oliver Sacks

I am grateful to Mary Colwell for drawing my attention to THIS article from the New York Times. One paragraph in particular resonated with me:

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.

What didn't you say?

I can remember being asked if I would give a presentation at a forthcoming conference and I declined. When they asked me why, I said it was because I had nothing to say. They looked baffled, but it was true: I saw no point in talking for the sake of talking. Things are very different in my scrotage: nowadays it's difficult to STOP me talking.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Haddenham, Thursday, 5 February, 0630

[In order to pass the time between sneezes, I just composed and posted the following email to my grandchildren, who are variously in Auckland NZ, San Diego CA and Florida]

As predicted, the snow has returned. Haddenham is a whiteout again. Fortunately I ordered a large quantity of salt last winter so I can keep vital pathways clear, though it's never difficult to find an untreated icy patch on which to slip, fall and crack a kneecap.
It's not surprising that "fenitis" has set in: you wake up in the dark, it's dark again by late afternoon; when the sky is overcast, it's even dark during the day. The weather is unpredictable, but the chances are we will have one or more of the following on any day: precipitation, cold, nasty winds, plagues of frogs.... Even when the sky is blue and the sun is showing, the brass monkey sits in the porch fearing for its masculinity.
The bonus of all this is that at least you know you will not escape nasty aches and pains, and, if you are really lucky, a cold or a bad chest infection, leading to a visit to a doctor with a name like Ngondo or Jalfrezi, who will agree that you don't look well and prescribe a course of tabasco, paracetamol and little coloured beads.
I am not going to ask you lot how you are, because I know how you are: tormented by warm pleasant days, balmy nights, wall-to-wall sunshine.
I will write again soon: I don't see why you should escape my misery.


PS I lied about the plague of frogs. The rest is, of course, entirely true.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Cliche Police

In case you wondered what noises French anlmals make....

"Tu le sais, bien sûr depuis longtemps, le coq chante, cocorico,
la poule caquette,
le chien aboie quand le cheval hennit
et que beugle le bœuf et meugle la vache,
l'hirondelle gazouille,
la colombe roucoule et le pinson ramage
Les moineaux piaillent,
le faisan et l'oie criaillent quand le dindon glousse
La grenouille coasse mais le corbeau croasse et la pie jacasse
Et le chat comme le tigre miaule,
l'éléphant barrit,
l'âne braie, mais le cerf rait
Le mouton bêle évidemment et bourdonne l'abeille
La biche brame quand le loup hurle.
Tu sais, bien sûr, tous ces cris-là mais sais-tu ?
Que le canard nasille, les canards nasillardent !
Que le bouc ou la chèvre chevrote
Que le hibou hulule mais que la chouette, elle, chuinte
Que le paon braille,
que l'aigle trompète
Sais-tu ?
Que si la tourterelle roucoule,
le ramier caracoule et que la bécasse croule
que la perdrix cacabe,
que la cigogne craquette et que si le corbeau croasse,
la corneille corbine et que le lapin glapit quand le lièvre vagit.
Tu sais tout cela ? Bien. Mais sais-tu, sais-tu ?
Que l'alouette grisole,
Tu ne le savais pas. Et peut-être ne sais-tu pas davantage
que le pivert picasse
C'est excusable !
Ou que le sanglier grommelle,
que le chameau blatère
Et que c'est à cause du chameau que l'on déblatère ! Tu ne sais pas non plus peut-être
que la huppe pupule
Et je ne sais pas non plus si on l'appelle en Limousin la pépue Parce qu'elle pupule ou parce qu'elle fait son nid avec de la chose qui pue. Qu'importe ! Mais c'est joli
: la huppe pupule !
Et encore sais-tu ? Sais-tu
que la souris, la petite souris grise: Devine ! La petite souris grise chicote. Avoue qu'il serait dommage d'ignorer que la souris chicote et plus dommage encore de ne pas savoir,
que le geai, Que le geai cajole !"

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Be prepared

There is a new housing development in the village, and we were asked to visit to advise on providing Swift nesting accommodation. As you can see, I went well prepared.
The meeting took place in a Portacabin and we didn't go onsite at all.
But at least I was highly visible at all times, and nothing shat on my head.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Don't mention the war!

Oxford University warns authors not to write about bacon, pork to avoid offending Muslims
Thursday, January 15, 2015
The largest university press in the world has warned its authors not to mention pigs or pork in their books to avoid offending Muslims and Jews.
Oxford University Press (OUP) explained that their books must take into consideration other cultures of the world and must avoid mentioning pigs or “anything else which could be perceived as pork,” the International Business Times reported.
The move was revealed during a discussion on free speech during BBC Radio 4’s “Today,” following last week’s terror attacks in Paris.
“I’ve got a letter here that was sent out by OUP to an author doing something for young people.” Presenter Jim Naughtie said. “Among the things prohibited in the text that was commissioned by OUP was the following: Pigs plus sausages, or anything else which could be perceived as pork.
“Now, if a respectable publisher, tied to an academic institution, is saying you’ve got to write a book in which you cannot mention pigs because some people might be offended, it’s just ludicrous. It is just a joke,” he said.
The move was condemned by Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, the Times reported.
“That’s ludicrous,” he said. “That’s absolute, utter nonsense and when people go too far that actually brings the whole discussion into disrepute.”
OUP defended the move by saying it needs to make its books available to the “widest possible audience.”

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Is it 2015 already?

It is in the nature of blogs and bloggers that long silences occur. There is always a reason, but in my case, I would like to reassure my readers that “rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated”.
Years back when I was very much on the lecture circuit, I was asked to give a talk at an upcoming conference where I had in the past given presentations. I declined saying that I had nothing to say. It sounds a bit brutal but it was true. I see no point in talking for the sake of talking. So my blog has been quiet lately because, frankly, nothing of interest has happened - though I could scream reams about some things that are going on in the world.
Anyway, this is a note to respond to a follower, Chris, who asked me about something from one of my blog postings. I had written that my first attempt at kissing a girl was when I was about five, and the victim of my advances was Margaret Benbow, the youngest of the three children who lived in the farm opposite. She spurned my advances, quite properly. It seems that Chris was a regular playmate of Margaret Benbow and has asked me what happened to her. Given that I left my natal village of Hadley some sixty years ago, it is not surprising that I have no answer. In fact, not only has Margaret Benbow disappeared from my view, but so has the village of Hadley, long buried under a lumpen wen called Telford.
If any of you wish to know more of my doings, you could always take a peek at the Action for Swifts blog at The coming year promises to be even busier with more nextbox projects and lots of swift monitoring.
Happy New Year to Chris and all, may your best day in 2014 be your worst day in 2015.