Thursday, December 26, 2013

Consequences of an overdose of The Beano Book

I so wanted this to be a cover of the Bay City Rollers number.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chrimbo singalong

It's been a rough old year for many of us.

Pull up a glass of sherry and pour yourself some turkey gravy as we sing along to those carols we loved as children.

Season's greetings to you and yours. Play nice and stay safe.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I had a slight gardening mishap. Nothing too bad: I'd just jabbed myself with a garden implement. Unfortunately it was in one of those places where the amount of blood pouring out is entirely out of proportion to the size of the wound. I thought I'd managed to patch myself up without spilling any on anything that couldn't be wiped clean, but apparently not. A couple of hours later I heard a shout from the bathroom:

"Eeeww... Is this your blood on the bog roll?"
I don't know what she imagines I get up to while she's out having her hair done.

Friday, November 08, 2013


The Small Object of Desire is at a Time Team Adulation Society meeting tonight

She'll be the one stood at the back, with a bottle of vodka, shouting: "Tony! Tony love! Is that a bit of Samian ware or are you just pleased to see us?"

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday singalong

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Music for pleasure

We really do have conversations like this while we're cleaning our teeth...

"Did I dream this or did Max Bygraves die recently?"
"I don't know. Are you sure it was Max Bygraves?"
"No, that's why I was asking."
"Was it the other bloke, the one with the jumper?"
"Val Doonican?" 
"No. The Christmas one."
"Perry Como?"
"No. The other one."
"What other one?" 
"Is Val Doonican dead then?" 
"I don't know. I'll have to look it up on the 'net." 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkins to you, too, madam

Well-heeled couple and their unruly children mooching round St Ann's Square. Children accosting strangers in the dark and yelling: "Trick or treat!" I explain, gently, to one child that it isn't Halloween yet. "You're nine days early," I say.

Yummy-Mummy-manquée looks daggers at me. "Don't deprive them of their childhood! They should have something more than just a skinny frappucino with pistachio syrup and a harlequinade of gaily-coloured crushed macaroons! Look at Rosy-Chi-Chi's creative wearing of an off-the-peg Halloween urchin costume straight from Guardianista Pre-Loved Tat. Give them some money you unfeeling swine!"

Fuck off lady, I can't be doing with it.

I gave a pound to a beggar at the bottom of Deansgate.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

New term

In a fruitless effort to find the pruning saw (it was in the kitchen, under the cat treats) I discovered that we've had a nice little crop of damsons this year. I've had more fruitful years but they've always included a large percentage of wastage. This year I got down a few pounds of nice, show-quality damsons so I'll have to have a bit of a worry about doing something useful with them (I'm thinking perhaps a damson cobbler).

A few weeks ago I cut back all the dead bits off the old flowering currant at the bottom of the garden, revealing that the old currant's gone the way of the great wardrobe spider and that a couple of layered shoots have taken nicely just in front of the original. This has them competing a bit with the damson and a couple of self-sown Cotoneaster. I'll grub out the Cotoneaster as they're not bringing a lot to the party, not even very much in the way of berries. Once I've done that I'll put a heavy mulch over most of the area, taking a bit of care around the hellebores' evergreen leaves and a bit less care where the hardy geraniums will have died down for the winter.

The pruning saw was for the first stage in my "tidying up that hazel tree," The Small Object of Desire's way of saying: "Chop most of that down." I'd already decided that it was time to do a bit of coppicing; I'd last done it five years ago. And I'm not so worried about losing a year's crop of hazels as the squirrel only left the one on the bush (and a huge pile of hazel shells in the back border). So I've taken down the first couple of dozen two-year-old pea sticks and a couple of four-year-old trunks. This involved finding new homes for some red admiral chrysalises (chrysalides?) which puzzles me rather as the nearest nettles are a couple of hundred yards away.

Cutting back the hazel is just one component of this summer's effort at resurrecting the patio. I've cleared out most of the old pots, which had become a bit tatty and haphazardly-supplied with various species of willowherbs, dismantled the relict rose trellis and tidied up most of the paving. I've decided that the marjoram, lemon balm and self-sown black violets can stay but the flag irises (I know, I know) will have to go (I have a home planned for them) and some of the more thuggish elements of the hardy geraniums will need curbing quite a bit. All this will please The Small Object no end as she has a dream of being able to sit on the patio playing tennis with The Cat I Do Not Have.

I've not told her yet that I'm planning on a buying splurge on new plants for the bottom of the garden...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stock romance

"Do you think I should colour my hair?" I asked.

"There's not enough Bisto left in the world to do it," replied The Small Object of Desire.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Reviewing a customer request with a manager:

  • My response was: "No."
  • The manager's response was: "Fuck, no."

We won't be bothering the man from Del Monte for a third opinion.

Don't mock: it could be one of your own

How bitterly disappointing: the lads at work tell me that Talbot Rothwell didn't write "Game of Thrones."

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Siren calls from the potting shed

It's taken me an age but I've finally got the answer to a question that's been bugging me for weeks.

The new siren on our local police cars and ambulances is the music they used to play over the credits on "Gardeners' World," back when it was with Percy Thrower and Arthur from Clack's Farm.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Cold hard reality

I was being principled and professional in the workplace concerning a piece of work involving my working a couple of evenings so that somebody could butter up a high-up in the proceedings.

"Just be careful you don't get the wrong people on your case about this," said my manager.

"I'm 52, what's left of my career has nowhere to go and I've seen more bigwigs come and go than I'd care to count. I'll try to do the right thing," I replied.

It's amazing the change of perspective you get when you hear yourself saying something like that.

I'm like the cockroach, me. Through no particular merit or skill, save the merest accident, I tend to survive the more Spectacular Talents.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Presents past

My father was contemplating his socks. Ordinary, bright orange socks. The small niece child had been interrogating him on the subject.

"Who bought you those socks? They don't go with anything you wear."
At the time she was wearing something floral in pink winceyette and lemon yellow leggings.

In the end she concluded that I must have bought them. I get the blame for all things because I'm "weird." Any conversation I have with her must include the following exchange:
"You bought me rhino poo for Christmas!"
"It had a banana seed in it. Have you sown it yet?"
"You bought me rhino poo for Christmas!"
"It makes the banana grow better."
"I'm not eating bananas that are made out of rhino poo. Rhino poo!"

Monday, June 24, 2013

Present tense

It's coming up to my brother's birthday. He's a bugger to buy presents for. In the end, I nipped into Cats @ Home on my way home from work to see about buying some cat tokens. They're down to just the six cats now and they're suffering a bit from empty nest syndrome.

I was disappointed. The lady behind the counter was quite adamant that there is no such thing as cat tokens and please would I go away.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Черная дама

I was the only one in my year doing Russian for General Studies A-Level. Two lessons a week. In the second year of it I started boycotting these lessons. Not because I was bunking off or doing anything especially political: I was dead bored with them so I'd spend my time in the library or in a corridor working on the other stuff. One day the teacher, a dead nice bloke who's name I have shamefully forgotten, bumped into me.

"Can you come along to one of your Russian lessons? I've been telling the Lower Sixth that you exist and they don't believe me."
We got to talking about why I wasn't turning up. I had a bit of a rant:
"I've done five years of Longmans Russian. I'm fed up of Seryozha and Natasha and their jolly Uncle Vanya and his hedgehog joke. I'm sick of Grigor and Tanya and their holidays in Tbilisi and their stopping off at Gum to get half a kilo of sausages and two apples. I can't be doing with it." 
"So you want to read something real then?" 
"You like reading crime stories, don't you?" 
Which is how we got to reading Pushkin's "The Queen of Spades." And even though we struggled a bit with the rules of Faro (we should have watched the film as well) it was a pretty good experience. Sadly, my Russian's rusty beyond measure these days  (I can just about pick out what the Russian characters are saying in the Swedish detective programmes before reading the subtitles).


Apologies to anyone receiving spam from my email address. Yahoo Mail password change *again.* Grr.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Garden news

The garden's full of baby magpies and singing robins and twice a day a huge troupe of spadgers descent on the feeders and bounce their way around the gooseberry bush.

Lysimachia Firecracker Having hacked down the boysenberries to a manageable size they've taken advantage of the warm wet past couple of months to regroup and repopulate the borders. As, indeed, has the dog rose by the blackcurrant bush: the two of these have conspired to take over those bits of the path that haven't been obliterated by geraniums and Lysimachia "Firecracker." This last is a rather thug in my garden. The idea had been for it to be the under-story of the bed in front of the living room window, its dark red leaves providing a backdrop to the orange standard Azalea in late Spring and the vivid red Crocosmia "Lucifer" in the Summer. It had other plans, leaving the border and scampering its way across the path. Early each Spring I dig it out of the path and plonk it back into the border. Each Summer that stretch of path becomes obliterated yet again.

This border's getting a bit lank and there's a bit too much grass in there so I'm inclined to dig the whole thing over again this Winter. When I first planned this garden (it was planned, I promise you) the idea was this this border would be dark and bright: reds and golds and purples. Most of the garden was to be yellows and pinks and whites with the bottom end being blues and purples (I was trying to do an aerial perspective thing there). It didn't all work the way as planned but it's OK.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Curtain calls

There's a rich seam of drivel to be mined from the conversations people have at the end of the day when they're too tired to talk but still insist on having conversations. Actually, this is a good description of virtually any conversation between myself and The Small Object of Desire at any time of day or night but we could just be tired.

Anyway, this is how we became entertained by a children's television series called "Bladderpuss," the everyday adventures of a cat full of piss.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The truth is out there

It's true! 99% of gargoyles really do look like Bob Todd!

Bob Todd and a gargoyle

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Love is…

Love is…

Explaining "The Double Deckers" to a loved one while she is having a shower.

And doing the little dance.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Frozen Muzak

Imagine our delight when we discovered that there was a sculpture trail in The World of Pies (not to be confused with Wigan, which is a very inferior land of pastry). We were underwhelmed when we discovered that two of the crap local objects of mystery are part of the collection. Neither the neon lights at the railway station saying: "And there was light," nor the graffiti on the canal bridge saying: "And water made it wet" exactly enthused us. The sort of thing that proliferated when Lottery money was young and spent by people whose bicycle clips were too tight.

We wandered over to the parkland where the old paper mill used to be and had a wander round while it was still not raining. About half a mile along the trail to the main road we encountered a dirty great big block of concrete.

"And what's this supposed to be?" asked The Small Object of Desire, who's even less Avante Garde than I am.

"It's a fucking big lump of concrete," I explained.

"It can't just be a fucking big lump of concrete," she protested.

"Might be," I muttered.

"So what do you think it is?" she persisted.

"Dunno. I expect it signifies something or other."

"Look: there's a plaque at the top up there. What does it say?"

I wandered over, read the inscription on the plaque and wandered back.


"It says it's a fucking big lump of concrete."

Monday, June 10, 2013

What quills mute

"Don't you ever read any books by authors who are still alive?" asked The Small Object of Desire.

"They were still alive when I started reading them," I explained.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Nail clippings

Every so often a bit of stray verbiage will float into my head unbidden and I try to remember to make a note of it for one or other of the books I'll never get round to. Here are a few waifs and strays from the commonplace books...

  • He was one of those tall men of indeterminate age and character who populate the middle reaches of the professions.
  • Almost at once he had concluded that the visitor was entirely inconsequential and he spent the next hour doing everything humanly possible to make himself stupidly beholden to him.
  • It was an old-fashioned door that looked impossibly flimsy but had rattled in the merest breeze for the past thirty-seven years without ever actually blowing open.
  • He was tending his vegetable plot. Late Winter had passed into the thin pickings of early Spring: the last of the Brussels sprout tops and savoy cabbages and whatever carrots and parsnips were left in the store. It had been a bad few weeks, what with the cold nights and colder rains, and he was torn between keeping the cloche over the beans in the hopes of a half-decent harvest and taking the cloches off in the near-certainty of wood pigeon for supper.
  • It's a good thing to be underestimated in high places. 
  • "Every generation sees its economic crash as The Great Depression. The difference this time is that it'll be the harder for the men as write history to forget what it really meant."
  • The train was on time. The train was always on time. They changed the station clock religiously to make sure that it was so.
  • The two men at the bar spoke French. They spoke French abysmally, as only the French are allowed to do.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Paper wonder

I can only marvel at the skill of people who can do stuff like this:

One of a bunch of astonishing bits of origami on Robert J Lang's site.

Friday, June 07, 2013


So there we were: silver jubilee year and all stood standing in the pissing rain. One or other dignitary — we never found out which — was going to Pigham town hall and we were being lined up against the railings on the other side of the cricket pitch to provide an audience backdrop. The school had special procedures in the event of a royal visit. Not that we ever had a royal visit. Not so much as a diadem since the place was opened 56 years previously, so they reckoned it must be their turn soon. So we were all stood there in the pissing rain staring at the traffic on Talbot Road. 

The instructions were that we were to shout gladly and wave our flags when the cavalcade rode by. None of us had flags so they gave us each a tin of corned beef. Eventually we caught sight of a big black Daimler. We started waving our tins of corned beef and shouting: "God save the Queen!" The Deputy Headmaster ran over. "Pack it in!" he shouted, "It's a bloody funeral!"

So we waited a bit more then the word came: "Here they come!" We waved our tins and gave patriotic cry. "You wouldn't have thought the Queen would have a white Ford Cortina estate would you?" asked wee Paulie Camcraft. Kenny Fletcher wasn't impressed: "If she's going to have a nodding dog on the back shelf you'd have thought she'd have got a corgi, special like," he said. One of the teachers noticed that Michael Donelly wasn't waving his tin of corned beef. "Have you lobbed it at a passing car?" he asked him. "No sir, I've put it down the front of my trousers to keep warm." "You pillock. What do you want to do that for?" "If the Queen turns shirty and starts kicking everyone in the nuts I'll be safe and laughing, sir," he replied.

The teachers kept an eye on Michael Donelly's trousers because they were objects of subversive rebellion. There was a strict uniform code: we were to wear black flannel trousers and flares were absolutely forbidden. Michael Donelly didn't wear flares. Michael Donelly was a mad fan of Northern Soul. Michael Donelly had a pair of black flannel trousers with seventy-two inch bottoms. The teachers regarded them with impotent fury. They had seventy-two inch bottoms *but they weren't flares*. The legs were dead straight; erupting in their full glory straight from the hip. We discovered that he could hide a full set of the text books off the geography teacher's desk balanced on his foot and completely hidden from view for, oooh, hours. Much to the geography teacher's irritation. A tin of corned beef was child's play in comparison.  

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Coffee break

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Watching the detectives

We've been watching a lot of Scandinavian police procedurals lately...

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


Still having problems with this sodding network.

Here's a picture of a sausage to be getting on with...

a sausage

Monday, June 03, 2013


I'd post all sorts of stuff today but my mobile network's data coverage appears to have gone the way of the great wardrobe spider...

Sunday, June 02, 2013

I saw the news today, oh boy...

Littleshire Echo news hoarding: Brave gran attacked by eyebrows

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Saturday singalong

You all know the words...

Friday, May 31, 2013

Set piece

Just over a decade ago I started writing a novel, set in the entirely fictional town of Helminthdale. As it happens I ran into the ground about halfway through as the conflicts between wanting to tell an intertwining set of daft stories plus what had become a sort of love story hit the brick wall of the central plot McGuffin. So I put it to one side and told some different daft stories set in a not-wholly dissimilar town of the same name. And every so often my thoughts would return to that question: just where was that story going?

And then recently I realised what the ending had to be. What it must be. It fit and it was inevitable. And I couldn't use it: the coincidence with what passes for real life was just too, too awful.


Well, here it is in its first rough form. I may come to use it some time in the future...

They stood there in the light drizzle, the full complement of Helminthdale Council dutifully waiting for the moment. The Mayor stood by the entrance of the new town hall, idly fiddling with the ceremonial scissors. At last, fashionably-late as usual, Punch came to the party. The great hulking frame of Godolphin Penkage lurched out of the corporation Daimler and waddled uncertainly towards the ribbon, municipal smugness writ large about his face.  

At this point there was an uncertain creaking sound.

The thronging herd, well-trained over the years not to notice the great man's size, pretended to hear nothing.

Bricks and a piece of decking plopped noisily into the river by the west wing.

Clifford and McKendrick exchanged glances. Nancy shivered. Then a strange thing happened. Almost as one, without a word and with neither panic nor haste the whole crowd took three steps back. The Mayor and Godolphin Penkage, both of whom struggled to admit a world beyond their egos, noticed nothing and prepared themselves for the ceremony. 

A couple of concrete pilings detached themselves from the base of the north wall of the town hall.

"Oops," muttered one of the Borough Engineer's team under his breath. "Told them so," muttered his oppo. Glancing round, McKendrick realised that everyone in the Works Department was standing well to the back of the crowd. Members' Services had drifted over to the bus station entrance.

The riverside walkway lurched drunkenly to one side.

The crowd noiselessly took nine steps backwards.

By this time even dignitaries too full of themselves for ordinary life realised that something was going on. They stood ready like rather alert beach balls. The crowd scarcely cared. The walkway slid into the water, followed quickly by the pier supports to the west wing. 

The crowd held its breath. The dignitaries left the stage. Nancy bit her lip and unconsciously moved closer to McKendrick. Clifford whistled softly. McKendrick stood ramrod-straight trying - and failing - to conceal his sense of marvellous wonder.

And then it happened.

A series of very large cracks and creaks heralded the end. The last supports for the two riverside wings of the building collapsed. The platform supporting the town hall shifted and tilted. A lurch, a groan and then a wonder. The whole building slipped and slid backwards into the river.

"That'll upset a few tea breaks," muttered Clifford.

McKendrick smiled. Then he turned and hugged Nancy.

Twenty yards behind, the Accounts Department was humming "Nearer My God To Thee." And then it started to rain properly.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The march of progress

Yesterday we marked the 60th anniversary of the conquest of Everest by Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay. A towering achievement in anybody's money.

At the same time I didn't send somebody an email asking: "And how old are we, then? Six?"

We live in exciting times.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Explorations in palaeontology

Following on from yesterday's ramblings...

(Moschops is a Therapsid from the Permian. Therapsids are one of the more primitive groups of Synapsid ("mammal-like") reptiles.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I was going to write a post on Merriam's wonderful book on extinct marine reptiles and my profound disappointment on buying what was billed as its successor. And how black and white line drawings look more authentic and scientific and scholarly than even the best colour illustrations. I was going to move on to the Permo-Triassic explosion of reptilian diversity as the Cotylosaurs adapted to new environments and the ancestral diapsids and synapsids first took to the stage, looking little like the dinosaurs, birds and mammals they would beget. And I was going to illustrate it with Pareiasaurs and Placodonts and draw particular attentions to the convergence of evolutions that brought about the Permian Daedalosaurs, the Triassic Icarosaurus and the modern flying lizard. And that.

But I got distracted by a cup of tea.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Holiday reading: rainy bank holiday afternoon

And a last burst for this weekend...

The Saint Plays With Fire The Mind of Mr J.G.Reeder The Mask of Dimitrios Bulldog Drummond
Dr. Thorndyke's DiscoveryThe Black Gang The Saint Meets His Match They Called Him Nighthawk
Jennerton & Co. The Prisoner in the Opal A Case for Inspector West

(I have to admit: "They Called Him Nighthawk" is only in for its cover art. I don't reckon Sidney Horler.)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Holiday second reading

And for just as little rhyme or reason, some more books:

Death in High Provence Death and the Maiden The League of Frightened Men
Death of a Peer A Beauty for Inspector West The Blind Side
Dancers in Mourning Trent's Last Case Terror for the Toff

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Holiday weekend reading

For neither rhyme nor reason, here's a bunch o'books

The Red Triangle The Affair at the Semiramis HotelCurious Happenings to the Rooke Legatees The Red Thumb Mark by R. Austin FreemanThe Northing Tramp
Moran Chambers Smiled The Clue of the Twisted Candle Kai Lung's Golden Hours The Eye of Osiris The Old Man in the Corner

Can you guess which one I haven't read?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Twisted sister

Never mind the woman or the dog, look at the songs. Can you imagine going the twist to any of them?

album cover

"The Yellow Rose of Texas"
"Tea For Two"
and best of all: "The Indian Love Call."

Nelson Eddie: you've gotta dig that pussycat!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

More from the Observer's Book...

A few more from The Observer's Book of Commuters...

waitin for the number seventeen bus
The Tiller Girls: Genetically incapable of not walking four abreast along any pavement, station platform or canal towpath. Usually accompanied by raucous laughter, the handbags from hell and an overpowering smell of yesterday's face powder.

Trolley Dollies: Gentlemen of a certain age with suits of a similar vintage pulling along little cases on wheels with neither flair nor accuracy. Imagine Bernard Manning impersonating a BOAC air stewardess and you'd not be far wrong.

Franklin's Lost: They couldn't find the Northwest Passage and by God, they're not going to be finding their bus any time soon. In between times they meander aimlessly sadly between bus stops, driven mad by snow-borne mirages.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So long Eddie

R.I.P. Eddie Braben

The passing of one of my heroes. An utter genius of a writer, a great artist and craftsman. We're the better for having had him round.

How could you improve Morecambe and Wise? Well, you could get them to drop the Abbott and Costello personae they often adopted in the fifties and sixties. Then you could write for deep-seated warmth of their friendship. And then you could add the daftnesses of childhood. And you get this:

Here he is talking to Miranda Hart about the experience:

(It wasn't until I read his obituary in "The Independent" that I knew about his head-butting Billy Cotton for not letting him follow Morecambe & Wise over to Thames when they left the BBC.)

It's a shame I don't have any links to clips of any of his radio shows. Mad compendia of music hall malarkey, gorms and grotesques, with Alison Steadman as Miss Tasker ("Shy of men. Always have been...") driven wild by men's thighs and the odd lurch into Comic Cuts surrealism that would lead Eli Woods to cry: "I've done some rubbish in my time, but..." And we'd laugh. Because it was warm and daft and funny.

Thank you sir.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

That Monday feeling

I know it isn't Monday but...

Monday, May 20, 2013


Sacha Distel & Bridgette Bardot I dreamed that the world had fallen apart around my ears and I was having to cadge cigarettes off Sacha Distel. As anxiety dreams go that's a doozy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mag 168

elderly couple waiting for something or someone

"Did you remember to buy mints?"
"Yes, I remembered to buy mints."
"You didn't get those soft ones did you? They stick in my teeth."
"I got those big white ones you like crunching up while I'm trying to hear the telly."
"Good. I don't like those soft ones."
"Did you remember to lock the back door?"
"I remembered to lock the back door. Then you went back to check that I remembered to lock the back door. Twice."
"Oh my God! I left the gas on!"
"No you didn't."
"I don't remember switching it off after I'd boiled the eggs."
"You did. And you made me go back to make sure that you had."
"Are you sure?"
"I don't remember that. Shouldn't we...?"
"Stop your wittering woman. We're going on holiday and we're leaving all that stuff behind. And that's that."
"It's all well and good you saying that but what happens if we come back to find we've left the gas on?"
"If the worst comes to the worst and the house gets blown up we can always doss down in Molly's shed. Now stop worrying. We're supposed to be on holiday."
"Well, if one of us didn't worry where would we be?"
"We nearly weren't on that train in time. Pack it in and have a mint."
"Oh good, you got the ones I like."
"It'll be nice to get away from it all, won't it?"
"How's your Dennis' leg?"
"You were right: it is teak."
"I thought so. You can't spend all those years watching "The Antiques Roadshow" without learning something."
"You don't see teak these days."
"No. Our Doreen's dining room set was teak veneer. It was very nice. Contemporary."
"I suppose you don't see teak these days because it's cruel to elephants."
"How do you mean, cruel? To elephants?"
"They had all them elephants in the logging plantations hefting the tree trunks all about. It was very cruel."
"That's what elephants do. They trundle round, knocking trees over and chucking them about the jungle."
"Those little men that sit on their backs. That's what's cruel. They tell the elephant what to do by poking it behind the ears with a sharpened stick."
"Aye, well I can see as that's not much fun."
"Cruel I call it."
"There's times when I think that our Dennis could usefully be poked behind the ears with a sharpened stick. If his mum had poked him behind the ears with a sharpened stick a few times when he was younger he wouldn't be the trouble to her he his today."
"Here. Have one of these."
"I got you some wine gums."

Magpie Tales advert
More Magpie Tales

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Meanwhile, in the Danube Delta...

Those of us dwelling in the ignorances of the Western World would think that Romanian television consists entirely of repeats of "Beetroot World with Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej."

How wrong could we be?

Making plans for Nigels

It's that time of year again...

(Apologies for C4's advertising)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A constant tussle over livestock

The booklet cost £2.50 and I gave the lady at the desk a £5 note. A proper one with a picture of Dame May Whitty on the back of it. The lady at the desk rummaged in the coin tray for a considerable time. A good half of the tray was covered in pound coins and there was a mound of fifty pence pieces just to one side. But still she rummaged in the coin tray for a considerable time. Reluctantly she palmed a fifty pence piece then rummaged a bit more. In the end she gave me an assortment of 10p coins, some 5p coins, a twenty and the fifty pence piece. Scores of pound coins to give as change and she gave me two hundredweight of half-chewed threepenny bits. You have to wonder about some people.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Separated at birth?

(left) Popular comic character Nigel Farage
(right) Political heavyweight Jonah from the Dandy

Just sayin'

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


We were having the seat up/down argument the other day. We must have been bored: usually we only argue about sensible things like whether or not Michael Portillo is wearing a merkin on "This Week." Herself says the seat must be down but the lid up. I say that both seat and lid should be down to prevent unpleasant aerosol events in the bathroom. Herself says the seat must be down but the lid up.

The reason she says that is fair enough, I suppose. She claims that pop festivals gave her haemarroids. She reckons it was Glastonbury as done it. After three days eating Pieminster pies and drinking strong fire water she braved the bogs. A hour or so later, when she got to the end of the queue she went in. And came straight back out again. And didn't go to the toilet until she got back home a couple of days later.

Which is why she always insists on the lid staying up: "I like to know what I'm running away from before it's close enough to growl at me!"

Monday, May 13, 2013

Trying not to write about work...

For some reason I've had this earworm for the past few weeks...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sweet F.A.

I have a long-distance relationship with football: mildly interested but not so much as to be arsed watching a match, even on the telly. Even so, I'm often amazed at just how badly run the whole shebang is. UEFA, FIFA, FA, Premier League, all skittering about in squanderbug worlds of their own.

It hit home this week. FA Cup Final weekend. Manchester City vs. Wigan Athletic. David and Goliath stuff, full of the romance of the FA Cup. So the run-up to it has all been about Alec Ferguson's retirement. And the Sunday after the the Final. And the game itself was rescheduled so as to put the mockers on the BBC's early evening programming.

Back when I was more interested, the FA Cup Final was the last event of the season. The league titles had all been won and all the promotions and relegations done and dusted so we could all settle back for the year's finale. 3pm on that final Saturday we and the world would know that battle had commenced. It might be a dour grind between the big boys of the time; a daftly romantic battle of unequals or just some scrappy mess but whatever it was it would be one for the books.

It still could and should be.

For the record, I'm dead sorry that City lost but I think it's good for football that Wigan won. It would have been better had Wigan's win been the last word on the season.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Getting my hands dirty

The weather's warmed up a bit so I decided to have a nosy in the compost bin which has been keeping cats' bottoms warm all winter. It's pretty much nicely-rotted now so I chucked a load over the bare bed by the hazel bush in the corner. I also decide to put a spare big plastic box to use. It was originally given to us by the council to hold old newspapers for collection (only old newspapers, mark you) and has been redundant this past few years since we started having four humongous wheelie bins to manage on their behalf. So I half-filled it with compost from the bin, added a layer of coir compost and then topped it over with a few inches of multi-purpose compost from a bag.

I havered a bit about what to put in there: I've some tomato plants that are still a bit on the small side and not really suited for being by the side of the house; I'll stick with Plan A and get a couple of growbags for the back garden. I sowed a couple of rows of Swiss chard and a row of dwarf broad beans (I like them, The Small Object of desire thinks that beans are Things Of The Devil) and planted in a few scented-leaved pelargoniums at the front to soften the edges a bit and confuse any pests that depend on their sense of smell to find the plants they're going to ravage.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Raw envy

The Small Object of Desire was talking to a colleague fresh from a film archivist's conference.

"How did it go?" she asked. 
"Oh very nicely. We had a good last evening. It's a bit geeky but it's a brilliant film."
She was telling me this as I cooked tea.
"Which fillum?" I asked. 
 "Oh, it was an old Fritz Lang film from the thirties. She said it had recently been restored. Five hours long, she said." 
"Not Doctor Mabuse der Spiegler?"
"That's the one... Is it OK?"
 Yes. It is. Fancy being paid to watch it...

Thursday, May 09, 2013

From the Observer's Book

Now that The Small Object of Desire has been and got herself a new job I'm back on the public transport commute. I'd forgotten what a trial my fellow commuters are…

The Power Walker: Usually dressed like an extra from the touring production of"Bonfire of the Vanities," they're determined to stride out in a ruthlessly straight line, taking no prisoners in the battle for that stretch of pavement.

The Hypnotised Diagonalists: Earphones glued in to keep out the world, eyes fixed on the mobile device in their hand as they walk straight across you without warning as you try to cross that busy road where the pedestrian crossing's been out of action since last Summer.

Mrs. Overalls: Usually men, Mrs. Overalls dither about in shop doorways, train doorways, tram doorways, in fact any narrow passageway you may need to get through in a hurry. Their motto is: "I'm not actually going anywhere, and by God! neither are you."

The Metropolitan Cyclist: Expensive bike, speedos, hi-vis spectacles and streamlined cycling helmet, the Metropolitan Cyclist has the spatial awareness Ida seven-year-old and the arrogance of a ham actor playing a Spanish grandee in a remake of "Zorro."

TrishanEm: Two or three women functioning as one loud series of announcements about the sexual inadequacies of friends' boyfriends; bulletins about the doings of That Bitch; and Daily Mail headlines. Usually looking like the Black & White Minstrel Show had run out of burnt cork and had to resort to gravy browning.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


Big Billy Bullshit corporations are very big on having somebody high profile employed to do their blue skies thinking, to hide the fact that the company's selling the same old blarney but wants to look like it's cutting-edge and can think outside the box. Grey-haired men in suits are paraded as "technology evangelists" or "social media evangelists" or the like.

I am very taken with this. I'd like to become a Have A Cup Of Tea And Stop Talking Bollocks Evangelist.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Holiday thoughts

We should start thinking about our Summer holidays...

Monday, May 06, 2013

Mutual discomfort

Having a glass of Doctor MacAndrew's Thunder Liquid in the temperance bar in Hannigan's Truss Boutique with Ken Barmy. He's in contemplative mood.

"I'm glad I'm unlikely to persuade venture capitalists to give me a shit load of money."
"Wouldn't you like a shit load of money?" I asked.
"Oh yes. But I'd be tempted to set up a mutual organisation for the libraries."
I understand his dilemma: I disapprove of the setting-up of Call Me Dave's "Just like John Lewis honestly" privatisations of public services but like Ken I sometimes worry that despite our deeply-held conviction that public services should be publicly-accountable and part of democratic organisations, there's the possibility that library services need rescuing from some of their local authorities.Luckily, for both of us, this is a purely philosophical quandary.
"Mind you, if I were to take over the libraries I'd set conditions." 
"To tell," I encouraged. 
"They could keep three libraries; I wouldn't want to know." 
"Too quiet?" 
"Too expensive for nobody to be using. Look at _____, the number of books they issued last month is what most of our branch libraries issue in a day. And we're paying way over the market rent for the place. Basically, it's just there to provide a nice little income for the school. Same with ______. And nearly all the books being issued are to the school they're set in. We're providing these schools with an excellent free school library service and paying them way over the odds for the privilege of providing them with the service. Conkers to that."
Amen to that. It would be easy to go off on one about the ways of schools.
"What about the third one you wouldn't want?" 
"Oh? The central library of course. Complete dog's breakfast. It's just a drain on resources - every bugger and his dog interferes with it and we're not allowed to actually run it as a library. Well, bollocks to them, I'd even let them keep the stock if they wanted. I'd just want the libraries we could run properly and deliver services in without having to constantly jump through hoops for permission to even do the basics."
" You've got to have a central library, Ken, how can you survive without a flagship library?" (I was being deliberately provocative). 
"Flagships are for people who like dressing up like Lord Nelson." 
This is quite true: does your local authority have a flagship social services office or a flagship environmental health office? No, of course not.

It's probably just as well that neither of us would be in a position to be setting up a mutual...

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sings the wise thrush

Today is International Dawn Chorus Day. As if to emphasise the matter, all the feathered hooligans are in fine fettle, whether it's the wren and the blackcap blasting out their song from amongst the brambles; or the sparrows and goldfinches chirruping from the treetops; or Frankie Howerd the cat muttering to itself from next door's garage roof.

The cat I don't have made damned sure I was awake for it by jumping on my head at four in the morning.


There are those who would say that my planting wild garlic in the garden is an act of folly, and I'd be amongst their number when I'm grubbing them out of the path. But this time of year they provide a nice picture of glossy fresh green leaves and starry white flowers and I forgive them quite a lot. Especially as they also taste nice, the leaves having that flavour of strong spring onions with a small back-note of garlic about them.

Tonight I made some garlicky mushrooms to go with the pizza. I melted some butter in the frying pan, added a glug of olive oil and then slung in some finely-sliced mushrooms. I'd grubbed up a coiple of wild garlic bulbs, so I cleaned and trimmed these, squashed them with the heavy chopping knife and added these to tne mushrooms. Finally I rolled up a handful of garlic leaves and finely shredded them then added this to the pan.  A minute or so later they were in the serving dish ready to eat.

Friday, May 03, 2013

The sound of gypsy violins in a tin of Ovaltine

My turn to be full of a cold. A tear-stained, snot-ridden idiot.

The Small Object of Desire gets home from work.

"How do you feel?"
"How do I look?"
"A bit grim."
"You're supposed to talk me up, make me feel better.
"You look fucking awful."

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The flowers that bloom in the Spring, tra la!

I have been taken to task for not having banged on at copious length about Helminthdale's May Day celebrations. Well catkins and bells to the whole sorry mess if you ask me. There's only so many pigs-bladder hats anyone should have to put up with on the bus down the Penkridge Road and if Beltane consists of two drunken farts in the "Duck and Pullett" lurching over their table with cries of: "I'm fair motleyed out, I am!" then the sooner the Druids pack up and start taking up needlework the better.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Ever-decreasing circles

That nice Wendy, blaming Scarlet, has awarded me another copy of the award I got the other day off Savannah. Which mean that I have a Reality Award and bar, which is dead good and demonstrates once and for all that I'm not away with the fairies. Thank you. 

And now for the four questions. The good thing is that I'm now at an age where an already-tenuous grasp of reality combined with a failing memory will probably come up with entirely different answers...

1. If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I'd like the people I care about not to have to worry about health or money or anything.

2. If you could repeat any age which would it be?
I'd be tempted to go back to my early twenties and give myself a massive kick up the arse. Having said that, I suspect I'm a better person now for having been such a prat then.

3. What really scares you?

4. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be? 
A man in a shed on a warm summer's evening painting a rocking chair for the woman who's just given him a cup of tea.

I am now moved to pass the meme on to somebody who's blog has touched me lately. If you're reading this you're eligible. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Retail therapy

As part of the marketing of the Helminthdale Brand they've put together a video bid for a portion of the thirty shillings available from A Well Known Retail Genius (not Mrs. Pouncer) to revitalise the retail environment of the town.

Here are a few stills from the video.

a bright new shop unit
another bright new shop unit
doesn't this make you want to spend lots of money on brand new stuff?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Animated hormones

One of the papers this weekend ran yet another "Is Jessica Rabbit the sexiest cartoon character…" article, which is becoming almost a greater cliché than the Flintstones MILF debate. Wilma vs. Betty has become a tad tired but still goes a-rumbling on (if you need to know: Wilma, because I've got a thing about redheads). Even some twenty-somethings at work have this argument (outside Game of Thrones seasons). It's odd that we have these reactions to what are, after all, just drawings. One of my friends at school fell in love with the black lady in the Tom and Jerry cartoons because he reckoned she had a lovely singing voice and thick ankles.

I'm above this sort of nonsense, of course.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


a sloth In the scheme of things I've good a quite comfortable life: I have a job and food on the table; a house and a bed and a small warm woman; and generally speaking nobody's trying to kill me on a daily basis.

I have to remind myself of that. I feel massively burned-out at the moment. Work is work and barely worth the mention (if you're desperate to know: the workplace is utterly fucking stupid at the moment and shows no prospect of getting any better). There's only so much utter stupidity you can be exposed to on a daily basis without its starting to chip away at your self-confidence.

Not been a weekend for recharging batteries - quite a lot on this week and not much space for getting some kip and not worrying about the time.

We must be due a bank holiday soon...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

When was the last time you sang along to a PFI initiative?

It's a busy weekend. Customer-facing workers will be knackered.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Pipe and slippers and the missus and the nippers

I've just found myself standing on the doorstep shouting at The Cat I Do Not Have as she strolled down the path:

"Have you washed behind those ears? Be careful with the traffic, don't get yourself knocked down. And don't be late back in!"
A chap walking down the road glanced over at me and shook his head.
"They don't listen do they? Bloody kids."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Promises I make myself.

I will not do any posts about the Battlestar Lollipop.

I will not do any posts about the Battlestar Lollipop.

I will not do any posts about the Battlestar Lollipop.

Architect's drawing of staff lunch time break-out area

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ah nice...

That nice Savannah has given me a nice award:
  Reality Blog award
There is a catch: "the award comes with a small request and that is to answer the four questions listed and then to pass the award along to those bloggers who recently touched/moved/inspired YOU!"

1. If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I'd live near the sea with a decent cliff top walk nearby that allowed for a bit of decent seawatching.

2. If you could repeat any age which would it be?
I'd like the energy I had when I was about seven. And the world-weary cynicism that went with it.

3. What really scares you?
People. Seriously. En masse they terrify me. And when I think about the things they'll do "for the right thing" I get the screaming ad-dabs.

4. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?
If I were to tell you I would be in breach of the terms of my being bound over to keep the peace.

"so there it is. grab the pic and the questions and then nominate another blogger or bloggers who've recently touched you! i nominate the following and really do hope they'll particpate!"
Well now... not including Savannah's splendid selection (which you'll have to go and see for yourself), I'll nominate

  • Pat, who is always splendid;
  • dinahmow, who is fun down under;
  • Libby, who makes you think a bit quietly;
  • Pearl, who has more energy than is good for her;
  • Macy, who I hope is loved-up and full of chocolate at the moment;
  • zmkc, who makes me smile; and
  • Wendy, who makes me think harder than I should do sometimes.

And when Blogger stops being such a silly sod about opening comment boxes I'll let them know they've got an award from me.

Heavens. You *all* deserve the award!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In those days while half the world was pink

No power on Earth shall pull it down.

The gentler sex

Some of you may wonder what things are like the other side of the hills. Let this be a warning...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Damsons in distress

It's not been much of a Spring so far but, appendages crossed, it's at least not been all that wet. It's been cool and mostly dry-ish this past couple of weeks, which has brought out the bumblebees and the odd peacock butterfly. The damson tree, which had a shockingly bad year of it last year, is now completely awash with blossom, which I hopes bode well. The combination of bees, blossom and lack of torrential rain may result in a decent crop this Autumn.

As I wrote that last paragraph I noticed that there was a huge queen bumblebee in the kitchen. Typical. I go to the effort of putting three bumblebee nest boxes out in the garden, as yet unused, and the bloody things decide they fancy settling down under the fridge.