Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Did you know that 100% of your calls last month were successfully completed?

That’s an extract from a text I received today from my beloved mobile phone provider, who are also, they inform me, consistently voted the best mobile phone provider in the universe, exactly by whom or how is less than lucidly clear.

Anyway, the above quote intrigued me purely from a semantic point of view.  To take the easy bit first, what do they mean by successfully?  Assuming they’re not actually listening in, it’s more than possible – nay, it’s probable – that my attempt to contact the right department at the local council to ask them why they hadn’t swept the leaves from their trees from the pavement outside my house, even though it’s December and the rotting leaves are a pedestrian skid hazard, was entirely unsuccessful.  But they clearly assume that the mere fact that the call had a beginning and an end – the latter not caused by them – equates to success.  They obviously don’t include the ones that didn’t even start because there was no signal.

More substantially, 100% of what?  100 is a very big number, so I could be tempted to imagine that I’d made a lot of calls, all of which were ‘successful’.  Actually, there were probably five.  100% of five is still five.

And finally, why are they so needy?  This message had zero value to me – it was entirely and only about them and how wonderful they find themselves.  Why do they need to tell me so?  I’ve met blokes at parties who do that, and I tend to nod, smile and after five minutes look over their shoulder and catch someone else’s eye.  Is that what whodavone (for it is they) want me to do?

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

“They can talk too, but they won’t.” *

Hello, remember me?  My blogging mojo has been on strike for a while now, but I’ve resolved to resuscitate this dying art – in fact, I’ve so resolved many times over recent months, but I’ve always been stalled by the lack of anything to actually write about.  Unlike more prolifically creative bloggers, I find it hard to just start writing without a topic, or a story, or both.  But this evening both landed in my lap.  I said to Z: “You should blog about that.”  She said: “No, you should.”  So here goes.

If you’ve visited the Zeddary, you may recall that between the dining room and the hall there’s a window.  It was actually part of the original Tudor fabric of the house, formerly an external window up in the roof space somewhere, which had been bricked up for many years.  It had been reinstalled where it is now, years ago, as part of a major extension/refurbishment.  It serves no particular function, apart from being beautiful and entertaining the cat.

Eloise Cat loves ducking through this internal window, flaunting her prowess at avoiding any delicate objects that might be stood on the sill.  Usually this isn’t a problem, but a while ago we put up a pair of heavy curtains on the hall side, to prevent her doing this when we were away and triggering the burglar alarm.  They’d been left closed last time, though they didn’t need to be.

This evening, as we were eating our dinner, Eloise Cat decided to investigate the corner cupboard where the best glasses and crockery are kept.  The door was open a crack, but she obviously couldn’t get in there.  But she was amusing herself, and us, by trying.

I remarked that we should open those curtains.  “She used to love going through there, and now she can’t.”

Eloise Cat turned away from the corner cupboard and looked at me.  “You reckon?” she said.

*A quote from Clive James, originally about dingos.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Caravan is having an early snooze

It usually gets put into hibernation in October: the site is officially closed from the end of October until Easter, although Joseph has been known to mutter, in a diplomatically deniable choice of words, that were someone to turn up during the officially closed season, ‘I probably wouldn’t notice’.  About ten years ago, his mother celebrated her ninetieth, in the January, and the site was apparently packed out.  (I wouldn’t know for sure – we weren’t invited.  Sniff sniff.)

This year, for reasons too complicated to go into here, the shutdown had to happen last week.  But for other reasons, equally complicated and even more boring to relate (think plumbing), it couldn’t completely get done, so I’m relying on Joseph to complete the job – and then, of course, reinstate everything in the spring.  I’ll probably phone him sometime before the first frost, just to pre-empt my anxiety – an unworthy thought, but which comes first: his promise or my anxiety?  I know my answer; and of course I’ll do it very diplomatically.
So that’s Pembrokeshire taken care of for yet another year.  Long term followers of this blog might recall that I’ve been going there since about 1949, so can claim to be an older inhabitant than many people who were born there.  But it wasn’t until relatively recently that I really got to know the county.  When our parents took us to Saundersfoot and Wisemans Bridge for those family holidays, it was all about the beaches of south Pembrokeshire – Barafundle, Broadhaven, Marloes and the others.  The west and north coasts were largely foreign lands.
So it was a surprise when I finally began to discover those parts, about twenty-five years ago.  They’re very different.  A bit more rugged, wilder, perhaps a bit more dangerous.  I remember randomly driving down a ridiculously narrow winding tree-lined road to emerge at a dizzy view of the Irish Sea; and equally randomly down another to fetch up in Porthgain.
If you ever go to Pembrokeshire and don’t visit Porthgain, you have missed something unique.  Is it possible to be unique in many different ways?  If so, this place achieves it.  I’d taken Z there a couple of times before, but we managed this time to climb up the steps at the end of the quay and wander across the cliff path, past the intriguing brick built industrial ruins and the disused slate and granite quarries, almost as far as the great low tide beach at Traith Lyffn, (about which I’ve blogged here before).  We didn’t go down the steps.

Friday, 31 August 2018


Although ever fewer.

We’d run out of bread (how?), so Z suggested muesli instead of toast.  I haven’t eaten muesli for about twenty years, so I was clearly happy to try a drastic swerve away from habit.  It was delicious.
About a third of the way through, I thought ‘that isn’t a nut’.
It was a tooth – or to be more exact, a metal cap that had, many years ago, been glued onto what had remained of a tooth after the dentist had filed it down to a thin but firmly rooted spike.
Unfortunately, whereas usually if a cap comes off the peg is still in place and so the cap can just be simply glued back on again, in this case the peg had snapped off too.  I knew instantly that nothing could be done, so of course I phoned the dentist to book an urgent appointment to confirm that.  They offered me 11.15.  Z kindly drove me to Norwich, on the grounds that a) if something unlikely could in fact be done, it might involve anaesthesia or sedation or anything that might render me incapable of driving and so entailing inordinate complexity and expense, and b) parking’s really difficult around there.
Andre, our brilliant expensive dentist, confirmed my self-diagnosis – nothing can be done – but filed off a little rough bit anyway.  No charge!  But it was a wake-up call, or a heads-up, or a JFDI.  I’ve been procrastinating for nearly two years now, mainly with the excuse that, hey, I won’t be able to chew on that side, will I? – but now I can’t anyway.  So starting next month, I’ll be getting two whole decks of new teeth, or more efficient and durable equivalents.  I’m not sure whether I want to distress you with the details of this ‘procedure’ (as medical people tend to euphemise major invasive surgery), but I don’t see why I should be the only one to suffer, so here goes.
Firstly, the remnants of the old teeth are pulled out, and holes are drilled into the jawbones.  Threaded implants are then inserted into these holes, and the whole thing is left for three months to settle down.  If that all goes well (I haven’t conducted a risk assessment, yet), pegs are screwed into the implants, synthetic teeth are glued onto these pegs, and after another settle-down period chomping can recommence.  What could possibly go wrong?
Well, given the cost of a decent small family car, I hope the answer is ‘nothing’.  But I’m going to check out any relevant insurance cover.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018


Z showed me an advert, disguised as a news story, about an American, um, thing that claims, for financial or fiscal reasons, to be a caravan but is in fact an incredibly badly designed almost uninhabitable shack.  Sleeps six.  She’ll provide a link to the details if you persuade her to.

My caravan is four feet wider than the American thing.  It also comes with the benefit of Joseph.
I was awoken at 1.33 am precisely by a roaring noise.  Usually that signifies stormy weather, but I knew that wasn’t the case.  So I forced the pace and got out of bed.  The noise seemed to be coming from the bathroom, but when I went in there it seemed not to be.  ‘Ah ha,’ I thought.

Of course, it was outside plumbing, yet again.  I turned off the mains supply tap and went back to bed, thinking dark thoughts that can’t and won’t be retailed here.  ‘Enough’ was the softest.

Next morning, I managed to bump into Joseph.  Once he’d finished his complicated conversation with Brian, he came over in his Lan Rover and fixed the problem in minutes, once he’d found the necessary parts.  I can’t explain the process in detail, because that would require me to imagine lying flat on my back in a brambly ditch underneath a caravan, doing fiddly things with plumbing.  All I can say is: he’s a hero, and worth every penny of the £(fillinyourownnumber) rent I pay him.
In other news, we went to Carew (pronounced, I still firmly believe having been so taught by my mother in 1952, Carey) Castle, which is about as good as ruined castles can get.  And then to the Creselly Arms, a very basic pub on the beautiful Cresswell estuary that used to sell just local beer but has recently moved upmarket by offering cheese and pickle rolls too.

Thursday, 19 July 2018

The New Highway Code

Test your knowledge with these six easy questions:

1.     A stationary vehicle has both its indicators flashing.  What does this signify?

2.     When should you signal to indicate a turn?

3.     When should you NOT signal to indicate a turn?

4.     What is the rural speed limit for motorbikes?

5.     On a dual carriageway, when should you pull in from the overtaking lane?

6.     On a smart motorway, what does the sign ‘QUEUE – CAUTION’ mean?


1.     The vehicle is illegally parked.

2.     When you have begun to make the turn.

3.     When there is a vehicle waiting to emerge from the road you intend to turn into.

4.     Whatever the speedometer goes up to.

5.     Generally, when there has been no vehicle to overtake for half a mile; however, you should pull in when a) there is a car’s length gap between two lorries which you can enter in order to immediately pull out again, or b) you are undertaking.

6.     A queue has been caused by the sign being switched on.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Fish Supper

Z was going to be out for the earlier part of the evening, so it fell to me to cook.  Paul the Fish calls on Monday mornings; we usually have a debate about what’s best today, what do we fancy and so forth.  This often becomes the ‘you choose’ ‘no, you choose’ dialogue, where Paul ends up as the adjudicator; but in this case it was obviously entirely down to me, so I just went random and said ‘hake’.

We had a batch of leftover cherry tomatoes, so I invented a recipe that Z told me I should write down, as I could be the next Nigel Slater (who specialises in making a lot* out of whatever’s available).  So here it is.
All the chopping is best done in an electric grinder/chopper.
Finely chop a fat clove of garlic and put it in a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Let it just turn light brown over a medium heat.
Meanwhile, smash up about 20 cherry tomatoes (no need to skin them; if using bigger ones, you might choose to) and add them to the pan.  Add a small glass of dry vermouth (or whatever white wine you have to hand; vermouth is best though).  Season with salt and plenty of pepper.
Cook for about 20 minutes until fairly concentrated but still liquid.  Halfway through, finely chop a small bunch of basil leaves and add them to the sauce.
Cut the hake fillets (any firm fish will do; monkfish or turbot would be great) into large chunks and add them to the pan.  Stir gently to coat the fish, cover and simmer until the fish is just cooked through.  It was about 5 minutes for the hake.
If the sauce seems a bit wet (the fish will have added some liquid), remove the fish and boil hard for a minute or two.
We served it with the season’s first marsh samphire (not local yet, from France, but tres bon).

 *Including money