Thursday, 29 October 2015

Gentleman? Moi?

Country Life magazine has published a list of 39 characteristics which define a modern gentleman.  I’ve always wondered whether or not I'm one of those , so I printed it off and scored myself, using a three-way marking system – Yes’, ‘No', and ‘?’ (don’t know/ sometimes/ not applicable/can’t remember/not saying).
Here are my self-scores:
Yes: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8-10, 14-17, 21, 23-26, 28-30, 32-33, 36-38
No: 3, 18, 20, 22, 31, 34
?: 5, 7, 11, 12, 13, 19, 27, 35, 37
I left out 39, because it’s meaningless.
There are, of course, some qualifications, which you can have hours of harmless fun matching to the answers:
  • Except Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
  • I did once train a dog, not very well.  One’s gardener trains the roses, surely?
  • Tweed suit?  Only worn by cads, surely?
  • Nobody has yet died from eating one of my omelettes, as far as I know.
  • What, pray, is the distinction between an emoji, an emoticon and a sticker?  Insufficient information.
  • Rooks exist only in the plural, crows in the singular.  Or the other way round, I can never remember.
  • What does a gentleman wear on his feet in Puerto Rico then?  Oh, no, sorry…
  • I tend not to wear flowers, it’s not 1967 you know.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Constitutional Crisis? Bring it on!

I had a fantasy, many years ago, that I’d switch on the telly at six o’clock, the credits would roll, and Reginald Bosanquet would announce “Good evening, here is the News at Six.  There isn’t any.  Nothing of any importance has happened today.  Good evening.*”  And then we’d get a rerun of an old episode of The Good Life** instead.
I wish the same thing would happen to politics occasionally, or even frequently.  Politicians, quite naturally, see it as their role to change things.  After all, if nothing needed to be changed, they’d be out of a job: and the prime purpose of being a politician, as for any job, is to stay in it.
I’m not suggesting that there aren’t things that need changing – I could offer up quite a little list of legislation that could usefully be created or, even better, destroyed – but every so often, we could do with a rest.  I don’t know about you, but I struggle to keep up with what is or isn’t legal as it is, without a dozen or so new laws coming along every week. 
So I rather hope that the House of Lords will have another crack.  The politicians can then usefully get themselves bogged down in the aforementioned constitutional crisis, shrinking their already wilting bubble in on itself, while the rest of us can just get on with real life for a while.


*Come to think of it, Reggie may well have done that once, given his track record, but if so I missed it

** Preferably the one where Barbara forgets to put her bra on, but …

Monday, 26 October 2015

The Blue Car Moves

It’s a Citroen Xsara, quite elderly, with threadbare tyres and a scrape or two down the offside.  It had been parked nearly opposite my drive since May.  It usually didn’t cause me any actual inconvenience – I could reverse round it without having to make more than three points, even in the worst sloppy-parking configurations, of which there are many out there – but it irritated me.
So I checked it on the DVLA.  It was taxed to next April, but had no MoT.  So a few weeks ago I shopped it to the council.  Last week, an abandoned vehicle sticker was attached to the windscreen.  Ah, progress, I thought.  And sure enough, today progress has been made, though not quite the sort I’d anticipated.
I’d been down to pick up a prescription, and was passing the end of the Close when a voice hailed me.  I couldn’t make out the words, if there were any, but I saw the blue car stuck diagonally across the road.  A burly, bald man with a grey ponytail was waving madly at me.  He looked angry.  Normally, in such situations I avoid eye contact and hurry on, but this was personal.
This man was apoplectic.  By means of body language and smiley gestures, I managed to persuade him that his immediate predicament – car stuck across the road – wasn’t my personal fault, whereupon he gradually dissolved into tearful contrition.  He’d been in a bad place (I didn’t ask where), desperately wanted to save his car from getting towed away, was trying to move it until the spare part he needed arrived from Plymouth or somewhere, had got stuck, could I give him a push please?
Well, I didn’t believe a word of it, but what would you do?  I put my shoulder to it and together we manoeuvred the rusty old wreck into a less obtrusive location.  This took some of my managerial skills, especially when it transpired that the concepts of left and right lock were novel to him.  But we managed it.  He was embarrassingly grateful, and I had to tear myself away.  As I left, I heard him mutter something like:
“It was that cow down the end what reported it, wasn’t it?”
I thought it best not to correct him on this point.
If it’s still there this time next week, I’m going to report it as dumped.  Again.


Saturday, 24 October 2015

I'm really stupid!

Either that or someone else is.

I've just started using my iPhone as a camera.  I have a bunch of photos on there that I'd like to transfer to my computer, for obvious reasons. 

Can I work out how to do this?  No I can't.  Can anyone help?

Friday, 23 October 2015

Very flat? Not really.

Noel Coward was talking about Norfolk, of course, and I ended up spending most of my out-and-about time in Suffolk, which may or may not be more flat or less flat than Norfolk, I haven’t had time to do a full comparative cartographic survey, besides not possessing sufficiently detailed OS maps to build the necessary Plasticine relief models of the contours, nor the Plasticine …  Let’s just call it a draw then.

One thing I can say with confidence, though, is that the bit of Norfolk in which I was based is anything but flat – in the lemonade sense, that is.  Distinctly fizzy.  This is Z’s home, to which she had generously invited me for a few days, to help me scout out potential destinations should I eventually act on my long-standing inclination towards shifting myself elsewhere.

Chez Z, flat moments don’t prevail, or even arise.  Some of you will have been there and so already know this, but there’s nothing like a few days to bring out the details.  Without going into the details, we’re talking cats, chickens, tortoises, spiders, cats, cockerels, did I mention cats…?  Not to mention, of course, Z’s own delightful company – thank you, darling!

Under her guidance, I visited quite a few possible targets for if I do eventually boot myself up and home in on East Anglia.  In fact, I’d be spoilt for choice; every single town has its own plethora of delights and attractions.  (Well, I am comparing them to Reading, to be fair.)  It may be just proximity, and therefore greater familiarity, but Yagnub seemed to tick a lot of boxes.  

(Though this exhibit in a charity shop window did give me a moment’s pause for thought.)

Still, one thing there’s no shortage of in Norfolk, or Suffolk, is horizons. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Caravan end of term, yet again

I've been down to lovely Pembrokeshire, to my lovely caravan at lovely Wiseman's Bridge, my lovely childhood memory site, quite a few times this year.  Every time, whatever the reason or excuse for the visit, I think 'why do I keep coming back here?'  I have no idea.  Logic, common sense and economic calculation all say 'why bother?'  Yet, every time I drive down the hill, past the pub, along the seafront, up the other hill and round between the two white houses and up, again, to the Lower Field, and across the grass to the caravan, it still feels like a homecoming.

I've sometimes talked about the quiet stillness (although that neglects one of Pembrokeshire's major industries, which is strimming), the views of the sea and the headland, the chums who will gladly share a jar and a gossip, even the rabbits and the pheasants and the wagtails - but that's not it.  I was chatting to a friend to whom I'd lent the caravan for a week back in August, and he talked mostly about his five year old daughter - her delight in discovering rockpools, shrimps, seaweed, low tide corrugated sand - and I suppose that's it.  I keep going back to my childhood.

Here's a picture of the caravan.

And the view.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

I dreamt this

"Don't forget or remember too much."

I think I was channelling Samuel Beckett, or vice versa.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Compost for brains

Monday morning, eight fifteen.  As usual, I leave the house to stroll down to the paper shop.  As soon as I open the door, I notice something very strange.  For about twelve years, I’ve had two stone (well, cast concrete actually) planters outside the door, one on each side.  Originally they contained dwarf holly trees, but those died and were replaced a couple of years ago with standard box.  I never liked them all that much, to be honest, but I’d rather they hadn’t been stolen.

It’s quite extraordinary, isn’t it?  Someone has taken the trouble to steal into my garden, presumably in the wee small hours, and silently spirit away these seriously heavy chunks of slightly kitschy garden d├ęcor – to what end?  The whole lot can’t have come to more than £200 at cost, and they’re not going to get more than half of that, even if they manage to find a buyer.  It must have taken two, possibly three, strong sub-humans to do the carrying, plus a vehicle and a look-out, and would have taken probably twenty or thirty  minutes.  That’s a top end, high risk return of about thirty quid each, less expenses.  Doesn’t sound like a good earner to me.

I’m not going to replace them, of course.  Or rather, perhaps I will, with a couple of really cheap, naff plastic items from B&Q, artificial shrubs, and leave a note underneath saying ‘Thank you so much for relieving me of that crap; could you please take some of the rubbish plants in the garden too?’  But that’d be a waste of an ironic semi-colon, wouldn’t it?


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Triumph or Disaster?

I'm not sure what this little ivy plant is hoping for, but there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The Lodger

No, not the 1927 Hitchcock film (which I haven’t seen), or the many remakes (one of which I think I might have seen), nor even the original novel by, it says on t’internet, Mrs. Belloc Lowndes (which I’d guess nobody alive today has read).  No, this is the real thing.

My friend called me last week in desperation.  Could I put up her son for a while?  He’d been thrown out on the street at zero notice, and had nowhere, but nowhere, to stay.  I’m obviously not going into the background to how this came about, except to say that it was the fault of a very nasty person.

I’m almost ashamed to say that I hummed and hawed for a good five minutes before replying ‘yes, of course.’  There had to be negotiations about timescales, because my existing commitments meant there was a three day gap which he would have to fill in as best he could (which he managed); but I ended up welcoming him (on a strictly time-limited basis, three weeks-ish) last Tuesday.

Well, it’s working out quite well!  It’s early days, but we’ve laid down some ground rules, which are evolving and will be conformed to: the main one being that I’m In Charge around here.  Fortunately, we get on pretty well, and he’s a nice, sensible man who is, if anything, over-solicitous.  Let’s see how it goes.  I’ve made it clear that I need to know that he’s actively seeking alternatives, and I’m sure that’s happening.

He’s just got back from the pub as I write…!  He has a cold, apparently, so I’ve told him not to get too close…!