Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas Card Audit 2015

I was going to blog about my post-it stickers, which read ‘claret’, ‘crisp horse beans’ and ‘eels’, but this is much more interesting, isn’t it?  Isn’t it?

Executive Summary:

Note: An audit was not carried out for 2014, for reasons of indolence.  Comparisons are therefore with the 2013 figures.

The most significant trends this year have been:
·         The Animals and Birds count has recovered encouragingly.  Indeed, I have thought it worthwhile to give a full breakdown of this category.  Robins remain consistent at 1.
·         Cute Children have, thankfully, been eliminated.
·         I have retained the category ‘Santas/Reindeer’, although there is only one card depicting a sleigh being pulled by reindeer, and Santa is not visible in this.  Indeed, there are no Santas at all!  What does this mean?  There are, however, several free-range reindeer, which are included in Animals’Birds.
·         Glued-on glitter is everywhere

The full figures (2013’s, where applicable, in brackets):

Snow/Snowmen/Snowflakes:               2 (6)
Santas/Reindeer:                                  1 (4)
Animals/Birds:                                     13 (4)
of which
Robins:                                     1 (1)
Free-range reindeer:                 4
Baby deer:                               3
Horses:                                     1
Dogs:                                       1
Ducks:                                     1
Owls:                                       1
Hedgehogs:                              1         
Landscapes:                                         4 (7)
Boats:                                                  1 (0)*
Nativities/Wise Men/Angels:                6 (4)
Christmas trees/Baubles:                      6 (5)
Comical:                                              2 (1)
Puddings:                                             0 (0)
Cute Children                                      0 (4)
Totally Abstract:                                  3 (0)
*To be fair, an RNLI card.

Special categories:

Homemade/designed:                          4 (4)
Cards with glued-on glitter:                  12 (3)
Ecards:                                                 0 (1)
Wonderfully weird:                             0 (3)

The Card of the Year award this year goes to my niece Georgie for a bauble card constructed from old buttons.  I haven’t illustrated it because it only really works in 3-D. 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Head-, Hands- and Heart-first

They say changing residence, changing relationship and changing occupation are three of the most stressful events one can undertake in one’s life, and should be kept apart, entered into with caution, etcetera etcetera.  We say: how do they know?  Have they tried it?  Where’s the experimental evidence?

So, in the interests of science, 2016 is going to be the year in which I’m going to put this theory to the test by doing all three.  It’s not going to be a very meaningful experiment, mind you, because we already know the outcome and will not permit anything to get in its way.

A Happy and Adventurous New Year to you all.



Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The best service I've ever had*

11.30 last night: noticed that the cistern in the downstairs loo was overflowing.  The overflow pipe was leaking, which is how I spotted it.  Took emergency precautions and went to bed.
9.00 a.m.: called Homecare.  They answered after one ring.  Booked an 'all day' callout (i.e. by 6.00 p.m.) for today.
9.05: Matt the plumber phoned.  He'll be with me in 10 minutes.
9.10: Matt rings the doorbell.
9.40: Matt leaves.  Problem fixed.

* Now now, keep it clean...

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Don’t Do Don’t

I was toying with doing one of those reviews of the year, but Facebook has beaten me to it, by selecting pictures I wisely posted there – a moth (or butterfly; there was a heated debate); a snail traversing a hose; a frog; some dead tomatoes; a book; some orioning (that’s too good a typo to correct, innit); a spider's web; did I mention a book?

So instead, as a lesson and a resolution, I’ll just stick with the post title.  To put it another way, ‘do do do’.  (As Frank Sinatra almost said.)

Happy Festives everybody.

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Blog of Proverbs

I dug out my Bible and had a look, and some of them are almost comprehensible, and may even be wise.  I rather liked 26: 16, ‘The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason’, though please don’t ask me to explain why.  (Something to do with Z’s policy of short bursts of efficiency enabling long stretches of laziness, maybe?)

But few if any biblical proverbs, at least from the Book of them, have made it through to everyday usage, so I’m going to deconstruct a couple of non-biblical ones that have.  They have two things in common: in deference to the season, they’re both culinary; and, as metaphors, they’re both crap.

Firstly: “You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.”  This is used to justify harming, or sometimes killing, other humans in the interests of a greater objective.  In other words, the end justifies the means.  But whereas most of us will agree on what an omelette is, and that it’s a good thing, the argument from the particular to the general never works.  If I said, for example, “You can’t construct smartphones without starving people in China”, I doubt I’d get much support.  (Except from smartphone makers who starve people in China, of course.)  And eggs aren’t human beings.

Secondly: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”  In other words, “trust me and don’t interfere.” Now broth, or stock as I tend to call it (in Italian, it’s ‘brodo’) is very easy to make, as any cook kno.  You bung your ingredients (e.g. chicken carcass, vegetables, etc.) into a pan, add water, bring to the boil and immediately reduce to a near-simmer, and then leave it alone for hours.  The key to not spoiling it is not to touch it.  It doesn’t matter how many cooks don’t touch the broth.  If they do, then by definition they’re not cooks.

“Too many cooks spoil the omelette”, now that I could go along with.  But it doesn’t work very well as a proverb, does it?  Or as a metaphor.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015


Isn’t it wonderful stuff?  It was invented as a by-product of the early space missions, supposedly, along with non-stick frying pans and computers that sometimes work …  And Principia is without doubt going to yield comparable benefits, in healthcare, metallurgy, nutrition and other areas that will probably slip in through the side door unnoticed and unpredicted, just like Velcro did back then.

And it’s also yielded a rather splendid metaphor.  Each of the two sides of a Velcro connection exists in its own right – they’re different and self-contained.  Yet they are incomplete until they join together and seal the gap.  A bit like two humans.  Z and me, in this case.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Dead giveaway?

Business minister Nick Boles is quoted, in connection with the Spurts Direct sweatshop scandal, as saying "In general, I don't often welcome an investigation by the Guardian newspaper, but ..."

Why not, exactly?

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Words on Words on Words

We were talking, as we seem to, about language.  Zee wondered why hair is singular, though there are lots of them.  This isn’t the case in other languages, like French, where they quite cheerfully say ‘I washed my cheveux’.  If you say that in English, it sounds a bit risqué.  I pointed out that there is a number of these sorts of confusion.

On my way back here through the drizzle and tyre spray, I reflected that I used to wonder whether I was the only one who did that.  Now I know I’m not.  There are at least two of us.  And there is a pair.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Book Wot I Wrote

That’s ‘Dave Anthony’s Moods: This Obscure Group’, just in case you were wondering.  Also just in case you’re still wondering, here’s the back cover blurb:

In the summer of 1965, Dave Anthony’s Moods, an eight-piece band from the musical cauldron of Bournemouth, were confidently poised to take over the world of jazzy, brassy, bluesy, popular music and rule supreme. 

No such luck.  Four years later, they were a backing group for a second-rate Italian pop singer and the band fell painfully apart. Nobody but a few dedicated fans remembers them today.

This is the story of how that fiery ambition arose and how it developed and mutated - and how it descended in fits and starts into final failure. Dam is Tim Large's account of an amazing journey of peaks and troughs, hilarity and boredom, triumph and occasional tragedy, all seen through his inspired, time-distorted prism. He saw it all, from before the beginning until after the very end.

This is his version and he's sticking to it.

Anyway, it’s now written, published and available!  An ideal stocking filler, except that even if you order it today, you’re unlikely to get it for Christmas, for reasons I shall now explain.

It’s available on Amazon (just search for ‘Dave Anthony’s Moods’ and you’ll find it), but they print self-published books to order rather than laying in a stock, so there’s a lead time.  As I write, I’ve no idea exactly how long this is (they say ‘a few days’, but only experience will tell).  So if you do order it from them, you’re a pioneer at this point in time.

Alternatively, you can order from the publisher, YouCaxton, who have done a brilliant job for me.  Here’s the web page they created for me:  I suspect the lead time will be a bit longer than Amazon’s, though.  And the cost is the same.

Finally, I have a small stock myself, which I’m happy in principle to let you into.  It’ll be cheaper, because I don’t have to pay the retailers’ mark-up, but I can’t handle significant mailings, so this is really mainly for local custom.  If you’d like to explore this option further, please do contact me directly.

I’m new to this game, so it’s all experimental at the moment.  Of course, I fully expect it to go viral and the proceeds to enable me to retire – oh, no, I’ve already done that, haven’t I?  Seriously, it’s been a labour of love, and I just want to share it. 


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Chacun à son

I’d had a mild version of something similar a few weeks ago, and put it down to an unnoticed collision or whatever, so I was a bit surprised to wake up last Monday morning with the area of my big toe, left foot, sending me signals.  Ah well, I thought, it’ll go away.
By Wednesday morning, it hadn’t.  Instead it had developed in size (cherry tomato), colour (ditto) and, of course, pain.  I realised I’d spent much of the night half-consciously finding sleeping positions that avoided any contact with the bedclothes, which had taken on the texture of over-zealous emery paper.  Uh-oh, I thought, and went to NHS Choices in search of something beginning with ‘G’.
Now the good news (to adapt a Bob Monkhouse punchline) is that I’m not a hypochondriac.  So I was ready for what I found.  It seemed that they had snuck unnoticed into my house, taken a hi-res photo of my foot, and published it.  And I could have written the list of symptoms myself.  So I have gout. 
Interestingly, it can apparently be caused, or exacerbated, by over-consumption of beer, fortified wines (including, yes, port) and neat spirits – none of which I indulge in to any extent – but not wine.  It didn’t say how much wine didn’t cause it, though.
It’s gone away now, just like doctor internet said it would.  There’s no point in my going to my GP and saying I think I had gout last week, is there?  They’ll just tell me to come back when it does.  Then there’ll be yet another pill to add to my collection.  Meanwhile I have an old Flanders and Swann number worming away in my ear, to compete with the Rodgers and Hammersteins left over from yesterday evening.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


Frances, in her heartfelt post here, alludes to an essay she was made to write on this topic.  I doubt it was preserved, so I’m taking the liberty of writing my own version.
For a start, whoever said it was ‘golden’ (The Tremoloes, was it?) needs to be sent back to school for an English lesson.  Or what was called, when I did O levels, ‘Use of English’.  (Now there’s a subject ripe for revival, Ms Morgan, are you listening?)  If you had to come up with an adjective to qualify silence, is that really the best available? 
Of course, it wasn’t ever meant to be descriptive, was it?  It was designed as a control mechanism.  Children would have been processed into believing that gold equates to reward, therefore be silent and you might be rewarded – probably by not being punished. 
Next: there’s no such thing.  (I mean no disrespect to profoundly deaf people in saying this – some of you are musicians, aren’t you?)  Try and find it; I might have done so about twice in my life, and it shocked me, until I realised that there was a lot of noise still going on: my heart, my breath, even my bloodstream.
Third and last: it’s sometimes used as a verb.  To silence.  If I were into control mechanisms, this would be near the top of my toolkit.  As I’m not, it’s near the top of my ‘misuse of English’ kit.
If it has a colour, it’s black.