Wednesday 30 May 2007

Holidays - and children...

When our girls were very little, we would, like most families, try and go on holiday in the summer.

Once, we started the holiday a bit before the end of term (this is going back a bit, before education bureaucrats became the harbingers of authority, knowing what they ‘do’ – bugger me, they’re really clever these people aren’t they!), and we got away earlier with a letter to their Headmaster, saying the girls would record in a diary, all the days they had away from school, and draw pictures etc. He liked that, and so we wrote the ‘Holiday diary’, with grave importance. It was read out to the class when they got back.

We still have all these diaries; some are really battered and show stains ranging from egg and orange juice in the earlier ones, down (or up) to red wine, beer and Calvados, in the later years.

I love these precious books.

We always laughed, each year, when I bought a new notebook to write down all the things that would make me, and hopefully the others, happy, and bring something to enjoy when we were much older. I usually filled in the days, filling in the pages with gibberish and sometimes ‘pissed talk’, but there are also so many paragraphs and hand drawn pictures, written by our two girls, and Mrs S herself!

These records of all we did when we were younger, more carefree, more responsible, and easier to talk with, are still carefully stored – and often looked at when we can’t agree where we saw etc etc...

And they are treasures.

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Reading gravestones.

While walking small dog around the church yard early one morning, I found myself reading a gravestone of an eminent gentleman, who is mentioned in all our local history books.

As it was early morning, the sun didn't pick out the words well, as it was shining directly on the stone. So, I'm going to have to wait until just before midday, when the carved letters are in 'relief', and, with a little shadow, I'll be able to read everything.

It's only just occurred to me that this phenomenom must apply to every gravestone in the country, as all churches are built east/west, and burials were made with the headstones facing east. The vicars were faced the other way, as if facing their flocks.

The dog didn't take much notice though, as she can't read!

Friday 25 May 2007

In sickness and in time...

I’ve just seen an item on the BBC’s evening news, about pregnant women being advised not to drink.

So here we go with more of the usual mind-boggling and confusing ‘guidance’. I think any news about the NHS actually doing something ‘positive’, by being mentioned on the news, several times a week, doing ‘research’, or ‘learning lessons’, is a huge astroturfing exercise. The constant drip-drip of ‘news’ items deflects criticism of the current disregard for sick patients who actually hope a doctor will see them, and they can get better. We have to visit a District Nurse with Mrs S’s Mum on Bank holiday Monday, because the local surgery is closed for three days!

By the way, Mrs S. actually didn’t touch a drop when she was having our two girls, mainly because she just couldn’t stand the taste during pregnancy! This was an unusual situation for me to appreciate for some time, but I learnt eventually! I made up for the deficiency of course, and there is still a smouldering, doubtful understanding of the foibles of the rugby club while making sure I turned up at the hospital…

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Talking to plants

Hatfield Girl has given me an idea, which I'm going to post right away, before I have time to forget it!

She is going to photograph her plants and vegetables and hopefully post the results.

The first joke I ever remember about getting close to nature, was a Rowan Atkinson and Pamela Stevenson sketch: -

Rowan - (leaning out of a window and bellowing) 'Why don't you just grow up, you bastards'!

Pamela - 'What's wrong dear'?

Rowan - (normal voice) 'Oh, nothing... just talking to the plants'!

Ho Ho Ho...

What on earth can you say to a tomato eh? How do you sing to a lettuce? What does a radish know about life on Mars?

Monday 21 May 2007

Sad old git...

I really am becoming a sad old git.

No, I really mean it!

Today, I caught a train after 9.00am, as it saves my old firm money, and, by then, I’ve already done a couple of hours work at home, (which we all do in our incredibly successful enterprise - I wish...).

Now, I’m with the majority of normal people, that hates other people eating crisps with their mouths open, gabbling into mobiles incessantly (I do make the odd call, but I promise, I speak softly), shouting stupid rock-ape statements to their mates etc. We’ve all had to put up with this.

But today, I discovered a new disturbance - or even unpleasantness. For years, Southern Rail, (or whatever they call themselves now), had those awful trains, which used to leak water/draft/smell, and, at long last, they’ve replaced them with some quite nice new carriages. The usual yobs have stuck chewing gum in awkward places, and scratched names (those who can write that is), on some windows, but generally, things are nicer now, and the trip is reasonably pleasant.

But today, I became unreasonably pissed off by the most ridiculous action even I could dream up!

A lad got on the train at the station after me. I was sitting in one of the pairs of seats, which are built like those in buses; i.e. all point forward, and you don’t need to sit opposite a gorgeous blonde (help...), or a Stella drinking crisp crunching oaf.

The lad chose a seat to my left, on the other side of the central reservation.


But he sat sideways, so he was facing me all the time!

Now, to those who know me, I only get cross when provoked beyond 32 alcoholic units, but this journey was uncomfortable, irritating, mildly paranoid, and, to be frank, I wanted to yell at him to sit straight and behave.

The lad carefully bought his ticket from the guard, he didn’t talk on his mobile phone, he sometimes even turned round in his seat the proper way! Then turned round and sat facing me…sideways again! I became incandescent and began early palpitations - well slight twinges from the gussett...

When we got off at London Bridge, the lad was also getting off there, and I began to fume again, expecting a charge in front of me. As we queued to get to the doors, he incredibly politely, smilingly indicated for me to get off before him.

Oh bugger, I am getting so old…

Friday 18 May 2007

Sensible idea...

This must be the innovation of the century!

Where can you buy these things?

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Veg Wars.

What with Mr D.C.Warmington’s discussion regarding the pain inflicted on vegetables when they are picked – one correspondent even referred to the ‘Silence of the lettuce’ - and our own situation with considering growing cucumbers and courgettes from hanging baskets, (a practice Mrs S has strongly forbidden), I have been devastated to see Mutley’s picture of his salsify from last November.

This is a superb vegetable. Mutley did splendidly, as it is very difficult to grow well. The soil has to be in perfect un-manured condition, before the little blighters care to germinate in their own time and grow in a straight line both vertically, and horizontally!

The most horrific element of eating salsify, is that however tenderly it is pulled from the soil, it ‘bleeds’, and immediately turns black! I have seen wizened gardeners weep deluges of tears as their treasured crops become readers of The Sun, and ‘phew’ everywhere!

So now we have ‘The Great Lettuce Carnage’, ‘Potato Slaughter on 10th allotment’, and now ‘Salsify Massacre – a suitable case for treatment’.

Sunday 13 May 2007

Walkies - try scorer...

Mrs S and I have just returned from an afternoon walk (drag uphill thank goodness), with new dog.

Our route took us through some fantastic woodland and then we decided to traverse the local playing fields.

At one important stage, I realised that when I was a true sports hero, I could run most of the length of a rugby pitch without too much discomfort. Indeed, against Dover one year, (first match of the season), I was forced into having to run from my own 25 yd line and score. This was an oversight in my training programme, as I was not normally meant to do such things at this time of year.

Today, as the dog took a small rest at a spot roughly at the same position that I had to commence my immortal try-scoring run, the posts at the other end seemed so small, that my glasses misted up with the memory, and I had to lean on Mrs S for comfort.

Do distances cheat us when we get towards late middle age?

Or was I just a fitter and more eager man then?

Saturday 12 May 2007

Looking up...

Tuscan Tony's engineer brother mentioned that the best way to see London is to look up, as the facades on the streets will change, but the upper storeys will stay roughly the same as they were when they were built.

I agree with that!

At the risk of sounding like Prince Charles, many of the buildings put up since the nineteen-twenties, lack the care, style and detail of their predecessors.

I reckon that the architects of some of the monstrosities designed in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, (the most underdemolished period in commercial design), should be made to pay for their removal, and never allowed near a building site again. Luckily, they don't get away with that sort of thing any more.

However, I still have palpitations in the gussett region, when I recall looking up seeing chaps casually sitting on the parapets in Regent St, when I (with millions of others), cheered the World Cup Rugby team's bus tour!

Friday 11 May 2007

New word needed

I am struggling to answer this question!

Is there a single verb to describe the actions of someone walking along a pavement in London, or any other city for that matter, when that person casually/frantically retrieves a mobile phone from a part of their body or clothing; stares at it enigmatically, often purses the lips, then puts it back from whence it was retrieved.

There is never a sound from either the machine or it’s owner.

The action spells despair, hope for unrequited love, position in a hierarchy, peer gropu pressure, insecurity in their society…

I wish I knew, as the word hasn’t been invented yet.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

International disaster

Elektro Kevin quite rightly asserts his wisdom here: -

‘Have you ever considered posting some porn, Scrobs ?

What is so sad, is that when I put this post on, it was the most important thing I'd read up to then! As it was a bank holiday, all routine went out the window, and by midday, a cooling glass of white was at my elbow in no time at all.

Mrs S had the paper first; I was reading a book of old local photographs (I know the author well) and was contemplating a refill. After several of these, I had to make some sort of comment and interrupted Mrs S, which can on occasions, cause a battle royal.

The shop window comment became more and more of an impending disaster and blossomed into a national tragedy. All other news paled into insignificance! It even started raining!

After lunch, the inevitable happened; the item was copied carefully into the correct box. (typing with one eye of course). The news just had to be relayed to the one person whom I knew would read it and respond with passion.

And he did, bless…

Monday 7 May 2007

Village life

In an excellent, recently published book of old photographs and comments on life long ago in our village, there is one description which stands out from all the rest.

The author, a well respected shop owner and friend, mentioned that: -

'There are a number of villages in the vicinity that have no shops at all. Closed shops converted to residential use are frequently required by planning legislation to retain their plate glass display windows.

The reason for this token to a shop-like facade is only known to the authorities, but there is a loss of heat and privacy for the occupants and the practice clearly highlights a village in decline'

Give that man a Knighthood! He understands everything our failed politicians want to disregard.

Sunday 6 May 2007

My three kids

The awful story coming from Portugal, and of course, the continuing sad news from Afghanistan and Iraq, keeps bringing me back to an article and a poem entitled My Three Kids, by Lieut. Robert Stewart Smylie, which I read in the Daily Telegraph recently.

I’ve lost the cutting, but the original can be found on the Imperial War Museum’s site, and the article with it.

Here’s the poem.

I am writing this tonight, My three kids
By a little candle-light, My three kids
And the candlestick’s a tin
With some dry tobacco in
And so that’s how I begin, To three kids

Now I wonder what you’re at, My three kids
Moll and Bids and little Pat, My three kids
Why of course there’s two asleep
But perhaps Moll’s thinking deep
Watching little starts that peep, At my kids

Since I left you long ago, My three kids
There’s a lot you’d like to know, My three kids
That has happened to your dad
In the varied luck he’s had
In adventures good and bad, My three kids

I have soldiered in a trench, My three kids
Serving under Marshall French, My three kids
Once a shell dropped with a thud
Quite close, covered me with mud
And its lucky ‘twas a dud, For my kids

And I’ve crossed the ground outside, My three kids
It’s at night that’s chiefly tried, My three kids
And the bullets sang all round
Overhead, or struck the ground
But your daddy none has found, No my kids

I have mapped our trenches new, My three kids
And some German trenches too, My three kids
I have sprinted past a wood
Counting steps, for so I could
Judge the distance, as I should, My three kids

I have placed our snipers where, My three kids
On the Germans they could stare, My three kids
And they killed their share of men
Quite a lot for snipers ten
From their little hidden den, My three kids

And I’ve slept in bed quite warm, My three kids
But I haven’t taken harm, My three kids
When upon the ground I lay
Without even straw or hay
In the same clothes night and day, My three kids

When they sent us back to rest, My three kids
Then they seemed to think it best, My three kids
To send on your dad ahead
To discover where a bed
Could be found, or some old shed, My three kids

And new officers were trained, My three kids
And the men we’ve lately gained, My three kids
And while that work was in hand
I was second in command
Of B Coy and that was grand, My three kids

But it didn’t last all through, My three kids
There was other work to do, My three kids
When they made me adjutant
I was busy as an ant
And its not much catch, I grant, My three kids

I have ridden on a horse, My three kids
Captured from a German force, My three kids
And I’ve marched and crawled and run
Night and day in rain and sun
And shall do it till we’ve won, My three kids

And I’d rather be with you, My three kids
Yet you know I’m lucky too, My three kids
Lots of men I used to know
Now are killed or wounded, though
I remain, and back I’ll go, To my kids

And I hope you’ll all keep well, My three kids
Just as sound as any bell, My three kids
And when this long war is done
We shall have some glorious fun
Moll and Bids and little son, My three kids

R Stewart Smylie
Lieut 1st R.S.F.
In the field

Saturday 5 May 2007


One of the main parts of my job, is finding new development sites. Much of my time is spent propping up bars with other developers and agents, as well as builders and engineers etc. All painful stuff, but I'm getting used to it after several years, and so is my liver.

As I know London pretty well, I spend much of my time up there, and as His Grice The Mayor, Ken Livingstone charges dosh (our profits), just to drive a car there, I often 'do' and area on foot.

Yesterday was no exception, and I spent several very happy hours, wandering about Southwark, poking my nose in alleyways, peering over walls, writing on an envelope, and staring at nothing in particular, hoping for some revelation as well as staying out of the pubs for once...

There are some marvellous buildings there, and scope for several others, and much of the time, my face is upturned, ignoring the road hazards, wandering like a cloud, and enjoying a beaming existence in brilliant sunshine.

So, to all the many folk who were in the vicinity of The Tate Modern around lunchtime yesterday, and who spotted a late middle aged gentleman, dressed in jeans and a blazer, trying to hop onto a kerb, turning his ankle painfully, and shrieking in pain...

Thanks a bunch for ignoring me, and thanks for not noticing me yell "BUGGER"!

Wednesday 2 May 2007


For the benefit of all the kind souls who will undoubtedly write in and gently tell me where the timeline was going wrong...

I've solved it!

Now, where's that blasted camera...


All explained in the last post but one!

(Thinks...'Why didn't I do this in the last post...')

(Thinks... 'And why is the clock showing yesterday...its today now...')

I'm not the vagrant...

I'm not an estate agent...

I'm not an estate agent...

I'm not an estate agent...

I'm not rich enough!