Monday 29 December 2008

The Three Bells...

Yesterday, while I was outside doing a bit of wood chopping, the church bells behind us were doing their bits, and all was frosty peace with the world - broken by the odd curse when the blade missed...

As Dennis (and probably Bunty) knows, I used to do a bit of bell ringing, and although I've let it all go for several years now, it's always good to hear them clattering away, especially as the timing means that I can pour a large Gordons exactly one hour and forty minutes later!

When I was a lad, one of the most played 78s in the Elder Scrobs mansion, was 'The Three Bells', by 'Les Compagnons de la chanson'. There were several versions made over the years, including a dire copy by some group in the seventies which thankfully has vanished without trace.

At the witching hour, I just mentioned the song to Mrs S, and we wondered if there was a copy on the net. It took just a few seconds to turn up several versions, and whether it was the large tincture, or the cold, I don't know, but this version (the original), just sent shivers down my spine; I love it.

In fact, this recording is the same as the one I have in the attic, with 'That lucky old sun' on the reverse, just enjoy...

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Morituri te salutant...

"Not if I have anything to do with it", said the lampshade...

As I couldn't get the hilarious 'Welsh Christmas Song' to upload (Google says it is far too disgusting and contains words of a rude and socially unappealing nature), I've been lucky to receive this last resort from a chum in Ireland - and I'm very grateful...

So, in the words of an old boss years ago; "To those I know, have a very happy Christmas, and to those I haven't met before; hello, how are you?"

Saturday 20 December 2008


As I always went to sleep in Leonard Cohen's songs when they first came out, this is a particularly honest post for me!

A chum spent at least a large-glass-time yesterday, explaining how the thin, squeaky Alexandra Burke version was going to make Sony several squillion splonders, because it was on a silly programme called 'The X Files', or 'Max Factor' (is that why Elizabeth Ardened...?), and forced me to download Jeff Buckley's version at bottle point.

So I had to check the 'Factory Grate' version out first, and indeed, it is truly awful! But the version below (link), is much better than both of them, I can assure you!

I'm sure you'll agree...

Friday 19 December 2008

Meet the Smuggits...

This morning, the BBC announced with their usual grinning attitude, that '...even councils in the UK are feeling the credit squeeze'!

"Good"! I yelled! "That's bloody good news for once"! I thought then, after yet another night of mental turmoil, working out how we're all going to beat this squeeze. "About bloody time they trimmed their staff, let a few of the lazier people go, cap the huge town hall pension schemes, get the sods to do a few hours more for free..."

Not a bit of it! What the article really meant, was that families who can no longer afford private education are having to take their kids away and place them in local education, and the local services are having to work ever so, really, really hard to deal with the 'Problem'.

The Daily Mail reported on Wednesday, that while the wealth-creating poulation suffers immeasurable harm, the public sector increased it's numbers by 14,000, and that's just since September!

So, this disgraceful public sector influx of 'Private Education Refugee Kids Subordinates' (PERKS), 'Posh People's Siblings' (PPS's) and 'Simpler Minds Under Gordon' (SMUGS), will continue unabated, no doubt paid for with money being printed as we speak.

Friday 12 December 2008

A Winter's Tale - part 2...

At about the same time that our holly was being nicked, there was a similar situation occurring in a township more than a few miles from here...

Well, Jabez and his common-law oppo, Garthro, were out to do a bit of pilfering, and saw this specimen Gazunder tree, just begging to be taken away and ground down to make pegs and stuff!

Garthro's nicked winch wasn't powerful enough, all the hangers-on were speaking an unusual dialect and being generally lazy and unhelpful, so Jabez put the van in gear...

Saturday 6 December 2008

A Winter's Tale...


At the entrance to The Turrets, we have a holly tree; it’s not a particularly big tree, and was really quite a small guy when we moved here ages ago. But we like it, and over the years, it’s had various indignities imposed on it, like me running into it with various Scrobmobiles, having a misunderstood Agapanthus tied to it to keep the flower heads from attacking Mrs S’s Fiat Pork Cajun when she sallies forth, near total annihilation by a JCB when the drains were reinstalled, and so on.

Hollies are great when they have loads of berries too. Last year we had only three, but this year it’s smothered, such that some of the boughs are drooping and attempting to attack various passers-by by spearing them and generally becoming unruly. One particular branch takes no prisoners over six foot, so Elbey would stand no chance! Hellfire, he’d lose both shoulder blades as well, and that’s even after his reduction of ¼ inch at the hands of his local choppery! Lils would look nice on a swing though, so that makes it even doesn’t it?

So my job this weekend is to make sure that all offending woodwork is cut back, and a few bits are strewn around for the blackbirds. We usually have a resident thrush living there too. ‘Thready’ the thrush can be a violent bird, (whoever heard of a bird called ‘Freddy the frush’...), and has been known to see off several pigeons, an eagle once, and also three feral buzzards which tried to take over the manor and brought in local trug basket for their spoils. That tree has been the scene of more Avian Territorial Pecking since Grace Jones slapped Russell Harty live on TV! Thready has a rumoured stash of AK 47s in his nest, so you can understand that we tend to keep clear at this time of year.

Now, hollies need a lot of work to keep their shape. At the first ‘Turrets’, I cut one back so hard, that it re-grew to look exactly like (the late) Noel Redding in his heyday, but didn’t play bass half as well – in fact it was pretty hopeless on the second riff in 'Hey Joe'! One year, Mrs S pointed out that that our current tree was in danger of entwining the overhead lines, and either plunging the county into darkness, or sabotaging the local vicarage’s telephone wires. (Personally, I’d rather see the vicarage people suffer, as they aren’t anything to do with the church any more as the house was sold off to pay for a new roof or something, but it would be fun to see all those candles in all the houses again, it takes me back to the last depression – or even last week when all the power crashed and stopped us getting anything out of the fridge; but it was OK, as we had some nice Claret instead).

The day after Mrs S pronounced a severe topping of Thready’s haunts, there was a screech of brakes and a whiff of cheap diesel outside, and a rather weasley man poked his head over the wall, and asked if he could take some sprigs to make wreaths for Christmas. It suited me as I wouldn’t have to climb the ladder and get speared, personally connected to broadband or even electrocuted, and told him he could take the top four feet, on condition that he dropped off a wreath for us. Well of course, pikeys just take everything and scamper off, so we made our own wreath, which was much better, and had some smart additions like berries; (it was another bad year for Thready).

Well, I now have a free hour or so this weekend, as someone (probably the same weazle), has conveniently hacked of the offending branch while we weren’t at home – and I’m delighted. The tree looks perfect now!

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the time saved, probably I’ll spend it writing this for several good friends and relations and trying to make them chuckle a bit...

Wednesday 3 December 2008

What can you get for 30p these days...

An ounce of Pork Scratchings?

In the time it takes to read this, and if you wanted to be more circumspect, you would also get 30p of expenses, or perks, or even porks, if you were Mr and Mrs Ed Balls.

Also, the good people of Haringey (who pay that is), are giving the failed Baby P's tormentors the same amount.

Friday 28 November 2008

Big gathering of government 'advisers', not many deals done...

For the last couple of days, I’ve been at the Thames Gateway gathering at Excel, where I’ve been trying to extract any sort of business lead to create a new property deal which would raise the prospects of my ever being able to retire.

Not much chance of that, if what seems to be going on these days is a measure of the state of the industry. Apparently Margaret Beckett was making the ‘keynote’ speech, but I didn’t bother to listen to that.

The house builders are putting on a brave face, and so are their consultants. The building industry is all but grinding to a halt and this means that all the suppliers, producers etc are being hit hard as well. The agents are all scratching their heads too, which is unusual.

But an overriding factor of all this gloom is the huge bulge in the number of government appointed organisations to promote/advise/consult new development. Add the local councils, and you finish up with a big wave of people with rules and regulations, which eventually restricts and stifles any entrepreneur who is willing to risk everything to make a property development work for a profit.

I usually try to avoid talking with any of the government reps, as they’re usually commercially naive, incapable of saying anything which doesn’t include their own jargon (or more likely, acronyms), and swan around as though they are important. The one conversation I had with a bored government quango man was inconclusive, uninteresting and summed up by his hanging around for another free drink on a stand (which was run by a private business of course).

There were one or two shining examples of councils trying to get something going, but the majority will always stick rigidly to the rules and eventually cause the previously interested party to give up and go and do something else.

So, to alleviate the gloom, I’ve managed to meet the stunningly lovely lady again (coat removal expert from last year); avoided every Wii game going for fear of making a complete arse of myself, spent several happy minutes with a glass in hand, polished off loads of crisps and felt sick, missed my train (twice), been to a function which was billed as a photographic exhibition, and didn’t see one picture, had a good group rant about the failings of Gordon Brown, (which did look quite promising and could have turned into a riot), and fallen flat on my back on a tube train after someone removed the glass screen by the door just as it was picking up speed. Three kind gentlemen helped me to my feet, but it was really very funny and we all had a laugh about that!

Oh, and I did manage to do some business eventually, but it ain’t going to be easy...

Wednesday 19 November 2008

New words, part something-or-other...

Lils came out with a great new word recently, proving that she is indeed a world beating authority on the subject of observing an action and giving an old word a new meaning.

The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words. The winners are:

1. Coffee (N.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (V.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (V.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (Adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (Adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (V.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (N.), olive-flavoured mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (N.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (N.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (N.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (N.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (N), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (N.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (N.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (N.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

Thursday 13 November 2008


We used to grow parsnips on an allotment and one year, (after several years of mediocre results), the crop came in a staggering size, such that one of the brutes was nearly two feet long, and weighed several pounds.

The idea is that you plant the seed in ground which has not got any manure, compost, etc, and the growing tip has to burrow down to get what there is remaining in the soil from last year. It's the same with carrots too.

This year, we decided to buy just a few plants and give them a chance on the patch at home, where we knew the soil was kept poor from last year. In fact, it turned out that it wasn't that poor...

Now I know how John Hurt felt...

Sunday 9 November 2008

Remember real Men and Women...

Watching the service from The Cenotaph on TV today caused the cynic in me to consider that all the people jostling in the queue to place wreaths and stare intently at the stonework, were closely related to the very people who started most of the wars and conflicts in the first place.

Why on earth we should be grateful for their patronage, God only knows.

As for the pasty faced politicians getting in on the act, well they just wallow in reflected sorrow, oblivious to how much anguish they continue to cause in war - and peace.


Never, never, never.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Holbers does it proud...

I don't really have a worthy position on this post, but in spirit, I'm with Old Holborn for his show today.

Being a late middle-aged idiot doesn't let me to get into too many more scrapes these days - mainly because it's bad enough trying to carve out a living under the Gordon Brownista Stalinista Disaster. We were due for; and took, an eye-watering hit today at the meeting I had to attend; right at the time all the good folk from his Blog were wandering away from Trafalgar Square...

So what happened? I even went to The Chandos, (a great pub BTW - home to several long and lucid discussions in the past and easy to aim for Charing Cross Station, as long as nobody treads on your fingers crossing The Strand...) at 10.15am, just in case I could spot someone who looked like his pic - no chance there although someone looking vaguely similar was wandering about, but he caught a taxi and was away!

So I had my disastrous meeting, and a few post-buggeration sherberts, and after a bit of self denial, revisited The Chandos around 3.45pm.

Sadly, there were no masks, several people looking like interesting drinkers, but no Old Holborn lookalikes and certainly nobody able to challenge the Magnificence (Prat version) of Downing Street.

Sorry Holbers, I really couldn't get there, but thanks to you and Guido, the case has been made. Well done that Man and everyone who ventured forth!

Bugger, I was looking forward to a pint about then too...

Friday 31 October 2008


I'd have thought that the 'furore' surrounding the Beebolids saying that their 'younger' audience say that Wossy and Brandypoos should not be kicked out, is fuelled mostly by the fact that most of these kids don't pay the TV tax.

Their parents do.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Brighten up...

Dark an' cold these mornings innit...

Saturday 25 October 2008

The running game...

Editor's note - Read script before clicking on film link...(cont'd p.94)

As I may have mentioned in the past, I've always been a keen rugby man, I also like cricket, and even played golf until wearing Rupert Bear trousers became compulsory. A good running game of rugby was my preference, and modern rugby has been helped tremendously as the laws have been honed to create open games where speed really counts - even with the forwards, who used to spend the whole match close to the ground and covered in mud!

I started playing at full-back at school, moved in to scrum-half occasionally, and after 'filling out' (flat living, pubs, those peculiar curries that came in a tin which you opened from each end, etc), graduated to tight-head prop, in the Club first team.

In those days, the laws made the game very sluggish, it always rained and very often, those in the scrum could be stuck in the same muddy place for anything up to ten minutes, grunting, bashing, mauling, swearing etc, and all getting soaking wet and eventually appearing from the heap the same brown colour! The ball would eventually emerge, and be sent out to the wing, where the No 13 or No 14 man would still be in pristine, spotless kit, and often shivering with cold. He would be there just to give us some time for a breather, as he invariably dropped the ball with frozen fingers or screamed for mercy as an opposing player went for his legs!

As the lineouts could often be a farce as well, it made for interesting but slow play, interspersed by the odd shriek of pain coming just after a stray elbow was depatched to anyone within reach...

The modern game laws came a bit too late for me, and I stopped playing regularly but when jogging became a national pastime, I took to that quite well, and kept reasonably fit in the process, even doing the odd bit of exercise on holiday!

Unbeknown to me, someone in our group took a video camera and shot this rare footage of one of my forays into the countryside, and luckily the old in-bred running game instinct surfaced for a just a few gorgeous moments...

I wish... ;0)

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Coral; plus one...

October 21st, 1972

“Do you, Simeon Chatterley Ricardo O’Blene take The Future Mrs S (wait for it...) to be your lawful wedded wife”?

“I do”! (‘Come on, get on with it...’)

“Do you, The Future Mrs S take this Very Early Middle Aged Idiot to be your lawful wedded husband”?

“I do”!

(‘Thank goodness, I mean, well done, well done...’)

“Good, that’s got that over with then! Off to The Tudor Room for a huge reception”!

And so it was – 36 years ago, in a big church not far from here!

Seems just like yesterday!

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Heroes and villains...

When Rye had a cinema, one of the first films I ever saw was ‘Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier’. Fess Parker took the title role, and his astounding acts of bravery were gasping legend amongst small boys who were anxious to get in on the act. The song still evokes an era when ‘cowboys’, were the brave action men who weren’t in the army. (Anyone from America was a cowboy, which became more confusing when ‘cowgirls’ came on the scene...)

And the Davy Crockett hat was ‘born’.

I think mine was made out of some furry material (it was allowed then apparently, although perhaps the mink or fox or whatever didn’t think too much of the idea at the time), but the silliest one was a friend’s which seemed to be made from old carpet! (Knowing how rich his parents were, it probably had underlay and grippers as well; but he still keeps in touch so I mustn’t knock him too much...). Even my sister laughed at it!

(The offshoot to the coonskin tail thing must have been Esso’s brilliant ‘tiger in your tank’ ad campaign, where every scooter maniac tied a furry ‘tiger tail’ to just about everything on his Lambretta, and roared around in a splash of black and yellow – and on one occasion caused a visit to A & E in Hastings when a certain idiot crashed the thing into a van; but that’s another story)!

A quick glance through Wikipedia shows that all this Davy Crockett hat interest was a Disney stunt which went very well, but I reckon that even old Walt wouldn’t have understood the odd exchange which became apparent when Prince Charles had to go and open something or other in deepest Wales. When he arrived, he was wearing a Davy Crockett hat, but everyone was far too kind to mention it to him as he carried out his Princely duties.

Eventually, when the Mayor of the town, much relieved and also outside several portions of Welsh Single Malt ushered the Prince to his return seat on the royal train, he whispered loudly and alcoholically ‘Excuse me for asking boyo, but why are you dressed in such a smart uniform without the proper headgear’?

The Prince told him that the Queen had asked him in between the cornflakes and the kedgeree at breakfast, ‘And where are you going today Charles’?

‘I’d replied ‘Ystradgynlais’, and The Queen just muttered ‘wear the fox hat ’....

Saturday 11 October 2008

Hat tip to Pips...

Philipa, one of my favourite watch-spots, has just astounded me with an honest and urgent post.

Just go there and see what really happens when we have to trust the pillocks in Whitehall, and all their flunkys.

Their pensions are protected, secure, safe, and spendable...

Mine isn't.

Monday 6 October 2008

Friends and Relations...

When I was small and I mean really small, my sister used to have a full set of the books by Alison Uttley. She would read them to me and as she was a sweet and lovely lady - still is, she'd remind me of all the sorts of yarns which went into the books.

Just as I've been poking around in the blog tonight, I've remembered why I call my Bloglist 'Friends and relations'.

In the above book, much loved by 'J'. and me, Hare is a skater (not very good), and he always referred to anyone who was in his circle of friends as his 'Friends and Relations'.

And so you are 'Chums' - true isn't it...

Saturday 4 October 2008

Rectory Ale...

Back in the seventies, there was a craze for making your own beer and wine. We hadn't been married long, and I was still suffering withdrawal symptoms from rugby and cricket clubs where beer was plentiful and cheap...

While clearing out some junk recently, I've found one of the recipes we used for a beer which was brewed by the Vicar of Bildeston in Suffolk, and published in an article in the Sunday Express in August 1974. He called it Rectory Ale!

We made gallons of the stuff, it really was potent, and although bottling was a hit and miss affair, (often the bottles would expode when the corks were hammered on, which caused me another headache...), in most cases, the brew worked and we could while away the long evenings in mellow stupor for a fraction of what it cost in the pub.

I paid nearly three quid in the pub for a pint (or three), recently, and seeing the headline on this recipe does bring home how pricey things are these days.

I also found how much Rectory Ale cost to make...

It cost 2p per pint...
Update for Hats...Original recipe now on the page; just click on it - phew...

Update for me...The pub shown was my Grandfather's...

Friday 26 September 2008

Season's end...

About this time of year, I always find this pic a bit of a sad reminder of what was a huge part of life when I was much younger.

My Dad was the chief engineer for the largest hop grower in the country, and his work meant that he researched, designed, and eventually built the state-of-the-art machines and oasts which picked and dried the hops.

Up to the fifties, the traditional way to pick hops had been to bring folk - mainly from London in this area - and install them in hopper huts on each of the farms. It was a riot, great fun, and without touching on 'social' issues, most people who came down made a few quid, and enjoyed a working holiday in some great countryside.

Because the farms were so spread out, the 'guvnors' had early versions of radio telephones installed in their cars, vans and Landrovers, and I, and a few other sons were paid £2 a week to take messages on these things. It was very important (!), and drew gasps from other kids who thought that such space age kits only worked in police cars!

But driving round Kent these days is a bit nostalgic, as 'farm quotas' and general interference from the usual suspects who detest farming, have all but driven the UK hop growing business away for good.

I can't really get to grips with seeing bare wirework like this, especially if a few solitary bits of bine are still blowing in the breeze...

Friday 19 September 2008


For Daisers, Trubes, Pips, Lils, Merms, Hats, to name but a few...

And see what dancing means to some...

(And, of course, I must not forget Mrs Tuscs, Mrs Elecs, all the other sweethearts, Bunty Binstock et al...)

...and while I'm at it, (well, not actually at it if you see what I mean), Autumn is peering over the wall, so a change of colour is called for...

ps - can anyone tell me how to make the link to Youtube above, into a single word please? I bet it's easy, but that doesn't mean I can't cock it up at some stage...

Monday 15 September 2008

Da da da da da da DAH; dada de da da da...

Although I am officially rejoining the whirlwind of commerce tomorrow, (Monday has been a nightmare of calls and emails, so I may as well have said 'sod it, I'm back', but Mrs S insisted that I kept quiet most of the time - as she is entitled to do, as I have actually still been on leave today)!

Just tonight, we've been talking about what makes a good dance work.

I've always had two left feet at dancing. Waltzing was the nearest I've ever got to making less than a complete idiot of myself, and have been known to fall over after only seven pints, but Mrs S has the nimblest feet this side of The Appalacians, and from an early age was an expert at all sorts of foot-steps and moves, prances etc...

And so the conversation got onto Country Dancing. Simple, enjoyable, funny and energetic!

How could any young lad get to know even the 'Girl next door', without an excuse to go cavorting around a barn, trying his hardest to impress, and, even putting up with the ribald remarks from his chums? (Well, I did, but it was to get the future Mrs S out to a party; and I damn well did...)! The Girls could have a field day in the barn/village hall, sorting out the Travoltas, looking glum at the Scrobs-dance-alikes...

Country dancing allowed you to talk to new girls/boys...

It got you making a fool/ace of yourself.

  • It made an evening out of a dull weekend.
  • It helped slow kids to start up.
  • It let the plainer ones shine.
  • It allowed you to drink more...
  • It made life bearable for millions of youngsters - and oldsters!

So here's to what you need to let you put your arm around the best thing you can, and let the music roll on...

Friday 12 September 2008


Mrs S and I have enjoyed a few days away from commerce this week; (i.e. I went upstairs to turn off the cellphone and bugger the emails, she stayed in the home more than somewhat, and we have had a great week...).

So we've built a new fireplace after hating the old one for eighteen years, and had the occasional foray into the woods with JRT; just before we open another Chateau Swansea or similar...
But today, we took a small detour (bus passes at the ready), to a small pub near T.Wells, for a big, bigger, huge lunch - well why not? After imbibing several (bus remember - no car...), and taking on the largest portions of fantastic fare, Mrs S decided that we should top off with a glass of Calvados!


We both love Calvados. Ever since we started French holidays with ED and YD in Normandy years ago, we've gone for the best we can afford, enjoyed the roughest we've been sold, laughed every time we swung the glasses of the 'amber nectar', around the air before collapsing in an aromatic appley heap, and wished we could sit in a Kentish orchard for the rest of our lives, swigging the best of life...

The pub people are lovely - superb at running a pub, (editor's note - The George at Frant...); friendly, very attractive (watch it! Says Mrs S...) but unable to supply the simple apple requirement. (no probs there, something else did the trick...)

But, wait; we live in deepest Kent, where apples are coming out of our ears! We have two apple trees at The Turrets, and they're both Lord Lambournes.
'George' is an 'M27' stock, very short, small branches, but he fruits like a dervish. 'Mildred', close by, is a 'pyramid', and not prolific - probably only just able to keep George in bees and pollen, poor gal..., but she does the job; we love her, and she also provides a few apples.

George (pictured, with Mildred behind), goes bananas every year. He exudes huge apples, throws them all over the place, drops them on JRT, leans over lovely girls like Lils, and above all, makes us both very healthy every time about now...
So my question is; why on earth is there nowhere in Kent which can appreciate and work on the quality of a home-grown apple brandy, in a place where we can grow apples like nobody's business?
Perhaps I'll go and find out...and I may be some time...

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Sagtrouser and Bucket...

I've become uncomfortably aware that of late, I've consistently berated the building trade to the point of unfairness...

To put the record straight, I now wish to pronounce Travis Perkins, of Cranbrook, Kent; Builders Merchant of the year!

Why, you shriek?

Well, Mrs S has been asking me to put in a new fireplace in The Turrets for years (18), and so, while taking a small rest from my toil as a generator of hotels, and to do some bits at home, read a few books, check out the family etc etc, I was instructed to 'bloody well get the thing done...please...')!

So of course I did...

Every time I visit Travis Perkins for anything - be it one single nail or a pair of boots (see Scrobs passim; but it wasn't their fault), they treat me with good humour, pleasant chat, a fair price, and above all, a service which makes me think that all these big DIY stores still have a lot to learn.

Yeah, I can still talk the builders lingo when it suits me, (I used to sell concrete stuff years ago; did most of the M25 actually), but in this establishment it is a natural place to talk to someone who actually knows what he's selling, and you get fair trade, satisfaction and, above all, help.

So, for any Lady reading this, and of course Bloke... I'm not going to lay down the law, but I reckon that if you need a few odd bits of wood, a pot of paint, or even just a small paintbrush, the Builder's Merchant will probably make you feel better and also not take so much of your hard earned cash...

(Author's note; Mr Elias Sagtrouser has no recollection of buying Mr O'Blene several pints in 'The Bells', to ensure that his firm was represented in this way...)

Tuesday 2 September 2008


I’ve never actually enjoyed working on ladders, but when the gutters get a bit creaky, or the wisteria has to be given a severe haircut, Scrobs can be seen scaling the Turrets, leaping like a gazelle from one rung to the next, and looking forward to when he can reach ground level again…

When Mrs S and I were wandering around Teesdale recently, we tried to follow an old rail track, (long closed down), and wanted to find the bridge, but gave up because the map didn’t make sense, it was starting to rain, and JRT was beginning to look at her watch as well.

It was just as well, as high bridges have a similar effect on both of us, and long after, we learned that the old bridge over the River had a warning that it might be a good idea not to get too close to the sides, and horse riders should dismount…

So you can probably understand why these pics of the Millau Bridge still keep me enthralled…

Sunday 24 August 2008

The Art of Coarse Sport revisited...

Since giving up the dead tree press a few weeks ago, we've found we have loads more time to read other stuff, and we regularly dip into tomes like 'The Times History of London', (which I recommend to everybody - thanks YD; it is a super present)!

I've also rediscovered some reading that I was given years ago, and just this week, have been laughing uncontrollably at one particular book which is still as funny as it was in the sixties.

I used to have a full set of Michael Green’s ‘Coarse’ books, but have finished up with only two. We actually took ‘The Art of Coarse Sailing’ on a Broads holiday years ago, and had great fun following some of the disaster spots...

But the one here is reducing me to gales of laughter again.

I love the story of why the golf club bar runs out of Guinness, and also how two golfers had to abandon their game, because they were both telling each other sad stories about lost dogs, and finished up in floods of tears!

Well recommended to anyone who has tried to play any game, often came last, but enjoyed the experience nontheless...

Saturday 16 August 2008

Friday, Friday...

So, anyway, there we were, sitting around on the building site, thinking of the weekend just coming up, when Bert strolled into the site hut and mentioned casually that there was a little water coming in and he was going to take the van down to Pugbucket and Sagtrouser, (Plant Hire), for a small pump, just to pull out any spare water which may get in the way over the next few days, and give the place a chance to dry out.

George looked at him through an alcoholic haze and muttered something like 'You do what you want old son; me and Bill are going back round to 'The Bells', for a couple of pints and watch some cricket on the widescreen'.

Well, anyway, the 'couple of pints', turned into a right old session, as the blokes from the tower block came in, and they'd already been celebrating a topping out. Bert eventually got back from the plant hire, (having stopped to buy some fags, The Sun and a six pack of Guinness), and started up the pump.

Well, it was a hot day, and with one thing and another, the site hut was becoming more sultry, so Bert opened another can of Guinness and read the paper for a few minutes, before he dozed off...

There was a slight rumbling coming from the foundations, which seemed to be getting louder, but as everyone was in 'The Bells', and Bert was asleep with the paper over his face, nobody seemed to care. All the crane drivers had gone home early, and someone had taken the site phone off the hook.

It was unclear what actually happened next, but Bert woke up with a start, as the rumbling had turned quite a bit louder, and there was a whooshing noise coming from the founds.

At this point, panic set in, but it was far too late, and all that digging had gone to waste! Bert picked up his mobile, and called his Boss...

George's mobile was on answerphone...

Monday 11 August 2008

Old joke - new stage...

When I first heard the actual joke, it was funny enough, but this has just reduced me to tears of laughter...

Turn up the sound as usual!

Sunday 3 August 2008

For cat (and dog) lovers...

One of the benefits of having 'Blogger' tell you that you are suddenly 'Spam', and you can't get on to your own blog, is that after initial panic, you have to start to unravel the problem.

While wondering about this today, I went to my work PC, and somehow got onto all the jokes I get sent from various lunatics and friends...

I thought I'd lost this one, but here it is... Turn up the sound of course!

Update...Blogger apologised profusely; so that's one less problem with Mrs S's PC, which seems to have taken on a life of it's own...

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Ha ha ha ha...

While I try and think of something else to write...

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Food for thought; and then some extra musing...

Overheard late one morning on the 'Up' platform of a small country station not far from here...

"...and when he was a senior Diplomat in the far east, he met a man who invented a way to teach speak-your-weight machines to sing the Hallelujah Chorus..."!


Friday 18 July 2008

Odds and sods...

This is just a bit piece today; Mrs S took me to T.Wells for lunch as it's my birthday tomorrow, and she wanted to get some bits and pieces...

We went by bus, as 1) we intended to enjoy a meal in the new Strada Restaurant, (it was good, very good), and 2) I can use my new bus pass, but 3) the standard issue 'nutter' sat next to us on the way home and kept listening in...

For some reason I forgot my mobile too, and had a work-free break too!

So we've now got a new television on the way, I've got some of those earphones which block out every other sound known to man, and ensure that the common screeching and nasty accents on the train don't interfere with 'Freebird' in any way, and we've walked off several glasses of Pinot into the bargain...

Also, I want to share this gem with everyone.

A good chum is a self confessed petrolhead, and when I was invited to the Goodwood Festival of Speed last Friday, I couldn't go as I had already been invited to The Kent Show. So I got the invite 'transferred' to him and he had a great time looking at all the cars, discussing fast things with anyone who bothered to listen, and was also active with his camera...

The picture below arrived yesterday, and captures the future world champion in characteristic position!

My chum has decided to continue his day job...

Tuesday 15 July 2008


For Pig, Woody, JRT, and the rest of the pack...

Thursday 10 July 2008

You don't have to be a petrolhead; but it helps...

The Barn.

A recently retired New York man wanted to use his retirement funds wisely, so he decided to buy a home and a few acres in Portugal.

The modest farmhouse had been vacant for 15 years; the owner and wife both had died, and there were no heirs.The estate was being sold to pay back taxes. There had been several lookers, but the large barn had steel doors, and they had been welded shut.

No one wanted to go to the extra expense to see what was in the barn, and it wasn't complimentary to the property anyway... so, no one made an offer on the place.

The New York gentleman bought it as is, (paying just over half of the property's worth); moved in, and set about to access the barn... curiosity was killing him!

So, he and his wife bought a generator and a couple of grinders... and cut through the welds.

What was in the barn...?

Tuesday 8 July 2008

21 Economic Models explained with Cows - 2008 update

You have 2 cows. You give one to your neighbour.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both and shoots you.

You have 2 cows. The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away...

You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

You have two cows. You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows. Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute adebt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public then buys your bull.

You have two cows. You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three cows.

You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

You have two cows. You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk themselves.

You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You decide to have lunch.

You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 2 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you. You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity. You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows. You worship them.

You have two cows. Both are mad.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of Democracy....

You have two cows. Business seems pretty good. You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

You have two cows. The one on the left looks very attractive.

Sunday 6 July 2008

My Dad's fourth largest hammer...

Someone’s looking out for me; I’m convinced he or she is!

Each time I’m looking at an insurmountable problem, staring finality in the face, something comes along and diverts it and we move on!

As many of you know, my Dad and my Uncles were builders, and each time something needs to be mended, or solved, I get the smallest tingle in the back of the head, and an answer creeps in often without me realising it! It might even be Mum, or Grandparents doing the tingling, and although there are some spiritualist ideals somewhere in the family, I’ve never been involved in anything religious (not since I was a kid anyway). I live in a churchyard for heaven’s sake, and I haven’t been in the place for years – so I just play by the rules, as Idle mentions!

So why this emotional outpouring of religious fervour I hear you shriek?

Well, you may remember that I had a run-in with an industrial boot manufacturer, and got a full replacement and an apology. The truth is that the new boots are not really that comfortable, and Mrs S let me buy another proper pair for walking JRT. They’re incredibly comfortable, and have done many miles since.

But the left one squeaks.

It was driving us to distraction, the awful rubber/leather high pitched ‘grunching’ noise at every step. I tried walking pigeon toed, like Charlie Chaplin, like Long John Silver even, (sans parrot, I’m not that daft), but the dreadful noise persisted, even after about nine coats of dubbin, and a long squirt of WD40!

So what’s all this got to do with ‘voices’, squeaks and hammers?

Well, as a final gesture just before we both went totally insane from the noise, I took said boot into the shed, and grabbed this bloody great hammer, (the fourth one I inherited), and belted it all over the place in a demented fury! (I might even have called it a few names...)


Peace and tranquillity. Silent steps. Miles of birdsong. Relaxment beyond compare. Smiles all over Mrs S.

So, I just have to stop...and listen...

Friday 4 July 2008

Nulab targets cut at a stroke...

I’ve solved the problem/phobia that this poor wasted little government has with the nation’s bad diet.

Encourage/force/cajole local authorities to open more allotments! That way, good, hard working people can toil for a year to grow fresh vegetables for their family, and then the rat-faced thieves who go and steal all the produce can live a much healthier life as a consequence.

Several government ‘targets’ get ticked in one stroke: -

1) Create a healthier nation – all those greens and carrots being ‘yucched at’ will now be consumed by grateful(ungrateful) offspring.
2) Layabouts can escape their armchairs for healthy exercise in running between plots, carrying boxes of new potatoes and soft fruit.
3) Lard futures will fall and pies will become an endangered menu item.
4) Allotment rents can be channelled directly into pensions for council ‘Allotment Outreach Co-ordinators’, and ‘Edging and Weed reduction Cooperatives’.
5) Creating an association for a ‘Love Brussels’ forum, which includes a very small tick box to ratify a little-known treaty (Lisbon) to sign away the UK.
6) Knife culture will be sliced as anything with sharp edges will be called 'cooking implements', and will appear as such on charge sheets.

You know it makes sense - don't you...

Sunday 29 June 2008

Stick your own...

This morning, Mrs S and I took JRT for a long stroll in the woods, as we usually do on a Sunday.
About this time of year, we have pangs for the cherry season, and we deliberately avoid buying them before, when they seem to come from Uzbeckistan or perhaps Cuba, because, where we live, there are cherry trees coming out of our ears, and they are beginning to look great in the local orchards.
So after the walk in the woods, at about 9.30am, we decided to pop down to one of the local farm shops for a cherry panic-buying spree...
After a few miles, we had passed three stalls, all closed, and had people waiting outside. The garden shop was open but only sold them loose and they were looking pretty much like they were last week's old tat. The next two roadside stalls were shut too!
So we said "sod 'em" (actually we said "F*** 'em", but this is a family show...), and went home to pick our own wild strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants and that's what happens when lazy sods can't be arsed to get up early on a warm day in the best season of the year, and sell their own crops for what they want to charge. We'd have happily paid a few quid to get the fresh stuff, and the season is only a few weeks long.
No wonder the supermarkets get them by the throat.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

1 in 5; Borough chaos...

My ludicrous local council, Tunbridge Wells has recently been in the headlines for the above policy. I personally wouldn’t have thought that there was a collection of brain cells on anybody in the council that was even capable of spelling ‘brainstorm’ let alone getting involved in anything which smacks of innovation. After all, these are the people to whom I am paying about five quid a week for their pensions and benefits, not mine! (£1 in £5 that is…)!

As ‘Brainstorming’ is now deemed to be discriminatory against epileptics, they have decided to employ the term ‘thought shower’.


‘Absolute shower’ is a good description of course, (especially if spoken by the chap in Idle’s avatar – maybe Idle even, but I’ve yet the pleasure of meeting him), but they are forgetting that the actual name of the town, Tunbridge ‘Wells’, discriminates against ‘Ills’, i.e. people who are not well. This cannot be surely? And ‘Ills discriminate against ‘Dales’, and Iain Dale lives in Tunbridge Wells, and he mustn’t be discriminated against either!

So, we’d better drop the second part of the town and just stick with Tunbridge. But this discriminates against the good people of Tonbridge, which is just up the road and sounds very similar, and, the good people of Southborough (who live in between), usually want to be associated with the southern end of their location, not the northern end.

So we’d better just chop off the first three letters then, and just call it ‘Bridge’! Bugger, just remembered – there’s a village near Canterbury named ‘Bridge’, and they won’t be pleased about being passed off either…

So we really can’t have a name at all! We’ll be known as ’ (blank)………. Borough’, and this is good news, as the next poll tax cheque I write will leave the top line empty, and some other sod lounging about in the basement at the town hall or standing in the shower somewhere near the bicycle racks can sort it all out.

Wednesday 18 June 2008

1 in 6; the new village...

We’ve just returned from a few days away in Cotherstone, right in the heart of Teesdale. It still amazes me that only a few hours driving can let you arrive in a place which has beautiful natural stone buildings, rattling water courses and rivers, bustling towns which somehow remind you of the sixties, and above all – wide breathing space and a big sky!

As some of the footpath directions, near-vertical slopes and high stiles defeated even the eight legs of our party (Mrs S, JRT and me), we started driving/walking a couple of hours away in the hills each morning, and the same in the afternoon, but staying local.

And that’s when I learned something.

The walks and footpaths round the village are numerous and rewarding. The dismantled railway track (minerals – not people), still has the levels, the stone arches and the gates and you find yourself imagining the rattle and steam; even looking behind occasionally – just in case...
But it is the small lanes touching the boundaries of all the houses which are absolutely charming. Hardly any traffic; hundreds of sheep and lambs; and the occasional row of vegetables.


On one day I took JRT, and we did nearly all these lanes. (please understand that this walking was essential to counteract the huge hospitality of ‘The Fox and Hounds’), and after a few yards it was clear that nearly all the houses were empty. Not derelict, well maintained actually and achingly beautiful to look at. But unused during the week. I reckon there was only about one in six which had a sign of life. Some gardens are tended with loving care – as they should be, but most were patches of grass, weeds and no colour.

In June?

The village is spotless, has a buzzing local school with squeals and bikes, and of course, the local housing will always be full, because buy-to-let just doesn’t go there. There used to be about fourteen shops, but now there is one struggling post office with a charming welcome but an anxiety which can be felt. Our chosen pub ‘The Fox and Hounds’, is legendary, and the hospitality enormous.

But a village which has so few people making it thrive is in a sorry state. Oldies need to see company in the streets, children need to meet other kids, and we were contributing to all this, a fact that made me slightly uncomfortable.

Cut to our own village in Kent. For one thing, it is definitely not a holiday destination – it has some great attributes, but you don’t stay here on holiday unless you’re keen on castles or the sea. On my first foray out to buy our last Sunday paper, (we’re abandoning much of the dead tree press, most of it gets binned unread these days, and that’s just the good news...), I happened to pass a member of a local feral litter with his car radio booming out some rubbish at full volume. He was gawping around expectantly, hoping for someone who cares to comment, which is easy to ignore anyway. And inside the shop I noticed what turned out to be the runt of the same feral litter, with a hairline about half an inch above his squitty eyes, feverishly scratching at a clutch of lottery cards, and of course, leaving as a loser. They revved their noisy little car away and the ‘conversation’ of loud ‘f***s’ transcended the foul music.

Just for a long, long moment; I wished we were one-in-sixers.