Tuesday 30 December 2014

BBC closes UK industry down for nine days...

As sadly expected, the BBC viewing - and listening, schedule has been a total wreck this year, what with the endless repeats and repeats of repeats, all 'presented' by faded people who we all thought were either dead or at least rested - terminally.

There were a couple of glimmers of hope in a 're-run' of Open all hours, but even that has to buck its ideas up before we watch the whole episode. They don't even show 'The Great Escape' any more, a film which at least brings fantasy a little closer to the heart than 'ET', BP apparently enjoyed watching 'Whisky galore', which I may well have done, had not a surfeit of Glenlivet caused some dismemberment of the various body cells which keep me awake during the afternoon...

But seriously, what really worries me, is the fact that the BBC has automatically assumed that the whole of GB Inc, is on holiday during these three days between Sunday and tomorrow. Their news bulletins are painfully short, and put on at times when during normal working weeks, most people are still at work, so the assumption is that nobody is at their desks, or on the tills, or driving a train or a bus! I know the building industry just shuts down for an extended period over Christmas, and to a certain extent, I agree that the on-costs of keeping a site open over such a time are huge, such that they might just as well appease the elfunsafteee mob, and call it a holiday, despite the lack of income for those ten days, and some poor firm suffering a month's over-run, being clobbered from all sides, but why is there a notion that we're all still 'on holiday'?

Being an aged fart, I can remember when we went back to work on the 27th December, and carried on from there. There was no January 1st Bank Holiday, and hangovers, as long as they were socially acceptable - i.e. we weren't being sick everywhere, or smelling of curry, were the norm, because we could all compare notes, and get on with the New Year!

But no, the BBC have decided that nobody in their right mind will work between the 24th December and the 2nd of January next year, and to hell with whoever moans or thinks otherwise!

Nine days with no production can be hell for a small firm which is struggling to survive, but of course, the BBC have a bloated government tax structure to support their fantasies, so that's alright then!

Saturday 20 December 2014

A Christmas Carol...

Many years ago - about 1962, a very young Scrobs was a member of his school choir, and they really took the carol concert seriously...

We started rehearsing the various carols from September onwards, and by December, we were word - and note, perfect, but this particular year, it didn't go to plan...

One of the pieces we sang was 'The Shepherds' Farewell', and every time I hear it, I'm reduced to a dribbling wreck, as it's such a beautiful song, and of course, the Kings' version is always going to be the best!

What happened was this...

Our choirmaster decided that we would sing each verse after the first couple of bars of organ accompaniment (which are so evocative by themselves anyway), and from then on, we'd sing each verse unaccompanied. He'd just play these two bars at the start of each verse, and then we'd be on our own.

But things went very wrong, and whether by natural causes, or some sort of choral gremlin's influence, at the end of each verse, we'd all dropped a semitone, and in one verse, a whole note, so when he played the intro chords for the next verse, we were well out!

It was rather sad really, as there was no reason why he couldn't have played 'sotto voce' behind all our efforts, but anyway, my Dad went and bought the complete Berlioz record on the strength of it all, so things weren't that bad were they...

Here it is, sung properly! (a very young Scrobs sang alto back then)!

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Monday 1 December 2014

Permanent gardening leave...

It's all go, isn't it!

Scrobs has decided to hang up his briefcase, cards and spreadsheets, and call it a day! There'll be no more wine bar expenses, or boozy lunches, except those with Mrs Scroblene or the family, and the spell of gardening leave will become permanent from the end of this month!

Yup, Scrobs is retiring! I'll have to change a few details on this blog of course, I'll still be in close touch with my chums on the firm, as there are a few schemes still in the pipeline, and I'll want to know how they're going, and maybe get in the way occasionally (for which I will be given a polite sod-off), but you don't ever forget your friends do you!

There's so much to do from now on. The garden and 'The Patch', where all the farming is done, will get a serious seeing-to on a more regular basis, I have to digitize the whole of our photograph collection (about 4,500), and re-file them, the grandchildren are placing more demands on the family's daily routines, so we'll be able to do much more there, the house needs painting from top to bottom with several building jobs to do which will rely on fine weather!

But of course, I will miss all the banter from those with whom I've had the pleasure of talking business for the last fifty years, but there may be the odd opportunity to sneak out to the pub if they're ever within walking distance...

(And if you're wondering what that scaffolding structure in the middle is; it's the daughts' old climbing frame from all those years ago...)!

Thursday 20 November 2014

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Best job ever...

I would like to have Brian Cox's job!

I'm good at pismronunciation...

Tuesday 21 October 2014

42 years...

Mrs Scroblene and I have been married (to each other of course, don't you know), for forty-two years today!

It's quite an enigmatic number isn't it, 'forty-two'. I mean, there was a great show called '42nd Street', Rowan Atkinson did a sketch where his North East football club were losing thirty-seven - er - nil, so you can add five to that, I mentioned this fact three years ago, when we were celebrating thirty-nine years, so that's another huge fact to ponder, and so the list goes on...

and on...

and on...

It was The Mermaid afterwards, and plenty more after all that...

We're going to my Formation Drinking Establishment for lunch, just to recall that all those years ago, my best man, Bob, picked me up at my old home just a few yards down the road, and whisked me off to Rye Church for the big event! They also do a super fish and chips for pensioners, so romance is definitely alive and kicking!

Thursday 16 October 2014

Great Storm recall...

It was twenty-seven years ago today, that the Great Storm caused absolute havoc here.

We lost power for several days, and resorted to eating in the greenhouse, with comestibles cooked on a makeshift barbeque! Scrobs was pleased to have his picture taken doing this, as cooking has never been his strong point, and the picture top right shows a youthful bloke in his favourite jersey...

Here's my car, which suffered more than somewhat from a falling wall opposite the old 'Turrets'.

Luckily it was a hire car, as I'd only just started a new job in Tonbridge, but it all took a bit of sorting out. My favourite Deluxe A-Z was soaked, but I didn't have the heart to chuck it away, so it's still intact, and used regularly! The chap parked behind me came off far worse, as his Mini was as flat as a pancake, but Mrs Scroblene's Mini, parked further down the lane was untouched!

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Staircase story...

Map with additions by someone in Scrobs' family...

Seeing Thud's marvellous staircase in his Bothy, has just reminded me of something that happened to Scrobs, only a couple of months ago.

When I went to a funeral, which was due in the afternoon, I left home early to visit the home town of my grandparents - Letchworth, as the town is only a few miles from where I wanted to finish up, and also, I had yet another pilgrimage to make, but I'll talk about that later.

I had three addresses where my grandparents had lived - all houses or shops built by my grandfather. While staring at one particular house, I just couldn't resist the urge to knock on the door, and I'm so glad I did too! The door opened, and when a pleasant gentleman looked at me enquiringly, all I just had to say was ,"My name is Michael, and my grandfather built this house in the nineteen-twenties"!

There was a pause, and then a huge smile came over his face, and we immediately began to chat on the doorstep about the house and how his wife is on the historical societies etc., and she would love to know more and then he even invited to show me around inside! Now Scrobs would always decline, as privacy is privacy, but he insisted, as I'd talked about all sorts of features of the house, which nobody else would have known, and so we compromised and just stood in his hallway, still talking.

He explained then, that when they'd bought the house, it had been 'Italianated', and the original features had been covered up, and botched pretty badly, so they'd spent a lot of money stripping away the cheap tat, and restoring the building to its original state, including building a sizeable extension in the same style. Letchworth was developed and built to very strict guidelines, with appointed architects complying with these rules very well, such that there would be a feel of community and well-being about the place, even though the history only goes back to the start of the twentieth century!

And then he pointed out the staircase.

I'm afraid a huge lump appeared in Scrobs' throat, as I experienced the feeling of something like 'deja vu', without the 'deja', or even the 'vu' for that matter. But I just 'knew' this staircase, although I'd never seen it before! It was the very one that my grandfather had built, and, my grandmother, father, two uncles and two aunts, had all walked or run up, or tripped up and down countless times all those years ago, and the sight of the nineteen-twenties joinery and design, just made me feel so much closer to the old family, than I had in years! It isn't really a very big staircase, but it has the sort of character which I love, with several dog-legs, kites and a newel post which was so well designed at that particular period.

I didn't go round the interior of the house, as the owner had been so kind even to invite me to talk about the place, but I managed to amaze him by asking, "Is there still a fish pond round at the back"? He looked at me aghast, and said that indeed there was, and how did I know about it, and he took me round to show me an area, which was just as one of my uncles had described it, although the pond was empty, as it was being repaired! My uncle had told us that they'd built the pond from: -

"Three train wagons full of Kent Rag (stone) and gypsum was used to make rockeries and paths, and a goldfish pond about 4’6” x 10’0” x 4’0” deep and concreted. I have learned since (that) this was about four times as deep as it should have been as the leaves from the trees got in it and the decay reduced the oxygen, and we couldn't keep fish alive in it! The cat regularly fell in too, trying to drink out of it!"

...and it was all still there!

But to see this wonderful staircase was an experience I'll always treasure, and Thud's masterpiece will certainly live long enough for someone to tell this same sort of story in ninety years time!

Friday 26 September 2014

Yesterday's haul...

This year has been fantastic for growing tomatoes, and luckily, we had well over seventy plants dotted around the greenhouse, garden and 'The Patch', down the road!

These are from 'The Patch', (the allotment), and are a bog-standard tom 'Alicante', which are prolific, but but need to be grown in open soil, as the flavour is much enhanced by working in good ground and lots of manure!

The marks on the skin are mostly down to being outside all the time, and irregular watering, but are only skin deep! I'll be reducing these to a third using a big pan, and keeping them in the fridge for the next month's pasta...

We've had harvests like this about once a week since July, so it's been a year when we've won out for a change, not like a few years ago...

Sunday 21 September 2014

Technical question...

I hope the two readers here aren't being bothered by this, but I have found that if I click onto this blog from another address (Michael), I get this voice coming over the speakers or earphones, saying some sort of gibberish like 'this is what you get'...

It's tiresome, and somehow, it's a sort of spam which I just cannot figure out! I haven't a clue on how it got there!

Could anyone enlighten me as to why this is happening please?

Wednesday 10 September 2014

A warning for motorists...

We have too many speeding motorists in the road outside 'The Turrets', so Scrobs has commissioned an engineer to 'alleviate' the situation...

Tuesday 2 September 2014


One of my favourite newsreaders, Sophie Raworth, had to explain tonight that some pictures of girls who had been photographed in uncompromising situations, had been published on the internet.

There was the immediate apology for there being some 'Flash photography'...

Old Scrobs remembers pictures like these..;0)

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Mad architects spend all their time on dreams...


I've spent much of my life coping with architects. I've sold ordinary building stuff to them, worked with them in designs for serious projects, like prisons, (the design of the gutters on Elmley Prison, is all down to me, so beat that), had to put up with their silly ideas, laughed at some of their jokes, listened to their odd foibles, but on the whole, they're a good bunch of guys and gals, and we've normally got on pretty well.

This idea for London does give me palpitations though. Thinking of those monstrosities just North of the Blackwall Tunnel, reminds me of the awful arrogance of serial designers, who should really have been taken away long before they learned to use a pencil. I think this is a similar case for treatment!

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Bantam relation...

Scrobs attended the funeral of his last living relative from the previous generation, a few days ago. There were about twenty there, and most were from 'the other side' of the family, which is fine by me, as there aren't many left from my lot anyway!

But I heard an interesting point from a cousin's husband, who is well into writing the family tree, and is now back into the sixteen hundreds, (what ever good that will do, I don't know, but there you are, it's his pastime)!

My Great Uncle John wasn't allowed to join up for the First World War, as he was too short! Presumably he was less than 5'3" in his socks, but he was a miner, and therefore a damn sight better equipped than a bloke a foot taller in that job, but there you are, the powers that be decreed that such people couldn't enrol to fight for King and Country!

So, when they got a little short of numbers in France, a call went out to relax this height restriction, and get more numbers in the ranks! They were called Bantam Regiments, for obvious reasons, and while I'm so proud to know that another member of the family answered the call, I'm saddened to learn that he fell in 1916, and never returned. Apparently, he was supposed to be going to Africa, then the regiment suddenly turned back to northern France and he died there.

I'd like to think that a tough little bugger like my Great Uncle John, would know that after all these years, we'll know that his height was never as big as his heart, and that this year, we're remembering people like him!

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Another centenary...

My dear mum would have been a hundred today, so we're popping a few flowers on her grave, saying hello to dad as well and also stopping off for a couple of celebratory embrocations at the pub, which I mentioned recently, and is very close to the house which she loved!

I always think it's much nicer to celebrate someone's birth, rather than their death.

Here she is with ED, just a few short years ago!

Thursday 31 July 2014

Fannit and the poo scandal...

Scrobs and BP had another meeting in Broadstairs yesterday. It was in the afternoon, so there was no question of getting there for a leisurely lunch and strolling in to the clients all relaxed and happy!

Ooooh no...

BP always manages to drive several miles an hour faster than the speed merchants, and yesterday was no exception. I suspect that some of the trees and hedgerows are still waving after the passing of a great big car at breakneck speed! My left hand still aches and is stuck in a claw shape from holding on to that funny handle up over the door! The trip took us less than the past record of one hour forty minutes...

The meeting went off OK, and we may be able to get back there again, but the real issue is more basic! Will the sewage still be flowing in the bays around the island?

Apparently, as the story goes, there has been a monumental back up, or cock up, of the brown stuff, which meant that the council or the utilities, or whoever is trying to shift the blame, have to release the latest amounts of pure unadulterated turds etc, directly into the sea!

Now everybody who has seen a seaside, knows that citizens rather like to paddle, or swim in the gently lapping water, and some go surfing, or sailing in it as well. But the holidaymakers, who have saved all their pennies for a week in Margate, Broadstairs, or Ramsgate, have been advised not to go in the water!

What a fiasco! It seems that they either let the sea fill up with detritus, or some basements nearby would get the same turdal treatment, so the former was chosen by the powers that be, and now, right at the beginning of the holiday season, the simple pleasure of swimming with fish, is replaced with the reeking distaste of  the breast-stroke with bonsters!

Of course, no heads will roll, council pensions are still piling up, holidays elsewhere will be the norm. The council are a funny bunch up there, and still trying to work out why Manston Airport - the other name for the ridiculously named 'Kent International Airport', has gone pop, and nobody wants to fly from there.

I can solve all these quandaries at a stroke!

There are several old but airworthy bangers still parked on the runways, waiting for a job, so load them all up with the effluent, and take the stuff further out to sea! Simple! They could drop it all over the wind farm to disperse the pong! At least it'll keep the eco-freaks happy for once!

Saturday 19 July 2014

Formative drinking and one heck of a thunderstorm...

Last night's storm was really an eye opener!

Back when Scrobs was around the magical age of eighteen, the family lived in a village, where Dad had built the house in 1952. (See Scrobs passim). The house was well up on a natural ridge, and the views to the south were incredible, with Fairlight to the left, Hastings in the middle, and Battle to the right. All of these are several miles distant.

Whenever there was a thunderstorm - like the one last night, Dad used to get up and watch it all happening, because you could see lightning for miles in all directions, and it was one of his abiding pleasures! In true form, I heard the first roll of thunder at around 2.30am, and went into YD's old room to see lightning flashing in all directions, including some superb forked strikes nearby! It really was spectacular, even though the views from The Turrets are more limited because of the churchyard trees!

And to complete the yarn, as it's my birthday today, Mrs Scroblene is taking me to lunch at the very pub a hundred yards away from the old house, where all my formative drinking became a pleasing pastime!

We used to know it as The Broad Oak Inn back then.

The Landlord was a funny old boy back then, and could either be grumpy or very kind, and you probably wouldn't really have noticed the difference on some days, and his beer came from barrels stacked behind the bar, and the only food he sold was crisps and arrowroot biscuits! It's changed  now, and there's a car park, a big room and a great garden for children, but the lure of the possibility of meeting an old formative drinking chum from the sixties is an additional aspiration...!

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Credits where credit's due...

With Dame Janet Smith's enquiry into sex scandals at the BBC being published later on this year. it struck me that this must be the easiest investigation ever, for one simple reason!

Everyone sits back at the end of a programme and ignores the screen, even if it is a dire 'celeb reality' waste of money, or a weedy modern play, but still the credits roll up the screen and every name of everyone involved in the production reels off. So we have the director, the producer, the gaffer (ha ha ha), the dogsbody etc, all emblazoned for the world to see!

So it must be the easiest job in the world for Inspector Knacker to come along and ask all these published witnesses in a serious voice, what they were up to on the day children and vulnerable youngsters were molested, and what they did about it! What did they see? Were they in the dressing rooms at the time that it was all a bit quiet? Who was the chap sidling along with a fake clip-board? What did the parents say? Were the parents even there?

I'm sure the BBC inquiry will be aware of this, and hopefully, we will not get the whitewash which is expected! It's bad enough expecting politicians to cough up when they're cornered, but there must be several names on the TV credits, who may be just more than a little worried by now!

But we have their names eh..?

Sunday 29 June 2014

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Country life...

Mrs Scroblene and I agreed a couple of weeks ago, that we would have to tackle the old raspberry bed, which has now been overrun with couch grass a yard high...

Why these tasks seem such a good idea around 8.00pm, I've no idea, (something to do with an embrocation or two I suspect), but we started on a patch of near derelict ground about seven yards by three, so that would be twenty-one man/lady hours of digging and sorting!

The raspberry plants are all very old, probably near fifteen years old, and last year they were pretty dour, so it wouldn't be too great a loss! Looking at older pictures of them, there's hardly any grass intertwined, as Mrs Scroblene spent a happy hour or three weeding them a couple of years ago! We need more room for spuds next year, and this will be an ideal way to get the three more beds we need, when we give up our half-plot (across the way) in October!

We finished on Saturday morning, and it took less time than we thought, as it wasn't couch grass, but just incredibly tight - er - ordinary grass, and the raspberry roots were just stifled! In some spots, I couldn't even get a fork in, and had to bash it until a crack appeared!

So we eventually got all the greenery and raspberry roots out, and I finally spent a happy couple of hours with the Terrex Fork, and got even more depth, then manured it all from our stash, formed the two paths and finally tilled it late on Saturday. We're trying mustard green manure on the three beds and will give them a chance to get back to normal by next year!

Sunday 8 June 2014

Smoking, the new divorce...

The other day, I was at a village gathering and chatting with two ladies, who are good friends.

For some reason, there was an awful smell coming from some passing traffic, and one of my chums began to look queasy, and had to explain that she has some sort of allergy to petrol fumes.

The conversation veered towards smoking, and after a few nervous glances, we all 'outed', to admit that we all used to be ferocious smokers years ago, and then the 'guilt' began to emerge! One chum was always on forty Marlboroughs a day, or sixty when she was playing golf, the other chum mentioned how she was always stressed driving the kids to school, and chain-smoked on every trip! I for my part confessed that I was an inveterate pipe smoker, inhaling everything there was going for several years! We all knew the roundabout just out of London, where I'd stuff my Falcon pipe with Gold Block, and reach home in a grey fug an hour later...

And why the connection with divorce?

I don't know really, but smoking now gets the same attention as divorce did in the fifties and sixties, and that's about it!

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Shades of Mr Bangelstein...

A young monk arrived at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in copying the old Canons and Laws of the Church by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are
copying from copies, not from the original manuscript.

So, the new monk goes to the Old Abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up!

In fact, that error would be continued in all of
the subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, "We have been copying
from the copies for centuries, but you make a
good point, my son." 

He goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held
as archives, in a locked vault that hasn't
been opened for hundreds of years. Hours go by and nobody sees the Old Abbot.

So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him. He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing.

"We missed the 
R! We missed the R!
We missed the bloody R!"

His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably. The young monk asks the old abbot, "What's wrong, father?"

With a choking voice, the old Abbot replies,

"The word was .....


Monday 19 May 2014

White leg weekend...

The varicose veins are slightly more pronounced, the old operation scars slightly more livid, the knees are slightly more knobbly, and the socks have at last been shed for a few weeks...

Yup, summer has arrived with a vengeance, and the good people of the village are treated to the wondrous sight of Scrobs' legs!

I thought both readers would like to know this!

Saturday 10 May 2014

Incredible bass player...

I was tipped off about this lady's talent recently, and to find that she is only nineteen years old on this super track with Jeff Beck, is just amazing!

She shows such skill and maturity on such a potentially difficult instrument - and heavy for that matter, that I wonder what the next years will do for her - lots hopefully!

Wednesday 30 April 2014

First TV play I can recall...

Mrs Scroblene and I bought several DVDs of old favourites last year, and one of them was the boxed set of 'It ain't half hot Mum', as it's gentle humour, and fine fun with the various actors!

As most people know, the character Gloria is played by Melvyn Hayes, who camps it up to the hilt in every episode!

Years ago, before we even had a television at home, my sister and I watched a friendly neighbours' set in black and white, and back then there was a serial called 'The Silver Sword'. It was a pretty deep story for children, by Ian Serraileur, and here's a small snippet...

Melvyn Hayes was Edek, the brother.

I've never forgotten the bit where the father escapes by making a catapult out of the elastic from some old boots, and flinging a stone at the guard!

Sunday 20 April 2014

Nick Drew's string encore...

Nick Drew has just posted a superb piece for strings and it's well worth a watch - several times..;0)

Here is an antidote, kindly provided by B.P. ...

Sunday 6 April 2014

Shey Boo, the other end of the Goldhawk Road...

Scrobs never really bothers being associated with 'fine dining' for a couple of reasons, mainly that paying someone else to knock up a curry which will never be as good as Mrs Scroblene's speciality, is a waste of money and energy, and secondly, that all eating interferes with the main elements of ingestion, which is some good wine or beer.

Trawling through the online rags a few days ago, this review popped out of the 'Eeen Staaannnarddd', and it is hilarious!

Of course, I'll never go there, but it does seem that several others won't as well now!

Friday 28 March 2014

Best Desert Island Discs subject...

Just recently, I learned that every Desert Island Discs programme is available for free, on the BBC website.

I used to listen to many of these several years ago, because I would be driving up to London every Friday. Of course, some of the subjects were way over my head, some were very funny, and others were particularly good and very interesting.

One particular programme leapt out at me at the time (1984), as things were very different for us back then. It was another era!

If you have a little spare time this weekend, the one mentioned below is well worth a listen. Don Mccullin comes across as a very deep and thoughtful sort of man, and the way he describes what he did as a war photographer is amazing, and his way of describing scenes is just as good as his photography. Roy Plomley as always is superb, and says very little, thereby letting his subject put his reasoned argument across so well. He was also on the radio last weekend, talking in the same measured way and I always wanted to hear this programme again!


Saturday 15 March 2014

Cryptic crosswords, a suitable case for treatment...

Many years ago, we used to take the dead tree press, and when train journeys called, I'd tackle the cryptic crossword, usually being defeated by several ingenious clues, but feeling pretty proud of myself by London Bridge!

Since packing up with the Daily Telegrout, and saving us a fortune, Sudoko took over as the pastime of choice, and Mrs Scroblene is an expert, usually finishing several each day.

Just a few weeks ago, I thought I'd like another crack at some of the crossword puzzles that I could attack with some success and I bought a book of DT Cryptics, only to find that I've lost the plot to some extent! I'd forgotten some of the twists and turns to get a word right, I didn't see anagrams as easily as I used to and the signals just seemed invisible!

But at long last, the old sequences began to dust themselves off, the reasoning became less fraught, and the answers in the back became less read...

So we're getting there! Chatting with a chum the other day, I mentioned a classic clue from the seventies which stumped people for ages 'Geg. (9,3)', and she came back with an absolute barnstormer, which I struggled with for two weeks, then to retain some sanity, finally plugged in the crossword solver! Even then, seeing the answer, it took me some time to realise how it was the result, because it is so clever!

Here it is, and would either of the readers here please wait a few days, so the other one can have a crack at it!

'Cox at me (6,3,6)'

Friday 7 March 2014

Wednesdays - the days of reckoning...

Earlier this week, Mrs Scroblene and I had to visit a well-known DIY store in Tunbridge Wells, as there are a few jobs around the Turrets which have waited far too long (several years in the case of the bath taps, which need a JCB to turn them on and off, and twenty-five years in the case of the porch).

Block and Quayle's emporium differs from the establishment run by Elias Sagtrouser, in that they have displays of floor tiles whereas Elias doesn't bother with such things, preferring to deal with real builders who know what they're talking about!

The telling point of the successful visit, was that we bought exactly what we wanted, and also, because it was a Wednesday, we got a 10% discount because we're over the magical age of 60! That's the policy and the place just heaved with grey hair!

The checkouts all had long queues, so we headed for the self-checkouts with some trepidation... Luckily, there was a very pleasant lady on hand to help, as to a normal person, there was an awful lot of mystery being unraveled on those infernal machines! You need a degree in applied ballistics to work one of those, and while she helpfully rushed from till to till, and popped our bits and pieces through in a flish, I managed to get some light banter going with her, and mentioned how well she was doing as they were all so busy!

Her comment, with a beaming, knowing smile?

"Oh yes, especially on a Wednesday..."!

And the music was all sixties rock music! Good idea that for the greys...

Saturday 1 March 2014


BPs and I were discussing submarines yesterday, as well as partaking of a few sherberts and enduring several laughs, so here is the antidote...

Not bad for 1979...

Friday 21 February 2014

21st February, 1919...

While taking JRT out for a stroll in the stone orchard, in a village near here, Scrobs wandered past a broken tree which had been felled during the recent storms.

One of the branches had fallen across a gravestone, which turned out to be the same identifiable version of all grave markers for men and women killed during the wars.

JRT was happy sniffing around, and I just pulled away the branches, and saw that it was indeed the gravestone of a soldier from 'The Buffs', (East Kent Regiment), who was asleep there. Sad to say, that I had to take a gulp, as he'd died this very day - 21st February, 1919.

It only took a few key strokes to find the exact house where Tom Smith had lived, and also to see the front door where his wife would have stood to receive the sad news, and the main bedroom window above, where she would have spent her first sleepless nights as a widow.

Sometimes there's just a bit too much information around, when a little poignant, suspended memory would suffice...

Tuesday 11 February 2014

RVI - (Reevers to me), has an amazing story here, well worth a long ponder...

Over the weekend we received a visit from some friends from Japan. He is Anglo/Chinese and she is Japanese. They have 2 children, a girl aged 5 and a boy aged 2 and a bit. Mum is an accomplished pianist and has been teaching her daughter to play since she was old enough to sit on a piano stool. Every time they come to the house the lass makes a beeline for the Yamaha in the corner. This time she was entertaining us with something by Mozart. Bearing in mind she is still only 5, she is going to be quite amazing to watch and listen to when she grows up!

The son was born with Downs Syndrome but it is still unknown whether he is also autistic. He has mastered the art of balancing and walking, but not as yet speech. While the adults were chatting, he was looking at his reflection in the blank tv screen on the sideboard. Suddenly something caught his eye and he moved along the carpet a step or two to check it out. He realized it was a reflection and turned and looked over his shoulder. What he had seen was our very old brass table lamp. This lamp was hand-made in Thailand in the late 1800s and belonged originally to my wife’s grandmother, but we have had it with us for over 25 years. It is about 18 inches high with a bulging waistline and the entire surface is decorated with shapes and symbols which were beaten out of the original brass panel. It really is quite a masterpiece of craftsmanship. It sits on a round 3ft high table alongside my armchair and is in effect my reading lamp. There is a small inlaid side table in front of it which is covered by a souvenir t-towel we bought somewhere or other years ago. 

When Junior saw the lamp he came towards it with a huge smile on his face and an outstretched arm with his index finger pointing at it. His arm remained in position as he studied the lamp. Then he began to roll up the front edge of the t-towel. After couple of twists, he cupped his hands and appeared to offer something to the lamp. He then began pointing again and his lips began moving – although no sound came out – as though he was in deep conversation with ‘something’. Occasionally he nodded in agreement with whatever was being said. He stopped and went to the coffee table where the tea and cakes were spread, carefully took 3 coasters from their holder and returned to the lamp. He placed the coasters very carefully in a perfectly straight line along the top of the small table and then repeated the offering gestures. He sat down on the floor, cupped his hands again and appeared to be scooping water(?) from the carpet. Each scoop was placed carefully on one the coasters and the contents then offered to the lamp. His arm was outstretched again and the conversation resumed. He stopped, went to the sofa and removed a cushion which he brought back and carefully placed on the floor by the small table; then he went back for a second one which was placed alongside the first one. He knelt on the cushions and resumed the scooping movement from the carpet, each time offering something to the lamp. Again his arm was stretched out and pointing at the lamp and a conversation was being held, all the while with a huge happy smile on his face.

After about 5 minutes it ended. One more point and smile at the lamp and he stood up and carefully replaced the cushions back on the sofa and the coasters back in their holder. He returned one more time for a quick twist of the t-towel, cupped his hands and offered the contents to the lamp. As he was finishing he pointed his outstretched arm at me with his huge grin and then at the lamp as though he was trying to tell me something. Then he went off to see what his sister was doing.

As he was lost in his own world, none of us disturbed him throughout this ritual although his mum was kneeling alongside him to make sure he did not fall into a sharp edge. She could not understand what had happened and said that he had never before behaved like that.

So what happened? Who or what did he see in the lamp? Who was he communicating with? How did he know to make those offertory gestures? How did he know about the cupping and scooping? What made him go and get the coasters and cushions? Why did he deliberately smile and point at me (and nobody else) as he completed his ritual? Bear in mind that he is only just over 2 years old and has spent the major part of his young life in a Tokyo apartment. It is a complete mystery and had I not seen it with my own eyes, in my own house, unfolding right by my armchair I would be hard pressed to believe such a story. Is there something in the lamp that only specially gifted people can see? He was clearly very happy with what/whoever it was he was communicating with. 

As a by-the-by, the lamp was one of a pair and many years ago somebody broke into granny’s house and stole one of them. It is reputed that the thief was then subjected to some years of ill health and other misfortunes. The village bomoh told him that the lamp was the cause of his misery and he should get rid of it. So he sold it and his luck changed for the better. However, the same problems then befell the man who had bought it. He too eventually had had enough and returned the lamp to granny’s house. I do not know where the other one is now, but it is almost certainly somewhere within the extended family.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Countryfile blagged by BBC...

Great prog this evening, by Ellie and the rest, but sadly the bit about the Environment Agency's failings was diverted to make them seem like they understand the best option.

No doubt the big fat beached whale Milord Smith will be smugly satisfied.

Meanwhile, our dear countryside is demolished by the last labour governments' political inadequacies in making the UK a great place to live in.

Monday 3 February 2014

A trip to the grocer...

Senor and Mrs O'Blene arrive back in Dover, after a short trip to obtain some foreign comestibles...

Monday 27 January 2014

Family pile...

There's a good local free magazine, much beloved by small builders, local care homes wanting staff, and estate agents. Mrs Scroblene asked me to pick up a copy last week, as there was a name she expected to see inside, and I was drawn, inexplicably to the property pages, there was nearly an obsessive need to read every page, and Scrobs usually succumbs quite happily to all sorts of obsessions, mainly those with an ABV of about 13%...

Somehow, all the pictures of houses led me to the next one, then the next, until the top one leapt out, as deep down, I probably knew it would!

Yup, our old family home is back on the market! 

And looking through the particulars, I'm saddened really, that the place has changed, as it must have done without Scrobs Senior's direction and taste, and nothing seems right at all. The windows just don't seem to fit, there are carpets over some of the best oak flooring available when the place was built, and the garden is just a mess!

Of course, I'll never get to see the house again, as it would be a farce for me to try and pass myself off as a prospective purchaser; I'd be rumbled as soon as I noticed the nails I banged in the garage roof, or spotted the air-gun slugs still embedded in the utility room ceiling, but I suppose I can tell the estate agents a little of why the old place - now sixty years old - at least has some form and history, from a grateful Scrobs and his dear sister.

Friday 17 January 2014

The Major and The General...

As it was Friday, Scrobs usually pops round to Linda's to buy a local paper and a few stamps, and again, because it was Friday, the detour back home just has to pass along the well worn path past 'The Bells', and by some quirk of fate, the Scrobular legs just effect a sort of twitching, mechanical left turn into the saloon bar, without even being asked!

My good friend Elias Sagtrouser was standing at the bar, and for once, he was listening intently to a dapper, well turned-out gentleman whom we all recognise, and call 'The General', as indeed, he was a high-ranking army officer in his earlier years. We all like The General, as he is polite, gruffly friendly and very good at conversation, and is the sort of man who makes you feel that the only interesting person in his world is yourself and I've stood in awe, listening to many a story from his experiences during his years abroad, mostly about West Africa and other foreign climes.

Elias beckoned me over, or rather enveloped my shoulder with a large tweed-encased paw as soon as I ducked into the bar, and he had an excited look on his face, which means that he's either sold all his out-of-date paint, or managed to extricate all his accounts in ready cash. It was neither of these, as I was about to find out, and while I said my 'hellos' to The General, shaken hands and had a couple of opening laughs, Elias called for refills, which were large pints of Shep's 'Winter Warmer' (6.3% ABV), and well worth the effort too!

The General had a rusty old biscuit tin on the bar, and a newspaper folded to show some sort of large building project.

"Scrobs, I'm just about to tell Elias a story which I've only just uncovered, and I'd like you to hear it as well, you being in building and that sort of thing"!

Of course, by now I am all ears, and just for once, Elias is silently waiting to listen instead of making some jest.

The General continued. "D'you remember the old chap who used to walk his little dog round the village, and invariably wore an old army hat"?

Well of course, we all knew 'The Major' because he really had been active during the war. He'd always kept himself to himself and there was always a certain amount of dignity and mutual respect whenever he crossed paths with anyone. He'd died several years ago, and I remembered the funeral well, as there was a strong Army presence, with a band and several rows of sparkling medals here and there.

"I knew The Major on and off for many years", continued The General, "as we'd been in places abroad although not at the same time, and had experienced similar duties here and there. He never really said very much though, and while I would be clearly senior to him in rank in the present day, at the time I'm going to tell you about, he was a Major, and I was only a much younger Subaltern.

"The Major was Officer Commanding the chaps building some large infrastructures in Nigeria, mainly bridges, dams and the like, soon after the war finished, and things were starting to get back to something near normal. His job was mainly liaison between the Royal Engineers and the local politicians, who were, how can I say it, much more 'conservative' in those days, and took life much more seriously, but it really was a cauldron ready to blow up"!

Elias at this point pointed at everyone's glasses, then pointed to the barman, all in one rounded gesture, which immediately produced three more pints. "These are on me", said The General, "As you will need them after I tell you about what's in this biscuit tin"!

"The Major's widow only recently died at a ripe old age, and his family were clearing out the house as one does. The sons knew that their dad and I had something in common, and they passed me this old tin which they thought might interest me as it contained some old army letters and brass buttons and the like, and they really meant nothing new to the family, as they'd seen them all around for years".

The General continued. "I'd noticed what looked like an old field dressing in the tin, and it turned out to be a tight bundle of letters, all handwritten, and some of them were almost illegible on account of the fact that they had been written in very poor native English. I just couldn't read - let alone pronounce the names, except those by The Major of course! At first glance I didn't understand what they were, and spent more time reading the accounts of military equipment handovers and looking at photographs of Bailey Bridges and the like. I was posted there in the middle forties, and it was fascinating to understand how it all happened back then, and I well remember the attitudes of the high-ranking politicians, the banks and the wealthy families. It was almost a feudal society, you just had to have contacts and money to get anywhere"!

He paused and took a long draught of beer, not just for effect, but because we all like Sheps, and this was a moment to savour!

"After several attempts, I eventually managed to get into the pile of handwritten letters, and at last it became clear what they really were"! The General paused to take another large draught of beer, and looked thoughtful for several seconds.

"They were job applications from two young - both very young - local chaps who'd been working with the Royal Engineers to get the country's roads and bridges up and running again. The letters all praised 'Major Engineer' for the way they'd been treated, and how they'd learned so much in building and the like. They were clearly wanting to succeed and desperate to get to somewhere in life, but being caught up in the turmoil, their task was pretty bleak! The Major had personally written back to them, several times, and it was clear from the final exchanges, that the two chaps eventually got good jobs, with his recommendation, with the Colonial Offices, and became settled in their new careers, which was indeed a pleasing result"!

Elias and I both nodded sagely, as it was indeed the sort of story which we both understood well, as it's hard enough starting up and making a success in building in this country, let alone somewhere like Africa!

"Now that is a very interesting story", Elias said triumphantly, "but what happens next, as it sounds as though there's more.."?

"Oh yes, there's more", said The General, and he opened the biscuit tin and took out the bundle of letters which had been tied up inside the field dressing.

"I've at long last managed to decipher the two names", he said, "and to make things easier, I've printed off the letters as well. They're utterly fascinating"! He placed the original soiled, dog-eared letters on the bar and flattened them so that we could both see the long, unpronounceable names clearly. They were difficult to read, let alone say, but the facts were simple to understand, and we both spent several minutes examining both the letters and the print-outs. Elias was obviously impressed, as his trilby hat was still within ten degrees of the horizontal, which is a first under any circumstances!

"Er, so, what does all this really mean then General"? uttered Elias, full glass in hand, and ready for consumption! If Elias wants an answer, he goes several furlongs further than the next man to achieve one!

"Answers, eh, Chaps"? Said The General. "Here's your answer"! And he opened the overseas newspaper he had placed on the bar, and slowly folded the pages so that it was easy to read a long article on 'The African National Games Stadium'! It read something like this, because there were several headings which confused me.

"The Engineering Consultancy for the new multi-billion dollar athletics complex, football stadium, swimming pools, residential apartments, cycling velodrome, sports arenas, athlete's accommodation and associated infrastructures has been awarded to...two unpronounceable, but instantly recognisable names, and their international business partnership, which has been unchanged since the nineteen-forties and now operates in forty-five countries..."

The General looked at both of us in turn, turned away into his own world, next to his treasured biscuit tin, and started to read the letters all over again and wonder at their content - even again...

Sunday 5 January 2014

On giving up alcohol for January...

So this is the Newlab/LibCon equivalent of political correctness is it - that everyone must forgo the demon drink in January!

Why January for God's sake?

January is the nastiest, coldest, most unforgiving, wettest, lightless, sunless, snow-most (there are fifty words apparently), icebound, greyist month of the year, and some twonk from a feeble-minded gummint quango decides that the good citizens of England, and OK, Wales and Scotland as well, have to think they're going to be even better citizens if they stop drinking a few slurps in January?

Piss off! This is the time when we all need to believe in our own home comforts! The nights are long, we need everyone together round the fire, and a few drams make the season become a little shorter.

I'll never take any notice of these BBC activated twallops, some of whom couldn't even cut the ice in that stupid come-dancing-in-glitter-balls rubbish...