Monday, 30 November 2009
Friday, 27 November 2009
Meanwhile, in a garage not ten yards away, there's something else spring loaded. Like an arsenal of cannons lined up on the cliffs against an armada, we have five mouse traps set, to deal with the winter invasion from their summer home in the compost heap. I feed my furry little friends Asda's least finest chocolate, as they take the sweet treat from the trigger, without releasing the trap. I don't know how they do it, as I catch my own fingers many times as I set the traps. I have given them about thirty portions of chocolate and caught four mice, which is probably about the same success rate that multi-million pound warheads achieve.
It's a waiting game, wondering if there's any more mice on their way, and where we ourselves will be staying tonight. Good night all.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Having been before I knew the catering for the masses in the stadium was limited, so I took my chance outside. Looking for my usual friendly-to-animals-farm-assured beefburger, organic onions lightly sauteed in rain-forest friendly butter, and a nineteen-different-seeds wholemeal bun, made from flour flown in from all over the world (but carbon offset, and orang-utan friendly), I was disappointed by what was on offer. Slabs of gristle fried in Castrol GTX, in a bun made of blotting paper, slathered with red sugar sauce that had once nodded briefly at a passing tomato.
The food was vile, the football dire, but the U's won 2-0. In the football table they're now in third place, but at the dining table they're North Circular Road Relegation League, division six reserves. I cycled the six miles home into a headwind, elated by the team's league position, and vowing never again to patronise that burger van.
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Friday, 20 November 2009
Looking at our capacity, we have cut out or thinned down a few things we try to do. And we're catching up on holidays, with our summer break now booked today. We're off to Brittany for much of December, and looking forward to turkey galette for christmas dinner, followed by christmas pudding crepe for afters.
Meanwhile, our cleanup and clearout continues, with the house buzzing with vacuum cleaners, carpets being beaten (thank you Severine), surfaces being scrubbed, and junk being shipped out to the chazzer, the dump, or recycled. Home sweet home is even sweeter.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
A new approach was needed, as the macho techniques learned from tv dramas clearly wasn't working. Rearranging the pile, I decided that the thickest logs were simply too much for Big Swifty. The smaller logs could be split and quartered using the big chopper and my hand axe as wedges, with my club hammer to drive them in.
Conscious that one shouldn't return one's neighbour's tools broken, I applied the hammer more vigorously to my own little axe, and buried it so deep in the log that it couldn't move further in or come out, or split the wood. Yanking the axe-handle, it snapped off, instantly giving at least one piece of wood for the fire.
Eventually a decent pile of logs emerged from the wood butchery session I was leading. And along came Frank, my trusty helper, to use his tractor to transport the wood to the porch, which was filled from floor to ceiling. As they say, you get warm twice from firewood, First, when you chop it up, and secondly, when you burn it.
Meanwhile I noticed that the gate had sustained storm damage from the blasting by wind and hail a couple of days ago. The whole of the gate was pock marked by the mothball sized pieces of ice that were blasted against it, chipping away at the protective surface and making hundreds of small craters. I don't know if we can put this down to climate change, but it was definitely the climate's fault.
In the good old days I used to follow the "reduce, re-use, re-cycle" principles, not because I was green, but because I was mean. Servicing my own car, I saved the black sludge and old sump oil, and used it on the fence posts and panels, and very effective it was too. No doubt it was polluting the groundwater and carcinogenic, but then I wasn't actually drinking the stuff. Modern wood treatments are so kind to the environment they won't hurt any birds or animals, or even the moss, algae and fungus we want to eradicate. Plus they get washed off by a heavy shower or a blasting from hail.
Looking forward to a fire tonight with my family and lodger. And my potential Hollywood axeman career is over.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Monday, 16 November 2009
Friday, 13 November 2009
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
My journal has stereo photographs of landslips, with my attempts to annotate the physical features. Having studied these carefully I came to the conclusion that another landslip is likely to happen nearby, at some time in the future. I've managed to bring up a family, have a career, and cycled Land's End to John o'Groats, since I Iast opened its pages, and I can't see any circumstances where I'll need it in the next 31 years either. I've thrown it away right now, rather than keep it until I'm 85. OK, I admit it, I had one more last look.
Monday, 9 November 2009
A few sections of wall remain, including this section by the Typography of Terror exhibition, on the site of the HQ of the SS. The "wallpeckers" have done their best to chip away souvenirs, but the wall is now protected. The wall is now a great tourist trail, options including the "Trabbie Safari", where one can hire a smoky old East German car, and be escorted by a guide in a trabbie procession to the main "Mauer" sites. I have no idea if there is a David Hasselhof impersonator straddled across the wall, awaiting the safari punters.
I was reminded at a lecture tonight that the celebrations in 1989 referred to the Berlin Wall being the last in Europe separating our communities. Of course, most city walls were built to defend the city from outsiders, not to keep the city dwellers in the city. Meanwhile, the "peace wall" in Belfast remains for the foreseeable future. Big Swifty announces his first quiz. Why do we need a peace wall in Belfast? Answers on the back of a postage stamp please.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
The High Street was closed to traffic, so that the space could be used for those taking part in the parade, and the onlookers. The crowd were respectfully quiet, as they watched the veterans, current soldiers, cadets and various local organisations, including The Town Watch.
A solemn ceremony at the castle park gates commemorated the fallen, a very moving experience. The band played Elgar's Nimrod magnificently, full of restraint and masterfully maintaining the requisite slow pace. The last post and silence followed the Town Hall striking 11 o'clock.
The crowd reflected on the occasion, no doubt thinking about the lost comrades, families and friends. Looking back, we can all see how the events on a world stage affected the outcomes of our own lives. My father's father died in the blitz in London, so I missed him by about fifteen years. But of course, my family's history would have been completely different if the second world war had not happened. My dad wouldn't have first been evacuated to the fens, and served in the RAF, and returned to the fens where he met my mum.
Hitler invades Poland, and one of many millions of consequences is - here I am.
Friday, 6 November 2009
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
The two actor/singers were playing a has-been minor rock performer, and a never-was Vivien Stanshall impersonator, both waiting to audition for a "60s, one-hit wonders tribute show". With a nod to "Waiting for Godot", the audition never happens, as the players philosophise on life, interweaving lyrics from popular songs, and singing much reduced versions with their two voices accompanied by an electronic keyboard.
It was a tragi-comedy, and I'm sure most of the audience empathised with the lives portrayed by the artists. And the final line of the show was (almost inevitably) "here comes the twist, I don't exist" as the stage fell into darkness.
So, did I enjoy it? Well yes, but part of the fun was the audience. Remember the comedy sketches about "the nut on the bus" that always chooses to sit on the empty seat sit next to you? Well folks, that was my evening out. Just before the start this very nervy man occupied the inviting seat that was left after all the other groups, couples and singletons has taken most of the other 52 seats. With his Sainsbury's plastic bag full of whatever he needed to get through the evening, he fidgeted all show, dipping into his wrestling and boxing mags whenever the lights came on. Various rocking movements, and the odd puff on some electronic gadget that "smoked" his cigarettes, suggested he was struggling with (giving up?) smoking. Now and then he would madly laugh at an inappropriate moment, and he had a bit of a personal hygiene problem too. During the songs he would sometimes stamp his feet, though clearly his brain was beating to an entirely different drum.
And behind me was a very old man with a massive white beard, who insisted on badly whistling the tune he had last heard, even though the actors had moved on to some poignant discussion on our pitiful existence. On occasion he also gave voice to his thoughts about the play, which were quite entertaining in their own right.
There were times when I wondered if I was sitting in the middle of some performance art project, and that hidden cameras were recording my reactions to these two crazy guys. There I was expecting carefully crafted references on stage, to "my pink half of the drainpipe", and "the doughnut in granny's greenhouse", and what I got was 360 degrees of live art.
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
And in my time away from work I was always fairly handy in a quiz team, though some would say there is more to life than playing your joker on the "name the artist" round.
But along came the internet, and my stacks of books on obscure subjects became steadily more redundant. At first I held on to my repository of information, thinking that the www would never be a substitute for printed and bound pages. Slowly, I'm letting things go, freeing up some space, and clearing some tomes that have become rather dated. There's little I can just hand over to the chazza; I have to put the provisionally rejected books in a pile for a last once-over, and skip read, to squeeze that last bit of juice from the fruit.
Today I said goodbye to a book that I inherited a few years ago from my Aunt Beth, "How the city works" by Oscar Hobson, from 1938, but this was a sixth edition from 1959! It describes the workings of the City of London, especially looking at banking, trade and finance. The glossary of terms has no mention of hedge funds or sub-prime markets.
And now I have the internet to inform and entertain me. And what pearls of wisdom do I receive? E-mails teasing me, with pictures of camper vans on the back of bicycles. Information is not wisdom.