Monday 28 January 2013


It’s no good – I can contain myself no longer. Actually, that would be terribly messy, wouldn’t it? Organs and tendons and bones spilling out in an unholy soup simply because my too-frail flesh could no longer hold them in, and should it happen, would I see it, like the beheaded man is believed to see for a glancing second or two? It doesn’t bear thinking about.

However, if a chicken can run around headless for days, or even eighteen months, as Mike the Headless Chicken did, why cannot a human? Granted, it would be bizarre if not actually terrifying and disgusting in equal degrees, but if a chicken can do it, why cannot a man? Superior being and all that . . .

I can’t see anyone volunteering to prove that it could be done, but you never know. Notoriety can bring money – I’m sure the people who survived hanging dined out on the story. Only two Englishmen survived attempted hanging three times, John ‘Babbacombe’ Lee and Joseph Samuel.

And now, having written this ramble, I find I can contain myself – for another day or two, at leastJ

Sunday 27 January 2013


I gave my mother this Clivia fourteen or fifteen years ago. It only flowered once for her but it has bloomed every year for me since she died twelve years ago and is a wonderful reminder of her, if I should ever need one. 

I am linking to Today's Flowers where you can see many beautiful flowers across the world.

What is it?

What is it?

What is it? Did it give you a start when you saw it until you realised it wasn’t a snake?

Take a closer look – what is that peeping out?

More importantly, what does it signify? Questions, questions – and no answers yet . . . (and yes, I should have swept the floor before I took the photographs.)

Thursday 24 January 2013

Junk mail has its uses!

Junk mail has its uses!

Our intrepid postman brings the daily haul of mail, much of it consisting of junk. Added to that are the flyers that are pushed through the letter box each day – advertisements for take-away meals, taxi companies, window cleaners, gardening, ironing, oven cleaning – you name it, somewhere there’s someone offering services you might never have realised you needed. Then there are the many catalogues that arrive in droves – glossy, brightly-coloured, all appealing to the acquisitive spirit that lurks beneath the surface of so many of us.

Some of this dross can be burnt with the garden rubbish, (check which way the wind is blowing if you don’t want to be billed for relaundering the washing your neighbours may be attempting to dry in Nature’s tumble dryer!) some may be composted, though too much gives the worms indigestion (I made that up) but I fear much ends up in landfill sites or on a slow boat to China.

We are fortunate in having a log burner – two, actually, that also work on other fuels. Junk mail is useful in the initial ignition of the fires but burns away very quickly, leaving ash that can choke a nascent conflagration. Recently I saw an advertisement for the LogSaver, a device that holds rolled-up paper in a form similar to a natural log. It shows a copy of Yellow Pages (telephone directory) neatly rolled and held firmly in the iron grip of the LogSaver – that in itself was sufficient to stimulate my interest. Telephone directories are heavy, dense and not acceptable at local recycling points, in this area anyway. The advertisement further informed me that the logs thus formed would burn for around one hour and that the device would last for two years. (I must admit that I misread or misunderstood that last point and it was only when I was telling Barry how amazing it was that the logs would last for two years that I realised what I was saying and ended up in a fit of giggles. I’ve had a lot on my mind recently . . . )

Anyway, we thought it sounded like a good idea and accordingly, I sent off for it. It arrived in a neat little box which actually contained two LogSavers.
Note the recycling symbol! 
The papers/brochures have to be rolled quite tightly but once in place there is no escape from the fiery furnace for them.
  Firmly rolled . . .
. . . and ready to go! 
 Burning well . . .
. . . and casting a warm and comforting glow.
We are very impressed with them – they will help our logs and coal to go further, the ash can be used to improve the soil in the slurry pit that our garden has become and the volume of material in our recycling boxes has been reduced.

I’m not sure what we shall do in the summer, though . . . save up all the junk until we can have fires again?

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Be Prepared!

Be Prepared!

Except in the far reaches of the British Isles, snow is not a common sight in winter and *if it lasts more than two weeks it’s cause for comment by national media. When snow is forecast a kind of war-time comradeship emerges and a siege mentality sets in as people flock to the shops to stock up on essentials. Everyone gets very excited when it falls and settles. Everything grinds to a halt – schools are closed, electricity supplies are cut, public transport is reduced or abandoned altogether and there are hourly warnings on radio and television not to go out  ‘unless your journey is really necessary.’
This is on Wildmoor Heath. There are many gates separating different areas. Cattle graze in some paddocks. On Sunday we reached a gate with a notice informing us that cattle were grazing in the paddock and dogs should be kept on leads. Barry asked a woman coming through the gate if there were any cattle in there. 'No,' she replied, 'I haven't seen any cattle up here for years.' We went confidently through and lo and behold there were several Charolais cows contentedly munching whatever cows munch. We're quite sure our informant wasn't blind! The dogs were well behaved and took no notice of the cows.
Intrepid reporters are sent to the four corners of the country – at least those that are experiencing the unusual phenomenon. They stand on windswept bridges or in the middle of roads telling their open-mouthed public how extraordinary, almost unprecedented, is the sight before them. Yes, travelling is really difficult when snow falls – could it be anything to do with the hordes of cameramen and journalists clogging up the roads telling the nation how it’s advisable to remain indoors?
Well-trodden and very wet in places . . .
Usually, pedestrians are only seen on the streets when taking their children to and from school and often simply from their cars to the school gates but when snow appears the normally deserted roads are filled with parents pulling children on sledges and families building snowmen and igloos. We even see people on skis! It’s funny how they cannot travel to work or school but can still summon the courage and strength to go out and play in the snow.

The unusual influx of people onto the streets is always rather worrying because some drivers, whose journeys are really necessary, are still attempting to navigate their cautious way across unfamiliar terrain. Being unversed in car handling in adverse conditions they are inclined to skid and slide and swerve unnervingly close to small people engaged in snowy pursuits. Sometimes young hotheads take the opportunity to practise handbrake turns along residential streets. Should such morons ever be allowed on the public highway, regardless of weather conditions?

Three years ago when we had a heavy fall of snow our ‘dog car’ got stuck (yes, our journey was really necessary – large dogs unexercised for any length of time are more perilous to health even than thick snow) and walking on frozen snow, even with pacer poles, was difficult so we decided that in future we would be fully prepared. Accordingly, Barry bought a snow shovel, snow socks for the car and chains for our walking boots. Naturally, the next two winters brought very little snow and absolutely no occasion to use our special equipment.

This year, when around 5”/12½ cms of snow fell on Saturday, the time was ripe to try out our winter paraphernalia. The snow shovel was put to good use and the drive has remained snow-free and safe to walk on (though more snow is forecast overnight – indeed has just started falling!)

The most revelatory things were the Yaktrax. They were difficult to attach to our boots but they make walking so much easier and safer. They are not good indoors on bare wooden floors – in fact, they’re probably quite hazardous unless you fancy practising ice-skating. The only things we haven’t yet tried are the snow socks. Maybe they will come in handy in another three years J (I may live to regret that flippant remark!)

Although I mock and despair over the parlous state of our transport system and the way we just cannot cope with a relatively small amount of snow, I do like to see that fresh, bright white, the most humble objects transformed into things of unutterable beauty, the trees supporting their crystalline burdens in a clear blue sky. I love the smell of the air, the feeling as it slices into my lungs, the crunch of the snow beneath my feet, the sight of my dogs frolicking in delirious delight. I relish looking out from my warm sitting room to an alien landscape and seeing the birds - and a hungry squirrel - feasting on fat cakes and peanuts and seeds. For me, snow is a rare delight and I embrace it – so long as my journey isn’t really necessary – apart from for the dogs, that is. 
*Thank you to all who pointed out my error. What I intended to say and should have made clear is that snow that lasts more than two weeks takes on the significance of an historical event, causing excited reporters and presenters to delve into the record books to identify whether *this* snowfall has exceeded all others in terms of depth and disruption. Already, we are told that serious floods will follow the thaw - the most serious ever? We shall see. I do sympathise with those most severely affected. It's no cause for levity, I know. 



My intention was to be a Better Blogger in 2013 but I seem to be in some sort of limbo, waiting for something to happen. On the one hand there is Barry’s mother, Dorothy, old and very frail, who keeps falling into a sort of hibernation in her care home in Dorset.

Two weeks ago she had been asleep for two days, not responding to any external stimuli apart from when the doctor poked the sole of her foot with something sharp. A short while later she woke up and indicated that she was thirsty. Barry and his brother decided she should go to hospital. While there she was rehydrated and given a broad spectrum antibiotic.

Barry’s sister-in-law phoned later to find out how she was and the nurse couldn’t locate her. Eventually she was discovered travelling round the hospital on her Zimmer frame looking for the exit. When the nurse was told that the doctor attending Dorothy in the home said she was dying, the nurse laughed and said, ‘No way is she dying.’ Indeed, when they visited later that day they found her in high good spirits, much of her lost personality seemingly restored, no longer the depressed and aggressive and inward-looking character she had been for so many, many months.

The next day she returned to the retirement home she has lived in for the last two and a half years and promptly fell asleep again. This time it was thought it was due to genuine tiredness after her journeying round the hospital. Following that, she was awake, drinking tea and eating chocolates. Now, once more, she’s back to sleeping deeply and eating and drinking very little. We think probably she will go into the local hospital where she will be rehydrated again. It seems the right thing to do rather than allow her to slowly die of thirst.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, in Edinburgh, our eldest granddaughter was taken into hospital with painful contractions (not Braxton Hicks) Very worrying, as the baby was not due for another eleven weeks. Marnie was transferred from St James’ to the Royal Infirmary where the facilities for treating very premature babies are better and we waited and waited and Gillian and Paul (Marnie’s parents) became more and more strained. 

After a week, when no further progress was made Marnie was discharged. She wasn’t allowed to fly or travel by train so Gillian drove to Edinburgh to collect her. She then had to go to Dorchester to be checked but was allowed home. She is still having contractions but will not see an obstetrician until Friday this week, almost three weeks since she was first admitted to hospital. Surely it cannot be right for her to continue having contractions for another eight weeks? She has been told she has an 'irritable uterus' - I'll say it's irritable!

However, the baby is pronounced healthy and capable of breathing on her own if she does arrive early. Whenever she puts in an appearance there are some names she should not have. With a surname starting with S she cannot have names giving the initials BS, FS, OS, PS or SS!! J

Interesting times - I’ll keep you posted!

Friday 11 January 2013

Patience is a virtue . . .

You may have seen this before but it’s new to me and I’m still chuckling. Listen for the giggling from the woman video-taping this event.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Non-pc tax return

Tax Return

At this time of year we are engaged in filing our tax returns. It's boring and frustrating in equal degrees and so a little humour goes a long way. The following arrived in our email this morning and caused some mirth.

A man in Evesham has just had his Tax Return rejected by HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs) because he apparently answered one of the questions incorrectly. In response to the question, 'Do you have anyone dependant on you?' the man wrote:-

'2.1 million illegal immigrants, 1.1 million crackheads, 4.4 million unemployable Jeremy Kyle scroungers, 90,000 criminals in over 85 prisons, plus 649 self- serving lying ponces in our Parliament and the entire European Commission.'

The HMRC stated that the response he gave was unacceptable.

The man's response back to HMRC was, 'Who did I miss out?'