Friday 25 November 2011


What cheer, my hearties!

No proper film quiz this week - but a double one next time.

However, here's an easy interim question:

Who whinged about his duck illustration ending up on the wrong US postage stamp??  And what did his wife say, to cheer him up?  (No need for the actual quote - a paraphrase will do nicely.)

It's been so long since I posted so today's nonsense is what you'd call an 'interim' or 'holding action' in a bid to cling onto the few friends I have left.

I turn my back on the garden for a matter of days and what happens?  It breathes a huge sigh of relief, to have me out of the way for a spell and flourishes.  The tuberose which has been sulkily  in unmoving bud for about two months suddenly blooms - well, nearly - my Daphne bholua 'Darejeeling' has bursting flower buds and the first if the winter bulbs, Iris reticulate are already pushing their sharp-pointed little shoots through.  The lawn has grown at least an inch, in less than a week and the meadow grasses are nearly 6 inches high.  It'll need another light topping with the non-rolling Hayter.

The 'tache,  grown for 'Movember,' is lopsided but the violence are genuine Viola odorata 'Governor Herrick.'
The tie is by someone called Duchamp or Dechamp - but not to be confused with that famous urinal.  Or maybe.. .
It has been eventful.
Last Thursday I witnessed, along with the PG, my brother-in-law's wedding.  The Registrar, who was younger than any of us, gave the couple - both coming in to bat for a second innings, and both grandparents  - a stern lecture on the solemnity of the marriage vows, before making them man and wife.

I wore a bunch of sweet violets in my button hole, as did the PG.  You'd probably call hers a 'corsage'  but mine was, distinctly a coarse-arge.

Afterwards we went to a pub in Barnes to nibble whitebait and later to the Groom's flat for a small party before moving on to a superb Italian restaurant not far from the Thames for a big, posh dinner.

A three-year old Ukrainian boy smeared red caviar over my suit trousers and then ate an entire plate of the stuff, spread on discs of toast.

On Friday we went to Eugene Onegin at the London Coliseum which has a better roof than the one in Rome.  Onegin was a complete sh1t but I have to say, Tatiana was a bit of a pillock and Olga should have been thoroughly spanked for her wantonness.

On Saturday, after a day with our grandchildren, we sat in the Old Vic to see Synge's Playboy of the Western World.

Since then, and since my mother moved to a retirement home, we've been sorting out the contents of her house.  How can you concentrate on packing up stuff when confronted by a trunkful of old family photographs?  We spent a morning gawping at the past.  My brother's shorts, at 4 years old, were much worse than mine when I was 7.

I'm listening to Eugene Onegin.  The music is pure Tchike but none the worse for that.

This day last week We were sampling a pre-opera pint of Youngs bitter.  Not what it was, now it's no longer brewed in Wandsworth, and now that Youngs is no longer independent.  Good pubs, in London's West End are rarer than hens' teeth.

This week's film was Rebecca another Hitchcock gem, though not particularly 'Hitchcockian.'  A magnificent Mrs Danvers.

Bye for now!

Wednesday 9 November 2011


A supremely happy November to you all.
And deep apologies for being so tardy in producing a new post.  The delay is inexcusable and I'm thinking of sacking this blog's editor for indolence, sloth, lethargy, procrastination, work-dodging, goofing off, slacking and general idleness.

Now the film quiz.
Who said, in which film? :  
You're a good-looking boy: you've big, broad shoulders. But he's a man. And it takes more than big, broad shoulders to make a man.
You must promise not to cheat, by Googling the quote. 

Bourne Woods on 5th November.  This year's colours have been slow to develop but are lasting wonderfully.

I do have a micro-excuse in that we've a new baby in the family.  It's neither girl nor boy but a MacBook Air.  I've pampered and spoilt it hideously already and have also begun, after teething troubles, to grow accustomed to the latest Macintosh operating system which is known as 'Lion'.

Now it's clear that the good marketing folk at Apple are none to familiar with zoology, and don't really get it about cats and their relative status.

A lion, I'd say, is probably the least desirable of the big cats, especially a male one – despite the majestic mane and swishy tail.  King of the Jungle he ain't!  The males are bone idle and spend most of their time sleeping, copulating or trying to kill other male's offspring so they can give their own genes preference.

Apple's last OS was called 'Snow Leopard' - quite the rarest and most attractive of the cats, being lithe, lissome and graceful in every way and able to survive in the most hostile mountain environment.  When they launched Snow Leopard I said - as in that annoying song from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma - 'They've gone about as far as they can go.'

The Fly Agarics have popped up at last.  The ones I found seemed a little short of the familiar white spots, though.  They were growing under birches, as usual, and always pop up in the same place each year, from huge mycelia.

The fungi have begun at last - hurrah!  After months of drought, recent rains have not been nearly enough to re-constitute our desiccated land.  But they have dampened things enough to kick the  fungi into action.  Several times, we walked in the extensive and biodiverse Bourne Woods, hoping to find interesting toadstools, including fly agaric Amanita muscaria, but have been disappointed until this week end.

Since last writing, we've had visitations, on the our Fen, of a Merlin, a Peregrine and two Short Eared Owls.  Each one a joy and privilege to watch and to admire.  Wonderful birds.

And ...  I've been angered by a couple of minor things recently. . .

1. The Health Police have been issuing edicts about booze again.  As I'm over 60, I've been told that I shouldn't drink more alcohol than comes in HALF A GLASS OF WINE at any one time.  Any more increases the risk of my falling down.  Well, I wonder how many of the puritans who pontificate on such things have been down in our local town of a week-end evening.  Because I think I can safely say, based on the most casual of observations, that the vast majority of people falling down after about 10.30pm, are definitely under 60.  In fact, I'd say they were all well under 30.  And pardon me, if this seems sexist, but I'd say that a majority of the fallers down were female.  And those females not falling down are usually suffering from hypothermia, since they seem to be dressed for a Caribbean beach, rather than a draughty Lincolnshire town.

2.  The honey industry - though it hardly seems right to call such a delightful and beneficial activity an 'industry' - is about to be further handicapped by the EUrocrats.  They are hysterical about the risk that a genetically modified cell, even one that is dead as mutton, might sully the purity of Europe's honey. So they're going to insist that honey is analysed for the presence of GM, before it can be considered fit to sell.

The government officials - if they've got time before they retire in early middle age on pensions that we self-employed folk can only dream about - might be better employed spending the money on desperately needed research into bee health.

Beleaguered by mystery disorders which have nothing to do with GM; threatened worldwide by habitat loss, misuse of agrochemicals and attacked by widespread parasites, pollinating insects are having a very bad time indeed.  And if we don't soon find out how to stop the decline in their populations, we might well all starve.

The army of Brussels sprouts is advancing for Christmas. These grow within a short bike ride of our house.

People often ask me why I don't grow more vegetables at home.  Well, one answer is in the picture above.  When I can buy superbly fresh, top quality produce so cheaply, why would I want to waste valuable plant space by growing it at home?

And finally - may I please remind you that the disgusting growth on my face, as shown below, is causing me deep discomfort and not a little pain.  So if you want to make my agony and embarrassment all worthwhile, kindly bung a fiver or more to The Bristling Gardeners over at Movember.  The money goes towards research into prostate and testicular cancer - two areas of mens' health which are shamefully under funded.  THANK YOU SO MUCH.

I'm hoping to grow a Ned Flanders but think it could take a year or more.
I'm listening to  Number 1 of 14 Bagatelles by Béla Bartok - it sounds a bit like a piano being tuned. No really, it does.  Ah, that's better  - a sort of mad scherzo-ish bit.  It's making my feet twitch.

This day in 2005 I was packing for a trip to London, to celebrate 33 years of marriage and was writing a biggish book for Harper Collins.  I also recorded birds on a tetrad, for the BTO and purchased lamb chops for dinner.  We watched the BBC drama series Rome and according to my diary, I was pretty unimpressed.

This week's film was a French 'Comic Strip' style derring-do thingy called Wasabi which stars Jean Reno, was written by Luc Besson and directed by a geezer called Gérard Krawczyk.  It's spectacular nonsense, but slickly done and wonderfully funny as well as exciting.  I loved it, but any analysis or thought-out critique would be a complete waste of time.

EXCEPT that being French, there had to be A POINTLESS VOICE-OVER NARRATION at the beginning.  What is it about the French, that they have to do that.  I HATE it and they should STOP DOING IT.  AT ONCE.  (Remember Last Year in Marienbad? I've still know idea what that film was all about.  But I digress, as per. . . .)

That's all!  Byezeebye!