Monday, August 30, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Daily life is enlightened by a series of small incidents that are hardly worth mentioning. But that is what makes living so interesting. Perhaps I am about to “twitter” if I record a few.

We went to a funeral in deepest Hertfordshire where the grandchildren of the deceased, who lived for his garden, threw bouquets of flowers into the grave after the coffin had been lowered into it. It made a touching scene.
Afterwards we spoke to a lady, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, who was trying to hide a large sticking plaster on her forehead. She had been to hospital to have a cancerous melanoma cut away from above her eyebrow. When at home she discovered that they had removed a mosquito bite instead – with the melanoma still there.

There was a clattering outside our house at two o’clock in the morning. Official-looking, yellow-coated men were lifting drain covers and probing beneath them.
At eight o’clock the following morning, several policemen tried to gain entrance to a house. They shouted that they had a search warrant. It was not until they started to break down the door that entry was granted.

My sister was given Italian courgette seeds to grow on her allotment. They grew splendidly but took on an exaggerated phallic shape, over two feet long and with a bulbous end. She gave me one, which drew incredulous glances from bus passengers as I returned home with it. The flesh was firm, and excellent to eat.

Returning on a number 27 bus from Marylebone, in London, the driver took a wrong turn and found himself, and us, returning in the direction from which we had just come. He realised it by the time I had descended from the top deck to tell him. The foreigners aboard had no idea what the fuss was about. But the rest of us, who were quite aware of the error, had a good laugh and much jovial conversation about it and other things.

An old artist friend, on holiday in Majorca, nearly drowned in a swimming pool. People thought that he was enjoying himself in the water, but his daughter heard his faint cries for help, and he was saved. It did not exactly spoil his holiday after only one day in a most expensive hotel, as his subsequent 10 days were spent in hospital, surrounded by and tended to hand and foot by pretty Spanish nurses, and all for free. I am glad to say that he is regaining his strength, and after a good Sunday lunch with us, his sense of wellbeing, too.

A local dog, liable to yap for hours when his mistress is out, might be cured from making this disturbing noise when the anti-dog-barking electronic collar we have ordered for it is attached.

A blue tit has acquired the taste for an unripe pear in our garden. It pecks away, almost eating its own weight of fruit at each visit. We do not mind at all as we have five other pears on this tree-in-a-pot.

I have a good eye injected every so often to retain its sight. Last time out the needle struck a blood vessel as the eyeball was pierced. Now I walk around with a wife and a black eye.

If this is twittering, it’s quite good fun. But blogging is better.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Birds singing strangely

Some years ago, I was in my small London garden in the dead of winter when a male blackbird landed on a vine post near me and started to sing.
Blackbirds do not sing in wintertime, but this one was not technically singing.
It went through its entire summer repertoire, quietly and under its breath. I stood transfixed at this quiet cascade of notes pouring out from a blackbird that did not even bother to open its beak.
Now much the same thing has happened with a robin.
We know our two robins well. They come into our shed to eat maggots and small morsels of Cheddar cheese, sometimes from my knee if I feel like it. Now they are mostly away, seldom appearing as they obtain new feathers in the annual moult.
In their absence a new robin has appeared on the block. He is a bright, upright robin, who wants company more than food.
He has taken cheese from flagstones beneath me as I crumbled it into small pieces and let them fall. He dashed in to eat them so close to my feet that I dared not move for fear of treading on him. He is brave.
Two days before writing this, Margreet and I heard what sounded like young birds singing in the distance, possibly all in line on a TV aerial, or so we imagined. We accepted these distant songs and took pleasure in them.
Then our new robin came to sit on a wooden sculpture a few feet away from where we were sitting. And, like the blackbird in mid winter, this robin was singing under his breath - in mid summer. The notes might have come from a long way away.
His repertoire of songs must have lasted for 15 minutes, and stopped only when a nearby blackbird shouted out her warning signal call.
A friend arrived the following day to witness and hear the same robin singing the same songs from the same perch.
I passed close to the bird to fetch cheese bits, which he declined to eat, not moving, and singing all the while.
Our own human conversation ended as we watched the bird and listened to his song – for perhaps five minutes.
The new robin is clearly very friendly, wants company, is fearless of people, and has songs to whisper that he wants us to hear.
We dearly love our regular pair of robins, but we also hope that this songster comes to stay. But robins are very territorial – ours particularly so. I imagine that there will be fighting before the winter sets in.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Glorious Goodwood

I’m sure that I have written before on Glorious Goodwood, an annual horse racing meeting in Sussex that attracts the famous and infamous. But I can’t resist it, even if I am about to write much the same description.
Margreet and I had once more been invited to attend by my cousin (aged 88) who is now much in demand for wreath laying in Normandy, being among the first soldiers on D-day to land by glider near Caen and still be able to drive a car to France.
We met near Chichester and reached the racecourse slowly in his membership-badged/invalid-displayed car.
There, in sunshine and shade, we drank and ate in the open and watched the crowd. And what a fascinating crowd it was.
Among the male participants were elegant gentlemen in tropical fawn suits, polished shoes, and Panama hats with coloured hat bands displaying the colours of Goodwood membership or their club – sporting or otherwise.
Other men seem to lean more toward the fringes of society. Their suits were flashier, more pronouncedly striped, and of shinier material. Their shoes might be of patent leather or related to trainers. Generally speaking, the men’s clothing was fairly drab and mundane. Women, however, sparkled.
There were plenty of old trouts to be seen, some elegant and underplayed, others recalling, especially to themselves, the days of fashion in their time when they were in greater demand and more youthful in appearance.
Skirt lengths varied enormously this year, with some long, some of medium length, and some so short that most of the leg was on show, undercarriage that often would have been far better concealed.
There were many bared cleavages with breasts well flaunted, and bouncing to display their full worth.
In many an instance there were the dolly-birds, dressed as if in rather cheap Christmas wrapping paper, and tied with string, soon to be undone by their often much older and pot-bellied escorts.
Hats for the ladies were worn to enhance and attract – the most resplendent probably to attract the TV cameramen rather than for punters and their partners. These crowning glories varied from the odd feather to a fully displayed hand of them, to the short-brimmed pill box, to those with huge floppy brims – the latter flapping around uncontrollably in the notorious Goodwood wind and having to be held on by one hand.
A few sensible women chose to wear low or wedge-shaped shoes, sometimes shiny silver, or gold. Those dressed to the nines sported high stilettos, which sank into the grass aerating the soil, no doubt much to its benefit.
The three of us each wagered on every race until the last when we left to avoid the crowds.
Margreet’s theory was to pick horses that were not favourites but which our newspaper pundit reckoned to be a danger to the favourite. She lost a bit on the day – but not much.
Our host bet only on horses that had previously been the winner of at least one race. “They know about winning and the pleasure it gives.” He also favoured the nags that had been sent to the racecourse from afar, on the assumption that it would not have been worth the trouble and expense if it had no chance of winning. He broke even on the day.
My own method was to select the fourth favourite (or thereabouts) and bet on it each way, especially if the horse had an unpleasant or difficult name. The result was a good profit over and above the wager money. It was enough that when we returned home tired and hungry it enabled us to eat out on steak tartare and freezing vodka.
The gods had looked kindly on us all, showed us their bounty, and made it all a lovely day out.