Monday, July 30, 2007

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

“You utter woodlouse!”
Blind Pugh doesn’t say much, but when he does its usually important.
“I’m sorry old boy”
“You heard, I called you a woodlouse.”
I decide that I had better listen to what he has to say and try and placate him.
“What seems to be the problem my dear fellow?”
“And you can stop all that ‘dear fellow’ Wind in the Willows crap.”
He is more annoyed than usual, something has clearly riled him.
“You know damn well what the problem is. The only warm sunny day in the whole of July so far and you have to go and mow the bloody grass.”
“Errm I am sorry,” I stumble by way of an apology, “its just that the summer visitors will be here soon and I haven’t …
“Spare me your pathetic excuse me. I am pawing a letter to my solictitor. And if you come one blade of grass closer to this apple tree I am going to ring ‘DogLine’.”
I expect he will get over it by tea time. His bark is usually worse than his bite.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Scouting For Boys

Worry not, its not going to be a gay paedophile item. Really just a short observation on the legacies of Baden Powell and a reason that he is probably now rotating merrily in his grave.
Sesiwn Fawr on the weekend and with all those fine bands I hope you will forgive my lack of a post for a day or two. North Wales own mini Glastonbury is going from strength to strength, I was knackered!
I view of the fact that She Of The Townhouse was working the South and I was sitting in the North we agreed to meet at the venue, set up camp and repair to the main stage by eight in the evening. I wanted to see Steve Earle doing his stuff.
For this reason I was left in charge of preparing The Boy and collecting The Friend.
Now The Boy is an experienced camper. Just turned fourteen, he has been a scout for some years now. He is used to working his checklist in to a rucksack. As I also had to prepare food, collect equipment, and sort out pets I was secure in the knowledge that I could leave him to it.
He came home from school as I loaded the car. Loaded it until it grunted I might add. There was no way I was leaving that bloody kitchen sink lying there on the deck. After about three quarters of an hour I called him to see if he was ready. Almost finished he chimed from the bathroom. It transpired that preparation so far had comprised having a pooh!
As he emerged from the pit of foul despair I did my best Roger Moore Eyebrow twitch. Allowing this to express the strong emotion I was feeling in regard to the lateness of the hour and the diminishing prospect of seeing the singer songwriter that was my headline act for the Friday night.
Before long though, he emerged from the front door, ruc-sacked and ready to rock. Time wasted earlier was made up and we set off.
As we set up camp, a review of The Boy’s packing revealed that his scouting experience had enabled him to ensure that he had most of the weekend essentials. That is to say he had his book, and his Nintendo DS. I remember that She Of The Townhouse and I remarked at the time that this would be both practical and useful. It would enable him to sleep comfortably in a wet field and keep warm to boot. The lack of a sleeping bag, airbed, torch and a raincoat, would surely be overcome by items of such utility. If he got bored with the DS he could always use the illumination from the screen to read his book.

Some time well after midnight we returned to our tents with our ears still ringing from the specially reformed “Mafia Mr Hughes”. These being the local headliners, on after the aforementioned Mr Earle, and an excellent new band Trans Global Underground.
We were tired and ready for bed.
Sitting on the stool outside his tent, rain dripping off the end of his nose as the rest of us tucked up warm The Boy presented a description of misery seldom seen expressed outside a Dickensian novel.

After 5 minute we took pity on him. My years of experience camping with teenagers meant that I had one spare of everything. I swear there was a tear in his eye.

Truly The Magoo is strong in this one.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ordinary Life 4

I have been in some doubt about how much I can write here.Just brief notes, the book will of course reveal all!

Some time late in 1973, at a school christmas disco, Christine and I tried to figure out how best to shuffle all the extra noses and teeth. We weren’t kissing with confidence but it was a start.
A few months later, Susan the professor ( though she was only 14 at the time you understand) gave me generous access to her vest and its mysteries.
Then, just after my fifteenth birthday, I was again dropped into another new world.
I took part in a school exchange with a student from a small village near Bordeaux. For a glorious month, I lived the life of a French boy. Shared his family, his cigarettes, his friends, his moped, a new world of food. I learned a language, driven by necessity beyond the ‘plume de ma tante’. I made a friend for life. I learned a passion for a country and a language that overtook my interest in astronomy.
While I was there, his elder sisters friend Chantal, took me aside one drunken evening, and I lost my innocence with no regrets.

Archbishop Makarios had a spot of bother in Cyprus, and Lord Lucan dissapeared. I took, and passed, a mathematics O’level a year early and then a year later passed ten more subjects, the one in which I had made a dramatic improvement, beyond expectation, being French.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ordinary Life 3

In 1970 I went to secondary school. Again a step into a larger world. Because of the system I was now mixed with students from a wide area of North East Bristol. Five miles and two buses from my village home, I was exposed to wonders new and little understood.
To go back a little, my upbringing wasn’t sheltered; at least I don’t think it was, but the opportunity for certain experiences were limited by its rural remoteness. Not everybody had a car in the sixties. There were only four telephones in the village, ours being the phone box along the road. Going to school on the outskirts of a city of millions was big! Suddenly there were other kids that could do maths.
I think I rose to it, although I floundered in sport, the only one I did well in was the high jump, but then you might expect that of an eleven year old who was narrowing his gap with being six feet tall. Physically I was poorly coordinated. Academically I was firmly B stream. Except in science and maths where I found it simple to excel. I was fascinated by languages eventually taking Latin to improve my prospects! Along the way though I was lazy. I couldn’t get of my arse to have a passion for geography, the history I was taught seemed dry despite the efforts of castle builders. It took me many years to come back to these with interest. Perhaps my greatest surprise to myself was learning French and some of the knock on effects that this had.

I was still felt very shy around girls. Looking back now I can see that there were plenty that were interested. Most of them couldn’t wait long enough for the penny to drop though. The prospects for a teenage fumble at the glamrock discos of the early seventies were grabbed by bolder souls than I, and so for most of the first four years, girls remained an exotic mystery.
1975 saw an end to all that.

Pardon? Oh yes, Top far left.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Stroke Of Fortune

This is going to have to be quick of course (fear not ladies, not that quick). I just had to pop in here first and tell everyone before I nip down to the patent office. Einstein schmeinstein! We have made a discovery that could revolutionise housework.

She Of The Townhouse has been away again. In the last fortnight she has been flitting backwards and forwards to the capital overseeing a change in leadership.
I beg your pardon? No no! Not those buffoons. I’m talking about Rhodri and Ieuan. Don’t think for one minute that the heart op was a coincidence….look I’m going a bit Corbett already. This has all got nothing to do with our discovery. The point is that She Of The Townhouse is on the road and Axeman, The Boy, Asbo, Blind Pugh and I have been left to fend for ourselves…… again.

Its all very well her being a Grand Pooh Bah Of A Whole Celtic Nation but I am afraid that she is using it as an excuse to let housework and catering standards slip. Once more the dust bunnies are threatening to mutate into a new suborder. And we are having trouble changing the channel. A few of the takeaway cartons spilled as the fell off the pile on the arm of the chair, and now there is sweet and sour on the remote.
Asbo did his best but its not the same as having a woman around the place, the limits of his tongue are becoming apparent (he is much quieter and he doesn’t smell as good either, but that is of less relevance so I thought I’d leave that bit out of my main theme). We are forced to watch repeats of Pobol y Cwm on an endless loop that was recorded when The Mummy was in hospital. I like the idea that Eastenders is not the longest running TV soap that comes from the BBC stable but the six episodes on this tape are becoming a little tired with repetition, especially as we have to stand almost out in the back yard to watch them due to the fact that the volume is stuck on full. Still they do include a couple of references to the welsh world cup squad and we enjoy a laugh.

As she is due back tomorrow I thought it might be nice if we all chipped in and made sure she had a fresh Dyson. The old one is full again and we have to throw it away with all the others. This isn’t proving as expensive as I had feared last time I mentioned it. We were able to recover She Of The Townhouse’s credit card number from one of Axeman’s ebay forays and use it on the Tesco website so now we get Dysons delivered mouse to house whenever the old one runs out for nothing. Selflessly determined to help I decided to put the old one out for the binmen despite the fact that she had left it two floors up, rather than by the front door; where it would have been much easier. I must have a word with her about thinking of others when she finishes a job.
While I was carting it down the stairs I lost my grip and do you know what? On the very last bounce that pod thing where all the grease and slime finally wind up just broke off. I have been meaning to write to Dyson to suggest this as a feature for some time as I feel this could lead to a far more environmentally friendly machine. Plus there would be a nice little business for someone in the pod replacement market.
Don’t get too excited and run off thinking you are going to make it rich though. As I say there has been an important discovery, and this may just render the Dyson obsolete.
While we were scouring the floor for the envelope with our dinner money in it, The Boy spotted something new. Some of the bright red sauce from the last Indian meal we had, breakfast on Monday if memory serves, had congealed on the floor trapping a rather large wad of dog hair. The effect was rather like a small scrap of scarlet and black carpet. The colour scheme reminding me of one of those jumpers worn by Paul Michael Glaser in the second season of Starsky and Hutch.

*Ok hands up! Who said ‘Geek’....…I’m not going to go on until we sort this out…*

After a short period of experimentation we found out that we were indeed on to a winning formula. Left over curry sauce and stray dog hair make a remarkably good self assembling carpet. By its very nature the bits that are walked on most are the ones that get a free repair most often. The carpet has a sweet eastern aroma that we all agree reminds us of those stinking incense stick that She Of The Townhouse insists on setting fire to in the lavatory (posh) after 'the lads' have been in there. Plus it helps let you know what the weather is like. If the carpet is stickier than usual then wear a coat as it may be raining outside.

To summarize.
A self assembling, self repairing, vibrantly coloured carpet; that needs no cleaning, and does away with the need for airwick and barometers.
Our fortune is made!

Mush dash.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I suspect that anyone coming here to be appalled by the foul deeds of a man and his dog, or perhaps tales of dysfunctional housework must have been a tad miffed over the past couple of weeks. I am not sure what’s going on here on Hallett’s Mountain. And if I am not sure then what hope have you dear reader. I am always anxious to steer away from the fluffy kitten blog of course. I choose not to stray into other more worldly areas as well, as noted from time to time. I can only say that I have had my mind on womens underwear.
Mothers of small children, fear not. While I shall set googletraps in this post, I won’t cross the line. ……just don’t follow the links….
On the weekend I found myself faced with a dilemma that I was unable to refer to Miss Manners.
My guests, the honeymooners, had left, and I decided to spruce the old place up ready for the summer. I have to say that they left it shiny as a new pin. Spotless. And they cooked a very nice loaf of bread and left it in the kitchen where me and The Boy buttered it for breakfast. So. Before going out to mow the grass, a source of unfathomable male pleasure, I just stuck my nose in the other rooms.
The Tegan (I fear I am doomed to call her such, as I did it the first time by mistake and I am too embarrassed to admit another editorial mistake) was visited by her sister while on the mountain. The whole brood stayed up here for one night, so I thought it best just to see that they hadn’t left anything.
Staring at me from the right hand side of the spare bed, was an item of intimate feminine apparel. Laundered, I hasten to add, and folded in a manner that suggests that the owner was distracted, perhaps by a small child,just before putting them back in a travelling bag.
I was going to post them back through the door of the presumed owner when I paused for thought. There are several possible misinterpretations of such an action, and none of them really lead to a good outcome. Even leaving a note could overly complicate the situation, and besides what on earth could I write. Plus they might have been there for longer. Left by an earlier guest and overlooked by my pathetic attempts at tidiness. I don’t stray in to that room very often and the retrieval and folding could have been a polite gesture intended to prevent me embarrassing another soul sometime in the future. Or they could have been left there by The Boy… or one of his mates… circumstances that wouldn’t bear close scrutiny. The more I contemplated the lace trimmed little beggars, the worse it got.
Hallett’s Mountain is aware that there are internet sites on which second hand underwear sells well, but I have always felt a little uneasy about repeat visits. Besides which these were, clean.
I stuffed them in my pocket and continued my sweep, eager for something that I could perhaps sell on ebay.
A Couple of days later I was out walking the dog. While paused to exchange doggy pleasantry with the woman from the wine shop and her mate from the other side of the river, I noticed that Asbo was grunting and straining over the council flower bed. Delving deep into my pocket for a plastic bag I …… you’ve got there before me haven’t you…. Lest just say that I think we may be walking towards the Marina for a week or two until I know for certain whether the CCTV cameras were on.

I guess it could have been worse. Imagine if She Of The Townhouse had found them. Innocent explanation aside I shall be a lot more careful if faced with a similar situation in the future.

And ladies, please, try and remember where you left 'em.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ordinary Life 2

This is quite scary folks. When you write down early memories they start to multiply, already I realise that what I wrote a day or two ago just scratches the surface of what I still carry from those times.Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast...

One immediate big effect on me of the break up of my parents marriage, was that I changed school. My mother resumed her education and trained to be a teacher. Off every day to St Mathias college in Fishponds. For her to go backwards and forwards to college in Bristol it was much easier if my sisters and I went to school en-route. From the two classroom village school of twenty four students I was thrust in to the much larger environs of Bitton County Primary. Here there were four classes and more than a hundred students. Many of the students were quite rough and tough. As well as the children of farms and hamlets I was now mixing with the hoodies of the late sixties.
At the age of nine, I had the only fist fight of my life, with Earl Brailsford. We were pulled apart by the woman from Bitton shop. No real harm befell either of us but, the next day, I learned that whoever got to school and told the tale first, was the one that wrote the history.

While singing in the school choir it became clear that someone was rather beyond the description of 'a little bit off key'. The voices of the angels had been joined by a troll from under the bridge. After hearing a few of us in turn, Mr Field decided that I wasn't going to the Colston Hall to sing the Daniel Jazz. He robbed me of confidence in song and it has really never returned, save in moments of alcoholic bravado. I also remember, though thank God the full circumstances escape me, Pamela Harris being astonished at my pubic hair. Followed quickly by all her mates. I was an early developer in that regard.

In 1969 Neil Armstrong walked upon the moon. I watched this through a gap at the top of the stairs door. Unintelligible flickering grey shapes. I have a lifelong passion for space and astronomy. I now own thousands of pounds worth of astronomical equipment. I scored a full house when Magnus Magnuson asked an astronomy set. I even correspond with Patrick Moore.
I watched every scrap of Apollo long after it became tedious for most, and even now bore the pants of my students with tales of tinned heroes. At the age of nine I knew more of the moon than the country beyond my terrestrial vision.

I was a voracious reader, still am, loved mathematics, still do, but my writing was appalling and my boredom threshold low. For this reason it came as a surprise to find that I was one of the few that the dying eleven plus selected to go to the grammar school. If I had been just a few months younger, comprehensive education would have sent me much closer to home.

Some time along my way Margaret Thatcher came along and robbed the school milk. She continued, 'metaphorically' to do this to me for the next twenty years.
The currency changed from lira, sesterce and denarius to the new pence. The nineteen seventies arrived,and with them, a brave new world.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ordinary Life 1

I have been asked by a Cognitive Therapist to write some brief notes about significant events in my life. I apologise in advance if they get a bit personal. Some find the public baring of souls an uneasy process. I do. There will be photos but I need to find a few first.

My father was a corporal in the RAF, he signed up to avoid national service. This wasn’t such a bad idea, the services allowed him to pursue an education beyond A’ levels. In particular he learned Russian to help fight the cold war. I think the pay was better.
My mother had had various jobs, hairdresser, librarian and school assistant but did not work while her children were below school age. She followed my father from Kent to Scotland where I was conceived. And subsequently when he was posted to Calne, in Wiltshire, where I was born. They moved to follow RAF postings.

I was born July 3rd 1959. Despite being a child of the fifties I have no clear memories of the times.

My sister Melissa was born on June 6th 1960. I can't help but think that she must have come as a slight surprise to my parents.

We lived in a remote farm labourers cottage for a few years. I have fond memories, but I know the lack of services and neighbours must have been a challenge.

In 1964 a second sister, Claire was born. We moved from Wiltshire to South Gloucestershire. A village called Swineford, halfway between Bristol and Bath. The move was probably to be nearer to the college in Bath where my father was training to be a teacher. The house was a wilderness of cabbages, and beside a river that ran through our lives like time. As my sisters and I grew there, our horizons moved from house to garden to village and later to the lure of the cities. For each in our way, it was leaving home that showed us how lucky we were.

I started at Upton Cheyney School in 1966, a little late as I was six at the time, and found that my mothers instruction in reading riting and rithmatic had put me several steps ahead. I really couldn't understand quite why Mrs Cooper wanted me to copy out my name by tracing her letters, but I did. I wrote my address underneath it as well just for good measure. Then she gave me a book to read and a picture to colour in and some sums.
After that I had to write a daily diary. My uncle Hugh rescued some of these and gave them back to me a couple of years ago.
I had mixed feelings about school. Every girl I ever met I fell in love with, and yet I was very shy and just couldn't bring myself to play kiss chase.
Kids gathered there every day from a couple of small villages and the scattered farms of the Cotswold escarpment. We learned and listened to stories and songs on the radio. We played games of war and football. Made ice slides in the winter. Dug escape tunnels on the tump and accompanied Mr Cook and Miss Lapinierre on nature walks deep into the Cotswolds green mystery. On birthdays Mrs Lacey, the school cook, would make chicken and chips for us all. At three thirty some went home by car but most of us walked.

In 1968 my father left home and was soon living with a girl he had earlier met in college. I remember crying when I was told that he wouldn't be coming home, but I can also remember the shouting that went on downstairs, and that didn't have much to recommend it. Twenty years later, when my own first marriage fell, my mother told me that there was fault on both sides.
I don't remember missing dad a great deal at that time. I didn’t really meet him again to any degree until I was an adult.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tum ti tum tum tum tum
Tum ti tum tum tum tum
Tum ti tum tum tum tum ti
Tum ti tum tum tum tum

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rites Of Passage

I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll. In fact that’s probably when she first stuck in my mind. Having waded my way through a pile of the much hated maths homework it was time to name and shame. Eventually it was her turn.
“….and what about yours then?”
Not bad for an eleven year old. I couldn’t fault that one. Original and interesting reasons are let off. If I have heard the excuse before, then it’s tough luck Sherezada. I have had my fill of left it on the bus, dog ate it, brother was sick in the bag and my mum had to burn the book. Give me one of those, and its out with the detention slip…..
*OI! Hang on a minute, I don’t want any of the older readers drifting off into a ‘those were the days fantasy…or worse..Settle down there.*
That was all quite a long time ago. In later years she used to phone me up from Glastonbury just to taunt me. I got my own back in 2005 though.
The thing is, this Saturday gone, She Of The Town House and I were guests at her wedding to a young man who I am reliably informed is a pretty good chef.
And a bloody good do it was too.
Hey Mike, Guess where they are spending their honeymoon?

And that was all I meant to write about. Fleshing it out with another tale or two of course, but something else has pleasantly sidetracked me.

You know, when I graduated we all went up to the board to see who had passed. I didn’t realise until that very moment that there were different classes of degree. I couldn’t understand why my mate Clive was fed up because he had passed. I still think he was a bit precious about it mind. There were quite a few that didn’t. I had to go to my tutor to get and explanation of what my qualification meant. He couldn’t believe that anyone could be so naive but the truth was no one had ever told me. I was the only person in my immediate family that had ever got a degree. I got what I subsequently came to know as a “Desmond”.
Today my own daughter cleared her hurdle and is now the proud clutcher of her own degree that isn’t an ‘ology. I am so proud of her I could spit.
I hope she finds it easier to get a job than I did!