Thursday, June 28, 2007

It’s Rocket Science Jim …

… but not as we know it. Struggling against my upbringing, since the 1970’s I have had a keen interest in food. More so after I left home at the age of eighteen, when I found myself ill prepared. But that’s a long tale. Plus of course it does my mother a disservice. Its not that she was a bad cook. She wasn’t at all. But she was a girl brought up on a ration book with a firm belief that if a vegetable wasn’t boiled properly it might corrupt an innocent mind.
Where’s this off to? I was lucky. In 1974 I went on a school exchange for a month. The French family I stayed with opened my eyes to another world. Olive oil that had uses beyond the medicinal. Red meat that wasn’t overcooked, or even cooked at all. Salads that you could taste and no salad cream. An interesting proportion of the families food came from just outside the front door as well. Rabbits, chickens, fresh vegetables and herbs travelled from the end of the garden to the kitchen.
Oh it worked both ways. My exchange partner, still one of my closest friends over thirty years later, learned things to. He loved gravy, steak and kidney pie, apple crumble, trifle, bacon and eggs and the way that the British could sit down for a meal and get up from the table less than an hour later.
As years have passed I have enjoyed growing things outside my kitchen door as well. In particular herbs and salads.
A couple of years ago I got my hands on some delicious peppery rocket from a WI garden sale. The pungent green leaves dress up well on their own but are also delicious with soft red tomatoes and a bit of olive oil. The plant did really well and by cropping it regularly it stretched throughout the summer. Eventually I let it go and there were a few yellow flowers followed by seeds that I gathered and dried them out on top of my garden table. I was worried you see that a cold winter or some vigorous slugs and snails might see it off.
I needn’t have worried. I sowed two rows in the secret vegetable garden this spring and I think everyone of a thousand seeds did well. I can’t get rid of the stuff fast enough now.
A few seeds fell from the table when I was collecting as well. In the photo above you can see where they hit the floor. What with that and the stuff in the veg patch I could start a business.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Feel The Magoo

Yes, yes, I know I have commented on this before but recycling is the new black. At least that’s the way I saw it this morning when I observed that the dung hawks had emptied a whole terrace of bins right outside The Town House. Already I see I have started to wander from my primary theme but bear with me I will probably make some kind of rambling sense in the end. Its just that I can’t sleep very well when She Of The Town House is away. I had a late night last night and was up and about around four this morning. So for me its already been a fourteen hour day. And I don’t suppose I shall see my bed before ten as She Of The Town House is back from the smoke on the nine o’clock train. Anyway, shortly after four I was rebagging the rubbish from every house in the street and fumbling up curses on the council and the gulls alternately. Where was I?
Back to the Magoo. This is The Town House version of the Star Wars ‘Force’. Basically you can substitute any favourite quote regarding the Force with Magoo. Bearing in mind that the Magoo field is the one that permeates the ether to make us clumsy. You know that the Magoo is with you when you when you pour the milk into the teapot.
The Boy is at an age where the Magoo is particularly strong. As he is growing fast (according to the measurements over my fridge he grew over an inch in the last three months) his brain is still catching up with the new centres of balance of limb and torso. He could probably back slowly away from the great pyramid of Cheops and leave it as an unrecognisable pile of rubble. He doesn’t quite have the mastery of the Magoo of the legendary ‘Gloop’, a boy from Penmaenmawr whom Dave and I almost lost in a swamp once, but he is close.
As She Of The Town House is away till late supper we decided to have a quick scoff straight after school today. We are still trying to use up an embarrassingly large over production from the Seed Fair earlier in the year.
* Hmm unless you are pretty familiar with my back catalogue this is going to be a bit unfathomable isn’t it. Oi….pay attention at the back there*
The thing is, we decided to have soup, bread and butter, and a packet of chips (French fries not crisps ( you see how I take care of friends across the water)).
Finding only one item of cutlery within reach, The Boy treated Axeman and I to a fine display. Buttering his bread was a minor work of art, but for my money the piece de resistance, was the consumption of a whole bowl of soup with nothing but a fork and determination. He may be a bit old but I’m wondering if we shouldn’t get his magoo-chlorians measured.
Right. Lets see if Asbo will release that squirrel so that I can use it to clear up this kitchen. Two hours to go.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bandit Country

Somewhere downstairs She Of The Town House is bundling up the raffle tickets for Sioe Gwn, Llechwedd’s very own annual sheepdog trial.
Casually, she enquires whether I have got any elastic bands to wrap around the bundles.
I am outraged! Who does she think she is kidding. Oh I’m not going to crack and give anything away but I know what her game is.
Every time the postman leaves his little sheaf of junk mail in the box at the end of my track he also leaves me a red elastic band (OK sometimes they are brown, but red is best). Every time I look in the box my heart flutters at the prospect. With the joy of a man who needs to get a life, I lovingly join the band of the day to the end of my growing collection. The one I have stashed in the drinks holder of the New comedy Car.
….And incidentally The New Comedy Car is beginning to show signs of quirkiness. The handbrake cable gave up the ghost and so now I have to remember a large rock in case I have to park on a slope. I know this is probably frowned upon by Brundstroms Heroes but I can even now picture the man in the garage rubbing his hands in anticipation at a large chunk of my holiday money.
But back to the bands…..
Its not obsessive. Don’t think that. Its just that their bandiness excites me, and the way the little loops curl and twist in their holder, and the feel of their rubbery niceness, lying there looking up at me every day waiting for a new fellow to join the end of the line. The red rubber coiled with such promise, growing longer week by week, nurtured by the love of postman and recipient of junk mail. Ahem.
Oh she’s a sly one! I can see the look in her eye. The way that she raises a casual well plucked brow from the counting and stacking. She has designs on my precious rubber band collection. Viewing them as some kind of frivolous utility item that can be consumed at will. Worry not my precious ones, worry not. I’m coming to save you.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

My Dark Lady

I read a poem some years ago, more than I care to remember in fact, by Herman Hesse. It was published in a little collection of writing called ‘Wandering’. The poem haunted me for a long time. Still does to an extent. It told of how he builds a life in his minds eye based on the briefest glimpse of a girl on a passing train. It resonated with me.
Many a year on the 20th of June I have wandered up to the old stones near my house. Maen Hirion. If I have spelled it wrong I am sorry. This is a circle of stones that has stood on the mountain one over from me for the best part of four millenia. I went there again and again hoping to see the sunrise on mid summers day. I witnessed plenty of grey mists and drizzle until four years ago I at last got lucky. After two decades of trying ( oh all right not every year but most) I finally saw the sun rise. Gold and glorious, it sailed in to the sky through broken cloud and lifted my spirits with it.
There were a few other people dotted around the circle with me. One was a dark haired girl who took my imagination and ran away with it. I went home and wrote as near as I could get to a poem. I defied the reputation of engineers and mathematicians, for I am such. I knocked off a poem which as well as celebrating the sunrise, told of how my heart was torn by the girl. Like you do. Over the next few months I tweaked and prodded the poem. I wound up very pleased with it. I don’t claim it was good but I liked it myself and that was enough. It had some of the haunted quality that I remembered from the Hesse and I was dead pleased that I could do that, albeit to myself.
So I’d like to run it up this flag pole for you all to pick over.
Trouble is I’ve lost the damn thing!
Every computer disc I own has been thoroughly searched. be continued....

Right then where did I put me Glasto ticket?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Asbo Eats All The Pies

While I seldom have any clear idea of what I am going to write about here, I can usually rely on Asbo to provide some inspiration during our early morning promenade.

*Oh, before I continue, whatever part of the world you are in make sure your breakfast is consumed and well settled. Err… and children turn away….
Right then who is left? Hands up. Hmm the usual suspects*

Asbo runs along snorting and snuffling close to the ground. He is mine sweeping for something that he can make a dogs breakfast out of. No one could call him a fussy eater. Anything that might remotely once have born the spark of life is dragged out for a crunchy snack. I have recently mentioned the deliquescing shellfish of which he is fond. The odour of rotting 'moules chaude au soleil', washed down by green puddle that smells of rotting cabbage is one of his early walk staples. ( Did I say that I wouldn’t mangle the French language again? I lied.)
Another treat that abounds in his al fresco deli at this time of year is the dead baby bird. You know the ones. Crashed to the trottoir…

…hmm French is in for a pounding today it must be the ‘eat anything’culinary theme and boy could I tell you a thing or two about that, I once went on a snail hunt during a thunderstorm in the fields and hedgerows of entre deux mers…Oh lord it happening again… Sally help me its all going Corbett….. Where was I …

Ah yes, the dead baby birds that you find on the pavement at this time of year. The ones with no feathers and big purple eyelids. Looking like some mini pink spam fritter with two black grapes on the end. Probably dumped out of the nest higher up and unseen, during a struggle against natural selection. Well they are quite tasty according to my canine mentor in these matters. The small bones are still soft and the general texture is akin to that mechanically recovered reprocessed ham that sells really cheap in Tesco. And they burst on the tongue. Lovely.
I remember once She Of The Town House was particularly nauseated when he bounded up with the scaly tail, and the back end, of a worse for wear rat dangling out of his front teeth. He grinned at her and crunched away; she took a deep breath of fresh air, and looked for the nearest exits.
For my money the worst is ( if you have eaten recently don’t say I didn’t warn you) the used condoms that you find along marine walk. He doesn’t mind ribbed, fruit, chocolate or plain. As long as they are fu.... Its no good, even I can't go on with this one.
Truly he is a disgusting dog.

This morning then, he surprised me. Yesterday evening someone bought a picnic and wandered out on to the cob to watch the sunset. Somehow they mislaid one of their bags and dropped it behind the chair they used. Inside the bag were two of Edwards the Butchers finest steak pies. I deduce all this from the receipt, which was the only thing that I was quick enough to retrieve. They were inside their sell by date, well wrapped and looked delicious. I am going to have to keep my own eye out more closely. His wild food campaign may have more to recommend it than I thought.

I think I shall let The Boy take him for a walk tonight though. He needs the exercise and there’s a load of cling film and a couple of tin trays due out of the dog soon.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Something Else For The Weekend Madam?

Fairy folk have been gathering pistils from mountain flowers. Collecting them by moonlights silver beams. Mixing them with dewdrops that have fallen from the new green leaves in the forest, and the tears of baby bats. Its expensive stuff of course. You aren’t going to find this sort of thing on the shelves in Asda. Rather it is delivered by elvish folk in little carts drawn by dormice to the finest shops in all the land. And what do you suppose they do with it precious? Well of course it is a secret. Mere mortals can never really know. Save only of course for the chosen. The cabal of female gender that specialise in the ancient arts.
Not (for once) members of the coven that She Of The Townhouse belongs to. No no, these sisters of Vesta (hmm maybe that should just be acquaintances of Vesta in view of other things I have heard about them) are the ones blessed in the secret arts of relieving women of minute snips of hair and colouring in the grey ones.
Generally they exchange their services for gold.
She Of The Town House is off to the hairdresser.
That reminds me. I really must trim my nostrils.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Must Catch The Post

Just a short note about something that I have seen in passing.

About a fortnight ago Frank left a note for Ann. He was obviously missing her. It seems they had a brief encounter last summer. One which preyed upon him to a degree that he just could not let go. The trouble was, he knew little more of her than a walk. A walk that shares the route taken by Asbo, Pugh and I first thing every morning.
I never thought she would reply but, to my surprise, she proved me wrong. Left a message. A message to which I am not privy.
Like an idiot Frank has managed lose her message. He has ballsed it up as it were.
Now he has had to leave another note in the same spot as the first.
I hope he takes better care this time.
Good luck Frank.

…. I shall try and keep you posted.
(Incidentally if your name is Ann and you fancy a shot at this, drop me a line and I will let you have the number)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Creepy Crawlies

Regular readers of these notes will know that, from the very beginning, I have taken great delight in drawing to your attention the things that arrive on the mountain. Be it mammal, insect, fish or fowl. Everything flying thing, from the humble tit to Sparky the Guinea Fowl. Mammals such as chipmunk or indeed the weasel in the freezer. Even the things that haunt the night. You have been spared none of them.

*Aside… and at this point let me reveal that part of the point of this note is to see what Google will pull out of the dark spaces…all will become clearer lower down…already I have laid a subtle trap for the seamier side of the springwatch audience…*

Anyway, where was I. Oh yes. She Of The Town House and I were sitting in the sun beaten haze of summer at our vastly improved pond on Saturday afternoon. All of a sudden a large insect of a type that I hadn’t observed before appeared and buzzed round, alighting on various strands of reed and grass and tormenting my attempts to get a decent photo. On looking it up later I found that it was Libellula Depressa, the Broad-bodied Chaser. There is a rather nicer picture of it here. The one that I took is clumsily enlarged from my phone. This is not a rare beast by any means but it is unusual round here. In the last ten years I have never seen one on my mountain, which is why it took me by surprise. If you happen to live with an insect enthusiast with a special interest in dragon flies ( not so unlikely as it sounds this is all targeted stuff…:-) ) I am curious to know whether they usually come this far up. I am 300m out of the valley below. On Sunday I spotted another one, quite a way from the pond, round the back of the house. I wonder if we have provided just the right habitat, or if indeed the incredibly warm weather that this year seems blessed with is allowing them to explore new heights. So a beautiful insect and very welcome.

Something else has crept out of the woodwork as well. Earlier on in these notes I attempted humorous reference to the fact that the recycling box was over flowing and cocked a mocking snook (Result! Microsoft knows not of the word “snook”. Where else could you get such satisfaction…) at an organ of a foreign power. I am choosing my words carefully here. A couple of you made a point of telling me, tongue in cheek I thought, that perhaps such snook cocking wasn’t a good idea.
I am thus a little disturbed to find that indeed someone’s crawler has indeed made a bee line for that post, and the one before it which referred to restricted weaponry.
This is worrying. I am not, unless severely provoked, any kind of revolutionary. No fisting the air, marching and chanting slogans for me. Well not since “Jobs Not Bombs”. Since the end of the Thatcher years I have been a far more sedentary political cynic. Once she had been seen off, I felt that all that fuss about school milk was finally over.
Oh lord I am going a bit Corbett again. Please stop me when this happens.
Look the thing is this. Just a couple of days after I wrote that, my notes have been thoroughly indexed, including possibly links to you dear reader, by a company that provides electronic and scientific services to HMG. And it took me a little while to track them down. They didn’t actually leave that web address but that’s certainly where it came from!

I am going to have to be careful what I say in future.

At least two "Google Traps" have been laid in this post.
I apologise in advance to anyone who has wound up here looking for the contents Kate Humble's vest. Look elsewhere.
* I wonder if there is such a thing a "Google Trap" or wether I am the coiner of this phrase? *
Thats it... I'm off...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Early Bath

The sun has been splitting the flags here on Hallett’s Mountain. I trust that if you live in the UK it has been much the same where you are.
I got up early with the good intention of mowing the grass, struggled with the heat for an hour or so, and wound up having an early bath.
She Of The Town House generously scrubbed my back but there I am afraid, gentle reader, I must draw a veil over the proceedings.
Everything else in the garden has been panting like dogs.
I enclose half a dozen photos to show how nice it has been here.
I will get my proper writing head on again soon.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bin Laden

We decided to form an action committee. Eager to be the first in the street to reach our target. The Boy, She Of The Town House and I sat round the kitchen table and voted. Axeman abstained as he was busy targeting missiles on western Europe.
Obviously I am chairperson. That is what I do best. An important overseeing role that won’t actually involve getting out of the comfy chair very often. She Of The Town House decides that she will be secretary. She is well qualified for this role as she has been a scrivener of note for the local sheepdog trials for some years. She won’t actually have to take many minutes as she has, like all of her gender, the memory of an elephant. This leaves the boy to do the actual labour. Immediately he demands a billion pound bribe.
A period of abuse and negotiation ensues. Eventually he settles for a shilling, but only in bob a job week.
And so we begin to recycle.
Our eagerness seems to have violated the councils rules of engagement though. Nearly three weeks after we have started cramming cans into the pitifully small box they send out a note explaining when they will actually start the fortnightly collection rota. We have a nervous moment while we consider our lager consumption and the diminishing space for squashed cans of all variety.
Axeman, returned to the table following a thaw in relations between east and west, hits upon an idea. If we just give the dogs leftovers and stale bread, we can save all the space that they will potentially use for the next week. This should help a little, and I have also noticed that the lid and sides of the container are quite bendy. It should respond flexibly to a fair degree of overstuffing. If we combine strategies, and attend the pub more frequently, we may just get away with it. Despite the hot weather.
Its going to be tough but we may just make it.

Googlers please note that this whole post is an attempt to justify mistaken title traffic.
Gentlefolk from Langley…it’s a joke…and the reference to a sniper rifle in my last post was in similar vein….
I’m going to have to hide out on the mountain aren’t I.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Of Mice And Women

All night long I have stood vigil at the town house. Pausing only to remove an occasional bead of sweat from the Hallett brow. The cross hair in the sight of my Heckler and Koch PSG1 trained and unwavering. Two floors up in The Town house, I have a clear view of the intended killing field. My camo, the nets and Mel next doors owl providing impenetrable disguise from even the sharpest eye.
I have corrected for wind drift and range, but not even a leaf has twitched. Nothing has stirred. Not even a mouse.
Let me skip back twelve hours, dear reader, and explain. This is a tale of the inevitable consequence to the little man of the unthinking machinations of government from afar. In April we had the smoking ban. In a place like the Old Walled Town this introduces problems for the tobacco addict. There just aren’t that many spaces that aren’t enclosed or public. The devotee must seek out a corner and guard it jealously in order to ensure a fix.
Heap upon this indignity, the new recycling schemes that we all seem to have to endure. This places another premium upon the territory available to smokers. In the tainted corners that they seek are now, cheek by jowl as it were, overflows of ordure, offal and tins of dog food that really ought to have been rinsed a bit more carefully.
As well as the glowing coal of the end of the nicotine stick, the night time brings evil red eyes. Creatures attracted by the easy pickings. And they grow bold my precious.
Last night The Boy and I were engrossed by the flickering image of sixties Britain. Suddenly a piercing scream cut through the falling dusk like a dagger.
She Of The Town House has seen a hideous mutant, a giant squirrel rat like creature small mouse in the back yard.
It’s almost enough to make you want to give up!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

La Philosophie Dans La Jardin

Worry not, I shall not torture you more with my mangling of the french language. Nor will we pay any more than a passing nod to the Marquis. Hallett’s Mountain, as I am sure the gentle reader knows, leaves that kind of thing to others.
Its just that Asbo and I have been having some ‘man time’ together in the garden. I noticed that the cats had not finished their breakfast. The weather has been hot and close to thunder. They go off their Tesco cat chunks in times like this. They twitch in the secret shady spots and look for an endangered species to mock.
Asbo is always glad to clear up and so I sit with him for a little. Taking time off from the rhythmic scything of bracken that has left my mind free to wander elsewhere. While he eats his way through his second, and third breakfast I take a cool one from the fridge to the garden chair. We pass the time of day, watching the swallows dip across Cae Dan Ty.
The silence between us is easy. We mellow away.
After a while the swallows dip lower.
“You know mate, I reckon there could be a thunder storm any time now. Do you think I should unplug the phone?”
Asbo raises a quizzical eyebrow. Failing to detect any nuance of the word ‘walk’ he returns to his task. Perhaps he also considers the echo of the lone tree falling deep in the remote forest.
Far across the valley the skies darken ominously.
“I’d better get the line out of the modem as well.”
Asbo smiles at the follies of men and munches on. The thought of one hand clapping crosses his doggy countenance. How on earth would that be of any use if you wanted a biscuit.
The first flickers of lightening cross the miles, the radio inside the houses crackles. After long pause a few bass rumbles track around Craig Celynin and reflect upon us. The air temperature suddenly chills.
But the practical time for reflection is past.
Sitting with a beer at the garden table has its merits but we will soon be cold and wet if we don’t stir our stumps. I drain the glass and turn to my friend.
“Time to pack up and sit by the fire mate?”
Asbo shrugs off his canine philosophising.
Spits out the last chunk of the previously oval cats bowl and grunts.