Thursday, August 30, 2007

Meanwhile Back On My Ranch

Someone blogged my house.
29th of August and above.
I swear when we got back the hussy had no trousers on.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Right Dogs Breakfast

I have returned from 'the foreign' to two starving mutthounds. Free this year from the rigours of Camp Bow Wow, Asbo and Blind Pugh have been cared for by Axeman. One can only conclude that as he ran out of frozen pizza he must have held back a sack full or two of dog biscuits for himself. Both are looking gaunt and hollow around the eyes. Left un cared for this means that I will not only have Mitzi to answer too but the RSPCA as well. Oh well at least it should be fun.
After the early morning walk I am reminded of the joke about two bulls in a field.
As we prepare breakfast, Asbo jumps around the kitchen with the vigour and inexperience of youth. I prepare the biscuits, open the can of meat, stir in a little hot water, leave things to cool down for a minute or two, and then crush the can for recycling. By the time this is all done Asbo is careening from wall to wall and is practically eating the legs of the furniture.
As he hears the can descend into the green bin, Blind Pugh raises a sleepy eyebrow. He shuffles over to his eating spot and arrives just as the bowl descends for him. Minimum effort, same result.

Could I thank everyone for continuing to show such patient interest to my poor notes. Thankfully now I shall be able to catch up with you all again.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Deedle eedle ee dee dee

The men from Meridian are down on the beach early. I guess that if they left it a couple of hours they would have to film with the obligatory wavers in the background.
They have recorded Joe raising some lobster pots and now they are back at the cove. Jim Miller is giving them a hard time.
“So tell me Jim, have you seen many changes in the village?”
“Buggered if I know…..” He has answered their every question so far with this alone, but suddenly he changes tack.
“You know what,” he speaks a Dorset burr that has been turned on a lathe, one that I will spend the first week back on Hallett’s Mountain wearing out like my southern tan.
“You know there’s only half a dozen of us left in the village. All they others is new comers. An’ I’ll tell you this, they don’t know bugger all.”
Jim punctuates a most of his conversation with expletives.
“They don’t know bugger all at all.
You know they comes down here from I don’t bloody know, and the first thing they does is buy one of they wax jerkins. After that it’s a pair of green boots, a thumbstick with a ‘V’ Shaped notch in ‘im, and pretty soon a black dog of some sort or another. Then they’ve got the fucking cheek to call theyselves country folk.
Well let me tell you, they aint a single one of those bastards been fifth in a tin bath in front of the fire ever in their lives. Or walked to school with holes in their shoes.
Somehow I can’t see this being used in a feel good nostalgia program about men making their living from the sea.
Later on, Jim and I review the encounter back up at the duck pond.
“You see Murtoch,” this is what he choses to call me most.
“You see Murtoch, they all comes down here lookin’ for the village idiot but the truth is he’s the one you bring with you. Fancy a drink you ole bugger?”

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bad Mothering Sunday

My Other Little Sister carefully balanced another pint of Tanglefoot on top of the first one she had drunk. This was followed by several more. Until we figured that she had probably managed to secrete around a gallon somewhere around her person.
Then she had a packet of chicken flavoured crisps.
Later she was dizzy and quite a lot of the beer fell out.
You really have to be very careful with meat related snack food in the summer.

Still on my holidays. I will take care of comments and catch up with the usual suspects in a week or so.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Market Day

As my sister and I got in to the car it was with great delight that I was able to observe to Jim Miller that barely making it as far as the duck pond by seven o’clock made him somewhat of a lightweight. On Tuesday you see I had been late on parade and he had raised a stern avuncular eyebrow. The very idea that Mr Miller should once more call me a slacker propelled me from my bed at ten to six this morning and so, after an unsuccessful forage for puffballs on Bindon Hill, I was ready good and early for Dorchester market.
Indeed so early that many of my favourites were still setting stall and my sister and I were forced to look at selections of rusty tools and various ‘bad mother’ items.
I enjoy Dorchester market for its selection of food. It can generally be relied upon to put a few treats and novelties on the table.
For tea today I have had the following.
Asparagus, steamed and with melted butter. Not bad but I was sad to see that the asparagus had been flown all the way from Peru. I only spotted this on a sneaky label after I had got it home.
Some little gourds, green and about the size of a large orange. These I boiled, scooped out and refilled. Removing the seeds, I chopped the flesh with bacon, tomato, onion and garlic and enough cornflour and butter to make a thick mix which I used to refill them. I covered the tops with a thickness of grated cheese and then shoved them under the grill for a few minutes.
Next the great chieftain of the meatball race. The British faggot. Made on some farm nearby, according to the label. These with plain boiled potatoes, a little savoy cabbage and some tomato and onion gravy.
Natural yoghourt, with figs and passion fruit.
Local goats cheese.
Finally some coffee and walnut cake with a cup of coffee.
I made that six courses.
For some reason I now seem to need a snooze.
Just a little whisky to help it all settle I think.

I apologise for not visiting everyone I usually comment on at present but the holiday internet is restricted to a few minutes a day. It's partly therapy....

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Tears Of St Lawrence

Last night we sat and marvelled at a universe endowed with so much beauty that it seems churlish not to have some faith in a guiding hand..
Under a blameless sky we sat on the beach waiting for the stars to come out and exalt the sky. We were not disappointed.
First Jupiter, then Saturn, followed by Antares, Deneb, Vega and Altair. Shortly before ten in the evening the stars lay before us, sprinkled like diamond dust on black velvet.
From Sagittarius, rising from the gentle sea, the milky way climbed high over our heads, sweeping through the summer triangle back, through Cassiopeia. Like a clotted mist (?good lord what is he on!?) with patches of coal black darkness hiding the centre of our local galaxy. Jupiter’s shining trail reflected south across the deep marine.
Somehow we clung on, suspended between the warm chalk cliff and infinity rising.
And as we sat there, bewildered by our own small insignificance, the tears of St Lawrence fell around us.

I was gobsmacked.
Thank you Great Moo Moo. Thank you for blessing me with such a time and such a life.
As for the rest of you, if you find yourself under a dark clear sky tonight for goodness sake look up.

Once again I apologise to the people I usually comment on or reply to. I am on my holidays and have very limited access to the interweb.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Here Be Dragons

Do you ever think that the future has echoes in the past? It seems to me that there have been a few times in my life when this has happened.
Some time in the September of 1966 I first registered an awareness of the country that has been my home for the greater part of my life. Even then, at the tender age of seven, I sensed somehow that it would be important to me.
Earlier that year Upton Cheyney school had raised the grand sum of £12 10s 6d at the summer fair to acquire the latest in cutting edge technology. The schools first ever television. A 405 line VHF special. Music movement and mime on the radio was never going to be quite as good.
In the early September the whole school was gathered round the box and we watched the Queen and Prince Phillip cross the Severn bridge. Cutting the journey time from Bristol to Wales from hours to minutes. Of course at the time the motorway stopped dead at the far side of the bridge, but by the time another 15 years had passed that was sorted out. The Severn bridge was one of the wonders of our world.
A bold student teacher, who to my shame has lost his name in the swamp of my memory, built half a terms work around that bridge.
Soon, on a grey and windy morning, the dozen students in my class took a trip. Mr Cooper, the head teachers husband, had an old ambulance that served as a school minibus. We all piled in to the back, four each side on a bench and four down the middle on an old physical education plank. Niceties like seatbelts and health and safety were a thing of the distant future.
Crossing Bristol from east to west without incident we arrived at the car park and viewing platform at Aust service station. A service station! There was another exotic beast. I am not sure we actually went in but can you imagine, a huge restaurant dedicated to the needs of the hungry thirsty road user. This was so far removed from our simple village experience that it was like another planet. There were still houses in Upton Cheyney using a communal pump for water back then. I don’t know if we felt like African villagers dumped in New York but it was definitely in that area of experience.
From the viewing area, we walked down to the footbridge over the toll booths, marvelling at the half a crown (what an anarchic sum!) that cars were paying to cross the river. On to the path beside the main bridge deck itself and we formed a straggle tailed crocodile that waddled and huffed against the wind until we had passed the first huge tower, and were at last were standing 90m or so above the river Severn in the middle.
From here among the other wonders of geology, geography and engineering a line of distant shapes could be seen.
The rain swept mountains of Wales emerged from the obscurity of a childs imagination, and started to become real.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Faithful dog Tray passed on last winter after a long and curiously deaf life. So my sister decided to leave her eldest with the responsibility for choosing a replacement. This particular nephew, is a handsome Adonis who towers over my mere six foot. Small surprise then that he should have alighted upon something equally large crossed with a Great Dane.
Jesus it’s a massive dog!
I mean think of a huge dog and then double it and you will probably be on the slip road of the right track.
She Of The Townhouse, The Boy and I are staying in Bristol for the first week of our holidays. In return for a free week, we get to look after the beast and its pocket-sized companion. The former graced by the name of ‘Iddy’ and the latter ‘Onion’. She also leaves a cat called ‘Sock’, some rats that give She Of The Townhouse the creeps, and a couple of guinea pigs, as well as various aquatic creatures, and plants that we have to try our best not to kill. All in all we shall be lucky if none of them have to be hidden away and excuses invented.

On Saturday night we returned from the pub just before midnight. Ears ringing to the legend of Rock The Billy and, speaking personally, none the worse for a gallon of cider.
“Oh my god! Dad you’d better come and have a look at this.”
* here I feel I should introduce my daughter, now to be known as “The Graduate”*
We all crowd around the sitting room door, the room where Iddy has spent the evening.
Well that is to say it used to be the sitting room. From what we could remember, having seen it earlier, it had some reasonably attractive, albeit worn, leather furniture. There was a table and some wooden chairs a fruit bowl and … oh you know. The usual kind of thing.
Since we left for our evenings entertainment though, something strange has happened. Someone has dumped a huge amount of furniture stuffing and a large skip full of builders rubble right on top of the nicely patterned rug. Clearly several fly tippers have mistaken my sisters sitting room for a layby.
They must have had a fright though. Sitting in the middle of the debris, grinning from ear to ear is an exhausted canine leviathan.

When she gets back from even further south, I am going to suggest that the dog is renamed Telford. It seems a shame to waste such a talent for civil engineering by using a diminutive of idiot.

Apologies to the people i usually comment on. While I am on holiday I am getting occassional access for half an hour in public libraries! Normal service will be resumed in three weeks!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ordinary Life 5

Bottom row, second from left.
Careers advice then led me on to study Pure and Applied Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry at A’level. While I don’t regret the latter I still wish I had studied something apart from Chemistry. I had a flair for languages then and I think I would have done well in A’level French. At the time this was seen as ‘too far outside the box’ when students at A’level tended to be pigeonholed. I guess they still are. The divide between arts and sciences in particular is still a prejudice that lets down school timetables in my opinion.
Once again I was a relatively undistinguished student, relying on my natural ability with subjects and things mathematical to coast me through the exams, eschewing the extra that hard work might have given me. Not that I ever saw virtue in hard work for its own sake.
I came top of my school in Physics, did as well in Mathematics but was a poorer Chemist. It just seemed like a tedious series of observations that could only be learned parrot fashion to me at the time. With the exception of organic chemistry, which by its nature was more amenable to analysis from first principle and calculable result. I suspect this aspect was what gave me any dignity that a grade D deserved. I can see more merit in it now.
As well as A’levels the school was enlightened enough to offer a series of short minority courses. I learned a little of the history of modern art, how to program a computer, conducting orchestral scores, taking and developing black and white photographs, lateral thinking, and I came again to enjoy my own artistic efforts. I can see roots of many of my adult interests in these courses and the early experience of computers shaped a lot of my life.
I left my last exam on a skateboard in the June of 1977.
I didn’t leave the school entirely behind on that day though.
I had split up with a girlfriend of about two years before Christmas.
On the eve of my eighteenth birthday I was enchanted by someone new. Francine, a young French student a year or two older than I, was doing her years study abroad. She was partly employed by my school to practise language skills with O’level and A’level students. She showed me sweet romantic nights in her Bristol flat. Introduced me to music and love. She took me to film clubs and fed me French treats. We smoked Camels under the open window, along the back of Ravenswood Road, and listened to the sound of summer in the city.
After just a month her father came to drive her home to Paris. At the time this was an insurmountable distance. By the time she came back in to my life I had foolishly found someone new. We had made no promises beyond birthday wishes but I still feel I let her down.
Years later, when I became a teacher myself, it occurred to me that we might have made a scandal in the papers.