Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Christmas To Everyone


I was out taking photos of M42 (no no not the blooming motorway, the nebula in Orion!) when I noticed a structure that as far as I know has gone unreported so far.
I was thinking of calling it the Ho ho nebula.....
I present it here for some of my younger readers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Twunt

Somewhere down below the seventh circle of hell there is a special spot with a name on it. A name I know not in its entirety but the little badge behind which the shiny happy face smiled out at me proclaimed that in began with ….. ah but care ….if he reads this he may go into a religious order and atone. I wouldn’t want him to get away with it.
You see my phone was playing up. I took it along to the smiley happy phone shop assuming that the children that worked there might have some crumb to offer that would have escaped some duffer like me.
After a slight pause for tooth sucking as he had seldom seen such a model as mine outside a museum the scamp pronounced that he would back up my phone, and give me a new memory card which we could unload everything on to and it would then be as right as ever such an antique could be at the cutting edge of the end of the noughties.
He then proceeded to loose my phone contacts.
I didn’t hit him.
Now I am not such a fool that I cant see this sort of thing coming entirely. I do back my phone up to the interwebby thing from time to time. The trouble was that he lost the settings for this as well.
I didn’t hit him.
I am now trying to download a csv file that I can blue tooth to a second pooter and then restore via outlook excressence.
So if you havent heard from me before Christmas......
I may have to go back and hit him.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Yet More Dark Arts

Dec_6_20080007
The pairing of Venus and Jupiter in the sky to the west just before sunset has been too good to miss out on. I have been snapping away after dark again.
At the risk of making Trixie even more envious this is just down the road from where I live.
But hey anyone that reads this is welcome to come and see for themselves. There is always a free bed on Hallett's mountain.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Dark Arts



Now I don’t want you to think that the words are not so important but this is a time of year when I do a lot of looking up and around the sky for a picture.
I noticed this one begging to be taken a few nights ago and hoped it might work. Its not right yet I know. Nevertheless I hope I can give you a flavour of the chase.
There is a photographer working down on the Isle of Purbeck whose combination of landscape and astronomy I have admired for some time (I see he has stopped selling them though, a pity).
I have long felt that there ought to be a chance or two round North Wales to recreate in a modest way some of the drama he seems to extract from the sky.
I sort of imagined that it might be easy to get a suitably dramatic picture of the moon against Snowdon… .
The thing is though you need a lot of time, luck and specialist knowledge to get this sort of thing right and so in over a year of trying seriously I have really only managed a handful of pictures that measure up to scrutiny. Getting the angles right and knowing when they will occur is part of it. Making sure that the light is right, hah, there is a quarter of an hour every day when you can take this picture. Dodging the traffic and the clouds. Making sure your fingers aren’t so numb that you can’t work the buttons in the dark. It all makes for a little bit of a challenge. A certain stoicism is needed to say the least.
I noticed this close pairing of Jupiter and Venus last week as I was driving home from work. On Friday I lugged the camera and tripod to a suitable spot along the Conwy estuary, tied the dog to a post and set to. The sky was clear as a glass of water and the light was just right. The two planets seemed to hang in just the right spot and were polished to perfection. Inevitably the bitter cold made a small plastic part of the tripod quite brittle and it snapped between my fumbling fingers. Then as quick as you like the battery on my camera announced that it needed changing after one wobbly shot. Bugger.
I went back better equipped to the same spot on Sunday and got several shots, one of which you see above but the cloud in the picture muddled it a little. It was only later that I noticed the thin crescent moon just over the right end of the castle had snuck out of the cloud for a moment. There may be a couple more nights to try this one but its gone cloudy again tonight so this is probably the best I will get. Until the next time.
(I stuck a couple of full size ones in the flikr gadget if you fancy)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mists

Mist in the valley in the early morning

Mist over the valley at night

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Snowday



I know I may have mentioned it before but North Wales is one of the corners that the great Moo Moo has favoured.
No large carnivores, nothing very poisonous in the flora or the fauna ( with the possible exception of a couple of mushrooms). A climate that is beneficially regulated by the thermal inertia of the sea. And spectacular scenery.
I forced the Hallett butt down to a cold kitchen early this morning and sorted out some sandwiches, coffee and some mountain gear. Asbo and I set of half an hour later and by nine o’clock we had parked up, tooled up and were off on the path to Marchlyn Mawr and then onwards to an old mountain favourite. Elidir Fawr is in a slightly less fashionable corner of the national park but the views from the top are spectacular. In fact I think it is the only summit from which you can see all the other mountains in Snowdonia, well all the ones over 3000 ft (I apologise for not using metres but somehow the figure holds less appeal).
Anyway when I got to the top the views were second to none.
Have a look here
Tomorrow I shall go and sunbathe on the beach.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heroes



There is always a sense of trepidation when you see one of your heroes.
In the same way that going back to places you used to live irons out some of the gold from the memory. I remember seeing The Who perform live many years ago and being incredibly let down by how I felt at their performance.
From the moment Leonard Cohen bounded on to the stage ( I don’t exaggerate) I knew that I needn’t have worried at all. From the opening chord, to the long goodbye he blew me away. Old standards were invested with new meanings. Notes and phrases that were learned years ago were folded and painted into something both familiar yet fresh for the first time.
He held our hearts and fears in his word and drew tears of love from deep within.
Incredibly self aware and adjusted he spared us nothing. I have never seen such a spellbinding performance.
If you ever get the chance…ah but you know all that I am sure.

“The last time I stood on this stage was fourteen years ago. I was sixty years old, just a kid with a crazy dream”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In My Secret Life

I have but a moment, the policy that isn’t going to write itself is glaring,full of bale, from the sofa. Well its guidleines are anyway.
But you see, this weekend I have a ticket to see Leonard Cohen in concert at the NEC.
Whoop!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Greek Gift

I only nipped in to get a postcard I swear. I guess that from then on a number of circumstances, circumstances which I am sure dear reader, you will agree leave me entirely exonerated of any possible complicity ( that’s a posh version of ‘its not my fault’, did you like it?).
You see it’s partly about the end of the tourist season. There I was, on the last stage out of Dodge visiting a shop in a little village high up in the Cretan mountains. Several scuttling black clad ladies had reported my progress in towards the town square. By the time I parked my pushbike beside the shop, Alexandros had the hopes and fears of at least three living generations and a goat resting upon his shoulders, as well as Zeus knows how many that had crossed the Styx. And here I was threatening to part with a mere thirty cents. Quite a lot of national pride was involved.
After a negotiation the nature of which I still feel slightly confused about I departed with two bottles. One containing something that his grandfather put together from a secret recipe involving herbs and lots of alcohol. This I vaguely understand to be unobtainable outside the village, there may even have been false versions circulating in inferior shops and bars lower down the street. A sure winner to go with the Christmas dinner. A snip at merely 15 Euros.
The second bottle was thrown, no it wasn’t actually, was lowered gently to my basket as a gift to say thank you for handing over such a ridiculous sum for something unlabelled, unlikely to go through customs scrutiny, and probably poisonous. The second bottle, filled with a strange clea liquid that moved like a viscous oil, was complicitly described as lion’s milk. A form of mountain Raki.
“Very good for the …..”, and here he made a forearm gesture. The shocked look on the face of a passing nun left little doubt as what he felt it might be good for, as events panned out I am sure she need have had no worries.
Well I completed my ride to the Lasithi Plateau and after that it was all downhill ( theres a joke there which I am sure you will all struggle to winkle out…).
The next morning a demon slipped the bottle of Raki in to my daysack and I took the boat to Spinalonga. I had no intention of drinking it you see but…… If the guy serving the orange juice hadn’t had so much spare ice I might have got away with it. If She Of The Townhouse hadn’t been such a wimp and drunk her fair share I might have got away with it. If the day hadn’t been so hot and the shade so inviting I might not have been tempted.
It was everyone else’s fault. I am sure you can see.
I came round several hours later with a raging thirst beside a clear empty bottle, completely unable to explain how I had managed to lose a large chunk of the day and my shorts.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Customary Practice


“And did you pack the bag yourself sir?”

Suddenly I feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights. While the expression on my face betrays not a flicker of the inner turmoil; I suddenly see my fall from grace flashing before my inner eye. What to say.
Would it be foolish to say that on spotting that my toothbrush and surplus undercrackers were well below the weight limit, She Of The Town House had decided to redistribute. Using me as the mule to carry her spare hair straighteners and various packages whose content still eludes me even though we are now back a day.
“You have to be joking mate I haven’t a clue what she put in there.”
“ You look like a man of the world sergeant, she wouldn’t let me near the thing while she was packing.”
Both these reasonable appeals to a potential fellow cross my mind briefly but then…. then I remember that tale that Huw told of how similar jokiness on his way to the foreign led to an extremely unpleasant incident. The one where he was escorted to a darkened room by a man with large latex encased fingers, a man who proceeded to demonstrate a glove puppet routine. I remember how poor old Huw’s eyes watered even at the retelling some years later and how he went off his beer for the rest of the evening.

“Yes I packed it myself”

Later on as my bicycle puncture repair kit sets off the hand luggage scanner I wonder what they might mistakenly make of the pump that I left in the main bag.
(photo above)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Cant Stay Long.....

Well you know what they say!
It isn’t until you go away on holiday together that you know what its all about.
She Of The Townhouse and I are in Crete at present. Suffice it to say that this is proving quite an eye opener. And not a day too soon I can tell you.
I am limited to how much may reveal here as the interweb thingy is rated at 4 euros an hour but let me tell you folks………

Monday, October 13, 2008

Burgered Up


Me and my big mouth! You would think that after last time I would have learnt a lesson wouldn’t you but no….
It seems that She Of The Town House may have got wind of my last post you see. Well better that than down wind of it but anyway. While The Boy and I were out grinding corn she decided to make an extra special effort and rustle up a surprise for tea.
So she dug up a few spuds and put them on to boil.
After that she got distracted and wandered off up to see a friend, came back an hour or so later to find the Townhouse full of steam.
Then she toasted some burger buns.
Later she prised them out of the toaster and cut the burnt bits off, she avoided electrical accidents by using a plastic spatula. This made the house smell a bit funny but this was later masked by the smell of what came next so it didn’t really matter.
She found some delicious and succulent buffalo burgers yesterday and figured they would be a real treat.
Placing them on ‘high’ she then nipped off to check her e-mail……you can see where this is going cant you…..
I think that a long story ought to be cut short here as I have to make it up to the chip shop in a mo.
When it was all banged down on a plate in front of us I could tell that our reaction was important and that saying the wrong thing might cause upset.
Eventually the boy and I came up with this.

“Darling, I just cant tell you how good that was”.

Tomorrow, dear reader, I am coming round to your house for tea.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Parsnip Surprise


I tell you friends, you have to watch your back as best you can round here when She Of The Town House decides that she is going to cook.
I have to say that her normal culinary standard involves a quick ‘tut’ at the contents of the fridge followed by a bolt for the nearest decent restaurant. Thus she feeds us all pretty well whenever it falls to her to provide.
Every now and then though, a rogue synapse fires and the maternal instinct just can’t be squashed. All very well but, when getting the right setting on the toaster for medium brown has been the culinary highlight of the week so far, I am sure that you will understand what I say when I tell you things can be a bit hit and miss.
The worst of times are when she thinks that it’s time something was used up.
Now that the Axeman has gone to college we ought to buy about half what we used to but in the period of adjustment we are a bit oversupplied from time to time.
Take this evening, I was late back from my travails. I am thanking my lucky stars that I got to the kitchen just as she was peeling the parsnips. I have probably rescued myself from a weekend bout of severe something of other, you know the thing I mean, that stuff that the hospitals are all being ticked off for. In fact from the state of what I saw I may even have rescued Asbo from the same and he has the constitution of a channel ferry.
“I’m just using these up” she said, “ I think they may be on the turn”.
“On the turn woman! They left the turn ten yards back and they are accelerating fast along the straight. It wont be long before they will be signing autographs!!”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Be Mused



The truth is that I haven’t really been sure what to tell you about. Don’t get me wrong, there’s loads happening. The Axeman has hoofed it over Offa’s Dyke to some foreign university, taking his six stringed razor with him. Boy thus moves up the teenage pecking order and grows ever more Kevin. She Of The Townhouse is running amok in a field with her ‘bad mother’ displacement activities. Asbo continues to disgust and amuse with his adolescent doggy antics. I travel roads in the dead of night and continue to enjoy the new position immensely (stop lloking for smut dammit! Hallett's Mountain has no innuendo above 0.001%).
With all this richness though, the seam I need to tap for blogging is elusive.
Perhaps the nifty gadget that Mike gave me? The bat whisperer?
Trials of the telescope user maybe.
Parties of the end of summer.
Dreams of yesteryear.
Old friends.
The trouble is it all seems just out of reach at the moment. Perhaps because I am lucky and am so busy.
I was mulling over Stienbeck’s introduction to Cannery Row the other day. To tell the stories ….. you know I have just spotted that She Of The Townhouse is suffing an advanced case of trench foot…….in telling stories of the 1920’s Monterey community that he so obviously loved, he reflected on the way in which they should emerge on the page. Remembering the marine life collection expeditions that he took part in with Ed Ricketts he likened the tales to fragile nematoad worms. These were creatures that were so delicate that pulling them out of the mud they live in would inevitably lead to their destruction. The only way that they could sensibly be gathered was to allow them to crawl out on to microscope slides by them selves in their own time.
I claim no other affinity with such great writing, but this I do recognise. Tales often cannot be told until their own sweet time arrives.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Line Out

You know a few months ago She Of The Town House’s drying machine packed up. The heater element stopped working and nothing seemed to get dry. Now I mocked at the time, up here on Hallett’s Mountain I use a proper washing line and pegs but you know what. That seems to be broken now as well.
It doesn’t seem to make any difference how long I hang the washing on it nothing dries there either.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Track And Field Events



The unseasonable weather has forced me to work….Oh incidentally, to all those kind souls that have been kind enough to think about me, the new job is brilliant. Early days yet but I am really enjoying it and my new colleagues are kind and supportive. I shall not be able to write much about it as it is in a hospital and I am very wary of confidentiality issues but it has been a terrific first week and I look forward to going to school with an enthusiasm renewed…..anyway….the work which I started to tell you about…
The last half mile to Hallett’s Mountain is a track that belongs to me alone and as such its my own damn fault if I don’t look after it from time to time. More specifically, when the rainy season arrives, I have to make sure that the water doesn’t tear up the ground under the car.
At the crack of dawn this morning, leaving She Of The Townhouse sleeping soundly in her bed, Asbo and I went out to dig ditches.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Busy


I couldnt lay my hands on a suitable photo so here is an old relic from about 1975
Greetings fellow denizens (denizens? Ah well Microsoft seems to have heard of it) of the interweb. I are back.
After my extended and rather damp summer break I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the challenges of what for me represents the new year. As a teacher I regard the onset of September as the start of my cycle through the seasons.
Before that though there are a few challenges to be mopped up along with the August monsoon.
The secret vegetable garden has Pigmies stalking game. The artichokes loom over the whole like razor fanged triffids. Caterpillars will need chemical warfare. She of the townhouse is looking up pickle recipes.
My junk room needs dejunking. Thinks have got to the stage where I need to have a large throw away bonfire on which the top spot will go to the vanities of last years clothing. Some of it last decades indeed. And really I am never going to fit in to ‘those jeans’ again ladies. Honestly I am not, and if I ever show signs that I might wel hell, I will buy a new pair.
Ah yes, then there is the mystery of the medium sized saucepan. If it doesn’t manifest soon I shall be calling upon Ramsay of the yard.
And I need a new school uniform.
The car needs to be certified.
And the Doctor has asked me to help transplant a donated organ.
Then next week I start my first new job in a quarter of a century.
Bloomin heck I don’t know what on earth I am doing talking to you lot!
Must fly, fish to fry…..

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Gentlemans Dilema


Now I am not really a great one for cleaning the car. In fact with this as my opener I can hear various colleagues and sisters going down the snigger and ‘you can say that again’ road. That said I do like to try and empty it before I fill it up again to go on holiday.
My house I like to keep clean and from time to time the garden looks good but my car….well its an agricultural vehicle. Take in to account that She Of The Town House regularly fills it to busting groaning with loads of logs, trees that haven’t been made in to logs yet, scaffolding, tools, cement, spare compost heaps, and second hand anything that takes her fancy. Oh yes, whenever Asbo takes to the road you can bet he will be on top of the pile as well, shedding hair like an Olympic hair shedder preparing for the Olympic hair shedding event in earnest.
So for some weeks now I have been quite pleased that she has promised to give it a good going over. In fact now I think about it, it may even be months since she first dusted off that promise. And there in lies the problem you see. The Hallett annual holiday starts tomorrow with a mad dash to the coast and a ferry connection and so far it is only the promise that has been dusted off and nothing else.
Today I decided, despite loads of important messing about on the net having a list of jobs as long as my arm to sort out, to take the task in hand myself.
Now I hope I haven’t mentioned Augean stables so recently that it is repetitive, but if old Herc had even looked at the state of my car I suspect he would have just shrugged and concluded that walking alone in the desert feeling sorry wasn’t such a bad lot, apologised to the oracle and , told Theseus not to bother looking him up again.
( I see here that Microsoft deems the last sentence unfit and in need of fragmentation. God help PG Wodehouse that’s all I can say)
So I have spent all afternoon hovering, scrubbing and, wiping. Much of it involving over close examination of stuff that may just keep me awake tonight.
Underneath all I have found an earring.
If any of you out there wish to reclaim it before I wave it in front of She Of The Town House I may well be saved a world of trouble. I mean it looks like the one she lost last year…but you never can tell with these things……..

The Holiday? Ah yes, Bordeaux for the next week then a fortnight in Lulworth Cove
Do drop in if you have a mind.
Cheers all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Red In Tooth And Claw


Every now and then the cats that own me bring me a weasel. This poor chap turned up in the kitchen first thing this morning.
I guess they cant taste very nice as they only ever seem to be killed.
A pity.
My mate Dave always said that carnivores seldom eat other carnivores. I am not sure if this is true?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Cabin Fever



When She Of The Townhouse gets an idea in to her head you had better not stand in the way. All week long I have been suffering from a repetitive strain injury in my right arm.
Ok who sniggered! Don’t jump to mucky conclusions.
The thing is, she has decided that under the trees in the field need an erection.
Right that’s it!
Leave the room if you can’t be sensible. It’s just a word.

Unlike a right thinking and rational being though she has elected to place the aforementioned slap bang in the middle of a swampy patch. Under a tree.
As well as my own lack of firmness.....
Oh look for goodness sake, if you are going to misinterpret everything I say I shall just stop.
...As well as my own lack of demure, I place some of the blame on my little sister. If she hadn’t built a landing stage and a fire pit by the river then I feel sure that the whole shed in a swampy tree thing might have been held in check for a while.
As it is, I have been banging fence posts all weekend (I give in, titter away) and next we are on to the decking.
If she rings you asking for scaffolding planks please say no……

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Through The Blue Window


Tum ti tum tum tum me
Tum ti tum tum tum me
Tum ti tum tum dear me
Tum ti tum tum tum me



49....sheesh....:-)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dastardly Deeds


If forced to hit the nail on the head I would say that Mel next doors owl has blabbed…but lets take a step or two back.

“Its OK he’s off the scene!”
As an opening gambit from a woman I find this always raises the Hallett eyebrow a notch. It slightly more than hints at the promise of an interesting diversion.
“I think I must have managed to poison him.”
But by now I am just checking over my shoulder in case. Maybe this is too much revealed at such an early stage in our relationship, for I swear I don’t recall ever having met the woman before. Unless she asked me to move my car or something like that. But we certainly don’t have the relationship that I feel is implied.
“You haven’t a clue what I am talking about have you?”
At last I am given scope for a reply.
“I am afraid you do have me at a loss.” I confess.
“Its just that I heard that you had a gun.”
I thought we were turning back to a slightly more normal tack I am suddenly in the woods again.
“I put it in a note but your son hasn’t given it to you yet.”
Chains of evidence and consequences are running riot. Not last the threat to my position in the Guild.
As she walked away I began to wonder what on earth I had inadvertently let myself in for.

Later I read the note.

Dear Mervyn.
I hope I have got the right name. I have a very troublesome pigeon – I hear you may be able to help me get rid of it. Will you be kind enough to ring me?


It appears that the bird had been dining out on her seedlings but eventually fell foul of slug pellets.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hair Of The Dog



Asbo is keen to polish his image. As a bit of a hound about town he, like so many, is conscious of the up and coming opportunities to show off dogly physique on the beach.
Like me he is figuring that there are a limited number of days until his summer holiday and the weight loss figures are in fact now stretching along a spectrum ranging through possible, to optimistic, and thence in sight of cloud cuckoo land. I inhabit the latter end of this spectrum and tend to rely on deep breaths and leaning forward slightly as part of my regime.
Asbo however has struck on a novel and possibly unique solution. He has come up with a winning formula that should not only have him in the trim, but may also render him cool for the beach in others ways as well.
His singular take on summer weight loss is to shed hair.
I was cleaning the sitting room at Hallett’s Mountain this very afternoon and can attest to the fact that he is already several pounds lighter.
To give him a further helping paw, and indeed I shall now be constructing his own personal outdoor wooden gymnasium in order that he can maintain his new svelteness.

As you can see he is also busy preparing for Wimbledon.
New balls please!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Good Evening, Good Morning

Sunset 20/06/2008
Jun080021

Sunrise 21/06/2008
Jun080070

Photos of a sunset and a sunrise can be flickred from the little gadget slightly lower down the page to the right.
This post is really aimed at the people that were there. I hope you like the pictures and feel free to grab any you would like for yourself. If, for some reason, you would like a larger version than the ones shown here then drop me a line. Facebook finds me quite easily.

To anyone else out there.
Have a belting solstice....

Monday, June 16, 2008

As Midsummer Approaches

sunrise

I wrote this a few years ago, 2001 I think. And then I lost it….

“I saw the sunrise on midsummers day!!

Well what a glorious morning it was yesterday.
I awoke ( having thus lain) upon a bed of heather and bilberry. High above Penmaenmawr and close by my favorite druids circle. My watch confirms that the hour is 03.40 and at this longitude the sun will rise in about an hour. Already it is light enough to read by. The cup from my flask beside me can now be used for coffee. Last nights whisky seems to have gone the way of all whisky. I shall also chew on one of these chocolate bars. An unusual breakfast.
Some of the other people around have lit a fire and the smoke from the dying embers gives the air a nice tang.
There are five other people inside the circle. Irfon and two from the North of England are finishing off cider and sweet cigarettes. Lain close round the fires remnant they talk with morning murmurs, occasionally laughing loud. A long haired druid from Rachub and his ladyfriend are sheltering under cloaks and stone.
So I sit and await the sunrise with them.
For the first time in twenty years the cloud is broken and Irfon announces the prospect of a fine day ahead. For the next half hour the gods confound him by shuffling the grey bits more evenly and after a while I notice that the whisky has retired him to his tent.
The sky grows lighter and the spread of pink dawn glow becomes more concentrate in an obvious center. The cloud moves back from the sea again and miles away, Oh high above the faint line of the Penines the light grows steady and stronger.
Skylarks have been awake for some time now.
Am I the only one left awake?
Looking around now I can see several people moving. Early morning visitors. Ones who were unable to keep the watch, or too comfortable in their beds last night, are approaching.
Five , maybe six more are coming up the slope to the druids circle. One dark haired girl attracts my eye for longer than the others and I have a fleeting glimpse of our future.
Then like a light turned on its there, a sudden golden splash seen across a hundred miles. Lighting the sky with its aching beauty and for a second stilling us all. The far away hills turn to fire. And as I have waited so long for this my heart soars with the skylarks.
Sarah, wake up, hey John. Good grief Irfon was up all night and now he’s passed out in his tent!
Photographs , as many as I can take.
Then afterwards I look at the dark haired girl again, dream another dream, and go home to a well earned bacon sandwich.”


I am not sure what to think of it now.
A few secretly smiled that they were the dark haired girl.
Including She Of The Town House.

If you click the picture you can find a larger version should you wish. It is the view from my house on the day before midsummers morning (1999 I think).

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Pond Life


I spent a little of the afternoon photographing dragonflies over at the pond today. This creature had just emerged, crawling out of the skin of it nymph form, and was drying its wings out in the sunshine.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Testing Times

It’s the end of the Key Stage in the workplace. Now if that makes no sense to you then believe me you are probably better off.
Teachers all over the country are busy turning persons in to numbers and reporting them onwards to people who will grind statistical mills, reducing data to provide the next terms seasoning of information.
Many of us feel very dubious about the process but it’s the law and we have to do it. We are only following orders.
In pursuit of this end today one of my classes was completing a test provided over the internet by a company revelling in the name of yacapaca.com.
After a briefer than usual period of retrieving passwords and retyping links my class is settled and engaged by the chirpy little fellow dancing around options a, b, or c. Flash animations are used to pretend that this is something more than a multiple tick test and is in fact interesting. Not many of us are fooled.
As this is the fifth time in a week that I have sat through the earnest clicking of thirty mice I begin to daydream.Thinking back to a rather good party on the weekend. Mulling over the prospects for tea. Trying to……
*Crash*
The all too familiar sound of every key on the board being assaulted is followed by a wail. Someone isn’t pleased.
I always find that understatement is best so look over the top of the glasses. I raise my best Roger Moore eyebrow in question.
“ They haven’t given enough time to answer the questions! I keep getting zero!!” Close to weeping tears of frustration.
I am not sure that it is possible to be full of mild concern but I still think that the muted response will cause the least escalation.
“Let me check your machine a moment, it should be giving you a minute to read each question and answer it”
“A minute, A MINUTE !! OH SURE THAT IS SO CRAP. IT STARTS WITH SIXTY SECONDS AND COUNTS DOWN AND I CANT READ THE ……..”
The student next to the one in question holds his head in his hands and closes his eyes. Several others rock with mirth.
I had to turn away.

In other news. She Of The Townhouse still hasn’t noticed my new glasses. Oh well, at least she hasn’t sat on them.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Small Worlds


Taking pictures of the night sky has been a little frustrating so far this year. OH I am always up for a snapshot of the moon or a constellation but my real targets this year have been deep space objects, the things that you just cant see very well unless you have a most improbable set of circumstances stacked together, and a great deal of luck. I want to chase down a few galaxies. The odd nebula. Reflections an illuminations that take a great deal of luck to get as well as a lot of planning. The trouble is that the skies have been a little unkind and maybe I have been a little lazy. Anyway things are not really going to happen now until mid August at the earliest. The skies are just too light.
So I have decided to have a bash at the other end of the scale. Now this is a new field to me. I am waving an early effort at you today. Not I hasten to add because I think it is a particularly good picture. I am not being falsely modest here. What I need is some decent advice on how to improve. I want to get more depth of field I guess but if I reduce aperture I lose brightness or the time is so great that the beetle blurs. I don’t really want to nail him down. Do I have to use a flash? Also I seem to have failed to capture the iridescent blue of this little beetle. How do you get a fast macro photo with a good depth of field at extreme zoom in natural light? A tall order?
Any thoughts gratefully received.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Undercrackers

I am , dear reader, a worried man. The hole in the centre of the universe had been busy again. Recently it has developed a completely inexplicable appetite for my skiddies (col, male undergarment).
Hallett’s Mountain is now down to a rotation of the final two pairs in my possession. That’s one pair that I am wearing and one pair being washed and dried out! A mere eight days worth [( forward, backward, inside out forward, inside out backward) X 2]. And that precludes accidents! If I am run over by a bus then there is going to be a wailing and a gnashing of teeth, especially from concerned female companions.
I swear that last Christmas I had at least ten pairs. So where on earth have they all gone.
I have checked several of the seamier internet sites that sell second hand underwear. Had my eyes opened to sights no man should ever have to contemplate. Yet despite extensive research and following of even the most tenuous links I can find nothing resembling my own.
A couple of days ago I tackled She Of The Townhouse on the matter. I mean I know women can be funny about personal items of sentimental value and perhaps she has been taking them away with her to hotels and stuff….I even considered liberating a pair of hers in return, though God only knows what they are expected to cover. I have seen string with more body that some of her efforts.
When threatened, the only thing she had to offer was that perhaps The Boy had been caught short again and maybe I could look in his room. Well there is no way I am going there.
So. Commando until my birthday it seems. Oh pants!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Salad Days

Its that time of year again. Earlier in the week Axeman, The Boy, and I were alarmed. Smoke alarmed in fact. She Of The Townhouse had broken in to the fridge and was cooking salad again. Its an annual ritual sparked off, as always, by the warm weather.
She starts off with the shorts and the T-shirt on the first really warm sunny weekend of the year but by tea time has become a little black cloud with an enormous bum.
Now I think her bum is very nice indeed, but my perspective is usually perceived wrong in these matters. For a week or two now its going to be nothing but lettuce and lean grilled meat. No dumplings in a hearty stew, no cakes, no soup with a generous dob of cream. Pork with salty crackling? Forget it. Chips?? Off limits. And a cold beer after work…….
People please. Send us a pie will you? But not a word to whassname.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Blue Belle


Sally forth anywhere on Hallett’s Mountain over the next week or two and you have the spectacle of Bluebells dusting the hillside like spilled powder paint. I look forward to the early summer flush of colour that these bring. They race up with the sunshine until the bracken overtakes them. My new mower has let me cut an easy path round the acre at the back of the house. This is how they look under the trees.

I remember reading some bloke years ago banging on about Daffodils. But then, what are words worth.
*grins*

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Bring On More Men In Black


Yesterday I served as a representative at the workplace beyond normal opening hours. I returned on a sultry evening to the townhouse for my tea ( a very nice roast pork dinner by the way) but after parking my car on the High Street I found myself drawn to the doors of the pub.
The lure of a cold one in their back yard just proved too tempting.
Now usually when I go in there it is the weekend and I am in jeans and a T. Just occasionally it amuses me to wear the workplace uniform, suit and tie with shiny shoes. People don’t say much round these parts but a raised eyebrow speaks volumes.
The thing is, yesterday I walked in and every man jack was in a pretty much identical suit. I had a strange sense of displacement and for a brief moment felt that the door might be some dimensional portal. Something leading to an identical world save in the aspect of dress. I was eyed up and down like I was late. Weird.
“What’s all this about?” I asked one of the drinkers at the bar.
“It’s me dad’s funeral, thanks for coming…..”

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Cuckoo






All day long she has been laughing at me.
It seems there is more to this nature photography lark than meets the eye.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Gog

The title is not spelled in error but is a rather obscure reference.
This week I have seen the return of an old friend. A friend back from Africa. I have been holding out on you, dear reader, in the hope of a photo but my friend is proving elusive. On the evening of May the 2nd the cukoo returned to Hallett’s Mountain.
For me the cuckoo sings the song of summer.
For my old mate Dave it sings the song of “HEY ARE THERE ANY OTHER CUCKOOS OUT THERE LOOKING FOR A ‘GOOD TIME’” and here I am being a little coy as I am aware that I have a few younger readers. His version of the Cuckoo had a little more of the Anglo Saxon four letter vernacular. Added to this his best Terry Thomas impression.
I have been recording in Old Soak’s nature notes since 1997 of this birds arrival and this is the latest I have ever heard it. The earliest is the 17th of April.
Apart from that I have been very busy. At this time of year I have a huge wodge of coursework to mark and I will have to keep my nose down to the grindstone for a couple more weeks.

For those of you who were kind enough to indulge my last post and wonder why the song was so important to me. I guess the first assumption might be some unrequited love but not at all. In 1974 my French exchange partner introduced me to it. He sang it every day for a month!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Between The Sheets / Between The Lines

“What’s that you are reading then?”
For the third time in ten minutes my eye is dragged from the words, and once again I know that I shall probably start all over at the top of the page. She Of The Townhouse has an impish gleam in her eye.
“It is a tale about a chap whose girlfriend wouldn’t get up and make a cup of tea on Sunday morning!”
“Oooh! Romance or murder mystery?”
Darkly. “I can’t say for certain yet I haven’t got to the end……”

Now then, hastily exiting the Hallett Boudoir I find myself among the growing ranks of youtube viewers. Often I feel the resort of a lazy blogger to flag up things and merely add ‘look at this’ or LOL as their only contribution for the day. Nevertheless I did stumble across a real gem this week. It started on Wednesday evening when Mike Harding played ‘On again’ By Jake Thakeray on radio two. A treat for me. The next day I looked it up in the workplace and was led on via a Gorilla to Georges Brassens and thence to Jaques Brel.
If you have the time and the inclination I recommend that you watch this all the way through. And then if perchance you enjoy it, then look up the others. I promise you wont be disappointed.
Back in the seventies this song meant a lot to me.

Happy Birthday Izzy
XXX

Friday, April 25, 2008

Raise Your Glasses


It would be a foolish chap who would comment on the size of his paramour’s arse. Especially on his blog.
Butt you see someone has sat upon my glasses.
Again!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

St George’s Day



Oh don’t worry this isn’t going to be a nationalist rant. No “God for Harry” here There are plenty of others in Britain’s glorious multiculture who I can leave that to. I mean to say! “In peace there's nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility” thats where I stop.
Its just that St Georges day does mark one of the focus points in my year. It’s the day (yesterday incidentally) when I hop over the wall in to the field and start the serious business of hunting for mushrooms. People in Britain have somehow learned to unlearn quite how good these are.
The cheeky little fellows that you see sitting at the top of this page are called ‘St Georges Mushroom’ and they nearly always appear in the last week of April. They smell wonderful, conjuring up for me all kinds of happy memories, reminders of other walks and the taste of time of year. With just a little light preparation they lend a lovely nutty mushroomy taste to whatever you care to add them to. In fact I like them so much that the small sweet and tender ones may not actually make it in to the bag, I eat them like little snacks. Their firm fragrance a much better bet than the far poorer things that lurk near aisle 13 in our local supermarket.
Along with this, the week will most certainly mark the return of the cuckoo to my evening garden dreamtime.
There is still snow on the mountains but I can now sit out in shorts (steady on ladies) in the warm evening sun.
This week, more than any other of the year, marks the passage from winter to summer for me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thoughts On Teenage Binge Drinking

As Asbo and I took our familiar path through the woods this morning we stumbled upon the sorry debris.
The harbinger of summers treats yesterday brought yoof out for an evening drink or two, and as usual they failed to take home the empties.
Clearing up the cans and bottles I noticed that half of the damn things were still full.
Teenage binge drinking isn’t what it used to be.
In my day there was none of this new fangled 500ml in a ring pull can. Oh no. We had full on party sevens in containers made of iron. Containers that needed a restricted kitchen implement to gain entrance, so you had better bring a claw hammer and possibly a nail. And we certainly never left them half full.
Blooming lightweights.
Harumph!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

00 ouch

Like a considerably overgirthed James Bond I am scaling a large wall using my fingertips and toes. Still dressed in my work suit.
I used to climb rather better than this but then there was a lot less of me.
She Of The Town House has bounced Asbo’s ball over the wall on to the rocks below and I now have two pairs of pleading brown eyes wanting me to play fetch….aghh dammit.
This was meant to be a short walk along the estuary before a beer. Now it is looking more like one of those reality TV things where people are set to do things they just aren’t fit for. The bloomin’ wall is ten feet high at least, and there is a river close to the bottom. If I put a foot wrong in all that seaweed I shall be in the ogin.
As I haul myself back up I hear the camera click….
Later on she does the same thing again on the return leg.
It can bloody stay there next time!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

First Love


OK ...so she has a face like she swallowed a wasp....she had a really full on case of dog breath...she snored fit to wake the dead...and she bum shuffles your favourite bit of carpet just by the fire.

Asbo didn't seem to mind....

Friday, April 11, 2008

Time For A Bonfire

Two years ago, the last time that She Of The Town House moved house, she borrowed ‘a bit of space’ in my barn to store stuff until she could offload it in a car boot (trunk) sale.
I haven't really been able to use my barn since and every time I murmur a word or two about it she pulls a feminine wiles stunt on me.
The that that haven’t rotted away are still there.
To add insult to injury, my new mower has disappeared under a pile of plastic bags that she has shifted from one end to the other.

In a recent flurry of activity she has put The Town House on the market. She may soon have to be renamed Valley Girl.

Is there anyone else out there whose junk moves house less often than they do?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What The F...

So there I am thumbing through other peoples blogs...

"Where's that other thing that we had?"

She Of The Townhouse interrupts my travels.

I have not the faintest clue what it is she is banging on about.

Sat Nav To Hell

Full of good intentions I have brought all my student reports home on a memory stick. I have seventy to complete by Friday and only twenty seven done so far. True to form the little bugger has refused to cooperate and so here I am at the end of loosenes.
I suspect that the comments are going to be a little more formula driven as a result.
Oh well.....

Monday, April 07, 2008

Work To Be Done


Now my holiday is over I don't expect to be turning out a post every day. If past form is to go by then once a week if I am lucky.
In the meantime I present this picture taken from Garvie's leap, the rock at the end of my garden, yesterday.
The view is down the Conwy Valley over the towns of Dolgarog and Llanrwst looking towards the high mountains between Bala and Dolgellau.
The snow capped peak right of centre and in the distance is Arenig Fawr, about 35 kilometres from my house if you could fly there.
I like this picture as it give you a clear idea of the level that my house is at compared to the valley.
I think I showed you this view as a river of mist earlier in the year.
This , along with the last couple of posts should give you also a sense of why, despite the lack of a road, neighbours, or broadband, I wake every day lucky to be alive in such beauty.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A Smile


As thrilled as any man would be with a new mower, I decided yesterday to have a little al fresco art attack. I was inspired by figures like the Cerne Giant and the White Horse at Uffington. Taking in to account my own lack of ability and thinking that I would have to wait a few weeks really to see the full effect, I have carved a smiley in the grass below the house. I expected it to become more visible as the grass greens up and the difference between the cut and the uncut became distinctive.
Then last night it snowed.
People from Colwyn Bay to Liverpool will be looking up this morning and, I hope, smiling right back at me.

This is just the sort of thing that winds up in the Weekly Witter and gets me labelled as eccentric by my students…..
Oh well, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes


Well it does if you are daft enough to stand downwind of this beast.
Whenever high wind and snow is forecast by the BBC I take this as a guarantee of good weather. The gloom and doom foreseen this morning meant that it was time to cook meat over a fire in the garden.
Observe, if you will, my latest contribution to the world of the cookout.
To the uneducated eye it may look like a bath, some bricks, an old metal plate, and a wheelbarrow. Of course Heston Bloominheck (and I suspect Buffalodick) would recognise the genius that is my new barbecue smoker.
Costing precisely nothing, this fine instrument polished off several poultry and half a pig this afternoon. Or rather my guests did. Please note that as children were present I was also forced to turn a couple of carpet burgers that had earlier been smuggled out of aisle thirteen.

Children do not try this at home.
Oh and ladies…fear not…I used the ‘B’ bath.
My hot tub still awaits your pleasure.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hallett’s Mountain Ate My Lorry


I guess that the next generation of Sat Nav gadgets will come with a sense of humour built in. Hopefully when the postcode for my particular blot on the landscape is typed in it will respond with some version of ‘Come on now mate, you’re ‘avin a larf’ rather than a set of patient instructions that lead the unwary motorist to either their Scylla or their Charybdis depending on which side of the road they decide to sacrifice themselves to eventually.
I am sure I have told you all about it before.
Yesterday though, someone’s little bit of digital magic, and their own blind faith, really did excel.
Two large trucks played follow the leader until the gap between the rock and the hard place finally caught them. She Of The Townhouse and I came up behind trying to get to my house to be greeted with the spectacle of walls and trees being shoved aside to try and extract both lorries and their cargo. It seems that someone lower down had ordered 22 tonnes of gravel for a project.
We stayed to mock from the hedge for a little while and then decided to go away and return in a few hours.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Silent Spring


Phrases like “Eat unleaden death tree hugging scum” would never escape from the back of the Hallett cortex save in spring. The season when any mans fancy turns to his lawn. And this year I have decided to do my best to offset the efforts of all those do gooder carbon offsetting bods by buying a petrol lawnmower.
After years of pushing an electric hover around my acre I have finally succumbed. I even toyed briefly with the notion of one that you could ride on but soon realised that I could have ten cheaper mowers for the same price.
So there you go. After a few minutes mocking the safety instruction (long trousers! I don’t think so!!) I put a selection of Steppenwolf and Springsteen into my i(maginary)pod. Casually flicked out the aviators and went for a blast round the nooks and crannies.
Wonderful.
To think, I could have had an attachment for stripes as well but you know….its possible to overdo these things.
Later I discovered that fifty conkers that I collected last back end and put in pots have all germinated. I hope this isn’t going to offset the offset offset, if you see what I mean.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dawn Chorus

As Asbo and I dogged the path through the woods today we heard a Woodpecker drum a staccato rhythm on dead branches. I was very pleased with moment.
Later Asbo found a dead sheep that he has been keeping his eye on, one that floated down the river a week or so ago. He pulled and pulled at the almost, but not quite tender leg. Perhaps it will come off tomorrow.
For the rest of the morning an old song has been rattling round my head. A song to be sung to the tune of “Dixie”.
Perhaps if I share it with you it will leave me alone for an hour.

THE WOODPECKER'S HOLE

Oh I put my finger in a woodpecker's
hole
And the woodpecker said, "Well bless my soul
Take it out, take it out, take it out,
REMOVE IT"

So I took my finger from the woodpecker's
hole
And the woodpecker said, "Well bless my soul
Put it back, put it back, put it back,
INSERT IT"

So I inserted my finger in the woodpecker's
hole
And the woodpecker said, "Well bless my soul
Turn it 'round, turn it 'round, turn it 'round
ROTATE IT"

So I rotated my finger in the woodpecker's
And the woodpecker said, "Well bless my soul
Speed it up, speed it up, speed it up
ACCELERATE IT"

So I accelerated my finger in the woodpecker's
hole
And the woodpecker said, "Well bless my soul
Other way, other way, other way
REVERSE IT"

So I reversed my finger in the woodpecker's
hole
And the woodpecker said, "Well bless my soul
Stroke it in, stroke it in, stroke it in
OSCILLATE IT"

So I oscillated my finger in the woodpecker's
hole
And the woodpecker said, "Well bless my soul
Take it out, take it out, take it out
REMOVE IT

and then repeat form the beginning ad infinitum….

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Fortunes Stroke

*picture a lot of money*
No one could have been more surprised than I when I was contacted out of the blue by Ntakay. I guess he must have remembered me from years ago when I was working catching core out in Nigeria in the early eighties. Anyway, however he dredged up my name, I must say that I think we both bless the day. While I have become a teacher it seems that he must have stayed in the oil business and, from his own account, risen to a position of responsibility as the principle advisor to the former leader of a west African republic. A country which I am reluctant to reveal the name of for reasons that will become apparent. After years of political stability in his adopted home Ntakay has established himself a by no means modest fortune. Again I don’t want to spill the beans, but lets just say that we are talking a pretty decent euro lottery win here.
Anyway, just before Christmas his government which had for some time been under the eye of an increasingly greedy military was destabilised, and all accounts above 50 million dollars in them have been held in stasis until they can be established as belonging to the government. The only exceptions being those which can be shown clearly to be linked to a foreign personal bank account. It seems the new regime is anxious to clobber its own citizens but would equally like to avoid offending people from the foreign who may be needed in the future to help them retain power.
To cut a long story short, it seems that all we have to do is establish an account with a few thousand in it in our joint names, get it recognised in his country, and then Ntakay can shift his millions over to Europe. He has generously offered me a fat ten percent to help him on the way!
So that’s it. By lunchtime I will have realised a few stocks and shares and opened an account in the name of Hallett & Mweewee. In a week or two its feet up on a desert island for the pair of us.
Why work harder!

Monday, March 31, 2008

In The Tube



While wandering near Calne the other day I visited the site of the first house that I could ever remember living in. A little corner of the Bowood Estate Where my parents lived in the early sixties. Down a farm track, across a field and hidden in trees in the rich farmland below the downs. I have probably told you about it before.
The thing is though there wasn’t a single brick left on top of another.
In fact less than that there was very little I could recognise at all apart from the horizons corrugations. The site of the old cottage has been bulldozed some time in the last forty years or so and now all that remains is some rubble that may or may not have once belonged on a bank next to a large beef and dairy unit.
I was kind of expecting this as my sister had let me know that there wasn’t much to see but you know how curiosity drives us back sometimes. After poking around round the back of the slurry lagoon I eventually found an old crushed enamel sink and some bits of tile that may have been dumped there but could possibly have come from the house, who knows.
Then as I turned my back on it all and fond farewelled what I probably shouldn’t have gone to look for I saw something that flicked the switch of childhood memory and raced me all the way back to the winters that we used to have. I think it was probably nineteen sixty three. After looking it up now I think it was probably the February so I would have been three and a half years old.
After a considerable blizzard that heaped snow on top of an already frozen ground my mother had taken my sister and I out into a fierce blue sky and winter sunshine, wrapped in gear designed for the Michelin man. Boots and layers of stuffed romper suits to protect us against the chill, we explored our new and unfamiliar landscape. With the winter we are currently in it seems hard to imagine but, back then, we had had several feet of snow which in places had blown in to drifts that were four or five metres tall.
One large drift had formed against a hedge bordering a field just beyond the boundary of the house. This had then blown over in what I believe is known as a cornice, a wind sculpted breaking wave of snow that fell upon the far side of the hedge after it had crossed a parallel leat (wide ditch). To the external appearance there was a huge mound running along the field where hedge and ditch used to be.
Against my mothers uncertain protestation we scaled the mound but soon found that it was truly hollow. Just a light jump on top and we broke through in to an illuminated crystal cavern, one of those rooms that you suddenly noticed in a dream. I can only have spent a few minutes in there really but the sense of childhood wonder still remains. Stretching long into the distance our own private ice cavern with its floor of rock frozen stream. My mother peering anxiously in to the holes from above. It was a ‘rosebud’ moment.
Years later my picture of the location was so clear that I recognised it in an instant.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Regular Exercise


Occasional glances down towards the Hallett feet have revealed a disturbing trend. A trend of corporeal increase as it were. The view over the metatarsals can no longer be obtained without a lean over the not so lean. In fact I would go so far as to say the the prospect of the phalanges is disappearing fast. Thus I have resolved resolutely to take more exercise. To this end you may have noticed that earlier in the year my trusty bike was wheeled around a Cotswold circuit. The trouble that was unrevealed at the time was how I felt for a few days afterwards. Reader, I ached!
It seems that after two or three years of neglect the muscles that once propelled me up and down pass and valley were on holiday. Neglect followed by punishment left me with twinges where I was unused to having a twinge.
Of course I realised my mistake. I should have perhaps not been so immediately ambitious. So I have decided to be a little more regular.
So I decided to try the same thing again. Six weeks later I have again set off on a round of the Cotswolds. And do you know what? Exactly the same thing happened. Once again I ache all over from cycling. Apart from a small ache that didn’t come from cycling.
Anyway my point is that this regular exercise thing is all very well. But so far, after two regular sessions the Hallett girth is undiminished. Well I am not one to be easily put off but if the same thing happens in mid May and I am not several kilos more towards the optimum I am going to have to have a radical rethink.

(As you can see the great Moo Moo has once again made itself manifest in a bread related product)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Travelling Man


Hallett’s Mountain has been quieter than it ought to have been of late. You are quite right to point it out. Asbo the dog has had complaints from his University of Manchester fan club. Startare has requested more astrophotography. The girl in aisle 13 has been giving me a Paddington Bear look (I know there is nothing unusual there but I am grasping clumsily at straws). Other blogs have been wondering whether their sidebars have one to many links in them, and indeed I have not been the frequenter of others fine words that I have been in the past. In general, the Hallett organ has been dormant….
A couple of days ago though I was reminded of life’s simple pleasures, and their importance, during a delicious walk along the Thames near Lechlade. While a number of things rose during this hour or two of beauty and sunlit reflection; one that I feel safe in revealing in these notes, was that I really ought to have mentioned that I am going to change my job.
You may remember me polishing up my rather odd CV towards the end of last year. To my own surprise (the circumstances were complicated) and great delight, the effort I made was repaid by an interview and subsequently an offer. An offer which I have been very pleased with, and a little humbled by An offer which is also keeping me pretty busy as I have to tidy up one life and begin another.
After almost twenty five year working as a teacher, in the same school throughout, I am taking a new direction. From next September I shall be working in a hospital, still teaching, as I think by now I can admit that I enjoy it, but from then on working with students who are too ill to attend normal classes.
I can’t tell you how genuinely excited by it I am.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Leave A Message After The Burp

Just outside the butterfly house at the edge of the Old Walled Town there is a skip. Or as She Of The Town House prefers to think of it, ‘a low tech shop’.
We passed by a couple of days ago while they were getting some new furbish in to the place and trashing the old stuff.
It did occur to me afterwards just how bad it must have looked. Me in my best ratting jacket, She Of The Town House in her scruffs, Asbo jumping around the skip excited as only a dog knows how, and two cans of beer perched on the rim. We must have looked like a couple of desperate refugees who had turned to drink as we rifled the stuff that others were throwing away. Coincidentally just behind the council offices that send me the big fat cheque every month.
Still there were nuggets of good fortune in the chaff.
The ariel (aerial) had fallen off the phone in the townhouse a couple of years ago and it has crackled away for months getting progressively worse. The phone has also been the point of more than a little contention as either The Boy or Axeman has been using it to phone his mates (to be fair I think The Boy’s disregard for this particular aspect of modern communication makes him an unlikely culprit).
The apparently broken and discarded apparatus that we salvaged then was indeed fortuitous. Its inability to make any outgoing calls dependant on the numbers 2, 5, or 8, pretty well solve the problem. Also, knowing it was rescued from a smelly skip means it may harbour all kinds of communicable diseases. Certainly not the kind of thing that a teenager would squirrel away in their bedroom.
Plus it is a small digital unit with an inbuilt ariel (aerial) so the crackling problem has stopped as well.
An unexpected bonus has been the fact that the answerphone message (which She Of The Town House can’t be arsed to change even if we had a manual) leads the uninformed caller to think that they have dialled the wrong number. After a couple of replies from the butterfly house they give up.
All in all a bit of a result.

Finally :-) Thanks to the anonymous (but probably Mike) person who reminded me how you actually do spell aerial in the context of something useful for extracting a radio signal from the ether rather than a mischief making fairy. Doh!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Breaking News From Aisle 13

As I deliberately go in the reverse direction around my usual supermarket (it confuses the shopping psychologists) I notice that there is a good deal more stress than is usually apparent.
Men who I don’t seem to have seen before are out in droves. Several of them have already crossed my path. I even took pity on one and showed him where there were tubes of garlic paste (garlic paste…how lazy can people get…).
I noted that many of them were being followed by gaggles of children. Some clearly unused to walking when there was a trolley and all of them increasingly annoyed in proportion to their age. Young ones just a little bewildered, teenagers under a cloud so black that rain looked imminent.
Every now and then these exasperated male partners would stop and reach for the inexperienced shoppers lifeline. The Mobile phone.
“…oh yeah. Um where’s the garlic paste…?”
“Right well why on earth do they stick it there? It isn’t anything like Tomatoes…”
“Oww”
“No she hit my ankle with the trolley!”
“No actually they are being little sods….”
“Don’t forget to record the football.”
“I haven’t got a bloody clue…. tomorrow at this rate…”
…and so on.
All over the store similar scenes are being played out.

The reason dear reader? Well of course its mothers day. Someone somewhere has had her weekly routine whacked quite out of kilter by a poor sop who polishes the virtue of ‘helping’. Little regard I suspect that for the fact that minor omissions from the weekly shop will have to be overcome for the next seven days, and the kids will be sullen for days. One can only hope that the poor woman has been given some flowers.

Then, just as I sweep in to Aisle 13, I notice the latest 'Buy one at twice the price and we will pretend you get a free one’ offer. This week they are having a special on condoms.

I saw the poor saps struggling with the packing and impulse blackmail. If only you had thought about them earlier eh fellows?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Strictly Come Dancing....


I don't think that I have ever put this on my blog before, though I did write it some time ago. If it seems over familiar please forgive me.

Village committees had met, deliberated, voted, and agreed that it would indeed be splendid if the children of the school could join in the forthcoming festivity by taking part in a couple of country dances. One involved lines of us standing opposite, boy girl, boy girl and head to tailing in a simple arrangement set to music. Along with verse variations where shapes were made with arms, and pat a cake clapping as a couple by couple passed down the middle. The whole concluded after reprises of the main theme. The other comprised a rather more circular affair. Now couples wove in and out of counter rotating rings in a path that would have generated a fine spirograph pattern had they been allowed to pull baler twine in their wake. We were all to take part.

To begin with I was just a bit clumsy. If there ever was a person who proclaimed that ‘white men ain’t got no rhythm’ I suspect that they could have held my ineptitude at skipping to a beat up as a definitive example. The trouble was that Mrs Jasper, the self chosen choreographer of the spectacle was a perfectionist. The sort of woman who saw my feet of clay as an insult not to be entertained. I was caught then, between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand there was no way that I was going to allowed to drop out. If one rat was allowed to jump ship, however much the ship would benefit, it was clear that there were a number of others that would rather not be part of it. In a school of under thirty students there really wasn’t a lot of slack as far as the required number at the dance was concerned. On the other hand there was Mrs Jaspers reaction to my overqualification in the left foot department. Over a period of a fortnight she went from being a patient maternal perfectionist to a screaming banshee every time I put a foot out of place. Rather that curb my wayward rhythms this really only served to aggravate them and produce secondary anomalies. Soon I was unable to tell clockwise from anti clockwise, invariably made lunges for a male partner, and, when trying to follow other pat a cakers, nearly had Wayne Bests eye out on the end of my thumb. Students with whom I had shared tears and laughter began to discuss openly the best methods for my dispatch and the disposal of the body. I was totally crap at country dancing and not even my sister had a comforting word.

Add all this to the fact that I was having a frighteningly early puberty. I reached the point where I prayed in earnest for some of the tragic deaths of children that we learned of in the Bible and Dickens could befall me, thus enabling friends and family to remember me as a wonderful boy. To spare them the need to speak my name in the hushed tones that would undoubtedly be reserved for the tales of the great barn dance debacle.

God answered my prayers, thoughtfully avoiding my untimely death, he instead sent a great flood to help me out.

Overnight the Bristol Avon catchment area was inundated with nearly seven inches of rain. The river rose, sweeping away old stone bridges. A dam burst and washed away the centre of Bitton. In our house the water rose to a depth of nearly four feet. In the early hours of Saturday July the thirteenth, the very day of the Upton Cheyney barndance, my sisters and I were evacuated by the fire service to a family on higher ground, and subsequently to my grandparents house in Kent. And as the circumstances of our family life moved on it turned out that we were to change school by the time the new term started. It wasn’t until the year two thousand and one that I felt able to dance as if no one was looking.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Junk Mail


“An English man’s home is his castle…
It’s also a valuable asset that could help keep your independence.”


Thus began a letter that I received trough the post today. A letter that went on to advertise the potential for equity release from my home.

Nothing wrong with that I suppose.
Oh…..
Unless of course you live in Wales and have a passing knowledge of how old Longshanks surrounded your countrymen with his castles in order to suppress any notion of independence.

I shall be giving Mr Daren Carter of Retirement Services Ltd a ring on Monday to educate him a little.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Unholy Moses!


Back it the late seventies it was still legal to burn the straw by products of the grain harvest directly in the field. Various justifications were expressed on behalf of the practice. Weed control was one. Ash as a quick wash in fertiliser was another. I think that I heard destruction of certain types of parasite insect larvae once as well.
The truth was of course far more simple. It gave you an opportunity at the end of a hard days work for more than a little mayhem.
Stubble burning was a truly spectacular conflagration and the real aim was to produce a pall of smoke that could be seen for three counties and allow you to turn up grinning and red eyed for last orders at the pub. If you were truly gifted you might just get a write up in 'The Stubble Burners Gazzette'.
My old boss Roger was a stubble burner of legend and on a good windy day, a day when things got truly out of hand, he could close down the M4, Divert air traffic from nearby military airfields, take out half a mile of hedge, endanger a few lives and probably several tens of thousands of pounds worth of equipment. It was men like Roger that made farming ‘exciting’ in the seventies and I fear that unless health and safety legislation becomes a whole lot more lax we shall not see his like again.
I remember at the end of the day he would turn up just as his chaps were taking the last load of grain from the field. Cackling like a spectacularly maniacal Arthur Brown, he would drop a match while standing at a point that he judged to be upwind. Heaven help you if you were downwind.
Here on Hallett’s mountain it is time to pay tribute to our heroes of yesteryear. For the next month or so it is perfectly OK to set fire to the gorse. I have no idea why, though they do say that it keeps down weeds and pests and improves the grazing. For the next month we shall be blessed with a little rain of ash from the sky. Lone tractor drivers will be seen heading away as fast as they can. The skyline will be filled with small volcanoes, and men glad of the overtime will arrive in little red fire trucks to watch as things burn to their natural conclusion.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Uneasy Rider




After freezing my genitalia down to the size of a chipolata blessed with poorly shrivelled raisins for company I looked in despair at the contents of my bag.
Now there’s an opening line for you.
You see the thing was this, She Of The Townhouse had lured me on a promise down for a couple of days in the Cotswolds. While she went off for the day trumping up business for her organ, I am left to my own crude devices.
I am not sure whether fortune or foolish vanity drove my reason but I took my Dawes out of the shed and dusted it off with the intention of exploring a bit of Laurie Lees backyard. The gentle spring that had blessed the early part of the week had rather lulled me in to a false sense of security. Persuading me that all would be well and warm even without the extreme nether garments that I layer on when striding the mountain.
Dear me how wrong I was. As I attempted a hurtle along the A417 from Birdlip towards Cirencester, a very bike unfriendly dual carriageway, I soon regretted my optimism regarding the sun breaking through the chill grey mist. My fingers gradually turned blue and my thumbs stopped aching and went completely numb. The nose I was following likewise. Soon the uphill bits were accompanied by ragged breath and snot. By the time I actually arrived at Phoenix I was like a block of ice, and as I say at the top in danger of the unfortunate emasculation of the proverbial brass monkey.
I was glad then to repair to a coffee shop called Jacks and gird myself for the next stage of my expedition, first having purchased a map that would guide me to a route with a little less heavy traffic.
There I also reflected on how poorly I had stocked my small rucksack, not even a pair of gloves.
I was a sad comparison indeed to the radiant mother with a toddler who sat opposite me. Hanging from the back of a pram she proceeded to unpack an impressive range of puzzles, books, foodstuffs, spare clothes, cleaning materials and all manner of daily essentials until I began to suspect that she must have access to the Tardis space saving technology of ‘Bigger on the Inside”. This she multi tasked with animated and interesting conversation and the consumption of coffee.
It was like watching someone rub their stomach and pat their head at the same time.
I did think about whether she might not have a hot water bottle that I could stuff down the front of my trouser. But then I guess there are some things that are better left unspoken between strangers.
Ten miles later on I found a very nice pub and thawed out by the fire. As well of course as sinking a couple of pints of IPA and floating pie and chips on top of that.
The day seemed to brighten up…..

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Miracle Cure

Just as I turn the corner between life and death, She Of The Town House is banging on about some sniffle she has picked up from goodness knows where and is exagerating to call a cold.
Women!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Grim Reaper Calls....


Seldom free from pain but never one to grumble. Such, dear reader, is a mans lot. While some exceptions are out there (lesser men…) we bear our lot stoically and seldom remark upon life, it misfortunes, or indeed illness. Indeed, I myself am raising a weary finger from my own sickbed to type this small note to you and no living soul has yet heard a word of complaint.
Wracked though I am with this terrible cough. Burned by a fever hotter than pepper. Staring through the wild eyes of delirium.
Though I am uncomplaining, She Of The Town House has spotted my plight, and summoned the Old Walled Town's finest medical opinion to my sickbed.
I can tell that the end is near. The lights are dim now and the sound is receding to a gentle murmur in the background. I understand that the HN51 strains have all been accounted and discounted leading to a sorry conclusion. There is little time left. Unless an elixir can be located, and fast, I shall be gone by morning.
It seems that I have ‘Man Flu’.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hoping For A Snowday



As January marks its passing I would like to nod my head to Jim Miller.
My friend of many years.
Goodnight you old bugger.

In other news. The wind is creeping in to the corners of Hallett’s Mountain and it’s a chill wind indeed unless you can scrabble room by the fire. As its my fire I have my feet up beside it. I have a glass of whisky and a strong coffee beside me on the left arm of the chair. To my right a bowl of Wine gums. There is also a rumour of chocolate but I am keeping that hidden unless She Of The Townhouse or The Boy twig.
We are hoping that the bad weather warnings for our area are realised and that by morning we shall find the rest of the world cut off by snow. At least to the degree that we wont have to go to work.
Fingers crossed.

Update 01/02/2008
Bloomin!
No sign of snow at all on the ground and just the briefest flurries as I set off for work this morning.
Grrrrrr