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…”
“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?