Saturday, 31 December 2011


The Laytham Gazette today records the following as awarded the Order of the Berry Empire (OBE), dated today, 31.12.11. in recognition of acheivements across the year.

AL SUWAILEM, Faisal, for services to international leadership.
ASTILL, Lady Sonia, M.Sc. for services to the Samaritans Listening helpline.
BARNETT, Robert, 1st Baronet , for services to higher education.
BLAMEY, Dame Difna Maria Bernadette O Leary, for services to mental health and international development and cooperation.
BRADSHAW, Professor Simon, Master Mariner, for services to navigation.
BRATCHER, Paul B.Sc. DSLR, for services to photography and digital art.
BRUCE, Lady Amanda, for services to mental health.
BYRNE, Jo. For services to photography.
CASSIDY, Right Rev Matthew, DD, for Church services.
COMPTON, John Montepulciano, for services to online literary community.
DEAZLE, Adrian PhD., for services to international development.
DESFORGES, Gerard Stancomb Wills LLB, for services to the development of an intuitive literary recommendations system.
DESFORGES, Ursula St Honore, services to spiritual tourism.
DUNFORD, Daniel, B.Sc. for services to aviation.
ECCLES, The Marquess, for services to digital and film media production.
FENNELL, Paul Kendal Mintcake, BA, Services to art and flavoured vodka.
GILBERTSON, Prof David for outstanding scientific inquiry into the nature of gravity.
GOVIER, The Hon John, services to leadership.
GRAINGER, Keith Merckx for services to the Lycra industry.
HAMBLETON-GRAY the Hon. Catherine, for services to ethical business practice.
HIBBERT, Andrew, for services to leadership.
JONES, Dr Robert Stalin PhD, for services to the liqueurs industry.
MACINNES, Commander Ron McSpinnaker, Joint Founder, The Charm Points Foundation, for services to marine cost efficiency.
MOREL, Kevin Risotto, for services to hospitality.
MORRISON, Neil, M.A., Author, for services to literature.
PAGE, David, for services to polysomnography.
PAVEL, Michelle, for services to arctic exploration.
SHOEBRIDGE, Captain Charles, Algernon, Half Timbered, Poinsettia, M.A., LL.B, MC, DSO for services to the counter intelligence community and real ale.
WALES, Jimmy Donal for provision of encyclopaedic knowledge.
WARD, Professor Sir Christopher, services to the development of text messaging.
WELSTEAD, Justin, MA, for services to sports journalism.

Sunday, 25 December 2011


Suicide statistics soar at Christmas. I can see why. We may have forgotten what we are supposed to be celebrating at Christmas, but advertisers have not. You, my friend, are meant to be celebrating a consumerist fantasy of happy families, grinning through extravagant consumption.
So life hasn't yielded you the frictionless nuclear idyll? The bombardment of messages about its desirability at this time of year makes you - what - a pariah?
I don't know of a family which does not have lurking not far beneath its surface deep fracture lines. Perhaps such families exist and I just haven't seen them. I do, however, know of many, many lonely people who live lonely lives within the frameworks of such supposedly whole and untarnished networks, just as I know of lonely people who live beyond them. And believe me, satisfying the consumerist dream by spending, or even having the means to spend, makes precious little difference to one's isolation within or without the Ladybird Book of Family Christmas.
This blog piece is dedicated to you - you who are honest enough to see "this is broken and I don't know how to fix it."
So what have we got? Advice from Mr high and bloody mighty life coach?
Alas, my life is as fractured as anyone else's.
So what can one do?
See the societal messages for what they are, perhaps. In some instances, commercial tools, nicely targeted at the emotions. In some instances, the genuine expressions of friends and family - wishes that life - your life perhaps - were not as fractured and broken as it is.
Breathe. Celebrate the life that is in you, through you and beyond you everywhere you look, whether it is December 25th, June 4th or any other date.
Have a glass or two of something, and toast through gritted teeth. This really is as good as it gets.
Be alert. Listen to the choir. Life is always singing, even when the song is a sad one.
And I, just like anyone else, will try and do the same.
May you, in your heart and mind, with all your heart and mind, have a truly happy Christmas.

Friday, 23 December 2011


This amazing piece, in watercolour, was painted by my good friend Paul - one of this country's preeminent botanical artists. You can see why he is.
Apart from the appeal of its prodigious skill, the image sums up in my warped little mind all the putrefaction as well as the abundance of Christmas and what the modern world has made of it, and is for me the very essence of what I think of the "festive season". At a time when Brussels is in crisis, its tower of power is an apter than ever visual pun.
A very merry Christmas to all our readers.


Ecce completa sunt omnia, quae dicta sunt per Angelum de Virgine Maria.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011



Shakespeare 10st 9 lbs
Dickens 11st 2 lbs
Waugh 15st 6 lbs
Lawrence, TE 9st 1 lbs
Lawrence, DH 12st 0 lbs
Thomas, Dylan 14st 12lbs
Wilde 13st 2lbs
Blake 11st 4lbs
Keats 7st 2lbs


Sunday, 11 December 2011


Saturday, 10 December 2011


Big Madam is away in Zurich / Berne, teaching Swiss people how to do things.
Little madam and I are left to fend for ourselves. Fending brings with it normally disallowed pleasures:

  • sleeping in alpine sleeping bags

  • avoiding totally all acts of washing and bathing

  • leaving teeth uncleaned

  • Warburton's white bread

  • everything fried

  • farting without apology

  • as much tv as you can handle

  • pies

  • chocolate for breakfast

  • a complete ban on vitamins

But big madam returns tonight. And we have missed her. Our straight and narrow can only be deserted for so long before the pleasure of straying palls. Normal service will be resumed imminently.

Friday, 9 December 2011


I've got a new middle name to add to my already lengthy list.



Thursday, 8 December 2011


Once, I went on a walk with my most beloved partner in crime. It was in the Welsh hills. We walked along, in companiionable silence.
Looking at the valley, I said, "Do you know what that reminds me of?"
"The 39 Steps?"
"How on EARTH did you guess that?"
I was gobsmacked. Our walk continued without further guessing games.
Later, in the same walk, towards evening, we looked across at a distant evening vista, hill upon misty hill.
"OK smartarse," I said, "you'll never guess what that reminds me of?"
"I don't bloody believe it!"


I am sad.
There. Said it.
There is no particular cause.
The gift of today is as bountiful as any other day. Grey. Cold. Very very windy, I grant you. But there is nothing wrong with it. Nothing adverse has happened.
But I feel sad. Not sad for a reason. Just sad. Not depressed - no, I know that old enemy well, and it's different, especially its favoured kidology of "this won't ever pass." I know this will pass.
To know sadness is a wonderful thing. It attunes you towards compassion. And it offers a great and honest relaxation, if you can admit to yourself what society, media and even those who care most for you so often censor away.
It is not especially often that I do feel sad. On the whole I'm more inclined to cheery. Or at least, grumpy, with a good dash of ironic humour. But sad it is today.
I wonder about trans generational sadness. My Father had his first family blown to bits in the war. In a sense, that catastrophe was my causing. I wouldn't be here without it. Yet, like many men of his generation, my Father never spoke of his war, or of the terrible things it brought him. He must have had a sadness so terrible I have never known anything like it, and certainly do not today. Yet I never remember him showing that. He was a dry, humorous and unfailingly kind and gentle man. Perhaps emotional concealment was ineffective, and the gauze of history let it all through to me, despite that. I don't know. It needs no cure. And, like all things, it will pass.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


Let me invent a product for you.

  • It serves a daily need. Cooking. So far so good.

  • It's about eight times more expensive than its nearest everyday competitor

  • It costs another £150 a year in servicing, which its normal competitors do not

  • It breaks down two or three times a year

  • If you are cooking for more than three people, the temperature will drop to a point where you cannot cook at all

  • If there is an R in the month, or the wind is from anywhere between north and south, or the runes dictate it, the temperature will drop to somewhere near clap cold

  • For five months of the year you can't use it at all

  • You can't adjust the temperature of its cooking surfaces

  • You can't practically own one unless you also own another, backup oven.

Yes. It's an Aga.

People swear by them.

Me too.

In your work, which do you vote for?

  • More time?

  • Speed?

  • Simplicity?

Friday, 2 December 2011


How many people are there without a sense of humour?
21,335 apparently.
That is, as of this morning, the number of complaints which the BBC has received over Jeremy Clarkson's comments on the One Show. Asked what he thought of the strikers, at first he responded "Fabulous. Fantastic." He went on to twist this, indicating that his enthusiasm was because he could now drive through empty streets and get a seat in empty restaurants. Then he said "as this is the BBC we'd better show some balance." The balance he gave was to suggest that all the strikers should be shot - and for good emphasis, he added "taken out and executed in front of their families."
Was it funny?
How do I know?
Because a lot of people in the studio audience were laughing.
That's the trouble with jokes, isn't it? They're almost always going to upset someone. They are by nature, unfair.
Clarkson is a joker. I don't think he would see himself any other way. He positions his joke persona within reactionary, nationalistic zeal. He's apologized for offence. Laugh. Get over it.
There's a deeper thing, though. To the left wing overlords of the Unions, who have threatened to explore legal action and to see if there is a case for "inciting hatred", your sense of humour failure betrays you. Your political religion is based on a whinging about fairness, a teenage sounding tone of voice, kicking against a parental projection of class, advantage, privilege, "fairness" or whatever else you are whinging about. I could love the equality doctrine within it, were it not for this unattractive tone of voice -a marked lack of relaxed good humour, nowhere more exemplified than in the humorless, sneaky, tiresome adolescent Ed Millipede. Though I have sympathy for anyone, anywhere in any sector whose pension is being cut, these proposals are in line with the review of public sector pensions headed by thee labour Lord, Lord Hutton, which identified the clear unsustainability of the existing arrangements.
Fairness? Get over that and you are on the way to a political maturity. Treating a joker as a joker would indicate you are on the path.