Tuesday, 30 April 2013


"I'm an atheist...................... thank God!"

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Saturday, 20 April 2013


As an ex Unilever marketing man, I'm pretty hard headed about emotional advertising. But just occasionally, there's an exception which really provokes a response. Glad the old Firm is still cutting it.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


It's a lazy wind, they sometimes say. It goes right through you.
This isn't.
Since Easter, the time of easterly winds, we have a had a huge contrary blow. It started as a westerly and has gone southwesterly and southerly, as the days have gone on, trying out its different angles on us.
It isn't lazy.
It is hard working wind. Persistent. Diligent, even. It uses its best endeavours on its way. It leaves no stone unturned, no opportunity missed.It's the kind of wind that is on commission, blowing your door forcefully open, in a timeshare selling gale of patter. It's a sharp suited, spiv wind from the south. It's a villainous wind (a word invented by country folk to describe those quick talkers from the City). It's the sort of intense, NLP educated salesman I have never wanted to be. It does all the talking, and none of the listening, constantly, continuously. It wears you down, till resistance is eroded. It asks you questions only because it already knows the objection busting answers.Though not of itself a cold airflow, you can't trust the genuineness of its warmth. You know it's put on. Its force is chilling. It's a cold calling.

Last night, all night, it was doing its work, creating a howling in the rafters, a deep hum which was an experience against which to fall asleep. The Missus couldn't, troubled by its high pressure technique. A pitch inescapable to her, though, thankfully didn't trouble my slumber. Hand grenades wouldn't.  Mine is the sleep of the just, I tell people.

Around 0515, at dawn, it eased off its rant and chatter, though only temporarily, as though it had gone to fetch a few more back up copies of the timeshare brochures, which would be needed later.

Blackbird broadcast his resistance song - and, was it just me, or was the song different from usual? Down, up up, down rather than the normal fluting crescendos. As though this was his gloomy weather forecast.

"Morning neighbours, Blackbird FM. Depressing news, feathered friends. Not spring yet, so don't get excited. No. Just another weather warning. It's that southerly again, knockin' down your door. Another day of staying put and putting up with it. Only going out if you're heading north! Take off to south east, and turn left sharpish. Ensure you're clear to leeward, 'cos it's a blow! Oh, and goggles on. It's dusty out there"

This morning the wind's results were to be seen in the brown haze covering the Vale - topsoil blown from off the fields. A haboob, in rural England. Going the few miles north, where Foggathorpe clay gives way to lighter loam and even less resistant sand, towards Bielby and Hayton, drifts have formed against hedges and across lanes, giving a drive to Pocklington the frisson of excitement of going to the seaside, cued by these false dunes.

False promise. That's what it all is. The wind's direction promises a spring yet to come. It's intensity blows away that promise by overselling it, leaving you thinking:
."..... those promised benefits, that idyll, those rather too good to be true returns...... mmm. Maybe discretion is the better part of valour? Did he mention that the value of your investment can fall as well as rise? I didn't actually sign, did I?"

Saturday, 13 April 2013


THEM: "You've pissed me off, and you've pissed him off. I think you should apologise."

ME: "Mmm. Can I ask you a question first?"

THEM: "Er....... ok."

ME:  "Do you feel that my behaviour was out of character, or normal?"

THEM: "Er... well, out of character, I'd say."

ME: "Then, knowing it to be an aberration, you can forgive it."

THEM: "And what if I'd said it was normal?"

ME:  "Then you'd be foolish to expect anything else."

Thursday, 11 April 2013


The etymology of Easter is, apparently, obscure.
Based on the last month or so's experience, let me hazard my own guess.
Easter. (n.) The time of easterly winds.
There's a lot behind that.
First, it has been the season of log fires. Needed, because, even with the heating going full blast in a leaky old house like ours, we've still had to thaw the marrow beside a blaze of our own ash logs. Outside has needed true valour for any sustained venture. And a bonfire, to keep warm. The winds have blown unstopped by any natural barrier from the Urals, or perhaps even further east, and unhindered by any nod of decency to the calendar, which long ago suggested they resume their westerly prevailing heading, rather then freezing us all to death with their current unbroken easterly trend. In desperation at one point, and much to the chagrin of Missus major and Missus minor, I lit the woodburner with the leaky chimney. I now have stage four lung cancer. Still, it warmed us through the dense blue cloud of woodsmoke. A family that coughs together, stays together. It's an ill wind.
Next, the calendar has taunted us as would-be gardeners. Despite all planting predictions, the vegetable garden lies still barren. Shirley, my oracle on matters horticultural, advises even now, "give it another week". Unable to resist, I've planted out first early spuds. Whether they will survive is questionable. But it's mid April for God's sake. That's global warming for you.
Animal behaviour has been retarded by approximately a month. Only in the last week have the hares started boxing. That was meant to happen in mad March remember? Only in this time have pigeons started pairing up, the cocks sidling up to the hens to proposition them, to be met in the main by a pecking rebuff. Only in the last few days have the horse chestnut buds turned sticky. Only very much of late have the hedgerows been singing with birds flirting and chattering in their pre homemaking phases.
I have made a couple of last desperate acts in the hope of seeing some sort of spring. The first is tree buying. You should, the old adage goes, only plant when there is an R in the month. That gives me only a couple more weeks to go for it. A year without a tree planted is a year wasted. Yesterday I purchased for the orchard another of my favourite greengages, and a red Williams pear. We have two old pear trees, but they are hard old culinary varieties. They crop well, but short of buying a press and making perry, I don't know what to do with them. You can only eat so many Pear Belle Helenes. A pear you can actually eat will be a very welcome addition to our five a day. I salivate at the thought of the many delicious uses the greengages will have. And by rights, since last year was so unspeakably poor, it should be a right old year for stone fruit, which has the habit of year on, year off.
I've also bought a fluted old birdbath as a centrepiece for the vegetable garden. "Revolting," was the Missus' verdict. She has a point. But it'll be useful filled with a soil / compost mix, for growing nasturtiums. I visualise them trailing attractively over the sides. They are a cheap trick to turn you, in the eyes of guests, from humble cook, to chef extraordinaire. Bung in a few of their flowers into a salad and Bob's your Uncle, and Michel Roux's your Aunty Who Can Cook.
I've realised that my gardening has a simple, though noble and single minded aim. If you can't eat it, it pretty much isn't worth growing in my book. And that does bring me to the consolations of the persistent, draught-finding winds which have chilled us. Such adverse conditions require, of course, an increase in calories. Say, a thousand or so a day? It perhaps explains my current addiction to walnuts and Brazil nuts, both of which probably have, in addition to their substantial calorie count, some vitamin or mineral or other just especially right for withstanding the current Siberian conditions.

Monday, 1 April 2013