It’s approaching 8.00am and I would normally be leaving the house, but today being a day off, I am typing. I waved my car off at 7.05, as the garage collected it and I now have a day to type and worry about the size of the car bill. I’m hungry but I can’t cook yet as Julia is having a lie in and if I cook the smell will make her want to get up and come down for breakfast. All in all, it’s a messy start to the day.
I’m very tempted by the idea of baked eggs, but I find they work best if kept simple, and as I also fancy the idea of bacon I’m in two minds about what to do.
The prospect through my writing window, is grey. If you told me this was March or November, I would believe you. Apart from the temperature, which is chilly but not actually cold, things are definitely unsummery. That should be a word – meaning disappointingly unlike summer, but not quite bad enough to put a jacket on. “Typical English summer” is often used in this context, meaning that it’s a disappointingly dull period where sunburn is a distant prospect, even for a nation of people who are inclined to expose too much blue/white flesh to the elements. The average English sunbather isn’t so much protected by sun oil as basted. There’s something about sunbathing Brits that always makes me think of pork crackling.
Note I am referring mainly to the English here, the Scots, according to popular belief, are even more delicate in matters of sun, and the Welsh exist in a semi-permanent miasma of mist and rain.
This, by the way, is my default setting. Leave any chimpanzee alone with a word-processor and they will eventually write Hamlet (or so they say). Leave the English alone with a keyboard and the topic soon turns to the weather . . .
It was a better day today. Last night’s test was negative, Julia’s regular test was negative and the boss, though wan and drawn, was (a) negative and (b) recovering.
His wife rang for a test on Friday night as he was exhibiting all the symptoms. They filled in the forms and were then told them were no available testing slots. His wife, being a forceful woman, got in the car, drove down to the local testing station and found the staff all sitting round with nobody to test. This is mainly how it is (I drive past several times a week and rarely see anyone there). It doesn’t fill you with confidence.
Anyway, his test result came back negative.
The temperature was slightly lower today, which is good for a man who spends his day in a room with no windows. It’s badly insulated and has a flat roof so it’s cold in winter, hot in summer, noisy when it rains and generally dull. However, conditions were passable. I would complain about working conditions but that might invite comparisons between me and the ideal shop assistant. I fail to measure up in a number of ways, including telling customers i know nothing about coins and don’t see any need to change, as I retire in three years. I feel honesty is important, and it also means less work for me. Customers come in and ask for mark or Eddie, but they rarely ask for me. It’s a bit like DIY and other jobs once you are married – mess it up the first time and you never get asked again.
On Wednesdays, our day off, I traditionally get up earlier than Julia and go downstairs with thoughts of making her breakfast. This thought never gets past the computer, as I can never resist using a bit of quiet time to write.
Today I sat down, checked emails, read and commented on a number of other posts and settled down to write this. They last ninety minutes seems to have gone in a blur and has covered polio, books, A A Milne, a famous England cricketer in the shower, academic redundancies, several poems, an article on whether Covid has killed our ability to socialise and an anecdote about bird feeding. Plus a few bits and pieces as I replied to comments on my own blog.
Though I always feel bad about not reading other blogs properly, I do find that time only stretches so far. I may have to stop watching so much TV. Quiz programmes are probably good as a way of keeping my brain active, but they do tend to blur into cookery (which isn’t so mind enhancing) and popular culture (which I am sure reduces my ability to think).
A Robin singing in the fog
The sky outside my window is what Julia refers to as a “Simpson’s Sky” – bright blue with lots of cloud-shaped white clouds. If you have watched the cartoon you will know what I mean. They don’t have cirrus in The Simpsons.
This sort of sky, when accompanied by a lot of movement in the shrubbery and tree tops, and by temperatures cold enough to require heating in the house, is a clear indicator that it is one of those “brisk” spring days, rather than a day for picnics. However, as it’s considerably better than a a day with grey clouds and drizzle, I will accept it and allow it to raise my spirits.
Wow! I just noticed that it’s 11.00. Julia has made breakfast and I have been reading more blogs. I must get a grip on time.
Grocery day today. We had two phone calls, each giving us an updated delivery time (by “updated” I mean “later” of course).
Meanwhile, It is cold and wet and windy. The only good thing about the weather is that it isn’t as windy as yesterday and that there was only one clap of thunder. It was clearly trying out all sorts of things and decided that a thunderstorm was surplus to requirements.
I received a book through the post yesterday – Getting Published in UK Poetry Magazines by Robin Houghton. It cost £6 fo a 34 page pamphlet of information I already had, There were a couple of snippets I didn’t know, but much of he information is available online. The main thing I got was a lesson in checking how big something is before ordering it. It won’t break me, and if it encourages a fellow poet I suppose it’s worth the money.
One thing I did notice was mention of humblebragging. It was not only a new word, but a new concept. It seems similar to name-dropping.The author seems very much against it, but doesn’t really explain it that well. I had to look it up. I may have appeared to be guilty of this in the past but I assure you, I don’t mean to.
When I say I fear being uncovered as a fraud who got lucky I am telling the truth. It’s gradually sinking in that I am probably OK as a writer, as I’m getting regular acceptances and editors talk to me these days. Well, some of them do. However, I do still worry that one day it will all come to an end.
And, to end (with a masterful humblebrag) my target of 100 rejections has moved further away as I had two acceptances yesterday.I will now look suitably modest and sidle away as the smug alarm starts to sound…
February has a habit of catching me out. Spring starts to drop hints, the birds begin to act amorously and then it snows. Even in years that are generally free of snow February often manages to squeeze out a few flakes. As I’ve said before, it probably wouldn’t be considered snow in many countries that get proper snow, but in the UK a couple of inches for a couple of days brings us to a halt.
It’s a bit like those summer heatwaves we have – we don’t get one every year and they only last a couple of days. We all complain and need a lie down in temperatures that would be considered mild in Australia.
As a result, we have few snowploughs and no domestic air conditioning.
However, that doesn’t stop me complaining that it’s unseasonably nippy this morning. Nor does it stop me becoming a stereotype, British and talking about the weather. Whatever next? I’ll be on to Europe, immigration and capital punishment next.
Talking of which, I’ve just been looking at Albania on Wikipedia. I find that it is a member of two organisations I had not previously heard of – the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and Union for the Mediterranean. I didn’t even realise it was on the Black Sea. And when I check it up, it isn’t. Quite a few of the members aren’t on the Black Sea, and when you check the “Observer Members” the link becomes even more tenuous – they include Egypt and Israel (which must make for some fun meetings), France, Poland, Tunisia and the United States.
It’s much the same with the Union for the Mediterranean, but the entire EU is in that one – even Ireland, which it’s notably lacking in olive groves and sparkling blue seas. It seems, from reading the Wiki entry, that this is not a particularly effective organisation. One meeting ground to a halt when nobody could agree whether to refer to certain territories as “occupied” or “under occupation”. Such is life as an international diplomat.
It’s a good thing I don’t blog about politics or I might be tempted into sarcasm.
The M1 was quite busy today, so I suspect that we weren’t the only ones out on a Christmas Mission. It was also grey, wet and miserable, but as we were heading into Yorkshire this was not a surprise. Northern weather is famous for its greyness, moisture content and humourless qualities and this was a prizewinning example of its type. When I say that when I win the lottery I’m going to buy a house in a desert, I’m not joking. Well, the “win the lottery” may have an ironic ring, but the “desert” part is heartfelt.
There were still quite a few lorries on the road, despite 5,000 of them being parked in Kent. The Great Kent Car Parking Scheme is, I think, giving us an insight into how the first days of Brexit will go. The only good thing I heard is that due to lorries being unable to come from the Continent there will be a lettuce shortage. This, as far as I’m concerned, is not a problem, and almost makes Brexit worthwhile. IT certainly underlines the unpatriotic nature of salad eating, and the carbon footprint generated by winter vegetarians. Eat carrots in winter, lettuce in Spring, when we can grow our own.
Any way, back to the desperadoes breaking lockdown regulations…
We travelled up, we travelled down. We moved a Covid-tested family member from one Level 3 area to another, where he will spend four days indoors (we will not be socialising with open windows, no matter what the government says) and we will do the journey in reverse.
I can’t say I have any feeling about being a criminal and I don’t think I’ve actually ceded much in the way of moral high ground to Boris Johnson.
I see on TV that they have been vaccinating Chelsea Pensioners, including a D-Day Veteran.
Only one day left at work then I get a week off. It’ll be alot like lockdown but without the satisfaction of being paid by the Government…
If you are of a certain age you will already be running a set of Ian Dury lyrics through your head. If you aren’t, you’ll be wondering what I’m talking about. It’s amazing what a few words can bring back to you. They have just taken me on a 400 word digression, which I have removed and repackaged. They will appear in my next post where I will pretend that I always meant to write a post on nostalgia and British cars.
Blame Charliecountryboyfor this, he mentioned the smell of vinyl seats in a recent post and that came together with thoughts on Ian Dury to form a post that took me back to the age of 19 and the late 70s. As the two thoughts came together the words flowed like automatic writing. Unfortunately they wren’t words about reasons to be cheerful, which was what the post is supposed to be about.
Anyway, back to the subject. I rose from my bed a little before eight, feeling relaxed, reinvigorated and ready for a day of hard work and creativity.
This is not usual.
After catching up on my blog reading (which is still weak and sporadic, I’m afraid) I made breakfast as I heard Julia stirring. Monday is currently a day off for me under the new shop rota, so we take a relaxed view of mornings). After bacon cobs and tea I decided what to do. I decided to watch TV for a while. Then I fell asleep. I have no ideas why, because I wasn’t tired, but I think TV might have switched my brain off.
The I read, made Welsh Rarebit for lunch and wrote and edited. The reason for the editing was that I managed to write 400 words of digression, as mentioned above.
Welsh Rarebit on sourdough toast
Welsh Rarebit on sourdough toast – the bits are from the Dijon mustard – I use one spoonful to add texture then a couple of spoonfuls of English to add a bit of flavour.
Reason to be cheerful number one is a blog post from Laurie Graves. Actually it could be one of several, but I selected this one because it cheered me up. It has pictures of raindrops on leaves and an iris. If you don’t cheer up when you see them you probably don’t like pictures of kittens, and there is no hope for you.
Reason to be cheerful, number two. I am breathing and “dum spiro, spero”, as the Romans used to say. They were very big on mottoes. This one, for those of you who weren’t condemned to do Latin at school, means “while I breathe, I hope”. It is an appropriate motto for a man who is approaching a stage in his life where he has to beat his trousers into submission and take a breather between socks when dressing in the morning.
I had been considering writing one of those lightweight humour books you see in charity shops, taking old age as my subject. Unfortunately, the more I looked at old age, the less funny I found it. Probably the worst bit is that I think I’m getting old, but the literature on age thinks I have years to go before I reach that state. I have turned into one of those crabby old gits who is old long before his time. I probably ought to dislike myself, as I have always said I will never become one of those people.
Summer’s Day – looking over rooftops
Reason number three. It’s sunny. I like it when it’s sunny at this time of year as it’s generally quite pleasant. Though I often say I’d like to live in Arizona when I’m having trouble with arthritis, the reality is that I’m English and in times of great heat I am genetically programmed to turn pink, sweat and complain. Actually, the English are genetically programmed to moan about any weather, only the degree of sweating and the colour of the visible flesh varies. The Scots (I don’t want Tootlepedal to feel left out) are genetically programmed to complain about the weather, and to blame it on the English. He has some first class irises on his blog too.
Reason number four. I’m not losing my dress sense. I’ve noticed that as people get older some of them find it tricky to strike the right balance between fashion, age-suitability and taste. So far, I have not had that problem. The fact that I have always looked like I selected my clothes by a random rummage in a crepuscular charity shop means that it’s unlikely that declining sartorial standards will be noticed.
Reason number five. The Magic Rabbit. I only discovered this creature existed due to a quiz question answer this afternoon. It is a cheery thing just to see, and the name just makes it better. It really is adorable, and that is a word I hardly ever use.
They are already dying out, even though they were only discovered in 1983. Scientists blame climate change, though I think the fact that (a) they live on barren rocky mountains and (b) the Chinese will eat anything that breathes might have something to do with it. In terms of China and rare animals, the likelihood of extinction merely puts the price up. See the stories of the Passenger Pigeon and the Great Auk for proof of that in Europe and America. See my post Hitler and the Avocets for links to the stories of those fine, but extinct, birds.
Julia took this photograph last week, using her phone.
It is the best Long-Tailed Tit photograph either of us has ever taken and has made me wonder why I even bother trying with my camera. I rarely get one in the frame, and when I do they are normally blurred.
She not only has them in the frame and in focus but she has them in an amusing “I’m not speaking to you” pose. We had kids, we had cats, we recognise the pose.
This is what happens when you marry a talented woman. I’m sure I’m not the only blogger to experience this. My breeding days are over and my photography has been surpassed. If she ever starts using public transport I will have nothing to offer.
Meanwhile, the wind has been roaring outside for most of the day. The tail end of Storm Ciara is still with us, despite the promise of it stopping by 3pm.
We dropped Number One Son at the railway station just after 3.00 pm, and it did seem to clear. The wind dropped, the sky turned bright blue and it looked like things were definitely on the up. This lasted until we did the shopping. By the time we finished the shopping the sky was grey again and the rain was starting again.
We didn’t need more rain, as we already have patches of flooding, but weather is like that.
We didn’t need more wind either, as we already had a number of trees down.
Number One Son arrived home over three hours later due to various disruptions – about double the normal time. It was not a good weekend to travel.
Still, he did get home in one piece, our roof is still in place (apart from one tile) and tomorrow is looking better. Our weather may not be good, but it’s rarely very bad either, just bad enough to have a good old grumble.
I will finish with an Owl picture. I’m still able to do decent Owl pictures, even if my Long-Tailed Tits aren’t up to the mark.
The “in” thing in weather forecasting seems to be “polar vortex”. We were given warning of one last night, issued with a yellow snow warning and threatened with the “Beast from the West”. Even if you ignore the sniggering around yellow snow it’s hard to see “Beast from the West” as a frightening headline. It’s the last gasp of a second-rate sensationalist who is struggling to come up with a headline to rival the eternal Brexit stories.
“Pest from the West” could be controversial, so that is out. “Best from the West” sounds like the tag line from a hotel advert and zest, jest and test all lack menace…
I may have settled with “Cold night – might be snow in Scotland”. You can see why I have never been headhunted by a newspaper.
I would also go with Yellow Warning for Snow, or even Amber, as amber is the traditional colour between red and green.
Down round Nottingham we are enjoying breezy but reasonably pleasant weather.
It’s a good thing I took the frost photos yesterday because there was no frost today. We had a few drops of frozen rain, but so far no snow. I’m happy with that. Winter is dragging a bit, even if the weather has been unusually good this time.
There’s still time for snow – it’s not unusual in March and April – but I don’t mind it when things are warmer.
Nothing else of any importance occurred in my life. I’ve been lucky, other people haven’t been as fortunate.
In other news, the M3 motorway is closed by snow and Basingstoke is cut off. I hope all my blogging friends are safe and warm.
At the roundabout at the bottom of our road a car missed the curve and went through the fence, ending up in the High School Playing Fields. It could have been a lot worse.
Jeremy Hardy, a well-known comedian, died from cancer today. He was three years younger than me. Clive Swift also died. He was famous for playing a hen-pecked husband – you can see why I identify with him. He was the father of Joe Swift, the garden designer on Gardeners’ World. I didn’t know that, but it’s easy to see the resemblance once you know.
Time, I think, for a nice cup of tea, some warmth and some sandwich making. I have pickled shallots for tomorrow – they are likely to be the best bit of the day.