It was picture-postcard romantic to live deep in the beechwoods in a thatched cottage built for the game-keeper in the mid 1800s, wood-smoke curling up from two tall chimneys every morning as the mist cleared in the Spring sunshine.
But these days our little friends Elf and Softy are daring to point out that even the newest, tightest, most efficient woodstoves pump invisible particles into the rooms they heat. And this time they are absolutely right! Much to the chagrin of the green wellie brigade and other country dwellers with a preference for traditional heating.
I acquired ‘solid’ evidence during the Viking years. First, a dripping nose which coincided exactly with winter sojourns at home; second, the state of the fly screens which we needed in the woods and which were yellow with smoke-dust after a few months’ use (there was no dust outside in the woods!).
So before you chuck another log on, you might want to think again.
What we need to know is whether you’re going to meet our African correspondent in the flesh. And if you do, will you reveal anything to help us guess how real his Chariot persona really is? Intriguing stuff, eh?
Five years ago in the Scandinavian backwoods, I planted the stock of a vine in a pergola and enjoyed watching it grow strongly, up and over the framework each summer; duly flowering and offering up a few bunches of green grapes every year.
Just before the Beast from the East passed through, I pruned it back and transplanted it into a biggish pot for its move to Blighty, hoping it could survive its man-handling. And here it is! Three weeks into its life here, it is just starting to come into leaf (almost a month later than ‘normal’), encouraged by a spell of weather better suited to its Mediterranean origins.
As you can see, I have planted a few strawberry plants for company, and it has a commanding view of my neighbour’s manicured English garden. And a little Greek pot provides nostalgic comfort for greyer days.
Later this year, I’ll post another picture – which I hope will show how it has thrived in sunny Sussex.
One of the things that will remain with me when I leave Vikingland for pastures old and loved is the memory of compulsory outdoor lunches and preprandial drinks sessions dictated by the first marginally optimistic weather forecasts of Spring. ”16 grad. Dejligt. Det er så hyggeligt!”’ They’ll happen throughout the country next week – after I leave. Perhaps, in some cases, because I have left! The participants will be pale, cold and prevented by tradition from escaping inside to a warm fire.
Ever since the world’s media started to report hygge a few years ago, the natives here have allowed their inbred hygge to acquire disproportionate importance in their lives. And now they want UNESCO to recognise it as an ‘intangible’ treasure alongside the Mediterranean Diet and Turkish Coffee.
Back home I shall retaliate post haste with Afternoon Tea and the Village Cricket Match experience. Now that’s what I call hygge.
Unlike, say, Exorcists, hypnotists are for real. There’s no way the charlatan mesmeriser can put so many pre-planned plants on the stage. Like the bodysnatchers of old they’d run out of bodies. Ergo(es my reason for living), hypnotism must be a genuine article. That being the suitcase, this means we can all be mind benders, if we put our mind to it.
All walks. It has to be said that if there was an upsurge in the hypnotist community a roguish element would take foot and mouth and hand and Adam’s apple. These non-Marquess of Queensbury rules hypnotists would indulge in all manner of crimes: robbery, humiliation, blog post manipulation. The world would be their Facebook. Luckily, the gift of hypnotism is limited to a less few humanoids.
Instant Kaa ma
I’ve tried and tried to hypnotise without success. My human hypnotees, in pity, shake their heads at me as I fail to make them recite a Loony Limerick. In desperation, I turn to inanimate objects and will the clock (i.e. hypnotise the clock, not the clock is called Will) to go an hour forward. I stare at the face of the time machine. Look me in the eyes. Right in the eyes. Come closer. Closer still..
Side whiskers, mutton chops and handlebar moustache are just some of the varying facial hair styles for men. Being clean shaven all my life I have never tailored my facial appearance with any sort of fuzz. It’s all been done before, hasn’t it? And for the beardy-wearers you end up with a nickname of a more famous person. Here’s Heisenberg. Here’s Abraham Lincoln. Here’s ZZ Top. Here’s Freddie Zapata. Here’s …
However, while tugging at my smooth chin in deep Thinker thought I decided to let there be growth. And, naturally it had to be a new style. I viewed acres and acres of all the furs that were man made and opted for a variation on the neck chop.
The neck chop would be trimmed back and hair would only grow on my Adam’s apple. This Spartan look doubles up as a new trend and fool proof safety measure as it means I won’t cut my AA with a razor blade. Shaving around this area is Eden hazardous. Problem solved.
Funny old thing the Adam’s apple. Eatemallogy says it’s from the bible involving fruit and the first man. He bit off more than he could chew and it got stuck, apparently. My own belief is that it didn’t originate from the dawn of time but was coined by Milton Bradley. Yes, we’re talking Operation here. Charley Horse, Bread Basket et al. Including, Adam’s Apple. Careful with those tweezers, Eugene.
My picture, courtesy of today’s Times, illustrates the error of cantabrigian ways. They encourage tourists to believe they can have fun there, and the steersman stands on the wrong end of his craft. ‘Twas ever thus.
It used to be the giraffe. There is the unusual anatomy: the elongated neck, devilish ossicones and that cheery, glaikit look on their mush. Giraffes are good but they have been dethroned from the top of my favourite animal list. The new kid on the block is this guy. Continue reading “My new favourite animal”
It amazed me, gladdened a few and perhaps amused many to read that Coventry has been named City of Culture 2021. It’s hardly a natural epithet for a city whose history might better be described as dour, bordering on tragic. Oh yes, it’s had its moments of industrial significance (is that the word?) with Frank Whittle’s jet engine and a string of well-known badges gracing its car factories. But genuine culture is harder to discern. Does Mary Ann Evans count? She was born nearby in Nuneaton but lived in the city for some years as she became the noted novelist George Eliot. A bit ponderous for my taste.
But soft ! (etc.) What about Philip Larkin whose only widely known poem starts with a very rude observation? Yes, he counts as culture and he went to ‘my’ grammar school. Even more significantly his poems are imbued with a fatalistic gloom that is an essential part of being a Midlander.
So here’s one of his best poems, Afternoons, written in 1959.
Summer is fading:
The leaves fall in ones and twos
From trees bordering
The new recreation ground.
In the hollows of afternoons
Young mothers assemble
At swing and sandpit
Setting free their children. Continue reading “Home town thoughts”
Thomas Hardy dun gud, lik wiv pomes. So eres won wot I lik. ‘The Darkling Thrush’, 1900
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.