Sunday, November 27, 2005

Lost Birds

I cant find this song anywhere on the net and so repeat it here in the hope that somebody might recognise it. If you do let me know. It was sung in Junior School (Lee Manor) round about 1955!

We are the Cocky Ollie birds in red and blue and gold
We come to earth in penny trays our purpose to be sold
Our little legs are stiff and straight we cannot move a limb
Our voices loud and we are proud and still we always sing
Cocky Ollie Cocky Ollie Cocky Ollie Oh’

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Handcuffed by a word

They have taken the scaffolding away from JO’s.
JO’s is what the locals call the Spa shop in Llandrindrod Wells because the owner is J O Davies. The Welsh have a thing about names. A regular in the Griffin, Llyswen, was a man who’s name was Harold but whose history was that of a prisoner of war who stayed on when it ended. He was known ever after as Herman the German.
Dai Farter, another name I remember from the Griffin but I cant testify as to it’s appositeness since I never managed to meet him.
I am sure the Llandod locals when they christened it JO’s had in mind something more than just initials after all Spa has fewer syllables. Probably they liked the contrast between the idea of OJ and the idea of JO as men.
Last week when the scaffolding was up I called in to JO’s to purchase a ‘Bombay Bad Boy’ for lunch. (See Harvest below). Facing one of the scaffolding poles with her nose an inch or so from the metal itself and both hands clutching the pole at eye level was an elderly lady. I shall resist any mention of geriatric pole dancing because it would be in very poor taste but I think I know why she was there.

We used to have a Welsh terrier called Nippy and like all of his kind he was untrainable.
The only way to stop him from escaping from the garden was to shout loudly and violently STAAY!! . He would stop still and turn to look at you. You could see his brain calculating the possibility of your reaching him before he made freedom. His decision, escape or remain still and await capture was invariably right and sometimes very finely judged. Many times when he had decided on the open road rather than surrender he evaded capture by the slimmest of margins , my hand grasping for his tail as he forced his way through the hedge just failing.
I was trying to pretend to my wife that I had given up smoking and part of the plan was to use a mouthwash. I was just approaching by car the house swilling the stuff round in my mouth when I noticed Nippy strolling out of the gate. Coming towards him on foot were two neighbours one of whom was a retired clergyman. I had 3 choices of action but could only think of two.
Let him risk wandering into the busy road or quickly opening the door of the car spitting out the mouthwash and shouting as loudly and aggressively as possible STAAAY! I loved the dog and so chose the latter. What on earth the neighbours thought when they saw this violent performance with additional vomit I do not know.
Meanwhile back at the pole my theory is that either some social worker or perhaps relative of the lady in question wanted to pop into JO’s for their lottery ticket etc.
In an attempt to ensure that their charge did not escape they had positioned her holding the pole and uttered the equivalent of STAAAYY!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Getting to know who

Went to Cardiff on Saturday night to see The King and I’‘ at the New Theatre Cardiff.
Parked the car quite close to the theatre – (only!) £12 for 5 hours.
Walking back to the car park at about 10.20pm and it was like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Birds’. Hundreds of teenagers queuing to get into night clubs, like crow lined up in vast numbers along the telegraph wires, and just as menacing.
Lots of big pubs full of similar animals each looking very like a modern ‘glass for bars’ zoo cage. One was tempted to peer in to the windows to get a closer look at the curious creatures occupying the deeper shadows. I remember a zoo in Colchester which had a cage with some kind of small furry mammal laying on its back and trembling as if in it’s death throes. There was a sign in the cage which said ‘please do not report this animal as sick it is nocturnal and they always sleep like this’.
By the car park ticket machine one of the, humans I suppose you would call it, was urinating in a corner close to the queue and it was all I could do to prevent Ann from remonstrating with him. She does not understand the etiquette of this species. I do, having watched ‘Booze Britain’ occasionally on the television I feel confident in recognising some of the signals which pass for a rudimentary language among them.
‘Does your mother know you do this kind of thing?’ I am pretty sure would have been regarded as some kind of challenge had I allowed her time to utter it.
Off course we had heard the odd ambulance and police siren during the performance of the musical, which was particularly appropriate I thought during the rendition of ‘Getting to know you’.

Oh I did see two policemen out for a stroll together. One was aged 12 and the other maybe 13.They both wore helmets but even with the helmets on they were shorter than me and I am no giant.
The question which is worrying me is which is the alien species? Them or me?

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I am prejudiced. Prejudice is what prevents me from putting my hand in the fire again.
A very nice lady an ex school mistress from the days when they actually knew something, who lives nearby rang my wife and I answered the phone. She had been in hospital and so I asked how she was.
Seemingly taken aback by my interest she said, “Oh! Very good in parts”.
Trying to show off I said “ Like the Parson’s egg?”
To which she immediately replied “Certainly not”.
I realised at once it should have been the Curate’s Egg and took the rebuke to be pedantic.
Months later after she had died it came to me that she was being much more subtle.
The Curate’s egg quotation is all about humility and the very, very last thing you could say about our ‘Parson’ was that he was in any way humble.
I now cannot remember why I am following this particular route when the object in mind is to slander the Americans.
Perhaps I was thinking that my school master prejudice prevented me from seeing a first class joke and a bit of self depreciation might make what follows more acceptable.
Anyway some Americans I like, some Americans I even admire but generally speaking when presented with an unknown American he has to overcome my natural prejudice against his whole kind.
I have played maybe 2000 to 3000 games of chess on the internet against people from all over the world.
Here is a ‘conversation’ that has occurred on at least 3 occasions.
Yank: Where U from?
Me: Wales
Yank: Which State is that in?
More frequently than that and I would say in between 3% and 5% of all games the following typical ‘conversation’ follows a game.
Me: Nice to meet you too.
Me: I am pleased to see that you have such a fine grasp of the English language.
Etc, etc.
One particular ploy against this kind of thing which I find surprisingly effective is to allow two or three bits of foul language and then for me to say “I take it you are American?”. This seems to startle them and I get the impression that it is as if I have held up a mirror and all of their obscenities are being channelled back onto their precious flag. Maybe they’ve just come to the end of their vocabulary though.
I will say that my own race, the English are the next most aggressively foul mouthed on the net. How appropriate that they should be united in the Iraq aggression.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Freedom of Information and nice work for some.

Here is an email response to a request I made to Powys Health Authority under the freedom of information Act.
No wonder the GPs are fighting to get on to the lists to do this cushy number.
They need something to supplement their meagre pay after all!!

I refer to your request for information which we acknowledged on 27th May 2005

I am able to provide with the following information concerning the rate of remuneration to practitioners providing the out-of-hours service in Powys:

* Weekday evenings 6.30pm to midnight - £65.00 per hour

* Weekday and weekend evenings midnight to 8.00am - £100.00 per hour

* Weekend day and evenings - £85.00 per hour

* Bank holiday day and evenings - £100.00 per hour

* Bank holiday nights - £115.00 per hour

The Local Health Board does not hold information in respect of individual practitioners. As you may be aware, Powys Local Health Board contracts with ‘Shropdoc’, which provides the GP out-of-hours service in Powys.

In contrast to that consider the lower end of the pay scale in the NHS.
They knock off of the wages of anybody who has their monthly payslips posted to them the cost of the stamp!! It is shown as a deduction.
Here is another reply from Powys Health authority under the freedom of information act.

Thank you for your email request under the Freedom of Information Act concerning the amount of money saved by the Local Health Board each year through the practice of charging staff postage sending them their wage slips through the post.

I am able to advise you that the Local Health Board does not save finance as the Board recovers the charge of a second class stamp from those employees who receive their salary slip through the post. You may wish to know that approximately £450 is recovered from staff each year. You may also wish to know that the Local Health Board does not charge everyone who has their payslips posted home. Members of staff who are community based, or on long term sick leave, or on maternity leave are not charged the cost of posting their salary slips. The only time a member of staff is charged is when that member of staff, based in a hospital, surgery or clinic, requests that their payslip is sent to their home address

From these two letters I conclude that 4/1/2 hours kip waiting for a phone call on a good weekend for a Shrop Doc would pay for all the stamp money saved in an entire year for the poor workers who have 21p a month deducted by their generous employer for the privilege of receiving a wages slip.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


I was discussing euphemisms for ‘going to the lavatory’ with a French teacher of English. I told him one that I had heard on the radio. There was a brief pause as he considered each word in turn and then collectively and then he roared with laughter.
‘I am just going upstairs to see an old friend off to the coast’.
I wonder how many French students on an exchange visit to the UK will try that one on their hosts and with what results.
I will confess and although you don’t want to hear it I am going to write it anyway that whenever I visit the said premises I imagine myself to be at some other location but not for the same purpose.
The curious thing is that this is almost invariably at the conjunction of the Thames and the River Kennet, failing that a steeped walled mooring at Goring on Thames.
Finally just to complete this little trilogy Brockley County Grammar School in the early 1960’s had a Geography teacher called Mieux whose favourite punishment was to give out ‘lines’
‘Silence is golden it is only monkeys that chatter’.
Rarely he would come into contact with foul language from the boys, language which these days would probably serve to win for the proposer a grade C in English O level.
Mieux’s, contemptuous would say ‘I will not tolerate lavatory language’. This was felt by us as a powerful rebuke as if we ourselves had been sworn at.
It only occurs to me today all these years later that there is no necessary connection between lavatories and foul language and this is and was a very odd phrase to use.
photograph of Goring Lock courtesy of Jim Shead - see his waterway site

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

David Shrigley

I regret never having heard of this chap - but he is brilliant. Try the link.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Powis Castle

Yesterday we went to Powis Castle , the National Trust holding a ‘behind the scenes’ tour. There were about 10 of us and we were accompanied round by at least 8 National trust people. One of them assigned the role of ‘sheepdog’, scuttled about at the back of the ensemble ensuring no mavericks made a bid for freedom or engaged in an unauthorised activity. I like the National Trust and it’s volunteers but their enthusiasm makes them unpredictable. When booked the tour was to take two hours, the leader said about 2 1/2 hours and the actual time was 3 1/4 hours. I wouldn’t have minded but we didn’t seem to have among us visitors any of the usual timewasters and inane questions were really at a minimum. It was worth it though.