Monday, 22 December 2014

The Gas Man Came to Call

I wrote (on Saturday) that the gas company have dug up the pavement and that occasionally one or two vans arrive although the men in them seem to do nothing but sit in the vans and look at the hole.  But that changed yesterday!  When I got home with the dog there was another gas van parked outside the house with the man sitting inside.  The Old Bat told me he had called at both our house and our next-door neighbour's and confirmed that neither of us had a leak (which we were pretty sure of anyway).  Straight away I thought of that old Flanders and Swann song, The Gasman Cometh.  As today is Monday it seems quite appropriate.  I love the animation in this.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Winter sun

We had a glorious day yesterday, weatherwise - sun, blue sky and a stiffish breeze.  Just the job for a tramp across the fields with the dog and the camera.

Just head this way
Keep going towards those trees.
A distant view of Firle Beacon
Heading down into the valley
We need to keep clear of the sheep!
Heading for home

Saturday, 20 December 2014

British workmen

It was a few evenings ago - Wednesday - that I heard noises outside.  I thought it sounded as though the road was being dug up, despite it being dark at the time.  And I was proved almost right; it was, in fact, the pavement being dug up outside the house next door.  The gas supply company had two vans outside as I went out to a Lions meeting but they were gone when I came back home.  There was a hole surrounded by plastic fencing and notices reading, "No Smoking".  On Thursday and again yesterday, men arrived at odd intervals but never stayed long and didn't actually seem to do anything while they were here.  No, that's not quite true.  I came home from shopping yesterday to find the top of the drive partly blocked by a wheelbarrow and a heavy pointed tool that I think is used for checking for gas leaks. This morning, another van arrived not very long before I went out with the dog.  The driver stayed in his seat - and he was still sitting there when I returned almost an hour later!

Our other next-door neighbour has been having work done to the dormer window projecting from his roof.  The cladding has been replaced and tiles are being hung on the sides.  But the workmen appear at various times, hang a few tiles - and go away again.

I had cause last week to telephone a local company as agents working for me had been unable to get any action from them.  The girl I needed to speak to was on another line so I asked that she call me back as soon as she was free.  I had heard that she never returned calls so was not unduly surprised that I didn't hear from her.  I called again - and she told me that the problem had been referred to her only the week before.  I knew that to be untrue as I had seen a copy of an email she sent in early November.  No action had been taken by Thursday last week, and my agents had heard nothing further, so I wrote a letter to the chief director and dropped in to the office myself.  I asked for his early comments.  I am still waiting.

What is it with these people?  Maybe I'm old fashioned, but when I was at work every letter was answered - or at least acknowledged - on the day it was received.  Certainly no later than the following day.

Frustration is the name of the game!

Friday, 19 December 2014

What did the turkey do?

A young man named Alistair received a parrot as a gift.  The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary; every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity.  Alistair tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to clean up the bird's act.  Finally, Alistair was so fed up he yelled at the bird.  The parrot yelled back.  Alistair shook the parrot but the parrot got angrier and even ruder.  In desperation, Alistair grabbed the bird and stuffed him in the freezer.  For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed.  Then, suddenly, there was total quiet.  Not a peep was heard for several minutes.  Fearing that he had hurt the parrot, Alistair opened the freezer door.  The parrot calmly stepped out onto Alistair's outstretched arm and said, "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions.  I'm sincerely remorseful for my transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behaviour."  Alistair was astonished at the change in the bird's attitude.  He was about to ask what had caused such a dramatic change when the parrot continued.

"What was it that the turkey did to offend you?"

Thursday, 18 December 2014


busy busy today, so just a quickie.  As in many towns across the country, there is a temporary ice rink set up in Brighton.  But not many can match the backdrop that we have.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Pica pica

It's quite a while since I regaled you with some nature notes, so here goes once again.

The magpie (pica pica) is not the most popular bird in the country.  Although scientific research does not back up the claim, many people assert that the decline in song birds over the last couple of decades is due, in no small part, to an increase in the magpie population.  The magpie is a member of the crow family and, like all crows, is an omnivore, quite happy to raid other birds' nests to take eggs and chicks.  Far more than most birds, and certainly more than any other crow, the magpie has customs and tales associated with it.  In some parts of the country - or maybe across the whole of the country - there are people who insist that a magpie should be greeted with a respectful, "Good morning, colonel".

Then there are the rhymes, with at least two slightly different versions of this none:
1 for sorrow
2 for joy
3 for a girl and
4 for a boy
5 for silver
6 for gold
7 is a secret never to be told
8 is a wish and
9 is a kiss
10 is a bird you must not miss. 
In Scotland the magpie was once believed to carry a drop of the Devil’s blood under its tongue which perhaps stems from another belief that the magpie was the only bird not to wear full mourning at the crucifixion. One seen flying or croaking around a house or sitting alone symbolizes that misfortune is present.  If one is seen on the way to church it signifies that death is present, and some folks believe that it is best to cross yourself to ward off evil or negative energies whilst saying, 'Devil, Devil, I defy thee’.  Then there is the old English tradition that if one magpie flies by, you should take your hat off and bow, saying the Devil, Devil bit.

But what really got me going on about magpies is the fact that as I was leaving the park, I counted no fewer than 24 of them sitting in one elm tree, with others close by.  What, I wondered, is the collective noun for a group of magpies?  I know of a charm of goldfinches and a parliament of rooks, but apparently the collective noun for magpies can be a tittering, a murder or a tiding.

So there you have the trivia for Tuesday.  Except that today is Wednesday, so I'm a day late.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Tidings of . . .

. . . well, whatever.  It is at Christmas that many people write down what has been happening to them and theirs and send out the missive with the cards.  I do miss the round robin that my mother received every Christmas from a cousin of mine far away.  I always enjoyed seeing what he and, more usually, his children had been doing through the year.  I smiled and sometimes laughed out loud at the boasting absurdities but, as I said, I always enjoyed reading those two or three pages.

Some, possible many, people sneer at those round robins.  Yes, of course they need to read with a man-sized pinch of salt, but I always think it's flattering that the sender thinks the person who receives the news is interested enough to read it.  I see it as a sign that the writer thinks well of the addressee.  Yeah, I know, I'm being a bit - well, as if I've swallowed the milk of human kindness or some other noxious substance.

But are we not all, each and every one of us, just a little bit interested in what our friends and relatives are up to?  And not only friends and family; some people (not me, I hasten to add) pour over the gossip columns in the newspapers.  And some of us - heaven help us - read of the activities of people we have never met and who are known to us only electronically while we write about our own lives for others to read!  A sort of every day round robin.

So you can stop your sneering right now!