Sunday, 28 August 2016


I read of a local vicar in the late 18th century around here, who waited for the boys to kick a bladder close enough for him to pick up and burst with a spike when they played on the village green. He did not approve of football on a Sunday, I suppose.

I used to hate it when everything shut down on Sundays. All over the country, young men would sit together in silence, perhaps with all the Sunday newspapers strewn around an already untidy flat, until one would look at his watch, leap to his feet, and virtually run to the street - followed by the others - to arrive at the pub door just as it was being opened.

If you did not buy everything you needed on Saturday, you were at the mercy of 'the corner shop', run by a heathen who had no concept of the British Sunday Roast and all its vital ingredients, so found yourself eating pitta bread and baked beans instead.

Sundays were always the dread prelude to another week of school, work or unemployment as well. Only the rich unemployed could afford to get bladdered during the limited opening hours, or stay up late watching crap TV.

Once a year, we all got a treat - left over from a more agricultural time - the August Bank Holiday. If ever there was a time when it would be foolish to set out to the coast to relax and enjoy yourself, it is now, when hundreds of thousands of people do just that every year. Our coastline just isn't big enough to take all of us in one go.

The Christians know how to handle Sundays. It is nice and peaceful in Anglica churches these days.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

I love Jarvis Cocker

Ok I admit it - I love Jarvis Cocker.

He is (as is H.I.) from Sheffield, and there's nowt wrong with that. I know some nasty people also exist in Sheffield, but Jarvis is not one of them.

He is my current modern hero.

Have you heard his late night recordings? Wonderful.

Clever dead bastard

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The above is a picture of my little deadline, about half-way through completion. I am replacing one small piece of missing foliage on the left bracket, and since this has taken me hours and hours, I wonder how long the whole thing took the original, 19th century carver.

These are just two compononents of an ensemble which makes an item weighing around a ton, and every bit has detail carved into it, the like of which I have not seen outside ancient Rome.

The more I stare at this thing (and I have been staring at it for months), the more dumbstruck I become at the carver's irritating display of virtuosity. It is even more impressive when you understand that he (it was almost certainly a he) did not have the diamond-coated tools that I do at his disposal.

It is difficult to see any real detail in this photo, but take it from me - the leaves have veins.

If there is such a thing as 'too good', then this is it. It is just too well made for its own trousers, and I cannot help despising the maker for exposing me as the jack of all trades charlatan that I am.

I will give it a final titivation this Bank Holiday Monday and load it into the car ready for the installation on Tuesday. Then I can stop looking at the bloody thing and get on with the rest of my life - for what it's worth.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The last boat

They saw it coming. They asked for it to come.

A steaming boat arrived and disgorged not essential supplies or post from the mainland, but well-heeled men and women in fur coats, top hats and shiny leather shoes unsuitable for the rocks and cobbles of the mean streets between the crofts.

A camera whirred and old men and women chatted amiably at the doors of their turf-roofed hovels, the children long since gone. Some of the women gave demonstrations of yarn-spinning, on wheels which would be left behind as worthless. The yarns spun by the men in the pubs of Oban and Glasgow would be worth more in the long run.

Then they all got on board and the gulls and kittywakes followed them for a while, unaware that their nests would never more be raided for meat and eggs by men improbably suspended from ropes, secured by wooden stakes stuck into the thin skin of mean earth.

A new life for an old life, but only for those who had all but lived theirs out on St Kilda.

No photo

For the first time this Summer, the hills on the visible outskirts of town are hidden with a mist which promises to turn into sunshine. Yes, we are moving into that time when the competition between bloggers  to be the first to quote some old playwright begins to niggle in the backs of our minds.

So, let's get it over with:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

... give up.

This week - or what is left of it - I am labouring within the constrictions of a rare thing in my world - a deadline. This is why I am sitting at home writing this bollocks, and not out in the sunshine chiselling away at a block of marble.

'When the going gets tough, the tough get going'  is a trite little saying which has never, ever, applied to me. At the slightest sign of adversity, I pack up and go home, making sure to stop off at the pub on the way.

Someone called me up once and said that they urgently needed a birthday gift for HRH Prince Charles, but they needed it in three days. Sensing a deadline which would have brought a small quantity of perspiration to my forehead, I declined the commission on the grounds that I was too busy. The caller (who knew me well) pulled me up on my feeble excuse, so I got someone else to make it, and set myself off in the direction I have been trying to follow ever since. It is called 'delegation'.

This is not to say that I did not once have very high energy levels, with a strength to bodyweight ratio which would have - combined with my long reach - made me a passable rock-climber. The trouble with rock-climbing is that you cannot just suddenly decide to go back down the mountain in time to catch last orders, so I never took it up.

This is not to say that I don't like a challenge. I once bought a one hundredweight  (112 lbs) bag of cement - in the days when builders were allowed to pick up something which weighed more than a few bags of sugar - and booked a taxi to take me and it from the yard which was up a steep hill on one side of Bath, to the building site up an even steeper hill on the other, 3 miles away.

The taxi driver refused to take the cement, so I put it on my shoulder and carried it back. I wanted to see if I could do it without putting it down, and after about an hour of being laughed at by various people who did not know how far I had come with it, I arrived at the top of the hill to be greeted by the owner of the house, who thought I was just about to have a heart-attack. Maybe I was.

So every time I have tested myself to the limit, there has been no appreciable financial gain involved. Maybe I am just scared of success.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Forza Germania

Text message from Thömas, my dear Bremerhaven dentist friend today, including this photo:

'I have employed a dental technician for my praxis. He is a nice guy. He really likes Star Wars.'

Me: 'So I see. Is he sane?'

'More or less.'