Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Neighbourhood Watch

When I looked at the photo of the Manchester Arena bomber this morning, I thought I could see a humorous face. He looked like the sort of lad who would be the likeable school clown. He also looked very impressionable, which - as it turns out - he must have been.

After the police raided his Manchester house in force yesterday, they interviewed a neighbour. The neighbour said that there had been nothing particularly different about this household, other than that they kept themselves to themselves - not an unusual thing in today's society, even in the North.

Then they asked if he had noticed anything strange going on at the house since he had been living in the street.

"No, not really, but a couple of years ago they put a big black flag on the roof with white Arabic writing on it."

On the roof.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Great Sunday Prize Give-Away

A prize will be given to the person who gets the closest to marking the spot on this 17th century map of Bath by John Speede to where I currently reside.

I am not going to tell you what the prize is, and I might not even look at this post again to see who has won it, let alone send it to the winner.

Good luck.

This is Jack@'s guess. Close, but not close enough. X doesn't mark the spot, even thought she is very generous with her Xs. She may get a prize for effort anyway:

Saturday, 20 May 2017


This post is going to read like someone else's you might know.

Yesterday, I had to go to a large, very horsey, very expensive public school set in hundreds of acres of its own grounds, to pick up some of H.I.'s paintings which she had been persuaded to hang in the corridor of the 6th form girls Art Department for the benefit of the students. The paintings all had price tickets next to them, but even as I put them up I realised that they were a waste of time. None of the rich parents ever set foot in this corridor.

When a scruffy-looking old man like me turns up and asks for access to the 6th form Girl's Art Department, the rigorous security system goes into overdrive.

The first thing you do is fill out the security pass which - once given - you are supposed to wear round your neck at all times. Then you wait in a large reception room for someone to escort you across the grounds to the department. You may not walk anywhere in the grounds unattended.

I was eventually let in via a security-coded lock on the large glass door, shown where the paintings were stored and left alone to pack them and stack them ready to go into the car.

The whole of the corridor is glass on one side and the sun shone through it, making me very hot and sweaty. Already not a good look.

The space in which I was working had a classroom and office at one end and the girls' common room - with tea and coffee making facilities - at the other. I was right next to the common room door.

Half way through the packing, I let out what I thought was going to be a small fart. It was small in volume but huge in potency, and the hot, cramped area where I stood was immediately filled with the most appalling stench. The worst of it was that the only organic things in the corridor at the time were me and a small pot of flowers and I couldn't blame it on one of the many horses a half mile away.

At the end of the corridor, a door opened and about ten seventeen year-old girls walked up toward me and squeezed past where I was working to go into their common room.

It is people like me that give dirty old men a bad name.

Friday, 19 May 2017

My retirement plan

Everything is so bloody boring here right now, what with the inescapable party-political power-struggles - both internal and external amongst all parties - and the worst of it is that nobody can see it getting any better in what is left of my lifetime.

At least France has settled down in the best seat of the rollercoaster with Macron and his rather lovely older wife. Another reason to be jealous of Cro.

The Liberal Democrats have pledged a second referendum on the Brexit vote on the grounds that we should keep trying until we get it right, but there is no chance of that, even if we could afford yet another election.

A few years ago, before agricultural land was bought up by speculators, I had a plan of buying a 4 or 5 acre stretch of dormant farmland with a patch of woods at the top, bordering on a swathe of meadow leading down to a river, for about £5000. I even knew exactly where it was.

I would set up a little wooden hut on the fringe of the wood, and if anyone complained I would put a wheel on all four corners. If they continued to complain I would buy about four sheep and let them loose in the meadow to do as they please for as long as they lived.

I would have a small wood-burning stove in the hut, and if anyone complained about the smoke I would tell them to fuck off.

When things would become as intolerable in town as they are now, I would move to the hut and renounce electricity and all the evils that ride on its current. If I outlived H.I. then I would permanently move into the hut, knowing nothing but sunlight in the day and moonlight and candles by night.

I would probably stop washing and shaving due to the shortage of hot water, so it wouldn't be too long before I would turn into an old man who is both revered, feared and avoided by children, who would dare each other to pay me the odd visit after dark on Halloween.

After a while, even the occasional visit by outreach social services officers would cease and I would be left to my own thoughts forever.

A few years ago, I went to the stretch of wood leading down to the river and there was a sign up saying, FOR SALE. WWW.WOODLAND.COM.

I left it too late.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

What is a fox?

At the moment I am making a fox using plaster of Paris with a polystyrene core. Once approved, the fox will be turned into bronze.

It must be foxy, but not Disney. I find that I must have thought about foxes quite a lot over the years, because I instinctively know if I have hit upon the essence of fox. I have been stared at by foxes a lot over the years too, so I bet they instinctively know the essence of human.

Hunting enthusiasts waged a propaganda war against foxes during the run-up to the hunting with hounds ban. The old stereotype of the wily killer kept coming up, and I would try and take some of the emotion out of the argument by pointing out the essential wildness of our wild dogs, and how most truly wild animals don't mix very well amongst us when there are imbalanced concentrations of humans, both in towns and the country.

"If you had seen what that fox did to our Pheasant chicks last night, you would not talk about it like that," was the usual response.

"What were you going to do with them once you released them into the open?" I know they were not going to tear them to bits with their teeth. They have much more efficient ways of killing them.

If a fox breaks into an unnatural enclosure containing more birds than it could possibly eat in one week, its response to the panicking creatures which flap against the wire fence in an attempt to escape is to kill every one of them until the commotion ceases. If it was as wily and conniving as folk lore has it, it would take one quietly and return every night until the food source ran out.

If it was as wily and conniving as us, it would probably breed them itself in wire enclosures, then it really would begin to wear hats, jodhpurs and waistcoats like the old cartoons.

One thing I have realised is that foxes do vary in size quite a lot, from massive old dogs to slim young females. A bit like us. I want my fox to be life-size, but an adult would be too big for the environment, so it is going to be a juvenile on the verge of adulthood. More than a cub.

"What makes the difference between an adult and a cub in the sculptural sense?" asked a friend of mine, "Is it cuddliness?"

I thought about it and reluctantly came to the conclusion that he was probably right. That mixture of big paws on a small body, wide eyes, puppy-fat and a fresh inquisitiveness in a new world all add up to something which could be described as cuddly.

The thing is that us humans are conditioned to respond to these qualities in the very young with a strong sense to protect - unless we are psychopaths.

Foxes do not always respond to these innate defence mechanisms of the very young, but they are not psychopaths. They are foxes.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Time for some more Boris...

Low pressure

Oh look it's raining.

I had cheese on toast for breakfast.

I put petrol in the car yesterday so I don't need to fill it again today.

The Night-Scented Stocks are doing well.

The clouds have come down low over the hills, shrouding the trees in a mysterious and romantic mist, so I am going to go to the window and photograph them for you.

Now I find they have lifted in the two minutes it took me to write this rubbish. Fuck it. Today is a write-off.