Thursday, June 28, 2007

Aaaaargh. Honey tagged me.

1. Each player must post these rules first.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

eight random facts/habits about me:

1. I was once, for a couple of years, the second best female archer in Belgium after a woman called Gerlinde Klingels. I own a Hoyt Spectra Lite. It lives with my cousins because they have a garden, and also because if they see it, it scares men off even faster than I do already.
2. I wish I was able to say "no" more when people ask me for favours. Sometimes I think I get invited AS the entertainment.
3. I can make soufflés. They're actually not at all difficult to do.
4. I had to have rabies jabs as a child of eight after a nasty dog bite. I didn't get the full course. Apparently it shows.
5. I don't want children of my own, I'm terrified of psychologically crippling them. I enjoy being an auntie. Hence the name.
6. I'm a cyborg. 25% of my pelvis is made of cement (see gory stuff).
7. I never date other women's men. Not even if they've just expressed slight interest. A man I was living with came home to tell me his secretary was pregnant*. Aside from his betrayal, I thought it was the most tacky thing I've ever seen any woman do to get a man. Of course I sent him to live with her and his child. I've got class, me. It didn't last, of course.
8. I'm off for a bubblebath.

TAGGED: Scouse Doris, A.A. Ayscoughe-Hussey, Mutley the Dog, the very kind Andy Ramblings, the exotic Edina Monsoon, the erudite pundit Prufrock, the activist Lucy Arin, and the Lippy Lawyer, not that I know any that aren't. Let's see what they make of it.

*yes, by him. Apparently he fell down the stairs on top of her with his flies open, or something.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Things I have learned recently.

- There are no actual words to Bee Gees songs. One goes "nanana na na na, You Win Again, na na na" or "Tragedy! Nanana nanana nanana nana it's Tragedy!".
- My grandfather was born in 1916, not 1917.
- My sister K thinks it is appropriate to take a salmon and cucumber on wholewheat sandwich to her grandfather's funeral. In her handbag.
- I do not want Danny Boy played at my funeral. I shall haunt you, I shall.
- Why is it that during the post-funeral bunfight old UKIP-voting codgers of the sort who arr-arrr their way through a conversation ("Arrr arrr grandfather what, Arnhem, jolly good show, arrr arrr arrr fuzzy-wuzzies arrr arrr Kitchener arr arrr arrr absolutely ripping!") always assume that your defunct family members were of their political opinion just because they admire them? Sometimes, just sometimes, I'm tempted to say "well, I'm glad you enjoyed his company, given that he was a communist." Not that he was, but just to wind'em up.
- The Swan in Lympstone is a dam' fine hostelry.

That's all for now.

"Arrr arrr dontcherknow, arr arr arr Mafeking, surrounded arr arr arr only cucumber and salmon sandwiches left arr arr".

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I'm off to Bridport for the funeral. Back next Wednesday.

Whilst I'm over, I shall also go and pay my respects at the enormous, smoking, tragic crater that once was Beavershott. Gosling must have been killed in the explosion, for he is gone too. I am blaming Hector Munroe. He has also disappeared from the radar, and I suspect him of suicide bombing the pub.

The Webley-Bullocks seem to have survived. Perhaps they can reveal what happened.



Elaib has been blogging through the summit. There are several delightful posts, not least the one where the hacks ran out of beer, but the best one is about this superb public relations gift the Brussels police were stupid enough to give the UKIP group. I don't agree with UKIP, but because I cling (doggedly and in the face of all evidence) to a belief that the electorate is able to vote intelligently, I will defend to the hilt UKIP's right to say what they think. Let them have their inflatable bulldozer.

In any case, I bet UKIP are delighted. To be able to deploy the "we're being gagged" argument at any summit, and particularly this summit, is fantastic news capital for them.

What stumps me is why the police felt they had to take it down. I'm sure it was on their own initiative, as no-one politically savvy would have been daft enough to hand such a PR coup to the Eurosceptics. I suspect one of Brussels's finest will be being sent to political sensitivity classes on Monday.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

William Kamkwamba

Via Worstall, a young lad making his own homemade windmills in Malawi. V. Cool if you ask me.

Secret fantasies revealed n° 2.

Tippler is recommending we all go and see The Prestige. I wasn't that bothered until I realised Christian Bale is in it. BTW if Tippler can get away with lusting after Harry Potter characters I can get away with the following:

He's a funny chameleon of an actor, is Bale. Allegedly he's Welsh, but he's so good at accents no-one would ever be able to tell. I understand he did a fabulous job of the kid in Empire of the Sun, which, sadly, I've never seen. Scary as hell even with no clothes on in American Psycho, completely unidentifiable due to the very authentic-sounding accent in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, coldly efficient with a heart of pain in Equilibrium, burgeoning superhero in Batman Begins (sequel coming, yippee!). He also voiced over Howl for Howl's Moving Castle, who is much the same sort of powerful, aching character. It all sounds so hedgehoggy and chilled, rather as if snuggling up to him would be rather like pressing one's undressed body against a freezer door covered in tears of condensation, brrrr, now I have to go and have a hot bath.

And then you get this sort of a quote:
"At first, I was somewhat hesitant to do the role. I mean, after all, Batman is an icon. But I remember, as clear as day, being at the grocery store the day the movie opened, and this little boy saw me. He couldn't have been more than five years old. He just walked right up to me and hugged me. He hugged me, and I was so moved by it that I hugged him back. Then he looked up at me and said "You're my hero." And in that moment, I knew that not only as an actor that I had done my job, but that I had made the right decision to play Batman. And I've never looked back on my the decision to play Batman since. "



Sherman's on fine form. He's been trying to buy a drink in Utah.

"Most gas stations and supermarkets have a cooler containing cans and bottles upon which is stenciled the word, "beer." Don't be fooled. It is 3.2% by volume. As we all know, these are merely bottles and cans of colored water, at which several elderly ladies from Bratislava with gigantic moles sporting prehensile hairs on their chins have screamed the word, "beer" repeatedly."

I looked for a hairy mole photo for this post, but they all made me feel sick, so you'll have to do without one.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Post alert

It's a time of arrangements. Travel, funeral, work. Very focused.

In the meantime, Scouse Doris has been posting on matters that command deep reflection. I have yet, frankly, to see a decent chocolate review, and am beginning to suspect she is merely masquerading as a chocolate expert in order to gain your confidence and use you as a confidante for her far more nefarious and exciting activities.

Anyway, you'll see what I mean. Go see.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

More photos of Grandpa

Granny and Grandpa at their 60th wedding anniversary in 2003

Granny and Grandpa and two generations of descendants in 2003. There were also the two great-granddaughters of whom I am The Aunt, who've been since joined by two great-grandsons, with another two great-grandchildren on the way.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Grandpa 1917-2007

Grandpa died quietly this morning, at 91, after a very short bout of pneumonia. He was a Merchant Navy captain, a bailiff at a Crown Court, a church warden, a tour guide for Exeter Cathedral, a fantastic father, a devoted husband, and the very best grandfather ever. In 1943 he turned up on my grandmother's doorstep in his captain's uniform with his hair brylcreamed back like Cary Grant and asked his future mother-in-law if he could take my grandmother to the cinema. They were married in three weeks ("there WAS a war on!") and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2003. He had a baritone as rich as Christmas pudding and as strong as brandy butter, and a sense of duty so ingrained it was passed on to us in our genes.

May we all have lives as long, fruitful, and noble as his.

Grandpa at 2 years old in 1919.

Grandpa at 16, just going off to sea.

Grandpa in 2005 at 88.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Heads down over the books

Scouse Doris and I are both slaving away over hot paper. The Mistress of Chocolate has a significant exam to take in the coming weeks and must hone her skills to their utmost. I, on the other hand, may soon be expected to justify at interview why I want to go and work in the five countries I named earlier. You'll note, Mutley, that Burkina Faso is not one of them, but actually if it was offered I might not say no. It's landlocked and poor but there are richer seaside places much worse than Burkina Faso, such as, just an example off the top of my head, Gaza.

No, if I'm going to be shot dead, I'd rather it was because my work was having an effect and perhaps unsettling entrenched interests, as I have been warned several of my colleagues have met their nemesis, rather than by some random, stray, ricocheting, paramilitary bullet. Of course one can always be stabbed to death by a random burglar, but to be honest I nearly got run over on a pedestrian crossing ten years ago here in Belgium on rue Joseph II by the now outgoing Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt at the wheel of his ministerial BMW, so there's danger everywhere really.

Caption: "Right flustered she was, George, bosom heaving, scurrying across like a startled hedgehog!"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

There's a troll about.

There's a person masquerading as me, The Aunt, or Aunty Marianne, on Blogger. He has visited Honey and Mutley and left a series of strong-language offensive comments in my name. Luckily Mutley rumbled him and let me know, thank you Mutley. One of the "Aunty Marianne" comments on Mutley's blog led back to a fellow called Hector Munroe, which may be him, or it may be that Hector is someone else he's cloned. I also got an email from Andy Ramblings to tell me that he wasn't the author of the comments under his name in the post below.

Now I think back this person may have been hanging around for a while. I sincerely hope this offensive fellow doesn't visit anyone else and please accept my condolences in advance if he does visit you with objectionable material.

I have changed my passwords and I am going to put comments on moderation for a while.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Support the Dryads 3 - Smoking gun

Yesterday courtesy of Tippler a document came to my attention which pretty much provides the smoking gun in the tale of the tree felling. It's on the STIB's own website, which forbids us to link to it, so here's the URL,, n° 13 among the PDF brochures available on that page, the brochure related specifically to the STIB's plans for its tram rolling stock.

You will note that for future trams, planned at 2.65 meters in INTERNAL width, and with a wider axle base, and a wider gap between the trams, 25% of the network still needs to be 'adapted'. The STIB need to gain at least 70 cms overall (35cms on either side), and probably more for the gap between the two sets of rails. The tree-lined avenues of Brussels are unlikely to be offering this additional width. My guess is that's why the Region are helpfully chopping them down for the STIB.

In the light of this brochure, I think you'll agree the STIB's answers below are highly economical with the truth and frankly rather disingenuous.

I wrote to them last night as follows:

Dear Monsieur Glinne,

Merci de votre réponse.
J’avais l’occasion aujourd’hui de visiter le site où j’ai pu lire votre PDF N° 13 concernant le renouvellement du matériel roulant de la STIB. C’est ainsi que j’ai constaté que le STIB prévoit d’acheter dans le futur des trams de 2,65m de largeur intérieur, ce qui est plus large que les très beaux nouveaux trams que nous avons aujourd’hui.

Dans ce même PDF je remarque que 75% du réseau étant déjà adapté aux trams de 2.65m, 25% reste à modifier pour acceuillir les trams du futur. Est-ce que vous pouvez me signaler quels zones se trouvent parmi ces 25%. Est-ce que cela comprend les avenues suivantes :

Winston Churchill
Tervueren (Chaussée et Avenue)
Boulevard du Souverain
Avenue Louise

S’il y a d’autres lignes de tram sertis d’arbres dans les 25% à adapter, est-ce que vous pouvez me signaler quelles sont-elles.

Je vous en remercie d’avance,
Bien à vous

I will be very interested to see what they come up with.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Support the Dryads Part II

Not satisfied with the STIB's glib answer as given below, and inspired by the continued campaign (see new Expatica article) I wrote to the STIB again. I thanked them for the speed of their answer, and then asked for the number of trees on Winston Churchill, the number diagnosed with an illness that makes them dangerous, the number already cut down, and the number that were scheduled for the chop. I asked them to give me all three dimensions for the trams. I asked them for the contact details of the people at the Region of Brussels-Capital responsible for the tree-felling.

This is the letter I got back.


Nous vous remercions de nous avoir fait parvenir votre message.

Nous ne pouvons malheureusement vous indiquer le nombre exact d'arbres à abattre sur l'avenue Churchill, ce dossier relevant de la compétence de l'Administration des Equipements et Déplacements de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale. Cette administration dépendant du Ministère de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale (MRBC) est joignable au numéro de téléphone: 02 204 21 11.

Par ailleurs, les dimensions des nouveaux trams sont les suivantes:


largeur: 2,30 m
longueur: 31,85 m
hauteur: 3,40 m


largeur: 2,30 m
longueur: 43,22 m
hauteur: 3,40 m

hauteur de la caténaire (mesure standard pour le réseau): 9,69 m

En restant à votre disposition,

Nathanaël GLINNE (Mr.)
STIB - Relations avec la Clientèle
Tél: +32 2 515 23 91
Besoin d'un renseignement? Surfez sur
ou appelez notre Contact Centre au 0900 10 310(0,45€/min).*


Thanks for your message.

Sadly we cannot give you the figures on the exact number of trees to be felled on Avenue Churchill, because the file is being handled by the Administration of Equipment and Removals of the Brussels-Capital Region, which is a dependent body of the Ministry of the Brussels-Capital Region and can be reached by telephone on 02 204 21 11.

The dimensions of the new trams are as follows:


width: 2,30 m
length: 31,85 m
height: 3,40 m


width: 2,30 m
length: 43,22 m
height: 3,40 m

height of the catenary (power cable) (standardized across the network): 9,69 m

At your disposal,
Cordially, etc"

Now I think this is a much better answer. It's honest and factual and I have forwarded it to the Marroniers people to do with as they see fit.

In the meantime I had a chinwag with a friend who happens to be a Doctor of Botany. She'd heard about the Churchill kerfuffle and had seen something similar happen near her own house, where a row of trees of which only some were diseased had been slaughtered wholesale. It was her contention that a properly managed avenue of trees has fellings, sometimes culls, and replantings every five years or so, so that there's never an enormous gap and diseased trees are caught early and either treated or felled. Whilst it sounds expensive, in the long run, such a policy of regular expenditure on a smaller scale would undoubtedly be cheaper than having to have a wholesale felling and replanting session. It might also avoid the sort of leaf blight that seems to have hit the baby trees replanted along the Chaussée de Tervuren. Suffice to say that she is also not overly impressed with the Brussels-Capital Region's management of their trees.

Speaking of replanting. Today, I was reading the blog of Eric Sax, one of the councillors of Uccle, the municipality in which Avenue Churchill lies. He's campaigning for the chestnuts too. Towards the end of the comments on that blog, there seemed to be a suggestion that any replanting would not be of chestnuts or other leafy trees, but of conifers, and metasequoias, pictured herewith, at that. Guess what Wiki says about metasequoias. It says "In the late 1980s, it was discovered that many of the second generation trees in cultivation suffered from inbreeding depression (extremely low genetic variability) which could lead to increased susceptibility to disease and reproductive failure. This was because most of the trees were grown from seeds and cuttings derived from as few as three trees that the Arnold Arboretum had used as its source. More widespread seed-collecting expeditions in China in the 1990s sought to resolve this problem and restore genetic diversity to cultivated Metasequoia."

So, out of the frying pan and into the fire, then?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

OMG! Small village wiped off map!

What has happened to Beavershott? It seems to have disappeared completely!

Let's ask Gosling; I found him in Marrakesh. He has also taken to using a very familiar picture as his gravatar. I find it hard to believe, but could Oliver Gosling be a direct descendent of the late great Ivan the Terrible?

If you are in Marrakesh, and you see this man, please notify us immediately. He may have stolen an entire West Country village. Whither the romance between Honoria and Modo? Will D.C. Warmington ever get to wear his first prize toupé to a village hall dance? Will the burgeoning affair between Dr E.E. Spinks and the somewhat surprised Bunty Binstock ever attain its apotheosis? Will we ever know?

I can't live with the suspense.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Water, water everywhere

The first inkling I heard of it when I met my colleague S. in the lift. Apparently there'd been a flood overnight in the office cellars and some of our files were soaked. I commiserated politely but had no idea of the misery that was to come. But at 2pm we all received an email saying that the water would be turned off to try and mend the leak. At 2.30pm, some overdressed young men from Vivaqua came and started drilling in the street outside, leaving us all with the impression that a giant dentist was working away at an exceptionally torturous cavity.

Nature calls to everyone sooner or later, and without water, our lovely clean facilities would become extremely unpleasant places to be. However my assessment of the events is that the majority of my colleagues decided to delay the inevitable somewhat rather than face the ignominy, however anonymous, of being the one who fouled the facilities. As the afternoon wore on, faces became somewhat tight, concentration dropped and conversations were conducted in a light, rapid manner. Nobody seemed to want to leave their desks.

At 5.30pm precisely, instead of the usual leisurely multicultural exodus which may end well towards 8pm, a somewhat cross-legged stampede streaked out of the office in the direction either of home bathrooms or the nearest acceptable pub conveniences.

I do hope the water's back on tomorrow...

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Support Our Boys

The Spanish Goth and Tippler have entered the Big Blogger House. We should all go and support them. Tippler is particularly in need of the support of close friends, as he packed in a rush and forgot his banana slings. One of you may care to take over on that particular task. I have to go and ... go and.... go and oh, um, rearrange my sock drawer. Immediately.

Big Blogger 2007