Thursday, August 30, 2007

Albert's Dilemma

King Albert of the Belgians called me up last night. He wanted to ask me whether I'd be his new formateur.

"Haven't you got any Belgians left to ask?" I said.

"No." he said. "I've asked everyone in politics, and none of them think they can do it. So then I asked Tintin, who was too busy clubbing, and Poirot, who pointed out he was fictional, and Magritte said he was too busy being dead, so then I went and knocked on Jacques Brel's grave but he wasn't in. And then the wife said she'd met you in the Berlaymont and was impressed by your nervous grin. Please please please, I'm DESPERATE."

I considered the task. From the little I understand of Belgian politics, it seems to involve herding cats into a shower cabinet while the shower is on.

"Sorry, your Maj" I said. "I haven't got time. I've got to recatalogue my sock drawer."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I'm an environmental villain

I was driving through Colyton, "the most rebellious town in Devon", on Saturday when along the narrowest part of the road, just where that little hexagonal turret is, I came upon a large piece of agricultural machinery coming the other way. It was a terrifying piece of equipment. Circular scythes and scarifyers bristled all over it. It was exactly the sort of thing I'd want to be driving if I'd ever have to join an angry mob rushing to sack a castle or kill an ogre. Anyway, I didn't like the look of it nor how close it was going to get to my little car, and so that's why, as I swerved out of the way of its blades, I ran over the large, crunchy hedgehog that was right in front of me.

I felt awful. I'm very fond of hedgehogs, and besides, it hadn't popped in crisp-packet fashion like the pheasant I took out as a learner driver with my parents' Volvo estate. No, old Tiggywinkle, being a large adult, was quite sturdy, and had taken quite a lot of the car's weight before it collapsed with an audible kerrr-unch. I could still hear that crunch all night.

I have spent the best part of the last three days trying to shake the guilt of running over the hedgehog. And now I find I've killed a protected species.

So I'm asking you, what form of mental self-flagellation do you suggest that might scourge this environmental guilt from my mind?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Melplash Show 2007

Today was spent trudging about the Melplash Show. Due to the current livestock movement restrictions, well done Pirbright, there were no cattle, pigs or sheep, except for one stand which in contravention to the abovementioned restrictions claimed to have brought the Lamb of God. The restriction enforcement inspectors couldn't see it either, despite the stallholders' arguments that it's not because it's invisible that it's not there. Meanwhile the organisers were making do with what else they could get hold of. We thrilled to falconry, lumberjackery and dog displays, and otters and rabbits gambolled in carefully fenced-off areas. There were helicopter rides, two people wingwalking on biplanes and you could buy a new tractor, seeds and implements, farming clothing, Shirley Bassey Wellingtons, beef and stilton pasties, and farming insurance. My trip through the "rural crafts" tent saw me richer by one Thai silk kimono top and poorer by £25. Does Thailand count as rural? I suppose so.

My parents should have entered their runner beans in the vegetable class. The ones we ate last night for dinner were far finer than the winners. Ah well, you can lead a horticulture but you can't make her think.

It was very hot. Candy floss is still available and yes, it still does cause sugar rushes, overexcitement and vomiting in small children. Flake 99s are not as yummy as they once were but pasties are even better. We had a swim off East Beach to cool us down. I am now enjoying, to my great surprise, a bottle of J.C. and R.H. Palmer's Light Pale Ale.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Archiving the ancestors

Since we lost Grandpa in June, the family's become somewhat more interested in genealogy, and I have spent large portions of my holiday at home scanning and archiving my ancestors. We've turned up a few characters. For example:

My Swiss great-grandfather visiting his new French in-laws in rural Haute-Savoie, around 1911. We thought his choice of socks was to prevent them feeling bumpkinnish, but later photographs reveal he just had an alarming taste in socks and, the better to exhibit them, wore plus-fours whenever he could get away with them, well into his eighties.

The same great-grandfather, proving that the Swiss did once play rugby, in his "La Servette" Geneva rugby team photo in 1906. It was the last year before La Servette switched to football.

My great-grandmother and her sister, French milliners imported to the UK around 1909 to work at Selfridges. My great-great-aunt later millinered for Madame Lanvin. It certainly explains the outrageous hats.

My Mexican great-great-great-grandmother. How she ended up marrying a Swiss is still unclear.

It so happens I have a USB key in my handbag (I like to Be Prepared...) so you'll be seeing a bit more of this lot over the coming months...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

While I'm away...

Let's have a game of Mornington Crescent!

I'll start you off with Ruislip Gardens. Doubleclicky to embiggen.

Unless I meet you in Bridport, squeezing Fearnley-Whittingstall's huge tomatoes at the Farmer's Market, I'll see you all again on August 28th.