Thursday, 13 April 2017

Aaaaargh! Kill it!

We all know lots of people who can’t abide spiders. Their immediate reaction is one of horror should one of these little creatures scurry across the carpet, and whilst nobody would want a co-habiting arachnid exploring their ears or nostrils, UK spiders are harmless. Actually – but don’t tell this to hysterical spiderphobes – all UK spiders can bite and do have venom. How else would they catch stuff to eat? But their fangs are too puny to penetrate human skin, and their venom is ineffective on us. Way more ineffective than say, a bee sting. We simply wouldn’t feel it. And spiders – especially the big(ish) brown house spider – the one that tends to fall in the bath isn’t called that for nothing. (Actually, their posh name is Tegenaria and they can live for up to seven years, providing some idiot doesn’t squash them). They are cohabitees, just as house mice are – but more of them later.

UK spiders are harmless
So why do so many people fear spiders? It's probably because of the way they walk (the spiders, not the people). They’re well endowed in the leg department, but they’ve only got two more than the much-loved bee. And they can’t fly and they can’t sting . The fact is that the bee – bumble, worker or otherwise has a far better PR machine than the spider.

Then there’s the slug. Oh dear. He/she/it gets a really bad press because they’re very good at eating almost anything humans plant in their gardens.

Quite often, my very house/garden proud neighbours go on pre-emptive strikes against slugs, scattering pellets, and spraying poisons over their little patch of Eden. Weirdly, they try to avoid snails because, well, snails are rather sweet, aren’t they? They carry their little houses around on their backs, don’t they? Actually, snails are merely slugs with an outer shell, and do just as much damage to your legumes as slugs do. I don’t think that slugs should be allowed to run riot – well not “run” exactly – but I also don’t think they should be exterminated. North American plains Indians killed a lot of buffalo , but they did it for meat and fur, unlike the white man who slaughtered millions – to the point of extinction, just for the hell of it.
Buffalo do just as much damage to your legumes as slugs do.

“Ah!”, says the expert – but slugs can carry lungworm eggs. Yes they can, but so can your dog.

The other morning, as I tottered into the kitchen, I noticed that I was being eyeballed by a tiny brown mouse who was sitting up, apparently leaning on the microwave. It had obviously gained access via the many holes in my admittedly wonky domestic security. Up a downspout or down an upspout. Anyway, we looked at each other for a while. The mouse cleaned its whiskers whilst keeping an exceptionally beady pair of eyes on the big fat human. I moved slowly and opened the back door, thinking that I’d be able to escort this furry little interloper into the garden. The mouse had other ideas. Running along the work surface and hiding under a colander was favourite.  I don’t know if mice have colander perception, but I could see the mouse and the mouse could see me. It cleaned its whiskers. But when I moved the colander, he/she got the drift, scurried down a mop handle and out into my garden, quite possibly to gossip with the slugs about the strange human who doesn’t kill mice and won’t squash slugs....     

Monday, 3 April 2017

Pangolin Packaging

Once upon a time, in the dear dead days beyond recall, stuff was easy to get into. By “stuff” I mean cans, bottles, boxes (large and small) and packets of pills, beans, pop, batteries, razor blades, elastic bands, string, coffee, and the little bells we put round cats’ necks to warn birdies of their approach despite the fact that this latter mostly doesn’t work because research shows that because intelligent cats know that their bell is on an elasticated collar, they can pull it outwards and become able to spit in the bell, leaving them free to slaughter at will.
But that apart, these days, stuff is getting harder and harder to actually open . This morning I noticed that my coffee jar was virtually empty. Its rather a handsome blue ceramic number with – helpfully – “coffee” written on it. Fortunately, I had a refill pack to hand which proclaimed that it was “resealable”.
That’s all very well. The real problem was opening the thing. They’re sealed up like those cardboard milk containers – apparently open bits at either end – and instructional exhortations to push the ends together thus breaking the seal across the middle. This is as good a way as any of spraying milk all over the place as any. Coffee refill packs are even worse and compel me to reach for a sharp knife with which to access yer actual coffee, rendering the resealable bit useless.
I sometimes think that the people in charge of sealing stuff up in factories move the dial on their sealing up machines from “easy to open” to “bloody impossible to open” – just for a laugh. I mean, being in charge of a sealing up machine’s got to be a tad boring, right?
And beans – baked ones. Once we had to labour long and hard with a tin-opener to get at them, but at least there was a sense of achievement therein.
Now, of course, all we have to do is pull the little metal loop fastened to the lid and…   but what if the little metal loop comes off without opening the lid? Deep frustration.
Batteries are the same – encased in a stout transparent container (stout? you could drive a tank over them) so that, frustratingly, you can see your prey, but you can’t get at it without a great deal of pulling and pushing – which doesn’t work – resulting in final recourse to a lump hammer. Interestingly, I’ve never bought a lump hammer which was inaccessibly sealed into anything.
Finally – pills. Once these came in little brown bottles with screwy lids which came off when you screwed them. Not now. To get at your much-needed medication, you have to press down, turn to the right, release downward pressure, turn to the left… a sort of medical hokey-cokey. But far worse than that are blister packs. These enable you to press on one side of the foil and flirt a pill yards across the room. My dog’s cholesterol levels are probably fine.

Oh, I forgot. Screws. They now come in impossible to open plastic packs which means that when something needs fixing, I resort to a damned big nail and my non-packaged lump hammer. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Pangolin Obituary - Mysterious Disappearance of Local OAP

The disappearance and presumed death has been announced of Derek Edward Dunnock (1920-2014)

As our photograph clearly shows, Mr Dunnock is not in his usual set in the King's Legs Public House. Looking on are Mr Ted Groper (left) and Mr Arnold Cripes. Said Mr Cripes: "Oh, I knew him - we all did. Never said much, then one day, he just wasn't there."

Mr Groper confirmed this, saying "Aye, that's right - 1961 I think it was. I'd just brought him his hat - he used to suffer from a cold head - and he simply wasn't there."

Our investigation shows that Mr Dunnock led a quiet life, had no siblings, and never married, although local rumour linked him romantically with Elspeth Nudge (Glossop Queen of the May 1954) - and was occasionally employed at Glossop String Works as a knotter.

Local coroner Dr Edith Hugething is on record as saying, "Well, we've looked high and low for the bugger, without success, so I guess he must have bought the farm."

Monday, 30 January 2017

Hullo, Justin here,
Like everyone else in the country, we here at the Palace are trying very hard to keep warm. Why, I myself am wearing long combinations issued years ago to a small group of clerics of which I was a member, which visited the Inuit people well inside the Arctic Circle, to try to persuade them to stop clubbing seals, killing whales and being generally beastly to anything with a pulse. I am also sporting hand knitted half-mittens. My lady wife has produced quite a few of these winter warmers for Palace staff.
Our problem is an elderly central heating system which appears to have given up the ghost. Despite the often expert attentions of Mr Hassan, it simply will not work and we appear presently to be overrun with heating engineers from “Warm’n’Kozy” who keep switching everything off – including the electricity (hence the brevity of this missive) and shouting down hot – air grills, “Anything up your end?”
But before there is another interruption to the power supply, I must just offer a word of support to our Prime Minister, the doughty Mrs May. Recent media reports have made much of her apparently holding hands with President Trump. In fact, my lady wife thought that this was a sure sign of a “special relationship”. I begged to differ. I noted that it was Mr Trump who reached for HER hand, and not vice versa. At that point and under the gaze or the world’s press, Mrs May could hardly have snatched her hand away whilst growling, “Get off! I’ve heard of men like you!” Which, I like to think, is what Jesus might have done .I must go. Two hefty chaps in high-visibility jackets bearing tool-boxes have just arrived at my door.

Pip, pip,


Monday, 14 November 2016

Thought for the Day, with Justin Webly, more or less Arch of Cant

Justin here.

Dear friends, I must admit that I’ve been a little slow off the mark with regard to the USA’s choosing of a new president. Here at the Palace I have been beset by all manner of opinion. But as the young man with the wire in his ear tells me  - notwithstanding some British politicians wanting to ban Mr Trump from U.K. shores, sooner rather than later that will be brushed aside and I will have to meet him. What WOULD Jesus have done?
Whilst I know that Our Lord met quite a few out and out rotters in his time, try as I might, I can find nothing in the Scriptures to help me. On the other hand, staff here at the Palace have been only too willing to offer advice. Even my lady wife has remarked on Mr Trump’s expressive hand movements and became embarrassingly coquettish when mention was made of Mr Trump’s fondness for ladies’ bottoms. The young man with the wire in his ear positively waxed lyrical at the thought of the weaponry probably carried by Mr Trump’s bodyguards.
However, Mr Hassan was far more down to earth and suggested that Mr Trump was little more than a “rich foreign git”. Rich and foreign I understand. “Git” evades me somewhat. I shall pray for guidance.
But I must also offer guidance to the Palace Christmas Arrangements Committee. We are only a little over a month away from that joyous season and whilst as far as Christmas is concerned, I am a self-confessed traditionalist, I do recognize that I must move with the times. However,the local heavy-metal Christian band, “Jesus is Better than Heroin” has offered to open our Christmas service with its latest hit, “ Kick Ciaphas” and I think I must decline. Mr Hassan has offered to arrange a power cut.

What would I do without him ?



Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Thought for the Day, with Justin Webly, more or less Arch of Cant

Justin here... and my apologies for my being away from my Thought for the Day desk recently. Truth be told, I have been involved in not a little Church diplomacy, consulting with my French, Spanish, German and Italian counterparts about Brexit and whether the UK can regard itself as a Christian country after we leave Europe. I did try to point out that Christianity is just ONE form of belief amongst many here, but Monsignor The Reverend Pierre Panique was of the opinion that all the different belief systems tolerated in Europe merely led to unrest. The Italian representative agreed and suggested that I, as head of the most numerous Christian congregation in the UK should declare all inhabitants of these islands Christian. After all, the Spanish bishop said – there is only one God.
You might imagine my shock and disbelief. Even the young man with the wire in his ear sniggered loudly at this point. Up until then he had been content with trying to work out what sort of side – arms were being carried by my contemporaries’ bodyguards. (One Beretta, two Browning Hi-Powers and the inevitable Glock, apparently).
Consequently, upon my return, I was very anxious that details of my Church Brexit discussions did not leak out, considering especially the fact that my Muslim colleagues are awfully keen on the one God thing. What would Jesus have done?
In fact I need not have worried because the Palace was buzzing with ideas about what form our Christmas celebrations should take. I did suggest that it is still only late October. My lady wife actually called me a killjoy  and Mr Hassan laughed heartily. I have never been clear as to what his religious beliefs are, so I asked him. He replied that it didn’t matter and that there was only one God anyway and besides, the main thing about Christmas is getting presents and drinking a lot.
I must admit that at this point I left, pleading tiredness and a headache after my international discussions. As I headed up the wooden hill to a steaming mug of Horlicks. I heard the young man with the wire in his ear and Mr Hassan discussing the practicalities of installing a Bethlehem bouncy castle in the Lady Chapel.

Pip, pip,