Tuesday, 29 August 2017

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

Hullo, Justin here,

Well, I return to you thoroughly refreshed after an exciting week brass rubbing in the wilds of Norfolk – or parts of it might have been Lincolnshire, or even East Anglia – its hard to tell over there, sometimes.
 
But I was accompanied as ever by the young man with the wire in his ear who, whilst unimpressed by the burial places of our unsung forefathers and indeed, local wildlife, did do all the driving – in his apparently armoured 4x4 – and arranged all our overnight lodgings, these last all possessed of “a good field of fire” from bedroom windows. The young man with the wire in his ear assured me that he was “carrying”.
 
We were on our way to St Botolph’s-in-the-Mire, effectively guided by the vehicle’s satnav system, when I spotted something remarkable . I’ve never really understood satnav but the young man with the wire in his ear tells me that its is based on near-space triangulation achieved by satellites, whatever that means. Personally, I trust in God above for my geographic direction.
 
However, what did I spot? Only a male Sturrock’s Reed Wobbler! Whilst I’m not a fully-fledged Twitcher, I am very keen on identifying our feathered friends. Reed Wobblers of either sex are rare and difficult to see, and this little chap was actually busy wobbling a reed so I was delighted to be able to tick him off in my copy of Mr Oddie’s excellent book, “Unremarkable Little Brown Birds with Daft Names”.
 
Quite frankly, St Botolph’s was rather disappointing. I had hoped to take rubbings of the gravestones of Sir Denzil and Lady Maude Peover [died 1454 and 1460 respectively] but sadly the whole area, just south of St Botolph’s transept, is now covered by St Botolph’s Ye Olde Teashoppe, an initiative taken by the very young present incumbent. I don’t think he recognized me, but I did take him to task about the situation. He told me that the past is past and that for him, God is a Now thing and latte is cool. What would Jesus have done?

On my return home I found my lady wife in a very depressed state because of Andy Murray’s injury and Johanna Konta’s defeats at somewhere abroad. She had resorted to a bottle of Gribley’s Whizzbang Tonic Wine and seemed unimpressed by my Reed Wobbler. Such is life.
 
And now, dear friends, I must turn my attention to next year’s State visit by the President of the United States. There is much planning to do.
 
From what I know of him, Mr Trump seems to be – and I must choose my words very carefully here – a bit of a chump. The young man with the wire in his ear called him a “ definite knobhead”, whatever one of those is.

Nonetheless, the young man with the wire in his ear is very excited by the prospect of co operating with the President’s security arrangements. As he said to me as I was crossing St Botolph’s off my rubbing list, “Some of those guys carry TWO Ruger .375s !” He is also beginning a review of yours truly’s personal protection. I am not looking forward to wearing a lead-lined cope. But we must do what we must do.

Pip, pip,

Yours truly

Justin.


Friday, 23 June 2017

Thought for the Day, brought to you in the absence of the Arch of Cant, by Derek Bickerstaff, a close friend of Justin who is presently brass-rubbing quite near Goole.

“Bring me your poor, your hungry...” and I’ll build a huge wall to keep them out. So says Mr Trump as he comes up with a new brainwave whereby he’s going to fix solar panels to the wall he intends to build between the U.S. and Mexico – to pay for the wall! Who will pay for the energy created by those solar panels? How long will it take for the panels to pay for themselves? The guy gets more like Homer Simpson every day.                    
                   
I’m fed up with politics and politicians. Some are OK and seem straightforward, capable and honest – like Jeremy Corbyn. But those qualities don’t seem to be quite enough to give him and the Labour Party a chance to govern.
                     
Meanwhile, Mrs May & Co totter along, begging for support from the DUP, an Irish branch of the Flat Earth Society.
                                           
One of the penalties of being in your 70s is that there’s too much “past”; too many memories. As soon as you start to look a bit wistful and say things like, “I remember when...”, anybody under 40 immediately switches off and resumes scanning their phones.
                   
The recent spell of hot weather, which certainly discomfited me, the Dog and the Chickens (did you know that chickens sunbathed? Well they do. They sit on one side and stretch out one wing) got me thinking about school holidays in the Dear Dead Days Beyond Recall. It was a time when little boys roamed far and wide, doing all the things they knew damned well they shouldn’t do. One of the best places my pals and I used to frequent was a large pond of unspecified dark depth. That was interesting in itself, with frogs and the occasional leech, but the main attraction with this particular body of water was that it had a tank in it. A TANK! Well, maybe it was just the turret sans gun, but it was a hell of a lot more tank than you’ll see in your local pond these days. And it had huge ball-bearings in it, which, with the help of Danny Belshaw’s Dad’s crowbar, actually came out! They were huge. At one time, I had four. Like so many other found items, they were currency. We swapped them for other stuff. Marbles, Dinky toys (sans tyres) and on one occasion, an air rifle, which didn’t work but which earned us a huge telling off from my father who was a Policeman. We also once dammed up the river Calder – well almost – and that went down very badly too.
                     
And there were certain kids you shouldn’t play with. Reasons were never given. One such miscreant once collected all the innards of bonfire night bangers, bunged the stuff into an aluminium cigar tube, made a fuse, stuck the thing into the canal bank, lit it, and blew a big hole in yer actual canal bank. Boy – did we run away! Oddly this incident was never mentioned in Parentland.
                     
I’m pretty sure little boys don’t get to do things like that any more. Too many terrorists hiding in wheelie-bins these days. Too much traffic. Too many roaming bands of paedophiles. All true, I suppose. Besides, who wants to go messing about with a half-submerged tank when they’ve got a tablet to stare at?
                 

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,

Justin