Samhain

Last year I was besieged by trick or treaters. A never-ending procession of them trooping up the path to the front door. Not that I really minded, but it would have been good to be able to put my feet up for an hour and chill. At one stage it was so busy that it seemed that they were working in relays. I’m sure I saw the same masks and costumes more than once. Were they popping round the corner and swapping outfits with their mates so they could work in relays?

So this year I was prepared. The fruit bowl was full of sweets (candies to our linguistically-challenged friends from across the pond who were, I believe, responsible for the trick or treat palaver in the first place) and strategically placed. And what happened? Almost nothing. One visit from two very sheepish looking ghouls, who seemed surprised when I told them to take another handful if they wanted.

So the chocolate supply was barely touched. Quality Street anyone? And what happened to Penny for the Guy?

I am sad

And it’s official.

According to someone who knows about these things, when one has a night on the Toon, one should go out or come home with a partner who has two legs. Whether the former or the latter or both seems to depend on the copious consumption of strange beverages of mysterious colours.

Me? My companion had three legs. And I went to bed alone, having drunk a mere two pints of lager.

Which seemed to cause much mirth at the strange things us southerners get up to.

But a tripod does help keep the camera steady, and I did come home with these and these. And there are more!

I may be sad but I don’t care

Wordplay

While clearing out my inbox I came across this. It dates back to last year, if not before and I think it may have originated (in part at least) from the Washington Post‘s Style Invitational. I thought it was good enough to save somewhere:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

11. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease.

12. Karmageddon: Its like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer man.

13. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

14. Glibido: All talk and no action.

15. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

16. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

17. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

18. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

Sign of the times

I suspect this has already done the rounds of people’s inboxes, but even though I’m not religious it made me smile…

In the year 2006, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in England and said, “Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me.

“Build another Ark and save two of every living thing along with a few good humans.”

He gave Noah the CAD drawings, saying, “You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.”

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard but no Ark.

“Noah!” he roared, “I’m about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?”

“Forgive me, Lord,” begged Noah, “but things have changed. I needed building regulations approval. I’ve been arguing with the fire brigade about the need for a sprinkler system. My neighbours claim that I should have obtained planning permission for building the Ark in my garden because it is development of the site even though in my view it is a temporary structure. We had to go to appeal to the Secretary of State for a decision.

“Then the Department of Transport demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark’s move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

“Getting the wood was another problem. All the decent trees have tree preservation orders on them and we live in a Site Of Special Scientific Interest set up in order to protect the spotted owl. I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls – but no go!

“When I started gathering the animals, the RSPCA sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodation was too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.

“Then the county council, the Environment Agency and the Rivers Authority ruled that I couldn’t build the Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.

“I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission on how many BMEs I’m supposed to mire for my building team. The trades unions say I can’t use my sons. They insist I have to hire only CSCS accredited workers with Ark-building experience.

“To make matters worse, Customs and Excise seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.

“So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark.”

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder and asked: “You mean you’re not going to destroy the world?”

“No,” said the Lord. “The government beat me to it.”

Ten miles

Beaulieu, Buckler’s Hard, Boldre, Hatchet Pond, Frame Heath Inclosure, Brockenhurst.

Two deer (a pleasant surprise since I expected them to be deep in the thickets in this weather), a swan fussing over her brood of six (growing nicely but still in the fluffy cotton-wool ball stage) while her mate gave a dog that dared to paddle in the shallows very short shrift (wonders idly if swans and geese were the originators of hissy fits?). A pony with a still spindly foal at heel. Assorted wabbits…

And did you know that Hythe Pier (a novel way to arrive in the New Forest) is the seventh longest in Britain? No nor did I before today. Which makes me think that there must be a lot of piddling piers dotted around the country.

I was going to use part of this weekend to catch up on the backlog of mails and replies I owe people. But you’ll have to forgive me if your mailbox remains empty. Because if I don’t get too stiff overnight (no sniggering at the back please) I’m tempted by more of the same tomorrow. Exbury Gardens then along the coast to Lepe and Calshot perhaps.

A wise old bird (she’ll probably hate me for the “old” bit but it scans better that way) said something this week that made me think. It was actually in connection with something else, but the key thought was: it’s important to make the time and the space to discover what you want and need.

That, and a subsequent conversation down the pub, set me thinking. And, as I think I’ve said before, I always seem to do my best thinking when I go walking. Which sounds like rather a good reason (if any were needed) to go walking again tomorrow.

And what did I think about while walking today? Apart from the above, bugger all! It was too nice a day to do anything other than kick back and enjoy. There’s a lot to be said for chilling in the sun.

A tale of two cities, part two

An acquaintance remarked: “Walking in the rain holds little appeal apart from the coffee stops in some sheltered area.”

Nor for me as a rule (and I prefer tea to coffee). If it had been raining when I got up I wouldn’t have bothered. I’m not inclined to be a masochist.

The rain didn’t start until I got to the seafront in Eastbourne. It was no more than a few drops in the wind at that stage so it seemed a good excuse to put the new ultra-lightweight anorak to the test. I’d bought it for exactly that sort of situation; to be stuffed in a corner of the rucksack in case of unexpected summer showers.

By the time I’d gone the length of the beach the weather wasn’t getting any worse, so I thought: “Sod it, I’ve come all this way. I might as well at least do Beachy Head. If it gets seriously worse I can always get the bus back from there.”

And by the time I got there my mood had changed. Not only because I’d left Eastbourne behind (there was something more than faintly depressing about the place) but also becasue although the weather wasn’t wonderful I was enjoying myself.

If you don’t go walking it’s hard to explain. But there’s something wonderfully elemental about standing in the wind under a glowering sky. The turf had that soft spring in it, the jacket was holding up (I didn’t get much more than a bit damp around the edges all day) and it just seemed too good an opportunity to waste.

The sun is shining and my legs don’t feel too bad, so I think another stretch of the Thames beckons.

A tale of two cities

I know that London isn’t perfect. But sometimes it’s not until you leave it (however briefly) that you start to appreciate it.

Today I found myself in Eastbourne. Before going any further I suppose I’d better point out that:

A) Before pedants pick on my choice of title, I know that Eastbourne isn’t a city.

B) I have nothing against Eastbourne per se. I’m not picking on the place for any reason.

I just happened to find myself in that particular part of East Sussex because I had an urge to go walking. By the coast. Along cliff tops. And Eastbourne happens to be a rather convenient starting point for Beachy Head and the South Downs Way. And I hadn’t been there since I was a kid.

So what does Eastbourne conjure up in your mind’s eye. Edwardian? Elegant but a little elderly now? Faded gentility? An echo of an era past? The 50s perhaps?

On the walk from the station to the promenade I was left with the distinct impression of chavs by the coast. Not quite as bad as, say, Clacton, but very noticeable. And a gaggle of goths in the vicinity of McDs.

If you want to size up anywhere by the coast then study the gulls. In Brighton they are brash. Hovering, just waiting to pounce when some unsuspecting visitor leaves their lunch or ice-cream unguarded for a moment. In Eastbourne the birds skulked and sulked, giving the distinct impression that they’d really rather be somewhere else. Suddenly, London didn’t seem quite so bad. And that was before the weather took a turn for the worse.

It was only serendipity (perhaps a desire to walk in the direction that would mean I was facing the sunset) that I hadn’t started at Seaford. So at least I had the wind and rain at my back most of the day. People I met coming the other way seemed to be suffering much more having to walk into it.

The climb from Cow Gap up to Beachy Head is a bit of a haul, but with some throaty panting like a steam-train tackling an incline I did it without a pause. The top seemed like a good place for a chocolate break (blueberries coated in Belgian white) and to take a look back over Eastbourne.

I read somewhere that back in the 19th century Eastbourne was planned to be a pleasant place. So what did I see? The sweep of the coast? The pier? No, the only thing that poked through the mist was a bloody great tower block. So much for town planning.

Beachy Head and Belle Tout lighthouse beyond are both easily accessible by car. A few tourists had obviously decided that, despite the weather, they’d venture out into the countryside. So how do you tell the difference between a walker and a tourist? No, it has nothing to do with anoraks. Just about everyone (apart from the really foolhardy) were hunkered down in shapeless, sensible clothes. But walking across a muddy field in white trainers, or trying to cling on to a brolly while the wind whirled and eddied is a dead giveaway.

You also get a better class of dog out in the wilds. None of those whiny snappy little rat-like things. Ones that look like their coat was designed to repel the damp, and their paws were meant to get muddy, and they were meant to be chasing rabbits rather than on a leash.

Birling Gap provided welcome shelter for a brief refuelling stop (cheese, chorizo and ciabatta should you care). After which the Seven Sisters were a pushover. The wind was backing, the rain wasn’t easing, and there was no sign of a break in the clouds.

A brief respite as I gazed over Cuckmere Haven from the top of the cliff. The shingle scrunching underfoot along the beach. Watching the run-off rainwater rip down the river and out to sea.

A warm welcoming pub at Exceat Bridge. Just over 16km according to the GPS, so let’s call it an even 10 miles for those of you who don’t do metric maps.

As a rule, I’m a fair-weather walker. But there was something about today. Soft suffused mist. Wind, rain, and a sense of achievement. A day spent doing nothing other than having a great day. Triumph out of adversity. Who would have thought that a rainy Easter in Eastbourne could have turned out so well.

So what did you do today? Because life is there to be lived.

Vices

I think I’ve discovered another one. And since it involves chocolate I thought I should share ๐Ÿ˜€

I popped into M&S at the station for a bottle of water and a sandwich to while away the train journey. You know how it is that those marketing bods always have lots of tempting things by the queue for the till. They hope that while you wait in line you can be lured into an impulse purchase.

“Mmm…” I thought. “they look interesting…”. Somewhere up there, the god of marketing gurus undoubtedly laughed as I tossed the packet into the basket. Another sweet-toothed sucker takes the bait.

Some time later, pottering round the Cambridge University Botanic Garden (and rather good it was too, though perhaps a little too early in the year to see the grounds at their finest) taking photos on a crisp spring afternoon, I felt a little peckish. So I dipped into a pocket for the previous purchase.

I can officially report that M&S Belgian White Chocolate coated Blueberries with a Blueberry Dusting are awesome.

Only 340 calories per pack ๐Ÿ˜‰ I munched my way through half the bag, so no need to feel too guilty.

Though if the weather holds then I suspect the rest will be gone by the end of tomorrow’s expedition ๐Ÿ˜€

The flash on the pack says “New” (another good marketing ploy that). So they may not have reached the provinces yet. But if you spot them in an M&S near you then you MUST try them.

Tonight's play-list

Kirsty MacColl (The Machester Rambler: “I may be a wage slave on Monday. But I am a free man on Sunday.”)

The Pogues (The Band played Waltzing Matilda must be one of the best anti-war anthems ever)

Blondie (my first teenage crush, and still stands the test of time)

Never the Bride (much under-rated)

Everything But The Girl

Beautiful South (fabulous craftsmanship)

Fleetwood Mac (ditto)

Eagles (for old time’s sake)

With Sade and Omara Portuondo and Susan Tedeschi on standby if I fancy a change of pace as the night winds down.

Eye-ful in the sky

At the risk of offending my German reader again

A group of Italian tourists got rather more than they bargained for when they decided to take a ride on the giant ferris wheel at the Munich Oktoberfest. Instead of getting a bird’s eye view of the world famous beer festival they were treated to rather more shocking sight.

Two men and a woman joined them in the gondola, and promptly started to film an amateur porn movie. Unable to get off the ride, the tourists had to avert their gaze as the woman brandished a vibrator for the camera.

The actress, a political scientist and a student were arrested and charged with public indecency. “They said they weren’t doing it for commercial reasons,” the police said. “They wanted to see how visitors would react.”

The Oktoberfest continues until October 3 and is expected to attract six million people, who will drink in the region of 5.5 million litres of beer. And just to show that beer is king in Germany…

Fans of Hamburg have won 10,000 litres of beer from a brewery, who put up the prize for the first team to beat Bayern Munich after they won the first six games of the season in the Bundesliga. “We wanted to create a bit of excitement,” the brewery said. “We’ve nothing against Bayern but there must be some tension.”

Pulling the wool

What’s that they say about life imitating art?

A herd of sheep have been penned in a deserted factory in Zagreb and are constantly in the camera’s gaze as they are visited by a flock of famous writers who try to entertain the poor lambs with readings from their works.

The event, part of an arts festival, has become a smash hit on Croatian television, which probably says a great deal about the standard of entertainment on offer in that part of the world. And not only can you follow every bleat on the web, you also get to vote for which sheep is next for the chop. If the beast chosen for eviction is not adopted by a viewer then the poor thing is headed for the slaughterhouse.

As you might imagine, the do-gooders do not approve. The Stado show has got the animal rights activists’ goat. They’ve described the project as “scandalous” and said that people were being pressured into adopting a sheep just to save it from slaughter.

Sinisa Labrovic, whose idea it was, said: “I’m not torturing them. I am not an insensitive bastard who abuses animals.” He claims the show is satire. “It shows that more and more people, especially those who take part in reality shows, are made to look like sheep in every situation”.

Pass the mint sauce please.

Out of tune

SK Berlaar women’s team came about when a group of friends in Belgium got tired of standing on the sidelines watching their partners playing football. Something that started out as a bit of fun soon became an organised side, more than capable of holding their own in competitive matches. Unfortunately, this season Berlaar got drawn against the mighty KV Mechelen in the Antwerp Cup. Just to make matters worse, their first-choice goalkeeper decided to take the day off to go to a concert.

Stand-in goalkeeper Charlotte Jacobs must have had a sense of impending doom when Mechelen scored a mere four seconds after the kick-off. Come the interval and Berlaar were 27-0 down. “But after half-time we were able to recover,” Jacobs said, trying to look on the bright side. “We only had to suffer another 23 goals and we scored once ourselves, right at the end. They allowed us to score. That was sweet of them.”

It’s not clear what is the biggest losing margin ever in a competitive match, but the women of Berlaar definitely deserve a mention in football’s hall of fame, if only for refusing to give up in the face of such overwhelming adversity.

Sense of humour failure

Oh dear,

I’ve barely started exploring the “strange but true” / “wry sideways look at life” / “are people really that stupid” … genre and I’ve annoyed someone already. So I guess I’m doing something right? <g>

Athene Aquinas seems to have taken offence at the Everything you ever heard about Germans and deckchairs is true post.

“Hmm, I see you like Germans…” the resident of Munich moans. They’ve obviously got the hump.

Actually no. I don’t like Germans. But nor do I dislike Germans either (go visit Spain if you want to meet people who SERIOUSLY don’t like Germans). I’m totally neutral.

The account of the idiot who tried to get rid of the spiders with a D.I.Y flame-thrower would have been equally hilarious, whatever the nationality involved. Stupidity transcends state borders. So the fact that a German was involved is totally irrelevant.

But, like it or not, you have to accept that when it comes to sun-loungers by the pool then Germans have a certain reputation. And they can hardly complain if their behaviour reinforces the prejudice.

Was I “taking the Michael” for pointing this out? A note for the linguistically challenged… If you don’t understand “taking the Michael” then go ask a friendly local Oirish-man. And assuming that he doesn’t come from there in the first place, he can probably tell you some cracking tales about how stupid the folk are in Kerry. Other people’s idiocy is a lingua franca after all.

So is this stereotyping? Only if you are so politically correct you really shouldn’t be here in the first place. Or is it, to borrow from the Strine, “ripping the piss”? Yep, you’ve got the idea. If you haven’t managed at least a little smirk or grimace then you obviously live in Germany and are suffering an acute sense of humour failure.

And as my correspondent wrote

> “Under that same logic, Americans would then be like Michael Jackson or was it Mike Tyson?”

Had they bothered to read rather than jump to conclusions, they might have got the impression that I think there are quite a few idiot Mercuns out there too. See the Cheeseburger in Caseville post for a prime example.

And if they really think we Brits can’t laugh at ourselves they’ve obviously ignored, or missed the point of, Elspeth is right

Fear not. I promise I won’t be horrid to Germans / Americans / (insert nationality to suit) in the next post. Unless you’re from Belgium. Because it is their turn next. You know that old question about “how many famous Belgians can you name”? Most people can manage two (maybe).

I’ve got another 11 to add to the list. Though whether they’ll want to be reminded about their place in the “Hall of Fame” is moot. But mockery is the best form of humour, after all.

Watch this space.

Everything you ever heard about Germans and deckchairs is true

A German pensioner was so attached to his deckchair that he attacked a woman who moved his towel to another lounger at the pool in Bad Endbach.

When the 76-year-old man returned to his favourite spot he was furious to discover that a woman had moved his towel so she could sit next to her mother. “The other chair was just the same, but he didn’t want to use it,” a policeman said.

The pensioner swore at the shocked woman and when she still didn’t move he tipped the chair over, throwing her to the ground. “She couldn’t believe he went so far over such a trifle,” the police said.

Bad hair day

A German woman destroyed her family home as she tried to kill spiders in the garage with a can of hairspray and a cigarette lighter.

Police in Zuelpich said that when the aerosol failed to kill the spiders the woman tried to burn them with the lighter. But this set the area she had just sprayed on fire and the blaze spread to a hedge. “She tried to put the fire out with a garden hose, but couldn’t,” the police said.

“Instead, her semi-detached house next to the hedge caught fire. It’s now uninhabitable. The family have had to look for somewhere else to stay. The spiders are gone though; that problem was solved.”

Elspeth is right

A pensioner who kept detailed records for more than 20 years on how many times he cut the grass has had them used as part of a major study on climate change.

David Grisenthwaite has made a note of every time he used his mower at his home in Kirkcaldy since 1984. He began recording the time and date of every occasion he cut the grass simply for the fun of it. “It all started when the Woodland Trust were looking for people to take part in a little ecological study,” he said. “I just kept on going. I would make a note of when I’d cut the lawn and, of course, when you do it once you have to do it again. And once you’ve done it for a year you have to do another year to make a comparison with the last one. It only takes a second and it would be unforgivable to forget.”

He also records how much garden waste he shreds and has memorised the bus timetables for Cumbria from the present day (not a lot of use when you are living in Scotland!) going back to 1920. Mr Grisenthwaite, who mowed the lawn this morning for the 32nd time this year said his long-suffering wife of 39 ears, Elspeth, 69, thought he was mad. “Elspeth is also a keen gardener and I just provide the labour really. She thinks I’m a nutter.”

So there I was

Browsing a blog, as you do. And that led me on to another blog. Where the author said they had recently been here.

Since, up until then, the writer had had some interesting things to say, I thought I’d take a peek at the site.

OMG. I don’t think another blogger has gone downhill in my estimation quite so quickly. Now I know that Mercuns are a bit strange at the best of time. And there really isn’t much to do in Little Town, Hicksville. And I suppose it’s not quite as scary as my previous Sad Site Of The Day but even so…

They cannot be serious, as J McEnroe used to say. A “Plunger Lunger” competition?! With prizes donated by the local hardware store??!! AND an “Uuug-lee Hawaiian Shirt Contest???!!!

And the really scary thing is that more than 130,000 people went to last year’s event. The fact that they have a “Parade of Fools” event does seem rather apt.