It’s not right for the local vernacular

I really should have taken my trolley shopping this morning. Having shopped, the normal carry bag was so heavy I was forced to catch a bus home. Mind you, I’m still suffering under the thumb of the cold so the bus was probably a good thing. It wasn’t full so I’m sure I didn’t infect anyone.

The bag was heavy because I’d stupidly agreed to make paleo bread this week and I should have bought the ingredients yesterday. Of course I didn’t go shopping yesterday so today was a double down shop.

The trip hadn’t started so well. Given I was having a Nero’s coffee I figured I’d visit Holland and Barrett before going up the Lion and Lamb to Waitrose. As I reached the front doors I discovered that Holland and Barrett wasn’t open for another half an hour.

I recrossed West Street (never a pleasure) knowing I’d have to do it yet again on the way home. It’s never a happy experience standing on the kerb waiting for the seemingly infinite stream of cars to develop some sort of gap. Eventually I was rescued by someone pushing the pedestrian button on the traffic lights outside the old post office.

A little later I discovered that Farnham Town Council has decided to take the bull by the horns and make it a lot easier to cross between the Lion and Lamb and Holland and Barrett. They are going to attempt to hold a weekly market in West Street between the Hart and Downing Street.

If this ever happens it will be a wonderful thing. It won’t really address the pollution problem in the Borough or the traffic back before the Hart but, baby steps I guess.

Not that it’ll be happening for a while. In the usual fashion, the council needs to ask everybody in the world how they feel about it first. This probably means it won’t happen because, as we all know, cars are way more important than people.

But enough complaining. While I was in Waitrose I passed a couple of women. As I did the title of this post wafted into my ears. I have no idea if she was talking about the architecture or native language but it seems a rather high falutin’ sentence. It also struck me as a magnificent post title.

Back at home I made the promised paleo loaf. It was very much enjoyed with lunch, proving it was well worth the hassle.

Mmmm, paleo bread!

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Mud and cold

I was feeling awful this morning. Even so, I dragged myself out of bed and prepared to leave the house. My ingrained need to go shopping had a hold over me that was stronger than the germ currently living inside me.

I gave the girls a twisty stick and headed out into the road. I stopped and looked around. The last thing I felt like doing was walking into Farnham. Looking back with longing at the front door I did a quick mental stock take of the fridge contents. From memory.

I was so sick yesterday that I hadn’t eaten anything for dinner. I figured I could make something. Mirinda was returning home tonight so it had to be something substantial.

I went back inside, removed my hat and fleece and made another coffee.

Not that I went back to sleep. There were things that needed doing and I’d just given myself an extra hour in which to do them.

There were the bulbs for a start. The bulbs that had been ripped out of the lavender bed and were now starting to grow in the greenhouse. Bulbs that I’d already planted once.

I took the necessary equipment out the front and found places for them all.

Hopefully they’ll grow.

I also managed a lot of washing and general cleaning before taking the girls to the park.

It was a bit grime

There wasn’t as many dog walkers as usual which could have been because of the grey clouds. Not that it was going to rain but it was a bit chilly and the ground was still splodgy.

The Avenue of Trees was looking particularly forlorn and wintry.

It’s good to see that the Wednesday volunteers have been hard at it. This time of year the willow is bent over, forming a wildlife hedge in front of the fence. You can just see it in the above photograph at the right.

We saw a few dogs we knew and a few we didn’t but most of the time Emma just ran after her ball and Freya kept naughty squirrels at bay. Or up trees. Then, after a long while, I was starting to feel the cold (this is very rare) so we went home.

Freya leads the way

And dinner was fine. I made mustard smeared pork medallions on a bed of kale and broccoli.

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When the laughter dies

Back when I was a child and living with my grandparents, we didn’t have a TV. We would listen to the radio, play cards, laugh at my grandfather’s crankiness, the usual late 1960’s stuff. I’m not certain but it was probably my grand father who forbade having a TV in the house. Then, because of the moon landing in 1969, he threw all caution to the winds and went out and bought one.

Coincidentally, 1969 was also the beginning of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a programme which my grandfather pronounced as stupid, not funny and ridiculous. It was one which I instantly fell in love with.

I remember being in fits of laughter in our front room while Grandad just humphed and generally left the room. He wasn’t big on humour that wasn’t Benny Hill.

Like a lot of people my age I can embarrassingly recite whole screeds of Python. This is in direct contrast to the lack of any poetry that I was taught at school at the same time. When I watch movies or TV shows where characters recite poetry they learned at school, I wonder why they didn’t watch Monty Python.

In 1989 Graham Chapman died and it was like a little bit of my youth vanishing. Then, today, Terry Jones died, leaving four Pythons still standing. Fortunately there are more than enough fans to keep the memory of them all alive and well.

Terry Jones was 77 (poor Graham Chapman was only 48) and suffering from advanced dementia. I was fortunate to see him at an archaeology conference almost ten years ago where he was presenting his book Barbarians. (I should add that I didn’t agree with his hypothesis.)

All day there’s been many memories on Twitter from friends, Pythons and just fans. Possibly one of favourites was from Minnie Driver.

As if in some sort of sympathy, I developed a cold. My nose was blocked, my throat sore, my eyes ached. It would be fair to say that I was not happy.

I went to the gym thinking I could sweat the germs out of me but they seemed to have rather enjoyed the exercise. By the time I reached home I was exhausted. I had a bit of lunch but then just took myself to bed. The puppies were not impressed though they did curl up with me.

When I woke up I didn’t feel that much better so I didn’t have any dinner and went back to bed rather earlier than I normally do. I’m hoping for a recovery by tomorrow.

Terry Jones from The Independent
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In the realms of fiction

What a difference a day makes. The view this morning, rather than painted pink, was all murky white. While we’ve had a few misty mornings this is the first actual fog I remember for a long time.

Not that it was around for very long. By the time I’d finished at the gym and started for home, the fog had lifted and the sky was blue. And so it remained. Though cold, the day was gorgeous.

I didn’t go shopping today as I had to get home to call mum. Which I did before lunch. Then it was off up the park with an Emma who has finished her season. Phew.

Back at home I finished the bricks off along what will eventually be the Raised Heather Bed. Bill and his two helpers almost finished on Monday but had run out of bricks. I dug up a few from old, redundant mowing strips.

Something else I finished was the latest French drama I’ve been watching. It was called  Le Bazar de la Charité. It was centred on an actual event when the yearly Charity Bazaar caught fire in Paris in 1897, killing 126 society people, nearly all women. Most notably, Duchess Sophie, the sister of Empress Sisi.

The TV series weaves three distinct (and fictional) stories that result from the fire.

The series was very exciting and made perfect viewing while I pedalled my bike at the gym. It was also set during my favourite French period – the Belle Epoch. It also introduced me to various things I hadn’t known before.

It’s amazing how much world history of which I am ignorant. Like the Apaches of Paris, for instance.

These guys were basically hoodlums for hire. They dressed quite distinctively and roamed the streets demanding money with menaces. They would also deliver beatings and shake downs where appropriate.

And something else I’ll never understand.

The French rose up and rid themselves of their aristocracy during the Revolution. Then along comes Napoleon who reinstates it. This is followed by a bunch of anarchists who want the aristocracy destroyed. Again.

As well as a jolly good drama, Le Bazar de la Charité also manages to highlight the inequalities of the Paris citizenry at a time of more social upheaval.

It was thoroughly enjoyable on many levels and I’m not sure what I’ll now watch instead.

Also in the realms of fiction was a lot of my chat with mum.

She told me about Kevin and Lorna who lived next to a couple called Kevin and Lorna. Lorna #1 died as did Kevin #2. Kevin #1 wound up in the same care home as mum while Lorna #2 moved into a five storey council built apartment building. Kevin #1 and Lorna #2 have become an ‘item’. I suppose that could be true.

She also told me about a mysterious person called The Walker. This evil person takes surreptitious bites out of the food in the fridge then replaces it. Mum is not happy about The Walker. Given the amount of time I’ve spent at the care home, I think this is highly unlikely. Still, it makes a funny story.

Possibly my favourite part of the day (apart from Emma finishing her season) was my leftover frittata. Totally yum.

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Noisy boys

The morning sky was gorgeous today as I walked to the gym. Okay, shepherds were probably not that keen. As it turned out, there was nothing to be warned about. The day was beautiful. Cold, sure, but beautiful.

From the park

The photo above is straight out of my phone. It’s funny how we think that seeing things with the ‘naked eye’ is more accurate. The brain always adds stuff so an artificial image is going to be more accurate. Unless you fiddle with it, of course.

Without the phone, the sky was much pinker and the clouds much closer and clearly defined. Not that it matters. It just looked beautiful. It was also nice and quiet as the birds were just starting to chatter awake. (I’m ignoring the infamous Surrey Hum.)

It wasn’t so quiet at the gym.

Normally when I go, the gym is pretty close to empty. There’s a few isolated people, mostly old or not working, just quietly going about their regime of pain.

For the last few mornings there has been a group of four young men in the free weights area who seem intent on making as much noise as possible. It seems to make it easier to lift heavy things.

They gee each other up to greater and greater feats of super human strength. At least I think that’s the idea. These great feats are almost always accompanied by sub human grunts and loud exhalations of pent up breath.

It goes a little something like this:










[A massive crash as THREE drops the weights to the ground, making the room shudder.]

The thing is, the free weights area is just behind where I ride my bike. I’ll be happily pedalling away, ensconced in some French or Spanish drama and suddenly I hear some alien noise. I quickly glance around only to find a bunch of sweaty boys.

This is not a complaint! I do sometimes think that I spend too much time complaining about everyday things. I do not want to come across as a Victor Meldrew. Rather than complain, I am merely reporting things I see and experience.

Mind you, why they have to make a noise is beyond me. Mirinda reckons it’s because they are breaking through the pain barrier. I don’t know why that has to mean breaking the sound barrier in order to get there.

Now, I do moan is when it comes to inconsiderate drivers.


I don’t drive so I can only assume that two yellow lines along the gutter mean that it’s okay to park like this. The van is unmarked so I can’t comment on the owner or company responsible for it.

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When Freya missed Emma

I noticed this morning that the tree which fell across the path in the park last week has been moved. It has now created a very effective wildlife shelter. I have no idea whether the ranger will keep it rather than chop it up and distribute the logs but I kind of hope so. I’ll keep my eye on the progress.

Access returned

I noticed that a little further along the path, a tree has been cut down to a stump. The remains have been dragged across the path to create a sort of woody fence around a small area near the fantasy play area. It looks permanent.

The trouble is that people who don’t understand nature will complain that it looks ‘messy’ and question why it hasn’t been ‘tidied up’.

I remember our Landscape tutor, Lalage, telling us about visitors to Box Hill. They would walk around the wooded areas and write suggestions regarding cleaning up the dead tree trunks and odd sticks scattered about.

That merely shows how a lot of humans separate themselves from the real world. It’s all very sad when the natural world is so utterly amazing. Fortunately it will survive a lot longer than humanity.

Back at home I made a Persian omelette for lunch (for a change) followed up by a Persian inspired hotpot for dinner. Both were enjoyed very much.

Spicy hotpot by Sabrina Ghayour, modified by Chez Gaz

Something that wasn’t enjoyed was the fact that Mirinda refused to take Emma for a walk today. The weather was beautiful and a walk was there for the taking. Mirinda wanted to go to Hankley but didn’t want the hassle of having a dog in season. Again.

So, Emma stayed with me at home while Freya was bundled into Max and driven off.

Poor Emma was very confused. This has never happened before. Her tail went down and she moped halfway up the stairs, staring out the front door.

According to Mirinda, Freya happily sat in her usual navigator’s position uncaring about the lack of Emma. It wasn’t until they were parked up and walking along a path that Freya suddenly stopped and looked around. It was as if she’d suddenly realised there was supposed to be another dog.

Her concern didn’t last very long and she was soon running around, thoroughly enjoying herself. In the meanwhilst, things started to improve at the house.

I grabbed Emma’s attention with a tennis ball and we played an hour of rolling the ball back and forwards from extension to front door.

Puffy puppy

The only odd thing that happened was the first few returns. Rather than running straight back to me (like normal) she diverted to the rug in front of the TV. This is where Freya takes the ball when she decides to tease Emma. I wonder if Emma thought she’d find Freya by going that way? Clearly I’ll never know but I’d like to think it was because she missed her.

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No show

I slept very well at the flat last night. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the few times I remember sleeping all the way through. I think it’s the new decoration.

Speaking of which, I had a phone call regarding the curtain pole. The builder couldn’t find one. That’s not exactly true. He found one that wasn’t right – gold and metal – and the rest were too short. He was very apologetic but what could he do?

I went online and ordered what we needed and he’s going to come over next week after it’s arrived. Why I didn’t do this last week is a question I cannot answer.

I also didn’t hear from Emma, who was supposed to pick up the excess floor sections. I only had an email address for her and she didn’t respond.

Mirinda thought it was a waste of my time but that’s not entirely true. I managed to rearrange the red cherry lights, found the pictures that were hidden away and remounted the wooden birds.

I also managed to tick off a few more Caterham memorials, which is always good.

As a reward for all my labours and having to be around for no one to show up, I stopped off at the cafe downstairs on my way home. I intended to treat myself to a pistachio croissant.

They didn’t have any pistachio croissants

Instead they had custard croissants.

Disappointed, I had one. Very nice but not as good as the pistachio croissants.

Maine Tower

At Waterloo I discovered that it was not going to be so easy to just get a train to Farnham. I had to get a train to Woking and change.

The train I caught took an age, dawdling via such outposts of the empire as Virginia Water and Staines. It was all very slow. I managed to read quite a bit of Thackeray.

I don’t know exactly how long it took but the train was travelling at that sort of speed that feels really slow without crawling. It’s one of those immutable facts that when a train tavels at this speed, the journey takes longer. It’s not perception: it’s fact.

The train from Woking to Farnham, on the other hand, was gloriously close to empty. I was soon home among Mirinda and puppies, gladly throwing off my shoes.

One odd thing that happened. A woman boarded the Tube at Canada Water. I noticed her because she looked like a young Victoria Hamilton. She was also wearing a distinctive cream coat. I noticed her then forgot about her.

As I left the train at Farnham there she was again. I hadn’t seen her at any of the connections and yet, there she was. All a bit unusual.

Another unusual thing was my sighting of Max. As I walked down the platform at the station, he drove across the railway crossing, heading up to Thursley. I figured Mirinda was taking the dogs for a walk and I’d be returning to an empty house. Except it wasn’t Max. It was his twin. It was a bit of a surprise arriving home to find Max in the driveway.

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Fewer olives in a jar

The girls love Rodeos. We call them twisty sticks. They even know what that means. When I ask “How about a twisty stick?” they start bouncing around like excited children with a sugar addiction.

Usually, of a morning, as I leave, I’ll give them two each. This works out perfect for everyone. It works out particularly well because a packet of Rodeos has eight sticks.

Or, rather, they used to.

Today, while shopping, I discovered that the pack had been given a makeover and, along with that, one stick has been removed. I can only assume the removed stick is paying for the change of design because the price has stayed the same.

It reminds me of the story about the olive producer who asked his marketing manager how he could make more profit. The marketing manager suggested taking one olive out of each jar. It wouldn’t impact the customers over much with the added bonus of an extra jar for nothing after a while. The producer adopted the idea and made more money.

Is that growth? When you remove something to make more money? It feels a bit mean and somewhat insidious to me.

More than olives in a jar, Twisty Sticks are big and losing one makes a difference. Also, does Pedigree not understand prime numbers? Unless someone has either one dog or seven, one pack is never going to work out very well.

Another product that has changed its packaging is Unearthed prosciutto. They used to use clear plastic dividers between the slices (like everyone else) which are just annoying and easily missed. They have changed to opaque ones now.

An excellent idea.

Apart from shopping, I also replaced the doggy door in the laundry. Ages ago Emma destroyed it and today I gave her a second opportunity to prove the power of her paws and jaws. Up till I left the house, she hadn’t touched it.

I left the house because I went up to the flat. I was meeting someone who said she wanted the excess flooring as well as being there for the builder tomorrow morning. He’s coming to fit the curtain rod in the lounge.

As it turned out, the woman who said she wanted the flooring didn’t turn up. Not that it would have made any difference to me. I had to be at the flat over night anyway given the builder is coming at 8am.

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Into the grossness

There are times when I really, really wish I had a gas mask at home. Something that would cover my nose and mouth, allowing me to happily carry out housework tasks without having to smell them. Or taste them. Wouldn’t that be handy?

Okay, I can breathe through my mouth which affectively shuts off the nose but then you can sort of taste the foul odours of the day.

Speaking of sense deprivation…has anyone carried out researched into bluetooth? I have no idea how it works but it seems to me that sending some sort of signal directly at your head should be tested a bit before wholesale adoption.

A simple Internet search reveals that there are two, very vocal, sides.

Like a good scientist, I quite like to read opinions based on cited articles by reputable people. I also distrust opinions that are paid for by the industry that is responsible for selling it. The Marlborough Man springs to mind. And the adoption of vaping without any research.

Still, whatever the health risks, I find it extraordinary that so many humans are happily letting their devices probably scramble their brains. This is extremely bizarre. Even if Apple insists that its users do it.

It makes me think about how often we are prepared, as a species, to just block out the world by blocking up our senses. Sometimes permanently.

Like, what is it with tasteless food on your tongue? We have an amazing sense of taste and yet millions of people devour tonnes of tasteless food daily. I find that quite odd as well. (Obviously I’m talking about the first world here. I understand that there are people on the planet who have no choice.)

And while I’m asking, what is it with people wearing noise cancelling headphones and staring at their phone while they walk along? That’s great. Reduce your hearing and your sight at the same time. If we look at our need for security before we consider anything else, this sort of thing says we are far too secure.

Back to today. I really wanted to remove my sense of smell for a bit.

Our kitchen sink has started draining really slowly and no amount of drain unblocking chemicals have made any difference. Today I decided I had to start removing pipes.

We have twin sinks in the kitchen and one was draining perfectly fine which meant it was easy to find out where the problem was. It was in the first bit. The bit betwixt plug hole and U-bend. I sat on the floor and started emptying the under sink cupboard.

This is always a journey of discovery. Being an archaeologist, this kind of exercise always excites me. Things from the long ago past appear for the first time in centuries. It’s always extraordinary. Who knew we had furniture polish? Or a packet of descaler?

Anyway, cupboard cleared, I started dismantling the pipes. That’s when the Slimy Black Ooze of Satan made its presence felt. I don’t know what the infamous Westminster fat berg smelled like but if it was anything like this evil sludge then I feel really sorry for anyone smelling it.

I was thankful for my black, heavy duty rubber gloves as I attacked the gunge with various kitchen implements (and some not usually found in the kitchen). It was not coming quietly. It was foulness personified. I was at it for a couple of hours. The blowtorch helped.

Eventually, all was removed and a pleasant citrus scent pervaded the kitchen. Afterwards I buried my nose in half a lemon.

And it was raining all day.

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What's the point of umbrellas?

Storm Brendan appeared to have blown himself out. This morning, while grey, was dry and not windy at all. This is a complete change to the last few days. Not that the park is particularly dry. Splodgy would be closer to describing it.

This is the thing with an aquifer. It’s all well and good while the water seeps through but when the tank is full, the ground becomes saturated and the top layers turn to mud. Walking produces squelching. Shoes get sodden.

Of course this will all dry up as the aquifer is emptied but this time of year walking through the park is like treading on a grotty sponge.

Apart from a full aquifer, another result of storms like Brendan can be fallen trees. It’s perfectly natural and the result of wind and rain but when a tree, that’s been a feature of your landscape for years falls over, the world seems that little bit more fragile.

The sight above greeted me on my way back from the shops this morning. A lady I see most days was standing regarding it. I asked her what she’d done. She laughed then suggested I walk up Heart Attack Hill because it was very muddy all around the fallen tree. I laughed in turn then headed back down to the street.

I haven’t walked up Heart Attack Hill since we moved away from Folly Hill and I don’t intend to start again any time soon.

It was while walking along the street towards the next park entrance that I noticed a ruined umbrella lying in the gutter. It was the third one I’d seen since leaving the house. The wind and rain had rendered it useless. I wondered, not for the first time, why people bother with them.

The day brightened up considerably and, by lunch time, it was nice enough to take the girls for a walk. Emma wasn’t best pleased being on the lead (she’s still in season) but Freya was very happy running around on her own. I did give Emma a bit of freedom but was very careful to keep her within sight.

In fact, the rest of the day was positively benign. The birds were singing, the sun was shining and, had the temperature risen above 10°, it could have been spring.

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