Thursday, May 31, 2012

Union Jack Tastic

This is one of the few products available in UK just now that does not have a flag on it.

Two for £7, a right royal bargain, ma'am

You may not have noticed but the Union Jack* is experiencing a renaissance. The marketing boys have stuck it on just about everything to commemorate HMQ’s 60 years at the top of our national flagpole. The message here is in-your-face ‘THESE ARE BRITISH’:

But of course you should not take this too literally

For the hard of hearing, the label reads:

I thought that Mornflakes would be cornflakes but they turn out to be porridge oats, a sort of reminder that (for the time being) Scotland is part of this arrangement. 

I have yet to find a product identified as coming from Wales. Neither was Northern Ireland represented in this very staw-poll, but of course it is still a political hot potato so probably not surprising that they do not make a big thing of it. Talking of potatoes here are some British Maris Piper.

And on the subject of confusing things origine Francais

 But to restore some semblance of order Britain’s favourite dish is also flying the flag.

Talking of pesky foreigners, Tabasco is a town in Mexico, though the peppery sauce is made in Louisianna which is named for Louis XIV (King of France from 1643–1715). Whichever way you look at it it hasn't had much to do with Her Maj since 1776.

At least they had the decency to
put include some diamonds.
The flag itself seems to come in three main varieties.



Retro involves printing the flag on a yellowish paper making it look like a flag from the 1930s and reminiscent of the days of Empire.

I would have thought HP would have got in there...

...but no (well, not yet)

And being dead is no bar to participation in this merchandising frenzy
A little sidelined but not entirely forgotten

And these guys just missed the point altogether


 As well as the flag itself there are a number of flag-based interpretations:

 For some Red, White and Blue is a little passé

But apparently this is alright as the London Olympics (whose crap commerciality has exceeded the expectations of even  the most confirmed cynic) decided to leave the red out of the flag as well. But that is a digression...

Another digression is the Euro football thing which also has stacks of merchandise on the high street, but it only features the English flag as, I am reliably informed, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish teams never made it past the qualifying round.

To relieve the flag-waving monotony there have been a few attempts at humour:

Brat Kit...

And presumably for that loyal toast.
Which ever way you look at it, you just gotta love it (or hate it). 

* Ammunition for a dreary debate about whether the flag is called the Union Jack or Union Flag  can be found here: where there are arguments to support just about every option.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Faces in the Furniture: Thatched Roof

The thing about using rustic timber as a finish in buildings is that it will often include knots. For the uninitiated this is a knot:

And the thing about knots is that the grain of the wood tends to go around the knot and sometimes looks like skin. For the sake of economy see photo above which looks not unlike an eye with eyelids and a hint of crowsfeet.

Most of the Chicken Ranch which is not stone is rustic wood. The beams and volige (boards to hold the tiles) which make up the ceilings in the bedrooms are particularly rich pickings for the knot-eye hunter, and human beings are hard-wired to recognise eyes.

The volige has a thousand eyes

Lying in bed looking at the ceiling gives more than enough opportunity to see all manner of things, but for me these are mostly faces, both human and animal.

This is one of the more disturbing images.

For those who cannot see the nightmare vision let me say I had to move the bed to rid myself of this reminder of a very bleak period and a stark-raving-mad woman.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Confused: Football

My interest in football is on a par with my interest in fishing. That is to say I am aware of it, I know it is popular and if stuck on a desert island with a magazine devoted to the subject I would probably read it.

I played quite regularly until I was about eleven.

I'm sure we looked quite a lot like this. Life was in black and white
back then. Tell that to kids these days and they won't believe you.
It may come as a surprise that I was quite good, preferring to be in goal. But my interest only extended to actually playing the game. The comings and goings of the Saturday matches played around the country left me cold. The ritual of the results on Saturday afternoon TV, with its pompous, liturgical rhythmic intonation was one of the more tangible forms of tedium along with church and Sunday afternoons.

I wasn't there...

Being a north London lad, my friends tended to support Spurs or Arsenal. The father of one of my classmates was a director of Arsenal and I had an open invitation to the ground and the Director’s Box. I did not know what a Director’s Box was, but assumed it to be a ‘good thing’, as it seemed to be blessed with a fridge full of a free Coca-Cola. Nonetheless I never accepted the invitation as I could not see the attraction of watching other people play football – even with free tooth-rotting fluid.

Most of my school friends were very knowledgeable about football. They not only knew the names of the players, they had their favourites and would discuss their relative skills and strengths. Bizarrely they also seemed to know previous members of the team, some going back into the mists of time. And of course they knew how their team was doing, which teams were a threat and even how many goals they had to score in any particular game to get closer to the final; to win the cup.

Johnny Haynes, one of the few names I could remember...
oh, yes, and Nobby Stiles and Danny Blanchflower

For some reason all this detail failed to register with me. I could remember the names of a few players but had no idea who they played for. But there was also something was wrong with the model of our national game. One week a particular team was a dead cert to be in the final, the next they were knocked out. On the odd occasion I watched a final, and could swear that one of the teams had been relegated (or something) a week or so earlier. It just didn’t make sense. So I stopped even trying. I still played, I still declined invitations to watch The Arsenal, I still sat through the results on TV, and the analysis which followed, with a feeling of deep gloom. Who would win The Cup? Who cared. Not me.

Seaview, where I learned the truth about football.
In the early 1980s, well into my twenties, I shared a house with Mike and Pete. Both of them are interested in football and sometimes watch Match of the Day, a programme I have studiously avoided for decades. On one such occasion I was moved to try and explain why I was not interested. I explained that at primary school I could only name a couple of players but seldom the teams they played for. I explained how much I had been confused by the sudden changes in fortune which seemed to beset many of the teams and their chances in the cup. I explained that this inability to understand had finally led me to stop trying. It also accounted for my contempt for the TV results service and the inarticulate men endlessly discussing possibilities (which in 2008 I discovered was called post match analysis) an exercise in speculation only outdone by political pundits. 

Mike tried to help and asked if it was the League or Association competition that I did not understand. I did not even understand his question. He did not understand that I did not understand. Some time later a missing piece of the jigsaw fell into place.

For any of you who share my ignorance, the same teams play in two competitions at the same time. This explained why a team could be a dead cert for the (FA) Cup one week and knocked out of the (League) Cup  the next.

These days they label the cups to reduce confusion.
If you are still unsure the FA Cup comes with a lid.

But by this time, I am pleased to say, it was too late. In an attempt to be open minded I attended a pre-season friendly between Spurs and Brighton and Hove Albion at the old Goldstone Ground. I went with Andy Smith a sofa-based cable-TV sports fanatic and very talented musician (how often those two characteristics coincide). I was bored to tears and spent most of the game inspecting the structure of the stadium. I do not remember who won, though I suspect it was Spurs as. B&HA trotted out first and looked all shiny and fit, but then Spurs ran onto the pitch, I though 'Fuck me! they're massive'. I kid you not they made the Albion look like children.

If you think this is dull, you should have seen the game.
On reflection, and in justification of my decades of ignorance, I blame the phrase ‘the Cup’, as in ‘We won the Cup’. It should of course be ‘We won one of the Cups’.

But I doubt it will catch on.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Suffer Little Children

It was early last Sunday evening. I was sitting in the camper writing the previous post when a small boy scooted by. His mum was trying to catch up with him insiting that "We are going to church." "I HATE church, it's so boring." responded the boy. "It's all right" she said. "the vicar won't  pour custard over your head." I rather hoped she would add "again" but she didn't.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Family, Flood, Fire, Farming and Furry Fings in Frome

Having neglected the blog for a few weeks it’s time to do something, so here’s a medley of bits about Frome.

I arrived from Brighton last weekend to find the roads from the south closed due to flooding at the Bridge on the River Frome

The flood threatened the Bath Theatrical Costumiers warehouse (just out of shot to the right), but I believe the water stopped just below the hem line and no damage was done to the stock. 

The river had claimed the crossroads closing it to vehicles. Pedestrians, however, were perfectly free to use the footpath.

But some drivers cannot resist a challenge. While taking the picture above, a Land Rover came through the junction creating a wash that would do credit to a speedboat. He was going so fast that I missed getting a picture of him as I was too busy trying to get out of the way. He damn near drowned me, well, a bit of an overstatement but  it was only my trousers that stopped the water going over the top of my boots and leaving me with soggy socks - and that’s just not right. 

Fortunately the police were there to reinforce the 'Road Closed' message...

...and a few minutes later I enjoyed a moment of schadenfreude when the lady policeman woman told me that she had given him a ticket. I said “Bloody right… I mean good work officer.”  She could not possibly comment.

Later I found that another driver had taken advantage of the new lake.

 [Credit This is Somerset / Standard]

I'm not sure if jet skis are covered by the Road Traffic Act.

Back at The Retreat, just downstream (or is it upstream?), the river had totally ignored the bridge leading to The Mill and just gone by road instead.


To the right of this picture is a strip of land running along the riverbank that Magnus (No. 2 nephew) and the family rent. He and some neighbours keep chickens, ducks and bees. That weekend they were due to add some sheep to the menagerie. He has done this before (yummy!) and had re-installed the old electric fence around the paddock.

By and by, the sheep trailer arrived and was reversed to the paddock gate watched by half a dozen adults and a similar number of children. The general lack of tranquillity created by this audience had spooked the sheep and they bolted out of the trailer, straight across the paddock and through the electric fence as if it wasn’t there and before a single volt or amp could be mustered to dissuade them. 


After some rethinking a new five bar electric fence was installed. This, too, was a failure as they turned out to have more in common with mountain goats that the docile wool factories of popular imagination. 

On my next visit Magnus and Dan were re-enacting 'the enclosures' and had erected 50 metres of what felt like high-tensile steel sheep fencing in a rather tasteful shade of green. It stretches from the railway fence to the river. We are now waiting to see how well the sheep can swim.

Talking of things agricultural, Tristan (No. 1 nephew) had collected an old beaten up cattle trough to use as a planter. I foolishly volunteered to help him  lift it off the roof of the car. It weighed considerably more than I was expecting, but we got it to its final resting place and beat it roughly back into shape with a 4-pound lump hammer.


This is Tristan cutting out an unwanted bit and trying to set fire to his fledgling beech hedge with the aid of an angle grinder, or, according to Artie, ankle grinder.

Meanwhile, back at the paddock, Mag had gained a trio of piglets.

(When are you going to start your new website 'Cute - and tasty too'? – Ed
As soon as Herb starts his road kill cooking site 'squashy-zoo'. - RPJ.)

Back in Tristan’s garden I noticed a case of arse-covering safety advice which sort of takes the fun out of trampoline-related time-wasting.

The WARNING says 'do not do somersaults (flips)'  Hah! some chance, it's the first thing most people try on a trampoline. In fact the Argos TV ad featuring a family of aliens buying stuff for summer shows an alien kid doing flips, maybe I should write to the Advertsing Standards Authority and complain... but I digress.. The WARNING goes on to add that 'Paralysis, death or serious injury can result even if you land in the middle of the trampoline'.  If they are that dangerous why make the damn things in the first place?

This is the offending recreational death machine.

The WARNING also says 'Not suitable for children under 36 months. Choking Hazard'. The mind boggles. Even a rapacious 36 month old whould have trouble ingesting it. And even if they could swallow it, it would just come straight up again. (Oh for God’s sake! Can’t you take anything seriously? – Ed.)

Dylan, (No.3 nephew) is busy building a new extension. This is him and Martin doing some roofing. 

When he stopped for tea I asked who the bloke was helping Martin. That’s my son, your great-nephew, Finley. “Bloody hell” reposted I, ”he’s grown up some since I saw last him, and that was only three months ago.” Dylan sighed and said, “Yes - it’s strange having another man in the house…”

To round off a busy week Magnus knocked down a great chunk of his house. 

Magnus and the fated wall.
In an attempt to balance the forces that create and destroy, Dylan exchanged his builders outfit for a demolition suit and the two of them made, then removed, several tons of rubble. Then they tidied up and replaced the boards.No doubt the new ceiling was in place and the walls re-plastered before bedtime.

If that was me we would have been walking around a gaping hole in the floor for weeks – but it would have had a very elegant hazard tape barrier around it.

To be continued, probably...