Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Thank goodness for the snow. Three degrees Fahrenheit tonight and No Dentist tomorrow. These are the sort of things that make Winter worth waiting for. Red rosy cheeks, touch of frostbite on the ears, and a good chance I might never feel my toes again, they've always been an unnecessary burden what with the nails needing cutting and the terrible damage they do to socks.

I just love it and so do the Domestic Pets, I'm quite certain they'll soon be out there in the outdoors prowling around like miniature Snow Leopards. Probably just gearing up at the moment for their great adventure. And I'll certainly be joining them, I'll pretend to be a giant Bunny Rabbit so they can chase me around. Uncharacteristic! Maybe, but we can all live in hope.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Anyone who didn't know has been living in a paper bag. But what's new?

Always been proud to claim Africa as my place of birth. Even more so now.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Cup of Tea

Bronwyn the Seamstress' Carmelite Monastery is beginning to look less like a Victorian Military Barracks and more like one of those secretive places where sinister happenings and God knows what goes on. When I think back I worked one day a week in a garden near such a place, and while enthusiastically engaged in my responsibilities to my brand new employer, who was pretty good at keeping an eye on my progress and diligence by peering at me through net curtains with binoculars, I decided I'd Just go ahead ask, "What exactly goes on next door?" Her reply, "It's very hush-hush." Back then of course when old people used the expression 'hush-hush' they meant secret wartime type stuff, and as a rule after a brief glance at the bushes they'd tell you everything they knew in gory and minute detail. Not Mrs. Binoculars, and I sensed a deep suspicion in her, so I nodded wisely, pursed a lip and tried not to look like a ne'er do well hell bent on the destruction of Western Civilization. The following week, when Mrs. Binoculars brought out the midmorning cup of tea, which wasn't easy for her because she had a bad leg which required her to use a walking stick, she asked "Why do you want to know what's going on next door?"

I thanked her for the tea, probably shrugged in a straw chewing kind of way, might have said something about edging or Wisteria roots and all the while I knew from the expression on her face she expected something better than Potemkin answers from an hourly paid employee who'd arrived ten minutes late for his second day of work. Not certain what response I finally came up with but it produced from her a rather long explanation for why it was the world would be a much better place if people minded their own business. As she spoke I gained the possibly fanciful understanding that the next door property had nothing to do with "It's very hush-hush" and had a great deal more to do with some long drown out Hatfield and McCoy type thing. The "hush-hush" part was a peculiar and convoluted mantra my employer used in an attempt to maintain some sense of order and decency in her world whenever anyone brought up the subject of her neighbor. Several midmorning cups of tea later, I was beginning to suspect that my fanciful understanding of my employer's relationship with the neighbor was planted in firm ground. I thanked her for the tea. "Their getting a divorce!" She replied. Briefly I wondered whether my employer had hit the liquor bottle. By the November of that year, all the leaves raked, the midmorning cup of tea included two phrases. "It's why we never had an au pair" and "We'll not need you again until next year."

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fence Walking

Warm spells for us attic dwellers who share our accommodations with wintering Ladybirds are a mixed blessing. They are dear little creatures possessed of an inquisitiveness around the activities of those amongst us who may be attempting to construct N scale fencing, a scale where the height of a large adult human is approximately the length of small well manicured finger nail. And when temperatures soar the Ladybirds become active, they discover a strong desire to launch themselves into flight from the higher peaks of an indoor landscape. The N scale fence is far from an ideal launching pad, far too pointy for the exercise which appears to require all six legs to be firmly attached to a surface otherwise any attempt to open the wing cases results in frustration for both Ladybird and observer.

They are also very stubborn, which means a single minded attachment to the "try and try again" philosophy, and if that fails give it another name and "repeat."  I guess it's a live and let live world, and yet a soft hearted wishy-washy liberal does find himself spending a great deal of valuable time in Ladybird husbandry. They don't communicate well but they can be persuaded to stop wandering endlessly up and down on the top of an N scale fence if their progress is interrupted by a suitable block of wood. This gives them a chance to regain a little dignity and as if of their own free will discover an alternative to the fruitless exercise of fence walking. It's a Eureka moment for them and off they go into the bright blue yonder, take a turn or two before heading for the light bulb where there's a whole Icarus thing which often ends up in a coffee cup.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

High Office

Not sure the extent to which high office applies to gardeners. It doesn't take much to dig a hole, plant something or turn a Compost Pile. A little empathy, perhaps, but otherwise we're not talking years of training, even if we are talking many, many more years of practice, heartbreak, physical exhaustion, injury and disappointment, all of which may contribute.

But the idea of for example sitting in the emergency ward struggling with something like a burst appendix in the hope that someone who might have received something like a lifetime achievement Oscar for playing the role of a magical aunt on the television might relieve you of your appendix, shouldn't make any sense.

Monday, January 8, 2018


One of the early attempts at an English Language dictionary was the work of a man of spirit and opinion called Samuel Johnson. In his dictionary which was published in the 1750's he defined the word "Patron" this way. "A wretch who supports with indolence and is paid with flattery." His definition of "Refuse" (pronounced refyoos, or some call it trash) goes this way "That which remains disregarded when the rest is taken." Samuel Johnson's almost kittenish view of objectivity around words came to a screeching halt in the Victorian era with the introduction of what's called the Oxford English Dictionary, the first edition of which was at last completed in 1928, and which from 1879 until his death in 1915 was edited in part by a man called Sir James Augustus Henry Murray. During his time as editor he was responsible for words that began with A-D, H-K, O-P and T. James Murray was a Scotsman, he was a lexicographer and he was a philologist, all of which meant his understanding of language was guided by a more anthropological approach to the meaning of words, it was serious business and had nothing to do with humor or entertainment. Mind you there's not a great deal of distance between Johnson's "wind from behind"  and  "A slight explosion between the legs" which was the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of "fart" when I was like a totally stable misunderstood nine year old.

One of Murray's techniques for researching the definition of words was to seek assistance from the general public. There were quite strict rules for those who wished to contribute, and many of those who made the effort erred upon the Johnsonian side and came up with all sorts of erroneous and puerile  examples of word usage, which is always a problem when dealing with the less dedicated masses, who do tend to wander in their understanding of logical conclusions. The great example from what now feels like 50 years ago was the General Public of the United Kingdom's decision in 2016 to name the National Environment Research Council's 200 million £ polar research ship, Boaty McBoatface.  A decision by poll which I'm sure would have sent Sir James Murray to turning in his grave, but which I rather like and which very adequately sums up what happens to empires. All the same one of the major contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary during Murray's tenure as editor, was a man called  Dr. William Chester Minor. An apparently upstanding contributor who'd  greatly impressed Murray with his detailed research into meaning of words as they were used in the literature of the day and in the past. The two men corresponded regularly and over the years a bromance developed. Time came for the two scholars to finally meet. Dr. Minor's postal address was the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, in Berkshire, England, where to Murray's surprise Dr. William Chester Minor was an inmate, not the Governor. Either way, I still prefer Johnson's definition of Patron and of Refuse.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Winter Sports

The Girl Cat appears to have recovered from the tumultuous events of 2017 and possibly exacerbated by frigid weather she's quit the whole ornamental approach to being upon earth and has rediscovered her hunter gathering roots. Quite why cold weather has produced this response in her I really have no clue. And yet those who might claim that the hunter gathering life style invariably produces appalling personal habits, such as eating cheeseburgers in bed, should think again. The Girl Cat, who's beginning to look like a small woolly Saber Toothed Tiger, politely deposits her many and various hapless victims on the back step, where there's always a chance one or other of the proud primary caregivers might step on it.

It's the Kitten who's observed what I reckon is the more progressive attitude to cold weather. She doesn't like it, remains indoors, and to avoid any chance of frostbite insists upon being carried across frozen ground from the domicile to the Artists place of work, otherwise she gets terribly bored and roams the house in a far from endearing manner. And there's a chance that deep in her dark soul the Kitten has a yearning to follow a path her ancestors would look dimly upon, and I say "dark soul" because in her there are clear and worrying signs of what has to be a zoomorphic plagiarism. Can't tell you the number of times those indoors have had their attempts to make peace with the elements badly distressed by the Kitten playing what I guess is sort of feline ice hockey. The puck is usually a partial dissected frozen Vole sourced from the back step. The stick is a paw. The rink is the kitchen floor and the goal is somewhere under the refrigerator.