Saturday, January 15, 2022

Mr And Mrs White Goose: The End Of The Story?

Mr White Goose had been at the pond for a long as I can remember, and during lockdown he and his first wife, Mrs White Goose, became part of our lives. We regularly visited them on lockdown walks, and they got used to us. We got to know the Fishing Man, who was irritating because he wasn't supposed to fish there ('No Fishing', said the huge notice on the wall at the back of the pond). The rich people's servants from the house that backed on to the pond used to sit on a bench and chat to the majestic feathery couple on warm summer evenings.

Then one day, disaster struck: Mrs White Goose was gone, and all that was left was a sad little pile of snowy feathers. The fox had been, and carried her off to a terrible destiny. Mr White Goose was distraught. He shouted and hissed, calling out for days. The Irritating Fisherman told us that she had been exhausted by laying eggs (which were also gobbled up by the hungry fox), and hadn't been able to escape.

About six months later, a new Mrs White Goose appeared. She had angel wing, which means that a wing fails to develop properly and sticks out sideways. This is what waterfowl suffer from when we humans feed them white bread: it's not a good diet for ducks and geese, let alone humans.

Mr White Goose gently courted Mrs White Goose 2. They sailed quietly through the water for a few days, socially distanced. They weren't sure. The nibbled grass together, and gradually became companions. Together, they bullied the ducks. Together, they shrieked at the horrid heron that hunched on the duck house staring them out. Together, they honked at us aggressively because they Don't Know How To Be Nice.

We got used to Mrs White Goose 2 and her oddly architectured wing.

Well, on Boxing Day me and the Offsprogs went for a walk. Over towards the pond, a large white pile lay lifeless on the side. 'Probably just plastic bags', swerved Offsprog Two. Alas, the next day I went up on my own. The carcass of Mrs White Goose 2 had been removed, and there was a pale drift of small feathers scattered on the ground.

The fox had been back, and with her poor wing she had been helpless. Mr White Goose called and called for her: it was heartbreaking.

And then one day, he too had gone. We think think that he has gone to a sanctuary. I hope he has, anyway. Now, there are some elegant Canada geese, who are safe to swish about on the water without being ordered to go away.

It's just not the same up there any more.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Little Heart-Shaped People from Venus


I Found My Lyrics Book

I found the lyrics book that I thought I'd thrown away. There are no lyrics in it. I am crestfallen by this. I had imagined perfect songs wending their way to the recycling plant, being burnt to ash and smoke, and reaching the heavens as a series of poetic atoms.

What a shame.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Hooray! A Proper Record In The Post

The Covid-ridden Barnet Post Office has erratic opening hours. It was closed for two days before Christmas, open for two hours one day, closed again for two days... you'd think they'd realise that wearing masks might stop them infecting each other. The maskless woman behind the counter looked really offended that I was standing two metres back from her when I posted a parcel the other day. For them there is no pandemic, just individual infections with a mystery illness. Again. And Again. And again.

So we receive very little post. Every so often, even at this stage in January, a couple of Christmas cards appear. Offsprog Two's beautiful felt stuffed facsimile of her beloved cat, made to console Offsprog One, never arrived: we just have the photo. I ordered Darlene Love's autobiography, also for Offsprog One. Alibris very generously refunded me. It's probably at the bottom of a compost-heap of Christmas presents that remain undelivered. 

This, however, arrived yesterday. What a triumph! I am so looking forward to listening to it. Maybe Subway Sect have their own postal service!

Primary School

My Primary School in Wylam was brutal. Teachers were allowed to hit us, and the punishment most commonly meted out to me was being held by the shoulders and shaken until my teeth rattled. This made me giggle with fear, so of course I got shaken even harder.

Little things made me happy, often colours. A girl whose hair was flaxen blonde (I'd never seen anyone like that before). A boy with an orange sweatshirt. There were curiosities. One little boy wore grey flannel shorts and a formal shirt, with what was obviously his father's tie. Every day the tie worked its way down through his shorts, and appeared with yellow and red pointed glee out of the bottom of them, flapping  joyously about his legs as he ran around the playground. 

Dyson Vaccuum Cleaners

Really. What crap they are. You have to sweep up after them, and have a special bent coat hanger to empty out the dust and fluff. 

Using it wrongly? I think not. 

I have been cleaning floors for many more woman hours than you, Mr Dyson, and if your squad of testers say these machines are OK, they are nothing but a bunch of sycophants!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022


Is there such a thing as hyper-zen? I've just driven a round trip from Barnet through Fulham, Battersea and Camberwell and back again, including a 30-minute traffic jam just to cross Camberwell Green.

Most of the route had a speed limit of 20 miles an hour, and at almost every traffic light it seemed there was a frantic young man in a small car revving his engine because he HAD TO GET AWAY FIRST. 


I sat behind the wheel, a placid lump, pootling along at twenty. 

Green light ahead? Accelerate to 25? Not me! Pootle, pootle, pootle. Wipers on, wipers off, drizzle, rain, nothing.

Glide around the corners, ease on the brakes. Slowly, I pass the Me-Firsters. They have rushed, revved, thrusted and hurried, but they are only a car in front of me. How did that happen?

I don't actually care, really, because I am hyper-zen. Slowly, I pull into my street, gently park and lock the car.

Stress. What is that?

Sociopaths Have Feelings Too!

I was astonished at one of the many Tory party scandals just before Christmas. They have been coming so thick and fast that I've lost track of them, and I'm sure you have too.

Anyway at this particular one in the series, Sajid Javid had been invited on to the BBC Breakfast show to talk (I think) about something else. But he was 'too upset', and declined to appear.

Now, apparently, senior executives at KPMG are 'upset' that the financial regulator has found them to have been at fault in the Carillion accounting scandal.

Why the poor little lambies!

Under those sharp dark grey suits and hiding behind those monstrous incomes and hills of cocaine, are tender-hearted wee babbies who feel pain just like the rest of us!


Thoughts Inspired By Dry January

I stopped drinking before I was 50. 
Booze is a great cushion, a great drug. 
It enters your life with an air of sophistication, guilt, daring, promise, and exits with shame and humiliation.
I stopped because I realised that it had halted my life (and that of others) in a very dark place, and that escaping from that and making changes that would protect people that I am responsible for, was more important than carrying on with a pretence that a situation that looked safe to outside observers, did not feel at all safe from the inside.
I caught myself drinking the dregs of some particularly delicious wine when I was tidying up alone after a party. 'What a terrible waste', I told myself. But halfway through it, I started wondering if there was a problem with what I was doing.
Very soon after that, I stopped completely. I learned how to surreptitiously tip a glass of wine down the sink, and I learned that it was better to accept an alcoholic drink and not drink it, than to try to explain what had changed. 
I have never been sure whether to categorise myself as an alcoholic. I sometimes yearn on a hot day for a Spanish beer with a slice of lime in the top. I like the taste of alcohol in stews and baked things. But the idea of re-learning how to drink wine escapes me, and the idea of changing my conscious thoughts by drinking alcohol has completely vanished.
I can never bring myself to moralise about this, because I know how much I loved getting pissed. Personally, I don't miss it, and I still enjoy the company of drinkers until they get to that point where they are so drunk that they repeat themselves over and over again: but that happens very rarely. 
In general, drinking company is convivial company.
I have met two recovering alcoholics who never completed the 12-step programme, and who pretend that they have. Alcohol makes sly people of us all. 
I could indeed by lying now, couldn't I?

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Buses In The Rain

If you travel by bus, especially on a rainy day, that's the way you get to know an area whether rural, town or city. Margaret Thatcher was famously disparaging about people who caught buses, but actually you come into contact with real people when you travel by public transport, and you come across even more real people if you travel off the beaten track. 

Buses are slow travel. There you will meet elders, schoolchildren, young mothers or fathers with toddlers and children in pushchairs, people with disabilities and their carers, all the people who are hidden away from mainstream advertising, and who are trodden on by rich men in tailored suits who think about money and cocaine all the time.

In some parts of London, the upstairs back-of-the-bus is a youth club. Groups of teenagers with school bus passes can spend a whole evening travelling around the route listening to music that plays from their phones and singing along at the tops of their voices. I wonder how much crime is averted because of this?

You hand your fate over to the traffic. You can't rush a bus: road rage is futile. Your driver sets the mood, and you say thank you when you disembark. Thank you, public transport.


I'd almost forgotten. Through a paned window at Capel Manor, there was a wall with life-size models of horses heads hanging on it with bridles draped on them. There were saddles, too. There was something Gormenghast about it all. It must have been a teaching tack room, I think, and it's begging to be drawn.

Fact: when we were little, McDad used to take us to the Hancock Museum in Newcastle. There was a wall of stuffed animal heads, and the first time we went there with him, he told us that on the wall in the next room we would see the rest of their bodies.

Friday, January 07, 2022

The Prime Minister Of The United Kingdom

What do we have? A man like that children's game where you blow up a balloon and let it go. It shoots rapidly around the four corners of the room, up and down, diagonally, farting as it goes, barging into things and knocking them off the shelves at random, and ending up an empty and useless sac on the floor.

What do we need? A statesperson, able to imagine the future, able to manage money and social issues including health, culture and education. Someone with dignity, and some good in their soul.

Is despair too strong a word for it?

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Capel Manor On A Sunny January Afternoon

It's a pain in the bum having to take a malfunctioning laptop across London to be fixed, but it's marking season and I have a pile of work to do. The computer said 'no' and I needed an engineer to persuade it otherwise.
When I got home, the resident poorly person reminded me that we had a plan to visit Capel Manor Gardens in Enfield, and it was such a lovely sunny day the thought was irresistible. We spent an hour marvelling at the variety of plants, shrubs and trees, which look just as good in winter as they surely will in spring and beyond. It's an agricultural college and I peered through a window through which you could see plaster horses heads poking out of the walls, draped in bridles and other horsy accoutrements. There is a small zoo featuring a white crow, and two Scottish wildcats who are there as part of a conservation programme. They were hungry, and were glaring at anything they thought might be worth hunting. One of them emitted some very deep 'miaows'. There is a small maze, and we managed to get to the viewing platform and back without crying- or cheating, as we did in Kielder Forest when we went with Kenji and Till.
What a lovely place. I'm looking forward to going back in spring.

Two chaps winter gardening; an avenue of pleached limes; a small alpine house; a triangular flowerbed, one of three; scented witch hazel; white barked birch; giant thistles.