Corinna Downes spent much of her life as a headmaster's secretary and full time mother, bringing up her two daughters. Then she met the director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, and her world was never the same again.
I am certain there are plenty of you out there who have noticed the odd shoe, or glove, by the side of the road, be it a motorway, A-road or some little one-track lane that takes you on a meandering (and sometimes nail-biting, white-knuckle) trip down some long ago-tarmacadammed ancient road. I am equally certain that of those of you who have noticed, there a quite a few who have wondered...why just one? For this rather odd exercise I am going to leave out the question of gloves. In most cases these have been those large, rubber things that workmen wear so in some respects a single glove may be explained - road workers leaving them behind for example.
I shall concentrate on footwear, but must emphasise that they are not always shoes; they are sometimes walking boots, Wellingtons, trainers, or sandals (I have not yet seen slippers I must admit, but probably just as well as that would really throw a whole new spanner into the works).
And are they all left shoes? I have never done an in-depth survey on such things. It would make sense in a way if one takes into account that they could have been tossed from the passenger side of the vehicle - presuming that said owner was in the passenger seat. I can only hope that the driver would not contemplate removing a shoe and tossing it out of the window in a wide lob over the roof, or perhaps passing it to someone in the passenger seat, or even just tossing it out of the passenger door window while driving at high speed down the motorway.
Or are these items of clothing part of some initiation exercise? Will they become part of some future urban myth?
Perhaps the owners were abductees of some UFO that sent down a tractor beam and sucked them up into the bowels of the mothership? But why leave one shoe? An untied lace, thus rendering the footwear a tad loose, and - hence - maybe resulting in it escaping from its owner's abduction? Or perhaps they were from cases of spontaneous combustion - nah that can't be it. People don't spontaneously combust on motorway verges as a regular rule.
Or is it simply that one person accidently (but how?) did it, then someone else copied just because they could, and over the years since then others have perpetuated the nonsense just for the sake of making everyone else think something weird is going on?
Just remember, remember, please don't pick an effigy of Guy Fawkes to burn .... there are currently plenty of other characters concerned with the Palace of Westminster that would do, in fact a whole darn gaggle of them, most of whom are traitors to our country and her people. Come back my friend and finish the job.......
A flash of lightning outlined the shape of a car as it made its way
down the lane, its occupant carefully steering it through the torrential
downpour. The driver sat forward in his seat as much as he could so that
he could see out of the windscreen. The single wiper swept valiantly back
and forth as it desperately tried to clear away the streams of water that
poured down the slippery pane of glass.
The driver loved his old
Austin Ruby, but admitted that she had not been the best choice of automobile
to take out in the middle of a night such as this. Built in 1937, he had
found her listed in a used car advert in the local paper a year ago, and had
had to buy her. Her bodywork was in excellent condition, having been
lovingly cared for, after all she had only had the one owner and had been
garaged since she had been purchased. He had had no choice but to take
her out on this night, as his normal everyday car was in the garage in town to
get its brake pads replaced.
He had groaned inwardly when
he had received the ‘phone call from Mrs Perks, the sound of her urgent voice
down the earpiece giving him no choice but to haul himself from the comfort of
his warm sheets and to don the clothes that lay across the back of the bedroom
chair. Her husband had died in mysterious circumstances six months
earlier, his half-eaten, twisted body found face down in a waterlogged ditch
with his bicycle a few feet away. It had been first thought that he had
been a hit and run victim, and that the local wildlife had predated upon his
body. However, investigations from the gallant men in blue had revealed no tyre
marks upon the road that would have hinted of a sudden brake stop, no revealing
paintwork upon the two-wheeled method of transport and no obvious signs on poor
Mr Perks’ body. He had had to certify him dead at the scene, and
had known deep down that something did not quite fit, but he had never been
able to fathom quite what was wrong. The coroner had filed a report of
accidental death, with the cause of the unfortunate man’s demise put down to a
mistake in the steering of the bicycle.
After all his body had been found in a ditch on a bend in the road, and
he had been reported as missing on a night rather like the one the man was
guiding his car through on this particular night. So, life in the sleepy village of
Morcambe-on-the-Moor had settled back to its usual quiet normality.
The car crossed the boundary
of the village and passed the church on its right, St Egbert’s; an Anglo
Saxon building encircled by row upon row of crooked, moss-covered, and mainly
broken, gravestones and cracked tombs. Another lightning flash and
the side of the defiant structure lit up eerily to reveal its stonework with a
brief view of several gargoyles and grotesques. Their contorting faces
moved as if made of flesh rather than stone, and they seemed to twitch and
mouth obscenities at each other and to whomever else might happen to notice
them. However, there was only one other in
the vicinity so to do, and he was too busy watching the road ahead to
He shuddered, more with cold
than anything else. These old cars had no heating, and although he was
wrapped in overcoat, hat, scarf and gloves, the cold was penetrating through
the cloth. He noticed a few lights glowing through the windows in the
vicarage next to the church, signalling that at least someone else was burning
the midnight oil, and he mused that it was probably the vicar desperately
trying to finish his sermon for tomorrow’s Sunday service. He briefly
envisaged the man poring over his paper, pen in one hand, glass of brandy in
the other and smiled cynically to himself at the image.
Something ran out in front of
the car and he pressed his foot on the brake, causing the Austin to come to a
sudden, jerking halt. ‘A rabbit,’
he thought to himself. ‘But surely that was too big for a rabbit?’ he
continued the conversation in his mind. The engine chugged away causing
the chassis of the car to gently bounce, as the wiper continued to sweep back
to and fro, its hinge looking as if it would break in two at any moment.
‘Most likely a hare, much too big for a rabbit,’ he surmised. He was not
good on animals. Human bodies were his thing. Ask him a question
about the adrenal glands and their respective problems, and he could talk for
hours (well perhaps not hours but he could keep an audience reasonably interested
for 20 minutes or so). But challenge him
on the difference between rabbits and hares and he was completely lost, other
than to say that one had bigger ears and boxed with its prospective mating
usurpers in the spring.
He glanced at the passenger
seat and the Gladstone bag that sat there, its leather slightly worn at the
corners, the gleam from its dark leather long faded with the years.
It had been his father’s, andhisfather’s before him and by carrying on
the medical tradition in the family, he was happy and felt privileged to be
able to utilise it now. They would be proud of him he had thought, as he
had packed it for the first time after he graduated from medical school back in
1952. That was four years ago, and now he was practising in the small
town of Netherwitch, about five miles from Morcambe-on-the-Moor. As well
as Netherwitch, his medical services were sought from four villages in total,
which - oddly enough - were situated to the four corners of the
compass, Morcambe being to the west.
Another lightning flash, and
the road ahead lit up for a startling moment, showing the continual stream of
rain as it buffeted the road surface, forming puddles to the side of the
road. But it also brought with it the shape of something else. And
this time it could not possibly be described as a rabbit, or even a hare; it
was much too large to have been either.
He cleared off the condensation that had started to form on the glass of the
windscreen with his gloved hand. He leant further forward in his seat until the
tip of his nose touched the cold glass, to try to get a better look, but before he
could discern anything, the light afforded by the flash of lightning had gone,
leaving just pitch black ahead of him on either side of the beam of the
pale light emanating from his headlights. ‘I must be seeing things,’ he
muttered to himself. He would never have admitted it to any of his mates,
but this journey was beginning to scare the shit out of him.
Something was wrong ... eerily wrong, just
as it had been when he had been called out to sign the death certificate for
He had not been back to the
village until now. It consisted of only around twenty occupied houses,
the others had been left to decay, and those that were left seemed to be
inhabited by slightly unusual people. As prospective patients they seemed
either to be as healthy as oxen, or grinned and bared any aches or
pains, or just did not wish to travel to Netherwitch to seek out help, for he
rarely had to treat anyone from Morcambe-on-the-Moor.
Mrs Perks was just one of a
handful who had visited his surgery, and she was – as he had put it when
handing his secretary her notes to file one day – a rather odd kettle of fish,
eccentric to say the least. Susan, his secretary, had given him a knowing
nod as she had taken the notes, and had intimated in her reply that Mrs Perks
was not as odd as some of the people who lived in Morcambe-on-the-Moor.
He had quizzed her on this, but in response she would only suggest that he took
the time to visit the local library and look up the village’s history. He
had not. It was not that he was too busy; he wasn’t. He had
quite simply forgotten so to do.
‘Alright, Jack my old son,
let’s get moving,’ he said to himself. ‘There was nothing there just now, it was just shapes formed by the light
and the rain. Pull yourself together, Mrs Perks is waiting for me, so no
time to waste.’ And he put his foot on the clutch, changed from neutral
to first gear and gently pushed his foot on the accelerator, vacating the
clutch as he so did. The car wobbled into forward motion and soon he was
on his way again.
There were no lights in the
village, and everybody – apart from him, Mrs Perks and perhaps the vicar –
seemed to be asleep. Onwards he drove until he saw ahead, on what he
could only describe as a natural roundabout - it being just a largish mound of
grass covered earth - a venerable old oak tree. His headlights
caught the shape of the gnarled indentations and knots on the dark bole. He tried,
in vain, to not acknowledge his ideas that he could see faces staring out at
him from the bark. He could see that it
had clearly set its roots down many decades before, and he would have
discovered - had he not forgotten to read about the village in the library
archives - that it was, in fact, reputed to be at least as old as the
church. It had stood on its solitary mound since the roads had been
laid with tarmac, its continued existence owed to the villagers of the time
expressing their dismay at the thought of one of their oldest ‘inhabitants’
being ripped from its earthy home.
In each direction there was
darkness, but he knew that he had to turn right on to Old Hag Lane where he
would eventually find Mrs Perks’ cottage; she had told him as much in her
hurried ‘phone call. As he manoeuvred the vehicle around the oaken
roundabout, the squeaking sound of the wiper blade on his windscreen alerted
him to the fact that the rain had stopped. And, he mused, remarkably suddenly
considering its ferocity over the last few hours. It had been raining
most of the evening, and had been hard at it when he had settled himself
under his blanket three hours before setting off on this journey. The
sharp suddenness in its abatement just added to his uneasiness, but – again - as
to why he knew not. All he knew was that the hairs on the back of his
neck were tingling.
‘This village gives me the
bloody creeps,’ he muttered as he changed gears clumsily, causing the little
car’s engine to rev angrily in protest.
He inched the car slowly down
Old Hag Lane, occasionally peering into the tiny rear view mirror. As the
Austin trundled along, the world behind him was enveloped into darkness and
there was no real reason for him to keep checking the road behind him; there
was no-one else out on the roads at this time of night. Or was
there? He turned his gaze back to the road ahead, but something caught
his eye and he immediately looked back through the mirror again. He could
have sworn he saw a shadowy shape lolloping alongside the hedgerow on the
nearside of the vehicle. The tiny red lights at the back of his car
seemed to pick out something pale, almost human in shape. He checked both rear
view mirrors quickly in succession, but this time could see
nothing. WherewasMrs Perks’ house? ‘Jeez,’ he
said aloud. ‘What the hell is going on in this place?’
He had expected the
comforting sight of lights to greet him at any moment, but when he eventually
stopped the car outside Rose Cottage, he was slightly confused to see the
building shrouded in darkness. There was not even one light illuminating
the cobbled path to the front door porch. ‘That’s weird,’ he thought to
himself. He flicked on his torch to check the address on Mrs Perks’
patient file....Rose Cottage.
He looked up from the file just
as a shape landed on the bonnet of the car with a thud. He jumped in his seat
and an overwhelming feeling of fear swept over him. ‘What the.....’ he
said aloud. The yellowy light from his torch caught a shape in its
beam and his heart raced. He laughed manically and slumped back in his
seat when he saw the large, rather portly, ginger cat looking back at
him, its green eyes glaring in the light. 'A cat ... a bloody cat. That
is all it is, Jack,' he said aloud. After sitting for a few moments while
his heart rate settled back to near normal, he placed Mrs Perks’ notes into the
Gladstone bag, grabbed it, and opened the door of the car. ‘The quicker I
can get this over with, the quicker I can get back to my bed,’ he
thought. Closing and locking the door, he shone his torch at the garden
gate and opened it slowly. He picked his way carefully over the uneven
cobbles and reached the front door.
He knocked. No
He knocked again, this time
with more urgency. “It’s me, Mrs Perks. Dr. Lantern,” he called
out. At last a light flicked on inside the cottage and a few moments later the
“Ah...Mrs Perks. You telephoned?
You have a problem?” he said peering round the door at the woman.
“Evenin’ doctor,” replied the
tiny, grey-haired old woman in front of him. “Telephoned? Me?
There be nowt wrong with me. That would not have been me doctor, who
‘phoned you. What you doin’ out on a night like this’n? You lost?”
‘No, Mrs Perks. I am not
lost. You telephoned me...’ replied Jack somewhat annoyed and unnerved at
the same time.
‘I be tellin’ you I didn’t
..... I ain’t got no telephone,’ replied Mrs Perks. ‘But come on in,
doctor and I can make you a nice cup of tea if you like,’ she continued.
‘And you can have a piece of seed cake too if you would care to.’
She opened the door wider and
he stepped in, removing his hat as he did so. His eyes quickly took in
every detail of the tiny hallway ... no telephone. She led him into the
sitting room ... no telephone.
“You sit yourself down there,
doctor. I’ll put kettle on,” said Mrs Perks, and she disappeared back
into hallway. All his instincts were telling him to leave, but Jack
really could do with a cup of tea before setting off home again. He
removed his gloves, scarf and overcoat and looked at his watch .... 2.31
am. He wondered if there was any way that he could engage this
woman in conversation for the next few hours, at least until dawn so he could
drive back home in the comfort of daylight. Someone had obviously played some
kind of trick on him this evening and he was as angry as hell, but there was
nothing whatsoever that he could do about it now. But to trick the old
woman in such a way seemed callous, so he decided that he would just see what
Mrs Perks came back in with a
trolley on wheels, full to the brim with teapot, cups and saucers, plates,
small milk jug, sugar bowl, spoon and knives, with a plate adorned with a large
round seed cake taking pride of place on the bottom shelf. The trolley
clattered as she pushed it across the carpet. He noticed that the cake
had already had one sizeable slice removed from it.
“I am sorry to have awoken
you, Mrs Perks. It would seem that somebody thought it would be funny to
have me driving around in the middle of the night. I am sorry that you
have been involved in their prank.”
“That be no problem, doctor,”
Mrs Perks replied as she settled herself down in the armchair next to the
hearth. “Since Mr Perks passed on I don’t get many a visitor.”
Jack thought it odd that she
appeared so relaxed about being woken up in the middle of the night.
Perhaps she didn’t even realise what time it was? He put it down to the
unfortunate, and rather cruel, result of old age.
Mrs Perks poured out the tea
and handed him a cup and saucer. “Help yerself to milk and sugar, m’
dear,” she instructed softly.
Jack settled back in his
chair and sipped the hot beverage. Mrs. Perks handed him a plate with a
slice of cake neatly placed upon it and he thanked her. He took a
bite. The taste of the light, airy sponge on his taste buds seemed to
soothe away his anger. “This is delicious, Mrs Perks,” he said between
mouthfuls. She smiled.
“It was Mr Perks’ favourite,”
she announced. Her expression seemed to
have changed, only slightly, but Jack could discern what seemed to be a slight look of malice in
her eyes. “He had a slice that night he passed on,” she continued. Jack thought it an odd thing to remember
about the night of her husband’s passing, but again put it down to the ravages
He heard scratching at the
sitting room door. “It seems your cat wishes to come in,” he said, taking
another sip of tea.
“I don’t have a cat,” was the
reply. Her voice seemed miles away. The door slowly opened and Jack
saw, through clouded vision, several creatures creeping into the sitting room,
on all fours, just as those he thought he had seen in his rear view
mirror. He tried to move, but he had lost all feeling in his arms and
legs. The drugged seeds had done their work again.
‘I’m sorry doctor, but they
are hungry,’ were the last words he heard.
I found a slug the other day. Nothing new there, except that this was a rather large slug. And it was outside. Aren't they usually you may ask? Well, I have seen quite a few in the porch and there was one that had a penchant for slithering over the lid of my tea caddy a week or so back, but - at under half-an-inch in length - that was a wee bairn compared to this fat, juicy specimen with its frilly orange petticoat. Anyway, I took a picture, as one does. Any slug specialists out there?
I have to explain right at the beginning of today’s entry,
that the last of the above two questions will not be answered on this blog, but
I thought that it added a little spice to the heading, without blatantly shouting,
“ Roll up, roll up, hear all about it. Come
on in and be amazed, shocked or even beguiled by the saga of the wet shorts
incident in Tesco”. And I bet there are
a few of you who thought the wet shorts were something to do with the
hail. You see, that is why it would make
such good reading. They are completely unconnected, the story behind the shorts is so much more
interesting, but no.....I am not going
to stoop to the level of Daily Star
reporting, or – perhaps I should write – what I understand to be the level of Daily Star reporting, as I have never
actually read the waste of paper myself.
After five weeks of having her to stay, Jon and I took my
mum back to Rutland on Thursday, returning here to Devon last night
(Sunday). It was horrid having to take
her home and leave her yesterday, and we miss her, but she needed to get back
into some kind of routine at her own pace, and also not have to listen to the
peculiar music that has a habit of seeping under the door to the office on
occasion, as well as me talking to myself about nonsense most of the time. Jon had planned to be able to update blogs
etc., from his laptop using a dongle but unfortunately, the signal in the most
expensive county in England was worse than it is back here in Woolsery. After hours and hours of slow, almost
impossible, connections, Sunday’s updates were given up as a lost cause and it
was decided to use the free WiFi facilities at several motorway services on the
journey home instead. This meant that a couple of jaunts we had hoped to make
whilst in Rutland, and a visit to the Eleanor Cross at Geddington on the way
home were thwarted and postponed for a later date, as we needed to get to the
first services as soon as we could. Corley Services on the M6 was, therefore,
the first port of call on our way home.
So three hours later, and many blogs under his belt - and
after I had swallowed the contents of two grande cups of black Americano coffee
(which was probably not a prudent idea
as I developed a severe episode of hyper-twitchiness and had to eat an egg and
mayo sandwich to calm myself down) - we prepared to set off on the next leg of
our journey. That was until the heavens
opened up, and there fell to earth a torrent of pea-sized hailstones that were
really the last thing you would expect to appear during an end of July day. And lightning. And thunder. Thor was obviously not just moving around his
furniture, but must have been doing a spot of heavy-duty DIY as well. Perhaps
he had been defrosting his freezer and had swapped his hammer for a very large
electric drill. However, Thor is a mighty warrior god and I have
no wish to be rude about his home improvements, but I did feel sorry for the little girl who was running for cover with her
mother as the downpour gathered momentum. The poor child was crying her eyes
out as the icy beads stung her bare shoulders.
Anyway, Jon and I hobbled to the car and waited the storm
out before continuing down the M6 towards the junction for the M42. We stopped again at Sedgemoor Services on the
M5 so that Jon could finish his tasks on the computer, but this time I had a
pot of tea. From then on it was pretty
much plain sailing, apart from being followed at one point by not one, but two, police cars – in fact there seemed to be one loitering by every roundabout/lay-by
along one particular stretch of the road.
Conspiracy theories were rife amongst the both of us, but we eventually
lost the cortege of ‘jam sandwiches’, as they were once ‘affectionately’ known.
It also meant that my entries for Daily News were hampered,
so only one got posted yesterday, and for this oversight I apologise.
So it is now Monday; there are Daily News stories posted, and
some in hand, there is no food in the fridge, but the washing is on the
line. And more importantly, the shorts
are no longer wet.
Five years ago today, Jon and I tied the proverbial knot.
Happy Anniversary to my darling husband
I note that the traditional anniversary gift for five years is wood, updated to silverware for modern day. I think the traditional is much nicer. However, I did read somewhere that a travel anniversary gift idea is a cruise or airline tickets. Hmmm...sorry my dear, but a wooden spoon chasing tonight's dinner around the saucepan may have to suffice as the travel idea.
But more to the point, the sun is out, the church bells are ringing and all is well with the world.
I had a surprise on Friday night. My Marigolds and I were busy washing up afterdinner when the back door opened. ‘Hmmm’,I thought. ‘Who is visiting on such a rain-infested night such as this?’ Looking up from my toil, I was greeted with the sight of Olivia entering unto the kitchen – in a style not unlike that possessed of a character from EmilyBrontё’s novel. Blown by the wind and morethan a little dampened by the precipitation that fell in a deluge outside, shestopped and said, ‘Surprise!’ I probably gave the impression of a slightly be fuddled goldfish as I stood with my mouth agape, Marigold encased hands raised in astonishment. ‘I couldn’t come for your birthday, so I have come this weekend instead,’ she explained.
An hour or so later, I was making tea (the Marigolds, by theway, were by now hanging on the crockery drainer drying. I add this fact as they featured so heavilyin my first paragraph, and whilst totally irrelevant to this one, I felt Ineeded to give them a quick mention). The kettle had just boiled and I was pouring the water into the mugs,when - again – the door swung open andin flew another vision – this one slightly more drenched and windswept. But again the figure rushed across thethreshold in true Brontё fashion (or perhaps this time more like ElizabethBennett in Pride and Prejudice when it is said of her, by Caroline Bingham: ‘Why she [Elizabeth] must be scampering aboutthe country ........Her hair so untidy, so blousy! ’ after walking in the rain from Longbourneto Netherfield. I must add here, thatalthough this was said of Elizabeth in a more than slightly sarcastic way, Imean it not as such).
Shouting some profanity against the weather (I shall not putin writing what the profanity exactly was, as - let’s face it - the words thatemanated from the lips of this visitor have to be excused under such unseasonalcircumstances) the soggy vision of Shosh tossed down some bags before rushingback out into the night. More than a fewminutes elapsed. ‘Hmmm,’ I thought (yep ‘Hmmm’ twice in one night). ‘Wasthat the shape-shifter at work again, only this time with a battery of props?’I asked Olivia, whose hurried reply was that she hoped not. After a short while, Shosh burst into thekitchen once more, and my early birthday surprise was complete. Both girls had made plans to visit thisweekend as they could not be here for my birthday on Tuesday.
However, as you can see, as much as Pru loves to have Shoshand Olivia to visit, she was a bit miffed at not being able to sprawl out onthe sofa as she usually does, hence the look on her face in these two pictures aftershe had squeezed herself between them both last night. Talk about having a mard.
Thanks girls, for the lovely surprise and brilliant day outyesterday. I love you both and I count myself blessed to have two such wonderful daughters.
It is Saturday, and all is quiet on the south-western front. John and Dawn from Haunted Skies are due soon but in the meantime:
It is one of Graham’s weekly days off, so he is ensconced in his room upstairs. Meanwhile, Prudence is in the sitting room, stretched on the sofa, asleep and snoring, whilst both Jon and Richard are asleep in the chairs, heads lolling back, with mouths open thereby causing any wayward fly, spider - or other microscopic creature that may stroll by in an unsuspecting manner - to get sucked in with a – thankfully - quiet intake of breath.
The cats by the way are also asleep, one curled up on Jon’s lap and the other on the back of Richard’s chair.
My oh my, how the CFZ lives it up at the weekend.
It has left me wondering whether now is the time to start practising my new hobby. I reckon a quick stroll around the ground floor and up the stairs kitted out in my ‘one-man band’ (or is that ‘one-person band’ these days?) gear may go down really well with the other residents of Myrtle Cottage. Bring on that big bass drum.......
On the other hand, I guess I could just join everyone else and quietly snooze.
Whilst I ponder the imponderables, I shall leave you with a picture I took the other night of Mog (at the back) Mrs Miggins (in the middle)and Micawber (in the front). Cane toads are magnificent.
Well that has torn it .... my musical plans have been thwarted. Spider, the orange cat, has just woken everyone up by threatening to cough up a fur ball. Well, not quite true....he woke up Jon, who then woke up everyone else by shouting loudly about the cat threatening to cough up a fur ball.
Young Max has come to visit for a couple of days during which time, as usual, anything can happen. This, nine times out of ten, means that whilst I am pottering away proof-reading on the computer, or some such activity, I am subjected to the playing of an eclectic mix of weird and wonderful (or not so wonderful – to my ears at any rate) music from the sitting room. And last night was no exception. There is no accounting for taste and, like the oft-used saying ‘beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’, the choice of music was clearly ‘music to their ears’, but more a form of torture for mine. Ah well, all is almost solved by donning the headphones, if only to blot out the background noise - they are good, although not 100% successful - at that.
So while Jon and Master Blake shouted at each other across the room, rather than just turning the volume down slightly to enable them to chat in normal tones, I smiled with gritted teeth at the yelled schoolboy discussions; dialogue that would not have been out of place at the back of a classroom of twelve-year olds, with accompanying sniggers and guffaws.
In the early hours of this morning, the inevitable happened. They were both struck down with a bad case of....the munchies.
Jon persuaded Max that cheese would be a good idea. So off Max toddled to the kitchen. And then began a debate between him and me as to whether I would like some too. I have to admit that I folded in the end. After at least five minutes of me declining such provinder and Max not moving from the kitchen doorway until I changed my mind, I took the easy way out. I said ‘yes’, with a fair amount of fear and trepidation in my voice as to what I would end up with. After a fairly long period of time, and after quite a bit of clanking around in the kitchen, young Master Blake reappeared at the kitchen doorway to enquire as to whether I would like round or square.
Being as quick-witted as I am, I realised immediately that he was actually enquiring as to whether I wished square or round crackers to accompany this forced-meal of cheese. “Square, please,” came my reply.
I was not quite sure what reaction to display when a plate with two slices of Stilton, spread rather viciously and haphazardly with butter before being placed unceremoniously onto one side of a medium sized plate, was presented to me. No square cracker, not even a round one, was apparent. When this was pointed out, we went through the ‘square’ or ‘round’ discussion again. And off he toddled once more, to return with one square cracker adorned with two small slices of Brie. Then he disappeared upstairs to ‘pump ship’ as my ex-father-in-law used to say (a naval term I am led to believe). Some while passed and he didn’t return. I was beginning to wonder whether he had either fallen asleep in the bathroom or had just taken himself off to bed.
But no. He eventually re-appeared, only to run off with the snack that Jon had prepared for himself in the meantime.
It was at this point that I decided the best course of action for me to take was to let Prudence out for her bedtime sprinkle and retire for the night.
But did I eat the cheese and square cracker? As ever, I like to have photographic evidence of such occasions - just in case of any future blackmail opportunities you understand - so, after taking one look at the pictures below, what would you have done?
I am not sure how this small stray lump of Stilton
got separated from the rest - perhaps best not to ask.
As my mother would have said to the two recalcitrants in the sitting room ....."you should take more water with it next time." Wise words indeed.
cephalopods, in a storm - with ale.....well a squid to be more precise. However, I think it looks more like an octopus but .. hey let's not quibble. The video is fun. A tale of terrors that lurk beneath the waves, a story told that is a cross between the aforementioned jolly, yet pretty ineffectual, pirates of Gideon Defoe fame, and the inimitable Jack Sparrow of the High Seas.
So get ready ye sea legs me picaroons, and raise your tankards to the salty seas. And pray to the four winds that Davy Jones' locker be closed up real tight.
My mother can oft be heard to say, upon hearing
someone giggling, ‘he/she has spied a titter’s nest and is laughing at the
eggs’. I cannot find any definitive reference
to this, but have found several clues
(perhaps). For example, one of the several collective
nouns for magpies is a tittering.
often alluded to in phrases of this sort, for example, lion's share, dog's
breakfast, bird's-eye view etc. Of
course, this one is different, in that mares don't make nests - the allusion
was meant to be comically ironic. That humour is reflected in several of the
early citations of 'mare's nest' (or horse's nest, as some early references
have it), which refer directly to laughter, for example, John Fletcher's
Jacobean tragedy Bonduca, circa. 1613
Why dost thou
laugh? What Mares nest hast thou found?
The joke was
pushed further by Dr. [Jonathan] Swift, in the play Miscellanies, 1751:
What! Have you
found a mare's nest, and laugh at the eggs?”
Or is it perhaps just one of those old
lines quoted by someone such as Frankie Howerd?
His well-known “Oooh no missus, titter ye not” doesn’t really have any
connection as such, but somehow I can just hear him saying “Oooh missus, he has
spied a titter’s nest and is laughing at the eggs”.
So, is there anyone else out there who
has heard of this saying? And if so, do they know from whence it originated?
I came across this old photo taken – I think – on Redondo Pier, Southern California back in the late 1990s. It would appear that I am chatting to the seagull about the notice. Maybe we were wondering when we could expect to see the arrival of those oft-celebrated fish on bicycles. Perhaps after their annual ride around the pier?
We – that is Jon, Pru and I - had left Woolsery on a bright,
blue-skied, cotton-clouded, spring Sunday morning. Our mission? To visit a bird auction in Northam, visit
Northam Burrows to do a spot of wader-hunting, call in at Asda to purchase some
provender, and then on to Huddisford Woods to take Pru for a walk, while
visiting the frog spawn we had been noting for the past few weeks. We also wanted to take a look at some of the
well-used animal track-ways that we were keeping an eye on.
The auction was
being held in the village community centre, its main eye-catching feature
(apart from the birds of course) being a
huge, magnificently painted galleon in full sail adorning the back wall. Amongst the frightened budgies was an
assortment of equally worried-looking avian specimens. We left Pru in the car, obviously, but she
was oblivious to our departure, as she was too busy being briefly occupied in
announcing her presence to a rather splendid-looking female basset hound, whose
owner was taking her for a short perambulation around the grassy area of the
car park, whilst her husband (I assume) unloaded more feathered exhibits from the
boot of his car.
There seemed to be
an ongoing skyward battle between the sun and mist – every so often the former
seemed to win and shine through, its reign soon usurped by the grey miasma. By the time we got to Northam Burrows, the
latter had definitely won the day – the whole place was covered in an eerie
blanket of the stuff. It was creepy. It swirled around like a hundred wraiths,
wrapping itself around bushes and clumps of grass, leaving tiny droplets of
water against webs spun by conscientious spiders. There were a few golfers about, and a few
people walking their dogs, or just themselves, and a small amount of through
traffic, but the place seemed devoid of bird-life; the only other beings to be
seen being the various horses and ponies that wander around the burrows,
chomping their way industriously from one part of the place to the other. A wooden post provided one pony with an ideal
implement on which to scratch its chin contentedly, the beast’s moult in full
flow by the look of its rather dishevelled coat. From out of the mist came shapes - odd
distorted shapes – that once becoming closer showed themselves as nothing more
than a person wearing a stiff, water-proof jacket, its unbending angles no
longer taking on the appearance of something completely different and indefinable.
The tide was out, and whilst you could see the defined tracks of several birds
making their soggy way across the pale brown mudflats, we only saw one herring gull and two other gulls
of some description sitting on a rock, undefined due to their distance.
On the way back
across the burrows, trundling carefully and zig-zagging down the slightly
pot-holed road, we became virtual tail-end charlies at the end of a queue of
traffic.... a very odd situation to find oneself in such a weirdly desolate
place on a spring Sunday afternoon. It
was not until our car moved with the line, that we realised what the holdup
was. One of the horses, swathed in a
rather tatty looking brown blanket, had
taken it upon himself to stand stock still right in the middle of the already
narrow thoroughfare, forcing both lines of traffic to go alternately, and very cautiously, passed the animal. One wonders what was going through its mind
as it stood there – an equine traffic island – completely oblivious to the amusing
and not at all irritating disturbance it was causing. As we slowly moved passed it, I wound down the window
and it curiously turned its head and reached its soft muzzle in, a sad left eye
recognising the human form inside the metal box beside it. All this much to the consternation of Pru,
who was sitting in the boot space of the car where she has taken to watching where
she has been disappear into the distance behind her.
But the absence of
any interesting bird life was excitedly enlivened by the appearance, at the
last moment, of a little egret standing gracefully quite near the side of the
road. In my urgency to pull over I must
have confused the car behind somewhat as I accidentally indicated to go right
rather than left, but considering the other day I discovered that I had driven
all the way to Bideford in broad daylight with the main beam on, that was
nothing in comparison. Besides, we were only travelling at around 5 mph. Jon managed to snap a picture of the bird
just as it took flight, and it has become another name on the ever-growing list
of birds spotted out-and-about with Jon and his camera.
typical supermarket on the afternoon of the seventh day; nothing much to talk
about, nothing much to see, and not a
lot of cheapo, reduced-to-clear goods to be purchased either.
On then to
Huddisford Woods, where Pru could have her constitutional, and where we found that
‘our’ tadpoles had hatched and were wriggling around enthusiastically. Such bigheads, those pollywiggles. The recent wet weather had done wonders for
the track-ways....deer prints were clear as day and so were a few other large
prints; the wet earth making an excellent medium for indentation.
By the time we got
home, the mist had won the battle for supremacy over this part of Devon and
whilst the day had begun with a promise of warm weather on the horizon, the
late afternoon sent a completely different message. Don’t throw out the thermal underwear quite
......and is commonly referred to as the first word, and animal, in the English Dictionary. And, no children this is not the first in a series of animals from A-Z, whether in the form of a general list or one that includes all of my preferred creatures in an orderly, alphabetised manner.
Before I reveal my motives for including the clip that Jon sent to me, I know that I have posted a picture of a baby aardvark before on this blog, many moons ago. However, apart from anything else, I see no reason why I cannot immerse myself, and anyone else who happens to look at this, in a spot of self-indulgence now and again, hence another look at one of these fascinating little creatures.
OK - So my motives other than self-indulgence? Absolutely none whatsoever. I hold my hands up and declare my guilt. I simply have a soft spot for aardvarks, especially baby ones.
"Ethel the Aardvark was trotting down the lane one lovely summer day, trottety-trottety-trot, when she saw a nice Quantity-Surveyor..." (John Cleese, Graham Chapman)
Our old friend Lars Thomas has asked us to post this:
On friday, his wife Jeanett left home. She was only meant to be gone a few hours, but she has disappeared. There has been no contact from her. Lars has contacted the police, but asks: "Please, if you know, or have heard anything, let me know".
Named after a song from the greatest ever band from my youth, Genesis (with Peter Gabriel I must add), any eagle-eyed persons out there may notice a new link on my sidebar called Watcher of the Skies. It has recently come to my notice that there are an awful lot of stories concerning birds out there these days, so I mentioned this to Jon and - Heavens to Betsy - I have been given a spot on the blog for writing about such things, instead of including them in my regular Daily News efforts.
So if you are interested in such things, please do hop on over there to check it out once in a while.
I may well have added a video of this song before, but due to a lot of my photos, links etc., disappearing a while back due to that old chestnut, 'technical difficulties', I find this is a really good excuse - and opportunity - to indulge in a spot of 'down memory lane' with a tear in the eye for what once was. And as one comment by someone known as Hatmap on YouTube so rightly states: "Phil Collins in his proper role and place---in the background! Gabriel and Hackett rule! " Well....der......... right on mate.