Sunday, December 28

More tea, vicar!

Delighted to see The Artist and SarahB scrunching up the gravel over the festive season but encountered a problem when offering some liquid refreshment. I'd just uncorked a bottle of something suitably alcoholic when Sarah wondered whether she could have a cup of tea.

Now a cup of tea really should be quite a simple request. However, in my case it presented two immediate problems: one concerned the matter of tea itself and the other the process of making it. You see, I've managed to avoid making tea for anyone for approximately six years but, well, it is Christmas and they had come bearing gifts so I thought I should make an effort.

From a recent visit to my aged mother I remembered that she'd emptied the contents of a hamper someone had sent her into various bags and given one selection to me in a kind of reverse interpretation of Help The Needy. In that bag I had spotted a packet of tea. I extricated that and was about to fish out a bag when I realised that this was actual tea rather than tea in a tea bag with string and stuff.

So now I needed a tea strainer and a tea pot. A sieve might serve as a substitute for the former but the latter might need some more thought. I definitely did have a tea pot. But where? Most of the cardboard boxes I have been living out of have disintegrated over the years and contents decanted into odd drawers, cupboards or longer lasting boxes and I did have a faint recollection of a tea pot being one of the objects I put somewhere and thinking at the time that that was a silly place to put a tea pot. Now, a kitchen cupboard would have been the obvious first place to look had I been anything approaching normal but as I'm not I looked in a broom cupboard and there, to my delight and some relief as the process was taking some time, was a nice comfortable-looking brown china affair.

I dusted that off and also blew the top layer of dust off some sugar. Swilled some hot water around and disposed of anything that shouldn't have been in a tea pot and was able to create a pretty passable cuppa or two without as much ado as I'd feared.

So now I needn't hide should the vicar pass by.

Wednesday, December 10

Astcote, that's ASTCOTE, Northamptonshire

If you search for Astcote the only results that come up for this blog are two related to The Astcote Arms so it looks as though I need to mention the village in post titles to get noticed. Hopefully this will appear on Google page 1 after a while and if you've arrived that way then click the big button above to go to the beginning.

Sunday, December 7

Those cards

All those people with birthdays late in the year. Most inconsiderate! I mean, as if we haven't got enough to do running around wondering what to do with Grandma for Christmas. So last minute cards have been the order of the day recently and the theme of ridiculous story + kids' writing seems to have worked surprsingly well. So much so that, by popular request, links to these are now available on-line.

Sunday, November 23

Shadow of Elvis

Moonlight shadow of Elvis visiting the village?
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Sunday, November 2

The villager's excuse competition winner

Not to be confused with the play which has a different apostrophe, there was a competition held this evening to determine who could come up with the most original excuse for leaving the 781st meeting of the Paddock Party Committee at Sue's Chocolate Emporium prior to the supply of alcoholic beverage drying up.

SarahB's pronouncement that she was leaving to get some more wine was deemed ineligible but was agreed to have been the most likely to be genuine.

The winner by a considerable margin was Steve D who announced in a particularly loud and clear manner, bearing in mind the tendency of words to slur in direct proportion to the number of glasses of wine consumed:

"I need to go so that I can finish oiling my worktop".

The judges decision is final and only correspondence enclosing used fivers will be entered into.

The Villagers' Excuse

There will be a performance of a new play called The Villagers' Excuse coming to a venue with a menu near you soon. For those who may have missed the practice reading at Sue's Chocolate Emporium this evening, the text is now available on-line at this link.

Friday, October 31

The Italian job

It's not often you get asked for directions to Heathrow in the local supermarket car park. A couple of guys had spent a while parking next to me in the narrow space I'd left becuase I keep forgetting that I'm not driving a fat cat these days. Feeling a bit sorry for them I told them about the A5 and hoped they wouldn't fall asleep while stuck in Dunstable.
"I am Italian fashion designer!" excalimed the older of the two guys in the car. "Thank you for helping," he continued in an appropriate accent.
"No problem" I replied, resisting the urge to put an o on the end of every word that hadn't already got one.
"You like Italian clothes?" he asked.
"Of course," I said, wondering what he must make of the dreadfully old-fashioned English stuff I was wearing and hoping he didn't spot the two ASDA £6 jumpers I'd bought earlier on the back seat.
"Let me make you a present." he said, getting out of the car.
"A present?" Now I had spent quite a while drawing maps and explaining the horrors of Hockliffe and how to use the bus lanes to nip past queues on the way and it was freezing cold but the generosity seemed a little over the top. Still, a sample or two I wouldn't say no to.
"I just come from exhibition," he went on, "you can have something from me."
From the back seat he took out a box full of branded shirts which looked very nice. He passed me the box.
"They're nice." I confirmed, thinking that, whilst a bit odd, I would be happy to take them. "Just don't ask me for any money 'cos I haven't got much on me."
Then he produced a beautiful Armani dark pin-stripe suit. I nodded approvingly but doubted it would be my size. That was followed by two leather jackets, heavy, seemingly again top quality stuff which he urged me to feel. While I was feeling the jackets he got a big blue bag and bundled all the jackets, shirts and more things in, took the suit off my hands and put that in too, then passed me the lot.
"All I want is to buy a gift for my son . . ." he began.
I'd kinda guessed some time earlier that this was the classic 'quick sale' I'd heard of but wasn't terribly bothered. I reckoned I was safe and knew I hadn't much cash and he was a cheery, pleasant fellow. I was intrigued to know what figure he'd come up with.
"This suit - it sell for £600. How much do you think these jackets in the store?"
"I guessed around £180"
He seemed quite insulted. "No! these top quality leather. They £500 each!"
So I was holding a bag full of about £2000 worth of goods. Fine, I thought. Now what?
"Just give to me £250 for all!" he suggests. There, the cash line at last.
As it happened I am in serious need of some new clothes and had he produced a pair of size nine shoes I would probably have done a deal. But I know the trouble I have getting trousers to fit and even if the jacket were the right size, which it appeared to be, I just knew the trousers would be useless and probably way too big for even Penny or Katrina to adjust. So, not being a fan of leathario coatios, there wasn't much going for him.
I shook my head and said I didn't have that much cash.
"English people don't carry wads of cash." I proclaimed, trying not to smile at Harry Enfield images flashing across my brain. 
"How much you have?"
I'm smart enough to know not to get a wallet out as he'd see the credit cards.
"£80" I guessed
"You can get cash from the machine?" he suggested.
"No. I don't have the card." I lied. "All I have is £80." I hoped that I did actually have that much in case he did agree to give me something for that sum. As long as it wasn't the shirts. They weren't worth £80 to me. I really didn't want to risk the suit but I'd have taken some shoes and the jackets for that.
He took the bag and contents back, reluctantly, and shook my hand. I felt like asking where my present was, being in quite good humour still. He got back into the car after some pleasantries and they were about drive off when I realised I'd lost my car keys.
Without a spare set for this car I didn't actually panic but all sorts of thoughts were rapidly running through my mind now. I had spent a lot of the negotiation time next to some thick bushes in the car park border and that would have been the most likely place they'd have gone. Finding anything in there would be a nightmare. Could he have taken them off me in the banter and exchange of clothes? Was that their aim in the first place? Was anyone around to help? A witness. Anyone?
I put my hand up to stop them leaving. They stopped. Relief number one. I thought quickly. Extremely quickly now I think about it. Amazingly so, in fact.
"I seem to have lost my keys." I said. "If I can get back in my car I may find some more money for you."
It worked. The older man got out and started to look around. I flapped at my pockets. Looking for someone to help if needed I spotted a man on the other side of my car.
"Hello." I said, a bit oddly, hoping to get him involved. Then I realised it was the other chap who had got out to help search.
Now, if they really wanted my keys they'd drive off. They really aren't genuinely on their way to Heathrow and now just being helpful. Either they see a chance of getting a sale after all or desperately need me to find my keys to prevent me making a bit of a scene if they go off. I would be bound to report them and spoil any future sales chances to another unsuspecting bloke in a car park somewhere else. Whichever, they did seem to be genuinely surprised and were helping to look for them. I reckoned it was the latter.
The older one got out the big bag and opened it.
"Look! There - at the bottom!"
Sure enough, there they were, under the suit at the bottom of the bag. Boy, was I relieved! I even quite wanted to buy something but they didn't seem too bothered and left to look for another.
I still think he found them a little quicker than I would have expected and quite how he could see them under the jacket makes me wonder a bit. I checked my other pockets for wallet, phone etc. and even checked my wristwatch was still there.
They went and I went shopping, feeling slightly strange but very, very, very relieved.
I'm not a very religious chap but I did say a big thank you to either the alien or the bloke with the white robe and big beard. If the Italians had innocently driven off with my keys I would have had huge problems. Maybe next time I'll buy the jacket. And a spare key would be good.

Friday, October 17

Twinned with The Astcote Arms

Landlord, Professor Rufus P. Pinckard III  pours the inaugural drink (Blue Nun vintage 1974) as Cold Higham's only public house opens its doors. The older gentleman on the right is none other than The Honorable Samuel Pinckard (no relation, honest) Lord Mayor of Kingsthorpe (also twinned with Cold Higham) who performed the opening ceremony for us. The smaller old gentleman front and centre was a ruffian who had to be ejected from the premises for smoking suspicious substances and once reading the Jewish Chronicle upside down. The lady in the middle is Dame Nellie D'Ormouse the only woman in Britain who can sleep standing up and whilst keeping her dentures in.

Doug is welcome to visit anytime to sample the fine ales on offer. (If we can find the key.)

Sunday, September 21

Ladies of the night?

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Interesting range of alcohol

Spotted amongst snaps from a recent Paddock Party Committee meeting.
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Another dragon fly drops in

I suppose that one day something normal will happen in the village.
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"You mean you can play this game without a computer?"
"Uh huh"
"So how does it work?"
"You try and hit my conker with your conker and I try and hit yours with mine"
"So how do you get to the next level?"
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More hotel freebies

This is the latest free gift from the mystery traveller. York postmark but Katie, who was in York at the time, is either innocent or a better actress than I give her credit for. So no idea still. Odd. Normally I get some sort of clue by now. As you'll see, this could expensive if I have to start paying for the 'gifts'! I'm wondering what else may be available in hotel rooms that might come my way in future. I mean they don't have to fit in those DL envelopes as they have the labels which could be glued on to a package for something larger.
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Monday, September 8


Scenes from Saturday night in the village when the High Street turned into a river and very nearly got into Maggie's front door but the flow was eventually directed into the appropriately named water meadow. A close call, though.
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Sunday, August 31

Total eclipse

That's it. Back to earth Monday after a nice time visiting other planets for the last few weeks. Return marked in suitably fitting manner by glimpses of the dark side of the moon and a total eclipse during an impromptu party last night.

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Saturday, August 30

Back to school

Finally got those pens and pencils tidied up. Now, where can I hide them?
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Monday, August 25

There are 900 pens and pencils in my boot

Bryony collects stationery. I shouldn't complain because it's probably more sociably acceptable than my collection of stamps at the age of 12. But I did manage to put my items in albums, and there was some order about them in that what came in sets tended to stay in sets. And they were all more or less in lines. After the 12th consecutive request for a new pencil case in what seems like the same number of days since she'd had one, and even being quite taken myself at the idea of 12 pens for 34p in Tescos resulting in my donating several packets to the cause, I did begin to wonder where they all went. I mean she had these bulging pencil cases but several years' worth of easy-to-wrap presents never seemed to see the light of day again. Now I know she writes a lot, and I mean a lot, but most of that's on MSN these days which doesn't need anything inky or sparkly. So where did they all go? Under the bed, in drawers, on top of the wardrobe, in fact anywhere that had not been previously occupied in her room. If she hadn't started thinking about clothes and needed space for what I hope won't prove a similarly vast collection then they may well still be there.

While she's away on holiday I thought I'd be kind and sort them all out for her. Well, that was sometime in July. Here I am now, with single digit numbers of days until I return to nine-to-fivery, with one massive box of pens, pencils, crayons, gel pens, highlighters, felt tips, brush tips and metallic shades. I feel she should apologise to IKEA. There must have been 20 of their small pencils. The rest, though, someone has bought for her and are mostly working so I've done the first bit - sorting them into types. Now the fun starts as I try to make up the sets again. If it's sunny tomorrow that's where I'll be, on the yellow chair with neat little bundles and several cups of coffee, quite content.

I can't imagine where she got that trait from . . .
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Thursday, August 21

On the new 'Prisoner' film set

Never actually shown in the 1960s series, presumably because he was only 2 then, Number 7 was spotted recently on location.
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Saturday, August 16

Paddock Party 5

The first guests arrive and head straight for the drink!

Tuesday, August 12

More free hotel fun

A couple of new additions arrived recently. Love the coffee! Interesting to have a change of location too. Postmarks on the envelopes this time: Birmingham and Oxford. Seems like the sender's travels do take them away sometimes from 3* hotels. Sorry, I've just checked and Scia on martin looks rather smart, a 4* near Milan.

Unusual dragonfly

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Tuesday, July 15

Only the crumbliest flakiest chocolate

There and back to see how far it is

I shall have to eat a lot to add some padding to my backside as the seats in this temporary replacement for the Jaguar leave a lot to be desired. That shouldn't be a problem with a nice long break now during which I can laze around or visit interesting places with nice menus or views and preferably both. The big cat had to go as fuel was costing me £600 a month and this BMW has halved that. Bought it from a nice chap at work who was the type that polished the wheel nuts every Sunday and I've just discovered that he had the 2.5litre engine tuned to produce 220bhp which might explain why I'm having trouble with speed cameras.

Just been flashed by one that I pass every flaming day which is really annoying. An ambulance had just zoomed passed me at the same spot and I'm sure there was only one flash but I don't think there's much point arguing.

Still looking for something a bit more interesting but this'll do for a while. Might even be able to afford a trip to Fort William this summer.

Monday, July 14

Duffy performs "Cry to me"

This isn't on her album but a really good version of the classic.

Tuesday, July 1

Bryony meets the Great Crested Newt

This little fellow appeared in amongst some weeds. My mum's garden is rapidly turning into a nature reserve.

Sunday, June 29

Minutes of the 724th meeting of the Paddock Party Committee

Held at Ascote Central Station on 27 June at the kind invitation of Stationmaster Steve and the Understanding Sarah, accompanied by vast quantities of cheese and wine but members were anxious to point out that this was not the Cheese & Wine of yesteryear and there were no pineapple cubes on sticks in sight.


The usual suspects with the exception of Sue who was wondering where all the water had gone in Cyprus.

Minutes of the previous meeting

Few members appeared to have read these and even fewer with any degree of thoroughness but that's life and it was agreed that the Show must go on anyway.

Matters arising

Basically all the matters arose as a result of even those who had read them thoroughly having since forgotten what they were supposed to do with the notable exception of Maggie who was permitted to sit back with a smug expression and tuck into Penny's loaves while they were still warm.


Graeme confirmed that he had ordered the pig and that we'd be catering for 140-150. It was agreed that there would be no chicken course available. There was some concern that friends of a Jewish persuasion may be a little stuck for choice when confronted by a large hog on a Saturday and the Committee agreed to think of ways to alleviate the situation. Penny was quite enthusiastic about this and hoped that the saladeers may get the job of checking the likely religion of male attendees where appropriate.
Apart from this possible additional role, the Saladeers would perform as on previous occasions, led by the Chief Saladeer in all her glory who would also circulate a list of tasks so that the saladeers would not find themselves creating seventeen large bowls of potato salad.
The formation of a Tub Committee was suggested and there was a further idea that we might actually invite the freezers to the party for a purpose that the Minutes Secretary rather seems to have missed, possibly due to being heavily thrown by wind at the time.
There was, however, a request that sensible size tumblers be acquired for wine this year. SarahB had found it rather tiresome to have to refill them so often and was of the view that one good hearty slug of the old Plonko Bianco on arrival should both add to the merriment and, on two grounds, lessen the frequency of their return.


Graeme agreed to dust off the bales and took great lengths to reassure the committee that most rodents and beasts currently resident amongst them will have scattered to pastures new by the time any buttocks approach the straw.

Maggie would ask Farmer Evans to provide a few more too.

Cath should be invited to the next meeting as we need to check her sockets will be in good shape for the occasion.

The Minutes Secretary will produce appropriate signs along similar lines to previous years. He intended to commence work on these rather earlier than 6pm on the day as was the unfortunate case last year, resulting in several spelling errors and a misleading Toilet sign that, whilst providing the lady at No22 with a constant flow of male guests during the evening, should have pointed in a different direction, as, perhaps, some of the male guests might have done too.


Adrian's samples were approved and congratulations extended on yet another marvellous work of art and top hole printing. An alternative offering just bearing the word Ticket was rejected but the Committee were keen to express that it had some merit, just not enough.

Adrian would get the old John Bull outfit out and knock off 200, circulating them to the appropriate members.

SarahD and Steve would do Sutton Walk and the High Street
Chairman and Minutes Sec would do Shoemaker Close
Adrian and SarahB would do Cold Higham and all stations west of the A5 and the Meths Group, whoever they may be.
Steve offered to do Milton Keynes. The Committee thanked him and moved on.
This did, however, prompt some discussion of, and may even lead to being a standing agenda item on the subject of, what the point of the whole thing was, raffles, how good a departed member was at flogging tickets and the length of various items displayed or spoken in that connection. Just to make things absolutely clear the Chairman boomed in a splendid Chairman-like manner that it was a bleedin' party and not a fund-raising exercise, glorified charity event or whatever and that we really only needed to invite those other than friends out of courtesy for bombarding them with noise and various shrieks during the preparation for, the day of and the wonderful celebrations of success of the event afterwards.
It was agreed that we should make every effort to post Chris at the gate again and the Minutes Secretary and Richard agreed to chat to her on the subject.


The jazz sextet may be a trio but will be present in some shape or form.
Maggie agreed to try and persuade Sue to try and persuade Amy and Laura to perform, presumably with instruments of some description.
Tom may, or Tom may not. But we reckon he will.
The chairman, Minutes Secretary and Richard will put some CDs together for the evening to play during gaps
Steve was anxious to ensure that for an event of this genre there was a suitable ambience. Members gave him a quizzical look and nodded sagely. There was some discussion about which was the longer word, too and various impressions of vacuuming which may be the first double u in minutes other than Hoover AGMs.

Next meeting

Friday 18 July at Primrose Cottage and environs, depending on whether the kitchen was functioning, sometime around 7:30pm.

Monday, May 26

Minutes of the 723rd meeting of the Paddock Party Committee

Everyone except the Chairman who'd decided that this was a fine time to visit Cyprus

Minutes of the previous meeting
No-one could quite remember the previous meeting and, as the Minutes Secretary was Acting Chairman and struggling to do one job never mind two, these were going to be dispensed with when various members suddenly thought of something really important but sadly lacking in context. These are listed under Matters arising.

Matters arising
Serving wine from boxes may require bending over more than from bottles.
Penny's got a big one in the garage
There was a request for no nudity on tickets
Men in tights might be considered
Either Graeme fancied a big barrel of beer or a ventriloquist was discussed
One member didn't want their nose bitten again.
At this point the Acting Chairman thought it might be a good idea to call some sort of order to the proceedings before the discussion of a meeting no-one could recall anyway turned to things like trains and Aretha Franklin from which, having arisen, matters may never descend again.

Decisions and action
Date: 16 August 2008
Graeme will organise the pig and the scout tent
There should be plenty of tents and things as we'd acquired some last year
Adrian & SarahB will enquire about the Cold Higham tables
Richard will take care of all things electrical, within reason, and Cathy needs to come home to enable us to plug in to her socket.
We'll run a raffle with just a main prize and a few others. Raffle proceeds and profits would go to the International Fund for Animal Welfare as suggested by SarahB. (Should there be a large number of donated 'prizes' then we'll have to think of a plan to distribute them but it was agreed that the long awards ceremony and huge prize list board production would be dropped this year.)
Cater for 140
Ticket price £7.50. Children 11 and under free

The Jazz trio or quartet (they kept moving) will be available and it was agreed they'd been a great addition to the day, not least because we could use their sound kit for other things.
Maggie would contact the Two Girls who'd been excellent a couple of years back
Sue would find out about the haybale band, Apricot Pie
Adrian would find out what Los Sombreros would need by way of money or other recompense to provide a little entertainment
Maggie mentioned "Dylan", presumably not Bob, but someone who might be willing to come along and strum tunefully for a while
Steve didn't think that Tom's Band would necessarily be Tom's Band any more but would see whether he could persuade bits of Tom's Band to perform later in the evening

Penny would, as Chief Saladeer, take care of all things filling. The saladeers agreed that there wouldn't be a chicken dish this year.

Adrian would submit a suitably whacky draft for this year's tickets (previous years' tickets now becoming collectors' pieces and even exchanging hands at more than face value).
Text, times etc as last year. We'd think about how to sell them next time.

Next meeting
SarahD said we could meet at her house and Steve may be willing to provide a conducted tour of developments on The Astcote Line sometime in July.

Thanks to Sue for food, wine, refreshments and seats this time.

Wednesday, May 7

Cat food

Maggie says these are robins and there may be another hiding behind the others. The nest is in a storage shed (and pretty inaccessible to cats by the way!)

Sunday, May 4

"But it said 7/3d on the box!"

Muliply that by 750 and you'll be nearer the value of this now, as long as you've got the box and haven't been banging it up against the skirting board, in a manner of speaking.

Now I know I said I was going to change my car for something smaller but this wasn't quite what I intended! A trip to a Toy Fair at NEC Birmingham with the Chairman of the Paddock Party Committee was well worthwhile, though, and I returned considerably worse off but pleased with some new additions to the old collection.

More on my Facebook album

Incidentally, with just over 100 days to Party No. 5, expect some interesting 'minutes' in the near future!

Tuesday, February 19

Hyacinth fork

That wasn't the intended title for this post which was going to be about an intense craving I have, usually a few days after some huge meal, for fresh pineapple, which can only be satiated by a trip to the local supermarket. This time it was also for a certain flavour of honey. Weird. However, I've just noticed that the snap has included my rather lame method of supporting one of the stems of a hyacinth. Any more than four visitors for a while and they'll be eating with spoons!

Only in the village . . .

I mean, where else would you find this on your doorstep one frosty morning?

Tuesday, January 29

One of these would do just fine

Adrian P provided this great snap of a lovely Sunbeam Alpine parked a mile or two down the road. If the owner happens to spot this and wants a good home for it then I'd be more than a little interested. And he or she doesn't have to look like Ria Bartok.


It surely won't be long before we choose another song to do battle with Eastern Europe with. Before that maybe I should apologise profusely for last year. Thought I'd kept it secret but, of all places, Moldova have let the cat out of the bag.

Sunday, January 20

The other browning version

Bryony's 11 going on 17 and the first parents' evening at her new school is tomorrow. "Are you going?" she asked. Before I got a chance to reply she'd added: "My friends'll be there." "Oh good." I said. It is only from classmates that you can ever really get an accurate idea of how your child is doing at school. The teachers may tell you what targets they may or not have met and will be either glowing in praise or rage depending upon whether Bryony was brave enough to risk not being cool by actually answering some questions in the last class or regarded as the ring-leader in some chaos-creating wheeze from which they're still regretting the phasing out of caning respectively.
My getting a more realistic assessment of her progress was not what my daughter had in mind. "They sell stuff in the shops for those grey bits," she announced looking at my hair. "And you'll need to do something about those bits," she went on, meaning my eyebrows which have rather become like weeds in a January hedgerow. I hadn't appreciated just how peppered my mane had become, though, and a quick glance in the mirror revealed that the ravages of time had taken its toll on the old brown locks too. I'd only noticed the bits near the temples which I remember reading in some women's magazine some years ago was regarded as pretty acceptable.
"I'll see what I can do." I promised, thinking that I might be able to get away with a few flicks of a dark brown felt-tip and some judicious pruning. "OK," she said, "see you at 4:30, and please don't be embarrassing, Dad."
She was clearly quite worried about the first impression I was going to make on her friends and I imagined some kind of rating panel they conducted afterwards which would determine who would continue to be friends with whom thereafter. It was quite a relief not to have to worry about what she thought the teachers might say, at any rate, but whilst I could handle whatever they might dish out in the allotted five minutes I have to admit that I was now extremely nervous about being voted number one Uncool Dad, Nerd, Oldie or Weirdo by the 7A girls.
The only shop open on Sunday was Tescos but I managed to locate something that appeared to be what I wanted. Easy to apply said the box. Get rid of grey in less than 5 minutes. The illustrations appeared to show some hunk in a shower painting his hair and it looked simple enough so I bought one.
Later in the day I took a good long look at those strands that were causing all the trouble and began to think that they weren't that bad after all. I mean, it's not as if all my students were pointing and giggling at me or whatever and there are some pretty blunt colleagues in the staff room with considerable more aged locks than mine who'd be bound to want to zap me with a few choice remarks if it was that obvious. I started to have second thoughts. "No," I thought, " I did promise. Let's get on with it." So off I went to the bathroom and got out the bottle. "Ah, two bottles . . . and a leaflet . . . better read it."
I don't recall ever reading quite so many warnings and dos and don'ts in one small leaflet. Enough to put anyone off but I pressed on. "My God, gloves!" I said and then had to go and get a clock to time how long the stuff had to stay on for, duly observing the dire warning about not trying to guess five minutes and going too dark. I do take issue with the Easy to apply label and they might have included something about needing to redecorate the bathroom afterwards and not to be too taken aback at the apparent change of skin colour that also takes place during the exceedingly messy process. However, the job got done, although I did panic after about three minutes, worrying that I'd turn into a liquorice allsort if I didn't start rinsing soon.
I'm now checking the colour every few minutes in a mirror as I write this. It does seem to have worked but just how dark is it compared to before? Will it be obvious? I think I'll have to go and pretend to borrow a tin opener or something from next door and try and judge their expression. The things Dads do for daughters. She sure had better give me a nudge and say "That's OK, now, thanks," or something similar when I get there and I shall have to try very very hard not to tell her friends the story! Well not until I've been voted at least a little bit cool first.

Tuesday, January 15


Love the film but that's another story. This is just to record an encounter with two dance floors in one day, a surfeit of chocolate and the inevitable music and laughter accompaniment.

The day started with a manic run to Dunstable at 7am for no reason other than my strange sense of duty and some belief that if a student turned up it would be more honourable for me to tell him or her that I'm heading East at 10:30 than their merely reading the post-it on the door. No-one did, of course, so it was M1 A1 and various other rain-soaked roads to help my brother extract my mum from a care home. Overtaking lorries through a haze of spray was the sort of thing that you wouldn't do if you really thought hard about it. I mean, you just assume that the lorry's lane and yours will run in parallel for long enough to get by and that there's not some massive puddle lurking in your lane further on. Job done, we were in need of refreshment and landed up in an inn in Whittlesey situated somewhere that you wouldn't ever go unless you were quite lost, as we were. Sauntered in through an open door and found ourselves on one of those wooden dance floors that I remembered from the 70s. Probably hadn't been on one since. "Look, there's even a glitterball!" I yelled. My brother didn't quite appreciate my enthusiasm but smiled before shaking his head and concentrating on the more important matter of finding the ruddy bar.

Now, normally a Friday lunch of the size that arrived would have been great news and enable me to cope with Saturday without any trouble or concern for breakfast. Just as I was finishing the last delicious bit of sea food and feeling decidedly warmer, I remembered that there was something called a candle-lit dinner chez Sarah & Adrian for several village inhabitants. One should not be fooled by either candle or lit. That may sound compact but I suspected that there wouldn't be room for the word lit even in a very very small font on the table, assuming that we ever made it through the mass of nibbles and aperitifs.

Made it home through ridiculous quantities of rain along the A14, A45 et al just in time to try and figure out what to take along and to change into some slightly drier clothes and trousers with room for expansion.

Great evening, apart from James Blunt wailing from a nearby speaker for a while but soon changed that to something else. In fact, I had a sudden and quite inexplicable urge to hear Paul Simon's The Only Living Boy In New York and managed to persuade Adrian to dig it out of his vast CD collection. The meal was vast and yummy but what has to be mentioned is the dessert. Two of the ladies had spent a considerable time in the kitchen and the fruits of their labours were simply massive bowls of ice cream, cream, rich, sweet sauces and chocolate galore. I mean if it hadn't been a warm sauce I declare that the whole dish would have solidified into a giant toblerone or elephantine chocolate fudge. It was delicious but I felt like apologising to my stomach for the space it was occupying down there.

Despite the weight and displacement inevitably brought on by the chocolate collision (as I feel it might be aptly named) two ladies decided to started twirling on the dance floor as the evening progressed . . . did I say dance floor? Yes, the house was, indeed, floored with almost exactly the same wood as the Whittlesey inn of earlier that day. Amazing.

It also snowed that night.

I woke up Saturday morning, turned on the radio just to check that it was Saurday and that it was morning still and this totally enchanting track was being played. 60s, French, female. Reminded me of Chocolat. Just had to find out who it was and discovered it was someone called Ria Bartok. Totally hooked now. The previous post has a grainy video. It's my latest craze.

Thursday, January 3

Lithuanian Aphrodisiac and other dishes

The 943rd meeting of the Paddock Party Committee was held at a number of venues on 1 January 2008. This wasn't as a direct result of the Committee being unable to agree where to meet at the last meeting but more a matter of members agreeing to meet in different places. It helps if you're somewhat inebriated when attempting that sentence.
The Chairman asked whether we were quorate. No-one said much to that being either unsure of what the current choir rate was or whether to admit to having been quarantined recently.
A rather large number of starters, appetisers and the like were on display at the residence of the Chief Saladeer where most of the Committee commenced their deliberations. An even greater number of pistacchio nuts, however, lurked near bottles of wine in another room so they were duly dispensed with. One member tried to confuse things by replacing the opened shells in the same bowl as the unopened ones.
Dishes included one entitled Lithuanian Aphrodisiac prepared moments before by the Minutes Secretary who appeared not to have succeeded in resigning after all and a wide variety of vegetables in varying degrees of dressing.
Staggering across the road to the Chairman's domain in twos and threes took about twenty minutes where further supplies of fine wine and champagne were available and limited quantities of non-alcoholic beverages. Here members were treated to vast quantities of slow-cooked chicken, beef and other dishes plus another range of vegetables.
A new member of the Committee created something of a stir when greeting a lady with the remark You've got legs! Now, normally this might have been perceived as bad form but he uttered the word legs! with such relish that the owner of the aforementioned blushed and appeared quite pleased and business resumed.
It was noted that the owner of the legs had just reached a Notable Golden Age and there were several points of order, punctuated with Cheers, Toosoo! and request that the Member give a speech for she was a jolly good fellow or a similar combination of those words. Thanks were recorded for the super efforts of the Member for Arts in providing suitably irreverent and immensely entertaining posters to mark the Leg Member's achievement.
Presents were opened at the first venue and cake candles lit at the second. The procedures for cutting the cake had to be dispensed with on this occasion as the device for said cutting, which might have resembled a slice did in fact bear more resemblance to a substantially different type of device for which totally new instructions would need to be consulted. The handle bore several buttons. Pressing one produced a noticeable vibration accompanied by an approximation to the Happy Birthday tune only one of which was particularly pleasurable. Other button-pressing brought further vibration and variations on the celebratory theme. Some twenty minutes passed while Members regained their composure and witnessed the obligatory destruction of a delightfully decorated gateau.
There was some discussion as to exactly how the Member with Telescope had assisted the Chief Saladeer with the creation of an extract from the sheet music for Happy Birthday (fortunately now out of copyright) including accurate treble clefs.
During consumption of the main course the Member with a Maths GCSE assisted the Minutes Secretary and the Member with Telescope in their impression of Bookends.
There then followed a batch of quizzes designed to assess members' knowledge of carol titles, new year around the world, pirate actors and their ability to listen. It was unanimously agreed that the Chairman's Wife had excelled herself not only in the production quality of the handouts but also in the amalgamation of such a bizarre group of topics.
The Station Master excelled himself by recognising 100% of the pirates but other members failed miserably in the tests of their knowledge. Particular noteworthy was the performance of the Member with a Maths GCSE who proceeded to ask Can you read that again? on each occasion that the QuizMeister announced Listen carefully - I shall say this only once. No-one thought to mention 'Allo 'Allo but the occasion was almost as funny.
The Member with Legs asked whether any Committee Member wished to share their New Year's Resolutions. Being late on January 1st all Members succeeded in pretending to have forgotten them, fearing it being found out that they had failed to honour commitments of about 22 hours earlier. Whilst some Members feigned inebriation and others deafness, all were relieved that the Member with Legs didn't press them further.
The highlight of the meeting was the switching on of The Chocolate Fountain. There was some mumbling about something being smaller than some had expected which may or may not have been a reference to the device but all conversation ceased abruptly as the moment of switch-on arrived. Consulting the instruction manual, the Chief Saladeer pressed the electric switch and immediately there was a tremendous whirring and wobbling as the structure of the device rotated in a decidely dodgy fashion for a minute of two. White chocolate and brown chocolate were drawn up the central tube and for a moment it was thought that this might be the very first sighting of striped chocolate in England. However, a slightly lighter brown sludge appeared at the top, courstesy of Mr Archimedes and his screw, and splodged pleasantly down three dishes that formed the fountain platters.
Mercifully, at this point the wobblying ceased and chocolate flowed evenly and the thing stabilised. Members grabbed their melons and other accoutrements and approached the descending choc with their prongs outstrectched. After a quick twirl in the mixture and leaving a trail of melting Belgian across the tablecloth there was much yumming and generally approving noises made.
2008 had well and truly begun in style. Well, we wouldn't have had it any other way, now, would we!


Wednesday, January 2

Coming to a screen near you!

Finally managed to get my hands on the 'Astcote train' movie. Hold tight!