Friday, August 14, 2009

Nonchalance Shall Pass.

I was strolling nonchalantly along the banks of the River Severn a couple of days ago, contemplating the bizarre notion that the Forest of Dean, although a mere two hundred metres or so away across the water there, would take me the best part of forty minutes to get to because the nearest bridges are either in Gloucester or via the M4 into Wales.

A nonchalant stroll is an acquired skill, like throwing shurikens or making balloon animals that don't look like sex toys. I've been watching true experts (old blokes) do it, and it requires one to clasp hands together behind one's back, lean to the side and slowly, but forcefully, throw the opposite leg out and around to take a step. At the same time, one must glance up at the sky, then down to the ground, out to the west and then back to the front, all without rushing, before leaning the other way and throwing the other leg out and around for the next step. Every five or six steps, the nonchalant stroller should stop and rotate 180 degrees to ascertain either the position of the rest of his party or, if alone, to nod sagely at the distance already covered. Forward motion is achieved, albeit at the rate of a tortoise on diazepam.

For added effect, one can occasionally blow one's cheeks out and mutter "tum-te-tum", but that is beginning to enter the realms of the fouth dan nonchalant stroller, the type of person who wears stroll fatigues of beige and brown, finished off with leather sandals and light blue socks. Competing at that level would be like entering the Ultimate Fighting Championships and flicking someone's nipple. Viciously. I know my limitations.

Old women can't stroll nonchalantly. Even if they attempt it and do all of the above, they invariably smile benignly and it turns into an amiable meander, which is entirely different.

This is not a bad thing, because the only reason I do the nonchalant stroll is so that I can look at attractive ladies and, if they catch me, I can be completely unfazed because I was looking at other things as well.

You may have thought I was glancing at your chest, but I was also looking west. And is that a stratocumulus up there? Why yes, I believe it is.

Also, boobs.

After an hour or two, I had covered about twenty feet, so I gave up and reverted to normal walking, much to the relief of the people around me who must've thought I was a bad spy.

The river is a marvellous place for musing on stuff. Walking along with the breeze whispering through grass on the banks and the silent flow of the mud-rich waters alongside is a refreshing aid to philosophising. I was taken by the notion that there are things in this world that are mysterious and enigmatic, things that one might never understand even if you were to devote a substantial amount of brain power attempting to reason them out. Infinity, time travel, love, tapirs, and a host other baffling conundra which can be as influenced by subjectivity as revealed by reductionist observation.

Some things we just don't seem destined to understand.

On my walk, I came across one of those things:

I can tell I've grasped your attention with that one.

It was initially brought to my attention by some tourists, who were gathered around it like crows at roadkill. I wandered over, my curiosity piqued and said, as I tend to with crowds blocking my view, "Let me through, I'm a nosy bastard."

The group made way, and I saw the above pictured item.

"Are you local?" a lady asked, well-to-do in slacks and brand new Berghaus jacket, pointing at me with one of those odd metal walking sticks that look like skiers should use them.

"Ar." I said, conforming to stereotype.

"Well, do you know what this is for?" she asked, reasonably. I examined it more closely, seeing that it was a plastic jug which had been screwed to an old picnic table beneath a metal hoop. There was even a little rubber washer around the screw inside to stop fluids leaking out of the jug.

"Aha!" I said, as I dawning realisation hit me like a wet fish.

Unfortunately, it was the dawning realisation that I had no idea.

The crowd leaned forward as one, intent on my revelation as to the function of the thing. I felt bad. Some local had set up a cryptic item to undertake an obscure task, and if I didn't give them an answer these poor tourists would suffer the agonies of non-closure for possibly minutes afterwards. I decided I would make an answer up, and it would relate to one of the local unfathomable pass-times that was relatively common on some parts of the Severn.

"It's for eeling." I told them, matter of factly. I knew people hunted eels up and down the Severn, for reasons best known to themselves. I would suggest for food but, lets face it, only cockernees from Landan eat them.

"Ealing?" someone asked.

"No, eeling." I corrected.

"I thought that was 'elvering'. " another smart arse asked.

"There's no such thing as elves." I pointed out, and looked at the river as though I had spent all my years battling eels in it. They all nodded in grateful understanding and wandered off, apparently not wanting to know how a jug and hoop on a table could possibly be used to hunt eels.

This was a good thing for them, because they can now go home without an unsolved mystery cluttering their minds.

I, however, am not so lucky.

The items pictured are probably not used in the eel-wrangling trade, or even for hunting elves. I looked around furtively and snapped a couple of photos for the Gravel Farm blog.

The loyal readers scattered across the globe will know, I thought. Or at least they will pretend to know and they're not shy about venting their maniacal babblings expert opinions to all and sundry.

So, go on then. Put me out of my misery.

What the hell is it for?


  1. It is very simple. There is a small crew with a camera hidden in a nearby bush taping all of the people who are drawn in by the apparatus.

    It is a people trap.

  2. It is used for castrating bulls, one must coax the bull over to the table and talk it into placing its testicles inside the hoop. This is usually accomplished by offering up Bull porn mags, all men are the same.

    The hoop serves as a stable platform for your hands as you handle the cutlery, as you don't want to slip up.

    The newer model have lots of electronics, blinking LEDs and such, but still perform the same basic function.

  3. It's a conversation piece. The people that put that there just put random objects out to do their part for making the world a friendly place.

  4. I, myself, have always aspired to the devil-may-care saunter. It requires a looseness in the hips that has not been in included in my genetic inheritance.

    I've settled for an awkward lope.

    Clearly that's a...mmmmm....scientific bird dropping measurement station. The hoop is to motivate the birds.

  5. Douglas - You are a very cynical man. Also possibly right.

    SkylersDad - I like the effort you've put into working this out! And bull porn is full of some right heffers, I've herd. Heard, sorry.

    thinkinfyou - It's a cruel, cruel trick. I need closure dammit!

    Vic - Loose hips take work. quite nice work. I like the idea of a target for the birds, although a freshly washed car would be more effective, I reckon.

  6. Looked at the river as if you'd spent all your life battling eels in it. That line alone was worth getting out of bed for.

    My day is complete now. Time for sleep.

    (I think it's for gutting fish. Split the fish open, drag the guts over the hoop, the jug catches the bleurgh.)

  7. Like everybody here, I have no sodding idea. Although I am prepared to admit it which sets me apart.

    I might point out, that the reference to elvering was quite correct, eeling is also called. Elvers of course are young eels, but I liked your response.

    I loved your description of nonchalant strolling, superb, as always.


    wordify was jousight, I wonder if your strange apparatus might not be so named.

  8. I could tell you what it's for, but then I'd have to kill you.

    And then I'd be down one terribly amusing British blog to read, and that just won't do!

  9. Steamy - I think hardy North Sea fisherman do actually call it "bleurgh".

    AV - There's no such things as elves! Honestly.

    Soda and Candy - It's nice I've got a reason to be spared. Ta!

  10. "Ta!"

    *sigh* It's good to be around people who know what that means.

    ; )

  11. The Jules,

    "...the type of person who wears stroll fatigues of beige and brown, finished off with leather sandals and light blue socks."

    Having grown up in a large urban city, I cannot imagine anyone resembling this description. It also occurs to me that I've never taken a leisurely stroll.

    Walking for me, has always been destination-driven; getting there as quickly as possible. I'm not even sure I could take a leisurely stroll.

    I wish I could help you with your picnic table apparatus delimma. I initially thought it was for holding some item upright but as I pondered what that item might be, I realized that seconds of time had elapsed and I've since moved along. The pace of an urbanite is quite wicked.

    There can't be that many people where you live with blokes defacing picnic tables and all. I'm sure one of the locals (Park Ranger, Park Refuse Collector or Constable) would know and then you'd have your closure.


  12. Another thought came to mind while re-perusing your blog...

    Ministry of Silly Walks

    A Monty Python classic.

  13. I prefer the rotating-pervert walk. I just keep heading in one direction (or what seems to be one direction) while rotating on my axis swiftly with my eyes fixed at a 20 degree angle below the horizontal. Studies show that the angle is optimal for maximizing bosom-sightings and the rotation ensures that I get to examine the fine specimens all around me.

    As for the so called 'mystery object', it is nothing but Nostradamus's bowl. I can picture the seer seated on that table, legs folded and intently staring into the bowl as it told him of mankind's future. The metal ring must have helped to focus his thoughts.

    -The Village Idiot

  14. I have memed you on my blog today.

    : )

  15. I never nonchalently stroll. I prefer to toddle, mosey or even sashay ... well actually I prefer to get a taxi and cut out the effort of moving in any form at all.

    The gizmo is clearly a rain water coffee maker. The filter sit in the hoop, then you just wait for it to rain (and we're talking about England, so you never have to wait too long) and voila! A ... nice, er, ... cold, jug of ... coffee (not all that different to the water of the River Severn probably)

    Starbucks eat you heart out!

  16. I rarely stroll, although I was once arrested for having meandered. It was a rough spot in my life, although I've since given up meandering and taken up non-sequiturs, which are not as breezy but don't require a stout pair of shoes.


    p.s. Douglas is right. It's a people trap!

  17. I have never been able to stroll nonchalantly, I fear it makes me look like a donkey, but thanks for the tips...

    Daily I get nonchalant strollers on the stairs at Gatwick Airport. Drives me mad. There are times and places...

  18. Sorry for the delay in replying to the comments folks, but I've just had an outbreak of camping in Dorset.

    Soda and Candy - Ta again!

    U - I know what you mean. I once wandered at a leisurely pace in London and people kept bumping into me from behind. I kept checking my wallet.

    Douglas - Love that.

    Sandy - Welcome, and I can't believe I didn't foresee that!

    Girl I - Your coffee needs work. I'll pass on your lemonade, if that's okay?

    Pearl - As non-sequiturs go, I had scampi for lunch.

    Mo - You need to give 'em something to be chalant about! A little shove maybe?

  19. My money is on 'Rustic Cheesemaking Kit' or possibly 'Gold Prospecting apparatus'. Or both.

  20. Eric - Both? Now that's multi-tasking.

  21. I'm impressed by your description of the walk.I shall closely examine all passing menfolk to see if they adopt the same approach. I expect you to be my character witness in my forthcoming trial.

  22. Mdme DeF - Worry not. I shall impress the jury by wearing my best pirate outfit!

  23. Elementary my dear Watson...It's a ground bait strainer!
    (Using similar thought processes to the Jules on his first encounter with the aforementioned objects). Designed and used by a one armed fisherman....Allow me to describe it's use:
    first mix your desired dry groundbait ingredients and stuff them into a sock/other similar net recepticle.

    Take the stuffed sock to the river and dip it in a few times.

    Take the stuffed wet sock back to the apparatus and place it through the hoop, stretching the open end over the metal frame.

    Squeeze excess moisture out of the paste,or leave it to drain freely.

    You will now have a paste ball which you can catapult into the fish/eel swim to attract them to where your cunningly disguised hook is waiting.

    I haven't worked out how a one armed fisherman would disgorge (unhook) his prey! (Or use a catapult for that matter!)


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