Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

After what seems like a geological ian spent indoors, we decided it was time for a family day out, and where better than to spend it than at the zoo, where animal convicts earn their keep by parading around in front of us. For funsies.

So off we went to Bristle zoo, and had a very enjoyable few hours showing my little boy traditional fauna, including the lions, or "Rahs!" as he calls them. A 'rah' also refers to a tiger, a red panda and, worryingly, socks. Mind you, he calls crocodiles "Neighs" so I'm not expecting much of a zoological future for him.

One thing he did seem to enjoy was the aquarium, and it was fun to point out the fish, of various hue and girth, which he dutifully pointed at all excitedly. One area was a tunnel through which you can walk under the aquarium and look up at the fish, in this manner:
So it was a good teaching opportunity for him, exposing him to some of the denizens of the deep(ish) waters of our planet. It also happened to be glass-cleaning day at the aquarium, and obviously this was far more exciting to little kids than boring animals, especially when the silhouette of one of nature's top predators came gliding over the walkway:

Lots of 'oohs' and 'ahhs' and ignored fish ensued, so in order to continue the animal exposure, we went off to be insulted by lemurs.

A little later on, we came across the river otters, and obviously he was far more interested in the traditional otter food of . . .
. . . white rat lobbed over the fence. Traditional otter fare, that one.

I'm thinking of taking him to a dedicated aquarium next, where divers get eaten if they spend to long with their algae scrapers.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tis the seasoning . . .

Well, xmas has occurred, and thanks to our pagan heritage we still drag a bush in and have a big old nosh-up smack bang in the middle of winter. I may not be religious or a traditionalist but, if it involves booze, grub and a heaving sackful of goodies, then you can paint me yellow and refer to me as High Priestess Woo-Woo the Oblique for all I care.

And the food was luvverly. We started off with something that was once de rigeur for any stylish household, but lost favour and went the way of chicken-in-a-basket as edible fashions deemed it a tad 1970s; only prawn cocktail! I even managed to get red glass bowls which would've been right at home on the set of Abigails Party. Look at 'em:

You can't tell me your mouth isn't watering at the sight of de-exoskeletonned crustaceans in ketchup and mayonnaise.

The other thing I discovered was cranberry sauce, the staple condiment for turkey in every civilised country. Now, obviously, I know what cranberry sauce is, as it comes in a jar and gets heated up every year. But no! Not this year. I was shown the delights of making it myself, in 10 minutes, from real cranberries. They go from this:

To this:And it tasted fantastic. For a start, it doesn't taste too much of cranberries, which are absolutely disgusting and have been know to turn a man's face completely inside-out with their tartness. A load of sugar, wine and some other niceties and - Violin! - you have deliciousness in a pan.

It's one of those food groups that, despite being up there with ambrosia in terms of tastiness, you only eat at a certain time of the year. Llike Advocat. And Creme de Menthe.

After the consumption of more calories than you might find in a deep-fried deepfryer, I now weigh 73 stone, so it's off for a run in the morning for me. I'll just have this last ferrero rocher . . .

Sunday, December 28, 2008

That good old good feeling.

After a brief hiatus from this blog where reality stepped in and rudely interrupted my internet time, I went for a walk yesterday in order to clear my head, recharge my lungs and re-vim my vigour.

It's cold here at the moment, although we haven't had any snow since 1978 because of cow farts and 4x4s, but after a small amount of walking (barely a mile from my house), the scene that greeted me was lovely. So lovely in fact, I took out my phone and used it for its primary purpose. Taking photos. Occasionally, I talk to people on it, but that's just incidental:

Obviously, photograms don't do justice to the real world (except for porn, where they make sex look a bit better), but here, the cold snap of the air, the cloudy breathing from cattle, the skeletal trees looking like roots rather than anything that might possibly photosynthesize, all combined to make me feel . . . good.

And believe me, it's been a few days since I felt that way, which makes it extra special.

Wherever you are, I hope your locality offers a little bit of good.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

D'oh, a door, a feeble door!

Money isn't everything, but it certainly helps keep the wolves from the door. Unless they are real wolves and you haven't got a door. Happily, I have a door, and this is a good thing even though wolves are typically scarce in this region, ever since the myxomatisis outbreak of '56.

This is my door:

Nice eh? It's made of all plastic and glass that is, for some reason, better than a great slab of wood with a knob on it. As I'm no door expert I shall bow to received wisdom and refrain from replacing it with an oaky edifice, although the only advantage I can see is the transluceny issue. Not good in oak doors.

However, it has been laid low recently when it failed to lock, and as some wolves are noted for their tenacity and door-opening abilities (as seen on TVs 'Animals Do The Funniest Things, Right Before They Invade Your House And Eat Your Family'), I deemed it necessary to consult a locksmith and PVC door expert.

He soon found the problem, and did a quick, albeit temporary,repair. It would seem the whole inner bit needs replacing because this bit is knackered:

In case you're wondering, it's the bit on the left. The red paperclip is for scale, and not commonly found in the better sort of door. I'm reckoning about half a centimetre long, by the looks of things. I am cheerily informed that the whole bit can be replaced as soon as a new inner part is ordered.

"Fair enough" says I. "Get the part at once, Mr Locksmith and PVC Door Expert. And can you tell me, just for funsies like, how much the whole shebang will be?"
"Of course." replies Mr Locksmith and PVC door expert, "One hundred and eighty-five pounds and sixty-five pee, including VAT."
"Hmmfeeeeee?!" I expectorated, and felt a clammy, tight feeling near my wallet.

And the annoying thing is, he's not ripping me off. Research has since confirmed that this is how much it is to repair my door. I could do it myself for a bit less, but this would eventually be more expensive when Mr LaPVCDE has to come round to repair my amateurish fumblings, possibly while paramedics are trying to work out how to extricate me from the frame.

I wonder how much a bloody great slab of oak is?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

None Shall Pass.

Whilst wandering wistfully within welshest Wales one wednesday, our path was blocked by two local and mean looking inhabitants. They were quite neatly turned out, attired in similar accoutrements and sporting the latest in thermal protection, perfectly suited to the chilly environs of which they were so familiar.

It made me stop and think. Mainly because I'd just walked uphill for a mile and any excuse to stop was welcome, even if it was to think, but I did anyway. What might they want? Were they hostile? They looked indifferent, but that might have been the carefully cultivated nonchalnace adopted by the professional (and competent) thug.

I suddenly realised they were assessing me to see if they recognised me, to see if I was a threat. Their world was probably relatively small, insular and dangerous, with the same few people occupying the same few roles in society. Bosses and underlings, suppliers and users, all familiar with each other and all identifiable. Even the enemies, the predators and the traitors, would probably be recognised by these two, so it was imperative in their view that they be vigilant, and causing some discomfort to innocent visitors a small price to pay.

After a moment, they moved aside to let us pass, with not even a cold nod of acquittal. We avoided eye contact and went on our way.

In a moment of clarity however, I understood they were checking me out to see if I was a grass.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Balance this!

A balanced diet consists of, according to our Dept o' Health, fruit and vegetables; bread, other cereals and potatoes; meat, fish and alternatives; some dairy, fat and sugar. They haven't mentioned brown sauce, which I'm sure is simply an oversight, but I get the impression this is a fairly accurate piece of advice.

I don't require the ignorant witterings of self-appointed nutritional therapists with worthless diplomas and no scientific knowledge whatsoever to tell me what's good for me, or what's bad for me, or what's a new miracle food because it's a berry, and it's purple, and the Aztecs used it as a cure for IBS. As a contemporary western male with an education and the ability to have nuggets of wisdom drawn to my very fingertips by way of internet tubes, I am aware of the dangers of not eating variety, and the benefits of ensuring I eat a balanced diet.

It's common kowledge. Common sense even.

However, I'm also a typical bloke, which is why my dinner today consisted of this:

MANFOOD! Guh. Guh. Guh.

Obviously, I heated it up a bit first.

And I stuck one slab of meat between two pieces of bread, so that varied things up a bit. Oh, and I had Barbadosian Hot Sauce on it, which is not only a separate foodstuff, but practically a different type of matter to that usually found in the universe.

Now if that's not varied, I don't know what is.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What to do . . . what to do?

Cursed with an easily distracted mind, I was staring at our house rabbit t'other day when it occurred to me that what he really, really needed was for his ears to be threaded through a toilet roll tube.

So I did:
Apparently, this is a better thing to do that place Jaffa cakes on my new-born son's eyes so he looked like Elton John wearing shades.

I'm not posting that one, cos the missus told me not to.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We're all going on a . . .wintery holiday.

I'm currently on holiday (although we've stayed in this country), for a quick winter break. We're doing lots of activities which is great fun, but it's not leaving me much time for bloggage.

Anyway, me bath's running, and I just found this picture I took on a previous holiday of a famous European landmark I took from an unusual angle. See if you can guess where it is:
I'll give you a clue. You might get an eyeful of this tower in the capital of France because it is the Eiffel Tower.
Cryptic stuff . . .

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not just trees 'n hills.

I suddenly had a feeling that I was coming across all rural and anti-urban, perhaps appearing as some curmudgeon who likes to stay out in the wilds, what with pictures of critters and mountain tops, and rants on the pleasantness of meeting no-one at all.
I need to remind myself that there are some rather nice backdrops to be had in other settings, and we needn't just rely on the majesty of nature to provide nice places to visit. We're lucky round our locale as pleasant cundry ambles often follow the local rivers and canals, which can pass through areas that have a rich and surprisingly interesting industrial heritage.
By interesting, I don't mean I'd flick through a dissertation on the historical minutiae of pig-iron use in 1800s warehouses, I mean nodding appreciatively for a moment, before moving on to a pub with a good line in local ale.
This pic was taken under a railway embankment for instance.

Well, I like it. And it's my blog, so it's staying.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Terrapin Living In Water Shock! Brits Amazed!

Continuing the topic of our cold-blooded cousins, the UK isn't really noted for it's reptilian denizens. We've got the aforementioned snakes and a few lizards scattered about, but not much else. British people tend to get quite excited when we see a gecko, cos it means we're somewhere foreign and, most likely, warm.

In fact, after a visit to Greece, your old Auntie Mabel will most likely regale you with tales of feeding a rock lizard on her balcony rather than discuss the historic architecture of Athens or the cultural impact of Grecian philosophy on western civilisation.

"Brown, he was dear, like the waiter!"

Anyway, to show that occasionally we do stock slightly more interesting things than rabbits and sparrows, I thought I would share with you some pics I took of my local disused and overgrown canal, where the following chap has resided for the past six or seven years. Presumably, he's an escapee, but apparently doesn't find our Winters too distressing:

There. Okay, how about a close up . . .

There he is! A big terrapin thing, about a foot long. No idea what type of terrapin, or if he's just a tortoise with a thing about baths, but he can be found basking sedately on a log throughout the Summer and sometimes into the Autumn.

This might not seem much to you, but I'll have you know this thing made the local paper round here. Honest.

Friday, December 5, 2008


My missus has a touch of ophidiophobia, although she would disagree that it is a phobia. In her opinion, a phobia is an irrational fear, and fear of snakes is completely rational as they're poisonous and in some cases big enough to eat you. Not many people are ridiculed for being a touch nervous around tigers.

It's a good point. However, it's not just coral snakes and anacondas she's scared of, but anything which slithers along the ground or does a vaguely relaistic impression of a snake.

I often forget this, and recently found these delightful critters resting 'neath a slab in my garden:

Two slow-worms and a grass snake. Now, I'm daft enough to still get excited by these sorts of things and I then want to share my ebullience with the person I share the rest of my life. Hence my trotting happily over to her with two fistfuls of squirming captives.

It didn't go well. The shriek was audible in Tehran, and echoed around the fields and churches of our rural county for about an hour. Bats dropped out of the sky, stunned, whilst dogs ate their own ears.

Apparently, pointing out that slow-worms are legless lizards, not snakes, doesn't help, and niether does remonstrating with her for scaring them with her banshee wails.

I felt we both learnt something that day. She learned that she actually suffers from herpetophobia, not ophidiophobia, and I leaned that we have a very comfortable sofa to spend the night on.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The New Ukulele!

I've noticed that a lot of blogs are about exposing issues important to the very innermost depths of someone's being (like sex, loneliness, sex, friendships, sex, weight-loss, sex, roadkill etc). Now, I don't really do that, as this blog is generally just a bit of light-hearted wittering and pointless spewage from my psyche.

Today though, I'm going to be different, because it's linked to my tragedy post (http://gravelfarm.blogspot.com/2008/11/tragedy.html). A few people offered their condolences on the loss of my ukulele, for which I'd like to thank them, and I also mentioned I was attempting to learn Sweet Child O' Mine on it's replacement.

Understandably, there was some concern about this, so I think it only fair that I back up my claim with a video. Unless that was what the concern was about (Oh crap - he's going to video that and post it, isn't he?). Playing and singing exposes your very soul, according to some musician friends of mine, so let's give it a go shall we. Excuse the singing as this is a work in progress and I'll get my tone in another day!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Avoiding the crowds

I like this picture. I went out in January for a walk up our nearest set of mountainettes, Pen Y Fan in Wales. They're only about an hour away, and yet it was almost like a different world up there.

I'm not a fan of crowds, which is a problem on an island the size of this one where over 60 million people live. You can't go many places, especially in England, where you won't be sharing the scenery with lots of other folk. Usually though, they tend to be pleasant, like minded sorts, as dreary chavs tend to be urbanophiles and don't often come out of town, so the effect is mitigated somewhat.

In winter though, you hardly see anyone. The views are often the equal of anything in the Summer, sometimes better as they're aren't many leaves to block the view, and as long as you wrap up well, jobs a good 'un. You also get a real sense of achievement as well.
Does this make me a grumpy bugger, I wonder?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Big and yellow

December cometh, with associated frost and nippiness. I was out at 6.30 to go to work in the dark, scraping the ice of the car with the heating turned up to max. It feels like Summer was a long time ago, but whilst flicknig through the photos on my phone, I came across this:

Ah . . . bask in it's sunniness. A quick reminder that it was quite nice around here just a few months ago.

This is relevant to the blog because it was the result of the fecund growth of the Tropicarium I regaled you with a while ago: http://gravelfarm.blogspot.com/2008/11/growth-medium.html

More bulletins as events warrant!

Monday, December 1, 2008


Imagine you've got a shop. What would you call it? If you actually do have a shop, go and look at the sign and check. Something to do with your name, or what you sell, perhaps? Maybe Jones' Hardware or Patel''s Patent Mantraps, that sort of thing.

Nah. What you want is something like this:

Now that's a shop name.

Saw it in Cyprus a few years ago. I've no idea what they sell, but you can bet it's going to be pretty damn awesome. In fact, I expect there is absolutely nothing they don't stock, this side of a parallel dimension.

"Left handed screwdriver sir? Aisle 48."
"Shark farts, madam, of course. Ailse 2."
"Rameses testicle in a jar of liquid methane? Would you liked that gift-wrapped sir?"

I went in for a pterodactyl sandwhich but . . . wait for it . . . they'd run out of bread!

Ah than' yew!