Well, probably neither Ratty nor Moley. Have you ever seen anything like this? It is not a particularly good picture, as I had to reduce it to fit. We had deep snow up here, three feet of it, and it has only just gone. A BBC nature programme suggested that small creatures might forage beneath the snow in search of food. Here is proof of that. Whatever this was (not a mouse, the tunnels are too big), made its way between the snow and the top of our lawn (which is more moss than grass, for this is Scotland, not the sunny south of England). Whatever did this (or made these, for there are many such tunnels, our lawn now resembling the ground beneath StalagLuft III) must have been hunting for grubs. Note that the pencil in the photo is for scale. The creature that did the digging didn’t stop to draw plans.
Monthly Archives: January 2010
I met a magician today. I had been writing in Cafe Nero and met my son there for lunch. The place had become busy (no great surprise at 1pm). The queue stretched to the door, so we went without coffee – and food. We had been there ten minutes, chatting and waiting for the queue to shorten, when a man aged about forty came in, came over to us and asked if we were staying. Things like that don’t happen that often in real life, so we asked him why. ‘I’m meeting a very good friend here,’ he said, ‘and I was wondering if you were about to leave.’ Had the man been swarthy, aggressive, and built like a brick outhouse we might have smiled sheepishly, nodded and left. But he wasn’t. He was a nice man. ‘I do magic tricks,’ he said. ‘And I get to know my audience, I understand their mannerisms. I got the impression that you were about to leave.’ A magician, then. The fact that there was nothing on the table, that my mug and plate from earlier had been cleared away, might have had something to do with his impression. I pointed to a vacant table and suggested, in a friendly way, that he wait there for his friend to arrive and perhaps, by then, we might have made up our minds to leave. Ten minutes later we stood up and waved to him. He came over, thanked us and shook our hands. No rabbits from hats, no bunches of plastic flowers from his sleeves. No sudden, unexpected production of our own watches and wallets from his inside pocket (I told you already, he was a really nice guy). What I didn’t tell my son, but will happily admit to you, is that I had every intention of giving up our seats to this man. I know what magicians can do, I have read Harry Potter. If we hadn’t left voluntarily we might have been turned into the street (feeble joke). Seriously though, I hope his friend came. We walked up the road and bought sandwiches. When I passed Nero’s ten minutes later he was still on his own, in the comfortable leather armchairs we had vacated.
(‘NOT HARRY POTTER’ is here)
Last Thursday I did a 300 mile drive south using the M6 and M5. I accept that one of our great British grumbles is roadworks, and I also accept that roadworks are a necessary evil. Traffic was dire, as always, especially those unbelievably busy bits of the M6 between Manchester and Birmingham. I have been doing this run for years, but this one was a real world-beater. I didn’t check the total length of roadworks on my way south, but because my return journey today was more leisurely, instead of passing the time counting the number of red / blue / orange cars (no, I don’t really do that), I totalled the miles of roadworks with 50mph restrictions. The total length, excluding works on the southbound side, was 69 miles – SIXTY-NINE! I’m no speed freak, and the restrictions didn’t particularly annoy me. But could 69 miles of speed restricted roadworks between Bristol and Penrith (a distance of 250 miles) be a world first? Should contact the Guinness Book of Records?
The thing that amazed me as much as the length of the roadworks was the way some drivers blustered along at their normal high speeds, ignoring signs stating clearly that ‘average speed cameras’ are in use. What alternative universe are these people in?
I went to see the Dick Vet today. In case you are sitting open-mouthed and wondering what has got into me, you might like to know that the Dick Vet is an institution, not an individual. Specifically ‘The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies‘. I went because I’m doing research for a new novel, I am bored with all this rewriting. If you have seen my website you will know I’ve been re-doing old novels. It is hard on my brain and does little to exercise my imagination. I feel it is time for something new, hence my visit to the Dick. I didn’t go in, you understand, I just looked at the place. Unlike Rolf Harris I am disturbed by sick animals. I didn’t actually see very much because the roads are blocked and it is it is one massive building site, they are constructing a new teaching block. The place is impressive. They will do a post-mortem on your goldfish for £45, and I understand they have the facilities to deal with large animals, including elephants. Though I’m guessing they don’t get many of those. Nor goldfish.
I spent the weekend in the roof. Not because I was locked up there (see my Jan 2nd post) but because I was laying additional loft insulation. We already had the housebuilders’ token (read absolute minimum) layer of glassfibre (you know the stuff, it lies there between the joists, about three inches thick, pretending to keep the house warm). Recently the two big UK house-parts retailers – I’m sure you know who I mean, the usual suspects – have been selling subsidised rolls of insulation at ridiculously low prices. A week ago one of them, Homebase, reduced the price further, presumably to dispose of slow-moving stock that cluttering up their stores. The rolls are over 1m wide, 7m long and 170mm thick, each one for the price of two Starbucks’ coffees. Even at twice that price it would be amazingly good value.
The reason I am telling you this is that since doing the work I have been turning off radiators – and that’s not because the weather is warmer, because it is minus five outside. To be perfectly honest I wasn’t expecting to notice much of a difference, but I am truly gobsmacked by the change. And all for under £50. Yes, £50 (about $80) for ten rolls. We have LPG heating and a tankful of gas costs five times that. So, if you haven’t got thick insulation in your roof, do it if you can, it’s worth it.
I really must get out more…
This is not the bike from the Two Fat Ladies TV series. The sidecar is the same model, but their bike was a 1996 Triumph whereas mine is a 1992 BMW. As you can see, it could do with a good run. The keen-eyed will notice the mass of frosty cobwebs and a complete absence of snow. That’s because I took the pic last November.
There was a van outside this morning. The man getting out of it was carrying a multimeter and other electricians’ tools. On the side of the van was a lightning symbol and the word BlueFlash, which seemed to me to be a particularly inappropriate name for a firm of electricians, rather like calling your gas-fitting company BigBang. A closer look at the van showed me I’d got it wrong. The firm fits burglar alarms. A bit of lateral thinking would have told me that. Perhaps all this snow and cold weather numbs the mind.
My three-year-old Grandson’s concept of time:
while ago / yesterday / NOW / soon / afterwards / tomorrow
(tomorrow = any time in the future)
Oh really? Do you get the impression that some newspapermen seldom venture beyond Fleet Street (or wherever Fleet Street is these days)? Okay, we have 20″ of snow where we are, and that is after it has compacted itself during the past fortnight so we are probably talking about over three feet of fallen snow. Further north they have more, they are really snowed in. Two nights ago the temperature here fell to minus twenty. But Arctic? I don’t think so. Not that I have been that far north – I have flown over it, but that doesn’t count. I once visited Sweden, in winter, for work, and if our gallant press think it’s bad here then they should try wading through chest-deep snow. We were looking for a place to site the 6.7km deep Siljan Deep Borehole. ‘You go down there…‘ ‘What?’ ‘It is deep, yes, but it is nothing.‘ ‘It’s chest high!’ ‘Yes, but it is nothing…‘ It wasn’t the chest-high wading through powder-snow that worried me, it was the thought of stepping off the edge of something and dropping down deep. But I am still here, so the man (probably) knew the way through the woods and over the river. It was quite an experience, as was seeing quadruple glazing in hotels and houses. Quadruple, not double. And that was twenty five years ago.