Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Eau de vie

Ian and I are off to France again this weekend to choose our roof-tiles and sort out the windows to the house. We try to stay somewhere different each time to get a feel for the area. This time we are staying with an English couple who run a gite complex about 2 miles away. It will be good to meet them. In an email they alluded to something that I have heard before about the hamlet and that is that it has one of the few remaining legal stills (distillery). Apparently when they changed the law in France to outlaw home-stilled spirits they allowed those who were currently producing to become licenced and continue but did not allow new places to start up. These original licensees are almost all deceased now but rumour has it that the local man is now in his 90s but continuing to produce. My theory is that he probably died several years ago but they mummified his body to fool the inspectors. We will have to investigate further.

Swimming manners

I went swimming this morning and the ladies who don't get their hair wet were out in force! They swam side by side, up and down the lanes in a surreal fashion, never pausing from their conversation to breath. (It is a little upsetting when you don your goggles, swim hat and earplugs and swim properly only to be overtaken by a breast-stroking lady whose head is firmly above the surface!).

In the changing rooms later there was a furore as apparently one of the other swimmers had asked the ladies to move over. This had not gone down too well and the ladies were incensed as they didn't think this particular swimmer was any quicker than them! There then followed a 10 minute discussion on lane etiquette!

Modern banking

I applied for a new credit card the other week. I wanted one that wouldn't charge me loads of money for using my card abroad so I looked around, found the best deal and applied on-line. I filled out a few basic details, sent my application off electronically and within 45 seconds was told that I had been approved and issued with a credit limit of £12,000! I also opened a savings account with similar ease.

How different it was in 1956!

"To open a banking account you need ready cash (banks welcome even a few pounds) and the name of a sponsor. New clients are asked to sign the Bank's signature book or cards, to give their address, and the name and address of someone whom the Bank can apply for a reference. In some cases two references are required."

(it then goes on to explain who can be a sponsor, what they must write and how long it will take to check everyone's credentials!) It concludes by saying:

"We may add that when you get to see the manager of the Bank for the first time-for all new clients are introduced to him- this is not the moment to bring up the subject of a very small overdraft"

I have never met my Bank manager and any contacts I have had with my bank in recent years have been on the phone (when I am usually told that no one can help as I can't remember my password) or through the virtual cyberspace banker!

Monday, 26 May 2008


Well, I had signed off for the night and then settled down to watch the news before bed. Yet another story of a murdered teenager but this time the event occurred outside a bar about 200 metres from Ian's home. We often see and hear people from the local bars coming home after a night out but when something like that happens so close to home it brings you face to face with the reality of life for some young people. When I left London about 6 years ago I can remember walking down the street on my last day and overhearing three children (about 11 years old) asking each other if they had 'the blade' and discussing who and what they were going to do with it. I can remember feeling sad and glad that I was moving. A few months later my local shopkeeper, who had sold me things I had forgotten or needed at 9.30 in the evening for the previous 12 years, was murdered by two people trying to steal a bottle of whiskey from his store.

However, not all is bad. On Saturday Ian decided to try his first ocean swim in preparation for his first attempt at a triathlon. He donned his wetsuit for the first time, spoke to the life guard, who was probably a teenager, or not far off and set off into what was a very rough sea. I thought he looked like he was relaxing but after a while the life-guard noticed that he wasn't going anywhere fast and started to dispatch a fellow guard into the ocean. Fortunately at this point Ian managed to swim to the shore and landed on the beach tired and with a bit of a battered ego but basically OK. After getting his breath back we went to speak to the lifeguard and thanked him for his attention and for looking out for Ian. He was polite, concerned and matter-of- fact about it all and seemed quite pleased that we had thanked him. On the window of the station there was an add for a lifeguard offering the grand salary of £6.50 per hour. Too little for such work I think.

Early summer flowers

This is of course the best time of year for flowers; especially here in the south coast. These flowers self seed and seem to love the coastal climate. They are mostly pink but also in a more of a cerise colour and white. I think they are red Valerian, a perennial native to Europe and the Mediterranean, but now a garden escapee! It certainly grows like a weed but is quite pretty and the bees and butterflies love it!

However, in my garden and the moment the colour of the moment is yellow! My roses are a lovely delicate scent and the yellow irises are doing well!

Modern manners

Today I attempted to tidy my office (at Ian's insistence, as in order to use the keyboard it was necessary to remove a pile of papers and junk and there was no longer anywhere to put them!). I rediscovered a book I bought in a second hand book shop some years ago called " Lady Behave-a guide to modern manners". The book was published in 1956 and provides a great insight into the changing attitudes of the time. I propose to occasionally quote a few parts here for posterity's sake! (The book was by Anne Edwards and Drusilla Beyfus, who was a journalist with the Daily Express and Telegraph). Here is their advice on swearing:

Swearing. Stronger grow the words that fall from the prettiest lips. And the people who mind most are men. If a woman wants to preserve an air of delicacy she must forgo the use of the earthiest expletive she knows.
Since there is a large slice of the population which is genuinely shocked by bad language, the most considerate people trim their language to the company.
People who suppose that public opinion allows the modern girl to say just what she likes when she likes should remember that the furore created by Bernard Shaw's 'Not bloody likely' in Pygmalion was only equalled by the furore created when Sir Gerald Kelly said 'Bloody good' on TV over 40 years later.

My, how times have changed! On Saturday Ian and were woken up at 5 a.m. by his neighbour Chaverley having an argument with a female guest. It went something like this
" ... Bang, crash, bang..F*ck off..No you f*ck off..No you f*ck off you f*ucking c*nt..Bang, thump, bang thump.... go home you f*cking slag.."

and after at least 45 minutes of this the guest left in taxi wearing a boxing glove!


My other cat is called Mandi which is short for Mandeleson. Everyone thinks he is a girl but in fact he is a rather inadequate boy-cat, being the victim of many beatings and thrashings by the local toms. He also has a bit of a problem with hairballs and this time of the year I often come home to a nasty mess on the floor, which, on closer inspection turns out to be a hairball encased in body fluids of some description. My vet suggested a nice tasting paste to give the cat when the problem arose, so I cleverly pasted the required amount around Mandi's mouth so that he would lick it off. Unfortunately he was not grateful and in order to express his feelings took himself to the one area of the vegetable garden that the slugs had not yet reached and proceeded to cr*p all over the Swiss chard. He also does not like to have his photo taken! I had 15 goes to get this and it is the only one where his head is anything like facing forwards!

Talking of slugs, Ian collected a large plastic carrier bag full of the b*ggers this morning (after it had rained). We tied them up and put them in the dustbin and now I have visions of them crawling up over the edge to get out!

Friday, 23 May 2008


Today I was at a study day in London. I had forgotten how awful commuting is! On Tuesday I was enjoying the delights of the River Shannon and today I was sitting in a crowded, smelly train while the girl sitting opposite me attempted to cover up her spots with her makeup, another one was having a conversation on her mobile phone to her boyfriend and seemed oblivious to the need to make any vowel sounds other than uuhh and the person on the seat next to me smelled of sick. I arrived hot and stressed after trying to battle with a station full of people to get to my destination. I couldn't imagine that not so long ago this was a daily event, however by the return journey I was already beginning to re-remember the art of dodging moving and stationary objects in order to get to my train and was almost able to block out the sounds and sights around me (helped by a glass of wine before I left for home!). It really is a mad way of existing!

Last night I came to Ian's by public transport. I walked to the bus stop and waited 35 minutes for a bus to take me into town (at a cost of £1.70), the train took over 2 hours, involved 2 changes and cost £25, and then Ian had to come and pick me up from the station (or I had a 30 minute walk). All in all it took 3 hours door to door and by car it takes 1.5 hours and costs about £15 in petrol! I have little incentive to care for the environment!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Bridge over the Shannon

The University of Limerick is in two counties. The main campus is in County Clare but a collection of departments are in County Limerick, the other side of the Shannon river. I would say that it makes for one of the most attractive campuses I have ever visited but does potentially hamper communication. For this reason a pedestrian footbridge was built across the river. When I last visited it was still being built but now it is fully operational and means that it is a pleasant 5 minute walk to the main campus rather than a 20 minute walk or a drive! The bridge is called the living bridge and is designed to move a little and encourage places to stand and chat and (although I must admit it was a bit too breezy for that!


In the middle of the university campus there is a little mill stream and I spent several minutes looking at three of these birds feeding. It's not a great picture but I think it is a grey or black-headed wagtail but if anyone thinks differently I'd be happy to hear from you! (It was certainly making wagtail like movements!)

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A typical Irish break

I have been staying for 2 nights in a hotel with the Irish rugby team. This has caused a great deal of envy from my colleagues. I have had plenty of offers of a lift to the university campus (even though it is just 5 minute walk away.) My escorts arrive early and sit watching the team go to and from the breakfast table. Sadly they don't mean that much to me as I can't recognise any of them. I did go swimming this morning and found myself in a lane next to someone who looked like he could have been a rugby player! He was definitely faster than me! My room was next to the room where they kept all their kit and for the last two days they have had a row of T-shirts out waiting to be signed by all the team members. I was so tempted just to pick up that pen and write my name on each shirt as I'm sure no one would have noticed the name "lovely" scrawled amongst all the others!

I flew to Limerick with Ryan air. The cabin crew consisted of Agata, Betina and Olgar and the pilot was called Sergi. The hotel receptionist was called Karlof and the waiters were Boris, Stephan and Hans. The cleaners and pool attendants were Kristina, Lena and Gretle. Limerick is a multi-cultural city! My taxi driver from the airport was called Mickey MacHoy. Unfortunately I found Mickey's accent quite hard to follow so we were limited to a conversation about the expansion of Tesco's and Homebase all over Ireland. I glanced carefully at Mickey's picture displayed on his dashboard. Mickey had definitely not aged well since that picture was taken!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

A brief interlude

I am off to do a couple of days work in Ireland and as I have not mastered the art of mobile blogging and have no battery in my laptop there will be a brief hiatus in service!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

A view of the future

This may be us in a year or so!

Slugs are the enemy!

The b*srtards! They have eaten every single courgette plant..all that is left is a stick and a layer of slime! They are now starting on the beans! Ian and I are devising a multi-layered slug defense for France consisting of a copper barrier, nematodes and failing that dynamite! Well if we can't have the veg then the bloody slugs aren't going to get it either!

Work continues to entertain!

We were all quite surprised to receive the following email on the staff intranet the other day. I have of course removed or changed any names but I also felt obliged to modify a little of the language by the substitution of asterisks for some of the letters; something that did not seem to bother the sender!

8.00 pm
Stallion Street
George Tailor (Brightside University)

On F*cking Animals

Bestiality remains a taboo sexuality in the UK, despite ample evidence that, at the margins, it is a small but active sexual culture. In short, we don't f*ck animals, and we don't support those who do, Indeed, Section 69 (I kid you not!) of the 2003 Sexual Offences Act restates the criminalisation of sex with animals in a restricted and phallocentric way. The problem with this state of affairs, even if you are not predisposed to curl up at night with a four legged loved one, is that the ethical foundations that such a law is based on are compromised, and above an aesthetic rejection, opponents find few sustainable arguments to support their opposition. In this discussion, I want to survey the failures to make ethically sustainable arguments against bestiality, offer some alternative arguments that might work better, and also explain why having a coherent and sophisticated view on bestiality is so important to understanding more mainstream sexual relations.

George Tailor is Reader in Sociology and Social Philosophy and Centre Director of the Centre for Research Ethics and Ethical Deliberation. His main research interests are in ethical thinking, sexual ethics and radical theories and politics.


Of course this created a lively controversial debate over the intranet with each person including a duplicate copy of the original email in their reply; thus ensuring that the potentially offensive statement was repeated over and over! The funniest reply was this:

I went home last night and looked at my cat Treacle with new eyes.....then thought NO WAY!

The final email came from computer services requesting that the
discussion be removed from the Internet and placed on the discussion forum!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Euros

We have had what are affectionately known as the 'Euros' with us at work last week and this week. We co-run a course with 3 other universities in Sweden, Denmark and Holland and once a year they come over for a module here and enjoy the delights of Southern England. They do a lot of cheek kissing in Europe and depending on where you are from depends on how many cheek kisses you get! I get confused and also a little perturbed when someone that I have only just met plants two (or three) big smackers on my cheek! I have tried to explain that this is one European custom that the English are unlikely to adopt!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008


Tomorrow I have my French exam. It is now 10.00pm and I have still not looked at it and practiced it or timed how long it will take! Meant to do it at the weekend as Ian was here and he would have been able to comment on my French but we were both too tired. What seemed like a good idea two weeks ago now seems boring. Oh well..c'est la vie!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Miserable cow

I find myself a little irritated today! Firstly my green wheelie bin was not emptied again. Tomorrow I will have to phone up and a very apologetic person will put my name down on the list so that it can be emptied on Thursday. This happens more times than not and I just get weary of having to waste time and energy on it. Secondly I bought a new toilet seat which it seems does not fit either of the toilets in the house so I will have to take it back. Thirdly rather than the £14.99 offer price for the seat I seem to have been charged £29.99 (only just noticed). Fourthly, a year ago we asked for some new equipment at work. It was agreed about 6 months ago and it still hasn't arrived and no one seems to know what has happened and when we can expect it (could be because health and safety man is also responsible for ordering!). Fifthly I keep having problems accessing my blog page. Sixthly.........think I have used up my positive thinking supply this week!

A nice Christmas present

I have not posted for a while... it is because of a Christmas present! My brother and sister-in-law bought me an organic vegetable garden from a place called rocket gardens for Christmas and it finally arrived, in it's cardboard box, last week. There were about 50 plants, carefully wrapped in straw. On Wednesday I had to remove them carefully, stand them up and water them. The following evenings and most of the weekend were spent digging, sorting out pots, buying compost, and planting out my 'instant garden'! (It is meant to be a patio garden but you would need a very big patio to plant all this stuff!). I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility not to let a single plant die as they had travelled such a long way to get here..and I now have 6 strawberry plants, 4 tomatoes plants, 4 courgettes, peas, beans, rocket and various salad leaves including lettuce (although already the slugs have taken a liking to that). I am watering them daily and standing over them to make sure they survive and so consequently I have not had much time for blogging!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

A lovely evening

I said in the previous post that the weather today was great. This was taken at about 6.15pm. I love the way, on some days, you get that dark blue line between the sea and the sky!

Suprise in the lecture hall

French was cancelled today. Builders working on the site unearthed what was initially reported as an exploded bomb and then an unexploded bomb. The police were called, the campus evacuated and the bomb disposal unit were called. They are based in Kent so it took 3 hours for them to arrive and tell us that in fact the first reports were correct and it had in deed exploded on impact many years ago and now was a harmless shell! The university was re-opened but by this time everyone with keys had gone to the beach! (Fortunately the weather was gorgeous!) When I heard about it my first reactions were that the bomb was left over from the second world war (the Lufthansa would jettison any left over bombs over the Sussex downs before flying home), however current students and those from overseas are not so aware of our more distant past and immediately thought it was a terrorist attack and wondered why we weren't so bothered. The builders are building new lecture halls where some old buildings once stood. Comment of the day was "you know how you want to say to some students 'you need a good rocket up your arse'; well turns out they very nearly got one!"

Monday, 5 May 2008

My mother's Sunday lunch

Ian and I visited my mother today. She lives in Windsor and fortunately we arrived just after Prince Harry and his troop had marched down the road to receive their medals! We sneaked in and whisked her off before they returned! (She stood outside and watched them go past but her main comment was reserved for the young policeman that was kind enough to try to make conversation with her who she thought was no more than 15 years old!) We took her to a nearby restaurant for lunch where she munched her way through an enormous plate of roast beef and turkey with all the extras and then apple pie, ice cream and a large cappuccino. It was nice to see her and she seemed to enjoy the change! She is still convinced that she has no appetite.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

I hate snooker

Ian is watching the snooker and I am bored! Looks like I will have an early night!

Birds in spring

There is a chaffinch at Ians place who obviously has his eye on a lady chaffinch and is determined to fight off all competition. Every morning from dawn he attacks the 'enemy' chaffinch in Ian's window. The enemy looks just like him and as hard as he hits him with his beak he just stays put! He did the same thing last year as well!

Mr and Mrs Robbin also came to say hello as we were digging in the garden. As they are incredibly territorial if they could have pecked our eyes out I'm sure they would have done!

After Ian had dug up the ivy that had been growing all over a hedge a wood pigeon decided that the old roots would make a nice nest and flew off into the nearby tree with several bits.

As well as these there are also several very pretty great tits that fly around here. Although I am much more country based I have far fewer small birds there; just many jackdaws and seagulls !Probably because we have too many cats!

Post script: We renamed chaffinch chav-finch due to his aggressive tendencies. IE; butting his head against his enemy until it hurts and he has to stop. We can just imagine him saying "Oy! You looking at my bird!"

Progress with the house and an unexpected pool

We were surprised to get an email from the builder yesterday showing us progress on the site. I must admit that after our visit I didn't expect him to hurry to do much more but I am pleased to say that I was wrong! He hired Mr. dynamite man and low and behold we have a cellar.

However, it seems that after that it rained and now we have a swimming pool! Looks like we will have to investigate getting a pump!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

My mother's therapist

On the surface my mother comes across as an easy-going elderly woman who just wants to do all she can to please everyone, but underneath this she is a very determined and stubborn woman. I was discussing this with Ian tonight and he laughed and said 'just like her daughters'. I was having a conversation with her about her bed. She told me that her mattress wasn't comfortable and she wanted a new one; I tried to persuade her to have one of the electric beds that would help her sit up, but she had talked to a few other people that had them and decided she didn't want one as they took up too much room. 'Fine', I said. 'We'll just get you a nice new mattress that is more comfortable' (Ian later said 'is this the horrible old bed that we tried to persuade her to throw away when she moved but she insisted she bring because she really liked it!). She wanted me to bring a measure with me and when I asked why she said so that I could measure the height of her bed and see how much higher her new matress would be as then she could get up easier. Now, my whole professional life has been spent helping people to find ways to get out of bed so had she told me in the first place that she was having difficulties getting out of bed then I might have been able to come up with a number of solutions! However, I realised a while ago that I cannot be my mother's therapist! I took this opportunity to try to persuade her to see an occupational therapist (not me) privately and explained how it was very difficult for me to approach her and work with her in the way I would work with clients but what I could do was find her a good therapist. She would probably have to pay for it but then she has some money and it would be a good investment. 'But what could this person do for me that you can't?' she said. I explained again about how difficult it was for me to act as her therapist and she seemed to understand. 'But how do I know that this person will be able to help me?' she said. I said. ' Well, perhaps you can let me be the judge of that in this case.. it is what I have been doing for 35 years'! She laughed and I said I would talk to her about it next week! I don't think I have much chance of getting her to agree to a referral! My brother tried to arrange a doctors appointment for her but she refused, saying that she would do it herself! My sister-in-law wants her to have acupuncture but she has even less chance of persuading her to pay for someone to stick needles into her than I do of getting her to see a private therapist.

I think that when I am her age I will probably be exactly the same as her so I guess we must just learn to allow her to make her own decisions at this stage in her life, and accept them, even if they are not the ones that we want her to make.

(Funny, until I started writing this entry I could not see it so clearly)

Stereo purr

I have just come from the sofa. The three of us were dozing. I was lying down trying to stay awake during the news, Norma was in her usual place across the back of the sofa, against the radiator and Mandi (black and white cat) was on the arm rest next to my head. I awoke from my snooze to stereophonic purring.