Saturday, 28 February 2009

Charmed - or otherwise

Amazing! Two days ago we had a couple of goldfinches in our garden at breakfast-time. Our good friends, Mandy and Charles, had given us a bird-feeder with a bag of Nyga seed 'for goldfinches, redpolls and siskins only'. They'd put one up in their garden at the other end of Grove, and eventually, after about a year, goldfinches had found it. Ours had been up just over a week, and bim, bam, boom! there they were. The mystery is, how did they find it? We've not seen them sniffing around before. How do they distinguish between THEIR seed and the common-or-garden seed or peanuts in the other feeders? Do they smell it? Or see it? After all it's not sitting there on top of thistle plants. Well, we're just glad to see them, a bit of colour to cheer up this grey mornings.

But what about this godwit bird? I mean Sir Fred Godwit, who wades in the lucrative mudflats of the City and then takes flight loaded with more worms than he can possibly eat. I don't wish him ill. After all, I understand he's by no means exceptional in that part of the world. There are plenty of other waders where he comes from. However I DO hope he uses his money well. Some people seem to think he could pay off the national debt with it. I don't think so. But he could do a LOT OF GOOD with it. Here's an idea, Sir Fred. How about keeping enough to pay off your mortgage and live on? And then give the rest away to people who need it? Like the homeless, hospices, the hungry? You could do a lot of good, and I guarantee you'd be a happier man. Oh, and one other thing, don't tell people that you're doing it. That would spoil the whole thing. After all, as my friend Tom Greenwood used to say, 'There are no pockets in your last coat.'

Friday, 20 February 2009

The ostrich

'What's happened to your blogging?' I'm asked. 'And what about the robin?' Well, I've not shot him. I'm afraid he's still at it. In fact he started a bit earlier last night. But we just have a live-and-let-live relationship. I suppose I've just run out of things to write about - which might be worrying since I intend to write seriously....

Thinking about it, I guess the news is so generally depressing I don't much feel like pontificating about it. I mean England lost the rugby, and in the cricket they didn't manage to close out the Test they had in the bag. And talking of cricket, the sugar-daddy of the English game, Mr Stanford, seems to have pulled off a massive scam and then done a runner - just another piece in the jigsaw which is the global financial crisis. In this area, BMW have laid off hundreds of workers at the Mini plant in Oxford, Honda have stopped production until June in Swindon, and Oxford Instruments are laying off dozens just up the road.

A long time ago, when the Trustee Savings Bank was denationalised, we bought a few of their shares. They'd be a useful form of savings, we thought. Lloyds took TSB over - which was good news. Then Lloyds TSB 'rescued' HBOS last year - which has been bad news. Last time I heard they were worth about 50p. So much for treasures on earth. I can understand how worried people with private pensions are.

But it's tempting to be an ostrich. Perhaps that's why I've been not had much to say.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Light dawns

This evening, I was watching The One Show. Gyles Brandreth was doing a report on the latest cyber-fad in his aristocratic tones - and it dawned on me what's been occupying my robin these past nights. He's Twittering (bless him!) to all his friends on the internest. My brother tells me they're at it in Nottingham, too.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Last night I had a revelation as the robin sweetly serenaded us. 'Don't let the sun go down on your anger,' (St Paul). Michael, I thought, have you been angry about a BIRD? At NIGHT - when darkness makes everything seem worse? This is not the way to resolve problems, is it? As for the last comment, though I'm grateful for the offer, that's really not the way, is it? Rather make friends with your enemy; coexist peacefully. So I'm going to encourage Jane to put extra bird food out for our resident songster. In the summer I shall sit out on the patio and talk to him. I'll even compliment him on his singing. Then, maybe, I'll tell him about normal sleeping patterns, and next winter - who knows? - maybe he'll keep more regular hours. Here's hoping.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Black out

It's escalating, the robin affair. Last night Jane used some packing cardboard to black out our bedroom window. It was like war-time. It worked well - blocking out the street-light's bright orange glow. But it didn't help with the robin, who warbled away all night. And it didn't help Jane who lay awake half the night. So here's hoping his lady-love turns up on Saturday and puts an end to all this romantic nonsense. Incidentally it's a week since Pete the lift-man came, and it's been working perfectly since then. Lovely.

As a moving-in present, Paul and Penny gave us the complete DVDs of 'The West Wing'. I never saw the end of the set of series; so am enjoying watching them again. I once went on record saying Jed Bartlet was the kind of President and John Deede was the kind of judge I'd want. Penny's parents coincidentally sent us an email: 'We ... started thinking that there must be others moving around this time too, who would understand the frustrations of not being able to find what you want, when you want it, because it's "in a box somewhere...."' And so I set to thinking what an awesome move the Obamas have made. I suspect they have more significant irritants to face than robins.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

It's him again

He was at it again last night, that robin. ALL night. I was quite wakeful and every time there he was singing away. Though as Mandy pointed out, robins don't so much sing as chirp, or is it chirrup? Anyway I was giving this cheering information by Pat in one of her comments: 'Country lore tells that the birds find their sweethearts on Valentine's day; so your robin is probably trying to impress the 'bird' he fancies. He'll soon be too busy nest building to sing all night.'

Yesterday we had five visitors, no less - which was fun! Below you can see Jane and me celebrating Stephen's birthday, in our new dining room (courtesy of his new camera).

Then I turned on Radio 4 Long Wave expecting to hear the Test Match - instead on the news I heard it was all over. 51 all out!! 'I don't believe it!' Can this be the team that contains two 1.5$ cricketers? Two Indian investors must be wondering whether they've been wise. Try harder next time, lads - please. England expects....

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Overpaid buffoons

I can't believe that I am paying the likes of Messrs Ross and Clarkson. I didn't hear Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand insulting Mr Sachs, but I did hear Jeremy Clarkson's description of our prime minister repeated ad nauseam for us by the BBC. To use a disability as part of an insult seems to me below decency. If, for example, someone had described me as 'that boring vicar' it would have been fair enough; but if they'd said, 'That boring cripple of a vicar,' I think that would have been unacceptable. It's using the disability as a way of reinforcing the insult. Moreover, I actually believe we owe our politicians respect. We may criticise their actions, but not demean their character. They have a heavy responsibility. Exposing them to ridicule does no good to a society. It is true that Gordon Brown is Scottish and lost the sight of an eye playing rugby. The one element of Clarkson's jibe which is not true is the charge of idiocy. Thnking of eyes, I'm reminded of Jesus saying, 'Don't say, "Let me take the sawdust out your eye," when you have a log in your own eye.' Whose eye is the log in, I wonder?

By the way, what a good game the Ireland/France match was today!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snow business

This is where the robin sings

Well, you can't win, can you? My friend, the robin, stopped singing last night - and I lay awake worrying what had happened to him. Had hypothermia overtaken him? Had an exasperated neighbour shot him? Then he started again at 6 o'clock. When Jane opened the curtains, the reason became obvious. The world (at least Grove) was blanketed in snow. He clearly had tucked his head under his wing in the blizzard.
Today we've been hanging pictures, including one of a kingfisher, in the dining room. Hopeful sign.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

That darned robin

Last night, at regular intervals, I lay awake thinking of Uncle Mac's Nursery Rhymes. For younger readers, he was a forerunner of the Teletubbies etc. Did 'Children's Hour' on the BBC Home Service. Anyway we had an LP (12 inch vinyl) of nursery rhymes introduced by Uncle Mac in his slightly lugubrious voice. One of them was that rather surreal song, 'Who killed Cock Robin?' to which the answer is, '"I," said the sparrow, "with my bow and arrow. I killed Cock Robin."' I used to feel that the sparrow was a trifle smug - but not last night! I mean, it's no excuse being a distant relation, or even a near relation, of the nightingale. No bird should be singing ALL NIGHT LONG, especially within yards of our bedroom window (which Jane, for reasons of health, keeps open; and I'm right with her there). All right, our chickens used to start clucking away, but that was only at dawn. And no bird should be singing NOW; doesn't he know it's not spring? It should be pretty obvious with snow on the ground. He ought to be in a barn keeping himself warm (literary allusion) with his head under his wing. Instead here he is singing his little heart out, but the only lady listening is Jane. If I'd been able to, I'd have been tempted to emulate the sparrow.

Not really - after all, Bill Oddie might be lurking in the bushes. And in fact when I was feeling charitable - it came and went - I felt sorry for the little chap. I mean perhaps he was singing to stop hypothermia overtaking him. Or, more likely, the streetlight just over the fence which makes him think night never comes. Poor unhinged bird. Completely disorientated. I wonder if I should write to the council suggesting they turn it off for a few hours. After all, how long can he keep it up? 24/7 - it can't be good for him. It would be nice for him to survive to be a proud father of a nestful or two. And then I fell to philosophical musing, because what's undoing his nature is our interfering with the environment. Instead of allowing him his night-time, we insist on travelling at night and pretending it's day-time. How much, I wondered, of the dislocation of nature, how much disease, is ultimately caused by humans wanting their cake and eating it? A case of unintended consequences. And then we spend our time running to pick up or patch up the mess we've made - which isn't a bad thing to do, but it would be a whole lot better not messing up in the first place, methinks.

Meanwhile, pity poor old Cock Robin, chirping his heart out tonight, and tomorrow night, and.....

Monday, 2 February 2009

Moving times

Well, it's all over. Here we are. In Grove, a suburb (what's the equivalent for a market town?) of Wantage - birthplace, I think of King Alfred. We've moved, and I'm officially retired. Or tired, more like. Actually both Jane and I are exhausted, which isn't surprising since moving is near the top of the stressful experiences of life. Although, obviously, I've done nothing to help, just sat around suggesting where things might go in the new house.

It's been quite frustrating, as this has been the first move we've had since I've been ill. Previously I've been able to shift furniture, empty boxes, hang pictures etc. This time I've had to fight the temptation to feel guilty or sorry for myself. However, as readers will have gathered, I have a nice family who worked their socks off, and achieved more than the two of us would have on our own. And our movers, Smarts of Highworth, were the best of the six we've used over our married life. Couldn't have been more accommodating and efficient.

Obviously there's quite a bit to do yet, before everything has its place. But here we are. This, not The Vicarage, is our home - for which in this cold spell we are grateful, since the Vicarage was quite a big house and single-glazed and this is double-glazed and not so big. And I am no longer a vicar. I'm an ex-vicar. So I'll have to change my profile.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. On Friday, the day we moved in, the lift got up to its old tricks again and took to leaving me hanging in mid-air on the descent. I comforted myself with the fact, according to the Editor of IAOR'S blog (who has commented here a couple of times), that lifts are statistically the safest mode of transport. However Pete the engineer from Bristol came out today through the blizzard, and tracked down the cause of the problem - a protruding screw which triggered the safety mechanism whenever it reached the bedroom floor. Since then it's worked fine. Bristol's a fine city.