Thursday, January 28, 2010

Smell of cow shit brings a promise with it

This will sound daft, but I know spring is one its way, not because January is slowly drawing to a close, but because I can smell the cow shit in the air.
I arrived back her at Higher Lank about ten minutes to midnight, and getting out of the car, the first thing I noticed was the smell of cow shit. I am not trying to be funny - for once - when I say I like the smell a great deal. (The waste from vegetarian animals simply doesn't smell offensive.)
The thing is that you can never smell the cow shit in the winter. Why, I don't know. Perhaps it is too cold, but then that can't really be the answer because last week when we had a mild smell, I still couldn't smell it. But now I can, and now I know spring is on its way.
BTW Another smell I like a lot is that of silage.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saved from a fate worse than death — apparently

So much for winter hell on Earth. After spending more than a week away from home and seriously concerned that I would miss out on important episodes in my children’s childhood (such as discovering it is quite possible to watch TV 24 hours a day if there is no one there to curb such excess), I was determined to get back to Cornwall from work last Wednesday. Being of late rather more mature and responsible (I’m afraid it happens to us all, dammit, despite all those grass-induced late-night pledges that ‘I’m not going to grow up, man, I mean like, you know, who needs it, I mean like growing up, I mean why lay that trip on yourself, man, when there are people dying everywhere, you know, dying, just dying, and all the fatcats, you know, man, all the breadheads, are just sitting there and they don’t give a fuck man’ etc ad nauseam) I checked and double-checked the forecasts — in London, Exeter (where I would travel to by train and pick up my car), Okehampton in the middle of Dartmoor and here at home in St Breward — and did so several days running to ensure I had the very latest information. I even rang up the BP service station at Belstone, just outside Okehampton for an up-to-the-minute eyewitness account of the situation, and a guy there confirmed that the A30 was not only passable but completely free of snow. So I took off.
The first thing I noticed on my journey, or rather the first thing I didn’t notice, was snow. According to the TV news, everywhere apparently, except the small corner of West London where I live and work between Sunday and Wednesday, was several feet deep in snow. So, I asked myself looking out of the train window, where the bloody hell was it all? Where had it gone? For most certainly the TV pictures had not been faked (we have strict laws against that kind of thing — only radio phone ins and TV quizzes can be faked these days), but where was the snow?
The mystery deepened when I got to the station at Exeter St Davids. There the streets were, I must admit, a little damp — it was foggy — but incontrovertibly snow-free. The road out of Exeter to the A30 and the A30 itself were also resolutely snow-free. I did eventually get to see a little snow when I got as far as Belstone, but it was an embarrassment, nothing but small patches in the grass which couldn’t make up its mind whether it was still snow, whether it had become ice or whether it was by now something in between. Snow should be majestic. There is undoubtedly something wildly impressive when you come across a six-foot bank of freshly fallen snow, however inconvenient or even dangerous it might be. You cannot but respect it. It is there and it is beautiful. It might even move some, although not me, to try their hand at verse. But this kind of snow, the kind of whatever it was masquerading as snow on Dartmoor? It was as embarrassing as a fat man man in late middle-age reeking of nicotine and with hair which is beyond thinning who still comes on as though he were some virile he-man in his mid-20s. And for this I endured an additional three days in London? Give me a break.
Thursday and Friday the temperatures climbed and today
was as mild as any day one might enjoy in late winter or early spring. Today it is also pissing with rain which is very re-assuring. The weathermen, who completely cocked up over the ‘cold snap’ are informing us that we should not be fooled by the ‘mild spell’ and that the cold temperatures could last until well into April. Yeah, right. Sounds like a bad case of over-compensation to me. And his from the guys who promised us a ‘barbecue summer’ last year. Did we get one? Answers on a postcard, please, addressed to your nearest municipal dump.
The two pictures were taken just a few minutes ago. They show the remains of a snowman my children built. One is a general shot, the second is a — very necessary — close-up. Take especial note of the rain.
End of rant.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snow, bloody snow...

So far this blog has consisted of longwinded accounts of the cars I have owned and crashed interspersed with whatever irrelevancy has preoccupied me at any given time, so this entry will be an exception. We are going through hell in this country, as will already be known by British readers and readers with an unusually keen interest in British weather (I think there’s a retired tailor in Panama who qualifies and who, by virtue of having once had a grandmother from Belper in Derbyshire, feels a certain bond with Britain and all things British. He is the president of the Panama/Derbyshire Friendship Society, although, as far as I know, also its only member). It is an icy hell, a snowy hell. It is, of course, as nothing compared to the slightly bad weather experienced each year in Minnesota and the other northern states of America, but this is Britain, where we are more accustomed to week-long for than snow, so for us it is hell.
On the bright side, it has been the kind of winter which makes for media heaven. Cliches have been taken out, dusted down and proudly used which have been all but forgotten for many a year. One group of New Year revellers were snowed in in a pub in the Peak District and couldn't leave for four days; a pensioner couple have frozen to death in their bungalow despite several neighbours alerting the police and social services that they needed help; the public has been sternly informed that any attempt at clearing snow and ice from pavements in front of their homes is illegal and they face a fine of up to £5,000 or up to two years in prison for doing so; in Portsmouth — this kind of thing usually takes place in Portsmouth — a neighbours put aside their petty differences and, organised by a resident wing-commander, got together and cleared their street of snow in under an hour. A satellite photograph of Britain was published a few dayas ago showing the country completely covered in snow. Or almost completely, because for me, the irony is that except for a brief flurry of snow last Wednesday, which immediately turned to slush and then ice in the subsequent sub-zero temperature, my neck of the woods has stoutly remained snow-free for the past week. Worse, five days ago, the ice melted and our streets have been bone-dry.

A scene, untypical of West London and not seen for many years, in which the streets are obviously not in the slightest bit bone-dry.

Everyone is, quite naturally, remarkably and, it has be to said in view of my situation, remorselessly cheerful. I, unfortunately, was unable to get home because St Breward, which lies on the edge of Bodmin Moor and is approached by hills on three sides (the moor being the fourth) was cut off. Sounds rather dramatic, I know, but it was true that no vehicle could get through to the village until a few days ago, so icy were the roads. Naturally, it was heaven for Elsie and Wesley, who tell me they have built a snowman and been sliding down a short slope we have in the back garden, but it meant that I was unable to go home last week and have been hunkered down here in London. Ironically, I might well have been able to travel the first 255 miles home reasonably easily, although in some discomfort, but once I got near home, I would have been stuck and would have risked becoming yet another media statistic.
That was all going to change today, Wednesday, which is my going home day. I have been keeping an eye on the various weather websites and they all promised that temperatures would haul themselves from their sub-zero comfort zone and start behaving themselves: around 4c today here in London and St Breward and 2c in Exeter (relevant because I shall have to take the train to Exeter then pick up my car to drive that last 64 miles home), rising to 5/8c by the end of the week. And that would mean a thaw (with, naturally widespread flooding and more misery to keep the media happy) and far easier travelling conditions. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the bloody weathermen were wrong. I woke up this morning to find the streets here in West London covered by almost a foot of snow, traffic crawling as only traffic knows how to crawl, and anguished reports from the West Country of motorists trapped in their cars for up to eight hours. I my homecoming might well be postponed by a day, and if it would have to be more than a day, it would again make more sense to stay in London. Altogether now: fuck, fuck, fuck.

Monday, January 11, 2010

An occasional series

"Marriage between a good man and a good woman can be the closest we shall ever get to Heaven on Earth. For some poor unfortunates, marriage can be Hell. The rest of us must settle for Purgatory."
- Jan van Huis, chemist (1750-1806)

"When men tire of war, they seek out more subtle means of destruction."
- Lucius Bacillus, soldier and poet (125-153)

"If it ain't subtle, it ain't true."
- William F. Forrester, novliest, playwright, screenwriter and journalist (1896-1969)

"Payment is the sincerest form of flattery."
- William F. Forrester, novliest, playwright, screenwriter and journalist (1896-1969)