nichollsretirementproject

Archive for the month “April, 2017”

The Deputy Shepherd has a new Deputy

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There really are worse ways of spending a Friday morning.

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This is the impact of 260 sheep on a meadow for two weeks when it hasn’t rained.

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As soon as we opened the fence to the next piece of pasture, and the sheep saw the new grass, there was a mini stampede.

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And so, once again, sheep may safely graze.

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It transpired this week that the owner of these sheep charges the local council £3.00 per head for allowing his woolly charges to chomp away at the unique Sussex chalk grasslands.  The council then get a grant, probably from the EU, for the conservation work that the sheep are unwittingly doing.

Will this be another casualty of the Brexit car crash?

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Random Observation

I know we are now in the middle of a snap general, but I still think this this road sign, spotted recently in Swansea, is outrageous!

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I’m thinking of writing to the Mayor of Swansea to protest.

An expensive night out!

Last weekend our daughter came to visit.  It was great to see her and we thought it might be nice to go to the cinema on the Saturday evening.  Linda and I joined a local cinema club recently and, as part of our annual subscription, we were entitled to a certain number of free tickets.  Excellent!

The cinema club shows a lot of films that are not exactly mainstream and the last time we went to see a film called Tony Erdmann, which was a bit bizarre, half in German, but very funny. Well worth seeing.

So when Linda said that she had read a brief review of The Handmaiden in the Guardian, we thought “Why not?  If the Guardian gives it five stars, it might be interesting.”

So why was it an expensive night out?

Well, let me just say that if you are a parent, don’t go and see this film with your daughter.  And if you are a daughter, certainly don’t go and see it with your parents.

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All three of us now face years of expensive therapy to help us to get over the experience!

Deputy Shepherd

These are my sheep and you are not coming near them!

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No big deal.

At my age, the passing of another birthday is not a very momentous event.  There have been plenty of other ones.

When I was growing up, birthdays ceased to be anything to make a fuss of after the age of about twelve.

Shortly after Linda and I moved in together, my parents came to visit.  On the mantlepiece there were a couple of birthday cards, which my mother noticed.

“Oh,” she said.  “Who’s birthday is it?”

“Robert’s.” said Linda.

“Happy Birthday, son,” said my mother.  And that was that.

So when, a couple of days ago, I passed another anniversary, I tried hard to look the other way and let it pass by unnoticed.  However, it did stir my old grammarian heart, when Linda gave me this card to commemorate the occasion.

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I only wish I had had this while I was still a teacher.  It would have had pride of place on my classroom wall along with the quotation “Grammar is next to Godliness.”

(This latter phrase was coined by some bishop in the seventeenth century.  I can’t, for the life of me, remember his name.  It must be my age!)

Blue Plaques

In Britain we are quite used to seeing blue plaques on buildings.  They tend to commemorate the fact that a famous or note-worthy person lived there at some point in the history of the house.  Below are a few examples that I have seen over recent months.

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Indeed, Brighton, being tantalisingly close to London, probably has more than its fair share of blue, or nearly blue, plaques.

This elegant crescent, for example, was once graced by the presence of one of Britain’s greatest actors:

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And then  a few doors down I discovered this:

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I just love the idea that Dora Bryan would put on her poshest English voice and say “I live at “Clarges”, you know!.

A few hundred yards down the road I found this:

P1070924  and just around the corner, proving that it isn’t just ‘theatricals’ who deserve blue plaques, I saw these two:

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And, not to be outdone, Brighton’s Youth Hostel proudly displays its own commemorative plaque:

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My guess is that it wasn’t a Youth Hostel in those days.

Once you start looking out for these plaques, it can become a bit obsessive.  On a recent trip to Swansea, I discovered this:

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And when I found myself in Oxford recently, I spotted these two on the very first OXFAM shop in Broad Street.

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But the strangest one I have yet come across was on a house in the picturesque village of East Dean in East Sussex .  p1060978

Now, I can understand why someone might want to pay for a plaque to be affixed to their house if a notable person once stayed there but…

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Is it just me?

 

Mending fences.

In my new capacity as Deputy Shepherd, there are certain duties that have to be carried out.  Even though the land itself belongs to the local council, some of the dog-walkers took exception on principle to the erection of fences and attacked them with wire-cutters.

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We have just heard that the sheep that we moved last week have been merrily chomping away and have almost exhausted the latest stretch of pasture that we moved them onto. So we’ve got to move them again next week.

Not even Year 9 were this much trouble.

Sheep may safely over-graze.

I motioned in a previous blog entry that Linda and I have joined a group of environmental terrorists, who roam the South Downs and the parks of Brighton, armed with loppers, secateurs, axes, saws and gay abandon, bring death and destruction to innocent hawthorn trees and unsuspecting, defenceless brambles.

Sometimes, the park ranger in charge lets us start a fire to burn the results of our labour, which is even more fun than attacking the undergrowth with heavy weapons.  Usually, however, he instructs us to dump the debris is certain areas where, he tells us, it will create habitat for small creatures.  This is much less fun, but probably more environmental responsible and doesn’t involve us having to ring the fire brigade to tell them not to come out in response to calls from anxious residents.

The purpose of our slash-and-burn activity is  to improve the local environment and to create space for different species to thrive, especially wild flowers, butterflies and bees.  And to do this we wanted to  enlist the aid of some sheep, who will very happily munch away at the undergrowth and keep it under control.

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So a deal was struck with a local shepherd, who provided us with about 160 sheep in exchange for the use of the grazing land.

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And so the sheep settled down to feast on the land that we had just cleared, all within sight of the surrounding houses.

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And feast they did!  Until the park ranger got a call from the shepherd to say that the sheep had exhausted all of the available grazing and were starting to climb the trees in search of food.

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Yep! Sheep will climb trees if there’s a promise of food!

We had previously put up some fences to keep the sheep confined at one end of a long strip of land called ‘Ladies’ Mile.’  Apparently, at one time, the ‘ladies’ of Brighton used to exercise their horses along this narrow area of open ground.  Now it is mainly dog-walkers who tramp up and down the Ladies’ Mile with little black plastic bags in their hand.

The picture below shows what happens when hungry sheep come up against the fence that is keeping them from greener pastures.

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So last week, our group of grey-haired environmentalists had to erect a new fence and then become auxiliary shepherds in order to herd the sheep to their new grazing grounds.

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Before and after.

With the new fence in place, all that remained was to create a gap in the existing fence, and, like they used to say in the old cowboy films “Herd ’em up and move ’em out”

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Or as someone else once said “Let’s get the flock out of here!”

Article 50 et al

The past two weeks have not been the best. Call me a grumpy old man, but …

Am I still angry about Brexit? Damned right I am still angry about Brexit! Angry about Cameron’s monumental miscalculation, angry at the duplicity of Gove, Johnson and Farage feeding latent xenophobia and promising the British people what they knew damned well could never be delivered.

Within hours of the result of the vote, these charlatans were touring the TV studios frantically back-pedalling on all of their spurious promises.

“No, we didn’t actually say that £350.000,000 a week would come back to Britain to fund our NHS.” (We just wrote it on the side of our camera-catching bus)

Nearly a year later, with the NHS near breaking point, we learn that, rather than saving millions of pounds by leaving the EU, we are likely to have to settle our bar bill with the EU to the tune of some 50 or was it 60 billion pounds!

“I know we said that we would control immigration and reduce it to tens of thousands, but that’s not going to happen, because if it did, our agricultural industry, much of our manufacturing base,  our health service and our social care system would collapse.”

“But, at least, British courts will have the final say about justice in this country.” Well, that is hugely reassuring. Especially in the same week when a British judge ruled that Mustapha Bashir should not go to prison for forcing his wife to swallow bleach, for trying to throttle her in public and for beating her with a cricket bat.

Judge Richard Mansell QC,  ruled that the victim of this domestic abuse was not ‘vulnerable’ because she was “an intelligent woman with a circle of friends and a college degree.”  Clearly a collage degree is seen as an adequate defence against a swinging cricket bat.

Part of Bashir’s legal defence was that he was on the point of signing a contract to play with Leicestershire County Cricket Club and that he would lose that opportunity if he were sent to jail. The LCCC denied all knowledge of such a contract, but clearly the very mention of cricket was enough to sway the learned judge and convince him that losing his cricketing contract would be too severe a punishment, so Bashir walked free with a suspended sentence. Perhaps the victim should consider herself honoured that this thug chose to hit her with a cricket bat and not some less revered weapon.

So, thanks, Brexiteers. We look forward to the face of British justice, once we escape the thraldom of the European Court of Human Rights. (I still remember that teachers in Britain used to enjoy the added perk of being able to beat pupils with bamboo sticks, wooden rulers or even gym-shoes before the European courts banned the practice. The House of Commons somehow never got around to it. Such spoil-sports, these Europeans.)

And now we have the totally ludicrous spectacle of Michael Howard, former Tory Home Secretary Foreign Secretary and leader of the Conservative Party, standing up and warning the Spanish that Britain went to war under its last woman Prime Minister when the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands was threatened. So thanks, Brexiteers, here we are, within a year of the vote, rattling our pathetic sabres at our neighbours over Gibraltar and, at the same time, making ourselves an international laughing stock. That’s clearly how we will make Britain great again!

And last week a seventeen year old boy was waiting for a bus in Croydon, just up the road from Brighton. A gang of thugs confronted him and discovered that he was an asylum seeker. He was chased by the thugs until they cornered him and set about trying to beat him to death. A crowd of about 20 onlookers gathered to watch and took no action. The attackers only stopped when they heard the sirens of approaching police cars. So thanks, Brexiteers, for the atmosphere towards foreigners that you have created in this country.

Add to this the random murder of pedestrians and a policeman on Westminster Bridge, the continuing atrocities being meted out in Syria and the endless morass of suffering into which South Sudan has descended and there wasn’t much to cheerful about as I sat in the train to London last Saturday.

Sitting opposite me was a woman, about my age, with a young man of about 25. I don’t know what condition the young man was suffering from, but his speech was completely incomprehensible, although his intellectual capacity seemed OK.

I couldn’t decipher a single word of what the man was saying, but the woman seemed able to make sense of his sounds and was holding a normal, if somewhat one-sided conversation with him.

As we were arriving at Victoria, the woman said “We’ll have to get a taxi. The show starts at 2.30.”

“That’s a coincidence.” says I. “We are all going to London to see a show. What is it you are going to see?”

“Mama Mia,” says she.

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“You’ll love it,” says I. “It’s a great show.”

“What about you? What are you going to see?” says she.

“42nd Street,” says I.

“Sometimes,” says she, “when everything’s so depressing, you’ve just got to get out and see a show.”

Made my day!

So my new philosophy of life is now:

When life is grim, when you think that the lunatics have taken over the asylum and the world is going to hell in a hand-cart, just say “ **** it” and go see a musical!

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PS. If you’ve never seen ’42nd Street’, you have a big gap in your cultural education, that you should seek to fill at the earliest opportunity. If you don’t come out of the theatre smiling, skipping and feeling twenty years younger, I will personally refund your ticket money! It certainly did it for me!

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