Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Mists and mellow fruitfulness!

Yesterday we were supposed to be going to Bicester Village, but if you were anywhere near the South of England, you will know why we didn't. So we go today instead.

H.I. says she needs a new pair of trousers, but - of course - she doesn't. She actually bought a new pair 3 days ago, but she still needs some more. You know when a child says, "I need that chocolate bar!"?

I, on the other hand, need to get on with some work before we go to Rome. I ordered a large quantity of cut marble late last week and, yesterday afternoon - a Bank Holiday Monday - Giovanni from the marble yard called me to tell me it was ready to collect! This has to be a record, or they are short of money and work.

When I was a kid, I hated this day, the 1st of September, because it meant a return to the dreaded school. I still cannot understand children who love school, or adults who say that school days were the best of their lives.

The best days in my school amounted to one - the one before the Christmas break, when we were told we could stop working and relax. Having to attend the Carol Service was a small price to pay.

For the first time in many years, the 1st of September has coincided with the first time that Autumn can be detected in the air. This must be to do with the recent weather conditions, as usually it occurs sometime in the middle, or even late August.

It is a subtle and feint (yes, feint, not faint) combination of scents and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. The hay which was harvested long ago is beginning to rot a little, the leaves are doing the same before taking the plunge, and the mushrooms are thinking about having sex in the open air.

The mushrooms. I have promised myself plenty of fungi foraging trips this Autumn, because for the last 3 or 4 years, other things seem to have got in the way. I no longer go shooting on Sundays, so that is no excuse.

So let me be the first to use this title - the one I stopped about 140 people from using unselfconsciously many years ago. Most of you don't need reminding about this, but I am only telling Shawn about it to let her in on the joke and save her from having to trawl all the way back through about 2000 posts to find it. Not that she would...

Monday, 31 August 2015

Expert advice only, please

My daughter has just sent me a worried message regarding this photo. I am on the right and her boyfriend is on the other side. I thought I had better explain, otherwise you might not have spotted the age difference, for there is little.

She is worried that I might have some eye defects, because my eyes reflect the flash in white, rather then the usual red which tend to appear in ordinary people, and not cats or black labs.

In a young child this could signify a rare cancer, but in someone my age it would be more likely the beginning of cataracts.

Now, before you all jump in and pretend to be experts, I would like most of you to keep your mouths shut and leave it to thems as know best to tell me if I might need to see an opthalmic expert.


Intellectual elite

When I briefly lived in Cambridge, there was a slogan which went, 'Why doesn't the Gown mix with the Town?", meaning that the 70 or so percent of the student residents of the university city were very haughty and detached with the rest of the locals who fed and watered them. I wish we could say the same of Bath University.

One day before the 1st of September and a Bank holiday weekend has brought the drunken, rowdy, yobbish and obnoxious hoards students of both sexes back onto the streets between 10.00pm and 5.30 am, and I have only just remembered how peaceful and pleasant our city is when they are away.

University towns have always been like this since the 17th century, but the difference is that groups of drunken students were much smaller in those days, and the universities had teams of beadles out at night to restrain them.

I really pity the late tourists to Bath, who will go away thinking that this ghastly behaviour involving groups of intimidating young men and women going around swearing at the top of their lungs, urinating in doorways, kicking cars, running in front of taxis, throwing bollards around and scaring anyone over the age of 30 off the streets is not only tolerated, but seemingly encouraged by the city authorities.

One big problem is that Bath no longer has a police station, and we haven't seen police on the streets here - walking in pairs - for about 5 years now anyway. They are currently teaching the government a lesson by pretending to have too much paperwork to do to leave their offices, and that they are suffering even more than the rest of us by the financial cut-backs.

Why does Bath no longer have a police station?

Because they have sold the building to Bath University, who are going to use it for student accommodation. You think I am joking, don't you?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Gone fishing (no carp jokes here)

The same friend who tried to buy the portrait of me standing outside the pub expressed the desire for a painting of goldfish, for some reason. Look no further I said, and told her of a series of goldfish paintings done by H.I. a few years ago. She is coming round to look at them this afternoon, and may buy one.

I have never understood the way Coy Carp have become a commodity so valuable, that a whole criminal industry has been built up around them - there are now fish rustlers, whereas before here in G.B. we only had to worry about herons.

I suppose it stems from Japan, where they can get curiously obsessed with certain things, and highly attuned to the nuances of colour or markings on them which somehow make them stand out as exceptional or rare.

A rich client of mine has a large pool filled with massive carp which swim around languorously in perfectly pure, generously aerated water, having nothing better to do than eat and look pretty.

One of these fish is pure white, with an almost perfect orange disc in the middle of its forehead. I think he paid about £8000 for this single fish.

I stress the point about it being almost perfect, because if it were truly perfect, the fish would be the living embodiment of the Japanese national flag and would be worth about £30,000. Not one for the dinner table.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Very important - to ordinary people

You know when you ask for the bill in a restaurant and they put an optional 10% on the print-out for 'service'? Don't pay it.

Pay the basic amount for the dinner, then leave a cash tip for the waiters, otherwise they will not see a penny over their minimal wage from the restaurant.

Be nice. Be generous.

No oil painting

Today, I tell a couple of jokes told to me by a young woman who I have known since birth (hers, not mine).

1: I saw her a day or so ago, and she told me that she had got a new job in a helium factory, filling party balloons. She walked out on the first day though, and said, "I'm not being spoken to like that".

2: What did the bra say to the hat?

"You go on ahead and I'll give these two a lift".

After yesterday's photo, I can tell you that half-famous local artist has just painted a portrait of me which I haven't yet seen (this isn't a joke, or at least I don't think it is). The painting was promised to another friend of mine, but he went back on the deal and sold it to someone else.

Well, I say portrait, but in reality it is of me, standing outside the pub, smoking a cigarette, and the pub tends to dominate the picture. The artist walks past the pub all the time, and seems to see me there every time he does.

I will show you it at some point, but I want to see it myself before that.

Friday, 28 August 2015

The light years

The above photo of me is for the benefit of Shawn. She has not seen me since the mid 1970s, and I want to break it to her gently, just incase she makes a surprise visit to Bath.

She made a little search for me on the net a couple of weeks ago, and the only hint came when she stumbled across a fellow stone-carver's website which included a photo of me (with dark hair), head down and hacking away at a piece of stone for the Theatre Royal. That photo was taken in the 1980s, and as far as I know it is the only one of me up there which uses my real name in the credit.

She eventually found the pub website and actually asked me if I knew how she could find me. Her comment came just above my previous comment and - not recognising her at first - I replied, "That's me. How can I help?"

In 1976, she had left the apartment here in Bath to go on a rare night out, leaving me looking after her 3 year-old daughter. Daughter woke up and began screaming the place down, mainly asking the whereabouts of her mummy - well, 'mommy' actually. Unlike some Welshmen I know, she spoke with an American accent even then, before she moved to the U.S. for good.

Nothing I could say would placate the little girl - no reasoning helps in situations like these - so without turning the lights on, I took her to one of the large windows and held her close to it as we looked at the stars.

It was a rare, crystal-clear night and they were bright and sparkly. I began by trying to instil the notion of light-years in her, by telling her how many of them it took for the little pinpricks to travel all the way to her eyes, all the while knowing that this concept must be almost impossible to explain to a child who has only experienced three of them to date. I find it hard to conceive even now. It's telephone numbers to me. She became quiet and thoughtful - very thoughtful - and after ten minutes or so, meekly agreed that she was sleepy and would like to go back to bed. She slept soundly for the rest of the night.

I like to think that my little lesson in astronomy/astro-physics had more of an impact than I first thought. A couple of years ago, I ran into her father here, and asked after her. If my maths is right (which it seldom is) she must be 42 now.

He said that after graduating, she got a job with NASA, designing parts for spacecraft.

Some of her designs are whizzing around in space over my head as I write.

I'm going to add a bit onto this post. The picture was taken in London, outside the swanky restaurant where we had just celebrated H.I.'s birthday. Daughter had ordered a posh cake at the end of the meal - all cream and fruit piled high - and the waiter came up and whispered to us that they had dropped it on the way up the steps from the kitchen! We could not stop laughing.