Tourette’s Syndrome by Proxy

This was an idea I had a while ago: about a condition where someone makes other people swear involuntarily.  I’ve known quite a few people with this condition, and I think probably most politicians have it too.  I’m not sure what treatments are available, as diagnosis is still in its early stages, but it sure is a problem: I swore at the radio three times this morning, which means that three different broadcasters have Tourette’s by proxy…

I’m making slow progress with the rose hips.  I made the mistake of choosing hips from a dog-rose bush; these are quite small and topping-and-tailing them has taken me hours.  I shall wait and get some from the garden I think.

One of the things that makes me swear at the radio (apart from the usual political reasons) is what John Humphrys calls the ‘mangling and manipulation’ of the English language.  I particularly hate the wrenching of nouns into verbs; one such horror that seems to have crept into the language is ‘to gift’.  It’s entirely unnecessary: if you give something, it’s already, automatically a gift!  QED.  I also heard ‘writing out’ the other day from one of the banks who’d just been caught out in the typical things that banks do (I can’t even be bothered remembering what it was).  ‘We are writing out to customers,’ the man said, without a shred of embarrassment.  ‘No, you’re not!’ I shouted.  ‘You’re writing to customers!’

And please, please please can everybody chill (ho ho) about Baked Alaskas?  Baking should be fun, shouldn’t it?  What is the point of making it so competitive?  It’s ridiculous.  And I DON’T CARE!!!

Oh, and can anyone tell me what I’m doing at the Crumblin’ Cookie for Everybody’s Reading Week?  My name is on there but I don’t remember offering to do anything…

Kirk out


Gather Ye Rosehips While Ye May…

There seems to be a bit of a seasonal thing going on in my mind here, what with summer and spring ideas parodying themselves for autumn in the last couple of posts: anyway, today I went out to gather the last of the blackberries (not for wine this time but just for eating) and I was diverted by a positive cornucopia of rose hips.  Rose hips have been hovering at the edge of my mind for a while now: they are everywhere at this time of year, and like a lot of hedgerow produce, under-used and undervalued.  People tend to think that all you can do with them is make rose hip syrup, but this is not true.  Incidentally, every time I think of rose hip syrup I hear Hilda’s voice in my mind.  I mean of course the Hilda of ‘Howard and Hilda’: she of the hand-knitted twin sweaters and camomile tea.  If you still don’t know who I’m on about here’s a clip:

Howard and Hilda appear about 4 minutes in, in their typical matching sweaters.  For my money, EDC, though not as much fun, is more thoughtful and better written than ‘The Good Life.’  I became obsessed with it at one point, which I guess is appropriate…

Anyway… like I said, I can never think of rose hip syrup without hearing Hilda’s voice offering Martin some.  I picked a pound or so this afternoon and they are beautiful.

Kirk out

Summer is y-bugger’d off…

Well, that’s pretty much it from summer this year, folks, so turn on your central heating, get out your winter duvet and head off in search of some mists and mellow fruitfulness. There are still some blackberries around, the apples are coming and the hedgerows are groaning with fruit, at least where the hedge-trimmers haven’t been and shaved it all off. Yes, at this time of year you can see the lesser-spotted hedge-strimmer with its distinctive hard yellow cap and long wings as it plies the country roads keeping the hedgerows neat. Whenever I see one of these or come upon a weed-sprayer or lamppost bulb cleaner, I wonder what would happen if these jobs didn’t get done. Imagine: in less than a year country roads would become impassible and city streets would be a dark and dangerous mass of weeds. I don’t like seeing hedgerows cut back or pesticides sprayed on the pavement, and yet it’s hard to see how we could manage otherwise. I can’t even keep our patio free of weeds, for god’s sake. I’ve tried eco-solutions like boiled-egg water, but there are only so many eggs you can eat in a day.
Kirk out

Take Note of Your Elder…

It’s easy to ignore and disparage because it grows on waste ground or by canal-banks: few people would cultivate it deliberately but according to folklore elder is a special tree because it frames summer.  The blossom coming out marks the beginning of summer; the berries mark the end.  You can see very easily with elder how the berries map onto the blossom; how the sprays of off-white blooms (the colour of my Mum’s satin wedding-dress) which house quite unfeasible numbers of insects, give way in time to sprays of deliciously purple berries.  There’s nothing to match the colour of elderberries, and the wine they make is an equally beautiful dark colour.  I am drinking some of last year’s elderberries as we speak, and today I have picked enough to make another batch.  I’ve done well out of elder this year as several bottles of elderflower wine are waiting in the cupboard for me to broach them when the time is ripe.

So all of this means that summer must be over.  It certainly feels like it: there’s a chill in the garden and I’ve dug out a jumper to wear and tights to put under my socks.  But I don’t really mind: unlike some years it feels like we’ve actually had a summer this year.  We’ve had oodles of sun and not too much rain – it even seemed to threaten a drought at one point – so I don’t feel cheated.  Poor Daniel, on the other hand, hasn’t had a summer at all.  He’d barely broken up from college when infection struck, and it looks as if he’ll hardly have recovered by the time he needs to go back.

We have some apples ripening in the garden and I shall probably make wine out of them, too, come the autumn…

Kirk out

I Remember it Like it Was Today

I’ve been writing a memoir, as you will know if you’ve been following this blog, and today I sent off the first 5000 words of it.  Then I got stuck in to improving the rest of it: I’ve already written 50,000 words but they need a lot of polishing and organising.  I got really into it this afternoon and the time flew by.

Then I went out for a walk and picked some elderberries to make wine.

Daniel is getting a lot better: he is still thin but putting on weight (I think I’ve got all his weight: what with all the stress and not having time to make proper meals, I think I’ve put on a few kilos so maybe we should arrange a swap of some kind.  If only you could do that: if only you could have a fat transfusion and hook up with someone who needs all your excess fat, everyone would be a lot happier.)

The theme of the memoir is, paradoxically, forgetting.  It’s called ‘I am the Anti-Proust’ and it’s an account of losing my memory and what happened next.  I hope they’ll like it.  I have to finish the rest by October so I’ll need to get cracking.

But!  The big news is, Leonard Cohen has a new LP out!  I get email updates from and he has an album coming out called ‘Popular Problems’.  You can hear a sample track here:

Blimey, that’s a long link!

Kirk out

Lawn Happy, Pizza Unhappy, Neighbours Balanced

I solved one problem today by going next door and asking the nice Polish neighbour if they had a lawn-mower I could borrow.  They had, and I could.  It was a diesel one: by a miracle Mark and I managed to get it going and the lawn is now closely shaved (I set the controls to ‘a close shave’ just like Gromit did).  The woman next door is very pleasant and has a lovely four-month-old girl: she and her hubby came round for tea in May when her daughter was only three days old!  So after that I worked on the memoir a bit before discovering that I only need to send five thousand and not ten thousand words.  You’d think that’d be good news but it’s thrown me a bit as I had a ten-k word section all ready to go.  Still, the early chapters are the ones I’m most happy with, so it’s probably all for the best.

After lunch I lay down for a nap and two hours later I woke up to the sound of dogs barking: next door on the other side seem to have acquired two dogs and to have an extreme reluctance to let them in the house, so that they bark constantly.  It’s driving me nuts and I went round to ask if they could keep them quiet but no-one was there.  Daniel and I walked down to the shop and then I extracted a pizza base from the freezer only to discover that it was a ready-made pizza.  I put it in the oven and succeeded in burning the base; Daniel then discovered that the sauce was sweet and sour so basically the whole thing was a disaster.

Mark is now in Loughborough seeing Bettina so there’s only you and me here.  So, how have you been?

Kirk out

A Memoir, a Lunch Club and a Clapped-out Mower

It’s been an eventful first day back here: first, Mark and I were catching up with each other and then with some household chores.  I mentioned the lawn (incidentally I can never say the word ‘lawn’ without hearing Tom Conti’s drunken voice in my ear saying ‘then you have to give us the lawn ornaments’ – anyone who knows where that comes from please comment below) and how the grass was growing high, perhaps not as high as an elephant’s eye but certainly as high as a sparrow’s throat.  He agreed that he would in fact tackle the lawn.  I got out the mower, connected it to the extension lead, switched it on and – nothing.  Just a hiccough and then it was dead.  I checked the extension, the plug, changed the fuse and still nothing.  I emailed the house owner, who said that the garden tools are not in fact part of the tenancy (I’ll have to check this out) so now we’re a bit stuck.  Anyone have a spare mower?

It’s bloody typical that, on only the second occasion when I’ve got Mark to agree to mow the lawn, the bloody thing conks out.  Anyway, I decided that as we were out of bread and loo rolls I would make some bread (I have yet to discover how to make loo rolls) and discovered that we were out of yeast.  A trip to Green and Pleasant was in order, and as I tripped down Queens Rd burdened by the surplus medicines Daniel has not used, to take to the chemist, and as I passed Fingerprints I saw a finger beckoning me.  And lo! it was Chris Conway and a couple of chums holding their occasional pop-up lunch club.  I went in to join them for a spell and talk about gigs and filk and poetry and stuff.

After the bread was rising I turned to my memoir.  The first ten thousand words are almost ready to go.  It goes without saying that I think they are turgid rubbish because I think that about every piece of prose I write, no matter how good it seemed as I was writing it.  In fact I think there may be an inverse law here somewhere: that the better a piece of writing seems as you’re writing it, the more it will appear on re-examination, to be sewage.

C’est la vie!

Mark returned from his foraging with loo rolls, so the sewage problem can at least be contained.

The memoir will go off next week, or at least the first ten thousand words will, come hell or contaminated water…

Kirk out

Buried in Barrow

I have just come back from a well-deserved break in sunny Barrow-on-Soar, staying at Jan’s flat.  Barrow is actually an interesting village in many ways: first, it’s alive and not dead like some villages; people actually live there as opposed to being commuters who are only really around at weekends; secondly it has a number of interesting buildings including the so-called ‘Roundhouse’ – actually an octagonal building – which used to be a lock-up, the inevitable workhouse, and a building called Bishop’s House which seems to have been constructed out of anything the builders could lay their hands on; it’s an incredible mish-mash of tiles, stone and timber all covered over with a layer of local clay.  Weird.  And then there are the fossils.  Barrow sits on a large area of land which was once underwater and the whole region is rich in fossils, the most famous of which, the Barrow Kipper, now rests in Leicester’s New Walk Museum.  The guided tour I followed takes you around a number of sculpted fossils embedded in walls, including a trilobyte which, the guide helpfully informs us, did not exist in Barrow.  Go figure.  But it’s the canals that are the making of Barrow.  The river Soar and canalised parts of it, run at the bottom of the village and there’s a pub on the waterside as well as a cafe and lots of mooring by the lock.

I did a lot of walking by the river: the first day, I walked as far as Mountsorrel and the second, I made it to Swithland Water.  It’s interesting to watch the boats, and on that first day I saw what looked like a Hindu funeral: I guessed they were going to scatter the ashes on the water as they do in India.

Swithland water is beautiful and atmospheric: trees sweep down to the water’s edge and far off, the trains come over the bridge with a haunting whistle.  However, you have to walk miles to get to the waterside and Severn Trent, who own it, are unwelcoming to visitors to the point of being hostile: there’s only a short part where you can see the water, there’s nowhere to sit and if you sit in the car you have a lovely view of the wall and not much else.  A couple of fishermen had broached the wall to sit on the shore, but I didn’t feel like doing that; I was, however, much in need of a rest so I lay down on the only patch of grass and relaxed for a few minutes.  And then I was off: back up through the woods, along past the old quarry where there’s a monument to the stoneworkers who worked there; past the Beacon (I think these were originally built to warn of Napoleonic invasion) and back between the houses to Mountsorrel Buttermarket.

This morning as I was taking my last walk along the canal before returning home, I ran in to a friend who has a boat.  He is usually moored at Thurmaston but he and some other friends were taking a trip: he offered me a ride but sadly I had to decline as I needed to get home.

Daniel is now almost recovered.  He had the all-clear from the ENT clinic today and he is looking much better.

Kirk out

An Imminent Son

As I write for the first time in weeks (I’ve missed you!) I am anticipating the imminent arrival of son and partner in a taxi.  Daniel is due to be discharged today at around seven; though having previous experience of discharges (no, not that kind) I am not holding my breath.  He has been a lot better in recent days though: antibiotics seem to have sorted out his infection and resting, eating and drinking have done the rest.  I have to pay tribute to the staff who looked after him: he has had the best care imaginable, from dedicated and professional staff who took time to explain everything to him (and us) and make sure they were treating him correctly.  Nothing was too much trouble in Intensive Care, and even when he was moved onto the ward, staff were always available to talk through our concerns.

Nevertheless, it has been a terrible time.  I am now exhausted from going backwards and forwards to the hospital every day, not to mention trying to get him to eat, drink and be mobile while I was there.  Mark went away for the weekend, which didn’t help, though it was something that had been planned for weeks so I told him to go.  I plan to have a couple of days away myself, hopefully at Jan’s flat in Barrow.  He has lost 10 kilos (that’s a stone and a half in the old money) so he has been quite seriously ill and at one point looked positively cadaverous.  Very disturbing and upsetting – in fact it wasn’t until he was moved from Intensive Care onto the wards that I realised just how keyed up I had been.

Of course I’ve not been sleeping well either – hopefully that will improve when he’s home.  Humour helps, too, and at times I can understand the gallows humour doctors use to get through the night.  So while Daniel’s liver was struggling to perform, Mark and I were devising a website based on Monty Python called ‘’.  It would be a sort of liver-based organ donors website where people could exchange bits of liver, as in the Python sketch:

Incidentally, did you notice the correct pronunciation in the website address?  As in ‘canweave’ rather than ‘canwehave’?

Talk more tomorrow.

Kirk out