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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A right can of worms

I am just back from Home & Bargain.

I don't know how widespread the Home & Bargain chain of shops is - and they seem not to have a web presence, so I can find no help from that quarter - but, for those who have never heard the name, Home & Bargain are wonderful Aladdin's caves of shops in which one can very often find things at a fraction of the price they would be in the supermarket next door.

I'm sure that Booglaoo Dude, being a great frequenter of various branches of Home & Bargain, will confirm that it is almost always worth popping in on the off-chance. (He also speaks highly of something called, "B&M Bargains": but I have no personal experience of that particular establishment.)

So. I was in the pet supplies area. Sometimes they will have a brief appearance by a superior brand of cat food at an extremely reduced price. (My arms will attest to this, having been stretched almost down to my ankles by the 5 kg of something posh I dragged home on Thursday. This was probably foolish, but experience has taught me that it is imperative to buy such things when you see them. That shelf will almost certainly be bare by the next day.)

The pet supplies area includes things like fat balls and tubes of peanuts trapped behind wire mesh which Bertie would gladly purchase to fatten the local wild bird population up if only I would relent and give him some pocket money.

But today there was Something New.

For an unknown amount of money - sorry, but I was limping past in horror too quickly to notice the price - one can buy a ring-pull can of dried earthworms.

Now, leaving aside -which is by no means easy, I can assure you - my life-long phobia of earthworms, why would anybody want to feed the birds in their garden a dried version of something the birds can pull up out of the ground in that self-same garden for free??

Vermivorous* birds have been cunningly-designed to be absolutely toptastic at dragging protesting worms free from their soil-y habitat. What possible benefit will the average blackbird derive from mankind generously farming the worms on his behalf; killing and drying them; and pouring their wizened, dehydrated remains into a ring-pull can? A can, moreover, which Beaky himself can not open. No matter how early he gets up of a morning.

I am all for feeding the birds. Or, rather, I am all for feeding the birds in scenarios where so doing doesn't lure them within easy reach of Bertie's gaping maw. But - assuming, for the purposes of discussion, the absence of Bertie - I will feed them things which they can't get for themselves. It seems likely to me that one of the reasons garden birds fall so voraciously on bread crumbs is that, try as they might, they simply don't have the equipment to knead bread dough themselves. Bread thus becomes an exotic and delicious foodstuff by virtue of its very unattainability. (Plus, of course, it is entirely possible that bread actually tastes a lot nicer than worms do. Trust me: I am never going to put this theory to the test.)

Offering the birdies a sprinkling of dried worms seems to me to be something akin to offering currants to someone who works in a vineyard. Not only is the offer wholly unnecessary in the first place, given the superabundance of the real thing, but the "treat" offered is decidedly less enticing than its fresh equivalent.

Or is it that earthworms are actually seasonal, and no-one has ever told me?

The Editor

*Ok, I just made that word up.

Friday, January 25, 2008

In which Bertie considers a change of career...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mr Larkin's Vegetable Medley

Lady Bracknell is given to understand that the Editor's gentleman-friend, Mr Larkin - who, by all accounts, can turn his hand to a wide variety of occupations - has no little skill in the kitchen.

(Lady Bracknell assumes that it must be the said Mr Larkin's dubious socialist beliefs which prevent him from retaining suitable domestic help. Lady Bracknell is happy to report that she herself had never so much as set foot in the kitchen regions of any house in which she had resided until such time as Lord Bracknell's mysterious and untimely demise left her in considerable want and penury.)

There follows one of Mr Larkin's recipes, recorded faithfully by the Editor as it was being dictated to her over the telephone. Lady Bracknell believes that, as Mr Larkin's culinary opus has yet to be published, this may be what journalists are vulgarly wont to refer to as, "a scoop".

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. Finely dice one large onion and add it, together with two crushed cloves of garlic, to the pan. Sauté gently until the onion is translucent. Next, add the finely-chopped flesh of two red capsicums and continue to stir the contents of the pan from time to time as you peel and chop half a pound of mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the pan; season to taste; and retire with a glass of wine until the vegetable medley is cooked to your preference.

Finally, scrape the contents of the pan into the bin, wipe any remaining evidence of vegetable matter away with a paper towel, and put the pan back onto the heat in readiness to receive a large, juicy steak.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Boxes in bins (a post without pictures)

I went up the road last Friday.

I more often go down the road. Down the road leads to Tesco and the library and the Post Office and the doctor and the bus stop for work.

Up the road leads to the stop for the one bus an hour for needles and haircuts. And occasional squirrel-sightings.

Up the road, the pavements are lined with wheelie-bins. (And, no: I didn't take very kindly to the letter from the Council to everyone on the street saying there have been complaints about the fact that the bins are left out on the pavements, and threatening me with a prosecution for fly-tipping. Partly because I don't leave my bin out on the pavement when it's full, and partly because the fact that other people do is a very minor inconvenience indeed in comparison with the fact that they also park their cars right up on the pavements.)

Anyway, the wheelie-bins were so full of rubbish that their lids wouldn't close. This is because the sort of person who ignores the regulations about not storing their bin on the pavement laughs in the face of threats that their rubbish won't be collected if their bin is over-filled. Rules are, apparently, for other people. People who, presumably, are so insignificant that they haven't been granted a Special Dispensation For Important People With Busy Lives.

So I could see what was in the bins without needing to rummage through them. Not that I ever do rummage through other people's bins, you understand. And not only because I couldn't bend that far. No. What I meant was, I had no choice but to see the contents of the bins.

Contents which consisted almost entirely - from what I could gather - of Christmas present wrappings. Brightly-coloured cardboard boxes containing plastic trays in which toy parts had nestled.

Now, you'd think that the parents of children young enough to welcome gifts from Fisher Price would probably quite like the world not to have burned to a cinder by the time said children had reached adulthood.

To which end, the amount of effort required to break said brightly-coloured cardboard boxes down flat and put them into the blue wheelie bin so that they would be taken for recycling might not seem impossibly onerous.

I mean, I can understand why people weren't prepared to drag heavy bags of stuff for recycling to a public collection bin three streets away, but failing to recycle when the council has provided you with your very own wheelie-bin for precisely that purpose just seems to me to be downright perverse.

I hate my new blue wheelie-bin. Separating out my rubbish is difficult and painful and uses spoons I would very much rather be saving for something more enjoyable. But the visible proof of the great quantities of stuff which would otherwise have been heading straight to landfill (without passing Go and without collecting £200) is sufficiently sobering to make me keep on doing it. And, if I can do it, then I'm going to take a lot of convincing that my non-disabled neighbours' excuses for not doing it are persuasive.

Look, I'm no environmental ambassador. I have a great aversion to being preached at. Particularly by that dreadful harpy who keeps turning up on television berating families for playing computer games when they could be huddling together in one room round a guttering candle with a single marshmallow poised, in a triumph of hope over experience, on the end of a toasting fork.

It's not a barrel of laughs being in constant pain and being stuck at home almost all the time, and I'll be damned if I'm going to deny myself the things which make it tolerable, particularly when my carbon footprint is titchy compared to that of anyone who eats meat, or runs a car, or has children, or goes on holiday.

But I'm not completely irresponsible. I think about how I dispose of things. I have never understood how people can just toss things in the bin when they could be of use to someone else. I've seen people throw clothes in the bin. I've even - horror of horrors - seen someone burn books on a bonfire. What happened to caring about the consequences of one's actions? Where did that sense of individual responsibility go?

Just exactly how smug and self-important do you need to be to not only refuse to use your recycling bin, but to leave the things which should have gone into that bin perched right on the tippy top of your this-is-all-going-to-landfill bin in full view of anyone who walks past?

Oh dear. I appear to be turning into my parents.

The Editor

Cats on boxes (a post without words)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

That was the year that was


Clearly, I should have written this yesterday. When it was still 2007. That would have made sense.

But I was too tired.

An epithet which can be applied equally well to the whole of the last twelve months as to the very last day of those twelve months.

Apart from possibly last January, before the stress resulting from my employer's failure to make reasonable adjustment for me made me ill; which meant I had to come off the NSAIDs; which meant I had to start taking Tramadol.


Here's a statistical* review of my 2007. Because it seemed to me that looking at the figures would be an interesting and informative approach. What I hadn't bargained on was just how scary some of the totals would be...

Evenings out: 1.

Alcoholic drinks consumed: 1.

Trips to exotic, far-flung Manchester: 2.

Trips to places even more exotic and far-flung than Manchester: 0.

Nights spent away from home: 0.

Nights when sleep adversely affected by pain/insomnia/hideous nightmares: at least 250.

Meds taken: approx 7650. (!!!!!!!)

Osteopathy appointments: 18.

Acupuncture appointments: 36.

Cost of alternative therapies: £1530.

Cost of alternative therapies expressed as fraction of annual take-home pay: almost 1/12.

Still, it hasn't been all bad:-

Cats sharing household: 2.

Successful attempts made by Bertie to catch the squirrel which lives in the garden: 0.

Hours spent on phone talking to the lovely (if occasionally somewhat stern) Pop: 650 at conservative estimate.

The Editor

*Statistics: hardly my strongest suit. Please assume some margin for error.