Speaking of pests…


As an ex-colleague used to exclaim.

But in this case we arrived home from a wedding at 2:30am and found that indeed something of the rodent family had spread my chocolate around the kitchen and shredded sponges under the sink. The single dropping isn’t particularly telling as to which type of rodent it is, but we’re really, really hoping that it’s mice not rats.

Against this go the absence of the hedgehogs, the size of the dropping and how much activity we’ve seen in terms of what had been dragged where. In favour is that there isn’t any grease smear and nothing’s eaten a wall to get in. I’m not the best to judge as I’m used to well-fed city-centre rats that are double the size (in all dimensions) than what we’d be seeing here – it was known that they couldn’t fit in traps any more.

I’ve lived with both. Another member of the household has not lived with either.

We’ve blocked the most likely holes and they haven’t obviously been back. Yet.

The previous owners had a dog, the smell of which would have kept them at bay. But we have a visiting dog so that should work. We also don’t leave food lying about. There appears to be no specific reason why they’ve suddenly come in now, unless someone else that was feeding them locally has had a clear-out and bought a scarer (sonic or organic). If they have, that would explain the lack of hedgehogs too.

There’s a question of poison, but I feel ‘The bachelor’s guide to housekeeping’, which suggests that housekeeping can be avoided by lining every room with concrete and hosing it monthly, may have been right in saying that the only thing that can make your home even more disgusting than it could already be would be dead rodents in the walls. Then there’s the issue of visiting dog being bright enough to get into any ‘food’.

Humane traps say to release at a distance, but don’t say how far away that is.

We’re not doing anything more until we know what we’re dealing with: choosing for the wrong species would be inhumane.

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Charity shopping

Perhaps I was a student too long?

As in, first time round, I had to move and set up home on a budget several times a year, so I got quite good at spotting the unusual and what would work in the circumstances. This is trickier than it sounds – obvious savings, such as buying in bulk, don’t always work when they have to be stored away from rodents, students and other pests.

This week after having had enough of waking up to bad milk the household phoned round the charity shops of Camberley. There are four clustered on one street that specialise in taking standard and unusual items from the frightfully nice houses of Royal Berkshire and Surrey, when people upsize, downsize or otherwise encounter a life event. We went for a £40 fridge from Christian Aid, but after we’d poked it about a bit we settled instead on the fridge-freezer for £70. All are PAT tested and guaranteed.

The Christian Aid shop was an Aladdin’s cave of serious furniture and other items that We Shall Not See Its Like Again in terms of quality and durability from the “Not seen one of those in years, I’m having it!” school of merchandise. The shop itself was an older building rambling in several directions and when we have time we’ll go back and have a proper rootle. I’m not a fan of sideboards, but could have happily have left with any of the ones they had, except for having nowhere to put them.

There’s an argument that buying cheap then replacing is false economy, but the question is how it’s done. Stopping the food going off and buying enough time to have a proper think before buying in the sale at some point in the future should work out cheaper than saving up while the food goes off then buying the wrong thing or too early at full price. After all, the house is still a work in progress and it’s anyone’s guess how big the kitchen will eventually turn out to be.

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Historic accuracy?

While reading Cadfael I was pondering the historic accuracy. The actual events usually are. Some of the characters (such as Cadfael himself) involve a certain massaging of the truth, supported by contemporary detective fiction that speak of a mystery solving monk in Shrewsbury. Give it another few years and he’ll have always been there.

Botanical accuracy though is something that’s a bit hit and miss in all historic novels as it’s so specific. So it stood out that throughout the latest one I’ve read, ‘An Excellent Mystery’, a title taken from a quote that would be lost on today’s readership (including me), Cadfael is walking under willows on the river bank.

The legend is that weeping willows, the sort that grow on river banks as they love water, were brought by Alexander Pope who grew them from a sprouting delivery basket. So how was Cadfael seeing them? But having had an internet rootle there are comments that English folklore either associates willows with death, or that they uproot and follow travellers about, so either Pope’s wasn’t the earliest example or there were different species already here or ‘folklore’ only dates back to the advent of the internet.

I also found the use of ‘throve’ to describe that something thrived. Perfectly correct. As Samuel Johnson said, it’s not a proper word unless it can be spelled three ways. And there was also mention of a species of willow that grows to 2.5 inches tall but spreads horizontally. Depending how fast it spreads that sounds worth seeing!

Historic truth is stranger than fiction.

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Contrasting literature

In contrast to light and fluffy Cadfaels, leaving aside the occasional Civil War and murders, I’m listening to wider works of greater depth. The latest was Radio 4 extra’s reading of ‘Fahrenheit 451’. I’ve not read it and I don’t know the story, which made it more enjoyable. An advantage of listening on the computer was that I could look up the literary references as they were spoken. Some I knew but had forgotten the context. Some, like the Alexander Pope, I knew only part of. Others I’d not heard before. I can see where the film ‘The Book of Eli’ got its ideas. I enjoyed the irony that in Bradbury’s future, to make classics accessible, they were stripped of what made them classics, to shorten them for easy digestion, which here and now I was a part of through listening to an abridged version.

The Captain of the Fire Department in Fahrenheit 451 reminded me of Dr Oskar Huth in SS-GB. It inspires the question of what is better: someone who blindly destroys as they want power for power’s sake, or someone who appreciates what it is they are invading or destroying? Amidst all the destruction Huth is revealed at the end to have a hidden deep knowledge and appreciation of English history and culture. But where does the Fire Chief get his banned quotations from?

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Unlikely music

We have a special place for Linkin Park round here. We had it played at our wedding. In church. On the organ. Church of England service. If we ever get the video back (it was all properly licensed) it may even do the rounds as an example of ‘What’s wrong with today’s weddings.’ Given than 20 years ago 90% were in church and now less than 10% are, while divorce is 45%, I don’t think it’s the choice of music.

So it was with sadness we saw that Chester Bennington has died, so young and how.

At university we said, “One day there will be kids in a playground saying, ‘Yeah, my Mum listens to Linkin Park'” in the tone of sadness at uncultured blandness, compared to whatever the contemporary manufactured offering was that they were listening to. Given that that conversation was decades ago, whatever feelings had about the music it’s got relevance and staying power. As Obama says, “The sad thing is that to Malia and Sacha, Stevie Wonder will always be ‘Dad Music’.”

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Dangerous places bookshops, for time, wallet and space alike.

As readers of Pratchett will be aware, secondhand bookshops and libraries operate in a different dimension and are all linked together at the back (the part that no one ever gets to see and this is why) through L-Space, through which librarians and custodians can travel anywhere in space and time between them. This is one reason you can go in for five minutes, and it’s really only five minutes, but several hours will have passed by the time you leave. Same with the contents of the wallet, which empties, and the space in the shopping bag, which inexplicably fills. Then at home there’s a need to find where to put all the books, which although were only a bagful when you left the shop are now several shelvesworth by the time you get home. If at Barter Books there is also the hunger pangs that will have disappeared, through the application of a Bacon Sandwich.

Then, as discussed at the Unseen University, as books = knowledge = power = mass, so the greater the number of books, the easier they collapse into a mound creating a blackhole the gravitational pull of which attracts other books through the dimensions, which is why you don’t see them arrive, they’re just there. This is becoming more noticeable in the new house where more and more boxes of books are coming out of nowhere, especially as this is the first time since before I went to university that all of my books have been at one address. We have bought and put up new shelves which are already full of DVDs. Next month it’s the turn of the books, but we still don’t know where we’re going to put them all and we’re still finding them.

L-Space. There’s no other explanation.

But I’m enjoying using the opportunity to find books I’ve not seen in twenty years, such as ‘The Three Investigators’, of which I read all that I could find. They were rare then, being a formulaic series from the 1960-70s that fell out of favour as time progressed, and now as the glue has failed on the orangey paged binding, will become rarer. I have started to re-read them to see if I’ll keep them. Also I have found the Cadfaels, offcasts from my parents, of which I have now re-read all that I couldn’t remember the ending of. The Candace Robbs are somewhere in the mound. So are newer works by Robert Harris that I have been given, but which have been sat in boxes since. I plan to work my way through them all. Not many Giles, Calvin and Hobbes or The Farside yet, but there’s time – I’m with Watterson on the idea that a cartoon is art, not any of this high/low art argument nonsense – it can speak more eloquently and simply than a novel can.

Today I went to Oxfam Books, which I will be visiting less frequently now that I live further away. They didn’t have any of the above authors, but they did have Pratchetts, including a First Edition of ‘I shall wear midnight’. I’m training the household well – they now hanker after Pratchett, not Stephanie Meyer. So the Pratchetts now have a good and appreciative home where they can be displaced and sit, as The Librarian feels they should, together on a shelf where nature intended, communing with each others and not having the words worn out through reading as that only upsets them. Sadly the author’s blurb starts with, “… was born in 1948 and is still not dead.” If only that were true.

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Twelve kites and a baby hedgehog

As the title says…

I stood in the garden last week and admired the circling pair of red kites. Then I looked further… and further… and found twelve circling, swooping low over the gardens, in pairs, threes or fours. They were beautiful and graceful, but I notice there aren’t any free range pet bunnies about and the cats tend to stay very close to the walls.

We visited a friend last week. His bunny statues have talon marks from the buzzards.

As we stepped out last night in the dark at home, a household member uttered a shriek as he very nearly stepped on a snuffling baby hedgehog. Had we picked it up, it would have fitted curled into a palm. We could hear Mummy hedgehog not too far away. We’re considering whether to buy dog food, as hedgehogs should be encouraged, but we don’t want to make them dependent on what could be an unreliable food source.

In mundane domestic matters I’m dieting to fit into a dress. I hasten to add that my BMI is perfectly healthy, but as the dress was bought for a wedding four years ago as I’d got too big for the others and now I’m too big for this one, it’s time to take the matter in hand. Admittedly this is partly because of watching a friend in Germany halve her weight in a year, showing that mind-over-matter and simply getting on with it without gimmicks is what works. Another aspect is that when I get over a certain weight I get sluggish and ratty, despite it still being within BMI range, and I’d like to avoid that.

Dragon has been for a service. It was expensive, as usual, but Dragon now has lots of shiny new little bits that mount up over the years. Now the vet’s got Frankie. I’ve also been given a list of parts that will need replacing for the MOT, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Dragon now has a new breakdown rescue service, which will come out in the UK but are considering whether Dragon is too old to be allowed out into Europe. Not fair really – Dragon might want to travel home at some point!

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