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The evolution of cop shows…

You’d think a two-month lockdown would be time for TV companies to shine, show a bunch of escapist stuff to distract us. But no, programming has been shit. We’ve taken to binge watching some very old TV.

Like The Sweeney. British 1974 police procedural. Uncle B informs me it was Britain’s first gritty cop series and controversial for it. Entertaining stuff.

This frame cracked me up. It’s a PTA meeting. See the painting in the background? RAF airplane rains bombs onto stick figures. A kid would be sent to therapy for that painting today.

Anyhoo. I was trying to remember when our cop shows went from squeaky clean Dragnet to dirty Dirty Harry. Kojak maybe?

June 4, 2020 — 7:45 pm
Comments: 6

Nope. Nope, nope, nope.





I’m going to have to give social media a rest for a while. Shit’s making me crazy angry today.



I will say this: if ever I am made to kneel, I’m not standing up again until somebody slaps me with a sword and says, “Arise, Stoaty Weasel, rightful queen of all England!”







June 3, 2020 — 8:05 pm
Comments: 14

Any beekeepers about?

Y’all know we have a honey bee problem. We suspect the main hive is in the attic, but a swarm forms on the outside of the chimney on sunny days every Summer. We have yet to spend the money necessary to get this resolved because it hasn’t been a serious problem.

Today as I sat peacefully in a deckchair, a single bee came after me aggressively. Flying repeatedly into my face, my shirtpocket (!) getting tangled in my hair and, eventually, stinging me on the jaw.

I am absolutely not someone that panics at the sight of a stinging insect. I prefer to sit quietly until they get bored with me. I’ve never been stung doing that.

Thing is, it happened later with two more bees, though not the point of being stung. First time, I got up and went in the house to escape. Second time, I was armed with a can of fly spray.

I was playing the banjo, but I’ve been doing that in the garden for ten weeks, or however long we’ve been locked down. I wasn’t wearing anything different (literally, I wear the same shabby garden clothes every day). I hadn’t eaten anything strange. I wasn’t wearing a scent. I’m a goodly way away from the house, with my back to the swarm.

Swarmed. One bee at a time. What’s pissing them off?

June 2, 2020 — 7:31 pm
Comments: 19


We went to Aldi today. It’s the action adventure I’ve been longing for.

The precautions are all but gone. Nobody stood at the door to let us in one at a time. The floor markers were there for social distancing, but people largely ignored them. There was sanitizer. If you wanted it. Whatevs.

Just afterwards, Uncle B went to Waitrose and said the atmosphere was much more tense and the rituals more enforced. I don’t know if it’s a class thing or an age thing, but there you go.

That’s not our Aldi. It looks like ours, but that picture is from the Pittsburgh Gazette. It’s probably just a publicity shot, not a store in Pittsburgh. You can tell because it’s not on fire.

Speaking of which, please don’t let the trust fund babies burn America down. I may never go back, but I take some comfort knowing it’s there to go back to.

June 1, 2020 — 8:02 pm
Comments: 12


This came across my Facebook feed labelled “Earliest photograph of a cat 1880”. I know, cute…but that date sounded a bit late to me. On a Google Image Search of “first photograph of a cat”, this image appears first (Reddit) and eighth.

But there were also lots of pre-1880 photos of people holding cats which, I suppose, is technically different from a photo of a cat.

On reflection, I’m going with this photo from Harvard University’s Houghton Library as the oldest. It’s 1840-60, and the cat is blurry and almost indecipherable. That’s cats (and daguerrotypes) for you.

Things here start to open up a little on Monday, though I’ve just heard the sad news the Sussex bonfires have been cancelled. They do most of their fundraising in the Spring and Fall, you see, and who knows what our emergency services will be like in September/October/November.

Still, another almost unbelievably beautiful weekend coming up here. I hope the weather is at least bearable where you are. We keep telling each other what a different experience lockdown would have been in a miserable, wet Spring.

May 29, 2020 — 8:21 pm
Comments: 11

That it should come to this

That’s right. I’m reduced to reposting unfunny Facebook memes. I ain’t even ashamed.

We drove to Tesco’s today, but the line to get in was so long, we drove away again. Ended up at a little mom and pop store. Still a line to get in, but only about two people in it.

Uncle B was looking specifically for Rose’s lime juice, but no luck anywhere. It’s owned by the Coca Cola Company now, so he phoned them up. (He does things like that). Apparently, they got supply problems.

Damn you, COVID-19 *shakes fist*.

May 28, 2020 — 8:10 pm
Comments: 13

Nothing happened today. That is all.

This. This was my whole day.

It’s the tippy top of a lovely yellow rose, which is exactly what I can see reclined in my deckchair. It’s a fantastic year for roses – must be the ‘orrible wet Winter we had.

Oh, wait. There was also fish and chips.

May 27, 2020 — 8:38 pm
Comments: 11

How did I miss this?!?

I regard myself as generally hip to all the groovy memes, so I don’t know how this one got past me. Opossum Lady has been on YouTube for ten years, but really blew up about a year ago.

The top hit for “Opossum Lady” is a short Best Of compilation of bits of her videos by someone else entirely, which is a little sad for her but worth watching to get a taste of the delights in store.

Her actual channel is here and every video I’ve watched so far was worth my time (a threshold not crossed by many Toobs).

Her website is devoted to her dead squirrel, Pearl, who dispenses advice from beyond the grave. She also has a Zazzle store. Pearl does.

The lady goes by Georgette Spelvin, a famous pseudonym from American theater history. All anyone knows is she’s a woman of a certain age who lives in Southern California and has a bunch of rescue squirrels and possums.

I cannot believe how she manhandles those possums. In my experience, possums are nasty, short-tempered and mean. And ugly. So, so ugly.

My mother was extremely good with animals and spent her childhood out in the sticks rescuing orphans and strays. She said the one animal she could never tame was a possum. She’d get it gentled down and then a loud noise would happen and it would bite down on her thumb, hard, and be a wild animal again.

Still, Georgette informs us you can’t get rabies from a possum: their body temperature is too low to host the virus. Enjoy!

May 26, 2020 — 6:58 pm
Comments: 9

Elderly scholars LOVE this one weird trick…

Yes, it’s a talking hamburger. It’s from a neat program called Facerig that uses your webcam to replace your face on-stream with any of a number of 3D models. Live animated facial tracking. I bought it ages ago in the Steam sale for a lark.

I laughed my ass off for about ten minutes and then forgot about it.

Then I remembered it works with Zoom.

Oh, my weekly work meeting is going to be a hoot this week. Elderly British historians just LOVE talking hamburgers, amirite?

You wouldn’t believe the Rube Goldberg rig I have going to make it work, though. My ancient Logitech webcam was too fuzzy for facial tracking, so I had to hook up a GoPro and somehow tripod it directly in front of the computer (twopod, actually – there isn’t room for all three legs). I don’t even know if my mic is working and if I call Uncle B to test it I get wicked feedback because we’re in the same room.

It will work. I have faith. Because my job isn’t on thin enough ice as it is…

May 25, 2020 — 7:34 pm
Comments: 7

The Story of Pip

Okay, last one, I promise.

Just before an egg hatches, the chick turns itself around to a very particular position so it can chip away at the shell. Once it’s in place, it makes one small hole to breathe through. This is called a pip. It’s also a verb, to pip.

It’s very hard work for the little beast, and the chick rests afterwards – sometimes as long as 24 hours – before continuing to crack the end off the egg and emerge, wet and exhausted. It’s the most dangerous time in a chicken’s life and a considerable number come right up to the end and don’t make it.

I put four fertile eggs under Jenny. And finally, after staring at her on coopcam for over a month (thanks to the first six dud eggs), one pipped. I saw it when Jenny got up for a bite to eat and a poop. I was beyond excited.

A day passed and Mo hatched. Then Sam and Mollie. Forty eight hours and no more out of the first egg to pip. I picked it up and peered in the hole, fearing the worst, and out came a tiny pink beak. I almost dropped it! Back under mama and, not all that long afterwards, out comes Pip.

It was obvious what happened: she had a bald patch on her back. That means it wasn’t humid enough during the hatch and she stuck to the inside of the egg. Had to tear her way out, poor little beastie. She was otherwise a beautiful little chick, noticeably smaller than the others, a yellow fuzzball with a gray blaze across her right eye. Goodness knows what color she would have been (or whether she would have been a girl, to be fair, but I had a feeling about her).

A couple of weeks in, I was supervising an outing on the grass and I hadn’t noticed Jack the cat coming around the corner. He went for them like lightning. I scooped him up before he quite reached them (goodness knows what he would have done), but the babies had panicked and gone everywhere.

I managed to collect them all, except Pip. She was nowhere. I knew Jack hadn’t had her, so she had to be in the hedge somewhere, I just had to find her before a villain did. I settled in and listened and sure enough, two hours later, a frantic peeping. She’d worked her way back to the henhouse, but somehow got stuck between two layers of chicken wire.

Pip triumphant.

And then she really vanished. One morning, she just wasn’t there. I reviewed the video footage. She tumbled out of the nest with the others and hopped into the run. An hour later when I went out to feed them, she was gone. Not a trace, other chickens perfectly calm. I couldn’t believe it. I searched for days.

The only thing I could think was that she’d squeezed out of the run and something got her. There were a couple of tiny gaps under the edges (mice busily dig them overnight to get to any dropped bits of chicken food). I didn’t think she could get through them. I truly didn’t. But she was very small and little animals can do amazing things. No, I’m not convinced, but what else?

I was disproportionately upset. I’m still salty about it. I had spun this whole saga of “plucky chick surviving against the odds” right up until she didn’t. Once again, reality didn’t give a shit about my narrative.

Eh, enough of that. It’s the weekend! Wait, why does that matter again?

May 22, 2020 — 7:59 pm
Comments: 7