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Happy Walpurgis Night!

It is the 30th of April, the night before the Feast of Walpurga, AKA Walpurgisnacht. Walpurga was an 8th C English missionary to Germany, and that’s enough about her, because it’s mere coincidence that she was canonized on the 1st of May.

Walpurgis Night is the Germanic version of Beltane or May Day. It’s halfway between Spring equinox and Midsummer. A remnant of pagan “welcome Spring!” celebrations. But with witches and bonfires.

I burned some shit in the garden tonight, but for the comfort and safety of my neighbors, I kept my blouse on.

April 30, 2014 — 9:28 pm
Comments: 8

A bargain!

Géza Nikelszky (1877 – 1966) was a Hungarian artist and this is his “Jug with Pigeon and Weasel,” for some reason.

You can own this spectacular object for a Buy It Now price of only £4,999.00, shipped direct from Budapest.

Mr. eBay may be trying it on here. One came up for auction in 2012 with a starting bid of $783. They don’t say what the winning bid was, though, so perhaps demand for…this object went through the roof in the final moments.

Uncle B sent me the link. I fear he is shopping for me.

April 29, 2014 — 10:30 pm
Comments: 11


And by fearless, I mean really fearless. Totally not afraid of things of things any sensible animal is afraid of, like rooftops, fire, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners and the heavy traffic that goes up and down the road in front of the house all day.

That road. He’s not oblivious to it, he seems downright attracted to it. He’s been carried to the door by motorists twice. I run out when I hear car horns. I usually see him sauntering up the drive, but I caught him once sitting in the middle of the road with his tail curled around his paws, looking the other way while cars honked at him. For a while, I thought he might be deaf.

I’m really starting to wonder if this one will live to adulthood. That makes me terribly sad, because he’s such a nice little animal and we’ve gotten attached.

He’ll usually stay in the garden when we’re out there. We’ve taken to shutting him in when we’re not, at least during the hours of heaviest traffic. This is a hard house to seal up, though, and he’ll as soon go out a high window as a low one.

The internet doesn’t have any suggestions other than making all cats inside cats. Any idea when the fearless period wears off?

p.s. I beg you, no squashed pet stories. I’m sad enough as it is.

April 28, 2014 — 10:07 pm
Comments: 35

Socialized medicine sucks

I stepped on a rusty nail yesterday. Right up through the shoe and into the foot. It was a classic weasel trap: two old nails sticking up through a piece of wood in the tall grass in my next door neighbor’s back yard.

Typical. Her grandkids ran around back there the whole long weekend, and nothing. Me, I step around the back some sunny afternoon and bang. I’m disappointed there weren’t seven or eight rakes lying around so I could do the full Sideshow Bob.

I had no problem getting a same-day appointment from our local medical centre for a tetanus booster. I’ll say that about ’em…they always seem to be able to make time.

I asked the nurse lady if she’d like to see my boo boo. Her mouth said yes, but her eyes said, “why the hell would I want to see your dessicated old lady foot? I bet you haven’t had a pedicure in, like, forever.” Then she looked at it and nodded, like, “yep, there’s a small hole in your foot.”

What she didn’t say, and should have, is that it’s a quite small, shallow wound and so much more at risk of septicemia than tetanus. Because the nail shoved a lot of junk in there and it didn’t really bleed enough to clear it out. I should have been instructed accordingly.

But never mind. I gave it a good, long soak in salt water right after the injury. And another, later, in a mild bleach solution. I should be okay. Anyway, mortality from tetanus in the Western world is quite low nowadays.

Raise your hand if you knew what to do because you’ve spent most of your life mentally preparing for surviving the apocalypse…?

Good weekend, preppers!

April 25, 2014 — 9:39 pm
Comments: 30

A tale from the Kattholt

This saucy Icelandic lad is Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson. The cat is Örvar. Seven years ago, Birkir got a puppy, and Örvar said, “see ya!” and boogered off.

Reykjavík is a smallish place, Örvar was microchipped, so Birkir checked with the shelter regularly hoping to get him back. No joy.

But here they are, reunited, seven years later. It would have been sooner, but when Örvar turned up at the shelter, all his microchip info was outdated and they had to Google for Birkir. Cat is skinny but otherwise well.

A pretty ordinary story, I realize, but it does give a small glimpse into the feline brain. The cat reacted strongly to the first sight of Birkier, apparently — lept to his shoulder and obsessively sniffed his hair and beard. If you scroll down this Icelandic version of the story, you’ll see pictures of the cat burying his face in the man’s hair.

Be careful if you translate the page, though. You’ll get a bit more information and a bit more weirdness.

For example, Google Translate tells me Kattholt is Icelandic for shelter. But Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson means Green Helen Foster Hematology. And, you know, I’m not sure that’s entirely right.

April 24, 2014 — 10:10 pm
Comments: 18

A place of dignity and refinement

This iconic image shows Michael O’Brien, an Aussie, the first brave innovator to run naked across the field of a major sporting event. It was a rugby game in 1974 between England and France. The bobby’s helmet (the one covering his junk) is on display at Twickenham, where this event took place.

I always thought of streaking as an American phenomenon, but it ain’t. The first recorded running-naked-on-a-bet was on July 5, 1799 when a London man was bet ten guineas he wouldn’t run naked from Cornhill to Cheapside. The flesh was willing, but the police were uncooperative.

The first recorded incident of streaking by a college student in the United States occurred in 1804 at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) when senior George William Crump was arrested for running naked through Lexington, Virginia, where the university is located. Robert E. Lee later sanctioned streaking as a rite of passage for young Washington and Lee gentlemen. Crump was suspended for the academic session, but later went on to become a U.S. Congressman.

I lifted that from the Wikipedia article whole, because I couldn’t say it better myself.

Oh. Right. Let’s not forget Lady Godiva, the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who rode naked through the streets of Coventry in the 11th C to protest her husband’s taxation policy. Everyone kindly looked away from the spectacle except one probably apocryphal swine named Tom, whose name comes down to us through legend.

In her honor, Coventry will be hosting the country’s first national streaking contest next month. Genitals optional, looks like. It’s sponsored by a food manufacturer to celebrate a microwavable hamburger called the Streaker, so named because it is topped with streaky bacon. Or, as we call it in the States, bacon.

Just in case you were thinking it was all Masterpiece Freaking Theatre over here.

April 23, 2014 — 9:43 pm
Comments: 14


Well, dammit, I found a hen dead in the run this evening when I went to lock up. Chickens do that; they just fall over. But this was a shocker because it was Coco — the biggest and youngest bird in the flock.

She was the all black hen, and a lovely iridescent thing she was, like a fat raven with a big red comb. We were admiring her earlier today, pecking around in the sunshine. Not even a year old.

Her sister — these are the only two of our birds that probably were biologically sisters — is the paralyzed one. Frightened by a fox in late Summer (we guess), she hurt her spine somehow and can’t stand. I decided I’d stick with her as long as she was alert and had an appetite, but I didn’t truly expect to see her live out the Winter.

She’s fine. She’s hanging in there, hard. I mean, she’ll never mature, but I feel rather fiercely that if she wants it, I will give it to her. Goodness knows she’s no extra trouble.

Stupid mortality wins too many as it is.

April 22, 2014 — 9:24 pm
Comments: 21

Wishful thinking

David Cameron was stung by a jellyfish in Lanzarote. No, he’s fine. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

Welcome back. Our holiday was lovely and we have lots of leftover turkey, if anyone’s interested.

Also, I have managed to eat a giant Ferrero et Rocher crispy Easter egg all by myself. That is all.

April 21, 2014 — 10:12 pm
Comments: 15

Happy Good Friday

Photo by Mark Duncan.

The term “looker” for shepherd originated on Romney Marsh, next door in Kent. Romney Marsh is a fascinating place. It’s the sticky-outy bit of Kent that waggles suggestively at France.

The little building there is called a looker’s hut and they once dotted the marsh all over. They were mostly used during lambing time, when very close tabs are kept on the ewes and newborns. The typical example is one room, brick, with a chimney and maybe a window. Little cosy places appeal to me mightily. A looker’s hut would be just the thing.

When lookers keep an eye on the flocks these days, they pull up a trailer. Or drive the fields all day. The old huts are falling down, being vandalized or deliberately demolished (when no-one is looking; they’re all protected by order). I can think of a couple that have disappeared just in the years we’ve lived nearby. Very sad.

Here’s a Wikipedia collection of photos, and another from Google Images.

Have a good weekend, all. It’s a four-day holiday here (no separation of church ‘n’ state for the Motherland), but I promise to turn up on Monday and share the leftovers.

April 18, 2014 — 10:09 pm
Comments: 27

Mutton honey

They found a ewe drowned in the canal in our back garden yesterday. How they noticed one missing and went to find her is beyond me. It’s a big flock. The looker pulled her out with a rope.

In our area, a shepherd is called a looker. You might think a looker looks, but he doesn’t. He lookers. Generally, he goes out lookering in the morning and lookering again in the afternoon.

Anyway, the looker told us a ewe will suicide if she’s ill (although another looker told me a ewe wakes up every morning and thinks, “how shall I kill myself today?”).

The looker (the first looker, I mean) also told us a ewe will reject a lamb if she senses it’s wrong. He had an apparently healthy lamb this season, rejected by its mama, was feeding well on the bottle and looking robust. Found him stone dead next morning in his pen.

On the other hand, most bottle-reared lambs thrive. You can tell who in the flock was raised by humans: they run up to you happy instead of away from you scared. I think I’d feel pretty awful sending off a sheep that thought I was great.

When they fish a sheep out of the ditch, it’s called drowned mutton. Used to sell it cheaper at the butchers, so it was prized by the poor (I can’t imagine it’s legal to sell these days). I half overheard one of my neighbors tell a story about an old lady who preferred drowned mutton, so they pitched one in the pond for her every year.

Lookers, eh?

April 17, 2014 — 9:11 pm
Comments: 15