Friday, 10 September 2010

Making Up For Lost Time

As I'm sure you know by now, I was away from the Sloppy Shire region last week. My initial plan was to come back to a whole heap of Sloppy Stars in the porch, and to spend a good hour going through them, scouring the letters pages for any little nuggets I would have missed otherwise. HOWEVER it turns out my father, in his esteemed wisdom, cancelled the papers for that week, meaning I missed out on all those letters and all those cryptic crosswords. Gutting.

Nevertheless, this week is a new week, and it brings papers. And it brings letters. Let's now sample a few of them!

Many people say they wish to have "green" burials when they die, in woodland surroundings. Fine. However, they have not apparently considered the probability that badgers will dig up and eat their remains. The only way to stop this would be to seal them in lead or stainless steel coffins. This would defeat the object.

Name and address supplied

What a FASCINATING letter. I suppose it's all true enough, just it tickled me that someone wrote this into the local paper.

Wife: "'s quite late...I'm going up to going to join me?"

Man: "No, sorry - I need to e-mail The Shropshire Star, to inform the good people of Shropshire the threat of badgers in respect to green burials in woodland surroundings."

Wife: "I'll just go and find some fresh batteries then."

Before we move onto the next letter, I'll give you a moment to re-read that and get the joke.

I'm so sorry.

Judging by the exam results, British youngsters are getting more intelligent every year.

I know where this is heading.

This is most gratifying but I'm afraid I have some nagging doubts.

Yep. Textbook. Every fucking year.

Why am I rarely impressed when I listen to them talking among themselves? Their language is often crude, to put it mildly.

No-one ever swore in the good old days. No-one. Ever. I think, in actual fact, the word "fuck" was invented in 1997, by Liam Gallagher.

Why do I rarely see them reading a quality daily newspaper or one of the serious weeklies?

This tickled me - the idea of there being a quality daily newspaper! Heehee.

On trains and buses, why do I rarely see them reading a book? When I do, it is invariably rubbish, like Dan Brown or a children's book.

Right, fuck off, on two counts. Firstly, I find it difficult to read on trains, buses, in cars - it makes me get motion sickness a little bit. Secondly, I like the way you said "children's book" when you clearly mean Harry Potter, but don't have the balls to say it. Harry Potter was fucking ace, you appalling man.

Why do they seem to ask of music only a loud noise and surface excitement? Some of the music of my generation was loud but it included Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Charlie Parker, not to mention Beethoven and Stravinsky.

Ludwig van Beethoven 1770-1827. From your generation, yeah?

Why, when at university, do many of them have to be sent on remedial courses to learn the basics of grammar?

This bit made me laugh, a lot, because it reminded me of a module I did in the first year of my English degree which was, to be honest, pretty much this. The fact it was taught by the most insufferably smug and patronising woman on the planet didn't help matters.

Why are academics always complaining that students don't always recognise well know literary and historical allusions? It's because they don't read enough. Why are employers complaining school leavers can't...

I'm going to take an unprecedented step, and cut the letter short. Just because he bangs on in the same vein for another four paragraphs and I don't have the space or the time for it.

Sidney Evans, Chirk

Victor Meldrew, Chirk

A few years ago a friend stated: "Why should we feel sorry for the farmers, they never felt sorry for the miners, nursers or police?"


During National Service in the RAF, I dumped some artificial mashed potato in a bin. Witnessing my acts a corporal cook threatened to charge me. I turned on him and said: "You can please yourself."


Overhearing my defiance an old sweat rallied to support me: "You can put the whole bloody camp on charge, mate," he bellowed. An RAF police corporal suggested us: "Where did you get this rubbish from?" The next day the mess sergeant (a real gent) promised me real potatoes.


Well, it's harvest thanksgiving soon, and let's raise our glasses to King Edwards and maris pipers.

Emyr Davies, Wrexham


I read recently that 38 trains built by Siemens in Germany are being delivered through the Channel Tunnel to be operated by First ScotRail. My poor old dad will be turning in his grave thinking about what happened to his former employer Metro Cammell, based in Birmingham, which was the largest producers in the world of railway carriages and wagons for the UK and overseas before its closure in 2005.

Who would have thought we won World War Two.

Oh, for fucks sake. You were doing so well.

Peter Hassall, Shifnal

Next please. You around, Allan Tucker?

According to the Blair book, he was "forced" over fox hunting and not Iraq. That says it all.

Allan Tucker, Oswestry

Another illuminating and interesting letter Allan, many thanks.

I have every sympathy for those caught up in the Pakistan flood disaster. However, perhaps if their government didn't spend so much on nuclear weapons they could look after their people better.

Andy Chaplin, Telford

Nice and tactful Andy, well done.

That's enough letters, I think we can all agree. But before I go, here's a little snippet from last nights paper, conveniently placed opposite the letters page, by reporter Andy Richardson:

Three short years ago, Gina (Yashere) was one of the UK's funniest women.

I officially give up.

Monday, 6 September 2010


Hello all! I'm going to tell you about my holiday now. Not that you care, but it's a cliche and if it's good enough for Ben, it's bloody well good enough for me. My holiday in the Lake District was 99% good, and 1% bad. In the spirit of wanting bad news before the good news, here's the bad:

Friday night/Saturday morning I got no sleep. None at all. Not one second. Which meant that yesterday we loaded the car and set off on the long journey back to Lovejoy Towers, my good self shivering in the back and feeling like a zombie. Halfway home we stopped off at my Grans, where I was allowed a lie down in the spare bed. I got about 20 minutes sleep, before being woken up by my cousin and brother who were engaging in a particularly raucous game of Hide n Seek. However, I got home in one piece, and after a 10 hour sleep last night and a hearty breakfast of cold Chinese, I feel like a human being again. So let's cut the moaning and go onto the good stuff.

Our cottage for the week was in the charming village of Skirwith. Here it is in all it's glory (not my pic):

See the patch of grass on the left that looks like a triangle, with the blue car on it? That was our parking space - the cottage is one of the white houses just there. It was small, but perfectly charming and lovely. The beds were fucking atrocious, but then I'm spoilt at home with my Memory Foam mattress.

Could I live in Skirwith? No, and neither could any non-driver.The nearest shop is in Penrith - about a 15 minute drive away. The nearest pub is a 10 minute drive away. As the cleaning lady who was looking after the cottage said to us, "you certainly have to manage your cupboards wisely here."

Penrith itself is lovely. An old fashioned town, with plenty of interesting shops, although the shopping arcade sector is a bit scruffy. The great thing about the town is that it doesn't have a Tesco - I've seen with my own eyes in my hometown how a Tesco megastore nearby completely destroys the little shops in the town. Penrith has a tiny Morrisons and thats it. I liked that.

So, what did we do? As you might have gathered, to get anywhere in the Lake District you have to drive. The vast majority of roads are windy and tight, narrow little lanes, and even A Roads are tricky to navigate. This means that you have to drive for a while - I remember on one day to get back to the cottage it was 26 miles. On a motorway, thats 20 minutes. On a dual carriageway, 25-30 minutes. Around the Lake District? 1 hour.

As such my esteemed father didn't want to drive every day, so we had a few days (Sunday, Tuesday and Friday) of lounging around, walking the dog around the village and generally chilling. So that will explain the gaps in days you're about to see:

A tour of Ullswater, Windermere and Coniston Water. You might notice that there I haven't put "Lake" Windermere, "Lake" Ullswater etc. That's because, amusingly, in the Lake District there's only one body of water called "Lake", and that's Bassenthwaite Lake. Tru story bro. There's not too much I can say about the "lakes", so let's progress onto where we stopped for lunch.

The Drunken Duck Inn was outstanding - quite rightly too, judging by the extortionate prices on show. One thing about the Lake District - it's a real "tourist trap" and perhaps is another reason I couldn't live up there. Four sandwiches (which came with 2 bowls of chips) and four drinks came in at well over £30. I'm just glad I wasn't paying! The story behind the name of the Inn is interesting:

This unofficial title dates back to Victorian years when a landlady of the Inn found her ducks lying stretched out in the road and concluded that they were dead.
Thriftily she began to pluck and prepare them for dinner. The ducks however, were "quick" and not dead. Down in the cellar a barrel had slipped its hoops and beer had gradually drained from the floor into the duck's customary feeding ditch. Thereupon the ducks made all too good use of their unexpected opportunity, with the result that when they came to they found themselves plucked and halfway to the oven.
According to local legend, the landlady, full of remorse for the rough treatment, provided the de-feathered birds with knitted waistcoats of Hawkshead yarn until their feathers grew back again.

Up to Northumberland, where we took in Housesteads Roman Fort, with a section of Hadrian's Wall right behind it. Not my picture:

The Romans were no mugs. The fort is on top of a steep hill, meaning we had a lengthy and slightly tough climb to walk up to it. You certainly wouldn't be in the mood for fighting once you had made that trek.

Behind the fort was Hadrian's Wall, and what stood out for me was the smoothness and the flat surface of the top of it. I think this might be because they put some time of added security onto the top of the wall - maybe some wooden pieces to make it almost impossible to penetrate. The wall itself is not very high. It was interesting, but as I later remarked, "Once you've seen one wall, I suppose you've seen them all."

As we weren't too far away, we decided to pop into Scotland, as I've never been up there before. We drove past the border and into Gretna, passing this house on the way (not my pic):

Next to Gretna is Gretna Green, a quirky little town. In 1753 an Act of Parliament was passed (in England) declaring that if a couple were not both 21 years of age, they had to get the consent of their parents before they could marry. However this ruling was not in force in Scotland, so young couples eloped up into Scotland to get married behind their families backs. First place they came to when they went over the border? Gretna Green. The place has now become synonymous with weddings, and in our quick tour of the town we saw 2 wedding ceremonies taking place. Despite my pleas to stop and try and find a shop that would sell me a deep fried Mars bar (no, really) we went back across the border and back to the cottage. I have been to Scotland. Hoorah.

We drove to Keswick. I was very excited, as our destination for the day was the James Bond Museum. It's an odd location for it, and when you get there it's a pretty small place with only 3 rooms. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool, especially for nerds like me. On the way out I couldn't resist buying some tat, so I bought a pack of Bond Girls playing cards and a 100g chocolate bar which is in the form of a gold bar (a "Goldfinger Bar" no less). These two items cost £8. EIGHT QUID! Still, there's nice pics of Halle Berry and Fiona Fullerton for when I get lonely, so I'm not complaining (much).

On our way to having lunch in Ambleside, we passed Dove Cottage. Without Googling, do you know who lived there roughly 200 years ago?

Rainfall over the week - nil. About 15 minutes after we got home, it started to rain.

"Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose".