Saturday, 22 March 2008

Touchline torment and frenzied bird feeders

I was glad I was not living in Wales in rugby winning week. Even in North Wales which is not greatly given to rugby. Most north Walians support Manchester City, whilst allegedly disliking the English.
Apart from the BBC and the Taffia, the faux middle class graduates, I never experienced this legendary hatred from anyone. I think it was because I was a drunk and drunkenness is a nationality.

Certainly there is no sense to the anti-English feeling. I am told that it dates from the invasion of Wales by Edward I. That is very odd because, although he led an army of 15,000 when he invaded North Wales, 11,000 of them were Welshmen. South Walians at that. And they really hate each other.

When I first went to Wales I thought that “Gog” and “Honddu” were swear words, the way they were spat out. In fact it’s the Welsh for North and South Wales. Another odd thing is that most of the dyed-in-the-wool Welshmen I met hated Welsh Nationalists. Welsh speakers and patriots to a man (or woman), they could not understand the Welsh language of the bills they got from the Utilities, nor the official Welsh of broadcasting, which had been forced on the country by academics.

Brynsiencyn, the Anglesey village in which I spent so many happy years, was a daily joy. It could not have been more Welsh. A friend, a retired preacher, spent his days translating Tacitus, the Roman historian, from Latin into Welsh and another chum, a retired diplomat called Cedric Maybe, translated the great Chinese poets, Li Po and Tu Fu, into Welsh and such splendid Welsh poets as Dafydd ap Gwyllim into Mandarin. Not to be read by anyone. Just for the joy of it.

My neighbour Glyn was half Welsh and half Indian and was known as Glyndustani. Another neighbour could never believe I worked for the BBC after I proved unable to repair his portable radio.

There was a youngster in the village who had a Blue in eating. I know of five houses where he went regularly for his Christmas dinner. One year when the prisons were full, his brother, a frequent offender, was locked up in the cells under Wrexham police station. I thought it would be nice if our guest wished his absent kin a Merry Christmas. So I rang the custody sergeant and asked him to bring Trefor to the phone.

He was furious. “Have you no sense,“ he said, “ringing up like this? He’s not had his pudding yet. Ring back in an hour.”

I took the Coronation Street writer John Stevenson to dinner on the mainland. On the way back I stopped to ring Glyn, our local bobby. I thought John was going to explode when I explained I was a bit p’’’’ed and was going to ask Glyn to collect me. He made me put the phone down, but when I told Glyn, he was furious. “It’s people like that who cause accidents,” he said.

Our postman has brought me a whole bundle of my favourite reading, the mail order catalogue. I especially enjoyed the offer of a birdy whirler feeder, although bird terrifier might be a more accurate description. I am going off birds. I water and feed them all year long; all they do in return is eat my seeds. So I cannot wait to install the feeder on which this happens:

”As the bird lands on one of the four feeding baskets the feeder rotates slowly to give a windmill effect.........”

You don’t have to be David Attenborough to know what that would do to the neighbourhood sparrow. You would be the talk of every tree for miles.

“God knows what he’s soaking his bird seed in these days. One beakful and the whole damned feeder starts to go round....I reckon it’s Indian hemp. I’ve a good mind to report him.......”

Stand on me. Chuckling into his drawing board somewhere is an animal-hating inventor. Would you believe, the same magazine is offering a lockable cat flap? Lockable? I could never train our Draculacat not to dispose of mice on my bed let alone get her to use a key. Anyway, she would be sure to forget it when she went out and she’d be hammering on the locked cat flap at all hours of the night.

Not even fish are safe from the demented drawing board:

“...An attractive and realistic Mallard duck and drake in rugged plastic to give life to your garden pool.........”

You can imagine it, can’t you?

“What the hell is that he’s put up there on the surface? Oh hell, it’s ducks. Quick! Get under that stone.”

Three months later....

“Haven’t they gone yet? I can’t stay here for ever, I’ve got pins and needles in my fin.”

Just the thing to send your goldfish screaming for their psychiatrist.

And you will be going with them if you are tempted by the key ring that reacts to your voice. According to the magazine, if you call out “Where are you, ring?” it whistles to you.

I can just see the Head Ferret reaching for the two doctors. ”I’m a bit worried about my hubby. He has taken to hiding his key ring under the cushions on the sofa. Then he goes round the room talking to it.”

Thinking back to the cat flap makes me wonder, would the key ring react to miaows, do you think?

From My Dangerous Cuttings Book:

A Vicar walked out of a course for Church of England clergy when he was asked to hold a conversation with a bread roll. Martin Dudley and his 17 colleagues attending a “Workshop on Worship” aimed at improving their services sat round a communion roll.

Mr Dudley said: “We were asked ‘Is there anything you would like to say to the bread? Or do you want to give it a voice? Do you want to hear the bread speak?’ Someone asked, ‘Does it hurt when you are broken?’
The bread protests. ‘I am not only the humdrum and the ordinary. I am special. What have you to do with me?’”

Mr Dudley said that one woman, a diocesan official, threw a £10 note at the bread, asked about the money that had been paid for it and asked about the symbolism of bread in a cash economy.

Other extraordinary activities at the course, organised by clergy in the Oxford diocese, included asking participants to draw around their feet, colour in the shoes and then write on them their feelings about the week.