August 27, 2009

Spent storms

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 11:12 am

Huricane Bill has made his way over the Atlantic, and what is left of him is blowing the trees about in an ineffectual sort of way.  Bill’s rain is what the Brits like to call “wetting” rain.  I know what they mean: the effort feels half hearted, but it doesn’t half soak you.

I knew Bill was coming, so this morning I lugged up the tow path my two toilet cartridges – what the boaters call, “shit suitcases”.  I thought I’d do it early because I prefer to stay dry when I sluice my effluent.

The cartridges were surprisingly heavy, and their contents were all mine.  It amazes me how much waste a body makes in a week.  I have had no other home except Pangolin since last Tuesday. 

I am still having anxiety dreams about moving out of my house and waking at 3 am in a panic.  If I can wait just a little while, at 4 am I know the BBC World Service will give me lovely, familiar, soporific news to doze by, but I have learned that the radio is not my friend in every sleepless hour.

In my last nights at Hedges (my former home) I sometimes turned the radio on too early.  One night the program was interrupted mid sentence, and there followed, for twenty minutes or more, a series of clunks, dings and fog horn type noises.  Was no one else listening?  And no one at the station to intervene, apologise, and offer me “a little music” while they sorted it out?

There was no such intervention, and when I next heard a voice it was speaking a language I did not recognize, except intermittently when it shouted “Afghanistan!”  “Pakistan!”  “Taliban!”  The voice, whose unfamiliar syllables sounded to me angry and aggressive, continued for another fifteen minutes.

With insomniac logic I calculated that the whole point of the BBC World Service was that it was English, the Language of the Empire, the Common Language of the World, and more importantly, the Language I Understood, and which ought to be lulling me back to sleep. 

If the radio wasn’t speaking English, something must be badly wrong.  I began to be certain that terrorists had taken over – if I imagined World Service studios at all I imagined them remote and vulnerable.  The terrorists were now broadcasting to their brethren (and me).  How many more times were they going to say “Afghanistan”?

While I was wondering what to do next – surely I should call someone – I heard the words “BBC Swahili” and then English, and normal service, resumed.  Okay, fine.  But next time before the Swahili program comes on don’t break the tape first.  And maybe try throwing in a few comforting, international words, the sort that terrorists always eschew, like Disneyland, weekend, and Big Mac.

Meanwhile, no one on the towpath can get phone, tele or internet reception.  Leaves on the trees, apparently.  I can sometimes get connected if I wander around outside and point my screen hopefully at the sky.  So I need to brave Bill, and the wetting rain, to post this.

When I get back inside, I think I’ll read Mansfield Park.  I packed it near the top of one of my boxes, because I thought I might need it.  It’s a comfort text, with nice dry pages, reliably in English.

August 20, 2009

There will always be an England

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 12:56 pm

Just as soon as I find out where I have packed my knickers, I promise to describe the last hours at Hedges and my move to Pangolin.

Did I say? Pangolin is the name of my boat and Hedges is the name of my house, rented as of yesterday.  In the days when my ex husband and I were trying to run a business from home I thought the house – and hence the business – ought to have a more grown up address.  I knew there wasn’t a lot I could do about the lines “Buckland, near Faringdon” but I was sure I could at least get a house number. 

With some difficulty I found out who was responsible for numbering houses and I telephoned the local official.

“Sorry, love,” he said, “but we can’t give your house a number.” 

It was hard to argue with his reasoning.  “Unfortunately,” he explained, “all the numbers are used up on the other side of the road.”

Hedges is still numberless, but the Royal Mail (which briefly demanded to be called “Consignia”) now objects to “near Faringdon”.  These days we aren’t meant to use the old fashioned “near” in addresses.  Instead we are to write FARINGDON (or equivalent postal town), the “near” having given way to shouting.

It’s an official objection.  In practice, just as Consignia was abandoned after a few weeks of ridicule and the revelation of how much in brand consultancy fees it had cost to come up with the name, the Royal Mail is still pretty good at parsing obscure addresses.   I once got post delivered that was addressed: “White house near the shop, two big noisy dogs in the window, Buckland, Oxfordshire.”

I love the UK, and I am very partisan.  So I am particularly distraught over the Ashes.  Below is the latest. 

Read it, and parse it, and weep.  And don’t forget they make it all at once weird and silly and tragic entirely on purpose.  I am particularly fond of the part where Ricky Ponting (the Aussie captain) calls incorrectly at the toss, but that is because I know (and you might not) that toss is a naughty word.

England struggle in deciding Test

Fifth Ashes Test, The Oval, day one (close):
England 307-8 v Australia

By Jamie Lillywhite

Ian Bell
Bell looked set for his ninth Test ton until his dismissal straight after tea

England failed to build on a promising position in the deciding Ashes Test as Australia restricted the hosts to 307-8 after the first day at The Oval.

They were 108-1 at lunch, with skipper Andrew Strauss making an assured fifty.

He shared a century stand with Ian Bell who overcame a torrid start to top-score with 10 fours in a valiant 72.

Andrew Flintoff, in his final Test, made only seven as five wickets tumbled after tea to a combination of poor shots and aggressive pace bowling.

England, who need to win the Test to regain the Ashes, won the first battle of the day when Ricky Ponting called incorrectly at the toss and Strauss chose to have first use of what looked to be a perfect batting wicket.

But an exceptionally dry surface started to show signs of wear after just a couple of overs, courtesy of Peter Siddle’s bustling footmarks, and by lunch repairs usually made much later in a Test match were being carried out by the ground staff.

Occasional spinner Marcus North was finding extravagant turn and bounce, and with pieces of the pitch breaking up frequently, assessments of what constituted a good score began to change.

Ben Dirs

After the out-of-sorts Alastair Cook rigidly prodded to second slip in the sixth over, Bell was given a formidable working over by Siddle, who reached speeds in excess of 93mph.

Bell, who made a pair in the 2005 Ashes Test at The Oval and went into the match without a century in 31 previous innings at number three, had been moved up the order despite a poor display at Headingley where England were crushed by an innings and 80 runs.

He might have been given out on nought after a Siddle bouncer brushed his wrist, but umpire Asad Rauf correctly gave him the benefit of the doubt, with several replays unable to determine whether contact with the glove was made.

But the Warwickshire batsman showed admirable resolve and also weathered a prolonged series of short balls from left-armer Johnson, another to pass the 93mph mark, to compile his 21st Test fifty.

Peter Siddle
The combative Siddle has a total of 10 wickets in the last three Ashes innings

In the second over of the afternoon session, Strauss drove gloriously through the covers to the boundary to record the century partnership from 139 balls, the captain’s contribution 52.

But three balls later he was gone, for 55, to a disappointingly tame nibble outside the off-stump, neatly caught low by Brad Haddin, although replays showed bowler Ben Hilfenhaus had over-stepped by several inches.

The partnership was 102, the same number made by the entire England team in the first innings at Headingley.

Australia used their four seamers for 46 overs before introducing a change of style, in the form of North’s part-time off-spin.

Trott’s first run came after 12 balls, including a bizarre bouncer from North, and no doubt a few choice words of mental disintegration from the Australians aimed at the South-African born batsman.



Paul Collingwood drove loosely to gully and the departure of Bell, who got an inside edge that left his off-stump out of the ground in the first over after tea, saw the scoring rate dip alarmingly.

Although Matt Prior hit two stylish boundaries he was hopelessly deceived by Johnson’s slower ball, through his drive early and easily caught at cover.

That brought in Flintoff to a wonderfully warm, stirring ovation, somewhere between a heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Gardens and The Last Night of the Proms.

He opened his account with a boundary through gully off Johnson, but it was to be his only one and he edged a wide one in the left-arm paceman’s next over, to immense dejection from the crowd.

Trott, having replaced Ravi Bopara in the side, showed signs of his prolific county form with some elegant strokes, but after a patient 41 he was brilliantly run out by Simon Katich, whose razor sharp collect and direct hit from short-leg saw the batsman out of his crease.

England lost Graeme Swann in the final over but Stuart Broad was unbeaten on 26 at the other end and England must hope he will be to muster enough runs to help the bowlers apply pressure on the Australians.

August 10, 2009

Concrete art, conceptual art, or a big mess?

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 2:33 pm

I am thinking of entering my house for the Turner Prize

In just 8 days my tenants move in.  Do you think it is time to start panicking?

August 9, 2009

Not waving, but drowning

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 1:42 pm

Just a little bit of the stuff I need to get rid of

Please send chocolate.

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