Sunday, 29 April 2007


1. If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented?

2. If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes?

3. Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

4. If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

5. If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

6. Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

7. When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?

8. Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist but a person who drives a race car not called a racist?

9. Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?

10. Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

11. Why isn't the number 11 pronounced onety one?

12. "I am" is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that "I do" is the longest sentence?

13. If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

14. What hair colour do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?

16. I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks so I wondered what do Chinese mothers use?

17. Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office?
What are we supposed to do, write to them? Why don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen can look for them while they deliver the mail?

18. You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

19. No one ever says, "It's only a game" when their team is winning.

20. Last night I played a blank tape at full blast. The mime next door went nuts.

21. Ever wonder about those people who spend £2.00 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backwards.

22. Isn't making a smoking section in a restaurant like making a peeing section in a swimming pool?

23. If 4 out of 5 people suffer from diarrhoea, does that mean that one out of five enjoys it?

24. Why is it bees, not apes, that live in an apiary?

25. If rooks live in a rookery, do bats live in a battery?

Tuesday, 24 April 2007


ben trovato hopes this will make you smile.




The Beadle writes:

It will be observed that all eyes are upon me - and so they should be, with such a magnificent likeness from the skilled brush of Miss lavenderblue!

I shall proudly proceed on my multifarious duties with swelled chest and knickers aloft.

Mornin' All.


anticant writes:

I need an early summer break, and so far have been unable to find someone willing to accompany me. I cannot travel alone, and my partner prefers to stay at home. I am looking for someone who would appreciate a quiet, relaxing country or seaside holiday at a comfortable hotel with good food - all expenses paid - in Italy or Spain for ten days or a fortnight: a lounging-around, garden and poolside vacation; not a city or busy sightseeing trip, as I am not up to that any more.

The person I have in mind is male, aged 20-50, preferably [but not necessarily] gay, non-smoker, kind, caring, considerate, and intelligent. I won't add "must have a sense of humour", as even if he does, ours might not match. Sounds like a paragon, doesn't it? But I'm sure there are such guys around somewhere who would appreciate a free holiday in return for some helpfully caring attentions to an elderly invalid. Maybe a professional carer needing a break?

I've spent weeks asking around, and searching the internet for travelling companion agencies - of which there are surprisingly few. It's becoming increasingly frustrating, as time is moving on and I would like to go away in late May or June, before the Mediterranean weather gets too hot.

So any practical suggestions and contacts from my burrow friends, or casual visitors here, would be very welcome. Thanks!

Saturday, 21 April 2007


ben trovato says:

The minister was preaching on the evils of drink.

First he said how he would like to gather up all the wine and dump it in the river.

Then he moved on to beer and said he would like to get all the beer and dump it in the river too; and then all other forms of alcohol to be dumped into the river.

Behind him the choir-master's face began to show a worried look as they all stood up to sing the first hymn: "Shall We Gather At The River?"

Friday, 20 April 2007


anticant writes: I awoke at 4am with a recurrence of kidney pains - not as acute as previously, thank goodness, but bad enough to necessitate spending most of the day in Outpatients, attended by the faithfully patient ben, where they diagnosed another [new?] stone wending its way down from my left kidney through my bladder to the long-suffering exit. A tedious waste of a lovely day, not improved by the mental mayhem and nausea induced by necessary but nasty pain killers.

Back at the burrow, the Beadle anxiously spring-cleaned the Snug, polishing the brassware to a new level of mirror-shininess, and creating a place of honour over the bar anticipating the arrival of his definitive image now being crafted by burrow portraitist [By Appointment] Miss lavenderblue.

Let's hope the fine weather forecast for the coming weekend will bring a finer state of health for the currently somewhat fragile anticant.


I'm touched by the appreciation so many of you have shown for the little memoir of my Father. I wrote it quite quickly, and didn't think it was as vivid a portrait of him as I would have liked to have drawn, so I am pleased that it sparked off so many good, if some painful, filial recollections for others.

Remembering one’s loved ones – particularly the older generation – is always poignant. So much regret at loss, unpaid emotional debts, and missed opportunities, wells up. But we shouldn’t allow guilt, or feelings of failure, to predominate: life is never easy or simple; it is what it is; and we just have to accept that it happened the way it did, and strive to apply its lessons to our own lives and present and future relationships.

My immediate family – parents, grandmother and aunt – are always with me every day, and I am profoundly thankful for all the love and care they gave me. I still miss them a lot. Today – 20th April – is another special family day, being my Grandfather’s birthday and my parents’ and grandparents’ wedding anniversary [1926 and 1896 respectively]. So I’m again in retrospective mood………..

Monday, 16 April 2007


Today is my Father’s 107th birthday. He was born on 16th April 1900, and died just before Christmas 1962 after several years’ illness with prostate cancer – then a far more lethal disease than it is nowadays.

Although he has been dead for almost half a century, my Father is still a vivid presence in my memory. We loved each other dearly, but we had an uneasy relationship, because there was always a degree of mutual incomprehension between us. I always felt, rightly or wrongly, that I was a different son to the one my parents would have liked to have. I was bookish; they were not. I actively disliked outdoor sports; my Father had played rugby at school and was always fond of golf. My disinterest and poor performance on the links was a disappointment to him. I was devoted to classical music from being a small child, and played the piano – not as well as I would have liked; my Father only became attracted by music during the last decade of his life, when the new era of long-playing 33rpm records [some of which I still have] gave him increasing pleasure.

Worst of all, we did not always manage to be good companions without one or both of us ending up feeling we had trodden on the other’s toes. My Father, when he was well and not worried – a too-rare state – had a puckish sense of fun, and a keen wit. He could tell some very funny stories from his own childhood and life. At these times, he was like the playful older brother that I – an only child – would have liked. But there always came a moment when he drew back, and I was left feeling I had overstepped some invisible mark. In retrospect, our mutual inhibitions were such a pity.

My Father had a troubled life. Born in Manchester, he had been at public school – Giggleswick, in North Yorkshire – which, on his own telling, he hadn’t enjoyed. Yet he was convinced that being a boarder at a public school would be good for me [cure me of being a sissy, perhaps?], and my early ‘teens were a constant battle to avoid this fate, which I only partly managed to do. [My school life is another story]. My Father had been called up almost at the end of the 1914-18 war, which ended before he was sent to the Front. He then went as a clerk into his own Father’s chartered accountancy office in Manchester.

Sadly, my Grandfather suffered a severe nervous breakdown in the early 1920s, followed by a dozen years of invalidism that imposed a severe stress upon the whole family, so my Father never became a partner in the family firm, as he otherwise would have done. Eventually, he left to become a financial executive of John Brown & Company – one of the biggest steelmaking and shipbuilding concerns in the country [they built the early ‘Queen’ liners which, in their day, were the largest in the world]. During the 1939-45 war, my Father was Chief Accountant at Westland Aircraft, the West Country aeroplane and helicopter manufacturing firm which subsequently became notorious during Mrs. Thatcher’s premiership. Living in relatively sleepy Somerset was a complete contrast to the more bustling and hilly industrial North, to which we returned at the end of the war.

The next fifteen years were a busy time for my Father, who worked in the unhealthy atmosphere of smoke-belching steel mills in the east end of Sheffield, although we lived only a few minutes from the glorious Pennine countryside. Looking back, I realise that the strain of overwork during the war years, followed by life amid heavy industrial pollution, finally undermined my Father’s always rather frail health [he had had a diseased kidney removed before the war, and managed to throw off an attack of tuberculosis after it]. During these years I was embarking on my own working life in London, and leading a busy theatre-and concert-going life there. Until my Father’s final illness began, when he was in his late fifties, it didn’t occur to me that he and my Mother would never enjoy the well-earned retirement for which they had saved and were looking forward to.

In the event, my Father had to take early retirement and my parents bought a bungalow in North Wales with a fine panoramic view over the Menai Straits to Conway Castle. But their sojourn there was brief; they had to return to Sheffield for the skilled medical support my Father required. His last months were a grim ordeal which he bore bravely. Only weeks before he died, he said to me “Your Mother will make a SPLENDID widow” – which she did, for over twenty years.

My memories of my Father include many enjoyable times together when I was younger, as well as increasingly anxious ones as his death approached. Above all regret – for him, and for my brave Mother, who worked so hard for each other and for me and who were cheated out of their due reward. When I used to walk around the West End of London – which I can no longer do – I recalled where he stayed, and where we used to have meals together, during his business trips to London. Above all, I remember him as a kind, honest, generous, gentle man. A true gentleman.


Spurred by a recent comment of mine, Ms. Melancholy and her spouse walked at Easter in some of the finest country in England – the Craven hills - and took some smashing pics. Her delightful blog and resulting comment thread about this brought back nostalgic memories of my own many happy times among the windswept Pennines, and this provides a splendid opportunity to post one of my favourite poems in the burrow. A.E. Housman wrote this about his beloved Shropshire, but for each of us it evokes our own personal ‘lands of lost content’:

“Into my heart an air that kills
  From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
  What spires, what farms are those?
“That is the land of lost content,
  I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
  And cannot come again.”

Saturday, 14 April 2007


My second and third life-changing books are both concerned with the human condition, the first dealing with our relation to the universe we are aware of and the possible infinity of other unknown universes beyond, and the second with our interior state of being. From very different perspectives, they are both meditations on the psyche.

First, THE STORY OF MY HEART, by Richard Jefferies. This Victorian writer, who died tragically young, is perhaps still best remembered for his novel about boyhood, ‘Bevis’. But he was also England’s foremost writer about nature and the countryside, whose elegant essays are lyrical prose-poems that still enchant a devoted band of followers. Always a mystic, he brooded for seventeen years before committing his spiritual autobiography, ‘The Story of My Heart’, to paper and even then he was hesitant to publish it, as so much of his soul-searching thoughts ran counter to the conventional Victorian religious outlook.

On discovering it, I knew at once that it belonged on the ‘very special’ shelf. What first fascinates is the rapturous way Jefferies recalls from years previously his youthful mystically numinous experiences of the beauties of nature and the wonders of the universe. But on re-reading, one is forcibly struck by the courage of Jefferies’ exposition of ideas which were bound to strike his contemporaries as outlandish, atheistic, and possibly even wicked – such as his denial of any evidence of conscious design in nature, and his dismissal of evolution as being no more convincing an explanation for the existence of the universe than creation.

The spectacle of an honest man painfully wrestling to express his deepest thoughts is unusually moving. His vivid descriptions of meditating in isolated country places, drinking in the natural wonders and beauty around him and aspiring through his ‘Lyra prayer’ to ever deeper soul-life, evoke a fervent, simple, and entirely credible pantheism. I had intended to quote some passages from ‘The Story of My Heart’, but choosing one or two is almost impossible, so I urge those who don’t know it already to read this short book for yourselves [you can download it on-line] and you will see what I mean.

My last book is WHAT DO YOU SAY AFTER YOU SAY HELLO? By Eric Berne, M.D. Dr Berne, who died in 1970, was the originator of Transactional Analysis, a mode of therapy which I have found extremely helpful in reorganising my own concepts about my own inner dialogue and what goes on between me and others, as well as between other individuals and groups. During his lifetime, ‘Games People Play’, describing one of the basic transactional gambits identified by TA, was a best seller, both in the USA and in Europe. The vigorous group of innovative therapists who gathered around Berne quickly developed a full system of theory and therapeutic practice around the concept of ‘transactions’, and as a practising counsellor I find TA one of the most insightful and effective tools in the therapeutic armoury.

Among many unusual qualities, Eric Berne had a keen sense of humour and a dry wit which he didn’t hesitate to apply in his professional practice and writing. His last book, published posthumously, has the sub-title ‘The Psychology of Human Destiny’. With such an ambitious scope it is quite long, but mostly easy to read and in places highly entertaining. He is a dab hand at the unexpected pay-off line. His wry comments on some of the traditional fairy tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty, are hilarious and I recommend them to anyone who is feeling in the dumps and needs cheering up.

At the end of the book we discover – as you might have guessed – that the answer to the title question is ‘whatever you choose’ - but only after a lot of hard work has been done to free up your options. If there is one therapy book that most people would really benefit from as well as enjoy, this is it.

"AH DUNNO!" - 14th April

Well, it WAS Friday the 13th yesterday! Even so, some pretty weird graffiti was scrawled up in the burrow toilets. Zola - having presumably quaffed several doubles of single malt in the Snug - waxed incoherently surrealist, while an anonymous scribbler had the chutzpah to suggest that anticant needed his posterior kicking.

The Beadle has been instructed to patrol the toilets frequently, and to administer summary justice with his truncheon to anyone using lavatory language or advocating violence against the management. If there is any more of this kind of behaviour, the burrow court will be convened to consider the withdrawal of free drinks privileges in the Snug, and - as a last resort - the installation of CCTV cameras in the toilets.

According to one of Zola's Mystic Meg-type messages, someone called 'Tousers' - or alternatively 'Kegs' - has had a birthday. If this, is in fact, our regular patron Trousers, we wish him many happy returns.

ben trovato, also in surrealist mode, offers the following suggestion to lavenderblue for a new painting to adorn the Snug:

"On the pale yellow sands
There's a pair of clasped hands
And an eyball entangled in string
And a plate of raw meat
And a bicycle seat
And a thing that is scarcely a thing."

anticant, however, is not inclined to pay for it.

The Beadle says it would make him throw up.

Have a nice weekend, everybody. And BEHAVE YOURSELVES.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007


anticant will be posting about his own world-changing books over the next few days. Here is the first:


I was an avid reader as a child. I was given my first copy – which I still possess – of Monte Cristo when I was about eight, and ever since it has been an integral piece of my mental furniture – a palace of manifold delights, constantly revisited, most recently in the Penguin Classics’ first complete modern translation.

Dumas – aided by his backroom helpers; he had a small industry of assistant scribes – was a master storyteller. It is due to him, more than anyone else, that my fascination with French history was kindled: first, of course, by the Three Musketeers and other d’Artagnan romances; and above all by Monte Cristo, so evocative of the post-Napoleonic political feuds that survived into the Bourbon Restoration.

As a child, I did not immediately realise the significance of this historical background. The plot, in all its intricacies of sub-plots and a myriad of memorable characters whose respective fates are remorselessly intertwined, was totally absorbing in itself. To those who are not familiar with the story, I can only say read the Penguin Classics Count of Monte Cristo, and immerse yourself in all 117 chapters and 1078 pages of it: You will, I hope, find yourself enthralled by the most gripping account imaginable of Revenge, relentlessly pursued down the years until the last shred of wrongdoing has been exposed and called to account.

The varied changes of scene, and the development of character in the main protagonists, are the creation of a profound psychologist of human nature. Dumas himself had a colourful background and an adventurous life, which he drew on to give authenticity to his novels. Monte Cristo opens in sunshine and hope. The young sailor Edmond Dantès returns to his home port of Marseilles on the eve of his wedding to the beautiful Catalan, Mercédès, and is appointed to his first captaincy. All is serene and joyful.

But jealousy and politics intervene. The shaky first Bourbon Restoration is about to be overthrown by Napoléon’s return from Elba at the start of what turned out to be his last Hundred Days of power; and the naïvely trusting Dantès unwittingly makes bitter political and personal enemies. On his betrothal night he is arrested and cast into the dungeons of the sinister offshore island prison, the Château d’If. After years of terrible suffering there, he emerges transformed into the fabulously wealthy Count of Monte Cristo, one of the richest men in Europe. To tell you how would be to spoil the tale, if you don’t already know.

Painstakingly, clue by clue, Monte Cristo unravels the plot against him, pieces together the reasons for his imprisonment, and identifies the culprits, some of whom are now themselves rich and powerful. He dedicates himself to their downfall, and pursues his objective singlemindedly and remorselessly. His deep and devious schemes are made possible by his limitless wealth, and are also favoured by fortune. At the end of the novel all his enemies are ignominiously dead, or grovelling at his feet.

If this account makes The Count of Monte Cristo sound a grim and bleak affair, that is far from being the case. The novel abounds in contrasts of scene and character, and there are some highly amusing episodes – such as how the Count saves from being ravaged by dormice the peaches of a telegraph operator who is also an enthusiastic gardener; and the comic misadventures of the rascally Cavalcanti father and son. Almost at the very end, there is a poignant scene where the Count visits the widowed Mercédès, whose husband – his most vindictive enemy – he has publicly humiliated and driven to suicide, at the little house in a Marseilles backstreet where his old father was allowed by his enemies to starve to death, and which he has now given to Mercédès – no longer a wealthy Countess - as a humble last refuge.

Sentimentalists – of whom I am one – might wish that Edmond and Mercédès could rekindle their youthful romance, and live “happily ever after”. But all the sorrow, bitterness, and suffering of the intervening years has made this unthinkable to them. Perhaps that is the saddest psychological lesson of Monte Cristo : Even if forgiveness is impossible, the thirst for revenge warps the soul. “Vengeance is MINE”, saith the Lord. I will repay.” When the Count at last realises that it is self-destructive for a human being to play God, it is almost – but not quite – too late for him.


What a wealth of eloquent erudition throngs the burrow! [which, by the way, as we’re sure we don’t need to tell lavenderblue, was originally conceived in the image of Mole’s ‘dulce domum’ on the river bank, before it became transmogrified into an XVIII coaching inn on the Yorkshire Wolds – wherein lies the charm of the internet in making such pantomime tricks feasible.]

Several familiar old friends, and some intriguing new ones to add to the ever-lengthening reading lists of anticant, ben and the beadle. The Snug looks like becoming a literary salon of rare merit. Our only difficulty was to decide who’s list outshone the others? We found this impossible to decide, so the beadle consulted his old friend the Dodo.

As previously recounted by Lewis Carroll, “this question the Dodo could not answer without a great deal of thought, and it sat for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him), while the rest waited in silence. At last the Dodo said, `EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes.' "

Ben is happy to dispense free drinks for all in the Snug throughout today.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007


ben trovato says:

A bothersome day at the burrow! The friendly - and evidently feeble - fox who took up his or her abode by the burrow front door last week died on Good Friday. Far from being resurrected, it remains there stolidly dead - and so far little progress has been made in arranging for its decent disposal. The Beadle is on leave, and anticant would not in any event wish to bury it in the grounds. The local council - despite having hugely hiked up its already exorbitant local tax - refuses to enter the burrow precincts to take the corpse away, although they would, apparently, remove it if it were lying on the public highway. Such are the idiocies of buraucracy!

Try the RSPCA, the council helpfully suggested. When I rang them, the RSPCA not unreasonably pointed out that their remit is to prevent cruelty to living animals, not to act as undertakers to dead ones. So back to the council, who this time advised me to look up 'Animal carcases' in the Yellow Pages directory. Needless to say, no such category exists.

As a last resort, I rang the burrow's ever helpful Italian gardener, Paolo, who immediately volunteered to call round this afternoon and remove reynard - if only into the gutter. We currently await his arival, and will report later on developments. If it doesn't go today, anticant - as well as the fox - will be kicking up a real stink.

Alleluyah! Paolo has just dropped by and removed the body - a handsome looking beast it was. too. So all's well. anticant is relaxing with a glass of his favourite dry madeira........

Saturday, 7 April 2007


Taking a timely cue from Zola's site, the burrow invites entries on the above topic, with brief explanations of how the chosen books influenced you. A fourth, imaginary, book which you would have liked to be influenced by is an optional extra.

The thread will remain open for 72 hours, after which a small prize will be awarded for the entry judged the most interesting by the burrow team [anticant, ben and the beadle].

Always eager to stick his truncheon in first, the beadle has already chosen his own yet-to-be-written book - "The Naked Kayaker", by Zola. The mental visions inspired by this have prompted the beadle to redouble his patrols around the riverside burrow flagpole. No sightings of suspicious-looking craft have yet been reported.


anticant, ben and the beadle hope that everyone is enjoying their Easter break.

Here at the burrow, the fishpond has been restocked with some new, colourful inhabitants. The hammock cushions have been installed, and anticant is looking forward to some sunny moments by the pond.

The friendly neighbourhood fox has taken up residence beneath the fir tree beside the burrow front door, and is now sleeping there undeterred by passers-by walking up the path.

ben is restocking the ever-popular Snug bar, and the beadle has ceased versifying [for the present!] and is painting Easter eggs.

lavenderblue has presented the burrow with a delightful Easter gift, which will be on permanent display shortly.

So what are you all up to?

Wednesday, 4 April 2007


The Beadle - who has smatterings of culture - waxes philosophical:

Werner Heisenberg is out driving when he's stopped by a motorcycle cop.

"Do you know how fast you were going?" asks the cop.

"No, but I know where I am", Heisenberg replies.

René Descartes is drinking in a bar in Paris:

"Another one, René?", asks the barman.

"I think not", says Descartes ... and immediately vanishes.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007


ben trovato writes, "Searching for Easter Egg stories, I came across the following":

Two Scousers are riding along the M62 from Manchester to Liverpool on a motorbike. They break down and start hitching a lift.

A friendly trucker stops to see if he can help and the Scousers ask him for a lift. He tells them that he has no room in the wagon as he is carrying 20,000 bowling balls but will take a look at the bike for them.

He tries everything he knows but is unable to repair it. Time is getting on now and he's late for his delivery, so he tells the Scousers he has to leave.

The Scousers put it to the driver that if they can manage to fit in the back with the 20,000 bowling balls, will he take them, so he agrees. They manage to squeeze themselves and their motorbike into the back of the wagon so the driver shuts the doors and gets off on his way. By this time he is really late and so puts his foot down.

Sure enough PC Plod of Greater Manchester Police pulls him up for speeding. The good officer asks the driver what he is carrying to which he replies with sarcasm " Scouse eggs". The policeman obviously doesn't believe this so wants to take a look. He opens the back door and quickly shuts it and locks it. He rushes back to his panda car and gets onto his radio and calls for immediate backup from as many officers as possible.

The dispatcher asks what emergency he has that he requires so many officers.

"I've got a wagon with 20,000 Scouse eggs in it - two have hatched, and the bastards have managed to nick a motorbike already..."

"AH DUNNO!" - 3rd April

A sleek brown fox has been snoozing contentedly in the burrow garden for the past few hours. It has just woken up, shaken itself, and trotted placidly away.

anticant spent most of yesterday at hospital outpatients'. After drearily long waits, the doctors' reports were reassuring so the trip was worthwhile although too exhausting.