Saturday, 28 July 2007


After a fraught twelve hours, peace has been restored to the Burrow, and the off-scene hurling of stink bombs has ceased.

Anticant is ensconced in his favourite chair in the ingle nook, with a pile of books and itinerant marmalade cats.

Lavenderblue is making preliminary sketches for her forthcoming masterly depiction of the jaunty Ben Trovato.

Ben and the Beadle are busy sprucing up the Snug in anticipation of a weekend dropin by trousers and friends and an August State Visit from the Naked Kayaker.

Wooffie is dreaming of his alcoholic monastery mountain home and Dame Barbara's pearls.

A warm welcome for the weekend, everyone!

Friday, 27 July 2007


Due to an inadvertent lapse into bad taste which was not received with the customary lighthearted good humour usually evident in fellow-bloggers, Anticant and his various aliases will not be posting comments on others' blogs from now on.

The Burrow will continue to offer a warm welcome to visitors, though posts may be more intermittent, as there are better things to do with one's time than to get at cross-purposes with others who operate on the principle that what's sauce for the goose isn't sauce for the gander.

Thursday, 26 July 2007


ben trovato writes:

A man and his ever-nagging wife went on holiday to Jerusalem.

While they were there, the wife passed away. The undertaker told the husband:

“You can have her shipped home for £55,000, or you can have her buried here in the Holy Land for just £5,000.”

The man thought for a moment and decided he would prefer to have her shipped home.

The undertaker asked: “Why would you spend £55,000 to ship your wife home when it would be wonderful to have her buried here in the Holy Land and cost you only £5,000?”

The man replied: “Long ago a man died here, was buried, and on the third day he rose from the dead. I am not prepared to take that chance.”

Tuesday, 24 July 2007


I’ve just finished reading Tina Brown’s riveting The Diana Chronicles. “Not that stale old fairy tale?” I hear you cry. But this retelling of it is unputdownable.

What comes through is not merely the self-delusion, but the sheer unrelenting nastiness, of all the cast – including the People’s Princess herself. Yes: she had wondrous charisma, and empathy with the suffering; she was a head-in-clouds Romantic [according to her step-grandmother, Dame Barbara Cartland, “the only books she ever read were mine and they weren’t awfully good for her”]; and - fatefully for her and for the Royal Family - she was a walking incarnation of the old saw “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. Having refused to fit into the fossilized conventionality of the Windsors, and having been semi-ejected by them, she aspired to let some fresh air into the monarchy for its own good, and did not quail from behaviour which, from their perspective, resembled that of Samson and Delilah combined.

It is clear from the book that the Wales’s marriage broke down because of Charles’ unshakeable determination to stick like glue to Camilla Parker Bowles through thick and thin. It was this, and not Dame Barbara’s knicker-ripping verdict that it was Diana’s refusal to “do oral sex”, that broke the fairy-tale romance. For Diana, Camilla was the wicked witch who turned her glass coach into a pumpkin. She proceeded to wreak relentless revenge. Whether the marriage, without her ghastly end, could in time have been resurrected is one of those fascinating “might have beens” of history.

Tina Brown has trawled through all the published material with a fine-tooth comb, and has talked to many hitherto untapped sources, both on and off the record. It is this which gives her book its air of definitive behind-the-scenes knowingness, and embellishes it with some pricelessly funny vignettes illuminating the unequalled snobbishness, cluelessness, and on frequent occasions bitchiness, of our ruling claque.

Superb holiday reading!

Sunday, 22 July 2007


[As interpreted by ben trovato]:

"My attention has been drawn to a scurrilous allegation by Zola that I was 'pissed' on my return with the Beadle from our fruitless search for summer sunshine. The unwarranted implication was that as we could not find any actual sunshine, we regaled ourselves too freely with liquid sunshine.

While I cannot speak on behalf of the Beadle, I wish to testify that I am a sober, responsible, rescue-trained St. Bernard - not a drunken Lurcher - and that I have never been 'pissed' in my life. The slightly watery look in my eye was due to the unseasonably arctic winds, and NOT the result of liquid refreshment.

Admittedly, I have a weakness for pearls, but that is another matter entirely."

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I hereby set my pawmark: ++++++ WOOFFIE

Saturday, 21 July 2007


ben trovato writes:

The Beadle and Wooffie have returned without summer, and without brandy. They claim that they had to give almost all of it away "to keep the natives friendly", but judging from the Beadle's somewhat lurching gait and the bleary look in Wooffie's eye, Judge Anticant considers the case merits further examination and is considering convening a Burrow court. Evidence from any witnesses of the intrepid pair's travels will be welcomed.

During a severe but brief thunderstorm yesterday, the Burrow suffered an incursion of water through a bedroom ceiling and it transpires that an ancient chimney is in need of repair. This will require the erection of scaffolding, which is both expensive and inelegant. However, we have so far escaped lightly in comparison with other storm damage throughout the country, and we sympathise with all the unfortunates whose homes and possessions have been ruined in the recent downpours.

Thursday, 19 July 2007


Obediently jumping through the hoop held up by Zola, the whipcracking Nude Ringmaster, the present state of play in the Burrow is as follows:

anticant is just about coping with a backload of paperwork chores which have piled up and are a drain on his limited energy. He has also been feeling even limper than usual following a mammoth shopping expedition at the weekend to replenish stores which were depleted while he was without a car. The new car is lovely, but hasn't been far afield yet as the weather is not conducive to joyriding even if anticant felt inclined, which he doesn't at the moment.

anticant is, however, cheered up by the unexpected re-emergence of an old and dear friend who has been too ill to contact anyone for the past 18 months, but is now picking up the threads. So there's always hope.

ben is frantically searching the further reaches of the internet for new jokes, but there seems to be a dearth at the moment. Maybe because it's the "silly season".

The beadle and wooffie have been sent off with a copious supply of brandy in search of summer. So far, they have reported back negative results.

Serious and lighthearted posting will be resumed as and when anticant feels capable of translating his multitudinous fleeting thoughts onto the keyboard. Meanwhile, he keeps up comments on other's blogs and has left recent footprints in Lapland, USA and elsewhere.

Saturday, 14 July 2007


Anticant writes:

The Burrow is, I hope, a friendly place where people feel free to drop in for a gossip, a joke, and a noggin. We have a great crowd of regulars in the Snug, and I want them, and more occasional visitors, to enjoy themselves.

However, there are on occasion comments made which jar with the atmosphere and ethos of the place, and I'd be grateful if people would sometimes think more carefully before posting.

When the Beadle says "No [this, that or the other] in the Burrow, By Order", he isn't just being comic: he is expressing Anticant's preferences.

For one thing, the Burrow is a free house and it's quite likely that some very young visitors look in now and then.

I'd much prefer them not find suggestive graffiti, sexual innuendo, or swearwords - all of which are, to my mind, quite unnecessary for an entertaining conversation and lower the tone.

So let's leave the effing, and blinding to A Campbell and his ilk, shall we, and keep sexy talk out of the Snug - there are plenty of other sites for you to indulge in that, if you want to. Thanks.


Anticant's new car has arrived - at last - so more driving than blogging this weekend.

The Beadle is drained by his unaccustomed literary outpourings, so is taking a rest cure.

Ben is holding the fort and stocking up the Snug bar.

Wooffie is looking as demure as always.

Friday, 13 July 2007



Where were the pearls? Obviously, not in the Burrow, as Wooffie had been wearing them when he was taken through the lock, and they had vanished when Ben and I found him. Clearly they were somewhere on the lower reaches of the river, below the lock. But who had taken them?

While Poirot and Anticant debated what to do next, Farmer Wook suddenly called out to me “Saddle my trusty mare. I’ll go look for the goddarned things and bring the culprits to book. What you need here is a retired chief constable and deputy sheriff!”

I did as I was bid, and the intrepid Farmer leaped into the saddle and cantered off in the direction of the lock. In a surprisingly short time, he returned triumphantly waving aloft Dame Barbara’s pearls. “When I got to the lock”, he said, “the lock keeper’s wife hailed me and said her husband had just returned home with the pearls, which he found lying under a thorn bush a couple of miles downstream. She had no idea how they got there.”

So all’s well that ends well. But the mystery of how the pearls came to be entwined round Wooffie’s neck remained unsolved and was the subject of keen debate. Our baffled discussion was interrupted by Dame Barbara’s maid, who summoned the company to the State Chamber, where Dame Barbara reclined in the four-poster wearing a magnificent frilly tulle negligee.

In an unaccustomedly bashful tone she said: “I have a confession to make. While totally absorbed in my authorial labours, I became aware of Wooffie nestling at my feet. He looked so sweet that I clasped my rope of pearls around his neck. I regret to say that I then fell asleep. When I awoke, Wooffie had gone, and I have only just now recollected the incident. I would like to apologise to all concerned for any distress caused by my unjust suspicions. There – I feel better now! Please fetch me two large pink gins from the Snug, Ben.”

Farmer Wook said “Well, I’ll be danged.”

A crestfallen M. Poirot feigned relief that he would not have to carry out his customary masterly interrogation of all the suspects, and triumphantly reveal the culprit. He had, he said, formed some strong suspicions of some of the Snug regulars, but would perforce keep his thoughts to himself.

So ended my eventful first day at the Burrow.


Anticant has bought a new car.

He didn’t intend, or want, to buy a new car.

But his old car decided not to be roadworthy any longer. Despite having only just over 10,000 miles on the clock, its automatic transmission gearbox gave up the ghost and died.

So Anticant decided to splash out a bit and chose an almost-new Honda Jazz SE. Great car according to most reviews, and very driver-friendly on a test drive.

That was on Tuesday. The dealers promised delivery on Friday [today].

Yesterday, they phoned to say the car was all ready, and they could bring it straightaway. Oh, goody.

But there was one snag. They couldn’t obtain the second signature needed for the cheque to purchase the free six-month road tax until tomorrow [i.e. today]. Promised faithfully the car would be with me by mid-morning.

This morning, another phone call. Another snag. They hadn’t received the cover note for the seven-day complimentary insurance cover that was part of the deal. And the insurers couldn’t guarantee producing it today, because their system had been “down” yesterday and there was a backlog. Heard that before somewhere?

So Anticant phoned the insurers and read the Riot Act about being a disabled driver who needed the car for his weekend shopping. Long hold-on to raucous music while the person at the other end “spoke to his manager”.

Eventually, he came back and said the cover note should be with the dealers “within a couple of hours”.

Why a couple of hours? All they have to do is to send an email or a fax, and it is presumably standard procedure. But no.

And then, of course, the dealer said “Oh dear, I have another appointment later this afternoon, and may not be able to bring it today if I don’t get the cover note quickly”.

So there the matter rests. But Anticant doesn’t. He is restless and irritable. He itches to kick butt.

Why, oh why, is nothing straightforward and efficient these days? Is it part of the culture, or what?

You tell me.



Agatha Christie Sleuths were unable to comply with Dame Barbara’s demand for the return of Miss Marple, who was engaged upon another assignment. Instead, they sent a dapper, wax-moustached spat-wearing Belgian gentleman, Monsieur Poirot, who swiftly assumed charge of the Burrow. Having ascertained that neither Ben nor myself had the absent jewels concealed about our persons, he deputed us to search the place from top to bottom with a metaphorical toothcomb, while he interrogated the inmates of the Snug.

He swiftly eliminated Wook and Zola from his suspicions, as they had arrived so recently, and proceeded to engage in intimate body searches of the others, all of whom had the capacity to conceal a rope of pearls – Lavenderblue in her lengthy and abundant auburn tresses, Merkin in his weird wig, Boldscot in his voluminous Sporran, and Trousers in the pockets of his self-supporting jeans. All yielded a blank, and M. Poirot confessed himself temporarily baffled.

At this juncture, Ms Melancholy arrived and announced that she was not only a therapist, but had clairvoyant powers. M. Poirot promptly co-opted her to his assistance, and asked her to interview Dame Barbara, who though now slightly less hysterical, was making heavy inroads upon the Burrow’s gin stock. After a short conversation Ms Melancholy emerged from the parlour saying “She doesn’t know whether it’s fish or Tuesday – nothing rational or cognitive about HER!”

Ms M was then invited by Poirot to exercise her clairvoyant powers, and went into a light trance from which she emerged muttering “brandy barrels, brandy barrels”. Ben suddenly had a flash of inspiration. “Where’s Wooffie?” he asked, and we realised that the amiable creature had not been seen for some hours. A search was then instituted and produced no sign of our shaggy friend, and as he was not in the house I set off along the towpath in one direction and Ben in the other. As I approached the lock-keeper’s cottage, I espied a pawprint in the mud and signs of a scuffle. Could Wooffie have been abducted by aquatic marauders? It seemed possible.

I hastened on to the cottage, and the lock-keeper’s wife – an observant lady – told me that a large dog with a rope of pearls around his neck had indeed passed through the lock about an hour ago in a dinghy rowed by a Yellow Duck. Summoning Ben on my mobile phone, we hastened towards the Yellow Duck Pond, only to find that it had been drained and filled in, and that the entrance to the Pirate’s Lair had been blocked off.

What to do? Just as we were thinking of returning empty-handed, we heard a plaintive bark, and espied Wooffie tied to a tree in the undergrowth. He was overjoyed to see us, and to be set free. But the pearls were missing. We trooped forlornly back to the Burrow and reported to M. Poirot, who twirled his moustaches and observed “Ah! Ze plot thickens……”



Hurrying down to the landing stage, I descried a large canoe laden down with bulky packages, being steered towards me by a thickset bearded man in oilskins. As he alighted, a strong whiff of fish penetrated my nostrils. “Mr Zola, I presume”, I said. I am the new Burrow Beadle, Percival Flarge. You may call me Percy if you wish”.

“I shall do nowt o’t sort” snapped Zola. “I don’t indulge in familiarities with effing beadles. Fetch a trolley and unload this lot, my man. I have brought Anticant a fresh load of fish from Grimsby, where I landed this morning.” Although he was brusque, I detected a twinkle beneath his rough exterior, and decided not to dislike him. In fact, Zola and I became jovial sparring partners, and enjoyed teasing one another in a slily challenging fashion.

“Ah, there you are, Zola” cried Anticant. “Better have a shower before you join us in the Snug, or else Dame Barbara will twig that there’s something fishy going on”. When Zola returned, in somewhat more fragrant attire, discussion resumed on a new book featured in Stephen Law’s philosophy blog about ‘why is there something rather than nothing?’ In my simple way I thought that the obvious answer was “Because there is”, but this did not satisfy the budding philosophers of the Burrow. They tossed the question around and around until I was utterly out of my depth. In the end, I decided that the Big Bang was rather a damp squib, and went to see how Dame Barbara was getting on. I found her supine on the settee, snoring loudly, with three empty gin bottles on the floor beside her.

I returned to the Snug in time to hear the headless Trousers declare that everything was just a piece of cake. Lavenderblue, however, insisted that life is just a bowl of cherries, while Anticant glumly observed that life is what you make it, and he didn’t think this discussion was making much of it, as it all seemed as clear as mud to him.

Feeling in need of some fresh air, I decided to patrol the Burrow grounds. Strolling along the towpath I perceived a beautiful piebald horse approaching whose rider was a bald, smiling, gleaming eyed, rustic-clad farmer-like person. “Hi, pardner”, he exclaimed in a strong American twang, “let the folks know that Ol’ Farmer Wook has crossed the pond to see what goes on in this neck of the woods”. He dismounted and threw me the reins. I led his splendid steed to our best loose box, and saw it was plentifully supplied with oats and water. I then escorted Wook to the Snug. His entry was greeted with a delighted chorus of welcome – not least from Lavenderblue, who flung her arms around his neck and, in classic Mae West fashion, invited him to come up and see her at her Studio sometime. “Ah!” Wook replied, “I’m always forecasting the end of modernity. How nice to land up at a place where it hasn’t even happened yet.”

This cosy atmosphere was suddenly disrupted by the dramatic entrance of a dishevelled Dame Barbara. “My pearls – my precious pearls” she screamed, clutching at her throat. “They’ve gone missing. It must be one of you lot. Send for Miss Marple! Judge Anticant must convene a Burrow court immediately. Meanwhile, no-one can leave the building.”

Everyone looked at each other in dismay. Each felt under suspicion, knowing they were innocent. Who could be the culprit?

Thursday, 12 July 2007



Next morning, which was a cold, frosty one, I was up at the crack of dawn kindling the log fire in the Snug – which burns most of the year round, except in very hot weather. Then I polished the oak floor and, donning my green baize apron, helped Ben put a lustrous shine on the many brass ornaments which adorned the walls.

As we worked, Ben explained how the bar was stocked, and the wide range of beverages on offer. Half a dozen pumps along the bar provided a variety of esteemed local brews, and a vintage draught cider. Rows of spirits and liqueur bottles lined the glass shelves behind the bar. Some were rare and hard to obtain – a special brand of pure Finnish vodka being canoed in at dead of night by Zola, the Naked Kayaker, Judge Anticant resembling his 18th century predecessors such as Parson Woodforde in not hesitating to turn a blind eye to the odd cask of contraband stored in the Burrow cellars beneath the courtroom.

Our labours were interrupted by a loud imperious rootle-tootle as a cream-coloured, gold-plated Rolls-Royce swept into the courtyard and from it emerged a vision swathed in shocking pink and ostrich feathers demanding to see Judge Anticant at once if not sooner. When he appeared, somewhat bleary-eyed, he recognised Dame Barbara Cartland, who announced that she had selected the Burrow as the ideal hideaway in which to concoct her umpteenth bodice-ripper, and demanded the four-poster state room for herself and more humble accommodation for her maid and chauffeur until further notice.

When the Dame had been escorted to her chamber, she at length emerged and was settled into the Day Parlour adjoining the Snug with a copious supply of pink gins. She proceeded to extract a large notebook and several coloured pens from her reticule, and commenced inscribing the title of her new opus. Looking over her shoulder, I perceived that it was All Passion Spent. I presumptuously asked Dame Barbara where the passion was spent and she replied “mostly at the races and on pink gins”. She added that she was mulling over yet another blockbuster, The Petulant Princess, whose heroine would be based upon her wayward step-granddaughter, the Princess of Wails, but she was hesitant to commit it to paper for fear of falling foul of her prized royal connections.

Meanwhile, some of the Snug regulars had started to arrive. First was a pair of Trousers with no visible superstructure above the waistline, although Ben assured me that this did not prevent him – if it was a him – imbibing copious draughts of Burrow Brew. Next came a leather-clad Merkin, wearing a strange sort of wig upon his bald head which, he announced, he had purloined from Paris. He was soon joined by a Bold Scot attired in the Advanced Highland style – kiltless, but with a large sporran for modesty’s sake. We felt it safest to keep these two out of the ken of Dame Barbara, but her attention was by now wholly preoccupied by the pink gins and her writing.

Finally, an elegant lady with long, flowing Lady Godiva-like auburn hair entered bearing an artist’s easel and paintbox. This was Miss Lavenderblue, the Burrow’s artist-in-residence By Appointment. Judge Anticant was installed in his favourite high-backed chair in the ingle nook, and a typical Burrow soirĂ©e was about to commence. All that was lacking was the elusive Zola, but my sharp ears discerned splashing noises of rapid paddling upstream…..

Wednesday, 11 July 2007



The Old Coal Road across the Wolds passes the highest railway station in England, and proceeds through glorious scenery. Savouring the wide horizons, I wondered whether my new post would be too windswept. However, the road dipped into a sheltered glade of mature trees, and there, alongside a swiftly flowing river, nestled Anticant’s Burrow – an old coaching inn with an arched gateway leading into an inner courtyard.

Soon I was presenting my credentials, furnished by my esteemed friend and mentor, Mr Bumble, to Judge Anticant and his sidekick Ben Trovato. Judge Anticant is a kindly though somewhat pernickety old gentleman, usually clad in a flowered dressing gown and surrounded by piles of books and several marmalade cats. Ben is a genial, jaunty young fellow who is in general charge of the establishment, and Mine Host of the Snug Bar, which is the social centre of the Burrow.

Having successfully passed their scrutiny and answered all their questions to their apparent satisfaction, I was offered the post of Burrow Beadle with responsibility for ensuring the safety and good order of the premises and its inmates and guests. I was proud to accept, and was then given a tour of the Burrow and grounds. Ben explained that, owing to its slightly off-the-beaten-track situation, the Burrow was largely spared the incursions of vulgar charabanc crowds and the type of unwanted intruder who roused the ire of John Fothergill [of An Innkeeper’s Diary fame] by enquiring the way to the lavatory, using it, and then departing without spending another penny. Also, the dining guests are generally well-behaved – unlike all of Fothergill’s, one of whom once yelled across the dining room: “Have you anything in this place fit for me to drink, Fothergill?” – to which Mine Host haughtily replied: “Poison!”.

I was then introduced to the Burrow’s resident St. Bernard, Wooffie, with whom I was destined to have many adventures, bearing life-saving brandy barrels to travellers lost on the snow-bound Wolds and even on one occasion in Northern Lapland where Santa’s reindeer had been grounded. Making my first inspection of the premises, I noted that the river bank, which formed the Burrow boundary on two sides, was vulnerable to unauthorised landings by audacious canooists and others, while the Burrow flagpole, bearing Anticant’s personal standard proudly aloft, was also adjacent to the river. A past experience as a young apprentice before the mast in a three-masted tea clipper, where I enjoyed two of the three pleasures memorably chronicled by the late Mr George Melly – lots of rum and concertina, but no bum because I was already, though still at a tender age, enamoured by the late lamented Mrs. Flarge – had commended me to Anticant and Ben, who were concerned about the incursions of a certain Naked Kayaker who apparently from time to time ignited intemperate bouts of knicker-waving in the Snug which they considered detrimental to the decorum expected by their more sedate guests, such as Dame Barbara Cartland and Miss Marple.

It was clear, from my initial interview, that I might well have my work cut out in preserving good order and decency, and as I snuggled down that first night amid the snow-white sheets I wondered whether I would have the stamina to meet the challenge of the Burrow. Only time would tell!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


I’ve volunteered to answer five questions from Aphra Behn for the INTERVIEW MEME. Here are her questions, with my answers:

1. Social justice is important to you. When did you first become aware of injustice in the world and what was your response to that?

I already knew in my early ‘teens that I was 100 per cent. Gay, and that this wasn’t just a passing phase. [How did I know? I don’t know - but I did.] At that time, any physical sexual contact between males was a criminal offence, and so if one was to have any fulfilling personal life at all, one felt and had to behave as if one was a resistance fighter in enemy-occupied territory. As we were fighting a war against tyranny, and – we were told - for democracy and personal freedom, this was completely at odds with my sense of justice. [I am a Libran.] I decided, even before I went to University, that if I could I would do something to remedy this wrong. I was fortunate in realising this ambition, and my experience led me on to involvement in several other civil liberties causes.

2. You've a long life of political engagement behind you - which of your enemies or heroes have you had direct dealings with, and were they what you expected?

People are rarely what you expect, though some of them run true to form. I’ve had dealings with several of my heroes. One of them was quite the opposite of what I had imagined. This was Aubrey Jones, who had written a political tract – The Pendulum of Politics – which I greatly admired. When I encountered him as Director of a large business organisation, I found that my idol had feet of clay – he was devious and manipulative. He went on to be a Conservative Minister….

Roy Jenkins, whom I knew as Home Secretary in the 1960s, was one of the most civilized and genuine politicians I’ve known. He was really sincere in his belief in a liberal, free, ‘civilised society’ – a vision which earned him the undying hatred of Mary Whitehouse and her ‘Moral Majority’ friends [of whom it was aptly said that they were neither moral nor a majority].

Although I never met that lady personally, I had some uncomfortably close dealings and controversies with her and found her to be a most unscrupulous and on occasions untruthful debater. She stuck at nothing to smear those she disagreed with as deliberate agents of moral depravity, and refused to consider any point of view other than her own.

A hero I only met once, but shall never forget the powerful impression he made on me, was Lord Brabazon of Tara. A contemporary, friend and cabinet colleague of Winston Churchill, he was one of the most vividly robust people I’ve ever met. A pioneer motorist and aviator, and a keen practitioner of many other sports, he led an adventurous life which he chronicled in his autobiography The Brabazon Story, which is a rattling good read.

3. Looking back, if you could change just one thing about the world political stage during your lifetime, what would it be?

I would have taken the United Kingdom into the inner circle of the European Movement from the very beginning, as Churchill advocated, and ensured that we exercised our full influence in the development of the European Union. The notion that because Americans speak a bastardized form of English, and that since we have some interests in common with them from time to time, they are in some way less foreign than other countries and we have an indissoluble ‘special relationship’ with them, strikes me as complete bunkum. This fallacy has led to the foreign policy disasters of the Blair years.

4. If you were to reform education in the UK how would you do so - more specifically (if you choose) if you were to design a curriculum for modern school children, what would it include?

There are only three things every child should be taught. First, that other people are as real as you are [Shylock: [I am a Jew but] “if you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Second, never do to anyone else what you would not willingly have done to you. And thirdly, that the most important thing in life is to be kind.

These are, in my view, the root principles of moral education. All else depends on the capability of the teacher and the capacity and willingness of the pupil to learn.

Montaigne observes – sagely, as always – that parents should pay much closer attention than they usually do to their small childrens’ infant behaviour and play patterns. Innate tendencies to cruelty and dishonesty come out early in the tormenting of animals or cheating at pin games – the infant who cheats will, unless checked, grow up into the professional scam merchant. Yet many parents tacitly endorse such conduct by saying “Isn’t she cute?”

If I were designing a national curriculum, I would ensure that dubious subjects such as creationism were taught - if at all - as examples of controversial opinions which need to be weighed against alternatives. The object of education should be to teach children to think for themselves.

But it’s an uphill struggle. I shall never forget overhearing someone saying “I was at the Department of Education the other day, and a senior official said to me ‘We don’t WANT too many highly intelligent people in this country, do we? They cause too much trouble!'” Oh, dear……..

5. Talleyrand - libertarian or opportunist? (Or any poacher- turned-gamekeeper of your choice).

How clever of you to guess that Talleyrand is one of the characters in history I would most like to meet! I first encountered him as a child in Rudyard Kipling’s Rewards and Fairies stories “Brother Square-Toes” and “A Priest in Spite of Himself”. The more I’ve read about him, the more I admire him. Far from being the self-interested turncoat he has been depicted as by some French historians, he was – while naturally concerned about self-preservation – utterly consistent in his pursuit of peace, moderation and civil liberty both at home and in foreign policy. An Anglophile, he believed that the key to France’s prosperity and a peaceful Europe lay in Anglo-French friendship. His latest biographer – David Lawday – calls his book Napoleon’s Master, and Talleyrand certainly stood up to and ultimately outmanoeuvred the Emperor and then went on to curb the stupider excesses of the Bourbon ‘Ultras’ during the Restoration.

Apart from his political wisdom, he was a witty, cultivated and often charming survivor of the Ancien Regime. He even won over the prudish Fanny Burney! I certainly wish Hendrik Van Loon had included him as a dinner guest in his fascinating Lives.


  1. Leave a comment saying, “Interview me.”
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
  3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


ben trovato says "I've shamelessly pinched this from Kit's blog as I haven't laughed so much for a while either":

I read this on when I was dutifully networking this morning. It gave our muscles such a great workout, with the gasping and spluttering with laughter that I thought I should share it with you:

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington Chemistry mid-term.

The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell.

Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you," and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct......leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh my God."


Monday, 9 July 2007


Yellow Duck has deleted the Duck Pond from the blogosphere!

Now we don't even have the nostalgic pleasure of revisiting those reedy mellow shores - an oasis of wit and wisdom.

No doubt he has his reasons, so I won't blame him though I think he is rather a meanie.

Friday, 6 July 2007


After watching this, the Beadle has decided not to apply for a post as a big game warden in Africa. He feels safer patrolling the burrow boundaries, naked kayakers and all.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007


Don't miss the new link I've just posted in the arena. Minds are not required, but if you have one it will boggle.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007


anticant writes:

I returned home yesterday after a week as an inpatient in my local Marie Curie Hospice. I went there because the previous week I had an investigative ‘procedure’ at the nearby hospital which left me with a bladder infection – so much for the vaunted NHS clean-up of hospital bugs! I felt so poorly and washed out the following weekend that I knew I needed a few days’ nursing care. So I phoned the hospice – whIch I visit most weeks as a day patient – and asked whether they could take me in. Within the hour, they replied saying “yes – come along”. So I have spent the last week being dosed with antibiotics and recovering from my painful condition in unexpectedly pleasant surroundings.

Not having been an inpatient before, I was unsure as to how the hospice would compare with the several hospitals where I have been a patient over the past couple of years. I need not have worried – there is no comparison. The hospice is staffed by highly skilled and genuinely friendly staff, and equipped to a standard that you don’t find in most other medical establishments. It’s like a hotel with nursing; there are comfortable sitting rooms for patients who can walk about and their families, and a [highly alcoholic] free drinks trolley, provided by the Friends of the hospice, comes around most days – so I was able to celebrate the departure of the ghastly Blair with a large brandy!

Routine and discipline are at a minimum, and necessary tasks such as washing and the administration of medicines are carried out in a friendly, informal way. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff, who are dedicated to making life as comfortable as possible for patients however ill they are. Of course, there is a sad side in that many of the patients are extremely ill and indeed dying – there was at least one death while I was there. But I cannot imagine a more supportive, friendly, and indeed cheerful, place in which to be terminally ill and to die, and I hope that it will be my last port of call in due course.

Marie Curie Cancer Care is a charity heavily dependent on voluntary funding, and I earnestly commend it to all my blogging friends who want to donate to a charity that they can be assured will use their money wisely and well.

I’m pleased to say that after my week’s ‘rest’ I feel much better and ready to resume the threads of what’s left of my life. I also feel much more secure about the future.