Friday, June 29, 2007

Après la déluge

Or more strictly it seems – we’re between deluges. Yesterday your countryside correspondent went walkabout to see how the countryside was faring and to gauge the state of the country. The recent torrential rain seems to have affected the country in a vast crescent, leaving this part of the Midlands relatively unscathed. For those who have been badly hit, the worst is still to come, long after the cleaning up is finished. Soon, the insurance ghouls will be abandoning genetic profiling and redrawing their maps showing uninsurable or high-risk properties, which in turn will provoke a slump in local house prices. If only local authorities had spent a tenth of the money they have spent on political correctness on the infrastructure, perhaps much of this misery might have been obviated. It also continues to underscore the folly of selling off our water assets. One of the first actions of new privatised water was to sack the armies of men who used to clear out the ditches and dykes as a quick way of realising instant profit for the new shareholders. Some readers might remember that Yorkshire Water actually ran out of water in the early post privatisation era.

As I say, here things aren’t too bad, at least on the surface. Briefly, the sun made a rare guest appearance….

….and on the local lake, a goose contemptuously stood on the overflow weir one legged, just to show the flow was barely above normal.

Understandably, his offspring appeared far more nervous with the news that Brown was taking over.

Certainly, the fishing was in good fettle.

Down on the canal there was enough optimism abroad for a touch of late Spring cleaning and it was nice, albeit surprising to see a BMC engine still with some life in it.

The state of the country seemed a different matter. With Blair gone and Henman gone (again) what did people think? Of the people I talked to, all seemed reasonably optimistic, but I suspect this was more a reaction to the underlying gloom. Universally they were all glad to see Blair go. One likened it to a throwing off of chains. One of my interviewees had recently been made redundant, dumped in the name of ever greater efficiency. Another at the age of thirty four, who cheerfully described himself as one of Thatcher’s children, had only just managed to get a secure enough job to be able to contemplate his first mortgage. It all seemed to underscore the report this week that Britain has by far the worst record of social mobility in the developed world. Defined as the degree to which an individual's social status can change throughout the course of their life, or the degree to which subsequent generations can improve their lot, this is surely what it is all about? Britain’s woeful record is firmly linked to Education and here of course more parents feel it necessary to pay for a better education for their offspring than any other developed nation.

Consumerism has blossomed under Blair and has become a poor proxy for a better life and shopping now outstrips all other leisure activities as the nation’s number one pastime.

One can’t help feel sorry for Henman. He didn’t grunt like a demented baboon and tried to play entertaining tennis, instead of a being a baseline blaster, but one wonders about the smug Mr. Blair. Perhaps if we had some of those lovely Dutch dancers with their outrageous plumes and frilly whatnots, Britain would at least be a happier place, if not a better place to live. Instead, sometimes it seems we’ve been consigned to the scrap-heap. Perhaps it explains why so many Bloggers live abroad?

Monday, June 25, 2007

What a plonker

This picture is real - not doctored in any way - and was taken by a Transportation Supervisor for a company that delivers building materials for 84 Lumber. When he saw it in the parking lot of IHOP, he went to buy a camera to take pictures.
The car is still running, as can be witnessed by the exhaust. The driver finally came back after the police were called, and was found crouched behind the rear of the car, attempting to cut the twine around the load! Luckily, the police stopped him and had the load removed . The materials were loaded at Home Depot. Their store manager said they made the customer sign a waiver. While the plywood and 2X4's are fairly obvious, what you can't see is the back seat, which contains, are you ready for this? 10 bags of concrete @ 80 lbs. each. They estimated the load weight at 3000 lbs. Both back tires exploded, the wheels bent and the rear shocks were driven through the floorboard.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dmitri’s Really Rough Guide to Crete III

With a decided lack of Sol abroad here today, the countryside is muted grey, masked by a thin film of drizzle. A good excuse to continue the Really Rough Guide to Crete, if only to remind ourselves what the sun looks like.

The new Crete National Highway follows the north coast of the eastern end of the island and it is this we will be following today. The flower-lined road is cut into the flanks of the precipitous mountains.

Hundreds of feet below the soft murmur of the sea, an incredible glide of azure and lapis lazuli.

Clinging to the sheer cliffs, sure-footed goats graze nonchalantly.

Every so often, as the road twists and turns there are stunning vistas of the Aegean Sea.

In the distance, great cliffs and far off islands shimmer in the haze.

By the side of the road, small wayside shrines cater for the traveller’s spiritual as well as temporal needs.

Occasionally there are telescopes to enhance the view. Should you be confused, the American manufacturers leave you in no doubt as to their purpose.

Perched above the sea, the occasional village surrounded by olive groves, doubtless full of trainee philosophers.

Underfoot, a carpet of flowers tilt their faces up to the sun..........

.....while all around strange trees add their aroma to the smell of thyme drifting down from the hillsides………..

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer is a-coming in, Loudly sing, cuckoo!

A humid, grey, overcast day with all the joy of a damp dog’s blanket. It threatened to rain all morning and then finally managed it in intemperate bursts. All in all, a typical June day. Very difficult to find any colour in the countryside while out walking this morning and with my shirt sticking to my back photography seemed a lost cause, nevertheless I did get to kick the cat when I got home and I feel better now. ........Come to think about it I haven't heard a cuckoo in ages.

I surrender.

Because immodesty has trapped me with a self-imposed policy of posting only my own photos, I’ve been ill prepared for the latest pin-up war. Currently, all I have left in the locker is a tiny, creased and wallet-worn photo of Rodney girl posing in a swimming costume at the Sportsplatz. Clearly no Drake boy would ever share such intimacies. Consequently, I’m having to temporarily retire from the field.

But make no mistake about it!

I’ll be back!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The holiday snaps Dmitri did take.

I was busy minding my own business, doing some grass, when the shutter on my camera started going off of its own accord. Leastways, that’s how I’ve explained this unexpected result to Mrs.D. I’ve always had a thing about the gluteus maximus and somehow through some weird kind of telepathy, the camera must have sensed it. A case of man and machine in harmony……… I guess it’s one of those psychic phenomena you read about. Do you think this is a world first?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dmitri’s Really Rough Guide to Crete II

Undoubtedly the most commonly executed motoring manoeuvre in Crete is the emergency stop. Far more commonly used than the indicators, it would probably be true to say that Cretans deploy 5 or 6 emergency stops every twenty minutes. Travelling everywhere at breakneck speed they probably resemble the Italians in this respect, although it must be said they lack Italian flair. For the tourist the most dangerous place to be is stationary at a set of lights. It is here the emergency stop is most widely deployed.

Unfortunately, as the most common four wheeled vehicle is the Toyota Landcruiser or something of that ilk, equipped with old fashioned rear leaf suspensions (making them ideal for gun platforms in Somalia and Afghanistan) a braking vehicle coming up behind you at the lights is most likely be coming broadside on. As a consequence, you are more than likely to be the violent recipient of a ton of goat feed.

Perhaps the best way to observe Cretan motoring habits is at a minor cross – roads in a town. The reason for this is that speeds under these circumstances are like to be less than 120 km/hr. It goes without saying that such intersections are generally unmarked, which of course is how the Cretans like them best. A small café with shade is the best place to make your observations. If you are close to the road do make sure that it has a high enough kerb. In town the most common form of transport is two wheeled, and the ambient noise tends to be redolent of wasp’s nest which has just been used as a football. You will note that helmets in the EEC are mandatory for adults but not children.

Single cylinder runabouts are popular with the aged and school children as they allow for quick stops for a chat with friends….

…. but women and men over twenty tend to lean towards something sporting at least 750cc.

Here a taxi neatly executes the traditional emergency stop. The squeal of tortured rubber and steel briefly drowns out the noise of the angry wasps.

While you instinctively draw your chair further back from the kerb, your fellow drinkers seem totally oblivious to such machinations.

Young lady riders spotting Dmitri make that universal sign of perfection commonly seen in the olive oil belt.

Waitresses weave in and out of the speeding vehicles…..

…. although mobile phone users have little time to take in traffic conditions.

Across the road, a young lady belatedly discovers that her boyfriend is some kind of retard.

Young girls slew across the front of the dark car so that they can deliver their friend’s birthday present, while the driver of the car enjoys one of those head on the dashboard moments.

If you wait long enough you will even see the odd England supporter….

…. or something more formidable.

Shortly a bus attempts the impossible and gets jammed in the busy street and tempers fray as the traffic quickly becomes gridlocked.

After twenty minutes every horn in the town is now sounding repeatedly turning the street into a mad house, this finally heralds the arrival of the long arm of the law (unlike in the UK they do actually turn up). A booking is dispensed to multiple complaints of police harassment …

…and the policemen sets about getting the traffic moving again with blasts of his shrill whistle.

There’s something about a uniform and he in turn begins to attract admiring glances.

Shortly he abandons the traffic to attend to other matters…….

….like most Cretan men he seems to have something on his mind, which is perhaps the long and short of it…….. meanwhile feeling exhausted you return to your coffee..