Skip to content

An Inadequate Hiding Place For The Plumper Ocelot

And a joyful New Year to everybody. I hope that all your Christmases were a delight.

I have been very industrious over the holiday period. I have not only succeeded in eating my weight in puddings but have also been defeated in many games of both skill and chance. Including a shamefully low score at Scrabble, a major pool table debacle, a humiliating retreat in Conquist (an iPad based Risk derivative) and a shambolically ill organised Monopoly property empire. Although I am still a bit of a demon at Trivial Pursuit.

One of the great things about Christmas are the periods of general idleness. I have spent some of these moments thinking about stuff. Most of it fleeting and irrelevant but that is, I suppose, the jellied backbone of this blog. Many of these things were just fleeting thoughts that burrowed rapidly through my brain like weevils through mouldy hard tack while I was trying to eat cheese or cut wood or something like that.

This is the abbreviated list

1. Peppa Pig and, by extension, Dora the Explorer. My children are beyond such things and my grandchildren as yet unconceived (unless someone is keeping a big secret) so I have no connection whatsoever with such things. This is a pity and only goes to show that there should be more babies in my life. Please could those readers of this blog who are of child bearing age please get on with it. I am also aware that I may be much better off without our Peppa: my dreams are still occasionally haunted by the theme tune to Thomas The Tank Engine.

2. Twitter: I love Twitter but how on earth does a furniture manufacturer in Singapore end up following me? On investigation (Christmas allows guilt free investigation of such things) it turns out that I am not only the only gardeny person but the only British person he has chosen to follow? Why?

Likewise Rick Wedding aka The Supply Guy from Cincinnati, Ohio. Why does he want to follow me? I certainly have no particular wish to follow him – delightful company though he may be. No matter what I might need supplied I am unlikely to want it delivered from Cincinnati. The venn diagram that joins us has a very slim central overlap.

3. I never have to play Rugger ever again: this is an almost constant source of cheeriness. I have played the game but not since I was about twelve. All I remember is that it was extremely cold, we were not allowed to wear extra jumpers and it was considered un-British to wear anything under your shorts. This misery was combined with freezing mud and many unattractive people trying to harm me. I was a small child and unsuited to violence. I have also noticed that a side effect of playing Rugby is the development of massive thighs. Another reason to be grateful.

4. Ferrero Rocher and Other chocolates. A Ferrero Rocher is not a terribly good chocolate. Even the nut is a disappointment. I think the rot set in when they dumped the Ambassador. Conversely the Lindt Santa/Snowman (and its Easter Equivalent, the Lindt Bunny) is pretty perfect if you want slightly sicky milk chocolate. Which all right minded people occasionally do: it is not always about the Cocoa count.

5. The word Lottie and my unstoppable march towards a pedantic and slightly grumpy middle age. I know it is convenient shorthand and is used by many people but I just don’t like the word. It makes me think of floral aprons,saveloys,happy clappy bishops, Janice from Friends and stringy beards. This in spite of the fact that I like the word Allotment very much even though it is one of those words that I am liable to misspell if rushed  (like amount and , indeed, misspell). I also like the words Turgid, Encephalitis and Dromedary.

6. The Financial Times: I think I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never understand high finance. The world of equities, gearing, asset turnover, liquidity ratios and p/e ratios are a foreign language to me. And not just a common or garden foreign language like French or Ancient Norse. A really obscure foreign language like Navajo or Quechua.

7. Figs.They lose their eroticism when dried and look more like pillow stuffing made from dried mushrooms. A fig roll, on theother hand, is extremely sexy. In a Mrs Robinson sort of way.

I will endeavour to write more about gardening next time. Or not. I have a fair bit of catching up to do as the snow was most discommoding. Especially as it has left my garden looking absolutely foul and devastated. I made a start at tidying things up a couple of days ago but did my back a terrible injury so have spent the last few days lying around being irritable and moaning. It is one of the less pleasant parts of getting older: the fact that even the simplest and seemingly innocent things can cause injury. In this case I did it by throwing a bit of old carpet onto the compost heap.

This is not a glamorous injury.

I am listening to Leonard Cohen singing First We Take Manhattan.

Two years ago I had a different post-Christmas list. Different but equally frivolous.

The picture is of  a pleasingly frosted birch.

57 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hello Francesie (it doesn’t always work, I’m afraid). Back much better: physio pain, though occasionally excruciating, is deeply satisfying as one knows it is all for the good.

    Twitter requires perseverance.

    January 15, 2011
  2. Dear James, I am so sorry about your back and subsequent torture by a physical therapist. Hope you are much better by now. The longing for the grands can be overpowering to some. They are indeed, the sweetest beings on Earth. Your prejudice about nicknames is funny. You Brits have made shortening and adding an *ie* into an Olympic sport. Why stop now?

    January 14, 2011
    • I forgot to mention that Twitter is very confusing to me.

      January 14, 2011
  3. Sue #

    Just to say hope you’re feeling a bit less cludgy. A full day outside has finally brightened my winter grump and I feel close to being humanoid – if a slightly plumper one than a month ago.

    January 12, 2011
  4. I’m amazed how vigorously you’ve jumped into blogging after the holidays. I’m still dizzy from the miscalculated balancing of pork fat and gin.I did have to return to gardening though, my profession. There is still plenty to do here in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, and it warmed up just enough to atomize the witch hazels in the afternoon. Sweetness, even in January. I do envy you your “wooliest bedsocks”. We don’t even have “frost-kissed branches” here. Way to warm near 40. Don’t worry about commenting on my comment. I rarely return to check. Happy New Year, D.

    January 12, 2011
    • Happy New Year Daniel (even though you will never read this).

      January 15, 2011
  5. This post was a revelation indeed, sir. I thought my posts had gotten a bit off topic, but I see I am but a grasshopper in the “totally random and perhaps irrelevant musings” category. I shall hereafter refer to you as “British sensei.”

    Dora the Explorer isn’t really bad, but you’re asking for it if you ever see Teletubbies. I wasn’t actually thinking of ending it all, but chucking the TV out the window, yes.

    I can see we’ll never have a meeting of the minds on chocolate, but perhaps there’s hope: how do you feel about Cadbury creme eggs?

    Christine in Alaska, TV currently off

    January 10, 2011
    • The Teletubbies I know, although youngest child was pretty unimpressed. I got quite cross but soon realised that I was probably not part of the target audience so calmed down and just enjoyed the campness.

      I used to adore Creme Eggs (they were perfect for late night munchies) but they are now too sweet even for me – except on those occasions when I have missed breakfast and need a serious sugar hit at about 11am.

      January 15, 2011
  6. By the way, I can’t post a comment to your blog using the google chrome browser. It generates a function error. Very strange.

    January 7, 2011
    • I agree with the Leonard Cohen/Cheerfulness thing. A ridiculous idea – we expect lugubriousness not jollity.

      I had a VW Camper that I used as a mobile shed for a while: no cushions or Calor Gas stoves but shelves and muddy shovels. I mostly swore at it because it kept breaking down: I eventually abandoned it in a back street near Stockwell.

      I have just done this comment in Google Chrome: seems fine but these things have minds of their own. Sorry

      January 15, 2011
  7. My other half would be cheering you right now if he knew about your blog. He has banned me from using “lottie”. Even suggesting I could make it “Lottie” didn’t work, perhaps because I have never succumbed to the habit of naming random things in my life. Except the VW camper. Every VW camper needs a name, it is some kind of rule. Having read through not only your post but all the comments, I am torn between shame and wanting to use “lottie” lots just to annoy people. Except that it wouldn’t annoy any of you because you don’t know me…

    Leonard Cohen is always a good choice of music, though not when sung cheerfully. That’s just WRONG.

    January 7, 2011
  8. Poor, poor back: I sympathise and empathise. I have Tweeter’s shoulder and can find relief only by lying in bed in a position reminiscent of Christ on the cross. This makes it very difficult to hold the Duchess of Devonshire’s latest memoir

    January 5, 2011
    • The solution is to have a scrubbed acolyte to read to you while you recline elegantly. Debo would surely approve.

      January 15, 2011
  9. I am still recovering after a three day game of Trivial Pursuits which started on Christmas Eve. A 2009 Christmas present of Super Scrabble remains unwrapped in pristine condition for when we have a week to spare. After thirty odds years as an adopted ‘Scouser’ I think I can be forgiven for using the term’ lottie’. I hope that your back is on the mend and wish you a most happy new year James,punctuated regularly with the glorious music of Mr.Cohen.

    January 5, 2011
    • We have high tech Scrabble played on an iPad. The Tile Racks are iPhones and the letters magically fly from one to the other.

      Happy New year to you.

      January 15, 2011
  10. Sorry, me again.
    I’m speechless with joy faint with mild shock. At last, I’ve managed to post a message on your wordpress thingy without an ‘error’ message popping up.

    Arabella – Chrimbo! How could you??

    BTW, I think Rugby is a less undesirable form of legalised violence than professional boxing, don’t you? I’d completely forgotten about the ‘nothing worn under the shorts part of our education. I wonder why that was the custom. A chap could be quite badly chafed.

    January 5, 2011
    • Nigel,
      The “nothing worn under the shorts” was extended to a “nothing worn” policy where post rugger swimming lessons were involved. If I recall, the “master”, at whose insistence this regime continued, was arrested shortly after I left.

      Harking back to the days of innocence.

      January 6, 2011
      • Sue #

        We had an outside swimming pool built by the PTA at our junior school in Sussex. The gym teacher made us take our cossies off at the changing room door . Unsurprisingly he used to stand by the girls’ changing room. He was never arrested, but I still hate swimming pools.

        January 6, 2011
    • I am glad I was not the only one forced to submit to chafing. My most vivid memory, however, is not of chafing but of unbearable cold and distinct shrivelling.

      In the summer we were allowed to swim at 7:00 in the morning sans culottes. The entire school would stream down the hill with great glee. I hasten to add that it was single sex and the oldest was only 13 so it was pretty innocent.

      January 15, 2011
  11. I absolutely agree about milk chocolate. One finds oneself ostentatiously savouring 70% dark stuff, but surreptitiously snaffling milk choc and even, when possible, a Mars bar. Toblerone, rather like sweet peas in gardening, seems to have transcended the class/cool/sophist barriers among chocolates. Few Swiss milks are sweeter or sicklier, and yet I’ve seen surprising posh people – including a member of the Spanish Royal Family – snapping the stuff up without inhibition and in his case, while sipping a rather over-priced Highland Malt.

    ‘Lottie’ is a disgrace, even to our poor old sin-bin of a language. I also loath ‘mums’ and ‘daffs’ though the Australian ‘gladdies’ is a bit off, too.

    January 5, 2011
  12. The Cycling Gardener #

    Having watched a few rugby internationals on freezing cold Saturday afternoons, I can confirm the game has little to recommend it. Close inspection of massive thighs from the sidelines was, however, a very pleasant distraction and saved my sanity. They should not be under rated.

    January 5, 2011
    • See musings above in reply to Kevin’s thigh reminiscences.

      Still, I am glad they gave you some momentary diversion. be thankful that you never had to play the blasted game.

      January 12, 2011
  13. It sounds like your experiences with rugby (I can’t call it rugger – I didn’t attend as posh a school as you) were identical to mine. I’m often thrilled by the thought I never have to play ever again. And I have incredibly skinny thighs, so I’d never have made a profession out of it (more on my skinniness over at Mark D’s).

    And what’s wrong with Ferrero Rocher? I love them and can down a box in the blink of any eye.

    January 5, 2011
    • I reckon, even without seeing them in their full glory, that you could get four of your thighs in one rugby player.
      For some reason some women go all floppy at the idea of a stout thigh.
      Can’t see the attraction myself. Firm I can understand but gargantuan is beyond me. They ruin the line of a trouser as well.

      January 12, 2011
  14. Think I can help with point 1 on your list as I have a new baby on its way within the next couple of weeks. Will therefore endeavour to keep you updated with delights of Peppa Pig and Dora the Explorer.

    Regards the stranger side of Twitter followers, I once mentioned my Border Terrier in a frivolous tweet and now have a pack of dogs regularly replying to my carefully thought out tweets. I foolishly mentioned this fact on Twitter only to receive a reply from a tweeting chicken.

    I replied to the chicken the fact it was tweeting poultry was a bit weird only to receive the reply, ‘It’s about time you faced facts, young man. Hens are Hot!’ To cap it all this quick exchange got a giraffe called Raph G. Neckmann so worked up he felt the need to tweet a reply too.

    I now have a New Year’s resolution never to engage in a twitter conversation with an animal or poultry of any description.

    January 5, 2011
    • Have you come across the tweeting house hippo yet? Although the giraffe, I think, is even better.

      January 5, 2011
    • Love your Tweeting menagerie. If they keep you too busy and you need help with babysitting then just post the infant to me.
      Special delivery is safest and don’t forget to put a “fragile” sticker on the parcel.

      January 12, 2011
  15. THere is nothing wrong with “Chrimbo” – it entirely sums up the banality of the ‘festive’ period but sounds jollier than “Bah humbug”.

    If you want to exercise your brain (and at our age we do need to) you could do worse than playing Only Connect online (go to the Beeb site and google). It was mentioned on twitter and I have been addicted ever since and anyway I need to do something whilst the Bedsock plays Angry Birds.

    I have the entire small business community of Denver following me on twitter and as fast as I get rid of one another turns up. I have never mentioned Denver in a tweet but still they come…

    January 5, 2011
    • I have no wish to exercise my brain,I am content for it to quietly turn into consommé,

      Denver. A place about which I know very little. except for the film Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. one of those things could be listening to the songs of John Denver but maybe that is reserved for the very badly behaved dead.

      January 12, 2011
  16. Carpet on the compost heap?? But sorry to hear about your back, hope it gets better soon. Gosh, I feel a bit apprehensive writing something here, after all, why would an unknown to you, Danish woman living in Switzerland read your blog or write something. I’m not being facetious here, but after reading your comments about twitter followers one does worry a bit. I love reading your blog, Victoria’s, Plant-mad-Nige’s or Lia’s, but more often than not only lurk as writing does feel a bit like gatecrashing. My main gripe with Twitter is that these days, people who used to blog much more regularly seem to spend most of their time twittering instead of blogging. But maybe that’s just me being obstreperous, a word I love :-)

    January 5, 2011
    • Welcome. I am delighted that my quota of Readers-who-are-Danish-women-living-in-Switzerland has been increased by over 100%. Thank you for visiting, please claim a prize from one of the stewardesses as you leave. This week I am offering a mince pie and a boxed set of Cliff Richard LPs.

      The carpet was as a cover to the compost rather than as a constituent part of the compost.
      Please come back often.

      January 12, 2011
  17. Sue #

    My dearly beloved has started wearing slippers and cardigans and making encouraging noises to my two 20 something year olds about grandchildren. It’s fine for grandads – you get to play messy games with paint, and bring them back from a stomp in the woods covered in mud. Grandmas are expected to clean them up, look after them when they’re sick and generally give up the joyous freedom they have finally found in the 50′s to do yet another round of nappy changing.

    So I’m not ready to be a grandma yet. But it was fun entertaining two sparky little three year olds on Boxing Day for a few hours. Even better to hand them back to their parents when they got a bit overwrought.

    January 5, 2011
    • I think the modern Grandfather has to do nappy duty as well as doing the muddy walk and Wethers Original bit.
      It is in the new contracts…

      January 12, 2011
  18. “Lottie” as every right (& possibly some left) minded person should know is an acceptable abbreviation for Charlotte. Our cat will vouch for that.

    Re – twitter. I keep a separate identity on Twitter purely as an engineered compendium of followers. Idle moments are spent & seemingly random tweets issued (with the odd specific word or phrase) in an attempt to attract the weirdest of followers. It’s a little like Twitter fishing.

    January 5, 2011
    • I am extremely excited by your alternative Twitter personality. What an excellent idea. Are we allowed to follow this mysterious alter-ego? or does he reflect your dark side and as such should be kept in the cupboard?

      January 12, 2011
  19. Happy New Year James, sorry to hear about your back. I too have a similar problem so sympathy and respect! I can recommend a great range of garden tools for the less able! I must have been living on Mars because I have never noticed the term ‘lottie’. As for Twitter I suspect some of these ‘obscure’ followers are using your ‘followers’ page for advertising. I’ve had a few and banned them. Sometimes I am a bit more charitable and ask myself why a bathroom manufacturer should not also be a gardener. Anyway, have a good 2011 and keep up the good work with the 3 men videos.

    January 5, 2011
    • Happy new Year. As regards tools for the less able: please send a garden fork with a strapping gardener already attached to it.

      January 12, 2011
  20. I hesitate to contradict you, James, but as far as I am concerned it IS all about the cocoa count, and chocolate should never contain any less than 85%.

    No children here, thank goodness, but I am becoming something of an expert on children’s books as I am book-buyer-in-chief for my oldest friend’s two. I recommend Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus and 365 Penguins: 1 – now you just have to borrow a 3 year-old and a 6 year-old so you have an excuse to read them. As far as children’s TV is concerned, forget Peppa and Dora – watch Shaun the Sheep instead.

    I hope the back stops aching soon.

    January 4, 2011
    • Mostly it may be about cocoa percentages (although 80% is so high as to shrivel the tastebuds) but surely all normal folk occasionally crave a bit of Galaxy or a Malteser

      I like the idea of stopping the pigeon from driving the bus. Whoever encouraged it to drive was definitely making a big mistake.

      January 10, 2011
  21. Happy New Year you grumpy old bugger. I don’t believe I’ve ever referred to my allotment as Lottie but I do know everything there is to know about Peppa Pig. And Danny Dog, Emily Elephant, Susie Sheep, Rebecca Rabbit, Zoe Zebra, Pablo Pony and oh, the French one, Delphine Donkey. So there.
    Furthermore, I met the voice of Peppa Pig once, (one of them). She’s about 12 and has already earned more than I have in 20 years.
    If you want to know more about Peppa, her over-confident father and smug mother, I’d happily deliver all four of my children over to you for the afternoon. There’s no need to encourage people to have any more. Unless you are thinking of starting a cult.

    January 4, 2011
    • Blimey. I thought Peppa Pig was a solo act, I did not realise there were others as exotic as Delphine Donkey.
      You have done your bit as regards children: any more and your house might burst.

      January 10, 2011
  22. I work with someone who in a parallel existence dresses up as Peppa Pig (& indeed other similar characters for various ‘events’).

    I concur on lottie & indeed uni (concur is quite nice though) & am not keen on your use of rugger as it brings to mind all the rugger buggers who were at uni with me.

    As for creepy Twitter followers, block ‘em I say.

    BTW a very happy New Year, may it be free of all back pain

    January 4, 2011
    • And HNY to you too Ms B.
      I am intrigued by your friend with the extensive costume collection. I also believe that full size cartoon characters are really very scary.

      January 10, 2011
  23. I agree about lottie. When I see it, I always wonder: “Who’s Lottie?” I get confused enough as it is without abbreviations ambushing me.
    I also like milk chocolate – I hate dark chocolate. I know it’s supposed to be posher, but for some reason it makes me feel ill. I think it’s something to do with caffeine.
    I don’t understand Twitter at all. I’ve never admitted this publicly, but I’ve never been able to find the hash key. (Is there a hash key?) And why anyone wants to follow me when I tweet about once every six months is a deep and enduring mystery.

    January 4, 2011
    • It took me a lot of faffing and a public appeal to finally find the hash key. On a Mac, alt3 is the secret.

      January 10, 2011
  24. Yes Brother, Comrade, Mi Bredrin – I salute you and all disparagers of the term ‘lottie’ See also Chrimbo, leckie, Glasto and worst of all…Shrooms. Do you pronounce Encephalitis with a hard or soft ‘c’? I like tumescent, bolus (a great name for a prog rock band I think) and impecunious.

    Happy New Year

    January 4, 2011
    • I think it sounds sexier with a soft ‘c’.
      But then I doubt there is much call for a sultry pronunciation.

      A bit like Cesspit: foxy word until you know what it means.

      January 6, 2011
  25. Liz #

    The shock! Are you really encouraging your readers to have children? ha ha. Thank you dearly for the encouragement, but I’d much rather not right now.
    Btw, you wouldn’t want to watch the ‘new’ Thomas, the song just isn’t the same any more. And as for In the Night Garden… As Janice would say; Oh.My.God is that scary, at least Thomas made sense.

    I have to agree with the twitter issue… You must’ve mentioned something they sell at some point and so they’ve found you, because I’ve had similar ridiculous people following me. What amazes me is, do they honestly expect us to follow them back or look at their websites??

    January 4, 2011
    • Are you sure I cannot persuade you? I will babysit.

      Thomas changed for the worse when they swapped Ringo Starr for the chap who kept rabbits in the Liver Birds.

      January 6, 2011
  26. Happy New Year James, so sorry to hear about your back – and I trust it will improve soon.

    I dont understand my Twitter followers at all – or how anyone can possibly follow more than about 3 people, otherwise I find it impossible to understand what is going on.

    The highlight of our Christmas was a new (to us) game called The Logo


    January 4, 2011
    • Back much improved after an exceptionally painful hour with the physiotherapist. Thank you.

      I have looked up The Logo and it is the first thing on next Christmas’s wish list. Anything that has questions about Fruit Pastilles gets my vote.

      January 5, 2011
  27. I am a culprit of lottie use but only in twitter world as those 140 characters are so precious – I will try very hard to reform my ways re lottie but uni will stay as I work in one and thats what we call it so there, thats how language evolves or as my mother would say declines!

    I too an haunted by the theme tune to Thomas the Tank Engine and an awful song from Rainbow called Make a Monster which my two loved and played the video for endlessly

    Best wishe for 2011

    January 4, 2011
    • You are forgiven. Uni always reminds me of Neighbours.
      Of course language changes – and so it should – but we are still allowed to grumble!

      Otherwise there is no fun in getting older.

      January 5, 2011
      • ….and the older we get the more we grumble. I was thinking about this and it seems to me to be the younger generation who bring in new words and then as they/we get older we complain about the next generation doing the same!!! I’m afraid I am rather attached to the term ‘lottie’ for my allotment now in a strange way it has now taken on the persona of a smiley girl who needs lots of flowers called Lottie – of course this may mean that I need therapy!

        January 6, 2011
  28. Happy New Year to you.

    I’m being followed on Twitter by a swingers’ holiday club in Costa Rica, I think after re-tweeting something about swingers and pampas grass. I feel slightly grubby.
    I agree about ‘lottie’ and ‘uni’ similarly makes me squirm.

    Hope your back rapidly improves, though I’m not sure Leonard Cohen will help.

    January 4, 2011
    • Leonard Cohen is recommended by many of the finest chiropractors. Especially So Long Marianne.

      Don’t tell Cleve West about the Swingers Club: he’ll be over there in a tight loincloth before you can say Car Keys.

      January 5, 2011
      • We used to have a ‘car travel’ game where the object was to sing Leonard Cohen songs in as fast and jaunty a manner as possible. ‘So long Marianne’ was very cheering – ‘Sister of Mercy’ less so.

        January 6, 2011

Leave a Reply


You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS