Wild life, wild beards, and tame hacks

The cherries have all gone: the starlings ate roughly 93% of them, but it’s hard to begrudge the avians – even if they do attack in force. When they descend upon a cherry tree, the entire crop can disappear within two hours.

In their place, the Flies that examine  your Nose, Mouth and Ears while you’re mowing the lawn have arrived. They’re attracted to human sweat, and the experience is briefly flattering before turning into the waving of arms and uttering foul oaths. Me, not the flies.

Wasps are nesting in everything from roof tiles to pool cleaners (I’m serious) and – having produced yet more unpleasant little stingers a month or so from now – they will take occupation of the deciduous fruit trees. There really is no point at all to wasps. They eat, they reproduce, they sting if you try to win your produce back, but they are the scroungers of the insect kingdom. They don’t make honey, they don’t pollinate anything much, and they haven’t come up with a decent pop song in nearly 17 million years. That beats Paul McCartney’s record by some distance. When wasps fly in, people shake their heads and say, “There goes the neighbourhood”.

Pam and Percy (almost tame ring-necked doves) have made their annual home in the biggest of the three conifers. They fend off attacks from buzzards  looking for a snack, and occasionally discourage the territorial squawking of jays and magpies. In the gaps between guerrilla warfare, they preen each other and sit quietly on the telephone wire.

There are times when nature here is like Syria at the moment. The pair of red squirrels examine the hazelnuts and walnuts (impatient as ever) and get attacked by the usual feathered suspects. When the noise of that dies down, the woodpeckers start hammering away at trees, and that in turn sets M. Morgue’s dogs off on one. There are times when I feel like shouting, “Some of us are trying to sleep here”.

My orphaned baby rabbit chum Randolph has now settled down under the cover-cloth I’m using to kill the weeds in the new garden by the converted barn. Yesterday morning I awoke to see a fox sniffing around the entrance to Randy’s makeshift home – a small gap under the beam used to separate the garden from the driveway. One roots for the underdog, but it’s best to leave the natural order to get on with it. There’s no getting away from the reality that, once again, the rabbit population is out of control at Sloggers’ Roost. But on the other hand, foxes are like sharks – in that they will kill a family of victims, but eat only one. So I try to observe strict Swiss neutrality.

Next to ripen will be the prunes and the mirabelles. Then the damsons and, finally, the blackberries. It’s nice to have these free crops, but you’d need six freezers to take full advantage of them….and then what? Make lots of pies mixed with cooking apples. Then wonder, by Christmas Eve, how you’re going to lose all that weight.

The other fate for fruit, of course, is to turn it into alcohol. I did experiment with this for a while, but then decided that (a) the wine tasted awful (b) cider turns my stomach and (c) the flaw in the concept is very few things in life are free, but liver damage based on distilled garden fruit assuredly is.


On the telly at the moment, France are beating Iceland 4-0….and it’s only half-time. This has been the euro tournament of small giant killers like Ireland and Wales. I suspect that tonight, lots of English footie fans were hoping that Iceland would stuff France – and thus lesson the England team’s disgrace. It was not to be. England are crap, and the main culprit is Rupert Hall né Murdoch.

However, above anything else, the euros this time around have been the championships not of the Small Country, but rather the Big Beard.

I can’t believe I’m the only one to have noticed this. Wherever I looked during the group stages and knockout rounds, there were players well on the way to growing a Tolstoy length of hirsute boatrace.

beard1 beard2beard3beard5 We are left wondering why this fashion for facial hair has suddenly invaded the playing fieldsof international football. There may be all kinds of answers.

beard6

Confuse the ref as to your identity

beard7

Present biggest obstacle to the penalty taker

beard8

Religious faith thwarts ace striker

beard9

Hiding the ball from defenders


The sloth of the suffix is upon us.

The suffix must be, by far, the worst symptom of journalistic idleness.

It started with Watergate and ended with Plebgate.

In between, there was -onomics. Reaganomics, Putinomics, Erdonomics….all the way through to Abenomics and Osbornomics.

And the latest is -exit.

Grexit, Brexit, Nexit, Frexit…and the most contrived of all, Dexit.

They all sound like brand names for rat poison. But the reality is, that Grexit didn’t happen, only Brexit took place, and the rest are still to happen.

In the recent past, we’ve had shock, horror, probe, sensation, romp, loverat and a host of other clichés wrapped in uncreative tabloid process.

I can understand why unintelligent knobs like Piers Morgan come up with formulaic bollocks like this. But for serious journalists, it just won’t do.

If the Fourth Estate aspires only to being a bunch of standup music hall comics with halfwitted catchphrases, then their pompous evidence to the Leveson Enquiry will stand forever as a high point in hypocrisy.