Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Beautiful morning

My Chinese intern is called Xiaoqi. Having learned a smattering of Mandarin (spoken, not written) over the years, I know that "xiao" means "small" or "little" and "qi" is of course that very useful Scrabble word meaning "life force".
"Does your name mean small something?" I asked.
"No. That's a different tone. It means 'beautiful morning.'"
How happy her mother must have been on her birthday!

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Great Escape

I looked out of the kitchen window at 8am and saw that half the flock (yes, three of them) had escaped and were nonchalantly munching the grass on the ice house (see photo). Interrupting the builders' morning pow wow, I inquired whether a couple of them might have a moment to help me herd the sheep back into the field. The builders did not jump at the challenge. Happy in their placid world of plaster, dust and paint, they did not relish the idea of facing stroppy livestock. Eventually two of them agreed to help.
"You head them off either side of the ice house and I'll switch off the electric current in the fence," I instructed.
The sheep (and here I must admit that they are not in fact ewes but eunuchs, in fact they could be described as rams) looked alarmed as the two men, one with a beard, approached. I switched off the current and ran over there. The rams tried to race off but the builders did a good job blocking their way and so they headed swiftly back into the field. The builders kindly mended the fence and I switched the current back on and called the farmer, saying he should check the enclosure.
Later I was amused to see the bearded builder walk over to get something from his car which was parked next to the field. On seeing him, all six rams charged over to greet him! They must find comfort in facial hair...

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bad joke of the day

An atheist was walking through a wood admiring the scenery: emerald glades, a sparkling stream, green and yellow leaves fluttering in the gentle breeze and the captivating scent of the bluebells. Suddenly he spotted a large bear amidst the trees and he started to run. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the bear running after him and getting closer. In a panic, he tripped. He rolled over onto his front and saw the bear standing over him, one paw raised.
"Oh God!" the atheist cried.
The breeze died down, the stream stopped flowing, a bright light appeared and a voice called out, "So are you admitting you do believe in Me after all?"
The atheist thought for a moment and replied, "Well it would be hypocritical of me to profess complete faith at this moment of desperation."
"So why did you call Me?"
The atheist thought quickly, "I wanted to ask you a favour."
"What is that?"
"Could you make this bear a Christian?"
"Certainly!" God replied.
The bright light vanished, the breeze blew and the stream flowed. The bear got onto his hind knees, put his front paws together in prayer and said, "Oh God, thank You for providing this food for me. For what I am about to receive, may the Lord make me truly thankful."

Monday, 23 March 2015

Unanswered questions

Home Secretary Theresa May says the UK will no longer tolerate the behaviour of Islamist extremists who "reject our values". Her proposals include:

1. Banning orders for groups which do no reach the current threshold to be banned as extremists.
2. A positive campaign to promote British values to the public.

My questions are:

1. What's the threshold for a group?
2. What's her definition of  "British values"?

Friday, 20 March 2015

Venus de Milo

Look at this beautiful snow sculpture which my friend made in an hour and a half when she was in the French alps.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Beginner's luck

My taxi driver had been a mechanic at a garage in Newbury and told me the following story:

"One of the stable girls came in to get her car repaired. The car was on its last legs and she was on a shoestring so we gave the job to the YTS (Youth Training Scheme) lad who patched it all up nicely. We called the girl and said we'd fixed it on the house. She was well chuffed and the following week she called us and said, 'Thank you so much again for mending my car. I just wanted to let you know we've got a horse running tomorrow which is worth an each way bet if the going's heavy.'
So we took £5 out of the tips box and told the YTS lad to go down to the bookies and put it on £2.50 each way and blow me if it didn't come in at 35-1! We all had a good night out on the proceeds.
The next week she called again: 'That horse is running again tomorrow. It's worth another punt if the going's heavy.' We took out another £5 and gave it to the lad to put on. The odds were lower: 20-1 but again it came in and we had another night out. What we then found out was the YTS boy had put his entire life's savings of £1000 on it. He then became madly keen on the horses and was asking everybody who came to the garage with a bit of straw hanging off him for tips!
We decided this had better stop as it would ruin him and the foreman and I planned a trick to put an end to his addiction. We looked at the form and chose a three legged old horse which had used to pull a cart which was priced at 50-1. Then we told the lad that the stable girl had given us a new tip. This was the first time I'd ever studied the form and blow me if it didn't win the race!"

Friday, 13 March 2015

What's in a name?

I interviewed 10 people for 2 intern positions: 4 Chinese, 2 Brazilians, 2 Ukrainians, 1 Indian and 1 Indonesian. The Indonesian's cv said his name was Robert Robert.
"What's your family name?" I asked. (His gmail address had a very Indonesian name.)
"We don't use them in Indonesia. You don't have to put it on your passport." (Untrue.)
"Even so, what is it?"
"Shall I spell it for you?"
"Yes please."
"W A N G"

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Entrepreneur of the day

One of the Brothers of St Cross Hospital, Winchester has been learning French and, in order to keep it up, rang the Tower of London to offer himself as a guide to French tourists, wearing his Brother's robes from St Cross. His offer has been gratefully accepted. Tres bien!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Propaganda of the day

North Korea is urging its people to produce more food using this catchy slogan:

"Make fruits cascade down and their sweet aroma fill the air on the sea of apple trees at the foot of Chol Pass!"

Anyone want to rephrase it?

Monday, 9 March 2015

This little piggy had 12

The farmer who grazes the sheep on our field invited us to see his three day old piglets. There are a dozen of them: six pink, six black and white. When he picked one up, it shrieked and its mother squealed so, rather than taking a photo, I asked him to put it back down on the ground. They are so sweet...
ps Don't mention the cricket!

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Gift horse

Today a new statue replaced Le Coq Bleu in Trafalgar Square. I took this rather poor photo from a cab but if you look closely, you'll see something on one of its front legs. It is a ribbon with electronic advertising on it (how naff and who receives the revenue for that: Boris or the sculptor Hans Haacke?). I don't know if this will change over time but today it said, "Aberdeen Asset Management".

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Travails with my aunt

This was my telephone conversation with my deaf  92 year old aunt:
"Six sheep have arrived in our field."
"Six what?"
"I'm sorry I didn't catch that."
"Did they run towards you when you first saw them? That's a sign of very good fortune. If they run away from you, disaster will follow!"
"They're one year old."
"Oh so they're sheep, not lambs. Oh well, disregard what I just said: that only applies to lambs."
"They're staying here until September when they'll go to the abattoir."
"Oh how sad! Mind you, we never think about that when we're tucking into roast lamb!"

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Sunday lunch

Dear Bizzy was very keen to join in Sunday lunch at our friends' house and I was so enamoured that they offered me a puppy next year. Am tempted...