Thursday, 30 April 2015

Bedside manners

My poor dear father has been (very well) looked after in a nursing home whilst the builders were here and we were all looking forward to his coming home tomorrow. However, the home rang me at half past midnight to say he'd fallen, was in pain and they'd called for an ambulance. This morning the hospital said his hip was broken and he'd be operated on today. I then received a strange call:
"Hello, is that WW?"
"This is the anaesthetist at the hospital. I'm calling to tell you that in view of your father's advanced age, this will be a high risk operation. He may not be strong enough to get through the surgery and the general anaesthetic."
"Are you advising that he should not have the operation?"
"No. He must have the operation to stop the pain. I just wanted to warn you that he may not make it."
He has made it but I'm amazed that this sort of telephone call is standard NHS procedure.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Delight of the day

The leaves of the Jack Frost are so beautiful. Sadly only 6 of the 9 ducklings survived today. Don't know what happened to the other three.

Monday, 27 April 2015

In for nine ducklings

Hanging the washing in the early sunshine, I noticed that the duck's nest was empty apart from a couple of eggshells. Had the crows enjoyed a good breakfast, I wondered. Fifteen minutes later a very proud duck paraded nine gorgeous ducklings outside our back door. They waddled off in haste when I went outside to take a photo, Mrs Duck racing into the tulip cover, shouting at the children to follow her. Some of them couldn't quite jump over the brick edge to get there and one fell onto his back in a panic and to his horror couldn't turn over. I gently propelled him with my little finger, his warm softness melting my heart. He got onto his feet, quite delighted. Apologies for the quality of this photo which was taken through the window.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Surreal explanation

Last night I dreamed I was at Charlie's wake. I spotted him there and rushed up to him:
"Charlie! I can't believe you're at this party for you!"
He gave me a big hug and said, "I told you I shouldn't have eaten that Big Mac!"

Monday, 20 April 2015

RIP Charlie

I'm very sad because my dear Chinese friend, Charlie, who used to be a broker of mine, has unexpectedly died, aged 41. He collapsed a couple of weeks ago with terrible stomach pains, hardly able to breathe and was in bed for four days, not being able to eat. He then felt a little better and we spoke on the phone last Tuesday. He'd consulted an allergist who said he was definitely allergic to something and should make a start with 50 basic foods, cutting them out one by one to eliminate them. Charlie thought he may have a wheat allergy. He was running a mergers and acquisitions business and was on the cusp of signing a couple of deals so he was on top form, telling me all the gossip about the Europeans and Americans who wanted to do business with him. He was so excited about the prospect of a contract that he'd been to a temple and given a donation to the god in the hope that he'd be showered with cash in exchange.
When I called him today, his stepfather answered the phone and told me the bad news: Charlie had been found dead in his flat on Friday. The stepfather's English is better than my Mandarin but insufficient to relay any details. I do hope he didn't die alone (he lived alone). I also wish he'd prayed for health first, wealth second.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Parody of the day

"The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them" Robert Southey (1799)

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, father William, a hearty old man;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"In the days of my youth," father William replied,
"I remember'd that youth would fly fast,
And abus'd not my health and my vigour at first,
That I never might need them at last."

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"And pleasures with youth pass away.
And yet you lament not the days that are gone;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"In the days of my youth," father William replied,
"I remember'd that youth could not last;
I thought of the future, whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past."

"You are old, father William," the young man cried,
"And life must be hast'ning away;
You are cheerful and love to converse upon death;
Now tell me the reason, I pray."

"I am cheerful, young man," father William replied,
"Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember'd my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age."

"You are Old, Father William" Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865)

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Brain teaser of the day

Peter bumped into his old friend Sam whom he hadn't seen for ages.
"So good to see you Sam! It's been years. I've had three children since then. You're very clever; perhaps you can tell me their ages? If you multiply them together, you get 36 and if you add them together the sum will be the number of the house we're standing outside."
"Not enough information," replied Sam.
"Ok here's another clue: my eldest child's just come back from picking flowers."
"I've worked it out," said Sam.

I couldn't do it. Can you?

Monday, 13 April 2015


There was an example of the Assyrian view of  "the body" at the British Museum exhibition, taken from its wonderful collection of friezes. It showed prisoners strung up.
Now the old capital of Assyria, Nimrud, has apparently been completely destroyed by the philistine IS. King Ashurnasirpal II who reigned from 883-859 BC built the city of Nimrud. Here's one of the inscriptions which used to be on its walls:

"The palace of cedar, cypress, juniper, boxwood, mulberry, pistachio wood, and tamarisk, for my royal dwelling and for my lordly pleasure for all time, I founded therein. Beasts of the mountains and of the seas, of white limestone and alabaster I fashioned and set them up on its gates." 

Thursday, 9 April 2015


This was my favourite piece at the British Museum's exhibition of the body in Greek art. It's a Roman copy of a lost Greek original. The lines, the symmetry, the grace, the rippling muscles: stunning! The majority of the exhibits are from the BM's own collection but there is a beautiful Aphrodite on loan from the Queen and the hermaphrodite from the Villa Borghese in Rome is also on display.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Surprise of the day

Behind the washing line, hiding in a clump of grass, a wild duck is sitting on a dozen eggs. This isn't a photo of her (I didn't want to scare her) but I do hope to be able to show you some of the ducklings when they hatch.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Family portrait

These two lambs were born in our neighbour's field yesterday.

I heard this bad (Christmas cracker?) joke over Easter:

Q: What's the fastest thing on earth?
A: Milk because it's past your eyes before you can see it.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Dear deer

There were two young deer frolicking on the land behind our house in the autumn. They would race through the trees, leap along the fields, white tails bobbing, full of joy and great companions. I saw them again in February, darting from field to forest, and at the beginning of March, just behind our garden, close up and grown up but still brimming with enthusiasm and energy.
My neighbour told me she'd found one of them in her field last week, shot and its legs hacked off. She had to deal with the carcass. She thinks the poacher must have had a silencer on his rifle as she heard nothing. I can only imagine the grief of its good companion, if indeed it escaped.