4 July 2010

Good morning on what we hope is a wonderfully wonderful Fourth of July (for those of you who celebrate such events) and a delightfully delightful July 4th for those of you who don’t.

It’s been a pretty decent week; tolerably good weather apart from a bit of overcast skies and a smattering of drizzle on Thursday. Taken with the fantastic weather we had last week, this fortnight has provided some outstandingly fine weather overall. This morning is glorious again – bright, bright clear blue sky with a moderate breeze. Indeed, I was talking with a teacher at one of the schools I was working in the other day and we realised that there had not been a single rain delay at Wimbledon so far this year. Normally, the arrival of Wimbledon fortnight is the cue for torrential rain and blustery gales (along with the national pastime of watching Britain’s latest hope for a title fall at the first, second or third hurdle). In contrast, this year the weather has been glorious and Andy Murray got all the way to the semi-finals before dashing the hopes of the nation. (Poor Andy Murray – he did say he was hoping to win this year partly to counter the depression and despair felt across the country at England’s ignominious departure from the World Cup. Maybe next year.)

A couple of more photos of Penelope’s garden (just to break up the monotony): Napoleon, a lovely pink rose with amazing “frilly” leaves around the buds and a most wonderful scent, Rosa Rugosa, Lavender Hidcote and Million Bells along with a courgette flower and, just to make up the numbers, French Beans. Prizes for those who can identify each one (as I can now, much to Ms Playchute’s consternation after hours and hours of studying).

Penelope was doing a touch of house cleaning during the week and was rummaging through some old books and magazines, the objective being, I think, to prune some of the unnecessary clutter which one accumulates. A whole stack of Bon Appétite magazines were destined for the recycling bin but, surprisingly, they haven’t yet quite got there. Even though all this stuff is online, there is something about leafing through a magazine making a note of all the recipes one would like to try. So, it looks like the magazines will hang about for a bit longer. Mind you, in the meantime, we’ve been having the occasional fairly fantastic meals.

The other piece of literature which found the light of day was a book which Dad passed on to me some years ago – the Lure of the Limerick. I don’t quite know why it was buried away somewhere; Penelope placed it in the downstairs loo which is, of course, its natural repository. As you might guess, much of the content is decidedly risqué – it’s amazing how many delicate, debonair or delightful derrières feature. There are a few, however, which I found tolerably amusing and which, at great risk, I reproduce below:

There was a young sailor named Bates
Who danced the fandango on skates,
But a fall on his cutlass
Rendered him nutless,
And practically useless on dates.
On a maiden a man once begat
Bouncing triplets named Nat, Tat and Pat;
‘Twas fun in the breeding
But hell in the feeding:
She hadn’t a spare tit for Tat.

An Argentine gaucho named Bruno
Once said, “There is one thing I do know:
A woman is fine
And a sheep is divine
But a llama is Numero Uno!”
And finally, my personal favourite . . . 

There was a young man of Bengal
Who went to a masquerade ball
Arrayed like a tree,
But he failed to foresee
His abuse by the dogs in the hall.


Two wacky stories caught my eye this week:

Firstly, a man has been convicted of fraud for trying to sell the Ritz Hotel in London. The man, an unemployed lorry driver, managed to persuade potential investors that he had a contract to sell the Ritz in London. Apparently, he got people on board by claiming that the hotel could be purchased for £200m and then immediately re-sold for £250m, a quick £50m profit. Having “hooked” one potential property dealer, the con man suggested that there were other interested parties and that the potential investor would have to stump up £1m to stay in the running, which he did, in spite of not knowing the con man particularly well nor ever having ever done business with him in the past. Once the money was paid it seems that the owners, the notoriously secretive Barclays brothers, wanted to include several other properties in the deal and the price was now £470m, according to the con man. Not surprisingly, the investor wanted to withdraw at this point but letters requesting the return of his money went unanswered. Hmmm, now there is a surprise! You can read more about it here.

The second relates to the fabulous Fourth of July our American readers are looking forward to celebrating. Why not celebrate in style with a new American flag? Even better, why not get more value for your money with a flag that has sixty-one stars instead of a typical flag with a boring fifty stars? It seems a discount store in Dallas (and, undoubtedly, many, many other stores throughout the US) has been selling a plastic flag (price, only $1) which has the minor, somewhat trivial flaw, one might argue, of having just a few too many stars. When questioned, the store insisted it is a “patriotic banner”, not a flag. More details and a video clip of the news item here.

And finally, finally, the Tour de France kicked off yesterday. Here’s looking forward to three weeks and 3,642 km. I’m planning to get out today and share the pain.

Much love to you all,