25 July 2010

Good morning to you all. Just think – this time next week Ms Playchute and I will be at the Ritz. Doesn’t time fly when you are enjoying yourself!

Ever since our Molly was a puppy she has been extremely fond of her food. (Aren’t we all!) So much so that whenever one even thought about having a piece of toast for breakfast she would be at your feet gazing longingly into your eyes trying to persuade you with a doleful expression that what she really, really, really, needs was just a small sample of whatever it is that you’re having. The merest rustle of paper or indeed the very act of opening the bread bin would summon her in a heartbeat. You hadn’t even removed the bread from the bread bin and you would turn around and find her sitting expectantly. Even more amazing, you could see (and hear) her snoring in the living room, tiptoe silently through to the kitchen and noiselessly remove the lid of the bread bin and hey presto! There she was.

Now, however, as she has reached an advanced age, she is no longer there in an instant. Nowadays, she arrives just as the toast pops.

Originally I put this down to loss of hearing but when I think about it, I realise that this is not the case. As I say, generally she gets there before the toast has popped so I reckon that she has indeed heard the bread bin being opened, heard the rustle of the wrapper as one extracts a slice of bread, heard the bread being slid into the toaster and the lever being depressed. Only then does she bother to rouse herself from wherever she has been slumbering to arrive just at the moment the toast is about to be removed from the toaster. Pretty damn clever – why waste all that time sitting and looking as if one is about to starve to death when one can achieve the same result by arriving a few minutes later?

We’ve had a fair few swallow invasions this week which is most unusual. Generally, we might get one or two who mistakenly find their way indoors. Usually, it’s the young ones and often it’s when they are just learning to fly. They flutter about and, when aiming for the garage (i.e., the Landing Bay), they take a slight wrong turn and end up flying through the open front door and into the entrance hall/gallery. This week, however, we’ve had three or four incursions and these are certainly not just out of the nest fledglings.

Those of you who have had the misfortune of visiting Penelope’s Playchute Palace will know that the entrance to our fine establishment opens into a two-storey gallery with an open landing at the top of the stairs. Naturally, when the swallows do come in they fly up to the ceiling and then flutter about in a confused daze looking for a way out. There is a skylight but that is generally closed and the only other way out is through a window in one of the bedrooms which are, of course, also generally closed. I accept that these infiltrations could be completely eliminated if one could be persuaded to keep the front door closed. Unfortunately, I live with someone who insists on keeping the door open during the summer so that the fresh air can “flow through the house”. No amount of discussion has managed to persuade her that the front door should be shut during swallow season and so we just have to put up with the consequences.

The main consequence, of course, is that whenever a swallow does find its way into the house, whilst fluttering about trying to find a way out, it craps all over the walls, the floor and even on the pictures hanging on the wall along the landing. If it finds its way into one of the bedrooms the crapping continues all over the carpet, bed linen and curtains. You’d think someone would get the message, wouldn’t you?

And, speaking of consequences, I ran across the following in the Daily Telegraph whilst waiting to have my hair cut on Friday.

Shitterton and a sign of the times
Villagers living in Dorset hamlet of Shitterton refuse to be beaten by thieves with lavatory humour.

The proud villagers of Shitterton in Dorset have clubbed together to erect a new stone sign at the entrance to their hamlet after the council signs were stolen by collectors.

By Stephen Adams

THE residents of Shitterton have grown used to being the butt of jokes. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t proud of their pretty hamlet in the Dorset countryside.

So it was a source of great dismay that the signpost announcing its name was repeatedly stolen by souvenir hunters with a fondness for lavatory humour.

So bad was the problem that, three years ago, the fed-up district council stopped replacing the sign, meaning that drivers passing through the hamlet could be unaware that they were ever in Shitterton at all.

Now, in a move that could exemplify David Cameron’s Big Society, a group of public-spirited Shittertonians has decided to take matters into their own hands. They each chipped in £20 to purchase a lump of Purbeck Stone weighing more than a ton and had it engraved with the hamlet’s “interesting” name to act as a proud, and permanent, sign.

Ian Ventham, 62, chairman of the parish council, who lives at Shitterton Farmhouse with his wife Diana, 61, said: “We have lived here for the last 20 years and during that time the sign has been nicked at least three times. We think it was kids who would like to have it stuck on the wall in a den somewhere because it’s quite an interesting sign.

“I don’t think it was malicious, they just did it for fun, but it was exasperating for us. We would get a nice new shiny sign from the council and five minutes later, it was gone.”

Not only was the lack of a sign annoying, he said, but “it could make life confusing for delivery drivers”. “It was my wife’s idea to carve it out of stone,” he said. “We thought, ‘Let’s put in a ton and a half of stone and see them try and take that away in the back of a Ford Fiesta’.”

Mr Ventham, a retired RNLI director, wrote to neighbours asking them to donate £20 towards the cost of the immovable sign. Of 50 households, well over half contributed. After being told of the plan, Purbeck district council agreed to give £70 towards the cost.

Mr Ventham said he felt the project was a good example of community empowerment as proposed by the Prime Minister in his Big Society.

“I am not sure if he is expressly thinking about Shitterton signposts, but I think he is talking about people getting off their backsides and doing things, rather than expecting them to be done for you,” he added. Not all are happy that the name is now set in stone, however. A few in the hamlet, on the outskirts of Bere Regis, prefer the more genteel Sitterton.

Mr Ventham said: “In Victorian times prudes decided to call it Sitterton, so even today in Shitterton we have Sitterton Close and Sitterton House. The rest of us prefer the rather more earthy Shitterton.”

The article also had these references to other “unusual” place names in the UK.

Who are you calling Ugley? Silly place names
The British Isles is dotted with a myriad of places seemingly named to amuse its inhabitants.

Three Cocks, Powys, Wales – Named after the 15th century coaching inn, still in business, which in turn took its name from the coat of arms of a local Welsh prince, Einon Sais.

Penistone, South Yorks – The market town is named after the Pennines, and should be pronounced accordingly. It’s just a shame an ‘n’ got lost somewhere.

Scratchy Bottom, Dorset – Dorset again. A dry, chalky clifftop valley just west of Durdle Door, the name is thought to refer to a rough hollow.

Thong, Kent – This hamlet near Gravesend was not at all funny until the invention of the G-string.

Grope Lane, Shrewsbury – Named after what used to be the Shropshire town’s red-light district.

Ugley – A hamlet in Essex. Recorded in the Domesday Book as Ugghelea, it probably means “woodland clearing belonging to a man named Ugga”.

And finally, finally, finally – I couldn’t believe this story from the BBC web site. Selfridges in London is launching its Christmas season on 2 August, earlier than ever before (but, only by a week).

Check out the latest at Stragapalooza 2010 including a Rattlesnake Advisory from our resident Health & Safety Consultant, Dr “Hanover” Bob Stragnell.

Love to you all,

Greg