19 June 2011

SwallowsYou’ll be pleased to hear that our swallows are doing well. The first batch has just fledged and are flying in and out of the garage like kids playing tag in the park, quickly and noisily. I think there are four chicks, all of whom look very fit and healthy. The next batch won’t be too far behind.

The only problem is that they have erected their apartment in the apex of the garage roof, immediately above my bike. The weather hasn’t been conducive to too many long bike rides recently (that’s my excuse, anyway), and in its state of immobility, my bike’s front tyre is now encrusted to a considerable depth with swallow poo. I’ll have to move it (and get back out on the road again).

Beryl, Pen’s mum, continues her astonishing recuperation from her hip replacement. She’s increasingly mobile and flashes about the place, waving her two sticks at anyone who impedes her progress. To add to the general mayhem, Pen’s sister J from Toronto arrived on Thursday for an extended visit. It’s always a treat to have J around.

An observation – I was driving in Banbury the other day and pulled up behind a Royal Mail van at a set of traffic lights, on the back of which was a sticker indicating that the van was limited to 70 mph. I guess you’ve all seen these stickers, generally on the back of vans and/or lorries indicating the maximum speed the vehicle in question is capable of achieving due to a regulator or engine modification or whatever. Most of the time, the speed is something in the region of 55 mph and it’s intended, I guess, to stop large lorries and vans from wreaking havoc on the roadways. What struck me as odd about this particular sticker, however, is that the maximum speed limit in the UK is, in fact, 70 mph, on a motorway. So, I was a bit bemused by the van having a notice indicating that it had been modified so that it could not exceed the maximum allowable speed limit. Wouldn’t it be easier simply to instruct the driver to obey the law?

Stephen Wiltshire

Someone sent us a link to the following video clip of a young man named Stephen Wiltshire. We first ran across him on television probably about ten or fifteen years ago when he was still a primary school student, I think. He is autistic with an amazing artistic talent – he’s nick-named “The Living Camera” because of his ability to see a scene once and draw an amazingly accurate rendering of it from memory. He’s drawn cityscapes of London, New York, Tokyo, and several others from a single helicopter ride. This particular clip shows him drawing Rome on a 5m canvas over three days following a single, forty-five minute helicopter ride. Amazing. There are more clips of him on You Tube if you would like to be astonished further.

Some of you will have heard from Pete, our next door neighbour, directly. If not, the sad news is that his mother Marie passed away earlier in the week. She was taken in to hospital last Friday with what turned out to be a gallstone trapped in her bile duct which had become seriously infected. The choice was between an invasive procedure which she likely would not have survived or palliative care which would allow her to end her days peacefully. The family were all in agreement that the latter option was preferable and she slipped away on Tuesday afternoon.

As Pete wrote in his note, “I never met anyone who disliked my Mom,” and it was true. She was a lovable Black Country lady who Penny and I first met soon after Pete and Sally came to Chipping Norton in the 1980s. She was full of warmth and kindness who always had open arms and a desperate need for a huge embrace and kiss. When she moved down from Wolverhampton to Byfield to be near Pete and Sally she lived in our Annexe for a number of years which caused considerable difficulties. She was so popular and her mornings “at home” became the height of the weekly social calendar for the majority of elderly women in the village to such an extent that we sometimes had difficulty getting out of the driveway through all the parked cars. Sadly, she had been in declining health, increasing discomfort and diminishing capacity for some months so, in that sense, her passing is a blessing. She was much loved by all who knew her and will be sadly missed.

And finally, what is the world coming to? A fight at Royal Ascot, as reported in the Guardian and numerous other newspapers. On Ladies’ Day, no less!

And finally, finally Happy Father’s Day to my father and all the fathers amongst our readership!

And finally, finally, finally – I just thought the following was lovely. No doubt Marie will enjoy the music.

Calvin and Hobbes - Heaven

Love to you all,

Greg