Good morning to you all and have we got a lot to get through this morning!
I’ve had a very disconcerting time this week. A week ago last Wednesday I developed a cold – it started with a sore throat and then, by about Friday or Saturday, it had moved up into my ears. Fortunately, it never developed into a stonkingly bad cold and the symptoms have been considerately mild apart from the fact that both my ear canals are completely stuffed and I am (still, eleven days later) wandering around in a world of virtual silence. It’s like living perpetually under water (although without the issues one would face with regard to breathing); the sounds that one can hear are muted and seem distant – I’m sure you’ve all had similar experiences and know what I mean.
This past Wednesday evening I was preparing dinner (it’s one of Penny’s gym nights). I put something on the stove to cook and turned away to carry out some other preparations. Normally, when I hear the pan sizzling I know it’s time to come back and mess with it a bit. This time, I never heard the sizzling and it was only when I smelled the burning that I realised hearing is rather an important part of the cooking process along with sight, smell and taste!
Every cloud has its silver lining, of course. Being somewhat hard of hearing means that I don’t hear Penny shouting at me to do something. I might have to keep this going for a while after it eventually clears up.
Many of you know that children take standardised tests at the age of 6 and 11 in primary schools in the UK which include tests on grammar and punctuation, amongst many other things. The Guardian published such a grammar and punctuation test the other day which I thought you all might enjoy completing. So, have a look at this test on grammar and punctuation and see how well you do!
I remember learning all this stuff once upon a time – I think it was seventh or eighth grade – and even then I remember wondering why. I won’t reveal my score on this test until you’ve all had a chance to complete it yourself. But, even though I “know” most of this stuff, I am at a complete loss as to why it’s important – perhaps those of you with an interest in such matters could enlighten me. I know I don’t write all that well but would really understanding what the heck a subordinate clause is would help?
I think I have mentioned Molly’s propensity for barking at odd, unexplained moments in the past. To be fair, she has always been a bit of a “barker” especially when we are out and about – she is clearly a very sociable animal and enjoys meeting anyone (and, now that her eyesight is so poor, just about anything) with a loud, continuous and exuberant greeting.
She’s also, however, started barking from time to time for no apparent reason. We had thought that she was barking to let us know that she wanted to go out. Often, however, when we do let her out, she goes and sits on the drive staring up at the heavens – there’s rarely any desperation which would warrant her demanding to be let out into the garden. The other day, for example, I was in the study working away and she started barking. I looked over my shoulder but she was nowhere to be seen – she wasn’t sitting by the door asking to be let out. In fact, she was lying quite contentedly in the lounge but clearly felt the need to bark and tell us all about it.
The other day Pen took her to the vet because she had developed an infection in one of her paws which was clearly causing her some discomfort. The vet gave her some antibiotics to deal with the infection and then Pen mentioned the barking. After listening to the symptoms, the vet suggested that this might be down to a bit of dementia, which is kind of what we had thought. She (the vet) told Pen about a dog food produced by Hill’s which is only available on prescription called the BD Canine Diet. Apparently, this has been formulated for the “nutritional management of pets’ behavioural changes associated with brain ageing.” Naturally, we assumed the BD in the name referred to “Brain Dead” but I’m sure that’s not the case. Interestingly, just about everyone we’ve told this story to has immediately asked if they produce a human version.
Ms Playchute and I had an interesting conversation last Sunday afternoon. I asked her which team she fancied in the Superbowl that evening. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
MP – Huh?
Me – The Superbowl. It’s tonight. Which team do you fancy?
MP – The what?
Me – The Superbowl.
MP – Oh. Is that tonight?
Me – Yes, which team do you think will win?
MP – Who’s playing?
Me – Well, the San Francisco 49ers are playing the Baltimore Ravens and there are lots and lots of interesting side-stories. It’s the first time the opposing teams in the Superbowl have been coached by two brothers. The 49ers have a young, inexperienced quarterback who only took over about half way through the season but who has done really well so far. it’s also Ray Lewis’s last game as a professional football player – he’s retiring at the end of the game.
MP – Who?
Me – Ray Lewis – future Hall of Fame linebacker but never mind. Who do you fancy?
MP – Who’s playing again?
Me – San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. The 49ers are four-point favourites.
MP – What does that mean?
Me – [Twenty minute explanation of spread betting]. So, which team do you think will win? I am going for the 49ers without any real confidence – it should be a close game. But, the 49ers are, of course, a California team and I suppose I should support them. On the other hand, when the Rams played in Los Angeles, the 49ers were always the “enemy” and, of course, for a long time, the 49ers seemed to win all the time. But still, since the Rams moved to St Louis it’s hard to muster up any significant enthusiasm for them (and they are a pretty mediocre team at the moment). So, it’s the 49ers for me.
MP – I think I’ll take the Ravens.
Me – Hmm. Why do you think they’ll win? They do have a great defence and a decent quarterback along with some good offensive weapons. And the point-spread probably gives you a pretty good chance. So what was it made you chose the Ravens?
MP – I like birds.
You will remember that some time ago we had an infestation of mice and, at the time, only one mouse trap with which to eliminate them. To help speed up the process we purchased six additional Little Nippers and set them around the house. (Several of you can guess where this is going already).
The next night we captured several and successive rounds of trap-setting have caught no more. More encouraging, we’ve not seen any fresh evidence of their trespassing so we hope that they got the message and will now kindly stay outside.
All of which is fine and good.
The other evening as we were getting ready for bed, Pen came to me complaining about a peculiar smell in the bathroom. Those of you who have been there will recognise that distinctive smell but since this odour was emanating from somewhere in the en-suite bathroom it took Penelope a moment or two before she remembered that she had placed a trap in the cupboard underneath the bathroom sink.
Yep, you guessed it. We had a two-week old dead mouse in the trap, stiff as a board but not yet completely desiccated into an amusing cardboard-thin cut-out of a mouse shape. Just the sort of thing you look forward to dealing with before bed.
A couple of fun little snippets I’ve run across this week. Firstly, some photos of household gadgets of yesterday. Did you know the first dishwasher was patented in 1886 by Josephine Cockrane? My personal favourite, however, is the D12, the first commercially successful toaster produced by General Electric, fond as I am of a nice piece of fresh toast!
Secondly, the Guardian has a lovely interactive view from the top of the Shard, the tallest building in the European Union. There is a 360o panoramic view with hotspots containing either sound or text. Turn your speakers on (or wear headphones) and have fun!
Thirdly, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day this week, a short video of Richard Clayderman serenading the tortoises at London Zoo with romantic love songs, hoping to encourage them to mate. Alas, I think that only works in the movies.
And finally, yesterday’s Simon Hoggart’s column which includes a summary of the present state of the Conservative Party, comparing them to Just William:
Tory splits over Europe, economic and social policy have left the party in such disarray that it no longer has any common interests.
All of which leaves me no time to tell you about Michael Gove’s “humiliating” climbdown over his plans to abolish GCSE exams and replace them with the English Baccalaureate. Gove’s timing on this issue has been impeccable; he announced that GCSE exams were “rubbish” just as many 16 year olds were sitting down to take them last year. Everyone and their brother said his plans were mad – essentially his proposals involved throwing away most of the creative curriculum. So now, he’s announced that he made a mistake – another honest politician? I doubt it.
The England v Ireland Six Nations rugby match is this afternoon – guess what I’ll be doing later?
Much love to you all,