27 July 2014

It’s been a great week of weather – hot and sunny! I had a very nice bike ride on Tuesday – the sun was blazing, there was a gentle breeze and the sky was blue as I leisurely pedalled my way around one of my various cycle circuits. I stopped to take the photo below just to give you a feel for how idyllic it was – a long straight stretch of road from Priors Hardwick towards Lower Boddington – with wheat fields on one side and grass fields with gambolling lambs on the other and not any other traffic to be seen. Lovely.

Bike Ride

In fact, it’s been such a great week we’ve had not one, not two but three barbeques! I know that’s not unusual for some of you who barbeque most days including the Christmas turkey but for those of us in the usually soggy British Isles it’s quite an achievement. Thursday we barbequed a butterflied, marinated leg of lamb which was delicious and on Friday we went to the Walton’s for an exceedingly excellent barbeque up to Dave’s usual high standards – there were seven of us around the table and sufficient food (i.e., chicken, sausages [two varieties], lamb burgers, ribs and prawns) to feed several hundred. Delicious. (And, before you ask, I did in fact have a bit of both salads as well – just a bit though. Well, there wasn’t enough room on the plate after I had gathered all the necessary meat). And then yesterday we went across to Nick & Lucy’s where we had yet another barbeque – swordfish (gorgeous), lamb (delicious) and chicken kebabs and, to finish, ice cream cones! Perhaps I’ll barbeque the world’s greatest hamburgers this evening if the weather stays fine!

Annabelle's ice cream cone

Big news of the week (well, big news of last week, actually) – Ms Playchute has manufactured and dispatched her very last playchute (or so she says). As you will know, she stopped making bespoke playchutes more than eighteen months ago, much to the bitter disappointment of the dozens who have enquired in the intervening period. However, she has continued to make play parachutes from time to time for a charity which sells them to groups working with disabled and handicapped children and adults. They supply the fabric (a very inferior-quality fabric with nothing like the strength or vibrancy of Penelope’s rip-stop nylon) and they only offer a couple of sizes. When they get an order they send through the details to Ms Playchute who knocks it up and dispatches it to the customer. Pen told them some months ago that she was closing down and would no longer be able to make their playchutes but they kept coming back with “just one more little one, please!”

It’s Sod’s Law, I suppose, but this final one caused her considerable heartache – she had ran out of her usual industrial strength thread and had to make a visit to Banbury to procure some “ordinary” thread. Unfortunately, this kept snapping and fraying on her industrial strength sewing machine. The shrieks and curses which emanated from her office embarrassed even me! Still, it’s gone and that’s an end to it!

Ms Playchute and I had a pleasant enough evening out in Oxford on Monday – we went to a French Property Seminar. There was some fizzy wine and titbits and then a short presentation about buying a property in France. It was delivered by the same woman who addressed a seminar we attended in London a year or so ago. Still, it was a handy reminder of some of the issues we need to think about and, of course, it provided an excuse for a meal out – no vouchers this time so we had to pay full price! At these events the various representatives of the agents want to sit you down for a few moments and grab all your details. We were accosted by a lovely young thing named Georgia who was probably a few years out of Roedean or Cheltenham Ladies College for whom everything we said was “amazing” or “perfect” including my e-mail address! Please, oh please, save me from such Hooray Henrys and/or Hooray Henriettas.

I am sure that few of you will have rejoiced in the manner in which we did (and seemingly much of the country) when we heard the news last week that the idiot Gove, the secretary of state for education, had been removed from that position in the cabinet reshuffle. Cameron is gearing up for the election next May and it was obvious to everyone, apart from Gove, I guess, that he had to go.

He had to go not because his policies are crap (which they are) but rather because he managed to achieve something even the worst of his predecessors never got close to achieving – he pissed off everyone. He pissed off the teachers (which in and of itself is no big deal and something which most education secretaries manage to do to some extent), he pissed off headteachers (not great but again not a huge deal), he pissed off school governors (oops – that’s a little bit more serious), but most importantly, he pissed off parents up and down the country and therefore had to go to be replaced by a non-entity who Cameron hopes will do nothing stupid in the next few months and just keep her head down and mouth shut.

It’s worth mentioning that Gove was not “sacked” or even “demoted”, according to Cameron. He has been doing a great job! Instead of being sacked or demoted he has been asked to take over as Conservative Chief Whip, a very, very important job which just happens to mean that he is no longer a member of the Cabinet and his salary is some £36,000 less than it was previously. But still, he’s not been demoted!

Ironically, on his first day in the new job, he managed to lock himself in the toilet. For those who care, there was an interesting (and lengthy) article about his “Jekyll and Hyde” personality in the Guardian the other day.

Former education secretary went from inclusive, compassionate Conservatism to partisan power struggles and divisive policies

Gove is, in fact, the manifestation of the “lie” that is “compassionate Conservatism”. “Compassionate” and “Conservative” are two opposing terms and it’s clear from their actions that the Tories have no compassion for anyone from the “oiky” middle and lower classes.

We had a couple round to view Penelope’s Playchute Palace on Friday. The agent is keen that they show prospective purchasers around rather than have us do it – they say that potential purchasers will be more open and honest with the agent than they would be with us. Fair enough. As it happened, we were out to the Walton’s barbeque on Friday so it was quite convenient. When we got back I was expecting to find a sealed envelope on the kitchen table with an offering of double the asking price but, funnily enough, the envelope was nowhere to be found. I guess they didn’t have a pen or any paper with them – I suppose we’ll get a phone call any second now.

It seems hard to believe that a year ago we were gearing up for the XCstravaganza celebrations. Perhaps it’s time to remind ourselves how splendid an occasion that was:

Finally, I discovered by way of the cartoon below (in Saturday’s Guardian) that this Thursday, 31 July, is National Orgasm Day. I have to ask – is there a “national” day for everything? Is there a National Sneezing Day?

A quick glance at the National Day Calendar informs me that, so far this month, there has already been a National Eat Your Beans Day (July 3rd), Eat Your Jello Day (July 12th), a National Strawberry Rhubarb Wine Day (July 19th), not to mention the National Talk in an Elevator Day (the last Friday in July). Interestingly, this site doesn’t mention National Orgasm Day so perhaps it’s just the Brits which have a special day to commemorate and celebrate such achievements.

National Orgasm Day

It reminds me, I’m afraid, of an anecdote which I would like to suggest I heard from my father but I’m not sure.

There was an internationally renowned sex specialist, perhaps it was Dr Ruth, who was giving a lecture at a large auditorium. The place was packed and, at one point during the seminar, Dr Ruth began to discuss how frequently couples had sex. She asked the audience to raise their hands if they had sex more than three times a week.

A number of men in the audience raised their hands and there were numerous “high fives” and whoops of delight.

She then asked those who had sex once a week to raise their hands.

Again, a significant number of hands were raised and several more whoops were shouted.

She then asked for a show of hands for those who had sex once a month.

As you might imagine, a smaller number of hands were raised and the “whoops” were somewhat subdued.

Then she asked if there was anyone in the audience who had sex less frequently than once a month.

Surprisingly, a man in the middle of the auditorium leaped to his feet, raised his hand and let out a series of yelps, whoops and hollers as he jumped up and down! Dr Ruth was somewhat taken aback by his enthusiasm so she asked, “Thank you, sir, for being so honest and open. Please tell me, how often do you have sex?”

The man replied, “Once a year – and tonight’s the night!

Have a good week and an especially good day on Thursday.

Love to you all,

Greg