Wednesday 19 November 2008


20 June 2005
19:11:47 o'clock BST
Feeling: Hopeful
Hearing: The melodious sound of well-behaved songbirds

The rat catcher (the Pied Piper of Rother District Council) is due tomorrow. Good job. Just discovered that rats can chew concrete and there are easily as many of them as there are of us ~ sixty-odd million. Sixty-odd million!

17 June 2005
08:31:03 o'clock BST
Feeling: Worried
Hearing: Loud noise of gnawing and scratching at the weatherboarding and within the wall cavities

So there we have it: conclusive proof that it was rats and not mice breaking in during the winter months. There I am ~ two in the morning ~ rigging up a spotlight pointing down from the top window at the weatherboarding below to try to deter the little bastards from wrecking the joint. Switch it on, aiming a sudden 100 watt explosion of light in their direction, and it seems to work. The scratching stops. For now.

In the morning rip all the trellis off the wall, taking the clematis and honeysuckle with it. Recently found out rats are attracted to honeysuckle. Just our luck. The garden's full of it and it's especially prolific this year with all the rain. Slash through as much undergrowth in the garden as we can physically manage. In the afternoon the glue arrives and we make glue traps on little square pieces of cardboard. Coat the bottom two feet of the drainpipes in the stuff.

Of course it starts to drip into the drain so Hazel ~ quick thinker that she is ~ puts a couple of the bait trays underneath to collect the drops.

That was yesterday. This morning I go to check the traps. So far we've caught a beetle and a leaf. But at least there were no rats gnawing at the weatherboarding last night. So maybe it was all as simple as taking the trellis down, which they were using as a ladder. Must have thought we'd provided it specially for them. How kind.
Shame we can't have anything nice up the exterior walls but that's life, I s'pose.
We'll be having the trees near the house taken down as well soon. Not only will it let enough light in to have breakfast in the sunlight on the backyard but, along with more of the undergrowth scythed back, should help prevent dark secret hideaways for nuisance creatures. I dunno. Might as well live in a modern house with a garden full of decking rather than an 1830's cottage with an old-fashioned romantic cottage garden. P'raps that's where we're going wrong.
14 June 2005
09:06:25 o'clock BST
Feeling: Anxious
Hearing: Deathly silence

Latest news twilight time yesterday: brown rats (mother & offspring) strolling around as if they own the place. This is no Jim Herbert fictional scenario. It's real. Saw them gutsing quite blatantly on the rodent bait in several plastic trays dotted along the path under the rose arch, which up until then I'd only suspected was a rat run.
Will be looking into painting the drainpipes with special rodent-catching glue and possibly acquiring a rat zapper. Stand by for further developments....

Thursday 6 November 2008

A visit from the rat catcher

21 June 2005
12:44:32 o'clock BST
Feeling: Happy
Hearing: Bees buzzing, birds twittering, humans nattering

Just been assured by Dave the Rat Catcher ~ or pest control officer as they're called these days ~ that we're on their case.

While he was idly tossing a few blue lozenge-shaped poisonous thingies in amongst the foliage and the corner of the shed he told me a few facts about rats. Fascinating for sure but took up most of the morning. The upshot was that rats are pretty clever. And will cause untold damage to your property.

Which puts me in mind of the tradesmen we had round recently who weren't that clever but still found ways to achieve what amounts to about the same thing as the rodents. Hence the following letter of complaint from me:

8 September 2004

Dear Mr Willett

Your invoice no. 1928 dated 23 September lists various jobs that supposedly took place on 27 June 2004. It omits to mention the lost Goblin vacuum nozzle (ours) down the chimney, the fractured shed roof with consequent sodden interior, the brand-new kitchen window frame fitted that very week scuffed by a tumbling industrial vacuum cleaner (yours) from said shed roof and the fact that the chimney was never actually swept ~ only vacuumed ~ thus contravening your own M.C.S. Code of Practice and BS6461 guidelines.

In short, your involvement with our Aga/chimney has been an unremitting series of botches and blunders right from your initial visit over a year ago when we were advised by your operative to acquire a C.O.D. door so the chimney could be swept from the adjoining shed roof (duly noting that whoever did this should supply a plank to take the weight). Needless to say, the plank was subsequently forgotten like the brushes.

A year later ~ when the weather was warm enough to set about letting the Aga cool (it being our only means of cooking and heating the water) ~ ready for servicing ~ a woman at your firm told us quite categorically that we only needed to let the Aga go out the night before. "You'll be able to cook your dinner in the evening then let it go out," were her very words. Before being given this incorrect advice, we'd already made provisions for an immersion heater to be installed, thinking correctly the Aga would take a good week to go out so we'd have some hot water in the meantime. The electrician's and plumber's calls were cancelled forthwith. Fortunately, they didn't charge us for wasting their time, giving estimates and the like.

The elbow plate on the flue was broken by Gary and eventually replaced some weeks later by Gary at the cost of £45 which we dutifully paid even though once again the breakage was none of our doing. We've learnt to live with the scuffed kitchen window which we'd just paid £450 for. The shed roof will no doubt cost a tidy sum too.

Perhaps we could send you some contra invoices. And then add on what you still owe us.

Yours sincerely

Grenvile allen

3 October 2004

Dear Mr Willett

Breakdown of our expenses against your bill of £215.02:

~ lost Goblin nozzle @ £3.50 & sentimental value plus inconvenience of not being able to vacuum nooks and crannies. Travelling expenses to Bexhill-on-Sea to collect said appendage.
~ 70-year-old neighbour with recent heart surgery (new pig's valve) risking life and limb climbing across to shed from his kitchen extension to patch up felt @ estimated cost of 82p.
~ "tea and sympathy" (bottle of wine at £5.99 plus gift bag @ £1.35 for his trouble @ my rate of £30 per hour and wife's @ £5 per hour.
~ prop now permanently positioned under shed roof to prevent ruptured timbers sagging & allowing rain to seep in. More inconvenience.
~ scuffed kitchen window sill in need of sanding down and making good.
Cheque enclosed for £180 which I think is generous on my part.

Yours sincerely

Grenville Allen

And it all really did happen, including the neighbour with the recent heart surgery. He's since told me though that it's an aluminium valve not a pig's valve. Apparently they last a good five years longer.

'Albert's Little Vice' by Grenville Allen

22 June 2005
12:27:34 o'clock BST
Feeling: Loopy
Hearing: Magpies cackling like phlegmy old hags outside my window

Albert's Little Vice by Grenville Allen.
A serialisation.

Mitch Masters was sitting comfortably. He had his size ten cowboy boots well and truly under the table at a little ad agency up North where they thought the world of him. Lomas, Wigley and Pearce ~ or LWP Manchester, as it was known as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent.
But right now the said boots were not so much under the table as planted firmly upon it; his chair reared as he lay back, flicking through the latest issue of Creative Spanner. The whole idea of settling down with the weekly Spanner always took Mitch back ~ back in fact just as far as his schooldays....
He would cycle down to his local newsagents, pick up a copy of the Dandy comic, then spend the rest of the day feet up before the living room fire with its magical flame-effect orange bulb, reading while digesting numerous Bounty bars, Revels and his favourite Munchies.
It was around this time that Sooty, the family's seventeen-year-old cat, expired on the hearth rug (undergoing the weekly session on its own miniaturised dialysis machine, Mitch liked to recall) just as he was reaching the denouement of the latest episode in the Bash Street Kids saga.
Over the phone, his mother told him to wrap Sooty in an old newspaper "or something" and put him in the coal cellar till she arrived home. Unable to find an old newspaper, Mitch inevitably ended up sticking Sooty in between Desperate Dan's and Lord Snooty's respective pages. It was extremely difficult since rigor mortis had begun to set in so he had to poke its tiny rigid paws through the comic sheets to create the world's first true off-the-shoulder catsuit.
The makings of a true artist were already being forged, because even at that early age Mitch could appreciate the aesthetics of it all. In fact it was just such experiences that had made Mitch the man he was today.
At twenty-nine he was certainly a force to be reckoned with: lime-green 1975 Cadillac right below his office window, taking up half the agency car park, pilot's licence pending, and off-brown, nicely battered bomber jacket. All he wanted now was a job in London.
Reading Creative Spanner only served to make Mitch's craving for the London scene that much stronger. And this week's issue happened to feature almost every one of his various ~ and varying ~ advertising heroes. (They changed by the month, owing to the fickle nature of the business he was in.) Mitch was just picturing himself lining up the season's most voguish and sultry model on Justin Quinn's latest footwear shoot when he heard the incongruous shriek of "Yyyeahh!" emanating from half a dozen people in the adjoining room, followed by hysterical laughter.
It was Mitch's cue for the action highlight of the day. Smiling manically to himself, he carefully tore out the first couple of pages of his Creative Spanner, and, using his little art director's scalpel, proceeded to cut out and then fold the most elaborate paper aeroplane imaginable. After some five or so minutes of precision building ~ down to creating little ailerons and a rudder ~ he attached the finishing touch: a twisted strip of paper, like the tail of a kite ~ the Mitch Masters trademark.
He entered the office next to his own, bearing his masterpiece of aerotechnology, to find pandemonium. The windows were flung wide open, filling the room with the sounds of the traffic on the street below. On chairs, on desks, precariously perched on the window ledge itself, thronged a whole assortment of casually clad young men, each of them anxious to get a better view of what was happening outside.
What was happening outside was the feverishly exciting maiden flight of Wayne Spout's latest paper aeroplane. After teasing them by hovering for a good fifteen seconds, it did a dramatic loop the loop, before landing on one of the fourth floor windowsills of the office block on the opposite side of the high street.
"Wwwhoooo! Yyyeah!" went up the holler from the casually clad young men. "Yet another member of the Across-the-Road Club!"
"Right! Here we go." Mitch pushed his way through, climbed on to the window ledge, and stood there proudly, his plane poised betwixt finger and thumb. The crowd awaited his next move with breath bated, garlic-ridden, stale-booze-from-the-night-before-ridden, and a decadent sense of couldn't-really-care-less: it was only a paper aeroplane, after all. But then off went Mitch's beautiful aircraft into the early morning sunshine and everything changed. Straight away it posed, it poised, it dipped ~ a true Mitch Masters creation.
After performing a number of belly rolls it skimmed along the fourth floor windowsill, as destined, and then suddenly dived and took off along the high street, gliding above the slow moving traffic.
"Yeah-yeah-yeah!" shouted 'Doughboy' Johnson.
"Wwhhhooo!" whooped many of the others.
"Jesus! See that?! Missed that tart on the bike by inches elaborated the copywriter, Wayne Spout.
Inevitably, even this painstakingly crafted craft met the same fate as all the lesser models, and that was to become yet another piece of litter in the street for people to tread on and tut-tut over. (Indeed Mrs Irene Catchpenny, a sixty-five-year-old retired postman's wife who regularly shopped there, was at that very moment thinking perhaps she ought to complain to somebody one day.)
Back in the office "control tower" they neither knew of, nor cared for any of this. The scene was a heady concoction of successful Apollo mission and Wembley Stadium on Cup Final Day. And a casual observer who'd just walked in on all this spectacular gaiety and abandon about nothing might be forgivenfor assuming that here was a serious case of a bunch of overpaid yobs with nothing else better to do.
But not two miles away, in a bijou concrete hut, a jaunty, stocky little man nearing retirement called Albert Tupbottom was crouched over a bench vice, rapturously engaged in what to that same casual observer could be mistaken for similarly futile activity.
He whistled a few tuneless notes as his tenon saw quickly rasped through the top of a plastic litre cola bottle. Shuffling the remains of his hair back into position (it wreathed his otherwise bald pate as though a laurel), Albert held up the result of his efforts to the light and admired his handiwork, before placing it next to a dozen other sawn-off plastic bottle tops on his bench. They stood to attention in neat serried rows, like so many transparent breasts complete with not only erect but threaded nipples. All was surrounded by yet more assorted "odds and sods", as Albert referred to them.
Outside was a car park, and across from that the stately yet efficient offices of Messrs Froddard, Spay, Manger and Associates, International Executive Search Consultancy. Inside the offices was a stately yet efficient reception desk, where Miss Zoe Shacklock, her fine blonde hair immaculately pulled back with an Alice band, her lips and cheekbones aglow, busied herself upholding the company image by being generally stately and almost efficient:"Good morning. FSM International Executive Search. Can I help you? I'm afraid Miss Scrivens' line is engaged at the moment: would you like to hold? Good morning. FSM. International Executive Search. Can I help you? I'm afraid Mr Froddard's on the toilet at the moment. Can I get him to call you back?...You'll hold? Okay.... Good morning. FSM. InternationalExecutive Search. How can I help you? Oh no, I'm sorry but Mr Manger is still not back from lunch as yet. Yes, he did take rather a long one yesterday, ha-ha.... Ah, I think Miss Scrivens is off the line now; just putting you through.... Ah. Sorry about that. She's just gone straight into a meeting.... Hm, I think she's going to be tied up for rather a long time ~ probably the rest of the week...."
At which point, due to Mr Froddard's indisposition, Zoe was about to pass his call on to Mr Brian Spay, the MD. But it was not to be.

To be continued...

Tuesday 4 November 2008


26 September 2008
12:21:36 o'clock BST
Feeling: Ecstatic
Hearing: Dolly the Sheep's plaintive and ghostly bleating

Mother and baby doing just fine

When they're not creating masterpieces in paint, Grenville Allen and his cloned 'brother' are busy creating masterpieces in real flesh and blood!

What artistry. Baby Grenville has even the token Grenville Allen beard at his tender age. It seems he's destined to follow in his fathers' footsteps no matter what. He'll have a lot to live up to: fine artists, authors, bon vivants.

But it looks like he's got a head start and shows a great deal of promise already. Happy mother Hazel said baby Grenville was absolutely no trouble and already tying his own shoelaces.

If you click on you'll see why Hazel had no trouble calling her bearded bundle of joy 'Grenville'. The two Grenville seniors thought the bit about 'increased sexuality' particularly apt.

Hazel and Grenville send their heartfelt thanks to all their well-wishers. And would expressly like to thank Ginette and Melvin Rainbow for the card which arrived this morning. You can see it and its kind comments posted in the new baby album above.
Grenville's old associate,
Terry Ross of fame, has also sent the Allens his best regards: "Now we have your address. The pram we ordered should be delivered on Monday....Once again, congratulations on the new arrival!" No doubt it'll be a twin cam, souped-up model, knowing Terry 'Mr Speedfreaks' Ross!
Talking of things newborn, latest news from dear friends Rose and Steve Smith (see comment below): birth of granddaughter Ellie Rose, weighing in at 3.09kg/6lbs 13, and created in the traditional manner by Sadie and Ian Michell....
Grenville and his cloned 'brother' might be classed as geriatric fathers these days but they can certainly see a potential playmate in years to come for baby Grenville.
A worldwide promotion.

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