David Rattray

I was very saddened to hear of the death of David Rattray, with whom I had the privilege of having lunch and then hearing speak in Hong Kong a couple of years ago.   The obituary in the Telegraph does him justice… the comments about listening to him relate the story of Isandlwana truly was goose bump stuff.. it was theatrical, emotional and passionate.

End of year shooting

Saturday morning, bright and early .. no wait, this is England so it was dark at 7.00am… so Saturday morning, dark and early The Fisherman and I headed West along the M4 into deepest Mid Wales for a days rough shooting.

As dawn broke and the clouds thinned, we could see that after a week of howling gales and rain the sun was out over the Wye valley.   Promising indeed.

So, after a quick coffee, it was boots on, guns out and off we went in the Land Rovers for the first three ‘drives’ – I’m using parentheses because this was not a formal shoot, but beaters and guns working with dogs through woodland with 3 of us on the edge of the wood, spread out, but not on pegs.

The Fisherman had promised me varied and interesting shooting amidst spectacular shooting and I was not disappointed.   From the end of the lane where we parked the cars we walked a couple of miles over and around a wooded hillside and down the other side to a huge field leading down to the river.   Pheasants eluded me, but a flight of duck took off from the river and circled tantalisingly around me out of range.   But in range for Robin, who bagged a teal.

Back in the vehicles we drove a mile or so along the valley to another long wood flanked with muddy waterlogged fields.   With all this water and mud, walking in boots carrying a gun and what can only be described as an optimistic number of cartridges, is not easy.   So, having added a couple more pheasants, a woodcock and a pigeon to the bag, we headed back to the cottage for lunch.

Out again promptly, refreshed by hot Muligatawny and Fullers London Pride, we walked down through the gardens, over a field and along the top of a wooded valley leading down to the river.   The eager spaniels flushed three birds out in quick succession and I managed to bag two, although one did a runner back into the cover.

Down into the valley we walked – hoping for woodcock – but The Fisherman and I waited patiently in vain, finally walking back up to the cottage without firing a shot.    We had enough time for two more drives and headed off immediately into thick woodland, with me standing out in the field.

Sadly we’d seen the best of the pheasants earlier in the day and save for a woodcock out of range and a sheep that seemed to be in the middle of dying of something – not a gunshot would I hasted to add – there were no more birds.

So, total tally was;  16 pheasants, 1 pigeon, 1 dove, 1 woodcock, 1 rabbit, 1 duck.

The Wye valley is beautiful, the weather was kind and company excellent.   All in all a very good end to this year shooting season and, best of all, I took the teal home and we ate it on Sunday.  Yum.

Road Pricing – sign the petition

There is an increasing amount of talk about the governments intentions to implement road pricing across the UK.

Regular readers will know my view is that we already have a very effective means of road pricing via excise duty on fuel, which effectively taxes how many miles you drive as well as the efficiency of your vehicle.

However, it does not tax where you drive – and this is one of the key points.   Our government wants to control this as well as make a sizeable amount of money out of us.

In principle, I see no issue with the idea that people should pay for what they use.   But I have three caveats to the imposition of road pricing:

One, that excise duty on fuel and ‘road fund licences’ be scrapped.   Completely.

Two, that the information from the ‘black box’ used to track where you are and what road you are driving on is not used for any other purpose… for example to assess what speed you are driving.

Three:  that the money collected from road pricing be directly re-invested in good transport infrastructure and not frittered away by the government on some lefty hare brained nonsense.

So, on the basis that I have 100% zero confidence in Toni or Tax and Waste Brown to honour any of my caveats, my vote is to sign the petition firmly against road pricing.

Here’s the link.

Remember, all car drivers are voters.  You know it makes sense.

Hamsters lucky escape

Richard Hammonds survival of a 288mph crash in a jet powered dragster is well known and footage will be broadcast on Sunday’s Top Gear on BBC … here’s a taster:

Richard Hammond crash

Apparently the right front tyre burst, sending the car into a spin across the grass.   Dramatic stuff indeed.

Nu Labour and Hypocrisy

Obviously dear reader, I cannot resist a barb at Ruth Kelly for her total hypocrisy in the decision to remove her child from state education, justifying it because he is a special needs child.

I am staggered…. actually I’m not.. let’s be honest – do you expect any less from these muppets?    She justifies this on the grounds that he is dyslexic which of course makes it OK.

No it doesn’t   Dyslexic or not all kids need the best education we can give them and whether that is through a state system, or through private schooling – the choice of many a good taxpayer – it should be parental choice.

NuLabour simply has to deal with this and recognise that a good state school system can happily co-exist with a private one and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is good for none.   And that to force those who cannot pay to put up with what NuLabours former Minister for Education clearly regards as sub standard is utter hipocrisy and, ultimately, arrogance.

And as the Torygraph points out:

Harriet Harman sent her son to a selective school

Principled Left-winger Diane Abbott sent her child to a private school.

Current Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, has helped a constituent place her child in a private school because he was “a very bright boy who wants to do science” and the state sector could offer him nothing.

The Prime Minister stretched the system to breaking point to ensure his children went to schools that select by interview.   And who is going to turn them away?

As Sir Digby Jones (former Director General of the CBI) said last year, ”I’ve learned not to listen to what politicians say, but to watch what they do”.


Birthday Boy Bowie

Regular readers will have spotted that some months ago I attached a clever little link to the right hand column which list todays significant birthdays.   As Big Mike pointed out, they can be somewhat US centric, but no matter, they can provide what passes for educational content amidst the sea of trivia that is this site.

Anyway, the reason for pointing this out today is because of who is celebrating.   Elvis isn’t – partly because he is dead and partly because were he alive he would have celebrated last night and be in smack heaven as I type – but David Jones is.

David Robert Jones was born today in 1947 in Brixton, London.   As David Bowie, his first big hit was 1969’s “Space Oddity.” In 1972 he recorded The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, which featured the hit songs “Suffragette City” and “Starman.”    Bowie is one of pop’s true chameleons, reinventing himself repeatedly and finding new audiences and, although he has not had a top ten hit since 1993, he remains one of music’s biggest stars.   It’s not all been good though… remember his duet with Bing Crosby – ‘Little drummer boy’….?

My own Bowie collection is quite extensive, starting with a song of which many of you will never have heard.   The Lauging Gnome is a comedy song released in 1966 and (sad I know..) I have it on a Deram records 7” vinyl pressing….   Janice Long played it last night and reminded me what a hoot it is… lyrics are below and the bits in brackets are the Gnome in a sort of chuckly squeeky gnomish sort of voice… (really, it’s a great song!)

I was walking down the High Street
When I heard footsteps behind me
And there was a little old man (Hello)
In scarlet and grey, shuffling away (laughter)
Well he trotted back to my house
And he sat beside the telly (Oaah..)
With his tiny hands on his tummy
Chuckling away, laughing all day (laughter)

Oh, I ought to report you to the Gnome office
(Gnome Office)

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee
“I’m a laughing Gnome and you can’t catch me”
Ha ha ha, hee hee hee
“I’m a laughing Gnome and you can’t catch me”
Said the laughing Gnome

Well I gave him roasted toadstools and a glass of dandelion wine (Burp, pardon)
Then I put him on a train to Eastbourne
Carried his bag and gave him a fag
(Haven’t you got a light boy?)
“Here, where do you come from?”
(Gnome-man’s land, hahihihi)
“Oh, really?”

In the morning when I woke up
He was sitting on the edge of my bed
With his brother whose name was Fred
He’d bought him along to sing me a song

Right, let’s hear it
Here, what’s that clicking noise?
(That’s Fred, he’s a “metrognome”, haha)

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee
“I’m a laughing Gnome and you don’t catch me”
Ha ha ha, hee hee hee
“I’m a laughing Gnome and you can’t catch me”

(Own up, I’m a gnome, ain’t I right, haha)
“Haven’t you got an ‘ome to go to?”
(No, we’re gnomads)
“Didn’t they teach you to get your hair cut at school?
you look like a rolling gnome.”
(No, not at the London School of Ecognomics)

Now they’re staying up the chimney
And we’re living on caviar and honey (hooray!)
Cause they’re earning me lots of money
Writing comedy prose for radio shows
It’s the-er (what?)
It’s the Gnome service of course

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee
“I’m a laughing Gnome and you don’t catch me”
Ha ha ha, oh, dear me

(Ha ha ha, hee hee hee
“I’m a laughing Gnome and you can’t catch me”
Ha ha ha, hee hee hee
“I’m a laughing Gnome and you can’t catch me”)

(One more time, yeah)

I’ve only seen Bowie live once, in Hong Kong about 2 years ago where he was fantastic.   He started with ”So, Hong Kong… how the f**k are you?” and proceeded to entertain for 2 hours.   He did not disappoint.

Happy Birthday David.

Aussie Humour

Not that there is much to laugh about down under after our team was sent packing 5-0 in the Ashes test…. what a pitiful result… hence this joke, from The Hunter newsletter:

Q:   What is the height of optimism?

A:    An English batsman applying sunscreen.

And another one from the same august publication which really sums up Aussie humour for me … and you really can hear the strine in this…..

Telephone conversation goes:

”Hello, is this the police?”

”Yes it is.   How can we help you?”

”I’m calling to report about my neighbour, Wazza, he’s hiding cocaine in his firewood!”

”Thanks very much for the call.”

The next day, police officers descend on Wazza’s house in great numbers.   They search the house and then go out to the shed where the firewood is kept.   Using axes, they bust open every piece of firewood, but they find no cocaine.

They swear at Wazza and leave.

The phone rings at Wazza’s house.

”Hey Wazz, did the cops come?”


”Did they chop your firewood?”


”Happy Birthday, maaaaaaaaate”

Tee Hee.

Happy New Year etc.

It seems like ages.   Well, it has been really.. I’ve not managed a post since before Christmas, even though I’ve been on holiday.  I seem to have been flat out every day… such is life I suppose.

Anyway, we had a quiet and relaxing (?) holiday.   Jobs were done around the house and garden, although the list seems to lengthen rather than shorten.   The redecoration continues apace, is really making a difference and works on the outbuildings and garden in general, slowly take shape.

One job of import I did manage to complete was that of having the BGT inspected to enable me to apply for my FIVA certificate so we can enter the Winter Trial which starts at the end of the month.   Car preparation is a little slower… but should be sorted in time.   More on this later.

For New Year we headed down to Watergate Bay in Cornwall with the Fisherman and his family and friends and had a top time despite the apalling gales and horizontal rain.   True to Cornish form, the weather improved the day we left…

Anyway, whilst there we managed one walk on the beach before the rain came down again, an aftenoon shopping in Truro (awful) and several memorable meals.

First was lunch at Fifteen Cornwall which is adjacent to the hotel, perched above the beach with stunning views out across what was a very wild seascape.   Food was OK.. the Antipasti impressed, the Wild Garlic soup was good, but the Truffle Risotto was dissappointing, despite the Fisherman’s complaints and an extra grating of the white gold.

Dinners in the hotel were mostly good – beef excepted – and with wine generally from the Fisherman’s own selection we drank well.   New Years Eve was a black tie blur with much dancing as evidence I had too much to drink.   Funny how good booze and sea air = no hangover.

Next was an indulgent lunch at The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow.   A Rick Stein restaurant, we have been many times and it never fails to impress.   Ash was somewhat overwhelmed by the Fruits de Mer – not sure how many 10 year olds would tackle the mix of mussels, crab, clams, whelks, razor clams, prawns, langoustines shrimp and oysters, but she did very well.   I had a splendid Turbot with Hollandaise and we shared a 1999 Puligny Montrachet from Leflaive.   Very agreeable.

Finally on the 2nd we had to join the exodus along the A30 north east and back to Wiltshire and then onto London and the prospect of getting back to work after 10 days away.   Sigh.

Monday, December 25
View Article  Merry Christmas
by wattonfamily.com on Mon 25 Dec 2006 01:00 AM GMT

Merry Christmas
and a
Happy New Year

Wishing you all the very best
for a relaxing and enjoyable Chrstmas
and a happy, healthy and
prosperous 2007