Much to my delight your letter lies open before. The family photographs that were included are now safely tucked away in an album, and the pictures of your house and village are a wonderful reminder of home. There is one problem though, for right at the end of the letter you request an answer to a question that has apparently been bugging you for years. You ask, quite simply, what is it with the British and the weather, and why do they keep on talking about it for hours
Well my dear long lost cousin, they do so because, to quote some mountain climber called Mallory, it’s there. Some things in life you can ignore, or bypass as being unimportant but over here this is one factor which, akin to a funeral shroud wrapped around a dead body, is omnipresent yet, unfortunately for the British, ever present and wickedly capricious at every turn. To fully appreciate this curious phenomenon though I must first take you back in time
In 1855 a highly romantic poet called Browning sat down and wrote a poem. As a poet he had numerous subjects to choose from, daffodils for example, nightingales, or young love that might never die, but our poet chappie had to be different, he had to write about some idiotic doffer who trots up to a tower, makes a racket, and dies. Pragmatists, like me, might feel that the poet might have saved us all a lot of heartache by popping his clogs before he wrote the poem, but nature can be cruel at times and so it is that the poem still depresses and confuses us to this day.
Why so, well come a little closer and you will see what I mean. Our ”hero” , a noble, if rather high principled Knight called Childe Roland leaves his home and goes out to find a tower. He seems to have little idea why he is going there, where it is, what purpose it might serve, or even whether there is anyone living there, b but of he trots all the same, and soon enters a land which I would never wish to visit, experience, or see. The countryside can be very pretty when it wants to be in my experience but not here, not in this tale. From what we are told it is a vast plain, a wasteland no less where ugliness and deformity rules, where rancid and rotten trees stand hauntingly before him, serpents mysteriously leap out of streams and where even the grass and soil seem both leprous and smothered in boils. Then he meets the locals, and what a bunch they are. A decrepit horse that seems to originate from hell, a malevolent and unhelpful cripple, a huge black bird; the species of which is unclear, and finally, a host of unseen voices that seem to pour out of the hills at the end of his journey. What a bunch, and what a landscape, and not even a pub or a chippy, or an ice cream van on the way.
Never mind though he gets there in the end. Where to cousin, why, to a dark tower, l and what does our hero do then? He knocks on the door, there is of course no answer, he calls out that he has come a calling, blows a God Almighty, slug horn, and then, to all intent and purposes, he dies.
Good, I hear you say, after all it seemed to be a bit of a pointless journey, it was obviously tough going, and nothing good came out of it at the end; but I also seem to hear asking the question as to what has this depressive dude got to do with the weather. That I must admit is a fair question, but if you read on you will see why this Roland chappie has been invited onto the scene
When I was growing up my mother drummed into me that though necessity may well be the mother of father of invention, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. For those who are not so familiar with the English language this might sound strange as why would anyone actually want to do so, but though this was actually done in Massachusetts by one Arthur D Little, it basically means that you can’t make something of value when there are inadequate resources at hand. So it was with childe Roland as he sauntered or more staggered, and to my mind God was in the same position during his creation sequence when he eventually plonked down man
You see my dear God, had a problem, and for a little while he didn’t know what to do.
During the first four days everything was perfect. He set up the system to his liking, everything sloshed around or shone e around on cue and, when he got a bit tired he simply turned off the lights and had a bit of a snooze
Day five was when things began to go just a little bit wrong, as to my mind God got just a little bit bored. He was fine trotting around on the dry land and darting in and out of the bushes but even if he climbed a tree or two nothing seemed to be going on. The sea was very pretty, but is was empty, and the sky was certainly there, but so what, it didn’t do anything, so, enter the swimmers, the flappers, and the gliders, wonderful things until they pooed all over you, or lay, half eaten and rotting on the sand.
Then came his Boo, and boy oh boy did the excrement hit the fan, he invented land animals, and most critically man. That’s right my dear, it’s day seven in our little creative chronicle and it’s one of those unpleasant moments in history that all of us have live with nearly all of the time. I don’t blame God though, as theoretically, it must have seemed a good idea at the time.
I mean the animals were fine, if a fraction unruly and unsanitary at times but there was no-one to share his coffee with, no kindred soul with which to discuss the latest hunting results, and ultimately no one around that he could actually understand. What better solution than to create an animal who he could converse with, and who would eventually have the mental powers to create and run a paradise for all concerned.
I think though he was drunk, hung over, or under the influence of hallucinogenic beans, as otherwise why would he get things so disastrously wrong. What he actually created was a highly destructive, insensitive, stubborn, pig headed, illiterate slob of a species called Man.
Ok for a while, during its infancy, mankind behaved quite well. Sure he duffed up, and ate, one or two of his near neighbours, and it is true that it soon, all too soon, for other species, he developed an insanitary habit or crapping in both its own, and in everybody’s back yard, but then everybody did that so the natural balance established by God remained relatively undisturbed Babies grow up though, and crawl out of their nappies, and all too soon enter the big wide world; and that is when the real fun began
You see he soon found out that humanity simply couldn’t leave anything alone and that once they grew to some degree, too much damage was being done. So he got to thinking, why not send down an emissary to talk to them, and to show them the error of their ways. I’ll send down m y son he re4aonned, they’ll not hurt him. I’ll give him a pretty memorable conception and birth; provide him with a whole bag full of tricks, a personalised stone message, and a promise of much better things to come.
To his annoyance even that failed, even after a few plaques and thunder storms, but he still needed a solution; at that is where this little story finally begins.
He couldn’t kill them all, as there were too many of them now, and not enough cemetery plots or undertakers. He couldn’t teach them anything, or modify them, as they were too stupid, so faced with this dilemma what he was supposed to do. Why bring on the clown of course. Everyone loves a clown he thought to himself, and for every clown there has to be a custard pie. If you can’t teach them one way he rationalised then why not try another, and even if he failed with this idea, he would at least have a damn good laugh along the away.
So it was he invented the English and their faithful sidekick the English weather, and to this day this most feared and obdurate double act simply rolls on and on. You have to live in England to understand how has this double act survived, but one thing is certain. When you live on this island, or more properly, on this set of islands you can bet your bottom dollar that within minutes some fool will start talking about the weather and that as soon as he or she makes a comment the wretched thing will change. I am sorry my dear it’s like being glued to a constantly revolving yet steeply scratched record on a record player while some evil and vindictive unseen hand throws on buckets of water from the side. Over here you never know when bad weather is arriving, but you as sure as hell know that the locals will go about it for hours
The guys and lassies I feel sorry for though are the radio TV weather reporters who at regular intervals have to make up an assessment as to what might be going on then and even worse what lies ahead over the next few days
When I first came to this soggy little island the forecasters were lucky. The public knew that the forecasters had little to go on but at least they had an outline of the islands and a few sticky labels that they could push around. Now though I feel sorry for the forecaster as not only is there more information allegedly available, but the poor beggar has to stand waving their arms in front of a completely blank screen.
Murmurs the producer
“We’ll put in the detail afterwards, you just keep on smiling, and you’ll get there in the end”
Smile eh, that’s some challenge when the screen is blank, and you know that some, if not all, of your information, is sheer fantasy, and of no value at all. The forecaster though does at least have the English language standing by his side or her side, and more often than not, through its tortuous convoluted mechanism, it very often saves the day. The trouble is that only the forecaster benefits for while he or she casually waves his paws across the weather map, we are the ones that get soaked by the rain. He does at least have his revenge though a son Sundays he gets to do a forecast for the next seven days. It is not as though his forecast is any more accurate but as you will see shortly, Sunday, in Britain is still an important day, and on such days the forecasters words are treated like the holy gospel so therefore he can do nothing wrong.
What’s is even irritating is even if you do chance upon a good forecast you are still no better off than you were before. You know if it is raining as you get wet or, when needs must you cross you back paws very tightly but is it just raining or is it just a bit damp, a shower, a spot of rain, a drizzle, a mizzle, a downpour, or even more alarmingly are cats and dogs descending at speed or even stair rods.
If it is reported to be cold, then how cold. If it is freezing it’s obvious as bit of your anatomy start shrinking, but how cold is it if things get a bit warmer. Is it cool cold, chilly, parky, crisp, brass monkeyed or nippy, or conversely, if it is deemed to be hot or warm, is it one degree above freezing or hot enough to be burnt you to a cinder, plus of curse all such temperature are considered to be relative to the time of the tear.
Then of course is the question if impaired visibility. Is it misty, foggy, or hazy, or is someone making pea soup somewhere, if often seems so by the smell. Never mind though, over here there is always fresh air to blow away the cobwebs, but hang on, is it breezy, windy, blowing a houlie, or is it simply a gale.
Such is the joy of English and such is there weather and therefore it comes as no surprise when they discuss it for hour upon hour. One thing which is also certain is the response you get when two gents meet each other in the pouring rain
They will greet each other, as a hurricane force wind whips around their ankles
“Lovely day for ducks!” they chortle
As yet another bolt of lightning zips down from on high.
Why this is so only they can tell you. It is not a good morning, for there is a hurricane blowing, and I question whether even ducks really enjoy getting hammered by the rain.
All I can say of this section is what a weather system, what a nation, and what a double act of custard pie and clown
Ok my dear 2,400 odd words on the weather is enough for anyone, so, as requested in the second part of your letter , what of the red flag and the Bishop. What happened, where did it happen, and what was the conclusion at the end of the affair
Before I start to relay what happened with the bishop it is important I must first set the strategy so to speak, for not only will this give extra depth and colour to what follows but it will also enable you to appreciate the gravity of what occurred. In rural England, especially in the southern areas there is no greater honour of having the bishop to tea. It is considered to be the epitome of good breeding, respectability, and good taste, and if you really want a social seal of approval within the community there is no better day to do this than on a Sunday. This magnificent prelate may well be a pious hypocrite and a crashing bore, but under no circumstances should any offence be caused, either to him or his faithful retinue. Add to this potential time bomb a tipsy master, a glass of sherry, a ridiculous blessing, and an utterly loathsome superior moggie, and the stage is all set and ready to go
The fun began on his arrival, as by then we were well and truly, oiled due to our owners giving us some Sunday roast gravy Our owners arecra6ther fond of their gravy and, true to form, they gave it a very generous lick of brandy, about half a bottle I reckon. Now I am fine, as I have been a tippler from the cradle onwards, but my little cherubs were different, and soon they were raring to go. Maybe if the bishop hadn’t turned up I would have been able to control them, but he did arrive, and the then the fun began.
In walks the bishop, simpering, genuflecting, and showering blessing on the house like confetti at a wedding. His first stop however was rather more mundane as he asked to go the loo. Now that was ok, as nature waits for no man and all that guff, but it left us alone with his retinue. First in line was his good lady, a ramrod backed broom stick lady minus the twigs but with an abundance of cold hard bloodless Christian charity, but she was put in the shade by the bishops cat who came in behind her. A nasty, puffed up, aristocratic long haired pedigree with no manners and with his nose and tail stuck up high into the air.
Now we are a hospitable crowd us Cossacks, willing to share a jar or a slice of bread and jam with anyone, but we do expect a certain respect to be shown in return. Without such courtesies international relationships can be fraught with danger and, very often, the battle li9nes were drawn. We were nice to the brute, we even discussed, or tried to discuss cricket, the weather, and the state of the country, but this arrogant little shoe wiper stated that he had nothing to say in return. He smugly apologised for his silence in such matters, but he explained, in great detail that he was of very superior stock, both by birth and circumstance, and that as a result he had to be very careful as regards possible associations and friendships which might form. It was nothing personal, we were to understand, it was just a question of birth and breeding.
To utilise a local phrase we wished to tell the little runt exactly where he could put all of his breeding, but decided to hold our fire until a more suitable opportunity came along. Revenge is sweet my dear, and on this occasion even more so when the Bishop knocked hi glass of sherry on the floor. Powerful stuff this sherry, especially if preceded by brandy; and three tanked up pussy cats get hold of it then damage is irrevocably bound to occur. Like a pack of wolves closing in on an injured animal they raised their voices to the hills so to speak, cried forth to England and St George, and then went in for the kill. Who was the victim on this occasion, why Theodorus of course, Theodorus Arbuthnot Maximus, the bishops moggie no less, and boy oh boy, my children made him pay.
At first my “enfant terribles’” began quietly. Kitoshka admittedly sung the red flag but as it none of our visitors understood Russian, no harm was done. It was however akin to the blue paper on a noisy fire work which unlit causes no problem, but if lit lets of one almighty great big bang. My dear do you remember the commissar’s cat ditty, that mischievous jingle which, as children, we always enjoyed? On this occasion it became the Bishop Cat, and boy did my trio have fun! They began very demurely at first, in fact under such circumstances as they were given they were remarkably pious, but like some fired up steam loco , they soon picked up speed. I think that the terms addled, boring, and crapulous were a bit chancy, but when the kids churned out hillbilly, mangy, and leprous Theodorus certainly raised a growl. Then however they called him a Stalinist cat, and that is when Theo lost control. Bye bye dignity, farewell poise, and in its place a low down, rough hewn, foul mouthed street fighter who assaulted, or tried to assault my little darlings that even Tommy stepped into the ring.
My dear it was a glorious fight, and one of the best that I’d enjoyed for years. The mess we made of the carpet was wonderful but even better was the mess that we made of the Bishop and his entourage and the decidedly non clerical language that rang voluminously into our ears. You see my dear; the lady of the house, i.e. my mistress is a very generous and lavish hostess at the best of times, and with the bishop coming to tea she really had laid it on with style. It all sat on a tea trolley and it would have been fine if Kitty hadn’t carried the fight just a little far., She afterwards told me that she had only been trying to rip the back of Theodorus, and to me that was quite understandable, so how was she to know that my mistress would push the trolley right under her nose. Strawberry gateau, tiramisu, cream filled chocolate profiteroles, a poorly set jell and blancmange trifle, and seemingly endless jugs of cream, straight into the bishops lap;, followed by Kitty who, being temporarily blinded by such articles, inadvertently dug in her claws where no claws should ever go.
He would have been all right if he had just sat there and waited for assistance, but as he tried to get up his foot slipped on the by now cucumber sandwich strewn carpet, and he fell back heavily into the sat once more. In doing so more strife befall him as in regaining his seat he inadvertently knocked over a piping hot teapot which , much to our joy, landed in precisely where so much had lain before
Where was his lady you might be asking, after all why didn’t she come to his aid? She was there of course but it all happened so quickly that her response was a fraction delayed. When it came though it was wonderful for in rising up to help her husband she crashed into my mistress, and then after losing her balance head butted her husband in precisely the same area where so much pain and discomfort had already occurred.
She must have a very hard head, and certainly she used it with great accuracy, as for a moment, the Bishop said nothing. Then however he swore. I never knew that Bishops used such language, and on a Sunday, but all things told I really can’t blame him. Punctured, be smeared, boiled, scalded and then head butted anyone would have sworn heartily, but though we all listened to him our eyes were fixed elsewhere. His good lady had extracted herself from his nether regions by this time, but being both dazed and temporarily blinded she rose to full height and just stood there with a crushed cream meringue stuck in her left rear, and a strawberry tartlet sliding down her nose. Sat this point we all thought that the entertainment was over, but not a bit of it, as now my master entered the fray.
Awakened from his afternoon nap by all the commotion below him, he rushes down stairs with a water filled fire extinguisher, presumably, so we were told, to put out any fires; but in his confused state and with a screaming hangover, he fires of the fire extinguisher, straight at the Bishop who has risen from his seat and who is now standing before him.
“MY GOD, IT’S ALIVE
He screams confusedly
“MEN, WIVES, AND BISHOPS SECOND, BUT FIRST, WHERE’S MY PORT AND WHISKY!”
Before slumping down onto the floor it was wonderful shot by my master, but methinks that scalded, drowned, head butted and smothered in cream, fruit, and gateau, we will never see the bishop again. I’m not too sure what he thinks of my master and mistress hospitality and prioritisation, but from the reports we received on his annual sermon on St Francis of Assisi, his views on us and the rest of the animal kingdom will never be the same.
Something tells me that this is just the beginning though, for, after a conspiratorial huddle, and a humble apology, my three little beauties have been invited to Theo’s regular Sunday night sing song. Kitty has accepted the invitation with just a little too much sweetness so I must go now as we will be on their patch, and therefore the battle lines will have to be redrawn
What can I say, my children need me, but in closing I shall refer you to Willy boy woz here Shakespeare, a great hack and hoes holder, and not a bad poet at the same time
“Some are born great, other achieve greatness;
And some have greatness thrust upon them”
Write to you soon