At the End of the Day.

It’s a bit of  a mixed bag tonight, as what was going to be a quiet day has meandered off in several different directions. Reasons for this range from our Prime Minister and local hunters out shooting at everything, to wasps, butterflies, and some especially weird intelligence from the BundesRepublik this evening. Thanks for the impetus on this last go to Old Asia and his helping Hand. Hopefully, this last will develop into tomorrow’s main story.

In the meantime, Orwell Airways wishes to apologise for the late arrival of flight GO1948, due on Runway One in 1984. It is now available for boarding, with flight nomenclature changed to DC2011.

I refer of course to the title of the Tory Conference that kicks off tomorrow. It is called ‘Leadership for a Better Future’. For those of you educated after 1980, George Orwell’s work of genius 1984 involved a future (for him) society in which every utterance from the Establishment was the diametric opposite of the truth. So it is with this empty, braindead Conference header.

The words with which I take issue are ‘leadership’, ‘future’ and ‘better’. Apart from that, I feel  totally on message with the tag-line.

There is no leadership at all coming from the Conservative Party at present, unless you call enough U-turns to create a perpetual vicious circle leadership. There is a fair amount of double-vision and blindness, but insight about what lies ahead is there none. And as for the ‘better’ thing, I very much doubt if more than 10% of people owning an IQ with something to the left of the decimal point expect that.

So the delayed 1948 just landed. And as the Soviet passengers disembark, life can only get sillier. This from Reuters today (my italics):

‘European Union finance ministers next week will discuss whether governments with the strongest public finances can provide some budget stimulus to help support flagging economic growth in the 27-nation bloc. The debate, set for a meeting Tuesday in Luxembourg, could signal a small reversal of a policy adopted by ministers in October 2009 that calls on all EU countries to start cutting their deficits in 2011.’

A small reversal of policy. Involving ‘about’, ‘turn’, ‘Christine’ and ‘Lagarde’. Who now, of course, works for the IMF, not the EU. This is pure Ministry of Truth stuff. George Orwell made it up, but few others could.


The hunting season started here last week. Just so you don’t get misled by distant memories of twerps in red coats harassing vermin in brown coats before being banned by similarly small-minded twerps wrapped in Red Flags, ‘hunting season’ in France means ‘Take cover: visually challenged, obese pillocks firing off at anything that moves at all heights and in any direction’.

Not that I’m biased in this respect you understand, but our terriers are small and brown, and thus all leave is cancelled while this madness is going on. Foxie is at an age now where she ignores it all in favour of her bed, but poor little Tiggy is terrified by the experience. In this situation, my wife is like a living, walking broad-spectrum antibiotic, attacking the little dog’s trauma from a dozen different angles. At the first sound of a gun, Tiggs gets two phosphorous tablets rammed down her throat. After a few more salvos, Jan reaches for the Doggie-comfort jacket (don’t go there) . After that, each time our younger pup pants, panics, yelps or so much as sticks her unfeasibly long tongue out, Mrs Slog doses her with Skull Cap & Valerian.

You may think it impossible to OD on homaeopathic medicines, but you’d be wrong. As I write, Tiggywinkle the ever-so-brave-but-not-really Norfolk terrier is spread over half of a very large sofa. She will be zonked out until approximately 8.30 am tomorrow.

Meanwhile, equally tense territorial issues are at stake. In our barn sits The Green Beast, merciless cutter of all grass to sheep level. And also in there (I discovered on Friday) is a major wasps’ nest. The Slog and The Wasps are shaping up for a major diplomatic incident re this one, as I am of the firm conviction that la grange is our property, whereas les gueppes are convinced that the land title lies in their favour. I feel a Basildon Council moment coming on.

The main differences between getting travellers to bugger off in the UK and wasps to make camp elsewhere in France, is that (a) here in Lot et Garonne, there are no Wasps’ Rights lawyers, and (b) French rural retailers sell killing machines banned by NATO at least 30 years ago. They come in very tall canisters with funnel delivery systems that can zap a hornet or wasp from six metres away. Think about that, older folks like me: that’s nineteen feet. That’s three John Cleeses.

However, there is a problem. During daylight hours, one cannot get closer than eighteen miles to the nest without outrider wasps launching stinging attacks. (Wasp stings aren’t funny in profusion). And at dusk when the colony goes bo-boes, there is no way of knowing where the nest is. I’ve been on the phone to the UN for much of the afternoon, but they don’t sound that interested.


On a more aaaah note, over the last week I’ve noticed each morning as I go down to the sitting room that, soon after the sun gets to the south-east of our pine tree, there’s always at least one Red Admiral butterfly fluttering about in a hurry to be set free. At first, I thought it was just that the creatures had been trapped overnight, but as the numbers each day have gone up from one to three and then five, it’s dawned on me that there’ s a caterpillar chrysalis hatching-out situation going on here.

This has been brought on by the ridiculously hot weather we’re having here at the moment. Normally, the caterpillar colony would’ve been deemed to have made a bum choice by choosing to morph from earthbound to airborne creature in our old, cool house. But six months of heat have been enough to do the trick.

When I was ten years old, one spring I found some small black specks on Mum’s nasturtiums. She told me they were caterpillar eggs, and so grabbing the nearest clean Robertson’s Silver Shred Marmalade jar, I plonked the eggs and more leaves into it, pierced the top with air-holes and waited for events to take their course.

Gradually, over the weeks and months, the tiny worms turned into fat green grubs. And eventually, I watched one evening as they turned themselves inside out to become chrysalises. If you’ve ever seen this process live, by the way, no horror film can ever hold fear for you. It makes the Alien coming out of John Hurt’s chest look like a harmless jack-in-the-box.

And so the Silver Shred jar sat on the kitchen window sill for months, and another year first dawned and then began to turn the ice into mush. Having passed the 11-Plus, by now I was a fully-grown Grammar School boy, grabbing a soggy piece of toast before leaving to catch the 73 bus to Whitefield each morning. Until at one bright, blue-skied daybreak, I was polishing my shoes when I noticed what looked like three or four sloppy leaks coming out of the white tiles of our sink-splash.

Watching newly exited cabbage butterflies filling their wings prior to departure for a brief life is an experience still close to being real for me half a century later. The tentative flapping, and then first clumsy attempts at flight, held me spellbound: not just because this was real nature at its task, but because I felt like the surrogate mother in this process. I had protected these tiny eggs all those months earlier, ensured they were well-fed, watched them metamorphose into gross Things, and then seen the Beauty that emanated from the Beast.

This also, sadly, puts me in mind of the EU, where the beauty of the original, well-intentioned ideal has produced the Devil’s daughter of an abomination. But on a more positive note, the three sixes behind the vixen’s ear have at last been spotted. So we can still hope for the best.

There is new silliness at The Big Top.