Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Whole Thing is Rigged

Last night at 20:30 about 100 miles east of Dundee.
My neighbour  Lee has gone back to work after two months in lock-down. He's back on an oil rig in the North Sea.

I realise it reflects badly on me but I find this irresistibly funny.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

M4 Cement

I was on the M4 yesterday for the first time since out abortive to trip to Cardiff mid March for the cancelled Wales Scotland Six Nations rugby.

Initially nervous that the Old Bill might stop me at a checkpoint and ask me why I was away from home, it ultimately dawned on me that being on my way to a legitimate business appointment at the Avon and Somerset Police Headquarters might tick the necessary boxes.

As ever I came across Radio 4 series on my journey that I want to pursue.

Experimenting his morning. "Alexa open the BBC" invokes the skill and asks you to request a programme or channel.

"A Charles Paris Mystery" seems to work, as does Just William Pursuing Happiness by Richmal Crompton, but "Pandemic 1918" earned me only a stark "I can't do that." Shades of HAL in 2001, which could probably have been phrased better.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Pork Scratchings of the world: Issued as a public service




ColombiaChicharrones, Chicharrón Toteado (exploded pork crackling), Chicharrón Cocho
QuebecOreilles de Christ (Christ Ears)
MexicoChicharrón or Chicharra
United StatesPork Rinds, Cracklings


ThailandKhaep mu
VietnamPork Rinds


Serbiačvarci, Duvan čvarci
Czech Republicškvarky
SpainCortezas de Cerdo, Chicharrones, Torreznos, Cotnes
PortugalTorresmos, Couratos
The Netherlands & BelgiumKnabbelspek (nibbling bacon)
Austria & GermanyGrammeln or Grieben, Schweinekrusten (pig crusts)
United KingdomPork Scratchings, Pork Crackling, Pork Crunch

Thursday, May 28, 2020


Torygraph today
Mark Bingham: tragic 9/11 hero who changed attitudes to gay men
American businessman loved rugby and touched lives of many before fateful September 11 plane journey
The extraordinary story of how the passengers and crew on flight UA93, knowing that three other planes had already been used as guided missiles, decided they going to fight back against the hijackers is one of the most extraordinary things I have ever heard.

Got this on my watch-list now.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Improving the Flow of Urban Life

Ben has got an engineering apprenticeship with KONE starting in September.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


I had three Charles Holden take away lagers in Wandle Park over a leisurely Bank Holiday afternoon yesterday, People seemed spontaneously to arrange themselves in socially distanced circles of about five. It was very striking, at least to me, how few seemed to be comfortable sitting with their backsides on the floor, whether cross legged, legs out straight or bent. The vast majority of folk seemed to be in the sidesaddle position above, supported by one arm with legs swept up to the side. I also noticed quite a few people struggling to get up. Modern life doesn't seem to do much to preserve mobility.

It has however encouraged me to book an online Bikram class that Shona is running at Wimbledon Hot Yoga tomorrow. I think it is via Zoom. It will be interesting to see how it goes from noon until one.

Monday, May 25, 2020

I want to break freee

Only 36 Decameron stories left. We should be finished by the end of June.

Is it time to start putting meat on the bones of the demob party? How does July 4th sound?

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Second and Third Rays of Light

After Peter and I went for his weekly shop in Waitrose this morning, we bought a couple of coffees at the COFX coffee shop opposite. He sat on the bench outside while I yelled at him from the socially prescribed two metre gap.

Later after I had installed Zoom on his PC and checked it was working (hat tip, Helen and John), we walked along to the pedestrianized Thames river bank to the Crabtree "we're excited to be reopening our doors this Friday, 22nd May as Fulham and Hammersmith deli, takeaway and delivery shop." A coffee for him and a lager for me.

Playlist song "The Tide is Turning"

First Ray of Light

I heard on the jungle telegraph that the Charles Holden was serving take away beers from 2 until 6. A bunch of us went along and had a couple of lagers in Wandle Park just behind it. We're going again on Bank Holiday Monday.
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

A call has been made for the Welsh Government to be investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over fears older people's rights could have been breached.
The Older People's Commissioner for Wales says comprehensive testing for Covid-19 in care homes was "too slow".
She has questioned whether the "right to life" had been breached and raised the issue with the EHRC.
The health minister said he "didn't recognise" a breach and said the policy was based on scientific advice.
Since lockdown began, 27% of the coronavirus deaths in Wales have been care home residents, according to the Office for National Statistics. This figure does not include those care home residents who died after being transferred to hospital.
When everyone thought my father was dying with Covid-19 in a home in Wales he couldn't get a test, and that is a 100% take-it-to-the-bank fact. He seems to have recovered thank God. The lady in the video below is in Roath Park, Coupla hundred yards from mum and dad's.

Thursday, May 21, 2020


Why Joe Rogan's exclusive Spotify deal matters
Joe Rogan has signed an exclusive deal with Spotify, which will see his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, disappear from all other platforms.
The multi-year deal is believed to be worth $100m (£82 million), according to the Wall Street Journal.
Rogan's podcast, which is one of the most popular in the world, will arrive on the streaming giant on 1 September.
It will then be housed there exclusively by the end of the year, and removed from all other platforms.
"It will remain free, and it will be the exact same show," said Rogan. "It's just a licensing deal, so Spotify won't have any creative control over the show.
"They want me to just continue doing it the way I'm doing it right now.
"I'm excited to have the support of the largest audio platform in the world and I hope you folks are there when we make the switch!"
I remember that Ben and I were both equally surprised that the other regularly watched The Joe Rogan Experience.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Let's get lost

Say what you like about Peter Hitchens, AN ENCOUNTER WITH MY PAST is as honest and evocative thing as I have read this year.

It is so elegiac in fact that I hope he is OK.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Be ye never so high

Callum Hudson-Odoi: Chelsea and England winger arrested and bailed
I've known Callum since he was in the same class as Ben at Primary school and have written about him here since 2015. I feel really uncomfortable even posting the link above, but I suppose it is part of the story. Innocent until proven guilty etc.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Oops, I did it again

The United Kingdom is almost unique in the world in that it has no statute of limitations for any criminal offence tried above magistrate level. Perhaps my father should have thought of that before he embarked on a career of kidnapping stuffed wolves and advertising his crimes in the local press.

Come think about it, I might actually be named after Nick the wolf. You must judge if I have lived up to it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Radio TImes

I wake up just before six every morning and listen to the news. When I turned on Radio 4 today I got the last few seconds of a profile of Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting and all round good egg (see Icons passim). We can all catch up with it at

Saturday, May 16, 2020

It it's too long, you don't belong

I thought I would listen to Slavoj Žižek - On G.W.F. Hegel as I was pottering about this morning. Gradually it dawned that 9:08:49 meant that it was nine hours eight minutes and 49 seconds long as opposed the the nine minutes and nine seconds I had assumed.

As we speak I am listening to the The Mastertapes Guide to Writing the Perfect Song on Radio 4 Extra. They promoted it after the six o'clock news this morning. It started at nine and it goes on until noon. Three hours!

For all of Generation Snowflake's shortcomings it appears that lack of attention span is not one of them.

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Bitter Lesson

The is very thought provoking and well worth a look.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

You alright or what?

Peter Falk told the Matthew Rhys as the last murderer in the last ever episode of Columbo to play the character with his native Cardiff accent rather than as a generic cockney. My cup runneth over.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Image rights

Rebecca's Steve sent me this image this morning. It was delivered in their veg box, they had no idea what it was and assumed I might.

I popped it into Google's image search ( which instantly identified it as a papaya. I have ever used the product before and I was very impressed.

I passed the message back to Steve. "I knew you would know. Thanks. What do I do with it??" he replied.

I haven't got the heart to tell him I didn't know. Fingers crossed he doesn't read these spindrift pages.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Living high on the hog

Merton Council's plastic, glass, cans and cartons collection happens every fortnight.

In my recycling box this morning, there is one empty white wine bottle, one empty Heinz baked beans can, and one empty Co-op tin of tomatoes.

That is what you get from 14 days of lock-down hedonistic self indulgence!

Monday, May 11, 2020

There was only one catch

Meanwhile, my dad is in a home, the doctor won't prescribe him antibiotics and has told the home to get him tested for COVID-19. The home can't get any COVID-19 test kits; not the doctor's issue apparently.

Never mind Matt Lucas, I hope for his sake I don't run into Matt Hancock any time soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Dreaming of Wembley

Dad's really not well. It is a crumb, but I am glad that the memory I recorded here yesterday was  watching Wales beat England at rugby with him twenty one years ago.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Twenty one

Dad was with me twenty one years ago when Wales (playing at home in Wembley while the National Stadium was being redeveloped for the World Cup) beat England to rob them of a Grand Slam. Scott Gibbs' last minute try was the key though Neil Jenkins still had to convert it.

My brother reports, that years before:

I played against Gibbs in the Carpet Bowl cup final at the Taff's Well ground.

He kicked their first pen from the half way line then took no more attempts and they missed every other kick at goal.

Mike Young swallowed his tongue in a tackle and Christian Bishop's mum (a nurse) used two spoons to pull it out of his throat.

We won the cup and Mike insisted in being released from the hospital so he could have a drink and pics with the trophy.

Simpler, better times.

Friday, May 08, 2020

A Bridge Too Far

For VE day seventy five years on let me refer you to chapter 13 of Adventures In The Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood by William Goldman.

Not, I will grant you, an obvious choice, but it is about his work writing the screenplay for "A Bridge Too Far." He is sincerely humbled by what people did at Arnhem, and the modesty and decorum of the veterans he interviewed. He thinks that they are better, braver people than him and the regard and respect he accords them when contrasted with his withering contempt for his Hollywood peers tells us all we need to know.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

“The game is afoot.”

At my brother John's recommendation, I have picked up the Audible Audiobook Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection read by , Stephen Fry for one credit as opposed to the £69.99 list price.

That is 71 hrs and 57 mins of meaty goodness advertised as "updated to include Chapter Name Information, so you can easily find your favourite story or novel."

I like to put audible books on the Everywhere Alexa group at home so I can listen to them as I move round the house on day-to-day tasks. I can't work out how to ask for a specific story doing that.

Here's the chapter listing from the Audble website. All very interesting but there are no individual story titles.

Part 1
Chapter 1: Opening Credits and Introduction to A Study in Scarlet
Chapters 2-15: A Study in Scarlet
Chapter 16: Introduction to The Sign of Four
Chapters 17-21: The Sign of Four, Part 1
Part 2
Chapters 1-7: The Sign of Four, Part 2
Chapter 8: Introduction to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Chapters 9-21: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Part 1
Part 3
Chapter 1: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Part 2
Chapter 2: Introduction to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Chapters 3-14: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Chapter 15: Introduction to The Hound of the Baskervilles
Chapters 16-21: The Hound of the Baskervilles, Part 1
Part 4
Chapters 1-9: The Hound of the Baskervilles, Part 2
Chapter 10: Introduction to The Return of Sherlock Holmes
Chapters 11-21: The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Part 1
Part 5
Chapters 1-2: The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Part 2
Chapter 3: Introduction to The Valley of Fear
Chapters 4-18: The Valley of Fear
Chapter 19: Introduction to His Last Bow
Chapters 20-21: His Last Bow, Part 1
Part 6
Chapters 1-7: His Last Bow, Part 2
Chapter 8: Introduction to The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
Chapters 9-20: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes and Closing Credits

I found a more detailed listing from the US version, but I have also read that it is about 9 hours shorter than Blighty's, so caution is advised.

Part One:

Chapter 1: Foreword to A Study in Scarlet

Chapters 2-15: A Study in Scarlet

Chapters 16-28: The Sign of Four

Part Two:

Chapter 1: Foreword to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Chapters 2-4: A Scandal in Bohemia

Chapter 5: The Adventure of The Red-Headed League

Chapter 6: A Case of Identity

Chapter 7: The Boscombe Valley Mystery

Chapter 8: The Five Orange Pips

Chapter 9: The Man with the Twisted Lip

Chapter 10: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

Chapter 11: The Adventure of the Speckled Band

Chapter 12: The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb

Chapter 13: The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor

Chapter 14: The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet

Chapter 15: The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Part Three:

Chapter 1: Foreword to The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Chapter 2: Silver Blaze

Chapter 3: The Adventure of the Cardboard Box

Chapter 4: The Adventure of the Yellow Face

Chapter 5: The Adventure of the The Stock-Broker's Clerk

Chapter 6: The Adventure of “The Gloria Scott”

Chapter 7: The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual

Chapter 8: The Adventure of the Reigate Squire

Chapter 9: The Adventure of the Crooked Man

Chapter 10: The Adventure of the Resident Patient

Chapter 11: The Adventure of the Greek Interpretor

Chapter 12: The Adventure of the Naval Treaty

Chapter 13: The Final Problem

Part Four:

Foreword to The Hound of the Baskervilles

Chapters 2-16: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Chapter 17: Foreword to The Return of Sherlock Holmes

Chapter 18: The Adventure of the Empty House

Chapter 19: The Adventure of the Norwood Builder

Chapter 20: The Adventure of the Dancing Men

Chapter 21: The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist

Chapter 22: The Adventure of the Priory School

Part Five:

Chapter 1: The Adventure of Black Peter (Continuation of The Return of Sherlock Holmes stories)

Chapter 2: The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

Chapter 3: The Adventure of the Six Napoleons

Chapter 4: The Adventure of the Three Students

Chapter 5: The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez

Chapter 6: The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter

Chapter 7: The Adventure of the Abbey Grange

Chapter 8: The Adventure of the Second Stain

Foreword to The Valley of Fear

Chapters 10-16: The Valley of Fear Part 1

Part Six:

Chapters 1-7: The Valley of Fear Part 2

Chapter 8: The Valley of Fear Epilogue

Chapter 9: Foreword to His Last Bow

Chapter 10: Preface to His Last Bow

Chapter 11: The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge–The Singular Experience of Mr. John Scott Eccles

Chapter 12: The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge–The Tiger of San Pedro

Chapter 13: The Adventure of the Red Circle

Chapter 14: The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans

Chapter 15: The Adventure of the Dying Detective

Chapter 16: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax

Chapter 17: The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot

Chapter 18: His Last Bow

........ to be continued ........

Wednesday, May 06, 2020


Ripples from National Theatre Wales on Vimeo.
By Tracy Harris

Directed by Matthew Holmquist

For full details of cast and crew go to

For a while it looked like audiences wouldn’t get to experience Tracy Harris’s powerful new play Ripples. On the day before the first performance the run at Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama was cancelled due to the situation regarding Covid-19. The production was Sherman Theatre’s collaboration with Royal Welsh College for it’s NEW: 2020 new writing festival.

However, a month on from that disappointment, the play will finally be seen in the first of our Network Play Readings. The original cast of final year RWCMD acting students will perform a revised, virtual version of the play directed by Matthew Holmquist, from their own spaces where they wait out lockdown.

Network is our digital programme of work providing opportunities for artists and audiences to create and experience theatre during the time that we are kept apart. For more information visit

I think it is a mistake disabling embedding.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Voyage autour de ma chambre

Xavier de Maistre
His Voyage autour de ma chambre (1794), is a parody set in the tradition of the grand travel narrative, is an autobiographical account of how a young official, imprisoned in his room for six weeks, looks at the furniture, engravings, etc., as if they were scenes from a voyage in a strange land. He praises this voyage because it does not cost anything, and for this reason it is strongly recommended to the poor, the infirm, and the lazy. His room is a long square, and the perimeter is thirty-six paces. "When I travel through my room," he writes, "I rarely follow a straight line: I go from the table towards a picture hanging in a corner; from there, I set out obliquely towards the door; but even though, when I begin, it really is my intention to go there, if I happen to meet my armchair en route, I don’t think twice about it, and settle down in it without further ado." Later, proceeding North, he encounters his bed, and in this way he lightheartedly continues his "Voyage".
This work speaks to me just at the moment.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Hash Browne: Lock-Down Diaries III

I made hash browns from scratch yesterday because rather than despite it being so time consuming. This is not a good sign.

I carefully grated the potatoes and onions ("How can you mend a broken heart" by Al Green was playing so I was already crying.)

Then I dumped the mixture into a colander and squeezed the liquid out by hand for five or ten minutes, before adding egg and seasoning, then batch frying.

Only another twenty three and a half hours of displacement activity to find after that and I was home free.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Mrs Chicken

Mrs Chicken’s Hen House is open from 10 a.m. until dusk Monday to Saturday. Could anything be more romantic than being open until until dusk?


Price list

This can be a great place to live sometimes.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Herkimer's Handbook of Indispensable Information.

It seems that I like to share an O. Henry story with you every fifteen years or so (see Icons passim). This one is a little tribute to Dad who introduced me to it and brought me up to appreciate both Herkimer's Handbook of Indispensable Information and Homer K. M. (C.P. Snow's Two Cultures in the five-dollar word version) without me even realising that was what he was doing.

Here we go. It is actually called - no sniggering at the back - The Handbook of Hymen, and it is in the public domain. You've all got time to read it in lockdown and lockdown is really what it is about.

'Tis the opinion of myself, Sanderson Pratt, who sets this down, that the educational system of the United States should be in the hands of the weather bureau. I can give you good reasons for it; and you can't tell me why our college professors shouldn't be transferred to the meteorological department. They have been learned to read; and they could very easily glance at the morning papers and then wire in to the main office what kind of weather to expect. But there's the other side of the proposition. I am going on to tell you how the weather furnished me and Idaho Green with an elegant education.

We was up in the Bitter Root Mountains over the Montana line prospecting for gold. A chin-whiskered man in Walla-Walla, carrying a line of hope as excess baggage, had grubstaked us; and there we was in the foothills pecking away, with enough grub on hand to last an army through a peace conference.

Along one day comes a mail-rider over the mountains from Carlos, and stops to eat three cans of greengages, and leave us a newspaper of modern date. This paper prints a system of premonitions of the weather, and the card it dealt Bitter Root Mountains from the bottom of the deck was "warmer and fair, with light westerly breezes."

That evening it began to snow, with the wind strong in the east. Me and Idaho moved camp into an old empty cabin higher up the mountain, thinking it was only a November flurry. But after falling three foot on a level it went to work in earnest; and we knew we was snowed in. We got in plenty of firewood before it got deep, and we had grub enough for two months, so we let the elements rage and cut up all they thought proper.

If you want to instigate the art of manslaughter just shut two men up in a eighteen- by twenty-foot cabin for a month. Human nature won't stand it.

When the first snowflakes fell me and Idaho Green laughed at each other's jokes and praised the stuff we turned out of a skillet and called bread. At the end of three weeks Idaho makes this kind of a edict to me. Says he:

"I never exactly heard sour milk dropping out of a balloon on the bottom of a tin pan, but I have an idea it would be music of the spears compared to this attenuated stream of asphyxiated thought that emanates out of your organs of conversation. The kind of half- masticated noises that you emit every day puts me in mind of a cow's cud, only she's lady enough to keep hers to herself, and you ain't."

"Mr. Green," says I, "you having been a friend of mine once, I have some hesitations in confessing to you that if I had my choice for society between you and a common yellow, three-legged cur pup, one of the inmates of this here cabin would be wagging a tail just at present."

This way we goes on for two or three days, and then we quits speaking to one another. We divides up the cooking implements, and Idaho cooks his grub on one side of the fireplace, and me on the other. The snow is up to the windows, and we have to keep a fire all day.

You see me and Idaho never had any education beyond reading and doing "if John had three apples and James five" on a slate. We never felt any special need for a university degree, though we had acquired a species of intrinsic intelligence in knocking around the world that we could use in emergencies. But, snowbound in that cabin in the Bitter Roots, we felt for the first time that if we had studied Homer or Greek and fractions and the higher branches of information, we'd have had some resources in the line of meditation and private thought. I've seen them Eastern college fellows working in camps all through the West, and I never noticed but what education was less of a drawback to 'em than you would think. Why, once over on Snake River, when Andrew McWilliams' saddle horse got the botts, he sent a buckboard ten miles for one of these strangers that claimed to be a botanist. But that horse died.

One morning Idaho was poking around with a stick on top of a little shelf that was too high to reach. Two books fell down to the floor. I started toward 'em, but caught Idaho's eye. He speaks for the first time in a week.

"Don't burn your fingers," says he. "In spite of the fact that you're only fit to be the companion of a sleeping mud-turtle, I'll give you a square deal. And that's more than your parents did when they turned you loose in the world with the sociability of a rattle-snake and the bedside manner of a frozen turnip. I'll play you a game of seven-up, the winner to pick up his choice of the book, the loser to take the other."

We played; and Idaho won. He picked up his book; and I took mine. Then each of us got on his side of the house and went to reading.

I never was as glad to see a ten-ounce nugget as I was that book. And Idaho took at his like a kid looks at a stick of candy.

Mine was a little book about five by six inches called "Herkimer's Handbook of Indispensable Information." I may be wrong, but I think that was the greatest book that ever was written. I've got it to-day; and I can stump you or any man fifty times in five minutes with the information in it. Talk about Solomon or the New York Tribune! Herkimer had cases on both of 'em. That man must have put in fifty years and travelled a million miles to find out all that stuff. There was the population of all cities in it, and the way to tell a girl's age, and the number of teeth a camel has. It told you the longest tunnel in the world, the number of the stars, how long it takes for chicken pox to break out, what a lady's neck ought to measure, the veto powers of Governors, the dates of the Roman aqueducts, how many pounds of rice going without three beers a day would buy, the average annual temperature of Augusta, Maine, the quantity of seed required to plant an acre of carrots in drills, antidotes for poisons, the number of hairs on a blond lady's head, how to preserve eggs, the height of all the mountains in the world, and the dates of all wars and battles, and how to restore drowned persons, and sunstroke, and the number of tacks in a pound, and how to make dynamite and flowers and beds, and what to do before the doctor comes—and a hundred times as many things besides. If there was anything Herkimer didn't know I didn't miss it out of the book.

I sat and read that book for four hours. All the wonders of education was compressed in it. I forgot the snow, and I forgot that me and old Idaho was on the outs. He was sitting still on a stool reading away with a kind of partly soft and partly mysterious look shining through his tan-bark whiskers.

"Idaho," says I, "what kind of a book is yours?"

Idaho must have forgot, too, for he answered moderate, without any slander or malignity.

"Why," says he, "this here seems to be a volume by Homer K. M."

"Homer K. M. what?" I asks.

"Why, just Homer K. M.," says he.

"You're a liar," says I, a little riled that Idaho should try to put me up a tree. "No man is going 'round signing books with his initials. If it's Homer K. M. Spoopendyke, or Homer K. M. McSweeney, or Homer K. M. Jones, why don't you say so like a man instead of biting off the end of it like a calf chewing off the tail of a shirt on a clothes- line?"

"I put it to you straight, Sandy," says Idaho, quiet. "It's a poem book," says he, "by Homer K. M. I couldn't get colour out of it at first, but there's a vein if you follow it up. I wouldn't have missed this book for a pair of red blankets."

"You're welcome to it," says I. "What I want is a disinterested statement of facts for the mind to work on, and that's what I seem to find in the book I've drawn."

"What you've got," says Idaho, "is statistics, the lowest grade of information that exists. They'll poison your mind. Give me old K. M.'s system of surmises. He seems to be a kind of a wine agent. His regular toast is 'nothing doing,' and he seems to have a grouch, but he keeps it so well lubricated with booze that his worst kicks sound like an invitation to split a quart. But it's poetry," says Idaho, "and I have sensations of scorn for that truck of yours that tries to convey sense in feet and inches. When it comes to explaining the instinct of philosophy through the art of nature, old K. M. has got your man beat by drills, rows, paragraphs, chest measurement, and average annual rainfall."

So that's the way me and Idaho had it. Day and night all the excitement we got was studying our books. That snowstorm sure fixed us with a fine lot of attainments apiece. By the time the snow melted, if you had stepped up to me suddenly and said: "Sanderson Pratt, what would it cost per square foot to lay a roof with twenty by twenty-eight tin at nine dollars and fifty cents per box?" I'd have told you as quick as light could travel the length of a spade handle at the rate of one hundred and ninety-two thousand miles per second. How many can do it? You wake up 'most any man you know in the middle of the night, and ask him quick to tell you the number of bones in the human skeleton exclusive of the teeth, or what percentage of the vote of the Nebraska Legislature overrules a veto. Will he tell you? Try him and see.

About what benefit Idaho got out of his poetry book I didn't exactly know. Idaho boosted the wine-agent every time he opened his mouth; but I wasn't so sure.

This Homer K. M., from what leaked out of his libretto through Idaho, seemed to me to be a kind of a dog who looked at life like it was a tin can tied to his tail. After running himself half to death, he sits down, hangs his tongue out, and looks at the can and says:

"Oh, well, since we can't shake the growler, let's get it filled at the corner, and all have a drink on me."

Besides that, it seems he was a Persian; and I never hear of Persia producing anything worth mentioning unless it was Turkish rugs and Maltese cats.

That spring me and Idaho struck pay ore. It was a habit of ours to sell out quick and keep moving. We unloaded our grubstaker for eight thousand dollars apiece; and then we drifted down to this little town of Rosa, on the Salmon river, to rest up, and get some human grub, and have our whiskers harvested.

Rosa was no mining-camp. It laid in the valley, and was as free of uproar and pestilence as one of them rural towns in the country. There was a three-mile trolley line champing its bit in the environs; and me and Idaho spent a week riding on one of the cars, dropping off at nights at the Sunset View Hotel. Being now well read as well as travelled, we was soon pro re nata with the best society in Rosa, and was invited out to the most dressed-up and high-toned entertainments. It was at a piano recital and quail-eating contest in the city hall, for the benefit of the fire company, that me and Idaho first met Mrs. De Ormond Sampson, the queen of Rosa society.

Mrs. Sampson was a widow, and owned the only two-story house in town. It was painted yellow, and whichever way you looked from you could see it as plain as egg on the chin of an O'Grady on a Friday. Twenty-two men in Rosa besides me and Idaho was trying to stake a claim on that yellow house.

There was a dance after the song books and quail bones had been raked out of the Hall. Twenty-three of the bunch galloped over to Mrs. Sampson and asked for a dance. I side-stepped the two-step, and asked permission to escort her home. That's where I made a hit.

On the way home says she:

"Ain't the stars lovely and bright to-night, Mr. Pratt?"

"For the chance they've got," says I, "they're humping themselves in a mighty creditable way. That big one you see is sixty-six million miles distant. It took thirty-six years for its light to reach us. With an eighteen-foot telescope you can see forty-three millions of 'em, including them of the thirteenth magnitude, which, if one was to go out now, you would keep on seeing it for twenty-seven hundred years."

"My!" says Mrs. Sampson. "I never knew that before. How warm it is! I'm as damp as I can be from dancing so much."

"That's easy to account for," says I, "when you happen to know that you've got two million sweat-glands working all at once. If every one of your perspiratory ducts, which are a quarter of an inch long, was placed end to end, they would reach a distance of seven miles."

"Lawsy!" says Mrs. Sampson. "It sounds like an irrigation ditch you was describing, Mr. Pratt. How do you get all this knowledge of information?"

"From observation, Mrs. Sampson," I tells her. "I keep my eyes open when I go about the world."

"Mr. Pratt," says she, "I always did admire a man of education. There are so few scholars among the sap-headed plug-uglies of this town that it is a real pleasure to converse with a gentleman of culture. I'd be gratified to have you call at my house whenever you feel so inclined."

And that was the way I got the goodwill of the lady in the yellow house. Every Tuesday and Friday evening I used to go there and tell her about the wonders of the universe as discovered, tabulated, and compiled from nature by Herkimer. Idaho and the other gay Lutherans of the town got every minute of the rest of the week that they could.

I never imagined that Idaho was trying to work on Mrs. Sampson with old K. M.'s rules of courtship till one afternoon when I was on my way over to take her a basket of wild hog-plums. I met the lady coming down the lane that led to her house. Her eyes was snapping, and her hat made a dangerous dip over one eye.

"Mr. Pratt," she opens up, "this Mr. Green is a friend of yours, I believe."

"For nine years," says I.

"Cut him out," says she. "He's no gentleman!"

"Why ma'am," says I, "he's a plain incumbent of the mountains, with asperities and the usual failings of a spendthrift and a liar, but I never on the most momentous occasion had the heart to deny that he was a gentleman. It may be that in haberdashery and the sense of arrogance and display Idaho offends the eye, but inside, ma'am, I've found him impervious to the lower grades of crime and obesity. After nine years of Idaho's society, Mrs. Sampson," I winds up, "I should hate to impute him, and I should hate to see him imputed."

"It's right plausible of you, Mr. Pratt," says Mrs. Sampson, "to take up the curmudgeons in your friend's behalf; but it don't alter the fact that he has made proposals to me sufficiently obnoxious to ruffle the ignominy of any lady."

"Why, now, now, now!" says I. "Old Idaho do that! I could believe it of myself, sooner. I never knew but one thing to deride in him; and a blizzard was responsible for that. Once while we was snow-bound in the mountains he became a prey to a kind of spurious and uneven poetry, which may have corrupted his demeanour."

"It has," says Mrs. Sampson. "Ever since I knew him he has been reciting to me a lot of irreligious rhymes by some person he calls Ruby Ott, and who is no better than she should be, if you judge by her poetry."

"Then Idaho has struck a new book," says I, "for the one he had was by a man who writes under the nom de plume of K. M."

"He'd better have stuck to it," says Mrs. Sampson, "whatever it was. And to-day he caps the vortex. I get a bunch of flowers from him, and on 'em is pinned a note. Now, Mr. Pratt, you know a lady when you see her; and you know how I stand in Rosa society. Do you think for a moment that I'd skip out to the woods with a man along with a jug of wine and a loaf of bread, and go singing and cavorting up and down under the trees with him? I take a little claret with my meals, but I'm not in the habit of packing a jug of it into the brush and raising Cain in any such style as that. And of course he'd bring his book of verses along, too. He said so. Let him go on his scandalous picnics alone! Or let him take his Ruby Ott with him. I reckon she wouldn't kick unless it was on account of there being too much bread along. And what do you think of your gentleman friend now, Mr. Pratt?"

"Well, 'm," says I, "it may be that Idaho's invitation was a kind of poetry, and meant no harm. Maybe it belonged to the class of rhymes they call figurative. They offend law and order, but they get sent through the mails on the grounds that they mean something that they don't say. I'd be glad on Idaho's account if you'd overlook it," says I, "and let us extricate our minds from the low regions of poetry to the higher planes of fact and fancy. On a beautiful afternoon like this, Mrs. Sampson," I goes on, "we should let our thoughts dwell accordingly. Though it is warm here, we should remember that at the equator the line of perpetual frost is at an altitude of fifteen thousand feet. Between the latitudes of forty degrees and forty-nine degrees it is from four thousand to nine thousand feet."

"Oh, Mr. Pratt," says Mrs. Sampson, "it's such a comfort to hear you say them beautiful facts after getting such a jar from that minx of a Ruby's poetry!"

"Let us sit on this log at the roadside," says I, "and forget the inhumanity and ribaldry of the poets. It is in the glorious columns of ascertained facts and legalised measures that beauty is to be found. In this very log we sit upon, Mrs. Sampson," says I, "is statistics more wonderful than any poem. The rings show it was sixty years old. At the depth of two thousand feet it would become coal in three thousand years. The deepest coal mine in the world is at Killingworth, near Newcastle. A box four feet long, three feet wide, and two feet eight inches deep will hold one ton of coal. If an artery is cut, compress it above the wound. A man's leg contains thirty bones. The Tower of London was burned in 1841."

"Go on, Mr. Pratt," says Mrs. Sampson. "Them ideas is so original and soothing. I think statistics are just as lovely as they can be."

But it wasn't till two weeks later that I got all that was coming to me out of Herkimer.

One night I was waked up by folks hollering "Fire!" all around. I jumped up and dressed and went out of the hotel to enjoy the scene. When I see it was Mrs. Sampson's house, I gave forth a kind of yell, and I was there in two minutes.

The whole lower story of the yellow house was in flames, and every masculine, feminine, and canine in Rosa was there, screeching and barking and getting in the way of the firemen. I saw Idaho trying to get away from six firemen who were holding him. They was telling him the whole place was on fire down-stairs, and no man could go in it and come out alive.

"Where's Mrs. Sampson?" I asks.

"She hasn't been seen," says one of the firemen. "She sleeps up-stairs. We've tried to get in, but we can't, and our company hasn't got any ladders yet."

I runs around to the light of the big blaze, and pulls the Handbook out of my inside pocket. I kind of laughed when I felt it in my hands—I reckon I was some daffy with the sensation of excitement.

"Herky, old boy," I says to it, as I flipped over the pages, "you ain't ever lied to me yet, and you ain't ever throwed me down at a scratch yet. Tell me what, old boy, tell me what!" says I.

I turned to "What to do in Case of Accidents," on page 117. I run my finger down the page, and struck it. Good old Herkimer, he never overlooked anything! It said:

Suffocation from Inhaling Smoke or Gas.—There is nothing better than flaxseed. Place a few seed in the outer corner of the eye.

I shoved the Handbook back in my pocket, and grabbed a boy that was running by.

"Here," says I, giving him some money, "run to the drug store and bring a dollar's worth of flaxseed. Hurry, and you'll get another one for yourself. Now," I sings out to the crowd, "we'll have Mrs. Sampson!" And I throws away my coat and hat.

Four of the firemen and citizens grabs hold of me. It's sure death, they say, to go in the house, for the floors was beginning to fall through.

"How in blazes," I sings out, kind of laughing yet, but not feeling like it, "do you expect me to put flaxseed in a eye without the eye?"

I jabbed each elbow in a fireman's face, kicked the bark off of one citizen's shin, and tripped the other one with a side hold. And then I busted into the house. If I die first I'll write you a letter and tell you if it's any worse down there than the inside of that yellow house was; but don't believe it yet. I was a heap more cooked than the hurry-up orders of broiled chicken that you get in restaurants. The fire and smoke had me down on the floor twice, and was about to shame Herkimer, but the firemen helped me with their little stream of water, and I got to Mrs. Sampson's room. She'd lost conscientiousness from the smoke, so I wrapped her in the bed clothes and got her on my shoulder. Well, the floors wasn't as bad as they said, or I never could have done it—not by no means.

I carried her out fifty yards from the house and laid her on the grass. Then, of course, every one of them other twenty-two plaintiff's to the lady's hand crowded around with tin dippers of water ready to save her. And up runs the boy with the flaxseed.

I unwrapped the covers from Mrs. Sampson's head. She opened her eyes and says:

"Is that you, Mr. Pratt?"

"S-s-sh," says I. "Don't talk till you've had the remedy."

I runs my arm around her neck and raises her head, gentle, and breaks the bag of flaxseed with the other hand; and as easy as I could I bends over and slips three or four of the seeds in the outer corner of her eye.

Up gallops the village doc by this time, and snorts around, and grabs at Mrs. Sampson's pulse, and wants to know what I mean by any such sandblasted nonsense.

"Well, old Jalap and Jerusalem oakseed," says I, "I'm no regular practitioner, but I'll show you my authority, anyway."

They fetched my coat, and I gets out the Handbook.

"Look on page 117," says I, "at the remedy for suffocation by smoke or gas. Flaxseed in the outer corner of the eye, it says. I don't know whether it works as a smoke consumer or whether it hikes the compound gastro-hippopotamus nerve into action, but Herkimer says it, and he was called to the case first. If you want to make it a consultation, there's no objection."

Old doc takes the book and looks at it by means of his specs and a fireman's lantern.

"Well, Mr. Pratt," says he, "you evidently got on the wrong line in reading your diagnosis. The recipe for suffocation says: 'Get the patient into fresh air as quickly as possible, and place in a reclining position.' The flaxseed remedy is for 'Dust and Cinders in the Eye,' on the line above. But, after all——"

"See here," interrupts Mrs. Sampson, "I reckon I've got something to say in this consultation. That flaxseed done me more good than anything I ever tried." And then she raises up her head and lays it back on my arm again, and says: "Put some in the other eye, Sandy dear."

And so if you was to stop off at Rosa to-morrow, or any other day, you'd see a fine new yellow house with Mrs. Pratt, that was Mrs. Sampson, embellishing and adorning it. And if you was to step inside you'd see on the marble-top centre table in the parlour "Herkimer's Handbook of Indispensable Information," all rebound in red morocco, and ready to be consulted on any subject pertaining to human happiness and wisdom.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Donna Trump

Kevin said "Donna Trump" this morning, conflating a mutual friend and the 45th POTUS.

Freudian slip, eggcorn, malapropism, lapsis or simply a pun; who knows?

When you're right, you're right.