Tuesday 23 September 2014

From our Travel Corresondent

Coventry named as top holiday destination 

(headline in today’s Coventry Telegraph)

Ahhh - Yesss! I've spent many a happy ten minutes  soaking up the sun in the trendy, fun-filled Costa del Walsgrave, feasting on the local delicacy, the quaintly named Pork Batches, and taking selfies of me and mine with the statue of the Local Celebrity, (an eleventh century upper-class poll tax protester with a penchant for getting her kit off) and wandering awestruck through Coventry's shining example of  20th century architectural and artistic excellence known as the new Cathedral, aptly dedicated to St Michael, the patron saint of undergarments.

Then we can recommend the celebrated Tour of the Ruins – both those which Goering destroyed (the old Cathedral) and those which the Council Planning Department destroyed (the rest of the city centre.)

The shopping experience is breathtaking.  Visit the exotic Stoney Stanton Road. Here, you  can easily buy as many saris, burqas , jellabas, any other exotic clothing you might happen to need., a range of Oriental sweetmeats guaranteed to pile the pounds on, and  blingy gold and jewellery by the hundredweight, guaranteed to get you mugged the moment you go out wearing it. Meanwhile the kids can have hours of fun playing Spot the White Man.

If you crave a bit of excitement, you can try a circuit of the Ring Road. A 10-15 minute thrill-packed ride, ending up back where you started. Or in A and E. Or possibly somewhere more permanent.  You don’t get that kind of buzz at Alton Towers.

All in all, Cov is up there with the coolest holiday resorts in the country. Grimsby,  Barnsley, Accrington, immediately spring to mind..  So next time you want a break you’ll never forget,  remember our slogan. Don’t Book it – Fook it!

Saturday 6 September 2014


O what tricks the ancient mind doth play! 

I was rabbiting on to somebody about the Middle East situation, noting that there are two main Muslim sects. (and yes I do know there are others!) 

So far, so good…………

“They're called Sunni and Sushi “ - quoth Uncle Phil the fount of  all knowledge


Thursday 17 July 2014

Through a Glass, Darkly

I’m more than a bit worried about me, lately,  in that my chronic absent-mindedness is beginning to morph into full blown senility. Doddering and incontinence are now only just over the horizon,  I fear. 

Take yesterday morning for instance. I was proceeding along the road outside of the garden centre, on autopilot, head-in-the-clouds as usual.  Realised suddenly that I needed to chuck a right to go into  the car park.

Having established that  there was nothing lethal coming towards me, I went to check for traffic coming up behind.

So I glanced into my offside wing mirror, as you do.

At which point reality kicked in, and I realised that I wasn’t actually in the car, but pushing a mirrorless trolley full of pots of Dahlias.

(Now there’s an idea for you, Tesco. Fit your trollies with wing mirrors. Every little helps !)

Monday 21 April 2014

Gardener’s World

I was cataloguing some books this morning. This in itself is hardly hot news - I spend half my life feeding in ISBNs and describing every minor blemish to dustwrappers in excruciating detail. The latter mainly as a cover-my-arse stratagem for customers who can’t be bothered to read descriptions properly, and try to send books back on almost any pretext, and worse, give me crap feedback. (The most consistent sinners in this regard come almost invariably via Amazon, for some reason. )

But that’s an anecdote for another time, perhaps. Revenons aux jardins.

Some way down the tottering pile I came across a book on roses* (Staple-bound card covers, in As New condition, 64pp including index,  in case you care.)

Now as it happens we are just re-designing our garden. I say ‘we’ but in truth I have little to contribute as far as detail goes – if pushed I‘d probably make a right prat of myself by confusing Pelargoniums with Pergolas, or Ena Harkness with Ena Sharples.  

The family conversation has tended lately to veer towards the Titchmarsh end of the spectrum at almost every opportunity.  It’s  been Begonias for breakfast, Lobelias for lunch and Dahlias for dinner, chez Phil.  And it’s not just about plants – the minutiae of such fascinating constructional necessities as paving slabs and fence posts, decking boards and half-log rails, sheds and skips, are a constant theme. I can only pray that  ‘Capability’ James (Mrs)  doesn’t get ideas about a water feature – or  ‘Incapacitated’ James (Mr) will have to permanently live in the loo!

Anyway – there was talk of replacing some of our rose bushes, because the current crop had gone well triffidy since last summer and were not only maliciously trying to ensnare the dog every time she went anywhere near them, but they were going to be in the way of the proposed new fencing.  And guess who was given the job of getting rid of the redundant  ramblers, leaving him with a back out of kilter and thorns in  his hands and arms that are still painfully surfacing a fortnight later.

So as I picked up the book I thought “I’ll have a quick shufti  – maybe I can mug  up a quick Bluffer’s Guide.”

A substantial section of the book is given over to listing all the various varieties of Tea roses, Floribunda, Climbers, and so on , each with a short description of its good and bad points. Gripping stuff.

Until about half way through I came across this example:

ANGELA RIPPON: Popular  for bedding and exhibiting………..

At which point all ambitions towards horticultural understanding went out the window,

In yer dreams, James!

*Rose Jotter, by Dr D G Hessayon- £4.95 from any good bookseller, or £2.50  from Uncle Phil’s Books. (including p&p, natch.)

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Snakes and Ladders

It’s been a funny sort of week.  A week of highs and lows. Mostly lows. My knee and ankle joints have been playing up, and what with the chronic back trouble, some mornings I’ve hardly been able to walk. Or, and it’s been a big Or, do stairs. Up or down.  But I suppose this is all part of getting on a bit, so I shouldn’t complain. The alternative is, after all,  worse.  Nevertheless, boxes of books seem to be getting heavier by the week, lately.

It would appear though, that I’m not the only thing chez Uncle Phil that’s approaching its sell-by date. We drove to the bank on Wednesday morning, me to pay some cheques in, Herself to pick up her new goggles from the Specsavers next door.  Did all that – got back in the car.  Went to start the engine, put foot on clutch as I always do, in case I’ve left the car in gear. Clutch pedal goes straight down to the metal - and stays there.  I could move it up and down with my foot, but it didn’t seem to be connected to anything. Least of all, the gearbox.

To cut a long sad story short the RAC, may they live long and prosper, arrived within about 20 minutes, towed us to the garage of my choice, and then their driver, a very very nice man, gave us a lift home.

An hour or so later, the garage rang, to explain exactly what had happened, and what would be needed to fix it. Six hundred and fifty sovs later, I put the phone down and nearly brought my breakfast up.

But later,  I did have one small bit of good luck.  I’d bought a crate of assorted books in an auction.  Actually this is a slight whatever the opposite of exaggeration is – meiosis? litotes? Can’t remember. Go to the bottom of the class, young Philip.  I’d in fact bought 18 crates of assorted books. Which for those of you who generally think of books in terms of one-at-a-time, or have fallen for the e-books sales pitch, is a couple of people-carriers full,- or the best part of a ton.  I ’m thinking of applying for lifting crates of books around to become an Olympic sport.  I’d win Gold every time. And it’s cheaper than joining the gym.

Anyway – I was going through this particular boxful, and I noticed a bit of metal sticking out of the top edge of one of the books. So I pulled it out, to find a nice antique hallmarked solid silver letter opener. Which when I sell it will pay for the whole eighteen cratesful. Not bad, for a bookmark.

People use some odd things as bookmarks. Probably they grab at whatever’s near to hand. We’ve had  over the years (apart from the usual ephemera) a £20 note (useful) an uncashed cheque for over £1000 dated 1950-something (useless)  a 100 fr Swiss banknote (out of date) a Romeo y Julieta (flattened) flowers various (pressed), a hairnet (in holes) a pornographic photograph (kinky) and a slice of streaky bacon (cooked.) This last book we had to dump.

(Later…..) It seems to be my week for precious metals. In another box (same consignment) I found a little book published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, called Gifts of the Magi: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, complete and  in a slipcase, with samples of  the three  gifts, to wit  2 muslin bags containing , in crystalline form, the Sacred Smellies (but please don’t ask me which is which!) and a small corked bottle of spirit containing some flakes of 24 carat gold. Or so it says on the label, and I can’t see the Met telling porkies.

 What will I find next, I wonder.  A Georgian silver teaset? A Faberge Egg?  A Rembrandt etching?  ( I once did find one of those – in a £15 auction lot , not of books, but of pictures.  How much did I get for it? Quite a lot, actually.  

Saturday 29 March 2014

Nought’s  Had: All’s Spent
On almost a daily basis,  our doormat takes delivery of some glossy colour catalogue or other,  distributed by  companies with names like EezyKlene, or Bettastuff, or Happikrapp.  Followed in short order by their  local representatives expecting orders from  said catalogues.  Our current serial doorbell-ringer is a chap of West Indian extraction, who is a self-confessed bookworm, hence high in my estimation, and one of the most pleasant and cheerful men I’ve ever met. I love him to bits.

Nevertheless,  I rather wish I hadn’t met him.

For two reasons. One is that the products these folks try to flog you all have one thing in common; in that on first glance they look amazingly useful in the catalogue, but they read far better than they live; in reality they don’t quite manage to solve problems which before they jumped out at you from the brochure you didn’t actually know you had.  The second is that my Susie is a sucker for all this unnecessary gadgetry, and manages to find something  in every issue that we can’t possibly do without, albeit my personal view is that if I’ve managed without these gewgaws for the last three-quarters of a century I  can comfortably cope without them for however long I’ve got left. 

Her latest ‘investment’ is a little metal filter thingy that drops into the plughole in the bathroom sink.  Ideal, you’d have thought. Clever. Keeps all the hairs and other detritus from blocking up the U-bend. Three quid well spent. (Not that the U-bend has ever blocked itself in the eleven years I’ve known it, but never mind.)

But sadly, in practice it doesn’t quite work like that. Because what happens is that the holes in the filter are so small that the water doesn’t do its usual gurgle-gurgle-gone act, but  filters through so slowly that such personal unwanteds as shaving stubble and expectorated toothpaste stay plastered all over the inside of the basin, so that you then have to dig the bloody filter out so as to swill and wipe the basin clean, instead of just running the cold tap full blast, swishing it around with a hand, and letting the drain take the strain. Not only that, if you do leave the tap running, the sink overflows.

 Which rather defeats the object, I’d have thought. The whole raison d’etre for these companies, they’d have  you think, is to make your life easier.  But most of the time they merely serve to complicate some minor task or other that you’ve been doing on autopilot and with a minimum of trouble all your life

Everybody’s a Comedian

Went for my usual yearly checkup at Specsavers today.  Was told I have a cataract on my right eye, which needs operating on.  Now I hate the thought of anybody mucking about with my eyes, so I asked “What happens if I don’t have it done? “ “ Well” – said the Specsavers lady – “we do a nice line in guide dogs!”