Saturday, 21 April 2012


Spring is sprung
Grass is rizI wonder where de bodies is
Dey say de boids is on the wing           
But that's absoid
because de wings
is on de Boid.

Today is the official start of Spring.  It matters not that Mother Nature - (kittle old bitch) has been sending us Daffodils, Primroses and Snowdrops for ages.  In France nothing starts before officialdom has cleared it.  It is now in the Diary and so Sarko must have cleared it.  It is wonderful that he has the time, what with 123 cars to look after - not to mention his huge and randy wife - still I suppose that he has underlings to cope with all these things and to make sure that he is late for all appointments, as a President should be. 

    Spring in Normandy is lovely and I have been watching it all from the original signs of Burgeoning, as I plod round the lanes in my Mobility Scooter.  I now have a proper card with a piccy to say that I am disabled, so there.  I used to miss trudging over the Cheviots, but I now have the doubtful excuse for not doing it, but I still miss it, as I miss Foxhunting and Deer Stalking and all the other things that have brought me enormous pleasure, but which I am no longer capable of - Eheu Fugaces!  but if I look up at the wall above my desk, I can see the big coloured print of me hacking on with hounds to the Opening Meet in 1974 - long ago and very far away and me just as skinny as a Yard  of Pump Water.  Different days indeed - I remember that when I took the Dartmoor in 1963 I had a 38 inch chest.  I measured it again the other day and it is near as dammit 5 foot.  Well I don't suppose I shall ever be measured for another red coat nor mount a horse to carry it on.  There is no hunting in this part of Normandy.  There used to be a pack of foxhounds that hunted the cliffs on the Channel but Sarkozy, who I suspect of unsporting ideas went and built a huge nuclear power station all over their country, so that has buggered that.  I did actually see a fox the other day, as I was scootering into the town.  It shot into a cundy under the road.  I was half minded to lowse the little dog who was riding on the scooter, but the thought of having to explain (in Norman) to a French Gendarme (who did not speak Norman) why I needed to howk up the road was just too tiresome and I was late for lunch and I being late for lunch would have made me late for Mme Marianne who manipulates my shoulder (but sadly nothing else) just made it all too difficult - I am retired, after all and seeking peace and quiet.  I do often think, as I troll about the lanes, what an excellent bit of country this would be for pack of harriers or even beagles.  There is a problem in as much as this country is wired like a birdcage - IT MUST HAVE BEEN QUITE A NICE BANK COUNTRY ONCE, but anyway the French are funny about hares - except for shooting them.  When we lived in the Vienne, the best hunting we had was with a rather sharp pack of harriers.  The problem was that they caught too many hares and so the local powers that were stopped them - very strange.
    I have been very impressed about how careful motorists are about me and my scooter as we troll along at 8 kph, but I have now discovered that if you are involved in an accident with a bicycle in France you are regarded, both by the law and the Insurance, as being at fault.  I suppose that my funny little scooter is regarded as being an object regarded with extreme caution and suspicion - I am not a bicycle, but legally I might be, so Prenez Garde.

     Many of you readers, always supposing that there are  'Many', may assume that I have no weaknesses.  Well, I agree that they are 'gey few', but I will put my hands up for whisky and tobacco - no, not fags; I have not smoked a ciggy since I was 17, when I started with my pipe.  I also love cigars (when I can afford them).  I used to stock up on them when my journalistic duties took me to Cuba.  On the last occasion, I bought a travel bag and put 600 into it.  Now I knew that my duty free limit was 50 cigars, so when I got back to London, I went (me being a law abiding little chap) through the Red Channel and told the man that I had some cigars: how many? 600! He sucked his teeth!  Did I know how many I was allowed to bring in? 50, I said, he sucked his teeth again! Well he would have to check them.  This meant that he should have summoned a boffin.  The boffin would have taken a slice out of every cigar and done some scientific test with it (600 times) - this might have taken some time; It was late on a Sunday night; the man was tired and near the end of his shift;  he took a policy decision-
   He sucked his teeth again;   'Look!' he said – “Why don't, why don't you  just Fuck Off!” so  I picked up my bag and did as I was told.  It took me over a year to suck my way through my legally held contraband;  It pays to be righteous

Thursday, 8 March 2012



Speaking French is bad enough, but now I am having to learn Norman as well. It is a Patois and I have been speaking patois various all my life. Nowhere has more Patois than England - for instance I can speak Cornish, Devon (Anglo- Saxon) N.Yorkshire, Northumbrian, Ulster, I used to think that I spoke good southern American until I was told

'No, but you speak good Nigra', I do a fair Ballspond

Road.... I once wrote an entire 1,000-word article in

Northumbrian dialect; the Editor was not 'best suited'. Dialects (patois) have always fascinated me. When I was a child every field on the farm had a name in Cornish. Nobody could translate them for me. Nobody speaks Cornish any more except, the odd Druid and there are some very odd ones. The last person who spoke native Cornish was a lady called Dolly Pentreath and she died in 179? I am told that Cornish was very similar to Bretagne, or even some versions of Welsh, but - watch out the Cornish hate the Welsh (‘they bliddy old welshies") don't ask me why.

Place names are funny things. There was an isolated steading on the Cheviot (now there's an odd one - Cheviot is supposed to be Pictish) Hills. The Steading was beside an old drove road and it was called 'Sea View': This was odd as it was 20 mils from the North Sea, for any crow with several hill ranges in between. I asked a local chap about the name. He laughed and said that it was probably 'See Few' and 'Man, 'he said' they were gey right aboot that'.

To go back to Norman Patois - it is strongly preserved amongst older people in remoter places, but if you are a keen hunting man in England, much Norman will be familiar to you. Many of you will have shouted 'War Riot!' at a young hound hunting a rabbit. Have you ever asked yourself 'why?' after all the young hounds are not breaking shop windows and stealing TV sets. No - Ryot was Norman for Rabbit. There is a 'Ferme Ryot' just up the road from here. What about 'Tally Ho ?' 'Il est haut' is Norman for ' he is roused'. Now try saying 'Il est haut' several times very quickly and you soon get 'Tilly ho!' So the French French have changed it to 'Tai-oh!". The French think that that Normans are a bit 'Local', as the posh people in Sussex refer to those who sound a bit 'Saxon'.

Ghyll Head is an iconic name for the Family Poole. Ghyll is a norse word for Slack, Haugh, Goyle, or any other patois word meaning a small valley. Ghyll head is an old stone house on the banks of Lake Windermere.

The northern basin of Windermere - Photo courtesy John Morrison

It was the ancestral home of the Pooles for some 400 years. It is now an adventure HQ for Manchester council. The Pooles fell out of it when the 19C Incumbent - John Poole set off in his boat one dark and stormy night for a rendezvous on the other side of the Lake. He was never seen again, although the empty boat was washed up on the Lakeside. That was the end of the family connection with the Lakes after some 600 years, although you will find many Memorials amongst the stones in the charming little Church at Cartmel Fell - just over the hill. My father celebrated the family connection by registering Ghyllhead as the Kennel Name for all his dogs - "There were Pooles before there were Lakes" so no more Pooles, but you can still find Ranter and Nigel of Ghyllhead in the Book - 'what's in a name?'