Wheear ‘ast tha bin sin’ ah saw thee


According to Google Translate this means ‘where on earth have you been’. Not an unreasonable question. Well I have been in a dark place, fighting dragons and demons and indeed SAS airlines and the Norwegian airport system. The last few months have not been happy ones. Even my garden let me down or I it. Most of my beloved roses were reduced to skeletons by (probably) sawfly larvae. One died. Alas poor Winchester Cathedral. One flourishes – Rosa versicolor.

The house still is not finished. Close but not there yet. After the scheduled completion date we embarked on a trip to Svalbard or Spitsbergen. I still have not grasped the difference. We went looking for polar bears, walruses, whales, seals and of course birds. I felt a bit like Irving Berlin at the end of the trip:

We joined the Vavilov to see the world. And what did we see? We saw the sea.

We saw only one PB at close quarters. A rather undernourished looking female ambling across an island devoid of ice. Much of our trip was spent looking for ice that seemed to be constantly moving ahead of us and breaking up as it did so. Polar Bear face

Arctic Landscape

Getting to and from Longyearbyen was an assault course designed to test the mettle of any traveller. Short connections, bizarre customs rituals and Oslo airport that could double as an obstacle course in case of need. You have 55 minutes starting……. now. Oh sorry, we are running 45 minutes late. But never mind. Give it a go.

I foolishly assumed that by the time we returned summer would have started. Alas again, we appear to be bypassing it altogether. A few stubborn and resilient plants have popped their heads up. Many have succumbed to slugs. What the garden needs is a hedgehog that I can unleash at dusk. Maybe a whole family of hogs, craving for gourmet sluggish sustenance. Slug en croute perhaps. Or Slug meunière. Slow-cooked of course. Pulled Slug.

As seems to be happening increasingly frequently I started something (this post) and then forgot about it. All sorts of things intervened. One of the GPs at our local surgery saw me at short notice when I returned from Svalbard. Or was it Spitsbergen. I entered the NHS lottery and got a ticket for 2 weeks later so I did what everybody should. I went to the surgery and demanded to see someone. Rather surprisingly I was given an immediate slot. The doctor peered at me intently and largely dismissed my worries. Don’t fret pet, she said. Take a bucket of steroids for 5 days and it will go away. Probably an allergy. Oh and that looks like a skin cancer on your arm. I used to be a dermatologist you know. This meant entering another NHS lottery and drawing a ticket to the hospital in a few months time. Or I could go to a rural outpost and see someone in only 7 weeks. So I am going to the wastelands of Eastleigh soon to see if my arm has to come off. I wish I were ambidexterous but sadly I’m still officially CofE.

As I write today St. Theresa, patron saint of bodily ills, is about to be anointed as the country’s PM. I have rather robust views on what has happened in Britain recently. I was out of the country for the stitch up referendum and my plan is to spend even more time outside Little England before long. The neo-colonialists should all get a 1930s map of the world and some red crayons to colour in the bits they want back. Then I hope St. Theresa sends them off to be missionaries in Equatorial Guinea or Strasbourg. Originally I thought only the cast of Coronation Street had voted leave but it seems Costa Geriatrica did the same. We had some dreadful people from Gosport on TV this evening bleating on about how they wanted a Leave PM. I expect I will upset a few people if I carry on so enough on this matter. As they sew, so shall they reap. I hope St. T does a jolly good job but I doubt if she will bring in the necessary experience to deal with the likes of the knife-wielders. I think Ken Clarke should have stood. A seriously good man. Very strong on birds. TM appears to be the first person since LBJ to become leader by doing absolutely nothing. Cameron’s suicide was heartily welcome but to see the Leave lemmings then hurl themselves onto their swords faster than you can say Christiano Ronaldo would have been even more entertaining if there had been someone with an ounce of charisma to take over.

And that is a neat segue into the joys of Euro 2016, which was won by a moth called Autographa gamma, or Silver Y. Had Wales played in the final they would have won I am sure. Ditto Iceland. I was lucky enough to meet Chris Coleman on Saturday and buy him lunch to say diolch. The Welsh team played entertaining soccer and that of course goes against the entire ethos of the tournament. I hope Chris takes us to greater glories in the next World Cup. As Iceland managed to do so well I hear that Waitrose may enter a team too.

At this point I am wondering, as no doubt are you, whether there is a point to this post. And that is precisely why I have been silent so long. All my good ideas vanish the moment I become conscious. The good news is that we are back in HK next month and I am going on to Sydney. Then we come back only to hot foot it to Venice again. Although I do wonder whether Britain will be just as much under water as La Serenissima by then.

And with that I think it is time to hibernate again. Be careful out there.





56 thoughts on “Wheear ‘ast tha bin sin’ ah saw thee

  1. So glad to hear you’re still on this side of the grass!!
    I hope all of your travels happen without incident and you enjoy your gallivanting.
    Give Lulu kisses for me. Sorry to hear she’s not feeling fluffy. Being apart from her parents probably makes her sad.
    Take care!! Hope to hear of your adventures soon!!

  2. Did you enjoy our three hot days this summer :), sorry to read of your suspect skin cancer my Mum’s had three cut out one a malignant melanoma so we’re paranoid about skin care in our family. Enjoy Venice.

  3. And you be careful out there, too, Andrew. It was good to finally hear from you, but as you embark on the next set of travels and adventures, collect memories to share with us, and some more of your photographs, while avoiding all the woes of health, gardening, global warming or freezing, and other maladies. 🙂

    • I will try to share more photos Marylin. I have a few from the arctic trip that are worth keeping / sharing. I miss my trips to WP but I will try to carve out more time. It is easier when the daylight hours are shorter.

  4. I think about you on and off Andrew
    Please take care of yourself
    I know how hard it is when you get …….
    Being proactive with your health is hard
    Try not to stress out to much
    About what you can’t control
    Prayers and blessings
    As always Sheldon

  5. Hi, missing friend, our referendum miseries and garden miseries duplicate yours, though I have some brave tomatoes shivering in the greenhouse. Our resident hedgehog is only marginally interested in the slugs and he couldn’t keep up even if he tried. A few weeks ago we had the yearly mating ceremonies – a lot of snuffling and grunting and two hedgehogs circling each other endlessly. I watched for a bit, then continued on my slug-hunting trail. Round the corner hiding behind a large pot, I came across a third hedgehog! No dent in the slugs pop though, they are eating plants that they have never touched before. Nature is just too clever for me. We are escaping to Venice by train in mid-late September.

    • Hi Hilary, we may see you in Venice then! We are there the last week – our 4th visit. I am watching the DVD Francesco’s Venice for ideas. Today we have been visited by a swarm of bees. Life is nothing if not eventful. I must go and see if your book has been released yet as I am off to HK and want to take a copy for a friend. I promise I’ll go to your blog too. Best wishes, Andrew

    • Your book arrived today Hilary and I have started dipping into it as an interlude from David Copperfield. I have nothing but admiration for you in undertaking such a labour of love. It arrived with ‘Venice Walks’ and my reading pile is now approaching a foot high. I discovered a few minutes earlier that our (wild) rabbits have devastated my Rudbeckias. It’s not easy being a friend of wildlife.

  6. What a coincidence. I was just humming “”On Ilkla Moor bar tat ” the other day as I wondered what you had done with your self. Well, obviously the first is a bald faced lie and the second almost as hairless as I did know where you were. But it was fun quoting that which I had never heard.

    How fortunate for you to meet a hero of the Wales entry. I hope he was having a nice meal for your treat. Had he known who knows what delicacies he would have ordered. I know I would.

    I hesitate to suggest this knowing what you have invested, but maybe you should sell the estate and follow Sandra’s lead by finding a small apartment and traveling the world for months at a time. Living in GB does not seem to be making you delirious with joy.

    • I like the idea of travelling Steve but not convinced by a small flat. I hope Bentley is well. Lulu is on 3 legs at the moment, poor thing. We hope she gets herself sorted out as we don’t think she would survive an op. GB is not good but we will persevere a little longer.

      • Oh no, that is not good news at all about the Princess. What is her diagnosis? I didn’t think she was in old age yet so the doubts about surviving surgery makes me wonder about that.

        Do you still own the 2nd place in HK? That would be a nice anchor but I guess it’s a great distance from quite a bit of what might beckon you.

        I hope the spot on your shooting arm proves negative. I’ve had a few spots on my forehead and schnoz but to date they have seemed bordering on benign and requires only some blasts of liquid nitrogen to freeze them off. The doctor suggested some sort of cream but said it would make me increasingly hideous for a few months before returning to borderline hideous. I opted for the freeze. I hope at the most you only need some LN2.

  7. I wrote the most wonderful, thoughtful comment, one that would have filled your heart with sunshine and singing birds, and the darn thing didn’t post. So, you have to do with this poor excuse that I found in a local Op Shop.

    If you do get to meet Gerard and Hildi when you’re in Sydney, say hello from me. I’ll be just a touch envious.

    It was so good to have you slide into my reader today.

  8. It was so good to see you lurch into my reader.

    If you meet up with Gerard and Hildi in Sydney, that will be splendid. But, I’ll be mighty envious.

    I wish it had been a Wales-Iceland final.

    Stay gruntled.

  9. Gee it is good to see this post. I had just a minute ago written a “thoughtful” comment but I’ve not the energy to go back again. I’m sorry that you and Mrs H. trip/s to the north were so “sorry.”

    Hope everything is made better when you get back to HG. I have the feeling that you and Mrs. H. might be exiting jolly ole England as a permanent fix sooner rather than later. You do not sound happy with the climate, the house, garden or things in general. Or have you fallen into the category of grumpy ——- man? 🙂

    Do get the spot on your arm taken care of very soon and be sure to ensure that the “mole” or area is biopsied .

    Best regards,

  10. As I so often said before. We will be lucky to get out alive. Glad to see you back, Andrew. We too went through upheavals. In fact, scrutineers are still counting but the PM seems to now have a slim majority. Sanity was left behind a long time ago. As for the Brexit, it was so tempting to blame EU, many thought that by somehow running away, it would solve the home-made problems. Britain loves looking back.
    We are now facing an arctic blast as never experienced before and snow is expected to fall today. This is semi-tropical Australia. We are wrapped in doonas and have both heaters on full blast. Milo is snugly under the table. We know this without looking. A familiar smell of fermented chicken legs waft up and greets our nostrils.
    When in Sydney, love to meet up! We are a bit over a 100km away and often visit our home-turf. By then the snow would have melted and sharks will be roaming the beaches again.

    • I am there on a short business trip Gerard. Fly in in the morning, collected from the airport and hit the road for the first meeting. Britain is some sort of parallel universe at the moment. I suspect I will return from Australia and someone will leap out and shout out ‘April Fool’ and we will all go back to normal. Either that or the lunatics will still be running the asylum.

  11. I bloomin well hope that you’re not lumping me in with the Costa Geriatricas! Heaven forbid, such a thing.
    Your photo of the PB is so depressing and it doesn’t sound like the trip was a huge success.
    Hope your summer perks up, at least you’ve got some good trips planned 🙂 you could always come and live on the Costa- guaranteed sun here and the roses love it 😉

    • I would love to live in Espana Lottie and I certainly would not lump you, a film star, in with the geriatrics. It is a state of mind after all and you are but a young fawn. I gave the PB some Prozac and she cheered up a bit. Told me all sorts of (blue) whale jokes. I could never live in the Arctic – no roses.

  12. Hello, hello, goodbye… Wasn’t that a song title?
    Anyway, I too was glad to hear from you.
    Our Winchester Cathedral rose bloomed but all the others, though spectacular for 48 hours, were reduced to brown pompoms by the rain.b
    St Cecilia, St Swithun and Pilgrim gave up their ghosts and Maygold fell off the wall when the wet weighed down her prolific blossoms.
    More power to your elbow and may your arm improve, even if you do have to visit Beastly Eastleigh.
    I’m off to Basingstoke to have my meniscal tear scraped tomorrow. Maybe I will be able to play tennis thereafter, though I never could before!
    Enjoy Sydney! Wish I was there, though it is snowing there at the moment….

    • Well I hope the trip to Basingstoke was successful. I have been through it at speed on a train but never actually ventured beyond looking at the platforms at the railway station. Are you not heading in an antipodean direction? My roses were bare root and the expert says they probably had waterlogged roots due to the winter deluges. Ho hum. Even the Clematis died. Wilt, you know. Not so much green as black fingers, I suppose.

      • We were heading for Oz until the £ fell against the Aussie dollar. We will wait in rental in the Cotswolds for a year, to achieve the visa and then check things out before making the ultimate decision.
        The NHS in Basingstoke was first class, I must say. Staff couldn’t have been kinder and was pleased with the anaesthetist and surgeon.
        So, Candia goes to The Cotswolds…. a new chapter.
        By the way, her poetry anthology ‘Its Own Place’ is available from the cathedral shop and Wells, College St……

  13. So tha’s not bin on Ilkley Moor baht ‘at then? Coincidentally I’m seeing a dermatologist on Thursday (brought forward from the 27th) regarding more suspicious blemishes on my face (I’ve lost count now of the keratoses, BCCs, Bowen’s tumours and SCCs. Good to have you back!

    • Oh Willo, I hope you are above suspicion! I have no idea what sort of skin cancer the expert thinks I have and I shall worry about that if she is right. I’m told it is probably down to spending too much time in HK. I suspect the doc has never been beyond Bognor but there we are. Happy days.

      • It was a different doctor this time and he asked if I had ever been exposed to the sun. I replied that I had spent 17 years in Zambia. He snorted and said, ‘I’ll take it that’s a “yes”, then!’ He didn’t even bother with biopsies – just zapped three places with cryotherapy and said he would instruct my GP to prescribe some cream if any more should appear. He also gave me a full body examination, but apparently didn’t find any other nasties (I’ve already had one removed from my leg). I hope the one on your arm isn’t too sinister.

  14. Welcome back to Little England . Please note not all geriatrics voted ‘Out’.
    Thanks for identifying the Paris Moth.
    If you can find a natural way, in addition to hedgehogs, to remove
    slugs from our tender and not so tender plants please POST.
    We do have quite a variety of slugs as we don’t use poisons, they are quite colourful creatures, I wish I could get to like them a bit more. If only we could train them to eat dandelions. Enjoy HK and Venice we are trying Northumberland later in the year.Looking forward to the photos.

    • I am sure you didn’t vote Out Geoff but many of our generation did. I have no problem with those who voted Out after careful thought. I know some otherwise quite bright people who voted Leave fully understanding the consequences economically. However they felt it was crucial to bring back all legal matters to within our own powers. That’s fair enough. Many though don’t understand the benefits the EU has brought along with its frustrations. They were not articulated by a panic stricken Remain camp. So lies and fear from the Leave-ites prevailed. We should judge over several years not a few weeks but it will be a rough ride. Those who voted Leave may have the most to lose. We will get through this – we always do – but it won’t be pleasant and I am sure the EU will have to reform as it is not sustainable as it is. We could have stayed in and waited for someone else to bring things to a head and then pushed for the changes we wanted. Better inside the tent than out. (LBJ). Enjoy Northumberland. I fancy The Farnes!

      • Thanks Andrew, I don’t think I ever heard anyone articulate the benefits to the UK of the EU, a missed opportunity I found most odd.

  15. Ah thank goodness, a voice of reason. Have missed your musings so will read and enjoy this one twice as it seems you are to desert us again. I’ve deserted my posts too. Far too much going on in the media to miss, there’s only so much one can do, and rather than setting out my stall over the ghastly Brexit mess, I’m revealing in hearing the rants of others. Don’t stay away too long but enjoy your travels, keep well and forever curmudgeonly!

  16. Happy to read a post from you! Look forward to reading your next entry whenever that will be. Safe travels!

  17. Look on the bright side, you don’t have to water the garden with expensive metered water. On politics, it could be far worse, Corbyn could be prime minister, God help us. Guess he wouldn’t though as the government wouldn’t believe.

  18. Mother nature has not been kind this summer around the world, but it sure sounds as though you received quite a beating from her. Things have to get better from here – right?

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