11. Odd Things.
The remarkable ‘homing instinct’ of an ass, taken
from a footnote (the fifth) to p.552 of: ‘An Introduction to Entomology’, Kirby
& Spence. Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts.
The following striking
anecdote of this last species of instinct, in an animal not famed for sagacity,
was related to me by Lieutenant (now Lieut.-Colonel) Alderson (Royal
Engineers), who was personally acquainted with the facts. — In March, 1816, an
ass, the property of Captain Dundas, R. N., then at
email written by Norman Field on
It's not too bad here. There are two and a half days left to
finish packing. Wednesday, half of Thursday, and Sunday. I've got this one last
inconvenient gig in
I shall just treat it as a 'mini-holiday break'. They're all good friends on the gig (Spats Langham, Malcolm Sked, Danny, Martin Litton), so the playing won't be a problem. In fact it should be a pretty good session, all things being equal!
If for any reason there is any hitch with the completion & house-moving &c. on Monday, I couldn't care less! I am safe in the knowledge that I have definitely done everything I was supposed to do: pay out money from my own pocket (totalling nearly £1,000) for all sorts of unexpected extra costs; knock £3,000 off the selling price, do this, do that, &c. The only thing I wanted & requested, was to gain 'early access' to my new property for half a day in order to take the 78 records and other delicate breakable things there myself. There has been a profound silence from the conveyancers on this one; but I will 'phone them again tomorrow morning. Still, I have a feeling it's not going to happen.
Not only that. A few days ago, I cancelled my monthly mortgage payment to the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society, on the perfect ground that the payment they received at the beginning of September was the last one. They are to be paid off in full on 24th September, so there will be no instalment due 1st October. Nevertheless, I soon received a letter from the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society, which stated: "Your bank has informed us that you have cancelled your direct debit to us...", and went on to say that direct debits are by far the most efficient way of making mortgage payments, &c., &c., and that I was advised to contact them with a view to reinstating payments &c., &c. I was extremely annoyed at this. Of course I know that my bank, LloydsTSB, and the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society are one and the same financial institution. But still, I had thought, in my abysmal ignorance, that the manner in which I conducted my bank account was somehow private between myself and my bank. Not so: doubtless the 'small print' in one of the two or three closely-printed leaflets we receive per year on the ever-modified 'Terms and Conditions' of our bank covered this one. We just never read them thoroughly enough, is all.
In short, I now realise that my grandfather was quite correct in generally describing solicitors, estate agents, banks, building societies &c., as '... all bloody scrawns...'. I don't think he invented this word himself; though it is an extremely expressive one: the sort of word that might just possibly be improvised during an inspired moment of resentment against those sorts of people. Actually, when he said it to me - it was about 1955 - it may even have been one of the last times it was ever used? I haven't been able to find it anywhere on the 'net. It must surely have its root in 'scrawny'; but I think the sense must have changed considerably. 'Scrawny' in today's sense - gaunt, bony, scraggy - seems to be derived from the Norse skrann which simply means 'lean', and - apparently - has no deleterious implication.
However, I propose that this (now presumably extinct)
In fact, I'm so pleased with the above, that I'm going to put it
on my web site! And if LloydsTSB or the
Take care, and love to you both,
Once more on the topic of ‘lost’ animals that may travel extremely long distances to return home. From pp 217-8, ‘The Real Wagner’, Rudolph Sabor. Cardinal Books, London 1989.
Some of Wagner’s lesser follies are so incredible that they take one’s breath away. Cosima notes in her diary:
“Richard tells me of a dog who was sold to an English master. In Dover, the dog escaped and swam and then trotted back to his first owner in Aschaffenburg.” (CWT II 551: 23.6.1880)
Swam? Across the Channel? And then trotted 550 miles to Aschaffenburg? If Wagner could really believe this, then he could believe anything.
Actually, while generally sharing Sabor’s scepticism, it is not inconceivable that the dog stowed away on the – or a – returning ferry. But that is pure speculation. Some of the chapters in his excellent book bear a quote, usually from a letter of Wagner’s. My favourite one by far is: “What makes you think I could ever have enough money?” I cannot argue with a single syllable, even a single letter of that question! It sounds to me like the purest distillation of all possible logic.
Taken from ‘The Diary of a Cotswold Parson’ – the Reverend F E Witts (1783–1854). Edited by David Verey. Sutton Publishing, Stroud, Gloucestershire. Revised edition, 1998. This fascinating book was kindly presented to me by F E B Witts, the great-great-grandson of the subject of the book, when my little band played, under his aegis, for a village party in 1999.
September 29th, 1826. They say the march of intellect is wonderful these days. Men navigate by steam, tram carts travel by steam; but this is nothing to the present fashion of travelling by paper kites. To-day we witnessed the experiment made at Gloucester. For some days I had noticed two large paper kites hovering over the town. They were hoisted by a school master who amused himself with mechanical pursuits, letting off balloons etc. The wind being westerly, was favourable for an excursion to Cheltenham so he orders out his gig, or rather I think it was a four wheeled chair, attaches it to two paper kites, mounts with two or three companies and away they go, not very rapidly, not at a very regular pace, but progressing. The corners are turned cleverly by the charioteer sitting on a kind of dickey, beneath which the string of his kites is wound round a cylinder acted on by a winch. As for the kites they are careering steadily, one considerably in advance of the other, and at a much greater height. The cord attached to the further passes through the centre of the nearer, so one cord is attached to both, and both work in the same direction, thus double power is gained. The drive to Cheltenham was no doubt safely accomplished as we set out soon after and did not overtake them.
Page modified 31st March 2014.