Tuesday

Just a note to let you know that my reflections will be being posted on their own site soon. Check back for the address. I am a bit slow in getting it how I want it.

Monday

I awake early having had a strange dream involving me being chased by a giant prawn. I am on a bicycle with a basket on the front and, in that basket, are three of my specimen jars containing Adeltrout, and my two sons, Lionel and Jonah. I can understand why specimen jars might feature in my dream, but have no idea where the giant prawn comes in. I don't even like them.
I mention my dream to Hermione over a breakfast of sausages and eggs. She can't explain the prawn either, but suggests that it might have something to do with the images of our previous night's fun being projected onto a surreal backdrop. Maybe.
After breakfast, I read for an hour in the garden - Humbold's Exotica Lograrithmica again. Hermione comes out with a sandwich box and says I had better get going to my class. I have enrolled to do a beginner's course in Microsoft Access in the town. I think it will be useful to catalogue my collection.
I walk to the Mumford Farnsworth College of Further Education and take my place in front of a computer in Room B16 along with 10 other people. Our tutor turns out to be an extremely attractive middle-aged lady called Fiona. She wears a crisp white blouse that rustles nicely against her to my great satisfaction. I am going to enjoy this once a week eight-week course. We continue learning the rudiments of the programme until 4pm. During our break for lunch Fiona asks why I want to learn about Access. I tell her it's for my collection and she laughs like a horse. And I mean like a horse. I don't think I have ever heard a laugh like it. Almost disturbing.
After the class I walk home, pausing for a while in the park to sit on a bench. I watch as some children throw stones at the ducks, which sensibly move off into the centre of the pond out of harm's way. I can't abide cruelty, yet recall with some guilt my own sadistic childhood torture sessions with insects. Never animals or birds, but insects, yes. In fact, perhaps I still do torture insects. If I am taking a sample in an outdoor location and an insect enters the specimen jar during the period of exposure, it stays there. I have to watch as it starves to death.
Home and a team of pork chop, potatoes and carrots. In the evening I play a game of Scrabble with Hermione. I pick up 17 points for the word 'prawn'. We laugh. Later while Hermione watches the television, I continue with Humbold. To bed thinking about the rustling of Fiona's blouse. I hope for a crustacea-free night.


Sunday

Up and breakfast with the wife. I relate Neddy's tale about his sister. Hermione wonders how she would get any hoovering done after nights of such action. She says that we had never managed to do it five times a night even in the first flush of our youthful ardour. I did remind her of that time on the swings in the Mulberry Playground at 3am, though.
After the most satisfactory of ablutions I fetch my black suit from the wardrobe and put it on. After a wait for Hermione to put on her black dress we walk into town to attend Edgar Pink funeral at the local Crematorium. I tell Hermione on the way that I enjoy a good funeral. They are like school reunions. I can't say I knew Edgar very well and I am not taking a sample today, as that is reserved only for family and specials occasions, such as Diana's funeral (bloody Adeltrout!). The service starts at 10.30am and we are the first to arrive outside the chapel of rest. Edgar's wife, Betty, had died some year before in an accident involving a tea cosy. It had fallen off a kitchen unit onto the floor and when she came into the kitchen to make a cup of tea she slipped on it and banged her head on the cooker. And that was that. In fact, the last time I saw Edgar was at his wife's funeral. That was quite an occasion, but I fancy this will be small. They had no children and Edgar was not one for socialising. I worked with Edgar 30 years before at Hankwells & Chumpney's and even then he wasn't a live wire.
I'm proved right. At 10.30am there are only 10 of us in the chapel. The Death Registrar, or whatever he's called, goes through the motions and we sing a desultory hymn, then the curtains open and through Edgar goes.
Outside I talk to his next door neighbour, who says her name is Lottie. She tells me that Edgar died about a month before he was found! She had been on holiday in Spain so wasn't around to notice he wasn't around. He was found sitting in his armchair with the telly still on. I wonder if he died of boredom watching yet another programme about celebrity gardens or hairdos. She says he was 'a bit of a mess' when he was found, which is sad, as he was quite a fastidious dresser as I recall. I talk to one or two other people there: another old work friend of his, called John, a women called Flo and a young man called Jed. We all agree to wander to the pub for an early lunch.
All in all, this turns out to be a good idea. After a couple of drinks we find we are having a good time and we don't leave the pub until 4pm! I talk about my hobby collecting air, Jed says he works in the bookmakers and used to chat to Edgar occasionally and Flo says she had an affair with Edgar 20 years before! Amazing! Visions of five times a night swim into my head again.
Leaving the pub Hermione and I find we are quite tiddly. We stop off on the way home for some fish and chips. Once home, we open a bottle of wine to accompany our fish supper, watch some television and go to bed early.....once, for your information.

Saturday

A surprise journey to Scotland means I am away from my computer for two days, hence the break. Two days ago I get an early morning call from Neddy Finch to say he will be climbing Ben Nevis the following day and, knowing that I have no sample from the top of Scotland's highest mountain in my collection, offers to take up a jar and return it to me. I need no time to make up my mind. I have the top of Scafell Pike in England (No 874) and Snowdon in Wales (No 932), so this will make a nice addition.
I tell Hermione of my good fortune and set off to the railway station to start my journey.
Nine hours later I find myself in the Inverlochy Hotel in Fort William sharing a whisky with Neddy as he tells me of his plans for the following day. I have known Neddy since school and he is an experienced mountaineer. He is also the man who passes wind more than anyone I know. He tells me that his sister was recently in the News of the World when she was exposed as being the lover of a middle aged TV presenter. She apparently boasted of "doing it" five times a night, which, said Neddy, came as something of a surprise to her husband. "I was lucky if I got it five times a year," he was reported as saying. I have too many whiskies and retire to bed after leaving the specimen jars with Neddy.
The next day, Neddy sets off to meet his fellow climbers for what he calls a "day's jaunt" and I plan a thoroughly lazy day. I have a huge breakfast and then have a read of the papers in the lounge. I take myself off to the West Highland Museum in the town centre. Here is the Alexander Carmichael Collection, of which, I confess, of having never heard. He collected old prayers, poems and songs. I then spend too long in a pub and come back to the hotel for a sleep and a dip into Blantyre Humbold's Exotica Logarithmica. Hilarious.
That evening, Neddy returns with my jars and we share some more whiskies. Good climb, he says. Bracing. I'll take his word for it. To bed having drunk too many whiskies and having sung an obscene song about Neddy's sister.
The next morning I am up and off to the station to get the train home. Arrive back that evening to find Hermione has cooked a lovely tea of potatoes, peas and steak pie. I label up the Ben Nevis jar and read while Hermione watches the television, including a programme where celebrities cook a dish made up of ingredients selected being with the letter R. Rubbish is the word that comes to my mind.

Wednesday

Up at 6.30am with Hermione, quick breakfast, pick up two specimen jars (always take a spare!) and into town to catch the train to Derby. Having bought our return tickets at an astronomical price we climb aboard the 8.10am. At this time of the morning there are a lot of people going to work with a look in their eyes I remember well: the look of the dead commuter. We settle into our second class seats opposite a young man who is reading the Daily Mail. The headline shouts out WHY IS THIS EVIL MAN ON THE STREETS! We exchange smiles as we sit and he continues to read. He has a strange moustache, a bit like Hitler's. I have to force myself not to look at it. Has no one told him that modelling facial hair made popular by the Fuhrer may not be a good idea?
At 8.27am the train pulls out of the station. The journey takes 90 minutes and is I have to say a pleasant one. I have always enjoyed the train as a mode of travel. We pull into Derby at 10.10am, leave the station and get a taxi to Ashbourne and St Oswald's. Lovely church, with splendid spire. We are a bit early, so I take a stroll around the graveyard while Hermione sits on a bench. Sobering places graveyards. Such varying degrees of fairness can be seen. Hilda Ninn, wife of Henry, fell asleep on 3rd February 1910, aged 97. Good innings, you think. John Gallween, beloved son of Ida and Charlie, entered into His arms on 13 March 1987, aged 2 months. His smile lights up Heaven. Oh Lord, you think. The pain.
The other guests at the christening start to drift up. Most of them I don't know as they are the young friends of Festulla and her husband, Offa. Lee, who is only four weeks younger than John Gallween was when he died, is asleep. I leave Hermione chatting with people and go into the church to place the air specimen jars near to the font. After the service, which is no different from any other christening, I collect the jars and seal them using the special silicon-hybrid capping lids I have started to use. The vicar asks me what the jars are for and looks at me strangely at me when I tell him that collecting air is my hobby. I am used to such a reaction.
We retire to The Green Man & Black's Head in the town. Nice old inn. Strange name and not politically correct in this day and age. After some sandwiches and two pints of beers (for me - port and lemon for Hermione) we take our leave to catch the train home.
Back at home at 5pm. Tea of fish and chips which we pick up from Mr Fatties. I spend the rest of the evening reading, and labelling up one of today's jar (No. 1080) and putting it with the ones from other family occasions. Hermione watches television. I sit and wonder if there is any mileage in collecting air samples from celebrity graves. I mull over such a theme in bed and then fall asleep, like Hilda Ninn.

Tuesday

Up and out early for a walk to the newsagents to pick up the paper. A largely uneventful half an hour walk is only enlivened by the sight of a tramp urinating in the doorway of MacDonalds. Perhaps he is protesting about globalisation. Home for breakfast and a read of the paper.
Resume the task of converting Adeltrout's room. Most of the shelving is up now, so it is just a question of the painting and lighting. The lighting, I know, will take some time, as the individual bulbs to illuminate the jars must each be put into position in the housing on the shelves. The jars will be placed over the small bulbs to be lit from below. It is rather like putting up hundreds of Christmas tree lights.
Hermione comes in to say she has had a call from Adeltrout. She has had her first argument with Norbert over what to watch on television. Hermione talked her round, thankfully. I don't want to convert the room back. Hermione thought I was a bit quick off the mark in turning Adeltrout's room into my third exhibition room. No time like the present. I told her.
After a lunch of cheese sandwiches I take myself into the garden to compose my letter on dog poo to the Jowler. Sir, I write, I notice that many of your correspondents write in to complain about the preponderance of dog dirt in the parks and on the pavements. I do not see what the problem is. As long as you are careful about were you tread, you should be able to avoid the dog mess you sometimes come across. I do not hold with the idea that owners should be made to pick up after their dogs, who are, after all, only doing what comes naturally. It is demeaning to force people to handle dog dirt. Lay off dog owners and take more care when walking. Yours etc.That should get a reaction. I spend the rest of the afternoon reading When A Trout Sings, a novella by Blantyre Humbold.
Over a dinner of shepherd's pie and carrots, I show my letter to Hermione. She says I am terrible.
In the evening we watch television. A programme on celebrities' pets sends me to bed with Blantyre Humbold.

Monday

Awake to find the wife is already up and about and making the first pot of tea of the day. Another warm day beckons and it is still only 7.30am. The air is hazy. After reading the paper, having some breakfast and performing my ablutions to my great satisfaction, I set to work on the shelving in Adeltrout's former room. The conversion from a teenage den to display room will enable me to expand my collection by around another 300 specimens. I am now at number 1,079 and I have not yet even started the new themed project. I think at some stage I will have to build some sort of outhouse in the garden to house my entire collection. We have quite a large garden, so it won't be much of a problem to find space. I have been thinking about this for a while now.
A lunch of cheese sandwiches with the wife in the garden. We discuss the day's news from the local paper, the Weekly Clarion It reports on three muggings, a woman who broke her hip falling over outside the Mr Fatties chip shop on Bignall Road, and a lost parrot called Nosferatu. Hermione doesn't know who Nosferatu is. All I know is that he is something to do with Dracula and it was a black and white film featuring a bald man with long fingers who crept about. The muggings worry Hermione, who insists there are more now than there used to be. I am not so sure.
More shelving work until 3 o'clock, when I go out for a walk. I sit for a while on a bench in Poundlarch Park and watch the ducks for a while and think about possible interesting additions to my collection. In two days I am going to a christening. Hermione's niece, Festulla Harvey, had a baby boy four weeks ago and he will be christened Lee in St Oswald's in Ashbourne. I have a family collection, so it is expected of me to go and add Lee's first formal event. Not an interesting one, nor a challenge, but it will fit in with the numerous weddings, funerals and what have you that have built up over the years.
On my way out of the park I step in some dog dirt, a problem which is a perennial topic in the local paper and one that rouses the elderly population especially to incandescent apoplexy - more so than muggings or missing parrots. I make a mental note to send a letter about the subject to the paper to provoke some entertaining responses.
Home and a tea of sausages, potatoes, peas and gravy. Watch the telly for a while. To bed, leaving Hermione watching a programme featuring celebrities talking about their favourite colours.

Sunday

Quote of the Day
"Better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth a prove it"


Why now? Why start now? Well, it's never too late. Unless you are dead, that is, when it really is too late to do anything about anything. So let's begin but not at the beginning....

Work on the conversion of the third bedroom to house my collection continues nicely. Adeltrout, our youngest daughter, moved out last week to live with Norbert, who she plans to marry next year. This is the modern way of doing things, I am told by Hermione, my wife of 30 years. We never lived together before wedding, I said to her. She says it was a pity we hadn't because then it might not have taken so long for her to educate me on how to use my winkle to her satisfaction.
The weather remains hot, as it has been for some days now. This has meant work on putting up the shelving in the Adeltrout's bedroom has been rather sweaty. I am pleased Adeltrout has moved out as she was of an age (19) that meant she played her music loud and was prone to handling things carelessly. She had three weeks before broken Bottle 784 (Diana's Funeral, September 7, 1997. 11.30pm, Westminster Abbey) showing it to her friend Tilly. This was most annoying as it was in the category of irreplaceable, unlike many of the others, such as Bottle 439 (Dickens' house at Gad's Hill) or 532 (Buckingham Palace, London).
After a satisfactory amount of shelf work, I continue with my enquiries via the Internet into more suitable containers that will prove Adeltrout-proof and guaranteed air tight for 5,000 years. While being transparent, of course. A firm in Denver think they can help me.
In the evening, following a light dinner of ham and potatoes, Hermione tells me that Edgar Pink has died. She reads out his obituary from the local paper, the Weekly Clarion. He is, or should I say was, only two years older than I am.
After a quick look at Bottles 210-250, bed. Hermione being tired, my winkle remains bereft of continuing further education.