Unfortunately I never got chance to study literature at school. For some bizarre reason I had to make a choice between that subject and geography and, not keen on getting lost in the world, coupled with the offer of rainy day field trips to the Brecon Beacons, Geography narrowly won the day. Ironic really - when I consider my current profession. Stupid too, having to make such sacrifice – but then my school did things like that. Art was another thing I am sorry I missed, in favour of history or rugby or some other essential. As a result I wouldn’t know a Goya from a Gammon-steak and for years I thought that Hertz Van-Rental was a Dutch painter! Anyway, my reason for broaching this subject is that, although I never analyzed works by Arthur Conan Doyle, I am pretty sure his words were highly intellectual and contained meaningful stories about good and evil, right and wrong and possibly large dogs in deerstalkers. So how did the BBC end up with such a load of bastardized piffle as the current Sherlock Homes series, which bears about as much relevance to the traditional stories and characters as my cat does to a dancing walrus! In it we see Benedictine Cucumber-patch generally making a complete arse of himself in something that would more befit a comic Carry-On caper rather than a detective story. I half expected Sid James to make an appearance, or Norman Wisdom to come on and fall over. Maybe I have been misled, but isn’t Sherlock supposed to solve crimes? Perhaps he could start with the biggest crime so far this year – that of the BBC allowing this twaddle onto our screens.
I don’t want to speak too soon but, for once, this winter has been a bit kinder when it comes to the ‘big freeze’ issues, possibly making some newspaper sensational headline-writers redundant in the process. Not that nature has been completely nice, with its blowing down of age old trees and a gallant attempt to drown us all. On this latter issue, I would like to make an observation regarding Britain’s coastline, with particular reference to sea-walls, and it is this. ‘If the wind is blowing up 20 feet high waves and you have a notion to walk on the harbour wall to take photos, don’t expect to live long.’ And furthermore, please do NOT expect to be rescued from the bottom of the ocean by the coastguard with your Nikon round your neck. Remember, stupidity is still the number killer in the world.
Well, by the time this gets to print, we will be hopefully high up on a mountain where no floods can reach us, possibly in a cabin buried under snow. It has been a few years since I had skis on, a fact that was quite telling when I found that my ski-suit appeared to have shrunk since its last use. In a vain attempt to get it back on again, I have now joined the local gym, something I haven’t done in years either. In fact it is so long since I have been in one of those mirrored environments, that I now have no idea what half the machines do, nor how to work them. Gone are the days when you could just hope on a cycle-machine and pedal away a few pounds. No, now it has gone all hi-tech. Apparently I can simulate going uphill, downhill, forest-track, velodrome, even Boris-bike death-wish rides. In front of me, gadgets, TV screens and gobbledegook words tell me how many calories I am using, how close my heart is to exploding while my pulse defies medical science, how hot I am and what a fat-boy I have become. Meanwhile, my own personal wafer-thin health-and-safety executive hangs around in her lycra, making sure I don’t die on the premises. I was quite surprised she didn’t make me wear a cycle helmet! Gleefully she informs me that, if I am going skiing, I should do some ball exercises! I’ve no idea what they are and I’ve been too scared to go back again to find out!
As we are heading to colder climes, the subject of winter-wear raises its ears above the parapet once more. Last summer, on possibly the hottest day of the year, I purchased an excellent winter coat, at a discount from a down-on-his-luck trader at an agricultural show. Wendy was with me at the time and I tried to persuade her to do the same. But no, she didn’t need a new coat – then. Strangely though, now it is minus 5 outside, she does. So off we go to the January sales, northwards into deepest Scotland to a shop called the House of Bruar. Those of a country pursuit persuasion may have heard of this place which is like the clothing equivalent of Fortnam and Masons. Prince Charles shops there, apparently. And Donald Trump. Not unlike F&M, they don’t lower themselves to such vulgarities as winter sales. I should have been put off by their slogan on the door which said, ‘.. if you have to ask the price, then b*gger-off to Primark!’ We now have a ‘his and hers’ country look. His: cheap and practical – hers: looks good with heels! Sadly, the winnings from our subsequent day at the races didn’t even manage to pay for the fuel to get there, let alone the jacket.