Peter Rhodes on wise owls, curious computers and a muddy re-run of The Italian Job

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Wise as a chicken
Wise as a chicken

Do bear with me. I have just got a new computer. New computers tend to have one thing in common. They are a bit like your old computer but not as good. This one thinks “the” should appear as “themselves.”

You won't find this day, November 21, marked in bold type in any desk diary or calendar and yet it has always struck me as a very special day . For from today it's only one month to the winter solstice. Just four short weeks and the days start getting longer and, like kids perched at the top of a water slide, we can see the summer shimmering in the distance. This time, with 2020 vision.

Meanwhile, festivity approaches. This silly little game is guaranteed to break the ice at parties. In a bold and accusing voice, you simply state: “Somebody in this room is pretending to be an owl.” Some clot always asks: “Who?”

I once met a woman who kept a barn owl. She was an accountant and the owl would sit on her shoulder as she studied the profits and losses of several small firms. And although she knew that the owl was scarcely any brighter than the average chicken, she could never shake off the feeling that the owl was very wise and was studying the accounts and taking it all in. A A Milne has a lot to answer for.

Great excitement on the farm track near Chateau Rhodes where a mattress-company delivery driver, diverted off the main road and looking for somewhere to turn around, had slipped off the track and into the ditch with the front of his huge van hanging precariously over the field. Movie buffs will instantly recognise the final scene in The Italian Job.

The van driver said: "I am so stupid, so stupid" He said this many times until he realised no-one was arguing with him. Unlike The Italian Job, the load was mattresses, not gold bullion, and there was no Michael Caine saying:"Hang on a minute, lads. I've got a great idea." In fact nobody had a great idea. The only ideas we had were to push it (hopeless), pull it (even more hopeless) and finally call the farmer who turned up with a tractor as big as a barn and uprooted that truck from the mud like a cork from a bottle. It ended with smiles and handshakes all around and was all rather undramatic which was a shame because I was rather hoping we could blow the bloody doors off.

In passing, the farmer explained he had run out of dry land for his latest muck heap and would be siting it in our eye line at Chateau Rhodes. When it comes to muck heaps, it's not the eye line that matters, it's the nose line.

It is a strange thing, in this progressive world of ours in which animal products are steadily being replaced with plant-based stuff, that nobody has yet invented vegan manure.

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