Archive for February, 2011


February thaw. Fingers of dirty snow draw back across the lawn, withdrawing from the street as if contact with the cement was painful. In addition to the litter that rises up from the snow, there is the Sahara of sand. Many people are not keen on salting their paths against the winter ice. “Salt stains the brickwork,” they say, and lay down great deserts of sand instead.

I wonder what these people gain. I have used salt for years, and my path in summer is unstained; you could eat off it; and the stones in my path have, over the years, acquired an attractive patina, a weathered beauty, that pleases me.

At home with the Sahara desert. There isn’t this much sand on my driveway, but it’s pretty close.

I think the attraction that sand has — and I use it myself occasionally for this very reason — is that it provides instant non-slip traction without obliging you to look for a tool of some kind to break up the ice. Admit it, you really don’t want to leave the warm comfort of your living room, do you? Outdoor activity is good, but indoor sloth is better.


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Hmm … a bit late as usual. As so often happens, many of us are so busy looking for love the day itself passes us by, leaving us empty-handed.

Fervent thoughts of love, especially those of love lost (or, one hopes, just delayed in transit), are often experienced for but a brief heart-rending moment, then become the stuff of memory, and frankly best forgotten.

All very easy to say, if you’re an octogenerian and for all practical purposes couldn’t care less. But for a young person to gain one’s love only to have it snatched away, arbitrarily it seems, can be a shattering experience.

But while we live in hope, we are often left asking the question that hovers sometime on every lover’s lips: Why?

Nice doggie, but … those teeth …


What’s Love, that I should singing, singing be?

Be singing ’neath your window, near your bed?

Again last night you set the dog on me.

Ni-i-i-ce doggie; should I sing to you instead?

Your icy smiles—both yours and hers—I dread:

Your teeth; her smile, with just her coral lips;

Both tell me I’ve a loveless night ahead;

Your teeth; her smile, that sank a thousand ships.

Will I e’er drink the cup that Passion sips?

Tonight? Perhaps tonight she’ll welcome me!

As ’neath her sheets this ardent lover slips…

Dream on. Her love for me comes C.O.D.

And so, old dog, just promise not to bite;

Your lovely doghouse will sleep two tonight.

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Any examination of beer consumption, though it may start with a scholarly look at consumption in general, must unavoidably slope off into excess — ribald songs, naked dancing girls, orgies — the whole sordid intemperate story. Sad to relate, but that seems to be the way of things. If there is a deep end, we will go off it.

Records from the sixth century indicate that monks were obliged to perform fifteen days penance if they were “in drink” to the point that they couldn’t speak. The existence of the penance proves the need, and illustrates that monks were at least occasionally speechless from ale.

Beer barrels resting between rounds *

Clerical laws in Saxon times ordered monks to avoid drinking in public places where ale was sold. Now, ostensibly, this could be seen as a curb to ecclesiastical excess. In reality, though, it mustn’t have been too hard to bear. The monastery provided its inmates with two drinking horns of ale per day (that’s two Saxon drinking horns, the big ones, which could have amounted to three or four quarts), and on festival days, of which the calendar was nearly full, twice a day also with wine. Certainly a well-lubricated day.

A pint of the real thing.

Along the same lines is the documented story of William Lewis of Wales who died on the 30th of November 1793 at the very moment he was downing a 40-ounce flagon of ale. Well, there are worse ways to go. A man of upright habits, he read the Bible every morning, and drank eight gallons of ale every night. It was said of him — almost a eulogy, you might say — that in the course of his obviously happy life, he consumed enough ale to float a 74-gun ship. Can you ask for a better epitaph?

In the end, when the discussion of beer consumption is over, the Germans — who else? — have the last word:

“It takes beer to make thirst worthwhile.”


* Photo: www.CGPGrey.com

* Photo: www.CGPGrey.com

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