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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Cactus

Cactus

I’ve never understood you
Or known what you might want
You just sit there year after year, implacably the same
Never growing or shrinking
Your pale green flesh all sheeny shiny
Bristling with hairs and spikes
A defensive exterior
Always showing to the world

But do you have a tender side to your prickly nature?
Is there a more succulent inner plant
That is cool and moist, sweet and gentle
Wet and watery
That you only reveal to closest friends?

I don’t know how to love you
When you just stare straight back at me
No signal of your feelings, nor flower of happiness
You give me so little response
That I often wonder
What it is it you’re waiting for

To me, you seem so undemanding
As if you do not even need me
I cannot comprehend your desires
Sitting in your arid pot and saucer
Happy in your desert dryness
Thriving on my neglect


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Monday, 30 March 2015

A Doll's House

A Doll’s House  
                                          
Observe the finest detail
Of this perfect, tiny, tidy showcase
Everything in its rightful place
Sitting silently
Waiting for someone larger than life itself
To call, to come and play
To bring activity and energy
Into this lifeless land

See how carefully the maker has toiled
How exactly his model replicates reality
With its inter-connected rooms
Its attics, basements and cellars
Doors and floors, halls and walls
A side that opens to the outside
Revealing to wider inspection
That anyone may peer inside
With a genial God-like presence
And watch the goings-on
Of this toy-land territory
Made in matchless miniature

Look how finely-wrought the furniture
The kitchen’s pixie pots and pans
Woollen carpets and silver cutlery
Notice how small the figures
Stiffened little people
Tiny tokens of a household
Scaled-down and smaller than any doll
But still too large to be in right proportion
To the rest of their wooden world

How beautiful, how ideal it all appears
And yet how quiet, dusty and dormant
And how empty this small community
Undisturbed by cries of living children
A shining showpiece
That is a house and yet not a home


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Sunday, 29 March 2015

News From Bromham - Dateline Sunday 29th March 2015

Bulletin From Bromham: Dateline – Sunday 29th March 2015

Here is our weekly round-up of events from Bromham:

1.       Police searching the house of Ray “Looney” Piglet have discovered a cache of torn-up vegetable recipes. The tractor-driver, who deliberately locked his work-mate out of the cabin of his vehicle before deliberately crashing it into the side of a barn, should not have been driving and has been discovered to be suffering from a form of parsnip paranoia.  Crash investigators are continuing to examine the “black box” data recorder from the tractor.

2.       And the Bromham Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been cast into turmoil after reluctantly sacking one of its biggest stars, Jeremy Piglet, from its popular show “Top Tractor”, after he was reported to have had “a minor fracas” with the show’s producer.  The argument was believed to have been over whether peas or cabbage should have been served with the dish of the day on the lunchtime menu of The Wounded Ferret.

3.       For details of these and all other Bromham stories, don’t forget to listen to local radio station Carrot FM.


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Evening Colour

Evening Colour

Where the road sweeps left
Winding through the bud-heavy hedgerows
Cutting, for a moment, the view ahead
The rainfall gathers glistening
In wide, flat pools and puddles
Catching slanting rays of late Spring sun
Glittering, reflecting golden light
In blinding sheets of white

Then swinging right again
Emerging from the tree-lined tunnel
Into a greater and wider space
Which opens up the glory of the sky
So wide, deep, darkly blue
And strongly bruised
The cumulus piled up high
Above plough-roughed fields
Their thick, large-furrowed
Dungeon-black shadowed lines
Gouging through the nut-brown earth

And on the other side
The wet rich acid-green
Of freshened pasture-land
In the rolling landscape
Intense, brilliant, citrus-sharp
Where, at the field’s edge
The young calves stand near the gate
Leaning, lolling heads in to the lane
Curious, wide-eyed, lowing

And far beyond all this
On the distant, climbing fields
Wide sweeps of lemon yellow
Gashed across the scene
Their acres of alien rape-seed stalks
Drawing bolder background stripes
To brighten the glowing vista
Between the twisting road
And the massive sky



Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Friday, 27 March 2015

Attic Treasure

Attic Treasure

Into the headspace of the house
Unwitting keeper of our careless clutter
Silently sitting above us all these years
Among wires, pipes and tanks
Within piles of soft loft lagging
Lie cases and cardboard boxes
Which hold precious memories
Long suppressed, but not forgotten

Through cobwebby threads
And the mustiness of dust
A time-capsule of bygones
Are the things of yesterdays
Which were so important many years ago
Hurriedly stashed and stored
With the best of intentions
Against some hoped-for bright new future
That did not came to pass

There, right at the back
Where the light barely penetrates
Almost hidden from view
The baby’s cot in white-and-blue
Stacked in sections under the eaves
Paint pitted and peeling
Its patterns still visible, but faded
Like the memory of a young life lost early

Toys casually collected
In the course of a shortened childhood
And kept in memoriam
A model boat, its torn sail hanging loose
A doll that still sits staring, unsmiling
Records and tapes collecting dust
Books with jackets ripped
And piles of her clothing
Quickly removed from her bedroom
And the rest of the house
Tearfully pushed out of sight
And out of mind
Before you came home again
So that you should not see them anymore


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Venison & Butterbean Stew

Recipe for: VENISON & BUTTERBEAN SPICY STEW (with guacamole)

Ingredients:

·         90ml olive oil
·         500g shallots, peeled & left whole
·         350g smoked bacon lardons
·         4-6 dried red chillies
·         2 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
·         1 tsp ground cumin
·         1 tblsp white wine vinegar
·         ½ tsp caster sugar
·         1 kg venison shoulder or neck, cut into dice
·         2 tblsp plain flour
·         250ml white vermouth
·         5 large sprigs thyme, tied with string
·         400g tin butter beans, drained & rinsed
·         Salt

Method:

1.       Heat oven to 150C/ fan 135C/ 300f/ gas 2
2.       In a large, heavy sautĂ© pan on medium heat, add two tblsp of oil, shallots and bacon lardons, and fry for ten minutes, stirring to brown & soften
3.       Put chillies in bowl with 150ml boiling water, allow to rehydrate for 30 minutes
4.       Strain, saving the water
5.       Slit chillies, take out seeds (discard) and put in blender with garlic, cumin, vinegar, sugar, tblsp of oil, salt.
6.       Blitz to a paste, adding a little chilli water to get a smooth result
7.       In another bowl, put the venison, sprinkling over flour & salt, then mix thoroughly
8.       In a clean pan heat some oil, and seal the floured meat in three batches, keeping the cooked batches until it’s all cooked
9.       When it’s all done, add the browned meat to the lardons and shallots
10.    Add vermouth & cook for two minutes
11.    Add the chilli paste, 120ml of water & the thyme sprigs
12.    Cover & transfer to heated oven, cooking for 90 minutes
13.    10 minutes before the end, add the drained butter beans and re-cover
14.    Remove & leave to stand for 20 minutes before serving

What else you need to know:

1.       Serve with sour cream & a guacamole (diced avocado, ½ red onion finely chopped, coriander leaves & 2tblsp lime juice)
2.       This is a rich & comforting spicy stew


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Children Might Hear

The Children Might Hear

Keep your voice down to a whisper
So the sound does not carry through the wall
The children might hear the growing anger
And know we’re fighting once again

Just talk quietly under your breath
For I can hear you well enough
Try to control these raw emotions
And keep your pain and anger to yourself

We do not need to scream and shout
To understand how one another feels
We just have to listen that much harder
And try to find a way to love again

Once we liked to speak in whispers
In languid words of love and lust
Laughing quietly under tangled bedding
When there was no-one else to over-hear

But now there are only lies and secrets
And things we wish they didn’t know
About two unhappy people fighting
Through their noisy, tangled lives


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

This Bloke I Know Is Jesus

This Bloke I Know Is Jesus

I used to see him in the queue
Most mornings at the pool
Knew him just enough to say hello
Or pass the time of day
Then, perhaps, during swimming
Or in the changing room later
A quiet, unassuming man
With nothing much to say

I didn’t notice much at first
That his beard had begun to grow
To frame his youthful face
Adding to his gravitas
Nor did I pay much attention
As Easter-tide approached
That he seemed pre-occupied
And turned more within himself

But then I saw him in the street
Bowed and bloodied
A crown of thorns upon his head
Carrying a heavy wooden cross
A crowd following, shouting
Acting out the Passion Play
And its Good Friday journey
To the Market Place Golgotha
Where he was quietly crucified
Among a staring group of people

Three days later he lived again
And stood there in the queue
Waiting for the pool to open
I couldn’t believe it was really him
And that he had come among us
Just a normal day with its Good Mornings
And desultory chat among the regulars
He still looked like no-one special
He seemed to be an ordinary bloke
But now I knew one more thing about him
That he was Jesus in his spare time


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Monday, 23 March 2015

Reynard

Reynard

Emerging through a hole in the fence
Beneath the shadow-harbouring trees
Along a daily-travelled route
He trots confidently into the open
Pausing in his transit of the track-way
To stop and take stock of his world

No creeping, crawling, skulking specimen
Engaged in crepuscular activities
But bold as brass
In broad daylight
A huge dog-fox in full fig
Confident, setting the world at defiance
Unafraid, un-hunted and un-hurried

Muzzle hanging open, panting gently
His eyes glint and flash
Reflecting late afternoon sunlight
Wild, alert, fiercely alive
Nose, ears at full attention
Looking, listening
Appraising useful scents
Carried on the breeze
The direction, the lie of the land
And prospects for further hunting
Scavenging forays
Among local hen-houses
And rabbit-burrows
Which lie within his rural realm

Head turning slowly
His guileless glance moves
Towards the exact point
Where I silently watch
Hardly daring to breathe
His steady stare
Burning into my eyes

Then, hearing the distant vixen
Nursing quarrelsome cubs
Calling to him from the earth
He slips away, back among the trees
With a flamboyant flash of tail
As if he had never been there


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Sunday, 22 March 2015

News From Bromham - Dateline Sunday 22nd March 2015

Bulletin From Bromham: Dateline – Sunday 22nd March 2015

Here is our weekly round-up of events from Bromham:

1.       Darkness fell over large parts of the village on Friday when a rare sodium eclipse occurred.  In an unusual conjunction of events a large container lorry was parked on the High Street right next to the only street-light, blocking out its light for nearly two hours.  Once the driver had finished his tea at the cafĂ© and moved on, normal lighting was resumed.  School-children gathered to watch the event.  The next container lorry is not expected for nearly a decade.

2.       The village jamboree on 7th May has been thrown into confusion after two volunteers on the Fruitcake stall were forced to pull out for personal reasons.  The village is therefore desperately seeking new candidates for this vital role.  It goes without saying that only Bromham villagers should apply, not outsiders.

3.       For details of these and all other Bromham stories, don’t forget to listen to local radio station Carrot FM.


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Sunday School

Sunday School

The dead time after Sunday lunch
Lies heavy on the day
As Dad sits reading his paper
Absorbing sordid stories of fights and fornication
Waiting for the house to fall to rest
While Mum does her fussing about
Busy, but pre-occupied
About the coming afternoon alone with Dad
Washing and wiping my face
Polishing my appearance
Dressing me up in Sunday Best
Transforming a rowdy child into a little angel
A reflection of a clean and happy home

Sent off through the silent streets
On my best behaviour
To walk to Sunday School
And receive religious education
With a promise of sweets if I’m good
And possible Hell if I’m bad
But definitely no tea
And early to bed

A Methodist Chapel built in stone
Soot-blackened among the houses
Its grey doors opening into the hall
Of musty smells and dusty floors
Little classrooms with metal-frame windows
Hard chairs and benches
Just like proper school, but less fun
Cheerless and comfortless
To hear stories, miracles and parables
Chapter and verse
Read from a black-backed bible
Of Jesus and Jerusalem
Mary and Joseph
And the meaning of love for one another

Then, topped up with goodness for another week
Running home for some play before tea
To strain the last dregs from the day
And wake Mum and Dad from their afternoon lie-down

No interest in what I’ve been doing
The hymn-singing and prayers
Nor the collection for the missionaries in Africa
But a strained atmosphere at the tea-table
Mum walking on eggshells again
And Dad not speaking, staring hard into the fire


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Friday, 20 March 2015

Salmon & Leek Lasagne

Recipe for: SALMON & LEEK LASAGNE

Ingredients:

  • 2 tblsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled & finely chopped
  • 2-3 large salmon fillets
  • 2-3 leeks, trimmed, washed & finely chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 12 sheets oven-ready lasagne
  • 50g/ 2 oz parmesan cheese, grated
  • For the cheese sauce:
    • 75g/ 3 oz butter
    • 75g/ 3 oz plain flour
    • 800ml/ 1½ pints milk
    • Grated nutmeg
    • 50g/ 2 oz cheddar cheese, grated
 Method:

  1. butter a 3-litre/ 5pt ovenproof dish
  2. Steam or bake the salmon fillets for 7-8 minutes
  3. remove from the heat & allow to cool
  4. when cool enough to handle, flake gently with a fork, discarding any skin & bones.  Set aside
  5. heat oil in a large pan & fry the onion and leeks & garlic for 4-5 minutes
  6. meanwhile make the cheese sauce
  7. melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour to make a roux & stir constantly for 1 minute
  8. gradually add the milk, stirring constantly
  9. bring almost to the boil, until the sauce thickens
  10. remove from the heat, then add the cheese, stirring until melted
  11. heat the oven to 180C/ fan 160C/ gas 4
  12. in the buttered dish, spread a very thin line of cheese sauce on the base
  13. cover with 4 sheets of dried lasagne, cutting to shape/ size
  14. cover with a layer of the flaked salmon & cooked leeks/ onions, then about a third of the cheese sauce
  15. cover with another layer of dried lasagne sheets, then salmon/ leeks, cheese sauce
  16. finish with a layer of lasagne sheets, topping with the last of the cheese sauce
  17. sprinkle the top with the grated parmesan
  18. bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the sauces are bubbling up at the edges & the top is golden brown
What else you need to know:


  1. serve with crusty garlic bread & a green salad

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Rebounding

Rebounding

I simply cannot lie quite still
And take the heavy weight
Bearing down upon me
Allowing myself to be crushed
The breath choked out of me
Until blackness overcomes

Nor will I be defeated
Or lose my self-belief
Nor have my spirit broken
For I will fight back every time
Against defeat and disappointment
Despair and deep depression
And I will get back up
And lift up my eyes
To stare back into the faces
Of those who dare to put me down

I will re-new, re-start, re-boot
Re-fresh and re-assess
Taking in my stride
Whatever weighs upon me
Re-framing things
In their right proportion
And regain correct perspective

For I am better than this
So I will dust off the dirt of disappointment
And reassert my determination
Showing my resilience
By picking up the fallen pieces
And replacing the rose-tinted glasses
Upon my smiling face


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Endless Day

Endless Day

Waking early, escaping hours of restless sleep
Shuffling down stairs in threadbare slippers
And faded dressing gown
To face another tedious day
She makes tea in the old brown pot
And sits at the empty kitchen table
Staring out through the cobwebbed window

Lambent rays of dawn
Flirt with the dark horizon
Struggling to get another daytime under way
Only slowly lighting the cloudy sky
Heavy with coming rain

The silence sits oppressive
And darkness gathers round
She ignores the gently dripping tap
As she drinks a second cup
And smokes a cigarette
Reflecting on the empty day ahead
The hours yet to be traversed
The quiet to be endured

Restlessly wandering from room to room
Sometimes standing, shiftless
Rearranging tasteless ornaments
Long since collected
Now unloved, undusted, unwanted
But something to do with her hands
To keep them from trembling

Sometimes sitting down again
Leafing through year-old magazines
Loathe to listen, minute after lingering minute
To the quiet ticking of the clock
Among the clutter on the mantel
Its hands seeming not to move
As the endless hours stretch away
For another long day with little purpose

The deserted hall, no-one to call
No letters in the mailbox
And a phone that never rings
Staring into empty space
Alone, with time to kill


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Coffee Shop

Coffee Shop

They come in waves
An ebb and flow of clientele
In and out, like a restless sea
Seeking favourite seats and corners
In the back, or near the big window
The regular morning ritual
The daily caffeine fix of choice
With standard order and loyalty card

The comforting, constant soundtrack
Of the steaming machine
The harsh grinding of Fairtrade beans
And gurgling of scalding water
Brewing long shots of espresso
Americano, Mocha and Latte
The counter filled with cakes and chocolates
And the clanking of spoons in cups and mugs
Clattering in saucers carefully carried away

Singles sit quietly, stirring froth
Peering into phones or computers
Living out their different lifestyles
Absorbed in the not-here, not-now
Thoughtful, contemplating
Playing with the sugar sachets
Or flipping idly through the papers

Ladies in twos and threes
Hustling and bustling
Amid bulging shopping and handbags
Between crowded tables
Dropping voices to a whisper
Through confidential sections
Of their general gossiping
Chatting and chattering
Lingering till lunchtime
Before suddenly rushing away
To meet a pressing engagement

Then the unexpected pause
A reduced coming and going
The noise dropping down to a whisper
Leaving chairs at awkward angles
A rare respite in operations
The barrista sighs and wipes his brow
And a waitress clears the tables
Wiping surfaces as she goes
Behind the receding tide
Of floating humanity


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Monday, 16 March 2015

What Will Our Children Say?

What Will Our Children Say?

What will our children say
When they look back at us,
From the vantage-point of their tomorrows,
Towards their empty yesterdays?
Will they understand our lack of action,
The time we wasted with indecision,
And let things drift from year to year,
Missing all those warning signs?

What will our children say
When they see that we could not agree,
And how we fought amongst ourselves,
Bickering, procrastinating,
Caught in many minds,
Snared in short-term self-interest,
And how we dithered and deliberated,
As things got worse and worse,
Just calmly carrying on,
Always hoping for the best?

What will our children say
When they look at what we did,
How we didn’t even try to change things,
But carried on regardless,
With pure blind faith in new technology,
Looking blithely to the future,
To provide the answers
That we could not find today?

What will our children say
About our undirected course,
With no hand upon the tiller,
Drifting towards oblivion,
Worrying only about the cost?
How will they ever comprehend
How we let things get this bad,
Used up all Earth’s bounty,
Exhausting our lonely planet,
Leaving a dirty, dried-up cinder
To circle round the Sun?


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Sunday, 15 March 2015

News From Bromham - Dateline Sunday 15th March 2015

Bulletin From Bromham: Dateline – Sunday 15th March 2015

Here is our weekly round-up of events from Bromham:

1.       The presenter of Bromham Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) top petrol-head production “Top Tractor”, Jeremy Piglet, suspended himself yesterday after an alleged “dust-up” with one of the show’s producers.  The spat was said to have been about the lack of carrots for dinner after a hard day’s filming out in the fields.  Piglet, a renowned and committed vegetarian, was said to have been “tired and emotional” about the lack of root-crops on his plate.  The final three editions of the programme will not now be broadcast.

2.       Media speculation ran rife in the snug bar of The Wounded Ferret after the leader of the Carrot-Rooters’ Action Party (CRAP), Ted Willeybanned, was filmed giving an interview in a shed which was variously described as “bare”, “sparse” and “soulless”, providing the impression that he too was rather bare, sparse and soulless.  However, Willeybanned was able to explain that in fact it was only his second shed.  He has another larger main shed which he uses more frequently for shed-based activities.  The Field Land-Owners’ Party (FLOP) accused Willeybanned of being “two sheds short of a barn”.

3.       For details of these and all other Bromham stories, don’t forget to listen to local radio station Carrot FM.


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Forbidden

Forbidden

Life’s full of many hidden dangers
Against which there are warnings and rules,
Regulations, barriers and notices,
Talking down to us like we’re just fools.
The prohibited list is endless,
Leaving us feeling stupid and flat.
So many things are forbidden:
Don’t do this, and don’t do that.

On the roads, there are codes,
Like speed limits we can agree,
But so many minor infringements
Seem counter-productive to me.
There’s fines, if you disobey guidelines:
No Entry, No Parking, No Turning,
There’s too much to keep up with,
Easy to get wrong, but we’re learning.

It’s a pain, on buses and trains,
Though it’s fitting, they only allow sitting,
And again, I’m very supportive,
Of there being No Swearing, or Spitting.
It’d be choking, if they allowed smoking,
Some people’s behaviour’s not good,
But we’ve got to draw the line somewhere,
Common sense needs be understood.

You don’t need a sentry, to deny people entry,
Security posts make jobsworths lonely,
They don’t need to shout, to keep people out,
Just “Authorised Personnel Only”.
We’ve all tried, to get past “Access Denied”,
Cycling Prohibited, Beware Of The Dog
Non-transferable, Not Suitable For Children,
No Cameras, No Entry, Slow Down For The Fog.

Use some gumption, on “Not Fit For Human Consumption”,
Prescription drugs you shouldn’t abuse,
For you’ve got to be careful with medicines,
Especially those marked “Only For External Use”.
Do Not Drive or Operate Machinery,
Don’t get too close, or put up your nose,
Things that you shouldn’t
And Never Exceed The Maximum Dose.

Let not the State, try to over-regulate.
So, let’s have no if’s and no but’s -
We can work it out for ourselves
When it’s case of “May Contain Nuts”.
Here’s an Unexpected Item In The Bagging Area -
And here is the moral delivered to you:
Haven’t we got our own sense?
Is there anything we can be trusted to do?


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015

Friday, 13 March 2015

Reasons To Be Worried

Reasons To Be Worried

It doesn’t pay to be too optimistic,
In this life that’s already grey and dull,
Because you’re bound to be disappointed,
If you think that the glass is half full.

Let me tell you some of my reasons,
For this position I’m knowing on:
If you believe all in the garden’s rosy,
Then you’ve no idea what’s going on!

Let’s start with lying politicians,
Who seem to want to make it their mission,
To convince us we’re all in it together,
And to believe in their coalition.

There’s Cameron and that chap Osbourne,
And I respectfully ask leave to beg,
If we have to have the pair of them,
What’s the point of that other chap Clegg?

And Labour these days are not up to much,
They let the unions get out of hand,
And one other thing that’s bothering me -
How many Milibands make up a Centiband?

Insurance companies, loss adjusters,
Estate agents and also the bankers,
Astrologers and charlatans all,
But for careful rhyming you can thank us.

Network Rail works at the speed of a snail,
London Underground has never been sound,
And you’ll find First Great Western’s no better,
On the Trainline all you get is the run-around.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons,
The Moonies and Christian Scientists,
The English Defence League out on the streets,
Prepared to settle arguments with fists.

Duchy Originals and other such brands,
With marketing hype and all that filler,
In fact anything sponsored by the Royals,
Especially that Charles and Camilla.

United States’ foreign policy,
The FBI and the CIA,
Sedition, rendition, water-boarding,
And Mitt Romney – well, what can I say?
  
Famine in Africa, war in Sudan,
Dictators, despots and hard tales of torture,
There’s Israel, Gaza and Palestine,
Problems seemingly without any cure.

Global warming and climate-change deniers,
Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes,
Ice-cap shrinkage and some species extinct,
What are we to make of all those?

And back in the UK we’ve got recession,
Fiscal probity, economic cut-backs,
Changes in benefits, VAT,
No lending or mortgages, income tax!

Celebrities, “TOWIE” and Jedward,
Reality shows and make-over shows,
How long can the search go on for talent?
With X-Factor and Strictly, God alone knows.

One day it’ll all mash up into just one,
And what’s left of this Island Nation,
Will watch Flog It In The Attic Challenge,
Revisited In The Country Location.

Extended warranties, the list goes on and on,
There’s always a sale at Land of Leather
And as if all that weren’t quite enough,
We’ve got the bloody English weather!


Copyright Andy Fawthrop 2015