A Sunday Ramble

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by Gildas the Monk on September 6, 2015

Since the world is quite clearly going to hell in a handcart, I decided to produce some whimsy, a bit of light refreshment. It is time to talk about lampreys. I feel the lamprey needs to be celebrated. I didn’t know a lot about lampreys, although what I did know stems from one of the most reliable historical works, “1066 And All That” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1066_and_All_That – required reading for any asylum-seeker keen to imbue the culture of his host nature (not many sales there then, sadly). Anyway, all I did know from that publication was that almost every historical figure of the Middle Ages died of eating a surfeit of lampreys. Apparently this tradition originated with Henry I, the youngest son of William the Conqueror. http://the-history-girls.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/a-surfeit-of-lampreys-and-other.html

Sadly for the contestants on ‘Masterchef’, the humble lamprey has been absent from British rivers for some time no doubt because of over fishing and pollution, but they are making a comeback. Lampreys have a good CV. They have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and are the oldest vertebrates alive. They predate the dinosaurs, it seems. They look a bit like an eel, but they seem much more interesting than their slimy competitors. I was much intrigued to learn that they do not have jaws but rather a large sucking disk lined with teeth which they use to latch onto a host and thence suck the blood – putting me in mind of one of my ex’s as it happened. They have seven gills on each side, not one like a boring old fish. They are cousins of hag fish (I am thinking ex again). They only have one nostril, which begs the question: how do they smell? And guess the ansewer….

I learned all this from very enthusiastic boffin from Bournemouth University whom I heard on the radio. It seems they are becoming abundant in his local river so one day in mating season he popped down with a “Go Pro” (it’s a video camera, it turns out, and is assume he had a waterproof case) and stuck it in the river to see what was going on. Quite a lot, it seems. The male turns up at a nest site over clean gravel. The male then attracts a female by emitting the lamprey equivalent of my Lynx body spray. Once they have been introduced and signed the necessary pre-nup, the process is greatly more romantic and tasteful than the average celeb wedding. First they work together to tidy up the nest sight, picking up stones with the sucker disk and placing them around a perimeter creating a big crater about a meter wide, but they leave one big stone in the middle. Then they vibrate to disperse silt. When they are happy the nest is all clean and tidy, the female hangs on to the anchor stone in the middle of the nest to make sure they don’t get washed away. The male then wraps himself around the female and they “Get it On” to paraphrase a popular song title https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igNVdlXhKcI Then the eggs are buried with a bit more wiggling. Job done! It just seemed such a sweet and cooperative process, it made me smile.

Meanwhile, I have been mooching about in Manchester this week on Secret Business involving possible mating too, but I haven’t been moving stones or vibrating. At least not yet. Anyway, I have becomes far too familiar with young men with a particular dress code. They appear to have rather tight trousers and polished brogues, and that slightly retro Regency look which seemed to be popular back in the ‘60’s. The most common feature however is radically styled and groomed hair and beards. These are “hipsters”, I believe – a sort of radical chic fashion movement for men. And the hipsters will have been having a whale of a time of it this weekend, because yesterday was World Beard Day. http://worldbeardday.com/

I heard another expert being interviewed about it. He was writing a thesis on the social significance of the beard, I have noticed that there is a modern trend, often amongst sportsmen, for big and bushy beards. Who knows what this signifies? I myself have never flirted with the beard. It may perhaps be that I probably have a low level of testosterone and always struggled even to get a fuzz when I was young, or perhaps I have never felt the look would suit me, but I am thinking of changing. The reason is not fashion. It’s the ever more complicated and costly process of shaving. I am sure I just used to have an old Gillette Mach-something with the then innovative two blades, and it did a perfectly effective job. But thanks to a bit of confusion when shopping and a few birthday and Christmas presents I have now accumulated an array of shaving irons.

Anyway, I am now completely confused about what blades go on which, and I find myself completely baffled about what to buy. But then again – have you seen the bloody cost of razor blades these days! It’s getting crazy! Do we need all these “shaving systems” and hyper moisturising polymers or whatever we are being flogged. I keep getting some traffic on “social media” saying the whole thing is a scam, and flagging up the virtues of an old-fashioned cut throat razor. It certainly feels that way. There’s a good scene in ‘Skyfall’ when Daniel Craig’s Bond is given an old-fashioned shave (no innuendo intended) with a cut throat by the Naomie Harris’s Eve. It has some erotic edginess to it, but it has made me think I should invest in one, but I hear mixed reports, and I am so cack-handed I would worry about ending up in A&E. In the end today I settled for some disposal Gillette Mach 3’s. Still bloody £7 though.

Meanwhile this week – Stephen Gough, aka the naked rambler…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Gough He has been released this week after serving yet another prison sentence for rambling about naked. All in all he has spent the best part 10 years in prison for his naked walking, largely because he is deemed to be in breach of the ubiquitous ASBO. And for much of that he is in “solitary” because he refuses to wear prison clothes. www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk- Gough’s issue, as I understand it, is something to do with personal freedom, not nudity per se. He is not attempting to make a sexual statement, or seek out and molest anyone. He is just bonkers. Former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord MacDonald has called to an end to prison sentences for Mr. Gough, who may be a nuisance but has now spent more time behind bars than many a rapist or murderer. It’s hard to disagree. Perhaps he does offend some people, but there are many more offensive individuals who occupy high public office in the country, or bleat on with their messages of hate whilst typically feeding voraciously off the benefits provided by the State they would like to overthrow, but not a lot is done about them. What a waste of public money and court and prison resources.

Finally, whilst we are on the subject of walking, I am feeling rather virtuous because I am now a qualified Nordic Walker. This does not mean that I have passed a test so I can walk on Scandinavia, although I can do that if I like. It is a form of walking with special poles which are angled to produce an effect not too dissimilar to skiing, but without the sliding bits. Basically, the science is that you engage whole of the body’s core and upper body so that the energy used is greater than normal walking and you go much faster if you want, but the load is spread so it’s actually much better for posture, easier on the joints and much better for going up and down hills. I have got a Certificate, and everything. I did it to have something which added to just going to the gym, and I didn’t want to just run – I carry a few joint injuries.

I went on my first organised trek this morning – an hour-and-a half of hills and farm tracks, on a beautiful late summer day. In fact we haven’t had much of said summer, but September seems to keep coming good with its slightly red-gold sunshine, less bright than July, still warm but the faintest, bitter-sweet tinge of autumn. A quiet and peaceful activity in a gentle and peaceful landscape. I am afraid I am not sure how much longer things will stay that way. I am going to make the most of it, while it lasts. Have a good Sunday.

© Gildas The Monk

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

windsock September 6, 2015 at 9:19 am

A lovely read on a Sunday after the rest of the week, Gildas. Thank you.

Stephen Gough may or may not be bonkers, but I do think the state is actively persecuting him and it is just another sign that it has become spiteful and vindictive. Enjoy the sunshine.


GildasTheMonk September 6, 2015 at 9:32 am

Thank you Windsock. I know it’s all inconsequential nonsense, but I felt a pause from the general maelstrom of depressing news was worthwhile, for me at least!


decnine September 6, 2015 at 9:20 am

Of course lampreys preceded dinosaurs. Lampreys are Chordates, a class of beings of which Vertebrates are descendents. Dinosaurs were Vertebrates…


GildasTheMonk September 6, 2015 at 9:31 am

Who but Raccoonistas even know this stuff!


giles2008 September 6, 2015 at 12:24 pm
Don Cox September 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm

If you want an even more primitive animal, look up Amphioxus. Cute little beast.
After that you have to dig back to the common ancestor of Chordates, Tunicates and Echinoderms.


Mudplugger September 6, 2015 at 9:49 am

In aid of your economic beard-management challenge, the latest results from my on-going pursuit of sensibly-priced razor-blades has focused on Aldi’s Lacura ‘Three Blade System’ – you get a razor and 3 blades for £2.99, the extra blades are only £2.99 for 6. Every bit as good as the over-promoted and thus over-priced Gillette and Wilkinson products, current indications are that they shave as well and last as long. Try it. (I’m not on Aldi’s payroll but admit to being a fan of their somewhat ecclectic stock principle – probably the only positive thing I can identify as emerging from Britain’s 40 years in the EU. Other economy brands are available.)


GildasTheMonk September 6, 2015 at 9:50 am

Thanks Mudplugger. I will be passing an Aldi this very day, and shall seek out this product


binao September 6, 2015 at 10:08 am

But why do we shave?
I had a beard for a year or so back in the late ’70’s, probably to match the guitar. Odd how the face goes a different shape under a beard but recovers after a few days naked. I’ve never wanted to go hairy since, though part of the ’80’s in RSA exposed me to extensive Boer beardery; non-Boers seemed to favour top lip growth. The men anyway.
Shaving systems are just that, a way of selling more than just a cheap to make Gillette double edged blade to use in a razor that lasted a lifetime & which might have been your Dad’s. Where’s the money in that?
Thanks Gildas, a better read than the Sunday papers.


Red Admiral September 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

The trouble with the old double-edgers was if you let the doings holding the head together go slack, the blade stood proud and took a chunk out of your face. And in spite of the exorbitant price of blades, I have to admit that the new Gillette swivelling* razor thing is f*****g ace.

*I was going to write ball-razor here but then realised the scope for misunderstanding.


Petunia Winegum September 6, 2015 at 3:12 pm

When I was a kid, I often remember my dad heading off for work with a patchwork quilt of tiny tissues stuck to his chin after a tussle with the razor. You don’t see that so much these days, though a lapse of concentration when doing the business can still provoke a nasty nick.


Engineer September 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm

I still have that problem when I’ve put a new blade in the razor. Fortunately, I can’t see under my own chin, so when I’m out and about it doesn’t bother me much (I do take the bits of bog paper off before I go out – provided I remember). Since a new blade lasts me about three weeks or so, it’s not too frequent a problem, either. There used to be a thing you cou could get that gummed up the nicks, called a Styptic Pencil I think. They used to sting something rotten, apparently, so I’ve never bothered.

Finding shaving soap became a bit of a problem a couple of years ago. Used to get mine in Boots, until they stopped stocking it (“Excuse me, but could you tell me where the shaving soap is?” “Oh, sorry sir, don’t have any – nobody buys it” “Well, they won’t if you don’t stock it…”). Get it mail order from George Trumper now; it’s much better quality, and a cake lasts much longer, too.


binao September 6, 2015 at 7:05 pm

Done with all that.
Tried the chunky Remington rechargeable in the days when it cost a fortune, went back to blades; then the utter crap of foil shavers, back to disposables. Finally on to Philips. Change the heads when past it, use a lube, & it’s fine. Last Xmas gift of Aramis electric preshave does the job; I can’t find the ace preshave Clinique any more. Best technique is to tip a bit onto the cutters, not put it on your face.
But I’m a blondie fine hair, or was, won’t suit all.
Question is still; Why shave?


Mudplugger September 6, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Why shave ? Convention mostly, although some people have a deep prejudice against bearded men: my late mother was one such, maintaining that no bearded man could ever be trusted, as they must be hiding something. Clearly, that’s nonsense, but as long as that view is held by anyone at all, and no similar prejudice is held regarding the clean-shaven, then that’s a good reason not to have a beard because hirsute has a downside, smooth does not.
I have occasionally floated the idea of growing some form of beard with my ‘manageress’ but her response remains an adamant negative, with threats of dire consequences, and even withdrawal of key privileges, should I proceed. Call me a wimp if you like, but I can read a sign-written wall.
It will be interesting to see if the soon-to-be-elected Labour Party leader is, as predicted, the leftie one with the grey stubbly beard and how this then plays out with the party’s spin-doctors and the electorate. No Prime Minister has been elected since WWII with any facial hair, this may be cause or effect, but not thought worth the gamble. I know that my late mother would not have voted for Corbyn on that basis alone regardless of his policies so, if the prejudice is still widespread, he’ll either have to scrape it off or be prepared to lose because of it – watch this space.


Petunia Winegum September 6, 2015 at 11:52 pm

Eden had a caddish tash – or were you referring solely to beards?


Mudplugger September 7, 2015 at 8:25 am

Error accepted – I’d forgotten that Eden actually won an election, not that it did him any good once a bit of Middle East politics got in the way. Some things never change.

Mudplugger September 6, 2015 at 3:59 pm

I’ll be interested to hear your freedback – shaving’s a very personal thing (indeed quite intimate for some of the lady-gender, so I’m told), but I reckon the Aldi device takes some beating at the price – the razor’s sturdy and well-balanced and the blades seem very smooth and regular.


Alex September 7, 2015 at 8:48 am

Didn’t Harold Macmillan have a ‘tash? On the subject of beards my father held the same view as Mudplugger’s mother, that men with beards had “something to hide” – odd that a homosexual’s female wife was often reffered to as “a beard”, a form of disguise? My dad also reckons that men with beards grow “scuggs” in them, whatever “scuggs” might be. I know from my own beard growing experiments that I could often taste things I’d eaten quite a while ago.

On the shaving front, there are many (American mostly) videos on Youtube about shaving with “safety razors”. After watching a few I took the plunge and invested in a reasonable quality one. I haven’t looked back since – it’s great. A pack of fairly cheap razor blades lasts me ages, admitedly I only shave once a week. The shaving soap (Evelyn & Crabtree available from Amazon) lasts seemingly forever. This will no doubt sound very starnge coming from me, but I think this way of shaving is much better for the environment too. I know growing a beard would be even better in that respect, but after 6 or 7 days mine ithches like mad and is very “patchy”.


Mudplugger September 7, 2015 at 11:50 am

I give in: you’re right of course, the oft-cuckolded Macmillan did indeed have quite a bushy growth beneath his nose, which may go some way to explain why he seemed unaware and/or unconcerned about all the other things going on under his very nose.


Petunia Winegum September 6, 2015 at 10:42 am

The only facial hair I’ve ever had a preference for is sideburns, though they need tricky trimming every few weeks to avoid the Noddy Holder effect – and if you trim too close, you end up with a bald patch in the middle of your cheek. Razor blades are indeed ridiculously expensive, but there’s nothing quite like the cleansing feel to the face when you’ve just used a new blade for the first time. I cannot leave the house on a morning without having shaved first; there’s a grubby dirtiness about an unshaved chin for me and I don’t know how those who use WG Grace as an unlikely style model can stand having that pubic rug clinging to the bottom half of their face.


Hubert Rawlinson September 6, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Oh Petunia! You really should go for the full on ‘Jason King’ moustache! Go on Pet, you know you want to!!! 😀


Petunia Winegum September 6, 2015 at 3:09 pm

I won’t deny I’ve been tempted…


Mudplugger September 6, 2015 at 4:01 pm

The normal response to any moustache is “What’s so important about your nose that it needs to be underlined?”.


simon September 7, 2015 at 6:00 am

If you have a ,tache you never ever get chapped lips!


binao September 6, 2015 at 7:13 pm

I well remember the early ’70’s long hair and side burns down to the jaw line; went with the flares, kipper ties (yes we wore ties!), patterned slimcut shirts, & wide lapels. What twats we were.
Some old gent at the time, must have been in his 50’s, referred to my sideburns as ‘bugger grips’.
Took away something.


Petunia Winegum September 6, 2015 at 8:17 pm

Yes, I’ve heard the phrase ‘bugger grips’ before. God knows where it comes from!


windsock September 6, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Use your imagination!…


Petunia Winegum September 6, 2015 at 9:52 pm

I was trying not to!


The Blocked Dwarf September 6, 2015 at 10:48 am

10 paragraphs of Gildas on a Sunday Morn and where, might I ask, is the Cat related news?!

died of eating a surfeit of lampreys

the historical equivalent of the theologian’s ” so he smote him under the fifth rib”.


GildasTheMonk September 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Petunia did suggest I might mention the cats, but I was rushing,. various reasons. Old Cat’s coat remains gloriously glossy, but he remains a difficult creature. Ever since my botched efforts to get him to the vet he does tend to show signs of anxiety from time to time, but he is doing OK. He gets a lot of treats.
Young Cat from next door is still a daily visitor, and I am always there to welcome him when he pops round about 8 am. I do worry about him – he seems very jumpy sometimes for such a naturally confident and outgoing character. I have the strongest suspicion that his “owners”, who are Asian, have no empathy with him as a creature, and do not treat him properly. I make sure he is very well fed and has a place of safety and refuge


Major Bonkers September 6, 2015 at 8:13 pm

Feed the cat to the lampreys.


The Blocked Dwarf September 6, 2015 at 11:00 am

Returning briefly to yesterday’s post:

This morning I received a request from Change.ogre asking me to sign a petition ” David Cameron: Britain must accept its fair share of refugees seeking safety in Europe”.

So of course I did (as have 350,000 obviously childless liberals).


I actually read the blurb (my italics):

“Millions of men, women and children are fleeing the Middle East and Africa to find safety in the West. The Independent believes Britain must no longer turn a blind eye to their plight and must work with other European Union countries to set and welcome a quota of refugees.
To help show your support, sign our petition and tweet a picture of yourself holding a sign saying ‘refugees welcome’ under the hashtag #refugeeswelcome.”

…the problem with being a ‘liberal’ ….No i so won’t be tweeting a f**king photo.


Major Bonkers September 6, 2015 at 8:17 pm
The Blocked Dwarf September 6, 2015 at 11:49 am
Gloria Smudd September 6, 2015 at 1:58 pm

” …. The male then attracts a female by emitting the lamprey equivalent of my Lynx body spray. ….”

Alas, dear Gildas, I venture to suggest that ‘lamprey equivalent’ may be more attractive to human females than Lynx body spray!


Engineer September 6, 2015 at 3:31 pm

It’s probably more effective than Goat body spray.


GildasTheMonk September 6, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Greetings Gloria, I was just thinking of you the other day, and that long weekend with Madam La Raccoon IT’S NOT WHAT YOU ARE THINKINGH EVERYBODY!


Gloria Smudd September 6, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Good evening Monkman! I well remember The World’s Nicest Dog repeatedly presenting you with a drool-soaked tennis ball, much to everyone’s amusement!


Engineer September 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm

There’s a whole sub-culture devoted to straight razors, with interweb forums and everything. Straightrazorplace is one of ’em, I think. I came across it when the subject of sharpening cropped up yet again on a woodworking forum I frequent; there are people who can make a very involved ritual out of sharpening a straight razor, going to extreme lengths to obtain sharpening stones with special properties from particular geological deposits in far-away lands, and obsessively testing their relative merits. Mind you, there are people who take almost anything to extremes.

That, I suspect, is the one disadvantage with a straight razor – the ongoing maintenance. That aside, I can see the attraction.


The Blocked Dwarf September 6, 2015 at 4:24 pm

whole sub-culture

…that’s that British understatement again . The shaving/razor forums aren’t just a ‘sub culture’ but a CHURCH of True Believers who will tolerate NO HERESY in their schismatical midsts. No matter whether they worship at the shrine of the “Rolls Razor” , “The Safety Razor” (to give Red Admiral’s ‘double edgers’ their PROPER name, SINNER!) or the Blessed Cutthroat, they make Jim Jones seem well balanced ….Don’t Drink The After Shave.

In my search for the perfect shave I ventured onto those forums and spent many an hour discussing the various tensile strengths of beards. Still mean to pick up a ‘Rolls’ some time but I refused to subscribe to the doctrine that Wilkinson are the world’s finest blades, I am a disciple of Solingen Steel….and will razor burn in Hell for all Eternity for my apostasy.


Bill Sticker September 6, 2015 at 8:42 pm

I’m currently ‘between razors’ at the moment, sporting a sculpted 3/4 crop of short cut face fungus, and am often amused at the many prejudices surrounding clean shaven or full set, but I do like a straight edge razor for trimming my cheeks and neck. Has to be quality steel though, as despite all ministrations cheap ‘uns lose their ability to keep a decent edge after less than a year.

I know from personal experience that there are people out there who I would describe as positively pogonophobic (Scared of people with beards). I’ve also noticed the same people, who will automatically regard a straight edge as a ‘weapon’, often ignore sets of near-razor sharp hollow ground kitchen knives on open display in many kitchens. Aren’t people strange?


TheNoseyMole September 7, 2015 at 3:07 am

Having been an occasional user of a straight edge razor for the last 30 years or so I can honestly say it is without doubt the best shave. There are however a few simple rules, never hurry, always be sober, blade at the correct angle etc. etc. Some more pactical advice, don’t try and do your whole face on the first day, practice on the easy bits first and last but not least a styptic pencil is an indispensible accessory.


David Simons September 7, 2015 at 7:42 am

I live about km from the village of St; Denis (Now called Lyons la Fôret). Virtually nothing of its mediaeval history remains other than the base of the old castle (Hunting Lodge) but there is a small monument to the death of Henry I. Lyons lies at the end of a long valley which was much prized for its hunting both by the Dukes of Normandy: Henry I, Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and by the Kings of France, particularly Charles IX.

Today Lyons is a very pretty Norman village but, sadly, has been taken over as a holiday village by Parisians and European ex-pats including British. It has suffered the same fate as many villages in other parts of France and in parts of Britain. Virtually no shops and houses far too expensive for the locals.


David Simons September 7, 2015 at 7:43 am

Sorry about the typo 8km!


Alex September 7, 2015 at 9:05 am

Thank you Gildas for a welcome “change of pace”. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m taking the piss – I’m not – but that whole walking pole thing (Nordic Walking?), I just get the feeling that it’s yet another way to part the gullible from their hard earned. What’s wrong with an old fashioned wlaking stick/staff as used for generations by such as farmers and shepherds?

I walk a couple of miles each way most days to visit my mother at the nursing home. Most that walk is along bridleways over farmland, nothing too strenuous. I was shocked on one occasion to encounter a group of middleaged ramblers many of whom seemingly incapable of making ambulatory progress without the aid of what looked like expensive shiny walking poles. I guess if it helps you get “out and about”, then that’s got to be a good thing.

Anyway, good luck with your Nordic Walking and also your romantic assignations. I’m off to collect my mother and take her for “a walk” – her in a wheelchair, me pushing, down to sit by the river on what looks set fair to be one of the best days for some time, like you say best to make the most of it.


Roijtek September 7, 2015 at 9:23 am

I used to despise designer stubble and had a ‘proper’ beard.

In a rash moment, I shaved my beard off once so ‘tother ‘alf could “just see what it looked like”.

Ever since she’s been lobbying for clean-shaven. Designer stubble is the unfortunate compromise (I hate shaving)


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