The Befouled Weakly News

4 January 2009

And so, following the excesses and indulgences of the days leading up to and including Christmas and without very much effort on our part, we came to New Year’s Eve. As most of you will know, Ms Playchute and I generally celebrate New Year’s Eve in Moscow so that we can still make our “normal” bedtime of about 9.30. This year, however, we were surprisingly invited to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends John and Indrani Gleave and another couple at John and Indrani’s son’s home in Henley on Thames. Unable to come up with a suitably convincing excuse, we made our way down to Henley on Wednesday afternoon where we welcomed the British new year with suitable food, wine and entertainments.

Indrani was head of the English department at Cooper School which is where Penny had her first ever teaching job, probably in about 1984-5. Penny started the job in January and inherited the timetable of a deputy headteacher who had gone off to do something else for a couple of terms. As such, she was teaching a whole assortment of curriculum areas with many of the more troublesome pupils and it was Indrani and the rest of the English department who supported her through what was a baptism of fire. Although she only taught at Cooper School for two terms, Penny has remained close to Indrani and we see them regularly. Still, we were somewhat surprised to be invited to spend New Year’s Eve with them and even though we warned them that we would be asleep by 10.00 they maintained that they would love to have us.

Their son Jamie, who was off with his wife at one of their other homes in Charleston, South Carolina for the New Year, has a magnificent home right on the river Thames at Henley. Indeed, his home is immediately adjacent to Phyllis Court which is the finishing line on the river where they hold the Royal Henley Regatta every July. It is a magnificent house complete with indoor swimming pool, sauna and Jacuzzi, about six bedrooms and several dozen reception/living rooms, a home cinema and a kitchen and conservatory the size of a small aircraft carrier as well as a pond with a considerable quantity of koi carp overseen by two life-size replicas of the Terracotta Warriors.

Jamie's Home on the Thames

Jamie's home on the Thames

The bridge at Henley

The bridge at Henley

Penelope looking gorgeous

Ms Playchute descending the grand staircase

Terracotta Warrior

A Terracotta Warrior guards the koi carp

You will be relieved to know that we did not embarrass ourselves too much and we managed to stay moderately alert until midnight in spite of the excellent food and wine. (Did I mention that Indrani is an excellent cook?) After a sound and solid snooze we awoke in the morning in time for a swim and Jacuzzi before breakfast, a stroll along the river before lunch before finally departing about 5.00 for the drive home. It was a splendid occasion in surroundings and circumstances which are well outside our normal range of experience.

And, as if that weren’t enough excitement and enjoyment for the New Year, yesterday we had a delightful and most welcome visit from our very good friend, Joe Jefferies, and his girlfriend/fiancée Amandine. Joe, you will remember, is the middle of three sons of our dear friend Jan who died of breast cancer four or five years ago. Jan’s boys and ours are about the same ages and were great friends in primary school and Joe is the one with whom we went cycling in France a few years ago and whom we visited in Caux for a week last year. Although their visit was rushed, it was a delight and pleasure to see them both.

As the New Year approached I was relieved to run across the following on the BBC web site:

Resolutions 'bad for your health'
Deciding to turn over a new leaf in the new year could do more harm than good, a mental health charity has warned.

Mind has urged people not to feel they must start 2009 armed with resolutions for self-improvement.

The charity said resolutions which focus on issues such as the need to lose weight or job worries create a negative self-image.

And if the plans fail to materialise, that could trigger feelings of failure and inadequacy, the charity said.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said focussing on problems or insecurities can lead to feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem and even mild depression.

"We chastise ourselves for our perceived shortcomings and set unrealistic goals to change our behaviour, so it's not surprising that when we fail to keep resolutions, we end up feeling worse than when we started," he said.

"In 2009, instead of making a New Year's resolution, think positively about the year to come and what you can achieve."

Instead of easily broken resolutions, the charity has suggested a few steps to improve all-round mental health in 2009:

  • Being active - exercise releases endorphins and even a gentle stroll is beneficial for mental well-being
  • Going green - evidence has shown that connecting with nature can boost moods
  • Learn something new - it will keep minds stimulated and give confidence
  • Give back to the community - it can be just as rewarding for you as those you choose to help

Accordingly, I am happy to be able to tell you that I have made no New Year’s Resolutions this year other than to enjoy myself in 2009! Feel free to join me.

Love to you all,


"Y'all got any American razor blades in here?" the Texan asked the London pharmacist. "All I see are these damn Wilkinson’s."

"Sir," the Englishman patiently replied, "Wilkinson has been producing the finest surgical instruments, weapons and razors since before Waterloo."

"I don't give a damn if they passed them out on Noah's Ark, if they ain't any good!" the Texan retorted.

"I can assure you they are very good sir." the peeved druggist said. "Why just last year my wife swallowed one. It gave her a tonsillectomy, an appendectomy, a hysterectomy, circumcised the gardener, emasculated a neighbour, cut two of the delivery boy's fingers off at the knuckle and I still got 10 shaves out of it."

A priest, a Pentecostal preacher and a Rabbi all served as chaplains to the students of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. They would get together two or three times a week for coffee and to talk shop. One day, someone made the comment that preaching to people isn't really all that hard. A real challenge would be to preach to a bear.

One thing led to another and they decided to do an experiment. They would all go up to the Smokies, find a bear, preach to it, and attempt to convert it. Seven days later, they're all together to discuss the experience. Father Flannery, who has his arm in a sling, is on crutches, and has various bandages on his body and limbs, went first.

'Well,' he said, 'I went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him I began to read to him from the Catechism. Well, that bear wanted nothing to do with me and began to slap me around. So, I quickly grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary Mother of God, he became as gentle a lamb. The bishop is coming out next week to give him first communion and confirmation.'

Reverend Billy Bob spoke next. He was in a wheel chair, with an arm and both legs in casts, and an IV drip. In his best fire and brimstone oratory he claimed, 'WELL brothers, you KNOW that WE don't sprinkle! I went out and I FOUND me a bear. And then I began to read to my bear from God's HOLY WORD! But that bear wanted nothing to do with me. So I took HOLD of him and we began to wrassle. We wrassled down one hill, UP another and DOWN another until we came to a creek. So right quick-like, I DUNKED him and BAPTIZED his hairy soul. And just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb. We spent the rest of the day praising Jesus.'

They both looked down at the rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IV's and monitors running in and out of him. He was in bad shape. The rabbi looks up and says, 'Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start.....'

A man arrives at the gates of Heaven.

St. Peter asks, "Religion?"

"Methodist," the man says.

St. Peter looks down his list, and says, "Go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8."

Another man arrives at the gates of Heaven.



"Go to Room 18, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8."

A third man arrives at the gates.



"Go to Room 11, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8."

The man says, "I can understand there being Different rooms for different religions, but why must we all be quiet when we pass Room 8?"

"Well, the Catholics are in Room 8," St. Peter replies, "and they think they're the only ones here."

Back to the Befouled Weakly News