Ian Whybrow

…coming soon…

June 30th 2013. The Strolling Prunes Unstoned

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This shall prove a brave kingdom to me, when I shall have my music for nothing.  (Stephano: The Tempest)

“What an anti-climax!” said the presenter at Glastonbury after last night’s headline event, explaining later – but without much conviction – that he was joking.  As a lifelong fringe admirer of the Strones myself, I suspect he wasn’t kidding.

I knew about the row between Mick and the BayBaySay and how annoyed he was to have Auntie deliver the show for nothing. To some extent I sympathise with those sentiments, especially since people are always assuming that I’ll be delighted to have my books published for peanuts and to do events for nothing.  Besides, people at Glastonbury had paid and made an effort to be there to see it.

But I suspect I wasn’t alone in wincing at the dreadful sound and saddened by the sense that for all his energetic skipping and writhing, Mick couldn’t quite get the audience whipped into a proper frenzy.  That may have been the fault of the systems and of the budget limitations on production, but to discover this morning that all the songs I was looking forward to had already been performed (an exhausted rendition of Brown Sugar excepted) made me feel cheated.

Still, I did enjoy John Humphrys’ interview with Mick on the radio in the morning.  Mick gave serious attention to the question of how rock and roll has changed during his lifetime, reminding us of the serious unrest throughout Europe in the early days of the Stones and how, by adopting outlandishness in dress and behaviour , they put their weight behind a movement for political change. When he turned the tables on JH and asked him how long he was going to go on presenting the Today programme for Radio 4 , he got the answer –“Well, quite frankly, I’ll keep going for as long as they’ll have me.”

There you are then, say all of us.

June 29th 2013. Six Years Before Lady Chatterley

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A very kind lady (now mother of four) has contacted me to remind me that I took her to a dance in Hong Kong in 1957, that her father issued a command for me to go to tea for inspection purposes and that during the course of the evening, I managed to tie knots in the sash of her dress without her noticing. I’m ashamed to say I have no recollection of the tea or the dance and even the photo she sent as evidence has failed to jog my memory of her or of any of the other attractive girls I was seated among. I am genuinely shocked by these revelations and in particular by the blank in my memory. You would have thought that, considering my generally fevered adolescent state, something of this would have stuck.

These were the pre-Chatterley years, of course, and there would have been very little hanky-panky. Perhaps the knotting was a declaration of suppressed emotion, a displacement exercise –  like a cold bath. I tell myself this in order to feel a bit less feeble.


Sheila tells me I took her to a dance

6 Easters before Chatterley

I tied knots in her satin sash.

Gosh! Pass the sal volatile.

June 28th, 2013. More Pink Thoughts

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Crossing the Water Meadow in Pink

The cow with the calf

Is looking at



Has malevolent eyes.


My shoe is in a cowpat

But that

Is the least of my worries.


That was yesterday. Near thing, though. Phew.

The last of the new series of Books for Boys is now in the can, so to speak.  These are for boys of about 9 years old who need their palates tickled if they’re not to be entirely distracted from reading. The brief was always to write page-turners with short chapters, plenty of humour and lots going on.

Nothing girly, there, then.  Still, the book I’ve just sent to my long suffering ed at Hodder – Rory the Pirate’s Impeccable Leg – is out on a limb in several respects and has taken ages to write, partly because it has kept wanting to get out of its box in terms of scope and word-count and focus. Not only is its eponymous hero the victim of an accident that has cost her a leg, but she’s a girl who prefers to be called Rory rather than Aurora Hope. She’s daring, feisty, clever and unpredictable.  I know an amazing little girl exactly like her who happens to go by the name of Pollyanna Hope.  I hope she’ll enjoy the story, too.

The thing is, I find it depressing that publishers feel the need to pink and feather and fluff up books that are marketed for girls in general and not just young ones;  and I’m hoping that this will crack the mould a little bit.

June 27th, 2013. No, I am not Prince Harry nor was meant to be

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Up betimes as I always am when staying here in Long Melford. The weather calls for a jog along the river to Liston Church but I have nothing but scruffy gardening trainers and a Boden shirt in my bag. A Prufrockian moment.

Shall I wear these filthy plims?  Do I dare to run in pink?

I shall wear my Boden short-sleeved shirt ; sod what the neighbours think.

Phew, only two people about – a bloke wearing ridiculous shorts and sandals coughing up smoke from his early morning Senior Service and his rheumaticky  mongrel . They had other fish to fry than slightly souped-up pedestrians in pastel.

It’s the doves that mock but I rise above them and trot on.


Pink T-Shirt Run

Pink eglantines and comfreys

Nod back down Liston Lane

But all the way the ring-necked doves

Do nothing but complain.

June 26th, 2013. Up

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Well done, our cherry tree,

For cropping unexpectedly

Far more fruit than normally.

This morning, secretly

I ate all three.

June 25th 2013. In Pinner

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Today I bit the bullet and went to Pinner. Next to Smart Guys, the dry cleaners,  is Diamond Hair Designs. With my barnet, design is key.

Andy was alone in the shop when I found him. He was sitting in his chair looking glumly, not into the mirror but above it at the tv at a programme reminding us all that while most of us are small potatoes scratching a living, there are money-magnets out there who know how to stand next to some dismal terraced pile oop narth and turn it instantly into profit – always in grand, as in: “Yeah, I made twenty grand on that. Not bad, though, for an outlay of seventy-five fifty…”

Andy gets to his feet without taking his eye off the screen. “Nice tidy-up, sir?” he suggests. The fact that his own head has recently gone more Telly Savalas than Cadfael is not, I tell him, encouraging. “Yeah, but would you be more encouraged if I wore a wig?” he asks and we turn to today’s topic: property speculation.

I am unexpectedly early, so I pick Ann up from outside the library and drive her to M & S. “You’re early,” she says. This makes a change from, “Hello, Baldy.”  So at least my diamond design is such that I can slip back into the swim of things without too much unwanted attention.

A thin, shallow ribbon of water, swathed in concrete, flows in front of M & S. It moves me to poetry:


Pinner.  For Michael Rosen, b. Pinner 1946


The River Pinn is far too thin

To be a jumper inner;

So they bricked the poor thing over

And turned it into Pinner.

23rd June 2013 Tooled Up for Slaughter

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My mother-in-law and I are enjoying our porridge topped with healthy, shining apricots squeezed straight from the packet when a fly descends and takes a nonchalant stroll across mine. Frantically, I reach for my electronic fly zapper, a gift for which I have recently purchased two pricey AA batteries. This invaluable tool is fashioned to resemble a miniature badminton racket. Nevertheless is comes with a warning label –WARNING: NOT A TOY.

This is not a toy

This is a lie. It is quite clearly a toy, albeit one designed to destroy helpless insects. The grandchildren will love it. Several swingeing backhands later, and a too-close-for-comfort encounter with precious crockery items and one is forced to fall back on the old technology – viz or to wit – a tea-towel (batteries not included). The hunt is on. From a find to a check, from a check to a view, from a view to a death in the morrrr- ning.

Job done, I am pricked by conscience:

Little fly, thy summer’s play

My thoughtless hand hath brushed away.

comes to mind.

Then I am moved to verse myself.


Little fly, thy summer brain

Is splashed across my window pane.

Thy crime? To trespass on my fruits

Without a pause to wipe thy boots.

At last! Something to tweet. In doing so I pick up a kind message headed (“Easily Done”) from Lucy telling me that I keep heading my blogs with a July date. Blimey, a children’s writer with incipient Altzheimers on a fly- killing spree. This is going to give the lads at GCHQ plenty to think about.

June 22nd 2013. The Spud from Stagge Meadows

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Miserable weather for the Titley Gardens in the Wild Festival but –brollied and booted – we braved it. Missed Anna Pavord’s talk, partly because Joan is too hard of hearing for such treats and partly because of overcrowding. Instead, we wandered round the flower stalls considering flowering dogwood and artemesia but lighting instead upon a reshafted, oiled and burnished … spud.

Re-shaft and burnish a spud? I hear you cry. Ah, yes, I crow. For this is exactly what I need to winkle out weeds between narrow rows of salad seeds. Something chimes in the back of my head when I discuss its provenance and function with its damp and shivering restorer who is delighted to part with it for a mere sixteen quid. On the drive to Presteigne for an early lunch, the flickering shadows of memory form – thus:

“Tired of digging potatoes and spudding up docks …”

This is a fragment from Hardy’s The Ruined Maid. At last I twig that a spud is a tool for digging up thistles and dock leaves! Hardy didn’t just snatch up the Dorset equivalent of the Yorkshire “rootle” as a trochaic onomatopoeia to suit his metric scheme. Far from it, matey. The verb may have been a common or garden bit of Dorset dialect, but here, right here and now, in Marcher country, is the noun – the thing itself in palpable, serviceable, oiled and burnished form. Oh, the excitement.

Actually, I could have bought a genuine nineteen century spud with the smithy’s hammer marks indented all the way up the holding-plate from the same bloke, but I draw the line at lashing out thirty-five smackoonies for a second-hand hoe, however authentic.

I came across this interesting notice in Presteigne High Street. Clearly the locals are so enraged about the ban on blood sports that they are determined to not to let the do-gooders put a stop to playground punch-ups.

Powys pledges support for playground punch ups


21st June 2013. “ By accident most strange…”

June 24, 2013 - Filed under: Blog - Leave a comment

Not much happening for a couple of days in this shineshower weather except my obsessive and futile attempts to knock some sense into the garden between downpours. Apart from my neighbour, Ian Campbell, dropping by with his head spouting blood like Old Faithful. He opened a window to prime it, remembered that safe application of primer demands ventilation, jumped up to tug the skylight string and cracked his skull on the underside of the frame he was about to paint. So much for Health & Safety. Claret everywhere, and poor old Ian embarrassed by the absurdity of the thing. Um… sorry to bother you, but …

Of course, every horror seems mad and avoidable in retrospect. Graham Greene’s story about the man killed by a toilet dropping off a balcony slips into the mind again. Luckily Ian’s injury was nothing that couldn’t be glued by the local Minor Injuries Unit… once the duty nurse could tear herself away from her laptop to attend to it. There was nobody else who needed attention. You’d have thought a bleeder might have triggered some maternal or otherwise empathetic instinct. But no. She had to be winkled out from behind the glass door of her little office by several dings on the bell; and she retained throughout her assessment and treatment of the patient, the twitchy, put-upon demeanour of a Harry Rednapp robbed at the last minute by a dodgy offside decision.

Florence, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

Kington hath need of thee.

June 20th 2013. A Rarity

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Two woodpecker guests in the garden early this morning– one on the nut feeder and the other hanging about hopefully on the sundial. Every now and then the nutter will flit over to the other one and kiss it. No doubt they’re related…

“Rare encounter of two most rare affections.”

Shouldn’t think I’ll see that again in a long while:

Two Spotted Woodpeckers kissing on my sundial.