Maplehurst Ramblings

December 2002

(1) Pampered pooches and possibly the worlds most expensive dog bed.

I had cause to go to al Fayeds Bazaar (aka Harrods) recently. They have a petshop on the second floor where one can purchase all the usual requisites for ones beloved pooch. The Harrods shop stocks a comprehensive range of goodies for the little dears, including faux diamante crowns (honestly) and jewel-encrusted Gucci collar and lead combinations. I was even tempted to purchase a matching set of Foggy Mountain formal velvet dog coats - triple lined with a plush black velvet exterior - just right for the Maplehurst mud! The price tag put me off a bit, though (£60 upwards).

I also noticed that Harrods were selling a designer "dog temple" in their pet shop. Architecturally, this "palace" is a sort of Hawksmoor meets Blackamoor effort, classic lines with a rather oversize domed roof above. The palace measures 42" high by 29" wide by 23" deep. It looks to be constructed out of MDF with some of the cornice detail and other architectural features cut from softwood. The whole structure is lined in rather gaudy purple velvet with gold piping around all the edges. The inside of the unit is finished similarly, there is even a little cushion (complete with gold braid edging) for your little canine darling to sit on. I rather liked the look of these things and was tempted to buy one as a treat for our dogs. Then I saw the price and nearly died. They aren't exactly a snip at £9,999.

I reckon that materials (excluding upholstery) for this dog palace come in at a touch under £50. Although the joint work would be a little bit fiddly, you are not looking at much more than 2-3 days work to make the unit. That means a rather tidy little profit for our Egyptian grocer friend. When I have more time in the Spring I am tempted to tackle making a few of these units. I shall let you know how I get on.....

NB:- On the above website, make sure you check out the English bull Terrier "Stanley" - dogs don't come much finer than this!

(2) Good neighbour award

Last month I was heading to the tip at Horsham when I spotted one of my neighbours standing at the side of the road in the pouring rain. I don’t want to name him here as I know he would be embarrassed to be in the spotlight!

I stopped my car and asked him what he was doing. He explained that he had seen somebody acting suspiciously at the council depot on Bar Lane and had called the Police. He had parked his car in such a way that he totally blocked the “suspicious” persons vehicle. I asked him if he wanted any help and he declined politely, saying that the Police were already on their way.

Eventually it transpired that this person who had been seen at the Council Depot was there in the legitimate course of his business but the police were grateful that they had been called due to the number of burglaries in that area recently.

Well done to that neighbour – Britain needs more people like this!

  (3) The Never-ending story (aka the saga of my lawn)

It never rains but it pours – at least that is what November felt like! After the first few rainstorms of the month I began to get nervous about my lawn ending up like last winter. My fears were confirmed when the water that had settled on the lawn refused to drain away. By the middle of the month, I decided to take action and spoke with Kevin Black about a plan of action.

We decided to hire a trenching tool and use it to excavate a series of drains across the lawn. These were intended to be deep enough to penetrate the layer of clay which sits beneath the topsoil. The trenches would then be filled with gravel and the turf re-laid back on top.

Unfortunately, the day we had chosen to carry out this operation was during one of the wettest spells of the whole month.

We decided on a hasty change of tactics, which saw us borrow a 2 man auger. We used this to drill a series of 8” wide holes, 3 feet deep.  Whenever the bit hit a stone Kevin and I were thrown sideward by the power of the engine on the auger. Eventually, however, we developed a tactic that seemed to prevent us being thrown around the place – Kevin took charge of the throttle control! Rather surprisingly, the majority of the boreholes we dug threw up subsoil that was absolutely bone dry. It appears that the clay in this subsoil became “polished” before the topsoil was replaced last year, which created an impermeable barrier.

The holes were filled with gravel and the turf replaced on top – time will tell if this helps the soil drainage until we are able to get the trenching tool on the lawn.

(3) The Wey and Arun Canal

I was alerted to the restoration work being carried out to The Wey and Arun Canal by a newspaper article recently – this rather impressive project aims to eventually re-establish a link from Guildford directly to the South Coast via Surrey and West Sussex.

Much of the canal has fallen into serious decay over the last hundred years. Many sections have now been filled in and lock mechanisms removed totally. The restoration work began over thirty years ago and is not likely to be completed in my lifetime.

One issue interests me – that of the legal status of the canal itself. If the canal had fallen into disrepair so long ago and had effectively been given up by its owners who now owns the canal? The laws of adverse possession (i.e squatters rights) are fairly complex but as long as any tenant has had sole use for at least a dozen years then the property will revert to him. I don’t know what the deeds to the land occupied by the canal state, but I wager there is a pretty penny in there somewhere for the lawyers! The website states that a lot of the “towpath” exists on private land where there is no public right of way,  I always thought that there was a presumption of “right of way” on an towpath but perhaps I was wrong. It would be a shame if the canal had no path over large sections of it – perhaps Gina Dixon and Brenda Shaw would like to offer themselves out as legal researchers on this case! They certainly have a pedigree in this type of work (NB for those who do not know, that nice Mr. Jackson – late of Sedgwick Park – pleaded guilty to more charges relating to his tenure at the big house. He was bound over to keep the peace)

(4) Were we ripped off by Seeboard??

Does anyone remember the extensive power cuts a few months ago, courtesy of SEEBOARD? I certainly do.

Those who do remember will almost certainly recall the days of “half power” in the Nuthurst area. Apart from being a pretty reckless thing to do (it causes motors to burn out etc.), it conveniently classed as “restoration of supply” which let SEEBOARD of the compensation hook. Apparently compensation is payable by power companies for each period of 12 hours that power is restored.

Great news – we get a dribble of electricity for a few minutes each day and the power companies don’t have to pay us a penny. I smell a large rat somewhere near Copthorne.

After Christmas I shall write to SEEBOARD and ask for some answers to the points raised above. If anyone kept a diary of the times of the power cuts can they please let me know – there could be some money in it for all of us. 

While SEEBOARD are on my radar screen, I watched their adverts with some irony – apparently their mission statement is “New ways to save you money” or something similar. I guess cutting off the electricity supply is a pretty novel approach to achieve this.  

A few days after the cuts I read all about the financial problems suffered by TXU energy and Drax amongst others. These electricity generating giants are both suffering due to weak electricity prices (although one could be forgiven for disbelieving this given that National Grid has just paid £10,000 per KwHour !!). Excuse me for sounding cynical, but I don’t seem to have benefited very much from these supposed weak prices at all. Perhaps this point will go in my next polemic to SEEBOARD.

(5) One for the Taliban.

I think just about everyone has had a bit of fun poked at them recently on this site, now it’s the turn of our erstwhile “freedom fighter” friends in Afghanistan, or what’s left of them, anyway!. Take a look at the Taliban Reunited website – it’s a blast!

(6) Bodyworlds (aka Korperwelt)

Has anyone else been to the Bodyworlds exhibition in Brick Lane, London apart from me? I was invited there in October by a friend who expressed an interest in going. The exhibition consists of a series of corpses which have had their tissue and organs stripped away and replaced by resins of various colours. The resultant effect is nothing short of stunning.

Critics have labeled the exhibition perverse and ghoulish. All I can say is go and judge for yourself. Judging by the sheer number of schoolchildren attending the exhibition who were busy on project work it seems that parents are happy to let their young ones attend.

The exhibition has been arranged by a German national, Professor Gunther von Haagens. He is the flamboyant character who conducted the public autopsy last month and who has netted himself the tidy sum of $40,000,000 from his work.

The displays are exceptionally informative and show the workings of just about every aspect of the body. There is even a display of a pair of lungs taken from a heavy smoker, probably the best anti-smoking propaganda I have ever seen. A few sections are a little bit gory but overall the show is well worth the effort to go and see. There is even a part of the website which shows you the approximate waiting time to get in and see the exhibit. Take a hint from me – buy your tickets online, it will save you hours of hassle when you get there. 

(7) Cisswood House

There is a lot of building work going on around Cisswood House Hotel at the moment, does anyone know what they are up to there? I haven’t noticed any planning signs around the area recently.

(8) Partridge in a pear tree

Never mind about the proverbial partridge in a pear tree. Last week Janie took delivery of some Friesian Bantam hens to complement her existing stock. These have obviously never been in a chicken coop before. The first night they arrived, one managed to find its way 12’ up my oak tree where it stayed firmly out of reach until about 10.30 pm. I eventually grabed hold of it, having spent the previous fifteen minutes gingerly negotiating my way up the tree by ladder. The ensuing noise would have wakened the dead!

Eventually I returned it to the coop amidst great protestations where it now happily resides come twilight!. Next time I’ll send Jasper up for the little sod.

(9) …and finally.

I received a large number of complaints (i.e. moans!!) about the last competition I set in the last Nuthurst Society Newsletter. Despite this, many correct entries were received and Colin Cutler was the lucky winner of a bottle of quality sparkling wine.


This month, I have set two slightly easier problems that could easily be attempted by any thirteen-year-old schoolchild. Entries have been literally dribbling in over the last week. If you are a member of The Nuthurst Society and you fancy winning an easy competition, have a go and send your completed entry form to any committee member. I have also donated a separate prize of fine French Dessert wine this month, which relates to the last competition  - students of geometry will have a field day!

NB The competition is only open to NutSoc members. If you are not already a member of The Nuthurst society and you would like to join, contact me for details.


That’s all for this year. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.


Next month, be sure not to miss the following exciting items:-

The New Battle of Britain
Micro surveillance gadgets

Pesky Nigerian Conmen
And much, much more.


Simon  McClean 12th December 2002     last months MR's


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