'GRANDDAD, what goes ha ha – bonk?" "I don't know, Ebba," I said, poised over some creeping buttercup with a hand fork while she paused in making a cake with equal quantities of sand, gravel and twigs. "What goes ha ha – bonk?"
FOR the past few days when the pressures of daily life permitted – leaks to repair, tomatoes to tend, Sherlock to watch – I've been struggling to get something straight in my mind.
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I'VE used the phrase for years as a catch-all when children reject something green and quite often home-grown with the aid of sweat from my brow: "I say it's spinach and I say the hell with it."
IT IS the precision with which the little blighters work that never fails to amaze. That and the fact there is no immediate pain as there is with a bee or wasp sting. The swellings and itchiness come hours later, often in places not easy to scratch publicly without attracting attention, or sometimes, as one day last week, in a neat row of five stitched across the back of my neck.
WE RECENTLY met friends and the husband began by saying: "You know what I was thinking about ?" Liz said: "Yes – cricket."
STRIPPERS working in a steamy atmosphere to a background of heavy breathing? We were, it was, and we did pant a little, especially after unloading and carrying in the new cast iron stove.
'Two youngsters were told to start work the next day. Neither appeared'
WORKING on the farm in my late teens I was soldiering on with one of the "bad backs" that went with user-unfriendly tractor seats and 100-kg grain sacks, and was Dr Harvey's last patient of what had clearly been another long day for him.
I HAD what some think of as a significant birthday this week. Yesterday, since you ask, and it's never too late for cards and enclosures. Cash, cheque or book voucher, I don't mind.
THOSE obsessed by gadgetry and technology know who will criticise their devotion to mobile phones, YouTube, computer games, Facebook, television, and anything else that helps confuse reality with dream world. Likewise, those who believe that civilisation should have drawn a line at steam power and black and white television and claim that lives devoted to surfing, texting, phoning and networking will end in tears know who the enemy is.
THERE is a theory that if parallel lines are extended far enough - possibly to infinity or at least Captain Kirk - they will meet. My own version is that camera-making technology has finally managed to meet and counteract my incompetence at using one.
MAN the hunter has generally had a good press, but we shouldn't forget man the gatherer. Collecting nuts, berries and fruit has never been the soft option it was cracked up to be compared with digging pits for mammoths or running down deer. Not if bramble picking is anything to go by, and it is.
YOUR starter for ten: what do Hong Kong, Sydney, London, Singapore and Alnwick have in common? Give up? The answer, to my own surprise as much as yours, is that I've been on a bus tour of each.
GIVEN our weather no one gets passionate about a strict dividing line for seasonal change, such as when late summer becomes early autumn. But it's worth a thought.
IT WAS that sort of morning. As various parts creaked in the gradual adjustment from horizontal in bed to upright at the window I opened the curtains to find grey mist and heavy drizzle obscuring what is usually a modest, but uplifting, view of flowers, bushes and trees, some of them ours.
Fordyce Maxwell: 'Waiting for Ebba's arrival, Jacq began to ask about the elephant's gestation period'
I SOMETIMES think it's worth taking an evening class - or preferably a morning or afternoon class before the overnight brain cell recharge has run down too far - simply to study character.
SHOPPING is not my favourite pastime, nor do I claim expertise because I once braved Ikea and have been to the Metrocentre. But force of circumstance and an occasional urge to buy something specific mean that I have spent time in the main shopping areas of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, London and Newcastle.
PERHAPS it's the slightly melancholy turning of the seasons, but last year about this time we spent most of a day in Fife tracking down Liz's childhood.
COOKING demarcation in our house is strict. No disputes, no bad feeling, nothing to do with where a woman's place should be, but Liz cooks and I eat, for the simple reason that she is much, much better at it.
Fordyce Maxwell: 'Tucking boiler suits into wellies is a must if there's any danger of rat activity'
HENRY Ford said about his first mass-produced car, "Any colour you like as long as it's black", and I feel the same way about one of the great inventions, the wellington.