November 2002 News & Thoughts

Friday, November 29, 2002

Nearly halfway through my four-day weekend. I needed
this. We went to see the new James Bond movie. I can’t
remember what it was called now, but it was as enjoyable as all the
others and the popcorn was fresh. The opening scene wasn’t
as spectacular as usual, and some of the stunts were a little far
fetched. The bad guy wasn’t evil enough; in fact, he was so
annoying I just had the urge to punch him in the nose the whole
time. Halle Berry was cool, and so was Miss Frost. Madonna
apparently had a cameo but I missed it. I hear that Elton John didn’t
like her theme song
, but quite honestly whatever tune they put to
the opening credits always sounds good.
I’ve also watched a couple of old movies on DVD. Remember one
called “Breaking Away”? It was filmed in 1979 at the
University of Indiana. Rent it if you haven’t seen it or watch it
again if you have. It’s good. It’s about four boys who
finish high school and don’t go to college, and they happen to live in a
college town. One of them is a cyclist and pretends he’s Italian
as the best cyclists in the world are Italian. There’s a great
scene when he races a Cinzano truck (lorry) while the film score plays
Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. The other movie I watched was
Hitchcock’s “Notorious.” Sizzling scenes between Cary
Grant and Ingmar Bergman, although Cary Grant doesn’t seem to sizzle as
much as he used to.
Tonight we went to the Masquerade
for a performance of “Whistle Down the Wind” —
not the Lloyd Webber version. There were almost more actors on the
stage than people in the audience. It was fun, although I’m still
not quite sure whether Jesus dies or escapes at the end.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

It’s Thanksgiving Day in America. Hope all Habershons are
enjoying the work day while we eat turkey. We shall be dining at
John’s mother’s house at 3 p.m.
Habershons, what was your worst/best/happiest/saddest
Christmas? Take some time to write about it and then e-mail
me your story

Monday evening, November 25, 2002

I spoke to Fred today. We had a music
exam. It was in the same format as the previous exams:
Multiple choice, essay questions, and listening questions. For
instance, today the professor played a piece of music (I think it was a
Liszt Etude) and we had to identify the tonality, the genre, the metre,
and the form. Each time we’ve been allowed to take a
listening guide in with us to the exam. He reminded us several
times last week to make sure we downloaded the Romantic listening guide
from his website and brought it with us, along with the Classical
listening guide.

About fifteen minutes towards the end of the exam, Fred spoke.
He called the professor over and asked why he didn’t have a listening
guide. Everyone else seemed to have one. I didn’t hear the
professor’s exact words, but I think he told him he didn’t have any
spare ones and that he should have brought his own. I turned
around, and Fred was pointing at my listening guides. I feebly
held one up as I’d finished using it, but the professor just headed back
to the front of the class and left it all up in the air. I think
he was as reluctant as I was to solve Fred’s problem.

Five minutes later as I was about to hand in my exam, Fred once again
demanded a listening guide. This time the professor asked me if I
could lend him mine. I gave Fred my Classical one and told him
that I wanted it back on Wednesday.

Man, I’ve been weak lately.

Monday, November 25, 2002

I need to catch up with Callie. I mean, I love
the idea that Kevin’s wrong, but what on earth is she talking about? I don’t know how she gets away with it. Every morning when I get up I have to repeat: “John is always right.”

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Tomorrow we have an exam on 19th Century music. We also have to
hand in our concert reports. You loyal readers of
have earned the privilege of reading mine
before the professor. (Once again, if MS Word asks for a password,
just hit “cancel”.)
I may chicken out at the last minute and add a note to the end that
it was written while under the influence of Darvocet.
Saturday, November 23, 2002

Life goes on here in Houston. I’ve just updated Wendy’s
with the stuff that’s been happening.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002
My fondest memories of Dad were those two years (1961 and 1962) I had
him all to myself. Paul, David and Ricky were all away at boarding
school (they were packed off at seven and I didn’t go until I was
eleven). He used to drive me to school in Frome every morning and
help me with my homework at night. I remember him sending me into
the shop at the bottom of Locks Hill to buy his cigarettes on the way to
school. We’d have a discussion about which brand to buy that
morning. If he was feeling rich I’d get him Peter Stuyvesant or
Benson & Hedges. On the cheap days it was Players
(please). Mum was always nagging him to stop. And he
did. But in a final act of defiance, he stopped on Easter Day
rather than the first day of Lent. And she didn’t notice for three
During those two years he also taught me to trout fish. Once I
mastered landing the fly within a certain radius without getting it
caught in a tree, he took me to the River Culm in Devon. Those
were precious days. We’d get up early and make sandwiches, and
then drive through Somerset to the river with all our gear. He
would go about 50 yards down the river to cast his fly and told me to
yell if I needed help. This invariably happened as I was always
getting the line caught in the trees.
I never did tell him why I never caught a trout. I just
couldn’t stand the thought of getting one on the end of my line and then
having to bang it on the head to kill it. So every time I saw a
fish about to bite I’d pull the line back. “Darn, missed it
again, Dad.”
We’d usually return home with four or five fish, all caught by
him. And the day didn’t end there. He would clean and grill
one for me. And when it was nearly done he’d cover it with fresh
cream and lemon juice. Not sure where the recipe came from, but it
was awesome. He never ate them as he didn’t like the bones.
Sometimes we’d let Mum have a taste, though.

Friday evening, November 15, 2002

It’s out! The sidebar of this
confirms it. He went to Bedford Modern. Paul
told us on Wednesday that Andy Gilchrist, head of the Fireman’s Union
(which is currently on strike) was one of his pupils at Bedford
Modern. Two days ago he was on the front of The Sun next to
the headline, “Flaming Idiot.” Paul told us that on his
first day of class at Bedford Modern, young Mr. Gilchrist answered
“yeah” to a question Paul asked him. Paul pointed out
that the word was “yes,” not “yeah.” He now
believes he may be responsible for turning the boy anti-establishment
for the rest of his life.

Friday, November 15, 2002

It’s a sunny morning in Sherborne. I’m sitting alone in Dad’s
house drinking coffee and reflecting on the happenings of the last
week. It was the first time I’d seen all my brothers with their
wives and children under one roof. There had always been
someone missing at family gatherings (usually me). Anyway, they’ve
all taken off in different directions once again. Paul to Bedford,
Clare to Warwick, Nick to London, David and Libby to Emsworth, Ed and
Jim to Birmingham, Charlie down the road back to school, Ricky, Helen,
Emma and Jamie to The Stables (and Lincolnshire?), and William to

Yesterday went smoothly, although a lot of it is a blur. Dad’s
cremation service was in the morning and Thanksgiving service in the
afternoon. Amazing how many friends he’d accumulated since moving
to Sherborne five years ago. I’ve posted the tribute on his
. It says just about everything. Well written,
David. And well done Charlie, Ed and Paul for reading at the
service. I could never have managed that.

I’d also like to congratulate everyone on the fact that not one
mobile ‘phone rang during either service. Was it my threat of a
£2 fine for each ring that prevented that? Or is everyone just
well-trained over here? In spite of all the threats we get from
the professors at the University of Houston, there is always at least one
that goes off during classes.

I leave for Houston on Sunday, Continental Flight 5. I’m
staying with David and Libby on Saturday night — a little closer to

Did I say it was a “sunny” morning? It’s raining
now. The weather never seems to make up its mind over here.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002

A friend told me to “pace myself.” That’s what I did
yesterday. School. Leg x-ray. No break. Just
bruise. Good. Visit Wendy.
Talk to the insurance company. Work. Clear desk
(almost). Home. Sleep.
David and Libby have been doing an incredible job organizing
everything, and it doesn’t seem fair that some turd broke into their
house while they were in Sherborne. Anyone else got anything
to add to the crappy list of the last four days? Toothache?
Ingrown toenail? Sick parrot?
There is an announcement in the Daily Telegraph and the Times
today. It will also run tomorrow. I haven’t found it online
so am putting David’s original wording on Dad’s
I’m catching Continental
Flight 4
at 6:50 p.m. and arrive at Gatwick at 9:55 a.m.
tomorrow. I’ll take a train to Sherborne and will stay at
Dad’s house. David transferred the ‘phone line back there so I’ll
be taking the laptop with me. John will be staying in Houston with
the cats and the ringing ‘phone.
Sunday, November 10, 2002

I’ve always considered myself agnostic. But the incidents of
Friday and Saturday have me very confused. Should I now be a
believer or a non-believer? The nurse found Dad
sometime after midnight. I presume that the death certificate will
give the official time and date. But it appears that my
happened about 45 minutes after he died. I’ve been
picturing him at the gates of heaven and looking down and muttering
“I’ve hardly left and there’s Catherine causing me grief
again.” Maybe he had a hand in saving me from serious
injury? Or maybe this is all coincidence. It’s all food for
further thought, though. But I am sure of one thing.
If there is a heaven, Dad is already firmly ensconced up there at
the best Bridge table. Let’s hope that Mum’s game has improved.
Dad had deteriorated badly over the last couple of weeks. He
was ready to go and had refused to go into the hospital. His brain
was sharp to the end. Jenny, Diana, Ricky
and David had all visited him in the last 24
hours and he was surrounded by friends and family. Jenny wrote
that she had been to see him on Thursday before going to bridge and had
told him she’d be back later. He
said he wouldn’t be there and I told him he would and we had an argument
about it, ending up with me betting him a tenner he would still be
around at six. He was.
I hope he paid up, Jenny.

There will be a
Church service in Sherborne on Thursday followed by private cremation.
David is handling everything and I’ll publish times/dates, etc. here
as things progress. I have a flight to England on Tuesday
David made me smile a little this morning. Referring to the
uncertainty of the date of death, he wrote in an e-mail: For
want of any firm decision, I have left it at 9 Nov in the vain hope that
Dad might get an extra day’s pension!

True Habershon style. Dad would have approved 🙂

Saturday, November 9, 2002

Dad died last night.

Friday, November 8, 2002

I was in a car accident tonight. I’m okay but Wendy‘s

Details later. I can’t see through the tears right now. No
calls, please.

Wednesday, November 5, 2002

I love Will
. He played at the Mucky Duck last night to a small crowd (about 20 of us) and was the best I’ve heard him. He played most of the songs on his two CDs but did
throw in a new one he’d written called “Wicked Angela.”
It was only his second time performing it and it sounded great — not
only does he have a killer voice, but his guitar playing is
incredible. I also love his sense of humour — he talks to the
audience a little between songs. John and I got there early to eat
(best Scotch eggs in Houston — actually, I don’t know where else you
can find Scotch eggs) and he actually came over to say “hello”
and thanked us for coming to listen to him. He’s
performing in England in December, and I urge all Habershons and non-Habershons
(that covers everyone, I think) to catch one of his shows. He’ll
be in London, Maidstone, Chester, Bristol, Sheffield, Birmingham,
Manchester, and Glasgow. Click here for the dates.

I’m not sure how I managed to get anyone to keep me company there
last night. John had been howling all day
about being dragged out on election night. However, he brought his
palm pilot and was able to keep up to date with the returns, passing the
damn thing around the table to the other political geeks in attendance;
i.e. Kevin, Alex
and Callie. After the show
we all came back to the house and watched the Republicans regain control
of the Senate. It was a perfect evening/morning.
Did I mention that I love Will Kimbrough?
P.S. for Fred watchers . . . he was exactly
30 minutes late for class this morning. You have no idea how close
I came to sticking my foot out as he swaggered across the room.
The professor said nothing.
Tuesday, November 5, 2002

It’s voting day. Fortunately tradition was not broken by the
rain and we rolled out of bed, onto our bicycles and pedalled to the
voting booths. I actually wore my pyjamas with a raincoat on
top. The scene was a lot different from last time — there was
actually a queue! I don’t think it’s because of higher
turnout. The delay is due to the new electronic voting
machines. I had to wait ten minutes to use one, and even though I
voted straight Republican it took me a good five minutes to read the
instructions and get used to it. If that’s the scene at 7 in the
morning I dread to think what it’ll be like when everyone votes on their
way home from work this evening.
Excitement outside the polling station — a lady pulled up in a green
Mini! I haven’t seen one in over a month. We fussed over her
for a while.
Time to get to work.

Monday evening, November 4, 2002

It’s Monday
here in Houston, but it’s already Tuesday in England, so . . .
Happy Guy Fawkes Day

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Monday, November 4, 2002

It rained all day. It’s still raining. I’ve got the blahs.

We had a Music test this morning. I think I did okay. I noticed when I left that the professor had actually locked the door and stuck a notice on the outside:

Do not knock. You are late and have therefore failed the test.

Wow! I remember hearing people knock but was too intent on writing about Salieri and Haydn and the finer points of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. In fact, I’m not even sure if Fred made it.

Anyone else like bubble wrap?

(still) Sunday, November 3, 2002

We went to the Firehouse Saloon on Friday. In spite of the fact that I lived in an apartment just round the corner for three years I’d never visited it. I like the place. There’s plenty of room and there are places to sit. The bar serves spirits as well as beer, so at least gives me the option of drinking G&Ts if I feel like it. And there’s an upstairs section with a balcony. I really liked that. You can sit up there and watch everything that’s going on downstairs. And the activity downstairs was very watchable. We saw two bands play: Cody Kouba and The Great Divide. It was fun watching the fans, and The Great Divide seemed to have a large following, most of them being half my age. The scenery was good, too. All sorts of interesting stuff on the walls, pool tables, cowboy stuff, etc. Especially fascinating was the noose hanging right in front of me. Not a good idea after the bloody awful day I’d had at work. (Hint: “Norton System Works”).

Sunday, November 3, 2002

Our local Kroger supermarket on West Gray has cleared three shelves for British food. They have Peppermint Aeros! This one’s a little crushed, but it came all the way from York, so I know it’s genuine. YUM! They also have Heinz Treacle Pudding.

While I had the camera out I took a picture of my rentalano. It looks better from a distance.

Saturday evening, November 2, 2002

This article on the dreaded British driving test in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal prompted me to compare the Habershons with the British average. Thanks to all Habershons who responded to my e-mail. My findings:

17 Habs and neé Habs (5 women and 12 men) are legal drivers. Out of those 17, six (yes, six) failed the test on the first attempt. Of those six, five are men. I won’t mention the name of the female who ruined the record, except to say that it wasn’t me. (Er … Mrs. Webb? Mrs. We-ebb …)

Wait. I’m not finished. Those six Habershons who failed the test failed 11 (I repeat: 11) times between them. So not only did some of them fail once, they failed again. And again, and again. Once again, I won’t mention who failed his four times. Don’t want to embarrass anyone here. Hey, he could have been worrying about his next clarinet lesson.

Some good news does come out of this Hab Survey. The article mentions that less than 44% of drivers pass the first time. The Habershon pass rate is 64.7%. Charlie and Emma, the pressure is on both of you to keep up our good name.

From the e-mails I received, it appears that if you don’t have lessons from a certified instructor and show up in the examination room with him and drive his car, you have less chance of passing. At least, those were a couple of the excuses. I also found it interesting that those Habershons who learned to drive before they could walk also had a higher failure rate than those of us who didn’t get behind the wheel until our 17th birthdays. Our female failure wrote that on her second attempt she “. . . failed to stop at a cross roads. The examiner took a very dim view of this and felt lucky to be alive – so he said.”

One of our more verbose readers writes:

. . . I passed my driving test 1st time (but that was after about 45 lessons, and also with about 11 minors…!!). Examiner was a very scary short plump bloke, whose right leg seemed to be permanently positioned practically ON the gear stick, so my main preoccupation was to change gear as little as possible rather than worry about 3 point turns!! I was reprimanded afterwards about my parallel parking efforts though…there was a lady walking along the pavement with a pram at the time you see. Apparently, I should have waited for her to pass, before beginning to reverse, just in case she of course suddenly decided to cross the road behind me. This lady was metres away, and I’m talking many many metres!

And here we have a Habershon father’s lame excuse for his son failing: “ …failed twice in Yeovil, passed first time in Chichester. Yeovil full of roundabouts (difficult to assess when to move out!) and they don’t like Sherborne boys. Chichester is flat with traffic lights and fewer roundabouts.

They don’t like Sherborne boys? Oh, puh-LEEEZE!

Interestingly enough, Paul and I took lessons from the same instructor. Paul used to come home from his lessons and describe how the instructor kept on saying, “Cor, look at that one!” Then a whole generation later William had the same instructor who was apparently “still ogling the birds.” I’m surprised they live that long (instructors, that is).

Now before you all get upset at this article. “Who does she think she is? Showing us all up like that?” (mutter mutter) I shall admit to failing my motorcycle test the first time. I took it in Oxford. The test centre was behind the Oxfam offices on Beechcroft Road. The examiner walked outside with me and told me the route to take. It was quite complicated and I was nervous. “At some point along the route,” he said, “I will step out into the road and you will do an emergency stop.” I took off down the road. It started hailing. I was wearing a helmet without a visor and the hailstones were REALLY REALLY hurting my face. I got lost, and rode round and round several blocks for over 30 minutes. As the test is only meant to be 20 minutes long I knew I was toast, so decided to head back to the test centre. Suddenly, the examiner jumped out in front of me (he must have been hiding behind a hedge). I slammed on my brakes, skidded across the road and landed in a heap. He didn’t even ask if I was hurt. “I told you to ride down Road A, not Road B,” he snapped. “Now meet me back at the test centre, if you can find it.”

Nasty little man.

“I expect you know you’ve failed, don’t you?”, he said, as I limped in to the test centre, freezing cold and wet with my yellow platform boots ruined.

I went back six months later to re-take the test and got the same examiner. He remembered me (must’ve been the boots). “You again?” he asked. I passed. And I’m very proud of that “M” on my driver’s license.

Now, Habershons, I think it’s time we talked about tickets. E-mail me with your experiences. Let’s see how clean our records are.

Saturday, November 2, 2002

Happy birthday, Callie! Take a deep breath and click here (carefully).

Friday morning, November 1, 2002

Cool story. Wonder how quickly I could learn Japanese?