Battlefields of hay

Field of hay bales against a blue sky

For some reason (ask a psychologist) each time I drive past fields of hay bales, or whatever the rolled-up variety are called, I’m reminded of the German war graves I saw in Belgium, near Ypres and Poperinge on a trip with Toc-H. Or scenes from films of Scottish battles; the bales are memorials, marking the locations where soldiers fell.


The Commonwealth cemeteries that I visited in Belgium in 1998 were neat and ordered, pristine, spotless and white. Everything that war is not. There was an odd feeling of triumph about them. This is a photo I took of Tyne Cot cemetery

Tyne Cott cemetery in Belgium

The German military cemeteries that I visited had a very different feeling about them. This is a photograph from one that we visited:

German military cemetery in Belgium, shaded beneath trees

Four stone figuresThere was much less a feeling of imperial triumph, more a sense of mournful reflection.

There was a beautiful ‘humanness’ about it. The cemetery was shaded beneath trees, which gave it an organic feel that broke up any sense of order that the rows of gravestones — these were set into the ground — tried to dictate.

At the edge of the graveyard respectfully stood four stone figures, a reminder perhaps that these stones and the hundreds of names inscribed on wooden plaques mark the final resting places of fellow human beings. Not enemies, but brothers.

I remember reading the name of one soldier who was killed on 11 November 1915 — my birthday. That made it more real for me, somehow. And on the Menin Gate in Ypres reading the name “E Saunders” — that could have been my brother.


And for some reason, I’m reminded of that visit to the Ypres Salient in the spring of 1998 each field I pass at this time of year, whose hay bales are marking nothing more than where they were left.

But then maybe it’s appropriate given the number of dead mice that the cats have brought in these last two nights: it was five last night!

Maybe these are battlefields after all.

The mouse factory

A computer mouse

I didn’t get much sleep last night, despite going to bed early (before 22:00). You see, our cats, Spot and Smudge, appear to have founded an Ian Banks-inspired Mouse Factory.

During the night they brought in four mice. Well, okay, if you want to get technical about it: three and a half. In they’d bound, with a triumphant yowl: “Look what we’ve brought you!!” There’s a particular tone to the cats’ meows that lets us know that this is not just their usual “I’m back! … where are you?!” The Announcement Meow has a bite to it. Literally.

The farmers have been working with combine harvester machines in the fields to the back of our house, which I’m sure is scaring the field mice out of field and right into the clutches of our delighted and awaiting cats.

The final mouse was brought in around 07:00 this morning, and still alive, if bleeding slightly. I found it cowering in the corner of the living room, and chased the Smudge away. It looked half dead.

I thought I might have to put it out of its misery. (That was a euphemism for “kill it”.) But then it moved. It was still very much alive, albeit in shock.

I couldn’t do it. I’d already fetched a plastic bag and a heavy rock (shaped like a giant hedgehog) from the garden, but I couldn’t do it. I can kill (most) insects (but not spiders) quite readily. Mammals are different.

Jane and I were getting ready for an appointment at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee at 08:45 as part of our IVF preparations. Standing in the living room with this tiny creature in my hand I was vividly aware of both the wonder and fragility of life.

Ride the lightning

Forked lightning
A photograph of lightning in Costesti

There was a lot of yawning going on in St Andrews today when I went out to buy birthday cards and sandwiches. I suspect that last night’s spectacular display of thunder and lightning had something to do with it.

Card shop

The lady who served me in the card shop told me that she could hardly sleep last night and had wished that the electrical storm had happened at a more sociable hour.

Meanwhile her colleague danced beside me (I kid you not) and kept asking me if I’d seen the new Comfort advert on TV. I told her that I hadn’t but I’d look out for it. “You’ve probably seen it already,” she said, “You just don’t realise it.” I’m not sure I watch enough television to have seen it, I think to myself.

“Can you tell it’s Friday?” asked the lady behind the counter, handing over my newly purchased clutch of cards. I told her that I could.


The lady who served me at Boots the Chemist got only a few hours sleep last night, and eventually got up at 05:00 this morning. She told me that, I don’t like stalk her or anything!

“Last night was the first night that I’ve ever seen forked lightning,” she told me excitedly. I also discovered that she sleeps in the attic. I hope she’s not a prisoner or anything.


I, on the other hand, was only awake for about an hour last night during which I marvelled at the room lighting up every few seconds, and counted myself to sleep waiting for the thunder, only to be jolted alert again by its roaring arrival.

The cats (Spot and Smudge), on the other hand, both slept soundly on the bed throughout the rumbles and crashes in the skies above the house. Only to leap out of their skins and flee the bedroom when one of us sneezed!

Clock watching

Spot the cat sitting on a table watching the clock

The other night dinner was interrupted briefly by the sound of Spot (the cat) pawing at something in the living room. We quietly poked our heads out of the dining room door to see Spot sitting on the coffee table intently watching the clock, and every now and then coiling up and leaping at the second hand as it ticked by. It was quite charming and quite hilarious.

Spot sitting on the armchair watching the clock

And it hasn’t stopped. This morning he was sitting for about 30 minutes on the armchair watching the second hand going round and round, and every now and then he’d try to attack it.

I need to get the washing machine up and running today. I suspect that Spot can’t wait.

A slow, but good, day

Coloured lights from passing cars.
When I typed the word “slow” into stock.xchng this is what I got: an image of fast cars travelling at night!

At last things are improving at Saunders HQ, certainly in terms of my health. My dizziness has almost completely gone and yet I still seem to have about a month’s worth of anti-dizzy pills left, and I had to go back to the chemist today to collect my last seven tablets as they didn’t have enough when I filled my script on Friday (check me out with my pharmaceutical terms!). Are they like antibiotics, do I have to complete the course?

Late this morning I walked into Anstruther. I wanted to see how I was doing on the road to recovery but had to make do with the road to Anstruther! (Boom! boom!) I returned pretty worn out and slept for much of the afternoon. On my bean bag. On the floor in my study. I had intended to sit and read for a bit, and managed about a paragraph before dropping off.

During my amble into town I visited the Anstruther Post Office for the first time (most of these shops are closed when I return from work) and posted my Psion Series 7Book to POS with a kind letter asking them to wave their magic, technological wand over it and make it better. I now officially have never owned a Psion that I’ve not sent to POS to fix. (If that was too many double negatives for you: I have now sent every Psion I’ve ever owned to POS to fix.) I should be more careful in future.

The rest of my day has been spent:

  • sleeping
  • reinstalling Windows XP on my PC
  • evicting flies and wasps from the house
  • grinning that we’ve now sold Kadesh (more details tomorrow)
  • reading about Search Engine Optimization and the Rule of St Benedict (not in the same book!)
  • copying thousands of files from backup DVDs to my new 300 GB hard drive
  • stroking Spot (the cat) whom we got back yesterday … and who cost us £735 for that last episode!
  • viewing a(nother) house with Jane
  • sticking my head in next door’s cement mixer and speaking like Darth Vader
  • getting better

and now I’m off to do that sleeping thing again.