Sunday, January 10, 2010


Badger and Cate. Red Square.

Cate came home early on Friday because Wien was placed on alert as huge snow falls were expected in the city. Of course it immediately stopped snowing and instead we got rain. This proves what we already knew – that weather forecasting is an imprecise art the world over.

Sissi is very disappointed because I had promised her at least 20 Centimeters of snow - in which she just loves to play.

The Stadtpark Duck Pond is no longer frozen over and there is now lots of open water but there is no sign of the Swan which Merisi saw late last week.

I have been watching the grit catastrophe unfold in Britain. BBC News has reported almost nothing else – but as there are 24 hours to fill and not much to fill them with – we get the same news every hour.

Anyway the story is that there has been so much snow and ice that the local authorities are running out of grit for the roads. Now I think grit is salt – it looks like salt – but I will need someone to nail that down for me. Perhaps Maalie – he is in the thick of it.

There was (so they thought) plenty of grit but supplies are running short and apparently – according to many – and particularly the Opposition Parties – this is a national scandal, is the result of poor planning, shows complete disregard for the Proletariat and is possibly a plot to bring down the Monarchy.

It is certainly a ‘grit-gap’ and is rapidly heading towards ‘grit-gate’. BBC reporters report breathlessly from next to ‘dwindling piles of grit’ or from roads which are suffering from grit-lack. Emergency supplies are being imported urgently for Europe (the banner under the story said ‘Britain imports ice from Germany’ but I am sure they meant grit).

People have been stealing grit! Good Grief! There is nothing lower than a grit thief (except the Russian bastard who stole my camera!).

People in the street have been interviewed. Not surprisingly - none of them is in favour of running out of grit.

I feel compelled to do something. I may encourage President to start a ‘Grit Lend Lease Program’ to get Britain backs on its wheels. I may start a 'Grit for Britain’ campaign – although I am not sure Austria would be absolutely the best place to do this.

On a happier note the Temporary Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has said that there is ‘no chance that Britain will run not of gas or heating oil’. This is a clear sign that people should start chopping up their furniture or be out in the woods with axes.

Cate and Gwenyth went to Schönbrunn on Sunday. This was Cate’s first visit. I have still not been and said that if I did go it would impede my progress towards making Spicy Lentil Soup for dinner. This was the show stopper for Cate so I was let off the hook.

Look I am sure it is just lovely – but it’s the middle of winter, it’s cold, the city is covered with slush, I have seen more palace and castles in the last year that most other people see in a lifetime (and I can tell you that they are pretty much all the bloody same) and we have just been in St Petersburg for a week.

In between watching the grit saga unfold over some days I came upon a truly weird thing. Something upon which I have never come before. It is called ‘tractor pulling’. I chanced upon the competition being held in Ohio and hosted by the Ohio State Tractor Pullers Association.

I watched this for a while and saw very powerful and strange looking machines drag large lumps of something (I couldn’t really work out what) along the ground as far or as fast as they can (I am not sure about the rules). To do this they span their wheels and spurted gouts of flame and smoke while people held their hands over their ears. I saw Judgment Day.

Being by nature inquisitive I had a quick look at the Internet to discover that there are tractor pullers and competitions all over the world. I am astonished that I have reached my vast age – and know so much trivia – and not know about tractor pulling. How could this be?

It appears to be a spectacular waste of time, energy, resources and money so of course is the ideal recreational activity for people who like smoke, flames and noise. (They are probably Republicans and use minced owls for fuel).


  1. I learn so much about what goes on in the U.S. from reading your blog. Fascinating.

  2. I don't know about snow grit, but when I lived in London, chicken grit was an entirely different thing. I trust the English aren't using that particular organic matter in this case.

  3. Tragic situation, over there in Great Britain, running out of grits is the pits!

    You have to be at the pond really early,
    that swan is an early bird! ;-)

  4. I never got to Moscow but I had a great week somewhere in the depths of the taiga forest and other week in St Petersburg.

    Today it has actually rained in Mintcakeland and for the first time in weeks I can walk (rather than skate) the 90 seconds from my house to the beach. Yes, with a General Election later this year the Grit saga is already becoming political. What we call "grit" is actually a mixture of rock salt (which is chemically the same as table salt but not so refined) and fine gravel or sand i.e. true grit. The salt is supposed form a Eutectic mixture and melt the snow whilst the true grit gives true traction. Of course this is only a once a year event so nobody is ever ready for it. No schools are open this week as the schools are worried a parent will sue if one kid throws a snowball at another.

    Merisi: LOL!

  5. If I may add a word of enlightenment for Steph, chicken grit really is grit. Mineral sand or fine gravel. Is is eaten to form millstones in the crop where seeds in the diet arte crushed and ground into something digestible. Captive birds have to have it put on a plate for them.

    I exploit this phenomenon ruthlessly, as one consequence of the requirement of grit is the number of road killed pheasants that get donged by looking for grit on the roads. I probably eat more pheasant than any other single type of meat. In and out of season.

  6. Ah, I see. Thanks for clearing that up, Maalie! It was in 1978 when a friend in London said to me, "I think they're burning chicken grit." Because of the smell, I misunderstood what he meant. And to think that all these years...

  7. Ah, Steff, they were probably burning the contents of the grit box which after a while is likely to contain more than just grit...if you see what I mean...