Impressing visitors

Jen and I went to the local Italian restaurant with her family last night to celebrate her mum's forthcoming birthday.

During the proceedings, one of Jen's brothers was telling us all about how he and his wife have show-towels in their bathrooms to impress visitors to the house. These towels aren't for actual use, he explained; they're just there for show.

The problem was, Jen's brother, like all her siblings, has a West Yorkshire accent. I have become pretty familiar with the accent over the years, but it still presents me with difficulties from time to time—as on this occasion. When Jen's brother said show-towels, I could have sworn blind that he actually said short owls. In the West Yorkshire dialect, the two phrases are homophones.

This simple misunderstanding got me thinking: wouldn't it be utterly awesome to keep a couple of owls in your bathroom, just to impress visitors? Well, I say just to impress visitors, but they would presumably keep any mice in check at the same time. Much better than a bloody cat at any rate. I'm thinking little owls or short-eared owls, obviously—nothing too fancy.

Thinking about it some more, having a pair of owls in your bathroom could help avoid potential embarrassment when you do have guests. If either of you needs to go to the loo, you could simply say, “I'm just off to feed the owls”—a really handy euphemism, I'm sure you'll agree.

Jen is always complaining that she never knows what to buy me for Christmas. Problem solved!

200% Owl

Twilight road

Owl Stump Bend.

About a mile from my house, there's a picturesque bend in the road with a three-foot-high tree stump that always reminds me of a giant owl. A very giant owl.

I was approaching this bend on my way home this evening, when a tawny owl [Strix aluco] flew in front of my car and landed on top of the public footpath sign at the side of the road. I slammed on my brakes and watched the bird in the car's headlights. It looked back at me for about 20 seconds, then flew up into the branches of a tree on the other side of the road.

I moved the car a bit closer and watched some more. Suddenly, a second tawny owl flew out of the darkness and attacked the first. After a brief altercation, the first owl flew off, and the second took its place on the branch.

Nowadays, owls are literally fighting each other to get a mention on Gruts.

See also:

Night Owl on the dawn shift

From Nature Cure by Richard Mabey (p.135):

The tawny owl's generic name is Sirix, Latin for witch, and there are stories of the Church burning owls for witchcraft in the Middle Ages…

The above quote is taken from the final paragraph I read over breakfast this morning before I put on my coat and went to get the car out of the garage. As I stepped out of the door, a tawny owl flew across my path and headed off down the hill. I have heard it hooting for the last week or so, but this was the very first time I have seen a tawny owl in my garden.


I think you'll find it was.

2% Owl

Hitchin and I have very similar senses of humour. So much so that Jen finds it a bit spooky. She first realised this when she made some comment to Hitchin, and he made exactly the same obscure yet hysterically funny joke that I had made on hearing the same comment five minutes earlier. (OK, maybe it wasn't all that hysterically funny, but Hitchin and I both thought it was.)

Anyway, while we were staying with Hitchin and Soo last weekend, Celebrity Who Wants to be a Millionaire? was on the telly, and Edwina Curry was asked which is the heaviest flying bird of prey.

"The condor!" shouted Hitchin and I in unison, before the answers were even shown on the screen. We then had a discussion about whether this might be a trick question, as scavengers such as condors might not count as birds of prey, but decided that Celebrity Who Wants to be a Millionaire? probably wouldn't be that devious (or, more likely, that it would never have occurred to them in the first place).

"I think I'd better ask the audience," said the former junior minister for health, and Prime Minister's mistress. So the audience voted. The result: 98% Condor, 2% Owl.

Now 2% Owl is exactly the sort of phrase that Hitchin and I find incredibly funny: it's such a very small proportion, and such a very ordinary-sounding bird. So, for the rest of the weekend, we tried to slip the phrase two percent owl into the conversation whenever possible. You get the idea:

2% Owl

2% Owl (98% Fox).

  • "According to the nutritional information on the side of this box, these Cheerios are two percent owl!"
  • "Hey, you know that Keira Knightley? She's two percent owl! You'd never guess it to look at her!"
  • "Did you know that the population of Bolivia is two percent owl?"
  • …and so on.

So there's your new challenge, Gruts readers. I would like you to go out into the world and start slipping the phrase two percent owl into conversations wherever possible. But, to keep it funny, unlike me, you must never explain where the phrase came from.

See also: The Owl of Doom

The Owl of Doom

Every morning for the last five days, I've been woken by an owl hooting somewhere in the garden. As I've never heard an owl hooting anywhere in the garden before, I'm taking this to be some sort of sign. So, in honour of recent world events, I've decided to give my owl a name: either Saddam Hootsein, Co-lin Owl or Tawny Blair.