Friday, October 16, 2015

Arrival and Departure

July 4th began with the speedy arrival of William, after a very rapid labour! Of which more elsewhere. Mother and new son were  safely ensconced in their own bed with Father and Hugh dancing  attendance so I made a quick get away and after defeating the M40 arrived home safely.

My house sitter greeted me with the news that "Pearly", no longer a tiny runt but a socking great fat pig was unwell. Coaxing her out of the sty with a banana I realised that things were indeed serious and the vet was summoned.
Hannah duly arrived and after painkillers were administered  and Pearly still could not walk, probably due to a slipped disc we decided that the gun was the only humane answer.

The dreadful deed was duly carried out and her remains were dispatched, at great expense, to be cremated.

Duchess was not desolate, rather an unfeeling mother,  but clearly as time passed she was lonely. Pigs are family animals and solitude is not a good way of life.
After some time I located a young gilt, a teenage female  pig not a million miles away and she was duly installed in the field. It was hate at first sight, as she was chased round the field and after several attempts to bite her, I reluctantly made up an alternative comfy bed in the adjacent stable. Several days passed, the nights got colder and finally I peeped in late one night and they were tucked up together keeping each other snug and warm. So, all's well that ends well..

Hare today, none tomorrow

Sadly, since the practice of harvesting the grass thrice yearly for barn reared cows was instigated in Crowcroft, hares have virtually disappeared. The leverets are macerated by the mower, so it was with regret that I received a beautiful, cleanly killed hare at my feet from my triumphant lurcher Ruby last week. She ran it down over the maize stubble as it was being harvested last week.  I told her she was a very clever girl rather sadly and fervently wished it had been a rabbit, of which there only too many.  Ditto  the squirrels which jump from the walnut tree onto the roof every morning, landing with a clatter above my head. Their idea of sharing the walnuts does not coincide with mine.  Ruby did manage to eliminate one by imitating a statue under the silver birch, motionless for a whole morning. The rather indecisive squirrel finally decided she was in fact not alive and finally descended to the speedy jaws of death. Ruby can move with astounding speed when so inclined.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

 On Saturday, strengthened  by a surge of energy I resolve to tackle the mountain of  catalogues, builders merchants bills, bank statements, empty envelopes, random notes and circulars piled high in a tray on the worktop.
Two hours later, with the help of my trusty shredder, I have produced two stuffed pink recycling sacks.
This gives me smug satisfaction.

With five friends coming for dinner I then decide the house must be cleaned up at least a little.
Vigorous activity with dusters and the vacuum cleaner follows
I empty the ashes from the  wood burner and lay the fire. Next I wipe the surfaces behind the AGA, a daily chore if there has been the slightest breeze.
Into the dining room, I sort out the dishes, polish the table, locate six napkins, six matching wine glasses and lay six places.
I organise food, pans, serving dishes, nibbles.

At approximately 3.0pm I decide to have a leisurely shower, wash my hair and relax.
I step into the shower, the hot water streams onto me and I reach for the shampoo. At this moment the flow of water stops. Abruptly. Without warning.
"Don't do this to me " I shriek.
Pulling a tracksuit onto my wet body I rush down to the boiler room, flick every reset button on the electrical circuits,  and swear very emphatically when nothing happens.
Defeated I ring my son and trot off to his house ,a mere fifteen minutes away, to complete my shower.

On Sunday I decide not complain, no-one really needs hot water on tap especially since 1.5 billion people have no water on tap at all, hot or cold.

On Monday my friendly neighbourhood electrician arrives and we discover that my new,  all singing, high powered pump is so effective it has forced the pipe off the outlet, hence no water in the heating system.
Easily rectified after all and at small expense.  And boy the house looks clean!




Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Cup Runneth Over

Although it has not rained in any effective manner for eleven days, my underground rainwater tank is full, actually overflowing down the exit pipe. The sound of running water percolates into my consciousness late at night as I stroll round the garden with the dogs. All is clearly not as it should be. It becomes clear that, for no discernible reason, the emergency top up from the spring is running full tilt into the tank.
I have a choice, no hot water or serious water wastage. I compromise and turn of the power for the night. The gurgling is silenced.

Fortuitously the next day my electrician is already booked to fit a new pump, which he does with his customary efficiency. Come switch, on all is silent. It transpires that the pressure gauge which has been warning that the water level is dangerously low, thus triggering the top up, has now pulled up the drawbridge and expired.
On ringing the makers I am ecstatic to be told that the manufacturer of this vital part has gone out of business and that the replacement part is not compatible with the existing circuitry, and anyway they have none in stock but are expecting a delivery any day from Ireland!
Estimated cost of replacement parts is £700 plus, naturally, VAT.
By some mysterious jiggery poker, a lash up, short circuiting the probe, eventually leads to a resumption of hot water supply. How long will that hold I ask the electrician, "Oh about ten years" comes the reassuring reply. We will see!.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Mismanagement writ large.

When Emma said she was going away for the weekend and would I have her two dogs for bed and breakfast I naturally said "of course!" After all ,my three, plus two extra , what difference could it make?
Realistically what were the chances of that said weekend coinciding with my daughter in law going into labour? There are after all fifty two weekends in the year.
Needless to say the two events harmoniously joined up.

I say harmoniously but in truth, when an additional two dogs were dropped at my door to supplement the rudely squabbling five already in residence, any one venturing to my front door was swept aside by a flowing canine tide if they tried to enter.

My two grandchildren, a three year old and eleven year old, emotionally rising fifteen, barely added to the clamour.
My sanity was saved by a valued friend who came, saw and helped to conquer the havoc.

Walking round the fields was a nightmare of a quick head count every five minutes to ensure that no sheep were being molested, rabbits killed or pheasants snatched.

No matter, the welcome phone call to announce the safe arrival of baby Toby, all 6 pounds 15ounces of him made the trauma worthwhile.

When the tsunami of dogs receded on Monday evening my three old ladies lay down to recover with a general air of exhaustion about them.

The following day however, Scrumpy, by now fully revitalised, caught a baby rabbit just to show off.

I carefully placed it on the gatepost to provide the friendly local buzzard with a free meal. Sadly this less than agile bird dislodged it and Scrumpy, having regained her trophy was not letting it go again. For a small dog her ability to keep her jaws clamped is astounding.
I retired defeated and listened to the scrunching of little bones rather sadly.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Communication Desert

One moment you can communicate with the world, the next you are floating abandoned, incommunicado as though on the dark side of the moon.
The day took a sharp downward turn when I realised that some nameless individual had hacked into my mail account and sent frivolous messages to all on my address book. I changed the password.

Some hours later my mail is blocked. The verification code to unblock it is helpfully sent to a now defunct e-mail address.

In addition a new computer was needed as the DVD drive had thrown in the towel and sundry other facets were fast fading. I take the plunge and return home with my new Mac pro ready for action.

Four hours later and still not connected to the wifi, my son arrives to rescue his aged mother. Except that the task defeats him.
He rings Orange who are totally unable to solve the problem. Naturally it is the Saturday when the Apple technical support centre is shut.
As if in a conspiracy, the charging wire for my old computer finally snaps, the battery, which has a half life of 2 nano seconds, goes flat.
All communication with the outside world ceases. I fully expect my mobile to expire.

Monday arrives, I drive to said technical support centre. There combined brains also fail to get me onto wifi.
More frustrating conversation with Orange follows.

Eventually after unspecified quantities of money has been lost on the phone they suggest a truly mind blowingly simple fix.
I rush home, oh joy oh rapture, wifi works. Time wasted approximately 4 hours, excluding travelling time.
How exactly do computers save us time?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

How Hard Can This Be?

Thirty one white metal poles lying on the lawn.
Can it really be so hard to assemble them into a Gazebo with out instructions. We stand and fiddle for a bit, until logic suggests that 2 to 2B to 2A etc might be a reasonable place to start.
Perhaps 1's are the legs. Purposefully we fit them together, then carefully take them apart again, as, with regret, as we decide that being able to reach the top is important.
Judy has some dim memory of the shape of the roof so, following her decisive and clear instructions we make tremendous progress as we lay out four legs at the corners.
It takes very little time to realise that the bent tuning fork objects are indeed the tops of the corners, it is the work of a moment to fit them, and the work of but several moments for them to fall off, as we try to establish a roof shape.

Endeavour slackens briefly as we start to laugh, initially quietly then with increasing volume, indeed one undignified construction worker lies down on the grass and succumbs to mild hysteria for several shameful minutes.
We give thanks: firstly that we have plenty of time available, secondly that no men are watching and thirdly that it is not raining and we have no soggy students waiting to shelter under the damned thing.

Eventually a low level meccano like erection is built, surely the end is in sight, all that remains is to fit on the cover.
Bravely Sally plunges out of sight and the white sheet billows like a drowning whale as she cleaves her way to the middle.
Three corners safely fitted but, consternation! The fourth will not go on.
Examination of the poles confirms that they are correctly fitted and approximately in the correct sequence.
It is mutually decided that we must co-ordinate the attack and put on all four corners simultaneously.
Is it possible for three people to hold four legs in the right place whilst simultaneously pulling on all four corners of the floating white sheet?
No it is not.
Sally hangs on to one side with white knuckles , her side is staying up even if it kills her, Sue attempts to elongate her left arm to stabilise two poles simultaneously, whilst Judy scampers like a whippet, from pillar to post pulling on the cover corners.

Success. The cover is fitted and we have a gazebo. Granted it is suitable for a hobbit, being only four feet high, but the finishing tape is definitely coming into view.
Boringly the same question arises. Can three women lift four legs in a co-ordinated manner to enable the fitting of the remainder of the poles?.
Well co-ordinated it was not, but managed it was.
We are women after all.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Heart of England Dustbowl

Although normal flushing has now been resumed, the drought continues an-abated. The dryest Spring and Summer apparently since 1975!
This was driven home to me yesterday walking through a knee high field of maize, which of course, as we all know, should be as high as an elephant's eye by now!!!

Why is it assumed that all we want is sunshine, bloody sunshine. Has no one realised that with out rain we starve? If that polished, nay burnished girl, tells me, with her flashing smile that, yet again it is going to be a 'lovely' week ahead, it is just possible my language may deteriorate.
Rain is what we need, torrents of lovely, lashing, monsoon type rain.
Although on second thoughts perhaps not just tonight when the hay is lying ready to be baled.
Wednesday will do nicely thankyou.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Cup Runneth Over ?

There are few things in life more diconcerting than turning on the taps in the morning and...... nothing.
Whilst the rest of this green and pleasant land is still flowing with water, in fact ironically there is a flood warning out in Northumberland, it would appear that a rain shadow has quietly extended it's reach over Crowcroft. As a result it has only rained six times here since the end of March.

The chickens are using the rose bed as a dust bath and the Rhododendrons are lying prostrate.
The spring which supplies my taps has decided that it is no longer fit for purpose and has given up all attempts to continue with the task. Hence the dribble or more accurately the lack of dribble into the wash basin.

Little things I notice I miss include: The sweet sound of the loo flushing, the hum of the dishwasher, the swish of the washing machine, filling the dogs water bowl, stepping into a warm shower, or even a cold one, a full kettle on the hob, clean teeth, ditto body and hands!
Thankfully the good old fashioned well is not yet dry so the tomatoes and cucumber plants are less thirsty than me.
Bucket carrying is laborious and one can quite see why the Edwardians were so keen to give it up.

In truth it has made the Horn of Africa feel very close to home and I have sent off a donation to "Medicine sans Frontiere" with all speed.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chicken Run for Real!

My wing clipped chickens are still getting out and rumaging through the pebbles laid to keep the borders under control, not to mention the mulch on the roses. It is a little tiresome sweeping on a daily basis.
I decide to make a serious attempt to confine them.
It transpires they have not smuggled in a wooden horse and dug out under cover. No, I observe from my watch tower that the preferred technique is to flap furiously up on to the henhouse roof and throw themselves off the top and over the wire.
I buy four stout posts and leave Trusty George to dig them in and then move the hen house to the centre of the run.
Even Steve Mc Queen could not make the take off required to reach the perimeter fence now.
Sadly I appear to have miscalculated badly. Certainly the ladies are thwarted but now so am I.
I would seem that I need a ladder to remove the eggs. Who are they calling bird brain?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Logic There is Not

Emma, Tim and Piglet Hugh all moved house on Tuesday. I went to help them move in.
Unsure of my route I faithfully heeded the dulcet tones of the "Lady on the dashboard"
She kindly led me through leafy lanes and idyllic Cotswold villages to Dobbins Lane.
When I came to leave, the rain was truly torrential as I programmed in my home code.
I safely reached Bicester and following instructions to "take the third exit" could not believe it when I found myself on the M40 behind mountainous lorries, thundering along leaving sheets of spray in their wake. Not content she then led me on to the M42 and M5
With vision impaired, the voyage home, a full ten miles longer than the outward trip, was a masterly combination of laying water, spray, mini floods and a fogged windscreen.
How did an infallible calculator do this to me? Let no one try to tell me it was not a malicious act, comparable to the printer running out of ink at a vital moment, or the photocopier jamming as you drum your fingers with urgency.
Bring out the old reliable map.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Blitzkrieg in Minature.

Glorious though is has been, the hot weather is not without its downside.
Red mites, bloodsucking beasts who lurk in crevices in the hen house, love the heat. If it is combined with humidity they are demented with joy and leap into reproductive activity that makes the bacteria in the Dettox advert mere amateurs.
Being slow to recognise the above, I have failed to grasp that the discarded chicken bedding, badly bagged and leaning against the garage door in a slovenly fashion, is brewing an invasion of colossal proportion, akin to that suffered by Poland in 1939.

Sitting in the kitchen I suddenly feel very small feet, in uncountable numbers exploring my face arms and hair. I discover that I am a walking mass of mites.

I examine one under the microscope, a truly ghastly sight, Horror hardly comes near my feelings.

The house is alive with the damned things. Aproximately the size of a full stop and transparent until a successful feed, I have unwittingly provided the perfect creche for their offspring.
An orgy of cleansing and spraying follows. Mustard gas would be perfect but is in short supply in Crowcroft. Creosote, the next best thing, is now accused of endangering all known life and so is unobtainable, but I do my best with the feeble sprays "they" deem suitable for use by domestic idiots.

I am beginning to fear this may be another case where invertebrates have been dealt the winning hand.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rational Explanation to Follow..........

Strange,   Ma pig seems to have opened the field gate and gained access to her piglets' supper. 
Careless me I think,  must shut it more carefully in future. The future duly arrives.
 I go to close the gate, clang! It closes not. I look at it, I look again, I begin to feel quite queasy.  The gate, large, metal, reasonably heavy, will not click shut because it is on UPSIDE DOWN!  The planet lurches in its orbit! I'm losing my mind! 
How in the name of Greek Gods has this occurred? No damage, no visitors, no vandalism!
There must be a rational explanation, but for the life of me I cannot even begin to postulate one. 
My kind neighbour helps me to reverse the unhappy gate's position and I go to bed carefully locking the front door against ghosties, goblins and things that go bump in the night!
I do not have a quiet night!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mother Courage and Her Piglets





Returning from her prolonged honeymoon, happily pregnant, I was appalled to discover that Duchesse was hobblimg. In fact a zimmer frame would be inadequate.  Her demise appeared iminent.  Grimly the vet warned me that dosing her with antibiotic and "Bute" (a magic powder beloved of horse owners) might cause her litter to be deformed or worse. 
Humanity demanded that we risk it.  Two weeks of medication passed, the lameness was alleviated but not much! Pampered, fed grass nuts mixed with apple juice, she slowly grew in girth.  However still cripplingly lame!
On my grandsons birthday, an auspicious day, I went out to feed her and was alarmed not to be greeted by an enthusiastic demand for food but a chirruping sound from the stable.
Tucked neatly in a long row were seven perfectly formed piglets, already feeding enthusiastically. Up by her head was an eighth, pure white,the smallest runt ever to survive birth! Cold and still!  I picked her up and popped her in between her siblings and went back to bed to let nature take its course.
Four weeks on she is still tiny but feisty and clearly has a firm grasp on life, as have all seven of her sisters.
Second only to eating, their favourite activity is sunbathing!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hare today gone tomorrow?

Standing quietly, amusing myself, watching the hens chasing insects in the dusk, I saw a flicker of movement at the corner of my vision.
The largest hare I have ever seen, I swear the size of a Muntjac, loped in a leisurely manner across my neighbours field, disappearing into my as yet uncut hayfield.
I have not seen many hares this year, the tussling bucks having been absent from their usual haunts this spring. I was wondering if they had been extinguished  in Crowcroft, but no, happily here she is, minding her own business.
To return to the hens, anyone who has witnessed the ungainly run and ineffective take off of an Orpington Buff would never eat any thing other than free range again.
They clearly hunt for fun as they rarely catch anything and food abounds in their dishes.
Camouflage is not their strong point and since their acceleration rate would make Jeremy Clarkson cringe it is only a very slow flying moth that ends up as a tasty mouthful.
One of my beloved 'chicks' is clearly an infant cockeral thug in the making and, sooner, rather than later, will have to be sent to his doom.
He already contemplates squaring up to my legs and it is only his puny size compared to a huge fat Orpington  that prevents him harrying all the hens.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Feeding the Wildlife

Alack aday, Madame Reynard has purloined my broody hen, leaving a trail of feathers up the paddock and two bereaved adolescent chicks to fend for themselves.
They are popped in with their aunts in the big hen run for safe keeping with an electric fence strung round as an  additional safeguard.
As darkness falls, their aunts, with a remarkable lack of feeling, refuse to admit them to the sanctuary of the hen house.  In despair they flap over the fence and dash for the safety of the stable , up their ladder, and into the safety of the little house which they shared with their late lamented mama.
Come the morning I catch them and despite their despairing cheeps put them back in the main run. 
This occurs for three days. Finally I surrender and have their little house transferred to the main run.
Will they realise their house is now close at hand. Come dusk I stand guard, they have a brief quiet conversation, the contents of which I only partially catch.
Is this our home? Shall we risk it? Cautiously they climb the ladder . 
Home, Sweet Home! they chirrup and settle down for the night.
Clearly not as dumb as some!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Chickens or Swallows... the choice.



Spring is finally tottering towards us, the swallows will soon be back.
This means I cannot shut the top half of the stable door, at present the winter quarters of the chickens.
If I leave it open all night then, in short order my hens will be joyfully removed by the vixen who trots through the garden every night at exactly 7.20pm.
I baulk at the idea of hauling the henhouse back to the run so invest in a new one and it is duly installed, with a ladder at the same height as last year.
The chickens are now truly feral in daylight hours, roaming the garden at will, eating my crocus and scratching in the flowerbeds.They are particularly fond of the warm space under the solar panels. Chicken Heaven.
They do not take kindly to the restriction imposed by the hen run. They sulk. Egg production drops.
I decide to compromise, if they are good little hens and go back to the run come dusk, and put themselves to bed they can have the front garden to play in all day. After all, what are a few demolished pansies between friends?
Does this work. No it does not. Hen number four, also called the Lone Ranger due to her tendency to explore, get lost, panic and freak out, decides that she will not, yea cannot, climb the ladder.Despite the best efforts of "Hope" to demonstrate, every night as dusk falls you will find me, on all fours, scooping her from under the house and stuffing her without ceremony in through the pop hole to join her smug mates who have already taken the best perches. 
Its too high she shrieks every morning as I let her out and she flings herself off the ladder in despair, vainly flapping her ridiculously small wings as she tries to slow her descent.
Perhaps I will let natural selection take its course and spread a little happiness amongst some fox cubs!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The road less travelled.

How delightful, sitting in a hotel room in Luxor, to see courtesy of CNN that: "the economic capital of the world is closed due to snow".
Amazing that London is still considered the economic capital of any where!
Returning to snow bound Heathrow, the journey to Malvern proved to be a circuitous route.
The Heatrow express failed to express. My direct train thus left 90 seconds before I boarded it.
The subsequent journey involved alighting at Moreton in Marsh, being driven by a fellow traveller's husband to Worcester, many thanks once again to the unknown knight, then waiting at Foregate Street for an small eternity for a train to Malvern.
It barely seems worth mentioning that a train pulled in accompanied by the announcement that "the train on platform 1 is the Paddington train" No hopeful traveller boarded it. It pulled out.
The stationmaster then informed us that "that was the Malvern train."
For one brief second I was as one with the lynch mob.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Its all reletive

Hurrah! The new flood defences around my garden and paddock have worked. Rain aplenty fell last Saturday but it all stayed in it's appointed place. Or so I thought.
At the height of the deluge, on phoning my neighbour with a joyeous "So far so good" I was stunned to be told that a 5 inch deep torrent was pouring past their front door.
The water was not even reaching the ditch but weaselling through the bank upstream and pouring over their orchard.

I am beginning to go off this weather.

The site for the marquee, to be erected in a mere 8 days, is under water. My lovingly tended flowers have succumbed and are lying down, ground water has lifted the biodisc (which deals with my sewage) and the angle of flow is diminished to 0.
However I do not care as my grandson has arrived safely and that puts all else in the shade.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The patient motorist

Halfway over the "New Bridge" the engine stalled, result no steering. Panicking I restarted the engine and limped onto the roundabout. A very, very short distance later it fails again.
Question. How long can the queue behind you reach, in a mere thirty seconds, at a set of traffic lights on the main road in rush hour.
Longer than you really want to know!
It can be hard to appear unconcerned, waving people past, whilst simultaneously phoning for the breakdown truck, and comprehensively interrupting the flow of traffic. It's a little like sticking a stick into a column of marching soldier ants and waiting passively for them to turn and dismember you.
Later I try to look on the bright side. It was not raining and I was not on my way to wedding in Edinburgh.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The War of the Worlds or Invertebrate Supremacy Challenged

Last night, having returned home from Derbyshire at 60mph, not because of "an incident" on the M1, but because I am now watching my fuel consumption with an attentiveness unmatched since Suez, I went to collect the eggs very late at night.

Faith and Hope were cuddled up like good little hens and I reached in and removed two eggs.

Returning to the light of the kitchen I discovered that cradled in my hand in addition to to two lovely eggs I had a cluster of moving little red dots which inspection revealed to be a regiment of red mites. Each very full of blood from my precious hens.

Clearly a trip to Countrywide to collect the parasite equivalent of Agent Orange is now called for.

Whilst I am there I might just succumb and and collect cannister of slug destroyer.

Sadly I haven't seen a hedgehog here in years and if I sprinkle it down the cracks in the raised veg beds the birds will not be able to access the corpses so I will not be contributing to "A Silent Spring"

There must be limit to how much one is expected to tithe to Agriolimax reticulatus.
I have already circled the pots with copper strip which they in theory cannot cross, lies all lies.

I have sprayed copper silicate liberally around the beans and cabbage etc and have still watched my lettuces cut into a very attractive lace pattern. Nothing more intricate ever adorned a victorian sofa back.

I have a very bad feeling that without a nuclear option I will lose this battle.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Over the Hills and Far Away.

Duchesse and Blossom enjoyed the chicken run for at least four hours. They chased the chickens, uprooted the Buddlia and "pigged out" on chicken food.
Back to the stable they went and a temporary playpen of stakes and stockproof fencing was built.
Come the evening, just as the last of my supper guests were walking in the gate someone said in a vaguely perplexed manner, "there's a pig walking up your lawn!"
Greater friendship there is not than sitting on the composter to prevent it's uprooting by an energetic Blossom. Thank you Sally! Back to the secure stable they went.
Next morning using the croquet hoops in a manner clearly unlike the manner for which they were invented, the stockproof fencing was securely fastened down. Again!
Oh how those little pigs laughed. In less than two hours they had worked out how to hitch it up with their adorable little snouts and were busily trotting down the lawn again.
Their tenacity is surely matched only by the prisoner in The Shawshank Redemption.
Back to the stable they go. Tomorrow we will think again.
Watch this space.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Pigs on the Move.

The floods of yesteryear have left the paddock very green. Sadly closer inspection proves that it is supporting the most luxurious crops of docks ever seen in the county. The odd sparse blade of grass peers out forlornly.
Happily an amiable young man, Neil, will deal death to the docks using his quadbike sprayer when the conditions are right! ie. still air with no rain.

Step one remove the pigs. Since it is a known fact that they will do anything for a ripe banana, with my heart in my mouth, I carefully lead them out of the paddock, through the garden, along the drive, where they find the shingle hard going, up the road, fortuitously clear of traffic, and into my very obliging neighbour's orchard. It goes more smoothly than I have any right to expect.

They promptly rugby tackle his chicken feeder and gorge on chicken food, the ducks and hens looking on in consternation. The following day, due to over vigorous use as a back scratcher his bench collapses. They also have really good wallow in the duck pond. The usual inhabitants consider this a breach of good manners.

The wind gets up. Next day it can only be described as brisk. The next day it rains. The rains stops, the wind returns and so it goes on.

After four days I give up and lovingly return Duchess and Blossom to the paddock.
Tomorrow will doubtless be perfect spraying weather, They can go in the chicken run, there is a limit to what one can expect of a neighbour!

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Original Horse Whisperer ?

Last Friday my elderly Jack Russell and I made the trip over to Honeybourne to visit that legend among race horse owners, Ronnie.
My right hip had been plaguing me for weeks and Marmite had been accepting walks with reluctance for some time.

It is first come first served with Ronnie and he is only available for two hours on Wednesdays and Fridays.
We arrived at 10.10am. There were already four horse lorries, each with two horses on board, parked waiting, several humans in various stages of discomfort and five dogs.

We wait our turn, watching mesmerized as previously lame horses skedaddle up the ramps of their lorries apparently completely sound in all limbs after his gnarled old hands, he must be 85 if he is a day, have done their work, although
arthritis in his hardworked thumbs now leads to the ever increasing use of a little wooden mallet.
Not a man of great physical stature, I have seen him stand on an oil drum to reach the neck of a magnificent racehorse, but, no animal, however flighty, plays Ronnie up. Even stallions submit - hand on the neck, head droops, oh OK they indicate.

A man of few words, "trot her up, bring her here, hold her foot up, put her back on the lorry."

Marmite has her tiny pelvis flicked so gently one can barely believe anything has changed. She trots back to the car happily, tail up and perky.

My turn comes. With unerring accuracy, although I am fully clothed he finds three spots on my backbone which are seriously tender to the touch. Even though they have given me no trouble he flips them until they are tender no longer. Lying on the floor with a sling under my hips he swings me and instructs me to let my left leg flop. Turned on to my front I am rapped sharply in the region of my coccyx three times. I get up carefully as instructed. All pain in my hip has now gone, everything moves and functions as it should.
Four days later Marmite and I complete a five mile walk over steep boggy terrain with no trouble at all.

Any who doubt the efficacy of alternate therapies should meet Ronnie!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Buck up Noah, your time has come!

Duchess and Blossom do not like the wind and the rain. They like getting their trotters wet even less, and as for getting their thick curly coats soaked, forget it.
Yesterday, a day of unmitigated wetness, wind and general misery, they lay in their ark snoring, rousing occasionally to take a peek at the weather,they then made the joint decision not to get up. Very reminiscent of a typical teenager on a Saturday morning. Eventually being very clean little pigs they had to leave the warm sanctuary of their straw bed and attend to their toilet, after which, a quick scan of the field for anything extra to eat and back to bed.
Faith and Hope have indicated that normal egg laying service will not be resumed until their little feet can be dry all day.
They peer out of their house, scoot down the ladder, land with a splash in the sodden run and begin to look depressed as soon as they have scoured the grass for hapless drowned earthworms.
Me, well I just carry out the normal routine, bucket under the drips coming down the chimney, curtains pulled away from the dampening walls, leaves removed from drains, sandbags against stables checked, 56lb weight carefully placed on the leaf filter lid,- I most definitely do not want a repeat of that being pushed off by water pressure.
All is normal, all is well.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Kindly Old Mr Brock it is not.

The dogs explode from the fireside with unnecessary vigour. I curse them and return to my book. The next morning as I view the havoc created by a trepasser, I wish I had paid them more heed.
A maurading band of brigand badgers, armed to the teeth with cutlasses, and possibly a JCB have clearly had a drunken brawl in my back garden. Fermenting perry pears, lying in their hundreds under foot, when coupled with a cheeky touch of ripe damson cordial have clearly gone to their heads and given them dutch courage and an ability to despoil the environment more commonly associated with a stag night in Ledbury.
Recalling more fun filled occasions on Polo fields, I flip the turves back into some semblance of place and grimly tread the divots.
The following night the situation is worse and on the subsequent night they have clearly called up reinforcements.
I set off for Countrywide, where, for some not insignificant outlay, I obtain all the paraphernalia required to convince them that my tender lawn is not the place for a link to the underworld, nor yet the perfect site for worm hunting.
My Jack Russells are clearly not playing the role of Cerberus convincingly, in fact, rather unsportingly they are utilising the escape tunnel under the fence to avail themselves of the rare opportunity to chase the neighbours cats.
Tomorrow the turf man returneth, and the electric fencing will be live.
I await the outcome.
In the meanwhile, if DEFRA decide to start selective culling they can hone their technique in my little plot!

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Ultimate Responsibility

Oh dear, number three chicken, who happens to be called Charity, is clearly unwell. For ten days she has refused food, stopped laying and is clearly going down hill. Now lying with her eyes closed unless disturbed I reach the unhappy conclusion that a quiet death is now the humane option.
I ring several farmer type men to request help in the immediate despatch of Charity, who has suffered long enough.
No one is available at this moment in time to do the dreaded deed. I stand looking at her in despair.
There is no escaping the terrible responsibility. I summon my co-executioner Poppy, gently we catch Charity, carry her out of sight and hearing of the other chickens and carry out the dreadful task.
The scientist in Pops emerges the minute life is extinguished.
"I must just open her up and discover what was wrong". My trusty dissecting kit, unused for three years is brought into action and sweet Charity's insides are scrutinised.
After approximately ten seconds of observation Poppy and I simultaneously decide that it is just possible she is a biohazard and hastily double wrap her in polythene and ring the vet.
We then embark on pretty thorough sterilisation programme of everything in the vicinity. The utility room has never been so clean.
Next day we receive the reassuring news that the ghastly sight inside her was caused by Avian T.B. which is not transmissable to people and we relax. She probably caught it from wild pigeons or a Magpie.
I am now monitoring Faith and Hope extremely thoroughly every morning.
So far, thankfully, they appear to be in rude health.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pigeon Post- Delayed

There is a racing pigeon sitting on my roof. It looks both hungry and confused. I feed it some chicken corn and it looks less hungry but still confused.

I ponder the possible ways of catching it and, deciding against digging a hefalump trap.
I wedge one end of a laundry basket on a forked stick to which I attach a piece of string. Scattering corn under the basket I sit cross legged on the lawn holding the string, rather in the manner of an Eskimo fishing at an ice hole.
I am greatly relieved I do not have to tie my legs together to prevent shivering, a la "Nanuk of the North."

In less time than it takes to write this, the pigeon is busy devouring the corn, the string is tweaked and voila, one caught pigeon.
Three leg rings provide identification numbers and a quick call to the British Racing Pigeon Association yields an owner and telephone contact number.
I duly ring Stanley, who lives in Lichfield. He is grateful for the tender care I have lavished upon "Checker". Can I feed and water her and release her in forty eight hours.
She takes up residence in the stable and forty eight hours later she is on her way.
Six hours later she is back.
I ring Stanley again who says he will collect her that night.
He duly arrives, catches her and pops her in her basket. Apparently her mate is pining for her and I am sure she is glad to be homeward bound.
For future reference I learn that his telephone number is tattood under her right wing.
He also warns me that the next time she overflies my house she may yet again drop in for a warm roost and the avian equivalent of hot cocoa.
If that happens he will bring her mate down to join her. He reckons that there's plenty of room in the stable for a few pigeons.
Being a fount of knowledge for all things birdlike, he gives me the valuable information that if I nail strips of hessian in front of my chicken house door, like little curtains, it will deter the thieving magpies, who have taken to dropping in to snack on newly laid eggs.
To date this tip seems to be working. Bless you Checker.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Here We Go Again !

Advance warning of severe weather on Friday! I stared at the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, otherwise known as the weather forecaster, in disbelief. Nine cms of rain, my life, thats four inches in old money. There was a terrible sense of déja vu as we hauled the sandbags into place ready for flood diversion away from the patio and door.
The hole in the wall for the tumble dryer is now bricked up, ditto the airbricks.
The barrier across the boiler house door is firmly screwed into place, the joints reinforced with bath sealant, 49 sandbags protect the stables ( and piglets ) and a coal merchant's old 56lb weight sits atop the lid to the leaf filter of the underground rainwater tank.
A subsidary ditch now forms a rampart across the field behind us. We batten down the hatches and wait.

It starts at midnight, it rains, rains and rains. By daytime the lawn begins to over flow and a cascade starts to tumble off the steps into the patio, gently at first but gaining courage it becomes a force to be reckoned with. We watch as the level silently and enexorably rises. Imagine our joy as it dawns on us that the water is flowing away at the same rate at which it arrives. The river past the backdoor is a mere 3 inches deep.
Hurrah we are going to be OK.

Hark what is that plopping noise? It is the water running down inside the chimney breast. A chimney which I hasten to add, could lose several small boys in its capacious interior. Buckets and dishes and four bath towels to the rescue we catch the flow fast enough to prevent carpet damage.
The curtains in the dining room seem to darken, is this an over active imagination? No, it is water seeping through the lath and plaster walls, running down the windows and being soaked up by the accommodating curtains, the carpet is in fact already sodden. More towels etc etc etc.
The rain continues unabated. How is our only neighbour doing? They are completely moated by now but OK.
I inspect the chickens. Everything you have ever heard about wet hens is true. We catch them, one by one and shut them in their house, which happily is on posts 4 ft off the ground. They do not look relieved, merely very cold.
Poppy is supposed to be on a train to London, no trains are running.

We watch the news and listen to the local radio with rising horror and become fervently grateful we have fared so well.
Roads are closed, buses cancelled, cars abandoned, rivers burst their banks, bridges collapse, caravans are washed downstream.

The emergency services, as ever, rise to the occasion.

No one dies, pets are airlifted out in the arms of loving owners, brave men pull drivers out of submerged car sun roofs, a wonderful bride actually laughs as the church is isolated and she spends her "reception" in an adjacent care home, a very pregnant woman is boated to dry land.

I wonder, is this what our parents meant by the "Dunkirk Spirit?"

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I Blame the Glastonbury Mud

No I wasn't there, but the mud Poppy kindly brought home in her hair was probably a significant factor in the following events.
Standing in the shower it began to dawn on me, I'm not a quick thinker in the mornings, that water was lapping round my ankles. Things did not appear to be as they should in the drainage department. I need to clean the U bend I thought.
First remove the side of the bath. An easy task involving only eight screws. Levering the side down proved harder as it was sealed into place with something NASA should use to fix heat shield tiles to Challenger.
By kneeling down and assuming contortionist postures access to the pipes was finally achieved over the still attached bath panel. The U bend was firmly wedged between the bath and floor. Brute force was the order of the day and eventually wrenching it out and clearing it of its unspeakable contents proved relatively easy. Putting it back together again was quite a different matter. Try as we might, Poppy having joined the battle by this time, it proved to be physically impossible to get everything into place.
Unscrewing the plughole to lift the pipe junction seemed logical at first but no, once unscrewed, the self tapping screw no longer screws back up again. By kneeling in the bath whilst my builders mate, Poppy, shoved her fingers up the overflow pipe and held the nut in place, we finally managed to get some semblance of a U bend in place. It seemed a wise precaution to wrap a towel around it before admitting defeat and calling the plumber.

Monday, July 02, 2007

How High's the Water Mama?

Using WiFi suddenly became a very unattractive option as a bolt of lightning hit the lawn outside the window and I scurried round pulling aerials and plugs. Poppy, (wearing pyjamas ) and I ate supper in a leisurely manner and then I walked outside to encounter a sheet of water pouring past the back door. Skirt shoved into my underwear, and feet into wellies I struggled against the flow to the patio to watch a very muddy rising tide overtake the air bricks and rise inexorably up the patio door. With a jolt realisation dawned that this was serious stuff and the situation was fast getting out of control. Poppy developed super human strength and with the help of our neighbour we built a flood barrier in an attempt to alter the course of what was now a river. Thank God for the 20 bags of unspread compost which formed a diversionary tactic and partially persuaded the water to flow mostly around the house instead of through it.
We both remembered the piglets at the same moment and since water was now pouring through the stables with a force worthy of Hercules, waded through the surging flow fighting hysteria. No piglets visible in field, yard or stable. Finally located them balancing on logs in the wood pile and heaved them onto higher ground and into their ark.
At some point, Poppy still sporting pyjamas, stepped into the leaf catcher drain which keeps rain water tank clean and vanished up to her thighs. Thankfully after in a relatively short space of time the flow slackened and as levels fell we retired to the house. I had omitted to don socks with my wellies and they were now welded to my feet. Lying on the kitchen floor trying to remove them we succumbed to incapacitating laughter.
A narrow squeak.Damage limited. Viz. Rainwater tank full of mud and grot.
Boiler house flooded and motor on boiler dead. Water in through tumble dryer vent and mud all over utility room floor.
Carpet sodden next to utility room. Stable and shavings and straw sodden and not a little smelly.
No one hurt, nothing irreparable done. Some poor souls are totally washed out.
God Bless the fire brigade who came and pumped out the rainwater tank 48 hours later, drank copious cups of tea ( well boiled water! ) and vanished from whence they had come.
Water came back for a second try five days later but we were ready. 159 sandbags filled and strategically placed around stable, boiler room and patio. For those who like esoteric info, 1 metric ton fills 39 sand bags!!
I must confess though that now the thunder of rain on the sky light makes me a little twitchy.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What global warming?

Its still snowing, very quiet, it hasn't melted overnight and more is falling. A pheasant, a fieldfare a robin , two blackbirds and some bramblings are scuffling for food under the apple tree. The bluetits are competing with a woodpecker for possession of the peanut holder.
The dogs have wisely retreated to the circle of warmth round the AGA.




Thursday, February 08, 2007

Basking in Sunshine - a Saga

Balancing on the bathroom scales to weigh the luggage was worth it.
Crawling out of bed at 3.15am was worth it. The journey to the airport was worth it.
Struggling to load the luggage onto the rack, whilst giggling at a notice that Health and Safety prevented the driver assisting the enfeebled to put their luggage on the bus, was worth it.
Taking off into the teeth of a gale, nearly on time, and then being told we were diverting to Tenerife to take on more fuel was definitely worth it.
Running out of aviation fuel at 34000 feet over the Atlantic did not seem a desirable option, although to hear the moans from some passengers one could not help but wish that they had done so on a previous occasion.
Even being ushered, on finally arriving in Barbados into an inauspicious cattle shed, reminiscent of the holding area of an abbatoir was worth it.
The eleven hour flight melted into the past as we boarded the ship and were enfolded in the decadent luxury of our home for a fortnight.

We sailed that night, already beginning to feel pampered beyond all decency as we unpacked, discovered "Molton Brown" body wash in the cabins, booked our pedicures, manicures, massages etc and discovered the numerous places where it was possible to eat and drink for 24 hours out of 24.
Granted that the roar of the 'flush' from the loo startled us slightly until we acclimatised, but blissfully funny when the ladies realised the men had to put the seat down to push the requisite button!

One day at sea and we ready for the first formal dinner, posh frocks to the fore we sallied forth to meet the Commodore. Middle England in full fig!

Two days at sea and we were unwound, relaxed, gaining weight and ready for action.

Tortola was gorgeously sunny and we set off on our jeep tour of the island. Our driver was clearly unsure which side of the road to drive on but compensated by stopping to pick samples of cotton, lemon grass and assorted fruits to show us.
The view of Nelson's Dockyard was fantastic but our highlight of the day was however watching a small snow white lamb, with a well developed sense of humour, briskly bouncing all over the hillside after a demented chicken.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Canute or not!

Since the last of my family had left for their lonely journey back to the big smoke, I was feeling quite efficient as I manhandled the sixth load of washing into the tumble drier out in the utiliy/freezer room.

As I re-entered the kitchen some subliminal warning whispered quietly in my brain. What was that that gentle bubbling sound, a stream? A siren went off between my ears, I don't have a stream, a stream more over which appeared to be gaining in vigour even as I pondered. I reversed my tread and swung left in the direction of what was now a full throated roar.

The whole of the back garden and the field behind it, a mere 15 acres on a slight slope, had disappeared and had been replaced with a moving sheet of water reminiscent of the Mississippi in full flood.

Being restricted in its lower reaches by a small wall which borders the tiny courtyard it was rushing in over the step in close imitation of the Horseshoe Falls and surging towards the house at unbelievable speed. The water level rose even in the 30 seconds I took to assess the situation. The outflow towards the boilerhouse was definitely not keeping pace with the input. The urge to sing "Ole Man River' was not upper most in my mind.

It is amazing how little time it takes to locate the phone, ring the neighbours, who incidently are downstream, yell for help, grab a broom and rush back and try to divert the bulk of the flow away from the door into the house using sheets of plywood, metal garden chairs and abandoned flagstones.

The cavalry arrived in the shape of Guy clutching a spade who took one look and cantered across the garden and began to dig a trench and construct a "bund" to persuade the field ditch it could cope with more water if it really put its mind to it.

The water was within a gnats whisker of achieving entry into the house when Guy began to gain the upper hand and the flow into the garden slackened. Sweeping furiously I was relieved to see just how much water could be pushed with a broom away in the general direction of where under normal circumstances the drain would be.
The flower beds, lawn, courtyard, path, in fact everything, was under 5 inches of water,the Thyme plants were completely submerged, the camellia,up to its ankles in water looked shell shocked and a dogs drinking bowl, left over from the heatwave of the summer floated away in a corner.

The Mississippi, defeated in its initial attack, continued to surge on in a determined manner and Guy left to review his own situation.

Forty five minutes later, with the help of additional man power, the reduced tide was left to its own devices and I retired to the kitchen.
Later as I lay in bed, I listened to the pelting rain with some degree of trepidation. I have however built a temporary flood barrier with scaffolding planks which should direct any repeat surge away from the house.

Many mice had clearly been flooded out and sought refuge under my floor as the dogs spent a considerable time rushing round sniffing the skirting boards in a purposeful manner. However I don't be grudge them shelter and a dry place for the night.

Next morning I fully expected the garden to look like the Nile delta but no, it had a clean washed look about it. The flags were sparkling, the windfall apples under the tree swept away and a fresh molehill had appeared next to the oil tank. Now where did he spend the night I wonder?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Roaring Forties?

Has this isle, set in a silver sea, silently slid into the roaring forties whilst no-one was looking?
Last night the wood burning stove was giving a fair impression of Challenger taking off and wood was being consumed at a truly staggering rate.
I shut all the doors, waggled all the thingys and pushed in the whatsit and in theory converted it into a close copy of the charcoal burners' mounds on the hills above Swallow Dale.
To no avail, it continued to roar unabated. Charcoal was definitely not on the agenda. Log consumption was at a peak.

Defeated I retired to the bedroom where the wind was moaning round the windows, calling up images of Cathy on the high moors. The bathroom door thudded in a gently persistent way and the walnut tree branches scraped at the sky light in a non rhythmical slightly frenzied manner.

Next day, to add insult to injury, the bird table lying glumly on its side was the first thing to greet me as I reached for the kettle with bleary eyes. The peanut cage was flattened and the fat holder smashed, thus suet was lying in delectable blobs, just waiting to be greedily consumed by my ravening dogs.
Venturing out a squelshy "lawn" revealed that the pond was overflowing and the water within it was the colour and consistency of milky tea.

Turning on the kitchen tap, the murky nature of the water confirmed that the all singing, all dancing, massively expensive filter was failing to cope with the clay run off from the land drains and thus my drinking water would not pass any conceivable health and safety directive ré drinking water standards. I gulped a large glass of it just to show that we British still know how to cope in adversity!

Friday, December 01, 2006

PUPPIES!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Gentle into that last good night.

Having had cause to witness the functioning of the NHS at close quarters over the last few weeks I can vouchsafe that care, consideration, and concern for one's fellow man, are virtues still very much in evidence in the NHS.
The patient was spoken to as a thinking adult and the opinion of those close to him was sought as to the best manner of treatment for an elderly and very sick man.
His comfort was the priority at all times and I cannot help but be eternally grateful for the humanity of all around.
In a world so obsessed with efficiency and statistics it is good to know that it is not only money which talks but also gentle nurses and hard pressed young doctors..

Friday, November 03, 2006

No birthing pools here!

Having initially miscalculated the expected delivery day by a whole week I was begining to get a little anxious about the increasing girth of my potbellied pig lookalike, otherwise known as a Jack Russell Terrier.
Driven back to the calender, gripped by neurosis about an incompetent uterus, I realised I was a mathematical, dyslexic numpty and relaxed.

Seven days later, finally going to bed at 2.00am after anxiously scanning the maternity ward for signs of activity I scuttled downstairs next morning and found four little pups had already arrived. Even as I watched she popped out the fifth. At the very least I felt I should offer her a cup of tea but she settled for a massive slab of disgusting dogmeat and lay back on her freshly plumped pillows with a smug look on her face.

They are roughly the size of a fat hamster and the shape of a plump tadpole and both proud mother and I think they would win any beautiful baby competition hands down.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rumex acetosa

Someone , somewhere, must have a use for dock leaves! Can't some white coated genius miraculously discover a anticancer agent in them, as in yew several years ago? Should I encourage my nettles, ( feel good factor, food for Red Admiral babies! ) to grow more vigorously thus building up the need for dock leaves to rub on stings or finally, the ultimate shame, resort to chemical weapons in my battle for erradication.

On Monday I heaved three sacks, crammed to the gunnels with DLs into the composter at the recycling plant remembering that I shoved in four last week. This does not indicate that I am getting on top of them. Far from it, they are growing at a faster pace now than in the drought of July.

Their roots are roughly the thickness and length of a mature Reticulated Python, and as reluctant to be wrenched from their snug bed as a teenager on a Saturday morning, ( or any morning come to think of it. )

Other less hardy souls moan about Ground Elder, Couch Grass and Thistles. They are the Woody Allens of the plant world when compared with the Mike Tyson Dock Leaves.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Streaming.

As I sit here clutching the AGA it is near impossible to determine which is streaming most, my nose or the rain down the window pane. It is obvious that to fly any where in the world without suffering the inevitable consequence of re-breathing secondhand air, laden with more than its fair share of viruses is a near impossibility.
The sunny week in Tunisia is virtually expunged from memory, liquidated by balm impregnated tissues, Lemsip decongestants and the odd paracetamol.

Difficult to recall the wonderful and productive conversation with the camel driver in the outskirts of the Sahara, satisfying because as French was also his second language, he is the only person on the globe who speaks slowly enough for me to understand him! An occasion enhanced by a fellow travellers need for money, occasioning a trip to an ATM, on the outskirts of the desert itself. Surreal. Eating lunch in "Luke Skywalker's" house ditto, surreal.

Happily the Roman ampitheatre at Jhem has little of the crushing atmosphere of misery felt in the Coliseum in Rome, presumably because concerts are performed there, the stone is a light sunny colour and the sky was very blue.

I am also fortunate to have made the discovery that the action of fresh dates on the human gut is roughly comparable to that of syrup of figs!!

And so to bed, hot Ribena in one hand, a box of hankies in the other.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Read all of these instructions before starting the job.

Never again will I consider it warranted to malign Ikea instructions. By comparison with the flimsy leaflet which accompanied the "Pull Cord Swish" curtain rail, they represent the acme of precision and clarity.

After labouring for sixty minutes, taking an hour out for lunch, rest and recuperation and then continuing our intensive efforts for a further hour, it was disconcerting to accept that we were still a long way from actually hanging any curtains on the aforementioned apparatus.

The diagrams thoughtfully supplied for our assistance were as much use as the proverbial chocolate fireguard. How in the name of any Deity is it possible to have every bracket for each hook made of five separate moulded pieces each of which showed a grim determination at worst to explode and at best not to click smoothly into their appropriate niche.

Even as your hopes begin to rise and you fondly imagine that success is within your grasp, the necessity of working on the top platform of the all too wobbly steps, with both arms above your head, the screw driver clenched in your teeth, frantically attempting to catch a dislodged vital part is enough to precipitate an MI.

To discover, barely four hours after the starting pistol, when within a gnats whisker of hooking on the curtains, that there are not enough runners and that in order to put more on you have to access a screw which is now cunningly concealed on the back of the rack, thus meaning you have to dis-assemble the bloody thing is simply proof that it was designed, and I use that word very loosely, by a lobotomised rabbit.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The turning of the tide.

If one of your guests casually mentions that when they flushed the loo bubbling sounds were emitted by the bath plug hole, ignore it at your peril. If history repeats itself, it could well be the precursor to a cumulative series of deeply unpleasant events which will end with you being £262 pounds closer to poverty when the "Rescue Rod" drain clearance service van finally drives off into the night.

For fear that you may be of a sensitive persuasion dear reader I will spare you the most gross images of the last four hours but it will be some time before I again look at my rose bed with unmitigated pleasure. It's geography is unhappily close to the dank pit where the most savage events occurred.

The rainfall being nothing short of torrential it seemed only courteous to invite the two hapless men into the kitchen whilst I rummaged for my credit card, but rarely have I felt such an unwelcoming host.

I felt a sudden surge of empathy with Elizabeth I who was apparently very attached to her flushing water closet and its ability to remove the odour of odure from her vicinity.

Despite the price of petrol, the exponential growth of health and safety directives, the weight of Sunday papers and the Stonehenge nature of Cherie Blair's teeth, I find that I am quite content to live in the 21st Century

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Conspiracy Theory!

On Friday evening the controller for digital set top box quietly expires. It is a mere babe in arms, well under a year in age. Do you have the guarantee I'm asked politely in Argos. What a ridiculous question!

On Saturday my car succeeds in locking me out, the clicker failing to elicit the appropriate response to the command "open"
General discomfort and irritation follow. It goes without saying that I have a full shopping trolley in tow.

On Sunday a crash of thunder jumps me from my bed and unbeknown to me consumes the innards of the transformer which powers my live box thus rupturing my link with the internet and e-mails. On Monday I am rendered partially brain dead by an incoherent conversation with someone in Bombay about a replacement but the rest of the day passes almost without incident.

On Tuesday at 7.45am I am awoken by special delivery man bearing a replacement. All rudeness about outsourcing to distant continents withdrawn. Take a bow Orange!

On Wednesday the ultra violet light which renders my drinking water relatively free of Cholera, Typhoid and parasitic larvae etc dims to a glow and stutters feebly. Funny that, normal light bulbs either are or are not. No fluttering for them.

Roll on Thursday, at this moment my money is on the DVD player.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A Highland Journal.

Day 1

You only really begin to appreciate how very long this Sceptred Isle is when, having finally reached Carlisle, you are rocked back by a sign saying "Glasgow 120 miles!" What! You have already been driving four hours! The M6 is beyond all telling, every moan about the M25 shrinks into insignificance compared to the M6. The only light moment triggered by a chalked sign on a bridge which proclaims" get out and walk, it's quicker " The abstract beings which control traffic flow have a truly endearing habit of leaving the 50 mph speed signs flashing after all visible signs of obstruction have long vanished away in the distance.

Day 3
Perfect. 6 mile walk in glorious sunshine. Dogs temporarily deaf down rabbit holes -two

Day 4
I confess I was just a little taken aback when, barely ten minutes after arrival, my charming and funny B and B hostess told me she had been committed to a mental asylum by her husband. It transpired that this was in preparation for him running away with a 19 year old replacement wife!

Day 5
Over to the Summer Isles, Tanera, courtesy of friends. A very bouncy ride across the channel marred by the appalling stench emanating from dog number 3 who had rolled comprehensively and successfully in some thing very fishy and very dead just before going aboard. She was partially cleansed on landing with a hose pipe in the tank reserved for washing the life jackets with the help of some very yellow washing up liquid.

Day 6
Now 600 miles from home, petrol stations take on a new and desirable aspect, stirring emotions akin to those felt by the parched traveller on approaching an oasis. The only reason for taking the 22 mile detour to Lochinver is that it is the single petrol source between Ullapool and Durness. Humming gently to myself, and feeling a kinship with Mr Toad and his love of the open road, it was a horrible experience to glance casually at the tank gauge and realise that it was merely a quarter full. Put another way it was three quarters empty! 105p per litre was subsequently paid, if not willingly, at least with relief. I was doubly happy when tootling into Durness later that day I read the sign on the pump "Sorry no fuel".
Deaf dogs temporarily underground on Balnachiel beach- two.

Day 7

Am stunned into enraged silence on being told that the Smoo Cave is closed for removal of loose rocks, due Health and Safety. Are we insane? Rocks have been quietly aging on hillside for a mere 100 thousand years since being deposited gently by melting ice, people hurt by boulder attack-nil. People damaged by walking into bloody scaffolding blocking path unknown.
Drive 22miles over top of Loch Hope to Altnaharra, do not meet a single vehicle, turn back into Mr Toad.
Finally, after very long drive, spend night in Dunblane. Try as I might I cannot erase images of grief from my mind.

Day 8

Sadly turn towards the South and, ultimately, after half a life time, arrive on the M6 where vile weather coupled with heavy usage warps the journey home until I begin to think I am a member of the crew of Voyager lost in space.

Day 9
A completely barren fridge, holding one squelchy courgette and some sour milk triggers a trip to the supermarket. Standing with a fullish trolley beside a locked car is as good a time as any for the fantastic anti theft device to swing into action and lock me out. The holiday is truly over!

Monday, September 11, 2006

How do they know?

You live in the middle of England, just about as far from the sea as is possible. You come home to find the adjacent paddock has been ploughed that morning, it is heaving with seagulls, screaming in ecstacy as they devour wireworms by the million. You have, before this moment, never seen a seagull in the vicinity.

You have just finished digging a brand new pond, filled it with water and before the day is out there are waterboatman exploring the damned thing.

You put the squashed damson/apple pureé, still in its buttermuslin shroud, out by the backdoor to be disposed of later. Later duly arrives and you pick it up and a thick mist of tipsy fruit flies rise in a cloud and cover you!

How do they know? The Royal Society can forget human telepathy debates, the lower orders have definitely got there before us.

The Devils of Loudon

There are moments in life when, despite your best efforts, the 21st century abandons you and you are hovering on the outskirts of Salem, with possibly a light dusting of Loudon in the offing. Thursday night offered just such a moment!

Standing on the edge of a wood in total darkness, trying to locate two small terriers whose frantic yelps confirm that they are underground but that they now wish to return to the security of hearth and home if they could but locate the exit to the warren, it is hard to prevent your brain summoning memories of every horror film you've ever seen.

A fox shrieks close at hand. As your blood pressure spikes you attempt to reassure yourself that it is their mating season and its merely a sex mad vixen not an sex mad Jack Nicholson look alike axe murderer who is rustling in the ditch. Never before have you appreciated the electric shock effect of the warning cry of a pheasant or the human nature of a sheep coughing. The shriek of the owls barely merits a mention.

There should be a full moon but oh no, tonight coincides with the only full lunar eclipse this century! That could be a relief as I am by now fully expecting to see a broomstick shadow pass before it. You can definitely hear panting, the back of your neck genuinely prickles and a full blown 'peasant from the middle ages' type fear grips you. To hell with the bloody dogs! You stop breathing as a small, muddy, furry and ultimately familiar object hurtles towards you.

As you regain the security of the house, a spineless shadow of your normal self, you discover that another shamefaced little bitch has beaten you back and you have never before called her that with such fervour.