Monday, 21 April 2014

Any Day Soon

For a small person who hasn't even entered the World yet, the new baby granddaughter is very much making her presence felt in the manner of causing several false alarms. She has been threatening to arrive for, oooh, a good couple of weeks now, even though she isn't due until 1st May. 

I have been having words. I've said, 'You are to wait until at least 21st April, until you are a Taurean baby. A Taurean baby will balance your little family very well indeed.' So at least she has sat tight until today, bless her! 

As a consequence of her little 'shall I, shan't I?' shenanigans, I have been on full Granny Alert ready to collect Kayleigh for when it all kicks off for real. This means having my mobile switched on all the time and by my side in easy reach which is a novelty for me as I am not a mobile phone type of person, and how these youngsters tote theirs around in a claw-like clutch all the time I neither know nor understand. Kayleigh has been preparing for big sisterhood by toting a doll around, mostly very carefully in 'carry a baby properly' mode, but sometimes in a more worrying, 'dangling upside-down by the neck/ leg/ arm' fashion. Grandpa Andy says. 'You aren't going to carry your new sister like that, are you?' and Kayleigh sighs, gives him a bit of a look and says, as wearily as a 4 year old can, 'Of course not, Grandpa.'

Kayleigh has fully discovered the joy of chickens. When she was a toddler, she liked the hens enormously, and would squat down amongst them, chatting away and trying to force cabbage leaves upon them. Then she went through a phase of liking chickens but only from a distance because she was convinced they were trying to rip the skin from her fingers and draw as much blood as possible a la vampire hen. They never did, of course,because (aside from Mrs Poo) our hens have always been a very gentle and peaceable bunch.

But now? Well, when Kayleigh visits it's, 'Do the chickens need feeding? I think they might be hungry. Shall we feed the chickens? Are there any eggs? Let's check for eggs. I think there might be eggs,' until we relent and troop up to the hens' end of the garden where Kayleigh marches about dispensing sunflower seeds and greens, collecting eggs and generally trying to organise Primrose and Daisy into what she regards as proper hen-like activities. She happily allows them to peck seeds from her bare hands, and is, I think, beginning to grasp that one hen = one egg per day and if Gran has already collected the eggs that day then there will not be any more to collect, despite her small child insistence there MAY have been some kind of egg miracle. 

So, new baby will be a Taurean, may possibly arrive very soon, or may not, because babies arrive when they want to. I continue to forget to remember to have my phone with me all the time, and thusly spend a lot of time thinking, 'Where did I leave my phone?' because until recently I have ALWAYS known where it has been which is switched off in the bottom of my bag. I have been officially identified as 'Person Safe To Collect Kayleigh From Nursery School.' Chris is looking forward to the baby arriving because he says he might then get a decent night of sleep (???) and Leane is looking forward to the baby arriving so she doesn't have to keep suffering all these uncomfortable false alarms. 

And Grandpa Andy? Well, aside from proving to be the BEST grandpa a child could ever wish for, he is calmly oblivious to all current baby-events and taking it all in his stride.

But then he is a Taurean, too. And that is what they (generally) are like. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

An Innocent Export

I have been doing a spot of foreign property surfing on the interwebbly this week, mostly because every now and then Andy and I get fed up with living in the middle of a town when we really want to live in the middle of a massive field.  And because a house in a massive field in Britain costs a ridiculous amount of money which we don't have, we tease ourselves by looking at massive houses in France surrounded by lush hills and woodland...

...and, I might add, without a person in sight, too, which is very important,especially to me as I have tolerated almost two weeks of the Shouty Tenants Next Door, to the point where they were having a massive barny on their patio yesterday afternoon, and I happened to be in our back garden cleaning out the hen pod, and I flipped every so slightly and said, in a not very quiet voice, 'Oh for goodness' sake, STOP flipping SHOUTING all the time!' only I didn't use the word 'flipping', I said something that begins with 'b' and rhymes with 'muddy.' Suddenly, it went quiet, a door opened and closed, and the barny continued in a more muffled tone from indoors. I sighed, Primrose and Daisy looked sympathetic, and then said please could I hurry up and re-establish their nest as there was an egg most imminent...

Anyway, having selected several houses en France, including one I keep going back to and would buy TODAY if a) I had a guaranteed income out there so we wouldn't starve to death or be clapped in irons for non-payment of taxes and bills and b) was brave enough,  I had the urge to move onto Germany, around the Rhine Valley.

 Cor, that was an eye opener! I went on to read several blogs about living in Germany, I even went on the Government website to see about practicalities and it all seemed jolly well organised, clean and tidy, and you know how I approve of these qualities enormously. So now I get to house hunt in Germany, too! I have toyed with Italy, because I am a bit of a romantic and I love what Italians do with their gardens and their food, but I am yet to be enchanted by their houses. Australia is too hot and full of spiders hiding under the loo seat waiting to nip you on the unmentionables, Spain is too hot full stop. Anywhere North of Lancashire is too cold and dark and wet. I can't bring myself to consider America, although I know it is full of really lovely people. 

Which brings me to the purpose of my post today, which wasn't to bore you with my 'Search For A Field' plan but...

...I have a friend in America, and she has been through a bit of a tough time of late. And I want to send her a little 'Cheer You Up' gift. Now, I don't want to send any old thing that you can buy any old where in the world, and was probably mass produced in China. I want to send something specifically of England. Like a Much Malarkey Manor hand crafted by moi lavender bag. Just as an example. 

Well, in the back of my mind, because I have been distracting myself from the reality of my life with dreams of foreign climes, I remembered reading somewhere that you have to be careful what you can send in post to the USA. So I researched sending dried lavender flower heads encased in cotton fabric and up popped horror stories of lavender bags being sniffed out by beagles in airports and RIPPED to tiny shreds, or INCINERATED, and I do not want that to happen to the parcel I am sending to my friend. I have even gone as far as emailing APHIS USA which is the oracle of what you can and cannot bring into and send out of America. They haven't got back to me so far. The whole malarkey is beginning to make me feel like a potential criminal! 

So I popped into town today, to a 'Local Craft made by Local People' arty gallery-type place and found something I think I am pretty safe to send without fear of it becoming part of a beagle's breakfast or nuked with a flame thrower. But even then I am feeling marginally anxious. No, Denise, it'll be okay! No probs. absolutely fine! Really it will...

And when I think of things I have chucked in a box a sent to France...

I leave you with a picture of Flora Bijou Mybug, who is clearly not as excited by the novel 'Regency Buck' as I have been. Olly, I need some Georgette Heyer recommendations, please!!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Flora Helps

What with one thing and another, the last two weeks have proved rather trying, and as a consequence I have been feeling testy, irritated and marginally annoyed with life.

And I have learned that when I am feeling like this it is best to avoid blogging, because my pen IS my sword and it could have erred towards sharpness which would not have been good for the spirit or my karmic piggy bank.

However, after much propping up from an excellent hubbie and a marvellous long-time friend, I feel once more clear-headed and focused, and tickety-booness reigneth large, and lessons learned have been noted for future reference.

And so this morning I have been carpet wrestling. Someone (can't think who) thought it would be an excellent idea that as we were redecorating our bedroom, then why not redecorate Andy's study AS WELL, including paint and carpet, the whole hog as it were? Marvellous! Get it all done at once! Surely we could fit two rooms' worth of 'stuff' into my arty-crafty writing room, couldn't we? Yeah! It'll go, no probs!!

Well, there was some overspill into the living room. There was a lot of squishing and squashing going on at 6.30 this morning. And then Andy left for work, and it was up to me to remove two lots of carpet and underlay from the two respective rooms before the carpet fitter chap arrived with the new carpet.

It was okay though! I had a helper...

Monday, 31 March 2014

Home Alone and Safe

Well, here is a quick video of Primrose and Daisy's new secure run. We are planning to plant climbers around it so it becomes like a romantic arbour-type edifice, but for now, here it is in all its naked glory! Les femmes poulets, as you can see, are very impressed! Or probably not.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Give It Some

Heather has been scooting out of the house at 6.30 a.m every day to attend the gym, returning an hour later and eating copious fruit for breakfast. I have been very impressed with this dedication to her health and told her so.

'It's because I am participating in Give It 100,' said she. And when I looked confused, she said, 'It's a website thing. You sign up and do something new for the duration of 100 days. Every day you record a one minute video of your progress and share it on either Facebook or Twitter.'

So I had a look. People are signing up to challenges like losing weight, learning a language, creating art, getting fit, and one video I found was of a fairly youngish looking man attempting to work towards touching his toes!

All you have to do is persevere for 100 days. I suppose it is like a training programme to get into a new life-long habit. I gave a brief thought to what I could do if I took part in the 'Give It 100' challenge and I came up with 1) learn the piano 2) learn Italian 3) try a new veggie recipe every day 4) write another novel. I resisted the urge to think of 5) eat a doughnut every day 6) increase my TV viewing 7) smuggle more hens into the back garden. 

Number 4 - write another novel - is actually 'rewrite a novel' because when I was sorting through some notebooks and folders the week I discovered the first novel I wrote back in 2002 called 'Duck When The Boom Swings' and whilst parts of it are ridiculous, parts of it are highly amusing and I think it might be worth a rewrite, if only for my own entertainment. The first version was rejected by several agents and publishers and, I seem to remember, sent me into a spiral of miserable dejection, but having just tried to read a Zadie Smith and thought, 'How in the name of Roobarb and Custard did THIS get published, let alone win prizes?' I have decided to get back in the writing saddle proper and persevere. I haven't done much 'proper writing' recently having been caught up in other stuff, but with lighter mornings now upon us, more writing time has been presented and I should take advantage thereof. 

I hope you Mums out there have enjoyed your Mothering Sunday. I got a lovely bouquet of flowers - stocks, roses and, most unusual, rosemary which I shall eat over the next few days because I do like a nibble on a spike or two of rosemary but you have to be careful not to overdo it as it can have repercussions on blood pressure. I was taken to see the Muppets Most Wanted film (including bag of Maltesers) and then to Dobbies for lunch. All very lovely. And entertaining, as just before we went into the cinema Heather turned to me and said, 'Do you need to go to the toilet?' And I said, 'Twenty years ago I was saying that to you!' and she said, 'I'm just getting into practise for when you start dribbling like a loon and can no longer walk properly.' first mortality warning...!

And the hens have their new run. In an attempt to add 'enrichment' to their new daytime space Andy also built them a swing. I came downstairs this morning to find Andy in the back garden in his slippers and dressing gown attempting to put Primrose and Daisy on the swing. He had the look of a man determined that hens should enjoy having a swing and should learn to use it immediately. Primrose clung on, turned herself around, stared at him as if to say, 'WHY have you put me up HERE?'  and then, 'Remove me - IMMEDIATELY!' because she was clinging on and did not seem brave enough to jump off herself. So he built them a rigid perch too, which they have also studiously ignored. But at least now they are safe from foxes.  Unless foxes start carrying heavy duty wire cutters. In which case we could be in trouble again.

And yesterday, the Plasterer Chap came and sorted out all the dodgy plaster in our bedroom so we now have a lovely new smooth wall. At one point, when he was filling up his buckets with water from the kitchen tap, he eyed up the veggies I had just roasted and asked what they were for.

'I am going to mix them with couscous,' said I. 'I'm vegetarian.'
'I've got a mate whose a vegetarian,' said the Plasterer Chap. 'He only eats fish.'

Now you will be pleased to hear I stayed very calm. 'In that case,' I said, 'he isn't a vegetarian, is he? Vegetarians,' I continued, 'DO NOT eat fish.'
'Really?' said Plasterer Man. 'But it's not like fish are animals, is it? They don't feel pain, do they?'
'Yes they are and yes they do,' said I. 'Which is why vegetarians doesn't eat them. Your friend is a pescetarian. Or a hypocrite. Ahahahahahahahaha!'

Ooooh, that drives me mad! Vegetarians who say they eat fish! Grrrrr!! 

And here we are, clocks jumped forward an hour. It is almost 8 p.m and just about growing dark. I love this time of year! And I shall leave you with a landmark - my granddaughter Kayleigh, in her first school photograph! Have a lovely week everyone! 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Chicken a la Rocket!

Sometimes a chicken can be a gardener's friend. And sometimes not...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Plastered, Caged and Pooped

No, not a firm of dodgy Victorian lawyers, well, not as far as I know, but a three word summary of today.

On Sunday evening, a very nice lady from The Happy Chicks Company telephoned to inform us when the new and large fox-proof hen run for Daisy and Primrose would be delivered.

'It will arrive at 6 o'clock on Tuesday,' she said.
'Good,' said Andy. '6 o'clock.'
'In the morning,' said the nice lady. 'You will be the first delivery of the day.'

6 a.m? Six in the morning???

And true to their word, at 6 this morning a very cheerful gent arrived in a very cheerful bright yellow van, and delivered unto us a large chicken run.

I had already been awake for around three hours prior to chicken run delivery because a) I am in crazy hot flush mode at the mo and they usually start somewhere between 2.30 and 3 in the morning, and b) my hot flush mode has unfortunately been co-inciding with Andy's recent snoring mode. Whether I am flushing because I am waking to snoring, or I am hearing snoring because I am waking to hot flushing I do not know but it's not a good combination either way. 

And I might be triggering Andy's snoring by my constant flinging off and flipping back on of the duvet, or The Hot Flush/ Freeze Down Menopause Duvet Dance as I call it. Either way, Macbeth (as they say, because it's nice to squeeze in a literary reference every now and then just to remind myself I'm a qualified English teacher) was properly murdering sleep last night, what with the flushing and the snoring and the half- listening for the alarm so we would be up in time to take delivery of a hen run. 

I don't like alarms. They scare the bejeezus out of me and I can't help but think that starting a day with your heart racing nineteen to the dozen cannot be a good thing. And I am a pretty consistent 6.15 a.m wakee anyway, so unless I need an early start, which is rare, I do without any alarm setting. 

So, I was all crumpeted and cuppa tea upped by 6.20, not to mentioned showered and ready to go. So I did some marching on the spot in front of early morning TV (something else I never do - watch TV in the morning) and by the time I went to work I had almost completed my regulation 10,000 steps a day. 

Fast forward to 4 p.m. I arrived home from work fully intending to have a 'zzzzzzzz' but got distracted into other things and before I knew it, Andy was home and going straight into the garden to erect the hen run. So, down with the Eglu run, down with the current fencing, out with the power tools and 'Grrrr! Let's be manly and build stuff!' I was inside cooking dinner, plus a jam sponge pudding because something was telling me we would both be in need of a jam sponge pud before the day was done. 

And of course, the run building did not go according to plan, it was growing dark and cold, and the hens got confused at their bedtime because their pod had been moved and they were standing where it should have been saying, 'Where's the pod?  We want to go to bed,' and I was going, 'You and me both, but an adult woman going to beddy-byes at 6.10 p.m is ridiculous and besides, I don't want to miss Sewing Bee,' and Andy was going, 'Your pod is down on the patio, you stupid hens,' because he was getting a bit narky because the cordless drill was running out of oomph and cord, and well, we decided to call it a day, so Andy reconstructed the pod and little run and I went inside to dish up dinner because, quite frankly, I was being a useless carpenter's mate.  

And then Andy went back outside to scoop up Primrose who was still pod confused and had squished herself up against the garden fence in an outward-bound-without-a-tent-camping kind of way, and I said, 'Go into the pod, you idiot. We have just spent a lot of money on a new run for you because we don't want you to be noshed by a fox which is exactly what will happen if you sleep al fresco.'

And now it is 8 p.m and I am already for Sewing Bee but Sewing Bee has been pushed back an hour in favour of Lambing Live, which is okayish because it is a nice thing to watch and far better to be pushed back by a lamb than, say, being pushed back in favour of stupid football or motor racing or golf. But I don't know if I am going maintain consciousness until 9 p.m for Sewing Bee because in the last 24 hours I've had three and a half hours of sleep and I am POOPED! 

'But what about the 'plastered' bit of your blog title?' I hear you cry. 'Surely you haven't taken to imbibing of the fermented grape to get you through the day? And you a committed tee-totaller, too.'

No, I say. Plastered refers to yesterday. When the plasterer came out and replastered the chimney breast. For one third of the price we were quoted by that builder I told you about last blogpost. 

And jolly nice it looks, too.