Monthly Archives: April 2017

Wooden it be nice

While we were away, the cutting down of dead and overgrown wood had been nearly finished and another massive bonfire constructed.  Sir John the tree feller has since cut some awkwardly placed ash branches, which would be likely to fall on the new fence before too long, and the stable remains have all been cleared away.  Jonny the farmer has started putting in the new fenceposts and I expect the whole job will be done in the next week or so.  It’s about a five acre field, not huge.

We had a chat with John and arranged to meet on another field down by the river – there are a lot of very overgrown willows which need cutting back.  Some have already fallen, others have lost branches, they will branch out again if they’re cut.  You can’t kill a willow by cutting it down and even a couple of the fallen ones have continued to put out new growth.  There are also alders and various other trees – some work has been done on a regular basis but the bigger job has been too much for the friend who’s helped.  I’ve got to speak to the people who own the road down to the field though – we have a right of way but it wouldn’t be fair not to tell them about it, explain what needs to be done and ask if there are any considerations we should think of.

The field used to be an orchard, but the trees all blew down in the famous ‘hurricane’ of 1987 – it was a domino effect, they fell one onto another and there was hardly a tree standing and those few were leaning over.  There was nothing to do but to clear the whole orchard, though the trees round the periphery were left.  There was one fine oak still standing on a small island in the middle, but it fell over in a minor gale a couple of years later.  We could only think that it had been protected for all those years and the least wind buffeted it to destruction.  The trunk, cut into four vertically and turned, became the legs of our oak refectory table.


Life goes on, though not for all the dear pets

A few weeks ago, I said something awful had happened and I didn’t want to talk about it, though my Facebook contacts knew, as I’d said there – not wanting to dwell on it, the bad news was that foxes (I strongly suspect a pair) had got into the hen house in the night and had killed all the chickens except one shocked survivor, who must have sat on a high perch and seen all that happened.  Eleven had been taken and two bodies remained.

After a long period of reinforcing every inch of the house and run – I’ve even been up on the roof adding extra wire, though there’s no possibility of a fox getting in there – we were ready to restock. We’d been too devastated to decide, at first, but we missed them and I was glad when LT said he’d like to have chickens again. Friends have been hugely kind in offering replacements , though some of them are too far away unless they’re sent by courier, but my blog friend Compostwoman lives in Herefordshire which, I discovered, is not that far out of the way for our return journey.  She had a few Seramas that she could spare.  Serama bantams are the smallest breed of hen and I was quite intrigued.

We loaded Rose’s cat carrier into the car and duly set off for Compostwoman’s house.  I rather wanted to take the Heads of the Valleys road as it sounded lovely, and my Apple Maps app was helpful there – another blog post is coming along soon, about the pros and cons of our various satnav systems.  I don’t think there is a perfect one, though it may just be that we don’t have it. The main disadvantage with all of them, as far as I know, is that they don’t help if you have a house name rather than a number.  We arrived at the village and her postcode seemed to cover a wide area.  And a number of the houses didn’t have their names on the gate.  We got there in the end, though (hers did) and she happened to be in the drive talking to another caller – we recognised each other, of course.

Meeting blog friends is one of life’s joys, I’ve found over the last decade or so, and it was certainly a great pleasure to find that C is just as delightful and interesting as I’d expected.  And after a leisurely cup of tea and a chat, we went out into the garden to be introduced to the chickens.  The Seramas are, indeed, cute and all quite different in shape and colouration, and even in size, though they’re all small.  She showed us some of the eggs, which are tiny – they average around 30 grams, about an ounce, which is half the size of a standard hen’s egg and about two thirds the size of a regular bantam egg.  They’re very rich, she said, with the proportion of yolk to white much higher than most eggs.  So I won’t be using them for meringues.

As ever, catching the ones we wanted was a bit of a challenge.  One little black girl, known as Jet, was easy, but the next wasn’t.  There was one particular hand-reared chicken that C wanted to keep, and one of the two cocks, so of course they were the ones that came nearest every time.  The one we have, Yvette got out and made the mistake of going into another hen run, where she was fairly easily caught.  And we loaded them up and bore them back to Reading.  They ate and drank and seemed pretty relaxed, so we left them in the lobby by the kitchen overnight – we maybe should have thought to shut the kitchen door.  Crow the cock has a piercing, falsetto, one-man dawn chorus and I can’t altogether pretend to have appreciated it.

They have settled in well to their coop in the greenhouse run, where they will stay for a few more days.  One of them has already laid an egg, so that’s all right.  It’s very small, only 22 grams, so I think it must be the black one’s.  C also gave us some eggs, which I have set under Rose’s broody bantam Canasta and we hope she will continue to sit.  I also hope, once my remaining hen has settled in with her new husband, to have some chicks from her.  The churchyard chickens have lived with us for many years, at least 28, and I’d be very sorry if the strain were lost altogether.  Rose’s three could also have their eggs hatched, but not with her cock as the father as they’re too closely related.  It would be a bit complicated – we’d have to take them away and put Crow in with them for a few weeks, leaving her cock disconsolate – so we’ll give my chicken a chance first.  I may also have a couple of young birds from another friend – mind you, I don’t want to end up with more than a dozen or so, so I must not get carried away with enthusiasm.

We’re still quite devastated at the loss of our poor lovely little chickens and I’m still very nervous about it happening again; though we really have done everything we can to double-reinforce all the defences.  And it’s lovely to hear them crooning to themselves as you walk past.  There may well be a dish of tiny eggs on the table at the blog party.

Z’s holiday

To start with the visit to London, I went to Paddington from Reading, which is much quicker and easier than the Anglian line to Liverpool Street – though then getting to Islington by Tube, though no great distance, involved three trains.  I met the chap from the damp curing company and it’s all very depressing.  And expensive – even if I can make an insurance company pay for the remedial work (two will probably be involved), it’ll be costly in terms of lost rent and, just as important to me, in stress.  I avoid and walk away from it whenever possible and, though I keep up with the newspapers, I rarely watch or listen to news.  It’s far too much for me and I’m self-protective.

I went on to the National Gallery, to lunch first – must feed the inner Z well at all times – and I had a consoling glass of wine.  I went to see the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition, which was really good.  And then I got a bit lost on my way out, which was fine because I ambled past a good many other old NG friends – and realised I must spend time there again soon – and then I headed back to Reading and Tim.

I was absolutely prepared for, and wanted to be single.  It felt safer and more comfortable that way.  But then it changed.  And being in the wrong relationship is awful but being in the right one is wonderful.  And Tim was there waiting for me and he’s pretty wonderful, as I may have mentioned once or twice before.

The next morning, we set off for Pembrokeshire and managed, by sheer good fortune, to be going past the fabulous pub we stop at if it’s the right time of day, at the right time of day.  The White Hart in Llanddarog, it is and, if you click on the link, you’ll find they’ve bagged the best website name too.  All the people working there are members of the same family and they are so clearly happy, hospitable and genuinely pleased to have you as a customer – as well as to give you excellent food and drink – that it’s truly heart-warming.    It’s near the end of our journey, so we’re already feeling the holiday spirit by the time we get there, and it’s a pleasure.

It took a while to get things going, once we arrived at the caravan.  The water attachments didn’t want to attach – one of them, anyway – and the shower sprayed a bit until I took it in hand.  Later in the early hours, the recalcitrant water thingy failed again and LT had to leap out and turn it off to stop the (outside) flood.  But Joseph produced a replacement part the next morning so all was well.

And the day gave us fabulous weather.  We’d not made it to Tenby, only a few miles away, last year, but we drove there in the sunshine and walked along the beach and through the town.  It’s all so pretty and welcoming.  I took lots of photos and will post a few, once I’ve taken them off my phone and onto the computer.  We bought postcards for the grandchildren, and also one for Rog and Mrs Rine, as they love the town too and should have been here, were it not for Rog’s hip hip hooray operation the next week (which was earlier this week, as I write).  And then we went back to Narberth and found somewhere for a jolly nice lunch and then we relaxed back at the caravan.  We were on holiday after all.

Z is blogging again

We’ve been away to LT’s lovely caravan in beautiful Pembrokeshire – it really is, everyone who goes there is surprised that it’s not better known about.  Coincidentally, Wink and some friends have been staying in the next village, within walking distance through “the tunnels” and we had no idea until she came to stay over Easter.  So we and her boyf, Bod, met us for lunch one day.

Lots to tell you about but I’m not sure I can do it all today.  I hadn’t slept much all week, for no good reason at all, and I arrived home with the sort of headache that can only be slept off.  So I did and most of it has receded, though I’m still up for an early night.

I need to tell you about the holiday, my London visit, a blog meet with an old friend I’d not met before, the circumstances around our meeting, our arrival home and what’s been going on while we were away – this could take most of the next week.

Eloise cat was very pleased to see us and Zain, out in the barn, was so glad that, when I was bending over getting out his food, he rubbed his face against mine.  That’s never happened before.  Both his brothers came to be fed, though his sister and parents weren’t about.  However, that’s no matter for concern, I have no reason to think that they aren’t alive and well.

The only reason, by the way, that I haven’t blogged in the past week is that there is no internet at the caravan except occasional moments, enough to download an email or a notification, but certainly not enough to do anything with.  Restful, really.

Humpy’s meadow

There are two adjoining fields, divided by a stream known as ‘the beck.’  It’s a good twenty years since the fencing on the further one, Humpy’s Meadow, was renewed and it’s looking its age.  We’ve done running repairs and so has the farmer, but we’re biting the bullet and redoing the whole thing, though keeping what’s in good repair.  First, though, we had to have the overgrown, dead and fallen timber taken out, as well as brambles and other rubbish.  This gave us a huge quantity of stuff to be burnt and a sizeable pile of wood to be, in due course, cut up for firewood.

Little Z is standing at the side – the pile must be 15 or 20 feet tall.

And the farmer has been bringing the potential firewood – once it’s been cut down to size – over by the barn.  And that’s not so big but it’s denser: maybe 10 feet tall.

And old Humpy the donkey’s stable will finally be demolished and the eventual bonfire will consume even more and the log pile will grow further. Which is quite reassuring, in fact. We like guaranteed warmth for years to come.


I really am cracking the problem of names, at last.  Again, I simply asked “what is your name?” And was told and used it as I said goodbye and I won’t forget it.  This has taken a reasonably long life – at least, I’ve outlived my father by more than four years – to learn.  Mostly, I was sunk in the gloom of knowing that I wouldn’t remember, so couldn’t ask again, but I was also afflicted by shyness.  Having been shy as a child and finally, with considerable effort, grown out of it (the personal growth, that is, not simply getting older), I rarely have acknowledged the final snippets of difficulty, but that’s certainly been one of them and I relied on Russell always to know names. I had to take the matter on the chin, or else have been unnecessarily in the dark.

Wink has left for home – and presumably arrived there – and we’re alone again.  it’s been a good weekend and there’s a busy tine to come.  Jonny the farmer is starting the new fencing tomorrow and we’re on to the next project in the garden.  The early potatoes have been earthed up twice, the newly seeded grass is up, vegetables are doing well.  And we’ve finally finished planting out the shrubs and herbaceous stuff that we bought a fortnight ago, which is remarkably speedy.  We’ve also – well, Tim has – put the hose on the new spool we bought.

I’d come up with a theory – Zain and Freddie barn cats have been turning up for meals regularly, but I haven’t seen any of the others for a week or two.  So I thought that they’d given their siblings their marching orders, this field not being big enough for all of them.  And then Betty and Barney arrived this morning, along with Zain, which put the kibosh on that.  So no more theories.  I just meekly go out twice a day and, if there are any cats, I feed them.  This afternoon, there were none, so I didn’t.

And so to bed, darlings.  I slept very well last night, which is always tiring, innit?

Z sees … yellow

As I drove over to the first party today, I thought how yellow the countryside is in spring.  And then I looked at the hedgerows and trees and thought again about why I felt that.  It’s the oilseed rape in flower now, of course.  But a good many of the early flowers are yellow – primroses, daffodils, dandelions, buttercups, cowslips and so on, and some of the early leaves on some trees, such as oak, are distinctly greenery-yallery.  I looked again at a lot of pink and white, with a modicum of blue and a whole lot of green and actually, it’s just so many fields of rape that colour – heh – my judgement and maybe it’s not really true after all.

The first party was an Easter egg hunt at Weeza’s boss’s place (he and his wife are also friends, and were so before she worked for him)  and there were lots of children and vast amounts of eggs hidden, which were then – of course – hunted for.  Then we went over to Weeza and Phil’s place for lunch.  There were fifteen in the party, the whole family.

I’m very glad we don’t have a field of rape in the village.  Smelly stuff, it makes me sneeze.

Holiday weekend – Saturday

Wink is here for Easter, having arrived yesterday on her birthday.  We’re planning to take her to the theatre in London as her present, so will have a look and aim to book up, tomorrow.

We went over to Southwold today.  First to an antique fair, where LT bought me my engagement ring back last August Bank Holiday – we had a nice look round but didn’t buy anything today.  What caught my eye were some framed Chinese silk embroideries, very attractive.  They were mainly, possibly all, sleeves from late 19th century costumes, removed, mounted and framed – a new idea as far as I know.  Nothing we wanted to buy: I quite liked some antique Persian rugs and some treen, but wasn’t in the mood to buy for the sake of it.

Then we went on into the town and drove around a bit, looking for somewhere to park.  The car parking is free and unrestricted, which tends to mean that people stay a long time.  After about fifteen minutes, I suggested that we go down to the harbour and see if we could get lunch in the pub there; otherwise there are some stalls that do fish and chips, crab salad (all locally caught) – and as we headed that way, there was a parking space that hadn’t been there a few minutes earlier.  Lucky us.  Even more remarkably lucky, the pub where I took Tim the very first time he came to visit (other than the blog party five years ago), the October before last, had a table free in the courtyard and it was not too chilly out there.  At 1 o’clock on a Bank Holiday weekend Saturday, that was very good news – all the tables were booked or occupied inside.

Having had parents in the catering business and having both eaten out a lot and had a fair few parties, I take something of an interest in practical catering.  I’ve had very little experience myself in offering food from a menu, but I know when it’s managed well (or badly) and recognise how a kitchen and dining room are managed.  The place was very busy but was adequately staffed.  We were brought menus quite quickly and drink orders taken.  A few minutes passed before they arrived, but not long enough for us to be impatient, and then we were left a bit longer before the orders were taken.  This is all to allow for the kitchen to pace the receipt of orders – everything we asked for would have to be cooked individually, so clearly some time would elapse before service.  Ten minutes later, our cutlery and (linen) napkins were brought, five or ten minutes more and the food arrived, which was pretty good going.  Two waiters brought it – if it hadn’t all been ready together, one would have brought the platefuls, one at a time, to buy a bit more time.  Anyway, we were all well pleased and enjoyed our lunch.  And, as I have a few Adnams shares, I got 15% off the bill.

Stevo and – I’ve forgotten what name I gave his mate – arrived just as we were leaving and they’ve cleared another building and repaired it: it just has the new door to be added.  We’re not going to run out of jobs for a while yet, though.

Z’s not grand day out

It all started well – I caught the train, which was on time, although we were slightly held up by a slow train ahead of us as we approached Stratford, we were only a few minutes late into Liverpool Street.  And, as I waited to get out, I saw a friend of mine, Gabriella, who was going to visit her daughter and family for a few days and we had a brief chat.

I discovered that I had not, as I’d assumed, got my Oyster card in my bag, so it’s as well that one can now use contactless payment on a bank card – I’ve checked since and the right amount was taken out.  Although the trip to Islington is quicker and more direct on the Tube than on the bus, there’s a lot of walking involved as one has to change lines, but I can enjoy the ability to walk quickly, not having had it for a while.  And I reached the flat and put my key in the door and it didn’t work.  Eventually, I remembered that my tenant had had to change the lock for some reason and I don’t actually remember whether or not I had a key – anyway, she’d dropped in a key with the letting agent so I had to walk back to fetch it.  And she’d left the spare in the flat, so I’ve got that now and I’ll get copies made.

As I left, I thought I’d just try my key in the flat below, so I rang the bell (I’d mentioned to my other tenant that I was coming so wasn’t being sneaky, just not wanting to march in if he were there and could open the door to me) and, not only did it not work but it was stuck.  It turned a bit and no more, either way.  I got a bit desperate after a few minutes, didn’t know what to do.  Luckily, I had a pair of nail scissors in my bag and was able to use them for extra leverage and got it out.  I’ve emailed him to ask: the lock has never been changed so we’re puzzled.  I’ve got to go back next week so he will meet me there.

When I got back on the Tube and changed at Euston for Green Park, the train was crowded.  There was one seat left however and a young woman was moving towards it, until she saw me, and then she indicated that I should take it, which was really kind and a bit startling as I hadn’t entirely realised I’d reached that sort of age.  But I took it and smiled and thanked her, and she was able to sit down after the next station anyway.

There were two exhibitions on at the Royal Academy, so I went round the first one and then went for lunch.  I had a very good salad, Puy lentils and chickpeas and various salady vegetables, and a pot of Earl Grey, which tasted good but was too strong.  I couldn’t manage all the second cup and, if I have it there again, I’ll ask for a jug of hot water.  Then I had to go up to the top floor for the second exhibition, which I hadn’t quite realised – again, appreciated my ability to walk again.  On balance, I probably preferred the Russian one, on the basis that there were several abstracts that I’d certainly put on my walls.

I pottered into Fortnums and Hatchards because you can’t be in Piccadilly and not, but I wasn’t in a buying mood and I headed back to the station.  And by then, it was really quite busy on the Underground.  And, after the obligatory change of line, I was quite okay with standing again, but a young man got up and invited me to take his seat.  I was totally startled – twice in one day, how old do I actually look?  – but thanked him and sat down, because how kind and lovely and I wouldn’t rebuff politeness for anything – and I murmured to the woman next to me, who was probably in her 70s, that I must be looking really old!  And she said no, just very tired.  Which actually didn’t help.

So, I got on the 4 o’clock train and found a seat and thought hopefully about toddling off to the buffet for a cup of tea, once we were on the move, and was just sending a text to LT to say what train I was on, when the conductor announced one the intercom, in a rather dismayed and upset voice, that there had been a ‘fatality on the line’ at Chelmsford and so the train wasn’t going to set off -“we’re not going nowhere for now,” as she put it.  So I relayed this to LT, who replied “oh bugger” – quite.

And the lovely conductor came down the train to give advice and hear what passengers had to say, not that anyone had any criticism for her or the train company.  We thought dark thoughts about the jumper.  I promise, darlings, if ever I decide to end it all, I won’t jump on a train track in the middle of the afternoon and ruin a whole lot of people’s getting home time, quite apart from devastating a driver’s day.  He or she will have flashbacks for life, I’m sure.  I assume it wasn’t an accident as that would have made headline news.

Later, bottles of water were left for us to help ourselves.  This was very different from previous times when I’ve been on a severely delayed train and good for Abellio Greater Anglia for implementing good customer services.  Eventually, we left at 5.35 and went very slowly to start with as other trains had been held up at stations along the route and we were in a queue – at least we were the first train to leave Liverpool Street.  I finally arrived home at quarter past eight, a couple of hours late, but it could have been worse.  And LT already had the pan smoking ready for steaks to go on.

I still keep peering in the mirror, wondering how ancient I actually look.  But the simple fact that Londoners are lovely can’t be denied.  On the journey back to the station, a woman and little boy in a pushchair caught my attention, because he was a sweetie.  And I looked for them when we got out, meaning to help her with the stairs.  But a man was ahead of me, carrying it with her.  Because, if you’re ignored, it looks as if you don’t need help and, if you do, you receive it.  That’s always been my experience, anyway.

Tired Z links with Lovely Tim

I was in London for the day and, as so often, the return journey was longer than expected.  As a result, I’m just too tired to write tonight.  A post saying I’m not writing a post is wretched, however.  So I’ll refer you to LT’s blog, which I’m also too tired to write on but hope you might do in my place, for now, as it involves Lists!  And Opinions, Choices and suchlike.

Here you go, darlings.