June 18, 2008

Look, I know this blog is going soft, and I’m sorry, but I can’t help it. Going out to get my bike for the paper run this morning, I noticed that two of our baby swallows had ventured out of their nest and were sitting on the rafters of our outbuilding, no doubt planning where to plant their next poo. And yesterday we spent a good fifteen minutes watching a young dipper bouncing around the rocks in the stream. In fact the whole countryside around us is full of ever so slightly crap, fluffy young birds who don’t know the meaning of fear. It’s just too hard to keep up urban standards of disgruntlement with this level of cute going on around us…

The other half took piccies, but you’ll have to wait until we get broadband before you can see them. That should be good for a rant or two, at least.


There is no Way…

June 17, 2008

… to ask for pine nuts in a non-metropolitan Tescos and not come across as some poncey twat Londoner up for a weekend among the proles. Lord knows, I tried. But the recipe demanded pine nuts, and I’d already racked the shelves for twenty minutes looking. I got the answer I deserved, too: ‘Pine nuts, wha’re they?’ the callow youth in the produce section asked*. A passing shopper had the answer: ‘they’re nuts,’ she said, ‘from the pine tree.’ ‘Oh, that’ll be whole foods, then.’ And that’s where they were. I stocked up. I don’t want to go through that one again for a while.

Now then, where do you think they keep the organic goose fat?

*In the interests of balance, I should add that in the Lambeth Tescos I regularly had to identify such exotic vegetables as leeks to the checkout girls

Party Pooper

June 15, 2008

Now that we have a washing machine, we can finally start drying our clothes outside on our lovely rural-issue clothesline. We couldn’t do this in London because a) our back garden was about the size of an egg box and b) diesel particulates are not exactly my favourite post-laundry fabric conditioner. But now we can enjoy the sight of our freshly laundered clothes blowing rurally in the breeze without having the bathroom and every single radiator in the house taken up with drying underwear. And we can finally air-dry sheets and duvet covers, without having to lug them down to the laundrette to emit their weight in CO2 as they tumble-dried. I tell you, if you look carefully you can see my smug green glow from London

But there are a few little refinements we’re having to learn in order to perfect our new laundry regime. Like listening to the weather forecast before putting on a load AND paying attention all the way to the part where it gets to Scotland without getting distracted trying to visualise a line drawn from the Severn to the Wash. And like looking out of the window and not thinking ‘oh look it’s raining,’ but learning to launch oneself out of the house like a jet-propelled laundry-rescuing rocket before it ends up wetter than it started. And – as we learned just this afternoon – not hanging the white sheet right up close next to the bird feeder at the end of the clothes line. Laundry flapping brightly in the breeze might be a delight to my senses, but it seems it scares the crap out of the birds…

Windy City

June 14, 2008

You’d think Scotland would have enough wind just naturally, but round here there’s a newly opened wind farm and from certain angles if you look up in the hills you can see the turbines turning steadily away, stirring up the breezes*. Today they were having an open day and, thinking it might be a nice interesting morning’s excursion we popped along. Wind farms, we thought, would be a bit of a minority interest, so we weren’t expecting a huge crowd, maybe a few dads and small boys and an excited group of anoraks up from Sheffield comparing turbine sizes. We were wrong. For this was a bit of a hearts and minds exercise which meant not just a chance to get up close and personal with a huge windmill, but a goody bag, face painting, balloon modelling (balloon modelling has moved on since I was a kid, I tell you. The odd lumpy looking sausage dog and giraffe is not enough for today’s youth: there were children clutching balloon octopi) and – most importantly – a free lunch. Add in a bright sunny morning and a land where there’s not a whole heck of a lot to do once you’ve been to all three of the Burns museums, and people turned up in droves – far more than they were obviously expecting. Scots with a keen eye for a nice freebie … who would have thought it?

But it was, as I said, a lovely sunny day, and we passed the time in the queue for the shuttle bus chatting to the man in front (I know, I know but that’s what people do round here), and the turbines were impressive. We picked up our pen and our badges and our low-energy lightbulb, read all the informative leaflets and tried to work out what all the buttons did in one of the turbines (I had to drag the other half away from reading the owner’s manual he had got his hands on). But there was one oddity we noticed, as we queued up for our free lunch at the burger bar at the foot of one of the turbines: a familiar chugging noise. For there, tucked discreetly away behind the main tent, was a generator.

* That is how it works, right?

Rural Household Gets Phone Line Shock

June 13, 2008

Yes, it’s true. I got back to find that, a scant six weeks after moving in – and no more than two and a half months after ringing up BT and asking for one – we have a telephone line. We can now commence the long and lonely wait for broadband.

On the downside, this has now doubled the number of swallows that can simultaneously crap on our shiny new car, but every silver lining has a cloud…

Das Boot

June 9, 2008

Out exploring yesterday afternoon we happened across a film crew who were just packing up from filming something. From London, we surmised & not just because the women were dressed head to toe in black floaty garments instead of fleeces and sensible shoes, but because as we passed them on the footpath not one made so much as eye contact, let alone said hello. I found this strangely disconcerting. I have clearly been up here too long and am returning for remedial boot-faced-Londoner training (boot camp?) tomorrow.

Back on Friday with a face like a wet weekend in Wales. Or perhaps that should be a wet weekend in Wembley?

What’s in your Toast Rack?

June 8, 2008

The upgraded BT poles – just like the old BT poles, only browner – have been marching slowly up our road these past few weeks. The other day, they reached our gate and, seeing a BT man descending from a ladder by one of them – we accosted him for a progress update. His part of the work was done, he said (I’m translating freely from the Scots here) and we should be hearing from head office soon.

Sure enough, on Friday I got a phone call from one of the nice young men that BT reserve for calling customers who’ve been waiting weeks and weeks for their phone line. The line was almost ready, he told me. All that remained was for us to make a date for an engineer. Finally, I said. We fixed on next Thursday, but I was going to be away. Could I give them the other half’s mobile phone no as he would be the one waiting in? I could. The only problem was that I didn’t know the other half’s phone number, and I was going to have to find out. The nice young man said he’d hold. The other half shouted out that it was on the card in the toast rack*. After a bit of hunting around – it was in my blind spot – I found it, and read out the number to the nice young man, but he had forgotten he was a call centre operative and had reverted to being a human:

‘Did he just say it’s in the toast rack?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Why, where do you keep your mobile phone numbers?’

And we completed the call with the mutual giggles. I hope this means we still get the engineer, and more importantly the phone line. But it’s nice to know that somebody whose job is basically ringing up irate people and being nice to them had a bit of amusement in his day…

*Look, toast in our house has a half-life of thirty seconds and is usually consumed standing over the toaster, waiting for the next round to be ready. It does not survive long enough to go into a toast rack. But we got one as a wedding present and jolly nice it is too, and it seems a shame to waste it, so we use it for holding important things, like mobile phone numbers and unpaid bills.