Cost Benefit Analysis

August 20, 2008

Giving up the day job: £30k+ pa.

Renting a cottage in the country: £5k+ pa.

Going birdwatching when I used to be doing my evening commute: priceless.


Move Over, Stonehead*

August 19, 2008

One major design flaw in our move to the country has been the fact that we have moved to a place with no garden of its own. So any thought of growing our own vegetables – let alone keeping our own hens – have had to be postponed. But, nothing daunted, I did at least buy a couple of tomato plants when we moved in to put in a couple of pots by our front door.

That was May. June passed, and July, with the plants growing like weeds in the rain, and flowering away like mad, but producing no actual tomatoes. Having consulted t’internet, I then spent the first part of August gently brushing the flowers in an effort to get some fruit to set. And then I saw this:

My first tomato. Giant fingers for scale...

My first tomato. Giant fingers for scale...

One fruit. Given the cost of the plants, plus the compost, and time, this was shaping up to be the most expensive tomato of all time. But that was not all. One day later I found this:

Second tomato

Second tomato

and this:

Third tomato - a plum tomato this tim

Third tomato - a plum tomato this time

in fact, a grand total of 5 tomatoes in all…which have an approximately zero chance of ripening before the frost comes. Somehow I don’t think the world food crisis will be solved by my efforts alone.
Meanwhile, in other news, the other half has fixed our signal booster and we once more have access to BBC and the olympics. If our usual effect on British sporting efforts holds, expect Team GB to go crashing down the medal totals – we’ve already screwed up the Madison**. Sorry about that.

*To see how it’s really done, go here

**Surely the Mornington Crescent of the sporting world

More Walkies

August 17, 2008

muddy_shoes Having failed thus far in our attempts to find decent circular walks ourselves, yesterday we broke down and bought ourselves a book of local walks. Now, when choosing a walking book obviously what you want is good, clear descriptions of the walks written out in ways that make it impossible to get lost, but that’s kind of hard to callibrate in the shop. They always sound plausible enough, and then the next thing you know you’re in the middle of a muddy field surrounded by possibly hostile cattle, trying to parse out ‘Where a green track crosses, turn left then back right onto the descending path; there are some waymarks here, although not particularly helpful ones’ without actually wrecking your marriage. So, in the absence of anything else, I’ve taken to choosing my books of walks on the basis of whether they make me laugh, intentionally or otherwise (my favourite being the book of walks we had in the Canaries which couldn’t emphasise enough the importance of bringing a cardigan along with you. We never did fathom out why, although on the one walk we actually tried, it did get a little nippy in the higher bits). That way at least when you’re hopelessly lost and you’ve given up all hope of finding the car, you can while away your last hypothermic hours reading out the more amusing snippets to each other.

Anyway we ended up with one of these fine volumes and tried out one of the closer walks today. Mr Turnbull has a nice dry line in commentary (“Here various mindless vandals have carved their autographs into the sandstone. Mr Clarke of Oswestry carved his in 1879. Admire his stonecarving – mindless vandalism isn’t what it used to be a century ago.”) but the copy we had was published in 1999 and time had not been kind to some of his paths and landmarks (Mr. Clarke of Oswestry was still coming through loud and clear however). It was well worth it though and we found our way, despite my being clad in utterly the wrong shoes for the conditions. We even stumbled across this, in a hidden glade along the way:


Surely the legendary lost burial grounds of a vanished tribe of picnic tables…

Licensed to Strim

August 15, 2008

So I was chatting with a man about volunteering opportunities and he mentioned in passing that – if someone was to commit long term – he’d even be prepared to send them on a course to get their strimmer licence. Now, I can see the need for a chainsaw licence, and a driving licence and even a tv licence (although hello? BBC? We’re paying up and we’ve not had either of your fine channels for three days now. Are we the only people on the planet who haven’t access to the olympics?) but a strimmer licence? What the hell – short of ‘don’t wear flip-flops’ and ‘don’t try to strim the dog’ – can the training course consist of? I’m almost tempted to sign up to find out – I’m hoping for competitive strimmer racing, strimmer slaloms, artistic strimming interpretation to classical music, maybe even special strimming events for the people who didn’t do so well on lesson 1 and have strimmed off their feet. It would make up for not getting the olympics. But I’m guessing they just say ‘don’t wear flip-flops and don’t try and strim the dog and that will be fifty quid please.’ It’s the last part that makes it official.

So please, please, please, provide me with your anecdotes of terrible gory life-changing strimmer accidents in the comments so I am not forced to go all Daily Mail on you and declare:

it’s health’n’safety gone mad.

Advice to Cyclists

August 14, 2008

When the Met office weather site says ‘partly cloudy with sunny intervals’ and the great big black lowering cloud hanging over the hill says ‘pissing down shortly’?

Go with the cloud.

Also, those little contour lines on the maps? It’s always best to look at them before planning your route, and not, say, after you’ve come home cold, wet, and with shaking legs.

Looking on the bright side, however, I have not yet been savaged by any cats.

Next Stop Africa

August 13, 2008

I opened the door of the shed this morning to an explosion of wings and mad squeaking: the swallows have left the nest. The next thirty seconds was a mass fluttering panic as the birds learned the hard way that you can’t fly out through a closed window, however scary the monster might be who has invaded your haven. I left the door open when I went for the paper and by the time I came back they were swooping around the yard to the manner born.

Not that I got much chance to admire their aerobatics. For I discovered that the only thing on two wings scarier than a buzzing buzzard is an adult swallow defending its young. Buzzards might be bigger, but swallows have the advantage of speed, accuracy, and an enraged chattering noise that’s more alarming than it might sound. So I shall confine myself to admiring them from the doorstep in the my-god-is-that-sunshine and enjoy the show while it lasts. Because pretty soon they’ll be off to bother the flies of West Africa. And I’m not sure that I can blame them at all.

PS Anyone notice the progression of the last three posts? No doubt, this time tomorrow I’ll be menaced by a cat…

Autumn is icumen in…

August 12, 2008

Never mind what the calendar says, it seems like the summer’s over, if it was ever here at all. The geese are flying south already, bailing out on us before we’ve so much as got warm. It’s cold, and it’s getting dark, although that part is relative – we could just about read a newspaper outdoors at 11 o’clock at night in June here, so we’re a bit spoiled. And the clincher? The spiders are here.

OK, spider. But where there’s one, there will be many more. And besides, this one was sitting on top of the loo roll and I only noticed it as I reached out to get the necessary. A girlish scream may have escaped my lips but in fairness to me a) it was huge and b) I was not dressed for spider combat as I was about to get into the shower. I’m not, technically, frightened of spiders but I wasnt up for tackling this one naked. Cunningly I rotated the loo roll round (and this, gentle readers, is why the paper should always come out from underneath and not over the top) until the spider fell off and scuttled behind the loo. I was then able to shower as planned with only a few startled shrieks every time my foot touched the plug unexpectedly. It’s funny how a smooth round metal object can feel exactly like a scuttly hairy spider when you’ve got your eyes closed.

I sense this will be the first of many as the autumnal spider migration begins. They were bad enough in London – I dread to think what it’s going to be like here. I’m going to have to take to going into the bathroom armed. Hmmm. Perhaps this is why blokes feel they have to take a newspaper in with them? It’s not just to do the sudoku in peace after all…