Help Ma Boab

September 30, 2008

I discovered this weekend that people really do say ‘jings’ here, although I’m still waiting for a ‘crivvens’. What can it possibly mean? And more to the point, how long before I find I’m saying it myself? I’m guessing around three months…

Sad But True

September 29, 2008

First thought: oh, what a glorious morning!

Second thought: must get some laundry on.

Swallowed Up

September 26, 2008

Another reason for getting out on the bike these days – as if fetching the paper weren’t enough – to get warm. We’re having, at long last, something of an indian summer here but that means clear cold nights as well as lovely still calm days (‘sunny’ would be going a little far). The net result is that it’s now warmer outdoors than in, and as my day now consists of staring at the laptop with my feet on the power transformer to keep warm, occasionally I have to get out and go for a quick ride (well, quickish – let’s not go mad here) to defrost.

And there’s another sign that, fine weather or no, the summer has gone: the swallows. It’s hard to notice an absence, but they have not been around here for a couple of days. The other half has seen them elsewhere, but there are fewer, much fewer, and the sky seems so quiet without them. If it takes more than one swallow to make a summer, how many non-swallows does it take to make it end?


And we’ll be getting fewer evenings like these, too, soon. Must remember to enjoy them while they last.

All Talk

September 25, 2008

Wherever we go – on foot or bike at least – we’re followed by the sound of barking dogs. Every house and farm has at least one, although a small pack of them is more usual, generally yelling blue murder at us from behind the safety of the gate. I’m not sure if they bark at us because pedestrians are unusual, or because they bark at everything: passing cars, pheasants, clouds, the rain, air. But bark they do, bravely seeing off the desperate brigands threatening their hearth and home.

Then yesterday, one of the mini wolfpack that lives on the corner of the turn to the ford* managed to get out by leaping the wall as we went past. Within the gate, its less agile companions were still baying for our blood. Six inches away, on the other side of the gate, this ferocious vanguard of the pack was … rolling over to have its tummy scratched. Ah. It did have the grace to look embarrassed about it, but a tummy scratch is a tummy scratch after all, and I give particularly good ones.

Perhaps, if the writing lark doesn’t work out, I will have to take up burlglary. A few handfuls of dog biscuits and a willingness to be licked may well be all the equipment I need. And for a guard dog of my own? I think I’ll be getting some geese…

*Dry at the moment, but thanks for asking

Hop Off you Frogs

September 24, 2008

I think I mentioned that the cottage was a bit damp. Just how damp we found out last night when an unidentified darkish mark on the carpet suddenly started hopping purposefully down the corridor, heading for the spare room. A frog. I may have given a small girlish squeal at this point. The frog was ushered out and a – somewhat half-hearted – search has not revealed any more so we’re a few amphibians short of an actual plague, but it made going to the loo in the middle of the night a rather squeamish experience. Of all the things you don’t want to step on with your bare feet at four a.m. in the morning, frogs have got to be high on the list.

Still, it certainly puts the annual influx of spiders into perspective. Anybody else got frogs?

Worrying Moments in Country Life

September 23, 2008

No. 1 in a series of many.

Town Mouse (while walking across a field of bovines): Gosh those cows have got awfully big

Other Half: Those aren’t cows…

Good News for Cheapskates

September 22, 2008

I interrupt this everyday tale of country folk for a brief commercial announcement. For those of you who have not yet bought it, (and why not?) this book will now be available every night on the steam radio as this week and next week’s book at bedtime. Not only that, but it will also shortly be available as a paperback. And those of you who live where the sun does shine have no excuse, because it will be on listen again.

Please pay attention. There will be a quiz at the end

Thank you. And now back to Ambridge, where Ruth is burying Shula under the patio…*

*I can dream.

Flushed with Pride

September 21, 2008

We’ve been out this weekend taking part in beachwatch, the Marine Conservation Society‘s annual beach clean and litter survey. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener, even for fully paid up a litter-hater like myself. Today, in less than two hours, on just our small portion of the beach, the other half and I picked up more than 65 little plastic sticks that had originally been cotton wool buds. As people don’t generally take these to the beach with them, it means they’ve come out of the sewers. Mmmmm, lovely. Add in broken glass, bottle caps, dog poo, an (un)’sanitary item’, cigarette butts, chocolate bar wrappers and dozens of drinking straws and you can see why, when it comes to my next beach holiday, I think I’ll opt for a nice  walk in the hills.

Sadly, there’s another effect to doing a beach clean, other than simply adding to the warm glow of smugness that surrounds me and which is now in danger of being visible from space. Yesterday, we went for a short walk along our road, down to the post box and the cottage-that-sells-eggs. Suddenly tuned in to the stuff, I could see nothing but litter: discarded bottles, cans, wrappers, ciggies, bottle lids, you name it. I even caught myself thinking I should take a bag and pick up some of the worst of it as we went, just to make myself feel better. Girls, take it from me, you can’t fight it. Eventually you will turn into your own mother*.

And the other thing that struck me (other than the fact that it’s a really really bad idea to flush your cotton buds down the loo) is how willing the holidaying Brit is to sit and watch other people work. By the end of our two hours, we had a fascinated audience of middle-aged couples, sitting comfortably on the benches of the front, enjoying the show. Some of them had even brought sandwiches. Some of them – undoubtedly – dropped the wrappers on the beach afterwards. But if they did, they did at least wait until after we had gone. And for that,  if nothing else, we should be grateful.

*Which is not necessarily a bad thing, of course

I Appear to have Formed…

September 20, 2008

… the main course of an all-you-can-eat mosquito buffet. This is the downside of conservation volunteering – next time, maybe, I’ll try and pick somewhere that isn’t a peat bog and intensive mosquito breeding area.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I want to go and spend some quality time scratching my bites. I think it might be my new hobby.

Will Work for Wood

September 19, 2008

Ooh ouch, the light on our oil meter was flashing yesterday – time to refill the tank for the winter. Five hundred quid for a thousand litres of oil; running the rayburn does not come cheap. Heating the house won’t either, with an oil-fired boiler and single glazed windows, even if the walls themselves are a foot thick. Time to get out the Antarctic parkas, I think.

Still, I was out today chopping things down in the name of conservation and by the end of the day a largeish pile of wood – all in nice fireplace sized chunks – has happened to come my way. Normally I volunteer for the nice warm metaphorical glow it gives me, but on this occasion, I was more than grateful for a literal one as well.