Above and Beyond

November 29, 2011

I always tend to shake my head when I see that the Met Office has one of its severe weather warnings out for ‘heavy rain’ – I mean, it’s not as if we’re unused to rain around here. But today dawned miserable, with rain sheeting across the valley and only got worse from there, and by lunchtime we weren’t so much worrying about the level of the water at the ford, but the level of the water in the front yard as the drain struggled to keep up with the flow:

But I knew I had responsibilities to the blog and so, once the weather had gone from utterly grim back to just plain wet, I set out along the road

hoping my wellies would not get overwhelmed…

… and being careful not to step on the fish (haven’t we been here before?).

The first view of the ford looked extremely promising (the sign was still there, by the way):

But it’s a bit hard to know exactly how high it actually was because it was piling up behind the bridge and I wasn’t about to cross the ford to see what it read from the other side. On the whole, I’m inclined to think that’s joint equal with the previous high score, although I’ve not noticed it coming over the footbridge before.

Astoundingly, just after I took that photo a car came along – one of those shiny 4×4 jobs – and looked for a while as if it was going to tackle the crossing. There was a part of me that was hoping they would – because oh what a blog that would be – but in the end, discretion proved the better part of valour and they turned around and went away.

No such risk taking from the cat, which was taking no chances.

Now Wipe your Paws

November 28, 2011

We open our bathroom window in the mornings to try and cut down the amount of condensation we get from the shower. The cat has worked out that this is a handy way of getting into the house which is why after a wettish day like today when she spent all day clambering through the window, curling up on a chair for a while to recuperate, jumping onto the kitchen counters, getting thrown out, hunting voles for a while, and then clambering back through the window to reappear in the sitting room with an ‘and your point is?’ expression on her face, our window now looks like this.

We’d put a little cat doormat out for her if we could fit it onto the window ledge. As it is, she seems to have sorted herself out.

Blown Away

November 25, 2011

Well, the BBC Terror Centre, as Huttonian (who is back blogging again, go and say hello, he needs cheering up) likes to call it, has been busy these last two days warning us of hurricane strength winds, although in the end delivering a not-quite-hurricane-strength but still-pretty-bloody-stiffish south-westerly. I’m not complaining, mind: it was stiffish enough that I spent most of the ride down to the papershop today giving the indifferent sheep my mime-artist style ‘cyclist attempting not to go backwards even on the downhill stretches’.

On the plus side, this did mean I sailed home on a tailwind – at least until I made the turn out of Nearest Village and into our road and got hit by a gust of crosswind that not only sent me sideways across the road but also gave me the uneasy feeling of my wheels skittering out from under me in the teeth of the blast.

I stayed rubber side down this time, but clearly I’m going to need to take on more ballast for the ride. More cake, maybe?

Supporting Act

November 23, 2011

Outside the walled garden there is a toolshed and a handy lean to, suitable for sheltering such things as wheelbarrows and gardeners who forgot to keep a weather eye out before going up for a spot of digging and delving…

… It looks solid enough until you happen to try leaning against one of the posts and find that on closer inspection they mostly don’t actually reach the ground…

… I have long considered that along with compression, tension, stress and strain there is another crucial engineering force to be considered: habit…

… and that it’s possibly all that’s keeping most of the buildings around here still standing

(sign is still there, by the way)


November 22, 2011

It turns out we do the council an injustice – not only did the depot rouse itself sufficiently that by Saturday morning it had produced a personalised ‘Nearest Village ford closed to pedestrians’ sign, but when we went down to inspect matters today, we found that the trees had been removed and the bridge once more was passable

If the river ever gets really high, we might struggle to work out just how high – but then again, if it ever gets high enough for that to be a problem, I suspect we’ll have more pressing things to worry about, like sourcing gopherwood.

The ‘ford closed to pedestrians’ sign is still there, though whether through an over-zealous approach to health and safety due to the damaged handrail or because someone forgot to pick it up again, I don’t know. As the countryside is more or less randomly littered with ‘flood’ signs left over (washed up, even) from various flooding events in the past, I suspect the latter. Anyone care to bet how long it’ll be before someone comes and takes it away?


Discretion, the Better Part of Valour

November 21, 2011

We’ve been in Duns, freak weather capital of the UK (currently mild, sunny and pleasant – I told you it was odd) and the other half popped down to the Co-op to pick up a few things for lunch. With just three things in his basket, he headed for the tobacco kiosk to pay and realised that a sweet little old lady had plotted an interception course on the same destination with her laden trolley. Being a gent, rather than speeding up and nipping in front of her, he gestured to her to offer her first spot in the queue.

‘Oh no that’s all right, you go first,’ she said sweetly. ‘I’ll just come and beat you up later.’

As the other half was looking remarkably unscathed as he told this story I asked him how he got away.

‘Oh I waited until I’d paid for my shopping,’ he said. ‘And then said I’d see her outside. But I legged it before she’d finished paying.’

I think on the whole, that was sensible. Those Duns little old ladies pack a serious punch.

Back to inspect the ford tomorrow.

Poets Day

November 18, 2011

We weren’t expecting much to report in our most recent visit to check the level of the ford – after all we’ve had four (count ’em!) dry days in a row, followed by a morning of merely mizzling rain, which is as nothing round here. But when we rounded the corner we were confronted with this:

That’s going to make checking the depth a bugger, if nothing else.

Naturally, the first thing I did (after walking back to get my camera, and then cycling back to the ford to take some pictures – priorities, people) was to phone the council where, after I had finally got through to the roads department (don’t you just love it when organisations decide to switch to once central number for contacting them, whatever the purpose of your call and then the call centre you reach has absolutely no idea what do when you finally get to them) – at about 3pm – I was told ‘well, obviously it’s Friday afternoon so the depot’s closed but we’ll do what we can.’

I’m still not entirely sure what’s so obvious about that, frankly.


November 17, 2011

I have just realised that I have left you, my faithful readers, in a state of terrible suspense over the progress of the chicken wars. I hope you’ve been managing to eat, sleep and get on with some semblance of your lives. Anyway, the truth is I felt a bit odd about writing about it because the first thing that happened was that two of the newcomers were found dead overnight and it didn’t seem quite such a suitable subject for a mildly amusing blog about country life. However, further enquiries established that the deaths happened before the two sets of birds had been mixed so, unless the old guard had been wriggling under the fence, commando style to carry out raids or (more likely) simply laying the evil eye on the new girls, the deaths were due to natural causes. And then after that things calmed down. The new birds were down to four, and the old birds started moulting which takes the edge off even the most ferocious chicken. After a couple of days a sort of apartheid situation developed with the white birds sticking to one end of the pen, with the hen house, while the brown ones sulked at the other end guarding the feeders. And there it has more or less stayed, although a couple of the bolder white ones have started to venture out into enemy territory and stage a couple of raids on the feeder.

Sadly, in all this excitement, not one of them has thought to lay an egg in the last fortnight. As the landlord has now been reduced to the humiliating position of having to buy eggs, they may find their greatest problem is not each other…

Public Humiliation, Rural Style

November 15, 2011

As anyone who’s on my contact list – or follows me on twitter – probably already knows, last night some bastards from Moldova got into my yahoo account and used it to send everyone I know some tasty spam. I then managed to compound the problem by attempting to email everyone again to apologise and warn them not to follow any links – which Yahoo (sensibly, I suppose, though it was irritating at the time) refused to do on the grounds that there had been suspicious activity on my account. I managed to export my contact list to gmail, which I was very proud about, and then spammed everyone again from the wrong account (what can I say, it was quite late at night) before finally spamming everyone one final time from my personal gmail account to apologise for that too. It was only this morning that I realised I should have bcc’d instead of pasting them all into the address bar but you will be relieved to hear I refrained from emailing a further time to apologise for this final faux pas. You’d never guess I used to work in IT, would you?

Anyway, at least my humiliation was confined to the internet, where nobody can see you squirm. Down at the papershop today I was exchanging cheery banter with Papershop Woman who, as Papershop Bloke had been telling us the day before, had managed to miss her flight home from a trip down south at the weekend. ‘I bet half the village has heard about that one,’ I said cheerily as I walked out the door. ‘Half?’ she said with a certain bitterness in her voice. ‘Try the WHOLE village.’

Still, at least it means they’ve got decent market penetration, I suppose.

Lions and Tigers and Bikes, oh my

November 14, 2011

Cycling back from the papershop today we encountered a woolly rolling roadblock – a flock of sheep en route from one field to another with their shepherd (unusually on foot rather than a quad bike) and his dog. We were happy enough to slow down and follow for a while at sheep speed but the shepherd decided we’d be better off passing and sent his dog off on a complicated parting-of-the-waters manoeuvre, giving us a front row view of sheep herding skill – they should try that one on One Man and His Dog. Of course, it might have worked better if the sheep hadn’t then turned and seen not one but two of the scariest things in the world – cyclists – coming up behind them. Cue close quarter woolly panic as the sheep tried to decide what was worse: the dog ahead of them or the bikes behind them which lasted until the dog won and pushed them past us and we got away before we could cause any more trouble.

And of course, when sheep get scared they do what scared sheep do, which meant cycling through a hundred little puddles of sheep pee at top speed as we made our escape. Any of you who out there still not cycling with mudguards should think about that for a minute. Or make sure you pedal with your mouth shut, anyway…