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…

Maybe I’m Naive…

November 12, 2011

…But I would have thought that basic gutter installation might just possibly involve any newly installed gutters gently sloping downwards towards the drainpipe so that all the rain drains smoothly away as opposed to the gutters being bowed and sagging so that the rain gathers in the middle of the gutter, well away from any pesky drainpipes that might otherwie empty it, and instead pours over the top of the gutter and onto our bathroom windowsill making even a fairly non apocalyptic heavy shower sound like the precursor to the end of the world. But then, we do live in a part of the world where rain is pretty rare and so I suppose it’s understandable that gutter and drainpipe installation isn’t quite down to the fine art it might be in other parts of the country like, say South West Scot…

… oh no, hang on, wait…

Marking Time

November 11, 2011

One of the sad but moving side effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the revival of the two minute silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – regardless of whether that falls on Remembrance Sunday or not. Today we were shopping when the moment arrived – standing in John Lewis in Glasgow, as it happened. The announcement came over the tannoy and then a real silence and a stillness fell, interrupted only by a bagpipe lament, which turned out to be someone’s rather appropriate ringtone, quickly hushed. It’s amazing how how powerful silence is even – especially – in the middle of a mundane shopping centre, right in the heart of Glasgow. There was the odd sound of footsteps as someone rushed past, too busy or too blithely unaware to wonder why everyone else had stopped. But mostly there was silence, a chance to pause for reflection, and the deep hush that falls when people don’t just stop talking but stop moving too, stop hurrying.

I’m glad that for once I was reminded to do this and that we were surrounded by hundreds of other people doing the same thing. I am only sad that the occasion being marked is no longer an end to war, let alone an end to all wars, but their continuation.

Bright Lights, Big City

November 10, 2011

We’re off up to Glasgow for the night tonight to go to a concert and practise our city skills such as blanking strangers and looking both ways before crossing the road. To this end, I am wearing my black jeans which are supposed to be my smart ones being the ones which haven’t yet developed a little rip on the inside right ankle from being worn on the bike. Theoretically they are also the ones which don’t have manure stains on them from being worn while gardening but, to be honest, pretty much every pair of trousers that I own ends up being gardened in eventually and, fortunately, manure washes out.

Thus scrubbed up I will, I hope (if I remember not to wear my fleece) blend effortlessly in with the smart Glasgow crowd. I’ll be the one leaning casually against a wall in a cool and urban sort of way because the other thing about my smart black jeans is that – freshly washed and not much worn as they are – I’m still having difficulty sitting down in them. Cycling may do wonders for the shape of your bum, girls, but it does absolutely nothing for the diameter of your thighs.

Reverse Squirrel

November 9, 2011

I was just turning into the home straight on the way home with the paper (and by the way, I think I really want one of these. Slow cycling indeed…) when I was pleased to see a little ginger creature darting down from a tree and out into the road …

… and even more pleased to see it do an instant u-turn when it saw me coming (they must have spring loaded spines those squirrels) and dart back up the tree. It’s nice to know that, after all we’ve gone through to protect them that the red squirrels are still around, for now at least. And it’s even nicer to know that they’re finally learning a little road sense