Monday, 31 August 2009
Sunday, 30 August 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Mum and Em-j are back from their French adventure, bubbling over with tales of adventures, including the one we're not allowed to mention about getting lost. They return too with strange foreign "Purple Stuff" which turns out to be a soft drink which you dilute 7:1 with water (preferably fizzy, says Em-J) and end up with a very nice drink tasing of violets.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
A bit like "Gi-gi", says Mum; the 1958 film with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevallier, although Mum wonders if that colours her the same colour as the Aunt Alicia character (Isabel Jeans) who is rich and sophistimacated on account of acquiring wealth in a dubious "demi-monde" way (look it up - but suffice to say she'd be a "lady of negotiable affection" in Terry Pratchett's books). So of course we have to watch the film, although dogs are persuaded not to join in the chorus of "Ze Night zay invented Champaiiiiiiiigne!".
It's a good day. Megan has been walked a short one in the morning, so Haggis and I are taken out by Dad and Em-J a nice route march all around the long-bridge route. We watch for trains over the bridge parapets, and enjoy the "Night Mail" poem and the train and historic building pictures painted along its panels (all be it most of them are now graffiti'd out of sight).
Back in the Rec the small female "herbert" escapes from the "Elegant Young Lady" persona and has to have a go on the swings, climbing pyramid, grown-up round abouts and a fancy circular rail thing which you try to walk on but which goes backwards as fast as you try to walk forwards. This generates enough challenges for Dad to get a bit bored watching and to strike up a good satisfying game of plastic-bottle throwing with me while we wait for Em-J to get sweaty and tired enough to need a drink and a shower.
Time enough for being Elegant tomorrow, says she, when Mum is taking her off to France for a look at St Omer and a practise of some new found skills in language.
I still think the best French word in her new books is Crapaud (pronounced Crappo) which means "toad"
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Then we all load back into the car and head for the wild-bird food shop and down to the Standard Quay to see the sea-worthy barges and Cambria. Em-J and Dad hail friends John and Sophie aboard their Dutch barge (Willhemina-Maria) and are invited on board for a look around. Tothe farm shop next to buy salad-y stuff for lunch.
Dad goes for a kip while Mum and Em-J nip off to visit Diamond in hospital, then Mum grabs some shut-eye while Dad takes Em-J off up to the allotment to dig spuds, pull leeks, harvest chard, beans and beetroot, and even to pick over the raspberries (not enough to bring home - sorry, Mum). They also take in the bee-hives, and head home via an explore of the new housing behind us.
Exhausting, is what it is!
Mum disappears over to Ireland, to collect our neice Em-J (Silverwood) and bring her back over here for a treat. She will live with us for a week, and Mum will attempt to turn her into an elegant Lady. (I'm no one to judge, having had to have a bath this morning due to rolling in some skank out on the Rec, but my new boyfriend Jasper loves me!) .
We have to say that Mum managed to be delayed both on the way out and on the way back. The outbound plane got into Dublin at 02:00, and Mum was met by night-owl friend Teresa, so there was not going too much sleep had that night. Portmarnock supplied an irish fried breakfast and pink champagne (uh huh?) , before Mum rounded up Em-J and headed back to the airport. Am I allowed to say she lost her car in the car park Em ? (Shhhhh - OK we'll keep it as a secret between us then).
Have a great weekend
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Well... 's like this. Dad has been doing Gardening for Wildlife judging around this part of Kent and as part of this he's over last night to see the people at Buckland Lakes nature reserve, come fishing venue come diving training school, It is a 60 acre Lake up to 70 feet deep, so it's used by all the local scuba-folk - the Royal Engineers, rescue services and the civvie-street scuba clubs
To make the diving more interesting, they have deliberately sunk various "wrecks" in the lake, including a 40 foot fishing boat and a Lear Jet. The Royal engineers have then "helped things along" by smuggling in numerous stone garden gnomes, so there is a size-able gnome-population down there, apparently.
The owner also thought it'd be fun to have a 20 foot Great White Shark, so that the divers could take pictures of themselves being "fearless" (arms in it's toothy mouth etc), so he created a very realistic model out of fibre-glass. This was so bouyant, apparently, that it sat proud of the lake surface, with only 6 inches under. In the end the engineers had to load it with rocks and then winch it down from the lake-bed so that it now "hangs" at a suitably photogenic "height" in the water, and looks real in the divers' pictures.
Amusingly the lake is also peppered with moored up, broken, abandoned but still floating early-design jet-skis. Each has 2 or three rolled up straw-and-chicken wire "mattresses" mounted on top for the ducks and moorhens to use as nest-box "tubes"
The owner turns out to be the judge for the amphibious vehicles on Scrapheap Challenge, so he also has a variety of amphibious cars, rafts, bicycles and other waterbourne tom foolery knocking about.
Monday, 17 August 2009
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Jasper spots us too, and is soon making a bee-line in our direction. He likes a good run around with me, and the H often joins in. Both Jasper and I are quickly grimed up with the dew and dust, so that a shower seems likely this afternoon. The man gets chatting to Dad about getting "them groomed" and is fascinated to know that Dad does us himself, getting supplies from the Wahl European service centre which happens to be in Herne Bay, not far from here.
The man thinks he may go look at prices and have a go himself. Dad offers to show him the (very) basics but warns him that professional groomers we are not!
Mum's off to look after Diamond, Dad heads in the direction of the barge - it's "our turn" on the volunteer rota, so some pics and an update on that soon. Dad comes home with some mildly grubby bed linen from a lady called Nicole (ahhh Nicole? Papa?). Mum raises an eyebrow. Some unlikely story about a couple with a Dutch barge alongside at Cambria's wharf concerned to find that the town has no laundrette. So now we're "taking in washing".......
(The fragrant and showered) Deefski
Saturday, 15 August 2009
Thought you might like this image from last night. Also one of the figs already growing well on our tiny, new tree, got as a thin weedy whip from the Pud Lady 2 winters ago and planted, with a restricted root-run as advised by the same, in a sawn-in-half barrel. These figs are turning colour nicely and should be ready to eat this Autumn.
Look after yourselves
This weekend then, we are a bit of a hub of visitors coming to see Diamond - friends from London, family and family friends from Stockton on Tees (where she and the late Denis hail from). Friday night turned into a bit of a vigil, as we all sat out on the terrace in the gathering gloom, candles burning, wine, chat, food, we dogs mooching about checking out the night noises and smells.
Today has been lots of comings and goings as people visit in relays.
It's a worrying time. Hang in there Diamond.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
These two cats, brother and sister, one black male (Lou) and the other a brindled female (Missi) were bought from the Cats' Protection League on June 5th 1999 (Megan was only 3, Haggis just 2 !). They were brought home and let go indoors, with the cat flap bolted shut. They did what new cats always do - fled upstairs and hid under the single bed in the spare room, scrambling up into the bed frame from underneith and hiding from the humans, the 2 dogs and the existing big ol' ginger tom cat, Kalamazoo.
No sooner were they in than a huge thunderstorm rattled through, crashing and banging; the poor little mites must have been terrified. The humans were cool with this and let them be, putting down food and water and waiting for them to calm down and emerge of their own accord. It can take a few days before curiosity gets to them and they come out and explore. In a couple of days the brindled girl did indeed start to sneak out and explore upstairs, but nothing was seen of the black one.
In one more day, the humans were getting concerned, as the brindled one (Missi) was now out regularly and still no-one had seen Lou. Dad lifted the bed up and found.... no cat. The house was searched, to no avail. The only way the cat could have escaped that night was out of the tiny bathroom upper window - a 10 foot drop to the concrete. Things were looking bad. The thunderstorm might have sent him fleeing but then he'd be wet and totally lost, not having had any kind of time to familiarise himself with his surroundings.
The humans were frantic - searching the local area, getting sheds and outbuildings opened, notifying the local vets and police, signs up in the paper-shop and tied to local lamp posts, neighbours helping etc. It was hopeless, and after a few days, the search was called off. Missi settled in and became house cat and companion to Kalamazoo, learned to cope with the dogs and learned all the local territory, fortunately showing no tendency to venture into the front garden or cross the busy road out front.
Lou became just a sad tale of "the other cat we got the same day". 18 months went by.
Then out of the blue we got a phone call from the local vet. Did we own a black cat with only half a tail? Brindled? No, definitely black. "A lady" has brought one in and we've scanned it for micro-chip and it's coming up with your name and address (which is something CPL do before they give you the cat).
To cut a long story short this lady who lives over the road and half a dozen houses further up(who Mum and Dad now know quite well) had taken in a stray about 18 months before, which had started begging food and seemed to have no home, and had eventually moved in. She had taken him off to the vets for something and had learned of his "other life". She was now very upset (in tears even) to think that we might think they'd stolen our cat and would want it back.
Dad went over to see the lady, and explained the story about the collection night thunderstorm and the short-lived cat. Obviously it was now plain what had happened, and only that neither cat dared cross the road, stopped the brother and sister meeting up and comparing notes! Dad, of course, "gave" the lady the black cat, explaining that we had never really owned it, and did not know it or feel it was missing in any way any more.
The lady was relieved and delighted (and, as I said, Mum, Dad and these two have now got to know each other a bit more), the papers signed, the database and microchip updated and everyone lived happily for ever after..... at least until both cats passed away in 2008, Missi of general collapse of hind end, Lou of kidney failure. Both had had good lives since rescue, in loving families, and a cat can't really ask for more than that, can it?
The moral, if there is one - a terrified cat in new surroundings in a thunderstorm, can escape through an upstairs, upper window and you will probably never see it again.
Monday, 10 August 2009
Called "Odie", and only 11 weeks old, this little fella is, as you can imagine, still growing into his skin. His face already has that jowly, saggy-eyed look, his feet are far far too big for him and his ears, at about 6-7 inches are long enough that he keeps tripping over them.
We met them tonight (Odie and Mum, not his ears per se) on our way back from the Rec. Little Odie was a reluctant walker and making as slow progress westwards as we (with Megan) were making eastwards. Dad crossed the road with all of us to say hello, and poor Odie sat down, quite overcome by being approached and then quietly sniffed by all three of us at various points along his length. We are harmless though, so he soon got used to it and cheered up (although he still looked very doleful but that's bassets for you.
Welcome to our patch Odie - I expect we'll see quite a lot of each other in the Rec
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Mrs Silverwood has, anyway, discovered that Asda do self-decorate kits for things like gingerbread men, and kiddies "Thomas the Tank Engine" cake mixtures. The gingerbread men are already baked, and come with edible glue, toothpaste tubes of icing and smarties / hundreds-and-thousands (sprinkles?) and the children just assemble the lot using smarties for buttons and eyes and drawing on mouths with the icing.
The cake mixes they just need a bit of supervision measuring and stirring the mix, then spooning it into cake cups. The cooked and cooled down cakes are then decorated with icing and topped with little Thomas characters printed onto rice-paper.
M's fascination with cookery though, goes way beyond that and he's a regular and useful helper for Mrs S around the kitchen. he even amazes Mrs S by knowing the ingredients you need for some of the regular dishes. If Mrs S says they are doing bolognese, he's off and running, diving into the kitchen cupboards for the mince, tinned tomatoes, spices and herbs etc without needing telling.
On the boat it was Mum who did the cooking, and he was always there "I'll do it that one!" He'd say.... "I can do it!". Mum had him making up salad dressings, preparing salads, weighing and measuring, counting out the spoonfuls of various bits. We even have a photo of him proudly showing off 2 bowls of green salad - how many 3 year old boys are even interested in green salad?
Ah well, today it's too hot really to do anything, and after our 6-miler yesterday nobody's hassling Dad for a good walk, and he's not complaining.
Saturday, 8 August 2009
There are 12 walkers in the end and Dad takes them round what used to be the 6 mile waymarked trail (dismantled by the Forestry Commission about 10 years ago) but with an added loop down into the bit called "Cutler's Valley" to see the newest pond created by (well, paid for by) the Friends. Created, of course by proper land scape contractors.
That's the 4th pond. Also on the visit we go to look at one near the "Reptile Valley" which has apparently been damaged by some muppets in a Land Rover. These ponds are created on fairly dry chalk and thin soil by digging the bowl with a big excavator, and then puddling in 15 lorry loads of local clay to make a 2 foot thick smear over the chalk. The ponds then fill naturally and we allow them to colonise with plants by the slow process of natural succession.
This one had been a great success, being blessed with a better catchment than the others, and we'd helped that along on a Friends "volunteer day" by cutting gulleys from the nearby forest tracks, which happened to converged there from the local hillsides. It was alive with dragon flies and other water insects, newts and was used frequently by the fallow deer to drink.
Till that is, some bloomin' idiot with a Land Rover decided it would be fun to drive through. Now Dad's as big a "Landie" fan as the next man - grew up with posters on the bedroom wall, was always going to own one and eventually did, used to go "green laning" (responsibly), joined the All-Wheel-Drive-Club, suscribed to LR Owner magazine, eventually sold the beast in an attack of pragmatism (noise, thirst, slowness etc).
So we sympathise with the muppets' desire to get out into the country and get it muddy. Not for us the "Sloane tractor" shininess, where the nearest to off road you got was mounting the kerb. But these tarts have driven it into our pond and then effectively sliced down through the 2 feet of clay spinning the wheels to get out
Either they have, or the tractor they engaged to pull them out has. The pond has now leaked away all it's water and sits there, a dry bowl with cracked African "river bed" floor. The Friends are left looking at the cost of restoring the pond, bringing in more clay, re-engaging the excavator to puddle it in.
Thanks lads. I hope the damage was worth the laugh.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Dad returns yesterday bubbling over with a new experience, that of being ultra-sound and Doppler scanned like a pregnant lady. Some unknown problem had caused swelling in one of his legs, and the docs wanted to rule out deep-vein thrombosis. So he was packed off to hospital to be poked and prodded, ending up with him being sent for an ultra-sound scan. many readers will have either had one, or be married to someone and watched one, but it was all new exciting technology to Dad (he loves all that stuff!).
For a DVT, he says, it's gel up the leg from ankle to groin, and then a case of inching down the leg's length looking for the rougly-round vein on the screen. Pressure on the leg with the probe crushes the vein (assuming there's no clot). Then in around the knee where it all gets a bit complicated with cartilege, tendons and other jointy bits (yum slurp... oops, sorry) they go over to Doppler mode, where a squeeze of the leg makes the screen flare with yellows, oranges and reds (but again, only if the flow above the squeeze is not impeded by a clot. Then back to probe-presses for the calf.
You'll be pleased to know that Dad's leg is not pregnant, and is also bright with flaring Doppler-effects and the vein eminently collapsable, guaranteed DVT-free.
Off next to Medway where Dad's wildlife-garden judging skills are to be deployed in the unlikely urban jungle of the Chatham Tower Blocks. He drives in somewhat trepidatiously. Both Mum and Dad used to live in Chatham (all be it separately in those days), and the blocks were no-where you'd go by mistake. Also no where you'd expect to find any kind of garden, never mind a wildlife garden.
Never mind - gulp hard and press the flat number and "call" on the big heavy security door. Get let in and follow the lady-speakers instructions climb the dodgy looking stairs to come out onto a kind of concrete mezzanine floor. Turn left and be greeted by......
..an absolute splash of riotous verdant growth and colour. A tiny space, just the ground floor equivalent of the balcony but absolutely crammed with pots, planters, baskets, planted up coffee mugs, drink bottles and off cuts of rain-gutter. Even cracks between slabs had been planted - some decent sized sunflowers tower from a half inch crack between path and the main building.
The whole is adorned with a completely mad eccentric but joyous mixture of plastic teddies, mermaids, dragon flies, lanterns and candle holders, coloured glass and stones. The flowers are all insect friendly - nasturtiums, lavender, marigolds and various climbers we didn't recognise, a-buzz with bees and hover flies. There's even a tiny bird feeder.
Amazingly the local "hoodies" seem to leave the old girl alone, and nothing gets vandalised or touched, even though it's well within reach of sticky fingers. On the contrary, this lovely crazy old girl's efforts seem to have spawned a local enthusiasm for adopting the grim civic planters, painting them up beautiful colours and planting them. More gardens are starting to appear on balconies and outside other flats in the area.
It's a real oasis in the middle of urban utilitarianism. Fair play to this lady, and more power to her elbow. Dad says this kind of thing makes the whole thing more worthwhile, somehow. Easy to be a wildlife gardener in Acacia Avenue, middle class leafy suburbs well protected from the madding crowd. Not so easy exposed like that to the whims of some of the local Herberts.
Ah well, Happy Birthday Haggis. Mum will be home soon from visiting Diamond (our thoughts are with you Di - we know it's a bit rough just now. Hang in there.
Monday, 3 August 2009
Everyone is quite philosophical (sitting, reading etc) EXCEPT that is for one tulip from Margate who decides the way to deal with it is to start shouting her dissatisfaction at the Receptionist from across the room (staying in her seat). Everyone feels a bit awkward and embarrassed. Mum also feels hungry because she's missed her own lunch and has been sitting there a while.
Eventually one of the staff comes out and explains patiently to the lady about the hold up but says the current "victim" will 15 more minutes, then there's just (Mum) and it'll be her turn. Mum spots the opportunity to nip for a bite of lunch and visit Diamond (who's in the same hospital), while at the same time helping the harrassed Receptionist and maybe shutting up the large, loud, Mrs "Margit".
She has a quick chat with the Staffer, and then clears it with the Receptionist, that she swap places with Mrs Margit and nips out. "That's very sweet of you", says R, "but why would you do that?" Mum (in a whisper) says that "otherwise that woman will shout at us all for the hour and one of us will have to kill her".
She smiles as the R tries not to giggle, and as Mum slinks out she hears the R start up... "That very nice lady who has just left has generously volunteered to let you have her appointment time.... etc". Unfortunately Mum was out by then but we all hope the loud one has sufficient shame to be crawling with embarrassment.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
The title? No, we've not gone all male-chauvinist here. One of Dad's 2CV chums (actually an exponent of the 2CV kit-car conversion called a "Lomax") holds a garden party each year at around his birthday. 2CV engines, "as any fool no", are 2 cylinder horizontally opposed units, known by the nickname of "boxers". Beers are easy to explain (this being a bloke-ish party, although there are plenty of other-halfs there too).
Birds? Each year the food is a real treat - a range of salads, but then a choice of meat around a theme. The first year "bangers" (all sorts of exotic and weird sausages including wursts and chorizo type stuff). The 2nd year "Burgers", again - all sorts from venison burgers to good ol' USA style hamburgers. This year the "birds" refers to all sorts of poutry products (duck spring rolls, spicy chicken wings, lemon chicken, chicken kievs etc.
We wonder where the host can go from here, fast running out of B-words to go with his boxers and beers. Baking maybe?
It's a lovely sunny day, so it's roof-down 2CV motoring, Dad resurrecting the straw hat for the first time since the "Sussex" Saga Sunshine.
Saturday, 1 August 2009
Dad is off up to the allotment which is now in full flow of productivity. He returns with some last broad beans, but also French and runner beans, chard with massive leaves, cherry tomatoes, courgettes, baby beetroot, a small Summer Cabbage, Grannies and Discovery apples, and some first new potatoes.
The gang head off to visit Diamond, still languishing in hospital and undergoing treatment (so Rags is still on his "hols"). She is OK -ish, but feeling weary and aching, and also a bit fed up with some of her family members. She will be apparently allowed home soon, for a rest between the various episodes of treatment, and is looking forward to being able to relax in her own, proper bath.
Look after yourself, Diamond, and get well soon.
Mr S writes (Thanks, old chum). We have now managed to copy our photo's of the hols onto the memory card of one of those digital frames, so it's rolling round in the living room. Have you got the CD yet Mr S ?
Have a good weekend