Saturday, 7 May 2022

Hedgehog week


In case I haven't said it before, I absolutely love this time of year. The green is all so new and astonishing, I find it requires a lot of looking out of the window every single day to adjust to it all. 

Mostly photos from the garden, but not the squirrel. There are loads of squirrels down on the streamside walks where there are happily lots of trees, but none at all in the garden. I have my hedgehog house in place now and there is a neat hedgehog-sized hole in the back fence (five inches square in case you were wondering), although there has been a slight snag with that. Much to mine and Bertie's horror, a small cat has come into the garden through the hedgehog highway hole. This is not the wildlife we were wanting at all. Although to be fair, I'm not sure the dog is entirely on board with Operation Hedgehog-Friendly Garden, he is more of a Mine, All Mine sort of a dog. 

I am not particularly in favour of cats. The RSPB estimates that they kill at least 100 million things each year, of which 27 million are birds. Plus the creatures that escape but subsequently die and the ones that are killed but not brought home. Up until I made the hedgehog hole, the garden was pretty much cat-free during the day at least. On the rare occasion that one did appear, it had to come over the fence, meaning it was more visible. The small cat can just sneak in on silent paws and creep up on things now. There are loads of birds in the garden and they are often on the ground picking up stray seeds.

The day I first spotted the cat, there were lots of feathers on the ground. No body though, so I am hoping that the cat just got a mouthful of feathers. The next time I saw the cat, Bertie and I trotted out to have a word. I kept Bertie on a lead, not wanting an actual confrontation. The littlest boy has suggested that we put up a sign over the hoghole saying 'Hedgehogs Only'. 

Bertie had a bit of a shout and the cat left in quite a hurry. Bertie's chum a couple of doors up joined in as well. Sometimes Bert just goes out into the garden and calls out, 'Oatie, let's bark a lot just in case there's something in the back lane.' And Oatie goes, 'I'm on it Bert,' and gets into huge trouble for being too loud. Don't worry, we're not as anti-social as I make us sound, Bertie only barks sometimes, and mainly to make people go away in case they were thinking of invading. 

I am currently reading Skulduggery Pleasant, which is recommended reading for 8-12 year olds. The littlest boy has read them all and was very keen for me to read it. In fact, I may have inadvertently said  that I'll read all thirteen when I was trying to get him to go to bed one night. ('Yes, fine, I'll read them all IF YOU WILL JUST GET INTO BED AND GO TO SLEEP.") I'm hoping he forgets that. It's actually quite a ripping yarn and a pretty fast read though, so hopefully I'll be back to more grown up murders before too long. Although maybe when I get to the end of volume one I'll want to read volume 2 and on it will go. It's certainly an escape from the real world. An actual walking talking skeleton!

How is all of the reality at your end? CJ xx

Monday, 18 April 2022

Trotting past at speed


                                                        Spot the dog... (above)

Isn't it all springlike and delicious out there at the moment? Birds busy nesting all over the shop, wall-to-wall blossom, big fat queen bumble bees, tadpoles getting chunkier by the day and green bursting out all over. I've spent most of Easter working away at the laptop, with the odd foray into the garden to sit in the sun for five minutes and drink a coffee. The dog comes and sits on the back step with me and we lean against each other and turn up our faces into the sun.

Hopefully I'll have a couple of half-days to do things with urchins this week, although it won't be terribly exciting and slightly chore-based. If  I throw in a slice of cake the youngest will come along quite happily though. 

I gave the eldest a lift somewhere the other day and, tired of his music blaring out in a wall of noise, I asked if he didn't have a motivational podcast we could listen to instead. Goodness me, he put something on that was beyond shouty, all sort of, 'Get your f*** arse up off of your m***f***ing couch and GET THE F*** OUT THERE AND DO IT.' I was totally swept up in it and shot past the turning I needed and nearly put my fist through the ceiling in a Hell Yeah. I listen to much calmer podcasts and it's clearly where I'm going wrong. I need someone yelling stuff at me, being that I fear I am fundamentally lazy. I can't remember the chap's name, I must ask the eldest. 

There is hardly any news at all here, which is a good thing, all things considered. The treasure of the normal day and all that. My heart aches for the people of Ukraine and the unending horrors. How does such evil get such power? I think about it constantly, the contrast of the beautiful spring we are having with birdsong and blossom, against the unimaginable hell. 

The littlest boy and I made a foray to the zero waste shop in Bristol the other day and saw loads of horses and carts trotting by really fast. It was quite a sight. A lot more eco-friendly than the car. No room for a pony here sadly. We did see a really nice pig at the garden centre the other day that we could have fitted in though. We are a complete sucker for animals, honestly, if it was down to us we would have everything. He is going to have a farm or a gigantic animal rescue centre or something when he is grown up and I am going to live there too and we will have all the things. Bertie will be horrified.

How is it all at your end? A good Easter I hope. CJ xx

Friday, 1 April 2022

No crisp left uneaten


The marguerite might look a bit ragged, but it has flowered through the entire winter. The garden has sprung into life, with plum and pear blossom and tadpoles and camellia blooms. And in an exceptional stroke of luck I have scored not only a free bird table, but a free hedgehog house as well.

Nice no? The hedgehog house is clearly homemade and needs some work - a base, some feet, hinges on the top, waterproofing and some roof felting, but it's a nice solid thing and a good start. Both were left outside houses with a note saying 'Free' on them. The middle boy found the bird table and lugged it all the way home. How well he knows me. Slightly disconcerting that people are giving away their wildlife stuff though. I like to think they have upgraded.

I have sown some flower seeds, imagining as I always do some beautiful summer garden, blooming in the way of, say, Sarah Raven's, but sadly, as ever, the snails have marched on in and helped themselves and now I just have a load of sad stumps. I really wanted loads of pale pink zinnias. I shall not be defeated.

The dog is not settling into his low fat diet very well and has taken to gobbling up literally anything that looks vaguely edible on his walks. There are a surprising number of crisps scattered about the place, as well as cheese and hairbands. He eats them all given half a chance. I have checked his weight and it's not going down, so I feel that he's being fed enough at home. The lure of street cheese is clearly just too much though. 

His labrador friend got a plastic ice-cream cone with chocolate ice-cream in it the other day, nose jammed right in, and ran around refusing to give it up. Everyone was beside themselves, it was quite a scene as you can imagine. 

The eldest boy had the chance to vote this week. There was a complicated local referendum that was something to do with a planning plan. Apparently there is a local plan which might slightly restrict the excesses of the planning, but only possibly and the feeling is that it is the lesser of two evils. And it is probably one of those things where the authorities just have an obligation to consult, which means they can issue a consultation document, ask people what they think and then ignore it and do what they want anyway. 

The Referendum on the Adoption of the Neighbourhood Plan seemed to be asking whether people wanted a say in things. I can't imagine anyone was going to say, no, thanks, that's fine, you just carry on and concrete it all over. The explanation was rather convoluted and said things like, 'The Neighbourhood Plan cannot cover how much development takes place. This is regulated in higher level plans.' 

I don't think we're allowed near the Higher Level Plans. It also didn't include anything about the High Street, which has had the entire town in uproar for months, since it was pedestrianised. If you plan on doing some shopping along the High Street these days, you need to factor in at least an extra twenty minutes to discuss it with everyone you meet. 

In other news the dog has had a birthday. The middle boy has some complicated calculation which means that he is 39 in dog years (5 in people years). He was allowed a modest-sized low fat snack and a lick of the baked beans that he found squashed into the path on his morning walk. I do wonder about people sometimes.

All good at your end? CJ xx  

Saturday, 5 March 2022

A taste for electrician


The dog thanks you for all of your well wishes and would like you to know that he is on the mend. However, he is now low fat all the way, which he has found disappointing. He sits near the table looking sad, squeaking slightly and licking the air in case a stray cream molecule has wafted his way. 

He is still rather reluctant to walk in the mornings. I am wondering if he is maybe just not a morning person. On occasion, he plants himself and refuses to move. His dear little paws would slide along the concrete before he would take a step, I am sure. Or maybe it is just a protest over the whole low fat thing. If only we could have a conversation. I think he still isn't quite himself, so I am letting him get away with no morning walk, or just a short one, when he wants.

We had a power cut the other day. Of course it was at beer o'clock on a Friday evening and there wasn't an electrician to be found. One of them talked me through some things, so that we had half a house of power. He came out the next morning and spent an inordinate amount of time testing things, without really identifying the problem. 

I was out, and other people were left in charge. At one point, the electrician opened the living room door and marched in unannounced, at which point the dog panicked and nipped him. Oh my. The dog is a fairly nervous beast and doesn't like to be surprised on home turf. Fortunately the electrician was a dog person and very understanding and didn't seem to mind at all. I am just hoping that the dog hasn't got a taste for electrician though.

The eldest boy is considering universities. He wondered whether cacao powder would be available at the one he is thinking of. I explained gently that cacao powder would not be within his budget. Honestly, it's barely within mine.

The youngest was told to look at a careers website (he will be choosing his GCSEs soon). He picked out tree surgeon (loves climbing trees), hat designer (he is very big on accessories), graffiti artist (art and parkour combined, also with the possible thrill of running across rooftops away from the police) and astronaut.

I seem to remember wanting to be a stunt woman or a shepherdess. Any careers at your end that you thought you might have a bash at?

Saturday, 12 February 2022

Popping in


The dog is unwell. I fear it may be pancreatitis. He has been in quite a bit of pain, sick, not eating etc. etc. I took him to the vet's on Monday, the day it all started out of the blue. They gave him some painkiller and anti-nausea medication and told me to pop back in the morning. He was really zonked out from the painkiller, but picked up a bit on Wednesday. They told me to pop back if he didn't improve.

He was eating on Thursday, but then worse on Friday, so I popped back in. He now has two to three doses of painkiller to have each day by liquid, to be put on his gums !!!, two painkilling tablets to be popped into his mouth and two doses of anti-nausea medication, also to be popped into his mouth. 

He is not at all keen on any of this popping stuff in. The middle boy and I are in charge of application. It takes ten minutes of quite vigorous wrestling and we're all a bit sweaty and stressed by the end of it all. Only another 18 tablets to go.

I shall probably end up popping back into the vet's next week. A vast amount of money has already popped out of my bank account. When the nice woman behind the desk told me how much it was on Friday (examination fee, blood tests, injections, tablets, liquids, tins of special food) she did it in the voice of someone expecting hysteria on the part of the customer. I manned up and just shoved my card in the machine, although my knees did buckle slightly as I put in the PIN. Happily I do have insurance, although of course the premium will be shocking. I am trying not to think about it.

In the meantime, I am rather missing my dog walks. It always feels like a really good start to the day, but somehow without a dog it wouldn't be the same. Fingers crossed he's on the mend soon.

I've been enjoying all the early signs of spring about the place. I bought a ridiculous little plastic pot of crocuses from the garden centre a while back because I felt sorry for them. They'd all sort of fallen over one side of the pot and I just felt that no-one else would want them. Anyway, one of them is in flower and it's made me very happy. I have also been cruising Ebay looking for a nice snowdrop. 

I bought a load of bare root strawberries as well, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake as I was very short of time and they were delivered really quickly. I have just plopped them into pots for now. 

The birds are singing like mad out there, and getting through pounds of sunflower hearts. The frogs are on the move, although sadly I had to scoop a dead one out of the pond on Monday (it was quite a day). And there are green buds everywhere. It's been a bit of a tricky start to the year here, but I'm ploughing on regardless and taking the time to enjoy these little things. Hope all is well at your end. CJ xx

Friday, 31 December 2021

Onwards, clutching the chocolate gingers


A mixture of town and country. Christmas has been bits of cycling about the place, a little shopping/ice-skating/eating out, much eating in and a light smattering of work. I haven't solved the chicken mystery yet, the neighbours' recycling proved fairly tricky to examine in the dark with the dog trying to investigate it all alongside me and get his nose loudly right into the bins. I have narrowed down the suspects though and feel we are closing in.

I had a bit of a blog scare a couple of days ago when I sat down to write a blog post. I suddenly couldn't log in. Tech failures make me very neurotic and cross and I immediately imagine the worst. What if I could never get back in and you didn't know where I'd gone and I couldn't get to you and you thought I'd just abandoned you??? For the record, I wouldn't do that, I would say things and not just disappear. 

The trouble involves an old email address which I no longer have and don't seem to be able to change and it is all terribly complicated and I don't really understand. Anyway, I finally found a rather tenuous way back in, but it feels fragile, as though I might suddenly find myself out in the cold again. Anyway, here for now.

I mostly wanted to stop by and say Happy New Year and I hope it is all wonderful and full of moments when you feel brilliant about life and that sort of thing. I am of course intending to be a much finer version of myself next year and accomplish All The Things. I don't have an exact list, but you know the sort of thing. I will just finish those chocolate gingers first though. I don't think anyone else likes them very much. That must have skipped my mind when I bought them and it means I am having to eat the whole box by myself.

Wishing you a really lovely 2022, CJ xx

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Solving a mystery

Thank you for all your Christmas tree suggestions and chocolate curl advice and commiserations. The littlest boy and I went on a jolly to my favourite garden centre and managed to find a lovely little blue spruce, Picea pungens 'Fat Albert'. We did of course buy it solely for the name. It was the last one there and not entirely symmetrical or indeed vertical, but we are easily pleased and the name made up for absolutely everything. 

It's in a pot, so we'll put it in the garden for the year and bring it in each December - Christmas tree problem solved. After we bought it I was delighted to see that Anna Greenland (Raymond Blanc's gardener) does the same thing and it works a treat. The fact that ours is only two and a half feet tall at present made the whole decoration thing fast and painless as well. I have to admit it is slightly underwhelming as you walk in the room, but again, Fat Albert.

I have been endeavouring to understand sporting things this week, not always entirely voluntarily. I have had test cricket explained to me in fairly minute detail (still none the wiser), football salaries from back in the day analysed and compared (£40 a week at the top level!) and I somehow also found myself trying to understand the Formula 1 race results from the other week. I have read the explanation of what happened three times now and I still don't exactly grasp it. To be honest, I'm still a bit shaky on the off-side rule. The interesting thing is that I don't care, and yet I would still like it not to be beyond me to understand. It was something about all the cars going round in circles and going past each other. If you could put everything that I don't like into a bottle and shake it up, you would pretty much end up with Formula 1 motor racing. I have decided to give it no more thought at all.

Instead, the dog and I have become amateur detectives and are solving a mystery. The other evening, I thought I saw a chicken drumstick in the street a couple of doors up. The dog thought he did too and a rather inelegant tug of war ensued. We went home and in the morning it was gone. The next evening, I stopped for a moment and suddenly realised the dog was trying to eat something. I couldn't really see what was going on in the dark and what was in his mouth, but he was trying desperately get something down his neck. Another tug of war, and I ended up with a huge piece of raw chicken, much to the dog's fury. Somewhere in the battle, a Tesco receipt floated past. I threw the chicken away, washed my hands eighteen times and started wondering what was going on.

The next morning, the Tesco receipt was still there. A clue! Someone had bought a packet of chicken thighs (empty carton later discovered in bin - see, real detecting), Karlsberg lager, garlic potatoes and Gruyere cheese. The plot thickened. I had no idea I had neighbours who would eat something as fancy as Gruyere. So the dog and I worked out that all we have to do is check the recycling boxes on Wednesday for the empties from the lager and a garlic potato tray and we will have a main suspect.

I am guessing that they are feeding the foxes, hopefully unadulterated meat, which I don't object to, although it is starting to be a bit of a free for all out there. There have been more huge pieces of chicken since and yesterday what looked like two big pork steaks. A cat was tucking in, until Bertie came looming round the corner to have a word. I have narrowed down my suspects and I will report back after recycling day.

Wishing you all a lovely winter solstice, I do love this season with its winter skies and bare trees and cosy homes and four o'clock sunsets. Wonderful. CJ xx