Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Daily Mundanity at FTC

There have been a few vaguely interesting occurrences at FTC over the last few weeks which time and events (namely a nasty cold) have conspired to prevent me reporting until now. Having had a gentle prod from mum yesterday however, I consider myself told and will now do my best to bring you up to date.

I suppose the most exciting of these was Harry’s attempt to drown himself last weekend. We’d set out as we usually do on a Sunday for a gentle stroll in the countryside. In my enthusiasm, I took us down a hitherto unknown track which didn’t seem that far from our normal route … until we resurfaced on the outskirts of a village some 5 miles away with blisters on our heels and a very grumpy hound.

After some discussion and wandering around, we decided that there was nothing for it but to retrace our steps only to find that the farmer had closed AND PADLOCKED the gate allowing us to cut through to the footpath we had just left. Not being the sort of people to let a padlocked gate stop us, we scrambled underneath and proceeded to march right back over to the footpath and off on the long trek home. Had fate, and Harry’s stupidity, not intervened I suspect I would never have heard the end of this entire episode, as it was, we soon had more important things to worry about.

During the walk back, there is a section which runs alongside the river. It’s an amazing stretch of countryside, wild and surprising rugged and completely unspoiled by farming or “easy access facilities” that usually plague footpaths these days. It’s actually one of my favourite spots to be, especially on a sunny day when you could easily forget that there were any signs of civilization within a 50 mile radius.

Anyway, having covered about 8 miles by this point, Harry decided that it was time for a drink. The bank was a little steeper and a lot softer than he realised and inevitably, in he went. This wasn’t immediate cause for concern because Harry is forever jumping in and out of rivers, but this time it became obvious he was swimming for his life but gradually getting swept down stream. There was nothing for it but for one of us to go in after him. The bank was about 7ft high and steep so I went in on the basis that Keith would be better placed to drag us both out if needed.

I went down the bank only to have it collapse under me and for me to end up in icy water up to my waist. Very unimpressed, I grabbed the hound by his harness and dragged him to me. I then tried to turn around 180o so we were facing into the flow and his weight was against me, but I lost my footing and nearly dunked us both under the water.

Harry was still trying to swim so I lifted him as best I could onto the bottom of the bank and then Keith grabbed his harness and hauled him the rest of the way. My exit was equally ungainly and I then had to walk home what can only be described as “p1ss wet through” and sloshing in my wellies. Not ideal, but it did have the rather useful side effect of numbing the blisters on my heels.

No lasting trauma for either hound or human you’ll be pleased to know.

In other news, a few more plants have been introduced to their new homes in the garden. I decided that despite the recent cold spell, I was still going to back the rampaging stallion called Global Warming and get a jump on the growing season.

We now have the start of a herb garden with a potted up oregano on the wall, a little mini purple sage and some chamomile and two little dwarf strawberry plants that Keith was especially keen on. Oh, and vine number 1 has also been planted by the workshop to suck up the first of the spring rays.

Next step on the de-colditzisation are the climbing beans, tomatoes and peppers and they shall be going into the ground as soon as the calendar gets flipped over. For any of you who are especially keen on sampling the first crop of veg, feel free to pre-order now. I have no double I will soon be drowning under a hundred weight of tomatoes and you may well be receiving pickled peppers and tomatoes for Christmas … once we’ve got rid of the last of the fig jam!!

The least surprising of the news from the cottage would have to be the fact that the kitchen has taken a backward step. The fridge has broken. Bosch has promised us a repairman tomorrow and since they are in no way affiliated with MFI, I’m hopeful that they will a) turn up and b) have a clue what they are doing. Still no plate rack incidentally and we’re now only 40 days away from the first anniversary of us making our order but we continue to be philosophical in the face of abject incompetence. Plus we sold one of the old damaged plate racks on eBay the other day so we’re satisfied with that small element of karmic readjustment at least.

And finally, a belated Happy Shrove Tuesday to you all. It was our little family’s first and, as with most things food related, involved something akin to military scale planning. Unfortunately it wasn’t one of my more glowing culinary successes.

The first problem was that I had Keith, who is obsessed by pancakes, hovering beside me watching me try to cook (and what is it about me that makes men want to hug me when I'm juggling half a dozen, usually hot and heavy, pans?!?!). I also had the dog repeatedly creep into the kitchen to lie right behind my feet waiting for any stray pancakes to land.

Feeling hot, flustered and not a little impatient, I tried to improve the situation by enlisting Keith to do the flipping, if for no other reason than to get him out of my way. He managed one perfect flip before the pancakes started heading off at a more erratic trajectory so I went back to flipping them with the spatula. Not that the dog minded, he was ready and waiting at the first gentle “sploot” of pancake hitting tiles.

Then the "wonderful" J-C Novelli recipe I had planned for dinner turned out to be highly complicated and not very yummy. Not his fault I suspect, more the fact that melted blue cheese does nothing for me, especially the smell which was STILL lingering in the lounge this morning, much to my horror.

The pudding pancakes went a little better, mainly because I stubbornly refused to get involved and made Keith cook the pancakes himself. The most rewarding part of that was that it was my turn to hover and offer "useful suggestions" while he got flustered.These were far more successful than the previous batch and this time we kept it simple with good old lemon and sugar. Best of all, with a brunch to prepare this weekend, I fully intend to put Keith and his dad to work perfecting their skills, while I deal with some nice crispy bacon and creamy scrambled eggs. If nothing else, at least the dog will get fed!!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Harry's bestest friend

The story below was sent to me by Keith this morning and I thought I would share it. Just to give you some background, Dudley is a black Lab who also happens to be Harry's bestest friend in the world. They only have to clap eyes on each other and they are happy to roll around for hours - unusual since Harry is generally quite a grumpy sod. Anyway, here is it ... oh and Dudley's owner is Roy, who is a really lovely bloke ... enjoy!!

"Well - the morning had been eventful!!!
Decided to take Harry out at half 8. Got to the end of our road and who's at the junction .... ?
With no Roy.
So i wait for a minute while keeping Dudley occupied and still no Roy.
I doubt whether it's Dudley, but I'm pretty sure its him - he certainly seems to respond to that name.

At that point some ladies were walking their kids to school came past. One of them asked if it was my dog and i said it wasn't but i think i know it. As you can imagine getting hold of Dudley was a nightmare with Harry in the other hand and she offered to take Harry while i got Dudley.

No name on the tag, but a phone number - so i called it and Roy answered. I said i had Dudley, and he said he'd rush back.

The very nice lady then walked Harry back to the house while i walked Dudley, stuck Harry's lead on Dudley and the extendable lead on Harry. She then walked harry and i walked Dudley up to the field, where she went off and i took them both."

(Still keeping up??)

"They actually walked quite nicely along the path and up the field for a change. So i waited till we got past the house with the dog (i didn't want Dudley to do a runner back to the road) and let them both off (good job i had those treats with me!). We got to half way and all of a sudden Dudley stopped and looked back.

Then he was gone - literally legged it

and of course our fearless hound went in support.

Thankfully i HOLLERED his name and Harry stopped. Then when i ran he ran after me, i showed a treat and he came up to me, sat, and let me get him on a lead.

Then i legged it down the path!

As we got near the bottom i thought i could see a figure. Thankfully it was Roy and Dudley must somehow have known he was there."

So there you are boys and girls, the story of true friendship between dogs when you'll give up treats and your own dad to run with your best friend in his hour of need.

According to Keith he's grown a few more grey hairs after this incident, and Roy still has NO idea how Dudley escaped. Personally I have images of ninja style fence scaling tactics, because as anyone familiar with Labs will know, they're not exactly master tacticians, bless 'em.

You never can tell though, next time you see a Lab give you a long hard stare, he may well be plotting your downfall!!

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Exploding Tiler

I hope you will indulge me if I share with you a piece of Kipling (the writer, not the baker) because I think it sums up this weekend pretty well …

“If you can dream, and not make dreams you master,
If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”

It’s a bit like those credit card adverts with the clever/ dumb balance - there must be a house somewhere that seems to have goods and tradesmen magically appear at their door, because they certainly don't at FTC.

I won’t go on about it, but we’re now waiting for our 4th plate rack to be delivered from MFI and as Keith has finally joined me in the land of unremitting MFI hatred, he has now taken over phoning them for a futile, but satisfying, daily rant. As you can see from the photos, we do have half a (warped) rack up now, and since this is the only thing left to do in the kitchen, we’re hopeful for a Christmas 2007 finish.

Anyway, back to the clever/ dumb balance. There were a few key lessons learned this weekend:

1. Tasha is bad at maths. Tasha is especially bad at working out the difference between linear and square meterage when it comes to tiles. When Tasha tries to calculate the number of tiles required, the net result is that both the expensive one off tiles and the cheaper plain tiles come up half a wall short. Luckily, Tasha is also stubborn and somehow managed to find some extra plain tiles and redesign the layout so that the tiler wouldn’t have to be rebooked for a 3rd time.

2. Tilers are not electricians. When a tiler comes to make your kitchen look beautiful, no not offer to turn the electricity off, simply wait until the tiler has stuck a screw-driver into the “certified safe” plug socket and allow him to blow the fuses instead. This way, you can enjoy the blood curdling moment when the fuse cabinet lights up like a Christmas tree, but the TV carries on running. Then, after about 10 seconds of “WTF just happened” running through your head you can run into the kitchen to see a very melted screwdriver and a tiler clutching a very sore hand. Fun for all the family!!

3. Men, if allowed to occupy themselves, will come up with 101 inventive ways to waste their time. They will suddenly decide that cutting holes in ceilings and installing speakers, amps and CD players in a garage is the most important thing they will ever accomplish. They will also trample the fallout from said hole cutting into the house and then, a cup of tea the braver, wander back out to think of more essential tasks leaving you chasing the hound around to get some ill gotten insulation out of his mouth.

4. Hounds love flapjacks. They especially love the baked on oatie goodness of the baking tray and will growl menacingly at anyone who comes within a mile of them while in possession of crispy bits. They also love those flapjacks reserved for the hooman beans of the family and will whine endlessly for the chance to get their slobbery chops on a slice. Failing that they will lie under whoever is eating a slice of flapjack with their heads tilted back 90o in a very selfless way to prevent any unwanted crumbs sullying the carpet.

All dramas aside though, there were a few important events this weekend that I would really like to commemorate:

Friday was Rach’s going away party as she flies out for 10 months of adventure. We’re going to miss you lady, please come back safe and sound

Friday also saw the birth of Calandra Miah Appleton to Chris (Pillock) and Claire. She was born with minimal fuss (according to a slightly bemused Chris) weighing in at a bonny 8lb 7.5oz. Congratulation to you all, hopefully we’ll see you soon to celebrate properly!!!