Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thou shalt not …

Today we shall examine a few of the 10 Commandments and perhaps their lesser known applications in modern life:

Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vein.

Although to be honest, it wasn’t exclusively the Lord’s name I was taking, there was a fairly indiscriminate taking of anyone’s name in a 2 mile radius peppered with a robust dose of more general Anglo Saxon.

Our fire traumas continue. Having been outbid on the umpteenth fire, I decided to go for a buy-it-now-brand-new-deal instead. Money paid, I waited for a week in eager anticipation of the delivery. Unfortunately it seems I was under a false impression of what I was expecting to have delivered. I thought I had paid for a wood burning stove. Turns out I paid for a pile of mangled metal doing a rather jolly impression of a piece of modern sculpture.

After some furious messaging, we are currently waiting collection of the ex-logburner and I am back to that familiar old place I like to call Square 1.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work … unless you are on a flexible working initiative.

And so it came to pass that yesterday, after weeks of prevaricating, I finally got off my backside and decorated the landing. Well, most of it anyway, the thought of wielding a roller at the top of a ladder overhanging the stairwell was a little too much.

To make up for my attack of waftiness, I tackled another of my least favourite pastimes and changed the light switch instead; which I’m sure to you seems worthy of a shrug, but to me is enough to make my blood run cold. It comes from having woken up one morning in a previous, more haphazard existence, and flicked a half installed light switch, at which point the entire lighting loom went KAMBALM!! lovely scorch marks appeared around all the ceiling roses, and I danced round the flat, shaking my hand and cursing the day Faraday was born.

Anyway, I digress. The hall is now (mostly) the colour of the rest of the house, which has meant that I have now started to put up the pictures that I have been collecting for the last few months. There is still a lot of wall left to fill, largely due to a lack of frames, so if anyone is lost for gift ideas in the coming months, please, please, please can we have some frames. Preferably from a charity shop, preferably all different and any size smaller than A4. The plan for the opposite (and still unpainted) wall is even more grand, but I won’t tell you about that just yet.

And finally:
Thou shalt not covert thy neighbour’s teddy.

This is a little story I thought might cheer up those of you that are in need of a smile. Keith and I came home the other day expecting the usual barrage of over friendly dog to greet us and were a little surprised to see that the welcoming committee had been reduced by half. We assumed that Harry had managed to lock himself in the bathroom again, which is something that happens with regularity as he still, at the noble age of 3, hasn’t quite come to terms with his own body length. Keith wandered round the ground floor calling as he went, but nothing, no sign of Harry.

The next thing we heard was “f’dump” ….. “f’dump”, “f’dump”, “f’dump”, as Harry flumped his way down the staircase and sat on the wrong side of the locked baby gate, quite obviously having just woken up and now just as confused as we are as to how he has managed to spirit himself through a childproof gate.

Fearing for Colin’s life, we hustled the dog back through the gate and went to view the damage.
Everything still in place and Colin, although slightly grumpier than normal, was clearly still in one piece. On the way back downstairs however, something caught my eye.

Keith, did you move my teddy? No? Well why is it on our bed then?

To explain, I have an old fashioned, scruffy teddy that sits on a chair in our room. Except it wasn’t sitting on the chair, it was sitting in the middle of our bed, looking for all the world like it had decided to take a stroll.

The only clue was one slightly damp arm.

Harry, it would seem, having surveyed the upstairs, had decided that he would curl up on our bed for a snooze. Not wanting to be lonely without his usual partner in crime, he had picked up my ted by his arm, jumped up onto the bed and curled himself around it.
That hound never ceases to amaze me with his soppiness.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Motorcycles and Mushrooms

There’s not an immediate connection between the two, but stick with me folks.

As is the want at FTC, there’s a vehicle shuffle going on at the moment. Due to the strict “one in, one out” policy currently in force, my beloved husband has spent some time recently weighing up the relative pros and cons of 2 wheels Vs 4. Needless to say after a break of 5 years, 2 wheels won and a slightly bedraggled BSM Bantam has found its way to the workshop for some pre-MOT fettling. In honour of this retro-fest, Keith has seen fit to grow what can only be described as a lip slug in something of an homage to the late great Paul Newman. I am not a fan. He has promised that when he I took a photo of him on the bike with said facial hair, he would shave it off. So here he is and may we never speak of this again.

Now, onto the mushrooms. One of the joys of getting up early of a weekend and wandering around the fields in the first mists of autumn is that there are numerous opportunities to forage. Some of them entirely unexpected, as it was today. We had passed the river with only a small detour made by the hound to test whether the water really was as cold as it looked, and proceeded in an unusually orderly and calm way into the farmer’s fields which have recently been ploughed and planted.

As we headed towards the first of the duck ponds, Keith spotted something in the margins of the field. We paused, looked, and looked again. It wasn’t there yesterday was it? No, I think we would have noticed. Well maybe it’s just a stone? No, it really is, a mushroom. Do you think it’s poisonous? Oh no, it’s just a field mushroom. Do we have a carrier bag? OK, let’s get picking!!
About an hour, and an entire bag of ‘shooms later, we were on our way home, pausing again to herd the hound out of the river and chase him around the field when he took exception to his swim being cut short.

Once through the door it was down with the newspaper and out of the bag with the mushrooms. What a mighty haul!! We can make several meals out of these, risotto, spaghetti, we can even save some for the dinner party next weekend. Even better, we’ll use the book Sal and Dave gave us for our anniversary to check them out!!!

The book was lifted reverently out of the cupboard, Antonio Carluccio smiling benevolently at us like some kind of mushroom gnome. OK I know the drill here. Take mushroom, cut in half so we can check the stalk and the base for colouration and potential evilness. Check. Open book to field mushroom section. Check. Ah, here we are, field mushrooms, looks right, but the gills look a bit pale. Maybe they’re just young? There’s a poison version but no, the base of ours doesn’t turn yellow if bruised. Phew!! I was worried there, cos after last time I was expecting to find out these were the only strain of inedible field mushrooms in euro …. Hold up. What do you mean avoid white gills. What’s wrong with white gills? See page 27. Right. Ah here we are … Amanita Verna aka Fool’s Mushroom … A lethal and deadly mushroom.


So once again the mushrooms gods have turned their backs on us and walked briskly in the other direction. Discretion being the better part of valour, we’ll let them go … this time.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Random acts of kindness

This is a bit of a general waffle on life, due in part to the lack of any significant progress in the house, and also because Keith and I have been away in Gib recently, enjoying at least a few days of sun before the darkness of winter descends.

It didn’t occur to me until earlier this week how much I love autumn. I don’t think it had really occurred to me that autumn was even here, I suspect because it didn’t seem to vary in any way from the previous few months of non-summer.

One sure sign that winter is on the way though is the lighting of the first fire of the year. It was a bit like watching Bambi on ice to start with, as Keith and I had both forgotten the intricacies of tempting our often reluctant fireplace into action. It didn’t help that I had acquired a car full of free wood from Freecycle which had come in 8ft lengths, and I was too tired after a day at work to bother cutting it down to a suitable size. The result? Several 2ft chunks of wood were precariously balanced half in, half out of the fire on the premise that they would eventually fit when the blazing end burned down. I was also making dinner at the time so I was forced to employ my spidey senses and issue bellows of LEEEEEAAAAAVVVVE to the thieving hound at regular intervals. Luckily Keith returned and stopped the madness, stomping laps from the barn to the lounge muttering darkly about women and saws.

On the subject of fires, we are currently trying to purchase one for the barn and it proving to be a lot more difficult than anticipated. Who knew that the market for second hand log burners was so cutthroat?! You bid a sensible price on a fire, and then in the five seconds before the auction ends, there are camels being traded, first born children sacrificed, and you’re left wondering what just happened. Not easily deterred I have now started doing something I hate, contacting the sellers and making deals. I am currently in negotiations for one particular fire and having had my best offer bumped up by £25 I am now trying to play hardball while juggling the fact that I might get it cheaper if I just hold out until the auction ends. Sometimes it’s all a bit too much like hard work.

My favourite moment at this time of year is the Changing of the Duvet (much less popular than the similarly titled ceremony in London, but much more personally satisfying). There is something about putting away the puny covering of summer and stuffing the cumulonimbus of a winter duvet into the arm achingly heavy covers that makes me smile. I find that the chances of me oversleeping at this time of year are dramatically increased, not just by the fading light, but by the fact that I need to build up a serious amount of muscle to even fight my way out from under the weight of the duvet in the mornings!

In keeping with the responsibilities of having a kitchen garden, there was a flurry of activity last weekend as plants were given their winter trim. Keith also weeded the area around the pond in his own inimitable way giving it something of the look of a WWI battlefield. The only job left to do before the frosts is a damn good mulching, which I may attempt this weekend, depending on whether we are taken up with motorbike based activities.

It is around the garden that the title of this entry comes. As most of you will know we live next door to a social club which in the main, has brought us a lot of frustration and annoyance, but it has also brought us a man of what could be called ‘character’. Shamefully, I can’t remember his name right now, but this guy has lived in Arlesey since God was a boy, and was one of the first people to stick his head over the wall and welcome us to our new home. He has kept a weather eye on my gardening and given me advice (wanted or not) about where I was going wrong. He seems to enjoy leaning over the wall and talking to “Henry”, who in return shows his appreciation by not barking at him and occasionally wagging his tail.

Now this lovely old boy collects stamps – so if any of you have any, especially foreign ones then PLEASE may I have them!! – and I have tried to keep him supplied on the odd occasion we’ve received something of interest. The other day I came home to another surprise though. Going down the line of peppers on the top of the plant nursery, I suddenly realised there was one extra, and not one that looked very pepper like either.

It was a jasmine cutting that I vaguely remember I had said I would really appreciate having that he had taken from his yellow flowering jasmine and grown on for me. I was really, really touched. I’m going to plant it this weekend in the area formerly occupied by the rosemary bush so that with any luck, next summer, the side of the barn will be covered with a profusion of flowers and the heady scent of the jasmine will fill the garden.

As long as I can get the social to move the “smoking area” that is. Hmmm.