Voting Day!

There has been such a lot of ‘stuff’ in the media about the local elections that I felt impelled to vote. Himself, I must report, has felt no such compulsion. The village I live in is small, more of a hamlet really, and it is fair to say that I have never seen anything even vaguely resembling a queue at the Church Room polling station. Today was no exception. The last time we had an election, back when Boris got in, there wasn’t a queue but I did meet a few other people either voting, making their way there or just leaving. It was a pleasant encounter and a chance to catch up with some people who live in outlying farms etc. After a good old chat we each went on our way but there was none of that today. I walked the short distance up the lane, past the pub, across the ‘main’ road and along the pavement to the hall. A couple of cars parked outside boded well until I realised that they belonged to the officials.  The two make shift booths, either side of the door, were used to check me off on the list and for me then to be issued with my two voting papers. Unlike other polling stations I have only seen a policeman once in the many years I have lived here. On that occasion he was paying a flying visit and then sped off to another village. There was  one voting slip for the Police chappie and one for a local county councillor. I duly made my mark and then posted them in the relevant boxes. Job done. Nobody else appeared and the man in one booth joked about being run off his feet and then commented that it was nice and quiet so he could get on with reading his book. I had seen nobody on my short perambulation to the polling station and I saw nobody on my way back. The village lay silent and still, bereft of all visible human inhabitants. But I had done my duty and cast my vote that had been so hard won so many years ago. Of course for us here on the marsh the elections being held today are of only local import but in other parts of the country, particularly Scotland and Wales, the elections are of greater relevance. No doubt a great deal of analysis and prognostication will go into the ‘unpacking’ of whatever results we get.

Before I went indoors I strolled a short distance down the lane towards the sheep field and took a few photographs. As I looked across the marsh to the clearly visible hills the menacing pewter dark bruised clouds full to bursting, banked up in a mountain of blackness reminded me of what my mother might have said. I could almost hear her voice pronouncing that it was “As black as your hat over Bill’s mother’s” and that we were sure to have a downpour sooner or later. We certainly did yesterday afternoon. The rain and hail came down in torrents, beating on the windows, rattling on the roof and soaking everything in its wake. By the vehemence of it one would have assumed it was rain a deal of water but I have just checked the water butts and it seems this is not so. The soil is damp but by no stretch of the imagination could it be called wet. It has, however, left great beads of water balanced on Tulip flowers and leaves like perfectly rounded diamonds sparkling in the weak sunshine. The sparrows are clearly enjoying the quiet and making up for the lack of human noise by squabbling loudly among themselves in the hedges and garden bushes. The apple blossom has burst into bloom and the small cherry tree has a few flowers. The Tulips were much knocked about by the winds but a few have hung on valiantly. Because of the high winds and cold that is persisting making it feel much more like a mild winter than spring, my seedlings are still housed in the conservatory. The runner beans are slowly but surely climbing the windows, the broad beans are beginning to flower and the tomato plants will soon be blooming too. Pleasingly the aubretia seed that has germinated will be very welcome to plant in various nooks and crannies around the garden, not least in among the giant rocks we have uncovered in the far corner. The work on that corner has come to a stop until the weather improves but the site of a shed has been vaguely designated and a cope of bushes might have to go. It won’t be a great sacrifice to be honest because they are spindly and half dead anyway. 

I should have been for-warned that we were “going to get some weather” when I drove across the marsh yesterday afternoon. The distant hills, the wind farm that is several miles away as the crow flies and the Sussex headland of Fairlight were all clear as day. In the folklore of my father and his father this would have been designated a “weather breeder” meaning that rain was a sure thing. I have never known this method of prediction to fail – even on a brighter day if one can see vast distances there will be rain. A couple of days ago we had a small crisis – I have an inexplicable aversion to electric blankets and so we still use hot water bottles. A couple of nights ago the one used by Himself burst – well not actually loudly burst but rather sprang a leak and seeped very hot water on to my hand and my side of the bed as I was going to put it in place. No harm done and a spare one replaced it but I gave me an excuse – not that I needed one – to order a new one and various other bits and bobs from Amazon. Yes I know they are ‘bad’ people and don’t pay their taxes etc but for us in the pandemic they have have been something of a life line and a way of indulging ourselves from time to time. This was absolutely no exception. A new hot water bottle, two pairs of garden gloves, the others have gone through, some ant powder because we have been invaded in the conservatory, a metal ‘thingy’ to take the newspaper so that man doesn’t tear it when he shoves it in the letter box and most especially three new books – all for me! A couple of ‘who done it’ historical novels as an easy indulgent read and an anthology of nature writing that looks to be an absolute gem. The cover in its self is beautiful designed by Angela Harding, it is called “The Wild Isles” and describes itself as the best of British and Irish nature writing. Old favourites like “Wind in the Willows” and Ronald Blythe’s “Akenfield” rub shoulders with more recent pieces that I am not familiar with and pieces that I am ashamed to admit I have never read but should have. Oh, I have just remembered that this is not the entirety of the order – I have also ordered the new William Shaw crime novel, set on the marsh. My reading at the moment however is Gaudy Night still. It is an enjoyable read and I have found the mystery absorbing and such that reading on is obligatory for me. Looking  out of the window I have just noticed that the rain as come. Not heavy and not persistent but definitely rain. I hope it has stopped by this evening when our latest Waitrose delivery is due. Again I have sort of forgotten what I have ordered so there may be the odd surprise and, of course, the odd disappointment to say nothing of a weights and measures failure I expect.

The Storm

Well that was a storm – the wind roared and raged around the house, beating on the roof, rampaging through the trees while rain spattered intermittently on the windows as though someone was throwing handfuls of gravel. Sleep was difficult to say the least with waking as a great gust bludgeoned the house. This morning I looked with some trepidation to see what actual havoc the storm had wrought. On first glance it appeared that we had got away with it. No water had leaked into the conservatory, no trees or shrubs looked the worse for wear but the ‘hand built’ sweet pea frame lay in bits across the border. Annoying but not catastrophic – it is already partially rebuilt and won’t take much effort to finish it off. Today has been dry but with occasional mountainous cloud banks building over the hills and then dispersing giving us blue skies and sunshine. Whilst they are around they cast deep, wide ranging shadows across the fields casting first one field and then another into the gloom. The wind had broken off Tulip heads, blown the lids on the water butts were strewn across the lawn and a garden chair had been blown over. 

This morning was full of excitement here. I wanted to get some Geranium plants, a roll of garden fleece, some tomato liquid fertiliser and maybe a few seeds. Himself needed a new battery in his watch and we also needed two new keys cut. First of all we went to Tescos to get the battery and keys. The kiosk there provided same quickly and efficiently, I filled up the tank with petrol and we headed for Hamstreet garden centre. Under the ‘old’ normal we would have had a cup of coffee there but not today. Himself stayed in the car and I wandered to the door, picked up a basket and found the Geraniums. Then I had to walk a fair distance to get into the store proper, round the buildings to the door that was the farthest away. I searched and searched for the fleece, I looked at the tools to try and find a heart shaped trowel – they didn’t have any – forgot the fertiliser and picked a couple of packets of seeds and paid for my purchases. Where the experience at Tescos had been a good one this had been a frustrating one. We decided to go back home across the marsh, along little lanes. That was a pleasing experience with long vistas across the marsh to the far away distant hills. Magpies flew across our path and we saw no other cars or people. The fields were full of sheep and lambs. 

Yesterday I became over excited when I glanced out of the window and saw a bird I didn’t readily recognise perched on the back of a garden chair. Creeping slowly towards the window to get a better better look I suddenly realised it was a cuckoo. At first I thought it might be a Kestrel but the barred stripes on his chest gave the game away and as I got a better look the colouring also confirmed my thoughts. He say for a short while longer and then flew low across the garden, arced away round the trees and headed away across the fields to the stand of trees from where I have heard him call. I am now absolutely certain that the large black carrion birds nesting the churchyard trees are Rooks. As the wind was growing in strength they cawed louder and louder seemingly agitated by the wind. The Magpies in the Bay tree at the top of the garden have been busy building their nest and flying to and fro collecting materials. The Blackbird, meanwhile, has ben perched in the hedge singing his heart out. The wind is still too fierce to plant out my sweet peas and other plants and the ground looks as though we haven’t had a drop of rain. 

I had a lengthy chat with the young girl next door and she told me all about her new school bag. I must say it is very smart and she tried to explain that it was of some special brand that is all the rage – it meant very little to me! She has a birthday coming up this month and I tried, probably not too subtly, to find out what kind of books she enjoys at the moment but she was not overly helpful. Himself has managed to mow one of the lawns and if it stays fine intends to do the other one tomorrow. As I didn’t remember to get the tomato fertiliser I have set up an experiment to make some. Online I found that one can make a good liquid fertiliser with nettles. It so happened that in the garage – that emporium of all useful things – I found an old peddle bin with a bucket inside it. Just what was needed. In the field there are lots of fresh nettles. I chopped off about half a bucket full of nettles and then topped up with water. It now stands behind the garage soaking away – I am not sure how long it must be left – I shall have to check. Apparently it begins to smell rather could but the liquid will need to be strained off and then diluted to make an excellent fertiliser. We shall see! 

The perpetual conundrum of what to have for supper has reared its head – yesterday we finished off the left overs from the weekend – today, by default because I can’t think of anything else it shall be a baked potato and probably beans. Not at all inspired and a more than a little pedestrian but it will have to do.

A bit of Gardening.

Today has been much like the previous few – some sunshine, a few negligible drops of rain and hefty banks of cloud drifting in and gradually away across the marsh. When we were, or rather Himself was raking the leaf litter and twigs away at the top of the garden we unearthed a few bones of some smallish animal that had met its end some long time ago. I have no idea what they were the bones of but think there were the animal equivalent of long bones that I presume were from its limbs, a flat thin bone that looked as though it could have been a shoulder blade and the damaged remains of a skull. My best guess is that it was a cat. Presumably dragged there by a fox or similar or perhaps it curled up and died there in amongst the undergrowth. As we continued to clear a Robin came along and perched on the branches, hopped around and scurried in amongst the leaf litter and then flew away only to return in due course. A Blackbird uttered an alarm call as he flew low and arrow straight heading for the hedge. In the tall tree a Pigeon continued to coo regardless of the noise we made. A lone light plane droned across the sky and the distinctive smell of a barbecue drifted across form the houses in the village street. Occasionally a van or car sped down the lane. The smaller prunings are stacked in the field ready for burning – they should go up quickly and easily.

I have sent my profile few words for the Rye Arts Festival programmes – both in print and online. I found it incredibly difficult to write within the word limit and as those who know me will attest brevity is not one of my strong suits, wether it be verbally or in print! I still haven’t planted out the sweet peas or sown any more of my vegetable seeds but I think that there is no time lost as we had another frost this morning. With judicious chopping I have uncovered a rather lovely Camellia that was given to us as a gift several years ago. I am going to have to invest in some new novels I think. I see that the new William Shaw crime novel is due out shortly if it isn’t already out. This will be the fourth in the series and I can highly recommend them. They are set in and around the Marsh with one of the central characters living at Dungeness. At present I am just about to start reading a Dorothy L Sayers novel – Gaudy Night – I have never read any of her work but she was writing at the same time as Sheila Kaye-Smith and I am interested looking at another woman writer of the time not least because I believe that some of her writing hints at the same kind of reactions to the First World War that can be seen in Kaye-Smith’s work. It is easy to forget the effect that war must have had on those at home, particularly young women, because we are prone to concentrate on the sacrifice of so many young men.

The way we have become used to our isolation was brought home to me quite forcefully today when I considered going to the garden centre to buy a few plants, some fleece and a length of hose pipe to use to siphon water from a water butt. I didn’t go in the end because I thought that perhaps it might be quite crowded and I don’t think I am ready for that. Then it occurred to me that this was strange and illogical to say the least but still I didn’t go! It is now really raining, rattling and splashing on the conservatory roof and with a bit of luck actually beginning to replenish the water butt and dampen the ground. Sadly I rather think it won’t last and will come to very little. I want to use the hedge trimmer to cut down some brambles and the like that are venturing over the fence but I rather think that might be a step too far for the back. If I am careful and pace myself I have found that I can do some gardening which is a real joy.

Regaining lost ground.

Well it has been a busy couple of days in some ways. Both days the weather has been something of a mixture of sunshine and cloud with today, now, looking as though we might finally have some ‘real’ rain judging by the pewter dark clouds gradually blanketing the sky. Of course there are never any guarantees and there is probably more than half a chance it will miss us all together. For some this might not be a matter pf concern but for me it is. I have plants that really need planting out and soon they will be leggy. The sweet pea strings were put up on the frame today ready for the plants but the soil is still dusty dry, cracked and hairdos concrete. I could ferry in cans of water but am not inclined to do so if there is a chance that it will rain. As I type I can hear rain drops splashing on the conservatory roof but not in any quantity so far. Many of you will know that my grasp of weights and measures is rather tenuous and I have, now, to add to that short coming with an admission about my understanding of the length of thins is also severally lacking judging by my failure this morning. Having decided that the strings needed to be tied on to the framework I retrieved the massive ball of “binder” or as some might call it ‘baler’ twine from the garage and found a pair of scissors in a drawer I carefully measured – with the string – how much I would need to go from the bottom rung, up over the apex rail and down to the other base rail. Having checked and assured myself I had the right length I cut it off. Then I proceeded to cut off another nine pieces so that I could accommodate twenty plants in all. I tied the first one to the bottom rail, reached up and put it over the top rail and then tried to get it down to the bottom rail – guess what – it was too short! Each length of string had to have another piece tied to it to make it long enough. Himself suggested that I throw the defective pieces away and start again commenting that I had enough string there to last my life time and therefore it would be sensible and easier. I declined and instead cut off the required extra lengths. After all who knows what that string might come in useful for!

Yesterday and again today we have tackled the over grown corner. Cutting down great stretches of shrubbery, raking up twigs and leaves that litter the ground, we can now see to the very back fence. More exciting by a long chalk is the fact that we have used the shredder that I was given by a friend last year. We soon found that it doesn’t like pliable strandy bits of growth but absolutely gobbles up the chunkier wood. The noise is quite violent and the woody small branches crunch through as though a great monster is chewing it, which I suppose it is. One load of mulched woodiness was deposited on the garden and today a second joined it. If it works, and I have no reason to think it won’t, it should suppress the weeds and make maintenance of those areas a little less labour intensive. The thin twigs are stacked in the field ready for burning and then I might recycle the ash as well for extra nutrients for the soil. Yesterday, too, was Waitrose day again. I know I book them but they seem to come round with monotonous regularity and then the great rush to get everything in. A few surprises and again my judgement on quantities has let me down. This time it was bin bags. The sort that go in a tall kitchen bin. I had convinced myself that it was a ‘big’ bin – it isn’t – well not as big as I thought it was anyway. Now I have a huge roll of bin bags that are what used to be called dust bin size. They have been stored away and next week I shall try and get the correct size. 

The Cuckoo was loud this morning, the sun was shining and it was quite warm in the garden. The pigeons or rather I suspect the collar Doves were cooing way in the tall Bay tree and a pair of common pigeons were getting a little frisky and flapping away on top of the garage. A Blackbird sang his melodious song, while a Sparrow shouted from a nearby bush. Up and down the lane tractor careered at great pace, rattling and banging as they took empty metal trailers to collect cut grass for silage and then laden rushed back up to the main village road. Overhead a little plane droned across the sky, eventually disappearing into distant cloud. A little later the gulls took up their screeching and screaming – strident and squawking until their fish wife conversation eventually ceased and they flew away towards the sea and, presumably, for better pickings from the chip papers and take aways left on the beach. While the gulls are elegant and graceful in flight once they land they are ungainly and quite ugly. Slightly hooked butter beaks, webbed feet and scaly coral coloured legs, beady eyes that look for the main chance and an air of the scavenger about them makes them far less than attractive in any way. I had recourse to be particularly annoyed with one the other morning, really early, when I was awoken by one performing some sort of clog dance on my sky light window. Up and down he went tap dancing in clogs disguised as webbed feet, round and round on the glassy stage, not a bit disturbed by my hand clapping, shouting or, eventually taping on the window. In his own good time he hopped away and disappeared from sight and I went back to bed. Later he came back and this time Himself took up the cudgels – his method was much more effective and, it has to be said, more logical really – he used the remote opening device to raise the window and the bird flew away but not before he had left a small ‘gift’! 

Tomorrow more chopping down and clearing of the corner, a Buddleia to hack away at and more ground to clear in the hope of making enough space for a shed, the compost bin and an open space in front. The ivy that has wandered far and wide across the soil will need to be removed but there again Himself has devised a method of removal that works well and his happy to do. I just need to stack it in the wheelbarrow and wheel it away. The plants that are there and are being retained should grow properly now they have much more light and are not being strangled and chocked by rubbish and weeds. There is something very satisfying about regaining lost ground. In other news I have been getting a few phone calls on my mobile purporting to be from the National Crime Agency. Recorded messages with a menacing male voice that tells me that they are going to cancel my National Insurance forth with unless I contact them by pressing 1. It is clearly a scam and when I checked it is indeed so of course. I am horrified by this type of crime because it would be only too easy for the unsuspicious to fall for it. The voice is authoritative and commanding and clearly the message is meant to make the recipient fearful and make them act immediately without further thought. Today I found myself shouting at the recorded voice.

Work in progress and quite a way to go still

The real Line of Duty

It’s cold and dreary today with the merest hint of the occasional rain drop – nothing more. Grey and overcast all day and the wind is back with a biting vengeance. 

Earlier this afternoon I told Himself that I had done virtually nothing all day and then went on to enumerate what I had done and to my utter surprise it sound quite a full day. I am not sure it was but here we are again in the early evening. I have updated the Waitrose order that is due for delivery tomorrow and am certain, now, that I have forgotten somethings. Then I tackled the GPs surgery. I am sure I am not entirely alone in having my heart sink as the disembodied voice on the other end goes through a whole string of things including emphasising that I really ought to be contacting them online. Once they have finished their lengthy diatribe I am presented with a series of options – I always press 1 for appointments. On this occasion I was “number two” in the queue and so I was for some time and just as I was answering the recored voice with a non too great response the receptionist came on the line. Not the best start it must be said. I explained that I wanted to speak to a doctor and the receptionist managed to get me a phone call for later in the day. First hurdle well and truly dealt with. Then the wait for the phone to ring and it did part way through the morning. Then the ‘interesting’ bit began. What was may problem – I outlined the sorry tale of my back problems and emphasised that they had been going on for more than a year. The response was entirely predictable – would I like different pain killers? Not really. I wanted someone to take me seriously. Then the advice to keep active – well I would if I could rest assured. The MRI ‘only’ showed wear and tear and what did I expect at my age? Well actually I expect to be able to do my garden and walk several miles without being in agony. “well you must stay active”. Exercises and a referral to a pain clinic perhaps. A new MRI? I have agreed to the new MRI and will have to wait several weeks I think. The pain clinic was a mystery to me but after some questioning the doctor reluctantly, I thought, agreed to refer me to the Orthopaedic team. They too will no doubt take their time but at least I am in the system I suppose. The temptation when it is very painful is to throw money at the problem and go private. I can’t make up my mind. 

Then I managed to do a bit of hoovering, and sent a bibliography to the person I had sent a short article too but had forgotten to cite sources. Despite wondering if the exercises are doing me any good I did do them with the faint hope that they won’t do any harm and might, just might, do some good. The ‘new’ painkillers haven’t come and are in fact some sort of antidepressant I think. They were prescribed with the caveat that I might not get on with them and they might make me feel ill. All very jolly! In much more positive news I have had five of the six Courgettes come up and therefore we certainly won’t be short of them. Likewise the Tomato plants are going from strength to strength – all twelve of them! If you want any let me know. Last year I sort of discovered Cosmos and this year they too have come good. There will be plenty to plant out in the Sweet Pea bed if I can eventually get on to the ground and if we actually have some real rain. 

Like so many other people I have been watching “Line of Duty” and can’t wait to find out how this series ends. Will they get the mysterious fourth ‘bent’ copper? Who will be dispensed with? Will Ted Hastings – him of the pithy phrase such as “Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey can we just move this thing along” – be got rid of? While quite clearly this is a drama about police corruption for the last few Wednesday evenings there has been a documentary about corruption in the Met Police in the 1970s. Fascinating and horrifying in all ways but also a real eye opener. Who knew that the Flying Squad chief was at the centre of organised crime? When caught his attempts at providing an alibi and explanation for his actions were ludicrous and totally beyond belief. The Met Commissioner, a man called Marks, took the force apart and established an anti corruption unit called A 10. They worked their way systematically through the force rooting out corruption where ever they found it and a number f very senior police officers were eventually jailed. The final episode is on again tonight – I am really looking forward to it to find out how the whole thing ended.

A trip out.

Today has been nothing short of glorious here on the marsh. It has been warm enough to sit outside and the wind has dropped at last so that we are not sliced in two by its sharpness. Blue skies, sunshine and a trip for me across the marsh and up the hill to the ‘uplands’.

This afternoon I had an appointment with an osteopath who had been recommended to me by a neighbour. The drive took me along winding narrow marsh lanes edged on either side by deep marsh ditches or dykes as they call them down here. The water in them is low at the moment but piercing the surface and rising up from the muddy depths clumps of spear sharp reeds lined the watery edges bright and acid green in the glancing sunlight. As I drove up the hill I eventually came to the wooded uplands and passed through bluebell carpeted trees that stretched out on either side of the road. As I wound my way along the lanes, past farm yards and gardens, farm sheds and fields of sheep I was, for a moment transported back to the upland of my childhood. Here were the farm ponds, meandering ditches, wooded shaws and copses, old buildings that held farm machinery, and an old dog wandering in the warmth across a yard. All was more enclosed and views were short, skies were smaller. Wandering along into the village, past the pub and soon at my destination. The gentleman I saw couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful. He didn’t give me any treatment but did tell me that he wanted to see my MRI scan and that he was pretty sure I needed to see a Spinal specialist. In some ways this wasn’t the news I wanted but it was the news I thought might eventually come. He is that only person I have seen in well over a year who has been straight forward and honest and has not tried to fob me off with painkillers and ineffective physio. A tremendously big thank you to him. He has told me how to proceed and I shall be doing so shortly. In discussions with Himself we are hoping I shall be able to have treatment on the NHS but if that proves impossible I shall pursue other avenues. I cannot continue to refrain from doing the things I want to do – I need to be able to walk more than a mile, I need to be able to garden – not just the little jobs but those that are more heavy duty. I now many of you reading this will think I already do and yes I do but there is a price to pay for each time I do a bit of pruning or walk a couple of miles.

My return journey was equally delightful. As I came over the top of the hill ready to descend to the marsh I was greeted with a magnificent vista of the marsh laid out before me. Blue and hazy it stretched in to the distance until it met the horizon and the sea. For a second and with eyes half closed it was as though the sea had returned and was lapping towards a shore at the foot of the hills. Across the marsh the sun glinted from the water courses, the sheep were thick on the fields, and I had the lanes entirely to myself. As I round one of the corners, almost home, a great flock of birds took to the air, rising up from a stubble field that stood golden and shorn down to the merest hint of the wheat stems. What they were I am not sure, pigeons maybe. They wheeled and arced across the sky and with each circuit the moved further away until they became tiny black specks and then finally disappeared and I went on my way.

My osteopath has just rung me, having seen the MRI scan I sent to him. I can’t fault his kindness and dedication. As he suspected my back is indeed in need of some serious specialist care. Tomorrow I shall take on the Drs surgery and insist I am referred to the relevant person. Wish me luck.

Who am I – want to find out?

Another day of that pesky north east cold wind, but with blue skies and wall to wall sunshine as the day has progressed. If, as I managed to do for a little while, one can find a sheltered spot it is lovely and warm. This afternoon I have spent a bit of time putting up the strings for my hops. It sounds unbelievably grand in one way but in fact I only have two hop plants – one on the drive wall and the other trails its way over the Well head. Neither location has enough height really for the plants to grow as they should. Each year I slightly alter the way I string them and this year I have reduced them to two sets of bines for each plant in the hope that this will improve the quality of the hops. We shall only see in the fullness of time if in fact this will happen. tHe wall along side the drive is really sheltered from this wind by the wall and the garage and working away there I got really quite warm but when I moved across to the Well, which is rather more exposed, I had to put a jacket on. Never mind they are now both strung with authentic hop string. I have the ball of string for many years and it is gradually disappearing – I have no idea what I shall do when it has gone. I considered starting to string the Sweet Pea frame but considering the weather I thought better of it and besides it is far too windy to land out the sweet peas. They would certainly be shredded by the wind. The ground s also far too dry and baked hard so that even attempting to plant in it would be a major undertaking let alone the copious amounts of water I would need to ferry across from the water butts. They will just have to hold on until we have had a little rain and the wind has dropped. It is getting more than a little tiresome now it has to be said. 

This morning I finally ordered the new kitchen. Yes I know I have been rambling on about it for over a year now and the planning etc has taken even longer. Now we have a quote from a builder for the fitting and start date as well. All very exciting and I managed to get a good deal I think with the firm throwing in a length of oak worktop for one penny. This is not as thick the one we will use for the actual worktop but will match it for the shelves that I have planned instead of wall cupboards. The builder tells me there should be enough over for him to make me a bespoke chopping board which will be rather nice too. The cabinets are being delivered in mid May and will be stored in the garage until they can be fitted at the end of the month. I am excited and pleased but my heart has sunk rather at the prospect of clearing everything out of the old kitchen – food, pots and pans, that mountain of crockery that has accumulated over the years, likewise a vast supply of glasses to say nothing of sundry mugs, teapots, utensils, drawers full of cutlery – the list goes on. Fortunately the cooker is staying and the floor will also remain the same. My greatest fear is that the builder will find some ‘horror’ behind the sink unit that will cause him to sigh and take a deep breath before he summons me to come and have a look and then explains what he will need to do and the concomitant extra costs. I need to concentrate on the finished job I think and spend my time imagining how much better it will be. The house is old an nothing is ‘square’ and this always, always, presents problems for builders. 

On my walk today I didn’t go far but altered my usual route a little. Down the lane as usual, past the sheep field and the pond, but then once I reached farther down I turned into the cultivated field at the back of the garden. In part I did this because I was curious about the crop that was coming up. The new plants certainly didn’t look like a corn crop and for a little while I hoped it wasn’t Rape. The vibrant almost florescent yellow does add a splash of colour but I always feel it looks alien in our countryside. One of my grandfathers detested it claiming that it spoilt the views and the quintessential landscape that characterised his area of Sussex but Rape Seed oil is here to stay and therefore so are those great expanses of acid yellow. However, I am pleased to say the crop in the field outside my garden gate is not Rape – the plants pushing their way through the parched, cracked earth are Field Beans. Fleshy jade green leaves are making slow headway and it as wonder to me that without rain they are able to germinate. The version we grow in our gardens are called Broad Beans and mine are making a manful effort to germinate but are not as tough as those in the field. Another reason to be thrilled with this crop is the fact that when they bloom the peppery sweet smell of the blossoms on a warm summer night is heavenly. I shall be out there as the sun goes down filling my lungs with this oh so nostalgic smell. Apart from the sheer delight of it it always reminds me of my father who loved the smell almost as much as he loved the smell of hops. 

This morning one other absolutely exciting eventuality occurred. I hinted at the possibility of some news re the Rye Festival when I mentioned in a blog post the fact that this year’s Festival had been officially launched. This morning I received confirmation that I am to be a speaker at the Festival. If you want to know who I am then, when tickets go on sale – I will let you know when that is – you need to buy a ticket for the 21st September. I will be speaking about Sheila Kaye-Smith and her writing and the talk will be in the Methodist Church, Church Square, Rye at 3.00. Please save the day. Dear readers I would love to see as many of you as possible and there will be a chance to ask questions etc.  For those of you who have never heard of Kaye-Smith she was a Sussex novelist who set her work in the area in and around Rye and the Romney Marsh. Sometimes, in her hay day she was known as the Thomas Hardy of Sussex. Her descriptions of the countryside and rural landscape are exceptional in their evoking of an environment that many of you will know and love. I am way beyond flattered to be asked and very over excited.

Nice Cup of Tea!

The wind is a strong North Easterly again today, and ferocious with a chill that bites into you no matter the number of layers you are wearing. However, there is always a bright side to everything – well almost everything – and the bitter wind has dried all of my washing even if I got shimmeringly cold putting it out and getting it in again! 

Today has been reasonably productive I think. I have made a couple of ‘adapted’ lemon drizzle cakes. Adapted because they are not strictly speaking proper lemon drizzle, more a sort of hybrid. Let me explain. I had a lemon, a few tangerines that were all right but wouldn’t be and a couple of spoonfuls of marmalade at the bottom of a jar. The basic cake mixture, an all in one bowl affair had lemon zest, tangerine zest and squirt of juice of each and the marmalade all mixed up together and baked. The rest of the juice had a liberal amount of sugar added and when the cakes were still hot I pierced them all over the top and spooned the juice and sugar mixture over them. Although I say it myself they look pretty good and should taste quite good too. One has gone in the freezer and the other now resides in the cake tin and is about to be sampled by Himself. He will, no doubt, tell me what he thinks of it. 

As well as the cakes I set too and chopped up a wide variety of vegetables and some chicken, added stock and herbs and put the lot in a casserole dish and slow cooked for supper along with new potatoes and a few Sprouts that were languishing in the fridge. For ‘afters’ the remains of a collection of frozen cherries, raspberries and blueberries stewed up with honey and possibly with a crumble atop or maybe not. I have started the short article on Kaye-Smith’s “Shepherds in Sackcloth” but to be perfectly honest it isn’t coming on all that well. If, which I don’t, I had hundreds of words to play with I might be happier as it is there is a word limit of approx 500 and that just isn’t enough!

I did a very quick walk down the lane – quick because once out of the shelter of the garden it is even colder and much windier. The wind roared through the yard trees, rustled menacingly in amongst the evergreens of the garden and rampaged down the lane pushing me to one side. The noise was entirely of the wind like an invisible creature buffeting and complaining. The sheep and lambs appeared to be entirely oblivious to it but the pond was covered in tiny unending ripples that eternally sped their way towards the bank. Across the marsh great banks of clouds cast long shadows casting parts of the field into a darkened gloom whilst other parts glowed in bright sunshine. The cultivated fields are beginning to show a haze of green where the sown crops have begun to germinate. Mysterious in so many ways as the only moisture they have had in the past few weeks has come from dew and mist. A flock of Starlings put up into the skies as I approached, wheeled around above me and then settled back on the sheep field a little farther from the lane, a few Rooks pecked away at the grass and a Magpie or two raced low away across towards the trees in the churchyard. When I got back I took one more picture across the field to the castle and by chance the sun emerged and the clouds scudded away and it looks for all the world like a lovely day. 

Indoors a ‘nice’ cup of tea. Have you ever noticed that we always refer to it as a ‘nice’ cup of tea. We say “Would you like a nice cup off tea?”, “Shall we have a nice cup of tea?”, “Well that was a nice cup of tea”. The implication is I suppose that it could be a ‘nasty’ cup of tea but fortuitously it isn’t. Certainly I have had more than my fair share of ‘nasty’ cups of tea I reckon. Teaching staff rooms where the tea has brewed in a giant tea pot for most of the day and emerges into the cup as black as coal, pale and weak tea in sundry cafes, rough coarse tea served up in a bus canteen when I worked as a “Clippy” on the buses, and my first taste of tea with lemon which was not exactly unpleasant but was a bit of a surprise and an acquired taste I felt at the time. I am a drinker of fairly weak tea but not as weak as the type that an Aunt preferred. When asked if she would like a cup of tea she invariably said that yes she would if she could have the first one out of the pot and poured almost at the moment the water had been poured in. More like milky hot water in so many ways! 

Today’s walk

Another glorious day. Green fields stretch as far as the eye can see in all directions overtopped by a dome of crystal blue. I went for a walk again this afternoon – my usual route – down the lane, across the field towards the back of the farm yard and then back through the yard and back along the lane. In essence not over editing but it is surprising how each day I walk this way I see something different notice something that I had not seen before. The lambs and sheep were close to the fence today but are wary and as soon as I tried to get really near to take a picture they all scampered off across the grass. Yesterday I forgot to mention that the pair of Mallard ducks were back on the pond but today they are nowhere to be seen. Like yesterday, however, the sun was glinting and sparkling on the tranquil surface with tiny dots of white where the water weeds are blooming. It is difficult to believe that this calm bright water is the same that looked so sinister in the depths of winter. Now it is blue streaked with long strands of verdant weed, still as the proverbial millpond, then it was black and menacing, covered in unstoppable waves lapping out on to the edge of the road like vicious tongues trying to catch an unwary prey. At the end of the lane someone, long ago, planted some ornamental cherry trees and now they are in full cherry pink bloom. They are beautiful in there own way although they look rather incongruous beside the marsh ditch with its whispering dried skeletal reeds. 

There is a short stretch of hedge that is made up of conifer – probably planted originally to form a wind break I would suspect – and as I passed a flock of Pigeons furiously flapped as they took flight, spinning away low across the fields. In the sheep field the Crows or Rooks – not sure which – were pecking among the sheep droppings and the odd strands of wool. Across the patchwork of fields towards the lane and up to the hills and the castle a lone bright yellow van mades its way meandering along for all the world like a dinky toy and if it had been red I might have imagined the driver was Postman Pat. Along the side of the ditch the soil is parched and cracked but as I continued the grassy edges were alive with butterflies. Solitary often, tortoiseshells, peacocks and the cabbage whites, dancing and fluttering up from the cow parsley  on the bank. Settling again on the grass on my path and then flitting aloft to join with others in a complex ballet of which only they knew the moves. They danced ahead of me until I turned into the farm yard. I like a good yard with a concrete apron, a mass of sheds and a few bits of machinery. Best of all though is the detritus that is dumped around. Old giant drainage pipes big enough for an adult to hide in, a couple of concrete ones that are even bigger, one stood on its end, a pile of bricks and old concrete blocks, a charred ashy circle where someone has had a bonfire, bits of old binder twine attached to the shed door, a couple of wooden pallets that might be useful one day, all dumped and left with nettles and docks growing in amongst it. The view of the castle is panoramic from there and as I was looking across the burgeoning wheat field I noticed a cock Pheasant scurry in an ungainly fashion along the side of the crop following the line of the ditch. He made no attempt to fly, just waddled at speed until he was out of sight like an old fussy woman in a hurry. Heading for home across the yard I passed across the concrete in front of the grain sheds. Their shadow stretched across my path bringing with a coldness and gloom. Half way past and suddenly the wind caught the huge metal doors and they rattled and rumbled as though a giant were captured inside beating on them in an attempt to gain his release. Now the gate out of the yard is actually padlocked and to get out I have two choices – squeeze myself around the end of the gate and through a bit of the hedge or climb over. The squeezing method is my usual escape of choice and today was no different. What was different was that as I had regained the lane a massive snarling barking dog appeared from the farm house gate. The property is rented out and I have heard the dog, or as it turns out dogs, before but this one was huge and ran up to me trying quite clearly to warn me off. I growled back with a confidence, I hope, that I didn’t actually feel, kept on walking, and eventually he went back to join his companion and they returned to the garden. I won’t under play it – it was quite scary and he could certainly have knocked me over if he had tried or a real mind to. Part way home I met a lady out walking her dog and she commented on the fact that she had heard the dogs barking and had turned tail. We chatted away until I turned into my gate. Her dog, in contrast, was  placid and lovely, friendly and quiet. 

I am quietly pleased with myself because I managed to walk rather further today and so far, fingers crossed, the back is holding up rather well. On the question of the back I have got an Osteopaths appointment for next week with a new person – one recommended by my neighbour. I have high hopes. They were certainly very pleasant when I rang and seemed to think they may be able to help. The pain killers alleviate the worst of the pain for a while but are not the answer I am sure. I have a feeling in things such as this you get what you pay for. The help available on the NHS is patchy and if in doubt pain killers are the answer. Physio is offered but not in enough frequency or intensity to be of any use as far as I can see and in my own experience. 

The mystery of the hole

Today is diary day and the weather is beautiful again. The same domed blue skies, light breeze and sunshine wall to wall. Yesterday was not so nice it has to be said with a harsh easterly wind, overcast skies and a nasty chill. The wind was so fierce that my attempts to light a small bonfire were well and truly thwarted by the ferocious gusts that blew the matches out before they could ignite anything. Because today has been a fairly busy day  – well not really by the standards I might have applied when I was working but fairly so for nowadays – I have not really applied myself to any bigger tasks. 

This morning a man came to fit a Defibrillator in the village (redundant) telephone box. As nobody else on the local parish council was available I volunteered to pop along and have a quick chat, find out as much as I could. It was very reassuring to know that it will be connected with the Ambulance service within a few days and that it is really easy to use. Even more reassuring was the information that you can’t actually do any one any harm with it. It is much smaller than the ones I had seen in streets and other public places. That done I went home to get ready to go and see the kitchen planner people to finalise the plans for our new kitchen. Finally, we have been looking etc since late 2019, we have a finalised plan that we are happy with, a builder who has quoted to fit it and a date when he can start. I just have to place the order and everything will happen! It is never as easy as that though is it? Of course it isn’t. As part of the final sign off I asked to have a look at the sink we had chosen – the gentleman duly obliged and I hated it. Back to the drawing board on that – two options – a ceramic sink with moulded draining board or a Belfast sink. The work top is to be wood – I can hear you now saying ‘of course it is’ and wood and water don’t mix. The ceramic sink with draining board is chunky and quite ugly in some ways and I am instinctively drawn to the looks of the Belfast sink. It would mean using the dishwasher more but I am not entirely unhappy with that prospect! My daughter has had both and her recommendation is go Belfast every time. Himself has wavered from one to the other but has left final decisions to me. Not sure if that is good or bad. I need to contact the builder to ask a few final questions and then I can go for it – hurrah. Once home this morning I fiddled about and didn’t do much if I am honest.

This afternoon I have been for a longer walk than I have done for awhile. Not miles but as far as the back would allow and without a stick. Down the lane every and all signs of Spring are bursting forth. The ‘sticky buds’ are bursting with the toffee sticky casings of the leaves gradually unfurling and revealing lime green crumpled and folded leaves that gradually spread out in the umbrella shapes, small and half closed to start but gradually  extending to a mass of shade. The verges are a thick clotted blanket of fronded cow parsley with the occasional flower head rising above the massed canopy of growth. Peeping out from among the growth the purple green of the Dead. Nettle leaves and the spikes of pinky flowers. In the hedge the Blackthorn flowers are fading and brown now but the Hawthorn have begun to glow white like tiny pearl clusters with pink beaded centres. Other trees are also coming into bloom. Acid green and bunched in a tight posy bare twigs have sprouted the tree blooms. The Ash buds, black and shrivelled grape like, have begun to crack and reveal the incipient purple black leaves. The sheep are indeed safely grazing  and I have managed to get some pleasing photographs of them. The view back to the village also speaks of the oncoming Spring for although the church tower is still clearly visible among the trees they have now taken on a hazy green mantle and no longer stand bare and skeletal. The lone Larch, wind swept and stunted, has begun to show forth bright verdant green needles that cling together around the cones of earlier in the year. Into the field, where only a few weeks ago in cold wet weather I struggled to remain upright on the slippery ground, it is now parched and baked rock hard with growing fissures and cracks in the dusty earth. I know I have often noted that the views from this walk must not have changed in any a long year and my walks have a timeless quality and today was one of those days. Across the fields, looking towards the church in the distance, there were no signs of the modern world – no telegraph poles, no electricity wires, no planes, or cars – I could have been an interloper in a bygone age. The only sounds were those of the sheep bleating and ewes calling their lambs, a Blackbird calling from the trees in the yard, the screech of a Magpie as he was disturbed in the hedgerow and my feet tramping along the narrow lane. The tranquility didn’t last for long – it was disturbed by a small plane droning its way across the skies and the present world reinforced its presence. 

On my way back I put my head through the hole in the old barn wall. I am drawn to the interior of these old derelict barns and the overgrown yard beyond. In the barn the detritus of farming days long gone litters the floor, is proper against the walls and leaks out into the undergrowth. Old gates, rotting hurdles, rolls of sheep wire, an old sink, a pile of stakes and countless odd bits of wood and metal. All were useful, and probably could be again. All belong to a farming age long gone. If only I could get in there and scavenge about but would it be stealing if I ‘liberated’ a few bits? I suspect it would I would feel eternally guilty. More interesting is my constant speculation – to myself – about what might actually be living in there. By the side of the barn wall, just as I turn into my drive, I noticed a hole a the ground. It looks quite deep and the entrance is fairly wide but s it big enough for a fox? I don’t think it is rabbit – I have never seen any around here – it looks too big for a rat and not big enough for a badger. My best guess is a fox. I have tried to examine it for any signs of hair but to no avail. Each day the entrance looks slightly bigger but there is no deposited earth at the entrance – is it, perhaps, a second entry/exit from an existing den? Early on there were a few long twigs poking out but I have removed them and they have never been moved back. There has been no effort made to disguise the hole and it clearly goes down among roots and branches as it goes deeper. What is it? I shall continue to watch it and see if I can find out.

If you are a regular reader and have sent me a message to my email address associated with this blog I would like to say I am very sorry if I haven’t got back to you. Something very odd seems to be happening with my email address. I can’t work out what it is or why it is happening but rest assured I will get back to you if and when I can.