Thursday, 18 August 2011

Yahtzee, again Grandma!

Today I introduced Miss M to the delights of playing Yahtzee. If I say she loved it will you pardon me for seeming underenthusiastic. She was enthralled. OK so at six years old she doesn't do multiplication - or does she? When we started she didn't know what three fours made but when her mother came for her she said "Mummy what does three fours make?" "Twelve" said Mummy
"and Mummy, what do four threes make?" "twelve" said Mummy.
"Yes, and do you know what Mummy?" "No darling, you tell me"
"They always will, Mummy, three fours will always be twelve AND four threes will be too."

I am here to say that Mummy was suitably impressed even if she did remember that discovery from her own childhood. I love that she was adding up and counting and working out what she needed to get to fill which boxes on the score sheet. So much learning without noticing and so much fun. It doesn't matter that Grandma was totally yahtzeed out by 3pm and we needed to pack the set of dice and spare score sheets into Harry's bag so that she could take them home and play with Daddy before he went to work.
Harry's startled expression is because she pulled the strings a bit tight before slinging him over her shoulder. Usually he manages to get one paw out but not this time.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Noisy, a chicken without equal

My chicken died today. Noisy was named by Miss M when we collected her from the rescue point two years ago. Noisy is a rescue hen. Hens get one good season when they lay really well then they moult and when they start to lay again there will be fewer eggs. This is the point when they become non commercial and the big egg producers get rid of the old hens to make way fro the new young birds.
The British Hen Welfare Trust has agreements with lots of commercial egg producers that when the time comes for the hens to go they will take as many as they can for the price that the farmer would get from the pet food factory. They come out of the cages into the rescue vehicles and are taken to a collection point where people like me go at the appointed time and collect two or three or twenty. Chickens can live to about five years if they have a quiet life. We reckon that Noisy was about three and a half but she outlived her sisters.
 She was bare chested and white faced with stress but still had enough spirit to march out of the hen house just 12 hours after we got her and start scratching at the weeds in our tiny garden.
She protested about everything. If there was a loud noise she yelled to tell me. When she laid an egg she would rush out of the hen house shrieking "An egg! I laid an egg!" Son-in-law arrived home on his motorbike and Noisy would announce him.
If Blue the cat took a shortcut across the garden she snitched on him. She became the senior chicken very quickly and the others learnt to stay out of the left-hand nestbox I always had one egg in the lefthand one and all the others in the righthand one. She was always close to my feet when I went out to check them and if I looked out of the window she was always looking up at me. Right up to yesterday she was full of life and eating well. This morning she was dead so I suspect her heart just stopped. She died fully feathered with a full crop and her comb and wattles were red and healthy.
Goodbye my girly girl I shall miss you.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A Trip to Snowshill Manor

Waiting, I hate waiting
If you think you are a collector I suggest that you take a trip to Snowshill Manor and see the results of a lifetime of collecting. This is serious stuff, I mean the man bought the house for his collections not to live in. He lived in what is called the priest's house which is a small stone building behind the manor house - and even that is full of..............stuff.
Quick, quick they're going in!
checking out the fruit in the orchard
Bicycles in the attic
Mr M and I first went there twenty years ago (it could be more than that but twenty years is a long enough time) and we were blown away by the stacks of things - I mean Bicycles in the attic?
The beesuit I wanted him to buy to scare the neighbours
The Bluefunnels had never been so we saw this as a great opportunity to go back after the refurbishment and see what, if anything had changed. We were a little early so we had to wait and as this was exhausting we needed refreshment before touring the house. The National Trust do a good cup of coffee.
The house was as fantastic as we remembered and the Bluefunnels were very taken with it, pausing to look at all the tiny little things in the cabinets.
It is interesting to eavesdrop on conversations when you are strolling around. Some of the things I think everyone knows because I know, I have discovered they don't. I wonder how people can go through life without needing to know things. Things that I think are commonplace and everyone knows them I have learnt are not commonplace at all and are, in fact, specialist knowledge. So how did that happen? how did a simple thing like the two different styles of architecture sdhown on the front of the Manor house. I looked at it and assumed that at sometime in the history of the house it had been extended from a small Tudor farmhouse to a larger manor house, the stle of windows and the size of the panes of glass telling me this - as well as the different age of the cotswold stone on the wall.
I was surprised because the house guide had to point it out for other people to notice. I suppose other people's heads must be full of other sorts of stuff.
After we had finished the house we dropped down to Gloucester because Onassis Bluefunnel needed to buy a Bee suit. Not a costume to dress up as a bee but a suit to protect him when he helped Mrs Bluefunnel to tend the bee hives they have in their garden. We went to a fantastic shop in Maisemore where they have everything you can think of to do with bee keeping and then about a thousand things you hadn't even dreamt of. I wanted Onassis to have the bright yellow suit that made him look like something from a Sci Fi movie but he wouldn't.
After this there was just one thing left to do. That's right a late lunch/early tea at Morrisons. Oh and here's the spooky thing, bearing in mind that they are Colin and Ann and we are Ann and Colin.
Mrs Bluefunnel needed the loo so Mr Bluefunnel waited for her, out of earshot, while Mr M and I ordered our food. They ordered their food and came and sat at the table with us. We were number 40 they were number 41. The nice lady brought out number 40 and it was fish and chips for me and chunky steak pie andchips and mushy peas for Mr M.
Guess what the Bluefunnels had ordered... that's right exactly the same! We came back home down the A48 to Chepstow which is a fabulous run through delightful villages and past the Severn Bore hotel where we always go to watch the Bore.

The birds on the resevoir, that can't be good, all that guano in the water
We dropped the Bluefunnels at their house on top of a hill and as we dropped back down again we noticed all these seagulls on the reservoir. It did look very much like the Hitchcock film so we quietly closed our windows, slipped the car into gear and stole silently away. Next time we are going to Tyntesfield. We have been before when it was first opened so it is time to go back to see upstairs and to check on the progress of the conservation. We can talk like that because we are members - and we bought a brick last time and we need to see if it is ok.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Story telling Sunday - August. Ilfracombe and The new Tent

In 2003 Mr M and I decided that we were getting a little too rotund for crawling in and out of a three man tent and we should look at a new one that we could stand up inside. I also quite like the idea od being able to stand up to put my knickers on in the morning instead of lying on a saggy airbed and having to extract handfuls of sleeping bag from the back of my knickers before struggling with the jeans or shorts and crawling out of the tent exhausted before breakfast.
I have searched my computer but now realise that I haven't scanned the pages of my early scrap books so I don't have a picture of our little brown and orange tent to show you. I do have a picture of the tent we bought to replace it
We wanted something that was easy to put up, big enough to stand up in with a bedroom we could zip up during the day to keep the insects away from the sleeping bags. This tent seemed to answer all these requirements so we bought it. We were then desperate to try it out so we took it to my in-laws and put it up on their lawn.
This has the dual purpose of giving us a run through of the procedure and getting all the swearing at each other done before we go public on a campsite. There were only a couple of occasions when Mr M snapped at me and I stood with my hands on my hips and gave him "the look". Then he would apologise for snapping and I would apologise for snapping back, he would tuck his hands into his armpits and huff like a sulky kid and make me laugh and the tent would be up and it was time for a cuppa. We now knew the tricks of getting it up and down as though we had done it a hundred times so we wanted to go some where and play with it. After all there's no point having it if you don't use it, is there?
We looked at a map, looked at the date and realised that the august bank holiday was coming the very next weekend but Mr M's shifts meant he was off for the weekend after that.
Different place but still a man and his Jeep
On the Friday morning we packed everything into the Jeep - did I say we had a Jeep then, a proper Jeep. A Cherokee Sport, not one of those japanese imitations a proper Jeep. I digress (but we did love her) Even with the back seat folded down there is not a lot of space in a Jeep but we got the tent and the chairs and the red box (this contains all the camping essentials like the gas bottle and the pots and pans and kettle and the tin plates and mugs and cutlery. OH did I tell you that I used to be a guide leader with my Campers Licence and QM's Licence and Mr M was a Sea Scout Leader so camping was a given for us really wasn't it? Where was I?
Oh yes, we packed the Jeep and set off for North Devon We had decided that Ilfracombe (pronounced in our family as Ill frack ommm beee, although I don't know how that started.) was our destination of choice. We found a campsite on a hill that had level terraces for tents and caravans, a swimming pool a shop and the promise of bacon rolls at breakfast time. We found our marker and set up the tent in record time. We arranged it so that we could rollup the flap at the end of the tent and sit inside looking out across the Bristol Channel. Fabulous. And then it started to rain. This is where we discovered that tents that have sloping sides and roll up doors are useless in the rain because you have to roll the door down or the rain comes right into the tent. We rolled down the door and realised that our tent had one window. This was part mesh, part clear plastic and was behind where we had put the stove. We had to roll the flap down on that because the mesh let the rain in. So it is 4pm on a September afternoon and we are sitting on our chairs in the green gloom of our tent not able to read because it is too dark and too early to put a light on so we went and sat in the jeepfor an hour and then went into the town for a meal. We came back and got ready for bed, read for a while, all the time listening to the rain beating on the tent. We watched the pool form on the roof even though the tent is curved. Then I needed the loo. This is when a campsite on a hill stops being fun. We put on boots and waterproof coats grabbed the torch and Mr M escorted me to the loo. We struggled back up the north face of the Eiger to the tent and realised that during our brief stroll the wind had picked up a little too. We went to bed. We woke about three am because I needed to go to the loo. same procedure as before but the wind had died down and the rain had stopped so we could see the lights of Wales across the water - calling us home. We went back to bed and when we next woke up it was light and we could here the people around us washing dishes. We got up, got dressed. I could stand up to put my knickers on which was lovely we unzipped our door and stepped, blinking in the white light, out to a scene of complete chaos.
The people around us weren't washing dishes they were bailing out their tents. The wind had picked up again and two tents had blown apart during the night. the people behind us had an inch of water in their sewn in groundsheet and were wrestling with sodden sleepingbags and soggy clothes. We helped where we could before going down to the cafe for breakfast. It rained again while we were there so when we climbed back up to the tent we sat in the Jeep for a while, Mr M reading his book while I wrote the holiday journal. It stopped raining for a while and suddenly Mr M looked up from his book and said "I could be doing this in the comfort of my own home, in my own chair, shall we go home?"
"The tent is dry let's get it down before it starts raining again" said I. So we did. 45 minutes later - see how that trial run helped us - we had everything packed into the Jeep and we were on our way home. We got home Six hours later! because what should have been a two hour run was hampered by Barnstaple and the M5. We had forgotten about holiday traffic on the motorway on a Saturday.

This story has been brought to you through Storytelling Sunday, invented by Sian at High-in-the-sky why not take a look