Saturday, 13 April 2019

Lovely friend is 60. A group of us bunched together, as we have for each other over the last 30 years, to buy her a present. A bench. With a smart green cushion.
Two of us take responsibility for this, and are chuffed to bits that the bench is ordered, to be delivered on the day of the birthday. We've even ordered a plaque with all our names on it. Result!
I think we ought to knit her a blanket, says one friend.
No, no, I think.
With lots of squares of different colours, says the friend.
Oh, sweet Lord, I think.
We could all do about 4 each, says the friend.
Over my dead body, I think.
Great! say all the other friends.
Bollocks, I think.
Friend sends each of us a ball of wool, a pair of knitting needles, and some instructions of what to knit.
I read it.
Cast on 28 stitches.
Cast on? Isn't that what you do in sailing? (Perhaps I should mention here that I have not knitted since I was 11 years old, when in the Spring Term of each year we were required to knit bootees, cardigans or some other such article for Babies in Africa).
My offering each time was always grey and holey. The nuns (convent school) would sigh with exaggerated frustration at my poor efforts. And then finish it off for me. Every time!
But would someone finish off this offering? Would they heck.
And so I started. I found a YouTube video of someone casting on. I watched it avidly. I cast on one, two, three, four stitches.
I'm knitting! I bellowed, to whoever wanted to hear me in the house.
Daughter came and inspected.
Well done, Mum, she said kindly.
28 stitches. All cast on.
Now what!
I read the instruction. Knit four rows. 
How incredibly unhelpful, I thought. How do I 'knit 4 rows'? And so back I went to YouTube and watched a kind lady knitting.
I knitted 4 rows.
Only to find I hadn't read the full instructions. Knit 4 rows making sure you purl 4 at the beginning and end of each line. 
I looked at the 4 rows I had done. Could I get away with it?
With a sigh, I pulled the 4 rows off the knitting needle and started again.
Cast on 28 stitches. 
28 stitches cast on! I'm getting so good at knitting!
Knit 4 rows making sure you purl 4 at the beginning and end of each line. 
Right, I thought. This will be a doddle.
Only it wasn't. Because every time I got to the end of a row, my knitting seemed to get longer and longer. I counted the stitches. 32! What the heck?!
I rang the friend.
Explained the problem.
Don't worry! she said. And after all, it's the fact that you're TRYING. That is more important than what it looks like.
I very much doubted that. My 4 rows looked like a triangle.
Righto! I said. I'll get going with the next bit then!
And so I did.
The triangle bit did not improve, and what was even worse, holes started appearing either side of the knitting.
I pulled it all out and started again.
And again.
And again.
And again.
9 times I started again. 9 times it went triangular and got holes.
Bollocky BOLLOCKS, I said, rather a lot. And maybe some worse things than that.
My children found it very amusing.
So did my Husband.
Har har har har har, he said. Needless to say, I didn't find it in the least amusing.
Until I worked out the holes situation.
I wasn't putting the wool forwards (or backwards) after changing from knit to purl.
Ta da!
Oh, the joy.
Oh, the satisfaction of knitting 4 rows and it looking just like a square!
Oh, the joy of not having any holes!
I love knitting!
And so I continued on, completing 2 whole squares, even managing the casting off with the aid of yet another YouTube lady coming to the rescue.
I took my squares proudly up to London where we had a 'gathering to sew all the squares together' evening.
I think I'd rather sew my fingers together.
Friend looks at my squares. I look at hers. They are literally twice as big as mine. Mine are small and tight. Hers are big and generous.
LOVELY, she says. Look, it's NO PROBLEM. I'll just knit some more around the edge. LOVELY.
Another friend, usually very chatty and smiley, is sitting in a chair in the corner of the room muttering to herself as she knits a square. Bollocks. Bloody, bloody hell. Sort of thing. Apparently she hadn't 'had time' to do one before. Aha, I thought. Another rebel against this knitting lark.
Around the room a selection of friends are knitting. All with enormous glasses of Prosecco. That's more like it, I think.
I sit in a chair. And knit furiously. The glass of Prosecco makes it much more pleasant and in no time at all I show my finished square to all and sundry.
Brilliant! they say.
And it is. It's the right size, shape and colour. No holes.
What AM I? Knitting queen?
And I proudly chuck my square to join the other squares waiting to be sewn together. And grab another glass of Prosecco before offering to sew some squares together.
Flipping heck. I've become a domestic goddess.
That will wipe the smile off Husband's face.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Clearing out the cobwebs

Wow. I'm peering into this old blog and can see a few cobwebs and spiders lurking. Time to blow them off, shoo them out and get writing again.
To my delight, following on from my last piece of drivel posted a few weeks ago, I see a few old blogger friends are still here. How lovely is that! I shall go and visit after posting this.
Blogging is a funny old business, but so much more rewarding than the instant Facebook, which  becomes duller the more scrolling down you do. How much of LOOK AT ME NOW can I cope with?!
So. Here are a few details of the latest.
I've had a spot of breast cancer. Lumpectomy. Lymph node removal. All clear. Radiotherapy to follow. This is a new 'club' I am now a member of. One I didn't ever want to join, but oh, my goodness, the people in this club are so amazingly nice and kind and generous and brave. And I'm totally in awe of the NHS, who deal with truckloads of women like me per week, all pale and wan from worry. Each person is dealt with so kindly and wisely. Made me feel very grateful indeed. And the support! I had to ring the Breast Clinic to ask a couple of what I termed 'stupid questions'. The patience! (Can I walk the dog yet? Can I put ice cubes on my armpit as it feels all 'burny') All in all, top marks.
Children are all growing up. Well, obviously. That's what they do! From Eldest to Youngest, we still have overwhelming bouts of laughter. Wish I'd written more of them down, but I still get such a lot of joy (and so do they) when I read what I've already written in this blog. Memories that warm the heart! Even the really poo'ish ones.
I've written a book! And got an award! And I still do far too many exclamation marks!
Very happy about book. I'm trying to keep this blog anonymous, so that I don't have to edit what I say, hence not saying what the book is about. Or what it's called. But it's been a lifelong ambition to write one, and now I have.
And am now on to my next book. How fabulous is that!
Right. Off visiting some of you folks now. I'll leave a calling card as I go. (Hoping that isn't rhyming slang or a weird idiom for something unsavoury).
Have a beautiful day, one and all.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

PE kit retrieval

Youngest is now 14.
This morning we hugged fondly as he made his way to the school bus.
'See you later, Mum. Love you,' he says, as he leaves the house. I wave and wave as he trudges up the drive and round the corner. I can still hear his crunching feet on the gravel.
The phone rings a few minutes later. It's Youngest.
"Oops. Have you missed the bus?" I say.
"No. But I thought it was Monday."
I think for a bit. It's Tuesday.
Youngest continues. "And on Tuesday it's PE."
Oh, dear, I think.
"What shall you do?" I ask. Our parental mantra is not to dash about and save the situation.
"Can you bring it down to school?" asks Youngest.
So I dash about and save the situation.
"Where's your kit?"
"Go into my room, " says Youngest. Which I do.
It's chaos. Clothes are scattered everywhere. Piles of them. I sigh deeply.
"My PE shirt is on the floor. Under a grey sweatshirt. By the chair. At the end of the bed."
I look on the floor. By the chair. At the end of the bed. I pick up a grey sweatshirt.
There's the PE shirt!
"Found it!' I say. "Where's the shorts?"
Youngest's deep voice (did I tell you his voice broke? He sounds like my dad now) tells me to go to the pile over by the window and look under the blanket next to the chest.
I go to the pile by the window, and look under the blanket next to the chest.
There are the shorts!
"Got 'em! Shoes?" I ask, deeply impressed by his chaotic order.
"Downstairs by the front door," replies my boy. "Next to the mat."
I thump down, two stairs at a time. There they are!
And cram the whole lot into a bag, and drive the 3.8 miles to school.
"Thanks, Mum," says Youngest, lifting the bag out of the passenger seat. "Love you."
"Love you too," I say.
And off I go home. PE kit delivered. Situation saved.
And a new sense of awe that despite the live ecosystem that is his room, Youngest can remotely direct his mother to locate and assemble a forgotten PE kit.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Wasp Mystery Solved at Last

It appears that we have some wasps in our kitchen. 15 or 20 seem to be having a right old time climbing up the window, sliding down and then climbing up the window again. I am having a right old time catching 15 to 20 of them as they climb up the window, and hurling them out into the garden, only to find 15 to 20 of them climbing up the window again.
Sat for several minutes staring at window yesterday, attempting to use peripheral vision to work out their entry point, as it were. Must have looked a little bit Special, sitting there staring so hard at nothing, one eye slightly out of focus and looking decidedly to the right. 
Heard buzzing! 
Jumped up and threw self towards area of sound. There was a wasp! Looked up, down, left, right.
Sat again. 
Stared at window again.
Buzzing AGAIN.
Leaped up again, and saw ANOTHER wasp, doing its thing on the window. 
Had brilliant idea that I could take video of window as I got on with something very useful.
Got iPad out. Spent some minutes setting it up. Put it on. Pressed little red button to start video. 
Brilliant, I thought. Saving lots of time! 
Went off and wasted lots of time, and then came back to watch video.
Watched blank window on video for 5 minutes. 
Right, I thought. Time for some action. 
Rang Pest Control at our local council offices. 
Kind lady explained that the wasps would all be dead by the end of November. 
Oh, I said. 
The Queen, she went on, had gone off to hibernate.
I hoped she wasn't talking about our dear Elizabeth.
All these other wasps would drop off slowly as it got colder. 
How much to get someone out? I asked.
£50, she said.  
And then I saw it. One dastardly wasp COMING OUT OF THE LIGHT FITTING! 
Aha! Gotcha!
Said brisk but fond farewell to kind lady from the council, grabbed chair under light fitting, and yelled to Middle Son to come and help. Made him stand on chair and remove light fitting.
Lots of them. Oozing out of light fitting and dozily careering off across the kitchen to climb up the window. More and more. Kitchen thick with buzzing.
Had most satisfactory time opening window and wafting them all out in the cold night air. The lazy ones who lay on the floor were swept up and thrown out too.
We are now officially a Wasp Free kitchen.
Now to deal with the rats in the chicken run.

NOTE: This was written a year ago last October. But I forgot to post it. And so I'm posting it now.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

In which Youngest saves the day

Went to the cinema the other day. Took Youngest who was very keen to see The Secret Life of Pets. I was very keen to see the latest Rom Com, but I think it's going on twenty years since I managed to see one of those. Nowadays it's Disney, Pixar or else very noisy action films where the villain has a very deep voice and the hero just stands about looking hero-like. And runs about a lot. And sweats.
Was fearfully organised, and had ordered tickets online, arriving at the cinema with fifteen minutes to spare. Perfect time allowed to collect the tickets and buy horrendously expensive popcorn and fizzy drinks.
Rather smugly arrived at ticket machine and punched in our card, which kindly spewed out our tickets.
Youngest most impressed with organisational skills. His own. This was all his plan.
Noticed that harassed mother and young daughter, aged about 5, were at the next ticket machine. Was very clear that mother had NOT pre-ordered tickets because young daughter was saying, "But Mummy, I really WANTED to see The Secret Life of Pets." Mother stabbing away at keyboard, valiantly offering other films. Daughter becoming quieter as the reality sank in of not seeing her film.
There you go, I thought uncharitably. Goes to show us mums need to be organised.
"Give them our tickets,' hissed Youngest, digging me somewhat painfully in the ribs.
I turned to him, and back to the little girl. Her face was hidden by her mother's sleeve, still desperately offering alternative films.
"Give them our tickets!" hissed Youngest again, this time close to my ear, and actually making my ear a little bit damp. "Go on, give them OUR TICKETS."
"Are you sure?" I asked. Illogically somewhat disappointed that my ultra organisational uber mother mode was going to end in giving the tickets away.
"YESSSS," hissed Youngest, getting rather agitated now, as the mother looked like she might move away.
I turned to the mother and daughter. "Excuse me, Youngest here would like you to have our tickets. We already have two, so why don't you have them?" Once I was in my stride, I was rather pleased. This was fun!
The pair looked totally taken aback. In a good way. The mother's face changed from depressed resignation to joy. "Are you sure? What will you do instead?"
"Well," said Youngest, with infinite logic, "It's a cinema. We'll go and see a film!"
We all laughed a bit. Awkwardly trying to bridge the offer with clinching the deal.
The mother was decisive and generous at the same time. "We'll pay for you to see another film," she said. "What would you like to see?"
Youngest piped up. "We could see The BFG, Mum. Shall we?"
"Brilliant," I said.
And we did.
The mother punched some more keys, and bought us our tickets. We did a swap, there in the swirly carpeted foyer, and said a fond farewell to each other.
"Thank you SO much," said the mother, looking at Youngest as if he were a total hero.
Which in her eyes he was.
"Pleasure," said Youngest. "Enjoy the film!" And he led the way across the foyer to the popcorn.
He astounds me, this boy of mine. Generous and wise. Kind and thoughtful.
And he's only twelve.
Am very proud Mother.
Especially as I'm such a mean old cow that didn't want to give the tickets away.
Glad I did, though.
The BFG was awesome!!

Sunday, 1 November 2015


It isn't often that I post something sad. But I really need to at the moment. You see, my dearest, funny, sweet, loving sister has died. Cancer crept in and finished her off in seven months flat. Although it was probably a lot longer than that. Cancer tends to be very quiet at the beginning, and by the end it is deafening.
What can I say? Sadness is exhausting. We are all exhausted. And yet, amongst all of this grief and red-eyed living, there is something else. You see, I really prayed that she would get better. Some days my belief was so strong that I could almost taste the healing, and feel the happiness it would bring. I prayed that she would be totally healed from cancer. That she would never be a victim to fear or anxiety ever again. That she would grow old bones.
But she didn't. She died.
That should make me angry, shouldn't it? That should make me enraged with the God I was praying to?
Well, I'm not angry or enraged.
I'm deeply sad but I'm not angry.
What has happened is that I have come to know God in a way that I never knew him before. I have spoken to him, virtually every minute of every day, for months and months.
I have discovered that he is funny. Smart. Fearfully honest. Extremely loving. He doesn't give a brass farthing for rules and regulations if they don't suit him. He would prefer a party full of drug addicts in a squat to a smart cocktail party with the elite. He doesn't like it when people are judgemental, and he hates it when we are 'holier than thou.' He can't STAND social injustice.
In short, he is daring, fearless and ridiculously loving.
So why would a God like that kill off a sister like mine?
Impossible. He simply couldn't.
And so I have to re-think my thoughts about God. He clearly isn't someone who will immediately heal someone. Because he didn't. I still don't know why. But what he did do was to push himself RIGHT INTO my life, so that I could no longer ignore his gentle whispers or constant encouragement. And he pushed himself right into my sister's life, what was left of it. There was no ignoring him. That was NOT an option.
My sister is not here any longer. So where is she?
She's with that God I was talking about. That daring, fearless and ridiculously loving God that I have come to know. And that knowledge makes me...happy.
I'm sad, so sad, that I won't be able to talk to her in her kitchen, or wander around her beautiful vegetable garden with her, and sit on that little seat at the end in the sun, and chat about all of our children. We have eight between us. Quite a feat. When I think that I won't see her again in my lifetime it feels utterly, utterly bloody awful.
But I can look ahead. To after that.
Yes, I'm one of those crazy nutters that believe in Heaven.
And I'm very, very glad I do. I just know that we WILL be together again. We WILL walk about in a vegetable garden one day, with a little seat at the end. We WILL chat about our children and laugh about stuff. We WILL live and live and live. And there won't be any cancer because God and cancer cannot live side by side. And there won't be any worry or anxiety because God and worry and anxiety cannot live side by side.
And so there isn't really any need to worry, is there?
But for the time being I will have my red eyes, and I will cry a lot, because I MISS her.
Who wouldn't? She was the best sister anyone could ever have. The best wife. The best mother. The best daughter. The best friend.
And after I have cried a lot, and some years have gone by, I won't be so sad. We won't be so sad.
And always, in all of that, we will know that we will see her again.
God IS good. It's just that we don't always get to know him because we are either too busy, or he just doesn't seem that relevant to our world. Only he is. Relevant. Vital. Real.  And now that I am beginning to know that, I know that he would NEVER take a life. He would only give one.
Thank God.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

I am Sailing

Have had simply marvellous fun sailing in the Mediterranean.
Well, not exactly Port Grimaud in large luxury Yacht.
More like very small 'Fun Boats', suitable for two people. Who are very small indeed.
But such fun!
Husband and I, plus Middle Son, Daughter and Youngest all holidaying in the South of France in the most idyllic of settings. Gorgeous pool, cicadas doing their thing day and night. Hot, sunny days lazing in the pool. Warm, sultry nights lazing in the pool.
After about ten extremely lazy days lazing by the pool. decided that Youngest was probably getting rather bored. This followed a conversation at breakfast (lazing by the pool) when he stated that holidays like this were probably more for 'old people'.
There was a brief pause.
'Are you saying that you are a bit bored?' we all asked, collectively feeling the punch of the word 'old'.
'Well, it is rather boring just eating and swimming and then lying down to sleep.'
Right, we thought...
And that is why we decided to go sailing...
Three boats (Fun Boats), all bright yellow and more like bath tubs than sailing boats. But they had sails on them and lots of ropes, so that was alright.
Husband was extremely excited and leaped upon the first Fun Boat, along with Youngest.
There was absolutely No Wind At All.
I clambered on to the next Fun Boat.
Middle Son and Daughter got on the third one.
Off we went!
Except that there was No Wind At All.
We sort of drifted around a bit, and occasionally there would be a tiny breeze that wafted us along rather nicely.
It was heaven. I sunbathed a bit more and we trailed our hands in the water and jumped off the boats a few times. Just because.
When we arrived back two hours later we had all decided that we needed to come back when there was a little more wind.
Which is why we returned two days later.
The only thing was that the wind was howling. Like in almost a gale. Like in Lots.
Beaucoup de vent, as they say around there.
The Fun Boats were available, every single one of them, and we clambered on board, this time swaggering a bit with our massive previous experience.
Within minutes our knuckles were white with the exertion of holding on to the flipping ropes, sails were crashing across (gybe ho) and we were SCORCHING across the water. It was marvellous!
The sun peeked through the clouds and then decided to come out completely and all was transformed. Sparkling water, a nice breeze and fast boats!
Well. It would all have been perfect if it hadn't been for a minor point.
Husband capsized. Not once. Not twice. Three times.
We never got to see the first capsize, as Husband very quietly righted the boat round the corner from where we were all dashing backwards and forwards across the water.
The second one was as Daughter and I were going at cracking pace across the same part of the bay. One moment there was Husband ahead of us, boat at jaunty angle.
"Hope Dad doesn't capsize!" chuckled Daughter and we shared a fond giggle. The next moment, Husband's boat goes from jaunty to jiggered and the entire sail disappears, with a small shout from Husband.
Daughter and I turn about (nautical terms coming out of our expert ears by now) and tear across to where Husband and boat are bobbing about. We are beaten there by Very Fast Rubber Sort of Boat with man from our sailing yard, who scoops Husband out by the shoulders and lays him flat, like a landed fish, on his Rubber Boat. Husband can't seem to get up due to tricky angle, so we see if we can help. Wind packs into our sail with a thump, and we are taken off, like a fierce tango dance, to the opposite side of the bay.
Daughter keeps reporting back.
"Dad is nearly sitting up."
"Dad has fallen back into the boat."
"Dad is being put back onto the Fun Boat."
Sort of thing.
Finally we see Husband flailing around with sails, but definitely the right way up, and in the right direction. Hooray!
With all sorts of shouting and sign language we decide that enough is enough, and that it is definitely time for a large Verre de Rosé for the adults and Lemonade for the children.
But not before Husband, with a tremendous roar of protest, capsizes for the third time, the boat whipping him off and into the water before you can say Domaine de Grange Neuve, Bergerac Rosé 2011.
With the deepest of shame I remember laughing heartily. So did Daughter. So did Middle Son. So did Youngest.
And after we'd laughed enough, we raced over to him, where Middle Son was extremely helpful and abandoned Youngest and their Fun Boat to assist his father in righting his wretched little dinghy.
For all their jumping up and down on the right bits, it didn't seem to be working, and so the very kind man who had already hauled Husband out once before, came dashing over again, and proceeded to do more hauling and righting of boats.
Youngest was now in a Fun Boat on his own, but with marvellous timing and grit, managed to expertly guide it back into the yard; this was no mean feat as the wind was feisty, to say the least. Daughter and I managed to get ours back too, and then we all watched as Husband and Middle Son brought theirs back. Would they capsize again?
Disappointingly, they didn't.
And we all piled into the car and drove to the nearest restaurant, where we partook of local Rosé and Lemonade, and laughed a bit more at Husband's expense. Who took it all on the chin.
"Shall we come tomorrow?' we all asked.
Husband looked a bit green. " I think we might leave it there for a bit," he said, slurping up a large mouthful of Bergerac Rosé 2011. And so we will leave it there. For a bit.
Looking forward to next time, when the wind will be kind and the boats will behave.
Even Husband's.

                                            (photo NOT of Husband, but very very similar!)

Friday, 31 July 2015

On taking sixteen bags to the Charity Shop

Staggered into local charity shop with ten bags of books this morning.
In bright voice to brisk lady behind the counter,
'Would you like these? I do have rather a lot.'
Realise that I sound like Margo from 'The Good Life.'
'I've only the two pair of 'ands,' says the brisk lady, who appears to be very cross. I'm not sure if it's my books, my Margo voice or the fact that she is battling with the price gun.
'Right,' I say, and think about asking where I should leave the books, or does she actually want the books, or should I sidle out again and try the other charity shop down the street.
I try again. Nice and polite.
'Shall I leave them here by the door at the back?'
'You can't go in the back. 'Ealth and Safety.' She glares at me, beady eyed,  price gun raised.
'OK, well, I'll leave them here, shall I?' I am determinedly polite, although my cheeks are beginning to ache with all the smiling. Perhaps I should just look as bloody cross as she is.
She doesn't answer, just crosses the shop and takes the bag from where I have put it on the floor.
I go back outside, across the road and down the street, where my car is waiting, boot gaping open like a landed fish.
I drag in another four bags, fingers cut through by the thin plastic handles.
'I've got some more!' I beam at the lady.
She looks positively fuming. Oh, dear.
I attempt to placate her again.
'Would you like me to take these books away? I don't want to burden you with them.'
She grimaces. 'We tike the yellow ones and put them out the back in the recycling.'
For a moment I feel rather like grimacing back. 'I don't think there are ANY yellow books in my bags, unless you mean, of course, Yellow Pages?'
She looks a bit blank.
Out I go. Across the road, down the street. My car boot gapes open, and I retrieve the last of the bags of books. There are six bags of Daughter's clothes. I pick up three. I hope she folded them all nicely. I can't be bothered at this moment to check. Back I go. Lady doesn't look up. I dump the bags and go and collect the last of Daughter's clothes and a brand new dog lead that we don't want. It's supposed to stop dogs pulling but kept getting in our dog's eyes. It is bright red, and very new looking. I hope that she'll be pleased with THIS, at least.
In I go. Heaving and panting with the last of the bags.
She barely looks up now, but grabs a bag from my hand and puts it by the door.
'Oh, I brought this.' I hold up the red lead.
'What's that?' she asks,' Is it a muzzle?'
'No, no! It's a dog lead that stops them pulling but it didn't work on our dog.'
'Does it go across their face and into their eyes?' she asks.
I am delighted. We seem to be getting on much better!
'Yes, yes! It goes over their nose and across their...'
She cuts across my explanation.  'Goes in their eyes. Very bad for them. They can't see.' And with that she walks away to the counter, grabbing the price gun, as if she would like to shoot me with it.
Well. Am by now feeling that I shouldn't have bothered carrying in sixteen bags of stuff but had thrown them at force through the door and scarpered.
I muster up the last bit of good will.
'Well, I'll see you soon. Bye! Have a good day!' The good will is almost killing me. I rake up a smile and nail it to my face.
She doesn't look up and I leave the shop.
For some reason I am filled with giggles. A lesser mortal would have clocked her one.
But needs must, and all that. I'll be back there with another sixteen bags next Saturday after clearing out another bedroom or two. Must make sure that one bag is heaving with yellow books.
And perhaps will take my own price gun with me. Pistols at dawn, and that sort of thing.
Might make the headlines.
'Charity Shop Drama. Local woman covered in £1.99.'

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

It's been a long time!

Oh, dear, I've disabled my chicken.
I'll explain.
We had a rather nasty visitor the other night in the shape of a fox.
He stole into our chicken run in the dead of night, and I awoke to the most appalling sounds of terrified birds and carnage at 4 o'clock in the morning.
After fifteen rather unpleasant minutes of chasing a fox away, and comforting those hens who were left, I and Husband, (who had joined me after hearing me yelling rather rude words to the fox) retired back to bed, leaving the poor old girls shocked and battered in their shed. All locked up. Again.
Two hens had died, and so we went about getting two replacements, who duly arrived a couple of days later from a very nice chicken farmer who lives down the road.
Our two new girls are extremely nice; one is called Margot, and the other one Betsy. Just don't ask why. They just ARE, OK?
Margot has taken to 'getting out' of the chicken run EVERYDAY.
How? The wire is high, there are no holes in the fence. She is clearly a Ninja chicken.
And so we, my husband and I, clipped her wings. Grabbed her while she was enjoying a perambulation around the vegetable garden, and with the use of my nice bright kitchen scissors, cut a couple of inches of wing off. On one side. Put her back into the chicken run and slammed the lock across.
Good job, we said, as we went back in for a cup of tea.
Looked out of window ten minutes later. Could see Margot BACK IN the vegetable garden, having a right old go at the left over mouldy old carrots.
Out we went again. We examined her wing, and reckoned that we needed to take two inches off the other wing.
Out came the lovely bright kitchen scissors again. Off came two inches of second wing.
Back we went to have another cup of tea, chuckling away at our wayward chicken. Ho ho ho!
Washing up my mug a few minutes later BLOODY Margot was back in the vegetable garden.
Out we went, Husband and I, determined that this chicken should not escape from the chicken run EVER again. What did she think she was; an ex film star from the film of that name?
Off came more wings. By now the poor chicken was looking decidedly dodgy, with tiny stumps of wings on each side.
'That'll do it,' muttered Husband as he chucked the feathers into the dustbin.
'That'll do it,' muttered I as I threw the chicken over the fence to fly down into the run.
Oops, I thought.
The poor chicken, having no wings, plummeted down like a rock.
Oh, dear, thought I. Have killed chicken.
But up she got, and started pecking away at another imaginary insect.
Phew, I thought.
Back we went inside.
Only to glance out of the window at the rather lovely sunset only MOMENTS later to see Margot BACK in the vegetable garden.
Right. THAT'S IT, we said.
We stomped out and grabbed the chicken and remembered just in time NOT to throw her back in the run.
How on EARTH did she get out?
It had now crossed our minds that the poor chicken was not so much Ninja as getting through fence somewhere.
It turned out that the fox had made a hole in the fence just next to the gate in his mad dash for freedom on being discovered.  It didn't look broken at all, unless you stuck your nose a couple of inches away from it. Which I did.
Poor old Margot. She looks a mess. Tiny stubby wings like a new born chick.
Mind you, am very glad that we realised finally that it was a broken fence that had her escaping like a chickeny sort of Steve McQueen, and not her flying out again. Goodness knows what we might have cut off next.
All's well now. Fence is mended, and Margot is quite content with the chicken run.
Now we wait for a hen to produce the first egg since the Fox Incident. Am missing my boiled egg in the morning.
We'll keep you posted. xxx

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Village Pantomime

For my sins, once every couple of years or so, I produce and direct our Village Pantomime.
And this year it was time to do it again.
And so we sat down and sort of wrote a play called 'She Ain't No Cinderella' back in March, and then sort of wrote a bit more in April.  And carried on doing that during the Summer Months, until... hey presto!  A play was born.
Everyone in the village was very excited (we don't get out much) about the new Panto, and our meeting in September to 'gauge interest' was an enormous success with hundreds of villagers clamouring to be in it. (Exaggeration needed as 25 villagers sounds rather dull).
And when we started to rehearse in October, all seemed to be going rather swimmingly.  Each Scene had someone in charge who would report back to me how it was all going.
Easy peasy!
In November I managed to visit various scenes and do my best to make some sense out of the somewhat baffling scenes some people had concocted. (Eight Sugar Plum Fairies, four of which were men)
In December we had big rehearsals for all the cast, taking place at the venue where the play would be performed on the 20th and 21st December.
And finally, on December 15th, we held our Dress Rehearsal!  All too exciting!
The next day the stage was built, the lights were going up; it was all going wonderfully!
That afternoon I was sitting comfortably having my hair cut, while Middle Son reclined on the sofa in the sitting room, recovering from Pneumonia.  Hadn't I mentioned that? Or the fact that I was covering at work for a colleague who had had an operation?  Or that I had done no Christmas shopping owing to sick children and colleagues? No?  Oh, well.  Suffice it to say that I had been a tad Busy.
No, not busy.
Frantically, horrendously, tortuously Busy.
And so, sitting in my kitchen while having my hair cut was a total Luxury.
Until the phone rang.
It was Graham, fondly known as Boxy as he was in charge of the Box Office for the Panto.
'Proddy?' he asked.
Yes, I know.  Nick names are naff, but we like them, OK?
'Proddy?' he asked.  (short for Producer. DO keep up)
'Yes?' I answered in a dreamy kind of way.  People fiddling with my hair always makes me go a  bit cross eyed.
'Bit of a problem.  Our venue for the play doesn't  seem to have a Licence for the Entertainment.'
And so began the Nightmare.
Apparently, everyone needs a Licence (french accent) for any Entertainment they might be providing to their unsuspecting audience.  And the place where we were setting up for the panto Had No Licence.
Full Stop.
I won't bore you with the 'maybe we could put a stage in the barn' or 'what about the pub, could we fit it in there?' or 'Sod it, let's do it in my house' sort of thing.
Because WHEREVER you want to put on a play, even if you WROTE the BLOODY thing yourself, it makes no difference.  You have to have an Entertainment Licence.  And we Didn't Have One.
Oh, joy.
Oh, thrills.
Oh, bugger.
After I had had my hair cut and dried, and I had collected Youngest from school, and waited until Daughter was brought back by Very Kind Friend, I went for a walk with Milo, our dog.
It rained.
Very hard.
And as I walked in this Gale and Downpour I attempted to ring various Village Halls who might have a Sodding Entertainment Licence around and about who might be able to let us perform our weird and wonderful Panto.
No answer.  From anyone.
'Leave a message and we'll get back to you in March' sort of thing.
Arrived home battered from rain and hair looking distinctly Uncoiffured.
Message from Dial Post Village Hall.  Could I ring Alan Childs.
Yes, I could!
Rang Alan Childs.
Who said, 'Yes, alright, you can have do your Pantomime with a cast of forty five, with a 7 x 4 metre stage for two performances at the end of the week in our village hall.'
'Really?' I asked, a little stunned.
'Yes,' said Alan Childs.
'One thing,' I asked.
'What's that,' he said.
'Have you got an Entertainment Licence?'
'Yes,' he said.
'One more thing,' I asked.
'What's that?' he asked.
'Have you got a drinks licence?'
'Yes,' he said.
At this point I think I told Alan Childs that I loved him and could I have his babies.
Which might have caused a problem as am distinctly menopausal, and have perfectly good Husband who has already provided plenty of rather splendid children.
He took it all in his stride and continued to tell me the 'slight problems' that we might have to sort out.
'Oh?' I asked.  Full of optimism that any problems could be sorted. Hadn't we just found ourselves a Village Hall at the eleventh hour?
'Well,' he began. 'You won't be able to have your Dress Rehearsal on the Thursday night because there is Bowling in the hall.
'Oh,' I said.
'And you won't be able to get into the hall until 12.00 midday on Friday because of Badminton.'
'Oh,' I said.
'And you can't go into the hall on the Saturday as there is a party from 1.00 until 6.00. for twenty five four year olds.'
'Oh,' I said.
'And while you are setting up on the Friday, there's an Old People's Lunch in the meeting room.'
'Oh, 'I said.
'And on the Friday night there is also a Bingo Christmas Party in the meeting room where you would be changing, so you'll have to change in the hut outside.'
'Oh,' I said.
'But apart from all that, it shouldn't be any problem at all.'
But do you know, it wasn't! A problem at all.
We went to the village hall the next morning to check that it was going to work with our stage there.  Me, Boxy, Chas and Nick.  Chas was one of us who wrote the play, and Nick was doing all the sound.
We enthused and cheered as we saw that it Might Actually Flipping Well Work.
We cheered a bit more when we saw the hut where we would all be changing on the First Night.
We cheered again when we saw the immaculate kitchen where we could flog all the drink.
We clapped when we saw the meeting room, where we could change on the Second Night.
We clasped Alan Childs warmly by the hand as we told him how grateful we were.
And then Chas had to ring the Scaffolders who had just spent four hours putting the stage up in the old venue. And ask them if they could they take it down and put it up again in another hall?
'Yes,' they said.
'When?' they asked.
'Friday,' Chas said.
'Fine,' they said.
Honestly, aren't people flipping gorgeous?
Boxy got the lights.  Nick sorted the sound.  I emailed everyone to say there was No Need To Panic but we weren't in the old venue owing to an Entertainment Licence Absence, and we were now in Dial Post Village Hall. Could anyone help on Friday?
Tsunami of offers back to help on Friday.
The unbelievable kindness was extraordinary.  These people are seriously SERIOUSLY nice.
By Friday our stage was up, our lights were up, the sound system was up, our spirits were up, and the doors opened at 6.30 to welcome the first of our audience.
Oh, did I mention that Boxy and his wonderful Wife rang around to make sure that everyone who had bought tickets knew of the change of venue?  Or that the stage people took another 4 hours to set up the new stage with not One Cross Word.  Just smiles and hard work.
Did I say that the entire cast turned up at the dress rehearsal and calmly got on with it without lights, or a stage?  Because we had to practice in our old Venue owing to the Bowling in the new one.
Did I mention the small fact that NONE of us had actually REHEARSED on the STAGE before the actual PERFORMANCE?
The Panto brought the house down.  I sat with Boxy who was also doing the lights. (Did I mention the fact that he hadn't been able to practise the chuffing lighting cues until the FIRST PERFORMANCE?)
And while I sat with him, watching his careful moves with the lighting cues, seeing the terrified faces of the cast through the makeshift curtain, hearing Nick behind us muttering about the next sound cue, doing everything PERFECTLY, watching Scene One as it started, the Ugly Sisters (Husband was one... black wig and lipstick....) and Pantomime Cow (as you do) doing their utterly crazy but hilarious Scene, I felt SO proud of my wonderful, mad, generous DEAR cast. .
That can be told on Monday that their entire play was to be moved to another venue. And to carry on with all changes so calmly and with such good humour.
We added a bit to the play. At the last minute. Simon, our Village Tenor (has the voice of an angel, so does his wife Sarah) started the play by becoming a member of the Horsham District Council,. and demanded to know it we had a Licence for the Entertainment.
Dunno, said Chas (Step Mother). 'Audience, do you call this entertainment?'
'NO!' came a roar from the audience, already somewhat lubricated by the extremely well stocked bar.
Horsham District Councillor was then gagged and  'frogmarched' down the aisle by myself and Mandy (Fairy Godmother).
Brought the house down.
The applause at the end was thunderous.  And I looked over at the cast (I was up on that stage as well owing to a small part in Scene 3) and every single one of those darlings was smiling fit to burst, gazing out at their friends and relations who were yelling their appreciation for a fourth curtain call.
And I thought to myself that it doesn't get much better than this.
Because, quite frankly, it doesn't.
Thanks, Cast!  Here's to the next one.
And can someone sort out that BLOODY Entertainment Licence before the Dress Rehearsal.
(Exit Producer, followed by Horsham District Councillor with clipboard)