Wednesday, 30 August 2006


Isn't it strange how a hangover can seem to last for DAYS after a particularly good party?

Monday, 28 August 2006


We have had, on average, ten adults and four children staying over each night for the last three days.

We have both had fantastic fun and we are spending this evening drinking a very nice bottle of red wine someone brought us, eating the remaining dips and catching up with a friend who stayed an extra day.

Simpkin has been in a fight. I have just cleaned up an abscess on his head. There was pus. Euchk.

That is all. More later in the week, promise.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

briefly and not so briefly

I am planting my plants. It seems somehow more important to have the garden looking nice for people to visit than to make sure the carpets are clean. I am open to debate on this; but not very much.

I am also angry, scared and worried about my country.

Go and read this in the Independent today.

Are we moving towards a place where Muslims are going to be expected to wear some kind of readily identifiable badge on their clothing so that we can all see that they are different from most of the population?

Perhaps someone will come up with some other brilliant ideas to protect the rest of society from the Muslim threat. Maybe creating specific areas for Muslims to live, so that they are not a danger to the rest of us non-Muslims? Or not allowing Muslims to have certain jobs, in case they are terrorists? Or how about herding all the Muslims in the country in to special camps, in order to separate them out from the rest of us and keep us all safe?

I am not a naive person. Rather the opposite I think. I KNOW that there IS a 'terrorist threat'. That there are a very small minority of very bad people who think that causing mayhem, shedding blood and creating disorder is the way to get what they want - whatever that is;  they don't seem very clear about it.

But all my life, in a shuffly-feeted, slightly embarassed (and probably typical) sort of way, I have been proud to be British. Because of our justice system. Because of our sense of proportion. Because of our democracy. Because as a nation, we tend to weather bad things, make black jokes about them, fix what went wrong and keep plodding on; dealing with whatever the issue is without hysteria, practically, SENSIBLY.

I am, actually, no longer proud to be British.

I am ashamed.

I am ashamed of my government. We appear to be ruled (and I no longer feel comfortable using the word 'governed' here) by a government of spineless, reactionary, mediaphiles who are in their turn ruled by the opinion of the red top newspapers. I am ashamed of some of my fellow countrymen; the kind of people who before too long WILL be calling for detention camps for all young Muslim men.  I am ashamed and horrified that it is now seems to be becoming commonplace for people to be woken in the night and taken from their homes for questioning.

And I am ashamed of myself, for not standing up and making myself heard - for not shouting that I DON'T accept all of this.  For not being more active in protesting the fact that you now have to apply to peacefully protest outside the Houses of Parliament. For not writing letters about the dozen other things that I have read about or heard about in the last twelve months and thought 'that's dreadful' and then turned the page.

Please be aware what is happening to the UK. Our civil liberties, our right to free speech and the way we live our lives is being eroded.  If you realise this and then choose to let it happen, at least you will have then made a choice and taken some responsibility for it. Otherwise it will happen around you and one morning you will wake up and you will wonder what happened to our sensible, fair, pleasant, balanced, ACCEPTING society. And it will be too late.

Liberty - Civil liberties and human rights
Charter 88 - Campaign for a fair democracy
No to ID - what it says on the tin

And now I am going back out in to the garden.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

still here

I am still here.

It's just that my brain has turned to jam and is gradually leaching out of my ears.

We had another adoption meeting yesterday; it left us feeling marginally better than the last one, but was still quite tiring.

We have a houseful of people coming up for the weekend in a house-warmingy kind of way. Some of them are going to camp in the garden. It is raining.

We need to run electrickery up to the shed so that the chicks don't have to share a bedroom.

I am going to make banana wine now.

Steg - I haven't forgotten the Beer Post. I just haven't had time to take a photo yet. Sorry. I am a crap blog-friend.

That is all.

Friday, 18 August 2006

beer, muck, recent graduates and day-old-chicks


Right. Where was I?

We have spent another couple of days at Ma's:

  • Polytunnels erected - 1
  • Father's hair cut with new clipper zzzzzy things - 1
  • Dogs with holes in (although getting smaller) - 1
  • Bantams roosting on back of Stanna Stairlift - 1
  • Bags of muck and/or topsoil brought back - 0 (It was raining REALLY hard this morning and I couldn't face digging it out and then driving for four hours soaked to the skin.  I know, I am not a *real* country person.  The smell was a factor, too.)
And now we are home.  We came back past the Wernlas Collection and picked up sixteen day old chicks and a dozen eggs for the incubator.

Yay! for day-old chicks!

They are happily settled in the corner of the study under a heat-lamp we've borrowed from Ma. The cats are fascinated; but luckily the room has a lockable door, so I am hoping that their intrinsic lack of opposable thumbs will mean that they can't get in and effect Chick Slaughter, which is clearly their master plan.  Luckily we have no air-conditioning ducts for them to crawl through cat-commando style in their little cat-sized Mission Impossible harnesses to gain access.

I have come back to a slightly bolshy email from someone we have offered a job to for three months in the autumn.  The tone of it has made me a bit disgruntled.  He's a really nice guy and a competent technician;  but he doesn't seem to have much grip on real-world economics.  Rather than saying 'thanks for the offer, but it's not really what I'm looking for', he seems to have taken offence. This is because we have offered him a monthly salary at significantly less than the per-day rate that we charge crew out at;  and the rate he could potentially (very potentially, if he was lucky, given his lack of client-handling skills, his lack of experience and his lack of contacts) command as a freelancer.

Am I alone in being a bit bewildered about the career expectations of recent graduates?  Do they all expect to walk in to highly paid posts with very little experience or maturity?  Does no-one explain to them at college about the running costs of companies?  Overheads like tax, employers NI, insurance, safety wear?  And the actual 'making a profit' point of being in business at all?

Does no-one point out to them that by joining a company, you are cloaked with the reputation of that company from the word go, rather than having to go out and tout for business with each new client, and prove yourself over and over again as a freelancer?  That the company you join guarantees your salary, whether or not you are out bringing money in or sitting on your hands in the office?

Hence 'urgh'.

Answers on a post-card or in the comments box, please.

I am going to have another glass of wine and see whether B can be persuaded to give me a back-massage.  Excuse me.

Oh.  Tomorrow.  Report on the beer recipe!  Maybe.  Soon, anyway.

Ooooh, and Joules, thank you VERY much for the tomato chutney recipe ... I will let you know how I get on ...  .

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

well rotted

Silver Spangled AppenzellersYesterday, we went to visit the Wernlas Collection.

For people obsessed with chickens, it is like heaven. Chicken Heaven. And there is also some of the best tea I have had for ages, along with sandwiches and ice-cream.

I may have gone a little mad. We have arranged that on Friday, we will go back and collect twelve day old chicks and twelve hatching eggs.

They will temporarily live under a heat lamp in the small, cosy room at the end of the house that we are both struggling not to call 'the office'. When they're big enough, they will then go to live outside:

I once went to visit Ma, and on taking my bag up to the bedroom I encountered a rather disgruntled hen perched on the back of the chair in the corner. That seems a step too far, however much one loves ones hens.

Yay! for chickens.

In the meantime, I have flunked going to a business meeting this morning. Panic attack again. Bollocksy bollocksy bollocks. On the positive side, I did actually phone up and speak to Marketing Guru and ask her if she minded going on her own (she didn't, thankfully). Six months ago, B would have had to make my excuses for me, whilst I huddled under the dining table rocking and eating my own hair.

We are off to Ma's again later on today for a couple of nights; if the panic holds off. She has promised us some topsoil and some well-rotted manure. I love her.

In other news - we are just about to bottle our first gallon of experimental beer. Watch this space.

Monday, 14 August 2006


I have become obsessed with chickens.

I think I've been covering it up well; but at this point, I would like to stand up and say, I am not ashamed.

I have bought an incubator, which takes twelve eggs.

I have, hopefully, (if the guy gets back to me, see the link for pictures of his beautiful birds), lined up four hatching eggs each of French Wheaton Marans, Orpingtons (either splash or silver pencilled) and Cream Legbars. This should give us a mix of hens that will lay us tinted, greeny/blue and very, very dark brown eggs; and cock-birds who we can eat.

We have discussed where to put our poultry pen and I have a spreadsheet working out how much space we have, and therefore how many chickens we can keep, loosely based on the DEFRA guidelines for a free-range system.

We are going to have a pen about thirty feet by eight feet and then also let them out in the rest of the garden for a lot of the time. And another, smaller pen, (or maybe two) to be able to separate off small groups for breeding for some of the time. DEFRA says that a 'free range' bird should have one square foot per bird of space in the house and four square meters per bird of outside space to roam around in.

We are going to convert half of one of the sheds that came with the property to a hen house, in addition to our triumphant Ark of eBay.

In the shed-house, a dozen birds will have 1.5 square feet each; and 2 square meters in their run. And then they will have the garden to roam around in as well, which is a third of an acre*.

We have discussed culling for the pot.

I think I am capable of killing a chicken. Jamie has given me confidence; and I feel that it is a good thing to have a direct connection with the things that we eat. I was a vegan for about eighteen months in my mid-twenties - I was allergic to dairy products and didn't feel that I could eat meat if I wasn't prepared to kill the animals. This is an acid test really - if we end up with a lot of birds I can't bear to despatch, I'll have to give up eating meat.

We reckon we are going to go for the broomhandle method (link is graphic, in that it describes the best way to kill a chicken; but there are no pictures, just very straighforward technical info from a very good forum). And my Pa is prepared to give me a lesson on actual wringing of necks the next time we go down to visit and they have a bird that needs despatching.

I had quite a long chat with Pa about it all last week. It's an odd feeling when you realise that your elderly father respects you because he thinks you are able to kill a chicken to feed yourself. Nice though.

I am going to cull, because B doesn't think he can do it. B is going to do the messy bit and take their insides out, because I don't think I can do that.

We'll see. This is a big deal for me, as you may have noticed. I have always thought of myself as the kind of person who was able to do this kind of thing if necessary - I have helped other people, largely in a coat-holding way. Watch this space to see if I am the person that I think I am.

Tomorrow, I do invoicing. Our new office still isn't ready. Apparently everything is in except the floor. That's quite an essential bit, so I don't think we are going to move in this week. Working from the kitchen table is fine - if Anita Roddick can do it, so can I - but I do like the discipline of actually going to work in a place designated for that purpose. And since most of the business paperwork is actually in the basement of the building that houses the new office, it's all becoming more complicated the longer the builders take.

Bed beckons. And Poultry World.

* I am deliberately throwing in all these different scales of measurement to fox you. Oh yes. Not because I can't cope with the advanced mathematics of conversion. Oh no. Of course not. Ahem.

Sunday, 13 August 2006

ebay and incubators

Everyone one eBay seems obsessed with incubators.

I have been lurking assiduously for the last week or so and some of the second hand ones are going for more than you can buy a new one for.

What is it about eBay (and auctions in general) that inspires people to such lunacy?

I have had three glasses of wine - the bag needed emptying, otherwise it would have gone vinegary. But even without the alcholic haze, we have had a day of triumph:

  • Dangerously wobbly shelves dismantled: 2
  • Functional, fantastic shelves that do not collapse, put up: 2
  • Random bits of wood turned in to batons: 3
  • Odd bits of laminate (originally decorative upstand) turned in to work-surface with perfectly formed corners: 1
  • Gallons of beer begun to make : 1
  • Garden benches revamped: 1
  • Greenhouses almost finished: 1
  • French beans seedlings planted out to go in greenhouse:  6
  • Poultry-pens and houses designed and marked out on ground: 1 of each
So there.

*retires, to tumultous applause*

Thursday, 10 August 2006

dog panties

B: I feel I slipped in to a kind of parallel world there for a moment.
Me: Yes? Why?
B: Well, when your mum was discussing the best way to modify that old t-shirt in to a little suit for the dog to keep her wound clean, I had this whole "Oh my god! My mother-in-law sews crotchless dog panties" moment.
Me: [has to pull over in layby in order not to crash car due to being incapacitated by laughter]

I do have photos. They're not very good, because Moss wouldn't stand still for very long; but I'll see what I can do with them tomorrow.

We're back by the way.

Monday, 7 August 2006

thank you

Thank you to everyone who left such supportive comments; we both really appreciate them.

We're both a bit less angry this morning. We're off to stay with Ma and Pa for a few days, so no posts from deepest Somerset.

In the meantime, if you haven't already, help choose our chickens!

Back Wednesday.

Saturday, 5 August 2006


We have been discussing and mulling over our last adoption meeting.  I wrote this quite late last night, to get it off my chest and I have been debating whether or not to post it.

It has transpired that the information B has had to give regarding his work-related travel over the last fifteen years is not specific enough.

For each theatre tour, he has been asked to write down precisely where he stayed.

The adoption agency then pass that on to International Social Services and/or the Criminal Records Bureau / Interpol, who check that he has not got a criminal record or come to the notice of social services in any of the countries he has listed.

For some countries, that is not good enough. He has to apply in person at a UK police station designated by them and have his fingerprints taken in full, to match against their database.

This is ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.


Well, for a start, it is only work-related trips that they check up on. So if someone has been taking kiddy-fiddling trips to Thailand regularly in their summer break for the last twenty years, that slips under the radar completely.

And secondly, this is all by voluntary disclosure. So if we had not initially been so thorough and honest in our list of places that he has worked to the adoption agency, then we would not be jumping through these hoops. Or, as B has just said, jumping through the eye of the needle.

How can you remember the name of the hotel you stayed in for one night fifteen years ago? Or even it's street?  Or the date?

We understand what they are trying to do and why they are trying to do it.

But it is SUCH an intrusive process.

And so much of it seems to lack checks and balances - the fact that the disclosure is essentially voluntary makes a mockery of it and of people who are honest with them.

Because I was honest about my past abusive relationships, that is going to make things more difficult for us.  It seems like I will need to go in to more depth about them for the benefit of this panel of people I do not know, who's job it is to make a judgement upon my history and my choices.

Because B was honest about his work history, his fingerprints will go on record with a number of countries, to be matched against their criminal records database.

If we had kept quiet, these things wouldn't have happened.

Honesty is very important to me and therefore I think we have done the right thing. But speaking about my past relationships, even at the depth I have already;  I feel as if I have been exposed, naked in front of strangers. It's horrible.

Also. We have been told that really, despite our self-evident difficulties with conceiving, we should be using contraception at this point.

We are expected to commit fully to the agency and put all of our faith in their ability to deliver a family to us. 

Whilst on the other hand, we are supposed to lay our lives before the Board; revisit past pain or foolishness; demonstrate that we have learnt, grown, moved on, have appropriate reactions to all these things we've experienced;  lay any slim-to-none remaining hopes of natural conception aside;  and wait, to see whether they deem us SUITABLE.

Perhaps this period of anger at the intrusiveness of the process is something everyone goes through.

Don't get me wrong - our worker is behind us. She says that she thinks we have a lot to offer.  And, I repeat, we do understand why this has to happen - things that have happened to us in the past impact on how we behave now;  and on how we will react to the children who are going to be placed in our care.   And because the children are at the centre of everything, these things need to be exposed.

These are the things one has to do to make it happen.

Boy On Top - you said a few weeks ago that you were interested in this process, because your friend was going through it and didn't want to speak about it.

I can see why.

Today, I feel somehow soiled.

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Friday, 4 August 2006

choose our chickens!

Okay, I thought about saving this for Monday; but hell, it's the weekend, what better time to leave it up. And I need some help.

I am having a 'too much choice' moment.

Our hen house is nearly ready. The pen is almost in place. We have located a food supply. We have decided how many birds to keep. We have discussed whether or not we are going to hatch cute, fluffy little chickens, fatten them up and eat them (about which a whole other post at a later date I suspect).

What we (well, I really - B is being frustratingly supportive about my choices) are having trouble deciding is what ACTUAL breeds of chicken to get.

We have various criteria:

  • They must be 'traditional' utility breeds - I appreciate that modern hybrids will produce more eggs, but I want to do my bit for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and go for something less like an egg-laying machine. Also, modern hybrids tend to be for EITHER eggs, OR meat - and we want birds that are dual-purpose.
  • They must lay a reasonable number of eggs in a year. We reckon about 200 a year is okay, although some do lay quite a lot more (260) and some lay considerably less.
  • They must be nice to eat and worth eating - I'm not going through all the hassle of killing and plucking the things to discover that they are stringy and thin and aren't worth the bother.
  • I would like whatever mixture of breeds we choose to produce a mixture of different coloured eggs.
  • I'd like them to look pretty running around the garden.
  • We can keep one cockerel and three or four hens. So we'll get pure-bred chicks from whatever the cockerel is and cross-breed whatever the rest are - this is okay, as we'll eat them.
There you go.

So, I have narrowed down my list of possibilities as follows:

  • Salmon Faverolle - tinted eggs, c.180 a year. Ladies have ridiculous pretty beards and hairy feet. Very friendly - Ma has some - and also apparently subject to panic attacks when their beards obscure their view of their friends and they think they are lost :).
  • Cream Legbar - blue eggs, not sure how many a year, but eggs are SO pretty.
  • Buff Orpington - tinted colour eggs, c.190 a year. Traditional dual-purpose birds. Friendly and nice to eat.
  • Copper Headed Maran - VERY dark brown eggs, c.200 a year. Really lovely almost chocolate-coloured eggs. Again, marans are supposed to be good to eat.
  • Cuckoo Maran - brown eggs, c.200 a year. Look like they are wearing little black-and-white skirts.
  • Light Sussex - tinted eggs, c.260 a year. Supposed to be very placid and friendly birds and also very nice to eat.
All info and photos cribbed with thanks from the Devon Traditional Breeds Centre.

Opinions, (however poorly qualified you feel you are to make a judgement - go on, I dare you!), in the comments box, please.

We are off to Somerset on Monday - probably won't post again until Thursday, so there's plenty of time to mull it over ... :).

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We've just had an adoption meeting - this one covered our past relationships, in depth.

We talked and the adoption worker took notes. She thinks that there might need to be a bit extra elucidation of my past abusive partners to satisfy the board.

Oh joy.

It's surprising how brain-squelching these meetings are; we're both pretty exhausted, emotionally and physically.

We've got friends coming down for the weekend - very much looking forward to it. But I think that now I am going to go and sit on the sofa and veg out for a bit.

Have a nice weekend.

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Thursday, 3 August 2006

converations with my mother #060803

[Ring ring ...]

Me: Hello, it's only me.
Ma: Hello dear, wait a minute while I get the walk-about telephone ...
Me: [ ]
Ma: There, that's better, I've just given Foxy his tea and now I need to give him his injection. But I expect I can talk to you while I'm doing that.
Me: [ ]
Ma: Oh. Stand still Foxy, there's a good boy.
Me: [ ]
Ma: Blast. Here. Speak to your father while I sort this out.
Me: [ ]
Ma: Here. Speak to your daughter.
Pa: [slightly plaintively] But I'm having my tea!
Me: [ ]
Pa: Hello! Can you hear me? I can't hear you ...
Me: Yes, I can hear you. How are you?
Pa: I can't hear you very well ...
Ma: [in background] Just stand still for a minute Foxy, while I get the needle in ...
Me: Have you switched your hearing aid to 'Telephone'?
Pa: Pardon?
Me: Your hearing aid. Have you switched it to 'Telephone'?
Pa: I can't hear you very well. What have you rung for?
Me: We thought we might come down for a few days on Monday.
Pa: Oh, well, you'll have to speak to your mother about that.
Pa: [to Ma] They think they might come down for a few days on Monday.
Ma: [in background] Monday? Monday? Blast! Foxy, stand STILL!
Me: Only if you're not busy, of course.
Pa: Here, speak to your mother ...
Me: [ ]
Ma: There, that's done. What were you saying?
Me: We though we might come down on Monday.
Ma: How did your scan go?
Me: No problems. I've got hayfever today though.
Ma: Have you taken anything for it? Has it made your drowsy?
Me: [ ]
Ma: I've not done any work today. All the Pick Your Own people keep coming in and I can't leave the house.
Me: [ ]
Ma: Edwin, would you like pate, or cheese?
Edwin: [in background] Ooooo, a moite of cheese, I think moi dearr.
Ma: Quite right, we've put the pate away for today.
Ma: And I've had to had the dog sewn up again.
Me: [   ]
Ma: The wound is getting smaller, but she still keeps coming apart. And her lampshade keeps bumping on my legs; it's quite painful.
Me: I'll ring you tomorrow shall I? I can hear that you're having your tea.
Ma: No, no, it's fine, I'm sitting down now, I can eat and talk to you.
Me: Ah, B's just calling me to help with our tea. Speak to you tomorrow! See you Monday! Bye!

[I hang up]


I think I have hayfever.

I am sitting here streaming and doing my 'hamster in a bag of flour' sneezing impression. It's very attractive.

Brain-dead and lots to do in the real-world today - website tweaking for three different people, chicken house to build and market to visit to get something to eat.

But good news - there were NO SHREWS last night. Yay!

Back tomorrow. Send tissues please.

Wednesday, 2 August 2006

lady-bits and another shrew

No cysts or other odd lumps and bumps. Which is very good.

But still leaves as a mystery the source of the excruciating mid-cycle pain I get on one side of my abdomen; literally like someone suddenly sticking a knife in and twisting it -it's incapacitating. I am thinking probably just random endometriosis, which requires laser-surgery to get burn it off - and is very simple, as Liss commented.

I've had it before and it did help - but the general anasthetic knocked me off balance for quite a while afterwards. So not that keen, really.

Sorry chaps. Bit of a lady-bits related post, really.

Back home now. Only one dead shrew so far. I have cheques to write and then I am going for a snooze.


I am just about to go for an ultrasound scan to see whether I have an ovarian cyst.

I have had to drink two pints of water in the last hour.

It's rather uncomfortable.