Thursday, 27 May 2010

Worth the wait

I have been on lambwatch for what has seemed like months now, although in reality it has only been since the start of May. But it has meant that I couldn't leave the place for more than a few hours at a time, just in case, combined with regular patrols at all hours of the day and night to check for movements.

My poor ewes have spent the recent mini-heatwave sitting under the conifer hedge looking like enormous woolly bowling balls. After several false alarms this week I was beginning to think that they had decided not to bother lambing after all. But then this afternoon I heard a loud sheepy racket coming from the field and got there just in time to see this little one come into the world.

It really upset me last year not having any lambs about the place. It felt as though - on top of losing R - everything we had worked for was falling apart as well. Moments like this help to show me that it is worth carrying on.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Not too shabby for an old lady who hasn't run that far since she left school!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Na zdravĂ­

Why is it that everything, but everything is suffused with memories? It feels as though I will never be free from them. Never be able to look at something without a whole flood of remembering being released.
Or if I get to that point when objects are merely neutral, will I be happy?

I went to a meeting this evening in the village hall. A propos nothing at all, someone said that there was a bottle of wine there that belonged to one of us. As I had no recollection of ever leaving a bottle there, I didn't even bother to look up.
And then it was thrust into my hands. A dusty bottle of Soviet Russian champagne that I had given to someone to use as a prop in the village panto a couple of years back - and with it came a whole wagon train of memories.

R and I did a short Eastern European road trip in March 1990, just five months after the Berlin Wall fell. We drove to Berlin along the spooky link motorway, headed via Dresden and Leipzig down into Czechoslovakia, and then back up through Germany to stay with a friend in Essen for a few days. Just writing those words I can't believe it was 20 years ago; it remains as vivid in my head as though it had happened only last month. It was one of those trips that will stay with me forever, for a whole host of reasons.

After we left Prague and headed for the German border, we happened to stop at a layby where there was a man selling Czech beer from the back of his car. R, being R, had to buy a crate from him, plus a couple of beautiful lead crystal beer glasses - and this bottle of champagne. Since Russian fizz tends to be very much on the sweet side, it was almost certainly undrinkable then. I don't think we ever intended to open it.

Well the beer didn't last very long after we returned home, and I broke the second of the glasses a couple of months after R died. So I am left with the now almost certainly poisonous champagne. It is sitting on the kitchen counter looking at me.

So what on earth shall I do with it?
I have enjoyed in a bittersweet sort of way the little trip through the memory banks it triggered. It hasn't been missed for the last however long it was, and I really don't want it, yet it is sitting there still.

Bah! I thought I had moved on from keeping things just because, but it seems that I am still being held down by 'stuff'.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Losing my edge

When R was working away, every Sunday evening before he packed for the next week, he would bring in enough firewood to last me the next few days and would sharpen all the kitchen knives. It was one of those little rituals that made me feel loved.

Well the firewood thing I can do myself. It might not be stacked as neatly as when he used to do it, but it still makes a fire.

But I just cannot get the hang of knife-sharpening. I don't know whether it is because I am a cack-handed leftie, or because my steel needs replacing, but I seem to spend as much time blunting the blade as sharpening it.

And I so hate using blunt knives. My older sister gave me a new filleting knife for my birthday (after a freak accident at Christmas involving my old filleting knife and a potful of frozen parsnips - it's a long story, don't ask!). It is so beautifully sharp that I only use it when absolutely necessary to ensure that it keeps its edge. Otherwise I have to wait until my brother-in-law is here and ask him to do it, and I hate asking people to do daft things like that for me.

Such a little thing, but a constant reminder that he has gone.

Saturday, 8 May 2010


Well things look no more certain tonight than they did last night. But in some ways it feels better to know that it is out of our hands - it is now all down to the political horse-trading.

Unsurprisingly not a lot of work has been done today, and much of the time has been taken up with worrying, phone calls, e-mail and online conversations. With checking finances to find out how well I could weather a worsening financial crisis. With mentally running through lists of things that need to be done, paid or arranged in the near future.

One conversation made me feel better, though. It was with a friend who has good reasons to be concerned about the security of her own job if everything goes belly-up in the next few months. But her words made me smile, and helped to banish the feeling of foreboding that has been dogging my steps all day.

[It is a] total mess.
But the sun came out at about 5pm and I went for a wander around our paddock and looked at the veg starting to grow. It looks like we are going to have a cracking crop of soft fruit this year and the pigs are fattening up well. Made me think that whoever ends up in power, the sun's still going to come up, the fruit is still going to grow and the pigs are going to keep getting bigger. Helps get things in perspective for me.

And she's right.
I can't do anything to change things on a national scale, so all I can do is keep on keeping on.
At least I will eat well.

Friday, 7 May 2010


I am sitting here in front of the television, waiting for the election results to come in.

It is the first time I have ever done this without R by my side. His absence was huge as I walked into the polling station without him, and for the first time ever in my life I have voted without conviction that I was doing the right thing. There was no trawling through the election leaflets. No animated weekend discussions over the kitchen table, no arguing the merits of the parties. No enjoyment of the whole political process.

I have no sense of anticipation or enthusiasm. I can't even get excited about the fancy new swingometer graphics. There is just a sense of dread at the possibility of a hung parliament. I am old enough to remember the last one and the chaos it caused in the country. I cannot understand the delight with which people are greeting the idea. The days of haggling over every decision, of shipping in sick MPs in ambulances to vote, of strikes, uncertainty, economic gloom seem just around the corner. Why this should be a good thing I really don't understand.

So far only a handful of constituencies have returned their verdict. For the first time in my adult life I think I shall go to bed and simply wake up to hear the result, rather than staying up for the blow-by-blow accounts. I just hope it looks better in the morning.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Knitting with dog hair

Moose is moulting.

The entire house, including me, appears to have acquired a gentle patina of grey collie underfur. I have reminded him that he shouldn't be casting his clouts as the May is definitely not yet out, but as ever he is dancing - or shedding - to his own doggy tune.

R held the post of Brusher-in-Chief in this household. He performed the task very assiduously, probably because more brushing meant less vacuuming. With both of us on the job, we could usually keep the furry tide to manageable proportions.

This year I was late in catching on that moulting season had arrived. It was when I realised that the dust bunnies had been driven out by hair devils that Something Had to be Done.

And so I brush.
And brush.
And watch the pile of soft grey fibre grow alarmingly.

Every year I think the same thing - it seems such a waste of a beautiful, albeit slightly doggy-smelling resource to simply put it on the fire (which is where it goes at present). But I am told by those who know about such things that the staple (length of the fibre) isn't long enough to spin up satisfactorily.

Such a shame. I can just picture a little dove-grey, boxy turtleneck sweater knitted from Moose fur. It would be cashmere-soft and so, so elegant.
But best not to wear it in the rain, perhaps...

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Granny goes shopping

After much deliberation and far too many hours spent on online shopping sites, I finally swallowed my pride and bowed to the inevitable.

Animal prints just weren't me though, and there is probably too much cloned Cath Kidston in the world already. Wicker felt ever-so-slightly old maidish. So in the end I opted for one of these.
It is not exactly stylish, but it is light and manoeuvrable and pressed all the right buttons for me.
And I rather liked the idea of doing my shopping with relative ease while simultaneously saving turtles!

Trolley and I went for a test drive in town on Saturday.
I probably could have done with 'L' plates, but we managed. Stability was an issue at first, but nothing that couldn't be remedied by packing more symmetrically. It was very nice to get back to the car without aching shoulders, and I didn't find myself having urges to get a blue rinse or buy a packet of mothballs, so it looks as though I haven't aged 30 years overnight!

I guess that means it can be regarded as a success.