Friday, 18 March 2016

A Small Unillustrated* Vignette of Family Life

* for reasons that will become clear

Today I was doing some housework, not my favourite job but it has to be done.  
So there I was, sweeping the floor - tiles + longish hair + a cat = dust and detritus = sweeping.
While I'd been cleaning the Nu had been hanging around and staring at me, which normally means she needs to be either fed or walked out in the garden to show me where feline intruders have desecrated her territory.
Today however, she swept into the bathroom, sniffed the shower, stepped into it and........
.......had a wee!
Now I didn't mind this; it's logical for a cat; she knows what we do in there and the shower has a floor similar to her litter tray (it was outside being aired!)
No! What got me was when she stepped out of the shower looked at me and went 'pfffff' and walked downstairs, 30 seconds later I heard the cat flap clatter as she went outside.

Honestly, Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey couldn't have been more dismissive of domestic servants who weren't up to scratch.

We exist to serve.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Poor Sore Paw

I noticed the Nu was limping on her front right paw leg last night.
Now the Nu is not a cat to takes kindly to casual picking up or touching outside her strictly enforced parameters of acceptability.  Stroking - ok, examining body parts - not ok, stoking belly at  night on the bed - ok, touching paws - not ok, sitting next to you - ok, sitting on the lap - not ok, brushing - ok, picking up - not ok, anything the vet might want to do - definitely not ok.  We put this down to a traumatic youth and try to accommodate her foibles, however she obviously needed some closer inspection last night and so without further ado Jean-Luc exercised the skill gained in misspent teenage years working at a vets and 'scruffed' her.  After some initial and vocal protest I was able to get a good look at the paw and was horrified to see that one of her claws had overgrown and was now piercing the pad.
I managed to pull it out and then quickly clipped the claw down, all accompanied by the most vocal of protests, a quick bathe in some boiled and cooled salt water and she was released and placated with tinned tuna.  Sounds smooth but it wasn't and none of us were happy at the end of it, least of all the Nu.

Today she is recovering in bed - and milking it for all it's worth.

She's not limping any more, the pad doesn't appear infected and she seems fine.  In future I'll be keeping more of an eye on her paws, no matter how unpopular that is.
We're not sure how it happened as her other claws are fine, but it may be due to her not going out so much this winter due to the almost constant rain and so not wearing her claws down naturally.
Lesson learnt but with hindsight we should have known better and been more vigilant.  It would have saved her some pain and the stress of being handled in a way she didn't like.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016


First off this is a collaborative post and I was asked to write about the recent floods.

It's been almost two months since the village was flooded on Boxing Day and to the casual eye everything seems back to normal; the media and politicians have departed (apparently David Cameron even visited but he helicoptered in and out and I don't think a single villager spoke to him - well we don't matter only the soundbite opportunity); the pubs and restaurants are all open, most of the businesses are trading and this week the bank reopened.

The roads and footpaths are clear and the rivers run their usual courses and land that was inundated now sprout a delicate patchwork of spring flowers.

But, and this is a bit but, many of the residents have not yet returned; good friends of ours are will be renting a house in another village for at least six months while the house drys out and they sort out repairs, insurance and replacement furniture.  This is a story repeated across the village.  As you walk around it you can see vans scattered by the roadside; plasterers, electrician, flood reclamation; houses throb to the sound of large scale dehumidifiers and front doors are wide open as the cleanup and repair goes on.  Many of the tradesmen working in the village are local businesses who worked for free during the flood, helping homes get power back on, lent vehicles to help move sandbags or rescue residents belongings and generally lent a hand to help their customers and neighbours clear up and get back on their feet.  Their generosity of spirit is being recognised and people are choosing to use and recommend  those firms that helped them out.

For some people the process of repair and renewal is taking a little longer as they struggle to carry out the work without the benefit of insurance.  Parts of the village have flooded before and insurance excesses of £10k are not unknown. 
Solicitors Simpson Millar have put together a really interesting website called Floodwatch, which shows impact of storms Abigail to Frank, including the damage costs of each storm.
The village has really come together to help each other with insurance and with the cost of refurbishing the communities resources like the sports and social club, village hall and community centre and has organised a music festival with all the pubs and restaurants hosting bands over the whole weekend   We're hoping for loads of outsiders to spend money and support our lovely local businesses - the money raised is going to the flood relief fund which the parish council has set up .

The reason why the village flooded quite so badly still hasn't been resolved and people are looking firmly in the direction of the Environment Agency and muttering about rivers needing to be dredged but this is not the whole story.  There's a whole range of contributing factors including the Governments insistence on putting development ahead of common sense and actively enabling the building of housing on flood plains, the increasing amount of hard surfacing from new roads to paved over front gardens which prevents rain from soaking into the ground and overwhelming our drainage systems; the gradual decimation of ecosystems and habitats that have evolved to be the 'coping mechanisms' for heavy rainfall, canalisation of rivers which speeds up water flow in rivers; cuts in the budgets of the EA and local councils which leave them less able to plan efficiently and carry out large scale flood relief projects quickly.
This is only the tip of the iceberg and the search for someone to blame goes on; Emma Thompson has written an interesting article about this in the Huffington PostThe truth, however, is less clear and we are all in part to blame; we pave over our front gardens for parking, we buy the houses on new estates built on flood plains, some of us own businesses that build those houses, we elect the governments that don't address important issues such as climate change, habitat protection and who put profit over sensible planning.  We all need to step up and be a part of any solution.

On a personal level, although Jean-Luc and I weren't flooded we have still been affected by what happened.
The weather forecast for last weekend four days of heavy rain; in times past I would have taken this in, sighed at the thought of a weekend of lost walks and miserable weather and thought about what alternative activities we might do.
Now I peer out the bathroom window to check the level of the pond in the field behind us; look on the EA website for flood warnings and on the village facebook page to see if there are any other warnings.
Unsurprisingly since the Boxing Day flood we’ve have all become a bit paranoid about heavy rain and in particular prolonged heavy rain.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Calling All Yarnheads

Hello everyone out there, my wonderful knitting sister is looking for 1 ball of Rowan pima dk cotton in shade 50 - Pampas; does anyone have one - we'll pay of course.  


Two months, or thirty-two working days, until I leave my job on voluntary redundancy; as any of you who read this blog will know, I will have three months off after that - cue excited jumping up and down.

I've been making some preparations for some things I want to do; small trivial things but still things that I want time for.

Some wool from the Wool Warehouse; these are the 'Coastal' and 'Cosy' collections put together by Lucy at Attic 24.  Perfect for sitting in the summer house (or garden if it's warm enough) crocheting blankets.  Also perfect for fascinating the Nu; keeping the right tension is difficult with a cat sitting on your yarn.

 Patterns and material for some summer skirts.  Since part of my preparations also include getting back on the exercise bike and restarting my 5:2 diet, I'm hoping I'll look a bit more svelte and some summer skirts seem like a good idea for a bit of an image reboot..
A decent haircut is also on the books.

Speaking of books here is the start of my 'real' book pile.  I'm adding to this pile on a regular basis as well as saving some of the ebooks on my kindle for my time off as well.
I can't wait to start.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Sunsets, Stupidity and Suds

 The most amazing skies last night.  If you put these colours together in a quilt it'd probably look garish but somehow nature does it so much better.
 When we were children we used to call this sky blue pink.

Sometimes I have very small moments of stupidity.  I've been stalking  Persephone Books' website for sometime now, admiring them and sighing over the titles; finally I took the plunge and ordered my first book, the first of my grand vision of a whole shelf of them looking splendid and intellectual.  Obviously if I can picture that spendiferous shelf I must a more than passing familiarity with what these books look like, after all they all have the same, rather austere, outer cover (and sumptuously individual and tempting inner end plates).   So why, oh why has it never dawned on me that one of my lovely and generous friends had already bought me a Persephone Book and it has been gracing my shelves for over two years at least.  Nil points for observation I think.

.It's been raining - again - and in time honoured tradition (well in this house anyway) I made some laundry liquid.  Nine litres of the stuff, which will keep us going for several months.  Soap grates in an amazingly similar way to cheese; I'm thinking it must be something to do with similar fat contents; making soap definitely high in calories; thank goodness it's not edible.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Odds & Ends

There truly is no escape from our consumer culture; if they can't get to us, they attempt to get to us through our commensals.

Yes, once again Tesco attempt to persuade us we should buy what we don't need.
We fed it to the Nu, she ate it; we won't be buying it.

It finally snowed last weekend - hooray!
You could tell it was cold out as the bird table had a constant stream of garden birds chowing down on sunflower seeds, suet and other seeds, including the delightfully cute long-tailed tits.  They are almost impossible to photograph because they move so quickly and I didn't manage it this time; but I did manage to photograph two Jays, uncommon visitors to the garden.

The most colourful of all our native Corvids.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Winter Light

After another night of very heavy rain that's again flooded local roads (but not the village - hooray!), it's cold outside; the sun is shining but making little headway against the chill wind and plummeting temperatures; a real change from the previously mild weather, definitely gloves and scarf weather.

But the late afternoon light is beautiful.

So I've snuggled down with some crochet....

....and Series Two of Hinterland on BBC iPlayer.

 A detective series set in the heart breakingly beautiful and bleak countryside around Aberystwyth.
Great acting, a very atmospheric soundtrack and astonishing cinematography that gives the feeling of both the vast space of the land and the sense of claustrophobia that living in small rural communities can bring.
Best watched by lamp light with some tea or ginger wine and a warm craft project across your lap.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

It's a New Day

To be perfectly honest 2015 has been a bit of a bummer. 
  • I decided to take voluntary redundancy.  Although I'm viewing this decision as a positive, this is a bit of making the best of a difficult situation caused by massive budget cuts.
  • I have had a few health issues associated with the menopause.
  • The company Jean-Luc works in is subject to a hostile take-over.
  • My father died.
  • Our village flooded. Badly. On Boxing Day.
.Well it's 2016 now and I'm expecting much better things from this year thank you.
I have three months until I leave work and I have quite a lot to get ready beforehand.  Not only do I have a few work projects to finish up and some handing over to prepare for and do; on the domestic front i also have some preparations.  
I have to sit down and do some detailed budget reviews and planning - I've done some already but I feel the need to delve deeper into our household accounts and do some fine tuning.
I have a few supplies I want to lay in and some things I want/ need to buy while I still have a regular wage coming in; including some new glasses and a new winter coat - my current coat has what has turned out to be an unrepairable hole on the shoulder.

 A christmas present - some delicious yarn from Attic 24 - the crochet hook is already in use.

I also want to plan for my time off.  I have some largish projects I want to do - such as clearing out and repainting the pantry; and a long list of things I want to try, such as getting to grips with baking bread, optimising our veggie production, lots and lots of quilting, crochet and knitting, learning to use Pearl my sewing machine and making some clothes, improving my soap making, more organised foraging and a whole load of preserving experiments.  I'd also like to learn to make cheese properly.
Not bad for three months!
I know that some things will not get done but I don't want to get to the end of my three months and realise I've done nothing with this wonderful opportunity.  I'm hoping some planning will help me make the most of it.

My christmas present from Jean-Luc - a Japanese puzzle box.
I haven't solved it yet and it is absolutely beautiful.
Here's to solving some beautiful puzzles over the next year.