The joys of dealing with the general public……….

I have been checking the mirror recently. No not for more lines on the face, but to check I didn’t have MUG tattooed on my forehead. I had agreed that THF could be used as a venue for a small equestrian event! It seemed like a good idea at the time, it was sold beautifully to me, I would be doing my bit for the community, helping the younger generation and all that. But as the date drew nearer my worries started. The track in and out doesn’t bother me but will new people baulk at it? Will they go mad, off-roading across the big field and get bogged down, will they get stuck driving into the parking field. Will they generally run amock of the place, terrorise the chickens, fall in the dew pond and drown or will one of my dogs bite a child’s leg off. Oh the possibilities are endless, I even checked my public liability insurance. Needless to say NOTHING happened. It was a pleasure, it went smoothly. But, and there is always a but… one lady launched into me about the track and the parking while car & trailer after car & trailer manoeuvred passed her with ease. I kept calm, I was polite, I chose my words carefully to appease her. But it was when she announced that you couldn’t possibly drive a 7 1/2 ton lorry into the place but I had to stifle a snigger. Why? Well she was standing right next to a 7 1/2 ton horse lorry that drives in and out with ease on a regularly basis… bless her…

Away with the Fairies……

….no not me, you can call me many things but fairies, airy fairy, away with, is just not me. However, I recently visited a place which is defo away with the fairies, pixies, green men and more.
On one of my recent jollies away I dropped into Glastonbury. There was something I was after, I knew I would find it in Glastonbury so a detour was made. I will admit that I did dabble with the hippy look when I was an art student. But like my artistic career, the look was shorted-lived and back to normal I went. I just didn’t fancy being a penniless artist.
So in dear old Glasto I felt like a fish out of water. It started with a cuppa. No I didn’t want a cup of nettle/elderberry/Indonesian/Himalayan tea which would enlighten my life – I just wanted tea. I fancied a slice of cake but vegan, vegetarian, flour free, wholegrain, reduced fat, sugar free cake was on offer. I didn’t even go down the cream tea route, lactose free, milk free any sort of milk/cream which had NOTHING to do with a cow cream tea was on offer and it just didn’t tickle my taste buds.
I did feel at home in the record shop. I still have my vinyl collection, I have and always will be a Prog Rock fan, so I spent far too much. But it was at the end of the high street that I had my major spiritual experience. I wandered into a shop and was greeted by a fairy. A middle aged fairy with few teeth. She was very pleasant, but I was too distracted by the floral head band with butterflies and ladybirds dancing around her head on wires to really hear what she was saying. The pointy ears poking out from beneath the mass of hair was the next distraction, along with the fairy wings on her back.  However it was when she floated out from behind the counter that somehow I managed to surpress my laughter, she was wearing hobbit feet. Yep under the flowing dress, direct from the Peter Jackson’s films, she had hairy plastic hobbit feet…………

Have a banana

……or in our case a cucumber… what, you may ask, am I on about… well again this year we have an abundance of cucumbers. Turn up here and you are likely to hear on leaving… ”lovely to see you, have a cucumber”.

It’s only our second year of growing veg and for a second year I have got it wrong on how many cucumber plants we actually need.
I have always loved gardening, I have always been very garden proud, but veggies never featured. Why? Well I had a dad who grew them. Apart from sweet-peas and dahlias grown purely for mum, dad only did veg. Looking back as a child we always had a very heathy veg garden, at one house we had over 17 fruit trees. Then there were 3 uncles who all grew fruit and veg. Every year there was a discussion between them on who was growing what so there was never a glut but a steady and seemingly endless supply of fresh fruit and veg.
I was never allowed anywhere near the veg gardens or in later years the poly tunnels. They were the Old Boy’s domain and woe betide you if you ever went near or tried to influence him. Why have swiss chard when you have spinach? Sweetcorn he didn’t like and as for pak choi…well just don’t go there.
I knew something was wrong with him when he stopped going into the poly tunnels. I tried to keep things going but the care they both required towards the end took over from everything and that included the tunnels. So after last year, Best Mate and I took it upon ourselves to start again. Bloody hell the overgrown mess we first had to battle through.
It was the blind leading the blind. We watched Gardeners World every week… with a lot of “Arrh” when the delightfully handsome Monty Don told us viewers the best way to do whatever, when we had done the complete opposite. Every row of seed was lined out straight but sprouted out in wonky lines. I have knelt before the seedlings alter only to wonder “is it a seed or a weed”? I open and water the tunnels in the morning while Best Mate does the evening shift. My runner beans ran everywhere, the sweetcorn were so tall they bent over on the curve of the tunnel. Mr Don’s tomatoes may have been cleared of leaves leaving a lovely healthy straight plant, mine were plucked to within an inch of their lives and growing in every direction but straight. I point blank refused to buy a pair of nasal hair scissors to thin out one’s grapes as demonstrated by Mr Don. While 6 cucumber plants proved to be 5 too many. They grew, they fruited and fruited and fruited, recipe upon recipe was found and tried. One visitor left here with 8 having said they had a lovely recipe for a cold cucumber soup… marvellous! 8 down only another 15 to go.
This year started well, then the snow hit and the drift was too deep to get to the tunnels so our tender and just growing seeds died. However some of those planted direct didn’t die but came up late after the next crop had gone in. There is a lone sweetcorn growing through the sweet peas. Lettuce have sprouted just about everywhere. There is a tomato plant amongst the potatoes, while the chilli tree is lost amongst the peas.  But my lines of spring onions, beetroot, chard, lettuce and more are straight, but as my school reports would always say “she could do better”. I panicked when I thought I had lost all my cucumber plants. I confused them with the courgette seedlings and sowed more. So I’m back up to six bloody cucumber plants, boy are they fruiting and I still don’t like cold cucumber soup. Finally I did relent and purchased a pair of nasal hair scissors…….I may have looked a complete prat thinning out my grapes but boy do I have 9 lovely bunches…

Week three in the injured Springer house hold……….

………… and Bunty is about to explode.

Vets do say the silliest things at times. One once told me after my old horse Cassie had been on box rest for six weeks to turn her out but don’t let her go mad! Well the vet was mad to think a thoroughbred in for six weeks wasn’t going to bronco across the field at 90mph. She did and all I hoped was that the stitches had done their job… they had.

When the vet told me three weeks ago having stitched Bunty’s paw, no walks, on lead at all times and just generally keep her calm, that really was a daft thing to say. I wouldn’t have minded but the vet owns a Springer herself!

There has been a lot of “no Bunty, down Bunty, DON’T DO THAT Bunty, will you just CALM DOWN Bunty” repeated over and over again.

Finally at the end of week two I couldn’t cope any longer and decided to take her for a gentle stroll. There is a lovely flat walk along the river below the farm. It’s in a steep sided valley so the other dogs could go bananas up and down the sides, Bunty on lead and Merlin – aged 15 1/2 – could stroll gently alongside. Best Mate suggested to tie two slip leads together to give her more freedom. Like the vet’s idea that proved very STUPID too.

I parked up, three Springers burst from the car. Peppa being a pretty Labrador did a nice controlled jump. Merlin was lifted out giving his Auntie a hernia in the process. Before I could stop Bunty she had flung herself out landing heavily on hurty paw. I had only gone 50 yards, my arm was out of its socket, there was no feeling in my hand where the lead acted like a tourniquet and I hit the decks.  

My predigree pooch had morphed into a cross between a meerkat and Zebbedee on speed. It bounced on two legs, it leaped, it turned itself inside out, it did a wonderful back flip that would make any gymnast proud. After a few more yards it seemed to calm down and moped alongside me, walking nicely to heel which it can do. Peace was regularly shattered as one of my other girls burst out of the woods in front of us sending Bunty into a Zebbedee overdrive bouncing like a dog possessed.

I gave up half away along and decided to turn back.  

Just before the bridge where the car was parked, the path climbs higher than the river by about 10ft, in normal circumstances not a problem for a Springer scarpering around or anything to worry the owner. However, for me that lovely Spring day it caused a huge problem. Bunty had been calm but she spotted a pheasant on the far bank. It was one of those moments in life when time goes into slow motion. I saw her leap, I felt the almighty tug on lead as my arm left its socket again and Springer leaped off the cliff hurtling me towards the edge. I do remember – like in a cartoon – seeing Bunty flying through the air suddenly suspended for a split second as she reached the end of the lead before hurtling back towards me. I do remember hitting the decks – again – and I do remember the thud of a Springer Spaniel landing at speed on top of me. Before pain could hit, before I could get up it was off. I had let go of the lead……it was over the bridge and after that bloody pheasant, it was fine, not a scratch, not a leg or paw out of socket, boy did it move.  In her manic mist she ignored the whistle, so owner did her very best fish wife impression and yelled. It stopped she knew she had gone toooooooo far, owner was annoyed and she had to return. While she might have been fine and there was no damage to hurty paw, I have taken out both knees of my jeans, knees skinned and a chunk taken out of my elbow. Other than that we are both fine……………….


Where the bee sucks…….

There has been something in the air recently and sadly it hasn’t been Spring. Whatever it was has made an impression here at THF. We have had two outbreaks of skin rashes, one major reaction to a sting, one sliced paw and one very unhappy bank account. 
It started with me stupidly thinking spring and summer were on their way with lovely warm sunny weather, that out came the cropped trousers. Oh and the joy of not wearing socks. Trouble was I started to itch and itch big time on my feet and ankles. I woke up scratching, I couldn’t stand anything against my skin, the rash wasn’t much to look at but boy did it itch. Knowing I wouldn’t get a doctor’s appointment for weeks, I decided to go to a pharmacist instead. The first one in South Molton was rude and unhelpful. The other one was so busy I gave up waiting after half an hour and purchased a bottle of calamine lotion. Ohhhh a blast from my childhood past. I remember being covered in the stuff time after time and if you were really lucky Mum had put so much on you that the cotton wool stuck to you as well. My legs might have looked like they had been whitewashed but after two days the itching and little red spots vanished.
Then it was Bunty’s turn. Now Springers do have a habit – as whirlpools of enthusiasm – of coming back from a walk with a mass of scratches over chest and tum as they hurtle themselves through the undergrowth, brambles and gorse. Most are kept under control with a wash in Hibiscrub and Camrosa cream. At times there has been the odd sort of whitehead type blister, which then bursts, creates a nice scab and heals. Only for the process to be done time and time again walk after walk after walk. Yes I can hear all you Labrador owners say “well what do you expect from manic dogs?” The trouble was that Bunty was covered in a mass of white pustules. So many that I decided it was best to go to the vets. She had a skin infection. So 70 quid, steroid injection and antibiotics later we were back home. Next day the pustules were bigger, the following day they had burst resulting in pus matted fur. More washing with hibiscrub. Next day a mass of scabs which meant Bunty had to be kept away from Auntie Karen. Karen, owner of Jack the horse, LOVES scabs and will pick any scab going. Mud fever, rain scald, you name the scab and Karen will pick, I just pity her children. So scabby Bunty was kept out of Karen’s sight and the scabs cleared nicely. 
In the meantime, Betsy in her Springer Spaniel wisdom decided to get stung. By what we haven’t a clue but within a matter of minutes her face started to swell. No, not an Adder, it was too wet and cold a day for them. I called the vet and drove straight there. 200 odd quid later, injections, blood tests and four lots of drugs we were back home with a very very unhappy swelling puppy. Next day she was worse so back to the vets, luckily it wasn’t affecting her breathing but her whole head was swollen. More injections, more tests and more money spent. It took four days and two more vet visits for the swelling to start going down. Then just before we were due at the vets for Betsy’s last visit, Bunty went lame.  
She had sliced her paw, so local anaesthetic, stitches, more drugs and MORE BLOODY MONEY SPENT.  She is now on the lead, no walks, has a plastic bag taped to paw to keep the bandage dry. She may look ridiculous, but it is a Waitrose plastic bag… she has standards you know………………

Best made plans of mice and ………

Well Dear Reader I would like to wish you a Happy New Year! No I am not late as a couple of weekends ago was my New Year as the previous Saturday had been my Christmas Day.

I had wanted a different Christmas it being the first without my beloved Old Dears. A different Christmas was duly planned and planned to the last detail. I went away the weekend before Christmas, there were carols by candlelight in Molland church followed by din dins in the London Inn. Friends coming for supper. Friends coming for drinks. The Kellaways – best neighbours in the world – coming for Christmas Eve. A tradition started by the Old Dears which had to be continued. Christmas Day – a walk on the beach with Best Mate, Cousin and all the dogs followed by a late Christmas lunch with my fiancé joining us. Yes a fiancé, yes a long long story and yes a very very very long engagement and yes but no NO NO wedding!! Boxing Day back to the London Inn for the beagles and more drinkies.

What could go wrong I hear you say? What went bloody wrong was the bloody flu bug complete with a bloody vomiting bug. Boy were we ill and I mean ill. Cousin went first, she looked looked and sounded like shit. We spoke to her across her garden gate refusing to get closer in case we got it. Then Best Mate followed and what a cough she got. You could hear her half way across the farm nay you could hear her half way across the Bristol Channel. I hung out and hung out but by the Friday I was on the sofa dying and I don’t die quietly. I just don’t do ill. I don’t do sick and if I have to be sick EVERY one knows about it. Friday, Saturday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing day I died. The day after Boxing Day I moved from bed to sofa so I was getting better. I didn’t drink, I didn’t eat, I couldn’t move, I ached, my bones ached, my joints ached, my head ached I just bloody ACHED. The turkey went in the freezer, Cousin gave her mince pies to the chickens, Best Mate’s Christmas pudding is still in a cool dark place. My Christmas cake is in the freezer – cold and unloved, languishing next to the turkey.

January we just struggled, several relapses, no energy, no strength, just struggled and struggled. So we planned our Christmas dinner for Saturday 3rd February. Our Scottish mate from London was coming to stay,fiancé was around and the rest is a drunken history.

The following weekend I was in Surrey at the Old Dears house so I had my New Year’s celebrations there with my Surrey Mates and boy did we do it in style.

Then the Saturday was spent with my Big Brother dealing with probate. So after he finally left I sat by the wood burner, bottle opened, typing away, music blaring when I dropped a sausage on the floor. Panic hit and I fell off the chair while swooping down to pick up the sausage before the dogs got it! That’ll be my dogs that are 198 miles away in Devon………..still old habits die hard

A bed time story…….

Well Dear Reader, I lasted almost seven weeks on the wagon. To say it was boring is a lie, it was bloody boring. At present I seem to have broken my bad habits by NOT reaching for a glass every evening. Result. Another result of not drinking was getting back into reading. I was so bored, tired and achy, all I wanted to do was be in bed by 8pm, so reading became a nice distraction to make it to 9pm. I have always been early to bed – probably something to do with owning a horse. Getting up early is standard, especially when I had a proper job and needed to be in the office on time. I had huge dilemmas when the BBC moved the 9 o’clock news to 10pm. The 9 o’clock news was perfect, watch news, keep up to date with the world and go to bed at 9.30. But 10, and have to stay awake till 10.30… ridiculous – I rarely make it to 10 let alone 10.30. So early to bed it was and still is.

I have always had trouble reading in bed. I just can’t get comfy-womfy. I get back ache, neck ache, cramps in my hand, pins and needles down the arms, I just can’t do it. So during detox I purchased something I never thought I would purchase. A ‘V’ pillow!… yep one of those large V pillows which I have always associated with old people. Well now at the tender age of 54 I have one and very nice it is too. My reading in bed troubles have vanished, comfy-womfy has been achieved.

My next dilemma was what to read. This was partly solved by my mate Sarah wanting to set up a book club. There are five of us, Sarah, Best Mate, Cousin, Me and our friend Mrs Bedford. Trouble is Sarah is a BIG reader and of serious stuff. It’s not the only reason she is in our pub quiz team to answer the literary questions, we do like her anyway. But I do think the rest of us let Sarah down on the book club front. After all, my suggestions have been ‘Wind in the Willows’ and Monty Don’s ‘Nigel’.  Sarah on the other hand came up with something quite challenging. I got through it, it was a struggle, I was able to input just the one comment into our book club meeting. So I decided I need to expand my reading capabilities. The Philippa Gregory ‘Three Sisters Three Queens’ was wonderful. The biography on Vita Sackville-West very interesting. The Virginia Woolf at only 102 pages took me three nights to get to page 32 and I still haven’t a clue what it’s about. Janine Ramirez’s programme was interesting but the book ‘Julian of Norwich Revelations of Divine Love’ was suicidal. While  A L  Rowse’s volume on Bosworth Field went back on the shelf for another attempt another year.  But Mrs Bedford has come up trumps. Not only can I read in bed with comfort I can whole heartily recommend ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Club’. Ridiculous name but great book.

Dean Martin once said…..

”I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s the best they are going to feel all day”. A great quote and oh so true. As everyone knows, I LOVE my drink, I am a BIG drinker, drink features strongly in my life. And the trouble for me with drinking is I get the nibbles, savoury nibbles preferred, so hence the size I am. Continue reading

Driving me crazy

I’m not really into cars, never have been and never will. I only know what a Mercedes SL or a Chrysler Crossfire look like because they managed to get down the farm track before it was tarmac’d! An amazing feat in itself. I loved watching the old Top Gear – only when the boys were larking around, the rest of the programme was of little interest. If I ever meet Mr Clarkson, I would like to ask him what “under steer” is or “over steer” and just what is a “tank slapper”?  

I haven’t bought a new car in 23 years. Larry Landrover was bought new and is still going strong, so why buy another? It’s because of this distinct lack of interest that many times I have no idea who has driven past me and waved. If it’s a pickup then it’s probably a Gamekeeper, if it’s a Landrover it could be one of a dozen people, so I just wave back. People do give me grief when they have waved from their new car and I didn’t wave back. It takes me a blooming age to finally remember who drives what and then they go and change it. So I when I sold my dad’s old car to my mate and livery Karen, I was surprised when she had a go at me for not recognising it when she drove past. Admittingly having driven the car for many years I should have recognised it, but I didn’t. So I now clock every blooming Freelander that goes past. And if I wave at the wrong person well never mind, at least now and then I will wave at someone who knows me. 

The other thing I am not really into is technology. I do my best as I don’t want to get left behind, but I’m not really that interested. So put technology and cars together and you have totally lost me. However,  I am pleased to announce that Larry Landrover has been brought up to date and is now bluetoothed! Yes bluetooth. It all started when I was thinking of purchasing an iPhone. I was sitting in the London Inn with my mate Sarah. She was giving me a presentation on what an iPhone can do and said “….and you can bluetooth your phone to your car”. Her face was a picture when she remembered what I drove and said “OH… your car” with a very disparaging look on her face. So it gave me great pleasure that the first person I called from Larry was Sarah. I just never told her that I had to stop driving in order for her to hear me over the distinct noise a Landrover makes. 

Rubbish? What rubbish?

I don’t think I have ever mentioned to you Dear Reader that I think North Devon District Council (NDDC) is a truly wonderful organisation. And what an efficient service and how full of common sense they all are sitting in their ‘ivory towers’ in Barnstaple. Because in their wisdom they decides to re organise their recycling and bin collections routes and in their even greater wisdom decided to use a company based in Liverpool to do so!
Now don’t get me wrong apparently this company has lots and lots and lots of lovely shiny technical, digital SatNavie type thingys that can plot routes at the other end of the country without the need of local knowledge. These machines know just how narrow some lanes are, that some are dead ends and where the county boundaries are. So of course no chaos will ensue.
Along side all the lovely new routes NDDC have up their “green credentials and issued everyone with new larger food waste bins. But sadly, they haven’t made the lorries large to accommodate the extra waste. Thus the lorries filled up quicker, they go back to unload and run out of time to finished the rounds. Mean while the new routes were introduced sending big lorries up little lanes and little lorries to the wrong place or places that don’t exsist. Only a Council can be soooooooooo stupid to do this. Hence since Easter we have had just 5 recycling collections instead of weekly. I have phoned their offices 14 times, filled in 11 online “missed collection notification forms” and emailed the Chief Executive Officer twice and asked for a reduction on my council tax,  all of which has fallen on deaf ears.
I have heard every excuse from drivers off sick, lorry broken down, lorry too full to finish the round and the best one is that I apparently live in Somerset not Devon. Several times whilst complaining I have been ask by a NDDC member of Staff “Well what do you want us to do”?.  “Well as I am complaining about lack of collection, how about COLLECTING IT”?.
I have always had problems with the Council re both the recycling and bin collections. When I first moved here there was a lovely shiny new black wheelie bin at the farm. I duely took it all the 3\4 mile up the farm track to the entrance and duly put my rubbish in it…cos thats what you do with wheelie bin. There the bin sat and sat and each week nothing happening apart from me putting more rubbish in. After a while I called the Council and was told that as I wasn’t on the wheelie bin collect so I shouldn’t be using it, in fact I shouldn’t have a wheelie bin at all. Due to health and safely the bin men were not allowed to open the bin and remove the black bags from inside it. So the next week I put out black bins bags – as instructed – but stupidly I put a small rock on them, it was a tad windy and I didn’t want them blowing away. Next day they were still there. Next week the same thing happened. So I called the council and was informed that due to health and safely the bin men were not allowed to lift the rocks to take the bags away. For several years I just didn’t bother with the rubbish – excuse the pun – I burnt as much as I could, I composted all food waste and I took my recycling to the tip and carefully placed it in the correct collection bins. Until I had, had enough and decided to moan and moan and moan and eventually they started to collect. However, all good things must come to an end and this year it did.
On the plus side, I noticed the council have been cutting back the road side verges in certains places. Obviously this is to give us motorists a clearer and safe view of the road – all very good health and safely. They have cut the grass back from around various corners, at road junctions, they have even cut the grass around sign posts. Again this does give us motorist lovely clear views of the sign so you know where to go. But the piece de las resistance is just down the lane from the farm. They have cut around the signpost at “Hollywell Cross”  its just a shame they haven’t replaced the signpost arms showing you which way is which!  God Bless NDDC…….
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