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Until death us do part, well not for long……….

Flowers

Well my Dear Reader, it’s been a very stressful few months which sadly culminated in the death of my beloved father four weeks ago. The last few days were peaceful for him as he died at home with a house full of family and dogs, in his own bed in clean jim-jams… what more could we or he ask for. My brother was down from Surrey, while my cousin Lauren drove Auntie down from the Lakes arriving for – what turned out to be – Dad’s final day. I will always remember the sight of Mum and Auntie sitting with Dad – who was not really with us by then – but somehow I think he hung on for Mark and Brenda to get here.

I had forgotten how much organisation is involved with death and funerals. I called J Westacott and Sons in South Molton, and between Michelle and Dawn they provided me with the most professional, caring and friendly service. My first involvement with the firm was when they came to take Dad away. What’s that saying about getting older and policemen looking younger? Well the funeral chappie looked about 12. Professional and caring but far too young to work in the funeral business.

On the Tuesday I went in to the funeral directors to start the arrangements. Now before I go any further I must point out that my Dad by profession was a Chartered Accountant in private practice. He was also a business man with electronics factories in Haywards Heath and Rye. He dabbled in property and at one stage had a TV rental business, with the TVs stored in our conservatory. He didn’t part with his money easily and often said “how much” rather than pardon. He was very vocal about far too much money wasted on weddings and funerals. So I went to the funeral directors armed with that knowledge.

First question asked was what flowers we would like. “Er, none thank you”. I would pick whatever I had in the garden on the day. Limousines to follow the hearse? “Er, no”. Will you follow the hearse? “Er, no we will meet you there”. Next I had to thumb through the coffin catalogue. Blimey what a choice and what prices. There was little I liked until I was shown – unbeknown to me – the ‘budget range’ and there a choice was easily made. It was another “no” to an order of service. I turned my nose up at the ornate ashes urns so Michelle didn’t even bother asking if I wanted some of the ashes made into jewellery. Dad would have been proud of me the total cost… £2999.

Next I booked the wheelchair taxi to take Mum and I to the crematorium. It was booked to wait there and bring us back – a simple request or so I thought. My good mate Teresa Maddox was happy to do the catering for the wake back at the farm. I originally thought there would only be about 8 of us, but numbers soon spiralled and Teresa did me proud, very proud.

The day of the funeral dawned and I had a house full of people. I made enough tea to sink a battle ship and seemed to be constantly providing food and washing up. Cousin and Best Mate took dogs out for a long walk which was a great source of relief – at least some living beings in the house would be happy. I got the house and Mother organised. The taxi arrived on time. As soon as we hit the Link Road Mum started being sick. There is nothing worse than people being sick at the best of times, but I was really struggling to cope with it. I was desperately trying to keep myself and her clean, I jammed the blanket – to keep her warm- under her chin to stop sick going everywhere. On arrival at the crematorium she stared to feel better once out in the open air. The taxi drove off – I stupidly thought to park – after all he did have my jacket and sick blanket on the front seat. After the service I pushed Mum back outside to find the taxi or to find a distinct lack of taxi. Dawn – the funeral director – walked round and round the car park out onto the road desperately looking for our taxi but there was no taxi to been seen.The ********** taxi driver had driven off.

I phoned South Molton taxis to see what was going on – I won’t use them again. The chap confirmed the taxi had been booked to wait and do the return journey. There was no apology, in fact his whole manner was one of couldn’t really care less. He said he would call the driver and call me back. When he called back his attitude was still the same. So Mum and I were stuck. Stuck at the bloody crematorium while our family and friends left to return to the farm. I phoned Teresa to tell her to start serving drinks as soon as people arrived. My friends Karen and Vanessa stayed with us while we waited in the ‘book of remembrance’ chapel which was cold. Now I could make some comment about us being cold and Dad not, but perhaps a joke too far. Still no sign of the taxi nor any calls from South Molton taxis office, absolutely NOTHING. Nothing to keep us posted on where the car was or a grovelling apology… bloody nothing. After half an hour of waiting Vanessa called them again. She was calmer than me but her sarcasm was brilliant. I can’t remember the whole conversation but the bit about “Well of course the widow has to come back from the crematorium the only person NOT leaving the crematorium is the deceased!”. We had to laugh, we were stuck at the bloody crem, and I was starting to think it’s a bloody long way to push Mum home, but push I might have to do.

The driver came back and he clearly needs to attend charm school. There was some sort of apology but he didn’t register the severity of the situation. It was the longest journey back from Barnstaple I have ever made in the 10 years I have lived here. Mum was sick again, blanket jammed back under her chin, I couldn’t be bothered to talk to the driver I would just be rude. His driving irritated me, he irritated me, the car stank of sick and I had a headache.

The wake was lovely, Teresa’s food and service was brilliant. Wine flowed so I think Dad would have approved.

And on a final note. My big brother Mark came up with the idea of planting a copse of trees on the farm where we could scatter the ashes – overlooking Dad’s favourite view to North Molton church. Brother and sister walked down to the spot with dogs scampering around to contemplate his brilliant idea. My big brother said, with tears in his eyes, “…and we could bury the dogs here, Dad would like that. I could bury Meggie (his dog) here as well”. I turned to look at my brother, then his dog by his side and said “Bloody hell Marky she not dead yet, give her a chance”. Good job dogs don’t understand us…

PS Sadly we lost Mum last week, just 28 days after Dad. Eight years of courting followed by 62 years of marriage they are back together again.

Pain….what pain?

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Well Dear Readers, it’s been a while since my last outing but things have been manic here. I have to say it’s been a very bleak and stressful time with the Old Dears – ODs – both having falls, viral infections, paramedics arriving, paramedics leaving, in and out of hospital, more paramedics, district nurses, support nurses, doctors… you name them they have been here. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not the train coming, although I feel like I have been hit by one several times recently.

The hardest part has been finding care help. It’s mainly the mornings I could do with some more help with. Tessa has been coming in for a while now, but can’t do every morning. “Just phone an agency” I have heard said several times over the last few weeks. Well you try finding one that covers this area. Eleven so far called and not one has been interested. One who prides itself as “Caring for Exmoor”, told me as I did not live within the National Park boundary they weren’t interested. I know I live within the National Park, the bloody sign is just down the road. I have paid the Park’s planning department vast amounts of monies for various applications and enforcements, so I KNOW I live within a National Park. However, the light at the end of the tunnel has been with Karen, my livery and friend, and not the train that keeps hitting me. She has done care work before and announced she was thinking of going back to it. Well she has. She pays me money to keep her horse here, while ODs pay her to do the morning ‘get out of jail  bed’ shift. Bloody marvellous she is too. So between the equally marvellous Tessa and Karen I have 99% of mornings covered. I just cover the rest.
Now I have a problem… well lots of problems. In fact some people might just class me as one big problem. But the problem has been raising its ugly head more recently – I reckon partly to stress – and I am talking about my ankles. Yep, I seem to have the ability to ‘rick’ one’s ankles on a regular basis. I can do it in bare feet, low heels, high heels – not that I wear high ones much any more – walking boots, riding boots… you name it I can rick my ankle and hit the ground in spectacular style. I might end up looking like a beached whale as I try to get up, but the way down is done brilliantly. I have ruined so many pairs of trousers, jeans and jodhpurs over the years when I hit the ground and take out the knees. I can make any kid in the playground jealous of the scabs I have had on my knees. The trouble is it hurts. Something I rick my ankle, stumble, manage to keep upright and limp on. Other times I hit the ground and the pain is dreadful. So picture the scene, am on my own – both best mate and cousin away working – and the ODs have been a nightmare. I have cleaned up s**t, wiped bottoms, stripped beds more times than I care to mention. So I’m walking back across the yard when the ankle gives way and I go down. I take out both knees of my jeans, the elbow on my top and a chunk out of my hand. Even the dogs steer clear, knowing Mum is in trouble and losing it. I haven’t cried like that for years and I just couldn’t stop, the fear of not knowing what to do, the pain and frustration and the feeling of being so totally alone hit me and I blubbed and blubbed.
When things finally started to calm down and get sort of sorted, I managed to book a long overdue and much cancelled appointment with my wonderful Chiropractor Mr Steve Rule (South Street Chiropractic Clinic  01769 572912 – just a little plug).  Now Mr Rule is a wonderful man… well a wonderful chiropractician with a great sense of humour. I managed to stagger into reception, knees, back and shoulders killing me. All those old riding injuries coming back to haunt me. I’m in reception and make the big decision that it is best to stay stay upright leaning against the reception desk having a natter with Jeanette, rather than sitting on the nice comfy sofa. I was not sure I could get back off the nice comfy sofa even if I wanted to. In technical terms I had gone to South Molton Chiropractic Clinic – nothing better than a damn good plug –  to be pummelled, acupunctured and laser heat treated. However, it was more like I was punched, stabbed and burnt. I felt so bad at the end of it, I couldn’t get off the treatment couch. I managed to stagger back into reception and PAID, yes paid for the experience. Somehow I walked out and down the road back to Larry Landrover. Not only had that train hit me again, it ran over me, and then I had a bout in the ring with Mike Tyson. I sat in Larry and sat and sat as I just couldn’t drive. Mr Rule gave me strict instructions to get home and do nothing. Hum… well I had three horses to feed, who are in a far field, which meant hiking across two fields with three heavy buckets. To add insult to injury Mum got stuck on the toilet and Dad has the s**ts again. Both parents washed, changed, beds stripped, I finally got into bed at “God-knows-what-o’clock”.
Next morning I felt great, positively bloody marvellous I could have skipped the light fandango, run a marathon, performed the dance of the sugar plum fairy. Mr Rule had said it might be best to strap up my ankles for a few days to give the ligaments some support. He doesn’t like strapping up things(!) but in this case it would help. A crepe bandage was his suggestion. I search high and low and couldn’t find one anywhere in the house. However, and I am not sure about the colours, Vet wrap bandages have done the job superbly well…

Spring is in the air……..

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It’s that time of year when Spring is definitely in the air. Birds are singing and just about everything is shagging! The lake and ponds, even puddles, are full of toad or frog spawn – I can’t tell the difference. Colonel Sherman T Potter is bursting out of the hen house of a morning, while the girls run for cover. But there is trouble afoot and it’s found on the lake.

Every now and then the Canada Geese come in to stay. The routine is always the same, first one goose arrives and then the rest follow. Now I can’t complain too much as they do a fairly good job of eating the weed. But for every piece of weed they pull up they only eat half of it. This leaves the rest floating in the lake which ends up in the overflow drain, and if we are really lucky it blocks it. In order to unblock the drain one has to climb down into the deep ditch at the back of the lake field and attempt with long handled fork to pull out the blockage. If one is really really lucky and hasn’t noticed just how full the lake is, the pressure builds up and when released it is pretty forceful, and one has been known to be knocked off one’s feet and into the muddy ditch. But back to the Geese. The problem they cause is with one of our girl Geese. She likes the Canadians and likes them a lot. In fact she spends most of her time trying to get past Gary the Gander and down to the new boys in town. Poor old Gazza spends his days trying to keep her away, he is up and down the field, squawking his head off, flapping wings, chasing – well waddling around – in a desperate attempt to keep her away from them. It just doesn’t work, she is younger, fitter and faster than him, so slips away time and time again. Best mate has named her Charlotte the Harlot, while the other girl – Plain Jane – sticks loyally with Gary.

You have to give him credit for his effort, he won’t be beaten but he is shattered by the end of the day and staggers back into Goosingham Palace. Bless him.

A smelly situation…….

There are many joys of looking after one’s “Old Dears” and then there are times I could kill them – not literally of course. I have – now and then – closed the doors to the annex with more of a slam, as they do drive one mad. I would also like to point out I don’t call my parents ‘Old Dears’ in a derogatory way, but as a term of endearment. In fact Mum coined the phase years ago and it’s stuck.

My father has never been good on the domestic front. He was a Chartered Accountant and business man and that’s what he did very very well. He was a very keen gardener but only fruit and veg, leaving the girly flowers to Mum. So to find himself aged 92, the more physically able one of the two of them, means he does prepare some of their food. Now this is becoming a worry and I mean a worry. I now cook their evening meal, so at least they eat one good meal a day. But left to his own devices the Old Boy does some strange things. Take for instance, the other week when I walked in at lunchtime. Now being ‘Old Dears’ they like to eat early, so lunch is between 11 – 11.30. He had made Branston pickle sandwiches. Yep – just Branston pickle, no cheese, no salad, no butter just bread with Branston pickle in it. Mum is always telling me she doesn’t like spices or onions, so I didn’t like to inform her of the major contents of Branston pickle. For breakfast one morning he put into a bowl broken biscuits and milk, ignoring the range of cereals in the cupboard. He purchased a ham and cheese roll from a local shop which was heated up in the oven before consumption. While tinned custard, just tinned custard for lunch isn’t unheard of. If I bring them back fish and chips the Old Boy will heat up the plates in the oven so hot the fish and chips start sizzling when it’s put on the plate. However his pièce de résistance must be the Branston pickle sandwiches again but with a dollop of coleslaw on the top slice of bread. Tasty.

Mother on the other hand is not physically able at all, blind in one eye with little sight in the other. She gets very frustrated at times telling me she can’t see this and can’t see that, thus can’t do various things because she can’t see. She has a sweet tooth so it does always amuse me that she can open a packet of sweets and empty them into a jar. It also amuses me that she knows which jar is which in the cupboard, even if I move them around! It’s also amusing when you walk into their room wearing something new. Whether it’s shoes, a jumper or even earrings – boy does she notice.

There was a smell recently coming from the annex and I couldn’t work it out. I did try to sniff at them while talking to them without them noticing, not easy. The beds were clean, their bathrooms and downstairs loo were clean, they were clean. I checked for rotten food in the fridge – happens often – but all was ok in there. I started questioning their hygiene but not in a subtle way, I don’t do subtle. I nagged at Dad about all sorts of things in hope of resolving the smell problem. They couldn’t smell it but I could and then I found the culprit. They have two bedrooms on their side and two en suites. The one adjoining their bedroom Mum uses as she can’t walk far, Dad uses the other. Mum doesn’t use the shower, I have Tessa come in to bath Mum (apparently I didn’t do it properly, that was fine by me… who wants to wash your Mother’s arse anyway!) so the shower isn’t used and the drain was drying out and smelling.

I had blamed them for all sorts of things and in the end it wasn’t their fault…picklesandwich

The Cat is gone….long live the Cat

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Well there is an old saying “You have live stock you have dead stock” – harsh but true. And sadly here at Tabor Hill we no longer have a cat. Felix the beast of Tabor Mountain has ceased to be. He is pining for the fjords. After 8 1/2 years since we bought him for 40 quid from North Devon Animal Ambulance charity we are no longer ‘pussy footing’ – excuse pun – around Felix. He DID rule this house. No longer is there the performance during the evening of opening doors, keep dogs clear so he could wander in from the ‘Old Dears’ side of house to cat flap on my side. Then wander back, then back round again. The flap ended up on my side as it was the least windy corner of the house and saved endless flap, flap, flapping on windy nights. There was also the time when he climbed through an open bedroom window, landing on a sleeping B&B guest, cos he couldn’t be bothered with the cat flap. Don’t worry, they still come back!

I will admit I never wanted a cat, I don’t like cats, I really don’t understand people’s obsession with cats and I have a problem with cats and our wildlife. But when you buy an extremely run down farm house set in the middle of 203 acres, with various sheds and outbuildings, you have a mouse problem. In fact such a mouse problem I could feel them run across me in bed at night! So a killer cat was required. The Charity did me proud when I phoned enquiring about rehoming.
“I need a killer” I told them.
“How many cats are you likely to have?” Di Lewis at NDAA asked.
“Oh God only one, I hate cats” I replied realising that’s probably not the best answer to give her. Never mind we went, viewed and bought Felix.

He was approximately eight years old, a silver/grey Bengal and a big bugger. A big noisy bugger, Bengals are very vocal. They are also prone to fight, hence the question as to how many cats I was likely to have. He was found wandering the streets of Barnstaple, picked up and as he was microchipped the Charity phoned the owners. They didn’t want him back. They confirmed his age and said they had paid £800 for him as a kitten. Bloody hell, I paid £800 for my horse including tack!!

Still he did his job and very well. He terrorised the dogs, adopted Mum and Dad’s side of the house, took over their spare bedroom and single bed. Well why have a cat bed when you can have a single bed. Ruined the duvet and took over the spare chair in their sitting room.

But sadly at approx 16 he started to show his age, went completely blind, back legs starting to give way, he was getting stressed walking round and round in circles so I made the decision.

Vet Emily and Vet Nurse Colette from Torbridge Vets in South Molton were wonderful. They were professional, friendly, caring and he was put down at home. However, he had the final laugh. I have the builders in with digger, so I asked if they could dig a grave in the field in front of the house. No problems there. However, as Colette and I walked over to the grave we were in for a shock. Colette was carrying Felix wrapped in a towel and we both stopped and looked down. “How the hell am I supposed to get down there?” I said. The grave was vast you could tell it had been dug with a blooming great digger. All I can say is Colette went beyond the call of duty and climbed down. I handed her Felix, she placed him carefully in the grave and finally I had to help her climb out it was that deep!!
RIP Felix. xxxxxxxx

Mad dogs and English Pheasants

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I have a long held belief that when a Springer Spaniel is in pup, built into her womb is a video clip on constant replay of a pheasant taking off in flight. Complete with a soundtrack of flapping wings and the distinctive cluck-cluck-clucking they make as they take off. Why do I think this? Well how else can a sweet little Springer puppy from a very very early stage in life just know what to do when they see or hear a pheasant. Just how else will a sweet little Springer puppy know to bolt after the bird, flushing it out, while controllably – yes I did type controllably – leaping around. After all Springers are not manic, just enthusiastic and damn good at their job.

The trouble is that this built-in Springer/pheasant instinct doesn’t just happen in the great outdoors. Picture the scene, me and my best mate were in the kitchen of Tabor Hill HQ having had supper, the jug of Pimms going down a treat and on in the background a Midsomer Murder. Much of the plot was based around a wood with a cottage by a pond. All very pretty and Midsomer-ish, but every blooming time anyone went near this wood a pheasant kicked off. It didn’t matter what time of day or night – the clucking started. And every blooming time I had four Springers leap in the air, run round the kitchen, bolt for the front door, dash across the garden, sending gravel flying and out into the yard. Once in the yard there were four Springers leaping around ears flying while desperately trying to spot the pheasant. It got so bad that you couldn’t watch the episode and when finally the jug of Pimms was finished I turned off the TV and best mate went home, while Springers were confused and knackered.

I will admit this isn’t the first case and I suppose it won’t be the last. I had trouble trying to watch Downton Abbey. It was during a brief period of the drama when there was a housemaid called Ethel. She wasn’t the brightest spark or the hardest worker and every time Carson the Butler yelled ‘ETHEL’ my poor dog leaped in the air, swung round to look at me with the manic…sorry intelligent…look of ‘WHAT, I wasn’t doing anything”. All I could do was laugh and all Ethel did was sulk.

And as for hounds…..oh blimey…don’t mention hounds to Ethel. Hounds have been in the farm yard and the farm yard is not owned by me, but by Ethel and Ethel HATES hounds cos they invade HER yard. So if there is a hunting scene on the TV there is a panic to grab the remote to turn off the sound before Effs hears them and all hell breaks loose.

Mr Crispy Duck Man

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On the whole I have a great bunch of guests coming and going here at Tabor Hill Farm. However, you do get the odd one who is… hum… a little demanding?! There was the lady who asked to put something in the fridge. A fairly frequent request for a bottle of wine or lunch for the next day. But this guest took it to the extreme, removing the whole contents of my fridge and putting all her shopping, still in the bags – Waitrose of course Darling – into the fridge. There was the lady who only ate healthy foods, lectured me on various diet issues, obviously hinting at my size. She ate the complimentary homemade cake in the room and asked for more. She left the tomatoes, mushrooms and egg on her breakfast plate but asked for another slice of fried bread! There was the couple who sat for 25 minutes on the farm track waiting for the bull to move so they could drive past. This was a bull who wasn’t a bull but an English Longhorn cow. However, as much as I tried to explain that it was a cow and not a bull, that horns vary from breed to breed, they wouldn’t hear of it. Apparently only bulls have horns, cows don’t and as this creature had horns it had to be a bull. So the next day they asked if I would drive out first to make sure the bull, which was a cow, wasn’t blocking the track so they could drive out.

Then a couple of years ago I got a reservation from a gentleman wanting a single room for three nights. I explained that I didn’t have a single room, but he could have either the double or twin, he insisted on a single and then began to barter. I don’t barter, the price is the price – end of. He arranged to arrive by 9pm, all fine and dandy. But turned up at 11.30! I showed him to the room and before I could get down the stairs he followed me wanting a cup of tea. At that time of night one would hope the guest/s would use the tea and coffee making facilities in the room. No – he wanted me to make it and then sat in the kitchen talking and talking and talking. I was somewhat blunt by midnight and off he went to bed. Next morning, the complaints started. The shower was cold, the duvet too heavy, bed too soft and the bath towels too large. So while he ate, actually sucked – I’ll explain in a mo – his breakfast, I ran upstairs to check the shower. It was set on cold. When he left I split the duvet to reduce the weight, not much I could do about the bed and he would just have to put up with the size of the towel.

One thing I had noticed was his lack of teeth and this was more apparent when he ordered breakfast. Toast, bacon and sausages all had to be under cooked. He clearly couldn’t chew so would have to… well… suck! He didn’t like my sausages and suggested they came from the supermarket, they don’t, they come from my local butchers. He asked if I had added food colouring to the egg yoke as the colour of the yoke from my free range girls was too yellow. Finally he asked where he should go for his dinner. I alway suggest two pubs to visitors and everyone loves both and so do I. So I suggested either the London Inn in Molland or the Royal Oak in Withypool. He asked me to book him into the Royal Oak and off he went.

He arrived back about 8ish and my heart sank, that would mean I would have to natter to him further.
“I don’t know why you recommend the Royal Oak, they can’t cook you know”, he bellowed before plonking himself down in the kitchen.
“They can’t cook green beans you know” he yelled even louder.
The trouble is I knew this was utter rubbish. I know Sarah Thomas, landlady and chef is an excellent chef. I have never had a complaint made against the place or the food. I know the place is excellent, but I decided not to argue and let him rumble on and on and on. It turned out he didn’t like his lunch in the hotel in Exford either, their green beans were dreadful too. And as for the cream tea in a National Trust cafe well I won’t bore you with what was wrong with that.

Next morning, despite making sure the shower was on hot, it was cold again. The duvet too light, he requested I put the other section back. He still didn’t like the bed and wanted a 2nd hand towel and asked for the bath towel to be removed. Breakfast again under cooked and he still didn’t see why my eggs were so yellow. Finally he asked me where to go for dinner and off he went again.

This time I booked him into the other pub I always recommend. The London Inn in Molland. Again like the Royal Oak guests love the pub and the food and so do I. At 8pm the phone went. It was Stuart Mallen landlord and chef at the London Inn.
“Who the ********* is this bloke you have booked in? Who the ******** does he think he is? What a pain in the ******** ******** he is” Stuart yelled down the phone.
“Hello Darling” I replied “Yes I love you too. Is he being a pain?”
Yes he ****** ******** ****** is” came the reply.
Luckily I know Stuart every well, so I asked what happened. Well, my gentleman (I use that term loosely) B&Ber arrived before they were open and hammered on the door. Didn’t like any of the beers. Ordered a starter which he didn’t like and sent back to the kitchen. This was only after he had completely cleared the plate while complaining at the same time. His complaint… he couldn’t eat it, it was too difficult to eat with his lack of teeth. Then why choose pate and TOAST. But to add insult to injury he ordered Crispy Duck for his main. This is a man with few teeth, he struggles to eat, he didn’t ask for it to be undercooked, which would have kinda defeated the object of the dish and then complained that is was tooooooo CRISPY.

Next morning, shower was cold, still didn’t like the bed or duvet and decided he would have scrambled eggs for breakfast. He’s been back three more times and each time he’s been back to the London Inn and the Royal Oak for his dinner. Oh bless…

Timbeeeeeeerrrrr…..

 

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The trouble with owning a place like this, one seems to need an endless supply of tools, machinery and general stuff. Take for-instance trailers… I have two…… one general purpose and one for Charlie. Then there are strimmers, wood chipper, pole saws, all sorts of stuff – you name it I seem to have it. But there is one thing I don’t own and want and that is a chainsaw. Apparently I wouldn’t be safe with one. Apparently I am accident prone so probably best I don’t own one. But I want, I want, I want and feel I have a need for one. But the other residents here at Tabor Hill are against me and insist I shouldn’t have one. Best mate has even told James at Haynes Machinery in Barnstaple not to sell me one.

So when it comes to a chainsaw I have found the perfect solution which gets the job done in safety. This solution is to call on my very good friend Sarah who is lucky enough and safe enough to own one. The job said chainsaw was required for was to take down the old look-out hide by the woods. I inherited it, I have never used it, and it was starting to rot so best take it down before it falls down. At over 25 feet high and built like the proverbial brick ****-house it was going to take some effort to get it down. Between Sarah, myself, and various tree surgeon videos on youtube, we decided the best way forward was to cut through 3 of the 4 14 foot high posts, tie a rope to one cut leg and attach to quad bike which will make sure the hide falls the way we want it and then cut through final post. What we hadn’t banked on was that the blasted hide was so heavy the quad couldn’t pull it down even with posts cut. As I revved and revved on Quentin quad bike the hide didn’t budge, while the tyres dug into the soft ground sending mud flying. After much to-ing and fro-ing Quentin came free, me plastered from the flying mud and the hide still very much in place.

Plan B was… well we hadn’t got a plan B, we never thought we needed a plan B. What we were left with was one uncut post, which was on the downside of the hide which was built on a rather steep slope. This meant both Sarah and I had to be down hill as the last post was cut. Standing to the side, using some sense of H&S, Sarah started to cut through the last post, trouble was the weight of the hide clamped down and jammed her chainsaw blade. Now I should point out at this stage that the saw was brand new, it wasn’t cheap and it was now jammed. So picture the scene – two middle-aged women, standing underneath an unstable wooden structure, chainsaw jammed and the only hope of getting it released and hide down was to push. So we did and pushed and pushed and eventually it moved. Knowing by now how bloody heavy it was, I was convinced it would hit the ground and stay put. But it didn’t, it hit the ground, did an almighty bounce, then another, then another before rolling down the hill. Chainsaw was undamaged by all this and I had hoped that the hide would break up on impact but apart from the roof coming off it stayed in one piece. So I have gone from a hideous upright hide to a hideous hide intact and on the ground.

Plan C – wait until November 5th and have a damn good bonfire party!

Money money money

imageBookings for the B&B come from all sorts of contacts and I meet all sorts of people. A recent booking came via a friend of mine, who had a business contact coming to the uk. All fine and dandy. However, the trip was first organised for September and cancelled three days before arrival. Then out of the blue the trip was back on for last week.

The Gentleman was collected from Heathrow, driven to North Devon, taken out for dinner and then driven to the farm. Time was agreed for breakfast and off he went to bed. In the morning he didn’t come down, I waited till 8.30 and then knocked on his door to check he was alright. He was, but it was too early for breakfast! The next evening, he was brought back to the farm after dinner, breakfast time agreed and off he went to bed. Shortly afterwards I heard a loud thud on the floor. I checked he was ok, he was. Next morning he didn’t come down for breakfast so this time I didn’t bother chasing. He still didn’t come down when my friend arrived to take him to work, so I let him chase him. That evening he came back, went to his room and shortly afterwards there was another loud thud. When he checked out he didn’t say anything and as they drove off I ran upstairs to see if anything was broken, it wasn’t. However when I went to clean the loo I noticed the handle wasn’t working. I took the lid off and put it on the floor and had deja vu – the same sound I’d heard the last two evenings. Inside the loo the hook which holds the loo handle lever to the ball cock was detached. Not broken, just detached. Trying to re-fix it was difficult, blooming difficult, so just what had he done to detach it? I knew that the gentleman had come to the UK with £10,000 cash on him so the only thing I could deduce was that he had hidden the cash in the loo and caused the detachment!

A trifling situation

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Dear Reader the following is a true story which happened a few months ago. The name of the cat has been changed to hide its true identity, it did have a pudding name. While Mrs Mass Hysteria has moved out of the village.

Coming home late one night via the heaving metropolis of North Molton I spotted eyes in the dark. I slowed down and realised it was a cat, I stopped and got out to find a dead cat in the lane. Before I could pick it up to put on the side a window from one of the cottages flew open and a manic woman yelled “what are you doing, what are you doing, what are you doing?”

Thinking it could be her dead cat I approached with caution and diplomacy to try to inform her there was a dead cat. Before I could finish she started screaming “oh God it’s Trifle it’s Trifle it’s Trifle”. I asked if it was her cat she replied it wasn’t but she knew who it belonged to. I asked if she had a bag in which I could put the dead cat and without answering she slammed the window shut, locked it and disappeared into the gloom. Standing there in the middle of the lane, in the pitch black, I was just wondering what to do when the window was re-opened and she threw a towel at me. Before I could ask anything she said “they are not answering, they are not answering, they are not answering, oh Trifle oh Trifle oh Trifle “. “Who is not answering and why do you say everything three times?” I asked. “The neighbours, the neighbours, the neighbours” came the reply before slamming the window shut, locking it and disappearing once again. I picked up the cat, wrapped it in the towel – there wasn’t a mark on it or any blood so I don’t think it had been hit by a car. Once again I was standing in the middle of a lane, in the pitch black, this time with dead cat in my arms. I decided to take matters into my own hands and walked down the lane towards the next cottage. There were lights on but no one came to the door when I knocked. Before I could think what to do next. Mrs Mass Hysteria flung open the window, spotted I wasn’t there, slammed it shut, locked it and dashed out of her front door running down the lane towards me yelling “oh God oh God, oh God she’s coming she’s coming, she’s coming out to see Trifle, Trifle, Trifle”. While I yelled back “oh for God’s sake shut up, pull yourself together, haven’t you ever had to deal with a dead animal before?”

Before she could reply a lady appeared from the cottage. Bracing myself once again to break the news that someone’s pet was sadly no more, Mrs Mass Hysteria yelled to her “It’s Trifle, it’s Trifle, it’s Trifle”. As the lady approached me I quietly said “I am so sorry I found Trifle dead in the lane”. The lady looked at me and lifted the towel to see the cat’s face and said “that’s not Trifle”. WHAT? For a split second Mrs Mass Hysteria shut up, before going off in triplicate again, while the other lady gave me a knowing look of “sorry about my neighbour” and said “I know who’s cat it is I’ll take it for you”. With that I thanked her and bolted for the safety of Larry Landrover. As I drove off I looked back to see Mrs Mass Hysteria still ranting while the other lady was standing in the middle of the lane, in the pitch back, with a dead cat in her arms.

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