Who remembers the Biggest Fungus in Trelystan? Nobody? Well me neither. I'd completely forgotten about it until today when at hen-letting-out-time I noticed Wilson (the most handsome bull terrier in Trelystan) tucking into something at the base of the beech tree with great enthusiasm. It turned out to be a chunk of the now dessicated remains of that fungus. I shooed him off and went in for my own breakfast. Stupid dog.
Toast and coffee for me. So far so good. A quick look at the crossword and then I shall have to be off and away. Today is my Christmas present day. I am going glass blowing. I am quite excited.
Then in fairly rapid succession something very nasty comes out of both ends of the dog - both of which I flick with a shovel over the wall and into the lane. He begins to drool alarmingly. (Use your imaginations, detail would be superfluous.)
This does not look like good news as I have vague recollections about the evilness to this fungus and although Alan now tells me it is not the skull and cross-boned Trametes versicolour but the innocuous Meripilus giganteus, the dog looks sick and I still fret. The vet will see him asap and we decide that I should, nonetheless, go and have my day out. Wilson - your timing is impeccable.
Thus it is that I find myself a couple of hours later, in a car park in Stourbridge, having a telephone conversation about the quality, quantity and consistency of dog sick. The Glam Ass armed with that vital information does a great job with Wilson at the vet's - although I will not know this until I get home.
Glass blowing then? I'd been inspired by Kirsty Allsopp making baubles in the run-up to Christmas (how easy-peasy it looked) and I really, really, really wished I could have a go too. I wished really, really loudly....What a wonderful present that would make etc etc. ....
The Glam Ass took the heavy hint and found a glassblower with a studio in Stourbridge; a town which was once, in the days when this country still made things, a centre of the glass industry. I went to Martin Andrews' studio at the Ruskin Glass Centre in Stourbridge for a day's tutorial. Martin is a glass blower who not only makes his own wonderful pieces but also teaches students at Ruskin College which is on the same site.
This is the 'hot end' of Martin's studio; on the right a roaring furnace containing a vat of molten glass, 2 'glory holes' in which to re-heat the glass which has been 'gathered' from the furnace and, on the extreme left, an annealing kiln.
There are pipes and puntys - the first used to blow glass and the latter a steel rod to gather glass and hold it for shaping and working:
To get the feel of molten glass and of handling unfamiliar tools
we started with the simplest techniques; a blob of glass on a punty stick to shape and form.
The door of the furnace was slid open and in its searing heat we learned to 'gather' glass on a punty stick - dip it in at an angle, push away and turn, turn, turn and bring out the captured blob like getting Golden syrup from the tin. Keep it moving, keep it moving - keep turning the rod so the blob of red hot glass on the end doesn't droop and remains central. While it is still plastic roll it in your hand - well, in a hand protected by a wad of soaked Yellow Pages that is. All too soon the heat has gone out of the glass - although it would be impossible to touch - and it must be reheated in order to work it again. The process is repeated again and again until Martin is satisfied that our blobs are well shaped. Then we must use 'jacks' to cut into what has become a cylinder. We make a row of marble-like balls each and are very pleased with ourselves.
Using these newly acquired techniques and with a little help, my fellow pupil and I each make a paperweight. I can't do a picture yet as it needs to spend 12 hours in an annealing kiln where the glass can slowly cool down. It is the sweetest, prettiest blue and green paperweight I have ever made. I am puffed out with pride.
He is, thank goodness. I'd like to think he's a little chastened but I think his subdued manner has more to do with belly ache than embarrassment over being a stupid greedy-guts.
It's been a pretty good day: the Glam Ass has made Caesar Salad for supper, the chicken fencing has been delivered and a mountain of books - 'Marton the story of a Shropshire village' - sits shrink-wrapped in the garage. Cows are out on the fields up here and the swallows are back too. I have some strange white medicine to squirt down Wilson tomorrow which will be fun.
And so to bed.