Monday, January 30, 2012

Oh no it isn't...

It's that time of year again. Yep, YFC drama competition time. This year the theme is pantomime and I am amazed to think that I've been involved long enough to think 'Oh no, not again.' (Panto, I can assure you is not my favourite genre.) Chirbury and Marton have chosen 'Jack and the Beanstalk'.

So. We know when we will be be on stage in Whitchurch; 17th February, a date a little too close for comfort. These young people certainly enjoy a white knuckle ride. How I wish we had a little longer to tease the very best out of them.

Come on, tell me the few essentials of a good pantomime.  Whatever the individual storyline good will always triumph over evil. Kings, queens, nobles, evil henchmen, stereotypical simpletons, villagers and poor, beautiful and virtuous young girls rub shoulders in Pantoland. The Principal boy will always woo and win the Principal girl. The principal boy is always girl and there's always a Dame, another role for the cross dresser. As tradition demands our Dame is a stubbly chinned bloke.

There will be curious farm animals - a two-piece cow or horse. This is Daisy, deflated so-to-speak, sans actors.
We've had a few read-throughs but scripts are still much in evidence. 'Learn your words' we plead.
Come to think of it - we have yet to have a rehearsal with the whole cast present. 'Everyone must be there next time' we insist, more in hope than expectation.

Actually I will be the one who won't be there. I have other plans - even if they only involve being in the room next door. In the meantime there is the usual incongruous collection of props to assemble; cowbell, bag of gold/beans, buckets, baskets and feather duster. Not my kind of shopping I'm afraid.

Oh, they need a hen too....and if one can't be borrowed or made from papier mâché it has been suggested that I could find a compliant bird with thespian tendencies from my hen pen. Strewth! I think not. An afternoon covering a wire frame with paste and paper would be infinitely preferable. Non?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Sheep

I have a sheep. Actually it's not really mine - I sort of have it on loan.

At the end of last summer there were a dozen sheep on our field, usefully munching their way around and keeping the grass down for us. They were 'killer ewes' - the aged, barren and toothless or the ones whose previous lambing had been over-difficult and wouldn't go to the ram again. There's quite a good market for them, probably for processed foods and the like. Kebabs maybe. Mostly they looked a sorry bunch.

They soon learned that my bucket of layers' pellets was tasty enough and I soon learned to keep out of the way of this greedy mob at hen feeding time. Never underestimate the pushiness of a ewe who thinks she is hungry. One of them in particular had gold medals in persistence.

The time came for them to go and the big blue cattle truck arrived to take them away for slaughter. My little flock was gathered from the field to be loaded - and the words I shouldn't have spoken escaped my lips: 'Please can I keep that one? That one there with the pretty face?'

To my surprise H and J agreed. A few moments later the wrong sheep was trotting back to the field. 'It's the wrong one!' I squeaked. With only a little phaffing about, the right sheep was hauled off the lorry and she too went trotting back. 'Coffin dodgers' muttered Carl.

So. The Sheep and The Other Sheep live on the field - but only for the time being because the day will surely come when they will have to go. This one comes running for a handful of sheep nuts and offers its ears for a scratch. Her charms have beguiled me - though common sense tells me her wiles are mostly to do with cupboard love. Here she is, below, tasting the zipper on my gilet.
I've broken my No.1 Rule - don't get over-fond, taken in by a pretty face. (That would hold true for many relationships perhaps!) This way sadness lies. 

Rule No.2 - no names - still applies though. She is 'The Sheep'.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I got sunshine...

In the words of the fab Temptations* from way back in '65:
'I got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it's cold outside, I got the month of May...'
Me? I got oranges. I got liquid gold. I making marmalade.

There's not much new to say about this, my annual fruity task. Squeeze, pare, slice, bubble, boil and pot. The tedium of preparation...sigh...puts all but the most enthusiastic off. I put the cauldron on annually. It's not so much about a supply of marmalade that will last the year - for me it's about delighting the senses. This is a thing which has to be done.

A bag of oranges - such a vibrant cheering colour when all is grey outdoors.

Scent too; breathe in - the house (maybe even the whole of the small mountain kingdom) is redolent of bitter orange. Reach out, touch something. Sticky. Everything. Just why is there marmalade on my ear lobe?

So, we now have enough jars on at the shelf and a few to spare. A good feeling.

*Promise me you'll click the link - it's as feel-good a thing as marmalade! The suits and shoes are pretty good too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pan and er, Pan

The Glam Ass shoved a copy of The Times under my nose. His expression implied that the country was going to the dogs - if indeed it hadn't already been there, done that and was now proudly sporting the t shirt.

'Just what's that all about?' he grumped, stabbing his finger on a quarter page ad. 'Can you understand it?'

I looked and well, no, I couldn't.

'I can understand the words but what the **** is the picture all about?' he continued. I could foresee one of those whingey conversations ensuing in which he proposed that in its glory days advertising was creative and made sense but now it was just gratuitous clap-trap etc etc etc and I would disagree and talk about different mores for different generations. Blah, blah.We would go round in circles until some other snippet caught his eye and we set off on a minor rant yet again.

The offending ad is for a mobile phone provider - as it is not in front of me now their name escapes me. That's how good it was. Not.

Yes, the words are perfectly understandable but the picture is a little bizarre; a bucolic landscape with an ugly hooved and horned man dressed in a cricket sweater, and obviously in thrall to a sweet little hovering fairy. Are we missing an allusion here?

'Is is meant to be Pan?' the GA asked. 'Why? Why's he wearing a cricket sweater?'

I nod sympathetically. I dunno. I get asked a lot of questions like this and experience has proved that it's wisest not to get too embroiled. It's generally not worth wasting energy on. Perhaps I had switched off anyway - at the mention of the word 'Pan' my brain's hyper-efficient search engine was churning away and seconds later a few lines from a song last heard in the early 70's  popped into my head. This was without even trying.

'how will I say where I end
or where you begin
how will I say, what shall I play
shall it be you or the wild wind
as Pan with the unsane eyes
or with the wild horns
or when I am crowned with the paper crown
or with the crown of thorns

This is a snippet from the Incredible String Band's 'Queen of Love' - I won't bore you with it all. There is much in the same vein as it lasts a whole 8.06 minutes. I suspect I was quite a fan of theirs though the vinyl is long gone. Seen written out and after a gap of nearly 40 years it does seem like vapid unfathomable tosh, but back in those heady days however, how profound and mystic.

I am of course immediately transported back to then, to summer days in north Oxfordshire when the sun was always shining and if it rained, what the heck - we got wet and danced in it.

Enough of this - a more scholarly person might have come up with references to classical Greece rather than a season of peace and love. None of which answers any of the questions posed by the Glam Ass or satisfies my passing curiosity about the relationship between Pan and a fairy.

Am I missing a trick somewhere? Enlightenment welcome.
Out of curiosity I've just gone and looked at the ad again. The provider is O2. I've googled O2. Our goat-legged friend and his fairy are there as well. More mysteriously the goat-legged one, still in his cricket sweater, also offers fantastic tariffs and deals from a a squirrel. 

Worse still, I now feel an 'ear-worm' coming on.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I start the year with a sploosh...

I didn't know I'd got an 'under-tray'. I do now.

It turns out that it was this 'under-tray' which made such a dreadful crunching noise as I came out of the flood down by the Mill turn. (No visions of Ursula Andress  stalking sexily from the waves please - just a silver Audi emerging noisily from a large muddy puddle.)

As I drove on something scraunched on the road underneath me. Ooo err...not a good noise. It was a bit silly to go through the flood really - anything could have been in the water just waiting to knock cobs of my motor. I parked up at the Village Hall and tentatively knelt down (not wanting to get my knees wet) to see if I could spot the damage. And indeed I could. A large bit of rigid black plastic hanging down. B****r. Looks there will be no driving this home. More damned expense. Sigh.

On going through the water this 'under-tray', which in effect covers the car's undercarriage, had scooped up gallons of muddy water which being so heavy (we all know that a pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter don't we?) tore away the weedy plastic fixings which hold the tray in place and the whole caboodle collapsed.

The Glam Ass (bless 'im) came to the rescue and after a bit of grumbling and a bit of thought suggested I raise the height of the car. This particular model has the ability to raise itself at the push of a button to cope with different sorts of terrain. Clever huh? Why didn't I think of that?

It did the trick and I was able to proceed carefully back through the flood to our very best motor mechanic who has the necessary ramp and big screwdriver. It will be fixed sooner or later but for the time being I shall be driving the pick-up. This means no drive to Yorkshire on Friday for an aged aunt's funeral, but that is another story.

Please be warned - you too may have an 'under-tray' - do not mix with deep water.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year

Family and friends have visited - I've been indulged beyond belief with presents, fed to bursting, laughed and cried. I've enjoyed every minute of your company. Thank you all so much. Can we do it again next year?

My twinkly Christmas tree still glistens in the corner; so pretty...but oh dear, there is the faintest whiff of stale spruce which I will not be able to tolerate for much longer. The party's over, we've turned the corner of the year and it is time to move on.

New Year's day then in the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan.....wet and mild; a stark but benevolent landscape, surprisingly green. Isn't it rather beautiful? If those trees were lace on a gown of green they would surely be the talk of the town.

After drought conditions prevailed for a large part of 2011 we now find ourselves saturated. The little lane under our window runs with water like a stream and the trudge to the hens is a slip-slidey affair.

Which of course doesn't bother the Naughtiest Sheep, seen here with our dog Wilson, the most handsome bull terrier in Trelystan. (Both wish to be on the other side of a closed gate...neither appreciating that the world is not hugely different whichever side one is on.)

The Naughty Sheep has no trouble, sharp hoofed as she is, manoeuvring the slippy bank to the hen pen - and nudging my hen food bucket as she goes. Ever hopeful.

Thus it was, sheep and bucket at my side we went up at dusk this evening and stood awhile.

Over in the dark conifers of Badnage Wood an owl hooted. (Oh joyous sound! We haven't heard owls for ages.) The sky was clear and, as my eyes became accustomed to the dark, a bright small moon and star upon star upon star appeared; a delicious panoply indeed.

The Plough, that most familiar of constellations, lay over the Wood - on its back looking as a plough should look.

It is a constant. There will be something very wrong if it is not there tomorrow. For all the changes that we hope a new year will bring there are always things which should remain the same. Love, health, hope and happiness. Peace too.

I wish you all these things for 2012 - we are together under the same sky.