Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Back from New York

Alan and Dan arrived back here about 8.30 yesterday morning, having landed in Manchester shortly before 6.00am. At that hour there was nothing to see or do so they hopped in the car and Dan drove Alan home. These pictures will make a change from the usual ones I post - not a sheep in sight!- The first one shows a scene from the set of 'Spiderman 3' which was being filmed on 6th Avenue and was apparently quite wacky.

Alan bought me a beautiful necklace made by disadvantaged women in South Africa, whose intricate beadwork pieces: jewellery, animals and figures, are the end products of the Monkeybiz project. The project aims to empower and create employment for about 450 women in Cape Town by providing them with materials and a market for their craft work. Check out the site and see how unique these pieces are.
Incidentally, my other gift was some Christian Dior products - which I shall enjoy slapping on my face - but how far to the other end of the commercial spectrum can you get?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Spring Flowers

This unseasonal weather goes on and on - rough winds continue to shake the darling buds of May and it's raining, again. With impecable timing the Government has declared a state of drought in some parts of the country. Some waggish commentators are describing it as the wettest drought on record.

Of course the rain has made the grass grow and the trees burst into leaf. The countryside is looking its best - fresh and green. The roadsides are frothy white with cow parsley and hedges now heavy with may blossom. I've seen rain drops on the grass twinkling like diamonds when caught in the little sun we've had.

These sheep are rushing to the ovine equivalent of the beauty therapist - manicure, pedicure, Brazilian and a dose of tonic - all to be administered by Carl and Dan over at Fir House. Most years, by now, they would have been shorn but as the weather's been so inclement they still have their fleeces.

I'm still home alone - my travellers are in New York until Sunday evening - they fly back overnight and will arrive back here sometime on Monday. Look forward to seeing them both. In the meantime I'm dodging the raindrops and keeping a low profile - people, kindly, want to keep me company and I'm actually relishing the solitude. However tonight I'm off to the Marton Village Quiz - more humiliation as none of us will have a clue about sport, pop or TV soaps. Still, got to be in it to win it! I believe 1st prize is a weighty £12.00.

Here's a picture of interest to fans of the German Wire-haired Pointer. This dog has been told to 'Sit' but would rather be somewhere else. Note the resentful look.

Finally, and because this will give pleasure to someone, somewhere:

Who'd believe a dog could fly!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Home alone...

.....Well not quite. Upstairs lies sleeping our neighbour's small son. But that is another story.

Alan left for New York this afternoon - anxiously patting his pockets and murmuring the mantra 'Ticket, Passport, Dollars, Ticket, Passport, Dollars' - occasionally, and for variety, adding 'Glasses, Spare Glasses, Camera' to his chant. Chill, Al. Chill.

Right now he's stopped off en route in Stockport to meet Dan and hopefully he and Harry have plyed him with plenty of vino blanco at La Casona on Shaw Road in Heaton Moor. I gather that double portions of calamari were eaten.*

He and Daniel will be spending 3 nights in Manhattan. Alan particularly wants to see the Museum of Modern Art and mooch around what is still one amazing city. I guess the last time we were there together was in February 2000 - or maybe 1999. Time flies.

Me? I've elected to stay here at the end of the Long Mountain, having had enough of New Yorkers' rudeness the last time. As a reward I get to enjoy torrential rain which has left the ground saturated and a chill more suited to March.

*n.b. Thou shalt not covet thy husband's supper...

Pascua Lama

Now, I'm not an eco-warrior but I do think this earth a beautiful and fragile place worthy of our protection and respect. It's also the only one we've got. So when the e.petition came around asking for our support in opposing the Pascua Lama project in Chile I was keen to add my name and forward the petition to all in my address book. Perhaps you received it?

The following extract gives some idea of the monumentally destructive scale of the project:

In the Valle de San Felix, the purest water in Chile runs from 2 rivers, fed by 2 glaciers. Water is a most precious resource, and wars will be fought for it. Indigenous farmers use the water, there is no unemployment, and they provide the second largest source of income for the area. Under the glaciers has been found a huge deposit of gold, silver and other minerals. To get at these it is necessary to break, to destroy the glaciers - something never conceived of in the history of the world - and to make 2 huge holes, each as big as a whole mountain, one for extraction and one for the mine's rubbish tip.

The project is called Pascua Lama. The company is called Barrick Gold. The operation is planned by a multi-national company, one of whose members is George Bush Senior (what a surprise eh?).
The Chilean Government has approved the project to start this year, 2006. The only reason it hasn't started yet is because the farmers have got a temporary stay of execution. If they destroy the glaciers, they will not just destroy the source of specially pure water, but they will permanently contaminate the 2 rivers so they will never again be fit for human or animal
consumption because of the use of cyanide and sulphuric acid in the extraction process. Every last gram of gold will go abroad to the multinational company and not one will be left with the people whose land it is. They will only be left with the poisoned water and the resulting illnesses. The farmers have been fighting a long time for their land, but have been forbidden to make a TV appeal by a ban from the Ministry of the Interior. Their only hope now of putting brakes on this project is to get help from international justice.

Check this link for more details. If you are able and willing, please add your voice to the many that oppose this greedy desecration.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Diamond Day

'Diamond Day'
Just another diamond day
Just a blade of grass
Just another bale of hay
And the horses pass.

Just another field to plough
Just a grain of wheat
Just a sack of seed to sow
And the children eat.

Just another life to live
Just a word to say
Just another love to give
And a diamond day

Vashti Bunyan
(Warlock music)

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

There and back again.

After a round trip of about 500 miles we are back at Lower House. We left early yesterday morning for Cornwall to celebrate David's 60th birthday and arrived in time to enjoy a gourmet lunch served in his new greenhouse. We ate heartily amongst his newly planted peach, nectarine and apricot trees, and staggered full-bellied from the table in the late afternoon. Those lucky enough to have beds, retired to them and enjoyed a siesta. More friends arrived in the early evening - the table was re-laid, Pimms prepared and glasses filled. Much conversation and conviviality. We spent a lovely evening talking to friends old and new but it was a pleasure at the end of a long day to fall into bed. The hospitality of neighbours Jonathan and Lizzie was much appreciated - we were made so, so welcome and so, so comfortable. We woke to fine views of the Tamar's racing tide - which we watched from our bed - feeling very cosy as torrential rain lashed against the window. Thank you both.

Then we sailed back north - and I use 'sail' with confidence; the weather was atrocious and the roads awash with water. There has been no shortage of rain here either but the sun came out for a brief moment and this rainbow was our reward. This couplet came to mind and now, annoyingly, won't go away:
"God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time!"

Then, dodging the raindrops, took a brief tour or the garden. Sniffed the air - bright and cool. Felt the wet grass. Tweaked a weed or two. Muddied my fingers. Listened to the wind through the trees of Badnage Wood. Leant on the gate and saluted the lambs. Plus ca change.....

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dull, dull, dull

Even for here it's been a quiet week.

The weather did come in from the west and we had thunder. Quite stirring. For a while. Since then it's been rainy and cold and most of my seeds are still reluctant to germinate. I keep looking, hopefully, but there's only so much peering at the earth a girl can do while dodging the raindrops....

What else? We've had a ewe with a limp, a sickly lamb and tonight I saw a squashed pheasant. The Thomas's have turned some more cattle out and Carl has wormed some more sheep. The blackthorn has finished and the hawthorn is just coming into flower. Everywhere is amazingly green. The lanes are lined with cow parsley, campion and stitchwort - and bluebells too - bowed down this evening by the wind and rain. (Bluebells are a sign of old woodland I believe.) At the site of the road/waterworks at the top of the lane earlier this year a solitary orchid has managed to survive against the odds.

Our barn is surrounded by nesting birds; redstarts and great tits in the hovel wall, wagtails in old pig sty, swallows in the silo, blasted pigeons in the owl box, sparrows in the sparrow terrace, a wren in the log pile, blue tits in the blue tit boxes.... and these are the birds we've noticed. There must be a curlew up on the field to the east as we hear its eery cry quite frequently.

See what I mean? Hardly the stuff of headlines but the little things which make the backdrop to the bigger picture and without which we'd be a whole lot poorer.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

As I write this the weather is changing; something's coming in from the west with thunder, making the dogs bark and the pheasants squawk in alarm. A drop of rain tonight would be a good thing. I'm willing my seeds to germinate but I think rain would be more useful.

Your water - safe in our hands...

.....sayeth the Severn Trent Water company on everything from stationery to vehicles. However when I went up the lane a while ago our water was gushing from a standpipe and streaming down the hill. (It just slipped through their fingers.) Meanwhile Severn Trent were doing something vital down a hole in a field.

We're having a waterless day here in Trelystan and our usually profligate usage has been severely curtailed. Having filled bowls, jugs, cups and buckets for essentials, Alan was last seen washing his hands in the pond. It does make you value this very precious resource. And I guess we are lucky in that our supply will be restored this afternoon - for many in this world this rationing would go on forever.
Another truly beautiful day here - went into the field to gather moss to line hanging baskets. The grass was twinkling with dew. The sheep were vaguely interested in my visit - thinking (do sheep think?) that my carrier bag contained sheep nuts. Their interest was shortlived. They are the last of John and Heathers' sheep to lamb and have been gathered from more than one farm so are an odd little flock. Here's a photo for the sheep lovers amongst you!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What Women Want

Went to Molto nightclub in Welshpool last night - and before you ask - no, I wasn't boogying on down to that crazy disco beat but, along with about 249 other women, was supporting the Friends of Leighton School's fundraiser: 'What Women Want'.

What women want apparently are lots of things that are pink, twinkly and stinky. Also chocolate - and lots of it. Alternative therapies are a girly thing too judging by the practitioners waiting to massage heads, feets and all things in between. We watched hair dressed, nails manicured, admired necklaces and scarves and hats with feathers and hats without. We appreciated the virtues of aloe vera, organic produce and Tanner's Wines. We marvelled at Ricky Lloyd's Chocolate Fountain, dipping fudge, doughnut and marshmallow.

It was a very sucessful evening for the Friends and could only have been improved by a bit more space and some air conditioning as the confines of the nightclub were very hot and stuffy. And I can't describe how sticky the carpet was...

All this woman wanted by about 9.30 was a bit of peace and quiet. So I came home.

Now what could be put on for men: diggers, football and pole-dancing perhaps....?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Spring report

When I woke this morning - about 5.00am - the fields around Lower House were in the clouds and the ewes had tucked their lambs into the shelter of the hedge bottoms.

Pretty soon the rain came and at our end of The Long Mountain it was torrential. I went out and took a few pictures - trying to catch the wisps of cloud winding through Badnage Wood. Even now after a long wet chilly winter as magical as in November.
Leaves are unfolding rapidly - we can almost see things grow. So many shades of green and raindrops on leaves and petals like exotic jewels. All this brilliance on such a dull day.

The sheep now on our field will be hard pressed to munch their way through all the new grass. In the vegetable garden most of the seeds have been sown and I am waiting impatiently for shoots to push their way through the soil. I only want to see vegetable seedlings but know that there are many weed seeds waiting to germinate too. The greenhouse is looking good - the tomatoes are 'potted on', as are the aubergines and peppers. Such promise! Alan has just planted a Walnut Tree at the bottom of the Dingle. It will be many years before we'll sit cracking its nuts round the stove on a winter's evening.

And these are my wet feet.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fergus came to sleep this evening while his mum and dad had an evening out. Getting our ancient box of Lego out is a treat for Fergus (although he does complain that it's dirty. What??) Actually once you get started it's quite engrossing - but he does tend to take over my best creations. Here's his spaceship:

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I hate vinyl....

I hate vinyl. I never want to see, hear or especially CARRY vinyl anywhere, ever, again. (Sorry Eyechild). I have taken it to Bristol. i have brought it back from Bristol. I have trucked it back there and home again. 3 times. I have carted it to the ends of Heaton's Moor and Mersey. Some has been ferried to deepest Camberwell via Chorlton. A shed-load has come to rest in the garage here. A stack the size of a department-store remained at the flat....

But now, after today's trip to the suburbs of south Manchester I can report that 14D is at last a vinyl free-zone. (Which is more than can be said for the back of my car - because I lacked the energy and inspiration to unload when I got back to our end of the Long Mountain.) I guess it will take up the space of a small car in the garage......and to think all that substance could be contained on one bitsy, teensy iPod.

Hey ho!.... I would quite like to hear Booker T and the MGs again though....

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


A few days of good weather and the buds on the trees in the orchard are bursting. We have apples, pears, plums, gages and cherries. This is the blossom on a Shropshire Prune

I love the freshness of the green and white. Look carefully and you will see an insect pollinating one of the flowers.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The wind in the trees.

This evening the sound of the wind through the trees in Badnage Wood sounded just like the sea crashing on rocks. I was going to describe the sound as 'susuration' but on looking it up in the dictionary, for the sake of accuracy, found that susuration meant murmur, whistling or rustling - like that of a stream. Almost but not quite.

Most of Badnage Wood is spruce, planted, I guess about 50 years ago. Here and there are remnants of older afforestation, an oak, some beech and coppiced hazel. There are some patches of larch which have in the last few days begun to take on a green haze. Come autumn we will watch them gradually turn yellow, then gold until the needles drop. But right now we have the pleasure of watching them come into life, day by day.

One last thing: as we were assembling the new 'workstation' (posh name for desk...) in the studio, we saw a strange little bird in the garden. It turned out to be a Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) - a most handsome thing: red chested, slate grey mantled with a striking white cap. Neither Alan or I had ever seen one before so great excitment. Our bird book descibes them thus:
'...robin-like birds characterised especially by rufous tail of both sexes at all ages, and by generally chat-like voice and behaviour. Juvenile like female but speckled. Habits include flycatching sallies and curious tail shivering display. Hole nesters.'

Hmm.....As long as they don't wreak havoc amongst the vegetables or wake us at 4.00am squawking and flapping their return will be most welcome.

Monday, May 01, 2006

This weekend

On Saturday evening we moved on from cow-herding to the Bishops Castle Rugby Club Dinner. We went with our neighbours Rod and Di and another local couple. Having been to a number of these functions we no longer feel like total strangers though the urge to thunder up and down a muddy pitch remains a mystery. (The effect of the game on the male physique was much in evidence: thunderous thighs, broken and twisted noses, distorted ears and necks too large to button a collar around. This was a tetesterone charged zone.)

Somewhat predictably we were served beef with the usual trimmings; Yorkshires' and horseradish. So far so good. However, it was one of those occasions when the vegetarian option was the better bet - my beef was akin to shoe leather.

Fortunately we didn't have to stay on to the bitter, tearful and vomititious end - we watched the presentation of cups and prizes, listened to rambling match and team reports, applauded appreciatively, and left shortly afterwards. Back at Lower House the sky was clear and black, a-twinkling with stars.

The following morning, having taken the dogs to Kennels, we headed north to Lancashire and Brenda's 50th birthday party in the little village of Chipping in the Trough of Bowland. The Fells that surround Chipping are quite impressive and yesterday were shrouded in mist that brought chilling rain. It's hard to define what makes this part of the northwest and our part of the world different because there are so many similarities- both are essentially agricultural (sheep and cattle), the vernacular buildings are of stone and both landscapes have soaring hills and flat green valleys. I think that of the north west is more rugged, bleaker and dramatic, while here 100 miles south, it's softer, more verdant and well - greener.

A barbecue had been planned but only the hardy stayed outdoors. My toes in my new and twinkly shoes were frozen. No birthday cake.

We woke this morning to a bleak landscape - cloud had blotted out Beacon Fell altogether - and it took several cups of tea and some buttery croissants to get us moving.

Then back home to the end of Long Mountain. There had been a bit of rain - which was needed - and amazingly things could be seen to have grown after only 24 hours absence. Any pheasant seen pecking those nearly sprouted peas is - guess what? - a DEAD pheasant.

And this is a picture of some of the things in the greenhouse. Promising or what?