Thursday, July 31, 2008

Granny Thomas has spoken...

...or Tea for the Wild Indians (part 2)

I was struggling into my gardening trousers - hopping around the room on one foot whilst the other fought its way down the bunched-up leg of aforesaid trousers - when my eye was caught by what looked like a dead cow swinging past the window. I stopped mid-hop for long enough to take in that no, it wasn't a dead cow but a bundle of those big fertilizer sacks hanging on the forks of a front loader; big fertilizer sacks stuffed with the detritus that accumulates over the years in a working farmyard. It looked like a major tidy-up was taking place in the yard over the garden wall.

In due course and fully trousered I continued with my own tidying up - clipping, snipping and weeding our garden into some sort of shape in the fond hope that on Saturday guests will be able to walk around it and find something of interest. I kept a keen eye on the activity over the wall. Nosey? Moi?

On the other side of the wall the workforce increased. A tree which fell in the gales of 2007 was divided into manageable pieces; logs to the left and twigs to the right. Thistles were topped not only in the little triangular field but also in our new field and on the lane. (For which many thanks). Cattle were checked and a cow was brought into the shed for an imminent calving. A fine red bull calf was born and the tidy-up continued.

Fencing wire and stakes were sorted and bundled. Tubs, buckets and bins were collected in an old drinking trough. Palettes were stacked and guttering re-attached. Old loose straw was trucked off site. A thin spiral of smoke from a distant fire - tidily out of the way - signaled the end of goodness-knows what rubbish. Better not to ask.

At the end of the day, and in a thin drizzle, work drew to a close. The last few nettles were plucked by hand from between the fencing wire.

How quiet and unnaturally neat and tidy the shed and yard are now. Our lane is trimmed and spruce too. (I have visions of keeping it this way - and of planting daffodils to nod their golden heads in the Spring now that I can see ground under the nettlebed.) I had not anticipated this transformation when I got up this morning.

I then recall that Granny T - a doyen of Marton WI and who will be a welcome visitor on Saturday - had dropped a few hints to her son and family (who farm the land over my garden wall and who all turned up in force today) about how she expected to find the farm at Lower House. In short - Tidy. No argument. No escape.

We all need a Granny Thomas don't we?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tea for the Wild Indians...part 1

At the programme planning meeting nearly 12 months ago it seemed like a good idea. Afternoon Tea here, for the WI. It appeared to be a plan which would kill a number of birds with one stone; a 'visit', usually to a garden, and a 'tea' at this time of year have precedents with Marton WI, but these days a number of members have mobility problems and are reluctant to venture out on a journey to a garden they are probably not going to be able to explore. 'Come here instead' I said by way of invitation 'Have Afternoon Tea', - knowing that if nothing else the curiosity factor would swell the guest list. Along the way the Senior Citizens got invited too....

It was here after all that Aunt Susan lived - if not actually in our barn - but in the 'big house' which stands above us. Aunt Susan and her husband Tom are linked by blood or marriage to almost everyone I meet. If I cannot establish a blood link then almost certainly the person I speak to has delivered feed, or pitched corn up into the room which is now our bedroom. I wait to be told whether or not a bull once lived in our sitting room. Everybody has their own tale to tell about Lower House.

Invitations have gone out and replies trickle in. Invitations themselves are a minefield - the criteria for inclusion are obscure. There will be those who will be mortally offended to receive an invitation and on the other hand some will be deeply hurt to have been omitted from the list. (Social engineering is difficult isn't it?) I have decided - grandly - that it is My Party and that I shall invite whoever I want. So there. (Stamps foot petulantly.)

But OMG - it's on Saturday, almost too close for comfort. We're meeting tomorrow to discuss food and I think things on plates will all be achievable.

But the garden? The garden looks a wreck - how wonderful it was only a month ago - a picture of colour, shape, form and interest. I mutter a little mantra of 'lawns and edges' - surely if they look neat that's half the battle? Make a mental note to get Alan behind the lawn mower on Thursday. Weed. Weed like a thing demented. Resist temptation to strategically plant artificial flowers. Thank goodness Chris has booked a Magician to entertain us all. That will be a distraction. I've spent the day snipping and shaping, tugging out weeds - doing a general tidy up. More of the same tomorrow I think.

....Wild Indians? - Women's Institute. How Richmal Crompton/Just William is that? I think that's what we called that formidable band of women when we were kids. Just look at me now....

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Playing with my food (2)

Who cares what it tastes like when it looks as good as this?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Another 6 Random Things...

The lovely chrish has tagged me to write 6 random things about myself.....

1. I would quite like to be the Queen for an afternoon - not to satisfy a predilection for fresh paint but just so I know how to walk down a flight of steps unaided - that's without clutching a handrail or proffered arm. She walks down the middle of the flight steadily and in heels; probably whilst talking to someone whose first language is not English and appearing interested in their every nervous word. She's 82 years old and in this respect at least is an example to us all.

2. I wish I were taller:
'5ft 2, Eyes of blue. But, Oh! what those five feet could do....'
.....Or not. I wish I were at least 10cms taller. Top shelves in supermarkets, trousers which don't need turning up. You get the drift.
'5ft 4 - could do more etc etc.'
3. Back in the day, Miss FW Hare - the Scariest Headmistress Ever - had a thing about School Shoes. Now I realise that School Shoes are a thing of the past in these enlightened and Croc -footed times, but way back then, and especially if Miss FW Hare had an eye on your feet, round toed lace-ups would be on the shopping list. Good sensible shoes. A grim prospect indeed. A short film was shown to the innocents of of the Upper Third warning of the perils of the winklepicker and the stiletto heel - spawn of the Devil himself - which would result in:
'Bunions like onions
and toes like bunches of grapes...'
Eek! To this day I am unable to walk past a Clark's shoe shop, purveyors of sensible shoes, without hearing that horrid refrain....

4. Seeing the Aurora Borealis. Being the eldest child has its advantages perhaps: I remember being raised from my bed, aged maybe 5 or 6, and wrapped in my father's old duffel coat to be carried though the woods to see the Aurora Borealis. We lived in mid-Warwickshire and I know now that such a sighting this far south would be exceptional. My little brothers were left tucked in their cots. Thanks.

5. I love the smell of rain on parched earth.

6. I have decided that enough is enough. No more tags. I declare this a tag-free zone. Thanks for asking anyway.

The rules, to remind you:
Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Write six random things about yourself.
Tag six people at the end of the post – and let them know with a comment on their blog. So, Lindsay, Ragged Roses, Little Brown Blog, Pam at Life With Our Lad, Kissa and Bodran - over to you....
Let the tagger know when your entry is up. If you have the energy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cabbage, courgette and potato....

Food miles - nil. From garden to plate - moments. Sense of achievement - great.
Eating our own produce.

Monday, July 21, 2008


This weekend we have mostly been eating beef in a tent.

Saturday night saw Chirbury and Marton Young Farmers' celebrating their 50th Anniversary in fine and jocular style. Of the 310 persons who sat down to eat about 20 were founding members of the Club - so there was much catching up to do. At the other end of the scale the youngsters - today's members - got on with having a good time. Perhaps in 50 years time they too will be keen to find a quiet spot away from the dance floor to talk over old times. Oh, beef, ham and salads were on the menu.

This morning saw the same marquee spruced up. (And believe me it was the last place many of us wanted to be this morning at 8.00am with our brushes, bin bags and damp cloths.) The stink of stale beer and damp grass eventually disappeared as tables were re-laid with fresh linen and cutlery. Lunch time saw a fund raiser for the Village Hall and St Mark's Church Marton. Erm, more beef, ham and turkey, accompanied by salads, were on the menu.

We've been well fed this weekend - both meals were delicious, fresh and ample. I'm sure the meat was locally sourced.

Earlier this week I watched a caesarian section performed on a cow in the shed just over the garden wall. This is one of the realities of stock production - and thankfully relatively unusual - but a reminder of the price we pay to get food on our table nonetheless.

It seemed the calf was enormous - the result of some selective breeding for size and muscle - and that the cow would be unable to give birth naturally. The Vet was called and the operation quickly carried out under lights powered by a throbbing generator. The wet and slippery calf was hauled from out of its mother - revealing itself to be indeed a beast of monstrous proportions. Sadly there was no heart beat, no sign of life at all and the dead wet body was left to steam on the strawed floor while the more urgent task of reconstructing mother was underway. Little time then for reflection on the loss of a life and of potential income for these beef producers.

The cow, her several layers restitched, is doing well apparently. She has been given another calf - 'dressed' in the skin of her own dead one - and hopefully they will bond. In a few days time they should be out in the little triangular field across the lane which seems to serve as a staging post for the vulnerable, sick and lame.

How easy it is, as a consumer, to buy prepare and eat meat to be enjoyed as we have done this weekend. My ringside seat at the operation reminds me that it is not all plain sailing by any means.

Finally we have cows grazing on our new field - yes, the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan is fractionally larger than it was last week. First job is to get the grass down and get rid of some of the nettles and thistles which have established themselves there. We've borrowed 7 cows and are hoping that the knee high grass will keep them busy and that the incident involving A Very Nice Tree won't be repeated and that the hen house roof - used as a scratching post - when repaired will stay in pristine condition.
I think this afternoon in the sunshine things look pretty good out there.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


The chickens are now aged 4 weeks and a bit. They now have feathers and the little crest, a characteristic of the breed, is starting to appear. The cockerels are the lighter coloured birds; the hens are darker and slightly smaller. They are not as cute as they were - there's something a bit sinister and Jurassic Park-ish about them now. I've decided that hens are remarkably uncooperative when it comes to photography - this is my very best effort. Probably the only way to get a good shot of a chicken is when it is roasted and on a plate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bird dog.

Next time I find myself in need of a new dog will somebody please nudge me in the ribs and remind me that no matter how cute, how snuffly nosed and waggy tailed it is: I Am Not To Choose Another Bull Terrier.

I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder - but I find that noble profile and four-square stance irresistible. They have a certain comic demeanour, appropriately dogged determination and are loyal and loving. But OMG they are they canine equivalents of those machines that the local council uses to clean the streets. They 'hoover' up everything in their paths, sweet/sour, meat, fish or fowl. In fact the fouler the better. Well rotted is good.

The vet told me that Bull Terriers have sensitive stomachs. I hid my bemused grin behind the fist which stifled my splutter of laughter. Hah! They wouldn't be half as sensitive if they didn't chow down on juice cartons, plastic wrap and cotton buds.......

Wilson, his gut rot and I left the vet's surgery armed with antibiotics and a range of proprietary foods guaranteed to cure him. I praised the gods of Veterinary Insurance who would (bless 'em) be footing the bill for the consultation, the sedation, the X Ray and investigation, the blood tests and all the other things it's useful to do a dog when it's knocked out and unable to bite.

I've been giving him his tablets once a day as prescribed. I've measured out small meals of the proprietary foods as instructed - a little spoonful of pappy meat here and a bit of kibble there. None of the beloved kitchen scraps have passed his lips. He's looking quite well now and I think we may have turned a corner.

But what's that? Oh look - there's a blackbird in the fruit cage. It's only a young one - hardly black at all yet......I'll open the door to let it out -

Oh no! Too late......with a mighty blundering crash Wilson has smashed though the netting and with deftness worthy of a cat has caught the bird. Within seconds only its tail feathers can be seen at his lips. Beak, bones, legs, claws and tail, all gone. What a treat. Eaten. I imagine it in his stomach still alive and singing like the Old Woman's Spider which 'Wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her...'

Why do I bother?

Monday, July 14, 2008


Have Kingdom, will hold Garden Party.

Thus it is that today I am delivering invitations to the joint Senior Citizens/WI Afternoon Tea that will be held here in the small mountain Kingdom of Trelystan in about 3 week's time. It's not an onerous task - my share of the invitations amounts to 15 envelopes. Nonetheless it's a time consuming one - minutes must be allotted for searching for gates, doors and letterboxes. Time must be built in for explanations and 'passing the time of day'. There are courtesies to be observed and cups of tea to be supped. I am reminded of Robert Frost's 'A Time to Talk'.
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, 'What is it?'
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
....I am busy. I could do with being on my way. I have learned though that sometimes it's best just to stand and talk for a while.

My last envelope of the day is for an elderly - no, old - man (let's not mince our words) who has seen much better and more gracious days. He lives alone at the top of a lane in a substantial house - a shabby ill-preserved relic of his mother's days - which is slowly being subsumed into the land from which it came. Outside its grey stone walls ground elder, bramble and nettle gobble up garden. He is to tell me later that he has just planted 160 rhubarb plants amidst this chaos. I wonder why.

I find a door but no letterbox. The key is on the outside. I rap gently - my softest and most unthreatening knock.

Slippered feet can be heard slithering across the floor. The door is opened and I proffer my envelope. 'Will you come in for a moment?' he asks, adding the non sequitur 'I've had a busy day - washing and jam making.'

'Yes, for a moment, yes.' And in I go; over a floor of cream and black encaustic tiles, through a scullery with a single tap over a pot sink to the morning room where a steaming Rayburn hosts a line of pegged shirts and capacious underpants. A straight backed chair is pulled out for me at the table where, had I the time, I could read the newspapers which serve as table covering. A knife and fork are placed at one end of the table. A sweet piece of Chinese pottery, incongruous amongst the muddle, catches my eye. I wonder what is for tea.

We talk. The day's news - the once nimble and professional mind still has a good grasp of current affairs - and of his health and isolation. He politely but firmly declines the invitation to Afternoon Tea. 'I've always been asked but have never gone and I don't think I shall this time either. People, you know, such numbers, don't really want to be among them. Never been one for company. Thank you all the same.'

In this self-imposed isolation friends and family are aged and infirm but mostly dead. (He cannot keep up with the multitude of youngsters which have the family genes.) Few visitors or outings cross the horizon and these days the post man no longer brings the milk up from the gate such is his impatience to complete his round.

There is the question of how long he can stay here alone. He threatens himself with Going Into A Home but so far the question of The Cost has been a deterrent as have qualms about Other Residents. For how long he will be fit enough to stay here is unknown. He seems to manage.

All around him the known world crumbles, crime and violence, knives and frightening youths. 'His' day was 8 decades ago or more and they did things differently then. I can only agree.

'Perhaps I will be found dead in my garden one day'

'That would be rather a fine way to go' I volunteer. He nods.

As I leave he gestures rather elegantly and precisely for me to turn the car around then stands and watches as I head back down the lane. The grass growing between the narrow wheel ruts is so long that it brushes the undercarriage of the car.

When I reached the road I had a feeling that if I took a backwards glance I would see that the grass had already grown green and lush over the lane behind me and that the house had melted down into a mess of weeds and trees. If I stopped the engine and rolled my window down I would hear nothing but silence broken by birdsong. No one passes this way any more.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Day 2 of The Great Tour of Welshpool

The best thing about being a tourist in your home town (apart from satisfying super-natural curiosity) is that there is no major investment involved getting there and no subsequent regret when it all turns out to be a bit of a damp squib and thus a waste of precious time and money.

Welshpool's Town Hall - the venue for today's guided tour - is a case in point. On a scale which runs from 'VERY' to 'dull' today's visit would rank as 'quite interesting - maybe'. Marks were gained early on by the promise of an hour under cover - on an extremely rainy day that was quite an enticement. Our guide, a Councilor was enthusiastic too - so points gained there.

I do hope the building's dilapidated state was due to ongoing refurbishments - a lift is being installed to take an increasingly vociferous and entitled populace from ground to first floor - to use the new lavatories which await installation or (perhaps less urgently) to visit the Council Chamber. Until then we must walk up the 30 steps which take us from the utilitarian market halls below to the faded grandeur above. A dusty function room - crying out for the swish of crinoline and the Council Chamber, refurbished as recently as 1938, were reasonably interesting. But then across the corridor came quite a surprise. The ghost of Justice past: a capacious Court Room.

This room - used until very recently - is a complicated amalgam of pitch-pine benches, desks and seats. (I notice that someone has thoughtfully covered over the desks' inkwells with a square of hardboard - a recognition that the dip-pen is no longer used, even in these parts.) Decorative ironwork fences the dock which caged the accused and their escorting officers. Up front sat the 'beak'. To his right the jury. Lawyers for the defense and prosecution took places in front of the dock as did clerks and ushers. The public gallery is to the left of my picture.

Stand in the dock for a while - imagine yourself up on a charge of sheep-stealing: you and the Judge are eye to eye, your defense is shaky. He has a comfy chair to sit on. You have but a broad rail on which to lean and to grasp when things get tough. (Remember you could be hanged for such an offense and Welshpool had its own 'Gallows Lane'.) You are railed in and are the focal point of the Court. It is an imposing place. In past times no doubt because of its grandeur and today because, well, places just aren't like this anymore.

Loose your grip from that sturdy bar in the dock - it's to the front rhs of the picture - and go down to the cells. (Sent down...) The stairs are fairly steep - so mind your head. That 'elf and safety' message is spelt out now and there is padding in place so the unwary don't knock themselves out. The cells too are presumably a shadow of their former selves - prisoners now have 'right's' and comfort is one of them. The cells are now used as storerooms - it looks like a ream of paper in 2008 has a more comfortable life than a c19th felon. I think we were all looking forward to seeing chains, shackles and the rack.....

Why is it I ask myself that this stuff is so fascinating and we want it extant - to be - even though it patently is no longer fit for purpose? (Indeed Welshpool's court has moved to more suitable premises in the town and there is talk of something regional and purpose-built in the pipe-line.) It's a bit like the churches which enhance our landscape and offer lovely venues for weddings - we want them there but, by and large, don't want to think about the cost of a new roof.

I'm glad this place is here - although I suspect its future will see it rearranged and walls and ceilings inserted where walls and ceilings didn't ought to be. But, hey! this is Welshpool.

Finally some of the Hatchments from around the room:

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

(You're) Welcome to Welshpool

It's an invitation that's hard to refuse for a nosey parker such as myself - 'Be a tourist in your own town'.

The usual suspects, Museum, Town Hall and Library et al have mounted themed exhibitions. Churches have flung wide their doors. The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway entices with a walk along the line (and for the weary a welcome train ride home). The town's 'sink' estate, into which significant civic funds are no doubt funneled, mounts its own upbeat retrospective display: 'Oldfield Past and Present'. Sadly I missed the FĂȘte at the Vicarage. We are offered quizzes, historical talks and historical walks. I am impressed. What a terrific initiative. A small nagging voice within says 'How unlike Welshpool'.

But onwards and upwards. I'll go and check out The Cockpit today. It is as the name suggests a - err - Cockpit, a place where cocks fought. It is hard today to imagine a more despicable activity but 300 years ago this was the sport de nos jours. It is apparently the only such building in its original position in Wales - which these days is adjacent to the NatWest car park but originally stood to the rear of a pub, the Castle Inn, previously on that site.

The building is handsome enough; a hexagonal structure of red brick under a slate roof. Indoors the walls are rounded and the floor is roughly cobbled. This cobbled floor would originally have seated a low and circular central pen, strewn with sawdust, into which birds would be released to spar. Tiered benches would have risen steeply around this 'pit' - those at ground level reserved for the punters with money to place on a likely bird, while those without would ascend to the seats at the top of the house. A little imagination can fill this place with the roar of 150 voices urging on a bloody fight........

At some time in the building's history, presumably after 1849 when cockfighting was prohibited by Act of Parliament, the tiers and 'pit' were removed and an upper storey was added. I guess it made sense to make use of the building and here was valuable storage space. Its last known use was as the garage for the town's Post Office van and when restoration took place in the mid 1970s it was restored to the condition it was found in then, leaving its distasteful but undeniable history inaccurately and inadequately displayed. A bit of a Welshpool situation here I think. Nearly. But not quite nearly enough.

Montgomeryshire Women's Institute plan to use it as offices in the near future. The incongruity of all that leaves me at a loss for words.

Later, however, up the road came an unexpected gem amongst the civic certainties - a private house, opened and proudly displayed by its generous owners. Tiny, timber-framed - wattle and daub and wood paneling lovingly restored and burnished, bursting with antiques. These kind and trusting people allowed visitors to explore their house - formerly the home and workshop of the town's cooper - and their delightful garden. (This tiny space had mystery, wit, surprise and beautiful planting, and although little bigger than the average sitting room encouraged the visitor to go and explore. Perfect.) Sorry, no photos of either - I felt these were both private spaces.

Tomorrow I think there is just time to fit in a 'Guided Tour of the Town Hall', (apparently there are cells in the basement) and the 'Archaeological Guided Walk of the Town' in the evening is tempting too. Back to normal in Welshpool next week no doubt.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

17 days old already

Scruffy beggars. They are untidy. At 17 days old fluff has mostly given way to feather; punky bits sprouting here and there. Those stubby little tails are growing longer by the day too.

They are a voracious bunch. They scratch and peck at everything in their path - so successful is their foraging that they inhabit the most slug-free patch of ground in Trelystan. Here a couple have gone for the easy option and are snarfing their mother's corn while ignoring their own nutritious crumbs.

I've just been down to shut them in for the night. The nest in the corner looks very cosy; mother clucks protectively and little heads emerge from amongst her feathers. I suspect she is now finding it difficult to accommodate all 7 under her wings at once. Perhaps they take it in turns.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

'His Wartime Missions'

On September 3rd 1939 Britain and France declared declared war with Germany. Neville Chamberlain's non-aggression pact, signalling 'Peace in Our Time' which he and Adolf Hitler signed a year previously, had come to nought. Hitler derisively called the pact 'a scrap of paper' and German forces proceeded to invade Poland.

The following day, September 4th, with the war barely 24 hours old 19 year old Ted Cowling joined the Royal Air Force. This young man wanted to fly, to be a pilot and to serve his country.

He was undoubtedly brave, an immensely skilled pilot and probably an incredibly lucky man. His earliest missions as a crew member in the underpowered and technically primitive Fairey Battle should, statistically have finished him off. These little planes were euphemistically called 'Flying Coffins' - the death toll of the pilots and crew that flew them was appallingly high.

Ted survived and went on to train as a pilot and fly Wellingtons and Sunderland Flying Boats. His final tour of duty was in Air/Sea Rescue; his bravery in saving the lives of his crew on one of these rescue missions earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. In a touch worthy of Mills and Boon he married the young WAAF controller who 'talked him down' after his plane's starboard propeller shredded. He and Joy recently celebrated their Diamond Wedding anniversary and in 2003 had the dubious pleasure of being named Britain's most romantic couple. One might conclude he has led a charmed life....

Last evening Ted Cowling, now in his 88th year, recounted some of his memories to us. He was this month's speaker at Marton WI. It was one of the many speaking engagements he undertakes to raise money for Severn Hospice; a charity close to his heart following the death of both his daughters from cancer. Only recently he presented the Hospice with a cheque to £26,000 raised by sales of his book and from speaking to groups such as ours. Well done that man, I think.

His talk, 'My Wartime Missions' based on his book 'The Journey', had particular significance to those of our members now in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Heads nodded in agreement at the memories stirred of those once familiar dark days. I am certain many a grey haired head went home to dreams blessed with the hum of passing Spitfires and the fleeting kisses of lovers sent to war.

Ted evoked the engines' roar, the path of tracer bullets in the darkness of the night, the destructive maelstrom of a depth charge meeting its target in the icy black depths of the seas around our island. And always the camaraderie of the crew, the teamwork, the shared dreams and fears too, no doubt, that this might be the time they wouldn't make it....

I don't think Ted's talk was about heroics (or even if he would describe himself as a hero), it was about young people - and they were for the most part incredibly and distressingly young - doing a job that had to be done where heroics happened to happen. Maybe adrenalin got them through. Maybe they just had oodles of that mysterious substance - 'moral fibre'.

I'm no fan of military history and the technical data of most things leaves me cold. Engines, yawn. Fire power? Pah! Dog-fights, heroics and the trappings of warfare are not for me either, prefering in a girly sort of way more human stuff.

It was though such a privilege to hear first-hand from one who was there - not a second hand account - but from a living breathing WWII Pilot - about life, and death in the skies over Europe between 1939 and '45. This I would not have missed.

And there's the rub. Our man is in his late 80s, as are many of his comrades. With them will go another link with the past. Catch them - or certainly Ted Cowling - while you can.