Life, photos but not the universe

Barney takes off and I sit back a bit.

Yesterday I enjoyed the heartening sight of Barney, vanishing down the road in the Fireball (LX5 – Mazda).  We faffed around for half an hour or so after discovering that its battery was as flat as could be expected after sitting waiting for him to pay it any attention for three or four weeks.  After moving all the vehicles around a lot we got it charged and he purred off into the sunset.  Brilliant.

I think the difficulties of lowering his large frame through the small door has put him off but now it’s so sunny, with the roof down, it’s not quite so difficult to climb/fall into and as it’s automatic, he doesn’t need his plastered leg for driving it.  We can’t quite see how he could get the wheelchair into the boot though so he’s not completely free yet.  I’m wondering if he could strap it onto the luggage rack – not exactly stylish but much easier to get hold of.

And today, we went into town and he had a haircut while I bought bacon.  Good to know we’ve dealt with some of life’s essentials.  Then I drove us to Salisbury to collect spars for the other two thatchers.  All I shall say about that is that the pickup is still a lot of hard work to drive.  And spars (about halfway down the page if you’re interested in following the link) are remarkably heavy and ridiculously pointy.

Then I made dinner extremely quickly and drove to Oxford to be bookish with Mrs Middle and the other two members of our (extremely exclusive) book club.  This month’s book was my choice and I’m afraid it wasn’t brilliant.  I chose “The man who rained”  by Ali Shaw because I’d enjoyed “The girl with glass feet” a lot; charming and whimsical and who could resist tiny flying cows.  Unfortunately, the raining man was just wet and so was his love interest.  Shame. Never mind, we had a stunning Moroccan meal and a good laugh.

And tomorrow it’s grandbaby minding day.  I think I shall find that quite restful.

Some irrelevant photos taken a week or so before the green took over.

Looks like we aren’t going to have drought weather for the Jubilee after all.  I expect HM is quite pleased about that.

May 31, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Things that go chink and clunk and make aeroplane noises. Bad.

There I was, pottering around in the kitchen quite late at night and I could hear a distant aeroplane.  Also occasional chinks and clunks.  After while I put the two together and thought aargh!  shudder.  And euww.

I learnt to cope with spiders a long time ago and I don’t mind them now unless they’re very large and run towards me when I’m reading a book on the floor.  I’ve never minded snakes at all – not that I’d encourage them to come too close.  Wasps? No problem unless they are in horizontal in-your-face mode and measure more than an inch from pointy bit to mandible.

But June bugs require a certain amount of iron will and stern self control.  So when the beastly thing dive-bombed me I didn’t scream but after a second I realised that the engine had stopped revving just after it brushed my hair.  A gingerly feel around my neck revealed something crunchy where no such thing should be.  I must be getting old and wise or something because I still didn’t run round and round the kitchen, screaming but looking down at my shoulder, merely flicked it with deadly accuracy on a small surge of adrenalin and it shot away – er – over there.  I can’t see where and the engine is still quiet.

Bugger! (sorry, now the immediate danger is over, I’ve lost all self control)  That means it’s landed upside down somewhere and I shall have to rescue it in a minute and it’s too hot to shut all the doors and windows after throwing it out and ignore it in the hope that it will go away.


I didn’t take many pictures at the weekend because I’ve found that if I try to party and take photos at the same time I do both rather badly (worse).  Here are some from the last couple of weeks week though.

Well now I have to hoover.  While I was away enjoying the fruits of Z’s labours, my family were here undoing mine.  Um. Can you undo a fruit?  Probably not.  Well, you know, bringing the lawn and the trees into the house and liberally scattering them everywhere.  The cat has been shedding for England all over all the floors where she is allowed.  Perhaps hoping for some kind of Olympian record. Quite a bit of hair clip and toy scattering too, not to mention somehow transporting a elephant embroidered bag to a friend’s house and leaving it there.  (Not a problem though – the friend brought the bag to the pub for us so that we could leave it there instead and that means we’ll have to go to the pub tonight to collect it so that we can leave it somewhere else).  And in between I have to shop.  Naturally, and quite rightly, what they didn’t scatter, they ate.

See you soon.

May 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Wild weekend

Just back from my very first mass blog meet.  What a limp way to describe Z’s fabulous party though.

Well I don’t know.  What was best?

Meeting lovely Z herself, obviously and the delightful Sage, full of surprises (chicken whisperer* to start with but also conjuring up beautiful little historical items to enchant at any and every odd moment).

Meeting people I’ve only ‘spoken to’ online and finding that they’re just as clever, funny and likable in real life as I thought they were.

Meeting the spouses and partners and finding them also to be absolutely lovely.

Hearing Christopher on the phone.  Hmm.  Not quite as good as meeting him would have been.  But great anyway.

Meeting the family who were all charming and friendly or small and charming.  Seeing the lovely house and the Wall and the glimpses of Sage’s hoards (Wow!)

Finding that Tim is a totally unscary driver and is another smoker (Yay!) and very good company on what could have seemed like a very long drive. (especially as he was driving)**

Wonderful curries (and risotto) and breakfasts and coffee.  (These things are important)

Z, you’re a darling and I’m so happy to have met you.  Big hugs.  Wink , you’re a darling too.xxx  Tim, thank you. xxx.

Enough of this soppy stuff.  You’re all lovely and now I’m going to go and visit lots of blogs I haven’t met before.

Oh and for those who were kind enough to inquire, Barney was well looked after and yet, amazingly, quite pleased to see me back.  And he thanks those who asked after him.  (Well, ok, he sort of grinned and looked baffled).

I spent a bit of time this afternoon at the pub, trying to explain to people at the pub why blogging is good and what is a blog party.  Unfortunately, after several glasses of wine all I came up with was a big, idiotic grin and such comments as “it’s great” and “people are so nice”.

A Chicken moment.

A five o’clock in the morning moment.  (well I did have lot to drink the night before)

Obviously I’m descending into a happy, slightly glazed state where all that I can add will be nonsense so I’ll stop now.   Um. I’ve just deleted several quite excessive and inappropriate endings.  Sleep well.

*That’s actually a link to Rog’s blog where he show the whispering in progress and also a photo of me, open mouthed and out of it but fortunately eclipsed  by the chicken which is much more interesting.***

**Oh no!  I didn’t mean his driving would have made it seem like a long journey, just that if you’re used to driving yourself, it can be more stressful being driven.  And it wasn’t.  Am I digging myself into a hole here?  Just assume the best, ok.

***Oh idiot – I meant tickling of course.  Nothing to do with horses.  Or trout for that matter.

Edit: And PUDDINGS!  How could I forget the marvelousness of the puddings?

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

All ready and organised

for my very exciting weekend away.

Well, no not exactly.

See, an integral part of my plan is for the girls to come and look after my hopalong husband.  And indeed they’ve both agreed to do this, however, I do need to know what they’d like me to get in for them to cook for him and when they’re coming and when they’re leaving and so on.  After failing completely to get hold of Mrs Middle, I tried Youngest (at a time when she would definitely be at home) and she said she was in a bit of a rush as she had to take the children swimming and she wasn’t sure what she would be doing.  And since we’d both forgotten that her Birthday is on the Sunday* she wasn’t sure if she wanted to Dad mind anyway.

Next day:  Mrs Middle will step in if Youngest can’t do it.  Of course she owes me for all the baby minding but it’s still very kind of her (them).  I’m very grateful as there’s no way I could consider swanning off for the weekend to meet loads of lovely people if I didn’t know that my lovely children were looking after Barney.  And  she’s suggested doing a barbecue on Saturday which will make Barney happy – he loves a BBQ though he will be itching to be in charge.  It does look as though we’ll have sunshine to spare for the next few days so it would be a shame not to take the opportunity.

Whatever.  This weather is unexpectedly wonderful.  I went out at 7.30 the other morning and if the photos weren’t much to write home about the birdsong and warmth and general glowing of everything made up for it.  I’m sitting by the window and listening to the sleepy cheepings of late birds and letting the last and gorgeous light filter through the open window without any lights on.  Gorgeous Babe and I had lots of fun with a washing up bowl and a squeezy duck and she was delighted when I used my new iphone birdsong app to play the sound of the doves which we could hear somewhere nearby.  It’s a sad thing that my children aren’t as wild about wild life as I am.  Probably I was lucky to have a mother who attracted wildlife to her like moths without burning.  Remind me to tell you about her some time.  Anyway, I haven’t quite passed on, to the younger generation, the pleasure I get from identifying an rare flower or bird.  (Yes Mum.  A kite/greenfinch/orchid/bluebird/roq…? Oh good.  Can I have some crisps?)

Gorgeous Babe and I might go to the Arboretum some time and look at trees and flowers.  We’ll like that.

Right.  Well, I’m away for the weekend and all is finally organised.  As long as I remember to leave a list of all the various requirements of the abandoned one and all the locations of important things like sausages and bacon it should be fine.  Though I do expect to get a lot of texts and calls asking where on earth do I keep the ????

Bunnies and buttercups.  Could anything be more spring-like?

Now I have to go and pack.  I’m so excited!!!

*I’m not such a careless mother as it sounds.  I’ll explain another time but I blame the Queen.

May 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Fresh out of thoughts

Today I spent more than enough time queueing up for blood tests and xrays.  (Not that I blame the hospital staff, or even the system – they’re both drop-in clinics and it looked as if most of Newbury and Thatcham had dropped in today).  As usual it’s my own fault.  I decided to whinge about my back again and got blood tests added to my thyroid tests and an xray thrown in to boot.

Anyway, what with fasting and waiting, all thoughts gradually floated out of my head and as far as I can tell, no new ones have replaced them.  So you’re stuck with a walk in the woods last week on the day the sun came out.

Grimsbury woods, in the middle of which there is a sort of mini castle which is in the middle of an iron age fort.   The fort makes all kinds of nice curves and shadows and isn’t everything GREEN!

Now the sun has come out again.  I’m off to look at bluebells.

Oh and the Doctor gave me co-codamol for my back.  I took one yesterday and as far as I could tell nothing happened.  So assuming that I’m not highly sensitive to it and likely to fall asleep while operating a cooker, today I took two.  Much better.  And the cooker is still awake.  So I might have a drink as well.

Update : Mrs Middle said I sounded quite out of it when she phoned me  later on.  She claimed I’d forgotten a whole conversation.  Quite untrue.  Probably.

Further update : Well maybe I should space out the co-co and the alcohol.  In the interests of remembering things which I’m already not very good at.

Irrelevant update :  The weather is looking fantastic for the weekend!

May 23, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Of balloonists, cats and mice

About twenty miles away from here, there is a village called Faccombe.  Rural, idyllic and fairly isolated.  Once (the story goes) a balloonist floated overhead and seeing a local person on the ground below, shouted down “Can you tell me where I am?” (I believe balloonists often do this).  The local person shouted back “Faccombe!”

“Oh!  Sorry!” shouted the balloonist and sailed away to ask directions from someone less rude in another village.


And here is another story, which I may have told before (but I can’t find it in this or my earlier blog so you probably haven’t seen it before).  About sixteen years ago, I suddenly caved in against the pressure of requests from children and trite comments from Barney and said “alright then, we can have a dog.  Oh alright, and a cat”.  We had three children so it follows as night the day that we would end up with a dog and two cats.  The usual promises were made and forgotten (except by me of course) and Nutmeg, Tosca and Mandu joined our family.

We made a plan, that we would get the cat(s) first so that they would have the psychological advantage of posession over the dog when it arrived and we wouldn’t have to deal with too much murder and mayhem.  So we went to the cat rescue home and there was a general consensus that little black and white Tosca was perfect and then Mandu fixed me with her golden eyes and let it be known that she would be prepared to dominate us for a consideration or fifty.  Tosca came home first.

After her two weeks quarantine, she was let out for the first time and promptly vanished.  We called and searched and there was no avail.  But later that day, I heard her distinctive voice (must be some Siamese in her ancestry) floating hauntingly through the great outdoors and by imitating her and heading towards the sound of her enthusiastic response , I found her, up a big oak tree, yelling away there in the gathering dusk. (Not our oak tree of course, but another one across a field or two).

Dusk finished gathering and darkness fell.  So did some rain.  Tosca and I continued to communicate (I thought she needed emotional support – heaven only knows what she thought I needed).  Then I rushed indoors and rounded up the posse (they all seemed to have given up cat hunting in favour of pizza, TV and stamps).  A little later, after much discussion, the Bardsley family could have been seen (by someone with a big torch or appropriately aimed car headlights) trudging up the road and into the fields, carrying a ladder, a big cardboard box, a torch, a piece of rope*  and some crunchy cat food.  Oh and an umbrella.  One of them mrrowwing  loudly.

The communications between me and Tosca increased in volume and intensity, arguments, exhortations and exclamations followed the family in cartoon balloons over their heads, the rain fell and Tosca communicated for all she was worth.  When Eldest (then about twelve) climbed up the ladder carrying the box (while everyone else had a go at waving the torch in every possible, useless direction), her communications reached a pitch of great intensity and she scratched him.

The cartoon balloon full of exhortations, exclamations and arguments expanded and hovered over Eldest’s head and he attached the rope to the box** (now containing Tosca and emitting a kind of concentrated silence which was quite unnerving), lowered her to the ground and was dissuaded from climbing much higher into the tree, so he could fall out and break some bones, before rejoining us on the ground. Various small female people were heard to say they would have done it much better and Tosca remained silent.  The next day she brought us a mouse – the first of many.

Of course, since then Tosca and I have had a special rapport and she chooses, often, to make me carry her upside down in my arms while she dribbles copiously all over us both.  Because of our special relationship, she allowed me to photograph the following sequence when we discovered an intruder in the larder.***















.You may want to look at the last one large.

Anyway, today I trekked to yet another stamp fair and after taking some photos in spite of the obdurate greyness of the day, went to Didcot and rewarded myself for being so good and useful by buying a new mouse.  It’s little and light and shiny and turquoise and does clever things.  And when I went back to collect Barney with his stamps, I found a bacon sandwich waiting for me.  Not so bad really, stamp fairs.

*no idea.

**oh that was why.

***Well I discovered it.  She had probably introduced it herself.

May 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

I am not complaining!

Really.  This kind of steady rain interspersed with very short outbursts of sunshine are exactly what we need.  The garden is loving it.  And it’s a good thing that it chose to rain heavily on the one day so far when I had neither a Barney nor a grandchild to look after because I was able spend the time usefully tidying stuff and sorting things and um…. maybe going up to Coombe to see if there’s low cloud over the beech trees.

Barneywent out with his partner, Dave, to do some estimates and if it wasn’t a ‘lovely’ day out, at least he was OUT for a while.  This was good for both of us.  I sorted out his heaps of clothes and even put some of them away.  And I had coffee in peace in front of the nice new machine, listening to the rain falling.

Oops!  the pigeon is flapping around the wisteria again.  I do hope this doesn’t mean it’s going to nest up there again, it’s a real pain when you want to prune.

Well I went to Sydmonton, near Watership Down* and there was low rain and not just over the beech trees. So a bit later, I came home, wet and slightly frustrated because twice, on the way home, slivers of sunlight bejewelled the grey hedgerows with brilliant gleaming leaves and then vanished before I could even think of stopping.  Barney was back and he also had been frustrated since all he could do was sit in the car while Dave did whatever they do when they do estimates.  Then he sat and watched something awful on TV and I made cous cous and smoked mackerel pate and bread and kebabs.  Then, obviously, it was dinner time!  Dinner is always good.

Here’s the ridge above Sydmonton and a wet view Northwards


And a week or so ago, a quite different kind of sighting in the woods near home.

Meanwhile ( though I am absolutely not complaining), Vax helpline thanks me for my my call and informs me that I are”_ 16th _ in the queue”.  Stupid new hoover has a blocked hose and you can’t remove the bendy bit in order to poke a broomstick down it and push out the revolting ball of fluff!  Oh for heaven’s sake!

Ah.  Well it seems that the thing to do is poke the wrong end of the hose into the place where the right end ought to go and let the hoover suck out its own blockage.


Yes I knew that wouldn’t work.

So now I need a very long piece of rigid but flexible wire and an hour or two of spare time.  Oh and no rain – I’m not poking bits of fluff around indoors – already after emptying its cylinder and shaking out its filters I look like a cartoon ghost of a dust devil.

I hope all your hoovers work and your gardens grow.

*I always think the Ridgeway and the Beacon are tremendously high ridges wrinkling the landscape like a big scowl but I found this Map  the other day which suggests more of a shrug and a raised eyebrow than a full on, ridged and wrinkly scowl.  Also, I realise the ridges are not so high – I’d have to go far north or west to climb higher than 1,000 feet.  

May 19, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

wheels and chairs

an unholy combination?

I am not absolutely brilliant at working out how to fold up wheeled gadgets, people for the perambulating of.  On one occasion I had to ask several passers by how to fold Grandbaby’s pushchair to get it back in the car.  We had quite a little pushchair workshop going on in the car park there until somebody turned up who actually knew which button released which joint.

Well, Barney has a habit of  approaching me with a winning smile and a mournful look in his big brown eyes and saying “I suppose you wouldn’t like to …..?”  Sometimes he’s right in his supposition, for instance I can’t really say I like doing stamp pages.  And certainly I wouldn’t claim to feel unalloyed joy and excitement at the plan to take him to the stamp fair in Wokingham tomorrow. But who could resist a hobbling person with big brown eyes?

However I don’t mind taking him as long as I don’t have to spend two hours there myself and a bit of research revealed that quite possibly we could hire a wheel chair to make this perfectly feasible.  So today I went to Newbury and collected a wheelchair.  Not without a certain amount of anxiety about its weight and its buttons and catches and releases.

Rather to my surprise, it was really quite simple to fold up and its bits appeared to detach quite easily. What’s more, although not light, it was a fairly manageable weight and I got it into the boot of the car without too much trouble.  (Not at all like the aforementioned pushchair which seemed to me to have been designed resist any kind of intuitive approach and needed at least an engineering  degree, a manual and several years practice to operate it.  Not to mention the physique of a weightlifter and a back brace to boot).  Of course, it may all be quite different tomorrow when I’m trying to get the wheelchair back together in the car park at the stamp fair and Barney is champing at the bit in his eagerness to wheel himself from dealer to dealer.

The whole thing went very well.   Barney wheeled himself into the school hall and vanished among the stamp dealers’ tables and I trotted back out to the car to drink my coffee and eat my sausage sandwich and then spent a happy hour visiting a young niece and another wandering up and down the length of a chain link fence behind which was a bluebell wood and somewhere in the depths of the wood, a pond.  I thought some quite unfriendly thoughts about rich Berkshire landowners who keep their ponds shut away from the eyes of wandering photographers and considered using a deer track which unfortunately involved a steep bank and a small but muddy stream.  In my youth I would have trespassed blithely and possibly even lithely but knees and things make this kind of thing quite impossible now.  Anyway, people* are quite entitled to stop all and sundry and nosey old photographers from wandering in their woods if that’s what they want to do.  I just wish they wouldn’t.

We are spoilt because our own biggest local landowner, the late Mr Palmer (of Huntley and Palmers biscuits), set up a trust to maintain his vast woodlands and to allow people to walk in them.  And we are also blessed with Bucklebury Common which has the greatest number of public footpaths per square mile in England!  Or something like that.  And out here in the rougher edges of Berkshire, the fences are less obtrusive and more battered and even sometimes subtly enhance a view instead of blocking it aggressively.

Anyway, there’s a fence and a hint of bluebells in Royal Berkshire

And there’s the woods at Grimsbury castle which belong to the Palmer Trust in rural Berkshire.

At least the glorious afternoon sun is free and available wherever you are : )

Now I have to get us sorted to go out.  Barney is having his plaster adjusted this afternoon and then we have to return the wheelchair (it was only hired for the weekend and other people may need it for shopping today).

I hope all your wheels work and your all paths are unwired.

*Even unnaturally rich people who own acres and acres of beautiful countryside**.  I just hope they actually wander about in their own woods occasionally and appreciate them.  And I do realise that they’re really frightened of being overrun with hordes of beer drinking homeless bods and shrieking armies of picnickers, all leaving trails of beer cans and plastic bags. Not to mention youths on mountain bikes and motorbikes churning the paths to mud.  Once or twice I’ve approached owners of woodlands and ponds and gorgeous gardens and been given permission to wander.

**I do hope none of you fall into this category – not that I’d want to deprive you of your acres of course!

May 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Chaos rules

The dining room is full of boxes and old bits of computer and the kitchen is overflowing with stuff I haven’t got round to clearing away.  (Don’t even think about the fridge).  The washing is heaped up waiting for the drying to be put away and Barneys floordrobe and chairdrobe and even bathdrobe are all full.  (Thank you for that Z : )

Did I mention that in the setting up of the computer we discovered that the printer is too old for W7?  (that’s the short version).   Yesterday I went out and got a new printer and spent the whole afternoon getting it set up – it’s all very well having wireless printing and all kinds of apps and tricks but it dunn’alf take a long time to get it working especially if the instructions amount to “unwrap it, plug it in, turn it on and follow instructions – oh and put the CD in the computer”  (Oh that reminds me, it’s still in there – remember the days when leaving a CD in the drive made the whole machine stagger to a halt, uttering helpless messages about aliens in the system?).

None of this would matter a great deal, apart from the side effect of confusing my thought processes and making it hard to remember where we put things, only a friend is coming to dinner tonight and really, there’s nowhere to eat!  There’s definitely food – somewhere – which is a good thing but in order to find the table and hoover a bit, I shall first have to move a lot of boxes and bits.  I may even have to throw some paper out.  So it’s a good thing she’s coming today otherwise I’d probably be wandering around in a slightly hapless state for the next few days or even weeks.  Fortunately, althought the sun was out briefly and seductively, early this morning, by the time I’d got downstairs and made a cup of tea it was gone or I’d have been out there having fun and not getting on with the tidying.

Never mind.  It all got done and we met Thursday for a drink at the pub (actually, she collected us which was very nice of her) and then returned to have dinner and as long as she didn’t mind slightly overdone mushrooms it was all good.  She was one of the first (if not the first) blog friends I ever met for real and if anything was needed to convince me that blogging is good, she was it.  Wonderful altogether.

Now I’m going to throw a few photos in and run away to bed.  It’s been a long and productive day and I’m really very pleased with everything.


April pictures.

I hope you’ve had a good day too.  Even the weather was nice from time to time.


May 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Lecturer extraordinaire

Yesterday, Barney gave a talk on Thatching – in Thatcham.  Patrick (of computer fame) thought I was having him on when I told him this.  But really, the Thatcham Historical Society have a monthly meeting and one of today’s subjects was Thatching – not necessarily in Thatcham.  Barney was slightly anxious about doing the talk as he hasn’t done it before and wasn’t sure that he’d got enough material or that it would be interesting.

Anyway, I was general dogsbody and driver to the speaker* and having left him there with all his gubbins and promises of help from the Society’s organisers, returned after a couple of hours, only to see through the doors, that he was still talking to a rapt audience.   Rather crossly, as I had other things to do, I went and sat in the car for a while.  People began to emerge, so I went back and found him surrounded by people looking at photos and feeling the bundles of straw and picking up the tools and standing in line to ask questions.  So I went back out and remembered that I have installed a kindle app on my iphone.  Oh yes!  For the next half hour or so I became pleasantly immersed in “the man who knew too much”**, pausing only to accept thanks and appreciation on Barney’s behalf from people who had enjoyed the talk.

Clearly it had gone down a storm and there was no need for him to worry.  I can see that when he retires, he’ll be very happy giving talks on thatching and entering stamp competitions and will probably end up writing a best seller on Thatching and the Penny Black.  Actually, I think I ought to encourage him to write a book on thatching.***  We could publish it online.  I could illustrate it.

Anyway, because the car isn’t appropriate for the transportation of thatching tools and materials, I’ve been driving the pickup truck.  I’d forgotten what a ‘physical’ vehicle this is for a short person with little feet and now my back and shoulders ache.  But all in a very good cause.

And here’s a few more bits and bobs from the last few weeks.

Soon I shall get to grips with the new photoshop and there will be more photos.

Now I shall go and sleep the sleep of the virtuous.  You sleep well too.

*I didn’t stay to listen, not because I thought it would be boring but because I’ve probably heard most of it already a few times.

**Free classic.

***Forget the penny blacks – I don’t mind trawling around the country taking photos of thatched rooves but I draw the line at stamp fairs.

May 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments