'I know,' says I.
'How could you?' says Primrose.
'In my defence,' says I, 'I did, soon thereafter, become vegetarian.'
'Hmmphh!' says Primrose, before turning away, picking up a snail and bashing its shell to pieces on a handy rock.
We've been living (and loving!) Damson Cottage for just over 7 weeks now, and during this time I have come to the definitive conclusion that the local weather forecasts are the pants of rubbish. Yesterday, for example, was supposed to be a bit on the chilly side with overcastness and frequent showers. 'Pants of Rubbish!' I shout. Because it was warm and, by lunchtime, jolly sunny and nice.
I got a lot done yesterday, once it transpired the weather was fine and I wasn't required to snuggle into the cottage and write. I've formed an equation, you see : cold and rainy = writing and sewing; sunny and dry = garden. (Yes, I know there are other weather combinations. Like hot and stormy, cold and frosty, grim and with a hint of Gothic, cold yet with a hint of something that drags you outside anyway...but I haven't equated activities with these weather combos yet.)
Anyway, yesterday we were off to the hospital for a first thing in the morning clinic appointment which meant, most importantly, that I did not have to ask the Patron Saint of Parking Spaces to free up a space for us in the usually heaving and wholly inadequate car park. If you get an appointment for any time after, say, 11 a.m then you are forced to join the 'Shark Pool of Circulating Cars' seeking out the next space to be vacated, then lunging at it in a totally compassionless and nerves of steel kind of way. I am an old hand at this now, but you can see the look of terror in the eyes of newbie hospital car parkers. Terrible, really; why don't hospitals have multi-storey car parks?
So, Andy's arm was duly stared at by the very contemplative surgeon who did his operation, we had the usual banter with the nurses (they are a wonderful bunch of nurses, the ones who seem to run the fracture clinic, despite what the doctors might think!) and there was much nodding and agreeing that the wound looks MUCH improved since last week and that progress is DEFINITELY being made (despite what you might think looking at the photos on Andy's Facebook page) ,that skin is growing at last (hurrah!) and that probably another 2, maybe 3 weeks will see everything tickety-boo! So, only incapacitated by a cat bite for 2 months then. (Good grief!)
Back home, I opened the fridge and looked at the not inconsiderable pile of gooseberries that I had picked a couple of days previously. When we first arrived at Damson Cottage and we discovered the lone gooseberry bush, I said, 'Oh, there won't be much fruit on THAT! Enough for a small crumble, maybe.'
How wrong was I? I was the Queen of Gooseberry Fools wrong, that's how. So I looked at the gooseberries and I said, 'Right, you lot. You, me, preserving pan...NOW!' And we set about some jamming.
The trouble with gooseberries is that they need topping and tailing, and what an arduous and tortuous job that is. One, having been rinsed of garden debris, gooseberries are slippery little devils and two, the tops and tails get stuck all over your hands and your scissors. So making gooseberry jam isn't the most gently bucolic of occupations in the world of countryside cottage kitchen cooking but the job was done.
I am feeling slightly trepidatious about going to pick the remainder of the gooseberries because I suspect there will be a lot more than I am anticipating, but Mum is coming up tomorrow for a week, and I am pretty certain she likes gooseberries. Plus we have about 40 feet of blackberries fast developing, and the two damson trees which are pretty laden with fruit, and the plum tree, and the apple trees, of which we have five...
And so I stepped away quickly from the impending dilemma of fruit and what to do with it all, and went into the garden, because it was dry and sunny, despite what the forecasters had said. My weather equation theory needs to be followed, you see. There is no point sitting inside when the weather is warm and dry because we bought Damson Cottage for the massive garden and for the plans we have for the massive garden, those plans being part of what is going to give us happier and more fulfilling lives.
Years ago, Andy and I went a bit 'let's get a smallholding' crazy, with plans of becoming self-sufficient, and have cows and sheep and pogs (pogs? Pigs!) and goats and chickens and ducks and fattening our own turkey for Christmas. And growing fruit and vegetables and oh, all that kind of stuff. Blimey, I even contemplated doing a day course in how to slaughter your own chickens!
'You did WHAT???' says Primrose.
'I know,' says I.
'How could you?' says Primrose.
'In my defence,' says I, 'I did, soon thereafter, become vegetarian.'
'Hmmphh!' says Primrose, before turning away, picking up a snail and bashing its shell to pieces on a handy rock.
Anyway, we got an allotment to learn about growing food. We learned to keep hens and bees. And we came to the conclusion that we had not the financial wherewithall to buy somewhere big enough to do all this smallholding malarkey on. And, as a new vegetarian, I certainly could not countenance keeping animals for slaughter. And smallholding is a full-time job. I wanted time for writing and sewing, and did not want to swap full-time teaching with the resentment that this prevented me from writing and sewing, for full-time smallholding with equal resentment that this also prevented me from writing and sewing. And I think, what we've got in Damson Cottage, is a place where all these activities can jostle amicably for time and space and all will receive fair and equal attention. I think.
Hence the weather/ activity equations. In the garden, then, I did a couple of hours or so of digging, weeding and pruning, coupled with in-my-mind planning about how our new space will develop from here on in. For example, one of the raised beds is pointless - it is under the shade of the goat willow and will be unproductive. It doesn't even grow weeds very well, for heaven's sake! But it would be an excellent space to pave over and put a little gazebo/ summer house on which would be just write as an outside writing space. And the fruit cage could be extended across the garden towards the swing. The hens will move to the back of the garden, the far right hand corner is an ideal space to set up an apiary. Oh yes! It is all starting to grow here in my head!
Eventually, I had to curtail my veg garden activities because I was pursued by what I believe to be a stable fly. (As in 'horse' not as in capable of managing its life, relationships and finances in a balanced way.) It was VERY persistent. It got me once but one of the joys of our new garden is that I can immediately go inside, pop an anti-histamine and administer liberal amounts of TCP, thus avoiding the usual swelling up which I experienced when bitten at the allotment. Good damage limitation was achieved, and I went back to the veg garden. The little b*****d was still there and tried to get me again, but I fought it off and decided more genteel gardening activity would be best, so made a graceful retreat to the patio, for more weeding, deadheading and dreaming.
Then I made a cup of tea and enjoyed sitting in the sunshine for twenty minutes, before making Andy try some of the gooseberry jam, then making dinner whilst watching the hares race about in the field next door.
And now I am writing because today it is raining...well, gentle drizzling...and according to my weather equation that makes it a reading and sewing day!
So, Chris and the girls were up for a few days last week, during which time the pool was paddled, the tree house climbed, the swing swunged (swang? swingled??), the Swingball whalloped, the Kerplunk kerplunked and the bingo binged. Amongst other things. (Elizabeth, aged 2 years and almost 3 months, proved spookily good at Kerplunk. Her method of speed over tactics proved most effectual.)
And we went various places and did holiday type stuff. And then they all went home.
The next day, as I was doing a bit of the housework, I said to Andy, 'Can you smell something odd in the study?' and he said, yes, he could. And we stood in the study sniffing the air and saying, 'What on earth is THAT?' (When I said there was something niffy in the woodshed, I meant the study - it's just that 'woodshed' sounded funnier than 'study' because, presumably, of the connotations with Cold Comfort Farm and Aunt Ada Doom. The woodshed smells, well, like a woodshed. Bit damp, bit woody. Not niffy.)
Anyway, because Kayleigh and Elizabeth had used the study as their bedroom during the stay we blamed the niff on them, and decided all it needed was a good airing. Well, it had been a hot few days, and Elizabeth may have hidden something away, like a bit of cheese, or a haddock, because she is a bit handy in the food hiding department. Like a squirrel.
The next morning the room smelled a bit better. There you go - it just needy a good airing! Concerns of dead rats in the attic faded from my mind. I shut the window.
But come evening time, the niff was back and then some. We stood in the study sniffing. My mind had moved from a dead rat in the attic to a dead gnu in the attic. The smell was stronger in some areas of the study than others. Now, my sense of smell is better than Andy's, so I made my way slowly towards the source of the niff, sniffing here, sniffing there, sniffing up, sniffing down. Until I got to a small table over Andy's side of the study, in the corner by the cupboard. 'Pon the table there stood Andy's rucksack. His work rucksack. The rucksack he hasn't used for 4 weeks now, because he's been off work with the rabid cat bite.
I unzipped the rucksack! I leapt backwards...
'Oh my WORD!!' said I. 'What is THAT in your rucksack?'
For yea verily I had discovered the source of the niff and, by undoing the rucksack, had unleashed its potent fug into the room. And I sort of flung the rucksack in Andy's direction, working on the premise that it was HIS niff so HE should deal with it. Off he trotted then, at high speed, to deal with the whatever it was, and I went to disinfect my olfactory system.
'So, what was it then?' said I, upon his return, because I know Andy's record of storing unusual things, like the time he kept a dead hedgehog in the saddlebag of his mum's bicycle when he was a lad. That ended well, once you add his short term memory issues into the equation.
And do you know what it was, dear reader? The source of the 'orrible niff?
An apple! A manky, niffy, 'I've been stewing in a warm rucksack for 4 weeks going mouldy' apple!! Well! Who'd of thought, eh?
And we blamed the granddaughters.
The problem, you see, with Andy's arm injury, is that it is 'over-granulating.' This means the tissue that is building up to fill the void where the abscess had been drained is going a little bit mad and over-doing itself, which means in turn that it is spilling over the surface of the wound and not allowing skin to form. Or, as the doctor said cheerfully at this afternoon's hospital clinic visit, 'Mr Hunt, you have grown a mushroom on your arm!'
To wit Andy responded, 'Horses tend to over-granulate,' and he and the doctor went into some techno-medical professional chat of which the only word I understood was 'curette.'
Which means, in lay-man's terms, 'We are going to slice that mushroom off...okay?'
And he did. The doctor. The nurse squirted something anaestheticky on the mushroom, but I don't think the doctor gave it much of a chance to numb the area before he set about his curetting, not if the grimacing, and ouching, and toe-curling Andy was performing was anything to go by. Poor Andy. But he was a brave little soldier, nonetheless, probably because he is part-horse.
Alot of swabbing and compressing ensued with the nurse being very cheerful, saying things like, 'It's still gushing, isn't it?' and the doctor deciding that 2 lots of anti-biotic were called for to defeat the evil bug Pasturella, and no, Andy still COULD NOT go back to work, was he MAD?? All those animals with GERMS???? Go home, young man, go to the medical centre at least every two days for a compression dressing and KEEP IT ELEVATED!!!!
So that is where we are at. I am still wondering, in the spirit of 'These things happen for a reason,' just what the reason for all this happening is. Bit stuck, to be honest. Another hospital visit next Wednesday.
Not having moved house for 12 years (and then barely 5 miles up the road) I can't say for certain, but I guess the first two or three weeks living in a new house (especially one in a different county 200 miles away) are a bit like being on holiday. Andy and I have to keep telling ourselves that we don't have to rush around looking at all the local attractions NOW because we have all the time in the world to do so because we LIVE here! No, the best thing to do is to get familiar with all the local necessities, the services, the day-to-day landmarks, where everything is. That kind of stuff. You know, like the shops, the library, the medical centre, the hospital...sigh...we know all about the hospital now...
And getting to grips with the local town's road system. Like learning not to be surprised by the mini-roundabout IMMEDIATELY on top of a bigger roundabout which leads to the supermarket whose entrance has an IMMEDIATE right turn into the medical centre across two lanes followed by an IMMEDIATE left turn exit for the traffic leaving the petrol station. Whilst the convenience of having a supermarket, petrol station and medical centre all within spitting distance of each other is undeniable, you've got to have your wits about you with traffic coming at you from all angles. Luckily, traffic is very light. Still, there's always one loony in an Audi who disregards both the roundabouts and entrances/ exits and drives like they are in the outside lane of the M6 Toll.
I digress. Yesterday, then, was the Shrewsbury Park and Ride Adventure. Shrewsbury is lovely. Really lovely. I like it enormously, with its history, its architecture, its eclectic mix of interesting shops and eating places and its massive fabric emporium. Driving there is, quite literally, a plain-sailing straight road for half an hour, punctuated by 3 roundabouts. But as you approach the town, the traffic starts to bottleneck and it can take 15 to 20 minutes to negotiate the sudden mass of traffic lights and find somewhere to park. So, why not park up at the back of the massive Tezzco (the one with statues of multi-coloured sheep out the front - baaaa-code???) and hop on the bus? Plenty of parking, and at £2.50 for up to 5 people (£1.60 if you are travelling alone) cheaper than parking in town and also without the hassle of having to keep an eye on the clock to return before your parking ticket runs out. I mean, you might find a cute and cosy little café called 'The Snug' and decide to stay for lunch, for example, which you wouldn't have been able to do if you had parked in town.
The journey into town was good - 10 minutes - and you can disembark at either the railway station, outside M & S, outside Waterstones and one other stop unidentified by a shopping landmark, but next to a gastro-pub whose name I can't remember. Probably something weird like 'The Yoyo and Nutcracker' or 'The Pig and Poke It.' The return journey, despite our being driven by a lunatic bus driver who was making the most of the bus lane to drive at speed and swing, and then some, was slightly longer but that could have been because we hit the school chucking out time. Anyway, park and ride for Shrewsbury, definitely.
And so we are getting into the swing of living here in Shropshire. Which also means getting back to doing the things we enjoyed when we were living in Kent. Like writing and sewing and knitting and lino-cutting. Andy announced yesterday that he'd finally managed to have a go with the very expensive and high quality lino-cutters I got him for his birthday. I was marginally alarmed by this given a) he is still a little incapacitated by his chomped arm and b) the tools are very sharp and require two steady hands to use safely. However, Andy assures me he has been VERY careful and that he WILL NOT cut himself. That's all right then. 🙄
And I am a goodly way into knitting a hooded cape poncho with pockets thing. I know - fancy knitting a poncho in summer. I don't usually knit at all during the summer months, because knitting = wool = winter, but it's not really been summery, has it? My craft brain is confused by the rain, the chill, and the having to wear my long boots and parka coat in July. Today, I am going to distract myself with sewing some cushion covers for the dining room. And those of you who enjoyed 'Night Owls' may be pleased (or not!) to know that Granny Grace has made a reappearance! I think she is nudging me to psyche myself up for a Night Owls return for NaNoWriMo 2016. Anyway, I'm charging up my mini-laptop, so writing is high on the agenda today.
Our 'Explore Local Stuff' adventure today is a visit to the Market Drayton Wednesday street market. It has been happening every week for many, many years and even has its own permanent street sign! It might be fab, it might be full of tat, but today is the first Wednesday since we've been here that we've both been at home at the same time and not inconvenienced by cat bite appointment malarkey, so today we shall have a go and see.
There is a little bit of blue sky appearing; grabbing the sunshine whilst I can!
Hospital visit today. I sent up a little prayer to the Patron Saint of Parking Places just as we were entering the car park as the car park is usually chock-a-block and finding a space is about as easy as finding teeth in a hen. But the Patron Saint of Parking Spaces was well on the ball and there was a space! There!! I even drove the wrong way into the row of parked cars to grab the space before any of the other shark-circling cars spotted it! Very bad, I know, but needs must.
So we went to the Fracture Clinic, appointment at 10 a.m and bang on the dot we were called into a cubicle and I sat on a chair reading a book and Andy sat on the couch. A nice, no nonsense nurse came in and unbandaged his arm, exposing the yuckiness beneath, a photo of which you can see on Andy's Facebook page, IF you MUST. Basically, it is a close up of a hole in an arm, red in tooth and claw. Don't say I didn't warn you.
And then a doctor came in and, quite frankly, I thought he was going to throw up. A bit like Doc Martin and his phobia of blood. Anyway, the upshot is that the wound is healing well, the dressing size has been downgraded and there is no need to go to the medical centre to have it dressed again unless it goes all gushy all over the place. Got to return to the hospital next week for another check up, but other than that all was good.
On the way out, and because we had slipped into the second hour of parking charges and I don't like wasting parking time that has, in effect, been paid for, we stopped at the coffee shop for elevenses. I said, 'So, do you think you can lower your arm now? Having spent the last two weeks with it up in the air like one of those weird Chinese Feng Shui Lucky Waving Cats in Tacky Gold?' The doctor, you see, had hinted that Andy needed to try using his arm as normally as possible as the movement in his wrist is marginally compromised and we don't want stiff wrists, do we?
'Yes!' said Andy in agreement, seeing the steely glint in my eye.
Well, it's a hard habit to break, apparently, walking around with your arm elevated. I started off by putting my hand on his arm and pressing it downwards as a gentle reminder that arms are built to dangle and work with gravity rather than against it, but eventually I reached the point of barking, 'ANDY! ARM!!!' He will be trained.
On the drive home, and buoyed by the good news borne of the hospital visit, we got to talking about fields and trees and the recent frantic activity of silage cutting that has been going on around Damson Cottage this week. We decided that random trees growing in the middle of fields are there to give the harvester drivers variety, so they didn't get bored going round and round and round in circles.
'You know the field next to us, where our septic tank is?' I said.
'Yes,' said Andy.
'Well, I know the harvester went around the septic tank, but why did it miss that bit by the hedge, too?'
Andy explained. According to our neighbour, Don, the liquid waste from our properties (waste water, pee) goes into the septic tank and then onwards into the bit by the hedge which is a sort of soakaway, and hence 'soaking away' into the earth. The remaining waste i.e poo (basically) is contained in the septic tank itself, and when that is full it needs emptying, about every two or three years or so.
'So really,' said I, 'what we have in the field is a tin of poo. A poo tin.'
And hence our septic tank is now known as Vladimir. I'll leave you with a picture.
That's Vladimir, there in the middle. With the long hair-do.
I got the call to go and pick up Andy yesterday just after 2 p.m. The unidentified bug had been indentified - apparently is normally found in dogs' ears and up rabbits' noses and is a b****r to shift. It all sounds a bit revolting to me, but not half as revolting as the wound it has left in Andy's arm and if you are particularly into horror then go and take a look-see at his Facebook page because I sure as heck am NOT posting it on here. YUKK!!!
Anyway, I immediately put himself to work this morning mowing the lawn. Fresh air and exercise, that's what you need after a week languishing in a hospital bed (albeit with regular scurries up the corridor to the coffee shop; I know - a coffee shop in a hospital? Shouldn't be allowed...) And so with his arm in a sling, Andy the Brave manhandled with a single arm the lawnmower up and down and up and down our extensive lawn whilst I went a-weeding and a-pruning and then we had a quick stop for lunch on the grass before Andy went in pursuit of a red kite and I tiddled about with some knitting.
The farmer has been mowing the fields around us for silage and this has caused much excitement amongst the local rook population of which there are several hundreds, I kid you not. And with the rooks came some birds of prey which Andy and I have been stalking for the last 24 hours and have decided that they are, in fact, red kites. Which is VERY exciting. Who'd have thought, eh? Being able to watch red kites from your kitchen window?
The red kites seem better at catching the prey thrown up by the silage cutting than the rooks, who have been attempting the art of master thievery, and trying to wrangle the goodies from the kites. The kites, as you can imagine, are having none of this, and there has been a lot of 'Back down!' , 'No, YOU back down!!' malarkey going on and it has all been very entertaining. There has been one especially determined kite who has been seeing off the rooks with much aplomb and just sitting in the field, biding her time until the next unfortunate rodent comes along, ripe for the plucking and gulping down thereof.
I have joined Facebook! I know! It was an act of pure desperation, I have to say in my defence, in that I couldn't get hold of Andy yesterday morning as the mobile phone signals here are dire; I can send a message from my phone at 8 in the morning and I am lucky if it arrives with its recipient by the end of the day. (Mind you, I have discovered that I get a better sending signal if I wave my phone up the chimney - a touch of the Harry Potter's there, it seems. I just look a complete weirdo doing the Dance of the Wavy Phone in front of the woodburner, that's all. And don't for heavens' sake tell Andy because he already thinks I am weird enough for voting Brexit, without my conviction that I can send texts up the chimney! Mind you, I'm not the one who got bitten by a cat and had to spend a week in hospital, am I?)
So, because Andy is on the Facebook, I thought that I would join too, and then I could send him a message (on the Face Feed Page News) and he could tell me what on earth was going on NOW in the Great Cat Bite Calamity. Because really, I needed him to come home. The lawn needed mowing.
So now I am all Facebooked up and never have I been more confused in my life. Too many pages! Too many feeds! People commin' at ya from all sides...eeeekkk! But I am with it now, and I can see the benefits of it for keeping in touch with all my family and chums, now we are living in the almost wilds of Shropshire. And I got into the Twitter swing, so why not the Facebook? (Is it called 'The' Facebook? Or just 'Facebook?' Who knows? Who cares?
Anyway, Andy has got to go back to hospital on Wednesday to see the consultant. Have a consult. You know. And he's been signed off work for 2 weeks which means the lawn will stay in good shape before our raft of visitors begins to arrive mid-July. He is still on antibiotics because of the dog ear rabbit nose thing, and his arm still has a look of Frankenstein's child about it, but I am sure, come Christmas, we shall be sitting around the fire having a jolly good laugh about it all.
After the surgeon said there was no reason that Andy couldn't come home today, with a supply of dressings and antibiotics, apparently it seems there is a reason.
The swabs they took whilst operating are growing some unidentifiable bug on the culture. The hospital won't let him home until the unidentified is identified.
This has vexed us both. And all from one cat bite.
Anyway, lovely friend Jane sent us some lovely flowers today, to keep us in good spirits!
And I have just had a much moral boosting and spirit lifting FaceTime with my darling granddaughters and lovely son. They are visiting in 2 weeks' time. Chris is going to service our boiler whilst they are here. Making himself useful, like.
Yesterday evening there was a powercut which cheered me no end, as you can imagine. I kept telling myself that a powercut is small price to pay for living in the countryside surrounded by wonderful views. Flora kept saying, 'Why are we sitting in the dark?'
Well, that's all I can tell you for today. Andy still in hospital, host to some mystery bacteria, and I am still here just, well....home alone.
Rantings, ravings, observations and musings, useful stuff, silly stuff, funny, sad and thoughtful guff!
(c) Denise and Andy Hunt 2014