Sunday, 7 February 2016

Hatches, matches, dispatches

It feels like spring has sprung early here in our little corner of the world. The snow drops are out in full force, little white heads nodding in the wind like extras in a Daft Punk video. The primroses are holding their own too, nuzzling up against each other in their enviable spot overlooking the stream. And we have even seen daffodils bravely poking their heads out of the mud to see what 2016 is all about after a nice long snooze.  Pretty much the same as last year I’m guessing, give or take a few trees and a little less water sloshing about the place. At least I hope that’s what I’d be saying if I were a daffodil living here.

Get Lucky?

Life is just a bed of (prim) roses

And of course spring would not be spring without the arrival of some new chicks, freshly hatched from, in this case, Gloucestershire. I never, ever thought I would end up married to a chicken fancier but I fear, alas, that this may be now the case. It turns out that my darling husband, fully embracing this smallholding lark with both arms (and legs), has been doing a worrying about of homework into old breeds of hen and decided that life could not go on without the addition of some Cotswold Legbar and Burford Brown chickens to our brood. Now if you, like me, haven’t exactly got your chicken breeds down pat, these pretty birds are the poultry equivalent of an It girl on Ladies Day at Ascot. All flamboyant feathers and Farrow & Ball colours with a permanent look of disdain on their beaky faces. Perhaps rightly so as these (hugely expensive) birds were hatched in a heated, designer barn, I daresay made from the finest Cotswold stone, with oak beams and floor to ceiling windows that would put our house to shame. So imagine their disgust as they were wrenched from their plush living quarters to be ignominiously bundled into a cardboard box and hurled into the back of a beaten up Landrover Defender (that my husband now assures me is a collector’s item and worth a fortune since they stopped making them last week). Four hours later they arrive to find themselves in the middle of a muddy field in the pissing rain, not a silk cushion or a Waitrose corn meal in sight. No wonder they didn’t venture out of their little house for a week. I could see the look in their eyes which said, “WTF am I doing here? I’m a Cotswold Legbar don’t you know. Perhaps this is all some horrific nightmare and I’ll back in the balmy, affluent south of England in a few clucks”. At times I can totally empathise with that!

WTF am I doing here?!

Tough luck chucks. You’re Welsh now. And that means you get to support the best rugby team in the world. Yes spring wouldn’t be spring without the Six Nations and that of course means lots of matches. So don’t expect to get anything done on a Saturday or a Sunday for the next eight weeks. It seems that everyone and everything around here stops for the rugby. It's like a scene out of 28 Days Later when Wales are playing: no cars, no tractors, no people, even the sheep seem to fall silent until you hear an audible cheer or groan (or just an almighty sigh in the case of today's nail-biting draw) rolling around the valley when the final whistle blows. Even time itself seems to work differently while the tournament is on. Our builder came round this week to ummm and aaarrr at various wonky walls that we want removed and at the end we asked him when we could expect the quote.  In a momentary lapse to my City alter ego, I was fully expecting him to say something along the lines of COB Friday (Close of Business for those of you not subjected to BS corporate speak day in day out) but instead he simply responded, “before the match”. Fair enough. Given the score, it's just as well we didn't wait until afterwards as we might have borne the brunt of some of that red shirted frustration.

Come on Wales!

And finally to dispatches. What better way to herald the start of spring than to feast upon a lamb grown in ones’ own fields. What a charming idea, we thought. Let’s ask the farmer next door to bring us one, we thought, fully expecting our request to be met with the delivery of a neatly, vacuum packed lamb in all the requisite cuts, ready to cook. Little did we expect said beast to arrive at our front door on the back of a quad bike, bleating away to its heart’s content and still very much alive. Fortunately my husband has the wherewithal to quickly resolve such situations and before you could say, “are lambs allowed to ride on those things?”, it was fleeced, gutted and hanging up in our larder fridge. Meat doesn’t come fresher than that, as Greg Wallace might say.  And no sooner had we butchered little Larry, then it was time to say goodbye to dear old Peppa. Now you may have gathered from reading my blog that my husband has no compunction about knocking off the odd animal or two. But with Peppa I definitely detected for the first time a flicker of hesitation as he prepared for the big P-Day. He deliberated for ages about which rifle to use and then which ammunition to ensure it was all as quick and painless as possible. And then when the day finally arrived he kept putting it off and putting it off, sneaking up to the pen to feed her one last scoop of pig nuts and give her one last scratch behind the ears.  He also went to huge amounts of trouble preparing her bath, finding an enormous cast iron thing on eBay and then spent SEVEN HOURS filling it and heating the water to exactly the right temperature (which, incidentally, he has never done for me). It would all have been quite endearing if said bath was not to be used to scald dear Peppa to remove her hair once the deed was done. In the end, after one final scratch, she was happily munching away on a banana (her favourite) and knew nothing about it at all. All very peaceful and stress-free. Less so for my husband and his (sort of) willing helpers who were then tasked with defuzzing her and cleaning her up for the larder. I wandered in later on and poked my head into the fridge to see the end result and it was all a bit Lord of the Flies to be honest. The bacon butties will be worth it though.  Especially with a Burford Brown fried egg thrown in for good measure. And perhaps a win next time for Wales. I don’t ask for much…

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