Thursday, 10 November 2016

Gun power, diesel and plonk

Some people look forward to this time of year as a great opportunity to set off a few fireworks and burn an effigy as we commemorate someone who once tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament (I tried explaining this particular tradition to my non-British colleagues and they all thought we were stark raving mad!). But around here it’s the time of year when we eagerly await the delivery or our annual lamb as part payment from the farmer for the grazing in our fields. Last year, you may remember, said lamb rocked up bleating loudly on the back of a quad bike, all a bit Mad Max, what with the ensuing dispatch on the drive and all. This year’s offering arrived more like one of the mob, reclining imperiously in the back seat of a Landrover Discovery, all blacked out windows and leather seats, like North Wales’ woolly answer to Don Corleone. Alas this poor lambster did not come tooled up and before he could make us any kind of offer we couldn’t refuse he was swimming with the fishfingers in the bottom of the chest freezer.

Lamb safely dispatched it was time to turn our attention to our bonfire. Nothing like an ongoing renovation project and several years’ worth of crap in the crumbling barns to give you enough fuel for a ruddy great burn up. Having invited some friends around to join us we endeavoured to make it look (at least on the outside) less like a pikey fire and something more akin to the beautifully constructed pyramid shapes you see in parks up and down the land in the first week of November. We were doing pretty well disguising the mountains of cardboard and chipboard and old curtains with tasteful, well-seasoned hazel poles and branches.  But then in the absence of a guy (or an effigy of Donald Trump which we were sorely tempted to create) I opted to burn all vestiges of my previous life as a commuter, symbolically crowning the fire with my two old lap top bags. There was also no disguising the unmistakable whiff of diesel fumes that my husband assured me was “just to get the thing going”. A classic bushcrafter's technique, I don't think.  Anyhow go it went. Whoosh. No toasting marshmallows on this baby. No way Jose.

Symbolic end of an era? Or just a massive pikey fire?

Dressed and ready to burn
Our beautiful fire alight
(Note the traffic cone and other miscellaneous items to be burned later to the right of the shot) 

Recoiling from the intense heat (that could quite possibly have melted a car), we wandered round to where we had set up a series of fireworks. Now this being our first attempt at pyrotechnics and in the interest of not giving our new nervy cockerel, sheep, dog, cat, young children, or heavily pregnant friend coronaries or the onset of early labour I had gone through the proffered box of fireworks with my husband in advance and carefully vetoed anything with a name like ‘Earth Shaker’, ‘Deep Impact’ and ‘Jet Screamers’ and opted instead for the lovely, gentle sounding names like 'Diamond Burst', ‘Silver Shower’ and ‘Golden Sprinkles’ (why is it that the names of fireworks all sound like some dreadful double entendre or 1970s soft porn film titles?!). Anyway off my husband went, religiously sticking to the Rules of Fireworks, (25m away, never return to a firework, yadda yadda) setting off our nice, tame fireworks to the reception of many squeals of delight. Right up until the last lot when it soon transpired that he had sneaked in a few noisy big boys to get the party started. And with that the sheep all high tailed it over the hill and far away, the cock and hens retreated hastily inside their hut and the dog pretended he no longer existed with his paws over his ears under a camping chair. 

Standing well  back!

After all the excitement it was then back to the house for some light refreshments. Nothing like some homemade sloe gin to warm the cockles and defrost the toes. And good to clear out last year’s supplies before we embark on the 2016 vintage. I do believe very strongly in a strict clear shelf policy when it comes to homemade tipples. At least that’s what I told myself as I swigged the last drops in the bottle and lolled slowly to sleep in the rocking chair by the fire, children safely in bed and the dog finally back on speaking terms with me. And he calls himself a gun dog. Really.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The mighty Dot

I wanted to call this blog post ‘My big cock’ but feared that my whole blog might get taken down and/or I would start to attract the wrong kind of attention, even though my intent on this one is purely innocent, you understand.

Our massive new cockerel
So let me introduce you to ‘Dot’, the latest member of our extended animal family – a Silver Laced Wyandotte cockerel, who is close in size to your average African ostrich (well Emu maybe). This is the culmination of my husband spending the last few months on the phone, whispering in hushed tones when he thought I was out of earshot, “I’m looking for a really big cock……”. Then just as I was getting increasingly concerned that perhaps this remote, country living had sent him over the edge and he was about to run off with Bruce the town show-off, he rocked up home with my grand surprise. This handsome fella. The plan is we now let nature take its course and with luck by the spring we will have our own little family of chicks, the girls going on to lay us lots of eggs, boys destined for the pot. Time will tell whether our little experiment proves more successful than our last foray into poultry matchmaking. Ah Chauntecleer – God rest his soul. Still the randiest, largest chicken we have ever eaten, bar none.

Sex pest - moi?
I’m not sure what it is about hens and feathered farmyard creatures that sends my husband into a frenzied flurry of activity, clucking about to prepare the hen house, water troughs filled with all sorts of potions and tonics to welcome in our new visitor with the cockerel equivalent of a nice G&T. He even dragged the whole family out after dark, with head torches and wellies on to check on his prized bird and to give him a good dose of louse powder. Unfortunately he did not warn me of his intention as we left the house and so it was that I found myself an hour later, back in front of my computer on a video conference call with Seattle, covered in feathers (albeit pretty little silver-laced ones), my hair white with louse powder and with mud all over my face. Good job it was Hallowe’en or I’m not quite sure I would have got away with it!

So with all dependents, both the toddling and feathered variety, all safely tucked up in bed, we were feeling quite contented with our purchase. Right up until the point where the mouthy bugger starting crowing. At 4.30am. Made all the worse by the fact that we had smugly thought that we had nailed the clock changes with the kids at the weekend and put our 4am starts behind us for a while. Ach well, who needs sleep anyway…? 

And so finally to the name. Slightly less Chaucer, more first words type territory this time. The girls only managed to grasp the last part of his breed and so ‘Dot’ was born. Also fittingly, when my youngest was born it seemingly was a North Wales-ism to refer to small babies as ‘dots’ – as in, “Ah, what a little dot she is”.  So, with a good helping of irony, our massive cock will now forever more be known as ‘Dot’, or ‘Dotty’ to his friends. And let’s hope things do remain friendly, or we all know what will happen…