Tuesday, 30 June 2009

They don't make em like they used to

Went to see the in-laws this weekend and he asked me if I could do a job for him.
"Would you cut my leylandi please?"
"Yes, no problem - which one?" says I looking in the direction of the leylandi and wondering why he didn't want them all cutting.
"The one down by Carol's"
I look, I look again and look again.
"What Leylandi?"
"Oh, sorry isn't it a Leylandi? The yew then"
I wander down, believing I know what a yew looks like. Spousey is gathering gooseberries (she's made some LOVELY marmalade and chutney with them!)
"Where's this yew he wants cutting?"
"What yew?" she says looking round.
I go back to him.
"Do you mean the beech hedge?"
"Aye, that'll be it"

Well I start cutting it and the trimmers jam.
"They keep doing that" says he.
Can I clear the jam? Can I 'eck as like!
"Have you tried hitting them on the floor?"
So that's why the cutter is bent! I start taking them to bits expecting to clear the jam with loosening it all off but it won't play, so after training Sunday (Or should that be TRAINing?) I stripped them right down, removed the 'bit' that was floating around and Voila! they work again. I have cut my leylandi with them (and it was leylandi!) and they work fine. Sometimes I surprise myself!

The TRAINing went very well with a society from Bradford visiting and bringing a couple of engines. There were some youngsters (11-14 year olds) amongst them and they spent a lot of time with their eclectric 'diesel' shunting and when the engine 'failed' they set about fixing it themselves. I was well impressed. It's good to see young blood take an interest.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Nearly a week gone by..

And it's been a busy week. Not done a great deal in the garden, although we have cleared some London Pride to fellow freeglers and the alderman peas have needed tying up again. They can grow to 5 feet and they now stand about 6 feet and climbing. I have also been looking at the shop for the ethical store and am pleased the way that is looking, although there is more work than I thought.

It's been a frustrating month in some ways. With SOC's birthday, Holidays, Father's day and gymkhanas I haven't been to see the trains and I am starting to get withdrawal symptoms. You can see some of the trains at http://www.derbysmee.co.uk

One positive this week though is that I can now get in my garage! - I have been tidying it up so I can start some of the projects I keep thinking about - including that clock! Still looking out for hardwood offcuts.

All This gym work seems to be paying off though.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Another weekend

Been a fun weekend SOC went riding Saturday and then in a pony club gymkhana on Sunday. Sunday was also Father's day of course so got some grief from FOC for not being at home when she wanted to come round. Hey ho - kids! Well Saturday we went to see the in-laws and I had a couple of jobs to do. Job one was straight forward - re lay a couple of slabs. Second job was to replace a fascia panel on his conservatory that had rotted through. I started this this job to find the board below the fascia also needed replacing so the job doubled. I then found the guttering was not properly secured. The gutters were blocked. He want the moss scraping off the corrugated plastic roof and passed me a collapsing rake that only wanted to collapse, so I had to fix that. Got to clearing the roof and called down, "Have you applied a patch to this roof?" - "No" - "Well there's a piece of corrugated plastic floating loose - are you sure you haven't patched it?" - "Yes I have" - Doh! So next I had to go up and patch the roof again. And so the catalogue went on. Fun in deed.

I said the wife said I was becoming a Victor Meldrew.. Guess what I got for Father's day - a One Foot In The Grave Book! About the making really so it could be quite good. SOC got me a Dangerous Book For Boys - Things To Do! Now I can make a tree house. Well I have made one already and will later add a piccie, in fact must put up some of the things I've made in a photo album maybe? FOC got me 'The Italian Job 40th anniversay edition" but the crowning glory has to be The Railwayman's Diesel Manual. It looks like being really good reading!

When FOC came over to see me she showed me a bleb on one of her tyres. I could not believe she was running on it! Dad, well what are dad's for?, then set about changing it. She passed the wrench while I jacked the up and she found the locking wheel nut. My word the nuts were tight! I had to jump on the wrench to shift them and I had flashbacks to kick starting my Norton Commando 35 years ago! Got them undone and the car jacked and the wheel wouldn't move. I was struggling to breathe and it was beginning to look like a job for the RAC but I went to get a persuaderometer from the garage. A 22lb sledge hammer - tapped the wheel a couple of times and off it came. Time to put the spare on and she produces this 'thing' - A mint condition extending bar and sockets! "Why didn't you find this sooner?" - "Would it have made things easier?" - "Where did you get it?" - "HE was throwing it out and it was shiny so I thought I would have it" - HELP me PLEASE! Job complete - advice on replacement given and superman flies off into the distance. Well to some carrot cake and low fat cheese with icing sugar! - Don't knock it if you've not tried it - it was beautiful and thanks wife.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

City Centre

Went into Derby today. Derby is a 'pretty' little city but the architecture varies from some very early buildings that house or once housed some very 'reliable' institutions to some very modern buildings that, to put it politely, not many people understand. While walking into the city today I was struck by the geese beside the river.

The number of geese was far more than we normally see and there was a bit of variety amongst them. I am not an expert but I believe that we see a couple of pink footed geese amongst the canada geese.
We also saw quite a number of goslings with some of them looking oddly marked. Something that struck us about the goslings was that they seemed to being looked after by the rest of the flock and not just their own mothers.

Although this little fellow is odder still and I believe it is with the white goose, which I also believe, is an escaped domestic goose. I do need to apologise for these photos though as they were from my mobile which is only VGA compatible. But it is nice to get some image when you hadn't expected to want a camera at all.
Although you cannot help but love these little fellows. They were being used to raise money for disabled children although I totally fail to see the relevance. SOC loved this and without the camera she wouldn't have seen it.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Less exciting times...

One of those days.

It started dull, became duller and ended up remarkably dull.

It became necessary to 'shop'. I am a normal healthy male and as such have a natural allergy to shopping. It takes a lot of time to drag me around the store so we don't get to the wood on those days.

I then need time to recover and eat. When all this falls on a gym day, there is not a lot of time before I have to go to gym. Sounds like a chore, but I do sort of enjoy it while, at the same time, recognise the beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system and cholesterol levels. They say it releases endorphins but I feel that to see a continued improvement in anything we do gives a good feeling of reward. Couldn't face the intended 6.5k today so tried another program and on the mill wound up the speed to 11kph, a .5% (not much but it is >0) incline and 15 minutes. It did truly feel good to finish the exercise. The graphs showed a much more intense activity program and I think I did enjoy it more. I am going to work on this type of program for a while.

Tomorrow we need to go and pick up the last holiday photos and do some 'town' shopping. Although we have digital cameras, our hearts are still in 35mm. Unfortunately the cost of processing has doubled in the last year and digital does have the advantage of you can publish the pictures immediately and we recognise that one day we have to commit to a change over. We still have huge stack of vinyl that we won't part with! We never did eight track though.

Today I finished 'The Portable Door' and true to form it was a very good read. I started reading Tom Holt when in hospital with the heart attack. One of the nurses saw I was reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld books and recommended it and brought me 'Ye Gods!' to read. I was released into the community before I had finished it so had to leave it behind, but my friends at work bought me a gift voucher for an online book shop so I could shop from the comfort of my home (I was under house arrest for the first 3 or 4 weeks) and so I bought a copy to finish it. I have decided to read another Holt - 'Only Human' which is part of a batch of books I was given by a freegler.

Monday, 15 June 2009

What was all the fuss.....

We did Pony Club today and at 17:55 the lightning and thunder started (Why do people say Thunder and Lightning? The lightning comes first because of the relative speeds. It's even first alphabetically. Why then?) and they all retreated to the cabin and did indoor stuff. They did a rising trot (apparently) by hopping round the cabin like bunnies. Then they did 'putting a tail bandage on'. SOC was key to this as she is the only one with hair long enough to be a ponies tail and they couldn't get Enoch in the cabin. Nett effect? All our efforts for a body protector in time for today were unnecessary. Is there a complaint box for God somewhere?

Went to the wood again today (and forgot to take the camera - sorry) but half way there it tried to rain. In T-shirts we carried on and under the leafy canopy we kept dry. By the time we left the wood the rain had given up and we were back to brilliant sunshine.

I went to the gym and tried my 6.5k but I chickened out at 6.3. I might have been able to continue but I decided it was still a personal best and I would call it a day. See what Wednesday brings.

While waiting for SOC this eveing I all but finished 'The Chapel at the Edge of the World'. It's a shame but I won't be marking it high at all. It's not actually in print yet as I have an uncorrected proof so that I can review it before publication. I have read a few like that recently and while it is a privilege it is also a gamble that you end up with a book you don't like.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

A Sunday....

It has been a day dominated by the body protector. We tried to several saddleries and tried on several but still no proper fit. We were giving up hope when at the 12th hour a Freegler contacted us and they have gifted one. It passes the test here at home and now we must wait and see what the instructor has to say....

We have finally given the last of our flowers (or 'weeds' as we think of them) away. Been a lovely warm day and bright. Got some reading done while waiting for the family to get ready and so we have had a generally relaxing day, despite the many miles travelled.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

A weekend

Today starts duller than yesterday but dry for now which hopefully it will stay as this morning our second only child (SOC) has a riding lesson, which she enjoys immensely. She loves Enoch, though lately she has ridden Benny who is slower, more independently minded and difficult than just about any pony in the stable. He does make it more of a challenge and when she rides him her improvements are more noticeable.
SOC on Benny

SOC on Enoch

After that we will go and see the in-laws. Since we married I saw little of my parents because my mother strained our marriage whenever she was around. This straining was as much my difficulties with her as my wife's and so I visited them rarely out of my choice. It was difficult for me as I really had a much stronger bond with my father who was a fantastic father. My mother passed away about 21 years ago and my dad 12 years ago. The result of this the in-laws have been sort of replacement parents to me. As they get on we try to help them more without taking over their lives. He is 89 and still mows his lawns once a week and he has a very large area of grass - about 4 times more than we have. They are also active gardeners but have an annoying practice of planting whole packets of seeds for the 2 of them. That makes a LOT of cabbages. I enjoy it - and it's mean of me - when I can bring him over (I don't like him driving) and show him our successes when they are better than his.

Homework will be the order of the day for SOC and she started maths last night. She asked for help and I showed her some answers to her homework which is based on year 9. She is year 7 and very bright (don't tell her I said it). It's nice when I help her - not with the answers but in how to get them.

Otherwise we expect some freegle visitors for plants and a quiet day - which is nice.
The day turned out fine for the riding lesson and SOC handled Benny very well. He starts to realise that he is not always boss. Bad news though - in a way - there is to be jumping practice on Monday in Pony Club and she doesn't have a body protector. It's not essential but VERY highly desirable. Chased around 4 places trying to get one but they don't fit. She is an awkward size. Trying the friends on Freegle but it's a 1 in a million chance.

Went to see the in-laws and got back late because of the body protector and had to compromise on tea. I watch my cholesterol now - it used to be 6.7 but now it's 4. I keep fats as low as reasonable but watch my omega 3s, eat my fruit and such fats as I can I take as monounsaturates. Obviously I can't avoid saturates totally but I keep them as low as possible. I don't like compromise - I don't suppose we are supposed to really. I will have to behave more tomorrow.

Friday, 12 June 2009

A ramble

We went to the wood that is close to home this morning. We went as a bit of light exercise mainly, but also to enjoy the wood itself. It's not a particularly large wood and we generally walk around it twice. Today it was absolutely beautiful. The bluebells are done, but the bracken is now about shoulder height and the briers are getting stronger. Being a very sunny day, dappled light was coming through the trees and it was truly magnificent. I must remember to take a camera with me in future. We left the main path and walked through the centre of the wood where it is was quieter and it truly was a magical woodland experience. Having worked for the last 30 years, even my spare time has been eroded by work and I have missed so much, but this year I have watched the earth wake up after winter and I recommend it to everyone!

Been to the gym today. I go 3 times a week for aerobic exercise. Before the heart attack I was running every day but getting nowhere. After I was sent for cardiac rehab which involves gym work and after 4 years (nearly) I can now run 6k. I have an ambition to run 10k. We went on holiday for a week and on getting back we had a manic week getting ready for our 12 year old (as is now) birthday so I had a fortnight out of the gym. Before the break I was running 6k at 10.7kph. After my third attempt in getting back to the gym, I managed 6k today but only at 10.5kph. It has come as a big surprise to me how quickly I have gone downhill - it can't be my age! Can it? Still next week should be able to try the 6.5k. The gym is a big thing for me now because after gym life is a lot more comfortable. My dad died of emphysema and all too often my breathing makes me think of his suffering. Not Pleasant!

We lifted a whole host of Montbretia today as it starts to take over. We have put them out on Freegle and are having a bit of a parade of people collecting. I really hope they enjoy them as we do.

Had a call today from a local ethical store - selling organic and locally produced food - with a view to helping them with an online shop. They are a small outfit and it came as a surprise to them about how much it will cost for hosting and certification. I have volunteered so come pretty well free, but they will need to put up some money every year - possibly around £150 but deals can be done. Hopefully they can bite the bullet and go with it - I think they could succeed as they even do free delivery locally on bikes!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Slugs and Snails and other 'Pests'

Since retiring I have taken on the snails and slugs with a renewed vigour. Each day I go around the garden with a couple of trowels on the lookout. Any I find - and I apologise here because the next bit is not pretty - I destroy them. At first I was getting rid of 50-60 a day! We had a BIG problem with them. Now I only get 10-15 which is a big improvement and also the veggies are suffering much less damage so something is working. I prefer to avoid chemicals but at first the quantity was such that I set up a bucket of salt water and condemned them to the bucket which I kept adding to for 5 or 6 weeks before pouring the contents onto the compost heap. They are now part of the compost of life. Poetic? There is no nice way to deal with them and if you deter them, then when you let your defences down they come at you in greater numbers.

For a number of years my wife has blamed all the veggie damage on the slugs and I have always said that some is just bad press. I am not sticking up for them! However this year I have cut up 2 litre pop bottles and made sleeves to start all the brassicas in and the difference has been fantastic - we have hardly lost one. It was the birds all along. I want the birds in the garden as they will take many insects, but I need to protect each individual plant that would otherwise be vulnerable. We have a cat - well most of a cat. Pud has no tail after a car accident as a pup and he lost other bits as well at the hands of the vet who said it would keep him off the road. The vet also said it would make him fat and lazy. How right he was! Pud sleeps on the grass while the blackbirds come within six feet - singing and he sleeps on! He counts among the pests and I have to put twigs across newly dug areas - well he's too lazy to dig for himself!

The 3 'R's

Some years ago, when first born was little, I had a nightmare that I remember to this day. In it, due to something happening today, the world was spoiled and changed so first born would not be able to enjoy life as we had. I was affected for days after and it still rings with me today. Because of this I really believe in the 3 'R's - Recycle, Reduce and Reuse. I take things a little too far sometimes maybe and it could come over as meanness - but if you do something you should commit whole heartedly to it! First born is now 29 and we have a second only child who is 12 and I believe in the 3 'R's as much, if not more, today.


We keep our consumption to the minimum and are always looking at ways to cut down whether it is energy, packaging or whatever. We always shop with a shopping list and plan our meals reasonably in front. Food is rarely thrown away and meals that are not planned are driven around what we should be using up next. We had a glut of broccoli recently and were having broccoli with everything - stirfry, curry, roasted vegetables, soups - I got to dread that it would show up at breakfast!


We religiously recycle everything through the collections available as well as send old books to the 'Book Crossing'. We also look at anything we have finished with and may choose to offer it through 'Freegle'. If it doesn't go one of those ways it may make it's way to Oxfam. Today we are 'freecycling' plants that grow freely in our garden as weeds in the veg patch - and they are VERY popular. We have 3 compost bins and all kitchen waste goes into them as well as garden waste. A local riding school has a problem with manure and I do them a favour in taking some away, but only when my daughter is riding as it doesn't make sense to make a special trip to collect it.


Something I have always hated is throwing things out, so they will often find their way into the garage and later re-emerge as something new. I currently have plans (both literally and metaphorically) to build a wooden clock movement and if I can avoid buying new wood for it then I will - Anyone got some hardwood offcuts?

I have never had any training in woodwork but enjoy doing it and making a mess of it. For my daughters I have built many things ranging from toy box/benches to doll's houses and throughout I have always tried to reuse materials - not always succeeded but tried. That age old phrase ' I've made the bed'? Well our second daughter would not choose a new bed when moving into her sister's old room after she had been at uni for nearly 3 years and insisted she wanted one like her old one that I had made for the box room using a cot mattress, so I made her bed for her from 90% reused material including an old door frame. I try to avoid the use of power tools and got, from my late father, a treadle scroll saw. I genuinely enjoy knowing that the mess I made is all mine and not the fault of some rampant machine.

Hopefully my kids will treat the environment with the same respect?

A start......

Since retiring I have started to enjoy many of the things in life I have missed out on while working. Now I spend most of my time in the garden. Although I have 'tried' to be active in the garden during the last 30 years, I now find I can spend the time out there that I always dreamed of and the vegetable patch is a world of difference to our previous attempts. I may yet get a part time job, but it's difficult to see where I can find time! I am also doing DIY, a little web site work (on a voluntary basis), a little model making, helping a friend with his old lorries and riding miniature steam trains. I also 'do' the gym 3 times a week for aerobic fitness and we try to walk whenever time permits.

I propose trying to blog here some of the many activities I get involved in now.