Thursday, July 23, 2015

Velociraptors, dreaming and over-run melons

The Great Ursus, his Lovely, Boy and I went to see Jurassic World last night. It was brilliant! Loved it so much. Only go and see it if you are able to suspend belief/science knowledge, don't require much of a plot and can resist face/palming yourself too often at character stupidity. 

I went for the velociraptors. Of course.

Now that my hay fever season is behind me, I'm now tackling weeding the greenhouse where my melons are installed. Bashing my foot means I can only do a little bit at a time before it hurts too much. But in that time, I've been able to turn an over-run garden bed into a WWI battlefield. I've managed to kill two melon plants who were twinned in and amongst the weeds and the chicken wire to keep the chickens off. 

The chicken wire, it has to be said, was less than successful. When I got into the greenhouse this morning, there was a white hen all settled in the weeds. She was very pissed off when I started grabbing handfuls of weeds near her and let me know in no uncertain terms what she thought of my intervention. Her language was fowl. 

Yesterday, I indulged in a bit of daydreaming and a Zoopla search. I found my dream house. All I need is £125,000 - £135,000 cash for an auction next week. It's a lovely bungalow, in the middle of nowhere, with a garden in the wilds of Suffolk. It's about a year too soon. I'm not ready to liquidate my assets just yet. It was still a useful exercise in that it solidifies what I'd ideally like. 

I know I never want to have another mortgage again. No more owing banks money. It does mean there's going to be a trade off between my need for seclusion and space and what I can afford. I look ahead and there's quite a bit of DIY in my future. That's okay. I'm good with that. Dave has trained me well to be a good builder's assistant. 

My space here has shown me the way I want to live. I would have never thought to put a greenhouse at a back door. It's such a great idea. It reminds me of the principles of perma culture, where you zone your garden. Herbs and needy plants are kept close by, with less needy plants and bigger veg put further afield. Granted these principles are meant to be implemented on a much bigger, farming scale, it still makes sense to me.

I'm dreaming now. I definitely want a greenhouse at my back door and a bigger greenhouse for the bigger plants (like melons). I want to have mixed beds with the emphasis on companion planting and edibles growing amongst flowers. I found out strawberries are brilliant in keeping weeds down. 

I don't want a pretty garden. And if I get my way, I will have my own velociraptors to ensure it never is pretty. Z tells me we have 3 nesting hens now. These are the first batch of chicks. They've grown so much.

I wonder if I can train them to run in formation behind me on a bike?

Happily, I can indulge these fantasies. I try them on for fit and adjust them accordingly. For example, with any house I next purchase, I must have a bedroom for Boy. Even if he graduates and buggers off to travel the world. He must always have a space here with me. It will also double quite nicely as a guest bedroom for the endless stream of visitors I'm sure I will have (*snigger*). I also need a room big and bright enough to write and be creative in. Here's where a bit of compromise works well, I could always get a garden office and kit it out to my exact specification, which would then have the bonus of facing onto my gorgeous garden.

Anyway, unless we win the lottery, or sell 50,000 cups of coffee this weekend, it's all pie in the sky at the moment. 

Reminds me of the joke my Psychology tutor told me:

Neurotics build castles in the air
Psychotics live in them
Psychiatrists come to collect the rent. 

Z still seems happy with me to be here and there's no rush yet. Next spring is a long way away yet. And who knows what Life will be like next year?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Oh for a quiet life...

Yesterday's To Do List was properly hijacked when I staggered out of bed at 7.30 and side-swipped the door jamb with my little toe. There were a few minutes on the floor as I  clutched my foot and swore. I wondered if I'd managed to do myself some serious damage, as it hurt so much. The day was then mostly spent with my feet up and keeping Boy company on the sofa. He was feeling very sorry for himself as he'd picked up a cold from work and wanted to die quietly. We had a lovely day. Me moaning about my foot, Boy snorting the contents of his nasal cavities into a box of Kleenex. That was as exciting as yesterday got. We retired to bed.

Just after midnight, a thump in the hall got me up. Rummy obviously decided I needed a bunny snack during the night. He was particularly miffed when I relieved him of said bunny and put it outside. Not as miffed as the bunny, who for some reason, did not want to be part of our midnight feast. Strange that.

I went back to bed.

I heard Rummy come in through the window about half an hour later. He did not walk as he normally did. It sounded like he was dragging something with him. He was. Rummy is nothing if not committed. He was determined that I should have bunny for midnight munchies. Despite what I, or the bunny thought of the idea. This time, when I relieved him of the very pissed off bunny, I closed the window behind it, so Rummy had to stay in.

This morning, I staggered very carefully out of bed to the hall - I can put tentative weight on my foot now, but let's not go as far as proper shoes just yet. I was in my onesie. The little feral cat's face greeted me. I went out to feed her, but she was more interested in being sociable, than in the food. Either that, or it's just not the caliber of food she's gotten used to. Though where a feral cat that subsisted grass snakes, gets off in being snooty about the food she's given, is a bit much. Especially, before coffee.

I limped across the room, glanced outside and did a double take. There was a massive black and white cow eating Z's plants in her newly created garden bed. I couldn't find Z in her home. I poked my head around Boy's door and said the immortal words "Get dressed. We have a cow situation." 

He's obviously still a city lad, because it took a few moments for him to process that information. And even once processed, he didn't quite move for shock.

Happily, by the time I hobbled out there with my big stick, Z was ushering cow away from her potentilla and back into the field. She is truly unflappable. Seeing me, in my onesie with a big stick, Boy's shoes, before coffee ready to take on an errant cow, didn't faze her at all.

Then Eloise, Z's new puss decided to come and visit. 

"What's this?" asked Eloise.

"I just want to eat my breakfast in peace," said Boy. "Is that too much to ask?"

For the rest of this post, Rummy is hereby known as Grumpy McSwipeypants. 

He didn't take kindly to this invasion and got steadily more and more bad tempered until he swiped at Z, when we went to visit, and she was only trying to be sympathetic to his plight. I shuffled him back to mine soonest after that.

I think he's since forgiven me for encouraging Eloise. He brought me a small rodent for breakfast.

And no, before you ask, I don't find living in the country boring.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Somewhere a clock is ticking...

This is on the t-shirt I wear when I coffee!

I lost this week thanks to doing coffee on Saturday at the Tendring Show. Dave picked me up on Friday evening and we made our way down to the site via a shop to get milk and ice. When we got there, it was nigh on dark, we pitched the gazebo, spread out sleeping bags etc and crashed. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, my new mat works like a freaking charm. I opened the valves at the top, unrolled it, popped my sleeping bag on top of it and crawled in. I was as snug as a bug in a rug. Bliss. Sleeping on the site of a country fair was not a quiet experience. We weren't the only ones on site. There were herdsmen bedding down their prized cattle at dark and at dawn they were cleaning up their charges. Their charges who like to sing in the middle of the night. Loudly, and off-key. 

The day for me was a success. I didn't screw up the till. My back didn't ache too much. We were steadily busy, rather than crazy busy and we had a lot of repeat customers. At the end of the day, we packed up and headed home via a fabulous Chinese restaurant in Diss. The staff were lovely and made us feel very welcome, even though we carried half a field of dust with us, were dog tired and were just about able to grunt our order.

Tomorrow, Strangers at Large is in Swaffham town centre for the weekend. Pop by and say 'hi' if you're passing. I'm beginning my barista training, so you might be unlucky enough to have one of my coffees if you're brave. Don't worry, if I screw it up, Dave will make you another.

Working a 14 hour day, on my feet in the heat wiped me out for days. I only started to feel human yesterday, in that I actually did stuff like water my tomatoes. I got my backside back to the gym to work on my physical resilience. We're in the middle of a three weekend straight and I have other things to do than languish on a couch for days. One of the things that is clear - if I am physically exhausted, I become low in myself. I went with it as there was no point fighting against what my body needed, but I'd like to even out the dips and highs in my energy output.

My work now focuses on creating the balance between the things that make it nice to live here: tidy house, clean clothes, food in the fridge etc. with the things that enable me to do so: regular exercise and earning something, with the things that make life worthwhile: being creative, writing and maintaining the relationships that maintain me. Wish me luck.

Cafe Writers was amazing on Monday night. Jon McGregor was a stunning reader of his latest short story. He captured the angst of an uncomfortable young man in search of shag, so incredibly well. The poet, Joan Hewitt was amazing. Her poetry captures intimacy, humour and poignancy with such a deft hand. As a reader, she is fantastic. 

I did read my poem in the open mic. Happily, I got there early enough so I was signed up in the start of the evening. I don't think my nerves would have held out for the whole event. Unhappily, I'd printed my poem off in 11pt and left my glasses behind. Note to Self: start taking reading glasses everywhere. I survived. No major stumblings or fluffing of lines. The weird part was the guy who ran out of the pub to say how much he liked my prose. Given I'd just read a 7 verse poem, perhaps you can see why I found it a bit disconcerting? 

This week, I haven't done any writing of note and that pisses me off. I'm hoping after my foray into the City this afternoon, I will be able to rectify that. Not writing now is like having an itch that grows and becomes ever more insistent. 

Hope you have a great weekend, whatever you do!

And finally, look! My tomato plants are still talking to me, despite their neglect.

Nature thrives despite my best efforts

Friday, July 10, 2015

Notes from the Mid-Life Crisis

In the past few weeks, the theme has been about family. My brother and his lot were supposed to be here, but even with the cancellation I still went down to see my cousins in the 'burbs and then this week, there was a trip to London to see an uncle (my father's brother). Both of those trips were incredibly important and I've come back with insights about my life and perhaps more importantly, about other peoples' lives.

Insight #1
The Buddhist saying about being compassionate to everyone you meet because they are also fighting battles, is quite true.

I looked at my relationship with my wider family from adult and compassionate eyes. People who I idolised and thought had the golden childhoods, really didn't. I was right to hold them in the highest esteem, but not for their perceived perfection. They have their lives and their relationships because they rolled their sleeves up and shovelled the shit that came their way, with humour, stubbornness and determination.

I idolised them as a child, as an adult I admire them for their success. They've bloody earned it and being able to spend good time with them was fabulous.

Insight #2
The judgemental voice in my head. The one that has been sneering about my recent decisions about my life - taking time out, exploring my creativity and being here in the wilds of Suffolk - that is my own voice. It does not come from anyone else.

My family have been too busy getting on with their own shit, to worry much about mine. They figured I'd got this and they weren't wrong. Of course they are concerned and want the best for me. Isn't that what family is for? 

Seeing my uncle was hard. 

He is the last surviving sibling and the family genes are there to see in the quirk of his smile, a gesture and his laugh. I miss my father so much right now. It's funny. He was two different people in his life. The charismatic pilot who charmed and the irresponsible father and then there was the survivor. The man who went through his own personal hell and came through it wiser, more compassionate and kinder. For other people, he must have been a shadow of himself; he was no longer the life of the party. For me, he was the father I needed when I was growing up. It was too late for us in that respect, but it was just in time for me, coming to terms with my mortality.

Five years ago, I was in Trinidad caring for him. Being with him as he slowed down. Being with him as he talked about all of things we should have talked about years ago. I was allowed to care for him. I suspect that experience changed me in ways I am only now beginning to see. I knew it had a profound effect at the time, but I didn't realise quite what an impact it would have. 

How do I take this forward?

Well, I am writing pretty much every day and I am pleased that the quality of my writing is improving with the practice. I have been doing writing exercises with both poetry and prose. It's funny, it is the poetry which calls to me most now. Since the spring, I've written about 12 poems. I'd like to think it's improving all the time. On Monday, I am attending a local writers' event and will read one of my poems in the open mic segment. I am nervous and excited and terrified all at the same time.

Over the weekend, Dave and I will be doing coffee. This might be my life in transition, but damn it's fun.

Because poppies, damn it

Friday, July 03, 2015

Soft Touch

Summer has arrived. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the UK is currently experiencing temperatures normally seen in the tropics and it's glorious. Especially as my hay fever season is largely over. I've thrown every door and window open letting in the sunshine. I'm swanning around in summer dresses and have adopted a mostly chilled liquid diet. 

Rummy, as a mostly black cat, is not enjoying it so much. I spent some sofa time earlier in the week and he lay next to me. Or at least he started that way. Once the patch he lay on got too hot, he then moved over to the next cool spot and then the next. Until he ran out of sofa, then he skulked off to hide in the hall where it's cool and dark.

Rummy having a snooze

I suspect Zoe is cursing my name and very existence. I seem to have landed her with more hostages. Since last autumn, there's been a little feral cat living under her woodpile. She produced another litter of kittens in the spring. As the sister of a vet, I would rather see her spayed and released back here. It's a tough life for a feral queen cat, especially one who is obviously such a considerate mum. She is a fantastic hunter. Her success is her four lively kittens. But a few weeks ago, I started worrying about her. Her coat was looking very scraggly and she looked overly thin for a nursing mum. She started hanging around my garden, looking for scraps. I gave in and fed her. She inhaled two packets of cat food and ran off in five minutes.

Then Zoe started feeding her in the evenings. Her patience and gentleness has tamed the feral puss to the point where she now welcomes being stroked and comes for affection even without food. Zoe contacted several cat charities to see if they could catch the kittens for spaying and re-homing and to see if they would spay the mama. They've been less than helpful. In any case, it's too late.

Mama is up the duff and I think it's not long before she produces the second litter. This time, we'll be ready for her. Dave has agreed to donate a cat hutch so we can use that to encourage her to queen in there (queening is the proper term for kitty birthing - I had to look it up). The wood where she nests is about to be hauled away, so it's fairly imperative we get her used to somewhere new before she queens. 

The little cat and Rummy are generally fine with each other, until she comes into the garden looking for food and then they'll have a set to. It's never very serious, a lot of grandstanding, growling and hissing. Rummy might be a touch over-possessive with me, but he's not a total asshole with it (though Boy won't agree with me. Rummy pees on his dirty clothes if he can). When I think of the hidings he's had at the paws of the Lynx. Humpf. Given how tiny the little feral cat is, if Rummy was in a mind to, he could do her some serious damage. But no. He simply would rather she didn't come into the garden.
Spot the difference? About a couple of kilos, I reckon
This is the little feral cat

It's quite disconcerting. I'll be sat at my dinning table writing or arting and then my Spidey sense tingles. There'll be a little face peering at me through the glass. She always hisses at me for a greeting. I think it's just her way of showing she's a total badass and has totally got this.  

It's really good that she comes around. Rummy, despite being a rescue cat, is a fussy bugger when it comes to food. He gets bored and requires regular brand rotations or he won't eat. If I get it wrong, she'll eat it. She's not proud.

Dave thinks I'm a totally soft touch. He's not wrong. There's now a bowl for her at my back door. Yesterday, Rummy caught a field mouse. He and I had a big scrap. The mouse did not help itself at all. Every time I got Rummy to drop it, the stupid thing ran under Rummy to hide! Honestly, at one point I though it's absence from the gene pool would be better for field mice everywhere. I couldn't do it. I couldn't see the poor thing killed. I finally caught it and swatted Rummy for growling at me. I put it in a bucket to recover and then I thought it was too exposed, so I got it some cover. Of course it was really hot, so I put a small dish of water in there. And then it might get hungry...

Dave withheld the lecture, he's got such good self-control. He just asked me if I was going to get a cage for it. I kept looking in on the little mouse and after a couple of hours I set it free. Yes, I think I am a conman's wet dream. Jeez. 

Waiting for Paint to Dry

Yesterday evening, I thought I'd finished the triptych. I kicked back, drank a glass of raspberry beer and contemplated my work. As I co...