Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Children can be a delight great to have around, fun etc.

Then they get a bit older and well....

Today we have lost ourselves in a frenzy of work, the chain saw has been in overdrive and the reason?

Taliesin comes home for college soon and he will need to see that enough has been done.

He will certainly note that no more scrap has been moved and that it's still where it was yesterday.

Firwood will undoubtedly meet with approval though of course we "could have done more if you worked a bit harder dad"

Children - baaah


Monday, 28 September 2009

Something for the weekend sir.....

Friday was a day we each had our own little hard time.

Management was left in charge of 2 reviews, predicted to be toughies and seemed to get through it all OK.

I went off to what should have been an easy straightforward meeting. Hmmmm, lets draw a line under that I think I got through it OK.

So it was back and of course off we went for our wild weekend away.

Loading the plugeot up and up the motorway drop off a child at nans and onwards into the traffic....

45 minutes in the car park M5 was enough for any sane man, and me.

Still a bit of brisk driving and we made the ferry with 20 minutes or so to spare.

I am a fan of Brittany Ferries but am less sure about their latest offering the Armorique. For a start there's the name, this is the second ship they have named that and the first was a monument to instability. The management was once feeling sea sick even before it was off the berth! Now, don't get me wrong, it's a roomy modern ferry, comfortable, well appointed and it only has a self service restaurant.

One of the nicest things about BF is the food, a lovely sit down 3 course meal in a proper restaurant but not on the Armorique, it's carry your tray all the way.

Then again, we had a generous portion of steak each, nice cut of meat and well cooked, a red wine of bewildering brilliance and change out for 25 pounds and that was for both of us.

All was well with the world, or was it?

Now, I am going to be careful as to how I put this. Not all people are the same, some people are erh different, some people are very very different, some people are, quite frankly; downright odd.

Odd people are grist to managements mill, some people say that's why she lives with me.

Send her into a room full of people and out she will come with all the odd types in tow.

Naturally she found not one but two, two really amazingly odd people, together they were an odd couple. Soon it became clear that the odd couple had taken a real shine to us.

She wanted us to go to their cabin with them, this was not good in a seriously not good sort of way.

I have been told that I am not very good at reading women, if only that were true. Illiteracy can sometimes be such a blessing...

Now, if I was not enjoying this someone else was reveling in delight, a wicked mischievous gleam was lighting her eyes like a lighthouse in the storm that raged around me.

I did consider some sane coherent responses like running screaming out the room or jumping off the ship. I also considered slipping away discreetly and leaving management to extricate herself. Something which could have been fun if watched from behind a chair at a discrete distance.

But of course I had to factor in logistics, management had decreed that we could save a few pounds by not having a cabin and sleeping on the deck. There was a real possibility that I might lose contact with her and should I not find her again her fertile little imagination might hit overdrive and that would not be at all good.

Eventually, we managed to give them the slip and settled down for a none to uncomfortable night on the floor in a quiet corner of the reclining chair lounge.

Well, quiet isn't the exact word I would have chosen. Besides managements serene snoring there was the couple somewhere over the other side of the room who seemed to have a copy of Karma Sutra; started on page one and were well on their way to their goal, finishing the book by dawn....

Next day, we decided we would not be put off by the odd couple, would not be cowed, so we left it till the very last minute then broke cover and made a mad dash for the car deck. Not quickly enough, they were waiting for us, or rather she was.....

That was us safely on our way, driving on the right, right on time.

Excellent time we made too and arrived at the house.

It might pay to slip back a few days here.

The management is, if I may say so, super efficient. She is quite superb in all she does so of course I knew there was no need for me to ask if she had packed the keys to the house. I just knew she would have.

She of course has the same faith in me, She knows I am super efficient and superb in all I do. So, of course she knew there was no need to ask me if I had packed the keys to the house.....

There we were then outside a locked house, locked out.

The builder, who I had asked to return the keys to the letter box hadn't. Then he was probably sulking after I told him I could have windows made in Wales, bring them with me on the ferry, fit them, spend several days down the pub, eat out, pay for the ferry and still have lots of change from what he quoted me.

In fact sticking a zero on the end of the bill I had here for changing some windows on our house in Wales would not be enough to make the bills equal, I didn't think he was pleased.....

Hmm, all the timber and bits I brought to seal the windows was a bit unnecessary and wasted. Still the strimmer was useful and put to use soon we had finished all we had to do and we were at a loose end.

Intermarche for it then, that job done it was loose end time again, what to do?

"Lets go up the trois marchands!"

This of course our local eatery but that does not really do it justice, it's the sort of restaurant that every town in France used to have where the cuisine is never nouveau and the food is simply brilliant. Having each invested €11 wisely; we left full of 4 course meal. Onwards to Morlaix, ignore the supermarkets there and on to St Pol, Red Cash and a car load of wine. On again to LeClerc and the far nicer St Pol branch.

This was going swimmingly well, in we went to Roscoff and our residence for the night the hotel Triton. Thankfully we had decided to stay in a hotel otherwise it would have been kipping in the car!!

The evening was planned, into Roscoff and the my favourite creperie in the whole wide world; Ty Sauzon. Which was of course full.

On to CReperie le Poste packed with locals and proper fast food the Breton way.

In serious danger of digestive explosion back to the hotel and sleep.

We would not normally stay in a hotel but the alternative would have been out of the house at 5 am a mad drive to Roscoff and then embarcation.

Instead we had leisurely out of bed, copious coffee and over to the ferry 5 minutes drive away.

The day was made by a nice surprise. Not the Armorique on the berth, but the Pont Aven.

With the Pont Aven having a proper restaurant we might need to lunch on board.

Which of course we did.

3 courses, starting with as many langoustine as I could pile on a plate, that's rather a lot a lovely steak, then a decimation of the desert board.

I am not a desert person - unless it's France, I can always make room in France.

At the very last moment we sprung out the restaurant and drove home. Management drove - funny that could it have been the 10 pounds spent on unbelievable red...

God; that was such a good weekend.

Home and Tallie and D had rearranged the place all the wood had been stacked, the back of the house seriously tidied.

The weekend had been such a serious funfest we went back to bed Monday to recover.

Today, the chainsaw came out.

And I started the scrapheap challenge.

Sorting the mound of metal outside the house so that we can start to rebuild it.



Friday, 25 September 2009

Child protection

Today as I said I am part of a team looking at child protection training for social workers.

Thing is I am a bit peturbed.

Child protection is central to what we do, but it's not about teaching people procedure.

It's about social work as part of a progressive restitutive system and broader concerns about the distribution of power within society.

Looking at how power in an individualized setting can be used for bad, but also recognizing how social work can be a tool of the repressive state apparatus. operating within a hegemony created around an acceptance of inequality as inevitable and unchangeable.


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Ikea clearly now the rain has gone....

The day today has been glorious, simply ideal to get stuck into wood cutting, or finishing up stocking on the winters needs or any number of out door type things.

Having decided to spend the rain day outside working, sensible then that we spent the first decent day of the week in the car and on the road.

An expedition to IKEA, perhaps I am getting cunning in my old age, but I came up with the the rather clever idea of taking the smaller car rather than the worryingly cavernous MPV.

Even better was the news that management has misplaced her IKEA card. That's: lost IKEA card, forgotten pin for Visa and snapped her bank card.

Could be a good day financially then....

We got through the day having resisted a lot of things and bought only stuff classed as needed. Well personally I think new hoses for the fire engine are more needed than things like beds but I understand she might not really get priorities right.

Still we managed the whole day and home in plenty of time to get oil for Tallies motor bike.

Tomorrow it's back on the wood so I bet it will rain. Friday I am in a work meeting all day so naturally there is bound to be a heat wave.

Interesting observation that UK Social Work Degrees do not necessarily include modules on child protection. Yeah, suprised me too, still that is all to change and, I might even get a say in what is taught on ours.


Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Goodness gracious me....

It's unusual to report a day of solid progress.

Of course It had to start badly.

Today I had to unload 2 tons of wood that has been sat on the truck for a bit, first step; get the lorry where it needs to be unloaded. Damn those posts! should have ripped tham all out years ago, that was another bedford bumper bent then.

Anyway got the truck where it needed to be and a bit of progress to report. Well no, the digger started and then did not really want to run. Felt like a fuel problem, plenty in it though said the gauge, check the filter, check the pump, all looking ok hmmmm.

Lift the lid off the fuel tank and errrr well enough about what I saw in there or rather I didn't.

Next on get the truck unloaded, not a long job and soon I was on my way back to the woodyard.

6 tons in total moved or put another way 1/3 of what we need for a winter.

Bumper straightened too, by the time honoured drive it into a post method. Luckily that one slipped under Taliesin's radar, I would not hear the end of it.

The man himself is happy enough, the engine for his pit bike is in, the oil is going in so he should be happy tonight.

The postie though was less than impressed, the posties round here drive their vans as if they belonged to someone else, which of course they do. So anyway, there I was driving in my usual buisnesslike manner down to the woodyard when the postie was coming the other way driving like management on a bad day and in a hurry.

Brakes all round then, of course the old Bedford has none of these new fangled ABS, or load sensing brake system thingies. What's more it's on off road tyres which are great for mud, not at all as good on wet tarmac. Of course I am quite used to the old truck going sideways under hard breaking, I got the impression the new postie had not seen this sort of thing before.

Impressed is one way of describing it. She sat there a little while after I had driven past, not sure why.

But of course damp tarmac tells you about the weather, today, working outside and it was raining. It rained all the time I was working and, as soon as I finished the lovley warm sun broke through the clouds.....

Monday, 21 September 2009

Nice man......

There are things which are mentioned and things best left unsaid.

She says it would be most unkind to mention the fact that she crashed my car into a post today.

Now, I might say "my" car guardedly as her car is in the process of splitting the exhaust apart again something she swears blind is down to me, and the MOT is running out.

In these circumstances it's usual that ownership of the cars swaps over she would start to refer to the one that has no ongoing issues as "hers" and the other would of course be "mine".

As she said though it would be most impolite to refer to crashing the plugeot into the gate post she has known was there for 20 years or so. So I won't. so there......

Hmm now where did I leave the camera?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

wodden it be nice.....

Things seem to have a way of making themselves complex here in the wilds of West Wales.

I mean:

Sharpen the chainsaw and cut some wood. How could something that simple be that complex?

Lets go back a few days...

Now I am not a big fan of chainsaws, offering as they do a huge variety of means of ending up in casualty if not being put in the ground by grieving friends and relatives.

So when our sharpenologist decided to persuade me to get my own sharpening machine the phrase "not too sure about that" sprung to mind. Of course, having bought the contraption I had to work out how it is you use it.

Having designated an old chest of drawers as chain saw station I set to the important task of fitting the new toy and making it work.

45 minutes later, I resorted to looking on the internet. Even more head scratching and eventually it was sorted.

That was the best part of an hour and nothing achieved. Tentaive fiddling and I had what seemed to be a sharp chain, a lot more fiddling and everything was back together. So far so good.

Or was it, the saw fired up ran for 30 seconds then died. Classic fuel problems. slowly there was more and more mechanical bits on the bench and less on the chain saw. Only one thing for it strip the carb and take it down the garage and blast it through with the airline, the garage, ahh yes closed on Sunday.

Still we could allways unload the truck ready to go and get more wood in the morning. One load off, decided the hoops on the top of the truck are a pain so "we'll take them off!!! rounding up the kids we set too lifting the large complex assembly and getting it to the floor.

In hindsight I think it might have been better to dismantle it but anyway much swearing and lifting it was ready to come off. Lowering a set of hoops for a 7.5 ton truck is something that maybe should have warranted a bit more in the way of thought and maybe even a hint of planning. With the tangle of pipes half way off the truck things developed a mind of their own and away the whole thing flew.

Now personally I would not have tried to stop it but of course I would never presume to lecture management on how to do things but even she admitted that perhaps using her face as a brake was not the wisest thing to do.

Back to the house we went to consider our options and do lunch.

Taking our generous collection of bruises outside I finished stripping the chainsaw and left the fuel filter to dry on the aga. Thinking that if is was clogged with very fine wood dust i might be able to blow it clear if it was completly dry.

SErious heaving and sweating later the truck was empty.

Time to blow the fuel filter clean then, damn me if this wasn't enough and soon the chain saw was revving furiously and the last few huge lumps of hardwood could be cut into manageable sizes before they came off the back of the long suffering Bedford truck.

But a mornings work has taken a whole day and we are still short of cut wood, very short.

Tallie has been in strimmer monster mode, he has decided he needs his own compost heap and is cutting as much grass as he can to fill it.

Management has had enough, she has walked down to see her little mates in the bottom of the valley, Strange though normally she would take the car. Today, now looking a bit like a boxer at the end of a bad day, she has decided to walk, I wonder why she prefers not to be driving home????


I am going to put a bottle of wine in the fridge and go and lie down for an hour.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Management strikes again - a leap into auction.....

Management is of course extremely managerial and this week has been a busy one.

Wednesday was not a good day - out of bed bright and early and drop off the the plugeot at greasy garage.

One car meant taking me to work in her trusty xantia, laden with religious artifacts, I got into the passenger seat and prayed my way to the destination.

On we went and, it would really have been better had I got the right day.

Thursday of course was the day to take things to the auction except it wasn't, should have taken it on Wednesday.

Still at least we had the plugeot back.

This meant that on Friday I could really go to work, then rush the meeting through so I could race back, finish tidying the house, collect various children and meet a social worker whilst she of course went to the auction.

Bargains she got too a veritable 806 load, paid three pounds for some very nice egg cups. Trouble was they came with 5 huge boxes of tat. Still at least she got the tools, some very high quality old gardening tools, gardening tools? Oh dear, I think there might be work ahead.....

Today our normal relaxed saturday, Tallie to work at 7 am as Branwen slumbered having been collected from work last night at 11......


Thursday, 17 September 2009

The benefits of stress....

This morning started bright and uuuurrrggghly.

One car two near simultaneous drop offs of young people for busses several miles apart.

Throw one lot out of a still moving car screach back up the road to collect the second lot tasked to start grumpily walking in the crisp bright early morning.

The result? Back from the school run early and the washing up already done.

Should do this every day then!!!

Well maybe not.

Still it could be worse, at least Taliesin is not working and needing to be dropped off at 7 AM - no that's tomorrow, and Saturday.

He is going to owe us one - big style....


Thursday, 10 September 2009

It would have been better to stay in bed....

There are days where you think it might have been better not to bother.....

Bright and early lovely day and children to school.

Not Gwion, he was unwell.

So anyway to garden we will go.

No, maybe not; the strimmer brought back from France had a shattered cutting head as I remembered when I got it from the trailer.

Over to the garage and the head resolutely refused to budge. Big spaners, the vice profanity, no nothing shifted it.

Leave it, so they could deploy brute force and ignorance after I left, home and get the mower out.

A bit of a struggle then noticed the man hole cover, hmmmm the drains were blocked, again.

80 foot of old fire engine hose stuffed down there, all of it, eventually 3 wonderful aromatic hours later it was clear.

Cursing myself roundly for not filling one of the fire engines with water, this would have been a "whoosh and clear" moment for a green goddess.

The smell though, mysteriously, had now backed up right into the house, the place was full of methane and the subtle perfume of weeks old cachi.

Open all the windows and let the air right through the house.

My this was going well. Management who missed all the "Fun" yesterday was really wishing she had missed this fun, all of it....

So back to the mower and the case in hand.

Finishing the mowing meant moving the caravan, a job that has needed doing for a week or two.

Time for the suspension trick on the xantia then.

Lower the suspension, to reverse in under the caravan and connect it painlessly, having first moved the clutchless 806, xantia over a bump and a curious grating noise, then diesel started running out from underneath the car ......

Oh yes this day was developing and some.

Drag it over to the hard standing and crawl underneath, something had ripped off what looked like a cooler panel underneath and pulled a pipe apart.

So underneath I went and took it all apart, patching in a bit of fuel line would repair the damage but first the old connector had to come off the pipe.

Easy to write and slightly harder to do. A whole hour harder in fact.

Done just in time to fetch the kids from school.

There was good news though, the open windows had cleared the shit smell but made the aga run backwards and the back draught filled the house with burnt kerosene smells.

So anyway on to move the caravan at last.....

This was really getting to be fun, especially when the hitch on the caravan jammed and needed furious beating with the hammer to free it, that was another 40 minutes done.

This freed the car up just in time for management to go shopping.

But of course the car had been up and down a few times on the suspension and the fuel lines were now pulled down and dangling off the bottom - again.

Back came the management and under the car I went yet again. This was starting to get boring, very boring...

She has gone now, on Tesco bent.

I have switched off my mobile and ripped the phone wires out of the wall.

If the car breaks, thats her adventure.......

Not mine.


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

being wise around water......

Now there are times when a bit of thinking can save a deal of swearing and sometimes a short cut can turn into a longer route, a lot longer.

The New water pipe I put in before we sallied off to France is one of the many half completed jobs that are lurking at the moment.

Water is lots better than is has been for a very long time but in order for it to continue that way into the brrrr months of the year the pipe itself needs to be about a foot underground.

Now of course today's original plan involved collecting rather a lot of firewood, a trip to the wood yard in the Bedford showed a missing wood man and gave the delightful prospect of a non power assisted three point turn in his yard.

Back home then and thumbs were twiddled.

Trip back to the wood yard - no one there home for further thumb twiddling.

In a flash of inspiration I went outside and decided to bury the water pipes close to the house. The pipe burying job had been started by a Taliesin in a fit of helpfulness. Said fit though started and finished at the exact points the pipe lying on the floor meant he was banned from driving round the field. Once his driving area was restored he promptly went off and did something entirely different.

Now, the original route for the pipes was a bit sub optimal so, in a flash of inspiration I worked out that I could dig one trench, put both the pipes from the reservoir and the pipe from the pump in it and everyone would be a winner.

Of course this just meant moving the pipe which required either dragging it over the top of a tree or disconnecting it re running it and connecting it again. So far so good.

The water was in that condition that experts call "on", I could of course have walked half a mile up the mountain and turned it "off" but no, I thought, it would be simpler just to quickly break the joint, move the pipe then remake the connection the pressure here is after all never that high.

Taking full advantage of hindsight, I think a trek up the mountain might have been more sensible. The pipe came apart quite easily and the re routing was quite simple, joining two bits of pipe when one side of the joint has 5000 litres of water hell bent on escape proved just a little bit more "tricky", in a clouds of water and a pipe that was not about to go into the joint sort of way.

A few minutes spent noting that the water coming off the mountain is actually quite cold and I thought something a bit more scientific might be required.

Into the house I dripped and turned on all the taps so that instead of fighting the full pressure there was at least somewhere else for the water to go.

Back into the hole, that was now rapidly filling with water, noting that I really had intended to buy new wellingtons this year as the old ones......

Well anyway back in I went.

Generous amounts of wrestling, swearing enthusiastically in three languages, the joint was made, I went into the house in search of dry clothes and to switch off the taps.

All I had to do now was work out a route for the pipes to share a trench, dig the trench (using the digger whose battery Taliesin had cunningly hidden in his bedroom) and all would be well with the world.

I should have mentioned that prior to this a section of the water pipe ran over the surface, something we had dealt with by simply lagging the pipe with old army wool blankets.

The grass really likes the wool and had taken to itself to grow into the blankets which in turn required even more profanity in order to remove the pipe from the floor. In the end I resorted to fire engine tools but it was still not an easy task and handling the rotting wool blankets fell just a little teeny bit short of pleasant. At least I wasn't wet, no I was just coated in foul smelling mud.

This was the point at which I had the next sudden realization, the cable for the electric pump would not actually be long enough and therefore Plan A, one trench and two pipes was not going to work....

Dear me, I was pleased.

Of course in the normal run of things I would not have been doing this alone, management would have been there offering helpful advice, praise and encouragement.

She had of course chosen to absent herself, gone off in Xantia to the woodland where she spent the afternoon ripping trees apart and drinking tea whilst I had this enormously fun time.

When she got home she was a sea of sympathy, incredibly and genuinely sad she not been here, she was deeply sorry she missed it all, she could not decide if she would have wanted still cam or dvd recorder, Flickr or You tube, such a terrible big decision to make she said.....

Today though at least saw some forwards progress, it also saw something very rare.

Now, I am not picking on the foslings but it's a pretty rare day that we get one that is just us.

The management, me and our own children, the two D's had gone off with school to watch a football international and that left the 6 of us, nothing else to do then: off to the pub for tea. Taliesin though had other plans, he had an engine to put in his range rover.

This was a serious waste of time, food should be selected on the basis of what was quick to cook and quicker to eat.

In the pub and out immediately. Anything else was too slow....

The whole tea experience was a blur of exhortations to eat faster, talk less and could we leave now..

Back home and he's changing the clutch on the engine which "needs" to be in his range rover for the weekend, or so he says.

At least life holds some consolations, he has just found that the flywheel needs to be changed as well, I haven't the heart to tell him they usually only come off with explosives, some things he can find for himself....


Monday, 7 September 2009

#sustainable living and respect....

I think I might have mentioned sometime that management's driving is a subtle blend of brisk and assertive.

So each journey is an adventure of things flashing close by gaps gone for and now we throw in random stops.

For management has been infected by a serious outbreak of sustainable living so every so often the car will screech to a halt as she goes to investigate something she caught a glimpse of in some hedgerow. Now, for the vegetablists out there this is not collection of road kill but elderflower and rose hips and other berries I know not the name of. All this has served to additionally brighten up my life.

As if it needed brightening, as if fed up with the strains of towing the samba van; the clutch on the 806 has decided to come out on strike.

Free the drive it simply won't, a bit of a chore but not impossible, well, except maybe for the 1 in 5 hill up the side of the valley where you really have to master the clutchless change and rely on prayer not to meet a tractor coming the other way....

Worrying is the lack of a part number in the GSF catalogue, GSF being the best place to get bits for French cars in the UK.

This all promised to make tomorrow on the interesting side, tomorrow I am off to university meaning a drive up the motorway and a drive across a city, something a lot easier to do if the car has a clutch!

Fortunately, I have been able to beg a lift; from a director of social services no less.

Here we have another new strand to my life, working for an university as a social work tutor.

A concept so physically distressing to the social workers who came to do our annual review that they could not include it on their form. They recoded instead that I sell parts for fire engines...

Friday, 4 September 2009

the start of winter

Today We lit the fire, about 20 minutes ago in fact, Winter is coming, could use some fire wood, could manage without rain for a bit....

This looks good....

Thursday, 3 September 2009


The house has gone into change mode.

For a while now it has been coming that young P was going home.

The district were fantastic and understood how having a child in your family for 5 years means they form attachments, they also understood that we and our kids have attachments too.

Fostering meanwhile have checked everyone of their boxes is ticked though they could not tick the ones about turning up for meetings as they had not attended one about this young man in over a year.

Still he has gone now, of course MSN is buzzing, the last thing we did was buy him a laptop so he can stay in touch.

The end is in sight for us as foster carers.

We get on well with the districts, the CAMHS team and us have built up a good working relationship, the nurse has walked the second mile to make sure young P is being looked out for. Education in this area, we work very closely with them.

The single thing that stands out for me is the letter we got off P's mum, talking about what it all meant to her. That's a proper reference, written by someone to whom you made a difference. Sort of makes all the other nonsense worth putting up with.

No the fostering team percieve us as a problem.

Their campaign of low key harrasment rather blew up in their faces, but they are planning to block any further use of us.

So it's find a new career time I think.

Time to reinvent ourselves.