Sunday, 30 September 2012

On the road again

We had an early one Friday, loading the van with goodies. As yet we had no idea how we were getting home. Cherbourg sailings were solid, that we knew maybe there was something out of Le Havre.

The UK ferry companies would not open till 10 Am local time, so we toiled away loading till the time arrived and i got on the phone. We could it seemed get out of Le Havre, - not quick enough as the nice lady booked us on the last 6 places were taken.

The nearest ferry was out of Dieppe and that sailed at 5 PM. Not that sure where Dieppe was but knowing it was closer than Calais, I took the reservation. Out to the van and check with the GPS, long way said the voice of annoyance but we could make it in time, if we left that very instant.

So what was loaded was going what wasn't was staying. Very quickly we loaded the van and sealed the house. 10.30 we left the house - this was going to be tight.

Off up the road I went trying to make some time. 130km is the limit and 130 is what the VW was doing.  All very impressive stuff.

No time for lunch no time for food, grabbed a quick motorway sandwich when we pulled off for fuel. They use the same brands of recycled tyres for motorway sandwich filler in France as we do over here as well.

This trip included the Pont De Normandy out of Le Havre. Now of course the student is no big fan of bridges, the Severn usually being crossed with lots of huffing puffing and whimpering. The Pont De Normandy makes the Severn look like the bridge over your local stream. The first bridge is one thing, the second crossing, a concrete box section corkscrew affair drew a pandemonium of profanity from the passenger seat. She was not even slightly happy, the fact that part of it is a negative camber bend really impress herself in the slightest little bit and whilst she didn't actually scream, I suspect that was mainly due to the onset of catatonia....   

We were steadily  winning time on the squawk box estimates of arrival time, we lost the lot when an accident closed the A26 meaning a diversion cross country. Now we were playing catch up big style.

Back on to the A roads and the blistering pace continued. Full respect to the T4 as it munched the miles with a panache that would match any saloon car.

There was a price though, the early fuel consumption had been a very respectable 39 mpg, I suspect when I next check we might even have dropped below 30.

So anyway into Dieppe and a chaos round town as the GPS idea of the route tallied not at all with the directions on the signs.

Eventually we arrived to a ferry terminal awash with cars but with nothing that looked like a ferry. Strange, this was the stage that we realised that the nice lady said the ferry left at 5, meaning  5  UK time so  we had arrived at the book in time, 4 European time or of course 3 UK time.

Eventually the ferry pulled in and the loading commenced. This was a smaller ferry than I had seen in years and loading was a novel experience. Clearly the sheer volume of BF traffic had overwhelmed the staff as they struggled to organise all the cars on the various maze of decks that made up the "7 seas"  accommodation. The ship was pretty compact too and compared to BF the food was limited, costly and uninviting. The management, god bless her got her head down for a couple of hours and i sat reading the guardian catching up on some news.

The ship sailed, eventually, an hour late and the captain announced that he was going to go for it to make up time. to be positive about BF, this was, compared to their fleet, seriously old and seriously slow.

Newhaven is also not the best place in the world to get out of, super swift though compared to Poole!!

With the student behind the wheel the T4 was pointed towards Wales with the nanny on the dash in charge of proceedings.  To be fair to her she made half decent progress too.

Little D was  collected in the early hours and the M4 rejoined. With almost 18 hours under her belt the student was feeling the pace so the last few miles fell to me to drive. We pulled up outside the house bruised and battered at 4 am.

Up again bright, early and ready to party

It was the students mums official 101st birthday   and so at midday, in a convoy of cars, off we set. To our kids eternal credit, they had assumed we were not coming so organised themselves to get there. Frankly, we had both had quite enough driving for a bit so being chauffeured by Taliesin really made life easy.

The students mum was life and soul of the party, starting a bit quiet she became more and more animated as various tales of life with her were rolled out. Both the student and her nephew (hello Bristol)  have been doing serious genealogy so lots of notes got taken. By 9 pm I will admit i was feeling a bit phased and was really glad to head home.

Today, as you might of noticed has been a writing it all down day with tomorrow being a taking a big tent down day - I think. With an unload the van day tacked in there somewhere.

The student has spent virtually all day on genealogy.  She is hunting another side of her family.

Tomorrow, it's back to the student grind.





A lot at steak.....

With agreement that we would board a ferry on Friday afternoon, leaving Brittany Ferries free to fill their Thursday crossings with people who, unlike us were properly stuck. We let the leisure take hold.

Thursday, we set off in the morning for the South, down to Vannes and on to the coast. Some lovely new beaches, well after I looked at the map and decided Pont Groix looked interesting and we had bumped and lurched our way down a dead end country lane to an industrial looking oyster farm.

One of the big regrets of holiday was not having our camera. I was reduced to taking photos on the phone which, being s technophobe I am not sure how you get on to here.

We found two lovely beaches just down the coast from our more usual haunt at la Trinite sur mere. Beaches which would, in August be paved with people, which in September are a peaceful respite from the world. The student speculated that i had been having sea withdrawal symptoms.

In fact, whilst being in Brittany was great I think the uncertainty was starting to get to me. Every morning the Telegramme was carrying roughly the same story, talking continuing resolution no nearer.

Friday  was of course the day we were due to return, then abruptly all Thursdays sailings were cancelled. calling Brittany Ferries, the really helpful staff said that Fridays sailings were all still scheduled but no one knew if they would actually sail.

To give some history, Brittany ferries has been sailing into trouble for a while. They reinvented themselves as a premier brand, bigger better more modern ferries than everyone else. The pricing has been too premium for too long. Frankly, people can save themselves lots of money by choosing other routes, and that is what they are doing.

The management has been looking to cut some corners and they seem to be targeting the crew. Traditionally BF crew enjoy good terms and conditions but these have been under the squeeze for a few years. As if making the crew do more for less would answer the basic dilemma and ease their 70 million Euro deficit.

The trouble seems to have started when the Armorique went on 24 hour strike on the previous Thursday. Meaning we had to land in Brest. Management responded by telling the crew to get off the ship, they were locked out.  The crew responded by seizing the ship.

At this stage though they would still have gone back to work, but no management decided to deny the crew food. They relented that 24 h later.

Of course as news spread the whole fleet was paralysed as the crews stood together.

Negotiations were pretty tough but as I understand it the deal was sealed Wednesday. Management imposed a condition that it had to be signed by 10 am Thursday, the union arrived and signed. The manging director walked in then said he had changed his mind and walked out.

This is where the story that the crews are ready to sail comes from, they are all at their posts.

A further meeting was scheduled with the government as arbiter which BF failed to attend.

There is growing speculation that BF is on the verge of collapse. This could well be true, management have just announced they are solvent and have sufficient cash reserves to carry on, bearing in mind how true everything else they have said so far turned out to be....

But this of course was not helping us. Thursday afternoon arrived in an air of general uncertainty. Only one thing for it time to cook tea. Earlier in the week "tea" had been entrecote (steak) grilled on the open fire in our living room. Last year, when our roof was done, our Bay tree was very heavily cut back. So to do the stake I went into the garden and sawed some branches of bay which went on top of the charcoal and flared brightly giving off the distinctive smell of bay.

If you think that sounds pretty good you would of course be right. Thursday it was a very simple mean of beef boule with onions mushrooms bathed in Steak Au Poivre. I just include this to make it clear we really were slumming it!

Thursday afternoon morning arrived and more bad news, there was no ferry nor would there be till next week at least. Something had to give, an executive decision was reached. We would leave in the morning, let the loading commence .


A weekend of Warmth

Dawned the morning and we had no reason to get up so - we didn't. Proper luxurious life, the only source of heat in our little Breton home is a massive open fireplace. We had very little by way of firewood so we made do with our huge supply of charcoal. 

This was the first revelation of the weekend, one of the problems with the house is smoke. Light the fire and as the wood burns it slowly fills with smoke, unless you are very careful with how much wood is on there. Running the fire on charcoal, it was really easy to light, the room was warm and smoke free.

The fridge was sitting in the corner humming, we needed to deal with the moule issue and sooner rather than later too.  A quick phone call and off we went to see Edit and Youenn two of our local friends in Brittany. The drive down required a stop in Leclerc in Quimper which in turn added a huge piece of steak to the fridge, at 5E it was unmissable!

A lovely evening with friends laid the ghost of a plan. One of the things on our to do list has always been to sort out proper heating for the house.  Youenn mentioned how he had noticed that Brico Marche had a big promotion on log stoves. A plan started to form.....

The moule got cooked, not our usual way, with white wine, cream and loads of garlic, but with some Chinese herbs, making a lovely meal.

Home bed and another day when we didn't need to get up, so we didn't.

Well OK eventually we got all optimistic and decided to go and see if BricoMarche was open on a Sunday which of course it isn't and on we went to suffer a beer in the Ansi De Sordan on the banks of Lac Guerledan. I could really get used to this....

There is some comment somewhere else about the "revenge of the moule". Just occasionally a rogue one will slip through with effects that can be truly spectacular.  When I say "spectacular" I am of course meaning when it's someone else, if it's you it's tragic and distressing.

The student, god bless her went down with Moule Belly with a vengeance, my was she ever ill, it was impressive!!

It made our trip out next day a hazardous little affair!!!  Monday morning we decided to  break with routine,do something different - we got up before midday, headed into Pontivy and Bricomarche. Prices were indeed quite eye watering, their "specialist" was a really helpful and knowledgeable guy who knew our house, from driving past it every day into work. We agreed how big a stove we needed (8 kwh) and settled on a Franco Belge Savoy at a price that represented about 300 pound off UK list price. About 30% off in fact.

Into the van and home, when of course the flaw in the thinking started to glare.  The stove was 100 Kilos outside the house in the van, the fireplace was up a flight of stairs inside the house. Beer was the obvious solution, into town and the Trois Marchands, bought a couple of locals a beer and back to the house with some muscle. Four of us made short work of getting the stove inside.

By now i had a proper shopping list so it was back into Pontivy for pipes connectors, tiles and adhesive. We have a lovely professional grade tile cutter and by good fortune it happened to be in Britany too. Locked in the dungeon underneath the house, the key to which I forgot to ask Youenn to give me back....

As I sat there planning the operation, a list of necessary tools was forming. I couldn't help myself. I was drawn inexorably to the conclusion I needed a Green Goddess parked outside, everything I needed and more was in the lockers.
Of course we have to work with what we have not what we would like The Stove was going on  a wood floor which was not really a good idea. So I got a few sheets of ply as a load spreader and a load of tiles. Conventional wisdom dictates that tiles are stuck down with grout which means hours sitting round as it goes off. The student (between events) stuck the plywood to the floor with quick setting glue, I got into the grate and cut the flue to length.  A rockwool barrier went into the chimney Tiles were glued rather than grouted which meant that the stove was in position, connected and lit by Tuesday teatime.

Fuel is a bit of an issue for us. In Brittany pretty much everyone uses wood for heat so you need your local wood guys phone number. Buying wood in Bricomarche was an open wallet experience as all their wood is kiln dried, we noticed wood briquets from recycled mill waste were a lot cheaper so we threw a couple of packs of those on the trolley for good measure.

The Savoy proved very easy to light and generated realistic amounts of warmth, certainly more than we needed in a September that was quite mild anyway. A soaring success in the stove, but not on the ope fire were the blocks of recycled waste wood. 3 E a pack  each block  lasted a good few hours and generated tremendous heat. Best of all "Breizh Buches" (they have a website) were somewhere just up the road. Time for a trip out to investigate.

Into the village and the ZA proved elusive. Stop off in the local cafe to ask. When you are in Brittany and the Cafe / Restaurant is encircled by artisans vans of a lunch time it's usually  a hint that the food is not too bad, noting that we made some more enquiries, got directions and vowed to return next day to eat.

Wednesday became another day of action, up in the morning ad break up the old sofa bed in our sitting room, put it, with a load of other junk, ready to go for recycling in the afternoon.

Then it was up to Breizh Buches where 75E got us 250 kg of wood. That all went into the van then into the village for a huge 12 E lunch.

The afternoon was a blur of unloading and a trip to the decheterie, meaning I didn't notice the call from Brittany Ferries. Returned their call in the afternoon and, at last it looked like we were booked on a ferry and off home. 

The kids (oh yes I forgot about them) had been coping, this was a bit of an object lesson. We would never have thought to leave them on their own for this length of time, yet it was clear they can manage, meaning it's OK for us to go again.

That's something lovely to think about. The student and I can go away not for a rushed day but a leisurely couple of days, so we can and we will go again.



A week in parts

Some of you might be wondering about the silence, lets start with a game of serious catch up. The last post predicted a lovely weekend away and it was not far out.

The student god bless her on the Thursday said that she had a baaad feeling, things were going far too well.

Up to Aber I went in the company of Bruce with loads of her stuff packed in the T4 Bruce drove well and the meeting place was found so, I was in some high class Government meeting for the morning.  Half way through, my phone rang, so I put it on ignore. Then it rang again and again. The fourth time I told the meeting I had better answer and, sure enough it was the Police. They were looking for a missing person, last seen with one of ours. Worst of all, our lad was not answering the phone. 18 male has gone missing with 15 yo girl (15 is she? thanks for the heads up officer!) and he's not answering his phone so the Police were a bit worried. I was able to reassure the Officer everything would be fine, then I remembered how his phone was broken and he had gone to get a new one. No wonder it was going to answerphone then. I phoned the man in question and, sure enough, his phone was on answerphone, I left a message to call me back. Back into the meeting and the phone rang again, so outside and fairly soon everything was cleared up and the Police had sight of the body and calm was restored.  Proper old style Penole, life with some unexpected drama thrown in.       
So it was meeting over and a drive back to Penole with a speedy trundle in the afternoon to make the ferry.

The pair of us went  off happy. Except of course that whilst I had been away that the student had been dealing with two bob, her grand daughters and the arm she broke that day  "I have a bad feeling about this weekend" said she yet again.

I dismissed her thoughts immediately, we got in the van, time was a bit tight but we headed off to Plymouth feeling happy and quite a bit free.

The trip down had all the feature of  a good plan and we rolled like a happy pair of bunnies into the ferry terminal. My heart sank, there was some sort of rally going through Plymouth with a whole load of vehicles allegedly heading for Spain with everyone in fancy dress. I had seen this sort of thing before, great if you are in a lets stay up till 4 am carousing frame of mind. Deadly if you have had a hard day and just want to get to sleep.

So anyways, the student and I settled for a lovely meal in the restaurant, some sort of message was boomed over the Tanny while we were there, I was locked in discussion of the days events with herself and wasn't really listening, it was quite hard to hear anyway.     

So it was meal over and time for bed. Next morning I was really pleased to see BF had allowed us an extra hour before waking us. This was great! I could see lights outside so we were in harbour. A couple of coffees later and we were heading off the ferry. Disembarkation at Roscoff it pretty slick but this morning it seemed a bit slow for some reason. Anyway it wasn't too long before blinking and drowsy I rolled off the the ship into a terminal I didn't recognise which was a chaos of TV crews, press, Douane, Gendermes, Police National I think Uncle Tom Cobley was around as well.  I dare say our faces were models of amazed bewilderment, the student certainly looked surprised amused and bemused. There was no time to ask questions, we were hustled out of the place at great speed.

Without giving us any options, BF had put us on a ship in Plymouth, then disembarked us in the Naval Facility in Brest. On the same ship were a group of cyclists who were planning a quiet ride into Morlaix who now found themselves 60 miles or so from  their point of re-embarkation.
The crew of the Armorique had staged a 24 H strike and so we had been unable to berth in Roscoff, we were in Brest. This was no big issue for us, not even bothering with maps we set the squawk box on the dash, followed instruction and went to the house. 

Lunch was dealt with at "les trois marchands" the usual 4 course E11.00 affair.
Nothing came in on my phone, so mid afternoon we loaded the van with goodies and headed for home. We were particularly pleased, we had landed in town just as the "foire au vin" was on in the Intermarche. Some really attractive deals had been offered and we had fallen head over heels for temptation Might be some time before I needed to buy wine again. Moule were E1.50 a kilo so with a fridge fully loaded with goodies we were ready for the off.  8.30 ferry next morning so we were fully primed for a nice evening in Roscoff and a sleep in the van.    

A drive to Roscoff and a smell of rodent. The ferry should have been on it's way to Plymouth, instead it was tied up at the quay. Into the terminal and a see of very unhappy Irish people, the staff were, as usual, friendly and polite  We were able to determine that the crew had staged a 24 h walk out which the management had dealt with by locking them out. This being France the crew promptly occupied the ship.

This had the makings of turning into quite something, little did we know but the other crews, hearing what management had done were in the process of bringing the whole fleet into port and tying up.

The student and I "reluctantly" decided that the best thing to do was to go back to our house and see what happened.

Little did we know what a week we had ahead of us. 


Monday, 17 September 2012

Welcome back Perfecto

As well as my own children I have "inherited" another two from the students previous relationship.

Serenity and Perfecto which, incidentally are not their real names have generated a certain amount of frustrated exasperation over the years, when I was writing elsewhere mention that I was about to relate some anecdote about those two people would very often stop everything as they knew it was going to be a funny tale.

Of course there is a danger, you see mum often reads what step dad writes and also over the years a certain amount of friction has been generated by my views. Right up to and including invitations to go and sleep in the car. It is the truth you can criticise your own kids, the foster kids can be dealt with by ba simple trip to the district team with suitcases of all their wordlies in the car. Suggest a step child is a little out of line and a major diplomatic incident is potentially in store.

Anyway Perfecto has never figured too much in this narrative but today he has generated a certain amount of stress. I would immediately say it's not his fault, the first idiot and goodness he is in his own league of idiocy is the prime minister David Cameron. You might wonder how Cameron successfully spoilt my day and the truth is thus. A little while ago he decided that those who have to live on under 60 pounds a week because they won't take the jobs that don't exist anyway, have a life which is two easy. So he decided to toughen up by refusing to pay rent for them to have a flat, in future they would have a room.

So Perfecto had to downsize which meant clearing out his flat. Fortunately, there was never a suggestion I would have to do that. There was however a need to remove the students settee and chair she had leant perfecto, having a deal of experience of removing and on a tidal wave of innocence I set about the job.

Now of course it's not Perfectos fault his flat has a landlord. After Perfecto moved in landlord had bricked up one of the doors to the flat and decided to install a fire door in a corridor. None of this was his fault but it didn't get the settee out of the flat. First obstacle the kitchen door, which of course opened into the kitchen and thus involved getting the settee out whilst keeping it above the kitchen units which of  course perfecto had cleared of objects because he's good at planning things like that.

Did i mention the need to swing the settee through 90 degrees as it came through the door?

The normal way of doing this is standing the thing on it's which won't happen if there is a load of kitchen units in the way.  

Settees tend to be about 5 foot long, corridors about 3 foot wide, doors not much wider.

You might be ahead of me now. This was mission impossible but some how we achieved something that was simply impossible.

Of course miraculous is another thing. no matter what we did that settee was not going through the fire door. So the door was on the outside and I was on the inside, Branwen was on the outside and it took a little while to register that this meant it was her who needed to get tools and do something about making outside bigger.

A whip round of the tools in store really made me wish I had brought the Green Goddess - would have been out of there in a jiffy. The downside would have been a mess of smashed wood and masonry,  plan B then. Phone Phil the builder who turned up in a few minutes, by which time Branwen was well into the task of removing half the frame. Power tools make it so much quicker and soon he had removed the fire door in it's totality and let us out.

Then it was a simple matter of getting the settee into the van, it's not Perfectos fault the van isn't really a van it's a camper. So the bed had to be flat with the settee half way out the back door whilst someone put the seat on top of it, upside down, then shoved the ensemble into the van.

Fortunately, when I got home, Bethan and Harley were still here so I left getting it into the house to them.       

All I had to do was make sure all the paperwork for the various students grants were in on time - as in today.

Not a big call then


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Learning - time I did

we have just returned from a truly great weekend.

 A pub some miles from here had decided to stage a music do,said pub having a small campsite which costs 5 pounds a head a night.

The kids all declined to come meaning it was just the student and me in the trusty t4 heading up the m4.

First a diversion to the student mum then down to take in a lovely locally based festival which was really nice. Compact not crowded and little did we know the pubs resident chef is Michelin rated. No I don't mean he changes tyres in his spare time either, though he might, I'm not sure. So anyway we went we ate the most wonderful meal the bands were really great but..

I am into my 50's I should really have worked out that when you arrive at a festival and note it has 6 real ales in the bar in the field with another 11 on the bar inside and 2 draught ciders too, this should never ever be taken as a challenge.

I should also learn that all beers are brewed with yeast and there is going to be a slightly different one in any beer, this lot all has to go somewhere and soon so much beer was sloshing round in me that there was a whole raft of yeasts all looking for something to eat. Now with the varieties, they soon all found something that took their fancy and tucked in. Of course yeasts eating and fermenting away produce rather a lot of gas and last nigh the inside of that van sounded like someone was rolling round on a bed of whoopee cushions. At one stage the student was contemplating moving to sleep under the van or possibly in the bus shelter up the road.  Even though by the it was doing what Welsh weather does and raining.

She is still talking to me, but I think we might have an early night tonight, that was the other nice thing, the two of us being the only ones there, we retired at 11, when the bands were still playing but boxing clever I had parked close enough for us to be able to hear. Then, this morning with no one else to worry about we got up when we were ready and not when someone was hammering on the side of the van demanding a 3 course breakfast and any time in the next 5 minutes would do.

We took our big new awning then decided not to put it up, so there was another job we didn't need to do this morning. In fact it was a really good weekend for just the two of us, whats more - next weekend we are off to France, on our own then too.   

Thursday, 13 September 2012

University of stress....

God spare us our children.

Branwen has headed North with a car laden with stress and furniture for her new home somewhere near Aber. Second years of course do not live in halls and are required to find their own, hers sounds just a trifle short of palatial.

A broom cupboard room with a door 4 walls and a ceiling. Really, given the caustic emmisions that she can generate a room should have full on ventilation with filtration and a flare off pipe but this one has nothing.

So of course off she went in a cloud of stress and Bihan her mothers C5.

Meanwhiles, we have run a few loads of fuel through the Stihl and much wood is now piled outside in the sun drying and being chopped by D our resident axe fan.

Bethan meanwhile is educating us all in stress as she tries to persuade the OU and it's fees paying branch that she is in need of help with money for her OU undergraduate course. Nothing can be simple and much harrumphing, stressed sighing, swearing and tearfullness is being evidenced. It's like having Serenity home.

Her mother, whose course is also in need of funding has finally worked out why hers has not cleared and much printing off of bank details will follow tonight.

Me, well I am fixated. I am trying to put it all behind me, forget next week means virtually all day in university, work and other places. Then - bliss, next weekend a ferry trip and peace and good food and probably a nice evening in Roscoff to finish.

Bliss in store, but for now it's stress in all directions.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Tidy like

The weather has delivered even more water. You would not have thought there was more up there.

We have resorted to sheeting the wood down, we want it as dry as possible. A fair old bit has been cut - again. But today has been more of a tidy up day with lots taken down to recycle. With Tallie in his caravan his mum and I have been mining our way into his room uncovering long forgotten items and hidden gems.

Even more photos, we spent a whole night a couple of days ago digging through old photos, I wonder ho future generations will access their memories, we are a single generation who had wet film technology our fathers didn't and our children store everything  on sticks and disks some of which are allready obselete.

i wonder how they will record their times.


Monday, 10 September 2012

Firewood cutting - the trailer for the big event.

To be fair to her, even the student does not advocate cutting wood in the rain. Whether that would be the case if she was somewhere else and not expected to help is another matter entirely but, with rain cascading out of the sky she looked out the window and announced managerially that we would not be using the chainsaw today.

 Relief all round then, settle down for some computerology. No, said she, we would "just" get some wood in ready. So I was duly sent to the wood yard where it turned out the woodman has a busy week ahead and has been busy so 8 cords of slab wood were sat in his yard.

Commandeering the students C5 estate and dragging Bruce away from watching doctor who on I player off I jolly well set.

"Fortunately", next door need some wood so the first two cords went there. Just, the rain as been torrential and with neither 4 wheel drive and not going fast enough to activate traction control, it was a struggle getting the C5 across the field, but anyway we did it.

Next load was ours and this is where it is quite worrying, even my yard is now so wet that the Citroen struggles to get traction to reverse the trailer into the bay. I can see me having to head down there and get all winters wood on the floor while conditions are still drivable.

The rain today had to be seen to be believed at times and even on the road, where mud had been washed off the fields,  I had to keep the speed above the magic 20 MPH where traction control kicks in and feel the front end judder as the electronic nanny scrabbled for grip. 20 MPH with a bleedin big trailer nailed to the back is towards the top end of amusement I want on these little narrow windy    country Welsh lanes.

It is at times like this you notice something that's very similar about Cross Channel Ferries and Citroen estates  navigating slippery narrow lanes with huge heavy trailers on the back. You will not see the student behind the wheel of either......

She has a marked reluctance to even be in the former, though her enthusiasm for being on the latter is legendary, and who can blame her....


Sunday, 9 September 2012

One of those days, I had to share.

We arrived at Bookers this morning at a fortunate time, just as everything was being cleared. The student piled the trolley with veggies and lots of sausages a lot of it destined for the freezer. She decided this afternoon would be good cooking time so she set about bulk manufacture of veggi lassagne to be batched up and put into the freezer for future use.

Some things are just not meant to be sometimes. As she was stirring everything in she decided more salt was indicated. So of course she picked up the new salt mill not realising one of the D's had been fiddling losened the top and not done it up again.

Plop, the grinding head and all the salt inside it went into the pan.

So anyway half the veggies went in the compost together with the salt. Onwards and upwards or not.

Half the lassagne had been saved and all in all she was fairly pleased with herself.  

With that came a tap on the door, the Jehovas witnesses who had such a long chat with Bethan the other day enjoyed it so much they came back for more.    This diverted herself from the cooker which in turn meant the cooking was on and no one was stirring. Now I am no master chef but it wasn't long before  even I worked out veggies cooking should not be smelling like that and, come to think of it they should not be smoking either.

Poor old student, she had decided she was having a wine free day, I have just been ordered to deploy the corkscrew, she wants a glass, and make it a big one....


Friday, 7 September 2012

Another day and every ones nose stuck to the stone of grind.

Prodigious amounts of work done. 

I cannot believe how much wood has gone through the team this week.

The student has been multi tasking like nothing on earth and between us all we have cut chopped whacked and stacked rather a lot of wood. She has worked herself like nothing on earth, we have all done work.

Out woodman is on home turf this next few weeks, I need to cement him to an outcome - another 12 bundles lets make it 18, sheet them down and cut them eventually .

Here is where the situation has changed, 2 years ago he was asking me to come and get his wood, this year I am trying to pin him down.

That said I was paying 20 pounds a cord for slab  wood, nearly 20 years ago.

Today I pay 30 pounds for the same amount of wood, except more of it goes for firewood as the return is better. So 20 years ago it was a bundle of bark and now it;s approaching usable   

The wood we are cutting now is typically about 25% moist so close to being burnable but not quite.

With that being before we dry it a while.

Oh no, the really dry stuff is behind a 6 foot wall of what we just cut,  great!!!!

Mid winter and freezing we have a stock of very dry wood.


This is not working

this was not a thought through plan...

A bruce in the woodpile

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Never ending peace.....

Never one to give up, it was down to business big style this morning. Bruce aka Branwen my daughter, has a rare talent for wood stacking, a skill very like random stone walling her twin brothers Taliesin's talent.

 This in turn meant keeping her supplied. So with some people filling bags, another handing wood up to her. And another again splitting the bigger lumps with an axe.

If this sounds like work then you would be getting the drift.

Our cottage is full to the ceiling. The Bruce, of course was beavering away virtually in the roof  getting higher and higher till - lunch. This was the point where the flaw became obvious, she had been piling logs higher and higher till she had built a platform from which there was no obvious escape. Now we could have just left her there, this could have got all complex as a Bruce unfed is not a thing to approach lightly.  So anyway, this was serious, time to get the Green Goddess out and "make pumps one".

The short rescue ladder came down off the roof and by leaning the ladder on a convenient joist Bruce was rescued.

Lunch and even more wood, by end of afternoon we had axed  and  stacked a huge pile. There is several months supply of wood in there now.    

If we can clear the base I think I might just stack and stack and stack bundles of wood in there.

The older it gets the better.   

A bit like me really, the teenies have been struggling to keep up with the pace set - by their father.

And mother - pity help us all if she was not mentioned. 


Consistently inconsistent

i suppose it's why I have so few readers really. Every so often my counter records someone often from America who blunders in here and spends a few hours delving then goes away. But mostly very few people read what i write.

It has to be the unpredictability, you have blogs calling for the returning of hanging, calling for poor people to be paid to kill themselves and their neighbours (OK so i might be exaggerating) calling for civil rights for trees.

But they do this day in day out and readers know what they are going to get.

Here it can be a political rant, or a moan about chopping wood or a trip to Brittany or a tale of something completely different. Whatever enters my tortured imagination at the time.

People don't open my blog, they are too scared to look at what might be in there today.... 


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Peace? In pieces.

So the day dawned happy - everyone off to school and college.

The student too gave us a cheery wave and went off for a jolly with her little mates.

I came back filled up the chainsaw, let the joy commence.

My goodness, whatever chain was on the last Stihl I had was the wrong one, that's the only explanation I can come up with. I thought the one that got pinched as powerful - this thing is bestial and scary at the same time. Softwood has to be cut with care lest the power of the saw cause the wood to jump. There were three of us and we processed basically 7 cubic metres of slab wood to fire wood i about 15 cm lengths.

If that sounds a lot, it becomes unbelievable when you factor in we started at 11.30 took a coffee break at about 12.15 and finished at 13.30.

The pile of wood out there is massive, the four cords I brought home yesterday are virtually done.

Of course there is a downside, they are not the only things done, I am done in. It was OK until i stopped then the pain started, nowhere specific,  I hurt everywhere.

I would give myself a treat and send myself down the pub for an hour. Unfortunately Bruce has the van and the student the car so /I have the green goddess. In my weakened state I could not turn the steering wheel on that even if the reward was a pint of beer.

Putting it in  perspective though, we need about 12 2 m bales  of slab wood cut this year.

Working full time with the old saw it would have taken about 16 hours to process. Do the maths and be very impressed, I did the work and I am very knackered.  


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Peace for our time.

Today peace returned to Penole, well sort of.

Two of them went back to college, Gwion starts tomorrow.

So to celebrate the peace I want and got some, pieces of wood. 6 Cords to be more exact - 4 for me and 2 for next door. Lots of swearing and revving reversing and tipping of trailer. Peaceful? Not very.

Then some more peace, a piece of shopping, trip to the wholesalers and then a lot of "HOW MUCH" ing at Tesco.

Then peaceful Bethan and boyfriend came home, Bruce is back in the morning as well. This isn't sounding peaceful at all!

Tomorrow though, herself is off with her little mates on a jolly, that should make for a quiet day then, err no, remember the wood? She has checked if we have fuel for the new chainsaw. 

I suspect she did that for a reason.

In actuality we need to crack on with the chainsaw we have nothing like enough wood cut, need to get this 4 cord cut and stacked then another 6 cord in the next few weeks should be just about enough to get us to March. 

So it's going to be an axe and chain saw couple of weeks for me. Note to self - think how fit you are going to be, reply to self think how knackered I am going to be.

Looking at the prices in Tesco - think how broke we are going to be, and diesel is going back up too. Everything in this country is so expensive I don't expect there will be a gram of space in that van coming home from our next trip. Everything from food to oil for the chainsaw I can get cheaper in Brittany.



Monday, 3 September 2012

A day of strangeness

Today was a very odd day of emotion. Herself the student has turned her eye on my side of the family.

One of my relatives, very laboriously traced my maternal grandmothers line way back through history. Locating them as part of a group of families that occupied the same small area and were buried in the same churchyard for hundreds of years. Around them, existed, no doubt a rainbow of families whose histories were not recorded.

My maternal grandfathers line were largely a grey mist, with some hints of their roots.

Using the interweb, the student unlocked the history of my maternal grandfathers line.

Today I stood at the grave of someone who had been dead 100 years when my grandfather was born.

To get there I passed the grave of the headteacher of my primary school. A school 120 miles from where I stood today.

I could not really understand the warmth he showed me, but then I didn't understand how my family were members of  the same chapel he had been brought up with.

We found the grave of a relative who had been dead 100 years when my grandfather was born. Next to his grave were another couple who died in 1801, could this be his parents born in about 1720?.

To anyone who has not been there, this is a very odd feeling

I walk out of my front door and I know my grandfather farmed this land.

He had no connection to it but his connection cements me to it.

When he farmed somewhere else I could not understand his attachment to the farm next door, until now, turns out his family had once owned it - I wonder if it was them who built the house that stands there now.




Whose playing chicken

I will confess to being a bit bemused and bewildered when the student announced we were getting chickens. This of course being a ventrue designed to make us self sufficient and save lots of money. Something achieved by spending an eye watering ammount on equipment.

I will confess to being a bit of a convert I'm not a big egg eater but the little buggers are quite characterful and fun to have around. Scampering up to investigate whenever the front door opens and  ever hopeful that there's some scrap bread.

The cats, initially seemed to confirm our worst fears, seeming to view them as "lunch" a view that did not survive for too long the chikens taking no time at all to see off the cats.

In fact, the chikens have decided the cats have a nice life, cat food is so much tastier than layers pellet apparently.

The eggs are keeping herself happy, and lots of others too as 4 eggs a day is way more than we can get through and they are being distributed like largesse amongst our friends.
She is  not all about chikens though, having traced her mothers familly back to the 1700's My life is currently under scruitiny, the student on her geneology trail has got back to 1778 when my maternal grandfathers line were farming about 20 miles from here. Interesting stuff, when you consider that a lot of the locals view me as an outsider.



Saturday, 1 September 2012

OKOK so it's been summer

We are all done with summer, things have been happening, today we went off to see the students mum for her 101st birthday last week.

Ralphie, who has just taken over management of the house I first worked at back in the 80's when we were moving people with learning disabilities out of hospital wanted us to pop in today.

Interesting experience, the hole in the floor lift gone. The gas fire gone, place was like a garage with a big lift hoist and my mate the Robe being hoisted round everywhere. The jury is out for me asking if this is progress. I used to cradle lift him or chuck him over my shoulder to take him places where he would hear great bands and have a good time. By heck did he ever love that life. 

The staff seemed really good but they operated under some sort of mad regime, he needed lifting in his seat a bit, I said i would do it and got told i would be  "arrested" if i did. They had to use the crane.

I am pretty sure that that's just cobblers but anyway, i was bemused

He was very distressed by people, screamed a lot, we had a couple of minutes together and I think we reconnected - he has a right to be angry with me as I have not kept in touch enough.  

The other resident there was down the pub as he always liked to be and he was delighted to see the student. The member of staff was telling her all about how humans rights have to be respected. Now, that's all very well, in our day we often didn't respect peoples right to say no, we did judgement calls and postulated that their rights to say no were based on not having informed consent and that they might  actually enjoy going to the places they said they didn't want to go to.

If they said they didn't want to go there again then it was informed consent.

The maze this lot blunder through is really odd.

Because all the stuff about community life and involvement is gone.

This is what some stupid person somewhere has decided with no connection with ethics or values or anything. 

They are prisoners in their homes.

If I was my friend  Robe  I would scream a lot too.

Contrast, leave there and went to Lils house.

101 and defying her families wish for her to peg it.

The student was sharing her family research - between the two of them they had all sorts of stuff.

This old lady 101 years old saying; that's right and adding detail the the students research   

Lil at 101 was firing on all four cylinders - good on her