Showing posts from June, 2007

Smells like Teen Spirit

Yesterday we went to the local theatre to see a school production of West Side Story , which eldest's oldest friend was in. It's a very brave choice of thing to do for a school as much of the music is difficult, and it was, on the whole, pretty good. The orchestra were valiant and mostly accurate; Maria was gorgeous with a lovely soprano voice, Anita was a star, A-rab was brilliant in Officer Krupke, and Glad Hand more than made the most of her tiny part. But the smell. As most of the audience were teenagers, the theatre reeked of scent; body spray; aftershave... it was like walking into a vandalised chemist's shop. The scent virtually stood in the air. When I was getting ready I did briefly contemplate putting on a bit of scent (which is the difference between middle-aged me and a teenager; I think about whether to put the stuff on or not; they turn the nozzle to full and keep going) but it was just as well I didn't. When we got out of the theatre into the cle

The Girls

Here, especially for my nephews Ben and Sam, are the girls: Left to right, they are Matilda, Mary, Mother Hen (what you can see of her) and Rose. Mary is the wariest of the bantams, and most prone to panic, but Rose is not far behind her. Despite their nerves, both bantams are quite oofy, and are further up the pecking order than either Matilda or Mother Hen. If it is cold when they are roosting at night, Rose feels her place is under Matilda's wing, whether Matilda likes it or not. Mother Hen is the friendliest, and can be picked up with ease. If you sit down in their field, she will flap on to your shoulder. The bantams would sooner die than try this. Matilda is at the bottom of the pecking order, despite being the biggest, and is a hen of changeable mood. Sometimes she is friendly, and other times definitely not. The hens are excellent layers; the bantams lay when they feel like it, which lately is not often. Rose went broody last week, but must have realised the terri

Very, very proud...

Our village fete happened yesterday, together with a fun dog show run by Wellingborough Dog Welfare , and you see to the left of you Holly, owner of the fourth most appealing eyes, and a magnificent second in the Fastest Chocolate Drop Eater competition. We really weren't sure whether we'd be able to enter anything - Holly is a rescue dog, and when we first got her was so nervous we couldn't get her beyond the front gate. The first time I took her to the school gates she had complete hysterics, and she does still tend to panic when faced with things that worry her. So, we thought the fete, with the Pipe band, Majorettes, Morris Dancers and teeming people and dogs might be a bit much, but she was an absolute star. It did take her a little while to come round to the Pipe Band, but after we stuffed her face with food she agreed with us that Pipe Bands (the Bedford Pipe Band - excellent. I love bagpipes when they are played well, and these were) were OK. Dog used to be ap

It's that time again.... the catalogue

Each and every time I do a catalogue (the new one's out tomorrow, on my website ) a bit of technology gathers itself up and does battle. There was the time the entire website was corrupt (a time so dreadful, and producing such a state of frantic flurry in their mother that the whole family remembers it with awe); the printer has thrown numerous hissy fits; my aged version of Microsoft Word decided that there had been one Windows XP update too many and it would never load again..... but this time I thought I might just make it. I wasn't confident enough to think there wouldn't be any problems, but I did have just the faintest of hopes. I wrote the catalogue on my trusty copy of OpenOffice (advert coming: this is a mostly excellent FREE alternative to Microsoft); managed, oh joy, to work out how to produce a brochure, found a printer to produce the things, loaded everything onto the web ready.... the camera threw a few fits, but I was ready for it and coped, but the lab

Illusions shattered

I don't have a lot of illusions about myself, or at least I don't think I do, but I've always had a mental picture of myself as I'd like to be, drifting about my immaculate garden, dead heading my roses into one of those rather swish trugs. My garden, most of the time is nowhere near immaculate, but it did recently reach a stage when it wasn't that bad at all, and so I got with the illusion, and drifted about, dead heading. I then wandered in and mentioned to my husband that I had been pottering about in what I thought was quite a lady of the manor way, dead heading my roses. He looked up from the cricket and remarked that ladies of the manor generally did not do their dead heading into the same scabrous, muck-encrusted skip they used to use for pooh-picking but never got round to cleaning out. I also gathered, as he looked me up and down, that ladies of the manor did not do their drifting in pilates trousers that have seen better days and t shirt ditto, but dar

Harold the Cross Country Pony

I've just finished reading Patricia Leitch's Cross Country Pony. It's one of those books I've read before, known I've liked, but forgotten why. In many ways I like this book more than the Jinny series: it's written with a lighter heart and humour, and without the angst that sometimes makes the Jinny books a bit of a tortuous read. Some pony books succeed because the ponies in them are so wonderfully recognisable, and I think Harold (the cross country pony himself) is one of these. Jinty, who rides him, says: Cynically Harold regarded me, a gleam in his wicked little eyes. I was absolutely at his mercy. It was merely a question of what he decided to do with me. I used to ride a pony called Bear who was much like Harold: he summed you up in an instant and would then mercilessly exploit any weakness. He obviously found life at the riding stables a little dull, as he was constantly thinking up new and exciting ways to misbehave. When the stables built

Ooh Ooh Ooh

Which makes me sound as if I am a refugee from that strange shampoo ad, but no. I'm deep in happy fanland, as I've been in touch with the great Caroline Akrill recently to ask her to contribute something about herself for the site, and she's just sent an excellent reply to the vast list of questions I asked. Now just have to get it onto the site....

The modern pony book

I try, but I just can't do it. Heartland , and its new sister Chestnut Hill , leave me cold. I can see that they're written well enough, I can see why they appeal to their market - presumably the horsey girl, and I suppose I should be grateful that the pony book genre is continuing, but what I can't get to grips with is the feeling that I'm being manipulated. It's as if the publishers sat down at a meeting, and thought "What do horsey girls like?" And then they've given it to them. Horses which only respond to the heroine (and in Heartland, they have that in bucketfuls); alternative therapies, with again the undertow of only-the-heroine-can-get-this-right against a sceptical world; a relationship with the opposite sex, but not enough to be frightening or to detract from the horses, and a family background with tragedy, but yet still enough stable figures in it to have an element of comfort. Ta da! All the boxes ticked, and masses of sales. An

The Joy of Socks

Most people have socks intent on escaping through the the washing machine plumbing, or which crawl off into corners, and fester, unnoticed, gathering piles of dust as camouflage. But not in my house. We have a One Labrador Sock Retrieval Machine. When we first got her (she is a rescue dog so her former life is murkily unknown) we soon realised that she had a bit of a thing about shoes, which she liked to collect about her, and snick her long labrador nose deep into. However, the shoes are as nothing compared with the socks. Over the months we have had her dog has worked out that the best socks are to be found in my son's room, though only an early morning raid before he is up will capture these as he tends to wear the same pair for day on revolting day. Occasionally if we have aimed our socks unsuccessfully at the laundry basket and not noticed, a late night raid can yield spectacular results. But we know this, and as she likes to puncture socks: not destroy, just puncture,


This I suppose is about the results of some of the compost making. I have always loved roses, but they do have to be the old-fashioned variety with a wonderful scent (below is Fantin Latour - a relatively late rose for us, this is from 1900). I was lucky enough to be brought up somewhere with a garden stuffed with old roses - they were there when we moved in, and as my parents were never, happily, of the slash and burn school of gardening, there they stayed. We all had a favourite rose, though we hadn't a clue what it was called, and when my parents finally sold the house and moved, we all took bits of this rose. Fortunately it is quite easy to propagate by digging it up and splitting it. I have now found out, thanks to the excellent Peter Beales , that the mysterious rose is Cuisse de Nymphe or Maiden's Blush. It has the most heavenly scent, and the whole family used to look forward to its blossoming. It isn't yet quite out here, but when it is I will put up a photo of i

The Compost Heap

I thought it was about time I introduced the compost heap to the fray. The dog (Holly, a yellow labrador) loves the compost heap - the current one that is, and until recently spent many a happy hour excavating for things that still tasted good to a labrador, and which also fulfilled her need to decorate the garden. If you have a labrador you will already know they are keen on decorating gardens. Ours prefers the wreckage of decayed sticks, but flowerpots, if I am rash enough to leave them about are excellent too. The compost heap provides a whole range of treasure. Licked-out eggshells, and, oh bliss of bliss, avocado skins add a final delicate touch to a labrador's idea of garden heaven. Alas for the dog, I uncovered a handy bit of metal framework in the barn. We have had it for years, not quite sure what to use it for, even though it's one of those things that was obviously created to do something. It now sits neatly on top of the compost heap, ready to deter the dog

Jill and those hens

I've now found the bit in which Jill does her anti-hen rant, and it's quoted below. "I have said little or nothing about our hens, as they are Mummy's concern and not mine, though actually I could write a book about the way they play Mummy up. I consider them the most soul-less of animals that will not respond to overtures of friendship, and for that reason I will not have anything to do with them in life. They are at their best when dead. Also I think there is something rather repulsive about them." (Jill's Gymkhana, 1st edn, 1949, pg 87) I did blink a little when I read it: it's quite amazingly strident. It doesn't to me read like something that Jill would say, and it's one of the more understandable abridgements. The piece does however, seem to have the ring of bitter personal experience, so I wonder if Ruby Ferguson had hideous hen experiences of her own? I doubt we'll ever know. I can't see "The Use of Hens as Plot Devices in

Hen stuff

Having said I'd write mostly about books, this is actually going to be about hens. In an effort to get it partly on topic, I could tell you about the hens in the Jill books, which are the most obvious hens I can think about in any pony book. Incidentally, Jill has an anti-hen rant in "Jill's Gymkhana" - a rant which never saw the light of day in the later Knight paperbacks. Maybe the publishers thought it was just too much. I will try and dig it out and quote it, but maybe not today. Still: my hens. We have four, well, to be accurate 2 hens and 2 bantams. The hens are standard brown hybrids, called Mother Hen and Matilda, and the banties are Pekin cross (we think) and called Rose and Mary. We had them as a friend of mine who is emigrating to Canada needed to reclaim her garden, which the hens had destroyed. I must say, before having the hens, I had misty-eyed romantic dreams about having an eglu and the hens scratching around in the garden, with me drifting round sca