The Old Manse 26/12/2009
Well, that was Christmas, we hope you enjoyed yours more than I did, I picked up some kind of tummy bug which made itself apparent on Christmas Eve at about 10pm and I'm just getting over it now, mid-day Boxing day.
I mention this now, just to make sure you appreciate the effort of getting a newsletter out, I'm better now, so no more mention of it.
Like most of Britain we are experiencing something of a cold snap, and presently have a bit of the old deep and crisp. Tuesday should be a bit of a laugh as the cycle of melt / freeze has made the roads a tad treacherous, although the only really difficult bit has been getting into the drive and up to the house. Now you might think that the problems of vehicular activity would be of no import to one who is blessed with a LandRover, and indeed you would be right, were it not for the Polish question. I shall explain. A few weeks ago, when I was busying away at the floor of the new workshop extension to the garage, I was interrupted by a couple of Polish chaps who had, it transpired, bogged their vehicles (a Japanese version of a Jeep and a similar sort of 4 wheel drive caravanette) near the larger Shale Bing behind the village. They seemed to think that the moorland behind the Bing was no-man's-land and available for recreation. From what they'd said I was under the impression that they'd got into trouble fairly close to the village, so we set out in the LandRover to pull them out. I discovered fairly soon, but too late to turn back, that they'd headed out across the moor on the old railway track until they could go no further, turned round and got stuck in a place I wouldn't take anything other than a hovercraft. Eventually, with the aid of a local Farmer, who was less than impressed with the expedition, it now being dark, both of them were extracted. There was a certain poetic justice served in that both found why the terrain was so difficult, as they fell into the kind of 3 foot deep boggy pits that had swallowed the 4x4's. Sadly, I discovered later, in the process my radiator had been damaged and that's why the LandRover is sitting in a warmish garage waiting for a few parts rather than striving through the recent snowy deposits. The Polish question was, by the way, how (and why) on earth did they get so far out into the moor? I asked Richard, who is largely Polish, and he said they're simply mad as snakes, and will try anything. So, fair enough. On the upside, the LandRover gets a new radiator and an electric cooling fan, which will increase the efficiency from diabolical to simply appalling. On the vexed subject of going to work, on icy roads or otherwise, I was supposed to be going part time in August, I feel it would be unfair on my colleagues to do so before they've got somebody in post, but unfortunately the hospital administrators don't seem to be able to get it together, and keep losing the paperwork, moving the "human resources" department or changing the phone numbers. Most recently, they put out an advertisement for the resulting vacant post, not as you might expect, in the Radiographer's in house magazine, but instead into the used car section of local knitting magazine or something, with a four day deadline which, as a result failed to draw much attention. The plan is to split one full time post with a colleague who wants to do the same for a couple of years. We'll both do a half week, I'll do alternate Wednesdays and the Thursdays and Fridays until I retire from Radiography properly. There's a drop in pay of course, but I think it'll be worth it. Anyway, the intended two year period of part time work has been ticking since August, so if they don't get their act together soon I'll retire before it starts. According to our plan, Fiona should be able to stop her Halifax/IF/Bank of Scotland/Lloyds, or whatever they are called by then, work in the summer of 2010, and we'll see where we go from there. We hope to find more interesting things to do, like a more entertaining part time job, (Amway and Harmonicas will feature, more of which later) which could also bring in some cash, possibly lots, and perhaps some charitable work which would keep us off the streets. There again I might just keep making things, like Dad's bowl. I hope to have a more precise plan in a month or so. I have decided not to try pole dancing however, because of the language barrier. Maggie, the cat, has definite opinions about my just being available to fill bowls and provide places to kip on, but I feel this would not stretch me enough as a person. On the building front, you will be astounded to hear that I have completed the west wing. The last bits being some concrete steps and some building control documentation. I confess it should have been finished a couple of years back, but I keep having additional ideas, move the door, add some decking, extend by 2 metres etc. Most of it is on the web site and if this is an electronic copy you can see it at http://www.jimhewlett.com/conservatory2.html . Building control wanted a larger landing (top step) because the outer door now opens outward, which is fair enough, and it's now big enough to land a micro-light on. Annoyingly I think they were right, but don't tell them. Recent snow-falls have demonstrated that the construct is sound, as it has now put up without complaint with record breaking snow, rain and wind. I think it should be OK for earthquake, but I'm not going to put any money on it as it might be seen as pushing my luck. Away from the house, I do a bit where I can for The Scottish Wildlife Trust (the name is kind of self explanatory) it's a charity organisation involved in good deeds for the small and furry as well as the endangered and less pretty. I'm chair of the Lothians Members Centre at the moment. This involves the odd committee meeting and a bit of can rattling to bring in a spot of cash and hopefully could be expanded once I get clear of the Hospital. Fortunately I'm surrounded by people who know what they are doing, so my utter ignorance for the Latin name for the twig, or the bird on it, is often concealed, and I get away with reading out the agenda one line at a time and letting wiser folk lean in with expressions like "Ah, yes, that's one for me" and off they go. I was introduced to the SWT by Fiona, as she was on the management committee for a local reserve called Hermand Birchwood when we first met. It just seemed to grow from there, so now I can be found doing anything from digging ditches to meeting the Scottish Minister of the Environment. Both (Ministers) seemed competent, and prepared to deal with awkward questions. I should point out, however, that there are more ditches to be dug than Ministers to meet, and the ditch digging sandwiches are bigger. At this time of year Hermand Birchwood reserve itself all is fairly quiet, and I think it'll take a hardy soul to brave the dark, cold, snow covered and rather wet conditions currently available. The exception being the walkers and dogs from the local Dogs Trust Centre, the dogs love it in any weather. I was intending to have a scout around to make sure all was well recently when I was diverted to a SWT talk by Ian Edwards on "Natures Wild Harvest". I did the introductions, having been bribed with the provision, after the talk, of mulled wine and mince pie. Have you noticed how the computer and / or the projector, always wait until the last moment before expiring? Fortunately a spare was available and was booted up before the audience grew too restless. The talk on free food (available in a hedgerow near you) was well attended, telling of several foods, strange and exotic jams, mystic mushrooms, and connections between those and Father Christmas, who has a distinctly dodgy past. I found that the habits of Reindeer near humans can be a little startling, though I doubt it'll put me off venison. The deep fried Elderflowers sounded tasty, as did the sloe gin, but I think I'll be buying that rather than making it. I can still remember the sticky shrapnel mess of the Kilner jars in the farmhouse larder half a century ago when something went horribly wrong. We were recently visiting Fiona's mother, who was unwell and in Hospital, now hopefully recovering. While in the neighbourhood, and stocking up on provisions we found a "still" of a more modern type than the kind used traditionally in the quiet recesses of Scotland. Having been looking for such a device for some time now, I am hoping we shall be able to add Whisky to our list of home-made products of beer, bread, fruit and vegetables. I'd add eggs, since we have a chicken-shed, but the truth is we can get them from a local farm so easily it hardly seems worth the effort. I am hoping to start a bit of soup development once I have a bit more time. It seems a worthwhile hobby, and I have a fairly simple vision of a mug of soup keeping warm on a potbellied stove which can burn the bits of wood left over from the wood work being done in the new workshop on the end of the garage. The idea is perhaps simpler than the previous sentence structure. All I need now is a potbellied stove, so if anybody out there knows of a second hand one, give me a call. There might be a whisky in it for you. The workshop previously mentioned is largely complete, and I have found a nice wood-lathe and a few other bits to go in it. The first project was to finish off the bowl that Dad was working on, and I think he would like the way it's turned out. I had been meaning to build an extension for some years, and re-finding the bowl set the whole thing off. Now I've got no excuse to put off the rebuild of Fiona's garden shed, as that was supposed to be the next thing in line. Well that's enough rambling for now, I'll start a belated Christmas. I'm feeling fit enough to knock the very decorative icicles off the gutters, before the weight of them causes something to give way, or spears a cat. The snow's about one to two feet thick, but starting to melt, let's just hope it drains away before it freezes again, I'm told Monday is due to be rather cold again. Do you think "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" will be a little less popular next year?
Love to all.