Things that made me happy this week
Brunch and a walk with Emily; a newborn black foal on Mardon, all head and fragile wobbly legs as it stood up for the first time; golf with Liz; bluebells coming up in their masses in the woods; a new great-niece safely arrived; a letter from Elodie; finding a Silver Flame pieris at B and Q, right size and right price; Easter Sunday with Liz, Paul and Mum – Liz sozzled but not so much that she couldn’t explain her (successful) mission to rescue a puddle full of marooned tadpoles with a sawn-off water bottle; hearing more about Jessica’s Louise Little project; finishing my 30 days stint of editing cultural profiles having earned enough for new gutters etc.; Anna’s family music project; woodpecker coming every day to the bird-feeder and nuthatches some days; primroses everywhere; swallows coming back on Thursday; and lambs.
Things that made me sad
Playing bridge badly; newly-poked up lily of the valley trodden on; not feeling great; chasing swallows out of the shed and feeling guilty about it; but most of all, the Grand National.
You may know what I think about Trago Mills. Broadly summed up, my view is that the place is a necessary evil. In the run-up to Christmas (early September onwards) this local emporium likes to demonstrate that it is not simply a place of hard-line right wing principles but that it is religious too and knows what Christmas is really about. To this end, they have for the last couple of years provided a nativity scene. In lurid technicolor, this assaults your eye the minute you walk through the hallowed portals. It consists of figures, each a good 7 feet tall, representing the usual suspects in a nativity scene. They are frankly scary. Would you, having given birth in a remote cave in the Judaean hills feel safe if this bloke, a complete stranger and disguised as a shepherd, turned up uninvited at your bedside in the small hours wanting to have a look at your baby?
I lost my shirt yesterday (well, £4) on the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Only six runners but what a classy group. I didn’t see the race, golf with Liz being a prior booking, and I foolishly forgot to record it. It featured the acknowledged great Kauto Star and three rivals for the role of heir apparent: Long Run, Diamond Harry and Time for Rupert. And then there was Weird Al, my protege, plus the sixth horse (Pure Faith) about whom I know nothing. The race reports I’ve read suggest I missed a treat of a race and I don’t mind losing my shirt to Kauto Star.
The magnificent Kauto Star at home
I split my money between Diamond Harry and Weird Al. Diamond Harry because he’s such an exciting horse and is trained by my favourite, Nick Williams. Added to that, he was ridden by Williams’ new stable jockey, James Reveley, a young man who has had a lot of success this year on the flat – mainly up north where he hails from. He is the grandson of the great Mary Reveley. Positively reclusive and in her 70s now (although her son says she’s still in charge of the yard!), Mary Reveley has always successfully eluded the press and media, and was one of the first successful female trainers and is acknowledged as one the greats in the
racing world. With such a yard behind him and such a jockey up top, Diamond Harry will go far and I depend on him to repay me my £2 with interest.
As for Weird Al; I watched him with interest last season and he was my pick for the National where he didn’t deliver. Then sadly he went out because of injury but this year he is back and has begun to have some good wins and places. My loyalty to him is despite not much liking his trainer and positively disliking his jockey but I am counting on him to live up to the promise I see in his good honest face.
Isn’t he lovely?
A quite eventful week. The blue tit babies have fledged and flown – disobligingly doing so when I was out at work. But this evening I was greeted when I went into the shed by the shrill “feed me, feed me” cheeping of goodness knows how many baby swallows – at least 100, I should say – reassuring evidence that (despite my worst fears) my jerry-built false ceiling hasn’t scared the parents off the nests.
And I now have a porch – more of an orangery, really; the builders having turned up without warning on Monday. And I wish I’d been here when they were fixing on this particular embellishment as I’d have told them to dump it. It’s a bit Essex really.
So a week of good news overall which more than off sets the small fire in the kitchen yesterday. Amazingly the loss was confined to 2 towels, 1 pair of rubber gloves and a halogen oven. I think, despite extensive scrubbing, the distinctive smell of burning plastic will linger for some time but it’s quite amazing that more damage wasn’t done. The flames were quite spectacular….
I have a posh new house sign. As a mark of respect to it, perhaps I should rename my abode Honeysuckle House.
My swallow lodgers, on the other hand will doubtless be very aggrieved at the change in their living quarters. Gone is their free access to the gracious granite shed (we won’t dwell on the wrinkly tin roof). Instead they now have to negotiate a jerry-built rig-up of three old shower curtains, assembled (and with no regard to personal life or limb) in an attempt to keep swallow poo off everything in the shed whilst enabling them still to get to their nests. I am not sure if it will work in any of these regards. Certainly haven’t seen them today and one of them was already sitting on eggs. I feel an attack of bad conscience coming on.
On the plus side, there is definitely a blue tit family being raised in the Des Res previously posted – about 5 feet from my kitchen window.
Depending on your point of view….
…complete and gutter disaster…
…or safe haven….
This was the title of a Cilla Black single in 1964. A young Liverpudlian with a 12 bore voice and a nose to match (until she had it done), she was a contemporary of the Beatles and a performer at the Cavern Club. (She went on to become famous for TV’s Blind Date – over which we will draw a veil – and more importantly, now plays golf off a single figure handicap.)
It was a good record and instantly transports me back to the days when we wore black PVC macs, tight grey skirts, white lipstick with black eyeliner pencil and Max Factor panstick, American Tan stockings (tights hadn’t been invented) and tottered about on white winkle-picker shoes with 4 inch high heels. All this topped off with hair backcombed ferociously and laboriously into a very bouffant and utterly unyielding beehive. For party evenings, those of us who could afford the alternative uniform wore dolly rocker dresses like this one.
Well, it’s official – I do have a heart, Cilla, and it’s working to spec. I know because I have seen and heard it on a magic ultra-sound machine. It looks like a giant, squashy sea-anemone and sounds like someone walking through very deep mud in wellies. They didn’t give me a photo of it, though – which they would have done if it’d been a baby.
The procedure was carried out by Dr Abdul whose wife had their fifth son last Friday. Dr Abdul was learning the procedure, fortunately aided by a delightful and very competent technician. I was required to lie (naked from the waist up – sorry, reader, too much information) on a couch while he reached across and grappled with me for about 10 minutes in what would otherwise have been a passionate embrace, attempting to get the sensor in the right place. I will spare your blushes by stopping there but this was another of those medical encounters when a keen sense of the ridiculous was a key asset.
Here’s a link to Cilla in a live 60s performance of the song; subtle she isn’t but check it out for a taste of a time when it was good to be young.