Rest Well, Mr Mandela

Strange how events ‘trigger’ the mind.

In 1990 Cindy and I had a trade stand at a show at a National Trust property. We sat for two days and did no sales, we barely even talked to anybody. Which was obviously very disappointing.
The following day there was a phone call from a gent who requested to have a dovecote and doves delivered & set up on a specific day. Explaining he was abroad on that day, it was to be a surprise birthday present for is wife who had seen us at the show and wanted a cote and doves, but he persuaded her otherwise.
Subsequently, on the agreed day, we were part of the ladies birthday surprise (nice). As always I engaged the customer in banter to discover she was a radio journalist working for Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Not being backwards in coming forwards, I suggested that we would be good material for a ‘piece’.
Some weeks later, lady with microphone was in our yard interviewing Cindy and I for a ‘bit’ to be broadcast as part of their Woman’s Hour Valentine issue (lovey doves). The day of the broadcast arrived …….. Nelson Mandela was let out of prison, Woman’s hour was cancelled because all the TV & Radio could talk of nought else.

The item did go out a few days later and we sold eleven cotes on the strength of that broadcast, apparently folks phoned the BBC to get our contact details.

………. Rest Well, Mr Mandela ..

DIDN’T EVEN GET A BISCUIT……

Thought of this just now while taking ‘orse out.

Several years ago Cindy and I got home from a Sunday delivery to find our neighbour meandering around our garden, trying to find us. When I say neighbour I mean half a mile up the lane. The lady (who I won’t name) was a wee bit Chardonnay fatigued. After a few attempts we deciphered she was in need of Cindy’s horse whisperer skills because her pony and its mate the donkey had taken advantage of her ‘situation’ barging past her and doing a runner. The pair could now be seen as two dots on the far side of a fifty acre field, heads down feasting on whatever it was trying to grow over there.

Cindy gathered her horse catching gear consisting of a bucket of nuts (which sounds funnier than it is) and lead ropes. She sent the neighbour home and WE set-off to catch the renegades.  With all the guile of a horse thief Cindy stalked the two, getting  close by soft words and the promise of food (works for me every time) Having secured the donkey she gave him/her/it  to me to mind while she then got the pony ‘in hand’.

Then began the long(ish) walk back across the field and up the lane to Chardonnay-Villa.  Cindy leading, with me and donkey taking up the rear (so to speak). On getting to Chardonnay-Villa neighbour was there with a packet of their favourite digestive biscuits as a treat for coming home. The pony made a lung for the biscuit’s and was immediately brought to heel by Cindy who tugged it back with the effect that it could examine its own piles. This had the effect of scaring my donkey who took off through the gate. Now during the long(ish) track back, I, with the advanced knowing of a novice knob-head, had wrapped the lead rope around my hand, so as donkey ran, he had me running at his shoulder, inviting him/her to *ucking stop. For a full five minutes me and donkey ran around the garden, over flower boarders (rose bushes) with me making ground contact about once every eight foot, scared that if I fell me arm would come adrift. The progress of donkey was now being somewhat enhanced by my donkey whispering technique of the promise of a *ucking good thumping.

Part slumped on the gate with her back towards the unfolding comedic scene of me and donkey circumnavigating her (posh) garden at speed, with no sign of any chequered flag, our neighbour was getting a crash course in horse management from Cindy, who was also watching me as I practiced synchronised hop, skip and jump with a sodding donkey attached.  Cindy crossed legged, holding herself and crying. Me about to expire with exhaustion as my arm was being eased from its socket and my legs (wearing shorts) were being eroded by repeated passages through assorted bushes.

Our Early Adventures At The Chelsea Flower Show

Ferdinand was a BIG man, big in body, big in spirit, big in personality and big in heart. I have a wealth of blog fodder when it concerns this man. Ferdinand like some before and some after him strode into our lives with such an aura he made us wiser and hopefully better people.

Cindy and I first met the big man at the Chelsea Flower Show in about 1990. It was our second year exhibiting at Chelsea. The first year (a story still to tell) we had the bliss of ignorance to shield us from the mayhem that is the Chelsea Flower show build-up, show days and breakdown. We, two country mice, had no idea what was expected of us and we had no idea what we expected of the most famous flower show in the world.

AS second year exhibitors we could no longer claim Chelsea virgins’ status, so we had nowhere to hide and no excuses. We ‘girded our loins’; hatched a plan and started our set up nine days prior to the show’s opening. Whereas the previous year the three days we thought more than adequate proved to be ridiculously inadequate. Turning up as we did on the pre-show Friday we found the organisers had begun to think we were not coming. A lovely lady with a formidable reputation, but seemed to like us, took us to our stand allocation which was on the corner at the top of Main Avenue and Northern Road, opposite the RHS organisers facilities, so right in the “spot light”. To the west and south of our plot were two mega conservatory companies, who were vying for the really top end market. Both had built massive crystal palaces kitted out with marble floors, grand piano, orange trees, cocktail bars, and second floors with balconies. Space was tight, so over the past ten days they exploited the non-appearance of the country mice by using our little corner stand as a dumping ground for their vast piles of detritus. Mavis instructed them that they had half an hour to MOVE their stuff, and twenty minutes later they had, and we had our first Chelsea stand. Our thoughts then were that we were in danger of looking like a Robin Reliant squeezed down the alley betwixt the Rolls Royce sales rooms.

As the major elements of our year two display came together we kept shunting ‘tarting up’ jobs further up the schedule. “We will do that nearer the end”, “fit that when the site is clearer on Sunday”. That would best be done on Sunday “I’ll do the signage on Sunday”.
It was late into Sunday afternoon; we had a surprising amount of ‘tarting’ still to do. As always on any show set-up things betwixt Cindy and I were ‘fraught’. I kept me head down (literally) and was to be found on my hands and knees laying a foot path of Bethersden marble (look it up) leading off the main avenue directing potential customers to our purpose made summerhouse (we made especially … thankyou Colin) which was to be our Chelsea home for the show days.

I became aware of feet, big feet in big white plimsolls. Big feet that if left unmoved would soon be obstructing my footpath laying progress. I glanced up the grey slacks to see a partial eclipse, obscuring the sun was a ‘man mountain’ in pale blue (damp armpits) no tie and clutching a disproportionately small white plastic carrier bag to his ample girth.
We made eye contact, the giant boomed “ello” in an unmistakable German accent and without drawing breath went off into much speaking and gesticulating, the plastic carrier being swung back and forth like a semaphore flag.

“Hello” I said which was my entire repertoire of German (ie none). I shrugged and smiled in the universal body language way that says “You seem like a nice bloke but I have not got a *ucking clue what you’re on about, and on this particular occasion I incorporated an undertone of “go away I am under the cosh to get this done”. Eclipse man seemed to comprehend, offered me his hand, (big hands.. scared me) smiled and then he disappeared back into the main avenue throng which was now a throng of manic stand builders, who need it to be yesterday. Garden designers with an entourage of anxious young things all on the verge of despair, cos Sebastian has been held up by customs and is stuck in Dover with the specimen (suspect) plants they simply MUST have before judging. Plus hundreds of sightseers who had blagged themselves ‘build up passes’, which got them in a day early for a pre-show eyeball. Camera crews, microphones, sound booms, ear phones, celebrity interviewers, celebrity interviewees, and South Africans with high-vis-jackets, crackling walkie talkies and bucket loads of attitude who are shouting ‘gibberish’ at everybody as they tried to establish, who owns the apparently abandoned Volvo, with no windscreen ID, full of wilting plants, that has clouted somebody’s stand, bringing down the fascia and put tyre trenches up a show garden’s manicured turf.

“ELLO” I heard an hour or so later. Severing the crowed our big German was bellowing “Ello” looking at, and bearing down on ME. He went off on one again and made indication he wanted a brochure (the plastic carrier was now full of them). He flicked through the pages glancing at the pictures then at our display for confirmation the picture and the product correlated. He pointed to some pictures and glanced around the stand disappointed and perplexed we did not have a sample of a chicken house or dog kennel (like Gnomes, chicken houses back then were banned at RHS shows). Then suddenly he went, parted the red sea of minions as he strode forth, anxiously looking right and left obviously looking for somebody.
Those were crazy times for us, that decade of Chelseas, very highs and very lows. Like the time we found ourselves locked in the show ground at 10.30 pm, in the dark, in the rain, hungry, caked in mud and facing the prospect of a two hour drive home, but first having to walk a mile around the other way to our car. Our mood lifted no-end knowing we had to leave home before 5am next day to have any chance of getting back at a sensible hour to get in another long day.

Monetary restraints meant we needed to repatriate, plants, turf, shrubs, anything in fact that others had deemed ‘rubbish’ but Cindy could utilise to good effect on our stand (Cindy is brilliant at making silk purses from sows ears …… ie me) On one sortie to the communal skips I found Lord Snowdon crouching around the back, hiding from the cameras. As a pair of skip dwellers we had a chat about “the bloody press”, what I did (I knew what he did), and surveying our stand from the hidey hole, the merits of my dovecote designs. Nice bloke, reckoned his son did a bit of woodwork.

Next instalment ……….. Its show time ……………

Mowing Machine Obedience Techniques

For those of you who know me well the next instalment of Granddad Rob antics will be of no revelation. To my mind mowers are God’s way of testing his flock’s resolve. Only the most devout know that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the ten stone tablets he had left number eleven up there.

ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT: As oxen level thy grass so will thy mower. Honour both in equal measure.

I am thinking Moses thought, these are heavy, ten’s enough to be going on with, there’s not much call for mowing in the wilderness. I’ll leave the last one up here, for now, hidden in the long grass.

Granddad Rob's Mower - mowing

Granddad Rob’s Mower

Mowers and me have a love hate relationship, in so much as we love to hate each other. They will blow up, seize up, wheels come off (hit a tree stump in long grass), the turning cutty grass thing falls off, bits break off or bend, and punctures are their default setting. Any attempt by me at TLC ends with grease and blood up me shirt. Every nut and bolt on all machines are especially selected so not a single spanner on the face of Kent fits them. Garden hose pipes throw themselves under it and get wound around the spinney bit. And “start the mower” is a penance dished out to grade ‘A’ sinners, by grade ‘A’ sadists.

One time when mummy needed me, (that’s ME) to start our mower, for her (she did the mowing back then), repeated attempts failed to wake it up. A fast rising frustration level was not helped by mummy saying, “why don’t you call Fred”…… “you could try asking Fred”……… “why don’t you just call Fred”….. “Fred will know what’s wrong”….. “Fred gets my mower started”. I had a brain wave and called Fred.

Freddy went into tech-mode, in Bobby* speak it translated to, spark-thing out, dry it, drop of petrol in the hole it came from, spark-thing in, pull the string. Did as was instructed. Mummy said …. “it will start this time, you see” ….“Fred knows how to get my mower started” ….“it will start this time”…“give it another pull”…“pull it again HARDER” BOOmOOFF an eruption of flame engulfed the mower (missed me, mummy and the stable). The obstinate mower was now in Joan-of-Arc mode. My defence, Fred’s fault for not quantifying “drop”.

Mummy immediately got very anxious….“can’t you put it out”…. “what have you done”  “you’re bloody useless”….“what will we do”….“where’s the bucket” … “don’t just stand there” …….. “can’t you do something”

“Let the sod burn” I said, while just standing there.

In a short time the pyrotechnics abated. A comforting smell of grass flambéed in a really nice four star hung in the air. Mummy said nothing  ……….. nothing ………. nothing  (result).

I pulled the string. The mower started. Lesson learnt, torture or in this case torching is a much under rated procedure in machine obedience techniques.

Mummy now sitting astride a warm mower ….. “good ol’ Freddy I knew he’d know …now git out the way you mad Irish bugger  ……. you’re bloody mental”.

* Fred is Cindy’s fifty something, baby brother, and the only person I can condone calling me Bobby. I have got to be nice to him; I think he knows I slept with ‘is sister…. I don’t want him telling mummy.

Tumble Drier or Dead Trees ……

Cindy and I have always had a hankering for an old house with beams and an inglenook fire place. We wanted a house that smelt of stew, wood smoke, old church and bees wax polish. But properties like that came at a premium (over £30,000 in 1976 ) Before we settled on buying No3 Forsham Cottage we had looked at lots of older properties that were at the high end of our means and the low end of the period property market, so there was always an ’issue’.

At one stage we had our hearts set on the centre section of an Elizabethan farm house in Grafty Green. It was, and possibly still is, very small, but it had the beams, an inglenook and that smell! After weeks of waiting and hoping we were finally refused a mortgage because of something called a flying freehold. This meant that part of the next doors bedroom was over our front room, so if there was ever a ‘mishap’ (I won’t say the F word. ) there could be a dispute as to who owns what. I did argue that surely was no different than flats, when your kitchen ceiling is some other buggers bathroom floor. But this was back in the days when the folks in the building society were ‘up them selves’. It was the days when you could not get a mortgage without crawling over broken glass having first rubbed neat VIM in your eyes. These were the times when customer service as they perceived it was taking ones glasses off before looking down ones nose at the owiks, especially young owiks who obviously REALLY need the money.

We looked at a big semi in Yalding, right in the heart of village near the bridge. I asked about the planks in the porch, ”duck boards, so you can get to the road when it floods” declared the estate agent in that up beat way to try and make it sound like a quaint period feature. Then I notice the quaint little sand bags and the ancient tide mark up the ancient rag stone footing.

A charming little back street cottage in Headcorn where the hippy occupiers (not owners) had used spray cans to paint Gods magnificent oak beams gold and sliver, and the smell was not of stew and chapel. I wanted to buy this cottage just to rescue it, but the garden was non-existent, having long ago been built over to garage an oldie worldie Ford Capri, we had to leave that little gem to its fate.

Another place again in Headcorn which over looked the church and graveyard, I loved it but Cindy the witch, sensed ‘a presence’ and got a bit upset with me as I started to get exited about beams and features, ignoring her concern that Ebenezer and his misses were shuffling around in the back passage. Half the time I can’t, (or some would say won’t) focus on the real world, so to expect me to tune in to the spirit world is a big ask. Dill the dog was NOT impressed either, refusing to cross the threshold under his own steam, having to be dragged in. Then he laid prostrate by the door with his snout flat on the flagstones whimpering as he sniffed the ‘spook free’ air issuing in under the ill fitting front door. “Perhaps it belonged to a Vet” I suggested “you know how the old boy hates vets” ….. Apparently that was ridiculous, but herselfs “bad feel in here” was perfectly acceptable.

If we were to have beams and that big open fire then we would have to cheat and put them in ourselves. At this time it was possible to buy fake fibreglass beams. Examples of which could be spied in every recent pub conversion in the county where it was thought the punters wanted character.

I think I am allergic to fibre glass I certainly have a bad reaction to the look of ‘play time’ beams. For real authenticity, builders (I use the world cautiously ) advised ‘get a bit of salvaged floor joist, chisel off of the corners, thrash it with a bit of chain, give it splash of creosote, (or in one case old engine oil), and according to builderman “it would look the bollocks”. There was no option, if we wanted that oak look we had to start buying real oak beams. Whilst my contemporaries worked overtime and extra shifts for nice to have stuff like a tumble drier or to go out for a meal. .I worked extra hours to buy long dead trees with wood worm.

Forsham Cottage was a typical farm labours cottage with two down stairs rooms, which had recently been knocked into one twelve by twenty four foot room with the original two chimney breasts now in the one room. One chimney was a working open fire whilst the other had been sealed off. We wanted to ‘beef up’ the open fire with a fire back and log brazier and to reinstating the sealed chimney by installing a wood burner.

Normal folks would have possibly clad the original breasts in brick or perhaps removed the plaster to expose the brick work. Normal folks would have two matching bressemer beams (beam over the fire opening). However we don’t appear to understand ‘normal’. We bought an eight inch square, eighteen foot long oak beam which was to bridge both fire places and the space between them. We acquired a thousand hand made Tudor bricks from a demolished slaughter house in Charing. Enlisted the help of ‘Old Jack’ who was Cindy’s mums neighbour, somehow relation and it needs recording .. one of natures natural gentlemen. Old Jack was a retired bricky who’s speciality was fires and flues. For £60, a roast chicken dinner with pudding and custard, Old Jack built us a nineteen foot long, floor to ceiling Tudor brick fire place with two working fires and a single bressemer beam .. now that dear builder …… did look the bollocks !

I was getting the hang of the oak thing, and it took over a bit. I had plans to make beamed ceilings and studded walls. . I NEEDED oak. On one beam buying trip I followed the instruction to the village and then lost the scent. Finding a phone box (no mobiles then, and you may not be surprised to know that even today I neither have a mobile phone nor a watch , and have no requirement of either) I rang the customer again which yielded me a second set of directions. I was to go back out of the village, go left onto the main road, a mole or so on I was to take the next left into a country lane, which I was to follow until I saw a phone box and they were to found a hundred yards down on the right. I followed the instructions finding myself ten minutes later going back past the same sodding phone box . . but she was right they were a hundred yards down there on right !

We then had a phone call from uncle Bob the wood cutter, who via the family ‘tom toms’ found out “we was wanting sum beams”. I was flattered Bob had actually phoned us at all, he didn’t like the phone and avoided using it. After years of screaming chain saws, his hearing was ‘shot’. Two way conversation face to face was challenging enough, over the phone it was even more so. Auntie Glad (Mrs Bob, who makes brilliant Christmas cake) was repeatedly dragged into the disjointed conservation as interpreter and amplifier as Bob boomed …”cum er Glad ……wots e say” … If we wanted it Uncle Bob had us a whole oak barn that he had been asked to pull down mainly because it was unsafe, but also because the local kids were practicing pyrotechnics and ‘other’ stuff in and around it, so fearing an accident or christening, the owner wanted it flattened.

Three tractor and trailer loads of flat packed barn makes a very big pile, which soon filled our very small lay-by …… again.

And it only cost the same as a tumble drier and a couple of curries.

Granddad Rob’s Cat House

My answer to ……what to do with the cat while you’re at work.
Customer asked me to make a house for a stray cat that had set up home in her stables
I needed one of these one night in 1983…
Please read AFTER you’ve had breakfast.
http://blog.granddadrob.co.uk/just-one-night-130/

ALL PRESSURE TREATED
JOINERY GRADE RED PINE
MARINE PLY LINED ROOF
GRANDDAD ROBS OWN INTERLOCKING TIMBER ROOF TILES
TONGUE & GROOVED WALLS
PERSPEX GLAZING

If you would like one of these come and have a look at my website or Contact me

Granddad Rob's Cat House

Granddad Rob’s Cat House

Thursday was RECTUM TV day

When I had a bit of a problem with my ‘doings’ Cindy, said I was to go see the doc, Doctor had the unenviable task of poking about with my ‘warehouse door’ said he could find nothing, but in his words “it’s a no brainer I’ll send you to have it checked out”. In about a week I had an appointment at a little cottage hospital in the back streets of Dover. My bestest mate came with me to help keep my end up (so to speak) It didn’t at first sight look like Holby City more like a Hobo City in that it consisted of a collection of prefabs that looked like the overspill classrooms of my old school (I hated school) circa 1964.

But as is correctly said ‘don’t judge a book with milk spilt on the cover’ ‘The staff were friendly and efficient they knew without being told why I was there as was the case with the succession of other blokes that shuffled in. Thursday was RECTUM TV day.

Having been relieved of my clothes and supplied with the mandatory white shroud with the ventilated rear exit. Cindy & I sat in the ward while a steady stream of blokes and partners where ushered to various beds, curtains drawn, mumble mumble, curtains open, bloke with silly grin, nurse taking off condom gloves.

Opposite our observation post was bedded an elderly gent of ninety years who was a bit deaf and accompanied by his seventy year old daughter. This background info was gleaned by me eaves dropping on a conversation twixt daughter and nurse, (we ALL do it).

Curtains drawn, mumble mumble.

“WHAT SHE SAY” the gent boomed.

“ I’M JUST GOING TO PUT THIS IN YOUR BOTTOM TO HELP YOU GO TO THE TOILET & I DON’T WANT TO STARTLE YOU”

“I DON’T WANT THE TOILET”

“Exactly” said nice nurse.

“WHAT SHE SAY”.

RECTUM TV’S entire green room now knew what was going to happen, everybody that is except the old gent.

“WHAT THE *UCK SHE DOING”.

“LAY STILL DAD, THE NURSE IS ONLY DOING HER JOB”.

Curtains drawn back, this time the nurse wore the silly grin while taking off her condom gloves. The old lady was mouthing sorry. The old gent with befuddle look on is face that said, if they want me to poo how’s blocking me jacksee with a humbug gunner help.

Then it came to my turn, we were ushered by the humbug dispenser to a bed the curtains drawn. I have to admit to a degree of embarrassment not helped by the nurse being pretty and the need to have Cindy hold my hand. The humbug was embedded, that wasn’t so bad I thought suppressing a grin, “In about twenty minutes you will want the toilet” said the humbug girl, “come and get me, I  have to take you to bath room”. About five minutes later I was aware of a ‘goings on’ thinking I still had fifteen minutes till blast off I assumed this was the contractions, but a couple of minutes later I said to Cindy “its happening quick fetch the middenwife”

The walk to the toilet was fraught I had to waddle with my bum clenched, a violent reaction reacting in my nether regions, plus I had to try to maintain a modicum of dignity by keeping my back window curtains drawn. My Miss Nightingale being button holed at every stage of the way by other staff, patients, the coast guard, Dover tourist board and the man from Delmonty, compounded my discomfort. “Nurse, if I don’t get to the bog a bit quick, I will literally lose it” I said through clenched buttocks. I was having visions of me standing in the middle of the ward my back curtains flapping and surrounded by a moat of my own body waste and a humbug!

Nurse marshalled me into the bathroom, asked if I’d be OK and to my relief shut the door behind me. Too much info now could put you off oxtail soup for life especially when put in the bowl with all the panache of a fire hose. There is no way I had eaten enough to produce that lot. I found myself laughing out loud both with relief of having made base camp and at the magnitude, on ALL the poo scales, that was the granddaddy of ‘movements’.

I was barely back in the ward when the call came. Pretty nurse walked with me through double door into a place where folks had on their out door coats and the draught up my frock indicated we were the in some kind of covered walkway. In through the double doors opposite, on through another set into a brightly lit room with a Saddam Hussein look-a-like ensconced at mission control.

Arranged at the back of room was a posse of young’ns, the combined age of the lot being thirty seven, they had on green frocks and sported clip boards, one had crayon with a teddy bear ‘sitting’ on the end, which seemed a bit inappropriate. Nurse seeing me ‘eyeing’ the youth club, explained “medical students, is it all right if they observe”. My thoughts were they were work experience students, it was this or Kwik Fit. What the heck when you’re up to your neck in the poo pond one more bucket of water won’t make you any the wetter, why would a dozen ‘A’ level students looking up my bum make it any the more embarrassing. After all, we all have to start from the bottom up!

The Bugger from Baghdad (no slight intended to the gent) then showed me his prod which bore no resemblance to any camera I had ever seen. There was a quip on my lips about a clapper board but I suppressed the urge and said nought. As instructed, I laid over and waited to be skewered. For the first ten seconds every muscle that had a role to play in my daily doings was trying to eject Mr Hussein’s pole mounted Polaroid. I have to be honest the worst you could call the whole experience was uncomfortable and from my vantage point as I watched the monitor I became enthralled to see the inner workings of a Pellett, and in colour! I don’t know how far Mr Hussein’s prod went in, but I can report, that not surprisingly, I was empty. I spied something yellow which was either the back of my gold crown or a Christmas cracker whistle I swallowed in about 1959, but I’m not sure if that was yellow!

I got the all clear which goes to prove I was right all-along, there was nothing wrong with me, and everybody was being over cautious.

Cindy said I should stop talking out of my ARSE…………

Cement and Sympathy

For years the front garden of No3 Forsham Cottage looked like a builders yards. We had turned an idyllic little bit of Sutton Valence into an obstacle course, red sand stained the lane as the lump was eroded by the rain and washed into the road.

Stacks of bricks and blocks, which no matter how many times I re-stacked them still fell over (ground sloped towards the road at twenty degrees). What with the look of the place and the accompanying dust and noise, our neighbours (Mrs B & Mrs T) had every right to complain, but bless them they were always so tolerant and so supportive. I think they felt sorry for us. (We did milk the sympathy vote)

Number 3 FC had a really ugly flat roof extension ‘plonked’ on the side of it. To add insult it was painted battle ship grey, so blend in, it didn’t. From the very outset we were determined …. it had to go. We were endeavouring to transform the HMS ARK ROYAL into something a bit more cottagey and more in keeping with the original dwelling. The master plan was to convert the integral garage into a dining room. We were building a new porch and building a new garage next to the detached garage belonging to Mrs T. Top of the list was to replace the flat felted roof with a proper pitched roof using old Kent clays tiles. I should also add that between us we had amassed approximately NIL experience of the building trade.

Once committed we were spending every spare hour working on our house and spending every last penny not on ‘nice to have’ stuff like an Indian takeaway or a posh frock but on ‘must have’ stuff like cement dust, joists and replacing numerous tools I had either lost or broke. However with the aid of the Readers Digest DIY manual (wedding present) Stan and Reggie (Cindy’s and my dads). Hundreds of hours of swearing, our extension conversion slowly emerged from the mire. Things happened along the way like an eight foot long concrete lintel falling from the top story. She was just being dramatic, it missed Cindy by several foot, but it did harpoon the patio, which I never did repair. The dog caught a half brick I threw down off the roof onto the rubble pile. That must of hurt, but he still did it again! He also diligently picked up the clay I was throwing out of one trench and unbeknown to be was re-filling the trench behind me! Too cocky to be told , I f****d my back repeatedly carrying over full buckets of wet cement up a ladder onto the roof. The legacy of which thirty years later I still endure.

The bloke from the electricity company that came to move the meter got into a fluster because he was running late. Rather than go to get his drill, he borrowed mine. There was a slight problem, the trigger switch was bust (no dosh for a new one) so I had rewired it, bypassing the switch, which meant it literally spun into action as soon as it was switched on at the wall, which to the uninitiated could be a bit startling. It was not a good idea to plug it in holding on the ‘spiny bit’ or as some would call it ‘the chuck’, which he did. Ok, I should have warned him …..but he cottoned on quite quickly and dropped it, where upon it jerked and thrashed about on the floor like a demented critter on a leash having a fit, until I put it out of its misery by switching off its life support system!

Then my startled sparky mate used my stepladder, which had the second to bottom step missing, (concrete block fell on it). Now in my defence he must have known it was missing because he had climbed up it, so to forget a few minutes later when coming down, was in my opinion carelessness on his part. He was not a happy chappy laying there on the floor gasping for air (just a bit winded). SEEBOARD man was not having a good day, as was proven several weeks later when an inspector came out to ‘ eyeball’ and sign off the work. He found that our accident prone sparky had wired the meter up back to front so it had been unwinding for the best part of a month. Obviously his mind was elsewhere!

Cindy at nine months and two weeks pregnant spent her days pointing block work, in appreciation of her condition I did mix up the cement. She woke me about midnight saying something about waters breaking, which given we were always having problems with the plumbing and the back half of the roof was a PVC lorry sheet, I at first assumed she meant we had another leak.

I called the number (like my list told me to) and explained to a very nice lady, who in my opinion was far too calm, that something called the waters breaking had occurred. She asked if I was sure. “If Cindy says something’s broke, then it’s broke!” I told her. The blue lights turned up and two confused ambulance men stood in the lane, in the dark, in the rain, shining torches around the place trying to work out which bit of plastic sheet covered holes in the wall was the door and then what was their best line of approach. I gave them a lead, particularly drawing to their attention the two foot wide, three foot deep trench that ‘moated’ the building and the piles of now wet clay that had been exhumed from around and under the house (I was under pinning the footings). Having negotiated the obstacles two slightly bemused blokes stood in our front room with a stretcher and with clay up their otherwise very neat trousers. Procedure dictated that the patient was to be stretchered to the ambulance, which was not going to be easy. They thought of making an arm cradle and manual carrying her out to the road, but gave up on that. What actual happened was that Cindy, who was not overly fetchingly dressed in her night attire and wellington boots clambered over the trench and sand piles, followed by the blokes in black carrying the stretcher. Once we had gotten onto flattish ground they put Cindy on the stretcher and carried her the remaining twenty five foot to the ambulance. Dill the dog always liked a trip out and had to be persuaded that this was not an occasion for him to ‘get in the back’, so as a memento of their visit, Dill dropped a half brick on the ambulance step and left his mark up the side. (class act that dog).

It was snowing a week later when having convinced the midwife we had a warm nursery and that Cindy had help at home, she wangled the OK to take the ‘kidlet’ home. I consulted the list again. “When collecting us bring the bag on the table” it said. I presented Cindy with the bag of nappies, Zinc & Caster ointment jars and pins. She wanted the ‘bringing baby home clothes’ bag. “It didn’t say which bag” I offered as a pathetic defence. So it was that our Kidlet came home in ill matching and ill fitting clothes lent to us by the nurses, who had rummaged and borrowed them from around the ward. (they felt sorry for us)

Not the most auspicious of starts for our Tracey, but Dill gave her a bit of brick, so she WAS welcomed home ……..

“Just One Night”

It was snowing hard, the garden was filling up, the harsh edges being smoothed under a blanket of the white stuff. Then and now, as a so called adult I get a childish thrill watching the snow cascade from out of the heavens, especially at night thought the light an unveiled window.

A lone set of foot pints came in from out of the darkness of this cold winters night. Copper Cat (she had a brother called Tommy) was holding centre stage, framed as she was in the light of the kitchen window, bleating and crying, a sorry looking spectacle. Already she was up to her belly in snow and gathering a measurable ‘drift’ betwixt her ears. Copper Cat had stables, the hay store, a goat shed and the garage to sleep in …… she was pulling all the strings to be let in!

Unsurprisingly Cindy and the kidlet started to harangue me to let the pathetic critter into the house, “for just one night”

I have lots of ‘life rules’ one being that I don’t let anything in the house that can lick its own ‘jobby bits’! … trying to eat breakfast whilst some critter is tonguing its privates is a step too far… I remained adamant ……. I stood my ground………. I let the shyster in.

Next morning CC sat calmly at the door waiting to be let out, the snow had stopped, the garden was brilliantly white, and strangely tidy. On opening the door a small snow drift tumbled onto the cat and across the floor. Copper Cat gave me a look that was both accusing and vengeful. Without a hint of gratitude the shyster trotted out onto the frozen snow … “just one night” I said, as she slowed to a saunter and showed me her penny bit!

It became evident that the bugger had not slept in the card board box supplied, a mass of hairs portrayed it had hunkered down on my work jumper, which because of its unsavoury nature was not allowed anywhere near the coat hooks, destined always to be slung on the floor behind the backdoor. I hate pet hairs, so with a degree of disgust I pulled my jumper on ….. I had no option it was cold. Instantly a smell like no other was wafting around the kitchen. Cat crap! That bloody cat had shit, not simply on the jumper, that would have bad enough, the dump was UP a sleeve. The offending mess was now wiped a second time up my arm as I took my cat haired and poo smeared jumper off.

That cannot have been anything else other than deliberate! To gain maximum effect that cat must have diligently backed itself up the sleeve. Even now I can imagine the shyster’s smug expression as it relieved itself, thinking ……… “just one night”.

Ben Hur, Goats and a Hangover …

Our posh but very nice neighbours (Mike & Pat) were happy to have our goats on their grass, and we were happy to oblige because it saved our grazing. Therefore there was nothing untoward when one morning Cindy said “I’ll put the kettle on if you put the goats out on Pats lawn. Gert’s (the mum) got her tether chain with her but Oscars (Billy kid*) chain is still out with his tether spike, and as Oscar might not follow you out you’ll have to lead him by his collier.”

(* Yes, we did eat the Billy kids, but this one is another blog)

Over night Gert was tethered to her Ark, hence she had her chain with her, and Oscar free ranged in the chicken run. I didn’t normally get involved with the goats, Cindy did the milking she had built up an empathy with the critters, so there was an uneasiness in air as it was me, and not her they spied approaching them, fetchingly attired as I was in my old boots ( sans laces) and baggy shorts. It was still early enough that the nice posh folks had their curtains drawn and the birds were BLASTING out a dawn chorus which coupled with the persistent two tone bleating of agitated goats was not sympathetic to the aftermath of the several pints of cider which was still trying to impose its numbing presence on my skull bone.

I got the kid out of the chicken run, holding him as instructed by the collar. Unhitched Gert’s chain and started towards the grazing. Gert broke into a trot, anxious to get to the grass and to get away from me, the kid although young was getting to be a ‘handful’ and sensing the panic of its mother was pulling so hard it was rearing onto its back legs. To help with this torturous situation I was bent at forty five degrees, because when Oscar was on all fours, he was only stood a little over two foot at the shoulder.

I pride myself as being pragmatic, so rather than endure this situation and end up with a permanent stoop and arms proportionality so long as to never fit a ‘regular’ suit again. I had an idea …….I hauled Gert back to me and hooked Oscars collar to the other end of her chain so I could lead them both on the one chain ….‘Ben Hur style’. Proving that even under the haze of receding cider intoxication and applied torture. I could ‘sort it’.

All I did was to shut my eyes for a few moments, they wanted to be shut, I needed them to be shut! The tugging of two goats and that bloody bleating was doing my head. The sun was warm in my face. I was fighting to keep awake. OK, I may have remonstrated with the critters (just a little) asking them to “please be quiet” or words to that effect. Their instinctive ‘fight or flight’ mode kicked in, they went into flight mode, so now instead of the buggers being in front dragging me out across Pats lawn they were swinging out sideways and parallel with me. At this juncture I defiantly did question their antics in a slightly more animated and vocal way, which severed as the final impulsion they needed to cross behind me and run out tight which left me with a twenty foot tether chain warped around my naked legs being pulled tight by two goats who were not about to stop pulling and release the tension because the critter in middle (me) was now screaming every profanity he knew (which is lot), crying and starting to bleed.

How I laughed, laying on the grass outside my neighbours bedroom window ‘reeling in’ a kid goat whilst its now demented mother was taking up the slack in the chain instigating a cheese wire sawing action across the back of my knees.

Still looking on the bright side, the sodding kettle was on, so there was plenty of sterilised water!