Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Nature loving

I have taken this rural lark to a new level - the Somerset Levels to be precise. Call me and old hippie if you will, but I would prefer sleeping in the great outdoors to negotiating some floral patterned, air-freshenered, greasy mealed bed-and-breakfast any day. It also saved me 90 quid. So I slept in my car for a couple of nights in two different fields, overlooked by Glastonbury Tor, and have returned home to Kernow.

The purpose of my visit was to minister to a broken heart (young love) and as said individual has ADHD and plays Xbox until the early hours, I thought it best to deliver my healing coffee and walnut cake and then sleep soundly in the Somerset countryside instead of in his flat amidst a cyber war-zoned nightmare.

My first night was in a gateway with a handy ditch (please don't ask for details but a lady needs to do what a lady needs to do). A full moon meant I could change into my 'jammys' and bed-socks without a torch and then snuggle down on a foam mattress, on goose down pillows in a caterpillar-style mountaineering sleeping bag. I awoke at 4am, needing to visit the ditch, with ice on all my car windows. At this moment I realised that nasty bed and breakfasts, with plastic-framed prints on the wall, and custard creams by the kettle exist for a reason.

On returning to my bag I consider dying of hypothermia: "A heart of gold who died of cold". I put on my Scottish cashmere cardi' and cover myself with the National Trust picnic rug, with plasticated bottom, in an attempt to survive and then breathe my own doggy, sleepy breath into the bag (how I've stayed married so long is a mystery).

I awake to a frosty start, have a light shower near the ditch, and outbreaks of sunshine which makes washing in cold water mildly bearable (I used to read the weather on Bath FM).

The second night is wet and drizzly and has the added bonus of me seeing a Tawny Owl catching its prey. In the morning, the farmers tractor chugging up and down, in the next field but one, makes my lady's toilette slightly 'nervy', but my Celtic ancestors would be proud of my techniques.

Of course in Glastonbury loadsa people are doing it - sleeping in vehicles. However, most of them need to take mind-altering substances before such an idea seems sensible, which is a bit troubling really as I am on Yorkshire Tea.

Well I have pampered my nurturing nature, and soothed a troubled soul with some hearty cooking and a prayer or two. Tonight I shall retire in relative luxury, underneath the thatch, to the sound of a developing Cornish sea storm.

PS. I shall get to the bottom of the village abandoned car asap (see previous post for details).

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Intrigue in the Post Office

A car hasn't moved in the village for two days. If this happened in a town then it would barely get noticed, but here in West Cornwall such things provide fodder for endless tales of intrigue. So this morning as I entered the post office, to buy a newspaper, I was unaware that I was one of the central characters in one of these mysteries.

"Is that car anything to do with you?" I was asked by the assistant behind the counter.
"No"I replied, looking at a black estate car that seemed to be cramped with what looked like camping gear.
"Only it hasn't moved, not an inch, for two days. We thought it must be a friend of yours."

This of course was an easy assumption to make as we live next-door-but-two to the Post Office and have a whole range of vehicles, and their occupants, visit our cottage on a regular basis.
"That settles it then. I'm getting onto the local lads to trace the number, as it could be someone who went on a walk and has got into trouble." I at this stage imagine someone in their walking boots, wrapped in their pac-a-mac nibbling on their last sandwich crust lying on the coast path. I then imagine our local Police Officer (who last time he paid a visit stopped for a full hour, by our fire, and used his time to suggest a whole range of security measures whilst keeping a keen eye on the telly) becoming a hero in next weeks' paper for heading up a successful cliff rescue.

Obviously awful things do happen down here, people drown or get their limbs caught in farm machinery and the air ambulance is called into action. However, today's front page news, in our local weekly paper, consists of a dog "Cherry" having been bit by another dog and there is a rather pitiful picture of her with one of those lampshade-style-collars on her head. The headline reads, "Pet dog needs emergency surgery after attack".

For those who read my previous blog and may be concerned, as I was, by the fact one of my elderly neighbours is walking around with a watch telling the wrong time. They will be pleased to know that I met him again and adjusted his time-piece. Hopefully he won't miss "Strickly" or a bus in the near future.

After spending yesterday afternoon sitting with friends and pot of tea in the garden, basking in the last of the late summer sunshine, we had our first frost overnight (well as near to a frost as we ever get down here). It means I will have to wrap up my banana tree before it's too late, but the good news is that now the ground has had a freeze we can start harvesting the parsnips. I am now off in search of my spicy parsnip and apple soup recipe.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Village information

The thing about standing in the centre of our village with a pot of paint, paintbrush and ladder is not only do you become the subject of endless banter such as "it's going to rain in a minute" and "I like your moves Jo" (as I move my arm up and down) but every passing car assumes you know everything and are a public information service.

For those that don't know Mawnan Smith it is a bit 'posh'. Although we have lots of hard-working struggling families, we also have more than out fair share of millionaires. I don't know any of them personally, and they make sure I don't pop 'round for a cup of sugar, because they have gated long-drives with security technology keypads on the roadside. These privileged few overlook the Helford Passage and are a mystery to us commoners.

However, as I slaved away painting my own cottage (because I can't afford a team of workmen) I caught a glimpse of several of these swish individuals as they glided past in their shiny royal-like vehicles.

It was then that I reminded myself of the importance of "with food and clothing be satisfied". This was a trifle tricky due to fact I looked my worst in paint overalls and wellies and am on a diet. However, I embraced the general principle and reflected on the fact that wealth doesn't necessarily equate with contentment.

It was while I was deep in thought, and singing a hymn, that a rather spiffing, navy-blazered retired gentleman asked for directions. I'd already given several but was pleased to play the role of tourist information assistant. But this gentleman had a mission, he was using his retirement to fundraise for charity and was obviously aware, despite his apparent access to money (judging by the car), of those in need; he was planning a coffee morning and needed directions to the caretakers house to access the village hall.

Now for those who don't live in the countryside they will be unaware of the significance of such events. For those of us who don't have Starbucks and Costa Coffee on our doorsteps, and live in the middle of nowhere, the fundraising coffee morning is a bit of a social hub-bub. There is always a raffle and although many of the prizes can appear raffle after raffle everyone enjoys the chance to gain a bottle of plonk or box of chocs. There is invariably the chance to buy cheap greeting cards and the odd plant. I warned our fine-looking gent' that the post-office counter was already crammed with harvest auction, a choir concert, table-top sale, art class and talk by the history society but he marched with purpose to advertise his event.

It was after I'd directed several walkers to the coast path, admired a dog and made a polite 'jolly sound' in response to yet another mildly amusing quip that I spotted an elderly man shuffling down towards the post-office. I apologised for my ladder, paint pot and general clutter in his way. It was only a matter of moments before he passed again but his bag appeared to be empty. We then had a conversation that went something like this:
"Is the post-office shut?"I asked.
"That's unusual."
"I know. What day is is?"
"Thursday. What time is it?"
"Three o'clock."
"That is strange. Do you need anything? Milk?"
"No I'm fine thankyou."

It wasn't until he shuffled up the hill that I realised that the post office and general stores is NEVER closed outside the stated opening times. Unless  a major event such as death had happened then why would it be in darkness long after lunchtime? So off I went, with my Miss Marple persona ready, to take action. When I knocked the postmistresses door she opened it.
"Mrs Lugg," I said. "Are you alright?"
"Yes", she said.
"But the shop is shut".
"It's lunchtime."
Of course not wearing a watch, because I was painting, meant I hadn't realised the old boy's was an hour ahead of time. So no doubt not only do I look like a complete nincompoop, covered in paint, but I have behaved like one. The disadvantage about living in a village is that everyone will know I'm a twit and will remember I am for several generations. Thankfully, with food and clothes I am satisfied and am not trying to be voted on the parish council.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The bird table

I have a little animal feeding trip around the cottage and garden, each morning, while I wait for the kettle to boil. Dog first, the sack of food being in a metal-dustbin in the shed (to stop the mice); Wilf then gets shut in in the kitchen to avoid him committing daylight-breakfast-robbery. Cat next, Thistle's breakfast is put under the boat to prevent seagulls swooping and causing a huge vet's bill and finally, I feed the birds. The fact that my garden birds probably eat a more varied diet than most of Falmouth Uni' students is one of my little luxuries. This daily trip is carried out in a very old Boden, mauve dressing-gown which the Robin is fine with but quite honestly would make a nice dog blanket (I think I'll get a new one if I ever need to go into hospital). Maybe I should just ask Johnny for a new one claiming 'faithful service'.

This morning as I put out the muesli-style base, peppered with berry fat strips and then dried meal-worms and caught sight of my 'extended family' gathering in the trees. The collared doves are particularly startled by my dressing gown, so prefer to wait until I am safely away in the kitchen. This morning they gave me a bit of a shock, temporarily. Mr and Mrs Dove mate for life and are a lovely team to watch. While one feeds, the other keeps watch and then they swap over - how romantic. Anyway, suddenly there were three and for a brief second I was dismayed - how could this nasty gooseberry barge in like this? Then of course I realised it was their offspring! Smaller, punk hairdo, slightly gangly with a need for one of Mrs T's super boosting fill-ups. My next anxiety is how they will find a mate in time for Spring. Do the doves have gatherings where they arrange such things (like a Jane Austin tea party)? There are so few Doves in the village......

As I sit at my study desk, a pile of research to my left, the family Dove are digesting their morning repast sat on a Hazel branch in the Autumn sunshine. Thistle is carrying out her ladies toilette on top of the log pile and Wilf is lying at my feet on 'Blankie'. He plays the big bully but is actually a big baby when it comes to Blankie. So all is well.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The piano

I am sat listening to my beloved playing a borrowed electric Rhodes piano. We started out with '40s popular and have progressed to '70s funk. Anyhow me and my youngest, a waitress in a local posh local hotel, think we can rent him out in a dickie-bow for dinner-dos. I, of course, burst into rapturous applause after each melody (he joins in for himself!) All I need is some 'family diamonds', a Martini cocktail and red lipstick.

I spent some of this morning cutting my mother's fingernails. Apparently, if you are a carer or nurse you are not employed, or insured to, look after fingernails. If someone doesn't have a caring family member they, I suppose, grow long, mucky talons. Similarly, if you don't have a daughter to measure you for a bra and try several on, if you are in a nursing home, you are left to rely on 'whoever' to purchase your undies. Anyway enough of my rant about care for the elderly.

I am working on my dearest to play a selection of really naff 'family favourites'. My plan is to subject those gathered at tea-time in the nursing home, on my mother's birthday, to the family Van-Thomas. I think "what shall we do with a drunken sailor" "Lavenders Blue" "Favourite Things" and "Ashgrove" will go down a treat (while my biker husband squirms in his very tough boots). I will, of course, supply the birthday cake and wear a frock.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The tip

It is of course Friday and in our village that means bin-day. The fact that my beloved has forgotten to put ours out, for the umpteenth time, would be justification for me to create a big 'song and dance' (using our metal bin lids as percussion). However, the wisdom that comes to being married for so many years enables me to manipulate the situation to my advantage. For those who read yesterday's post, you will of course remember today is the big hedge cut day. By dusk the Landrover will be jam-packed full of hedge trimmings and I can suggest that a trip to the dump, along with bin-bags, makes amends for his fuzzy-brained forgetfulness.

For those who think I might be being a little harsh, you may not realise that a trip to the council tip is similar, in our household, to ones taken (by city-dwellers) to Ikea. It's not as if we scrabble around rubbish heaps like slum-dwellers, no we do very 'respectable rescuing'.

For instance I am sat on a walnut antique chair covered in a pleasant rusty velvet. This was handed over from one very cultured lady's car-boot to ours before it got to the skip. She obviously hadn't heard of eBay (not unknown in West Cornwall) and was delighted we could make use of it. The desk I sit at is solid mahogany and came from the Dental Estimates Board dumping pile (with permission), when all their executive staff were forced to sit at new, EU health and safety standard, plastic coated desks instead.

In fact half our delightful cottage is full of cast-offs. The piano was thrown out by a chapel, two antique mirrors have come out of skips as has the wood used to make my husband's work bench (thankyou Lloyds Bank in Frome for giving us your old door). There are rugs, chairs, tables all with a tale behind them. However, there is a ban on candlesticks; we have started to look like a stage set for a Dickens' novel. So who knows by the end of today I could be finding place for yet another piece of valuable 'rubbish'.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Harvest time

I tried to fake genuine amazement at the three harvested peppers and two cucumbers. Call me a 'spoilt supermarket saddo' if you want, but these items were decidedly poorly looking. It's not that I am not impressed that my dearest for 24 years (anniversary this week) has grown a pepper plant and harvested the fruits, it's just they look a little shriveled and they have suspicious insect holes in them. The cucumbers, instead of being green, are of a strange pale yellow hue. "Wow!" is the general 'cover all' for any offerings, muddy and slug-eaten, that are presented from the garden.

We had one of the plum-sized peppers in our home-made chicken soup this evening. There were tiny specks of dark green pepper which we, of course, made exaggerated yum-yum noises at. The cucumber didn't pass the cutting stage as it tasted like vinegar - nasty vinegar.

The dog is spending less time in the greenhouse (the plants are slowly dying). His usual trip around the garden consists of cat bowl, wee up the boundary stone, eating tomatoes (that have dropped off the tomato plants onto the greenhouse floor), followed by licking the kitchen drain for any sweetcorn, bits of cooked rice or other washing-up-bowl titbits.

There are two harvest suppers in the village - one run by the WI and the other is in the church. I am not sure who I will fall out with if I attend either. Since the front hedge needs cutting, and I am likely to cause a major eye injury to some unsuspecting dear person very soon, it is likely I will be attempting a straight-horticultural-line during suppertime anyway (after 5pm the lane is free of traffic and safe to start strimming in).

I am a bit fed-up that I only made a jar and a half of Blackberry jam last night. It took Wilf (Standard Schnauzer) and I half an hour to pick a colander full of berries. We had to avoid dog-muck, nettles and then find prime fruit; some were too squashy, others too hard. It was getting dark and I feared some nasty weirdo might be lurking in the hedgerow (watched too many crime dramas on ITV). The result of our "all things bright and beautiful" escapade only made enough jam for one Victoria Sandwich and a few midnight feasts - ho -hum.