Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Maybe I'm starting to grow up a little. For the first time ever in my life, I decided not to apply for a job which I would have been almost certain to get: a temporary (two terms) teaching position (French and some Spanish) at our local comprehensive school. It was full-time, and the disuption it would have caused our lives just wasn't worth the pay. The Boff and I decided we'd rather be poor* than become a two-parents-working family again. Been there, done that.

*Obviously we are not poor on a global scale. We are just experiencing cash-flow problems due to the fact that we spend most of our money on school fees and bits of house.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Please forgive me for moment while I talk crap. More specifically, sewage.

You see, we out here in the sticks, about a million miles from human habitation, have to process our own effluent. For this purpose, the garden of every house in the countryside is decorated with a range of attractive manhole covers, or with a humming plant in the corner.

We, for reasons best known to previous owners, have both. We have a humming plant (in the aural sense of the word, I hasten to say) and we have a range of manhole covers. The old septic tank serves only the cloakroom/wet shower room (why???). Every other bathroom and sink in the house goes into the modern digester plant.

And so it was that a couple of weeks ago, our flush cloakroom ceased to flush, and evil smells began to creep into habitable space. Alas, the tank was full and needed pumping out. Yes, you actually need to take the crap away every so often.

For this job you call on the services of a wonderfully cheerful person for whom no crap is bad crap.

Mr Septic Tank came yesterday afternoon, and very quickly ascertained that old septic tank was not full, but blocked between the grease box and the main tank, and that the main tank was, in fact, empty. He dutifully cleared the blockage, and hey presto! The cloakrooom cloaks once more.

He then pumped out the churning plant- 800 gallons of waste- and explained to me the wonderful intricacies of the thing as he worked. The charge for this visit was £85. He then took the waste to the treatment plant of our local water authority, which presumably charges rather less than £85 to dispose of it.

The thing is, you see, that we pay half as much in water charges because we do not use mains drainage. If we paid for mains drainage, it would cost us about £300 a year. So the difference between the small amount the cheerful chap pays to dispose of his collection of waste, and the 300 quids we would pay, must go on pipework and maintenance, which strikes me as a huge amount of money.

It makes me wonder how much money goes on the supposed convenience of having everything piped straight into or straight out of one's house. Surely it would make more economic sense to generate/ produce everything, including electricity, on site, if one is able to? They do say that power stations make more sense economically, but the more I hear about the hidden costs of power plants, the more I think I'd rather have my own windmill on the roof.

Friday, November 25, 2005

We got sno-ow, we got sno-ow!

It's going to be fun getting out of here later- they don't grit or salt our road any more. Frankly, I don't know why we pay taxes... Apart from the rubbish collection and the occasional sight of a speeding police car, we in this bit of countryside don't seem to get much out of the public purse. Is it worth a four-figure sum a year in tax to live here? Yes, it is.

Public service announcement 

Are you as tired as I am of receiving chain email passing on the kind of urban myth historically retold in pubs, and prefaced by "Apparently..."? If you want to avoid embarassingly sending on piles of nonsense to your nearest and dearest, do everyone a favour, and check them out first. Unless you're passing them on because they're actually funny.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


And now, ahead of the arctic blast predicted for the end of this week, the boiler has chosen to break down (again). Stupid piece of junk. It knows, you know.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

12C (53.5F for those of you who operate in old money) indoors isn't desperately warm, is it?

Am sitting doing my translation in my coat.

Shall go and thaw fingers on woodburner in a mo.

Doubt can thaw brain though.

The dog went walkabout last night, from 11pm when he was let out for a pee, until 5 this morning, when The Boff whistled for him from the guest room window and saw him emerge cold and stiff from the garage. It was none too warm last night either, so I hope he learned some kind of lesson, the stupid mutt. I doubt it though.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Quick! I need 101 (moderately lucrative) uses for a dead church that do not involve altering it much, either inside or out (it's grade 2 listed). In comments box please.

The graves are relevant, as the plans laid down involve clipping existing graves with a brand new garden fence, and that some of them are double graves whose second occupant is not yet dead -if that makes any sense- as well as the grubbing up of around 12 older, stoneless, graves for car parking.

Also, the bats are extremely relevant. A recent bat survey in our village (a few weeks ago) revealed that 14 of the 16 native species of the UK live in this square mile.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hi all,
Since I seem to have become leader of the "Save our church" campaign - as BW suggested in the comments box below, the disposal of which is so fishy it smells like the seaside-, am doing a piece of paid translation (very interesting article about the bonobo), have a child about to take the 11+ exam for top-notch gramamr school in the country, and am currently re-negotiating my broadband contract (bastards! why do they always discriminate against country folk?), you can expect updates to be sporadic around here for a couple of weeks. Sorry. Shall try to keep y'all up to date, but must finish translation...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Village news 

Shit. Fan.

Who'd have known that a 40-year old aerial photo would have such a role to play?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Fish, the fantail goldfish, rescued in 1999 from a bowl of sewage, died this week. They say that fish grow to fit their tank. Fish had certainly had a huge growth spurt in 2003, while we were in Canada, which we'd put down to overfeeding by the tenants.

Over the last few months, however, he'd definitely not grown at all, and I even on occasion glimpsed a slightly bored look to his demeanour (don't let anybody ever tell you that fish have a 5 second memory- it's rubbish- if it were so, how would they recognise food when it came and slapped them in the face?).

Back and forth, back and forth he swam, awaiting his release to an outdoor, category C facility. And then he gave up and died instead.

At this time of year I often remember my grandmother's kitchen. Not the cold damp vermin-riddled one of my maternal grandmother, but the warm fug of Players' smoke and paraffin fumes, along with the town gas effluent from the antequated cooking stove, of my father's mother.

She'd lived in that flat since being rehoused straight after the war. After being bombed out of her house in Wimbledon, she finished the war in her mother's house, but moved into a council flat as soon as it was built. There she stayed fifty years, while all around her left.

I sometimes get a flash of that kitchen, of her sitting morosely in a cloud of smoke at the formica table -oh so modern in 1950- while a man leaves wordlessly to do manly with a turn of the overcoat over a long suited leg. She always felt abandoned, and her menfolk granted her no exception.

She'd learned everything there was to know in the 50 years she spent in that flat, from her early garden fence feud with her neighbour, through her attempts to grow things in the sterile subsoil thrown up by the bomb that made way for the place, to her dotage, meals on wheels cold on the draining board and wekly defrostings of the freezer.

She turned her face to the wall so many times throughout her seventies and eighties. "I want to die", she announced to us periodically. "If you really wanted to die", we reasoned with the callous clarity of children, although by that time we were in our teens, "then you simply would, surely?"

She'd grown to the edges of her tank. She was bored. It was time for her to go. Ironically, she lived into her nineties, more serene in very old age, and in a different environment, than she had been for fifty years.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

We picked up a wild rabbit with myxomatosis on the way to school. It was just hopping feebly around in the lane, a sitting target for passing cars and foxes. Having read a half dozen web sites on the subject, I now know that the prognosis is extremely poor, and I am going to have to dispatch the poor creature.

It shouldn't be too hard, should it? I've seen rabbits killed before. I believe the most humane way should be to hold it by the ears and administer a swift blow to the back of the neck. If you know any better, please leave me a comment in the next couple of hours.

And in researching humane rabbit-killing, I found this snippet of common sense from the Florida courts. Great scott, are these people mad? What on earth is wrong with killing a rabbit swiftly with a shovel? Is it the crime of not paying a vet to do it?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Talking of chickens... 

My big little Sim is back. He flew, by himself from Rennes to Southampton yesterday afternoon. "It was fine, It was easy", he said laconically, mentally fending off his soppy mama's outpourings of emotion. I was very good. I avoided kissing him or hugging him in public, but he could tell I wanted to. He is no fool, my boy.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Little Martha sat in vain. On Wednesday, 22 days after she went broody on her clutch, and hearing no cheaps coming from within, I robbed her nest from under her, and, avoiding the indignant glare and sharp beak (she had awoken slightly, it seems) cracked the eggs one by one. Each was as eggy as it was on the day it was laid, only possibly a little more so.

If you calculate an average chicken life at around 5 years or 260 weeks (possibly fewer in a non-vegetarian houeshold), against an average human life of 4160 weeks, she has just wasted 48 chicken weeks, just under a year, on barren eggs. Stupid bird. Why can't they candle their own eggs? It would save so much time.

Mind you, she probably thought she was in hen heaven for a year- nice clean warm nest, plenty of food and water virtually at beak's length, and a human fussing over your every move and weighing you up every day to make sure you're not turning into Skelehen.

Maybe she was glad to get back to Civvy Street after all.

Friday, November 04, 2005


When my father was a youngish boy and at grammar school, all the atlases were coloured pink. His teachers were world war 1 survivors. They'd been sent to defend King and country, and believed in their country and its government.

They must also, as does my father now, have had an unshakeable belief in the superiority of England (and I mean "England"), just as they trusted their politicians to be the best. My father, along with very many other Englishmen, has witnessed with horror the disintegration of what constituted Upright, Uptight Middle England.

Whilst I may safely sit on my throne and enjoy modern Britain for its multiculturality, its diversity, its vibrant palette of colours, so different from my father's drab childhood, he looks on in horror at the abnegation of everything he grew up believing in.

It is hard to dump your earliest belief system, particularly if you see nothing wrong with it, if it socially acceptable, and if it clearly had led to somethibg widely perceived to be great.

When I point out to my father that Britain has had no empire effectively since before his birth, he merely snorts derisively and tells me that I know nothing, not because he thinks I know nothing, but because he genuinely believes that I could only possibly understand if I was actually there.

As a very little boy, his earliest memory is of sheltering under the dining room table hating, viscerally hating, the Germans. Xenophobia, the fear of the other, is a reality for him. Later, his mother took him down to the shops in his pram, and returned to find their house flattened. These were his formative memories. I can no more take these away from him than I can change his mind about hte empire.

To modern eyes, he may be a bigot. Put back into his historical context, he is a perfectly acceptable example of what early trauma can do to a belief system. He collected shrapnel in bomb sites under which bodies lay, and witnessed destruction and probably death in a way that none of us born after the 1940s can possibly imagine.

He experienced the the last embers of a class-riven society (although some would say it still exists) that enforced a rigid separation on people based not on their level of intelligence or abilities, but on the flatness of their vowels, where they lived, and what their father did for a living.

Neglected and unsupported at home, kicked all the way to grammar school and back by the boys on his street, then kicked all the way around the playground by middle-class boys who resented the intrusion of real brains, it's no wonder he's such a mess now. The real wonder is that he survived it all at all.

He's the last generation of his kind, and deserves respect as such, even if his opinions are not as modern as we would like. What is incomprehensible is for much younger people to hold the same views, having grown up in a totally different climate.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"I can get right down to the end of the town and be back in time for tea." - James James Morrison's mother.

There has to be an end to all this self-pity phase we've* been going through here since we got back from Canada. Granted, the weather is foul and the ground is soggy, but some people live in deserts, for heaven's sake.

I do a good line in moping about. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had serious reason to be mopy, but I also had bags of energy. When Sim was first born, I was determined not to lose my identity, and worked hard to continue being my own person despite my desire to guve the little creature everything I was. It was easier with one child.

But slowly and surely over the last few years, I've allowed things to slip. I've started to become one of those aggressively self-sacrificing women whom I actively loathe, partly by choice, partly because once you have children, you can't NOT look after them, but partly also by circumstance.

Much as people hark back to their own childhoods when mother smiled happily at them as they returned from school from the kitchen sink over the steam of baking scones, that fond memory is won at a cost. That cost is the slow disintegration of their mother's identity into a bosom in an apron (OK, I'm simplifying a little, but let me run with it).

The reason I spend so much time at home is that my children are not ready to take care of themselves yet and I do not want them institutionalised before they have built their own personalities.

If I wanted Identikit kids to go with all the others, or not cared how they turned out, I'd have bunged them in blandish childcare and hoofed back to work full-time when they were a few weeks old. My son (and later, my daughters) would never have discovered the wicked, very English Wallace and Gromit at 18 months of age, but rather the soporific and inane Barney, scourge of the day nursery. My daughters (and earlier, my son) would not spend hours dressing up and going to distant lands and strange places.

It's sometimes hard to view this as a job, or even as a valid occupation. It is unpaid (oh, so unpaid!), it seems never-ending and endlessly repetitive (will they EVER pick socks up?), and despite hours alone in the daytime, it leaves the mopy one with little time for individuality after one has seen to all the mundane little tasks one cannot afford to employ anyone else to do.

I just have to remember at all times that it is not for ever, and that it is for a purpose.

* This is the royal "we", I think. I'm depersonalising, you see. Subconsciously denying association with the self-pity, or rather attempting to drag others into it. Nice.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Being insomniac in a farming community is so much nicer than anywhere else. When you're awake at 4:30 am, watching inane television, blogging or making bread for breakfast, you just look out of the window and see tractor headlights, quad bikes and multiple signs of agricultural acitivity, and you feel less alone.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Purple Hallowe'en 

After two weeks of incredibly warm weather, the heavens decide that maybe it is autumn after all, and the temperatures sink to normal.

Two grumpy little witches, 'Trick or Treat!"ing in a barely audible whisper in neighbouring village, along with around 20 village children. Apple-bobbing. Mulled wine for the parents.

The dog's insides decide in the middle of the night that raw pumpkin with wax still clinging to the inside are not as digestible as they seemed at 9pm.

Possible glimpse of blue overhead as evening drew near.

Discovery of witch's extra toe on new baby guinea pig, of which a pigeon pair was born some time over the weekend. I decide you all must be sick of baby guinea pigs by now and probably do not want a picture.

Leaves blowing everywhere. Grass too soggy to cut but badly needing it. Am not doing it with nail-scissors and shears, so will have to wait.


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