Monday, December 31

Well, that was certainly the year that was

Snow arrived in January and stayed for a while. Big changes at work with the whole of my department getting redundancy notices. No heating in classrooms and managers tried to tell a colleague and I we should move from one very convenient office to another. We just moved the filing cabinets. My car managed most snow journeys but refused to budge on a gentle slope in Milton Keynes! Next time I went to pick up the children I parked somewhere else and only just made it back to the village in one of the worst blizzards I can recall driving in since 1981/2.

The snow was still around in early February and there was this heavy mist that made the world seem much smaller. Nothing much really happened at all this month.

By March things were finally warming up and I was keen to get a photo of a bird on this nest which I passed at least twice every day.

April sunshine was nice and quite a relief but the skies did keep turning very strange colours throughout the year. A voluntary redundancy option was put on the cards at work and my colleague and I decided to investigate the possibilities. 

In May it really did start getting quite hot. Leaves were growing fast on the tree with the nest too.

More weird weather in June but enough dry Sundays to play cricket in the paddock. I was also celebrating being free from Further Education and comparatively solvent again.

My birthday party in July started with a massive downpour but, strangely, an hour or so later and everyone was playing cricket, rolling around in the paddock and it was hot again.

One of the few dry days in August for Paddock Party 8. One day we'll get soaked but every year we have been so lucky so far! Lights on the other side of the pond added a touch of class to the otherwise nicely rustic event.

Friends and I played with The Prisoner's car - well, a modern day version, - in September. Again, this was one of the rare sunny and dry days.

Wonderful skies in October...

and in November when my Mum passed away just after her 96th birthday. I got a ridiculously short hair cut and spent hours on photos, service planning and poems for the funeral where my brother and I met lots of people we hadn't seen for years and years which all went really well.

December started so cold and frosty but then the rains came and, now, at the end of the year, they're still coming, with the stream where I live more like a small river and I can't remember when I last washed the car!

 Christmas was amusing. I visited a friend from my school days and just about everything that I dislike about Christmas happened: soap operas continuously invading the living room on a huge screen almost as big as the wall, lights on a tree that flashed and seemed to interfere with my brain, the goose was well over-cooked and tough, the vegetables pallid and the roast potatoes were just shells with goo inside, a Christmas pudding that was microwaved for about twice as long as it should have been and was more like dark brown toffee on arrival but... and this is the nice bit... it didn't matter at all because Brian is such a cheery and decent chap that I was laughing practically all the time and genuinely enjoyed the afternoon and evening! In fact, I was giggling to myself as I went to bed that night. 

My daughter Katie has a nice house in Letcombe Regis, just over the hill from where I once lived in Woodland St Mary, and Bryony, Kirri, Matti and I visited on the day after the day after Boxing Day. We got a massive telescope as a present which looks really cool and that should enable us to get some good pictures next year of whatever we can see out of the window or, with a bit of luck, there'll be enough dry weekends to take it out to the paddock and catch some stars.


Sony Xperia P phone with Android ICS
Finally getting into Middlesex University's PAFIS payment system
Nice new tyres on my car instead of the cheap ones I'd had last year which I'm sure had turned oval.
An LSIS contract to bring web tools to the Third Sector.
Bryony's GCSE grades
Leaving College
Discovering that my old office chair did recline after all.
Weekly lunches with Adrian until he got a new job and monthly lunches with Bernard
Thorpe Park with Kirri and friends
My Birthday Party
Getting in the Top 20 on Google+ for UK following
Google+ Photowalk
Zero spend when wandering around virtually every clothes shop in MK Centre with Marta
Attending strange but amusing Hypnotherapy Conference as a VIP guest with Judy
Getting my own internet and landline - ah, being able to make phone calls in the warm!
Getting lost with Adrian when returning the Prisoner car to Caterham in Leicestershire
Gingerly steering around ice-bound roads somewhere in the wilds of Buckinghamshire to collect Bryony from parties in the early hours in the late autumn
First clients for my Staff ICT Skills Audit.
Chromebook and a new TV
Matti passing his 11+ so he can go to the same school as Bryony & Kirri
Flooded back roads and gushing stream here in the village
Rupert and I suffering from pretty bad wind after lunch in Doddington.
Longest ever pee in lay-by on return from Mum's funeral
Inability to solve wooden and metal puzzles at Maggie & Graeme's on Boxing Day
Sherlock, Dr Who, Homeland, X Factor USA, The Killing, Borgen, The Thick of It, Secret State The Hour and I am sure there were others that I'll have to add later.

Tuesday, October 2

Where am I?! Er, not too sure... We get to drive a Caterham 7.

Adrian and I set off on a chilly but very bright morning. I never cease to be amazed at how the weather always seems to sort itself out for our occasions here. I had plumbed the destination into my ancient TomTom which got us there nicely in time for a 9:30am arrival.

Inside the showroom were some fabulous-looking new cars in lovely colours. Outside was one rather odd-looking version in a strange shade of purple. Or brown, or pine-yellow, depending on how the sun caught it.

Still, who cares? It was a little sports car and looked cool. Well, cold, actually. For the 'Prisoner' car album I changed it to a shade of green anyway!

Once we'd had our papers checked, copied and filed it was time to learn what the knobs did, what sort of fuel to put in and all that sort of stuff. That didn't take long and I don't think either of us paid that much attention anyway. I got to drive first - the embarrassing bit when the regular staff look on as day trippers like us do kangaroo starts or generally make idiots of themselves. I managed to avoid stalling, at least. There was absolutely no spare room anywhere in this car so Adrian was clutching the Tom Tom in his lap. I hadn't worked out a route back. I thought we could probably find the A5, which shouldn't have been far away, and rumble on down that all the way home. We certainly needed to avoid the M69 and M1 route but, of course, that's what TomTom expected us to take.

We started off heading West out of the entrance instead of East which was the way to Leicester and the way we'd come in via the motorways. I was convinced that going the other way would bring us to the A5 eventually. Adrian was battling with the wind, my driving and the TomTom which I'd reset to avoid the motorway but which was still difficult to read without glasses and impossible to hear above the roar of the exhaust and other things.

After a while, though, Adrian reckoned that signs to Nuneaton weren't really what we wanted so we turned around and headed back to Leicester. Unknown to us, we were actually just a few miles from the A5! I was dreading anything like roundabouts and traffic lights - indeed anything requiring me to stop as the brakes weren't exactly reassuring and battling with traffic on multi-lane ring roads when you haven't a clue where you're going was worrying, probably more for my passenger than me. I had had the chnace to get a bit of practice at roundabouts and take-offs, though, so the earlier diversion may actually have proven life-saving, or certainly no claims bonus-saving.

Finally we're heading towards the A5 and pick it up again. We could relax for a while. Adrian needed a pee. That figured. We spotted a Services sign and pulled in. The 'services' were none too obvious, though and after a couple of circuits we concluded that the fuel part was completely dead. I parked up and Adrian went off to relieve himself somewhere. The car had plastic side window panels that opened diagonally up to allow exit. The rear view mirrors appeared to be stuck on these.

I was looking at the one on my side and wishing it wasn't there as it made the inside quite narrow, you couldn't rest your right arm on anything and the clear plastic was about as clear as a dirty goldfish bowl would be. It looked as if it ought to just lift off. It did. Great. We removed both and stuffed them into the tiny boot. Back on the road, I'm still driving but beginning to quite enjoy the blast, especially now that there was no figuring out of lanes to do. The little car had amazing acceleration but above 50 with the side panels now missing, the wind was really blowing us around.

Once we got to familiar territory in Weedon, Adrian took the wheel for the last few miles to his house where he thought Sarah might like to go for a spin or, at least chuckle at the two of us up to yet another crazy something. I realised just how rough it must have been for him. I had had an exhaust pipe running along my side which (a) warmed the air a bit and (b) diverted the wind somewhat. On the other side there was just the straight side and you got the full cold blast of whatever mph was on offer. That was quite chilly and I was glad to have taken a scarf.

Photos at the Pinckard Emporium taken we finally arrived in the village and launched ourselves noisily up the drive and into the paddock. Now, there I had expected a big welcome committee and offers of sausage rolls, sandwiches and a cup of steaming hot something to warm the old cockles and all stations south. There was no-one around. We parked somewhere in the middle of the field and managed to extract ourselves from the cockpit.

A few minutes later, as if awoken by the exhaust, people roll up and, more importantly, food and drink roll up too. Of course, the first thing all the men do is to take the thing to bits.

Once they'd put it back together again we got lots of photos taken, Richard doing his usual excellent job of getting my best side and not shaking the camera one iota. Kirri and Matti arrive and crawl all over it. I quite wanted Kirri to have a go at driving but it was a bit risky as there is no telling what the throttle is going to do until it's done it and by then you can be half-way towards a bunch of cows and the brakes being what they are, the other half of that way can disappear all too rapidly. Instead I took him for a long spin around the lanes and frightened the life out of several rabbits. That worked well and so I took a number of others out on a variation of the tour, making sure to accelerate as damn fast as I could whenever the opportunity arose. One lady seriously looked like falling out at one point and I suspect that most will have secretly vowed never to get in a car with me ever again. One may not even have done the vowing particularly secretly.

We did have a great time, though, and the weather was wonderful. God knows what it would ahve been like had it been raining or just a couple of degrees colder.

In order to get back before the place closed at 3:30 we reckoned we should leave by 2pm. The chap at the Caterham Centre had actually asked if we could get back by 3pm which was really just so he could get home early and we didn't pay too much attention to that but we did have 3:15pm as a vague target time which a 2pm departure should more or less match.

I finished the last guest run at 2:25pm. Hmm. We'd better dash. And dash we did. Adrian had wisely had a few beers so I was still in the driving seat and had quite a job on my hands to get back in time. I felt sorry for my companion as the return trip required 80mph rather than the wind-friendly 50mph and he was being blown to hell. He did his best with the TomTom but it was virtually useless as he could hardly focus on it and I could neither see the display nor hear any instructions. I reckoned we'd be OK and might even spot a sign off the A5 for our destination.

Somewhere on the way, though, we must have lost the A5 and we made several trips around a roundabout that offered us the M1 and not a lot else that we recognised as being en route. We opted for an Easterly direction and found ourselves in a pleasant little town called Walcote where we topped up the fuel tank. Heading further East didn't bring any recognisable signs so we whipped round and headed back to the familiar roundabout. We avoided the M1 there but we had to employ Tom²'s services or we'd never get there in time. Unfortunately, we forgot to do the 'avoid M1' thing and we eventually got bundled onto the M1 at the next junction up and I had no choice if we were not to be stuck with the go-cart for the whole weekend (and the bill for an extra few days' hire and insurances!)

10 miles or so up the M1 and another few on the M69 were crazy. I wound up the speedo to just under the ton and conversation was impossible. We just hung on to our clothes and anything else that might have been blasted out of the vehicle. We could really have done with those sides back in place. Finally, heading along the road where we were convinced the Centre should be and we see the white Caterham they'd parked outside driving in. Phew, someone's still there and we'd made it in time!

Getting into my own car a few minutes later was a really weird experience. I could feel nothing with either my hands or feet. I couldn't hear the engine or feel the clutch biting or accelerator revving. I just had to rely on the dials and hope for the best. The steering wheel felt massive but it was such a relief to be out of the wind and be warm and in comfort again, with music to listen to!

Even by the time we arrived back in the village I couldn't feel much with my feet and I was completely exhausted. It had been, though, a cool time and a day to remember. Adrian, as ever, was great company and never complained once about my driving or the blast. Everyone who had wanted a trip got one, I hope, and we had some super nibbles and a fun time to boot.

Friday, September 21

Preparing for Andrew And Adrian's Big Adventure

We're off to Leicestershire on Saturday and should get back to the village (no, not that village) by lunch time. Here in the paddock there'll be some refreshments and chances to get a ride and pictures.

The forecast looks good but I think I'll need a scarf to begin with.

Wednesday, September 5

I meant to write a ghost story

Yesterday evening there was this amazing sky.

Today I thought I'd sit in the paddock and start writing a ghost story I had had a nice idea for. Just I sat down there was this quacking noise.

Then a rustling in the bushes just behind the pond.

Shortly afterwards, three neighbours and a cat came across and that was that really.

Wednesday, August 15

Lift and tilt

So there's this new chair, well, bits of what could be a new chair, spread out on the floor. It's my birthday present to my backside after 15 years on a black leather one from the Victory Office Furniture catalogue. That still looks good but the cushions went flat several years ago, the gas leaks (resulting in a disconcerting slow shuddering drop accompanied by noises that you need to apologise for) and the tilt refused to tilt. The new one's better padded, has wood where there was plastic and is cream but otherwise pretty similar.

I carefully removed the plastic and smart silvery protecting foam and grabbed a screwdriver. It didn't look terribly difficult to assemble so I got stuck in and in no time had the back attached to the base and the mounting for the lift and tilt mechanism attached to the base and the wheels attached to that. So far, so good. There had been a choice as to whether the lift and tilt bit should go under or over the seat bracket but the way the metal bits were shaped seemed to match the order I'd done.

Last were the arms. I could understand why there weren't any instructions to hand as it all seemed pretty simple. All I had to do now was place the arms on the sides and screw in four bolts. One side needed a bit of an effort to match up the holes. The other side would have needed a large vice or several neighbours to sit on one section of the curved wood frame to bend it sufficiently to enable the holes to align closer than my strength could get them. Hmmm. I realised that the angle of the seat back and base may be crucial here so loosened the seat base screws and had another go at the arms. This time I did get closer, close enough to get the fourth bolt in but turning it more than a couple of turns was beyond the little Alan key provided. Time for a break.

I found a decent socket set and a hexagonal bit and attacked the last bolt again. This time I got a lot closer and it was almost complete. Then my friend Richard came round with some photos to put on-line. He liked the chair but I could see he wasn't impressed with the arm that wasn't as solid as it should be. Richard knows about these things and when he doesn't look as impressed as you'd like him to then you know something has to be done about it. He left with a cheery wave and I looked at the chair again.

I had now spent a good couple of hours on it - those arms taking up most of the time. I decided that it was OK for now and started tidying the packaging away. That was when I noticed the instructions. A single sheet tucked up inside the massive box with illustrations and several large black crosses. It appeared that the order of construction I had followed was almost completely the opposite, possibly actually completely the opposite, of what the illustrations showed. They had a strange folding and unfolding affair going on with the arms loosely attached to the back and base at the start. That made sense, I mumbled to myself, but was reluctant to undo what I had just spent ages doing.

What was wrong, though, was my choice of which first to attach to the seat base. I reckoned that might be important so, armed with another set of sockets, I removed the wheels, the lift and tilt mechanism and then the seat base bracket. That gave me a chance to sort the arms out too although I didn't go for the method suggested. I had a feeling that that last bolt had suffered enough and might well never go in any thread again other the one that it felt as if it had been cutting for itself before. I did manage, at least, though, to have it heading in direction rather more in line with its hole which should have been a good thing.

I had tightened all the base and other screws pretty well so removing them had taken some time but with the new sockets life was less heavy going and soon the base was on, the lift and tilt re-attached and all tightened and lovely. Finally I attacked the fourth bolt and was delighted that, once it had passed the half-way mark, it turned much more easily and was soon fully engaged with no arm wobble and the little cap thing fitted in the hole nicely after all.

Hooray! I thought, and plonked myself down it in. Nice and springy. Comfy but wait... it won't tilt. Oh no! What have I done? Thoughts of how on earth you can return a ruddy chair you've bought on-line swept through my mind and I uttered some pretty blue swear words too. It was exactly the same as the old black chair. It didn't rock, just rolled. Oh dear.

I had now been at this task for well over four hours. It was hot. I was hot. It would have been two and a half hours but I increasingly had been going outside to cool off, change tools and must have got through half a pack of cigarettes with frustration increasing my need for nicotine. Ten minutes a piece would have taken it to four hours.

Coming in after the last fag I decided to take a look at the underside and see if there was anything I had fixed that was blocking its operation. I also remembered reading in the advert that it had a 'lock' feature but I'd no idea what it was or how it worked. I fiddled with the lever. Put the chair upright again and, yes, it tilted! I was so delighted I decided I had to write about it. The new chair worked! I hadn't wasted my money and didn't have to start all over again or contemplate arguing with some distant customer services on an expensive 0845 number or worse. No land line means those calls cost a fortune on a mobile - but that's another story.

I did then wonder something. If I had accidentally locked the new chair, could I have accidentally, several years ago now, locked the old one? I smiled at my dumbness and sat on the old chair, pushed the lever in or out a bit. Yes, it tilted too. Unbelievable. It was still far too low and flat-bottomed but at least it could be useful as a spare rather than thrown away now. That tilt makes all the difference.

Tuesday, August 14

Paddock Party 8

Never had the grass looked greener, or shorter with the lovely weather during the days running up to Saturday's event allowing us all to get the paddock looking its best, the ladies' raking being most noticeably effective. A new layout too, including a bigger and better blue tent to replace one casualty of wind after the last party. The sun shone and the wind died down as Saturday arrived. We still didn't risk attaching all the tent sides, though, but once it got a bit darker it didn't matter a great deal.

The main dish was, as always, a roast pig and the queues seemed to start almost as soon as people arrived. We'd not realised that a new supplier sent only a man to carve the enormous joint, not serve it which resulted in some people going off with huge piles of pork with non-existent portion control! Luckily there was still just about enough for everyone.

There were enough live acts this year to run from start to finish - no CDs required. No doubt everyone will have their own favourite but I was really impressed with two acts: a chap called Nelson who had a slot in between the big starts of the night, a local blues and rock band called Deep Blue. Or something like that. No, not Deep Blue Something - that was Breakfast at Tiffany's and this was Hogroast at Maggie's. They rattled through Jimi Hendrix, Cream and variations on the theme and had a good crowd prancing around, some attractively and others less so. The jazz band have been to every event now and still don't look any older which always strikes me as a little weird. They're good, though and proved very popular as did the opening act, Blue Velvet and Jenny, a talented singer and pianist. All the acts played for free - for that quality of performance we'd never have been able to afford to pay what they deserve! All are local so, if anyone musically talented moves into the village before next August we'll have a mini festival on our hands! All from a modest 'let's have a party in the paddock' idea from 9 years ago.

The Saladeers had excelled themselves with far more salad than even a week's worth of paddock partygoers could have consumed, of which I am advised that a concoction involving cashew nuts and beans and things was particularly good.

A perseid made a brief appearance and guests did spend quite a bit of time watching the sky and bumping into each other in the hope of seeing some more shooting stars. Attracting a great deal of attention on the ground was Adrian's copper-coated contraption. Looking like a cross between a large bullet and a kid's drawing of a rocket, he had prepared it for service just an hour or two beforehand. No-one was terribly sure quite what might happen when filled with fuel and ignited. As can be seen from the photos, though, it produced plenty of heat and some nice-looking flames and proved decidedly photogenic if you are looking for something to scare the children with next Hallowe'en.

Although the calculations are still being done, it does look as though a tidy sum will have been raised from the generosity of both guests buying raffle tickets and hosts and friends' efforts to make the event, once again, a roaring success, probably the best so far!

More about that soon. For now, enjoy the snaps.

Wednesday, August 1

Many Happy Returns

The Prisoner nearly appeared in The Village on Sunday 29 July as the paddock was the scene for a splendid party. I made an attempt at dressing up which sort of worked and certainly blended well with No 53, otherwise known as Adrian, who also has actually met and quite resembles the chap who played No 53 in the TV series. We had several large white balloons which spent most of the day in the air looking fabulous and rather more friendly than Rover in the series. A couple of balloons did occasionally land in the pond which required a combination of fishing and acrobatics by Katie and Russell before the coots living there became too concerned.

The scene was captured by Richard in the photos shown here, none of which have required any adjustment, straightening or editing at all which just shows how good he is. (Just as soon as I get some from another guest that include him then I'll add some of the good fellow to that album!)

Graeme made a splendid job of producing large volumes of sausage, burger, kebab, chicken, steak and variations on that theme not just for lunch but also firing up the barbecue again in the evening for seconds all round.

As if rehearsing for the forthcoming Paddock Party 8, Penny, Maggie, Sarahs B and D, Sue and Kathie came armed with wonderful bowls of potatoes, prawns, salmon, salads, home-made bread and desserts galore including some particularly fine pineapple, orange meringue pavlova and chocolate cake. Now most of the words in that sentence are in the wrong order but they'll know who did what. In addition, Katie came from the West and William from the far far North, commonly called Scotland, carrying yet more food and Bryony, Kirri and Matti helped entertain everyone by running around quite a lot and looking cool or, in Matti's case, quite wet, for some time. Steven, Karl, Stuart, Mark and another Steve joined in the celebrations, usually with a glass in hand, and represented that dependable bunch of men that you like to have around should a gazebo suddenly blow away or a bottle need opening.

Other guests, including Amy, relieved neither to have had to bring her piano into the paddock or even perform on her clarinet, also helped us devour some of the food that Graeme was still cooking in large volumes.

Kirri had spent most of the night before transferring 200 music tracks I had selected for the party to an iPod which played continuously for 11 hours on Graeme's super BOSE device which few realised until the next day had, in fact, been running on battery power throughout. Despite my printing some quite incorrect track lists the choices went down really well and my rather strange mixture from seven decades worked well.

A huge downpour sent us all running for shelter in the early afternoon. My umbrella totally gave up and we just got used to getting wet for a while. Remarkably, the rain stopped after half an hour or so and the sun reappeared and dried off the grass and furniture in time for us to sit down and eat and then play an approximation to cricket. William had never experienced cricket before and, to be honest, still hasn't as he was out first ball! A friend of Amy's called Joe hadn't warned us beforehand that he was someone the England team may well want to call up before long and his second shot soared over a far away fence. We were about to toss Matti over the fence to recover the lost ball but another was found so the match continued and ended with a win for one of the sides, probably the Outsiders, but no-one was entirely sure quite when.

Adrian delivered a speech and reminded everyone how old I was and thankfully steered clear of most of the topics I was worried he might have amused people with. More than that, though, he delivered a brilliant present in the form of a day with a Caterham 7 car which he and I will fly around the country with some time soon. This is a truly splendid idea and we should be able to provide yet more great memories for the village and friends when we bring it this way.

I rambled on a bit after that and I do hope that I remembered to thank everyone but, if I did miss anyone or anything out, then let me say once again - thank you all.

As the sun set and the moon rose, logs burned contentedly in a battered old chimera. Sparklers scattered stars across the sky and two big white balloons had survived, one being thrown into the air at intervals by Matti and Kirri and friends to confuse anyone who happened to look out of their windows in our direction. There was port and more cheese than the parson preached about and no-one should have left hungry. I finally got a chance to open more presents and cards. Oh, did I not mention it was my birthday?

Saturday, June 30

Google+ Photowalk - Astcote represents UK

94 locations around the world marked Google+ 1st Anniversary by hosting a Photowalk. That's basically people wandering around that location and taking photos. The list starts with Adelaide and includes such famous places as Las Vegas, San Francisco, Tokyo. The UK was represented by three loactions. London, naturally. Oxford, well very photogenic. And the 3rd? Yes, Astcote!

So now all 20 million people using Google+ (the smart version of Facebook, by the way, in case you're new to all this) will be learning about the village and pretending they had heard of it all along.

We've uploaded some of the photos we took on our walk this morning. Mine are above and as soon as I can get my son Kirri's into a similar frame, I'll add his which are much better.

The sun shone and it was a great way to spend a while this morning. I had been really worried that there'd be a massive pile of people who follow me on G+ turning up at 10am - last night anyone in the UK wanting to join in only had a choice between London and Astcote! Luckily Oxford appeared on the list or we might have been trying to explain to people why 3000 people with cameras were here!

Just as I got home after lunch the clouds opened and it poured down. That was another bit of luck.

Tuesday, June 5

Paddock Party 8

Just in case you hadn't already heard the news, the Paddock Party is back again. Remember that entry is by invitation only so get in touch if you want to come and haven't got an invitation. 

Finally, I get the bird.

Finally got that bird. Just in time as the foilage now totally blocks out everything! At least I can now drive past the tree (which I do at least twice every day) without stopping or worrying other drivers by standing on the verge with a camera! Well, until winter, that is, when I'll be seeking the silhouette shot against a full moon...

Monday, May 21

A bird in the pond (but not in the tree)

I am still trying to get a picture of a crow on the nest in this tree. Every day I pass by. Sometimes there's one sitting there but by the time I've stopped the car and persuaded the camera that it should be taking a shot the bird has flown or ducked down out of sight. I tried walking up one pleasant day recently and stood inconspicuously opposite. I waited for best part of an hour but, whilst almost every other bird in the area seemed to go home, no-one returned here. I have a feeling that they were watching me and probably returned just as soon as I wandered off with just a picture of the tree for my trouble.

To make up for that, though, I did manage to get an unexpected photo this evening. Wandering around the paddock, I heard something similar the sort of noise a duck or coot might make and spotted at least one tiny little black fluffy thing on the edge of the water near some reeds. I dashed back to get my camera and sat waiting for him or her to take another trip.

Eventually, heading for the warbling noise his mother (or father, I suppose,) one little fellow came into view briefly.

I shall return and take a newspaper and drink next time as I'm sure that, if I wait, there'll either be more or a chance of a better shot.

Monday, May 7

Bank Holiday Races

A large lamb just appeared at my front door. That made for an entertaining Bank Holiday late afternoon's exercise and 'planning'. I have no idea how she got out of the field but it certainly wasn't via the fence round the paddock that we spent a lot of time an effort fixing regularly when the lambs were younger. Rather than risk her belting off down the road, though, and frightening some poor old couple on an afternoon jaunt or eating more neighbours' daffodils than might be good for her, I decided that the best bet was to persuade her to go into the paddock where I could figure out what to do next.

That bit was relatively easy, although I do wish I had closed the door to the geese's quarters first. However, once out of there it seemed a fairly simple task to get her to head for the place where there used to be a gap in the paddock fence. Armed with some tools, I reopened the place which I thought she might have remembered and hoped she might find it on her own, especially with all her family's bleating noises coming from vaguely that direction.

No, she was far more determined to return whence she came. Must be a memory thing - short-term excellent but recalling escape routes from March lousy. I know how she feels. After several races back and forth she did finally get in the right direction and I was about the head her down the funnel towards the newly opened gap when the farmer arrives! One look at him and she shoots off again in completely the wrong direction and proceeds to chase the geese back into their quarters and then out again almost as it she was enjoying the game. Her mistake, though was to return once more to the empty geese quarters where the farmer was able to pick her up bodily and cart her back home. I swear she was smiling at me as she went off!

Monday, April 2

Minutes of the 960th meeting of the Paddock Party Committee

Minutes of the 960th meeting of the Paddock Party Committee


Held at Primrose Cottage on Saturday 24 March 2012,
allegedly at 7pm.



Graeme in the chair

Maggie at the range



Sarah D

Stationmaster Steve




Minutes Secretary



Sarah B was reported to be rather under the weather. Adrian advised that he had been provided with ample instructions however prior to departure as to what he should or should not agree to in her unfortunate absence.

The word unfortunate was also referred to in Adrian’s indication that he didn’t seem able now to locate said instructions.
AP to send everyone’s best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Minutes of the previous meeting


The last meeting was so distant, being sometime in August 2010, that no-one could really recall whether what had been recorded as having been agreed bore any resemblance to what was actually agreed and for this reason, as well as there being none to refer to anyway, it was agreed that they may as well be approved, taken as read and all that jazz.
AH to see if there were any minutes in August 2010 and to invent them if necessary.

Which one is it?


There was some discussion as to whether this year’s event would be Paddock Party 8 or Paddock Party 9. the Minutes Secretary seemed to think that there had been a PP8 but no-one else did. That either meant that everyone had been so inebriated that no recollection of the day had been retained or the Minutes Secretary was talking nonsense again.

A unanimous vote concluded that item.

A date

The Chairman asked the Committee for a date. It seemed like quite a sensible thing at the time – you know, we’re planning to have a big party, invite people, make food and the like, so it makes quite a lot of sense to agree a day when all this might take place.


“Agreeing just one day is also a good idea as having several days could be confusing,” said Richard, as he attempted to spear a baked potato skin.

“Absolutely right!” announced Kathie, looking up for a moment to watch Richard’s baked potato skid across the plate and suspend itself momentarily in the air before descending in an arc of pre-mash towards the carpet.

Stationmaster Steve shuffled in his seat to make room for Richard, who was now crawling between his legs to regain some degree of control over the destination of the now rolling baked potato. “I have always made a point,” he began, shuffling once more as if practising a particularly complex Square Dance step, “a point…” he reiterated, “of deciding a date at an early stage in the proceedings. Indeed, in ine Inchon Invasion in September 1950, the matter of fixing a date was crucial to the success of the US forces in isolating their North Korean opponents…”

At this point he was somewhat unsettled by a movement beneath him as Richard, oblivious to the fact that a chair bearing the nether regions of the Stationmaster was immediately above his head, and having retrieved the baked potato duly stood up, or made an effort to.

“So, how are we doing?” questioned the Chairman, twirling a shiny fork in his fingers most adeptly.

“We’ve, er.. we’ve agreed that we should have a date for the event,” advised the Minutes Secretray, checking his notes and erasing the rude cartoon that Adrian had drawn on them.

“Good!” boomed the Chairman. “What is it?” The fork glinted, now stationary.
“Oh, nothing, Just some old sketches…” said the Minutes Secretary
“No. I meant what is the date?!”
“Ah. That must be, er.. let me see, yes, that’s the next item on the agenda…”
“Have we got an agenda?” asked Maggie, “More raspberries, anyone?”

The date

Stationmaster Steve announced that he and Sarah D had two weddings coming up. The Committee extended their congratulations and wondered why he was marrying Sarah D twice more but concluded that it was probably just an excuse for some honeymoons.

August 11th was the preferred choice when it appeared that everyone would be available at least on the day itself and Sue was instructed to speak in her firmest tones to the Weather Department people to ensure that all would be fine on the day.



The Committee considered whether the event should be modest or along the lines of previous occasions. There was some feeling that the 2010 event had been a little less ‘friendly’ in that groups arrived and shot off to far corners of the tents where they often steadfastly refused to budge, even when they saw Sarah B approaching from the West with a bottle in one hand and clutching a book of raffle tickets with the other.

Penny suggested that there probably wasn’t much one could do about that as people did like to sit down to eat and, whilst the youngsters were happy on hay bales, there was a natural tendency to ‘reserve’ tables as soon as the arrived.

The Chairman said that we might try making things a touch more intimate by bringing in the tents a little closer, as they had spread rather over the years. Generally, though, it would remain an event for us, our friends and locals in and around Shoemaker Close who couldn’t really avoid it.

Assuming similar sales to previous years, it was reckoned that we should work on 170 attending in total.



The Chairman said he’d make enquiries about the guitarist’s availability – he had been very popular last year.

The jazz band would be keen to be involved again, although there might be a case for slightly shorter sessions from them, there being some views that they had ‘gone on a bit’ at some points last time.

The Committee were encouraged to enquire whether anyone else reasonably good might be interested in performing too. Music is an important part of the evening but careful selection is needed to keep the older people content whilst not alienating the youngsters. Later in the evening, of course, the selection of mp3s would be fine and no doubt Sarah B will ensure an adequate opportunity for renditions of Aretha.

Adrian advised that it would probably now be Adele.

GF to get licence forms and confirm Jazz Band available

All to advise if any other performers available



The last hog had been delicious and there was agreement that the same supplier would be fine. The Chairman did say that they had an option whereby they delivered the thing and left us to carve it.

It was a considerably less expensive option, the supplier saving several hours of staff costs and being able to get away to any other occasions planned for the same evening more quickly.

The Committee would consider this at a future meeting in more depth. Whilst the cost saving had advantages, it would entail one or two people being fully occupied with the preparation and serving process  which could detract from their enjoyment of the event and the saladeers would already have put a lot of effort in during the preceding hours.

This did remind Penny, in her role as Chief Saladeer, that salads do need to be made as close as feasible to the start and that, if anyone asked what they might contribute, then salads are what we should request.

GF to provide cost options



The Chairman seemed to think that the usual barrels of Frog Island specials would be in order.
GF to think about beer



The Chairman would check the availability of the Scout tent

Richard, who had now completely recovered from his expedition in search of the baked potato, wondered whether the three large gazebos would actually survive another year. They had been quite tricky to put up last time and we had been fortunate in not being much affected by wind in 2010.

The Committee reckoned that they ought to make it through another year but if anyone spotted some particular bargains they should let the Chairman know. Whilst we wouldn’t want to buy any more at full price there is a lot to be said for a couple of new ones if the price is right – and sometimes they can be on offer at very low prices and be worth getting.

GF to check scout tent



No discussion took place about a hamper at this point but it was agreed that all profits would go to the Air Ambulance again. This was agreed by all to be a good cause and worth supporting and relevant to our area.

Any Other Business


The Chairman said that we should ensure there is good protection against people falling into the pond, there now being two, especially as The Oak Gazebo is likely to be a focus of the layout this year and is positioned right between them.

The Committee also thanked Maggie and Graeme for the excellent food and refreshments during the evening, as well as Penny, Sue, Sarahs D and B for their contributions to the feast.

The Committee were also reminded that Maggie has a Big Birthday approaching. Whilst she would be away from the village on the day itself, plans were afoot to ensure the occasion would be suitablymarked upon her return or shortly afterwards.

Date of next meeting


Saturday 14 April – a special venue to be announced to celebrate Maggie’s birthday in between agenda items. Or, probably, the other way round!

UFO in the village Pt3

Oh it came out of the sky, just a little North of Towcester...
Posted by Picasa

UFO in the village Pt2


Strange constructions have also appeared in the playground, a couple of alien creatures descending by various odd means after a lengthy discussion as to how they might best communicate resulting in a possible salute of some sort
Posted by Picasa

UFO in the village Pt1


Not only the gnome but also the hens appeared unfazed as an unidentified flying object hovered above them for a brief moment on Sunday afternoon.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 24

Counting the daffodils

Our Cold Higham correspondent spotted this informative notice that the Highways Agency have introduced. Telling visitors to the hamlet how many daffodils there are - a nice touch and a far better sue of the old yellow paint than double yellow lines and boxes.

Waking up to Spring

No alarm clock needed these mornings as the curious effect of the sloping field, walls and plain village weirdness is that the bleating of the new lambs, and some of the older ones for that matter, sound as if they're right outside my window. I suppose that, conversely, whatever noises I make may appear to them to be coming from very close-by too.

Tuesday, February 7

The moon was brown for a while tonight

The snow has almost cleared but what's left is extraordinarily crunchy as the temperature has dipped to minus something I don't want to think about. That's due to a clear, clear sky which provided a lovely view of the moon in a strange brown colour for a while tonight. It's more yellow now.