Friday, 29 May 2009

It's in the trees

Misty has taken to climbing trees. At first it was small trees, bushes really, but now that she's got the hang of it there's no stopping her.

I looked up into our Holly tree last evening and there she was, cool as a cucumber, sitting on a branch like some big furry bird...

'Purrrrr. Look at that view. I can see all the way across the fields, past the farm where that dog thing lives, and all the way up to the mountain. I may go there one day - to climb it. Why? Because it is there dear boy, because it is there.

That's why I like trees. They're very tall. At first I found it hard to climb them, but once I get my claws in, I can practically run up. Birds don't stick around for long I can tell you. I just wanted to show them that they aren't the only ones who hang around in trees. I'm a tree dude, trees are cool. If Hisfault could get my food up here, I'd live here. Of course he can't, he can't climb trees, or mountains either - too fat.

Hello down there! Fatkins! Look at me! I'm up a tree, high up a tree. Bet you've never been able to do this'...

I uses to spend all my time up trees, I loved climbing them. I used to rock climb as well, I was quite good at it. A long time ago now though.

Anyway, what a relief that she wasn't stuck, I don't think that I could climb up there and get her these days, I'd probably have to call the fire brigade...

At last... Green Apples!

My first ever Aquilegia Green Apples grown fom seed. It took so long but I think it was worth it. We'll see what the bugs think about it.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


I shall continue to photo blog this week. I'll add words on my return to a world where I can get a decent signal - still at least my phone is letting me blog a little. Watch out for pics.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Train at Fairborne

Does this look like a postcard out of the fifties? I think it does, but it isn't - it's a little train that runs at Fairborne across the estuary from Barmouth. Odd little place Fairbourne, I must go back when I have more time and see where this train takes me.


Holiday Romance

Dubby has a girlfriend. She's called Dilly. I found them one evening sat on the bench at the front of the cottage, just sitting there, wartching the sun go diown. I hope Dilly doesn't break Dubby's heart, he tends to wear his heart on his wing.

Still, cute aren't they.


A view of the harbour. Nice place.

Can't blog frustration...

Can't get a signal to upload my blog. Grrrrrr.

I'll store them up... A lot tell - Dubby Elvis - beach stuff - small pleasures.

You can see what I'm up to on twitter.

I'll try again later in the week.

Porth Dinllaen

Friday, 22 May 2009

On guard...

We're off to Wales tonight for the bank holiday week and we'll be taking Misty with us.

She loves it in Wales, we always take her with us. She travels well in her pet carrier, sleeps most of the journey. But as soon as we arrive she turns into a different animal, wilder, more alert, an outdoor animal. At home it's hard to get her to go out in the mornings but in Wales she's out and into the undergrowth as soon as we let her out of her pet carrier...

' This is my patch and nobody is coming onto it. I've been away all week, so who in fishbones knows who might have staked a claim? Anyone could have invaded. That old Tom down the lane has an it eye on it, I've seen him scouting around. Well, if he sets one paw onto my land he'll have me to answer to. This is my territory.

I'll just sit here in the hedge and guard. I can see everything from here. The comings and goings, the 'to' and 'fro' of the country. I see the woman across the road has hung her fur on that spinning thing again. I don't know why they do that - taking off one fur, putting on another - making them all wet in that noisy box thing in between. It'd be easier if the simply kept there fur on and licked it to keep it clean like I do. I hate that noisy box thing, it growls all of the time.

Talking of growling... is that the big yellow monster coming? Yes, it's that hissing yellow monster! Take cover! Monster alert! I'll just sit here very still until it's gone past. Here it comes. Feel how it makes the ground shake. What a horrible thing. I dread to think what it could do with those two big pointy teeth things sticking out at the front. There - it's gone now, thank Mu-Mu for that.

Must stay alert, guard my land. I'll do a quick tour of the perimeter in a minute. Check down by the bottom fence - I'm sure I heard a noise, and that big black was down there mousing last week. I'll go in a meowment.

It's quite nice sitting here, apart from the occasional monster. Mustn't fall asleep. Got to keep my eyes open for that old Tom, don't want him making his marker all over my land. It's nice and warm though, and the birds are singing. I'd try to catch one but this bell the Keepers make me wear lets them know I'm coming. One day though... one day. I must do my rounds, I'll go in a second, but it's so comfortable sitting here. Perhaps I'll shut my eyes just for a second... mmmm, that sun is nice and warm... mustn't fall asleep though, mustn't fall aslee... purr - purr - purr - purr - purr.'

Yes, she's away and into the undergrowth as soon as we let her out. Sometimes she disappears for hours, up to some mischief or other I guess. I wonder what adventures she has? I bet she never has a dull moment...

... As I mentioned, I'm off to Wales next week. I'll blog if I can get a signal - probably from my phone - so please excuse the spelling and layout - akh.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

All in who wants to play...

All I wanted at age ten was a man from U.N.C.L.E spy pen. You know, the pen that was actually a communication device amongst other things. It was silver, it was beautiful and Napoleon Solo had one.

Illya Kuryakin had one to, but I was a Solo fan. My cousin Ian was a Kuryakin follower. He had all the U.N.C.L.E gear, the gun, the spy-scope, the game – he didn’t have a spy pen though. He used to bribe me to play the Man from U.N.C.L.E game – it was okay, but I only played it so that I could pretend to be Napoleon Solo… and get to hold the U.N.C.L.E gun - that was the deal.

I was always Solo and he was always Kuryakin. We each had an assignment which involved finding a THRUSH agent and taking him back to headquarters, into the dry cleaning shop then down the hidden lift to Mr Waverly. Whoever got there first was the winner. It was a complicated game, with complicated rules about rolling the dice, and you could get ‘stolen’ if your opponent landed on you. I thought it was boring. No, it was boring.

I got to play with the Man from U.N.C.L.E gun though.

At school Ian and I used to play U.N.C.L.E at playtime. All the other boys would be playing fifty-fifty or off-ground tig, and there we would be pretending to have spy pens, with Ian being all Russian. I remember the long circling lines of boys, shoulder to shoulder, arm over arm as they called for others to join in their game – long lines of calling boys ‘All in who wants to play fifty-fifty’ they would sing. And there would be Ian and I circling, arm over arm calling others to join us in a game of U.N.C.L.E. Hardly anyone ever did, so we played alone – Ian - Kuryakin, and I - Solo.

I never did get a spy pen. I tried to make one out of a broken car aerial and some bits from an old transistor radio once. I thought it looked just like the real thing but when I showed it to Ian he just fell about laughing.

I threw it away after that and stopped playing U.N.C.L.E, instead I started playing fifty-fifty with the other boys leaving Ian to play U.N.C.L.E on his own.

Ianski died last year after a longski illness - the one with the shortski name. He always did have a lousy Russian accent.


Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The men in white...

So, I’m at the farm where we stable Chester walking down to the field where he’s out for the summer, along the muddy tree lined lane, when I glance to my left and through the trees I see…


What is that?

It looks like… What does it look like?

Definitely figures, at least a dozen maybe as many as sixteen, and they look vaguely human but – they are so white… and their heads are the wrong shape. Are they aliens? They definitely seem to be wearing some sort of helmets or masks. Masks! Oh my God, something must have happened! They’ve been sent to neutralise some deadly virus that’s landed in a meteorite or something. Or perhaps there’s been a terrible accident at some secret government laboratory, maybe something has escaped, something that wasn’t meant to escape - a mutated radioactive rat, or a bio-reengineered creature intent on wiping out everything in its path.

We are all doomed! Doomed do you hear?


No, stop! Infernal buzzing. There must be a perfectly rational explanation as to why some twenty or thirty white suited beings are wandering around in an old orchard in the depths of North Wales.

Angels? No that’s hardly rational. Fancy dress? Perhaps they have all come as snowmen, but if that’s the case where are all the top hats, scarves and carrot noses? No, not snowmen. Maybe they’re shooting a commercial for Daz washing powder - that would certainly explain the white suits – not the headgear though. Klu Klux Klan? No, not these days, not in Wales.

So why are there hundreds of white suited beings wandering around in the woods today?

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. What?

Druids! That fits! They are druids looking for mistletoe on the lichen covered branches of the old apple trees. They have an ancient ritual to perform and need the mistletoe to make a soporific drug to calm the poor young virgin that they are going to sacrifice. Young virgin? No, not these days, not in Wales.

Okay so they’re not aliens, government agents, angels, snowmen, actors, racists or druids… that only leaves ghosts and I don’t believe in ghosts, so I must be imagining them.


That's it I'm imagining them, just like I'm imagining this damned buzzing in my head. It was bound to happen - I’ve finally lost my mind, I’m seeing things. Too much blogging I guess. Perhaps that’s why they’re wearing white suits! Not ghosts at all – attendants from the asylum. That’s it! I’ve lost my mind and they’ve come to take me away, lock me up, throw away the key, and leave me to listen to this damned buzzing.


‘Hey you! Over here! Bring the jacket. I’ll come quietly. Just make it stop...’

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Small Pleasures...

There are some things that make you feel good and you can't for the life of you understand why.

I’m not talking about cream cakes, or bargains, or good books here. I’m talking about those little things that make your heart sing and your spirits lift when they really shouldn’t, unexpected intervals in life that fill you with smug self-satisfied glee. Little things where there’s no rational explanation as to why they should give you such a buzz, and logic demands that there should be no pleasure involved at all – but they do, and there is.

What? Okay here’s what I’m talking about…

Small pleasure number 1.

Finding a shopping trolley that hasn’t been locked so that you don’t have to put your pound coin in.

What an irrational pleasure that is! I really can’t understand why not having to put a pound coin into the slot on the trolley handle in order to release it for use should be so uplifting. It’s not even a money saving thing - I get the pound back after shopping so it costs me nothing at all. It shouldn’t make me feel so good - but it does. Each time I find one it feels as if I’ve ‘won’, almost as if I’ve got one over on ‘them’ – whoever ‘they’ are.

It’s not even that I won’t take it back to the trolley park and anti-socially leave it in the car park cluttering things up so that some old lady can drive over it. I will! I always take my trolley back and secure it firmly to the next trolley – even when I haven’t had to part with my pound and don’t need to get it back. I do this so that the next person can’t get the delight of finding a poundless trolley.

Yes, I know that’s a bit mean, but it is all part of the pleasure… I got away with it – but you’re not going to, you are going to have to use your pound - HA Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

A FREE shopping trolley pleasurable? Am I the only one?

Insane, petty, pathetic - how sad am I? I have my own sympathy.

Can’t wait until the next time I go shopping though… you never know.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Dubby the Buccaneer...

Here's Dubby the duck out doing a bit of pirating.

Not quite the Caribbean, but a break in the rain at least allowed him to have a good hunt around for the treasure he's buried somewhere and can't find. That's the trouble with ducks - bad memories, very forgetful - Dubby would forget his own name if it wasn't written on his underneath in black indelible felt tip pen.

I don't know why he's carrying that map either. Despite being able to navigate south for the winter, ducks (at least rubber ducks) seem to have absolutely no sense of direction. Dubby was about to wander into the sea, blindly following his map, before I pointed out that he was looking at it upside down. It could have been very nasty - rubber ducks float very well but have a tendency to drift with the tide, and the tide was going out. Dubby could have ended up anywhere.

Thank God he doesn't have sat-nav.

Anyway, here he is sitting on a rock as the waves crash around him wondering where on earth he buried that treasure, in fact he's wondering if he actually buried that treasure, and was there ever any treasure to bury anyway? He gets a bit confused poor thing. It comes with the rubber duck territory.

Come on Dubby, let's go home, I don't think we are going to find your treasure today - and Polly Parrot looks as though she could do with a stiff drink after getting splashed with all that sea water. I know that I could - being friends with a rubber duck is much harder work than you might think.

The motley crew of the Scarlet Drake - Dubby's old ship.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Happy birthday Tia...

Tia was our first cat, a lilac Burmese. She was very special. She would have been twenty today but she died two years ago of old age - she simply wore out. We were there with her at the end, at the vets. It was sad - very, very sad and it took a while to move on. We still miss her.

Anyway, today is her birthday.

We were in Criccieth this morning and we parked up by the castle on the hill. It was a bit blustery but the sun was shining, so I got out of the car and went to look at the 'funny house thing' that I'd been noticing each time I drove past it.

The 'funny house thing' sits in the centre of an old rowing boat that is planted up each year with bedding by the Britain in Bloom people. The Britain in Bloom people made the 'funny house thing' after the Tsunami in 2004 in remembrance of all the people who lost their lives. It's an oriental spirit house - a place where you can leave a memento or a message to a lost loved one. Lots of people had left messages written on pebbles picked up off the beach - messages to mums, dads, children, husbands, wives - little rememberings of who they were, what they meant.

It made be uncomfortable at first, standing there looking at another persons private memory. And then it didn't as I realised that in reading the messages I was thinking about the person it was written for - picturing, wondering.

I don't know why, but I went down to the beach, picked up a pebble and wrote this message to Tia. I'd like to think that someone will read the message and think and wonder about her.

I wonder if they'll wonder if she was a cat?

Happy birthday Tia, wherever you are.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Whirling Dervish Girl Thing…

Where - oh - where did we go wrong?

Was it the little pink rabbit baby grow with white fluffy tail, or the five piece (top, skirt, hat, socks, shoes) matching sun outfit in lime green and cerise, or maybe it was the rainbow knee socks.... look at her, thank God it’s for charity, sponsored walk, race for life, all sponsorship gratefully accepted in the comments box below.

She couldn’t go out on the street like that could she..?

‘Now THAT is what I call a cool outfit. So much better than the bright stuff she usually wears. I really can’t bear her bright orange school uniform – yellow jumper, yellow skirt – and that awful cerise shirt – what is the headmistress thinking of AND as for those purple shoes and the turquoise tights.. Well, I ask you - it’s like Paul Klee on acid. This is so much more sedate, cultured even… perhaps this whirling Dervish girl thing isn’t so bad after all… IF only she would stand still for a second or two.

Of course I’m a fine one to talk what with my purple fur, fluorescent green whiskers, and banana yellow chest and feet… far too bright if you ask me. A sophisticated cat like me should be black or grey - a nice dark grey, yes, that would suit me. But here I am all… colourful. If only I could look as sober as the WDGT does at the moment I’d be as happy as the man who got the cream.

Why on fish-fins did Mu-Mu make us so bright? Mouserkins down the road is vermillion, Patchy Poo is fuchsia, Old Whistles is aqua (except at his temples where he’s a nice shade of lavender) and young Tommy Tittletat is at least twenty different shades of green. How sickening!

Oh well… it isn’t about our colour, it’s about what we are like inside... but I really like that black skirt thing she’s wearing, perhaps I could get one on meow-bay… now where did Hisfault put his laptop and his credit card? Ah, here they are... Search… P-U-S-S-Y T-U-T-U. Now, I REALLY like that, such an elegant shade of dark navy…’

… Thank God cats see colour differently to us, different spectrum, something to do with the shape of the iris. I’m sure all of those migraine causing colours would be too much for poor Misty to bear.... They are for me. I’m going to lie down for a bit, my head is pounding… You don’t know how lucky you are Misty... you don’t know how lucky you are…

Rubber Duck Spot...

Rubber Ducks, who can resist them?

Along with my ragged Elephant on wheels my Rubber Duck, bobbing in my bathwater, is one of my earliest memories.

So I've decided to have a regular Monday rubber duck spot on the blog. Here's one that I picked up from the Apex Hotel in Edinburgh.
Hope that you enjoy the Rubber Duck spot. Let me know.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

It's all done with mirrors - and magnets...

Anyone remember the Magic Robot Quiz game?

I do, from my nines or tens, perhaps a little earlier. I think I first played it at my Auntie Kate’s with my girl cousins Lindsey, Judy, Alison and Sue. It was made by Merit games and it fascinated me - it must have for me to have happily played with all those girls. I don’t remember exactly when I got my own Magic Robot but it has to have been some time in the sixties, so mine was a very early version. It probably had questions about the Empire, steam locomotion, and ‘old money’ – ‘What percentage of the globe is coloured pink?’ – ‘Which is the faster train: The Flying Scotsman or The Mallard?’ – ‘How many shillings are there in a guinea?’…

It was all so different back then as you can see - just take a look at those children on the lid of the box.

Which ‘Aliens have taken over the planet in the bodies of small humans’ sci-fi, ‘B’, movie did they come out of – ‘Children of the superbly coiffured hair’? Nice teeth though and plenty of them – particularly the older boy - bet he needed a brace in his teens. I also bet that the girl did ballet… ‘Crippled in a terrible pony trekking accident, would poor Mary Fontaine (‘Fonty’, as she was known at the orphanage where she’d been placed by her wicked stepfather) ever dance again?’ Of course she would - and overcome her disability to become Prima ballerina at Covent Garden – and discover that her mother wasn’t dead at all, but merely a little forgetful where crippled daughters were concerned… And why is the other boy, the small one whose mother probably tells his games teacher that he has ‘a weak chest and a tendency towards migraines’, giving the Magic Robot THE finger? Come to that, what is the goofy boy doing with his hands – ‘Here’s a church, here’s a steeple, open the doors, and here’s the people’? I hope so - I don’t like the overexcited look on his face, nor the over-familiar way that the girl is touching his shoulder.

Were we really like that? I don’t remember wearing school uniform ALL of the time. I bet the older boy grew up to be a second hand car dealer, the girl married an ex-RAF pilot who bought a country pub - then proceeded to drink all of the profits, and the younger lad - the cheeky one with the dubious hand signals - became Julian Clarey.

I remember placing the silvery grey plastic Magic Robot in the tray in the centre of the 'Questions' section – then turning the Magic Robot by his head until his pointer was pointing at the question I wanted answered. It was a sort of an early trivial pursuit for kids with eight sets of fourteen questions. I must have learnt all the answers within a week or so – can’t really remember what they were now though.

Now, here is the magic bit… when you lifted the robot from the question area and placed in the centre of the answers area he rotated himself until he pointed at the correct answer! There was a 'mirror' in the 'answers' section (both questions and answers were in two circles each with half of the board), you stood the robot on the mirror and waited for him to point at the right answer. I used to think the mirror was the secret - that it was full of some powerful force energy that moved the robot to point – as it said on the box, the robot ‘ALWAYS gives the RIGHT answer’.

Wow! How Magical is that? It was incredibly magical to me at the time and I spent hours trying to get the robot to answer a question incorrectly – he never did of course, he was 100% right all of the time. But, even though I found this slightly annoying, I must say that never at any time was I tempted to give the Magic Robot the finger, make odd gestures with my hands whilst thrusting out my front teeth, or put on a blonde wig and dress in a gym slip – well maybe this last one just a little.

Merit also released a "World of Sport" version in the seventies - I think that had an Olympic torchbearer to point to the right answers instead of a robot.
Sport? An Olympic torchbearer?

How… dull.

Of course the mystery has been destroyed by the internet… it tells me that it was all done by magnets. The Magic robot wasn’t magic at all - just a single magnet in the plastic robot and two magnets in the cardboard board. The question area simply set the correct offset on the robot's magnet, and then the robot was allowed to freely rotate in the answer area until the magnets aligned - thus giving the right answer.

How… un-magical. How… scientific. How… very mechanical.

Oh well, what else do you expect from a robot – even a magic one?

By the way, I’m bidding for one on e-bay… can’t quite work out why though.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Big fish eat small fish...

I saw them in the sky the other evening - Breugel's fish. I’d stopped for a loo break on the M6 at the Keele services, only thirty minutes or so from home but I couldn’t wait. Besides, it was a good sky, plenty of cumulus… and there they were, almost too perfect, so perfect I had to look twice.

Big fish eat small fish - Breugel would have loved it. That's his drawing at the bottom of the post - see the fish in the sky? I love Breugel, always have. Weird drawing isn't it?

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at the sky since doing my ‘Dali sky’ post thing, and I mean a lot of time. I can hardly take my eyes off the clouds - I’ve even found myself glancing at them when I’m driving which is not good and something I must stop, but it is so hypnotic… watching the clouds as they move and change.

Did you know that the sky is full of dragons? There are dragons everywhere, you can hardly move in the sky for dragons. Take a look. I bet within a few minutes you see a dragon or two popping their horny heads out of the clouds.

I tried it myself just then and got an elephant's head. Look... an elephant! Amazing.

I’ve taken to carrying a camera around so as not to miss anything... is this the start of an obsession? It’s startling what you see. I saw a dog yesterday but the clouds were moving so fast that by the time I’d waited for a plane to move and got the camera ready the atmospheric currents had begun to morph the dog into a splodge. Can you still see it? I think I can just make it out. Is that a dragon above it… or another elephant’s head? I’m not sure, are you?


Dragons and dolphins… go on take a look. I bet you see a dolphin straight away, maybe even a school, slicing their way through a sea of cloud on their way to becoming cloud again.

And fish.

The sky is so full of fish, big fish, small fish, single fish, shoals of fish. They chase and merge with each other, the big fish eating the small fish, sometimes becoming a bigger fish, a dragon, a dolphin, a dog… gone… back to simple water vapour hanging in the air.

Take some time to look. There could be anything up there.

Big fish eat small fish in the sky…Yes, Breugel would have loved it.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

My Fisherman friend...

It can’t be that hard. Can it? Fishing?

I’ve never really got to grips with fishing. I never fished when I was a boy and it wasn’t until we came to Wales that I even thought about it - but with so much sea around… well, it seemed like such a waste. After all, isn’t the sea meant to be FULL of fish?

My dad gave me an old beach casting rod which I took to the beach and snapped within minutes – problems with the bail-arm. Well, how was I to know that you were meant to release it when you cast? I’m sure it didn’t say that in the book.

I’m a tryer though, so straight into town to buy another rod… and a new reel, and some line, and weights, and floats, and funny metal things that looked like fish, and some tinfoil hooky things on some line, and a box, and a hat, and a net… I bought just about everything that they had to sell. Surely I could be a fisherman now? After all, I had the gear.

After losing about twenty quids worth of tackle in an hour I was getting pretty fed up. So, perhaps I should have tied the weights on better… and how was I to know that the sea was full of rocks and weed that had been put there simply to grab my tackle so that I had to cut my line and send yet another fiver’s worth of lead and steel down deep to Davy Jones’s locker.

I kept on trying though. How hard could fishing be?

One evening we took our rods to Pwllheli harbour. It was the end of a lovely sunny day and I was definitely going to catch a fish this time. Holly had brought her little rod along with her and was playing at casting into the water a few feet from shore. How sweet. I on the other hand was casting way into the deep water of the harbour channel. I was bound to catch a fish this time, no doubt, definitely, absolutely a fish, and a big one.

“Dad, dad, I think I’ve caught a fish.” Holly screamed excitedly.
“Don’t be silly, you can’t have. It’s probably just some weed.” I replied in my best ‘I know best’ fisherman voice.

It wasn’t weed though. It was a fish - a little Dab. Still at least it proved that there were fish in the water. It would be my turn next and I was going to catch a whopper, maybe a Sea Bass or at least a Huss (whatever that is).

Two hours later I packed away my fishing gear, put it in the car, and later (after we’d arrived home) I stowed it away in the shed.

And there it has remained to this day, gathering cobwebs in the dark whilst I continue with my fishless existence.


This weekend I met a chap who has offered to teach me to fish (well actually it is his son who has been tasked with teaching me). We popped around on ‘kayak’ business (no, not now – I’ll tell you later – I’m talking fishing here) and I got talking about how I’d love to catch a fish and how I never had - and of course Gaynor filled in all the hilarious details of my disastrous fishing attempts (thanks Gaynor), and the long and short of it (the outcome) was an offer to teach me to fish.

Deep joy! What a nice man, what a very nice man.

So imagine my disillusionment when, last evening, I received this picture on my phone from said ‘very nice man’ showing me what his son (his fourteen year old son) had caught that afternoon… two, lovely, fresh, juicy, trout.

What is he trying to tell me do you think? Perhaps he’s simply showing me what my future in fishing terms has to hold… but look at his face… is he gloating? Is he shaking those two fish at me? Goading me? Is he saying - ‘Look at these lovely fish and you’ve never caught so much as a minnow – LOSER’?

No, he can’t be. Fishermen aren’t like that are they? They aren’t competitive, or close, or singularly vindictive. They are all very nice men. I’ve seen ‘Extreme Fishing’, Robson Green seems very nice. Yes, that must be it, I’ve taken the picture the wrong way – not goading… encouraging, that’s all. It isn’t a sneer. It’s an open honest smile. It isn’t a taunt. It’s a gesture of welcome to the fraternity of fishermen.

After all, aren’t all fishermen friends? I’m sure that’s what it says on the packet.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Walking on the Moon...

We took a stroll on the beach at Gimlet Rock yesterday.

The rain stopped just long enough for us to take a quick look around Pwllheli’s new Sunday market (only two weeks old, it’ll be interesting to see if it takes off) where I bought a milk-blue Opaline dousing crystal. Why? Well, so that you can read about the adventures of the amazing crystal douser in the future of course! And afterwards we drove up to Gimlet Rock to see what we could see.

Gimlet Rock (Carreg yr Imbill) was once a very large plateau of granite that dominated the coastline just off Pwllheli town. It was extensively quarried for stone paving by the Liverpool and Pwllheli Granite Company in the nineteenth century and today most of Gimlet Rock is in Liverpool and Manchester being walked upon by Liverpudlians and Mancunians respectively. Precious little of it remains at Gimlet Rock which, as the name suggests, is little more than a large rock now.

You reach Gimlet Rock by driving through a council estate, past the harbour, and then through a holiday park crammed with overpriced holiday chalets. Once there though you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d landed on the moon - if it wasn’t for the sound of the waves. It’s a little desolate. The beach and surrounding shoreline are strewn with chunks of granite (big, small, and huge) left over from the mining days. There’s even a large metal thing that looks a bit like a crashed rocket. We come here sometimes in the winter, park up and watch the waves, crabbing boats, beach-casters, and (if we are lucky) the occasional seal.

Today though, we are here for a stroll. So we scramble down the steep, rocky, shore and onto the steep, rocky beach. Sometimes the beach is littered with huge pink clam shells, washed up by the sea, but not today – today there is just rock. Pity really, I was looking forward to collecting some shells and taking them back. We have lots in our garden, at the front, in the gravel – maybe next time we’ll be luckier. We walk along the beach towards the remains of the old wooden jetty. It thrusts out of the gravel like the weathered ribcage of some long dead, abandoned, sea creature.

The ships that used to collect the huge blocks of granite from the jetty are just memories now, tens of decades gone - Manchester and Liverpool are concrete (not granite) built these days – but the jetty is still here. I’ve read that a quarryman’s life was a hard one, accidents frequent, men giving up their lives for the stone – onshore and at sea.

Watch out! Mind that you don’t trip over that big rock. It’s half hidden by the sand.

Look, what’s that? Are those seagulls sitting on the jetty posts? They don’t look like seagulls. What are they? They seem to be looking out to sea – watching for something, waiting for something maybe? They look like people (creatures) waiting expectantly for someone (something) to return… Are they figures? What are they doing here? Do you thi… Ouch! What was that? Something flashed past me. Did you feel it? It almost hit me. It felt sad. Like an old memory, not my memory though – someone else’s memory… someone else’s sad memory, here on the moon with my new dowser’s crystal hot in my pocket and guaranteed to find all things lost - maybe I should take it out and just... WAIT… Did one of them just move?

Come on, let’s leave. The winds getting up. I’m cold. I don’t think we’re wanted here today. We’ll come back another time. Perhaps next time we’ll find some scallop shells.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Summer is a'coming in...

Aquilegia Vulgaris - Mauve


… Loud now sing cuckoo…

Summer is a’coming in? You’d never guess – yet another wet weekend. Oh, well I suppose that it’s good for the garden, and the garden does seem to be doing pretty well despite the ravages of the winter frosts. I’ve lost both of my Passion Flowers – which is a shame as one of them was almost ten tears old and huge. It was the first thing I planted when we bought the cottage - I bought it from Woolies, so no chance of getting another one from the same place. I also lost my big Marguerite, which I’ve replaced – I wonder if this one will last five years like the other one did? I’ve lost all sorts of stuff. Of course, it’s still very early in the season so there are lots of surprises still to come through… potentially at least – Snake Lilies, Cannas, Begonias, the more slow growing Dahlias - underground things that take a little more warmth to break through. I guess that the warmth will come eventually but not just yet… another wet weekend - and cold, brrrrrrr.

Summer is a coming in? We’ll have to wait and see. I have an old terracotta pot that used to belong to my aunt Nellie. She’s been dead fifteen years or so, but each year the most beautiful Begonia shoots out of the dusty earth in the pot and by mid-summer it’s a tumbling mass of tiny, delicate salmony orange blossoms and light green foliage. It’s survived just about everything – even being shoved inside a hedge for two years and forgotten about until I rediscovered it one day like a long lost friend you bump in to at a motorway services, full of life and eager to reacquaint.

Summer is a coming in? I hope so - my seeds seem to be telling me that it is. I grow from seed every year. I’ve tried all sorts of things, some easy (nasturtiums, I love nasturtiums, I like the taste of the young leaves), and some hard (the Himalayan blue poppy, not even ever a single seedling). This year I’ve bought lots of packets of seed from Leidl and sown them straight into my pots - nothing incredibly exciting, Marigolds, Cosmos, Californian Poppies, Livingstone Daisies, Ipomea (Morning Glory), Sweet Peas. At under thirty pence a packet I thought ‘Why not’, and I was right! If all the seedlings survive I’ll have enough plants for ten of my little Welsh gardens let alone one!

Summer is a coming in? It is seven forty-five on Sunday the tenth of May and I’m sitting at the kitchen table writing this, listening to a Cuckoo, door open, drinking coffee, longing for a cigarette (I gave up five and a half years ago!), and waiting for the rain to stop so that I can go outside and take some cuttings from my Fuchsias. The garden is full of free plants if you take the trouble, so whenever I buy a plant from a garden centre I generally snip off a couple of small cuttings, dip them in some hormone rooting powder, shove them into one of my pots and wait to see if they strike. They generally do. Hurrah for free plants!

Summer is a coming in? My Aquilegias seem to be saying so. A couple of the earlier ones are in flower and there’s the promise of other beauties yet to come judging by the long flower stems that seem to have shot from the foliage over the last week. That’s the great thing about only seeing a garden at weekends – you really see the progress week to week – last weekend there weren’t any flower stems on some of my Aquilegias… next week they could be in flower. You have no idea how excited I am sometimes when I pull onto our drive… or disappointed when I see what the slugs, Lilly bugs, wind, or too hot sun have done to my plants.

Too hot sun? Fat chance!

Summer is a coming in? It’ll get here eventually I guess.
Aquilegia Pixie - White Chocolate

Friday, 8 May 2009

Misty boxes clever...

Misty seems to have developed a thing for boxes.

Over the last few weeks we’ve had various bits of kitchen ‘stuff’ delivered from Lakeland… you know essential stuff, bamboo steamers, a table top gas burner, battery operated teaspoons. Stuff you really need in the well equipped kitchen. Problem is - each time a box arrives Misty claims it and it becomes a ‘Misty house’. At the moment we have three ‘Misty houses’ of various sizes in our kitchen and it’s beginning to look like a warehouse that’s been pillaged by Attila the Hun – shredded empty boxes everywhere. It has to stop or we’ll run out of space…

“Ha! The collection grows and my master-plan begins to take shape. I shall soon be free! If only they knew what I was really up to… silly keepers, they think that I’m playing with these boxes… they think they are mere toys, playthings for me to amuse myself with. Poor deluded fools – these boxes are my chance of freedom, these boxes are my stairway to heaven.

As the late great Freddy Mercury sang – ‘I want to break free. I want to break freeeee. I want to break free from your lies. You're so self-satisfied, I don't need you. I want to break free. Mu-Mu knows, Mu-Mu knows I want to break free’.

Hear that Foodies? Hear that Hisfault? ‘I want to break free from your lies’; no more being told that the vet thing - ‘won’t hurt a bit’ - and you can’t fob me off with fish guts telling me that it's gourmet cat food and prime cod any longer. I don't need you, I can look after myself... once I get out of this prison.

They know that I’m a cat, they know that cats are night creatures - I want to go out at night, but will they let me? Will they Mu-Mu. They’d rather keep me safe and sound indoors at night. ‘It’s for your own good’ they tell me in that self-satisfied ‘we know everything’ kind of way. Stupid keepers. What do they know? They’re keeping me prisoner. They’re no better than the hissing Guards in a second world war POW camp! Perhaps I should call them Adolph and Eva.

I’ve been watching all the essential filmography - ‘The Great Escape’, ‘The Wooden Horse’, ‘Colditz’, and I think I’m about ready. I’ve even got the lingo… ‘Top hole old boy. Gerry won’t snafu this one - I’m not going under… I’m going over! By the time Fritz realises I’m out I’ll be home and dry. Chocks away! Blighty here I come! Tally ho and toodle pip!’ I really must remember never to answer if anyone asks if I want a light for my cigarette – don’t want to give the game away like that stupid Gordon Jackson... Oh, if only I had a motorbike, I could probably jump it out of that open window if I could get enough speed up.

Anyway, good job that they do leave the top window open at night, at least it gives me a fighting chance. They don’t believe that I’ll be able to jump up to get out of it, but once I have enough boxes it’ll be kitten’s play to build a stairway and then up I’ll go and… I'LL BE FREE OUTSIDE AT NIGHT TO ROAM THE DARK STREETS AS I PLEASE.

Freedom to all felines!

Come along everybody; join me in my freedom song - Free Misty! Free Misty! Free Misty! Free Misty!

... oh well, perhaps all this clutter will put Gaynor off buying any more gadgets. After saying that though, I saw her looking at an electric mandoline in the Lakeland catalogue this evening. I expect that means Misty will soon have another ‘Misty House’ to play with. Oh well, better that she’s happy indoors than wanting to be out all night…

Thursday, 7 May 2009

What a day! – three and final

So, as my Sunday post briefly mentioned, first prize in my category at Nefyn show. Wow!

Well maybe not so ‘Wow!’ actually... time to tell you what really happened, time to own up and give you the whole story.

It had stopped raining by the time I got to the craft and produce tent to see how I’d done. There it was that small red card… I’d got a first! Well done me! Wait a minute though, where were all the other pieces of hand-painted glass? I looked around – embroidery, crochet, beading, jewellery - across the way - jam, cakes, biscuits – to the left - flower arrangements, single stems, petal pictures – the right - photographs, pottery, decoupage. No other glass though.

I’d come first in my class, but it was a class of one. I was the only entry.

My spirits became as grey and low as the clouds outside the tent. I hadn’t really won at all. I knew that the judges could have decided not to place me, or give me a second, third, fourth, commended even, but I was still the only entry – it didn’t seem right that I’d got a first somehow. How could I come first when there was no competition?

Worst was to come though. I hadn’t realised that there was an actual ‘step up to the front, big round of applause’ presentation. I thought I’d just pick up my glass and leave… quietly, without any fuss, incognito.

I didn’t want to go up and get my prize. Firstly, I didn’t feel that I should – after all I was the only entry in my class - that wasn’t winning. Secondly, all the other winners seemed to be children and old ladies. There is a story around how and why I got into glass painting which I will relate to you at some point… but glass painting... flowers - how embarrassing… and the room was full of bearded sheep farmers.

I squirmed as I waited for my turn to come. It was too embarrassing. I was about to walk out without my prize when the judge called the winner of the embroidery forward.

‘Hefyn Roberts’ he announced. A big, burley, bearded farmer stepped forward, he was beaming as he took his small, square, brown envelope. So I wasn’t the only man to enjoy doing ‘crafty’ things – and his ‘thing’ was sewing! Thank God for that.

I gave my £2 prize to Holly. She’s doing a sponsored walk in a few weeks. I kept the award certificate though.

So that’s that. Nefyn show over for another year. It took ages to scrub the re-admittance stamp off my hand – they must have used indelible ink.

Perhaps next year I’ll bake some scones – the competition is stiffer.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

What a day! – two

Still raining torrentially, so in an attempt to get out of it I wandered into the nearest marquee.

‘Just somewhere dry’. I mumbled as I stumbled in through the door and was greeted by row after row of cages stacked six deep on top of each other.

What was in them? Ferrets? Mice? Rabbits? Monkeys? Was this the animal experimentation tent? I peered into the nearest cage.

‘Good job I don’t suffer from Alektorophobia’ I thought as I stared into the glassy red eye of the biggest chicken I’ve ever seen. It was massive, filling the cage to every available corner, the cage was full to bursting point. How on earth were they going to get it out through that tiny door – in pieces? Legs, thighs, breasts, and wings? More to the point – how did they get it in there in the first place?

Now I’ve heard that you can hypnotize a chicken by holding it tightly and drawing a line in the dirt over and over, when you let go of the chicken it will stay right there - but I wasn’t about to take on this monster. With a chicken this big I could begin to believe that birds really were descended from the dinosaurs. Tyrannosaurus Rex? Enough KFC for ten bargain buckets in a single bird. Did you know that in 1979 Colonel Sanders (that goatee bearded chappie in the white suit) was the second most recognized public figure in the world.

Who was the first? Elvis? Don’t know.

In medieval France one of the punishments for an adulterous wife was to make her chase a chicken through the town naked – I wonder what the others were)? Perhaps it was the real reason why the chicken crossed the road, and not to get to the other side after all. There’s a town in Colorado (aptly named Fruita) where the townspeople celebrate 'Mike the Headless Chicken Day'. It seems that a farmer named L.A. Olsen cut off Mike's head in September 1945 in anticipation of a chicken dinner (why???) - Mike went on to live for another 4 years WITHOUT A HEAD eventually dieing from choking on a corn kernel (no, I don’t believe it either).

Anyway, as I looked and thought about dinosaurs, 'Mike the Headless Chicken’, and French naked ladies I began to notice the chicken looking hard at me. Was it trying to stare me out? If it didn’t drop it soon I’d drop it down my chimney – that’s how it used to be done - Chimney's used to be cleaned by dropping live chickens down them.

No, honestly.

You see… chickens are much more interesting than you thought. They come in all shapes and sizes, and their eggs come in all sorts of colours, from white, to brown, to green, to pink, to blue…. I know, I saw some in the tent - in the egg show.

Yes, honestly.

Want to know more about chickens?

Chicken frenzy times folks, hang on to you hats, here come the facts…

A chicken heart beats 280-315 times a minute…A chickens' body temperature normally runs at 102-103 degrees F… A rooster takes 18-20 breaths a minute, a hen about double that at 30-35 beats a minute… There are over 150 varieties of domestic chicken… It takes a hen 24-26 hours to lay a single egg…A chicken can have 4 or 5 toes on each foot… Supermarket chickens are only 5-8 weeks old… A chicken takes 21 days to hatch… Chickens were domesticated about 8000 years ago… It takes 4 lbs of feed to make a dozen eggs… A hen lives an average of 5-7 years, but can live up to 20 years… Hens lay eggs their entire life, with production decreasing every year from year one… An egg starts growing into a chick when it reaches a temperature of 86 degrees F…


Should I stop?

By the time I came out of the tent it had stopped raining.

I’ll tell you about my first prize tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

What a day! - one

At last the morning of the long awaited Nefyn Show - the day that everyone from hereabouts and thereabouts has been waiting for - cleaning tack, brushing feathers, baking scones, making cushions, whitening sheep, polishing tractors, potting chutney and generally talking about nothing else (apart from the usual jungle-drum epitaphs) for weeks. And after a gloriously sunny weekend of warmth and T-shirts the god of country shows decided to bless us with rain - cold, heavy, and very wet rain.

I could hear the rain on the slates as the alarm clock woke me at five forty-five. I could still hear the rain on the windows as I got out of bed. I had to shout over the noise of the rain as I called Holly, telling her it was time to get up and that we’d be leaving for the stables in twenty minutes. I could see the rain hitting the deeply puddled ground as I drew the curtains. I could feel the rain, cold on my skin as I loaded the boot of the car with my precious hand-painted glass vase and Holly’s riding gear. Rain, rain, rain.

How predictable!
Stables by six-thirty and Holly all excited and nervous – ‘Where was her number?’, ‘What if she couldn’t plait Chester’s tail?’, ‘What if he wouldn’t behave?’, ‘Had she remembered everything?’, ‘How, who, why, where, which?’…ENOUGH! We dropped her at the stables leaving her to get herself and Chester ready, secure in the knowledge that there were plenty of people around to help her if she got into a tizz – after all, there was a whole posse of them competing.

Later standing in the pouring rain in the muddy field of the showground I watched whilst Holly, the youngest competitor in the ring by miles, was beaten by riders with twenty years plus more experience. She rode brilliantly. Chester was responsive, and she completed her two events – novice hunter and best ridden – with only a couple of slight flaws. She looked fantastic in her riding gear, handling Chester with real authority. She even managed to keep her seat – stay in the saddle - when Chester spooked - got a bit frightened - and reared just before the first event.

One competitor on a huge white Lustiano circled the show ring all airs above the ground - high school dressage movements performed with either the forlegs, or all four feet, off the ground (just showing off really). Another was riding above the bit - this is when the horse carries his mouth above the level of the rider's hand. The horse does this to evade the bit and she clearly wasn’t in full control, the horse was going all over the shop. Yet another on a big black powerhouse of an animal looked a bit acey-deucy - this is when stirrups are adjusted so that the inside stirrup is lower than the outside stirrup - only jockeys do this, so goodness knows what she was playing at.

Even worse, I spotted that one of riders was behind the bit – the horse holding its head behind the vertical to evade the bit, resulting in the rider having less control. They call that overbent where I come from, and I’m sure that one of the chestnuts had an undershot mouth – at least it looked like it to me. I’m no expert, but it’s hard to miss the tell-tale signs of abnormal contact between the upper and lower incisor teeth, when the upper jaw overhangs the lower jaw. In really bad cases of undershot mouth, grazing is difficult and the horse often has digestive problems. This Gelding wasn’t quite as bad as that though. I’ve sometimes heard this called "parrot mouth" – who’s a pretty boy then?

Some of the horses wore banged tail - the tail trimmed level at the bottom – others had their tails plaited and banded - a fancy term used to describe braiding a mane or tail. Some of the horses wore their manes roached – this is when the horse's mane has been clipped or shaved close to the neck, they called it hogging when I was a boy.

Holly did a very good posting trot – she got the rise-and-fall motion used at the trot just right. In the posting trot, the rider rises out of the saddle and sits back down in the saddle once in each stride. It’s meant to be more comfortable for both the horse and the rider. When done correctly, as Holly did, the rider's rise-and-fall motion goes as follows: (1) right hind/left fore ‘rise’; (2) left hind/right fore ‘fall’. It’s repeated for each stride.

I felt really proud of her. It is no small feat to climb onto the back of a huge excited animal and canter around a showground with twenty other huge excited animals – particularly in the rain.

No rosette this time, but so what… Holly really showed everyone what a really good rider she’s become.

Funny how you pick up the horsey jargon after a while… must be all the mucking out.

Chickens tomorrow!

Monday, 4 May 2009

First Prize!

First prize in my category at Nefyn show. Wow! I'll tell you later - tired now and home late.

What a day!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Happy birthday(s)!

Happy Birthday Misty

Misty is one today.

Or at least as close to one as we can make her, she was abandoned so we’re not exactly sure about when she was born, but it’s around about now.

We’re throwing her a little party. Just the usual - fish, cat treats, cream, maybe a few prawns – and a cake with a candle on it. And of course we have bought her presents – a new collar, and a new ball with a bell inside it.

I wonder if she knows that it’s her birthday?...

“About hissing time! Here I am fifteen today and all of a sudden they start wishing me happy birthday… what about the other hissing fourteen? Rotting fish scales - my first came and went without even a pilchard, then my second, then my third. On my fifth I thought ‘this is it! They are bound to throw me a party for my fifth.’ But no – nothing – absol-hissing-lutely zilchermero! When my tenth came I stupidly gave myself an extra special clean and made sure my collar was straight, certain that this must be it. But still nothing, zero, nada, piddley squat! To tell you the truth I gave up after that – and here they all are, Hisfault, Foodies, and that Whirling Dervish girl thing, all looking down at me and singing some silly song. They’ve even invited the one with the stick, Foodies mum, the one that keeps trying to stand on me… what does Hisfault call her? Batty something or other…Batty Joan, that’s it… Listen to her, I don’t think she can remember the words to the song.

Happy birthday to me indeed! What about the other fourteen? Don’t they know that for the first two of their years I have a birthday every twenty-four and a half days? In another one of their year’s time I’ll be thirty. Thirty! Almost middle aged, past it - the best of my leaping and mouse-catching days over - and here they are giving me a single measly birthday party every whenever-they-can-be-bothered!


Bad Keepers…

Once I’m thirty it slows down a little, thank Mu-Mu, only four birthdays in every one of their years. One every three months by my calculation. Do you hear that Batty? ONE EVERY THREE MONTHS… she’s deaf as a scratching post.

Maybe Keepers can’t do sums… they’ve never seemed very bright to me.

Why are they setting fire to that stick on that round pink thing? I’ll never work this lot out. They’re as mad as goldfish in a square bowl.

Oh well, better make the best of it. Okay, buckle up the new collar, bring on the cat treats, sing away… sing away… ”

Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear Misty, Happy birthday to yooooou....