Sunday, May 31, 2009

Seeing Red

We Saw red a lot round here today.
I was up at 5 to catch the sunrise.

Oh all right I confess, I was up at four and enjoyed the sunrise when it caught up with me.

The Redstart is nesting in my barn wall. A cheery summer resident who clears tha caterpillars from my vegetables and th ebeetles from the fruit trees.

JJ found a red bucket and lost no time getting stuck in. He will thank me for the pictures when he is eighteen.

A Red Kite soared overhead. That was rather special.

It was OK ...if you like that sort of thing


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How You Play The Game

Here we all are again, all trying desperately to avoid eye contact. My knees bend and crack on the way down, on the way up they crack again. I seem to have developed old knees. Next to me the bloke in the yellow T-shirt mutters under his breath.
The minute passes and we move on clockwise to the intermediate steps. Red weights swing. For the many the swing counterpoints the step but as always my coordination nearly takes an eye out. The machines are easier.
On to the one that is a bit like rowing, only not on a river and not moving. Not so much fun really. I reflect on Dave’s advice. Maybe I should just stick to the bike on the lighter evenings……
Dammit I have just realised what he is up to. The bloke in the yellow T isn’t muttering to himself he is counting. And despite the fact that we are ‘non competitive in any way’ he is throwing down the gauntlet. What a cad. What a git.
Well I can go one better than that. My minute is up and with a clench of the fist I riposte with a clearly audible thirteen. Take that!
I catch him from the corner of my eye, he seems crestfallen.
More steps and the adrenaline rush seems to have improved my coordination. Step, swing, lower, step back. Faultless. I am one ahead and in tune with the rest of the room.
Unbelievable. The veins on his neck are pulsing and his breath catches but he is one ahead again.
So its step, swing, lower, step back again. At this rate I shall soon need new trousers for work. I am on fire!
On to the next machine, I pump out fifteen just before he gasps his own. A split second between us but it is my hand I think. Hah, and it’s the last, so he can’t make a comeback. Loser…LOSER….LOSER.
And then I notice that he has green weights rather than the red. He has been round the whole circuit with green weights….
I feel crushed. Defeated. Humbled. Despite his handicap there was no more than a gnats hair between us. He has stolen the moral victory.
As he swaggers down the corridor with a towel at a jaunty angle he mutters under his breath.
“Same time next week…..FATBOY.”

Friday, May 15, 2009

Run Fatboy Run

BMI 30.5
So there I am sat sitting there enjoying the baleful glare of the unfit and overweight. I haven’t been in a gym since I was seventeen dear God. And then it was only because Jane Jenkins, a pneumatic young lady, needed some support at the edge of the trampoline. How on earth has it come to all this
The major contributor was my premature death at the age of forty four. I haven’t really been as fit as I once was since that day. The day that my appendix burst and gave me peritonitis. The day when bits of me that shouldn’t; (fans of the semi colon should pause and admire for a half breath here) stopped and I had to have a hard reboot. An accomplice has been my lack of stern resolve.
Since coming out of hospital back then I have struggled to be as fit as I once was. Never a real racing snake mind you but I was able to walk upstairs without breathing heavily.
You may remember that I was trying to train a pair of daps to watch the television with me back in January.
Fellow mountaineers, I can tell you now that that was just the start of things. I subsequently went to my GP and enquired, knowing that these things go very slowly, about the referral scheme.
And so here we all are. Me and a bunch of fat blokes. Waiting. Waiting for the ‘Easyline’ trainer to turn up and put us through our paces. They nearly put me down for the ‘Over 50 Easyline’ you know but I was swift to point out that the form said 49 and ¾. Not 50. Oh no.
The fat bloke opposite seems to be managing about ten a minute and so it is easy to whup his arse. I press a little harder and do eleven. I hope his tears will obscure his perception of how pink I have become.
Afterwards I have to have a cheese pasty to recover in time for tea. In the shower later I also see that I still have a twelve pack. Oh well, Rome wasn’t sacked in a day. I guess I shall just have to go back next week and make some more of the fat boys cry………

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pirates Of The Carneddau

She Of The Townhouse has spied booty out there on the high pastures and once again we set sail…
She has bought a Landrover Discovery you see. Not one of those spanky new things that look like the box the toys came in. No, this one is an old relic from before the labour government, indeed it is almost a Thatcher era vehicle. A Disco so old that that it might even wear flares. Eh? Ok it isn’t that old but I am not so up on early nineties fashions. I was very busy in lycra back then but I not many other people were. Anyway look this is all going a bit Corbett already. The point is She Of The Townhouse has bought an old landrover.
The purpose of this vehicle is fun. She sidestepped the fact that the insurance was more than the vehicle by getting it accepted as a limited mileage vintage model. She ignored the inconvenience that the last two MOT certificates bore an uncanny resemblance to one another. She now has it on the road now for another eleven months come hell or high water.
Aaah …yes… here I need another aside. I say ‘hell or high water’ but in fact it is only the hell part that we have to fear. There is a snorkel that reaches way up to the roof. It would take very high water indeed to put the flame. And even if it was extinguished then the winch would probably lift the whole vehicle free of the flood. Or it would float on the monster tyres.
The interior of the vehicle has a quirky post apocalypse look to it. Seven seats that all seem in ordure and several switches whose function is obscured rather than indicated by the icon stamped upon them. Oh and wires, wires dangling here there and everywhere. None of them do anything of course but if you ever need spare wires just ask.
Anyway, part of the fun to be had is freeloading other peoples junk. We pass a garden, a skip, an area of derelict ground, each laden with opportunity. Yesterday we picked up a broken wood burning stove and every fallen branch within a mile of Hallett’s Mountain.
Times for a jolly rogering then. Avast behind my hearties.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Great fat raindrops are spattering off the leaves above. All around the quiet people sleep. Ten minutes walk away below is the city of Bath but I can’t see this. I have landed in the early morning in a hidden coombe, a treasure in this essentially English countryside. On the other side of this small green valley is a farm that I worked on thirty years past when I was another person in another life.
Back then I was just out of college, perhaps twenty years old. Making my own way through the austerity of the late seventies I was working at the time as a farm hand for hire. I was working to prepare the farm for auction, laying out the machinery in the field, making sure the gates and hedges were stock proof and tidying up around the buildings and yards. I was working for the daughter of a farmer who had died the year before.. I don’t fully remember the circumstances but it was time for them to sell up. Sad for the family that were leaving the little charmed corner, but for me a week or two of charmed sunshine in a rural idyll. A time in the company of the farmers daughter as well, a beauty in her early twenties who seemed to enjoy me being there….
Then at the end of it, one of the turning points in life that I have always wondered about. At the auction itself there was a tractor and trailer for sale. A Massey Ferguson 135 and a medium sized wooden pull along with high sides, both in reasonable condition. Riding a motorbike from job to job I gave serious consideration to buying them. Reasoning that in this type of work it would be a real asset to me. I would be able to bring along my own wire and fence posts to the next job. Shift gravel and cement more easily. Haul wood away from the tree that needed tidying. But in the end I didn’t. I had in mind about two hundred and fifty pounds and the pair sold for three hundred. I moved on and temped my way north to a car factory and then to the area I have lived in ever since and eventually became a teacher.
And here I am again. Up before the world and crossing the church yard, taking shelter from the rain under this tree. The wild garlic scents the air and all is green and as it should be. Here is Peter at his rest, a friend I never knew, and I am slightly disturbed to be reminded that he died younger than I am now.
I thank him for that time then, I thank him for the time now, and walk on.