Bereavement, Metaphysical, Thoughtful

Supernatural Elements of Pheasant Plucking – Really

There is no pleasant way to pluck a pheasant, the pheasant pluckers agreed.

‘You put the wing tips under your feet, so, and hold the feet in your hands, so, and you just pull, hellish hard,’ the domino players were discussing novel ways to disassociate the tasty bird from its feathers.

It’s quick, but messy.’

Ah, but if you get the knack you can disembowel it all in one movement, have a look on You Tube,’ — unlikely things you hear in a Welsh pub.

‘Layered with sausage meat and bacon and wrapped in foil and baked in the oven, that’s how I like it.’

And so, last night, I went to sleep thinking of the first time I tasted it – pheasant —  picked from the dried-out carcass of the left-over roast bird that invariably sat in my ex-father-in-law’s  massive but largely empty fridge, next to a half pint of dodgy milk and the stale eggs that made us ill, in the days before he re-married, when all there was to eat in the old patriarch’s brightly lit kitchen in the dead of night was the remains of his Sunday lunch and hard baked water biscuits; a Sunday roast, no veg or trimmings, but a roast nevertheless, is the benchmark of a proper home-life.  There was sometimes roast rib of beef, tender, pink and delicious, served with salt and there was always whisky and Canada Dry, whatever time of day or night that we arrived.

Last night I had a dream; other people’s dreams are very boring, but it illustrates something, something quite important that we all know but which I have rarely felt. 

Pop, he of the Sunday roast who has been dead for years and anyway long estranged from me by circumstances, visited me – a visitation.  He walked down our lane weaving through the puddles, in a tweed suit and a beige waistcoat (he usually wore a cardigan) but the buttons were still straining.  The wind lifted a layer of his unruly frizzy hair, darkened and restrained by repeated applications of Brylcream.  His small feet (size 7) wore good leather shoes, shiny and very stylish with leather tassels on the laces and he guffawed when he trod in horse manure which is odd as we do not have a horse.  He rebuked me for my directions; everyone gets lost when they visit us.

That’s all.

Afterlife is what I’m writing about.  Heaven, if you like.  Ghosts.   You can fill in the details but I woke with the glow of affectionate recall (Pop wouldn’t do love).  But there he was.

Relationships, Uncategorized

A Love Story

A Love Story

‘You make me so angry!’ I bellowed, I was stamping my feet.  We’ve been together nearly twenty years, when we met our joint age was 100.  Now he was standing, unsteadily, on top of a curved and slippery plastic fuel tank which, in turn, stood on a concrete plinth as tall as a man.  ”I can’t turn my back for a moment!’  In his hands was a large but silent chain-saw.  All around a hail storm raged; he moved his feet a little, they crunched, he wobbled; he laughed.

‘It’s okay,’ he said, ‘It’s quite stable.’

‘It’s slippery. It’s round.  It’s wet plastic.’

There was a tree suspended, uncertainly, above his head; it spanned the space between its base, where it normally stood on the bank behind our house, and the house, on whose corner it now rested; it had been blown over in yesterday’s storm.

‘Come down!  If you fall you’ll break your femur or you neck and by the time I get you to hospital you will have bled to death.’ I’m always mindful of his anticoagulant status.

‘Don’t fuss.’

‘Please come down.’

He pulled the starter and raised the roaring saw above his head with both hands, showering me with saw dust as I looked up, both arms raised in supplication or ready to catch him and have my head chopped off.  The tree wavered above – whether ‘twas better to knock off a few more tiles or knock the old man off his perch.

‘Pull the rope.’ The old man shouted.  I pulled the rope.  It was attached to the tree (now that’s a first: he generally attaches the rope after he cuts).  One of us groaned, it might have been the tree clutching at the guttering.  The end of the gutter came away and the pipe sagged, shooting out ice-cold water and wet leaves.

‘Come down – please.’   He climbed down with surprising ease, having brought the wobbly step ladder out of the airing cupboard and placed it against the back of the tank.  I was thinking on my feet.  I picked up the long ladder that was lying nearby and flung it against the bank.

‘Look!  Climb up that – you won’t slip and you won’t fall so far – worst case scenario – you’ll roll.  Cut it at the top and I’ll pull.’  He did.  And I did and the tree let go of the house and fell to the ground.  He chopped it up on the ground and I pulled the logs and branches out of the way.  I looked up and he was back up the bank, silhouetted against the sky, gleefully rocking a large rotten tree trunk back and forth.

‘Look at this one,’

‘Oh, Alan.’

‘There, you see, it was alright, wasn’t it?’

Disaster, Ecology

Weird Welsh Waters threaten England

When one of my children got a fever she would rush about randomly picking things up and putting them down and talking too much (quite sweet but scary); we knew if we didn’t cool her down she would have a convulsion; the more energy you put into a system the faster it goes — even a little girl.

The weather has been like that.  As things warm up the system speeds up – the winds whizz around the globe picking up more moisture and dumping it in ever increasing amounts.  The winds blow faster – the whole thing gets unstable (from a human point of view).

In fact, I suppose, nature is doing what nature does best — she is resisting change – using all that extra energy to blow and suck and push and pull – to evaporate the seas and to lift the sodden air and swirl it around to generate static electricity and throw lightning around the heavens melting telephone lines in Wales and flooding the low-lying areas of most of Britain.

Flooding yesterday in Caersws

Flooding yesterday in Caersws

We live in the Cambrian Mountains of Wales which are not really mountains at all — they are about the size of the Black Hills of Dakota, but green — very green and very wet.  We have an epic amount of rainfall all the year round, except perhaps in April, if we are lucky.  A consequence of this is not that we have webbed feet but we do cope with it quite well.

When we arrived here we were amazed by the amount of attention lavished upon the ditches and culverts.  Yesterday I checked the grill on the drain by our gate, to dig away any silt or blockages — it was pristine and in the hedge nearby was a fresh pile of mud,gravel and dead leaves — the drain-fairy had been there before me!

The flood plain of the Cerist starting to fill -- note the absence of buildings

The flood plain of the Cerist starting to fill — note the absence of buildings

Here are the gathering grounds of the rivers Severn and the Wye.  The little river Cerist feeds the Severn and here the Severn has plenty of room to expand:


The head-waters of the Severn are also regulated by the Clywedog Reservoir which can hold back huge amounts of water.


But the reservoir is nearly full, it has been raining and snowing incessantly for weeks and it is warm so the snow has melted, the ground is waterlogged and now the melt waters are just pouring off the hillsides.


The muddy water fills the ditches, overflows and runs down the roads – the roads flow, waterfalls appear everywhere.

Streams that normally trickle are tumbling down every cleft and roadside brooks thunder towards the valleys, scaring the people and jumping the bridges.


What flat pasture there is, and there is not much, is disappearing–


Grazed only by mallard ducks.


It is snowing again today, the news is full of pictures of the floods on the Thames around London.  The weather forecast is for more rain and more snow for the next month and all this water is bound for England.

Architecture, Art, Humour

Excited about Architecture

‘It’s the building with the huge golden knob on the top,’ said the handsome soldier recruiting in Victoria Square.  He had real leadership potential — I found it immediately — the Library of Birmingham.

He could have said, ‘the three tier cake with squiggly icing, or ‘the Spirograph Building,’ that would have found it too.


You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover and neither can you judge a library from the outside.  Judge the inside for yourself–

And at the very top, the golden knob illuminates the whole — the hole in the bibliographic doughnut.


Next to this enormous roof-light is the Shakespeare Memorial Library, remember we are near to the birthplace of the bard.  This has travelled through time and space and been given new life on the roof of this iconic building, designed by Francine Houben of Mecanoo Architecten and opened in 2013.

Nothing is perfect though: the glass lift was out of order, to the great relief of my lift-phobic friend, and the route to the top was through a warren of corridors, the ceiling of which I could easily touch — two meters perhaps.

‘Why so low?’ asked friend (her son is 6’8” tall).

‘Mistake!’ said I (having run out of head-room in our barn conversion), ‘Still, at least there are no beams!’


Communication, Doggy, Humour

Dog Friendly Accomodation

Not just dog friendly — pig friendly — horse friendly — duck friendly — goose friendly — and, yes, human friendly!


We stayed in a place once, recommended by the Cornish Tourist Office as dog-friendly, where Pedro had to sleep in the car and the landlady sniffed at the gap under our bedroom door.  When we surprised her in the act, she accused my husband of smoking which he had not been doing (although he might have smelled of tobacco!)

Thus we are sceptical about such claims of tolerance and frienship.

Not so at the Crooked Inn, Trematon, near Saltash, Cornwall, England (for far-away friends).


Here we were welcomed by the host, a large, elderly, golden Labrador who met us in the car park and led us into the bar, explaining the rules to Pedro on the way under his breath.  Inside was a heaving Friday night bar where unseen wagging tails flagellated our passing legs.

Food was being served and dogs lolled under tables.  One of the locals was tired and emotional and obviously disliked tourists, he growled at Pedro and was bundled away by his friends several of whom then came over and introduced themselves.

In the dinning room, Pedro was calmed by under-floor heating and ate fat from excellent sirloin steak.

No one woofed in the night, not even when someone fell over a goose and set of the alarm.

Breakfast was generous smoked haddock with a perfect poached egg, garnished with lemon and fresh lime.  Outside the huge pig wandered free, unmolested by the running dogs and ignored by the over-coated horse.  The puddle-ducks dabbled and the geese gaggled and Pedro prepared for the serious business of the day


Communication, Humour

Only Puddleducks

Worst floods since 1756

We crossed the Somerset levels this week-end to visit family in Devon and Cornwall, the media warned of an impending apocalyptic storm, the prime minister acknowledged the plight of those whose farms and livelihoods  were already flooded and promised to dredge the rivers of Somerset.  Weather forecasts showed only swirling cloud completely obliterating our corner of western Europe.  We were foolish to set off.

It did rain most of the way to Plymouth.

We saw some swans preening in a vibrantly green field just east of Bridgewater.  We peered into the gloom waiting for the sea of flooded fields to appear.  The sun came out and we scanned the sky for rainbows, and for doves carrying twigs — there were none.

Where were the news men in galoshes standing on bridges about to be washed away and waiting for the record high tide at Burnham on Sea?  We did not expect the motorway to be submerged (we know that the clever civil engineers at least build their motorways higher than the flood plain) but from the high ground we had been led to expect diluvial vistas — silver fields.


As far as the eye could see all was green, actually very green for the time of year and some of the streams looked alarmingly full, I give you that.

When we arrived at our destination I checked to see if the Somerset levels had been moved, perhaps to Norfolk where it is very flat or to Cumbria where it does rain a lot, but no they were still where I thought they were and still in the centre of a media storm.  Yes, that’s about it — a media storm.


I wonder, is there something else going on — are they trying to distract us?

(Apologies if you have been flooded – please send photos! —  on 04.02.2014 the ‘storm ‘continues with a visit from HRH The Prince of Wales – for your information — an area of 25 sq miles is under water, that is equivalent to 5 miles by 5 miles, not a huge area in farming terms or compared with the area of the whole of the Somerset levels, it involves between 20-40 homes but is disrupting a lot more who feel that the problem is due to the government’s Environment Agency’s neglect of the river system. )