The Pig Yard

April - How often do we begin our monthly update with a statement about how time flies - probably too often, but this month has gone exceptionally fast because we've had house guests, the Kews, for three weeks. We all know the simile about house guests being like fish - after three days they start to "go off" well this was not true for our guests.

Yes they did break up our routines but that was all to the good - it's dangerous to get into deep ruts. As it is, we seem to have been living surrogate lives through them. Eighteen months ago they were selling up all their possessions and flying off to Australia to fly hot-air balloons in the Hunter Valley. This month they came "home" to take stock before driving down to central France to work.

In April 1971 we got married so that meant we took time out this month to celebrate 35 years of married life - a meal for ten at the Boat Inn, Stoke Bruerne.

And finally the pigyard blog has not been a great success so far but we shall continue with it to see how it goes.

After thirty hours of travelling Dave & Lucie arrived at Heathrow with big smiles and no sign of the usual tiredness associated with intercontinental travel. Their sojourn to Australia was over and although they enjoyed it immensely they admitted to missing their friends. During the month they made up for lost time and took every opportunity to meet with, eat with and certainly drink with, their friends.

Talking of drinking, as relative abstemious folk, we haven't drunk so much alcohol in such a short period of time since we were at college. It confirmed that Steve has an allergy to alcohol so that his sinuses go into overdrive and Jane falls asleep even faster after two glasses of a good red wine (or even a bad red wine).


Jane leads such a busy social and sporting life that it's been difficult to get to the cinema. We used to go on Wednesday evenings because it was "Orange Wednesday" when people with Orange mobile phones (like us) could get two tickets for the price of one - anyway Jane now has table tennis on Wednesday evenings.

It turns out that Tuesday's is also a cheaper night so we, or should that read Steve, decided to see "The Inside Man". No doubt it was a great film, with plenty of twists and turns, good dialogue and great acting. So what was missing? Jane thought it was too static, only taking place either outside or inside a bank and therefore it would've looked just as good on the small screen.

It's at this point we enter into a debate about the value of reading and taking notice of the film critics. Steve is influenced by them, Jane never reads them and shamelessly ignores any comments read out of the Sunday Times Culture magazine by Steve. Let's agree to disagree on this one. Critics seem to think they have to criticise!!

Within a week of landing on our fair shores Dave & Lucie had purchased a new car - a Toyota Corolla. They gave it several runs, one up to Shropshire to visit Espiritu Ballooning, to make sure the car was going to be reliable and get them to and from their summer working venue of the Loire Valley.

This is a similar car to the one they had whilst they were in Australia so it was very familiar to them.

Toyota reliability is renown and nobody can go wrong by purchasing one of these especially if it is low mileage as this one is - 16,000 miles.

We took a delivery of gravel so that we could renovate the drive. It became a mess when the garage was built back in 1998 and we decided not to buy any gravel until we had completed the major construction work around the garden. We shifted 5 tonnes of gravel back in May 2005 and so we had another 3 tonnes to complete the area in front of the garages.

With the help of our house guests it was a quick job to get the wheel barrow loads distributed around the yard and get everything smartened up. As long as we keep on top of the weeds over the summer it will continue to look good.

A "must do" for all visitors to Northamptonshire is the tree top walk at Salcey forest. This is a wonderfully designed construction. A wooden walkway on thick tubular, steel stilts that gradually take you up through the trees to the very top of the forest. From there you can overlook the forest and its surrounding countryside looking north towards Northampton and south towards Milton Keynes.

All the wood has been produced within Forestry Commission woodlands but not necessarily Salcey.

A visit to Salcey has to include a tea or coffee at the Forest Cafe with reasonably priced snacks and cakes - sounds like an advert.

Another week and an even bigger purchase. After much deliberation the Kews re-entered the property ownership club by placing a deposit on an apartment within the new Upton Village development. They selected a two bedroom property with an open plan design - very modern. See Paul Newman Homes for more details.

During this period we had several debates around the difference between a flat and an apartment. The word flat gives an impression of small and boring whereas an apartment conjures up thoughts of large open internal spaces and a certain modernity.

This purchase couldn't have been better planned because the building work will not be completed until October shortly after they return from France.

To celebrate the prodigal homecoming we held a special G'Day & Au Revoir camp fire. In the past these events usually take place in October, see October 2002 for a sample of a previous event, when it is dark by five o'clock. This time it stayed light until after 8 o'clock so most of us were cooking and eating before the cold, dark evening closed around us.

Once the bangers, beans and potatoes had been consumed we brought out some seriously large pieces of wood to burn so there was no fear of getting cold and we sat outside until one thirty on the Sunday morning, drinking, talking or just staring into the flickering flames.

We had a full house for the night but still got up and went for our usual Sunday morning swim, our lodgers pitched in to clear away the debris from the night before. Many hands made light work.