The Pig Yard

January arrived damp and windy and half way through the month we experienced our first snow fall of the season. At the first signs of snow the nation panics, notices go out at work about leaving early in case it gets worse - we no longer appear to be a hardy nation willing to take risks.

Early in the month we went to see Lord of the Rings - Return of the King. This is an epic film in every sense of the word. It has a run time of 3 hours 20 minutes but it doesn't seem that long although some people thought the last half hour was too long and too sentimental. We enjoyed every minute, the battle scenes are incredible, the fellowship of the characters is heart rending and finally the leadership shown is enviable. We laughed, we cried and we fought every battle to such an extent that we were totally exhausted by the end of it.

Rather than wait at the end to pick over the pieces of the film with our friends we opted for a fish and chip supper at home in front of a roaring log fire pondering the brilliance of the director and designers.

We spent the weekends visiting friends and making sure that we didn't lose contact over the winter when it is very tempting to batten down the hatches and wait for the spring to arrive.

Jane had to work one Saturday morning at the surgery but this gave Steve time to cut up more logs and take out his work frustrations with a felling axe. The wood pile was getting a little low and so a couple of hours cutting wood is always beneficial for Steve's fitness level and the future fuel supply.

We are currently burning four wheelbarrow loads of wood every week and this enables us to keep the wood burner going 24 hours a day. The library is very rarely cold because the stone fireplace acts as a large storage heater.

We were informed this month that The Ballooning Business is now being operated by Mike Gabb of Heart of England Balloons. It's a little uncertain as to what this will mean in terms of our crewing for the business and the other benefits we get like a launch site and the availability of propane gas for our private flights. It seems that nothing will change but it is still early days.

We have been involved with the business since its inception fourteen years ago and it's important to recognise that all things change in time. Steve had already decided not to fly commercially this year and therefore we hope to fly a lot more of our friends, neighbours and work colleagues.

As a farewell gesture to the old ballooning business we produced a second edition of Aerotwat. For the uninitiated the official publication of The British Balloon and Airship Club is called Aerostat. Ten years ago we produced a spoof publication relating humorous incidents and highlighting the quirks of pilots and crew. This proved to be very successful and became a collectors item.

After a ten year gap the technology has advanced enabling us to improve on the production quality of the second edition. We have also managed to transfer it to the web with some slight modifications and you can find page 1 at Aerotwat Issue 2. You will have to await the official publication date of 27 February to see more.

One Sunday we took the opportunity of some fine, cold weather to start building the phase 2 level of the decking. This will give a step up to the main decking and also extend out over the pond. There is a concrete path to be removed and this will take some effort because it is at least 15 centimetres thick. Whenever we remove rubble or concrete the problem is getting rid of it at the local waste areas. The council have made it more difficult to dump household waste in an attempt to reduce their costs and this has resulted in an increase in fly tipping into ditches and gateways in the countryside around the village.

In the last week of the month we had a snowfall which amounted to 10 centimetres in about 30 minutes. The impact of this blizzard was that everyone at work left for home around 16:00 and the resulting panic of lemmings lead to gridlock in Northampton. Jane was already at home and therefore went around the village and took some photographs.

Steve left work at 18:15 hoping that the traffic would have sorted itself out however it took him 1 hour 30 minutes to drive home, a journey that normally takes him 20 minutes. Others were not so fortunate and even those that left Northampton at 21:00 still took 3 hours to travel 5 miles.