The Pig Yard

January 08 - there was a quote in the Sunday Times that if February was a child in the playground it would be alone in a corner, with a runny nose and no friends. That maybe true but January wouldn't even be at school, it would be at home in bed looking pale and wan. And so our January seems to have been just so. Every weekend we attempted to get out for a walk come rain, winds or cold and we had equal shares of each of them sometimes at the same time.

As always work continues to get in the way of life with Jane working extra hours at the surgery and Steve working evenings and weekends to keep up with his workload. Here we are in the latter years of our working lives and instead of winding down we're slaving more than ever.

Of course not content with her busy working week Jane maintains a busy sporting life playing squash, table tennis and fitting in a couple of swims every week. The village table tennis club run by Jane every Thursday evening in the village hall goes from strength to strength and she's now looking for a second table because there are so many people turning up.

We started the New Year with a walk round Pitsford Reservoir. We've lived in Northamptonshire for over 35 years, moving here in 1972, and we have never walked around the reservoir before. We were joined by Dave and Lucie who have done the walk many times and have a particular fondness for it because they used to live at Brixworth when they were first married.

It was a glorious day, the sun was shining and it seemed that everyone had decided that this was the best place to be to start the year - it was very busy. The cafe at the Brixworth end of the reservoir was so crowded we couldn't even get a cup of tea.

We decided we must do this again or maybe next time bring our bikes and cycle round. The track is good quality and because it's around water, quite flat.

January is a month when a couple of our friends have birthdays. Dave's was first and he took the usual suspects out for dinner at the Narrow Boat Inn, Weedon. They have an excellent menu but bearing in mind it is a pub and not a restaurant it is quite expensive. It appears they are trying to move away from being a pub and more into the restaurant business because there was little space given over to the bar compared with the number of tables they were fitting in.

The food was excellent although the service could have been better. We also decided to waive starters and go for the main course with the possibility of a dessert. However while we waited for our orders to be taken there was no offer of bread or rolls and once we'd finished the main course there was a long, long wait before the order for desserts was taken and then a wait before they arrived. To relieve the tedium of waiting some of our number took to playing with the helium balloons tied to table decorations. This would've been fine but there was a ceiling fan that kept dragging them into its clutches before throwing them out again, luckily without bursting them. The restaurant staff were not amused. If you want a quiet, pleasant meal out this is a good place to go but just check they haven't got a party of ten arriving whilst you're eating.

For more information on the Narrow Boat Inn click here.

This month was also Graham's birthday but he's decided to celebrate his when Jane has hers in February.

This was a very wet month with many parts of the country experiencing flooding. The Environment Agency has spent many millions of pounds in Northamptonshire building flood defences so we don't have a repeat of April 1998 (click here for news reports) and it seems the money was well spent because despite high levels of water in the Nene it was controlled so that it came to the top of the banks and was allowed to run off into the flood plain without major damage or disruption.

The lock on the right was allowing the water to pour over the top and there was a sluice just down river that was electrically operated by remote control.


We decided to walk east along the Nene from just south of Earls Barton and then up into the village where we called in on Nick and Val for a coffee.

The footpath took us across part of the flood plain and as expected parts of it were flooded. In the distance you can see the gate we were heading for and beyond it the Nene in full spate.

We managed to cross the water without getting too wet and the thought of a coffee at the top of the hill spurred us on.

Late one Sunday afternoon we decided to fit in a quick walk from the village so that Steve could wear his new walking boots before we go on holiday in February. It's really great to be able to step outside of the door and cross the fields. We headed up to the Northampton arm of the Grand Union canal and then down towards Northampton.

As we walked along we spotted this cormorant catching the last rays of the setting sun and as we approached he became, understandably, more and more nervous. Steve managed to snatch this photo at the Lumix's maximum telephoto setting before the cormorant dived into the canal and disappeared for thirty seconds. He eventually surfaced much further along the canal a safe distance from us.

Before the canal goes under the M1 we crossed the canal and headed back across the fields into the village. Steve's boots were comfortable and he now needs to clean both pairs of our boots before we go away to Gloucester.

This month Steve went with Dave to PC World to buy a laptop for Dave. Steve does not like PC World but it is convenient and although not as cheap as the internet it's relatively easy to take stuff back. Dave has been using a Dell laptop in the Masai Mara to transfer photos taken mid balloon flight onto a CD so the punters can take away a memento of their flight but he was concerned that after 2 years this maybe coming to the end of its life.

We managed to make a good purchase that suited his needs however it was running Windows Vista. Bill Gates would have everyone believe that this is the best operating system ever. Well cosmetically it maybe an improvement on XP (and even that's debatable) but has very little added value.

Steve and Dave spent an evening getting the new laptop contented to Dave's broadband but this did require a call to Virgin Medias call centre. No guesses where this was based, yes India. Dave had the phone on speaker phone so Steve could hear what was being said but Steve was struggling to understand the strong Indian accent. They eventually got everything running but they had concerns that the old laptop wouldn't work now. Computing is never easy.

We are kept warm in the winter months by a good supply of logs and this winter has been no exception. We did have a lot of pine but this is not the best of wood so Steve has been cutting this first and making sure we burn it in the wood burner quite hot so it doesn't leave too many tarry deposits in the chimney which we believe was the cause of the chimney fire we had a few years ago. He's also cutting poplar but it tends to either keep it's moisture inside a thick bark or dries completely and becomes balsa wood which burns in no time at all. The best wood we have at the moment is the cherry we collected in 2006.

Steve enjoys going out into the wood barn at weekends with the chain saw so he can make plenty of noise. It also means nobody goes near him - never tap a man on the shoulder when he's wielding a chain saw, at best you may lose a finger or two and at worst it could be a complete limb. It looks very rural when it's all stacked up by the front door.