The Pig Yard

July - Although it has been reported that the temperatures this month have been average the rainfall certainly hasn't been. Some parts of the country have had major floods but thankfully the Northampton flood defences have held up well.

What with the wind and the rain we didn't get to fly at all this month and Steve is starting to wonder whether it is worth keeping the balloon with so few opportunities to fly.

This month has seen the arrival and departure of Dave & Lucie - see more below.

Paul & Alison's wedding reception took place at the beginning of the month. They were married earlier in the year in the Maldives but because many of the family and friends could not be there they decided to have a reception in their garden.

They requested formal dress - dinner jackets and evening gowns which made an interesting change for us because we so rarely get dressed to go out. We are never more comfortable than in jeans and tee shirts.

It was good to meet Paul and Alison's family and we enjoyed the evening tremendously.

This month may have seen the peak of J K Rowling's career with the publication of her final "children's" novel and also the release of the fifth film in the series. As Harry has grown up over the last ten years so the stories become darker and more ominous; the language becomes more complex and so the whole genre grows as the target audience becomes more mature.

Whatever your opinion it would be difficult to ignore the excitement these books have generated and it cannot be ignored that the author has gone from being an unmarried mother to a person worth £500 million.

Jane was first to start the book and Steve spent the next week putting his fingers in his ears and singing "la la la" so that Jane would not tell him any of the plot until it was his turn to read it.

Her feelings about finally finishing the series (from an interview with Jonathan Ross):

"Finishing the book is a relief, I can feel more relaxed... I can't think of anyone who could know how I felt. Actually finishing it was the most remarkable feeling I've ever had... [I felt] euphoria, devastated, when I finished one chapter near the end I absolutely howled, it had been planned for so long.

"I was in a hotel room on my own, I was sobbing my heart out, I downed half a bottle of champagne from the mini-bar in one and went home with mascara all over my face, that was really tough."

It is many years, possible as many as 25, since we went to see Cats in the West End of London. After all this time we felt it might be a good idea to remind ourselves of what it was like, so when the touring company came to the Royal & Derngate in Northampton we booked seats.

It was a really great night out and the performance hasn't lost any of the magic over the years. Many of the features that we thought would be unique to the West End were still there, for example at the interval the old cat stayed on stage to sign programmes - a nice touch.

A little belatedly the "family" got together to celebrate Val's birthday (seated between Sue and Dave). We went to the Heart of England pub in the centre of Weedon. It was a quiet Tuesday evening but we had a great time, good company and good food.

Martin & Kate travelled along the canal from Nether Heyford in their open cruiser so they could drink with impunity and zigzag their way back in the darkness without fear of being breathalysed. You can even use a mobile phone while travelling on the canal.

Jane frequently gets out on her bike and often cycles to work when the weather is kind but Steve is a more reluctant cyclist. He did get out on a number of occasions but not enough to keep him fit. Of course the fact that it rained most weekends didn't help.

The picture shows Steve with the bikes in the background just after we'd stopped at West Hunsbury lake to feed the swans, geese, ducks and moorhens some stale bread.

Our old college friends, Susie and John visited and we took the opportunity to take a tour of 78 Derngate. The house is famous for being the only Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed property outside of Scotland.

It is a fascinating house. From the outside it appears to be a narrow, three-story, terraced house but inside it has some incredible designs beautifully restored to how they would have been in 1916. The two buildings next to 78 have been acquired and used as exhibition areas and also include a restaurant/cafe.

We enjoyed afternoon tea in The Dining Room: "A stunning boutique-style restaurant serving a selection of gourmet teas, coffees and cakes, light meals and hot lunches, all home made from locally-sourced produce.  Don't miss the piece-de-resistance, the reinvention of the classic afternoon tea." Open Tuesday - Sunday, 10.00 am - 4.30 pm. email -

On our way back from 78 Derngate we passed the rear of the Derngate Theatre and met up with two of the stars from Cats taking a break between performances. They were interested on our visit to 78 Derngate and decided they would be going there themselves.

Like all performers they were very happy to pose after which the were ogling all the young women passing by.

Dave and Lucie arrived back from Kenya and the Masai Mara at the beginning of the month. Their presence refilled the hole in the "family" created by their frequent jaunts to exotic parts of the world. They participated in every activity that had been arranged only missing out on Paul and Alison's belated wedding reception because they couldn't find appropriate apparel. Since they downsized and simplified their lives, posh frocks and suits are not to be found in their wardrobes.

Here we see Dave and Lucie before we took them to Heathrow on their way back.

It will be 4 months before we see them again but at least then they will be home for Christmas and the annual "family" holiday in February.