The Pig Yard

July 10 - What a strange month this has been. It has been dominated by the events surrounding Jane's sister who was diagnosed with Liver cancer last November. She was taken into a hospice at the beginning of the month and has been made more comfortable with balanced medication. We have made several visits down to Bristol to see her and on one occasion this involved driving down, visiting her, then ferrying Jane's mum back to north London before heading back up the M1 to home. Our 320 mile round trip started just after 13:00 and we eventually arrived parked up at home at around 22:00. We continue to visit as and when time allows.

At long Last we've set up a blog site for our visitors to have their say - click here

Jane feeding Alpaccas

Alpaca Heaven

Jane has befriended a couple of Alpacas that are in a small paddock just outside Blisworth. They happen to be on the route she takes when she cycles to or from work at the surgery. This gives her every excuse to stop by and say hello. If the vegetable plot is producing excesses then it's quite likely the Alpacas will get a sample. In this case Jane had been thinning out the carrots and so they reaped the rewards.

It's interesting that although she loves these fluffy creatures she still yearns for a donkey so her ideal animal farm would be a donkey with an alpaca for company.

For confirmation just go back to February 2006 and our North Devon Holiday...

A Walk in the Woods

We have rekindled our interest in walking in woods. One of our favourites at the moment is Hazelborough Wood which is an ancient deciduous woodland. The light through the beech trees is spectacular and constantly changing. Quite often we walk to keep fit and get some exercise but this time we were taking time out to breath in the atmosphere - look, listen and appreciate.

We could have spent a lot longer there but it has given us an incentive to return in the near future.

Woodland walk - Hazelborough Forest

White Admiral

Butterfly Chasing

About 25 years ago we spent many hours at weekends looking for butterflies in the meadows and woodlands of Northamptonshire but as time pressures changed so did our interests. We are revisiting some past interests and are taking time out to photograph some of the fascinating butterflies that exist in the county.

The White Admiral is not as rare as once thought but of course one has to know where and what to look for. Hazelborough Wood has a large number of skipper and hairstreak butterflies but to see them requires patience and a good eye. One day we hope to catch a glimpse of a Purple Emperor but they tend to feed at the tops of oak trees so it is rare to see them at head height - we shall keep looking.

The Community Project

A small group of friends have been discussing setting up a community of four or five houses on a plot of land in close proximity to each other. Each couple has produced a list of criteria and there are many similarities usually consisting of a two bedroom house/bungalow with some communal land that could be used as a vegetable plot and for possibly keeping pigs, chickens, etc. We think that with our collective buying power we should be able to buy some land and build five houses for about £1.2 million. We are looking to support each other over the next twenty plus years as we get older rather than relying on the state and as most of us don't have children or relatives who will be around for us we will need to be self supporting.

As part of the project Steve and Nick travelled to St Neots to a seminar set up by Potton Homes. They sat through a couple of PowerPoint presentations and then had a tour of the factory where they saw how the timber framed houses are prefabricated and then loaded onto a lorry for transporting to anywhere in the country. The building can be erected on site and made watertight within twelve weeks and could be habitable within 4 to 6 months depending on the level of detail required internally.

The key thing they learned was that finding an appropriate building plot could take up to eighteen months and because we are looking for a larger plot for 4 or 5 houses that would normally be purchased by a developer we are going to find it extremely difficult to get what we want. At least we all know the size of the problem we are facing and the likely hurdles we will have to overcome on our journey.

We are now planning a trip to the National Self Build Centre in Swindon so that all couples can get a better idea of the kind of homes we could be moving into in the next three to five years.

Timber frame house building

Amaurosis fugax eyeball

Amaurosis fugax 

Steve had a health event this month. He was sitting watching Top Gear, nothing too exciting going on when he started to lose vision in one eye. He describes it as an irregular shaped shadow forming in the bottom 25% of his left eye. It only lasted about 5 minutes at most and he was feeling OK in himself. He had an inkling this was significant and Jane knew very well it needed action so she quickly got him checked out with the doctor. Steve had some blood tests taken and he was booked into Northampton General for further tests the following day. He had to report to "The Centre for Elderly Medicine" - how does that make you feel? Anyway after being weighed (he isn't overweight he's just heavy), blood pressure, ECG, and answering a lot of questions from a registrar he then had a Carotid artery scan. Although we're still waiting for the results to be reported back to his GP we are treating this as a very early warning of a possible stroke in the future.

He's now taking 300mg aspirin every day for a couple of weeks to make sure the blood is thin. He continues to exercise - last Sunday he swam his usual half mile in 20 minutes and after lunch we cycled 12 miles. So not dead yet.

Lead Thieves at Work

In the early part of the month we were woken one Saturday morning at about 04:30. Steve at first thought it was the Crow back again banging on the kitchen window but then he realised this was something different. He got out of bed and looked out of the landing window from where he saw two guys looking in the back of a white Ford Fiesta. A moment later there was a loud bang from the top of the school roof and he saw a third chap ripping off the lead from the roof. He immediately phoned the police who kept him on the phone talking through what was happening. The chaps reversed the car into the school entrance and within five minutes the first police car arrived blocking the car in. It turned out to be a dog handler and the dog was off in hot pursuit as the three lead thieves sprinted behind the school building and into the fields beyond. We had ringside seats and could hear the dog handler shouting and the dog barking. Within twenty minutes two of the thieves were being walked back in handcuffs to other squad cars, two of them unmarked.

We asked the police if they'd caught the third guy and he had been captured at the crossroads in the village. With all the drama over we went back to bed laughing at the police chase that might have happened with the three chaps and a boot full of lead in a Ford Fiesta. It would have been the slowest police chase in history.

Just as we started to go back to sleep at 05:30 there was a knock at the door and a police woman asking for a statement. So we did our neighbourhood watch and were village heroes for a day. What we didn't realise until later was that they'd also attempted to rip the lead piping off the church opposite. The total cost of repair will probably run into tens of thousands but these idiots are more than likely out on bail.

Lead theft from school and church

Northampton Lion sculptures

Northampton Lions

As part of our weekly routine we take pleasure in parking outside Northampton and walking into the town centre on Saturday mornings. Steve always vowed that once he retired eh wouldn't clog up the streets and shops on Saturdays and he would leave that "delight" to the great unwashed however with Jane continuing to work and her free Fridays being taken up by work commitments we are still maintaining our visits at the weekend. We do enjoy raising hopes in shops for an hour and then relaxing at the Academy Coffee Haus on College Street Mews. When the weather is good and there is an inkling of sunshine we love to sit outside alongside the smokers coughing up their lungs and blowing the froth off their cappucinos.

In the past month Northampton Borough have launched a series of lions decorated in various ways. Our friend Sue helped to decorate one of the lions with a patchwork of knitted squares to form a coat of many colours. The project has been very successful and the lions proved to be interesting landmarks - you never know what you might find as you turn a corner or approach All Saints Church.


Steve says:Steve's Blog

We now have a blog running using the blogging software, WordPress, so please go to to get involved. If it proves successful then the "Steve says" part of the site will not be used.

I should be getting into training for my walk with Dave in October along the Cotswold Way. Each day we will need to walk an average of 18 miles and so far I haven't done a single walk of more than ten. I've got a walk route planned that would take me from home along the canal via Blisworth then into Towcester for a quick lunch before returning along the lanes through Cold Higham, Tiffield, Gayton and then home again. I keep saying I will do it but never seem to make the time.

I also need to get fitter for our Cycle for Cynthia charity ride at the end of September. In the past we've always done the 25 miles but this year Jane would really like to do the 50 mile challenge but I'm not so sure. At the end of last year I saw some of the 50 milers coming back after six hours of cycling and they looked completely wasted. Of course they hadn't prepared for the distance but neither have we yet. We've got a month before we make our decision so we'll have to see how our training goes. It might come down to me doing the 25 miles and Jane going for the 50 miler - she's fitter and braver than I am.