The Pig Yard

June 08 - A busy month with the arrival of the new car; trips here and there and of course our daily routine around our working lives. Jane's work life is less routine than Steve's because she not only works on irregular days she also fills in when people are on holiday or off sick. Steve has real problems keeping track because he tends to work 08:00 - 18:00 every weekday.

The weather remains unseasonable and although it has been quite warm at times it is usually wet and/or windy.

Another of Steve's dreams has come true. As a reward for getting through the last few difficult months at work (applying for his own job, etc.) we have bought a second-hand Porsche Boxster.

Steve always thought the Audi TT was a superb sports car, what he didn't realise was that it was a mere sheep dressed in wolf's clothing. The Boxster is a bit of a wolf, probably not a werewolf like the Porsche Cayman but undoubtedly a wolf. This is a drivers car that expresses it's power every time the throttle is dabbed with a deep, throaty note. Steve hasn't stalled a car since he first started driving 40 years ago but the clutch is so fierce on the Porsche he's managed to stall it a few times, once in the car park at work in front of his staff - embarrassing.

He recently went up to Tatton Park in Cheshire for a business meeting and managed to get 34mpg so not only a fast car but one with the potential to be economic when required.

Kate, Sue and Jane headed off to the annual BBC Gardeners World event at Birmingham NEC. They've been going for the last few years to mix with the BBC's famous gardeners; possibly get a photograph and pick up some hints. Having read a number of Alan Tichmarsh's fiction books, as well as his autobiography,  Jane is a bit of a sucker for the man so she couldn't resist stopping to take a picture when the opportunity arose.

For the second year running the event was a combined garden and food show so it was no surprise to see Gordon Ramsey demonstrating in his enthusiastic, f***ing style. Now that's an anomaly when newspapers place asterisks when using expletives and everyone knows what the expletives are. If the Gordon Ramsey TV shows bleeped out his swearing then it just would be a series of bleeps and his character, enthusiasm and purpose would be lost.

Val invited everyone to Earls Barton for a Sunday afternoon BBQ to celebrate her birthday. It was a little earlier in the month than her actual birthday so that Dave could attend before flying back to Kenya.

Since Nick has finished the improvements to their house he and Val have put a great deal of effort into the garden and all their hard work has paid off. The garden looked beautiful, not a blade of grass out of place. The vegetable plot was doing particularly well with an abundant crop of lettuce, broccoli, carrots, beetroot and soft fruits promised for later in the year.

After eating a significant lunch and sitting around, talking, joking and drinking we left to get back to our own garden, following the good example of Nick & Val, to tidy it up and get the weeds sorted out.

We accompanied Sue & Graham to the Royal & Derngate to see the Yardbirds and the Zombies - both groups from the 60's. When we arrived at our seats we had the added pleasure of Lucie's company as she'd managed to get a late booking. We'd seen the Yardbirds recently in a very small venue and it was quite disappointing but the larger auditorium gave a much better experience. For those who are not aware the Yardbirds was the proving ground for a number of sixties rock guitarists - Eric Clapton was a founder member and Mick Taylor also played with them before moving on for a brief time with the Rolling Stones.

The Zombies (lead singer Colin Blunstone) are a favourite of Sue's because she knew them as a teenager when she lived in St Albans and Colin Blunstone went out with her friend. So forty years on from then and he still has a good voice although his presence on stage was a little unusual. He held himself as though he were a marionette - his hands with his fingers together, elbows in and a slight bend to his knees. You can just get a sense of this from the image. Rod Argent another founder member of the Zombies and the keyboard player was full of himself but perhaps that's what happens when someone is still in the music business at the age of 60+.

Overall it was a good night, the music was clear without being too loud.

With two cats it's always difficult to feed the birds but we've come up with a solution that means hanging feeders from next doors guttering. We can be in the kitchen or the library and see a variety of birds - blue tits, sparrows, finches, starlings etc coming and feeding throughout the day.

Lately the fat balls in particular have been disappearing at an alarming rate and Steve put it down to the Jackdaws that squawk and make one hell of a racket first thing in the morning. They are very big birds compared to the tits but one morning our curiosity was answered when we observed this cheeky squirrel hanging by his back legs from the guttering, biting and clawing large chunks out of the fat balls. Days later he was well into the routine and managed to lift the container off its wire, drop it to the ground and then eat them at his leisure.

The dilemma we face is - do we keep refilling the bird containers only for the squirrel to take his share first or do we stop and deprive the birds? Jane's solution is to put out a large mug full of peanuts on the ground so the squirrel can feed and the birds have their containers too. Our peanut bill is going exponential but the animals are happy.

We thought we ought to put a photo of our balloon onto the web because we've forgotten what it looks like. This picture was taken in April 2007 and was our first flight of the year. So we're at the end of June and we still haven't flown. OK we may have missed one or two slots because we've been doing other things but not that many - it's either been too wet or too windy or both. Having last flown in September 2007 they are both feeling very rusty and are waiting for ideal conditions before they take to the air again.

Steve & Nick have had discussions as to whether it's worthwhile continuing next year because the the fuel, insurance and maintenance makes each flight cost over £100. They did play with the idea of getting an Autogyro but that is even more expensive however it looks a lot of fun.