The Pig Yard

June 10 - So what have we been up to this month? We've had issues with paint some of which has ended up in the wrong place and a lot of it, thankfully, has been applied to the right place. The weather in the latter part of the month became very warm and so within a short period of time Steve went from eating porridge for breakfast and soup for lunch he was having Weetabix (Tesco equivalent) and salads. The evenings in June can still be chilly but the last two weeks have been 20 degrees centigrade right up until midnight and therefore we've enjoyed some barbecues. The garden continues on its cycle of change with plants blossoming in turn and Jane has an overwhelming assortment of produce in the greenhouse that requires daily watering and constant attention to keep it growing before it gets transferred into the vegetable plot. Jane continues to work hard and attempts to lead at least three lives overlapping and at the same time. She makes everyone else tired just watching her.

Dr Who - the very best

Doctor Who

Whenever the actor playing the Doctor changes there is always massive speculation in the national press as to whether the replacement is going to be as good as the previous incumbent. There was no need to worry this time around because the new young Doctor, Matt Smith, has been superb in terms of his quirkiness and the ability to balance edginess with humour. He has, of course, been aided by his partner in time travel, Amy.

This series has seen the very best ever Dr Who programme of all time. Okay the monster involved was a bit week but the inclusion of Van Gogh and his struggle with depression was woven into the whole story brilliantly. Some might say it was emotional pap but we enjoyed the humour and the pathos with both of us in tears at the very end. This is television escapism at its very best.

Cotswold Way Trail

About two years ago our friend Dave came up with the notion that he and Steve would walk the Pennine Way (268 miles and at least two weeks effort) once Steve had retired. As with all things in life their objective has been modified to suit their capabilities and they are now planning to walk the Cotswold Way (102 miles and 6 days walking).

They intend starting in Bath on Sunday 3rd October and expect to cover an average of 20 miles per day with overnight stays in bed and breakfasts along the way reaching Chipping Camden on Friday 8th October.

Steve and Dave spent a couple of hours searching for B&Bs that were close to the trail and at the right distances with an opportunity to walk a short distance in the evening to a local pub for a meal. This wasn't as easy as it sounds but with the help of the National Trails website they managed to get reasonable places to stay along the way.

Despite the walk being less strenuous than the Pennine Way it will still push them to the limits and it could easily be demeaned when others have run marathons of 26 miles back to back for several days but they're not superhuman. Steve and Dave will start seriously preparing for the long slog during September once Dave returns from Kenya. They keep calculating how long each day will take and with an average speed of just over 3 miles per hour they will need to spend over 6 hours a day walking.

We will keep you informed of the preparations and once he starts Steve will give a daily update either via a blog or twitter so watch this space for developments.

Cotswold Way view

BBC Gardners World - Birmingham

BBC Gardeners' World

Once again Jane went with Val, Sue, Lucie, and Kate to the BBC Gardeners' World show at the NEC Birmingham. It was Val's birthday so they turned it into a special event for her.
Jane met Adam Henson, the Cotswold farmer who appears on CountryFile. Every year the emphasis moves away from gardening and more into the food hall. The Royal Horticultural Society marquee was as colourful as ever with superb displays of every type of flower in all their different varieties. Prices were high but with the knowledge that a stand costs £3000 in one of the halls no wonder they were sparsely occupied.

With the recession really biting small businesses, it seems many had cut this show out of their budgets. The food show had several freebies which subsidised the lunches. Sue was appalled that the beer tasting cost £7 this year, needless to say we did not participate. The good part of the day was that they received their goodie bags on the way out (and they were exceptional) which meant they did not have to be traipsed round the show for the whole day.

The Garden

Our own garden is looking better than ever. Of course nothing is achieved without effort so to get it in really good shape has taken a lot of digging, weeding, feeding and planting. The greenhouse needs watering every day as the weather hots up. There is a constant need for attention and we have different approaches with Jane happy to do a little every evening whilst Steve prefers to tackle it in large chunks.

The picture shows Jane sewing some seeds after Steve has just erected the bean poles. Since this photo was taken another set of bean poles has been constructed and the beans are now a third of the way up.

Steve has been cutting the grass every week since he made the first cut and this regime has improved the quality of the lawn although there is some doubt in our minds that it will ever be a great lawn, thankfully the fact it is overgrown with clover is a blessing as clover is greener than the grass!


Vegetable plot during June

Porsche boot after clean up

Emulsion Paint Mishap

As the remodelling of the guest bedroom and bathroom came to an end Steve was busy buying paint. After a very successful trip to Screwfix and B&Q for the necessary DIY bits he started for home with the Dulux Emulsion Paint in the foot well of the Porsche. He remembered a story of how someone had stopped sharply to avoid a collision and the paint they were carrying fell over, the lid came off and they got paint over the car floor. With this in mind he decided to rearrange things and put the shopping in the boot and made sure the paint was wedged in place.

On his way home he had to break sharply but thought nothing of it until he opened the boot in the garage to see everything covered in five litres of white emulsion. To say he was dismayed is a gross understatement and he initially went into panic mode but things just got worse as he managed to get paint onto the bodywork. To cut a long story short he managed to scoop up eighty percent of the paint back into the container and then removed the boot lining. He enquired about the cost of replacing it and of course Porsche prices, even second hand, are extortionate so he opted to get out the jet wash and give the linings a good wash until all the paint had gone. For obvious reasons we don't have a before picture but it is almost as good as new - thank goodness.

The lesson here is that modern paint containers are so thin that any side compression causes the lid to pop off like a champagne cork and then any wedging in place becomes a waste of time.

Bathroom Remodelling
The remodelling on the bathroom has been finished and what a great job Nick has made of it. The changes required to give us a proper en suite bathroom directly off the bedroom meant that the loft hatch had to be moved out of a corridor and into the bedroom; a door had to be knocked through from the bedroom to the existing bathroom, a new wall had to be built to close of the previous entrance to the bathroom; the bath, toilet, wash hand basin were removed and replaced with a new, large power shower; a new toilet, bidet and wash hand basin was installed and all the walls and floor were tiled.

We even went as far as asking Nick to install under floor heating so that the tiles would feel warm in the morning when we get up. The designer totem radiator may not be required in the winter due to the under floor heating but it is very useful as a towel rail.

The end result is that we have a superb guest bathroom with room for storing towels, soaps, etc. which is elegant and practical.

Guest bathroom remodelling

Remodelled guest bedroom 

Bedroom Remodelling
The final stages required us to completely redecorate the bedroom. The walls had been partially replastered where doors and windows had been installed so there was considerable preparation work and we had added pressure  because we'd already arranged for the new carpet to be delivered and fitted within a few days. We put all our efforts into getting the walls and paintwork tidied up and painted so that we finally finished after ten o'clock the night before the carpet and new blinds were due to arrive.

The blind fitter arrived on time and had all the blinds up and working within an hour. Shortly after he left the carpet fitters arrived and went to work.

The finished room is wonderful. It now opens straight onto the patio and has this cool, refreshing feel. We intend to use it during the summer as our weekend retreat when we don't have guests staying.

Eating Outside

We managed to find the time to arrange a couple of barbecues. The first was in our garden but hosted by Dave and Lucie because they live in an apartment and therefore don't have a garden. They used to be great barbecues and during the summer months Dave would frequently be found standing over his Hibachi several days a week, weather permitting. As expected they delivered a superb evening with great food and everything cooked to perfection.

A couple of weeks later we had Jane's mother staying with us so we decided to hold our own barbecue because she enjoys meeting our friends and she doesn't get such opportunities at home. It should be stated that Steve is not renown for his cooking abilities and there was an element of panic in his barbecuing however it worked out fine with the burgers and sausages cooked well enough to avoid stomach upsets and not so blackened that they matched the charcoal. Jane, as always, produced masses of salad stuff with baked potatoes for the healthy and fat chips for the "heart attack" option. She was careful enough to label all the items that had mustard in them so Martin (who reacts badly to mustard) would be safe.

We sat out in the warm evening long after the sun set, drinking and talking eventually disbanding close to midnight.

Pigyard BBQ June 2010 


Morse Crowed

Over the past month our bird feeding eatery has been invaded by some real bully boys in the shape of a delinquent family of seven jackdaws and two magpies. As if this wasn't bad enough the Mafiosi in the form of two crows has started to call and have been demanding bread with menaces.

Initially we thought someone was trying to break into the house at five in the morning because there was lot of banging downstairs but there was no sign of anyone. All we noticed were smears on the kitchen windows. Then one day there was a daytime attack and Steve confronted a large crow standing on the window ledge and tapping vigorously on the window. This has now been going on for over two weeks and it is starting to wear a bit thin particularly as they can start the tapping at daybreak, 04:40 at the moment, and continue for an hour. Whilst listening to this Steve came up with the idea of calling this constant tapping Morse Crowed.

It wasn't enough for us to know what was happening Steve set about setting up a webcam that our friends bought him for his 60th birthday. At the first tapping sound he was up just after dawn and managed to capture the video that has now been loaded onto YouTube but can be seen here.

The technology and expertise we've gained from putting video onto the web site means we might do this again so please let us know what you think.

Guy Tortora Gig

On the last night of the month we went into Northampton to the Malt Shovel Pub to see Guy Tortora play. He appears about once every year and considering its free entry he is a superlative blues man. This time he was slow to warm up but once he got into it he was as good as ever. We've bought all his CDs but his first is without a doubt the best.

During the first set he played many of his own songs using a variety of guitars, accompanied by drumer, bass guitarist and keyboard player. The sound reproduction wasn't great in such a small venue as the Malt Shovel but his skill and style came across very well.

In the second set he played songs by Joan Armatrading amongst others and finished on a Stones classic which was a great sing along and superb ending. The pub was incredibly warm and although we enjoyed the evening it was great to get outside into the cooler night air, especially as we drove home in the Smart Car with the roof down.

Guy Tortora at the Malt Shovel

Steve says:Steve's Blog

The slowing of time - has anyone ever noticed how time seems to slow down when swimming lengths? I have so many thoughts and ideas whilst swimming but the lengths drag by so much that its easy to lose count. My theory is that water has very little stimulation, so little in fact that water floatation chambers are used to help people meditate and are sometimes used as torture therefore there is spare capacity to focus on one's thoughts. Compare this to walking when there is so much more going on around, so much more stimulus that the brain is effectively distracted by all these diversions therefore time appears to go much faster.

Talking to one of my old directors the other day and he was pointing out that we place a lot of emphasis on the fact that at approximately 2,500 we have just recorded the lowest number of road casualty deaths since records began in 1926 and the decline continues. This should then be compared with the number of deaths due to MRSA and C Difficile in our hospitals - this currently stands at around 8,000 per year which is scandalous.

This got me thinking about how we go through our lives with completely skewed ideas about the real risks we take every day - it's safer to drive than go into hospital.