The Pig Yard

October 09 - A month that is not likely to be forgotten by Steve. He experienced his 60th birthday and within two weeks he retired from his job as Head of IT for Northamptonshire County Council. He has been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions and the fall out has been covering everyone. Jane, as ever, kept a steady hand on the tiller and steered the McCarthy ship through what could have been troubled waters. Steve's brother, Clive, came to stay to see him through the rite of passage from gainful employment to loafer.

We took Jane's mum to a family event in London. It was a celebration of Jonathon (youngest son of Jane's cousin's Robert and Elizabeth) and Patricia's wedding who married in Trinidad where they live.

Sometimes such events can be a little difficult when you don't know anyone but this wasn't one of those times and we had some pleasant chats with a number of people who we only meet at times like these (weddings and funerals).

Not everyone from the usual suspects was around on Steve's birthday so we took those who were around to the Cromwell Cottage in Kislingbury. The service was slow but the food was good however we revisited a week later with the rest of the team and the meal delivery had ground to a halt, the food portions were small and the general service was abysmal. We will never visit again.

The main event was Steve's birthday camp fire. It rained all morning so we cleared the garage just in case the rain didn't ease off however we didn't need to worry because, as always, the devil looks after his own - the skies cleared and the fire was alight soon after darkness fell.

The usual suspects were altogether so it was great to get a photo of us all. Shortly after this photo was taken Steve blew out the candles on his birthday cake (thanks to Sue) and cut it.

As is often the case with our camp fire evenings the cooking and food was secondary to the good company. It was quite a windy night and we spent much of the time moving around the fire to avoid the smoke and sparks. It was a mild evening for mid October as can be seen from Steve wearing a body warmer and jeans - no overcoat as has happened in previous years.

Kate and Martin are looking through a photo album compiled by Sue depicting the last 35 years of Steve's life - not quite 60 photos from 60 years but almost.

Part way through the evening Steve decided to take the chain saw to an old piece of garden furniture and we all enjoyed the blaze once this was placed on the fire - suddenly the camp fire becomes a bonfire.

Throughout October Steve was working a 4 day week in preparation for having a lot more time on his hands and he was very lucky to get some brilliant weather. The sun was shining and it certainly put a wonderful glow on the countryside.

He and Clive walked from the village up to Gayton and then down along the canal to the Blisworth Arm where the Grand Union canal divides for the Northampton arm.

About a mile out of the village there is a field with a number of horses and this donkey. Jane has a particular love of donkeys and this one is quite unusual because it has the look of a mule. It turns out that it is a Spanish donkey and so Jane has named it Pedro.

It's interesting how farming continues to change and no more so that the appearance of unusual crops. This is a photo of elephant grass which has been growing around the village for the last two years and is harvested annually as a bio-fuel.

The grass grows from a rhizome and so once the crop has been established (2 years) it will continue to grow year on year with very little input from the farmer. By the third year it should be producing 10 tonnes/hectare but the comments on the farmer's bulletin boards suggest that this is optimistic. Of course if the government are subsidising bio-fuels then farmers would be daft not to grow it however it does change the landscape and where wheat and barley were grown before they are being replaced by Oil Seed Rape and Miscanthus (elephant grass).


Steve and his brother, Clive, managed to get out and about on a few occasions. Despite a very mild October, Clive was missing the warmth of San Francisco.

They visited Stratford on Avon to wander around the home of Shakespeare and it was more about the journey than the town because the weather was good, if a little chilly so the roof came down on the Porsche and they had a very pleasant ride through the Northamptonshire and Warwickshire countryside.

The end of the month brought Steve to the point of no return and his retirement event. It was a nerve racking experience - would anybody bother to come to see him off and for a while he was alone at Wootton Hall Park Sports and Social Club waiting for people to turn up (or not). He needn't have worried as more than 60 people attended and even some people who had left the council, including his old boss returned to say farewell.

Steve managed to keep himself together during the farewell speeches and even managed to get through his own farewell without shedding a tear which is more than can be said for Jane who was very emotional on his behalf.

One of his leaving gifts was a cartoon of him that captured him perfectly without paying too much attention to his nose which is very prominent. This is a gift that he will treasure always and now needs to find somewhere in the house to remind him of his past colleagues.

On the final day of the month Kate celebrated her birthday and invited us all to Bella Italia at Sixfields. This was our first visit and although Steve is not too keen on Italian food (it contains cheese which he dislikes) there was a very good menu and something for everyone.

Of course no meal is complete without diners looking at their texts on their mobile phones - Jane and Kate are seen here sharing a text.

We all had a great evening and this is one restaurant where we will return.