The Pig Yard

September 10 - It's been a difficult month. We have been facing the fact that Jane's sister, Carol, was terminally ill and she sadly died on 11th September from liver cancer. No matter how prepared we were it still hit us hard. Of course our lives continue and we enjoyed a variety of activities from Llama trekking to going to the theatre to see Spamalot.

Like all good Septembers we've had a complete range of weather experiences with some sunny days and temperatures reaching the 23 degrees and also some misty mornings full of autumnal promise.

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



Carol Rhodes

Jane's sister, Carol, was the most lively and healthy person. She cycled around Bristol (very hilly); trekked in Nepal; cycled from Bristol to Northampton and maintained several allotments. She was outgoing and was always ready to help anyone who needed her - a very giving person.

To read our dedication to Carol please click here...

Carol Rhodes Portrait

Llama Treking

Llama Trekking

Our closest friends gave Jane a Llama Trekking experience for her 60th birthday and they included Steve to keep her company. Despite some trepidation about the whole idea the event proved to be really interesting.

We started with an introduction to the history of Llamas and Alpacas in South America and their different uses - Llamas as pack animals and Alpacas for their hair which is very fine. Our host showed us how she was spinning the hair into wool and there were examples of things that could be woven or knitted.

We were introduced to our individual animals - Jane was paired with Charlie and Steve had Potter. Although not as big as horses they have considerable strength in their necks. The first twenty minutes became a trial of wills - Llamas proved to be timid, stubborn and very independent so we were instructed as to how to get them to do our bidding. The strong wind blowing through the trees didn't help because it seemed to spook them and make them more difficult. After much pulling and encouragement they eventually settled down so that we were walking together. Even when we were in control the silliest things would make them skittish - as we approached some BT manholes the Llamas refused to walk near them and we had to cross to the other side of the road to get past these inert slabs of concrete.

At the end we were reluctant to hand back our charges as we'd grown to love these strange creatures. They were not affectionate, didn't like being stroked but their aloofness was very majestic and attractive.

Village Fete

The village fete is largely based around the church and most of the organisers are church supporters so it isn't something we tend to get too involved in but we are always prepared to support it if we can. This year they introduced the idea of using bicycles to display an idea - this is somewhat based on the Harpole Scarecrows.

Never to miss an opportunity Jane came up with the idea of using her very old Triumph Palm Beach bicycle and setting out in a deckchair on a holiday beach. So we set to and laid down a tarpaulin, covered it with sand, placed sunglasses and a pair of swim shorts on the bike to make the finishing touches.

At the last minute we learned the display was supposed to be in the church grounds and not at the end of our drive so we placed a sign on the bike saying "Retired Palm Beach - too well oiled to make it to the church". Jane is already generating new ideas for next year's display but we're not giving anything away now.

Palm Beach Cycle Sculpture

Jane at village fete

More Village Fete

With approximately 200 properties in the village it is difficult to muster sufficient support to make a village fete a grand affair however the people involved do the best they can. Jane edits the village newsletter so she not only attends to support the village she also picks up all the gossip and news for next month's editorial.

There were a number of stalls and games to buy the usual nick nacks, home grown plants, take part in the Tombola and compete in games like shooting basketball hoops or skittles.

Jane is a real participator and couldn't resist having a go at shooting hoops as can be seen here. She leaps like a gazelle and shoots. Although she managed to make several clean goals she didn't beat some of the younger participants.

Carol's Funeral

Carol's funeral was a humanist event and took place at the Woodlands memorial centre which was a beautiful location. We travelled with Jane's mum and her eldest sister, Ruth, so we decided to stay at a Premier Inn a few miles away from the venue.

Because of the nature of her illness and the inevitable outcome she had time to think about her funeral arrangements in detail and was quite specific as to how things should be - the same in her death as in her life. She wanted a cardboard coffin so that everything would be recycled - she was a strong advocate of recycling and generally doing anything not to harm the planet. She left instructions that people could graffiti the coffin and there was a selection of felt marker pens for mourners to write their comments.

The celebrant had taken time to find out about Carol, the person and her life. Kit, her son, introduced a Beth Neilson Chapman song - How we love. This was something that she felt depicted her approach to life and after we had all listened in silence there was barely a dry eye in the building. With poems and comments from friends and family her life was honoured and celebrated. The funeral ended with us all being played out to Monty Python's Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

After the ceremony we all stayed for a buffet lunch organised by Jo, Carol's daughter, and Lynden her husband. We stayed talking to friends and family until about 4 o'clock and just as we came out after a slight shower there was a bright rainbow right across the sky - a fitting end.

Carol's funeral

Cycle4Cynthia Sept 2010

Cycle4Cynthia - Cynthia Spencer Hospice and Macmillan nurses

For the last 5 years we have always completed the 25 mile circuit but this year we egged each other on and before we knew what we'd done we had committed ourselves to cycling 50 miles.

For the past 6 weeks we've been practising cycling further and further distances culminating in a 44 mile stretch around South Northants. We felt confident that we would make it but were a little concerned about how long it would take. to make sure we were prepared for any weather we even cycled to Towcester in the wind and rain the Friday before. This final piece of preparation was really worthwhile because the day started very windy and part way round we experienced a number of light showers. As always our approach to cycling is different (hare & tortoise) - Jane is steady regardless of the hills whereas I race up the hills to and then wait at the top gasping for breath. Well we made it in 4 hours and 37 minutes and according to my iPhone App we averaged 11 mph and I burnt 2,210 calories - phew.

Afterwards Steve's knees ached and his bottom was glad to sit down on something wider than a saddle however Jane was ready for another 50 miles.

Many thanks to all who sponsored us - we have collected £677 so far.

To see details of our cycle click here... To see our JustGiving page click here...

Preparing for the Cotswold Way

As Steve's walk along the Cotswold Way becomes more imminent so his walking preparation has taken on heightened importance. This month he has walked a regular twelve mile circuit three times, the last time he did it with the pack he will be carrying on the actual walk. The last walk proved to be quite warm and the Grand Union canal looked particularly lovely.

After walking for 3 hours, non stop, with a full pack he arrived home very sweaty but pleased that he'd done enough and he was ready. To see the walk and my performance click here...

For details of the walk and for updates during the walk from 3rd October - 8th October click here...

Walking the canal

Spamalot the musical

Monty Python's Spamalot

Towards the end of the month we went to the Derngate theatre in Northampton to see Spamalot. Steve's not a great fan of musicals (quite typical of men) but he was prepared to go because it was a spoof of a musical and of course this is based on Monty Python humour having been created by Eric Idle, of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, so it was worth a punt.

With Marcus Brigstocke playing King Arthur the whole evening went along at a lively jaunt and we had a good laugh.

The dilemma with a spoof musical is that it is still a musical and therefore it derides itself. When enjoying the songs and the theatrics one is actually succumbing to the very notion that is being lampooned - this was a real dilemma for Steve who tends to analyse these things too much.

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