The Pig Yard

August - There has been a tendency for August to be a very busy month due to the Northampton Balloon Festival - see August 2005 (2006 was a complete washout). The weather this summer has been ordinary to say the least so we weren't expecting a great deal from the month. There were several events to look forward to - Sue's birthday; a trip to Oxford to see Tim our neighbour in Taming of the Shrew; the aforementioned balloon festival, a bank holiday; and Steve had booked a week off work for the last week.

An addition to this month's page is a link to Metcheck indicating the current weather in Rothersthorpe.

Our cats, Murphy and Millie, don't often get a mention but they are constant companions and although their independence is without dispute, until they can open their own food packets they are reliant upon us.

Sometimes to prove their ability to fend for themselves they bring in from the garden or field clear evidence of their ability to fend for themselves. Usually this consists of mice, shrews and voles and each cat has a different approach to how they present their prizes. Murphy takes the killer approach and brings the animals in dead with big meows through gritted teeth as he is reluctant to drop his prey. If we're not around then he may take time out to eat part or all of the furry morsel. Millie takes a more sympathetic stance and tends to bring her prisoners into the house alive whereupon she drops them on the floor and watches as they race off to the nearest hiding place. This leaves us with the problem of capturing the escapee in order to release it somewhere in the churchyard.

We haven't discovered who is bringing in the grass snakes but we always manage to rescue them and then return them to the compost heap where they slither away.

This month saw Sue arrive at a milestone birthday and to mark the momentous occasion she decided to invite many of her friends to 78 Derngate for an afternoon tea party. It happened to be one of the hottest days of the year.

Jane arranged for a cake with a Mackintosh-like design on it to be presented during the afternoon. Everyone had a really great time. The food was excellent and the service was very friendly. A perfect  carefully planned  event guaranteed the success it was.

Many of us went back to their garden for a lazy evening of drinking and chatting. Although Graham didn't make a toast during the afternoon he did say a few words later - "Today has shown, with Sue's friends going back many years, that once you are Sue's friend you are a friend for life". For more pictures go to Picasa by clicking here.

We were given two tickets to see Taming of the Shrew at Oxford by our neighbour as a thank you for giving her our old fridge/freezer - her son, Tim, was in the cast. We decided to stay overnight and found a hotel in the middle of the city which proved to be a mistake because it didn't have a car park. Oxford has decided that it doesn't want cars entering the city centre (Park & Ride is the preferred access method) consequently all car parks are very expensive with a maximum stay of 2 hours. We had to keep returning to the car to feed meters whilst we wondered around taking in the sites.

The play was outside with Oxford Castle as a back drop and we had really good seats. It was well produced and acted with some interesting interpretation of Shakespeare's dialogue. A laugh out loud production and probably  the best we have seen, and that includes The Swan at Stratford.

The balloon festival - so where to start? Les was the meet Director so it was really good to catch up with him.
Friday morning Nick and Steve with Jane(her first for 2 years!), had a good flight out towards Wollaston landing in a rape stubble field next to the farm bungalow. They were met by a really excited Jack Russell puppy who everyone took to immediately and it was a wonder we ever got the balloon packed away because we were making so much fuss of him and he was giving us his full attention.

The evening proved to be very gusty and although Les gave the all clear to fly there was a certain reluctance from anyone to take to the air. Colin, with some persuasion from Les inflated and went for it. Glyn and I were lined up next to each other and both decided it was too gusty to safely inflate so we waited until 19:15 at which point we both cut our flights. For the next 45 minutes the Lemmings continued to inflate and take off but with full cloud cover some were almost taking off in the dark. It's better to regret not flying, which we did in some ways, but it was better than regretting flying after having an accident. There were no reports of any incidents although Colin reported a 300 yard drag so it was probably 150 feet.
We didn't bother getting up on Saturday morning because there was only a slim chance due to high winds and the briefing was brought forward to 05:30 - our decision was the right one. Saturday evening poured with rain and it continued until after dark. Les decided there might be a chance on Sunday morning but I didn't hold his confidence so we stayed in bed with a promise from Glyn that he would ring us if it looked promising. Shortly after six I got a phone call saying Les had called it on so I got up and looked out. The cloud base was less than 1,000 feet and after a quick chat with Nick we decided we didn't want to get the balloon wet after a full night of rain. I went back to bed and minutes later the phone rang again. It was Glyn saying that it had just started to rain again and the flight was off.
Sunday evening and we went to say farewell to everyone with the prospect of strong winds and potential rain. Well it didn't let us down. Shortly before 6pm the heavens opened and it rained heavily for the next couple of hours.
To call the weekend a washout would be an understatement. We're now looking forward to the Bank holiday weekend in the hope we might get some better weather and a few flights. Don't hold your breath. For more pictures click here.

After such dismal weather for the Balloon Festival there were signs that the following weekend would bring some reasonable flying slots. On the Saturday morning Steve took off with Chris & Lee (relative & friend of Michelle at Jane's work) alongside the Ballooning Business CAS balloon. There was very little wind on the surface at 06:45 on take-off but at 200 feet the wind picked up to 13 knots and as Steve went higher the wind slowed to just over 5 knots. It wasn't the first time he'd experienced a low level jet and therefore he was used to flying in these conditions.

The balloon headed south east towards Olney and eventually touched down at about 5 knots north of Weston Underwood. Before the crew had found their way to the farm Steve met with the farmer on the field who gave permission for them to come on and collect him.

After packing away we headed back to Northampton and an early breakfast in the Super Sausage - pure heaven.

On the Sunday of the bank holiday we headed down to Heathrow to collect Jane's sister, Ruth, who flew in from Australia. She is staying until mid October. Considering she'd been flying for a long time she looked particularly fresh. She put us to shame because we failed to see her come out of arrivals but she managed to spot us straight away.

A straightforward journey to Barnet where Jane's mother and Ruth were reunited.

Ruth is here to spend time with her mother but also to be present at the wedding of her niece Sarah who is getting married on 1 September. There will be more on this next month. Also planned for September is a week away as a family holiday.

To finish off the bank holiday we managed to get another flight. The morning started still but soon after take-off we knew we were in for a fast one. Steve did the first half of the flight with Nick to take over and make the landing. Sue came along as passenger as part of her birthday present - we did the same last year.

At one point the GPS reached over 17 knots and we were still racing along at 13 knots within 100 feet of the ground. Now to the uninitiated that may not seem fast but when just imagine cycling at that speed without brakes across a bumpy field. Nick started an approach shortly after Newport Pagnell and made a perfect landing coming in at around 10 knots dragging across the field eventually coming to rest.

The crew were quick to find the farmer and get permission to come onto the field before we'd had a chance to get packed away. Another visit to the Super Sausage for hot tea and a sausage bap - glorious.

The day was delightfully completed with a barbecue at Nick and Val's. The wind stayed above 10 knots so it wasn't flyable but the weather remained good enough for an evening sitting in their garden, drinking and eating.

Bubbles came to stay for a ten day holiday whilst his owners went on holiday. He is usually kept in a garage and this is where he started with us but within a day he was in the house courtesy of Steve's soft heart  (Jane always wanted him in the house and the appalling rain meant even Steve would not shut a bunny in a cold, damp garage). He was made to feel at home with an adventure playground being set up at one end of the main corridor so he could run up and down with lots of space and plenty of things to do.

He was well looked after for the time he was with us so maybe he too considered he'd been on holiday.

In the last week of the month Steve  took a week off work to relax and to do some odd jobs around the house. As always he started with a list of activities and by the end of the week he had crossed off all of them bar one. He had great "fun" painting, tidying and cleaning. Now this may seem strange to many but it is true that Steve finds cleaning a very therapeutic and cathartic exercise, he probably doesn't do it often enough (so says Jane). The phrase Obsessive Compulsive Disorder comes to mind.

The saga of the kitchen continues but we did take a minor step forward when a tiler came to look at the walls to quote for tiling them. Unfortunately as the month ended he still hadn't come back to us with a cost or a time when he could do it.

In order to relax Steve finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows which meant that Jane could then talk about it. Up to this point she had been forbidden from talking about it at all and the strain was beginning to tell.