The Pig Yard

February 10 - A big month - Dave & Lucie returned from Kenya; we had our spring holiday with the usual suspects; it was Jane's birthday (a significant one) and the weather continued to throw snow and ice at us every single week. By the end of the month the weather experts were claiming that it had been the coldest February for over 30 years.

As always we made the most of the time we had and Jane lived her life at double speed up to the point she falls asleep. 

First Castle of Many

Our week away with our closest friends started on the first Friday of the month. As always we had several venues to choose from and we all participate in voting for our favourite venue and we somehow ended up in North Wales with sea views over Prestatyn and Rhyl. We could also see North Hoyle Offshore Wind Farm which was Britain's first major offshore wind farm and produces enough power for 40,000 homes. Whilst we were there the blades on the wind turbines didn't start turning until after 10:00 every day so it seems unlikely they were producing any power during the peak period.

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Without advertising Jane's Smart car we sold it to an ex work colleague of Steve's. The car was driven away and there will be a gap of a couple of weeks before the new Smart arrives. Jane will miss it terribly (there were tears) as it has become her favourite car of all time hence the reason for buying a new one. More on this next month.

We haven't heard from the new owner but we're confident it will give years of economical and fun driving.

Farewell to the Smart Car

Cycling whatever the weather

Despite icy roads and snow we did manage to get out on our bikes together. We were determined not to get cold and so we were certainly not wearing lycra cycling shorts in fact Jane went as far as wearing her "About a Boy" hat as Steve calls it. The plaits on the hat are almost as long as Jane's.

Steve isn't so keen on cycling so he needs a little persuasion to get him out in cold weather however he does it without complaint because he knows, deep down, that it's good for him. The best bit about a cycle journey in the winter is the arrival home to a cup of tea and toasted crumpets. Jane always tops hers with Marmite which Steve hates so is it any wonder they've managed to stay married for nearly 39 years.

The inevitable happened this month with Jane reaching an age when she receives her state pension and can go on the buses for free. The big debate was around whether to celebrate or to let it pass as just another day in one's life. There questions over who to ask, where to hold it and of course when. Needless to say all the angst and anxiety were unnecessary. Jane decided to hire the restaurant at the Boat Inn, Stoke Bruerne and invite as many of our friends, relatives and neighbours that we could fit in and who were available.

It turned out to be a very good night - good food, attentive service and excellent company. Jane had this idea that rather than everyone stay seated next to their partners or friends we would have a seating plan and at the end of each course the men would move round in a clockwise direction, two seats. This meant that the dynamics and interactions were regularly changing, there were no cliques and we got to know people who we hadn't known so well before.

At the end of the evening (around midnight) we came out of the restaurant into thick fog which was particularly concerning for Jane's brother, Richard (featured left in the photo) and his partner Nicola who had to travel back to London but as an ex rally driver he made light of the challenge. Thankfully we had a lift home with our good neighbour Deirdre.

Jane's 60th Birthday event

Guest Bathroom remodelling

Our good friend Nick has commenced work on remodelling the guest bathroom. From an initial upgrade to the toilet it has progressed into a complete remodel with the cupboard and walls being removed and a new entrance being knocked through from the bedroom. The plan is to close off the entrance from the corridor and make it a proper ensuite bathroom.

The loft access will need to be moved into the bedroom, the hot water tank has to be moved, new partition walls need to be installed and a new shower, toilet, bidet and wash hand basin fitted. This has required us to make loads of decisions about how we wish to decorate, the tiles we want, the floor covering and more. Some of these decisions haven't been made yet but will have to make our minds up very soon as the work is moving on apace.

As with many things in life you have to knock something down before you can start building it back up and we're now looking forward to this complete revival of this end of the house with our stamp on it.

Our walks from the village tend to follow certain patterns and often take in a stretch of the Grand Union canal, particularly the Northampton arm. Although the walk is the same there is something different to see each time and the light varies so much in Britain throughout the year. On this particular afternoon we left home about 3 o'clock in the afternoon knowing that the sun would be setting at about 5.30. The snow made it much lighter and there was barely a cloud in the sky. Over recent weeks we've spotted a buzzard hunting across this area and we were hoping we would see it and much to our great pleasure we managed to see two of them in a spinney very close to where the canal passes under the M1 motorway.

We were felling very pleased with ourselves because the first half of the walk we crossed fields covered snow and our boots were cleaned by the snow however the last half mile was around the edges of fields where farm vehicles had been travelling and we finished the walk with our boots covered in mud and need of a deep clean - a job for Steve.

Canal lock late afternoon in February

Steve says:

Steve's Blog

OK so I admit it - there just aren't enough hours in the day to get this retirement malarkey cracked. By the time I've had my porridge and read the Times from front through to the business pages it's time for a cup of Earl Grey tea with half the morning already gone. Time to switch on the computer and read and respond to a few emails, possibly follow up some of the links suggested from reading the paper particularly issues concerning technologies that are being talked about. Cleaning always features high on my agenda as I like to feed my obsessive compulsive disorder however I think if everyone had OCD the world would be a better place - certainly no litter.

I've had several lunches with ex colleagues from work and it appears that very little changes with projects moving grindingly slowly due to a lack of support from the services - it was ever thus and I don't miss it. What is interesting is how the realisation that local government needs to move down to local communities hasn't moved forward at all. A good example of this is our local parish council - it meets monthly but is almost invisible in both what it does and why it exists. Perhaps it's time for a shake-up.

I am looking forward to spring so that I can get out into the garden more. There is plenty to do in the house but there are innumerable projects waiting for me outside. The barns are really useful buildings but they have accumulated a lot of rubbish over the years so they need a good clean out so I can see myself becoming a regular at the waste recycling centre during the spring. And finally there's always the possibility that I can just sit down, relax, read a book, enjoy life.