The Pig Yard

March 11 - Another strange month dominated by our concerns for Jane's mum. She left hospital this month after her mini stroke and as you will see below she is struggling to settle back into her home. Also this month our friend Dave flew back to Kenya for a two month stint flying passenger balloons in the Masai Mara whilst his wife Lucie stayed behind for a few more weeks working at a local clinic. Jane's brother has been on holiday in Nepal walking the Himalayas and we expect him back soon. Steve has been developing a broadband campaign on the village web site because our speeds are very slow, we hope this will improve in the next twelve months. He has also put himself forward to become a parish councillor so his campaigning days are not over yet.

Jane's mum

Jane's Mum at Home

Our daily lives have been dominated by the situation surrounding Jane’s mum. She came out of hospital after 8 weeks and it is proving difficult for her to adapt again to her own home.

She has become semi institutionalised and finds it very difficult to make decisions for herself or do anything without someone assisting. She has a care worker visit her four times a day: to get her up in the morning; check on her at lunchtime and make sure she eats her meals on wheels; get her a late afternoon supper and finally get her into bed. We also engaged a night attendant who slept over and assisted when mother needed to get up in the night to go to the toilet. The night carer was, thankfully only an interim measure that last for two weeks.

She still feels very foggy about everything and has trouble remembering recent conversations but her memory regarding events from several months ago is still good. We hope that she will settle into a routine over the next few weeks and she learns to do more for herself so that she can continue to live in her own house. If this proves difficult and it affects her safety and dignity then we will need to consider other options.

We have been travelling down to Barnet three times a week and the journey is becoming second nature until something happens on the motorways to disrupt it. On one occasion the M25 was closed and despite taking evasive action and rerouting ourselves around the closure it took us two hours to drive down. At one point we were within 3.5 miles of Jane's mother's house and it then took 45 minutes to travel that short distance. It has become quite wearing.

Ideal Home Show

Jane went to the Ideal Home Exhibition at Earls Court with the Sue, Kate and Lucie. Colin & Pauline also went but they didn't go round the exhibition with the girls.

Jane came back with bags of brochures and ideas. When she presented to Steve a very modern design for a house. Steve's reaction to this ultramodern design was surprisingly cautious. Here's a man who has always loved the idea of the future more than the present and this futuristic house should have been his dream home but he was reticent and reserved. Perhaps our thoughts for the design of our future home need further discussion and debate. Do we really know what we want and do we share the same imagery?

Ideal Home

Rock house Plot

Rock House Project

We visited the Rock House site at Barlaston for a second time at the beginning of the month. Throughout discussions about the positions of the houses on the site we had assumed we would be around the middle of the site however others had changed their view of where they wanted to be so we were faced with the prospect of being at the top of the site with banks on two sides of the plot. This meant we needed to look at the site and if we agreed to compromise we needed to redesign the layout of the house to make the most of the south and east sides of the plot. Our house would be on the left of the picture with our back garden stretching to the right bank.

We were reasonably happy with the potential plot location and so went for a walk along the canal to the Wedgewood factory where we had a cup of tea in the cafe before walking back. Everyone is so friendly that you feel at home immediately so we have no reservations about moving to the area however we still have two hurdles to overcome.

We've now made a conditional offer on the site and are waiting to hear as to whether the vendor is prepared to sell. He is meeting his backers on 4th April so we should know shortly afterwards as to whether we then instigate a survey on the site to discover whether we can build and if the costs of preparing the site are reasonable.

Visit to National Homebuilding Show

With the prospect of us designing and building our own house it seemed essential that we visit this show. As it turned out even those friends not building their homes came along as they were interested in the challenge we were facing. It was exhausting moving from stand to stand talking about insulation, build techniques, heat exchangers, wood burning stoves, architectural services, staircases and doors and windows.

We arrived just after ten o'clock and by lunchtime Jane had seen enough. After lunch we gritted our teeth and set off again to make sure we'd seen everything. It didn't take too long before we ran out of steam again so we sat, had a coffee and then made our way back to the car.

We cannot get too enthused about the building project until we definitely have a plot of land to build on.

National HomeBuild Show

Kate on stilts

Mad and Happy Friends

Some of our friends are completely bonkers in the nicest possible way. Martin and Kate have wonderful attitudes to life and they've not lost any of the pioneering spirit normally only found in children and young people. While everyone else was at the National Self Build Exhibition learning about heat exchangers, insulation and building techniques Martin & Kate were buying stilts to help them decorate the ceilings of their home in Bulgaria.

Like all good consumers Kate had to try them out and was soon walking in an unsteady style around their bungalow. It did mean she could do the dusting on top of the kitchen cupboards an area that most of us only see when we are replacing the kitchen.

We started to think of all the uses stilts could be put to once you became proficient. They would certainly help when going to large concerts and festivals when you need to see over the heads of the crowd and if you got really daring then you could carry your partner on your shoulders as all good festival goers do - this sounds very acrobatic and maybe a stage too far.

Our Garden After the Winter

As the month has progressed so we have seen an improvement in the weather and there are signs in the garden that Spring is on its way. Steve has started cutting the lawn and racking out the moss that seems to make a thick mass over the wet winter months. We seem to have had a few fatalities. The Cordyline, as shown in this photograph, was damaged by the snow and cold this winter so that all the leaves fell off and the upper part of the trunk became very soft and sponge like. We are concerned it may be dead but all the advice on the web says to cut it back and give it a chance to regrow but it will never be as good as it was.

We have a lot of work to do to tidy the garden in readiness for the summer and the possibility that we will be putting the house on the market in the next eighteen months. Walls need to be re-mortared, barn doors need painting and much of the rubble that is hidden behind the propane tank must be removed.

So there's lots of work but Steve has plenty of time even if he doesn't have the inclination or the motivation.


Cordyline after winter

Radio 4 Extra Logo

Radio 4 Extra

We've always been great fans of BBC Radio 4 listening to the plays, politics and of course the Archers. Since Steve retired he has more time on his hands to listen to the radio but Radio 4 can get too serious so he has taken to listening to BBC Radio 7, soon to be rebadged as Radio 4 Extra.

The schedule includes a number of old comedy programmes from the sixties and seventies. The other morning there was a 1960 episode of the Navy Lark - those readers who were born in Britain in the fifties may remember such programmes, along with Round the Horn; The Goons; Hancock's Half Hour and Life with the Lyons. We were brought up on these shows, they form a strong part of our culture and probably are responsible for developing our sense of humour.

The re-badging exercise seems pointless and the sceptics believe this is just an opportunity to capture some of the over sixties audience from Radio 4. So Radio 4's loss will be Radio 4 Extra's gain. If you are over sixty and was born in the UK then take a look at the web site and try to listen using BBC iPlayer. We'd be interested to know how you get on and whether this is taking nostalgia too far.

Once a rebel...

Someone Steve knew at college recently got in touch with him and sent him some photos from the "good old days". Shortly after this picture was taken Steve started to grow a beard and he hasn't been clean shaven since. At this time Steve was persona non grata with his parents, or at least his mother and therefore rarely went home at the end of term. He managed to find work in various factories and in the summer of 1970 worked for a bakery in Darlington. It did mean early starts but the bakery stopped around midday so the rest of the time was free to sit around listening to music or reading books. Life has come full circle and that is exactly what he does now once he has finished the domestic chores.

Such pictures evoke strange emotions - of lost youth and how life takes many twists and turns during which one's character becomes amended or reinforced.

Steve @ college

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