Sunday, 18 December 2011

Knowing the neighbours

We host a jolly mulled wine evening to get to know our neighbours better. Inevitably the conversation turns to our other neighbours,
the sheep.

"Did you hear about the tup a few weeks' ago?"
Tupping. I've learnt that one. Tup must be a male sheep.
"No, what happened?"

Turns out the tup had died, probably a side-effect of competitive headbutting. Our friendly neighbour notified the farmer, but he already knew.
"I'm waiting til dark to remove him," he explained. "I don't want to upset the new people."

Did he reckon the sight of a large sheep being dragged unceremoniously by a quad bike would have been too much for our kids? Or was he worried it would blemish a Londoner's romanticised view of the countryside? Either way it was very thoughtful. I'm just glad I didn't spot him dragging the carcass under the cover of darkness. That would have seemed far more sinister.

But apparently not all sheep lying on their backs with their legs in the air are heading for the knacker's yard. They may just be 'rigged' (or stuck to us newcomers), particularly heavily pregnant ewes who haven't been sheared because of the cold. Like beached whales, they just can't get going again without a little help.

Our friendly neighbour describes the technique for righting a rigged sheep. Sounds tricky. Alternatively, just phone the farmer. 

Friday, 16 December 2011

Monday, 12 December 2011

Snow castles

It's actually snowing!
"Shall I tell the kids?"
"Don't bother them now. They're just going to sleep."
So I go and tell the kids. They're slightly interested.

Next morning I'm first up, looking out the window.
I tell the kids and they're quite interested, but they'd rather hold the guinea pigs.
I finally get them outside in the snow. It's only just getting light (sun rises late in these parts) and it's blooming freezing. The kids humour me for a few minutes before escaping back to the warmth.

I grab the camera and enjoy the frosted views and crunching footsteps for myself. Slowly, reality dawns. School starts in half an hour and it's a 10-minute drive away. I've never driven in snow. Certainly not down a pot-holed farm track.

"This will be fun!" I tell the kids from behind the steering wheel, trying to convince myself. The farm track is ok, but ahead cars are struggling to make it up a small, icy hill. One by one, they give it a go, then slip back down and park at the side of the road.

Put it in second gear and rev it, a distant memory informs me.
Yes, yes, go, skid, eek, go, skid, eek, yes!
We've made it up the hill but I'll be blown if I'm going to risk driving my darlings down the other side. Pull in. Think. Chat about the weather. "Isn't this fun!"
The kids aren't fooled; they know I'm panicking.

Salvation comes in the form of a shining white 4x4, transporting a friend from Rosa's class. I flag it down and Rosa jumps on board. That leaves Joe and me kicking our heels in the snow, buying essentials from the village shop and waiting for enough cars to slush up the road so that we can drive home safely.

"Mummy, can I have a bucket and a spade?" Joe asks when we eventually make it back. Poor boy, I think. He has no memories of snow and he must be a touch confused. But actually it's a brilliant idea. We spend the rest of the morning making snow castles in the garden and kicking them down with glee.

Oh, I do love snow. So long as I don't have to go anywhere.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Sausage anyone?

"Practise saying 'no' in the mirror," a mum friend belatedly advises.

It's not even that I said yes, I just let slip that we have a BBQ and that Malcolm has the day off on Friday. Well it was the Deputy Headmistress...

So I've lumbered my husband with barbecuing 100 sausages in the school playground. In December. In Lancashire.

The morning of the school fair, panic sets in over the small matter of buying charcoal. In December. In Lancashire. Sainsbury's? No. B&Q? No. Various friends and acquaintances? No. The random garden centre in our village that we've never visited before? Yes, yes, yes! (We also discover an old man called Arthur who runs a model shop up the rickety steps of the old mill building - a little boy's and big dad's treasure trove - but I digress.)

As the rain sets in, we overcome the next hurdle: fitting the BBQ in the car. We think we're home and (not so) dry but there remains the biggest challenge a man can face. Making fire. On a freezing, wet and windy day. (Did I mention Lancashire in December?)

While the kids drag me around the cosy, packed and buzzing school fair, Malc struggles on alone in the cold. A whole pack of firelighters later and there's a glimmer of a glow. He puffs... and he puffs... and he puffs... and eventually there's a sizzle, sizzle, spit.


Fast forward two hours. The BBQ coals are burning bright. There's an abundance of well-cooked sausages. And most people have left the fair. Some never even knew there was a BBQ.

That evening I look in the mirror, carefully form the word 'No,' and check I don't have MUG written across my forehead.