Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Old Beginnings and New Endings

The housework has been a little neglected of late.
The Window-Spider has been able to revamp` her WWW (window-wide-web) in the undisturbed few weeks since I last brushed her and her artwork aside. The carpets ... well actually I just lifted the top layer of mats and chucked them out, leaving the original carpet back on display. And the cans have built themselves into a little castle awaiting the time I get round to washing and squashing them for the recycling.

My writing has been a little neglected of late. I've played Ping-pong with a few for my lovely patient editor at People's Friend, written a whole short story, all of 700 words long as my February Submission for MW ... and that's it.  February has been a WWW (WrittenWordWashout) and it's all because of an accidental discovery I made on my computer.

HKCs 1-3 have also been a little neglected of late. Sure, they've had their grub, had their furballs cleaned from their coats before they needed them cleaning off the carpet along with the contents of their stomachs and they've been stroked - but that's been about it.

Back to that accidental discovery on the computer: the 'watch-on-line' discovery. A few weekends ago I idly keyed in 'To Serve Them All my Days' and came up with the entire television series from the 80's in little 10 minute bites, every one of which I watched over one wet weekend when all outdoor activity was doomed because of the rain and the mud and the loss of a shoe.  Brilliant, perfectly cast, I loved it all.

Then, moving sideways across the computer, I found another set of 'watch-on-lines' - the opening sequences for many, many of the children's television programmes I knew and loved from the 70's (and one or two from the 60's).  Thank you, whoever you are, for uploading the beginnings of 'Stingray', 'Thunderbirds', 'The White Horses', 'The Tomorrow People', 'Black Beauty' and about a dozen more.  It was extraordinary to sit there and watch again long-forgotten openings from much-loved programmes.  I never thought about it at the time, that I'd never see them again when I moved away from a place where a television was part of the furniture. So I didn't miss them, but seeing them now I think I have missed them - why else would I be so delighted to find them again and watch over and over as Marineville sinks underground, the Tracy brothers launch their craft, the Lipizzaners gallop and cavort and so on.  The White Horses was definitely my favourite opening, even though I remember almost nothing else about the series.

And then I came across 'The Tripods' - oh how sad is this, I watched the whole of the first series and then went to bed ... and when I tried to re-enter, to see the second series, I was totally unable to find the sites again.  I don't want to 'register' or 'sign in' anywhere thank you very much, I just want to 'stream' the episodes but I failed, over and over again. And then suddenly last night I was in!  Excellent, come on Will and BeanPole, let's see how you make out in the City of Gold ... erk, oops, summat wrong - I could only find it in German.  And my German is sadly limited to asking for a room for the night, a hot chocolate and wondering from which platform I can catch the Zurich train.

So there you have it: Old beginnings and New Endings.  I've no idea what the hell happened at the end of The Tripods and I cannot find my books to recheck.  So I've had to invent what happened.  I'm not a writer for nothing, you know.

In truth, however, this seduction by the Streamers On Line has blocked out everything else and right now I'm not a writer at all - I've found A J Cronin's 'The Citadel' now, also from the 80s and I'm loving it and can't be bothered to struggle with words and verbs and characters of my own when I can spend a few hours with Andrew Manson and Christine in their Welsh valley instead.

'Er-in-the-WindowWideWeb is encouraging my sloth: she's nabbed some cracking insects in her traps while I've been Otherwise Diverted from the dusting.

But the HKCs, particularly numbers 2 and 3, have taken badly to being neglected and have taken to curling up together on the woolly jumper that lies on my desk between the monitor and the keyboard.  They lie there together now, breathing in unison, noses resting on tails and eight paws tucked under various pounds of fur and fluff.  Whenever I move they chirrup that it's tea time, milk time, tummy-tickle time any time at all but not more bloody streaming time.

It's addictive, this nostalgia trip into television of the past.

It's also somewhat ironic: I don't have a working television these days, haven't had for years but have discovered I'm still paying the television licence every month on a standing order I'd long forgotten about. Time I sorted that out.

I've been idle quite long enough.  I should rephrase
 the title and start again.  New Beginnings should be my aim.  After all, I won't earn any money from not writing, will I?

Friday, 18 February 2011

Men o' Paws

I have not been drinking. Just thinking - sort of wordplay.
Paws have claws attached. Paws are the little catkin-soft things the HKCs walk about on.  Claws are the appendages that spring from said paddy-paws to snag passing mice and birds.
Whore Moans.

Yes, I'd leave now if I were you. You can see where this is going, can't you?

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Moving - Lock, Stock and Carol

Well, it finally arrived.
Monday February 14th 2011.
Moving Day at the Luttrell Memorial Hospital.
I was scheduled to run my usual Monday Morning clinic in my dear little out-of-the-way corner of the old place, where, because Matron never roams and there isn't a receptionist,  I can accept as many extra patients as walk through the Undertaker's Parking Bay to get to my door. I like being obliging.
By ten past nine my third patient was parking his ride-on-mower type transport in said Undertaker's Parking Bay and popping in to see me.  By twenty-past he had left my room. At twenty two minutes past he was back: "There's a bloomin' great Pickford's lorry blocking the exit. I can't get out."
How they missed the Mower was beyond me, but having done so with such skill, they had also missed the fact that nothing was going to get out of the Parking Bay and back onto the road unless they shifted their lorry.  But they'd scarpered to collect the first of about a thousand boxes packed ready for removal to the new hospital.

My patient mounted the Mower and drove determinedly into the hospital. He hit two doors and because one wheel had pancaked a dog-turd in the road, he left distressing little brown smelly patches at regular intervals long the first chunk of corridor. I expect you could work out the circumference of his wheel from the distance between the patches.
"Never mind," I reassured him as he clunked the fourth doorframe in less than 20 feet. "The place will be closing on Thursday, they won't mind about the chipped paint so much."
I guided him to the next exit: another Pickford's removal lorry was blocking that, too, swallowing up great chunks of nursing and medical kit into its interior.  We fled to the main entrance where yet another lorry was backed right up to the steps.
"Try Outpatients entrance" a colleague suggested having watched us circumnavigate the building.
She was right.  My chap swung wide to line up for the lobby between two final fire doors. But he still managed to get skewed between them.  "Oh for goodness' sake," he huffed and dismounted. He simply picked up the back of The Mower and set it in line for the last door.  He remounted. "That's better," he said.  He knocked one last chunk of varnish off the last door as he sailed away to freedom.

All morning the Pickford Lorries came in and out.  By 1pm the front downstairs of the hospital was a ghost ship.  The patients had gone, the front office had been stripped of all but Sally, nobly manning the remaining desk, telephone and fax machine until the bitter end.  And still the lorries came.  At the back of the building, Casualty was empty and a security man and his microwave had installed themselves in the minute Cas Reception.  "We'll have all the doors except this one locked and boarded up by the end of the week," he assured me. "There will just be a couple of security guys to guard the place until Management feel we're not needed any more."

Outpatients bravely soldiered on alone. Full clinics there, all staff just getting on with their jobs as though the world were not collapsing and vanishing around them.  You gotta admire their spirit.  But they'll be gone by Wednesday too, and on Thursday Sister Outpatients will have all her clinics running at the new hospital as though nothing had ever happened.

It's weird, walking through a place you've known for many years as a busy buzzing hub of patient care ... stopped dead, tipped out, silenced - just like that.  I'm glad I took my memory photos of it all just a week ago.  I wonder if the hospital knows it's about to close.  I wonder if it minds that it won't be a hospital any more. Lady Luttrell commandeered it back in 1918 to receive 'Our Boys' coming back wounded from the First World War, but I'm not sure from whom she commandeered it or from what previous occupation. They won't knock it down, but nobody knows what will become of it.

I wandered across to the Operating Theatre, up in 'The Gods' on the third floor.  The Theatre was donated by Mrs Nicholas Fleming in 1920 in memory of her husband, according to the ancient stone plaque by the entrance. The family shield bears the motto 'Bhear na rich gan'. (That's Gaelic for 'may the king live forever' by the way: pointless sentiment really since he clearly didn't cos we have a Queen now).

The empty Theatre felt very eerie. I turned on the main operating lights one last time.  That seventh bulb hasn't worked for years. Many patients have pointed it out as they lay there having their hernias or whatevers repaired under local anaesthesia.
  "Light's gone, me dears."
  "We'll manage just for today without it," the surgeon would cheerfully say.
  "Ee said that last time, Doctor, and that was nine years ago when ee did hernia on t'other side."
That particular surgeon is operating out in Zambia now, with somewhat fewer lights than even the remaining six here.  Bet he can do a hernia repair in the dark by now.

As to the others, I wonder if they'll be able to operate at the new hospital at all with its full complement of theatre bulbs.  Mightn't they find it a little bright? Perhaps we should knock one out to make them feel at home.

I cleared out my double locker in the Theatre Changing room and packed the contents away, well, OK, shovelled everything into a large plastic sack. I looked round one last time at the empty racks where white clogs and 'theatre scrubs' used to lie ready for our Lists.  As I started to close my locker, a small piece of paper caught my eye. I picked it up.

It was a photograph I'd taken some years ago.  It had been taken as a test-photo by one of the 'scopes' (long thin bendy things with cameras on the end to examine down gullets or in bladders or up bums).  We had to check they worked properly every time they were used but we got bored of just clicking at swabs or fingers. We've got a whole gallery of distorted nostrils and ear 'oles and eyeballs and an absolute cracker of .... no, not in polite company.
This photograph was of a cheerful smiling face, bit distorted by the nature of the camera but still very clearly showing a lovely and much-missed colleague, Carol James, who died a couple of years back. It seems very fitting that I should find her just as I was leaving.  I could almost hear her voice following me down the steep stairs: "Don't forget to close the theatre door and turn the light off when you go."

No, Carol, I won't forget.

I tucked her picture into my pocket, flicked off the light at the bottom of the stairs and clicked down the latch on the Yale lock as I left.  It felt very strange and I didn't look back.  It doesn't do, you know, to look back.

Next stop The New Hospital.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Gaffe Faff

The veneer of middle-class civilisation that once covered me has worn very thin - I reckon I scraped most of it off along with the Exmoor mud from my boots over the past 18 years. It was therefore with some trepidation that I accepted an Invitation to Lunch from a local lady and her husband who Do Things Properly. Ten people would be at table, at least four of them already known to me as Upright Churchgoing God-fearing Good People of the Parish.  The very words scare the hell out of me.

And the tenth person was the vicar himself.

I took a bath and washed my hair.  Irrationally I tidied the house and emptied the cat litter tray. I pulled out several pairs of knickers and socks and bras and studied all for the correct number of holes in each and no extras.  I hunted for the ironing board and an iron.  Two pairs of trousers were pulled from my 'clean' cupboard and painstakingly pressed. I wondered why there was steam coming from the garments: mine is not a steam iron:  It does Hot, Warm, Cool and TurnMeOnForGoodnessSake.  My conclusion was that the trousers were damp in the first place. 

Tried on a Laura Ashley blouse (I told you that veneer was old) and looked in the mirror.  Removed said blouse, probably last worn in the late '80s, when I last did being a Lady who Lunches. Times have most definitely moved on. Found a fairly decent combination of blouse and jumper and donned them.  Pulled the first pair of trousers off the ironing board - hell, in a good light they were green, they didn't match. Removed them. Tried the black pair, very smart but a bit tight and ... oh shit, there were holes in the thigh seams.  Checked the clock, running late now.  Snatched third pair of trousers from cupboard and hauled them on instead - bit damp, unironed, they'll bloody well have to do, damn damn damn why did I ever say I'd go?

What on earth does one talk about (getting into the Mode now if not exactly the Mood) with a vicar and flock who might know the words bastard bugger shit and damn but certainly would not use them or expect to hear them at table. MUST remember to tone down usual form of conversation.  Can one discuss dried flowers perhaps? One does remember something about doing genteel gardening and drying the pruning efforts on the Helichrysum and Larkspur. One could talk about horses but the audience couldn't.  One most definitely can NOT talk about one's work.

shit hell damn why did I say I'd go? Slipped into already-polished (slightly) high heeled shoes, felt better being taller but worried about keeping them clean between cottage and car. Removed shoes, put on wellies. Felt instantly short and frumpy again.  Walked to car, got in once safe from mud, put posh shoes back on, lobbed wellies into bag.  Checked time. Definitely running late now.

All the way there, round narrow lanes up and down hills, lectured self: must not drink any alcohol. Must not eat too much - trousers somewhat tight, must lose weight. Best just keep mouth shut. What if the vicar wonders if he'll be seeing me in Church next Sunday (he won't) What if Cauliflower Cheese is on the menu? Or something else one hasn't been made to eat since childhood?  Changed plan. Decided glass of wine GOOD idea. Can always walk home.


Home again now.  Really enjoyed Lunch - turned out I knew everyone and the veneer just plastered itself all over me again. It was somewhat out of practice and I know for a fact at least five Rude Words got out but it didn't seem to matter. My long-unused Table Manners wobbled a bit but held up well considering, ditto clothing. And the vicar turned out to be jolly funny and everyone found at least two laugh-about stories to tell (mine were Almost Clean and Not Coarse) and four hours past extremely pleasantly.

Maybe I'm still fit company for decent human beings after all.  Maybe I haven't completely Gone Native. If I ever get asked to Lunch with Sarah and Malcolm again I'll look forward to it very much indeed - but will remember to wear much looser gear: my outfit really needed a bit more more yardage to let a meal as delicious as that inside it.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Blow the Wind Southerly

It's been rainy and really REALLY windy here today, all the local horses are sulking on the leeward sides of their field hedges.

All except Hoss.  He's hard, he is. He's got a waterproof mac on and doesn't care about the weather. Midwinter, freezing cold, wind coming in strongly from the south west and you'll find him in the middle of his pasture, ridiculously hairy tail to the storm, head down, munching.  Trouble is there's not much goodness in the grass.

I can tell he needs A Little Something Else to go down that long gullet from the presentation of his dumps - don't ask, just take my word for it, he needs more Bulk.  The high octane haylage he's getting must be fed sparingly because he's lost a shoe. He can't be ridden again until MrFarrierMan (dear Ben) comes over next week and  If I gave Hoss any more of this honey-smelling forage called haylage while he's getting no work, he'd be high as a kite somewhere over Dunkery Beacon and I'd never get him down.

Someone gave us a bale of hay to pad out the rations.  I added a thick wadge to his handfuls of haylage and fed it to him over by the hedge so it couldn't blow out of the field while he was trying to eat it.  He snatched a mouthful and the South-Westerly snatched it back and decorated the hedge with it. Somewhat surprised but not deterred, Hoss took another mouthful and the South-Westerly promptly repeated its game.  By the time I realised what was going on, the whole hedgeline was garlanded with stray hay. The haylage smugly stuck to the ground and obediently went into Hoss's voluminous gob to be chewed and swallowed.

I trooped off into the town to the appropriate Shop, which provided me with a neat little red net on a long string.

This evening I crammed said little net full of the recalcitrant hay and some well-behaved haylage and tied it Very Firmly to a gatepost.  Hoss looked at me.  I looked at him.
  'Haynet,' I told him. 'You eat your dinner from this in future.'
  'But I'm a Welsh Cob. That thing's for sissies. I'm hard, I am.'
  'I don't wish to hear about that, thank you. Pick from this or starve.'

Well it was dark and the other horses couldn't see, so his self-image remained intact as Hoss manouevred his enormous teeth onto the edge of the net and tugged at the wisps of forage sticking through the holes.

He clearly wasn't going to starve, but the South-Westerly was furious.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


There have been a few dead foxes around here over the past few months. One or two mangy ones, one bumpercarred one and one so dead that its smell had summoned recycling help from the carrion crows and was identifiable only by its brush.

 It was then with some pleasure that I met Very-Much-Alive-Charlie in one of the fields this evening. He's a youngish chap, probably from last year's cubcrop and he's not in the least bothered about meeting me by the light of my MightyBright Needlework Light. (No of course I can't do proper needlework, but I found this wonderful bendy-stalked light with a clip on it in a handicraft shop sale and it is the perfect handsfree torch for after-dark forays into fields and barns). Charlie looked at me, I looked at him, he flicked away unhurriedly, all but touching noses with Hoss in passing and vanished into the night. 

I've seen him a few times now, always at the same hour.  I think his track runs from the Owl-haunted tree line above the country-house hotel to the deeply-sunken lane below Hoss's field. He seems to have a pretty good routine and from the look of him gets enough to eat.  I wonder if he raids the bins or the henhouses (should that be henhice?) or does for himself by collecting hedgerow takeaways in the form of rabbits?  I know foxes are a pest but I do love to see them about.  

One of my neighbours lost a couple of guinea fowl recently and I bet Charlie Fox got the blame. They roost in trees when they live outdoors and make the hoots from hell if alarmed but no noise was heard, no debris found.  I feel a bit guilty really and I hope my neighbour doesn't read this Blog because I know where at least one of those birds went: HKC2 invited it home for dinner and wouldn't take no for an answer.