Monday, 31 August 2009

A dog

I found this note from R5 on the desk next to my computer.

I thingc it not schnawcher. I thingc it wolf hound, perhaps.

But I also thingc it that 'schnawcher' is not a bad effort by a five-year-old to spell scnauzt... er... schnauzc... um...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The taming of the shrew...

In which this has nothing to do with Shakespeare. But the story goes like this....

"Mouse!" shrieks H7 as we are all dozing in a row on the sofa, adults wondering when to struggle out of torpor and send the children to bed, children wondering how long they can spin out the snuggling on the sofa. Monsters Inc. is playing on the Blu-ray.

H7: "I saw a mouse! I definitely saw a mouse. That's the third time I've seen it, but I wasn't sure. Now I am. It was definitely a mouse."

"Where?" says Brian, rousing himself slightly. I open an eye. I wasn't really asleep on the sofa at 7.30 pm. Really.

"There, in that little hole," says H7 pointing to the bottom of the stairs*.

(*Weird Welsh cottage layout number 1: Here I'll introduce you to our stairs. This is a little Welsh cottage. The stairs run from the living room and they have a door at the bottom. There's about six steps up, a turn on a landing, then another six. The door closes on the bottom step and then there is a weird stone buttress which juts out into the room. This is a convenient table or extra seat, but it has a little hole at the bottom where it meets the stairs. Brian keeps filling this hole - once I was sitting on the stairs with H1.5 and something which later turned out to be a big hairy spider tickled me on the back.)

This hole has history. Now it contains a mouse. We have no reason to doubt H7. After all she'd checked her facts three times before informing us.

"I'll put a trap out for it," says Brian.

"One of those ones where you put some cheese on and it comes down snap onto the mouse?" says H7.

"Yes," says Brian.

My children aren't in the least bit squeamish.

Later they go to bed and Brian sets up two traps. One of the snap sorts and the other a big trap which catches them alive.

"I'll give it a 50:50 chance," he says.

We settle down for the end of University Challenge.

"There it is!" exclaims Brian after a couple of seconds.

Sure enough there is it, a little shrew, not a mouse, frantically running up and down the bottom stair. It whizzes straight past the live trap, tries to climb the walls a few times, negotiates the bookshelf and squeezes under the door into the kitchen.

"We'll never find it in there," we say, giving up and going back to Paxman and forgetting all about the shrew.

Seconds later: "AAAARRRGGGHHHH!" (That was me.)

"What the f*** are you doing?" (That was Brian, slightly pained. I'd landed on him. Feet first, into his lap.)

"The shrew just ran into my toe!"

"It what?"


"Good God woman!" says my dear husband, dripping with sympathy.

I look under the armchair and there it is, wiffling its little nose and looking at the door*.

(*Weird Welsh cottage layout number two: The front door is in the living room.)

To cut a long story short, we opened the door and, after a little more frantic to-ing and fro-ing, the shrew apparently left.

Later Brian goes out into the bathroom and comes back with the large lidded see-through yoghurt pot we keep specifically for ONE purpose.

"It could have been worse," he says happily, referring to the shrew plus toe incident, "it could have been this." Here he thrusts pot plus large hairy spider in my direction.

I HATE men.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

It's a pig's life

Summer holidays are hard work. In the past week or so we've been to Cardiff to spend our Disney vouchers and see a real live Darlek at the Doctor Who Exhibition, we've hunted dinosaurs at the Tenby Dinosaur Park, we've crafted, we've played vets and poorly ponies, we've made a holiday jar in the style of Pipany, we've been out for a barbecue, in for lunch and dinner with friends, we've gardened, we've torn our hair out over slug, wind and rain damage, we've eaten courgettes (well, just the one), cabbages and cucumbers galore.

Sometimes the sun has shone and we have poured out of the house onto the new lawn to lie on the cool grass, gaze up at the fluffy white clouds in the blue sky, bask in the warmth and just be.

Even the guinea pigs can't stay awake under those circumstances.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Why oh why?

Why oh why? I ask myself, as I drag my body from the suggly comfort of my bed at 6.15am.
Why oh why? I ask again, as I leave my husband and children slumbering comfortably in their beds, warm and sleepy.
Why oh why? I ask as I tie the laces of my running shoes, open the back door and step out into the chill of the morning.
Why oh why? I think as I drag my sleepy legs up the hills - and it's all hill until I get to the top after three and a half miles.
Ahead of me my shadow runs along, thirty feet tall. My shadow has legs like Barbie.
Then I get to the highest point on this 6.3 mile run. The sun soars in a blue sky, ribbons of clouds around its neck like a scarf. The countryside below, laid out like a patchwork quilt, is still tucked up in bed under a duvet of mist. Ahead of me Carn Arthur and Foel Drygarn are invisible under a cloud as black as ink.
Downhill now I run on. Early commuters pass me. I see Louise on her bike and exchange a hello and smiles.
I get back home just as everyone else is grumbling from their beds.
The first coffee of the day bubbles in the pot on the stove.
Life is good.

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Black Pack

Back in June I blogged about our growing rat problem. Rats are a fact of life, I was going to say 'in the countryside', but they are very much urban dwellers too. Anyone who keeps chickens will eventually encounter these horrid pests and we seem to get a plague of them from time to time. Poison is an option we regard as far too risky, so the only alternative is feline.

Enter stage left, three cats courtesy of the local cats rescue group which is currently snowed under with kittens. What we required, however, was something more streetwise, something bigger, stronger and hungrier. Something, in fact, more like this:

This is the Black Pack. They arrived in June hissing and spitting, scared of everyone and quite aggressive with it. But gradually they softened. Gradually they got used to us, the two legged people with the tins of delicious food. Soon they decided they quite like us really and Toby (at the back) has formed a strong devotion to Granny in the Annexe which involves sitting outside her patio doors and gazing in, lovingly. The other two are Winston (lying down) and Mitch (sitting on the right).

This is Winston again, posing by the wool sack.

All are now great friends too and spend a great deal of time together rubbing their cheeks and generally being very affectionate. When I get up in the morning they are invariably sitting in the garden waiting for their breakfast. When I'm cooking there are sometimes three sets of yellow eyes watching me through the kitchen window.

The rest of the time they spend gazing into the Granny Annexe at the things within. These things include the nice lady with the tins of meat, the lady cat who closes her eyes and pretends the Black Pack doesn't exist, a big squishy sofa, some nice comfy chairs and, most intriguingly of all, a lovely warm wood-burning stove.

Those cats will be inside on that sofa next to that wood-burner by Christmas. I think they know a soft touch when they see one.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


We wanted a 'barbecue summer'. We wanted 'too hot' heat, rubbing sun block into fragile pale skin. We wanted Pimms in the garden as the sun sinks slowly under the horizon. We wanted sausages sizzling to cinders. We wanted long lazy days on the beach, fanning ourselves and complaining: "Phew! What a scorcher!"

We haven't had that, really over the past few weeks. The 'too hot' days were back in May and a bit of June, when we did do the barbecue thing (twice) and had lunch in the garden and spent hours, when it should have been bedtime, just pottering about in the garden swatting at midges and enjoying being warm.

But in July it rained and rained and rained. Last weekend we had visitors, Australian relatives, Stephen and Shelley, cousins from Melbourne.

"Sorry about the rain," we apologised as it sheeted down.

"Oh don't worry about the rain," said the Australians. "If you didn't have all this rain, you wouldn't have all this green."

Quite. Instead we could have stories, like Shelley, of their fears for their home as fires rage out of control, of being 'locked down' at the school in which she teaches because the children can only be handed back to a parent and the parents can't get to school because between them and their child's school are scenes such as these:

Rain is quite precious really. You can have too much sun.

Saturday, 1 August 2009


'Flowers' by H7

H7: “School does better burgers than you.”

Me: “I don’t do burgers.”

H7: “I know, but if you did, school would do better ones than you would.”

H7 to R5: “Stop saying "hand"! It’s like you’re trying to hypnotise me with the word hand.”

H7: “You know people go up to heaven? Well they can come out again, but they’re not alive.”

Story by R5:

One a pona taim The’r wos a litel grl cold Rosie Augd 5

Livd wedd hur Big sistr Hannah wos 7

They bowth livd wedd The’r mum

The’r mum coced fish

The End