Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Maaary is a little lamb...

Some lambs don't get the best start in life. These twins were the first of this year's lambs to be born. Both are ewe lambs and were born a week early (the ewes seem to have got their dates wrong this year), although they look fully 'cooked'.

The one on the left did a lot of shouting at first, so H8 and R6 named her Maaary. It turned out that Maaary was a bit of a neglected child. Poor Maaary had wandered off while the silly ewe was delivering her sister and the ewe forgot all about her first born. She refused to feed the 'interloper', so we offered bottled top-ups, but then the ewe started thumping Maaary, so she had to be removed for her own safety. She was put into a pen with another ewe who had a single lamb and tolerates a foster lamb. In fact she's a lot kinder to her than her own mother was.

My job at lambing time is that of assistant and I do the late night check so Mum can have an early night. This 11pm check now involves giving Maaary a bottle of milk, which is quite a delightful thing to do. But last night the wind was howling round the lambing shed and there was horizontal rain with sleet thrown in for good measure. All good ewes had tucked their lambs up next to them for extra warmth.

Not Maaary. She has no mum to keep her warm. I found her lying on her side, freezing cold. She refused to eat and when I popped her under the heat lamp for extra warmth she wouldn't stay put.

By that time it was 11.30pm and I couldn't find the warm lamb jacket we have for such cases so I trawled the house for a suitable substitute. I didn't think Maaary would survive last night. The night before we lost a lamb to hypothermia (again the silly ewe didn't mother it). I spent three quarters of an hour sitting rubbing that little lamb by the wood burner, willing it to live. It was an awful moment when its little lungs didn't pull in another breath and I felt the fluttering in its chest fade away. I thought when I left Maary last night that she wouldn't be alive today but she seems to be a fighter.

This was Maaary this afternoon in her unorthodox lamb jacket. Okay it's a nappy! It's a Kushies washable nappy that I used for both H8 and R6 and had been sitting in a bag waiting to be cut up for cleaning cloths. It has handy Velcro straps for fixing to a small lamb, plenty of padding and layers of soft brushed cotton for added warmth. It isn't the perfect fit, but it did the job. She's now wearing the proper lamb jacket (which was much easier to find in the daylight - ever tried finding a navy lamb jacket in the pitch dark? Next time we should buy flourescent ones!). I wouldn't say that Maaary was out of the woods yet, but she's eating again and the intervention of a nappy seems to have given her a fighting chance.

As for the rest of the lambs - I've lost count. I think that 14 have lambed out of 22, so there's eight left. We've had several sets of twins, but the last few have been singles. We've lost one and have one needing to be bottle fed. Now if someone could just kindly organise us a bit of nice, warm spring weather please...?

Sunday, 28 March 2010

A good start to Sunday

I seem to have been awake for ages and yet it's still only 11am. The weekend when the clocks spring forward to BST is always a confusing one and this time the effect was compounded by the addition of the Melbourne Grand Prix.

I looked at the times the qualifying and the race were on and decided to watch the re-run later on today. My brain, however, had other ideas. Yesterday, at 5.55am my brain remembered that something was happening at 6am and helpfully woke me up. It didn't remember the bit where I decided not to bother with the qualifying.

It did the same this morning, waking me up seconds before the start. H8 and R6 seem to have inherited some of that ability and the race was only half way through when I was joined on the sofa by two wide awake little people. I pointed out that, had it been a school day, they would still be snoring at that time, but they ignored me as usual and we cheered Jenson past the chequered flag together.

Sunday is always pancake day in the Preseli household and I made the batter as usual. Then I was elbowed aside by the youngest member of the family who proceeded to make the whole lot.

She may be the smallest member of the family, but she's one of the most determined. Why shouldn't she cook the pancakes? No reason.

I hovered nearby, keeping an eye should little fingers stray near hot things, but she's far too sensible for that now.

That's another one done. Of course they were delicious - eaten with lashings of fresh lemon and orange juice, caster sugar, golden syrup and Nutella (but not all at the same time!).

The rest of the day is planned as follows: I'm going for a run, H8 and R6 are going to play and then help grandma with the lambs (another set of twins were born in the middle of the night) and then we've got the rest of the afternoon for other things. Some Sundays just seem to go on forever!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

This is more like it!

Charlotte has finished chitting and is now tucked up into her bed in the Moor garden. This feels like proper gardening at last (even if I did have to cover the bed with clear plastic for two weeks to make it dry enough to work the soil). I can't wait for June and some delicious boiled new potatoes.

Lambing update: Six ewes have lambed. Four sets of twins, two singles. Lamb number one has been rejected by her (silly) mother which is why my (not silly) mother had to milk the two ewes with singles this afternoon so that Number One could have a drink.

H8 (to grandma): "Do you know how to milk a sheep grandma."

Grandma (climbing into lambing pen with clean bucket, wearily): "Yes." After 24 years of lambing she's about getting the hang of it now!

I sometimes wonder...

...if I'm ploughing a lone furrow by strapping my children into child car seats.

"The law says that all children up to 135cm tall (around 4'5"), or the age of 12, whichever comes first, in the front or rear seats in cars, vans and other goods vehicles must travel in the correct child restraint for their weight with very few exceptions." (Think! Road Safety website).

Recently we discovered that H8 is in fact four feet five inches tall and therefore can now travel without a seat. We mostly do use it though, because we've paid for it, she's still comfortable in it, it keeps the little bugger still  and the sides stop her rolling about when I go round corners on two wheels (joking!).

It has nice little cup holders for hiding sweetie wrappers, shells, pebbles and other such treasure and it raises her up just enough so she can see out of the windows better and into the front where she can make critical comments about the standard of my driving and establish if I really do know a) where we are; b) where we are going, c) whether we are doing this properly or not (H: "How do you know Mummy?" Me: "Because I've been on this planet for 43 years." H remains unconvinced that I know anything about anything, least of all driving and navigating. I can't wait until it's her turn to learn and I'm teaching her... anyway, I digress.)

R6 is not yet tall enough to travel without a booster seat (according to the law) and would very much like to, if only for the novelty. She, like her big sister, remains strapped in under threat of attention from the police if she doesn't. B works at police HQ so we have lots of ammunition should either of them object. It's the law, the police say so, no argument.

Car seats or booster seats are not expensive. The ones for older kids are simple and quick to fit (I'm excluding baby seats from this - that's a whole other ball game). They're cheap (our spare was £3 from Lidl) so why don't parents want to use them? When I'm out and about I see so many kids not strapped in at all or just using a normal seatbelt, usually strapped in such a way as to bisect the child's neck. I have seen children sitting on adults' laps, belt across the pair (if you stop suddenly, the adult squashes the child).

Surely all children are precious to their parents so why is it such a pain to strap them in?

Perhaps I'm sensitive and over cautious, but I did once write about a news story about a child who was critically injured flying through the windscreen when his father had a crash, so you can't blame me. In that case the father was "tricking" the police by strapping the seatbelts across the seats, but then sitting on top of them. This, apparently, saves the bother of using seatbelts but looks to the police as if you are wearing them. Of course the police wouldn't want you to actually wear the seat belt. Of course they enjoy scraping you and your nearest and dearest off the bonnets of your cars and picking bits of glass out of your head.

My mother was once told to fuck off by a woman at a petrol station who was travelling in the front of her car with her baby loose on her lap. Mum knew the woman would swear at her, but she couldn't let her drive off without saying something.

When I was a child booster seats had not been invented. We travelled loose and when we were very little and Mum had a Mini van (reg BOX something, so we used to call it the Minibox) there were no seats in the back, so we sat on the wheel arches. Better still was Dad's MGBGT which had a roll back roof. That was better because we could stand on the back seats, head and arms out of the top while he drove around the lanes of Pembrokeshire. There was much less traffic in those days, cars went slower, but people - including children - did get hurt and killed being thrown from cars because they were not strapped in. (The mother of one of my primary school contemporaries went through her car windscreen. She survived, but with horrendous scars.) That's why we had Clunk Click Every Trip. That's why recently there has been a campaign to strap in rear passengers (they discovered that seat belted drivers survived crashes happily until they were hit from behind by a loose passenger).

Yes, I am extra-sensitive to all of this after years as a  local news reporter attending inquests, writing up police reports, going to sometimes quite awful court cases and interviewing the bereaved.

Tragedy happens all to often, but it can sometimes be avoided.

So my children, and their friends when they travel in my car, will always be strapped in as the law provides and possibly beyond. It's not rocket science and I want to keep them safe. Fortunately they have friends whose parents think the same, but I wonder what I would say or do if someone wanted to take my child in a car without a seatbelt (or in R6's case a booster seat too). 

Friday, 26 March 2010

Time for the chop

I'm not sure why I don't go for a haircut more often. The last time I went was July 17th 2009, which I was a little ashamed to admit when the hairdresser inquired.

"It must have been a good cut to last that long," she said in awed tones.

"Yes it was, you did it," I reminded her. Of course she had forgotten, it's nearly a year.

Anyway this is the before:

And this the after:

Okay, so it's not so much of a chop - only two inches shorter! All the old dry bits gone and the whole lot ironed into silky submission. Brian says I look "disturbingly like my sister" which isn't an insult as she's always been a bit of a glamour-puss and I've been mistaken for her on many occasions. At one function I got fed up explaining that I wasn't her and had some lovely conversations with people who were thoroughly convinced that I was her. After a while (and as I drank more wine) it got too tiresome to explain (and was much more fun not to!).

"Come in for a free fringe trim any time," the hairdresser said wearily sorting out the mess at the front (not pictured). Well I'll try, but I'm not promising it won't be another eight months before I darken their door again.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Spring? Tentatively...

I was inspired by Pipany's A Flowery Post to go outside and have a look at my own garden and see what is blooming today. First I had to wait for the rain to stop, so I went for a run and got thoroughly soaked. One reason I went was to test out my theory that Iron Maiden's 'Run to The Hills' was an appropriate running track. It was. Fast and furious (and wet). It should have been a slow and steady easy run, but it was raining far too hard for that.

These purple crocuses and teeny tete a tete narcissi are in battered old plastic window boxes which stand on the stone ledge which runs along the kitchen wall. I think the battered old boxes are terribly scruffy the rest of the year, but they're so gorgeous in spring I can't bear to move them. The flowers are hiding their faces today because it rained so heavily this morning.

Compare this with the tulip in Pipany's post. This is one of Sarah Raven's Venetian tulip collection - rich orange, magenta and purples - that I planted last autumn. I was so worried that they weren't growing that I dug into the bed to find them. They're up now, thank goodness, but ages away from flowering.

The rhubarb is beginning to show up too. This was originally in one of the flower borders planted, by a previous owner, on to a large flat piece of slate. Every time we dig in that border we've been digging out enormous flat slates. I think the theory is that rhubarb needs a shallow root run. Whatever the truth this lovely old fashioned rhubarb always produced a massive crop. I thought I'd try moving it and it's even better now. It flowers splendidly every year too, which doesn't seem to affect the yield.

These snowdrops and crocuses were planted by Mum as part of a mini white garden. They rarely bloom at the same time, but this year there's a bank of these and a few native Welsh daffodils just around the corner too.

Sunflowers in the foreground racing ahead of all of the other seeds we've planted. Beyond them is a tray of pea shoots, another satisfyingly quick think to grow. In a few weeks time those yummy shoots will be in salads and I'll be feeling smug that I didn't fork out a small fortune for them at the greengrocer's.

Mrs Hen poses delicately on one leg for her close up. The poor thing is a bit lonely because all her friends have died. We have plans to get her some new ones. In the meantime she chats happily to us and we haven't a clue what she's saying. 

As for the rest of the garden, there's no way I'm showing you that! To put it bluntly all four sections of my garden - the lawned garden, the woodland garden, the field garden and the moor garden - are a sea of mud and weeds. There is debris everywhere, a pile of junk waiting for Brian to make yet another trip to the tip, three half-rotten, mostly broken tables I used to use for potting on. The shed has tarpaulin on its leaking roof - or it did have until it blew off this morning - the chicken is surrounded by a hotchpotch corral of wire netting. It is, in fact, a huge mess and I am totally ashamed of it.

What is required is a bit of warm dry weather. When we venture out at the moment we are skating on slippery paths and there are puddles everywhere. If I try to weed, the weeds come up with a clod of mud clinging to their roots. The paths are overgrown, but too wet to strim and, although the lawn is starting to grow and no matter what Toby Bukland said on Gardeners' World about mowing it, there is now way I can.

This year I need the weather gods to be kind.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Review: Up

Apparently it takes a village to raise a child, which is one way of saying 'don't try to do it alone, idiot'. Grandparents and the older generation at large are a vital part, of course. There's a lot of common ground between the oldies and the little 'uns. Neither has the cares of the ones in the middle - the parents - who have mortgages to feed, jobs to cling on to and bills to worry about.

Not that the older generation are free of all of that, of course, but maybe they are wise enough to want less and worry less. To live for the day, perhaps, as fewer become available. Of course the main difference between the old and the young is that for the old breakfast is every five minutes and Christmas is once a week and for the young there's a whole lifetime between each December 25th.

It's that relationship between old and young which is highlighted in Up. It opens with the life story of Carl, starting with him as little boy with dreams of being an explorer and follows him until he becomes a widowed, cantankerous old ex-balloon seller defending his property from greedy developers. It manages to cover his dreams and those of Ellie, his wife, the pain of childlessness, the annoyance of petty little bills and never having quite enough to make ends meet, to death, grief, a spot of common assault, a court appearance and the threat of eviction.

So much in such a short time. It doesn't sound much like fun either, but it's clever. It draws you in, you become attached to the characters and then it breaks your heart. Not since Simba's father died in 'Lion King' have I wanted to cry so much in a movie. Animation is king of the 'show don't tell' school and pictures paint so much more than mere words.

Carl's life, in his little house surrounded by sky-scrapers, looks bleak indeed, but then he meets eight-year-old Adventure Scout Russell who needs to earn his 'assisting the elderly' badge. He is determined to assist Carl and in doing so win his final badge, graduate to senior scouts and perhaps attract his father's attention. Quite a lot there too - a broken home, new marriage, busy parents with little time for their son. Carl sends him off to find a fictional 'snipe' then unleashes a housefull of balloons and soars up into the sky and away.

Russell accidentally tags along and joins Carl on his quest to fly the house to Paradise Falls in South America.

Surely this is all thoroughly boring for kids? Um, from time to time, perhaps, but just as they start getting fidgety in comes Dug the dog (NOTE: Hilarious link for dog lovers - and Dug lovers!) and Kevin the bird (and mother figure). Dug is very lovably 'dog'. Not since Bolt has there been such a loveable doggie. Poor Dug is quite bullied by the other dogs, but he's loyal and trustworthy even when the others are mean to him. Moralising Pixar-style, but you can't help but love it.

All we need now is a baddie and he turns out to be none other explorer Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), Carl's childhood hero. He's a very good baddie too. Cue a great fight scene with walking sticks, false teeth and bad backs. My kids roared with laughter.

There's much to love about Up. It's basically a lesson in the tenacity of children and the elderly in the face of a world which largely ignores their needs. It focuses on friendship - age difference no barrier - and the fact that not only have the young much to learn from the elderly, but the elderly can learn a lot from the very young too. For once those in the middle - the parents - are disappointing and ignored.

Up is a surprising film and, after the saccharine of The Princess and the Frog, it's a real tonic. It comes with a brilliant new short film 'Dug's Special Mission' which looks at Dug's day before he meets Carl and Russell. It's quite the funniest thing I have watched in ages. In fact I watched it twice on the trot and cried with laughter both times. Brilliant.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Brown paper packages

I love love love books. Is there any better sight than a postman clutching an Amazon parcel? I love the peeling back of the stiff brown cardboard to reveal the fresh book within. That certain smell of newness and pages full of lovely things.

Cookery books and gardening books are my absolute favourites, which is why I recently had to buy a pair of Ikea bookshelves to accommodate them. Mother's Day (as I confessed in a previous post) featured the delight of a book on running which I ordered for myself and handed over to my children to wrap and give to me. This is a common occurrence on my birthday and at Christmas. This past festive season I bought myself three cookery books which were all on special offer and sold them to relatives when they asked me what I wanted as a present. It really wouldn't be a proper Christmas or birthday if I didn't have a book to unwrap.

So what is that one doing in the photograph above, all wrapped as if about to leave me? Well that one is a big book which was written by my University tutor when I was a student doing my BSc in agricultural economics. He talked about that book constantly while we were his students and I dutifully bought it once it came out. Now though, some 20 years later, I realised that I hadn't looked at it for at least a decade and as I had time on my hands and was clearing some clutter I offered it on Amazon for what seemed to be the going rate. This also happened to be more than twice what I originally paid for it, so I've made a neat profit.

But parting with any book is always painful, so as soon as the 'sold' e-mail pinged into my inbox, I wrapped up the book in brown paper. Out of sight, out of mind. I'll try not to feel guilty about letting it go, better it passes on to new hands than spends the rest of its days gathering dust on my shelves.

I have parted with other books over the years too. Paperbacks have been sold in boxes at Brian's office, in car boot sales and have been donated to the church for funds. A big boxful once went to the local library which takes in old strays and finds new homes for them, just as the RSPCA does with unwanted dogs.

My old macroeconomics textbooks were in that box. I was glad to see the back of those menacingly malignant monsters. But some books it seems can come back to haunt. One day I was innocently roaming around the reference part of the library and suddenly there were my books on the shelf in front of me. I opened them up to double check and, sure enough, there were the pencil marks I made on the pages (and I NEVER write in books - only Evil Ones). I put them quickly back on the shelf where they sat smugly, neatly numbered and with a 'property of the library stamp' now adorning their nasty pages. They sit there still awaiting their next victim.

Monday, 15 March 2010

That was the weekend that was.

I've been deprived of my broadband all weekend owing to a bit of perhaps self-inflicted cyber mischief because I had the temerity to change my broadband account password to one that was still 'strong' but easier for me to remember.

Cue a day - aka Mother's Day - and this morning too for good measure spent on the telephone to various 'techies' in India answering Q&A on our computers and the (shared) broadband connection via router. Mum did the talking to the techies at first. She may be - ahem, better not say exactly, but I'm 43 and she's old enough to be my mum - but she knows what she's talking about and has more patience than I do. Said techies would not believe that she - or we - knew what we were talking about and wouldn't believe the problem was theirs - as ISP - and not with our equipment.

"Contact your computer vendor," one said before helpfully putting the phone down. I saw red this morning, dialled Talk Talk and chose the option "to discuss closing your Talk Talk account". This got me a caring British voice (still Indian, but closer to home) who put me on to the top level of techie (beyond the 'turn it off and on again' types). He talked me again through the pings and IP configs before getting me to manually enter the DNS numbers which fixed the problem. It only took two days. I should be grateful - last time it took ten.

Is that the way to spend Mother's Day? Possibly not, but there were so many other bits to make up for it. My mother is not fussy. She's about to start lambing, so a prodigious amount of Thorntons chocolates were welcome. She can enjoy them carte blanche knowing she'll burn off any excess calories in the lambing shed. Brian deals with his mother in his own sweet way and no amount of my nagging ("can I send her some flowers?") will change things, so that's one thing I don't have to worry about.

H8 and R6 had made cards for me in Welsh at school. Both totally lovely. The one from R6 had a teacup on the front and a bag of Typhoo inside for my cup of tea on the day itself. Sweet. H8 also made a card in English at Brownies, so R6 then had to spend Saturday morning making a 'Muther's Day' card for me in English. See bilingual has its advantages - sometimes it means you get things twice!

R6 made me a cake, which worried me on account of my doctor's orders low fat diet, but it turned out to be an everlasting sort made from clay. Perfect! H8 came home from Brownies with a handful of daffs in a jam jar. Also perfect.

On the day itself, Bri was working so there we were up at our usual time of 7.30am. H8 and R6 delivered a book, Running for Women (admittedly I had ordered that myself, using Mother's Day as an excuse) and a yummy mummy mug. Bri gave me a card, four bottles of Guinness, a bar of G&B 85% chocolate, and a pile of Body Shop pampering treats, including some minty foot cream for soothing my runner's feet.

I made pancakes for breakfast, ran 6.5 miles and then all of us girls - mum too - sat down to enjoy the Bahrain grand prix with sandwiches in front of the telly. That was it really. A simple day. Later H8 and R6 helped mum get the shed ready for lambing. Lots to clear up and to scrub. We walked the dog, snaffled a few of Mum's Thorntons Continentals, ate a big roast chicken dinner cooked by me (but partly prepared by M&S) and mum and I shared a nice bottle of white before staggering off to our respective beds slightly squiffy. It's a simple life!

Today we finally solved the problem of the broadband, which was annoying but preferable to the alternative Monday occupation of cleaning, and the sun is shining.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Meme memory and an award

This is a tag from Exmoorjane's blog which I was supposed to do ages ago. Hers was the most deliciously spooky tale of  a ouija board. Mine, you may be relived to hear, isn't the slightest bit spooky.

When you have your own children things they do often trigger memories from your own childhood. Recently, for example, R6 and I were making meringue nests to serve with yoghurt and berries from the freezer (including, and I have no idea how such gems have been overlooked for so long, a handful of last year's raspberries; hidden freezer treasure).

Anyway it awoke a memory of my own childhood and my adoration of meringues. Specifically those that were two halves, sandwiched together with cream, chocolate on the insides of them and served in a dish with a cherry on the top and a teaspoon to eat it with. These particular ones were served in a cafe which was in a row of shops near the Gifford Hotel in Worcester, opposite the cathedral by the big roundabout. This was in the days before they put the statue of Elgar at the entrance to the High Street. I would have been pre-school, because my sister wasn't with me, so it would have been about 1970.

This photograph was taken immediately in front of the cathedral.
All those ugly 1960s buildings are on the site of the cathedral's original lichgate. 

This cafe was quite small. I can't remember what it was called then. Later, when I was a student at Worcester Technical College it was called Cherry Pie and had been modernised and didn't sell meringues, but when I was four it did and it was an enormous treat to have one when I went shopping in Worcester with Mum.

This particular day I was really looking forward to my meringue. I expect we were on our way to Sainsbury's or to Russell and Dorrell or, if I was very lucky, into the shop called Stephen Thursfield, which was a lovely emporium of gifts and toys and was where I bought my teddy bear Mary Plain.

We went into the cafe, Mum and I, and of course I asked for a meringue.

"I'm sorry," said the waitress breaking my heart without so much as a blink, "but I've just sold the last one to that lady over there." She pointed and I turned, tearfully, to look at the Woman Who Had the Last Meringue.

Poor woman. She never stood a chance with that meringue. She fed it to me, spoonful by delicious spoonful, while I stopped crying. What an angel.

I still love meringues, but it is hard to replicate the magic of the ones in the cafe that became Cherry Pie. I did come close once and that was a black cherry and chocolate meringue bought for me on a snowy day in Liverpool by my sister's first fiance in the Cavern centre surrounded by Beatles memorabilia.

Now it's tagging time I'm afraid, so I hereby tag (apologies if you've already been tagged for this and please feel free ignore if you don' t have the time, but see below for your award):

The world According to Little Brown Dog

Tattie Weasle

Lins' lleisio at Multi generational living - the ups and downs


Bovey Belle at Codlins and Cream

Maddy Grigg's The World From My Window

ElizabethM's Welsh Hills Again

Now for your reward and thank you to the lovely Chris Stovell blogger at Home Thoughts Weekly and author of the eagerly awaited Turning The Tide who passed it to me.

There are a few rules that come attached to it:
1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers.
2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award.
3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to This Post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.
4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky so that we all can get to know the other.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Running, sheds and the first seeds of spring.

What a glorious few days we have had, weather-wise. Cold, frosty mornings gave way to blue skies and sunshine. On Saturday the temptation was too great and I went for an eight mile run up into the hills. This takes me through the village, past H and R's school and on, ever upwards to the road which runs along the side of the hills (basically along the bottom of the picture in the page heading). Once I've finished climbing (and I'm very red in the face and extremely hot) the road is undulating, quite straight for miles and the view of south Pembrokeshire stretched out to my right is breathtaking.

When the air is still and clear, as it was on Saturday, I can see across to Tenby and Amroth in the south-east and then over to the chimney stacks of the oil refineries of Milford Haven in the south-west.

Sometimes during a run your body just flicks on its 'running switch'. Eddie Izzard was talking about this during his programme on BBC4 on Thursday night. After a while your body just accepts running as the norm and just does it. I had that on Saturday. After about six miles, rather than feeling tired I felt energised, strong and (unusually for me) fast. I flew along in the sunshine just enjoying every stride. Running isn't always like that, running is hot, hard physical effort. Sometimes it can be like scaling a slippery wall. Most of the time for me it just hurts. But I run for those moments, like Saturday, when running feels as effortless as one of the Preseli's red kites swooping on a thermal. It's the endorphins, of course, and totally addictive, which is why I am sitting typing this in my running gear about to set off into the sunshine again. It helps, of course, to have beautiful scenery to run in and there's something very charming about a road with little ups and downs, some great long downhill stretches (on the way home) and a few right-angled bends to zoom round.

Once the running/flying was over the weekend returned to more pressing matters, the main one being clearing out the shed ready to repair its roof. This led on to clearing out the polytunnel which had become, like the shed, just a dumping ground and somewhere for the rats to hide from the cats.

But we stopped occasionally to go for a walk and pat the ponies, Pippin on the left, Itsy on the right and Bullseye just a dot over on the other side of the field.

Pippin is hairier than I have ever seen her this year. Definitely something to do with the hard winter. In a few weeks time all this will fall out and the birds will pick it up for some very fine lining for their nests.

All the time the police helicopter buzzed overhead. It was hovering over the village for some reason. Brian will find out today, but he probably won't be able to tell me. It's astonishing just how one small helicopter can make so much noise when it is hovering. Last time it did this the police had found a cannabis plantation on a near-by farm. When it left the silence was sudden and wonderful and the birds were singing their hearts out.

Finally we went back into the much tidier polytunnel for a reward - a spot of seed planting. Here we have: sweet peas (Matucana - the strongest fragrance) and sunflowers in root trainers; a tray of mangetout peas for pea shoots (delicious!) and two trays of Marvel of Four Seasons lettuces planted by R and H. Their seed labels are decorated with stars (R) and hearts and guinea pigs (H). They tucked their little seeds up into their little seedbeds, gave them a drink, blew them kisses and told them they loved them. How could seeds not grow after that much loving care?