Monday, 29 June 2009

Duck herding

The collective noun is a raft of ducks (actually there seem to be several collectives! Hoorah for more ways to be vexatious in conversation!).

On Friday (when I was on holiday... working on immigration crises -- grrrr), there was a little amusing break in the day which began when I glanced out the dining room window (which other than in working hours is blocked by a large white panel van) and saw a multitude of ducks come waddling up the drive!

E managed to take a picture of them, before heading on his way back to work.

And then the herding began. They started wandering into the main road (our address is 'Main Road'), so E bravely went forth and stopped traffic and the bus. The ducks were intended to head back to this side of the road, but instead decided to cross the road fully and go to the car dealership diagonal across the road and mill about under and between cars.

My sole contribution was to go inside and get some bread (which was pretty pointless since ducks need water for to eat zee bread). A biker guy sitting out in the sun on the patio at The Dog Inn saw the predicament and came out to help. So in a lull in traffic, E (chief herder) and the biker and I steered the ducks (quacking a blue streak) across the road, aiming for the alley that runs along the neighbors' house and towards the Common (a much better place for ducks than the main road, and also with the amenity of a p-o-n-d).

E only needed a floppy hat and a little crook as he headed off down the lane behind the ducks. I think I shall make him one. A manly one, naturally. Camoflauge maybe? And some fishing lures to decorate the crook...

Oh dear, oh dear. Someone has taken the notion and turned it into a corporate activity! For your own amusement, just google 'duck herding'; shockingly most of the returns are UK-based. This is kind of what I feel like at work most of the time, anyway :)

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Activity Review: KiP Crawl, Elderflowers, & Duck-herding

Oh, and auctions, and spinning, and immigration fun (for work -- whew!), and gardening, and mouse-killing, too.

Such as lot has managed (somehow) to happen in the 20 days (b-a-d) since the last blog.

Firstly, there was Worldwide Knit in Public Day (around 13 June every year, so get planning for 2010, fellow knitters!), of which Clare sparked the organisation and I just figured out the route -- the 'route', you see, because instead of a stationary and sedentary 'knit', a little walking in between seemed like a good idea and also increasing chance for more people to see the Knitting Missionaries. (This is an ironically amusing term since we started at 2 churches -- giggle.) I suppose we could use the term 'Proselytes' but to the uninitiated or to the unreligious, that might sound like a kind of amoeba... and we are not Those! We were not cycling missionaries, since the yarn can so easily get hung up in the gears. However, there was a Naked Cycle Ride in Cardiff, which their KiP day happened to be on the route of... (oh my -- it appears to be worldwide as well!)

Our route covered a good part of the city centre and the weather cooperated gorgeously. Walking and knitting (not at the same time) does really poop you out, though! We started at St. Clement's (selfishly, you may say -- but I was typing the route and we had to start somewhere... and this let us get started earlier -- 11 am-2pm knitting in the churchyard). Jonathan and Jack and Molly were terribly amused and possibly bemused by our motley crew and Jonathan regaled us in quite an out-of-character style -- and he brought me a daisy plant from his garden and some seeds, which I had to carry through Norwich with me instead of leaving at the church since he might have thought I didn't appreciate them. So, yes -- your correspondent strolling the streets of Norwich with a large bag of a daisy plant, stopping periodically to knit for 45 minutes -- all successfully adding to my attempts to fit into Norfolk.

The Cathedral Cloisters was out next stop, and we managed to pick the spot immediately next to where a wedding party wanted their photos taken about 10 minutes after our arrival. So most of the time was spent trying to stay hidden behind columns and out of photos.

From here, we migrated to Frank's -- sadly all the comfy couches were taken, so Clare and I perched on the edge of the most uncomfortable-built in bench-on-the-wall ever. The daisy plant fell out of the window and onto Shelly's head. And we had to have the first Pimm's of the day. Frank's has scrummy food and cakes and the best use of adjectives like 'shiny' and 'lovely'. They also occasionally have an 'Animal of the Week' on their signage.

The Forum was skipped because a) we didn't expect any more knitters to join (wrong! oopsy!); b) we were behind schedule; c) we felt the need to stop into St. Gregory's Pottergate and check on their previously unknown KiP event -- which was non-existent by the time we arrived; and d) the Forum was deemed 'boring' since we go there every thursday eve anyhoo.

So, we descended upon The White Lion (right around the corner from St. Miles Alley) and may have startled Ralph slightly, although he quickly recovered and made us some Pimm's. It was a good location, with nice big windows and lots of light (since Caroline didn't feel comfortable in the red-painted room at the back); and it was mostly quiet except for the tipsy man who kept wanting to commission some baby booties off me but who has yet to call with his order :) Clare yarn-bombed The White Lion (well, Clare bravely did) by hiding a ball of yarn with two needles stuck through into a table drawer along with a little note. Since it was hidden, maybe it should be termed 'Undercover Yarn Bombing.'

Skipping The Golden Star as well, we proceeded to The Playhouse (for one more Pimm's and some tea) and one final UYB in the hanging magazine rack (Can clever readers spot it -- actually there are 2...?). By this point, we were all fairly flagging and so Here Endeth the Knit Crawl.

Another crawl should be forthcoming soon!

The work weeks over, say, the past 3 weeks have been nothing to write home about. Let's just say morale has swayed between incandescent fury and maniacal laughter at institutional and governmental incompetencies. After a while apathy sets in and you feel you have sold your soul and become a civil servant -- oh wait. You have.

Cycling is a positive aspect of my 'work' life right now, though. I have managed to cycle roundtrip to work 3 times now and one-way (from work) either once or twice... It is 4 miles from Lyndale to UEA, or twice as far as from the centre of Norwich -- surely 8 miles a day, twice a week (or more) qualifies as vigorous exercise, right? BUT even thought it is further, it is not as traumatic because the route is through pretty, wind-ey country lanes bordered with hedgerows and horse pastures and wheatfields and rape (canola) fields. Birds sing; cars do not honk or spew fumes in your face; there is only 1 traffic light, in Cringleford; and it is lovely decompression time to attempt to convince yourself that work is not necessarily the pinnacle of your vexation and does not need to control your life. This is a good thing!

Of course, I do feel like collapsing into the grass sometimes, but it is getting easier and I am now quite refreshed and hyper once the destination is reached. The first day, I fell asleep on the living room floor behind the sofa while trying to empty my panniere bags -- '...just a quick rest of the eyes...'.

Last weekend was just busy-busy-busy!

Friday, we had to dash from work for the auction viewing. It looked quite promising.

Saturday a.m.'s agenda had E and me at Blyth's at 9.35 (but I did manage to win bidding on two green man garden pieces before being sent off to St. Clement's and leave him to manage the situation -- which ended in his purchase of a ginormous cane conservatory chair for £1 and which has created 5 days of amusement and activity for all. Now that it has finally made it into the house -- a funny tale to be shared with a glass of wine -- Kitty approves entirely.).

Jonathan and I attacked St. Clement's quite exhuberantly, following the exodus of the plasterers, who repaired and painted the archway between the chancel and the nave. I believe I emptied the vaccuum bag 4 times (ick). We have a little more to do today, but it is well on its way to being back to full viewing tidiness.

Leaving St. Clement's I walked back to the auction house, to finalise everything, since E had had to depart early to take car home and make it back to the city for The Rugby (British Lions v. South Africa, Test 1 -- or something like that).

THEN, loading as much as I could manage into my old-lady shopping trolley, I wheeled the 30 minute walk up to Norfolk Yarn -- for 'try-new-things' day! After some very patient teaching, I managed to successfully card, spin and ply wool. A bit of investment later (that is what we tell E, you see!), and I have a spinning wheel maintenance kit, a bag of 300 g of raw wool (£4.95 -- yay!) and two new bobbins! My plan was to get that project going yesterday on my day off, but instead I chose to spend the day on the phone to the US, talking to various people about UK immigration for students... hoorah.

Sunday -- we made a good team effort at a picnic lunch, and Houdini packed a remarkable amount of food into the picnic bag (from Georgia and Matthew -- merci!) and toddled off to Sheringham Park for Yssy's First Birthday party! Despite the grey skies when we left Norwich, it was sunshine and sunburn close to the coast, and E has only now stopped peeling (mostly). A lovely afternoon was had by all, although all photos that we had are on E's N96, which has kicked it and died. This includes evidence of the knitted summer hat and amigurumi turtle -- 'something green'!

This week began on Monday (as they occasionally do) with Clare and me venturing forth into Nature to collect elderflowers for a concoction. The original plan was to make cordial, but since her attempts to purchase citric acid from various drug stores failed (apparently, they do not stock it anymore because people use it to cut illegal substances with... damn them all), we had to resort to starting champagne with Mr. Fernley-Whittinstall's recipe. It is doing its thing in the pantry, but I am just not sure I can hear fizzing...

His Lordship was very helpful in picking out the best flowers and shaking off the little buggies who felt the need to come along for a ride. [Not to alarm anyone -- and the bugs ARE all gone -- if you have the flowers in a plastic-coated grocery bag, you can hear the little bugs scurrying to get out of the bag. Kind of disconcerting and yet amusing. Like maggots :)] Persons who know what a disaster the back garden started out as will be able to note some progress in bed creation/edging, severe budleia pruning, and some new plantings. As well, all the little pots on the top of the wall are volunteer foxgloves and hollyhocks from the front of the house which had to be removed for the edging to go in there as well.

Back to the elderflower concoctions... E has now managed to get to the home brew shop before 5.30 one day and I do have citric acid, with which I will start a cordial concoction this weekend. And I will wear long trousers and shoes and socks to go through the nettles (which is generally where elder trees are located) instead of a skirt and flip-flops (what a pillock!).

The garden is coming along rather splendidly, although one of the violas has been unceremoniously flung aside by some creature using the garden as a loo (slight frown).

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Wrong Cats & Mousers

His Lordship brought us his first mouse on Tuesday.

At first, I did not realise the significance of the muffled 'mrreeowfff'-ing sound walking in the back door (due to the fact that I have not be gifted with micey things in quite a few years). But then it all came rushing back (the visions of glassware being broken and pre-work mayhem -- but nothing bad happened), as I saw the mousey dropped twitching on the floor -- and so we got treats and we got praised and petted and told that we were brave; and Eamonn in his dressing gown (American translation: terry cloth robe) was most concerned and bemused by the whole thing.

Especially when he realised that it (the mouse) was still breathing. And then he pursed his lips in a most disapproving manner and wrinkled his ickle bitty nosy (giggle). Then he removed the tomatoes from their plastic container on the counter, picked the mouse up by its back leg and deposited it in the tomato container.

'Rescuing' the mouse consisted of taking it to the back door, staring at it for a few minutes in distaste and flipping it in a flinging manner through the air. Poor mouse paused briefly during freefall in a tree before the last little floof into the leaves in the upper garden. There was vehement reprimanding from The Queen Rescue-ess (me) and vexed mewing from the capturer of said rodent, who had been interrupted mid-swat/bat/pounce by the removal of his prize. Going out on a limb here and guessing that Eamonn will not really be interested in going to see The Tale of Despereaux with me...

Final notes on La Mouse: the mouse was lying by the plant potting area (rescued from the leaves by industrious hunter) when we arrived home from work and has been buried under the re-potted rosemary plant.

Periodically, there is a frantic bit of panic in the house when someone realises that the kitty crunching away at the food area is the Wrong Cat! 'Wrong Cat' alarms lead to a group rescue flit from room to room chasing Arthur (occasionally ending with dirt, leaves and detritus on the temporarily white sofa). We have found that blowing a hair dryer at a Wrong Kitty who refuses to be extracted from under a bed leads to positive results. The key is to have 'catcher' at the other end of the bed who will leap on kitty and make capture instead of being gentle with it. Most of the time it is easy to capture the Wrong Kitty since he is stationary whilst eating and also when he surreptitiously comandeers a piece of furniture for a nap.

One might say, 'Erm... if you just shut the doors and windows, then the Wrong Cat would not invade your space...' But, you see, we like having doors and windows open as that is one of the charming things about living in the country and not next to a dog/rabbit latrine. It is also charming to be able to leave things unlocked if you run across the road to the Farm Shop or the baker's. We like it here!

The Wrong Cat is actually quite sweet (although his coat is nowhere near as silky as that of His Lordship and he does have a biting problem), he is fixed (and therefore does not try to mark the house as his) and he does clean up food that Angus will not eat, but we are trying not to encourage itinerant residence (although Angus seems not to care one way or the other).

We do not take time to photograph interior incursions, but they are quite cute in the garden together and Arthur waits outside the back door every morning for Angus to emerge for his morning constitutional, chirps at Angus and rolls adorably on the ground. Angus generally looks at Arthur as if he is quite simple.

There is at times the need to guard against invasion.

The abode is coming along quite cosily (and we have been here for 1 month and 1 day now), although there is still some work to be done: soot to be removed from carpet; plant detritus to be burned in garden; pictures to be hung; and LPs to store once Qubes arrive :)

Welcome to the living room. To the viewer's right is the sofa which has been selected by The Wrong Cat for a nesting place (and dirt/leaf deposit) twice this week.

And we head to the dining room, across the entryway. There is still a bit of stacked stuff in here -- this will be stored appropriately when we right Welsh dresser comes along. But the fish seem to like it :)

The kitchen has gotten quite a lot of use since Eamonn is still overcome with joy at having a gas hob (stovetop) and cooks nearly every evening. I am eating far too decadently and shall start cycling to work as soon as I have faith in myself to make the 4 mile trip without looking like something the cat dragged in and/or fainting by 10.30am.

But back to the tour...

Forgot bathroom (with Victorian tub!). Will take pics and add.

Back to entryway and up the stairs. Photo with up-the-stairs perspective failed due to bright light through fab window at top (and because I don't know if my camera will adjust to compensate for this and have no idea where instruction book is at the mo). So no pics of stairs -- let it be simply said that they are lovely and old and creaky and quite steep. Holding on the rail is best. [However, the person who came up with the wallpaper/carpet pattern combination was either blind or stoned. Persons will have to visit for the full effect.]

At top of stairs to right is now where guests have option to sleep (instead of in living room). Knitting machine shall also be set up in there in near future! V. excited!

Book case in hallway with lovely memento designed and handmade by Ms. Susan. To right of this, is study/music room, but photos are impossible at the moment, due to it being the last room to be organised and attacked.

And the master, to left at top of stairs, is extraordinarily-sized for middle-class British houses by and large. His Lordship likes to have so many nooks and crannies to hide and nap in, behind, under.

Lyndale was in fine fettle one month on, therefore, for our third 'company' visit this weekend -- Richard (aka, Slinky) and Marleen drove up yesterday for the cricket and some cycling and a walk through the wheatfields to The World's End! [See, I missed the last 'company', Keith (aka, Cockney Buddha), since he always waits until I leave to come up to Norwich... sigh. I would like to remind people that this blog is sponsored by the Letter K.]. There also is sadly no photographic evidence of Peter (aka, Freshy), our first houseguest because I was not organised enough to waylay two males who are not too keen on being documented in pleasant pose.

BUT, my camera battery did not die on our outing today with Richard and Marleen :)

We headed to Horsey to see if we could see some seals before the rain came and before they headed back to London.

The outing began just past The Nelson Head (instead of at the windmill -- where we started last time). Despite cloudiness, there was still good enough light to dawdle behind everyone else taking random pictures of flowers and bees (I am totally turning into my parents! Next, I will be taking photos of sunsets and have even planned out several settings... dear me.)Wearing wellies (since I am quite attached to them and don't get to accessorise with them nearly as much as had been hoped) was a wise plan and allowed me greater freedom to venture into the freezing North Sea more than with normal shoes or barefoot would have done. However, they also resulted in a rather cavelier sense of confidence in depth and a bit of water did splash over and into them.

Maybe it was the lack of sunbathing capacity today, or maybe it was just June 7th and seals go somewhere else on June 7th, but we only saw two seals during our sojourn: one in the water, and a single pup on the beach. The other swam along gracefully in the water in actually a very social sort of way.

I am amazed (but then some people are easily amazed) to learn that seal flippers actually have metacarpals and so it looks like little hands in mittens when they scratch their chin or their side. And the same for their back flippers. Fascinating!

Watching seals is indescribably calming.

Sprinkles started on the hike back to the car, but we made it well on the way to Wroxham for some lunch before the Rain-Ex really got a workout.

Marleen and I were 'allowed' to have dessert after eating a lovely lunch of kedgeree.

We are grateful to have such permissive husbands who spoil us.

And now I need a nap in the clean house.

Unless Clare calls to go pick elderflowers for our elderflower wine-making project... :)