Sunday, 30 January 2011

It's been emotional (and it's going to stay that way for a while)

Difficult week or so here.  Aside of the everyday work based idiocies, and the destruction of a fair society in favour of a class based have and have not structure by the Tory dictatorship, life hasn't been too wonderful.

My journey to and from work is blighted by poor scheduling and communication most days, but of late, passengers have had to look out in despair at the wanton destruction of the mature trees and the understorey that flank the railway line towards Alexandra Palace.  Network Rail has been claiming it is for safety reasons, but the fact that embankments have been flattened and access from roads has been created telegraphs their plans to sell of what they can for development.  Know bat roosts have been destroyed, trees that owls nested in for years have been chopped down, shrub layers that provided shelter for mammals and nest sites for countless birds and insects have been stripped down to bare earth.  No warning, no consultation, and yet they wonder why local residents complain.  Management clearly haven't done their research.  Destroying trees and other woody plants will leave atrophying roots, which create space in the soil as they shrink.  Come the rain, these spaces will fill with water, and when the ground in waterlogged, landslips can occur.  We don't want to see lifeless walls and gabions as we sit at signals, we want to see wild flowers, trees, birds, butterflies and the occasional sleepy fox.  And we certainly don't want to see yet another sterile building site, blocking out the light.

The transport companies take enough of our money, either directly through fares, or indirectly through tax subsidies and kickbacks.  We should all write to them, asking if they could compensate us for the horror of their vandalism by buying us our own patch of woodland, to maintain for wildlife in spite of them.  In the meantime, if you know the address of a rail manager, or live near rail office, gather up some roadkill, or some fallen branches, and leave it on their doorstep.

Even closer to home, things have been difficult too.  We got a call to let us know that Howard's mum was in hospital, so he arranged time off from work and travelled up.  His mum is in a pretty bad way, and the hospital say they're instigating a "managed decline".  Sad fact is that it looks like she's given up too.  Howard's dad isn't in the best of shape, so he's had to arrange for care for him as well.  Hard work, especially as his dad is convinced that his wife will wake up and walk out of the hospital to make his tea, and similarly in denial as to his ability to look after himself.

After a week of running here & there, meeting various organisations to get care in place while it still exists, Howard is back home, exhausted.  He knows he needs to be ready to travel up at short notice, and is fully aware that more unhappy arrangements will need to be made.

What has been annoying about this is that neither of his siblings have bothered to travel up, including a sister who lives much closer and has no work or care commitments.  What he has been able to do has been appreciated by other members of the family, but it goes to show that people are all take and no give.

In his absence, I've had to take on all the house and garden routines, including getting the chickens ready before going to work every day.  So I've been out in the garden before daybreak, torch in hand, putting feeders and drinkers in place, often with the assistance of a cat shaped hurdle.  (Sheba took advantage of the extra bed space to stretch out on Howard's half, and however glad she was to see him, she wasn't happy about just having the bottom corner again on Friday).

Outside, there are signs of impending Spring amid the Winter cold.  The hens are back in lay, and Elly, the young Welsummer is maturing rapidly.  She "crouches" and spreads her wings every time I say hello, so I've added and nest box to her coop in readiness.  Having lost her original companion, Twinkle, in the Autumn, I'm going to look into getting her a couple of youngsters for company in the next few weeks.

In terms of wildlife, the foxes seem to have quietened down, including the vixen who spent several nights screeching her late night "come hither boys" at the front of the house.  One night it carried on until nearly 5am, at which point I got up and put the kettle on.  The Great Spotted Woodpeckers are more active - I heard the first "drumming" last Tuesday, and a Green Woodpecker "laugh" midweek too.  My Snowdrops are finally starting to bloom, and many of my other bulbs are breaching the surface.  I'm fully  aware that the next week or so are often the coldest of the year, but with Imbolc this Wednesday, and a New Moon, another cog in the wheel clicks over and the hope of a good Spring gets closer.

Then on Friday we're off to Bexhill to see Band of Horses at the De La Warr Pavillion.  Beautiful music in a beautiful building - should put me in the right frame of mind to deal with whatever life throws at me thereafter.  And it will give me an excuse to hide from the worries of Wales v England in the Six Nations.  Oh how I would love to see England winning a trophy - as long as it's the Wooden Spoon!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Come and say hello

I was checking the postings on the various blogs I followed, and I idly clicked on the link to stats for my blog.  Seems like you like me best when I write about cheese!
When I looked at the info for audience, I was amazed at the numbers of countries I’ve had views from.  Places I can’t imagine having anything in common with me, and I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams imagine being able to visit.
So for those of you in Chile, South Korea, Slovenia, China – in fact, everywhere – leave a message to let me know how you came to read the blog, what you do, what you have in common, and any ideas you think I’d like to explore.
Two key actions we can take to help ourselves and other are communicating and sharing, be it objects, ideas, or information.  So leave a message, join in and keep in touch!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Goal 1 - Re-embrace creativity

So instead of grandiose New Year's resolutions, in the darkness of Solstice Night, I scribbled down a list of goals to work towards.

First one to leap from my pen was make an effort to be creative.  Vague enough to mean what I want it to, and as previously stated, something I can gradually work towards.  I now make sure I have a notebook and pen close by at all times.  So when I'm sitting on the train, musing on bringing down the Daily Mail and the government in one fell swoop, I can distract myself by deciding what varieties of potato to grow this year.  Or if in the evening I'm sitting watching TV, even of the only decent thing on is something from two years ago, repeated on Dave, I can sit with a pad of squared paper, working of different combinations of raised beds for the uncultivated part of the allotment.

I often have weird dreams.  Really odd ones, not always involving me.  But with the amount of cheese I eat I guess that doesn't come as a shock.  So I've started writing down the ones that don't revolve around me going shopping in my jim jams.

Speaking of cheese, finally got round to making some more soft cheese.  Our local supermarket has something of a reputation for reduced items, and Howard popped in the other night for a few essentials, and noticed cartons of goat's milk for less than half price.  Over the weekend I turned it into soft cheese, using live yoghurt as the cheese starter.  Some will be used at breakfast tomorrow, I'll take some in to work for my colleagues to try, and the rest will become a pasta sauce, along with spinach, salmon and maybe some peas.

Next plan involves me finding my tin of blackboard paint.....

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Just another day

I have to confess, I have come to hate the enforced "celebration" of New Year.  There's something about an arbitary cut-off point that begs me to rebel against it for starters.  The buying of supplies as if there was an impending rerun of the Siege of Leningrad  is so unnecessary too (though the amount of alcohol being carted out of Southgate branch of Asda would hint at mass production of Molotov cocktails).  Not taking part in this scrum, but still getting stuck in the traffic was even more frustrating.

So we reached home, shut the door and hunkered down for the night.  I was even asleep before midnight, though I was woken up by the volley of fireworks as the clock struck 12.  Didn't even bother looking out of the window at them.  I am firework phobic (with scars to justify it), but I think what forced me into a state of utter disinterest was the cavalier expenditure when those that need money are sliding into destitution.

The next few years are going to be hard, as this unwanted government punishes those who sport any shade of otherness to theirs.  From here on in, I will do my utmost to ensure that where possible my money goes towards making me less and less dependent on major corporations. 

We still need to be fed, shod & clothed, and until I have access to enough land to grow more crops and raise livestock, I will still have to use supermarkets for some basics.  Never likely to grow enough tea for us, so total un-dependence is out of the question there.  Sewing and knitting skills are still lacking, but aside of work I stick to jeans & plain tops most of the time.  Same with footwear - boots, 7 days a week, given half a chance.

Until such a time that I am confident enough to make my own, I will repair what I can myself, and pay to have mended what I can't manage.  My favourite brown boots, for instance, are on their third set of soles.  They're a bit lived in, but they fit my life.

Last year I spent several months in pain due to a back injury.  It took a while, but thanks to physiotherapy and planned exercise I now feel much more mobile than I have for years.  I need to stay that way - the poor and the sick will soon be on the receiving end of government cuts and I don't want to be caught up in that.  So regaining as near to full health as possible is another priority.

Looking back at the numbers of posts I've made this year compared to previously, I realised how much I've been slacking.  No more just good intentions - I need to take time to be creative.  I've spend too many nights just sitting down moaning and vegetating.  I need to make an effort to put pen or brush to paper, make useful or fun things.  Stop feeling like I've done nothing for hours.  I don't really have any artistic ability, but there are a few craft projects I'd like to tackle.  I know I'm good at making a mess, so that's a start.

I need to be better at growing my own food.  Yet again the summer ran out before all my crops were ready, but we're OK for some things, and the new back garden beds will give us a start in Spring.  Tomorrow we hit the allotment for the first time since the snow.  Hopefully it's not under water.  If it is, I'll just have to get enough gravel to make a drainage ditch at the bottom and build sturdier raised beds.

Are these New Year's resolutions?

Nothing of the sort.  These are decisions I made on the night of the midwinter Solstice.  I resolved that from the following morning I would make gradual changes, and review and add to them at key points of the year.

Gradual change is far better and easier than sudden shocks to the system.  I've cut down to three biscuits instead of four with each cup of tea.  Cutting back to one immediately would be too extreme.  And with the size of my usual teacup, totally miserly.

Onwards and ever so slightly upwards.