Monday 15 February 2016

Mr Spanky stays indoors

I think I invented a new sport last week called gyro-skiing, where you career down the side of a snowy mountain in a gyroscopic fashion! I am not certain it will take off - not like I did anyway! Bruises were incurred. And, to quote Forest Gump, 'that's all I have to say about that.'
Wendy and I did have a great trip in the Alps though, punctuated by an overnight stop in Clermont-Ferrand, an industrial conurbation set in a valley in the Massif Central surrounded by volcanic mountains. Once home to the French Grand Prix, as you enter the sprawling city it is hard to ignore the fact that this is the birthplace of, and home to, Michelin Tyres whose factories dominate the suburbs. However, rubber is not the only black thing in this city as, nestled in its quaint ancient centre, with its cobbled streets and vibrant bars, stands a huge gothic cathedral built out of volcanic rock making the vast black structure appear rather macabre as its two spires extend over 100 metres into the sky. As for their rugby team, well this year's efforts would have been greatly aided if the goal posts had been of similar height, as the fabled yellow and blue jerseys bowed out of the Heineken cup in such embarrassing style that the whole town population were also wearing black to mark the occasion. We were allowed a moment of gloating as it was our minnows from Bordeaux who administered their dismissal.
Yes, of course, it is that time of year when large burly gentlemen pull on bright lycra and knock lumps out of each other in an organised fashion every weekend for a few months. Considering myself a multinational, I will inevitably be wearing my collection of white, blue and red hats throughout the Six Nations although so far it has started well when the Jocks have waved us Sassenachs off home, once again carrying the silverware with us. This annual bloodied encounter between England and Scotland always reminds me of an occasion some twenty years ago when a Scottish rugby playing friend of mine, known affectionately to one and all as the White Shark, was out celebrating a Scotland victory on Edinburgh's Princess Street only to demonstrate how best to take a drop goal. The solid silver Pilkington Cup still has the dent in it to this day as proof. And still he missed the target, although he was quite severely told off for the faux-pas!
We appear to have arrived back to monsoon season here at Chauffour, when 400mm of rain, nearly two thirds of our annual expectancy, has fallen since Christmas, much of it through a leaking skylight window into an array of buckets which require emptying every three hours. Thankfully lambing is not yet underway but it is imminent and we are considering relocating to higher grounds. There are even small trout in the puddles by the back door, not that Mr Spanky would notice as he hasn’t been outside for six weeks. Our lake that was bone dry up until New Year is now a sea and the polytunnel has concertinaed in under the weight and has become a 10000 litre reservoir, should we require it during the dry summer. Let's hope so.
In a recent interview I was asked where I grew up, to which the statutory reply is always the same, I haven’t grown up and have little intention of doing so! However, I did spend my childhood and teenage years in Rock village, when a gang of Fraziers, Notts, Neaths and Whitemans would tear around the lanes from pub to pub in our Minis, taking in discos on Clee Hill, games of spoof in the Alma and the odd fence post on the way home. Next day we would all be back at work, driving tractors or feeding yards of livestock, no harm done. Back then I can vividly recall Bernard Birch senior saying to my Dad, when they heard about the death of their pal John Whiteman senior: 'Jack, they are pulling them out of our pen now.' Well, with the passing of one of our crowd, Fooey Neath, I guess the cycle has just gone around again. A sorry thought, I suppose. RIP big fella, we had some good times.  
Anyway, enough of that; this column wouldn’t be complete if I wasn’t complaining about something and this time it is a simple gripe about the price of Muesli. Up until recently, this isn’t something that would cross my breakfast radar, but of late I have been making a gallant attempt to be healthy. Three euros fifty - that's over three quid - that's what it costs for a box of rolled oats and barley with a few raisins thrown in. I know I am no longer in the farming business but I still have friends in that game, each of whom assures me that a ton of grain sells for just over one hundred pounds. So how on earth does one company manage to pimp the price up to £6000 per ton and get away with it? On every news bulletin we hear that the world population is growing sideways and there is Jeremy Hunt talking about taxing sugar to keep us all healthy, and making sure we get our five a day. Is he missing something here, or am I? Well, yes I am actually, my bacon butties - but not for much longer.

Oh, btw, Mr Spanky is our cat, in case you were wondering!