Tuesday 15 February 2022

Sticky times

 For once, all the plans I made and mentioned last month have actually come to fruition. Currently we are rushing around sorting out the house by the North Sea, as well as trying to enjoy our time here. Whilst here we have decorated the place and then replaced cupboards and sofas as well as adding a new all-glass coffee table which is nigh on invisible. I have the bruises on my knees to prove it! We should be heading south again sometime next week, in Wendy’s new car. No, it’s not electric or even hybrid, I’ll leave others to spend their money saving the planet, while we trail-blaze down the motorway to France with 300+ horses under the bonnet. Poo, I hear you say but, once back in France, this nice little hot-shot Merc will barely do five thou per year, and those will be mainly shopping and posing with the lid down. And that, in my mind, doesn’t require me spending extra squillions to carry a trailer load of lithium batteries under the seat, just so I can out-smug my neighbour, whilst bemoaning anyone who dares park in your allocated blue space!

Again as mentioned, we had a cracking couple of weeks in Spain last month, overlooking the Med from the seventh floor in a quite swanky apartment which cost next to nothing. The weather was mostly in the late teens but the place was deserted apart from a few folks walking dogs for Pooper to bark at. Unfortunately most of the bars and restaurants were shut too but we made our own entertainment, and dinner, as it happens. As promised to myself, I took the time to finish my latest novel which is now in the cupboard for a while until I revisit it with fresh eyes. Eventually I worked out whodunit!

Today I have sticky fingers. That is to say I have spent 20 minutes trying to glue a small plate around the stop-tap under the stairs to stop the draft blowing in. However, as with super-glue the world over, it refuses to stay put and the only bloody thing that has been stuck is my fingers, all of them, together. It is like having webbed feet, and getting them apart again has been a massive issue, involving the misuse of any number of solvents.  Hence this column is once again late to the editor as I originally reverted to typing with my elbows! On that front, the steroid injection into my shoulder joint last month seems to have worked its miracles. I even had intentions of playing golf this week although work-time has gotten in the way. A trip to the physio this morning was quite revealing and going well until the guy asked me if I have an aversion to latex! What sort of a question is that to ask your patient? ‘I’m not overly keen on cyclists,’ I replied, only to be handed a couple of bands of the stuff with which I now need to do daily stretches to rebuild my shoulder muscles. Methinks I will get enough exercise lambing a few sheep, to be honest, but I’ll humour him, for now anyway.

On the sheep front, we got to see Beatrice and Basinga last week, our two latest Ryelands who are destined for the Royal Highland and Welsh shows this summer. It’s been a long while since I was at the Welsh and I have my father’s rather large footsteps to follow in at that event, but we’ll do our best. Basinga’s mum (she came with that name) won the Highland show in 2019, so she has something to live up to as well. My good pal Robert has them in top form already but I’m not sure they were too keen being bare shorn in January, although they were considerably warmer in Scotland than they would have been in France where the weather has been absolutely baltic. Hopefully it will pick up by the time we get to lamb our few ewes at the end of the month, so Daisy Death-wish doesn’t keep battering her way out of the field in search of food! Now in her tenth year, the auld girl hasn’t done so bad, since I fished her out of a snowy ditch at 2 hours old, thinking she was a gonna. Poor Skippy is not doing quite so well though, having lost a few teeth recently. I think it may be a diet of fruit-gums for him from now on.

Our house-sitter has turned out to be something of a character. A United Nations lawyer, she has intelligent chat and enjoys a drink and the occasional argument. Hailing from Copenhagen in Denmark, she has a much better grasp of the French language than I do, and I think she is looking to call France her home from now on. Well that’s kinda handy, because we have a lot of miles to cover this year, and Hoggy needs someone he/she can control when it comes to feeding time.

Monday 14 February 2022

Jabba Jabba

Hoorah, after over half a year I am at last back to reasonable health, albeit, about 8 stones heavier. While you were all getting you third jab, I got an extra one, with a 6-inch long needle, right into the ball joint of my shoulder and am I ever thankful for whatever was in it.  I was advised not to play sports for a few weeks, which was no big problem in this winter weather, and my rugby shirt may be a bit tight anyhow! However, I have this week, for the first time, been out cutting and collecting firewood, as we experience a deep freeze here in France. In fact, the weather has been so cold that tomorrow we are heading south to the Spanish coast for a few weeks of paella and sangria by the barrow-load. After that, assuming things have settled down, we will be in UK for a couple more weeks before coming back here again for lambing. That is, of course, if we remember to write on our immigration forms that we have just been to Spain, unlike poor old Novax, the silly sod!

Whilst in London, we are taking my son Sam to the opera, something I am pretty sure he hasn’t experienced before. I think I was his age when my father and mother dragged me to see La Boheme at the Birmingham Hippo in my rebellious Pink Floyd t-shirt! After which I was hooked on Puccini, and still am. I wonder if it will have the same effect on him? I am still not comfortable with being in an enclosed venue with hundreds of coughing people, a sad reflection on life, I suppose. Anyway, from there to collect some new wheels for the wife, a trip to Stirling Bull Sales to conduct a bit of business, then to Fife to sort out some furniture and our busy year has already sprung into life. We didn’t make it to UK for Hogmanay as planned and we were actually supposed to be in New York this weekend but everything got covid-cancelled last minute. I’m not too unhappy about the latter, not being a big fan of the US, apart from the fact that most Americans make me look thin!

On the work front, I have picked up where I left off two years ago, writing my first crime fiction novel. It makes such a refreshing change being able to make up baddies and places rather than having to stick to historical fact like I do in my day job. It sort of brings out the journalist in me! I plan on finishing it in Spain in the next fortnight, glass in hand. The plot is based around a distillery in West Scotland and uncovers a layer of corruption in the whisky industry, so if you don’t hear from me again, you will know that I stood on one too many toes and drowned in a vat of amber nectar. Damn, I have just given away the ending!  

On that point, Peter recently sent me a rant that I wrote for this magazine some years ago and, my, what an angry and controversial young man I was, bemoaning everything from the NHS to the M25. The editor even accused me of becoming mellow in my old age! So to that, I will have a mild bluster about a previous bug-bear of mine, Towny Blair: a man who has told more lies than Prince Andrew, OJ Simpson and Novak Djokovic put together. Having near bankrupted the country with his gross mis-handling of the Foot and Mouth crisis which left a staggering 6 billion pound invoice in its wake, he then took us to war, telling us he was searching for Saddam’s weapons when everyone and their dog knows it was really a testicle-holding alliance with George Bush to control the price of oil. It does make ‘forgetting you had a garden party’ sound fairly lame in comparison? Sir Tony, my arse! I wouldn’t trust that man to clean my f**kin windows!