28 January 2018

Oh my goodness! What a wild, wackily wonderful week. We had a birthday to celebrate, a neighbour to doggy-sit, a country western concert on our doorstep, a jackdaw to liberate and wonderful, wonderful news of a new arrival. I need to sit down and catch my breath.

Last Saturday was Nick’s birthday so he, Lucy and Annabelle came across for a birthday lunch at the Kitchen at Farnborough. We’ve been to The Kitchen many times both in its former guise as The Inn at Farnborough but also since it changed hands and was reincarnated as The Kitchen. It’s always very good and this time was no exception, however . . . Pen and I both had the fishcakes which used to be one of the house specialities. This time they were, I’m afraid, just OK – a bit on the dry side and not overly flavourful. Still, they redeemed themselves with the provision of some “popping candy” which Bubble had seen on the menu. Since Pen had baked a birthday cake we declined the option of dessert at The Kitchen but I quietly asked the waitress if we might “steal” some popping candy as a surprise for Annabelle, a request with which she readily complied. That reminds me, we must return their espresso cup one day soon.

Friday last week was our latest doggy-sitting experience – Bertie, a springer-cocker spaniel mix from two doors down, came to stay for the night while his parents attended a show in Brighton. To say this dog is cute would be a colossal understatement – he is gorgeous, very sweet (and soft) and very cuddly. Not surprisingly, he quickly deduced (as all our canine companions do) that Penny is the Alpha Dog in our pack. So, he followed her around like a shadow – wherever she went there was Bertie either following closely behind or weaving in and out between her legs. He’s welcome to come again any time.

Saturday evening last week we attended a “concert” in the village hall. Stan Shenton, the local log and fuel man, happens to be a quite decent guitar player and singer of country-western tunes. Who knew? The evening was promoted as “Stan the Man Remembers” and included faithful covers of songs by Don Williams, Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash all delivered with a bit of historical context from Stan. The evening had been combined with a presentation to our local postman who was retiring after 19 years delivering mail in the village. So, the village hall was packed but the audience consisted of two distinct groups – those who were there to listen to Stan and appreciate the music and others who had come along largely to say “good-bye” to Tom, the postman.

At a couple of points I was reminded of the scene from the Blues Brothers where the band, having just re-formed, plays a warm-up gig at a country western bar somewhere out in the sticks. If you remember the scene, the band plays on a stage shielded behind some chicken wire which has the advantage, at least, of protecting them from the bottles and glasses which are hurled in their direction. Stan, fortunately, was not behind chicken wire and there was no hurling of glasses or bottles. However, the evening felt as if it might disintegrate into fisticuffs when one of the audience stood up and shouted at some others at the back of the hall who had the audacity to talk while Stan was playing or talking! Since they had come to have a few drinks and enjoy themselves, this did seem a bit harsh but fortunately the evening passed off without violence. Oh, the marvellous intricacies of village life.

Wednesday this week was a red-letter day. We had some excellent, excellent news in the morning (more of which anon) and then, mid-morning as I came downstairs to fill my coffee cup, I heard the distinctive fluttering of wings in the chimney in the dining room. F**K! A bird had clearly fallen down the chimney and was now stuck and struggling, trying to free itself.

We don’t use the fireplace in the dining room and the whole of the fireplace is stuffed with stacked logs. So, the logs all had to come out and a plastic grate which had been installed over the hole from the fireplace into the chimney had to be removed. Penelope carefully reached up through the hole into the chimney but, not surprisingly, was not able to grab whomever was there. So, what do we do now?

Whenever one is faced with that sort of question the obvious answer is to consult Mr Google – how to rescue a bird stuck down your chimney? The answer, it seems, is to place a large cardboard box just an inch or so beneath the hole, place a flashlight/torch in the box and then leave the room and quieten all noise. From within the chimney the bird sees the light and hopefully hops down through the hole into the box. After a period of time that is exactly what happened!

Once you discover that the bird is in the box you carefully slide another bit of cardboard over the top of the box so that the bird is secured. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the piece of cardboard in place so, as we removed the box, the jackdaw (as that’s what it was) escaped and made a frantic dash to the window in the lounge. Fortunately, Pen was able to grab it and, while enduring several substantial pecks to her hands, she was able to get the bird to the front door and release it back to freedom. One very happy jackdaw and a couple of very relieved good Samaritans.

The big, big news on Wednesday morning came in phone call from Ben in Los Angeles – his wife Brex-Anna had that morning delivered their first child, our first grandson – Max Gregory Stragnell arrived at about 2.45 am (Pacific Time). We knew that his arrival was imminent but had hoped that he might hold on a bit longer – he was born at 29 weeks and weighed just a smidgeon under 3 lbs! Fortunately, he has access to the splendid premature baby facilities at the hospital and all reports are positive so far. He’ll be a resident at the hospital for some time to come while he continues his development – keep up the good work, Max!

After all that excitement there’s no time to tell you about this week’s Date Night (Day) – I’ll save that for next week.

And finally, I spotted an article in the Guardian alerting me to the fascinating pastime of Camouflage Knitting – who knew there was even such a thing?

Love to you all,






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