Monday, January 28, 2008

Top Table

As regular readers may be aware, I have long had logistical problems with the volunteers sharing my office for their lunch and tea breaks. This year sees a major milestone achieved as the long-awaited New Volunteer Room is finally completed. Yea, and there was much rejoicing.

So, the room is complete. The finishing touches are not. McColleague and I are poised with all the little extras that make a volunteer/staff room so appealing. We have all the usual tea making paraphernalia along with a noticeboard, a clock, a comfy chair, some nice pictures for the wall and so on. The one thing we didn't have was a table. Not to worry though. Lovely Warden was making one."Now before I show it to you," said Lovely Warden, about to open the door of the warden's shed to display his handiwork, "the correct response is 'that's a beautiful table'".

McColleague and I nodded dutifully as he looked at us, then exchanged meaningful glances as he turned away.

As expected it was very large and made of wood.

"That's never going to get through the door!" exclaimed McColleague.

"It's very big," I said. "Oh, and beautiful, " I added, hastily.

"It'll be fine," said Lovely Warden. "I'll bring it down tomorrow, on the trailer. I can't fit it in my van."

As predicted, it was too big to fit through the door. The top of the table had to be removed and reassembled once inside.

It takes up quite a lot of the room. It is so big that McColleague was able to wax and buff it usuing the electric floor polisher we use in the house. Lovely Warden is unrepentent. He says it is such a lovely table he wants it to be the focal point of the room. And it is.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mighty Mallet

This is Lovely Warden's latest creation. McColleague and I discovered it in the bird hide. It is a massive, hand crafted wooden mallet. I do not know why Lovely Warden has made it and am reluctant to ask (it takes all the fun out of guessing, for a start).

Is it for giant games of croquet? Dealing with the squirrels who steal the nuts meant for the birds? What uses can there be for a giant wooden mallet in a bird hide?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Until very recently the house was supplied with spring water. There is a very efficient filter system in place and I was more than happy to drink delicious non-chlorinated spring water that would cost a bomb if it was bottled and put in the shops. Granted, the system wasn't perfect, as the spring water also supplied the cattle troughs, and if any of the cattle troughs got kicked over by a frisky cow, our water supply would slow to a trickle and then stop.

Whenever the subject of mains water was raised I was informed that we couldn't just change over because of the difference in pressure. Our spring water system just wouldn't cope with mains water. All the ballcocks and pipes would need replacing first. It made sense to me.

So imagine my surprise when my water supply was changed from spring to mains a month or two ago.

"Don't we need to change the pipes first?" I asked, in some concern.

"It'll be all right," said my Boss.

"Right," I said.

So imagine my surprise when, on my way to bed at midnight, I discovered a river of water running through the house.

The water pipe outside my kitchen window had burst and was fountaining gallons of water up through the drain cover and subsequently into my kitchen. I phoned my Boss who duly arrived with his brother-in-law, Colin, our resident plumber and builder. We all stood outside, in our wellies, torchlight reflecting off the bubbling water.

"Nothing we can do tonight," said Colin. "I'll just turn off the water supply for now and be back first thing in the morning".

When you've spent the night having to fetch buckets of water from the courtyard to flush the loo, it is a wonderful thing to see a yellow digger outside the kitchen window. It gives you hope.

After much excavation the offending broken piece of pipework was found and replaced.

"I reckon it was the change in water pressure that did it," mused Colin.

"You reckon?"

"Oh yes. It'll be all right now."

Imagine my surprise a few days later when I discovered the overflow from the cold water tank in the roof space pouring out water just outside my back door. To exit the house you had to go through a small waterfall. Colin came to investigate.

"It's the ballcock. It's not designed for this kind of mains pressure. I'll fit a new one."

"Will it be ok now?"

"Oh yes."

I am already imagining my next surprise.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

First Aid Made Me Sick

"Right, you all remember Resusci Annie, don't you?"

We did. We were all there for our First Aid Re-Qualification. Once you have completed the original five day training course you are then qualified for three years. Once those three years have passed you need to attend a further 2 day course to maintain your qualification. We had all locked lips with Resusci Annie many times before.

"Well, this isn't Resusci Annie, this is Fred," continued our instructor, unzipping the case before him.

"Blimey," I muttered. "Fred's a bit scary, isn't he?"

Our instructor went on to tell us that while Annie is modelled on a petite woman, Fred reflects a more modern trend and is based on a 19 stone man. He was therefore a lot more demanding on the arm muscles when performing CPR.

My knees felt the strain too. Two days of crawling around on industrial nylon carpet, applying bandages and the kiss of life meant I was sporting a couple of impressive carpet burns, despite the jeans I wore.

I passed the exam at the end of day two and went away with a renewed qualification and the beginnings of the flu bug that knocked me out over Christmas. I am convinced someone breathed their germs into the chest cavity of Fred or Annie and I subsequently breathed them in. The medicated wipes used to clean the doll between each use only sterilise the surface. I am convinced Fred gave me flu.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

House of Wool

My nearest town is small and full of interesting characters. I very much like it. One of the characters is a lovely lady called Olive who has a wool shop. She is an accomplished mistress of the knitting needles. Jumpers and cardigans, scarves and gloves, socks and hats - these no longer present any sort of challenge for her. For Olive is famous locally for her skills in making woolly worlds, knitted alternative realities. She knits people. And animals. Even vegetables.

Her creations can be found displayed in vacant shop windows along the High Street. On my first visit to the town, when I originally moved here, I was perplexed as to why there were life-sized knitted figures in random shop windows. Since then I have come to understand that this is a local tradition and have grown to eagerly anticipate her next flurry of knitted activity. McColleague and I always text each other with updates on the knitted figures situation whenever one of us spots a new display.

So it was that I found myself outside her wool shop in the days before Christmas, gazing in awe at the knitted Widow Twanky in her shop window, and boggling at the knitted paper chains draped overhead. Next door stood an empty shop, but instead of the soaped windows and a few dead flies you might expect to see in a normal High Street, this housed an impressively random selection of Olive's finest knitted figures. You see, that's one of the things I enjoy the most - the fact that there is no theme, no common element to these displays that I can discern. To my delight I could see a Land Army Girl, an Arab and a person in a white coat - a vet? A doctor? Who knows? Oh, and a donkey. And a collection of knitted mice, carrots and even a woolly turnip, scattered across the floor. I fumbled in my bag for my mobile. I needed to send visual evidence to McColleague at once.It was as I took the picture on my cameraphone that I heard a voice behind me.

"Hello! Photographing my knitted people, are you?"

Eek! It was Olive! I was caught.

"Yes," I replied. "I always take a picture to show my friends. We love your knitting."

"Are you local?"

Olive asks me this every time she meets me. I explained again that, yes, I only live up the road at the manor house.

"Would you like to see more of my knitted figures?"

"Um....well I'm a bit pushed for time."

"I've got loads more in the back of my shop, come and look."

It was hard to refuse. The shop was right there and I had been caught showing an interest. Olive ushered me through, into the dark recesses beyond the counter. The bell above the door jangled as someone else came into the shop. "I'll leave you to it," she said.

And so I found myself alone in a room surrounded by life-sized knitted figures. Apart from what I think was a knitted mayor. He was half the size of all the others. I don't know why.I wondered how long was the politely correct amount of time to spend on my own among the knitted people. My cameraphone pictures weren't doing them justice, my hands were far too shaky with the excitement of it all.I texted McColleague. "I am in the back of Olive's wool shop! If I appear in knitted form in a shop window in a few days time you will know I fell to the House of Wool." And I sent an accompanying picture to illustrate my predicament.After a while I decided to venture back out again. Olive was serving some customers in the front of the shop so I was able to call out a cheery "Well, thanks for that, I've some lovely pics now to show everyone!" as I made for the door without slowing or making eye contact.

I must return the favour when the house re-opens and invite Olive along to see our Nursery Rhyme Trail. I've a feeling she'd really like it.