Friday, 5 September 2014

A Pet Evening

Last week, while the Godson was here, the Silver Beast decided to break down.
She's been very good this last year or two, living quietly in her kennel-yard and going everywhere we've asked, with no complaint. But no longer. She went from moody to recalcitrant to point-blank refusal in just 4 days.
The started-motor had died.

Happily, the Godson drove us hither, thither and yon, bless his heart, but alas, even he finally had to go home, and still the garage hadn't been able to get to her.
It was my friend DodoWoman who stepped into the breach, as ever.
'I need to ask you a huge favour.' I said - hesitantly.
'What?' She sounded slightly anxious, but when I asked if we could borrow her small car, her response was immediate and generous to a fault, as always. 'Of course,' she said with verve and vigour. It was only afterwards I wondered what she'd been expecting me to say.

I have fallen in love with her Hyundai. It goes like a dream, is incredibly comfortable, and when asked if it wants a drink responds with an astonishing, 'No, I'm good thanks.'
It was - as with all the lends of her cars over the years - a godsend for which I am forever grateful.

The Silver Beast, having had her moment of cosseting and one-to-one attention, is now safely back in the yard, happy and  full of well-being, so yesterday evening we set out to return DodoWoman's car to its own cosy nest.

Unlike the rest of the British Isles and Ireland, we have not been basking in unalloyed sunshine all week, despite all promises and expectations. We have skulked under grey skies and dismal-ness.
I think there were a few brief hours of fitful sunlight on Wednesday afternoon, but that was it.
However, yesterday, although the clouds sat heavy on our shoulders the entire day, it was blissfully warm and even more blissfully still.

'Let's take the dogs and go to the beach on the way,' the In-Charge suggested, just when the sun would have been dipping over the yardarm. ''It will be low tide.'
So we drove both cars over to DodoWoman's house, left her Hyyndai to await her return from forrin-parts and moseyed down green, summery lanes to our second favourite beach. We passed lazy amblers, dogs and companionable horse-riders on the way.

It must have been about 7.45pm when we got to the beach. The tide was at its lowest ebb.
There were sandbars showing all across the bay, the sea pooling around them like silk, the sky pearling softly into the water, and everything the shade of sophisticated dresses, neither silver nor grey nor quite lavender.
And on the spit of land behind the beach, harebells, wild scabious and white heather spread in drifts through the grass.
We walked along the beach in our shirtsleeves, not a breath of wind, the air balmy and gentle, the only sound a heron hurrying home to Culleenamore.

It's not often that we are walking the beach on such a pet evening. It's not often that we are on the beach as the day melts into night.
But the combination of the two sent me tumbling through a mindfall of years, walking a beach on the far side of the world, saying goodbye to my childhood, the night before I left that tropical island forever.
It is strange, what ghosts walk in the gloaming.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Dragon Chick and The Giant Umbrella

We have, as it were, cashed in the rainy-day fund and bought a large umbrella.
A very large umbrella.
So far, this has just led to monstrous amounts of work, but hopefully it will all be worth it in the end.
We have got a polytunnel.

I have never remotely desired a polytunnel. I cannot envisage waking up in the morning and thinking: 'I can't wait to get into that tunnel', whereas I often rush out to the garden first thing with my early morning cuppa.
But recently the In-Charge and I went to visit a friend's garden. We had 'messages' in the area, and Annette, although she was away, invited us to make free of her verdant spaces, which we did. The In-Charge even got bitten by her young rescued pony - but he's well able for that sort of thing. He likes horses, and this one and he share the same name. Anyway, it was no'but a lad's trick.

In Annette's garden

Annette has a wonderful garden, which expands and changes every year, and seems to be continuously bursting with flowers. And she, along with everyone else in the north west, has a polytunnel. We stood in it, out of the mizzle, and admired the wall-to-wall sweet peas. The hot, humid air was laden with their scent and it was a very pleasant place to be.


We discussed it all the way home and have since visited other peoples' tunnels - by way or research. We ate warm, pungent tomatoes in one at Rossinver, admired jungle-like eucalyptus and dahlias in another near Frenchpark, and nearly passed out over the asparagus in a third (on account of the heat, not the asparagus). All grist for the mill.
It didn't take us long to decide.
As far as the fund is concerned, today is the rainy day.

Needless to say, being one of our projects, nothing has been simple.
Well, it was simple deciding where to put it because there wasn't much choice, but after that it was all up- or down-hill, depending on which way you look at it.
The ground wasn't level (and lies in the teeth of the westerly gales). There was a large tree adjacent to the site, not to mention a deep and open drainage channel. Moreover, it was the best grass on the property - how could we kiss goodbye to that? And - and, this was my beloved hens' paddock, one of my favourite places in the garden - could I bear to part with it?

The hens' and bees' paddock

The best grass on the property, a large tree and a deep ditch

 But on the other hand, it gets a lot of sunshine.

By the time we'd reviewed all the ins and outs, it didn't look good.
'It's going to cost as much to put up as it costs to buy the damn thing,' the In-Charge muttered.
All the same, we bit the bullet and set off on a Day Out to visit a supplier who seemed the most reliable, knowledgeable and reasonably priced. It turned out that not one but two of our closest friends had also bought their tunnels from him.
It would be delivered, he promised, a week later. IKEA fashion - ie in a lot of bits like a giant jigsaw.

But first we had a great deal of work to do and a gazillion tons of earth to move. We hired a Dragon Chick from Andy, the builder, and our friend Robin came and worked miracles with it, the first of which was to get it up the bank to the required location.

The Dragon Chick

Then it was just dig, dig, dig.

Bye Bye lovely grass.  Bye Bye hens if you don't watch out!

The hens helped. In fact, they were so helpful it's a wonder that none of them got flattened in the process.
I think they thought the Dragon Chick was their mother, constantly unearthing yummies for them to eat.

Model Dog helped too

When Robin and the Dragon Chick returned to their rightful dwelling-places, we were left looking at the beginnings of a decent swimming-pool, 5 tons of gravel - and a lot of flat-packed metal and wood.

Happily, the In-Charge's godson - little knowing what he was letting himself in for - emailed to ask if he could come and stay for a few days.
Why yes, dearest boy - how positively wonderful it will be to see you! How long can you stay? (And please bring your boots.)

Much debate as the fun and games begin

A lot of standing around in the mizzle

Down one ladder and up the next

Bless his cotton socks, he mucked in like a good 'un. We have, indeed, all mucked in like good-'uns.
We are now at the stage of wondering whose blimming idea this was in the first place, but at least we are finally ready to put the roof on.

The giant umbrella is nearly ready.
All we need is a bit of sunshine to 'stretch' the plastic.
And a pile of people to tug and pull and - ooops, not that way...

PS: Unfortunately, because we've been so busy, we forgot to pick the beans.