Blow wind and crack your cheeks

It was rather windy at Frensham Little Pond today. Like Lear, we defied the elementals and, heads bowed, marched into the blasted heathland. The trees were bending over, a battalion of trebuchet, waiting for the ammunition to be placed on their crowns. We stopped to admire the white capped waves on Little Pond, wondering when the surfers would arrive. It was also quite chilly.

Blowing the water

Blowing the water

Even so, there were quite a few other brave (or mad) walkers, taking advantage of the blue skies, ignoring the gale force winds. Of course, the many dog walkers meant many dogs for Emma to annoy. Usually, other dogs are very interested in her but today, this lot completely ignored her…which she didn’t really understand.

What cockerpoo?

What cockerpoo?

As we rounded the southern end of the Pond and looked up to the ridge where the bronze age barrows sit, the view was a bit bleak. Though nicely devoid of people.

Road to the end of the world

Road to the end of the world

Oh, and Emma needed another bath when we returned home.

Monster of Hankley Heath

Today at Hankley, we spotted this strange creature. It darted across the track at one stage, freaking us all out. It could have been some sort of throwback to more ancient times. Perhaps it has been living on mud and berries, prevalent in the heathland.

Weird creature

Weird creature

The weather was a bit yucky when Mirinda took off for guitar class and I set sail for the shops. It did improve a little bit though it never stopped being grey and bleak – the perfect way to end February.

After guitar, Mirinda stopped off at Hindhead to engage in final discussions about the Mini. Nick the Salesman was joined in the negotiations by some woman who Mirinda didn’t like. It seems she was the money person and was rather insistent on selling Mirinda the monthly payment scheme. She was so insistent that she even engaged in lies.

When Mirinda asked if we could pay cash, the woman was a bit cagey (the answer was, basically, ‘yes’), insisting that we couldn’t get a reduction for paying cash because it wouldn’t be fair to the people who were unable to pay cash. This is just weird and, in a nutshell, would mean everyone would have to shop at the cheapest shop because it wasn’t fair that people without the money can’t have the nicest things.

Anyway, Mirinda, when pressed for a decision, used the age old winning argument of having to ask her husband (I use the opposite all the time) and left wondering whether we should find another Mini dealership and give them our business.

After lunch (and an episode of 24) we headed off for Hankley for a walk in the bleak heathland.

Heathland

Heathland

One of our little troupe enjoyed the walk so much, she decided to take a lot of it home with her. Mum might be correct about Emma having more baths than any other dog she knows. Looking at this adorable little bundle of sand, is it it any wonder?

But I had a bath yesterday...

But I had a bath yesterday…

Even with the hour spent removing the flora, fauna and geology from Emma, it was worth it…though, judging from her face while she suffered in the sink, Emma wasn’t convinced.

Live long and prosper

Leonard Nimoy died today. The man who made aliens real but very logical, died aged 83, in Los Angeles. From all accounts, he was a lovely man and will be missed.

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Not a lot to report from work today. I spent most of the day fixing up minor details from two weeks ago. More interesting was my lunchtime.

The Cast Courts at the V&A have been closed for ages. They were given a massive restoration and general clean up and have once more opened to the public.

I love the Cast Courts. Massive great plaster replicas of great European objects. There’s lots of church doors and sculpture as well as a wonderful copy of the David. And Trajan’s column, which cannot be completely seen properly in situ, is handily cut into two halves so the top can be seen.

David of the Cast Court

David of the Cast Court

The Courts were opened in 1873 and were a perfect way for people to see some of the wonders of neo-classical Europe. Given that very few people could afford to travel as extensively as we do now, it was like going on a Grand Tour without leaving London.

Adam & Eve in plaster font

Adam & Eve in plaster font

There’s a lot of stuff to read about the Cast Courts (further reading can be found here) but one of my favourite stories revolves around the David.

It was a gift from the Duke of Tuscany to Queen Victoria but she was a bit upset by the giant naked man and commissioned a sculptor to fashion a fig leaf (half a metre in size) to spare the blushes of female visitors to the museum. It no longer covers David. Rather, it is housed in a glass box behind him, on the plinth.

Apparently there was a bit of a hoo ha in the early 20th century when a Mr Dobson complained about the amount of nudity in the V&A but the then director made the argument that plenty of young female teachers had visited with their female art classes and they’d never had a complaint before so Mr Dobson could just not visit if it offended him so much.

Cast Court 2

Cast Court 2

I spent a delightful half hour, strolling around the fake treasures of Europe, leaving by the Cromwell Road entrance of the V&A. Before leaving, I spotted this:

What?

What?

Apparently, it’s a piƱata, an installation by Rachael House. It’s called Challenge Heteronormativity. The idea is that by representing the concept in a form that is designed to be hit with a big stick and battered to bits, you are challenging the actual concept.

Heteronormativity is the belief that couples should only be male and female because it’s believed to be the only normal way of things. This is, clearly, bollocks and deserves to be bashed into tiny, tiny bits of papier mache.

My afternoon continued until it was time to go home…as is the way of things.

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Tonight we went to our first Girls and Guitars for 2015 (and, in fact, the first for quite a while). We were delightfully entertained by Hannah Marshall, a Nottingham lass with a fantastic voice. It was a great start to the weekend.

Hannah Marshall strumming away

Hannah Marshall strumming away

Cage for naughty boys

Overheard in the Park this afternoon…

A mother with two little boys were walking by this…

Where naughty boys go

Where naughty boys go

…and the older boy stopped and stared.

“What is that for, mummy?” He asked, staring in wonder.
“That’s where the Park Ranger puts naughty boys. So you’d better behave yourself.”
“But I could just climb out of the top of it!” He crowed, triumphantly confident of his climbing skills.
“Ah, but the Ranger has a special lid that goes on the top for little boys who can climb.”

As they walked on, the little boy kept looking back, presumably planning an escape strategy.

There are a few of them in the Park. They protect the young trees from deer nibbles and, presumably, little boys who climb. The wood is from the Park, taken from felled trees. Nice and sustainable. How it should be.

The Park looked particularly beautiful today. The weather was generally sunny but with a ridge of big, black, bulging clouds approaching from the south, promising a soaking…that never came. To be honest, a torrential downpour would have been rather handy. Emma managed to cover herself in mud, requiring a longer than usual bath.

Most of the mud came from a sloppy pool of molten dirt sitting in a depression by a gate which she felt she had to splosh through a number of times. However, she also managed quite a bit of mud collection during her romp with Chelsea.

Chelsea was a border collie cross and he’d been stalking the Girls for a while along the Queen’s Bottom, finally reaching them and surprising Day-z with a wet nose up the bum. While she jumped, barked and backed away, Emma just wanted to play.

She jumped and yapped and generally invited Chelsea to join in the fun. He just stared at her, quizzically. Eventually she started her Running in Circles game and, after about five laps, Chelsea joined in. While he seemed to enjoy the chase, he did look somewhat mystified.

His owners, when they caught up, told me he was a Rescue Dog who had spent his short life working on a farm and he didn’t seem to understand the concept of playing. I think he mistook Emma for a caramel lamb and was trying to work out how to herd her into a sheep dip in an effort to remove the worst of the mud.

Eventually, Chelsea grew tired of the game and ran off. Naturally, Emma ran after him, which just made him run faster. Emma came back, looking a bit sad at the loss of a new, if somewhat reluctant, playpal.

Muddy and proud

Muddy and proud

Hitting the jungle

We had a guy come round this morning to give us a quote on replacing the fence that keeps the Crazies in.

The guy is from the same company that built the fence between us and Dave and Gail back in 2012. When he arrived, having introduced himself as Tony, he suddenly looked around and asked, “Haven’t we done work for you before?” I told him he was correct, but that was back in 2012.

As we walked from the front door into the extension he suddenly stopped in his tracks.

Wow! This has changed a bit,” He said.
We had the extension built last year,” I told him.
Looks brilliant. A great space,” He enthused.

I took him on a tour of the garden, letting him know what we wanted a quote on and left him to his measuring. Emma, meanwhile, sat on the terrace and watched him intently. She hadn’t barked at him at all (quite odd) and was very curious as to what he was doing with his tape measure. I was a bit worried she’d try and play with it but she was just content to watch.

When Tony had finished, he walked back onto the terrace and that was when Emma decided to bark, sort of like a reverse guard dog. It was like she’d never seen him before. She is sometimes very, very weird.

I had told Tony that I’d have a go at clearing the jungle to make it a bit easier though they could also work from the Crazies’ side so, as soon as he’d gone, I went a bit mad with some Garden Tools of Mass Destruction.

The worst thing about the jungle is the brambles. Big, thick, thorn-laden monster strands of evil, is how I like to think of them. And they’re not one ended, either. In one of those freaks of nature (like lizards growing their tails back) brambles have the ability to start growng from their top end when they touch the ground. This might sound a bit pointless but, in effect, it gives the plants two points of nutrient delivery while the ‘branches’ continue to entwine anything they want to.

And, once rooted, the plants are devilishly reluctant to give up their hold on the earth. While holding firm to the soil, the roots are also deep and widespread. They also scratch and scrape the gardener’s arms a bit. Not a pleasant job.

Eventually, I’d managed to clear the nasty things and started clearing up the banana tree leaves. (It’s not actually a banana tree but we like to think of it as one.) There were a lot…given I haven’t cleared them away for a year.

They are not the type of leaves to break down readily. In fact, I think they have a half life of 20,000 years. The only way I can remove them in bulk is to tie them into faggots using one of them as the ‘tie’. It saves a lot of time picking up the strays that escape when I carry them to their final destination – the stick pile.

faggots

I had to leave off my garden battle because today was Emma’s monthly check up with the nurse. We happily trotted around to the vet to find the waiting room full of people. Emma was a bit perturbed by the crowd so I sat her on the seat and waited to be seen. Then we met Elvis.

Elvis was a puppy, younger than Emma but about ten times as big. I have no idea why he was at the vet but when the vet brought him out, he went a bit mad on seeing, firstly Emma, then his owner. He was so excited that a continuous sprinkle of Elvis juice started spraying from his underside, wetting the floor liberally. His owner, a girl of about 18, was mortified, apologising everywhere. The vet said, smiling, not to worry, that it happened all the time. She then went and found a mop to swish it up.

During this mayhem, Emma didn’t take her eyes off Elvis (Day-z was blissfully unaware of anything, concentrating on my hand, scratching her ears). Eventually, when he came over and poked his nose at her, she backed off, tail down, obviously a bit frightened. Then the nurse came and called her name.

The first thing we have to do is weigh her. She normally just trots happily over to the scales and sits on them but Elvis was still worrying her and she was determined not to take her eyes off him. It makes walking a bit awkward when your dog is looking behind her constantly.

Eventually we were all safely ensconced in the nurses’ station and she checked Emma out.

Her check-ups, so far, have all been fine and the nurse is always happy with her progress but today, this changed. She appears to have a chipped canine. I have to say I’m not surprised given her propensity for chewing small stones and beech nuts.

The nurse said that dogs rarely worry about toothache but can have problems with infection if they are left untreated. She advised I see the vet asap to check it out. I booked a visit to see the vet tomorrow. She might have to have it removed. I have no idea if it’ll grow back. I’ll ask the vet tomorrow.

After a walk, we returned home and I worked a bit more on the jungle before willingness was defeated by light.

I think I might ache a bit tomorrow but at least you can now see the fence which is in a very sad state of disrepair. It seems to be held together by the vines growing up it with unplanned inspection panels dotted with all the deliberation of a hide. According to Mrs Crazy, one panel on their side is only held up by a big stake leaning against it.

fence

I’m thinking it won’t be hard to remove.

Hanging, Raking and Table

I had a rather busy day today. Unexpectedly busy.

On the way to the station, Mirinda suggested I make some sort of dent in the garden this week, possibly starting with a bit of leaf removal. Given the day was beautiful, I figured I’d start when I returned to the house. Then, as I stood waving at a departing window of the 9am train, I was suddenly rained on.

Looking up, it was as if I had my own personal rain cloud. All around me the sky was blue except for a slow moving black cloud that appeared to be about ten feet above me. Having emptied its fluffy bladder on me, it moved on for other unsuspecting (and unprotected) humans.

The weather was pretty unpredictable all day. Following Bob’s Rules of Weather Forecasting, it was almost exactly like yesterday. Rain, sun, wind, rain…not the sort of day you can plan too far ahead. Still, I found a window of sun to rake under and removed most of the magnolia leaves from around the pergola.

Before I took up arms against the garden, I had a parcel to collect from the Crazies’. I had no idea what it was. I was expecting a small table to arrive for the lounge zone but that wasn’t due until the afternoon. No sooner had I opened the front door of the house than I was back outside, heading next door.

Mrs Crazy opened the door, surrounded by half unpacked suitcases. They’d just returned from New York where it had been icy cold and snowing. We chatted a bit about the wonders of the greatest city on Earth then she handed me a long, thin parcel and a small box. I then realised what it was.

Last week I ordered a length of hanging rail from The Gallery System to put up beneath the Chutney Window. The space there was very empty and needed something to warm it up a bit. Rather than put hooks in the wall, we decided to go with the marvellous Gallery System of rail and clear hanging tape.

The perfect job for an unpredictable wet day.

After raking for about an hour, the rain forced me inside so I decided to hang the hanging system. Satisfied with the result, I then hung pictures on it. Of course, it will al change when Mirinda comes home on the weekend but that’s the beauty of the Gallery System: No configuration is permament.

From the reserve collection

From the reserve collection

After lunch, the small coffee table arrived, packed within an inch of its life. While I didn’t have to put it together, it took about as long to unpack it. Still, it was worth it. I reckon it looks pretty cool.

Table with fluffy Emma

Table with fluffy Emma

We also wanted to get the orange one in oak (this is the green in walnut) but they’ve stopped making it. They MIGHT bring it back so I’m hoping.

It was then time to head for the park so that Emma could get covered in mud. We went via the Castle so I could get a photo of the new door. Here is what the old one looked like in 2013.

Before

Before

It all looks a bit sad and weather worn. The surface and fittings are lead and the paint is a bit battered about. The whole thing was ripped out, including the frame, and remade in wood, to look identical. I think they did a pretty good job.

After

After

We just managed to get back to the house before the next deluge though Emma had one of her own in the laundry sink. And, boy, did she love that.

Taco night

What a horrid, dull day. Mirinda had found an open garden that allowed dogs for us to visit today but, as the afternoon approached so the weather deteriorated.

Most upset were the puppies because it meant no walk. Day-z wasn’t that bothered because she always sees sleep as a serious alternative but poor Emma didn’t like it at all. Of course there’s always the throw the ball up the hallway game but it’s never the same.

So, basically, we spent the day inside, though Mirinda went up to the gym for a couple of hours of healthy exercise late in the day.

While the day was dull, the night was anything but, because tonight marked the first time Chez Gaz has served tacos.

I also made a bowl of guacamole as an added treat.

Diving into the guacamole

Diving into the guacamole