Grimble bum

This morning I discovered that dogs are now allowed in Starbucks. This is excellent news. According to Sue, they are now owned by a different company, one which likes dogs. This is because most Starbucks stores are franchises. When chatting about it, Victoria said I should bring the girls in.

It was just after talking to the Starbucks staff that I came across a blog written by someone called Keith. He often writes about Farnham so I was interested to see what he thought. His experiences seem to be somewhat repetitive but I did manage to garner some things of interest.

He doesn’t like Neros, Costa or Starbucks, preferring an independent coffee shop in Downing Street. He shops at Waitrose but doesn’t like shop girls with pigtails leaning too far over the deli counter. He was saddened when the green grocer shut up shop.

Another thing he mentions is his objection to the East Street Development. This is one thing I agree with him on. He thinks that Farnham doesn’t need any of it. I’m not so certain that Farnham doesn’t need more housing but I’m damned sure it doesn’t need any more shops.

It’s one thing if every shop in Farnham was full to overflowing every day because then you’d need more shops. This, sadly isn’t the case and, as Keith says, even the green grocer has left.

My ideal East Street Development would consist of a load of new, affordable homes with no parking and instead of a load of unnecessary shops which would just close up after 12 months because of a general lack of customers, some lovely green space. I realise that this plan would not be welcome (and not just because I don’t think they should have car spaces) and we’ll end up with a stupid multi-screen cinema we don’t need and scores of empty shops and it will completely ruin the Farnham I love. I guess I’m one of the few.

Part of the Farnham I love
Part of the Farnham I love

Anyway, as for me, I hobbled into town – now that I know what’s wrong with me it seems to have worsened – and shopped before boarding the bus to the hospital for my blood test.

Normally when one wishes to get a blood test, one must join the inevitable hordes, anxiously clutching their little slips of numbered paper, occasionally glancing at them as if willing the number to change from 98 to 16. Today I walked in and there was one other person sitting in the waiting room. I took my number. It was 22 and the monitor said they were dealing with 20. It clicked over to 21 and the other person in the waiting room went in.

This is completely unprecedented. Consequently I was in and out in around 15 minutes. But then things changed. I went to the chemist.

The chemist at the hospital is very handy. It saves a lot of hassle when you collect your prescription and can just walk across the building to have it filled. The alternative is to go back into Farnham where you can use the independent chemist or Boots. The trouble is they are not very quick and a queue then a waiting crowd is very quick to gather. Like this morning.

I’d attempted to get my prescription filled yesterday after visiting the doctor but, having waited for half an hour I was told that they didn’t have one of them and it wouldn’t be delivered until this morning (or this afternoon). I’d left it with them saying I’d pop in today.

First there was a long delay while they searched for the prescription then the news that they still didn’t have one but would give me the other. A rather frazzled chemist then asked for my phone number so she could call me when (if?) it arrived. There was no phone call for the rest of the day.

Cocker-poo of death

When it comes to vicious dogs, you’d better avoid Freya. With amazing ease she has the power to frighten eight year old children into their mother’s arms. And that’s just with a look and a shake of her tail. Imagine the harm she could do if she barked! So, beware. If you see this in the park, run away and hide.

You might think I’m exaggerating but you’d be wrong. I was retrieving the tennis ball for Emma and Freya spotted a woman and her two sons (I assume) walking along. Freya immediately sat down at least 20 feet from them and smiled, waiting for permission to go and say hello. Her tail was wagging with ferocity.

The younger of the two children (he looked about eight) immediately started carrying on. His mother told him to just walk further away from the dog to avoid any contact. But he didn’t let up his shrieking and moaning. Finally, giving up on an invitation, Freya started moving towards them. The boy flew into his mother’s arms as if the hounds of hell had suddenly appeared.

I had to turn away as I called Freya because I was laughing so much. I’ll have to tell Rafi next time I see him. What a pathetic child it was.

Actually, Freya almost didn’t come on the walk today. We were watching TV after lunch (as usual) and a stinging insect landed on the tiles in front of Freya. She immediately stood up and started following it around. She tried picking it up in her mouth but it was too small. It started to disappear under a recliner so she stood on it. She then leapt away with a surprised look on her face.

She then started limping and I realised what had happened. The insect (I think it was a wasp) had stung her paw. She started looking quite pathetic. Obviously her leg had gone numb and she laid down next to me on the lounge, licking it and occasionally giving it a strange shake. By the time we went up to the park, she was fine. I’d like to think it will teach her a lesson but I know it won’t.

Late in the day I went to the doctor to discuss the probability of me being diagnosed with neuropathy.

Last week Adele noticed the way I was walking and told Mirinda she thought I should see a specialist about the possibility of neuropathy. This would explain the gritty feet, the lack of balance and the constant risk of falling over.

The doctor I saw (one I’ve never seen before) put me through a lot of tests and said I (and Adele) might just be right. She’s set me up to get some blood tests (it’s ALWAYS blood tests) and then we’ll take it from there. She also prescribed me some B vitamins because, apparently, a lack is one of the things that can bring it on. Though there’s plenty of B12 in eggs…and I love eggs.

I have to have the blood test tomorrow and the prescription needed to be ordered in so I’ll not be going to work tomorrow…which is annoying. I’ll then go back to see the doctor in two weeks.

Curatorial tour

A few weeks ago (when we were getting drenched on the river) I had an email from Nick at Work asking if I’d like to attend a curator led tour of a new sponsor’s exhibition at the Smith Centre. Naturally I had to decline seeing as I was opening and closing locks at the time. Nick rescheduled it and I went today.

The exhibition is called Mapping Ingenuity and places unusual and unexpected objects in a London context. For instance, there’s the obvious things like shipbuilding on the river but there’s also strange Victorian medical items built in tiny workshops behind High Holborn.

Howard admires a Thames Ironworks steam pinnace
Howard admires a Thames Ironworks steam pinnace

The reason Nick thought I’d enjoy it was because there’s three ship models, two of them from Thames Ironworks. His reasoning was indeed correct, especially given the fact that while I’d researched all three of them, I’d never actually seen them. Of course this isn’t particularly unusual in (and of) itself but they’re always nice to see…eventually.

Of course it did mean getting up early and catching my usual Friday morning train into London and then Tube it across to South Ken but I managed to sleep for most of the trip.

While on the Tube, completely engrossed in the Victorian craze for ‘Slumming’, I was dragged back to the present when fellow volunteer Howard suddenly appeared asking “Good book?” We then chatted about the Victorian craze for ‘Slumming’ as we journeyed west.

After an essential Starbucks we headed for the Smith Centre where we met Caroline (another volunteer) and a few more people who were there for the viewing. The curators then talked us through the objects.

The William Bentinck...the first iron steamer on the Thames
The William Bentinck…the first iron steamer on the Thames

There were some fascinating facts (some of which I added to when it came to the Thames Ironworks) and extraordinary objects…like the Great Eastern Railway train carriage made from the wood of the Princess Alice paddle steamer (which sank after a collision with a collier in 1878 and is still the worst maritime disaster on the Thames with the loss of over 650 lives) or like the strange medical apparatus used by surgeon Joseph Lister who led us all down the path to antiseptic.

It all proved delightfully obscure and enlightening. The curators knew their subjects and were suitably enthusiastic (though their ‘chat’ could do with a bit of honing). I gave Oliver (one of the curators) a few bits of shipbuilding information after the tour which I told him he could use if he liked. The fact that Thames Ironworks supplied the iron for the new Westminster Bridge, for instance. He was delighted with this tidbit as it is in a painting they had in the exhibition.

After lunch, I headed back to Waterloo and caught the next train home.

It was another unbearably hot day but the girls still wanted a run up the park so we headed up after I’d given them some late lunch. The rest of the day we spent recovering.

Meanwhile, at Waterloo Station, a giant marshmallow had burst through the floor…

Bye bye Bob

Today Bob flew home. Carol (or one of her many taxi driving relatives) picked him up from the Bush and dropped him at Heathrow. It’s been a lovely visit (if we ignore the weather) and we’re now looking forward to Farnborough 2018.

As I was walking Mirinda up to the station first thing I mentioned that Bob would probably be there to see her off. She wondered how he’d know when to be there. I reminded her that she’d told him last night what time train she had to catch. I figured it was a large, chocolate coated clue.

As we entered the ticket office guess who was waiting there? Yep, Bob. Mirinda asked him how he knew what time and he said she’d mentioned it twice last night. This was clearly an invitation to see her off.

After waving at the tinted windows (Bob said when I waved them off last week he thought it looked like I couldn’t see them…now he understands why) I walked back to the Bush with Bob before heading to Starbucks, then home.

I Skyped with mum for a bit then it was time for lunch then, of course, our walk. It was very hot and my gouty toe was suffering from the new shoes I’ve been wearing so we didn’t go very far and ended up sitting on a shaded bench for a bit. This way Emma can decide when she wants me to throw the ball and when she wants to rest. It also meant that I didn’t suffer.

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Back at the house all three of us collapsed with the heat. It’s not because it’s overly hot – obviously it’s nothing like what we grew up with – but it’s because it’s happened suddenly. Seasons tend to slide in then slide out with the peak somewhere in the middle. This year however, winter never really left then, wallop, it’s summer. Today.

I’m not saying it’s not welcome – anything would be an improvement on the incessant rain – but it could have been a bit more gradual. If I believed in a god I’d tell him or her to bloody sort it out. Just like a frog, I’m much happier when the warmth is increased by small increments. Otherwise I just feel like jumping out of the saucepan.

Still, the good weather means the garden is looking beautiful…in it’s intentionally scrappy way and once the sun has vanished behind the house, it’s quite bearable.

Banana custard
Banana custard

Potty Lottie

Given it was Bob’s last full day over here, Mirinda worked from home until lunchtime then they went traipsing across Black Down with two very excited puppies. Then, much later in the day, Bob shouted us dinner at Brasserie Blanc. (It was my choice but Mirinda didn’t want pizza so she chose for me…sort of.)

Dinner was delicious with the added pleasure of a very cheeky waitress. We think she was French (her accent was a bit odd) and clearly realised she could joke around with us, accusing me of unoriginality because I ordered the same entree and main as Bob. (Actually, I decided very quickly what I was going to have but Bob just ordered first!) It did make dinner a lot of fun – I do like a cheeky waitress.

Speaking of cheeky waiting staff…earlier in the day I was surprised to find that Charlotte was once more at work in Starbucks. After yesterday’s announcement that she’d run off, it was a bit of a shock. She didn’t exactly explain why she’d come back to work a few days notice (she said it was because I was so upset) but I think Sue probably rang her up and laid a bit of a guilt trip on her.

Anyway, I forced her into posing for a selfie with me.

Bye bye Charlotte
Bye bye Charlotte

We discussed her name for a bit. Apparently everyone calls her Lottie except for staff and customers at Starbucks. I wondered why I hadn’t called her Lottie from the off, being Australian and prone to name shortening. I then christened her Potty Lottie, partly because she’s a bit crazy but also because she’s rather keen on swearing.

As I sat writing up my blog, I realised I’d met and seen off quite a few Starbucks baristas. Potty Lottie is just another in the long line. It’s sad but, obviously, working as a barista in Starbucks is generally quite a transient thing…and I do get to meet new people quite regularly.

That plane has a lot of poke!

This morning I headed into town leaving Mirinda, Bob and Adele (who stayed the weekend with Mirinda and loved our garden so much she spent an hour in it doing yoga) to fend for themselves while I went hunting for dog food. At Starbucks I was told that Charlotte had just left work on Friday saying she wasn’t coming back.

Poor Manager Sue. She’d just returned from holiday to discover she was a staff member down who didn’t even bother giving notice. I thought it was a shame because she’s a right cack and I’ll miss her. I also didn’t get to say goodbye.

Sue didn’t have much time for Charlotte commiserations, obviously. She had just returned from her holiday in Turkey. It was her first overseas holiday…EVAH. She’s always been afraid of planes, having never been on one, and had been dreading it. I asked her how it had gone and she gave me a grim smile.

The holiday itself was great, she loved the place, but the trip there and back was a real test of her nerves…and drugs. To round it all off, she landed at Gatwick to the news that Turkey had just had an unsuccessful coup and there was some ridiculous number of people involved in rioting and street fighting. I told her she should be grateful for her excellent timing. She wasn’t convinced and was still recovering from it all.

It’s a good job that planes hold no fears for us because today was our Farnborough Airshow day.

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It all turned out to be a wonderful day but didn’t start particularly well.

We had decided to park at Aldershot Station and catch the free shuttle bus. While this was far better than sitting in traffic for hours, it did mean a very long walk from the main gate to our viewing spot as well as the ridiculous situation with the car park.

Okay, I’ll accept it was my fault that the RingGo app on my phone needs to be renewed (since having my phone rebuilt). This, had it been operating, would have made things very easy. But, no. I had to use the ticket machine. But the first ticket machine I visited wasn’t working. There was a big sign stuck over it saying as much so it hadn’t just happened. I then walked the mile to the next machine to discover that this one was broken as well.

It wasn’t just me either. By this time there was a growing group of unhappy parkers stretching out across the car park. We all made our way to the ticket office where the miserable little man behind the glass gave us all tickets.

I wouldn’t have minded all this inconvenience except for the ridiculousness of the charge. It’s £1 on Sundays. I mean, seriously? I spent an age phaffing about for just £1. Stupid South West Trains. Then, of course, we had to sit on the hot, stuffy bus for half an hour while we waited for the London train to arrive. Then, when we did leave, we just went around the block in order to allow the bus behind us to get out. It was not a good start.

Arriving at Farnborough, we realised we’d cut it a bit fine to make the beginning of the actual air show and had to hotfoot it down to the Runway Enclosure which was situated about five miles from the entrance.

Susanne and Rafi met us at the main gate and we all headed out, passing the planes on static display. Bob said he was ‘all planed out’ given the amount of aeroplane museums he’s visited over the last month so there was no stopping. I headed in a roundabout way in order to cool down from the hassles at the station. By the time I reached the others and plonked myself down on the grass I was well chilled and ready for a bit of high flying antics.

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And it was superb. As usual. It was a pity that the Vulcan didn’t put in an appearance (apparently it’s too expensive to fly) and the Red Arrows were limited to a fly past but, overall, it was excellent.

It’s difficult to pick a favourite though the wing walkers are always amazing.

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I also loved the F35B stealth jet. What an extraordinary example of modern technology. It amazes me that we can build something as incredible as the F35B and yet a large part of the world still lives in the dark ages…by choice.

But, of course, everything was excellent. The commentary was as hilarious as last time (I’m sure the main guy is related to Jonathon Agnew) and, after one single downpour that lasted about five minutes, the weather was almost perfect. We all had a thoroughly good time.

Naturally there was the hot and stuffy wait in the bus before we headed back to Aldershot but that was of minimal consequence. A lovely day.

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Scary Kate, Irish Kate

There’s something that smacks of appealing to the lowest common denominator about the announcements on the Thames Clipper. What is wrong with the travelling public learning the proper terms? Why on earth do we have to put up with pandering to the stupid? At every dock they say “Passengers will exit from the back of the boat.” Surely they mean passengers will disembark from the stern. Is it that bloody hard to get it right?

Apart from the above, my trip along he Thames was wonderful. The day was beautiful (nothing like the summer we’ve had so far) and the river looked fantastic.

I had stopped off at Canary Wharf, at a shoe shop in order to buy a new pair of runners. The sales assistant (Sabina) was very good. She pointed me towards a perfect pair that allowed for my extra wide gouty foot. I don’t think she had any idea what gout was but she was slightly sympathetic. Whatever she thought of my disgusting feet, she sold me a pair of excellent shoes which managed to see me through the day and, hopefully, for the rest of my life.

Today was a Weasel Globe outing. We were seeing The Taming of the Shrew. I have not actually been looking forward to it. I have major problems with the play from a feminist point of view. Okay, Kate is one hell of an amazing woman but when Petruchio gets her to submit to him…well it leaves me a bit cold and angry.

To be completely honest, I’ve never seen a production of the Shrew. Well, apart from Kiss me Kate of course. But I do know the story very well.

Kate and Petruchio take their bows
Kate and Petruchio take their bows

In this era of the #WonderSeason, nothing is going to be what it was perhaps meant by Bill when he originally wrote his canon. I’ve already written about the amazing version of the Dream I saw last time we ventured out to the Globe. Seriously, it was the best Shakespeare I’ve ever seen. In fact, we told Jon and Bev that, because they hadn’t seen the Dream, they may as well consign themselves to a life devoid of art because they’re never going to see anything better.

All the Weasels but John...this is actually John's photo.
All the Weasels but John…this is actually John’s photo.

The thing with this Shrew is the fact that it is planted firmly in Ireland. On a larger scale, Kate is the Shrew of Ireland in need of taming by the boot of Imperialist England. This works…up to a point. A few of us were disappointed that Kate submitted to the yoke of her oppressor. She was fiery and independent but then was tamed into some sort of Stepford wife with no depth or life.

On a finer level, Kate is part of the Irish rebellion of 1916, crying for freedom for both her nation and her sex. This was very powerful particularly when bracketed with Irish songs full of keening and defiance.

On a very basic level, I have to ask: Why on earth would anyone want to be married to a subservient female who had no zest for life? Well, apart from Petruchio, obviously. But then he did it for money.

The entire production was Irish. That made it doubly hard to understand though it worked extremely well with the music. I’m being too harsh. I thoroughly enjoyed three quarters of it. The humour was (as usual) brilliantly played and the actors really knew their Bard.

I loved Kate (Kathy Rose O’Brien) as the Shrew. She was feisty and very, very appealing. I was not alone among the Weasels in finding her attractive. Petruchio (Edward MacLiam) had an underlying threat of violence which almost bubbled to the surface many times.

I really enjoyed the performance of Imogen Doel as Tranio. She had a delightful impish quality that tempered the more disturbing aspects of the play. (Looking at her previous work, we possibly saw her in Earnest at the Vaudville, I assume as Cecily.)

Everyone enjoyed the day, as usual, and we retired to a suitable drinking house in order to drink vast quantities of ale and talk silliness and gender politics as they relate to early British play writing.

Some Weasels
Some Weasels

Dogs in the night

Poor Wellington! And what a way to open a play. A big dog, centre stage, with a garden fork sticking out of it. From the second row, it was particularly graphic. And very, very sad.

We were at the Gielgud Theatre with Adele, Dave, Molly and Bob to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

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The play (and the book) has been ‘acclaimed’ for ages and when Adele and Mirinda looked at their plans to come to the West End to see as many musicals humanly possible, they decided we should all go to this play together tonight. I’m so glad we did.

The evening started off brilliantly. The other day I discovered a Chinese Hotpot restaurant just across the road from the theatre. Of course we had to go there. It’s called Shuang Shuang and it’s a bit like Yo Sushi with the ingredients floating around the room on a small conveyor belt.

Given we were six, we had a booth with a table rather than sat at the bar. In the centre of the table was a big, divided-in-half, stainless steel pot on top of some sort of heating device (probably gas but it wasn’t obvious). Once you’ve chosen your broth, the waiter/waitress fills up the pot and you wait for it to reach boiling point. You are also given your choice of dipping sauce.

It’s then just a matter of picking your bits and pieces and throwing them into the pots to cook. I think Bob was a bit dismayed having to cook his own dinner but his misgivings were soon replaced with delight at the fun and taste. It was really very good. I’ll be going back!

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But back to the play…Joseph Ayre as Christopher was brilliant. There’s no other word for it. He is young (he plays a 15 year old) and theatrically inexperienced. This has been his first professional theatre role. Hopefully it will be the first in a long line of hits. He is a very talented actor.

That’s not to take anything away from the rest of the cast. It is an ensemble piece which orbits Christopher as he traverses the strange world surrounding him. We get a sense of the difficulties he faces and his brave determination in overcoming them.

And he solves the mystery of who killed the dog.

And he solves a maths problem after the curtain call which I still don’t understand.

While the hotpot and the play were both exceptionally brilliant, possibly the biggest highlight of the day was getting to stay at the flat. I’m off to the Globe with the Weasels tomorrow and given Adele was going home with Mirinda, I figured it made more sense to stay over. I texted Mirinda to say I’d arrived home about 20 minutes after leaving them at Waterloo. Her text in reply came about 90 minutes later.

Sweet revenge.

Stories from a market town

About a week ago I was walking along, chatting to one of the regular dog walkers I see when a bee landed on her arm and started to sting her. She yelped, I reached across and flicked the bee off her, there was no stinger in her arm. While in some pain, she was very grateful. I told her it was my quick Aussie reflexes because in the bush you’d die without them.

She told me that she wasn’t allergic to bee stings so she figured she’d be fine with a pain killer. I hadn’t seen her since.

I saw her today and she told me a woeful story. Here’s a lovely photo of our lavatera to put you in a happy mood to start with.

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Apart from a sort of dull ache, she was fine when she arrived home. She was fine while she sat and watched TV. She was fine when she went to bed. The next morning, however, she was far from fine. Her arm had grown to elephantine proportions.

She had had an allergic reaction to the sting that was only half a sting…and while she doesn’t have any allergies.

I was surprised given there’s not many honey bees in Farnham Park but she told me it was a tree bee looking after it’s babies. Is this a real thing, I asked? Oh yes, she said. They are vicious little bastards who do not need an excuse to attack…when they are looking after their babies.

Furthermore, she told me, they leave a scent trail that stays on you, drifting around the surrounding area, for at least a year. This scent tells other bees (and wasps and hornets and other stinging insects) that you are a danger to all insects and should be stung repeatedly. (I’m wondering whether we could use something similar on religious extremists.)

For this reason she was wearing a long sleeved, light jacket. She was going to wear it for at least a year so stinging insects couldn’t smell the scent. She’s not a mad type. In fact she’s a retired Contract Lawyer with, to all intents and purposes, what seems like a higher than average IQ and a natural lean towards common sense.

She thanked me again for, effectively, saving her life. I told her anyone else would have done the same and she said she knew quite a few people who would have stood and watched her slowly descend into a coma before actually doing anything. I told her she knows some pretty awful people. She smiled and called them ‘Clients.’

Changing the subject…in Starbucks, I was chatting with Freya (the barista; not the puppy). She asked if I remember when the coffee shop was a butcher. When I shook my head she turned to Charlotte and told her (and me) that she did have seniority. It seems she was almost born in Starbucks. She assured us it was not in the toilet.

Apparently when Starbucks opened her pregnant mother would visit pretty regularly. Then, one day, she was rushed to the hospital where Freya was born. It wasn’t long before mother and baby were both regularly visiting Starbucks.

And so it was only natural that Freya would get a job there. Naturally.

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Mrs May

At one point this prevening we didn’t have a Prime Minister. David Cameron went to the Palace to hand his resignation to the Queen then, a little while later, Theresa May was presented to the Queen as the new one. Listening to Eddie on PM you’d think we were in danger of some sort of political shenanigans while the office was empty.

Nothing happened.

And we now have a new Prime Minister. I don’t think she’ll be as entertaining as Boris would have been or have the off-the-cuff stinging comments Cameron had at Prime Minister’s Questions but I think she’s a good strong leader, something the country needs at the moment. She seems to be the sort of person who doesn’t stand for nonsense. And, of course, she isn’t Michael Gove.

Meanwhile in Farnham, they are filling the bath tubs with flowers.

A bed bath

The other day I wondered whether Scotland leaving the Union would mean that the Saltire would be removed from the Union flag. That could be quite disruptive.

Meanwhile in Farnham, the ramp has been added to the new upper level car park due to open sometime in August.

Ramping it up
Ramping it up

The new car park level construction will be missed. No matter the time of day, the train travelling public have stood at the fence and watched with an intensity usually preserved for Wimbledon. I guess it’s better than standing, staring at the platform opposite, which is what most people did before the builders moved in.

I didn’t do a lot of building today, rather I spent quite a huge slice of the day re-upholstering one of the dining chairs. I would have re-upholstered both of them but it took too long to do the first one and I ran out of time.

They need re-upholstering because of the rips in them caused by the dogs who prior to lying on them insist on digging a hole first. Literally. Since discovering this annoying habit we’ve kept blankets on the seats but the horse had well and truly bolted and they’ve been waiting for me to get some replacement leather.

I chose red and at least one of them is looking good. Again. Hopefully the second one will be completed tomorrow.

Meanwhile in Farnham, the puppies played.

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