Farewell chat

The weather changed a bit today. There was actually a pretty sunrise. As I said to Denise, there were probably a few shepherds heeding the warning. It felt like rain all morning. My weather app said there might be rain at midday while Denise’s said it was raining all morning. As it turned out, they were both wrong.

Not that it didn’t rain. There was a short shower, lasting about 15 minutes, at around 9am. But that was it. And the sun even tried to come out just before it set at around 9:30pm.

Not that the weather had much of an impact on me today. I had a Talking Newspaper remote recording, so I was inside for most of the time.

There was an early walk up the avenue of trees with the girls, of course. It featured a look at the fun fair preparations as well as a glimpse of the garden through the blue door.

We saw a few dog walkers, but there was no sign of the loan golfer with the moss obsessed daughter.

Even with the overcast and looming sky, the park looked beautiful and lush.

Back at the house I had a brief Skype with Mirinda and then set to preparing the newspaper clippings for the recording. Denise decided to go for a walk into Farnham, avoiding the brief shower and wandering around the shops for a couple of hours. I was surprised it took that long.

My reader this week was supposed to be Robert but he did a swap with Nigel. I rarely get to read with Nigel, so I was delighted with the swap. But it turned out to be most fortuitous. Today marked Nigel’s final recording as he’s moving to Suffolk very soon.

And, as usual, we had a hilarious time.

It was quite stuffy in my office, so I had the door open and Denise, in the extension, heard me burst into laughter many times throughout the session. I’d like to think I helped make Nigel’s final session a memorable one.

Once I’d recovered from the recording, I made a variation on a räksallad with Wiltshire ham for dinner. Denise thought it was lovely.

I had a story today which featured a socialist member of Alton Town Council. I said that I’d been called a champagne socialist by a friend of mine to which Nigel said: “Surely that means you share the champagne around.

I really need to remember that excellent riposte!

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

On navigation

Today, we had visions of that fateful evening, back in 2001, when we were locked in Guildford Castle grounds. Of course, the time of year was very different so it was light but, even so, it makes you wary. You never know when some officious person might go beyond his remit and take his miserable life out on you.

Yesterday we decided a bus trip to Guildford was a good idea so, this morning, having taken the girls for a ramble through the woods, we were standing at the bus stop opposite the territorials, waiting for the number 65. We were not the only ones there. Two couples also waited. Oddly, both couples caught the same bus back to Farnham as us. It caused some conversation about being followed.

It was a perfect day for going into Guildford. The sky was perfectly blue, highlighting the castle and the wonderful high street; making everything look perfectly beautiful.

Unfortunately, the castle keep was closed. There were no signs indicating when it would be open. A group of women were perched on the steps leading up to the entrance looking disappointed. It suggested it would be a good time for the invaders to turn up given the castle was closed.

It felt like a bit of a waste having expended so much energy dragging ourselves up the steep path. I explained to Denise how we dragged mum up there to see the end of Alice in 2015. Actually, I took Denise via the route that the play took, explaining what happened where. We also managed to see the Alice statue in the park which is always a challenge to find.

Not that we minded wandering around. The beds were all blooming nicely, promising great displays as the summer goes along. Lots of people were enjoying the gardens taking lunch or just wandering around.

Of course, all of this wandering around created a yawning need for ham and tomato sandwiches which were gratefully consumed at the wonderful Three Pigeons, along with a much needed pint of Neck Oil.

I think the levels of hunger were exacerbated because of the long-winded wander earlier in the day. I thought Denise (and the girls) would like a walk through the woods, so we headed into the deep undergrowth up the hill. Then there came a fork in the road.

Two paths, one left, one right. It’s been quite a while since I last trod these paths. I chose left. As I told Denise later, anytime I am called on to navigate and confidently announce “We go left“, we should actually go right.

I knew I’d gone the wrong way quite early on but figured, all paths lead somewhere and just kept walking. Eventually I spotted a clearing up ahead and figured I’d be able to work out where we were.

We reached a fence and nothing looked familiar. It was all quite odd. I decided to go through the gate and, suddenly, there were cows. We were on the Queen’s Bottom. As Mirinda said “How could you not recognise that field immediately???!!!

I admit it was a bit odd but, in my feeble defence, I was coming at it from a weird angle. And, of course, my navigation is shit.

Posted in Gary's Posts | Leave a comment

The carnival is in town

This morning, when we took the dogs on an early walk to the castle, in the field opposite the golf course, the carnival trucks and rides had started to arrive. They had been parked in the typical circle formation one expects from American westerns involving wagons and arrows.

I dare say, I would have known about it had I recorded a Talking Newspaper edition in the last month but, for whatever reasons, I haven’t, so, I didn’t.

I suppose the show will start this weekend. We’ll not be attending. Not because we don’t like carnivals but because we’ll be in Cornwall. Though, to fair, I’m not that keen on carnivals.

Interestingly, on this morning’s walk, we saw heaps of people. Most walking dogs but with a smattering of joggers (some also with dogs) and one, lone golfer who stopped to tell us that his daughter, who was visiting last week, stopped at every tree in the avenue in order to photograph the moss. We never found out why.

He stopped to talk because I’d noticed a carving in one of the trees which I photographed years ago, vowing to photograph regularly and then instantly forgot. I wonder whatever happened to the love between Thomas and Erika. Or did they forget about their carving as quickly as I did?

I explained to the lone golfer what I was photographing. I think he was disappointed that I wasn’t photographing the moss. Though he did get his phone to take a photo of the carving, possibly to send to his daughter.

After so long on our own, it was fun having Denise along with us. If nothing else, it gave me the opportunity to talk to another human. While I dearly love the cockerpoos, their conversational skills are pretty basic.

After our walk, we decided to head into Farnham for a latte then brunch. The girls weren’t happy about being left on their own but, hey, that’s all part of being a dog. Besides, they have to protect the little birds, something they are very good at.

In fact, for most of the afternoon and evening on this, the longest day, they chased away the pigeons in order to allow the voracious sparrows to gobble up all the seed. And, of course, they ignored our very friendly robin as it bravely hopped further and further into the extension, almost within pecking range of Denise’s foot.

Our brunch was at Bill’s, still wrapped in it’s weather proof overcoat of scaffolding and temporary, galvanised roof. Of course, we ate far too much and remained full for the rest of the day.

Late on, I introduced Denise to the Reading Hour, which she embraced wholeheartedly though she didn’t have a vodka.

And, in answer to Mirinda’s question regarding the Tim Tam flavours…this is what is currently residing in the Coat Cupboard.

We started on the ‘chewy caramel’ shortly before bed. As a treat. I don’t know if we were in with a chance of the 3 wishes $100,000 competition because Denise didn’t keep the receipt to prove purchase. As she said, “Who keeps the receipt?

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Who would have thunk it

I have started reading The Group by Mary McCarthy. For years, I’ve said ‘who’d have thunk it?’ which I first heard when I saw the film based on the novel. I have always promised myself that I would read the novel, and I’ve finally started. And there it was on the very first page. “Who would have thunk it?” says ‘Pokey’ Prothero.

And, while I’ve only read the first chapter, it’s brilliant. But I do not understand why it was banned in Australia back in the 60’s. Who would have thunk that?

I started reading The Group while reclining on the sun lounger on the terrace, having managed to prepare the house for the upcoming arrival. It was while I was reading that a small group of, what appeared to be, baby sparrows, decided to emulate our resident robin and feed on the seed in the extension. The girls kept guard, in case something untoward appeared.

It was another glorious day with the temperature remaining sub 30 with a slight breeze. As someone said this morning, as I passed them on the school run, we are being spoiled and will wind up having to pay for it. I gave a knowing grimace, realising the truth in his words.

However, it’s important to live in the moment, so I enjoyed the weather.

Most important, there was a walk into town to shop and deliver a couple of muffins to Sue before returning to housework and puppy walk. I may also have played some rather loud music for a bit.

Eventually (just before 6pm) Carol drove up and deposited Denise at our door. Carol really is quite remarkable. She hasn’t seen Denise for years and has only met her once and yet, she found her without the benefit of holding a sign up with her surname on it. She did the same with Bob as well.

We’re really going to miss her when she stops driving the cab.

Denise and I spent the rest of the evening nattering, mostly about her experience of travelling business class, before heading to bed. She also had a couple of muffins. I managed to resist opening one of the 68 packets of Tim Tams she brought with her.

Who would have thunk it?

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Mostly annoying

The temperature dropped significantly overnight to a far more comfortable level. For me anyway. The weather people are saying there’ll be another heatwave this week but for the next few days, at least, life will be bearable. I know a lot of people love the heat and think global warming is a good way to get a better tan but, for me, the frozen north holds a lot more appeal.

Mind you, the park was very appealing this morning.

Following yesterday’s early walk, I decided to hitch the girls up for an even earlier walk today. We were out and heading for the park at 06:30. And, for most of the walk, we had the park to ourselves. Well, apart from the birds. There were a lot of birds.

We walked the length of the Avenue of Trees, right up to the blue door of the castle.

I tried taking some film through the keyhole in the blue door, especially for Mirinda, but it didn’t work very well. Unlike the walk, which was excellent.

Like yesterday, the girls were crazy excited and full of beans.

It was good that we had such a lovely walk because by the afternoon we were confined to the house because of our inconsiderate neighbours.

First there was the Crazies and their toxic burning. I don’t know what it was, apart from being disgusting. I had to close everything up in order to breathe. The big clouds of black smoke rising from the back garden came straight over to our terrace. Fortunately I didn’t have any washing out on the line, because I would have had to wash it all over again.

Then, following on the heels of the pong, someone with a serious social problem decided to play with his chainsaw for a couple of hours. I don’t know who it was – either the house next to the park or at Bells Piece – but they really, really love their very noisy machinery.

So much for enjoying a pleasant Sunday afternoon on the terrace.

That’s not exactly true. We did enjoy quite a few snatches of time on the terrace. In fact, at one point, the bird feeder was packed with sparrows. Lots of young birds on the ground, pecking up seeds. And, of course, our resident robins, popping inside for a civilised feed.

At one point, Emma came out to see what the commotion was – the sparrows can get quite vocal – and walked over to stand underneath the bird feeder. It’s currently hanging over her terrace escape route.

When she approached the feeder, the birds all fled but, after she’d stood there for a bit, they all returned. I didn’t have my phone, so I couldn’t get a photo of her looking down the garden with the huge flock of sparrows eating just inches above her head. It was lovely.

Also lovely was my second batch of muffins in a week.

Denise saw the ones I posted on Instagram and said she expected some when she arrived. Of course, I made some this afternoon; this time with apricots and pecans. I was going to use almonds but I didn’t have enough.

Naturally, I kept two back for Sue at Starbucks in return for the loan of her shopping bag yesterday.

Tonight, I decided to spoil myself by watching a second supposedly Swedish film called Midsommar. I wish I hadn’t. If I was to describe it in a Netflix, two word type way, it would be ‘mostly annoying’. There were some ‘pretty pictures’ but, basically, it was slow and boring.

Finally, speaking of Denise, I had a text from her just before her plane took off. It’s her first time flying business class. Her first message came from the lounge where she was enjoying a pre-flight Baileys. Her second message came from her seat, accompanied by a photo of her roomy seat.

I think she might actually enjoy her flight for a change. Or, as Mirinda said, she will never travel cattle class again.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

And then came the humidity

The heatwave we’ve been experiencing has, thankfully, been all dry heat. While unpleasant, it hasn’t been the wet, sticky, horrible humid heat we sometimes get here and which I grew up with in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. And which kept me drenched all night in Queensland. Or the wall of wet that hit us when we stepped off the plane in Denpasar so many years ago.

While not as bad as any of those examples, in a surprise weather move, today the humidity arrived. Though, it wasn’t the only surprise. For the girls at least. Because they had a visit at Starbucks.

It wasn’t humid when we set off across the park before 7am.

The girls loved it. I can always tell because Emma does this thing where she runs and bounces around, tail wagging then suddenly comes back to me, a big grin on her face, desperately trying to say thank you. Freya even tried rolling in the wild grass, she was so happy.

It would be fair to say that Sue and Brigitte enjoyed seeing them as well. Of course, there wasn’t many people in Starbucks, so they could do a lot of fussing. As usual, Emma took a treat and Freya said no.

We then had an equally enjoyable walk back home.

Then, while I was Skyping with Mirinda, the sky grew grey and it started raining. That’s when the humidity came and reduced me to a sweaty blob. Not pleasant. I was rather glad there was only me here.

I spent a few hours on housework (preparing for Denise’s arrival on Monday) in the afternoon. Then, after dinner, it was time to choose a Saturday night film.

As soon as I announced it was movie time, the girls knew where they were sitting.

For tonight’s film of the week, I decided I wanted to watch something Swedish. I was tempted by Midsommar, a 2019 horror film I’ve been wanting to see but I really wanted something a bit more quirky. I finally settled on Trust Me! (2010).

And what an excellent choice it turned out to be. A quirky film about a sideboard and a group of amateur actors trying to put on a play in a small theatre that they are about to be evicted from. I thoroughly enjoyed it, not least because of the occasional views of Stockholm.

The odd thing is the title. I don’t understand the translations sometimes. The original Swedish title is Puss which translates as Kiss. In the context of the film, that makes a lot more sense. Trust Me! doesn’t really.

Anyway, apart from that niggle, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Though, I might watch Midsommar tomorrow night, as an extra special treat.

From The Archers tonight

Natashia: All the Angus’ are lying down. Does that mean it’s going to rain?

Tony: No, it means they’re tired of standing up.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Poor, lonely Dave

Spare a thought for poor Gardener Dave. Usually, he turns up each month with a young sidekick and the two of them work steadily for four hours before leaving for the next job. Today, however, for the first time, he was on his own. And, given we pay for eight hours work, he was here from 8am until 4pm. And, being Dave, he didn’t stop moaning about “…the slack attitude of kids these days.”

And it was another ridiculously hot day. At one point, I looked at the temperature in the greenhouse. It was 39°. Dave was very happy to be outside, where at least there was a light breeze. Unfortunately, though, there wasn’t a lot of shade.

For most of the day, our garden is drenched in sun. There are shady spots (Clive’s Corner for one) but they are not generally the bits that need work. And, by the time the sun has dipped beyond the pitch of the roof, the gardeners have long gone.

Of course, Gardener Dave was better off than I was. Sat in the extension, with the doors shut in order to keep an eye on the dogs, is like sitting in a windowless room in an uninsulated fibro house in the western suburbs of Sydney. Except with a view.

When I Skyped with Mirinda, she suggested we talk in the Library, which is definitely the coolest room. Well, until the sun peeps in from about 4pm, when it warms up considerably. But, of course, by that time, we were all wandering around the back garden admiring Dave’s work.

Overall, there was not a lot of exertion going on inside the house. I did a few loads of washing but, apart from laundry, I took it easy. Dave, on the other hand, did a good deal of work. And drank a lot of water.

No sooner had Dave left us than I opened the big sliding doors as far as they’d go, opened a beer and sat in the shade with the girls. The breeze was most welcome. As was our terrace.

Apparently, the temperature is supposed to drop tomorrow. That’s definitely something to look forward to.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Feeling the heat

Today saw the temperature hitting above 30°. When I took the girls to the park, I made sure to take some water for them. We also spent as much time in the shade as we could. Before leaving the house, I opened the vents in the ceiling lantern, just to let some air in. It was very warm for most of the day.

First thing, I went into Farnham to shop and visit Starbucks where I delivered a couple of muffins to Sue and Jade.

I chatted with Jade about her new nose piercing, something she said she’s wanted for years but only just had done. I said they never appealed to me but, hey, it’s her nose.

I had a lovely chat with Rachel in Waitrose while choosing some cheese. Apparently she had a health scare a few weeks ago but everything has turned out okay and she’s fine now. In fact, today was her first day back at work. It was, coincidentally, my first day back choosing cheese at the cheese counter.

For the walk into town, the temperature was cool but, by the time I was heading back, the sun had started to impose itself. By lunchtime, as I said, it was very hot. Then, at 4pm, I looked at the thermometer on the outside of my office.

The thermometer is never in direct sunlight. It really was 33°.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

Muffins for afternoon tea

Today saw me walking into town. I left half an hour earlier than usual in case it took me longer given my stupid feet. As it turned out, I reached Starbucks in 25 minutes which is how long it takes me when my feet are at Gaz Normal. I was quite surprised but happy and enjoyed some quality time chatting to Sue while drinking my latte and waiting for Waitrose to open.

The same can’t be said for my return trip. When I reached my usual half way bench and sat for five minutes, I realised it had already taken me 20 minutes. Overall, the walk home, minus stoppage time, was over 40 minutes.

By the time I reached home, my left foot was aching a bit but, otherwise I was fine. I had a short break with a coffee before making muffins.

Years ago, when I was still working, Nicole and I would have regular baking days where we would make something and bring it in for a sort of morning tea treat. I started making muffins and they were well received. I became quite good at it, using different fruit and nuts and sometimes chocolate. I stopped needing the recipe.

That, of course, was long ago. I haven’t made muffins for a very long time. I had quite the hunt for the old recipe (scribbled on a bit of paper and stuck to a card) but find it I did. That’s why I really needed to go shopping: For the blueberries.

And, I was quite happy with the result. I added walnuts to give them a bit of crunch.

There was a very good reason I made blueberry muffins today. It wasn’t just a whim. I had two very important visitors. Sue and Maude.

I’d suggested Sue come round for tea this week. It was her turn to make cake but, as she quickly explained, her rental accommodation didn’t have an oven. I told her not to worry, I’d make muffins. In recompense, Sue said she’d take the girls for a long walk in the park beforehand.

True to her word, she turned up at 2pm, collected the girls and set off. A long while later, she returned with river doused dogs who seemed very happy with their adventures. Emma was so happy she tried to get Sue to throw a stick for her. She hasn’t had that sort of fun since Mirinda left because I refuse. I told Sue she should ignore her. Eventually, Emma accepted the fact that very few people like having bits of wood chipped all over them.

And we had a lovely couple of hours, sitting on the terrace, drinking water (Sue) and beer (me) and eating muffins. Sue judged them delicious and even took four home with her.

We talked about all manner of things but mostly about her new living quarters. It’s a fill in while she waits for her new house to become available. The purchase is tied up in a very slow chain, something that’s frustrating her.

The place she’s staying is very small. She described it as the size of her old kitchen/dining area. And that’s it. Basically, it’s a converted brick storage shed. Apart from the smell, she said, it was fine. Apparently the previous tenant smoked when he wasn’t supposed to and, to counteract the smell of cigarette usage, he sprayed the place with cheap aftershave. Sue said the bricks have absorbed the combined smell and, if she gets too close, she gags.

That makes it sound awful when she said it’s fine. It has a nice big garden and is very quiet with only the birds of a morning. And the old blind dog next door, which barks almost constantly.

She is going on a Folk Camp this weekend and I suggested that, even though she’ll be in a tent, it will be a nice change from her current living conditions.

All up, it was a lovely visit with a promise that she would try and make a cake next time. Before they left, I insisted on taking a photo of Maude.

Sue says that Maude has been a great companion. I’m not sure what she feels about the smelly bricks.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment

So much excitement

Today saw the most amazing end to a test cricket match. At lunchtime, I was chatting to Mike and we agreed, with New Zealand all out and leaving England 284 to win by stumps, it was headed for a draw. A good test match, certainly, but definitely a draw.

I was chatting to Mike after we’d finished recording the FATN magazine for June. Mike was the engineer. Ann was presenting and Malcolm was the other reader. And what fun it was.

Mind you, it’s interesting how both Malcolm and Mike were new to the whole chatting thing. Ann and I, obviously, are old hands at it and added a lot of back and forth, as usual while poor Malcolm was very restrained. He had said to me earlier that his ad lib skills were not that great, so maybe it’s that. I did assure him that it was just like chatting in real life (because it is) but, I guess he felt too self conscious.

Mike, as engineer, has to know when to turn our microphones on and off and, given he’s in another room and can’t see us, it makes it hard for him to judge the cross-overs. Subsequently, when I heard the recording back over dinner, he missed a few gems between Ann and me. Still, there’s more than enough to keep it entertaining.

The best thing, for me anyway, was actually seeing people while recording. We three were in the big reception area, in a triangle. Chatting is so much easier when you can see each other. Mind you, it also gives Ann the opportunity to make rude gestures in my direction when I tease her.

And my legs worked almost properly (for me) for the whole day. Mirinda asked me before I left the house how healed I was. I said I felt at about 97% and this remained that way all the way there and back. Of course, I took a bus, which made it a lot easier.

Then, once I returned home, after feeding the girls, we all went to the park for a bit of running around. I realised, on the way to the studio, that today was the first time the dogs have been alone since May 27 when I went to Heathrow with Mirinda. Needless to say, they were very excited when I got back.

Though not as excited as the Test Match Special team as the England batting went off the scales. Jonny Bairstow played a blinder, making 136 after the tea break. He left Ben Stokes to finish the game off and notch up a historic win.

According to TMS, it was the most boundaries scored in any test innings. Anywhere, anywhen. I was only listening to it but the excitement was palpable. And, best of all, Trent Bridge was packed because the ground had given free tickets to anyone who wanted to come. Normally the fifth day of a possible draw would attract about 5,000 fans but not when the tickets are free.

Let’s hope that a few of those attending will be turned away from the awful, money making nonsense played elsewhere and learn to embrace the brilliance that is, dare I say it, real cricket.

And, because I saw them on Hale Road this morning, here’s some hollyhocks.

These are the first I’ve seen. We have a lot of buds in the front garden but no actual flowers yet.

Posted in Gary's Posts | 1 Comment