Thursday, 19 November 2015

Finish Holidays!

The plane home. 
Finish Holidays! That was the expression (with a sigh of regret) Diane's Greek friends would use on the last days of trips to Poros as the girls packed up their belongings and prepared to join the 'Flying Dolphin' fast ferry out back to the mainland and the plane home. That was me today; back to Ireland after a superb and very enjoyable break in the UK catching up with relatives and friends, former workmates and, in one case, meeting for the first time some chums who I 'knew' quite well but only through the internet.

All his days seem to be 'bad hair' days. The rather disreputable
looking but very sweet Rags (Ragworth)
Of course the 'main event' was a trip home to see Mum ('Pud Lady' on these pages) and, as it turned out, 'big brother' Tom who was around the house for both my visit days. My main base was Daine's husband John's place in Faversham so huge thanks to him for TOPP hosting. He has a spotless (and very newly refurbished) house and the bed in his spare room is easily the softest and most comfortable bed I have slept in for years. He was also keen to try out his cooking skills on the guests, so we were treated to a succession of the likes of "Panackelty" (a northern layered 'stew' of corned beef which he used to do instructed by Stockton-on-Tees born Diane) and Hungarian Goulash and side salads which were so generous that they dwarfed the main course.

Miles and Paul with the 'heavies'
The 'internet' lads are 2CV owners (which is how I first 'found' them) but also keep a smallholding and I had been following their antics which ran in parallel to ours as they got to grips with sheep-owning, bee keeping, turkey poults and chickens. I knew too, that they followed my blog and as they live at a mid point between my Faversham base and Mum's place, I couldn't resist schmoozing them up for a visit so that I could put real faces to the Facebook stories. I was also dead curious to see the two 'species' which we don't do here - heavy horses and the tiny 'Dexter' cattle. I begged some directions and we decided a time and date. I just had to rock up in the very bright red hired Vauxhall Astra. There was even the promise of some home made onion soup and excellent bread.

I'm 6 foot 1. These are BIG horses.
The visit was a huge success and we got on like a house on fire. Miles and Paul welcomed me enthusiastically and we had a good 'farm tour' which took us everywhere. Their place is a chocolate-box beautiful period farmhouse near Rye, recently restored and improved in keeping with local listed-building regs. They have a vintage grey tractor which I covet (as well as a quad bike!). The horses are three huge geldings with feet as big as dinner plates - Shires and Clydesdales if memory serves (do jump in and comment if I have this wrong guys). They were quiet and gentle but quite curious about this new person in their field, so I got well 'loomed' over. They run with 2 standard sized mares to keep them company. The Dexters were two mums with calves at foot. Like us they are currently without pigs (wrong season). The onion soup was to die for. Thank you so so much M+P.

From huge horses to tiny cattle - Dexters.
The visit 'home' was also a great success. Brother (Tom) and Mum were on fine form and we had some lovely chat catching up on the gossip and Hastings stuff. We played some Scrabble and although we both beat Mum, it was not by much and we reckon she was happy with our argument that this proved she had reared a couple of genius sons. What's wrong with that? Mum is, of course well able for the pair of us and whizzed around cooking us a lovely roast chicken lunch which she insisted on carving to show us who was really in charge here. Tom and I might be 58/60, but Mum trumps us with her 88. There's no arguing with that.

Pud Lady at 88 attacks a chicken. 
I also managed to sneak in a visit to see the widow of my old work mate Steve (see post of 3rd July this year entitled "Hen and Two"), who was also the breeder of our oldest bitch, Deefer. Jean (that lady) still has Deefer's mother (Mollie) and brother (Archie) though she has had to have the 'dad' (Hector) put down. It was fascinating that the dogs well remembered me after 4 years and were straight way into clambering all over me and loving me up as I tried to drink the proffered coffee. Thank you and the very best of luck, Jean.

2CV Llew on the roof fixing down some panels. 
Another Westie who remembered me straight away was Boris, belonging to old mate 2CV Llew who has featured many times in this blog. We'd arranged to meet for breakfast in the Wetherspoons pub in Herne Bay, "Saxon Shore" (and very nice it was too!) But it seems that these days I have a taste for the buildering and can't keep away from it, so when Llew said he was roofing his new workshop in Herne village on the Wednesday and I'd be welcome to help him, I found myself agreeing to go at this all day despite the arrival of the British Isles's next named storm, Barney.

Llew's new workshop.
Llew had already created the frame of this 16' by 16' building in 2 inch steel box section and angle-iron (it's what he does for work) so we could do a day of Llew being up on the roof fixing down the panels while I was 'man on the ground' cutting panels to size and the 'firing' them up to him, plus scurrying up and down the ladder bringing him bits, connecting up power tools and helping to fix battens to the erected panels so that they would more securely take the next ones. All good clean fun.

Hidden treasure, Derek's old Roller.
The workshop is in the yard of a superbly "wheeler-dealer"  type guy who by coincidence knows our part of Ireland quite well as his son has just bought a former nunnery in Lanesborough (on the Shannon) so he's often in and out of Knock airport. He also turns out to have a lovely Rolls Royce under a sheet in one of the garages which Llew wishes he would use to drive the two of them to the local pub. It would make quite an impression, thinks Llew. Probably have to wipe the fish and chip grease off the fingers before you got back in, though, mate. Anyway, we got his roof done despite some impressive gusts of wind from 'Barney', working right round till last light, so dark that we needed a torch to go round rounding up the tools to tidy up at the end of the job.

John's lovely little "Faversham" stove - really meant for
boat and yacht cabins. 
My final call was to drop in on good friend of this blog, Mazy-Lou, where John and I had been invited round to supper and Mazy was known to have been BAKING. Anyone who knows Mazy will be familiar with her legendary baking skills and we were due a steak and kidney pie with 2 kinds of pastry (she uses shortcrust on the bottom and flakey pastry above) and multiple veg, a fruit crumble and then a cheese course all washed down with excellent wine. She did us proud. We were full to groaning point by the end and had to take a couple of "trou Normande" breaks to recover between courses. An armagnac and a good coffee sorted us out for the journey home.

One of John's plaques - made near to where he was born by
Osbourne Plaques, this one includes a Thames Barge bottom
Of course, with me away, Liz was left in charge of the farm and coped but reports that she was run ragged what with work and a training course she had to attend, so was really missing the chance to drink a whole cup of tea without being interupted. There was also a day when she, too was away at the Dublin 'Knit and Stitch' show/trade sale and I cannot close this post without thanking two more people, our fellow small-holder friends, Sue and Rob (of the various piglet adventures) who stepped into the breach and came to let chickens in and out in the day-light, safe from Mr Fox. We owe you guys. So that was it. Aer Lingus flew me home this afternoon on an interesting, Jet-Stream affected, turbulent flight (it was like being driven home over rocky roads in an army truck! They "suspended" the refreshment service for half an hour for risk of bouncing hot drinks over the passengers while the pilot found a calmer altitude). Liz has had her tea and all is well with the world.

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