Tuesday 13 November 2018

Gallows Humour...(If I'm Spared)

There were some lovely poppy pictures among the blizzard of
Armistice Day posts on Social Media. This is not my pic,
just one I blagged off the Internet.
A return to blogging, of sorts, though I'd ask you to indulge me in one more where I wax philosophical and slide in a  bit more navel-gazing. All triggered by the combination of my life-threatening episode and then (now) having too much time on my hands to sit and think, plus a bit of Armistice Day and all that talk of death and surviving. It is natural to have that stuff at the front of your thoughts and then we listened to one of Elizabeth's 'History of Rome' podcasts with the title "Chickens Coming Home to Roost" and, Bingo! I had a framework on which to hang all my random thoughts.

Love some of the pictures that Windows uses on log in screens.
When you are young and vigorous.... indeed, right up to your 61st Birthday in my case, you assume you are bullet proof. Well, I did, anyway; perhaps I should speak for myself, not go generalising. You assume you will outlive all those people older than your self, the next generation upwards and all who are obviously, visibly less healthy - more over-weight or heavy smokers and drinkers. You only half listen to news reports of the bed crisis in the Health Service, people sleeping on gurneys in hospital corridors, long waiting lists. Those things affect OTHER people. Cross those bridges when you come to them.

Larch down by the main gate. It's deciduous
but only does this thin yellow for Autumn
When I was working in the UK as a 'baby' Manager, the firm (Exel) launched a campaign to try to control the level of absence among 'the lads' (the warehouse order-assemblers, or "pickers"). Some may have heard of it; it was called "Bradford points". You racked up points for the number of sick/absence episodes times the number of actual days taken and certain levels of score started you on the disciplinary trail - counselling, verbal and written warnings, through to eventual dismissal.

Oak leaves.
Some of my colleagues went a bit wild with this, using it as a tool to "get" at the lads they saw as lazy or shirkers and it quickly gained a bad reputation.

Our new patch of forestry to the north of us, down in the bog
I may have been a bit smug - I had the best attendance record on the site; just 3 or 4 days sick in 20+ years - but I like to think (I hope!) I was a bit more compassionate and gentle with the stats than that. I disciplined very few and sacked none. Now, of course, with the wisdom of 20/20 hindsight, I can see that I would have been out on my ear if they'd applied Bradford to this 2018 episode - 2 weeks in hospital and now 16 weeks unable to work! I am glad my conscience is clear on that one.

Geese near the front drive.
We are both amused to by the 'gallows humour' around some of the conversations we inevitably have on the subject. My big yellow hi-viz coat is definitely past its sell by date, a bit tatty and threadbare in places. We both wax a bit pragmatic when it comes to spending money on these things till we get me through the heart-operation and we both remember our belovéd friend Diane (known to this blog as 'Diamond' early on).

Beech lit by the evening sun.
When she was well on with the cancer, struggling through the chemo and bone marrow transplants and so on, she managed to stay, mostly, quite happy and chirpy. We'd be chatting away about what we might do 'in a while' or after Christmas or even into the next year and she'd suddenly drop into the conversation with a twinkle in her eye and a mischievous smile, ".....if I'm spared, of course". She was half-joking, of course, not trying to shock us. She was enjoying the chance to say such a semi-dramatic thing for real.

Rooster pot-au-feu under construction. 
But what else is new? The cooking has taken on a bit of a French theme with a couple of house favourites appearing in the authentic style as learned by the Woman of the House while in Toulouse s a young 'au-pair'. One is pot-au-feu. I did this to our latest rooster. It is basically a one-pot casserole of the bird and big chunks of veg but when you serve it, the dish comes out as 3 courses. You start with a bowl of the broth or soup. Only then do you dig out some vegetables and then, finally some of the meat which has had 3+hours slow cooking and falls off the bones; no need to carve.

Horse Chestnut sticky-bud. Excellent source of "propolis" for
the hive bees.
The other dish is 'boulangère', in this case lamb, but you can do it with any meat. This is another 'peasant' dish from poverty stricken rural France. The idea would be that in the village, very few folk could afford to light an oven every day, but the local baker (boulangère) would have had his oven going every day for the daily bread, so the local ladies would assemble that day's lunch (including spuds) in a one-pot casserole and trot along to the baker for him to stick it in his oven while it cooked. I guess they handed over a few centimes for the use of his heat.

That 'hen in question' has developed int a fine rooster. Bad move.
Evenings are drawing in now and I have had to bring my poultry supper and bed times forward another quarter hour so that everybody is locked up safe before it gets dark. Everybody gets fed now at 16:15 and they are locked away at 17:00. Touch wood we have not actually seen the fox since 3rd September but we just know he/she will be back as soon as it gets frosty.

Finally we had a bit of a disappointment (but no damage done). Regular readers will recall our enjoyment of one of our best ever Help-X volunteers, Laura who mowed the place to within an inch of its life when she was here in May. She was delightful and were sorry to see her go.We told her she'd be welcome back any time, working or just resting. Well, last week we got an e-mail from her saying she was still "out there" Help-X-ing  but had a problem with a booking in Portugal and asking might she swing by here for a week. Of course, we said and started preparing for her arrival. But then she found a farm in the south of France, much closer to her home and didn't need us after all. Ah well.

Another 'not mine' pic, blagged off the Internet.
That is pretty much it for this one. Good Luck, now.

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