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Foraging fail

♥Sep. 10th, 2016 // 04:04 pm
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This afternoon, we took Jo over to the common, planning on a couple of bags of blackberries, ditto of sloes and a couple of carrier bags of apples.

Of the two good patches of sloes, one had been cleared away and we didn't manage to find the other (even though we were pretty sure of where it was: possibly also been cleared). Someone else had recently been through blackberrying, so there wasn't much ripe fruit.

We did get two big bags of apples, but it wasn't as easy as it usually it: evidently, it's not been a good year for them.

When we got home, we checked the blackthorn in our hedge and, after much searching, found two sloes, one of them manky. We already knew from looking in other spots that it wasn't a great year for them, but I'm now a little worried about the sloe gin supply! We're going to visit another good spot (which we checked on a few weeks ago) tomorrow, before anyone else gets in there.

There are blackberries on the lane near us, where very few other people go to pick them, so I'd better get up there with a bag and get some into the freezer!
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Backs. And forths.

♥Jan. 13th, 2016 // 03:22 pm
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Mike was in London today, so there was some to-ing and fro-ing between here and the station. The journey in the morning, when Mike drove there and then I went on to Pilates and then home, was fine (other than the fact that I'd not driven in a month). This evening was pretty horrible, with lots of sitting in traffic, often in the rain, and then (because we now have a weekly rotisserie chicken truck in a nearby village, and we'd asked them to save us one and then got stuck in traffic) driving along Strange Roads in the rain worrying that we wouldn't get there in time (we didn't, but he waited for us). Actually, I think Mike found that more stressful than I did. He doesn't like other people driving him, especially me....

In between, I ran around: GB's neck has started making a clicking noise when he turns his head, and I'd eventually managed to pin the Back Lady down but this afternoon was her best offer, so after I got back from Pilates and grabbed some lunch I went and rounded them up (they, naturally, were taking advantage of having the whole length of the field for the first time in weeks by running up and down the hill while I tried to convince them to come and be caught, and then as soon as I got one of them the other was off and so the first one had to join in).

"I can hear it clicking... let's see how many of the vertebrae I can get him to move through..." she said, as she poked his head until it was practically flat on his side facing his bum. "I don't think you need to worry!" The verdict was that she'd rather have clicking with movement than neither of them, the movement would be good in a horse half his age, and incidentally his back's in good nick as well. Bugs has come on nicely since she last saw him, which is good to hear.

Thankfully, she was on time, so Jo even got a walk before it got dark and I had to go out again. In fact, I even got half an hour to sit on the sofa and play trashing iPhone games: luxury!

Gategate: they're back, I took the padlock off, they've made it so you can fix it open or closed like before.

Tyregate: still there. Probably time to chase the council....
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Busy busy

♥Sep. 27th, 2015 // 03:14 pm
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We've had a lovely weekend of visitors, but I'm knackered now and have sneaking suspicions about Plague acquisition (this is what happens when you go to That There London, I'm convinced).

On Friday, we went out for lunch and then I headed into town: had a couple of hours of nice chat with my dentist, and then a couple of hours of deeply tedious charity meeting. After a little while, the Chair and I started playing 'we had this exact same conversation and action point at the previous meeting' bingo.... Too many very busy chiefs, no one actually doing the work. Managed to resist the urges to offer to do it myself so that it would be done and done properly.

I was late back home, but found the house full of people and a glass of wine waiting for me, so all was well.

Yesterday, we went to the Canterbury Food and Drink Festival, which was absolutely packed (and, in consequence, the car parks were all full -- I think we got the last spot in the biggest one -- and the traffic was snarled all around the ring road and beyond so that it took over twice as long as it should have done to get there/home). I can only assume that we went on the Friday last year, and possibly also that it's a lot more popular this year. They're going to have to do something differently next year, although I'm not sure what.

There were lots of interesting stalls but by the time it was lunch time they all also had enormous queues so that we decided to just give up and go into town for food where we could sit down. It wasn't a total loss, though: pork scratching, pork pies, ice cream and blue cheese were variously bought, and we got a free bag of incredibly cute little peppers from our veg box people (because I did a sad face about never getting them in our box -- they don't get enough, and I suspect they're expensive).

Lunch was at Salt, which we'd been meaning to try for a while, which is a tapas-style place. There were five of us, so we just ordered one of everything, and it was almost entirely really really good, with one of the dishes being a little dry. Mike and I came home to Release The Hound while the others stayed for puddings. (The festival website said service dogs only. In fact, there were lots of dogs there but it would have been much too crowded for Jo so it's probably a good thing we didn't take her.)

In the evening, we played Concept after dinner, which I'd got Mike for his birthday for just this sort of occasion. Very fun as long as you don't try to follow the rules too much.

Today, we've been to the Devil's Kneeding Trough and the King's Head, where we had their Sunday menu for the first time (although, pleasingly, they still offer most of their regular menu as well: I hate it when it's obligatory to have an enormous roast if you're not in the mood). V excited to learn that the new menu starts tomorrow, and the new scotch egg is pork and chorizo: I dare say we'll be back soon so that I can try it!

I am possessed of a laundry mountain and a small stack of washing up, but I think I'm just going to leave it until tomorrow and have an early night instead.
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Ham ham ham!

♥Mar. 24th, 2015 // 03:54 pm
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Our local(ish) Lidl has 6.5-7.5kg legs of Seranno ham for £44 each. Ordinarily, I'd just be mentioning this as you might like to check your local one but a) they had a good 20 or 30 of them and b) (as it happens) I'll be back nearby tomorrow morning, so if anyone wants me to pick one up for delivery at Eastercon....

I was there, and will be there again tomorrow, because that's where the other bit of our GP surgery is: the local bit is only open in the mornings, which is a bit of a PITA. Having woken up at 3:30 this morning to begin fretting about having to go to see the doctor, I thought I should probably get it over with and, actually, it was ok: she asked me a few questions, all actually relevant to my wrists, agreed that she'd refer me and said she also wanted me to have a blood test to make sure my thyroid was ok. When I told the receptionist that, she went "ooh, might take a while... could you go to the hospital in Folkestone?" but then found a cancellation tomorrow morning (hence, I'll be back there again). So, yes, much better than I'd feared. Now I just hope that the referral actually happens, and is to the right place.

(On the wrist front, sleeping in the splits seems to be reducing the frequency of problems but, I think, the severity is increasing as it progresses: I'm not getting numb fingers at night, but I am getting occasional shooting twinges down my wrists. Fingers crossed for getting it dealt with quickly.)

The girls have just had their spring moult, and Magrat's developed some fetching blue bits at the ends of her wings. We weren't sure if we'd just not noticed them before, but I've checked and they weren't there last year: must be her adult plumage!

(We're still getting pretty much an egg per day, so they've done very well this winter. Need to place an order for a couple more!)
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Just like something off the telly!

♥Nov. 7th, 2013 // 06:53 pm
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(Breaded chicken for dinner, nom!)
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♥Oct. 16th, 2013 // 02:57 pm
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I don't know, the internet stops working for a week and I get out of the habit....

It's raining today. And chilly; I think I might have a fire in a bit.

Mostly, recently, I have been shovelling horse shit. The old muck heap is nearly all now in the new skip, which is in turn getting quite full. The fact that it keeps raining isn't really helping with the process.

Jodie has added to her tally (formerly at a grand total of One Sick Bunny) with the successful capture of One Fledgling Pigeon. If I'd realised it was a fledgling (in mid-October!), I probably wouldn't have pointed it out to her, but I didn't, so I did. She sort of sat on it for a bit and mouthed it ineffectually until I put it both out of its misery and into the wheely bin. The ineffectualness of the mouthing makes me even more sure that One Sick Bunny was indeed sick, because I can't see how she would have bitten into one and not the other.

My sweat peas are sprouting nicely in the conservatory. The salad leaves that I planted at the same time are doing less well, though: they got off to a good, and quick, start but don't seem to be actually doing very much now. I suspect it's either not enough water or too much; I suppose that the thing to do is divide the pots into two groups and experiment.

Yesterday, I picked a bit over a kilo of sloes from the hedge around our paddock; they're currently in the freezer (bugger pricking each one with a pin!) and Mike's bringing cheap gin on his way home from That There London this evening. The books say to wait until after the first frosts, but they're ripe and I was getting a bit worried about the birds getting in before me; I dare say that I'll find some wild ones after the frosts and make a second batch, purely in the spirit of scientific experimentation.

Other than 'they're red', how can I tell when the rose hips are ripe? Must get out to the Common and pick apples tomorrow. Other than the fact that it's raining, today would have been an ideal day to do it: I could have spent ages out there without Mike being bored. Unfortunately, he's taken the car with him as well.... (Also, Post Office and Dry Cleaning. I wonder where the nearest dry cleaner is?)

It turned out that the tenuous-next-door-neighbour may have had an ulterior motive for coming to warn us about the Hunt: we saw her in the woods when we were walking the pooch, and "Oh, I don't suppose we could use your sand school, could we? We don't have one and our field will be starting to get too muddy soon...." OTOH, she's also asked if she can bring her jumps down, and I was thinking of getting some so that Mike could do some pole work with the baby, so not all bad. Useful to have people owing you favours!

I will, btw, be at the L3 Staff Weekend for (some of) Saturday, and the pooch will be with me / in the car (in the indoor car park) if people who're there would like to meet her. If the weather's even moderately fit for it, I fully expect to drag anyone who needs to have a meeting with me outside, you have been warned.
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It's all gone a bit biblical....

♥Oct. 3rd, 2013 // 07:18 pm
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About forty minutes ago, I went to give the boys their haynets and thought "that's a lot of lightning". The pooch fled back to the house in terror, and when I got back I called Mike outside to admire it, with a brief interlude of power cut in between. It was 15C, at 9:45pm in October. We live in a frost hollow: we had our first ground frost about two weeks ago (admittedly, it's bee the only one to date, but I suspect that's mostly because it's kept away by the mist that rolls down the valley most nights).

About thirty minutes, and a couple more power cuts, ago, the rain started. The pooch lay quivering on the carpet: we closed the curtains, and became suddenly grateful for the fact that there are unlikely to be big firework displays nearby. I checked the boys, and found them to be slightly stressed.

About ten minutes ago, it started to die down and I went for another look at the boys. Their beds will be horrible in the morning, but I don't think they're going to do themselves any harm. I was pretty sure GB would be ok, but worried about the baby, who is anyway unused to being in a stable.

Pooch is currently lying between my end of the sofa and the window, where she never usually lies (not enough room plus wishing to not be in the way). I'm intermittently typing left-handed, which is sub-optimal, as she goes through waves of stress when she needs my hand on her head in order to stop shaking. I suspect I'm not going to be getting her to come outside for her late-night wee tonight.

In other news, we have been Foraging, on the local common: a couple of bags of apples, most now juiced and the rest (pronounced by Mike to be Russet-ish) to be crumbled along with a bag of blackberries. We also found a few elderberries, so I've made a couple of small bottles of juice from them: doesn't taste hugely, but is quite pleasant nonetheless. We could have got more, but Mike's patience for foraging is limited, which is why I usually leave him at home when I go out for blackberries. I was glad we did go, though, as when I went and inspected our trees later I managed a grand total of half a dozen apples, which isn't worth getting the steamer out for: the trees are a bit old and sad, and efficiency probably requires that they come out some time soon. And be re-planted in such a way that you can get at the back of them without climbing through a shrubbery. (We have lots of sloes, though. I tried a couple on the common, and they were very close to ripe. Ours aren't yet, though. Will be soon. Gin is waiting.)

Yesterday, a not-really-a-neighbour turned up at the front door. I suppose that she technically counts as a neighbour, in that she lives in the first house that you come to if you follow a particular route away from ours, but it's a good mile or more away. Anyway, she had (by osmosis, presumably) become aware that New People were living here, and that they Had Horses, and so had very kindly come to let us know that the Hunt were meeting this morning on one side of the valley and on Saturday afternoon on the other. I thought I'd play it safe, and we kept the boys in this morning (I think GB would be fine, but I'm fairly certain that the Baby has been hunted in the last few years in Ireland. This assumption on my part probably means that, in reality, the Baby would ignore it completely while watching GB leap over the double fence and head off into the sunset). I filled the time when we'd normally ride (and when Mike had a nap) by poo picking the field, and heard not a single sign of them, which is a little unfortunate as we were planning on going out on Saturday if they'd been ok, but now we don't know.

Being a Nice Person, I let Next Door know about the hunt and then, being a Good Neighbour, I also called the WWOtV. "Oh, yes," she said, "I've known for a couple of weeks. They always call to let me know, in case they stray onto my land." It would, Next Door and I mused, have been nice if she'd troubled herself to let the rest of us know. Note to self: get in touch with the Hunt and ask them to call me....

Phew: pooch has calmed down, there's been no more thunder for a bit, and the rain even seems to have passed off.
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Other other things

♥Sep. 2nd, 2013 // 09:27 pm
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Some of them, on the other hand, weren't horse related.

We went for a walk in the woods, and scoffed blackberries by the side of the road. It was quite nice, other than the bit after we left the woods and I was in the sun, which was surprisingly warm.

Mike made naan bread stuffed with chickpeas and stuff. They were lovely but pretty much took all morning to make. Fortunately, the recipe made enough to freeze for two future lunches, but I suspect they won't make it onto the regular lunch rotation. We need tasty much things that aren't bread-and-cheese-and-meat, but none of my favourite quick-and-easy things (scrambled egg on toast, fishcakes, tinned fish mixed with 2-minute-microwave-rice) are Mike-friendly. Any suggestions? Bonus points if it can be frozen in batches and quickly heated up, possibly with the afore-mentioned microwave rice. When the Aga's turned on, I'm totally going for cheese toasties and quesadillas.

(I gave the cucumbers to Next Door, in the end. I think they appreciated them.)

And, to accompany dinner (left-over-roast chicken and end-of-veg-box risotto, nom. We are eating *so* *many* vegetables!), I made FIRE for the first time in years, in the firepit. I shall gloss over Mike's unsuccessful attempts to make fire in the fire pit and the stove, other than to note that we inherited a fair bit of kindling and lots of enormous logs but very little in between, so it was a little tricky to get through the middling stages of lighting it. I think this may be a Project for the next walk in the woods: I'm sure we'll be fine as long as we're sneaky about it. Anyway, my fire was mighty and warm and only moderately inconvenient when the wind changed direction. Fire is good. The table wreath that I made for the party made a very good fire-re-lighter when it nearly went out!
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New toy!

♥Aug. 31st, 2013 // 09:15 pm
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For my birthday, my mother got me an enormous steamer, which I mostly wanted for making cordial in.

The first try was my standard ginger-and-lemon cordial, which I usually make in the stock pot and then steam. There was something of a fail on my part, when the juice slowly seeped out onto the kitchen counter, where it pooled in the window: after much washing and wiping to de-stickify things, I ended up with about a (litre) bottle of juice, when I would normally make four bottles with the same ingredients. Even without the leak, I suspect that it would only have made a couple of bottles at best. It wasn't nearly as gingery as with the other method, but you could taste the honey much more when it hadn't been simmered to death.

Next up, I got Mike to get a couple of bags of plums with the veg box*. They made a very, very purple juice that didn't taste desperately of plums.

* Gosh, but we're eating a lot of veg. I suspect that Mike might struggle a bit when Brassica Time comes, but so far we're enjoying it, and the add-on fruit really is very good. Does anyone have any cucumber suggestions? Mike loathes it, I'll eat it if it's in my sandwich but wouldn't add it voluntarily. I suppose I'll have to pickle them, or something? (We're only allowed two do-not-wants, and we've taken them with cauliflower -- my least favourite brassica -- and celery -- which even I will pick out if it's not rude to do so.)

Today, having yesterday passed a stall in Canterbury that was selling two punnets of local** strawberries for £2.50, I tried those out. I got about a bottle and a third of juice from them, and I think it's lovely: Mike's not so keen, but then he doesn't like the taste of cooked strawberries, and I do. There was a very dramatic moment when, having been out and about for a while, I'd not obsessively lifted the lid to check on the fruit for nearly an hour. When I did, the slightly-grey-looking strawberries visibly shrivelled and collapsed in the time that it took for my glasses to completely steam up.

** I'm fairly sure that they actually were local: the sign had the name of the farm on it....

I suspect that there will be more experimentation in future! I might go and have a look at the apple trees tomorrow, to see what's happening there. (They're annoyingly tucked away in the corner of the garden. Last time I looked was a week ago, when there were a few windfalls on the floor. We don't even know if they're cookers or eaters!)

In other news, today our fencing work finally started: they've ripped out all of the old fencing, and are getting ready to put the new posts in tomorrow. I spent a fun hour out in the field going across the line of the old dividing fence (which we're not replacing: we'll use electric tape to strip graze instead) filling in the holes with A Conveniently Available Organic Material, which the boys helpfully provided.

Although it was a lovely day, and scorchingly hot in the conservatory when we popped in there this afternoon, it's now a bit bloody chilly out here beyond the heat island. I've got to go and give the boys their hay*** in a minutes, and I'm wondering if I should go and get some socks.

*** I finally got around to calling the guy who farms the valley, who had, we think, been ordered to supply us by the Woman Who Owns The Valley. He brought a (round) bale the same day, for us to try, and today we've rearranged the barn so that we'll be able to fit eight of them in, which Mike calculates should be very nearly, if not actually, enough to see us through.
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Terrible disaster!

♥Jul. 1st, 2013 // 02:09 pm
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On the way home from the yard, I went to the utterly, fabulously crappy WHAT!!! Home & Leisure round the corner, because they sell packs of cakes that I am a bit hooked on: they're little Italian sponge fingers with chocolate goop in the middle, and I suspect that they contain no ingredients not sourced from a chemical plant. They're a whole pound for a pack of ten, and there was the problem: I had no change. Minimum £5 spend to use a card. Oh noes: they don't all fit in the cupboard....
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Busy week!

♥Apr. 21st, 2013 // 03:30 pm
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Mike's back at work tomorrow, I'm almost relieved....

We went back to see the horse on Wednesday, and he did pretty well in a sand school given his age and experience (he'd been in one for probably the first time that morning, as they wanted to make sure that it didn't freak him out, and when I did a circle on him the dealer said "that's probably the first time he's done that!"). He's a bit wobbly on changes of direction, but only for a couple of steps before he sorts himself out, and it takes him a little while to settle into a trot or canter but it's pretty good once he does.

Mike was back down to Gatwick on Thursday, as there happened to be another horse being vetted that morning and we piggy-backed on the visit: passed with a clean bill of health, so Mike now has a horse of his own! As he's been living in a field all winter, we thought it was worth asking at my yard to see if he could just go in with the field ponies there (they're phasing them out as stables come free but, on current knowledge, the next free stable will be GB's) and got told that he could, so he'll be arriving on Monday week. The field ponies are on the same bit of the field rota as GB, which is good as they'll get to know each other a bit and, if we're really lucky, actually make friends before we move. He'll have a bit of a hectic day, as he'll be going in a box, driving around the M25, arriving at a new home, getting his shoes and saddle done and getting the grooming of his life, but hopefully he'll be ok with it. We might even be able to teach him what a carrot's for!

While Mike was doing that, I was at work, and in the evening it was out office warming party, which featured a band with an average age of about fifteen and lots and lots of PR people and clients who I didn't really know: I was quite glad Mike made it along to keep me company!

On Friday morning, we headed out to the new house and had a bit of a chat to the owner (they're still slightly hopeful about a house they offered for on Scotland, but she was also going to look at three places to rent that afternoon) and then spent some time with a guy from a company that does equestrian work, looking over what needs doing on the horsey bits of the property. He was pleased with the stables, unimpressed with the fence posts and terribly impressed with the sand school, the one thing he didn't really think needed any work. I was a little concerned that the rabbits who've been digging holes in the school has damaged the membrane layer under the sand, which would be a huge job, but he thinks we're safe from that. Being unimpressed with the fencing was almost a blessing: we had thought that we'd re-use the existing fence posts if they were in god condition, but as we're having to replace them any way it means we can change the orientation of the fence dividing the two paddocks, which will make the layout much better. We headed over to Bexley after that, where Mike rode and I told people about the new horse, as I was feeling too knackered to ride especially as I was out that evening.

I went to Gauthier, which I love, with Erik. We had the eight-course tasting menu, which was fabulous but rather long: we sat down at 7pm and, just as I was about to suggest one last glass of wine before we left, suddenly it was 11pm....

Saturday morning I did ride: we went out in the woods, where it was lovely and sunny and hardly muddy at all, which was a welcome change. In the evening, we went to a party at Dr Johnson's house, for a friend's birthday, where there were an array of gorgeous jellies, including some shaped like St Paul's Cathedral. There wasn't actually much other food, though, so we had a quick dinner in Taz before coming home.

Today has been very much a day for sitting on the sofa, doing more bits of new house planning and listening to the marathon go past. I needed a quiet day!
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Things I have done

♥Mar. 11th, 2012 // 08:59 am
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We went to see My Life Story last weekend, in the end. It was, as ever, a cracking gig, but after half an hour of hanging around and being moved from one sanitised part of the venue to another, we gave up on staying for the after-gig-gig and came home. Still, worth going. I just wish the Astoria was still going!

I finally got something to do at work. This made work better. I am now no longer on the verge of walking out, instead I'm just quietly waiting for it to go belly up.

My friend Toni brought her horses to the same yard as me. This is generally good, as it's nice having her there, but I fear it may get a little wearing having her mum there all the time. On the very much plus side, Mike likes riding one of them very much, and did so today: I suspect he'll be riding her a lot, which is good for him.

I, on the other hand, have been riding GB, as ever. I had a good but hard work lesson, I took him out for a nice ride in the woods (in which we slightly-illegally scooted out of the woods and into some land owned by a farmer; GB immediately perked up and started strolling along at a cracking pace. He is much happier out in the open than in the woods, bless him. I need to figure out other open places I can take him), and I got the side saddle out for a ride (hadn't been on it in weeks, and I have a lesson with it next week! Bum hurts, now, worryingly only on one side, so I must have been wonky), and today we had a good session in the arena, with -- as he obviously was dying to have a go - a couple of little jumps at the end.

On Thursday, I did pilates (still enjoying it; much better now I'm in the right class!), rode, and then we went to see Comedy Of Errors at the National: very good performance, with the slight niggle that the guy playing the Duke, who was obviously trying to be Gene Hunt, didn't manage to pull it off.

On Friday, I was walking out on the way to an early dinner with Erik when - horrors! - I saw a girl throwing stones into the dock. As I got closer, I saw that she was throwing them at the swans! As I got closer still I saw that she was throwing them at the just-starting-to-breed pair, who'd managed to pen a year-old cygnet behind one of the emergency escape ladders at the side of the dock, where it had wedged its wing between two of the rungs and thus made itself a very easy target for being beaten up. A couple of quick phone calls, and the swan rescue van was on its way, with me and the girl under instructions to try and keep the adults clear and try and stop the cygnet from pulling itself free. We managed the first but sadly not the second, and of course as soon as it was free again the adults decided it was back to being a threat and started after it again. My long scarf made quite a good swan repellent, as did a small group of schoolgirls who stopped to watch the drama. Eventually, after being stuck behind a broken-down car in the tunnel, the swan man drove up and came out of his van with a telescoping pole with a U-shaped hook on the end, which he got around the cygnet's neck (it was cowering under the bridge, shivering, by this point) and used to lift it straight out of the water by the head, much to my surprise. He got it sitting down, told us to hold its wings against its body, and dashed off to get a duffel bag, into which he strapped the rather bemused cygnet before carrying it off, with its head poking out of the top of the bag, to taking it to the sanctuary. I really should have taken pictures. (On the plus side: it does look like we might get cygnets of our own this year, for the first time in a while!)

So, I was rather late for dinner, but I did have the best excuse ever, followed by very tasty food (other than the pudding: we went for tapas, and I quite fancied a Creme Catalan for pudding, but it was utterly over blow-torched and was completely liquid when it arrived. I sent it back and was informed that the chef said it was supposed to be like that: er, no) .

On Saturday, we ate even more tasty food, and saw a traveller from afar, in Reading, and then today we went to the yard, decided we couldn't really be bothered to trek out to Hammersmith for the Douglas Adams thing, and went to Bluewater instead (shopping list: new riding bras, shoes for wedding, wool, new Soda Stream gas thing. Items bought: wool, Soda Stream thing, baking trays, trousers, on-sale thermal tops, an entire new set of cutlery. Oops. Does anyone want some cutlery? Knives, spoons and forks, twelve of each except there are only eight forks and the range is discontinued, which is why we needed a new set....). After Bluewater, we had a little drive around Kent looking at possible places to live (I've decided that I don't want to move GB again, so if we move while he's still around then it will have to be somewhere out that way. As Mike points out, this means that our choice of place to retire to is being fixed by my refusal to drive through the Rotherhithe Tunnel...); there are some nice little towns out there, though, and it's good for the M25, and there's topography, so....
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