General chatter

Tomorrow I load up a book about Han Snel, the Dutch painter, onto Amazon. It has many pictures and won’t be cheap so I have tried to reduce page numbers to a minimum because they charge by the page for printing. I think this one would actually be better in a large format hardback. I’ll do that too. It’s in Dutch, although the author has hinted he’ll do a translation one day.

I have bought a chimney sweeping brush. I have never swept a chimney before but hell, it can’t be all that hard. I mean, what could possibly be up there? I intend to install a fireplace of sorts in the large and ancient fire-hole in the utility room. The one with the swivelling iron bar that used to hold a cauldron over the flames. I should get a cauldron…

We have a new author at Leg Iron Books. Margo Jackson’s ‘The Mark’ is imminent for publication, as soon as I have the Dutch book up. It’s about an innocent man whose life is ruined by coincidence and public suspicion – but is he innocent? It’s not that black and white. You’ll have to think a bit.

There is a plant in the garden I thought I recognised as it started growing. Ah, of course. It’s one I’ve wanted for a long time. Stinking Hellebore. It’s lovely. It’s growing next to the jawbone of something that I’ve left in place like the tree skull. Why mess with the garden ornaments when they suit me anyway?

My old Fiesta is still in the garage. I charged up the battery and it started first time. It hadn’t been touched for over three months so that’s not bad. I left it a few days and the battery is dead again. It’ll need a new battery and an MOT before it goes up for sale as well as some minor rust treatments. It’s a good car, it’s a shame to say goodbye to it but it’s not suited to the terrain around here. It really needs to go and live in a town now.

Well, tonight was just a ramble. I haven’t seen much of the news but I doubt it’s much different from yesterday. Soon I hope to review a new Electrofag. I haven’t tried one of the new style ones before, so that will be interesting. I still have many flavours of electrojuices here, it’ll be interesting to see if they work better with the new style ones.

Okay, I suppose I should sleep… not that there’s much gardening to do this weekend. Everything is still wet out there, it’s still too cold to plant anything and the grapevine in the greenhouse seems to be doing just fine without any help from me. Oh, there are strawberry plants in the greenhouse too. I could probably live here for ten years and still be finding things…

 

Intermission

I did say things might be quiet around here for a bit and this is indeed the case.

My parents are still here. Yesterday my father was taken ill. Turns out it’s just an infection but at his age we had to get him checked out by a doctor, just to be on the safe side. So on Sunday night (yeah, a bad time to get ill) we phoned the NHS line and got an appointment at a local small hospital.

Local, as in only about 20 miles away. Still, the good part about a small hospital in a small town is that on Sunday night, the emergency room is really quiet. We didn’t have to wait long. Dad now has antibiotics to add to his other medications and is getting better quickly.

He has, wisely, spent the day in bed. However, since the guest room is also my office where the desktop computer sits, I haven’t been able to access email for two days. Hopefully tomorrow he’ll be up and about again but if not he’ll have to put up with me deleting spam and looking for at least one email that actually matters.

If you have sent me email and you’re waiting for an answer, please be patient.

The book is assembling still, I took the precaution of copying all the files relating to the current book to my laptop so I’m not reliant on the office for that. Just for email.

It’s possible that this whole situation was exacerbated on Sunday when I came back to find him trying to move the patio slabs with a crowbar. They are the old kind, not the modern small and slim ones. He’s nearly 80 but won’t accept defeat.

That, I suspect, runs in the family…

The Big Day

Well here it is. The Big Day.

Parents are coming to visit and the guest room is all painted and looking quite good, if I say so myself. I do say so myself, if anyone was thinking of asking. There’s a lot of tidying to do tomorrow but there’s no wet paint or varnish anywhere. I haven’t yet put the pelmet back up but that’s not critical. Curtains don’t depend on it any more.

Also, the second Underdog Anthology is assembled and formatted, and covers are made. Author contracts are in.I’m holding off for a few days because there could be a couple more stories to come in. That’s okay, Easter starts on the 14th April (Good Friday) and I need the book available a week before. So it must go to print by the 6th at the latest. That gives a week of leeway on the deadline.

Don’t start writing for this one now. I have to have the last stories in before the 6th for a quick edit and format, and the ones already potentially on the way are all I can handle in that time. Think Halloween, if you’re planning to write a short story.

There was something else. What was it? Oh yeah, Brexit.

Tessie Maybe has finally made the decision. She wrote a note to the boss of the EU along the lines of ‘Oi, Tusky, we’re outta here, innit? Get awa’ tae buggery, ya wee shite.’ It’s a good thing I’m not Prime Monster. I would have written exactly those words.

Still, it is finally happening. Parents are visiting. The book will be out in time for Easter. We are getting out of the EU.

All on the same day.

As this week also includes my son’s birthday and mine, don’t be too surprised if it gets a bit quiet here for a week…

King Charles

Oliver Cromwell was a dick. A Righteous, pompous, ‘I am right’ Puritan arsehole. He banned the eating of mince pies on Christmas day to curb gluttony. Nearly four hundred years ago, the fat police were active. They are still evil bastards. Cromwell was convicted of dickery two years after he died. The English dug him up and hung him anyway. You Arabs think you are badasses? Oh you have no idea.

But… Cromwell was up against the first king Charles, son of James I and VI who was also a pompous arsehole. A bigger one. I think kings are allowed to be pompous arseholes but even so. This was one so bad the people supported the puritan arse. At first.

King Charles, the first one, taxed so hard and spent so wastefully that he caused the only civil war in English history so far. His grandson, Charles II, was no better. He didn’t cause a war but his son fucked up royally. The next one, James II of England lost to William of Orange because, well, England hated him and were happy to be taken over by someone who wasn’t quite so much of a dick. Parliament took control of the country at that point and they did a decent job up until now.

This is why Mrs. Queen is so old. She cannot die or we get Charles III and we get all the same shit again. Except this time it’s windmills and solar panels that will put us all in the workhouse. The effect is the same and the end result will be the same. We’ll have pitchforks and not much else because real weapons have all been banned. Hey, it worked last time.

You can make a gun. It might not take many shots, it might be like the Napoleonic brass cannons which were melted down and made into new cannons after a lot of use, but it will do enough. Lack of weapons is an easily remedied situation.The government does not understand this because they listen to arms sellers who tell them it’s really hard and expensive to make weapons.

There are moves afoot to replace the next King Charles with the next King William.

King Charles is synonymous with unrest. King William is synonymous with salvation from dickhead rulers (in England at least). That’s history.

The future is not history but often depends on it. So what’s it gonna be, droogies? A quiet night on the moloka, or a bit of the old ultraviolence?

The way the government is boosting taxes, I think we are heading for another King Charles.

And all that that entails.

I must shop for a pitchfork…

 

Mixed bag

Deforestation. A terrible thing for many reasons. I have a little bit of forest here and I plan to keep it. I like trees. Especially trees that grow things I can eat. I don’t hug them, it makes them self conscious and embarrassed and the brambles laugh at them. Gooseberry bushes don’t like to be hugged. Try it and you’ll soon get the idea.

But… the ones who wail about deforestation are the same ones who want to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere. It’s already a fraction of one percent of the atmosphere. Bill ‘I see the world through Windows’ Gates once claimed he wanted to reduce atmospheric CO2 to zero. Which would make current deforestation about as damaging as mowing your lawn.

Okay, cutting down trees is bad but the UK was once all forest. All the way, top to bottom and side to side. It would have been pretty but where do you put, say, Manchester? We have to clear a bit of space to live in. There’s a lot of world for the trees. There are bits we haven’t explored yet.

Also, if you really want the whole world to be vegetarian you need a lot of fields for crops, so goodbye forests. All of them. Goodbye all the wildlife in those forests. Exterminate the cows and sheep and pigs and rabbits and foxes and anything that might interfere with the Pure Veggie World.  Is global vegetarianism green or a mad ideology? Oh, I’ll let you decide. Meanwhile I’ll set out my plan for a vegan restaurant. We keep them out the back, choose the one you want and we’ll spit-roast him for you.

Plants use CO2 and sunlight to make sugars and in the process they throw out oxygen as a waste product. Yes, the stuff we depend on for breathing is actually plant shit. That should really give us our place in the scheme of life. We might think we are the top of the food chain but as far as the trees are concerned, we are shit eaters. Which is why they get so embarrassed if we hug them.

The other side of it is the sugars. Our brains especially, as well as our entire metabolism, runs on sugar. Specifically, glucose. There are many other sugars, but glucose is the one that we mainly use. Plants make it. Ruminants like cows and sheep get none from their diet, the bacteria and protozoa in the rumen make fatty acids that their liver then turns into glucose. Humans and other non-ruminants get the sugar direct from their diet.

No CO2, no plants. No plants, no oxygen and no sugar, Killing the food chain at its source. They really want to do that, you know.

We have two hormones regulating our blood sugar. Insulin and glucagon. When we’ve had enough to eat, the balance of those hormones tells us ‘enough’.

If you replace sugar with something that tastes sweet but isn’t sugar, those hormones ignore it. Stuff yourself with calories sweetened with artificial sweetener and your hormone system is ignoring the fake. It’s waiting for the real sugar. As far as it’s concerned you’re still hungry.

It’s not sugar that’s causing obesity. It’s the replacements. The fake sweetness. It makes us eat more than we would if the food had real sugar in it. Government response? Obviously we have to reduce sugar and use more fake sweeteners because the sweetener companies are paying the politicians to say it. Then shout at fat people. That keeps the anti-sugar mob in easy money for all time.

Just like the anti-smoking mob. They are currently trying to claim that steam is deadly so we don’t all switch to vaping. If we did, all at once, the tax take would go through the floor. Then they’d have to get a real job in which they actually do something. That’s way beyond their abilities.

In the UK, a few months ago I could get a pack of cheap and legal cigarettes for £5.99. Now there is no pack priced below £7.24. However, I have ordered tubing baccy which will make me cigs at a rate of about £3.50 for 20. The tubes are in the pound shops at £1 for 200 and the cig loading machines (Bull Brand) are likewise £1 each. And I have Electrofags too.

If you like the fancy smokes, they have those too.

Well, it could all change soon. Our departure from the EU is set to happen on March 29th. Coincidentally, the date my parents arrive for a week long visit. I will be in enforced sociability for the most significant event in my lifetime. Typical!

Maybe, one day, our government will be real again. Maybe, one day, British common sense will return.

I hope I live to see it.

Underdog Streetview

My house is not on Google Streetview, which is fair since there is no street. All you see on Google is a gate and a little placard with the name of the house. No sign of any house.

Earlier this week, the landlord sent in two heavy duty gardeners with chainsaws and large machines. The garden had been pretty much untended for over a year (as had the greenhouse, which I why I have two large compost bins full of grapevine trimmings). The farm had cut the lawns but that was pretty much it. I was expecting to spend most of the summer cutting back plants.

The gardeners cut back far more fiercely than I would have. It was two days of botanical Armageddon out there, but they did more in two days than I would have done in two months. The garden is in manageable condition now.

Also I don’t have a chainsaw nor any of the enormously vicious tools they brought with them. This is probably, on balance, a good thing.

Since it’s nearly spring, as evidenced by the rising tide of daffodils and the dying snowdrops, I thought I’d go where even Google dare not go. Up this driveway…

Yes, that leads to Underdog Towers which doesn’t have an actual tower but which has some rooms that feel like it. This is far from any kind of streetlight so it’s a real adventure at night.

I usually drive up here a tiny bit faster than I probably should. At walking pace there’s time to look around at what’s growing among the banks waiting to be tidied.

Once I move a few truckloads of fallen branches, leaves and weeds, the driveway should look pretty good. When you get past the bend in the track, you see this –

Go up to the house and look back and it looks like this –

The wall was covered in ivy until last week. I’d have left it, personally, but I just rent the place so can’t overrule the landlord. Still, the base of the plant is still there. It’ll grow back. Those are not my car’s tyre tracks. They had a tractor. I did say they were heavy duty gardeners.

The opening in the wall leads to one of the gardens. That garden has flower beds that were seriously overgrown. I had made some attempts at cutting back but the wooded bit at the end of the garden needed someone who isn’t afraid to climb a ladder with a chainsaw. Not me. Me, ladder, chainsaw… I know where that would end up!

The other side of the wall looks like this –

They did a sterling job of weeding that part. It would have taken me at least a week just to clear that one bed! The trees at the end are inside the garden. It’s the smaller wooded area.

Panning around…

…to the side of the house…

That’s a grain store behind the garage. Yes, the farm is that close! Every day, usually around 5 pm, the local pheasant walks past the kitchen window on his way home from the grain store. One day he was running – he might have been caught in the act.

Down among those trees is Snowdrop Corner –

So, back to the house. There is no actual end to the driveway, it goes right around and down the farm road. I never have to turn the car, I just go up one drive and down the other.

Standing in the second garden, you get a better view of the house.

The greenhouse is now triffid-free, the vines are still there but heavily trimmed. It leaks, and I think the only way to fix it is to take out all the glass and refit it after cleaning it all. That will have to wait for good weather. The scruffy bit on the right is log storage for the wood burning stove and also a mini garden, as if there wasn’t enough garden already.

The bit I’m standing on is another garden. Mostly grass, leading to another wooded area.

That’s not the wooded area. It’s behind the camera in that shot and looks like this –

Well that’s a bit of it. There are apple trees in that lot and enough fallen wood to fuel the stove all next winter.

Following the drive around, just in time to see the snowdrops outside the kitchen before they die back –

The kitchen window is out of shot to the left. That’s the office/guest room window, and you can just see the extra tiny window at the back of the kitchen.

Well, that’s some of the outside of the house. I’ll get better garden pics as the year progresses and things start to actually grow. The grass has started already but I won’t mow it until the snowdrops die back.

This garden doesn’t have a crocus pentacle… yet. Oh, the possibilities!

Time to light the writing candle

Enough decorating for the day. I don’t like painting. I don’t like ladders. I have to paint a room with 10-foot high walls. It’s the decorating apocalypse. It would be a bigger room on its side. This is the room I designated ‘office’ because it has a north facing window so will only get the sun’s glare in midsummer. It was in need of serious decorating. It looked like it last saw a paintbrush before I was born.

It also looked like someone had kept the ‘family secret’ in it judging by it having three locks on the outside and all the scratch marks in the wall. Ideal for writing my kind of stories.

Anyway, it’s three-quarters done and I can’t do any more until I move the sofa bed into the corner it’s destined to stay in. It’s a heavy beast. I only intend moving it once. The paint in that corner is currently drying. Tomorrow, or the next day, it will move. I still have to seal the base of the skirting board where the floor has sunk a little in the corner but that’s a short job.

The office will double as a guest room. There are spare rooms upstairs but there’s a very low rail along the landing and it’s a ten-foot drop if you fall over it. Scares the crap out of me. Also the upstairs rooms don’t have heating. Aaand… I am not carrying a bed up a long, steep curved staircase! You want to sleep upstairs, I’ll get you an inflatable mattress.

My parents are visiting in three weeks. Another deadline. This room must be complete and not stinking of paint by then. I still have to do a little bit of wall, varnish the door (someone previously stripped off the paint and I intend to keep it that way) and paint the floor-length architrave around the window.

Then put the pelmet back up, properly this time.

There is some fixing to do around the window. Whoever put the pelmet up attached the bracket to the outer moulding of the architrave with short screws. So that moulding has started to pull away from the main frame. I don’t know how long that pelmet was in place but since they went out of fashion in the 60’s, it has to have been there for at least 60 years – and that’s if it was one of the last to be installed. Given the age of this house that seems unlikely.

It will go back with brackets fixed to the wall, not the wood. It won’t have a curtain rail installed because I put up a more modern pole. It’s really only going back up to hold a large model truck – and to be an interesting feature point in this old place.

I had hoped to get away with delaying the paint on the window woodwork. It looked reasonably white – until I painted the skirting board. Sigh.

I have three weeks to complete this and to complete the ‘Tales the Hollow Bunnies Tell’ anthology. I need that book in its final stages before the parental visit as well as getting this place into a shape worth visiting. Pah. Hardly a challenge at all.

At least, no challenge if I get organised. That’s the real challenge – setting a routine for work for the first time in 56 years.

So the writing candle is lit. I have my back to the latest paint so I’m not tempted to watch it dry instead of writing. Writers know what I mean.

To work, then. I have a glass of Writing Lubricant to hand (Auchentoshan tonight, it was at reduced price in Tesco today) and I have put the ladder safely out of temptation’s way. Whisky and ladders – never a good ending.

I also have a pack of Henri Winterman’s half coronas, since it was national no smoking day. An annual treat. It was also Gobblement Money Stealing Day and to top it all, National Wimmin Day. That’s three days in one so I hope you managed to eat fifteen portions of vegetables. If you did, warn me before I get into a lift or any enclosed space with you.

I still don’t know what a ‘wimmin’ is and since the day has now passed, I don’t have to care about that for another year.

Procrastination has peaked. I have to Do Something now.

Spider Solitaire, tempt me not…