Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Tight lines

Forgot to mention. Had word from the far North this afternoon that the father-in-law has cracked it - HE'S CAUGHT A FISH!!!!

Ray has been fighting against all kinds of adversity for six weeks now. He's 79, insists on walking the couple of miles to the beach with all his tackle, waving aside all offers of a lift, clambering over rocks, wading in thick banks of seaweed in search of angling Nirvana. He's bloody determined and if the Communist Party had half-a-dozen more like him we'd all be on the collective farm right now.

He's spent hours tweaking his bottom tackle - not as exciting as it sounds, ladies - and. . . err . . . making sure everything is OK with his rod. (What is this? Carry On Westray?) Less time and effort goes into preparing a Formula One car.

In that time he's caught. . . sod all. Trust me, Captain Ahab and Moby Dick had nothing on our Ray. Even a trip out on a fishing boat with our friend and wildlife slaughterer/survival expert Nick drew a blank. (Nick filled two drawers of our freezer with mackerel and pollack)

Apparently, Marcus (who seems to have a sense of when we are getting frustrated with things) turned up yesterday asking if Ray wanted to come out on his boat for the afternoon. A few hours later, a tired, but very happy father-in-law was deposited back on the doorstep, having hauled in a double-figure catch.

Better get busy building that smoker then

Peasant in the big shitty

Listening to: Orange Crush (REM)
Feeling: out of place
Driving: and driving and driving

I've escaped the islands for a few days and the whole thing has unsettled me and made me realise just how different everything is.

Having had to run my daughter back to Shrewsbury to continue her education, I decided to hang on for a few days to check on old friends, buy a trailer for the pigs and visit my son, currently giving Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver sleepless nights as a trainee chef at a hotel in the middle of Dartmoor. He's already better than Worrall Thompson, if you ask me.

I'm a bit freaked out, to be honest. I've only been away a month, but I have to think hard when I leave the car, remembering not to chuck keys, wallet and iPod on the dashboard and wander off, leaving the door ajar.

It was good to see the lad obviously happy and doing all right, good to wander into the pub in Wolverhampton and have my chum Mr W greet me with a "hello mate" as if I had just wandered in from the office.

There are a couple of other people I want to see, but suspect I won't get the chance - time and circumstance being the bitter enemies of love and friendship.

I'll be on my way back North in a few days - once the ferry strike is over - and I have to collect the pigs from Thurso on Monday. Can't wait!

In the meantime, if you see me wandering around looking lost, be nice, buy me beer.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

There's gold in that thar shed

Listening to: Hurt (Johnny Cash)
Staring: out to sea
Drinking PG Tips (can you ride tandem?)

You do take things for granted sometimes. Having been brought up in East Anglia (the 10-year stretch in boarding school apart) I have got used to the idea that straw is in plentiful supply.

Car trips around the Fens during my childhood always seemed to be in the wake of massive trailers, piled high with bales being shipped off to the livestock farms in the North and the Midlands.

More recently, looking after a horse in Shropshire, all that was needed was a phone call and a load of bales were at your door.

Not so on Westray. If I had a pound for every time I've been told "straw's like gold here" I'd have. . . well, four quid, but you get the picture.

That threw me into a minor panic. The hens are packing their cases and ready to move in any time now (as soon as the agricultural merchants deign to send the fencing wire I've already paid for that is) and we are only days away from piggy blast-off. Not only that, but Sally's horse Xena is due here in a month or so and everything needs to be perfect for the horse with an attitude worse than Joan Collins with a hangover.

The barley is due to be cut here in a couple of weeks and I don't fancy my chances of elbowing my way to the front of the queue for straw - Viking blood runs thick up here.

I consulted the oracle (Marcus) and it appears the island's haulage firm has "a few bales" in the back of the shed. Can't imagine why I didn't think of that.

I wandered down to the depot in the village and passed the time of day with Keith, discussing the probability of both Scotland and Ireland blowing up disastrously in the early stages of the Rugby World Cup, before asking about the straw.

"Oh yes, we have a few bales," he said. Sure enough, there were a few, but they were bloody massive. I've lived in smaller houses.

"Those won't fit in the back of the Land Rover," I said, pulling on walking boots, checking my map and compass for a trip around one of the bales. "No, we run a couple up for you," said Keith.

That's why this morning I'm clearing tools out of the barn in a desperate attempt to accommodate a couple of uber-bales. . . which cost about £15 each - gold's cheap up here in the islands.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

West Bromwich Albion - an apology

In a previous post, I may have inadvertently suggested that I would like to hit members of the West Bromwich Albion first team with a sledgehammer.

This is, of course, not the case. . . I'll wait until I'm in my Land Rover and run them over instead.

Ooooh that's nasty

Listening to: Out Come The Freaks (Was Not Was)
Smelling: not too good

The building inspector called yesterday to have a look at the tumbledown wreck we like to call home. We know pretty much where the problems are - we need new doors, windows, floors and a roof - so there wasn't much he could tell us that would knock us off our stride.

So he poked around in our loft, took photographs, drank some tea, made lots of notes (and I really mean lots), and then asked to see the septic tank.

Now, I'm not the squeamish type, but I have spent the last 46 years enjoying the advantages of mains water and sewerage and, to be honest, I've been avoiding any investigation of the post-lavatorial arrangements here.

So I ushered the inspector round to the front of the barn, lifted the large slab and, surpressing the urge to shout "Ta-ra!", waited for some kind of verdict.

Actually, it was pretty unpleasant, as you can imagine, in fact it was brimming. I decided that it definitely needed pumping out, if only to spare me embarrassment in front of local government officials. As it happens, our friend and neighbour Marcus was again able to help out.

He turned up with his huge tractor (size does matter on Westray) and a tanker. We manhandled the gigantic hose into the. . . errr. . . goo, and he pressed a button in the cab, quickly warned me to step aside and the slurping started. Five minutes later we were all done and dusted, still relatively clean and Marcus was rumbling off up the road. Can't help wondering where it all goes, though.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Trust me, I know what I'm doing

Listening to: Dean Martin (coming from the father-in-law's room)
Dreaming about: hot baths, strong showers.
Wearing: clean clothes.

Ten years of moderately expensive education (scholarship boy), a strongly middle class upbringing and 25 years working as a newspaper journalist didn't prepare me for the fact that my new best friend is a sledgehammer.

The stove mentioned in a previous post finally stopped gushing water all over the floor and was ready for removal. Lifting it proved well beyond us, cast iron being quite heavy as it turns out.

So it was down to a demolition job. I got hold of our friend Eric's very big hammer, imagined the stove was George Bush/Tony Blair/Simon Cowell/any member of the West Bromwich Albion first team and got down to work. Breaking things is great fun.

The stove is in very small pieces on our rapidly growing scrap heap leaving a traditional Scottish/Orcadian wooden dry-lining thingy with only the hole where the flue had once been before me and Steve (the sledgehammer) had got to work.

It was Sally who took the first step, levering off the first bit of planking with a claw hammer and very soon a rough fireplace surrounded by equally rough stone was revealed. Happily, the fireplace just needs decent rendering, while I enjoyed a peaceful afternoon on my own chipping away at the desperately rough pointing, leaving something that might just make a decent feature (or whatever they call it on those infuriating TV shows).

Quite a good day, really, except that Spike got out again and was only retrieved because his ludicrous fluffy tail was spotted at the entrance to a rabbit hole in the next field. He's here now, one ear draped for maximum annoyance over the caps lock key.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Rising damp

Listening to: Hurricane (Neil Young)
Drinking: Tennents Lager (last resort)

Here's one for all you irony fans. Before the weekend we endured two days without running water, fetching the stuff into the house in buckets from the well.

Now the living room/kitchen is full of the stuff, the 'carpet' making that sickening squelching noise when trodden on as water drips at an alarming rate out of the old stove. The stopcock is jammed firmly on and won't budge, so the only option is to get the bowls out to catch the drips and to drain the tank.

The stove has been there since God knows when and we were surprised on moving in to find out that we could actually light a fire in it and get a tank of hot water. The inside of the stove was shot to bits with rust, so its demise comes as no surprise.

So, I'm waiting for all the water to drain out so the pipes can be disconnected and capped and I can get on with ripping out the fireplace. Hope the wall doesn't come away with it.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Water, water everywhere, but. . .

Listening to: Shine It All Around (Robert Plant)
Reading: Press & Journal
Getting: wet and dirty

Funny how your priorities can change very suddenly. Just when I was tatting around, clearing the veg garden, cleaning out sheds for hens and pigs, a fundamental problem reared its ugly head.

Dave, the island's cycle repair man, popped round to replace a few lengths of piping and to plumb in the washing machine - should have taken a couple of hours, max. Two days later, he has only just returned home.

Our eight-acre croft gets it's water supply from a well in the bottom field. The water is pumped to a huge header tank in the top field, from where it comes by gravity into the house. So before Dave could get to work, we had to drain the tank and switch off the pump.

No problem, except that when we switched everything back on, nothing was coming out of the taps. It was with a sinking feeling that I climbed the ladder to peer into the tank. Everything seemed in order from the top, so surely it was just a minor blockage. . . but where?

We worked out that, as the trough in the field next to the tank wasn't filling either, the blockage must have been around there, so if we could just empty the tank and blow through the pipes all would be well.

The plug near the base of the tank would have to be removed, only that appeared to be jammed solid - a plug of wood having been thrust in there at some stage and no amount of drilling and hacking would shift it. So, there I was at the top of a ladder in a howling gale, emptying buckets of water out of the tank - it took hours.

I got in and was ankle deep in what can only be described as green goo. Yes, I know I should have got in and cleaned it out as soon as we arrived last month, but it's easy to be hygenic after the event, isn't it?

Having slopped out and scrubbed down, I still didn't have a clue as to how to get water into the house. I asked my neighbour Marcus - the cousin of the family who sold us the croft - and he said he'd come and have a look. An hour or so later he roared into the field in his red Toyota pick-up and had dug out around what I thought was the 'in' pipe before you could say "is that a good idea?" and thenproblem was quickly diagnosed.

The 'in' pipe also proved to be the 'out' pipe and it was full of the aforementioned goo. A bit of further digging revealed that the pipe into the house was in good condition, so we just undid it and found ourselves covered in gunk, but at least the water was coming through.

So we were all happy? Well, not quite. The ancient stove in the living room has sprung aleak and is dripping water onto the floor. Nice warm water, though. The new fuel burner arrives some time next week, along with the cooker and a new water tank. . . and the pigs. . . and the hens.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Getting my kicks on the B9066

Listening to: Sexy Eyes (Dr Hook, under protest)
Dodging: the rain
Drinking: Orkney Northern Light (5,000 years in the making, it says here)

Driving around Westray is a pretty relaxed business with few vehicles and only a couple of B-roads with lanes running up to farms and cottages dotted around the island.

But you can't afford to take your eye off the ball - as I found as I passed a slow-moving van on the main road along the island, only to find it was following a five-year-old learning to ride his bike. (Another three or four years and he'll be driving).

Something else to think about is the habit the 600 islanders have of waving to each other at every opportunity, particularly in cars.

I like to think I'm a friendly sort of cove, so I took to this straight away, but have toned down the manic leaning out of the window "Helllloooooo" to a kind of cross between a wave and an index finger salute, hand NEVER leaving the wheel. It seems to do the trick.

Visitors are included in this, I think, so should any of you venture this far north, we really wanna see those fingers.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Help, help here come the bears

Listening to: Ever Fall In Love With Someone (The Buzzcocks)
Reading: The Naming of the Dead (Ian Rankin)

I've taken to wearing a hat just lately and I'm sorry, but it's a baseball cap. No fashion statement or anything like that - it's just a way of avoiding the phenomenon known as Westray Hair.

You might have gathered that it can get a little breezy up here and one step outside the door can wreck half-an-hour's serious work on the barnet, not that I do anything more than a hasty reorganisation in front of the mirror, he said, backtracking like mad and regretting starting this post.

Anyhoo. . . it's far worse for my 14-year-old daughter, who is still wandering around as if she can't quite believe that somewhere without a New Look and a Costas exists. She spent a good 20 minutes the other day straightening her long curly hair and looked pretty chuffed with the result.

Two minutes outside the front door and a salty, L'Oreal-defying breeze soon sorted her out into a shaggy perm. Hang on, I've got a spare cap.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

It's the hope I can't stand

Listening to: Liquidator (Harry J Allstars)
Twitching: Redshanks, oystercatchers, ringed plovers, hooded crows, black-backed gulls, curlews, eider ducks, knot, sanderlings, purple sandpipers, swifts.

No, nothing to do with pigs, hens, small islands off the north coast of Scotland, but my lifelong relationship with 11 blokes in old gold shirts.

Yep, here we go again, another great season gets under way and Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club are doing what they do best - being a big disappointment.

Working as a sports reporter for many years helped take the edge off my passion for the men from Molineux and we became like an old married couple - Wolves busy in the kitchen, while I spent most of my time in the shed, if you see what I mean.

My move 600 miles away from Wolverhampton, along with a fresh regime at Molineux and the meregence of some bright young players last season has done a lot to rekindle my enthusiasm. Not enough to actually turn up to see them play, but I have been planning to do a lot of work on Ceefax and the net - anyway, I've got a cast-iron excuse for not going.

So I was delighted when my phone buzzed while I was digging the 'veg garden' and No. 1 offspring announced the chaps were 1-0 up. Premiership here we come? Nah! Wolves waited until the 87th minute to concede the equaliser and then handed Watford a penalty for a late winner. Sigh!

In an ever-changing world, it's comforting to know some things will always be the same. Well done, lads.

Oh yeah, Ireland's rugby players warmed up for the World Cup in style, losing to Scotland, to make it a terrific sporting weekend up here on Westray.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Independent Orkney

Listening to: Evergreen (Echo and the Bunnymen)
Reading: Farmers Weekly
Drinking: Dragonhead stout
RIP: Tony Wilson

I usually leave the rants to my old pal and occasional partner in crime Reg, but you couldn't make this up.

Lloyds Bank have decide that Orkney is 'outside the UK'. They've also decided to withdraw my right to spend my own money.

A couple of days ago, on a trip to Kirkwall, I wandered into the Orkney Ferries office to buy a book of tickets for the car. Everything was fine until I put my PIN into the machine. I knew it was right, I feel sure Lloyds knew it was right, but it rejected it three times. Very embarrassing.

Staff behind the counter were very nice about it, assuring me that they would send the tickets on when I had things sorted out.

I rang 'customer services' from the ferry on the way back to Westray and was handed on to the fraud department because my attempted transaction had been 'unusual' in that I had tried to use my card 'outside the UK'.

I patiently explained the political situation regarding the Orkneys, stressing that the King of Norway had shown no sign of reclaiming the islands and that Argentina's interests ended with the Falklands.

I was then told that I could easily sort the problem out by trotting down to my nearest ATM (cash machine) and unlocking my PIN. Fine, I said, but that involves me getting back on the ferry, doing the hour-and-a-half journey back to Kirkwall at a cost of £13 return - something I hadn't planned on doing for two or three weeks.

"It's OK, you just go to your nearest ATM," the nitwit on the other end of the line twittered again. "No, no, no. I live on an island and there is no ATM. Fresh air, beautiful beaches, peace of mind, diverse wildlife, but no, I repeat no, ATM," I interrupted.

That blew the tiny mind at the call centre. Not to be within 100 yards of an ATM seemed an appalling prospect - how on Earth do we stock up on Bacardi Breezers?

I gave up and yesterday wasted a day travelling into Kirkwall to spend half-an-hour sorting the mess out.

Of course, it could all have been avoided if the staff at my branch in Shrewsbury had handled it. They've known for ages that I was planning to move north as I actually took the trouble to go in and discuss the implications with them. It's a far cry from the days when I opened the account as a 17-year-old and had to go into a wood-panelled office to be interviewed by the manager (who also happened to be a drinking pal of my dad's) and warned of the dire consequences of being overdrawn (tarring and feathering in those days, I think).

Tuesday, 7 August 2007


Listening to: Atmosphere (Joy Division, not Russ Abbott)
Eating: salmon fishcakes
Drinking: Highland Park

I've been a Jack Russell owner on and off for the last 30 years. It's a very special form of masochism, not recommended for those who welcome the quiet life.

Jack Russells are snappy, aggressive, virtually untrainable, determined to the point of stubbornness , surprisingly fast, full of character and totally loveable.

Following in the footsteps of Sam and Boris is my latest JR, Spike, who is probably the most loveable of the lot. He's exceptionally clever and softer than most of his breed. He loved life in our suburban semi in Shrewsbury, bouncing up and down on the sofa, barking at old ladies, small children, the postman and imaginary lions and tigers. He also loved to steal toys belonging to Owen (our nice-but-dim spaniel/collie cross) and hide them, appearing a couple of days later to parade them around the living room with the smug look only a Russell can get away with.

A bit of a petrol-head, the move to Orkney suited Spike down to the ground as he got to ride up front with me and my son in the hire van, getting the best possible view of the Highlands.

On arrival, he took time to adjust to his new surroundings - didn't we all? - but quickly discovered the delights of rabbits.

Westray has an unusually large population of rabbits mostly thanks to there being no foxes on the island - the hunting debate being a bit of a non-event up here. (There are also no rats as "they don't thrive")

Many of the rabbits are gathered around our property, cheerfully putting up two fingers to my hopes of growing lots of nice salady stuff.

This has blown our Spikey's mind a bit. After all, Jack Russells were designed to be the scourge of the rabbit population. Never one to bother with the 'come', 'sit', 'lie down' area of behaviour, Spike has been literally straining at the leash for the last three weeks.

Then yesterday he slipped his much-stretched collar, flew across the top field and disappeared from view. Disappeared from view completely, no amount of 'here boy-ing' making any difference.

Tension was high about the place as I stomped around unsure whether to go into a black rage or dissolve into tears over the lad. Sally patrolled the neighbouring fields, but no sign was seen. I nipped down to the local shop to put out the alert and scouted the farms near the coast.

I had all but accepted that he had got stuck down a hole and met a grisly end at the hands of a long-eared death squad, when I heard Sal shout and a small, muddy ball of fur emerged from the (abandoned) farm next door.

It was a classic laugh-cry, cuddle-disembowel situation. Happily for my reputation as an all-round big softy, Spike continues to give serious verbals to anyone who even thinks of coming near the house. He's here right now, looking at me with that 'I haven't had a digestive for at least three minutes' look. He knows exactly how many there are - he counts them in and counts them out.

Monday, 6 August 2007

This never showed up on the survey

Listening to: Reason is Treason (Kasabian)
Eating: singed shortbread
Weather report: north wind, squally showers, mist

Well, we got my father-in-law back indoors without calling up the lifeboat crew, but the rain kept hammering down and large pools have formed behind the barn and the house.

The flow of water through the barn is just about under control, but I was alarmed by the several inches sloshing around below the kitchen window.

Westray is generally low-lying, but the backbone of the island runs along the back of our smallholding. The house is just below, and all the water runs off the slope to the back of the property.

With no drains worth speaking of, we've got a bit of a damp problem. That's where Delia came in very handy.

Delia is a trenching tool - a long-handled shovel with a pointed end, ideal for getting down deep in the dirt. Why Delia? it's green and canary yellow, Norwich City colours. Not that interesting really.

I got down to it and by teatime, we had a trench full of water and a big pile of mud. It'll do for now, but I've got a nasty feeling I'm in for the workout of my life when it comes to digging out the whole of the back of the house. Anyone got a JCB I can borrow for a few weeks?

Counting socks

Listening to: Beautiful Day (The Levellers)
Reading: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency (John Seymour)
Eating: toast

The weather doesn't muck about up here, It's chucking it down, the wind throwing great bucketfuls of water through the kitchen window.

There's a stream running through the barn from back door to front and my 79-year-old father-in-law has ignored the suggestion that we sit back, enjoy another cup of coffee and wait until the rain stops before dealing with the problem.

He's stumbled out, Captain Oates-style with a shovel to dig out some rudimentary form of drain to guide the flood away from the buildings. I'll be out with the lifebelt as soon as I've finished this.

The Government's attempts to sabotage the UK's farming industry have forced us to put the pig thing on the back-burner for the time being and go for plan B - yes, I was surprised we had one as well.

We've cleared a small stone building behind the house, stripped the area around it and will fence it off this week, ready to welcome half-a-dozen hens. I also spent a couple of happy hours rescuing some fruit bushes in the 'veg garden' from the 5ft nettles that were choking them. The rear of the house, which was totally overgrown after years of neglect, is actually starting to look like we might know what we are doing.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Really quite irritating

Listening to: Take The Floor (Radio Scotland)
Drinking: Earl Grey
Reading: trashy historical fiction

The foot and mouth outbreak - which has caused a ban on all farm animal movement nationwide - seems to have been traced to a government research 'installation'.

This centre at Pirbright has apparently been falling apart due to cuts in government funding, so something nasty seems to have leaked out, forcing the destruction of at least two previously healthy cattle herds.

Now I know we all chortled when Bernard Matthews was exposed as the factory-farming total bastard that he is and were chuffed to bits that the reputation his firm's products was wrecked by the bird 'flu outbreak at one of his 'farms', but the truth is that a large number of livestock farmers actually give a monkeys about their animals.

I've no idea what kind of farmers the two in Surrey are, but fact that many decent people in the UK have been living in fear of a new foot and mouth outbreak thanks to what looks like government incompetance is inexcusable.

On the up side, it's a beautiful morning here on Westray. There's golden morning sunlight glittering off the sea. I can see every fold of the hills of the neighbouring island of Rousay and the Brough of Birsay on Orkney Mainland is shimmering in the distance.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Ah. . . this could be a problem

Listening to: the news
Holding: my breath

Oh sod it, I'm not even a farmer yet and already there's a massive cloud on the horizon that could affect all our plans. News that foot and mouth has been discovered in Surrey should be a huge cause of concern to all of us who care about the countryside and those who work in it.

Orkney show week (they cram them all into seven days up here) has been thrown into chaos with cattle, sheep, goats and pigs all barred from competition.

From our own point of view, the arrival of the pigs in about a fortnight looks very much in doubt. That's a shame, but we've got lots of other stuff to get on with and we can concentrate of veg and chickens for a while - we're lucky to have that choice.

I normally despise the ghastly right-wing junta 'New Labour' and all its works, but the Government have learned a lesson from 2001 and acted fast to stop all movement of animals. Gordon Brown's just-about adequate performance in his first few weeks in power has highlighted how bloody awful the Blair government was and makes me wonder why we put up with the grinning buffoon for so long. Phew, glad I got that off my chest.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Drinking it in

Listening to: curlews
Nature-watch: gannets, seals, black-back gulls, curlews, oystercatchers, rabbits, lapwings, snipe.

Just in case anyone was wondering why I've jacked in a comfy life in Shropshire to risk being blown to Oslo in the next storm, this is the view from the front of the house yesterday as I sipped a glass of cold stout.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Ray Mears is a wimp

Pappa's got a brand new Pod: Rosalee (Thin Lizzy)
Eating: anything but curry and fried breakfasts
Drinking: Orkney Dark Island
Walking: the dogs

Right, that's it, I'm never leaving this bloody island as long as I live. 3,000 miles in less than a fortnight have taken their toll and I've developed range of phobias covering white vans, spicy food, B&Bs, the A9, shortbread and Fox's Glacier Mints.

My body reached Westray 48 hours ago and I feel sure my brain will follow just as soon as it's found it's ticket for the ferry.

I have to admit that I went a bit mad when I got here, launching straight into some of the work that needs doing round here, rather than resting up. Today I'm paying the price. My 46-year-old frame is creaking severely, thanks to poor diet, too much alcohol and an excess of sudden physical exercise.

Still, on the up side, a decent-sized area has been cleared for the pigs - all sorts of scrap metal, rotten wood and broken glass now in a big pile at the back of the barn and we're ready to put up the electric fence, when I get round to buying it.

Not only that, but some good friends of ours were already here with Sally - our first visitors. Nick has proved to be a bit of a diamond, helping out with lifting and carrying, not to mention the drinking.

He also went fishing and filled a shelf of the freezer with mackerel and pollack, before going out shooting, returning with enough rabbits for the barbecue and some left over for a stew.

After a delightful, if breezy, barbecue, we lit a bonfire using the remains of an old shed that had not so much been demolished as committed suicide. Standing around, eyeing the flames, drinking Tennents Lager from cans, setting the world to rights in a blokey kind of a way, was a great way to unwind.

Midway through a conversation on Wolves' chances of promotion this season, Nick (who, bear in mind, is 6ft 8in and not exactly skinny) darted a full five yards to the other side of the fire, something squeaked and he strolled over with a young rabbit lying limply in his hands.

He then, by way of a demonstration, tugged at its backside with his thumbs, skinning the beast in a matter of seconds. In your face, Ray Mears!