Thursday, 31 January 2008

Clean your room

Listening to: Loads of girlie stuff (Sal's been at the iTunes and you can't move for Alanis Morrisette complaining about how horrible her last five boyfriends were.)
Weather: Giving it some. High wind, freezing rain.
I used to have a cold, but: now I've got chapped lips, a bright red nose and a strange ache in my neck. . . and there's goo in my ear.

The boys eyed me in the way schoolkids eye an ancient, strict schoolmaster after a week with the easy-going supply teacher.

I had the bucket and there was breakfast in it, so that was a good start, but they seemed to know I wasn't too impressed. The place was a messier than a teenager's bedroom (OK, I exaggerate, but it was close). Straw everywhere, mud all over the place and that was least of the trouble. The barrier that keeps them in their fairly spacious shed was on the point of collapse.

There was a hole in the middle of the floor where the lads had snuffled out the cement between the slabs and there had clearly been some kind of Long Kesh-style dirty protest. Still, collect it up and in a few months it'll be good for the garden.

Pigs are, by and large, the cleanest of farm animals. They tend to do the stuff in one area and never in or near their bedding. Eric and Ernie don't mess their own bed, but they have got a bit slack lately despite the best efforts of myself and Sally.

While I was away they also took to bullying Sal. They are quite big now and hefty with it and Mrs TPF is around 5ft 4in. Sometimes a no-nonsense attitude and extensive command of ancient Anglo-Saxon are not enough.

I'm 6ft, I have equally good Anglo-Saxon skills and I'm a dab hand with a shovel (Irish roots). So, after a good deal of kicking, pushing and swearing, I got in the pen and spread their breakfast out on the floor.

While they were occupied (the rule of thumb is to give them enough food for 20 minutes eating, so 20 minutes is what I had) I had a look at their bedding which was spread out over half the shed.

A lot of it was looking very tired and it was a bit damp. The lads had possibly been trying to weed out the stuff they didn't like. Well, it's a theory, so, once I'd cleaned everywhere else, I replaced half the bedding with nice clean straw which, breakfast over, the chaps pounced on and decided to play.

I let them get on with it while I reviewed security arrangements, nailing another piece of wood to hold the hurdle in place and winding some barbed wire around to discourage them from playing with it.

Next job was one I should have done weeks ago - pick out a spot for an outdoor run. The pigs were fine in the shed when they were small, but they are clearly bored. I've been putting it off mainly because of the weather and the fact that plugging an electric fence into our creaking fuse box may plunge the entire island into darkness.

Still, it's time it was done and there's a little area of land at the back of the farm, about 70yd long and 10yd wide which would be perfect. Once the horizontal freezing rain stops, I'll get to work with the barbed wire, set up the spotlights and build a machine gun nest.

For you piggy, ze war is over. I'll be suspicious if they start practising gymnastics with a wooden horse. . .

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Snot

Listening to: North Country Boy (The Charlatans)
Drinking: pints of Lemsip
Weather: Buy one season, get all four free in the same day

I've got a cold. The first for two years as far as I can remember, certainly the first since I gave up working in an office 18 months ago.

There's an advert on TV at the moment where the claim is that the blocked up feeling in our noses is swollen blood vessels, not snot.

Nonsense. . . it's snot. Buckets and buckets of the stuff.

And before anyone starts, it's not man-flu, I don't feel too bad, it's just very messy and a bit inconvenient. Try depositing a cheque into your bank account while simultaneously battling to stop the drips falling off the end of your nose onto the counter in front of an appalled bank clerk.

To make matters worse, my eyes are streaming. The left one - an attractive shade of scarlet - is sending a constant trickle down my cheek.

I boarded the ferry back to Orkney this morning weeping like the jilted sister of one of Jane Austen's heroines.

"Oh Henrietta, I am all undone. Mr D'Astardly has lent his handkerchief to Amelia Aston-Martin - when he led me to believe all his linen was to be mine alone.

"Oh Charlotte, the bounder. Still, there's always plan B - borrow some tissues from Colonel Stern, the tall, moody suitor with a dark secret, but without the necessary facial muscles to crack a smile.

"But Henrietta, will father sanction such an exchange? He's very particular where I blow my nose.

"Father is away planning to blow up a French chateau full of Nazi officers with Lee Marvin and Telly Savalas, thereby saving himself from the hangman's noose.

"Oh why must my happiness always come second to the downfall of the Third Reich?"



See? Told you I was ill.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Catching up

Listening to: Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
On the way: back home (slowly)

Errr. . . right. . . where was I?

Inverness station at 4.30am, not enough sleep, about eight trains waiting, don't know which one's mine, no Edinburgh train on the departure board, nobody about, just me. . . and (in the absence of strong coffee) The Sex Pistols on the iPod.

Twenty minutes later there's a human being who explains the train to Aberdeen goes on to Edinburgh. . . they obviously don't like to brag about it. So at 5am we're off on the pretty way, east, then south.

Well, I just assumed it was the pretty way as it was pitch black until well after Aberdeen. The sun rose over Arbroath (note to self: try an Arbroath Smokie one day), a few minutes later we trundled past Carnoustie golf course and more than a few were out on the course in the half-light.

Bridges in and out of the Kingdom of Fife took me to Edinburgh, then it was south past the Bass Rock, through Berwick and Alnwick to Newcastle where former England football manager Bobby Robson got on the train. Then it was the Angel of the North, flooded fields all through Yorkshire and into the Midlands.

The Youngest joined me at Birmingham and we went through the ritual 'how's school?' questions, I read her NME (didn't take long), helped Mario through several weird adventures (they have some good drugs at Nintendo) and we tumbled out at Exeter around six o'clock.

The birthday celebrations were long and full of calories, but a big success. The Boy and I escaped on Saturday to watch Exeter v Penzance, surrounded by 6,000 other rugby fans eating pasties, drinking cider and saying "'ello my luvver" ever such a lot.

The Youngest and I set off back to Shrewsbury yesterday and I'm on the sleeper to Inverness tonight. Mrs TPF seems to be struggling to keep two boisterous pigs under control, there's a concrete floor to be finished, walls to be built, paddocks to be laid out, a kitchen to strip down, floors to dig out, slabs to shift - I need to get back.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Up, up and away

Listening to: The entire 775 songs on the iPod (seems like)
Weather: worse the further south I got
Just had: first curry in weeks
Really need: to stop blogging and get to sleep

I'm worried. It's all going too well. I made it as far as Inverness without a hitch, using, in the process, a plane, a taxi, two buses, a ferry and a train. . . and my feet.

I woke up on time, had a bath and was outside admiring the sunrise 45 minutes before the plane was due. Westray gave me a little reminder before I left. . .


Mrs TPF drove me up to the airfield and I squeezed myself in to the mini-bus with a wing fixed to the top with ducktape. It's the first time since moving to Orkney that I've used the internal flight system and what a thrill.

I was wedged in next to Derek, a Westray man who sold us the hens, we had a chat, but conversation is tricky on a ten-seater aircraft only about three steps along the evolutionary chain from a Sopwith Camel.

And I was doing the tourist thing. We hopped over to Papa Westray (the world's shortest scheduled flight*), then flew back over Westray, Rousay and Orkney's West Mainland, catching a glimpse of both trainee pig farm HQ and the Ring of Brodgar - hard to say which I was most excited about.

The rest was so routine as to be dull, but a 5am train to Edinburgh has left me my first obstacle, so let's see.

* North of Scotland regional final winner of most boring fact pedalled to tourists/TV crews.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Trains, planes and automobiles. . . and a boat

Listening to: Two Princes (Spin Doctors)
Packing: my undies
Trying to find: train tickets

It's been a beautiful day on Westray. The sunshine was actually warm for the first time in months. The sea shimmered and when it clouded over later in the afternoon, the rays of sunlight broke through in places to reflect off the water.

Excellent time to be packing my bags and going all the way to Devon, just as (if Radio 5 is anything to go by) England seems to be on the verge of disappearing under water.

Still, my mum is only going to be 80 once, so I'm off on my travels again.

I fly from Westray to Kirkwall tomorrow, having spent several happy minutes in our airport terminal. . .


. . . then it's bus to Stromness, ferry to Scrabster, bus to Thurso, train to Inverness.

Overnight in Inverness, followed by the 5am train to Edinburgh, change at Waverley onto the 10.05am direct to Exeter, collecting The Youngest at Birmingham New Street on the way through.

It's never going to go smoothly, is it?

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Swinging

Listening to: Times Like These (Jack Johnson)
Weather: You name it. . .
What's for tea: Christmas dinner (really!)

I don't have much time for golf as a rule. Elitist, expensive, crushingly dull - the Conservative Party at play. The only time grown men who have no idea how to dress themselves wear clothes their wives/secretaries haven't chosen for them.

I've played twice and the only thing more boring than playing a round of golf is the conversation in the bar (which always serves lousy beer) afterwards.

However, I'm giving some serious consideration to taking the game up following a visit to my local course.

Golf in Scotland, much like opera in Italy, is far more accessible to folk from all walks of life than south of the border, but that's not the only reason. The course on Westray makes the average Marines assault course look like a nature ramble - crazy golf, if you like.

The course is behind Pierowall village, between Grobust beach and Noltland Castle, and very much open to the elements, particularly the north winds which blow sand over much of it and rabbits. It's a nine-holer (I think). That's if you don't count the rabbits - in that case it's a 1,275-holer.

The Boy and I have had two or three walks across it and counted half-a-dozen "greens" (I use the word advisedly) the other day. Today another one had miraculously reappeared from under a thick covering of sand.


One green is even fenced off in an attempt, I presume, to keep the rabbits off. The fairways are either a bit rough or (as you can see in the picture of - we reckon - the fifth green) under water.

The biggest sand trap is about 15yd long and the upper lip is maybe ten feet high.

There's a cow's skeleton in it.

There's no poncey clubhouse, no manicured turf, no dull BMW-driving executives. Just a real sporting challenge and a pint in the Pierowall Hotel afterwards.

Gotta get me some bats.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Bucket love

Listening to: 20th Century Boy (T Rex)
Weather: wet, but warmer
Surf: Sadly, haven't given it a second thought lately
Birds: pair of Mute Swans with five signets at Swartmill Bay

There's a hiatus in the concrete laying thanks to a shortage of cement which gives my knee time to recover and everyone else has gone off to Stromness to meet my stepson who is staying for a few days.

I trundled over to the pigshed to, in the style of Wodehouse's Earl of Emsworth, commune with the pigs. Necessary duties having been done with brush, hose and shovel, we got back to the serious business of having a bit of fun.

We had a kick-about (if using your snout counts as a kick) with an old football The Boy found on the beach, there was a bit of ear and back-scratching and I decided to get back to the discipline that was such a spectacular failure the other day.

The Boy and I did have a go at leading them with the feed bucket yesterday and it was better than the board and stick method. We had moderate success, so I thought I'd have another go. I put a little barley in the bucket, clambered back in with the chaps who took a sudden and intense interest in proceedings. I walked at a steady pace around the pen and, sure enough, Ernie trotted after me snorting and squealing happily.

Eric didn't join in right away, but watched carefully for a couple of minutes before heading straight for me at some speed, catching me halfway up my calf, sending me tumbling into the wall, the bucket tipping the barley onto the floor, leaving the trainee pig farmer feeling both out-thought and out-muscled.

* Mrs TPF had another in a long line of Wolverhampton moments the other night. We were having a quiet glass or four in the hotel bar when, during a half-hour lull in the conversation, she picked up hotel proprietor's very smart brushed steel bottle opener and said:

"This is very smart, I could do with one like it." Then, having paused for thought, added: "It's quite heavy - good for hitting people with."

Bless!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Concrete evidence

Listening to: Beauty of Uncertainty (KT Tunstall)
Weather: cold north wind
Birds: pair of Great Northern Divers at Rapness Cemetery beach

I'm getting older. Obvious I know, but I'm really feeling it today. Every joint is creaking, every sinew twanging, every muscle throbbing. I think my right knee is going to explode.

I needed half-an-hour in a hot bath this morning just to get myself moving again. Mrs TPF and I nearly had a disagreement (exceptionally rare) as I snapped at a perfectly reasonable question. (I apologised).

Yesterday afternoon was a wake-up call to the world of hard, honest work. Not the working under pressure to meet a deadline in a nice, warm office - been there, done that - but the physical challenge that millions of manual workers face most days of their life.

Two new pigs are due to arrive at the end of next month, so we have to get the other half of the pig shed kitted out and ready for their arrival. I've already lifted and moved the giant flagstones that made up the floor and levelled the sandy base that was left. Next step was to lay the concrete floor.

Now was the time to play with my new toy. The Boy and I hoisted the cement mixer onto its stand and Mr D came to supervise. The Boy did most of the mixing while we shared the barrowing duties and I did the laying and spreading (nowhere near as exciting as it sounds).

I've spent all my working life as a journalist which, hanging around football grounds and training pitches waiting to be ignored by managers and players apart, was (obviously) sedentary.

Yes, I used to play cricket and hockey (reasonably well, but a long time ago), I occasionally played rugby (spectacularly badly) and I swam competitively until I was nearly 40, but it's not the same.

Since I got here, I've cleared a lot of vegetation, put in the odd bit of fencing, moved some stone, smashed up an old concrete water tank, chased pigs, fallen over a few times, got wet a lot, but there's been no real constant physical challenge.

Which is probably why my body, on being asked to do a second consecutive day's strenuous activity, has protested loudly - the grinding noises from my right knee suggest something is definitely amiss.

Anyhoo. . . putting the pain to one side, I've decided that, once the body catches up with the rest of me, I'm going to love this building lark.

I grew up in a very bookish family. My mum taught French and the old man was an historian (a historian? he liked history, all right?). If anything more complex than a fuse went, we 'got a man in'. Up to a few years ago I always believed that I didn't expect people to write their own newspapers, so why should I build my own walls/replace roof tiles/perform complex, life-saving heart surgery?

But few things have given me such a sense of satisfaction as seeing the pig shed floor gradually take shape. So, if you need any concrete work doing, Trainee Pig Farmer and Son are available at the usual place.

We'll bring our own tea bags. . . and ibuprofen.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

A little eggs-tra effort

Listening to: Another Girl Another Planet (The Only Ones)
Weather: horizontal rain this morning, turning to vertical this afternoon
Birds: knot, oystercatcher, black-backed gull.

I'm not aware that the hens have a television in their shed. If they do it's well hidden.

For those who don't know, British Channel 4 has had a number of shows presented by celebrity chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver this last week highlighting exactly how chicken meat and eggs get onto the supermarket shelves. It hasn't been pretty, but it has caused something of a stir with letters in the papers, an internet campaign and at least one phone-in show on BBC radio.

Can it be any coincidence that our four remaining hens have stubbed the fags out and set to work? We arrived home on Monday to find an egg and have had nine more since - double figures for the week.

We haven't been doing much different, but there's been quite a transformation in the hen house. The girls look healthier, plumper and have been more active. They are noisier and will now go outside in almost all weathers.

As it appears we take most of our farming advice from TV chefs these days, we have put quite a bit of hay in their run and have some more hay knotted at the end of string dangling from the farm's only tree (which cowers for safety behind the hen house) so they have something to peck at. They have a couple of footballs and we're trying to put a couple of ramps up so they can climb into the tree (and presumably get stuck).

We have decided that, once the spring comes around, we will be sectioning off about half an acre for chickens, splitting the paddock in two so one half can rest while the other is grazed.

And the Trainee Pig Farmer is trying to get over his chicken phobia. I've taken to spending some time in the hen house with the birds to give them a chance to get used to me, making sure they know it's me who gives them their food. The next stage will be to actually hold one, but that'll take a while yet.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Getting hammered

Listening to: Guitar Man (Elvis Presley)
Getting ready to: go to the pub
Surf: 3ft cleanish
Birds: hen harrier, lapwing, curlew, oyster catcher, shag, bar-tailed godwit

I had a cartoon moment today. We've just taken delivery of an electric cement mixer and I was dead excited about it (funny what rings your bell as you get older - used to be cup finals, gigs and dates with attractive women, now. . . ).

The mixer came in a very large cardboard box with the dreaded set of instructions for assembly.

I can never decide which is worse. There are the instructions with pictures of parts you can't find and lots of arrows pointing vaguely in the direction of places that may or may not exist. Or there are the written instructions with a combination of complicated names designed especially to confuse those of us who call everything 'a thingy' and a dodgy translation from Latvian.

This was a series of pictures and, once I had overcome my initial fears, it proved to be quite easy. I'd got the wheels on, the stand had been put together, the drum was in place and all I needed to do was to slot the handle into the frame. It slid in nicely, but was a tight enough fit to get stuck just short of where the holes for the bolts lined up.

I decided a couple of gentle taps with a heavyish hammer would do the trick and the lefthand side clicked in perfectly. I lined up the righthand side, but failed to notice a stray thumb.

Bloody hell, it hurt. . . and don't thumbs bleed a lot? I swore once, took several deep breaths and examined the damage, deciding a plaster or four might be a good idea.

The Boy, who arrived yesterday for a two-week "holiday", was kind enough not to laugh, although he did call me a "big girl's blouse" when I had to ask Mrs TPF to put the plasters on for me. I haven't told him who's mixing the concrete yet.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Death squad

Listening to: To The End (Blur)
Drinking: very strong coffee

It had to happen eventually, the dogs finally got a rabbit. It wasn't pleasant.

I'd love to say Flopsy Cottontail was quickly and almost painlessly dispatched and made us an excellent stew. . . but I can't. It wasn't even on our land.

We'd let the dogs have a run on a beach near the airfield on the north end of the island and were crossing the field back to the car when Owen stumbled across a rabbit that had clearly been lying low, hoping not to be noticed.

I was about 40 yards behind with Spike on a lead. There was a commotion ahead, some woofing and quite a bit of squeaking. Owen (lovable, but so dim) didn't have an idea how to finish his prey off, while the rabbit seemed unable to escape. I hurried up, looking for a large stone or stick (not trusting my bare-hands killing ability).

There wasn't anything remotely big enough so the only rabbit-killing thing I had was a Jack Russell terrier. From the blood on Owen's paws, the rabbit was obviously badly hurt and Spike - hundreds of years of breeding kicking in - put it out of its misery immediately. Once dead, neither dog paid it much attention.

The whole business took about 40 seconds - about 39 longer than I'd prefer - and I felt a bit of a failure. It was all so ham-fisted and I left the carcass for the gulls. Somehow I didn't feel we had the right to take it.

On a lighter note. . .

News from the hen house is good. Following the discovery of the egg on Monday evening, we've now got three more. Spanish omelettes for tea tonight.

The hens have spent more time outside lately (I even shut them out during the day when the weather is good) and are eating more and looking very healthy.

After watching the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall chicken campaign thingy on Channel 4 last night, Sally has thrown some hay and a couple of balls into their run for them to play with - their basic skills are good, but their tactical sense leaves a lot to be desired.

Seriously though. . .

Speaking of HFW, I notice a few bloggers have a link to his Chicken Out campaign. I'm a little suspicious of anything put up by TV or celeb-backed, but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for HFW.

His argument is a no-brainer really. What right do we have to eat food so cheap that animals have to be abused to produce it?

None.

Battery cages are soon to be consigned to history (I suppose 2012 is soonish), so why shouldn't factory-farmed chicken be sent the same way?

I won't waste a lot of time preaching to you about the evils of the supermarkets' stranglehold on the UK food market or my mixed feelings about farmers being paid so little by the corporate bloodsuckers that they are forced out of business. When you dance with the devil. . .

I've got two pigs called Eric and Ernie who like throwing straw at me and trying to knock me over for a laugh. I have four hens who have a spacious home and a run with toys. I was upset at the unnecessary suffering of a rabbit. I think we all know where I stand.

It's easy for me to say, sat here with eight acres to grow enough food to feed us, but maybe, rather than just sign up for campaigns that have been on the telly, we could all just tell the supermarkets where to stick their over-processed, over-packaged crap - even if it's only every now and then. Hit the bastards in the only place they care about - the wallet.

By all means sign up for HFW's campaign (The Virgin Porker has a link or you can get there via rivercottage.net). He seems like a nice guy and it's as good a first step as any, but nothing will change unless we start worrying the accountants.

I preached after all, didn't I? Sorry.

Monday, 7 January 2008

To be fair, the girl's done good

Listening to: Please Read The Letter (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss)
What's for tea?: Sal's swede soup and apple crumble
Reading: An Utterly Impartial History of Britain (John O'Farrell)

We've been hit by a wave of girl power here on Westray and we're all feeling very much the better for it.

Mrs TPF has been in impressive form since her return from the West Midlands at the beginning of December. While I was away attending to family responsibilities and drinking vast amounts of beer with Reg Pither, she turned our tumbledown house into something resembling a home - a very Christmassy home.

The roll of podge around my middle stands testament to the quality of the Christmas cake, mince pies, soups, chocolate pistachio fudge, chocolate truffles and other goodies she had 'put together in a spare moment'.

When it came to compiling the (very long) list of jobs we need to do to make the house decent (we pay no council tax as the house is officially 'uninhabitable') I had a few ideas, but Sal had a truckload of better ones. She's got that natural feel for what makes a house a good place to live.

Now she's sorted out another problem for us - where the money comes from. We've always known that one of us at least would have to get a 'proper' job, if only on a part-time basis. We're not daft enough to expect to make money from farming.

Sal's a get-up-and-go kind of girl and she got up and went. . . for an interview with Orkney Council last Friday and was offered a social work job that very afternoon.

The snag is that she will have to spend four nights a week in Kirkwall, but it's only until the end of August and who knows what opportunities will present themselves then?

We skived off today and went to Kirkwall for a celebration lunch (and to buy animal feed, look at gates and fence posts - exciting stuff!). "What do you fancy," I said, with visions of chilled white wine and seafood. "Something with chips and a couple of pints," came the reply. You can take the girl out of Wolverhampton. . .

To round off a good day for the ladies, I went to shut the hens in and - you've guessed it - there was an egg! The first for four weeks.

Friday, 4 January 2008

See me after school

Listening to: Hung Up (Paul Weller)
Weather: grisly
Quiet night: in

Eric and Ernie have, like the rest of us, munched their way through Christmas and the New Year celebrations and, like the rest of us, a little exercise and discipline wouldn't go amiss.

So it was that I found myself taking a bit of time off from hefting slabs about for a little experimental training with the two not-so-little pigs.

I'm thrilled to bits with the way the lads have come on. Careful feeding means they've grown steadily without seeming to put on too much fat and, although a combination of the weather and issues with our antiquated electrics mean they can't get outside for now, they have a large shed and a regular supply of turf and rocks to play with. They seem happy.

But I'm also aware that handling them is not as easy as it was when they first arrived and I was able to catch, lift and shove them into the places I wanted them to go. I know I'm going to have to move them around when it comes to their date with destiny in the Spring and it's about time they got used to it.

The routine is that you guide a pig about with a board and a stick. You may have seen Jimmy "quick, the cameras are here, let's have a crisis" Doherty do it on TV's Jimmy's Farm (pictured left).

The theory is that, like my mum when she's driving, a pig won't go in any direction it can't see, so you block its vision with a board and urge it gently forwards with a stick.

The boards are sold at an extortionate price by firms eager to cash in on the middle class smallholder market, so here on Westray we are using a bit of old door and, in a move inspired by Royal Ulster Constabulary interrogation techniques, a piece of rubber hose instead of a stick.

I clambered over the barrier to where Eric and Ernie were just finishing the last crumbs of a hearty breakfast and, in my best Sgt Wilson voice, tried to coax the chaps into action.

I put the board to one side of Eric's face and tapped him gently on the backside. Just as gently, he pushed the board out of the way, turned around and looked at me with a 'what, exactly, are you trying to do?' look on his face.

Seeing as Eric - the larger and more laid-back of the pigs - didn't want to play, I turned to Ernie who was snuffling around the edges of the shed. He was interested in the pig board/door. . . very interested. In fact, it was so interesting he decided he wanted to keep it and play with it all by himself.

So it was that I found myself in a tug-of-war situation, trying to get a large piece of wood out of an increasingly excited pig's jaws, while, at the same time trying to use aforementioned wood to protect my lower parts (Ernie's got form).

Attracted by the commotion, Eric broke off from trying to eat a breeze block and lumbered over to see what his brother was up to and to offer filial encouragement. . . and to see how long it takes to knock a trainee pig farmer off his feet.

Like the Romans besieged on all sides by hairy barbarians, I crouched behind my shield, waved my rubber hose threateningly and backed towards the exit, tumbling out of the pen just as Eric was showing a taste for steel-capped work boot.

So the lads are in detention. If they think they're getting away with it that easily, they can think again.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Slabs

Listening to: Radio 5 (against my better judgement - not good for the blood pressure)
Drinking: third cup of tea of the morning
Watching: the sun struggle to come up

Christmas is over in our house. Mrs TPF, never one to mess about with all this 12 days stuff, took down the decorations yesterday and suddenly it's January.

The fields on Westray are looking tired, battered and empty. Only a few sheep and the occasional horse are still outside and - the last two days having been bank holidays with no transport on or off the island - it's been even quieter than usual.

Sal and I promised ourselves that, once Christmas was out of the way, we'd get our act together and start work on the house and farm in earnest. As a result we've spent quite a bit of the last two days making lists and drawing plans. Getting the terrifying number of projects into some kind of order has been tricky and we're not there yet.

While we try to fathom out where to start on the renovation of our tumbledown house, one job needs getting on with right away. With two sows due to arrive at the farm in the next few weeks, we need more pig housing and I had plans to lay a concrete floor in the half currently not used by Eric and Ernie and to build two pens.

Nothing is ever that simple, however, and Sal had spotted that the current floor was made up of a lot of large flagstones - perfect, once cleaned and polished, for a kitchen floor. I had hoped she wouldn't notice. I had hoped Mr D would back up my claims that moving them was far too difficult.

I spent yesterday lifting and shifting, suggestions that laminate flooring is great in a kitchen having been ignored.

We now have a pile of flagstones, most at least 3ft x 3ft. There's plenty for the kitchen floor with some left over. It's not exactly Ikea (a lot dirtier and no meatballs) but I have to admit Sal's right.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Goodbye to all that

Watching: Factory, From Joy Division to The Happy Mondays
Just discovered: BBC iplayer
Getting: that fuzzy feeling out of my head

I vaguely remember the Benny Hill theme being played on a mandolin.

Well, it would have been, wouldn't it? Seeing as the accordian player had a chest infection.