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Archive for December, 2010

Icicles

Thursday 23 December 2010

The snow is still here although we’ve had no fresh downfall for a few days but now it’s been joined by icicles dripping down from everything.  It struck me that we don’t often see them here because even when we’ve had snow it’s gone within a couple of days and doesn’t stay cold enough to form icicles.  This bundle of boring blue rope has been highly enhanced by nature.  Isn’t it pretty?

Stephanie is home from university but utilising the time by working to get some extra money until 10.00 pm each evening.  Her maintenance grant still hasn’t come in from September so she’s cut deeply into her savings, but they assure me (again) that it’s been processed and will be paid shortly.  That’ll be the fourth time they’ve told me that since May, which is when the original documents were sent.  The second time was in October when they admitted they’d lost the paperwork and I sent it again.  Just recently after a phone call they admitted the paperwork was filed in the wrong place, but it was OK now they’d found it and the money would be in her account by the end of the week.  Three weeks later when it still wasn’t there I rang them again to be told they’d never received any paperwork!  This time I e-mailed copies of all the documents to them and waited on the end of the phone until it was received.  I’ve had an e-mail from them to say it’s been sorted, but sadly there’s still no money in her account.  I really hope they intend to pay last term’s amount too.

Alex has to work until tomorrow afternoon so is coming home with her friend Mike after that.  Mike is hiring a car and as long as the weather holds they’ll be fine, but I shall worry about them until they’re home anyway.  That’s what I do.  I’ve gone overboard on presents for both Alex and Steph this year, probably because I miss them!  Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that.  I’m quite excited that they’ll both be home for a couple of days.

If I don’t have a chance to write again before Christmas Day, I hope you have good one full of peace and goodwill.

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Even Colder

Sunday 19 December 2010

Before we ventured outside this morning our thermometer said -14 oC.  “Everything’s going to be frozen up in the parlour” Gordon warned and he was right.  It’s difficult to keep water pipes and vacuum units insulated enough to withstand that kind of temperature.  The snow on the roof helped otherwise I’m sure I would have actually got frostbite in my fingers instead of just feeling as if I had frostbite in my fingers.  The nature of the job I suppose and as usual we grimace and bear it.  We say flippant things like “well, the cows have to be milked” when well-meaning friends ask why we can’t stay out until 2.00 am in the morning or entertain them with coffee just because it’s cold.  We came in between milkings because it simply wasn’t possible to do anything outside other than make sure the cows were fed and had water, but have just finished the afternoon milking and are starting to thaw out again.

I read a letter today on the anti-wind turbine site which asked whether the landowners were actually tax-payers because most farmers the writer knew didn’t seem to pay tax, so weren’t therefore contributing anything of particular use to the community.  I wanted to get into a heated defensive argument about why a lot of farmers don’t pay tax, mainly because they don’t earn enough money to pay tax on, but I can’t be arsed.  It won’t make a difference anyway.  She also said it was strange that nobody seemed to know the names of the landowners involved yet it’s been all over the papers since October 2009 and I’m sure our name’s come up more than once.  They obviously weren’t paying attention.

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Snow

Saturday 18 December 2010

It continued to snow during the night and this morning our world was white and shades of blue.  The photos I took the other morning seem golden alongside these – all overcast and moody.

It is cold though and the cows are unimpressed.

The cats are even less impressed and have firmly established their seats for the winter!  Thomas is obviously nearest the Aga and Cinders is beside the radiator in the hall, but the others have found softer places amongst the pillows on the sofa or on padded chairs.

I’d like to stay in bed, but having been awoken at 5.45 am this morning and milked the cows before breakfast, I have too much to do for the rest of the day.

In my next life I’m going to be a cat.

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Friday 17 December 2010

Well, I made it to Glasgow despite lots of signs that I wouldn’t.  The flight on the morning of 7 December was cancelled as Glasgow airport was closed, but according to all the bulletins the afternoon flight would be leaving on time.  Gordon took me to the airport and worryingly left me there, but I went through check-in without any indication there was a problem with the flight.  The family in front of me in the queue had done this several times they told me over the past two days, which is how long they’d been at the airport.  They were flying to Paris and I wished them better luck this time, but as we hit the departure lounge there was an announcement to say the Paris flight had been cancelled once again.  I’m not sure whether they ever made it.

Once in the plane the pilot announced that the plane was frozen and had to be de-iced before we could leave as it had been sitting in freezing fog for over twenty-four hours.  This would take about twenty minutes he told us.  An hour later when we were still parked up with engines off, he apologised again for the delay and said it would probably be another fifty minutes or so.  Sure enough we were trundling off towards the runway after a total of two hours.  Have you ever been on an icy runway?  The pilot explained to us first how he intended to take off by getting the engine up to full speed before actually moving so the take-off was short.  This of course vibrated the plane greatly and it felt like he’d taken the handbrake off before we shot off like a rocket.  A short flight later and we were idling on the runway in Glasgow, waiting for a parking space to become available.  I’d been keeping my friends in touch via texts so they were there to meet me when I finally arrived.

Scotland was cold.  Trust me to pick the coldest spell they’d had there for years.  When I got into my friends’ car I was told the temperature was -14 oC!  The roads were …. um …. interesting and there was lot of hue and cry about how badly the gritting operation had been managed.  It was a good job I didn’t decide to go to Edinburgh because it was even worse there according to the news.  I had a great time though and my friends kept me entertained, including a visit on the last day to Lomond Shores again.

The birds were standing on ice as Loch Lomond was frozen.  By this time everywhere had started to thaw although according to the news the snow is back in Scotland now.  We have it here today too and I may have to sneak out with my camera in a bit.

While I was in Scotland we had to have two cows put down and the calves were ill!  It turns out that all these incidents were related to the cold.  The water tanks in the calf-shed froze hard and despite Daniel taking buckets of water into them they became dehydrated and began to pee what looked like blood.  It’s a good job I wasn’t here as I would have truly panicked, but I think the boys did a good job of that for me.  The vet was called and medicine was dispensed, and at the moment they all seem to be back to normal.

Our last Alexandra to calve had twins at the beginning of this week.  Gordon was disappointed even though they’re both adorable (and friesian).  One is male, the other female.  We’ve decided to keep the female even though she may not be able to reproduce.  Alistair (the vet) says he should be able to check whether she has what she’s supposed to have in the way of reproductive organs, but not until she’s about twelve months old.

This photo’s for no other reason that I really like it.  It was taken a few mornings ago when the mist was still heavy.

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Stitches Out

Sunday 5 December 2010

Alistair the vet told Gordon he could take Milly’s stitches out last Tuesday following her caesarian.  Of course we were going to Alex’s graduation ceremony then so it didn’t get done.  Since Tuesday Gordon’s been chasing her around with a knife and a pair of pliers to hold the knots, but she’s refused to stand still enough.  I’m not surprised really: after all, why would she?  It did surprise me that nobody attempted to remove them in the parlour while she was distracted by a feeder full of cattle cake, but this morning when I milked I thought I’d have a go.  She came in at the front so the next cow stood against her to stop her from going into reverse (we have a herringbone parlour), I dragged the steps over (we also milk from a ‘pit’ which means the cow’s udder is at about chest level) and leaned against her to cut the stitches.  Apart from peering around curiously to see what I was up to she was as good as gold and I managed to get them all out one at a time.

After milking I had a visit from my friend Julie (KC’s Court) as her husband and a friend were off to a fair.  She doesn’t drive so he drops her off on the way and picks her up on the way back, which works quite well.  She pointed out a few weeks ago that she’d never actually met any of our cows so she came out with me while I fed the calves, then I took her to meet Ferdinand, the dry cows and the rest of the herd.  The conditions weren’t perfect as the yard is still icy in patches but both of us made it back to the warmth of the house without getting too dirty.  She stayed until about two and we had a good old catch-up.

This evening has been wasted trying to update my mobile phone via the computer, something I’m told is ‘really easy’ but I can’t get it to work!  I went into the O2 shop in Taunton a week or so ago to see if they’d upgrade it for me, but apparently since the EU decreed all mobile phone chargers had to be the same size so they were universal (brilliant idea) they’d “thrown away” all their old cables.  I felt this was a little short-sighted since a lot of people don’t have brand-new phones – well, the non-teenagers in the world don’t – and he suggested that next time I visited I could bring my own cable and they could do it in a flash!  Oh, OK, I’ll just make the forty-mile round trip for that then, shall I?  On the way home from Taunton I thought I’d try the O2 shop in Bridgwater as it is closer to where I live, but according to the girl I spoke to there they’d got rid of their computers so could send the phone away (10-14 days) but couldn’t do it in the shop.  For goodness sake people, all I want is a software update to make it run better.

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Graduation Part 1

Wednesday 1 December 2010

We made it to Cheltenham yesterday despite the icy conditions and predicted snow flurries with Gordon driving fairly sedately along the motorway.  We picked up Alex and Stephanie who had walked around to Alex’s house and took them both to lunch before making our way to Cheltenham Racecourse.  Alex disappeared off to be ‘gowned’ while we waited with a cup of coffee and I must admit to having a real swell of pride when she came back in her robes.

The ceremony started at 3.30 pm and finished around about 5-ish but considering about six hundred graduates crossed the stage to shake hands with the Bishop of Gloucester I thought that was pretty good going.  The whole procedure ran smoothly with groups either sitting, getting into position, entering the stage, leaving again or returning to their seats.

Afterwards we took the girls to their respective homes and came home ourselves, arriving here at 7.15 pm.  It was a long day, but well worth going to see my gorgeous girl getting her certificates.  Steph’s turn next, but not for three years!

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