Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cat food

Shrove Tuesday is it? – of course it is- no fancy Mardi Gras for Granny. Let the ageing ladies of these islands cavort in costumes which wouldn’t disgrace a performance of Merrie England in Haslemere (the costumes are so flattering to ageing hips. Or not.) Granny is English; all this day means is pancakes. Except that when she suggests pancakes with sugar and lemon to her Beloved, he says ‘yuck.’ So that’s alright. She can go back to converting her hens’ eggs into the four different kinds of ice cream or the four cakes she’s contracted to making for next week’s Natural History course. Want to know what they are? Maybe she’ll tell you sometime. Right now she is too busy making them.

There are other diversions meantime. Meet Feline Manrique and Feline Lorengar.
This is Feline Manrique

And this is shorter, woollier, altogether more homely Feline Lorengar

Both of them growing fast; too fast. They are in need of neutering especially FM who is demonstrating rather more thoroughily than Granny likes – her nose is acute – that he is ALL male. Problem is he’s been sneezing: a lot. It doesn’t seem to mean anything much to him – he eats, leaps, knocks things off shelves in theory too high for him, plays, purrs all as it should be. Except for the sneezes. He has cat flu it turns out. This means more expensive visits to lovely vet Pedro, who is doing his best to cure him so that FM can be turned into eunuch cat before he offends sensitive noses of the Guests. FM does not appreciate this. And demonstrates the fact not merely by ceaseless yowling. On way to last visit he first crapped in the car – Granny couldn’t see, but she could smell it – and then, much worse – she thought him safely caged in his basket – turned up on her lap when she was driving at 110 kilometres an hour down the fast bit of road. Luckily she was in her own car, which, clapped out as it may be, is automatic. Managing gear levers of the truck plus controlling frantic kitten would have been still more dangerous. When she finally got the car off the road and the cat re-basketed he proceeded to demonstrate ownership by spraying in it. Merrily, merrily. Oh so merrily.

She was not fond of him at the time. Not fond of him AT ALL. Or of the other one, FL, even though she shows no sign of sexual maturity. Yet. Just as well: there isn’t time for the rather more drastic business of neutering her before the guests arrive. On the other hand, supposing she goes into season right in the middle of the Natural History week? Granny doesn’t think the Guests would count a sex-mad female kitten as Natural History exactly. Though it is. The kittens must have realised she was regarding them with rather more irritation than affection. They spent the evening purring all over her, charming her to bits. ‘That’s cats for you,’ said Beloved Daughter over the telephone. ‘You hate them. Next thing is they are being so lovely you can’t hate them any more.’

‘Just like goats,’ said Beloved when this was reported to him. Oh dear. Though Granny changed the subject rapidly she thinks this was ominous. As was his statement the day before. ‘Goats eat out of mangers too.’


It rained like stink last night. Good. Dripped on G and B’s bed. Less good. As was the furious gale which went along with it. Fortunately it did not rain or blow till the Carnival procession was over. Granny wouldn’t have wished Merry England Grannies and children dressed as strongmen and fairies to get wet. She and Beloved did not go down to the main town to see them. ‘You’ve seen one carnival here you’ve seen them all,’ says Beloved. He has a point. Rio de Janeiro this island isn’t.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Shelling peas

It has not been warm lately; the winds are cold. Think English June - sun coming and going - wind chilly - the shops full of young vegetables - green peas - salads - the first strawberries. That is how it is here now. Even though in the right place round the house, a sheltered enough place, the sun can be warmer than in England in June; certainly brighter; certainly stronger.

No problem about using only fruit and vegetables in season here! New green peas in February grown just round the corner/a few miles up country? Ditto strawberries? Granny up at the market on Saturday, the market where she acquires these lovely things, heard an Englishwoman in the queue ahead of her complaining; 'it's much pleasanter in England at this time of year.' By which she meant there's proper heating in the UK. She can't have meant the temperature outside - in the UK it has been below or at freezing for weeks as far as Granny can tell, this has removed any temptation she might have had to take a quick trip home. 'We had to put in a wood stove, ' the grumbler went on. Smug Granny thought - but didn't say - she'd had her own for years; some people take a long time learning. The woman went off with her bag of peas happily enough; she must have seen some advantages in living where she does.

So Granny sits outside in the sun, emptying her young pods, serenaded by courting sparrows. (Would you believe it, they not only fan out their tails, they almost sing, sweetly, not at all like the usual rough chirp chirp chirp. What love does - even for birds.) Shelling peas is a kind of ritual she remembers happily and painfully from her childhood. In the right season it was her mother's preferred way of having a talk with one or other of her daughters. Summoned, you would sit, the pair of you, in deck chairs, basket of pea-pods between you, alongside the bowl for the peas themselves. Both would be wearing those cotton skirts, gathered at the waist, voluminous enough to cover your splayed knees - was there anything ever more uncomfortable, more ungainly than a deck chair? - 'I can see all you've got, dear,' Granny's mum would joke if you didn't cover them well enough, quoting an old aunt. Not that she herself cared one jot. If it was warm enough, she would have stripped off the aertex shirt she, like Granny, would be wearing above their cotton skirts, to show the bra dyed pink, by now much faded, that she used as a bikini top; it sagged, it left nothing to the imagination whatever. On her other side would be set her ashtray, her lighter, her packet of cigarettes; always Player's Navy Cut, the one with the head of a bearded sailor peering out from a life belt. Granny thinks now that it reminded her of her dead ex-sailor father. That it was a kind of loyalty even. She never in her memory, never ever, swapped brands.

And there they would sit, their fingers stripping the pods as mechanically as if milking cows, discussing whatever it was, they'd come for. Only when the pods were all empty, the bowl of peas full would Granny's mother pick up Players Navy Cut, her lighter, light up. (She smoked always, inside the house and out - passive smoking unheard of then, Granny and her siblings must have breathed in a fair quota through their childhood. Their father also smoked, a pipe in his case filled with his own tobacco, grown down the garden, hung to dry first in the garage, then in the kitchen, on the clothes airer, then chopped up on the kitchen table and sprayed with some preservative or other. It smelt disgusting, but was very cheap. Granny's parents were always trying to save money in one way or another.)

Having grown up with the endless labour of war and post war grow-your- own, Granny was not tempted to self-subsistance Good Life later like many of her contemporaries. Hunting for hens with a torch in the middle of a rainy night? Picking brussel sprouts off frosted plants? Spending all of June, July, August head down in vegetable or strawberry beds, or inside a fruit cage picking raspberries of red currents or in the kitchen, processing them? No thanks. Down to the greengrocer for her.

Nonetheless shelling the peas from the market, picked almost certainly the very same morning, cooking them with a little mint, eating them slowly quite on their own, she is reminded of the unbelievable luxury of home-grown vegetables that she used to take for granted. A greedy child she looked for descriptions of food in the books she read endlessly. One was a much cut version of a nineteenth century classic called the Fairchild Family; an evangelical book in which children were taken to see corpses hanging on gibbets as a lesson in what would happen if they continued to quarrel among themselves. Such things had been cut from the illustrated edition Granny owned, handed down from her mother. Along with descriptions of believable naughtiness went descriptions of the food the family ate. Granny can't quote directly; the book is in London. But it went something like 'a roasted leg of lamb, new potatoes and green peas, and a redcurrant pie with cream.' You had to grow up with a vegetable garden to know exactly how perfect that could taste, simple as it was. Granny did know; she drooled over it. Read it again and again, like comfort food for when she was feeling sad.

Beloved daughter, or rather Beloved Daughter's Beloved Husband, does grow vegetables down his garden. Granny sometimes gets to taste those. Beloved Granddaughter alas, does not. She does not like vegetables - or fruit - much. What a waste.

Granny has been tagged by the way. She will attempt to answer the questions, slowly, over the coming week. Patience, Pat.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dog in the Manger

Well here it is, as promised. Dog in question is the TT. Otherwise known as the Tiresome Terrier. Beautiful Wimp would not oblige.

Now a geek question. After directing people to earlier - archive - pictures on her last post, it occurs to Granny it might be useful to group posts within her archives according to theme, the way she's seen other people do. But how? Asking Blogger gave her no answer she knew how to deal with. Further problem is that though posts since she began are all archived alongside her blog, the only ones that come up on her index are those posted since she acquired her MAC in May last year. Any ideas anyone? Without blinding her with technology? She is NOT good at putting this tag in/out, etc. Fiddling with her template, she can manage to add and subtract stuff from her blogroll, just about, but that's it! Blame her age! She does...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Corruption did Granny say, in last-but-one post? Maybe she should continue. She's been reading a local magazine lately which passes on lots of interesting information; some of it sums up exactly the way this island works. Take the garbage problem which she referred to in the same post. She's not quite sure what the scam is here, but one such might explain, partly, the large amounts of trash on an open site, which blows everywhere when the wind blows - often that is. An expensive machine for processing it all has been sitting unused for five years or so, without money being provided to get it going. It is presumably cheaper to employ the glum-looking gangs of almost certainly illegal - or barely legal - immigrants to go around clearing up when the situation becomes impossible.

To give an even better example. People are beginning to worry about overbuilding on this till now relatively empty island - relative to some of the other islands that is. There are fierce zoning systems, which declare various areas as rural, meaning that no building - or only a very limited amount of building - is allowed. This applies to much of the country round where Granny and Beloved live. The local council is supposed to police this, to turn down planning applications etc, to observe illicit building in its area, while the authority responsible for the environment overall watches from afar, or not so far - they check by helicopter often enough. This is the theory; in practice things can be very different. People are always putting up illicit buildings. Very often the local authority turns a blind eye. At the very least it may come along and halt the building work. What it doesn't do is enforce demolition. The building - or buildings - remain half built. Out of her window at this very moment Granny can see the grey hulk of one such, which hasn't changed an iota since she arrived three years and more ago. Having been declared illegal, it cannot be re-started. In theory. If not illegal and it survives four years unchallenged it becomes legal. This having been declared illegal can never become so, just the same, the way things are round here Granny would be more surprised to see it demolished than finished one day in the next few years.

This area it turns out has more ongoing cases against illegal building than any other area in the whole island. Guess why? The brother of the mayor before last is one of the main producers of 'bloques' (breeze-blocks to you; on this island made not simply of concrete but also of volcanic rubble). The mayor himself owned - still owns - the ferreteria - ironmonger - 0n the main street. Does Granny need say more? That's how it works here. A still larger example is the man elected as head of the main island council in the last local elections; convicted then of corruption but not yet sentenced. He is now sitting in gaol, claiming himself as a political prisoner, even one of conscience; a claim not entirely borne out by the fact he is about to be indicted on charges which should see him stay inside for another six years at least. His deputy has also been indicted. Their method of getting votes is handing round television sets; also driving aged voters to the polls, passing them voting slips already marked and showing them the box to put it in.

On the main island a major functionary has just been arrested and imprisoned along with his girlfriend for a major bribery scandal relating to wind farms. This has even made the national Spanish press - the Canary Islands usually considered much too backwoods for them. Bribery, declared El Pais, is - always has been a way of life in Canarian politics. A fact borne out by the nineteenth century traveller Olivia Stone who announced quite mildly following her travels round the islands in the 1880s: 'The post of alcalde - or mayor - is much sought after in these islands. It is an office, though honorary, which usually fattens those who hold it, but in some mysterious way, not much improvement in the town is effected.' Granny can vouch for the lack of the improvements promised in the election manifesto she read before the last election, put out by the man who won the post. Some - like surfacing the roads round where she lives - she is glad have not been implemented. Nonetheless, it proves the point. Even though she is not a positiom to inspect the alcalde's pocket.

A pity the flush of virtue did not come soon enough to prevent the creation of almost entirely unused- and rather bleak - open parks in the centre of most towns and villages; or the umpteen children's playgrounds, ditto. All of them cheaper than the improvements really needed, but used to impress/buy the local populace. Even eldest granddaughter, then aged 7, noticed the oddity of it. 'I've never seen so many playgrounds,' she said in a puzzled voice. 'And none of them with any children playing in them.'

Despite all these sudden flurries of arrests, of virtuous statement, Granny doubts if things will change entirely, any time soon. She can only be grateful for the fact - she is grateful - that on this island the criminal mafia does not run things such as property sales, time-share, etc so thoroughily as it does on some of the bigger islands. But who knows, it may be beginning to.

Granny was going to return to more local, domestic matters here; matters like shelling peas. But it's almost lunchtime. So all she's going to do - in response to requests for pictures - is give you the date of a post which contains some pictures - of landscape, of house, of flowers; with one proviso: that there was much more rain last year, so everything was that much greener; but it's still pretty green, so it will do.

She cannot give you the original posts; she was on a different system - non MAC - when she put them up. But she can direct you to the archive month, and to the dates March 3rd and 19th 2005, to posts titled "Green land by request" and "don't tell me show me". Go here and you will see what you will see...
Good luck.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Granny brought herself to inspect the donkey facilities closely a day or two ago. It's all very neat, foodstore, shelter, closed stable; a manger even. A MANGER. All for the as yet (good) undonkey. It occurs to her that what she and Beloved have now got, really, is a wonderful setting for a Nativity play next Christmas, the kind of production which makes the audience as well as the actors walk about. With (BORROWED) donkey; of course. And even more definitely BORROWED camels. Lovely Nieves, friend and cleaner, and her beautiful but little husband would do nicely for Mary and Joseph. If they conceived it NOW - maybe Granny will ask them very nicely - they could even provide a baby to lay in the empty manger; otherwise the baby too will have to be borrowed; a crying baby doll WONT do.

How about her Beloved? Granny hesitates between giving him the role of Wise Man and ancient shepherd. Settles for ancient shepherd - probably. He can bring a lamb. Or two. Or even a kid. (Over Granny's dead body.... no room at the inn for goats either...) Possibly safer to make him a wise man then; gold, frankincense and myrrh don't require housing, let alone feeding. A thought. On the other hand, Beloved's seat on a camel? she has her doubts. Most ways, she doesn't wish him ill. Far from it.

Mr Handsome then? He's tall - the Angel Gabriel of course. If the roof of the stable doesn't hold? Well he made it didn't he? And if he doesn't seem sufficiently angelic, nor were the angels if you look very closely - or not in the sense you'f think applied to that word. Granny researched Gabriel and company in depth once for a book she was writing, and they turned out in some respects not very nice at all. Compared to them Mr Handsome is angelic, if you get her meaning.

What role for Granny then? No question, standing outside her furious house she will be shouting as the audience files past, down onto the land; 'NO ROOM AT THE INN.' Playing the innkeeper of course; or the inkeeper's wife; the spoilsport.

All round non animal agriculture proceeds apace. People are lifting their potatoes, their peas. In their place, they are making the little mounds from which in due course will appear the shoots of maize or sweet potatoes. They have two harvests here at least. They too bring gifts; more welcome than gold, frankincense or myrrh; Granny has a fridge full of unshelled peas; a cupboard full of potatoes. She offers marmalade in return, but doesn't rouse much obvious enthusiasm. The stripes, blocks, dots of green across the land continue to be delightful. Though the wind is as freezing as ever, it is sunny today for the first time for a week. Yesterday it rained. Her land looks edible.

That manger; it is so actual, so real, so maddening.....maddening? - Yes! Because in some ways it is so hopeful; almost sweet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Valentine's Day - Beloved thinks it's all an excuse to make money - Granny points out to him entries in Pepy's Diary which makes clear that the whole thing predated by a long time the florists/supermarkets/card manufacturers who profit from it these days. Then, though - so it appears - your Valentine was whoever you saw first that day - not necessarily your spouse. If you wanted your true love you had to manoevre so as to make sure it was him/her you encountered. Granny is glad there is no longer any such a system; the first person she sees in the mornings apart from Beloved is Mr Handsome; Mr Handsome has his merits; but as her Valentine? - definitely not; (though she suspects his view of her would be the same; he likes his women blond, thin, decollete and young...is Granny any of these things? Guess!) She would of course choose Beloved, but he doesn't believe in it, even though slightly reassured by evidence from Samuel Pepys that the whole thing was not invented by salesmen. Samuel's wife, by the way chose her suitors; or he did. At the same time - wisely - she insisted on being his Valentine. He grumbles that he's had to spend £5 on a ring for her; but that since he would probably have to buy if for her anyway, that was OK; the mean old - well actually not so old - 30 odd - fart. Still it demonstrates that salesmen clearly benefited then too. But for some reason Beloved is less down on seventeen century entrepreneurs; the snob.

Up to a point Granny herself is cynical, but less so. She does - just a little, very secretly - lament that every last one of her suitors/lovers/husbands have taken the same line as Beloved- The only Valentine's card she has ever received - apart, possibly, from the odd ill-spelled one from her children generated by their class-teacher - was aged 15 or so, at boarding-school, as a joke, in the days when she was overweight and spectacled, unlike some of her contemporaries, who, judging by the number of cards they got - and the graphically described kisses from some of them at teenage parties - tongues! - collected suitors like stamps. Which is all she's going to say on that story - she told it in slightly more detail last year at the same time. (Click this link if you're interested. Or not.)

The winds of last week turned and diminished; the turn brought large amounts of rain to most of the island, much less to Granny's part, to her anoyance. The rain clouds sat tantalisingly on the hills to the east the way blue sky does in summer, without coming closer. She drove through the rain to the market on Saturday morning, only to find there was no market - what she got instead was an unintended scenic drive. She didn't mind that. The sun and the rainclouds came and went - at one point there was a rainbow. The green of crops across the land, of the grass cover in unlikely places, was livid livid livid. Even though the red of the earth was livid too, the quality of the green, of the light, of the darkness of sodden stone reminded her of the west coast of Scotland, or of Ireland - all fellow Atlantic islands - hence the likeness no doubt. She arrived home at the same time that the only really good shower hit her land. Afterwards, she walked round it; everything was hung with water drops - the flowers were all opened out as if breathing it in delightedly - the smell was an English smell of a hayfield after rain. Granny cannot describe how miraculous - magical - ecstatic - it seemed to her. Every time she walks on her land these days new flowers have appeared. Even if it is nowhere as lush as last year, it is still quite wonderful. Strange at her age to fall in love with a scrubby patch of around 2 acres inhabited most of the year only by lizards, grasshoppers and the cochineal beetles that live on the prickly pears. (Should she exploit them commercially? Probably not.) She begins to see though where tribal people came from. Why their bit of land, no matter how desertlike mattered to them.

The wind blows from north east again; blows no more rain. It does blow the plumes of smoke from the fires made of vine clippings - this is the time of year when the locals go out pruning their vines. But it is not strong enough to distribute the plastic bags which are a feature of strong winds, flying everywhere - garbage is a problem here; more of it than on any other Canarian island, its disposal and processing caught up in the prevailing mixture of bureaucracy and corruption. More of that next time perhaps. Meantime Beloved is muttering about lunch - which for once will have been made by Granny - a tortilla cooked last night.

As she pottered around doing her jobs earlier she noted Beloved and Mr Handsome in close conference around the chicken runs and still empty donkey shed. Judging by the arm movements they were clearly plotting/planning something. Whatever next? Granny will be cross-questioning her Beloved over lunch very closely. And so to eat.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pepys peeping

9 February. Thence to the Change and to the Sun behind it to dinner with the Lieutenant of the Tower and Coll. Norwood and others - what strange pleasure they seem to take in their wine and meat and discourse of it with the curiosity and joy that methinks was below men of worth. Thence home and there very much angry with my people.......And so to bed.'

No, Granny has not changed location and prose style nor is she castigating foodies of her own time - she wouldn't dare considering the time she and Beloved spend discussing menus etc. On 9th February 2006 she has gone back 460 years and is quoting that diarist of diarists - progenitor of all of us - Samuel Pepys. Progenitor too, you could say of all those childhood diaries - 'got up had breakfast, went to school, came home, did homework, went to bed.' No reflections except by inference, in passing. on current wars, state of morality, women's lot, his soul, etc etc the kind of things we indulge in - just literal daily record. Even if his daily goings on did involve such things as going to watch the hanging drawing and quartering of the odd regicide - 'looking as cheerfully as any man could do in that condition' - it is still surprising that it remains so rivetting. Granny, having brought the Penguin edition back from England, having been dipping into it lately before going to sleep can assure you that it is rivetting. She wonders why. Partly of course it is the distance in time. Here this man is 400 odd years ago, yet just like us; eating drinking sleeping, working complaining about the state of his bowels, his eyes, his skin, wondering at his relationship with his wife, shamefacedly if graphically putting his amatory activities into pidgen French and Spanish - and all of it stuff we'd recognise and identify with, much more than we might his reflections on the Iraqs of the time - and other such problems. Probably it's why we read each other too with such interest- from one side of the world to the other we puzzle on, along and about just the same things, in different mode, different styles, ironically, comically, soulfully, seriously. A bit like house-hunting - part of the fascination with which, amid the tedium, is the brief window into other people's life; so like, at the same time, often, so utterly unlike our own.

Enough; to the tedium/interest or whatever Granny can offer of her day to day life. Mainly this week it is all about the weather. All the forecasts have been blethering on about wanted, so-far unarrived rain; all of them showing little clouds with drops falling from them,. What rain? But then they never do get this one right; the wind on its shift round to the south and south west, from where the rain comes, sticks east or south east quite without warning. But when it does it brings as now the 'calima', the high dry desert wind, straight from the Sahara, drying up everything, instead of soaking it, though cold at this time of year. Hiding everything in a fog of dust, covering all surfaces, making your eyes prickle. It also whips up the sea. The reality of island life makes itself plain when the soaking liquid for Granny's contact lenses - she needs it urgently - does not arrive because the boat bringing it from another island cannot dock owing to the 'bad weather'. Down at the port end of the main resort yesterday - Granny's course takes place there - even the tourists had resorted to jackets. Usually their pale skins are paraded past in a bare minimum of covering, making strange contrast with the fleeces, anoraks, polo-necked sweaters of the mostly sun-tanned 'alumni' - pupils - of the Spanish language courses when, between classes, they stand outside the lofty, cold and damp classrooms in which they work grubbing up a little bit of light and sun.

Not that the tourists don't feel the cold sometimes. In consequence of the visiting friends from England, staying in the complex at the far end of the resort, Granny has learned that all of these complexes have stone floors, that none of these are covered by the smallest rug and that there is no heating of any kind. The holiday rep rang up the friends at home the night before they were due to leave to urge them to bring 'warm slippers.' They went to the nearest pharmacist soon after arrival in search of a hot water bottle - a hot water 'bag' in Spanish it turns out; their phrase book hadn't covered any such thing. 'There's been a run on them,' he said. 'This is the last one.' Memo to tourists - bring hot-water bottles, shawls as well as slippers, alongside the sun cream and bathing costumes.

And now this; dust, wind, blowing them off their feet. . As she said to her friends on Tuesday night - very kindly they took Granny and Beloved out to dinner - 'you've seen the island in its true self.' It didn't seem to put them off. They even claimed to love it, despite the cold floors, feet, beds. Masochists, all - most - Brits.

Granny - doing a Pepys; he was always painstakingly precise - will tell you that she has made three cakes this week, baked a batch of biscuits, had the broken loo in her bathroom fixed - Mr Handsome reappeared, shamefaced, on Monday - done several loads of washing, cleaned out the cat tray several times, done a lot of Spanish homework. Beloved meantime has been cooking rabbit, squid etc for the freezer, made and printed out a list of bar prices, all of this in aid of the visitors to come next month. Both of them have been discussing menus. They also, naturally, 'so'd themselves to bed' the requisite number of times.

She has also been outed by one of the 'profesors' as she fumbled through her papers, dropped them on the floor, etc etc in fruitless search for a piece of homework she was supposed to have done for him. 'You must be so disorganised because you are a writer, P...' Granny - terminally disorganised - has made use of this excuse all her life. She's not so entirely sure she likes having it flung in her face. Despite being reasonably good at Spanish grammar she's assuming the all too familiar role of class buffoon/idiot; obviously. She'd forgotten this inevitable aspect - even at her age you cannot escape such parts of yourself it seems -of going back to school.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Granny has too much to do. She has her Spanish homework; she has a kitchen full of dirty dishes after a lunch for friends from England. (One she had not seen for nearly fifty years, since both of them were children. This startling kind of encounter may happen as you get old and older.) She has the prospect of nine people coming for a course in Natural History and 13 people to feed each night for a week; she and Beloved are already cooking, filling the freezer.

What with all this she finds she has very little to say.

On the other hand there are the chicken. Damien- Daphne is very definitely all Damien. He has been seen treading Daisy (Granny thinks 'treading' is the word.) He and Daisy are a nice monogamous couple. "Just like us," says Beloved looking at Granny. Damian on the other hand may not think it quite so nice. On the days he and Daisy are let out, free-ranging, he has been observed to hang around the other run, eying, covetously, the plebian brown chickens inside. "Just like all men,'" says Mr Handsome from Blackburn. Those hens however are in the domain of the white cock, Colin, who is unlikely to appreciate the competition. Since Granny and Beloved are not in the business of setting up cockfights, monogamous Damien-Daphne will have to stay. Being a handsome fellow avails him nothing whatever. Poor fellow.

There is as yet no donkey. Nor as yet a completed donkey stable. Mr Handsome who has been in a funny mood lately took umbrage at a mild comment made by Granny on Thursday - 'Mind the flowers,' she said, 'when you drive the truck across the land,' - replied, 'Don't be soft,' took off and hasn't been since.

Whatever next?

(Daisy by the way is a good chicken. She lays an egg a day, all of them fertilised. By Easter, with any luck, there will be chicks.)

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