21st April - 4th. May '04

Kent have got off to a great start to the season with three wins out of four. Last week we played Gloucestershire in the one-dayer and this gave me a chance of meeting Jack Russell again. A fabulous player and person and also a very fine artist. Take a look at some of his paintings on http://www.jackrussell.co.uk.

Bank Holiday weekend was socially active for me. On Saturday I actually brought a new sweatshirt (took me 5 shops and two hours to decide - Leo completely bored to the bone !), Sunday was Leo's first cricket match of the season, so I went to watch and yesterday we went to Hastings for the day.
Hastings gave me a chance to photograph my Great Grandfathers and Great Great Uncles houses there. Although Leeds born and years of living in Tonbridge, they moved to Hastings in old age, something I only learnt from the family chest of goodies.
I have scanned over 200 photo's, 100 postcards and 70 letters of my family between 1890 and 1960, some task ! I also have various momentos from WW1 and 2 etc. When I go, I won't be leaving any financial goodies, but I'm determined to leave at least our family roots.

Regret to say the 1945 seeds have not risen, so my hopes have gone now. I don't think anything will happen now, it's 4 weeks since I sowed them.
But all other seeds I've put in are doing famously, even though the cats will lay on them give them half the chance.
I spent an hour sowing the carrot seeds in my usual fashion. I have a tray with 156 tiny pots and I sow one seed per pot ! It's worked well for the past 3 years. I transplant them accordingly.
I can't think why a packet of carrot seeds have 'approx 1300 seeds' ! Then they say 'use by - some date this year' ! I've used the same packed for 4 years now and still have change of a ten bob note !
But, 4 years worth of carrots for 75 pence !!!

I am hardening off the sprouts, the tomato plants are zooming and already eating the mixed lettuce !
Got this idea from a newspaper, which is sowing lettuce in old gutter, then sliding them into the ground when weather conditions are right - has worked well.

It's great to have the car back on the road, but having a trip to Southampton and Hastings plus the running around and work etc., I've spent £55 on petrol in three weeks. I now find myself sitting down in the evening thinking what I could be spending the £55 on ! But all the work at cricket with the extra money I compensates that I guess and at the end of the day - rather the car than a zimmer frame !

The chickens definitely have got spring fever with a minimum of 6 eggs a day for the past two weeks. For the first time last Thursday, I got 'the maximum' 9 chickens, 9 eggs' - a day to remember !

The restoration of the cottage opposite continues, but last Wednesday I came home completely dog tired and thought I'd have a dose in the back garden. I like the Beach Boys, but 'Da Do Ron Ron' at about 150 watts was too much and unlike me, I lost it and went over for the show down. They did turn it off but more out of shock I think that this 6'0" ten and a half stone picture of a mispent life actually had the nerve to face up to 6 blokes who could down him with one good sneeze !
I've added a few new pages to the web site - on cricket (!), but more of a candid view than a formal one. Click here for the 'home page'.

My new found wealth of the summer has also led me into purchasing new ink for my printer and three pairs of socks. I can't quite go as far as the new underwear yet, but 'what the eye doesn't see..' etc !
There is a thought for those contemplating the downshifting experience. I'm earning less than half the amount I was 5 years ago, but I was just as hard up then as I am now. It's not what you spend, it's what you don't.

Finally, on the right is a little ad I've put in for a acountrylife forum friend of mine. I've known Alison through the forum for a few years now and I know if she says 'beautiful', then it will be; so if you are interested, please either email Alson or myself for more details. I'm sure she can send a photo should you be interested.

7th. - 21st. April 2004

Things are happening at a rapid pace. It's 23.45hrs and it's the first opportunity I've had in 5 days to get on the PC for this entry.

I had a fine time at Southampton over the weekend and besides having about three hours sleep every night due to grandkids waking up and cats meowing outside the door because we stole their room, all great.

The chickens obviously have Spring Fever and the nine are laying 5 eggs a day minimum ! A healthy diet of mixed corn, layers pellets and just about anything left over from the cricketers lunch and teas must be the secret.
I'm surprised as before they often didn't lay for a couple of weeks following a fox attack. A thought goes through my mind that they're happier in a smaller number. I was getting about 8 eggs a day from 22 chickens, so proportionately it's a vast improvement. Naturally I'd rather still have the 22.

I think my 1945 tomato seeds are at last coming through. I was a little worried as nothing happened for 15 days, but this evening I notice about 3 very slim stems looping outwards. Well, they've waited 59 years to come out of the packet so an extra couple of days isn't amiss.

The car is back on the road and I actually got this done £5 under the budget set aside ! The only thing is that it seems as if I never had it for six months. Now it's a case of discipling myself not to use it for those silly short journeys up to the Co-Op etc.
For being simply under cover through the whole of the winter, it is driving exceedingly well and the engine sounds perfect.
Leo and I now play games of 'spot the older car than mine' when we're bored !
It gets me there and back in reasonable comfort and it's cheap to run - so there !

It's strange. You know how you get fed up with receiving letters from the same place saying the same thing for months on end. Well, I had a year of Tax demands which I continually returned saying I wasn't earning enough and I'd been paying emergancy tax.
Everytime I sent a letter, another letter would come back with an extra £100 penalty put on the end of it. It got up to £1,100 of fines !!
A letter arrived and I didn't open it for three weeks. I finally got around to it and it was a rebate !!
Apparently I'm owed another one as well.
I had to sit very firmly on the sofa for fear of finding I had money in the Bank. That sort of thing could be a great shock to my system and I don't know if my body will take it !!!

Kent won the first game of the season and are top of the league !!
I have explained that since becoming Dressing Room Attendant 4 of the Team have been selected for England and one for the England A Team. It is the first time for quite a few years this has happened and I put it solely down to how I fold the towels.
I've noted the opposition are looking at me very carefully to pick up any other useful tips to take back with them.
I don't like name dropping (but I will !!), in the last week I've met Shane Warne and Rodney Marsh. It's a part of my job which is so good, I get to meet both current heroes and heroes of mine from the past. A real 'kick'.

Next week I've actually got about three days 'to myself' and can catch up in the garden. I need to sow a second batch of carrots, the beetroot, more lettuce and plant the potatoes which have chitted very well and quite quickly.
The grass is growing at record speed and seems to need mowing every week at present.
I have to mow the Mill House lawns as well, so about 2 acres coming up !
I'm lucky at the Mill House, they have a sit on mower so I can cut the grass with a cup of coffee and my feet up - that's what gardening should be ! My grass is too lumpy and bumpy to take the sit-on.

I'd better be very careful here. I read back at this entry and haven't found a negative yet and what is nice I can't think of one over the past two weeks.
I even persauded Orange that I needed a new phone for nothing - and got it. My daughter Vicky can't work out how I can only use about 20 minutes a month and have 62 minutes 'in the pot'. I explain it's the frugal approach - always phone someone when you know they're not there, then they phone you back and foot the bill !!!

Also at cricket, we had a skin cancer test and I haven't got it, so that's more good news.

Not all the time, but sometimes you can go to bed and say "That was a good day" and it's so nice to have had some of those in the past few weeks.

25th March - 7th April 2004

Busy, busy, busy are the keywords at present. I've been 6 weeks full time at the Cricket ground now and squeezing everything else in between.

Cricket training is in the second week now. The Kent boys all look fairly fit and are keen to go. The weather has been fairly favourable and I've been out there as well fielding a few balls at 'extremely long stop' position !
My moment of glory came when I took drinks out onto the field during the Kent v Old Kent game. Trevor Ward threww his half empty powerade bottle quite a few yards ahead of me. "Catch it Dickie" came the cry. I went for it and with one hand barely 6" above the ground, held a brilliant catch. Even the crowd applauding such skill from the lesser known older bloke doing 12th. man duties !!!!

I took the car in for it's MOT today and was pleasantly surprised to learn it only needs about £60 worth of bits doing to it. This was quite a relief as I thought it would be more and I have £150 to cover the MOT, Road Tax and repairs. I think it will amount to £162, so not bad.
I shall have this done at the end of next week just in time to go to Southampton for a late Easter visit.

So the result of my winter cycling must amount to 1000 miles. Take that and I've been to Southampton 4 times on the train, I've 'saved' another 1100 miles there. That's over 2000 miles of non car driving plus 7 months Road Tax and Insurance saved. I would guess at about £500 savings.
That's good for the mind and bank account, but try explaining that to my legs !!!!!

I sowed my Grandads 1945 tomato seeds some 9 days ago and am watching the tray on the window sill every night as soon as I get in. No signs yet, but oh what joy when, if, they come up.
Some extremely anti social and irresponsible worms have had much joy in head butting some of my onions up, but other than that, the garden's coming along well.
The second early potatoes are enjoying their chitting on the north facing window sill but will be a few weeks yet.
The sprout seeds germinated in only 4 days much to my surprise and are now some 1" high.
The week after next I have a couple of days free so plan to start the runner beans, more carrots, lettuce and beetroot etc.
Spring tends to take shape a couple of weeks earlier down these parts, so I think I have the timing about right. Last year I was a little late and the year before a little early - here's hoping !

I am so angry at myself. I repaired the shed after the fox ate it's way through the wooden panels but failed to see a small gap in the barbed wire above the corrugated fencing (which has been 100% proof for two years). The recent wind must have moved it a bit and the fox had jumped about 5 feet and got over it. Result - another 3 chickens lost and I've 9 now.
Worst of all and it made me so depressed, was it got old Blackie, survivor of so much and a long stay friend of mine for 4 years.
Fair enough, I think she'd stopped laying this year and was looking a bit old and tired, but even so, the thought of how she went will haunt me for a long time. Such a lovely chicken and good friend.
That's the problem - you do repairs etc and come in thinking 'that's it, fox can't get in now', but they are such determined creatures and you have to be one step ahead.

At least all my chickens have experienced clean air and seen the sky, that's the main thing, although protection has to be the number one. If I can afford it, I'll invest in some electric fencing. I guess I'd need about 100 meters.
I shall buy some more ex-battery hens when I can get to Auction.

Two weeks today will be Press Day at the cricket club and I'm having a picture taken with the Team, so a nice momento for me and the kids ! The day after that the season starts proper and the lads are off to Gloucestershire. This will give me a few days off before the first home match the following week. You never know, it'll be put in the archives and someone may dig it out in 200 years from now and say "Who the hells that" !
Also, Ed Smith's book comes out in 3 weeks and apparently I'm in it, but he won't tell me why. Probably the fact that I gave him two spoonfulls of sugar rather than one when we played Surrey last season !

Besides the sad news about the chickens, things are going pretty well at present and it's nice having some money coming in. I've planned my whole years finances, but I know underneath, the plan will never come to fruitition. Something will happen to send me off course again - but life would be very boring if it didn't.

Cheers for now.

10th - 24th. March 2004

The last four weeks has made me remember what busy means, up and downs, good and bads.

We had a terrific wind storm here last weekend. I heard a few tiles blow off the roof and didn't think much of it. Then, about 10 minutes later a huge crash and rumble. I can only assume the landing ceiling was pulling away from the batons and down it came. Dust, dirt and rubble everywhere.
This was also about half an hour after me saying at least I haven't got any horrible dusty jobs this weekend !

At Cricket, I finished the decorating today, just in time for the players who return for pre-season training tomorrow morning.
I had four major jobs; the painting, grouting 45 sq.yds of floor tiles, laying 200 carpet tiles and screwing 18 pictures onto the wall.
Everything had gone perfectly to plan and the very last job was the pictures. I got to number 17 out 18 and drilled straight through an electrical conduit and put all the 13 amp sockets out !!
I have to say though that beside that, I think I've done pretty well and the place looks good - fit for a championship Team, which we will be this year.

At last, the chickens are laying well and I made a profit last week (30p !!). Losing 8 to the fox two weeks ago was pretty soul destroying, but surprisingly, the survivors haven't been affected like they sometimes are. In fact, they all seem pretty happy and generally enjoying life.

A large ginger cat has suddenly appeared from nowhere. He seems well fed and doesn't appear to be lost. I know that cats usually wander no more than a third of a mile but I can't think where this one lives. Besides the four houses down the lane, there are probably only 5 other houses withing half a mile of here.
It's quite funny watching our cat Ginger with the other one. Before he came here, he'd never seen a dog or another cat and can't work this one out atall. He's still worringly brave and came in with a good scratch on the nose this morning. Typical ginger cat though.

Last weekends storms put the garden on hold for another week, so this weekend with the forecast looking good I intend to sow just about everything. I've dug the garden completely and the soil looks really good.
I shall also be opening my 1945 tomato seeds and will start the 'episodes' next Diary entry.

All that needs to be done now is to get the car back on the road. It was quite strange last week having two amounts of money being paid into my Bank ! As long as there are no unforseen drawbacks, I hope to have the MOT done next week.
I'm intrigued to know how it will feel. I don't think I've been without driving for such a long period for about 30 years ! I shall probably completely over estimate the time it'll take to get anywhere because of the cycling and arrive everywhere about 15 minutes too early.

So, you may have sensed a slight 'upper' compared to the last entry. I have to admit to being somewhat down a few weeks back, but even with things like the ceiling etc. going wrong, there's a feel of Spring and Summer in the air.
I can't wait to get going again with the Cricket and hope all the hard work by the club reaps it's rewards.

Going to Canterbury on the train every day has renewed comradeships with some Conductor / Guards I knew a long time ago. It's great seeing them and speaking with them.
The strange thing is I might be a lot poorer etc., but I've moved on. They still have the same moans and concerns they did when I left 4 years ago, maybe more than then.
I'm sute they are 'happy with their lot', but it has confirmed that the decision I made was the right one for me.
Even so, they are all a great bunch of characters and I miss them a lot, even now.

27th. February - 10th. March 2004

Just as things were looking up with the chickens back laying again plus the battery hens finally looking like real chickens, the fox struck.
Although I again feel guilty, the cunning thing was clever this time. He / she had chewed its way through a wooden shed slat and got in a hole no bigger than 12" x 6". They've taken seven and this is quite devastating for me.
I still have 12, but that's not the point. Really maddens me sometimes, but you just have to keep on thinking they are feeding their young and are predators just like many other creatures.
Not much fun sweeping out the feathers whilst the others sit round not sure of what to do. Sobeit.

I haven't been all that well for the past two weeks but have got to the Cricket Ground every day. We've just about finished all the painting, now it's floor grouting and carpet tile laying. All in all, this will give me about 15 days work which three weeks ago I was not expecting.
This is good news as the winter, as last year, seemed to last 4 weeks too long on the financial side and things are desperate.
Motivation has been the key issue, you can't go sick and still get paid - it's as easy as that !

I treated myself to a new second hand bike off ebay. The poor old one is on it's last legs and to put it right just would not have been cost effective. Like most things nowadays, it's easier and cheaper to buy a new 'something' than to do up the old one.
The new one has 18 gears, but I only use 3 of them - can't get used to these twist grip thingies. I must say it does look pretty cool sitting in the Guards Brake Van every morning though.

I'm not sure if I can get the car back on the road til April now due to costs etc., so the bike is here for another few weeks yet. I may even get a chance of riding it in some reasonably nice weather !

I'm still on a complex about digging and keep on extending the beds a bit. I want to try growing potatoes under plastic this year. I think this will take up less space and also keep down the weeds.
As an insurance, I've sown a few more broad beans in the Greenhouse. Looking at my calendar for last year, everything is about to happen and with so much work at cricket, I'm going to be quite active from now on.

I'm avoiding meeting the players who have just returned. I hear they all have disgusting sun tans and this will only encourage me to be rude to them. However, James Treadwell did pop over to say hello after returning from his captaincy of England 'A' and this was very nice - a good young man !
I've just been booked hotels for Tunbridge Wells and Beckenham in June and July, so a fine summer ahead I hope.

On the ebay front, I think I'm going to 'shut up shop' for a while and spend the summer accumulating bits and bobs. This will then give me a little extra income after the cricket season.
I've said it religiously for the past 3 years that I'll get a part-time job through the winter and this year I must, even if its a couple of days a week in the local Co-Op. I have missed that 'base' income and wrongfully had that 'something will come up' attitude, which is fatal.
What I really feel like at the moment is a good 'materialistic' holiday; a week in Tunisia would do, half board and nothing to do all day. Not much chance of that though.

I did get 5 birthday cards and two presents !! Vicky is arranging my present next time I go down - a guided tour of Southampton FC Stadium and a meal at the end. Leo's coming as well (not fair, it's MY birthday present !).

So you may sense a tinge of negativity in this entry and I must admit that a few things have been quite difficult over recent weeks. The winter has dragged on, the old bones have been feeling the cold on the bike, financial deja vous and one step forward, two steps back.

Never mind. I know that in a few weeks time all this will be but a dream and I'll be a perfectly happy bunny again. You can start the thinking 'hey, I'm 56 and shouldn't be doing all this running around and having money problems'. But, if you didn't have these, you'd have something else to worry about.
It's a bit like a 56 year old body with 30 year old problems !

Maybe I will have that holiday - a day out to Dymchurch does sound somewhat appetising at this time of the year and it's all down hill getting there. Have a couple of pints before returning and you won't notice the uphill bits coming back !

Til the next time - Richard

10th - 27th. February 2004

Apart from one 'bleep' (a person got into our house today, switched on the telly, heater, had a look through the sideboard and left) it's been a time for good news.

Just as I was about to leave to visit my daughter and family in Southampton last Friday, I received a call from Kent County Cricket Club asking if I could, along with a couple of other people, decorate the dressing rooms. I did have to think seriously about this and after careful thought said "Yes" after approximately three seconds !!
I'm doing it with Bertie and David, our two Head Stewards. The even nicest thing is that I'm the youngest and, at only 55, 'just the lad' out of us all !!
So I returned from Southampton at 11.00pm last night and caught the 0802am from Wye this morning.
The work should take about two weeks and this will lead me right up to a couple of days before the pre-season training. In other words, I'm booked up now with 6 / 7 days a fortnight through to end of September.

The weekend at Southampton went well albeit too cold to do much. I had my usual relaxful restful time with my 2 year old and 9 month old grandchildren ! Luckily, they both love Leo and he took much of it, but loves it.
We went to watch Southampton FC train at their out of town retreat, saw the players crossing the car park and when sat down, found out they weren't actually doing any training 'in public view' that day. So that was the only disappointment of an otherwise very nice five days away.

In the garden I've sown the broad beans and dug even more space. The chickens are just starting to lay again and this is the best news of the year to date. I had bad dreams of feeding 20 chickens for no return. The are now back in their large pen and in some ways this is easier as I know where to find the eggs. Last year I found a hoard of them inside a mower box in the barn, must have been 30 odd.

My skillful renovation of the wood shed will take place this weekend weather permitting. I have the sledgehammer all ready to go ! The corrugated iron roof will give me another shelter for the chickens and all the wooden uprights etc., are destined for the Rayburn.

About nine more bits are coming to an end on ebay at present and with 18 hours left, I have bids on seven of them. Four 'carraige stop' signs which I've had for some while are up to £21, so a wondrous bounty of wealth coming in !
I sold two 'iron ball direction' balls last week and as hard as I tried couldn't stop the bells ringing inside them. I don't know what the postman will think but can imagine the remarks he'll get when he goes back to the Depot saying he kept on hearing bells ringing on his round.

Hopefully, the extra work at the Cricket club will enable me to get an MOT done on my car and journies which are taking 20 minutes at present, will only take 3. Even so, I do intend to only use the car if I have to and maintain the cycling as much as possible. Not only has it saved me much money through winter, it has kept me reasonably fit as well. I don't dawdle you know !

On Sunday week I'll be 56 and besides being quite surprised at reaching that age, I shall enjoy the day opening the mandatory 5 birthday cards and two presents !! No more the 'just turned 50', it's 'nearing on 60'.
I was quite abruptly reminded by my daughter on Sunday that I am the age when things start going wrong !! The plan is to make it an age where the thing's start going right. Oddly, I feel no older than I did at 45 and it's also odd that I only feel the aches and pains when I'm not doing something. Guess the secret is to keep proportionately active both in spirit and physical.
I intend doing a couple of laps every day with the cricketers during pre-season training, but don't know what long term affects this will have !

Finally, I shall be doing a regular up-date on my 1945 tomato seeds, from sowing to eating. I'm interested to see if they work and I can't help feeling it'll be quite emotional should they grow and harvest OK. I can see my Grandfather buying them and think I know the shop where he'd have brought them. Bet he didn't think they wouldn't be sown for 49 years !!

Lots to do and no time to do it in, but that's life and as I'm reminded on a Silver Surfer forum 'we are not promised one day on this earth'.

Going back to look at the future

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