8th - 22nd March 2005
Panic has crept into Bramley Cottage. With all the snow I didn't think much about the garden and last Saturday, when the temperature was 18 degrees !, I looked up my calendars from previous years and saw the things I was sowing at that time.
This at least gave me a plan for the rest of the weekend and Leo, who was here, had to persevere Dad digging, tidying, cleaning and general preparation.
We did at least get out for a couple of hours albeit to buy some seeds and potatoes.
Somehow I managed to get it all done and the soil is all ready for sowing quite a lot over Easter.
I'm now Monday - Fridays plus a few weekends at cricket til early May, so Easter is about the only time I have spare for three weeks.
I finished working in the Office yesterday and have now moved down into the Dressing Rooms. Quite a difference !
The players start training at the ground on Thursday and I'm quite excited about it. I have seen most of them over the past few weeks, but there's nothing like seeing them 'where they should be'.
The first few days of pre-season training entails the issuing of new kits and this keeps me somewhat busy. But, loads of empty plastic bags, pins and boxes to bring home which I shall find some use for.
I shall be doing some work in the Office still. I believe this to be web site work and getting match day scorecards and programmes going. It would seem a busy summer is coming.
Strange that, outside of family, my two favourite things - garden farming and cricket happen in exactly the same 6 / 7 months of the year. I need the winter to get myself back to some form of normality, if that's possible !
The chickens are still doing me proud with 5 to 7 eggs a day. I am wary that the fox is about and will soon be having extra mouths to feed. Always a problem time of the year.
I spent some of the weekend hours strengthening up the defences. The problem is the chicken wire I used to put above the corrugated iron fencing is the wire I was using to put over the newly sown seeds.
Although the chickens themselves won't be out and about, the two cats see this time as 'Dad' building a lovely lose soiled No.2's toilet !
So I have 4 days to devise a cunning plan.
I tell you, there's a few rats about ! See the movie clip on the left. It's a bit like a McDonalds Drive Thru ! They've formed little one way lanes accross the grass. I'm sure there's one the other side of the fence taking orders.
I fixed up a combined DVD / Video player for a neighbour the other day and they kindly gave me their old VHS Player. Nothing wrong with it, stereo etc. In fact they only used it a couple of times because they lost the zapper.
This will enable me to put a lot of my old VHS stuff onto DVD without having to unplug half of downstairs. So good news and a good saving on cost.
I've been filming quite a lot lately with my video camera and am making a kind of try out DVD of Down the Lane.
In the summer, between everything else, I hope to produce a DVD as a 'movie version' of the web site, which I shall become a millionaire overnight (that means in my dreams !).
So, Spring has sprung and another summer to look forward to. A combination of leather against willow, trowel against soil and clucks from the henhouse. It's looking good !
20th. February - 8th. March 2005
The past two weeks have been a story of snow, snow and a bit more snow.
On 3 occasions I couldn't get out and the Lane and on 2 of those the A28 was at a standstill anyway.
I have to admit the scenes around and about were quite beautiful and in some ways it was glad to see snow simply for the reason the weather was doing ehat it's supposed to do in winter for a change.
But out went a few plans of digging the garden, sowing a few seeds etc. The Rayburn was about the only thing in the house which was doing anything on those days.
With Robert Key and Geraint Jones returning from South Africa and other Kent players returning from Australia, it did make one feel like saying "Serves you right", but you bite your tongue!
Tomorrow we are planting the new Lime Tree at Canterbury and a few hundred members and fans are expected. It was supposed to be Brian Luckhursts final duty as President of the Club, but so sadly, he died last week.
Brian had come into the Office a few days before for the umpteenth time in the last few months to talk about ideas for the tree. He breathed Kent Cricket and he longed for tomorrow.
It is strange that I used to watch him play when I was a lad, not knowing then that I would be chatting away with him every match day and indeed much in the last few weeks.
You could ask him a question and he'd take through a whole innings of the Ashes victory back in the 70's.
I watched him play his last game, an Old England match two seasons ago at the age of 64. He did himself proud.and we shall all miss him greatly.
Next week I'm off to that 'secret location' to watch over the sawing of the fallen Lime Tree. At least that's what they tell me I'm doing ! Hence the nickname 'Planker' which I seem to have got around the Office !
The BBC are coming to film the goings on so yet again the ancient man from down the lane will enchance the silver screen !!
This weekend just gone Leo and myself went to Southampton. I'm awaiting the results of my meeting with 37 virus's from the grand children. In fact, I haven't shaken of the cold I caught last time I was there yet.
But a good time was had and I'm quite an expert now at the Grandfather duties as in very competant on 'Super Mario Karting', 'The Simpsons Hit and Run' and 'Sonic R'. I know almost every 'Dora the Explorer' script and just love getting the 'Mummy, is Pop awake yet do you think' at about 7am.
But, it's good to see Thomas so much better than he was just a few weeks back and putting on weight again. I can tell he's better as his Mums pulling her hair out once again !
The chickens are still going silly. We've had all this snow, and minus 4 / 6 temperatures during the night and they're laying more than they did last summer !
Certainly the days are getting a little longer. Maybe they're just bored and haven't anything better to do ? Who knows, I can't work it out.
With the cricket season on the doorstep, virtual full time work up til the end of April, some other jobs to do over the Lane and the garden about to take off, there is an air of expectancy and it's as if the year is just beginning.
Let's hope the snow is rounding off the winter. If it had come earlier I'd be really fed up by now but hopefully in a couple of weeks time all will be well and Spring will have sprung.
Today I'm 57, or 37 for the twentieth time ! At the moment I don't feel a day over 56 so it's looking good thus far.
They say 'you are as old as you feel' and my God, I feel it !! But I reckon I can give some of these youngsters a good race. The only difference is they lose and are OK, I win and spend the next 4 days in traction and assisting the wealth of various pharmacies around the Ashford area.
6th - 20th. February 2005
After the dramas and worries over the past 8 weeks, life appears to be getting a little easier.
Grandson Thomas is now on medication and seems to be controlling his Arthritis quite well. Although today is minu 3 at present, signs and wee hints of Spring are in the air. Outside the primulas, snowdrops are blooming and even the daffodils are forming their heads.
I've managed a few freebies in the past two weeks as well. A large desk which was bound for the skip ended up at home and after cleaning the chicken shed, sawing some logs, cleaning the house, having a bonfire, whipping in the bath, I shall be sawing some shelves up for over the top of it. These will be made from the old desk which although only 5 years old, had the working operation of circa 1745.
The chickens are out at present and giving the greenhouse another good weeding and bug clearing. It's the coldest day of the year thus far but the sun's shining, so they have the double enjoyment of scratching around and having a dust bath as well.
I love watching them roam around the garden. Although they have a 60 feet square enclosure (better than a battery cage I think !!), there's nothing like the freedom. I keep an eye open for Mr. Fox, but so far, no signs.
All the problems we get with the foxes are around April / May / June when they've had their cubs. Protection is the key word.
Again, they never cease to make me wonder. When the weather was mild in December and to a certain extent in January, they laid hardly nothing. Now. the eggs are dropping out !
At work it was great to see the return of Robert Key and Geraint Jones from South Africa. Both looking extremely tanned, healthy and slim, they soon got back into scarves, thick jackets and 3 pairs of socks !
It's now only 4 weeks until pre-season training and my return to the dressing rooms. Until then, I hope I shall be occupied still on a part time basis in the Office there. I know I have some involvement with the Lime Tree soon. Bringing the tree down, nature has in some ways given the Club an opportunity to have another kind of windfall ! Why not, cricket needs the money.
Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph kindly put a link to this site into an article about downshifting and my Saturday stats increased by 800% ! So, if you've found your way here via that route, welcome.
I still haven't received the tape of the South Korean documentary about 'down the lane'. Maybe it was the demise of the TV company showing it ! I thought my impression of Brad Pitt was quite good !
Another visitor to Canterbury last week was my old mate Jamie Reid from the BBC (see his appreciation page, left). I must admit he did look pretty cool and between his not to be missed running commentaries of Gillingham football matches is networking for a shot at 'Strictly Come Dancing' and sporting his Elvis impression on 'Stars in their Eyes'.
So, just another two diary entries before it's officially Spring. I said last Autumn I didn't want to waste away time through winter simply longing for Spring to come round and time certainly hasn't been wasted.
I've managed to spend a lot more time with my family, have found sufficient work to just about get me by. It's strange, I still can't for the life of me work out how I do get through. The secret is not to analyse it too much I think.
Just live your life with the best quality you can and hope the effort rewards you back.
Something else I've learnt is that babysitting 2 grand children for 4 hours can wear you out more than 14 hours digging. Last Sunday my sister and family visited us in Southampton and I completely crashed out on the sofa all afternoon !
24th. January - 6th. February 2005
Two weeks into wearing that shirt and tie and still here to tell the tale ! Owing to other bits and pieces going on I've been working a 4 day week.
It does seem most strange working in an office again and, due to the lighting and heat (something I don't get a lot of during the day at home), has given me a few 'class A headaches'. But they seem to be easing off and I'm feeling much more up to it now.
Through til now I've been mainly doing mail shots for hospitality with a few bits between. I'm very lucky to have been asked to put some imput into the Kent CCC web site.
Next week I shall be spending time in the Club Shop getting to know a few things there should I be required at any time to help out.
A lot of the players have been popping in and out and one of my first tasks was to remove the 'Hunky Firemen' 2005 calendar from the wall behind me. I will leave it to your imagination the remarks I was getting !
This has been replaced with my own 'Miss January' and 'Miss February'. Not pin-ups but photos of my chickens.
All the people there are so nice and it's a real pleasure being back amongst them all.
After weeks of Thomas going in and out of hospital and feeling very under the weather, the Doctors have diagnosed 'Stills Disease', a form of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. His blood tests aren't what they should be still and they have put him onto Steroids for 6 weeks to see if it settles a bit.
We all hope he will grow out of it. It seems from what I've read that there is a strong chance of this happening, maybe not til he's in his teens though.
Until then it's a case of adaption and keeping things under control. We're all positive for the young fellow, he's a determined strong willed lad and that will help I think.
'Back on the Ranch', the chickens are wintering well and today I had 6 eggs. Don't know and can't work out their ups and downs. I have a suspicion they have me well sewn up and just keep me guessing. It's either that or they saw me cleaning the oven last Sunday.
They say you have to spend money to make money and that has been well proven to me over the last fortnight. I got the car back on the road, but with the non-use etc., led me into buying 4 new plugs, battery, petrol filter, coil cable and distributor cap. Regret to say that even after that it's chugging when hot. My friends at acountrylife reckon on the HT Leads, so I've had a look on breakersyard.com and about £13 seems the going price. Need to take out a mortgae for brand new ones !
So I've spent, with the tax etc., more than the value of the car ! But I know she's a good runner when all's well and I've become quite attached to the little thing.
With all this 'full time' work I've got quite behind in general jobs around and about. Yesterday was wood collecting and hen house cleaning. Four hours gave me about 18 days worth of Rayburn wood and a clean living quarter for the hens. So I was well pleased with my efforts.
On Tuesday I'm off to The University of Brighton for a second session interview in reference to 'Learning Lifes' project. Looking forward to this as I find it quite theraputic letting out all my history. Then on Friday Leo and myself are off to Southampton for 4 days. Apparently we're 'baby' sitting on Saturday morning til 1pm. With Leo getting up at 11am on average, looks like the entertaining's down to good old Pop ! I'm tough - I can take it (!!!???).
Only a couple of weeks to go before I start sowing a few bits in the garden, certainly the broad beans can go in soon.
The soil is quite a soggy mess though. Tomorrow I'm letting the chickens out - tempting them all into the greenhouses and letting them loose for a couple of hours. They can have a good old dirt bath and grab a few insects at the same time for me.
Only problem is getting them past the Brussel Sprout plants on the way. They'll strip a plant in 5 minutes !
10th - 24th. January 2005
My poor little grand son remains poorly and still in and out of Hospital. But hopefully the end of the tunnel is near and he will be on the mend.
Certainly the past 4 weeks have been difficult, but a time in which families can get their heads and resources together and pull each other through.
Although I'd obviously be there in different circumstances, I have been able to spend quite some time at Southampton and all this does bring home the importance of family and how that is more important than anything else.
Some really good news is I've started working part-time in the Commercial Department at Kent CCC. Sometimes things seem to fall into place just at the right moment and this is certainly one of those moments.
I shall be working on various things whilst a suitable new Full Timer comes along, even some Retail work in the Club Shop which I would enjoy.
There's a possibility this could carry on during the cricket season and I'd be doing my Dressing Room duties and helping out if there's a need wherever.
This suits me and I'm so pleased to have been given the opportunity.
Have I sold my soul to shirt and tie ? No, definately not. I will be working in a place I love and doing things which give me a buzz. It's not far off feeling young again !
What this also allows me to do is to get the car back on the road again. Tomorrow it has it's MOT and subject to a 'put it right' being just under three figures, I'll be up and running by the end of the week.
I've never had a problem with sacrificing the car to maintain my 'lifestyle' but at the moment the car will give me more freedom of movement at a time which suits me and saves me getting cold and wet cycling to Wye Railway Station a few times a week. This also entails cycling about one mile along the A28 during the rush hour and on a stretch of no speed limit and the only car overtaking place for about 2 miles either side. I have spent the last few journeys looking at the road about 8 feet ahead to avoid seeing the near disasters I seem to be causing irrational, selfish and completely stupid drivers.
Complete stupidity some of the car driving. I can't for the life of me see the point of driving like a moron. It's fair dinkum if they want to injure themselves, but when their actions threaten to put other people out just beats me. Life is too short at it is without this.
Rant over !
I heard today that I'm going back to the University of Brighton for another session in the 'Learning Life' project. I received a transcript of the first interview down there and it's 15 A4 pages - didn't know I could bore anyone that long.
The first visit was to get a general picture of my life (that puzzled them I have no doubt !) and now it's focusing in on certain parts of that.
The end result, in about 18 months time, will be a study document on why people change their lifestyles. I guess this will eventually end up as part of a Course.
Anyways, I totally enjoyed the first session, I learnt quite a lot about myself from it and found it theraputic.
Everyones happy !
So, a slightly more optimistic view than the last entry. I feel that Spring is not far off and the year is starting well down the lane. All this will be nicely wrapped up when Thomas gets the OK and gets on the road to recovery.
Life is certainly full of ups and downs, goods and bads. One things for sure, you never know whats going to be thrown at you next. Must keep your eyes open.