3rd - 19th.July 2004

A little late due to chaotic times, but what a fortnight I've had !!

You may be aware of my genealogy 'finds' with all the old photos, letters etc. Well, I knew my Grandmothers sister had children, so I put a message on the 'surname' message forum to try and find some.
About one week later I received an email from Australia. It was my grandmothers sisters Grandson Toby. It then turns out that he's one of five - so I have 5 second cousins (I knew I may have two somewhere).

After a flurry of emails, he tells me his sister lives in Ashford, Kent in England. She lives about two miles from me and no more than a quarter of a mile from Leos. I've driven past her house virtually every day for the last seven years ! Also, she is 'Phoebe' named after my Grandmother.

On Saturday I went to visit. It was absolutely fantastic, a lovely person and full of memories and even more photo's, letters, documents etc., some of which are the same as mine !
I can see us both having a good few hours, or days, looking through, comparing notes and basically 'getting it together'. Already we are talking of our parents, Phoebes Dad and my Dad were like brothers during the pre-war years.
I look forward to meeting the rest of my family either cyber or personal wise. I'm flabbergasted !!!

Between that all happening has been the Cricket, garden (mine and my Mums) and birthdays !
Some old Railway friends of mine came to watch the cricket at Canterbury last week. It was the first time I'd seen them for about 5 years. I found this a little bit emotional as well. The only annoying thing is they look exactly the same as they did back then.
I'd often wondered how I'd feel about seeing old pals again, now I know !

The garden is turning out far better than I originally expected. The veggies I was worried about have come into their own. Spanish Omelettes and good old English salads are plenty nowadays - and by golly, you notice the difference between shop and home grown !
I had a short lived problem with green and blackfly, but that has now been dwelt with using some 'Nettle Insecticide' (see 'Frugal Gardening' page for recipe)
At about 5pm daily I can hear longing chants from my grass saying "Cut me, cut me". How can I resist such charm ! Blooming weather, rain, sun, sun and rain.

Saying that I've only had three days off from cricket in the last 3 weeks, so it has indeed been a busy spell for me. Nice to have a bit of money coming in though. In October, after a long due overhaul of the web site plus building the genealogy web site, I shall probably be yearning for work ! definitely poor again, or should I say still !

Three weeks today, Leo and I are off to the Lake District. I'm still toying between Wasdale or Burrowdale. In mind of I want seclusion and a view of a mountain when I look out of the tent, I'd appreciate any comments from those who have been there (email me downthelane8@hotmail.com). Thanks.

Those there chickens of mine keep giving me 6 eggs a day. The other day I got a whopper (see photo). I looked around the pen for a chick with a limp, but couldn't find one !
They've changed the date of the next Auction and I can't make it. So it'll be September before I can get some more ex-batts. TLC through winter and a big thankyou from them next year (I hope).

So, take it easy, only one chance at this life !


21st June - 3rd.July '04

Yesterday saw the start of the 'Twenty / 20' Cricket competition and I was proud to watch Andrew Symonds, our Australian national player, score 100 off 37 balls. I must admit, I'm a lucky man (if you're a cricket fan of course) to watch so much top class cricket.

The garden is almost at a stage where I can't harvest things quick enough. Everythings springing up and salads are plentiful. It's a bit silly that when it's like this I'm eating out at Cricket matches most of the time. But I still eat it though - can't turn up the chance of freshly picked spring onions, lettuce, beetroot, new potatoes and carrots. The tomatoes won't be ready for a couple of weeks yet, then it's feast and chutney making time.
Lord knows how many tomatoes we're going to have, enough to feed Ashford I think.

The chickens are still laying extremely well. In the summer, they can look a bit scraggy and you have to make sure the shed is sprayed for mites on a very regular basis. You'll soon know they have them as you sit indoors and feel an itch on the arm or in the hair and closer inspection reveals a tiny black thing crawling along. Best have a shower every day if there's a problem.

You may remember I told you the fox got in through the shed a few month's back. I forgot to show the photo of the size of gap it made it through. Here it is...(click for full size).
The actual hole is the height of my four fingers. They say 'if a squirrel
can get through, so can a fox.
In fact some urgent repairs were needed last week when I found the
chicken wire on the entrance gate had been chewed in one part.
It's a never ending battle to keep them out, but you just have to remember they are after food the same as us and it is there natural way.

I was pleased to see a Grey Wagtail in the garden last week, the first time in 7 years here.
I enjoy the late evenings when at home. I can sit in the Sitting Room and see the bats flying around outside plus the occasional barn owl whooshing past. I hope the Owl is the same as I helped to 'home' during the Winter at the Mill House opposite. My goodness, time flies and it seems like only yesterday.
The cats seem to be sticking with killing rats, mice and voles, so the birds are being given a truce.

Ginger appears to have not attacked another bee since his tennis ball lip the other week. All part of the learning process !!

I'm pleased this web site has been promoted in BBC Radio Kents 'Pat Marsh Website of the Day' page. Click here to have a look.
In fact, last week was a record for this site, over 500 visitors viewing 1,800 pages. So thanks for popping in, glad to have you !

I've just looked out the window and the clothes line with 14 towels and my Cricket Kit on it has broken......10 minutes later and every coat hook in the house has a towel on it. Some fell into the Sage Bush, so some of the Kent Team will smell nice tomorrow !
Now comes the job of finding a piece of rope from somewhere. Blowed if I'm spending money on a new one !

At Beckenham last week, the Club put me up in a posh Hotel and memories of past life came back. It was nice to be served upon, eat in a Restaurant, have satellite TV and use a lift etc. for 5 days - but it was all the more nice coming back home. In six weeks Leo and myself are going 'dead basic' camping in the Lake District - I feel more at home there !

A final little tip for the month. How to cut your bills - use scissors !

9th - 21st. June 2004

Last weekend another horrible moment. The exhaust suddenly fell my car when I was driving along. The new one cost me £68 and I still haven't got over the depression of parting with such a large amount.
These unexpected things do come up often and I know you should expect them - still hurts though.

My Mother has returned home after 6 weeks in Hospital. It's strange how you don't seem to notice parents getting older, then something happens and it comes as a shock. I must try and do more.
The whole family seem to be experiencing things going wrong at the moment; my sister has to have a replacement knee due to her rhumatoid artiritis; my Grandson Thomas has to have an op for 'something that's got wedged where it shouldn't be' (work that one out !) and I've got 'Walletitis', a worsening condition affecting more the social side of your life.

Tomorrow Kent play the West Indies in a one day friendly, so this will give me the opportunity to meet another 'living legend' in Brian Lara.
The Tuesday sorting things out and Wednesday through to Sunday we play Warwickshire in a top of the table clash.

After these games, we're half way through the season. It doesn't seem possible that the summers going so quick. There must be something which isn't boring to make things go slower.

Once again, many thanks for those buying books through my Amazon links. It's my best 3 month period yet. Much appreciated. Take care.

Due to me going away this afternoon for 7 days (Cricket), another early entry.

Yet again, two weeks of much ado. Leo and myself had a good 'freebie' last Sunday; I don't have to pay on the trains (retired employee), I get 75% off on the Underground and I don't pay for Cricket matches - so a day out at The Oval watching Kent beat Surrey cost me £1.30 !! Had I been more 'the norm', it would have cost £57 !
A fine saving and perks for which I'm very grateful.

I was awoken by lots of noise yesterday morning. A fox was trying to chew it's way through the chicken wired gate and had succeeded with about 4 bits. The good news is that I noticed it and also that the fox found this is the seasiest option for getting in. So, a couple of bits of plywood and a staple gun soon repaired it.
This is one reason I don't like going away, I get very nervous at not noticing the tell tale signs etc.

I regret one of the chickens died the week before last. None of them had any signs of sudden ageing or illness. I can only think it was the heat. They have plenty places to shelter etc. So now I only have 8 left.
Even so they're still laying a minimum of 5 eggs a day and this in some ways makes it easier to sell.

The vegetables are still doing well. The tomato plants are enormous and a bountiful crop is expected. The broad beans are very nearly ready for picking. We tend to peel the shells and cook. Although a bit of a time consuming job, they lose their bitterness, are very 'sweet' and good.
But 'growing prize' of all must go to the stinging nettles, there's more and they're bigger than last years bumper crop. Some must be 8 feet tall ! The chicken enclosure looks like a Shangrila amongst them all, as does my little campsite. Not to worry, it shows the soil has much nitrogen and I don't have to worry about buying fly spray and liquid fertilizer. It's all there for nothing.

Yesterday, with our neighbours, we had a Yard Sale. Although not selling much we did at least clear a few larger items including two old petrol lawnmowers which were taking up a lot of room. That's the funny thing about Boot Fairs and Yard Sales, you seem to sell the things you're least expecting to almost everytime.
I tried shutting the two cats inside a cupboard I sold, but couldn't catch them in time ! (only joking cat lovers !!).

Speaking of cats, there's another new kid on the block. 'BigGinge' as I call him started paying us visits about 6 weeks ago. We hadn't seen him for about a fortnight, then the other evening we heard meowing and he was sitting on the doorstep. You can't approach him, but he seems to want to make friends. Beside the 4 houses down the lane, there isn't another house for a quarter of a mile and we've asked around - nobody seems to own him. He doesn't seem hungry, so he's either from further afield or wild. I may contact the Cat Protection just to see if there are any missing cats withing the area. Our two don't seem to mind him - but they haven't got brains !!

I've started building my family genealogy web site. As you know, my brother gave me a suitcase with literally hundreds of photo's, letters, documents and bits spanning from about 1890 - 1975. I've scanned everything and am now putting together a site 'following the history of 4 families through the 20th. century'. I'm on the sixth page of photo's only and have only got up to 1945. With all the profiles, letters etc., to do, I reckon on about 55 pages in total and will see the project through til September or so. Hopefully it will be of some interest to modern history societies and maybe find some old lost relatives (wealthy, single, old, having a dodgy ticker and no one to leave their money to would be nice !!!!)

28th.May - 9th.June 2004

A beautiful but busy two weeks. Netley was good and a chance to walk around in fairly decent weather. Needless to say, that changed half way through the Hampshire v Kent game down there and it was abandoned half way through.
Kent won both games against Lancashire at Tunbridge Wells. They have not lost a competetive game in my presence yet ! Must be the laxative I put in the opposition drinks !
Staying in Tunbridge Wells enabled me to have a bit of free time in the evenings and it was good to drive around some old haunts in the high Weald of Kent. Strange how nothing much has changed; the towns have, but the countryside seems further than the 30 miles it is to London.

Another nice part of playing Lancashire is meeting up with Andy Peebles (Radio One 60's and 70's). He now works for Smooth FM and does all the cricket commentaries for Lancs. It's a shame I didn't have the camera on Day 3 because Dave Cash turned up to meet him. Real 'blasts from the past' together - keep rocking !

Ginger the cats long rule over the flies in the garden have come to an abrupt end. It appears he thought it a good idea to have a bumble bee for afternoon tea and now has a nicely swollen lip and dribbles everywhere.
Mimi, seeing this, thinks it's a good idea to go gourmet and has had a regular helping of Ratatouille - with the emphasis on the 'Rat'.
Oh what joy to come down the stairs every morning and hurriedly avoid walking on the back legs, intestines and a five inch tail ! The rest of it usually ends up somewhere else about five hours later !

I have nearly two weeks before the next cricket match so intend to cycle. This is mainly due to some idiot who decided it's extremely funny to snap your number plates off and lose them for you. So cycling for two weeks will save the petrol and pay for new plates.
I have no doubt it was someone who earns three times the amount I do and hasn't anything better to do than giving other people hardship. He probably moans when his favourite lager goes up by one pence a pint.

Not being home for more than a week amazes you how much things grow in such a short time. All the vegetables (and weeds !) are thriving.
All the soot I've surrounded most leave veggies is doing the trick and keeping slugs at bay. Something got hold of the beetroot though and I've sowed some more.
The potatoes are the things which have taken off and yesterday I earthed them up even more. Other than something nasty happening underneath the soil - it looks like a bumper crop there.
There are now 30 tomato plants growing in the greenhouse, so the chutney situation is looking good as well.

In the winter we roast eggshells and feed them back to the chickens for grit. But at this time of the year they don't have so much need for supplement so the eggshells also go around the plants for dlug protection.

The chicken are still laying very well and averaging 6 eggs a day from the 9. There's an auction coming up in two weeks and I may pop down to see what's going.
I'm having a Yard Sale in a few weeks and may bang up a couple of arcs to sell. Should be interesting, everything from computer hard drives to chicken arcs ! The money from this will go towards Leo and my Lake District trip in August. There's a 7 day slot in the cricket schedule so I'm hoping the weather stays good.

Speaking of Rats! I've devised an ingenious plan to eradicate them using the least amount of time and energy. Click here to see the 'Down the Lane Ratcatcher'.

Having spent a few days of late frequenting my old haunts, it has brought back many memories, mainly good but some not so good.
What it has done is to realise even more the importance of 'doing your thing' so to speak.
I look at the house I lived in 30 years ago and it seems like yesterday. Time stops for no one and boy does it go by quick.
It makes you look and think 'I could have gone down that route' etc.
Even though it has meant personal material sacrifice, downshifting / early retirement has enabled me to 'have a life' and open a new chapter in my 50's.
After all, we spent most of our life working for someone elses betterment, spend a lot of time getting our kids on the road. 'Work' should be the bit in the middle and not our whole life.
Some people may like that - sobeit.

Blimey, that's a bit deep for a diary entry !

Many thanks to those who have brought books using links on this site to Amazon. I get a small commission from this and, after six month's, I'm nearly up to the £25 which is their minimum pay out.
It all helps and I do appreciate it.

Now, back to the weeding and probably cleaning up last nights rat !!

18th - 28th.May 2004

A slightly earlier entry as I'm off to Southampton tomorrow, return Tuesday morning and in the afternoon off to Tunbridge Wells for 5 days with cricket (cor, wot a life !!).

It seems it's not so much a garden farm here as a funny one ! Ginger the cat would appear to have a brain the size of a broad bean seed ! I plant out the carrots and cover it with chicken wire about 6" above the ground. Although he has approximately 20 square yards of freshly dug soil, he crawls underneath and tries to position himself for a 'Number 2', scraping the earth accordingly, then realising there's insufficient room.
He doesn't catch anything, except flies, which he then eats, he falls off his stall in the sitting room on average three times a week and runs away from magpies.
Mimi on the other hand has a brain the size of two broad bean seeds, sits in the shade when it's cold and in the greenhouse when it's 40 degrees plus in there.

I couldn't find the Black Rock this morning and after searching high and low both inside and outside the pen was attracted to a strange knocking sound. She had obviously perched on the almost empty plastic box containing water, lost balance, slipped off and the box had somersaulted upside down with her in it. Don't know how long she'd been in there, all night I think !!

Never a dull moment with cats and chickens !

Everything is now growing in the veggie patch; runner beans, broad beans, potatoes, carrots, onions, spring onions, beetroot, courgettes, lettuce, sprouts and sweet corn. In the greenhouse the tomatoes are planted out and soon to join them will be the cucumbers, peppers and other salad assortments.
Only squash to go outside now I think. Can't wait for that soup.

Having a few days off between work has enabled me to get the garden pretty much into shape. On the flower side I'm really expert now - we have some blue ones, some red ones and some yellow ones !!
Two years ago, the garden was full of Lupins, over 300 I reckon. A couple of winters with the chickens running around though have seen this go down to zero !

I've mown out the 'campsite'. In the middle of the Stinging Nettle field is a grass patch about 20 meters by 10. On the sunny weekends during the summer, Leo and myself camp out and cook on an open fire. Much more interesting than indoors and the main thing is my extension cable won't reach that far so the Playstation gets a rest !
It's a lovely spot, the nettles get so high they act as wind breaks and offer complete seclusion as well.

The Mill Cottage over the lane is nearly finished and it won't be long before it's up for sale. I have a cunning plan - if I don't like the look of the viewers, I'll put a sign up 'Yard Sale here every Sunday 7am'. That should do the trick !! (not really). At present there are only 8 people living down here, two of which are only here at weekends. Could be I won't be the second youngest for much longer.
The builders have done a good job. It's taken them over a year but seeing how many people have come and gone, I can't see much of a profit.
When the two old boys lived in the Mill House, they brought the cottage as well solely on privacy grounds. They used the cottage as a storage place. The new Mill House owners sold it though and I think will live to regret it as the cottage windows all look over their gardens.

My mother is still in hospital but recovering quite well. They won't let her home until she can do stairs again. At least she's in Sevenoaks hospital now and this makes her feel a little more at home.
I went to see her on Wednesday and popped into the house to check out the garden. Luckily it's mainly shrubs and good weed cover !
Whilst in the area I went to photograpgh a past home which the family lived in. I thought it only polite to ask first and was asked in. The present owners were really nice and keen to know some of the structural history. Although nothing major has been done in the last 30 odd years, I could tell them where the Scullery was, the bar (Dad liked his tipple !) and various other garden bits and pieces.
A pleasant day with many memories.

So, off to family, then onto Tunbridge Wells in a hotel. It's a beautiful town and cricket ground so I'm much looking forward to it. I finish earlier there as the Council do a lot of the after match stuff. This gives me a chance to walk round and enjoy myself although I'll spend much of the time thinking about the chickens, cats and the garden !

I decided to 'take a day off' on Monday and planned to do nothing all day. It started OK, but got so completely worn out doing nothing, I ended up cutting the grass and cycling to town.

One final thing. A quote from one of my sons team mates at cricket last week, "I did catch it, but the ball just fell out of my hands" !
Life is good.

4th - 18th.May 2004

Today is my first day off going to cricket for fifteen, so much to be done around and about.
Our 4 day match against Gloucestershire ending up in a draw after only 5 hours play due to the rain.
Although we didn't play atall for the last three days, we all have to be there should the umpires decide play is possible up to about 5pm every day.
In fact, those 3 days were the latest I got home in two two weeks, about 9pm !

My Mother regret to say had a nasty fall and broke her hip. One early day enabled me to visit her in Tunbridge Wells hospital. After an operation she's now home and I'm off up there tomorrow to do a few bits and pieces.

I've still been able to get on with work outside and have done most of my gardening at 6 o'clock onwards in the mornings, leaving at 7.30.
The lettuces came up very well in the gutter and I've now planted them out virtually full size.
None of the early carrots came through for some unknown reason, so extra sprouts have gone in the spaces between the onions.
Don't know how we're going to eat sprouts from 27 plants though !

The carrots sowed individually have come up good and I'll plant those out next week.
Broad Beans are about 18" tall, the potatoes are growing well and salad plants in the greenhouse thriving. Don't speak too soon, but things are looking good.

I'm keeping the slugs at bay with soot etc., but still have to protect the garden with chicken wire and sticks. The cats seem to think my freshly dug garden is a brand new luxury toilet straight out of the DIY shop !
Nothing worse than doing a bit of weeding and suddenly realizing the bit of earth you've just crumbled up between your fingers isn't actually earth !!

The chickens are still doing me proud with 6 eggs a day from 9 hens. I'll get down to the Auction next month and buy about 5 more ex-batteries. By the time they've settled, got their feathers back and breathed the air, they should be laying by autumn and all ready for a good next year.

All this extra work has given me a bit of well needed extra money. They're smiling when I go to the bank now rather than the uncontrollable laughter I usually get ! Mind you, I have successfully stalled paying two somewhat hefty bills, so I suppose these will now have to be paid.

I've still got work to do at The Mill House and I heard last night they're putting goats into their orchard. With the owners only there at weekends, guess who's got to learn about keeping goats ?
Haven't a clue!

Friday week I'm off to Southampton for the weekend to coincide with Kent playing Hampshire down there. I drive home in the morning, pack my kit, then go to a hotel in Tunbridge Wells for 6 days for our game against Lancashire. I love it there, it's a beautiful 'English' ground surrounded with blooming rhododendrons in early June. I lived there for a while years back so the nostalga runs riot. Only problem is that I'm away for a total of 9 days so lord only knows what the grass and weeds are going to do in that time. Should the 4 day match end a little early, I'll drive back for a few hours work.

It was great playing New Zealand for 4 days. They arrived early for two days training and I got to know the Team quite well. John Bracewell, their manager, is just about the nicest guy you can come accross in cricket. I've met him a few times now as he was formally the Gloucestershire coach.
Strangely, I find it harder to understand the New Zealand accent than the Ozzie. They say more 'Gidday' than 'Gooday' etc.

The next 4 months are going to be chaotic I think, but there a little gap in August so Leo and myself are going camping in the Lake District - a chance to chill out and overdose myself on natures natural wonders.
Thirty five years of mainly working indoors is just a distant memory it seems. I in love with outdoors and would never go back.

Going back to look at the future

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