20th.December '04 - 10th. January '05
A very late entry.
Leo and myself went to Southampton for return on New Years Day but on New Years Eve Thomas was taken very sick and ended up in Hospital for 6 days.
The Doctors still aren't sure what it is, some kind of Viral Infection which affected the Hip. The poor little fellow ended up with his arm being pumped with drugs and a somewhat staggering fever which the meds didn't seem to bring down very much for a few days.
Some rather scary moments between meant it was a worrying time for all the family and I hope I will never see my immediate family look as they did again.
Luckily he was in Southampton General at a very quiet time, the Doctors and Nurses were falling over each other to help and support.
I arriuved home on Friday night. I know he's on the mend, I can hear the noise from here !!!
Besides that, a fine Christmas time visiting family and generally chilling out. My present to the family of a DVD comprising of old VHS family film and new bits and pieces went down well. Thank goodness, on the Thursday before Christmas after a final copying problem, I was up til 4.30am fixing it !
Returning home so late has brought about a backlog of jobs so the weekend has been spent wood collecting, chicken shed cleaning, tidying and whatever. Now the serious work of finding a bit of cash to pay the bills commences.
It was quite re-assuring to arrive home and find the half a rat outside the back door with the other half on the Kitchen rug, already eaten of course !
With the exception of the last 6 hours, 2004 has to be one of the most enjoyable years. Sure there were a few downers but overall I can look back and say it was good. Not only has the home garden side been good, we had a good mountain holiday in the Lake District, the Cricket job brought about even more new friends and yet more memorable moments.
Again I have discovered new hobbies and ventures and it all adds up to confirmation that the whole downshifting thing was right for me.
My chickens obviously worked out somehow that it was Christmas time and in fear of retribution suddenly started laying 3 or 4 eggs a day. I haven't a clue why this should happen. Last year they didn't lay a single egg between December and late February (didn't have a clue why that was either !).
I guess it all adds up to the mystery of nature, but it is both amusing and enjoyable to watch their habits and lifestyle.
I'd better watch what I say or I could return as a Cockerel !
So, the good Lord above has allowed me to visit yet another year. I don't know what it will bring. Besides the garden and the Cricket, it's all a crystal ball. If I knew I'd probably run.
I've found that long term plans usually end up in the Rayburn, so I look forward to the next day and that's about it.
What is odd is that I made it clear to myself I wouldn't go into a kind of winter hibernation and simply long for Spring to arrive. I have kept my promise and time seems to be going even faster - not necessarily what I want !
The cycling this winter is proving to be more difficult than last. It's pure fate that every time I need to cycle anywhere, it pours hard. Should I get the long awaited, promised Tax Rebate, I think I may step over the frugality in that direction and get the car back on the road. I have certainly missed it over the last few weeks. I shall still bike if the weather and situation permits, but I have relied on other people to shunt me around with bags, cases, buy the chicken food etc.
It's like the 'frugal' side becoming more of a scrounge situation and I don't like putting extra work etc. on other eople.
So, this week, some work, then off to Southampton again at the weekend to check things over. Time id certainly flying by so all the more reason to squeeze as much out of life as is possible.
Have a super 2005.
6th - 20th. December 2004
The weekend at Southampton was a good one, not only did I manage to catch the train OK, I also managed to catch a real humdinger of a cold off the grand children !
I remember I had a similar cold in the winter last year whilst working full time at Canterbury and didn't get over it til about June. With this in mind, I decided to take a few days off and didn't go out atall for 4 days last week. It appears to have sorted it, but no work done though.
We're back down there again for 4 days next week, so I'll probably end up coming home with something else.
I attended the Kent Cricket Club Christmas Luncheon last Friday. This was really nice. Half way through the off season and meeting all my colleagues and some of the Team.
The ground looked very sad. It was a rainy day and the golden days of summer seemed light years away. A real credit to the Ground Staff there that the grass is so lush and I reckon you could have a fairly decent game on it even now.
I've managed to get all my Christmas presents sorted out. A quick flurry of sales on ebay enabled me to have everything done and dusted by last week.
I still haven't finished the present to the family though. I'm 'creating' (!) a DVD of all 2004 photo's, videos plus Family Genealogy pictures.
I knew this would be a hard task, but I reckon on 10 minutes of DVD (for TV) is about 4 hours work and the final burning of the disc is approx 3 hours with the CPU going at 100%.
The last one I did, I had the window wide open, the PC Case off and a fan in the room .
The combination of downshifting and studying the family history has shown me the importance of getting things down on paper or other medium. There is so much passed down from over a 100 years ago to about the 1980's, then all seems to go quiet. So not only is this a present, but it is at least ensuring that some materialistic evidence that we were here is 'filed' and the thought of a great great grand child in 100 years time shouting 'Hey Mum, look at this old DVD I've just found' gives me a buzz.
With the coming of the Internet, genealogy has become about the biggest hobby ever. What worries me is we're so busy learning about our past that we'll forget about the future. Photo's are now stored on Computer and hard drives don't last 100 years. Well not in my case anyway !
I guess the combination of downshifting, frugal and basic living does not always appear to be hand in hand with Computer technology, but I don't know where I'd be without the PC ! It does seem odd though speaking about 'the good life' in one breadth and fitting a new graphics card in the other !
I'll tell you something that's bugging me at the moment - TV Gardening programmes and their presenters. I don't have the slightest problem believing the knowledge of some present Presenters. They have brough out good books, one or two of which I own.
But it appears the programmes are designed with insomnia in mind ! They seem to be having a competition to see who can send you off to sleep the quickest..
Also there is a distinct lack of vegetable content. You'd have thought with all the hype on moving to the country, escapism etc., someone would do a Veggie Programme wouldn't you ?
At present it's 2 minutes of putting your runner bean poles up and the rest is Springtime how to air your lawn, summer how to cut it and autumn how to shut everything down til Spring.
There has to be a hole in the market here ?
I'd like to see a programme like 'The Allotment Gardener' or of the like.
Anyway, more important issues. My chickens aren't laying enough eggs. I've issued them with a second written warning and their Union Representative (Doris) has asked that arbitration come into effect because of the cold weather.
I have looked at this matter closely and reached an agreement of an extra 2oz of wood shaving per chicken until the end of February with an expectancy of egg production to rise by a minimum of 8%.
They think I'm an idiot, but I see them huddling round for a chat after I've gone up there in the mornings. The cats, who sit outside their shed waiting for rats, have told me their plan is to import a few extra eggs from some Brahmas a quarter of a mile up the road.
Work wise is tough going at present, but better than last year. Last winter I did tend to wish time away til Spring and not focus on less important things than the chickens, like money !
So have a good time whatever you are doing over the next two weeks. They say Charity starts at home, so does 'peace and love'. I really wish you those things. Happy Christmas !
20th. November - 6th. December '04
A slightly delayed entry due to varying circumstances beyond my control (railway talk !).
I'm still quite busy with some jobs I'm doing but my hours are being cut by the main income contributor which means I have to find other work or a part-time job.
Even so, the list of jobs I have to do there will not be done in the time allowed so maybe it's just a blip.
You'll see on the left I've put a short movie clip in. This was done on my digi camera standing on a corrugated roof, so no great David Lean job here. I was going to cut the last bit out, but my friends acounrtylife.com said I shouldn't. Apparently I have the Johnny Depp look. Shame about the face ! So, I slightly changed it and here it is !
I've decided to put the car to bed for winter. Other than going to Southampton every 6 weeks or so, I only do about 25 miles a week and it'll get the old bones going a bit during the cold as well.
The weekend was spent wood gathering with Leo and we've sufficient now to last us til at least the end of January. I can't afford to turn on the Night Storage Heaters, so the Rayburn is kept on all day. With the doors open, it does a good job of spreading the heat around.
I actually counted the number of lumps in a Taybrite bag the other week. There are 300. I use 30 a day to give the Rayburn a base, so the heating is costing 60p per day. Not bad. Some may call it being tight, but I call it being frugal !
I do raise finance quite a lot in the Diary and around the site, but I can't emphasise how 'downshifting' does make you far more aware of money. Money becomes not as relevant but strangely doubly important. Unless you've paid off the mortgage and got a lot of money in the Bank, it's not an easy life, for me anyway.
This weekend coming Leo an myself are going to Southampton to visit the family. The Grandkids are always a joy to see and you don't need an Alarm Clock and go to sleep pretty easily at night time !
It seems the chickens have decided to take the winter off again this year and I'm only getting about 8 eggs a week. It's poor I know but you have to account they are from battery farms, had 360 odd days of warmth and 16 hours of artificial daylight. But they've also had heavily fortified food, shared their cage the size of 4 A4 sheets of paper with 4 other hens and never seen the sky or felt the seasons.
In summer they give me far more than I need. In winter they snuggle up at night, get up, see sky and breathe fresh air. Cold....but free !
I realised yesterday I'm half way through the cricket off season , doesn't seem possible. I should be starting at Canterbury mid March.
On the 17th we have the Clubs Christmas Luncheon which I'm looking forward to.
It seems strange seeing everyone without being in T-Shirts, shorts, sandals and tanned. Instead, wooly scarves, bobble hats and a reindeer !
The Club is 364 days a year. Off season Groundstaff still mow the grass and prepare, Maintenance repair and prepare and the Office personnel are all busy organising the next seasons Memberships, fixtures, hotels, marketing events etc.
Although the last sentence seems a bit of my old life, I get quite a buzz from seeing the hustle bustle.
Highlight last week was seeing an eel in the stream with the Trout. It's good to see two fairly unrelated creatures sharing the same habitat in such an amicable way.
There must be a message in that ?
4th - 20th. November 2004
Strewth it's cold, even Mrs. Rats specially knitted cardigans must be freezing for them when they're pinching the chicken food. I do like how the rats are now forming a queue and at least clear up after them. Don't go much though on them complaining about the under cooked quince peelings last Monday. You just can't please them can you !
I've actually been very busy over the last two weeks. A job which started as decorating a sitting room and hallway became those two rooms plus the Utility room, stairs / landing, laying laminate flooring through Kitchen / Dining Room / Utility room plus front and back garden as well.
With that job and much to do over the Lane, life has certainly not been boring ! Just at the right time of year as well.
Last Saturday Jamie Reid (yes 'The Man' himself) invited Leo and myself to watch the Gillingham v Derby football match and look behind the scenes. This gave us the chance to tour the dressing rooms, meet some of the players and the Manager. It was also good to see one or two of the Sports correspondants I see at the Cricket during the sumer.
But oh what a difference seeing them in shirt sleeves sipping back the cola colas (??) and now in their thick jackets, bobble hats sipping hot cups of coffee !
My job at Kent County Cricket Club has reaped me so many benefits, I've got to know so many nice, interesting people and all this certainly adds to that 'life change' experience from what I was some 5 years ago.
Whole new world - and I love it !
It is a beautiful time of the year, but all about to change with the coming of proper winter. See the photo on the left of the sunset last week. According to the BBC Weather Presenter, it was an unusual cloud formation that evening. I didn't edit the shot atall and it's an accurate portrait of colour. See the Acer bush like it's on fire !
That was 9 days ago. Every leaf has come off the bush since then !
I've also been busy on ebay and have rounded sufficient fund to buy a second hand camcorder. In an ideal world I'd like a digital, but you don't get anything decent for £60 ! So a hi8 has been acquired and now I must master the arts of loading to PC, changing the format and burning DVD's. I feel a nervous breakdown coming on rather rapidly.
I've found a good way of organising my ebay profits. If they pay using PayPal, it stays within ebay for 'treats' and if they pay by cheque, it goes into the Bank. This has worked quite well.
Next week there's a Poultry Auction along with a Household Auction. I shall probably be forced into feeling sorry for yet more ex-battery hens and hope to find a few old valve radios going cheap as well. The last 5 radios I brought for £6 raised me £69 profit !!
On the hens - 11 chickens and 2 eggs a day. Autumn / winter is here !
Up to the end of December it's OK, but I have a strong dislike for January and February. For me thay are no go month's; it's cold, damp and depressing, neither one thing or the other. Saying that, the broad beans will go in February and that's only10 weeks away.
Time flies and it seems much faster nowadays. Surely a sign that things are good, but also a sign that I'm getting older. Grrrh, if only I'd have.....etc.,etc.,etc. !!
22nd. October - 4th. November 2004
'Strewth' as the Ozzies would say. No sooner had I got to the end of my newly found media coverage and I received an email last week from a South Korea Television company asking if they could come and film me !
Turns out they are in Europe filming a documentary on downshifting and 'strange ways of life' and found the site !
They came on Saturday and spent nearly 5 hours filming 'a normal day'. So it was feeding the hens, fetching the eggs, cooking the eggs, eating the eggs (with home made cucumber relish !), fetching wood, digging the garden and other such things. It pleased me they were very interested in the ex-battery hens and spent some time on that subject. It was so good because they asked questions which were very relative and equally enthusiastic about the natural beauty in which I spend a lot of time.
They're sending me a video and I hope to put this, plus the Meridian programme onto DVD.
So, much going on. At present I'm on a decorating job which will take about 8 days and there is loads of work over the Lane as well. It's simply the motivation of getting on with them and pay a few of those bills.
I never trained as a Decorator but being an old git, I guess you pick things up through life and after quite a few jobs in the last couple of years, I'm becoming quite adept to it now.
I'm even into the "Well, that'll have to come down", "Mmm, that'll need replacing" talk - so I must be getting good at it !
The positive side of the TV coming here was it spurred me on to a giant garden tidy up, even the slugs are impressed. All that remains is to find some old carpets in a skip and put those down over an area I'll be needing for early sowing next year.
Other than that, everything from the summer is now suitably stored or jarred. Time to sit back a bit in the evenings now and relax in the fact that this year has been quite something for me.
In the summer I'm happy in my work with Kent CCC, I'm of reasonable health (that'll put the mockers on it), I've a wonderful family and the future is bright.
Perhaps a little time now to up-date and tidy up the web site.
Last weekend I was in Southampton for my grandchildrens christening and I met John Vears, a third cousin of my daughter Vicky and a regular visitor here as well. Having a conversation with John, I was reminded I wish to have a page on 'ageism'.
To start things off I'm inviting anyone over 50 who has a photo of themselves taking part in what some would call 'younger persons activity'.
Well, it turns out that John's quite some guy at 69. So visit the new page 'Action over 50' and have a peep ! Thank you John.
Not much gossip around at the moment. Mrs. Austin (third door down) hung her washing up last Saturday and a dog walked past on Monday morning. Never a dull moment down here !
In the chicken run, a pact appears to have taken place and all the new ex-battery hens are happily mingling with the others now.
Introducing them appears to have had the usual affect of egg production dropping and I'm only getting 2 a day. I'm hoping this will increase, but with it being mid autumn, I think I may be in for a bleak winter omelette wise. Never mind, they're happy enough.
All too soon it'll be Christmas. I've found my Yule Log already. Last year I had a lovely log and it was so mild on Christmas Eve I was going around in a T-Shirt.
I'm glad Christmas is in December. I don't go in Garden Centres at this time of the year and the sight of 5,000 square feet of plastic coloured stuff puts me right off.
Oh dear, perhaps I am becoming a miserable old git !
11th. October - 22nd. October 2004
A slightly earlier entry as I'm off to Southampton for the weekend enjoying the peaceful tranquility of grandchildren and a 48 person gathering for the christenings on Sunday ! The only really nasty thing is it means having to wear a shirt and tie for the second time in 5 days . Not sure if the neck can take it.
I had a fine time at the University of Brighton last week. I met with a Researcher and Professor. Basically the first interview was a tell us about your life exercise - from birth sort of thing. It was most interesting and I must admit to finding it quite theraputic and on a couple of occasions a little emotional.
It was taped, so the next step is they have a listen, make notes and call me back for Q/A's. I get a copy of the tape so it'll be good. I'll give them all the meaty stuff next time !!On my way back I stayed the night at my brothers Pub in Scaynes Hill. A good evening with Nigel and myself teaming up as 'Kent' to play 'Sussex' - the locals. Needless to say we won ! We were once quite a formidable pairs and I recall going round the pubs many years ago in Sevenoaks with him playing for a bob or two.
The room in which I slept was not haunted. It may have been, but after three pints of the local fine ales, I didn't notice.
Then there was my day out at the BBC in Tunbridge Wells where I met some of the local network 'celebs'. Jamie Reid asked me up there and it was fascinating seeing the angle from behind the microphone and cameras (Jamies fans - see new
'Jamie Reid' page).
That leads me on to the TV documentary which goes out tonight at 11pm on Meridian. Personally, I shall be going for a walk beside Southampton Water at that time so to avoid it !
My book is going along well. I've already decided on how to spend the £50,000 I'm going to make out of it, where I'm going to do the signing and where I shall put my Office in the country home I intend to buy and who's going to star in the movie version !!!! All there is to do now is to write it. Ah, Dreamworld is often the best place to be on this Planet.
Seriously I'm looking at self-publishing. I have 'a plan' and feel that self marketing it is a viable option. I have a few ideas and there are two prospective types of buyer. The clue is in the title - -
'Down The Lane - part time self reliance and a load of old ball' !This weekend is the last of the 'things to do' for a little while so when I return on Monday I must get on with some serious work. It seems that since the end of the cricket season I've simply spent time catching up, socialising and generally having a good time.
But the bills will start rolling in again soon. I doubt if the 'I was on a long holiday' will wear for the third year in a row.
Monday week I've a large decorating job to do and there is much work over the Lane. Problem is that it's outside windows so I'm tied by the weather on that one.
The 4 new chickens have now settled in and join the others in the morning rush for the mixed corn and pellets. There is still the occasional punch up but chickens will be chickens so to speak.
There's an entry in the Guestbook from Ally on the Isle of Wight who informs us she's aware of a lot of Battery Hens for sale at £1 in Bedfordshire. The bad news is obviously if they don't find homes they'll be in Cat Food, but the good side of it is that yet another Egg Battery Farm is closing down due to the ever decreasing sales of 'eggs from caged hens'.
A couple of days of strong winds has brought down much of the foliage around here and the trees are starting to winter but there's still another two weeks or so of beautiful colours to enjoy and watching the squirrels hustling round the Chestnut and Hazelnut trees.
One thing that struck me at my brothers Pub was the wonderful scent of wild garlic coming from the riverbank next to the place, a sign that not all is dying off and where one thing ends it's replaced by something else.
What a shame I had to wait 50 odd years to realise what goodness there is around us and almost all of it is completely free !
27th.September - 11th. October 2004
Firstly, I'll get the TV doc. out the way. Meridian TV filmed last friday at Canterbury with some glowing shots of me storing the towels and doing the hoovering etc. I must admit to completely folding up during the interview bit and could hardly get a word out. Needless to say afterwards I thought of all the things I meant to say ! It's being shown on Friday 22nd. October at either 7pm or 7.30pm.
Luckily I'll be in the car going to Southampton when it's on so I can't be tempted to watch it. I doubt if I ever will !!
Busy work times ahead and I have a genuine feeling of optimism at present. Work accross the lane is quite promising; I'm painting windows and have work to do inside as well. A friend of a lady I cut grass for has asked me to decorate three rooms in their house. All this should be sufficient to last me at least up to Christmas.
On Wednesday this week I'm off to Brighton University for my 'Learning Lives' project interviews. I'll give them a test case !!! I assume it's within a course where they study people who have had life changing experiences and want to know the whys and whereforths etc.
Socially as well things are looking up. Next Monday, the infamous
Jamie Reid from the BBC
has asked me up to the studios to have a walk round and see how things work etc. I'm also meeting him at the Gillingham v Derby game in November which has pleased my son Leo much.
After going to Brighton on Wednesday I'm staying at my brothers Pub'The Sloop Inn' at Scaynes Hill (see link above) overnight. This will be interesting as my Mother reckons the Guest Room is haunted ! I must therefore ensure I have consumed sufficient ale to not notice anyway !
It'll be good to see him as I'm busy working on our Genealogy web site and there is much to talk about. For a sneak preview, it's here . Long way to go yet though, probably another 40 pages. Finding my second cousin Phoebe (who only lives 3 miles from me for the last 7 years !!) along with loads of memorabilia has unearthed a minefield ! My G-G-G-Grandfather was Charles Fowler, the Civil Engineer in Leeds, so much of the info I'm gathering may be of historical interest.
The 'one extra ex-battery hen' I talked about two weeks ago became two ex-battery hens and I'm now up to 11. This has caused a bit of a break in the chicken shed routines and all are busy getting to know each other with a restructuring of who gets to the mixed corn first every morning.
I've also been informed of yet another battery egg farm closing down and the opportunity of having any amount of about 11,000 chickens for free.
I've said I could take another 4 ! If you are interested, please email me at email@example.com and I'll pass your details onto the person with the info. I believe the chickens are located in Berkshire.
I have now started to write a book which I've threatened the world with for the past two years and the spare time I have is being occupied with a bit of research and a lot of typing. I reckon at the rate I'm going, I'll finish it in heaven.
More birds seem attracted to the garden. Last week I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker and on the same day, coal tits, long tailed tits and an Owl sitting on a chicken run post at sundown. Marvellous sites and made my day. For the owl and the Woodpecker I quietly got my camera and just at the right time, for them, they did a runner and I missed it !
Luckily the cats aren't interested in birds - it's the rats they like, which suits me.
Even so, Mimi is on a first written warning after me finding the lower half of a rat on the pillow the other day. The look of 'but I thought you'd appreciate my kindness' will simply not wear any more !!
As I said, I have an air of optimism. I don't know what it is, maybe nothing, but regardless of that, life is treating me well.
Just once in a while things seem to come together and it's those times we have to cling on to I guess. After all, we get our fair share of things being thrown at us. Makes you appreciate life more.