Saturday, 24 July 2010

Tales from above a Norfolk Village

Well I had had no work for ages. I was just beginning to think I had better make friends with those bin men again, as they may be able to find some scraps for me on their rounds, when I got the call to go to Scotland. I tried to resist by saying I could only manage a four day week, but they insisted. It is nice to be wanted.

So, from now until around the end of August, I am travelling from Norwich Airport on Sunday afternoon, returning on Thursday evening. Not a particularly taxing journey and a good seven hours less than driving, so I was quite looking forward to it.
All was well until I realised that last week I would have to travel from Heathrow and be away for a fortnight as I had my last weekend of the year at Metanoia Institute in between trips.

I was feeling relaxed and happy after my birthday weekend and, you may not believe this, I was highly organised in preparation for my trip to catch the 21.40 plane to Edinburgh.
The trouble began when I realised, when glancing at the ticket again whilst in a traffic jam on the A11 (unusual I know), it wasn't 21.40 at all, but 20.05! Someone had obviously changed the time on my ticket without telling me. I vowed to find out who the culprit was at a later date but for now decided to concentrate on overtaking the stationary vehicles on the M25, by lane hopping - a practice I normally abhor in others, but needs must!
I could feel it in my water. This was going to be another of Tillie Baker's eventful trips.

To be fair, everyone was very helpful. From the wonderful chap, Alex, at the off site airport parking, who broke all the laws of gravity to get me there. To Geoff - British Airways (more about B A later) Staff Member Extraordinaire at Terminal 5 who managed to get me on the next flight; Alex's efforts being in vain in the end.

So my journey was spent in reasonable comfort, apart from a few issues with my neighbour, a Chinese lady, who burped a strong smell of garlic loudly and frequently into my ear for the entire flight. An hour can seem a long time, but I busied myself by reading the aircraft safety leaflet and wondering whether, if evacuation of the plane should be necessary, whether I might flout health and safety rules and sneak my beloved Apple Mac up my shirt.

On arrival at Edinburgh Airport, it was very late, dark and wet. I was tired, anxious and dry.
I still had about 25 miles to drive to my hotel after collecting the hire car.I phoned the hotel to say I would be late and started on my journey.

When I eventually arrived at the hotel, which shall remain nameless, except to say it was named after the Scottish equivalent of Robin Hood, it was in the middle of nowhere, and in complete darkness.
I was not too concerned to begin with, as I had phoned them, but after 20 minutes of banging on every window in the place, I was beginning to get a little panicky. My phone had no signal, so I could not call them, so my survival skills kicked in and I drove my car as near as I could to the front door, put my hand on the horn, kept it there and waited.
I did not have to wait too long. A couple emerged from round the back, adjusting their clothes and a few more people came out to see what all the fuss was about. I was led to my room, miles down a long corridor in a nearby annexe. There was no apology, just a "Well, you couldn't have been waiting long or we would have heard you."
I think I was the only person staying there. I checked out in the morning and decided I would find somewhere a little less like the Bates Motel to stay for the remainder of the week.
All was well until my return journey. The flight was delayed, this time by 2 hours. Due to a spot of rain apparently over a house somewhere in London.
The flight itself was fine, apart from the pilot's unnerving sense of humour, which went something like; " Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this ... Sorry for the delay in take off, but we broke the last plane and had to look around for another. Luckily we found this one."

I arrived just after midnight and decided to call the car park on my mobile to ensure they could collect me.
Unfortunately this distraction led me to miss the sign pointing to baggage collection by about two feet.
Now I am all for airport security, but I had smiled at the guy on the desk as I walked past him and still had my boarding pass in my hand, so there could be no possible doubt that I had come off the plane. He just happened to be the 'Jobsworth' that we all know and love and flatly refused to let me through the gate to collect my bag as I had walked past it.
Following my utterance of words that have only previously been heard in the film The Exorcist (I think I probably resembled Regan in appearance by this point too), I narrowly missed being arrested and stomped off to find some help. An hour and a half later, having gone through security yet again, this time with the added bonus of being frisked by a particularly masculine looking woman, they eventually released my bag and I picked up my car and continued on my journey.

And the wonderful thing is, I am doing it all again next week!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Now you may not be aware of this, but I own a farm. Or should I say owned. By the time you read this it will be all over. I am a ruined woman. I can't go on any longer.

It all began when I was working on my final assignment for this year for my psychotherapy degree.

Facebook was running on my laptop as I was working, just in case any of my friends should be in need of an urgent chat, and then, out of the blue, I was offered a farm. Well I jumped at the chance, especially, being a lover of the outdoor life. I saw it as a new opportunity to show off my gardening skills, especially following my recent disasterous efforts with my small plot of land in the village.

But this farm has taken over my life. It started innocently enough, as these things often do. I excitedly ploughed a couple of fields and planted some seeds, harvested my first crop of soya beans and began to feel my skills were being recognised. I had a couple of friends offering me cash to use on my farm and even gifts of trees, sheep and pigs. I really came into my own when asked to look after a couple of stray horses that had wandered onto my farm, having always been an easy touch for wandering stallions.

Anyway, before I knew it, I started getting more and more requests, some of them downright impossible to fulfill. It was Helen needing a spare plank of wood here, Nathan, a horse blanket there. I don't believe him to be a real friend at all, just after my extra bricks if you ask me. And what do I get in return? A lousy nail or two, that's all. I am up at the crack of dawn, tending their crops, scaring crows from their farms and feeding their chickens, but ask for a pair of gardening gloves and they are nowhere to be seen. So I have had enough. I can't get any other work done, my assignment remains unfinished, I haven't time to write or even go to the beach. My life is not my own any more. All I hear is "Would you like to send a gift to Harry?" "Would you like some of Charlotte's left over goats milk?" "Would you share your hard earned fuel find with Lindsay?" Well no, quite honestly I wouldn't! Enough is enough, I am selling up.
Well perhaps I'll just check that the cows are ok first...

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Postcards from Norfolk?

So what is the difference between a rook, a jackdaw, a raven and a crow? Answers on a postcard please. Or should I say email.
Whatever happened to postcards? We don't even send them from our holidays now. Not that I ever did. I could never understand why anyone would want to spend time on a long awaited break, carefully choosing and writing postcards to people who, I can phone or visit, should I wish to contact them, which I probably don't - hence the holiday. I certainly don't want to let them know where I am!

Anyway, not really that important - the avian question, that is. Whatever the species of our feathered friends, one of the little buggers keeps building a nest in my chimney. And they do it so quickly. If Barratt could work that fast, the housing crisis in the UK would be over in days. The Big Issue would go out of business. This weather is far too warm to light a fire every day and I cannot even contemplate going up a ladder to the roof, (oooh reminds me of the old Supremes song).
Talking of the Supremes, I was thinking the other day of when I was a teenager. (I know, amazing how far back we can remember isn't it?)
What sparked it all off, was listening to the radio and the concerns bands have about internet downloads of their music.
How things have changed.
We used to go off to Coventry Theatre on a Saturday afternoon and saw such amazing groups (as they were called then) as Status Quo (with short hair and quiet music), The Kinks, Supremes (complete with Diana Ross), The Hollies, Love Affair, Troggs to name but a few, and all for 5 bob. Yes, that's 25p. We would be armed with posters, lovingly made from rolls of wallpaper using brightly coloured felt pens, all declaring our everlasting love (usually lasted about a week) for that particular star. Afterwards we would charge round the back of the theatre to the stage door, hoping to catch a glimpse of our idols. Our hopes were pinned on them, catching sight of us, falling in love instantly, with all thoughts of their current girlfriends/ wives expelled from their minds for ever. I actually grabbed a chunk of the hair from one of the Kinks, in a moment of passion. Come to think of it, he didn't look too pleased, although I interpreted his expression as adding to his mean and moody look at the time.
Talking of mean and moody (these links are flowing thick and fast today aren't they?), I think the dustmen of Great Yarmouth win the prize for the meanest this week.
Now I, like my neighbours in the village, have two wheelie bins. There is a green one for plastic bottles, anything that comes through my door that isn't a letter (my interpretation not GYBC's) and cardboard. The black one is for general household rubbish, but not food waste. There are a variety of other rules attached to this waste disposal business, but too many to go into now.
Suffice to say that I have to move the bins every time I want to get to and from my front door, and apparently we are shortly to have a new arrival soon, meaning I will probably have to use the back door to enter my own property.
Now, this would not be so bad if the dustmen, or sanitation engineers, to give them their politically correct title, would empty the damn things.
There are four of them who visit once a week. One drives the truck, one looks in the bin to see if I have sinned by sneaking in some rubbish that I shouldn't, moving the bin two inches forward to assist his colleague who pushes the bin onto the automatic lift to empty it. The fourth, well I am not quite sure what he does, maybe takes notes and inserts the yellow or, in particularly criminal households, red cards into the handles.
So when I noticed my green bin had not been emptied for several weeks, I decided to take drastic action - this in my case taking the form of my getting up before 7am, lying in wait behind the curtains and at the appropriate moment running out, still in my pyjamas and slippers, and chased the neglectful and rapidly absconding man up the road, shouting "Oy you" as I went. When I eventually caught up, I was subjected to a grilling that would have put the KGB to shame. He looked at me as if I was a naughty child (I expect it was the princess pyjamas), sucked in his cheeks (thought only car mechanics did that) and proceeded to ask me what I had been putting in the bin that could have led him to his choosing not to do his duty.
Eventually, he gave up on this line of questioning and we looked together. Seems, I had offended by putting some plastics bottles (acceptable) into the bin in a plastic carrier bag (not acceptable). And on top of that, the most heinous crime of all, I had not turned the bin through 45 degrees so that the handle was conveniently placed for easy access to man number two.
And the funniest part of all, when I told my neighbours this sorry tale, they all nodded knowingly and glowed with pride at their apparent godliness in the bin department.
I obviously have much to learn about village life.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Mellors and the 'Wets'

I am writing this quietly because I don't want Mellors to be upset again this week.
Now I am not saying Ingrid wasn't lovely. She was from 'Sveden' and I think this may have led to a few communication problems, but, to be fair, she did her best.
For example, when she asked if we had 'done the vermin', Mellors stopped shaking for a minute to look at me with disgust. "Yes," I said proudly, to ensure his self esteem remained intact, "Mellors takes care of any mice."
Then I realised she was asking me if he had been wormed. Not the most dignified of procedures at the best of times - the nightmare administration of the tablet (pre Marmite idea), followed by the flying leap through the cat flap a couple of hours later, and a lot of frantic digging, soil scattering everywhere, to cover up the embarrassing...
Well, I am sure that's probably enough detail, you get the idea?
So, we left the 'Wets' about an hour later, Mellors having got back in to his transporter basket a damn sight quicker than it took me to get him in it earlier that morning. We both cried all the way home. Mellors, because of injections, thermometers and and the general trauma of the whole experience, me because I was wondering how I was going to pay the bill - not so different from the size of a small mortgage.
Suffice to say, Mellors and the 'Wets' has never been a match made in heaven.
On top of all this, he is now on a special diet, the cost of which probably exceeds Gordon Ramsay's finest menu selection. I can tell you, the 'F' word was not far from my lips either.
It did cross my mind on our way home that there might be an alternative to funding this diet. Well to be really honest there was more than one alternative, but you may think me heartless if I told you my initial thoughts.
We passed a butchers shop in Great Yarmouth with a big sign outside advertising 'Chitterlings and jot.'
For the offally unaware of you out there, chitterlings are pigs intestines, and there are 4 types of cows stomach called reed, weasand, honeycomb and jot. Now I prefer the outsides of animals if I eat them at all, but you never know, Mellors might enjoy. I mean, if he can eat mice with such relish, who knows?
I was going to attach a picture of the offending innards but I thought I would spare you and offer instead a picture of Mellors relaxing and carefree, all thoughts of needles far from his mind.
While he recovers I thought I would share with you that the receptionist at the 'Wets' (Broke patient confidentiality) and told me they have another cat on their books called Mellors! I think he may have a relapse if he finds out, so can you keep it quiet for now?
P.S. According to an article in The Independent, Great Yarmouth is one of the few places left where you can buy such delicacies as Chitterlings, which are becoming more popular in these difficult financial times. Think I'll stick with the fish and chips and donuts!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Never mind the Quality...

It wasn't long before the seasonal peace was shattered.
The familiar low growl, the simultaneous opening of back doors and the threatening cries of "Get in here now!" rang out across the village.
For me, this was quickly followed by a feeling of smugness. A bit like the feeling you get when you see your child on stage for the first time in the school concert, even if they only have a non speaking role as a plant stand or something. This maternal glow came about because it suddenly dawned on me that Mellors was standing right behind me in the kitchen and looking a little startled at my accusatory outburst. This could only mean one thing - there is another cat around. It sounded, from the safety of my kitchen as if Sally's cat next door had put up a good defence. Mellors looked up at me, in true manly style while glancing nervously at the door, as if to say, "You know I would be out there like a shot, but it sounds like it has been dealt with."
I think he is losing his touch.
I think I might be losing my grip on reality too since I have been back. I have always loved Alice in Wonderland (the story that is), However I did not think that when I put on the DVD for Abigail over Christmas, she would want to watch it continually. I counted at least six showings. Very strange film, it seems now, although as a child it seemed perfectly acceptable to me. I am so glad she has such good taste, like Grandma.
So when everyone had gone home after a lovely family Christmas and New Year, I thought I would do a bit of tidying up and home making.
On my boat this involved no more than a quick wipe of the sink with a damp cloth, lifting Mellors from the bed, brushing it down, brushing him down and putting him back again.
A house, it seems, takes a little longer, and costs more. So I thought I would summon all my creativity, and save money at the same time.
Not for me the expensive artwork from Ikea. No, I decided to buy some frames and pop in my own photos of the local area.
Now I know this is unusual for me but I got distracted.
I opened the cupboard to get out the hammer to put up the pictures and came across the bag with the orange and strawberry creams from the Quality Street tin. Do you remember, the tin of Quality Street that I had to buy to get a tin to put the mince pies in that I had made?
Well of course, I managed to eat most of the chocolates, but I never have been able to stomach the fruit creams.
I had lost the bit of paper with the different flavours on, long ago, so all the soft centres now have thumb prints in, just to make sure no hard centres escape my ingestion.
Would you believe I went to the village post office the other day and had a long and heated discussion about this very issue. Even harder to believe - they actually like the soft centres! So I am off to donate my left overs to show my appreciation for this valuable village facility. They do have some strange tastes in Norfolk.
On my wal;k there I had another idea for creative decor - a floral display. Now all I need is some sand. Any ideas where I can get some from?

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Home for Christmas

...Well I never thought I would be, and it feels good!
The village is looking lovely with Christmas tree aglow on the green. Houses using a years supply of electricity in two days on displays of lights that would put Disneyworld to shame. Hundreds of people with vacant expressions and long lists walkng aimlessly around the supermarket in search of more of anything that might possibly run out in the one day that the shops are closed. And I love it.
Mellors is getting excited too.
The trauma of getting him off the boat, into the cat basket and across the lock, far behind him now as he smells the ham cooking and awaits the inevitable spillage of food during my, often failed attempts to emulate the goddess that is Delia. It doesn't seem to matter what food, anything goes as it is even more attractive to him when stolen from under my nose.
He has settled in very quickly and has not yet stopped purring. He has taken up his place in the window, watching and waiting for his old enemy, the cat next door to appear. Their relationship, as with most of Mellor's relationships was always a little troubled. They would take it in turns to sit in the middle of each others back garden paths, preventing the other from entering the house.
All has been reasonably quiet so far, but hoses are primed and at the ready on both sides of the fence, in preparation for the inevitable battle.
I have had a few comments about my remark in the last blog, re the village chip shop. I have to say, I take it all back and offer my apologies. I treated myself to a very delicious skate and chips the other evening, one of the best meals I have tasted in a long time.
So, snow on the ground, a full fridge (And drinks cupboard), family and friends around - all is well with the world.
I wish you all a peaceful and happy time and look forward to an even better 2010.

p.s. the picture is the sand dunes not the Alps.

x Tillie x

Monday, 7 December 2009

On Dry Land

Surprisingly, I have had many requests to continue 'blogging' even though I am now a land lubber. I guess this may mean I will lose some of my canal dweller followers, although I hope not as I would like to keep in touch with what is happening on the water. You can take the girl out of the Grand Union, but you can't take the Grand Union etc etc.
I moved Argy to his final (for the moment) resting place and, true to form, he put up a fight to the last.
It was a very windy day, but that does not come close to explaining, how, when I untied the ropes, Argy did an extremely swift turn around and headed off in the opposite direction, leaving me, hanging on for dear life, my feet getting nearer and nearer the edge of the cut, sliding rapidly through the mud as if in a losing tug o'war team.
I managed to hang on however, it is surprising what strength you can muster in a crisis. After a few choice words, (not for publication) I leapt on his rear end like a seasoned rodeo rider, took control of the tiller for the last time and promptly burst into tears.
These last few weeks have really taken their toll on my emotions and I don't think I realised, quite how much I will miss the canal life.
I soon had to pull myself together however to narrowly avoid hitting a group of canoeists who had also decided to venture out in the force nine gale, and were managing with slightly more difficulty than I was,to travel in a straight line that day.
I am now wondering if there is a collective name for canoeists - a scull maybe?
I digress, unusual for me I know.
Anyway, it was back to the car, or rather two cars, as both Kerry's and mine were loaded up to the roof with what seemed,to have expanded overnight, from a few possessions into a houseful.
We set off for Norfolk with the beautiful Abigail in her child seat looking nervously at the massive towers of saucepans, clothes and books which surrounded her.
And where on earth did all those coat hangers come from? It is a well known fact that they breed in wardrobes and I think the canal must be a particularly fertile place as they seem to outnumber my clothes by at least two to one.
So, my tenant from hell hell is over and I am back in Nelson's country.
The people are still as welcoming, the skies still as big, the sunsets still as magnificent and they still haven't changed the fat at the village chip shop.
I am certain there will be many more tales to come.