Sunday, 25 November 2012

Chapter Fifty Seven

Well this has been a mixed month for us both. There has been good things and bad things in almost equal measure.
Linda has improved steadily over the last few weeks at home and seems to have finally turned a corner with her depression. Her work definitely came across as being very good about things and realised she was trying to do far to much work in a day. As a consequence things have changed for the better down there and her phased return to work has been very productive and encouraging. Her friend Teresa has now been promoted to being her boss and Linda is hoping that all this will mark a new and more stable chapter in her work.
 I too, also had some good news about work. I lost my job at Grampound Road this summer as you probably know and have been doing all sorts of jobs in the meantime for Royal Mail. Finally I have been given more core hours and this has been a great relief to me.
25 hours a week contract now. I am still doing about 40 hours a week, but at least if I am off sick or on holiday I will get a decent wage.
However; I am now a reserve postman so I pick up all sorts of jobs...most of them blind. Because of my experience I have been able to pick up several rural duties. Its not been easy but I've enjoyed myself. Its a good way of seeing the area.
I doubt now that I shall ever be given a duty of my own because I have made myself a bit useful on the helping out front. We shall just have to see.
Jan and Jim Munro came down to Cornwall for a long weekend and popped in to see us on one Sunday. They are two good friends of ours and come from Bentley. They arrived during the Sunday morning and we took them out onto the Roseland. We had a decent walk along Carne beach followed by a tour around Portscatho and St Mawes. The weather was good and the company even more so. It was good to catch up and we had a good day. Sadly, all to soon, time crept on and they headed back to Hampshire. A lovely day though.
The weather has been very mixed this month but we still managed to get across to the Eden Project on a good day. We didn't go to wander over the place because we shall do that with Grahame and Julie when they come down at the end of the month. We shall make an evening visit of things when they get here and that will be good.
Our reason for visiting on this day was to renew our local tickets for the place. It costs local's £25-00 for the two of you...for two years. A brilliant idea and must pay them huge dividends. We had a one year ticket this year and I lost count of the visits we made. I used to pop in with a book and just sit reading in the peace and quiet for hours. Lovely. In variably I would have a coffee and a sandwich; on occasion I would buy something at the shop; so everybody benefits.
I wrote in my diary on the 17th of November that the ground is very wet underfoot. I also wrote that this saturated ground would not be able to take another huge downpour like the last one. That was quite prophetic.
 This last week has been one of the wettest I have ever experienced. The rain has teemed down for most of the week. Really torrential rain and quite relentless. When I first joined the post back in the '70's the old boys on duty used to have a saying. I have tried to live up to it as I know most postmen do.
They used to say...'When its raining; the milkman sits in his float and waits it out; the workmen climb into their tent or van and take shelter...but a postman turns up his collar and carries on'.
It used to be said with a sort of fatalistic sense of pride...but they meant it. I have lived by that code for the last forty years...but it was sorely tested this week.
At times it was as if somebody had turned a hose on me. Torrents of water have fallen and life has been difficult. The difference this week is that the water has nowhere to go; hence the flooding. There is water lying everywhere and it has become difficult to get around. Coupled with the very strong winds on Thursday something had to give.
On delivery the other day I helped an elderly lady who couldn't stay upright because of the force of the wind and rain. I carried her shopping for her and she held my arm. I swear it was only the pouch of mail slung around my neck that kept us firmly on the ground. I got her home safely so that was good. An hour later I was half drowned in the storm that broke over us all.
By Saturday afternoon our local river got up out of its bed and came up across the road. Linda and I were heading to St Cuby's church in Tregony to hear the Mevagissey Male Voice Choir do a carol concert. We couldn't get through and had to turn back.
An hour later, Linda and I were in the cottage next door with four other neighbours, and trying to help the old lady who lives there. Water was flooding in through the walls and swamping the downstairs of her place.
Just over two and a half hours later the six of us had managed to mop up most of the water, and divert most of the rest harmlessly past the house. We set up a runnel from the fireplace to the side door which carried a considerable amount of water straight through the house and outside. It was still running twelve hours later.
The other big divert was at the back door and we managed to divert the water around the house and away. I've never seen anything like it. It was only her cottage that suffered as well. The rest of us are not quite as vulnerable to the torrents of water pouring off the hill. For us...the water diverts itself through gullies and drains towards the creek. Her place is just to far away and a bit exposed.
Sunday morning found most of Cornwall counting the cost before the next lot of rain turned up. We couldn't use our road as the police had closed it so we had to go the long way around. We drove to St Austell to the huge market over near Par...and found it completly closed due to the lake of water covering most of it. Happy days.
As a final thing for the week I managed to get bitten by a Rottweiler on Saturday. The stupid owner only opened the door to see me while her dog was violently trying to get through the door at me. It bit my arm. Two things saved me from injury. My Royal Mail Storm Coat,,,and the wrist watch that my mates bought me just before I left Farnham to come down here. Thanks guys.
All else is quiet and we are looking forward to Christmas and seeing all our family members after the New Year.
I am not sure what sort of Christmas I am going to have as regards work...but I'm looking forward to it. We are watching old Christmas films and listening to Christmas songs and carols. If only our kids could be with us it would be perfect   

Monday, 5 November 2012

Chapter Fifty Six

Two weeks ago Linda became the proud owner of her own bit of Cornwall. Within the first week we were both up there and digging in. It is Linda's allotment and I will make no interference on the thing. It is best if I just quietly get on with digging out and clearing the ground for Linda to work it properly. I know my place. We put in a good afternoons work and there was certainly a difference to be seen afterwards.
This is the two plots just before we started work on them. The poles are to go in for the raspberries. Plot A is the one on the left and Plot B is on the right.
Linda has made up plans of how she wants the plots to develop and grow and it does look pretty good on paper. The left hand plot will consist primarily of soft fruits plus several rows of potatos on the lower half of it. The right hand plot will consist of vegetables and possible salad stuffs.
With all this in mind, the first job was to clear and dig over the section for raspberries, currants, and strawberries. Seemingly these can be the first crops to go in.
It went well and we did alright. By the end of the first day we had cleared, and dug over, and put in, two huge trenches for the raspberries, Nick has supplied us with two huge piles of manure, so part of that was dug into the trench and left to settle.
The following day we were back up there again to put in the six foot poles which will carry the wires. These wires will support the raspberry canes when they start to grow. Putting the poles in was hard work but we still had a laugh with it all. I'm not quite sure how we managed it but they all went in without to much of a problem...and remain surprisingly solid and upright.

The plots are well situated in a sloping field that faces south. All is very secure as the owner of the ground lives up there as well. He has his own growing places which supply his farm shop and he allows twelve plots to others in the area who want to grow their own.
Security is good as he is close by and there is also a decent water supply for our use as well. He will supply manure on request and also give you old pallets to convert into compost bins. There is also a communal shed that we share with the others.
Our field is quite large and split in two with a strong fence. There are cows in the lower half of it which I believe are the major source of the manure. The top half of the field, (the Northern end) is split up into the twelve plots. There does look to be room for more and these may be opened up at a later date.
Our two plots are to the right hand side of the field and close to a high hedge. This hedge protects all the plots from any north wind. We face south down towards the valley and with a hint of the sea beyond. There are two farms in front of us on the other side of the valley; one to the left and one to the right. They look lovely as we stand facing them. It is a lovely place to have an allotment in.
The soil is a basic clay type but with a good topsoil on it of about a spit deep. It seems well drained as well, so we are hoping for good things. Each plot is 32 feet by 16 feet (10 metres by 5 metres). There is a lot of work to do up there but Linda is very determined. I know I wont be doing a great deal to help as the whole thing is her baby really, but I will still contribute. My main contribution, with any luck, will be the eating of the crop...or watching Linda working.

Having said that; we were up there again today and cleared the last of the rubbish off the plots. It was a tough three hours or so but the difference once we had done was noticeable. Its going to look great in the future. Linda is very much the driving force behind this and you can see the difference we have made since we started. I must confess that I would never have bothered without her pushing things along. It is starting to look good though. Both of us have put the hours in up here as you can see...and I'm exhausted with it all. Thank God for wheelbarrows, that's what I say.

Linda is gradually metamorphosising (is that a word?) into a version of 'Doris Archer'. The kitchen is becoming a hive of industry as she is constantly making a variety of jams, jellies, and chutneys. Now she has discovered the secret of 'the rolling boil', the world is her oyster.
Dont ask me what a rolling boil is either. I'm a bloke and its a complete mystery to me. All I know is that when she discovered it... she felt like Dan Brown finding the Holy Grail...and was just as excited.
We now have cupboards full of pots of this and that; we have a freezer full of homemade soups and the like; and it wont be long before we have a cupboard full of home made wines. Its brilliant.
Thank God I have more hours at work or I would never lose the weight I am sure to pile on.
We had a lovely visit at the beginning of last week from Linda's mum. She had not been down here before but was able to get down for a three day visit. It was the perfect time really with Linda off work at the moment.
Her mum was unable to drive down here on her own so Roxanne and Steven brought her to Exeter in the van. We met up with them there and had dinner at the Barn Owl together before swapping her into our car and bringing her home. The two kids went back up country but promised to come back on Wednesday to collect her.         
Linda took her out on the Monday and took her all over the local area to give her a sense of were we live. They did the usual things of driving around the Roseland before heading on the King Harry Ferry across to Truro. Surprisingly, the rain held off for most of the day and they were able to enjoy the day.
Tuesday, in the afternoon, we both took her down to Mevagissey. This is becoming a favourite place of our's and we had a nice time just walking around the harbour and watching what was going on.
Sadly, all to soon her trip was over and on the Wednesday, Linda had to take her back towards Surrey.
They left early on Wednesday morning while I was at work and meandered slowly up country into Devon. Linda had planned on taking her mum to 'Otters' for lunch and a bit of a shop on the way. This they managed to do and had a great time before driving up to Ilminster to meet up with Roxanne. This is the halfway point on any trip from Farnham to Truro and we shall use it again.
Linda was able to get back in time to come with me to the quiz night at the local pub. That was our first one of the season this year because I have been at college every wednesday since it started. Thank God for half terms I say.
The weather has got colder now but still with a lot of sunshine about. We are experiencing some cold sharp showers of rain though, some of which can be very heavy. The ground is totally water logged after our atrocious summer and they are worried about flooding in the country at the moment. We seem to be OK at the moment though. We did have a hail storm on Friday though that made the whole place look snow covered.
This must have been a foretaste of things to come because the South West has been hit by an inch of snow already. Not here in Devon and Cornwall...but in Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, and parts of South Gloucester. Amazing.
Saturday 3rd November was a good day for us. The Coastwatch group I belong to had there annual lunch in Tregony village hall. Linda made a delicious sherry trifle for the event, and we also took a raffle prize along. It was great to meet up with the rest of the group and Linda and I enjoyed the whole thing. They are really nice people and I know I shall enjoy working alongside them.
As a side issue... I think Linda and I may be getting a little old. We had a great lunch and a drink or two before coming home, before both dozing off in our armchairs for a couple of hours. Would this be the first sign of us both needing the occassional 'afternoon nap'? Its a worry.
We were even too tired to bother going to the Tregony Firework Party that evening.