Archive for October, 2015

What light through yonder window breaks?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2015 by David Palmer

The days are certainly becoming more autumnal now, the dark encroaches ever earlier and preceded by a distinct nip in the air. The red grapes are safely harvested (bar a few late  ripeners) and their juice bubbling away satisfactorily in the largest tub I have. I worry about a possible frost which may defeat my plans for the later ripening white grapes. Fingers crossed the sugar levels will increase before they arrive.

The sweet corn is equally slow to ripe this year, though I have picked around 20 or so that have ‘mostly’ sweetened into a nice golden maturity, a bit like Sue and I! The leeks have also had their first picking and it is much-needed as it looks as if I have made the same mistake as last year and planted far too many. I hate throwing the little seedlings away, thus leading to a diet consisting mainly of leeks towards the latter end of the winter. Oh well, they must be good for us as we are still here.

The fennel is  now finished and my Thai Green Curry will be the less tastier for its passing, the beetroot has been available for over two months now, and in order to stay on top of them  I have started to give them away, though with Nan passing I don’t have an outlet at the Old Wrinklies Sanatorium any-more. Kohl Rabi, turnip  and parsnips are fattening out and will be available for the kitchen over the next few weeks.

The other day we had Mia to stay and on my afternoon walk I came across an amazing hedgerow of blackberries. Luckily Mia had only filled one of the two poop-bags I had in my possession so the spare one got filled with the most sumptuous of berries and Mia had to hang on until we returned to base. This spurred Sue and I into gathering mode. First, I diverted on the following mornings cycle ride to Gumley Woods to check out  the state of the sweet chestnuts. This led to a series of disappointed SMS between the family as I had to report that it would be a week or so yet before the clan could gather to prickle their fingers and fill Tesco bags with bounty. The cob-nuts were not such a disappointment as Sue and I made two forays to the hedge at the back of my allotment.  There are now 5 large containers of little brown nuts drying on various windowsills around the house.

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I drove over to Rothwell to dig up a rather large succulent that had grown too big for Charlotte’s gardens. I expected that the task was going to quite hard work but after drastically trimming it and with Suraj and Charlotte helping to lever the plant from its very dry and clay bed it proved not so. In around an hour I was back to Harborough digging a hole in the lawn next to the drive and it now reside there. Hopefully it will survive the winter and flourish.

Despite the disappointment of the Welsh game I have continued to watch the rugby on Saturdays, on the big screen in the lounge with my fellow disheartened ex-rugby playing friends, cheered by good ale and fast food.

On the 13th Sue and I travelled to the Blue Boar Inn near Temple Grafton, just 10 minutes drive from Stratford-upon-Avon. We arrived at this popular and picturesque hostelry around 11am, put on our walking boots and trotted along a circular route through the surrounding countryside, mostly following the Grafton Way. We stopped for a picnic lunch on a bench near the pretty village of  Ardens Graften, which incidentally is near a hamlet called Little Britain. I did drive through this a few days later and emerged unscathed. Returning to the Inn we checked in and after inspecting the small but pleasant room we had a meal in the bar, chatted to some locals who were interested in where we came from and then drove into Stratford. We had tickets for the Arts Theatre and the opening night of a musical called ‘Our House’, based on the music of Madness. We could have seen ‘Hecuba’ or ‘Henry V’ at the RSC, surprisingly there were tickets to be had, but we both agreed that something a little ‘lighter’ was for us. It was performed in the round and being on the front row we were only a metre away from the actors. A very enjoyable evening and despite in my younger days hating the songs, they have proved to be very annoying ‘ear-worms’ in our dotage. The story-line was centred around the right and wrong life decisions made by the leading character, cleverly linking the outcomes to the board-game Monopoly.

After breakfast the following morning, we drove into Stratford to ‘do the Bard’. Along with other tourists we had an official guided tour of the town visiting all the locations associated with William Shakespeare . Owen, our guide, was very good, proving to be very knowledgeable and humorous. The tour lasted over two hours, after which we visited the Pen and Parchment for hot chocolate. From there we made our way to the riverbank and caught one the little boats that plough up and down the Avon. We were its only passengers in what was turning into a chilly afternoon. The trip lasted 40 minutes and gave good views of the rather splendid Stratford river-side properties that we guessed regularly ended up under water during winter floods.

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We stopped awhile at the oldest pub in Stratford, ‘The Garrick’ for hot mulled wine to warm the bones.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the town, finishing up with a visit to Shakespeare’s birth place. Late on a chilly afternoon proved to be a good time to visit as the majority of Japanese and American tourists had long since disappeared. We had plenty of time to read the information boards and enjoy the exhibits.

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After our evening meal back ta the Blue Boar we returned to the town to watch ‘Suffragette at its only cinema.’ Its other screen was showing ‘The Martian’ and was undoubtedly popular, but our rather smaller audience were obviously much more sophisticated as they came in carrying glasses of wine form the bar next door. So thespian. ‘Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used; exclaim no more against it.’

We returned to the town the following morning after breakfast and having checked out. We thought we were the first visitors to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, judging by the absence of cars in the car-park, yet on entry we discovered a bus load of 60 Americans had beaten us. We opted to dally in the orchards and gardens while the Yankee Doodle Dandies vacated the Cottage. With the building quiet and free of large frames we had the place and Tudor actors to ourselves. A lovely place, well worth a visit.

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We drove into the town and next visited Harvard House. Though not strictly related to William it is a good example of an original Tudor House and also worth a visit. Next on the list was Hall’s Croft, the home of William’s daughter Susanna  and her husband Doctor John Hall. Another fascinating original house.

Next we drove out of the town to Mary Arden’s Farm, the home of William’s mother. We should have planned the whole day here. There are so many different Tudor demonstrations going on throughout the day. We watched the blacksmith make nails, then moved on to watch the ‘Palmer’ household (I kid you not), have lunch in the farmhouse. We then chatted to the shepherd and his very tame ram before exploring the fields and orchards and solving the hay-bale maze. Lastly we watched and participated in a superb falconry display. Regretting that we had to start our journey home, we made for the car-park.

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I had thought about stopping at Draycot Reservoir on the return route but as we neared our destination it started to rain, so we carried on home, arriving just in time for fish and chips in the evening.

The town of a million benches.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2015 by David Palmer

IT’S JUST A GAME OF RUGBY!

Oh no it’s not. It’s a sad reflection on the state of  the English game. The squashing of individualism by over-influential coaches  persistently stressing the mantra of ‘being a team member’ and thereby stifling the creativity that these players displayed in ‘shed loads’ during their formative  years and through which they were first noticed and thereby rose to the peak of their profession. As in society if you don’t fit in with the system, you don’t play! You conform. English rugby has become no different to the prescriptive path to which we all tread if we want to lead ‘successful lives’.

I remember in the eighties/nineties  that Rugby League controversially poached the best and talented Welsh players to bring excitement into a game that was to many minds stagnating into a fast but repetitive sport. Well, what have we got now? Over the last decade we have seen the reverse, tough hard running League players being enticed into the even faster and flowing Union version. What has the result been? The inclusion of players that are revered by their Union counterparts for the skills that were undoubtedly successful in the modern League format of ‘big hits’ and ‘off loads’ in the tackle. Yes, League does have individuals that can spot a break and create excitement, but I point out there is only 13 in a side and consequently a lot more space to ‘work in’. Look what happens in the Union game when one side goes down to 14 players. No, the damage hasn’t been done by the narrowing of minds of players through the inclusion of ‘stars’ from our sister game, but through the over control and micro-management of teams by their coaches and the eradication of overt individualism for the sake of the team tactics (as laid down by the coaching staff).

Of course you do have to train to play the game efficiently, and you do need to take the field with everyone knowing how you intend to play in order to defeat the opposition. And, you do need coaches to help you along that process. Yet, why if you are beating Wales (fairly comfortably) and in control for 60 minutes, do you take off  players throughout the game that are not injured or playing badly and were notionally your strongest combination, to the point where they are no longer a functioning outfit? Wales also replaced several players, but that was forced through injury and exhaustion. It summed it up at the end of the game when with time running out, England kicked for the corner. What would Ben Youngs have done for his Leicester Club?  What would the All Blacks have done? What would I have done? We would have tapped the ball immediately the penalty had been given and knowing that your back-row would have been expecting you to do that, they would have been with you. Why would you want to give the opposition an opportunity to compete for the ball in a line-out? Unless, that is what your coaches have drilled into you to do, regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

The squad (to my mind) is sufficiently good to progress to the semi-finals at least, as gauged by their individual performances week in, week out for their clubs, but there is a lot wrong with the England coaching set-up and the organisation of the England RFU itself. Why can’t you select your best players when they play in another country just 19 nautical miles away? Why was Burgess playing at the expense of a recognised career coached Union centre? Why is Farrell an England coach? Why was Ford not selected at no. 10? The last two questions seem to be linked somehow. No doubt these and many more questions will be discussed in the media over the coming two weeks, I shall read them all looking for answers, but what is really needed is a very stiff broom.

Regrettably I always suspected we would crash out in the quarter-finals , but that’s because I was half English, luckily, I am now half Welsh.

With that rant off my chest I can now sit more easily and write this blogg, so here goes……………

We finished August off with a visit from Sarah and Mia. We had a shortish walk to exercise the pooch before they left to visit Charlotte for the rest of the afternoon. A couple of days later it was Charlotte’s birthday so she and Sue and went to Kilworth House to see a performance of ‘Legally Blonde’. Though fully booked, by continually checking the website Sue managed to get cancelled front row seats just the day before. Weather wise it was  a miserable afternoon, I know because I spent it at the allotments, much better to have been watching a play. As Charlotte said, “A lovely way to finish off a birthday.”

The following day was Suraj’s and Charlotte’s wedding anniversary and Sue and I went to see ‘Suite Francaise’ at the Odeon Kettering. Despite my reservations it turned out to be a very enjoyable film.

We had new carpets laid in the lounge and dining room. The old ones had started to look tatty and quite threadbare in places,  so the bullet had to be bitten and the agonising process of trawling the various outlets and picking a new floor covering gone through. With that accomplished, I visited a local joinery to have some smart oak carpet edgings made to replace those already in situ. The day before the fitting I had the task of ripping up the old carpets and storing them in the garage as Charlotte wanted them for her chicken run and allotment. It passed through my mind that I should wear one of the face masks that I keep in the garage as the job was quite likely to be a very dusty affair. I wasn’t wrong and I regret that I hadn’t. Around an hour after completing the task I began to feel a little achy and cold. An hour later I was shivering in bed with a hot water bottle and paracetamol. I remained there shaking all night until I dragged myself from my coffin when the fitters turned up to lay the new carpets early the following morning. When they had completed the job to Sue’s satisfaction they informed me that the doors had been taken off as they needed to be trimmed to accommodate the greater thickness of carpet. I thought that job isn’t going to get done any time soon and disappeared off back to bed  to emerge two days later, thinner but feeling better. Mental note to brain: Take notice of the few wise thoughts you have nowadays and act appropriately, and I may just avoid the mishaps that I am so good at prophesying to others!

I trimmed the doors without problem, though I needed Sue’s help in putting them back on as they are so heavy. The following day I took the carpets down to Charlotte’s allotment and together we spent a pleasant afternoon relaying the carpets in the chicken run (much to the interest and pleasure of the hens) and covering the various dug sections in order to inhibit weed growth. A few days later Charlotte went down with the chills and aches. So it was the carpets after all!

On the Saturday the Rothwells came over and Sue and I treated the boys to  £5 pounds worth of rides on the Fair that was occupying Welland Park for the weekend. On the Sunday, the whole family (less Jamie, who was attending a car rally) went to see the Lubenham scarecrows. Despite rain being forecast, it was a hot lovely day and the number and variety of scarecrows was exceptional. Afterwards we had tea in the back garden.

The following week saw the Rugby World Cup begin with England taking on Fiji. It had been decided by my ex-rugby playing friends that the game should be watched here, on the big screen, with fish and chips. And that is what we did. Oh what fun we had and little did we expect  the depressing performances to come. The following week we met again, this time with Chilli and baked potatoes and agonisingly again the following week with hot-dogs and eye-watering onions (though that may not entirely have been the onions). I shall say no more on the matter.

The following day I went with Andy Spencer to see the Tigers take on Newcastle Falcons. A nice day out and with the right result. The next day saw me travel down to Cardiff with Paul Bissell to see Wales take on Uruguay. I had originally thought that I wouldn’t bother to  watch any of the World Cup matches other than on the TV as ticket prices were rather pricey. However, Paul managed to get two tickets while I was at the Tigers and I couldn’t say no when he rang.  We drove down to Caerphilly as all the parking spaces in Cardiff had long since been taken, had breakfast in a Wetherspoons opposite the train station and then caught a train into Cardiff Central, just some ten minutes away from the Millennium Stadium.  Of course the city was packed with supporters from all nations, though predominantly Welsh. I fitted in as I was wearing my red referee’s shirt, it did draw a few puzzled looks. We visited a couple of bars to soak up the atmosphere then made our way to the ground via a couple of  Welsh beef burgers. The Welsh of course were victorious, though the Uruguayans were plucky opposition and surprisingly skilled for a  minor South American  team. Afterwards we joined the throng in the city before opting to make our way back to the station. Waiting in a queue for 20 minutes we boarded the train back to Caerphilly and Wetherspoons for curries and to watch the All Blacks struggle against the Romanians, before setting off later that evening back to Harborough.

 

Taken with Lumia Selfie

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On the 28th Sue and I drove to Llandudno for three days break. We stopped off at Caergwrle to visit the castle and have a picnic. It was lovely to see that the Honeysuckle we had planted for Nan was still alive and in flower. Also it was interesting to see that some one is doing some historical investigations on the site. Rather strangely, we had rung Noel and Gay (who live in Mold) before we had set off, to see if they were available for a short visit, on our way to the coast, they hadn’t answered. I rang again when we arrived in Caergwrle and again during our picnic  on the castle, still with no answer. We assumed they were out shopping or over in France, where they often go. Who should we meet at the bottom of the castle on their way to the top but Noel and Gay. They were going blackberry picking up on the castle. Weird. We chatted for a while next to Nan’s bench, stroked their new pet Beagle and then left them to their fruit gathering and we continued our way to our destination.

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We arrived at our seafront hotel in the middle of the afternoon, checked into a lovely room and set off to explore. Sue had been doing some research into the available entertainment and we found the rather impressive Llandudno Venue and enquired at the ticket office and were rewarded with two tickets to a performance that night of the Beijing Dance Academy, they were on a world tour with only three dates in the UK, this being the first, the others being London and Edinburgh. We had seen them before n Beijing, and knew it was going to be good. After a wander along the promenade and pier we changed back at the hotel, found a nice restaurant to have the traditional fish and chips and made our way to the theatre. It was full, we were lucky to have got tickets. The dances were all based on  traditional Chinese folk and village stories and beautifully executed. A mesmeric evenings entertainment, the interpretation of stories were lost in the differing cultures but the mixture of music, flowing and dynamic choreography was a real treat for such a little seaside town. We discovered that Bangor University had strong links with the Academy and this had prompted them to start their tour at this quite obscure venue. That said, the theatre itself would grace any large city and the packed audience, being principally Welsh, certainly appreciated what they were seeing.

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After breakfast we set off to climb the Great Orme. We could have reached the top by tram, vintage bus or even cable car but we determined to walk the many paths to the top. The first part was steep going but the views and gardens we passed through were certainly worth it. A beautiful warm cloudless day.Our route took us first up the Ski slopes and then along to the little church of Saint Tudno. A lovely spot and where I decided on the name for this blog. You cannot help but notice that everywhere you go in this town there is always a bench or seat to rest your weary limbs.  Perhaps the age of the incumbent population may have something to do with such proliferation? We continued up the incline to the Top Station. There we rested and had coffee in the Randolph Turpin Bar (he was a boxer) with the many Tram and Cable car passengers. After the obligatory tourist shop we ventured into the  information centre and then set off downhill passing through a limestone quarry and after briefly searching for fossils we discovered the prehistoric copper mine about half a mile below the summit. We have been down mines and in caves before but this is a must visit attraction. Noel had urged me to visit when we spoke back in Caergwrle, and he was not wrong. Even if you only have the faintest sense of history, this place will fill you with awe. Over 35000 years old and only a tiny fraction of it yet discovered. The information trail through the mine is the best I have ever come across and really does  give you an impression of what life must have been like for those early miners. If you visit the Orme, you have to experience the mine.

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We continued our way down back to sea level stopping off at the Kings Head at the top of the town, next to the tram station to enjoy a much-needed drink and some impromptu music from a pair of locals.

Passing along the promenade we stopped awhile to watch the filming of an episode of ‘Indestructibles’, a new programme to appear on our TV in the spring. A Reliant Robin had been mounted on two large surf boards and was towed out to sea at speed by a jet ski with several passengers on board. They seemed to be having a lot of fun, but I found it more fascinating watching the camera mounted drone whizzing and zooming around the action capturing what I guess were some very spectacular shots (must get one?)

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As the day was still gorgeous and the sun still quite high above the horizon I suggested we tackle the Little Orme and to my surprise Sue agreed. Returning to the hotel we got in the car and drove over to our target, finding a suitable parking space in the Premier Inn across the road. It was another steep but less challenging climb that its greater sister, but the views again were spectacular. It has two peaks, we first visited the one with a cairn and nearest the sea cliffs, then traversed across to the higher Trig topped mount and rested awhile enjoying the views and counting the wind turbines out to sea. We passed a couple on the way back down, the only people we had seen on this lesser example of a Welsh mountain. The Inn had a restaurant attached to it so we stopped and had a very acceptable meal at a very reasonable price.

That evening we sat in the hotel lounge, played dominoes and listened to the circuit entertainer croon his way through a large selection of easy listening numbers. Not exactly our cup-of tea but he had a pleasant voice and the few other guests that eventually joined us knew all the songs off by heart. A nice way to spend an evening and though I had a slow start, I finished our game of dominoes strongly and I think shaded it at the end on score.

Another brilliant morning saw us pull on the walking boots after breakfast and head off to the west shore. Standing next to the boating lake we looked over to Conwy and across the bay/river mouth and guessed at the names of mountains, villages etc. we could see in the distance. There was a small school part on the beach playing games and we couldn’t help making observations about past trips we had been involved in. Sad isn’t it? But they were good old days.

Spotting a small cave on the side of the Orme we decided to climb the path that led close by. We reached a point below and sat down on yet another appropriately positioned bench, of course after first reading who it was dedicated too. The cave itself required some ‘off track’ scampering which Sue declined, so we sat awhile as I summoned up my now not often used scampering juices. We got in conversation with a passing couple from our hotel who had been coming to Llandudno since copper had first been mined and they gave us a string of must go places to visit. When they moved on I did my scampering and visited the cave. It was empty apart from a couple of empty cans of beer and a quite a lot of Orme goat droppings. Returning to Sue I suggested we did the Marine Drive trail and she agreed. So not only having walked over the Orme, we were now going to go around it.

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The first part was off-road and quite exciting, but after a mile or so we descended to the roadway and continued along with quite a few other like-minded walkers. Looking down we were fascinated by the large, impressive and no doubt very expensive properties dotted a long a very private road. Two of which we knew belonged to Jim Davidson and Cliff Richard. On the route around we came across many sites with one historical event or another linked to it and was explained briefly by board or in-depth by a bar code accessed by smart phone app. One such spot was where in the 1st World War some escaped German prisoners waited on five  consecutive nights to be picked up by a u-boat, but missed it each time and were eventually caught.

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We stopped for coffee and to read the newspaper at the half-way cafe before continuing on back into town. We stopped briefly at some ancient standing stones and some rather pretty communal gardens before returning to our car and heading to Rhos-on-Sea. Here there is (apparently) the smallest church in the UK. Very quaint and seating for just six souls. Moving on down to the point we did the touristy thing and sat on a few benches and looked at the boats and locals before returning to the car and driving home.

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My Fiesta passed its MOT on the Tuesday, so I filled its little belly with 95 octane to celebrate. The rest of the week was filled with preparations for redecorating the dining room. Sue stripped off the wallpaper, I filled all the holes and then painted the walls and woodwork. We purchased curtains and new wall and ceiling lights and then fitted them. We think it has given the room a much more modern and brighter feel to it. Lastly, we  hung our artwork on the walls. We are pleased with the results.

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Sarah and Mia came down for the day during the preparations and later Charlotte came over. They spent some time together shopping in Harborough (mostly Joules), before collecting the boys from school and then having tea with Sue and I. What is it with that shop? It’s beyond me why it is so popular, always full when I pass and I always seem to be walking behind people with a Joules tag openly displayed some where on their person. I shall stick to Heart Foundation and Cancer research, such a good choice of quality clothing.

Jamie has been away for a week in Spain with three of his mates and returned on Saturday. Despite a couple of days of rain he has returned with a deep tan and with the news that the two women who were in the news this week, tragically drowning during a night swim were staying at his hotel. Rather drunk, ignoring the barman’s advice they went for a swim during a storm at 4am. Not surprising on the result. Such a shame that they also have children, but then I guess you don’t need intelligence or common sense to have them.

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While he was away we have been feeding his gerbil and corn snake and I repaired his bedroom wall as the door handle had made a hole in it. Apparently it happened when packing he discovered that ‘his friend’ had also stolen his Go-pro and collection of baseball hats. Sue has seen ‘his friend’ a couple of time in town over the last few weeks, but I have yet to cross his path.

Yesterday, the Rothwells came over for tea. Friday is becoming difficult as Ellis has now started soccer and has changed his training session to a later slot making it very late to travel her and eat. Jamie went out for a meal with Harley. Before leaving for Spain he mentioned that Harley had talked about getting engaged, oooooooooooooohhhhhh! Not sure how to take that. We shall see.

I mentioned in the previous blog that Charlotte and Suraj had changed their cars. As luck would have it, Suraj bought a Volkswagen Golf a week before the new broke of the company defrauding its customers with  false specifications. Ah, what can you do? Well, I for one will not be following Suraj and breathing in all that toxic diesel fumes until his software gets adjusted. However, last night Suraj and I went to see the new film ‘The Martian’,  of course I drove us both over to Kettering  in my pollution free Fiesta.

Snippets: Mia has had her own little snippet. She had a visit to the vet to prevent any future little embarrassments. As she had to be watched until she was healed we looked after her on a couple of occasions while Sarah and Lee were at work. The first time she was very quiet and reluctant to move and slept a lot, on the second occasion she was a bit more bouncier but annoyingly kept going upstairs but couldn’t get back down again. I lost count of the number of times I had to carry her down. She is fine now and back to her young self.

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Ellis is learning to ride his bike without the stabilizers on. We tried teaching him by pushing him down the slope in the park and watching him career mostly out of control, until he fell over. It will take a few more sessions.

Sue’s sister Philippa took a tumble in the garden, broke her finger and made a bit of a mess of her face requiring gluing back together again.

Lee and Sarah have discovered their culinary skills and are forever posting photos of pies on Facebook that they have made. They look very tasty but without the opportunity to try them they could be cardboard cut-outs!

Charlotte has homed five more hens from another allotment holder who has decided to stop living the good life. Hopefully they will turn out to be good layers.

My red grapes are ready, so I spent a pleasant afternoon picking them and then two mornings taking them off the stalks. They are at present crushed and in two barrels fermenting.

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The other day we had yet another hot air balloon crash land in the field at the back of the house.

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