The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas at Todheugh

The Gipson's have a tradition that the main opening of presents does not begin before lunch has been finished and the washing up done. Stockings are allowed and one present may be opened by each person, but that is it. I remember my first Christmas at Paul's parents and being mildly upset by this revelation, but I must admit that now I like it. We informed my sister of this when they arrived, and was met by general moans but we held our ground. We were told that one of the nice things about Christmas was seeing all the kids out on their new bikes etc. Well, that was not going to happen here anyway.

On Christmas eve morning we packed Daniel and the dogs into the car and drove down to the field. Daniel soon found out that he could not run as fast as Jen. Susan came with us on the afternoon walk to Edrom. In the evening Paul, Susan and Daniel played the Business Game (also known as Mine a Million) - Daniel won. I was happy watching TV and doing some Su Dokus.

We awoke to a white Christmas - the temperature had dropped to -6C overnight and there was a very thick frost. It looked beautiful. Paul and I opened our stockings, and then Paul got up to take the dogs out and start preparing the turkey. Daniel was already up and downstairs with his stocking when I came down. I decided to go out with my camera to take some photos.

Paul had asked Susan to help with the morning dog walk as he was busy in the kitchen. She didn't want to come as she wanted to watch the Robbie Williams concert on TV. She volunteered to peel the potatoes instead which meant that Paul could come on the walk, everything else being under control at this time. We decided to walk the dogs down to the field rather than defrost the car and drive. We walked halfway down the field before letting Jen off the lead. Shortly afterwards we saw two deer in the next field running from left to right in front of us. Poncho was jumping and jarred Paul's back. Jen was transfixed. The deer ran out the side of the field, across the road into the next field and then disappeared from sight. Jen ran to the bottom of the field and then was trotting back and forth looking. I got her back on the lead. We continued walking to the other end of the field and I let Jen back off the lead. She continued running on to the far corner, and then just turned round and headed back to where we had come from. She then disappeared under the fence and by the time I got there was trying to find the best way down the bank. There was a small stream at the bottom, but that did not deter Jen - she loves water. And then she was up the bank the other side and into the next field. Paul volunteered to try to follow her, but I thought that was not the best idea in the world. I headed to the gate in the field, climbed over and walked up the road to the next field. Once I was there she came slowly looping towards me, looking very pleased with herself. We decided that was enough of a walk for the morning and headed for home.

The sun had come out and the lit up white trees against the dark grey clouds looked stunning. I headed back out with my camera. For anyone who is interested Paul has put all the photos on our website.

Paul asked Daniel to lay the table, but Daniel said he would only do it if he was allowed to open a present. Paul said no, but was immediately undermined by Susan telling him he could open a present anyway...

Lunch was ready by about 1.30 p.m. and we were all stuffed by about 3 p.m. I had wanted to watch Narnia on the TV but eventually gave up the attempt as the presents were being distributed. Susan brought down an enormous bag filled to the brim for Daniel. I waited until he had opened them before I brought down what we had bought him. The rest of us opened our presents - I thought I had done quite well with Paul as he had done his normal 'I don't want anything' routine. I had raided one of the charity shops and picked up Trivial Pursuit, Super Mastermind and another game for a fraction of their new cost. Paul had also done well for me with a set of Winnie-the-Pooh paint them yourself garden label figures.

Paul and I then cleared the dishes and did the washing up, and had just got back into the lounge when enquiries were made about tea. Neither of us were particularly hungry, so after a short break just put out a few things for a help yourself buffet.

We settled down in the evening to watch Dr Who, Strictly and the Vicar of Dibley, and generally chill out.

Boxing day and Paul was back in the kitchen. He had done a ham last year that was a great success and decided to do another one this year. Susan came with Paul and me on the morning walk, and then they settled down to watch Chelsea draw with Reading. Lunch was ready at half time. In the afternoon we played Cluedo - Charlie was a bit clueless and kept showing his cards and letting us know what people had shown him. We then decided to have another go at the Business Game, and we all played. Charlie was better at this, but I was victorious. In the evening we played the Sherlock Holmes card game, and Daniel won after showing no aptitude for the game when we played a hand at the start to let them get the hang of it.

Susan and Charlie were just getting up when Paul and I took the dogs out on Wednesday morning. They still had not finished packing the car by the time we got back. They had eventually sorted themselves out by about midday and headed off for Nottingham where they were breaking the journey at a friend's house.

The dogs had been very well behaved on the whole over Christmas, other then Jen's adventure. Daniel had received a few warning growls when they wanted some peace and quiet and had backed away from him only to be followed. Poncho, however, has since blotted his copy book. There was the loud crash of a plate smashing yesterday evening. I leapt up and found him heading back to the lounge with the remains of the turkey in his jaws.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

'Tis the Season to Eat Too Much

A week last Saturday our neighbour Margaret came round in the evening with fish suppers for us all. This was repayment for shortly after we moved up here when there had been a powercut and we had gone to the chippy when the power was still off in the early evening.

The following evening we went out to The Wheatsheaf in Swinton with Anne and Neil. We had a very enjoyable meal - the restaurant won the 'Best Tastes In the Borders' award and was very highly commended in the Scottish Hotel Informal Dining awards this year. We were quite late home which meant the dogs had been left longer than usual. We took them straight out when we got home, and then checked for any damage. Not too bad - there was an empty ramekin on the floor in the kitchen. It had been full of dripping mixed with birdseed, ready for my bird feeder. We know it was Poncho - the evidence appeared the next day...

On Thursday evening it was the Berwick Bridge Club Christmas Party. There was a two course dinner followed by 'fun' bridge. I had not played a hand since winning the Berwickshire Congress pairs with Paul earlier in the year. I played with Reg, who very kindly agreed to play my system. It was a very pleasant evening, and I don't think I played too badly. When we got home we found the presents under the Christmas tree had been joined by the beanbag, 2 pillows and one of the dog's rugs.

My sister and family arrived early Saturday evening. Paul did most of the cooking while they were here. He had been very organised with lists and menus. I did make soup for Saturday evening and an apple crumble for Christmas eve, but all the rest was Paul. I will cover Christmas in more detail in my next blog entry.

They departed late this morning, and peace has descended once again on our household. Daniel really likes the dogs, but I think they were somewhat disconcerted with the amount of attention they were given. They are now contentedly flaked out on their beds.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Winter Is Here

We have been 'frosted' in for the last three days. Indeed, the frost is so heavy that it does look like snow in places. The temperature has not risen high enough for long enough to clear it during the day, and has dropped as low as -5C at night.

The river is now visible from our house up to the bend in the road past Margaret's, at what we call the view point.

The wind was so strong last week that quite a few trees are down, so our washing line didn't really stand a chance...

There is still some colour in the garden. It had been so mild up until last week that I still had the odd rose flowering, and even quite a few flowers on the osteospermum. The cyclamens that I planted in the autumn are now in full flower...

and the mahonias, and several shrubs are bright with berries...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Poncho On The Mend

I took Poncho back to the vet on Friday evening for his bandage to be removed. He had been very well behaved and not attempted to chew it off himself.

There was a spaniel in the waiting room when we arrived. I allowed Poncho to say hello, and he was very good - just sniffing noses and tail wagging enthusiastically. Just after the spaniel was taken in to the treatment room a man came in with three small terriers. This was not quite so successful. A series of growls and barks ensued from all parties. The man decided that he would come back later...

The vet removed the bandage and cleaned up his foot. They had had to remove the stone from between his toes and have shaved his foot. It looks very sore. I got shown the x-rays - they showed nothing wrong other than the first stages of arthritis in his ankle and the small stone in his foot, so they hope that that was the problem. If it is muscular or a ligament it could take weeks to get better.

It does, however, appear to be what the problem was which is a relief. He is walking a lot better now, although we have not done any long walks yet. There was a slight set back yesterday when a hare suddenly ran out barely two yards in front of us, causing great excitement and leaps in the air. He may have re-opened the wound as he spent a lot of time lovingly licking his paw when we got home.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Poncho's Paw Update

Paul took Poncho back to the vet on Wednesday evening, as it had not improved and if anything was getting worse again. They could not find anything wrong, so arranged for him to go back in this morning for an x-ray.

We are assuming the first diagnosis of it being a problem with his elbow was down to the vet being over zealous and squeezing it too hard. The standard way of trying to find the problem with a greyhound is to poke and prod until they yelp, as they have a reputation of being drama queens and will quickly let you know if something hurts...

Jen was not impressed again as Paul and Poncho went out without her at about 8 a.m., but eventually stopped whining and lay back down on her bed. Paul got back about an hour later.

We had a phone call in the early afternoon saying the x-rays showed nothing wrong with his shoulder or elbow, but had shown up a sharp stone lodged in his foot. They had taken it out, and hoped that that had been the cause. He has also got the first signs of arthritis in his ankle.

I drove down later in the afternoon to collect him. The stone had been more like a flint that had splintered, and had been very difficult to get out. The vet has given him some pain-killer for the next few days. He needs to be kept in for the next 24 hours, just having pee breaks. No running for the next fortnight.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mainly Poncho...

Poncho's leg is still giving him trouble, although this afternoon it seemed a little better. He is not helping himself. He still gets very excited when it is time to go out, leaping up from his bed and rushing out to the lobby. He then twirls and hops about with his sore paw in the air. He is using it when we are walking on soft surfaces such as the lawn and verges, but he is still hopping a lot of the time when we are walking on the road. Strangely it doesn't seem to bother him at all if there is something interesting to sniff. He also still wants to be first out the door and leading the way, and is amazingly adept at rushing onwards on three paws.

We have taken them both up to the field again a couple to times, letting Jen run around but keeping Poncho on the lead. It has helped to release some of Jen's excess energy as our walks have short to say the least.

He finished his course of tablets this morning. Luckily they are like treats, so we had no problem getting him to take them. On the contrary, Jen looked quite upset that she was not getting them as well.

We will see how he is tomorrow. If there is no more improvement I think it will be another trip to the vet.

I spoke too soon re the garden. I had been forewarned as Paul noticed J Parker had taken another payment from the credit card. The Japanese anemones turned up the next day, along with the missing cultural instructions. I read them avidly to find out what I should have done, but other than telling me the preferred location of the plants there was no clue to planting depths so I am still none the wiser.

I braved the wind and cold, and planted the anemones in one of the cleared seed beds in the long bank. Hopefully I will be able to transplant them next year into the high bank. I also covered the crowns of the paeonies with a layer of compost, as a hard frost was expected and came to pass over the weekend.

I have been keeping the bird feeders topped up now that there is less for the birds to eat in the hedgerows. I am competing with all of my neighbours - we must have some of the best fed birds in the country. The feeders are located so that I can see them from the lounge, and on most days I am rewarded by various tits and robins. On Saturday, however, I was totally stunned to see a woodpecker at the peanut feeder.

Preparations for Christmas are progressing well. My sister (Susan), her husband (Charlie) and son (Daniel) are coming for a few days. We have put our order in at the butcher shop in Chirnside. All the cards have been written and are ready to post. Most of the presents have been bought, including Paul's after a trip into Berwick today.

Scrabble revision has also been progressing. I have completed the top 6500 one solution eights. I had always stopped at 6000 in previous sessions, so have added a few new words to my repertoire. I am now going back through 4000-6500. I think I have been over-ambitious in my target of 500 in 50 minutes, but I am definitely getting better.

I have an appointment booked on Wednesday to get my typhoid jab for Bangalore...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Last Gardening of the Year plus Poncho's Paw

A package arrived at Friday lunchtime. I eagerly opened it to find the rest of my plant order, minus the Japanese anemones.

The weather wasn't too bad in the afternoon, although a little cold, so I had to take the opportunity to plant as much as I could. I climbed up to the top of the high bank and planted the tricytris - again looked like bits of root to me. I then decided to tackle the paeonies, one in the rockery bit of the long bank where I had removed the lupin, three in the new area between the climbers and the last two in the high bank. I decided that was enough for the day - my hands were covered in mud and very very cold.

I got back out after the morning dog walk on Saturday. Having looked at the weather forecast this looked like my last chance - storms and gales on the way. Firstly the tradescantia - at least these looked like plants - two under the honeysuckle and four under the buddleia in the long bank. Next the blue poppies - three fibrous blobs - at the top left hand side of the high bank. I have no idea how deep I was meant to plant them, but hopefully I at least got them the right way up. Lastly the remaining bulbs, tulips and alliums, in the high bank around the other plants. I had a few failed attempts here - kept finding more clumps of snowdrops where I was digging. I still have five lilies, but they will go into a pot.

I must say that I was not impressed that no planting instructions were included for anything other than the bulbs. It will be interesting to see what comes up and what is lost forever.

By the time I had cleared/cleaned up - myself included - it was time for the afternoon walk.

Poncho seemed to have recovered from his run last week, and had been walking very nicely until on our way home we saw Florence, an old golden Labrador, running towards us wagging her tail. Her owner, Mr Gore, and his son were luckily not far behind. The son carried on with Florence around the corner, and Mr Gore stopped for a chat. Unfortunately Poncho could still see Florence now that the hedgerows have lost most of their leaves, and was still barking and leaping intermittently. It was starting to get dark when we continued on our way home.

We noticed Poncho was hobbling a bit again, and over the next couple of days got worse. It is especially bad when he gets up after lying down for a while. The poor little soul has been hopping, holding his right paw in the air. We reduced the walks to just enough for the requirements to be met. I have taken Jen a little further on a couple of occasions, but as the weather has been very cold and windy she is not being to obstreperous when I have turned around to come home.

This evening Paul took Poncho to the vet. Jen was much more put out when they went out without her, running backwards and forwards between the lounge and the lobby, and whining. It turns out that it is actually his elbow that he has hurt, and will now be on anti-inflammatory tablets for the next six days.

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