We on the other hand are at the opposite end of the gossip scale and couldn’t tell you if the people 3 doors down had moved or just changed cars and hairstyles…We did discover during Shed Wars that the bad neighbours had an aversion to snakes, which could have come in handy if Shed Wars had escalated, but peace broke out when I refused to get drawn into a slanging match and came over all "Mr Reasonable".* Other than the back door slamming on a semi-regular basis and the fence panel being replaced after a mere three month gap** …. (Mrs B thinks they left it to try and get a reaction. Sometimes, just sometimes, apathy*** is the right course of non-action) it’s like no one actually lives there….
* Hugh, note there are ways of dealing with even the most awkward of neighbours and I’m sure that, given time, your neighbours will learn how to cope with you….putting an end to “dog crap wars” and "boundary creep wars" for ever. Well perhaps not….
* Please note this is a genius bit of writing and deserves a Pulitzer Prize nomination for the best 'whatever the word is for a clean double entendre' in a blog during May 2010 in the Bishops Stortford area (Sorry Imo).
**Actually I find apathy can get me through most situations, as people often mistake it for intellectual contemplation as opposed to couldn’t be arsed reality….
One of the regular events we have attended with them has been the Skegness Round Table Summer Ball (of which Hugh has been President - nothing to get over excited about as this role is rotated around the members and is seen more as an irritating infection, being passed around like a dose of the clap, rather than a great honour….). During these events Mrs B and I have achieved an extraordinarily high rate of return on our raffle ticket purchases, which has been great but the prizes have never been quite as good as they sounded. Some of the highlights included:
- The first win was a CD player which was really great but came a few days too late, as I had purchased one the week before….
- Second, there was an annual season ticket to Hardy’s animal farm, which, being over 120 miles away from home, was quite a distance to go just to get nipped by a sheep, head butted by a goat and kicked by a rotund pony with a Napoleon Bonaparte complex… Besides, Hugh and Cathryn were friends with the owners and could get us free access anytime we wanted.
- We came up trumps one year when Mrs B won a box of fine wine, only someone managed to knock them over just as we went to collect them, leaving us with a single bottle. You can win that on a tombola...
- This year we surpassed ourselves when we won an Audi…Yes ladies and gentleman a brand spanking new …. ….but hold it a second, put the Champagne and Milkshake back on ice ….. True, it was a Brand New Audi but it was only to be ours for a weekend. (That’s not a raffle prize that’s an extended test drive for a car you don’t actually wish to purchase) …. We worked out that with petrol at it’s current price it would cost us a small fortune to drive to Skegness to pick the thing up. Thus we have donated the prize to our hosts in order to put some pressure on them to come and visit us….
What’s the best/worst raffle prize you have won?
(Late breaking news, just as I reached the deadline for this week's blog we won another raffle prize at a more local event. No car, TV or even an 'access all areas' pass to abuse small furry animals. This time Mrs B selected a pair of shiny foot jewels that she can’t wear at the moment as they won’t stretch over the Air boot. Personally, I would have selected the 3 free nights in our own bedroom.) Raffle prizes just arn't what they used to be...
In the early years of our visits, such was the novelty of staying on a working farm, that even Mrs B managed to drag herself out of bed, at some unearthly hour, so that we could hinder Hugh’s attempts to milk the cows. The cows have long since gone and have been replaced by a menagerie of wild animals, including owls. Mrs B is fascinated with owls and is desperate to see a wild one in flight. Last year we went out owl spotting in the car and Mrs B and Hugh decided to walk back across the fields, convinced that this would provide the best viewing opportunity. I was left to drive home around the lanes. I got back before them of course, and strolled over to one of the barns just as an owl was departing. I managed to get a couple of pictures to show Mrs B, as by the time they trudged damply into the yard (it had started to rain) the owl had long gone. My picture did nothing to improve Mrs Bs down-sodden mood …
During the build-up to this year's visit we were getting reports of regular owl sightings and Mrs B's excitement level and sense of anticipation were off the scale. Yes, we had seen some owls a couple of weeks ago, close at hand, but those were tame display birds and it’s not the same as seeing a wild one. Think of it in terms of going to see a rank amateur actor in a play at your local theatre one week and then the next week going to see a highly-rated actor in a top West End show. Yes, the local production might be great fun to watch but very unlikely to leave you feeling in awe of what you have witnessed, not unless the actor unintentionally falls over a lot or start quoting great swathes of lines from a totally different play ….
Owl spotting was never going to be easy as Mrs B had the handicap of her leg in the air boot this year so was already struggling with a limited range and speed. I took the Beast and wandered down to the barns and got my reward. By the time Mrs B had made it the owls had gone again. I then made my way across to the other side of the farm to an old cottage and was rewarded this time with another couple of owl sightings.
Please don’t think this is like one of those TV documentaries where they try and build up a sense of excitement and anticipation by claiming they are running out of time to see the rare Ethiopian tea-making squirrel make a cuppa. What a surprise, just as they are about to pack up the cameras, a little teacup appears followed by teapot and some hazelnut cake and the ceremony begins. I can assure you that, after this, no more owls appeared, it was like they had moved out and poor Mrs B once again lost out. I’m not sure what she has done to upset them but there would appear to be an owl conspiracy against her.
As I drove home, with a slightly dejected Mrs B, we got a phone call from Hugh to say the owls had returned. They had no doubt finished having tea with the Ethiopian squirrels and were now circling around the farm wearing little T-shirts saying “Up yours, Mrs B.” Oh well, maybe next time. As I’ve always said those amateur actors are so much more fun to watch than those overpaid talented professional ones…
Mrs B is currently working on next year's strategy and intends to employ reverse psychology to spot those damn birdies, by pretending to be completely disinterested. Quite frankly I think the owls will see right through it.
Is Jools Holland the new Marmite?
I got the opportunity to pick up some tickets for Jools Holland playing Audley End and was surprised by the reaction I got when I asked people if they were interested in joining us. Absolutely no middle ground. It was either a warm fuzzy “Oh, I’ve always wanted to see him live ….” or an almost vitriolic spitting “I’ve always wanted to see him dead…..”.
So that's it for another week, just the Photo's to go. Catch you next time...