Losing things and finding Jane again

Jane Austen is a regular preoccupation. Though not a complete Janiac, quotes and phrases from her novels do pop into my head quite regularly. And soothingly.

It is a truth probably universally acknowledged that a new sock and its mate will soon be parted. I recently received a thank you email from my brother-in-law for a pair of merino walking socks which we sent as a birthday offering. Unexciting, predictable but extremely postable. And he walks a lot, even more so since lockdown. My sister made the sock suggestion and we knew that merino wool would be appreciated. Unlike the husband, my brother-in-law’s also the kind of guy who doesn’t lose things.

With me, there’s a constant loss of pens, not socks. All guests arriving on the farm, whether to stay or to eat, have C-19 contact forms to fill in. Just before a Saturday pizza afternoon/evening,( the first at which guests were going to be able to eat their pizzas outside if they wanted to), the pen shortage had escalated into a mini-crisis. Orla lent me 10 of her store of writing implements, fully believing that she would be able to reclaim them. I’m afraid to say that only 7 remained at the end of the evening.

Early in lockdown I bought three or four packs of pens and stashed them in a top drawer in the farm office. I naively commented to my daughter – ‘that’ll keep us nicely stocked up for the summer’. All have gone without a trace.

A small delivery of wine arrived about two weeks ago (the first since February). With it came a rather smart pen bearing the logo of the local West Wales wine business. I claimed the pen as mine – not for sharing, not for folks to borrow. Of course it’s vanished too.

The last three weeks have been hard, exhausting in fact. Once the donks are in bed, the sheep are fed and we have eaten I have no energy left, especially mental energy. Talking to friends, blogging, reading – all are temporarily on hold. The pendulum has swung too far the other way, but it is as must be for now.

I return to Jane Austen…the other evening, I collapsed happily in front of the concoction that is ‘Becoming Jane’. I’d seen it before, probably twice. But it had a watchable cast and sufficient wit to sustain me until bedtime.

Chocolate cake and nude trampolining

Miss Baxter climbed on my keyboard yesterday afternoon. I pushed her off and she fell asleep on my mouse mat, nudging the mouse and shedding fine pale hairs with every exhaled breath. I worked around her, relishing her warmth and physical presence inches from my typing fingers. Poor tired puss.

But the amorality and perfidy of cats knocked me sideways again early evening. The boys were still on the roof of the double decker bus, trying to finish the job before rain set in. Hopefully wearing masks and goggles and being careful: the husband has had one or two accidents. I tend to cross digits and look away. I was making an unexciting risotto and chatting on the phone when Miss Baxter came in, dragging something heavy. She darted under a pine cupboard but I’d clocked her. Half a rabbit. The hind quarters of a rabbit which she’d planned to sneak past me for later enjoyment. I was not amused.

Take-out Saturday again, which means looking after two smalls while their mum and dad cook and serve pizzas from lunchtime till mid-evening. This morning, there were flowers to organise to send to the widow of a couple married here not that long ago. Strange and sad that all the optimism, all the joy of that wedding day, had led so quickly to here.

Then there was the socially distanced trip to the village shop-cum-post-office returning stuff, posting cards for an assortment of occasions. But there were three real-time, brief conversations in the queue with neighbours and acquaintances, including one with two dogs which were waiting patiently, tied up outside like trusty steeds outside a western saloon. That sparked the inevitable exchange about the loss of our two. Would we get another dog? It seemed such an odd question.

Delivering post next door before lunch, I was greeted by a trio of little girls bouncing on the trampoline and the three-year-old boy sitting, being bounced.

‘We’re naked,’ they shrieked. They were. ‘But it’s raining,’ I said.

‘It’s hot rain,’ one of them said.

And then the youngest piped up – ‘I’m not naked .’ And he wasn’t.

Activities this afternoon included tracing, drawing, colouring, the sheep and donkey routines, making a chocolate and raspberry cake – mostly orchestrated by the husband, while I acted as chief washer and clearer up to all of them, picking wild cherries, making jam and replying to accommodation enquiries for post July 13th. This is the date tourism unlocking is planned to start in Wales. A friend told me yesterday that there are now twelve empty shops in our little market town, Newcastle Emlyn. The decline has been gradual, but it’s accelerated over the last few months. Can it be reversed? I’d like to hope so.

Past Glastonbury highlights on TV are my background music as I write this. It’s been a day of cloud and sunshine, wind and rain. Of course, it was hot rain.

Elderflowers – one day at a time

In the afternoon, my daughter popped in to borrow scissors and to check we were ok with her collecting elderflower heads for cordial. There are still plenty left for berries, but higher up, less accessible. We’d saved Welsh apple juice bottles from the bar – months and months ago when the bar was open. I had thoughts of making elderflower liqueur when I woke up yesterday – but listlessness took over.

It was the second morning of waking up in a spaniel-free, dog-free house. Inconsiderate of our need for sleep at night, the cat had brought in one after another mouse to consume at her leisure under the bed. First thing, I’d had to slither underneath to scoop up five piles of small rodent innards. As soon as we’d vacated, post tea and muesli, she fell asleep, replete, on our bed.

For the second consecutive day, Miss Baxter absented herself from the conservatory – on Saturday, probably to avoid a noisy invasion of small people, while two of their parents were making pizzas. Then, on Sunday, her absence was doubtless due to the previous night’s strenuous antics and maybe also she was avoiding an embarrassing display of human sentiment. We were looking at spaniel photos and videos on the PC. We hadn’t realized there were so many. Lovely memories. But Miss Baxter does not like fuss.

Late afternoon, I tried to pull myself out of the low mood to collect some elderflower heads for my own use. A small bored person appeared, looking for distraction. She helped to strip the flowers from their tiny stalks. Somewhere between two and four weeks from now, we will see how drinkable this liqueur is!

The small person stayed to feed the sheep and help get the stable donkey-ready. She’d tired of the other project on offer in the yard– painting a new house for the growing brood of chicks.

In the evening I felt too exhausted for anything other than submitting to i-player. Our kitchen/living-room felt curiously empty. But it felt good to have done something.

What sort of urinals should we have

The temperature’s dropped. We’ve had some trifling, inconsequential rain – nothing that seems like it means business. The atmosphere’s still and heavy. Typically, for Saturday afternoon and evening, when my son-in-law will again be cooking wood-fired pizzas, more serious rain, and wind, is promised. The canopy will need to be repaired by then.

There’s been talk of how to set up the shearing tomorrow. What happens re social distancing? What if it rains?

The four fish have survived their house move, and, since nature abhors a vacuum, the kids have conjured up a toad. As a new resident for the former pond. I’m not yet sure if this is a real amphibian or a product of their imaginations.

I couldn’t sleep last night. My brain was racing. So many conflicting views of what’s actually the right way forward now; so much information but who to trust? So much feeling of impotence about the current US situation. And there, in the middle of the night, the quiet awareness that our spaniel is slowly fading. I drank a glass of water – (yes, it works!) – sat in the kitchen with the dog and let it all wash over me.

Earlier yesterday evening, after checking emails and posting my blog, I returned to the farmhouse kitchen. ‘Good,’ he said. ‘You’re back. What sort of urinals should we get?’

This is not my area of expertise, so that line of conversation was not going anywhere. But I listened, and I did learn a little. He’s made his choice, but along the route to a decision, it struck me what a balancing act design and construction is, with different costs, financial and environmental, for each option. A minefield, or a reed bed, of possibilities.

And so the project moves on.