Thursday 31 January 2008

Ghostly goings-on

As you will have read on Jon’s blog, Arabella has reached that certain age and has started laying eggs. Yesterday, we tried them for the first time and made some scrambled egg on toast. I could not believe the golden colour and the richness! Delicious. All we need now is a cow so that we can make our own cheese – another commodity at the CFZHQ that seems to sprout legs and disappear in a trice as soon as it is put in the fridge.

Since last posting, it has been very busy here in North Devon. On a personal front, I have been busy juggling the proof-reading of Exotic Pets magazine, Mark Fraser’s 2008 Big Cats in Britain Yearbook and Mike Hallowell’s Mystery Animals of Northumberland & Tyneside. I have now got to the stage when I even dream about them! Oh dear …

Graham has been busy putting up shelves in various parts of the house – those in the kitchen are a boon as there is now more space to put items of necessity within easy reach and I don’t have to don my miner’s hat and lamp to delve into the far reaches of the cupboards. It is always a journey into the unknown - who knows what lurks in those dark, dusty places?

Graham has also nearly finished the aviary – literally around a quarter of an hour’s worth of work to go, but that is, as usual, dependent upon the weather.

I witnessed my third Myrtle Cottage apparition last week. Graham, Jon and I were sitting in the office when I heard the back door slam, followed by footsteps on the gravel rushing down past the office door. I was actually sitting facing the door and saw a shape run past. I said to Graham something along the lines of, “Goodness, where is Oll off to at such a speed?” I had assumed that he was maybe checking something out with the chickens. Jon didn’t hear or see anything, but Graham heard it too. However, it was not Oll as he was in his room. Hmmm.

I am not sure that I actually recorded the first and second instances. The first was the year before last, before I had moved down here permanently. I was visiting for the weekend and, one night, saw a glowing orb at the foot of the bed for about half a minute. I was really chuffed, as I had heard so much from Jon and the others about strange noises and visions, and was feeling left out at never having witnessed anything myself. I was beginning to think these ‘residents’ didn’t like me lol.

The second was last year, when Shosh was staying with us for a fortnight on one of her veterinary stints at the local practice. It was around the time that she used to get back – 5.30 ish. Again, I was in the office sitting at the computer in the corner, when I heard the gate open and saw Shosh walk past the office door towards the kitchen. The hair colouring was hers down to a ‘T’ and the shape was so vivid that I got up, and went into the kitchen to make the ‘welcome home’ cup of tea, only to find that there was absolutely no-one in the kitchen. Upon asking, no-one had seen her. Well, they wouldn’t have done, as she didn’t arrive back until about half an hour later!

I had always imagined that it would be a bit scary to witness such things, but it wasn’t at all. Mind you, the last two were in daylight – if it had happened when I was up all night by myself last week I am not so sure! However, as insomnia seems to be plaguing me at the moment, you never know what I will be privileged to witness in the wee small hours.

Saturday 19 January 2008

Mmmmm pie

Last night I made beetroot pie. Hmmm I hear some of you groan with distaste – what a horrid thought. Yes, well beetroot is one of those vegetables that you either love or hate, but I think it is absolutely delicious – especially when mixed with cheese in a tasty, yet extremely soggy, sandwich. However, most of those in residence here at the present decided that it would be well worthy trying out, so bravely I set about preparing it.

As anyone will know, beetroot bleeds – profusely. The recipe demanded the vegetable in its fresh state, so I set about peeling and grating one and a half pounds of the little balls of beetiness. After attempting to grate one with the aid of the normal grater, then tossing this aside in frustration after once again peeling my fingers (slippery little suckers, beetroot) I then tried the mouli. No luck – it refused to even try and grate. I then decided that this was a job for my super-dooper electric mixer – you know the sort – the ones with so many attachments you need a specially devoted cupboard to keep them all in one place. However, even that had trouble! Great lumps of dark pink vegetable thumped and scraped around the grater attachment, refusing to be shredded, but, with gritted teeth, I persevered.

Eventually, all was done, but the mixer, the kitchen surfaces, my hands and everything I accidentally touched became covered in a rather fetching shade of dark pink. The water in the washing up bowl became a darker, richer colour - as if I had tried to clean off the evidence after having committed some macabre act of vengeance upon some unsuspecting visitor, who had unwittingly ventured into the kitchen during my labours. The whole kitchen had become a scene likened to those glorious days of Hammer House of Horrors. If you listened hard enough, you could almost detect the unequalled rich, dulcet tones of Vincent Price in the background.

But, guess what? The pie was delicious. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes beetroot, and who can stomach the trials of trying to grate the little sods.

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Pills, postings and puggles

Hmmm 15th January already eh? Well I guess that is one New Year’s resolution gone to pot. Yes, well, I had intended to update my blog in a more timely fashion than of late, but … quite simply, I haven’t. But then again, isn’t that what these ‘ere resolutions were invented for? To ignore?

We have been busy preparing the next issue of Exotic Pets magazine and are pleased to say that Issue 3 should be ready for distribution by the beginning of next week. Then it will be time to resume proofing the first in our list of books due for publication in the coming year. The first book of 2008 is Michael Woodley’s “In the Wake of Bernard Heuvelmans – a re-examination of the scientific evidence for Sea Serpents”. You will also have read perhaps, on Jon’s blog, that we have three new books out since my last proper blog entry: CFZ Yearbook 2008, Dark Dorset Calendar Customs and my book, Ethna’s Journal.

Jon was feeling a bit under the weather at the end of last week, with a cold and other unexplainable symptoms. However, the latter were explained on Saturday – he had been taking the wrong medicine! Yes, Jon, dependable stalwart of the CFZ, had mistakenly put his evening medicine in the morning section of his pill-box and vice versa with his morning medicine. In short, he was working during the day after taking drugs that were supposed to help him sleep and couldn’t quite work out why he couldn’t sleep in the evening. What a man eh! Hee hee.

Last Thursday was overshadowed by the sadness that it was the morning of my father’s funeral. It was a wet and windy day – the sort of wind that howls around the turrets (if we had any) and forces the rain to smash against the windows like a hail of tiny stones. However, the service went off as well as these things can and the family are now trying to coming to terms with it all, and to remember the good times we had together.

It was also the day of my eldest’s end-of-4th-year examination results. Shosh had convinced herself that she had definitely failed this time, and had resigned herself to retakes in March. The results were due to be posted at 12 noon that day and as the minute hand on the kitchen clock ticked further towards 12.30 I was beginning to think that the poor girl’s fears had been met. Then came a ‘phone call with just one word – merit! Not only had she passed, but also she had passed with flying colours! Good on you, girl – all that hard work, and all those nights surviving on three hours’ sleep, paid off. I am proud of you.

It is now the turn of poor Olivia to face exams – at the end of the month - and I shall now bear the maternal agony of feeling for her as she revises, sits them and awaits the results. It is GREAT being a mother, but at times likes these, when you suffer your children’s stresses with them, boy oh boy, it is agony! Olivia, I wish you all the very best and, as with Shosh, I shall be with you all the way!

The sweetest thing I saw last week was a picture of a baby echidna born at Perth Zoo. I had no idea that a baby echidna was called a puggle – what an adorable name. Needless to say we all want one, even though we know we cannot! Mind you, if we receive a suspicious parcel from Mike and Ruby ‘down under’, we may well know what it might be, and would certainly not ‘return to sender’!

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Plastered again

Happy New Year to you all - I hope you have a really good one.

Discovery of the last few days: brand new Sabatier knives are very sharp!

This, I found out after 'picking' the turkey. And, upon my return to the kitchen after a minute's absence whilst having a plaster administered, I was just in time to witness Helios 7 (oh yes, her again) leaping down from the work surface with a turkey leg clamped firmly in her jaws. Unfortunately for her greedy stomach, the leg was a bit too big to enable her to make a clean escape and she had to abandon her trophy mid-way down the garden path as I, once again, ran screaming after her - this time, however, only being able to brandish a threatening box of plasters at her. I am not sure what I would have done with them if I had caught her, but that will ever remain one of life's tantalising mysteries I suppose.

I cannot close this blog before saying thank you to all of you who have sent messages of condolence after the death of my father on Christmas Eve. Your words have been a great comfort. It will take time to fully come to terms with it, but knowing I have the support of all of you out there really helps.