Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Packing, painting and party planning

 June is galloping past at a fair lick, and C-day (Ceilidh Day) is fast approaching.  HunterGatherer forayed into the deep south, complete with no. 2 daughter and a hired transit van to retrieve no.1 daughter with all her clobber plus most of son&heir’s clobber but not son&heir himself (his term not yet having finished). It was quickly evident to everyone involved that the combined mass of “stuff” accumulated by Sparrow Major and Sparrow Minor was never in a month of 36-hour Sundays going to fit back within the already bulging walls of the Sparrow residence.

Desperate situations call for desperate measures, so Yours Truly - who, as the four other members of the family were south of the Watford gap all weekend, had plenty of free time on her hands (ho ho!) – dashed to the local wood yard to purchase a new garden shed. And thank goodness I did, because by the time the bowels of the Transit van had been emptied, both Old Shed and New Shed were stuffed to the gunnels – not to mention every room in the house. Which, one shouldn’t forget, is a modest bungalow that is about to welcome some 20 house guests this weekend following daughter no.1’s 21st celebrations in the local village hall. 
Fortunately, we are used to such invasions of youthful folk, as our close proximity to a certain major Rock FesTival has meant that for the past six or seven years, July has seen our garden become a make-shift extension of the festival campsite for up to 17 rock-weary revellers.  So post-birthday party bacon butties for 20 in the wee sma’ hours of Sunday should not pose a problem.  Just don’t, please, please, let it rain this weekend the way that it did last weekend.  By 7 p.m. last Friday night, I was on the point of looking out lifejackets for our poor saturated lambs L.  A similar downpour this coming weekend could mean some extremely soggy party-goers - and tents,  and clothes, and muddy boots x 40...  I think I shall ring Supergran and ask her to do one of her sundances. Between ourselves, Supergran rather fancies herself as a white witch, and to be honest, I’m so desperate for sunshine this weekend, I’ll give anything a go!
Arrangements for putting up somnambulant party guests after the event are proceeding apace. Most importantly, the painter has now completed the bathroom, hall and kitchen, thereby eliminating years of smoke and grime. Said smoke and grime had nothing to do with us, I hasten to add: we inherited it all when we – or, to be more accurate, the building society – bought the cottage 15 years ago. 
Now the walls are magnificently nicotine-free and “all” that remains to be done is to put back in place the gazillions of things that had to be moved in order to let the unsuspecting painters, T and D,  gain access.  I suspect that poor T and his able assistant D had never ever in their careers had the pleasure (!) of working in quite such a chaotic abode – even though T has (and I quote) “been in the business 40 years, ye ken.”  All three offspring had strictly prohibited me from allowing a particular section of the wall beside the kitchen door to be painted over. The reason for their kitchen wall protectionist policy is that the said wall is inscribed with their heights and their friends’ heights over the past 10 or so years.  (Quote) “You cannot paint over them – they’re part of our family history”. So, Yours Truly found herself explaining to a frankly incredulous T and D that whilst they could weave their Dulux magic everywhere else in the kitchen, this bit of wall had to stay the original colour (see photo).  As we’d opted for a slightly less yellow yellow this time round, it now looks faintly ridiculous.  Still, at least the kids and their friends will be happy! 
The growth chart in the kitchen - blue lines of masking tape are to remind painter not to paint over the names/dates/heights etc.
It has to be said that both student daughters have become distinctly badger-like in their habits this week.  For anyone not quite sure what I mean by this analogy, I’m referring to a badger’s habit of digging out his set by means of simply kicking all the dirt out the ‘front door’ between his hind legs. The girls adopted an alarmingly similar domestic approach i.e. anything that they reckoned was no longer cool or of practical/sentimental value to them was simply booted into the hall.  Suffice to say that the hall now resembles an extremely over-full charity shop while the sororial duo’s bedrooms are looking fantastic, thank you very much.
Talking of looking fantastic, I have a failure to report.  My attempts to lose 2 stone in two weeks just don’t seem to have borne fruit for some reason (could be something to do with the two bags of M&S Percy Pigs – or the box of simply ‘out of this world’ summer fruit choccies that I discovered in the local Sainsbury’s while buying Farmpa his Father’s Day gift.  Yes, it could have been either of those...  So if, on Saturday evening, the only garment that I can slip sveltely into is one of HunterGatherer’s hessian potato bags, I have only myself to blame (as well as M&S and Sainsbury’s, of course!).  Mark you, judging by the sign that appeared above the scales at our local gym this week, it would appear that my aspirations to lose weight rather pale into insignificance compared with those of another member. The sign (see photo below) reads: “No Nude Weighing”.  Reckon someone obviously forgot they were on candid camera...

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Live on Radio2 with Jeremy Vine!

Can’t believe it’s been a whole week since I last sat down to blog – but in view of the monumental number of items that we’ve managed to (at least partially) tick off the “to do” list both in the ‘hoose’ and on the Sparrowholding, I reckon I have earned a pardon for my slight lapse in putting pen to paper/finger to key (or whatever one says these days).
The race to get the whole place shipshape before Daughter no1’s 21st Ceilidh continues apace. Grass has been madly mown, weeds beaten into submission, and the polytunnel re-covered (HunterGatherer has still to ‘recover’ from the nightmare of the re-cover!). The plasterer has been to plaster the bathroom (and eliminated all traces of HG’s previous decorating debacles), the painter is due tomorrow to stick wallpaper up in the hallway and our house currently looks as if a tornado has passed through it (twice).
Being so halikit (Scots word for clumsy) that I am unable to decide even which hand to hold a pair of scissors in, I’m 100% not qualified to do any more than scrape the old paper off the walls – and that is precisely what I was doing till 4 a.m. the other morning to prepare for the plasterer’s presence. In between all the chores (ooh, and don’t forget the day job!), also had to trek Son&Heir and his Scotland U18 hockey team mate all the way doon to Troon (end of the universe – the two teenboys were speechless at how quiet this west coast town was!) on Thursday night, so they were ready to head off on the ferry to Ulster for a weekend of matches.  Sadly the Scottish lads lost all three matches – but being Scots, they were dignified losers, having had much practice both personally and nationally at being philosophical in defeat.  It certainly didn’t seem to have jaded their appetites, as Son&Heir returned proudly boasting of his prodigious abilities in the cheesecake eating challenge!  Hmmm, so much for elite sportsmen who religiously follow a carefully calculated dietary regime...
Talking of things culinary, I met our local wonderwoman, P, last night to discuss catering for the Ceilidh.  And when I say wonderwoman, I mean it: there’s scarcely an event that happens in our lovely wee locality that P has not run, assisted with, or supervised (eg the big lunch that I blogged about last week).  All this on top of holding down a full-time job and being a mum of three...
Folk like the phenomenal, multitasking  P form the very backbone of community life and I, for one, am in awe of all that she achieves.  One of her many talents is catering so – being no Nigella myself! - I readily commissioned her to concoct the party fare for the 70 odd (!) folk who’ll be attending the party in 2 weeks’ (in fact less than two weeks – help!!) time.  A quick meeting last night and the menu was sorted.  Ooh, and I managed to track down the lady at Celebration Cake Station in Perth to confirm the cake, as well. Two more jobs ticked off the list = result! (only another 102 to go...).
Meanwhile, out in the wider community, the Olympic Torch has been winding its way south towards Perth and this morning it arrived at local stately pile Scone Palace.  A few of our local choir who will be singing when it passes through our wee local town tomorrow were invited to the Palace to join the Perth contingent singing with the song’s composer, Perthshire’s very own Dougie Maclean.  And what a hoot we had!
A one-hour rehearsal was followed by a brief catching of the breath and then it was straight into the bigwigs’ marquee to provide post-prandial entertainment for the Provost and other honoured guests after their lunch (hope they didn’t get indigestion!).
An unexpected surprise lay in store when we discovered that the BBC’s Jeremy Vine was broadcasting on Radio2 live from the Palace.  Better still, the sensible chap thought it would be fitting for Dougie and the local choir to close his show.  Major excitement amongst the choir ranks ensued! It really was the perfect end to a once in a lifetime experience – and I’m still humming the chant “Singing along the Tay, Oh the eternal flame” as I type. 
But now, it’s back to reality with a bump.  I returned to a plastered bathroom – only problem is that the floor, bath , sink and loo all seem to have been plastered in addition to the walls... *sighs and adds another item to the “to do” list*

Poor naked polytunnel - Vinnie the Vine was seriously unimpressed!

                                                                  Not so naked now!

Jeremy Vine looks as if he's accosting Dougie Maclean with a microphone!

The Olympic torch bearer on the steps of Scone Palace

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

More photos! First one is of our poor ailing polytunnel :-(  The second shows HunterGatherer's raised veggie beds - his Sunday endeavours while the rest of us were Jubilee-ing!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Photo update

A couple of photos of the local Jubilee celebrations. First one is of round-the-world cyclist Mark Beaumont, waving to the crowd of diners at the "big lunch". In the second one, see if you can spot a Scottish chef in the crowd below...

Jubilee Party and Garden Graft

Last week was fairly manic for both HunterGatherer and Yours Truly workwise, and the recent weekend has been equally busy, albeit in different ways. HG spent Saturday zapping a range of weed and/or buglife with horrible-sounding sprays at Farmpa’s farm over near Crieff from the comfort of a tractor, while his wee wifie (aka moi!) spent another day baking in a car park at Bellahouston in Glasgow, working in the car and waiting for Son+Heir to complete a 6-hour hockey training session. Said sporting warrior returned from this epic athletic endeavour bearing the dottled imprint of a hockey ball surface on the side of one knee and bemoaning the considerable damage-inflicting properties of a 5cm diameter plastic sphere when it impacts on human flesh at the speed of a bullet.
Sunday saw the much-anticipated “Big Lunch” Jubilee celebration in the local village (see photos).  As ever in this fairly traditional neck of the woods, a committee of stalwart locals had done an amazing job of organising a community event that was enjoyed by young and old alike.  Tables festooned with flags were set out in the road that runs through the hamlet, and there was a hill-billy band playing music – not to mention a balloon man and a magician wandering around in the audience creating balloon creatures and doing tricks. At one of the tables sat local brothers-in-law adventurer Mark Beaumont and chef Tom Kitchin, enjoying some well earned family time away from the media.
As I surveyed the trestle tables, the bunting, the flags and the smiling faces, I pondered what a lovely and memorable way this was to mark 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. There was something almost surreal about singing the national anthem to the sound of a hill-billy guitar.  And not that I would ever want to gloat about the weather (let’s face it, the opportunities to do so up here are rare!), but judging by accounts from London, we definitely had the better deal meteorologically. The sun shone throughout the entire street party, whereas down south it sounds as if they were rained upon fairly relentlessly. Wonder how many inches of rain = a 60-year reign ...?
Meanwhile, back at the Sparrowholding, somebody had to be doing some work, and HG had drawn the short straw (or perhaps it might be more accurate to say that he was handed it!).  Sunday was one of his rare days off from bashing fence posts into the farming land of Perthshire and stringing wires between them so tightly you could play them like a violin (though not sure what you’d use as a bow?!), but there was much to be done on the smallholding, so he elected to stay at home. 
Consequently, while we’d been scoffing sandwiches enthusiastically at the street party, he had been shovelling compost and firing veggie seeds into the ground with equally great gusto.  When we returned, bearing a couple of balloon animals which a helpful street entertainer had kindly taught Daughter No2 to make (another useful life skill for a student), our heroic gardener had already weeded and dug over one section of the outdoor veggie plot and planted two rows of potatoes – one of Charlotte and one of Rooster – plus multifarious rows of carrots, peas, beans, parsnips and beetroot in raised beds (see photo).  He’d certainly earned a beer by the time we sat down that night en famille (minus DaughterNo1) to tackle a traditional “British” tea of roast beef, potatoes and veg.
The local hamlet’s extended weekend of festivities was brought to a rousing conclusion on Monday night with a concert by a local folk duo Gaberlunzie.  Both well into their 60s, these veteran musicians could teach younger performers a thing or two about holding an audience in the palm of their hands. The music which filled the small but bijou village hall was harmonious and compelling; the jokes were slightly risqué and extremely funny, but without a swear word in sight. Younger comedians take note! Originally DaughterNo2 (the music student) was supposed to have accompanied her mother (HG is working till all hours during these long, clear nights), but a better offer (i.e. sortie to nightclub in Aberdeen) came along. So it was that 17-year-old Son+Heir reluctantly trailed along to keep mum company – the surprise of the evening (to him and to me!) was that he actually really enjoyed it. In fact, as we drove home, he was busy keying some of the jokes on to his iPhone for use at a later date.  Funny how things work out...