Note Number 17…January’s Over…(warning post not suitable for vegetarians or vegans…)

Today the snowdrops are showing their pretty white heads in the garden, it’s such a lovely sight…Spring is on its way and it’s only about seven and a half weeks before the clocks change…

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January 2017 is over – it was a dry January for some but for me only demi-sec, I did have some Prosecco, a gin and tonic or two and a few glasses of red, few glasses of white, but overall, I was good.  The weight is staying off and if I can lose another half-stone, then I will indeed be a happy bunny. I’ve been walking as much as possible and the first part of January was pretty dry but the end of it and the first two days of February have been mega wet and windy and more to come over the weekend for those of us in the southwest.

Wet days walking in the fields, dog with her hi-vis jacket on…

As we live in the countryside, country things happen and during January I was given a brace of pheasants.  I gladly accepted, it would have been rude had I declined. I didn’t shoot them, not do I wish to, but in my opinion, they’ve had a better life than the chicken I buy, even an organic free range one. The problem with the pheasant is they don’t come plucked, gutted and oven ready.  We hung them just for a couple of days and then I had to face the music and roll up my sleeves. I’d done it before but a long time ago so I googled it and youtube showed me how. Except, it was to skin them and not pluck them. Well, I have to say, it was pretty easy although a bit gory and taking off the feathers along with the skin was just like taking its coat off. Very weird. Vegetarians and vegans, turn away now….I’ve left out the really gory photos out…

A Brace of Pheasant Hanging outside the Front Door …then in preparation. 

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I know, I know… I look like a big game hunter but honestly I didn’t shoot them…Also, had my gilet on under my apron so look over large…can’t see that half-stone I’ve lost. 

In January, thoughts turn to holidays and sunshine. My next postings will be from Madeira,  I’m looking forward to it as I’ve not visited it previously. Before I booked our ten days away, I tried to find out where the good weather would be within a short distance from the UK, also we wanted to fly from Bristol and not any of the London airports. One website came up with the five best places being, Sicily, Malta, The Canary Islands, Cyprus and Madeira and we chose the last one. I’ve looked at the forecast as it does seem we might have some rain but the temperatures are up in the late teens, so I’ll be content with that…there’s always a glass of madeira to sup!

See you in Madeira folks.

Note 16…Dog Names…

Jpeg in Dorset January 2017 – 8 years old this March (or thereabouts) 

‘What’s your dog’s name?’ asks a stranger.
‘Jpeg,’ I reply.
‘What? Like the file name?’
‘Yes,’ I say.
‘How did she come to be called that?’ they ask, with a laugh and sometimes a scoff.

If I have time I tell them…

In 2009, our second summer in Italy, we were preparing a float for the Festa Delle Cove – the festival of corn (like harvest festival) read more here. We were sitting, with friends on a load of straw and picnicking outside our uninhabited and unrestored farmhouse. Along the road, and in through the open gate came three dogs, a brown one, a black and white one and a little sandy coloured puppy. They hung around for a while, ate a few titbits (yes titbits, not tidbits, that’s American apparently, although equally correct). When full, they wandered off into the afternoon sun the same way they’d arrived. A few hours later, the puppy returned alone and was determined to stay. We think the other two dogs might have been her parents and recognised a couple of suckers so sent her back in the hope she would be adopted and no longer be their responsibility.

At the end of the day, we packed up and left to go back up to town and the puppy was still there. ‘If she’s still here tomorrow I’ll think about keeping her. She is so sweet.’ I said. I should add here that I had mentioned, several times over the previous couple of years that I would NEVER have another dog.
Next morning, she was gone, and I was relieved until I saw her sitting on the doorstep of the house at the top of the road. I spoke to our Italian neighbours, ‘Oh, she’s yours? I’m so pleased, I thought she was lost.’
‘No, she’s not ours, I’m taking her to the Comune later today. She’s a stray.’
‘Oh, what will they do with her?’
The neighbour indicated his answer by making a slicing movement with his hand across his throat.
‘No! That’s awful. Please don’t do that. Give me until tomorrow morning to think about it, I didn’t want another dog, but…let me think please…I just have to speak to my other half.’
The neighbour shrugged and agreed, but only for one day, he had to get rid of her the next day.

We went to the bar that night and sat around outside drinking wine and talking, as you do and I told one of our English friends about the little lost puppy.
‘You must keep her Ninette, there’s no question about it. What does she look like?’ This lady was a confirmed dog lover as were most of the people around the table but they weren’t rushing to offer the stray puppy a home you’ll note.
‘Wait a minute, I took some photos today, I’ll go and get one,’ I said and ran home, printed off a photo and scooted back down to the café. (I can’t believe that in 2009 I was still taking all my photos with a camera not a phone…?)

‘Here she is,’ I said and presented the paper to the table and they handed it round with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.
‘Oh look,’ says The Man, ‘It’s Jpeg, see? It says so at the bottom of the page.’
I took the print and yes, that’s what it said under her lovely photo.
JPEG1000236 (see below)

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We kept the puppy, obviously, and the name stuck, she suits it and we like it. I don’t like dogs with ‘people’ names although some are okay. Jpeg is perfect…well, her name is anyway! You can see from the photo her skin was in a terrible condition, she had tics, fleas and goodness know what else. She was very quiet and listless most of the time, really sweet, but she soon perked up and became a bundle of energy needing lots of running and attention! There are a few stories to tell about Jpeg, but I’ll save them for another time.

Tell us how your dog or cat got their name…

Italy September 2009 – skin looking better… Ahh, she was so cute…

Note Number 15…Logs…Targets and Totals…

I have been trying to walk further with the dog, Jpeg (note number 16 will tell you why she’s called that) and The Man introduced me to Strava. It’s an App you can get on your phone and it’s really for people who run, cycle or swim but, he kept on at me, (as men do) because he uses it for cycling and he was convinced it would get me walking more. So I downloaded it to my smart phone. Strava logs your activity for you, making a little map, it gives you information such as the time you take to cover a kilometre or mile, how far you’ve travelled, etc., etc., Then you load it from your phone onto the Strava website and everyone can see what you’ve done. You get a little ‘personal best’ cup if you walk the same bit of road in a faster time and you can follow people and they can follow you, it’s a kind of Facebook for athletes. I feel a bit stupid on it really because I’m just walking the dog and others are swimming the channel, running 10k and cycling a 100k – sometimes all three in the same day! BUT, it has worked to a certain extent as I now think about how far I’m walking each week and trying out different places to go. So thumbs up to Strava…oh and other people can give you kudos so you feel good about yourself, which is always good for the self-esteem.

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Please note the Running shoe on the Icon…I am invariably in wellies or walking boots. See below.

welliesI don’t think Jpeg cares about targets except how many birds she can chase

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One of the many, muddy hills I struggle up, fighting against the strava clock ….phew!

I have also been trying to lose weight and get fit after Christmas, along with The Man, who is wanting to do lots of long cycle rides in 2017, some of which will take him over the Alps so he has to be ‘superfit’. Making a note of how much you lose every other day, and writing down what you eat is so helpful. Checking calories – it’s amazing how they add up, 50 here 50 there, soon become 200 or 300.  I haven’t got an App for this but I know there are plenty around.  But, the diet is going well, I’m 6 pounds down and The Man is 11 pounds down, going on a stone…so happy bunnies all round.

Things we’re not eating right now…

 

Things we are eating right now…note, no grapes The Man says, “They are sugar bombs!”

My other aim is to finish this novel ‘Oh, we’ve heard all that before!’ I hear you cry. But, honestly, I am getting down to it, aided by a programme that I have for writing called Scrivener. I love it and I can set my word target for the whole novel and a word count for each session that I type and watch it going up. I have it set for 2000 words a day, and when I’ve completed that number a message pings up on the screen – You have reached your target – which is a great feeling. Of course, half of what I’ve written is probably rubbish but, nevertheless I’m writing!

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Whoops! Look at that…not a singe word yet today…and my deadline for 85,000 words is the end of March. Now you ALL know about it,  I will have to get on with it!

Note Number 14…14th January…a Significant Date…

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Today, six years ago in 2011 our family dynamics changed forever. We lost Tosh at the age of 27. He was a son, a brother, a boyfriend, a cousin, and an uncle, all our lives were affected in different ways. Every day that goes by I think of him and a couple of months ago I wrote this poem, trying to capture some of the emotions I felt and still feel and I’m sharing it with you on this post.

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It is not right
It should not be
That he has left, ahead of me.

He was not done
Nor finished all
Before he took that tragic fall

There’ll never be a wedding now
Or children in whose face I catch
Some semblance of the boy I’ve lost
I wish him back no matter cost

I know

It’s better not to think this way
Of things he’ll never do or say
But just recall the good times had
Don’t dwell on minor things of bad

But then, I make him like a saint
This youth who loved to live and paint
On urban trains and midnight walls.
He didn’t heed friends’ warning calls
Or sirens from the boys in blue
He didn’t think their hearts were true

To him there was no wrong in graff
Sprawling images of this and that
Slashing authority’s senseless laws,
Fighting all the small man’s wars
Against the corporation greed
Upon whose profits politicians feed

He left behind some works of art
On streets, at home, and, in my heart
I know it was his destiny
To leave this world ahead of me.

Thomas Hartley November 30th 1983 – January 14th 2011

Note Number 13…Winter Walking and Wildlife…

My sister-in-law came to stay for a few days over New Year and I took her out walking with me and the dog.  She comes from Carrickfergus NI and she walks more in the town than the countryside.  She bombarded me with excited comments on all the flora and fauna we saw whilst we were ambling through the lanes and over the fields. Actually she was ambling I was trying to keep up a good walking pace.

On our little outing she noticed every blade of grass, each leaf, all the ferns, the wildlife and the pièce de résistance…the mole hills. She had never seen one before. apparently they don’t have moles in Northern Ireland. That did surprise me. More information if you have it please?

 

The point is, it made me think about how lucky I am each day when I walk out with the dog and that I must never take for granted the things I see.  This last week I have seen, two rabbits, a fawn, several pheasants, squirrels, a heron, many, many birds that I should be able to identify but cannot, a hare and of course sea-gulls. I also saw a dead fox and a dead badger.  If you add to this the domestic animals I see, that would include, dogs, sheep, cows, cattle…all different breeds of course, and today I saw geese, beautiful and noisy they were, even Jpeg decided not to get too close!

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The lovely geese we met on our Sunday morning walk today (8th January 2017)

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If you look really closely you can see the deer, probably better in the top picture. I wish I could take better photographs but t I only ever have my phone on me and I’m never quick enough! 

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Even though I keep Jpeg on a long lead for most of her walk she has a wonderful time, there are so many smells, noises and things to see on our walk she’s never bored and we always go for at least 3k Today we did 8k a record! 

While we were in Italy there was a definite lack of wildlife as the hunters shoot practically everything that moves between September and February but we did see porcupine and once I saw a fox in our field, but generally, there was little, but I would be pleased to hear differently.

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Sadly I can’t take the credit for this photo but it is cute…

Note Number 12, Out With The Old – On With The New…

It was a great family Christmas…now it’s over and I’m missing them all already. It’s been fun, frustrating, full-on, flippant, fancy, fulfilling, fabulous, farty (well all those sprouts and stuffing don’t you know?), feel-good, fortified, fantastic…f*** that’s enough Fs for now!

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A Game of Qwirkle in Progress

Haven’t made any resolutions but we did have a fab time with our neighbours and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law on New Year’s Eve.  We ate chilli followed by bread and butter pudding, then we played Qwirkle – a game I can highly recommend for most age groups. Try it if you haven’t already. Some of us drank a good dose of vino… Fun was had. At 11.45pm we went outside where The Man had previously lit the fire-pit so by then it was roaring beautifully.  To see out the ‘old year’, each of us secretly chose one or more emotions/habits, that we would like to ‘get rid of’ before 2017 came in.   We wrote them on scraps of paper and then threw them into the fire. It was something that we had done at my son’s wedding in Thailand two years ago and it seemed a good opportunity to repeat the experience.  It felt good, ‘letting go’.

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Fire-Pit Burning Well – goodbye 2016 hello 2017

Good luck with 2017 all of you and we hope to see as much of our family and as many friends as possible during the year – The Man will insist on a maximum of three nights only if you have to stay. I’m sure he’ll make some comment below as to why that is.

Note Number 11…Christmas Over, heading for NYE…

 

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Christmas is over, a good time was had by all…in our house anyway… now the countdown for New Year. We all ate too much of course, even though we tried very hard not to be unnecessarily indulgent. I scoffed a huge amount of cheese, thanks to the never-ending cheese board supplied by Joseph Hartley (son).  It lasted several days despite our efforts each time we sat at the table,  to finish the medley,  it appeared fully replenished again at the next sitting.

A million variety of mince pies were forced down my throat by those naughty Christmas goblins, and a copious amount of chocolate was stuffed into my ever open mouth by the wicked fairy.

So, four days of wallowing in unhealthy (but delicious) victuals and vino has left me feeling bloated and lazy.  But, probably, like a whole host of other people, I’m determined to carry on bingeing until midnight on the 31st December, at which point it will ALL stop. Yes it will…(no it won’t) Who said that? I know, it’s pantomime season but…

Yesterday, in the Independent newspaper I read an article about pomegranates, you can see it here for yourself.  So, The Man and I are going on a pomegranate hunt on the 1st January and will be eating them everyday.  We will also detox and cut out all alcohol, crisps, nibbles, chocolate etc., etc., except of course on Thursday evenings when we play cards, at which event we must have drinks and nibbles…

Oh dear…

We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted re the pomegranates.

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Hope your Christmas was good and Happy New Year readers. What are your plans for 31st December and beyond?