Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Friday, February 28th – The cats are out

The weather has been rough today, so I thought it would be safe to let the cats explore the house. They’re not likely to want to go outside in windy rain and hail. I left the bedroom door open when I took their food and clean litter tray upstairs this morning and didn’t see a sign of them for an hour or so. Then, about mid-morning I saw a little dark face peering round the door into the dining room, where I was preparing lunch on the table by the fire.

Tom was bold and friendly and he was soon followed by Tickles. They had a good look around the room and under the table, then rushed out again when Martin came thumping inside, kicking his boots off in the kitchen . Once he had sat down by the fire to warm up I soon saw them peeping round the door frame again, at the bottom of the stairs.

By mid-afternoon I think they had explored half of downstairs, hiding every time anyone opened a door or walked through. I’m going to give them their evening meal in the kitchen and start feeding them in there regularly from now on. If they want to retreat to their room upstairs tonight to sleep that’s fine, but I want to encourage them to feel comfortable down here as soon as possible so they can detect mousey smells and start working for their living.

The wind had died down a bit by the time I fed the hens, but they clearly weren’t impressed with the change in the weather and only gave us one egg today.

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“Star Stone Trilogy – Book One: Yii Chapter Four (final part)

Sarah explained to Aunt Caroline how she had persuaded Desmond to teach her and the twins to row at Kingham on the lake, how keen he was, and what a splendid time they all had with the boat.

‘Well, you’ll enjoy watching the bumping races at Oxford,’ said Aunt Caroline. ‘They’re tremendously exciting, as well as lovely social occasions.’  She went on to explain the system of bumping races at Oxford, how the boats raced one in front of the other as there was not room to race side by side; and how, over the six days, a boat which bumped the one ahead moved up to that place on the next day.  One boat was always top dog, as it were, known as ‘Head of the River’.

So the journey passed quickly enough and, just as it was getting dark, they drove into the back quadrangle of Sherborne College.  Before long Sarah was being given food, a hot bath, and tucked up in a snug bed, assured that when she woke in the morning, her window would be overlooking the Rector’s garden.  All over Oxford clock bells chimed and struck, sprinkling the hours far and wide; and this was the last happy sound she remembered before falling into a wonderfully deep, refreshing and dreamless sleep.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Thursday, February 27 – Breeds and babies

The stupid dog came back again today. Linda came over and said Neil had heard it barking first thing this morning, but before he could get outside with his gun, his two sheepdogs had it cornered. Apparently it was very friendly once he got hold of it and he found its name and address was on the collar. Linda says it’s one of those strange cross breeds which were all the rage, a cocker doodle doo or something. That means it would have been expensive and would also have been much loved, we assume.

So Neil has decided, as the sheep have not been harmed, not to shoot it, but to see if he can find the owners. They aren’t from the village, but the address is only three miles away.

We’ve been having spells of sunshine and showers today, making it difficult to decide when to hang out washing. I gave up in the end and have left everything on the racks near the hall fire. They’ll smell of smoke, but we have to get them dry.

Anna has been feeling more movement from the baby. Still flutters rather than kicks, but it’s a good sign and is making her feel optimistic and less inclined to worry. I suggested we might want to think about preparing for the baby soon, since we can’t head off to Mothercare as we would have done before the power cut. The mothers at the school have been doing a regular children’s clothing exchange at the beginning of each month, so we might go to the next one on Monday. There’s no guarantee we’ll find everything Anna might need, but if we start looking now we should be able to have enough laid by for when the baby arrives in the summer. I told Anna I’m happy to help with sewing but she can’t expect me to try knitting as that was never one of my skills. She laughed and said if her aunts knew about her pregnancy they’d be producing hideous knitted garments by the dozen, so she’s glad to be saved from that delight.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Wednesday, February 26 – Dos and don’ts

Everyone was very cross with me for going into the field after the dog. I didn’t think about it at the time. I was just concerned to get it away from the sheep before they were harmed or miscarried. But when I told the family about it later yesterday, Martin, Jane, Anna and Stephen all said I’d been very reckless and could have been bitten myself, even though it was only a small dog.

On reflection I know they are right and if any of us is injured in these difficult times we don’t know how easily we can be treated. We have heard that the hospital is attempting to stay open for emergencies, but minor injuries and births are all being treated at home or in local doctors surgeries. So if any of us sees the dog again we have all promised to involve Neil and not try to tackle it ourselves.

After that ticking off, I tried to lighten the mood by getting everyone to talk about what we miss and don’t miss during this endless power cut. I said I miss my oven, washing machine and iron, as well as running hot water, TV, friends and relatives further afield, fresh bread and wine. But I don’t miss newspapers, rolling news reports, noisy traffic and  airplanes. Martin said he missed his regular work, the internet and being able to watch boxed sets of Deadwood and The Sopranos. He doesn’t miss the train journey to London, unproductive meetings or phone calls.

And then Anna said she missed her family and for a moment she was near to tears and we all began to think this maybe wasn’t such a good game to play after all. But she pulled herself together and said although she missed her parents and her brother and sister, she didn’t miss her aunts interfering and telling her what she should and shouldn’t eat or do in her condition, or trying to suggest names for the baby. So then we were all laughing and she seemed fine. Stephen then said he missed football matches so Jane threw a nutshell at him and we all agreed that was the last thing we miss.

Pest Control

The cockroach is looking at me. It’s waving its antennae at me. It’s whole body is scrabbling out of the case. I can’t move far. There’s not much spare room in the luggage hold..

“My name iz Axel.” All of the cockroach’s nasty shiny body is out of the case now.

“You have sat in something, I think,” he tells me.

He is correct. Most of the contents of a bottle of sun cream has apparently emptied themselves onto my feathers. I need a bath.

“I am most grateful, Mister beeg bird, for you and your bottom have opened up this case, and inside there iz much to eat. Look.” Ah, so the thing he is sitting on is a piece of bread. “May I perhaps in my turn be helping you?”Advice9

What? A cockroach helping me? I feel a little lost for words, not a situation I often find myself in, though, in truth, since Mrs Desai died there have not been many other animals to talk to. I used to chat to a pink pigeon but she moved on, I trust to better things.

“I er,” I shall gather my wits, “er thank you, but I do not really see how you can help me.”

“Leesten and I will tell you.” The cockroach really seems to mean it. Perhaps he is not so bad after all. He’s talking again. I must listen.

“I am thinking that you may be having problem leaving the boat. I am thinking that you are not permitted to be here and you will not be wanting to be seen.”

“So, you hide in thiz green bag here. It iz quite empty.”

There is indeed a rather smart, bottle-green canvas bag with its zip partly open.

“There was only leetle lovely food in the bag,” says Axel. “It was most unhappy for me.”

It’s happy for me however. I fit the bag well. And it seems my dear and clever friend, Axel, has another plan up his sleeve, though, of course, he does not wear clothes. Perhaps, I now wonder, he sometimes wears a cardigan. I must ask what that ent-school-cardigan meant and who Mick is.

“No time for more talking now,” says Axel. “When you hear the screaming, jump from out of bag and run to a grey door. I wish you much glück.”

What does he mean? Axel? Axel?

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Tuesday, February 25 – bad dogs

When I went outside to feed the hens this morning I could hear barking and then I noticed all the sheep running as one across the field. I thought at first that Neil was rounding them up for some reason, but then I realised that they were being chased by a small off-white dog, which was yapping as it ran. So I ran too, over to the caravan, wondering all the while where Neil and Linda were. But it was shut up and there was no one there.

I then realised that the dog had cornered one of the old white ewes, who was stubbornly butting it while the dog bounced up and down, still barking. I had some baler twine in my jacket pocket, so I climbed over the fence and started walking towards it, thinking I could tie it up or drag it away. I called to it and it turned and looked at me, but as I got closer and was maybe a couple of hundred yards away it suddenly raced off and over the stile onto the road towards the village.

I took a close look at the ewe, which had suffered nothing worse than a bloodied nose, then went indoors to write a note to leave at the caravan. Neil came across at lunchtime to thank me and said if the dog turned up again he’d take a gun to it. Any landowner or stockholder has the right to shoot if a dog is worrying sheep. We don’t know whose dog it is and it could well be a stray from a nearby town, but that doesn’t mean he can risk his livestock, particularly as a number of ewes will lamb in a few more weeks. He said he’d checked the flock after seeing my note and that none of them had come to any harm, but we both know what damage even a small dog can do. When I used to keep sheep I once had an over excited Jack Russel attack my small flock. Its owner had let it off its lead and in a frenzy it tore at the neck of a lamb and nearly ripped the ear off its mother. I tore a strip off that dog owner and made her pay the vet’s bill for stitching up the ear and would have no hesitation in shooting a dog attacking sheep.

Crash Landing

Ferdy's Autogyro CrashChapter Eight

Part One

With little warning, Ferdinand Desai found himself in thick and freezing fog.   His windshield froze, the fuselage sparkled, his goggles misted over and his beak tingled with the sudden chill.   He tried to coax his craft upwards above the fog, but the build up of ice was making her heavy.   The engine began to splutter; parts were binding and the fuel turning to mush – the prop ceased to turn.   Slowly the autogyro began its gentle descent, buoyed by the free wheeling rotor.   Then there was a screech of locked and tortured metal.   The rotor bearings had frozen.   His descent turned into a plummet.

There came a jarring thud, some pings and boings, a pop and a small puther.   Ferdy found himself sitting at the centre of a snow crater surrounded, to a distance of ten feet or so in every direction, by disassembled and slightly bent aeronautical parts.

Having checked that all HIS bits were in place and full working order, he packed a stash of ginger biscuits into a knapsack and removed the compass from its gimballed mount.   He would continue with Plan A (no one had apprised him of a Plan B) and follow a line towards Edinburgh.   It would just take a little longer without his airborne transport.   Adjusting his goggles firmly he trudged blindly into the total white-out.

Trudging can be tiring and flying boots are not the best hiking footwear.   After what seemed an age Ferdy halted and partook of two well earned ginger biscuits.   It was whilst resting thus that he noticed a small, indistinct black blob out in the whiteness that enveloped him.   As he watched it grew larger, and blacker, and really large, and distinct, and nose shaped.   It stopped, hovering some way above him, in close formation with a pair of coldly intense eyes.   A large mouth also appeared, and spoke.

“And what exactly are you?”

Peering hard, Ferdy thought he could make out the outline of a massive white bear.

“I am Ferdinand Desai, dodo… on an important rescue mission.   Can I assist you in any way?” he added, politely.

“Not just now,” replied the polar bear, “I have already eaten, and at the moment a duck is out of the question.”

Ferdinand inwardly bristled.   He had endured duck jokes and similar manifestations of robust English humour ever since he first landed in the UK, but now did not seem a good time to get uppity.   Tentatively Ferdinand explained his situation, without much hope for a happy solution.   The bear however was feeling untypically sympathetic.

“I could give you a lift as far as the Great North Road.   I probably won’t get hungry before then and you might be able to cadge a lift from there.”   Not waiting for a reply the great bear scruffed Ferdy by the collar of his flying jacket and set off at a speedy lope.   Dangling, limp limbed from the jaws of a polar bear the dodo did not feel dignified, or comfortable, or particularly safe.   Modifying his expectations and assuming an air of resignation he was on the brink of getting used to the gentle swinging when they approached the tops of a bus-stop sign and a row of telegraph poles, peeking above the snow.   The bear dropped him at the bus-stop.

“I can’t see an omnibus coming any time soon, but you may be able to hitch a lift on a passing snow-plough.   I’m afraid I’m getting peckish and you are starting to look tasty so I’d best go find a MacDonald’s, or a baby seal or some such.” …and without looking back he loped off across the icy wasteland.

Ferdinand sat for a while, then rose and resumed his trudge.