>With My Little Ukulele In My Hand…..

>Another hot and sultry day yesterday. Managed to finish off the mowing, despite the bleeding mower packing in with an annoying regularity. It farts and backfires sometimes, so sounds like overheating – aren’t we all, here? – and maybe a new sparkpluggy bit might help. Must take a look. Sometime soon…..ish.

The Chooks were in fine fettle and are becoming more used to my presence. They don’t rush off to the farthest corner of their enclosure now whenever I appear. Instead they lurk – as far as Hens can lurk, that is – nearby until I provide more fodder whereupon they attack it with relish, and loads of clucking. The clucking is probably their way of telling me to Booger Off, Pal! But I just cluck back in counterpoint and grope around optimistically for eggs. Of which yesterday there were none! A bad day at Chooken Gulch, to say the least!

In Sweden we kept Hens for a few years. The cost of feed and the need for heating and lighting through the cold, winter months – ie. six months or so a year – didn’t make this in any way a sensible enterprise. We eventually gave up on it as a lost cause. We did, however, have one favourite Hen – Lady. She had real character, was curious, like most of her ilk, and came running when called by name, an endearing trait:

After a few years of reliable laying, during which time her two travelling companions were gobbled up by mean Mister Fox, she became egg-bound. I scanned the internet for remedies and finally had to resort to holding her in a basin of hot water before rubbing her bits with vaseline:

You’d have thought the shirt alone might have induced a resumption of laying….but sadly not!
Oddly enough, after my treatment she became extremely affectionate (if that’s possible with a Hen), sitting by my side in the garden of an evening, eating crumbled crisps and such like alongside us.  I rather miss her. She’d have loved it down here, I’m sure!

I read on a Hen-keeper forum, that it’s generally considered best to have trios of Hens. I didn’t know this, although in the past we generally had a fair number, certainly more than our current duo. I also remember that when buying Ducklings, they tended to be sold in threes, too. (We always kept ducks, Aylesburys and Khaki Campbells, mostly, for their eggs, which we prefer over Hens). So might be something in it. Maybe have to get another and weather the storm of the fight for top-hen position in the pecking order. Need to get a better Coop for them first though!

I retuned my Ukulele yesterday and tried rattling through a few numbers. The problem I have – among many – is my nails. I keep two nails on my right (strumming) hand fairly long because of guitar finger-picking. I’ve never got on with finger-picks – feels a bit like having your hand in a mousetrap  –  though I have always used thumbpicks.  The longish nails get in the way and catch on the Uke strings making it tricky to play smoothly. There must be a way round the problem but I can’t see it right now.

Hamish, the Grandsprog, also has a Uke. We bought it for his fourth birthday, last year. He’s a bit unsure of it still and hasn’t got the hang of how to hold it, chord it and strum along yet. It’ll come in time, I’m sure. He has one of those brightly coloured ones, although relatively inexpensive they’re really fairly playable!  This one he’s holding here was a bit more pricey and is J’s:

They’re great fun instruments and just the right size for little hands, I reckon. His father plays guitar so should be able to help him get going.

I noticed today that local farmers are already taking a cut of hay from their fields. In Sweden, this was a late summer activity, though the grass does grow very quickly between late May and July.  Our German friends and neighbours up there went off to Norway for work one summer,  leaving us to arrange with our neighbour Monica to cut their hay and for us to gather it in for them. They had 19 – yes, 19 – huge Kraut rabbits, so needed the hay for food over winter. They bought the rabbits (initially a modest 6 in number)  in Germany planning to breed them – which certainly happened in a totally uncontrolled way with a multiplying herd – for meat. At the time of purchase they didn’t have a car, so they transported them across Germany then through Denmark by train, I think, and finally from Denmark by ferry in cat baskets as hand luggage on a small trolley before decanting them into the back of an estate car hired in Sweden for the 1000 Km journey North. It was really absurdly amusing at the time.

Anyway, we got lumbered with doing their hay after the initial cut. It all had to be done by hand and was backbreaking work, labouring under a hot sun and struggling with Mozzies and Horseflies. Bloody hard going, it were!:

It is a beautiful spot but being lakeside means loads of unwanted, unpleasant bugs and Mozzies in huge numbers!

I’m becoming increasingly concerned about Jack. He had his eleventh birthday last month so is in his twelfth year. We’ve had many Cocker Spaniels over the years. Twelve seems to be about their average alotted span. He’s in fair health and pretty good all round for his age, save for his deafness (selective at times?!)  which he’s had for a year or two. He’s always been a wonderfully obedient, loyal and affectionate dog. In reality, he’s J’s dog rather than mine. She chose him, trained him and absolutely adores him. He responds best to her commands and clearly dotes on her too.

Here they both are, picnicking in the Charentes:

A few months ago, while still in Sweden, I noticed he had a developing tendency to want a helping hand when getting up into the back of the car. Previously, he’d simply take a little canter up to the open door and leap and scrabble into the rear footwell. Recently, however, he baulks at doing that and instead waits patiently for a hand up and into the rear. He is also limping in a strange way. We checked him over and there’s no visible problem, nothing stuck in a paw or anything like that. He was in for his Rabies and general vaccination updates to the Vet last week. We mentioned his apparent limp and the vet gave him a thorough going over. She reckons he has a slightly atrophied back haunch and is probably suffering from arthritis.

I personally fear that his limp is becoming more pronounced and hope he is not in pain or suffering too much. I also hope that his haunch/leg doesn’t give out on him. ‘Twould be sad were it to continue to deteriorate.

Here he is keeping Hamish on the hop:
And, of course, keeping me on the hop, a few months ago in Sweden:
Only a few days short of a month before I can get/claim my bus-pass. An old friend and I, here seen riding the rails, or mower – working for his meatballs – in Sweden:
 He already has his pass.  We are planning an epic trip around the Capital. I’ve always been tempted to grab a bus to ‘World’s End’, even though I now know it to be, somewhat prosaically, just by Chelsea. It’ll mean another visit to London to arrange and collect the damn thing, but I need to visit anyway for Wine Gums and Pork Pies  (both of which I have a penchant for and cannot find here in Frogland) and medication/GP appointments etc. C’est la vie!
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About yractual

A former lawyer and national daily journalist, now a freelance music journalist, with moves bewteen Spain, Sweden, France and who knows where next! A Scot by birth and inclination. Lover of acoustic ragtime-blues guitar and ukulele. Work with music titles across three continents.
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