Saturday, 31 July 2010

Rosa Bella

This is Rosa Bella, a rescue dog currently enjoying the hospitality at Rock HQ. She was found a few weeks back by a friend of ours, who owns Berners, the poor dog was in such a state on the roadside that our friend stopped to see what she could do. Rosa Bella was tired, thin, covered in mange, fleas, not a happy healthy old dog. She obviously spotted that our friend would help as she jumped into the back of her car and stayed there. For a whole 24 hours. Sleeping and eating. Eventually she was persuaded out and taken to the vets. Happily she is on the mend and looking for a new home. So anyone out there want a collie cross, very elderly dog who needs love and fuss you know where to find one!
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British Industry at work

Now I promise you I don't make this up. The tales within these pages are true. But this one takes some believing, but trust me, it happened.


The helicopter landing pad, aka "patio" is well under way, the grounds cleared and whats needed is tons, literally tons of building materials for the walls and floor. The floor needs eight tons of gravel as a base for the stonework. Right. We live next door to a quarry. How hard can getting eight tons of gravel be?

Telephone quarry. How much for gravel? Twelve pounds a ton plus VAT. Brilliant. Cheap as chips. Do you want to pay for it now? No, pay on delivery. Have to pay before delivery. OK Hour before. Fine no problem, Friday morning. How much by the way. £279 plus VAT.

A day passes. £279 plus VAT? The cogs turn in the grey matter. How?

Tracey my beautiful and oh so very patient wife makes a call to another quarry, why does eight tons cost so much? Probably being charged for a half load. Ah!

Forewarned is forearmed,and as part of my forearm is bionic, lookout!

Call to quarry Friday morning, expecting my eight tons. Yes its ready. Right, why is it costing so much?

Gravel 12 pounds a ton plus VAT.


That's £96 plus VAT for gravel.


Total £279.


Its a 20 ton lorry, you have to pay for the space.

The air?

Yes, that's £9 a ton plus vat, making it £108 plus VAT

Wait, I'm being charged more for air in the lorry than the stone its delivering.


Mate we are neighbours, I bet if we both stood at windows and look across the fields we could see each other, surely delivery can be free


Its half a mile

No, sorry. And you have to have a lorry load, its 20 ton, otherwise you pay for the capacity of the lorry.

How much is 20 ton?

£305 plus VAT

Sorry mate, you are way over priced, Ennestone will do it for £200 plus VAT.

You have another quote?


We'll match it.

Wait, I get 20 ton for £200 plus VAT, that's £235, that's less than the cost of 8 but over twice as much.


OK send it over.

Amazed at the turnaround of events I get on with the jobs that need doing. Phone rings an hour later.

Hello its the Quarry


You ordered 20 ton of gravel

Yes, at £200 quid plus VAT

Yes that's OK, its just that we don't have lorries that big here. Can we send it over in two ten ton lorries.

Yes, no bother.

And so dear reader 20 ton of gravel was delivered by a driver named Rebel, who dutifully dropped off all the stone a lorry load at a time at the allotted points in the yard and on the lane. I was left wondering how the quarry would have coped if I had stuck to the original order of only eight ton, would they have sent a second lorry up with ten ton of air in it?

British Industry, best in the world!

Friday, 30 July 2010

This evening...

.....I have mostly been mixing and wheelbarrowing concrete.

Ready for tomorrows man test.
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Fifi has moved on to a nice family close by. They wanted a car they could carry their dog in. Ideal!
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A few friends round

The Ryelands have made friends with the militias sheep and invited them to share breakfast.
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Thursday, 29 July 2010

Another MLS moment

Materials are arriving for the build project in the garden. The building suppliers dutifully followed the delivery instructions to the letter, they arrived in a small lorry to get up the lane and under the tree canopy. They used the turning circle and reversed the last 150 metres to the drop off point. From this point they subsequently ignored all the letters spelling use lorry crane to drop off all supplies the garden side of the white gate. Now the white gate is one of the most obvious features at Rock HQ, apart from the Rock, the gate, visible from space, dominates the scenery. The builders merchants interpretation of the letters on the page translated to leave the heavy building materials as far as possible from the scene of the build as the size of the yard physically allows. Thus pallets of blocks, three tons of mixed aggregates and a smattering of cement bags decorated the perimeter on my return home. Geisha stood guard, until a sunbeam melted her legs and she sought refuge on a plastic tray nearby.
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Don't mess!

This is little Misty, our tiny tiny shitland who has Trevor the Pocket Rocket right under her hoof. Before she arrived he was a teeth and heels monster, since meeting he has been as soft as butter and totally reformed.
She wears the equine trousers in the relationship and if he steps out of line she explodes in a flurry kicks and whinnies like an air raid siren.
Failing that the off nip on the rear reminds him that he should never cross her. Poor lads backside bears her hall mark.
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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Loss of Faith

Faith was never one to conform, and was never a dog to slow down so its comforting to know that for her the end was remarkably swift and painless. Unlike the Gordon Setters of the books, she was a bitch that was bigger than the dogs, she would never sit quietly and await her masters return, rather she would bark her annoyance at being left out and was hopeless around guns. She had zero tolerance of smaller dogs, except for the ancient beagles, had two speeds, mach 10 and crashed out, a terrible thief, as in steal anything and always got caught and would always insist on drinking out of the toilet rather than her bowl.

She looked stunning, in full flight would have beaten most greyhounds and her proudest moment was coming back to Rock HQ after an encounter with a fox that had breached the perimeter, she had part of its tail as a trophy. She had a sensitive side, she always knew when you were feeling under the weather and if you sang she would join in. Totally fearless on the mountain side she once followed Sara and I up a stupidly steep aspect of Tryfan in Snowdonia, Sara is convinced at one point Faith was using her teeth for extra grip. On the way home she fell asleep on top of Sara and drooled over her. Bless.
A short while ago we found Faith had cancer, the vet was amazed she was so active given how desperately ill she was. The good thing was was that she did not know about it, she just carried on, and we hoped she would see the autumn.
The last few days we noticed she chose not to run everywhere, but instead joined us at a steady trot. Monday evening she took a walk around the perimeter and gave us cuddles. We thought the end was close. Tuesday morning she seemed herself, trying to jump into the pig pen for extra rations, annoying Blackbirds in the hedgerow and generally making her presence felt. This morning she got out of bed, had a quick sniff of the summer morning, refused breakfast and curled up in her bed. Tracey sat with her and soon it was over, Faith had decided to go, she sighed her last goodbye, lifted her head and placed it on the back of Tracey's hand and went off in search of Paddy (another ex setter of ours ) to play forever.
She has been buried in a good spot overlooking the ranch on the slopes of the Bonsai Mountain at the base of The North Face Gully. Apollo was one of a number of the critters that came over to say goodbye.
She made me cry the first time I saw her, tears of joy as she was a Christmas present from Tracey. The last time I saw her was also with tears in my eyes. Faith was a joy to own and the sadness we feel now is a small price to pay for all the good times we had. A brave dog.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Under guard

Fern, our bottle fed orphan lamb is a mule, as in a variety of sheep thats a crossed breed like a lowland ram and a highland ewe producing a mule sheep that has the best of both breeds, the hardiness of the uplands with the fat table meat producing lowland.
This makes her ideal pie filling.
Which is why she is under guard in the garden, having lost every sheep we have owned that is anything other then a Ryeland who take a million years to get to a size worth taking to the nice man who gives them the one way ticket to everlasting pastures in the sky. We are keen to produce lambs able to provide lamb chops, or at least I am having had my vegetarianism cured by a Navy chef and a plate of lamb chops when I was a reserve officer on a very famous warship, but that's a different tale, the lambs point of view is redundant in this matter, but like the pigs their total commitment to the project is expected. Anyway any sheep like animal that does not resemble a teddy bear is viewed as fair game by the local militia and ours go "missing" with monotonous regularity and no offers of pie as compensation.
So Fern is destined to be a concubine for Crispen who, while he is still up to the job, is expected to assist in the lets fill the freezer with something other than pork and roadkill project. If Fern is the best of both worlds, where did she get those ears?
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A tasty treat

Horse pooh.


Poppy the pathetic triever being disgusting for a change.
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Monday, 26 July 2010


Rupert and Mabel have been re homed here at Rock HQ after outgrowing their previous owners garden. These very smart city chic geese are getting accustomed to the strange and wonderful on the Bonsai Mountain. The chances of them staying so ultra bright white is pretty remote but for now we can enjoy it while it lasts.
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Sunday, 25 July 2010

Dig it man!

I lost count of the number of shovelfuls and barrow loads of turf, soil, rock, concrete, stone and old dog bones Pritch and I shifted today as we carried on the grand design. The patio, which is large enough to double as a helicopter landing pad takes shape as we cleared the turf. Work was slow for various reasons, mainly the length of time to barrow the spoil, the bone jarring rocks just beneath the surface of the soil and the canine trip hazards. Levels were hard to find, especailly towards the conservatory end where a 40 centimetre variance was discovered to be as a result of me running the tape over a lazy sleeping dog, once moved we were back on track.
Grass being a premium and sought after commodity here on the Bonsai Mountain the turf was lovingly transferred by yours truly to bare soil in the lane and relaid in the hope it will take and provide a few more mouthfuls for the rampaging Ryelands. However, by barrow 37 I was getting a bit lax in the turf transplanting and opted for using the fresh cut sods as green compost material for the raised beds in the veg garden as it was easier. 23 barrow loads later tired arms and legs opted for the much quicker and shorter choice of tipping it down the vertiginous slope of the hill and letting nature sort it all out.
The Berners, who are in their natural world big load carriers, bred for sled pulling up steep mountain sides declined the invite to shift the last 56 barrow loads of dirt and instead made matters so much easier by getting underfoot.
By end of play, when it was almost impossible to lift my arms we had dug it out ready for the stone to arrive. I am thankful that there are four rest days before the five tons of stone scalping's have to be barrowed in through the garden gate and whacked in place ready for the concrete. Which again needs to be barrowed in. Beginning to wish now that we had chosen a patio that wasn't big enough for a Chinook to land on.
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Rene our faithful Rx4, the mechanical version of the Swiss Army Knife and the motorised saviour of Rock HQ has been sold. He is a pretty boy now, all clean, well, nearly all clean, as clean as the inside of a mobile barn/animal transporter can be, and mostly shiny. Except for the roof. I couldn't reach the roof.
Anyway this brilliant vehicle is off to have a new life with a family who will look after him. He's got quite an adventure ahead. He's off to Cape Town. Now that is a road trip!
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Saturday, 24 July 2010

No we're not going to do Stonehenge!

A groundbreaking day at Rock HQ. Literally.
It started with Pritch building a scale model of Stonehenge at the bottom of the cliff steps. He wondered why I was laughing so much, but then he's never seen Spinal Tap. So while I chuckled and kept repeating "I think the problem was that there was a Stonehenge monument on stage that was in danger of being a dwarf!" he got on with setting up the space invader beacon.

Once assembled this looked like it should shuffle across the garden getting quicker and quicker avoiding missiles, instead it fired lasers in a 360 arc, pretty impressive kit, not for contacting ET but for finding levels, and as we were building a patio and garden walls, level was a good place to find.
Several hours later we had got half the original patio up, it proved tougher than we thought, who ever built it had the idea that one day it would be the roof of a nuclear bunker, trenches dug for wall foundations, a new manhole cover that we never knew about hidden under a concrete slab, a pick axe through a pipe (luckily it didn't seem to be a pipe we used) and backache. Well I did, Pritch more used to manual labour found it all ever so easy.

He didn't mind finding rocks the size of small planets lurking centimetres below the surface of the lawn which made digging a bit interesting.

In all a good start and the planned grand opening of the new project at our garden party in six weeks time is bound to be achieved. I mean, what could possibly go wrong!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Sometimes small is best

Four hours later I was still seething. A whole hour of therapeutic bracken strimming had done little to ease my mood, even a fresh basil, tomato and mozzarella salad washed down with a vat of cheap plonk could not persuade me to ease up. Lets face it, I am in a bad mood. Cause? Well for once not goats. No.
The RSPCA are the cause.
Now we have long supported animal charities, sometimes we do wonder where our hard earned pennies go when given to such a leviathan charity as the RSPCA but if our donation buys the tea and biccies in one of the three huge call centres dedicated to Royally preventing cruelty to animals then so be it. At least the intrepid Inspectors will be refreshed as they right animals done wrong.
Given my work in child protection, the horrors therein, it should come as no surprise that those engaged in causing suffering to children think nothing of brutality to animals. And so my path and the path of the RSPCA often cross, mostly just in passing, always with professional courtesy, each doing their job. Over six weeks ago I referred a case to them, a house so unimaginably filthy, condemned by environmental health, warrants sought , evictions imminent. The adults chose to live there. The dogs, up to seven, Alsatians, did not. These unfortunate canines are confined to a terrace house, never going outside yet alone taken for walks, living in their own squalor. The smell from outside was eye watering. Inside the setting for a horror movie. It might surprise folk that social workers have no powers, we have less power of entry to property than the electricity board. If we cannot gain access to help children, we definitely cannot sort out the animals. So call in the RSPCA, given the numbers of dogs, the numbers of concerns and the very hot weather I did expect a swift response. Six weeks and numerous phone calls later they still have not even visited the house. The dogs have been heard up until very recently pitifully crying, but no one has called. But its not the lack of action that has caused such anger within.
Its their call centre.
One imbecile in particular who is now subject of an official complaint for appalling rudeness, obstruction, unprofessional manner and for eating more than his share of the biscuits my charitable donations have no doubt funded.
I called to get some feedback on the progress of the case. I called partly in hope that something had been done having visited the property yesterday and found it eerily silent, dog wise anyway, but I called mostly as I had an email from the RSPCA asking me to do so. Once he had identified himself as a RSPCA call handler his first remark was why had I phoned this number. My reply that it was the one I had been given was rewarded by a snort of derision and a comment that they don't give this number out to the public.
I explained it was the number given and incidentally the number was the one I always used, could he check the progress of case number 123?
A huff indicated he was checking records, it had been passed to the field team, they were dealing with it.
He could not explain what that meant as it was breaking some rule or other, neither could he pass on my concern that six weeks had passed, I could do that if I called the national call centre, he was, he pointedly remarked in the regional call centre.
We established it was my region.
Therefore the right call centre, but still he could not pass on the message. I asked him how the system worked, from the point of referral who did what, no he couldn't that was the job of the national call centre.
What was the role of the regional call centre I asked, and this is where it all went Pete Tong with him claiming he told me and would not repeat himself, me pointing out I was taking notes and wanted to speak to his manager and eventually after five minutes of deafening keep you waiting in the hope you hang up music a bit more helpful operator took note of my concerns, would pass the message on and promised to have word in her rude minions shell like.
I reinforced my not happy bunny stance by faxing over to the national call centre a formal complaint.
What do I take from this? Well I shall not be buying the RSPCA staff any more tea and biccies and in future any donations made to animal charities will be to the local and small ones. Ones like the one run by Glenys Bufton, a marvelous woman from Llandridnod who single handed has rescued more animals the the RSPCA has eaten biscuits. Look her up on google, you wont find a web page but you will find lots of thankyous and info on how to donate.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


Its great this time of year as there is lots of free food about for the animals. Heres Shirley having a treat of some green hazelnuts. Somehow I managed to keep all my fingers.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Goat of many colours

We do have an aversion to goats here at Rock HQ. An outbreak of the beasts critically injured the vegetable garden and killed the tomato greenhouse. Six foot high fences and machine guns failed to prevent their incursions and once they turned their attentions to the fruit trees they had to go. With them went our plans for goats cheese and milk for all at Rock HQ. In all honesty this was no loss as the battle and bruises for the wine glass of milk was far from worthwhile.We kept Geisha (above) our Anglo Nubian out of sympathy and a wether called Ambrose for Hetty to play with.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and one of the reasons for going to the Royal Welsh Show was to find someone who had a Billy Anglo Nubian who could call on Geisha and make her life complete. Female Anglo Nubian's have a tendency to develop ovarian cysts as they grow older so its about time she was mated and hopefully the kids, which are the most cute thing since Bernese puppies, will be as colourful as this one at the show. As Geisha is totally tame and more like a dog than a goat there is also the vain hope that she will let us milk her rather than try and kill us.
These two were also prize winners, tartan check fur is apparently highly sought after.
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