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The lovely couple

Okay, when did I morph into the crazy bird lady? The neighbors brought these two over this afternoon; they chopped down a tree, and a nest tumbled out. Near as I can figure, these’re Eurasian Collared Doves, maybe two weeks old.

The internet’s best advice was to put the nest back as close to original site as possible and trust their parents. I did that and sat a discreet distance away hoping for a happy ending. The garden was full of hoo-hoo-hooing doves, but nobody came near the nest.

Then night fell and a nasty storm blew up and…well. Couldn’t leave them to hypothermiate, could I? So they’re tucked up in a box upstairs with a hot water bottle and a cropful of warm chick crumb.

I’ll put them back in the nest tomorrow, and if that doesn’t work…not sure. Find a dove rescue, maybe. I don’t think I’m getting enough food in them to raise them up myself.

As for the other lovely couple, I thought the royal wedding was charming. And if you don’t agree, you’re a poop.

Good weekend, everyone!

April 29, 2011 — 9:48 pm
Comments: 45

In defense of the royals…

Nah, I’m not really into it. Don’t plan to watch tomorrow. Well, maybe the hilight reel.

But my Twitter stream is full of Yanqui sarcasm about the Royal Wedding and I have one invariable rule in life — find out what all the cool kids are doing, and do something else.

Truly, the Brits have an astonishing ability to pull off these huge aristocratic spectacles with military precision, mostly because they let the military handle them. It’s a holdover from the days of empire, I suppose.

Weddings, state funerals coronations…if you watch any of it tomorrow, think of the logistics of putting together all those soldiers and horses and antiquated whatnots and whoozits, and bringing it all off without a hitch.

I post this tonight in case it all goes horribly wrong tomorrow; you can show up back here to point and laugh.

It’s only fair.

April 28, 2011 — 9:59 pm
Comments: 30


True story: for several years of my employment (circa 1994 – 2004), my main job responsibility was to convert many thousands of pages of our core tech doc to .pdf and publish them to our field staff, thrice a year. I went to school for it and everything. They useta call me the PDF Lady. Oh, if only I were kidding.

To this day, if Uncle B downloads a particularly awkward Adobe file, he fixes me with a cold and bitter stare.

So here’s what I think is going on. This thing looks to have been created by taking a scan of the original document as it was bound in a book (hence the falloff on the lefthand side)…that scan was then was sharpened — either over-sharpened or converted to black-and-white, fax-style — giving the type terrible black jaggies and a white halo. Note some letters (particularly where typed letters touch parts of the printed form) are grayer. The result was then superimposed over the green patterned background. I’m at a loss to explain the soft gray pencil marks; perhaps they were too pale to trigger the sharpening.

My best guess is that this image was produced by some antiquated, stupid but perfectly legitimate automated document storage and retrieval system. Godnose we in the corporate world were bombarded by startups trying to sell shit like this, particularly in the early years, so there’s no telling how much grossly expensive bad ware was hawked to the government. It was probably intended to “enhance” a scan and superimpose it over a state seal or other legitimizing watermark.

In the absence of any new information, I’m going to say: legitimate and official. Also crude, ugly and utterly uninspiring of confidence. Like an electronic vote divorced from its original paper counterpart, it’s probably real but SO easily could be effed with.

Eh…almost like they don’t want the controversy to die down.

April 27, 2011 — 9:29 pm
Comments: 47

Sad chicken demands cuddle

Heh. Just seeing how many chicken pictures I can post before my readership clucks and pecks gravel. And flies away. Truth is, I’m so deep into my country idyll at the moment, I hardly turn the computer on until sundown. It’s Spring, peeps!

Don’t worry — it’s only a matter of time before Obama does something stupid and photogenic. I’m there!

Mad Mapp is still broody. I shut her out of the henhouse in the morning, where she alternates hopping into my lap for a cuddle and lunging at the babies, making them squeak and flap. Lucia is so cheezed off at Mapp’s crazy auntie routine, she’s laying eggs in the flower border around back.

Yeah, the shade of Walt Disney called. He’s like, “can you dial it down a notch? You’re making me plotz down here.”

April 26, 2011 — 9:51 pm
Comments: 28


I spent the long weekend (when I wasn’t snoozing in the sun under a downy layer of chickens) weeding the borders around the house. When you live in a four hundred year old cottage, the job ain’t so bad.

I always — I mean always — dig up interesting bits of junk. And by “dig up” I mean, more often than not, find lying on the surface, thanks to that curious process by which earth acts like water, drawing objects down and lifting them up again. Fluid but glacially slow.

Today, I dug up part of a tiny pelvis and several long bones. I’ve either exhumed someone’s beloved cat or secret lovechild. Um, oops?

Also, several small lengths of clay pipestem. I find a lot of that. I’ve only found one bowl so far (pictured above) and it’s a very early one. The small bowl and wide angle between it and the stem puts it around 1600-ish, the internet tells me. Maybe the very first owner of this house was the smoker.

Found them by the place where the front door used to be. Imagine the master of the house knocking out his pipe on the threshold before coming in of an evening, and “oh, bugger” it breaks. So he throws it…four centuries into the future.

I find dozens of pottery chips. Makes me laugh. Blue and white could be anything from Delft, 1580 to Woolworths, 1976. Same with the mysterious lumps of rust; they could be anything, any time.

One of these days, I’ll dig up a coin. I know it. I don’t care what it is; I just want some lunch money from the past.

I often think the saddest thing about living in a house this old is how haunted it isn’t; how many people have lived whole lives inside these four walls and left no trace on them. All I have to know them by is little busted up bits of junk they threw out in the yard.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. A really depressing metaphor.

April 25, 2011 — 10:33 pm
Comments: 24

Surprise! Not a chicken picture…

This one was an idea by reader OU_Gryphon. I can almost never pull off other people’s ideas (boy, that was really helpful in my career as an illustrator), but this was too easy. I love easy.

‘Nother day spent dozing and chicken rassling. I worried maybe Mapp was egg bound instead of broody, so I soaked her in a bucket of warm soapy water for half an hour. You know that expression, “mad as a wet hen”? Wow. Yeah. No shit.

Still broody. Still no egg. I’ll keep dunking her until morale improves.

Owing to England being an explicitly for-reals Christian nation, this is a national four day weekend, starting today. We have a whole bagful of hot cross buns in there. And…I dunno…Jew on a Stick.

Have a good Easter, everybody!

April 22, 2011 — 9:02 pm
Comments: 27

I’m the chicken on the…left

So this qualified herbalist who gave me the myrrh-flavored body paint, I asked her if there’s anything she’s allowed to dispense which really works as a sleeping draught. Chronic insomniac, me. So she made me up a little something.

Tried it last night, and it works! Sends me into short, fitful, dream-filled naps all night, and a deep, steady, coma-like snooze all day long. In a lawnchair. In the sun. Covered in chickens.

I’m as useless today as…Mapp, trying to hatch that damn stupid wooden egg.

p.s. For the record, most of the chatter I hear about the royal wedding is coming from US sites I read. Here, reactions are mostly limited to a) eyerolls and b) coming up with the most obnoxious possible commemorative merchandise.

p.p.s. Though a nearby downmarket town is trying to put together one of those street parties on The Day. They don’t seem to be getting much traction. I asked Uncle B if I could go. Eyeroll.

April 21, 2011 — 10:22 pm
Comments: 15

As a matter of fact, we ARE spring chickens

SQUEEEEE! (Also in color).

We took a long drive through the South Downs today (gas: $8.66/gallon US, e-yow) to Middle Farm and bought these two lovely birds.

Pekin bantams again. The one on the left is Victoria, a partridge, and the one on the right is Violet, a lavender.

Victoria was the given the name of Vita Sackville-West (two posts down) and Violet was her lover of many years. Though Vita and her husband were genuinely and deeply in love with each other (and he was into boys or llamas or little white dogs or something). Whatever — CHICKENS!

Tomorrow they will see sunshine and walk on grass for the very first time, and we will begin the long, ticklish business of introducing them to the flock, AKA the other two.

And thus my poultry inventory is complete.

April 20, 2011 — 9:38 pm
Comments: 22

Dramatic chicken

It was one of those life-changing events: one minute you’re an ordinary housewife who pretends to be a weasel on the internet, and the next you’re the sort of woman who rubs olive oil onto a distressed chicken’s bottom.

Honestly, I don’t know why it never occurred to me that laying an egg might be painful, but Mapp screamed for three hours today trying to squeeze one out. She laid her first egg about a month ago, but she’s only been doing this awful shrieking thing for a couple of days now.

Afterwards, she brags on herself for a while and then goes about her business, apparently perfectly happy.

I don’t know if I have a hen with problems or a drama queen on my hands.

April 19, 2011 — 10:33 pm
Comments: 32

My lawn, it is nothing like this

This Tudor gatehouse tower is almost all that’s left of a huge and ancient manor house named Sissinghurst, near Cranbrook in Kent. By the Twentieth Century, even this was a ruin. In 1930, Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson bought it and much of the land around.

They were rich, aristocratic and sexually odd. Which is neither here nor there, I just thought I’d mention it; liven things up a bit.

Together they turned the grounds into one of the most popular gardens in the country. It’s a long way for us to go, but it’s our favorite National Trust site. It was too nice to stay home, so we drove out to it today.

Yep. We have reached the “walking around gardens” stage of our lives.

The garden is laid out in “rooms” — square, walled plots with a theme. The most famous is the White Garden, which is exactly what it sounds like and touched off a bit of a craze.

My favorite is the herb garden, I think. Because — herbs! I like herbs. Even if I have to pronounce the “h” here or nobody knows what I’m talking about.

Uncle B is reading the guidebook and says Vita Sackville-West opened the gardens once a year and liked them to be popular, but I imagine she’d be well and truly cheesed off at the lot of us hoi polloi eating icecreams and trudging around her nice lawns.

Somewhat embittered at her misfortune, was Vita. See, she was born here, in what is reputed to be the largest house in England. And as the only child of Lionel Edward Sackville-West, 3rd Baron Sackville, she would have inherited the lot — had she been male.

Next time you board an airplane and struggle through First Class to reach your cramped seat at the back, look into the eyes the people up front in the comfy seats and be assured they’re thinking, “dammit — it’s not fair! Why don’t I have a private jet?” 

April 18, 2011 — 9:45 pm
Comments: 11