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Newts to you…


Uncle B informed me yesterday there are no turtles in England. No turtles. Anywhere. In England!

I’m speechless.

No turtles. No raccoons. No possums. No chipmunks. No skunks. No hummingbirds. It’s a vast black hole. There goes my whole damn recipe book!

February 28, 2009 — 8:18 pm
Comments: 14

These are not the newts you are looking for!


The crested newt is Britain’s largest and most protected amphibian. Reptile. Whatever. Neighbors told us under no circumstances to mention newts, if we were to find such at Badger House, for fear of bands of marauding hippies with legal superpowers. Utup-shay about the ewts-nay.

This, however — I swear to god — is a smooth newt. Ain’t nothing endangered about a smooth newt. Smooooooth noooooot.

I’m still repairing the brick edging around the garden. It’s going pretty well, but we haven’t had that many sunny days (it’s been in the mid-forties for weeks, though — I’m not complaining!). I dug up a brick and, in the gravel underneath — a good four inches down — was a pile of tiny dessicated newts. Seriously, little dudes were as stiff and dry as sticks.

It crossed my mind that they might have crawled down there and joined the Choir Eternal, but I had a feeling I was looking at a Circle of Life thing. I reburied most of them, and propped this guy up on a brick.

Sure enough, after five minutes in the sun, he blinked. And next time I looked over, I was newtless.

Cheer up, minions! Spring is coming…!

February 27, 2009 — 7:31 pm
Comments: 9

Retiring the practice ring


Have you ever seen a cat, unaccustomed to a collar, utterly flip out in a harness? (Poor old Pinky comes to mind). Well, I’m kind of funny about my hands, and I haven’t worn rings in a very long time and a couple of years ago — when it began to look as though Uncle B and I were really going to tie the knot, after all — I began to worry about the wedding band. What if I went all lose-my-shit Pinky wearing some thing on my finger allthedamn time?

Then I remembered the ring from my mother’s safety deposit box. It was a small platinum or white gold wedding band, just my size. Mother wrote on the envelope that it had been found in the hospital where she worked and turned in, but no one ever came to claim it.

Must be a sad story to go with, but as I didn’t know the details, there didn’t seem any harm in wearing the thing on my right hand for a while. A sort of training ring, as it were.

I did okay, too. I got a little fiddly with it, maybe, but it didn’t drive me screaming bughouse crackers.

After some months, though, the metal went oddly dull. Still, it would polish up okay, so I assumed I had just becrapped it. Then it developed a curiously rough edge along one side. Finally, I took it off and gave it a good, hard look.

It wasn’t precious metal at all. It was stainless steel over brass.

For two years, I have been wearing the missing O-ring from some poor bastard’s heart-lung machine.

February 26, 2009 — 7:50 pm
Comments: 19

Honey, the door-to-door funeral salesman’s been…


Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday. In sunny climes, they celibrate Mardi Gras with a great wicked bacchanalian festival. In Britain, they make pancakes.

But I don’t want you to think Brits lack all sense of fun; housewives traditionally make these pancakes while running a footrace.

Me? No. I didn’t make any pancakes. I assumed “wifely duties” had something to do with surprise sex. Running the hundred-yard dash while flipping flapjacks in a skillet? Day off to sulk.

Another Shrove Tuesday tradition is to strip the churches of all extraneous decoration, so that services during Lent are conducted with maximum austerity. That means all those leftover lilies from the Weasel/Badger wedding had to go somewhere. Very thoughtfully, someone left them on our front stoop this morning.

I went out to get the mail and, for one dizzy little moment of freefall, wondered if I’d made it through the night.

February 25, 2009 — 6:31 pm
Comments: 10



I love moss. Flop down beside a trail anywhere (a thing I do often) and you’re sure to find a clump of moss. Which, on closer examination, is doing something spectacular. But really, really small.

The Audubon Society in New England is famous for building boardwalks all over their properties, so you can hike right out onto landscapes you couldn’t possibly reach on foot otherwise. Like great heaving waist-high landscapes of rolling primordial moss and fern, as far as the eye can see. Positively prehistorical. I loved those things. I would sit there for hours. It wouldn’t have surprised me a bit if a brontosaurus had come galumphing down the boardwalk.

I spent the nicer days last week relaying the low unmortared brick wall around the garden that had been knocked about when the new shit farm was installed. Some of those bricks have fine mosses on them. Fine mosses.

And I got to thinking how much I’d like to encourage mosses to grow in all the moss-appropriate places on Badger House. And I got to thinking how I’ve moved to the wettest, geekiest, gardeningest island on the whole planet (with the possible exception of Japan). So I wasn’t at all surprised Google turned up the British Bryological Society.

Mosses are simple souls, I gather. Keep them wet and keep them acid and they will…thrive, you hope. They are also unpredictable.

Anyhow, Project Moss is going to be fun! It’s sort of uncharted territory. Groups like the BBS are more about finding and identifying mosses in the wild. The few definitive books, like Fletcher‘s, are about keeping field-collected specimens alive in pots. Making existing mosses flourish with gay abandon is going to require original science.

Weasel science!

February 24, 2009 — 6:59 pm
Comments: 17

I’m back! Did I miss anything?


My how time flies, etcetera. We hadn’t made any definite plans, and Britain threw us one of its surprisingly mild February weeks, so we mostly hung around home and did boring old people things in the yard last week.

Garden. Must learn to say “garden” instead of “yard.” Brits only use “yard” in the gritty industrial context of junk yards and brick yards and prison yards. A “back yard” to them would probably feature razor wire and abused German shepherds.

Alsatians. They call them alsatians.

Anyhow, we mostly stayed away from the innernuts, in an effort to break the cycle of…seeing everything as a cycle of something that needs breaking. So I’m just now working down the emails and congratulatory messages.

A sincere thank you to everyone who wished us well. We don’t get many drama queen moments in our little lives, and we roll around in them like…alsatians in pigshit.

And now — back to some serious blogging.

Psych! I don’t do serious blogging!

February 23, 2009 — 7:15 pm
Comments: 41

Happy omen


Until recently, the CoE would only consent to marry couples in their local church (or one of their local churches, if the two were from different parishes). So most of the people who lived in Badger House over the last four hundred years would certainly have been married in the ancient church around the corner. That’s why we were so dead-set on doing the same, despite — to put it mildly — not being church-going mustelids.

But services are held in a nearby parish in Winter, on account of our church has no electricity and the lane leading to it is muddy and impassible much of the time. We took a real risk picking February. The 14th was the earliest the vicar would consent to open the building (heh. And you thought one of us was an incurable romantic).

February in England is…iffy. It can be startling warm and sunny. It can be an absolute asshole. Predictions can change by the hour. I’ve been holding my breath for months.

This Saturday was…improbably gorgeous. Sunny, warm, high puffy clouds. Okay, yes, we had to walk to the church from the main road and our vows whuffed out in little puffs of holy vapor, but I got feeling back in my toes again after a couple of drinks and an hour or so in front of the fire.

Everything, from beginning to end, was…absolutely perfect.

Well, holy shit.

I’m taking a week off blogging. I gather I’m supposed to moon people or something. I think there’s honey involved. Thanks so much for the happy thoughts, everyone — y’all have been too kind. And all your good wishes came true, so you can start thinking about lottery numbers next, ‘k?

Oh, the picture? That, my friends, is weasel shit. Stoat plop, to be more precise. You can tell because it’s tiny and it’s wearing an ickle fur coat, courtesy of the more indigestible bits of its victims. The day was so lovely Saturday morning, I decided to walk into town for my hair ‘n’ stuff, and found this token of esteem lying right in my path.

So my family made it after all.

February 16, 2009 — 8:23 pm
Comments: 54

Friday the 13th holds no terrors for Weasel


Now, Saturday the 14th — that’s a different story!

Kindly sacrifice a chicken for me in the morning, my minions.

February 13, 2009 — 9:00 pm
Comments: 59

The fool on the hill


I got nothin’ today, so here’s a snapshot I snagged last week when we went for a nice long drive. I’ve been meaning to post it. That dark thing is the windmill on Hogs Hill near Winchelsea, which was renovated by and is currently the recording studio of Paul McCartney.

Once in a while, McCartney wanders into a pub for a beer. Afterwards, the locals are all, like, “guess who was in for a pint last week?”
“I don’t know, who?”
“Paul McCartney.”
“Oh, aye?”

And then everybody tries to act all casual about it.

It’s really cute.

February 12, 2009 — 8:24 pm
Comments: 41

She sees…dead people?


I must tell you — although I am as psychic as a potato — Badger House doesn’t feel the least little bit haunted to me. Despite its old bones (between 399 and 421 years old, depending on whether you believe our earliest property tax bill or the plaque on the front), it feels nothing but warm and happy. This place has been added to, taken from, patched up, mutilated, renovated and redecorated so many times, all the ghosteses must have packed their bindles and hit Ye Roadde centuries ago.

But Charlotte here is kind of freaking us out.

She’s a spooky girl. She was a feral kitten and she’s been a one-weasel cat ever since, but she did pretty okay the first few days. She explored the house, she cautiously interacted with Uncle B. She was acclimating faster than I expected.

Then she stopped coming downstairs one day. She’d hide in the closet with the water heater if I left it open. I had to move her food up. She slept twenty hours a day, only came down when I carried her and scooted back up the moment I let go. It was a cold week; I put it down to that.

Then she gradually calmed down. She began coming downstairs for a few minutes on her own. Accepting skritchies from Uncle B. She’ll still startle at the least noise, but after weeks and weeks she’s getting back where she was on day three.

But for one thing: she’s fixated on a particular spot on the wall. She’ll be grooming or snoozing or playing with string, and suddenly she’ll jump like she hears something and stare at That Place (this lucky shot catches her the very moment she stopped chewing toe and started the creepy stare). No doubt about it: she’s watching something.

The spot is in the short hall between the livingroom (with the fire) and the dining room (where Granny Weasel is hung). There is a small window. There’s nothing else there. Now.

But all the old geezers in the neighborhood tell us that’s where the front door was for hundreds of years, until the major renovation of 1970-something.


February 11, 2009 — 8:42 pm
Comments: 26