Friday, 30 October 2009

Hooray for cheap foreign labour

How better to spend a lazy afternoon on the sofa than browsing through the Ceredigion Monthly Advertiser. It’s reassuring to know that there are people in the local area who can provide man on man deep tissue massage, mole control (of the small furry variety) or salsa classes for beginners. Two ads caught my eye this month -  the first was for Welsh cross Berkshire weaners. We’ve been trying to decide between the Welsh white pig (good for bacon) and the Berkshire black pig (good for pork) as the starter pig for the Banceithin herd. If someone out there has crossed the two breeds perhaps that’s the compromise we’ve been looking for - a black & white pig happy to live up to its snout in muck on a damp Welsh hillside with nothing but sheep for company, but equally at home snuffling amongst cake and jam stalls at the school fete on the village green. Anyway, I digress. The other ad of interest was for a poultry auction down the road at Llanina Hotel. Pigs are on hold until new year, but the sooner I can stop buying eggs from the farm up the road and start snaffling them fresh from under a warm feathered bottom in my own garden, the better. The chicken house has been sitting in the shed like an abandoned mini-ski chalet since its construction in September 2008. 11 months later, in a fit of enthusiasm, we went out and spent a small fortune on fencing. But each time I suggest to Dave that perhaps building of the chicken run could begin, he groans and finds something more interesting to do, like lagging pipes or measuring holes. I think perhaps flashbacks to lonely days in winter concreting in veg plot fence posts are putting him off. If the chicken run is to become a reality, some hired muscle would be required. As luck would have it, cheap foreign labour was already on its way (if an illegal immigrant is good enough for the Attorney General, a legal one should be just fine for us!). We knew Yiannis could balance 6 plates on one hand while using the other hand to down Jaegermeister bombs, but would his talents extend to power tools? The first test set for Yiannis by Dave was to build a path - cue some serious mattock swinging, manly grunting (both Greek and English) and heaving of rocks, in between fag breaks.


If the BBC ever decided to combine Gardeners World and The World’s Strongest Man into a single show, it would not look too dissimilar to what I witnessed from the safe (and comfortable) distance of the kitchen window. That said, it would be unusual to see any contestant on The World’s Strongest Man take a break from his exertions to smell a flower. I swear this is exactly what Ali caught Yiannis & Dave doing, although they maintain it was a herb not a flower that was the object of inspection, but note the lack of denial that sniffing did take place.


Judging by the back slapping and general mutual appreciation that took place I think it’s safe to say that Yiannis passed the first test with flying colours. But now for the ultimate test … Project Chicken Run!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

New Athena Poster

Now I promise this photo is not staged, but apparently the new kittens love the smell of my work boots.


Work has ground to a halt over the last couple of days, Philippa was struck down with flu and I also caught it, but it mainly affected my voice, so I’ve not been able to speak for the last 3 days, and the odd word I do manage to get out sounds like I have sucked the gas out of the worlds biggest helium balloon

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Men at Work

If you’re a man with an urge to wield an axe, rev up a power tool or generally flex the diy muscles, then Banceithin is the place for you! Bob braved the winter cold to clad the shed (see 29 January 2009, “The Shed (Can he fix it? Yes he can)”), Andy joined him in fairer weather to shovel gravel for the veg plot path (see 14 April 2009, “Sunny Easter”), Jersey Jon swung a golf club and fitted a kitchen (see 8 June 2009, Kitchen Numero Deux).

This week, Squaddie Dad leapt into action - he sands, he paints, he tiles, he takes doors off their hinges, he puts doors back on their hinges.  He even managed to find time to win a round of golf, lose a game of cribbage and eat cake.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Flag Counter

I don’t know whether you have noticed, but we’ve added a visitor counter to the blog that is supposed to register each unique visitor and show from which country they’re from. It’s become a bit of a challenge to see if we can get some different flags up, so if you have any friends or family overseas, can you get them to just log onto the site? Jim and Denise live in Hong Kong but I’m not sure who the others from there are, Neil and Jo are in Brisbane  and my brother in law is in South Africa. Kempy has been credited with getting the USA and Indonesian flags.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Remembering Shakey

Anyone who saw how I decorated my first flat would know I’m no graduate of the Magnolia School of Decorating (or indeed any school of decorating). The flat was a technicolour one bedroom palace – purple kitchen, green & yellow lounge, red bedroom and turquoise bathroom. The rainbow of the Hampton Wick property market but confusing for the colour blind.

Despite this, I am Decorator in Chief at Banceithin (admittedly self-appointed but the other potential applicant was once seen wearing a purple t-shirt with an orange velvet jacket so I was a shoo in for the job). At first the role lacked colour, white gloss on white undercoat on white wood primer – windows, windows and more windows. Yawn. Then came door painting day. Armed with the knowledge that exterior gloss was available in the full range of the Dulux colour palette, I hurtled off to Ace Decorating Supplies in Aberystwyth. Like a kid in a candy store I toyed with Crushed Pine, flirted with Japanese Maze and paused over Dublin Bay, before heading home with a 2.5 litre can of Paradise Green stashed in the boot.

Could it be that some secret part of me remembered that my very first pop album (cassette tape, of course) was the greatest hits of Shakin’ Stevens? Had I longed for my very own green door all this time?


Dave christened the colour “barge green” (clearly too much time spent hanging around on the banks of the Kennet & Avon canal). And the verdict of Mr & Mrs Pickworth Senior (aka Squaddie Dad & his Painting Queen) …. “it’s very green”. Damning praise indeed. As for me, I love it. But then I would, wouldn’t I.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Having Kittens!

Today saw the arrival of yet another two new additions to the family – real living creatures this time, not vegetables!

Please welcome to the world…..

Nessa “naughty tortie” Pickworth.


Nessa  is a keen eater, and in what little spare time she has when not standing paw deep in chicken chunks with jelly, she likes to mewl until picked up and bother her brother whenever he tries to use the litter tray.

Also introducing Stephen “monkey cat” Pickworth …


Stephen (Steve to his mates) likes slippers, socks and feet and spends his spare time either trying to get away from his sister or batting her in the face.

And not forgetting the incumbent cat, Charles Pickworth…


Top Cat! 
The most effectual Top Cat! 
Who's intellectual close friends get to call him T.C. 
Providing it's with dignity. 
Top Cat! 
The indisputable leader of the gang. 
He's the boss, he's a pip, he's the championship. 
He's the most tip top, 
Top Cat! 
Yes he's a chief, he's a king, 
But above everything, 
He's the most tip top, 
Top Cat!

But too scared to say hello to Stephen and Nessa!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

What a lovely pair!

We had some new additions to the family today, we harvested the remaining swede and put them to sleep to over winter, much like the Blue Peter tortoise!


And we had the first birth from our ever expanding butternut squash plants. The little fella weighed in at a mighty 2Kg and we have christened him Steven.


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Dave's faves

Here are my current top 5 veg and my favourite way of scoffing them:

5. Spring onion (Phil’s yummy potato and spring onion soup)

4. Main crop tatties (Roasted…of course)

3. Swiss chard (Ooo, get me…in  a veg stir fry…..nice)

2. Purple carrots ( Freaky to look at, but v tasty roasted with some honey)


1. Curly Kale (Steamed and whisked through with creamed horseradish, wallop!)

Thought for the day:

Why is it as a kid I really struggled with eating veg There must be some genetic trigger that when your body has stopped developing, it reduces the urge for fats, carbs and sugars

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Philfest 09 Highlights

After the successful running of the inaugural Philfest last year, we decided to keep the spirit going and try a smaller version up here in Wales.

A small crowd gathered on the Saturday evening for a feast of live music. Headlining was Bobbos with his blend of contempory and traditional guitar classics. He’s really developed as a solo guitarist and we were lucky to book him as he had to rush back on Sunday to perform another gig in Barnet:

Supporting Bobbos was Bad van Bode, one of the highlights of Philfest 08, they played a few crowd pleasers and got everyone in the mood for the experimental duo of The Tyskie Twins.


Their style is almost impossible to pigeon hole, exploring strange chord combinations and experimenting with differing timings and vocals between the two rising stars. Who knows if this form of music will make it onto a bigger stage, all I can say is that we were there at the birth of something very special!


The Tyskie Twins with guest vocals by Wife Beatski

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Continuing Education

Top 10 Things I Know Now That I Didn’t Know Before – Part 2

Week 8

1. Unless you’re a child, student or OAP, finding a dentist who accepts NHS patients is an exercise in frustration and time wasting. Small wonder that we’re a nation with a reputation for bad teeth!

2. Listening to Radio 1 (the station of choice for the average builder) for longer than 3 hours a day turns your brain to mush.

3. No matter how much Marco Pierre White may laud the qualities of the Knorr stock cube, soup made with stock cube stock is nowhere near as tasty as that made with home made stock.

4. Plumbers use “Plumbers Mait” not “Plumbers Mate”. How silly. The building industry needs a new brand adviser.

5. In the wrong hands (i.e. mine) decorator’s caulk is really, really messy; it tends to keep oozing out of the gun when you want it to stop, leaving the user (i.e. me) with far more sticky goo than is required, so the sticky goo ends up on the user’s (i.e. my) fingers and coat.

6. Wetsuits let the cold water in. Weeing in a wetsuit warms it up.

7. The caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk Moth is HUGE! It is so named as the caterpillar resembles an elephant’s trunk, but personally I think it looks more like a mini snake.


8. Broadband coverage in the country is pants if you want to stream anything. So much for the digital age.

9. Peeling a beetroot is easy once the root is boiled and cooled, but grating beetroot is messier than open heart surgery (although admittedly my experience of open heart surgery is limited to watching episodes of Holby City).

10. My hatred of slugs knows no bounds.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Where’s Wally?

So we’ve started on a bit of landscaping, building a path round the back of the small cottage, but can you spot Phil giving a helping hand?


It was Phil’s birthday last week and to my complete shock, the water fearing stone that is my wife, announced that she wanted a wetsuit for her birthday. This all came from when we dropped in on our favourite beach and I mentioned how it would be nice to pop down to the sea when the weather is nice for a bit of body surfing and a pint. Phil apparently liked the idea of that, but there would be no chance of getting her into the water without protection (Phil struggles to get into the water in Greece!).

So off we went to Aberystwyth to the local surf “shack”. After trying several on and hence some time later she had picked one, and it left enough in the budget for some booties as well. So on her birthday it was rather grey and perfectly still, but Phil was committed to trying out her suit. Getting into the suits ended up being harder for me. Mine harks back to  when I went travelling with Bob when we were in our early twenties, and I would have got it on quicker if I hadn’t forced my right leg into the right arm! How I got it in that appendage I don’t know, but finally we made it to the water. The beach at Tresaith is a lovely sandy and gently shelving beach. Walking in the cold water got into the suit but after a while it felt great, and much to Phil’s amusement, she could actually float standing up!

Well after some funny swimming (it’s hard to swim in wetsuits), it was off to the pub for lunch…..yum. Phil is already talking about going to catch some waves at the next opportunity…..who would have thought it.