Friday, 24 December 2010

Seasons Greetings!

Merry Christmas from David, Philippa & the menagerie to family, friends and all the guests who made Banceithin's opening season a special one. Thank you one and all for your support and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!


Or as they say in Wales …. Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Glitter, Glue & Gin

If you want a shabby chic homemade Christmas and a home fit for a “Country Living”  magazine feature, follow the style tips provided by “Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas” courtesy of Channel Four. If you want a make do & mend homemade Christmas and a home fit for a Blue Peter festive special, follow the lack of style tips demonstrated during the Banceithin Christmas craft day. Actually, it was perhaps more of a Christmas sweat shop. The second the breakfast plates were cleared away, I emptied out my “craft stuff” box onto the table - cardboard, felt, glue, glitter, assorted gold beads, coloured paper, shiny paper, tissue paper...  My poor parents only came to stay for a day, and my dad spent his time struggling to cut out cardboard stars with blunt scissors, while my mum spent it painstakingly recreating the felt Christmas trees I’d seen in a magazine but was too penny pinching to buy and, just because she could, she knocked out a few crochet stars as well! Meanwhile, Dave got busy with the glue and glitter and I worked on the ultimate retro Christmas decoration, the paper chain – we’re shunning shabby chic in favour of the primary school look (but without the clothes hanger halos and tea towel & dressing gown shepherds)!

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A few days later it was time to bottle up the damson gin and vodka. With hindsight it would have been wise to label the demi-johns, but after a sample tasting or two, … three, four, one to be sure, and one for the road (not that either one of us would have been fit for the road by this point), we figured out which was which. In theory we bottled enough to keep some aside for next year, in practice we’ll probably drink the lot before new year. And when we run out, there’s always the chocolate coated gin soaked damsons to see us through to the end of Jools’ Annual Hootenanny.


Tuesday, 14 December 2010

It’s Chris-mouse!

Most people like mice, they even keep them as pets, let their little ones feed and care for them, put them in perspex balls and watch them run across the lounge floor, like something out of ‘Rodent Gladiators’. I on the other hand despise the furry little pests.

Having three cats and two barn owls you would expect our mouse population to be kept under control………ha! With the cold weather the little blighters have started to find their way into the house. The odd one or two were all ‘removed’ swiftly and sent on their merry way to rodent paradise. The main problem is that one lone trouble maker got himself into the wall space, and started to grind it’s perpetually growing front incisors on our recently installed plumbing!

Last week I noticed the pressure dropping on our central heating system, and eagle eyed Phil noticed a growing water mark on the ceiling below the bathroom. With the heating on all through the cold spell, I couldn’t believe that it was a frozen joint, so the only explanation I could come up with was that a joint behind the wall wasn’t properly fixed and had been leaking all this time, and worsened recently.

So with a heavy heart and big hammer, I started to smash through the tiled wall to get to the suspect pipe work.


When I finally got down to the lower joint, I was amazed to find that the hardened plastic elbow joint had been gnawed all the way through!


I couldn’t believe it, all this trouble was caused by a furry rodent just three inches long.

I’ve had an emergency meeting with the feline occupants of Banceithin, voiced my disappointment at their performance (or lack thereof) over the last few months, and explained the new regime of ‘food for furries’, which basically equates to no rodent catches, no tasty cat biscuits!

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Pepsi Challenge

Being a Litter Champion brings out the sleuth in me, my inner Miss Marple. Every trail of litter tells a story. In my mind’s eye I build a picture of the litterbug (or bugs) in question.

Yesterday, the thaw began, so I grabbed my litter picker and with snazzy blue collecting bag swinging off my arm, set off to snatch up litter as it emerges from the melting snow and ice.  By the end of the walk my bag was no longer swinging, it was weighed down and clinking. I returned home and surveyed my stinking booty – 36 cans of Diet Pepsi of various ages, from mint condition through to ripped and rusty, all of which were collected from the same 50 metre stretch of road.


Miss Marple deduced that this was not the result of a single litter dropping incident. It seemed improbable that a coach load of Pepsi addicted Weightwatchers members should pass through the lanes of Bethania. No, this was the work of the lone Diet Pepsi drinker who, judging by the state of the cans, has been driving this way for some time. The discarded cans were all in the same verge, so our litterbug always drinks the can of Pepsi on the same leg of the journey, I’m guessing it’s a pick me up caffeine hit for the early morning journey to work. Given the lack of convenience stores round these parts, I’m also guessing that our litterbug’s shopping list for the weekly supermarket run includes at least one multi-pack of Diet Pepsi. The random assortment of cans left in my bag suggests that in desperate times our bug has had to resort to Diet Coke as a substitute for the preferred brand. What saddens me most about my find is that the only conclusion I can reach is that our litterbug lives locally and cares not a jot about the Welsh countryside. Our bug speeds through the lanes slowly enough to wind down the window and toss out the empty can, but too fast to see the ugliness left behind. 

My fear though is that the bug is more observant than I give him/her credit for, and is perhaps both well aware, and perversely proud, of the trail of glittering aluminium in the hedgerow. In collecting up the cans I have inadvertently laid down the proverbial gauntlet and initiated a Pepsi Challenge with a twist. Can the bug drink Diet Pepsi faster than I can collect the litter? Am I destined to be the owner of the world’s largest empty Diet Pepsi can collection? Just who is the demon Diet Pepsi litter bug? More importantly, has he/she actually lost any weight?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Pheasant Plucking

Going to our local pub is a risky business. Not because of the food (the homemade lasagne with garlicky garlic bread never fails to please), nor because of the beer (the weekly real ale is as pleasing as the lasagne, especially when you’re 2 pints in). No, the risk is that by the time you leave you’ve agreed to something that you had no intention of agreeing to when you left the house that evening. Such as buying a Welsh collie puppy. Or, as on this occasion, buying a brace of pheasants from the local shoot.


I reached the grand old age of 38 without ever having plucked a bird. Dave popped his bird plucking cherry back in the dark days before I moved up the Banceithin. His stories of duck feather hell did nothing to ease my nerves as the pheasant plucking day drew near. Thankfully The Shooting Times came to the rescue with an online video of a nameless faceless man demonstrating how to skin a pheasant. The voiceover promised that it would be as easy as “removing an overcoat”. Knives sharpened, cats at the ready to catch feathers, dog at the ready to catch whatever may be going, time to grab the pheasant by the neck and get up close and personal with dinner. But not before cracking open a bottle of red and supping a fortifying glass of wine.


WARNING: If you’re of a sensitive disposition, click away now!

Step 1: remove the wings. One crunch, two crunch, and off they came. If I had a posh party to go to I could knock up a fetching fascinator. Sadly, the social calendar is rather devoid of parties, posh or otherwise, so into the bits bag they went.


Step 2; remove the tail feathers. Don’t tug too hard or the bottom comes with them. Whoopsie, too late, Dave’s bird was missing a chunk of bottom already! Step 3: snip the tendons and remove the legs. Tug, tug, tug, it’s not coming off!


Tug, tug, tug, hmmm, the first blood. There wasn’t any on the video. This is where it all became a bit Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was so intent on following every detail of the instructions that I forgot my Llangybi Youth Club survival weekend training from the 1980’s and completely failed to re-enact the “pull the tendons and see the leg move” comedy moment. Funnily enough, this did not feature in the Shooting Times video.

Step 4: remove the head and crop. I’ve spared you the visual. The gag reflex kicked in when my headless pheasant revealed a bulging crop, so crammed full of seeds pushing at the membrane that at first I thought it was the bird’s brain! Reason soon kicked in and I realised that not only was the grotesque bulge too big for a pea brained bird like the pheasant, but the brain was also unlikely to be sited at the base of the neck. My courage let me down at this point though and I made Dave remove the crop. No way was I going to touch it – yuk yuk yuk. Little did I know that the yuk was going to get yukkier.

Step 5: slit the skin and peel it off “like an overcoat”. Overcoat?! Not any overcoat I’ve ever come across. How about, “like taking off an overcoat while wearing a straitjacket underneath”. Sticky feathers, sticky fingers, sticky skin. Shot hole in the breast – yikes! Blood clots – double yikes! Seamless transition from Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Generation Game and back to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and there we have it, a fleshy body.


Step 6: there’s no gentle way of putting this - slit her open, shove your hand in and pull out the guts. YUK! Alien baby alert! Eyes closed, throw the whole mess in the general direction of the bits bag, deep breath, finger through the anus, run to the sink and scrub the hands until they’re raw. Good God, the casserole had better be damn tasty.

Step 6: take a gulp of wine.

Step 7: joint the bird, survey the bloody mess in your kitchen, and drink a toast to your local butcher.