13 Apr

We had 2 pheasant hens as visitors in the garden, the male one wouldn't come closer than the farmer's paddock over the back fence

Burton Upon Trent, Wolverhampton, West Midlands

As I mentioned previously, we met up with the our new house sit clients a couple of weeks before the actual job began, so they could spend a bit of time with us and also for their dogs to give us the once over as well!   The clients were lovely and helpfully allowed us to use their WiFi for free!  As we were driving away from this first meeting we just couldn’t stop laughing!   The contrast was so stark with the other mansions!

Arriving at the cottage was quite a change to our usual standard of residences.  It was small by comparison and the owner was in the process of renovating and enlarging the cottage so there were walls cut open with a concrete cutter (the walls are made of concrete blocks, as is usual in English houses), the ceiling had been removed in the kitchen showing bare floor joists for the second storey, and other signs of construction!   The dogs are English Bull Terriers and look very fierce and were quite ill-disciplined, jumping all over us!  I was particularly worried about how we would control them as they are so strong in will and muscle.

An oil-fired Aga, with two ovens. Once I got the hang of it the ovens were great!

The back of the cottage


When we returned two weeks later, after travelling around Wales, the dogs remembered us and were a lot calmer, thankfully.  It turned out they were actually quite sweet but they did need a firm hand!  They basically make their own rules and as such the clients had

New ranch slider between kitchen and sunroom

warned us repeatedly not to leave anything in their reach!  That included tea towels on the bench, jackets hanging on the backs of chairs, the TV remote on the table, etc, etc.  If one of them managed to find something interesting a fight would decide who would get to demolish the prize!  We were VERY careful to follow the advice and take anything we were not actually wearing upstairs.  They had a little gate at the bottom of the stairs, to make that a dog free zone!   Once upon a time the owners had bought two leather collars with bright shiny buckles for each of them but only the once – they disappeared one night and it was a mystery for a few days as to what happened to them.  It wasn’t until Ellie passed the buckles that the mystery was solved!!  One good-sized room was completely devoid of furniture, just so there was one less room to worry about.  They slept inside and one night I heard a strange sort of sound but as they were not fighting as such I let them be.  When we came down in the morning one or both of them had chewed a hole in the new gib wall in the kitchen!  Other mornings we had to tread carefully as we jumped over the gate at the base of the staircase.  They were apt to leave either a puddle or worse right where you should have placed your foot!    Taking them for walks was trying as well.  The older dog, Ellie, walked maybe 20 paces from home and then decided that was as far as she could manage.  She planted all four feet securely on the pavement and locked all four knees!  She would not budge forwards, backwards or sideways.  It took me 20 minutes to coax her to return home.  That was her one and only walk.  Vince, on the other hand, had so much energy to burn, it was his custom to lead the walker a merry dance, pulling you along from one side of the country lane to the other, back and forth, back and forth.  If he was very crafty he could slip the collar entirely with a quick dip manoeuver.  When you finally got home you were angry and exhausted with a sore shoulder from being pulled thither and yon!  I decided that this was ridiculous and told him so often and the next time I held him on a very tight, short lease and slowly explained to him who was boss after all.  Slowly, with practice, he did calm down and we could walk for an hour  without too much trouble.  His aim in life was to chase two-wheeled vehicles and horses, and if we came across either I would have to straddle him right behind his ears, digging my knees in either side to trap him and hold onto the collar good and tight!

Look what two dogs can do of an evening!

Not beautiful but pretty nice anyway

Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths!! Most of the time they were good mates

It took me a while to figure out how to use the oil-feed Aga, but once I mastered it, it was brilliant.  It heated the water filled radiators around the house as well.  It was supposed to provide the hot tap water as well, but I was never clever enough to get that going so hot water came from a large pot full sitting on the stove top.  Thankfully, upstairs the shower had its own infinity system.
While I was getting used to the indoor plumbing and cooking systems, Dennis spent the first week doing more improvements in the motorhome.  After the big freeze we had experienced in

The stairs were blocked off for a dog free zone upstairs

Chalfont St Peter, we had noticed that we had developed a few leaks in the plumbing.  Dennis stripped out the bathroom to find the source of these and repaired them all.  You should have seen the state of it, half way through!  He had to demolish the surrounding walls and remove the toilet and shower unit!  It is very fortunate that I have such a handy husband ( I admit I had to remind myself of that fact when I would pop my head in the van from time to time as he was progressing).  Once it was all back together again he installed a new floor in the main living area.  It looks ever so smart now, a real improvement.

Blue Tit


Spring in Birmingham

I did a spot of weeding, my first time getting my hands dirty for four months!  It didn’t take me long to stop, however, as the dogs thought it a great joke to come behind me, or preferably right in front of me, to help dig!  Besides that there were many plants that I did not recognise, unsure if they were weeds or not.  It was quite surprising.  Spring had just begun to warm up the soil somewhat and the bulbs were in full swing.  Over the fence from the house was a sizable paddock where parsnips were harvested during the winter.  The farmer worked up the soil and sowed barley while we were there.  Within a couple of days we had an evening of rain and boy did those seeds move!  It was astonishing to see the green haze over the field in just a few days after that rain.  Further along the lane the same farmer had sown another field with parsnips and had covered the entire area with a thin sheet of clear plastic.  It looked quite odd but we were assured that raising the temperature of the soil by this method meant that he could beat the other uncovered parsnips by a couple of weeks.

Plastic covered parsnips! Not germinated yet.

Sowing barley

We took a trip or three to Birmingham, 30 minutes drive south of Lichfield.  The first time we found a park right in town and walked for miles, following the canal system.  Birmingham sits on a slight plateau from the surrounding land and it has a comprehensive canal system radiating out from the city centre.  The first canal was built in 1768 and in the end there were around 250kms  connecting canals, and became the main transport system. It was a beautiful sunny day, which always helps, and it was so lovely to walk alongside the locks.  Because of the rise up the CBD there were 13 locks in quick succession.     Unfortunately, we didn’t see any locks in action, all the canal boats we saw were tied up outside the many pubs.  We had wondered why the place was bereft of people on such a lovely day and only learnt later on the TV news that there was a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in town – we never heard or saw a thing!  Birmingham is well-known for its huge manufacturing sector.  We drove by an enormous Jaguar assembly plant, which employs 2000 people.  And right beside this was another huge factory where Dunlop make their aircraft tyres.  Our second trip here was during the week and we visited the local museum, of course.  The museum was pretty good and we found out all about the Staffordshire Hoard found in  2009 not far from where we were staying.    This find yielded 3500 objects  dating back to the 7th or 8 th centuries, the majority being made from gold and silver.  The centre of town was quite odd really, we didn’t look too hard but never came across the central shopping area.  There was an awful Mall, worse than the one in Wainuiomata, but not the usual High St shops.  The third trip was to attend a Baptist Church, where they were very welcoming.

What really surprises me about being this far up into the Northern Hemisphere has been the length of the days.  Earlier on in the depths of winter the days were so short.  I just couldn’t get used to it being dark around 4.30p.m.  But now, at the time of writing, sunrise is at 6.00a.m. and it doesn’t set until 8p.m.  It seems to me that the lengthening daylight is happening quicker here than at home.


The fall was obvious

Beautiful sunny day, beautiful scenery

In olden days horses were used to pull the boats along the canals. Years of wear are seen on the stone bridges from the ropes

A junction of several canals right in the heart of Birmingham

Narrow canal boats, this was always going to be a MUST TO for me to rent one for a few days cruising but...

...not at this price! (Double the pounds for NZ dollars)

A sample of some of the old architecture in Birmingham. They suffered greatly during WWII bombing so there is not much old stuff left

A new (to me) type of bubble bee

I'm not sure if this is a mouse on the driveway or a shrew

While we toured through Lichfield Cathedral the organist was practising. It was beautiful.

Lichfield Cathedral


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: