This is the life: Two more house sitting jobs

11 Jun

 Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and back to Suffolk

A native of the UK, Primula. They grow wild everywhere

When we first started our work as house sitters back in October 2011, our second client was to be in Rugby.  Unfortunately, we were unable to go there as this was when we were informed of Fred’s stroke and decided to go back to NZ.  Now, seven months later, we are to go to Rugby to the same household and look after their two cocker spaniels for a week.  On our way from Norfolk, Dennis noticed a small road sign (as he does) proclaiming that if you turned in this direction you could view an old church with historic wall paintings.  So off we went.  None of these signs ever give you how far away it is, but who cares when you are in a motor home and you have all the time in the world?  It is the first time in England that we have travelled on a metalled road and after some time came across the said church.  Another sign on the

Even the weeds in Warwick are pretty

noticeboard told us that the church would be open from 2 – 4p.m. and as this was only 10.30a.m. we made ourselves a coffee, then later some lunch and finally the little chap appeared with key in hand.  Another couple arrived at 1.45p.m. as well.  The story of the discovery of the church and restoration was fascinating.  In 1992, Bob Davey’s wife, who is a keen rambler, noticed this building absolutely covered in ivy.  She went home and told Bob, who came back for a look as well.  He was astonished to find it was a church and he took it upon himself to clear the ivy away and take a look inside.  He was upset when he realised that the church was actually being used for the worship of Satan, with black candles, crucifixes hanging upside down, desecration of the altar and removal of some of the interned bodies.   He was so horrified at this that he took it to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, who didn’t offer him much in the way of help.   So he has made it his mission to restore this small church, at his own expense, to rededicate it back for Christian worship.  He has a small band of helpers who share his passion and they have rebuilt the entire roof section and made it waterproof.  During repairs in 1996, when one of the many layers of plaster was being chipped off, Bob discovered that despite being exposed to the elements for 50 years, large areas of the 11th century walls were covered in paintings depicting Biblical scenes!  Even though the paint has faded, you can clearly see scenes dealing with The Last Judgement, Creation of Eve and Noah’s Ark, as well as many more.  Now that these paintings have been found, St. Mary’s Church of Houghton-on-the-Hill is a Grade 1 listed building and part of English Heritage!  Bob still comes and works here every day, other than one day off per month.  He is now 81 and has received an OBE for his work.  Would you believe it, but we arrived on his one day off?  But the chap who showed us around was one of his helpers  and he had a passion to match.   Our visit lasted for 90 minutes and not long before we left, Dennis was looking through the old Church Register and came across the death notice of Janet Bogue, dated 15 November, 1830.  Dennis’ paternal great grandmother’s  maiden name was Bogue, so this was intriguing.  The guide thought that this family came across from Belgium, which added to the intrigue as records in NZ show that their Bogues were originally Belgian lace makers!  Something else for Dennis to research.

and more

St. Mary’s Church,Houghton-on-Hill.  During WW1 the church was damaged when a  zeppelin dropped a bomb into the churchyard.

Some of the wall paintings they found while renovating

They found this flint knife ion the church grounds

We arrived in Rugby in good time.  We knocked on the front door and immediately set the dogs barking.  The woman opened the door a fraction and peered out at us, obviously quite afraid although it was only 10a.m!   Once Dennis said who we were, she opened the door wide and declared we were a day early!  A week before we are due to arrive at the next posting, Dennis will phone the clients and confirm the sitting, getting particular directions and the time they would like to see us.  He had done this and had told me repeatedly that we were due there on Thursday but I had the confirmed date, sent in an email from our employer, stuck in my mind so kept telling Dennis that “I don’t know why you have this mental block about Thursday,  we have to be there on the 2nd!!”    But as it turned out, he was right after all and the client had apparently told him on the phone, that the first day had changed from Wednesday to Thursday and I had misunderstood him all along!    They both had a good laugh at my expense, well deserved, I guess, but I was thankful that my mistake caused us to arrive a day early rather than a day late.  After a coffee, we drove to Warwick and wandered the town for the rest of the day, managing to find two splendid Museums. 

Here’s an example of how interesting museums can be….

Warwick was lovely. These old wooden buildings sag and dip all over the place as they age

This carpet beater, displayed at one of the Museums, brought back some powerful, childhood memories!

Warwick had a couple of really good Museums.  This is Monty’s beret.  (Bernard Montgomery, veteran of WW1 and heroic Commander in WW2

Wisteria in blossom

After staying the night in the carpark we returned at 10a.m. the following day to take the dogs for a walk, with the client.   She was so keen on the game of Rugby and was so knowledgeable!  Her husband had been a top referee and was suitably impressed with Dennis’ World Cup rugby jersey.  The popular myth of the sport’s origin states that William Webb Ellis, a pupil at Rugby School,  broke the rules in a soccer game by running forward with the ball in his hands in 1823.  Rugby School produced the first written rules for their version of the sport in 1845.  This fact was celebrated by the town extensively, with its own Rugby Museum, the game, as well as the Rugby Museum, the town.  It turned out the reason Mrs Client was so scared when we knocked on the front door when she wasn’t expecting us, was because they had suffered a burglary while a family member was home some time back.

Stupid washing machines! Once you close the door on a front loader there is no way of opening it again.   Dennis bought two pairs of woollen socks while in Kerry, Ireland. After washing them in water much too hot one pair is now mine!

We just fell in love with these two dogs!  They were so obedient and honestly understood everything you said to them.  Merlin is 18 months younger than Django and is SO intelligent.  They loved to have you throw a stick or ball for them to retrieve but if Merlin got there first he would tease Django something awful!  He wouldn’t run away, rather just place the stick down a little way off and watch Django (or Drongo as Dennis unkindly called him!).  Just in the nick of time, when Django was almost ready to scoop it up, he would snatch it back and triumphantly run ahead, do a little pirouette  and gently place it down again, for a repeat performance.   It would take some time to really get Django frustrated and then he would bark his disapproval and Merlin would then immediately give up.  But if Django got to it first, he would come to me and actually throw the ball or stick up to me, with a quick flick of the head.  I really appreciated that.

So cute. They would stare at bird feeders and go berserk when the squirrels came thieving!

Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths – Django and Merlin

Exciting to see a familiar name in the pavement of Rugby. All through the streets they have these plaques for famous rugby players.

The house was a semi-detached, meaning the neighbour’s home was the mirror image of ours and joined down the middle.  Our half was only about four metres wide but it was surprisingly large with four bedrooms, lounge, large kitchen, dining room, and various bathrooms and offices.  We slept in the third floor attic  turned into the guest bedroom, with en suite.  Dennis was not able to get into the shower up there though as the shower box was so tight and the sloping ceiling didn’t help either!

Back view of the house in Rugby, I first thought the artificial grass was a bit strange but after a few days of wet weather I  changed my mind. That was the only place the dogs could play and toilet, this way it always looked good

I love squirrels

Great stove, gas on top and a choice of electric and gas ovens

Farmers are doing their bit to encourage biodiversity in the countryside. They leave 6-10m from the edge of the crop to the hedgerow (either side of the hedgerow on all four sides) and either leave it fallow for the weeds to grow and flower or plant a selection of wildflowers. This is to provide food for bees, butterflies, etc. They are actually paid a subsidy for this.

The European Magpie is nothing like our magpies at home. This one has a long tail, and as well as being black and white when the sun shines she has an iridescent green strip along the tail and a blue bib

Being such a flat country you often see water towers. This one is Rugby’s

We were required to be at our next job at 8.30 in the morning in a tiny village near Eye.  The client had stressed to Dennis that you could not get coverage on the SatNav system and gave him detailed instructions of how to get there.  It all seemed so complicated that we decided to find it the night before and sleep just down the road so we would be there on time.  Good idea!  He was right about not having coverage on the TomTom and it also was true for our cellphones and dongle!  England’s internet coverage in general in our experience is appalling but this was in the middle of a flat plain just a few miles south of Norwich with NO coverage whatsoever!  We found just to get a phone connection we had to drive for miles until we came across a tall cell phone tower in the middle of  nowhere.  We were keen to Skype NZ for Mother’s Day and what an effort it took.  Eventually we got through by phone.  That day was our 34th Wedding Anniversary as well, just by the way…..

The view from the back of the house in Eye looks a lot bigger than it actually was

Beautiful property in Eye house sit

This next house was small and quaint, with a large, well maintained garden.  Eye is about 20 miles south of Norwich in the county of Suffolk.  They told us that they moved to this particular house years previously, because they had 15 cats!  We were pleased to hear that they had but one left, a 17-year-old tom named RA.  He was so spoilt and had a terrible angry meow that filled the entire house.  He had special privileges and routines and if I didn’t perform quickly enough he let me know in no uncertain terms.  He didn’t particularly take to Dennis, which was marvelous for him at 5a.m. when he stood outside our door and screamed at me to feed him breakfast!  Locking him downstairs in the evening to prevent this was no solution, he was so loud it made no difference whether he was just outside the door or anywhere else.  We also provided care to a 38-year-old terrapin, named Lyn and two turtles, unnamed and of indeterminate ages.  What a boring life those animals have, Lyn swimming all day around a square tank with a brick to stand on if she wanted (I never saw her on it) and the turtles eating lettuce leaves and hiding under the feeding tray to get away from the flourescent light.  They were tucked away out of sight in an upstairs studio so I couldn’t see why Mr was so fond of them.  He had cared for Lyn since she was the size of a small tomato, for 37 years!   Not only did we have instructions for the care and feeding of RA, Lyn and the others but we were asked to care for the wild birds as well.  Their food was peanuts, sunflower and carraway seeds,  another special seed mix for wild birds, balls of fat studded with seeds and dried worms!  We had a resident pheasant with seven hens, numerous blue tits, chaffinches, pigeons, doves, a squirrel and a woodpecker.  We have been responsible for this in several homes, English people love their wild life, much more so than NZ’ers.

but we were asked to shoo away the neighbour’s peacock and his hens, they do such damage in the flower borders

The pheasant and his seven hens were encouraged to stay in the garden by continual feeding

Mr Client was very nervous about leaving his home and especially RA.  He had not gone away on holiday for 12 years because he hated to leave his pets!  Mrs however, frequently left him to it but she convinced him to try it for once.  He rang us three times during the week, to allay his fears, and although still nervous did enjoy his break away!

Mr Client loved ALL things cat. Downstairs was covered in cat ornaments while upstairs it was all teddy bears!

The turtles have such a boring life until summer comes around and then they are allowed to spend time outside in a specially constructed pen on the grass


Lyn has recently bitten the tip of his master’s finger off! I can believe it after watching him devour his fresh steak and kidney meals on Thursdays and Sundays

I surely hoped that stuffed cat until the table was not the real thing!

Mrs Client is an artist specialising in water colours.  What beautiful paintings she had done, all sorts of subjects from maritime scenes, floral portraits and landscapes, etc.  She had many prepared for an exhibition, which I took a sneaky look at.   

Mrs Client in Eye painted with watercolours

Even with enormous cell phone towers the coverage in useless!

We have become cunning in our internet usage.  We like to visit libraries, pubs and cafes to make fruitful use of their free WiFi offers to download photos especially.  Other than that we pay for a dongle, which is a portable web connection service that plugs into our laptop.  I relish the opportunity to Skype with our family and friends in NZ but I have to watch it as it chews through the pounds.  On one such occasion, biking from the Library in the nearby village of Eye, we got caught in a real down pour and were drenched by the time we arrived home!   The majority of England has had a drought declared, even though it is still so early in Spring.  They have experienced two dry summers and what’s worse is a dry winter in between as well.  They predict that it is drier for this time of year, worse than the last great drought in 1976.  No sooner had they declared a ban on using the hose than we have had frequent rain since, with the wettest April on record!   Dennis heard yesterday that some counties have had the ban lifted but not around us, so I still water the pot plants, inside and out with a watering can.  They are very strict, with neighbours dobbing people in to the Water Companies for breaches!

April has been the wettest month on record, even though they still say we’re in a drought

Some of my frugal ways are starting to rub off on Dennis!  Often doing grocery shopping I send him on little missions to gather bits and pieces with instructions to get the cheapest possible.  On one occasion he found me wandering with the list in my hand, pushing the trolley and peering at the unfamiliar packaging slowly making my way up and down the weirdly laid out supermarket. He had a grin from ear to ear, very pleased with himself, clutching a NZ lamb roast which was on the tremendous special of 5.50 pounds!  Normally they are 11 pounds!  (Double those numbers for NZ dollars, which means that English people buy our beautiful lamb for cheaper than we can get, in our own country!)  We dined on this beauty for three dinners and a lunch.  Thankfully we were at a housesit so had the use of the oven and freezer.  Brilliant.

These Postman’s Legs were for sale at the local market. Tickled my funny bone….

Never seen such a brightly coloured bug

The cherry blossoms up our driveway are just past their best but still lovely

and another neighbour

One of our neighbours!


2 Responses to “This is the life: Two more house sitting jobs”

  1. kathy June 12, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    It seems like something is wrong with how we do things if our NZ products are more expensive for us than all the way over there, no?

    • dennisandjanettegowalkabout June 12, 2012 at 8:15 am #

      No indeed! the lamb will be a ‘loss leader’ to get clients into TESCO which is a massive supermarket chain. their profit has been dropping of latefor the first time in decades. The difference is I, in NZ buy one leg for 30 dollars whereas TESCO would be buying several containers worth and thus get a great price and also be prepared to loose money on each sale in the hope the customer has not just come in to ‘cherry pick’ the specials but will stay and buy stuff with a profit margin.

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