Sometimes We Earn Our 20 Quid a Night!

28 Jun

East Sussex, West Sussex

As we were forbidden to take the dogs in Uckfield for a walk, we ended up having plenty of time to see the sights around that area, so we took many day trips.

That’s my idea of good graffiti…..

We really enjoyed Brighton, although Dennis thought the Brighton Pier on the beach was extremely tacky.  The sad thing to see was the young kids in the many Amusement Halls on the Pier, putting their 2p coins into 100’s of greedy slot machines.  It really was a mini casino for them.  We have noticed generally that the Pommies are way more involved with gambling.  Every small town has at least one betting shop, even the equivalent of our Morning Report programme on National Radio (Today, BBC4) gives betting tips on most days of the week before they sign off at 9a.m!  Being such a beautiful sunny day the Pier was teeming with people, even though it was a week day.  The sun must have inspired people because though the sea temperature was only 10 degrees they were in swimming, reminds me of James who can’t resist the urge to swim even in the middle of winter.   The city of Brighton is beautiful.  It reminded us of Cuba St in

…. covering up the windows of an empty shop in Brighton

Wellington, with cute wee cafes, boutique shops, buskers, and lots of art & craft places.  Way back in 1787,  George the then Prince of Wales (later he became King George IV) had a seaside retreat built.  We were so impressed with this fascinating Royal Pavilion, in the style of something you would expect to see in India.   It is huge and quite exotic.  Even the original stables were built to match and they now use this part for Council Offices, Cafe and a local Museum and Art Gallery.   The Art Gallery in particular was great, quite quirky and original.

On the drive to Brighton we passed another White Horse.  This one, the Litlington White Horse, was made is 1924 to replace an old one nearby that succumbed to erosion etc originally made in 1838

Looking out to Brighton Pier, if you wish to use the deck chairs you will be charged for the privilege

Looking back at Brighton while on the pier

The Royal Pavilion

Fantastic architecture for England!

Crowds of people eating their lunch on the lawns around the Pavilion, really enjoyed these buskers, sounded just like Flight of the Concords

This beautiful building was originally used as the stables of the Royal Pavilion!

The gardens were planted up in keeping with the era when King George  IV would have been in residence. That pretty yellow shrub is gorse!

And inside “the stables”!

I love these seats, on sale in one of Brighton’s cute wee shops

The Museum and Art Gallery in “the stables” were excellent

While still in NZ, I had thought it might be a good idea to visit the Chelsea Flower Show.  I hadn’t done anything about finding out when it was on or anything just thought about  it now and then.   It turned out that it was held in London while we were at

Uckfield, which was too far for us to travel.  One of the rules of house sitting is that you may leave the house only for 3 hours per day (and one hour during the evening), which would not have allowed us enough time to get to London, walk around the Flower Show and be back in a reasonable time.  As it turned out the weather broke for the first three days and it looked pretty miserable but when the sun came back out again the crowds came too!  Attendance is limited to 157,000 over the last three days, the first two days are dedicated to Royal Horticultural Society members only.  That’s over 50,000 people in an 11 acre site on each of the public viewing days!    As it happened the TV coverage was extraordinary, with an hour each lunch time, two hours of programming dedicated to the Show each evening for the five days and then other “Specials” before and after the actual Show Week.  So as it turned out I relaxed at home and enjoyed the commentaries on TV.

You get some weird road signs around the UK

We celebrated Dennis’ 57th birthday while in Uckfield.  Rob rode his new motorbike over for the day, it goes without saying that it is very large, powerful and fast!  I cooked us a lovely lunch and we wandered on down to the local pub for a delicious dinner together.  Surprisingly, Samara and Ella were very taken with Rob and sought his attention frequently!  It’s always so good to keep in touch with family in NZ and Australia, via emails, Skype and phone, particularly on these special days.
I really am feeling very unfit and have noticed that I have put on weight, all this swanning around looking at things.   Having two winters back to back probably hasn’t helped.  I’m not at all happy about it and will have to gather some will power and get into some smaller meals and a lot more exercise.  Now that the weather is better we have been feeling proud of ourselves for biking around the place rather than taking the van.  The local library is a good bike ride away and as we had not been given permission to use the clients WiFi in Uckfield we have been in and out of town often.  So many libraries around England have a great system of internet connections.  They either have free or very cheap WiFi (that’s using our own netbook) for either 30 or 60 minutes at a time with the opportunity to return in 15 minutes, or you can use their computers for the same amount of  money and time.   Almost all of them won’t let you upload photos but you can easily check emails, research destinations, etc.  Even as a visitor and not a local we are allowed to join in the fun.

Now summer has arrived the country lanes seem even narrower with all the trees in leaf again

On the weekend of 2-5 June the UK celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, everyone having an extra public holiday added to the usual long Queen’s Birthday weekend .  We have been surprised with the general sense of pride and goodwill shown towards the Queen.  Generally, the Duke of Edinburgh is tolerated, he has a bad name for putting his foot in his mouth (though we think it’s hilarious!) but when he fell ill midway through the festivities people were disappointed on his behalf.  I have not met anyone however, who even tolerates Prince Charles!  He is thoroughly despised and everyone is worried about when it will be his turn to be monarch.  He writes a column in one of the papers which often comes across as negative, complaining about environmental issues, new architecture, farming practices, etc.  His wife, Camilla, has an even lower reputation and I noticed that the commentators on TV often ignore her altogether!  As an example:  when lovely Kate, cheeky Harry and Camilla were travelling in an open, horse-drawn coach to watch the Trooping of the Colours 10 days after the Jubilee Celebrations,  a journey that took maybe 15-20 minutes, the commentators praised Kate and laughed about Harry all the while but never mentioned the lady sitting next to them at all!  Once again, we were unable to travel to London to join in the many events but actually we were pleased to just stay at home where it was dry and warm and watch it all on the big plasma TV.  You probably would have seen some of the TV coverage too and seen how the weather had changed so dramatically!  Wind, rain and cold temperatures certainly spoilt it for the 1.5 millions lining The Thames for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, even to the extent that some things had to be cancelled.   Our Kiwi breasts swelled with pride to see the waka paddled up the river and John Keys was shown on the TV news greeting the paddlers with a hongi!  The Australian PM didn’t even come, their Governor General was sent instead!

Not a very good photo but the best I could do at the time! Everywhere it’s red, white and blue for the Jubilee

…clever gardeners

The city of Lewes is only about 10kms away from Uckfield and it had been recommended to us as a “must see”.  It really was a cute wee place.   Very old and quaint.  One of the shops there was celebrating their 500th birthday!  We took a guided walking tour in and around the town, we were somewhat disappointed though as the guide just lacked that “spark” that all our other guides have had.  Still you always learn heaps while walking around the sights.  Lewes is famous for a particular battle in 1264  where King Henry III was reminded in a violent way that he should stick to the terms of the Magna Carta and not try the old trick of raising taxes willy, nilly and telling everyone what to think.  Wikipedia mentions that on 21 August 1864, Lewes suffered an earthquake shock measuring 3.1 on the Richter Scale – this is an unusual occurrence in the UK but seems so common and insignificant to us New Zealanders!  Tom Paine, one of the founding fathers of the United States, came from Lewes and his home still stands along the main street.   Part of Anne of Cleves’ divorce settlement from Henry VIII was a house in Lewes, which still stands and is a museum today.

The top storey of that same house where they sharpened the knives,  overhangs the rest of the building.  There’s a shop opening out onto the High St on the ground floor and the rest was used as a private dwelling. The narrow lane  is called a twitten.

Tom Paine on the wall and our tour guide in Lewes

A kitchen door. They used to sharpen their knives on the door posts which are made of limestone.  If you look closely you can see how worn they are!

From 1784-1850, there was a Brick Tax, so to get around this the clever people in East Sussex and Kent developed the Mathematical Tiles. Like shingles, these are glazed, clay tiles overlapped and nailed in place on a wooden frame.  It only covered the front,  the other three walls were back to bricks.   Lewes had quite a few examples of these historical buildings.

Another days outing took us to the Seven Sisters.  These are impressive chalk cliffs, along the coast  between Brighton and Eastbourne.  They are actually often filmed as “stand-ins” for the White Cliffs of Dover.  It was fascinating to see the distinct band of flint embedded in them.

The first of the Seven Sisters. We walked around the base for a while then got worried about what if the tide came in faster than we expected? So we retraced our steps and climbed to the top and along for a while, quite the ramblers! Notice the small group of walkers on the beach which gives you an idea of scale!

Distinct bands of flint stones within the chalk

From on top of the first Sister looking south

Dennis spent an afternoon exploring the Victory, Lord Nelson’s famous ship, in Portsmouth.  I declined the generous invitation to join him and stayed in a cafe happily using their WiFi to upload about 30 photos onto another Blog post.  If I use our dongle to do this it costs me $1 each per photo so I just love it when I find a fast enough free WiFi site!

Our next house sitting job was due to start at exactly the same time as the one in Uckfield finished, 9a.m on 10 June, in Epsom an hours drive away.  Dennis rang the new people and suggested that he drop me off the night before to enable them to get away on time and for him to meet the homecoming clients at his end.  This was so confusing and upsetting for the new clients!  They needed to think about this novel suggestion for a day or so and get back to us before they would confirm.  It really threw them in a spin and we heard from our employer that they had phoned her to check that this might be suitable and then they reluctantly agreed.  Dennis had been the one speaking with them so he was overjoyed to think that he would drop me off at the gate and leave me to it for the night!  The first thing I noticed when I did arrive was how young they were!  I had a mental image of a couple of old dears but these two were in their late twenties/early thirties, I guess.  Thankfully, they had gotten over their initial worries and were quite welcoming and actually enthused that Dennis’ idea of having me come the evening before was such a good one as we had all the time in the world to discuss the various requirements for their two cats.  And that is what we did, basically from 7.30 – 10.30p.m. I was given a very long list of rules, accompanied by a verbal run down of the said rules, explaining the whys, wherefores and times of each of those said rules!  Unbelievable!  I have copied out a small example:

Crumble, 4 year old male tabby cat
Willow, 2 year old female black cat


Crumble is a rescue cat. We got him in October 2007 at the age of 4 months. He did not have a good start in life as he was abandoned in a flat for a week and was never played with as a kitten.  When he was rescued, he was very, very timid. He is very good with us now, but is very scared of strangers and will run up the stairs even if somebody knocks on the door. He does not like to be cornered, so it may take a couple of days for him to adjust to you, but give him space and we are sure he will come around. He does not like to be picked up, but will enjoy to be stroked, once he has become used to you.

Willow is the opposite of Crumble. She is also a rescue cat and we got her at 8 weeks of age. She is very confident and loves to be fussed and held. She will sit on your lap for a cuddle. She is very food orientated and this came about when she was spayed. It totally changed her and all you need to do is rustle a bag and she is running in to see what you have. She has a habit of jumping on the worktops when you are trying to weigh out their food, so you have to keep putting her on the floor until she gets the idea! She loves broccoli, so if you are having some for your dinner, please allow her a floret or two.

Both cats will sleep on the bed in the evening, so please be careful not to squash them.


Black bowl is for Crumble, red bowl is for Willow. Crumble is fed on the left.
Please clean bowls daily with a spray of Johnson’s cleaner.

Both cats will try and wake you up anything from 5.00am onwards. Mr Client normally gets up for work at around 5.20am and has tried to get into the habit of feeding them as late as 6.20am. You may be lucky and find that they leave you alone as late as possible. Feeding routine is as follows:


Crumble 12 grams of Science Plan
Willow 8 grams of Science Plan

Half a sachet each (Crumble to get the bigger portion) of IAMS or Sheba. This will be
followed by 6 big TD biscuits for Crumble and 4 TD biscuits for Willow. With regard to Willow’s share, please throw this around the room for her as she likes the chase.


Crumble 12 grams of Science Plan
Willow 8 grams of Science Plan


Crumble 12 grams of Science Plan
Willow 8 grams of Science Plan
Please weigh an additional 6 grams to be hid around the house before you go to bed.


Plastic bags – please do not leave these lying around in case the cats get stuck in them.


Do not allow the cats to go in, as they might hurt themselves.


We will discuss this with you when we speak on the telephone. They are mainly indoor cats as they are only let out when we are home. Willow has only just started to go out unassisted (she was previously taken around the garden on a lead).

See what I mean?  Generally, we have found cat lovers to be a little more fussy than dog owners but these two were the ultimate!  The cats had to stay indoors for the entire 11 days.  When Dennis joined me the following day, actually for the next few days, I kept remembering more rules that weren’t actually written down and solemnly passed on more cat wisdom.   For instance, Mrs Client had special “canisters” (similar to air fresheners) that you plug into the wall sockets around the house wafting out soothing aromas to calm the cats or the cats have never been out the front door as the road was an extremely dangerous environment!

10 June was a Sunday so we found out where the nearest train station was and after walking there took the overground and tube trains into London to attend the 6p.m. service at St Helen’s.  Great to be back!  You always have to allow plenty of time to get in to Church and back again and so by the time we got back to Epsom it was almost dark and it was raining as well.  Now that the motor home was parked out the front of the house I started to unload our essentials for the night and breakfast next morning, with the idea of leaving the general unpacking until the next day when it wasn’t raining.  On one such trip out to the van I had inadvertently not closed the front door properly and when I came back with an armful of things I saw horrors of horrors!  the wind had blown the door wide open!!  I yelled out to Dennis to help me find the cats, first of all searching the three-storied house.  He told me the disturbing news that he had seen Willow come down the bottom staircase around the same time as I was in the van!  I shot outside and he went upstairs.  He came outside to confirm that Willow was not in the house!!   After sitting and listening to hours of loving conversation about their cats the night before, I was now facing the real possibility of phoning Egypt to tell the clients I had lost their prized animal/family member.  Here I was in the pouring rain, in the dark running up and down the street in tears, looking underneath all the parked cars, calling out for Willow! Willow!  Eventually I came inside to get some high quality cat biscuits to rattle around in her feeding bowl to tempt her back home.  Dennis didn’t help the situation, laughing at me and telling me we would “just buy another black cat, they would never know the difference !”  After quite some time, I admitted defeat and came in, dripping wet and sat on the bottom stair looking out the open front door, very upset.  I felt I had to have the door open so that Willow could return in her own good time, if only she could work out where she lived, we were on a corner section so she could have chosen one of two streets to explore.  I also needed to stay by the open door just in case Crumble made a run for it as well!  Dennis was calmly watching telly, not a care in the world!  His only concern was “how long are you going to have that door open, there’s a draught in here?”  I finally resolved to close the door and start a thorough search of the house, what with Dennis being the one searching in the first place he may just have done a “man-look”.  I started on the top floor in the loft and sure enough there was both Willow and Crumble staring at me, wondering what all the ruckus was about!!




2 Responses to “Sometimes We Earn Our 20 Quid a Night!”

  1. kathy June 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Aahahaha! I can just imagine it all…poor mum! x

  2. Jo Den Harder June 28, 2012 at 11:34 pm #

    I’m sorry, but I did have a bit of a laugh about this – was picturing the scenario and imagining it would have been exactly the same if it had been us! 🙂

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