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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Felting Day off or not !

After three weeks on blue jobs, I was really looking forward to a day off last weekend, doing something less strenuous, or so I thought.
Like most of us that have alpacas, after a few years of breeding and shearing you start to get a really large pile of fibre marked ' I'll find a use for that one day 'and you are reluctant to spread it on the roses or stuff boots with it.  So I was very pleased earlier in the year, to meet up with Kate Smith, an experienced feltmaker working and running workshops here in Brittany.  Although Kate had never worked with alpaca before she was keen to give it a go and spent several weeeks playing around with various samples and working on new ideas.   One of which was Nuno felting  which is produced by using a fine fabric for the base, usually cotton or silk, and felting fibre onto it (nuno means fabric in Japanese). we were both very impressed with the results.
Kate kindly prepared and presented several pieces for display at our open day in November and it was clear from the interest , that there were quite a few people looking for something to do with waste fibre.  So we organised a felting course for last Saturday with the aim of producing a Nuno felted scarf.
When I originally planned the day, the gite was vacant, so great -  we will do it in the gite. Then , after getting a month's booking from 'The Arabs' I decided the house would do just as well and continued with my plans.  Boy  - was I glad when they did a runner.  Water and bubbles everywhere.  There were four of us, all in all, Judi who was looking for something to do with 'bag lady' alias Peg and Clare Faber from Atlantis Alpacas, with her mum Betty.  So 2 in the kitchen and 2 in the lounge.  By the end of the day the gite looked like a jaccuzi that someone had tipped bubble bath into.
Its surprising how far a little bit of washing up liquid goes when you start rubbing - and rubbing we did.  Thirty times on each spot, turn it over, another thirty times, more water (on my floor !) - more rubbing - roll it up in bamboo, rub it 100 times - more water (!!!... ) hot this time - keep doing all this  re - rolling and adding more water (!!! - starting to look for my swimming goggles now ) around 800 times until it starts to felt.  Then it really gets phyical. After washing it, you have to bash it and throw it around.  Then, as if by magic, you can see it start to shrink and felt together - and all this I thought would be a restful experience.  Still we all had a lovely lunch, prepared by Steve, who is now getting the hang of domestication and had layed the table beautifully, even opening the wine to breathe on the table, and I can tell you we were ready for it.
Huge thanks to Kate for sharing her wonderful talent with us.  Anyone interested in the next day, we have planned for April, please let me know  -  and bring your own wellies !!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A womans work is never done.
Especially now I'm doing it!
As I'm not supposed to be doing anything strenous for a few weeks,including poo picking (too much bending up and down) hooray! I've had to busy myself around the house.Cleaning,cooking and ironing.and all that girlie stuff.
Cleaning is a thankless task as we have a woodburning stove constantly running over the winter.It keeps the place nice and cosy but at the same time seems to cover everything in dusty ash.
Ironings ok but those big sheets are a bit of a bitch. Cooking I can manage as long as I take three times as long over it as is really necessary.
And if you needed proof here is a rather scrummy chicken & mushroom pie and three jam tarts which weren't so good if I'm honest. Jam came out and went everywhere.

I've also started the halter training this week as that requires little effort,only patience and an understanding of how an alpaca thinks.
Hendrix and Heidi picked it up very quickly but Hannah is still very nervous and is going to take a little longer.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

One lump or two?

I know,I know.
It's over a month since I uttered anything here and I need to come up with some good excuses.
The truth is, since having wished everyone a happy new year ours has turned out a decidedly unhappy one, so far.
We have both suffered a flu type virus which leaves you feeling unable to do anything much except mope about feeling sorry for yourself. So no enthuiasm really.
Along with other stuff I can't really write about at the moment lest it be scandalous or libelous.

Actually, I'll take a chance on the libel front (the scandal will have to wait) and let you know we had a problem in one of our gites with a group of six men that took a months letting. Travelled up from Bordeaux, One large white van.One car.On business, yet not a cheque book between them and as the days went by, seemingly no intention of paying. It was only upon discovering they were robbing the electricity meter that they were confronted by Jayne (who is much scarier than me) and they did a bunk the next morning.
Bleeding Gyppo's!
Annick, our French long term winter tennant in the other gite (who is slightly paraniod at the best of times) had them sussed at the outset and had pulled up the drawbridge and fastened all the hatches straight away."They're Arabs" she had said "And up to no good. Faire attention"
As they drove away we feared our belongings may had found their way into the back of that big white van,and we entered the gite with some trepidation.
But surprisingly all was well,nothing appeared to be missing and apart from the smell of stale tobacco it was all left quite clean and tidy!
So Al-Qaeda may have been plotting their next atrocity in our kitchen but at least they left it as they found it!

It was sometime around being debilitated by a virus and being duped by the Gyppo's that I began to get a pain in my left leg.
Now, apart from the odd vasectomy some time ago, I am quite proud of my record of not visiting the doctors for something like twentyfive years.But have been feeling my age lately and decided perhaps it was time.
I knew I had had a hernia for some time, and I now realised it wasn't going to go away by itself. Worse still, was it possibly starting to strangulate and that was causing the pain?
An appointment was made to see a doctor. Then cancelled because the doctor was off sick!
It had never occurred to me that doctors could be ill. Who does a sick doctor see?!
Anyway, after a shakey start the full splendour that is the French health service was put into motion. And here's why it is the best in the world;
The day after the doctors I was at the blood laboratory in Pontivy in the morning being tested for everything under the sun,and the results were at the doctors before six o'clock. The same afternoon I had a rendevouz with the surgeon at the clinic.It was decided he should operate and I had in fact ,two hernias,a large one and a small one and he would do them both at the same time.
Dr Le Gras was an instantly likeable sort of chap and not really what I was expecting of a surgeon. He wore his white coat with the buttons open down the chest. No shirt, just a hairy chest and a gold ingot dangling from a chain. He was a kind of French 'cockney wide boy'.
He explained the procedure in a similar fashion.
"Yeah' no worries, cut holes here, here and here. Push that down there, pull that through there stick a bit of this webbing stuff in,stitch it up. Jobs a gud un! (only in French)
"But there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with this side" I pointed out, hoping to cut down on the number of holes.
"Neh, it's very weak, may as well do the two at once" Del-boy insisted.
I must admit as he cupped my testicles and his ingot dangled in my face I wondered if he was on piece work and it wasn't really necessary.
I got dressed and we chatted about alpacas (as you do)
"So, I come to see you when I want an alpaca" he said.
" Yes of course" I said, and then sensing an opportunity to get my own back added " But you can't have just the one. They're like hernias, you have to have two!"
He appreciated the irony and gave me a playful pat on the back.
Better not push it too far I thought.After all he's the one with the knife.

I had to wait a whole day then before I could have a consultation with the anaethetist . Tut.
He did some more tests and made some notes and confirmed Tuesday as check-in day for an op.

Well,you don't really have time to get nervous as Tuesday soon came around.We checked in late afternoon after having refreshed Jayne on the details of the life insurance policies and where I'd hidden the porn.
We were shown to my room. Not the single room with satellite TV I'd asked for,but as there had been an earlier confusion over the validity of my carte mutuelle I let it go.
The nurse was very attentive, demonstrating the various positions of the electronic state of the art bed which was to be my companion for the next few days. Then she went and left us to it.
"Now what?" I said to Jayne
"Maybe you're supposed to get into bed"
"But it's only 5 o'clock, I'm not tired"
The Pontivy Polyclinic is a fabulous new hospital built in the countryside on the outskirts of town, and from this room there was a view of this countryside as far as the horizon through the large picture windows. We were just saying I bet there wasn't another hospital that offered that sort of view anywhere when a nurse came in brandishing a tray of equipment and asked "Est-ce que vous étés pret Monsieur Parker?"
"Ready for what?" I said
"Oh",  It was time for Jayne to make her excuses and leave me to it.
The dragon of a matron was going to shave me from the nipples to the Kneecaps and I'm sure she derived just a hint of sadistic pleasure from it.
My room mate turned up shortly after. 'Rogere' an 87 year old, who, it soon became apparrent was experiencing problems in the toilet department. Rogere struggled to walk with the aid of two sticks and couldn't grasp the intricacies of the remote light switch operator. A simple device which turned either your personal night light on and off or the main room light on and off. There was an open and close button for the window blinds and a big red button to call the nurse should you need help.
At first I felt some sympathy for the old chap and although I couldn't understand a lot of his Breton/French ramblings I endeavered to be a good citizen and helped him to the toilet which was opposite my bed and closed the door behind him etc..; After all I was still in pre -op spritely mode.
Little did I realise this man was going to be more painful than any operation to follow.The lights were on and off, the window shutters opened and closed.
His visits to the toilet were to be too numerous to count. All day and all night for three days. It was impossible to sleep.Just as you started to slumber the darkness was pierced as the big light would go on. The brightness hurt your eyes, and the ten minute trudge to the bathroom started again. Click,click,click went the bloody sticks It became a torture, but I endured it because I knew I was more fortunate than him and It wasn't really his fault.
By the second night he became claustrophobic and insisted on having the door open to the corridor so all the passing traffic in the hospital was quite clealy audible.
Then,to top it all, he became concerned about the batteries in his pace maker,and (Monty python fans will know this bit) the machine that goes "ping" was wheeled in. Only this was the latest model that went "ping,ping,ping" every minute rather loudly.
Still,I thought at least if he's wired up to that he wont be up and about so much. Not so. Rogere was not to be contained by mere wires. And a disconnected 'machine that goes ping' has a different alarming "PING".
It was all getting too much.
 I just gave up on the hope of sleeping and put my night light on to do a crossword. Rogere grumbled his disapproval and when I ignored him he called in the nurse and complained!
Well, the audacity!! From then on he put the light out when I was eating and I put the telly on when he was sleeping.It was room wars.
But, that apart, the Op went well and the care was second to none. The nurses were fantastic and the whole place runs like clockwork.
I was discharged on Friday and told not to do anything for three weeks!
That's going to be difficult but I have enjoyed watching the rugby over the weekend and being waited on a bit.Maybe I'll find the time now to try and tidy up the website 'for sale' pages which seem to have developed a mind of their own.