I collected J and F from the station Fri eve to the news that J has had offers from all the universities she wanted, which is excellent. She's predicted good grades and this is reflected in the offers she's got so she'll have to work hard to get in but that's what she does so we're very pleased.
I spent most of Sat preparing food and the house for the family supper we were hosting that night. All of us, plus both sets of grannies and grandpas. I cooked roast pheasant for 9, with trifle (rather too much sherry but as my step-father said it was one of mine so he was expecting it) and brownies a la the recipe I gave you all this week.
My father-in-law, who was present at supper and is aged 83, decided to get a tattoo done around Christmas time. He's a keen fisherman and it is a lobster. It looks a lot like a Scorpion and he gets furious if you tell him that, so of course that's what the kids keep saying. Is he the oldest person to get one?
We all think it's hysterical. He was busy bouncing up and down on a pogo stick at his 80th, and spent two days up a ladder fixing some lighting in a stable for me last year, which tells you all you need to know about him really...
L surpassed himself at supper by sprawling the entire length of the sofa when everyone arrived with a dog curled up beside him so no-one else could sit down ('get up!' said Grannie, as only grannie's can), showed off his questionable gymnastic skills by leaping on to and prancing along the top of the coffee table before diving for the door, declined to eat much of the pheasant having filled himself up with crisps and coke beforehand while the rugby was on (during which I managed to finish my book while Poppy slept on my feet, despite the howls and periodic leaping-up-and-fist-shaking of various male members of my family), and finally, collected his champagne glass with such an ornate flourish I found myself seriously considering whether he should be thinking about taking up a career in stage and screen, and, flashing a wicked grin at his gran and me, swanned off to watch Russell Howard's good news on TV.
After that I felt in need of some restorative fresh air in a beautiful place, so the weekly Walk With Grumpy Teenagers took place at the historic Hospital of St Cross, a 12th century church and almshouse set in the water meadows just outside Winchester. It is the oldest charitable institution in the United Kingdom and was founded by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, brother of King Stephan I, grandson of William the Conqueror and all round savvy twelfth-century political-operator. It has been called the most perfect example of a Medieval Almshouse and it is still alive and kicking as one today. Opposite St Cross is St Catherine's Hill, the city's Iron Age Hill Fort. It is a place I have been coming to for years and it was lovely to see it in sunlight this morning.
L (who can usually be trusted to bring the 'grumpy' element of 'grumpy walks with teenagers') was, for once, in a sunshine mood. To be fair he is a sunshine person, it's just that going on walks with his parents is not his most favourite occupation. This sunnyness was surprising, considering he'd been bawled out by his step-father for perfecting the art of teenage deafness seconds before getting in the car (see how well we have implemented the advice from the brain talk to stay calm, and not shout?), and also considering the fact he was out on a walk and not super-glued to his computer. He chatted away happily about friends and the various games they are currently working on, and helped me take some photos of bullrushes by the river which I was struggling to get into focus....
|Love the dog wood in this shot|
His humour did diminish somewhat when he realised we were, in fact, heading for a monastic foundation, but by that point we were equidistant from the car so he had no option but to continue and come with us. This is a Devious Trick I have learnt to perfect the hard way over the years.
|The Old Almshouses|
|beautiful vaulted ceiling and old cart with the church in the background|
|Detail of a door hinge (I'd like these on our house)|
|Old flint wall|
|The river Test opposite the Almshouses with St Catherine's Hill in the distance. The Hants Wildlife Trust are working on this area to rejuvenate a wild flower meadow here which will be beautiful in summer.|
|The inner quadrangle. St Cross is reminiscent of Cambridge Colleges|
|St Catherine's Hill|
|Same shot with focus on bramble in foreground|
|The Hospice of St Cross seen from the water meadows|
|Detail of Stained Glass Window in the Hospice|
|The same window|
|Wonderful wonky roof!|
Ted was just relieved to complete the walk looking like the sensible one in comparison and also that no-one mistook him for Poppy's mother this time.
I bought the dogs two new toys this week as two old ones had to be rushed into casualty earlier- a cow who's squeak had been punctured and who's stuffing had been systematically removed and distributed around the sitting room and Ted's pink pig, whose bottom, I'm afraid to say, had been bitten off.
Neither toy pulled through, so instead I got them a pink thing bearing the legend 'been there, chewed that' (which proved to be sadly prophetic and harbinger of its own doom because it's already has its innards ripped out), and a sweet looking giraffe with plaited brightly coloured strings for legs and a squeaky tennis ball for a tummy. That's dead too. It lasted about a day and a half before it's legs were pulled off and it's stomach disemboweled. It's also only got one ear left.
In the process of dismantling it Pops nearly swallowed the squeaker, which she is a devil for locating and ripping out. She would have choked had I not recognised the look in her eye, grabbed her when she was preparing to bolt, prised her jaws apart and retrieved it from the back of her throat where she was attempting to hide it.
She also splintered a biro that she found in L's school bag this weekend, with the result that I spent all of yesterday watching her like a hawk in case she started coughing up blood or keeled over with stomach pains.
She rounded off the weekend by doing a poo at the foot of the stairs right where it's darkest and weeing under the dinner table while everyone was eating last night. Sigh.
|Captain Sensible (in comparison)|
|Love this one|
The LTTs continue to come to feed in the garden. As far as I can make out there are 8 of them...
And both blackbirds are present most days now too...
Mr P, when he realised what was happening, righted himself sharpish, which made him wobble in an ungainly fashion, but Mrs P, the faithless thing, didn't even notice- she was far too busy casting admiring glances in the direction of the new bower and would-be-wooer.
Mr P reassembled his dignity and grimly sat it out on the branch next to her, throwing the interloper disgruntled looks every now and then. I'm not sure how it worked itself out because breakfast was calling, but they are always around so I'm sure I'll be able to update you on the drama of our pigeons later in the week. Poor Mr Pige, it really isn't on at all.
Mr Sparrow has been having similar problems with his wife, except Mrs S isn't as silly a bird as Mrs P and therefore is less likely to have her head turned by some fancy new young thing strutting his would-be stuff in the hedge. Besides, Mr S still has the biggest chin marking of them all and we all know what that means....
I'll leave you with some pics of those two doggy people looking rather lovely by the fire. No doubt about their affection for one another, hey?
|My Special Big Friend|
|'Who- us? We didn't do anything!'|
|'Love you Ted. Don't worry: I'll Keep Watch while you're sleeping.'|