Not in this house, they don’t. I can’t be arsed to buy any product advertised on the box which has been dubbed into English. I use a supermarket own brand which is cheaper and probably made by Calgon anyway. Or rather I used to.
The water in East Anglia is notoriously hard. Ever since we moved to the back of beyond I’ve been suffering from slight contact dermatitis, and the mineral-rich water hereabouts was the possible cause. I say slight because it comes and goes and is more of a minor itchy irritant than a major malady. It’s the only downside to village life.
So we got ourselves a water softening wonder box. It sits comfortably next to the boiler and now delivers the silkiest of waters, so no more clogged pipes, furry kettles or lumpy limescale on tiles, taps and toilets. Bath time is now big bubble time. But has it cured my itch? Err, no. Maybe it’s the gardening.
Hot on the heels of Teutonic comic Henning Wehn came a comedy night courtesy of Shaft of Wit and hosted by our very own village watering hole, the White Horse. It’s a regular gig but we were comedy night virgins, drawn by another big name off the telly box – Arthur Smith, the original grumpy old man, a tribe I’ve recently joined. He was top billing for a quartet of stand-ups – him, John Mann, Pam Ford and Earl Okin. They were funny and original – more a pit of wit than a shaft of laughs. But, for me, the stand out stand-up was Aussie Pam (or rather Brit-Aussie-Brit Pam). Comedy-wise, I tend to go for the female of the species and Pam Ford is right up there.
Change channels now if you’re easily offended by the lewd and the rude!
British weather is famed for being predictably unpredictable – rain one minute, sunshine the next, with the mercury up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. The poor Met Office struggles to keep pace with an ever-shifting forecast. It’s no wonder the weather is Britain’s favourite topic of conversation – that and the footie (but best not go there). But so far this summer the weather has been predictably wet, windy and miserable even here in the driest county in the land (usually). A few warm days and a couple of BBQs in early June does not a summer make.
We may sit around the house in shorts trying to pretend it’s summer but who has the heating on in July? We do, that’s who. As more benevolent foreign climes are off the agenda this year for obvious reasons, we try to make do with what old Ma Nature chucks at us but please, old girl, stop pissing on our parade.
Every cloud, as they say. The damp and dismal weather has at least provided a bumper crop all around us, particularly now it’s become de rigueur to let the grass grow to encourage wildflowers, bees and other pollinating insects. And the ducks quite like it too.
We had the partridge. Now all we needed was the pear tree. At least that’s what I thought until Liam pointed out that the big fat bird wandering around our small garden to feed with the bully-boy crows was, in fact, a pheasant. Not as colourful as our usual pleasant pheasant with its red, gold and blue livery, but a pheasant all the same.
I’m told that pheasants aren’t the sharpest beaks in the aviary. I had this one practically eating out of my hand. A very friendly pheasant it was. Friendly enough to hop straight into the pot if I’d asked nicely. Friendly but dumb.
Before the miracle of modern medicine and universal health care, life for most was plagued by illness or the fear of it. People croaked in their beds from mundane diseases that today we pop a pill for. Many a cottage stairwell was too narrow for a coffin so some featured a trap door between floors called a ‘coffin hatch’ (or sometimes a ‘coffin drop’, for obvious reasons). This allowed the dearly departed to be laid out at the end of a bed in their Sunday best for the procession of mourners who came round for tea and sympathy. And it provided a more dignified exit to the graveyard. Much better than bouncing a stiff down the stairs.
Our cottage may no longer be an unsanitary hovel with cholera in every cup, but we’ve still got a coffin hatch, though not an original. It was constructed by the previous owner when he moved the staircase to a different part of the house. This modern hatch is just the thing for hauling up and down the big and the bulky. We’ve even hit on the idea of using the hole for a lift, as and when the stairs get too much. We’re rather taken with the thought of dying in our sleep – from old age we hope.