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Follow by Email - Tuesday 11/01/10

Returned to Lammas yesterday evening around 17:30.
Our stay with Emmas parents was prolonged due to a relay of recurring illness. If I felt better, Emma felt worse and vice versa. This happened daily, even now, although hopefully I'm recovered and Emma is fighting off the remnants.
Before we left I asked Emma to check our car insurance, as I knew it was up for renewal soon. Sooner than I thought. It had expired a month earlier than I'd anticipated, 23/12/10 to be exact. A fair few illegal and uninsured journeys had been made since then.
This presented a real issue. Our premium had effectively doubled from £460 per year to £880 odd. We couldn't afford that, not even monthly.
The silver lining of this cloud might come in my solution. Why not buy a days insurance? We rarely use the car as it is (in comparison to most) and we could stand to save £500-£1000 a year, more if you factor in fuel and wear and tear. The tricky part could be when it comes to tax it, but aside from that, it makes sense. Days we do buy insurance, we'll cram in as much as humanly possible in shopping, treats etc. Seems win-win at this moment in time.
Despite the hiccups, we're now settling back in. True to our word, we did a massive shop before leaving Stroud and its actually that which consumed most of our unpacking time.
Picked up my proof copy of A Diary Of A Warless Warrior. Noticed a typo on the rear cover and first entry. My fault for working on it when tired.
Since returning we've been greeted by rain. So much in fact, the hardstanding the caravan is sited on is partially flooded, the latrine trench is close to overflowing and the ground is saturated. The gloominess of the days hasn't helped motivation levels, nor the batteries. Have had little choice other than to remain inside and read. Extremely frustrating when there is so much I can be myself with outside.

The new cat stable...

M Jones

Christian Solstice Days - Monday 27/12/10

It has now become a standing joke in this family that every Christmas when asked "What would you like?", my reply is invariably "Peace and quiet". It is now so predictable, and perhaps depressing, no-one asks any more.
Well this year I came pretty damn close to getting it. Granted, it came at the cost of a stinking cold, but a streaming nose and nasty cough definitely make it easy for people to leave you alone. I made the effort to be present for presents. Trouble is, we have three Christmas days. One with Emma's Mum and Dad, one with Emma's sister and husband (plus kids) who come up from Farnborough on Boxing Day, and yet another at my parents the day after.
One major difference of this Christian Solstice over all those previous, is there are actually things we want and need. At the minute its warm stuff, but anything functional is welcome. Preferably something that enables us to produce something for ourselves.
I might even go so far as to say I'd be happy to trade my peace and quiet for a good thermal base layer...

M Jones

Irish Lemsips - Friday 24/12/10

The run to Bristol was no problem at all despite the snow. Went via the A46 rather than the motorway for geographical reasons. A 74 mile round trip. Dad put forty pounds in the tank which was most generous as I used barely a quarter of that in fuel. This put the tank back to the level when we left Carmarthen. Uncle Ken, who we'd collected, slipped me a twenty pound note which I slyly passed to Dad. He was having none of it however and discreetly returned it.
Feeling very ill today and was exhausted when I left at 18:30. Mum insisted I take their last three Lemsips and borrow a mini bottle of brandy to have with it.
Bless 'em.

M Jones

 Kitten Playing Silly Buggers.

My Parents House. (Note icicles over top right window)

Close Up Of Super Big Deadly Lollipops.

Hairy Mary And Lady Karma - Thursday 23/12/10

Up at 6:00. Damn body clock. Went out at 08:00 to clear the drive and pavement outside the house in exchange for grit. You're not supposed to use council grit on private driveways, but felt it fair considering the work I'd done. Did it predominantly for Emma's Nan who lives next door, but Emma's Mum had taken a fall the previous evening.
20 minutes in an Argos van went down and de ja vu kicked in. Eventually got them out too and tried my luck as I did with Fed-Ex.
Finished off what I wanted to do and came inside for a coffee. Just sat down when the sound of spinning tyres came from across the road. Hat, coat, gloves, shovel, coffee and out I went. Goodwill toward men and all that.
Walked down with Dianne to town to pick up the truck. Turned out it wasn't the alternator, was a loose belt and missing charge relay. A relay that had lived in the glove box since we'd bought it, as the previous owner didn't know what it was. Worryingly the mechanic noticed I was low on oil, the level just touching the bottom of the dipstick. Worrying as two weeks ago when I last checked it was just below the max line.
Still, god bless Lady Karma. The bill came to £75 opposed to the expected £300 +.
A Christmas cheque of £90 from a relative had cleared and that covered it.
Returned the favour of a lift to Dianne, then went on to my parents. Dad was concerned about picking up an Uncle from Bristol, so he took me up on my offer of driving them in our truck.Seemed fitting as it was this Uncle who'd sent me that cheque. Arranged to go back tomorrow and do the run around 13:00. Went on from my parents to see my best buddy Luke. His folks were very amused by my new winter hairiness.
Bloody knackered and starting to feel the effects of this cold I've picked up.

Parents New Wood Burner.

M Jones

Mustn't Grumble - Wednesday 22/12/10

A day of departures. A night of disturbances. Emma has a cough. Trouble is, she likes to snuggle into me during the night for warmth. This meant me suffering being kneed in the back for most of the night, then when I could take it no more and eventually turned over, I got coughed at in the face.
As I wasn't sleeping, I got up at 04:00 in the belief lying there was wasting valuable packing time.
06:00 Car was loaded, warmed up and all ready to go.
Dropped Kit off at Clunderwyn station at 06:30, no problem.
Then our luck turned. For a while now the electrics and batteries haven't been right, with the heater noticeably draining charge. As long as it wasn't on for too long, we were normally ok.
Now we were in trouble. There was no charge going to the batteries and they were nearly dead. What was also worrying was if I sped up, the voltage decreased. It wasn't long before I was forced to stop. The dashboard was dim, the lights draining more charge, the windscreen blurred with ice inside and out. Things were looking grim. By stopping to allow what little charge there was to get to the batteries and clearing the windscreen, we made nervous progress, but were running out of fuel.
This was getting even more grim. I knew we'd be better off if we could make it to Carmarthen Tescos to fuel up. we'd also be better off again once the sun rose. We'd no longer need the heater or the lights. With this in mind, I risked the last few dual carriageway miles on sidelights and half gave a sigh of relief when we limped into the filling station. Half, because I was pretty sure the car wouldn't start if I followed the rules and turned the engine off. I was right. The two new batteries were as dead as two large and expensive electrical Dodos.
A really nice chap in a red Daihatsu 4x4 jump started us and we were back on our way, despite the indicators nearly killing the engine whenever we turned off.
At Cardiff services I made some calls. One to Lawrence, our mechanic, another to my Dad. Lawrence told me a new alternator would be £300-£400. My Dad advised we turn back home.
Emma was having none of it, so onwards we ploughed.
Arrived at Emma's mums just gone 11:30. After unloading, I took the truck to the garage and walked home. On my way, I bumped into Dianne, Em's Mum. She gave me a lift back as she was going home herself.
She parked her car on the main drag as she couldn't get into their road.
This prompted me to start shovelling snow off the road at 14:14.
Made good progress with a couple of passers by expressing their gratitude. Wasn't really a selfless act. Felt it was rather sensible.
The council weren't going to clear it. I could have been British and just grumbled. But if clearing the road myself meant Dianne would have to park on the main road and add to the congestion, all the better. It did cross my mind I could be cheeky enough to bill the council for my time hehe.
Whilst I was out clearing, a Fed-ex van got stuck just beyond where I'd got to. A colleague of his turned up and two hours later he was on his way. Again, I tried my luck. When the chap thanked me I told him if Fed-Ex felt generous my names Mike Jones from number 18... We'll see what happens eh.
Hung around to try and finish off a bit. Was dark now.
Two women passed and were dumb founded, a) at how much I'd done on my own and b) that I wasn't even a resident. Both thanked me which was kind.
Couldn't resist a "You're welcome" to some lads who used my clearing without a word, in fairness they then said thanks, hehe.

Partway through. By clearing I revealed loads of grit underneath.

M Jones

Lethal Gas - Tuesday 21/12/10

A chance to mong out at Nigel and Cassies roundhouse whilst the womenfolk crafted various items. Green man thingymabobs and felt stuff.
Around 15:00, I couldn't put off the trip to Bwlchygroes for gas any longer. Supplied with a shopping list for others, we stopped off in Crymych. Whilst sitting in the car waiting for Emma, I received a call from Jane wondering if we were out and about. Her son Jake was due back from school at 16:00, and her car was parked a 50 minute walk away so could we pick him up? Only meant a 20 minute wait for us. In that time I called ahead to warn Nick the Gas of our intentions. His words were, "careful as you go, don't touch the brakes or clutch, its bloody lethal. Put her in low and let her go". Thanks Nick. As it happened all went well and another day ended safely.

M Jones

Kits Kat - Monday 20/12/10

Nigels wife Cassie had asked if we could take her to Clunderwyn station as she was volunteering in a shop in Carmarthen, this tied in nicely as we were already driving to Narbeth to take Kits cat, or Kits Kat, to be spayed. As it happened, we then drove to Carmarthen as it made alot of sense due to the size of the place and that way we could save Cassie a train journey.
Had a good time mooching, and eating fresh pasties from a Taste of Cornwall shop.
Met up with Cassie. She wondered whether we could pick up Nigels Solstice present - a red leather chair from Narbeth, went well with the "Bah Humbug" hat I bought him. This was fine as we'd need to go back there for the cat. It fitted in the boot, and Nigel got his gift in time.

Had just settled in front of the wood burner with a welcome cup of coffee when the phone rang. A delivery van was stuck at the bottom of the trackway, teetering over a ditch. Would I answer the call? Cors ah wud!
Another rescue under the belt, and it was nearing 18:00. Now I had said I'd pass on football, but the idea of a shower in a warm environment twisted my arm...
Emma wasn't happy, she and Fran had found me a copy of The Muppet Christmas Carol on DVD and were looking forward to watching it together. Managed to squeeze it in before footy, but it was touch and go as our battery was very low. A combination of a small dvd player and a 12v transformer of Kits was much more efficient than the inverter.

Upon my return around 23:00 I was glad to get into bed, but this wasn't to be, the grate had been left open and the fire burnt out. The caravan was freezing and we were out of kindling. 02:00, the fire was upto temperature, and I stiffly climbed into bed...

Gwyn sensing somethings up...

M Jones

The 'Last Trip' - Sunday 19/12/10

More vehicle recovery and rescue, as well as another resupply run. Took Kit, Jasmine and Ted into Crymych with Jasmine adamant this was the 'Last Trip' as the world would end in the coming days...she paid me a fiver for fuel which was kind.
After this I gave Nigel a lift to his car, followed him until he was safely parked at the bottom of the trackway with the other vehicles and gave him a ride a home.

Vehicle Advert?

Panels Down To 0% Efficiency. Ice On The Inside Of The Windows.

The New Pink Wall Of Nigel And Cassies Roundhouse.

A Fresh Crop Of Lollipops...

Carols at Cassies

M Jones

'Jonesing' - Saturday 18/12/10

Nigel from next door popped round during a morning game of chess with Kit. Primarily, he wanted to 'Jones' some tobacco. He also wished to know if we were planning on venturing to Crymych that day. No one else is able it would seem due to the snow and ice. My mighty 4x4 cares not a jot for it. Not only did I end up with a shopping list , but also a shovel and a tow rope. Unfortunately, without grit or perhaps snow chains, my truck couldn't grip enough to tow. We managed to extricate one car after the neighbours son freed his van, but that was it.
Good deeds done for the day, and neighbours resupplied, the evening soon skipped past as Kit and I played a few more games of chess.
3 more centimeters of snow fell and the night got extremely cold. I dare say my 4x4 will be called upon again.

M Jones

Barn Warming - Friday 17/12/10

Paul and Hoppi invited everyone to theirs for a house warming now their live in barn is completed and habitable. They have both done a fantastic job and are justified in their pride. Of course the opportunity to hang a door with Nigel and Cassie and engage in yet more carpentry was understandably Paul wished to pass on.
Laid out on the table were various sweet treats including stollen and home made chocolate nests, accompanied by mulled wine. Very nice indeed.
What was also nice, was to be able to meet and socialise with the community outside of an official meeting.
We went on to Simon and Jasmines to eat a pork casserole we'd cooked earlier that day. Once that hit my stomach, I was ready for bed!

The Finished Article

M Jones

Bricking It - Thursday 16/12/10

The North wind has returned, bringing rain and snow. Not the best conditions in which to start laying bricks and mixing lime mortar...
Despite the mix coming out far too wet and sloppy, we have nonetheless laid four corners of the building and shall leave them to dry and observe what happens. More snow forecast of Friday and Saturday and some cold nights. Luckily, with this night forecast as being the coldest, Frances has by chance been invited to sleep over at Simon and Jasmines. A very lucky little girl, on one count for being able to stay in a beautiful hand built house, and another for being warm and able to sleep well in that house as opposed to our static caravan.
My Lantern is now running low on paraffin, so I shall sign off and turn in.
Good Night.

M Jones

Poor In Money, Rich In Life - Wednesday 15/12/10

An early-ish start being that Emma had an appointment with the midwife. An appointment she had in fact lost sleep over and was abjectly dreading. They wanted her blood. Four vials of it. My presence was required, about this there obviously could be no argument. Frances would be left in the company of strangers and charged with amusing herself. such was Emma's fear, she was quite at ease with this neglect.
To distract Emma, and also deter my own boredom, I regaled the midwife with my artichoke fiasco. It would appear people find my horticultural ignorance frightfully amusing. Or just frightful.
Back home I raked the beds until Beth, another volunteer, dropped by to say farewell and give Justin a lift on his Christmas visit home. She won't be returning choosing instead to head to mid-Wales come the New Year in her converted post van.
A few hours later Kit arrived back, with his step father John and some miscellaneous items and luxuries. Some of these luxuries were devoured that evening in a spaghetti carbanara we shared.
On and off I've been reading The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency by John Seymour. In his introduction, it is clear we share the same views. He says "...Man was not meant to be a one job animal. We do not thrive as parts of a machine. We are intended by nature to be diverse, to do diverse things, to have many skills." I couldn't agree more with the words "Self sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is striving for a higher standard of living, for food which is fresh and organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings, for the health of body and peace of mind which come with hard varied work in the open air, and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully". With this in mind, I recall an article I read in The Guardian newspaper only a day or two before, in which it stated that a household that earns less than £16000 per annum is considered in this country to be poor.
We are not earning anywhere near £16000. I personally never have done. But never before have I considered myself poor. I have never gone hungry. Never have I or my little family been cold and powerless to remedy it.
This remains to be true, and yet now we earn nothing, subsidised as we are to the tune of £40 odd a week. By the standards set by others, we are currently amongst the poorest people in the country today. Yes, this entry is being written by paraffin lantern because I'd like to save our solar energy for another time/appliance.
To the outsider this could be seen as a mark of our poverty.
But the real truth is we've never had it so good. We generally buy local organic meat and vegetables, (lamb that's grazed on the wild windswept sides of the Presellis should be organic...) we sleep until we wish to rise. I work until I am tired/bored, whichever comes sooner. I certainly never work if I don't feel upto it.
Admittedly the latter is rare as to date I haven't suffered an illness or accident that has rendered me incapable.
We live in a beautiful valley near the sea, in a part of Wales people pay to visit and often travel great distances to do so.
Poor in money, rich in life. I couldn't be happier.
If I may I would like to quote John Seymour once more, this time from the foreword of his brilliant book.
"There are very few processes in this book that I have not performed myself; albeit, perhaps, some of them ineptly. Does this make me a jack-of-all-trades and master of none? Well I'd rather be that than a person who can only do one thing. To me that would be Hell. I have embarked on many an enterprise without the faintest idea of how to do it - but I have always ended up with the thing done and with a great deal more knowledge than when I started". That quote is both a view i share, and an accurate description of my current lifestyle.
Tomorrow, brick laying!

M Jones

Flippin' Artichokes - Tuesday 14/12/10

Spoke to Kit this morning, following a missed call from him last night. After it emerged it was of no great importance, I proudly informed him all the vegetable beds were now done. To which he replied words to the effect of "Thank you, that's excellent, hope the fruit bushes and globe artichokes are ok". SHIT! The bushes were fine, they were obvious, but what the hell do globe artichokes look like? I asked vaguely which ones the were assuring him that all was well, but couldn't press him without letting on that I'd most like flipped them over and chopped them into the ground with a spade...
A hurried root (no pun intended) and rummage in the pile of grass and dead stuff revealed 9-12 healthy look specimens that I'd kept to one side in case of just such an occurrence. These were re-planted swiftly and very neatly in as close to their original place as possible. Phew. Another meeting to attend, not quite as upsetting as last week.

Came back to find Justin had returned from a long weekend away. Had a coffee. Faffed about with the fire. Time passed.
Just before sundown I went to get water, just so happened Justin was about to do the same. Explained to him that Kit was due back tomorrow, and told him about my near cock up with the artichokes.
Justin graciously informed me that what I had replanted were sprout plants. Not artichokes. Oh crap.
Another rummage and fretful excavation produced 4 or 5 very upset, very dirty artichokes. No matter how much I caress them or fiddle with them, they are determined to betray me. They remain looking like someone dug them up, flipped them over and buried them.
I hope Kit isn't too upset...

Fire TV. Consistently better than the crap on Freeview. Even appeals to a feline audience.

These, are globe artichokes.

These, are not.
M Jones