A Work of Fiction

Martin and his girlfriend Steff have moved into the cottage of their dreams in deepest, rural Wiltshire.
Read her diary and live the life.

Rundown and Romantic

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Fruit of Love

And so, with Joe still poking about in the weed, Martin and I were able to get on with trimming the errant branches from the apple trees. Our 'orchard' is truly bounteous this year. The cookers are particularly fine; shiny and green with a pink blush to their cheeks, that cook to a soft pulp in the pan. Martin favours the russets, but I find them a bit on the rough side.

Ofcourse, even if we never picked another apple, I would still love this wilder part of the garden. The trees have a wonderfully gnarled shape and insist for the main part on growing sideways, and the swing Martin fashioned between them is like something out of a Gainsborough painting. Except maybe better.

A Friend for Joe

What is it with young boys and all things wet and mucky? Actually, that is such a sexist and ageist thing to say, seeing as what has been occupying my son in the garden for the past hour has also prevented my husband from pruning the apple trees and myself from hanging out the washing.

A frog.

I had asked Joe to take a stick and skim the tiny pond that Martin had shaped out from the stream for him. Duckweed clung in long, dripping strands to brown leaves which had drifted in from the masses of trees around, and whiled Joe dredged like a true trawlerman, up came the carcass of a dead mouse which we later had to bury. Nice. But then came all the excitement: Joe shrieked as movement rippled through the water, then a rather large brown head emerged from beneath the weed.

Funny how the metal watering can nearest the backdoor has also got a lot of jellied clumps in it, floating in an inch or two of collected rainwater. Think our little friend's been busy...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

More Friends...

Went to Seb's. He rang earlier to say he had something that might interest Joe, which immediately put me on amber alert because anything that Seb possesses generally means we end up with something similar. We already have sheep, a few chickens, a two-year-old cat (found straying in the village), and a puppy to replace dear old Bertie will be with us within days. Although 'replace' is not at all the right word.

So we trotted over to Seb's house after lunch with no clue as to what he had in store. But we heard them before we saw them. Ducks. Large, white gorgeous looking things that waddled about busily like they were auditioning for a Beatrix Potter film.

And yes, Joey loved them. And no, we aren't having any.

And no, I'm not sure I mean that.

Rusty, Old and Perfect!

I am so excited - I have a new bike! Well, when I say a new bike, it's ancient and rusty and falling to bits, but I adore it!

Martin found it on one of his now frequent trips to the tiny, almost forgotten except to the hardened fans (a category my son now falls happily into), old-time railway stations that are still to be found hidden and tucked away amongst the trees and valleys of our English countryside, if you know where to look. Walking along these platforms, one is literally transported back to a time when men would rattle up the lanes on their pushbikes to catch the train and, seeing it just about to pull away from the station, dump their bikes in the hedge until they returned in a few hours to pick them up. Or maybe not, but where the black plumes of steam tend to choke most visitors, they stir my imagination more effectively than the smoking of any substance.

But back to my bicycle! I think, to be honest, it's past being ridden, but I shall keep it in a sheltered spot outside the back door, graced by the inevitable pot plant, then perch on its worn-out old seat when no one's looking, and dream...

Paradise Lost, Paradise Found...

I couldn't stand it any longer. Looking out of my kitchen window at the abject jungle that has sprung up overnight, owing to the steady rains we've been having recently, spurred me into action big time. I needed a scythe just to cut my way to the shed, mind you, where the medlar tree had evidently decided it would not let me in through the doorway any longer. I did consider the window, amassed with cobwebs and a handful of dead woodlice, but decided I was the grown-up here and got nasty with my secateurs, telling myself if it came back to get me next year I'd show it Seb's chainsaw.

Honestly though, tidying the garden was like clearing up after an all night party; blowsy, drowsy plants, lolling over each other as if still drunk on the rain and unable to stand. Petals from the roses and sweetpeas had drifted across the grass like abandoned clothes, and wanton poppies, heavy with seed, hung their heads low in shame.

So while Joe was busy raking out excess weed from the small pond he and Martin have created from the stream, and Martin was pottering about totally unconcerned in the veg plot, I was pulling and tugging and fighting an all-out war with the undergrowth, but I think I may have won. Now, when I stand at the kitchen window, I can just glimpse a semblance of the garden I once had, if I look carefully enough.

Paradise Reclaimed.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Here,There, and Gone.

Oh, for more mornings like this one: The curtains were drawn, it was so early, but the light woke me, flooding the room with warmth. It coated the floor and the rumpled quilt on the bed with a surreal honey wash that had dust motes dancing and spinning in its wake. Martin was still slumbering deeply, his head buried in the pillow and his feet jutting like dead things from the tangle of bedclothes. I ached to share the sheer beauty of this moment with him but didn't have it in me to wake him. So I picked up my book and struggled with it for ten minutes, but the glorious start to the day was too much of a distraction. I opened the window to breathe in the air, then slipped downstairs to make an early cup of tea.

And what a perfect time to be up and about. When nobody else is, when nobody else is even conscious! The whole world belongs to you. The day was born solely for you. Opening the back door, the sounds of the stream seemed almost too loud, like they would wake the world, but a solitary blackbird in the overhanging branches saw it as happy competition, and racked up his volume in reply. I wanted to laugh and put my finger to my lips.

Sipping my tea and feeling the breeze on my feet, my cheeks and in my hair, and watching the spangled sun poking its fingers through the tall trees across the grass, I suddenly became aware of movement, then all went still. I lowered my tea slowly and peered across the field: deer. Two of them. Looking my way, aware of my presence, curious but unafraid. Then they were off, a few tentative steps into the sunlight, a magical sight which the World missed completely, followed by a full-blown gallop into the trees. They were gone and all was liquid blackbird song again.

So much in so few minutes. Why would anyone want to sleep through this?

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Burning Question

It was while we were tending our little veg patch that Joe finally opened up about it.

'I want a new dog, Mum. I've asked Bertie, and he doesn't mind.'

I lost complete sight of the baby leaves in front of me for a moment; all I saw was an unfamiliar bundle of fluff and energy racing across the field, barking at the sheep, thundering down the stairs and gruffling in his sleep at the foot of Joey's bed. The image faded and I dug my trowel into the soft earth again.

'What sort would you want?' I asked him, careful how I chose my words.

'The sort that stays for a while,' he replied.

The radish leaves went misty again, but for a different reason this time. I tossed the trowel down and hugged my son. 'Daddy and I'll see what we can do,' I promised. Suddenly it seemed like the most important thing in the world. And Bertie would understand. Bertie, who had died so young.

Joey smiled. Really smiled. And I realised for the first time that the gap between his front teeth was finally being replaced by a brand new sliver of white. He picked up my trowel and began to tickle the carrot tufts.

'And Rufus says he'll give me one of his kittens if we take him with us on the next steam train ride.'

Oh did he? 'That's generous of him,' I mused, with a half smile. 'A cat and a dog now, is it?'

But inside I was thinking, I wonder if any of the kittens are grey...?

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Party Animals

The rain stopped - yay!

Joe and I ventured across the field to see the sheep, and were confronted by a mass of slimy straw, oozing mud and all manner of other knee-high crap. Not that Joe cared one iota; he was straight in there, bucket in hand, parcelling out chunks of parsnip and carrot from yesterday's dinner and trying to keep his fingers from being gnawed in the process. God bless the man who invented Wellington boots!

It was also kind of obvious the animals had been busy partying at the far end of the field since the last time we had seen them. I had to laugh; their faces were filthy, and their bodies - still unshorn both because of the weather and the fact that the shearer hopped it to France when we were last expecting him - were strewn from head to hoof in weeds and odd bits of fruit blossom from the damson trees. They looked like they'd just returned from a wild night out. They were fairly easy to clean up, but the stables were a complete disaster area. Joey and I got raking, which took us over two hours (with a tea and Mars Bar break in between, naturally), and now their home is cleaner than my front room.

Oh, and we have more wonderful manure for our vegetable patch. Two guesses what we'll be doing tomorrow...

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Bertie's in Heaven, and so were we...

So, after the driest April on record, we were confronted by the wettest May, and, so far, June is a continuation of the same. Joe and I got fed up staring out at the grey skies and dank grass, so we decided to go check out our secret stream, which, whatever the weather, would, I'm sure, take us straight into Heaven if we only cared to follow it far enough.

And there it was, choked and spluttering, stumbling over the rocks and semi-submerged logs, gathering what debris it could as it floundered past us, swirling round Joe's wellie as he dug his toe into the stream-bed, sending up a small cloud of dust and silt that got washed away in the foamy waters. His mind was far away. I knew where he had gone, only it was somewhere so intensely private I knew I could not follow. He was remembering Bertie, and how that animal used to adore splashing in these shallows, his coat sparkling with sunlit drops of water. Bertie, who died so suddenly.

Later, trudging through the woods, we found trees covered in fans of fungus that gave them funny faces like old men. The Old Men of the Woods, we called them. I took this picture to show Martin while Joe stuffed his pockets with bits of bark, stones, feathers and moss. He even snatched up half a bird's egg, saving it from the crushing fate of my undiscerning wellie.

I can't remember a more bitter-sweet time spent with my son. He tries to smile, and won't admit that he's missing his dog, trying to be the happy boy we all expect him to be. Is it time to get a new dog, I wonder? A cat? Why not both? God knows I would buy a herd of cows if it meant seeing Joey smile again.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Donkeys and Chips

It seemed we were doomed to a quiet and uneventful Saturday, what with Martin working overtime, so imagine how chuffed we were when we received a phone call from Joe's friend, Rufus's mum, asking us if we would like to accompany her and her two children to the seaside for the day! Turns out it was Rufus's birthday, and he was adamant that, of all his school chums, it was Joe he wanted to take with him on the train.

More train rides! But just your everyday diesel from town this time, although Joe couldn't have been happier in light of recent events. I haven't been to Weston-Super-Mare since I was a teenager, but very little had changed. Three-year-old Ottilie was scared stiff of the donkeys, but was successfully diverted by a plastic windmill and a wisp of candyfloss while the boys trotted up and down the sand at least three times on Caroline and Bootsie. It was about then that Laura and I began to feel chilly as the wind was picking up from the sea, but it didn't stop the boys from stuffing chips and ice cream, and feeding the seagulls that drifted in like a tidal wave.

And would you believe it ... the tide was in!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Young and Old, Now and Never Gone

There's an old chap who lives up the lane from us, who we used to see occasionally leaning over his gate when we took Bertie for long rambles. We were only ever on waving terms (which is more than we were with any of the other neighbours) and never knew a thing about him until Seb (who knows everyone) told us that Old Bob Tollit, over at The Cabbage House, used to be a train manager many years ago on the old Dorset railways. The next thing we knew, Joe and I were ushered into a small and slightly stuffy sitting room, crawling with chintz and paintings of the sea, to view Mr Tollit's memorabilia from those bygone days.

If I suspected Joe of falling under the magic spell of steam before, I saw him well and truly bewitched today as he knelt on the floor surrounded by brown and curling tickets, timetables, fliers and photographs, each one with a particular odour of their own; the scent of age, and dust, and memories. Old Mr Tollit seemed to regress for an hour, taking my son with him into a time I couldn't quite share, but just to watch them - young and old - sharing the same dream, was good enough for me.

I've always loved this village, but I'm just beginning to realise there is still so much I don't know about its residents. I never used to care; well, people don't, do they? But, like Joe with his trains, I think I have caught the bug to find out more.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Moth Magic

It's always hard to follow up a really good day out with anything remotely decent, but I think Joe and I managed it today.

While hanging out a couple of freshly laundered sheets, I heard a shriek of delight, only to discover Joe bent over double at the bottom of the house wall, his stubby fingers itching to pick and pull at something attached there, but with the overiding good sense to leave it well alone. With a peg still gripped between my teeth, I bent down beside him to find a broken cocoon, the butterfly having emerged neatly from it and now residing magestically next to it, drying its wings in the sun.

We found it again an hour later. Joe tried to sketch it while I took the sheets off the line and folded them into the laundry basket. It was quicker to take a photo, which I did while he wasn't looking.

I'll show it to him later, only I'm sure his sketch will be far better.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

I Often Dream of Trains...

Oh God, it's beautiful here! We arrived to the sound of bells from the village , and light splots of rain soaking quickly into the dust on my shoes as we approached the station house, where a huge locomotive presided over the scene like some mechanical matriarch from the 1800s. Joe doesn't know which way to look first. His little face is bemused and awestruck, loving the acrid billows of steam but not understanding them.

We managed to find a coach all to ourselves, and slammed the door on the outside world. Nestled into our seats, Martin and I, with Seb and Joe opposite, grinned inanely at each other as the haunting, flutey voice of the train floated over the carriage and the guard blew his whistle to begin our journey.

The train monopolized all conversation. We sat there, jolting and bouncing, hypnotized by the chugs and clangs, the rumbles and rattles, imagining a world not too long ago when life was always this perfect - as near as dammit, before people wrecked it with cars and Thomas the Tank Engine. A time when trees and bushes and cows were all there was. When women's dresses rustled aainst the narrow doorframes. When men pulled their bicycles out from beneath a hedge and wobbled their way home.

I think Joe has caught the disease. His eyes were dancing as he drank his hot chocolate later in the cafe. Seb bought him a flag, and Martin took some great pictures. I think today has been one of the happiest I can remember for a very long time. I want more.

The promise of steam

You'll be relieved to know I didn't burn the dinner, although I did chuck more wine into the Bourgignon than I should have. I figured it would calm my nerves while I ate. That's debatable, of course, but it certainly gave the beef an indescribable colour.

I was so nervous, I let the men do the talking while I concentrated all my efforts into serving the food without tipping half of it over the cloth (or down myself), but quite honestly, nobody was watching anything I did, as it soon transpired that our good friend and neighbour, Seb Lancashire, had a passion for trains that could only be equalled by my dear Martin's; a subject that bewitched the pair of them and kept their focus away from me and firmly fixed on ashpans and bogies for the rest of the evening.

Before we knew it, we were sitting on garden chairs outside the back door, watching the bats swooping in from the trees and listening to the gurgling of the stream, while we cooked up our own plans for a turn 'on the chuffers'.

As the boys continued in their animated style, I sat back with a glass of wine, feeling the lightest of breezes on my face, and smiled happily into the gloaming.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Seb's back.

That was him on the phone, talking to Martin in the kitchen while I craned my neck to hear from behind a magazine in the sitting room. It's all a bit startling really. So much time has passed since he was last here, stomping across our grass, crunching the gravel with the wheels of his Land Rover, making my little boy laugh. While he's been away on that copywriting course I've been ill, Bertie the dog's died and all work on the pigsty's ground to a halt because Martin smashed his thumb with a hammer which understandably left us all in limbo for a little while. My poor diary has been neglected, but then, what could I have written in those sad few months that would have made entertaining reading?
Still, it's May now. Bertie's snowdrops have been replaced by the odd, forgotten daffodil, and the lower banks of the Mound have the remains of the primroses and dog violets that emblazoned it not so long ago. Now it's the turn of the lilacs to grace the kitchen table. The table that is set for four; Martin, Joe, Seb and me. He's coming for dinner. Joe's excited and Martin's whistling, despite his thumb.

And I don't know why my mouth keeps twitching at the corners. Anyone would think I was vaguely thrilled.

Big Apology ...

So I'm grovelling. I'm shamefaced, but also extremely chuffed now that I've visited my blog and discovered the wonderful comments left there by two very kind (and tasteful) followers. I am so glad you enjoy the blog-story, and so sorry that I haven't yet thanked you or been keeping it up to date.

I think, probably like many of you, that I had begun to feel like I was hammering the keys only to watch the words slide slowly into the great abyss. It seemed that the world really wouldn't notice if I never typed another word. Pitiful, of course, but then we writers are. I love this blog: I love the people, the place they inhabit and all the ins and outs of their lives, but sometimes the things we cherish are just drivel to everyone else. But I am so glad there are like-minded people out there who actually see some merit in my drivel!

So thank you, Tom, who upbraided me this afternoon for being too idle. If it wasn't for you I would perhaps never have clicked on this page again. And I daresay, if I don't kickstart the whole thing again very soon, quite a few of you won't be clicking on it either.

Here goes, then, round two. Hell, what do I write this time?!

By the way, in my defence, I have been busy working on a novel and sending it 'out there', in the hope that some lovely agent thinks like Melissa and Deirdra; or at least has a fleeting interest in sheep and the infernal agonies of the heart, which seem to wangle their way into most everything I do. It's called The Angelina Cause, and I may post some information about it on here before long.

Right, back to Chittham.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

New life for old

It started with a Christmas card. A beautiful painting of snowdrops from my sister in Surrey. I loved it so much I had it framed and placed in our bedroom, under the clock.

Soon after building work on the pigsty began, I fell ill. Joe had it first: a burning head, temperature, a listlessness that was so not him. But as he recovered, I came down with it. Missed all the fun outside. We still don't have the pig, but we do have the sty, yet I missed all of it.

Then February rolled in, bringing more rain, but tempered at least with a mildness that whispered of Spring. I remember sipping soup from my bed and staring up at the snowdrops on the wall and sniffing the wafts of warm air through the window. God, I wanted so much to feel better. But, as I recovered, another disaster happened. This time in the night. Bertie, our beloved dog, died in his sleep. We've all been so upset it's been impossible to write.

I want to talk about Bertie, but not now. Not today. We buried him next to the sty where we found snowdrops flowering. New life for old.

Miss you, Bertie.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Ruby's Bad Leg

Well, so much for a happy day with the sheep. Popped down with a bucket of veg peelings later in the day, only to find Ruby flopped down under a tree looking very forlorn and sorry for herself. I'd noticed before that her foot was definitely giving her problems and now it seems she doesn't want to put any unnecessary weight on it. I texted Martin who told me to call the vet, which I have done, but I've got a feeling it's arthritis kicking in. Being the mum of them all, and a little long in the tooth it has to be said, it's a wonder she hasn't suffered something like this sooner.

We sat together for half an hour or so and had a little girlie chat. She said Gandalf is getting too greedy and always head-butting the others out the way, and Daisy and Ditsy are always hogging the hay bales. Typical mother; always fretting about her kids.

Anyway, while the others were busy scoffing the sheep mix and peelings from their trough, I fed Ruby a few special bits by hand. I would have shared them with her, but cold, wizened parsnip shavings aren't really my idea of a good lunch. Ruby seemed quite happy though, so now we just wait for the vet.

Monday, 24 January 2011

What a glorious morning I've had!

Martin at work, Joe at nursery, Seb a long way away in Chester (thank goodness. I'm determined to get him out of my system, the sooner the better). It's just been me and the sheep, basking in a touch of early spring sunshine and turfing all the muck and crap out of their stable. There's something lovely about the copious amounts of mud and mess that clog up your wellies, and the raw smell of animals that can't be equalled elsewhere. I generally find myself stopping every few minutes, leaning on my fork and grinning stupidly. Romantic, but not very practical.

The animals seemed to like their clean abode and promptly dropped a few marbles on the clean straw to show their appreciation while I struggled with an overfull barrow that was intent on tipping up and pulling me down with it. I'm glad to say my muscles and sheer willpower prevailed and I've only ended up with two minor bruises instead of the usual crop on my legs this time.

Tea from a flask may taste peculiar at the best of times, but when you're perched on a warm straw bale, gazing at a stream, it's got to be heaven in anyone's book.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The House that Seb Built

Q: How can a few chunks of old stone give a person so much pleasure?!

A: By turning themselves into the walls of a pigsty, of course.

Seb came over as promised (minus the Connelly harpy) with a trailer full of lumps of stone from his garden. Apparently they had formed a ha-ha behind his house many years ago which began to tumble and fall and has since lain like a lot of broken teeth across the grass. Seb says he prefers them this way to being in a uniform line and I have to agree with him. Still, the old ha-ha will now grace my garden in a very different guise. Ha-ha, indeed.

Seb brought roofing tiles too (not sure where they came from), so all is just sitting there, ready for him and Martin to get cracking. I'm not sure who is most excited about the whole venture; me, Joe or Martin. Or Seb. He seemed pretty happy to be sharing his bounty with us. Or maybe it was good just to offload some of his extraneous stuff! Either way, we will have a pig soon and she (the pig will be a she) will have a house to rival our own.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Martin's downstairs building a lego castle with Joe and I've slipped away to scribble this quickly. I'm so full of conflicting emotions, all I can think of is to pour them out onto these pages and hope to God no one finds them.

The sad truth is I've been so wrapped up, like a little kid, with this pigsty idea that I forgot Seb would soon be going away to Chester. It's all to do with that copywriting job. That, of course, means he won't be coming round to help build the sty. Well, not for a while, anyway. And if Martin gets on with it too soon, Seb won't need to come over at all.

Why should that worry me? I tell myself that it's because Joe will be disappointed. But that's not it at all. I want a pig, we all want a pig, but part of the charm of it is that Seb will be involved in the whole project.There! I've said it. It's there in black and white and I'm not at all proud of it. I want Seb's company far more than I should. It's ridiculous and wrong. But it's true.

And did I really forget he was going away? More like I convinced myself he wouldn't.

And the worst bit of the whole stupid thing is that Lydia Connelly is there with him right now doing the Dance of the Seven Dusters, if I know her.

But that's her business. And his. And now, pitifully, mine.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Spring in January?

Good news and bad news.

The absolutely brilliantly great news is that Seb Lancashire, our neighbour and friend, is coming over later to look over the soon-to-be pigsty. He's got plenty of old stone and roof tiles lying around on his land, apparently, and he and Martin are going to use them to build the pen up as soon as the weather gets a bit more settled. I can't wait, and nor can Joe, who is desperate to install a kune-kune like Seb's Stanley, but I think Martin's got other ideas.

The not-so-good news is that we have discovered a ream of niggly repair jobs that need seeing to as soon as possible. All that arctic weather has wreaked some damage outside. The fences are loose and when I fed the sheep this morning I noticed a large hole in the stable roof. Martin's out there now patching it up while I hang the first of this year's washing on the line. Not much hope that it will dry, I know, but I can't resist the touch of spring that's in the air today. I can almost smell it.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Rain, Mud and Snow

Thankfully all that snow has at last melted away -  the only thing is, it has left the ground around the mill exceptionally muddy. The chickens are turning their beaks up at the goo squelching through their toes and it's quite funny to see them viewing it from the top of their ladder wth disdain. The sheep don't mind in the slightest. Nor, might I add, do Joe or Bertie, who will splat through just about anything given half the chance.

But the orchard is churned up and my little vegetable patch, which I still tend even though there's not much growing in it right now doesn't look too spectacular. What's made it ten times worse is the hammering rain we're now experiencing. I can hardly see the top of the Mound for mist, and the stream by the kitchen door is choked and swollen. Joe threw a couple of sticks into the water, Pooh-style, this morning and raced them along the bank until they disappeared between the trees. It worries me that one day he will try one of his superstunts and wade in to reclaim them, but Martin says I worry too much.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

It's going to be a while before we can actually start on the pigsty sadly, but Joe and I did manage to drag Martin over to the outhouse to poke about and give it some serious thought. He's gone out now in the Land Rover and Joe wants me to take him for a paddle along the stream bed in our wellies before lunch. The dog seems to understand far more English than I gave him credit for; he's already off across the garden, barking in delight.


Look what we stumbled across! We always thought the loud gurgling we could hear was just the stream chuckling along, but having followed it downstream for a short way, we've discovered a natural dam and a secret waterfall. It's so beautiful! Sometmes I wonder if this home of ours will ever run dry of treasures. It just gets better and better.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

2011 - The BIG ONE

I have decided to put all my silly doubts aside and start the new year with a smile, for Martin has had the best idea ever, in the whole wide world!

It was while we were eating a huge cottage pie last night (Joe's favourite cos he douses it in Worcester Sauce then just drives his spoon in like a garden shovel) that we got talking about finally doing something with the outhouses this year. They're still very broken down like dinosaur bones piled in various corners of the garden, and although they have a particular charm of their own, we agree they really ought to be rebuilt and made use of.

But for what? The usual suggestions of another shed and an apple store came up, but neither were very inspiring, nor terribly necessary seeing as we have other 'old sheds' already in use for just these purposes. Then Joe pipes up, his mouth full of meat and potato, and says, 'Couldn't we keep a pig like Seb?'

Now, most ordinary families would smile kindly at this point and change the subject (quickly), but not ours. I know my eyes lit up instantly at the idea for Martin laughed when he looked at me and nodded thoughtfully as he dug his fork into his dinner. 'It wouldn't be a problem to turn it into a pigsty,' he said.

So now we're all in a frisson of excitement and 2011 promises to be brilliant. Chickens, sheep and now a pig. 

I love my home.