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And a Happy New Year to you all

Hello, welcome back and a Happy New Year to you all. This is the first of the fortnightly blogs, hopefully alternating with the podcasts of previous episodes on Southside Broadcasting. I will post a link to the podcasts for anyone interested in listening as we record them.

The New Year certainly brought some surprises for us, some rather unwelcome I have to say. Just before New Year I realised the kitchen drain wasn’t living up to its name. In fact it was pouring water from the sink over the paths outside. With a feeling of dread I began to investigate and discovered the horrors of “The Grease Trap”. Installed a number of years ago this is an extra manhole with a big bucket designed to – yes, trap grease from the waste water. Now, we are very careful about the fats and oil we pour down the sink. In fact we don’t. We wipe out everything and use the paper to light the fire so there should have been very little grease in the bucket. How wrong could I be?

We had our very own “fatberg”. Picture a solid mass, diameter about a foot and more than six inches thick wedged in the top of the manhole. I donned my new, extra tough overalls and began to hack it out. After three hours I had dislodged most of it and it was residing in several carrier bags. Then I had to bale out the wastewater to get at the pipes. After another hour I couldn’t reach any further and the drain showed no sign of clearing. I gave up as the light was fading and it was raining. The next day I abandoned all finesse and poked, hacked and chiselled at the pipes lying flat and stretching down into the drain. Finally something gave and it began to clear. The fatburg was buried in the wood and I went to have a long, hot shower.

We don’t know where it has come from as we are so careful. I suspect it is “old” fat, washing back along the pipe, as the drop to the tank is minimal. I have a nasty feeling we will need to dig up and reset the drain in the spring. Ah, the joys of rural living! We have space, birdsong and wildlife. We don’t have rubbish collections, mains water, drainage or gas. Most days it seems like a fair trade.

The next morning I woke to find one of my arms wouldn’t move properly. An old injury to my right shoulder had come back to haunt me as the ligament gave way again. A trip to the Injury Clinic (Irish A&E) was not quite the festive treat we had hoped for but they were helpful and much quicker than we expected. Now we are in a bit of a quandary. Jacqui cannot lift and carry heavy things obviously. I have one usable arm – I won’t say “good” as I broke both ligaments in the past. It requires some ingenuity to get things done and some (hoovering for example) are just being abandoned at present. It’s amazing how much fluff and dog hair you can scrape up with your feet!

A lot of the kitchen equipment we had in Saltburn has been left behind and so we have to replace it. One advantage is we can get modern replacements and Jacqui has a new super “does everything” mixer. This is terrific as she can make bread and bake without trying to knead or mix by hand. This is forbidden and too much of a strain at the moment. We have an array of (low sugar and healthier) cakes in the freezer, most stored in identical tubs. Well, after crossing out half a dozen labels I finally gave up. When we take one out to defrost it just goes into the tub labelled “cake”. I figure if we can’t tell what type it is then it’s not a success.

It has been cold here though there was barely a dusting of snow last week when we were warned of “hazardous blizzard-like conditions”. It has rained though – oh, how it has rained. I have my grandfather’s barometer/clock and it ranges from “stormy” to “very dry”. In the middle is “change” which in England generally meant changing from one range (wet) to another (dry). Here it seems to mean, “change” – every twenty minutes or so. The sun will shine the clouds scud across the sky and then the wind blows up the lane. That’s the 30-second warning to get under cover before the rain pours down. Five minutes later the sun is out again. It takes some getting used to but the up side is we have many beautiful rainbows over our wood.

Oh, and we were without the car for a couple of days as a brake began to smoke. The garage took the wheels off and everything was fine so it seems we got something wedged in the calliper. The lane outside is a horrible mess with deep holes, torn up surface and pools of water. A lot of farm vehicles drive up and down at a high speed and this rips up the surface – what is left of it. We are slow and careful but there is too much debris to avoid it all. I had a prescription for heavy painkillers and couldn’t get to the pharmacy to collect it. Despite the weather and the horrible road a young man drove out and delivered it the next day – no charge he said. There are some lovely people here.

You may think this was a grim start to 2022 but in Saltburn we grew to dread New Year. Either the boiler broke down or one of our pets died. We would wake up to the cold and breathe a sigh of relief – not this year, we thought cuddling the dogs and cats in to us. So despite the setbacks we are having a happy New Year and looking forward to many more. I wish the same for you all.