A Foxy Problem

I decided to let the chickens into the garden. They had been shut in their cage for a few weeks while the local fox had cubs, and again while we were in the Lake District, and again while some plants were being established (because chickens like to dig). But it’s much healthier for them to be roam free, to have dust-baths to clean their feathers, and to fly into the trees. I opened their door, and out they rushed.

It was hours later, as I was cooking dinner, that I realised I had never collected the eggs. I left the potatoes bubbling on the stove, and walked up the garden. As I neared the pond area, I smelt the unmistakeable whiff of fox. I started to hurry, peering into the trees for signs of feathers.

As I reached the chicken coop, I could see all the chickens, peacefully digging in the earth as they searched for tasty bugs. No casualties. But as I rounded the corner, there in the coop, just sneaking through the door, was a fox. Without thinking, I rushed up, slammed shut the door, and locked it.

The fox leapt to the corner of the cage, then turned, eyes flashing, teeth barred, fur raised. It flung itself at the locked door, then leapt for the far corner. It dug at the earth, clawed at the bars, ripped the netting from the sides of the cage. But it was trapped. Now what?

I hadn’t really thought this through. If I released the furious fox, it would almost certainly snatch a chicken or duck as it passed. But I couldn’t keep a wild animal in a cage, and soon it would be dusk and the chickens would want to roost.

I watched the fox as it flung his angry body around the cage, then I went to get reinforcements. Jay happened to be visiting, and Husband was working in his study, so I told them I had caught a fox, and asked if they could help. Both appeared amazingly quickly.

(Later, Jay informed me that this was another instance of my not being normal. Apparently normal mothers do not catch foxes, nor do they ask in very calm ‘please-can-you-empty-the-dishwasher’ type voices if their sons can help with a trapped fox. But I have given up trying to be normal.)

The fox was still angry/upset/terrified. I thought the chances of one of us being bitten was fairly high, and I wondered if foxes, like bats, have rabies. It looked healthy enough. I was impressed with the energy it was expending on trying to rip up my chicken coop, and pleased with how strong the coop was proving to be. I watched the fox as it climbed a vertical wall, traversed the roof upside-down, then dropped to the floor. Agile as a cat, vicious as a hyena.

My animals were not much help. Kia arrived, but I worried she might fight and be hurt, so I took her back to the house. Three cats arrived, and sat staring at the trapped fox. Stupid chickens arrived—it was time to roost—and lined up next to the door, ready to go inside. Did they not recognise a predator? Clearly not.

The problem was: How to remove livid fox from coop in such a way as to ensure no chickens would be hurt? Or ducks. Or cats. Or humans.

We own a couple of metal dog crates. One was inside the coop, used as a nesting box. We got the second one, checked it would fit through the door if the coop, and placed it inside a huge bag used for collecting leaves. This made a dark space, somewhere a scared fox might try to hide. We tied string to the door, so we could shut it from afar. When the fox was at the far end of the coop, we placed this wrapped cage in the coop.

We then used sticks and noise to ‘shoo’ the fox into the wrapped cage. Not as easy as it sounds, but we managed it, pulled the string to close the door, then Husband rushed into coop and closed the latch. Fox was now secure in smaller dog crate.

Jay and Husband carried the dog crate away from the coop, all the chickens went back inside, and I closed the door for the night. Disaster averted.

Note to self: Next time I trap a wild animal, it would be good to have an end-of-plan strategy in place.

Hope you don’t have any disasters this week. Thanks for reading. Take care.

Love, Anne x

P.S. Pleeease don’t feed foxes. They are wild animals, and when they lose their fear of humans, and their gardens, they become a problem.

Anne E. Thompson
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Exciting News!

Well, when I went to feed the birds this morning, there, wandering around the aviary was mother hen with six chicks. They are so cute, at that fluffy, long-legged stage. They look like the fluffy chicks we made from winding wool around donut-shaped cardboard when we were children—did you ever do that? You know, the pom-poms that your mum tells you to make when you’re 8 years old and bored because it’s rained for twenty days in a row.

Anyway, they all look very healthy. I tried to take photos for you, but the sun is too bright, so they’re fairly hard to see.

Chicks won’t manage to eat the pellets I feed to the full-grown birds, so I went to get some chick crumb. As soon as I put it in the cage, on a little plastic saucer, the mum kicked it everywhere. The chicks then scurried around, picking each crumb from the dirt. I got them some water, because the big water pot will be dangerous (they could drown in it) and is now up on a log, so only the big birds can reach it.

Then I started to clean out the nest. Once a hen has left the nest, she won’t go back in there while there is dirty hay or egg shells. There were two unhatched eggs. One had a chip in it, so I unpicked a bit more, and it started to cheep. I pulled off some of the shell, to reveal the unhatched chick, which was wriggling and cheeping. I guess it was just a late hatchling, and the others were ready to move off the nest, so the mother abandoned it. It seemed a shame to not give it a chance. It is a warm day, I covered it with hay in the hope it wouldn’t dehydrate too much, and have left it. It has two chances. I’ll let you know on Monday if it’s still alive. 

(My daughter told me this was a revolting photo, so look away now if you’re squeamish!)

I gave the cockerel some corn, as a treat, finished cleaning the cage, then left them to it. The mother had sat in a sunny spot, and all the chicks were under her. I do hope they survive. (I also hope—though I know it’s unlikely—that none of them are cockerels!)

I will post another blog on Monday.
Take care,
Anne x

(By the way, the egg-shaped things that look like potatoes in the photos are…potatoes. Don’t ask.)


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Feeling Frazzled

Feeling rather frazzled as I write this. There are several reasons, but the main one is a mouse, in the house, which is never a welcome adventure. Now, I am quite good with animals in general, and I think that other than spiders, I could sensibly handle any animal, big or small, that I needed to – if it was contained. But there is something about rodents, especially mice and rats, which, when I encounter them running around freely, makes me scream like a girl. Not really sure why.

We still have the painter/decorator in the house (possibly another reason for feeling frazzled) and he had just started to prepare the recently emptied lounge, when he mentioned that a mouse had run the length of the hall and disappeared under the study door. Super news, just what I was hoping to hear.

Old incontinent cat.

I collected old incontinent cat from her new home in the garage (she can’t live in the utility room while the painter is here) and dumped her in the study. Felt she might need back-up, so went into the garden and whistled for the outside cats. They are very good at coming when I whistle. Unfortunately, so is the dog and all the chickens (note to self:learn how to do two different whistles). Separated the cats from the general group of random animals, and took them into the study.

By this time, old incontinent cat had managed to catch the mouse, whilst also leaping over all the stuff recently removed from other rooms ready for the painter, and managing to break an assortment of complicated lego models. (Do not ask me why, when we have no children in the house, it is necessary to keep aforementioned lego models, but apparently it is.) Old incontinent stupid cat had then put down mouse to play, and mouse had run into fireplace.

We could see it, sitting there, completely still. The cats, however, seemed completely blind to all things rodent, and were busy exploring the shelves and desk.

Tried waving various cats in general direction of mouse. Mouse remained still, cats disliked being waved and struggled to be free.

Decided we needed to catch mouse ourselves. Managed to trap mouse in a plastic cup, and slide coal shovel underneath to contain it. Not sure what to do next.

Mouse sat there, looking quite cute, with big round ears and beady eyes. I think it was a baby one. Did not feel I could kill it, nor did I trust the cats to do the job for me if I released it. Nor did I want it to breed a whole family of new mice in my house.

Sent Husband down the lane, with mouse in plastic cup with shovel underneath to contain it. He complained a bit, but I coped. Opened window so incompetent cats could join chickens and dog in garden.

Now, I do know, that the mouse will probably walk back to my house. Though it was injured, so it might not make it. Plus, I am assuming that should it return, it will be slightly more careful to not be seen again. I also know that a quick killing would’ve been the most sensible course of action. But sometimes, there are some things, which I simply cannot manage to do.

Hope you have a rodent free week. Thank you for reading.

Take care,
Anne x


Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. They are available from book shops and Amazon. She writes a weekly blog at: anneethompson.com

The latest, and best book (in my opinion). An exciting novel written in the first person, which shows how a psychopath views the world. The story encompasses the world of women trafficked in India, and shows how someone very bad, can be used to achieve something amazing.

A hilarious romance for when you want to relax.

An exciting novel, set in the near future. One family shows how they cope with driverless cars, new laws, and schools run by computers.

A gritty thriller, which shows what it means to be a psychopath, and how it would feel if someone in your family did something awful. (Because every psychopath has a mother.)

Hidden Faces by Anne E. Thompson.
An easy read, feel good novel, set in an infant school. An ideal gift, this is a book to make you smile.

Letter to a Sister – Dentists and Foxes

Hi Ruth,

Thanks for your letter. Yes, I DO remember that dentist, though I can’t remember his name. He raised his hand to me once, and the nurse had to tell him to calm down. I’m sure it’s why I hate going to the dentist too, even for check-ups. It is probably my only real phobia. Completely irrational because even when it hurts, it’s never anything major. As soon as I walk in, the smell of that disinfectant and the sound of the machines is enough to make me rush to the loo! So good luck, and try not to faint (though actually, that would make a good story for the blog….)

It is nice being at home after our travels. I love my home, I could easily become a recluse so I have to force myself to do things and to accept invitations. My children tell me I am nutty enough, refusing to leave the house would be one step too far. Husband has some work in Sri Lanka soon, so I might go there too.

It was lovely to see the animals again. The ducklings and chicks were much bigger, probably twice the size. The two boys who looked after them for me seem to have enjoyed having them, though they did tell me that the amount of poop they have started to produce made it less fun. I am putting them outside now (the birds, not the boys). They go into the chicken aviary during the day, and I bring them back into the garage every evening. When they have more feathers they can stay out all night. This is probably overly fussy of me, as in the wild there is no way they would fit under the mother, but I would feel guilty if we had a cold spell and they died. They are at the scruffy ‘teenager’ stage, with scraggy feathers beginning to show and big feet, though they look tiny in the big cage.

IMG_4399 IMG_4396 IMG_4402

I’m trying to introduce them to the adult chickens. I’ve never done this before, as usually I get one of the hens to go broody and raise them as part of the existing flock. At the moment, I am shutting a couple of hens in with them during the day. Next week I’ll leave the whole flock shut in with them and watch to see what happens. It’s much easier if the flock will accept them because they will show the new chicks how to roost at night and they will all share the same space. If they start to attack them – which is horribly possible as chickens are generally vicious – then they will have to share the duck cage and the chickens will grow up thinking they are ducks – ducks that dislike water……do hope they don’t get a complex.

I lost one of my cockerels – the beautiful black and white one. He didn’t turn up at dusk, which is when they all arrive back at the big cage and I lock them in so they’re safe for the night. I’m not sure whether the two cockerels had a fight and he was injured, they have had a few stand-offs since we’ve been back. The house sitter leaves them in the cage all day, so when I returned and let them in to the garden, it was as if they had new territory to fight over. Either that or a fox did a sneaky raid. I found a pile of feathers next to the hedge.

Maybe as Kia has been away, the foxes have started including our garden in their territory. I have left Kia outside a lot since we got home. She keeps giving me dirty looks through the kitchen window, but I need her outside for a while, so the fox learns to keep away. This time of year is always bad for foxes – the young males go a bit silly looking for a mate and you see them at odd times (really they should only be out from dusk.) The worst is when the vixens start calling, it sounds like someone is being raped. Awful noise. I’m not keen on foxes around houses – I do wish people wouldn’t feed them, they are meant to be wild animals, wary of humans.

The person looking after Kia gave her a haircut. This was unexpected, though actually she looks quite smart and I guess it will be cooler for her now the summer is here (being optimistic weather wise.)

I’m cooking for the oldies for the next few weeks. Am trying a new recipe (a made up one – great potential for disaster). I’ll let you know how it goes.

Take care,
Love, Anne x

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Letters to a Sister : 49

Hello, how was your week? Mine was incredibly busy, so there wasn’t much time to recover from our dinner dance from last week. I know that you know some of it, but I will tell you anyway because it will make me feel better.

Monday we decided to try out the new restaurant at Knights Garden Centre. I then came home and wrote a review of it for my blog. I didn’t ‘post’ it because I worry that if I do too many posts in a week, my followers, who receive them by email, will get fed up with me and ‘unfollow’. However, if you want to read it, the link is:


Tuesday was a preparing day. I was cooking at Lunch Club and usually I shop on Wednesday, but this week I had to go to London, so shopping was pushed to Tuesday. I decided to cook the same gammon, cauliflower cheese, roast spuds and carrots followed by ginger syrup sponge that I cooked last time. It’s easy and I had the quantities already sorted out. Assumed there would be forty people and hoped I bought enough.

In the afternoon I took you to the airport. The taking bit was fine, the finding the car afterwards bit is always something of a challenge. Especially as I had left my glasses in the car (I am still in denial about needing to wear them all the time.) Found car eventually, though I know the boys would have been good about a phone call asking them to drive to the airport to help me find my car. Drove home missing you – you need to seriously review the whole living two days away thing.

Wednesday was London. Husband has some work in Argentina in the summer, so I thought I would join him. He told me I would need a yellow fever vaccination. My local surgery were unable to do it until after I was home again (so much I could write here) so I had to book one at the clinic in London. The train times didn’t work very well, so I drove to the station early, caught a train to London Bridge and then loitered around Elephant and Castle for about an hour. This is not a great place to loiter, unless you want a tattoo or a kebab or a conversation with a drunk man. I settled for the conversation.

Arrived at the clinic on time. Was then informed that actually, you only need the yellow fever jab if you are going up to the waterfalls in the North, which we weren’t. All my other vaccines are up to date, so I came home. I have barely mentioned the wasted time to Husband since, (though actually, it does come quite naturally into the conversation surprisingly often.)

Thursday was baking puddings for Friday. Friday was cooking lunch for forty people, serving, washing up, going home to recover, then meeting friends for dinner. I missed you helping at Lunch Club, it’s such hard work, though I love doing it. The oldies all came back pleased to see each other, it was very noisy. Some of them know that I find the cooking a struggle, so they come to check up on me – one of the men told me they had put me on “Suicide Watch” just in case! Forty three people came, but there was enough – sort of – some had to have sausages.

Saturday was preparing Sunday School, trying to clean up the messy house a bit, buying food for a big breakfast for all the students at the church, stuff like that.

All this was ‘extra’ stuff. You have to remember that I had all the usual ‘jobs’ of caring for the animals, cooking vast amounts of food for the boys to eat, trying to keep the house relatively hygienic.

The eggs in the incubator should hatch next week. I am trying to get a hen to go broody, then when they hatch I’ll put them under her. It’s not working very well so far. There are lots of eggs in the nest (which usually is enough to turn a hen broody) but they don’t like the weather. They sit for a couple of hours, then get bored and go for a wander around the garden. This won’t work when they have new hatchlings – they’ll die of cold unless she sits all the time. Annoying. Perhaps you could pop back to poultry-sit?

Take care,
Love, Anne x

PS. I had just finished writing this when I went to check the incubator and one of the eggs is shaking and cracked. It’s EARLY! Rushed around in a panic, filling a plastic crate with hay, trying to find where I put the water and food pots a year ago, fixing a heat lamp at the right height above the crate. All ready now. Sometimes they take a couple of days to actually hatch, but occasionally it’s just a few hours, so I need to be ready.

Now I keep going back to check. I still find watching ducklings hatch incredibly exciting. The egg just has a tiny crack at the moment. When I shine a torch on it, it shakes from side to side while the duckling inside tries to unfold. A little miracle. I’m sure the family will understand why we have no food in the cupboards…….


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Letter to a Sister : 46

You just know it’s going to be a bad day when you put on your wellies to go and feed the animals and they’re full of cat sick. Louise (grouchy old cat) likes to sleep on the boiler. She obviously leaned over the edge in order to vomit. Super. I quickly removed boot, stepped back, and crunched on a dead mouse. It was obviously going to be one of those days. (So glad to read that you have them too. Perhaps we’re just lucky that way!)

Cleaned up mess in utility room and went out to sort out the birds. I was in the aviary, which is empty, when I heard a duck calling. I couldn’t see her anywhere. Wondered if I was going mad. I checked the laying boxes, under the old dog crate, everywhere. No sign of her but I kept on hearing her. Then I spotted her – actually there were two of them. They had crawled inside one of the ‘humane’ rat catchers that were on the edge of the cage. Goodness knows how they had managed it, they must have crawled through a tiny space to even get to the entrance. There they were, two ducks, crammed inside. One was calling to me, the other was very still and I thought she might be dead.

IMG_2221 (The rat trap -complete with rat!)

Getting ducks out of rat traps is extremely difficult. They only open at one end, the end that slams shut when something enters, so you have to try and hold the trap open with one hand. The duck immediately crawls to the other end. There isn’t room to turn her, so you have to detach her claws (which are clinging on to the base of the trap) and pull her backwards, whilst protecting her wings and stopping her feathers from protruding through the side of the trap or they’ll get damaged. All with your other hand. If you release your hold on her for a second, she will rush to the far end of the trap and you have to start all over again. It took ages. Four cats and the dog all came to watch/offer advice.

Anyhow, managed to release both ducks, who seemed fine. As I now had them captive, I decided to lock them into the aviary. This means I can collect their eggs for hatching (they tend to lay them all over the place and I rarely find them.) They were both hens, so I needed to catch a drake to stay in with them. This was also not easy, even with the dog helping. Eventually I shut the two hen ducks into the dog cage within the aviary and left the main door open. Ducks are very nosey. I moved away and the other ducks all wandered into the aviary to see what was happening. I could then shut the door, throw out the ones I didn’t want and leave two hens and one drake safely inside. I got them food and water, then went to clean out the chicken cage.

I lost a chicken last week – the little bantam one. (I bought the hatching eggs on ebay – they were listed as ‘large chicken hatching eggs’ but one egg was tiny and a bantam hatched. The joys of Ebay marketing!) Anyway, I thought a fox must have got her. Mostly the foxes stay out of the garden because Kia chases them off, but the young fox dogs go a bit silly in the spring, looking for a vixen, so I thought one must have decided to be brave. I looked around for feathers, but there was no sign. That was Friday.

IMG_3934 (Kia and chickens.)


Today I went into their cage and picked up the bucket I use to collect their poop in. There, underneath, was my bantam. She must have perched on the side and then it toppled over on top of her. I don’t know why she didn’t call to me. The other chickens all ignored her too, because they sleep in there every night. She was obviously upset but seemed unhurt. There were two eggs in there too.

I put her in with the ducks. Chickens are nasty if there’s a weak one, I thought the flock might attack her. She can be a duck for a few days. Ducks are much nicer, very friendly to each other and will even accept wild ducks on the pond. We have a few wild ducks that visit every spring. There are a pair of mallards who nest on the pond (but their ducklings never survive – we have too many crows and magpies in the trees and they pick off the ducklings one by one when they leave the nest. It’s brutal.)We also have a few mandarin ducks who come in the evening. They are beautiful. I think they must visit from a neighbour’s pond. They never nest with us, though we do have big trees around the pond, so I am always hopeful.

I thought raising children was hard, but I think it’s tougher when you’re a duck.

Take care,
Anne x

PS. I love the photos of Iceland. Maybe I will come with you next time.

I always get lost in foreign cities too – we share the same ‘confused’ gene.


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Letters to a Sister : 44 – Tantrums and Animals


Wednesday evening, about six o’clock, I went to Waitrose. There was a mother there with a little boy, he was having an absolute loop-out. It brought back lots of memories. The little boy was about five or six and at some point had managed to become detached from his coat. He was now refusing, absolutely, to have anything to do with it. Mum was tired, busy and embarrassed that everyone could hear him scream and shout. It was cold outside, she needed him to put on the coat, he was refusing. It was loud and emotional. I felt so sorry for her, I have been in her place too many times.

You could see she was tired, at that, “I’m going to cry myself in a minute, I don’t know what to do” stage. The threats were escalating (no ice-cream ever again) and you could see she was itching to smack his legs but too worried to do it in public in case everyone disapproved. I wanted to say something to her. I wanted to tell her that she wasn’t the world’s worst mother, that all mothers have been there, that eventually he won’t have tantrums anymore and she will actually wish he was small again. But I didn’t. Partly because there was no pause in the boy’s screaming and her telling him to put on his coat, partly because she looked so emotionally fragile, so completely worn down, that I thought she might misunderstand or burst into tears.

The thing is, if I am honest, I still don’t know what you are meant to do in those situations. Children are completely unreasonable and if they refuse, absolutely, to do something, there is not much a mother can do. My children did eventually stop having those very public screaming rows, but I think I just got better at avoiding them, seeing what was likely to happen before we got to that stage, not getting into situations that would explode. I don’t think I ever learnt what to do when they did happen.

I do remember a particularly bad session with one child where I believe I asked husband to stop the car so I could leave him by the side of the road. I think he was refusing to wear a seatbelt or something. We were in California, on holiday. Son was screaming, daughter started to cry because I was going to abandon her brother, other son burst into tears because daughter was crying, our friends (who did not have children at the time) were terribly worried and wondered if they should intervene. It was not a wonderful time. But it passed. No one was abandoned by the road. Son now always wears seatbelt. (Friends now have children of their own and understand completely.) I don’t miss everything about those days.


This Tuesday was a very productive day for me. I finished the first draft of Joanna. I am now, according to Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’, supposed to forget about it for three months, then re-read it and make any changes and additions that seem appropriate after reading it with ‘fresh eyes’. I, of course, am not sure that I am patient enough for that and am just dying to send it out to agents.


I also did some awful animal jobs. Regular stuff, like feeding them and cleaning them out and collecting the eggs, just sort of happens every day without me really thinking about it. The other stuff, like worming them all and using the flea stuff, is a pain and I tend to put it off. But not Tuesday, Tuesday I got it all done.

IMG_3869I took old grouchy Louise to the vet for her vaccinations.

I weighed the outside cats (SO much fun on my kitchen scales, you can imagine) and bought them all worm tablets and flea stuff. Then I forced the pills into their mouths (which they hate.) Five cats were successfully wormed, Mandy refused to swallow and after an absolute age, when I was sure it would have dissolved, she spat it out. Annoying.

I then squirted them with the flea/worm combo stuff. They hate that too. It has to go on their skin, so it probably feels cold. After they were done they ran away and refused to come near me for the rest of the day.

The ducks are thinking about laying. They have started making round dips in the hay in the aviary.

The chickens are horrible. They all pick on one chicken and peck at it. It tends to change, they take turns on who is picked on, so they do get some respite but there is always one poor scraggy looking bird who lays smaller eggs because she’s unhappy.

IMG_3868Mostly, all the animals get on together well. Mungo (inside cat) seems to have taken over Kia’s (GSD) bed, though they do sometimes share.



The cockerels have had a few stand-offs this week – perhaps because it’s Spring. Kia manages to sort it out (she bounces on them!)  I’m hoping it doesn’t escalate or one will have to go.

IMG_3871The outside cats have allocated themselves beds. There is a heated igloo, which the two mothers have squashed flat and now sleep on together. There is another heated bed, big enough for three, where Mandy sleeps. Midge sleeps on top, where he can see everyone.



IMG_3899 IMG_3895 IMG_3898 IMG_3892 IMG_3883 IMG_3875IMG_3881

When everything is calm, I like my life. Hope your week has been good.

Take care,
Anne x


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Letters to a Sister : 28

Did you do anything exciting for Bonfire Night? We didn’t on the 5th, although we did go to a parade on the Saturday. Edenbridge in Kent has an evening parade with flaming torches and small children wearing flammable costumes on floats. I watched with a mix of horrible fascination and fear. No one got hurt. It is actually very atmospheric, you stand in the dark High Street and watch as the flaming torches come nearer, the marching bands drumming, the children all waving frantically at everyone they know, the crowd shouting abuse when Guy Fawkes passes. (Bleary photos below. I am no photographer….)

They also each year burn an effigy of a generally disliked person, which I’m not quite sure about. One year it was Jimmy Savile, complete with ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ badge. This year it was Sepp Blatter (I am slightly unsure of the spelling here. On UK social media it’s spelt Seb, on foreign sites it’s Sepp. Apologies if it’s wrong. Though frankly, that seems less bad than burning him.)

When you think about it, it’s a rather bizarre festival. I didn’t give it much thought until we were living in the US and I explained to a friend how we commemorate the near blowing-up of Parliament in 1606 by Guy Fawkes by exploding fireworks and burning effigies of him. She just sort of looked at me, clearly wondering if I belonged to a sect similar to the KKK.

Do you remember when we were children and dressed up A, (younger cousin) as a guy and wheeled him to the shops? Actually, I think I wheeled him in your very special doll’s push-chair that I wasn’t allowed to touch, so possibly you didn’t know at the time. Anyway, he wore Dad’s old clothes and a wig and looked exactly like a real Guy and then every so often he would move and give old ladies a shock. Hugely funny and thankfully no one had a heart attack. Husband assures me that Disney probably didn’t copy our idea for all the ‘human statues’ that you now see in cities around the world, but I feel we were ahead of our time.

Had a pretty ordinary week this week. Saturday we went to the supermarket, which is always bit of an adventure. Especially now they have stopped giving away free bags. I love watching all the men (it is always men) trying to carry twenty-seven individual items without a bag. I think clothes with massive pockets are soon to make a come-back.

Animals all pretty stable. Hens are now kept in until midday, so I do actually get some eggs in their nesting boxes. They are then free to roam the garden until they take themselves back to their perch at dusk. It is the only good thing about changing the clocks – the chickens go to bed nice and early and I can shut the door to keep out the fox before I go out for the evening.
Mungo, the inside cat, escaped a few times. I found him having fun with the outside cats and felt too mean to keep him inside. So now he’s allowed out the cat-flap at night, when we have hardly any cars in the lane. He must party all night because he’s completely exhausted now in the daytime and mews very crossly if I disturb him by picking him up. Makes for a nice peaceful house. Kia, the GSD, is certainly grateful that the ‘chase a noisy plastic egg for hours non stop’ game seems to have ended.
I haven’t seen a rat at the pond for ages now. Not sure if they’ve moved on due to all the cats or if they hibernate. Will need to do a google search.
Still no duck eggs but they’re all getting a bit old now, plus ducks are moody and wont lay if the weather’s wrong.

I am enjoying some long evenings reading next to the fire before the whole Christmas rush starts.

Take care,
Anne xxx



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Letters to a Sister :26

How was your week? Mine was okay but busy.

I had the kittens neutered. Of course, usually two of them live outside with the mothers (which is working well, by the way, I haven’t seen a rat around the pond in ages.) However, while they were recovering, they all had to be inside. Louise, the grumpy older cat, was not happy. Nor particularly was husband. There were, I must admit, way too many cats in the house. Especially as one (I think Mandy) was refusing to use the dirt tray. They are all outside again now. They are much happier. So am I.

The chickens were also annoying this week. There were no eggs. I wondered if something was getting them (or even, much worse, if the hens had started eating them) so I put a couple of bought eggs into the nesting boxes. They are still there, so that wasn’t the problem. I then wondered if perhaps they were laying elsewhere. During the day I open the hutch and they wander around the garden. They’re safe because Kia is often out there too (even a fox wont mess with a GSD.) So, I tried leaving them shut in all day. They were unhappy but I got eggs. Now I don’t know what to do – I like them wandering around but there’s no point having hens if I still have to buy eggs. Have discussed it with them, I’m sure that will help.

It was also my turn to cook for the oldies. I decided to give them chocolate brownie and ice cream for dessert. This was very popular. Lots of people have asked for the recipe, so I thought I would include it below. It’s modified from a Nigella Lawson recipe (I like her recipes – they always work) so do hope I am not breaching any copyrights. (I figure that she must have started with someone else’s recipe and changed it to suit her and I have done the same, so it’s kind of fair.)I do not look as sexy as Nigella when I cook and am a lot grumpier. But the brownies are nice.

The quantity is for ten old people, so to serve forty I had to do it four times. By the end I was in bit of a muddle, couldn’t remember if I had added salt and even forgot the buzzer – which is fatal. They were all edible, which is good.

It’s much nicer cooking with someone else. At Easter we always have a cream tea at our house, so I cook scones for about ninety people. Niece always comes in the morning to help me make the dough, so we help each other remember to add sugar and salt while I learn about her boyfriends and she ignores all my good advice. It’s a nice time.

But back to the brownies. I have included cup measures in case you make them in the US, where cooking is slightly less accurate but a whole lot easier. I have also included my own helpful comments, the sort of thing they never put in recipe books but you tell the children when they’re cooking. Enjoy:

Before you begin, put all animals out of the kitchen. And all teenaged boys. And if your mother is like ours, put her outside too. Then wipe the surfaces, wash your hands and find a clean apron.

Preheat the oven to 170℃.

200g chocolate (weight should be on the packet.) Be honest here, if you will eat some, buy extra. You can use any chocolate you like – milk, dark, white all work fine. I think orange might be too sweet.
200g butter (a little less than 1 cup.)
400g light brown sugar (2½ cups)
100g cocoa (¾ cup)
1⅓ teaspoons bicarbonate soda
200g flour (1¼ cups)
5 large eggs (if the hens haven’t laid them under a bush somewhere)
2 teaspoons vanilla essence (it’s expensive, so please don’t spill any.)

Grease a dish with sunflower oil. I use big lasagna dishes, 27cm squared. Put the chocolate into a freezer bag and bash with a rolling pin until it’s in chunks. Eat any extra.

Mix the eggs and vanilla with a fork.

Melt the butter and sugar. You need a very low heat and to stir all the time or it will burn. Bash out any lumps of sugar while you do it or they make horrid crunchy bits in the brownie.

Remove mixture from heat while you measure the dry ingredients. This is important. If it’s too hot when you add the eggs, they cook. You will then have brownie with cooked lumps of egg in them. Your husband tells you they are “interesting”, your parents-in-law politely remove the eggy lumps and leave them on the plate for you to find later and your children refuse to eat them after the first mouthful.

Add the flour, cocoa, bicarb and a little salt (pour it onto your hand first, you just need a pinch.)

Add the eggs. It’s easiest if you add them gradually. If you add them all at once you will need to beat the mixture really hard until it’s smooth, which is a good arm workout but hard work.

Add the chocolate chunks, then quickly, before they melt, scrape the mixture into the container and put it into the oven.

Set the timer for 25 minutes. It should look dry on top but not cooked underneath. If the top looks wet, give it another 5 minutes.

Leave in the dish to cool, serve warm with ice-cream or cold on a plate.

Wash up and wipe all surfaces.
Allow animals and family back into kitchen.

Take care,
Anne x

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Killing the kitchen roll. Again.


Guard duty.


Letters to a Sister :12

So, this week we met Mimi’s new boyfriend (well, new to us.) All very scary. Was keen to make a good impression so asked what he liked to eat. Was informed he “is a vegetarian but doesn’t like vegetables very much.” Not so easy then.
Decided on a broccoli quiche (am good at making quiche. Must be all those quiches we ate at midnight as children after putting up the tent in Cromer on Wintery August nights. Oh, happy days.) Anyway, made quiche. Forgot the broccoli but decided he wouldn’t notice. Which he wouldn’t have IF helpful husband hadn’t thought it a good conversation topic on way from station.

Helpful husband had in fact been helpful all morning. He knew I was stressed so offered to vacuum clean the kitchen (just in case new boyfriend didn’t understand about dogs and copious amounts of hair shed every summer.) He did clean, unfortunately he did not put vacuum cleaner away, so it was in middle of kitchen floor when boyfriend arrived. Not such a great first impression.

Boys also helped. They cleared all the mess/stray socks/empty beer cans/sweet wrappers from the upstairs lounge (it becomes their hovel during uni holidays. I try to avoid going up there.) Unfortunately they thought the kitchen table was the best place to dump all their debris. Not sure why.

The boys had also devised a series of nicknames for boyfriend. They found it funny to substitute the middle consonant with a different one. Some variations WERE funny. Until I made a mistake and used one of the variations without realising. Very embarrassing (they found it hilarious.)

We did try to plan for the visit. Husband was given a range of topics (mainly ex-boyfriends) that he was banned from mentioning. He managed to mention them all I think.

Boyfriend seemed very nice. Mimi glared us all from time to time but seemed to cope. Not sure if they will brave another visit.

I have finally got round to clipping the ‘ducklings’ (now young adults) wings. They are happily on the pond. Except for one, which is matt brown and beautiful, so I have kept her with the parents in the aviary because I don’t want to lose her to a fox (added freedom also involves added risk.)
Most of them are males. They usually are. I am rubbish at telling their gender when they first hatch (it is incredibly hard to see and not especially nice for the ducklings) so I tend to wait until they are young adults. Then with call ducks it’s easy because the females shout really loudly and the males quack like they have a sore throat! You can’t tell from feather pattern with call ducks – one of my males has almost identical feathers to a female mallard. When they get older and are fully feathered, the males will all have curly tail feathers. This is true of all ducks, not sure of other birds, do you know?

Chickens have started pecking each other. No idea why, they never have before. I thought it was re establishing the pecking order when this years chicks became adults, but they’re still doing it. I now let them roam around the garden during the day, am hoping that will solve it (though their cage is big.)

Kia helps me round them up at night and to put the ducks back on the pond. She has got really good at it – spends a lot of time watching me to see where I need her to stand. Can see why farmers use them to herd animals, are very responsive (not like boys. Or husbands.)

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I took Milly and Molly to be spayed. The kittens also had their first vaccines. One of the ‘boys’ is a girl (clearly am also rubbish at sexing kittens! It is not as obvious as you might think.)

Vet told me to keep M and M quiet. Not sure how he expected me to do that. They were dismantling the cat box before we even reached home. I tried putting them in the bathroom but they spent the whole time leaping for the door handle or jumping onto the window sill. They also rearranged everything in the bathroom – not sure if they are the cat equivalent of interior designers (bad ones) or demolition men.

I gave up after a day and put them back in the garage with the kittens. After a week they can go in the garden. I’ll bring them in at night, just so they don’t forget that kittens are theirs and fight when they all move outside.

Take care,
Anne xx

P1080806PS. I have published my diary about Rio. Haven’t sent it to you because I included one of the letters I already sent. However, if you fancy reading it (now it has photos added plus some new content) the link is : https://anneethompson.com/travel/rio-de-janeiro/