Family visits

We had a mad weekend at cousin James’ wedding. A few new second cousins, lots of beautiful people from the barrister class, dozens of lovely Jains including the bride plus renewed acquaintance with Scottish, Kentish, West Country and Geordie close family. I got all of the last set to say, “Baked hake”, at dinner on Friday; how can they all be related? Both the English and Jain weddings were perfections of their respective traditions, conducted in balmy sunshine in my Uncle’s old house in the grounds of Christchurch Canterbury College. A few of James’ school friends were distraught because, when Michael retired and moved from this servant-tended heaven, a bit of their childhood was lost to them, too. 

Lots of food, mainly Indian, was consumed throughout a long day of polite chatter and observance. Cousin Jane, sister of the groom, was very kind to me in remembering our one previous meeting, sixteen years ago, and praising my efforts to get her dad off his arse. James and Jane both have houses in londinium so I hope to see them regularly, perhaps staying with them to attack Neil’s ramparts.

Sister Jill and we were invited back to Aunt Margaret and Uncle Michael’s present house on Sunday morning. Jill, a garden designer, came over a bit funny when she found us planning some tree plantings with Margaret to get the house ready for sale. Lots of family political subtext but I’m a bit cheesed that she’s trying to take over and get them to spend thousands more than they want or need to. Still, I doubt she and Steve will be there for the hard yakka so we’ll be able to plant what we like. An expedition for the looming autumn.

On the way home we made an opportunistic call on my half-brother, Chris, near Reading. Turns out he’s quite like me in terms of his pragmatism and plain speaking.

We stayed at Una’s on Monday, loitering until the afternoon on another perfect late summer day, then continued our wending way through the A and B roads. Earlier, on such a road in Kent, we were jealous of the piles of sweet chestnut logs by the roadside. I spent the previous weekend making a shave-horse for green wood work and those logs are the perfect raw material. Checking last night, it turned out they’re all for sale so we could have loaded the roof rack.

I made the horse on a course run by one of our tree-planting friends. He’s only just ahead of me on his learning curve but I got to use his tools and finished a project in a weekend that I’d delayed for a year. Now I have the machine I need to make… another shave horse! Plus chairs, barrels, pretty much anything, really. There’s a whole branch of woodwork that can chop, scrape and hew pretty much anything that a cabinet shop could produce; it just takes a bit longer and the results looks more rustic. Take a look When I unloaded the shave horse, Kevin, Daddy, Mammy and Monica all had to have a go immediately; it’s a simple, friendly machine and very satisfying to use.

I’ve had an obsession with de-rusting the tools that have lain about the shop waiting to be sorted into a home location. Mental preparation for getting the workshop up and running, I hope. Dirty work but it is very satisfying to excavate a ball of rusty swallow poo to discover a handsome, hand forged hammer or pliers inside. I gave myself a rain check on renovating the couple of dozen wooden planes but they’ll be a delight to bring into service. I even have a big jointer plane like in the video above.

I owe Aunt Sylvia, in Redcar, a visit this month; the tree-planting in Canterbury is scheduled for November and I plan to visit the clan at The Stank after the first snows.

Monica is up to her sticky elbows in pulped fruit. I’m delighted to say she’s become a fanatic for jam and wine-making. Rowan jelly is in production now; she has sacks of apples and damsons from Una and a freezer full of brambles. A good effort, given we’re not really set up for such industry but it’s great to see such enthusiasm before the forest garden avalanches us with produce.

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