Time Thieves

Ever had one of those weeks when all the time you’d set aside to achieve one task is gobbled up by a succession of other jobs? I had hoped to have started work on uploading BVC titles onto Overdrive – yes, you heard that correctly, BVC books will very soon be coming to a library near you. But not as soon as I’d hoped. First there was Asta, then haymaking, then my website disappeared.

You may remember Asta, our Giant Pyrenean Mountain Dog with a penchant for eating large pointy stones, from last week’s entry. Our vet had had to retrieve said large pointy stone the hard way – via surgery – and, as of last week’s blog entry, he’d only pulled the plaster covering his wound off the once. The next one lasted two days. Even with a muzzle on, he was somehow managing to get parts of his enormous slobbery tongue out through the holes in the muzzle sufficient to wet the plaster. And he’d picked up an infection – his wound was oozing a little.

Which meant frequent trips to the vet a half hour’s drive away. And much hair tearing about how we could stop him pulling his plaster off. Vigilance was one option. And the most wearing. Constantly watching a dog who’s intent on licking his wound and prepared to be sneaky – like wandering off to a hidden place behind a table – is a full time job. And you can’t keep a dog muzzled 24 hours a day. Especially when they look at you pleadingly.

Nighttime was the worst. Even with his muzzle on, he’d lick. All you could hear in the darkness was a dog licking endlessly. Why? He was wearing a muzzle! How?

Then the call came though on Monday that our friends were going to start baling hay on Tuesday. We’d promised to help in return for a field’s worth of hay. And it’s not something you can put off – farmers had been waiting since early June for the rain to stop long enough to cut for hay. This was the first chance. And rain was forecast to return on Thursday night.

So we had to leave Asta alone in the house on Tuesday afternoon. You guessed it. We returned to find he’d removed his plaster. We put a new one on – the vet had given us a spare after the last time – and he removed that an hour later. Not with his mouth this time, but with his back feet. He’d learned how to loosen the edge of the plaster and hook his giant claws underneath.

We encased his back feet in socks. We re-muzzled him. And managed about two hour’s sleep that night before an emergency trip to the vet’s the next morning.

Luckily he hadn’t pulled any of the stitches out. And the infection wasn’t any worse. He was rebandaged with extra plaster and sent home. We had to go haymaking again that day but came up with a cunning plan. A Velcro back support! It covered the plaster. It was easy to fit. And we had one handy.

At last we’d found a tongue and paw-proof solution. We returned to the vet on Friday with a still-plastered dog and the stitches were removed. It’s also worth noting that, unlike most dogs we’ve encountered, Asta loves going to the vet. Most dogs have to be dragged into the vet. The moment they recognise the location they start to shake. But not Asta. He pulls on the lead and can’t get inside quick enough. He loves all the attention.

So, that’s the dog. How did the haymaking go? Silly question, of course. Haymaking for smallholders only ever goes one way – downhill. Smallholders can’t afford the latest machinery. A typical smallholder tractor is more than forty years old. The tedder and baler too. They’re only used for three days a year and, however well you maintain them, something always breaks … or drops off. And it’s always a different part to the one that failed last year.

The baler was feeling temperamental this year. It would bale for five minutes then stop tying up the bales, spewing hay and baler twine out the back. The baler would then have to be fixed and the spent hay raked up for a second pass. Then the tractor got stuck in reverse – not good when you’re baling. Or when it’s a really hot, muggy day. Luckily there was another tractor. That worked brilliantly until it was hitched up to the baler whereupon it refused to start.

One day’s work soon turned into two then three. The rain, which on Tuesday had been a long way off and not even a concern, was now a real problem. Heavy thunderstorms were forecast for Thursday evening and, by Thursday morning, only half the fields had been baled. The tractor that couldn’t start now had intermittent fuel blockage problems and both tyres on the baler were punctured. And the temperature had soared to a soggy 32°C.

In the end, three of the four fields were baled. One had to be left for the next dry spell. But, at least, we got our field baled and the hay undercover.

Which left me Friday to start work on the library upload. I thought I’d check my website first as my server had been upgraded to php 5.3 this week and I’d need to upload BVC’s LTER (Librarything Early Reviewer) books there this weekend. I couldn’t get in. My website had disappeared.

So, I spent most of Friday Googling mambo and php 5.3. And discovered they didn’t play well together. Not only that but mambo – the software I used to create and run my site – was pretty much obsolescent. I found a few suggested solutions, but most wanted to know the version of mambo I was using and I couldn’t bring the website up to find out. With nothing to lose – all my hair having been torn out thanks to dog and haymaking – I decided to follow the internet advice that sounded the most sensible and edit two of the php files on my server. I had no idea what the extra code did. And one of the files was in a different folder to the one in the example. But desperate people deserve a bit of luck now and then. My website came back.

Next week, I can start on the library work. Unless…

Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Handsa quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth.




Time Thieves — 6 Comments

  1. Sometimes it seems like I’ve had years like that. I love the way you make it all sound funny, especially since I know that emergency trips to the vet and non-functioning equipment (whether mechanical or digital) are never amusing at the time.

  2. Oh, my friend! Mercury is seriously retrograde, as a friend of mine likes to say at these times, and although I have heard many horror stories this week, yours was the most time-consuming and exhausting.

    Glad Asta seems to be doing well, and that most of the hay was baled. And that the web site returned without yanking a few teeth! Hope that last field makes it to the next dry spell. (Wish you could send some of that water over here. You’re welcome to a share of our dry weather…)

    My craziness improves slightly August 1. Hope yours improves, too.

  3. At the Antique Powerlands Steam Up yesterday when the parade started, all of the rigs were running smoothly (if noisily) Once the parade started of course the first tractor in line behind the American Legion Flag bearers broke down and had to be hauled off. The flag people finished the course and walked back to the beginning before #1 got backed up (that worked better than going forward) and inched off the road. Most of the others worked fine, showing off whistles and billows of steam and waving of flags. One had to haul an entire cartload of wood to keep it going. Others had smaller wood boxes beside the driver.

    And then we came to the antique gas fired and kerosine burners. Yep, you guessed it. Every other one broke down.

    Ten years ago, the last time I went to this event, they kept draft horses on hand to tow non functional rigs away. Didn’t see any around this year.

  4. That causes some mental whiplash–one day baling hay using equipment that was probably made between the wars, or thereabouts, and the next, the futuristic problems of The Latest Internet Stuff.