Monthly Archives: July 2015

26/07/2015: cellar spiders and goose down

IMG_6340-e1437945766290Busy week here in Landskeria. Busy, busy week.

The summer holidays have now begun in earnest, which means I have two children to look after instead of one and a half; and that the weather is taking no prisoners: rain, rain, rain, pretty much.

Unperturbed, we’ve decided that I need to redecorate the upstairs. The upstairs is where the bedrooms are. Not least, our bedroom; the bedroom belonging to the sole adult couple residing in this country. It’s been a pretty sorry place for many months. Well, some years now actually. We don’t tend to show it to visitors. It’s full of cobwebs. It’s damp. We sleep on a mattress on the floor since we threw out our bed. It never gets much air because we’re worried about our children falling out of the window if we unlock it. We never got a wardrobe. We were going to get a built-in one but haven’t been able to afford it yet, with all the things we’ve been doing downstairs.

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Rubbish spider-eating spider. Destroyed.

So I’ve been doing battle with the ubiquitous cellar spiders, whom I hate, whom are shit spiders because they only eat other spiders. What kind of bullshit spider only eats other spiders? I hate them. I can’t describe how much I hate them.

The idea of killing a spider would have been ridiculous to me a few years ago. (Wasps: sure. Ants: if they bite me. Humans: if only it were legal!) But these bastards are horrible little spindly twats that eat all the proper spiders that would, if allowed to live and grow big enough, catch some of the horseflies that constantly plague us, even in unprecedented cold snaps and torrential downpours.

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A real spider. Carefully painted around.

I love real spiders. Always have. Cellar spiders on the other hand can do one.

I’ve now put two coats of “goose down” floor paint on all the boards upstairs, driven various bits of carpet to the tip, painted walls and ceilings white, unscrewed doors and painted them “goose down” too,

I did a day on Wednesday when the kids were being looked after, and then something that feels pretty close to 48 hours this weekend while V entertained the kids. It still isn’t done. There are second coats in the hall and touch-ups here and there. Once you start decorating it’s very hard to stop. Especially in a house that’s several hundred years old and which has had a very, very gradual history of improvements.

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Flag. All hail the flag.

Earlier in the week I painted a flagstone. Literally a flag-stone now, as it’s the first non-postcard-sized rendering of the Landskeria flag, affectionately called “The New Leaf” for reasons I’ll outline when I can be bothered.

It doesn’t really follow the official proportion guidelines (2:1), but it’s an adaptable design. Now that I’ve painted the huge bit of solid concrete with the flag’s *ahem* colours, I’m really not sure what to do with it. Suggestions welcome. Think outside the box, folks. Or outside the end wall of the Boiler House. Which is where it actually is.

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Fun.

Elsewhere, The queen of Belgium is following me on Twitter for reasons I cannot fathom. I didn’t even know that Belgium had a queen. But I do know from a bit of cursory research that she’s married into the direct descendants of the fourth biggest serial killer of all time, so good luck to her. I guess the silver lining to that cloud is that the beard genes in her offspring are going to be pretty stacked.

What else?

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Toad.

I took the kids and the dog for a beach excursion to Newgale, the far-western point of the nonexistant Landsker line that lends its name to our nation. It was raining when we left so I assumed it’d be fine when we got there. Wrong. Absolute monsoon stuff. Except without the warmth.

And I had to carry the pram over a massive mound of stones to get to the actual beach. Sybil had to hold the dog lead. The dog was thoroughly miserable and was sick several times on my camera bag on the way there. Good times. Hope for many more similar trips in the coming weeks.

IMG_6313-e1437946638149The toad has been and gone and been again. Somehow it actually got inside one night, which allowed me to take a pretty sweet close-up portrait of it. It remains very suspicious of me. But I feel it senses that something connects us on a cosmic level. Maybe the flies in my house.

In addition to fitting a lock to the inside of the (unlatched) door, I’ve put up the first picture on the walls of the Boiler House: a lovely print from Karborn, an artist I used to work with in London. It’s nice to see it up again, as there was no room for it in the actual house. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s a sort of dancing robed woman superimposed over some colours with some torn away fabric shapes and a feather.

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Blackcurrants.

Despite the torrential downpours, I’ve harvested another 2kg of blackcurrants. I even ate some with yogurt and honey. They were good. I desperately want to make wine from them this year, but cannot yet find a recipe that doesn’t involve adding loads of sugar. I refuse to believe one cannot make a palatable wine from blackcurrants without adding additional sugars.

Anyway, we all have colds. Things are very unsummery at the moment. I trust this will change in good time. Maybe when our new bed arrives (in August).

The hills are calling to me. I must visit them again soon.

Here in Lanskeria the weather is torrential, the environment is stable, and the economy is good.

A Velky.

19/07/2015: midnight in the Boiler House

I was originally going to call it Embassy House, or Embassy Cottage. And then maybe the Boiler Room. But mum pointed out the old pig shed adjoining our house was afforded a certain autonomy by its lack of a connecting door; thus it seems a house, or an entity of that kind, in its own right.

IMG_6278And now I am writing this week’s diary entry – rather late on Sunday evening – from said former pig shed. It’s nice in here. Back when I recorded a series of 33 poetry videos in it from 2013-14 it was pretty gross. We kept the rubbish bags in here, and there were some rotten old work benches, and plants kept trying to grow inside through the cob, sand and cement that (barely) held the stone walls together. It was wet, always. And it smelled weird. And it was dark to the point that things could have leapt out at you.

Now it’s got rendered painted walls, a boiler keeping it dry, and carpet and a desk, it’s a whole different story. A rags to riches story. Grime to grandeur. Pig shed adjoining damp farm house to executive embassy suite (or something) adjoining slightly less damp house no longer having much to do with the farms that surround it.

So, what’s been going on this week?

IMG_6260Well: that toad has been hanging around again. Goodness knows what it wants, but it’s there outside the front door every night. One night it actually came in. But I ushered it out in case the dog took a fancy to it.

Sybil had her last ever day at playgroup and we went to Folly Farm (which is really more of a zoo nowadays) and saw some penguins, lions, giraffes, and the rear end of a bongo, which was asleep and not getting up to say hello, despite Sybil’s friend having made a special visit to that area of Folly Farm specifically to see said bongo.

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Sybil stayed overnight in a tent with Nana and Pepe for the first time!

The lawn got half mowed yesterday but then we ran out of petrol. I guess this is a bit like when Stalin never got around to finishing that north Siberian railroad due to lack of sufficient funds and slave labour. Albeit on a smaller scale. The smaller scale of Landskeria when compared with most other nations (and all UN-recognised sovereign entities barring the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which is just a couple of suspect robed individuals with no land) allows that most things that happen here are likely to seem quite insignificant when compared with “national” events elsewhere.

But that lawn really will be a bugger now, because different bits will be growing at different rates and lengths. There are now three areas of mowing-completion; the recently mown, the relatively recently mown, and the small patch I completely forgot to mow the last time. The latter will be quite wild by now. Anything could be lurking therein.

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Fury looking at lambs. I told her they were goats, because I’m a moron.

I shan’t bang on too much this week because it’s so late and the absence of this desk I have nabbed from Tynewydd (the primary residence of the Landskerians) will have left mess, at least some of which I should probably sort before going to bed.

Or, “to floor”, I should probably say. I took the bed to the tip this morning and now our incredibly uneven mattress is on the carpetless floor. Progress often seems destructive at first. “Creative destruction, said Marx, is the fat cat catching its tail.”

IMG_5457If you want to see pictures of my children up one of the ruined walls at Wiston Castle, you’re in luck.

We went there on Friday to celebrate the beginning of the summer holidays, and the fact that it wasn’t raining, which it has been in both Landskeria and Pembrokeshire for most of the past few weeks.

dh2I also took the opportunity to record another few short parts of my poetry video for “Doubt having” from my next collection. It’s been going (on and off) for months now.

Any time I happen to be at a suitably awe-inspiring location where I can’t upset too many people (aside from my own children of course) by shouting at a camera while leaping from behind a rock or something.

IMG_6223The slugs and snails finished off Sybil’s sunflowers, which she was mildly annoyed by. But she got to see them flower, and we didn’t kill our dog by surrounding them with slug pellets. So all in all it was a pretty positive childhood experience I reckon. Well done V for arranging.

Positive childhood experiences are mainly part of her remit. I tent to do more of the shouting at cameras from behind rocks while leaving the kids to feed/wash/protect themselves. I didn’t ask for this burden of undiagnosed genius. It just happened.

I’ll leave you with a couple of panoramic shots of my Boiler House. My Nerve Centre. My Office.

Rest assured that the weather is summery, the environment is stable, and the economy is good.

A Velky.

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12/07/2015: zero dark giant horsefly

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AAAAAAAAARGH WTF IS THAT AAAAAAARGH BURN IT ETC.

This week I’m sorry to say Landskeria has come under attack from hostile megafauna.

Not cavaliers, as I had expected, but a species of blood-sucking fly hitherto unknown to me: the dark giant horsefly. I came across it on Tuesday afternoon either before or after one of the July rainstorms we’ve been enjoying here in the Most Serene Republic. The dog was attacking something in the grass; pouncing, retreating, wagging and pouncing again. It’s usually a tired bee or a confused moth.

But not today.

Today it was a horrific thick mothlike thing. Chunky of thorax and somewhat fly-shaped  but striped, like a bee. I could see it was missing a wing, so I decided to go inside to fetch a camera, reasoning that it was unlikely to fly away. I did so, and it did not. I got a good few photos and considered severing its central supply channel above the abdomen, but I wasn’t sure whether it was good or evil; or whether it might be able to live on as a whole being (minus the wing that my dog had presumably removed) or whether it might at least make a good square meal for a predator in its current unsevered state.

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This is how big it is compared to an iPhone 5C. Too big.

It took me about fifteen minutes of Yandexing (and a couple of minutes of Googling) to find out that the foul beast that my noble hound had defeated on the lawn of our sovereign territory was in fact an enormous horsefly: Tabanus sudeticus; the “dark giant horsefly”. This creature is not merely the heaviest fly in Europe, it is also the heaviest fly, and most grave threat, yet known to befoul the good air of our small country. I was glad, dearly, dearly glad, that my dog had rendered it immobile. It was a female, and those are the ones that bite chunks out of you for fun. Horseflies are bad enough. Nobody needed to make them darker or more gigantic, so I can only hope natural selection takes its course on this one and all the papillons of Europe rise up to rip the wings from these demonic pests until there are none left.

Besides the invasion, it was a good week. A healthy summer mixture of thunderous downpours and very brief heatwavelets; the quintessential Landskerian summer. V’s parents and sister were here for much of the week, and brought with them lots of food and beer and UHT milk, all of which were gratefully received and partaken of  apart from the UHT milk which was merely tolerated with the detached curiosity reserved for strange delicacies from foreign climes which never quite catch on in one’s own land. Like dog meat, or those massive savoury banana things they eat in Central America, or salty Nordic liquorice.

Alas, it has been far too humid to mow the lawn, and it is now threatening to become quite out of control. Any number of foul megafaunal predators could be out there threatening our idyll with their mean intents.

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Dark giant horsefly lurking.

I have been exploring the Landsker Line beyond our sovereign state by way of assisting with a househunting effort on behalf of my mother and my mother’s non-business partner. V’s family were kind enough to look after my children, the Lanskerian juniors, and on Friday I enjoyed a day of relative luxury, driving around in a very hot car and visiting some houses.

This arrangement included a trip to Little Newcastle, just north of the line I think, wherein a lovely (but completely knackered) old farmhouse with some quaint mid-20th century touches was explored. There were MDF floorboards, polystyrene ceiling tiles, a Rayburn, an outdoor toilet, and a garden which had been entirely claimed by brambles. There was also milking machines and piles of receipts from milk sales impaled on old hooks; always intriguing and melancholy to see these signs of industry in stasis, knowing one day many years ago was the last day these activities were conducted, and all has ever since been as it was on that day; but always a little older, and a little older.

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Milk receipts.

Just as we were getting back into our cars, a little late for the next viewing as it happens, an elderly (but very mobile) Ukrainian woman came marching along with a tourist map demanding to know where the local burial chamber was and whether we would give her permission to investigate it. Due to the nature of her request, and her manner, I naturally assumed she was German. So I was quite taken aback when she said she’d come from Ukraine. That’ll teach me to stereotype rambling retirees with brusque manners in search of burial chambers as German. (And Germans as the aforementioned.) I asked her if she’d checked out Pentre Ifan (for which Pembrokeshire is famous, at least in antiquarian circles) and she gave a dismissive hand gesture like she were some bearded middle-aged dude flicking through the Can bootlegs section of my record store and I’d interrupted her quest to ask her if she’d heard the latest Coldplay record.

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My mother showing the Ukrainian lady where the burial chamber is.

“I want to see the sites the tourists don’t see” she said, or words to that effect. She didn’t seem to have a car. We helped point her in the right direction at least. No doubt the burial chamber she was seeking is little more than a bit of rock in the corner of a field, but she’d probably have been disappointed if it had a gift shop and a brown sign, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

The other Landskerian house proper (being located in Wolfscastle) was less interesting despite its proximity to the lingua-cultural borderland that so fascinates me. We did get to go up the motte (or mwnt, depending on which side of it you’re on) but like the house we viewed it is now more or less bisected by the A40, and therefore very noisy. If the proposed plan to turn the entire A40 into a dual carriageway ever goes ahead, they will have to knock down the motte all together. Or tunnel beneath it.

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Cleddau Bridge from the Jolly Sailor beer garden.

Both these sites made me realise how little of the county I’ve lived in for three years I’ve yet seen; specifically the archaeological pre-Medieval sites. Which is mainly what you get in Pembrokeshire. That and farms. Alas, my own home country is so small that we have no such sites here that we know of. Only an old slate trough (used for skimming milk fats and butchering pigs, a neighbour has suggested) which is covered in moss and dry grass. I have considered stripping it back to reveal the thing beneath in all its cracked slate glory. But what if I did? What then? A gift shop? A car park? A brown sign? Branded pencil-sharpeners bearing the trough’s likeness? Special UN-designated status?

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Not quite ripe.

I make a mental note for approxiamtely the fifth time since moving here to ask permission to investigate the bronze-age (possibly iron-age) rath in the next field. I did very briefly pop over the hedge once without permission, and with a baby attached to me; but I’d really like a proper look some time.

And in case you’re not aware, “rath” is a word of Irish origin for a fortification of that kind. It is found throughout Pembrokeshire. Wherever they are found.

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Trusty papillon cleaning up the slippage.

Harvest season has begun. I have visited the three most bountiful (and fastest-ripening) blackcurrant bushes and hauled just under two kilograms of fruit. The dog helped polish off a few of those that fell. She is good like that.

Last night we went to Newport beach, which was beautifully blustery and blue. We found a dead jellyfish and went for dinner in the Canteen in Newport, which serves excellent pizzas.

The drive back through Cilgwyn is always fun. Landskeria will forever lie among the undulating valleys between the two Cleddau rivers south of the Preseli peaks, but I cannot help but feel its heart is up there in the moors. (Although technically that wouldn’t make a lot of sense, because you’re well within the historically and culturally Welsh bit anywhere north of Woodstock.)

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Jelly fish on Newport beach.

Affairs of state have yet to progress. I’ve been brainstorming constitutional details with V. Largely by telling her about our constitution and trying to work out whether or not she approves.

She seemed disappointed that she couldn’t be called “Lady” being as we’re a republic. I pointed out that, in theory and within reason, she could choose any title she wanted as long as it was relevant to the duties she performed and did not confer upon her any undue privilege when compared with that of those of any other citizens of our nation who are of adult age.

That means me, basically.

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Elder child on Newport beach, one of the honourary Landskerian ports.

Negotiations concerning the triumphal mural, or rather, the lack thereof, continue to stagnate. I am hopeful for a reconvening of intent and a plan of action by the end of July.

Further to this, a supplier of flags at a reasonable cost must be located. Either this or a supplier of the materials for sewing a flag. I do have a sewing machine you know. And despite my ignorance of precisely what all the dials and buttons on it do, I’m not afraid to use it.

What else? Eldest child (S) had her last day at kindergarten for the term, which was marked with a lovely ceremony involving songs, nature plays and (as she kept pointing out vocally prior to the event itself) cake. V’s dad repainted the table in the porch in shabby chic style, which is a big step up from shabby style, which is what it was before. I wrote another poem. A sort of parable or folk tale based on my childhood in Penmon. (And, yes, the crowd went wild.) V and I have both had work, but her more than me. Our youngest child (F) is developing apace in her speech. And finally, the dog savaged all the plants V got me for my birthday and urinated on my half of the bed. She also obstinately refuses to learn any tricks. But, you know, she is primarily an attack dog tasked with immobilising megafaunal threats to national security. And she does that.

One month into our diary now. So much has changed. So much has yet to change. The weather is muggy. The environment is stable. The economy is good.

Over and out.

AV

05/07/2015: July, July!

V, the only other full-time adult citizen of Landskeria, whom I also happen to be married to, pointed out last week that I hadn’t mentioned the fly curtain she made for the front door. She has so far been ambivalent to the ideological formation of the Landskerian constitution, even insofar as to abstain from commitment to or against the core principles of republicanism and a rejection of the absolute ownership of our land by the UK monarch.

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The garden shoe was lost in that large bush.

Nevertheless she thought I ought to mention the fly curtain, and I suppose she was right; it really has revolutionised the way we control that particular border – the front door. Of course, bluebottles, wasps, horse flies, flesh flies, fruit flies, crane flies and all sorts of other creatures can still come in through the back door, or any given open window.

But at least we can leave one door open for most of the day. Saying that, a fly has just come from that area, but I believe the fly curtain requires at least a light breeze to operate to the best of its abilities.

Midway through the week I threw V’s garden shoe over the boundary between West and East Landskeria, by way of an experiment, I suppose you could say, and it got stuck in there. It took me about 40 minutes to retrieve it so she had to bathe the children. I think we all learnt something from the experience though, and have grown and developed as people; indeed, as a nation.

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A puffball, I presume?

What else is new? Last wednesday I found a hard round fungus on the otherwise green lawn, just next to shed #2. I picked it and then agonised for a few hours about whether or not I ought to eat it. This was actually after dinner, so I wasn’t especially hungry. But having had a good ten minute’s exercise – repeatedly kicking two children’s footballs in the general direction of the bench that overlooks lawn #1 – the idea of a mystery mushroom supper suddenly became rather appealing.

No amount of research, however, could truly confirm whether or not it was safe to eat. (So much lost knowledge…) I asked Yandex, Google, Jeeves, and even a few real people on Facebook. Nobody knew. Few even cared. Eventually a reliable source told me I could eat it if it was firm and white within, and lacked gills beneath. I was pretty sure it was a puffball, because that’s the area of Landskeria in which they usually grow. But alas, when I cut it open it neither puffed nor yielded a firm white flesh upon which I could feast with confidence. It was grey and grizzled, and had a furrow of foreign fungus reaching through its core. I tossed it aside (into a bin, as is customary in these parts) and thought no more of it.

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Dead Landskerian shrew. Much like your dead British shrews I suppose.

There was a heatwave in the UK earlier in the week, and everyone was very pleased about it – as though they were being rewarded for some noble thing they had themselves recently done. The rest of the UK was less convinced by the merits of the meteorological event, being largely free from the first-hand experience of it. Here in Landskeria (which is geographically within Britain, I must remind you, though a separate country) it rained. It being the heatwave, I suppose; which had become a synonym for “weather” across the island for a short time midweek.

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Look at this toad.

Our dog has begun bringing in dead rodents, doing little to dissuade anyone who might have thought that owning a small dog was little different from owning a house cat. The crucial difference, I suppose, is that I don’t think she is actually killing them.

Watching her try and fail to catch flies persuades me that she wouldn’t fare well in a battle of wits against a shrew, even supposing she could best it in combat (which is no given). And yet a dead shrew was brought in to our kitchen on Tuesday; and later in the week, a dead mouse.

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The toad licks the wall. The camera prefers the grass in the foreground.

Elsewhere on the animal front, I caught a frog in a sieve by accident while de-weeding pond #2. And I found a toad out the front while on my way back from filming a bit of a poetry video in shed #1 by night. It looked super pleased to be there in our front garden, and the way it licked the wall convinced me immediately that it was brimming with gratitude for the opportunity to live upon the only three-quarter-acre parcel of British soil not officially owned by the neglectful absentee landlords (and ladies) of the House of Windsor. No, not for us the importing of effluent-laden Jordanian riverwater with which to wet the heads of our children, no doubt at the expense of tax-payers. For we, like the Americans, believe in the separation of church and state. That and fly curtains.

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Mwnt beach. I think that bit on the right is the actual mwnt. That weather is called “rain”.

On Thursday V went to London (the capital of our neighbouring state, the UK) for work. And I took the children to an end-of-school-term gathering at Mwnt, which is a community in south Ceredigion famous for its beach. And for its mwnt. The beach was a delight – the match of any of our Pembrokeshire beaches, some of which serve as honorary ports for our landlocked country, though they might not know it themselves (if indeed a beach can even be considered sentient).

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Both Landskerian juveniles enjoying Mwnt beach before the rain came.

Marloes is really nice too, and would no doubt be overrun with the stereotypical (possibly apocryphal) towel-laying Germans following a Lonely Planet endorsement recently, but for the fact that much of Pembrokeshire is pleasingly difficult to get to from any given airport, let alone from Germany, which is where most Germans live.

I started a Twitter profile for our country, which has about as many followers as you’d expect. Greece is still in the European Union last time I checked, but Ladskeria is not. And I’m not sure I want it to be, given its treatment of Greece. Indeed, I’m not sure I want to be in the UN, given its treatment of Western Sahara (among others). But that, I must concede, is the holy grail that makes a micronation a microstate, so I’d never say never.

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V at our lucky dip stall.

If ever I accidentally learn how to enrich (or maybe even deplete) uranium, we might yet be offered a temporary seat at the UN security council; or at least a cigarillo, probably by some regalia-laden dude from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

V returned in time for us to run the lucky dip at our eldest daughter’s kindergarten’s summer fair. I stayed up all night making Berber couscous and drinking wine and talking to my mum about poetry on the phone.

Considering how tired and possibly slightly hungover I was the next day, it all went well I thought. We managed to sell pretty much everything and must have made over £50 for the school by the end.

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Cans being felled by S.

S became quite fond of a game where you throw a beanbag at a load of cans and knock them over. She was very good at it; indeed, she excels in all destructive activities.

While V was away in London I put in a good hour or so while F (the younger child) was asleep and tried to teach S the basics of the German board game Carcassonne. We didn’t use the full rules or the point-scoring system, only the taking turns laying the tiles in a way that allowed for individual creativity but aimed toward an effort at a constructive partnership.

I tried to pass it off as a big jigsaw, but really I don’t think she was fooled. (The bits don’t stick together, you see.)

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There is a child’s version of Carcassonne available, but I don’t want to patronise her.

I also think she learnt a lot about nation-building in the process. Lessons which will serve her well if we decide to leave our state duties to the firstborn; though I suspect that, being a progressive country, any duties of state that arise in the years that follow will be shared evenly among the willing and able. That’ll be the daughters then, as the dog so far has proven both unwilling and unable to obey either suggestions, entreaties or commands.

Today has been spent napping on the sofa, eating pizza at Pizza Express in Carmarthen, and worrying about how much the lawn has grown in the last few rainy days. I uploaded the Proclamation of our Republic to the website earlier in the week. But nobody noticed. So I guess I’ll have to email the foreign office or something. I have a friend that works in or near it I think. But he mainly deals with terror threats, so I probably shouldn’t abuse his work email address for fear of a misunderstanding. Certainly not until I’ve enriched that uranium! Right folks?

Actually, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to joke about enriched uranium in this context, so I’d best state for the record that to the best of my knowledge there is no uranium (enriched, depleted, or otherwise) within Landskeria’s borders. Nor any other material required for making weapons of mass (or even minor) destruction. Just a few asbestos tiles. And three Nerf guns.

That being clarified, allow me to further reassure you that the weather is pleasant, the environment is stable, and the economy is good.

AV