Today however is a bit different - the clouds are scudding from the west and it is warmer, but drizzly. Hey-ho. The plan for today is cleaning out a big stable. Now that Jeremy (formerly Jemima) has left for a new home, things are a lot calmer. With just Lucy and Josie to throw water around in the Big Chicken's quarters, it isn't quite so soggy. Time therefore to clean and freshen!
We all help of course. There is the muck heap to play on. Worms to dig for. It will be a day of great fun!
Mum cut the nettles down from the manure heap last week with her swap hook. We have a well-worn plank with a 1:4 gradient on the approach and had to hold our breath as Mum teetered and tottered up it with her hook in one hand and tall, dense nettles all around - looking a little like the Grim Reaper in a paddy. Will she have to put her free hand down to steady herself, we wondered? It would have been painful. But joy! She made it to the top unscathed and triumphant and set to lopping with a vengeance.
"Where does the name Swap Hook come from, Uncle Gordon?" asked my little nephew, Norman. An inquisitive one, that one.
I explained that it was probably a Sussex name for a reaping hook or sickle and that a swap cuts shrubs and when your swap won't cut anymore, you get out your rubber and sharpen it.
"They have been around for donkey's years, Norman. The development of the sickle in Mesopotamia can be traced back to times that pre-date the Neolithic Era. Large quantities of sickle blades have been excavated in sites surrounding Israel that have been dated to the Epipaleolithic era. That's 18000-8000 BC."
Norman was not phased by this. Unfortunately.
"What other Sussex words do you know, Uncle Gordon?"
"Well. The footpath on the way to school that runs between the tall hedges is known as a Twitten. Windog are the white clouds blown across the sky by the wind - like today - and Squatelings are female conversation. Oh and a Knuckerhole is a spring that rises in the flat lands of the South Downs."
With that Norman bounced off to join in the Squatelings that his sisters and mother were having. What a relief! Gordon xxx