This is the Rob Blog for the China fortnight, from 31 March – 14th April. It’s primarily intended for Karen’s family, in case they get time/inclination to drop in on the website and check out how things are. Karen/John any feedback to


Day 1 – Saturday March 31st


8pm: Rounds done. The geese were incredibly vocal, protesting about just about anything, including being put to bed (Boris, I think, is the ringleader). Swans ate, left feed, which I threw away, then male swan came back for more. So made some more up. Sheep happy and seemed pleased to have their lick back. Memo to try and fix sheep’s electric fence, as there is clearly a new area they could graze, but not possible until secure. Hay delivery at some stage over the weekend. Also low on flamingo pellets. Daisy left her glucosamine tablets, but I think a treat later will fix that. Stomped back in the divots where the pigs had made a dogs dinner of their paddock. 2 eggs only (hens’). Disappointing!


Day 2: Sunday April 1st


Seriously debated performing an April Fool’s on Karen by informing her that Trixie the sow was pregnant, but decided their holiday must come first. Worked out that someone needs to phone their tour operator in the UK to ensure that they are sat together on the return leg, but will leave it to them to contact.


Sunday, so a day of repair.  Had to repair the electric fence in 8 places before it would work all the way round; also repaired the crocodile clip on the lead to the pig pen. This after two stray ducks discovered 30 minutes before due to leave to fetch Grandma from the airport. Situation contained.


Walked dogs at my parents’, which they seemed to enjoy. Then hared off to the airport to meet Grandma and transfer to her abode. Thankfully all was well when I got back. Eggs gratefully received by Grandma. FIRST PROFIT FOR THE LIGHTWOOD INCUMBENCY - £1 placed in egg basket in kitchen.


Lasagne tonight. Very welcome as cooking and being in two places at once a push. Tomorrow first day of work & stewardship. Will have to see how goes.


Day 3: Monday April 2nd

Up at 5 and then over to parents to walk Daisy, Poppy and Chloe. They seem very happy about the change of scene, and get into every nook and cranny in the smaller of the two fields, which isn’t sheep-fenced. Then back to feed and off to work. Dogs out as Sue the cleaner at home until just after lunch, and then left out during the afternoon. Back to feed and shut up before off to tennis – Boris very confrontational but shut in and chickens and ducks left until return from club. Delicious mutton pie very welcome as no time to cook.


Day 4: Tuesday April 3rd

Same walk at parents’, feed and then dogs in for the day, excepting at lunchtime when I return to let them out. Moorhen chicks have hatched on the island in the lake. Chloe was a bit mopey to begin with  but her spirits have picked up. Dogs stood at the door of the studio in the afternoon requesting admission, but I explained that the painter was not in residence at present.



Day 5 Wednesday April 4th

Bit of an issue today. Gardeners came at 8 and, according to John B, proceeded to leave the bird enclosure hose on overflowing all morning so that the bird field and pig field both a quagmire. Pigs, of course, had a whale of a time and made a considerable mess of the field. Debated whether to shut them out, but this must happen when it rains? John B also spotted this a.m. that Boris has a superficial abrasion to the leading edge of his wing. Possibly while shutting him in on Monday night? I held while John sprayed with tetracycline. You now have a blue goose!




Day 6 Thursday April 5th

Glorious day, especially as last day at work before my new job! Made a spread of (bought) sandwiches with champagne and white wine, and had both the departments I have worked for, as well as my own, round for lunch mostly in the Previa to toast the handing over of the baton (13 of us), on the lawn in front of the small rondavel type sitting area. Went beautifully and come 2.15 (a quarter of an hour after the end of our lunch hour), no-one wanted to leave! Thankyou Karen. More excitements in the Home Ranch population as John B noticed that Daisy is on heat.  I need advice as to what to do here – I will only walk her at dawn before other dog walkers are around – but should I keep her shut in when back home? And where should she sleep?

Slight annoyance as plant irrigation water timer packed up when I connected another hose to water the geraniums. Will replace tomorrow as I probably shouldn’t have touched it, but need to know settings.


My hands are getting sore. Must be the computers at work of course! Annoying though!


John B has decided on an acme contraption for adopting in my dealings with the goose!


. I’m not sure if it will fool Boris!


Day 7: Friday 6th April


Lie in until 7.30am! Dogs as usual to my parent’s house in Hookwood and meet their Jack Russell terrier Barnaby. Passed off well though Barney (ludicrously) interested in Daisy. Meticulously cleaned out pigs’ and sheep’s water troughs, finding shards of broken glass in the pigs’! Played John R singles in the afternoon having done a trip to Reigate Garden centre to replace irrigation timer (still don’t know what settings to put it on as no word from Karen). Then off to a drinks do for the eve. A little guilty as not enough time spent with the Daisy & co but not back that late.


Day 8: Saturday 7th April


Tennis marathon. Over to the folks’ with the trio after breakfast, stock up @ the feed merchants and then back for 6 back to back sets at the club. Then watered just about everything that moves, inside and out. More glorious weather. Quick supper in Hookwood having done rounds and then back to base.


Day 9: Sunday 8th April


Easter! So many questions this Easter. Was there once a grass tennis court on the back lawn of the house? Why does one of the paving stones on the surround to the pool have the word “Stolen” etched into it? Nice mug and Easter Egg from KP with message which will hopefully still apply by the end of this week and which made me chuckle. No word from them. Are they on the Yangtze? Took grandmother for a tour outside and she usefully pointed out some plants that hadn’t been watered.


Nightmare in the house! A jackdaw (I have a photo) has got into the sitting room and played havoc with the furnishings and ornaments. There is a pile of sticks in the hearth where a nest in the chimney has collapsed, and the resulting bird has panicked in the confines of the room (the door was shut). Fortunately only one not-too-expensive-looking plate has broken, as well as the head of a miniature pink stone elephant and the fin of a miniature pink stone fish. Quite a mess though – there was pot pourri everywhere and rather a lot of bird shit on the sofas and floor. I will call Sue to see if she can help. Lucky I was watering plants and with Poppy – it was her swift location of the bird that made me realise immediately that there hadn’t been a burglary. There’s a lot of re-arranging to do. Oh well – such is life.


Day 10: Monday 9th April


Another busy day. Over to the parents’ first thing for woof woof exercise (this is gratefully received as ever – they seem to have really taken to the countryside round there). Then off @ 10 for a bike ride from Dorking round Box Hill and down to the Skimmington Castle with the Brockham crowd. Back to base at 3 to let dogs out. Had Ma and Destine round to catch up and see how things are going here (all OK today). Fitted new water timer, which works, also turned on the water timer for the front of the house, as it has been particularly warm and dry. Watered potted plants at the front of the house. Those at the back will need doing again tomorrow + geraniums.


All quiet at the house except for the Swans chasing off two Canada geese. Daisy a bit homesick for her family (the odd yowl) but I think this may also be hormonal. Bonsai it kitchen unfortunately rather bare now having not been watered in time.


Day 11: Tuesday 10th April


Day went off with a bang. This was an incident concerning Poppy and then Daisy getting on the tail of a young deer in Ma and Da’s fields at Gatwick. They headed it towards a fence and came within a couple of metres of catching it. It gave them (and me trying to restrain them) a good half mile to a mile of hard exercise, and the rest of my family, who were watching, some amusement. Daisy lame behind, but only very slightly, this evening. Otherwise day quiet. John B popped in to do some more fencing and I renewed the sheep’s water and conducted more repairs on the electric fence (ducks keep escaping).


Day 12: Wednesday 11th April


Quiet day with usual walk at Gatwick and then gardeners here. No mishaps. Daisy a bit off her food, but not badly so. I fed her the rest next morning. Destine + kids and Sarah Geddes came round in the evening and had happy supper courtesy of Destine and then put the animals to bed. Then to the club for last orders.


Day 13: Thursday 12th April


Busy at the house what with John B here and Sue the cleaner. Sue has done a marvellous job of cleaning up the jackdaw’s chaos – almost indistinguishable now. John B bellyaching because the gardeners left the mower shed unlocked and his tools outside on the hard standing in front of it when they went. They also knocked one of the pegs he was using to map out the path of the new fence. He now comes on days when they’re not there. Sarah and Lucy dropped in the evening to give Sarah a taste of the tennis court even in her injured state and to see the beasts being put to bed. Daisy ate about 2/3 of her food and then left the rest.


Day 14: Friday 13th April


Last day. All well except Daisy even more off her food and wouldn’t touch the normal biscuit mix. I laced it with chicken broth, at which point she ate half, and then forewent the rest of my lasagne – approximately one portion, which she wolfed down.


I write this having come in from outside the studio in the dark with the dogs. Sky above clear and a very serene and contemplative place with just the sound of courting wild ducks for company.  A good place to end with not much greatly transformed during my tenancy – things are very much as they were at start of the enterprise. Even the weather has hardly changed. It is as if time has stood still for a fortnight. A few hours in the air now separate us. A good return for them I hope and then two rooms, one front door and an upstairs neighbour to be considered once again for me.