Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Empire Building

Well, the Empire Building in Tupton looks to be progressing. At least, I hope it is. The Builder spent Sunday morning concreting in the new fence posts along what will be the new back fence for next door when all is done and dusted. It will be unfortunate if it all falls apart now! Still. Our solicitor seems to be onto it. The Builder has the money In the bank. The pens are poised, ready for signing. The only nagging worry, really, is that The Speculator wants it all sorted before December 5th and we are going away for a week on December 2nd so we’ve got this week, really! While The Builder was sorting out the post holes on Sunday, Marlo and I went for an inspection tour of the new block. It’s quite big. Quite a bit bigger than I realised. And absolutely stuffed full of junk. Looks like a Junk Clearing party will definitely be happening in January (all being well!)

My Christmas cooking is proceeding well. I think. I’ve now got 7 jars of marmalade and 8 jars of brandied mincemeat lined up in the larder. Looks very country kitchen!! The marmalade tastes fabulous. I made it to put in people’s Christmas parcels. Don’t want to :( Want to keep it! Only solution: buy ingredients and make more! I’ve nearly got The Builder’s grandchildren sorted. I need chocolate Santas and some glitter and that’s done, I think. Need something for his small nephews as well. And that’s the first wave organised (it needs to be ready for delivery next week).

I came in on the train on Friday. I had my course in the morning and then was on the desk from 4-6. I really, really didn’t fancy making my way up Ecclesall Road at just after six and then throwing myself into the Friday evening traffic back to Tupton. The train made sense. Got here. Prepared myself for my course. Roger looked up as I was about to leave the office. “I have to stay till six tonight,” said he. “Would you like me to do your 4-6 shift?” Absolutely I would. Meant I could leave at 4. Hooray! Got to Chesterfield just as The Builder was passing through. He picked me up and we raided Sainsbury together. We seem to have a vast amount of wine cooling in the larder! I had lunch with Richard too. He seemed quite cheerful by the end of it. This was because I made us talk about the land take over bid, and gardening and his holiday with his sister and refused to let him talk about work. I carefully didn’t mention the cricket either!!!

I had the whole of last Thursday off!!!! I took myself into Chesterfield in the afternoon on the bus. It’s a funny place. There’s the open air and indoor market, which have the sorts of stalls you might expect to find. Crud and rubbish. A million chicken nuggets for tuppence ha’penny, that sort of thing. Then, amongst them, you’ve got what are effectively farm shops selling really lovely stuff. You have, out on the streets, shops selling tack and grunge and garbage, sat side by side with really expensive shops selling things like designer shoes and extortionately expensive handbags. It’s all very odd. But rather endearing. You never know what you might find around the next corner!

I found a sweetie shop. I bought sweeties. They are at home now in a bowl on the lounge room table. They should last a while sat in there. We don’t use the lounge room much. Though The Builder did come home on Thursday evening to find me sat in there, drinking tea, using the laptop and listening to music. We stayed in there for most of the rest of the evening. It’s a lovely room. (We don’t use it much because the telly is in the other room!).

The telly has turned pink. It’s very alarming watching gardening programs through a pink filter. Makes all the plants look very poorly sick!!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

A culinary triumph for Sunday

You may remember that I made a stew on Saturday morning, ready for dinner on Sunday when I got back from work. All day on Sunday I was considering what to have with the stew. Mashed potato certainly. Brussels sprouts, probably. What else. And for most of the day I was coming around to the idea of dumplings. I don’t make them very often, but they are nice occasionally. And I have some veggie suet that needs using.

Right up until I reached the Dronfield turn off on the bypass, I was going to make dumplings.

Then I thought of Yorkshire pudding. A big, huge, fluffy Yorkshire pudding. I like Yorkshire pudding. Abandoned the idea of pesky dumplings immediately.

Got home. Received gin and tonic from The Builder and Greetings from The Cat and made the batter. Sat down and watched interesting documentaries on BBC1 while the batter matured and the stew simmered and the potatoes cooked.

Put the batter into a very hot baking tray. Batter sizzled. Replaced baking tray in very hot oven. Batter rose and rose and rose and rose and rose and rose. Turned into the most magnificent Yorkshire pudding ever! Was HUGE.

Cut it in half. Was still huge. Cut my bit in half again. Put creamy mash and dollops of stew on it. Added Brussels sprouts. Presented the magnificent offering to The Builder. Ate mine. It really was very delicious.

Have the other quarter for my lunch today, with some mash and a small dollop of stew. There is also a shepherds pie in the fridge for tonight (I think there will be some of that left for my lunch tomorrow too) and a pot of beef, vegetable and barley soup from the stewing liquid. Not bad from one slab of stewing steak (and pumpkin, sweet potato, onions and parsnips). A very good buy, I reckon!

There is a big fuss going on at the moment on the Radio 4 news programs. There is a Welsh sausage maker who is in grave trouble with the Food Standards Authority. He has with malice aforethought called his sausages Welsh Dragon sausages knowing full well that they are made with pork and not dragon meat. The FSA claims that consumers may be confused. Radio 4 thinks the FSA is barking. So do I. The FSA then said that vegetarians might buy the sausage thinking they were meat free (why?). Radio 4 points out that the packaging says the sausages contain pork meat. The FSA says that they don’t care. They can’t be called Dragon sausages, so there! Actually, I think the FSA may lose this one. Not only are Radio 4 news people laughing like mad, so are Radio 4 listeners. Including me!

It seems to be Monday again. It also seems to be getting a tad noisy in the Adsetts Centre. I wonder what they are all up to. Perhaps we can have student stew next week. Wonder what vegetables would go well with stewed students

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Foody Things

I shouldn't be hungry today. I really shouldn't!

I wasn't working yesterday. Hooray! Neither was The Builder. Double hooray!

So we did useful things. He went out and bought concrete posts for the new fence for when we take possession of the land at the back (Let us home that the Post Office Savings people process his request for a release of his funds very expeditiously!). He also bought some wood to make airing cupboard shelves for the boiler cupboard in our room. I figure if we are to be woken at 05:00 every morning when the boiler creaks into action, we might as well have towels, sheets and ironing warming gently through at the same time! In the meantime I sort of cleaned the kitchen and made a stew for dinner for Sunday evening. I am working today, Sunday.

The problem with us having a day off together is that we tend to eat. Really eat. We seem to have taken a leaf from Lindsey and Ian's book. A weekend (or indeed any mutual day off) is a day for Lunching! Although, we didn't really intend to lunch. We intended to shop. We did shop. We went to Autoworld to collect the touch up paint we had ordered last Saturday. Then we took ourselves off to Chatsworth, for The Sidings was virtually a vegetable free zone; I had put all the fresh veg into the stew. All there was left was some stuff in the freezer. At least, we intended to take ourselves off to Chatsworth. For some reason my navigating skills decided to abandon me. Then, when I found them again, I resolutely navigated us to the Garden Centre on the Cutthorpe Road. Can't think why. Didn't have any need for stuff from the Garden Centre and we did need the Chatsworth Farm Shop! Finally got us onto the right road. We called at Pets At Home to buy Marlo food (I was clearly in a Very Grumpy Mood Indeed. Not only did the woman in the Cat Food section who was chatting interminably to her husband drive me absolutely insane, so too did the cockatiel's squeaking. Would have cheerfully massacred both of them. Very grumpy!) Then we took ourselves, finally, on the Great Vegetable Hunt.

It was very, very busy at Chatsworth. Got Grumpier. Also got strings of shiny white and glowing red onions, a red cabbage, two little green ones, lots of various veg, some fruit and one or two lunchtime bits and pieces. The vegetable racks in the larder at home are now full and healthy and happy.

Then we went to Bakewell, where we had lunch in The Peacock, on the thinking that food might make me less grumpy. I had a lovely steak sandwich. The Builder had scampi and chips. I might have stolen one or two of his chips. Perhaps! I had cider, The Builder had Black Sheep. Was very nice. The combination also rendered me no longer grumpy. Then we went Christmas shopping in Bakewell and back in the Chatsworth Garden Centre shop. Spent an absolute fortune, but we are making great progress with the Christmas list. And it's only mid-November.

Then we went home. Put the shopping away. Planned our ongoing garden attack. And I made a batch of Christmas chutney. Might have to make some more though. The end result was only 5 jars and I think I might need more than that. I shall make some more during the week. I can feel another trip to Rowsley coming on! And a bath. A bubble bath. With wine. I do like a nice bath. With wine. And bubbles.

Then we went out to dinner!!!!!! Haven't been out to dinner in a restaurant from home for months and months and months and months. Obviously we do if we are away in a B&B, but when we are at home we tend to go out to lunch (having learned, as I said, from Lindsey and Ian). We don't usually have any impetus to going out in the evening. Or not to restaurants. We went to the Old Post restaurant in Chesterfield. And we went on the bus so no one would have to drive home and we could share a bottle of wine. The Old Post is in a lovely building right in the town centre, part of it 15th century, part 18th. It has had a variety of manifestations, including being a post office at once point -- hence the name. And the food is *fantastic*. They gave us tiny, tiny munchies -- a minute salmon mouse flan (half a bite); a tiny, minuscule triangle of toast with game paté on it; a miniature cheese biscuit with half a quails egg and something mustardy. We washed these down with gin and vodka (not mixed, I had gin, he had vodka). Then he had a Lincolnshire pork plate, and I had a simply sumptuous (and rather large) bowl of lobster bisque. Yum, yum, yum. They brought around a bread basket with several varieties of fresh baked bread, none of which I could eat for one of the varieties was walnut bread. They brought me my very own piece of fresh baked bread, untouched by walnut contamination. Then they brought The Builder a soupçon of Proven?al fish soup. Because I had already had soup, and fishy soup at that, I got some melon with a red, autumn fruit sauce. It was all very, very delicious. And washed down with a bottle of Pinot Grigio which I graciously shared with The Builder It also meant that by the time my absolutely magnificent sirloin steak arrived, accompanied by some sort of potato concoction, braised red cabbage and vegetable medley, I was struggling for room :-( Gamely, I carried on. I munched slowly and carefully. I jiggled and wriggled to make room. And I carried on for two or three mouthfuls more than I should have and had to stop, defeated, and very very very much, painfully too full. The Builder finished my sirloin (he had had sirloin too, so didn't really notice when I added half of mine to his plate). I sipped white wine slowly, as a digestif, while he, somehow, managed to find room for an apple suet pudding. The food really was magnificent. And it wasn't all that expensive, when you consider what we had. It was also quite a treat to go out for a meal in the evening -- booking in for 7 meant that we weren't too tired to eat!. We had intended to go home in a taxi but in the end went back on the bus (it's only about 10 minutes; hardly worth a taxi when it is not raining or galing) and had another glass of white wine. For digestive purposes, of course. And so to bed. All very civilised.

So I really shouldn't have been hungry at all today. But was, of course. We had Chatsworth eggs and bacon for breakfast on toast made from one of their crusty loaves. Wandered into the kitchen while the toast was toasting, to find a curtain of smoke emanating from the toaster and making its way to the smoke detector in the dining room. Closed the door post haste to prevent an outbreak of detector outrage. Later I drove through a glorious winter morning (I know it's only late autumn, but it was a winter style morning), just a tiny tad worried by the bank of very scary cloud hovering over Sheffield. It had moved off by the time I got there. I have used the ice scraper The Builder gave me to clear ice from the windscreen. The fish pond was semi frozen. And I am wearing a big thick, woolly, snuggly jacket that Kathryn at work gave me a week or so ago, sat at the Information Desk at Collegiate Crescent. All very pleasant.

The Builder on the other hand has been busy doing useful things at home. The landing cupboard door now opens and closes. The shampoo and soap in the shower now have a shelf to sit on. When I spoke to him he was on his way outside to carry on filling the wooden boxes and to do handy garden things. He was intending to go to the allotment and carry on there. But the grass needs cutting up there first. The wet grass. The wet, knee-high grass. And his gumboots are in the car. And I've got the car here in Sheffield. Oops!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Taffa has a job! Yes, yes. I know I’ve already told you she has a job. She has ANOTHER one! She went for an interview at Forbidden Planet the other day. She said she was happy with the interview and happy with the hypotheticals, but then they asked her about 25 “geek” questions about science fiction, fantasy and horror and she fell all to pieces.

She assumed she had not progressed.

Then she was invited to go to the Cambridge store and do a mystery shop, then report back what she would do if she were the manager of the store. Well, she rang me on her way home, positively fizzing with indignation about the state of the shop, the attitude of the (boy) staff members, lots of things, and then went home to write up her SWOT analysis.

She sent it to me for editing and gentle toning down before she despatched it.

I think she expected to hear no more about it. Cheap way of getting a SWOT analysis done!

She went for a job interview this morning with Thomas Cook. (Can you tell her heart may not really be in finance?) In the course of the interview a message was left on her voicemail, offering her the job of manager of the Forbidden Planet in Cambridge! She is very excited. And a bit apprehensive. It will be a challenge, it will! Also a long week. 45 hours a week. I assume she’ll get the odd day off.

She has withdrawn from Alliance and Leicester.

It’s all very exciting. But not quite as useful as having someone working in the wine trade. Nobody works in the wine trade anymore. Well, they do, obviously, but no one in my family does.

Nearly time to go home :-) It’s been a busy day. And tomorrow will be busier. Two 1.5 hour sessions, one planning meeting, one quick other meeting and a lecture at 5:15 on databases I don’t really know all that well!

Perhaps I will win the £120 million roll over jackpot in the Euro-lottery on Friday!

Monday, November 13, 2006

A weekend off

Marlo caught a mouse!!!! Now, I am not suggesting that this is the first mouse that Marlo has ever caught. It probably isn’t. But it’s the first I have seen him with. And I wouldn’t have had any idea that he had caught it, had I not seen him with it in the kitchen. He ate it all up. Every last bit. Down to the tip of its tail and its very last toenails. Seemed to enjoy it. But if he’s eating lots of mice it’s no wonder he’s getting fat. He eats his breakfast and dinner with every evidence of enjoyment too!

I wasn’t working over the weekend. Not working at all! So we went to Cambridge on Saturday.

Freyja came to Chesterfield on the train, we dropped into Autoworld to order some touch up paint for the car, and then we made our way across country via Mansfield and Newark on Trent down to Cambridge. There are still piggies on the Southwell/Newark Road. Very happy looking piggies We got mildly misplaced looking for Alex Wood Road when we got to Cambridge, but got there eventually, collected Gareth and made our way to Anglesey Abbey just outside of town, where we were meeting Peter and Joan for lunch. We were pulling into the car park and I was just wondering if Jeremy and Jill would be there too, when I looked across and saw Jerry in his car. So that answered that, then. Peter was ambling about in the car park as well. Joan was sensibly sat in the car, out the way of the bracing wind! The Builder and I recognised the road that Anglesey Abbey is on just as soon as we turned onto it. It's a pretty little road and runs through Swaffham Bulbeck where we stayed in the Black Horse about 12 months ago.

The restaurant in Anglesey Abbey is being renovated. Hasn’t altered the quality of the food, though. The Builder, Gareth and I all had lamb shanks. Freyja had a vegetable and stilton pie. Joan and Peter had cottage pie. But what has happened to Jerry, Jill, James and Dominic? They seem to have been eaten by the lunch monster. Seems that there was a difficulty getting a cheese sandwich for James which had actual cheese rather than spreading cheese on it. Then they ran out of cottage pie for Jeremy. Then they ran out of vegetables. Then they ran out ….. The rest of us were nearly finished by the time they all managed to reach the table!

The garden at Anglesey Abbey is large, spacious and very beautiful. They have a lovely winter garden (not an inside one, a garden planted up with interesting plants for winter). Joan and Peter went for a gentle potter. The rest of us went for a proper walk around. I have been before. A couple of times, I think. Always in or around November. I really must try to come during the spring or summer, when the house is open. It looks gorgeous and I have never been in it. I do wish the National Trust wouldn’t close all its houses over the winter! The water mill was open, though not milling. Nevertheless, I came away with some wholemeal flour, some oatmeal and a little cook book. Freyja has wholemeal flour too. And the little cook book. Then we met up with Peter and Joan and had a gentle potter in the shop before we all parted and went our separate ways. As well as the flour, I now also have a dogwood plant and a small orb on a stick which is supposed to glow in the dark.

Peter and Joan are looking remarkably well and seem very happy. Jeremy, Jill and the boys also seem well and reasonably happy, except that Jerry’s school is being restructured and he has to reapply for his job. Unfortunately, there are 5 or 6 people going for 2 jobs so he is a bit apprehensive.

We’ve been to the Cambridge market. Unfortunately, the seafood and cheese stalls had closed by the time we got there, but I got a fabulous chicken for dinner that evening, and some odd bits for our freezer and loads of bread. And some orange juice which I saw being squeezed with my very own eyes.

We met Taffa in the pub she’s working in and had a pint each. The Builder and Gareth had a real ale. I had a real cider. Didn’t taste of much when you first swallowed it. So gulped some more. Then the aftertaste kicked in. Pfffffffff. There went my hair and ears! Then we all went back to their place where I roasted the chicken and some potatoes and cooked up the veg Gaz had bought in the market stall. Then we ate the roast chicken. Freyja had a quorn fillet. Then we went home, dropping Freyja off at her place, before making our way back to The Sidings and back to bed.

We saw a badger on the way home!! Wombling along the side of the road.

Sunday was a lovely, leisurely day. No need to bounce out of bed at 5:15. No need to bounce out of bed at all. So we didn’t. We ddin’t get up until after 9! We pottered about. We ambled. We pootled. We walked down to the wetlands to see what was there (swans and seagulls. No ducks). We went home and had a cup of tea. We drifted into Chesterfield to see if the Julian Graves shop was open so I could get the fruit for the Christmas Chutney. It wasn’t. So we wandered along to the Darley Dale Road at Stone Edge and had a fantastic Sunday Roast at the Famous Red Lion (
http://www.thefamousredlion.com/index.html). This was the start, the very, very start of our Sunday Lunch explorations. A bit slow, some people. We’ve been in The Sidings for five months now! But it was well worth the wait. The beef was local and beautifully cooked. The roasties were fluffy and crisp. The vegetables were well cooked. The cider was well kept. We will definitely go there again. I would probably give it 4 out of 5 stars. The can have an extra prong of a star when they start selling real cider as well as real ale. It’s very popular (not surprisingly) and out on a wind swept edge with nothing much around it. Amazing what ou sometimes find in out of the way places. We shall all have to go one Sunday! Then we went across the moor in gathering drizzle to the Julian Graves in Rowsley. Went to the farm shop near the pub on the way back for cheese and stuff, then to play in the DIY stores in Chesterfield. And so home for a cup of tea and a gentle rest-of-the-afternoon. I do like Sundays, especially restful ones. I must remember not to work quite so many of them next semester!

I think things are progressing with the purchase of the land at the back. The Builder spoke to the owner during the week and all seems serene -- at the moment! The Builder is pondering where to get posts to run the fencing across. Keep fingers and toes crossed, however.

Right. Another busy week teaching. Will check back later.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bonfire night

It was certainly cold yesterday morning. Went out to feed the fish -- and found they were frozen in!! Swimming around. Quite happy, as far as I could see. But there was a definite ice barrier between us. I dropped the food on top of the ice. It melted. Eventually.

I have finished the broccoli, cauliflower and cheese soup :-( Had the last of it for lunch yesterday. What soup shall I make next?

There have been lots of fireworks. There were, I think, fireworks in the park in Grassmoor last evening. And lots more in gardens and small parks and places. I am at Psalter Lane this evening, which really is bonfire night and I can see fireworks out the library window. Lots of banging. Hope we're not actually under attack!

The man who bought the house next door, blind, at auction, came to visit us yesterday evening. We were just indulging in a (rare, truly!) second gin/vodka and tonic. I had opened the bottle of tonic. A veritable geyser of tonic had gone all over the kitchen. I was in the process of mopping up, watched by the cat, when there was a tap at the kitchen door. It was he. The man, not the cat who has never, as far as I am aware, tapped at the kitchen door. He (the cat, not the man) was, in fact, glaring crossly at the door! Anyway. He came in and we had a nice chat. He had some very peculiar, convoluted, complicated suggestion about selling us the garden at the back. Along the lines of: If I sell the house at auction for x, you will pay y. If I sell it for z you will pay w. Odd. Told him we would pay between 4.5k and 6.5k and no more, regardless of how much he sold the house for. He said he would accept 6.5k if we cleared out the ENORMOUS pile of rubbish. Fair doos. I'll summon the boys for roast chicken! But please keep your fingers and toes crossed for a wee bit longer. It looks as though we might get the land, but there's many a slip ..... I hope we do. I could have chickens! I have been thinking on and off for some years now how nice it was when we had chickens and how unlikely it seemed that I could ever have them again (well, perhaps a couple of pet bantams, but you know what I mean). Then the possibility of the land at the back came up -- and chooks were the first thing I thought of!!! I can even see where we could put a chicken run. And the fruit trees. And a "walled" (well, fenced!!!) kitchen garden. Keep fingers and toes firmly crossed!!!

I made chicken kievs yesterday for dinner. From first principles. They worked :-)

The Builder has been very busy in the garden. He’s put a lovely brick path between the side path and the compost heap, edging one side of the new garden bed. He did that yesterday. This morning he has almost finished dismantling the breeze block raised bed and has been transferring the soil (removing roots, noxious weeds, junk and gunge as he went) into the first wooden box. Working on the assumption we’re going to get the land at the back, we’ve decided to put the blackcurrant bushes and strawberries in there. I have blackcurrant bushes ready to go, but I don’t think we’ve got enough soil. As I left he was re-starting the bricking process at the back. I do think it’s going to be a lovely garden. And fairly low maintenance when it’s finished.

In the meantime, I have weeded the roses, pruned back the hollyhocks, massacred the clematis, tied in the passionflower, tied in the climbing rose (to the spiky red tree!) and generally cleaned up a bit. Marlo was quite intrigued by the newly revealed trellis. I was leaning on my garden fork, chatting to Debbie over the fence, as you do. Marlo was watching. Max, the puppy next door, was pootling about. Suddenly Marlo leapt onto the trellis and scrambled his way to the top. Max recognised this as Cat Noise and belted down to the back of his garden, expecting to see the grey tabby which ambles about. Tabby there was none. He came back. And found Marlo wobbling precariously on top of the trellis and looking thoughtfully down into Max’s garden. Max was ever-so excited. Cat for lunch!! Grabbed Marlo and hauled him back down from the trellis. On *our* side of the fence! He retreated inside in a sulk. Then came back outside again when he realised he couldn’t see what was going on through the cat flap.

I think there *are* insurgents in the car park. We seem to be under attack by prettily coloured mortar shells. Lots of banging going on. Lots of yelling and cheering. Best go and find where I‘ve put my flak jacket.

The fishies weren’t frozen in this morning. It’s been much milder today. But I have worn one of my sunny thick jumpers, out in the garden, for the first time this season.

Not working next weekend. Not either day. HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 03, 2006

All Souls' Day

Taffa has a job! At least, she’s been offered one. Alliance and Leicester, a building society, have offered her a post in her local branch. She has accepted it. Tentatively (though they don’t know it’s tentative).

Taffa has about a million job interviews! Yesterday one for Forbidden Planet, interview in London, job in Cambridge. She did ever-so-well in the interview and in the hypotheticals, but came a serious cropper in the geek-dom test (Forbidden Planet is a Sci-fi, fantasy, horror shop a bit like the Minotaur in Melbourne). Today she had an interview with a scary Swedish company which sells beds for very unlikely high prices. Tomorrow she has one for the Council, for an events job. Next week she has one with Thomas Cook. You can’t say she doesn’t get any practice. I think she would quite like the events job.

We have been having some stunning “winter” weather this last couple of days. We lurched yesterday, really quite abruptly, from pleasantly balmy autumnal warmth and cloud to freezing cold and very sunny. It was glorious when the sun came up this morning. Everything was covered in frost (I have brought in the fuchsia and the bay tree!). The birds’ water bowl was frozen. The cat and I crunched across the grass to the compost heap and to inspect the frozen plants. There were birds singing. There were sheep baa-ing. It really was lovely. Then I went back inside where it was nice and warm, and had a cup of coffee and some toast!

I was at home this morning (I am working yet another evening shift) and decided that it would be a good plan to take the forms to the doctors’ surgery to transfer our registration. We need to have a pre-registration medical. Only one of the doctors does these, and the receptionist can’t book more than two of them in per session. I am not always available when the doctor is available. The Builder and I are booked in for DECEMBER FOURTEENTH!!!!!!! Hope we don’t get poorly sick before then. Still, at least The Builder has plenty of time to warn his building people that he will need the afternoon off. Assuming he is still incarcerated in the psychiatric hospital!

Anyway. I decided, there being no great hurry for me to be anywhere, that I was going to follow the laneway by the side of the surgery to see where it goes. From our bedroom window you can see a rugby goal post. And on those occasions I have taken the bus into Chesterfield in the mornings, I have seen people taking dogs on leads down there. I assume playing fields, but I want to see. And I think there are public footpaths down there somewhere too. I have occasionally caught glimpses through the trees of people apparently climbing over stiles. And there are public footpaths. And then there is a proper footpath. I was a bit surprised to find it but trundled along anyway. The sun was shining brightly. The fields and hills were an iridescent green. All was peaceful. And suddenly I found in front of me --- a small WETLANDS!!!!!!!!!!! With wood hides you can stand behind to watch the birds. And there were swans and ducks and little brown birds I didn’t recognise and all sorts. It seems it’s quite a large reclamation project on the site of the old coke processing plant and the old coal mines, which will eventually make its way up the valley quite some way towards Chesterfield with walking trails and things. And the path by the side of the Rother (a small creek at this point) which has been closed since we moved in, is due to be re-opened soon (work was slowed down on the engineering works along it when they discovered bats roosting in the culvert about 12 months ago). And eventually the old footbridge over the railway line is to be reopened too so we will have rather a nice round walk on our doorstep. I hadn’t properly realised quite how close we are to open countryside until this morning. Nor had I realised how very pretty it is, not really. You will find the project at
http://www.theavenueproject.co.uk/Homepage.aspx and some photos from May under Progress/Current Progress. Such a discovery. I had absolutely no idea it was there!!

The recreation area has: a rugby field; a soccer field; some swings; a slide; several pigeon sheds; many ordinary sheds, purpose unknown to me; lots of dogs running around on it; several people wandering about.

I have also been to the (new) allotment. There is absolutely no danger that anyone is ever going to nick our vegetables. I walked in and greeting some old codger in the (different!) pigeon sheds with a cheery “good morning”. “Good morning,” replied he. “Are you looking for Colin?” Colin? Who’s Colin? “No,” said I. “I’ve come to look at the allotment.” “Look at the allotment?” he repeated. “Why?” Why? Well, why not? I looked at him. “Because it’s my allotment?” I offered. “Eh?” I spoke up., “It’s My Allotment!” I averred sternly. He didn’t look convinced. Really not convinced. Then light dawned. “Is that your chap that’s been digging down there? Right. He’s not been heavy enough. You tell him that from me. Not heavy enough”. OK, Mr Under-Gardener. Consider yourself told. You’ve not been heavy enough. But don’t ask me what he meant cos I’ve got no idea! Eventually he decided that I should be allowed in. I ambled down. There were many men on their allotment Doing Things. I greeted them all with a cheery Hello. Well. You would have thought I was wearing a balaclava, a hoodie and one of those veil thingies that some Muslim women wear to completely cover their faces, and that I was armed with secateurs , a pruning saw and a sturdy trug and was advancing on someone’s carefully cultivated tomato crop (bit late for tomatoes, though), given the suspicious looks they all gave me. I went down, carefully watched. I inspected the one bed we’ve got, greeted the man on the next allotment who was planting out cabbages and seemed supremely uninterested in me, the rest of the allotmenteers or anything else (though he did talk to me about cabbages for a bit), weeded the not-germinated broad beans and beat a retreat home. Where I dismantled the rickety trellis in peace, without being glared at by anyone. It is perfectly obvious that Allotmenting in Tupton is a Man's Job. And a Registered Man’s Job at that. I shall obviously have to do it under cover of darkness. Or accompanied by a Registered Man!! I keep being challenged when I go onto the allotment site. Must look mightily suspicious, me!

I have bought a new DVD player. It’s very tiny. Very cute. I bought it on an impulse yesterday because the old DVD player wouldn’t make any sound (this might have been because it wasn’t properly connected to any sound making equipment; you were supposed to run it through the surround sound system). I probably could have solved this small problem. I probably *should* have solved it. I feel a bit guilty now that the poor old DVD player has been banished to the landing cupboard with its speakers and replaced by a sexy little flibbertigibbet. But it is a very cute flibbertigibbet. And it will play DVDs with sound with absolutely no effort on my part. The only problem now is that the television has quite abruptly started showing everything through a pink filter. A tad disconcerting. Even more disconcerting because I was watching a documentary on elephants last evening when it happened. Do you think perhaps I should stop drinking wine? I can feel a new television coming on! (I don’t think I can fix general pink-ness in a television’s picture.)

The Builder really has been incarcerated in the mental hospital. They’ve closed down the builders’ entrance and they have to go in through the secure hospital entrance. They get searched and screened and everything. It’s worse than preparing for a long haul flight. He has to have plastic cutlery, can’t take his phone in, can’t take hacksaws or skeleton keys or anything really useful in. At least they let him take his tea flask in, but I think it was a close run thing!

I see that the government is loosening its restrictions on taking liquids onto planes now. I can now take a very small, covert gin and tonic on board. Enough to get me to Paris or Amsterdam!