Friday, June 29, 2007

Report from the Battered Wastelands

And so it goes on.

We spent most of yesterday on alert in case we should have to evacuate the City Campus. "Be prepared to leave at short notice!" Not because we were at risk from the dam near Rotherham which was threatening to burst its wall, but because of rolling power cuts across the city, following the loss of a main sub-station. We had been warned that we were at risk of losing our power in the afternoon, in which case we would have to clear the building of students and close it down. The power cuts were for several hours when they happened. It's a very strange feeling, being on that sort of alert. You don't know whether to take all your Going Home possessions with you when leaving the office for short meetings. In the event it was not us but the Collegiate Campus which was closed down, fortunately with a hour or so's notice. Staff were sent home at three o'clock yesterday afternoon and the campus will not reopen until lunchtime today. There are lots of Collegiate Learning Centre refugees wandering around the Adsetts Centre today. I *think* the danger of power cuts in the city centre has been averted for the time being.

In the meantime, in the centre of Chesterfield, the Somerfield supermarket in one of the main shopping precincts caught fire. You could see the smoke for miles. You could see the smoke from our garden. The precinct is the one which also houses the library, and a branch of Julian Graves, where I get my dried fruit and seeds and stuff from, not to mention the usual high street stores. The supermarket is completely destroyed but fortunately the rest of the precinct is not. Nor is the little organic shop I go to in one of the laneways close by. I would miss that were it to burn down. So that's Flood and Fire. Famine next? Although Roger says we've more or less had that, given it was a supermarket that burned down. So Pestilence next, then.

And now the Met Office has issued early severe weather warnings for the whole of England and Wales for Saturday and Sunday. We had been intending to head to Salisbury on Saturday so as to take The Builder's frail, aged parents out for lunch on Sunday. I had to make a decision today whether or not to cancel the hotel booking for Saturday, otherwise we would have to pay whether we turned up or not. I assume our travel insurance would cover that, but it might not be worth the hassle. And oops - no it wouldn't. It seems to have expired!! I wonder if my credit card insurance would. Must find out. Anyway. I cancelled it. If the weather is less than apocalyptic on Sunday we'll just leave ever so, ever so early and make it a day trip. I don't think the weather they are expecting is necessarily of itself likely to be awful, but the likelihood of flooding is enhanced because - oh, look; some places are *still* flooded! And I don't want to get stuck, roofless, in a wet and soggy Salisbury. Or points north, come to that.

It does have a kind of apocalyptic feel to it, all this. Fires (Gatecrasher, one of Sheffield's biggest nightclubs burnt down last week; Somerfield ), floods (twice in just over a week in Sheffield which is almost never prone to flooding, but quite widely over Yorkshire and the Midlands as a whole this week), power cuts, campuses evacuated, dams threatening to burst, public transport brought to a halt. I wonder what we in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire have done so to piss off the deities?

Not just us, though. I see that east Victoria is also under water and battered by storms and tempests and calamities. Chris P tells me that one of her neighbours was squashed in his bed by a falling tree. Grim!

We seem to have acquired a new Prime Minister. Pity. I'd just got the last one trained up! We also seem to have acquired a new Home Secretary; someone of whom I had never previously heard. New Prime Ministers should only appoint people I know about to prominent positions in the cabinet!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

PS to the flood story

It seems that when, yesterday early evening, they closed the station, people were evacuated into our student refectory. Staff who couldn't get home were also put up there. One of those staff was Sandy from L5, who lives in the block of flats next to the ones that Freyja used to live in. His flat was fine - he just couldn't get to the front door of the building. Freyja says she was waiting for this flood the whole year she lived in her flat - but I think she would have found it more exciting had she been inside the flat looking out rather than outside the flat looking across a raging torrent towards it. She might not have thought to come and see if we were putting up evacuees in Rollers! Taffa's mate Pete was stuck inside his flat in the same sort of area.

I was supposed to be involved with the South Yorkshire Higher Education Summer School this week, where 16 year old kids who have just finished their GCSEs in schools who do not traditionally send their students on to Higher Education are invited to come for a week's taster experience. Yesterday about 19 out of an expected 60 turned up. Weather had deterred the rest. The ones who did turn up had dreadful trouble getting home, for the schools they come from are mostly in the north and east of the City, where the worst of the troubles have been. Mostly their parents wouldn't let them come in today - largely I assume because it's not possible to get here from there today. And now the whole week has been cancelled - the forecast for the end of the week is not absolutely wonderful. Oh well. Hope the group who are coming in July have a better experience!

Sheffield under water

It took more than luck, getting home last night. It took considerable persistence!

The Builder left work at around half past three. At quarter to four he reported that he was in stationary traffic and not getting much closer. I girded my loins, put on my raincoat, put up the poor, wind battered umbrella and walked off to meet him. A quick u-turn and we were heading home.

Actually, it wasn't too bad getting out of Sheffield. Heeley bridge was flooded and we were diverted up a few little roads and around. Chesterfield Road in Meersbrook, where there had been a waterfall and a fountain yesterday morning was closed and we had to divert up the road that leads to Freyja's road and around the top of Meersbrook. Back down onto the main road and off to Woodseats, where I was expecting there to be major problems. But nothing. Roads nice and clear. And not all that much traffic. So far so good.

Along the bypass. All was well.

And then we reached the Dronfield Unstone slip road. Traffic at a standstill. Came off and headed towards the Dunstan Hall Garden Centre.

Or - we tried to. The road was behaving like a baby river, about to reach toddlerhood. Traffic heading down the road, especially the 4 wheel drives, where rushing down at ridiculous speeds, causing waves and currents and almost drowning the few pedestrians braving the weather. Eventually, we reached the Dunstone Hall Road and made our way across the back of Chesterfield. Not too bad, until we reached the Slack Lane roundabout, where the traffic was heavily queued. Sloshed our way down and decided at the bottom, where we usually take a dog leg turn and keep heading down, that we would stay on the main road and head down further along. This may have been a mistake, though it's hard to say.

We were inexorably pushed towards the huge big roundabout where sits B&Q, passing through several flooded areas on the way. The big roundabout was effectively impassable and we were directed by a very harassed looking police officer to head back uphill to the west. Which dropped us onto Ashgate Road which took us back, eventually, through more flooded roads to the Slack Lane roundabout. Something like an hour after we had gone round it for the first time.

Traffic was at a standstill heading down. We decide to go straight over and take a later road down.

The problem was that the Hipper valley stood between where we were and were we wanted to be. The River Hipper (Always want to call it the River Hippo!) is usually a tiny stream-like river. Not yesterday. Yesterday it was a properly grown up river and it was making it practically impossible to cross the valley.

We missed the later road we had intended to head down, which is probably just as well. Instead we found ourselves splashing our way into Old Brampton, which is a pretty village we had never previously visited. Another day, perhaps, for a proper look around. It was a bit tempting to stop at the pub for a pint or two and a bite to eat. But we decided if we did that we might never get back in the car.

The roads were better - but we were heading in the wrong direction.

Eventually, we saw a signpost along a country lane to Beeley. Beeley will do. We can (probably) get home from there. Not much traffic but quite a bit of water. Saw another sign. Holymoorside and Chesterfield. Excellent. Can certainly get home from there. Slightly misplaced in Holymoorside (I *do* wish the English would sign their roads properly. The Germans can't still be a threat after all this time, surely?) Relocated on the right road. And home.

Three hours it took. And about 2.25 hours of that was getting from the Unstone slip road to our place. Usually takes about 14 minutes! Still, not too bad, all things considered. The Builder's mate, who lives in Chapeltown in the north of Sheffield, took 5 hours to get home and had to contend with over 1.5 metres of water.

There were dire warnings of closed roads this morning. We decided to try anyway. Most of the big junctions on our side of Chesterfield were still flooded, but we don't usually use them, and certainly not during peak hour traffic. Radio Sheffield declared the A61 in Meersbrook to be closed. My Spy on the Ground declared that she was in her accustomed place waiting for us, and the traffic was flowing. Flowing remarkably smoothly. Effectively there was no traffic. Took no time to get to work. And we nearly hadn't bothered. Having ignored the "Don't travel unless you must" warnings of yesterday, I nearly heeded them today.

Mind you, there are no trains running today. It was quite eerie this morning. Normally when we get up there is the quiet rumble of goods trains waiting in the sidings while the commuter and express trains thunder along. Not today. Sheffield station is completely closed. The north of the city is effectively cut off. No transport is getting in from Rotherham. There is now fear that a reservoir in Rotherham may yet burst. It is, apparently, the worst flood in South Yorkshire since the Great Sheffield Flood in 1864 ( And the wettest June ever. And we had a month's worth of rain yesterday, apparently. So no watering restrictions for us this week!

I am enormously pleased that none of this happened last year. Once we got out to Old Brampton we had fallen off my map of Chesterfield and surrounds. And I wouldn't have known where the villagers and hamlets which were signposted were in relation to where we wanted to be. We might never have got home!! I must remember to put my street map of Derbyshire back in the car.
It's raining. Still. Again?

Not torrential rain this time. Just heavy, very persistent rain. Large swathes of Northern Sheffield are flooded, with roads and schools closed. Fortunately (from my point of view) the south seems a little better. But only a little. Lots of roads in Chesterfield are closed too, including the main roundabout on the A61 and one of our main roads around the back. Will need luck if we are to make it home tonight!

Had rather a nice weekend. After we (The Builder was picking up some overtime too) finished work on Saturday, we went round to Bea and Steve's place, where they were hosting a barbecue. Happily the rain more or less held off and there was a gazebo against the drizzle, so we actually did manage to cook and eat (and drink!) outside. There were several people there, including some quite astonishingly well behaved teenagers. And a toddler. We ate and drank and chattered and drank and debated and drank and tried to set fire to the gazebo and drank. And I coma-ed off to bed. The Builder in the meantime stayed up - playing ten pin bowling on the Wii!!!!! Didn't come to bed till after 1 am :-0

Sunday was a nice quiet day. We arose, still at Bea's place (naturally) at a pleasantly late hour of the morning. Well, by our standards, anyway. Had a cup of tea and then made our way back to Chesterfield calling at the Dunston Hall garden centre and the Hardstoft herb nursery on the way. Since then it has rained fairly consistently and the herbs remain in their pots. At about 2:30 I asked what The Builder would like to drink, expecting tea or coffee or perhaps hot chocolate to be the answer. But no. "Hmm," said he. "I think I'll have a vodka and tonic". OK. Well it is Sunday. I shall have a gin and tonic. And so we gently slurped and slumbered our way through Sunday afternoon in a pleasant and relaxed sort of way. The Builder took advantage of a break in the rain to dash up to the allotment and water the tomatoes (which can see the rain inside their greenhouse but don't get to feel any of it, unless someone intervenes and buckets it onto them), and of another break in the weather when he went down and picked a colander full of pea pods and a basin of raspberries and cherries. It made for a lovely dinner. Fresh peas (with asparagus not from the garden) with our main course and raspberries, cherries and ice cream for dessert. Magnificent.

It's been quite an eating week. We were at Roger and Kate's on Wednesday evening. Their washing machine had broken down and they've bought a new one. Roger is awaiting a hernia operation and couldn't push the new machine into its new place so The Builder volunteered to help. Well, he volunteered after I told him he had volunteered! For 10 or 15 minutes "labouring" he (and I) were fed stir fry beef in black bean sauce and raspberries and cream and given prosecco to drink. And it *wasn't* raining!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

June 20th

We have begun eating from the kitchen garden and from the allotment. I am not counting the rhubarb, cos that was there when we arrived. But we have started pulling shallots (a bit young) from the allotment and are now picking peas from the garden. We've had two pickings of them with our dinner this last week. Plus, we are munching on raspberries, strawberries (at leas I am munching on the strawberries) and cherries as we amble about. The strawberries are netted, but the raspberries and cherries are not and so far the birds are not being troublesome. The slugs, on the other hand, are. The birds have decided that we have been putting the oatmeal down for their benefit. AS fast as we put it down, they scoff it! We still do put it down, but the slugs are more or less winning. So The Builder has launched a salt warfare upon them. He's our there day and night, compulsively trickling salt over them, especially when it is raining.

In the meantime, I have moved my very tiny yellow pepper and cape gooseberry seedlings indoors to protect them from slug attack. They are slowly, slowly growing.

All is doing well on the allotment. The onions, shallots and potatoes seem fit and healthy. And I have now planted some large tomatoes in the greenhouse. They are settling in well. I've kept some back to plant in the garden, just to see what happens. The cherry tomato plants in the garden are looking very happy.

Oh - and finally, finally, FINALLY the sweet corn and kidney beans have germinated. No sign yet of the soya beans. Might germinate them in the greenhouse next year. In fact, I might germinate a number of things in the greenhouse. The propagating tents weren't very successful this year. I think they're a bit shaded.

We aren't going to get the brassica beds dug for this year on the allotment. I shall plant them between the broad beans and summer beans. They'll be all right for this year. Then that gives us the autumn and winter to dig the next bit of the allotment

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Blue weekend

Hmmm. Must move that hose before the visitors arrive tomorrow. Otherwise someone’s going to trip over it and break their neck. But first I must just get on and do this.

Ambled back inside. Carried on with whatever it was I was doing. Looked out window. Bugger. It’s raining again, and the washing was virtually dry. Ran down the path to the washing. And launched into the air. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Splat. Bounce. Bounce. Hmmm. Can’t get up. Must get up. Washing and I are getting wet. Rolled over. Hauled myself up to my feet very, very slowly. Began bringing in washing.

From behind, The Builder said: “Shall I help with the washing?” Grrrr. “Wouldn’t you like me to help bring in the washing? Mutter mutter mutter. “But which washing shall I bring in?” Bring in bloody **dry** washing!!! Scuffed back all the bark I had knocked out of the currant bed (just as well I didn’t land on one of my little currants!) Went back inside. “Are you all right?” asked The Builder. “You seem quite remarkably and very suddenly cross”. Showed him my poor, poor knees. He hadn’t seen my spectacular, at speed trip over the hose. I thought he was remarkably laid back about it all! And he had been wondering what had happened to fling all the bark around so much

And now you should see my knees. I have the most amazing bruises. My back is absolutely knackered. My wrist hurts. My ankle hurts. I can hardly move!! Freyja has suggested that I should stay here on L3 of the Adsetts Centre all day – and send a runner when I require tea, coffee or anything else from L4!

Back at The Builder’s birthday party in April, Paul made the somewhat startling observation that humans are psychologically incapable of eating blue coloured food because there is no naturally occurring blue edible food. This was a manifestly absurd thing to say. Think of the late, lamented blue smarties. Blue heaven milkshakes. Blue, bubble gum flavoured things. Paul stuck to his guns. “If you colour mashed potato blue, then people will not eat it.” Rubbish, said Tabitha, with whom Paul was having this conversation. Freyja and I were dragged into the debate. And eventually it was decided that at Tabitha’s 30th birthday we would have a blue theme. And we did.

Happily, the rains of last week, and the expected rains of this week held off yesterday and we could all sit outside under the gazebo The Builder bought a few weeks ago for tuppence halfpenny. Paul and Carol were there (just as well, it being All Paul’s Fault!). So was Gill, though not Peter and Alex, for they are in France. Ginger Rich and Rob came. We didn’t have blue pre-lunch snacks because I didn’t really think about it. We did have blue mashed potatoes with our roast lamb and pork (and veggie alternative) though. And I coloured the roast potatoes blue. And made blue gravy (flavoured with tarragon, savoury and garlic.) I had provided uncoloured mash, because Ginge is allergic to artificial food colourings. There was no blue mash left. Not a scrap! There wasn’t much white mash either, but there was a bit. And a blue pavlova with white cream and blueberries and raspberry sauce is quite spectacular to look at. Freyja had decorated Tabitha’s birthday cake with blue icing and blue not-smarties. At the end of the day, there was not one crumb of blue food left! It seems that Paul was wrong! (Though he may, of course, have just been winding Tabitha up!) However, it has to be said that he is right that it is difficult to eat food that has been merely splashed with blue. I got a tiny bit of blue on my fish on Friday, when I was playing with the dye, and had to force myself to eat the blue bit. It looked as if it had gone off - though I knew it hadn't. I did eat it, though. And very yummy the fish was, too

It was quite fun making blue food. Although I have discovered that putting lots of e-numbers in the shape of blue food dye in your diet makes your poo a rather fetching shade of blue as well!! Was quite a shock this morning – though I should have anticipated it, given what loads of beetroot does!!

But I think that the next time I have a Sunday afternoon party, I shall take the Monday off. It was an awful scramble getting off to work this morning (despite the fact that I have been awake since 4) and the house is not yet back straight!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Weather and a Grumpy Little Old Lady

It’s been just a tiny bit wet today! Just a tiny, tiny bit.

It’s been seriously raining since Wednesday evening. Severe weather alerts were proclaimed for this morning. Prudently, The Builder and I left a little early.

Got to Chesterfield. The slip road down to the bypass was closed by a police car. This didn’t unduly worry us. We don’t go down there during the Peak Hour. Passed over the bridge and looked down onto the bypass. The traffic was at a complete standstill as far as the eye could see. Further along, the traffic on the bridge over our road was at a complete standstill. The traffic on the roundabout ahead – well, you’ve guessed what it was doing. The Builder chucked an unauthorised right turn and we headed away from what I believe was substantial flooding at the roundabout and made our way through strangely deserted roads until we reached Sheffield.

Where we encountered absolute chaos. The Chesterfield Road was flooded through Woodseats and we were diverted. Freyja rang to say that further down Chesterfield Road it was also flooded. Normally we pick her up as we pass by the end of her road. This morning we couldn’t get to her. There was flooding at Heeley. In fract, poor Freyja found it almost impossible to get to work. In the end she went home and waited for it all to improve before she set off again. Oh, and she changed into dry clothes.

In the meantime, we in the van were dry and warm and making our way slowly and in a roundabout way to our places of work. I think, in the end, I was only half an hour later than normal. But loads of major roads were closed. Lots of buses and most of the trains weren’t running. Bea came in dressed in her wet weather walking gear and changed when she arrived. Lots of people couldn’t make it in at all. I’m quite proud that I came in from 20 miles away!

But it was unfortunate that the little old lady chose today to put her sarky note under The Builder’s windscreen wiper. She had put it in a plastic bag but the bag had filled with water and the note was absolutely dripping wet. I couldn’t actually unfold the paper and had to decipher it through the wet papery thinness. She’s lucky I bothered. Wet soggy notes don’t normally excite my interest. And I couldn’t read all of it.

She’s not happy that people with vans are parking outside her bungalow. Because, it seems, she has the only bungalow with bay windows and the vans impede her view. Mind you, her house is well set back from the road. It’s not as though the vans are keeping light out of her windows. But you should have read the note. If she wanted to look at tradesmen’s high vans she would live on a trade estate or in a working area like Sheepsbridge. (So – keep out of sight My Man! The snobbery was breathtaking in its effrontery.) Then she suggested that the vans could be parked in the Village Hall car park (but then where would users of the Village Hall park?) and if that was Too Far To Walk – we should tarmac our gardens. Not that that would achieve much in our case. We'd just have a vast expanse of empty tarmac to gaze upon. You can’t get vehicles into our garden. Well, not without knocking the house down but that seems a tad extreme. A very Green suggestion that one! I fear she may just have to put up with it. Henceforth, I shall refer to her as Mrs Bay Windows.

We don’t ourselves park outside her place all that often. (Or, we hadn’t until now!!) But there are lots of vans parked in that road. It’s what you would expect, in a working village. People do seem to get their knickers in a twist about parking hereabouts. A woman from up the road has been complaining to the council about the garage next to her having vehicles parked on his forecourt. The garage was there when she moved in!

It is not raining as this exact moment. And it’s 2 ½ hours until I can go home. I hope it’s still not raining then.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last weekend. Late!

Do you know - I never wrote up the visit to the Belper Steam and Veteran Fair. Which is a real pity because it was ever so cute. It's not actually in Belper. It's in a huge field in Duffield, close to Derby. The Builder and I went on Saturday afternoon. It was a nice afternoon, a lovely drive and the promise of a few traction engines at the end of it. Why wouldn't you go? Apart, of course, from laziness and inertia, which nearly did for us!

It is a lovely drive. You go down the A6 through Matlock and Matlock Bath. Places that I only ever go to on my way somewhere else (Derby, usually!) and even then not often. They look like up market seaside resorts, only in the middle of a Derbyshire Dale. We really must go on a proper exploration one day.

Anyway. The steam fair. It was lovely! A min-version of the Dorset Steam Fair, which is enormous and packed. Belper was much more manageable. There were traction engines and steam fair organs and wee little tiny traction engines. There were old, wartime ambulances and fire engines. And caravans. Including Romany caravans. And a tiny one. A sort of dolls house for gypsies! There was a falconry exhibition and a pet dog show and pork sandwiches and junk stalls and all sorts. Cost a fiver to get in - which meant we could stay for a couple of hours then make our way home without thinking that we had wasted our entrance money, or missed out on huge wodges of the fair. At one of the fairground organs they had girlies doing the can can. It really was a lovely afternoon. There's another one at Cromford at the beginning of August. If it's a nice day, we might go. Then, of course, we are going to the Great Dorset Steam Fair in September. A summer of steam!

Sunday saw Bea and Steve joining us for lunch. Back in December, The Builder and I had been in Waitrose as it was closing for Christmas, and bought a rather fine turkey at half price. Would do for Easter, thought I. Except that at Easter we had Tabitha, Jeanette and Rebecca amongst the eating guests, none of whom likes turkey. NO worries. I'll have turkey for my summer party. Except that the summer party happens, this year, to be Tabitha's 30th birthday bash. And she still doesn't like turkey. And that damn bird was taking up almost a whole drawer in the freezer. Nothing for it. Will have to invite turkey eaters around to help consume it. And Bea and Steve turned out to be just the turkey eaters I was looking for. The Builder has bought a gazebo a few weeks ago and we had that up, so spent the afternoon sat outside, eating and drinking and generally making merry. We went for a walk through the sidings and the wetlands and admired the highland cows and the Hebridean sheep (I was mistaken when I said they were Shetland sheep) and the birds and generally had a Good Time. Then Bea and Steve went home. And I went to bed.

It's done well that turkey. It's fed us ever since. We've just eaten the last of it and I've got loads of stock for gravies and stews and things. £9 well spent, if you ask me!

And we now have the television back. The SKY man came on Tuesday. It seems that the window cleaner had knocked the dish well and truly out of alignment. If only the bloody man had said, The Builder could have hopped up a ladder and put it back where it should be. Ten days without the telly for no particularly good reason. Not that we would have watched it much - but I did miss Springwatch.

It's raining. Started yesterday with a sudden storm at about 3pm. By about quarter to four we had a waterfall on Level 3 of the Adsetts Centre. The builders (that's the University's builders, not my Builder) had breached the temporary skin they've had in while they're building our extension and the sudden storm thought this was jolly good sport. It's still raining. You can hear the garden purring.

It was Tabitha's birthday yesterday. She turned 30!!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


My pumpkin seeds have come up! About six of them. And there are two cantaloupe seeds germinated and one cucumber. But no zucchinis. I've given in and bought two plants from the garden centre. Also, no sweet corn. I've been sowing that directly and there is no sign of life at all. I've tried again with a "new" packet of seed - it's expiry date was 2003 so there might be life in it! It won't be long until there are peas and broad beans. And strawberries. The cherry tomatoes are nearly ready for planting out. The beef tomatoes are more than ready for potting on. And I've decided to plant the sweet potatoes deirectly into the greenhouse on the allotment. It's not warm enough in the propagating tent for them to do more than sit and glower.

We've put herbs in the little holes The Builder has put in the edging to the brick path. Marlo is very taken with the catmint!

The pond is full of fat, fat tadpoles. And several frogs. But only six fish. Something seems to have eaten the other four.

We are thinking that we might put a fruit cage all the way around the orchard, and incorporate it with the chicken run. This would give the chickens a large fox-free space to run about it and would protect the fruit trees from the pigeons. And other fruit predators. But not yet. This is a next winter activity I reckon. This proposed fruit cage will come expensive.

Here is a bird's eye view of the garden, as at June 1st 2007

A weekend off

If you should be looking for an alternative to a roast for a hot summer Sunday outside lunch, may I suggest buttered new potatoes, green salad (lettuce, spinach, watercress, asparagus, mint, lime juice and yoghurt) with smoked salmon omelettes, with a glass or two of chilled white wine. It really was remarkably pleasant.

Barb came to visit for the weekend, arriving at about 10:00 on Saturday morning. After a light, late breakfast we took ourselves out for the day. First, to the Dunstan Hall nursery for some meal worms for the birds and some zucchini plants for me. Then to the herb nursery at Hardstoft for herbs for my little holes along the brick path. And then to Hardwick Hall. Stopping at the Hardwick Inn (at the back of the hall) for lunch. The Hardwick Inn is 16th century and serves abundant plates of rather nice food.

We had a pleasant walk around Hardwick Hall and a very pleasant potter around the gardens and part of the park and then headed back home for a long late afternoon and evening sat outside in the garden, eating, drinking and chatting. Oh, and an inspection visit to the allotment, which could do with the wilderness being cut back. There could be tigers and giraffes down the back and we’d be none the wiser!

Sunday was a beautiful day. The Builder took himself off to Wakefield to collect two more 1k litre water butts he had bought on eBay. Barb and I pottered and pondered and sat in the garden. I talked to Austin on Skype and Freyja by text message and Tabitha by mobile phone. The Builder came back and we took the butts round to the allotment and, using the wheelbarrow, manipulated them into place by the greenhouses. They aren’t set up yet, but they will be sometime this week. Not that it matters – there’s no sign of real rain for days and days. Lunch. Then we went out and did the round Wetlands walk. They’ve introduced animals to keep the grazing down. There are two Highland cows on the sidings side of the walk and 8 Shetland sheep on the wetlands side. It was ever so exciting. We couldn’t see the cows, until I stopped and looked at a thicket and asked why anyone would put two haystacks underneath a thicket. Wasn’t haystacks, was the woolly cows hiding from the sun, trying to keep cool!

Then Barb went home, and The Builder and I abandoned any plans we had to do anything practical or useful and opened another bottle of wine and sat outside until quite late. It was the first weekend that I’ve had completely off for weeks! And I was at home. Was ever so nice :-)

We have lost our SKY connection :-( It was there on Thursday evening. Went to turn on the telly on Friday. And nothing. No satellite signal being received at all :-( Unplugged everything, refitted everything. Nothing. Rang SKY. Twice, cos the first person I spoke to got cut off (or cut me off!) half way through. Still no joy. No SKY satellite signal being received at all. Right, said the man. I’ll send a Fixing Man around on Monday. What time on Monday? Either 8-1 or 12-6. No good. I’m at work. Well, that’s what we do, said he. Hmmm. I might be able to get home by about 2:30. Nope. No good. Only those slots. So, effectively, I would have to take a whole day off. Not only that, a whole day for which I have given my boss no notice at all, it being 10:00 on a Friday night and me not expecting to communicate with Peter until Monday morning. The other alternative was Thursday when I am teaching all day. The next available day is Tuesday 12th. So no TV until then. Might have to buy a little internal aerial to see us through. In the meantime, I am watching DVDs. I’ve watched a Man from Uncle film on Friday night and half of Hogfather last night. The other half is for tonight. The Builder is sleeping through me watching DVDs!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Cambridge 3

And oh boy did it rain. The bunnies sat and glared out of their hutch at the dripping run. Taffa dragged Gaz out of bed and made him run her to work to avoid arriving bedraggled. The Builder and I stayed inside for a bit. But I really wanted to go to the market so we kitted ourselves out in raincoats, hats and my umbrella and took ourselves off. You wouldn’t mind if it were torrential rain that you could sit inside and admire with a cup of tea. But this was just persistent, ongoing, never-ending heavy drizzle. And my umbrella blew inside out and the spokes died :(

We got to the market. And bought some lovely local veg and some of the magnificent bread. The fish stall was, alas, closed. And still it rained. The breadman vouchsafed the opinion that this might be the tail end of it; the clearing rain, so to speak. So it rained harder! We armed ourselves with a chocolate bread plait and thus fortified made our way back to the house. The punts on the river were so full of water some were in danger of sinking. In others there were puntmen baling the water out. We got back and found the peg box filled to the brim with water. According to people in the market place, this had been the wettest May for 60 years (after the driest April for ever!). Oh well. Never mind. The Builder and I are going home soon. It should start to dry out then!

In the meantime, we collected Gaz and we all went to Girton, where we were meeting Peter and Joan for lunch in their local “pub”. There is a pub, the George, and then the Old Crown which used to be a pub but is now really a restaurant, which is where we were going. They (Peter and Joan, not the pubs) seemed in very good form. Quite chirpy after their spring cruise around the Americas. In fact, they looked remarkably healthy. We had a wonderful lunch. A fishy lunch for me – tiger prawns followed by grilled sardines. And there was plenty of wine – if you weren’t The Builder who was driving us home. They tell me that Tim’s large black Labrador Bertie has gone to that great dog basket in the sky. And has been replaced by Molly, a pot bellied pig who comes in in the evenings and watches telly with him. I long to meet Molly.

Anyway, after a merry afternoon’s munching, we took Gareth back home and then went down from Cambridge and home to Tupton. From practically sea level to – hmm. I wonder what altitude Tupton actually is. Hang on. - umm I think it’s about 102m. Wonder what Cambridge actually is. Hang on. Oh. About 13m near Alex Wood Road. So, we went down from Cambridge and went up from 13m at Arbury to 102m at Tupton. Where the cat didn’t care whether we had come up or down; he was just pleased we were back!

The sun had come out while we were in Girton. It was still out in Tupton. We poured a drink (The Builder was no longer on Designated Driver status) and ambled round on an inspection tour of the garden. Tabitha sent a picture of Bricknell the rabbit trying to escape from the run. I fear Gareth may need to fit a lid to keep her confined! It was a good weekend, despite the rain. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again now. Weather in no way stops anyone eating, drinking and making merry!

Freyja and Mark are completing their move to the new flat. The Builder and I went round to help clean yesterday evening. The bedroom wasn’t particularly onerous. Neither was the hall. I wandered into the kitchen, intending to do the floor there. Only to discover the oven needed cleaning. For, I think, the first time ever in its whole ovenly life (so not all down to Freyja and Mark)! Was something of a challenge. Which I rose to magnificently, if I do say so myself! They hand the keys in at midnight tonight. Though there wasn’t a whole lot left to do when we left at just before 9.

Today I am on my last evening shift until September. Semester ends tomorrow and the summer students don’t get late, staffed opening hours. I spent the morning thoroughly cleaning the bathroom and kitchen. Including my oven. I blame Freyja!