Thursday, August 30, 2007

Late summer report

It’s been an interesting year in the garden, and especially in the kitchen garden and on the allotment.

The summer has been cool and wet – mostly, at any rate. We’ve done spectacularly well for peas and not badly for broad beans. The runner beans, after a slow start, are doing ok. Likewise the dwarf beans. The soya beans are dying. I think it’s too cold for them at night. We’ve also done really well with the shallots and the onion sets. The onion seeds have produced wee tiny little onions. The Builder and I have decided to replant them in a new bed and see how they get on next year. We aren’t sure if we should “rest” them over the winter, so are going to transplant half and “rest” the other half and see what happens.

The corn has done nothing. It’s minute. It’s not doing anything at all. Freyja was at the York maize maze earlier this week and reports that the corn there is also much shorter than it usually is (though not as short as mine, which you couldn’t possibly make a maze with unless it was for hamsters!). The pumpkin plants are growing vigorously but aren’t producing fruit. The zucchinis are producing fruit, but not in the considerable quantity you might normally expect.

And my poor potatoes. They’ve been attacked by slugs, munched by wireworm, hit by blight. We’ve cut all the plants down and are digging up the tubers as and when we can. I have to say, they’ve produced a prodigious quantity of potatoes but the quality is somewhat impaired. The Duke of York and Arran Victory have held up quite well – about half of them are suitable for storage. Lady Balfour (maincrop) and Pink Fir Apple (salad potatoes) are even slightly better. But my poor, poor Ambos. We’ve left them in the ground so far. The first few I dug up are almost useless. Pity, because they’re a lovely potato to eat. I might give them another try next year just in case their plight was caused by this year’s weather conditions rather than an intrinsic problem with the potato.

The tomatoes are doing ok. The ones in the garden were looking a bit blight-ridden but we treated those and all is well – for the moment. The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen. The only problem is that the temperature is plummeting at night and it might be getting too cold for them. Fingers crossed. The ones in the greenhouse (large/beef) on the allotment are going great guns. So too are the cape gooseberries and the yellow capsicums – at least, the plants are. There’s no fruit on them yet. I think next season I’ll use the greenhouses as propagators in the spring. None of my “tropical” seeds germinated early enough this spring in my propagating tents at the house. Though May was unusually chilly.

But not a bad season so far. We’ve had to buy an extra (small!) freezer to store the peas, beans, shallots and other things. The later sowings of carrots are coming along. We ate the whole of the first lot quite quickly. I must remember next year to keep sowing new boxes as the first ones germinate then there won’t be this kind of carrot hiatus!

The cabbages/broccoli/sprouts are coming along quite well. I’m really pleased with the Chinese cabbage. It’s holding its own against the caterpillars! I’m intending to put out some more seeds, and also some pak choi and some greyhound cabbage seeds. I just need to clear one of the broad bean beds – and hope for a reasonably warm autumn!

And now we need to start preparing for autumn and for winter and to start planning for next year. More digging for The Builder!!
Well that was a very pleasant long weekend. I did almost absolutely nothing!

Both The Builder and I worked on Saturday.

Sunday we pottered about, went to Beeley to the Devonshire Arms for a rather magnificent lunch, pottered about the Chatsworth farm shop, ambled into Bakewell (where we were a bit surprised by the crowds – we continue to think of Bakewell as one of our shopping places, not as a tourist destination which is how the rest of the world sees it!) and trundled home again. Lovely, restful day.

On Monday we decided to take ourselves to the Dunstan Hall garden centre in search of some new garden shears. They didn’t have any (though they did have some interesting carrot seeds and one or two other nice things). We struck out, across country, intending to go to Chatsworth garden centre. Nice drive. Lovely road. Magnificent views. Then we got down to the main road – and the traffic was at a standstill heading towards Chatsworth as far as the eye could see. We changed our minds, headed back into Chesterfield and went to B&Q instead!

Tabitha and Gareth have been at the Leeds Festival this weekend. We’ve been babysitting the rabbits. It’s a high anxiety activity, looking after someone else’s rabbits! I fretted all the time lest they chew their way out of the hutch (which they’ve been trying to do with varying degrees of success since they arrived) and escape! They did look somewhat bored, incarcerated as they were in their hutch. The Builder made them a temporary run, using the former pea-support wiring. The bunnies thought this was great – they jumped in and out of their hutch and rampaged around and ate the weeds and the pea stalks and things. Happy bunnies. Taffa and Gaz came back from the festival on Monday night and we ate, drank and made merry until quite late. They left again on Tuesday lunchtime, taking the bunnies with them. The garden seems strangely empty without them! Marlo had been quite enjoying lying on the outside table watching them bounce about – and had showed no interest at all in eating them or chasing them. Thank goodness! It is a good example, mind, of the need to have the Spare Bed ready for visitors at all times - you never know when people may decide to drop by, eat, drink and make merry - and unexpectedly stay overnight!

I had a happy Tuesday doing absolutely nothing. Nothing at all – apart from cooking brunch for Taffa, Gaz and me. There were many things I had intended to do; none of them were done. Not one. I did make some bread, but that wasn’t on my list of things to do. Was nice bread, though! It was quite nice having a day in which I did nothing at all – I did feel ever so slightly guilty about it though. Something along the lines of it being a waste of a free day!

The Builder’s van is very, very poorly sick. It quite spectacularly failed its MOT (annual road worthiness test) and is going to cost a small mortgage to get fixed. That van has been swallowing up money since it arrived. We have decided that enough is enough. It needs replacing. We have been keeping our eyes peeled. The more interesting question is what to do with the dying van. Scrap it, trade it in? Trading in is the better option ,but that requires the “new” van to come from a dealer. And that’s expensive. The Builder continues to hunt, ponder and muse.

Freyja and Mark have gone to York. They’ve been playing with the Vikings and the dungeon

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Home Alone

Lindsey and Ian have gone to Norway and left me behind :-(

We had a good day on Thursday. Ian had a teleconference with Very Important People around the world. Lindsey and I went and watered the tomatoes and dug up potatoes. We packed everything up ready to take boxes and things to the post office. We trashed the lounge room with suitcases and papers and wotnots. We checked the postage rates for large boxes full of stuff. We gulped! We checked the excess baggage rates. And unpacked the boxes and abandoned the post office idea. We packed the cases (well, when I say I …) and then we took ourselves into Chesterfield for a bite of lunch at Chandlers (where they do a lovely organic menu) and a potter around the shops. We went home again and continued the Leaving Preparations. I dug more potatoes (much less wirewormy than the first lot, which were very sadly affected). The Builder came home from work. Then we ambled off in a taxi back into Chesterfield for a wonderful meal at the Old Post Restaurant. Came home for whisky and cheese. Then it was bedtime. For we had an early start on Friday morning.

Lindsey, Ian and I were off to Newcastle, where they were catching the ferry to Norway. We dropped The Builder off at work (for the van is in for service and its MOT) and off we trundled. We made excellent time. It’s interesting having Jenny the Sat Nav. I would have stayed on the A1 to Newcastle. She took us off and up the A19, which was a much more direct route to the Ferry Port. And coming home both she and Katy wanted me to leave the M1 and go via the motorway that goes to Hull. I haven’t done this. Must try it one day and see why. Anyway. I had been pondering what to do after Lindsey and Ian checked in at 11. I had thought I might go into Newcastle and collect the bridges. But you can't collect bridges on your own; at least, not in cold blood. It's different if you happen to run across one. So I abandoned that idea. Then I thought that I might go into Durham and collect the cathedral. But again, that's better if done in company. So I decided to go home and dig up some more potatoes. The forecast for the weekend doesn't look conducive to potato digging. So. We arrived in plenty of time for an 1100 check in – only to discover that the ferry was delayed by two hours due to inclement weather for the inbound ferry. What to do? There’s not a great deal to do in the ferry port. Happily, however, there is an outlet shopping centre a mere ten minute walk away. We went there and had coffee and a sandwich then a potter around in the shops. I was sorely tempted by the Le Creuset shop. So was Ian – but he was in much less danger of falling than I was. Happily, I resisted successfully. But that happy little interlude did rather do for the potato digging!

Then Lindsey and Ian checked in for their ferry trip and I came home. Alone, apart from Jenny.

It is not as much fun shopping in Waitrose without Ian :-(

I ran across The Builder in Waitrose. We trundled home together to a quiet, empty house. It is perhaps just as well that we were going out for the evening, otherwise it would have seemed quiet and empty indeed. As it was, we took ourselves back into Chesterfield and took the train back to Sheffield for Freyja’s birthday celebration dinner. There were about 24 people there, including Tabitha, Mark’s parents, GingerRich, Batch, Kal and an assortment of people that I didn’t know. Was a good evening, even if the seafood ravioli was a touch on the dry side. Freyja seemed very taken with her birthday present (a wallet she had asked me to buy her sometime earlier but which I hadn’t said I had bought) and some jelly style wild animals for sticking on walls (not recommended in a rented house!) or the bath or whatever) which included not one but two hippos.

And that, really, is the end of my Great Eating Adventure around England and Scotland. There seems to be rather more of me than there was a month ago. Home cooking and plain lunches from now on!

The Builder was at work on Saturday. I was not. I was, in fact, Home Alone virtually all day which is unusual generally and unheard of over the last month. I engaged myself in thoroughly cleaning the house, which is suffering from neglect, not having been attended to at all sine Lindsey arrived over a month ago. The spare room is now ready for visitors. The lounge room is clean and tidy. The bathroom is sparkling. Even the kitchen is nice and clean and tidy. I, on the other hand, was knackered by the time The Builder got home. Fell asleep watching the telly, and was mightily discomfited when Lindsey rang from Norway at 1800 asking me to check something on the internet. I so seldom sleep during the afternoon that I was quite convinced that it was 06:00 in the morning when the phone rang and that I had slept all night in my chair. It was quite a few seconds before the unlikelihood of Lindsey ringing with internet requests at 06:00 occurred to me!!!!!

Somebody send Ian back. He’s gone away and taking his touring sunshine event with him. It’s rained without ceasing since yesterday morning. My nice tidy lounge room is now hosting the washing! Lindsey reports that it is drizzly and bracing on their boat touring the fjords.

Back to work tomorrow after three weeks off. Will seem very strange

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A day out on the train

I was going to say that I’ve never been on a steam train before. But that is patently absurd. I have, of course, been on Puffing Billy. Better to say that I’ve never previously gone anywhere on a steam train. And certainly never been to the seaside on one!

Lindsey, Ian and I did yesterday (the poor Builder is still at work while we are holidaying bravely!). We were off to Scarborough on the Sherwood Forester.

So. Off we trundled nice and early to catch a bus to catch a train to Leeds where we were joining the steam train ride. The buses, which are normally entirely reliable, were conspicuous by their absence. We waited. A lady at the bus stop opposite told us nonchalantly that we might be there for some time. Derby road was absolutely chockablock. There had been an accident on the motorway. Traffic was very very VERY slow. A 98 trundled past while I was pondering this. The 98 will take you to Chesterfield but it goes all around the Wingerworth estate, take much longer than the 51 and goes to the coach station rather than the railway station. “Why didn’t you catch that?” asked the lady opposite. Because I think we’ll miss the train. Let’s take the car. And if we’re going in the car, we might just as well drive to Leeds.

We came back, collected the car keys, Jenny the Sat Nav and the car and off we went.

You should have seen the M1 heading south. It was like one of those absolute nightmare scenarios they sometimes dramatise on the BBC or Channel 4. The accident was between Junctions 29 and 28 and the motorway was closed. The traffic was being headed off at J29 but was backed up solid and unmoving from Meadowhall onwards (so Junction 34 or so). Checking the traffic alert, all the alternative routes south were solid and stationary too. Quite glad we were heading north!

It took an hour to get to Leeds. Would have been much, much longer doing the bus/train route. Jenny the Sat Nav guided us neatly to the station. We were very, very early! So we headed into town in search of breakfast. Bacon butties in BHS in the end.

And then our train arrived at Leeds station. And off we headed to Scarborough.

Steam trains chuff like a proper train as they get going!

And people stop to look as you go past.

And they wave!! Everybody waves. The station staff come out to admire as you pass their stations. Little old men lean on their walking sticks and wave. There was an old lady sat up in a first floor window who waved. There were two boys doing star jumps on a trampoline and they were waving. I wonder what it is, this compulsion to wave at steam trains.

The sheep do not wave. They run away!

The train goes on that route three times a week for around six weeks during the summer. You’d think people would get a bit more blasé about it. Or that the sheep would get used to it. But they don’t.

We were extremely fortunate in Scarborough. Rain and occasional deluges had been forecast. They got rain and deluges in most other bits of Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire. We had about ten minutes of drizzle while we were walking along the seawall. Can’t complain about that at all.

We didn’t do much in Scarborough. We were only there for 3 hours. We pottered in the shops, had fish and chips for lunch, had a walk, had a glass of wine before coming back. We weren’t really out for a day in Scarborough. We were out for a trip on the train. There wasn’t time to do the castle; I think The Builder and I might go back during the autumn or winter and play up there.

And if the train company does the same trip next year, The Builder and I might take a few days in York and do the trip from there. For it goes to Knaresborough and Harrogate before it gets to Leeds and then heads back to York. That would be a fine trip. Though I think we would get off on the return at the first stop in York. In time for dinner.

We had dinner at home. Ian and I cooked it together. With Marlo supervising. And everything except the sausages was home grown. Mashed potatoes, caramelised onions, runner beans, peas, herbs and all. Was a very pleasant end to the day

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

We did come back from Scotland. We headed down from Edinburgh to Kelso where we met Tim at Floors Castle for lunch. He concerned us a little when he refused a glass of wine with his lunch. Happily, he explained that He is absolutely unable to take alcohol during the day, but becomes a proper Hyde in the evenings. Phew. Much relief!

Then we went back to his tiny cottage out in the sticks. Tim was driving his TVR. Lindsey went with him. He put his foot down and disappeared in a pufffffff down the road. Ian and I *hoped* that we would eventually run across him again, because we didn’t have his address to put into Katie. Then we went round a corner and found a HUGE big bright yellow combined harvester pottering along the laneway, holding up Tim’s TVR and another car in front of him. I think Lindsey thought her head was going to fall off when Tim first took off!

Tim has a pig. Molly. A Vietnamese Pot Belly. And boy is her belly potted! She’s very wobbly! And she comes when she’s called. Tim hopped out the car, called her and she came staggering out of her hut, clearly having been sound asleep. She eats, amongst other things, potatoes. Huge big ones. I like Molly. I got to scratch he behind her ears. There are also large-ish calves in a barn round the corner. I liked them too

In addition to his TVR, Tim also has a racing Austin 7 and a Mini Cooper. Oh, and a cute red tractor with digging bits at both ends. He’s also in the process of doing up a mostly derelict house just along from his cottage. The estate he lives on and where he does a good bit of handyperson activity, have told him he can have it for life if he does it up. I think even I might learn to be handy if that sort of offer was on the table!

We came home through the Cheviots, hit traffic at Newcastle, lost it again just beyond Gateshead and were home in The Sidings in time to join The Builder for fish and chips for dinner. I think he was quite pleased to see us, though he was oblivious to our arrival when we got there, being engaged in watering the garden. Marlo noticed us though!

On Saturday the poor Builder had to go to work AGAIN. Lindsey, Ian and I went into Sheffield and collected Freyja and Mark to go out to lunch instead. We did get mildly lost in the back roads around their place but found them eventually. We went to Castleton in celebration of Freyja’s forthcoming birthday. Lindsey and Ian won’t be able to celebrate on the actual day, being, as they will be, on a ferry to Norway at the time. The pub we went to in Castleton usually does really good food. This wasn’t one of its better days, though it was OK. And they do serve Aspell’s cider, which is always a plus. Then we went for a wander in the sunshine around the time. Then Everyone except me went on a tour of the Peak Cavern and the Devil’s Arse. I did not. I went for a potter in the Visitor Centre and a mooch in the shops and a trundle about. And so home, via Sheffield to throw Freyja and Mark out the car. We lit the barbecue and had ate and drank very well. It was a lovely, sunny evening. And the Scottish steak was magnificent.

Sunday saw us heading back into Sheffield, collecting Freyja (but not Mark this time) again and off we went to Paul and Carol’s for the afternoon. We mostly ate. And drank. And ate some more. And drank some more. Masses and masses of food. Masses and masses of wine. And a sit outside in their garden. They are growing vegetables on the roof of their shed. In boxes, not directly on the roof. The carrot are magnificent. And very, very tasty.

Since then, we’ve been fairly quiet. The Builder is back at work. Ian has gone to London for a meeting, to Ely to meet a friend and on to Manchester to catch up with his niece and nephew. Lindsey and I pottered about in Chatsworth and in the Peak District garden centres and craft shops. She, The Builder and I made a dash to Currys in Sheffield yesterday evening (the one in Chesterfield is still closed after the floods) and bought an electric kettle (our gas bill has been enormous since we moved here. We decided to replace the stove top kettle with an electric one when we realise just how quick electric ones are!), a small chest freezer (the main freezer is already full and there’s loads of stuff yet to come) and Lindsey and The Builder bought me a Katie of my very own. Well, I suppose I’ll have to share her with The Builder, but it’s mostly me who does the navigating. I don’t think we’ll need her much on the open roads, but she’s oh-so-useful for navigating around cities. On Sunday, when we were once again mislaid trying to find a way around the backstreets around Freyja’s place (for the main road has roadworks and long, long queues of traffic) and had once again got misplaced, she had us sorted out in no time. Took us a while to get Katie II to work, but eventually we succeeded. But we need a name for her. The voice we are using at the moment is called Jane. Nice voice – but I can’t call my SAtNav Jane. Jane is a gloomy, Eeyorish person. It was suggested that we call her Eeyore – but that seemed to be tempting fate rather, calling a GPS Eeyore!

Lindsey is in Manchester today too, joining Ian in his meeting up with Fiona and David. I have been preparing potatoes fro freezing. It’s very quiet here on my own with just the cat for company. Although, he’s lying with his head on the keyboard so typing is a bit awkward. Still, he’s not making any noise!!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Beaches and Mountains

Ian had to go to Aberdeen for a business meeting yesterday, so Lindsey and I went along for the ride.

It’s a very pretty drive up to Aberdeen. We collected the Forth Road Bridge properly on the way, drove through some lovely countryside, stopped for coffee and arrived nice and early for his lunchtime appointment at the University.

They gave him a visitor’s parking permit without any argument at all!

So. While Ian was communing with doctors and psychologists, Lindsey and I went off to explore. We had intended to potter about in the town centre. Alas, we were tempted by a high wall, a cemetery and a tempting looking hill over a path. Off we diverted.

In the meantime, I was beginning to think fondly of the idea of a loo stop. Couldn’t see anything that looked remotely like a public loo. So we stopped at a fish and chip bar near a golf course and asked where the nearest public conveniences were. Ooooh. Sucking of teeth. Probably the nearest ones are on the beach. Tell you what, just pop round the side and I’ll let you in to use ours. Well, what could I do? I bought a serving of chips to take with us on our walk! Can’t think of many other people who’d let complete strangers in to use the loo!

I hadn’t realised that Aberdeen is quite so much on the beach as it is. I knew there was a harbour. I knew there was a beach. I just hadn’t realised that the beach is so close to the town centre. It’s a bit like Lorne or any of the beach resorts on the Bellarine peninsula with loads of seasidy things to do, a fun fair, lots of horrid outlets selling horrid food, and one or two really nice places tucked away. We had lunch in the Beach Café, and a very nice prawn and avocado salad it was too. A huge bowl of salad! Then we found a little village tucked away down by the harbour. Ever so cute. Lots of houses facing across little courtyard style streets – I assume to protect them from the winter wind. We had such a lovely time pottering about by the seaside that we never did get into the centre to look at that.

Ian’s business associates had suggested that we go back along a road crossing the Cairngorms. So we did. And collected a good few bridges on the way. The Bridge of Feugh was charming. Ian spotted another pretty bridge while driving through the Dee Valley and abruptly stopped so we could admire it, thus causing consternation in the traffic behind us. Mind you, it was a lovely little bridge. There are lots of tiny, suspension footbridges crossing the Dee, but we didn’t stop to collect them. We did stop to collect the bridge we found loitering out in the wilds and seclusion of the Cairngorms. We stopped for a potter in Braemar. We tootled around in Dundee looking for somewhere sensible to eat. A forlorn hope, I fear. We collected the Tay Road Bridge - Pedestrians can walk across it in the middle! We didn’t, for while it is a not terribly prepossessing bridge it is immensely long. We did venture onto it to photograph the Railway Bridge, however.

Ian decided to go back to Edinburgh along the coast road and we fetched up in St Andrew’s where we found a golf course, a ruined cathedral, a ruined castle, and rather nice looking seafood restaurant next to the aquarium (!) which was, alas, booked out, and the Old Course Restaurant, which was not booked out. It overlooks the 18th hole of the old course, not to mention the magnificent expanse of beach. It also has magnificent food. Truly, truly magnificent food. Must take The Builder there one day. He would have appreciated the potato and cheese soufflé, the halibut and saffron prawns and certainly the cappuccino brulee with dark chocolate ice cream. Was tempted to tell him I had had fish, mash and ice cream for dinner – would have been true ….

Got back to Edinburgh around half eleven after a wonderful day exploring the East Coast and mountains of Scotland. I have collected my most northerly beach, bridge, seaside resort – my most northerly everything ever. Good fun. Packing up now, ready for our return to the Sidings this evening.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A day on the Firth of Forth

We had a lovely day yesterday. We went out on a boat!

There are three hour trips from a little quay at Queensferry under the Forth railway bridge to Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth. Half an hour or so there, couple of hours exploring then half an hour back. We thoroughly collected the two Forth bridges. We’ll be going over the road bridge on our way to Aberdeen and I think you’ll agree that a bridge is properly collected if you go underneath it on a boat!

It was a lovely trip to the island. Then we spent a merry time exploring the abbey. We might have gone to the top of the tower except that a lady told us the tiny staircase was much too narrow for her to fit on, and she was half the size of me. I reckon we’d have got up, but there were plenty of other things to look at so we didn’t bother.

We meandered up a mown path through loads and loads of different kinds of seagulls, then made our way back to a courtyard in the abbey, where we had a magnificent, Marks and Sparks picnic with wine and sandwiches and tiny pork pies and salad. We had toooooo much food for there to be room for the fruit so we packed it up to bring home again. Then we pottered around the headland and looked at WWII defences and pottered some more and went through a long, scary tunnel and climbed and scaled and admired the view. It’s a really lovely island. It would be cool being the Island Keeper and living in the little house behind the abbey. At least, it would be cool in the summer. It might be a bit boisterous in the winter!

Then it was time to board the boat and go back to Queensferry.

It’s a nice drive between Edinburgh and Queensferry, even if Katie did take us all around the houses getting to the Forth Bridge Road in the morning. She didn’t get the chance on the way back. Ian quite deliberately went down a little road just to see where it went. Where it went, eventually, was into the city centre. We made our way, guided by Katie, back to Morningside and then, without Katie to guide us, went all around the houses looking for Waitrose for supplies for dinner. Having managed to slightly mislay ourselves on the way back to the flat, we put Katie back on. She certainly has her uses, though I remain puzzled about why she sometimes takes us along the roads she does.

We saw lots and lots of seagulls today. Different sorts. But no guillemots. And no puffins, despite the fact they said that there are puffins on the island. We did see some grey seals lolling about on Haystack rock on the way back though. They were cute. Still, one day I would like to see a puffin in the real.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A day in Edinburgh - Tuesday

So. Off we set, out into a lovely, sunny Edinburgh morning. There was some discussion about whether or not to take jumpers. I did not join in this discussion. I had my fleecy cardie tied around my waist. Eventually it was decided that Lindsey and Ian would not require jumpers. It was, after all, a lovely, sunny day and we were intending to walk about.

Two minutes after we left the flat, I put my cardie on!

We had a lovely walk through broad, tree-lined streets towards the city centre. Reminds me a bit of some of the most expensive bits of Fulwood. But I’m curious why Scottish cities have such lovely, wide streets and English ones don’t.

Anyway. We found ourselves in the city centre absolutely surrounded by other tourists and crowds and hordes of people coming in on buses. The Edinburgh Festival proper doesn’t start for a few more days yet, but the Fringe is in full swing and I think the tattoo is underway. Plus, of course, it’s August. And the queue to buy tickets to the Castle was about three hours long. We decided that we didn’t need to see the Castle quite that much and went off for an amble around the parks and shops and laneways and things.

Then we had lunch in The Advocate. I haven’t been in there before and was a tad worried by the fact that Pizza Hut and the Italian chain restaurants and so on had queues coming out of them and The Advocate did not. But I think that might just be because the queued-for places are international chains which everyone recognised and overseas tourists may not think about eating in pubs. Whatever the reason, it was a good choice. The food was lovely, there was at table service and the pub was great.

Then we strolled back to the flat. Ian had an appointment to talk with someone at the Royal Infirmary. Lindsey and I walked to Waitrose instead. Bought the makings of a fish pie and came back by what turned out to be a much shorter route. We had followed the directions out which are meant for cars and walked back following a footpath through a little hospital. Much, much quicker.

And so a pleasant evening eating fish pie and drinking wine and watching Coast on DVD. Ian had seen advertising for series 3 when he was visiting the Open University earlier in his trip and was curious. I don’t have series 3 yet on DVD but I do have 1 and 2.

It’s another lovely, sunny day today. We are hoping to go out on a boat trip

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Gone to Edinburgh

I’ve invaded sunny Scotland! Mind you, the invasion got of to a slow-ish start when Ian decided that the best way from Tupton was to head south to Derby! Lindsey, Katie and I disagreed :-)

We got back to The Sidings quite late on Saturday evening and had a lovely, gentle, quiet Sunday. We didn’t go any where. The Vixen sat untroubled out in the road. The Builder put the gazebo up. Ian connected himself to the ether by pulling a cord through the dining room window and sitting outside in the courtyard with his laptop. Lindsey, The Builder and I went to the allotment and inspected the magnificent tomato plants and the almost magnificent yellow peppers and cape gooseberries in the greenhouses and dug up potatoes and shallots. We weeded the raspberry bed, pruned the finished canes and mulched it. Then we celebrated our endeavours with Spanish cava (that’s fizzy wine not some strange South East Asian drug) in the sunshine. Then Lindsey, The Builder and I went around the washland and wetlands walk. The cows were sunning themselves. The mighty Rother was glistening. We had roast chicken for dinner. It was all good.

On Monday, The Builder went back to work. Well, someone had t
o! Lindsey, Ian and I in the meantime pottered about, ambled into Sheffield to the Ecclesall library and then dropped by Penny’s place to deliver Imogen’s birthday present from Peter and Joan. We drove down Penny’s road and Katie said: At the end of the road turn right. Turn RIGHT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Why right? Katie then took us all around the houses on tiny (and very pretty) country lanes and dropped us on the A57 heading across the Snake to Manchester. Quite why she thought we should go to Edinburgh via Manchester was a complete mystery to me. And I can’t remember if the A57 has opened again after my abortive attempt to use it when going to collect Lindsey.

It has.

I eventually decided that we had gone via Manchester and Carlisle because Katie had been asked to plot the fastest route and that one is almost entirely on motorways. Interestingly, if you ask her to go from The Sidings, she takes you up the M and A 1. Which is how I would have gone from Penny’s. We’ll go back that way.

Mind you, it was certainly a scenic route. And we stopped in Carnforth for lunch and found a very cute pub right next to the canal. It was rather lovely, eating BLTs and watching the boats and the water in the sunshine.

Where Katie really comes into her own is when you get to your destination and are trying to find your way through unfamiliar streets to where you want to be. Katie brought us to the apartment with no trouble at all. And it’s quite a nice apartment, near Morningside, looking towards Blackford hill with an observatory on the top. I fancy we may be going to the top of the hill at some point!! I was gazing idly about when I saw an odd little animal dashing around. What is it? Aha – it’s a grey squirrel. I had forgotten about grey squirrels. We never ever see them at The Sidings. We didn’t see any in Wiltshire/Dorset/Hampshire. I have got out of the habit of expecting them to be about (there were loads around The Mudhut).

Lindsey let Ian and me loose in Waitrose by ourselves :-S We bought the makings of a pork Wellington. And then – we made the dinner **together**. And we didn’t argue. Or even discuss. And the Wellington was magnificent. Mind you, for a kitted out flat there are some funny omissions. There is a cafetiere in the kitchen, but no frying pan. There are toiletries and things in the bathroom, but no soap dish in the shower. And - another place, another shower to work out. Usually I'm pretty good at fathoming British showers but this one defeated me. Eventually Ian worked it out.

Lindsey has been complaining at The Sidings that she is permanently getting bitten by fleas, midges and any other biting beastie who happens to be passing. We've come here - and I have arisen from my bed covered in huge bite marks. Where's the aeroguard?

A serious disadvantage of going away and leaving The Builder behind is that I had to make my own morning cup of tea this morning. That won’t do. Won’t do at all. I shall have to send for him. Or buy a tea maker!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Berwick St James and other places

SATURDAY 28th July

I had a chocolate pastry twist for breakfast today. It was very yummy. The Builder had a raisin pastry. He seemed to enjoy that too. We were waiting at the East Midlands Airport for Lindsey and Ian to arrive back from Paris. Eventually they turned up and we ever so, ever so carefully packed the car and took ourselves off to Berwick St John near Shaftesbury.

It was not raining!

You could see the remnants of the flooding around Oxford, but the run down was undramatic, unremarkable and quite speedy.

We saw two parachutists floating down to earth as we passed Oxford.

We stopped in Salisbury, seeking somewhere for lunch. It was just after two, but most of the pubs in the market square had stopped serving. This seemed remarkably short sighted to me. It was a Saturday afternoon during the summer (allegedly!) in a major tourist area, and the pubs were not serving food. We saw several people turned away. We went to a French café and had Italian Panini and a bottle of wine instead! Then we went to the market and bought salad and cherries and things for dinner. Then we called in on The Builder’s parents briefly to drop off potatoes, shallots, broad beans and peas from the garden and the allotment. We are seeing them for lunch on Friday.

And then we drove to Berwick St John, past the regimental badges cut into the chalk in a hillside, past Wotsit St Martin, down along a twisty road and into the village. The cottage is one of three in restored cow and calf sheds, a short walk from the village pub and really rather nice. Lindsey, The Builder and I went to find a way up onto the iron age hill fort which looks down upon us. Ian did not come, having buggered his back using a Parisian loo (dangerous folks, those Parisians; designing loos that sneakily attack you and render you hors de combat!) We eventually found the way up to the access stile, but decided that a clamber up it might be better done with plenty of time in hand and not at gin and tonic time in the evening! Perhaps on Thursday when Ian has to go to Gloucester. Assuming it is no longer under water. Back to the cottage, collect Ian and we made a reconnaissance visit to the pub, purely for investigative purposes you understand. All the tables were booked for dinner. Seems it’s quite popular. And I am happy to report that Mr and Mrs Awkward are not booked in for Sunday lunch – at least, according to what the landlord was saying to one of his regulars!! Nice to know that other villages have their awkward squad as well :-)

Sausage and mash for dinner.

SUNDAY 29th July

Poor Ian is poorly sick. His back is still knackered and he was up all night with diarrhoea :-( After breakfast, Lindsey, The Builder and I made a mercy dash into Salisbury for emergency supplies of Imodium, paracetemol, heat pillows and things. Picked up most of what we needed, including extra wine, mushrooms and yummy, munchy things in Waitrose but had to take a stroll along the river in the sunshine into town to visit Culpeppers for the heat pillow. Sadly, also emerged with lavender socks, ginger syrup and foot balm :-S Back to BSJ along a wee, winding, back road. Lots of fun – but a bit longer in terms of time. And found Ian looking a bit brighter and a bit sad that we were proposing to disappear off to Lymington at the seaside for Sunday lunch, without him.

He came too.

All was going well until we were trundling through the New Forest and The Builder randomly turned off to Lyndhurst. Why, I asked, are we going to Lyndhurst? Because that’s the way to Lymington! Oh. Except, that it’s the way to Lymington if you are going from Salisbury and not if you are in the southern part of the New Forest. We sorted ourselves out and went round in a huge near circle. Came to a road. Go straight over, said I. Ooooo. No. The sign says to go that way. We did, The Builder protesting mightily that we were going the Wrong Way. He was right. Someone had turned the sign around :-S We got there eventually. Ian pointed out that he had offered to bring Katy who wouldn’t have let us make such mistakes. Had I trusted the map, neither would I!!!!

We have discovered that Ian gets car sick. He was a very fetching shade of green when we got out the car. I don’t think he enjoyed the twisty roads at all. Though we did see lots of New Forest ponies and their foals on the way through the forest.

We parked up in the town centre car park and had a remarkably nice roast beef lunch in The Angel (Ian had chicken pie) then we drove down to the harbour car park, planted Ian on a bench overlooking the boats with the Sunday papers, and went off for a mooch about and to find ice cream. Then we drove to Milford on Sea, where we planted Ian with the papers but without ice cream, on another bench and we walked along the shingle spit which protects The Solent (is it artificial? Must find out when we are once again connected to the internet – there is no phone signal and no random wireless access at the farm) towards Hurst castle which is clearly military. It is possible to get in; we saw people at the top. But we couldn’t find the entrance until we were on or way back and saw people emerging down on the river beach. No time to amble down there. Poor Ian is stuck on a seaside bench with nothing but the papers for company. Then, fortified with restorative fizzy water, we drove home along main roads through Bournemouth, Poole and Blandford back to BSJ, in the hope that Ian would not be quite so green when we got back.

Was a lovely day. The sun shone. It was pleasantly warm. We went to the seaside. Anyone would think it was summer!

I made a “pizza” for dinner, using sliced potatoes for the base. I rather liked it. I think the others did too. Certainly there was nothing left!

MONDAY 30th July

We were off to Lyme Regis to meet Farishta for lunch. The Builder and I had decided to go via Sherbourne and Yeovil. Katie, Ian’s GPS, was determined that we should go via Dorchester. There was a prodigious struggle between The Builder and Katie as we progressed towards Sherbourne. At every opportunity she tried to divert us back down to Dorchester. Eventually Ian took pity on her and reprogrammed her to take us via Yeovil. Peace reigned.

Actually, it’s quite fun having a GPS in the car. And it would have been mighty useful when I went to collect Lindsey from Manchester and found the Snake closed. We might have to look at saving up to buy one.

We arrived in Lyme Regis in good time to meet Farishta. The sun was shining. It was a lovely afternoon. We ambled down to what Farishta says is the best fish and chip shop in Lyme (and where I have previously been, many years ago, with Simon and an infant Yvette) to acquire haddock, chips and fizzy drinks, then we went and sat in the churchyard, overlooking Lyme Bay in the sunshine to eat them – unmolested by marauding seagulls. And very nice they were too. Right. Time for a walk. We made our way through the crowds (although, it wasn’t really as crowded as I would have expected it to be, given that it was the seaside in the summer holidays and it wasn’t raining. You’d have expected ravaging hordes!) to the Cob where we went for a stroll along. We decided not to attempt the grannie’s teeth steps back down. I have been down them before and they’re OK once you get onto them. It’s the launch into space to get onto them that is a stumbling block (pun intended :-) ) We made our way up through the top of the Jane Austen Garden’s (the lower part is blocked off for some sort of shoring up maintenance) and parted company with Farishta at the little, single screen cinema where she works. Then we went for an amble through the shops. We’ve bought a birthday present for The Builder’s son in law Matt. We bought a quiche for dinner. We found a camel in a circus trailer for Lindsey. We even found an internet point for Ian. Then we leaped back in the car and took ourselves towards Weymouth to look at Chesil beach.

I found a little road running down to the beach at West Bexington. We drove down it. That really, really upset Katie, going down a dead end street towards the sea when we were supposed to be going to Weymouth. She made several attempts to get us to turn around, before giving up and sulking mightily. Abandoning Ian at the car (his health is better today but his back is not up to shingle scrambling) we took my froggie kite for a walk along the beach and I went for a paddle in the sea. Lindsey and The Builder declined the invitation to join me – although the sea wasn’t cold really. Then we collected Ian from his shingle patch of sunshine and went for an exploratory visit into Weymouth and onto Portland. Well, far enough onto Portland so they could say they have been and so we could stop in the car park for a not very exciting cup of coffee for Ian and The Builder and for peppermint ice cream with flakes for Lindsey and me.

The Cerne Giant, who could really do to have his chalk cleaned, for he is a bit grubby, has acquired a friend. Somebody has painted a large Homer Simpson in the field next to him. For some reason Mr Simpson is wearing a nappy and brandishing a sombrero. I assume this has something to do with the Simpsons film which has recently come out. However, since I am entirely unlikely ever to see this film, the significance of the sombrero and the nappy is likely to remain a mystery to me for ever!

We called into Shaftesbury for salad supplies to supplement the quiche and returned home to Berwick St John for a rather pleasant supper. It was a good day.

Ian doesn’t get quite as car sick if he sits in the middle seat in the back. He can see where we’re going if he does that. He can’t sit in the front. If Katie and The Builder are to continue their gargantuan route battle, The Builder needs his navigator (ie, me!) with him!!!

TUESDAY 31st July

It’s a miracle!! Katie and The Builder agreed which way to go this morning. Well, mostly they agreed. We’d been into Shaftesbury to see if there is an internet café (there isn’t, but there is always the library) and we were off to the New Forest for lunch, en route to Lepe. And Katie and The Builder agreed! Was quite astonishing. At least, they agreed until Katie wanted to take us down a narrow, perilous, unmade road. We found an alternative route to that!

There are some fantastic views on the road between Shaftesbury and Sixpenny Handley. We stopped to admire Wiltshire and Dorset, laid out before us, glistening in the sunshine.

Lunch in the Red Shoot was very pleasant (though not the steak and stilton I was expecting – grilled rump, chips, mushrooms and salad. No need to book for the Talbot in BSJ for this evening, then!

We stopped at the deer watching platform. Just as the deer were being fed their lunch. Very clever of The Builder! Then on through The Forest to Lepe.

I had told Lindsey that Lepe is a sandy beach. And it is. But not when the tide is right up high and all you can see is the top of the beach shingle. A chocolate milkshake before proceeding (Ian has been yearning for an iced coffee, which you can’t get at the beach side cafes. He has fixed this problem by buying a chocolate milkshake and a short black coffee and adding them together. Not quite iced mocha! Then we went for a meander along the beach. And a soft whipped ice cream with flake before Lepe-ing back in the car and heading back.

The Builder and Katie more or less agreed about the way back as well. IT has to be said that The Builder wouldn’t have headed back into the Forest from Southampton, but it was a pretty drive. And Katie wanted to take us along some weird little tiny roads as we approached Salisbury. But more or less they were in agreement.

Our New Forest haul today was: horses and foals, cows, highland cows, deer and A PIG!!!! Mostly the pigs are released at the very end of summer to eat the acorns. I think this pig must have been an escapee from last summer. And it was Katie who found it for us. The pig was just into the Forest after Katie had turned is un there from Southampton.

So, it was a good day. Nice and sunny. Lots of animals. A pub. A beach. Lovely.

Or – it was a lovely day if you were Lindsey, Ian or me. The poor Builder didn’t have quite such a good time. We were sitting in the Vixen at Lepe beach, eating our ice creams when a small boy approached the car next to us and SCREAMED at the top of his voice for the rest of his people to hurry up. Yelled and screamed. “WHY CAN’T ANYONE HEAR ME?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?” The Builder retorted that he could hear him quite adequately. And the little boy turned round and told him to f*** off. I turned round to look at him – and found him looking quite abashed. A bit astonished that he’d actually said it. Then he looked around to see if his mum had heard. Fortunately for him, she hadn’t!

Then we took Ian to Waitrose. Lost him. Found him again. Lost him again. Eventually gathered him up and approached a checkout till. The Builder had put down his basket and was watching Ian make another escape attempt when a tall, elegant looking lady backed into him, towing her very full trolley backwards. Properly ran him over, she did. And rather than apologising, which is what normal people do, she shouted at him – because she had been intending to use that checkout. Now why she couldn’t wait is a mystery to me. WE only had a basket so weren’t going to be very long. But no. When The Builder (who had, after all ,been there first) refused to move she stormed off swearing at him. Never been sworn at in Waitrose before. And you don’t expect elegant, grey haired ladies to swear at you for getting to the checkout first! You’d think people would have better things to worry about!! After avoiding being run into by two other grey haired ladies who tried to drive into him while we were attempting to get out of the supermarket (we’d recaptured Ian) we headed directly home before anyone else could swear at or try to break The Builder. Plied him with vodka and wine and stir fired beef and he was happy!

Had a lovely walk this morning. Lindsey, The Builder and I went down to the pub to see what time it serves food in the evenings (we’ve decided to go on Thursday) and to see if there’s a bus (there is) and went for an amble down a little lane near the farm gate and found lots of lovely houses. It’s a beautiful village, is Berwick St John. Seems odd that there’s no shop, though. I’d have thought it was big enough to support a shop.

WEDNESDAY 1st August (How did that happen? What happened to June?)

I’ve been stroking cows!! Well, calves. Big calves. Ian was stood out on the steps to the barn this morning (only place you can reliably get mobile phone signals here). I took his coffee out to him. And a whole load of calves came over to the fence to see what we were doing. I stroked one on its nose and scratched it behind its ears and it licked me :-) I like cows!

We took ourselves off to Shaftesbury this morning with a view to visiting the library so we could reconnect Ian to the internet. Alas – the library is closed on Wednesdays!!! Ian is suffering technology withdrawal. We shall have to go to Salisbury and plonk him in Starbucks.

But first, I want a mooch about Shaftesbury. There are many interesting shops. There are nooks and crannies. And there is a pub where, quite some time ago, while in there for a mid afternoon pint I saw people eating prawns out of pint pots. I want to eat prawns out of pint pots! So we did. We sat outside on one of the terraced deckings in the sunshine and Lindsey, The Builder and I had pint sized beer glasses (with handle) filled with prawns on trenchers with slabs of brown bread and seafood sauce, accompanied by salad, washed down with a glass each of dry white wine. Was fantastic. Ian was there but, no doubt influenced by his technology withdrawal, had a burger with chips instead of a pint of prawns. It must be said, it really was lovely. The view from the terrace wasn’t bad either.

When I was packing to come away, my hand hovered over my pair of shorts. Don’t be ridiculous, thought I. It hasn’t stopped raining for weeks. You won’t need shorts. Then we got here, the sun came out, it’s been warm and bright, and we’ve been visiting beaches. I now have two new pairs of shorts and a pair of three quarter length trousers.

So. A(nother) mercy dash to Salisbury and Ian safely ensconced in Starbucks, Lindsey, The Builder and I went off to inspect the cathedral. Then we dragged Ian away from ether-space and removed to Whiteley where Jeanette, Matthew and Rebecca were expecting us for an evening barbecue. A very pleasant evening outside in the sunshine dDeating toasted pita bread and dips. Then more pita bread and dips while Ian and Matthew rushed off to B&Q to get more gas for the dying barbecue. I fear by the time the sausages and kebabs were ready, I was too full of pita and dips to do them justice. Mind you - Matthew does a fine toasted pita and dip selection. I was not unhappy :-)

We are now back in Berwick St John. My phone remains in Whiteley. I left it in the pocket of a cardie I borrowed from Jeanette as the temperature fell when the sun went down. Wednesday is my night for talking to Tony over the net. In the absence of a handy messenger, we rang him on my mobile phone. Then I automatically put it in the cardie pocket without particularly noticing. Poor phone. Abandoned in a cardie pocket :-(

I have a hippo. Jeanette, Matthew and Rebecca found it and bought it for me. It’s a large money box. Freyja’s hippo collection appears to be developing a colony in Tupton!

THURSDAY 2nd August

Ian disappeared off to Gloucester this morning, in the Vixen, leaving Lindsey, The Builder and me imprisoned in Swallow Cottage in the rain. No food or drink. Intolerable conditions. Nothing for it, then, but to wait patiently until 12:00 when the local pub opened and to repair there for a small spot of lunch. Luckily, the rain lifted at about that time too! It’s a nice pub is The Talbot. And the food is lovely. But it’s open funny hours (12-2, 6-11 and not on Sunday evenings or at all on Mondays). I very much enjoyed my salmon in prawn sauce. The Builder and Lindsey appeared to relish their steak and ale pies just as much.

Back to the cottage. We are, actually, quite short of milk and perhaps wine. Look at map. It is quite a step to Ludwell. I wonder what time the little bus goes? Amble down to the bus shelter to find out. Eeeek. 7 minutes before it’s due. Rush up to the cottage, grab The Builder and Lindsey, run back to the bus shelter. Wait for bus. Even then we nearly missed it – a van pulled up and was asking where he was on the map and the bus stuck its nose around the corner to see if anyone wanted it. We abandoned the misplaced van driver and waved the bus down.

We didn’t go to Ludwell, in the end. We decided to go right into Shaftesbury where we had a couple of hours before the next bus back. We ambled around and looked at the shops and some of the town. We went into the little museum. Our ticket allowed us into the Abbey gardens as well so we went to investigate. It was created by King Alfred for women; it’s first abbess was his daughter. There’s not much left of the abbey, but there is a rather nice herb garden. Then we realised that our couple of hours was nearly up and we still hadn’t got the milk or the wine. Acquired both and wandered back to the bus stop.

And so back to the cottage. Sat about for a bit, then I decided that there was an iron age hill fort behind us (not that I decided that – there was an iron age hill fort behind us; Winklebury camp) and that we should go up it. Off we went. Up we went. Slowly. Doing a Margaret quite frequently (stopping to look at the view, take photos etc, so called because Margaret used to stop to take photos of flowers for her flower census but which also allowed her to catch her breath). Nearly at the top. Oh no – there’s more beyond that apparent brow. Up we went. Up and up. OH NO -- this hill never ends. Now there’s an earth rampart to scale. But we made it. Feeling very glad that we hadn’t been the people who had to build the ramparts and defences. Fantastic views from the top though.

And back down. Plenty of nice exercise. I even got a bit of stitching done in the morning. Ian came back before 8pm and we had little tiny steaks with boiled potatoes and salad to use up as much of the food we had left. For we are moving on on Friday and I don’t want to bwe carrying food with us unnecessarily. The Vixen is not absolutely elastic when it comes to luggage space.

FRIDAY 3rd August

And it was a lovely morning. We were up and moving around reasonably early. Although we can stay in the cottage until 10:00 on Saturday morning, we are off to Cambridge this afternoon to see Taffa and Gaz and, we hope, Peter and Joan. In the meantime, we need to tidy the cottage, pack the car and take ourselves off to Salisbury. We finished all the fruit we had lying about for breakfast, said goodbye to the calves, packed the car and left shortly before the planned departure time. We were off to visit Old Sarum Castle and cathedral where Salisbury really began a very long time ago. I’m not sure really quite why the early Kings of England decided that Sarum Castle wasn’t after all sufficient for their needs and abandoned it, but the cathedral lying below the motte and bailey (and which was struck by lightning 5 days after it was first consecrated and had to be more or less rebuilt) was the victim of a battle between church and state and the self aggrandisement of the then bishop who thought it was Too Small. Certainly the “new” cathedral is very, very much bigger!

Ian found a cappuccino machine loitering in the car park on the way back to the car!

The intention had been then to do a drive by of Stonehenge with a quick dash into the shop to buy Stonehenge socks. Alas, the traffic was horrendous and the car park was virtually full – and we were due at The Builder’s parents place by 12:30. We drove by rather more quickly than we had intended, abandoned the sock idea and drove back into Salisbury by another way.

The Builder dropped us at the Yew Tree pub in the next village along from his parents and went to collect them. We’ve never been in – and it’s really lovely. And the food is magnificent. Really magnificent. I had sausages!!!!!!!!!!! They were on the board as award winning, specialty sausages and there was a choice of flavours. I had lamb and mint, pork and leek, and old Charlie (I didn’t enquire who Charlie had been!) with an enormous mountain of mashed potatoes and onion gravy. Lindsey had lasagne. Everyone else had steak, kidney and guinness pies. And very yummy it was too. Then The Builder took his folks home and Lindsey, Ian and I walked back in the sunshine. We must go there again – I would be interested to know what their Sunday lunches are like.

So. Now we need to make a dash to Portsmouth to collect my poor, abandoned phone. But no. First we need to go into Salisbury town so Ian can sort his tax out by Starbuck’s wifi and the post office. This involved The Builder in trying to keep out of the clutches of the parking inspectors as he loitered in no parking areas in the town centre. Eventually Ian’s communication with the Australian Tax Office was accomplished and we trundled to Portsmouth, collected my phone and turned around to head to Cambridge.

Have now spoken to Peter and Joan. We are visiting them tomorrow evening for dinner before heading home.

The most direct way to Cambridge was long the M3 and the M11. These, unfortunately, are connected by the M25 which no sensible person would use if there were choices. There wasn’t really any viable alternative. We decided to risk it. And it was very, very slow around Heathrow. But apart from that it wasn’t too bad really. At least it was moving! We got to Taffa and Gaz’s place almost exactly as they did, coming back from Taffa’s workplace.

Dinner in the Boathouse, sat outside overlooking the river. Another excellent pub experience. Lindsey, Tabitha and I had beef in Yorkshire wraps – flat Yorkshire puddings used as wraps around the roast beef. We had asked to have them with mashed potato rather than chips. The chef forgot. The manager came and apologised and said the matter was being rectified but that it meant our dinner would be a few minutes late. No worries. We were quite happy. The food when it did arrive was great. I could only eat half of my wrap. Very, very filling. Happily, The Builder managed to polish it off for me.

We’ve had lovely experiences in the pubs this week. Finger bowls when we’ve ordered seafood, apologies when things have gone slightly awry, chefs ambling around and seeing if we were happy. That chap in the Now Not Famous Red Lion could learn quite a lot from them. I wonder if he ever does go out and see what other pubs do?

Back to T and G’s place, where we found their pal Batch waiting for us. Inside for a nightcap or two, and so to bed. The poor Builder must have been knackered. He’s driven miles and miles and miles and miles today.

We noticed, as we were heading into Cambridge, that there were notices on the road announcing that some Agricultural Fair had been cancelled. Wondered, briefly, why that would be. There’s foot and mouth on a farm near Guildford. That would do it!

SATURDAY 4th August

We had a lovely day in Cambridge. It was sunny and shiny and warm and we sat outside in Tabitha and Gareth’s garden and ate sticky buns and played with the rabbits and pondered whether Batch had died overnight since he was sleeping soundly while all around him was chaos and mess and confusion.

Happily, he hadn’t.

So we wandered into town and pottered in the market and inspected the outside of the colleges and pottered about and walked around the back of Clare’s and down onto the Backs and ambled along the river and played by the canals and had wine in the Anchor and watched the punts playing dodgems and ate souvlaki on Jesus Green and walked some more and chatted and pottered and played. And the sun shone on us cheerily.

Then we went back to Tabitha and Gareth’s and they went to the pub to meet a pal and we sat outside in the garden in the sunshine until it was time to remove to Girton, leaving Tabitha, Gareth, Batch and the pal behind for Taffa and Gaz were having a party.

We were off to meet Joan and Peter for dinner at the Old Crown. They were in good health and spirits and seemed quite chirpy. Also pleased to see Lindsey and Ian. I think they thought we might not go and visit them. Unlikely, but there you go. And Peter hadn’t picked up his emails so hadn’t read the one from me asking if they would be At Home for a visit today. At least, he didn’t read it until Wednesday. Dinner in the Old Crown was fantastic. Ian says that his was possibly the best duck he had ever tasted. I have to say that my salmon salad wasn’t at all bad, either.

Then we left Joan and Peter and made our way back through the twilight to Tupton, where we found Marlo seriously lamenting. Tammy had been feeding him until Thursday afternoon when she went on holiday with her parents. Daniel was supposed to be taking over – but I’m fairly certain he hadn’t. There were too many sachets of food left if he had been fed on Friday or Saturday morning. And he gobbled up what I put down for him in no time flat.

Then he purred a lot!!!