Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Well, if you will buy a 5 year old van for the huge price of £2000 you expect to have to put some money up to get it back into fine fettle. And the van has been at the van hospital now for over a week, being restored to full and excellent health. It was previously a post office van, so I assume it was quite well looked after by the Royal Mail. The immediately previous owner, though, who has only had it a few months, according to the owner’s log book, seems to have given it a bit of a whacking. The heating wotsits were broken, which is why it wasn’t starting in the morning. They’ve been replaced, and it starts now. It had cloth rags tied around its oil pipes, either to prevent it being obvious that it had an oil leak or (being charitable, here) to minimise the impact of the oil leaks. I assume this has been fixed. It’s been for an interim MOT and has one or two little bits that need adjustment. All in the pipeline. The big problem, however, is that it smelled remarkably like that canal boat the Builder and I were on last spring. All fuel-ly. It was also going through diesel like nobody’s business. It therefore came as no surprise to me, at least, to discover that there was a problem with the fuel injector thingy. The bigger problem is trying to get it fixed. Nick the Mechanic has been having trouble getting it off. And it looks as though a new injector unit is called for. Still, better to get it organised now, get everything fixed, and trundle along for a long time with a happy, healthy van. (It still feels like a happy van to me).

I’ve had a long weekend off. I worked a silly number of hours Monday to Thursday last week so arranged to have Friday off in lieu, and this afternoon off as well (I’m at Psalter Lane at the moment, wrapped up in one of my cosy winter cardies – but still a bit on the chilly side. Might go and close all the windows in a bit. If that doesn’t help I might have to put my little heater on). It was a weekend of food and drink and shopping and markets and pottering. My kind of weekend, then!

The weekend also happened to coincide with the Chesterfield Market Festival. Nice! So we ambled in to Chesterfield on Friday, looking for a tax accountant for The Builder (which we failed to find), some market action, which we did find, and a general rummage around. We bought some new table lamps in one of the gift shops (a lot of the gift and craft type shops had tables with marked down stuff outside their windows). I had intended to put them in our bedroom, replacing the green ones The Builder brought with him and which don’t really go. When we got home I propped them in the dining room while I thought about other things. They looked so well in there, they’ve taken up permanent residence on the window sills. I’m going to need new, new ones for the bedroom! We poked around in the Chesterfield Department Store and bought some more blue towels for the bathroom. I bought some yellow, orange and red peppers in the market. I took a few steps into the Post Office, saw the queues and left again. We pottered around some more, then hopped back in the car and headed into Sheffield, so The Builder could visit Labour Ready and pick up his holiday pay (he, lucky boy, has been on leave this last week, while I have been slaving over hot classrooms!!). We had intended to have lunch somewhere, but by the time I thought about it properly, it was so close to dinner time it hardly seemed worth it. Poor, starving Frannie! Poor, knackered Frannie. I was in bed good and early, and asleep almost immediately. Didn’t stay asleep, alas. Woke up several times overnight. Not a restful sleep.

Saturday kind of felt like Sunday. We did lots of Sunday things. We went to Chatsworth for supplies – and acquired loads of stewing steak and braising steak and things for making autumn and winter casseroles and soups. We decided not to head into Bakewell for lunch but instead went to the Devonshire Arms in Beeley, a little hamlet on the way home. We usually go there for Sunday lunch but decided that a Saturday lunch would be pleasant. And it would have been. The Builder’s food was lovely. I’m sure my broccoli soup was lovely. Alas, it had so much salt in it that all I could taste was salt. And for some reason, my mussels in white wine, bacon and pea soup had also been quite heavily seasoned with salt. I’m not sure why you would think something with mussels and bacon needed extra salt; in my mind it emphatically didn’t. Wasn’t nice :-( I really must remember when we go out, to ask which are the lightly, even better un – salted dishes.

The clocks went back on Sunday morning, early. I was in bed even earlier on Saturday evening. Woke up at midnight (BST). And at 2 and, apparently irrevocably, at 3. At 4 (still BST – hadn’t changed the clocks yet) I despatched The Builder down for a Nice Cup of Tea. Twice! And then I finally did go back to sleep, waking with a definite sleep hangover at around quarter to 8 (GMT). So much for my extra hour in bed. I was still knackered!!!! Still – it was a nice, restful day in the end. It rained! Hasn’t rained for ages, at least, not properly. I had all but stopped taking rain into account when making plans for any given day. Meant we couldn’t do any of our garden things. So I cooked. I made a huge pot of braised steak and a smaller pot of steak and ale casserole and some beef stock and some pea, ham and potato soup and lots of lovely things to feed to the freezer. We had gin/vodka and tonic with our lunch and wine with our roast pork dinner and listened to Rutter and Shostakovich and Delius, and watched Songs of Praise on the telly – and watched The Coal House, which seems to be another series of those programs they do from time to time when people go and live as if they were in the second world war or in an Edwardian or Victorian house. This is a 1920s coal mining cottage terrace. Quite enjoyed it. Didn’t go to bed particularly early, but that’s because I dozed off in my chair! A really rather nice Sunday. I do like Sundays. She says – again!

And another quiet, peaceful morning today. You could get used to them! We ambled back into Chesterfield late-ish in the morning and had lunch in the Rutland Arms next to the church. I like the Rutland. It’s plain and inexpensive and good value, and I like the building. I had a chicken BLT which had no added salt (!!) and which was crammed full of bacon and chicken (and lettuce and tomato!). The chips were crispy. I could only eat half of it! We’ve visited the allotment and made Spring Garden plans and generally had a good day. The Builder isn’t really on holiday this week – the agency didn’t have any sensible work for him. So he told them he would take this week off as well – he has plenty to be doing at home. He’s taken out the bed by the back gate which was filled with ivy and a droopy tree. The earth has been wheel-barrowed down to the back fence. The ivy and tree thingy are in the recycling bin. He’s started concreting in the resultant elephant trap. There are lots of garden things he could be doing – assuming the weather stays dry.

The really exciting thing we did over the weekend, however, was to book our trip to Japan and Australia next April! We went to STA travel in Sheffield on Friday afternoon and they sorted it for us. I had intended to go to Japan for a week, then Australia for 10 or so days and then come home. It had crossed my mind that Austin can’t take time off during the week, and I wasn’t sure quite what we would do for all that time on our own. Then I thought – we could go for two weekends, there and back. And lo – it was do-able. Very exciting indeed. We leave Manchester on April 3rd and are back on April 23rd (I think), with just over a week in Melbourne in the middle.

I have just started listening to a Learn Japanese tape. So far I can say, with confidence, Good afternoon. I fear that the application for this might be a tad limited!! Can’t even confidently say good morning or good evening!

I seem to have all but finished my Christmas shopping. I am a bit worried. October hasn’t even finished yet and I’ve only got a couple of presents yet to get, and a few bits and pieces. I’ve done the Big food items and have even started planning my menus and things. Not my normal behaviour at all. It isn’t mid December is it?
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