Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Builder was peacefully sleeping. Just before 1 this morning, he woke up. Goodness, thought he. What on earth is Marlo doing to make the bed shake so?

He couldn't find Marlo to make him stop, but the bed stopped shaking and he went back to sleep.

We woke at 5:30 this morning to the news that there had been a magnitude 5 earthquake centred on Market Rasen 60 miles away at just before 1 this morning! It had been felt all over the place. Chimneys had toppled. Roofs had fallen. One person had to be taken to hospital but there have been no serious injuries.

Very exciting! But I don't know what on earth The Builder thought Marlo could have been doing to have cause quite such excitement and chaos.

Poor Marlo!

I slept through it all. I doubt that the four horsemen of the Apocalypse could wake me if I happened to be properly asleep when they came to call!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Alas - poor Freyja

Right. The radio’s come on. Rise and shine. Make the tea. Rush about. Get showered and dressed. Hurry, hurry …

But it’s Saturday. I’m not working. The Builder isn’t working. And even if we were working, we never need to be up and moving by 6am on a Saturday.

Today we do, however. We need to be at Freyja’s place by about 7:30 and it takes about half an hour when there is no traffic.

Mind you – there is a great deal to be said for driving through Woodseats at 7:30 in the morning. There is no traffic at all! It’s almost unheard of for us to pass through all the traffic lights without having to stop!

So, there we were, outside Freyja’s flat just after 7:30, where she was sat in the window watching out for us. Much worse for her than for us. She works 4-midnight and hadn’t been to bed until 2 am and had to be up by 7. As did Mark. They came down to the car armed with pillows!

So where were we all going at such an ungodly hour on a Saturday morning? We were off to the Crewe campus of Manchester Metropolitan University (Cheshire) where Freyja had been offered a place for September to study American Popular Culture, combined with a minor in Film and Television. We were all off to an Open Day to find out all about it. I was armed with a big, thick book, just in case it was all really dull!

It’s a lovely drive from Sheffield to Crewe. It meanders through the Peak District and then across the Derbyshire and Cheshire countryside. Lots of things for us to explore when Freyja and Mark move there in September. Hope it isn’t absolutely always as misty as it was yesterday morning!

We arrived in plenty of time for the Open Day. Even more so because the 9:30 kick off was for registration and refreshments. The main event didn’t start until 10:30. Freyja went to register, only to find that she wasn’t on the list of attendees. Which was odd, because she had confirmation details that she was on the list, plus, of course, had all the information.

Then – CALAMITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They told her that she should have received a letter telling her that the American Popular Culture course had been cancelled for lack of applicants. They were very sorry she hadn’t received the letter but since she was there perhaps she could consider do the Film Studies course combined with one of these other options. Abuse Studies, perhaps? Crime Studies? Oooo – Geography.

Alas, Freyja only wanted to do the American Popular Studies course. She had quite specifically applied for this course because that was entirely what it was – no history or politics or sociology attached, which is what was on offer at other Universities offering American Studies. No University course for Freyja in September :-(

Nothing for it but to turn around and go home, then. Although – they had given us vouchers for lunch. We spent them on breakfast instead. Freyja and Mark had veggie sausages, potato hash browns and toast. The Builder and I had baked beans and eggs on toast. And we all had cups of tea. If MMU (Cheshire) was going to drag us all the way over to Crewe at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning for no obvious purpose – then we were going to have breakfast at their expense!!

Poor Freyja. This is the second time she’s been thwarted in her ambition to go and study in America. She tried before, you may remember, when she was 18 and in Australia and was applying for an exchange program and was told when the whole thing was pretty much organised that she missed the age deadline by one month.

We dropped Freyja and Mark back at their place and then made our way back to Tupton. We had lunch in the Telmere Arms – where we had last eaten on New Year's Eve and my fishy crumble was too salty. They’ve cut back on the amount of salt they put in their food since then. To practically nothing!!

I had Friday off. By ten thirty I had cleaned the house from top to bottom so that it was all squeaky, shiny clean. And I stood on the end of the vacuum cleaner and broke it. I’m beginning to think I really ought not to clean anything ever again!

Right. Off to get dressed. The Builder and I are heading to the allotment before the grey, threatening clouds actually deliver rain!

Friday, February 22, 2008

It hasn’t half been cold – though not as cold as it was on Monday morning. Mercifully. But cold enough.

Yesterday, as we were driving from Chesterfield to Sheffield, everything was covered in white. It looked as though someone had gone around and dusted each tree, shrub, piece of grass in very feathery snow. It wasn’t snow – it was rime and it was very, very beautiful. Absolutely everything was white. Except, fortunately, the road, which had been gritted and was ice free.

I have been reading a book. If you can lay your hands on it, you should read it too. It appealed hugely to my inner Grumpy Old Woman. It’s called Talk to the hand: the utter bloody rudeness of everyday life (or six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door). It’s by Lynne Truss, she who wrote Eats, shoots and leaves. It’s really very funny, but did rather draw to my attention this morning, when I got onto a very crowded train, that the mother with the ten year old, or so, son, sat him on the only available seat and not herself or, indeed, any of the other adults on the train. When did children not only stop standing up for adults, but become the priority for seating? I didn’t say anything. I just kept reading my book about rudeness and incivility and grumbled a bit into m’beard! Freyja should definitely read it. It will certainly appeal to her inner Grumpy Old Woman. She’s been complaining that the Feoners (is that how you spell it, Freyja?) never say please or thank you. There’s a whole chapter in this book on people not saying please or thank you. Plus, I have tracked down a copy of The elephant and the Bad Baby for her to leave lying about at work. Not that it was difficult to track down. We teach teachers and have a vast collection of children’s books upstairs.

I’ve been at work since 10:00 this morning :( I can’t go home until 9:00 this evening :( Everyone is sick :-( Bea is downstairs being Richard. I am upstairs being Rod. I couldn’t take this morning off, even though I thought it likely I would be covering this evening, because I had already arranged appointments for students to come and visit me this morning. On the plus side – this does fantastic things to my hours. And - I get the whole of tomorrow off. I’ve got another long day on Monday and had arranged to have tomorrow off to compensate for that. This was before I realised someone was going to have to cover tonight as well. But that’s three whole days off in a row :-)

It’s been much less cold today. Now we have wind and damp instead. It is, of course, February, but that was a cold snap that harks back to cold winters from decades ago (apparently). It’s never that cold any more. Well, apart from this week, of course.

Oh. And Freyja says they’re not called Feoners. They’re Fee Earners. Which makes much more sense, but isn’t half as romantic. Really, they’re lawyers. Feoners was so much more evocative. Actually, for a long time I thought Freyja was saying Fiona. But then I thought – and realised that the entire team of lawyers couldn’t *all* be called Fiona. It could hardly be a condition of employment – you can have the job, but only if you change your name and are henceforth for ever called Fiona!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It’s been quite a foody few days.

We came back from Cambridge last weekend with loads of things for Freyja. I took them into work on Monday, fully intending to call by her place and drop them in. This, I hasten to add, was a 2-9 shift, not an arriving at half past seven in the morning. Even with hippos, toys and promite, I don’t think she’d be very happy to see me at that time of the day. Alas. I got to the work car park and realised I still had all her stuff with me. We arranged to meet for lunch.

And on Friday, we did. She had the day off and came into town, inspected my new desk in the new office, then off we headed to the Blue Moon cafe, which is a vegetarian eatery up by the cathedral. They do really nice food. It is also very popular. We were lucky to get a table! I think the fact that we did is that lots of people don’t know there’s a small upstairs bit as well!

Freyja and her new belongings walked me back towards the Learning Centre. As we passed along Fargate (it was half term in Sheffield last week), we saw two of the tiniest Shetland ponies I think I have ever seen, advertising some children’s charity. Freyja made a small donation so we could pat the ponies.

Then I went back to work, and she went off to play.

I was working till 6 on Friday. By the time I got home, it was getting late. I made a chicken “pizza” style pie. I didn’t have any mozzarella, so I used half the haloumi I had bought for Sunday. I must get some more. I don’t think half is going to be enough!

Neither of us was working on Saturday. There was nothing really pressing to do. We had a nice, leisurely start to the day. The morning dawned cold and freezing and frosty, and blue and sunny. Was lovely. The Builder took the Vixen for new rear tyres (only got 34k miles from them! I don’t know, tyre companies these days!!!!!) and then he took himself off for a hair cut. In the meantime, I pottered about at home, did the washing and ironing, scared the fox, which was peacefully sleeping right down at the very, very back of the garden, behind on of the grass mounds (I had merely wandered down to the patio and was gazing across. Little ears appeared, followed by little eyes, followed by a fox making its way rapidly out of the garden. At least I know now how it gets in; there’s a gap behind the huge rubbish heap between our fence, Steve and Debbie’s fence and Next Door Down The Back’s fence, It’s not very big, but it’s easily big enough for a fox) – anyway, where was I. Oh yes. Generally tidying up and Being Useful. We went and acquired more haloumi amongst other things. Amongst those other things, somewhat to my surprise, was a tin of Ye Old Oak (or some such) ham, requested by The Builder. Not something I would eat. Certainly not at the moment, given that I don’t eat mammals during Lent. But not at any time.

He had some on a piece of nice bread for his lunch. He didn’t go much on it. He says he thinks the recipe has changed. I think his taste has changed. He almost never eats rendered, reconstituted meat filled with salt, water, fat and sugar. I gave some to Marlo. He looked at me as though I was wantonly trying to poison him!

The Builder went off to work off his lunch digging a new potato bed on the allotment. I, beset by an amazing coffing fit, stayed at home and pottered some more. No digging for me. I wish this cough/cold would either make me feel ill so I have an excuse to stay home, or GO AWAY!

We had a rather nice casserole on Saturday evening - chicken thighs done in South East Asian spices, sherry, chicken stock and soya sauce. I usually make it with pork belly, but the chicken thighs work equally as well. It's nice at the moment; there are still lots of proper winter vegetables in season, but some of the very early spring ones are starting to appear. Won't be all that long before it's asparagus season again :-)

On Sunday, Penny, Steve, Joseph (nearly 7) and Imogen (4) came for lunch. They’ve not been since we moved in. Penny is now sufficiently recovered to be able to get out more and we were very excited that they were coming. Joseph brought The Builder a little envelope of things he had made. Imogen gave each of us a bracelet that she had made. Penny and Steve brought a beautiful, frilly hellebore for the garden. And we ate: home made pumpkin and marscapone ravioli in a pumpkin and vegetable broth (the children had home made spaghetti with peas and cheese); roasted winter vegetables with haloumi and Yorkshire puddings (the children had bubble and squeak patties with chips) and steamed marmalade pudding with marmalade sauce and cream (the children had chocolate ice cream with hundreds and thousands and a sugar animal face on top. I did not make those!). The pudding didn’t cook as well as I would have liked (a new, American recipe that I won’t use again) but the marmalade sauce (from the same recipe) was lovely.

At 7am, the garden thermometer announced that it was something like -9d. By the time we all went out to play in the garden at about 3pm, it was a rather more balmy 5 or 6d. The sun shines on enough bits of the garden to melt the water in some of the buckets and butts so that the ice floats free. Joseph and Imogen had a very merry time trying to get the ice (about 5 cm thick) out of their receptacles and fling them about on the brick paths. They do make a very satisfactory sound when they smash! We got a HUGE slab of ice out of the water butt by the back door. That smashed really magnificently. Then we (the children, The Builder and I) decide that our hands were wet and cold, so we all went back inside. The children played Hungry hippo and did a junior map jigsaw I have. Then around 4pm they all went away. The Builder and I sat down for a glass of wine and I decided that I might make a start on the washing up. At the very least, the plates and bowls and things. By about 8pm I had done it all and made The Builder a suppery snack. Then I retired to bed, nice and early, having worked and played very hard during the day.

It is just as well that I washed the dishes last evening!

The Builder rolled out of bed when the radio came on at 5:30 this morning and went down to make the tea. He came back upstairs to report that we had left the kitchen window slightly ajar and the kitchen was now doing a sterling impersonation of a large meat freezer. Ah – and there’s no hot water. We drank the tea, then went down to investigate. No water indeed. The pipes must be frozen. Bugger. I braved the freezy, frozey temperatures and went out with the torch to see what the thermometer on a pole in the middle of the garden had to say for itself. It said that it was MINUS ELEVEN DEGREES!!!!!!! I hastened back inside very hastily! The Builder took the remains of the hot water from the kettle and went out to try and thaw the only outside tap/pipe we have. It appeared, however, that this was not the problem.

The problem lay in the house next door, through which our water is piped. It is, of course, empty (though I think they have the heating on). They do not, however, have heating on in their outhouse, which has a working outside loo in it. The loo was frozen solid. And the water pipe which supplies the outhouse is also the pipe which supplies our place :-(

Fortunately, I am on a late shift today. The Builder set off for work. I rang the water board. They were very sorry, but didn’t see that there was much they could do if it was only us affected. I rang back a bit later to supply further information. The woman I spoke to suggested I contact the estate agents (what estate agents? The house is empty, not up for sale). She suggested I should thaw the pipes with a hair dryer (how?) and lag the pipes. Lag the pipes? It’s not my house. I can’t just go round lagging somebody else’s house! Well then, perhaps the sun will defrost it. Sigh. The outhouse faces North and gets NO sun at all at this time of year.

I rang The Builder. He arranged to come home at lunch time – he has a huge, outside extension cable on his van. I have a hair dryer. Though it was going to take a very long time to defrost the toilet with a hair dryer! I rang Peter and told him I was likely to be late in. Sigh!

About lunch time, the water board rang to see how I was getting on. A much more useful conversation this time. The bloke actually seemed to understand what I was saying. He suggested putting a fan heater into the outhouse, if we had an extension cord. We don’t actually have a fan heater, but we do have a portable radiator with a fan. The Builder put that in there when he got back and shut the door.

In the meantime, I had been speaking to Debbie next door on the other side and she had given me a kettle of water. They have just headed off for five days fun and hedonism at Butlins in Skegness. Before they went, they sent Tammy round with a spare key to their place, so we can get water if it happens again (the forecast is for more of the same for another few days). Aren’t they lovely?

Took about twenty minutes for the radiator to do its work. Suddenly there was a crack and a clunk and the sound of running water in the kitchen, where I had left the cold tap on as an indication of watery-ness. HOORAY!!!!! The Builder rescued the radiator and extension cord. He also found an old doona in the rubbish heap in their garden. He’s wrapped that around the toilet to keep it warm, and closed the outhouse (nearly put icehouse!!) door. But at least we know what to do if it happens again. Not that I fancy mucking about with extension cords, radiators and rubbish heaps at 5:30 on a cold and frosty morning!

I looked out the window at Psalter Lane at about quarter to six this evening. The sky was bright orange. Completely bright orange. It was very beautiful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Fantastic Sunday

The Terracotta Army exhibition at the British Museum was - ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS!!!!!!

We dropped Taffa and Gaz off close to Forbidden Planet, where they were passing the day working, and drove to the Cambridge station to take the train to London. All day parking on Sundays is a mere £1. A bargain rate :-) The express trip to London is only 45 minutes so we hit town in really good time for the exhibition, which we had 1:30 tickets for. It was a beautiful day, and really quite mild so we walked through Bloomsbury to the BM and sussed out where the exhibition was. The sandwich bars in the Great Court were very busy (the museum was very busy, come to that – if we come down for the Hadrian exhibition in the autumn I think we might take a day off work and come mid-week) and, in any case, I didn’t really want a sandwich. We had about 50 minutes before 1:30, so we mooched off in search of lunch. The museum does have a restaurant which does proper food, but we thought it might also be a tad busy and in any case I’m not sure where it is after the massive reorganisation of a few years ago, so we went to one of the pubs across the road. A pub which probably does quite nice food. Everyone else seemed happy. Only our gammon, egg, tomato, mushrooms and chips failed to materialise. When it did after we enquired about its health, it was quite clear that they had completely forgotten about it – everything was cold and soggy apart from the gammon and egg! And we had about 3 microseconds to scoff it before we had to leg it back to the museum for the exhibition.

I bought the tickets for this exhibition back at the beginning of September. The Builder had been bemoaning the fact that the weather was perfect allotment digging weather and we were bobbing about in London. We had to scoff our lunch to get to the exhibition within the ten minutes we had allocated for entry. I don’t care. It was worth every penny, worth every day we had been waiting, worth all the time I spent hunting for weekend tickets on the internet (tickets sold out almost as quickly as they were released), worth the £7 for the audio guide, worth EVERYTHING. There was a display about the First Emperor and the history of the discovery of the warriors, with loads of fascinating information. There were about half a dozen representative terracotta warriors, plus some horses and a charioteer, and some administrators, an acrobat and a strong man. There was a facsimile of a half life-sized chariot made in bronze with a team of four bronze horses. The original is too thinly beaten and too frail to travel. There were some bronze birds which they discovered in 2001 in a cavern with an underground stream running through it. Amongst the birds are terracotta musicians. Archaeologists think that in life the emperor had birds which were trained to dance to the musicians’ music. And if you are going to build an eternal empire underground then you obviously need adequate entertainment! The warriors were magnificent. The horses were beautiful. And the bronze crane, swan and goose were glorious. So a taste of what the actual site contains. I want to go to China now to look at the whole thing. I have added it to my list of things to do, after going to Morocco by train.

Actually, I have discovered that a proper guided tour of China (I know I don’t care for guided tours, but we are not going to China on our own – I want someone in charge who knows what they’re doing *and* speaks Chinese!) with excursions to the Terracotta Army, Forbidden City, Great Wall and various other important touristy things is not all that expensive. I shall start saving up – after I’ve saved up for Morocco. Which I shall start doing when we get back from Japan and Australia.

Anyway. Back to Sunday. We emerged from the exhibition to find that we had quite a bit of the afternoon ahead of us, so we headed off to Covent Garden for a visit to the Australia Shop and for a potter about. They’ve moved the Australia Shop! Tabitha discovered it’s new address, but I, of course, didn’t actually know where Maiden Lane is – apart from not all that far from where the Australia Shop used to be. Now why, I wonder, did we ask a stray passing policeman where it was (he didn’t know and had to look it up; fortunately he had a London A-Z with him) when I had Jenny in my back pack. Jenny would have known. And she would have given us walking directions! Anyway, stocked up with Promite for Freyja and a violet crumble for Taffa, we wandered lazily around, then made our way back to King’s Cross for the train back up to Cambridge, stopping and the Marquis Cornwallis for a pint on the way.

Just as well we hadn’t planned to go to Camden Market. It seems to have burned down on Saturday night :-S

We collected Taffa and Gaz from a pub near Forbidden Planet, went back to their place to collect my seafood, which had been left to keep cool in their fridge, then headed back to Chesterfield. The seafood, it had to be said, smelled very fishy, and seemed a bit gooey. We discovered, when we got home, that the langoustines, which were only half cooked, had Gone Off :-( They have been binned. The cooked prawns and the raw scallops and crevettes survived and are now bedded down in the freezer.

We got home to find Marlo on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD from our place!!!!!!!! I’ve never seen him over there before, though I think he must have been before. He appeared down a driveway as the car pulled up and sat by a wall waiting for us to get out of the car. I hope he knows that police cars with sirens and blue lights have right of way over road crossing cats! (One had torn down the road just as we arrived)

I had a teaching session last evening, 6-7:30. 25 students, the lecturer said. At 5 past 6 the 20 students who were there and I started looking at electronic books. At quarter past, an avalanche of another 20 or so students poured into the room (having not been able to find it). Five minutes later another 15 students poured in. The PC lab I was using only has 27 PCs, and only 35 chairs. We aren’t supposed to have any more people than that in the room. It was an absolute shambles. There were students everywhere, sat on the desks, squished on the floor, sardined in at the back of the room, standing. I had to abandon my hands-on session, give them a quick demo and send them out into the library to have a go while I sat on the help desk to answer questions and sort out problems. I think most of them went home. As I would have done in their place. I wasn’t happy. Had I known there were going to be upward of 70 students I could have planned accordingly!

That fox is making itself at home in our garden. I was in yesterday morning and watched it making its way around with confidence, clearly knowing where things were. The water in the bucket by the shed was frozen, so it went to the bird bath. The water in that also was frozen, so it went to the fish pond. Too frozen on that side, so it went round to the other where the water was much less frozen. It kind of blew on it till a little hole appeared and then there was water to drink. Clever!!

The days are getting noticeably longer. It was getting light this morning as we left home, and was light enough to read ten minutes later. And it’s only just dark when we get home in the evening. Another week or two and it won’t be dark at all.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A visit to Ely

We are in Cambridge with Taffa and Gareth at the moment. We came down on Friday evening, cleverly avoiding all the chaos on the roads and making quite remarkably good time, given that we left after work on a Friday and a Friday which happened to be the start of half term for most local education authorities (oddly, not Derbyshire which is next week).

Yesterday dawned sunny and surprisingly mild to say that it is still quite early in February. So we wandered into town and hit the market. The seafood stall was there!!!!!!! I've got two pints of shrimps, four langoustines, two large crevettes and 300g of scallops loitering in the bottom of Taffa's fridge. Plus I have two HUGE loaves of bread and this week's veg in the car. And we had Chelsea buns and croissants and yummy things for breakfast from the baker's stall. I've bought a little vase from the arts and craft market and we generally had a good potter about.

So. What to do for the afternoon. I would dearly like to go to Flag Fen, which is a Bronze Age centre, but that's closed until March. We considered going to Wicken Fen, which is a wildlife centre and parklands - but we're not sure if it was open. The website gave opening hours for 1/11-31/1 and then from 11/2-1/3. We could, of course, have driven past to see but it's quite close to Ely and The Builder and I have never been to Ely. We decided to go there instead and save the outside things up for the summer.

The centre of Ely is *lovely*. First things first, though - lunch. No one knew anything about the pubs in Ely so we picked one at random. If you should ever find yourself in or even near Ely you must, you simply must have lunch in the King's Arms. The food is freshly prepared, freshly cooked and NOT covered in huge clomps of salt. Taffa, The Builder and I had proper, real Whitby scampi. Gaz had meltingly soft and tasty gammon. It was just lovely. Taffa, The Builder and I shared a bottle of pinot grigio. Gaz had a pint of Black Sheep. Then we set off to explore.

We very much enjoyed our visit to Oliver Cromwell in his house near the cathedral. It's a lovely building. The kitchen (which I thought was beautiful) is 12th century in parts. All the doors are tiny - even Gaz and I didn't fit under some of them without ducking. One of the rooms has wooden swords and hobby horses and real metal helmets and cloaks and dresses and things dotted about. The Builder shouted at me for playing with them :-( He had forgotten that the woman who sold us the tickets had said there was a dress up room if we wanted to play!

Then we went to the Ely and Fen museum in the old gaol. That was quite fun too - though not as much fun as dressing up as a roundhead soldier and skewering The Builder with a sword!

We decided not to stick our heads into the cathedral. I didn't want to pay £5 each just for a quick look - and for £12 you get to inspect the cathedral, the tower, the stained glass museum and have a cup of tea in the refectory. We'll keep that for another day. On the way back to the car, Gaz noted that the Edinburgh Woollen Mill was having a sale. I don't ordinarily buy my clothes in the EWM, but they had a lovely shirt and jumper and a pair of purple trousers that just seemed to cast themselves into my hands. The Builder bought them for me. My wallet, alas, was back at the house in my coat pocket!

And then we trundled back to Cambridge, ready for dinner in Fen Ditton at the Crown. We hadn't booked and it was very busy. So we sat in the bar with a bottle of wine and waited for a table to become available. We've been to the Crown before for a pint on a river walk and noted the menu and had it on our list of places to try. And it was well worth the wait. The food was lovely (slow roasted lamb shoulder for Taffa and me; sirloin steak for Gaz and The Builder, lovely mash and vegetables all round). And the waiter provided immense entertainment by tripping up the stairs when clearing another table and showering us in broken plates, bowls and other bits of crockery. Funnily enough, the last time we were there, there was entertainment of an emergency nature when one of the radiators burst. I wonder if they do this sort of thing all the time?

My step meter (well, Lindsey's step meter - she left it here last August and I've been using it) has committed suicide :-( It jumped off the band of my trousers and leapt into one of the toilets at work (before I had used the toilet!). I fished it out, but it was all drowned and soggy and blank screened. I think it was protesting about the number of stairs it was having to count now that I have moved permanently down to the Level 2 office and the folks from the Level 3 office have temporarily moved up to Level 6 while the burst pipe on the Level 3 ceiling is repaired. I won't use the lifts. They are inclined to eat the students. So far they have not eaten me - but you never know!

Right. The Builder and I are shortly off to London. Taffa and Gaz are off to work in Forbidden Planet, where Tabitha is the shop manager and Gaz works sometimes as a casual. He's got a job in a new school starting after Easter. Instead of being an hour's drive away, it's a mere ten minute walk away. He's rather looking forward to that!

The sun is shining. The sky is shiny blue. It's cold and frosty. A lovely day for a trip to the British Museum. More anon!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

It is really quite something to wander down to the orchard in order to hang the washing out, and to find a fox curled up in the sunshine under the apple tree. I’m not sure whether I made it jump or it made me jump the more. It certainly seemed surprised to see me. It’s been about quite a bit this last week. I’ve been at home quite a bit in the mornings (working late so going in late) and our garden seems to be part of its morning routine. We are fairly sure it’s coming in over the fence from the garden next door down the back (so not our immediate neighbours’ garden which is more of a courtyard). I assume it’s getting in there from the farm. But we’ve found the track it uses once it gets over our fence. I don’t suppose it’s doing any harm and the cat isn’t fazed by it. But it’s just as well the chickens haven’t arrived yet. The Builder will have to build them a concrete, fox-proof bunker with little windows so they can see out. No free-ranging for them!

I had my hair cut on Saturday morning. I rang the hairdresser in Nether Green – only to be told that my regular hairdresser has moved to Peterborough. Bit of a way to go, just for a haircut. So I went to the local place and had a serviceable cut for £8.50. Quite a lot less than Leslie used to charge. The Builder went into Chesterfield on the bus, making the most of his Oldie’s free bus pass. His intention was to have a haircut at the barber there and then to go and have my eco-friendly cleaning product bottles refilled at the organic food shop. He got to the barber’s shop – and it isn’t there any more. Do you think it was something we said?

After lunch we trundled down to Salisbury for a weekend’s eating, drinking and making merry. Barb, you may remember, had to have her cat Beejay put down just before Christmas. She now has two 8 month old black mischief makers in residence, so we called around on Saturday evening to meet them. And to have dinner. And, of course, to see Barb. The kitties are very cute – and very wearying. I’m so glad that Marlo doesn’t rampage around like that any more. Marlo hardly moves at all, really!

We had hoped to take The Builder’s parents to Portsmouth on Sunday to visit Jeanette, Matt, Rebecca and Evie. Alas, The Builder’s father is not in good health and didn’t feel fit to travel. He’s on antibiotics which I think are making him feel a bit queasy. And he’s only been on them a day or two and they hadn’t quite kicked in. So we went and had morning tea with them at their place instead. I have to say, the smell of the lamb shanks gently roasting in the kitchen was very tempting! But we were due in Whiteley, so off we trotted down for roast chicken and roasted vegetables. Evie has grown – as you would hope she would have done. She’s not quite 5 months old. Then – we walked to Matt’s parents’ place for afternoon tea. Mike and Rosie have moved to a house round the corner, through the woods and round another corner from Jeanette and Matt. I think Mike misses the space – they’ve moved from a small farm to a small garden. I don’t think he misses the work that having a farm entails, though! So much food! So we drove home as full as a goog. I don’t think the thought of eating ever again was particularly enticing on Sunday evening! Though I have, of course, eaten things since then.

Ooooo. I meant to tell you. I did my last observed teaching session for my PGC last week. It was a staff training event – so I had an engaged, motivated group of people who I knew would play ball. On the other hand, I also had handed myself the opportunity to make a complete idiot of myself if it all went horribly wrong, and in front of colleagues and other members of staff. And for the Built in assessment part of the session I got a merit. For the paperwork I also got a merit. But for the actual teaching itself - I got a DISTINCTION!!!!!!! I was oh-so, oh-so excited :-)

The sun is shining. It’s a beautiful day. It’s actually quite warm for February. Why am I in my concrete bunker?