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.

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