Friday, May 29, 2009

It is not normal, when the barrier alarm goes off and passing students are invited to present their library books for inspection, for them to clutch the books tightly to their chests and refuse. It is remarkably uncommon, once they have been asked again to show their library books, accompanied by the explanation that sometimes The Machine misses the odd book, for students to yell loudly at the staff at the reception desk. Table thumping is rare. So too is finger pointing and waggling. Rarer still does it come to the point where management and then Senior Management have to be called in. I can recall no occasion on which a member of SHU security has been called across under such circumstances, resulting in a startlingly loud and protracted slanging match on the part of security and any student. In fact, I don’t remember any occasion on which I have heard any of the security staff yelling forbiddingly at any student. Never have I seen a member of faculty staff called across to help, nor a complete impasse with staff huddled around the reception desk and student slumped against the wall, obdurately refusing to budge, hand over books or in any way cooperate.

It would be considered remarkable and worthy of several days gossip were you to return to the reception desk after having ambled off and had your lunch and a cup of tea and done one or two things to find the student resolutely obdurate and surrounded by studently friends counselling common sense, all the aforementioned staff still around the reception desk but now complemented by the addition of two police officers. And it would be considered absolutely astounding if a third police officer were to arrive and between them they were to lift and carry the screaming, kicking and wriggling student out the door and shove them into a divvie van and cart them away, still screaming, all because one book had failed to check out properly.

What almost always happens is that the alarm goes off, the student is invited to present their books for inspection, the book that has been missed by the machine is identified and checked out and the student goes merrily on their way.

My version is much more enlivening for a somewhat dull Wednesday afternoon though

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Trying to lose The Builder's mum!

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and cheerful. We were at The Swan in Stoford in readiness for taking Gwen out for the day, having come down on Saturday evening. We were meeting her mid-morning and heading to Stourhead, which is a National Trust House, gardens and parkland near Warminister. She had never been. The Builder said that he also had never been, although I am absolutely certain that he and I (and, I think, Barb) went for a (very brief) wander around the top part of the parkland three or so years ago. Anyway. No matter. None of us had had a proper mooch around and Sunday seemed a perfect day for it. Off we went.

Stourhead is wheelchair friendly, if a little steep in parts. Made The Builder puff pushing Gwen up the steeper hills!

As we were mootling along I paused to look at a sign which was quite clearly telling us not to do something. The only question was – what? Red circle with a line diagonally through it. Yup. But what are these pictograms? Look like pictures of watering cans to me, but that seems entirely unlikely. Why would anyone come to wander in the Stourhead parklands armed with a watering can? And if the gardeners wish to wander armed with watering cans, that seems only reasonable. Oh well. Whatever it is they don’t want us to do it’s unlikely to be anything we were planning to do anyway so it doesn’t matter.

On we trundled. The path we were going down became really very steep. Just as well we were going down rather than up, for it was also quite gravelly. In fact, strictly speaking it was stony rather than gravelly and the wheels weren’t turning so much as skidding. It would have been very hard to push the wheelchair up it. Not only that, the path was very uneven, there were pot holes. And there were gutters running across it that were Very Deep Indeed. Very, very hard to get the wheelchair across them - and we couldn’t get Gwen out of the wheelchair and ask her to step across the guttering because the path was much, much too uneven for her to walk on even a step or two. The path got steeper. The Builder held on hard, brakes on tightly. If at any point he had stumbled and let go, Gwen would have gone SWOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH and over, down into the lake – never to be seen again. I think we would have got into trouble if we’d completely lost her!

Eventually we got down to the bottom, to the wheelchair friendly paths. There was another “No watering cans allowed” sign at the bottom of the path. I went to inspect it. A VERY close inspection revealed tiny, tiny wheels at the bottom of the watering cans. They are clearly intended to be interpreted as a pushchair and a wheelchair. Still look like watering cans to me! I do feel that sign should have been a lot clearer. Fortunately, Gwen and The Builder thought it was a huge joke!

Thereafter we stayed on the nice flat paths around the lake!

What to do after lunch? The sun was still shining. We decide to call into Farmer Giles’ Petting Farmstead. I got to feed lambs and tickle a pig and talk to ponies and chickens and bunnies. We had a nice stroll around. But it wasn’t really very exciting. It was a pleasant enough way to spend half an hour but not worth anything like the £5.50 it cost to get in. For £5.50 I would expect to be there for a couple of hours and have lots of things to see and do.

We took Gwen home and repaired to the Swan where we passed a pleasant evening having a drink in the riverside garden and dinner in the bar. We did not, you will observe, go home to The Sidings. We went to bed upstairs at The Swan.

They’re refurbing the bedrooms. Carl gave us a sneak preview of the one finished one. It’s VERY swanky!

Monday was a holiday. And, in spite of the doomsayers’ predictions for rain, rain and more rain in the Portsmouth area, it was a beautiful day by the time we arrived and Jeanette and Matthew’s place for lunch. Such a beautiful day that we all decamped outside and had our lunch and conversation and merriment on their decking. Evie kept looking at me in that very suspicious way you watch people that you think might be about to eat you. So I took her shoe off and tickled her foot and that was OK.

And then we came back to The Sidings. And yesterday The Builder went back to work. I did not. The University was closed for an extra day. And the sun shone and all the washing dried and nearly all the ironing got done. I tried to weed the strawberries but was attacked by a bunch of pissed-off ants. I am mildly allergic to ant bites so I left them to it and went and weeded the (mercifully ant-free) asparagus bed. I pottered in the greenhouse and put the fish stickers up and meandered around the Internet and made rhubarb and custard party pies and generally had a nice time. The Builder came home and we went to the allotment for a bit. We had dinner and some wine. And now here I am, back in the office, about to try and do Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday things all in the one day. Sigh!

Looking forward to August. I have August off. Can I have September, October and November off too? What? Yes – of course on full pay. Tut!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

26th May

We have not been making a whole lot of progress with the garden or allotment lately. The potatoes are all coming up - although I didn't plant them deeply enough and they keep literally coming up and have to be replanted!

On Saturday we went up to the allotment and planted out a whole bed of broad beans (for it is getting a bit late for Broad beans) and half a bed of peas. I have lots more peas to plant.

The tomatoes I broadcast sowed in the greenhouse have, to my surprise, germinated. There are a couple of gaps, but I've got some seeds underway in the greenhouse back at the house.

The soya beans are flatly refusing to germinate. So while we were in Salisbury I called at the Wilton Garden Centre and bought a new packet. I also bought two Cape Gooseberry seedlings for the greenhouse that doesn't have tomatoes in it!

Otherwise - everything is looking somewhat overgrown. We must find time to get out and sort things out!

Oh - and my sweet potato root now has lots of shoots on it

Monday, May 25, 2009

Waiting for the post

So my divorce trundled its way, entirely undramatically, through the Australian courts in March. Once I was assured of the complete lack of drama, we booked a provisional wedding date with the registrar in Bakewell and sat back to await the arrival of the divorce certificate,

That languidly lobbed into Lindsey’s letter box one month and one day later, as predicted.

Then it took a bit of a break to recover from the exertions of getting to Lindsey’s place. Occasionally I nagged it to get moving again, but it kept bleating that it was only April and that there was no hurry.

Eventually Lindsey stepped in and pushed it on its way. Registered International Post. Once I knew it was heading in my direction, we sent out the wedding invitations, plus the invitations to the summer party which is on the same weekend.

Five or six days later we got home from work and found a card from the postman to say that we had something to be signed for at the sorting office in Chesterfield. Excellent. The divorce certificate has arrived.

But no. It was my clouds, sun and fish for the bathroom. Equally exciting, of course, and the fish look very fetching dotted about the shower (the clouds and sun won’t go up until the decorating is finished). But not quite as useful as a divorce certificate should you wish to get married and your previous spouse is (happily) still breathing.

Thursday and Friday saw no repeat of the arrival of a card telling us to present ourselves at the sorting office. I was beginning to worry. Post to and from Australia usually takes only 5 or 6 days. The invitations I had posted to Australia on the Saturday had only taken 4 in some cases. We could, of course, always send to the Australian Registry and ask for a copy, but that takes a bit of time and time was beginning to run a bit short if we had to wait any length of time for the copy.

Unbeknownst to me, Lindsey was also beginning to wonder where it had got to. She had the tracking number – which said the envelope didn’t exist when she investigated!

Happily it turned up on Saturday. It slipped its way into the letterbox, without benefit of a signature. But who cares about signatures? We can now start to make Proper Progress.

Right then. What to worry about next? Oh yes. If everyone who has been invited to the summer party comes, and if the weather should be seriously inclement – we’re going to have to buy the house next door to fit everyone in! I had expected most people to say “Thank you for the invitation and we would love to come but alas we will be in the Costa del Summat that week it is August you know”. But no. Mostly people are coming. All will be well if the weather is fine, or even if it’s drizzly. People can hang out in the gazebo. Stormy and horrible? Gazebo less enticing. Freyja says we’ll have to issue timed tickets!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Did you know you can make dalek cakes?

The hobbits came on Saturday and now we have: a working bath; a working toilet; a working sink; a working shower with patched up shower tray; a working radiator and a leaking central heating drainage tap in the cellar (question: how would they have drained the radiator system when Mrs Hallam had the cellar blocked off?). We also have isolator valves on the bathroom pipes. The Builder has started boxing in the bits that need boxing in, patching the plasterwork and generally getting ready for painting and finishing the tiling. We have decided to hold off on covering the floor for a little while. There are perfectly serviceable floor boards to be going on with while we ponder the questions of tiles/lino/boards/stuff. I am looking forward to getting my decorative stuff up :-)

We still haven’t found a stop tap for the house. There must be one somewhere.

I remembered to turn on the little freezer, ready for it to receive its half pig tomorrow.

I also turned on my bench top oven. It went RATTLERATTLECRUNCHCRINKLE --- BINK :-S I’ve only had it three years. Mind you, it only cost thrupence ha’penny at Argos so I suppose it’s done quite well. I had intended to replace it when it died with a Lakeland pizza oven. Not sure if I can quite afford that at the moment. I shall have to save very hard. I don’t want to buy another Argos frugality oven!

Otherwise, it’s been a fairly quiet few days. Mostly it has rained. Or galed. Or rained and galed.

I have been organising the summer social calendar. Bea and Steve and The Builder and I are going to the Three Counties Agricultural Show in Malvern on the Solstice weekend. Pat’s coming to visit for a few days in July. I’ve got a dinner party or two organised in July. The invitations to this year’s garden party are out and are provoking an unusual level of excitement. Taffa wants me to make a dalek cake for it! The assembly of a dalek cake looks quite complicated. Perhaps I should have a practice run first! Anyone for a dalek?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mini rhubarb pies

I made a sweet shortcrust pastry using butter, white flour, brown sugar and some orange juice to loosen it a little. I let this rest in the fridge for a couple of hours.

I rolled it out quite thinly and lined my bite-sized pie tray with it (next time I might use the next tray size up, but I've only got the capacity to make 6 with that and the bite-sized one does 24).

Into each pie I put one chunk of rhubarb and a dollop of custard made with custard powder. Then I covered the pies with a pastry lid and baked them in a medium oven for about half an hour.

The custard had boiled out all over the place :-(

Fortunately - I had some more already prepared. So I carefully took the lids off the micro-pies and topped them up with more custard and put the lids back.

They were extremely yummy! So yummy that the ones I had intended to bring into the office didn't make it out of the house!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


He has. Properly broken. At least when I tried I just discommoded the hot water tap and it took the hobbits a mere three minutes to fix it – when they eventually came to look at it. But The Builder has really, really broken the bathroom!

He’s been doing a grand job on the bathroom, mind. He’s been cutting the stone tiles down on the patio with his Machine That Cuts Tiles and sticking them up in the shower recess. He’s finished painting the ceiling (it’s a beautiful cobalt blue) and he’s put one coat of sandy paint on the wall the radiator is going on. He’s not planning to paint the other walls until he’s finished boxing the pipes in.

So it was all going well yesterday evening. Until he dropped one of the tiles. And with a precision that would be astonishing had he done it on purpose, the tile fell, corner down, into the only tiny space which the dust sheet wasn’t covering. And put a hole in the shower tray!!!

You can see that a shower tray with a hole in it might not be entirely efficient.

Now we could, of course, buy a new shower tray. But it seems that this would involve dismantling the floor and removing the pipes and generally causing chaos and mayhem. It would also be extremely expensive. And time consuming. The Builder is going to try filling the hole with mastic and see if that fixes it. And I am going to buy some waterproof sea creature stickers to dot around the shower tray so you can’t see the mastic. I am also going to buy some fluffy cloud stickers to put on the blue ceiling. And The Builder wants a sun sticker as well.

There’s a little bit more tiling to do before the hobbits come back some time on Saturday to install the shower and the radiator. And the radiator wall needs another coat of paint (it’s not called sandy; the colour is “toffee cream” and is pretty much the colour that real vanilla ice cream is). So that’s The Builder kept busy tonight and tomorrow night!

Lindsey was moved, recently, to buy herself some hand painted reading glasses from a company in America which, for reasons best known to itself, will post to the UK but not to Australia. So she had them post the glasses to our place. Alas, the package attracted the attention of Customs and Excise who demanded that we pay VAT on the glasses. In itself, this would not have been too bad. But it meant that until we paid the tax the glasses were held in the custody of Parcel Force - who slapped on an additional EIGHT POUND handling charge (oddly, I had thought that they had been paid to handle the parcel when it was placed in the care of the American Post People!). Even that wouldn’t have been all that irritating – except that the only (that’s ONLY) Parcel Force office in the whole of South Yorkshire (which, apparently, mysteriously covers bits of Derbyshire and East Yorkshire as well) is in some completely remote part of Rotherham and requires a camel, a donkey and a Sherpa to get there. They would have delivered the parcel to our place but not only did it need paying for, it also needed signing for. They would cheerfully have delivered it on Saturday when there would have been someone home to sign for it. But that would have cost another TWELVE pounds!!!!!!! Was very much easier and cheaper to go and ransom it in person. But you really have to wonder why the (only) Parcel Force office is in such an out of the way place. Don’t they want visitors? I suppose it’s a mercy that they stay open until 7pm!

The people on the farm have agreed to sell us half a pig. It’s coming (in packets) next Wednesday evening. I must remember to turn the small freezer back on! They’re about to start doing lambs as well. I’ve ordered a whole lamb for when they’re big enough to go to the abattoir. You really can’t get more local than a farm that’s a five minute walk up the road. Not food miles but food feet :-)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ah the sweet sound of silence in the bathroom :-)

One of the advantages to working in an educational establishment in the centre of a city is that when you call the emergency services they come very, very quickly. This was certainly an advantage on Thursday evening!

We were sat, minding our own businesses (I saw a large notice outside a building site yesterday which announced that “All bussinessess (sic) are open as usual” !!), not doing anybody any harm at the desk, counter and reception desk. Alan, the Adsetts security bod, had been over to say that there was a girl sat on the bench by the window who didn’t look all that chipper to him, but he’d spoken to her and she said she was OK. We all carried on minding our own businesses and not doing anybody any harm. Suddenly, there was a commotion! Alan bolted from the reception desk and just got to the girl as she toppled over in a dead faint. Or a dead deadness. There she lay, still and apparently lifeless on the floor. Fortunately, Alan is a trained first aider. So too is the cleaner who came running over. And likewise one of the acquisitions staff who happened still to be in the building. Three first aiders on the case meant that those of us on the desk stayed where we were. SHU security were summoned. So was an ambulance. Both turned up very quickly and the girl was carted away, happily not lifeless and by then also more or less conscious, in the ambulance to hospital. Silly girl had been studying hard for and fretting hard about her exams and had failed to do any sensible things such as eat, sleep or drink. So that was all very exciting. The rest of the evening was busy but uneventful.

The hobbits have been and repaired the bath tap. It seems I hadn’t broken it. They think some grit or something had got into the mechanism and was preventing it closing properly. It’s working again now.

The Builder and I have been and bought the tiles and paint and stuff for the bathroom. My 15% voucher saved us £50! (You can work out the maths :-) ) So we went into Sheffield in the afternoon and spent the £50 and more on a Henry vacuum cleaner. As you do! The Builder has put a false ceiling up in the bathroom where the original had reached feet and feet and feet up into the air. He’s put a first coat of blue paint on. He’s started putting the tiles up in what will be the shower recess. It’s all beginning to take shape nicely. The hobbits are coming back next weekend to put up the shower and the radiator. I hope the new cabinet will also go up. And I’ve found a lovely beach hut wallpaper border to finish the decorating off. Although that will be a while yet I think. We haven’t chosen floor tiles yet. We decided to wait until everything else was done and see what sort of tiles would look nicest.

Otherwise it was quite a peaceful weekend. At least, it was from my point of view given that I didn’t do any decorating or ceiling creation. A little light gardening, a bit of pottering about, some eating and drinking, that sort of thing. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The heron is taking quite some interest in the possibility of nibbling on our fish for breakfast. Not that we would mind a little light nibbling – we are not remotely short of fish! However, I fancy the heron might not restrain itself and have just a few. I rather think it might gulp the lot, given time. But not yesterday. It came gliding by two or three times to have a look see. Then it went and perched at the top of the large conifer two gardens up. From where it was roundly chased by a VERY cross rook which chased it and chased it and chased it. And was still chasing it ten minutes later when they came into view again! I have no idea what the heron had done so to annoy the rook – but it was a very cross rook indeed!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I am clearly blessed with a brute strength I didn't know I had!

This morning I managed to break the plug in the bath! Went to pull it out of the plughole and it fell off its chain! I am obviously going to have to learn to be a lot more gentle with the new bathroom! The taps only turn a half turn. I have got used to the old bathroom where you had to turn the taps several times to get any result. I do that with the new taps and water goes EVERYWHERE!

The Builder has been plastering and moving the switch for the shower and generally getting the room ready for its new walls and ceiling and tiles and things. We have decided that we will also buy a new door - the old one looks a touch shabby now and in any case has always seemed a bit odd to me. Frosted glass in a bathroom door just doesn't seem right. A nice wooden door is called for. Then I fear we are going to have to bite the bullet and buy the room a new window. And then we will have a completely new bathroom.

I can see this whole enterprise having a very, very long knock on effect.

It rained on and off for most of yesterday. Off course it did. It was a Monday bank holiday! I made cake. And fruit salads. And sort of tidied up a bit. And am now back at work.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I've broken the bathroom!!!!!!!!


I went to have a bath - and broke the hot tap!!!!!!!! It won't turn off properly :-S Although - at least it's running slowly enough not to attract the attention of the boiler so it's running cold and only wasting huge amounts of water and not also wasting huge amounts of gas. And we don't pay for water by usage, but by yearly bill based on the rateable value of your property. A very peculiar way to charge for water, but working to our advantage at the moment. We can't do anything about it - the apprentice hobbit whose phone number The Builder has has gone to London to watch Sheffield United play and won't care.

If they can't fix the tap, the Bathstore will have me stood there demanding a new one. If I'm going to pay upward of £100 for bath taps, I don't expect to be able to break them on their first use!!!

The irony is that it was a leaking hot water tap that started this whole process in the first place!

It was a beautiful day yesterday. We pottered in Homebase and trundled around the Derbyshire Dales and ate nice food and drank beer or cider and later wine and played in the garden and generally had a good time. I'm not sure that there's a lot that is nicer than a sunny Sunday in early May. Peaceful and relaxing and yet at the same time somehow full of promise

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Asparagus Lasagne

We had a lovely asparagus lasagne last evening. I made the lasagne using a cup of pasta flour and two eggs, chilling the dough for an hour or so then putting it through my pasta maker until it was very, very thin.

I made a white sauce using skimmed milk, flour and low fat philly cheese.

And I used the individual lasagne dishes.

I layered pasta with the white sauce, thinly sliced asparagus spears, chopped tomatoes and thinly sliced bacon (although you could leave the bacon out - I only put it in because I had a couple of rashes that needed using up). I finished with a few asparagus spears on top. Then I covered the dishes with foil and put them in a moderate oven for 35 or 40 minutes. Then I took the foil off and covered the top with buffalo mozzarella and put the dishes back in the oven until the cheese was toasted and bubbly.

It was very delicious. And not very heavy. Just right for a nice spring evening.

There's a bathroom coming

You wouldn’t think that having a bathroom refitted would cause quite so much chaos and mayhem throughout the whole house! But by the time you have tools spread around all over the place, not to mention two hobbits and a builder beetling in and out and up and down and stuff being carted about all over the place it does create quite a high level of disarray!

The hobbits had been persuaded not to come back on Saturday morning at 7:30! It was, after all, a SATURDAY morning and more to the point – it was the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend. Our house is a semi. I quite enjoy being on speaking terms with my neighbours – and might not be for long if Joanne was woken early by people banging and clattering in the bathroom. I had also been a bit worried that the entire street might not be talking to us if the water had to be turned off for any length of time on the Friday evening. Yes, I had put notes through people’s doors warning them that the water would need to be turned off – but people are inclined to forget these little pieces of information! Fortunately, in the event, it was only off for about ten minutes while the hobbits put isolator valves on the bathroom pipes. We still can’t find the stop tap for the house – we have a feeling it might have been tiled over when the kitchen extension was done (about twenty years ago, by the look of the tiles!). But we can, should it become necessary, now turn off the water to the entire house – in a piecemeal sort of a way!

A skip appeared in the drive mid-morning. Useful things skips!

A water feature appeared in the kitchen in the middle of the afternoon. An unexpected water feature. It was, I think, not entirely intentional. It was accompanied by much swearing from the bathroom and the sound of very rapidly rushing water. Fortunately, we have a large supply of buckets. Although – I’m not sure why we have just so many buckets. I also notice that they have doubled in price in B&Q since the last time we went and bought any. But that was several years ago so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

So the hobbits have now gone and we have a working loo, a working bath and a working sink but not yet a properly working bathroom. The Builder and Steve-Next-Door are happily filling the skip with rubbish – although I didn’t realise when I told Steve he could put any of his rubbish in the skip that they actually had a whole shed full of junk to get rid of!

I spent the latter part of the afternoon making pasta. I like making pasta. The only drawback is that you cover the kitchen with a light dusting of flour. Somehow, this didn’t seem to matter much today!

Friday, May 01, 2009

May Day

I am at home, awaiting the arrival of all the new bathroom stuff. The hobbits are coming back tonight and tomorrow to start the installation. We can't have the shower for a couple of weeks though. It can't go in until the tiles are in - and we can't buy the tiles until next weekend. Or, we can, but I have a 15% off Homebase (think Bunings only slightly classier) voucher which is only valid next weekend. The tiles we want are expensive. If we can get them for 15% off then we can wait for the shower!

The sun is shining. It's a beautiful day. And this is what the garden looked like at about half past eight this morning:

12:45 update:

The bathroom has arrived!!!!!! It's all sat in its boxes in the lounge room waiting to be unpacked and installed. The disadvantage to having a bathroom delivered is the need to shift all the furniture in the lounge room out the way so the deliverers can come in and out of the front door which is mostly only used for the receipt of large items. It demonstrates that what you have fondly assumed is a shiny, clean, and sparkling room is actually incredibly dusty and FULL of spiders and cob webs.

But I think I'll wait until after the bulk of the stuff is in its final place before embarking on a cleaning program.

The afternoon is all mine. I've done most of the Saturday things. I might go and do the Saturday shopping. Not quite sure what I'll do when it really is Saturday
Well, I've had my wellness MOT and I'm pleased to report that I am still breathing. My lung function test was, in fact, excellent. Alas, however, my weight is too high and my waist is too girthful (although my waist to hip ratio is good). My blood pressure is too high, as is my cholesterol level. Although she was very pleased with my HDL reading. It seems I am to reduce my total cholesterol levels and retain my HDL. Not absolutely sure how I'm supposed to do that. I don't suppose having quiche for dinner that night helped, either! It looks like it's lettuce and rice cakes for me from now on!

Actually, she seemed quite disappointed that she hadn't seen me pre-Lent. She quite fancied having tracked my progress from whatever the pre-Lent levels were. She'll just have to make to with the Easter level!!!

The Builder's plumber pals (who look remarkably like cheery hobbits) have been and pretty much destroyed the bathroom. The toilet remains. As does the sink. The bath however, is now in the driveway. In order to turn off the water to the bathroom, we had to turn it off at the mains in the road. This meant we also turned off the water to the whole of the even side of Bridge Street. With no warning! Fortunately, it wasn't for long. They're coming back tomorrow night to start putting the new stuff in. They're going to turn the water off again. This time I've put notes through people's letter boxes to warn them. And they're going to put isolators on the taps so we can turn the water off in future without bringing drought to our neighbours!

The Builder has been plastering the bathroom walls, so far with the preparatory stuff. I shall be very interested to see how this all works. I, left to plan it all for myself, would have done the plastering, painting, tiling and flooring before putting the bath and stuff in. The Builder assures me that this would have been a very foolish thing to do. I just can't quite visualise how you tile under a bath once it's in place (it's a free standing bath with feet, not one that's boxed in) or how you plaster and paint behind a "laddered" radiator. However, it has to be assumed he knows what he's doing. He and his plumber hobbits fit bathrooms and kitchens for a living!

But all this means that our on the waggonness only lasted two days. You can't possibly plaster bathrooms without liberal applications of Real Ale. We shall resume waggonning next week, after the May Day bank holiday on Monday.

If everyone I know who has had flu-type symptoms of varying degrees of severity this week had followed government guidelines and rung NHS Direct - the service would have been brought to its knees! I've had mild flu-type symptoms all week. Taffa has been proper poorly. Lots of people at work have been off with similar symptoms. I'm off today because I got fed up with it - the prolonged burst of coughing at half six this morning suggested that me and my slight fever would be better off at home drinking tea and eating toast. But at what point do you stop thinking "I have an irritating virus which will go away in time" and start wondering "Might these symptoms mean I have contracted a notifiable disease?"

It crosses my mind that it was three years ago this week that we picked up the keys to The Sidings. Three years! Gosh - but that went fast