Wednesday, September 30, 2009

White and black currants bottled in syrup

Following a recipe in the River Cottage Handbook Preserves book, I bottled some white and black currants back in the early summer.

One jar didn't seal properly, so we ate those over the following week. One jar sealed beautifully, so I put that down in the cellar on the preserves shelf. And I didn't have enough jars for the rest, so they went in the freezer, also in syrup.

Yesterday we found ourselves short of fruit, and also quite short of milk. Right, I thought. Those currants will go really nicely on the wheetbix. So I fished the jar up.

I can absolutely assure you that that jar of bottled fruit was magnificently sealed. I could not undo it, no matter how I tried. I tried pulling the protuberance on the rubber seal, which is what you are supposed to do. No. I tried releasing the seal with a knife. No. I tried knocking the lid gently on the kitchen bench. Absolutely not. The Builder tried. Nope. So we left it.

In the evening, I stood the jar in a bowl of boiling water. Still refused to open. Eventually, The Builder prised it open by the use of a sturdy screwdriver and brute strength. This, alas, chipped the jar which now needs replacing. But at least we can eat the currants. And they are EXTREMELY delicious.

Now I just need to work out what I did wrong. I know that bottling jars can sometimes be reluctant to open. But I've never encountered one before which flatly refused to release its contents.

Still - absolutely no bacterium was ever going to get into that jar!!!!!

I must get extra preserving jars for next year. There are many more recipes in the Preserve book that need trying. Although it would be better if I could use each jar more than once!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to Malvern

Back in June we went with out friends Bea and Steve to the Three Counties Agricultural Show in Great Malvern. We thoroughly enjoyed the show and the place we stayed. So when we discovered that there was also an autumn show focussing on garden produce and food things we decided to go and check it out.

Steve and Bea picked us up on Saturday morning and we headed down to Malvern. We were extremely lucky with the traffic, the roads and even the weather.

We saw gigantic vegetables, dead straight runner beans, weird parsnips. We looked at show rabbits and show poultry. We did not, however, indulge in rabbit pie, nor even chicken pie. I think we would have got into lots of trouble if we had fricasseed one of the fluffy bunnies, even one of the very peculiar ones with the floppy fringes.

We ambled in the food hall and dallied in the clothes stalls. We investigated the garden stalls and pottered around the flower arrangements (briefly).

We watched the dog breed demonstration. The Builder wouldn't let me take any of the dogs home with me, not even the dachshund which belonged to the compère. He didn't deserve it. He walked on it. It would have been much happier with me ;-(

We admired vintage cars and old farm machinery. There was a collection of vintage caravans which was extremely interesting. It was a bit like a village horticultural society show (only gigantic) married to a vintage vehicle show.

There was a surprising lack of cakes!

We walked for miles, gazed down upon by the Malvern Hills which provide a spectacular backdrop to the showgrounds. It was a great afternoon.

We went back to Bant's Hotel in Upton Snodbury where we stayed last time. The evening was warm and sunny enough for us to sit outside in the beer garden until dinner time. The dinner was wonderful. My rack of lamb was meltingly delicious.

I probably didn't need three courses.

Or quite so much wine.

Or, indeed, a three egg omelette with enormous mushrooms and bacon for breakfast.

We needed exercise to walk it all off.

Way back when, when The Builder and I were quite new, we had occasion to visit the Malvern Hills on a weekend dedicated to stalking Elgar. While we were there, I bought from the hotel we were staying in a collection of leaflets of walks in the hills. Nearly killed The Builder (who had an uncorrected hernia at the time) and Ross (who was quite unwell at the time but who had yearned to stalk Elgar but was certainly not fit enough to drive himself around, which is why we were there) by storming up the British Camp Iron Age Hill Fort, following the instructions on one of the leaflets and not noticing that they were seriously struggling to keep up.

I had brought the leaflets with me in case a walk was required.

Fortunately, on this occasion everyone was in fine health, Bea was the one with the leaflet in hand, and the Worcestershire Beacon is not a hill fort (at least, I don't think it is) and we were not galloping in a straight line to the top. It was, in fact, a very pleasant, quite gentle walk. The beacon is the highest point in the Malvern Hills but we had driven quite some way up the hillside to the car park and our route was not a direct stomp to the top. In fact, we didn't ever get to the top. But high enough for some magnificent views. Where on Saturday we had been at the show, looking up at the hills, on Sunday we were up on the hills gazing down on the showgrounds. The cars absolutely glistened in the light. And the showgrounds are huge. No wonder it took so long to get round them.

We lost our trail at one point. We could see where we should have been, but physically getting there was going to prove difficult. So we just kept going, nearly to the top, and eventually got back to where we had started. So no pleasant walk through a wooded hillside for us. But a lovely tramp along open scrubland higher up, admiring the magnificent views. I took some pictures - but they don't even come close to doing the views justice.

We had lunch in the Wyche Inn, in Wyche, near Malvern. Wasn't bad at all. Reasonable pub roast beef.

Then we came home.

Marlo was quite pleased to see us.

Mind you - he nearly got run over this morning. I didn't come in till later, but was stood at the gate, seeing Oscar out. Marlo jumped up on the wall and walked towards the gate. I must admit - I expected him to stop. But he didn't. He jumped down and walked behind Oscar, who was reversing, and practically under the wheels. Fortunately, when I thumped on the car, The Builder stopped immediately! I picked Marlo up and held him securely until Oscar was heading off down the road!!! He spent most of the rest of the day (Marlo, not Oscar) sleeping slap bang in the middle of our bed. Made it quite hard to change the sheet and pillow cases, which had been my plan.

I noticed that there is a spring show in Malvern in May. I considered getting tickets, so we could say we had done the complete calendar. But a bit of investigation suggested that it is really a flowery gardening show. Not really into flowers in a big way. Might not bother. Could easily be persuaded to go to the agricultural show again next year, though.

Ian is in London. Again

Friday, September 25, 2009

Well now. That was something of a palaver. As you are probably aware, Freyja is in the sunny United States at the moment, apparently watching bears through the motel window. She has with her a Post Office travel money card which works in US dollars. She decided that she wanted to top the card up and electronically transferred some money into my account so I could put it onto her travel account.

You might think that it would have been just as easy to transfer it directly to her travel card. But no. You can’t do it electronically, for some reason.

So, wishing to support our local branch Post Office, I went in there one morning during the week when I was starting work later than my usual 08:00. Nope. Can’t do it there. The branch is too small to sell the cards so doesn’t have the set up for topping them up and they can’t do it electronically either.

Ok. No worries. I’ll do it over the phone when I get to the office. No. Can’t do that either because not only am I not Freyja, but I also don’t have the card, which is on its holidays in America. It can only be done by phone if it is the card holder speaking, or if the card is present.

The only option is to go to a large Post Office. Try the one on Norfolk Row, suggested the helpful man on the phone. They can do it for you. Except that they can’t, because that Post Office was closed about 6 months ago. The only choice I had was to go to the one in that huge, cavernous, empty wasteland in a disused part of the Co-op on Angel Street where someone decided to plonk a Post Office service some while ago. It still doesn’t seem to sell any of the things that normal post offices sell like brown paper and envelopes. But at least it was possible to top up Freyja’s account.

I can fully understand the wish to avoid fraud. But for goodness sake – who is going to put money fraudulently ONTO a card?!?!?!?!?! And *why* can’t the card be topped up electronically? Surely they realise that people are going to take travel cards TRAVELLING and will want to top their accounts up. Sigh.

We drove through Nether Green while Lindsey and Ian were here. I hadn’t had any reason to go to Nether Green for ages before that. I was unsurprised that some of the shops had changed. But I was really quite shocked to find that the Post Office had gone. I can’t tell you why. I am fully aware that there has been an ongoing process of closing Post Offices for some time. But that had always been a busy little Post Office. And I can’t think of another one round about. Unless, of course, one has opened up in Ranmoor. We didn’t go to the Ranmoor shops to investigate.

It looks very much as though The Builder will only have another week or two of work in Handsworth. The project is pretty much finished and they haven’t got anything else to do up there. They have been having redundancy interviews and all the agency staff have been laid off already. The Builder tells me that they are running out of things to do. He is beginning to think about bringing some of his tools home.

I don’t know what he’ll do when the job actually finishes. He hadn’t been intending to retire quite yet. I am hopeful that he might spend a few weeks digging and sorting out the allotment and the wilder parts of the garden. And then, I suspect, he’ll probably trundle out to look for something more remunerative to do, if only because the Handsworth money was our boozing and cruising dosh. But mainly because I think he’ll get terminally bored sat at home alone all day. And I emphatically can’t afford to retire just yet!

The Japanese class did go ahead. In fact, the class is pretty much full. Freyja will be coming too, when she gets back from chasing bears. It’s an interesting bunch of people. There are 3 lads from a computing company who are into computer games and know the Japanese words that turn up on Play stations and Nintendos. There is another group of people in their late 20s or early 30s who clearly know each other. There’s a teenage boy and his dad. And the usual mixture of middle aged and amiable oldies who are there just to learn a bit of conversational Japanese. It was quite fun. I am looking forward to being able to have (very limited!) conversations with Rupert in the office. (Rupert has been learning Japanese through the University language school. I could have done that too, but I can’t be fussed with the assignments and learning outcomes and things)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

There were choices on Saturday. Quite a lot of choices.
First, we could choose to do absolutely nothing, stay at home and do useful things. Hmmmmm.

We could have gone to the York Food Festival. This was a serious temptation.

We could have gone to Cambridge for the weekend and gone to the Cambridge Food Festival on Parker’s Piece with Tabitha and Gareth. This was also a temptation, except that we are away next weekend and possibly away the weekend after and we didn’t really want to be away for three weekends in a row. Not only does the cat get lonely when ruthlessly abandoned in this way, but also so many things just don’t get done around the house and garden that when you are eventually at home for a weekend you have to spend all of it playing catch up.

Then there was the Pot to Plate produce fair at Calke Abbey, a National Trust place near Derby. I found out about the produce fair when the NT sent a “What to do around your local area this weekend” email. Neither of us had ever been to Calke Abbey and we had no idea what the produce fair was. So we went to find out.

It turns out that the produce fair was really the village fruit, veg and preserves show. It was really cute and quite fun. Probably wouldn’t have been worth making a 75 mile round trip for, but we were glad to go and look at it. We didn’t go into the house itself. It was such a beautiful afternoon that we had a spot of lunch and then went for an inspectorary tour of the walled gardens and estate (not the whole estate; that would have taken rather more hours than we had available). The gardens were lovely (the photos are here if you want to look) and we had a very pleasant couple of hours pottering around and investigating.

To get to Calke Abbey we went over the Swarkestone Causeway and bridge. I didn’t take photos partly because we weren’t expecting to come across an ancient causeway and a rather pretty Georgian Bridge so weren’t prepared for parking the car. But also, I had forgotten to take my camera and was using the camera on my iPhone. That is a perfectly serviceable camera, but you can’t do as much with it as you can with my proper camera. I think we are going to have to go back and have a proper walk along the causeway and inspect the bridge more closely. And generally just have a potter about. Lots of interesting things to look at around about there.

Sunday was an absolutely glorious day. The sun shone. The sky was a deep, deep blue. There was a mild, gentle breeze. It was just lovely. And we, of course, had a long list of things to do. Did we do them? Well, I did get the washing done and hung out. The Builder managed to replace the power sockets in the spare room which either wouldn’t work or, if they could be persuaded to, were making worrying spitting noises. We got a few things done – but not the allotment or many of the other things we had planned. Instead we went to the Three Horseshoes for a rather nice Sunday Lunch (Memo to self: Do NOT, NOT, NOT, NOT have a starter, no matter how tempting. You’ll never eat one of their carvery plates unless you are Very Hungry Indeed). I also had quite a lot of wine. The bottle we bought was a litre bottle. No worries about that, we could have taken the rest home. But somehow it just seemed to gradually disappear until there wasn’t much point in re-corking it and taking it away. The Builder did his best, but he was driving and couldn’t have much.

Didn’t buy much in Chatsworth. I wasn’t remotely hungry. So not hungry that the idea of buying food wasn’t particularly appealing! But that’s OK. It’s not as though we are especially short of things to eat.

Didn’t have much to eat at all after lunch on Sunday. Was strangely hungry by the time I got up on Monday!

We have made our way back to the beginning of the academic year. Off we go again. The new students are wandering around looking bewildered and confused. The returning students are making their way back. I am busy this week with the post-graduate students. The intense teaching with the under-graduates doesn’t really kick in until October is underway. But this year I have a side-kick to play with. Peter decided that I had far too many students to support and found me a friend. So it’s not quite as daunting as it has been in previous years.

It looks as though The Builder’s job is about to disappear on him. The kitchen and bathroom fitting on the estate is all but finished. And it doesn’t look as though there will be any other work for them to do. I think the firm is planning to make most of the staff redundant. This will be very unfortunate from a monthly income point of view. It will be extremely fortunate, however, from a me getting back my domestic staff point of view. The return of the Under-gardener will be particularly welcome!

Fingers crossed everybody. The Japanese classes at King Edward’s in Broomhill aer scheduled to start tomorrow evening. I’ve had a letter confirming my place. I am moderately confident that this time it may all work. Freyja also sent in an expression of interest. We don’t know if she got a letter cos she’s swanning around the Carolinas, the Virginias and Tennesee this week and next. I shall enquire tomorrow. If the class goes ahead.

Poor old Bernard has had his Facebook account suspended. Not a nice thing for a respectable (cough), mild mannered (cough, cough), sedate (choke!) retired business hippo to have happen. I mean, if he’s sentient enough to be a ring bearer at a wedding, then he’s certainly sentient enough to have a Facebook account, even if he isn’t human!! Fortunately his Twitter, blog and Picasa sites remain active. I knew there was a reason I opened a Twitter account. Twitter’s not prejudiced against non-humans!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chicken noodle soup

A few weeks ago, I bought a couple of local chickens (ready for the freezer, not for roaming around the garden) from Farmer Jayne. She doesn't grow them but gets them from a small chicken farm nearby.

On Friday, I jointed one of them and we (very greedily, it must be admitted) had the thighs and legs roasted for dinner. On Saturday we had one of the fillets turned into kievs. (You can see, then, that we really didn't need a thigh AND a leg each on Friday evening if one fillet will do two kievs even if those kievs were fairly small!)

So. On Sunday I took the chicken carcass, the left over roasted bones, an onion, some carrot and some parsnip and put them all into my stock pot with lots of water and made a really luscious chicken stock which I strained through muslin and de-fatted, then reduced by about a third.

On Monday I slowly simmered a couple of onions, cut into thick slices, in the stock until they were nearly but not quite soft. I added some crushed garlic, some fresh, crushed ginger, a healthy slug or three of low salt soya sauce and some mushroom sauce I had lying about which needed using up. Then I poached the last fillet and the mini-fillets, all of which I had cut into strips. I added some baby pak choi, cut into chunks, some mushrooms, also cut into chunks, and some sliced runner beans. When it was all very nearly ready, I added some rice noodles. The key to it all was a deep, rich chicken stock and slow cooking when I came to assemble the soup.

It was absolutely delicious. The only reason The Builder didn't have three helpings was because I wanted some for my lunch at work today! But next time (and there will certainly be a next time!) I'll put in lots more ginger. And I would guess that it would be equally nice using chicken thigh in place of fillet.

You could make it veggie friendly by making a deep, rich vegetable stock and using chicken style quorn or soya chunks in place of the chicken fillet. Or just have a vegetable noodle soup.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A fairly frugal and very delicious Sunday Dinner

I put a piece of lamb shoulder on the bone into the slow cooker mid Sunday morning. It only just fitted! I also put in a couple of healthy teaspoons of red currant jelly and a medium white onion, finely chopped. Plonked the lid on, put it onto the auto setting and ambled off. No liquid.

A few hours later I came back and found the pot now filled with gently bubbling lamb juice and fat. So I stirred it all around to mix in the red currant jelly, put the lid back on and turned it down to low.

At about half past six, I put the fan oven on at 150d and put the lamb and some Shetland Black potatoes (nearly all gone now, alas) in a roasting tray. I had also drained all the juices from the slow cooker into my fat separating jug. The actual juices went into a jug to make the gravy with and the fat went over the roasting potatoes. The lamb came out of the oven after about 45 minutes to rest, wrapped in foil. I turned the oven up to 200d to crisp up the potatoes, steamed the vegetables (peas, cabbage, runner beans and carrots) using some of the gravy juice, put the juice back in with the rest and made a gravy which I thickened with rice flour (I am a huge convert to using rice flour to thicken things!).

We had the left over lamb shredded and heated in a casserole with the left over gravy yesterday evening. I topped it with sliced potatoes and cooked it with the lid on until the potatoes were softened, then crisped them up with the lid off for about 15 minutes. And I had what was left over from that today for lunch.

They are running a telly program at the moment called Economy Gastronomy. I am really quite shocked by the amount of cooked foods that people just throw away when they are perfectly lovely ingredients for something else. We got five meal portions out of that lamb shoulder and the lamb juices, and they were all scrumptious. Can't really tell you how frugal it was, though. The shoulder came from that lamb I bought from Farmer Jayne back in June or July. But buying a whole lamb is a fairly economic way of buying meat, if you have the cash to hand in the first instance.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It really was the most glorious day on Saturday. The sky was blue and more or less cloudless. There was a gentle breeze. Mid-afternoon, it was about 28d. (I know the Met Office weather stations don’t think it got that hot – but the thermometer in our garden did. It might not be an official weather station but I think it’s more or less accurate.) Anyway. It doesn’t really matter what the temperature was. It was a lovely day.

We didn’t do very much with it. The Builder went up to the allotment to do a few small jobs. We went back later for peas and tomatoes. We pottered around. We sat on the patio and drank wine. We saw an enormous bird circling overhead. Bigger than anything I’ve seen around our way before. We get kestrels fairly frequently (these are not big!) and sparrowhawks sometimes. But never before a buzzard, which is what The Builder said the big bird was. It was, I think, eyeing off a pigeon but, to the advantage of the pigeon, its attention was distracted by a light aircraft which was pottering about in the sky and it gave up thoughts of dinner. And then I saw a sparrowhawk on Sunday. As I said, we do see them sometimes, but seldom enough for it to be a matter of note when we do.

Sunday was cloudier and cooler. And we still didn’t do all that much. We went into Sheffield to deliver some things to Freyja and to collect a large suitcase that we had lent her. She’s still got the other one. She and it disappeared this morning for a two week potter about the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee. The hippos have gone too. We didn’t really get around to any of the things we had been intending to do – such as clearing up the allotment, doing things in the garden, baking cakes. I did make a crumble for dessert with a Bramley from the tree and a stick of rhubarb from the plant at the bottom of the garden which appears to think it is spring. And I watered all the pots and boxes. It may have been cloudy but it didn’t rain, and hasn’t rained for a couple of weeks, and not properly for ages.

The Builder got his pay slip on Friday and was a bit disconcerted to discover that it was about half what he had been expecting. This was a bit worrying because The Vixen has just been serviced and had her MOT done and the bill comes to about £450! Not an ideal time to be underpaid!!! He hadn’t been paid for the bank holiday we had recently. And nor had he been paid his “Oh, you’ve turned up to work so we’ll pay you a bonus which makes your pay up to something reasonable” bonus (I think they follow this peculiar practice so they can pay their employees less for their (legally required) holiday pay). He trundled in to work on Monday, armed with his payslip and a question or two, to find that someone else had had their pay similarly reduced. And at least one someone else had had their pay doubled in size! It’s all being sorted out this week (though the poor person or people who had been accidentally given someone else’s pay may have a lean week of it next week :-S )

I have been pondering the question of fleas lately. As far as I am aware, we do not have fleas in the house. I sprayed the house with an environmentally unsound, sooper-dooper flea spray before Lindsey came. It is supposed to be effective for 12 months. I bought Marlo a super-strength flea collare, also supposed to lat for 12 months. Marlo is not complaining about being attacked by fleas. I haven’t seen any fleas. I have seen no sign that there are any fleas. And yet – I keep on waking up in the mornings with bites about my person. Yucky bites that hurt. You will not, therefore, be surprised to learn that yesterday morning I found not one but TWO mosquitoes in the bedroom. Not impressed, was I. Fleas, yes. Midges – only to be expected. But *mosquitoes*? In Derbyshire? Pfffffff is all I can say to that!

It is becoming distinctly autumnal. It’s cool and misty in the mornings now. And getting dark disquietingly early. The sun isn’t rising now until 6:30, so it’s not light until 6-ish. And it sets again at 7:30, so dark by just after 8. Nearly time to dig out the timers for the downstairs lamps.

Shall we go to Dorset or Somerset or Hampshire or Wiltshire between Christmas and New Year? There seem to be many choices

Monday, September 07, 2009

Nothing to report

It was a very quiet weekend. The only thing that happened was that Bea and Steve came to lunch on Sunday and collected their gazebo. And a very nice Sunday afternoon it was too. The lunch was quite nice as well.

It's probably just as well that last week was a short week for me. I was not a little tired by the time we got to Friday. Two days of slow, lazy starts was remarkably pleasant. Ongoing slow, lazy starts would be very nice indeed! I have to keep reminding myself that if I want to live indoors and have more than stale crusts and mouldy water to eat and drink - I need to get up promptly in the morning!!!!! I could get used to a lazier lifestyle though!

A reasonably quiet week in prospect this week. But the start of first semester is nearly upon us. I can hear chaos approaching!

The coffee shop has reopened after its summer holiday. This might not be an unalloyed good thing!

Slow roasted brisket

I put into the bottom of my wonderful Le Creuset casserole some orange sweet potato, carrot and leek chopped into small chunks. On top of this, I put a piece of brisket. I added a healthy glug or six of red wine (although you could use white if red wine is not your thing), some crushed garlic and about half a litre of chicken stock. Then I put the lid on and put it into a low oven (140d) for several hours and forgot about it. I could have done it in my slow cooker - but it was Sunday and I didn't get up early enough!!

When I put the potatoes in to roast, I turned the oven up to 200d, put the potato tray at the top and took the lid off the casserole. After 40 minutes I took the brisket out and wrapped it in foil to rest. I put the vegetables and juices into the blender and pureed it all and then put it through a fine mesh strainer so I had a thick-ish sauce. The remains of the vegetables went in the compost bin! The sauce wasn't quite thick enough to be gravy for my taste, so I thickened it slightly with rice flour. (I have recently discovered rice flour as a thickening agent - it's so much nicer than cornflour.)

The brisket fell apart when I carved it. The vegetably gravy was delicious. And we had it with the roast potatos (home grown Shetland Blacks, which have black skin and a purple mottled flesh) and steamed home grown carrots, broad beans, runner beans, peas and cabbage. It was absolutely delicious.

We had a rhubarb bread pudding for dessert which was also delicious. It was made to a wartime food rationing recipe so wasn't particularly rich (no sugar, no eggs, just rhubarb, bread, jam, custard). I would have made it with full fat Jersey milk. I bought some especially. No idea where it is. It's completely vanished. I had to use skimmed milk for the custard! Next time I'll put in more jam (I skimped a bit) and use proper milk - skimmed milk does not an adequate custard make!!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A cake recipe for Lindsey

This is a standard cake recipe that most bakers seem to use

250g each of sugar, butter and SR flour
4 eggs

Some people just plonk all of this in their food processor and blitz it. However, I follow the more conventional method of creaming the sugar and butter until creamy and fluffy, then beating in each egg until properly incorporated and then adding the flour. If I am making a chocolate cake, I replace some of the flour with a generous dollop or three of good quality cocoa.

Put the cake in a pre-heated oven at 180d or 160 if fan-forced for around 45-50 minutes. It's cooked when it's springy to the touch and smells like cake

If I am adding fruit to the cake, I have taken to using a tip I ran across somewhere (alas, I can't remember where)which suggested putting half the cake mix in the cake tin, and then stirring the fruit into the rest of the batter. This is supposed to help prevent the fruit all sinking to the bottom. And it does!!!

On Tuesday I used the same recipe to make cupcakes, except I had the oven at 150d and baked them for only around 30 minutes. When they had cooled I cut cone shapes out of the top, filled the hole with raspberry jam, then put the cones back in. I would take a photo of one or two - except the people in the office have eaten them all. There are still some at home. I'll try and remember to add a photo this evening

And I remembered!

Back to work we go

In a foolhardy moment of inattention, I stepped onto the bathroom scales on Sunday morning. They groaned loudly and plaintively.

This presented something of a dilemma. As everyone knows, the law states very clearly that all diets must start on a Monday. A separate law states firmly that all diets must be stopped when you are on holiday. Monday was a public holiday. Tuesday was a University holiday. Wednesday was a return to work day for many of us, so the office would be filled with cakes and biscuits. On top of that, we were going out to lunch as a team. There is obviously no point in starting a diet on a Thursday, especially if you are considering a weekday diet – and in any case, Thursday is not Monday.

Next Monday it is, then!

The scales may be even less impressed this coming Sunday. We have continued feasting with happy abandonment. We went back to the Three Horseshoes on Saturday evening, for a sumptuous meal. We had had lunch at Chatsworth on Saturday too, but only because we happened to be there at lunchtime. And we had light lunches in anticipation of the evening feast.

And since then we’ve been properly feasting out of the freezer, the allotment and the garden. And I made fairy cakes.

I spent Friday tidying and cleaning the house, while The Builder was at work. I found a large quantity of items belonging to other people, including a pair of "stocking" socks which no one will admit to owning. After that we had a fairly quiet weekend. We pottered about in Chatsworth and Chesterfield on Saturday. We tootled about at home on Sunday. On Monday we went into Sheffield and helped Freyja shift boxes from her old place to the new. It was a lovely, quiet three days.

And now I am back at work. It was a nasty shock to the system after not quite 5 weeks off work, not only having to get up promptly on Wednesday morning, but also having to move about purposefully, rather than just taking things slowly. We are **very** slowly getting back into routine. It’s probably just as well that I am only at work three days this week, though. I am quite amazingly tired!

Back at the end of June, I bought 4 tickets for the Malvern Autumn Show at the end of September. A few days later they turned up in the post. I counted them to make sure they were all there. They were. A few days later, someone from the showground rang to check that we had the right number of tickets. We did. Odd, they said. We've had one of your tickets returned to us by somebody else. Curious, said I. But we definitely have 4 tickets. For some reason, I was moved to look at the tickets on Tuesday morning. Can't tell you why. We do indeed have 4 tickets. But 3 of them were for Saturday (which is when we are intending to go) and one was for Sunday. I assume the ticket that was mysteriously returned was a Saturday one. They are sending me a new ticket for the right day. I hope!