Thursday, April 29, 2010

Healesville Country Club and Alpacas

The forecast was a bit variable for yesterday so it was decided that we would head across country, through the mountains to Healesville for lunch in the RACV Country Club, where Tony is a member.  I've not been there before, although Tony seemed to think I had, in the distant past.  But I don't think so.  I only remember having been to Healesville to go to the animal sanctuary, and even that not very often.

I have to say, it was rather nice.  We had to be signed in and everything.  Fancy lounge for a pre-prandial gin and tonic (well, for me; everyone else had different things), looking out over the mountains.  A lovely lunch in the terrace dining area.  Food was lovely, although the service was a bit slow.  And Stella got her apple juice in very short order - but there was no wine for the rest of us for ages and ages.  They had FORGOTTEN it!!!!!!!  Tsk!

We had a lovely poke around the facilities.  They're renovated it lately and there's a pool and a spa, a half-size (I think) snooker table, a golf pro shop.  There's a golf course and lots of snacking places.  I think Tony might have been quite happy if we had proposed, instead of coming to Mount Martha for three days, we had proposed going and staying there.  Three rounds of golf for him!!

We came home via an alpaca and gerbera farm (an odd combination, but there you go). Stella wanted a couple of gerbera plants.  I wanted to look at the alpacas.  We have decided that Lindsey and Ian need one for Ballarat.  It would be an excellent companion for Lucy when Zac goes to the Great Bone Store in the sky, and nothing like as exuberant as a great dane.  Plus, it wouldn't take up any couch room in the evenings.  Alpacas are not indoor animals :-)  We just need to convince Lindsey and Ian of this excellent idea.  We also detoured to Tooradin so we could admire the mangroves in the bay.

We went for a brief "walk" on our way to Healesville.  We had to cross this:

  It was very, very slippy, and there was only one dry-ish path through. I oh-so, oh-so nearly went sploosh!  The Builder merely strode across.  Sigh!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Death by Poison

It was bad enough that, when we went to visit Pat, she tried to dedd me by poisoning.  It is just as well that I noticed the flaked almonds dotted over the top of the croissant bread and butter pudding, for I would never have noticed the almond meal stirred through it.  When I sadly pointed out that I would be unable to eat it, Pat asked why I had not mentioned an inability to eat almonds.  But - I've had a tree nut allergy for all the years I have known her.  She knows I have this allergy.  "But," she said; "Almonds aren't ... Oh!"

She and The Builder enjoyed their croissant bread and butter pudding.  I enjoyed another glass of wine.

Now.  My mother knows full well I have a tree nut allergy.  She knows that almonds are nuts.  So when she got a piece of rolled lamb roast out of the fridge for dinner last night, we both read the ingredients carefully. No nuts mentioned.  Excellent.  But when she found nuts hidden in the stuffing as she was slicing the roll, she just took them out and told me not to eat the stuffing but just the meat.  Which had been rolled around the now nutless stuffing. Alas.  It doesn't work like that.  If it's been contaminated then I can't eat it.  So *I* had a very healthy vegetable dinner (with extra dollops of mashed potato) while they had unhealthy, fat-ridden, nut-infested, bad-for-you lamb!  Just as well she thought to mention it, though.

We re-read the ingredients very carefully afterwards.  Still didn't mention any nuts.  And no one can tell me what nuts they were.  We might need to go back to the butcher and quietly complain - and find out what they were.  Not that it matters.   I wouldn't have been able to eat them anyway.


We had great difficulty convincing Lindsey's sat nav (who I have named Wilma, just because) to bring us to Mount Martha.  She remained absolutely convinced that there was no such place.  Didn't matter what I did, she would not take us to such a place.  Eventually, I decided to put in Mornington.  I can certainly find Mount Martha from Mornington, though probably not Stella and Tony's place. I put in Mornington, and discovered that it was bringing up lots of places on the Mornington Peninsula.  I scrolled through - and found Mount Martha.  Except it is, apparently, spelled Mt Martha.  Once we put that it, Wilma was happy to take us all the way to Stella and Tony's place.  Not sure why she brought us down Springvale Road and along the old freeway, though.  Not when there's a perfectly good, brand new freeway running almost all the way from Melbourne to Frankston.  We'll go back that way.

I wish they'd stop putting in new roads when my back is turned.  It gets very confusing!

We were woken at 4:00 this morning by my phone.  It was our mortgage company pointing out that we had not sent in our new direct debit mandate for the house insurance.  Actually, we have.  They haven't got it and the insurance runs out at the weekend.  Somewhat sleepily, I sorted it out, at vast expense, by mobile phone.  It was only, at a more civilised hour this morning, when The Builder was telling Tony about it and they were discussing why the paperwork hadn't arrived, that I remembered the volcano. Of course.  If passengers haven't been able to get to the UK by plane, then neither will direct debit mandates!  Oh well.  Sorted now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Port Fairy

ANZAC Day.  Lest we forget
We had a lovely Anzac Day weekend in Port Fairy.  We went down on Saturday afternoon from Ballarat with Lindsey and got there about three hours ahead of Ian, Ant, Jess and Emily who were coming from Melbourne in Ian's car.  So, of course, we went for an amble around to see what was where.

Both Lindsey and I have been to Port Fairy before, but not for many years, so it was pretty much as new an experience for us as it was for The Builder, who had never been before.

We wandered around the town centre and then headed for Griffiths Island, which is a shearwater and mutton bird sanctuary.  We got a bit mislaid on the way, but eventually found it.  It has a 2.5 km round walk, loads of gulls and ibises, many dead shearwater fledglings (which are attacked by something that clearly doesn't like them very much but which also doesn't eat them - birds, not foxes), wallabies which show no fear at all, and a lighthouse at one end.  It's a lovely walk - though I think we nearly killed The Builder who is not really used to walking quite so fast.  And he and I have walked very little over the past few months.  We really must get back into it.  I'm sure it's good for us.

He required vodka when we got back to the motel!

The rest got there about 20 minutes after we got back.  We had pre-dinner drinks in The Builder and my room, looking out over the courtyard.  Then we all went for a truly sumptuous meal in the hotel restaurant.  You will find an account of that here

Sunday was Anzac Day.

Wedding guests looking dapper and elegant
And the day of the wedding.  Lindsey and I went for a post-breakfast walk (the breakfast as very tasty but nowhere near the quality of the dinner the night before.  I don't think the owners were expecting anyone to ask for a cooked breakfast!!) then they all tarted up for the wedding.

After they left, The Builder and I went for a walk, along the marina, across the river, along the beach, out along the breakwater, then back along the river.  We had a lovely seafood risotto in Rebecca of Port Fairy's cafe for lunch.  The others came back from the wedding and we joined them in the courtyard for wine in the sunshine and a nibble of their chips.  Then they went to the reception and we went out for dinner.

Stella had recommended a fish and chip place by the jetty.  We had called in at lunchtime and made a table reservation - just in case.  It was quite busy at lunchtime and it was, after all, a holiday weekend.

It was not busy at dinner time.  The place was completely deserted!  Stella had said that when she and Tony were there they had ordered a seafood platter that was so huge that they had been unable to finish it.  Yes - but they didn't have The Builder with them.  We ordered the seafood platter.  And got: 8 fresh oysters, 8 king prawns, a skewer with 6 honeyed shrimps, calamari rings, scallops, flake, whiting and flathead.  Oh - and chips and salad but we didn't eat them!  It was HUGE.  Humungous.  Easily enough for three and probably even four.  Much, much too much for two.  But very delicious.

Monday was a holiday.  So The Builder, Lindsey and I went for another walk around the island, then joined the rest for a much better breakfast than we had had on Sunday.  I think the usual chef must have had the day off on Sunday.  Then The Builder and I stole Lindsey's car, kidnapped Ant, Jess and Emily and brought them down to Melbourne.  Lindsey and Ian went to Ballarat.

Lindsey's car has cruise control.  I MUST HAVE cruise control installed in The Vixen.  It's fabulous.  Although it would have been useful to know that Lindsey's speedo under-reads at the higher speeds.  I wondered why so many people were overtaking me on the highway.  Australians are usually quite observant of the speed limits (they are rigorously enforced here) and it would be highly reckless to be speeding on a long weekend.  It was only after we passed under a speed advisory bridge on the Geelong Freeway that I realised that while everyone else was sitting on 100 km (the speed limit on open roads unless otherwise indicated), I was reading 90 km.  I sped up a bit!

Simon came round for the Monday Steak Night - although we didn't have steak.  We've moved Steak Night this week to Friday, which is our last night here.  We had spag bog instead. Everything was sourced at the little grocery downstairs.  It didn't do a bad job in providing our dinner.

I would never expect to find coconut and pistachio nuts in a chocolate gelato.  Rebecca of Port Fairy in her ice cream parlour adds them to her chocolate gelati !

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Stag Restaurant, Comfort Inn, Port Fairy, Victoria, Australia

Ian was quite disappointed, when he went to book a table at the Merrijig restaurant in Port Fairy for last night, to find that all the restaurants were fully booked (it is a long weekend in Australia, plus there are lots of extra people in town for Ian's niece's wedding this afternoon).

So he booked a table at the hotel restaurant.

I would not normally expect to get particularly exciting food in a hotel restaurant in country Victoria.

I would have been wrong.  Last night's dinner ranked amongst the best I have ever eaten!

Lindsey, Ian, Jess, Ant and Emily shared two seafood platters for two for their entree.  The Builder and I had bowls of tomato soup poured around little parmesan souffles. The souffle was delicious and the tomato soup absolutely lovely. They served it with the souffle sat in the middle of a flat bowl with a roasted cherry tomato to one side.  And the soup came in a jug which you poured around the souffle island.  It was very pretty

And then we had the main courses:

Sea bream on a fennel risotto
I had schnapper but was too greedy to stop and take a picture!  I love schnapper and, of course, seldom get the chance to eat it.  Mind you, I was lucky to get it.  They were serving the sea bream as their fish of the day, and the schnapper only after the bream had run out. I got the first serving :-)


Steak and chips


The carrots were cooked with cumin and tiny, tiny currants.  The sprouts were confitted and were delicious.  I must find out how they did them

Mozarella and fig salad
There were several interesting vegetarian options,  not a feta and spinach dish to be seen

Rump steak with garlic butter
I had a taste of Lindsey's steak.  It was very tasty and beautifully cooked

A cone of chips
I think the chips were amongst the best we have ever eaten

Don't think Lindsey enjoyed her meal at all!!
We were all much to full even to consider dessert, until the charming and chatty waiter mentioned that they do petit tarts, chocolate or rhubarb, which are about the size of the top of a small wine glass.  Lindsey and I shared a rhubarb one, Jess and Emily a chocolate one.  They were just right to finish off with, light and creamy and small.  An amuse bouche for the end of the meal.  Oh - and a short black coffee.

I think the wedding reception which the others are going to this evening is going to have quite a job to beat that meal.

(Thanks to Jess for some of the photos)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The local butcher

We came up to Ballarat yesterday so Lindsey could inspect her dogs, check her chooks and generally sort the house out.

We had pies and chips for lunch, from the bakery and the chip shop at Mount Clear.  I have to say that the chips from the chip shop were probably the best chip shop chips we've had while we've been here.  Apart from in cafes, chips have been something of a disappointment on this trip.  Still, now we know.  Mount Clear fish and chip shop is the way to go.

But what shall we have for dinner.  I ambled into the butcher's shop.  We've had lots and lots of steak and red meat in the last fortnight.  I think we'll go with chicken.  Oh, and some bacon.  I'll do chicken fillets wrapped in bacon and grilled.  So I asked for three fillets.  And the cheery butcher got them for me.  Then I asked for "6 slices of your wonderful bacon, please".  The butcher beamed.  He was pleased that I thought his bacon was wonderful.  They cure it themselves on the premises. " Indeed," said I.  "You can see why your bacon wins awards."  (I know the bacon wins awards because there's a sign in the shop that says so)

He asked if I had tried their ham.  I had not.  So he gave me a bit to taste.  It was absolutely delicious.  I gave a bit to The Builder. He thought it was delicious too.  The butcher beamed even more.  And got his mate to slice a few slices which he added to my shopping.  Had we, perchance, tried the saveloys?  Erm - no.  So he chucked a couple of saveloys into the shopping as well.

I don't usually eat saveloys. Normally they are too gristly and salty and fatty and yucky.  We had those two saveloys this morning with our breakfast.  If we lived anywhere remotely near Mount Clear, we would take up eating saveloys with enthusiasm!  The ham was scrumptious sat on top of a slice of cheese, sat on top of crumpets and grilled.

Last night's chicken was rather nice too.  He's a good butcher.

Right.  Must get ready.  We're shortly off to Port Fairy for the wedding weekend. Although fortunately most of the UK guests have now managed to get here and The Builder and I are no longer on standby to make up the numbers

Friday, April 23, 2010

Catching up with an old friend

A few weeks ago my friend Robert posted on his Facebook page that his cat had gone missing.  Among those who posted condolences was Peter. I wonder if that is the same Peter that I once knew and haven't seen or heard of since, oh - around 1986 or so.  It's not a very common surname.

So I went stalking him around Facebook.  Found his children and through them his (now ex) wife.  Decided it must be the same Peter and sent him a Facebook message.

And it was.  He's living in Craigieburn now with his new partner Daniel.

And so it was that he and Daniel arranged to come into town yesterday to meet Lindsey, The Builder and me for lunch.  In Federation Square.  At the cafe with the orange umbrellas.  You can't possibly miss them!

So Lindsey, TB and I walked to Federation Square and got there a few minutes before the appointed hour. Couldn't see any orange umbrellas, though.  Just some red ones. Which were attached to a cafe.  And might, if you were slightly colour blind, almost be described as orange.

We decided we were in the wrong place when it got to ten past the hour and there was still no sign of Peter and Daniel.  Lindsey went for a mooch around. And found, directly across from Flinders Street Station, and out of our view - a cafe with orange umbrellas, which you couldn't possibly miss if you were coming from the station and where were waiting Peter and Daniel!

The cafe with the orange umbrellas does mighty fine burgers.  And rather nice chips.

It was good to catch up with Peter and to meet Daniel.  Alas, it was a working day for Peter so he couldn't linger.  Plus, we also had things to do.  But it was a lovely hour.  We must do it again.  Although I can't think of any cafes with orange umbrellas in or around Chesterfield.  Perhaps that's a gap in the market!!

In the evening we went to Papa Ginos for pizza night .  Except that Papa Ginos doesn't take bookings and we were expecting 15 people to the pizza night.  So we went to Tiamo 2 instead.  And I didn't have pizza, but a rather magnificent seafood platter.  But apart from that it all went to plan!  And we finally got to see Yvette, Bethan and Jacob who I was beginning to think we wouldn't catch up with on this trip

Wendy was very excited.  She had found a book all about her.

It was a good evening.  I think that I shall declare that henceforth Thursdays will be pizza night.  Although we might not be able to come to Lygon Street absolutely every week!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dallying in the countryside

We've been up Mount Macedon.

I wasn't absolutely confident of my ability to find it!  And even less confident that I would ever find the car park at the flat when we came back.  So we didn't take Ian's sporty Peugeot but Lindsey's substantial Subaru with built in sat nav.

Actually, Mount Macedon isn't difficult to find.  It's a small mountain.  Off the Calder highway.  Chris's house is a little harder to find, especially since she's disguised it as a concrete bunker!  We did find the parking area by John's music studio though, so parked there.

The doggies found us!  Lucy is a small doggie with springs on her feet.  I don't think I've ever met a dog that can jump quite so high. Oscar is a little older and slightly more sedate.  He just bounces!

They like chasing tennis balls!!

Chris took us on a tour of the renovated house, the studio extension and the glorious gardens. She provided a sumptuous lunch - lasagne with fizzy wine.  We had a raspberry souffle with raspberries from the raspberry patch.  Then we took the bouncy dogs for a walk up around the cross atop Mount Macedon. John came back from work and we had a Nice Cup of Tea before heading back to Melbourne and pub night with Lindsey, Ian and Simon.  It was a splendidly food-laden day :-)

And now you find us in the Gippsland mist.  Lindsey, The Builder and I have come to inspect Belinda and Matthew's renovated house and splendid gardens.  Their dogs are much too venerable now to bounce or spring.  The 9 week old kitten, Sage and William do that on their behalf!

More splendid food last night.  With vegetables from the garden.  Matt and Belinda grow their carrots in the ground.  I have NEVER had any success at all trying to grow carrots in the ground (mine get grown in boxes).

But I am beginning to feel that I should be renovating a house and acquiring splendid gardens!!

video

While we've been here we've had a concert from Sage :-) 


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It may have been a mistake ...

... standing on the bathroom scales this morning.

Especially after a Full English in East Melbourne on Sunday then a family Sunday lunch at Mount Martha, a flake and chips supper, a fried Monday breakfast, a pie and salad lunch and then steak night back in East Melbourne.

Just as well that we will return to Tupton more or less penniless, and heading into fruit and vegetable season.  We may need to do a Holy Week diet (having failed to do it during actual Holy Week) from May to August!!

Tabitha reports that the Bathstore technical help people have given her to understand that the problem she has encountered with the bath tap is not an unknown problem. Furthermore, our taps are still under warranty so they are sending a replacement bit free of charge, together with instructions on how to fit it.  You could hope that they have now redesigned the taps!

RIght.  Off to Mount Macedon.  If I can find it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tabitha's broken the bathroom!!!!!

Sound asleep I was at 06:00 this morning.  Suddenly my phone made a noise as of a siren going off. This woke me up quite abruptly!!  (I've had to change the tone my phone uses when text messages come in - SImon and Ian use the same tone and it was all getting far too confusing.  But the siren won't do at all.  Have changed it again to something a little less dramatic!)

Anyway.  It was Taffa.  Could I hop onto Skype.  Well no, because Tony turns off his modem overnight. No Internet access = no Skype.

How do you turn off the water to the bathroom?  Why would you want to do that?  The bath tap is broken?  BROKEN?  How can you have broken the bath tap?????????????

I told her where the isolator valves are in the bathroom. And where the screwdrivers are kept.  Didn't work.  The Builder, also now of necessity awake, issued more detailed instructions.  Still wasn't working.  She couldn't get the screwdriver in at the right angle to be able to turn it.

It seems that plumbers charge £200 at nearly midnight on a Sunday just to turn out (I think I might be in the wrong job!!).

Fortunately, at this point, Steve next door came outside for a cigarette (in his garden, you understand, not ours).  Tabitha rushed outside and pleaded for help.  And Steve rode out to the rescue. I think he enlarged the hole in wall for access to the isolator valves, but whatever he did he has at least managed to get the water off.  We are hopeful that plumbers do not charge £200 just to turn out in the middle of a Monday morning!!

Good Golly Miss Molly

When Lindsey announced some time ago that she and I were to attend a hen night, I can't say that my heart absolutely leapt with joy. Were I to tell you that up until this moment I have successfully avoided all henny parties, this would probably give you some idea how excited I was by the idea.

But needs must.  Lindsey had bought me a ticket (!!) and it was only from 6 to 7:30 (!!!!!) and how awful could it possibly be?  Anyway, Jess and Emily were coming too, and I rather like Fiona, whose hen night it was.  I pinched one of Lindsey's skirts and got dressed up.  Well, in as much as I ever get "dressed up".

The party was in St Kilda, in an art gallery. I was a tad disconcerted to walk in to find a circle of easels with paper pegged on.  This would tend to suggest that we were expected to draw something.  Gulp.  Drawing is emphatically not one of my many talents.  And what were we expected to draw? There wasn't anything in the middle for us to focus on.

And then there was.  A young man.  In a gown.  And then - not in a gown, but completely, absolutely and totally naked. And in a pose.  My God -- it's a LIFE DRAWING party!!!!!!!!!  And we had to draw him not once, not twice, not even three times - but four.  And one of them was a combined drawing where you did a bit, then moved on and did a bit more to someone else's picture. And one was a colour picture that was put into a book and presented to Fiona as a memento.  I've never been to a life drawing class before (as you would expect, given that drawing is not one of my talents).  I don't suppose I'll ever go to another.  But I can at least now say that I've been to one!  And, come to that, to a hen party :-)

And, as one of the guests pointed out, with a life drawing do you get to see more than you do with a stripper.  Well, you see exactly the same amount, I suppose, just for longer.

The eating and drinking has continued apace.  We've had lunch with Pat in Ballarat, and sat outside in the afternoon sun while she and I drank wine and The Builder remained abstinent so he could drive Ian's new Peugeot home.  Lindsey and I (and Emily and Jess) had magnificent Middle Eastern food in Balaclava after the hen party (the hen and her mates went clubbing, I think). We've had a family Sunday lunch in Mount Martha (where Lindsey, The Builder and I still are).

The Builder went to the football with Simon, Ian, Christian and Cassie while we were chasing after naked men.  Simon is a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club so gets to go to football matches at the MCG.  He gets to take guests as well.  The Builder was quite impressed that his first visit to a match at the MCG was in the members' bit.

It's a lovely day today.  Tony is off to golf.  The rest of us are going to Sorrento. Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula, not Sorrento in Italy!

Fiona is a bit worried about her wedding on Sunday.  Many of the guests are coming from England, including her brother and the groom's parents.  It seems that a volcano has erupted and brought air traffic to a halt around Europe.  And the guests probably don't now have time to get here by boat!! 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

There is very little to beat a Lygon Street Pizza for lunch

The intention had been to meet Robert and Susan at their place in North Balwyn for lunch on Thursday.  Arrangements were in place.  All was organised. Lindsey was to drive us out, we would merry-make for a few hours, Lindsey would drive us home.

Then the arrangements were disrupted by the death of their next door neighbour and the funeral being arranged co-incidently with our proposed luncheon time.

So we moved lunch.  We moved the day (Wednesday), the location (Carlton), the modes of transport (we walked, Robert drove) and the dramatis personae (alas, Susan was unable to join us).

But even yet, it did not all go according to plan. Robert had suggested a place on Drummond Street which (allegedly) does wonderful pizze.  I may never know - it was closed.

So we went to Lygon Street and had pizza somewhere else.  And truly wonderful pizza it was too. Accompanied by a rather nice bottle of red wine.

So, excepting the absence of Susan, it all really rather fell into place.  There really is very little that beats pizza for lunch in Lygon Street in the company of a close friend, a sister and a husBuilder.  I need to arrange to do it rather more often.

We walked back to the flat, then later mounted a sneak attack on Ant and Jess's place in Flemington, where we dashed in, dognapped Krumm and dashed out again.  Simon came for dinner.  I cooked a chicken wellington thing. We had more wine.  It was all good.  I like days that are largely built around good food, good wine and lots of chat.

Robert seemed to be quite excited at meeting the hippos.  He was pleased to meet Frank, too, of course - but he seems to have been following the hippos' travel adventures with some interest. Frank doesn't travel with us quite as frequently.

You remember how we met Ian quite by chance on a tram on Tuesday?  Today we ran, equally by chance, into Ross in Readings on Lygon Street.  I wonder who we will happen upon today?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

So, said Lindsey on Monday evening.  What do you want to do tomorrow?

I opined that I wanted to be on holiday.

Right, said Lindsey.  That means we need to go to the beach.

So mid-morning on Tuesday, Lindsey, The Builder and I hopped on a tram and took ourselves off to St Kilda for a potter on the beach, a walk along the pier, lunch in a beach side cafe and a general potter about.

The cafe was rather nice.  They were offering a meal deal.  $25 for an entree, a main and a drink.  We pondered our options over a glass of wine.  The waiter put the wine cooler on the table next to Lindsey and reminded her that she had to share.  It was not just for her.  I selected my food, and asked for a class of fizzy wine.  The Builder selected his and asked for a beer.  The waiter informed Lindsey that in that case she didn't have to share the bottle of wine and did she want a straw?

When he brought the cutlery, he also brought a huge straw for Lindsey!!!!!


I do like a waiter with a sense of humour!

We wandered back through St Kilda and its many eating places (the Jewish culinary presence seems much less strong - where have they all gone?) up to Albert Park and then onto another tram to head back into town.

I am sure that you are all aware that it is not permitted to take sharp objects on board when flying on planes.  I was actually quite surprised on Etihad that they give you real cutlery instead of the flimsy plastic stuff that most airlines provide.  Because of this, I always carry my keys, which have a penknife attached, in my suitcase.  On this occasion, however, I didn't even think about my keys until the woman at checkin asked if I had anything sharp with me.  But where were they.  The suitcases were about to go down the roller thingy.  I wasn't sure which of the carry on bags the keys were in.  There was nothing for it but to let the bags go and for me to hunt the keys later.  I had to throw away my extremely useful Swiss army penknife ;-(

So we headed into Melbourne Central to the knife shop to buy another one.  I was rather taken by the little, purple one.  Though I am not sure how practical it would have been.  I use the penknife mainly in the garden and for opening printer paper boxes and printer cartridge containers at work.  The little knife might not have been quite large enough.  In the meantime, Lindsey had found another, larger one (alas, not in purple) and had pointed out that this one would be more useful, that it wasn't much more expensive than the one I was looking at, and that she would buy it for me as a present (this was remarkably generous of her, for we had bought her a present in Abu Dhabi - and in Abu Dhabi that present remains.  I think we left it in the departure lounge :-S ).  I now have a new Swiss Army penknife ;-)

It is pub night on Tuesdays.  Simon and Ian (who we had run across on a tram in the course of the afternoon) joined us and we went to the Crown and sat outside in the beer garden which is protected from the wind and coolth of the evening by a large wall. It was nice, pub food, which was seasoned well by the language of the woman on another table.  I think that at least every third word, possibly even every second word sometimes, was the Eff word!  I'm not even sure that she was aware she was using it!

I woke up at half past four this morning ;-(  I am still awake, although it is now a little after 7 and light.  It is just as well I have my nightie and dressing gown on, though:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From East Melbourne

We have (mostly) been travelling in style.

We went down to London with first class tickets for the train.  I have discovered a service run by The Trainline which allows you to register future trips with them well in advance.  Then, when the tickets are released by the rail companies, The Trainline emails you with the cheap fares.  This meant that I got first class tickets to London for the princely sum of £35 for two.  Not each - for both of us.  I bought them!

And it was a very comfortable trip, until we got to Kings Cross and discovered that there were no direct underground trains to Heathrow. We had to go all around the houses, making one leg by bus, and taking over two hours instead of the usual just under one to get there.  It made my decision to take the pink bag instead of the suitcase on wheels look extremely foolish.  The poor Builder got quite sore arms and shoulders - although he said it was mostly his hip which was complaining!

The hotel was very nice.  Lovely food.  Lovely room.  But it is the only hotel room I have ever been in (which provides the wherewithal to make hot drinks) where your options were camomile infusion and coffee.  WHERE WAS THE TEA?!?!?!?!?!?!?!  A lack of tea is not a pleasant discovery when you have to be awake at 4:45 and out of the room by 5:30!!  And how very unBritish, for there not to be tea!!!

We flew with Etihad - an airline I would definitely commend to you, should you be flying long haul.  The attendants are very pleasant. The food is quite good (although we were sat at the back, and the only option they had left by the time they got the dinner trolley up to us was the vegetarian lasagne). We had a good flight in to Abu Dhabi.  Although I was a bit surprised when we got there - Lindsey had said there were some quite nice shops, and there didn't seem to be anything in particular when we were looking around.  And we could only find one tiny, tucked away place to get a drink.  Then, when we made our way to our gate for boarding, we discovered that there are, in fact, two terminals. We were in one.  The Etihad departure terminal is a ten or fifteen minute walk, has many quite interesting shops, a food hall, complete with pubs - and the Etihad Business Class lounge which we had been entirely unable to find.

And why were we looking for the Etihad Business Class lounge?  Because they had rung me up on Thursday and asked if I wanted to buy an upgrade to Business Class from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne for £300 each.  I happened to have some money sat about and decided to indulge in the upgrade.  Couldn't afford to upgrade for the whole trip - I'd have had no money left to use in Melbourne (don't have all that much anyway!). But if you're going to fly Business Class for one leg, then it might just as well be the longer one.

And very nice it was too.  With Etihad you have pods rather than just large seats, so you more or less have your own little "cell".  There are double pods, but they had given us single ones by the windows.  You could see why they had offered the upgrade, mind you - there were only 9 of us in Business Class. I wonder how many of us were upgraded?

The food was wonderful. The wine was plentiful. My pod was extremely comfortable and I slept quite well.  The Builder was a little tall for his pod and wasn't quite as comfortable.  But he also slept reasonably well - and was certainly a lot more comfortable when sitting up.  Lots of leg room for him compared with economy.  It was very comfortable indeed.  I may have to travel only business class for long haul trips in the future.  Well, after getting home again.  I don't think I can afford to upgrade again in a mere three weeks.

And now you find us in Lindsey and Ian's flat in East Melbourne. Simon and Christian were here last evening for steak night. We're seeing Simon again tonight for pub night (good to have a routine in your week; steak night on Mondays, pub night on Tuesdays ...). And today Lindsey, The Builder and I are planning a trip to St Kilda on the tram.  I suppose I ought to consider the possibility of getting up.

One disadvantage of travelling business class was the fact that we slept really quite well.  This meant that we wren't particularly tired when we got here.  And we were still quite definitely on British Summer Time.  We were late to bed. Still - we're awake now.  And it's only half past eight. But I must get up!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April

The Under Gardener has planted another bed of onions on the allotment and two beds of potatoes.  He's also planted out some Brussels sprout plants that Colin gave him.  He intends to continue the digging when he gets back in May. I think the weeds are beginning to fight back!

I intend to plant up two more beds of peas and broad beans in the kitchen garden before we go tomorrow. I meant to buy more seeds but haven't.  There will probably be time to get more pea seeds, but maybe not broad beans.  Oh well.  Next year!

The Under Gardener has also decided that it will be easier to dig over the flower beds when we get back rather than trying to weed them.  Those pesky alpine strawberries seem to have taken over the entire garden!!  We also need to sort out the shrubby border.  And most definitely the soft fruit beds.  Something for us to look forward to on our return :-)

Everything that the pigeons might have a fancy for has now been netted.  Now we just have to hope that the slugs don't find our tasty delicacies before we return to engage in combat.

I am not entirely convinced that April is a good time to go away for three weeks.  And I seem to recall having said this before.  We ought to plan our long haul trips for January or February (although Japan may not be entirely enticing in the middle of winter!!)

Fingers crossed for three weeks of gentle rains, gentle breezes and warm but not hot sunshine in Tupton

Friday, April 09, 2010

It was a funny week. I was only at work for three days and I really, really wanted all of them to be Wednesday, for some reason.  This worked quite well on Wednesday.  Less well on Thursday and Friday! Plus, I was trying to get things wound up at work so they would tick over while I was away for three and a half weeks, and get ready to go to Australia for three weeks, and get the house ready to be abandoned and the garden ready to be neglected.  Although the garden is quite used to being neglected!

Gareth came and took away the car.

And we got a letter from the guttering people to say there was a discrepancy between what their salesman had quoted and what the surveyor thought the cost was likely to be and they were therefore cancelling the contract.  I have a feeling that they might have been legally bound by it, given that a contract had been signed and we had paid a deposit, but I wasn't going to argue.  As long as I get my deposit back, I can't be fussed with taking it to a tribunal. If it comes to it, we can get a local bloke in to do the front guttering and we can probably do the back ourselves.  Actually, we could probably do the lot ourselves (The Builder doing the buildering, and me holding the ladder) but if someone is going to fall off a tall, tall ladder while tackling the front guttering, I would rather it was someone else!! (Although I would, of course, prefer it if no one did!).

And now it's time to go!  See you in Australia!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Easter Feasting

We had a magnificent Easter Feast this year.  We had home made fish cakes on Good Friday, and fish pie on Saturday.  On Sunday I made souvlaki for dinner, with tabouleh and lettuce and tomato, and garlic sauce and toasted pita bread.  It was sumptuously delicious. I had forgotten quite how much I like tabouleh.  I must make it more often

But mostly, our feast was on Monday.  I made some more scotch eggs and some prawn cakes (like fish cakes only with prawns instead of fish) for the entree.  We had a truly lovely piece of lamb from Farmer Jayne roasted with Shetland Black roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, sprouting broccoli from the garden and sweet potatoes, and a vegetable and white wine gravy.

And for dessert we had ice cream sundaes, with choc-mint ice cream (made with fresh mint), baileys ice cream and vanilla ice cream, topped with a chocolate and raspberry sauce, crushed nuts (no crushed nuts on mine!!) and tiny, tiny sugared Easter eggs.  Now if I could only find the recipe for the chocolate sauce again.  Although - I think I have a print out of it somewhere  It was dead easy - just cocoa, sugar and water, to which I added some de-seeded raspberry jam and a healthy dollop of cream. I just can't remember the quantities for the sauce.

Easter

We have had a very jolly Easter weekend. There was considerable feasting.

The guttering man came on Friday and stayed for an hour.  He was civilised, washed and brushed, tidy, polite - and seemed to know what he was talking about.  We have paid a deposit for new guttering and downpipes to come later in the summer. (The guttering at the front of the house goes very slightly uphill towards the downpipe which, I'm sure you will agree, is not entirely effective!)

We went on Saturday to help Freyja shift things from her old flat to her new place and to start the cleaning up process, for Mark has now moved out and the flat is being given up. Mark has moved into a castle!!!! (Well, into a flat inside a 19th century version of a castle).

Tabitha, Gareth and Ginger Rich came by on Sunday afternoon and stayed over. Although Rich had to leave early on Monday morning and thus missed out on our Easter Feast on the Monday

Bea and Steve joined us for lunch on Monday.  Taffa and Gaz stayed for lunch too. Then Bea and Steve took them back into Sheffield to catch their coach back.  It's weird, really.  You can buy "fun fares" on the coach to and from Cambridge for not very much money, but only from Sheffield, not from Chesterfield.  You can get *off* in Chesterfield, but not on.  So they had to go 15 miles into Sheffield, to get on a coach which brought them along that very same 15 miles back to Chesterfield.

Then I had Tuesday off, because the University was closed.  We had lunch in The Nettle and left overs from Monday for dinner. And I did almost nothing.  I did manage to wash about half the dishes from Monday and that was pretty much it.  Which is something of a worry because we're back helping Freyja this evening, then we're leaving for London on Saturday afternoon, and the house looks like a bomb has gone off in it and the ironing has not been done and I had quite a lot of organisational plans for Tuesday none of which materialised :-S

But we did eat well.  And drink well.

Someone seems to have called a general election.  The news last evening talked of nothing else.  Actually, that's not true.  They allowed around three minutes for a discussion of actual news.  I can only be grateful that I am about to leave the country. By the time we come back, the election will be all but upon us.  In the meantime, I shall watch the food programs on telly and avoid the news programs.  Not quite sure what I can do about Radio 4 in the mornings, though.

Mostly, we seemed to spend the weekend playing Angry Birds on my iPhone.  Not that Gareth is obsessed at all, oh, no no no no no

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Outlet shopping

It is not very often that I have cause to be grateful for the existence of outlet shopping centres, but just such an occasion occurred at the weekend.  We had been enjoying steak and chips in The Swan on Saturday evening.  I enjoyed mine so much that I succeeded in tipping half a pot of peppercorn sauce all over me.  We wiped me down with paper napkins but nevertheless, my clothes still looked on Sunday morning as though I had had a particularly unfortunate accident.  And, of course, I did not have a change of clothes with me because my trousers and shirt had been clean on as we left home on Saturday lunchtime!

We were off to Jeanette and Matthew's place for lunch.  The intention had been to take The Builder's mother with us as well but, alas, she had a tummy upset and was indisposed.  As we trundled towards Whiteley it crossed my mind that just around the corner from Jeanette and Matthew's house there was a rather large outlet shopping centre.  I nipped into a clothes shop, emerged with a pair of trousers and a shirt, ducked into the ladies and got changed into nice, unpeppercorn sauced clothes.  I might also have accidentally gone into Past Times.  And maybe into Whittards.  We now have nice new kitchen plates and a new nightshirt each

We had a lovely lunch and a nice visit. It was good to see everyone, although a bit disappointing that Gwen couldn't join us

And then I had a rather nice week. I had Monday off, just because.  Then on Tuesday and Wednesday I was at a conference in Nottingham.  And tomorrow is Good Friday, and we get a five day weekend.  I think I can probably manage one day in the office!

Oh - and Farley now has his nice new collar.  They had them on sale in our local Sainsbury's too.

A man is coming to talk to us tomorrow morning about guttering.  I very devoutly hope that he does not plan to stay for four hours.  I don't think I could stand four hours talking about gutters and downpipes!!