Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bloody Banks!!!

A little while ago I decided to check my online bank balance.  Excellent.  It was under my overdraft limit.  A good place to be!!

For some reason, I glanced at the top of the page, where all the practical information is.  I never look up there - largely because the practical information so seldom changes.

It had this time!!!

My overdraft limit had been cut in half.  I was now significantly *over* my overdraft limit ;-(

I ambled up to the bank at lunchtime to find out what was going on.  It seems that the bank's Hal had decided that, as I almost never used my overdraft right up to its limit and therefore clearly didn't want it to be that high, it would reduce it down closer to where my balance usually is sat.

But surely that's the point of an overdraft, said I.  So that in the event of an emergency, or an unexpected pleasure, you have funds to draw on at no notice. Such as when you go to Australia for three weeks and would like a little extra spending money. Surely you shouldn't be sat at the outside edge of your overdraft limit on a regular basis.

Quite right, said the charming, helpful but ultimately useless young man in the bank.  Very bad idea to be right at your overdraft limit all the time.  Ring them up and get them to change it.

And another thing! Shouldn't someone have warned me that this was about to happen?

Ah yes, he said.  A letter was sent early in April.  And another was sent this morning.

I got no letter early in April.  And I certainly hadn't got the one that was posted that morning!! (That one didn't turn up for another three days or so.)  So the bank has, effectively without warning, cut my overdraft in half and I am now vastly overspent.

No worries said the ineffective young man (he couldn't actually do anything, you understand; he could only explain.  If I wanted anything done I needed to speak on the telephone to one of Hal's acolytes). It was us who made the change.  You won't be charged for it.

Yeah, right.  Looked at my bank account again today.  Not only have they charge me a £25 "arrangement" fee for cutting my overdraft without consultation, they have also charged me not once, not twice but THREE TIMES for being over the limit without authorisation.

I am not a happy bunny.  I am also not a cashed up bunny - I have access to £600 less than I was expecting to have access to this month!!

I am, however, in the market for a new bank.  Or maybe a new biscuit tin.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Another foodie weekend

We have just had a weekend of the most glorious weather.  It's been sunny and warm and still and lovely.  Temperatures in the very high 20s.  In our garden both the thermometers read slightly over 30d mid-afternoon on Saturday and when we got back on Sunday.  Unusually for England, which is usually very humid if the temperature rises over around 24, the humidity levels were low.  It was just lovely.

So on Saturday evening, we lit the barbecue.  I think we used it only two or three times last summer.  We used it twice over the weekend!!!!!  It is, however, a bit rusty and the lid doesn't close properly anymore.  Mind you, we've had it five years and we bought it extremely cheaply at B&Q so I don't suppose it owes us much.  We might buy a new one.  They've got some quite nice ones at Focus for around £50.  One of those would do quite nicely.  And by next autumn, we might even have a functioning shed.  It could live in there over the winter!!

In the meantime, however, it did a fair job on our pork chops, chicken pieces and steak on Saturday evening. It didn't do too bad a job on the piece of lamb I put in on Sunday, though I think next time I do it I'll wait for the flames to die right down and cook the meat on the embers - the bottom of the lamb joint was seriously singed!! That was me being impatient, I think. But it was absolutely lovely to be able to sit out in the garden until it went dark at around 10pm. We were down in the "orchard" and the birds were singing and the trains were choofing lazily; Marlo lay in the grass under the trees; we sat on chairs under the trees.  It would be nice to have a summer in which we could spend lots of time down in the garden.  It's a nice place to be.

Another nice place to be was Kedleston Hall on Sunday afternoon.  Not that we went into the hall itself.  We were there for the Derbyshire Food and Drink Festival. I must say that it wasn't as big as I had expected, but we had a good time.  There were lots of the people who have stalls at the monthly farmers' markets.  We don't go to the farmers' markets so much any more (we mostly go to farm shops these days) but I recognised many of the stallholders or at least their stall names.  And I guess I don't tend to buy things like pies and cakes and quiches.  Usually I make my own.  But I did buy some pieces of hogget , and some gammon and a few bits and pieces that you don't see kicking around in many places.  And we had a pleasant potter around.  We also had a nice drive to and from Kedleston Hall.  We went cross country in both directions - but a different route on the way back.  It was a lovely afternoon.  We were not a little curious about the HUGE number of motorbikes parked in Matlock Bath.  I rather assumed there was a motorbike convention happening.  But it seems that there are always lots of bikes there on Sunday afternoons.  Apparently they enjoy riding on the twisty roads thereabouts. 

Last year I bought a rather nice lilac shift-shirt in the end of season sales.  It fitted quite well then, although I didn't have a chance to wear it.  It still fits, but it does make me look as though I am about 15 months pregnant.  The Builder has a favourite pair of trousers which fitted beautifully at the end of last summer.  He can't even get them on now.  There is clearly only one thing for it.  It's time to bite the bullet, stiffen the upper lip and embark on action.  So tell me - where do we get liposuction and how much will it cost?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Freyja asks me to tell you that they weren't transferred from a flight from East Midlands to a flight from Bristol.  It would have been much easier if they had been, and very, very much cheaper.  In fact, they cancelled their very cheap Ryanair flights and bought much more expensive easyJet flights.  All in all, it has so far been far and away the most money-hungry "cheap" holiday she has ever been on!  But at least they are now all in Berlin :-)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mid-May

We've cleared out the fish pond of most of the water mint and water forget me nots - which were threatening to take over the entire pond, leaving no room at all for fish or frogs or anything else.  We now have a rather pretty clump of plants in one corner, many traumatised fish and extremely murky water.  Really must work out how you clear out a fish pond when there are more than 25 fish in it!

I've started trimming around the fruit trees, where the grass is a couple of feet high.  Looks much better where I've trimmed.

We are getting ready to dig up the brassicas, so we can plant melons and pumpkins and courgettes - I've just planted more courgette seeds, and so far we have one watermelon plant and one squash plant coming on, but I planted new seeds last weekend.

The weather is warming up and it is VERY tempting to start planting things out.  But it's still too early.  We had a few quite hard frosts last week and it would be sad if all the plants were to die!

But so far, so good.  Making steady progress.  And The Under Gardener continues to dig  :-)

The allotment 17th May 2010

The Travel Dogs clearly don't love Freyja very much

Freyja is off to Berlin today, accompanied by the Hippos and a friend.

Things were not going quite to plan when she took her passport to work last Monday to photocopy it. After work she went to the cinema and then out to dinner.  At some point during the day her passport escaped from her bag.  She searched everywhere, but to no avail. Passport gone, never to be seen again.

So.  She had to make an unscheduled and rather expensive trip to the Liverpool Passport Office on Friday where, because she has a biometric passport, they were able (although rather reluctantly) to replace it for her on the day.  At vast expense.  It ended up being, as she commented later, a somewhat expensive evening out!!

Anyway.  All was well that ended well.  Freyja had her new  passport.  The hippos had never lost theirs.  Everyone was fit to travel.

Then the Norse Volcano Dogs decided to have another round in the "Which airports can we disrupt today with our volcanic ash" game that they've been playing for the past month or so and decided to take out the northern and central British Isles.  Which is where Freyja was flying from.  All flights from East Midlands were cancelled (well, if not all, then certainly this morning's flights).  Freyja and her friend were transferred to a flight from Bristol.  Not entirely convenient if you live in Sheffield, but accessible via an eye-wateringly expensive train trip.

Bristol airport is now closed!!  They're all off there anyway.  If necessary they'll camp in Bristol until an aircraft is available to take them to Berlin.

Fortunately, they are returning to the UK in a fortnight's time - on Eurostar.  Which is unlikely to be affected by volcanic ash.  And probably, at the beginning of June, not by snow either.

We, in the meantime, have had a much less exciting time.  Mostly the week has been full of food.  We had dinner at Roger and Kate's place on Saturday evening, as did Bea and Steve.   We had fresh asparagus wrapped in ham, and lamb casserole, and raspberries and cream.  We had wine and conversation and music.  It was a lovely evening.  We've been eating our own asparagus from the garden for the first time.  Not a lot, but some, and it's very delicious.  We've also been eating cabbages and mini cauliflowers and using fresh herbs all from the garden.  We've been indulging in lots of Jersey Royal potatoes (not from the garden, obviously, because it's not in Jersey!!)  We are beginning to run out of Farmer Jayne's lamb and pork.  Must get some more.  Tonight we are going to have our very own steak night: Derbyshire rump steak, garlic mushrooms, Jersey Royal potatoes and some of the cabbage and asparagus fro mthe garden. We do not appear to be losing any girth.  I can't think why not!!!!!

And the weather has been rather lovely.  Sunny and warming up.  You can feel the hints of summer in the air.  So can the birds.  The swallows are back.  I think I saw some swifts yesterday too.  And there are young starlings in the garden trying very hard to fall into the fish pond.  Fortunately, we have a net!!

It's very nearly light at 04:00 in Tupton at the moment.  I know this from personal experience.  So too do the blackbirds who were having a merry time singing this morning. Right outside the bedroom window!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Early May

We got back from Australia to find that things were not entirely happy in the greenhouse in the garden.  Our house sitters had been watering, but many of the tiny seedlings had been eaten by slugs and snails.  So I have started again.  I have now sown: tumbling tomatoes and cherry tomatoes; cabbages of various sorts; those bright green broccoli plants x two trays; purple and white sprouting broccoli; rainbow chard (or silverbeet depending on whether you are in England or Australia); more pumpkins and watermelons; runner beans; more carrot seeds in the carrot boxes to plug the gaps; peppers (capsicums).  Plus we have bought two tomato seedlings, one pumpkin and one squash.

It is TOO EARLY to plant anything out.  We got back to a couple of light frosts which burned the emerging potato seedlings on the allotment.  The Under Gardener has earthed them up vigorously.  One of the other allotment holders had planted his runner beans seedlings outside.  They're dead now!

We are planning a fruit area on the allotment up near the greenhouses.  I am hopeful that the weather will be ok this coming weekend for me to make a start on it.  In the meantime, The Under Gardener is continuing to dig potato beds (we have some micro potatoes more or less ready to go in, and have bought some maincrop seed potatoes from the garden centre - seriously reduced; apparently they think it is getting late for planting potatoes!

We have had our very first ever crop of asparagus from our asparagus bed.  A whole three spears.  There are three or four more on the way.  I think it will be a long time before we are self-sufficient in asparagus!!!  The ones we planted in the autumn two years ago have never produced anything.  The Under Gardener dug them up last week and found they had rotted in the middle.  We shall have to start again with that end of the bed.

The brassicas we planted last season really did not enjoy being buried in the snow not once, not twice, not even three times but FOUR last winter.  They haven't hearted/flowered/produced and are going to seed.  The one exception is the sprouting broccoli which has done very well but which is now finished.  It needed picking rather more often than it has been over the past 6 or 7 weeks for it to keep producing.

We are also planning a rescue of the flower beds which have been taken over by wild strawberries and dandelions.  When there is time!!

Ooooooo - and we've ordered our chicken coop.  We're expecting it in about three or four weeks :-)  The Builder is going to make a run for the chickens, and clear out the nettly wasteland at the bottom of the garden, then we'll be ready to fly.  Or not.  Don't actually want the chooks to fly away

We have just used the last of last season's apples from the freezer, and the first of this year's rhubarb crop.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Red Lion, Stone Edge

When we first moved in to Tupton, the Red Lion was The Famous Red Lion. We drove past it from time to time and wondered why it was famous.  Called in to eat a few times.  Never did find out why it was famous, but quite enjoyed the food.

It closed down for renovations and reopened as a seafood bistro and having lost its "Famous" just before Lindsey and Ian came to stay in 2007, so it seemed appropriate to go for dinner one evening while they were with us.

It was an unmitigated disaster. The Maitre d' was unbelievably rude. They brought us the wrong wine but didn't bother to let us see it.  Just poured it and went away.  Ian's Lobster thermidor wasn't - and when he raised a gentle objection the Maitre d' said that he really didn't know what Ian had ordered and would send out a jug of thermidor sauce (!!!)  The "fresh" seafood platter was clearly a frozen one - and one that had not been too carefully defrosted.  I don't remember now what else was wrong, but I surprised everyone else at the table by outlining the catalogue of awfulness when a poor woman came and asked us if everything was alright.  We got free desserts out of it, but left vowing never, ever, EVER to return.

And, to date, we haven't.

But I did notice that the hoardings outside had changed over the last year or so.  And that there were more cars in the carparks.  I noticed that it was getting quite good reviews in the local papers and in online forums.  And that, although it still serves fishy things, it is no longer a seafood bistro.  I began to wonder if we should give it another go.

The Builder was resistant!!!!!

But on Saturday we decided to risk it.  For lunch.  Not dinner.  Definitely not dinner, not yet.  A disastrous lunch isn't quite in the order of a disastrous dinner!!

It started out quite well. The waiting staff smiled at us and were quite friendly.  They brought us the wine we had asked for, showed me the label, gave me a taste before pouring.  They brought delicious bread, accompanied by oil and balsamic vinegar, together with the option of butter. The menu had lots of tempting offerings on it.

I enjoyed my prawn and cray tail cocktail starter.  The Builder very much enjoyed his scallop starter.

The main courses were delicious.

I had a burger with chips for my main course.  I have had lots of burgers and chips lately and could use them as a measure of burger and chip acceptability. (I have, you may have noticed, been grading chips for the last few weeks - but also burgers!)

The Red Lion burger was more than acceptable.  Not in the absolutely top echelon, but close enough and perfectly nice.  And the chips were lovely. The Builder declared his local sausages and mash to be equally acceptable.  We came away happy and quite well fed.

We are now considering risking it again for dinner.  It seems that it doesn't have a new owner but that the menu has changed (and, I notice from their website, they have a new head chef).  And the surly maitre d' was definitely not there.  If he had been we would have left immediately!!!

We still don't know why it was originally famous, though

Clement

It was a very great pleasure to meet Clement at Peter's memorial service.  He is the son of my cousin Andy. Clement's mother is French and when the relationship with Andy broke down Pat returned to France taking her two children with her.  So the opportunity to meet her and Clement had never really arisen, although I think they were in touch with Peter and Joan and, I *think*, maybe also Penny. (We didn't get to meet Emilie at the memorial service - she was away on some training course on a ship somewhere).

We enjoyed meeting both of them.  They were both charming and  amiable.  Pat speaks lovely English  Clement very little but we muddled along with his not-good English and my not-good French and occasional translations from Pat or Andy when it all got too difficult..  A lovely young man. And very lovely to look at as well. Freyja says I am quite obsessed by his looks but I have to say that the first thing I thought when I saw him was: "Who on earth is that remarkably beautiful young man?"  I hoped that further opportunities to meet with him and his mother might arise - and maybe to meet Emilie as well one day.

So I was extremely sorry to get a phone call from Penny at 9:15 on Sunday morning to tell me that Clement had been killed in a motorbike accident overnight. 

I knew, when I saw that the call was from Girton (my phone tells me who's calling if it knows the number) that it was not going to be good news.  Only Peter ever rang from that number and it was unlikely to be him.  And even if it had been, it would have been something extremely dire for him to ring at that time on a Sunday morning (although I am always up and about by then). When the caller turned out to be Penny, I assumed the bad news was about Joan. Took me a while to process what she was actually saying.

Poor Clem.  Such a lovely young man.  And poor Pat and Andy to have lost a son so abruptly at 21.  And poor, poor Joan, so recently widowed and now to have lost a grandson.

I am coming rapidly to the opinion that no one should be allowed to drive a motorbike until they are 95 and a half years old and then only with the written permissions of their mother. Far too many young men are coming to grief when riding their motorbikes.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Travel Dogs clearly love us a very great deal indeed

... for that volcano has continued to cause trouble!  Flights are being suspended in random countries now.  Ireland, Scotland, Portugal, Switzerland.  Not for long, not at the same time.  But random ash attacks break out over people's airspace and there goes the air travel!  It was very convenient of the Nordic Dogs of Volcanoes to set it off two days after we got to Melbourne and to cause a little lull in their chaos and confusions to allow us to get home again in an unhassled and unhindered manner.

This was not the case for one of the Information Specialists who had a nightmarish and exceedingly expensive trip overland back from Morocco while we were away!

Monday, as you may remember, was a Bank Holiday.  I had taken Tuesday off to catch up with the washing, and Wednesday to catch up with the ironing.  And maybe to get a bit of gardening done, a little tidying up, a gentle move back into normal routine.  The washing and the ironing project went well.  But can anyone explain to me how it was that instead of getting out into the garden in the sunshine on Wednesday, I decided that it was absolutely essential that I turn out all the upstairs cupboards?  Granted it needed doing.  But it's needed doing for years.  There was no absolute imperative to do it on Wednesday.  When the sun was shining.  Because it's not shining now!!

And back to work on Thursday.  Was a bit of a shock to the system.  Not the actual going into the office and attempting to be useful.  I quite enjoy my job.  I like my colleagues. No, it was the getting up and having to move purposefully at some ungodly hour in the morning that was the shock.  I have got used, over the past few weeks, of drifting gently into the day, playing on my laptop, pottering about, pondering breakfast.  Getting up and Having To Do Things was a definite shock to the system.

Although - having said all that, I am inclined to agree with Lindsey that it would be easy to get used to the retired life - always supposing you could find some way of funding it adequately!!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Travel Dogs obviously love us lots and lots and lots

One other advantage that Jury's Inn has is that it is a mere five minutes walk from the Hatton Cross Tube Station, which is on the Piccadilly line and decants you directly to Kings Cross.  Which is where we wanted to go.

Mindful that it was a bank holiday Monday and that even the Australian press had suggested that there might be enormous travel chaos on the underground, we left nice and early.

The only disruption to our travel was that our train stopped at a station it would normally pass through. Other lines were in chaos.  The Piccadilly line was not.

There is not a lot to do at Kings Cross Station when you have 2.5 hours to wait for your train.  So we ambled over to St Pancras and moved into the Betjeman Arms and had coffee and then a pint.  And then a glass of wine each at a price which positively made our eyes water!!

And onto the train from King's Cross to Retford where we were changing for the train to Sheffield.  I have to say - if we lived in Sheffield, this would be an excellent way to travel.  The train was lovely (We had first class tickets which I booked months ago, almost the second tickets were released for May 3rd).  It worked out about £2.50 cheaper to buy a bottle of wine to share than it would have done to buy two glasses of the same wine, so we did that.  We had a pleasant conversation with the two people bound for Edinburgh sat opposite us.  The trip from Retford to Sheffield, always excepting the route march from the platform we alighted onto to the platform for the Sheffield train, was perfectly nice.  It seemed to me to be quite a bit quicker than taking the train from St Pancras to Sheffield.  It probably wouldn't have been quicker had we gone on to Chesterfield, but Tabitha and Gareth happened to be in Sheffield and met us there.  There were no delays, no confusions, no chaos.  It was as nice a trip back home from London as you could possibly wish for. 

And so back to Tupton for local roast lamb, Jersey Royal potatoes, English asparagus, and braised cabbage from the garden.

Tabitha and Gareth have headed back to Cambridge on the train.  Must get on and tidy something

Monday, May 03, 2010

Trip home

Simon came over with Bethan and Jacob to say goodbye, then Lindsey, Ian, The Builder and I ambled off to Bridge Street in Richmond for a final lunch.

We went to the Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder, which Lindsey and Ian like a lot.  Not sure that I was all that impressed.  We had been told they didn't take bookings - which made the reserved tables a bit of an anomaly.  Also, when I send back food which is more or less raw and is cold, I don't take kindly to having it returned from the chef and to be told that "It's supposed to be like that".  If the chef is prepared to eat raw scallops then he's a braver man than I ....  So I ate the extremely delicious salad and left the scallops.  I had no wish for a repeat of the flight to Oz when The Builder had food poisoning from undercooked fish!!  Rather to my surprise, they brought a fresh plate after I had finished the first one.  The scallops were beautifully cooked.  The salad had enough salt in it to slay an ox!!  Can't win!!!!!

Then Lindsey, The Builder and I abandoned Ian to pay the bill, and we caught a tram into town for some last minute supplies shopping.


Back to the flat for fish and chips from the shop downstairs (fish, as expected, a delight - chips a considerable improvement on the last time we had them from there two years ago) and then off to Tullamarine to catch our flight to Abu Dhabi.  Lindsey and Ian went to Ballarat instead of Abu Dhabi.

Quite enjoyed the flight to Abu Dhabi - although at one point "over night" it was deeply unpleasantly hot and airless.  Had to kick my shoes off.  And wander off in search of gallons of water.  But apart from that it was OK.

We had hours and hours and hours to kill in the airport in Abu Dhabi.  There was an earlier flight but it had less than a two hour turn around.  I've done that kind of rushing about before and have vowed never to do it again - and certainly not if it is I who has made the bookings.  Can't control travel agents!!

But that was OK.  We made our way to the food hall and had a rather idiosyncratic Traditional English breakfast in the Traditional English pub.  Actually - I rather enjoyed it though the eggs were undercooked to my taste and the bread was surprisingly sweet.  But it was very tasty.  And I was glad of a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice.  I was a touch surprised by the number of lads who were eating burgers and drinking beer though.  It was, after all, only just after 7 in the morning!!

We went for an amble about, re-visited the camel shop and acquired more small camelly things for Lindsey (and put them immediately in the hippo bag, lest they escape like the original camelly things).  We messed about on our laptops (Abu Dhabi airport has free wifi).  We had an early lunch in the Hippopotamus Bar, and were at the boarding gates ready and poised when it came time to board our onward flight to London.


Didn't enjoy that flight as much as the others.  When the people in front reclined their seats, you practically had your television screen in your face, and there was no room to eat comfortable.  I managed to cover myself in (rather delicious) rice because I couldn't get my fork clear of everything!!  It was a tad on the cramped side!!  Still, it came in on time and with no excitement, which is as much as you can ask of a long haul flight!

And here we are at the Jury's Inn, Heathrow.  Which does have the advantage that it has proper tea bags in the room.  Apart from that - next time we will stay at the Radisson again. Not much more expensive and a much better hotel and much, much nicer food.  Although from our room in the Jury's Inn we can see a field with horses and donkeys and geese. There's a lake to the left And there is an amazing array of birds.  The Builder has just seen a parrot!!!!!!!  And you can't see the airport at all - although you can see lots of planes.

Wish us luck.  We are off soon to play with the Bank Holiday Monday trains.  Tube to Kings Cross.  Train to Retford.  Change there for Sheffield.  Change there for Chesterfield.  Not the usual way we go (St Pancras to Chesterfield) - but very considerably cheaper, even though I booked the tickets on the day they were released.

Thank you to everyone for a truly wonderful three weeks in Victoria.  We had a fabulous time.  And brace yourselves - we'll be back for a couple of weeks in February.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Steak Night

Actually, scrunching all those people into the flat worked quite well.  Lindsey had bought some new folding chairs.  Oldies sat around the table.  Younger people disported themselves around the flat, sitting in the kitchen or by the balcony.  We had steak and salmon, roast potatoes, salad, and apple pie, berry pie and custard for afters.  We drank lots of wine, played lots of computer and iPhone games, made lots of noise and, I think, all had a good time.

Here were:  Lindsey and Ian; The Builder and me; Simon; Wendy; Ant, Jess and Krumm; Emily; Christian and Cassie; Yvette and Jacob.  Bethan decided that discretion was the better part of valour and went to play with friends.

It was a good farewell party for us.

And now it is really our last day.  Melbourne has turned on a glorious day for us.  We are packed and ready to go.  Lindsey is at work.  Ian has gone to visit his mother.  When we are all reassembled we are off for lunch.  And we fly this evening.

La Petanque Restaurant

Stella and Tony took us to La Petanque for lunch on Thursday.  It's a French restaurant out in the country near Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula.  It's quite small, with just one waiting person who I think is one of the owners.

And the food was LOVELY.

The Builder and I had snapper for our main course.  It came with peas in a tarragon sauce, pink grapefruit pieces and a parsnip puree.

I am not usually much fussed by parsnip and didn't expect to eat much of the puree.  But it was absolutely delicious and I ate ever scrap.  And then stole the end of Tony's roll so I could clean my plate - Stella wouldn't let me lick it!!  Phillippe, the waiter, decided that I obviously hadn't enjoyed my main course one tiny little bit!

Stella and Tony had duck


And then we had dessert - an unusual occurrence.

The Builder had a poached William pear with nougat


The rest of us had apple crepes with apple sorbet.


It was all scrumdidliumptious.

It's not a cheap place to eat, but if you should be looking for somewhere celebratory on the Mornington Peninsula, you couldn't do better than this place
So, what to do on Thursday?

We had considered the possibility of going to Phillip Island, but it's quite a long way and we had covered quite a distance on Wednesday.  We postponed Phillip Island until February, and rethought.

I quite fancied a wander around the boardwalk.  We didn't do it last time we were here, and I like to keep an eye on  what they're up to. So Tony, The Builder and I took ourselves down to the Balcombe Estuary and went for a potter about.  It was lovely.  There were lots of birds.  And a tree covered in cormorants.

Then we went back to the house and collected Stella and made our way across the peninsula to Red Hill to La Petanque restaurant where we had a truly sumptuous lunch.  (You can read about it here)

And that more or less accounted for the afternoon.  Tony went to choir practice and popped into the community centre later in the evening to see what the mahjong people were up to.  We had cheese on toast for tea, and went to bed extremely replete!

Today we went with Stella to admire a greengrocer/deli/butcher place out towards Mornington, and then pootled into Mornington for a bit of shopping and a mooch around.  We had sandwiches back at the house, and then came back to Melbourne - this time along the new East Link (which was being built the last time we were here and which Lindsey's sat nav doesn't know about).  I remembered to come off onto the Monash Freeway and we got back to the flat in considerably less time than it took to get to Mount Martha on Tuesday going up through Springvale!!

On Wednesday evening the phone rang at Mount Martha.  Rather to my surprise - it was for me!!  But who knew I was there?  Family did, of course, but they would have skyped me.  Who else?

It was Rod Mummery, a long standing friend who I think I have known since I was about 18, who had noticed on the blog that I had gone to Mount Martha and had, through a fine piece of detective work, found Stella and Tony's phone number.  We met him this afternoon downstairs, outside the IGA and had a glass of wine or two in one of the wine bars downstairs.  It was good to catch up.  He "retired" in January (what is it with all these youngsters that they decide they can afford to amble away from employment much, much too early?  Snot fair!!!!!!!!!!!) and seems to be keeping busy with Church activities and various other things.  Another one who wonders just how he managed to find time to go to work!!

Right.  Better get on.  I seem to have organised a party for tonight.  A Steak and Salad night.  I wonder how well we will go at fitting 14 people into the flat