Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A fruit pasty

I had kicking about in the kitchen some puff pastry that needed using up.  I was pondering what to have for dessert.  In the freezer I had some gooseberries.  In a box I had some apples.  On the baking shelves I had custard powder and various diferent sorts of sugars.  In the fridge I had some cream that was slightly beyond its useby date.

So.  I rolled out the puff pastry fairly thinly and put in the middle a mound of frozen gooseberries.  I took some of the apples and peeled them, then chopped the apple up into small pieces.  On top of that I put a couple of dessertspons of custard powder and of  soft dark brown sugar.  For good measure I tipped the left over cream on top of all of that.  Then I folded over the pastry and formed it into a rough pasty shape and crimped the edges.  Egg wash and a *little* springling of sugar over the top and into a medioumn oven it went until the pastry was golden and the fruit and custard were bubbling.

It was delicious.  Amazing what you can do with left overs and a few storecupboard/freezer staples!

It really should have been a Sunday indulgence.  But a rare Wednesday afternoon at home seemed a good enough reason for a mid-week indulgence!

A mid-week mini-weekend

There is something rather indulgent about having a Wednesday off.  But should I have a mid-week Saturday and do lots of useful things, or a mid-week Sunday and eat and drink lots?  A tough call!

We started out doing Saturday things.  We took some stuff to the Post Office.  I did some washing and ironing. We cleared up and tidied. I even washed the kitchen floor.

Then we segued into Sunday and had a Sunday G&T and roast chicken with veg from the garden (chard, sprouts and carrots, since you ask) and roasted bright red potatoes, with a fruit pasty to follow, accompanied by white wine.  I had a nice hot bubble bath.  We had home made bread with my plum jam for supper.  It was all very indulgent.  A nice counter to the icy winds outside.

I really  must work out some way to have Wednesdays always off.  I quite enjoyed my mid-week mini-weekend :-)

A great big enormous box arrived on Monday.  Inside were some calendars, some Advent calendars and a much smaller box bearing Freyja's Christmas present.  (Freyja - your clue is that we saw your Christmas present in Cambridge, but that is not where I bought it!).  The rest of this enormous box was filled with wads and wads of brown paper.  Marlo has decided that this box, minus the calendars and the box but including all the brown paper, was clearly intended as a cat basket and has moved into it.  The box has taken up residence in the lounge room!

I actually worked a weekend shift last weekend.  I haven't done a weekend shift since Psalter Lane closed two years ago.  They called for volunteers to work 1-5 on Sunday afternoon.  4 hours.  That seemed OK to me, especially since Sundays get paid at double time.  It didn't seem quite such a good idea as Sunday lunchtime approached and I had to get ready to come to work. But it was all OK when I got to the Adsetts Centre.  It's ages since I had seen the weekend staff and it was good to catch up.  It was, mercifully, a nice, quiet, uneventful shift.  There were no floods, plagues, famines or other catastrophes.  A nice afternoon.

And now Lindsey is nearly here - the temperature has plummeted, they're forecasting snow showers for the end of the week and the weekend and winter is most definitely making an early but vigorous appearance.  Lindsey is presently in Indonesia, with Ian, Stella and Tony, playing with elephants in 30d temperatures.  I think she's going to notice the difference!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mid-November

We've had our first pickings from the sprouts!!!  They are small but very tasty.  And we're still eating the chard.  We're pulling up the plants in the bed that also contained the runner beans.  The later plantings are sat in a bed with some cabbages.  We'll get onto them when we've finished the first planting.  There are carrots that are big enough to eat now.  So we're doing well for fresh autumn veg, plus we've still got lots from the spring and summer in the freezer.  Now we need to get in and sort out the empty beds - weed and manure them so they can sleep productively over the winter.

The chickens remain hale and happy.  The cost per egg has dropped now below 90p!  And egg production is holding up quite well.  Many days we are still getting 4, although there are more days now when we only get two.  The egg bowl is still full though and we are eating lots and lots of eggs.

The weather has warmed up a bit this week - we've had wet, mild weather with a lot of wind.  The leaves are nearly off the apple and pear trees so soon it will be time to prune them.  And we're still hoping to plant up a supplementary fruit garden on the allotment.  I've also decided to dedicate a bed in the veg garden to autumn fruiting raspberries and another one to "perennial" broccoli.  We've also decided to put in an extra asparagus bed.  We might need to consider buying the field behind us!!

Speaking of fields, Farmer Jayne and Farmer David had decided to give up their sausage, burger,bacon, ham and prepared food business.  This came as something of a blow - not because I buy many sausages or bacon from them but because I assumed it meant that they would also be closing their butchery - and I buy virtually all of my pork, lamb and hogget from them.  Fortunately, they will keep the butchery open for the time being while they see if they can encourage other food enterprises to use it.  I hope this succeeds.  I can live without sausages and burgers, but their pork and lamb are delicious!!

The Builder has been occupying himself this week, in between rain bursts and gales, in digging up the garden bed by the back door.  We've never really used it for much and it doesn't get much sun.  And we've a plan to put a lean to up to keep some of the mud out of the kitchen and to provide a bit of space to keep the shoes and freezers in.  So now it's all dug up and the flagstones have been pushed down and are lying in an orderly manner where there used to be soil.  And now there are wooden poles up ready to become the frame for the lean to :-)

We must, must, must do something with the flower beds and the "shrubbery".  Really - we must!!  And I need to sort the greenhouse out quite soon.  I think the sage and bay tree would be quite pleased to move into their winter quarters

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Well, that was all very exciting

The Sunday team rocked in to the Adsetts Centre at the usual time on Sunday morning.  And found that one of the heating pipes on Level 4 had burst and that we now had a new and unexpected water feature pouring down all over the book stock on Level 3.  Oh, and incidentally, a smaller water feature pouring down over the book stock on Level 2!

They swung into action and carted as much of the book stock out of the way as they could.  Buckets, rubbish bins and other receptacles were pressed into service as flood defences.  Facilities were called.  So were Maurice and Edward. Levels 2 and 3 were closed to students.  Mopping up commenced.

So to Monday, when I was working an Evening Duty and thus was at home eating cake and drinking tea in the morning.  Everything needed sorting out.  Water was still dripping onto Level 3.  A damp and musty chaos reigned.

By the time I came in, Level 2 had reopened to students and Level 3 was more or less open, except that the book stock was cordoned off.  Student shelvers were there in force, as were the General Assistants, running a delivery service of books.  Actually - that worked quite well.  The students enjoyed having their books collected for them and we enjoyed having books that stayed where we had put them.  Except that where we had put lots of them was in damp piles and on trolleys and all over the place.  Still, when they did make it back onto the shelves, they stayed in their place!

Level 3 is now open to students again.  Thanks entirely to the prompt action of the Sunday team, we've lost perhaps 4, maybe 5 trolleys of books instead of the wholesale destruction of the book stock on Levels 2 and 3 that might have happened had nobody noticed, or had the pipe burst overnight.  There are industrial strength de-humidifiers down on 2 and 3.  Things are more or less back to normal.

In the meantime, the blokes who were painting the lift areas carried on painting.  So now Level 3 in particular has the very peculiar aroma of wet carpet, wet books and wet paint drifting around it.  Not a mix I would recommend for a new perfume range!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time to decorate?

You may remember that I noticed some weeks ago that whenever we go to anyone's house we find it absolutely spotless.  Gleaming.  Shiny.  Cobweb-free.  Dust-free. Beautiful.  Immaculate.

Our house, on the other hand, is dishevelled, dusty, cobwebby, not gleaming, definitely not shiny.

I have embarked on a clean up operation.  Weekend by weekend, I have been cleaning and polishing one room.  The Builder has tackled the manky window sill and window frames in the kitchen, although the kitchen itself needs a deep clean.  I have more or less done the spare room (need to clear away some of the stuff lying on the bed before Lindsey comes). The dining room has been done, apart from the window sills.  I've been dusting skirting boards, I've cleaned the banister and dusted the wooden thingies down the stairs.  Anyway.  This weekend it was the turn of our bedroom. 

Well.  Such a palaver.  The Builder has vacuumed the carpet.  I have vacuumed the carpet.  You wouldn't think a vacuum cleaner had ever been in the room.  I've dusted the slatted wardrobe doors.  I dusted the horrid door.  ENOUGH!

Who thought that it was a good plan to put a cream carpet on the floor?  Who on earth thought it was a plan to put slatted wardrobe doors in a house backing on to a field? And the doors have always been horrible. 

I have begun thinking about what we might replace everything with.  Wooden floors, I think.  Nice new, unslatted, dust-free doors for the wardrobe.  A proper bedroom door.  And we might even take off the wallpaper and paint the room.  A whole new colour scheme :-)  Alas, we can't do it yet.  Need to save up.  My plans are not cheap, sadly.

Today I have turned out the lounge room and moved all the chairs around.  Looks good - but the little entrance bit needs doing still.  And I have discovered a sledge hammer in The Builder's possession.  I wonder how hard it would be to knock down the little bit of wall by the front door ....

Mind you, if you are going to look under the cupboard in the bathroom, you either need to do it regularly and often, or not at all.  Once every 18 months is absolutely not a good plan!!  I am much too scared to look under the bath!!!!!!!

Might have to tackle the cellar at some point.  Marlo came up from there over the weekend looking for all the world like a white cat.  Oops!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

We've had a bit of rain over the past few days

Quite a lot of it, really.  Not to mention the odd gust of wind, and very cold temperatures to say it is only November.  It was quite an adventure getting in to work yesterday.  The wind kept trying to blow me home again!

Tabitha announced that every single time she had stepped outside yesterday, the rain had rainedandrainedandrainedandrained harder

It was Monday yesterday, but our game of Hunt The Japanese Lesson had found this week's lesson hiding on Monday afternoon, so Taffa and I rolled in for it.  Do you know - it rained both getting from the car to the building, and getting from the building to the car!!!  (Freyja didn't come.  She was on a train heading to London and thence on to Valencia.  I don't know how her rain cloud was faring)

It didn't rain much over the weekend.  In fact, it was a lovely weekend.  The sun shone and the wind was light and it was even quite warm in the sun.  The Builder and I didn't do much though.  We had a nice and lazy weekend and just pottered about and did nothing of any note at all.  Nice :-)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

A trip to Manchester

I had occasion to go to Manchester On Thursday, to attend a day of workshops at an institution of higher learning.

It all started off quite well. It was a pleasant morning and the train trip across the Peak District and Pennines between Sheffield and Manchester has to be amongst the most beautiful in the world (if you discount the bit out through Sheffield and the bit once you get towards Stockport!).

I always but always leave lots of extra time, when heading to events like this in places that I am not familiar with.  It's amazing how often the little maps they send have no bearing on reality, and how easy it is to get misplaced.

On this occasion, however, the maps were splendid and I didn't get misplaced at all.  So far so going well, although I was of course extremely early for the event.  No matter.  Early is better than late in my view.

At this point, it all descended into a shambles.

I found the building where the workshops were to be held.  The receptionist had no idea what I was talking about, had never heard of the organisation in question, didn't know any workshops were being held and couldn't think where I should be.

She looked at the program I had printed out and brought with me.  Her eye alighted on the word "librarians" in the heading. Aha!!!!!  The workshops must be in the library.  Go there.

Off I went.  No.  Not being held there.  The program quite clearly states which building I should be in.  Go back there.

So I did.  No.  she still had no idea.  What contact phone number did I have?  Oh - that was her number.  Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

She consulted the room bookings sheet.  Oh look - some of the sessions will be in this room.  Go there.

I was quite early so instead I went to a cafe and had a cup of tea and a biscuit.  Then I went in search of the workshops.

No joy.

I went back to the reception desk where a new lady had arrived.  Oh, she said.  These events usually start with refreshments for early arrivals in the staff refectory.  Go there.

So I did.  And there, in a far corner, was a table with a tiny sign proclaiming that refreshments could be had there by people coming to the workshop.  And there was a slightly bewildered organiser, wondering where we were.

He despatched a runner to the reception desk to tell them what was going on and where we were all meeting.  And eventually, people found us.

The workshops were good.  Informative.  Interesting.  Useful.

Lunchtime.  In the staff refectory.  Mostly sandwiches, with a bowl of dip, some chicken skewers, and some crisps.  Vegetarian options?  Cheese and tomato sandwiches ( no idea if the cheese was veggie friendly) and egg mayonnaise sandwiches (no idea if they were free range).  Not labelled as vegetarian.  And on a platter with tuna mayonnaise, prawn mayonnaise and some other fish and mayonnaise sandwiches.  So not vegetarian, then.  And not much use if you happen not to like mayonnaise.  The dip was vegetarian.  It was also horrible!

The little cakes with coffee were from the freezer.  I know this.  The middles were still slightly frozen.

They forgot about our afternoon tea.  There was nothing there at all, until people were scrambled to sort it out.

I won't tell you which institution of learning it was that was so shambolic.  But it wasn't the main University in Manchester (which is where the organisers are located - they had been told that librarians would be much more familiar with the other place so they should hold it there.  None of us had ever been to the venue before.  Most of us had been to the main University!)

I realise that ours was an entirely external event - but there were people there from 18 or 19 Universities from across the country.  You'd think they might have made something of an effort!!  I won't be holding an event there.  I won't be applying for any jobs there!

I emerged from the day's activities to find that it was raining.  I trotted along to the Oxford Road station to find that my train had been delayed by a few minutes.  Then a few minutes more.  Then even more.  And more.  And more.  Then there came an announcement that we should all go to Platform 2.  So we did.  To find Platform 2 absolutely choc-a-bloc with people. Down we all squished.  (At this point someone coming down the stairs behind us, in exasperated and irritated tones cried "Ex-Quooooooooooooose me!!!!!!!"  Not quite sure where she wanted us all to move to - the tracks, perhaps?)

Anyway.  Eventually, in came the Norwich train.  Lots and lots and lots of people came off the train.  Then lots more.  In the meantime, the Liverpool train had also come in on the other side of the double platform.  Lots and lots and lots of people got off that.  Then  lots more.  The platform had no room now even for a tiny, tiny mouse.  Then it was declared that all the people waiting on this side for the Norwich train would need to move to that side, and all the people on that side waiting for the Liverpool train should move to this side, including all the people who had just got off both trains.  Ready ...... Steady ..... GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

Actually, it was quite dangerous.  Had someone slipped and fallen - this is where catastrophes are made.  And it took ages to get everyone to the right side of the platform.

Miraculously, I got a seat.

And off we trundled. Slowly. Stopping at various stations, including Sheffield and Chesterfield on the way to Norwich.

Until a soft, crackly announcement came over the loudspeaker.  (Shhhh.  We don't want to disturb people. Be quiet lest they hear us) They had just heard from the Fat Controller that the train would be diverting around Sheffield and therefore not stopping there.  Nor would the train be making it scheduled stop at Dore, a tiny, tiny station where few trains stop.  Passengers for Sheffield should not be enticed by the train stopping at Dronfield, for very few trains stop there either.  Instead, they should carry on to Chessie and change trains there.

Talk about confusion.  Talk about fury.  Talk about a thousand or so Very Cross Chappies.  I'm glad I wasn't the person they were all yelling at, nor the station personnel in Chesterfield, nor the recipients of the emails and letters the next day.

I didn't mind.  I was going to Chesterfield anyway.  And it made up a bit of the time we had lost with all the delays.

Talk about a day of shambles.

The workshop was good though

Monday, November 01, 2010

A final farewell to Peter

I had an email from Penny a month or so ago telling me that the family had decided the time had come to disperse Peter's ashes.  Did we wish to join them?

Well of course.  Quite apart from the fact that, had they been able to, Tony and Stella would have been there like a shot, so I was in place to represent them - quite apart from that, I was very fond of Peter and was delighted to be able to represent me as well!

So we set off yesterday morning at around 08:00 (fortunately, the clocks had gone back to GMT that morning so, although the clocks said it was 08:00, our bodies thought it was 09:00 - much more civilised on a Sunday morning!!) and made extremely good time to the village of Morston, near Cromer, on the north Norfolk coast.  Penny, Steve, Joseph and Imogen arrived shortly before us. Then Jeremy, Jill, James, Dominic, Joan and Tim arrived too, bringing with them Cracker the springer spaniel and Daisy the border terrier.  Much to my disappointment, Joan was not in Tim's low slung sporting number!!!!  Still, I suppose that getting her out of it might have been a challenge.  Getting me out of it would have been a challenge!!!

And off we all went on a seal-spotting boat, out through Blakeney Harbour and off into the North Sea.

We were extremely lucky with the weather.  It was a grey and dull day, but the breezes were light, there was no rain, it wasn't all that cold, although we were all well-rugged up against the weather.  Graham, the boat's skipper, was a delightful companion who looked after us extremely well.  And we chugged out, past the sand dunes, the seals, the birds, the other boats, on fairly calm waters out into the sea.

It was a bit choppier out on the open sea, especially when Graham turned off the boat's engines so we could disperse Peter's ashes with decorum and dignity - and without being covered in ashy remains ourselves!  Penny was wearing Peter's naval scarf and had brought a nosegay of late blooming sweet peas from their garden.  Joan had brought his sailing cap, and a bunch of roses from her garden.  She put the roses in the cap and it was gently lowered into the sea. Jeremy and Tim propped Joan up so she wouldn't get bounced into the water and she put the first of the ashes into the sea. Then we all took a turn in throwing some of the ashes gently into the sea.  Joseph and Imogen had been practising blowing on their plastic pipes for a farewell salute - but Imogen decided at the last moment that she would prefer Penny to do it on her behalf.  So Peter's cap and ashes were piped out to sea, and his cap bobbed out of sight holding the roses and accompanied by Penny's sweet peas which she had cast upon the sea by the cap, and watched by all of us.

It was all very lovely.  Very fitting.  Sombre, of course.  Sad.  But also merry and fun and happy.  As Jeremy said later - this was the third and final time we had gathered to say farewell.  The time now was to focus on the happy memories.

Graham took us back to the quay, sailing slowly past the seals so we could admire them some more.  There were some very tiny pups.  Apparently grey seals pup in autumn/winter, while the common seals pup in June.  There are both grey and common seals in the Blakeney Harbour sand dunes.

We relocated from Morston to Blakeney itself for a delicious and delightful Sunday lunch in the White Horse pub.  Should you find yourself in Norfolk wanting a Sunday lunch, I would highly recommend the White Horse.  Actually - I expect to find myself in Norfolk at the end of the month, probably in search of a Sunday lunch.  Must make a note to go back to Blakeney!

Many thanks to Joan, Tim, Penny, Jeremy and all their families for inviting us to join them on what was a special, lovely and memorable day.