Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy 80th birthday Tony

It was, I think, a well celebrated 80th birthday.

Lindsey, Ian, The Builder and I relocated to a unit in Mornington and set up home there for the weekend.  And from there we took off to Mt Martha to give the birthday boy his presents (an iPad from the family generally, and a copy of The Times printed on the day of his birth from the English and Japanese contingents, whom The Builder and I were representing).  Then we all went back to Mornington to The Royal for a rather nice birthday dinner, then back to Mt Martha for a celebratory glass of 1972 port each.  Even Stella had a small sip or two in celebration.

On Sunday morning it was raining ;-(  I had to be up early ;-(  and go out in the rain ;-(  For Tony and I were going to church.  I have to say that I went out into the weather with some reluctance, but the church service itself was lovely.  Tony plays the flute, and there is a pianist and someone playing the recorder.  There is a small choir.  The congregation was under its usual numbers but sang the hymns with gusto and joined in with enthusiasm.  I was greeted and welcomed.  And then - several people said: "Excellent; I'll see you at lunchtime".  Tony had invited the choir :-S  They all knew my name.  I had been able to call them by name at church - they were wearing name badges.  But they wouldn't be at the party :-S !!!

Lindsey, Tony and I went to set up the hall at the Mornington Golf Club ready for the party.  The cup cakes had all arrived unscathed, except for the pink ones which had got slightly squashed en route from Melbourne.  And then it was party time.  The rain had cleared away and the sun came out. The family rocked in.  Old friends turned up.  The choir arrived, minus name badges. Other people who I didn't know appeared.  There was wine and beer and soft drinks.  There were fish and chips and mini quiches and little sausage rolls, tiny dim sims and other yummy foods.  There were balloons and a banner and a collage that Wendy and Susie had made.  There was lots and lots of noise. There were cup cakes and cheese and fruit. It was all a very great success. We toasted Tony (being careful not to set fire to the club house!!) and then the visitors went away, Simon went to Hong Kong, the rest of the family went to their homes, and Wendy, Lindsey, Ian, The Builder and I accompanied Tony and Stella back to their place for a post-party natter and then we left them to it and all went away.

Was a good birthday bash!

And now Lindsey, Ian, The Builder and I are off back to Mount Martha for morning coffee.  Then we are heading back to Melbourne for lunch, a walk with Emily, and Steak Night with Christian, Yvette and Yvette's boyfriend Sam - and our last couple of days before going home

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Making cup cakes

You have absolutely no idea how hard it is when you are baking 80 cup cakes which are supposed to be a secret, to remember NOT to post anything on Twitter or Facebook!

On something like Friday, Stella and Tony had realised that they wouldn't be able to get a birthday cake through the golf club where The Party was to be held, and passed the problem to Lindsey to sort out :-P

We weren't quite sure where we could get a nice, commercially made cake in a week. Anyway, opined I.  Wouldn't it be just as easy to bake one?  Yes, said Lindsey!  Cup cakes.  We can have cup cakes.  So we bought a cup cake book in Sydney and came back to Ballarat and while Lindsey and The Builder were re-building the duck run in order to thwart the fox, I set to, to bake 80 cup cakes.

I so, so wanted to report progress on Twitter and Facebook ("Memo to self:  do the chocolate cup cakes last!!"  "Keep great dane out of kitchen when baking, lest she eat the butter".  "Hooray, cakes baked, now for the icing".  "Oops! piping bag has exploded and pink icing has gone everywhere :-S " "Cocoa has a tendency to take over the whole known universe and splash everything in brown") but both Tony and Stella read both Twitter and Facebook and might just have been a tiny bit curious as to why precisely I had felt the need to bake loads of cup cakes so I had to restrain myself.

And now the cakes are baked and iced and packed.  We just have to get them to Melbourne and thence to Mount Martha and all will be well.  The fox has, apparently, been thwarted.  And it's time to get back on the road.  We have a birthday to celebrate

Friday, February 25, 2011


And so the road train trundled on, only by plane rather than train, back from Sunny Sydney to equally Sunny Melbourne.  And on we travelled this time to Warragul so I could torment William, admire Sage's beautiful singing, inspect the gardens and the vegetable patch, eat home grown potatoes and vegetables, not to mention roast beef (not home grown!), play with the dogs and the cat, chat to Belinda and catch up with Matthew.

The sun continued to shine.

Lindsey and The Builder came too.

Ian remained abandoned in Melbourne (which I suppose is better than being Abandoned in Sydney!!).

Matthew claims that he had carefully cleared the bungalow of spiders, snakes, drop bears and bunyips.  So when I found a humungous, builder-eating sized huntsman in the bungalow at bedtime, we summoned Matthew to deal with it.  Which he did.  But not with his dustpan and brush which proved insufficient for the mighty task.  He had to use a box and a piece of paper!

It was a good evening.  Must do it again :-)

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Mostly, in Sydney, we walked.

Lindsey started it off by going for a pre-breakfast stroll and sending a message to say that she hda found the Queen Mary in a bay on the other side of the botanic gardens.  We could see the botanic gardens from our window so after a delicious breakfast (no skimping on the bacon at this place!!) by the side of the harbour, looking at the QE, we set off for a stroll to admire the QM2.

All ocean going liners admired, we ambled off towards town.  The skies darkened.  The drizzle started.  As we were crossing the road outside the Gallery of New South Wales I looked back and saw the advertising banners for the terracotta warriors.  Entirely in jest I suggested we should go in and look at them.  "OK," said Lindsey.  "I wonder how much it is."  I was joking, really I was.  We saw the exhibition when it was in London.  "Ah," said Lindsey. "But I haven't."  So she and I went in to visit, leaving The Builder loitering in the gallery.  We weren't very long.  Lindsey wasn't interested in all the historical stuff.  She just wanted to see the warriors.  And the horses.  And the beautiful, beautiful birds.

And when we emerged we found that the clouds had gone, the sun had come out, and a rather sharp rain shower had gone away.  So we walked into town, ambled through the  Victoria Building, through into the Galleries building, into an English and Japanese bookshop (which sells picture books for very young children in hiragana :-)) and thence back to Circular Quay where we took a ferry to Manly so we could have rather pleasant fish and chips overlooking Manly beach.  Then we dashed back, by ferry, to Sydney Central so we could meet Kashi, a long standing friend of Ant's, for coffee.

In amongst all of this, we had missed the QE sailing out.  But we got back to the hotel to find that Kashi was no longer meeting us for coffee but was now joining us with his partner Wen Lu for dinner.  Ian was in the apartment.  It was half an hour before the QM2 was due to sail.  So we all encouraged our rather tired feet and walked back to the bay on the other side of the botanic gardens to join most of the rest of Sydney to watch the liner go.  She left about half an hour late and backed, slowly, slowly, slowly out of the bay and slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly up the harbour, stopping only *this* *much* before taking out the harbour bridge!!!!!!!  Then off she sailed, farewelled by many onlookers and a small flotilla of yachts, sailing boats and other craft, who were being farewelled in turn by the passengers and some crew.

And we headed back to Circular Quay for yet another ferry, this time for Darling Harbour, where we met Kashi and Wen Lu for a truly delicious seafood dinner at (I think) Nicki's fish bar.  Ian and I had the most amazing seafood platter - which we very nearly finished, assisted ably by our dinner table companions

Seafood platter, adorned by a mighty crayfish

But I think it will be a long, long time before our feet forgive us for unexpectedly making them walk quite so many steps in one day

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I seem to be in Sydney

So we trundled down to Melbourne, having first potted up the marmalade (which I think may need re-boiling on Friday when we get back to Ballarat - I'm not sure that it is properly set).  Then we mooched out to Clifton Hill to collect Jacob and take him to cricket training in Ivanhoe.  The Builder stayed to help with ball retrieval and a bit of bowling at Jacob while Lindsey and I proceeded purposefully to Heidelberg to collect supplies for steak night.

Zoy came for steak night :-)  So did Ant and Jess.  Plus all the usual suspects.

Tuesday saw Lindsey, The Builder and me out for an pleasant early morning walk before breakfast, then The Builder and me for a pleasant walk through the park back to Carlton where we met Robert for a delicious lunch in Donnini's on Lygon Street.  Then we went for a pleasant stroll up and down Lygon with Robert before sending him on his way, pootling about in Readings, meeting Lindsey on Elgin Street, driving out to the airport and relocating to Sydney.  Where Lindsey, Ian, The Builder and I went for a pleasant evening stroll along the waterfront and out around the opera house.

I think The Builder's feet are about to go out in protest. He can't cope with all the pleasantness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I haven't been to Sydney for about 40 years.  I'm sure I haven't.  I remember coming in my mid-teens but I can't think that I've been since. I didn't come when Lindsey and Ian lived here for a year 30 or so years ago.  I didn't come 20 years ago when Ross brought the children to play while I was doing library school things for a few days in Canberra.  I really don't think I've been since I came to stay with some family friends when I was about 15.

Ian had to come up yesterday for a couple of days on business, so Lindsey, The Builder and I came to play too.  And I have to say that around the harbour is a very pleasant place for a couple of days holiday.  The Queen Elizabeth liner is in town (we can see her from our apartment).  So too is the Queen Mary 2 , which we can't see.  Their simultaneous presence is generating a very considerable degree of excitement amongst Sydneysiders.  There were lots and lots of people out armed with cameras and tripods last night. One of them is due out at about midday today, the other later in the afternoon. It might be worth hanging around when the QE goes out - it would be interesting to see how they get such a big boat out of its little berth!!

It is a little disconcerting when you have landed on the ground on your plane, taxied to the parking bay, the seat belt signs go out, and just as The Builder is opening the overhead locker to get down the bags - a dolorous, grave voice comes on and quite loudly, but slowly and earnestly declaims "This is an emergency announcement".  I mean - what kind of emergency can you have when you are stationary at a parking bay?  One, it seems, which requires oxygen.  The Earnest Man said so.  For technical reasons we needed to breathe oxygen normally, while the plane descended to lower altitudes.  Not sure how much lower than the ground it is desirable for a plane to descend!!!!!!!!!  And on he intoned, to the giggles of the somewhat surprised passengers.  I think the crew were surprised as well!  A somewhat surprised First Officer came on and said we should ignore him.  Which we were doing anyway.  But the Earnest Man kept on and on and on. Eventually the crew turned him down, since they clearly couldn't turn him off!!!!!!!

We have  decided to keep breathing oxygen normally, indefinitely.  And I think that makes it Lindsey's third, failed attempt to knock us off (exploding coke, suicidal wine glass, withdrawal of oxygen supplies).  I'm not sure she makes the world's most effective secret assassin.

Monday, February 21, 2011

You know how Australia is a dangerous place

... full of snakes and spiders and other things that bite and scratch and dedd you ...

They don't warn you about the exploding wine glasses which fling themselves in your direction while you are peacefully making marmalade and minding your own business, and then crash into a zillion pieces on the slate floor!!!  (They don't warn you about the exploding coke cans either :-S )

Back to Melbourne later this morning. Must go and finish the marmalade

Chickens, ducks and geese

Right, said Lindsey.  The chook ute will be in Ballarat this morning.  I want some replacement chooks and a couple of extra ducks. We need to be there by 11.  OK, we said.  And The Builder opined that she really needed some geese as well.  Geese?  She hadn't thought about geese.  She would ponder this on the way.

So we rocked up to the ute, going via the Rivers seconds store for a couple of shirts for me and some party clothes for The Builder, and in very short order had come away with four chooks, two geese and two ducks (who were VERY, VERY unhappy about being plucked from their cage and dumped in a cardboard box - stamped their little feet like mad, they did).  We also came home with Emily, after we had dropped into her place to deliver the barbecue for their housewarming party next weekend.

The chooks and geese are now happily in one run, the new ducks in another, the original ducks are roaming free.  Everyone will be allowed to roam free after a fox-restraining fence has been erected.  In the meantime, The Builder has reinforced the runs to dissuade the fox from treating Lindsey's poultry as lunch.

Then we all, Ian included, repaired to The Boatshed for lunch, and then for a potter around the shops of Ballarat for supplies.

And suddenly it was evening again.  We had amazing sausages made by Lindsey with the chicken left over from Saturday's kievs and settled in to watch The King's Speech.  It is unusual for me to watch films, even more unusual for me to watch a film all the way through.  But I watched this one and really rather enjoyed it.  You can see why it is winning awards.

If, whilst you are in the process of rearranging your vehicle so you can fit in chooks, ducks, geese, people and other paraphernalia, you should inadvertently pierce a forgotten coke can with a spear, you will certainly now about it.  Makes a sound like a small cannon, startles everyone within earshot, and sprays an astonishing amount of sticky liquid over quite a distance!!!

Sunday lunch at The Boathouse

Sunday, February 20, 2011

And more food, more wine

I took Lindsey into Ballarat this morning and dropped her at the station.  It's her mother-in-law's 90th birthday today and everyone was off for lunch to celebrate.  The Builder and I stayed here, armed once again with Ian's car, and pottered about, sustained with raisin toast and sticky buns.

We met with Pat for lunch, at Seymour's pub, on the corner of Lydiard and Seymour.  It was one of the nicest Greek lamb salads I've had.  Pat was off up to Beaufort after, for a gathering of the Historical Society and then dinner with them.  The Builder and I were in hunter-gathering mode and took ourselves into town in search of jam jars (a moderately successful mission), fruits for marmalade (a successful mission), and food supplies for the evening (likewise a successful mission).  There will be chicken kievs for dinner this evening, filled with prawns and garlic butter and served with boiled new potatoes and a truly wonderful salad.  When Lindsey and Ian return, which will be shortly

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More food. More wine

And what it involved was more walking!!

Tony, The Builder and I went for a stroll along the Balcombe Estuary boardwalk.  It's a pleasant walk along the boardwalk, up to the Nepean Highway, where you can, should you be minded, join up with the walking trails in The Briars.  We didn't. We turned around and headed back to the car.  It was a bit embarrassing, though - my 55 year old feet walked into the ground by a pair of oh-so-nearly 80 year old feet!!

Then we went back to the house and collected Stella, and drove out to Merricks to the Veraison restaurant for a magnificent lunch, followed by a trip to Flinders to inspect a new crafty type shop, where I didn't spend nearly $300 on a pretty, new dress.  Tony and The Builder went to a meeting of the Apple Mac club in the evening and learned how to edit video on your Mac.  Stella and I stayed behind and watched Caroline Quentin solving a murder on the telly.

And today Stella and Tony have been to  meeting to sort out The Party, leaving The Builder and me to supervise Wendy-the-Cleaner.  Tony, TB and i dashed into Dromana to visit the Diggers seed shop and came home with pies and chips (and seeds!). Stella had her hair done, then undone by the wind as she came home.  Liz Fildes dropped in to say hello.  And The Builder and I drove to Reservoir to collect Lindsey and then she drove us to Ballarat, where we are now eating fish and chips and playing with Lucy the Great Dane.

Violet crumble dessert at Veraison

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coffee, food, more coffee, more food and just a bit of wine

And there may not be much more to say about the last couple of days than that!!!


I was peacefully sitting about on Tuesday morning, enjoying the sunshine pouring into the flat in East Melbourne, when The Builder said that Austin's best pal Zoy had put on to Facebook that he (Zoy) had gone into work in town only to find that he wasn't actually rostered on - and did anyone fancy a cup of coffee.  So I replied that we were about and would love to meet for coffee.  Half an hour later we were sat outside the coffee shop below that flat having coffee with a slightly surprised Zoy, who is recovering from a hip operation but looking fit and feisty for all that.

Zoy ambled off on his bicycle (allowed to pedal but not walk, and certainly not, yet, dance) and we pottered off in the sunshine through the park, past the museum (really must go in one day and have a look - haven't been in since it relocated some years ago into its parkly setting) and on to Lygon Street where we were to meet Chris and Kate (also looking fit and feisty, although not having undergone recent hip operations) for pizza at Papa Gino's.  Kate is now 85!!!!  Chris is not.  Although she does seem to have "retired" since we last saw her ten months ago.  Must do something about that unreasonable state of affairs.

We ambled back to the flat, The Builder's feet complaining all the while (he is resisting my very kind offer to have his feet amputated and replaced with unfeeling wooden facsimile feet), where eventually rocked in Ian, accompanied by Ant, and then Lindsey.  We walked the HUGE distance to the Prince Patrick across the road, where we also found Simon and Yvette loitering.  The Prince Patrick is a VERY unprepossessing pub, in urgent need of a lick of paint.  I would have walked straight past it as a danger to shipping and digestion - and missed a real treat.  It's lovely inside.  And serves delightful food.  And just a little wine.

Then Simon and Yvette returned whence they came and the rest of us repaired to the flat for a little more wine.  And other things to drink.

We're in Mt Martha now.  We hijacked Ian's car yesterday and moseyed on down late morning.  Ian's peugeot is a delight to drive but it does really rather want to RUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.  You aren't allowed to run fast on Victoria's freeways.  This was disconcerting both to the car and to me.  I am used to being able to drive at about 115 km/h and the speed limit in Victoria is 100 km/h.  Couple this with giving me a car with a powerful engine meant that sticking to the speed limit required considerable concentration!!

We have had more food and more wine.  The Builder and Tony have been playing snooker.  I have been playing with little Martha from across the road (Martha is a delightful, little grey doggie, not a horrible small child).  I have been eating peaches.  All is good :-)

All is even better.  We discovered, when we got back from lunch on Tuesday, that my camera battery charger wasn't charging the camera batteries.  This was not entirely convenient.  We fiddled with the charger to see if we could persuade it to play.  We broke it ;-(  So we went into Mornington yesterday afternoon to see if Dick Smith could be persuaded to sell  us a new one.  The child behind the  counter looked very worried and said we might be better going into Frankston and visiting Ray's Camera Store.  Going into Frankston and visiting any stores at all was not anywhere on my list of things to do yesterday afternoon and we were pondering whether it might not be easier (and cheaper) just to buy a basic camera until we got home, when Tony came in and asked why we didn't visit the camera store in Mornington just up the road.  So we did.  I now have a charger with bits to charge just about every kind of battery camera in the whole known universe.  It would still have been cheaper to have bought a basic camera - but the new charger looks quite robust.  And I like my camera!!!

It was William's 6th birthday yesterday.  Matthew and Belinda have bought him an electric drill!!!!!!!

Not sure what we're doing today.  But I expect that food and wine will play a part at some point!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It would never actually be my plan to fly anywhere in particular with QANTAS.  The last time I did it was because we were booked with BA and they changed the plane to a QANTAS one without permission.  The whole QANTAS experience was a distinct let down.  However, on this occasion QANTAS was the only airline which was flying the class i wanted to travel in, directly to Melbourne, at a price I was prepared to pay, so with QANTAS we flew

And I have to say it was a very pleasant experience.  It may have been because we were travelling premium economy, but even so it was a pleasant flight.  There was delicious food and nice wine, and more food and more wine, and it was all good.  We arrived in Melbourne on time - and then took for ever to get through immigration because about 4 other planes also landed at about the same time!!

We called into Clifton Hill on the way back to the flat to admire Simon's new house, and very beautiful it is too.

Yesterday we went to the zoo to admire the baby elephants.  And the new seal pool.  And the tigers.  And then we went into town for lunch.  And we went back to Simon's house for a steak night barbecue. Yvette seemed rather surprised to see us. This is what comes of de-friending your aunt on Facebook - you fall out of the gossip loop and don't realise that the said aunt is coming to visit!!

Right.  Need to get ready.  Heading off into Carlton shortly for pizza and gossip with my pals Chris and Kate.

Oh - and should you be looking for somewhere not too expensive and quite convenient to stay near Heathrow, may I recommend the Jury's Inn?  It's a very short walk from Hatton Cross tube station, the rooms are comfortable and not a bad price and it's very convenient.  But under no circumstances should you ever consider eating there.  The food is expensive and truly horrid.  Far better to go into central London and throw ten pound notes under the buses.  Much better use of your money

Friday, February 11, 2011

Another goulash dish

A little while ago I bought a winter stew collection of meat from Donald Russell, the online butchers based in Inverurie in Scotland.  In amongst the offerings were a packet of ox cheeks and a packet of oxtail chunks.  I have never cooked either of these things so put them in the freezer to soujourn for a while, while I thought about it.

I read some blogs (for example, the Frugal Cook) and read some recipes and pondered a while.

Then I decided the time had come to use the ox cheeks.

So yesterday morning, early, I chopped them into large chunks, leaving everything on.  It's not fatty meat but there are some sinews.  I just left them.  I put them in the slow cooker with some finely chopped onion, a litre of turkey stock (pnly because turkey stock was what I happened to have to hand), a tin of concentrated tomato puree,  a couple of garlic cloves finely chopped, a small piece of ginger, finely grated and a heaped tablespoon of paprika (not smoked).  Then I put the slow cooker onto its automatic setting (it heats until it's hot, then goes down to low to keep it just under simmering), and left it there until I got home early in the evening. Then I transferred it into an oven-proof dish (how much better would it be in the pot for the slow cooker was oven-proof?!?!?!?!) and put it into a pre-heated oven at 150d for about 45 minutes, with some dumplings about 20 minutes before serving.  We had it with the dumplings, and with cabbage, sprouting broccoli, sprouts and leeks with a cheese topping and boiled potatoes.

It was absolutely delicious.  The sauce, which I thickened slightly before putting it in the oven, was wonderful.  The meat was meltingly tender. It was all rich and hearty and robust.  The sinewy bits had dissolved into the sauce. It was all lovely.

And the left over sauce (there was quite a lot of left over sauce - the left over meat is waiting for a re-visit this evening but there was a LOT of sauce) has made a truly magnificent beef and tomato soup for my lunch today.  We'll get three dinner, one lunch and two soup servings from the dish.  Sounds fairly frugal to me - though I can't actually cost it because I didn't buy anything especially for it!

The dumplings rose beautifully
Goulash, cabbage, sprouts, leeks and sprouting broccoli

I've been busy with the preserving pan lately too :-)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting ready to fly

My usual practice is to start to pack for holidays, nights away, weekend jaunts, about an hour or so before I am due to leave.  Packing never takes all that long (I am usually at least mentally prepared in advance) and I have observed that people who pack well in advance then spend quite a lot of time unpacking and then re-packing when they discover that they have placed carefully in a suitcase things that they actually need in the meantime.

This does not work all that well when you have rather thoughtlessly arranged to leave directly from work!

It works even less well when you have a Japanese class the night before until quite late.

I have had to pack a couple of days ahead of time.  This is not a problem in that I am unlikely to need my summer clothes in Derbyshire or South Yorkshire in early February.  And even if there were a sudden, unseasonable heatwave, I have plenty of short sleeve shirts which have not been packed.  But it has made everything disconcertingly confused.  I am packed - therefore I ought to be about to leave.  And it's not time to leave.  I am in a constant state of "I'm not absolutely ready to leave yet" anxiety when there is absolutely no need for anxiety at all.  It is a very peculiar state of being. It allows you to get remarkably anxious about all sorts of things that are unlikely to happen and which probably wouldn't matter much if they did.

In the meantime, however, I may need to kill the next person who asks if I'm packed yet.  And if anyone else asks if I'm excited I may have to yell at them severely.  I'm pleased to be going, yes.  Happy about visiting Melbourne, yes. Cheery about three weeks off work, yes.  But for heaven's sakes.  It's not as though I'm going anywhere particularly out of the way. It's only Australia, after all.  But definitely excited about the birthday party.  I love birthday parties :-)

So we're off to London on the 4:30 train tomorrow afternoon, staying at a hotel near Heathrow, and then catching a plane which leaves at 12:30 on Saturday lunchtime.  We're flying via Hong Kong.  I wish I'd realised that when I booked the flights.  I'd have booked a stop over on the way home had I but known!  Oh well.  Maybe next time

Monday, February 07, 2011

Roller Derby Action

Tabitha, The Builder and I found ourselves, somewhat to our surprise, in a suburb outside of Leicester on Saturday.  Even more to our surprise, we found ourselves actually inside a leisure centre!!!  Rather bizarrely we also found ourselves eating bacon or sausage sandwiches with chips.  Such healthy fare for the cafe inside a leisure centre!!!

Taffa took herself off to the loos.  And there she was accosted by a giant on wheels, bedecked in spangly knickers and a jelly bean hat.  The giant declared herself to be Taffa's sister.  This seemed unlikely.  Taffa's sister is quite small, comparatively speaking, and although sometimes spangly, seldom wears jelly beans and nor does she have wheels instead of feet.

Taffa looked more closely.  It WAS her sister!!!!  Disguised as a wheelie giant!!!!!  Freyja was there to skate in her first ever proper roller derby bout.

In Taffa, The Builder and I went.  And the bout started.  It was all really quite confusing.  We had absolutely no idea what was going on.  Then Simon, Freyja's bloke, and Ian, Freyja's pal turned up and explained the basics to us.  It all started to make a certain amount of sense after that.  And it was a bout made up of two teams of beginner skaters from various different clubs around the country.  It was all rather exciting.  Except that Freyja's team narrowly lost.  But it was still all very exciting.

Then there was an interval, and then there was a second bout which was, apparently, the main bout, with skaters from the home team who were celebrating their first birthday very, very narrowly defeating the visiting Cambridge team.

We all had a good time - especially once we worked out what the point of the game was.  Freyja points out that had I paid any attention at all to anything she had said over the past few weeks I would have known exactly what was going on.  I  did pay attention, I'm sure I did.  It's just that when sport-like things are mentioned my brain sponge turns itself off :-S 

I have done some investigating since so I am au fait with some of the finer points next time we go.  Also - next time I'll take a picnic.  Bacon sandwiches and chips as sold by the greasy cafes in leisure centres did not do my digestion any good at all!!!

You'll find a few, not terribly good, photos here.  And the videos clips I took are on Freyja's Youtube page here (you'll find links to the others down the side).  Freyja is Run Roller Run, number 42, and wearing silver, spangly knickers and a jelly bean crash hat

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

I think Marlo is a bit cross with the cat from up the road

Peacefully sleeping I was last night, minding my own business, not doing anyone any harm - when all of a sudden I was woken from my virtuous slumbers by a sound of a major feline fracas in the courtyard.

Did I need to do anything?  Could I ignore it?

Alas no.  The contretemps was quite considerable.  The Builder was awake.  I was awake.  No reason to waken the rest of Tupton.  I went down to investigate, snuggled up, of course, in my winter dressing gown and boots.

And got outside to find  Marlo crouched over the side of the pond, towards the back and looking for all the world as though he were trying to drown Mr Grumpy's cat, who was down on the ice and attempting to rise up, mermaid like.  And yowling fit to burst.  You can see his point.  I think he had definitely broken through the ice.

I yelled at Marlo - who took not a blind bit of notice.  So I shone the torch on them both.  Marlo looked up and let go of the Grumpy Cat - who shot out of the pond, around the side and then down the back path as fast as his legs would carry him and as though pursued by the Hounds of Hell themselves - hotly pursued by Marlo.

I have no idea what the cat from up the road had done to upset Marlo so, but he was very definitely Not Pleased At All!!!  I have to say that I have never seen him actually manage to get an intruder cat into the pond before.  I wonder what the fish made of it all.

I went back inside and back to bed - and found Marlo peacefully sleeping beside me at getting up time as though he had been there all night.  I began to wonder if I had maybe dreamed it all.

The Builder reports that the ice is all smashed up on the pond this morning and that something seems to have gone through it. And I am quite sleepy this morning.  Maybe it wasn't a dream after all.

This should probably be on the food blog

... for it was certainly a weekend of feasting and merry-making.  You couldn't possibly have called it austere.  Or even restrained!!

It started for me on Friday night, when The Builder got left to his own devices with a bowl of stale crusts and a jug of mouldy water, and I headed off to dinner with the ACES team at work.  In the old days, when ACES was a mere SE team, I used to work with them.  Then I got reorganised into another team and SE was upgraded to ACES and a few new people came.  But I still join them for their team dinners.  We went to Zing Vaa, down The Moor, a place I have been to a couple of times but back in the Way Back When, when Sheffield was new to me and my mental map was very fuzzy.  I'm not sure why I haven't been since.  The food is very tasty.  You wouldn't find it, mind you, if you didn't know it was there.  You get to it through a door under an awning next to the news agency and head down many stairs to find this rather nice Chinese Restaurant hidden underground.

So, come Saturday and stuffed with Chinese food and glasses of fizzy water, I accompanied The Builder in the car Down  South, where we were expected in Warminster at Barb's for Afternoon Tea.  Forearmed with her proposed menu I had not had any breakfast.  Nor had I had any lunch.  I had also encouraged The Builder not to have lunch either.  And thus we managed to do a certain level of justice to the ham sandwiches, scones and jam, blueberry pastries and ginger cake.

But not too much justice.  For we were off to The Swan for dinner and a certain level of digestive room needed to be preserved for that.  And we didn't so much step gracefully and elegantly from our wagon as leap heartily and merrily into a large wine vat (and a beer barrel if you happened to be The Builder).  The Swan was hosting a wedding party which was large and jovial.  I was therefore pleasantly surprised to be handed the most delicious plate of John Dory with paprika potatoes and vegetables.  Not that I was surprised to get good food, but often when there are large parties going on those who are not on the guest list find that their food is not perhaps as well prepared as it might otherwise have been.  No worries about that at The Swan.  The Builder thoroughly enjoyed his chicken and prawn Thai curry as well.

For some reason I slept the sleep of the Very Just on Saturday night.  I think it was probably the feathery quilt and the feathery pillows - and the fact that I forgot to turn the heater off!!

And so to Sunday and lunch with Gwen, The Builder's Mother at The Wheatsheaf in Romsey, where we had roasted half chickens each with more wine.  Even Gwen indulged, in the wine and all.  Previous experience has suggested that when you are served half a chicken for Sunday lunch it is usually quite a small chicken.  Often, indeed, a poussin.  Possibly even a guinea fowl disguised as a chicken, although any pub or restaurant that found itself blessed with a clutch of guinea fowl might well wish to advertise the fact.  But I had no fears about finishing a half chicken, even with roast potatoes and various vegetables.  Gwen, fearing that her little appetite might struggle, had a child's portion.  The Builder had no worries at all about managing a full portion.

Half a chicken?  It was positively half an emu!!!!!!!

Delicious, I have to say.  Very more-ish.  But an emu, I tell you.  An emu!  I hardly had room for my rhubarb and apple crumble afterwards.  But I managed to fit a little serving in.

So after all that, I was not a little surprised to find myself distinctly on the peckish side this morning.  I had rather thought that I had had enough food to last me for most of the rest of the week

The view of Great Wishford from our bedroom window at The Swan

We dropped in to the Wilton Garden Centre while we were pottering about yesterday morning.  I had intended to buy the seed potatoes from Thomson and Morgan when we get back from Australia.  But the garden centre was selling choose-your-own-potatoes in paper bags for £1.99 each, and they were selling some interesting varieties, so we bought lots of those plus a pre-packaged bag of Shetland Blacks and Highland Reds.  Must sort them out to sit upstairs and chit gently.

Back on the wagon again now.  Until Friday week when we head to London as the first step on our invasion of Melbourne.  Eleven sleeps to go until London