Friday, June 29, 2012

A Very Exciting Day

Yesterday was a very exciting day indeed.

First off - the Grandbaby was given his name! He's called Tatsuki and he seems to be thriving. He and Kaori are still in the hospital. Austin tells me that mothers and babies routinely stay in hospital for around a week in Japan. And he says that the hospital is more like a hotel - so I suppose that Kaori and Tatsuki will understandably be reluctant to return home!!

Austin and Tatsuki - I don't know who took this photo but I assume Kaori

The second exciting thing was that one of our students carried the Olympic Torch for a leg when it was in Sheffield and yesterday he brought his torch in for us to see.  If you carried the torch you were entitled to keep yours, but you had to pay £250 for it, which had seemed rather expensive to me. Until I saw it. Not only are they really rather beautiful, they are also surprisingly heavy, plus they are made of proper metal and they are properly made. I can now see why they are as expensive as they are!  The arrival of an Olympic Torch in the Learning Centre generated a considerable level of excitement. Staff came from everywhere to admire it.  And, for a donation to the Children's Hospital - we were allowed to hold it :-)

Frannie and an Olympic Torch

You may be aware that we have had the most amazingly wet June. It has rained and rained and rained and rained and RAINED.  Yesterday the rain combined with a warm and humid day to produce the most astonishing thunderstorms and downpours.  I was on the desk on Level 4 in the afternoon when the rains hit. It was rather like being in a viewing platform on the inside of a huge waterfall. And the poor students who happened to be on their way into the building came in looking like kittens who had accidentally fallen into a fish pond!

And then the storm went away and the sun came out and the temperature went up and the evening was warm and still and sunny and beautiful.

And we went to The Nettle for dinner - discovering when we got there that their Thursday Evening Steak nights had transformed over the previous month or so into Thursday Evening Fish Nights.  We are both partial to a nice piece of fish (and if you are not, you can still select from the regular menu) so we were perfectly happy. I had a truly sumptuous asparagus, bacon and poached egg starter followed by a nice piece of snapper with chips. The Builder had a cod cheek starter and a sea bass main course. We neither of us had room for dessert (this might be because we had positively SCOFFED the substantial pieces of very fresh and very tasty bread which was on our table when we got there. We never learn!!!!!!!)

And then we had a beautiful drive home from The Nettle, in the evening sunshine.

Click on the photo to see the album

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Solstice 2012

Click on the photo to reach the solstice album

My cheese and bacon bread rolls

 I made them based on Dan Lepard's bread instructions.  He uses a wetter dough than most other commentators, and briefly kneads the dough for 10 seconds every ten minutes three or four times.  I have to admit that I stir mine with a wooden spoon rather than kneading. But it seems to work. The bread is heavier than it would be if I kneaded it for longer - but it is extremely tasty, virtually no effort and relatively quick. I think it would have been a bit better if I had let it rise a bit more though - it wasn't very warm in the kitchen so I set it outside in the sunshine for its first rising. I have a feeling I should have left it for twice the time recommended.

Even so, they made for a very tasty base for a cheese, tomato and cucumber sandwich for lunch today

Welcome Baby Gillard

Austin took this photo a couple of hours after the baby was born
And now the Grandbaby has lobbed in.  He was born at 13:36 (Japan time) on June 26th weighing something in the region of 3.5 kg.  He doesn't have a name yet.  (Austin says I can't call him Henry, though I can't think why not.  Henry is a very stately name!!)

(And look - the baby makes up the 700th post on the blog!!)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tripping about

It's been quite an exciting week fror me this week. 

On Wednesday I hopped on a train, sailed through the Sheffield station (where I usually get off the train) and sallied on forth up to York, where I was going to a meeting.  A meeting at the National Railway Museum!!!

It really was a meeting.  It was a gathering of the University Site Representatives for Digimap, which provides electronic Ordnance Survey mapping data to Higher Education Institutions.  It was a very interesting day and I'm glad I went.  I am also glad that the NRM is only a five minute walk from the York Railway Station so there was plenty of time after the meeting finished for me to go for an amble around the Great Hall and to admire a few trains.  Must come back one weekend with The Builder and have a proper look around.  We've been before, but some years ago and there have been a few changes.  Plus, of course, York is a nice city to visit even without the trains.  In the meantime, Digimap had put on a well-run, well-organised, informative day and the NRM had provided a VAST quantity of delicious food for us all.  It is possible that my trousers might now need letting out slightly :-D

NRM. Click on the photo to reach the train pictures

We had expected to have an entirely quiet weekend. No plans at all. Then Tabitha got in touch and asked if we could staff Bishops' House on Saturday afternoon as there was no one else available and they really didn't want to have to close it if they could avoid it.  Now we usually go on Saturday mornigns but decided we could probably manage an afternoon. And I have to say it was rather more fun than the mornings often are.  The mornings are usually very quiet. We kicked off the afternoon session with The Builder trying to unlock the toilet door, which had mysteriously locked itself from the inside, and a group of 5 people trundling in just after we arrived for a look around. (Toilet door successfully opened, most disappointingly did not reveal a body slumped behind the door!!!) We had 20 visitors during the afternoon - loads more than we ever get in the mornings.  We were also visited by one or two doggies that stuck their noses in through the front door to say hello. And we had an, erm, entertaining visit from a gentleman who really had just lobbed in to find someone to talk tol. The Chair of the BH committee says he's well known locally for being a bit eccentric and very lonely.  We had clocked the eccentricity and loneliness quite quickly after he wandered in - but neither of us had ever encountered him before.  We quite enjoyed our afternoon at BH.  We might move to afternoons - but our next visit is already booked for a morning so after that, then.  The biggest advantage of doing an afternoon shift is that we got loads and loads done at home in the morning before heading out!  Including - CLEANING THE FRIDGE!!!

Sunday was largely given over to watching sports.  We did get out to do some shopping (I have a LOVELY new pair of slippers :-)  ) but The Builder spent the afternoon watching the Grand Prix and the evening watching England playing Italy in the European Cup Final (soccer) and I just pottered about. The sun came out and the weather warmed up on Sunday afternoon so I also did a bit of gentle pottering in the garden. I spoke to Austin for his birthday, and had my usual Sunday morning natter with Tony and Stella.  Tony is not recovering from his shingly attack as quickly as he would like, which is inconvenient and a bit disappointing. I hope he's better by the time we lob in in December!  December is closer than you think, you know!!!

And now we are all waiting patiently for the arrival of Austin and Kaori's baby - which is due pretty much now.  I think Kaori is probably waiting more impatiently than all the rest of us put together.  She's been in lopw level labour for ages now!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Weekend plans

The plan was: a nice quiet, domestic weekend; some shopping for foodie supplies; some cleaning, tidying and organising.

And right up at the very top of the list was to Clean The Fridge!!  Freyja was up in Sheffield for the weekend for a "friendly" roller derby bout between her new London team and her old Sheffield team. Invitation only to spectators. She was somewhat stunned when I said I couldn't possibly go because I simply, positively, absolutely HAD to clean the fridge.  If the Health Inspectors had seen it, they would have closed the kitchen down.  Lindsey tells me that she has over-75 year olds doing snap inspections of random people's fridges - or is that people doing random tests of over-75 year olds' fridges? Whichever. Our fridge would never survive a snap inspection from anyone.  Cleaning it had to be right at the very top of the agenda.  After the shopping, of course.

So on Sunday I sallied forth and did some washing and hung that out on the line and did some ironing and brought the dry washing in again. I changed the bed linen and tidied up the bedroom and put a load of washing away. I cleaned the loo and the bathroom sink and the shower. I made some cupcakes and stewed some rhubarb. I made a loaf of bread. I washed a load of dishes and organised some pork for roasting for later. I put spoonfuls of the stewed rhubarb inside my cooled cupcakes and iced them with custard icing. I roasted some potatoes to go with the roast pork and made an apple and fennel gravy. We ate the roast pork and it accompaniments and drank white wine. The Builder also drank beer.  There appears to be some kind of sporting tournament happening in Europe where people in shorts chase around after a spotty ball which is trying to escape their attentions. He was watching that on the television

I did not clean the fridge :-S  (And I still haven't cleaned the fridge.  It's gone Right To The VERYTOP of the things to do this coming weekend!!!

We did have quite a nice time on Saturday pottering about the shops though. We went to the mill in Rowsley for some flour and to the Chatsworth Farm Shop for some meat, and to the Chatsworth Garden Centre for some plants and to the dairy for some milk and bread and even to the supermarket for some wine. And we drove back from Chatsworth to the dairy along country roads we hadn't been along before which was fun (and rather pretty).

But I do so hope there are no snap inspections of the kitchen in the next few days!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The tomato seedlings that have been hanging in the baskets along the grape vine trellis have been struck with blight and have had to be thrown away ;-(  Fortunately, the plants up in the greenhouse on the allotment have not been affected and even more fortunately the tiny seedlings that belatedly grew up and which are growing on in the greenhouse in the garden have also not been affected.  One melon seedling and one watermelon seedling have rotted away but the rest are coming on OK.  And to my surprise, two of the pumpkin seeds have FINALLY germinated.  It might be a bit late but once they're big enough I'll plant them out.

The weather continues wet, cool, windy and late autumnal. The potatoes are not enjoying the dramatic swings between cold and wet and hot and dry but are carrying on. Everything else seems tolerably cheerful.

Oh - and the flower garden is absolutely blooming. It's amazing!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A very quiet weekend in which it rained and blew

So following last weekend's hectic schedule (well, it was hectic if you include watching a great deal of television coverage, amongst the other running around), this weekend was pleasantly peaceful and we really did very little.

We did go to the Friends' of Bishops' House AGM, partly because Tabitha was up for election to the committee (she was recently co-opted but this was her first proper election) and partly to see if any of the, erm, Dissenters would cause trouble (they didn't - but it fascinates me that such a new group could have created a very small posse of political agitators and dissenters already!!!). The meeting was at 7:30, so we went for another delightful early dinner at the Bishops' Coffee House before the meeting. An absolutely delicious Caribbean roast chicken for me and beef curry for The Builder.

It rained quite a lot over the weekend.  And there was lots of wind. And the temperature plummeted so we put the heating back on. We did a very little gentle shopping. The weather cleared up a bit on Sunday so we managed to get out into the garden and up onto the allotment. The Builder watched the Grand Prix. We ate a bit and drank a bit and pottered about. I made a start of clearing up the spare room, and managed to create a high level of disorder but not much else.

And that was it really. Very quiet, comparatively speaking!

Poor Tony has ophthalmic shingles and doesn't feel very well and has a horrible pain in his head and a very, very nasty rash over his eye and head. Fortunately, however, the optic nerve doesn't seem to be damaged. He is taking industrial strength pain killers and plenty of Scotch.

Freyja has gone to deepest, darkest Oxfordshire to take part in something televisual. She still hasn't heard from the Letting Agent but seems to have taken over the room in the house anyway.

Austin and Kaori are counting down to the arrival of their ankle-biter which is due in a couple of weeks

Tabitha's birthday is tomorrow. And Cally has not only learned how to walk independently but also how to scoot about at speed.

And The Builder's son-in-law, his dad, cousin and a mate are on a motor cycle tour of parts of France and appear to be eating some rather nice seafood (not jealous at all, oh,no,no). They seem to be having better weather than the south of England is.

Otherwise, I don't think anyone is doing anything particularly interesting :-D

Friday, June 08, 2012


Despite the torrential rain and the wind and the autumnal temperatures over the weekend, we did manage to get into the garden and up onto the allotment to do a bit of planting.  We've planted on Black Russian, one Yellow Zebra, one Brandywine and three Moneymaker tomato seedlings in Greenhouse #1 (I hope the Black Russian survives, cos I dropped it as I was planting it and definitely bent its stalk :-S ) and two butternut squashes and two cucumbers in Greenhouse #2.  The Under Gardener has also planted out a small Jostaberry plant that I took as a cutting from the one we planted 18 months ago. The branch has snapped so I trimmed it up and planted it in a pot and brought it home - and there it has thrived.  I hope it also thrives on the allotment!

Back in the kitchen garden we planted 45 sweetcorn seedlings in the first bed by the grape vine, and ten more in the next bed.  In the third bed we planted a third cucumber, three zucchini and a third butternut squash seedlings.  We have also potted on the tomato seedlings which finally germinated a couple of weeks ago and some sprouting broccoli and cabbage seedlings. We also now have watermelon and sweet melon seedlings almost but not quite ready for planting out.  The pumpkin seeds have still not germinated and I have given up on them. The French beans have not germinated well. I only have three seedlings, one of which seems to be struggling.

But I really think that that might be enough wind, rain and autumnal weather.  A spot of summer sunshine would be nice now!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Visitors at work

I meant to say. I had visitors today at work.  A history lecturer who used to work here and a planning lecturer who has never worked here and a history lecturer who still works here. They wanted a tour around the library facilities with a view to bring a bundle of students from their home University for a two or three week visit to SHU this time next year.  They were passed to me because I am the planning librarian (amongst other subjects) here and the history librarian is on holiday this week.

But I think they might have been passed to me to take around anyway. Their home University is La Trobe University, Bendigo campus!!  Their housing and planning librarian has been talking to me by email for a couple of months so I knew the plans were afoot, but it's nice to see them beginning to come to fruition.

Not absolutely sure how ready SHU is for an invasion of 40 or so young Australians though!

A Long,Long Weekend

And, it was a super long Long Weekend.  Ordinarily the last Monday in May is the Spring holiday (and SHU grants us all an extra day for obscure reasons). This year the government moved the Spring holiday to the first Monday in June and added the Tuesday in celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (and SHU granted us all an extra day's annual leave, because we would have been closed anyway and it seemed fair to them. I wasn't going to complain if they hadn't, although I suppose there would have been some who would :-D)

If the holiday weekend had been the last weekend in May as usual, the weather would have been quite startlingly unusually lovely. (Bank Holiday weekends are typically cool and wet) The first weekend in June was characterised by rain, wind, rain, more wind, remarkably low temperatures and the nation putting its central heating back on! We also attempted to freeze the Queen and kill off the Duke of Edinburgh, although fortunately we failed in these latter endeavours.  Imagine how embarrassing it would have been to have dedded one of them with the inclement weather when we were supposed to be celebrating their longevity!!

But really, the weather could have been foreseen. Bank Holiday weekends are almost always cool and damp. This was a special weekend so it was going to be cooler and damper by some sort of cosmic law. Plus, it kick started the schools' spring half term holiday. This was a triple whammy which meant that someone should have put thermal undies on the Queen and wrapped the duke in a snuggly blanket before they were allowed to leave the palace!  Flasks of hot chocolate might have helped too.

In the meantime, however, The Builder and I had quite a good weekend.  We went and froze at Bishops' House on Saturday morning where, unsurprisingly, very few visitors came to see us. We watched the boat pageant on the Thames on Sunday from the snuggly warmth of our lounge room (I had put the heating back on. I am not the Queen and couldn't see that I was obliged to freeze while watching the boats).  Fortunately the torrential rain didn't reach us inside.

On Monday we left nice and early and trundled down to London. On the grounds that the Queen was likely to be quite busy and might not be entirely delighted if unexpected visitors rocked up for morning tea, we made our way to Freyja's place instead.  After a trail of red tape that would bewilder Whitehall, she has finally and circuitously managed to secure a room in a house a ten minute walk across Albert Dock from her halls of residence.  She has been carrying her stuff across but we thought we could make it a bit easier by going down and taking the bulkier stuff across in the car.  Plus, of course, this gave us an opportunity to have a sticky at her new house and meet some of her housemates. Like the lad making pasta from first principles. And the other boy watching The Big Bang Theory on the telly And the black cat that looks remarkably like Marlo.  So we had a nice picnic lunch in her garden, went for a walk along the Thames (no boat pageant on Monday - also no rain!), drove some of her possessions across to the new place, declined the invitation to do any cleaning and came home again, back in good time to sleep in our chairs through the bulk of the Jubilee concert at the Palace.

Tuesday was a weird kind of a day.  We had a proper, cooked breakfast. The Queen went to Church at St Paul's Cathedral. Our local churches were ringing their bells. They were singing hymns on Radio 4 at one point.  We trundled up to the allotment and did some planting in the greenhouses.  We came home and had a mid-afternoon cooked meal. On the whole, we were doing Sunday things, and so was everyone else. It was therefore something of a shock to wake up this morning and to find that it wasn't Monday but Wednesday!

It is also possible that I should have gone to bed before midnight last night. I have been extremely sleepy this afternoon!

Click on the photo for the album of Freyja's new place