Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Well now - that was an exciting few days but back to reality now

So after all the excitement of Wednesday and Thursday, it was quite a struggle to get up and actually go to work on Friday!  And then, of course, in the evening, there was the actual Opening Ceremony.

Lots of people have asked me how it was different, being at the rehearsal and watching the actual event on the television.  It was, of course, much more exiting watching the live event - it always is.  But there were still surprises for the rehearsal audiences too. They hadn't shown any of the films during the rehearsals, although they had played the music.  So I had heard the Bond music and knew that he would be involved, but  I didn't know how.  And, of course, we didn't know how the torch would get to the stadium, nor who would light the flame - nor even where the flame would be located.  Another advantage of the television is that you can record it.  We have been watching it again in short bursts to catch all the bits that we missed on Friday.

On Saturday Facebook and Twitter and email were all abuzz with excitement. Freyja was on SKY news and the clip was available online, so we all watched that.  Her Roller Derby team mates were all fizzing. It remained all very exciting.  Freyja tells me that she got a t-shirt and a certificate, plus a program, and they got to keep their costumes and their skates and their tabards.  Her tabard is signed by participants.  Her skates are signed by Danny Boyle himself!

And so it's back to the real world.  It's raining again (at least it is in Sheffield and Tupton). I'm back at work. Freyja has been in Sheffield for the weekend (it was Simon's 30th birthday party on Saturday evening). I met with her, Tabitha, Ross and a sleeping Cally for lunch in the Kiwi coffee and pie shop today. Then she is back to London this evening to pick up her Olympic souvenir photo job. Tabitha is working extra hours at the moment - mostly 6-2 which is certainly an early start but does give you most of the afternoon off.

The Builder has been picking and podding mountains of peas and broad beans and trying to make sure the pumpkin and squash and melon flowers get pollinated. A day off picking and podding beans today though; not only is it raining but also we are between pickings. We ate and drank well, as you might expect, over the weekend - and are now back on a serious austerity program, otherwise we're going to end up stuck somewhere in South East Asia and not be able to get any further on the Grand World Tour :-D  We might have a bit of a break from austerity over the coming weekend though. It is, would you believe, our third wedding anniversary next Tuesday.  And Austin and Kaori's first the day before. This time last year we were in Tokyo dodging earthquakes and playing in markets and things.

For those of you who haven't seen the photos from the dress rehearsal, you'll get to them if you click on this picture

Monday, July 30, 2012

And Another Sunday Lunch

We had expected our friend Richard to be at our place for lunch yesterday.  Alas - events intervened and he was unable to come.  So he missed out on rare roast beef from the new farm shop we've found not far from our place. He missed out on Yorkshire pudding made with eggs from our hens. He missed out on boiled new potatoes, peas, broad beans, baby zucchini and carrots from the garden and the allotment. And he missed out on an onion, garlic and herb gravy, also with ingredients from the garden.

And he missed out on this

I happily admit I didn't make the bread (which came from a local bakery, via the dairy) nor did I milk the cow for the cream (also came from the dairy). But we did grow the blueberries, the raspberries and the blackcurrants which made up our summer puddings. And very delicious they were too!

Friday, July 27, 2012

"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats"

So how do you top an evening like that?

Well, I'm not sure that you can. But we can do something very nearly as good. The sun was shining and the weather was delightful and all four of us were free. The Builder can come out to play today. Let's go and play on the river!

So that's what we did.

Someone (that would be the airline Etihad) has built a cable car that runs between the Excel Centre and the Millennium Dome (now renamed as the O2 Arena - but I have rebelliously continued to call it the Dome!!). It is intended as a quick way for commuters and tourists to get from one side of the river to the other and you can use your Oyster card (like a Myki card but without all the attendant trauma and controversy) to pay for it.  I hadn't realised it was being built until I happened to see a news article saying that it was finished and open. Once I did realise it was there I really, really wanted to go on it.  So that's what we did. We took the (lovely) DLR to the cable car terminus and went on it across to the Dome. (It had stopped running a couple of times on Wednesday but mercifully was very well behaved yesterday.) You do get some fabulous views of East London, Central London and the river.

Then we wandered along, past the Dome, to the boat stage - where we could also use our Oyster cards to pay. It's a commuter boat rather than a cruise-along-and-admire-the-sights boat but at the time we were out and about it was mostly tourists who were using it.  We went up as far as The Eye - necessarily passing under Tower Bridge, much to my pleasure.  Tower Bridge is adorned with Olympic rings at the moment and I didn't expect to get to London during the Games to get a photo of it.  I have lots of photos now!

Anyway. We got to The Eye and went for a lovely potter about Southbank.  Ross wanted to go in and admire the Festival Hall, so we did. There were lots of people out to play (school holidays, Olympics, sunshine - and the torch relay had gone past shortly before we got there so there were lots of additional activities going on). Everyone was happy and smiling and cheery (was a bit odd; normally Londoners are in a terrible hurry to get places and get grumpy if you are pottering about in their way!!!). We stopped at a pizza place that a friend of Freyja's had said was good. And they were right. The pizzas were very good. Then we ambled along to London Bridge and hopped on the tube and the DLR and went back to collect the car which Premier Inn had allowed us to leave in their car park for the day even though we had checked out at 10 am. We took Freyja home and made our way back to Sheffield, where we abandoned Ross in a pub (largely because he had spotted Tabitha, Gareth and Cally in the beer garden :-D  ).  So we said hello to them and then went back to Chesterfield.

It was a lovely, lovely day. It was a lovely, lovely mid-week weekend.  It was a bit of a struggle to get up and come to work this morning. But after all - it's only one day and then I get another weekend!

And here is the pictorial record of our day out on the river.  Click on the photo to get to the album

The Olympic Opening Ceremony

Anyone who has been paying attention to the blog over the past few months will be aware that Freyja is making her International Debut in the Olympic Opening Ceremony.  And as a participant, she was given two free tickets to the second Technical Rehearsal. She gave one of those tickets to me, and one to her dad.

Now.  The rehearsal didn't finish until 10:15 in the evening, and I really didn't want to have to go back to wherever the car was parked and then drive back to Chesterfield via Sheffield at that time of night. I'm nearly always in bed by 10:30.  Driving any sort of distance after a mighty show seemed foolish in the extreme.  So I checked that Ross could stay at Freyja's place, and then went to book me into the Premier Inn at Beckton, near to where Freyja lives. Then I realised that it would cost no more to book a double room than a single, so did that so The Builder (who wasn't going to the rehearsal) could go too.  Might as well make a proper trip out of it!

Wednesday morning dawned bright and clear and sunny in Tupton.  I checked the forecast for London - and put on shorts, a short sleeved shirt and a pair of sandals.  At which point the clouds all came flooding over to inspect this unlikely sight :-S  It was cool and cloudy in Sheffield too, when we went to collect Ross :-S  This confidence in the summery weather was beginning to look a bit misplaced :-S

Fortunately, as we headed south the clouds cleared and the sun came out and the temperature went up.  Despite the dire warnings about traffic chaos in central and East London we had a fairly good run to Beckton (though we were very glad we weren't heading to Stratford!!) and arrived in time for a late lunch in the pub next to the Premier Inn.  And for a Brewer's Fare pub, the food wasn't all that bad at all.  And while Premier Inns would not normally be my hostelry of choice, I have to say that our room was spacious, bright, cheerful and very comfortable. We will certainly stay there again - it's very handy to Freyja and makes weekend visits to her entirely do-able.

So, Ross and I left The Builder to his own devices (which appeared to involve watching sport on the telly, and eating curry in the pub) and made our way to Stratford, where we were meeting Freyja's pal Alec who had the tickets. Then we made our way along with crowds and crowds of other people to the Olympic Park, where we three and a friend of Alec's had plenty of time to stroll around in the sunshine and explore the park. 
  • The Park is beautiful.
  • The gardeners all deserve knighthoods for making such beautiful gardens and for making the flowers bloom at the right time - especially after all the horrible weather we've had this summer
  • There were police officers and armed forces there but mostly there were London 2012 volunteers all over the place. Every one was cheerful and friendly and helpful and smiley
  • Going through the airport-style security was painless and efficient
  • The Park is beautiful
  • Food and drink were not as vastly over-priced as I had expected them to be. I bought a good sized box of vegetarian sushi for £6 which is what I would expect to pay in London for a good sized box of sushi
  • The crowds were good humoured and very well-behaved and all seemed to enjoy strolling around admiring the park
  • The sun shone and the temperature held
  • Did I mention that The Park is beautiful?

Here are the photos:

Click on the photo to reach the album

To get into the stadium, which is surrounded by a moat made up of the River Lee and gardens and flower meadows, you have to cross one of the bridges.  Once you are in the stadium you can't leave (unless you don't want to come back) but there are food and drink vendors inside, not to mention loos and water fountains where you can fill your water bottles (you can take food into the Park, but not liquids and not huge picnic hampers either). So Ross and I abandoned Alec and his friend and made our way to our bridge (Bridge C, since you ask) and went in to watch the show.

I do have photos of the ceremony

But I can't show them to you yet


No peeking now!
 I will tell you, though, that it was AMAZING.  We didn't see all of it (obviously no athletes were available to parade and funnily enough they didn't show us the flame being lit and there were some bits of the show that we didn't see). But we saw a lot of it and you really shouldn't miss it if there is anyway you can watch it on the telly.

Then nearly 100000 people left the stadium at the same time, past smiling police officers and cheerful volunteers and almost invisible armed forces personnel, and made our way to Stratford Station, Stratford International or walked to West Ham. And it was all very orderly and very calm. We met Freyja at Stratford International and went back to Beckton. Then Freyja and Ross walked back to Freyja's place and I went in and didn't tell The Builder anything very much about what we had seen in the show.

Monday, July 23, 2012

And it continued to rain on Friday.  Nothing new there, you may thing. It hasn't properly stopped raining for months. The dilemma was that Saturday was the Tupton Carnival  (street parade, then a fair in the afternoon) and it would be a great pity if that had been rained off. I suppose that you can have a parade in the rain, even in torrential rain - but they usually have the fair on the school playing fields and that might not be a whole lot of fun in knee deep mud.

Fortunately, however, Saturday dawned bright and fair. You might almost have thought it was summer!  The Carnival was safe!  It was, in fact, so bright and sunny, and the birds were all so excited by this that I was awake by about half past four and up by about quarter to six.  On a Saturday!  (I realise that the sun does not shine directly in through our bedroom window but at some points in the year it shines onto our neighbours' bathroom window and is reflected back into our room.)  So by half past nine I had done some washing and hung it out, I had washed up Friday night's dishes and cleaned the kitchen.  I had cleaned the shower and the bathroom sink. I had made the bed and done the ironing and many other oh-so many useful things.

The Tupton Parade starts at 1:00 so they close most of the roads that we might want to drive along at around 12:30. So we wombled off and did a bit of shopping and then went and investigated a new Farm Shop that opened fairly recently near us and were back at home in plenty of time before the roads closed.  And just after 1:00 a lovely little parade came down Queen Victoria Road, accompanied by brass bands and tractors and children's groups on little floats and all sorts of things.  There was a jolly, Olympic theme to many of the floats this year.  The Builder watched it from our front window, and I went out and propped against the garden wall to watch. And the people who had come down the hill, confidently expecting to drive through to the highway, or to Wingerworth, or to wherever it was they were going, perforce also had to stop and watch (they seemed entirely happy about this).

So that was all rather lovely.

What was also rather lovely was that at one point on Saturday morning, while I was pottering around in the kitchen, I heard the back door open, then I heard a small clunk, then I heard the back door close again.  I went to investigate.  And there, sitting on the kitchen mat, was a small box with my name on it.  And in the small box was --- THE WIRELESS ROUTER!!!!!!!!!

So I prepared another couple of lions to griddle (setting up the previous router had been a nightmare of epic proportions). And found that the lions were surplus to requirements.  The router had come with our account details pre-installed.  All I needed to do was plug it in.  And a few minutes later it was ready to receive new laptop friends.  And even that is considerably less of a palaver than getting devices attached to the previous router.  The Builder is delighted!!!  He really, really doesn't like my laptop at all.  I think, when I eventually get around to upgrading it, that I will not offer it to him :-D

Sunday dawned bright, shiny, sunny, warm - and as early as it had dawned on Saturday. So I got up and did more washing, more ironing, more cleaning, more hanging out of the washing. And I made a lemon and tarragon stuffing for the Sunday roast chicken, and a sponge cake with whipped cream and stewed gooseberries. I podded the peas and beans that The Builder had gathered in while he collected a large bowlful of raspberries.  By the time The Builder sat down to watch the Grand Prix I had got the chicken on to roast, the potatoes on to simmer and the vegetables on to steam. By 6:00 in the evening I was more than ready to declare the day over.  All of these early starts are quite tiring!!! (The downside to early to rise and early to bed means that I tend to wake up around about half past three, convinced that it's time to get up and of course - it isn't!!)

And still the sun shines. I have been very brave today and worn summer clothes.  And sandals. I head out of buildings, braced for it to be cold, and find it is strangely warm.  And there are children jumping around in the water features around SHU and down by the station.  Someone has put (quite solid) table tennis tables down by the station - and people are playing table tennis on them. Although I am not sure where they get the bats and balls from.  As I said - anyone would think it was summer :-D

Friday, July 20, 2012

Still no wifi modem at our place

We've been waiting and waiting and waiting for our new, promised wireless router to turn up.  And so far there has been no sign of it. I was quite patient until the 5 working days, which was the maximum amount of time it should have taken for it to turn up, had passed.  Then I decided I was going to have to griddle my lions once again and ring Orange to find out where it was. 

I really, really hate ringing Orange. It takes for ever. The people on the other end of the phone, although scrupulously polite and friendly, tend to treat you as though you're an idiot. You spend weeks and weeks on hold listening to horrible "music". I always need intravenous gin and a good lie down after a telephonic encounter with Orange.  However, there was nothing for it. We need a new router and I can't see why I should pay over £80 for one when I have been told I can have a free one.

In the meantime, I was listening to a news item talking about how sending text messages has largely replaced actually talking to people on the phone.  Makes perfect sense to me. If what you want to do is request or convey information, texting or emailing is much more efficient. You have a record of what has been said or agreed, and people can read the messages when it is convenient to them. I seriously prefer emailing to ringing on the phone if I have to deal with businesses or utilities.

Shining light moment.  Maybe I could *email* Orange.  After all - I only want to know where my router is.  And after much faffing about on their website looking for a way to email them, that was exactly what I did. 

Mind you, I did feel that the promised response time of "within 48 hours" was a bit slack!

As it happens, 24 hours later they got back to me to tell me that my order for a new router had been marked as a duplicate when it got to the distribution centre and thus no router had been sent.  Terribly sorry and all that. Have ordered another one.  It will be with you in 3 to 5 working days.

Sigh!!!!!!!  Just as well I have a dongle.  And just as well again that I bought loads of data when I topped it up on the Tuesday evening of last week. The Builder is, of coruse, quite right when he points out that we are paying for a service that we can't access - and that we are paying for it, effectively, twice given that I've had to top up the dongle.  But at least we're getting to use the data I've paid for (says Frances in definite Pollyanna mode!!)

And an unexpected advantage was that on Sunday morning, when I was talking to Tony and Stella and later Austin on Skype, the combination of using a dongle for internet access and a rare sunny morning, meant that I could take all three of them (individually) for a stroll around our garden and show it off.  Silver linings and clouds and so on.

The sunshine didn't last.  It's raining again. And it's dark and gloomy and quite chilly.  And quite remarkably humid, given the temperature!
Broad beans ready for picking

And peas ready to be eaten

Beautiful potato flowers

Preparing for Sunday lunch
It remains a funny year, weatherwise.  After a beautiful weekend the weather has reverted to its usual rain, gloom, chill and wind.  But not everything is suffering.  So far the Under Gardener has picked a little over 6 kilos of gooseberries, 2 kilos of peas and nearly 2 kilos of broad beans.  We have a mountain of rhubarb in the freezer, and rather more red currants than I was expecting.  We also have raspberries in the freezer, although nothing like as many as last year.  Even so, not too bad.  But the poor zucchini, squash, cucumber and pumpkin plants in the garden are seriously struggling.  They are not enjoying the cool temperatures and rain at all.  But the plants on the allotment in the greenhouse are thriving. There might even, soon, be cucumbers ready to pick!

At the risk of tempting fate and inviting calamity upon the tomato plants - so far I think they are not blighted.  I might (finally) plant into bigger pots the few plants left in the potting greenhouse. And the ones in the allotment greenhouses have flowers and even one or two small tomatoes growing on them.  Now all we need is some sunshine to encourage them along.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


The Under Gardener has been busy in the garden and on the allotment. He has finally managed to get the grass cut in the garden, and the rain has lifted long enough for him to get in red currants, black currants and some raspberries.  But we are not going to have huge gluts of most fruit this year.  The cherries are all split and are being eaten by the birds before they are ripe enough for humans to eat.  We can't bring them in to ripen indoors because they rot along the splits before they are ripe. Next year we will lop the top branches off and net the trees.  In the meantime - it's quite funny watching magpies, blackbirds and sparrows trying to balance on the branches of the trees, which aren't quite strong enough to support them!!

The greenhouse in the garden. Click on the watering can to reach the full album

Also,  he has planted out the last of the brassica seedlings, which have been being nurtured in the greenhouse. They came from a highly reputable seed and plant company about three weeks ago, in a truly terrible state.  They looked as though they had been packed and then packaged by a particularly dim work experience student. Half of them were broken. The rest were all yellow and limp and sad.  I potted up the not-broken ones and was about to send of a very grumpy email to the plant company when I realised that they had sent considerably more seedlings than I had ordered and that I probably had about as many plants that would survive as I had paid for.  So I didn't.

It therefore came as something of a shock to the Under Gardener when a package arrived yesterday lunchtime from that very same seed and plant company, bearing another 60 seedlings - Brussels sprouts, cauliflowers and cabbages. Where, he asked me, did I intend him to plant them? There is no room at the horticultural inn!  Nothing to do with me.  I didn't order them.  Check the invoice.  So he did - and found not an invoice but a letter of apology from the seed company asking us to accept the replacement plants in place of the previous consignment.  You really can't complain about that - especially since I didn't complain and had in any case already got planted out about the number of plants that I had originally ordered.  So thank you, Thompson & Morgan. We will definitely be back for more.  Next year. Not this!!!!

I have offered some of the seedlings to colleagues who have allotments or kitchen gardens.  And we'll find somewhere to plant the rest.  If we plant them very close together (which we did, accidentally, last year) you get lots of mini-vegetables which are quite fun.

Apart from that, we are keeping an eye out for potato and tomato blight.  The weather is still absolutely ideal for blight. And I have an uneasy suspicion that the remaining tomatoes in the greenhouse at home may have been got - the leaves are turning a funny colour.  I shall keep an eye on them. We have started digging the first/second early potatoes too.  They also are a bit small yet but they are beginnign to look a bit forlorn.
The carrots are coming on though.  As are the herbs, the onions and the garlic.  I might plant up another couple of boxes of carrots at the weekend. I've got loads of seed left and there might be enough time to get a second crop in before the winter.  Plus, of course, boxes of carrots can now be moved into the porch if it snows

I do love Sundays

Home made Yorkshire puddings. Home made mustardy gravy. Home grown carrots.  Everything else I bought. But it was bought fresh. And it all tasted delicious

And then I made these mini fruit pies. I made the pastry with flour, butter and cinnamon. And I made the filling with a bramley apple, a couple of green eating apples (peeled and diced) and a cup of black currants, sweetened with some freshly squeezed orange juice and a teaspoonful of honey.  We had the bigger ones on Sunday and have been eating the little ones at lunchtime during the week. I was really very pleased with them

I've been to London

I don't know if you remember, but twice last year I went to London with Roger for meetings of a very new user group which Roger was asked to establish. It brings together representatives from University libraries and representatives from one of the main purveyors of technical information. The meetings are very interesting and I rather enjoy going to them.

Now, however, Roger has stepped down from the group. And now I am the chair ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  And the third meeting of the group was on Tuesday.  I have to say that it felt extremely odd to be going to a meeting of this group without Roger.  But his influence lingers on - I took a much earlier train than I really needed to Just In Case!

And it is true that the train I was on was ten minutes late in.  But ten minutes is neither here nor there when you are going all the way to London.  What was slightly more disconcerting was the announcement as the train was pulling into St Pancras that "The King's Cross Underground station is being evacuated because of overcrowding".  I regret to say that this provoked much mirth amongst the passengers in my carriage!!  It seems that a train had broken down in one of the tunnels on the Northern Line and the platforms were getting very crowded.  It was complicated a bit more by the fact that someone was doing practice runs elsewhere on the Underground network for the Olympics.  However, it didn't entirely inconvenience me.  It's true I had intended to use the King's Cross station but if it wasn't available it was hardly a huge problem.  I simply ambled off in the sunshine down Gray's Inn Road, past the place where Freyja is doing work experience this week (hello Freyja!) and on to another Underground station which handily was on the line I needed to be on.  And off I trundled to my meeting, arrive a bit early but not too early.

The meeting went quite well, I think. The lunch they provided was only sandwiches, crisps, fruit and cake - but what sandwiches they were.  And the fruit was cut into pieces and put on kebab sticks.  And the cakes were delicious. It was all good :-)

We finished a bit early so I took myself off to the British Museum for a bit of a potter around.  I was quite surprised by how busy it was, to say that it was 4:00 on a Tuesday afternoon.  And I was extremely surprised not so much by the groups of school children from France or Spain or Italy, but by the number of groups of school children from places like China and other Far Eastern countries.  Seems quite a long way to come to visit a museum!  There was a group of schoolgirls from, I think, China in one of the galleries doing a dance that seemed to be based on Tai Chi moves. They were chanting the music as they did their movements.  It was extremely beautiful.  And then I came out of the museum - to find it raining with considerable determination.  I acquired a startlingly expensive umbrella from the museum shop and wandered through the rain back to St Pancras where Freyja met me after she had finished work .  We had dinner at the station and then I came back to Chesterfield and Freyja went off back to East London.

It was a good day.

Well - it was for me.  Not quite such an exciting day for the poor Builder.  Although - I suppose it was a bit exciting.  He was pottering about, minding his own business, not doing anyone any harm when there was a Big Bang. Lightning hit the road outside.  There was an intense rain shower. There was a mighty clap of thunder.  And the wifi modem died ;-(  Nothing else.  Just the wifi modem.  No internet for The Builder then!  Fortunately the TV and the SKY box were fine so he had things to amuse himself with.  But no internet.  According to the very helpful lady in the electrical store, they had had many people in yesterday saying that their modems had been taken out by lightning.  Nothing else in the house. Just the wifi modem.  Weird.  Anyway, I griddled my lions and rang our internet provider to see how much it would cost to get a new modem through them rather than through the electrical store.  And it seems they are willing to give me a new modem for no money at all.  That suits me just fine.  A new modem is on its way.  I have charged my dongle so we do have internet at home in the meantime.  But it was a tiny tad disconcerting to find that my mobile phone provider had major problems with *its* network yesterday so not only were we on reduced internet at home (only one laptop at a time!) but i was without my mobile phone as well :-S  Fortunately that seems to be better today too.

Oh - and the sun is shining in a bright blue sky.  It's not expected to last very long - but it's nice to see, once in a while :-D

The Great Court in the British Museum

This was obviously once a very beautiful wheel. I think it should be mended!!

A Chinese camel for Lindsey

Some more Chinese camels for Lindsey

Not at the British Museum. Olympic rings viewed from behind at St Pancras Station

Monday, July 09, 2012


I had a couple of bananas loitering in the kitchen at the weekend that really needed something useful to do. So I decided to make a banana cake, (very) loosely following this recipe

I am not very fond of cardamom. It's not that I don't like the taste. It's more that I find it remarkably overpowering, so that you can't taste anything but cardamom. And there doesn't seem to be much point in making a banana and choc chip cake if all you can taste is cardamom. So I left it out.  I also reduced the amount of chocolate by half.  And in the interests of fitting into my summer shorts, should the sun ever oblige and shine, I replaced the sugar with 10g of stevia, which I hadn't ever used before. It's a herb based sweetener, which has a very pleasant herby after taste. I quite liked it

The cake itself was absolutely delicious. Lovely and moist. Quite fluffy.  Something of a treat. I shall definitely make it again

I'm not sure that I'll use the stevia again, though.  Which is a bit of a pity because I've got quite a bit left and it's not exactly cheap.

But about half an hour after eating my piece of banana cake I realised that the left side of my mouth had gone a bit numb and my lips were tingling. My eyes were itchy. My throat was scratchy. I felt a wee bit spacy. It was very much the sort of reaction I get when I eat a piece of nut. A very mild allergic reaction to something.  Only I hadn't eaten any nuts (I do actively avoid eating nuts because the reaction I get isn't always, or even often, a mild one!). The only things I had eaten that day were things that I had made myself, from first principles.  And the only new thing I had had was the stevia.

The reaction took a long time to subside ;-S

I decided the following day to try a small piece of the cake and see if it happened again.  And it did, only more quickly this time.  It also proved very difficult to swallow the cake. I decided that maybe I should listen to what my body was saying and not eat any more.

I had had a quick hunt on the internet and see that American comments suggest that people do seem to have allergic reactions to stevia, but that largely they're people who are allergic to other members of the daisy family (I'm not) or to related foods (bananas are among the list - but I've been perfectly ok eating plain bananas ).  There is no suggestion that people who are allergic to tree nuts should avoid eating stevia.  It's all a bit odd.

But I think next time I'll put more banana, no sugar or stevia and perhaps a little bit of honey.

And The Builder was perfectly happy finishing up the very delicious banana cake!!

Wet, Wet, Wet

The Weather pundits had been forecasting rain on Friday for quite some time, so the fact that it was wet came as no great surprise.  It wasn't really even very surprising that it was VeryWetIndeed - enough weather alerts had been issued that we should all have been aware and prepared.

But by heavens it was wet. It rained and rained and rained and rained.  And it wasn't just persistent drizzle.  It RAINED!  Poor old Hebden Bridge was flooded - again. The Don tried hard to escape from its banks in Sheffield.  Meadowhall, which had been quite seriously flooded in 2007, now has flood gates, which it closed. Fortunately The Don didn't flood - but it was quite a close thing.  The Cliffhanger festival in Graves Park was cancelled. The Sharrow Festival was cancelled. Pretty much all the outdoor events in Sheffield over the weekend were cancelled.

The Weather Dogs then turned their attention to the south of England and did their damnedest to wash away Dorset.  The River Cottage Members' Summer Party was cancelled on Saturday evening (it ran on the Friday before the rains came) because all the paths around the site had turned into raging rivers. The Dorset Seafood Festival had to be put back a day.  Back in the Midlands, the F1 people at Silverstone told people who had tickets to the Saturday racing not to come. It was quite significantly wet around England.

Two Anglican bishops, who really should know better, have declared that the floods are a serious rebuke from God who is clearly very angry about proposals that Parliament should legislate in favour of Gay Marriage and that the church should legislate in favour of Women Bishops.  I would refer them back to their bibles, but to be honest I can't be bothered.  In any case,  everyone knows it is the responsibility of the Weather Dogs who obviously heard everyone whinging back in the spring that we haven't had any decent proper rainfall for nearly two years and please could we have some - and obliged.  People should be very careful what they wish for!!

In the meantime, the butter churning activity at Bishops' House was not cancelled on Saturday morning. And The Builder and I managed to make it from Tupton to Norton Lees in Sheffield to take our turn opening the house for the morning.  Around 20 people came in and lots of children went away beaming and clutching pats of butter. We had quite a good morning. We went home via the supermarket. Mostly, on Saturday, it wasn't raining much in Sheffield or Chesterfield.  Just the odd shower.  Like the one we ran into on our way to the dairy for some milk.  We could see it as we drove along.  Just over there.  Looking a bit fierce.  And then we arrived where it was.  And it was like driving into a solid wall of water.  I have never sat in an observation deck behind Niagara Falls.  But if there is such a deck, and if Niagara Falls were in full spate, that is what I imagine it would look like. It was AMAZING!  Fortunately it was also short lived otherwise I could have easily seen Tupton being flooded :-S

The water companies and the Environment Agency have now declared that the drought is over and all water restrictions in England have been lifted.  If you wish to use your hose to water your garden, you now can do (we always could, but that's by the by). I am hopeful that the Weather Dogs will decide that we have had enough rain for the moment and turn it off.  Well, maybe not hopeful. But it would be nice.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Dinner at Cally's place

We went and had dinner at Cally's place last evening. We had lovely roast pork and a lovely chat.  Tired this morning though! (Me, that is - I assume not Cally!)

Oh.  Hello.  You've arrived :-)

Did you bring The Builder?

My chef is inside preparing dinner for us

We are not having rabbit stew

I think we should bring the washing in. It might rain

It's a flower. I believe it's called a poppy

Off we go to meet Mummy. She's on her way back from work

Dinner time!
This is the view from Cally's back door, across over Woodseats and out onto the moors

Much quieter week so far

So after all that excitement the past few days have been quite quiet. It was a very quiet weekend in which we did very little apart from dodge the showers, rush out during the occasional burst of sunshine, inspect the garden and allotment, eat and drink, and watch a bit of television.

We can't do all that much.  I have started buying plane tickets for the Grand World Tour!!  So far I have bought the plane flights to Manchester for the beginning of December, flights from Cairns to Osaka at the beginning of January and then flights from Tokyo to Manchester mid-January.  I do realise that that abandons us in Singapore, whereupon we drop into a black hole only to reappear 4 weeks later in Cairns. But that's the really big tickets now paid for and we are now waiting for other people to make decisions about December - plus I also have a few things I want to think about before booking anything else. And, of course, I have now run out of money!!! So we can't dash about spending money wildly or we'll end up abandoned in Singapore and not be able to get to Cairns, still less Perth and Melbourne!!!!!!!!!

In the meantime, it continues to rain. April to June were, I think, the wettest on record in England.  I asked the Magic Eight Ball last evening if it would ever stop raining.  The answer was a resounding "NO!".  Although I would have to admit that it isn't actually raining at this exact moment. In fact, there is a strange light shining outside and the sky is patchworked with a strange blue colour.  But I think it probably won't last.  It's beginning to look tired by the exertion already.

Off to see Tabitha, Gareth and Cally this evening. I believe there will be food and drink and conversation - and an opportunity to see how many times I can bowl Cally over as she runs about avoiding my bowling ball  :-D

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Early summer food that is more like autumn food!

On Sunday I slow roasted two tiny, tiny lamb shanks which we had with roast potatoes, a mountain of vegetables, gravy and a red currant and mint jus.  On Monday I made a mince beef, mushroom and vegetable stew which we had with potatoes and more vegetables. On Tuesday I took the left over mince and veg stew and made individual pies which we had with mash and carrots and cabbage.

I will grant you that the vegetables we've been eating have been peas and broad beans and baby carrots and a spring cabbage. We've had the last of the English asparagus and the last of the new Jersey potatoes.  I've made a potato, celery and cucumber salad to go with the mushroom, onion and cheese flan we've been having for lunches this week.  There are hints and blandishments and subtle clues that suggest this should be summer. But they are fleeting and ephemeral. The only thing that says that it's summer is that the leaves on the trees are a vivid green and the days are long and the nights are short.

But the weather is autumnal in look and feel.  And so the main food is reminiscent of autumn.  I even made coffee and cinnamon scrolls on Sunday!

We managed at the weekend to dodge the rain, in the end, to get out into the garden and to plant out 12 Brussels sprouts plants, 12 sprouting broccoli plants and 4 cauliflower plants in bed #4.  The Undergardener has made a frame with a fine net over it to protect the plants from the pigeons and from the butterflies and catterpillars.  So far they seem to be doing OK.  There are loads more brassica plants to plant out and the Undergardener has bought more wood and netting to make new frames.  Alas - everytime he goes out to try to assemble the frames, the rain comes back and he has to beat a hasty retreat inside!

We also managed to get up to the allotment and planted in the greenhouses some more tomato plants and some melon and a watermelon and a pumpkin plant. So far they seem to be doing OK.  The cucumber plants that we put in a few weeks ago now have tiny, tiny cucumbers on them.  I hope they will grow into full-sized cucumbers :-)  There were some left over melon, watermelon and pumpkin plants which wouldn't fit in the greenhouses, so I've planted them in the garden beds with the other cucurbits in bed #3.  Plus two sweet melon plants in with the sweet corn in bed #1. 

There are also some tomato plants left over but I'm not sure what to do with them. The continual rain coupled with a fair degree of humidity means the conditions for blight are absolutely ideal.  The tumbling tomatoes have already been afflicted and have had to be thrown away.  The first early potatoes are struggling with wireworm but also, we think, possibly with blight. It seems inevitable that if I put the tomato plants in the garden, they will succumb too.    The potatoes and tomatoes on the allotment so far seem unaffected. But there's no more room for tomatoes on the allotment. I am tempted to put them in pots and have them on the driveway and see what happens - but first we need to get more potting mix.

I am happy to report, however, that it's not just us that are having a funny year.  Colleagues at work and on various blogs are also reporting that their seeds didn't germinate, or they did but the seedlings died, or that the seedlings survived and then just died or failed to thrive once they'd been planted out.  Apart from rhubarb (which is absolutely relishing the non-stop rain) and the gooseberries (one of the new plants on the allotment yielded 1.3kg of gooseberries at the weekend and there are more to come from the other allotment plant and the established plants in the garden) - apart from them, nothing is very much enjoying the weather.

Even the chickens aren't thriving.  Egg production has dropped to one every two or three days at most.  This is probably partly because the chooks are now 2 years old and hybrids aren't designed to lay much beyond that. Partly it's because one of them is moulting.  One of them hasn't laid anyway for 12 months.  And the one who is moulting looked for all the world as though she was going to decide to lie down and die on Sunday.  She didn't - but I'm sure she was contemplating it!!

Oh well.  Maybe we'll do OK for winter cabbages .  And the peas and broad beans, although not flourishing, at least are imminently about to produce peas and broad beans!