Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Food, wine, food, more wine and a bit more food

It was most definitely a foodie weekend. And equally definitely not a good weekend for the diet.  In fact, I think that the diet has been abandoned for now, to be picked up again in January when we get home.

But it crossed our minds that we hadn't been to The Nettle for simply ages and ages and that we were about to abandon the UK for 6 weeks. So we went for lunch on Saturday.  And my burger was, as you would expect, delicious. And my chips were, as you would expect, delicious. And we were both very happy little vegemites when we went home.  We did not have any dinner.

On Sunday we came in to Sheffield and met Tabitha, Gareth and Cally for lunch in the Rutland. It was pretty much our Christmas meal.  The Rutland has transformed over the years and is now also quite a serious foodie pub.  I like it. It has lots of atmosphere.

Sunday lunch fish ..

.. and chips for me

Roast beef for The Builder
So that was Sunday lunch. We might also have had a little bit of wine.  Or beer.  Except for The Builder who was driving.

After lunch, it being really rather a lovely afternoon (it had rained absolutely torrentially overnight - the main bridge and the road to the motorway in Chesterfield were flooded and all the traffic was being diverted down the Chesterfield to Sheffield road when we left home.  That was fun!) we went for a potter around in the Christmas market on Fargate and for a wander around the winter gardens.

And then we went home and The Builder got his wine and we watched the final of Masterchef Australia.  We've run out of Masterchef Australia episodes. What are we going to watch now?

Frank is drinking the wine

Cally is not drinking wine

Cally is eating dried fruit pieces

and plotting plots with The Builder

I wonder what they're up to

Cally enjoyed her mashed potato

Look! It's Taffa

Cally for some reason licking the gravy off the chips.  She wouldn't actually eat the chips

In the Peace Gardens

The full photo album is here

Stella is home from the hospital.  All seems to be well

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Well now, that was a lovely day

... although you might be just a trifle surprised to discover that we celebrated Sunday by going to .... MEADOWHALL!!!

The last time we went to Meadowhall was almost exactly two years ago when we went through mountains of snow on my birthday with Lindsey.  We have had neither the inclination nor any reason to go since.  However, I have recently received a Lakeland catalogue in the post and it was full of lovely things and I wanted to go browsing rather than internet shopping.  And Meadowhall houses the nearest Lakeland to us.  So we went.

It was not entirely encouraging when we got there to find that the absolutely enormous car park we were in was chockerblock full.  But fortunately (or otherwise, depending on your perspective)  The Builder found a hidden away part of the car park which no one else much had discovered and lo - there was somewhere to put the car.

And so we made our way to Lakeland and made our purchases (I was mugged, positively mugged I was, by a box of cake/biscuit cutters for making a gingerbread house with which threw itself at me and absolutely insisted that I buy it and take it to Ballarat with me!!). We called briefly into the Apple shop - which was the most crowded that I think I have ever seen a shop, with the notable exception of the Myer toy department on Christmas Eve.  We didn't stay.  We went to the Build a Bear shop instead and played with the toys.

And then we went to Bishops' House where they were having a medieval craft fair.  Tabitha, Gareth and Cally were also there.

So were loads and loads of visitors.  And the Beekeeper string ensemble was playing upstairs and there were lots of beautiful things to look at (and to resist the temptation to buy).

Tabitha and Cally outside Bishops' House

The Builder inside Bishops' House

Volunteers at the medieval craft fair

And then we went into the Sheffield City Centre where the Christmas market was being launched and the Christmas lights were being turned on. And finding the market was a touch too crowded, we all, along with Tabitha and Gareth's friend Moira who we had picked up along the way, repaired to the Rutland Arms for a quick drink.

Peace Gardens

Apparently the illuminations were provided by Blackpool

They were very good it must be said

Can't say I was expecting the dalek and tardis though

Reindeer much more seasonal

The apparition of Neil Armstrong was a bit startling

Cally exploring the market

Cally in the pub eating chocolate

Gaz is doing Movember. Taffa does not approve of the facial decoration. I quite like it

And then The Builder and I went home and caught up on a few episodes of Masterchef Australia and drank wine and ate steak and garlic mushrooms.

I also spoke to Stella and Tony on Skype on Sunday morning.  Both seemed to be in quite good health, although Stella is now back in hospital with more heart problems.  She had better get better very soon. She is supposed to be coming out to lunch with us.  I was going to say that this would be difficult if she had popped her clogs before the appointed lunch date - but then it crossed my mind that my uncle, Peter, had taken us out to lunch three times and on a boat trip in the year after he died.  So not impossible to have lunch with someone who is clogless - but better fun if they are not. Makes it easier to have a proper conversation.

There is now only one more Saturday and one more Sunday before we embark on the GWT.  And I have Singapore dollars (I already had Aussie dollars and Japanese Yen). We are nearly ready to go

Friday, November 16, 2012


In my world voting in elections is compulsory.  Even in my head I consider it to be a civic obligation, a right that has been hard won by our forefathers and foremothers and which we have a strong duty to take advantage of.  I believe firmly that if you choose not to vote and someone truly horrible gets elected then by your indolence you have colluded in their election.  But it was nevertheless very difficult to know what to do yesterday.

The government, in its wisdom, decided a while ago that with the notable exception of London, all local authorities should have elected police commissioners. Nobody, apart from, I assume, a few people in the government, really seems to understand what these elected police commissioners are going to be doing . Nobody really knew anything about the candidates.  I do not believe that we need elected police commissioners - the previous system seemed to work perfectly well and it seemed an unneccessary and very large expense at a time when money could be spent on other, more useful things.  But the election had been called, we had voting cards and my conscience pricked everytime I thought that maybe I wouldn't bother.

So I had a quick trawl on the internet yesterday to see if I could find any information at all about Derbyshire's candidates. And The Builder and I, voting cards in paw, duly attended the Tupton Village Hall and cast our votes.  At the time we arrived (around 17:15) only 60 of around 1000 eligible voters had bothered to turn up.  So we fulfilled a useful purpose at least in that we gave the election officials someone to talk to.  Briefly! 

Then we left them to it and went home for a warming glass of wine and homemade salmon fish fingers, oven chips and veg.  The poor election officials were stuck in their empty and chilly Village Hall until after 22:00 (and they had been there since before 07:00 when voting opened).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Foodie Weekend

It's just as well we suspended our pre-GWT diets this weekend for there was a lot of food.  A very great deal of food.  A positive gargantuan mountain of food.

We went to Wiltshire for the weekend and stopped for Saturday lunch at The Swan in Stoford, where we were supposed to be joined by Barb.  Alas - she had taken a fall a few days earlier and decided not to join us after all.  But we stopped for lunch anyway and had a really rather nice plate of pollack and chips each.  I do like a nice piece of pollack!  Then we called into the Wilton Garden Centre just because we quite like it and then mosied on to Barb's place in Warminster.  Warminster, for those who keep asking, is about 45 minutes drive west of Salisbury.  There were snacky things at Barb's place.  And wine.  And there was Carribbean style steak for dinner.

My kind of B&B!
But the bulk of the feasting was on Sunday.  The Builder and I went in the morning (after a visit to Barb's personal Waitrose store at the back of her place) to Salisbury and collected Gwen, The Builder's mother. We took her back to Barb's place where Barb had spent all morning peeling and chopping and blending and mixing and roasting and simmering and had produced this

Christmas lunch in November
We, of course, will be in Australia at Christmas and Barb and her brother Greg might not have the opportunity to see Gwen for Christmas so Barb had decided to do us all an early Christmas lunch with turkey and roasties and sprouts and the Christmas table cloth and Christmassy napkins and all sorts.  It was exceptionally delicious and very convivial.  A lovely Christmas in November

Happy lunchers

Barb and Greg also happily lunching

Hmmm - you don't seem to be eating your parsnips Frances.  I'll have them instead!

Yum, yum, yum, yum

Thank you Barb for a lovely lunch
 And then we took Gwen back to Salisbury, narrowly avoiding been held up in Warminster for the Remembrance Day parade.  We got out a few minutes before the roads were closed.

You would think after all that that we would have been dieting all the more vigorously this week.  So far that hasn't happened.  And it doesn't look like it's going to.  Back to it with extra vigour next week - when there will be only two weeks to make my summer clothes fit nicely :-D

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It was quite a good weekend, in the end.  It had loomed as quite busy and a bit scary.  We were booked to do Bishops' House on Saturday morning, then we needed to do a bit of shopping.  Then we were booked to stay at Tabitha and Gareth's place overnight to babysit Cally while Tabitha went to a Leaving Do and Gareth went to a birthday party.  THEN I was supposed to be working on Sunday from 9 - 3:30.  Complicating all of this was the fact that if I don't do various domestic things on a Saturday morning, they don't get done until the following Saturday morning.  And next Saturday morning we are heading to Wiltshire for the weekend.

So I LEAPED out of bed bright and early and well before dawn had cracked on Saturday morning.  I flung together a batch of lemon cupcakes and put them in the oven.  I washed up Friday evening's dinner dishes.  And I made a start on the ironing, for as it stood I really didn't have any clothes that were both ironed and suitable for wearing to a Open Day at work where we want to impress the visitors.

Text message!  Nearly ignored it because it was, after all, still very early and in any case I was ironing and in a hurry. Fortunately I decided to look at it and found it was from Tabitha.  Cally had been awake pretty much since 3am and so Tabitha had decided not to go out that evening.  No need for us to babysit and stay over.  So now no need for rushing about.  Suddenly the day took on a much calmer hue.

So I slowed down with the ironing and took the cupcakes out of the oven nicely baked and we moseyed into Sheffield in a calm and orderly manner.  We did call in at Tabitha and Gareth's place on the way home - they were holding our wine to ransom.  We found that Tabitha was at work, Cally was absolutely dead to the world in her pusher and Gareth was peacefully sleeping on the couch.  We soon fixed Gareth's peaceful slumbers!!

You might wonder how long it took me to make the connection on Sunday morning between showing Stella and Tony the frost on the roof of the house across the road, and the frost on the branches of the trees and the frost in the garden - and the possibility that the car might also be just a tiny touch frosty when I left to head to the Open Day.  You might think that I would have thought that the car would need scraping down and have left extra time. But no.  The first I thought of it was when I got to the car and found it covered in thick permafrost-like freeziness.  I set to to scrape the windows.  Unsuccessfully. I put the heater on and the rear demister. Still no scraping action. Eventually, a bit of ice decided to give up.  I was making slow but steady progress when The Builder appeared to find out why I hadn't actually driven away yet.  Three scrapes from him and the ice was gone and I could make my way back into Sheffield!!

I have to say that it was definitely a grey, gloomy and chilly day. But at least it wasn't snowing.  I had a text message from Barb in Warminster at about 9:15 to say it was snowing at her place. And the lunchtime news reported quite a lot of snow across Wiltshire.

No snow for us, although I think that visitor numbers were a bit down. But the visitors who did come to see us were happy and cheery and friendly and it was a good day.  I must admit that I was really rather tired by the time it came to an end though. Went home, had dinner, had a couple of glasses of wine - and was absolutely out to it by the time Countryfile came on.  Fortunately Gareth wasn't about to disturb my sofa-y slumbers :-D

Our kitchen tap has been dripping with enthusiasm for a few weeks.  Both The Builder and I are perfectly capable of changing the washer in a tap, but ours is a combination tap so more difficult to deal with - and it is almost impossible to turn the water off in the kitchen. The tap which does that is hidden underneath and at the back of the fridge (not hidden by us, I hasten to add) and in any case doesn't work. We pondered where we might find a plumber who would be prepared to turn out just to change a washer.  And lo, in the Chesterfield Shoppers' Guide (a monthly, free publication which normally is not terribly useful) there was a plumber declaring that no job was too big and no job was too small.  So The Builder rang him and within a couple of hours he had turned up, changed the washer, discussed various other plumbing alterations we have vaguely in mind, and gone away again, leaving The Builder a mere £40 lighter in his wallet.  Excellent.  And the tap no longer drips.

It was four weeks until the start of the Grand World Tour on Saturday.  It'll be here before we know it!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I was pottering about up on Level 7 quite early on Friday morning when a voice boomed: "Aha! Just the woman!".  I looked around.  Not only was I, as far as I could tell, the only woman about, I was also pretty much the only animate thing i could see.  Then, from behind a shelf, emerged Maurice - who is not a small man; it was quite impressive that he had managed to render himself effectively invisible!  It turned out that he did want me.  He wanted me to get a message to Richard to say that the person who Richard was supposed to be meeting later for coffee might not be able to make it. 

So I sent Richard a message to that effect.  And got one back saying: "No worries.  You'll do.  I'll have coffee with you instead. Or as well".

And so an unexpected cup of coffee with Richard I had.  (And Richard's original assignee had also managed to make it so he got two coffee drinkers instead of one :-)  )

On Saturday, The Builder and I were at Bishops' House in the morning.  It was a cold, damp, gloomy day so it came as no surprise to us that we had no visitors at all. There were few people out and about in the park; few people walking their dogs; few people walking their children.  All was quiet and silent until about quarter past twelve when a large, black, enthusiastic labrador came bundling into the shop, hotly pursued by its apologetic owners.  The owners had never actually looked around the house, so they left their friendly labrador in our keeping while they went for a potter about.  Suddenly the door to the shop burst open - and in erupted Richard, who had been passing by and seen The Builder through the window. He had espied the dog - and wondered how we had acquired a large black labrador so quickly. And why we hadn't mentioned it to him.  And Rose the labrador and Richard thus unleashed a positive torrent of visitors. Between 12:15 and 13:00 we had 11 visitors (not including Rose).  I'm quite glad we hadn't had that level of visiting throughout the whole morning.  We'd have been exhausted!

Sunday was another University Open Day, which I had volunteered to work.  Pootling around, in between tours of the Adsetts Centre, I was and who should bound into the building  - but Richard!  He was on his way from church at the cathedral to the station and though he would drop in to say hello - since I had mentioned that I would be working.

I haven't seen him today.  Do you think I've somehow upset him?