Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I have potted on all the tomato plants and put them down in the greenhouse.  They all seem to be coming on OK.  The pumpkin and squash plants need potting on too, but there hasn't been time over the last few days.  I have, however, planted some leek, sweet corn, pepper and cucumber seeds.  They are also in the greenhouse.  It is warm enough now during the day for most seeds to germinate.  I have also put some golf ball carrots in two small planters in the drive way.  I have yet to plant the full sized carrots but will do later this week.

The Under Gardener has been busily planting peas and broad beans in the vegetable garden, and preparing the beds on the allotment for planting.  If everything germinates that I've sown, we will have lots to plant out. Too much for the greenhouses!  Although we did notice last year that the peppers we planted out did very much better than the ones we planted in the greenhouse.  I think I'll just plant them all out this year and see what happens.

We have had our first couple of pickings of asparagus, and there is more to come.

And the fruit trees are covered in blossom

Cherry blossom

Apple blossom

This is where we're at in the vegetable garden:

We have also acquired two new ducklings.  They're five weeks old and I'm told that they are Indian Runner, Aylesbury crosses.  We've got them in a little run in with the chickens for the time being.  When they quite a lot bigger we'll let the drakes out of their separate run.  They and the chickens don't much like being separated, but the chickens don't enjoy the amorous attentions of the drakes when they are together.

The drakes haven't used their bath much since we got it.  They drink from it but we've never noticed that they've been swimming in it.  Then at the weekend, when I was in the greenhouse, I heard a splooosh behind me.  I looked around, and found that the warm sunshine had encouraged them to go in for a swim.  They seemed to be having a lovely time!
We had such a good time over the Easter weekend, with Tabitha and Gareth and Cally, that we decided to do it again.  Only without Tabitha.  And without Gareth.  Just Cally, coming for a sleep over.  Alone. Without accompanying responsible adults :-S

But it would all be OK.  She's been for a sleep over before.  It worked out quite well. And she couldn't stay in Sheffield.  Her parents were off to Manchester on Sunday afternoon and wouldn't be back until the wee smalls on Monday. How hard can a one night sleep over be?

Then I was asked to work on Saturday afternoon. It seemed sensible to collect Cally on my way home, rather than making a special trip in on Sunday morning.  A two night sleep over.

Cally was very excited. Not only was there the promise of fish fingers and chips for tea, but we had exciting plans for the Sunday as well.

We all slept in the spare room on Saturday night.  We all slept very well. And then on Sunday morning we talked to Grandma Stella and Grandpa Tony on Skype.  We talked to Auntie Lindsey.  We talked to Austin. We didn't talk to Tatsuki because he was asleep, but we did look at him. And then we went out in the car to collect two new ducks - which we hope are female!  They are five weeks old and I believe that they are Indian Runner, Aylesbury crosses. They don't have names yet.

We settled them into their pen and then went out to Marsh Green where there were cows to play with. And home for Sunday lunch and a play in the garden and lots and lots and lots of Peppa Pig on TV.  I don't think I've ever watched so much Peppa Pig!

We did not sleep well on Sunday night :-(  Cally was wakeful throughout the night which meant that we also were wakeful.  She got up Very Early Indeed (well, very early for a Monday off, which is what I had). We watched loads more Peppa Pig.  She was very subdued, and she wouldn't eat.  She barely ate any of her cereal and she turned down the offer of a BACON SANDWICH!!!  Then, when her parents turned up to collect her and we all sat down to a Sunday Roast  on a Monday - she went to sleep!  I think all the excitement of the Sunday had worn her out.

Back to work for me today.  This is the second of three short weeks in a row.  Next Monday is the May Day holiday, so a third Monday off for me.  But Tabitha, Gareth and Cally aren't coming to play next weekend. They have other exciting things to do

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easter Weekend

So Tabitha, Gareth and Cally came out to Chesterfield on the train, and The Builder went and collected them while I finished a bit of digging I had embarked on just before Tabitha had told me which train they were going to be on.

It was a lovely afternoon, so we all spent most of it outside

The Beer Fairies smiled benignly upon The Builder for his birthday, and brought him more beer

It was a merry evening with beer and wine and prawn curry.  Even Cally had a bit of the curry, and a whole load of rice!

I had intended to give the new barbecue its inaugural flight for the Easter Sunday feast.  I had prepared some spicy pork burgers and some tomato and beef burgers.  I had marinated strips of chicken in soya sauce and mirin. I had marinated strips of lamb in olive oil and oregano.  I had held back some of the prawns for barbecuing.  We had bought a load of Turkish bread to have with it all, and I had made a big bowl of salad.  There was more beer, more wine and a whole load of soft drink.  But at 9:00 on Easter Sunday morning I looked out the kitchen window and saw this:

We didn't use the barbecue.  I used the griddle and the fry pans and cooked in the kitchen instead.  Ginger Rich joined us for lunch and we made a good feast, the rain notwithstanding.

Fortunately, the weather was much, much better on Easter Monday so we did get to go out for our planned picnic, at the Abbeydale Miniature Railway in Sheffield.  It was warmer and sunnier than it looks in the photos:

I hadn't known that the little trains were there until Tabitha had mentioned a while ago that they had gone there for a birthday party.  I didn't really know where they were, and it's the kind of thing that The Builder and I enjoy, so we were very pleased to go and make its acquaintance.  And it's really cute. A hidden tiny gem, which I believe people sometime stumble across by pure serendipity while out walking in the woods on weekends when the trains are running.  Cally, who had been before, was absolutely beside herself with excitement and joy and glee.  There were little trains to ride on, even littler trains to watch. There was a picnic.  And there were FRIENDS.  Several children from her nursery turned up.  Some friends of Tabitha and Gareth also turned up with their children, some as a surprise to us all, and some who we knew were coming (although Cally did not).  She was ever so, ever so happy!

It was very, very fortunate that we had planned to have the picnic with the little trains on the Monday!

Tuesday was awful. The rain sheeted down.  The wind blew.  At 8:30, I sent a text message to Bea, who we were due to meet in Chesterfield for lunch, to see if she still fancied it.  The plan had been for everyone to travel by various buses so no one had to worry about having a pub lunch, a few drinks and driving home.  She said that she might just as well so we went ahead with it. And mercifully by lunch time the rain had reduced to a steady but not torrential rain and we didn't absolutely drown getting into town. Nor getting home again. There seemed to be a small umbrella over Chesterfield between around 11:30 and 2:30, which allowed us all to get to town, drop my books off at the library, have a quick potter around then lunch in The Rutland, and for The Builder and me to get home again before the heavens opened once more.  I hope the umbrella accompanied Bea back on her way home too!

And so that was the Easter weekend.  Back at work now.  And Cally is coming to stay with us again this coming weekend.  This time on her own!!!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spectacularly failing at doing Lent

We appear not to have done any Lenten fasting at all this year.  Not even a vague nod towards it.  We intended to. We kept saying we really ought to be doing it and perhaps we should start.  But we were hit by a terrible dose of "maƱana" and never quite got around to it.  Even Holy Week more or less passed us by.  And now it is Easter weekend, and much too late to be doing anything about Lent.  We may have to do a May Fast instead :-S

Some weeks before The Builder's birthday, my parents asked me to buy something for him on their behalf.  A little while before that I had been exploring in the new indoor market in Sheffield and had noticed a little shop which sold mostly locally produced artisan beers.  The Builder loves nice artisan beer so I decided that that would make a good present for him.  But it would be an even better present if he got to choose the beer for himself.  And he hadn't been in the new indoor market, so after I finished work on Thursday we met up and went to investigate.  I think he was very pleased with the little beer shop - although he was less pleased by carrying the box back to the car. It was a touch on the heavy side with 11 bottle of beer in it :-D

We made a quick trip to Costco for some Eastery supplies and decide to head home along the motorway. We made a snap decision to go right around the roundabout that leads to the M! when we saw that traffic was stopped in both directions.  Right.  We'll go back through Sheffield and along the Dronfield bypass.

No we won't, because the bypass was closed and all the traffic was being diverted through Dronfield itself.  We're not doing that. We'll never get home. So we went right around that roundabout too and headed back to Meadowhead and drove home to Tupton along the pretty little backroads that go through Barlow and lead to Cutthorpe. It was, of course, Maundy Thursday and lots of people were heading away for the Easter weekend, but that was a level of traffic chaos which was unusual even by long weekend standards.

Some time ago, we noticed that the (not very enticing) New Inn in Hasland, which we drive past almost every weekday evening when The Builder collects me from the station, had closed.  Then it became clear that it was being renovated. It reopened not long ago, renamed The Three Cottages and painted a fetching shade of pale blue and with a revamped and quite interesting website.  We decided that, much like The Wingerworth had, it deserved a visit. I decided that Thursday evening would be a good time to make an exploratory visit. After all the traffic chaos, I didn't fancy cooking dinner.  So we ambled up and found that it was absolutely packed. We settled in with a glass of wine and perused the menu.  It's not a huge menu, but there is plenty of choice.  I gave it my customary burger and chips test, and it passed with flying colours.  I have added it to our list of places to eat at.  But I think we will book next time!

Good Friday saw us out and about, shopping mostly.  Chatsworth. The Garden Centre. The supermarket. And home.  Bother. We forgot to go to B&Q to buy the replacement toilet seat and barbecue that we need (the existing toilet seat had cracked right through at the front and was biting people's bottoms; the barbecue had died when The Builder had burnt a whole shed, bit by bit on it). So we got back in the car and headed back into Chesterfield - and were stunned to find that the main road was at a complete and utter standstill heading from Chesterfield towards Clay Cross. Traffic as far as you could see. And the queue went on and on and on and on, all the way to the main roundabout in Chesterfield itself.  And all the way up the road to the motorway (not that we went that way, but you could see the chaos from where we turned off).  It turned out that the M1 was closed southbound from the Chesterfield turn off to the net one down and everything was being diverted along the road from Chesterfield to Clay Cross.  We acquired the toilet seat and barbecue - and came home by another way!

That's two days of traffic chaos in a row.  And I'm very glad we had no need to go to Clay Cross yesterday afternoon.  Although there is a back way we could have used, I suppose.

Right.  We might have been doing mainly Saturday things yesterday, but today really is Saturday and there are (real Saturday) things to do.  Like a hair cut from me. And Tabitha, Gareth and Cally are coming later today.  I suppose I ought to clear a bit of a space for them :-D

Sunshine and blue skies on Good Friday

And cheerful spring flowers

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weekend report

They called for a volunteer to work on Saturday afternoon early last week.  I ignored it.  We were going to The Nettle for lunch in a belated celebration of The Builder's birthday.  They called again, mid-week.  I was slightly surprised.  There is a small but quite dedicated group of people who are saving up for various things and who volunteer to work weekend shifts when they come up.  It's unusual for a call to have to be issued twice.  But I ignored it.  We were going out to lunch. I was more than surprised when they sent out a third call on Friday morning.  And stunned when they sent out a desperate plea on Friday afternoon.  I consulted The Builder, moved lunch to dinner and put my name forward.  My hand was almost snapped off in their haste to accept my offer :-D

And so I pottered in to work (at the right campus!!) on Saturday afternoon, had quite a pleasant time (it wasn't hugely busy but there were enough interesting queries to keep me awake) and then we went to The Nettle for dinner in the evening.  A fishy dinner.  They had lots of lovely fish on the menu.  Scallops and salmon and sea bass for us.  It was a good celebration of a birthday.

We were supposed to be going out on Sunday morning to look at some baby ducks.  OVer dinner we had been discussing the fact that we didn't really feel ready to bring home tiny little ducklings and nurture them to adulthood.  Not ducklings that were only a week old and needed a heat lamp to keep them alive.  We were pondering whether to go out and look and then to say that we were very uneasy about this, or whether to ring up and cancel altogether.  Fortunately, the decision was taken from our hands when the lady rang and said that the heat lamps had failed overnight in the duckling house and some of them weren't looking very well.  Could we possibly go in a couple of weeks time.  Yes, we could.  So a new date was selected and we moved into "lazing about at home" mode.  Which was really rather nice.  The sun shone, it was fairly warm by local standards. We got a bit of gardening done, a bit of eating, a bit of telly watching. And no worrying about the health and welfare of tiny baby ducks!

A short week at work this week.  It's Good Friday this week and the University will be in vacation mode. I am rather looking forward to a nice, long weekend.

Marlo, enjoying the sunshine on Sunday evening

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday

It was ever so slightly disconcerting on Sunday morning, when my Skype rang and I answered it to see not my father sat in his chair ready for our regular Sunday morning chat, but an empty chair, swinging gently in the breeze.  It was disconcerting mostly because he had rung me, so somebody had had to be sat there a mere few seconds before.  There were also the sounds of a mild kerfuffle going on off screen.

Then my mother appeared.  Poor Tony had been beset by a sudden and particularly violent form of what sounded like food poisoning and had had to belt, precipitously, for the bathroom.  We didn't chat for long, Stella and I!  She went off to deal with the unfortunate patient and The Builder and I headed off to the Marsh Green Farm Shop, and the pet food shop and various other places.

While I was putting the shopping away, I made the mistake of looking in the fridge.  Actually properly looking, not just opening the door, grabbing whatever it was I was after, and then shutting the door again.  You would really have to wonder if poor Tony had been eating something that had been sitting on one of the shelves, unprotected by a plate.  Quite why The Builder and I aren't dead from food poisoning is something of a mystery! I hadn't realised quite what a dreadful state the fridge had got into.  I've cleaned it now.  And disinfected it.  And tidied it up.

We settled in for a nice quiet afternoon.  The Builder watched the Grand Prix.  I pottered around.  All was good.  We had roast chicken for our Sunday meal, and a three fruit crumble made with Bramley apples that I had made into an apple sauce back in the autumn, and some morello cherries and raspberries from the freezer.

And then it was Monday, and I woke up with a cough. I had a slight sore throat. But what kept me home was the horrible headache which came on whenever I coughed.  I was at home on Tuesday and Wednesday as well.  This made The Builder's birthday yesterday a Very Quiet Affair indeed.  We had been intending to go to The Nettle for a celebratory birthday dinner, but obviously if you are not well enough to go to work, then you are definitely not well enough to head out to the pub.  So I made a prawn curry instead, using a nice mild Japanese curry paste.  Fortunately The Builder is quite fond of prawn curry and seemed to be happy with his birthday dinner.  And we will go to The Nettle for lunch on Saturday.  Always good to make a birthday last :-)

Back at work today.  The horrible headache has more or less gone away. And this is what is almost certainly my last ever 5-9 shift.  Well, the last as long as I don't change my job.  From next week we will close the desk at 7. I couldn't miss my last ever evening shift, not unless I was Very  Poorly Indeed.

And that's a week gone. It's nearly Friday again. A short week next week.  Next Friday is Good Friday and a public holiday in the UK.

Sunday, April 06, 2014


Lindsey cast an alarming pall yesterday morning over my certified document cheeriness by warning me that she didn't think that teachers were authorised certifiers in Australia :-S  I don't want to be sending things across only to have them sent back because they are improperly certified!  So I looked up to see who can certify in Victoria.  It turns out that teachers and academics are authorised so no worries there.  So are doctors and police officers and various other professions.  And so, it appears are chiropractors and podiatrists.  But not librarians.  It is a very odd place where chiropractors and podiatrists are deemed to be more trustworthy than innocent librarians!!!

Fortunately, Rich is a teacher and not a librarian, so I don't need to do it all over again!

It was our first time at Bishops' House on Saturday morning in three months.  And it was deadly, deadly quiet.  We had several passing dogs drop in to say hello. One person dashed in, asked where our coffee shop was and then dashed off when we explained that the Bishops' Cafe was actually up the road. Another person rushed in and asked if we were open on Sunday and then rushed out again.  Apart from that we had a mere four visitors all morning. Fortunately, we had our iPads and things to do.  And then the relief volunteers turned up so we could leave, and Tabitha (who I hadn't seen for simply ages :-D), Gareth and Cally lobbed in and we all jumped in the car and went off to introduce Tabitha and Gareth to the delights of Costco shopping.

I have never before tried Costco food and was very dubious about how palatable a hotdog would be that only cost £1.50 with a soft drink on the side.  I was even more dubious about the pizza slice which was a mere £1.75, especially given the size of it.  But it was well past lunchtime and we were all hungry.  I have to say that they were surprisingly nice. 

We took everyone back home again.  The Builder and I drove away.  And Cally, who had been peacefully sleeping on the way home and hadn't been woken up until after all the shopping had been taken inside, Cally waved goodbye to us and then gasped: "Argh! My Strawberries! They've got my strawberries!!!!!"  But it was OK. They had already been taken into the house.  Funny that she didn't bat an eyelid over the fact that we had driven away with her car chair though :-D


I have had a need to have some copies of documents certified.  So I looked to see who could certify copies and discovered that academics and teachers are amongst the accepted careers.  It is true that I work in a university but I thought I should probably get my documents certified by someone who knows me.  Rich is a teacher.  And he knows me.  And he could probably be bribed into certifying for me on the promise of a meal or two.

Rich tends to meet with Tabitha and a few other pals at a pub up by the Other University on Fridays after work.  I am not usually (or, indeed, ever) one of the imbibers, but I invited myself along last Friday and pottered off after work up towards the pub.

It is a very long time since I have had occasion to walk up West Street.  On the rare occasions I have any need to walk up to Broomhill, I tend to go up Division Street.  But the pub they were meeting in was further over than that, so up West Street I went.  And it has changed quite considerably since last I walked up it.  There are blocks of apartments. There are eateries. There always were hostelries but there seem to be more upmarket ones now.  There are interesting looking shops.  I must go for a wander up there when I have a bit of browsing time.

I had a good time in the pub. Was good to catch up with some people that I haven't seen for ages.  Was good to see Tabitha as well. Was quite nice to have an End of the Week glass of wine out.

I walked back by Another Route and found that the Other University has some rather nice buildings tucked away off the main streets. Then I caught the train back to Chesterfield, where was waiting a sober, wine-free Builder to pick me up and take me back home.

There was wine there for him.  And me :-)

So now I have my certified documents.  I just need to start filling in forms and things.

Friday, April 04, 2014

I planted up some seeds in little pots on the 26th March.  I planted 7 pots of heritage tomato seeds and 5 pots of grape tomatoes (multiple seeds in each pot). I also planted up pots of pumpkin, watermelon, and patty pan seeds (4 seeds in each pot) and two pots of chilli seeds.  I put all the pots in freezer bags, apart from the tomatoes which I put on a planter tray and covered with cling film.  The tomatoes got put on the window sill in the lounge room.;  The chillies I put on a book shelf next to the radiator and the larger seeds I put on another book shelf, not by a radiator.

It took less than a week for the tomato seeds to germinate.  It took a week for most of the larger seeds, although only one water melon seed has germinated.  The chillies still haven't germinated, but there is still time.

I haven't tried doing seeds this early before, in the lounge room, in freezer bags.  So far, though, it seems to be working!  I'm going to plant some flower seeds this weekend in a similar manner and see what happens.

Despite the cold and dismal fog that has beset us over the past week, the Under Gardener has been busy at work in the vegetable garden.  He's been preparing the pea and broad bean beds.  It's almost time to sow them.  He's also hoping to sow a few first early potatoes up on the allotment in the next couple of weeks. It's a little earlier than we would usually do it but the weather (despite the fog) is still quite mild and the potatoes can always be earthed up if there should be a frost forecast once they've come up.

Not sure quite what I'm going to do with all the tomato plants though.  There will be loads if they all survive to adulthood.

Thursday, April 03, 2014


I don't mind a little bit of fog.  It can be very atmospheric, especially if you are inside, drinking tea and eating toast and looking out at it.  It can be very atmospheric if you are properly rugged up and out walking in it (as long as it isn't too thick, of course, and there will be tea and toast when you get back home). It is not atmospheric if you are trying to drive along the motorway in it, though.  I don't much care for it then!

The fog we have at the moment is even more "atmospheric" than it usually is.  This fog also has quite high elements of British pollution from cars and industry trapped in it.  Furthermore, it has elements of pollution which have blown in from continental Europe just to add an extra element of excitement.  And then, to make it even more exciting still, we have dust mixed in with all that, which has blown in from the Sahara. Everything, but everything is covered in a fine film of dust!

Pollution levels around us aren't as high as they are in some parts of the country.  I have been looking at the UK Air pollution map this morning.  London and East Anglia are in the extremely high range. The central Midlands are in the high to very high range.  Tupton, however, is in the moderate range, as is Sheffield.  Better than it was yesterday, here.  And I have not been suffering from hay fever or asthma or any of the other pollution-based ailments that people around me have been suffering from. I haven't even particularly minded the dust.  It's not as though we had just had our car fully valeted before the dust hit.  Some people had and weren't exactly happy about it :-D

The air might not be especially polluted around here, but it is still very foggy.  As I said, I don't mind fog, especially when I am inside, armed with tea and toast, and looking out at it.  (I am inside looking out; I could have tea if I were minded, but toast might be a bit more difficult to arrange.)  However, you can have too much of a good thing.  It's been foggy for several days now.  A bit of sunshine wouldn't go amiss.

It's been Quite Exciting in Tupton lately, quite apart from the dusty, polluted air.  We noticed when we were coming back from the station on Monday that there was rather more traffic about than we usually find on the back roads around Grassmoor and Tupton.  It is true that QVR and Bridge Street are quite busy during peak hours.  Lots of drivers use it as a rat run up to the M1.  But there isn't usually a huge amount, and especially not at other times of the day.  There was on Monday. There was yesterday.  There were buses running outside our place. There was even the semi-express bus that runs between Chesterfield and Derby. There were traffic jams. It was all quite bizarre. So I looked up the local traffic alert - and Tupton was there, right at the very top, headlining the local alerts!!!!  There was a burst water main up by our roundabout and the main road was closed and traffic was being diverted right around, through Hasland and Grassmoor and through the back streets of Tupton.  I don't think some of those roads had seen that much traffic before, even if you added together every vehicle that had passed along them in the past decade.  It was a little inconvenient trying to cross our road, but it gave us some interesting things to look at from our lounge room. Marlo was practically glued to the window sill, when he was awake :-D

They've more or less opened up the main road again now. You can get from Chesterfield to Clay Cross, but not yet from Clay Cross to Chesterfield. Traffic levels are pretty much back to normal and the buses have gone. We'll have to find something else to watch.