Tuesday, June 30, 2015

End of last week

From my perspective, the rest of the week proceeded in a calm and orderly manner.  There were, from my point of view, no excitements or alarms.  All was well - apart from the fact that I need a new favourite pub.

Mostly, over the past few days, the sun has shone and the weather has been balmy.  Apart from Sunday when it poured more or less all day, until about 4 pm when it was much too late to do anything useful with the glorious sunshine!

The new (toy) dog now has a name.  Lindsey suggested that we call her Martha but that didn't seem quite right.  Then it came to me that Molly was an excellent name for her.  I know it seems ridiculous to say this about a soft toy, but she is looking much happier than she did when she arrived.  This might be because she has fluffed up after being squashed, lost in a package for several days.  Or, of course, she may just like us :-)

Molly, enjoying the sunshine and some iPad time

I took some photos of the garden over the weekend.  It looks magnificent in the photos.  Ian called it "abundant".  I would say "rampant".  We have rescued two of the brick paths but the diagonal one across the middle of the flower beds has vanished altogether.  (I know that it's there; we're away next week but when we get back I shall rescue it properly).  The biggest issue is the bindweed which is rampaging through the beds and which I just can't get rid of.  I think we may need to resort to chemical warfare.  The under-Gardener is going to try cutting it off down to the ground so we can see what we are doing and then we'll napalm it when it starts to grow back.

Newly planted potatoes in boxes, seaside daisies and a small bay tree on the patio

Summer flowers

Rampant abundance

I made a big pot of Japanese style vegetable curry for Sunday lunch.  Even after we had had healthy servings of it you couldn't tell that we had been at it.  We had more last night.  I have set some aside for The Builder's dinner tonight.  And then I portioned the rest out into freezer boxes.  There are five, FIVE, double portions of vegetable curry in the freezer awaiting our attention!!!

So, as I say, from my perspective the week ended in a tolerably happy fashion.  It was slightly more chaotic at work (My poor colleague has had a massive headache trying to sort out the teaching schedule for an enormous crowd of Chinese students who are here for the summer).  But we won't worry about that now.  The sun is shining.  It's a glorious day.  And it's my last Japanese class tonight before the summer break.  I must make a much better effort this summer to do some studying and revision.  I didn't get around to doing any last summer and had forgotten everything when classes resumed in late September :-S

In the meantime, Tabitha, Gareth, Cally, Nate and Duncan went to the footy on Saturday afternoon. It appears that there is a little known Sheffield Aussie Rules club which plays occasional matches

Aussie Rules footy in Sheffield

Footy photos courtesy Tabitha

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mid-week - and things are looking up

... no thanks to Hermes, the delivery company, who have finally got back in touch and admitted that they can't find my parcel and here's a link to the claim form for compensation.

I can't say that I am in the least bit tempted to use this firm, should I ever find it needful to courier anything around the country. I was rather disappointed with the service and the response to my enquiries about my package's whereabouts.

At some point in the middle of yesterday evening, I went to put some things in the recycling bin in the driveway.  I was a bit surprised to find a black bin bag sitting next to it.  Neither The Builder nor I would leave black bags filled with stuff in the driveway.  I picked it up - and inside it was my package!!! I assume that the people to whom it had been wrongly delivered had looked up the postcode and dropped it round.  I wish they had rung the doorbell or knocked on the door.  I would have liked to thank them.

So my new Old English Sheepdog has arrived.  She is very, very cute, but I don't think she'll do as a substitute for Farley.  She's HUGE!  Much, much bigger than I had been expecting.

Here is Farley:

and here is the new dog

As I say - cute but huge.  I don't think I can carry her in my small backpack! But she needs a name ...

Now all I need is for Marcus and Sanford to have second thoughts and to re-open The Nettle and the week will end perfectly.  Alas - I don't think that is going to happen

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The week is showing signs of improvement

Tuesday was, more or less, OK.

I took an hour or so in the middle of the day, abandoned my desk and wandered in the sunshine up to the Blue Moon cafe, where I met my cousin Penny for lunch.  We haven't seen each other for absolutely ages and it was good to catch up.  She is looking very well and things seem to be good for her and her family.  It was also good to hear that Joan (who hadn't been at all well when we joined her for her birthday celebrations late last December) has settled into her nursing home quite well and now has more good days than bad ones. So that was nice. It was not a bad lunch, either.

I usually bring the car into work on Tuesdays - I go to Japanese classes in the evening and having the car with me makes it much easier getting home after.  On Monday morning and evening the traffic was absolutely dreadful in the city centre. There were problems on one of the roads and the knock on effect was amazing.  So yesterday I made sure I left home in the morning a little earlier than I usually do.  This time there were no dire traffic problems - and I was in the office, eating my muesli by around 7:30!!  The traffic wasn't too bad in the evening either.

I had a lot of remembering to do yesterday evening, if all was to go according to The Plan:
  • I left work a tiny bit earlier than I usually do and remembered to take with me the bundle of flattened-down boxes that Freyja wanted  :-)
  • I remembered to go to Waitrose to pick up my shopping, which I had ordered online last week.
  • I stopped in the Waitrose cafe for a cup of tea and a sandwich.  This was an addition to The Plan
  • I remembered to go to my Japanese class.
  • I even remembered, after the class, to take the boxes to Freyja's place.  I went up through Broomhill, Ranmoor and Nether Green simply because I hadn't been out that way for absolutely ages.
  • I remembered how to get to Freyja's place from that direction (we usually come the other way).  
It was all good.  I even managed to hold my own in the Japanese "conversation" in the class.

I haven't heard anything yet from the delivery people about my parcel :-S

I did, however, get a reply from Marcus at The Nettle to my text message offering commiserations and thanks for many delicious hours in his company, so at least I have found him (and, by extension, Sanford).

It's quite fun unpacking a grocery order which you put in several days ago. I had forgotten exactly what I had asked for. I was certainly surprised to find a simply massive quantity of fresh ginger.  I had inadvertently ordered 1000g instead of 100g.  A kilo of fresh ginger takes up quite a bit of room!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This week has not started well ...

... I think I might just go back to bed and start the week all over again!

I decided last week that I would keep an eye on eBay and see if my Farley ever turned up for sale (so far, he hasn't). But while I was there I ran across a fluffy Old English Sheepdog soft toy of roughly the same size and colour as Farley and decided that it would probably do as a temporary substitute while I wait for the FBoFW online shop to come back in July.  It was dispatched via a courier service which gave me a tracking number, and I tracked the parcel through its journey until the tracking website said that it had been delivered and "left in a secure place".

I thought this was a bit odd because I knew that The Builder was at home waiting for the parcel, but assumed that the delivery person had popped the parcel in the porch without bothering to ring the doorbell.  I sent The Builder a message.  "There is no parcel here," said he.  Hmmm.  Odd.  Not only was there no parcel but there was also no delivery notice.  Maybe the delivery person had made a mistake and put it through the letter box next door.  It's not unusual for people to get 2 Bridge Street and 2 Queen Vic Street mixed up.  But no. No package was delivered to either house to the sides of us.

I contacted the delivery company.  Yes, they said.  The parcel has been delivered and left in your safe place.  We don't have a safe place with that company.  We have never used it previously.  The person I was speaking to said it would have to go to the Investigation Team for an, err, investigation.  In the meantime, The Builder wondered whether it might have been delivered to Bridge Street in Chesterfield, so he came and met me at the coach station after work and we dropped by to see.  Alas, there was no one home.  So my package is missing and I hope that the Investigation Team gets to the bottom of it.  If it's gone to the wrong Bridge Street, the delivery person was paying no attention AT ALL to the postcode.  The big advantage of the British long and complicated postcodes is that they are very specific to a small number of addresses and should point you precisely to where you need to be.  2 Queen Vic's postcode is slightly different to ours.  The postcode of Bridge Street in Chesterfield is vastly different.

Then the week took a significant turn for the worse :-(

On Saturday we were driving out to the Marsh Green Farm Shop - quite early for us; we usually get there late morning and this was a little before 10:00.  As we drove past The Nettle I noticed that there was a sign on the side door.  There was a sign on the front door as well.  The sign said in large letters CLOSED, and then there was more writing underneath that I couldn't read.  We assumed they were closed for the weekend, or for a holiday or whatever and decided that we wouldn't after all go there for lunch on Saturday :-D  Yesterday I was moved to wonder how long they were going to be closed for and went to look at their website.  Their website was gone !!!!!  I tried again.  No.  Still gone :-S  So I investigated a little more and found that it has, in fact, closed for good. ;-(  Places like Trip Advisor had been muttering about the proposed closure for about 6 weeks.  But, of course, I hadn't had any reason to go looking at The Nettle's presence in any of the forums so hadn't noticed it.  And it's about 6 weeks since we were last in there.  We are very, very sad about its closure.  Partly because it is positively our most favourite pub ever, but mostly because we missed by only a few days the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you to Marcus and Sanford, who we are very fond of.  So thank you, to Marcus and to Sanford and to The Nettle for many celebrations, lots of very good food and many fun times.

Vale to a lovely little pub

There is no possible chance of it coming back as a pub under new ownership.  There is planning permission in place to turn it and its land into housing.  Sigh!

I must say that I am a bit worried about the health of the Marsh Green Farm Shop too.  I know we were there earlier on Saturday than is our usual habit, but the shop was very under-stocked with vegetables and bread, and the new fish counter has gone. It's hard to say whether we were just there before the delivery people had got there. But it's been quite quiet the last couple of times we've been in. Fingers crossed that our fears are misplaced. They have an extremely good butcher!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I had to go to a one day conference this week, which was based in Greenwich.  Central London is a fairly easy day trip from Sheffield or Chesterfield, but it would have been a bit of a push to have got to Greenwich in time for the start of the conference if I had gone down on Tuesday morning. So I went after work on Monday instead and stayed over.

And it was lovely.  The weather was glorious. The hotel I was staying in was a five minute walk from the river.  I pottered down past the Cutty Sark and had a lovely short wander along the Thames Path, and called in to Frankie and Benny's for steak and chips (very nice chips, I must say), before heading back to my room.

Cutty Sark

Sun setting over the Shard

It was a glorious day on Tuesday as well.  I enjoyed my commute to the day's "office"

Morning commute

The conference was in Queen Anne's Court at the University of Greenwich (in buildings formerly used by the Naval College).  A beautiful place for a conference

Morning tea time

Most people stayed inside for morning tea.
Why stay inside when you could come out and look at this?

Lunch time stroll

It was an interesting conference and a lovely day.

The only downer was that someone stole my dog from my backpack at London Bridge Underground station on Monday evening.  Only a toy dog, it's true - but MY toy dog. I was alerted when I heard a clatter behind me and someone ran up with my (brand new!!) water bottle and said it had fallen out of my backpack and did I realise that it was open?  I assumed that Farley was collateral damage and that the thief was after my wallet (not in the backpack - and of no use to anyone, there not being any money in it and only one credit card), or my phone (also not in the backpack but in a pocket that was difficult even for me to get into - also no money but a different credit card in the cover) or my iPad (safe in my suitcase and no resale value, it being an iPad 2).  Lindsey, however, has suggested that the thief probably was actually after Farley, who is extremely cute and obviously well made.  I shall have to keep an eye on eBay and see if he appears on there!  I have to admit that it hadn't ever crossed my mind that Farley might be stolen. Wallets and phones and things yes - and all properly secured - but not my toy dog.  I shall have to buy a new one.

Although that is proving to be more difficult than I had expected.  The shop in Canada where he came from is closed until July for a summer holiday.  And no Farleys seem to be available to buy either through Amazon or eBay (yet!) in the UK, America, Canada or Australia.  Clearly when you get a Farley, you hang onto it.  I'll have to wait patiently until July and order one then.

Farley has gone off on adventures without me

Still.  It could have been worse.  Imagine if I had had these two stolen from my backpack!!!

I wouldn't have dared come home!!!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Fringe Festivities

Yesterday was the day of the Family Celebration of Stella and Tony's Diamond wedding anniversary, held in Mount Martha.  It was also the day after Tabitha's birthday.  Those of us based in the UK were, sadly, unable to make it to Mount Martha for the family do there, so we decided to have a Fringe Festival at our place, both to celebrate the wedding anniversary and to celebrate Tabitha's birthday.

I did manage to helicopter my way into the Mount Martha celebrations, courtesy of the wonder of modern technology that is FaceTime (other video conferencing technologies are available!).  At 5:30 am, Tupton time, it was bright and sunny, the birds were singing and I was sitting in my bed with a mug of tea and an iPad, joining in the festivities on the other side of the world.  I was not, as rumour had it, naked.  I was fully and properly clad - in my pyjamas.  Not unreasonable, I thought, at 5:30 am!

Then at half twelve, not only did the heavens open but Tabitha, Gareth, Cally, Freyja and Simon rocked up to our place.  I was properly dressed by that time.  In fact, I was properly dressed for the second time, having changed from my tracksuit into something more appropriate for a festivity shortly before they arrived.  We had individual lamb pies for the omnivores and red lentil and vegetable pies for the vegevores. With that we had mashed potatoes and a huge bowl of mixed salad. After we had an apple and blackberry crumble that Gareth and Cally had prepared for us, and a birthday cake that I had made.  We toasted Stella and Tony, then we toasted Tabitha (That's a lot of toast - fortunately I had extra butter lying around :-P  ).

We did not have rice pudding ;-(  We were supposed to.  I had prepared it.  All three of my slow cooker recipe books said you can make rice pudding in your slow cooker.  They all had more or less the same recipe.  I followed it exactly.  And the rice was almost as hard at the end of the 7-8 hours slow cooking as it had been when I put it in.  So I put the "rice pudding" in the oven with Gareth and Cally's fruit crumble.  The crumble baked deliciously.  The rice pudding turned into a gluggy mess which this morning was set so solidly that The Builder pretty much had to hack it out of the baking dish I had transferred it into.  We couldn't even give it to the chickens.  It had to go in the garden and food waste bin ;-(  I won't do that again.  In future, all rice puddings will be made by traditional means!

Apart from that, though, it was a lovely afternoon.  Though I think Cally may have had just a tiny tad too much sugar, what with a helping of crumble and custard, followed by some birthday cake and raspberries.  She was ever so slightly hyperactive in the afternoon. :-D

Happy birthday, Taffa

I think Cally enjoyed her slice of birthday cake

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

On the Buses

For some years now my colleague Julia and I have been travelling back and forth between Chesterfield Railway Station and Sheffield, commuting to and from work.  Mostly we travel together. The monthly ticket for these journeys comes to £106 each.

Recently, Julia was moved to look into how much it would cost if we abandoned the train and took the limited stop express bus.  For her it would cost around £50 a month.  That ticket wouldn't do for me - I live outside of the inner Chesterfield bus area.  For me a ticket would cost £71.  A saving, as I'm sure you can work out, of £35 a month.  And with my Gold (that's GOLD) ticket, I get unlimited travel on that particular bus company in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire.  Not only that, but my ticket also includes trams run by that particular company.

We decided to give it a go.

I have to admit that it takes longer.  But we are not usually in any hurry and it's quite a pleasant journey.  Nice views.  Calm journeys.  Free WiFi, should WiFi be required (you pay £5 for WiFi on the train).  What's not to like?

And it's much more interesting.  Because it's a limited stop service, it's not absolutely necessary for the drivers to take exactly the same route every day.  There are minor variations that can be taken. You can't do that with a train!  And on Thursday morning, when the main road into Sheffield was blocked by an accident that had only recently happened, our dexterous driver turned the bus round on a five cent piece, and we went By Another Way. If the railway line is blocked, you have to sit there until it is unblocked. Yesterday, on the way into work, the driver decided that the usual route in Sheffield City Centre was too crowded and went by another way entirely.  It's quite fun, never entirely knowing which way the bus will go.

I think I will stick with the bus for the time being.  The buses (so far) have been much more reliable than the trains.  And £35 is not an insignificant amount to save each month!

I didn't have occasion to travel on any buses over the weekend.  We went to Bishops' House on Saturday afternoon and had a lovely time with lots of visitors - including Tabitha, Gareth and Cally who dropped in to say hello.  It was very sunny on Saturday but quite spectacularly windy.  It wasn't quite as sunny and warm on Sunday, but it was much less windy.  I got outside for a while and began weeding the patio.  The Builder moved loads of soil from the front corner of the driveway round the back.  He's planning to level out that corner and to concrete it over, thus widening the useful bit of the drive.  Then we had a restorative glass or two of something, sat in the sunshine on the (half-weeded) patio.  It was all very pleasant.

I had bought some red snapper for our Sunday meal.  I love snapper (although I prefer the silver snapper you get in the Antipodes) and you don't see it very often around Chesterfield or Sheffield.  I baked it and we had it with chips.  It was extremely delicious.  But while it came gutted, it did not come scaled.  Red snapper has a prodigious quantity of scales!  I am still finding them scattered around the kitchen, even though I did clean up after myself!!!  I'm sure that the cat thinks we have a secret stash of fish hidden somewhere that we are keeping from him :-D

Thursday, June 04, 2015

A Diamond Jubilee

(Photo thanks to my sister Lindsey)

A very happy 60th wedding anniversary to my parents, Stella and Tony.

This is them at lunch at Ten Minutes By Tractor on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia with my sister Lindsey and brother in law Ian today.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


So.  June 1st dawned  ...... actually, June the 1st dawned bright and sunny and even fairly warm for the first day of summer*

It was at lunchtime that the big black clouds rolled in.

By the time Julia and I left to catch our bus home, it was raining with intent.

It wasn't too bad in Chesterfield.  Just a bit damp.  But it was very windy.

Shortly after I got home, it got very, very dark and the wind really picked up.

By mid-evening it was blowing a gale and I was wondering if the (very well established) trees in the field at the back, along our fence, would manage to stay standing (they did).

And it rainedandrainedandrainedandRAINED.

Fortunately, the cat stayed indoors :-P

I'm not sure that the Weather Dogs are entirely convinced by the idea of summer starting on the first of June.

It was showery yesterday and not as warm as you might hope.  Fortunately, however, it was pleasantly sunny at 6:15 when I left work and walked up the hill to Broomhill for my Japanese class. Usually I have the car, but The Builder had a meeting to go to which started at 1pm.  He would have had to leave home at around 12 to get there by public transport, and not until just after 12:30 if he took the car. The second option seemed to allow for a spot of lunch before he left!  So I came to work on the bus and then walked to Broomhill after work, and he came in the car to collect me when the class finished.

I was walking up Division Street on my way to the class, passing across from the Green Room.  This is a pub which Gaz sometimes works in.  I was just musing on this, when a small bundle of enthusiasm bounced out of the Green Room, across the road - and threw itself at me.  It was Freyja!  I think we were both surprised to see each other :-D  She was part of a group of people who were organising a film showing in the pub for the evening.  I was just passing by.

* Other starting dates are available.  The UK government has it starting on the day of the summer solstice. The Weather Dogs start it when they feel like starting it.

Monday, June 01, 2015

A mostly soggy weekend

It wasn't too bad on Saturday, I suppose. We had sunny spells and it was quite warm.  I wandered up the road and had my hair cut. We trundled into Clay Cross. We got a few useful things done around the house and garden. We pottered up to the allotment. The day passed pleasantly and quietly.

It began to rain in the evening.  It began to rain quite hard overnight. I woke up at around about 4 am, wondering if there happened to be an intruder creeping up the stairs.  But no - it was the rain pelting down on the porch roof.  I was just drifting back to sleep when I definitely heard something coming up the stairs.  But I figured it wasn't an intruder.  An intruder would be unlikely to be wearing a cat bell.  I was just thinking this when a cat jumped up on the bed.  A wet cat.  A very soggy cat.  A very soggy cat with cold and muddy paws!!  Fortunately I had a small towel lurking close by and could dry him off.  But the bed sheet and my pyjama leg were covered in muddy paw prints.

I wasn't going to worry about that at that time of the day.  But I am very glad that I hadn't acted on the brief impulse I had had on Saturday morning to change the bed shee and pyjamas then instead of  my usual Sunday morning :-D

It rained with vigour throughout the morning and into the afternoon.  I repaired to the kitchen and made Transylvanian style meatballs for Monday's dinner and to feed the freezer.  I made a lamb and butternut squash curry for the freezer and for Tuesday.  I made a chicken and mushroom pot pie for Sunday lunch.  And I made a "rhubarb in the hole" pudding to go after.  (I'm not really sure what to call it - it was more or less a sweet Yorkshire pudding batter which I poured into a not hot baking dish which was lined with rhubarb and caster sugar.  Whatever you would call it, it was very tasty)

The weather cleared up a bit later in the afternoon and we got down to the greenhouse and planted out a few of the seedlings that were beginning to look a bit straggly.  The Builder in his guise as Under Gardener is hoping to plant the rest out on the allotment later today (if it doesn't rain!!).  We seem to have a very large number of zucchini/courgette seedlings.  If they all survive I may be looking for recipes to deal with a massive glut of zucchinis later in the summer!

And now here we are and it's Monday again.  A shiny new week to play with.  I wonder what excitements it has in store for us (apart from Transylvanian meatballs for dinner tonight :-D)