Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Visiting Aussies (Part the Second)

I was stood in the kitchen on Saturday evening watching a snow-capped mountain slowly make its way from the North towards our house, gradually obscuring the blue sky and sunshine.

Unbeknownst to me, The Builder was sat in the lounge room watching an inky blackness slowly making its way from the South towards our house, gradually removing the blue sky and sunshine.(There is no photo of this phenomenon because I was unaware that it was happening!).

The moment that the two weather systems ran across each other was quite exciting.  From my perspective it looked as though they met over our house, but I suspect it was a much wider event than that - there were reports of interesting weather from all over the local area!  But we definitely got thunder and lightning and torrential rain and hailstones and a road that believed it was a wild river - and a wet and soggy cat who came in from somewhere at one of the moments when the storm had abated a bit.

Very fortunately, the storm had worn itself out by the time we got up on Sunday.  For we were off on an adventure.  We were off to visit some Aussies over in Stockport, near Manchester.

My brother-in-law Ian has a niece living with her husband and young son in Stockport.  He also has a nephew living with his wife in central Manchester.  Their mother happens to be over from Melbourne at the moment visiting.  And it was the small boy's third birthday on Monday.  Fiona (the niece) decided to call a Sunday barbecue so we could mosey on over and see Jane (the mother) and celebrate the Small Boy's birthday.  Freyja was unavailable, because she was in Edinburgh.  Gaz was unavailable because he was working.  But The Builder, Tabitha, Cally and I had no plans for the day so we accepted the invitation and pottered on over the Pennines.

And we had a lovely time.  The sun shone for most of the afternoon. There were other people and a few other children there.  We had our barbecued lunch.  We had a magnificent birthday cake.  The children got to play in the garden.  There was a small bouncy castle which they had found on eBay:

It was all good.  Everyone had to beat a hasty retreat inside when the promised afternoon storms arrived a little early, but by then we were thinking about heading home anyway.  So thank you very much to Fiona for thinking to invite us.

So now we've had one lot of Aussies visiting us and we have been to visit another lot.  Excellent :-)

I meant to say.  Look at our beans and little pumpkin:

And we actually got some peaches from our peach tree this year.  We had to pick them early because the wasps were getting at them, so they were still quite crisp.  it was like eating peach flavoured apples :-D

Friday, August 21, 2015

Visiting Aussies

When we first moved to Melbourne in 1965 we started attending the local Anglican church and became friendly with some of the families there.  My parents were particularly friendly with Mavis and Jack Viccars and with John and Bertha Smith and we saw a lot of them and their various children. Mavis is still living, but John, Jack and then Bertha have all died over the past few years. But until they died, they all came to major family celebrations.  Mavis still does.  And so too do Janet and Simon, John and Bertha's daughter and son.

Janet and Paul, her husband, come to England relatively often to visit their son and daughter-in-law who live in London.  They've been over this month and decided to have a few days in the country. By a piece of sheer serendipity they found a place to stay in Dronfield, which is a small town about half way between Chesterfield and Sheffield.  It has been a matter of some incredulity to the people I know who live in either Chesterfield or Sheffield that any Australian with no connections to the place would ever have chanced across Dronfield but Janet and Paul assure me that it was, in fact, pure accident. And a lucky accident because the place they've been staying in is, they say, very nice indeed.  (I have added it to my list of places to eat at on their recommendation!).

Dronfield is only a ten or fifteen minute drive from our place, so they came round on Tuesday evening to have dinner with us.  I was at work on Tuesday, so used my slow cooker and my freezer to feed us.  A beef, mushroom and onion casserole in the slow cooker. A vegetable stew in a Japanese curry sauce from the freezer.  Beans and peas from the garden and allotment.  And rice. We had cheese and fruit after.  It was a lovely evening.

On Wednesday they met The Builder in the church in Chesterfield.  The one with the twisted spire. You can do tours of the tower, led by the verger, so up they all went. There are 150 quite steep and winding steps up to the top of the tower, although you do get a rest in the bell platform. Then they had lunch in The Rutland as a reward for all that effort.

Yesterday they came into Sheffield and met me for lunch, although I hadn't made it clear enough that I work at Sheffield Hallam University and they ended up, confused and a bit bewildered, at the University of Sheffield near the Hallamshire Hospital.  Fortunately, they had my phone number and a quick trip in a taxi to where I was waiting sorted that out. We had lunch in the cafe in the Millennium Gallery across the road from SHU and then had a potter about in the gallery, in the Winter Garden and in the Peace Gardens (which they have turned into a "seaside" play are for the summer holidays), before strolling down Fargate towards the cathedral where I put them on a bus heading back to the hospital where their car was parked.

They're off back to London today and then head back to Melbourne on Monday.  I hope they enjoyed playing in some of our local places.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Festivals, Food and Frolicking

Actually, it was only one festival.  But lots of  food and frolicking.

A few weeks ago Tabitha sent me a message saying she had found some discounted tickets to a Baking Festival in Bakewell and did we fancy going. The idea of going to a baking festival in a place called Bakewell amused me, we weren't doing anything at the time of the festival and so we arranged to go.

Tabitha, Gareth and Cally came round to our place on Saturday evening so that we would be poised and ready to go nice and early on Sunday morning, after we had had our regular conversation with my parents.  I got up at my usual time on Sunday morning, which is early but not as early as it is during the week.  No sign of Cally or either of her parents.  I washed some dishes and did a bit of ironing.  Still no sign of anyone.  Normally Cally is up and about by around 7. But not yesterday morning.  No sign of anyone at 7:30.  Still no sign of anyone at 8 :-S  I was beginning to think they had all three of them died in the night and was wondering how I was going to explain this to the authorities :-D  (They all went to bed hale and hearty at their usual times and then woke up dead, officer!!)  I sent Tabitha a wake up text message while I went and hung the washing out.  That eventually provoked a response.  It seems that Cally had been wakeful during the night and had made sure that her parents were wakeful too!!!

Anyway, we eventually left for the baking festival and got there at around 11. And it was lovely.  Not perhaps as big as I had expected, but enough for us to do and see.

There was a big events tent, where they were doing demonstrations and talks, with some of the people from the various series of the Great British Bake Off participating, amongst others.

That's the events tent at the back
There were food stalls offering snacks and lunch and drinks

I never did find out what a Penguin Pie was
There were lots of things for the children to do

Tabitha took this photo
And lots and lots of stalls selling bread and cakes and chocolates and baking paraphernalia and retro kitchen things and all sorts.  It was my kind of festival!

After we had had a good look around and sampled the mocktails and iced coffees, the cakes and the fruit on offer and bought a few things, we took ourselves off to Monsal Head and Little Longstone in search of something a bit more substantial for lunch than pizza, pies and hot pork sandwiches. We ended up in the Stable bar at the back of the Monsal Head Hotel where we had a very good lunch indeed.

I think my plate of roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding is under threat!

We have plans to head back out there one weekend in the autumn to walk part of the Monsal Trail, which follows the path of a railway line that was discontinued in the late 1960s

You can get to the trail from the hotel.  But we thought we might book a table at the Packhorse pub in Little Longstone which is one of Tabitha and Gareth's favourite country pubs - but which had no tables free when we called in yesterday.  And thus we have really and properly started our pubs in the Peak District and Derbyshire collection!  The Three Cottages in Hasland, The Stables Bar at Monsal Head and soon The Packhorse in Little Longstone.  The first few of many, I hope.

Cally has new things to play with at our place.  They kept everyone amused for hours!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Eating from the garden and allotment

Someone asked me the other day if we were eating from our garden and allotment yet this year.  I was about to say that it hadn't been a  very good year for home grown vegetables (which it hasn't) but then I stopped to think about what we are eating from the garden and allotment.  It is actually quite a good variety.

We have  been eating:

  • Potatoes and onions which the Under Gardener dug up a few weeks ago
  • Broad beans and peas, likewise harvested a few weeks ago and stored in the freezer
  • French beans
  • Zucchini/courgettes
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Beetroot
  • Radishes
  • Garlic
  • Various herbs
Soon there will be runner beans, string beans, more peas, more carrots, spinach, chard/silverbeet and pumpkins.  The Under Gardener is about to put in supplementary sowings of radish and spring onions, and I have come across some lettuce seeds which I'll pop into a small trough. And I think it might be time to start growing cress again.

We aren't being overwhelmed with any of the vegetables (fruit is a different matter!!!!) but we haven't had to buy much in the way of vegetables for several weeks now, unless we have particularly wanted something that we can't or don't grow ourselves.  There won't be much in the way of vegetables stored for the winter, but we're getting a steady supply for now.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A dilemma

For years and years our Go To place for celebration meals has been The Nettle.  And not just for celebrations.  It has been our Go To place for impromptu Saturday lunches, and planned Sunday lunches.  Alas, it is no longer an option, so we were faced with something of a dilemma on Friday which was our (sixth!) wedding anniversary.  Where shall we go?  What shall we do?

I think that we have decided that rather than learning to love one place to the exclusion of all others, we are going to eat our way around the many pubs that are to be found in the Peak District, and in North East Derbyshire.  We kicked off our endeavour with dinner at The Three Cottages.  We've been there before but not for a while.  You can't do impromptu at the Three Cottages - you have to book in advance.  Fortunately, we did know in advance that we wanted to go on Friday, so that wasn't an issue.  And it's close enough to our place to make it affordable to go (and come back) in a taxi.  So we did.

I have to say that I was a little disappointed with my meal.  My garlic mushrooms in cream sauce could have had more garlic.  My field mushroom and grilled tomato could have been hotter.  My steak could have been closer to rare than to medium.  But you couldn't possibly fault the chips.  The chips were amazing!  The pub is well-regarded for its pies.  We are going to go back and have pie and chips for lunch one Saturday - as part of our exploration of the local food, of course :-P  And I'm going to have a trawl around the internet and come up with a list of other places to try.

Apart from that, we didn't have a very exciting weekend.  It was the first weekend in simply ages where there wasn't really a proper plan.  I had my hair cut on Saturday morning. We went to the allotment and to the Post Office.  Other than that I don't think we left the house and garden on Saturday.  We did on Sunday, but only to go to the supermarket.  Otherwise we ate and drank and enjoyed the sunshine.  It's quite nice to have an unremarkable weekend every now and again.

Poor Tony didn't have an unremarkable weekend.  He's been quite ill with a chest infection.  And today he has ended up in hospital in the hope that they can make it go away.  He had quite an astonishing cough when I spoke to him on Skype yesterday.  Oh, and poor Cally has chicken pox. She doesn't like the spots - they "hurt".  Although probably not as much as Tony's cough hurts him!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Cromford Steam Rally

All the fun of the fair!

We had every intention of going to Hady Hill yesterday and playing with the miniature trains at their open day.  We organised it with Tabitha, Gareth and Cally ages ago. Then last weekend, as we were making our way to the Tramway museum, we saw signs indicating that the Cromford Steam Rally was also on this weekend, in those fields just over there.

A dilemma!  We haven't been to the Cromford Steam Rally for years.  We hoped to go in 2009 - Lindsey and Ian had booked their flights to England so that they could come with us.  Alas, it had to be cancelled because it was underwater. We've been to other steam rallies and country fairs with steam things since but I don't think we've been to Cromford since then.  We like the steam rallies.  So we abandoned the tiny trains, Tabitha, Gareth and Cally abandoned them too and we all made our way to the Cromford Steam Rally yesterday morning.  (It's not actually held in Cromford; it's in Brackenfield, which is nearer to Alfreton.  Either way, it's no great distance from our place.)

And we had a fabulous time.  The cloudy, rather dismal morning cleared to a bright, sunny and warm afternoon.  There were little steam engines and big ones.  There were hurdy gurdies. There were funfair rides and a little train.  There were dogs on leads absolutely everywhere.  There was a Punch and Judy show, and a clown.  There were the obligatory junk stalls and trade stalls.  There were food stalls and a beer tent.  All the sorts of things that you might expect at a steam rally, or even a country fair.  Cally was fascinated by the Punch and Judy show (talking toys, don't you know!) and she loves tractors and cars and trains.

Then Gareth drove us all back to our place and they stayed for a little while enjoying the sunshine. And then they went home and The Builder and I went back inside and had roast chicken with the usual accompaniments to supplement the fish and chips we had had at lunchtime.

It was a pity to miss the little trains at Hady, but I am very glad we went to the steam rally.  It was an excellent addition to what had been a lovely weekend.

Click on Cally and Gaz to get to my photo album (photo courtesy Tabitha)