Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I've been on a bus!!!! It's months and months since I've been on a bus! But it's all right. It wasn't a First bus -- it was a Yorkshire Terrier and strictly speaking I'm not boycotting them. It was being driven by a trainee driver. A girl trainee driver. I learned quite a lot listening to the trainer (There are millions of good reasons why a bus might be late. There is no good reason for it to leave early)

But you may wonder why I was on the bus in the first place. Ordinarily I walk to work, it hardly being worth the bus fare to travel a mile and a half. But it was at the bus stop as I charged past, running late for a meeting with Peter-my-boss. Mind you, I had no business being late. I had, officially, been up for hours. The radio came on at its appointed time. The Builder enquired about the time -- omigosh .... It's half past six and he needs to be at the agency for 7. I had forgotten to adjust it!! Run. Rush. Dash about. And off he trundles at 5 to 7, fed, watered and armed with lunch. Perhaps I can have a cup of tea and catch my breath a bit and do some useful things. Back he wanders at about 10 past. No job for him today :-( Tea for him too, then. And somehow I seemed to find my way back to my nice, warm and snuggly bed. Where I peacefully remained until The Builder's phone rang. It was the agency. We've got something for you, come back. And there was me running late when I should have had plenty of time and got loads of chores done. Sigh. Never mind. I was here in time for the meeting and I've done a mini-desk session. And now I'm eating my breakfast and contemplating a cup of tea.

We've had an interesting couple of days. We had a fantastic birthday dinner on Tony's behalf on Sunday. In defiance of the bird flu scaremongering we had roast chicken - with plenty of wine for its antiseptic effect. Tabitha and Gareth were there. So too were Freyja and Mark who had veggie chicken wellingtons. We rang Tony -- after all it was his party; we figured he should probably be there too.

Yesterday we went to Chesterfield to meet our mortgage advisor. I've never had a mortgage advisor before. It feels very grown up!! I hardly ever go to Chesterfield and I'm not sure why really. It's only 10 miles down the road and it's a pretty little town. Lots of mediaeval and Georgian buildings. Market squares. A church with a twirly spire. We got there with half an hour to spare and had a wander about -- until we remembered that we hadn't actually paid for our car park and had to dash back before the parking man found us! We got to the advisor's office with minutes to spare :-) He says we can almost certainly buy a house. Perhaps we will buy a house. For less than he says we can spend we could have a house in a village with a view over fields *and* of a castle. We shall ponder. We went to Chatsworth and had a Sunday lunch on a Monday and bought some more vegetables. We went home and pottered about. Then I had to come to work. Four whole hours. Quite exhausting!

It's quite a stunning morning today. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. The grass is white. And it's bloody freezing!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Kul-cha and History

It's Tony's birthday!! Hooray for Tony! Many happy returns to you :-) (Bursts into song .......)

I am accused of sybaritic living!! Or, at least, I am accused of living entirely for pleasure, which is sybaritic living if ever I saw it. (Morning, Robert!) And what is wrong with that, I ask?!?!?!?

It's not true, not really; though I wish it were. I could, after all, write about life in the Salt Mine following the convergence of our department with another. But that would be gloomy, dismal, boring and depressing, so I shan't. I could tell all about one of our prima donnas who has got herself in to a frightful tizwaz over matters of little consequence and which cannot be readily changed and has chucked the biggest hissy fit in the world and gorn orff for two weeks. But there are others from the Salt Mine who read this (G'day Richard) and in any case my thoughts are hardly charitable and Lent is approaching. So I can't tell you about that.

I could tell you of my thrift and frugality in turning a small amount of left over roast pork into a somewhat interesting Moroccan style "sweet and sour" pork and beans stew, but nobody would really be interested in that ( Ian -- it involved balsamic vinegar, lime juice, white honey, ras al hanout and garlic amongst other things and was fantastic -- and extremely frugal and thrifty!), so I won't.

I have eschewed the buses and walk to and from work. Three fare rises in 6 months proved too much for me to stomach. But Lindsey might well accuse me of obsessively feeding my pedometer. She might be right -- more than 18000 steps yesterday :-)

So I am going to tell you about our very educational day yesterday. Full of history, kul-cha, handicrafts and architecture.

We went to York to visit the Vikings. There's an annual 10 day Viking festival and yesterday was the last full day. It is on today but the big events were all yesterday. We went on the train, through threatening clouds, windswept fields and damp, drear looking villages. We were well wrapped up and quite fearless about the weather. Though in fact the rain held off, the wind dropped, and for a time the sun came out. It's just over an hour on the train from Sheffield to York, so we lobbed in just in time for lunch.

We had lunch in the Lendal Cellars by the Guildhall, an old building (the cellars, that is, not the Guildhall) which started out as part of a 14th century Franciscan priory, then became cellars and is now a pub. It has beautiful arched, vaulted ceilings with old, old bricks and is dark and cosy and welcoming. A lovely place for lunch on a cold Saturday afternoon. We both had scampi. I had bought a small packet of scampi and lemon flavoured crisps to keep body and soul together on the train. For some reason this led to a deep craving for scampi for lunch! Very nice too. Then we made our way down to the King's Staithe on the Ouse to look at the longboats. They were quite small as longboats go, but quite cute. There were Vikings wandering around in period clothes. There were Scandinavians selling things from stalls on the staithe. But it was very crowded and the mini-longboats weren't really doing anything very interesting so we wandered off.

There are loads of markets in York for the festival. We are off to visit them. The continental market was **incredibly** crowded. We didn't stay long. The regular street market was quite quiet, comparatively speaking. We ambled about in there and loaded up The Builder's backpack with fruit and veg and meat and chicken. We shall be eating well this week. Then we took ourselves off the the Barley Hall to visit the Viking Market. The Barley Hall itself is stunning. Old and complex and rambling. Some fantastic floors and walls. And loads of lovely traditionally handcrafted things on sale as well. I was very tempted by a traditionally made wooden bucket from Poland (not that I was aware the Poles were hugely active in Viking activity, but there you go). Would have made a fantastic apple bucket. But at £40 it was perhaps a bit steep. We contented ourselves with a wooden egg bowl instead. We relocated to the Dark Ages market in the Guildhall, which I had also never been in before and which is also architecturally quite lovely -- it has massive wooden pillars and a glorious ceiling. A 10th century market with lovely craftworks on sale. There were some fantastic Viking style cloaks made in a soft, soft felt in beautiful colours. I would have bought one if (i) I had happened to have £75 about my person and (ii) I didn't happen to be wearing a big thick jumper, a thick waxed jacket and a fleecy hat so was feeling quite nice and warm! They were made by Freyja. With the J. She was Scandinavian!

I think I had spent most of The Builder's money by this stage so we wandered off to the Museum gardens and into the Hospitium where there was an "encampment" of Vikings. Most of York had been excrutiatingly crowded for most of the time we had been there. The Hospitium was quite quiet. I think everyone else had gone to watch the battle at Clifford's Mount. In the meantime we had a lovely time pottering about peering at people spinning and weaving, others in their "kitchens", some making things. It was all quite fascinating. I am always, but always surprised at how good and varied the Viking diet could be (even if there were no potatoes and no oranges. It's true that I would miss them, and especially the limes; but I wouldn't have missed them if I didn't know about them!). I was especially surprised by the quantity of apricots, though why I can't think. And I am much too profligate with my black pepper. The amount of pepper I put into some of my cooking could have bought you a sizeable village!

As I said, York was very very crowded. It always is, but much more so yesterday than usual. We decided to cut our losses and go home. We might come back next year and stay for the weekend. Even better, for a couple of days during the week -- not so many children darting about! If nothing else it would give us a quiet place to go and recover from -- and to put thpurchaseses. The Poor Builder was getting very heavy shoulders with carting my shopping about all afternoon. It had been, as you see, a very educational afternoon.

It did involve lots of pleasure, too. I am, if not yet fully qualified, a sybarite in practise! I think quite fondly on the notion of living a life devoted to pleasure! The advantage of going on the train is that if one is minded to drink Viking alcohol in the course of the day, one can. Though we didn't, being satisfied with a pint each with our scampi. But we did indulge in a glass or two of wine (me) and beer (TB) on the train on the way back. Very civilised if you ask me.

A nice stroll home from the station, calling in at the linen shop on the way for some new sheets to match the new doona covers we acquired during thweekkn And a nice, gentle evening in which we did nothing very much at all.

Back at work today. It was gloriously sunny first thing this morning. I walked to work through sunlit streets which were strangely deserted. Everything seems so much calmer and spacious on a Sunday morning. Even starting at half past nine seems a pleasant indulgence, whereas starting at half nine Monday-Friday seems an unnecessary rush! It's clouded over now and has started sleeting. The forecast for the next few days is sleet, snow, rain, hail and other exciting weather events. We were lucky yesterday!

There will be feasting in the Mudhut this evening if anyone would care to join us. We have a 75th birthday to celebrate!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Weather Report

This week it's been COLD! We've had sleet and snow and rain and hail. Quite glad of some of this because it's been very dry for the past few months. They're already warning of drought, water shortages and standpipes in the South East this summer. But it has been cold. I'm wearing my thick, woolly jumper with blue flowers and am quite toasty. Everyone else is complaining of being a bit on the chilly side though. The birds have been hiding in the shrubs at the bottom of our garden and in the thicket next door. They're making merry with the mealworms and sunflower seeds I put out each morning!

The Builder has finished working on Carla and Dave's house (Carla is a work colleague of mine. They bought a dilapidated "mansion" up the road from us and The Builder has been helping to turn it from a grotty student house into a magnificent mansion worthy of a family. It's kept him busy for weeks!) He's registered with the agency across the road from us -- they wanted him to start a new job on Monday but we have an apppointment in Chestefield on Monday morning with Magic Nigel the Mortgage Adviser. So-called because he managed to get my friend Clarissa's stepdaughter a staggering mortgage. Hope he can do the same for us. Though we perhaps don't want a staggering one!

The police think they might have identified Tabitha's burglar. He appears to have been being quite active in and around our bit of Sheffield. She had to go in this afternoon and look at pictures of potential suspects.

Freyja and Mark are job hunting. Freyja had an interview this afternoon with a sales and marketing company in the city centre. I'm not sure that she's convinced that sales and marketing is exactly her cup of tea, but you can only try.

Speaking of tea -- I think it might be time for a cup. I'm on tonight until 6 :-( but it's always time for tea!

It's Tony's birthday on Sunday. To celebrate we are intending to go to York to play with the Vikings tomorrow and we are having Tabitha, Gareth, Freyja and Mark around to dinner on Sunday evening Roast chicken for the omnivores, fake chicken for the veggies.

Have a good weekend, all. Will report back next week on the weekend festivities!

Monday, February 20, 2006

19th February

22000 steps I took yesterday. **22** thousand (and fifty, but who's counting?)!!!! It's no wonder I slept like a beaten up log last night!!!

We were out and about with T and G. Our plan, I think, was to walk the length and breadth of Sheffield. And we very nearly succeeded! After a leisurely start to the morning, in which TB and I ate tomato and mushroom fritatata, followed by toast with homemade jam, and then I stitched and TB read his book, T and G lobbed in about 11:30. F and M (who had come back to our place on Saturday evening) declined the invitation to join us. So off we headed to the Heeley City Farm, a small-holding and market garden hidden away in an inner city suburb a mile or so from the city centre. It's not much above a mile and a half from our place and I've never ever been. Sent T and G on a reconnaissance mission a couple of weeks ago. And it's fantastic. There are sheep and cows and goats. There's a very friendly ginger goat that gets taken for walks on a lead! There's a huge big enormous pig that I scratched behind the ears. There's a large black Shire horse called Blaze who has an arthritic hip and can't trot on hard ground. He has a littler, fluffier horse companion. There are fluffy chickens and bunnies and ducks and geese. One of the geese seemed to decide that the young volunteer washing out food bowls was nicking its dinner and chased her out. She hopped over the fence very smartish! We had a lovely time patting the animals and wandering about. They also have a garden centre. There's also, apparently, a new shop but I didn't run across that -- or not that I noticed. I think we may amble back in a few weeks and buy some herbs and small shrubs for the courtyard and the allotment. They've loads of interesting things. I'll have a hunt for the shop as well. I'm given to understand that they sell seasonal vegetables and eggs.

There are some houses across from the farm that are up for sale. Might have to buy one. How cool would it be to wake up a mere mile or so from the city centre, look out the bedroom window and see sheep in a paddock across the road?!?!?!?!

So. The farm having been explored we ambled into town and along to the Riverside pub. They do fantastic food at the Riverside - though the last time we were there the carrots left a good bit to be desired. Not this time, though. And the buttered cabbage was sublime. The meat is locally produced. They sell local real ales and not local real ales and ciders. T's friend Rob joined us for lunch then disappeared again. I was roundly defeated by my plateful of food :-( Then we headed off to the Fire and Police Museum. I've been past it numerous times and never thought to go in. In fact, the opportunity to go in doesn't always present itself for it is only open on Sundays. It's ever so cute (though you wonder how anyone ever thought to open such a museum!). It's run by retired and active fire officers and has some fantastic old fire engines, including a horse drawn one and a steam powered one. There's a lovely little model railway, complete with disasters at which the fire brigade might be present. A crossing accident, say, or a plane ploughing into a mountainside. Somebody must have made a donation to the cause, because if you do a sparky young man will drop down the *enormous* fire pole. Very quickly. Buggered if I know how he stopped before he crashed into the floor two storeys below. It was great fun. We must go if you're ever out this way!

We dropped into the Old Queen's Head on the way home. TB and G had never been in there. It's a nice pub. It's the oldest commercial building still in use in Sheffield and dates from sometime in the mid 15th century.

And so home, via a quick explore in the wildlife wilderness across from Waitrose and an amble through Broomhall. Tea and wine, then T and G went home. Neither TB nor I were hungry really so I took the last two crusty rolls out of the freezer and we had them with blue Wensleydale cheese and some homemade chutney. Hmm. The last two rolls. There's no bread. Hmm. The supermarkets have closed, it being Sunday. Bother. Nothing for it but to bake a loaf of bread. Which I did. You would have found us later in the evening munching warm bread straight from the oven with some of that blueberry jam I made when I ran across some punnets of fast fading blueberries in a shop one weekend last autumn. Very nice. We've got the rest of it for lunch today (but without the jam which would be silly with a tuna salad!). Home made bread is really very nice. Don't know why I don't bake it more often. A nice quiet evening. Fell asleep in front of the telly. Must have been the effects of the warm, yeasty bread!!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

It's been a beautiful day today. A gorgeous, crisp, frosty, sunny winter day. And I've been stuck inside for nearly all of it. A grand total of 12 students and 8 queries so far today -- and 3 of those were when the catalogue went down.

Never mind. Soon be time to go home. I'm planning a spicy (but not chilli-ed) vegetable and butter bean stew for supper tonight. I do like butter beans :) So does TB.

T was held up in her shop yesterday afternoon, by a man with a gun (or perhaps a replica). A foolish or perhaps apprentice burglar. Took cash from one till but not the other (which had all the money in it) and took none of the rather expensive merchandise. If he's caught, he's looking at a nice jail term for armed robbery - for the grand total of about £70. Hardly seems worth it to me. Had to turn out last evening and ply her with wine, for she was shaken rather than damaged, thank goodness.

F and M are back. Dining with T tonight. Probably back at our place this evening. There goes the order and tidiness!!

Not working tomorrow. Yay!

Oh yes. My toast fought back this morning :( I gripped it firmly, all the better to spread vegemite on it -- and it bit a hole in my finger :( It's not at all conveniently located. Hurts when I hit the keyboard!