Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday - not at work

Tuesday saw The Builder return to work. I have all the rest of this week, plus next Monday, off. Hooray! But there are Things To Do. Today, The Vixen is off for its 12 month service. Hard to think that we’ve had it nearly 12 months. Seems no time. On the other hand, it also seems like we’ve had it forever. Time is an odd thing!

The Builder left at 06:15, as is his wont. I pottered about, cleaned and tidied, did some washing, played with the cat (who seems to be settling in reasonably well) and ambled off in the car at about half past eight. Trundled along back roads, being in no hurry and wishing to explore a little, to Autoworld, on the other side of Chesterfield. Dropped the car off and took the courtesy people carrier back into Chesterfield. Got there about half past nine, I suppose. So I went for a potter around the market. Tuesday is not a market day, although one or two of the fruit and veg stalls were there. But the indoor market was fully operational. It’s an interesting market, really. Lots of stalls similar to the ones in the Sheffield Castle Market, aimed at the lower end of the food market. So frozen burgers, chicken nuggets, frozen fish sticks, sweets, cheap pick and mix, that sort of thing. But amongst that are some really interesting stalls. There’s one which is effectively a farmer’s shop but in a long, long market stall. There are some lovely fish stalls, in among the not so lovely ones. I didn’t have much money with me, but enough to buy some smoked haddock for dinner. Oh – and I’ve bought Marlo a new tag with his new address and phone number on it.

I just missed the bus back to Tupton, so dropped into St Mary’s (she with the twirly spire) for a potter around. There’s a lovely stained glass window which was put up in the 1980s to celebrate (I think) the church’s 800th anniversary, though it may not be 800 years. Anyway, it’s a lovely window, telling the history of the church and the town from 1200 and something. I inspected that, matching it with the information on the descriptive paddle. Then I had to run for the next bus!!! (The bus stop is just across the road from the church.)

So home, where I pootled about, pottered and ambled.

Then it started to rain. And rain. And rain and rain and rain and rain. Sigh. It was nearly time for me to go and catch the bus back into Chesterfield to collect the car. Sigh. Fortunately, by the time I really needed to leave, the downpour had become drizzle. By the time I got to Chesterfield, it had stopped and the sun had come out. I was very, very early for the courtesy car back to Autoworld so I went for a proper explore in the town. There’s a Julian Graves shop in the main shopping centre. Oh no – there goes the budget!!! There are not a whole lot of really interesting shops; all the usual high street shops of course, a few gift shops, several interesting looking pubs. It reminds me a bit of central York, but without all the touristy stuff. There are some fantastic mediaeval buildings. And the market, of course, is fantastic when it’s open.

I arrived at Autoworld and waited. Was told it would be a further 15 minutes or so. So I waited. And waited. And got cross! I had arrived when they had said to, and wasn’t happy wasting a further hour just sat there. Eventually approached the person who had booked the car in in the morning. And oh yes, the car was more or less ready. Sigh! Collected it, handed over a huge wodge of money (have I got anyone left to sell on eBay?) and drove away. Autoworld is on the Unstone, Dronfield road, so I pottered off into Unstone just to have a look. Might go back into Dronfield one day and park up and go for a poke around. Came back to Chesterfield and went for a further explore in Wingerworth (across the main highway from Tupton) and a drive around Tupton/Ankerbold/New Tupton. But not Old Tupton, which is also on the other side of the highway. I’ve been investigating to see how many people there are in the various Tuptons. Can’t find an exact figure, but I think it’s probably around 2.5 to 3k.

We had the haddock for dinner, poached in milk, with home made oven chips (potatoes from the allotment) and a huge mound of buttered runner beans, also from the allotment, and corn on the cob, from Chatsworth. And early to bed. I was struggling really really hard to keep my eyes open by 21:00. Gave in at 21:45!

I have always thought we were fairly frugal in our water use. We try very hard not to be wasteful. So, The Builder has put two water butts to catch water from the bath, shower and sink in the bathroom for use in the garden. He attached it all up on Saturday. It is very scary to report that the first one is nearly full!!! Must Do Better. (And, of course, since he did that, it has rained for at least a part of every day and we don’t need to water the garden or even the pots!)

Right. I am off to Sheffield with the cat. It’s the day for his postponed operation. He is a bit worried by the fact that no breakfast has been forthcoming this morning!!!

August Bank Holiday

So. Sunday dawned bright and sunny, though with clouds and tempests threatening. We had a nice, reasonably leisurely start to the day, pottering around and doing sort of Saturday domestic things (washing, ironing, tidying, that sort of thing). Then at around 11, we ambled out shopping. First to Rowsley, a village not far from Bakewell which has, for reasons unknown, a shopping village. We were after two red pillow cases. It is my habit to change the sheet and the top pillow cases on a weekly basis, but the duvet cover only ever 3 or 4 weeks. Both The Builder and I are absolutely certain that when we left the Mudhut, there were four plain red pillow cases and two patterned ones. Buggered if we can find two of the plain ones. Anyway, we now have two more. Plus two curtains at half price, one for each bedroom, plus two scented candles. Hmmm.

Then we ambled on to Bakewell, which was incredible crowded. I had forgotten that, although we were doing regular shopping on a regular weekend in our regular shopping places, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, it’s a Bank Holiday Weekend and Bakewell is a tourist destination! Anyhow, we acquired some carpenter’s pencils and wotnots for The Builder, and enormous number of seeds, nuts, munchie things and other wholesome snacky food from Julian Graves. WE got some cat treats from the pet shop (though no toys – only dog, rodent and bird toys there L).

So to Chatsworth, for fruit, veg and general food stuffs.

And on to Chatsworth, to B&Q for DIY things like curtain poles, and to Sainsbury for wine, beer, more wine, vodka, a bit more wine – oh, and some odd bits and pieces and cat toys.

And home. Wallets very considerably lighter, car very much heavier!

On Saturday, The Builder had been at the Hangingwater allotment and dug up all the potatoes. Two trugs and a big bucket full. We put them out on the picnic table on Sunday afternoon to dry and for sorting. I decided to do a white wash and hang that out. The Builder put up the curtain poles and the new curtains. It was generally a nice, pottering afternoon. We’ve sorted the potatoes and have two drawers in the larder full of them. Had to throw some away which were clearly damaged beyond retrieval by slugs, earwigs and woodlice, but even so. A better crop than we were expecting.

A pleasant Sunday, then.

Monday dawned showery, windy and occasionally sunny. We had Sue (from when I did Italian) and her husband Roger coming for lunch. So we hopped out of bed early (not by our recent standards, of course, but by Bank Holiday Monday standards) and organised food, tidied and cleaned-for-visitors. We were having souvlaki style lamb pieces, Greek salad, tabouleh and mini pitas. To start we had crisps, twiglets, hummus, and “sticky” prawns which I braised in butter and sweet chilli sauce. And for pud we had plum crumble, with plums from the allotment. It was a good afternoon, sat in the lounge room, chatting, drinking and munching. Although Roger and The Builder didn’t have much to drink given that they were driving.

The Builder driving? Well yes. For we were off into Sheffield in the evening for a family dinner with Taffa and Gaz, Freyja and Mark, and Ross as a private Farewell to Sheffield to T, G and R. It is possible that I may once upon a time have been able to eat a Greek style three course meal at lunchtime, followed by an Italian style baked seafood pancake in the evening – but I can’t do it any more. Sigh. The pancake was lovely – but I struggled and struggled and struggled to finish it. And as defeated. Should have done as Freyja and Mark did and shared a pizza, for Taffa struggled to eat her seafood pizza. Still, it was a lovely evening. Nice for us all to catch up. And on the way home, The Builder and I saw a shooting star scooting down through the sky with a lovely tail behind it. Taffa asked if I had made a wish. But yes. I wished it wouldn’t turn into a fire ball and fall on our house and destroy it. It didn’t. Wish come true!

Taffa, Gaz and Ross are supposed to be moving into a house in Cambridge this coming weekend. The woman who owns it (I think) isn’t now moving until Wednesday. Gareth starts work on Monday. Fred the Landlord at the flat is expecting the keys back at 09:00 on the Monday. Hmm. A tiny dilemma! (I think Gareth is going to approach a friend in March and ask if they can use her spare bungalow for a few days)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Le chat noir

Well, I've finally managed to get Marlo to our place

As those of you who have been paying attention to the blog will know, I was supposed to collect Marlo on Thursday and take him to the vet for his little operation, before bringing him on home to The Sidings. The van scuppered that. Oh yes -- the van is now back from its sojourn at the mechanic; The Builder's wallet is lighter to the tune of £500. Sigh.

Anyway. The Builder met me at Waitrose after I finished work yesterday. We filled up our trolley (and, perforce, the car) with wine and beer and supplies and cat food. The car already had The Builder's large tool box in it, so there wasn't a whole lot of room for the cat and his accoutrements. We mosied on to Nethergreen to collect the cat, which, mercifully, was at home. He was absolutely delighted to see us, when we ambled in. As yet, he had no idea of his fate. Anyway, we gathered up his basket and cushion and food and litter tray and one tiny toy (I'm sure there should have been more toys) and popped him into the cat basket and loaded him and all his stuff into the poor, laden car (should we change its name from Vixen to Camel?). He mewed a couple of times as we walked to the car but stopped as soon as the car started to move. We heard not another peep from him until we got home.

We parked the car in the driveway when we got back. We don't ordinarily do this because you have to drive over the kerb to get into it (the kerb isn't dropped and it will cost upwards of £1000 to get it dropped, even if we get planning permission to do it -- which we might not because we are on a corner and have double yellow lines outside the house) and the available space is very tight and it's a bugger trying to get back out again. But there was lots and lots of stuff in the car, and some of the stuff was quite heavy. The Builder thinks access and egress might be easier if he knocks down part of the front wall. I think this is something to think about later! It's not as though we actually need a drive most of the time -- the car is quite happy parked down the road.

Marlo seemed quite interested in his whereabouts when we got the basket out of the car. He emerged from the basket into the kitchen somewhat cautiously. He explored the kitchen and the dining room and the cellar. Then he seemed to decide that, since these rooms contained his food, water, litter tray, basket, toy and lots of dust (the cellar, behind the wine rack), he didn't need to explore the rest of the house. Spent the evening moving a wee bit nervously from my lap to the floor to his cushion to The Builder's lap and back and staunchly resisted any attempt to introduce him to the rest of the house. . Seemed happy enough, though.

Then we went to bed, quite early; Marlo consented to being taken with us. Wasn't the most restful night I've ever had, however. The Builder got up sometime around 2 to go to the loo and tripped over the cat on the way back. This woke me up. I did go back to sleep, but only lightly. Every time the cat moved it woke me up! Fortunately, today is Saturday so there was no need to leap from the bed at 05:30!! And the cat seemed settled. Last seen by me, curled up on the bed, cuddled up to Freyja's pyjama dog Harry (who he always used to adore until I abruptly moved Harry out of the flat) sound asleep.

The Builder later reported that Marlo had moved. To under the doona on his side of the bed!!

I'm at work for another 2 hours. Then I am not coming back until 09:00 on Tuesday 5th September. Monday is a public holiday and the University is closed for reasons of its own on theTuesday. I'm taking the following Monday as Time off in Lieu. So I get Sunday to Monday week, inclusive, off for the grand total of 3 days annual leave :-)

I am expecting lots of interesting things to happen next week. Or perhaps I am just expecting lots of things to happen next week, some of which may well be interesting. Which ever, I shall try to keep you in touch!

Friday, August 25, 2006

More weather

Oh boy, did we have weather yesterday.

Barb sent me a text message at about five yesterday afternoon to say that in Salisbury they were having torrential rain.

I was on the bus passing by Wingerworth at the time and we had only very, very light drizzle.

At just after six, Barb rang to say that the local roads were flooded, her back steps were behaving something like Niagara Falls and that when she had opened her back door much, much water had poured out. The water had been running down the steps, along the path and in under the door and through the catflap. The cat was marooned in the dining room, not wishing to get wet paws.

We had fitful sunshine.

The Builder came back, reporting that Lincolnshire had been very, very wet indeed. The local news reported massive floods in Wakefield and chaos on the roads in North and West Yorkshire.

Tupton was nice and dry and quite warm. An island of dry surrounded by a sea of storms.

We got the rain at about 8. Heavy, even very heavy. But not really torrential. But heavy enough that the (satellite) television reception had gone down (why does it do that, sometimes, when there is very heavy rain, and then not do it at others?) and I had gone around and closed all the windows.

Then it stopped and the sun came out and I opened the kitchen and bathroom windows again.

Come ten o'clock and you find me chatting to Tony on the internet, as is my wont on a Wednesday evening (not next Wednesday, for I am Going Out!). Very, very, VERY heavy rain indeed. Beyond torrential. And the telly reception was fine!

The Builder noticed that my wine glass was empty and got up to take it into the kitchen to refill it. Stopped dead in the kitchen door. "Good heavens," quoth he (although he didn't; he said something very much more forceful than I could possibly put onto what is really a public forum!) "Just look at all this water!" Water? What water? Ambled into the kitchen. Good heavens. There is a positive waterfall coming through the kitchen ceiling. But where from? There's a bathroom overhead. Ah -- but not at that point. That is the point where the extension begins. We grabbed buckets, I rushed out into the yard to grab the mop (kept dashing back to the laptop to send progress reports to Tony!) and started mopping. The Builder ran upstairs to investigate. He says (and he should know, being a builder, although if anyone else suggested it I would be deeply sceptical) that there was water cascading in to the bathroom through the open window. About which I had forgotten. Most of it was falling into the bath which is under the window but that quite a bit of it was going down between the bath and the window sill where the seal was not as intact as it might be. Must re-seal the bath!

Oh well. The kitchen floor needed washing anyway, and all's well that ends well. And dry!

That van isn't half being troublesome. It was supposed to go for its MOT on Saturday but couldn't because it is too high to fit in the MOT garage. So, The Builder arranged for it to go next door for servicing and pre-MOT checks yesterday. There was a problem with this because some vital number or something was missing from the chassis and they can’t do the MOT without it. For some reason. Would have to be done today. Now, this means that The Builder needs the car to get to work, and I come in by public transport. No real problem with this. It's quite a restful way of getting to work, although it is expensive. But today, I was supposed to be taking the cat to the vet for his little operation and then taking him from there back to The Sidings after work. Can’t do all that by bus and train. Put off the operation. Arrange to collect the cat after work on Friday. The Builder gets home from work and ambles off to the garage with the registration certificate which has the necessary number or whatever. Comes back to tell me that the brakes are about to go and he has to pay them loadsa dosh to get them fixed. And he has to put some money up front. We don’t either of us tend to carry large wodges of cash about and there's no cash machine in the village. Off he heads into Chesterfield to find some bank notes. Sigh. That van will, I tell you, it will be a brand new van by the time we've finished replacing everything! Anyway, it's being serviced and (I hope -- oh how I hope!) MOTed today. At least while it's in the garage, The Builder has no temptation to park it outside No 6 QVR. Though I think they may be away. Their shiny new 4WD is missing and their curtains are all closed.

The Builder's Decree Nisi paper has arrived. I assume that means in 6 or 7 weeks time Barb's solicitor will apply for the Decree Absolute and he will be a free man. Although he won't be free really, being, as he is, held captive by me in the cellar!

Memo to self. Burger King does not sell food. If I should be overwhelmed with the wish to eat egg and bacon sandwiches, go to Rollers (the student refectory) which does!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!

Mr Don't-Park-Your-Van-Outside-My-House decided, in his wisdom, to tackle The Builder yesterday about his anti-social persistence in parking outside No 6, Queen Victoria Road. Now No 6, QVR is the first point at which the double yellow lines (which indicate that you may not park there and which run past our house) stop. If you see what I mean. In fact, The Builder doesn't park there all that often. Mostly he parks in Ward Street, where there are lots of other vans to keep his company. Sometimes he parks further down Bridge Street, towards the railway bridge, where I ordinarily park the Vixen. Occasionally he parks outside No 6 QVR.

Now, if Mr Don't-Park-Your-Van-Outside-My-House had approached The Builder in a calm and orderly manner and asked him nicely not to park outside his house cos then he can't admire his nice, shiny, new 4WD from his lounge room window, or because Mrs D-P-Y-V-O-M-H was giving him grief about the van, or because he is a lazy little bugger who can't be bothered walking a few extra steps to his front door, then no doubt The Builder would have obliged. Probably not best practice, though, to hammer on the door and then start yelling, and shouting, and swearing. Emphatically not the approach I would take if I wanted to persuade The Builder to do something. I fear The Builder is now likely to park there at every available opportunity. Though this is also not the approach I would take. The man appears to be a bully (Steve Next Door reports that he (Mr D-P-Y-V, not Steve) hassled Billy, who used to live at No 4 BS, about his van and told some of Steve's rellies off for parking there too) and my feeling is that bullies are best ignored completely, so that we should continue to park where and when we see fit.
On the other hand, Richard did mention that he has a pal with a traction engine. Perhaps we really should get the pal to park it outside No 6 QVR. Give them something new to admire from the lounge room window.

The Builder has pointed out that it is a great pity Steve wasn't at home to witness the tirade. Alas, he and the rest of the family are sunning themselves in Benidorm, or some such place.

I blame Mr D-P-Y-V's mother, myself. He clearly hasn't been taught that "I Want, Doesn't Get"!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sheffield by the Sea

Freyja is complaining! It seems that last week I suggested that nothing at all had happened, apart from me going to work and Lindsey and Ian buying a flat, when in fact -- she had celebrated a birthday. It's true. It was her birthday. And I rang her to wish her a happy one. But I didn't see her and no birthday-ness had really impacted on my week and ... well, I just didn't think to blog it. Besides. It was only a 14th birthday and 14th birthdays, while of course of great significance to the 14 year old, are not of deep significance to the rest of us.

What? Eh? Well, yes. It's true that Freyja seems to think that it was her 21st birthday. And yes, if she was born in 1985, then the calendar would seem to support her contention. But everyone knows that Freyja is 14. She has been for years, since she turned -- well, 14. Can I help it if the calendar makes of mockery of that fact?

Actually, my friend Chris Payne (she who dwells on top of Mount Macedon) was exclaiming in shocked tones only this week that it is 10 years since she moved to work in the Shire of Mitchell, that it will be 10 years in December since I moved to England, and that Freyja can't possibly be 21 because everyone knows that she is only 14. She has suggested that we have met with a time continuum accident. That must surely be it!

Anyway, we came in to Sheffield yesterday afternoon to meet Freyja and Mark for a birthday lunch. We went to the Cavendish, a student pub that I seldom venture into, it being full of students. And noise. However, at the moment there are virtually no students about and the only noise was from excitable people watching ManU thrashing Fulham in the soccer. Freyja and Mark like it there because they do nice vegetarian sausages with mashed potato. The Builder and I have no need of vegetarian sausages, though the mash did look rather nice. In fact, The Builder had the biggest piece of gammon in creation with THREE fried eggs, chips and peas. Had I had any idea he was going to have three fried eggs with his lunch, I would never have given him one for his breakfast (with grilled bacon, tinned tomatoes and a toasted bread roll). Somehow, he managed to eat it all. Hollow legs that man has! I had a grilled steak. Also enormous. With chips, peas and mushrooms. Couldn't eat it all :( (But neither could The Builder finish it up for me, which is what usually happens!)

Anyway. We ambled off to the Peace Gardens where they were doing the Sheffield by the Sea Festival again. The Builder and I came last year, when he was recovering from his hernia operation. The weather wasn't as good this year. It's been very, very showery these last few days, clearing in the afternoons or evenings into fine, sunny spells. At least it didn't rain yesterday afternoon. And there's more space this year. St Paul's Place, at the back of the Peace Gardens, is now open. They had the donkey rides there. For donkeys there were. We went and stroked them. There were children playing on the sandy "beach" and in the fountain. The Police brass band was there. There was a man with a hurdy gurdy, people sat about in deck chairs, a Punch and Judy show. Ross met us there as, later, did Freyja's friend Alec. (I was bear-hugged in the Peace Gardens on Sunday afternoon by a young man with a shock of honey blond hair. Very exciting!) We did the Family Treasure hunt, inspecting plaques dotted about in various squares and places. We found the Fun fair and Ross won Freyja a bow and arrow set playing the bash the button with a mallet and make the bell ring game. We inspected the craft market and The Builder bought me a wicker basket with a metal handle. Will be excellent, amongst other things, for keeping the allotment potatoes in. They can sometimes be a bit small to put in the potato drawer -- the tiny ones fall through! I bought Freyja a green stone hippo for her collection. We encountered Freyja's friend Sam. And we all went and had a cup of tea. I hope Freyja enjoyed the Sunday component of her Birthday Season, for The Builder and I did. On Saturday she and some mates went to the Maize Maze in York. They were doing a Star Trek day and there were people ambling about dressed as Borg and as Star Fleet officers. Freyja and her pals fought the Borg -- and won! Hooray!

The Builder and I came home after our cup of tea. Our parking space ran out at 16:18 (we got back at 16:13) and there were things we needed to do back at home. We were supposed to be going to Tabitha's last pub quiz at the Bull's Head in Ranmoor. We didn't. Neither of us could really face heading back into Sheffield yet again. And I was absolutely knackered. Anyway, as I said -- there were things to be done. But I don't think we were missed. There was quite a crowd there, apparently. And they're having a Farewell to Sheffield bash there on Wednesday week. We will go to that.

On Saturday we had gone to the allotment. There is a Victoria plum tree on the next allotment which hangs over into ours. There is no one working the allotment itself (Charlie, who was working it, hasn't been seen for over 18 months, since his wife died) and it seemed a pity to waste the plums. I've cut them up and simmered them and they are now occupying 5 tubs in the freezer. We also picked the apples from our apple tree. They were a touch under-ripe but wasps, blackbirds and grubs have been a bit tempted by them. I've cut them up and stewed them. They are now occupying 4 tubs in the freezer. There are a load of damsons still to come (also on a tree on Charlie's allotment, but so heavily laden that they are hanging over my (now sadly neglected) herb bed. All in all, ignoring the damsons, I reckon we've eaten and/or frozen upward of £200 of fruit. It's been an amazing season for fruit. Not so good for vegetables. The potatoes didn't really set well. The runner beans are only now starting ever so slowly to produce, and the dwarf and chocolate beans are just now full of flowers. There are finally flowers on the zucchinis and the sweet corn looks as though we might get a bit from them as well. The beetroot, on the other hand, are magnificent!

Tabitha has worked her last shift at the Thresher in Ranmoor. Bit sad, really. She's been there practically for ever. Just recently it's become something of a family business, for Freyja and Ross have been working a few shifts there as well. They're both leaving too; Ross because he's moving to Cambridge with Tabitha and Gaz, and Freyja because she now has a full time, busy job and quite fancies some time off. Like weekends and evenings! And I am on the hunt for somewhere else to source my wine. Somewhere, that is, apart from Sainsbury who might do a good cask of Soave - but it's nice to buy the less standardised wines from time to time.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Weather Report

We have been having weather. Lots and lots of weather.

On Wednesday, when I left for work, the hills were covered in a light mist. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the cows and sheep were grazing. It was all very lovely. Kind of October-ish, but nevertheless lovely.

On Thursday, at the same time, it was grey and mirky and foggy. Had to put the car lights on! Cleared to a reasonable day with pockets of sunshine. Mind you, by 3.30 it was as dark outside the Adsetts Centre as it would have been at 3.30 in mid-December. The heavens opened. There were three claps of thunder. There was lots of rain. Then it went. By the time I left at 5.15 the sun was shining and everything felt nice and fresh and clean.

Yesterday, it was just starting to rain as I left. The rain became steadier. And had settled to a good kind of gardeners' rain by the time I got to the Botanical Gardens. Fortunately I had thought to throw into the car that little umbrella which Austin and Julia brought from Japan for me. Got to work more or less dry, apart from my knees which were very damp and chilly! By the time I went out with Clarissa at 1:00 the sun was shining and it had turned into a lovely day.

Had a text message from The Builder at 7:30 to say that he had arrived safely at work in Rampton in Lincolnshire, having had to drive through torrential rain and high winds. Investigated the weather bureau's website and found that The Builder was sat slap bang in the middle of a severe weather alert. So, it seemed was I Severely pleasant? The Builder says that their meterological excitements lasted most of the day. And the local news last evening reported quite severe weather and even flooding in loads of places around Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The Sheffield city centre was just lucky, I guess. Had an email from Barb later in the day to say that in Salisbury it was as dark as dark could be and that the rain looked as though it was going to be Noah-like. Fortunately it only alsted for half an hour or so, but quite lots of the UK was wet and breezy on and off on Friday.

The fish have been amusing lately. For some time, they've been hanging about by the edge of the pond, waiting for me to feed them, but have run away when I've actually got there. More recently, some of the braver ones have been staying put, until I dropped the food in, then they would back off a bit and everyone would wait for me to go away before they would pounce. This morning, 8 of the 10 fish were waiting, all 8 stayed put and all 8 started gobbling as the food hit the water. The other two swam in fairly promptly. So all 10 of them were there excitedly munching. Was cute!

I like working weekends. Can't start until 9:30 and there's virtually no traffic. Don't need to leave until nearly 9:00. Means I can stay in bed longer and drink tea and listen to the radio. A nice leisurely start to the day and I *still* get paid!

The Builder's van is being hard to get along with again. It needs its MOT this week. It's been booked into a local place. It's had a new windscreen fitted, for the other one was cracked and certainly wouldn't have passed. The Builder took it across this morning to be done. And it's too tall to fit into the garage :-( He's going to talk to Colin the Retired Mechanic and see if he has any suggestions. In the meantime he's gone to dig potatoes on the Hangingwater allotment and to pick beans.

So nothing really exciting has happened this week. I've achieved a number of useful things at work and a few useful things at home. Lindsey and Ian have acquired their flat in East Melbourne. The Builder managed to stay awake for the last two episodes of I Claudius and is a bit dismayed that he missed all the rest of them. I don't think he beleived, when I said it was full of sex, murder and mayhem, that it had quite as much sex, murder and mayhem in it as it does! And he missed some of the really kinky sex :-P I see that it is available in DVD format. I might buy it. I did buy the complete collection of Flanders and Swann yesterday. Roger had been playing me snippets of some of their songs yesterday morning. I was tempted -- and fell! I was given some Waterstone and HMV vouchers for my birthday (they can be used in either store) and have been waiting for something suitably frivolous to occur to me. Flanders and Swann is about as frivolous as you get. I am now the proud owner of the Gnu, the Hippopotamus, the London Omnibus, the slightly risque Madeira and loads of other things. Ironing music, perhaps. I can iron and sing along at the same time!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Mmmmm. It probably doesn't matter over much if I wander off to work and leave the back gate open. Matters even less now that The Builder has put a lock on his shed. But it perhaps wasn't all that wise to amble off and leave the back door unlocked as well! Just as well we live in what is more or less a sleepy village! But it's much less likely to happen now. Since Friday, when I did this, we have locked the front door more or less permanently and are routinely using the back door. And not locking the gate except for overnight. Once The Builder has put up the new letter box, we'll close down the front door. I want to put pot plants in the door space. A sort of tiny conservatory. I'm even thinking of buying a small orange tree to go in it!

We had quite a pleasant weekend. We were expecting people to lunch on Sunday. So, on Saturday we headed off to Chatsworth to lay in Sunday lunch supplies. No worries with the meat or veg. But I was looking for a nice, plain sponge to make trifle with. Chatsworth had loads of sponge cakes. They were all flavoured. Lemon drizzle, plum and coconut, raspberry and red currant. Not a plain cake to be seen. Right then. Off we go to Sheffield. The Builder needs new safety glasses (new government regulations, I think, requiring construction workers to wear safety specs on site). While he's sorting that out, I shall potter around in Waitrose. Where there were suitable cakes -- but they were full of e-numbers and strange, chemical sounding things that I couldn't pronounce and which I certainly wasn't going to eat. Hmm. A quick fly by the allotment where The Builder dug up a trug of potatoes and I gathered a small number of runner beans and some beetroot (beetroot doing remarkably well this year!). And so home, via Sainsbury in Chesterfield to continue the cake hunt and to lay in supplies of beer and wine (they tend to have good deals on the beer and a much better selection of wine than Waitrose, for some reason). No cake. This kind of buggers the trifle plan. But wait. How hard can it be to make a plain cake? Not hard at all.

The rest of the afternoon found me baking. I baked the plain cake. Coated it with home made raspberry jam, added allotment grown raspberries, sprinkled a healthy glass of sherry over it all, made a creme anglais style custard and poured it over, and decorated it all with more raspberries and whipped cream. Hmmm. Where to put it. No room in the fridge. Aha -- down in the cool room, on top of the beer. Then I made a chocolate cherry cake, using morello cherries from the allotment. And then I made a summer pudding, also made with fruit from the allotment. A good afternoon's work.

Sunday morning brought WEATHER. Lots of weather. We sat up in bed and drank tea and watched the wind and rain at play in the garden. Kind of cosy (if the wrong month for that sort of weather, really). But we must get up and get moving. Not only was the weather was starting to clear but there are people approaching! Taffa came on the train and The Builder collected her from Chesterfield. Gareth and Freyja were working so couldn't come. I roasted a chicken and a rather nice piece of topside. I made a broad bean and pea flan, based on a 17th century recipe that Chris Payne fed us with last January. We made an ENORMOUS platter of roasted vegetables, another platter of roasted vegetables and a large pot of purple rataouille (red cabbage and red onions turned everything purple!). Carol came, without Paul who was at their house on Harris. Gill and Peter came, with Claire and Alex. My work friend Linda came. Bea and Steve came later, after Steve's daughter's flight had finally left (this is at the time when airports are in almost total disarray following recent security alerts). We had some roast vegetables, some ratatouille and a little bit of flan left. Then they got stuck into the puddings. We had one piece of chocolate cake and some of the fruit from the summer pudding left. The trifle bowl was practically licked clean! It was a good afternoon. Most people left around 4, mooching on to other places in the area to visit friends they don't see all that often. Gareth came to collect Tabitha and eat his secretly saved dinner after he finished work. As I say, a good afternoon and evening.

I do enjoy having Sunday lunch parties. Although I do sometimes wonder if it might not be better to have them on a Saturday. I was strangely tired on Monday morning. Saw The Builder off on his way to work and retired back to bed with another cup of tea and my book. Was enjoying the book and was still a bit tired, so decided to take the train to work. Abandoned the remains of the tidying up to be dealt with later (although there wasn't too much; The Builder had done the bulk of it on Sunday evening). Ambled off to the bus stop. Bugger. Just missed the bus. No worries. There will be another one along shortly. Got to Chesterfield just as the Sheffield train pulled in. Bugger, the ticket machines are all broken. Join queue for the ticket office. Trot onto platform -- just as they closed the train doors. Bugger. Oh well. Never mind. There'll be another one along in -- in HOW MANY MINUTES?!?!?!?!?!? Forty?!?!?!?!?!?! Oh well. That'll get me in just after 09:30. That's all right. As it would have been, except that the 09:18 train to Liverpool Lime Street was delayed by 20 minutes. Sigh. Still. It made it quite a short day.

Last Friday, I called into the opticians to complain that I couldn't see through the near vision part of my varifocal glasses. If I want to read, I have to take them off. Renders them somewhat useless as varifocals, then. I've only had them a month and they've never been right. They decided that perhaps the prescription wasn't quite right (No! Really?) and booked me in for a retest. So I left work at 4 on Monday (I said it was a short day!) and went to have my eyes redone. Comprehensively redone. Most thorough eye test I think I've ever had, concentrating entirely on my near vision. The prescription was indeed wrong. Not that they said that. They said that my vision had changed slightly. I think they just made a mistake -- remember that the glasses haven't ever been particularly useful. They've taken them away to have new lenses put in. Just as well I came on public transport in the morning. I can see well enough to get home on a train and a bus. Wouldn't want to drive without my glasses though. Had to squint to read the station signs!

Clarissa has handed in her notice and told the Admissions Office that she is going. Who am I going to have lunch with come September?

A plumber has finally been to look at Niagara Falls next door. He's going to fix it tomorrow. Allegedly!

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Builder ambled out the other morning, ready to trundle off to Rampton, and found on his windscreen a note. A note that had been carefully enclosed in a plastic wallet. "Please do not park outside our house," said the note. "If you park your van outside our house then we can't park our car there and residents are entitled to park outside their own homes. This is a busy area for parking; please find somewhere else". Silly, silly people. The Builder has decided to park outside their house whenever he possibly can on Friday evenings. The van doesn't usually then get moved again until Monday. It seems, talking to Steve and Debbie next door, that it was these people who nagged the council to have double yellow lines put along a significant section of kerbing because people would park their cars and vans there (including outside our place, so we couldn't park there even if we wanted to). And used to harass Billy for parking his van on the street. (For some time I have been wondering just who Billy was. Turns out he was the chap who had the unoccupied place next door.) I wonder where they think people are going to park their vans? There are lots of vans parked along the roadside. It's a village with lots of people who work! (The complainers drive a large, shiny, black people carrier and he wears a suit and tie!). Richard knows someone who drives a traction engine. He says he'll get his pal to pop it on our road for a month or two. Actually, I quite fancy the idea of having a traction engine just up the road for me to admire!

Speaking of the house next door, last week, sometime, we noticed the sound of water rushing about. Sounded as it does when we have the outside tap on. Went to investigated. Nope. No water running anywhere in our house. Checked the house next door (Peered over fence!) Oops. Water running out of their outhouse. So, I rang the estate agent who is selling the house. Someone came out and turned the tap off as hard as it would go. Got the repossession people to send for a plumber.

Time passed. As it does!

The water started to trickle again. Then it trickled faster. And faster. And fasterandfasterandfaster. We investigated further. Oh dear. Water is positively cascading out of the outhouse. "It'll be those boys," muttered The Builder darkly. Seemed a bit harsh to me. After all, leaks do get worse, all on their own, without any help from anyone else. But no. The Builder got home yesterday, went to inspect the leak and found two boys in the garden next door, one of whom jumped the fence while the other one hid. I have rung the estate agent again today (as, apparently have several other people yesterday and today). He's going to get the repossession folks to send the plumber again. It seems that we and the house next door not only share a wall but also share pipes. The plumber couldn't turn the water off and do anything sensible when last he came because we were not there and you can't just go turning off people's water without permission. Unless you are the Water Board. And there is a crisis of some sort. Waiting for the plumber to ring to sort it all out. Hope s/he does soon -- our water pressure is starting to plummet. Anyway, it's a wicked waste of water. Not that I suppose 14 year olds are much concerned about wasting water when they can play with someone else's during a warm summer!

I've told the estate agent that kids are breaking through the fence as well. It's a repossessed property in the hands of the baillifs. People aren't supposed to be having water parties in the back yard. (Wowser? Me? What do you mean?)

On Wednesday, I went into work by public transport. Arrived in the Adsetts Centre. Stayed for half an hour then STORMED up Ecclesall Road for a team meeting, then STORMED back to the Adsetts Centre to do something else, then was on the desk at 1. Just before I went to lunch, Richard rang. Hadn't we organised a meeting that morning? Meeting? What meeti ..... Oops. Indeed we had. We were supposed to meet to go to the office of an academic who has recently retired and pack up his books (which he has donated to the Learning Centre -- I wasn't planning arbitrarily to steal them!). It was in my diary, but not in my electronic calendar. When Peter had asked on Tuesday if I was available for a sudden team meeting on Wednesday morning it was my electronic calendar I checked. Oops!!!!! We rescheduled for later in the afternoon. I had vastly underestimated the number of books and overestimated the size of the crates. Will need to organise some more crates!

In the evening, Roger drove Richard and me (Kate is away at her mother's house this week) to The Sidings and we had slow cooked beef stew, and wine, and we inspected the house and the gardens and ate chocolates, then they went away and I watched I Claudius and The Builder went to sleep and at 10 I talked to Tony on the Messenger, then to Matt (the s-i-l) on the Messenger and then we went to bed. Was a good day, even if it did involve a good deal of rushing about (including a hasty, mid-afternoon, sneaky trip to the Post Office to post a birthday present).

Lindsey sent me a text message pointing out that, under the present restrictions on hand luggage in planes, I would have to do without my heavily disguised, undercover suply of gin and tonic when next I fly. This is distressingly true. I contribute to a general message board elsewhere. It is heartening to see how many other people are having to make the same sacrifice!

Cattle-astrophe!!!!!!! Clarissa is leaving


Monday, August 07, 2006

It's been strange weather lately. More like autumn than mid-summer. Cool and damp underfoot in the mornings, cold and fresh in the evenings, most warm and occasionally sunny during the day. Yesterday we had a gloriously summery day. Today we are more or less back to autumn weather. I wonder whether this is an effect of climate change. I seem to recall autumn came early last year too. And the beginning of August is *very* early. Not that I really mind, I suppose. If you get a long autumn you also get more tomatoes and beans and corn and zucchinis and things.

As you know, I was working on Saturday. Reports of an IT Armageddon turn out to have been seriously exaggerated. I came in, armed with books and other old fashioned things, ready to wile away 7 very long, very dull hours. At 09:30, some IT heavies came ambling in. At around 10:30 they mooched over to the desk and muttered that, apart from library management systems (including the catalogue) everything else seemed to be back up and running. I amended the sign in the vestibule which said NO IT SERVICES to one which read NETWORK AT RISK. Not that it was, really. No one reported losing any work. Everything seemed entirely stable. My colleague and I managed to find, if not exact titles, then at least general subject areas. This was made all the easier when I remembered that *our* catalogue might have been out of action, but the public library catalogue wasn't. Used theirs, instead!

While I was slaving away over a copy of the Dewey Decimal Schedule, The Builder was, amongst other things, putting into place Phase One of the new allotment plan. He hired a brushcutter for three hours and slashed and slashed and chopped and hacked. The new allotment now looks as though someone has been making hay, very badly, on it! Didn't half wear him out, though. He was sound asleep while I was preparing dinner and had to be SHOOKEN awake to eat. I have photos. I'll put them on the web this evening. We were challenged as we walked down to the allotments by a woman in her driveway wanting to know if we were hikers. Nope. Were we on the allotments? Yup (though we weren't, cos we hadn't got there yet!). Oops, said she and apologised prettily. Didn't worry us. Good to know that someone's keeping an eye out!

Yesterday we seemed to do lots and lots. We washed and ironed and hoovered and cleaned and tidied and fixed tiles and put the smoke detector up and ran about and had breakfast in the garden. We went to Chatsworth for supplies. We went to B&Q for buckets and spray bottles and things. We ambled into Sheffield and visited my friend Kate (who lusts after the Hangingwater allotment) and went to the allotment so she could lust at first hand, and picked beetroot and the VERY LAST of the blackcurrants (HOORAY!!!!!!) and dug up dandelions and went home and drank wine and ate roast brisket with roasted vegetables and fell asleep and woke up and went to bed. And that was Sunday. Whoosh. Gone. Just like that!

My very most favourite pink Hawkshead cardigan is fraying :-( Not good enough. Only had it 3 or 4 years. Only worn it a zillion times. Do you think I should take it back and complain?

And so to the start of a new week. Wonder what exciting things it has in store.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You can go off some people

... you know. It's no wonder I'm dozing in my chair by half past ten.

Dozed off during the news last evening, as you do. Woke up, watched telly, dozed some more. Went to bed, around 11.

So far, so good.

Woke up at around 2, as The Builder leapt out of bed, clutching his leg. Cramp. Went back to sleep (me, not The Builder, though he did too).

Woke up just before 4 as The Builder lurched from the bed, once again clutching his leg. **HE** went back to sleep. I did not :-(

That's the second night in a row that he's done that at around 4. It's toooooooooooooooo early to be awake at that time!!!

Mind You, the World Service has some interesting programmes on at that time in the morning.

(I think it is the fault of the people he works for. He used to get really bad cramps, then a passing GP suggested he might be getting dehydrated during the day. I investigated and decided his water intake was absolutely minimal. Practically non-existent. So I took to sending a large container of water lightly flavoured with cordial with his daily food provisions. The cramps stopped, as he sipped his water throughout the day. On this job, in the secure hospital in Rampton, he's not allowed to take food or liquid onto the site and has to drink his water during his morning and lunchtime break. The result is that he is getting thirsty during the afternoon. And the night cramps have returned. Wonder if I could send a drinking flask strapped to his chest with a straw. Like astronauts' thingies)

The advantage of getting up at 05:30 is that I have time to potter in the mornings, given that I don't leave until 7, 7:15. This morning there were green finches on the bird feeder, blackbirds eating the meal worms, goldfinches darting about and something brown that I couldn't identify sat on the shed roof. Very cute. And I've suspended my blackcurrant and red wine mix in a cotton jelly bag hanging from a cupboard door. Hope it's still hanging when I get home this evening!!!

We seem to have lurched into August. Gosh!

Well now ...

... that was a pleasant weekend. It helped, mind you, that I worked on neither Saturday nor Sunday. The bank account won't enjoy this much, but I did!

So, Saturday morning found me on the allotment, while The Builder was in Sheffield getting his eyes tested and organising some safety glasses. And very pleasant it was there too. I got LOADS more raspberries and LOADS more blackcurrants and some potatoes and some tiny, tiny beetroots. There are more blackcurrants to come!! I begin to think you can have too many blackcurrants. I am very nearly beginning to think you can have too many raspberries. The potatoes, on the other hand, don't seem to be producing all that well. The potatoes themselves are fine, there just aren't very many of them.

Anyway. The van has been fixed. A Man delivered a new battery for it this morning and it seems to be breathing still. The Builder picked me up from the allotment and we trundled back though Tupton to pay the Man with the Battery and then we went to Bakewell, via a new (to us) route. The Builder needed thingies for his screw driver and there's a tool shop in Bakewell. While he was sorting that out, I joined the enoooooooooormous queue at the fish and chip shop, where they make some of the finest fish and chips in the world, then we went and sat on the wall by the river and ate them in the sunshine. And so to Chatsworth for some salady stuff from the farm shop and home. Where I processed blackcurrants. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... What to do with all these blackcurrants. I've made blackcurrant jelly, some blackcurrant syrup. Ive got punnets and punnets in the freezer. Consult recipe books. Hmmmm. Might try my hand at a form of cassis. There are blackcurrants steeping in a bottle of red wine in the larder. Must get some gin and brandy for the next stage. Now, what for dinner. Jacket potatoes with butter and tuna and a rather nice salad. And so to bed, after a nice, quiet, pleasant day (see, I said it was a pleasant weekend!)

Sunday dawned bright and shiny, though it had clearly rained quite hard sometime over night. Washing and ironing done, we ambled into Chesterfield to collect Tabitha from Macdonalds, where Gareth had dropped her. Back home to fortify her with toast, vegemite and cheese then off we went exploring.

First we went to Hardwick Hall, which Bess of Hardwick (redoubtable Elizabethan Lady) had had built after not-quite restoring her father's house next door. I quite like Hardwick Hall. It has a fantastic Long Gallery, lots of amazing tapestries, interesting bits of furniture. Plus, it's all under roof so if it rains (and rain was threatened) you can stay nice and dry. Tabitha wasn't quite as impressed. She prefers ruins. And Chatsworth. I think she thinks that Hardwick was built to demonstrate wealth (as it was), power (indeed) and bravura (absolutely). The Builder and I rather enjoy visiting, however. So, in order to accommodate Tabitha's ruin fixation, we went to look at the Hardwick Old Hall (the aforementioned not-quite restored father's house). That is substantially ruined (various generations of Cavendish, now the Duke of Devonshire, have scavenged it for things at Chatsworth. Bess' second husband, by whom she had her children, was a Cavendish. They seem to own half of Derbyshire -- and none, I think, of Devon!). But you can climb a tower to the roof level. Fantastic views.

Still not raining. So we went to Sutton Scarsdale where there is the most amazing 18th century country house -- but with only the walls standing ( Was very interesting. So too is Sutton Scarsdale itself. Here we are, out in what is formerly mining country and almost in the middle of nowhre, there is a hamlet which absolutely reeks of money. Very bizarre. Clouds threatening we made our way home, via Sainsbury in Chesterfield to pick up alcohol supplies.

While we were waiting for Gareth to arrive (he's landed a job in the Bull's Head in Ranmoor, just by asking for it!) Tabitha and I watched "Cheaper by the dozen", the original, not the more recent "remake". Was very cute. Then, the threatening clouds having gone away, I went out and lit the barbecue. Chatsworth does fantastic sausages; no salt or gristly bits in them, and I had lamb and mint, pork and apple, and beef and tomato snags at the ready. And chicken kebabs. And nice bread rolls. Tabitha assembled the salad and we all sat outside in the lovely evening light, munching and quaffing. Earlier in the day I had made summer pudding. The Builder and I had strolled up to the village shop in the morning and bought some white sliced bread for the summer pudding (and put hundreds of dead bottles into the recycling bins? Us? Nooooo; must have been someone who looked like us!) I made it with blackcurrants, raspberries and some redcurrant juice, and glazed it when I served it, with blackcurrant syrup. We had it after the barbecue with fresh cream and it was wonderful. Might have to do it again! Then Tabitha and Gareth took themselves off to the quiz in the Bull's Head and I went to sleep. And to bed.

It's been threatening rain all day in Sheffield. I wonder if we got any at home.

Oh. And I've broken yet another pedometer. Knocked it off my trouser waistband with my shopping bag this morning. It fell to the pavement with a mighty whack. And disintegrated :-(