Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tired (Yawn!)

Tired is what I am. Very, very tired. I'm already 12 hours up on what I should be on my timesheet this month, and there's another week to go!

It's the start of term. I've been teaching and lecturing and running workshops and facilitating tutorials.

I've been being happy and enthusiastic and cheerful and reassuring.

I've been showing people how to use databases and run effective searches and how to use the information that they find.

It's all very exhausting, all this enthusiasm and being nice to people!

Didn't help that the network collapsed spectacularly on Monday morning. Again! For the third time in a week. It took with it Library Management Services (including the catalogue and databases). It took with it the student record system, including enrolment (cute on the first day of the new academic year!). It took down financial services, accommodation services, well just about everything really. And the problem with shutting all these things down very abruptly (three times in a week!) is that they don't like it and get grumpy and unresponsive and it takes ages to sort it all out. Cue, in the library, lots of advisers rushing about trying to cobble together PowerPoint presentations from loads of old, not subject related, borrowed or stolen PowerPoint presentations from other people.

Fortunately, by the time I came in early on Tuesday, the catalogue and databases were there. I now have up-to-date, relevant, subject themed presentations Just In Case!

They took down everything on Tuesday evening between 4 and 4:30, to make repairs and back ups and things. Just as I was about to start a lecture. In the BIG lecture theatre. No worries. I have my carefully prepared presentation, Just In Case. Was a tiny bit disconcerting, however, just as I was about to start addressing two hundred or so bright eyed, enthusiastic first year Building Programme students, when a technician came in and whispered in my ear that there was the very slight possibility that we might lose all the power to the theatre as well as all the network connections. The thought of herding all these 18 year olds out of a large room lit with only emergency lighting was a tad daunting. Fortunately it didn’t come to that!

I was at Psalter Lane last weekend. I like doing weekends at Psalter Lane. It's reasonably quiet and relaxed, and the students are slightly fey and very arty and a touch hippy. Also, on Sunday you work from 1-8, so you get the morning off. We went into Chesterfield and bought a new printer which is also a fax machine and photocopier. Looks very fancy. Just have to get it installed and up and running now. Will do. Very soon!

IT was very, very quiet at Psalter, in the end. We usually open on weekends at that campus once term has actually started. This year we opened the weekend before (we have new managers in place, following the run or reorganisations and amalgamations that we’ve had over the past couple of years). Hardly worth it, really. I had FOUR questions on Sunday, and they all came between 7:05 and 7:15 and were asked by two people together who were just investigating the facilities. They paid me a very great deal of money to sit about and do nothing terribly useful.

So nothing really very interesting to report. Just wall to wall teaching sessions, interspersed with desk sessions. I *think* The Builder and Marlo recognise me when I drift into the house. At least, no one has yet challenged me about my presence there!

The house smelled beautifully autumnal this morning. I had an extra two hours at home before I needed to come in (working 10:00-21:00 today :( ), so I made some pea, ham and potato soup with some stock left over from boiling a ham last week. Then I stewed some plums and apples. And I lit a cinnamon scented candle. Was very hard to drag myself out at 09:00!

Hmm. I have some plums and apples in a pot in the office. I might wander in and have some surreptitious mouthfuls. It’s fairly quiet. No one will notice!

Things are likely to stay busy for the next little while. I shall send war reports from the bunker from time to time!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hither and Thither

The Builder was working last Saturday. Normal hours. On a Saturday :-(. This meant a cup of tea was delivered to my side at 05:30 and I got up at 05:45. On a Saturday :-( It’s just not right, getting up in the dark on a Saturday :-( Uncivilised, I call it!

So. Off he trundled into the sunrise at 06:15, leaving me at home to get on with loads of useful domestic things. Washing, ironing, tidying, cleaning, sorting … Oops. Look at the time. Time I was gone. Supposed to be meeting Freyja in Sheffield at 11.

We were meeting, somewhat after the event, to buy her 21st birthday present. She had decided that she would like a spending spree in Pinders, the art supply shop. Similar to what we did for her 18th birthday. She had a merry time pottering about looking at things and thinking and deciding. And settled upon an oil painting kit in a nice wooden box. And a gift bag, filled with lots of interesting bits and pieces. And two pens. An excellent choice!

Then we found a post office to post a letter, went to Game to buy a gift token for The Builder’s son’s birthday and then mooched into Café Latino for tea and toast. While we were there I had a call from The Builder to say that he was on his way home, having finished his task for the day. Oops! Look at the time. Again! I was parked in the Waitrose car park where there is a 2 hour limit. Dunno how tightly they patrol there. Abandon Freyja to her fate and hotfoot it back to the supermarket, dash in, buy nearly £100 worth of stuff, most of which is alcohol, leap into car, charge back to Tupton.

Where there was no sign of The Builder. Though he had clearly been about, for the mound of garden rubbish we had put on the “driveway” had gone and there were leaves and stuff floating about all over the place. He’s obviously gone to the Chesterfield tip. Time for a cup of tea for me and an admiring inspection of all the grog!

Right then. It’s 15:00. What shall we do for the rest of the day?

Well, we might as well go to Chatsworth. We are quite short of milk and bread and other useful things. And we could really do to go to the allotment. Haven’t been for ages. So into the car we hopped and off we took for the Chatsworth farm shop. Roger had been there last Sunday afternoon at around 3 and reported it to be chock-a-block. It does get very busy on Sunday afternoons. It’s why we go as it opens if we go on a Sunday. And, as it turns out, it gets quite busy on a Saturday too. Very, very busy. So busy that the queue for the car park had snaked out onto the street. Hmm. Blow that for a game of soldiers. I pulled around the queue and headed for Bakewell. Which wasn’t quite so crowded. Mind you, people tell me that Chatsworth is expensive (and it is, if you compare it to Asda or Tesco prices; less so if you compare it to Waitrose or Sainsbury). But it is nothing like as expensive as the Bakewell Farmers’ Market Shop. We would have got loads more for our £40 at Chatsworth. Having said that, the farmers’ market shop stuff is very good quality. But so is the stuff from Chatsworth. We’ll go earlier next time.

We got lots of stuff from the allotment too. Runner beans, dwarf beans, plums, beetroot, sweet corn. We’ve got two fruit bowls full of Richard’s apples as well. We’ll be eating well this coming week!

I’ve been to York. I got into the Adsetts Centre on Monday, mid-afternoon, to find Roger wanting to know if I wanted to join his team on their away day to visit the University of York library on Tuesday. One of his team couldn’t go for work reasons, another was off sick. I laughed. Has anyone seen my diary for this week and next? Opened it to show him. And found that by some happy chance Tuesday was empty apart from a desk shift. Peter said I could go. I found cover for the desk (thanks to Richard and Hilary from upstairs). CinderFrannie could go to the ball! And it was a very interesting day. We spent the morning with the University Librarian at York, who talked us through the rather complicated building project that they had just emerged from and then took us on a tour. I kept pondering, while she was with us, whether she really was the University Librarian. She was very pleasant, very generous with her time and spoke plain English! It was a fascinating visit. And it is always interesting to poke about in other people’s libraries.

The second library, after lunch, wasn’t quite so interesting. It was at St John’s College, which is mostly Further Education (TAFE level, for Aussie readers) with a few Higher Education Teaching courses added in. The building reminded me forcibly of a prison. A long corridor at the bottom, which could easily have been a recreation facility, with two levels of prison-style landings above, which could very easily have housed cells. It is true it was bright and light and filled with colour. But even so! The reading room itself was quite nice, but I’m sure the architect more usually designs correctional institutions!

We had lunch in the sunshine at St William’s College, a mediaeval building, now converted into offices for the cathedral and a restaurant for us. I had poached salmon salad and a white wine spritzer. We walked to St John’s along the city walls. We had afternoon tea and cake. Bea and I went to the post office afterwards to post Ian’s present (that’s Ian, The Builder’s son, not Ian, my brother-in-law; I may need to devise a code for all these people!!!!) and then we went to the station pub for a pint while waiting for the train back. The sun shone on us all day. I’m glad I went.

The sun has been shining quite a lot these past few days. As I was waiting for the bus on Tuesday there was a beautiful, delicate sunrise. There was this morning, again. It’s been warm and pleasant and lovely – if a bit windy sometimes. Leeds was beset by quite an interesting tornado late last week! It’s rained quite hard a night, sometimes, but the daytimes have been lovely. Almost a proper Indian summer. It’s beautifully warm and sunny today. I wonder if anyone would notice if I snuck out!!!!!

The weekend rota has appeared. I think I’m working almost everyday between now and Christmas. Odd, random days off for good behaviour! And my diary for next week looks as though a very drunken spider had fallen into an inkwell and then decided to wander about all over the page. The only way I’ve been able to make any sense of it has been to print out my electronic calendar – where at least it is all laid out in a linear manner! The start of First Semester is clearly upon us!

From March to Cambridge

Well, we’ve finally got Tabitha, Gareth and Ross moved from March to Cambridge, much to Tabitha’s great relief. I think she began to get seriously worried about the town when the local shopkeeper asked somewhat incredulously *why* they had moved there!

We had dragged ourselves very, very reluctantly from our beautiful, sunny, happy garden on Sunday morning, after I have fished out of the pond a concrete mermaid and The Builder had hoiked out a concrete duck. I just knew there was more rubbish in there. Every time I tried to move the pump outlet it was getting stuck. And Sunday morning was bright and sunny, and the pond was clear – and I could see the obstructions! A fantastic day for gardening and allotting it would have been. :-(

Anyway. Off we headed towards Newark, down a road that seemed quite direct and on which we had never travelled before. It was a very pretty road. There were piggies, not on the road, of course, but in the paddocks to either side. Then there was an obstruction! The road was blocked!!!!! A man patrolling the barricades told us to go back 4 miles to the Spread Eagle and turn right and follow the signs. Which we did. And again it was quite a pretty drive. But you might have thought they’d have put a sign up at the pub alerting you to the detour. Would have saved us 8 miles if they had!

Anyhow. We got to March in not too much time and stopped at Sainsbury for provisions. We had been having such a lovely time in our garden that we had completely failed to have breakfast. Can’t go on Removal Duty if you have got to the point where you are likely to munch the arms and legs of the removees!

The unit was very, very full. Full of stuff to be moved. Gulp. And so we packed the van. Full to the gunnels with heavy, big, bulky and space consuming things, packed around with squishy things. While the boys were dealing with the heavy stuff, Taffa and I strolled through the sunshine to the Co-op (Taffa had eventually found a shop, a pub and the basic necessities of life in her wanderings around) to buy drinks for us all. On the way back her phone rang. Gosh, said she. I wonder who could possibly be calling me from a Cambridge number on a Sunday afternoon. Can’t be a work related call. As it wasn’t. It was Peter, ringing to see how to was all going. I spoke to him too. But the second call she took was a work one. Offering her an interview on Friday for a job in the Fitzwilliam. Everyone keep their fingers and toes crossed for a successful interview. The Fitzwilliam would be a great place to work!

Ok, then. Off to Cambridge we go, in the van and the car. Their car, not our car, which was peacefully dozing in the sunshine in Tupton! They had taken their house sight unseen. They had seen the outside but not the inside, having been told initially that there were 30 people ahead of them in the Interested List. Then they had told the agent that they were looking for somewhere for 18-24 months and the agent started to pay greater attention. Then they were rung and told they could have the house. Then there was lots and lots of administrative dashing about, including them asking me, in a piece of fine irony, to be financial guarantor. Ironic because when we moved into The Mudhut, Richard had to stand as guarantor because Spencers wouldn’t take just my income into account and they weren’t convinced that The Builder’s income was sufficiently stable. This, mind you, despite the fact that Northern Rock lent me, base on my income alone, the money to buy The Sidings. So sufficiently solvent to buy a house on my own, apparently, but not to rent one. And now here I am, it seems, earning enough money to underwrite Tabitha and Gareth’s rental as well! Strange are the ways of estate agents.

Anyway. They seem to have well and truly fallen on their feet. The house is lovely. It has a lounge room, dining room and kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, and a lovely, light, sunny aspect, with a lovely, light, sunny garden. Not too far from a pub and two small supermarkets. Fish and chip shop and a Chinese also not too far away. And a 25 minute stroll along the bike paths into the Cambridge city centre. Tabitha and I tested that when we sent The Builder and Gareth back to collect the next, very full vanload of stuff from the house. We unpacked Wendy (their car) then went for a wander and an explore, and had ice cream (we didn’t tell the boys about that!) and sat in the garden and considered the recycling scheme. Then the van came back and we unpacked and unpacked and unpacked and unpacked. Then The Builder and I left and went home. And didn’t get lost getting back to the A14. And didn’t get lost at Newark, either, trying to find our way back (the road block had been lifted by the time we got there). But we didn’t have the stew I had made in advance for dinner. It was past 11 when we got home. We had scrambled eggs on toast instead. And the stew on Monday.

So it had been a very busy day, really. We were lucky with the weather. The weatherman had said that the morning mist and fog would lift everywhere except, perhaps, in East Anglia, and we had driven from glorious sunshine into murk and mire as we approached March. But the murk and mire had lifted as the afternoon went on until we had glorious sunshine in Cambridge too.

The Builder went immediately into a sound, deep sleep once he’d eaten his eggs and toast. I drank my wine before giving up, shaking him awake and retiring to bed with a sense of a job well done.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Weekend Report

We went to Whiteley this weekend, to visit Jeanette and Matthew, to inspect their new house and generally to potter about and catch up with family. We went down after work on Friday, had a surprisingly good run down and arrived at about 10:30

The house is a Georgian style new build on an estate just outside of Whiteley , which is about 15 km from Portsmouth. It's a nice house, 3 storeys with a little garden and in a very quiet area. Matt has been digging the garden. It was almost as overgrown as the allotment, by the look of the pictures!

Saturday dawned as a rather pleasant day. By the afternoon it was positively glorious. In fact, we've been having some truly lovely weather these last few days. It's been autumnal in the early mornings (quite foggy today!) and cool in the evenings, but the middle of the day has been warm and sunny and very pleasant indeed. Anyway. Back to Saturday. We ambled off to the Whiteley Outlet Shopping Centre and pottered about in the shops. There was a food market in the courtyard. I bought a little bay tree. And some coasters. A few stickers. A couple of cards. But no food!!! Truly, no food at all. Jeanette and Matt bought some sausages and burgers at one stall, but I bought nothing! Very restrained of me. I might have bought a vegetable box, but they didn't have any you could take away. They were perfectly happy for me to reserve one and pick it up at the end of the day, say around 5:00. But who knew where we might be by then, so I didn't. I think it's the first time in recorded history that I've been to a food market and not bought anything!!!

By 5:00, in fact, we were away down in and around Portsmouth. We took all of the weeds that Matt had dug up on a scenic drive to the tip. We abandoned the weeds at the tip. While we were waiting for it to be our turn, Rebecca teased all my hair up into spikes and made me look very scary! We drove up Port Down to admire the view (and very spectacular the view is) and the old forts. We went and played in B&Q, and finally managed to buy a 2 for the house. We went back to the house and drank wine and Matt and The Builder plotted what might happen in the newly dug garden. And then plotted some more. And perhaps a wee bit more. Then Matt got to barbecue our dinner. In the dark. By candlelight! They need a lamp like then one in our garden!

Sunday was a beautiful day. The Builder and I took ourselves off mid-morning to drive to Salisbury to collect his parents. They haven't seen Jeanette and Matthew's new house. Fortunately the weather was absolutely perfect. Mick, The Builder's dad, has unpleasant emphysema and can't go out if the weather is too hot, too cold or too humid. On Sunday morning it was ideal. We had roast chicken for lunch. With baby potatoes and savoy cabbage and broccoli and cauli and carrot and swede mash. And stuffing! (We had forgotten to buy the stuffing on Saturday, despite passing many supermarkets and grocery shops in our travels and despite regular mutual reminders. We had an apple strudel for dessert and then all repaired upstairs to the lounge room (kitchen dining/spare room, cloakroom on ground floor, lounge and bedroom on second, two bedrooms, a bathroom and an en suite on the third) for as bit until we drove The Builder's parents home again. It was a lovely weekend. And very nice to be able to take Gwen and Mick to visit Jeanette, Matthew and Rebecca.

And so home. Trundle, trundle, trundle. Up the Fosse Way. For reasons best known to himself, The Builder randomly decided to turn off the Fosse Way and head towards the M42. NO real problem. You can get to our place that way, it's just not quite as direct as straight up the Fosse Way to Leicester and onto the M1. And the M42 tends to be a bit on the busy side. But no worries. We got to the M1 eventually. And ground immediately to a complete halt. There were 6 miles of stationary traffic! Hmm. We inched our way ever so slowly to the next exit and came off. No worries. We'll head down this here A50 until we get to the A38 which will also take us straight home. AS it would have done. Except that the exit onto the A38 was closed :( Back we tracked along the A50 and headed up through Derby, eventually finding the A38 and heading home. Got there about 9:00, having left Salisbury at 5. So not too bad a run then, despite the occasional hold up and the standstill on the M1.

When we had left on Friday evening, we had had a long discussion about whether to lock the cat in the house. Eventually we decided not to, and left the cat flap open. We got back – and there was no sign of the cat anywhere. He’d eaten some but not all of his wet food. He hadn’t touched his biscuits. He’d used his litter tray but only once. Gloom. We headed out hunting, torch in paw. No sign. Bigger gloom. We’ve lost the cat. Aaaargh! I’ll be in awful trouble. We went to bed, catless, but leaving the dining room window open. And lo, when we woke up, the cat was asleep on his cushion. He'd scoffed all the food I'd put out at bedtime. He then scoffed all his breakfast. Then he went to sleep on our bed and didn't even move when I straightened the doone. Now I come to think about it, I have seen the cat going out through the cat flap, if somewhat gingerly, but I have only ever seen him come back in through it if I have been stood on the inside shaking a box of cat treats. It looks as though he had been outside all weekend. The Builder thinks that he might be finding it difficult to get back in because it’s quite a step up from the ground to the cat flap. Come to that, it’s quite a step up for me if my knee is playing up. The Builder thinks he might make a step by the back door. But at least we know that the cat knows where he lives!

We had the most spectacular thunderstorm last night. Sheet lightning that lit up the sky like daylight.

I have to do a course!!!!! It starts in ten minutes. Three days this week, then half a day a week throughout this academic year. Post Grad Certificate in Teaching and Learning. Gulp! Qualifies me to be a University Lecturer, should I be minded. Off I go!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Builder isn't broken. Hooray! I was beginning to think he might be, though. He woke up on Tuesday morning, went down to get the tea and came back up again very, very gingerly, carrying both mugs in one hand. His left arm wouldn't work! He was very stiff all over. Quite obviously couldn't go to work. So I took him to the Chesterfield hospital on my way back to work after all those days off.

It's a bit of a worry that I know how to get to the Chesterfield Hospital. I still can't drive confidently to the Northern General in Sheffield!

Anyway, after a long, long wait, an xray and general attention, it appears that he is not broken, chipped or even cracked. Just very, very bruised. And stiff.

He went back to work on Wednesday, you will be amazed to learn. A health and safety bod came to inspect the scaffolding (which, it seems, belongs to the electricians). Inside the wheels there are three prongs, which fan out when the wheels are locked shut. Inside the prongs there is supposed to be a widget. There was no widget in the wheel which randomly sprang off. Just some gaffer tape. Gaffer tape does not work!!!!

Anyway. He's more or less all right, though his arm does hurt horribly.

Marlo has a cat flap. The Builder put it in yesterday. Marlo goes in and out through it -- when there are treats on the other side of the flap. Otherwise he seems to sit and look at it. No doubt he will get the hang of it (he may already have got the hang of it; he was inside the cat flap when I came out this morning. If he wanted to go out, that was the only means of egress!)

It's been a beautiful day today. Cold and almost frosty and shiny and bright this morning. Absolutely glorious at lunchtime when I located from Collegiate to Psalter Lane. Fabulously autumnal. Was chilly last evening. I put the heating on! Though I am not sure I have entirely worked it out. It took some time to get all the relevant radiators to warm up properly. There's a heated towel rail in the bathroom!!

Ordinarily, I leave for work around 7, 7:15. It takes half an hour to drive to Collegiate crescent. Yesterday I left at 7:40, today 7:45. It takes an hour. I think leaving between 7 and 7:15 is the way to go. It's quite pleasant sitting in the car listening to Today on Radio 4 -- but it's an awful waste of time and fuel.

I had an email today from Uncle Fred the ex-landlord at the flat. Well, from his wife. She thanked us for leaving the flat in such a clean and tidy state. Must tell the cleaning elves (Ross, who cleaned without ceasing for 24 hours, and Freyja, who cleaned until she had to go home to bed because she was working on Monday). And -- they've got my bond money!!!!!! I had assumed that it would have long disappeared with one of the many previous landlords, some of whom were not as, um, efficient as they might have been! But no. It's there and she's going to send me a cheque. We've also had a cheque back from Spencers, the Mudhut agents. They have convinced Young Mr Ross that he should perhaps pay for some of the clearing out of rubbish at the Mudhut himself (Nearly all of the rubbish was, after all, his!). This time the cheque is for a more sensible amount. I have put it in the bank.

I have had my last ever work lunch with Clarissa. She and I met yesterday with Jane Thompson, who was also in Admissions with us but is now in Faculty Admin. We went to Cafe Azure in the Millennium Gallery. Today is her last day. In fact, given that it's after 4, I assume she's gorn. But I don't suppose that lunch meetings will have entirely stopped. In fact, she's on holiday next week. I think it very likely we will meet one day then for lunch. Just not an At Work one.

Nearly time to go home. It's ever so quiet in here today. At one point I wandered around the library to see if we had any students in at all. We had TWO. One for me and one for the library assistant. Psalter Lane is never absolutely frantic, but it's not normally quite this dead.

I must say, I do enjoy working four day weeks. They seem so very, very short. Hardly seems any time since last weekend at all. Mind you, I'm hoping that this coming weekend might be ever so slightly less manic. Not that it will involve no driving at all. We're going to Whitely, near Portsmouth to visit Jeanette, Matthew and Rebecca. But at least we won't have to drive up and down and up and down and carry lots of things. Or I hope not, anyway. I'm told there might be a food fair.

Had my planning appraisal this morning. Peter says that he couldn't have managed without me this last year. Strange man!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Monday Part II

The problem with trying to write up nearly a week all at once is that you forget things.

I forgot the Farewell to Taffa, Gaz and Ross at the Bull’s Head last Wednesday. The Builder and I had ambled around to the flat after he got home from work. I had a tea set to pack up. Margaret and Jack left it to me; it got moved into the sideboard in the flat whereupon I completely forgot about it. Can’t leave it there if everyone is decamping, though! And now the tea set is packed, boxed and loitering in our lounge room. Really must do something sensible about it.

Ross cooked us all roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and lots of veg.

Then we all ambled up to the Bull’s Head. There were loads of people there. Freyja turned up. Gareth’s mother came. So did his father. And his sister with her partner and his nephew. Ginger Rich was there, so was Rob. John Griffiths was there. Dave from the shop came. Kath and Mandy attended. Bob and Marcia also turned up. There were loads of people there. It was like the last ten years completely revisited. The Builder and I didn’t stay for long, just a pint each. The Builder is still getting up at half past five and we are getting quite sleepy in the evenings. But still, it was good to be there. Might well be the last time I go to the Bull’s Head and it’s been a part of my life, in an occasional way, for nearly a decade.

I’ve had a very productive day today. I’ve been to the flat and collected the garden pots, some odd bits and pieces, the vacuum cleaner, a step ladder, generally filled the car up. I went to the allotment and picked some runner beans, a few dwarf beans and some beetroot. Won’t be very many weeks before the sweet corn is ready. I called in to the hairdresser to see if I could make an appointment for during the week. There were no suitable ones. Then Lesley (my preferred hairdresser) said: "Can you stay now? I’ve just had a cancellation". So I’ve had my hair cut. I’ve been into town and collected The Builder’s safety glasses. Just as well they’re ready. Not only does he need them for work, but he quite royally snapped his reading glasses in half yesterday when he and I were trying to unload the van around the washing machine. His spare pair will do, but they’re not ideal. I’ve been to the supermarket, then to another one. I’ve filled the car (diesel was 93p at Sainsbury; quite remarkably cheap. Even cheaper for me – I had a 5p per litre off voucher :-) ).

And so home. Because there was so much stuff to get out of the car, I parked in the ‘driveway’. It’s a very, very tight squeeze. There is *just* enough room to get the car in between the edge of the wall and step on one side and the edge of the wall and a rusty telegraph pole on the other. Just! Then you have to edge around the rockery wall, which I can’t see from the driver’s side. Plus, of course, you have to stop before you hit the wall between us and next door. I parked it perfectly. I shall never do it that well again. And I’m buggered if I know how I’m going to get it out. I think I might have to try at around 05:30 when there is absolutely no traffic at all!!!

The cat seems to have satisfied his curiosity about Outside the Side Gate. Since I got back he’s been following me about like a little dog. He helped me unpack the car. He helped me do some weeding. He helped me do some pruning and some planting. He’s helped me do some tidying and a spot of watering. And shown no interest at all in wandering off. I assume his interest in the outside world will come back but it was rather nice having a companion in the garden.

The Builder has fallen backwards off some scaffolding and broken it! He was sent home early in disgrace. Well, no, not really in disgrace. It seems that a wheel broke off the scaffolding and it tipped over backwards, then all fell apart, pinning The Builder’s leg underneath it. Alarm! But I don’t think he’s very much damaged. He’s got a very splendid bruise on his leg. He has a grazed chin. His arms are grazed. One arm hurts quite a lot. He looks a bit grey. But he says he feels all right – apart from the hurting arm. Could have been worse. Much worse. But if any more scaffolding collapses underneath him, the building firm at Rampton will have ME to deal with!!!!!

Ross went to the Proms on Saturday, to hear the Berlin Philharmonic, one of his life’s ambitions. Yesterday there was a small fire in the Albert Hall which resulted in the cancellation of the scheduled Prom concerts. They’re back on today. But it did make me think of one of Ross’ other life ambitions, years and years ago, when he wanted to see one of Wagner’s operas (might it have been Tristan?) which tended to be a bit hexed. He made a couple of attempts to see it and people got sick or various catastrophes occurred. It was ages before he did achieve that ambition. If it was Tristan, we eventually saw it at the Festival in Adelaide. At least his ambition to see the Berlin Phil was not thwarted. Just! Since then he (and Freyja) have been cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning. Freyja eventually had to stop. She had to go to work today. Ross was still at it when I finally left the flat at lunch time today.

And so we are all gone. For the first time in nearly ten years there are no Hyde-Gillards in Ranmoor/Nether Green. Apart from a 5 week break when I went to Gill and Peter and Tabitha went to Paul’s and Ross, Austin and Freyja went back to Ballarat, we’ve been there since I arrived in December 1996. There’s been at least one of us in the flat since February 1998. And Tabitha has been in Sheffield since January 1994. It’s a bit sad, really. And just a touch ironic. The only one who never really wanted to come to Sheffield but was brought anyway, is the only one who still lives there!

Tabitha reports that she has found a co-op in the not-quite-in-March estate. Seems that the little old ladies are not entirely milk-less and bread-less after all.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bitz and Pieces

I have this past week had one of the very best bacon sandwiches I have ever eaten – and one of the very, very worst.

The best was at Hunter’s Bar, when I took Marlo in for his little operation last Wednesday. I dropped him off at the vet, was told to come back around half past three and decided I might as well go home. But first, a small spot of breakfast. I pondered going to Taste or to Caffé Uno but decided that I rather fancied a sandwich and a potter about the shops. So I went into the butcher/sandwich man on Sharrowvale Road by the roundabout, where there were work people hoofing into large sandwiches. Often a good sign. A bacon, egg and tomato roll. Was absolutely fantastic. Lovely bacon, beautifully cooked egg, tasty tomato. Yum! Had a lovely potter about window shopping while I finished my sandwich and went into the pet supply shop and bought Marlo a scratching post in the hope he can be dissuaded from scratching the chairs. So far he has loftily ignored it!

And the worst? Was at the Baker’s Oven in March, in Cambridgeshire. Quite how anyone can take a bacon, cheese and tomato toastie and quite so comprehensively ruin it is a mystery to me. But it was disgusting. Absolutely horrible. Almost inedible. The bacon tasted of smoky bacon flavour. The cheese was fatty and foul. I barely noticed the tomato. And fat positively dripped from it. I only ate half of it. The Builder had the other half and agreed that it was revolting. Tabitha and Gareth had equally rank pasties (Tabitha took one bite and refused to eat anymore. I had a tiny nibble and could quite see why!), and bacon toasties. The Builder had a jacket potato with beans. He says the beans were OK! Baker’s Oven is a chain . We will assume they have centrally prepared food. Avoid! Do not go into a Baker’s Oven unless you want to emerge with severe indigestion. Go to Greggs (although there isn’t one in March, that we could find). Or go hunting for a proper café or coffee shop. There’s bound to be one somewhere. As there is in March, if you walk beyond the Baker’s Oven.

March is a funny place. It’s sat out in the middle of the fens and looks for all the world as though it really wants to be a seaside town, though it is quite a considerable distance from the sea. It’s a reasonable size but is lacking in something. Atmosphere, perhaps. You could see that it might be somewhat bleak in winter. It is certainly windswept! Tabitha and Gareth are staying in a bungalow which belonged to the late mother in law of one of Gareth’s new colleagues, while they wait for their actual rented house to become available in Cambridge. The bungalow is on an estate which is maze-like in its design. We didn’t see a single shop, though Tabitha says her Cambridgeshire A-Z reports a Post Office not all that far away. Perhaps there are shops there! Seems a bit cruel, though, to stash loads of little old ladies in the middle of this maze, miles from the nearest proper shops!

It was quite a chaotic move, in the end. I don’t think anyone quite realised how much junk we had managed to accumulate over the years. Though I take no responsibility for the enormous pile of magazines. I am a vigorous magazine weeder and never let them pile up like that. We ended up on Sunday filling the van with junk and The Builder and Gareth took it all to the tip. We also, I think, had all seriously underestimated the amount of stuff there was in the flat. It took two van loads (and it is not a little van!) plus four car loads (we pressed Ginger Rich and Rob into service on Sunday afternoon, and T and G made two trips) to clear it all. Plus there is a residue of garden pots and a few bits and pieces which I’ll go and collect later this morning. Quite how we’ve crammed it all into the bungalow (which is furnished anyway) is a miracle. And how it’s all going to be shifted from there to the new house (when it’s available!) is a bridge which has yet even to be thought about, let alone crossed. We, alas, are not available next weekend. We are going to a food festival in Jeanette and Matthew’s new village.

I had learned my lesson from Saturday, however. We faced the Sunday move with a home prepared picnic: bacon sandwiches for breakfast, home roasted gammon, salad, cake for lunch, and Waitrose pizza and salad for dinner when we all finally got home. A vast improvement on Saturday’s excursion into the Baker’s Oven! Though I hadn’t anticipated still being at the flat for lunch so didn’t have much that Freyja could eat. I had thought to make her a cheese and olive breakfast roll, however.

I’ve had quite a good week off. The Cat has had his operation, so there will be no more mini-Marlos. I’ve been out exploring. I’ve found the shop in Old Tupton (which is a misnomer if ever there was one – it seems to be almost entirely made up of new housing estates!) and in Wingerworth. Mind you, you would think, given the size of Wingerworth, that it would merit more than a Spar, a hairdresser and a Chinese takeaway. It is possible that I haven’t properly investigated. I’ve driven around North Wingfield, Grassmoor, and down towards the Motorway. I am slowly beginning to find my way around the local area. I’ve baked and cooked, cleaned and washed, tidied and ironed. I haven’t actually done any of the things I was going to do, like put the rest of the pictures up, sort out the paperwork in the spare room, sort out then spare room generally – but it’s been quite productive and perhaps a little bit relaxing!

The Builder and I came back from March by a different route on Sunday evening. There’s only so many times I can bear to do the A1/A47/A141 in a weekend. We headed back across the fens along the A17. It was a lovely, if somewhat slow drive (once you get behind a bus, there’s no overtaking it, especially not in the van). And we were rewarded by the most glorious sunset. Might have been a serious strain on the eyes, but it was spectacularly beautiful. There was a lovely sunrise this morning, too. Mackerel like red clouds in the east at around 6:00.

We headed from the A1 to Chesterfield via Tuxford and Edwinstowe on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve not been to Tuxford before. It’s very pretty! Might go and have a proper poke about one day. Mind you, there’s no need for us to come anywhere near that far north on the way back from Cambridge. There’s a perfectly good road runs up from Newark that would cut lots and lots of miles from the journey!

I let the cat out unsupervised this morning. He had a brief investigation of the herb bed, then took off up the road. He’s been desperate to investigate up there ever since we first let him out under supervision. We had hoped to confine him to the garden for a bit, but he’s been obsessed with going to play with the traffic. The Builder boarded up the bottom of the gate. He tried to climb out through the top. I boarded that up and blocked the middle with string. He went over next door’s fence and out through their gate only to be grabbed by me, after I had hurtled out and thrown myself upon him. Fortunately, their dog was away on his holidays. Both dog and cat remain supremely innocent of the other’s existence. For the moment! Today I decided that we really must bite the bullet and let him out. As predicted, he took off up the road and disappeared. That was at half past six. Oops! Do hope I haven’t lost him! He ambled back in at about half past seven. So that’s OK then. I’ve shut him in now. I’m hoping to head into Nether Green to collect the rest of the stuff from the flat at about nine o’clock and he can’t get back in if I lock the door. The Builder is going to put in a cat flap. He’s never had one of those before (the cat, not The Builder!).

Let’s have breakfast. Brewed coffee and crumpets with lemon curd?