Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Pleasant Sunday Off

And I did enjoy it a great deal. It was a good Sunday. A really good Sunday. Nice and restful but lots of activity. A splendid springboard into so many days at work in a row.

We’ve got the builders in next door. You may remember that the owner of the house when we moved in had done a bunk several months before we arrived. One consequence of this was that he left loads of debts, including many pounds owing for the electricity and gas and phone. This means that it is not proving easy for the new developer (Is it us, do you think, that has caused the poor house to have so many owners since we moved in?!?!?!?) to get the electricity connected. It will be done, of course, but will take time. In the meantime, the bods next door are running an extension cable through our letter box and using our supply. We are assured we will be paid for it! This wouldn’t have been a problem, apart from the day when the not entirely satisfactory extension cord burnt itself out and, mercifully, tripped our trip switch. Except that the builders appear at odd times of the day. And they sound as though they are trying to chisel a tunnel through our walls!!!! (We assume they are removing plaster.) Fortunately on Sunday they didn’t come until close to lunchtime so did not disturb the morning peace.

It was a lovely morning. Sunny, mild for February, not raining. I decided to make the most of the opportunity to go outside and start tidying up the garden. Moved the water butts, which were lying lazily about, down to the back fence. I had thought to do something useful like digging or sorting or planting, but decided instead to shift the pile of grass turfs The Builder had left in a heap when he dug the fruit beds. Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Getting tired! Backwards and forwards, backwards and forw …… Aha! The wheelbarrow is free. Fill the wheelbarrow two or three times. Much easier on the back! I now have a lovely pile of properly stacked turfs, covered with manure and grass clippings, sat where the chook run will one day be. By the time the chook run eventually arrives, it should be lovely soil!!!!!!!

Time for a quick shower and a change out of the very muddy gardening kit. And off we headed to Chatsworth in search of provisions. As we went, we discussed where to have lunch. And thought as we approached the little village of Beeley that we had oft times thought we should stop and inspect the pub. So we did. It’s an old building, with a modern annex with large glass windows which overlook the stream. I had a lovely glass of merlot and a nice plate of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, although the vegetables tasted curiously of nothing. It was really quite odd. They were properly cooked and everything. Tasted as if they were in dire need of salt, though I never cook with salt and have never yet managed to render vegetables quite so bland. Still. Perhaps it was just a bad vegetable day. The starters which were being brought out looked fantastic and the other diners seemed chirpy enough. We’ll go back and check it out again. They have a lunch and a dinner menu and we pass through quite often.

And that’s what we always do. Pass through. So today we lingered and went for a wander about. It’s a little village on a loop road, more or less. It’s part of the Chatsworth Estate and is really lovely. Fantastic houses, lovely gardens. There was a small field with two little goats in it, and another with a much bigger goat. There were ducks and chickens and horses. It felt like a nice place to live. Certainly the people who were in their gardens and pottering about were friendly. The stream has pictures dotted along the bank of the wildlife you might expect to find. Enjoyed poking about there. Must come back when I am reunited with my walking boots. There were paths and things to explore a-plenty, but it was all a bit muddy for someone who was in her office shoes!

So to Chatsworth for the provisions. The car park was chockers; people were queuing for the restaurant rather than cluttering up the shop (thank goodness we didn’t decide to eat there!) so we were provisioned quite quickly. Then we went back by another route, passing by the Wingerworth Garden Centre in search of some lavender (a week too early). We ambled off to Dunston Hall Garden Centre where we found other things but no proper lavender, only a dwarf one. I bought it anyway. Will go hunting for lavender another day. And so home and back out into the garden, labouring away until the light failed and we went inside for a pleasant evening lazing about.

Bacon, eggs, tomato and mushrooms on toast for tea. A last hoorah for red meat for me now, until Easter Sunday.

Has been quite a pleasant day today too. A nice morning taken slowly. More time out in the garden. A supervisory visit to the allotment. General pottering about, and so into work. Been busy since. An unusually busy desk shift this evening. Normally this is something of a graveyard shift.

The Builder has been and closed down the Hangingwater allotment. He’s cleared the shed of everything we want and picked the last of the kale. No reason now to go back, unless to do a quick tidy of the stuff we’ve left in the shed and a quick hoe of the beds before we formally hand it back on the 31st March. But he tells me someone has been clearing trees out of the allotments and has taken down the oak tree that was growing on mine. Was there when I got there and wasn’t doing any harm. Poor oak tree. I shall grow another one from an acorn in the autumn. And I shall plant it somewhere in our garden. No allotment official will be able to reach it there!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Allotment and Kitchen Garden/Orchard

The Builder has put in two beds and laid one path on the allotment. I have planted shallots in the first bed. A bit early to plan the onions yet.

This is more or less how the kitchen garden and orchard look at the moment. I haven't put in the rubbish! I've put the chook shed (putative)!!) in for reference

A lazy Saturday at Psalter Lane

I’m back at Psalter Lane today, one year and one week since the Saturday I started the Blog. Once again it is a lovely, almost spring-like day. One again there is a dearth of students. I’ve had 2 queries since 10:00, and one of those was an in-passing-on-the-stairs question. You do wonder why they keep this place open at weekends. It must cost an absolute fortune for not much return. I have done the bit of “real” work I brought with me to do. I have drawn a plan of the allotment and the kitchen garden and orchard. I am resisting the temptation to read my guide book to Morocco. But I fear it’s going to be a long 2 and a bit hours before I can go home!

The Internet went down at our place during the week :-( Got home one evening to find that I had no IP address :-( Though I’m sure I do, really. Didn’t fret very much. Assumed it was a problem at their end and it would come back by the following day. Didn’t :-( Reset absolutely everything. No help. It was a Wednesday so I rang Tony and Stella instead of chatting on the messenger, then decided I simply didn’t have the strength to ring Orange that evening and rang Lindsey instead. Not that the Orange people are anything other than very pleasant. They’re lovely. Their call centre is in Scotland somewhere. But whenever I ring with a problem they get half way through doing something then get cut off. So I ring back, get someone else, explain it all over again, they start doing whatever it was again – and get cut off :-( And so it goes on until eventually I manage to stay on the line long enough for them to fix it, or I figure out what the end process was likely to have been and do it myself.

I got up on Thursday morning and decided that I simply had to do something about this. Turned the laptop on to remind myself what the error message was. Waited patiently for it to appear. No error message. Looked more closely and saw that the laptop and the ISP were communicating perfectly happily. Go figure; I dunno. It was a problem at our end. Orange were reporting no problems and other people I know who live nearby were having no trouble. A mystery!

Otherwise, there is nothing much to report. There is a nasty back, arm, shoulder, chest and throat pain virus doing the rounds which has pole axed many people but which I’ve only had in a mild form. The Builder has buggered his back but is slowly recovering (I think it’s a cunning ploy to avoid the digging project and the hoovering while I am slaving over a hot, empty library!). It’s been a quiet, uneventful week.

It’s The Builder’s 65th birthday on Easter Monday. This renders him eligible to draw his old aged pension and put his feet up. He is, of course, not allowed to do any such thing, but he could as far as the government is concerned. If anyone wishes to join us for party food and cake after 2pm on April 9th, you’d be very welcome. Just let me know you’re coming so I can bake a party pie for you!

I have been plotting a possible train and ferry holiday for summer 2008, taking in Paris, Madrid, Tangier and Marrakech. Tabitha rang to see when we were thinking of going. May, probably. Why? She wanted me to go to Italy for a couple of days or so in July, 2008. I like Italy. Any particular couple of days, or can I pick them at random? No, said she. She didn’t yet know which couple of days but she and Gaz were planning to get married there in July 2008 and thought The Builder and I might like to join a small, select group of people who would be attending. Wedding, camping (Caravanning for me? Please?) and then a couple of days mooching around ruins and museums. Sounds good to me. We’ll be there. Will there be pizza?

I've got tomorrow off. Hooray. It's my last day off until we leave for the Broads on March 19th. I shall have to enjoy it a great deal!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The story of a country mouse

So. This here mouse wot Marlo introduced into the household. It had vanished. Which is hardly surprising, when you think of it. One poor little wood mouse up against a playful cat and a stomping Builder. You can see its point of view.

Anyway. The Builder spent the early part of the evening looking for it. He shifted the freezer. No mouse. He looked in the gubbingses at the back of the freezer. No mouse. He searched in the shopping bags which are living in the dining room at the moment. No mouse. Nor was there a mouse down the back of the radiator, or in the cat's cardboard box, nor in the magazine rack. Nowhere was there a mouse.

I forgot about it and ambled off to make a truly magnificent shepherd's pie for dinner. But we kept the doors shut, just in case.

Some time later, Marlo leapt abruptly off The Builder's lap and shot towards the laptop cover, which I had put down beside my chair, next to the wall. Aha! a tail. Oops. The tail has gone. Marlo shot after it and baled the mouse up against the door into the lounge room. Good. He's got it. But no! Bugger. The door wasn't properly closed and the mouse has s q u e e z e d through and is now at large in the lounge room, and thus the rest of the house.

In we all dashed. There it is - behind the drinks cabinet. Marlo leapt upon it. Grabbed it - and started playing with it. Sigh! The mouse escaped. Naturally! It ran to the "porch" by the front door which I have filled with plants. Marlo, in the meantime, is hunting for it around the drinks cabinet and simply could not be persuaded that it had moved to the door. The Builder began moving plants backwards and forwards, the mouse kept running up and down by the door. jumped into a plant basket. The Builder grabbed the basket to take it out, but the mouse jumped out again. Marlo espied it (largely because I had practically thrust his nose on it!). Grabbed it. Threw it up in the air and began to throw it about. It ran for cover - oh no; up the stairs!!!!!!!!! Very profoundly do not want it loose up in the bedrooms. The Builder leapt up the stairs, followed by Marlo who baled it up against a step and patted at it with his paws. The Builder prepared to grab it with his bare hand. I tossed a pair of knickers, fortuitously drying on the radiator (Shh! Don't tell anyone!) towards The Builder who grabbed the poor little mouse with them and took it outside and threw it into the herb bed.

So that was that. Such excitement on a Monday evening! Quite wore Marlo out. After he got fed up of looking for it in the lounge room he rejoined us in the dining room (doors now ajar again) and fell into a deep and profound sleep!!

The Vixen is really poorly sick. At one point yesterday the mechanics were considering whether it was worth repairing her. Poor Vixen. You can't write her off. She's only 18 months old. We haven't even paid for her yet. Fortunately, they decided that there was nothing wrong with the suspension or the chassis. She merely needs (are you ready?): 1 driver side wing; 1 driver side headlight; 1 front bumper; 1 underskirt; 1 radiator; 1 radiator feeder bottle; 1 windscreen bottle. Quite how you can do that much damage skidding into a parked car is a complete mystery to me. He must have been going at quite a lick when he came around that corner. Should have known better. He's not a boy, after all! Around a fortnight before we can have her back. All going to plan!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy First Birthday

The Blog is one! Who'd have thought it. It's a whole year since I started it on a whimsy, one long, dreary, deathly Saturday afternoon at Psalter Lane. I didn't really expect to maintain it much beyond a week. I didn't at all expect it to gain a readership. But there you go. And here it still is! Hapoy birthday to The Blog

I forgot to tell you in the Salisbury blog. We were walking back along the canal to the supermarket car park from the Salisbury city centre on Saturday morning. We had just passed under the railway bridge when we heard a distinctive train whistle. We both stopped and turned to see where it was coming from. And across the bridge there trundled a really pretty steam train with about 12 carriages behind it. Was lovely to see. And nobody else on the path paid any attention at all!

Marlo has caught a mouse. He was playing with it in the dining room when The Builder got back from taking me to the station this morning. Then he let it go and it has run under the freezer! Sigh. A humane trap is now required. Unless, of course, it has slunk sneakily away and gone back outside. Or died of fright. I suppose this means we will now have to move the freezer to see. I have no wish for there to be dead mouse carcasses under the freezer!!


So this hire car. It’s like driving a fighter jet or a star ship. All you have to do is press buttons! There’s no key – you use a card and then press a button to start it. The handbrake comes off automatically when you start to move. The windscreen wipers are automatic if you have got them turned on Even the headlights come on automatically if you are driving at night. Even so, fun gadgets notwithstanding, I’m not sure I like it. It handles oddly. The Builder has done most of the driving since we got it! I am waiting patiently for the Vixen to come back from the hospital!

The laptop has also come back from the hospital, but unrepaired. It, the cat and the fruit bowl all cascaded off the dining table a couple of weeks ago and the laptop lost its space bar, the x key, the alt key and the windows key. I took it to the computer repair shop on Ecclesall Road and they charged me £30 (and took 5 days) to tell me it would need a new keyboard at £120 plus VAT plus labour. I declined to play. Bea’s partner Steve fixes things. I’m sure he can do it more cheaply. And if not, I’d rather give him the money. In the meantime, it’s very odd hitting a little button instead of the space bar. For some reason it means I keep missing the n key!!

Clarissa’s husband Mike has had a hearty tack :(. He woke up all poorly sick on Monday morning and had to go to the hospital in an ambo, lights flashing, siren blaring. They managed to disperse the clot using drugs and he is now well on the way to recovery. They were hopeful he might be able to some home this weekend. He was fortunate in that there was a paramedic passing when Clarissa phoned for help so they got to him very quickly. She says how amazingly calm and quiet the whole thing was, given that it was such a dramatic event.

And now The Builder and I have come down to Salisbury for the weekend. We came down yesterday, Friday. I took the afternoon off and was intending to leave work at around 2. The Builder came to collect me but got held up in dreadful traffic and was nearly half an hour late. Took nearly for ever to get back home. Dashed about and got ready. Found Tammy Next Door, who has been away for half term, and got her to look after the cat for the weekend. Took off for the M1. To find it at a complete standstill when we got there. Kept going around the roundabout and back to the A61. Was quite a pleasant trip down the A61 and the A38 to Brum, then we had much fun trying to find the A42, not wishing to find ourselves in London! On we went, until we found ourselves in a huge, huge queue. Time was ticking on. Began to get worried about the B&B. And I didn’t have their number. Rang Freyja who looked it up on the net and rang them to say we were on our way. Useful things, adult children!

We arrived at around half 8. Announced our arrival to Norma (at the Bridge Farm) and then disappeared into Salisbury to see if we could find something to eat. We got to the Market Inn on the market square 15 minutes before they stopped serving!! Had a rather nice plaice “kiev”, filled with a shrimp and mushroom sauce. Not sure I would have put quite such a heavy breadcrumb batter around it, though. Plaice is quite a delicate fish. I think I’d have put a lighter covering on.

Have just had a fantastic breakfast. Fruit and yoghurt followed by a deliciously cooked full English. Lovely crispy bacon and fantastically cooked mushies. Won’t need to eat again for ages and ages. Which is a pity for we are supposed to be taking The Builder’s parents out to lunch!

A quick visit to the farm shop, for Norma tells me they now have the seedy granola back in stock. Granted the stuff I made was rather lovely, but so is the one they stock in the shop and they taste different. Found some lovely local veg in the shop as well. No real need to go to the market now! But we’ll go anyway :). First to Waitrose, because Bea has found in the one in Sheffield a supply of food storage boxes where the lids clip on and which retain liquid. Then to Lakeland for a proper potato masher, preferably one which does not bend when you try to mash potatoes. Found one. And a storage jug which will fit in the fridge. And some foil on discount. And – oh lots of things we didn’t realise we needed. Plus a wicker basket to put it all in. Ah well, I’ve been looking for just such a basket to take things to work in! Then we ambled off to the market and found ourselves outside Nuggs, a new shop in a beautiful old building filled with loads of different oils and herbs and spices and lovely things. Avoided all the oils but did succumb to a pepper grinder. And some chicken stock bones in the market itself. There will be lovely stock at our place tomorrow. And I have many, many kitchen things to play with!

A cup of tea in the cathedral refectory (very, very nice) then off to pick up The Builder’s parents, who are in fine fettle, given that Gwen fell on Thursday night and cracked her head on the door. We took them out to the Red Shoot in the heart of the New Forest. It’s a nice pub. It lets dogs in. And there were three or four ponies ambling about in the driveway who were not going to move for anybody. Was amusing watching vehicles and walkers navigating around them.

Good, thought I. There’s soup. Gwen and Mick are having soup. I shall have it too. Nice light lunch after that huge breakfast. Then I realised they were going to have a main course as well. Sigh. I shall have mussels. A huge pot of mussels with a cream sauce at the bottom. Couldn’t eat all of it :S It was all rather nice, even so. This was somewhere Gwen and Mick hadn’t been before! Then we took them home, had a nice cup of tea and a chat and left just before 4. I think they were missing their afternoon nap!

We, however, were not in need of an afternoon nap. We went for a walk instead. Down through Lower Britford, up past the rookery onto the main road then back down to the farm. Nice round walk, about two miles. Lots of lovely old houses with large gardens dotted about on the river meadows.

And so to a completely unnecessary dinner. We found ourselves outside the Red Lion in Salisbury and went in. It’s in the Places to Eat booklet in the B&B. Beautiful old rambling building with an ancient wisteria growing in the courtyard. You can eat restaurant food or bar food. We didn’t actually feel the need for restaurant food for some reason so had bar food. Which turned out to be restaurant quality in the end. Just not as much of it, fortunately! But next time we might well try the restaurant. It looks lovely.

I walked a shade under 20000 steps on Saturday. Alas, I probably ingested about 120000 steps worth of food and wine :(

Oh dear. Another day of eating. We had yet another fantastic breakfast, courtesy of Norma at Bridge Farm. Then, it being a bit early for the farm shop on a Sunday, we went for a stroll, down the dead end road along the river to the church, this time. It was a lovely walk. The river is quite high and the moat around Moat House (which I think might once have been the Manor House) is also very full. We had a lovely amble in the church graveyard, admiring the old graves and generally enjoying the damp grass underfoot on a lovely winter’s day. The church, St Peter’s, is clearly very old and made with knapped flint. And, wonder of wonders, it was open. It’s lovely inside. Very plain but beautifully made. The nave is Saxon, the chancel 14th century.

Back to the farm shop for some chicken, milk and yoghurt, then we took ourselves off to Romsey. I’ve driven through Romsey before but never actually stopped. It’s very lovely. Mediaeval. Beautiful abbey that we couldn’t go into because the morning service was not quite finished. Not a great deal is open in Romsey on a Sunday. King John’s House was closed, so was the Heritage Centre. We wandered around the streets for a time, found a tea shop, had tea, pottered around, went back to the car. There’s a restaurant with a few bedrooms in Romsey called Bertie’s. It has very good reviews. Must go there one day. Preferably a Saturday!

We arrived in Winchester, which has just been declared by a Channel 4 viewer poll to be the best place to live in England, to meet Ian, Donna and Sophie for lunch. Jeanette, Matt and Rebecca came too and we went for a wander through the main street to an Italian restaurant for lunch. Wasn’t all that impressed with my pizza which was certainly large. But the base was unimpressive indeed. No real Italian restaurant would have served it. On the other hand, my tiramisu was lovely. Everyone else enjoyed their meals, I think and everyone seemed pleased to see each other. Even Donna, who for some reason seems not to like The Builder and me much, thawed towards the end. It was a nice, leisurely Sunday lunch. I do like Sunday lunches! We wandered off to the park after lunch for a post-prandial walk and so Rebecca and Sophie could play on the swings. There were lots of people out enjoying the pleasant afternoon.

Then we came home. We left at about ten to four, had a couple of roadwork hold ups, but got home in just after three hours. A much better trip than the one down. I have chicken stock simmering. The cat is on The Builder’s lap. All is well. Except that we have left The Builder’s dressing gown at Bridge Farm!

12000 steps today. Still under the steps worth of food ingested.

Clarissa rang at lunchtime. Mike is now nice and pink again and has gone home. He’s off work for at least six weeks but things are looking quite good at the moment.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Poorly Car

Well that was fun!

The Builder went out this morning, dug the Vixen out, tied her back together with string, checked that the engine was working and made sure that the front wheel wasn’t rubbing against the crumpled bumper. All was well.

I, in the meantime, was inside in the warm, toasting crumpets.

Later, I drove into work. Very, very slowly. It had started raining, after quite a significant fall of snow last evening, so there was rainwater, slush, snow and meltwater all over the place. The car was making a very strange noise when I went over the speed humps, but it was hard to tell whether it was the wheel rubbing on the bumper, the roads misbehaving, the snow on the roof cracking or just the car thawing out after several days sat in frost, ice and snow. I drove more slowly and kept listening. Only one lane was clear of snow on the A61. It was worse when I got into Sheffield. Abbey Lane was ungritted and covered in sludge, slush and meltwater. Not fun! Actually that’s not true. It was rather fun. I was worried about the strange noise the car made going over bumps but otherwise I quite enjoyed driving through all of that to get here. I had left earlier than I usually do on a Saturday, when there is very little traffic, so there was no hurry and I could take my time. Slow and leisurely.

Arrived and reported in to The Builder. Tried to ring the insurance company to see what was happening about the car. After all, I can’t drive a car that is held together with string indefinitely. What if the string breaks? No joy. Kept getting cut off in the queue. Passed it all back to The Builder to sort out and went to turn on the printers and photocopiers.

Next thing I knew, I had someone on the phone from Drive Assist wanting my licence number. It seems that the insurance company doesn’t rate driving cars that are making strange noises and are held together with string very highly. What if the string should break? We are, apparently, getting a courtesy car from the other chap’s insurance company. It appears that he had told them all about it and (I believe) things are in train. Don’t know how long we’ve got the hire car for, though. I believe that they are delivering the car to The Sidings. All I have to do is get The Vixen safely back home again -- without the string breaking or the wheel falling off!!

Mind you, it’s no wonder there were so many minor (and a few not so minor) accidents over the last couple of days. I realise that 4 or so inches of snow isn’t a huge lot, but there’s still no reason to drive like maniacs. Most of us were driving nice and slowly but there have been some who have been dashing about like demented chooks. Not only is it dangerous, but it splashes water about like nobody’s business.

Later: Hmm. Thought it was all going remarkably smoothly. It seems that the car hire people don’t have a free car and can’t get one to us until Tuesday and that it will be all right, driving a car making strange noises and tied together with string. The Builder has sicked the insurance people onto them. I await the outcome with interest. I’ll keep you posted :-)

Sunday: Got home last evening and found the rhinoceros, who usually sits on the Vixen's dashboard, recuperating on the radiator. I think it must have been dislodged when the car collided into the VIxen and, unnoticed by us, fallen out when I opened the passenger door to get the insurance details out. The Builder found it lying in the snow in the gutter when he came back from the supermarket in the van. I hadn't noticed its absence in the car, being preoccupied with the hazardous driving conditions and the strange noise. It's dry now and sitting on my hat, waiting for the car to be fixed so it can resume car guarding duties.

So far there is no sign of the hire car. I decided on my way home last night that I actually didn’t much care for driving a car along a country highway in the dark while it was tied up with string and making a strange noise. The Builder and I took it round the block this morning before I came to work, and it was still making the strange noise and people who were out walking their dogs kept looking at us. I have a horrible feeling that the noise may be caused by a damaged suspension :-S We have parked the car, and parked it will stay until somebody comes and takes it away to mend it. The Builder brought me in to work in the van! I hope the hire company comes up with a car soon. It’s not entirely efficient getting The Builder to chauffeur me all about the place.

There is very little snow left, now, at least in and around Chesterfield. There is more in Sheffield but nothing like it was. A short, sharp snow event, followed by a very rapid thaw. The country is threatened with floods now!!!!!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Snow Report

The meteorologists have been referring to today as a "snow event". So far, for us at least, it hasn't been all that eventful - though there is yet time; it's only half past eight! In the south of the country it has been very eventful already. The schools in Birmingham are closed. Some of the airports are closed. Trains are being disrupted. We are advised to travel with supplies of food and warm drinks. And a torch!

I went outside at around 07:00 to put the recycling in its bins. It was a balmy 0d (that is balmy when it has been -6.5!) and quite clear. I went upstairs to the loo and to brush my teeth,. The Builder yelled up that it was snowing quite hard. By the time we left at 07:10 it was settling. Fortunately, Derbyshire grits most of its roads. Not only was the A61 gritted, as you would expect, but so too was QVR. Sheffield only grits its main arterial roads. They're not very good here. It's snowing cheerfully in Sheffield at the moment. But nothing startling. Yet!

The Builder was supposed to be replacing some windows for my pal Sue today. Somehow I don't think that's going to happen. Not today, anyway!

Lunchtime update:
Someone has skidded into the Vixen and crumpled her nose :-( While The Builder was measuring Sue’s windows and I was peacefully drinking my coffee at work, the other driver came around the corner into Ward Street (I assume too fast!) and couldn’t take the corner. At least he made great efforts to find out who belonged to the poor, crumpled red car. I believe his insurance is sorting it all out. I haven’t seen it (obviously, being still at work); The Builder says the front bumper is bent and the number plate doesn’t look all that cheerful, but he thinks it’s still driveable.

Snow report. It isn’t really snowing in the Sheffield city centre. Just the odd flurry. The Builder tells me it is still snowing properly in Tupton but the roads, are now more or less clear. There had been several centimetres of snow on Bridge Street and QVR but the grit is clearly doing its work. I think it’s those nesh, feeble, delicate flowers in the south Midlands and the home counties who are panicking because they’ve forgotten that winter does, sometimes, involve white stuff falling out of the sky and landing on the roads! Although, I suppose it *might* be that conditions are a tad worse on the southern and western part of the country.

They’re forecasting sleet and black ice for this evening. Weather is such fun! I think I might go home early. The only appointment I had in my diary for this afternoon was coffee with Peter-my-boss. We’ve cancelled that. He’s leaving early too! After all - the Met Office has issued severe weather warnings advising us not to travel unless absolutely necessary. Clearly I should go home in this lull!!

(Imagine if England and Wales were in Scandinavia. Or Russia. How on earth would they cope with the winters?!?!?!?!?)


So. I got home at around 2, The Builder having picked me up from the Chesterfield station. The local countryside looked absolutely beautiful, all glistening white. I really wouldn't have described it as particularly bad weather; it was just snow. I realise that it was worse in parts of the rest of the country, but to close 2500 schools seems a bit over the top to me. Wasn't that bad! Tupton looked glorious. The garden looked lovely. Probably around 3 inches of snow. We went down to inspect the orchard, The Builder carrying Marlo on his shoulder. Marlo jumped down to come back and see what I was up to (I had stopped to look at the "winter" garden) - and sank to his knees. He was a bit surprised!

The Vixen has had her front right hand bumper stowed in. The number plate is hanging loosely. The bonnet is dinted :-( I must ring our insurance company and make sure that Mr Other Driver's insurance company is actually doing something. I would have done it today but I've brought last year's insurance certificate in. I must remember to do it tomorrow. I hope the car is actually driveable. I'd quite like to use it to get to Collegiate tomorrow and Sunday!

Marlo GROWLED. Really, really GROWLED. He was sat on my shoulder watching out the kitchen window with me, when the grey tabby cat that I sometimes see ambling about in the orchard hoved into view. Clearly Marlo has not noticed this cat before. He was very, very unimpressed. I let him out the back door before he went through the (unopened!) kitchen window! By the time he got down the garden, the tabby had dropped into next door's garden. But he remained suspicious and vigilant for some time! Haven't ever heard him growl like that before, though. He sounded like a big, ferocious lion!


It snowed on and off until early evening yesterday. We had cleared the driveway and side path so could get out easily enough this morning. It was cold and icy and foggy coming in today. Just grey and dank in Sheffield. At least, it is in the city centre. You still have to wonder, though. All that chaos yesterday, particularly in the south and centre of the country. When did the British forget about winter weather? It didn't used to come to a crashing halt whenever there was a light dusting of snow (I'm sorry, not by any definition does 3-4 inches of snow count as "heavy"!!)

It had just begun raining in an icy way when I walked up to Collegiate at lunchtime. The Builder picked me up from there at 5pm, when it was a kind of sleety snow. By the time we got home it was snowing really quite hard. The roads weren't recently gritted because the snow hadn't been forecast to get to us till much later. It was an interesting drive home for The Builder. I've don't think I've ever seen him drive the Dronfield Bypass so slowly! The gritters were just coming out as we passed through Chesterfield. The snow was settling on the paths we had cleared around the house, and on Bridge Street and QVR. Hope it doesn't do this all night or I'll have trouble getting in to work tomorrow. Does look really pretty, though. All shiny and glittery.

Tabitha reports that there were large drifts of snow in Cambridge, where schools were closed, traffic disrupted and public transport was affected. Freyja says it was properly snowing on Friday evening in the Sheffield City Centre. Kids all over the country vhave enjoyed an extra two days added to half term which is this coming week in most places. I suppose, in the end, that it was a snow event.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

It’s been cold. Very cold. VeryveryveryveryVERY cold. Yesterday at 07:10 it was minus, that’s MINUS 6.5d! The Vixen looked like an ice sculpture. It was, mind you, a glorious day. But cold.

It was cold again today too. I don’t know what the temperature was at 07:10 because I was not then properly up (evening duty today). But the fish pond is frozen over for the fifth day in a row (the fish are cheerily swimming around under the ice!), the grass was crisp and crunchy, the bird bath is frozen solid and everything was covered in white. At one point, after The Builder had poured hot water around the (plastic!!) duck to free a hole to let some air into the pond, I saw a blackbird hop down onto the side of the pond, then onto a flower pot, then onto the spout for the fountain and then gingerly onto the ice so he could hop around and get a drink! It was another glorious winter day.

I fear they may be over, though. The glorious bit, not the winter. The Met Office is forecasting snowy chaos and catastrophe for tomorrow. I wonder why they think Thursdays are a good day for weather chaos. The last great storm we had, three weeks ago, was on a Thursday too.

It’s no wonder I have turned into a Phatt Phrannie. I have been pondering how it is that I have failed to lose any of my excess kilos, despite a wholesome and healthy diet of chocolate, chips (no, no ¾ not together) and wine. Then it crossed my mind that I used to walk in from the Botanical Gardens, either when I lived there or after parking the car there once we’d moved. That gathered me 7000 steps if I walked both ways. Now I mostly come in by train, or with The Builder, Ecclesall Road being absolutely horrid to drive on after work at this time of year. Plus, Clarissa and I used to go out for a wander in town once or twice a week, which would garner me around 1 or 2000 steps. Then she buggered off to Leeds and I more or less stopped going out at lunchtime unless I had something I absolutely had to do. Hmmm. I bought a new pedometer. And for the first three days I had it, hardly troubled it at all. No wonder I put weight on that I’ve been unable to shift. Absolutely no exercise at all!

It was OK at the weekend, because I shifted all that rubbish. Yesterday I made myself go out for a walk at lunchtime, which gathered 1500 steps. Today, though, I have reached and even surpassed the target. I was looking out the windows at the back of the house and realised that there were men in yellow coats working up at the top of the Wetlands. The Builder and I kitted up and wandered off for a sticky. They are putting fences and observation hides along the top of the hill, on the path that leads to the derelict railway bridge. It was a lovely walk. The sun was shining very brightly. Most of the mud was frozen; that which wasn’t was very sticky! There were coots walking on the frozen wetlands and lots of seagulls drifting about in the unfrozen bit. There were people out walking their dogs and many, many birds darting about. Gathered me about 5000 steps (though some of them were quite small steps, going over the sticky, sticky mud, but still - a step is a step!). Must Do Better on the walking front. Haven’t done any proper walking for simply ages.

I have got my First Semester major assignment back, and I’ve passed it :-) I have been lying awake at 03:00 most mornings worrying that I had written a really good answer to an entirely different question and that I would therefore fail first semester and be treated with scorn and ridicule by my colleagues at work. Happily this awful fate has been averted *and* the lecturer said nice things about the essay part of the assignment. I did not wake up at 03:00 this morning. Grin!

And in honour of the family history of high blood pressure and my raised result before Christmas, I have bought a digital BP monitoring device. It’s amazing how much lower it is when I measure it in bed, first thing on a Saturday morning!!!!!!! (What do you mean, that’s cheating?)

The laptop, Marlo and the fruit bowl all tried to commit suicide on Saturday evening. The whole lot came crashing down off the dining room table. Made me jump, it did. Or, more accurately, The Builder yelling and shouting made me jump! All is well. Everything still works. Except the laptop lost its space bar, x key and alt key. I can live without the alt key. I can even live without the x key -- you can still get an x, if you push in the right place. But it's a bit inconvenient not having a space bar. The laptop has gone to computer hospital. £20 to reaffix the keys. £30 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) extra to get it done in 4 days rather than 14-21. Tsk! And I still won't have it for the weekend :-S

Monday, February 05, 2007

A weekend off

That was fun. A whole weekend off. Not only that, a whole weekend off and At Home! Trouble is - I might get used to it!!

And boy did we have good weather for it. Cold and frosty overnight. Sunny and quite warm during the day. On both Saturday and Sunday morning the dawn sky was tinged with pink, the trees and grass were white and crisp and it was all very beautiful. The birds are certainly happy and in full song. March, really. It must be March!

A couple of weeks ago, I did a roast lamb for Sunday dinner, which produced a lot of clear white fat, which I drained off and kept. Eventually, I rolled it into a ball, rolled it around in the bird seed and put it out on the bird table. The Builder said nothing would eat it. But something has. Every last little bit is gone! Must acquire more.

So Saturday. No need to leap out of bed at 06:00. No need to rush about. A nice, steady start to the day is called for. Some gentle cleaning, a little ironing, a load of washing (which I hung outside, not with any expectation that it would dry, though it sort of did, but because I thought it would be nice to have some aired clothes for a change). Then off we pootled to Bakewell for lunch, a potter about and a visit to the tool shop. It was quite crowded, to say that it is February. It's normally a little less so in the winter. Come to that, there were loads of cars parked by the walking tracks on the Darley Dale Road. Must have been the sunshine.

We lunched in The Peacock. We always do. I wonder, sometimes, whether we shouldn't branch out and try one of the other pubs. It's not as though Bakewell is short of them! I quite enjoyed my scampi and chips, but I fear I have been spoiled by the excellent quality of the chips at our local chippy, not to mention the chippy in Bakewell. Pub chips taste over oily to me these days! The crowd outside the Bakewell chippy was about 20-30 minutes long. This is why we didn't go there - I knew it would be!!
A visit to the Bakewell Farmers' Market shop, then off we went to Pilsley to the Chatsworth farm shop for some vegetables. We were in dire need of veg and fruit, but not of much else. The freezer is full of stuff. We didn't even need bread. It was busy there too. Always is, mind, but even so.

Back at home, The Builder went down to look at the doomed laburnum trunk. It was hollow in the middle, which was making it awkward to chop down. Steve Next Door, leaning over the garden fence to watch what was going on, hollered down that he had some large metal chocks. The Builder set to with vigour. In the meantime, I was cautiously and carefully stepping down from the flower garden into the kitchen garden and tentatively making my way over the rubbish. I really wish that rubbish wasn't there. Makes it ever so awkward getting down to look at progress. Shining light bulb moment. If it makes it awkward - then MOVE IT! So I did. Sorted out the burnable stuff for the bonfire, recyclable stuff for recycling, re-usable stuff for re-using and the rest in a huge pile behind the fence. Makes a significant difference.

But oh boy, was I knackered. Absolutely knackered. Poured a restorative gin and tonic and retired for a National Trust Gardener's Bath salts bath. That was nice! But I was early to bed. And for the first time in several weeks, did not wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 03:00!!!

In fact, I didn't wake up at all until really quite late. Wasn't disturbed by the boiler kicking on at 05:30. Missed the radio coming on at the same time. Was peacefully oblivious to everything until well after the time I normally leave for work. Just as well it was a Sunday, then!

I do like Sundays. We took the plastic and electrical rubbish to the tip late-ish in the morning. Took half an hour from when we started to queue to get in until we came out, rubbish free. There's still quite a lot to bring; we are considering whether to take it ourselves in dribs and drabs, or whether to hire a skip. A skip would certainly be easier, but will cost about £150+ where the tip is more effort but cost free. Will ponder a while longer. Then we went out to Sunday lunch, at the Three Horse Shoes at the wonderfully named hamlet of Spitewinter. And oh boy, was it a find. It's more of a restaurant than a pub, the food is home cooked, the Yorkshire Puddings were crisp and fresh, the vegetables beautifully cooked and the view over the valley absolutely spectacular (though there was quite a lot of industrial pollution along the eastern horizon). It's a pretty building, too. And very popular. IT was quite full when we got there just before 1; we had to go into the overflow restaurant. By the time we left, even that was filling up. WE are very slowly beginning to build up a collection of places to eat. The three horse shoes comes at the top of the pub listing, so far, and very close to the top of the complete listing (The Old Post beats it, narrowly),

We came home along winding country lanes. I have finally been and looked at the Great Lake of Stubbings (though not yet the Stubbings Court). I'd hardly call it great, but it was rather fun. We found the Wingerworth Garden Centre, which I knew existed because I have seen ads for it. Didn't know where it was, though. An excellent trip out, all told.

We've been to the allotment. The overwintered broad beans are not really doing well. They never do. I don't know why I bother overwintering them. I don't think I will again. I realise that conventional wisdom says you should, but the spring sown seeds have a vastly superior germination rate and a better crop. Only seven seeds germinated from the November sowing. Learn, Frances, learn! I'm going to hoe them in as a green manure and use the bed for the shallots, which I have now found again. We won't get a bed dug for them in the next couple of weeks, I don't think, and they could do to go in. At least, they could if you follow the allotment books which say to sow in winter. The kitchen garden books say to sow in spring. Sigh!

Home made pea and ham soup for supper last evening. No need for another full meal after the roast beef followed by pannacotta and fruit I'd had at lunchtime. And early to bed for me and the cat. Knackered, I am. Knackered. Back to work today for a little rest and relaxation! I did wake at 3, I'm sorry to say. Drifted back to sleep around 4 and had a weird dream in which the VC had decided we were relocating proceedings to Leeds City Centre (but won't that annoy Leeds Met?) and Roger, Bea and I had been sent on a reconnaissance mission to suss out some vast, tumbledown building. For some reason Bea had taken her cat Archie and I was carrying around a miniature dachshund for the whole event. My arm doesn't half ache today!

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Builder's been a-gardening

Well, The Builder has been having an exciting time. He’s been making the most of the unseasonably warm weather and has been playing in the garden. And he’s making steady progress.

He has finally managed to get the fence up at the bottom behind the shed, where the only thing keeping the sheep (where are the sheep? Haven’t seen them for weeks and weeks!) out was a large roll of wire. This was complicated by the presence of a very large holly tree just on the other side of the fence, but close enough to be in the way.

He has brought a brush cutter and cut the grass in the orchard. It now needs raking over and all the rubbish that is lying about hoiked out and sorted through. Then it needs cutting again and it will start to look faintly respectable.

And he’s started taking down the laburnum at the back. It needs to come out because it is slap bang where we want to put the chicken run eventually. Plus it doesn’t produce anything you can eat. Its flowers are, in fact, poisonous. Has to go. I need the space for food production. And we wouldn’t want to poison the chickens, when they eventually arrive! So, he’s chopped down, with his little saw, all the branches and half the trunk and has made a start chopping away at the base of the trunk. Then he lit a bonfire. It was burning smartly when I got home. A nice still day with a light breeze blowing in from the south west, so the smoke, such as it was, blew out into the fields rather than back to the neighbouring houses. Marlo was fascinated. He sat and watched it from the dining room window until I came home and went down to inspect proceedings in person, when he came down too.

We have also been investigating getting a skip to rid ourselves of the bulk of the rubbish. We reckon it will cost around £150. Best start saving, then!

I think The Builder is planning to turn his attention to the allotment now. As I said earlier, we need to get the beds up there up together for mid March for the potatoes (I’ve got 3 kg each of five different sorts of seed potatoes so will need lots of beds!), earlier if possible for the shallots. The weather is set fair for the next few days. Mild and sunny during the days and absolutely freezing overnight is what we are promised until Tuesday or so. And I am not working this weekend. Not either day. Two whole days off in a row. Gosh! I can supervise lots of digging!!!!!

Steve Next Door came round yesterday evening. He’d been to a farm up Temple Normanton way and bought some eggs. Bought half a dozen for us too. Very nice of him. We now have lots of eggs. I’d better make a cake :-)