Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday morning

So. Off we trundled to Dronfield to find the jeweller’s with the Nomination “E”. It was made more complicated by me asking Jenny the Sat Nav to take us to Church Street, Unstone (next village along), but we got there in the end. Once I realised what I had done! Really must make an effort to go and explore Dronfield properly. I didn’t realise The Forge complex was there, and there are other shops and nooks and crannies which might bear exploration. The Forge certainly will, and we didn’t have time for more than a cursory glance. We do, however, now have an “E”. There wasn’t one in Chesterfield where we bought the bracelet. They didn’t have one in Sheffield. Nor did they have one in the stockist in Nottingham when I rang them. I can only assume they have them in Dronfield because nobody knows the stockist is there!!!!

We trundled down to Whiteley in a pleasant sort of a manner. Well, it was pleasant enough for me – I slept for quite a lot of it. I do seem to be quite exceptionally tired at the moment. Anyway, we arrived at Jeanette and Matthew’s in time for afternoon tea. They seemed pleased to see us. Evie is a sweet baby. Very sweet – she was asleep for the whole time we were there. Sleeping babies are absolutely ideal! Rebecca appeared to like the “secrets” box we bought to celebrate her new found status as a Big Sister. Jeanette and Matt seemed to like Evie’s bracelet. Evie expressed no opinion on the matter. Then we relocated to Salisbury.

We’re staying in the Bridge Farm B&B, where we do like to stay, when we can, when visiting Salisbury. We went for dinner at the Old Mill, where I had just the most amazing lobster bisque. And The Builder and I shared a swan dessert – profiteroles in the shape of swans filled with cream and swimming on a pond of melted dark chocolate sauce. Was magnificent. Absolutely gorgeous. My profiteroles tend to be a bit on the rustic side. Not at all sure I could shape them into swans! And I’ve no idea how he made the curved necks and heads.

We ambled back to Bridge Farm, poured a glass of wine. I got into my froggie jammies, sat on the bed ready to watch telly and drink my wine. And promptly went to sleep. Woke at 2, briefly, then slept soundly until Norma knocked on the door with our breakfast tea at 7. Said I was tired!

We’ve just had a lovely breakfast and are preparing ourselves to visit the farm shop (which opens at 10) then to wander into town (which also opens at 10 on a Sunday) and then to visit The Builder’s parents. Must find out if they’re up to joining us for lunch. We have a table booked at the Yew Tree in the next village along from theirs. If they can’t join us we’ll just have to go on our own and visit them after lunch.

We're driving a hire car at the moment. The VIxen has gone in to have the inadequate repairs which were effected after the Snow Event last winter put right. They do seem to be very inefficient. Quite apart from the fact that they didn't fix it properly in the first place, we dropped The Vixen in last week, arriving at spot on 8:00 - to find that the courtesy car they were providing for us had gone home with one of the staff the night before. He wandered grumpily in at just after half past eight and responded to the receptionist's remonstrations that he didn't have to start till then if he didn't want to. No consideration that now The Builder and I were late for work! I don't know what the state of play with The Vixen is at the moment - but I hope she comes back soon. The Fiesta is all right, but it's a thirsty car and it doesn't have much oomph.

Right. Must get ready for the day.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Builder and his phones

So what do you reckon it is with The Builder and his mobile phones?

His Chocolate phone broke last week. Its battery went all over deddibones and the phone had to be sent away to be repaired. He bought a cheap pay as you go phone and transferred the sim card across. So far so good.

His Chocolate phone came back from the repairer, all as good as new. He sold it to a work colleague. The cheap, pay as you go phone was bearing up quite well to the rigours of life with a construction worker.

Last evening, we went into Sheffield on the train to go to dinner with someone who has been working as a placement student with us for the past 12 months, and as a temporary hardware installer for the past two. He has now reverted to student status and a group of us went to Flying Pizza to send him on his way. Was a good evening. On the way home on the train, The Builder took a phone call from his mother. She is not sure if they can join us for lunch on Sunday as his father is not feeling too good. No worries. We’ll see how they are on Sunday and plan accordingly.

We took a taxi home from the station, got in, had a glass of wine and went to bed. Excellent evening.

We were preparing to head down south this morning, when The Builder announced that he didn’t know where his phone was. He thought he might have left it in the taxi. Gloom. If I book a taxi, we always use the same company, but this was one we had picked up in the rank at the station. I had no idea which company it was. Bugger. Not only is he £30 down for a new basic phone, but he’s lost the sim card with all his numbers on it. Bums!

Oh well. No point fretting. Cancel the sim card and carry on. I’m looking for an “E” to add to the nomination click on charm bracelet we’ve bought for Evie. There aren’t many stockists in the UK (It’s an Italian company) and none in Portsmouth or Salisbury. There is, however, one in an Artisan and craft complex I didn’t know existed in Dronfield. But I’m not going all that way unless they actually have an “E”. I the meantime, The Builder was collecting beans and courgettes and things to give to his parents and to Jeanette and Matthew. He was on his way to the allotment in search of tomatoes when he stopped by the side of the road and started fossicking in the gutter. Went out to investigate. And lo 0 there was a few bits of his phone. Including the sim card! No sign of the actual operational bit of it though. Strange. Anyway, at least we have the sim card. It’s been reactivated! Now we just need a phone to put it in.

We were at Helen Gill’s wedding party last weekend. It was in the Maynard Arms in Grindleford. Taffa and Gaz came up for the party. Freyja and Mark came too. It was lovely – we got to do the partying without actually having to sit through the wedding and reception! Jane and Ruth were there. Was good to catch up with them. It was good to catch up with Andy too. WE used to have quite an extensive email conversation going. Then he changed his address and I lost it :( James and Rosie were there. SO were Nicky and Jo (Ruth’s children) who I talk to on Facebook but otherwise haven’t had any contact with since they were little. Nicky is a second year medical student now. Jo is doing the last year of her A levels. James and his girlfriend live in Edinburgh. Rosie and her (Spanish) boyfriend live in Geneva. Was a good evening and excellent to catch up with people.

Taff and Gaz came for a late lunch/early dinner on Sunday. Roast beef, veg from the garden and allotment, wine for everyone except Gaz who was driving them back to Cambridge.

So an excellent weekend. Can’t think why I didn’t blog it at the time!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Happy news

I have exciting news. The Builder is a grandfather again! Jeanette, Matthew and Rebecca have now been joined by Eva-Rose (Evie) who arrived at around 7:30 last evening. All are well and everyone is very excited. So that’s four granddaughters for him now, ranging from 16 years to brand new. So that’s good :-)

Otherwise, it’s been fairly quiet. The Builder worked both days last weekend, I did not. Well, I cleaned most of the house. And did the washing and ironing. And dug up a bed of potatoes on the allotment and weeded and mulched a couple of beds in the garden. But I wasn’t At Work and I did enjoy some lazy times.

The weather, after a dull, grey, wet summer, has been beautifully autumnal. Lovely sunny days (though it is raining fitfully today) with cool evenings and nights. I do like autumn. (I like all the seasons, really. I just don’t like February much. But then, I don’t like February wherever I am!!)

My purse had an adventure last week. I came in one morning to find the cleaners looking especially pleased to see me. They are usually moderately pleased to see me, but this was surprising. Had I lost my purse? Well, no, actually. Was I sure? Well, yes. Let me just show it to you. Fossicked about in my backpack – and there it wasn’t. It was, in fact, in the possession of one of the cleaners who had found it in the ladies’ loo on L3. Goodness only knows how it had got in there. It still had everything in it apart from a £10 note. Freyja thinks it had taken itself off to the Odeon for a film and some popcorn the evening before. I think it’s much more likely it had been out on the razzle in the city pubs. I realise that £10 isn’t much of a razzle – but it’s only a small purse! It’s under curfew now. No more razzling for it. Actually, I think it needs replacing. The zip is starting to go. And once a purse shows a tendency to wander off on its own, you can almost guarantee that it will disappear altogether within a short time.

It’s been fairly quiet at work, too, gearing up for the start of term on the 24th. I’ve got some Post Grad classes next week, but things really kick off the following week. Well, it’s been quiet from an actual work point of view. From a staff point of view it’s been anything but. The University as a whole has been going through a regarding exercise which has left those of us in my job more or less untouched. Except that where I was at the top of my grade, I am now in the middle of it so with incremental room to move and a back pay rise due from August of last year, which will be nice. The IT side of things, however, has all been downgraded. They are not happy. Not happy at all. Various other bods have also been downgraded. They also, of course, are not happy, but they are not fizzing. They are taking calm and sensible steps to see if anything can be done to rectify it. Then, in the middle of all that, we (the advisers) discovered that the redevelopment of our teaching rooms has left us with what appear to be effectively unusable teaching PCs. I’m supposed to be teaching in one of them next week. We’ll see how it goes. I may be in traction for my back afterwards!! (Plus, I’m supposed to be teaching in a room – not one of ours – in a new building at 11:00 on Monday morning. When I ambled over to see if I could find it at lunch time yesterday, I did indeed find it, but full of equipment in boxes rather than equipment up and ready to roll. I am not optimistic that it will be ready for Monday!)

Woke up this morning, bright eyed, bushy tailed, ready to face the world. At 3:00! I’m a tad on the tired side now :-(

I have seen a squirrel. On our fence. Several times now. It’s the first squirrel I’ve seen since we moved in. I devoutly hope I do not see this or any other squirrel actually in the garden. I might have to buy The Builder a squirrel gun! Oh but I hope it doesn’t move in its mother and its father and its sisters and its brothers and its aunts. I have enough trouble waging war on slugs, snails and caterpillars without adding squirrels to the equation!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tuesday evening's dinner! All from the allotment and the garden, apart from the ginger root which is courtesy of Mr Waitrose. The plums (which are now mostly in the freezer) are from my friend Bea's tree.
We're doing well for fruit and veg still. I've just picked the apples, leaving only the "Bramleys" still on the tree. I'm not convinced they are Bramleys. Bramleys are usually green and these are a definite red. Nice apples, mind you. I might buy another Bramley this winter and see what happens. There's probably room for another couple of trees if we don't mind them staying on the small size.
I've dug up all the Ambos on the allotment and weeded the bed. Those poor Ambos have suffered this year. They've been got by wireworm, slugs *and* blight. All the potatoes came down with blight, but it's only the Ambos where some of the tubers have suffered as well. But I'm glad I've bothered to chop around the potatoes to get any remaining edible bits. The potato itself is lovely. Firm and white and flavoursome. I'll try again next year and see what happens. There are still the Lady Balfours and the rest of the Pink Fir Apples to dig up. A task for this coming weekend. And the onion beds desperately need weeding. You can't see anything for thistles! Then I want to move the baby onions to the bed by the greenhouses. But I'll do that much later in the autumn.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse are ripening. The Cape Gooseberries have beautiful flowers - though whether we'll get fruit remains to be seen. Time to consider what we're going to do with the bottom half of the allotment now. And what we're going to plant on it.
Back in the kitchen garden, I think I might pull the tomatoes (not the ones in the greenhouse on the allotment). They're beginning to get blighty and I don't want to lose the tomato crop. They can ripen inside. The front windowsills are nice and sunny. I've been very pleased with the wong bok Chinese cabbage (see picture above). It's growing beautifully and tastes lovely. I've been cooking it like silver beet, though it's now starting to heart. Sadly, the slugs and caterpillars like it to. There is a slow but steady war of attrition. I *think* I'm winning! I've just planted some more wong bok seeds and some pak choi. Hope it's not too late in the year. Mind you, the weather has been lovely. Sunny and warm, cool at night. Could almost do with some rain!!
I've been weeding, manuring and mulching the vegetable beds ready for the winter. The brassicas seem to be enjoying the attention! Oh - and the cabbage plants that we couldn't identify (we lost all the labels when I planted them out in amongst the peas and broad beans) have turned out to be the Romanesco Italian cauliflowers with the bright green flower heads. They're coming on a treat - though the heads are a bit little yet!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I had Monday off. It was a strop day.

Not that I was stroppy on Monday. I had been stroppy on Wednesday. Very, very, very, *VERY* stroppy. Positively incandescent. Had I been able to lay my hands on anyone, there would have been a bloodbath. That’s it. I’m not coming in on Thursday. Nothing can make me. Oh – except for one or two quite important appointments in my diary. Right I’ll take Friday. Consulted the diary. Friday was do-able, but it crossed my mind that Monday would be more sensible, if we weren’t getting back from our jaunt to Wiltshire until late-ish on Sunday evening.

I rang Peter. Complained at length about my incandescence. Asked if I could have Monday off. For some reason, he agreed with alacrity. Can’t think why!

And Monday was a lovely day. The weather was fine. Life was calm. There was nothing pressing to do. The only downside was that The Builder had to go to work. I tidied up, cleared up, pottered about. I went to the allotment to water the tomatoes. I came home and weeded the cabbages. And the beetroot. And the middle bed. Then I hacked at the ivy by the gate. Then I podded the last of the peas and carried on.

Then I more or less collapsed! Sat down with a glass of wine and a magazine!

The Builder came home. We had more wine, a chicken casserole and an inspection of what I’ve been doing.

Then we ambled into Chesterfield to meet a Mad Axe Murderer I had met on the Internet in one of the local pubs for a few pints. He was in town for a job interview (reminds me – suppose I ought to find out how he went!) It was a good evening. Was strangely hard to get up on Tuesday morning though!

The poor Builder is having to work all day everyday practically for ever! 8-6 this week apart from Friday (8-4), all day Saturday, most of the day Sunday, then how ever long it takes to get the job finished next week. Poor thing will be knackered! I, at least, have both Saturday and Sunday off this week. I might get more weeding done

Monday, September 03, 2007

Great Dorset Steam Fair

We had a lovely time at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. It’s an interesting experience because it is an absolutely enormous event with hundreds of things to do and see and eat and drink and ponder. It’s quite expensive to get in (cheaper if you pre-book on the Internet) and you really feel that you have to spend hours there to get your money’s worth and to make the trip down to Tarrant Hinton (near Blandford) worth it. There’s a sense in which I prefer the smaller local fairs. They’re only a few pounds to get in and you can just stay for a couple of hours without feeling that you’ve wasted anything. But it must be said that you can’t beat the Big One for atmosphere and variety.

We went down on the Friday after work and stayed at Barb’s. Also there were her brother Greg, who was there all weekend and her friend Sophie who stayed for dinner and then left. It is, mind, a bit disconcerting when you are listening to The Builder telling Barb a story about the inadequate repairing of the Vixen and she (Barb, not the Vixen) suddenly bolts to the kitchen having been abruptly and unexpectedly been taken by an urge to throw up! Left her feeling quite queasy on Saturday, but fit enough for the steam fair.

Saturday dawned with what was really perfect weather for a day outside in huge great big fields. Warm, sunny but cloudy enough for it to be pleasant. I went prepared with insect repellent, sunscreen and my Akubra. And a fleecy jacket for later, tucked into my back pack. It might have been warm and sunny at 12:00, but it was likely to be much less warm and sunny come dusk! Off we went along narrow, winding roads, Barb driving so The Builder could have a drink or two in the course of the day. We split up once we got there, Barb and Greg wandering about together. The Builder and I had a look at some of the steam fairground organs and a variety of traction engines. Then we espied a HUGE plume of smoke and went to investigate – there were some of the biggest steam haulage engines I think I’ve ever seen in an enormous paddock with two steep hills at either end. That was fun! Then I remembered that I had seen a small tent selling English wine near the entrance gate. We went off to investigate. There is something deeply civilised about watching steam engines trundling about while sipping (us, not the engines) on cold, dry, sparkling wine in the sunshine!

Mostly, we walked. We looked at the trash and treasure stalls - and bought me a walking stick (for my poorly knee and its companion ankle were complaining about the uneven ground), Tabitha’s Christmas present, a new pair of binoculars for me, and a miniature pair for the house, a new torch and various other things. We went to the Food Hall and found a sugar free stall and had a merry time choosing a present for The Builder’s father who has diabetes. We looked at the craft tent, the farm craft exhibitions, the military vehicles – oh lots and lots of things. Then I decided that my legs really didn’t want to walk any more and I was thirsty and I’d had enough of huge great big enormous steam fairs. We went to the real ale tent for a pint. Though mine was a pint of real cider rather than ale. As we supped, it became apparent that a (small) Big Band was about to entertain us. It was a mixed age band from Bath – Just in Time Band. The drummer, who played as though he’d been born with drumsticks in his hands, was only 13. It was absolutely fantastic. We supped our pints and bopped along – and sent Barb a text message summoning her and Greg to join us. And we had another pint. Apart from Barb who had a half for she was driving!

We went for another wander about, then Barb, The Builder and I left all our possessions with Greg and went for a ride on the Ferris wheel. I had a lovely ride. The views were great, the ride was fun and I was nice and toastie warm in my fleecy jumper. Barb and The Builder, who had not had the foresight to think that the evening might turn chilly and had, in the case of The Builder, made a determined decision not to take a jumper or jacket, were a tad chilly at the top of the ride. They looked longingly and lustingly at my fleecy jacket. But no, no, no. I had Been Prepared. I had carried this jacket around all day in the warmth – and I wasn’t sharing it with anyone at all!!!!!!!!!!

And so back to Barb’s place, home made pizza for tea, and off to bed. Slept the sleep of the just, I did!!

On Sunday we visited The Builder’s parents, bearing our sugar-free present from the fair, some runner beans from the garden and some potatoes from the allotment. We returned to Barb’s place and had roast beef and taties and veg from her garden and rhubarb crumble. Barb was feeling better and was able to enjoy her lunch. The rest of us were still fine (and remain so - I wonder if it was some form of food poisoning) and really enjoyed our lunch too We pottered about. Then The Builder and I came back home. It was a good weekend. We will definitely do it again.