Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Freyja's cakes and Mark's birthday

Well, we undertook our mission of mercy for Mark’s birthday dinner on our silver stallions (disguised as Uncle John). Called at the supermarket for quorn chicken, fake mince and veggie friendly cheese Doritos then went slowly, slowly through the traffic to Meersbrook.

Fortunately, the Chesterfield Road was open again. It is possible to get to Freyja’s place by other routes, but I am not especially familiar with them. And the mapping for that warren of streets up behind the main road is not very clear (the streets are too small and too numerous to show up well on the normal map). And, of course we did not have Jenny.

As it was, however, despite the heavy traffic, we got there ready to celebrate Mark’s birthday with a cup of tea and a biscuit. And cake. And more cake. The cakes were very yummy.

Then Mark’s parents and brother came for dinner and The Builder and I (not invited for dinner :-( ) went home. Taking cakes and biscuits with us.

We gave him a red dragon for his birthday. A wooden one, with a tilted platform for it to waddle down. It’s very cute. And some veggie friendly sweeties..

And Freyja made him his very own birthday cake (chocolate and chocolate chip) in the shape of a Mario hat. It was very clever!

There was still loads of traffic on Chesterfield Road.

Uncle John’s indicator light had decided to work again, so there was no need to go hastening to the mechanic.

Mark’s birthday dinner was fajitas made with the quorn stuff. We had braised loin of pork with wild and red rice and red onions, red cabbage and sprouts

And I played the University Challenge challenge with Tabitha and Gareth’s group (we watch the show in our various residences, answer questions as we know them, then send in our tally to Tabitha). I was doing badly, really, really badly. To the point that I had decided to pretend I hadn’t been playing for the shame of such a low score. Then, in the second half there was an incredible run of questions that I knew the answer to. I came top!!!!!

We brought Jenny with us this morning. Mercifully, there were no excitements and we didn’t need her. But I really am going to get into the habit of bringing her when I get in a vehicle. No point having a Sat Nav if it is at home when you need it

Here are Freyja's cakes (they're Freyja's photos too):

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I really, really, really ought to get into the habit of taking Jenny the GPS with us whenever we get into a vehicle. I really only think to take her when I know we are going somewhere unfamiliar.

This didn’t matter so much on Saturday when, after we had been to the Chatsworth shop, we decided to go out for lunch. Not Bakewell. We always go to Bakewell and there we always go to the Peacock. Let’s go somewhere different. Castleton? Yeah – but not sure of the best way to get there from here. Go that way while I find the map.

Oh look. Signposts to Ashford in the Water. Let’s go there instead. It’s simply ages since we were there last. And there was quite a nice pub, as I remember it. There is indeed. The Ashford Arms. It was just opening as we got there. It’s a lovely building. And the food is wonderful.

Perhaps just as well we didn’t have Jenny. We’d have gone to Castleton if we had!

We had gone to Chatsworth in search of more Seville oranges. They had a price label for them but no oranges :-( I asked if they were getting any more. Mayyyybeeee. But it’s getting towards the end of the season and they weren’t sure. Give them a ring on Monday. We paid for the rest of the shopping and headed off back to the car. And found ANOTHER box of Seville oranges. I grabbed a plastic bag and filled it up, the queued for ever to pay (I think a coach load of pensioners was getting ready to leave). I had picked up 2.5 kilos or oranges.

I dealt with them on Sunday, following a Delia recipe. I decided to follow it exactly, because I’d never used it before. It called for the use of 900g of oranges. I used probably about a kilo. It made up five jam jars full of marmalade. That gives me 3 jars of Seville jelly, five jars of Seville marmalade and the potential for another five. Anybody want any marmalade? I’ll cheerfully deliver it anywhere I legally can do! I couldn’t make the second batch on Sunday because I had run out of sugar.

While I was doing that, The Builder had taken advantage of the unusual sunshine to disappear to the allotment and start digging the new potato patches. I’ve ordered the potatoes and we could do to plant them out perhaps before we head overseas in April. At the latest, May. He came home all stiff and sore and had to have a lie down in a nice hot bath. It’s the first bath I remember him taking since he moved in with me!

I took advantage of the sunshine and strong winds too. I hung the washing to dry outside. And more or less it did dry. It was just a bit damp when I brought it back in. I also did the RSPB bird count on Sunday morning. My tally for the hour of counting was: 15 starlings (fighting over the meal worms), 2 collared doves, 2 blackbirds, 1 sparrow, 2 dunnocks, 5 magpies, 1 wren, 1 robin and 7 blue tits (actually, I only saw three but The Builder saw 7 all together at the bottom of the garden during my hour of counting).

It mattered this morning that we didn’t have Jenny. We came up through Woodseats at about 20 past 7 to find the main road closed. Traffic was diverted down Woodseats Road and up what ever the road is called to the right. We followed all the rest of the traffic to the right – which was a bit silly because I could have got us into town no trouble at all going to the left. Going to the right took me into entirely unknown territory. All would have been well had the van in front of us not stopped to let a bus out. Otherwise, we would have followed the rest of the traffic. As it was, it had all gone by the time we got moving again so we followed the van. The Builder kept asking where we should go next. I don’t know. I’ve never been up here before. I don’t even know where we are. There were no signposts. No real main roads. Then I found the map hidden in the van. That helped a bit. We had found our way to Gleadless and eventually got back on the way into town. As it was, we’d gone in a huge big arc. Jenny would have known about the road that all the traffic had come up and which was now queuing to get onto our road! I MUST take her with me whenever I leave the house, just in case of sudden, unexpected diversions. Mind you, I thought it was just a bit slack of the police not to put a diversion sign up at the road we should have turned down!

All of this excitement was apparently caused by a murder which had taken place on Chesterfield Road near the Heeley Railway Bridge on Sunday afternoon. Near the Heeley Railway Bridge – and NEAR FREYJA!!!!!!! The road has been closed since mid-afternoon yesterday (though I think it is open again now). She went down to the shops earlier today and found the whole road closed, shops and all. It is therefore up to The Builder and me to leap onto our silver horses and ride to the rescue with the makings of Mark’s Birthday Dinner. This may mean that we won’t be able to stay for a cup of tea. Having replaced Uncle John’s headlights yesterday after they abruptly failed on Friday, we now need to replace his indicator light. They apparently failed this morning. Nick leaves his garridge at 7 and we need to get there before he goes.

One way and another, it’s been quite an eventful couple of days.

Oh - and I have managed to offload the extra marmalade oranges onto Bea. So not quite so many homes to find for the marmalade jars!!

Friday, January 25, 2008

An exciting afternoon at work

My but that was exciting!

I had just saved a (finished) Word document at 4:20 yesterday afternoon, and was idly pondering whether I had time for a cup of tea before The Builder picked me up at 4:45. Suddenly, the power cut out and everything went off. Everything except the emergency lights. So glad I'd saved that document!

I looked out my window into the library proper and saw students wandering about in a bewildered sort of a way.

We wandered up to the L3 desk where lots of the staff had gathered. One of our managers came ambling down.

By 25 to 5 it was beginning to get very gloomy in the building. It was decided to evacuate it because, although we could perfectly safely around us, we couldn’t see all that clearly what was happening on the other side of the building. Can’t use the tannoy, of course. No power. So we walked the floors, asking students to leave. And they did. Without arguing. Though it was fascinating how many asked when the power would come back (I don’t know. I don’t know why it went away – though I could hazard a guess) and even why we had turned it off (We didn’t. If we had been intending to turn it off, we would have warned you).

The building cleared of students, I went, somewhat later than I had intended, to find The Builder who was patiently wondering where I was, and we headed to Waitrose and then home. Interestingly, Waitrose also had a very brief power cut while we were there. But I don't think it was me causing it all. Freyja says that they also had a couple of power cuts during the evening at her work.

Meanwhile, back at the library. The Powers That Be decided that the University would be closed down. Everyone, including the evening shift, went home. Our overnight security people were phoned and told not to come in. The last of the managers went out just after ten past five – and as he walked out all the lights came back on! Too late to reopen. Everyone had gone home. Such excitements never happen when I’m on the evening shift!!!

It was fun getting in this morning, though. Our front doors were chained shut. I had to go round and come in through the main entrance. Then our entrance doors were locked. I had to go all the way up to the staff entrance on L7 and then walk all the way down to my new office on L2. Take the lift? Are you mad? What happens if another idiot with a JCB cuts through the power cable?

The new shower is working beautifully. Much more powerful than the electric shower was. Only problem is that it takes longer to get the water temperature right.

Oh – and I’ve seen the fox. It was ambling about on Bridge Street by the ginnel between number 4 and 6. So perhaps it did come in through the gate (though there is a significant difference in vehicle and pedestrian traffic between 06:50 and 16:00. I wouldn’t be ambling on Bridge Street at 16:00 if I were a fox). It seemed a bit surprised to see Uncle John coming out of the driveway

Monday, January 21, 2008

I've broken the shower!

Let this be a lesson to you. Cleaning is a Very Dangerous Thing To Do! I decided last week to clean the shower, though I can’t really tell you why. I turned the cold water on in the shower very hard to rinse it down. The bung flew out of the outlet pipe. Result – one buggered shower :-( It seems you can’t buy replacement bungs (ours is quite an old shower) and new showers are rather more than we can afford at the moment, although The Builder is working again this week. Gloom. Mercifully there is a shower in the bath which can be used for the time being. But carefully, so as not to drench the entire bathroom.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – my PC in the new office was still sulking mightily on Friday. Paul’s had stopped sulking and started working perfectly happily once the IT bods has turned the ports on properly. Mine sulked on. Somebody came and took it away. I returned to the Level 3 office and used someone else’s computer. Eventually my PC came back. No wonder it had been sulking – they had been calling it by the wrong name so it didn’t realise that anyone was talking to it. Now that they’ve adjusted the PC name on the port, it’s working beautifully! My desk is starting to look quite cheerful. I’ve bought it a couple of plants and it’s very tidy. It probably won’t stay tidy but it is at the moment.

The Builder happened to be at home on Friday afternoon. They finish at 3:30 on Fridays and we were going out in the evening. He had gone home to change and tidy up before going out. After all, we don’t want him going out to dinner all covered in sawdust. He was watching out the kitchen window shortly before it went properly dark – and saw a fox pottering about on the brick patio! I wish I had seen the fox on the patio. He went out to chase it away (I don’t know why; it wasn’t doing any harm) and it vanished into the pile of rubbish. We assume there must be a hole under the fence in there. I can’t imagine that a fox would have come along the pavement and down through the gate at the time of the day and, although foxes can climb, I can’t see that it could have climbed over the fence from the farm. Anyway, it seems to have gone now.

We went to a Thai restaurant on Friday evening, in Sheffield, with Bea and Steve, Roger and Kate, plus George and Sandy, both from the L3 team. It was more or less a reconvening of the SE Christmas party, which was always the first Friday after payday in January. I’ve never been to a Thai restaurant before. I had always assumed that there would be nothing that I would be able to eat. This restaurant had been recommended by someone from Roger’s team – although in the end she couldn’t come. I consulted the waiter when we arrived and he was fantastic. He made sure that everything I ate was safe for me and chatted to me on and off throughout the evening. The food was absolutely delicious. The whole evening was great. Lots of chat, lots of wine, lots of magnificent food. What more could you ask for. Vegetarian options? Loads of those as well. Then Sandy, Roger and Kate, and George all very sensibly went home. We went back to Bea and Steve’s and drank more wine and stayed over.

Which meant I was really quite sleepy on Saturday when, after borrowing a clean pair of knickers and some socks from Bea, I dragged myself to Psalter Lane for a Saturday shift there. Steve drove me there, then took The Builder into town to catch a train home, then he and Bea went off to buy a breadmaker. It was EXTREMELY quiet at Psalter Lane on Saturday. We had 5 queries all day, and they were all between 11 and 1. It was a long afternoon!

We meandered off to Chatsworth on Sunday to pay a visit to the farm shop. And got there half an hour too early. Sunday opening times are very complicated. Shops over a certain size can open 10-4, 10:30-4:30 or 11-5. Shops under that size and employing fewer than a certain number of staff can open whenever they please. Most shops do, though, open 10-4. Enough for you reasonably to assume that those are the Sunday hours. Except for the farm shop which is 11-5! So we went to Bakewell to fill in the time (and found that the shops there open at a bewildering array of different times!). Still, we are now vegetabled up. I’ve roasted a chicken whose price positively made my eyes water when I paid for it (although if you cost it per the portion I expect to get from it, it works out at just over £1 per portion which isn’t too bad at all). I’ve made stock with the bones and giblets and am now using half the stock for a thick winter stew.

And it crossed our minds that we don’t actually need to replace the electric shower in the shower recess. We have a perfectly good shower in the bath, running off the hot water service. So we headed out to B&Q and The Builder has now put up a shower rail and shower curtain around the bath. We forgot to buy a fixing for the shower so it can sit on the wall, but we’ll do that soon. And now we are considering whether to get rid of the shower recess altogether. It would make the bathroom a touch more spacious and it’s not as if we actually need it.

It’s raining. It’s been raining more or less since last May, unless Ian happened to be about. There are severe weather warnings and flood alerts. In Bakewell the Wye seems to have ambitions on the entire known world. It was lapping along the side of the path and the edges of the low footbridge when we went from the car park to the town centre. When we came back the Environment Agency was in the process of closing the paths and the footbridges and the Wye was in the process of taking over the path as part of the river course. The meadows are flooded and the Canada geese were having a wonderful time riding the river and the cataracts – white water rafting for geese! The Derwent at Chatsworth was also in full flow, bouncing over its cataract with great abandon.

Oh – The Builder finally worked out what was making the puddle on the kitchen floor. The little radiator had a very slow leak in its valve. We’ve decided that we don’t really need heating on in the kitchen – and in any case we hadn’t been sure if it really made any difference, it being very small and right next to the stairs to the cellar. We’ve turned it off. The puddle is gone.

I wonder what I’ll break if I go and clean the bathroom.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

One of the small frustrations of life ...

… is that if we leave home at 06:55 in the morning, The Builder ambles past the Adsetts Centre at about 7:25 and gets to Handsworth at around 07:40. If we leave at 7, I arrive at the Adsetts Centre at 07:45/50 and he gets to Handsworth at precisely 08:00 or a little after. He is supposed to be ready to start a-buildering at 8.

It's a bloody nuisance that 5 minutes makes soooo much difference to when we arrive. And, of course, makes no useful difference at all to the time you have at home in the morning.

Still, at least we haven't been flooded. Which is more than can be said for poor Tewkesbury!

I haven't been sleeping well :-( I went to bed on Tuesday night. Went to sleep. The Builder went to bed. He went to sleep. Marlo went to sleep on top of The Builder. There we were, all sleeping. Suddenly The Builder let out a mighty arrrgghhhhh and leapt out of bed, scattering Marlo all over me. This, not surprisingly, woke Marlo and me right up. He had horrid cramp in his leg. The Builder, that is. All calmed down, cramp gone, we all went back to sleep. Suddenly, The Builder let out a mighty ARRRGGHHHHH and bolted upright. This certainly woke Marlo and me up. Marlo, it appears, had been dreaming and had suddenly thrown out a paw and grabbed The Builder by the throat with all the claws on that paw. Everyone calmed down again and went back to sleep. The Builder did not then let out a mighty arrrgghhhh but there was something of a squawk. Marlo had once again clipped at The Builder with a claw. I gave up at that point. It was nearly quarter past five, the radio comes on at half past and we are usually getting up around ten to six. I sent The Builder down for some tea.

I was in bed nice and early last evening. And didn't wake up until quarter to six when the alarm went.

I am on a late shift this evening. As The Builder was getting ready to go, he noticed that there was water under the shoe rack by the little radiator in the kitchen. We shifted the shoe rack for inspection purposes. Dried it all up. Doesn't seem to be the radiator leaking. And the floor was still dry when I left for work at half one. Left the shoe rack in the dining room so I could take the opportunity to clean underneath where it sits. This, of course, meant I had to clean the rest of the kitchen floor. I would be MUCH too embarassed to describe the colour of the water to you (I have a new bucket. All the others seem to have migrated outside and got muddy. This is to be an INSIDE bucket. And it's blue, not orange, so I can tell the difference). I am much too scared to tackle the bathroom floor!!

We found a packet of rabbit food when we moved the shoes. I wonder how long that's been there. We also found a roll of sellotape. Perhaps I should move the shoes more often.

I've moved down to the Level 2 office. My phone number is now 0114 225 6029. My PC moved down as well. It's engaged in a mega sulk, is refusing to work and emphatically will not talk to the network. This is also true of my colleague Paul's PC which also moved down today. And my back and shoulder are very unforgiving of all the crawling around under my desk that I've done this afternoon. I hope it works tomorrow

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Another not very exciting entry

Oh boy is it raining. I went out this morning, early, to put the recycling in the box. Was wearing my sheepskin boots. Really should have put my gummies on – the courtyard was drenched. Marlo came in absolutely soaked and had to be dried down. He finished the drying process by lying on the Radio Times! We came into Sheffield in Uncle John. The A61 leading into Chesterfield was trying to pretend it was really a small river. I hope we manage to get back home again tonight!

Was wet but not torrential in Sheffield. At least the railway bridge in Heeley (near Freyja’s place) wasn’t flooded. It so often is. It is, however, still very dark outside.

And at least we are not at the mercy of Severe Weather Warnings from the Met Office. Quite a lot of the south of England is. So too are Gloucester and Tewkesbury, both of which are only just recovered from the floods last summer. The BBC weather forecast last night looked absolutely grim with heavy rain across the country accompanied by gales. Not unusual weather for January, perhaps, but it’s uncommon for it to completely obliterate Britain with heavy cloud.

The Builder is back at work, at least for the next couple of weeks. The agency he was working for when he was at the mental hospital have found him a fortnight’s work in Handsworth. Should keep the bailiffs at bay for a bit – this agency pays better than the one he usually works for! It’s also quite handy for me. He passes by the Adsetts Centre at just after half seven which is a tad on the early side but an improvement on walking, catching the bus, walking, catching the train and walking in the cold and dark and rain – and leaving at the same time as he does but arriving £8 lighter in the pocket and 20 minutes later at work. He picks me up in the evening as well :-)

We had a nice, peaceful, quiet weekend. The Builder went on Saturday morning to look at some repairs that a colleague of mine wants doing. The bodgy roof job is probably a bit big for The Builder on his own, but he will do the rest of it. Eventually. Richard also wants stuff done. So too does one of the women in his usual agency. So even if regular work doesn’t immediately appear after this job there should be little bits of things to do (plus the allotment, though it is a bit wet for digging and the allotment doesn’t pay him!). When he got back we trundled out to Chatsworth to the farm shop for supplies. I was going to buy a chicken, but the only one they had when we got there was ENORMOUS. So I bought a turkey crown instead. Probably didn’t cost much less but much more manageable for just the two of us. Sunday roast and lunchtime sandwiches for the rest of the week. That chicken would have gone on and on and on and on. I suppose I could have frozen some of the leftovers …

And so home for a quiet afternoon doing not very much.

Sunday we did a dry run into Handsworth via the Adsetts Centre to see how long it would take. Not very long at all, it seems. And back home for another restful day doing not a lot. My shoulder, elbow and wrist were much impressed by this and more or less stopped hurting. They hurt again now, though – although not so much as last week. The application of the heat pack and a hot water bottle seem to be helping. Typing, carrying and moving around the Adsetts Centre are not :-(

I bought Marlo a radiator hammock. It’s fleecy and hangs over the radiator and gets lovely and warm when the radiator is on. Marlo is *very* suspicious of it!

Friday, January 11, 2008

One day last week, The Builder was gazing idly out the lounge room window, watching the wind and the rain. Along came a garbage truck, picking up, emptying and putting back down the wheelie bins of the street. It picked up ours, emptied it – and then ate it up. Every last scrap. No more wheelie bin for us :-(

He rang me to tell me of this amazing sight. We don’t generate a huge lot of rubbish, but there is some. And a bin is handy for keeping the local rats, cats, dogs and foxes from strewing rubbish all over the drive. I rang the council. The woman who answered the phone laughed! But then a bit later someone else rang up and said that the munching of our bin had been reported by the bin crew and a new bin was on its way.

And lo – a brand spanking, sparkling bin has duly arrived. I shall have to think of something to decorate it with. The last one had fairies but I don’t feel the need to replace them!

Other than that, it’s been fairly quiet. We came into Sheffield on Saturday evening to have dinner with our pals Sue and Roger. Haven’t seen them since The Builder’s birthday cake party last April – though I’ve seen Sue once or twice and we communicate occasionally by email. That was nice. We’ve done a bit or preparation for spring on the allotment, though not as much as we had hoped because it’s been raining on and off for days. We didn’t go out for lunch on Sunday because we neither of us have much spare cash, and The Builder isn’t working at the moment. We did have hopes of a long term job starting this week, but that seems to have vanished into the ether. So we stayed at home and had home cooked roast beef and Yorkshire puddings instead. I don’t get paid until tomorrow week, so I expect this coming weekend will be just as quiet.

I’ve done something horrible to my shoulder. It hurts and hurts and hurts and hurts. This means that my elbow and wrist are also hurting. Plus I am inclined to scrunch my shoulder up when it hurts which only makes it worse – and makes the other shoulder hurt too :-( I suspect that constant keyboarding isn’t helping. And I know for a certain fact that going down to the stack, collecting around 30 theses, putting them in a box and then carrying them (via the lift) to Level 4 then individually checking them out and putting them back in the box – well that didn’t help at all, at all. The lavender heat pack that Lindsey bought for Ian’s back and left behind at The Sidings is helping, however. It’s a pity that it’s at The Sidings and I’m at work.

I’m moving offices next week. I’m moving down to the D&S team office on Level 2. Most of my stuff has moved down already. I’ve even bought my new desk a parlour palm in a purple bowl. From Thursday I’ll be at a new extension. I’ll let you know what it is when I get it.

We need to go to Bristol. The zoo there is reporting the birth of the first baby aye aye in the UK. There have been several aye ayes born at the Durrell zoo, but Jersey is, it seems, not in the UK but is a Crown Protectorate instead. I suppose Bristol will be easier to get to than Jersey. But I shall wait until the baby aye aye has been put out for admiration

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A visit to the cinema

The Builder and I celebrated New Years Day by going to the cinema!

Yes. Really!

Some weeks ago I was heading out of the main building with Freyja when we came upon a poster for Beowulf. I muttered in passing that it was quite tempting, Beowulf being a very satisfactorily gory tale. Freyja took this to mean that I was tempted by a visit to the cinema and therefore turned down all invitations to go and see it with other people while waiting for me to decide when I wanted to see it. I, on the other hand, having merely meant that when it came out on DVD I must remember to borrow it, was giving no thought at all to going to the cinema. Freyja began to remind me. No time before Christmas. Then let's go on New Years Day. Oh, all right then. Given as how you've turned down everyone else's invitation to go and see it. The Builder is coming too. Whether he wants to or not!

So we did. Freyja had mentioned several times that it was in 3D. This wasn't entirely meaningful to me. I didn't really need to see it in 3D and don't like wearing special glasses cos I have to wear them over my regular ones and it's a bit wearing on the eyes. But oh boy, is this 3D. It's like being in the middle of it all. The number of times I nearly ducked as the arrows came flying towards me (The Builder apparently did duck!). And it's very disconcerting when somebody points a massive sword at you, about 3 cm from your nose. Oh - and it's very worrying when small children get up to go to the loo and walk straight under (or through) a monster or dragon or whatever. It was a grand film. Lots of blood and gore and chaos and mayhem, not to mention death, destruction and disaster. I am, however, astonished it got a 12 rating! I've now started reading the poem (in translation - my Anglo Saxon has never been up to much!). I have read it before, but about 30 years ago and I don't really remember the detail.

It was the very first time ever that The Builder and I have been to the cinema together. I last went , oh, must be 3.5 years ago when Tabitha, Gareth and Freyja kidnapped me and hustled me off to see Pirates of the Caribbean 1. And The Builder hasn't been since Mary Poppins was a lass. Perhaps we should go again. One day. We could go to Bradford to the Imax cinema. I went once before and saw a documentary on the Grand Canyon. I don't now need to go to the Grand Canyon. I've pretty much been!

Back at work today after very close to a fortnight off. I remembered to turn the alarm back on last night! Though as it happens it wouldn't have mattered if I hadn't. I was awake at bang on half past five. Didn't get up then, though. The Builder isn't at work this week so there was no need for rushing about. Term doesn't start till next week so we are not frantically busy, but there are a few students milling about.

Marlo has discovered a new sleeping place. He has found that we have turned the little tiny radiator in the kitchen on (We didn't have it on last winter - it's been colder on and off this year). In front of the tiny radiator is the shoe rack. If he lies on my shoes he can toast his back against the radiator. My tassel hat was lying on top of the shoes this morning. He's using it as a pillow!

Sometime during December I put a stats counter on the blog. Just for fun, really. It means, amongst other things, that I can track what country and even city people who read the blog are located in. I had a play with it yesterday, just before I reset the stats for January. I wonder who I know in Darwin

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Farewell 2007

I have finished the Christmas jigsaw! It’s a Wentworth wooden puzzle. Only 500 pieces but it’s laser cut so no two pieces are the same. Plus, it has whimsies (so called, apparently, because Victorian jigsaw cutters cut them on a whim). Ours is a Christmas tea time scene so the whimsies are a knife, fork, spoon; candle in a candestick; a teapot, tea cup, sticky bun and piece of toast. Then there are some which appear as you put the pieces together – a slice of cake, a bowl of trifle, an egg in a cup, a champagne bottle. It was great fun to do but strangely difficult.

This morning, there was a bang, bang, bang on the door. And finally, finally, The Builder’s third Christmas parcel turned up. Another jigsaw. Nothing like as expensive as a Wentworth jigsaw and made of cardboard rather than wood – and certainly no whimsies or strangely shaped pieces. It’s 1000 pieces and is going to take a bit of time to do (especially after Marlo has scattered all the bits about!) He’s just started it. I expect to hear from him again in a week or so!

When we moved in, there was a pub on one of the back roads just this side of Hasland called the Winsick Arms. I was saying to The Builder one evening as we drove past that we really ought to go up and try it some day. The next day when we drove past it was all boarded up! Time past. It looked sad and depressed and lonely. Then someone started work on it. Eventually, about 11 months after it close it reopened, transformed into the Telmere Arms – apparently it was first known as the Telmere Lodge. Today we have finally managed to go and try it out. It’s a lovely, family run pub with a very impressive menu. The Builder had a Thai prawn curry which he really enjoyed. I had a seafood crumble which was ok – the crumble was a bit dry and there was rather too much of it. The downfall was the mashed potato which was Too Salty. I do so wish people wouldn’t add salt to the food. After all, if people want salt there’s loads on the table. I think I might find a pub and cook salt free food. Or perhaps I should just stick to steak and chips! But we will go there again. Once Sunday, I think.

Then we took ourselves to the Grassmoor Country Park which we drive past frequently but which we have never stopped to look at. It’s built on the site of the old Grassmoor Colliery and has several paths meandering through it. There were lots of people there this lunchtime walking their dogs. I think it will probably bear closer inspection; there are a number of small tracks wandering off from the main paths. It’s also the start of the Five Pit Trail which is about 5.5 miles long. Then, of course, you’d have to come back, though there is a means of making a lollipop walk of about 5.5 miles if you only follow the trail about half way. But it was a bit late in the day at the end of December for that length of walk. It’ll be dark by half four and fairly dark by around 4. A summer activity, I think. I really must go to the Country Centre in Clay Cross. They have leaflets and guides to all kinds of things like this locally. I’ve never been there. I’m not even sure where it is. I must find it!

Lindsey made the comment when she was here in August that we get very few birds visiting our garden, which is odd given that we live in the country and have loads of fields and woodlands around us. This is true in the late summer (I think the birds are moulting then so not widely about, but for whatever reason they do mostly disappear in August). It is, however, not true in autumn, winter and spring. This morning we had blackbirds, starlings, magpies, a robin, blue tits, a great tit, a wren, a sparrow and some chaffinches all mootling about more or less at the same time. I think the wren lives in our thicket of bushes. I was going to prune them! We saw a couple of bullfinches on our walk too.

So that’s it for 2007. It’s already 2008 in Melbourne and (just) in Nagoya. In February it will also be the Year of the Rat in Nagoya – or so I understand from the BBC website. There are still a few hours of 2007 to go here. On balance, I think it’s been quite a good year. Lots of interesting things have happened. There have been many feasts and some parties and considerable merriment and just a few trips out. One or two minor worries but no disasters (though there are still a few hours to go!). Here’s looking forward to 2008 as even better.

It’s three years today since The Builder and I moved into the Mudhut. Gosh!