Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Well done, good and faithful servants

I have today done my very last ever shift on the Level 3 desk. It's being dismantled on Monday morning to make way for the reorganisation of the book shelves. We are all moving up to staff the Level 5 desk.

I've been working on that desk in all its various manifestations for what - eight years or so now. It used to be an underused information desk tucked away in a corner, yearning to be more like its big brother upstairs on Level 5. Then one summer we moved it to a more obvious spot and it promptly shot to prominence. Then the IT help desk came to join it and it became a Very Big Desk indeed. It's a bit sad to think that from Monday it will be no more. It has been a very informative information desk

I came to Psalter Lane this afternoon, for what may (or may not) be my last Psalter shift. I have done my last Psalter evening shift - on Wednesday for Paul, who is honeymooning in Paris. The previous Vice Chancellor sold the site off - her parting gift to us. It's a real pity. The Psalter campus houses the creative courses and has a lovely feel to it. The students are quite different from the rest of the student body. The facilities are all moving to the City campus over the summer, ready for when the undergrads come back in September. This is one of the reasons why we are doing a major reorganisation of the Adsetts Centre. Anyway, I came to cover the desk so the regular staff could go to a meeting. Got here to find that the meeting had been cancelled. I am covering the desk anyway. If this is to be my last Psalter shift (though it may not be - I *think* the library will not finally close until the end of August) then I don't want to miss it.

I wonder what the ghostly Mr Nicholson (said to haunt the library) will make of it when we go

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Spring Bank Holiday weekend

It was, largely, a dry, extremely windy and rather chilly weekend. The weather boys and girls had been promising rain "tomorrow" but as each tomorrow turned into today - the promised rain remained at tomorrow. It was nice to have a dry weekend, but we did need the rain.

Could have done without the wind as well. I tried to pot on my tomato seedlings, but had to give up. Everything kept trying to blow away! I also haven't sowed my flower seeds. Another day! The Builder and I have, however, "fenced" the gooseberry bushes in the same way that the raspberries are fenced. Will keep the longer branches off the path.

I have been harvesting, chopping and freezing mint. I have a huge abundance of mint up by the pond - and never store it. Then I buy it in expensive sprigs over the winter! I'm going to freeeze more. And I'm planning to do some oregano and marjoram as well. Plus, we have been harvesting our rhubarb glut. I have chutney in the larder and rhubarb in the freezer, plus crumbles and pies, also in the freezer.

The beans, which were accidentally exposed to frost last weekend, suffered horribly from it. But I think they're going to survive. They all have green growing tips. One or two lost their central ones but are sprouting side tips. Fingers crossed! Lesson to be learned. DO NOT plant out tender things in May, no matter how clement the weather has been! All remain in the propagating tent for the time being. Oh - and I have five, perhaps six sweet potato plants ready to go to the allotment. I think I can probably risk planting them out. There is little chance they'll be hit by frost in the greenhouse. And there shouldn't be any proper frosts now. (Having said that, I've had the heating on at home today!)

The Builder has finished digging over the third potato bed. I've planted the remaining seed potatoes there. It's a mish mash of pink fir apples, Aaran Victory, a couple of Lady Balfours and some that were last years crop that we never got around to eating. In the pea bed, I've thickly sown two rows of Feltham First. They're an autumn or very, very early spring planting variety that I found at the bottom of my seed tin. I'm not intending to grow very early varieties in the furute - I don't think you really gain anything. My mid-spring sowings of peas and broad beans are at least as advanced as the autumn sowings and the germination rates were twice as good. But I figured I might as well use the peas and see what happens. Plus, I've put in a couple of rows of Hurst Green Shaft. I think there is probably room for three more rows. Must get some more seed peas!

For the first time since we got the allotment, we've had to water! Obviously, we've been watering the greenhouses, but we didn't water outside last year at all. I grant you that last year was fairly wet throughout the summer - and that we didn't grow anything the year before because we didn't get it till fairly late and it was somewhat overgrown. I would expect to have to water outside most years. But in May? The last couple of weeks have been strangely dry! We seem to have been living under a huge, invisible umbrella. Everyywhere else in the country has been getting more or less the usual amount of rain!

It started raining on Monday evening and has been drizzly, misty and damp since. At least the wind has dropped. And the small water butts, depleted both at home and on the allotment (Can't get to the large ones - the one at home is hidden in a huge swath of long grass and the one on the allotment has its tap guarded by a vigorous crop of stinging nettles!) are now filling up nicely again.

The pond is no longer the colour of tinned pea and ham soup. It's kind of a milky grey-green now. I don't know what else to do to clear it, short of adding industrial quantities of pond clearing chemicals which doesn't seem entirely desirable. The Builder and I are pondering the possibility of catching all the fish (!!), putting them in one of the water butts and emptying the pond, fixing the leak at the back and refilling it. After the frogs have gone!

Spring Bank Holiday Weekend

I am delighted to report that there is very little to report about the weekend just gone.

It was a long weekend.

For me it was an extra long weekend, for Tuesday was a University holiday and today I didn’t come into Psalter Lane until half past two.

And it was lovely and quiet and restful.

Well, fairly restful.

We went to Chatsworth on Saturday for a few supplies and decided to call into Ashover on the way home for lunch. It’s a little place which we pass through occasionally if we are taking back routes to Chatsworth or Bakewell. It had attracted my attention partly because the local “parish council” which oversees many of the roads we travel on to Beeley and thereabouts is the Ashover Parish Council, but mostly because the pub you see on the road that passes through is called Old Poet’s Corner and looked quite interesting. It was definitely on my mental list of places to visit for lunch one day. Well, with a name like that, you more or less have to go and investigate, now don't you. Though I still don't know why it bears that name. Must find out.

It’s not a bad pub, not a bad pub at all. It sells several real ales and, happily, some real ciders. I had a pint of Old Rosie Scrumpy. It also has a good menu with quite a bit of local produce on it. The Builder and I both had local organic sausages - lamb and mint, and pork, spring onion and ginger – with mashed potato and peas. It was too salty for my taste but the sausages were well made and nice and meaty. After lunch we went for a potter about. And found two more pubs, which also look quite interesting, a cricket pitch, a lovely little church, and an extra bit of the village which we didn’t realise was there, with a Post Office, a butcher and a deli. It’s a nice place. We have added the other two pubs to our list of places to visit!

On the way home, we found a small reservoir near Clay Cross. Ogston Reservoir. There’s not a lot to do there, but we went for a poke about and an ice cream. Then we went home.

Despite the dire predictions of rain, chaos and horrible weather conditions for the Bank Holiday Weekend, we were mostly dry. Very, very windy, but dry. We spent most of the weekend in the garden or on the allotment, or pottering about, not doing very much. We ate well, drank well, slept in a wee bit – but not much. Not only are we trained now for early, early rising, but the birds start singing loudly and joyfully at about half past four. It’s lovely to hear, but you could wish they’d wait a couple of hours!

We didn’t get the promised, and much needed, rain until Monday night. It rained on and off for most of yesterday, and for bits of today. Mostly it has been damp and misty and very drizzly. The Builder went back to work. I stayed inside!

And cleaned.

I cleaned the skirting boards, I did. This meant, of course, that I had to clean the dado rails as well, lest they felt left out. Plus those irritating little ledge thingies on the doors. And having done all that I figured I might as well clean the window sills too. If you're going to do all that then there is no choice but to get the hoover out, then the broom and mop for the kitchen and the bathroom. I've even cleaned the fridge and the ovens.The hoover was in a catatonic state and refusing to work any more. I've broken my little Galileo barometer. Marlo went into hiding.I was knackered.And then the windows started glaring at me accusingly.I went to bake some bread as a recovery activity and to avoid actually cleaning the windows.Frannie - Domestic Goddess in training :-D

Before The Builder came home, I went and had a shower and put some clean clothes on. There was a stew bubbling away, ready for when he was ready for dinner.

I think I must have been captured by the 1950s yesterday!!!!

It was better today – there wasn’t really anything much left to be done. The house positively gleams!

I’ve brought the second freezer back into commission. We seem to have been over run with a glut of rhubarb. I’ve got tubs of frozen rhubarb, plus rhubarb crumbles and rhubarb pies in there. Oh – and I’ve got 8 jars of rhubarb chutney down in the larder, alongside the 4 I already had. My larder is beginning to look quite well-stocked and it’s only the end of May! I tell you – the 1950s! Does that mean I get to do the 1960s next weekend?

Monday, May 19, 2008

50 wildflower plugs arrived on Thursday. I've planted them along the brick path, next to the fence. Not all of them. About 30. The rest are in the propagating tent, waiting in case the thirty do not all survive. If they do, I'll plant them in one of the flower beds. There are five of ten different varieties. Six tiny chocolate cosmos plants arrived. I've put them in a little hedge along the very edge of the brick patio, behind the lavender and rosemary. Am now thinking happy, growing thoughts in their direction.

We were going to take the magic bean collection and stripy bean seedlings up to the allotment yesterday and plant them out. Inertia and black clouds prevented us doing it. Just as well - there was an unexpected (to us) frost last night. I don't think they'd have enjoyed it up there much!! The Builder has planted out his runner beans (seedlings and seeds). There wasn't time to inspect them this morning but they're in a fairly sheltered spot so may well have been all right.

We did, however, put great effort into trying to sort out the fish pond, which is about the colour of pea and ham soup. We've treated it with Pond Clear a couple of times, but it hasn't made very much difference. In fact, no difference. So we had a look at the filter. And discovered that it's an ultra violet filter which should have its ultra violet thingummy changed every six months. Well, we've been there two years and have never changed it. We have now bought a new one. Was something of a song and dance to fit it, though. I'm hoping that this will fix it. I have no idea how many fish there are. And almost anything could be lurking at the bottom of that there pond and we'd be none the wiser.

There are lots and lots of embryonic cherries and apples in the orchard. And even a couple of pears and plums. But no peaches. And the peach and plum trees seem to have curly leaf. Must do something about that.

Oh - and all ten of the apsaragus plants have now put up a shoot. Excellent. 100% success rate there

Robert has come up with a flaw in my otherwise acceptable funeral plans.

He has pointed out that one of the likely, indeed almost inevitable consequences of strewing ashes from bridges or anywhere else is that of the onlookers being covered in ashy debris. He says, and he should know, that even pouring ashes from an urn into a hole in the ground, tends to cover the officiant in a thin layer of ashy dust.

Well that won’t do. I do not wish you all to end up in the pub in a grimy state. Most undignified. Mick was not poured into a hole in the ground from an urn. His ashes were placed in a tiny casket which was lowered into the grave in a sedate manner by means of a long, white ribbon, by the ebullient funeral director. I shall be launched into the river in a box. Not a shiny, wooden box. We don’t want me to be bobbing off down the river, to the alarm of ducks, swans and innocent passers by. A well-made cardboard box, about the size of a cake box. Weighted down with a little stone to prevent bobbing.

I am also a little alarmed by the number of you who have commented that you have noted my funeral requirements but that you expect to pre-decease me by a long way. What do you lot know that I do not? Why are you all going to pre-decease me? What am I supposed to do, left here all on my own, while you lot are all occupied with daisy pushing? It won’t do, you know. It won’t do at all!

We had a wonderfully quiet weekend. We did really very little. We went to the supermarket and that was more or less it. We didn’t even go as far as Chatsworth. We spent most of Saturday in the garden (overcast though it was) and most of Sunday morning pottering about doing gardening things. We were going to go to the allotment on Sunday afternoon but in the end decided not to because large black clouds kept hovering overhead (though, in fact, we had no rain – we could really rather do with some. The ground is very dry). Instead we sat inside and drank wine and watched the cricket and surfed the net and ate some really lovely roasted halibut with roasted Jersey Royals. It was a perfect antidote to the mad dashing about we’ve been doing lately.

Peter is poorly sick. He has pneumonia. He’s 85. It gives a rather unnerving sense of déjà vu. Happily, he is not in the hospital, so I don’t think there’s urgent cause for concern yet. Penny seemed reasonably optimistic when I spoke to her yesterday.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

At the Funeral

The funeral was *lovely*

We went down on Wednesday evening, after work and stayed over at Barb’s place. After managing to sleep comprehensively in, we rushed off to the Salisbury crematorium for the service, starting at 09:45. Got there about 10 minutes before.

There were lots of people gathered about outside. All the immediate family, less the little grand and great grandchildren. Lots of people I had never met. Lots of people in general. The chapel was absolutely stuffed to the gunwales. It was quite amazing, really, when you think that Mick was a gentleman of venerable age who had been retired for ten years and had been living a very quiet life in a very small village for several of those years. More to the point, most people would only have got the paper with the funeral details on Thursday morning. Though I suppose most people had heard about it on the grapevine anyway.

Anyway, the chapel was packed. There were people he had worked for, the sons of people he had worked for, all sorts of bods. The ebullient funeral director arrived with the hearse and Mick and we all trooped in, Gwen escorted by The Builder. I sat next to Terry and Jenny, who were next to Gwen and The Builder. The service was conducted by a visiting canon. We all sang the hymns enthusiastically (The Lord’s my shepherd, We plough the fields and Abide with me). The canon spoke a lovely little eulogy. I think we sent him (Mick, not the canon) on his way with ceremony, humour and gentle mourning.

Then we all trooped out. I was told the names of many, many people. I promptly forgot them! We all milled about outside until the EFD warned us that the next service was about to begin and we would, alas, need to move on. Lots and lots of us moved on to the Dayroom at The Orchard where there was a veritable feast awaiting us. (Just as an aside, The Builder had been talking to Gwen and Jenny earlier in the week. They were worried there wasn’t going to be enough food. We were all going to starve. BRING SUPPLIES! So I made party pies and party sausage rolls and took them with us. There was no starving going to be happening in the Dayroom yesterday. No danger of starvation At All. The tables were positively groaning. Still, it was nice to have party pies. I like party pies).

Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes. Lots of the people whose names had passed straight through my ear holes at the Crem came up and started talking to me. Many years as the wife of a parish minister came into their own – I don’t actually need to know who people are to make small talk with them! People all milled about and drank tea and ate party food. I met several members of the family I hadn’t run across before. Jeanette and Matthew were there, as were Ian and Donna. But so too were Terry’s children and a couple of his grandchildren. There was also a surprising number of ex-wives. All The Builder’s ex wives were there, but there were others as well, belonging to different people. Folks began to drift off until eventually, it was just the extended family. At just before 2 we all made our way to the local church for the interment of the ashes.

Yesterday afternoon brought two pieces of information my way (although the first one had really been imparted a week earlier). That was that it is possible, if you have a cremation early enough in the day, to retrieve the ashes in the afternoon for a same-day interment. The second is that there is a church in Nunton. I had thought that the Nunton church was the one that sort of sits between Nunton and Odstock. But no. Nunton has its own little church, tucked along a little road I had never previously noticed. And it’s a beautiful little church. A flint and stone church in a lovely little churchyard. I had a quick peek inside it, but I really must take the time to have a proper look, and to find out a bit about it.

So Mick’s ashes now lie in that lovely little churchyard with some flowers to mark the spot. I think there are plans to put a little stone marker there to tell folks where he is. I think he needs a little bush as well, but I don’t think you’re allowed to plant shrubs in churchyards!

The main question I had about yesterday was what exactly I should wear. Mick had stipulated that he didn’t want everyone in black. The Builder, of course, wore his black suit, but wore a yellowy, cream shirt with it. I don’t really have any black clothes, apart from a couple of black jackets. I do, however, have a lovely floatie purple dress. Purple is good. It’s a Christian colour of mourning, but also a colour of celebration and royalty. I wore that, with a black Laura Ashley jacket that I bought in a second hand shop after Raymond died (because the velvety jacket that I wore to his funeral made me look like a big, furry black bear!). And my black lace up shoes. Without pantyhose. This was fine in the morning. No worries at all. But by the time we went to the church yard, the clouds had come in and the wind had got up and my floatie dress is of a summer persuasion and the bottom bits are quite diaphanous – and it was bloody cold around my knees!!

Everyone else was a touch on the chilly side as well. We went back to the Dayroom for a cup of tea and a sandwich. And then The Builder and I took Barb home and made our own way home.

We did, however, collect another pub. We had been pondering what to do about food. There are three pubs along the road that runs from Swindon to Gloucester, once of which is the Highwayman. We called in there, on spec, really. Any of them would have done. And it was lovely. They have just introduced Black Rock Grills which are griddled stones which are heated to around 400o. These are brought out on heat-proof trays with the meat of your choice on top. You then cook the meat pretty much as you want it cooked. The Highwayman offers some interesting choices – ostrich, kangaroo, bison amongst other things. We were boring and had rump steak. It’s quite good fun – but I was ever so anxious that The Builder was going to accidentally catch his hand on the stone and immolate. (He’s already swiped his forehead with a saw AND chopped his thumb with another saw this last week – I think I have reason for concern!) Fortunately, he didn’t immolate. Or catch his hand, and we got home safely with no real excitements at all. Oh – apart from the shell of a burnt out truck on the hard shoulder of the motorway, with all the lanes bar the far one closed down and emergency vehicles dotted about and things.

Marlo was very pleased to see us home. Again.

Right then folks. My funeral. Here are the instructions. (Pay attention at the back, please!) Proper church service please, though I don’t mind if it’s at the crematorium. No black – or not very much. Rousing hymns – none of this abiding or shepherding – and the last one is to be Thine be the glory. To the proper tune! You lot can choose the others, in consultation with the vicar. Oh - and a cardboard coffin; terrible waste of wood to create a beautiful, polished coffin just to burn it. And none of this same day interment of the ashes. I want to sit on somebody’s mantelpiece for a bit (or several somebodies’ – a posthumous procession sounds rather fun). At a time deemed to be appropriate, I want to be dispersed from a pretty bridge into a pretty river or stream. You lot can decide amongst yourselves which bridge and river. After both events (cremation and rivering) I expect there to be a satisfactory attendance at a suitable pub and many sore heads the following mornings

Remind me one day to tell you about the Tortoise Lady at The Orchard. She deserves a mention on the blog. But not today. This one is already quite long enough :-)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What we did at the weekend

It was an absolutely lovely weekend. The weather was fantastic! We spent quite a lot of it in the garden. Or on the allotment. Oh - and eating and drinking. So, a fairly typical weekend, then.

If you want to know what we did in the garden and on the allotment, you’ll find it at, for those who don’t already know about it.

We had lunch on Saturday in The Three Merry Lads in Cutthorpe. We have driven past it several times and thought that we should make the time to have lunch there one day. As part of our wanderings about on Saturday, we were heading to the Dunstan Hall Nursery in search of various things. It’s not far from there to the Merry Lads. And it was well worth the diversion. The menu is extremely good and the food was fantastic. We will most definitely go again.

We had lunch on Sunday in the Telmere Lodge. It was very pleasant – though not up to its usual standard, I don’t think. I fancy that they fresh cook most things, but the Sunday Roast came out much too fast for that. I think it had been left lying around being kept warm for some time.

It crossed The Builder’s mind that yesterday’s lunch meant we had eaten in four different pubs in as many days. I think that today, perhaps, we should not eat in a pub!

Mind you – we ate at home in the evenings every day except Thursday. And Thursday was something of a special case :)

(I made moules mariniere last night. I’ve never made it before. It was surprisingly easy. And tasty)

Other than that, we more or less pottered about, enjoying the sunshine and the warm weather. When we weren’t working in the garden (or on the allotment) we were sat outside in the sunshine. It was a nice and relaxing couple of days.

The people working on the train line didn’t have a nice and relaxing time, however. I think they were working overnight. They were certainly making an ENORMOUS racket by 06:00 on Sunday morning. If I hadn’t been awake anyway, I might have been a bit miffed to have been woken quite so early on a Sunday.

And the Christians were out in force yesterday morning too. It was Pentecost Sunday, and the 10th anniversary of the Tupton Christian Fellowship. I was just pondering the fact that I was sure I could hear a rather large drum beating, when a policeman appeared in the road outside our window, followed shortly after by a group of men banging on a drum and playing various brass instruments. They in turn were followed by a loose gaggle of people walking behind, plus a variety of different vehicles (including a very old bus and a farm cart). I think they were a combined congregation of the Anglican church (very evangelical), the Christian Fellowship (Pentecostalist, I think) and the Methodist church (about which I know nothing, having only discovered its existence yesterday!).

We figured if the railways could be tooting horns at 06:00 and the Christians could be banging drums at 10:00, then we could go and mow the lawns on the allotment and plant potatoes! So we did

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The asparagus has started to come up!!!! There are six spears showing above ground this morning.

Germination rates this year in the propagating tent have been spectacularly better than last year. The beans are all shooting up. The tomatoes are up (seed leaves only yet). So too are the peppers. The calabrese are ready to be planted out. Might do that this afternoon. The sweet potato slip are looking very, very sad, however. I'm not sure they're going to survive. And there's a slug making free with the propagating tent. I have Taken Steps!

Update: I've planted the calabrese (Veronica) in between the broad beans I sowed last autumn. The Builder has built a netting cage for them to prevent the pigeons pulling them out and eating them. We have also properly staked the raspberries (8 stakes along the bed, with three strands of fencing wire running around them to support the canes). I've planted the last of the broad bean seeds and another couple for rows of beetroot seeds. I've also put some sweet corn seeds into the propagating tent. And I gave up on the last lot of soya seeds, which had been on the lounge room windowsill. The seeds themselves seem to have vanished. Can't think what's happened to them! I've planted twelve seeds directly into seed pots, and put another 12 in to soak for 24 hours in an experiment to see which is better.

On the allotment, we've planted 6 rows of Pink Fir Apple potatoes, 6 of Lady Balfour and 7 of Arran Victory. I also put in another couple of rows of peas. The Builder mowed, mightily. He's also mowed back at home. Everything looks much more loved now!

We are eating rhubarb. Oh boy, are we eating rhubarb. To say the two lots on the allotment and the one lot where the chook run will eventually go at home have been neglected for years would be something of an understatement. But they are doing mighty fine on it! I might manure them this autumn and see what happens next. We are also eating sprouting broccoli. And asparagus, but not our asparagus, obviously. There are 7 shoots up now.

Memo to self: the germination rate of the spring sown broad beans and peas in astronomically better than the autumn sown ones. DO NOT DO IT AGAIN IN THE AUTUMN!!!!! (I know this really, but autumnal optimism always gets the better of me!!!)

RIP Mick, The Builder's dad

The Builder's dad died, eventually peacefully, at 19:55 on Wednesday 7th May. Gwen was with him. So were Terry and Jenny. Marie had not long left to go home and sort her boys out. Peter was about, but had stepped out of the room shortly before Mick died. We were at home. The Builder had said his godobyes on Monday and there didn't seem to be much that would usefully be gained by us dashing about on Wednesday evening.

We went down on Thursday morning instead. Accompanied by not a lot of traffic, but what traffic there was was VERY slow! We were held up on the motorway for about half an hour, and later sat behind a large van doing 40 MPH in a 60 zone for another half an hour. So we were late to Gwen's place - but arrived in time for a corned beef sandwich for lunch. I haven't had a corned beef sandwich for absolutely years! It was rather a nice taste reminisce!

I have finally met the elusive Peter. He lives in the same set of units as Gwen and popped in and out in the course of the afternoon. Somewhat to my surprise, he doesn't appear to have cloven feet, horns or an pointy tail. Seems quite human, really. The Builder (and later Barb) tell me he was on his very best behaviour that day and doesn't normally behave like that! Then we went to the hospital where we met Marie, Tim, Terry and Jenny. Gwen and The Builder went and collected the cause of death certificate and then we went, escorted by a lovely lady from the hospital, and viewed Mick in the hospital mortuary. I've never been to a hospital viewing before and I must say I have slightly mixed feelings about it. Clearly it was good for Gwen, particularly, to see him in a slightly tidier condition than at the moment he had died. I'm not sure it was a beneficial thing for those of us who were not at his deathbed to have done though. She said he looked very peaceful (which was true) and as though he were just asleep. I can't say he looked asleep to me. He wasn't there. His body was, of course, but he wasn't. I don't know where he's gone, but he wasn't in that room. His body was all wrapped up in what looked like a green curtain or bedspread and looked more like an alabaster statue than anything else.

We didn't stay long. Tim went home to look after the boys after school, and everyone else squished back into Gwen's place to await the undertaker. The very large undertaker. The very large and ebullient undertaker. He is known to The Builder and Barb from various horticultural society events. I think Peter knows him too. It has to be said, he is very good at his job! He was exceeding cheeky to Gwen and made her laugh - a lot :-). The funeral is next Thursday, 15th May at 09:45 in the Salisbury crem, followed by the interment of the ashes in the Nunton Churchyard at 2, followed by lunch in The Orchards Dayroom. Family flowers only. Donations to the Asthma Association or the Diabetes Association. Thursday, of course, was the one day next week when it was going to be very difficult for me to be away - I was supposed to be doing an evening duty in the Adsetts Centre. Fortunately, the folks at work have sorted it all out and someone else is doing it.

Barb arrived at Gwen's. And we left. Not because Barb had arrived but because it is 200 miles or so from Salisbury to our place and we didn't want to be back too late! Although - we didn't need to worry about the cat. I had sent a message to Tammy next door asking her to feed him and she had said she would. So that was OK.

But when were The Builder and I to eat? We called into the Salisbury city centre and dropped into the Cloisters pub. Haven't eaten in there before. Will do again. The scampi was lovely!

We neither of us went to work on Friday. Thursday had been a very long day and we were both absolutely knackered. I declared Friday an R&R day. We went to Chatsworth and spent an inordinate amount of money on fish. We went into Chesterfield for a spot of shopping. We had lunch in the Rutland (as we usually do if in Chesterfield at lunchtime). We went to the garden centre in Hasland for pond supplies. We pottered about at home and sat outside with our gin/vodka and tonic. It was a good opportunity to recover a bit of equillibrium. It's odd, really. I can't say that I am very sad about Mick's death. It seems to me that it was absolutely the best thing that could have happened. The Builder, his mother and the rest of the family are, of course, very sad - but also very stoical and agreed that it was the best thing for Mick. No one would wish him back, not in the state he's been in for the last few months and especially the last fortnight. But the presence of Death quite so close leaves a very odd feeling. I would say it was sobering, but that is not quite the word. Sombre? Perhaps. But it has left me with a wish to fight back - to make or do something; to celebrate life. So today I am making chutney with rhubarb from the garden, and we have been planting seeds and getting ready for what we hope will be a food glut in the summer and autumn.

Tabitha has sent me an autographed photograph of Paul Darrow dressed as Avon from Blake's 7. Now that's a brooding presence to have in the lounge room!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Builder's dad - update

The Builder had a phone call from his sister in law Jenny last evening. They had been to visit Mick, intending to stay for half an hour or so. When they got there they found him very much worse than he has been this last week, plus they found Gwen very distressed. So they stayed longer. It seems that his pneumonia has returned and he is very much weaker than he was. The hospital has decided to apply a very intensive treatment for three days to see if they can bring him around. After that, I think they are intending to let nature take its course.

About time, if you ask me. Nature should have been left to get on with it last Saturday week. It seems cruel to me to keep somebody hanging about when there is no realistic hope of a full, or even part recovery. The Builder, Terry and Jenny agree. Marie, I think, is pondering the keeping fingers crossed approach. And nobody knows what Peter thinks. But nobody ever really does, as far as I can see.
I took the Veronica broccoli seedlings on Saturday, before we went away, and potted them all up into individual pots. They weren't very happy! Fortunately, they have survived the weekend and appear now to be thriving. If they all do thrive, there will be about 30 of them!

Today, I planted out a long and a gem shaped courgette seedling in the second bed. Around the edge, I put the rest of the stuttgarter white onions. I started out planting them quite carefully, though more closely together than I usually would. THen I realised that I had gone all the way around the bed and still had as many again. I pretty much broadcast sowed them in the end!

I've also planted a new row of peas. I thought I'd planted a row before we went to Japan and Australia. I still think I did! However, absolutely nothing has come up, and the broad beans were poking through when we got back. When I poked about today with the hoe, there was nothing there. Either something ate them, every one, or I didn't plant them. I've put a netting trellis for them to climb up, also in the hope that nothing digs them up!

I didn't get to the allotment today to plant the potatoes. The Builder has one bed ready and another nearly ready. Perhaps we'll go up one evening after work.

It was really quite summery today. About 25d and a very light breeze. The plants in the propagating tent are starting to germinate. The sweet potato slips, however, are emphatically not looking happy. And I think they are being eaten by slugs. I must put slug pellets around them.

We are still eating purple sprouting broccoli. The plants seem remarkably productive!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Mayday Bank Holiday Weekend

I could have sworn that the weather boys and girls have been promising rain for most of the week. Actually, I think it has been raining in many places. It’s just not raining over Tupton

So yesterday, The Builder wandered up to the allotment in the morning sunshine and dug over the rest of the top bed and made a start on the second. I shall plant some more potatoes there, perhaps on Tuesday. In the meantime, I pottered about in the garden, supervised by Marlo. The little broccoli were not best pleased to be abruptly potted on! Marlo was quite happy, however, sleeping on the patio bench in the sunshine.

The Builder came home again.

We packed up and leapt into The Vixen. We were off to Salisbury to begin the celebrations for the cathedral’s 750th birthday.

We decided, given that we had left quite a bit earlier than planned, to set Jenny the Sat Nav to take us to Barb’s place avoiding the motorways and see which way she took us. At first, she went in the way I expected her to go. Down through Clay Cross and on to Alfreton. I had expected her to take us down the Fosse Way, which is the way I would go. But no - she took us off across country, back towards the M1, then down the A42 towards Birmingham and then along very pretty road towards Bosworth. We went past a rather pretty little zoo - must go and have a proper look at it - and then past a road to the Bosworth Battlefield Visitor Centre. Must go and have a proper look at that too. A can feel a day trip coming on! Then she took us all the way across nearly as far as Milton Keynes and then towards Oxford. Then she connected up with the normal A roads we go along when we come via Oxford.

It was all very odd. I couldn’t work out at all why she had gone that way rather than down the Fosse Way. Then I remembered that if you go along the Fosse Way you have to go for one junction on a motorway - and Jenny’s little computer brain was busily avoiding motorways. Mind you, some of the A roads behave quite a lot like motorways. If you really didn’t want to drive on an M road, I’m not sure you’d be any happier on the A34!

By 3:00 we were beginning to feel a bit peckish. The Builder, in a manly sort of way, kept driving past pubs with signs that said “Food served all day” and little caffs and even a Budgens minimart. Eventually, we decided to call into the village of Brackley to see what was there. Brackley is a small market town with a very pretty town centre, a beautiful central building (corn exchange? Market hall? Some such thing - I’ll have a look later - later update: it seems it's the town hall) It also has, in a laneway off the main road, a wonderful deli, which does magnificent toasted sandwiches. I thoroughly recommend it to you.

We are now at Barb’s, getting ready to go to the medieval fair in the cathedral close. The impediment to progress is the refusal by the dishwasher to add water to the dishwashing equation. I think we might need to wash last night’s dinner dishes and this morning’s breakfast dishes before we go, otherwise we’ll need to buy paper plates, plastic mugs and replacement saucepans for dinner tonight!

When we got here yesterday evening, Oliver and Polly, the black kitties, were up on the kitchen roof. Polly leapt down, looked at us in horror and exclaimed: I don’t know you - arrrrgh! Oliver leapt down, looked at us and exclaimed in excitement: I don’t know you - hooray! But it was Polly who came in this morning and snuggled down upon The Builder in bed! I think she has decided she likes him.


We are back from the fair. It was held in the Cathedral Close where there were lots of medieval style tents and people wandering around in medieval garb. We met Barb’s brother Greg outside and ambled in for a look see. I must say, it wasn’t as big as I had thought it might be. The close is quite big - there would have been room for lots more tents. Barb and I agreed that it was quite a lot like going around a school or church fete. There were lots of craft type stalls. There were some lovely baskets and some pretty jewellery. There were some tents which showed how things were done in the 14th century. There was even a stocks where you could throw wet sponges at a hapless peasant. But there weren’t very many food stalls. One with jacket potatoes, one with pork sandwiches. There was a beer tent but not cider and no wine. There were no seats in the beer tent. And what sort of a church fete - for it was, in effect, a themed church fete; it was just a VERY large church! - what sort of a fete is it that doesn’t have a cake stall? Or a sausage sizzle? There was NO sausage sizzle!!!

There was an exhibition of medieval dancing. And a falconry exhibition. We saw the end of that. The falcon flew off - and sat for several minutes at the top of a tall, tall tree. You could just hear it thinking, as the falconer called it, that it wasn’t moving - and just exactly what are you going to do about it!!!!! Then it decided to play. Just as a duck was flying past. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a duck fly out of the way quite so fast. And all of the little birds abruptly vanished.

So, it was quite fun, but for the 750th birthday of a large cathedral, I think the report has to be: Could have done better. And there weren’t all that many people there either. Perhaps they’re waiting for tomorrow (bank holiday) when the forecast is for better weather.

Mind you, the weather held quite well. I was wearing short cut trousers, a t-shirt, a light jumper and sandals and wasn’t cold. We had a couple of showers, but The Builder only put the umbrella up a couple of times. It didn’t properly rain until we were on our way home.

We tried to go to the Salisbury museum after we left the fair. They had a stand in the close and were handing out leaflets and things. The museum isn’t open on Sundays! OK. Fair enough. But you’d think they might have made an exception on the day of the Cathedral fair, particularly if they were advertising the museum. It’s open on Sundays in July and August. Perhaps we’ll try when we come down for the Vaughn Williams concert in July.

We had quite a good day yesterday, the Bank Holiday. It rained a bit in the morning, though this didn't bother us. We weren't doing outside things. Instead, we went to a garden centre and bought courgette seedlings (or seeds, if you were Barb). I also bought a packet of different coloured radish seeds, just for fun. We called in at Waitrose for a few supplies. Then we went and picked up The Builder's mother, Gwen, and carted her off to lunch at the Yew Tree. I like the Yew Tree, but the menu doesn't ever vary very much. Perhaps we'll take her to the Ship Inn slightly further afield next time. I think we all enjoyed our lunches, although The Builder was the only one who actually managed to finish his. You can't complain about the size of the portions at the Yew Inn. You can't complain about the liquid measures, either. My pint of cider was filled to the brim.

It was a bit early, when we had eaten lunch, to go to the hospital. Visiting hours, under normal circumstances, start at 2. So we all bundled into The Vixen and went for a drive around in the countryside. And then we went to visit The Builder's dad, Mick, in the hospital. He was sitting up in a chair when we got there, but looked very tired. Eventually, the nursing staff put him back to bed. Barb and Gwen report that he didn't look as well yesterday as he has done in recent days. Mostly, he was asleep - though he was very pleased to see The Builder when he walked in. He broke into a huge grin. He still doesn't look well to me (though better than a week ago) and the doctors are saying that he won't be able to go home for 6-8 weeks :-S They don't have rehab units here, but even so - that's a long, long time to be in hospital. And especially in a ward where quite strong measures are being taken to counter infections. We all had to wear disposable plastic pinnies. I thnk we can safely say that he is not yet out of the woods by a long way. But at least still with us.

We left Gwen at the hospital, to be collected by her son Peter later, and took Barb back to her place. This was slightly enlivened by The Builder leaping into the car - and sitting firmly on his reading glasses, which naturally were not best pleased by this. I have stitched them back together as a temporary measure! Then we came home, once again avoiding motorways. This time Jenny took us up the Fosse Way and then along a series of roads that met up with the A38 (which more or less takes us directly home). Once again, it was very pretty. And slightly more direct than the way she took us down. But I don't think there was a significant difference in the time it all took.

So it was a good weekend. Lots of food and wine and chatting. We enjoyed the church fete (even if £8 per person is a bit steep for a church fete!) and generally had a good time.

It was gloriously sunny this morning. The Builder went back to work at the usual time. I am on the late shift today, and had arranged to take the afternoon as well. I have done lots of washing and ironing and a bit of gardening and some mooching about in the sunshine. I did not get up to the allotment to plant the potatoes, alas. Nor did I make any biscuits or a cake. I did, though, change the bed sheets. And put the new pillows on the bed.

I'll just have to plant the potatoes one evening after work. I don't suppose a few more days will matter all that much